§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said, that the Amendment was the solemn expression of the opinion of the Irish people.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. FLYNN
, resuming, said, Boards of Guardians and other public bodies in every part of the country had passed resolutions denouncing evictions, and calling upon the Government to put a stop to them; and the question for the Government now was whether they would take the advice of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), or the advice of the Members who really represented Ireland? The noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when speaking on the Address, referred in flippant tones to the agricultural distress in Ireland, and to the fall of prices in agricultural produce; and other speakers who followed him from the same side of the House treated the matter in very much the same spirit. But this depression was very real, and if, in consequence of it, farmers were unable to pay their rent and were evicted, the injury would not fall upon one class alone, but upon all classes of the community. The landlord himself would suffer, because no one in Ireland would take a farm from which a tenant had been evicted—the land would fall out of cultivation. In such a ease not only would a large number of farms become vacant, and. a largo number of farmers ruined, but the demand for labour would be lessened, and the trade and commerce in the smaller towns, now stagnant, would become altogether destroyed. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh, in his speech the previous evening, compared the landlords of Ireland to traders, and contended that the debt of the landlord was the same as the debt of any other trader; but in the eyes of the law, and evidently in the eyes of the House of Commons, a debt due to a landlord was a much more sacred thing than any other debt, because the ordinary creditor would not destrain and evict a tenant. They contended that in the present state of Ireland the shopkeepers and merchants in the towns and villages would be victimized to a large extent if the landlords persisted in this policy of eviction, because the ruin of the farming classes meant also the ruin of the traders. Great stress had been laid on the fact that judicial rents ought not to be altered; but the Members of the Party to 604 which he (Mr. Mynn) belonged took great exception to the statements that had been made with regard to these judicial rents; and in endeavouring to controvert the statement that the payment of the present rents was in many cases an impossibility the Government and their supporters indulged in nothing but assertion and arguments of the most empty character. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the House that there was no such fall in the price of Irish produce as would justify a reduction of rents. What proof did the Government want that there was a fall in the price of Irish produce? It was to be seen in every newspaper in the United Kingdom. Did the Government imagine that the Irish Members, many of them men of business, would come to the House and say that there was a fall in the price of Irish produce of from 40 to 50 per cent, without proof of the statement? Such statements as were put forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer were made for the purpose of controversy only; but they certainly would not satisfy men of business who went into the question. The noble Lord had stated that the fall in the price of Irish butter was due to the quality, and to adulteration. If the noble Lord had known anything about Irish butter, he would have known that the fall in the price had been most marked lately, and that, although there were complaints about the quality some years ago, it had markedly improved within late years. The price of butter in the Cork Market regulated the price all over Ireland, and in Great Britain. He would show there had been a steady decline in the price of Irish butter with a steady advance in the quality of late years; and he asked the House to take the word of business men, speaking on matters with which they were familiar, rather than the ipse dixit of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The difference between the prices for Cork butter in 1881-2-3 and 1886 showed that there had been a falling-off in prices between the first and the last of these years up to last Saturday of 33 per cent. Second and third qualities of butter had fallen off in a greater proportion during the same period, nor had this depression, been confined to butter. The falling-off in the prices of other products was almost as marked. It was for this reason that the Irish Members asked the House to stand between the Irish 605 landlords and their tenants in the coming winter. He asserted that there was in Ireland no disinclination to pay a fair rent; but the people could not pay a rent which was impossible. It was for this reason that the Irish Members asked the Government to take some action in the matter before the winter season. It was for this purpose that the Amendment was framed; and they hoped that the Government would accept it, and not take an infatuated course in the interest of one particular class. In warning the Government of the consequences that were sure to follow a certain course of policy, the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) spoke in a tone of emotion, which it was most unjust to describe as "cold-blooded." If the Government, with their eyes, open ignored the warnings of Irish Members, they would incur a serious responsibility. Should any system of organized eviction be entered upon, the Irish Members would stand by their people in every legal effort they might make in resistance. Their duty was clear both in the House and out of it.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had defended the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) from the attacks made on him by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Plunket). That right hon. and learned Gentleman, however, did not attack the hon. Member for Cork because he prophesied that outrage and disorder would take place in Ireland during the coming winter, but because of the spirit in which those words were uttered. Nothing had been more instructive or astonishing in the course of the debate than the sympathy which had been shown in some quarters with those respectable gentlemen the "Moonlighters." ["No, no!"] The idea that they should meet with their deserts, and should suffer the penalty of death, which they had incurred, made the blood of hon. Members opposite run cold. They knew very well that it was the agitation which had taken place in Ireland during the last few years which had caused the disorder and outrages which had occurred. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) seemed to think there must be some legitimate grievance in Ireland, and that the government of England 606 over Ireland had, to a certain extent, failed. But he (Viscount Cranborne) must remind the House that it had not been the fate of the Conservative Party to govern Ireland for many years in this century, and if there had been failure in the government of Ireland, the disorder which had resulted could not be laid at the door of the Conservative Party. It never entered the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite that no Government however good, that no policy however sound, could necessarily remove the discontent. A Government could insure that the law should be respected, and that all legitimate grievances should be removed; but it could not insure that all classes and ranks in a nation should be contented. That must depend upon the nation itself. The fact that discontent existed did not prove that the policy of the law was wrong. The murderer who was condemned to be hung was probably discontented; but that did not prove that the law under which he was going to suffer was wrong. And so in a civil suit. The party in a case against whom the verdict was given was probably discontented; but that did not prove that the verdict was wrong. Government could not insure that the people of Ireland should be contented. The best chance that that result would take place was that the Government should be respected, should be strong and firm in its policy. Depend upon it the sympathy of nine people out of ten was with the strong. The Conservative Party was far stronger than it had been for many years, and the people of England and Ireland would sympathize and support it. Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite had found great fault with the policy of the Government. It had been commonly said that the Government would not say anything at all about their policy, and hon. Members from Ireland had threatened a great deal of obstruction and protraction, because they thought the Government was going to say nothing about their policy; but the Government had said something about their policy, and yet he had found no difference in the loquacity of the Irish Members. But though Her Majesty's Government had announced their policy, which he believed was a sound policy, there had been a distinct attempt by Her Majesty's Opposition to force that policy, and the speeches of the Government that supported it, into a mean- 607 ing which it could not be said to bear. The right hon. Gentleman who led the Opposition and his Friends and the hon. Member for the City of Cork appeared to know a great deal about the policy of the Government, and imagined there would be a vast expenditure of money, which they alleged the Government would take out of the pockets of the taxpayers of this country. On the Conservative side of the House they did not profess to know as much of the details of the policy of the Government as hon. Members opposite; but if it were true—which he imagined to be entirely contrary to the fact—that the Government were in the future going to place a large burden on the English taxpayer, itwould say a great deal for the Government's disinterestedness. They were constantly taunted with holding on to Office, and at the same time with laying on large burdens. Both these charges could not be supported. He believed himself that the policy of the Government would benefit Ireland, and that the Commission would tend greatly to the advantage both of this country and of Ireland. The reasons for the non-payment of rent in Ireland were patent to all. In the first place, and in the main, it was due to the agitation over which the hon. Member for Cork presided. But, undoubtedly, there were other difficulties in certain parts of Ireland, as there must be in any country, which would render it difficult for some of the inhabitants to meet the obligations into which they had entered. The number of those individuals, however, was exceedingly limited, and their failure to meet their obligations was also limited. The hon. Member for Cork had said that the tenants in Ireland had trusted to this Parliament; and was this Parliament going to desert them? There was no question of desertion. It was not proposed that the rents should be in any way increased. If the Party opposite were to be believed, the Government were going to be so foolish as to pay half the rent of the tenants they were going to desert. It was not only the tenants that had trusted the Parliament; the landlords of Ireland had trusted the Government. ["Oh, oh!"] They foolishly believed that when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) passed his Bill in 1881 the small rents which were left to them would remain 608 secure; but, in view of what had happened, what other course could the Government take but to inquire? Unfortunately, in recent years there had been too much insecurity to the landlords of Ireland. They were like the Pashas of a Turkish Province. No doubt, hon. Members opposite would say that, though the tenants had in no sense been deserted by Parliament and the Government, yet, in the coming winter, they would be at the tender mercies of their landlords, which would end in wholesale eviction. ["Hear, hear!"] He could not understand how hon. Members made that out. Though the unfortunate Irish landlords, knowing the insecurity of their tenure, had been, in some cases, tempted to exact the uttermost farthing from the tenants, as a class they had resisted the temptation. [Laughter.] He repeated what he had said, and rejoiced that they had so resisted; but, after all, the insecurity of the landlords was the danger of Ireland. Restore once more security to the landlords. Let them know that the word of a Parliament and of a Government was not to be set aside for any light Parliamentary advantage. Let them know that at least one Party in the State was prepared to defend and fulfil the obligations into which the Parliament of this country had entered, and nine-tenths of the real agrarian grievances in Ireland would be at an end. If he wanted any proof of the real advantages and benefits of the policy announced by Her Majesty's Government it was the attitude of the hon. Member for Cork. ["Hear, hear!"] The irritation of the hon. Member was openly manifested. No doubt, the hon. Member was afraid when he saw a strong Government in power. [Laughter.] He did not mean merely strong in numbers, but strong in policy. He was well aware that if the Government succeeded in removing the last vestiges of real grievances in Ireland, they would have gone a long way to destroy the power of the hon. Member and deprive him of the support he received from the other side of the Atlantic. By this Amendment the House was asked to vote, practically, that evictions should be stopped in Ireland. Could there be anything more unreasonable than that, because a few tenants in one small part of Ireland were unable to meet their obligations, the landlords ail over Ireland should be de- 609 prived of the rent to which they might have a claim? For, of course, if this Parliament were to enact that evictions should cease in Ireland, it would for the time being put a stop altogether to the payment of rent in that country. That being the case, he did not think there could be any doubt in the minds of hon. Members, whether on his own side of the House or on the Benches opposite, provided they were not absolutely bewildered by partizan spirit and by irritation at the result of the late General Election, that his noble Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Her Majesty's Government should be supported in the division which he hoped would be taken that evening.
§ MR. ALEXANDER BLANE (Armagh, S.)
said, that the distress in both England and Ireland was due to the fact that the people in both countries were divorced from the soil which they tilled. The people of Ireland protested, with all their might, against being made mere surface-holders. The Members of that House daily prayed that the earth might bring forth fruits, but for whom? Not for the tiller, but for the landlord. But the law was not always consonant with natural or Divine law. While the New Testament had said the tiller should be the first, British law said he should be the last, to share the fruits of the soil, with the result that the people were reduced to a state of comparative servitude. Everyone who was too lazy to work was, in fact, placed on the shoulders of the tiller of the soil. One of the reasons why the landlords were maintained by England in Ireland was because they were supposed to be a peculiarly loyal class; but that was not true. It was not true from 1641–5, nor in 1688–9, when it might be truly said that every time that British Sovereigns were driven from the Throne those men were found in the ranks of their enemies. Since 1841 4,000,000 of the people of Ireland had been done to death by the landlords of Ireland. The world was said to be the reflex of a man's own conduct. So, as it was with individuals, it had been with nations. If nations wanted the loyalty of the people subject to them, there was a way in human affairs by which men's hearts could be captivated. But what had the Parliament done to attract the loyalty of the people of Ireland, and what had they refused to do 610 for the landlords? There were now 50,000 British troops in that country, lent to the landlords to maintain the British law, contrary to the natural and the Divine law. There must be some consistency in the policy of the country. They could not vote £20,000,000 to rescue the negroes of the West Indies from slavery, and, at the same time, render the people of England and Ireland slaves. It was because the people of Ireland urged that the soil of the country should belong to them that English Governments were face to face so frequently with the Irish difficulty. Owing to the severity of foreign competition, the tenants of Ireland, as well as those of England and Scotland, were unable to pay the rents exacted by the landlords. In his opinion, the real cause of agricultural depression was the holding of large tracts of territory by men who rendered no services to the State in return. They did not labour, but merely received money which others had earned, investing it securely and profitably in stocks. It was said that Britons never would be slaves; but millions of the people of England were divorced from the soil, and with what result? There were the workmen of the City of London, who starved last winter, and whom he had seen scrambling for bread; while the Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted millions to be voted for the war in Burmah. Inquests were held in numbers last winter on men who were done to death in England through being divorced from the soil of their own country. They came to London to compete in a market already overstocked with labour, and the consequence was that they starved. In fighting the battle of Irishmen they were, in fact, fighting the battle for Englishmen. If that House did not remedy the present state of affairs, Englishmen, far faster than Irishmen, would remedy it for them. In these days, when steamers of 6,000 or 8,000 tons were constantly making the most rapid passages across the Atlantic Ocean, it was simply impossible that the cultivators of the soil in countries where rent was paid could compete with countries where no rent was paid. Talk of the depression of trade! The simple fact was that the agriculturists of England and Ireland were done to death by the American competition, 611 carried on in these large and rapid steamers, each of which carried a cargo equal to the produce of half a county. What was the cause of the depression of trade? It was the giving large tracts of land to people who returned nothing to the State, either in the payment of taxes or in the labour, which was the only source of wealth.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is not speaking to the specific Amendment before the House.
§ MR. ALEXANDER BLANE
said, that he dealt with social order in Ireland, and that was connected with the Land Question.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must insist upon the hon. Member adhering to the terms of the Amendment—that of the hon. Member for Cork, to which I would call his attention.
§ MR. ALEXANDER BLANE
, after recapitulating his argument with regard to the effect of American competition upon the English and Irish cultivators, said, that he thought it not too much to ask an Assembly like that to say that the tiller of the soil should, according to the New Testament, be the partaker of the fruits thereof. But the present system was sweeping away the breadstuffs from before the eyes of the man who produced them in order to support landlords. In conclusion, he most energetically complained that the landlords of Ireland were the administrators of the law and the judges in their own cause, a state of things which, he contended, was most unfair, and contrary to all the principles of justice. He appealed to the Radicals in the House, whose cause the Irish Members were fighting as well as the cause of the poor, oppressed people of Ireland, to vote for the Amendment now before the House.
§ COLONEL WARING (Down, N.)
said, he had no intention to prolong the debate; but he wished to correct a slight misunderstanding that appeared to exist with regard to the remarks of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh (Major Saunderson) on the previous day, as to the propriety of the English people putting their hands into their pockets for the benefit of Ireland. His hon. and gallant Friend had not expressed a desire that English money should be forthcoming in aid of Irish landlords, but had simply asked that 612 England should aid in the development of Irish industries, as a compensation for the injury done in past times by the crushing of the industries of Ireland. He (Colonel Waring) held quite as strongly as hon. Gentlemen opposite the view that, in that respect, England owed a debt to Ireland, and ought not to forget that certain industries in Ireland were extinguished by English jealousy. Those were industries which were instituted by the ancestors of the present English Colony, those who were afraid that they would be dealt with in a very summary manner by an Irish Parliament. ["No, no!"] He did not know whether hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible for the utterances of Mr. Davitt. Mr. Davitt certainly said so.
§ MR. O'HEA (Donegal, W.)
rose to Order, and said Mr. Davitt had emphatically repudiated the statement.
§ COLONEL WARING
, resuming, said, if Mr. Davitt had repudiated it, it was his misfortune not to have seen the repudiation; but, unfortunately, repudiations were pretty common. However, there was no doubt as to the establishment of these industries in the South and West by men of the same blood as those in the North, who were spoken of as the English Colony; and if they had been permitted to exist and thrive, and had not been extinguished, it was quite possible that, at the present time, from the South and West of Ireland Representatives might be sitting on his side of the House. They now simply asked Parliament to give to Ireland what was her due. Turning to the Amendment, much was said about the cruelty of evictions by the landlord; and he would admit that in the poorest parts of Ireland, where chronic poverty prevailed, the people might be unable to pay the judicial rents; but it was a different case with reference to the rest of Ireland. The hard times were undoubtedly felt by the tenants; but so they were by all other classes. It was hard that the landlord in these times should be forced to retrench, while the tenant showed no disposition to economize; and he feared that whilst the landlords had done their best to economize and retrench their expenses, many of the tenants had been going on living in the same way as they did in the good times.
613 He knew an instance which occurred recently. A landlord was driving into a country town with his wife, and he saw a very smart young lady whose dress his wife very much admired. The young lady proved to be one of the three daughters of a tenant of his who owed three years' rent. On that young lady's back was the equivalent of at least a quarter of a year's rent, and that quarter multiplied by her two sisters and her mother as well would have made up precisely a year's rent. The result was that the landlord had to go without his rent, whilst these young ladies got their dresses from Mantalini's, or elsewhere. That kind of thing proved that if care was exercised the tenant would be enabled to pay his debts. He admitted that eviction was a terrible thing, and, personally, he had never put it in force; but whether it might not be right to do so, under certain eventualities, he would not undertake to say. It was very difficult to arrive at a conclusion as to whether the tenant could or could not pay, and eviction was often the final test. There was, however, hardly a landlord in Ireland who would evict a tenant whose inability to pay arose from real misfortune. But the fact was that until eviction proceedings were begun, it was impossible in many cases to know whether the tenant could really pay or not. It was wonderful what hidden resources were disclosed at the appearance of the Sheriff's officer. He was sure that the great bulk of the landlords would accept what the tenant could pay in good faith, and would not press for the remainder. The House might remember, however, that there were evictions of various kinds. A landlord might find himself under notice of ejectment if he did not meet his engagements, and who was to protect him? What was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander; and if evictions were to be prohibited on behalf of the tenant, they should be prohibited with reference to the landlord and his creditors. He would be bound to say that there were more evictions in London in a month than there were in all Ireland in the course of the year, and nothing was said about them. He could speak on the question with some freedom, as he had the honour of having been spoken of by an hon. Member from the Benches opposite as a model landlord. He did not see that it signi- 614 fied much whether a man was turned out on the roadside of Kerry or on the pavement of Whitechapel. He heard of no proposition to suspend evictions in England, and he might suggest to English Liberal Members that they might take that point into consideration before they began to be so very liberal with other people's property in Ireland. He observed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) had now entered the House, and therefore he would at once conclude his remarks, so that he might not stand between the House and the right hon. Gentleman, whose speech the House was awaiting with interest.
Mr. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAINrose, with Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
, to continue the debate.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
I wish, Sir, to make an appeal to you upon a point of Order. I wish to know whether it is not the recognized practice that the debate should be resumed by the hon. Member who moved the adjournment on the previous day? If the hon. Member who had so moved the adjournment failed to be in his place at the resumption of the debate, is he entitled, at a subsequent period, to precedence over other hon. Members who have been here all the evening, and desire to speak?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) had been in his place at the commencement of the debate, he would have claimed his right to address the House; but I see nothing to debar him from rising to address the House at a later period. I have called upon the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I am very sorry, indeed, if, on the present occasion, I stand between the House and any other hon. Gentlemen who think that they have a better right to address it. I understood, however, that there were some of my hon. Friends—I understood it from their earlier statements in the course of thisdebate—and that there were many other hon. Members who thought that they were entitled to require of me a statement of my views on the policy which has been proposed to us by the Government, and I certainly thought that 615 I should probably consult their convenience best if I did not rise during the dinner hour, but took the earliest opportunity after that time, in order to make the few remarks I desire to make. I think that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell)—I do not know whether intentionally or not—has placed those who follow him in a position of considerable embarrassment. He has proposed an Amendment which I venture to say is incomplete and inconclusive. He has introduced it in a speech which was very powerful, very full, very frank, and very complete. But, Sir, by the Rules of the House, inasmuch as that speech travelled very widely beyond the terms of the Amendment, we are unable to deal with many important portions of it, and we are confined absolutely to matters which are relevant to the terms of the Amendment. Sir, the Amendment consists of two parts, to neither of which, treated solely as abstract propositions, have I myself any great objection. The first part of the Amendment expresses, in somewhat hesitating language, an apprehension that there may be considerable difficulty experienced during the coming autumn and winter in the payment of rent, that it may lead to evictions, and that evictions may endanger public order. Well, Sir, the only remark I have to make upon that is that I think, having regard to what we have been told in the course of this debate as to the enormous prices that are still being paid for the tenant right of those properties, that the terms of the Amendment are a little too general. I do not think it can be asserted that the tenants of Ireland, speaking of them as a class, are unable to pay their rents in consequence of the fall in prices. But it may well be—and I should not myself see the slightest objection to expressing an apprehension that it may be—that a portion—a minority, at all events—of these tenants may be placed in a position of considerable difficulty. But what I object to is, that it is unnecessary and superfluous to make statements of that kind in answer to the Speech from the Throne, and I say that because I think it will be agreed that it is not the practice of the House to make affirmations of that kind, unless we are prepared, at the same time, to recommend some remedy for the state of things which we fear. The case of the Irish tenants is 616 not the only case in regard to which similar apprehensions might be expressed. There are many cases that suggest themselves to hon. Members. I will only mention one. We might address Her Majesty and say that during the coming autumn and winter, the depression of trade which has continued so long will lead to increased lack of employment, and that that want of employment, in turn, may be productive of great suffering, and may endanger social order. That may be perfectly true. My only objection to put an addition of that kind to the Address to the Throne would be that it would be useless and improper to do so, unless, at the same time, the House was prepared to deal with the subject-matter, and to find a complete and satisfactory remedy. The second part of the Amendment of the hon. Member is in the nature of what I may call an anticipatory repudiation of a policy which finds no expression whatever in the Queen's Speech, and the existence of which I understand is denied absolutely by the Members of Her Majesty's Government in this House. We know perfectly well what is the meaning of the last paragraph of the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Cork. It has reference, no doubt, to a paragraph in a speech which is reported to have been spoken in "another place" by the Head of the Government. Well, Sir, according to the Rules of this House, we are not entitled to discuss matters which pass in "another place;" and I admit for the very good reason that the speakers are not here to answer for themselves, and to give the necessary explanations and corrections of their reported utterances. All I can say in addition, at the present moment, in reference to this last paragraph is, that I also deprecate any attempt to transfer the losses which may fall on the landlords owing to the circumstances of the season and other causes to the pockets of the British taxpayers. I have deprecated it before, and I deprecate it again. I do not believe that the Government would be so foolish as to make any proposition of the kind. If ever they do, all I can say is that by whatsoever Government, or under whatsoever circumstances it may be made, I shall be bound by everything that I have said in the past, and by the opinions I hold at present, 617 to offer it the most strenuous opposition in my power. But, Sir, that is one thing. As an abstract proposition it may be all very well; but, on the other hand, I beg to say that I am not going to vote for an Amendment, the carrying of which would be equivalent to a Vote of Censure on the Government.[Cries of "Hear, hear!" from the Home Rule Members.] I quite understand that cheer. I do not wish that there should be, in the slightest degree, any mistake; I am not going to do anything to turn out this Government, as long as the Government which is to take its place is committed to a Separatist policy, which I believe would be injurious to the best interests of Ireland and of Great Britain. And, certainly, I am not going to do that on an Amendment of this kind, which is not only vague and inconclusive, but, in my opinion, is disingenuous, and which I believe may properly be described as an unnecessary affirmative and a gratuitous negative. Now, Sir, one thing that I want to know is, are my Friends who belong to the Liberal Party, who are described as Separatist Liberals, going to vote for this Amendment? [Cries of "Yes!"] Well, I observe that my right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister, who, unfortunately, is no longer with us, declared before he left the country that if he had remained he would not have voted for it. I beg my hon. Friends with whom I disagree on this one point of Irish policy to consider very carefully what they are doing. They are going, I hear some of them say, to vote for the Amendment. By so doing, they will give, no doubt, a hypothetical condemnation of a policy which, with more or less authority, is attributed to Lord Salisbury. That I dare say they will not object to; but, Sir, they are going to give an emphatic, and definite, and unequivocal condemnation of the policy of their own Leader, and of the late Government. [Cries of" No, no!"] They say "No!" but they cannot get out of it. I beg to call their attention to the words of the Amendment. The words of the Amendment are these—And we deprecate any extension of State-aided purchase on the basis of rents fixed when prices were higher than they now are.What was the Land Bill of the late Government? The Land Purchase Bill of the late Government contemplated an 618 extension of the system of State aided purchase. [Cries of "No, no!"] There are some Gentlemen apparently who will contradict anything. I am quite sure that none of my right hon. Friends, who speak with any sense of responsibility, will deny that the Land Purchase Bill of the late Government was a Bill for the extension of State-assisted purchase—that is to say, that the price of purchase was fixed on the basis of rents fixed when prices were higher than they are now. Therefore, I say that hon. Members behind me who vote for this Amendment are giving a Vote of Censure on the late Government very much more emphatic.[Home Rule cries of "No, no!"] Well, Sir, there are none so blind as those who will not see. In my opinion, they will be giving a Vote of Censure much more emphatic and decided than upon anything that can properly be attributed to the present Government. Well, Sir, I should like now, if the House will allow me, to consider for a few moments what is the present position of the Liberal Party with regard to this great question of Land Purchase. What is the position of the Leaders of the Liberal Party with regard to the question? Has my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) abandoned the policy of the Land Bill which he introduced into the last Parliament? He was challenged to answer that question again and again in the course of the last Election, but he never answered it. He has made two speeches in this House during the present Session, but he has not said anything upon that subject. I know that there are Liberal Members below the Gangway who have insinuated that my right hon. Friend is prepared to abandon this policy in the future, because he has found that it hampered him in the promotion of the Bill for the Government of Ireland, and that, in the future, we shall hear no more of it. Have my hon. Friends forgotten that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian declared his Bill for Land Purchase to be an obligation of honour? What could be more insulting to my right hon. Friend than to suggest, as some of his followers have dared to suggest, that for Party purposes he would abandon an obligation of honour? But if my right hon. Friend—even if it were to be supposed, which I cannot suppose—were 619 to change his opinion on the subject, what is the position of Lord Spencer?—what is the position of my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley)? They have made no secret of it whatever. They were bold, honest, and consistent through-out the Elections in this matter. Lord Spencer said, again and again, that it would be unfair to the landlords of Ireland to hand them over entirely to the popular Party, or to the decision of the popular Party, and that they ought to be protected by some such scheme as that proposed by the late Government. My right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland has said, again and again, that the settlement of the Land Question was, to his mind, a necessary preliminary to, or, at all events, that it must accompany, any provision for the better government of Ireland by Home Rule. My right hon. Friend, in one of his latest speeches, said he would never be a party to handing over to a new authority in Dublin the settlement of the Land Question; that he held it to be an evil legacy which we were not entitled to leave to them; that in the interests of the tenants, as well as in the interests of the landlords, it was the duty of England to deal with the matter in the interests of the tenants themselves before creating a separate Parliament in Dublin. Very well, Sir, I am speaking in the presence of my right hon. Friend, and I am sure that he will say that I am not misrepresenting him. How is it possible, in the face of circumstances of that kind, that he could accept the abandonment of the policy of the Land Purchase Bill? Without speaking of details, I maintain that the fact that he is pledged to a great system of State-aided purchase of the land as a necessary preliminary accompaniment of any measure of Home Rule is as clear as the day, and it is dishonouring to my right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister and his Colleagues to suggest that they would be false to everything that they have stated on this subject in the course of the Election. But then I should like to know, if this is the position of the Leaders, what is the position of those whom I am obliged to allude to—I know they do not accept the term, but I do not use it offensively—but whom I am obliged, for the purposes of distinction, to call the Separatist Libe- 620 rals? ["Oh, oh!"] Well, what is their position? As far as it has been expressed in the course of the debate theirs is a position of uncompromising hostility to any scheme of Land Purchase. ["No, no!"] Oh, yes, as far as it can be gathered from the course of this debate. Let the Gentlemen behind me who are in favour of the Land Purchase scheme of the late Government get up in their places and say so. There are precious few of them who will dare to say so to their constituents. In this House Member after Member got up and said he was opposed to it, although he was in favour of the Home Rule Bill. During the Elections, of course, every Member was opposed to it, and hoped that he would hear of it no more, and said that the landlords had had their last offer, and so on. But I want to point out to these Gentlemen that their position is a very perilous one. They are in a very "parlous state." They are Dissentient Liberals. I beg them—I beg my hon. Friends to take warning by me. I am to be expelled from the Liberal Party. [Cries of "Hear, hear!" from the Borne Rule Members. It is not the Irish Members who will be able to do it. I am to be ostracized, because I, unfortunately, was unable to support the two Bills that were brought in by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian; and here we have Gentlemen who oppose one of them. Well, is it to be held that it is a capital crime to oppose two Bills, and that it is only a venial eccentricity to oppose one? No, Sir, unless my hon. Friends are prepared to swallow the Land Bill they must go out of the Party too, and a very small Party will remain. If my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), the new Leader of the Party, upon whom Elijah's mantle is to fall, but who, I think, will be found a little too small for that extensive garment—if he is to have his way the Liberal Party will become "small by degrees and beautifully less."
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
again rose, amid loud cries of "Order!" 621 and "Chair!" from the Home Rule Members.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN (resuming)
I say, Sir, that one by one, in squads and sections, the Liberal Party will disappear, and at last it will be reduced to the condition of a sect of which I remember to have heard in my youth, and which also bore the ominous name of "Separatist." It consisted of only two persons—a man and his wife, and the wife was heard to say at times that she had grave doubts whether her husband would be saved. And now, Sir, I turn to the Unionist Liberals. What is their opinion with regard to this question of Land Purchase? My noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) has expressed his views on the subject. Everyone will recognize that he said nothing that would commit him to oppose an extensive system of State-aided Land Purchase. It is supposed by hon. Gentlemen who are good enough to quote me, although, not accurately, and who refer to my opinions in the past, apparently without ever taking the trouble to read what I have said—it is asserted by them that I at least am committed, by what I said at the Elections, to absolute opposition to all State-aided purchase of land. That is exactly the reverse of the fact. On the contrary, I am committed by everything I have said to support, cordially and heartily, a large system of Land Purchase. [Cries of "No!"] Refer to Hansard, See what I said on the second reading of the Land Bill. I said then that I was in favour of a large scheme of Land Purchase. Why, it is made an accusation against me by some of my hon. Friends, who appear to know Cabinet secrets without being in the Cabinet, and who have made it an accusation against me, that I brought forward a large scheme of Land Purchase which was a scheme almost as extensive in principle as the scheme of my right hon. Friend, but more dangerous, and with less security to the British taxpayer than that of my right hon. Friend. However, that is a point I will not argue now; but I will argue it at the proper time. I only point to it now, in order to show that, by the confession of everyone who knows best, I have always, in private and 622 public, been in favour of a great scheme of Land Purchase. Why did I object to the scheme of my right hon. Friend? I have always held that at the bottom of this Irish Question is the Land Question. You cannot deal satisfactorily with the Irish problem unless you can settle the agrarian problem first. I believe no settlement can be found in the system of dual ownership. It is only by the creation of a great scheme of peasant proprietorship, and doing what Germany, Russia, Bavaria, and other countries have done, that you can settle the Irish Question. You cannot create a peasant proprietorship in Ireland, except by one of two ways—either by a vast confiscation of the property of private individuals, which, as far as I know, is not advocated by any single Member of the House of Commons, or by a great scheme of State-aided purchase. That is the only practical alternative; I have never denied it, and of that I have always been in favour. But I was opposed to the scheme of my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, because it involved a risk so tremendous that it amounted to a certainty of loss. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] My right hon. Friends around me are coming over to my opinion very quickly. ["No, no!"] Ah! but I will show you. When I argued this question in the last Parliament, I pointed to the statement which had been made that there had been a great fall in the price of produce. I said that if that fall in the price of produce were established, the Irish tenants would say that they were unable to pay the rents which were the basis of the scheme. If they paid less than the rents upon which the scheme was prepared, there would be a deficiency in the security, and the taxpayers would have to make it good. At that time my right hon. Friends vouchsafed no answer whatever to that representation. Now, it appears, they are equally convinced with myself that there is great danger that the fall in the price of produce, which undoubtedly has taken place, will have its effect upon Irish rents. Well, my right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister in his speech the other night referred, I think for the first time—I do not remember that he referred to it during the debates in the last Parliament—to an additional security which he said 623 made his scheme absolutely safe, and that was that it was backed up by the whole of the Revenue of Ireland, which was pledged for this purpose. My right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary for Ireland says the land revenue—[Mr. JOHN MORLEY here interposed a remark.] Yes; that, of course, was the result. That is my contention—namely, that it was backed, by the land revenue, and by nothing else. Let me examine this. My right hon. Friend says it was backed by the whole Revenue of Ireland. The only portion of the Revenue of Ireland over which this House could have had any control under my right hon. Friend's scheme was the Customs and Excise. Over them we have an absolute control, according to his scheme, and they were pledged in security for Irish rents. [An hon. MEMBER: A portion.] Yes; but there was a first mortgage upon them. My right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends behind me seem to have forgotten that. And what was that first mortgage? It was, in the first place, the whole of the share of Ireland of the National Debt; in the second place, the whole of the fixed share of Ireland towards the payment of the Army and the Navy; and also, in the third place, £1,000,000 a-year towards the cost of the Constabulary; and when all those are paid, and when the first mortgage is cleared off, what remains? Only a few hundrds of thousands. [Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER: Millions.] Nonsense! I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon; but the expression escaped me in the heat of the moment. My right hon. Friend is a great authority on this subject; but, with all deference to him, I beg to say that I cannot accept his statement. My conviction is this—that the balance of the Customs and Excise, after payment of all these things, which are the first mortgage upon it, amounted only to a few hundreds of thousands of pounds—and that is a balance which is perfectly useless for our purposes—perfectly useless as a security. The slightest variation in the collection of the Revenue, the slightest variation in the consumption of whisky, or in the payment of the duty in the locality in which the payment takes place, would destroy absolutely that security itself. I agree with the late Chief Secretary for Ireland that the land revenue was the security. Yes; but the land revenue was made up by 624 those rents which my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) now tells us cannot be paid in the case of five-sixths of the tenants of Ireland. When did my right hon. Friend first come to that opinion? He and his Colleagues are in this dilemma—if they knew it at the time they introduced the Land Bill, why did they not tell us? Why did they not give us some intimation that the security they proposed was open to this great deduction? They could not have known it at that time. It is impossible that they could. They could not have withheld their information from the House of Commons if they had known it; and, therefore, it comes to this, that we have to place what confidence we may on the information which has only been obtained since they left Office—which is only at their disposal since they lost all access to official information. Well, Sir, but I took another objection to the Land Bill of my right hon. Friend. I said I would not be a party to lending any British money at all to what was going to be practically a foreign country. Now, that is the point to which I want to call the attention of the House and of my hon. Friends. It is one thing that the whole resources of the Empire should be devoted to adding to the happiness and prosperity of those for whom the Imperial Parliament is directly responsible, and another thing altogether to lend money to a foreign country. I will take the case of Canada. I ask whether the House would lend £150,000,000, or £15,000,000, or £1,500,000, in order to buy out the Canadian landlords? The thing has only to be stated in order that you may see the absurdity of it. But I do not want hon. Members to think because I am opposed to lending money to a self-governing Colony, or to Ireland, if it is placed in the position of a self governing Colony, that therefore I am opposed to lending money to Ireland if it remains an integral portion of the United Kingdom. Why, Sir, what was the general controversy to which I devoted myself? I am afraid now it will appear with very little advantage in the course of the autumn. What was that controversy which was described by our opponents as concerning three acres and a cow? Why, it was a large and a just proposal that municipalities throughout the United Kingdom should be em- 625 powered compulsorily to obtain land for the purpose of creating allotments and small holdings, with the view of aiding in the creation of a peasant proprietary, and that they should be backed in this work by the credit of the State. What I would do for England and Scotland, of course I would do for Ireland, so long as she remains an integral portion of the Empire. Under these circumstances, what I have to say in conclusion on this branch of the subject is, that I wait for the definite proposals of the Government, but that I am prepared to give a favourable consideration—I would say further, a cordial support—to any proposal they may make for the establishment of a peasant proprietary in Ireland, provided that the whole arrangement is under the complete and effective control of the Imperial Parliament, and provided that it is secured by the intervention of municipal authority. Well, Sir, the Government do not propose to confine their inquiry entirely to the question of Land Purchase. They propose to inquire into judicial rents. They propose to inquire into the subject of public works; and they propose themselves to act as a Commission during the autumn and winter for the purpose of inquiry into the subject of local government. Well, I do not think that some of my right hon. Friends are justified in the ridicule which they have cast upon these proposals. The late Government came into Office as a Government of Inquiry. Does it lie in our mouth to complain that the present Government is also a Government of Inquiry? My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) referred very wittily to these projects of Commissions, and reminded us of the ancedote about the red lion. But my right hon. Friend has been a great artist in red lions himself. He has proposed to the House more than one Commission, and I do seriously say—
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to allude to other Commissions about to be issued by the Government, I think that would be travelling out of the particular terms of the specific Amendment now before the House.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
On the point of Order the course of my argument is this. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) proposes to declare the existence of certain grievances and his apprehension of certain evils. He does not himself propose in his Amendment any remedy for those evils; and I imagine that I am in Order in considering the remedies which he did propose in his speech, or any other remedies which may meet the grievances to which he refers. ["No!" and "Chair!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is the practice in our Parliamentary procedure, that when an hon. Member moves an Amendment to the Address, before he reaches that Amendment he may deviate into other matters, To a certain extent he thus places himself in an advantageous position; but when he has moved a specific Amendment, according to the Rules of the House, that specific Amendment becomes the substantive matter before the House.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Mr. Speaker, I was well aware that the position was, to some extent, an embarrassing one, especially if the House is not willing to extend to me the indulgence which was asked for and granted to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). Sir, I will endeavour to pass over any point which you may consider to be outside the scope of the Amendment. I had intended to refer to the Commissions, and to see how far the work of these Commissions was likely to affect a state of things which is described in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork. But if you think that in doing that I shall be out of Order, of course I shall be bound to obey your ruling. I was saying—I will not refer to the personal question—I was saying this, and I really think it is a general observation to which no exception can be taken, that I do not think it is desirable, on either side of the House, that we should ridicule the idea of proceeding by inquiry. It seems to me that in all these very important matters Royal Commissions are of the greatest service to the Governments of either Party. The only exception that can be made, and the only objection that can be fairly taken to a Royal Commission, is when it is appointed for 627 the purpose of shelving some question—
§ MR. W. MACDONALD (Queen's County, Ossary Division)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to Order. I want to know, with all respect, whether the right hon. Gentleman is in Order in alluding to these Commissions, and to the whole policy of the Government?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would be in order in discussing the whole policy of the Government; and it will be in the recollection of the House that I have already restrained other Members from doing so. That liberty which, in the exercise of my duty, I have denied to other hon. Members, of course, as far as I am concerned, I cannot extend to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Then, Sir, I think I shall put it to the House whether they will be good enough to extend to me the indulgence which they have already extended to other right hon. Gentlemen? I will promise, if they will, that I will deal very briefly with this part of the subject, and. I only want to allude to it to make my argument clear.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must distinctly repeat that the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman must be confined to the specific Amendment before the House.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W., and Sligo, S.)
On the question of Order, Sir, may I respectfully submit to you that if the right hon. Gentleman, by his argument, proposes to show the danger or loss to the British taxpayer, he is not entitled to proceed.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
In deference to your ruling, Sir, I will not refer to that part of the policy of the Government which is contained in the proposal to appoint the Royal Commission. I will turn to the argument of the hon. Member for Cork. What is the remedy which he proposes for the state of things which he describes in his Amendment? He has told us candidly that, in his opinion, the only remedy—the only satisfactory and complete remedy—is the establishment of an Irish Parliament in Dublin. But the hon. Member seems to forget that, even if 628 this view were accepted, it would not in the slightest degree meet the crisis which he anticipates in November. We have to deal in the Amendment with a crisis which is declared to be imminent, with a general inability to pay rent, with numerous evictions, with consequent suffering, and with great danger to social order. How would that be met by an assertion, supposing such an assertion could be obtained from Parliament, of its intention to establish, at some future time, an Irish Parliament in Dublin? Sir, upon that point the hon. Member made a very remarkable statement. He said, in effect, that the Irish people would have accepted the Land Bill of the late Government, although they objected to the extravagance of its proposals, and that they would have paid to the uttermost farthing, so that the British taxpayers would have lost nothing, if it had been accompanied by Home Rule. Then, Sir, what becomes of the inability of the Irish people to pay taxes?
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
What becomes, I say, of the inability of the Irish tenant, under these circumstances, to pay taxes? The hon. Member well knows that it is impossible to obtain from this Parliament any assertion of the kind. He expressed himself very well satisfied with the Election, and he looks forward with confidence to another appeal to the country. ["Hear, hear!" from the Home Rule Members.] Well, Sir, that is not a very hearty cheer; but if hon. Members are satisfied, so am I. I remember the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), and many others in the last Parliament, thinking and saying that the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian would sweep the country. I ventured to warn them that they were counting without their host, and I told them, from my own knowledge, that the result would be very different from what they anticipated, and that the Unionist majority in this House would be increased. It has been increased—it has been quadrupled. I only wish to I warn them once more that, if they appeal again on this subject, they may take my word for it that the result will be the 629 same; and if they persist in going to destruction on their own account, it will be worse for them than the last Election. Well, Sir, the hon. Member for Cork made a more practical suggestion than that we should establish a Home Rule Parliament. He made this suggestion, as I understood him, that judicial rents should be revised periodically according to a sliding scale. I thought for myself that it was a very taking suggestion. I do not know how far it may be practicable; but I may say that I have received many letters from Ireland from persons who are well qualified to speak on such a subject—[Cries of "Name!"]—from land agents, from landlords —[Laughter from the Home Ru'e Members]—yes; and from tenants, who seem to think that in the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cork there may really be found a solution of the present difficulty with regard to judicial rents. Well, Sir, I know that it is very difficult for an English Member to judge these Irish questions, and I have never attempted to dogmatize about them. ["Oh!"] I must say that hon. Members below the Gangway are a little unreasonable. They interrupt me when I disagree with the hon. Member for Cork. They now interrupt me because I am agreeing with him. In reference to this question of Irish opinion, I acknowledge that I should like to refer to a statement which particularly concerns myself, and which was made by the hon. Member for Cork. The hon. Member said, and said truly, that I had intended to visit Ireland and see for myself, as far as I could, the condition of the country, and consult local opinion; and he had the good taste to say that I was deterred from that visit because Mr. Healy threatened to duck me in a horse-pond. I do not believe that statement; I do not believe that Mr. Healy ever made use of any such coarse and vulgar threat. At all events, I am not aware of it. It is true that I did receive threats at that time—threats from people who told me that I should be murdered if I went to Ireland; but I did not pay much attention to them. I thought they were merely evidences of ill-restrained enthusiasm, very much of the same kind as that of the hon. Member from Ireland who spoke yesterday, and who admitted that he had, in the course of a speech, spoken 630 of shooting landlords like partridges, but who explained that this was not to be taken seriously, because he objected to shooting even partridges. But, Sir, I did not go to Ireland for a different reason. I did not carry out my intention to proceed there because the persons who had promised me introductions to leading members of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the representatives of the National opinion withdrew their promises. I found that if I went to Ireland I should be "Boycotted"—that I should be obliged to consult one side only, and that I should be unable to make the impartial inquiry which I had contemplated. I only refer to this in order to point out the inconsistency of hon. Members. Again and again, since I have been in this House, I have heard them taunt English Members and English Ministers with taking no pains to visit Ireland and make themselves acquainted with the condition of that country, and with not visiting Ireland, although they were in the habit of visiting the Continent. And then, when two Ministers proposed to devote their holiday—the first opportunity they had—to the consideration, on the spot, of these questions, hon. Members who profess to represent the majority of the people of Ireland do everything in their power to render their visit impossible and useless. But there is another point in connection with that. Hon. Members on this side of the House have referred in the course of this controversy again and again to a speech which I delivered, and in which I spoke in very strong language of the system known as Dublin Castle, and compared it with the bureaucratic system of Austria and Russia. But they quoted that as if I were in favour of a Statutory Parliament. [Cries of "Question!"] I am referring to a personal allusion that was made by the hon. Member for Cork. I say that my visit to Ireland was planned immediately after that speech, and the opposition of the hon. Members from Ireland to that visit shows that they did not, at that time, accept me as a convert to their views. Now, I want the House to consider what are the facts with regard to this question of judicial rents. I want hon. Members to look at it from both sides. In the first place, it appears to me that there are two strong arguments in 631 favour of those who hold that the judicial rents should be maintained. There is, in the first place, the fact that when the Land Act of 1881 was passed it undoubtedly took from the landlords a legal estate and transferred it to the tenants, and that it was held out to the landlords that this sacrifice on their part would be a final sacrifice, and that the measure was one which would be absolutely adequate for the purpose of giving peace to Ireland. That was the contention of the author of the Land Act. Well, I confess it is a rather hard doctrine that the same men should be told within two or three years after the passing of the Act that it is altogether insufficient, and that the whole question must be re-opened. Then there is another point also in their favour, and that is that we are not certain, in this matter of rent, that inability to pay is the only factor in the case. We want to know whether there is a willingness to pay; and we want to know when there is a willingness to pay, whether there is any interference with that willingness to pay from any outside authority. Well, Sir, we know perfectly well—I do not believe that there is anyone who is acquainted even superficially with the state of affairs in Ireland who does not know, on good authority—of cases in which tenants have brought their rents secretly to their landlords because they were honest men, and because they were afraid lest the National League should know that they were honest, and should punish them for it. And now we want to know, in considering this question of judicial rents, are the tenants to be free to pay, if they are willing to pay, or are they to be coerced by outside agencies? The hon. Member for Cork has shown that he can exercise great influence. He has exercised it; he has undoubtedly exercised it during the last 12 months, and I believe it is owing to his means that crime has greatly decreased. Does he intend to exercise that influence in the same direction, or does he intend to provoke the people? [Cries of "Oh!" and "Withdraw!"] I am asking a question. [Renewed cries of "Withdraw!"] I certainly shall not withdraw the question, but I shall wait with great interest for an answer. We are told to look at the Chicago Convention, and we have been told in this very debate that there is a proof of the great moderation of the 632 Irish people. Well, Sir, I should be very glad to see the signs of moderation in that Assembly. I admit that it is of great importance, for I know that where the funds are there the policy is. I have read every word of the report of the proceedings at that Convention, and what do I find? I find that one of the delegates of the Irish Parliamentary Party, specially sent over by the hon. Member for Cork—namely, Mr. John Eedmond—made a speech, which was reported verbatim, on the concluding day of the Conference. That speech, we are told, was not an impromptu speech, but carefully prepared, and in it he said—"It will be the duty of the Irish Members to make the government of England in Ireland impossible." Do you adopt that? Why do you not answer? I want an answer. Do you adopt it?
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman, with the leave of the House, whether he will be good enough to give the context of that speech, inasmuch as it is possible to take a single sentence from any speech and distort its meaning?
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
Mr. J. Redmond is reported to have made what all the reports call a fiery speech. It contains many other statements equally strong.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I thought that the intention of the hon. Member was bonâ fide. I was going to say that the immediate context of the passage I have quoted was that—"It is impossible for England to govern Ireland;" and then there follows the paragraph which I quoted—"It will be our duty to make it impossible."
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
It is open to the hon. Member to read the whole speech if he likes, and as far as I am concerned I hope he will do so. But, in the meantime, I ask the Irish Members seriously to consider the question—"Do they adopt that policy of their delegate, or do they repudiate it?" If they adopt it, then I say we shall look with suspicion at the accounts which may come to us in the autumn of the inability of the tenants to pay the rent.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
If the Irish Members repudiate the speech they must repudiate Mr. J. Redmond also, and they must likewise repudiate the money which is subscribed on the basis of this statement. Well, Sir, these are the main points which seem to me to be in favour of the contention that the judicial rents should not be disturbed. But there are very strong arguments on the other side. I do not think anyone will deny that there has been a great fall in the prices of almost all the chief produce of Ireland since the judicial rents were fixed. That fall may be variously estimated; but I, myself, should think that it represents from 20 to 30 per cent. Now, in case the judicial rents were fixed upon the basis of the prices at the time when they were fair rents, then they must necessarily be unfair rents now. On the other hand, it is alleged that the Commissioners took into account the possibility of a reduction. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] And I think it is probable that what the Commissioners did was to fix what I should call a fair average rent, having regard to ordinary fluctuations. But, Sir, that is not a sufficient answer. Is the present an ordinary fluctuation? Do you believe that the present fall is permanent, or only temporary? If it is a permanent fall, then, clearly, the rents are not fair, because unless you suppose the prices will be as much above as they have been below the average, the average will never be reached. Unless some day or other the prices will be much higher than I am afraid they are now below the average, the average will not be reached. If, on the contrary, you believe that such a fluctuation is likely in the future, and the present prices are temporary and exceptional, then I do not see why you should object to the principle of a sliding scale, which would give immediate relief to the tenant in time of need, and would give a prospect of future profit to the landlord. The conclusion I come to is this. I do not contend, in the face of insufficient information, that it would be possible to do what the hon. Gentleman suggests—namely, establish immediately a sliding scale throughout the whole of Ireland. It would be necessary to make careful inquiry before 634 any arrangement of the kind could be carried out. But I do hope the Commission will give the matter careful consideration, and I, for one, should not be at all sorry if the suggestions of the hon. Member for Cork were finally adopted. At all events, I do not admit for a moment that there is any sanctity about judicial or any other rents. If rents cannot be paid so as to leave a fair subsistence to the tenants, there is no doubt the landlord must bear the loss. It is imputed to the Government that they have said that under no conceivable circumstances will they touch judicial rents, even if the Commission were to report in favour of reduction. But my own impression is quite different. I have not understood that the Government pledge themselves in such a way as to the future. It would be very unreasonable that they should do so. I am quite certain that if any Commission reported in the sense I have suggested, no Government would take the responsibility of maintaining judicial rents which the Commission reported, after full inquiry, to be too high. All I understand the Government to say is that in the meantime, pending inquiry, it is their business to maintain the authority of the law. If that is a crime, there are no greater criminals than those who sit on this Bench. The Governments of which I have been a Member have again and again expressed the same doctrine—my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), Lord Selborne, and the late Prime Minister himself, in reference to Ireland, and the circumstances connected with, the Crofter movement, laid down the doctrine that, pending inquiry into an alteration of the law, it is the prime duty of every Government to maintain the law. Well, Sir, the hon. Member for Cork said—and this is a thing which made a great impression on the House—that evictions would go on, and that while these Commissioners were considering the crisis would arise, and that we should have difficulties upon us before we had considered how to remedy the evil. The hon. Member for Cork proposes, in order to deal with this state of things, that evictions should be stayed upon certain conditions which he laid down. I was rather surprised to find that he was supported in this contention by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle- 635 on-Tyne (Mr. John Morley). My right hon. Friend has come to the conclusion, after carefully considering the question, that it would be wise to give to the Courts which are charged with the duty of issuing process for eviction some equitable jurisdiction to decide whether an eviction ought to take place or not. I am glad my right hon. Friend has come to that conclusion, and that the hon. Member for Cork has adopted it. But why did they not give me more encouragement when I proposed it in the month of April? In the month of April I proposed a plan of staying evictions—I do not say whether I was right or wrong—but I proposed that evictions should be stayed, and I had in my mind exactly the same idea as my right hon. Friend has put forward—namely, that it should be done by giving the Court some kind of equitable jurisdiction. I proposed at the same time something else to which very likely a greater objection would apply. In order to facilitate a proposal of that kind, I suggested that in the meantime to such landlords as might require it a portion of the rent due should be lent to them as a first charge on the land. That might have involved a loan of a million or two, or by extreme calculation it might have reached £4,000,000. I think it would have been as certain as Consols, as I only proposed that a portion equivalent to a fourth of the year's rent should be advanced, because I only proposed that a portion of the half-year's rent should be advanced. No one could say that would not be a safe security, and it was proposed in order to meet a difficulty. But that was not an essential part of the scheme. How did my right hon. Friend the late Chief Secretary receive that proposal? He described it as "the most extraordinary ever propounded by a man of my eminence and character." My right hon. Friend said I proposed first to pass an Act to stay evictions, which would not be passed in a hurry. That statement was received with loud cheers and laughter by the Home Rule Members. My right hon. Friend added that the Act I proposed was to remain in force for six months, and at the end of that time, if things were not quiet, another Act was to be passed. That was not my proposal, but it was attributed to me by my right hon. Friend. The landlords, meantime, he said, were to 636 have their rents lent to them out of our money. Now, what I want to know is this—I think my right hon. Friend hit the blot in my proposal. I think the proposal was a just proposal. I am of the same opinion still. I wish the Government could have seen their way to treat the proposal for giving some equitable jurisdiction, so as to satisfy the people of England that if evictions took place they only occurred in the case of men who can pay and will not pay and are unwilling to pay, and not in the ease of unfortunate men who are unable to pay. My right hon. Friend put his finger upon the blot in my proposal when he said that to pass legislation of that kind would be no slight difficulty in the present temper of the House. If the proposal were made what security was there that it would be accepted? I recollect what happened at the time of the Compensation for Disturbances Bill, when, in similar circumstances, a demand was made to us by the Irish Members to interrupt the course of Business in order to introduce a Bill dealing with a temporary difficulty. We consented, but what happened? Throughout the progress of that Bill we received from the Irish Members no assistance. There was continual obstruction and opposition, and at last they moved an Amendment against the third reading of the Bill. The Bill was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). There was no gratitude for it although it was brought in in compliance with their demand. They rendered no assistance in passing it, and only made it a peg on which to hang continued and excessive discussion. I cannot help saying that, although I regret very much that the Government are not able to deal with this matter, I cannot blame them for it. In the face of such a precedent as that I cannot expect them to undertake complicated legislation of this kind, which would involve them and the House in protracted debates, which in the end might possibly, after all, prove entirely fruitless. Well, Sir, in conclusion, I venture to think that, at any rate, this controversy has brought the real issue clearly before the House. You have, on the one side, in reference to the whole of the Irish difficulty, those Irishmen and Englishmen whose object it is to establish a Statutory Parliament in Ireland, or, as 637 some of them prefer, to make Ireland an independent country, and whose policy it is to make, in the meantime, the administration of affairs in Ireland by England impossible. I think that if any section of the Liberal Party shall be found permanently to commit itself to such an unpatriotic policy as that, it will suffer seriously in the opinion of the constituencies, and that it will wander for many years in the wilderness before it sees the promised land. On the other side, you have those who—to whatever Party they belong, or in whatever part of the House they may sit—believe in the supreme necessity of maintaining the effective Union between the Three Kingdoms, and who, with that object, are prepared to sustain the verdict of the constituencies. For my own part, I would say that if ever the people of this country should weary of the excessive burden of the mighty Empire that has been bequeathed to them by their ancestors, if they should ever be ready to acknowledge their incapacity to fulfil the obligations which attend upon such an inheritance, then I would rather a hundredfold that, instead of halting between two opinions, they should accept the logical sequence of the humiliating position, that they should yield wholly to their victors, that they should let Ireland go and become what the hon. Member for Cork once said he wished to make her—namely, independent among the nations of the world. Yes, Sir; but if the people of this country are not so craven in spirit, if they are not so willing to repudiate the obligations of a great nation, if they are not willing to betray those who have trusted to their good faith and honour, then I say that it is our duty—it is the duty of this Imperial Parliament—to recognize the position, and while, on the one hand, maintaining the cause of social order in that great contest between law and sheer lawlessness which was once so eloquently described by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian in the speech he delivered at Leeds—while doing that, on the one hand, to endeavour, on the other, in every way to promote the material prosperity and the happiness of the people of Ireland, and to do for that people, as forming part of the United Kingdom, all or more than all that an Irish Parliament sitting in Dublin could reason- 638 ably and justly be expected to do. It is because I believe that the policy of the Government, as it has been shadowed forth to us, tends in this direction, and has these objects, that I am prepared to wait until it has been fully developed, and that, when it has been developed, I am prepared to give it a fair and a favourable consideration.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
Mr. Speaker, my right hon. Friend suffered some inconvenience, which I regret, from the interruptions which prevented him from delivering his speech before the dinner hour. I hope he considers that he has been more than recompensed by the cheers with which he has been greeted from the opposite side of the House. My right hon. Friend's speech seemed to me to be much less concerned with the Amendment which is before the House than full of endeavour to justify himself for his separation from the late Government, and for the course which he took—I believe one of some considerable importance in the weight of the support he gave to hon. Gentleman sitting on the opposite side of the House. But, Sir, I say, and I say it with all seriousness, that I doubt whether any hon. Member can recall any other speech made in such circumstances as the present that was so clearly marked by a tone of personal bitterness. It was a speech—I am sorry to say this, but I say it because I feel it—it was a speech in the course of which my right hon. Friend seemed to seek for and obtained the cheers of hon. Members opposite by language insulting—[Cries of "No!" "Withdraw!" and "Order!"]—insulting to his former Colleagues and Friends sitting on this side of the House. I do not desire to say that my right hon. Friend intentionally pursued that course. It may be that he was betrayed into it by the intensity of personal feeling which possesses him, and it may also be that he has been sinned against himself in the same way in other places. But I think it is too much to expect forbearance from those who sit on this side of the House when my right hon. Friend selects a word to characterize the great bulk of the Liberal Party, to which Party he still professes to belong, which he must have known to be the most objectionable which he could have applied to them. [Interruption.] I shall 639 feel obliged to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) if he will refrain from indulging in stage whispers. Sir, my right hon. Friend says that we are the party of Separatists. Hon. Members opposite may be entitled to say that. We have always regarded them as our political opponents, although we may not always have carried on our controversies with freedom from recrimination; but I want to know what right has a former Colleague and Friend of Gentlemen on this Bench, whose intentions and motives he must know, to dub that Party with a phrase which he knows to be considered by them insulting? Sir, we are not Separatists. We believe that you (pointing to the Ministerial Benches) and your allies are the Separatists; and so far as my right hon. Friend is concerned, if he were less assured of his own complete wisdom than he is, it might have given him some momentary doubt in that wisdom to note the fact that by three to one the Liberal Party in this House are opposed to him. But, Sir, my right hon. Friend did not stop at doing all he could to give pain to his former associates; he went further. With the zeal of a new convert he out-Heroded Herod, and he defended the policy of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite along the whole line. ["Hear, hear!" from the Ministerial Benches.] Nay, more, he protested against being confined to that part of the defence of the policy of the Government which was ruled to be at all relevant to the Amendment. [Renewed Ministerial cheers.] I am glad to see that hon. Gentlemen opposite appreciate the position. My right hon. Friend betrayed an almost parental fondness for a particular part of that policy. He defended that policy with so much cordiality and so much tenderness as to make one suspect that his relationship to it was of the very closest and most intimate character. Now, Sir, as regards the Amendment before the House, my right hon. Friend said very little, but what he did say was very remarkable. He said that the Amendment was divided into two parts, to neither of which had he any objection in itself, but the Amendment was incomplete, and therefore he could not support it, for it led to no definite object; and then he went on to say, in very emphatic language, that he would support no Amendment, whatever that Amend- 640 ment was, which would have the effect of displacing the Government opposite, and replacing it by a Government which he designated the Government of the Separatist Party. May I suggest respectfully to my right hon. Friend that he might have saved the House and himself some time, for his position is that he intends to vote for the Government and against any proposition which comes from this side of the House, however just and right and politic that proposition may be. My right hon. Friend might have declared his policy in a single sentence, and that is that he will vote against his Party and with the Party opposite. My right hon. Friend has condescended to submit to the House his views as to the issue of the late Elections. It would not be proper for me in that regard to follow him at any length, beyond saying this—that, looking at the difficulties with which this question of the government of Ireland is surrounded, the comparative suddenness, I must admit, with which the policy of the late Government was introduced, the amount of ignorance or want of knowledge which prevailed, the fruitful theme that it presented for misrepresentation, aye, and for appeals to prejudice of race and of religion, it is to me a marvel, not that that policy was for a time delayed—for I cannot say that it was defeated—but that so large a number of the political minds of England gave their adhesion to it. My right hon. Friend went on, in some little detail, to criticize the Amendment, and, as I am arguing upon the Amendment, let me recall the attention of the House to what it is. It consists, as has been said, of two parts, the first of which refers to and alleges a fall in the agricultural prices, and then it goes on to state that—The greatest difficulty will be experienced in the coming winter by the Irish tenant farmers in the payment of their present rents, and many will be unable to pay these rents. That numerous evictions confiscating the rights vested in the tenants by the Land Act of 1881, causing wide-spread suffering and endangering the maintenance of social order, will be the result.I wish to ask permission to say a few words, and only a few words, on the closing paragraph, and I will endeavour, as far as I can, to avoid repeating what has been said by previous speakers. First of all, is that statement true? and, secondly, is it politic and right that the words should ap- 641 pear in the Address in the reply to the Speech from the Throne? Well, Sir, it is hardly denied that the statement is true. [An hon. MEMBER: No.] I hear one hon. Member say "No." I said it is "hardly" denied that the statement is true. That is proved first, so far as the authority of my right hon. Friend is concerned, by the admission of my right hon. Friend himself. But he did not carry his admission to the extent that he did in April last. In April last, in a speech to which he has referred, he stated that the fall in the prices of agricultural produce was from 20 to 40 per cent.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon if I am wrong; but I am not referring to my right hon. Friend's statement to-night. In April my right hon. Friend certainly spoke of a fall of 40 per cent. My right hon. Friend went further on that occasion, because he gave his own opinion, and he gave what seemed to me good reason, or, at all events, a strong reason, for that opinion—that the bottom had not, so to speak, been reached, and that a future fall might probably be expected; and he pointed to the insecurity of an arrangement based on the foundation of existing rents. Further, let me call the attention of hon. Members opposite to evidence from Ireland itself, and not evidence from the Southern and Western parts of the country only, or from hon. Members below the Gangway. I am sorry not to see the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) in his place; but I may state to the House that over the whole of Ulster there are associations for the protection of the rights of the tenants—not portions of the Land League, though I believe that, too, has its branches—and that these associations for the protection of the rights of the tenant farmers in Ulster—Presbyterian and Protestant tenant farmers principally—have passed resolutions declaring that the judicial rents are, in the circumstances of this time, excessive and impossible to pay. But I wish to point out one fact which, I think, has not been mentioned in this connection, but which seems to me to be very important to bear in mind, and it is this—the reductions that have 642 been made by the judicial process in Ireland may be said to be about 17 to 18 per cent. Now, from what rents were those reductions made? I wish the House to note this fact. They were made from the rents fixed at the time when, by the admission of Parliament, the landlord and tenant were not able to deal on equal terms, and from rents fixed at the time when the landlords were claiming and were exercising the right of increasing the rents upon the tenants' avowed improvements; in other words, the rents which the Judicial Commission applied themselves to reconsider were rents based, in large measure at least, upon a comprehension and inclusion of the tenants' improvements. When you take that fact in mind, and take also the fact that in England voluntary reductions have been made to a much higher figure and to a very large extent, it will be apparent that reductions in England of 15 or 20 or 30 percent upon the rents which the tenants paid, the landlords having at the same time to pay out of their own pockets yearly, or as occasion may arise, towards the maintenance and erection of farm buildings and other like improvements, it will be seen that reductions in England of 20 per cent will be equal to reductions in Ireland of 30, or above 30, per cent. That seems to me to be a consideration of some importance, especially when it is borne in mind—and I hope the House will forgive me for just dwelling upon this for one moment—that the Bessborough Commission found the fact to be that of the whole of the improvements which are made upon Irish agricultural land some 89 per cent are made by the tenants, and 11 per cent only by the landlords. Well, Sir, to return to the Amendment, can it be doubted that in circumstances such as these the judicial rents are too high? Can it be doubted that if the landlord insists upon his full pound of flesh the evictions which would follow upon that course would be a source of serious danger to the public peace? I think none of these things can be doubted. Then, is it politic that these facts should appear in the form suggested in the Amendment to the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne? I think it is right and. politic that they should, and I will tell the House why. It is not proposed by 643 the Government to bring in a Bill of the nature which my right hon. Friend in April last suggested—I mean a Bill for the temporary staying of evictions throughout the country. I believe that was a generous and well-meant proposition on the part of my right hon. Friend, although I cannot forget that it was a bid made by my right hon. Friend in opposition to the Bill for the Better Government of Ireland and the Land Purchase Scheme of the late Government. I admit that there are great difficulties in the way of a general measure of that kind. If that be admitted, and if it be further admitted that the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant would have great difficulty in refusing the aid of the Executive in carrying out legal processes, except, indeed, in the very gravest extremity, in which he would be justified in coming to this House and asking for an indemnity for what he had done—if these two things be admitted, is it not right that in some form or other an expression of this, the representative House of Parliament, should go forth to Ireland, that in the circumstances of the present time the rights of the Irish landlords, according to the letter, should be exercised with moderation and with forbearance? Sir, I regard this Amendment very much as standing in the place of the appeal which Lord Carnarvon, to his credit, made to the Irish landlords in 1885. I consider it the more necessary, because of the language used by the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill) in unfolding the policy of the Government. I do not desire for one moment to have it suggested that by what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he wished to urge the Irish landlords to exact their extreme rights—I do not think he did—but I am speaking of the effect of what he said, and. I do not doubt for one instant what the effect of what he said will be upon the minds of a great many j Irish landlords. They will say—"Whatever the local opinion in Ireland is we regard it not; we look to the public opinion in England." And if they find leading public opinion in England telling them that they are to be secured in their legal rights, and that England will stand by them with the full force of the Executive, the effect upon them must be to prevent them using that forbearance and that withholding of their full powers 644 which otherwise they might exercise. Well, then, it is said that the law in Ireland is much more favourable to the tenant than the law is in England. The payment of rent has been treated by some hon. and learned Friends of mine as a strictly legal obligation. They say—"You must either pay the rent or go; you must either pay the rent, or let someone else come in to pay it. I do not know how it strikes hon. Gentlemen opposite; but I think if they dwell upon the question it will strike them as it strikes me, that in the mind of every man who considers the question of the rent of agricultural land there is a justifiable distinction to be drawn between an agricultural rent contract and other contracts. It is this—that at the bottom of the sentiment of the public mind there is a recurrence of that which is the true economic foundation for the payment of rent—namely, that the landlord is entitled, not to absolute payment in all events, but to a proportion of the produce of the land, the support of the man who tills the land being the first charge upon the land. That is the principle which hon. Members opposite know is the Common Law of Scotland to this day, which is the law in many parts of Europe to this day, and which, whether we wish it or not, has unquestionably affected the public mind in England, as shown by the transactions in relation to land in England, and the forbearance of landlords in England, who take into consideration, not whether the tenant is absolutely able to pay out of his own private resources, but whether the land is able to pay the rent. When I come to consider the policy suggested by the Government in relation to this matter I have great difficulty in appreciating it. And here let me say, with all sincerity, that I do not in the very least, by anything I am now saying, or by the support I am giving to this Amendment, desire to embarrass the Government on this occasion. I think, if the truth were spoken, the Government would perhaps recognize that in the free criticism which has proceeded from this side of the House upon the foreshadowing of their policy observations have been made which may be of considerable value to them. When the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), explaining in more detail the policy of the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Exche- 645 quer (Lord Randolph Churchill), distinguished between judicial rents and non-judicial rents, I confess I did not follow the aim and object of the policy he propounded so far as any relief of the Irish tenantry was concerned. As regards judicial rents, there is to be an inquiry; but that inquiry is not to be with a view to the revision or remission of those judicial rents. In some way which I do not quite understand, and on which we have only an imperfect light shed by the statement attributed to the I noble Marquess the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury) in "another place," if it should turn out that the judicial rents have been fixed too high, whatever happens to the tenant the landlord is not to lose. This is the only clear idea I have of the policy of the Government. How this can be said to be any relief to the tenant, how it can be said to meet the case of exceptional fall in the price of agricultural produce, I entirely fail to see. Well, then, as regards rents which, for distinction, may be called non-judicial rents, fixed by ordinary agreement, the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary says there is a section in the Act of Parliament which enables the tenant to apply to the Court to stay. Has the right hon. Baronet inquired in how many cases that section was availed of? I think that if he consults the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) he will be told that in the case of those who most need protection, the small tenants, there has not been one application to the Court; that the applications under the staying section have been exceedingly few; and that in the cases in which applications have been made the Court, owing to the wording of the section, has often found itself unable to grant the prayer of the applicants. But, further, the practical answer is that the expense and delay involved have rendered the section of no avail as a means of protection to the tenant. Then my right hon. and learned Friend the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Plunket) certainly advanced a still more extraordinary argument. Pointing to the statement made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), that the important time of the year—a critical time it was called—would occur in November, my right hon. and learned Friend said—"Oh, that it quite a mistake, because no decree could be ob- 646 tained for the November rent until the following January." Let me point out the entire misconception under which the right hon. and learned Gentleman labours. The arrears will be accumulating if the tenants cannot pay the rent, and the Act applies to the rent in arrear now, for which ejectment can be brought if one year's rent be in arrear. Then, it is said, the landlords in Ireland may be trusted to do what is right. I have never made an indiscriminate attack upon the Irish landlords; and I will only say of them that the legislation of this couutry—the legislation of 1870 and 1881, and the proceedings which followed upon it—have shown that, in the opinion of Parliament, the Irish landlords were not to be completely trusted. The fact is that in part they are the victims of a state of things which was not of their creation. They are suffering to-day for sins not of their committal. Many of them are impoverished themselves, and are unable to make concessions which men of larger means would make; but there is—upon which I lay great emphasis—there is an absence in Ireland of that strong local, searching, and thorough public opinion which is stronger than the law in England, and which controls the exercise of literal legal right. This public opinion is an important factor in social life in England; but, for reasons which I will not here dwell upon, it is wanting in Ireland. I now leave the first part of the Amendment, and I will say, with the permission of the House, only a word or two upon the second branch of it. That branch is one which deprecates any attempt to saddle any loss which may arise to the owners of land by the inability of the tenants to pay the present rent upon the taxpayers of Great Britain. I will take leave to say that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) did go out of his way—I will not say intentionally, but unnecessarily out of his way—in dealing with this Amendment to have a fling at the Purchase Scheme of the late Government; and in doing so I think I shall show the House, and oven satisfy him that, in some important particulars, he has mis-stated what that scheme was. In the first place, what is this clause in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork? What relation I has it in any way to any State-aided 647 Purchase Scheme of the late Government? What is said here is this—and this is in reference to a statement attributed to the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury) in "another place"—that if, after inquiry into the judicial rents, it should be found that the judicial rents are too high, then, where there are any remissions to the tenants, in the scheme of purchase by the State there shall be payment to the landlord upon the basis of the unjust rent. Now, will my right hon. Friend say that that is a sound proposition? He cannot. It would be utterly inconsistent not only with what he has said on previous occasions, but with his argument to-night, because it would be, in effect, compensating the landlord for the fictitious and untrue value put upon his property by excessive judicial rents. Well, but my right hon. Friend says, in reference to those rents—"Oh, the Commissioners were appointed, and I have no doubt they looked to the average." There is no doubt they did look to the average; but then, if they looked to the average, it must have been to the average of what had gone before; it could not be the average of what was to follow, and that is explained very clearly by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mahony) sitting below the Gangway, who was formerly a Sub-Commissioner himself, and who said that what the practice had been was to take the average of five or six years preceding the fixing of the rent. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Mahony) went on to show, by figures, that from the average of agricultural produce for those six years, contrasted with the present time and the two or three years which have succeeded the fixing of the judicial rents, there have been falls of from 20 to 42 per cent. Well, but my right hon. Friend mis-stated, as I conceive, the effect of the Land Purchase Scheme of the late Government. He seemed to think that the Land Scheme was necessarily based upon purchase at the judicial rent. My right hon. Friend will excuse me for saying that is not correct. It was not taken upon that basis absolutely. There was unquestionably what I may call a maximum of 20 years' purchase upon the net rent, and there was a minimum so low that no mention was made of it—it might have been two, three, four, five, or six years' purchase. I pass from that, and have one or two other words only to say. I am not going into a defence of the Purchase Scheme of 648 the late Government. I never felt entirely in love with that scheme, and I have not expressed a very ardent affection for it here or elsewhere; but I did think—and I think still—that it was practically free from risk to the British taxpayer; and, even if it were not entirely so, I thought that, for the settlement of a great national, as well as a great social, question, it was worth making an effort, even if there should be appreciable risks to be borne by the English and Scotch and Welsh taxpayers. I think, further, that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain) might have accepted the correction of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) upon the question of the margin of security. It was, no doubt, subject to prior charges, but it was practically the security of the whole Revenues of the country and of the whole land of the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), in introducing the Land Scheme of the late Government, said the land rents which the State authority would levy would amount to a net rental of £2,500,000; and he pointed out that there was the highest possible security for vigilance in levying the rents—firstly, in its sense of right; secondly, in its sense of prudence; and, thirdly, in its sense of necessity. In my opinion, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) was justified in saying that after the prior charges had been defrayed there would be left a margin of somewhere about £2,000,000.
§ MR. JOSEPH CHAMBERLAIN
I think my hon. and learned Friend (Sir Charles Russell) did not understand what I said, and I am bound to say I did not understand the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton; but I think he will admit I apologized for any hasty expression of mine in reference to it. What I said was this—that the late Prime Minister said, and said truly, that the whole of the Revenues of Ireland were security for these rents; but then I pointed out that of those whole Revenues only the Customs and Excise were under the control of the Imperial Parliament, and it was only those to which I can refer as bearing the slightest security, and it was upon them I said it was a first mortgage which left only £200,000 value.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
My right hon. Friend forgets that there was a provision in the scheme to the effect that so long as indebtedness to the British Treasury continued, all the payments were to go through the hands of an Imperial authority—namely, the Receiver General. Allow me to say in this connection that the great merit of that scheme—a merit which I think will be more recognized hereafter than now—was that so far from following the precedent of previous land schemes in dealings between the English Executive, representing the British Treasury on the one hand, and individual tenants and individual landlords on the other hand, for the first time it created a central Local Authority which was, if I may use the expression, a buffer between the landlord, and tenant on the one hand, and the British Executive on the other—a Central Authority which for the justification of its own existence, not to say of its credit in the face of the world, was placed in a position in which it was bound to exert, and must exert, on the local public opinion in Ireland the strongest moral pressure for the fulfilment of the obligations under it. But we are not discussing that measure, and I will just make this concluding comment upon the general outline of policy sketched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have never thought—I do not think it now—fair to attempt to pin the Government to the details of a policy which has only been sketched. I think the noble Lord who leads this House probably is himself to blame for his indiscretion—if it is indiscretion—in inviting criticism by the statement of policy which enlarged and amplified the Queen's Speech. Certainly, this policy of the Government is marked by one extraordinary feature. I do not say that this feature is one which is peculiar to the present Government, for I am afraid it is to be found in the policy of many preceding Governments. We are here dealing with a system of government by representation, which we all prize; and yet in the case of Ireland you are inaugurating a policy which, so far as you have sketched it, has not received the approval of a single Representative from Ireland—of those who represent the great majority of the Irish people. Your policy has not been approved by any one of the Representatives of four-fifth 650 of the Irish people—nay more, in your search for information, in your wide field of Commissions, I have not heard it said that you have made arrangements, or contemplate arrangements, for the representation of the Irish Members upon those Commissions. No; you are following the old and fatal policy of fashioning for yourselves a policy for Ireland. You are giving Ireland what you in your wisdom think she ought to take, and not consulting those who ought best to know her wants and wishes. Well, Sir, the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) said—"Why should my Friends on this side of the House be impatient for the policy of the Government; why should they not wait? If the policy which they maintain and contend for—namely, the policy of the right of the Irish people to govern themselves—be just and true, that policy must and will prevail." We agree with the noble Lord. We believe our policy to be just and true. We believe it will prevail. We believe that the mists and clouds of prejudice will be soon dispelled; and I, for one, believe that the day is not very far distant when we shall be looking back upon the settlement of this question with amazement—amazement that we should have given way to such dire forebodings, just as you look back with amazement at the forebodings of your Predecessors when any great Constitutional change has been effected. I will say this only in conclusion. My right hon. Friend, in his peroration, spoke of the day—the dismal day, I think he called it—of humiliation, when a craven policy of despair will have taken possession of the minds of British statesmen, and when the Irish demands will be yielded under that feeling of despair. Despair of what? I hope it may be a policy of despair indeed, but a policy of despair of the old methods; a policy of despair of the methods by which you have set at naught and disregarded the great popular will and the great popular wish; despair of a policy by which you have thrust your rule on the people by force and fear; not a policy by which you have sought to win the Irish people to the side of law, and by which you might rule them through affection. And how are you to do that best? By carrying out that which I maintain to be, notwithstanding what my right hon. Friend may now say and think, a true Liberal principle, respect- 651 ing the wishes and wants of those over whom you rule. When my right hon. Friend talks of humiliation, I ask if it would have been a humiliation had the Advisers of George III. recognized the rights of the Colonies of America to govern themselves? Was it a humiliation to give to the Canadians the right to rule themselves? No, Sir; there is no humiliation in doing justice; and when a demand is made, as this demand is made, in a spirit of friendly feeling with England, in a spirit in which it is hoped that bygones may be bygones, and that the ill-treatment of years may be forgotten, is not the statesmanship of England, is not the spirit of public men on both sides, equal to the task of devising a policy by which the Irish people may be permitted to govern themselves—a policy which would not imperil, but would give added strength and dignity to the Empire?
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL) (Paddington, S.)
I am bound to say that I feel in a difficult position as regards this Motion. I would be most anxious myself to avoid even the commencement of anything like a wrangling controversy with any Party in this House on Motions for Adjournment; but I feel bound to remind the House of the leading facts of the case. The Amendment was moved on Tuesday, and I think I shall not be contradicted when I say that all Parties in this House have very fully laid their views with regard to it before the House; and, of all Parties, I do not think that the Irish Party can say that their views have not been fully placed before us. But what the Government feel strongly is this—having regard to the period of the year at which we have arrived, and the very large amount of Public Business which still remains before the House, and which it is indispensable that the House should get through, they would be very reluctant to consent to any further prolongation of the debate, unless, either by appealing to the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition, or to any hon. Gentleman below the Gangway who is able to speak with authority as to the intentions of those who follow the hon. Member for the 652 City of Cork—unless we can get from one or other of those Gentlemen a clear and honourable undertaking that if the Government do not resist the Motion for Adjournment they may count on the debate on the present Amendment terminating to-morrow evening. Without that undertaking I must ask the House to continue.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
The noble Lord has said truly that the debate on the Address has extended to a considerable length, although I think not to a greater length than has been the case in former years. But the noble Lord must not blame the House for that. I am not going to say anything against the course taken, which, no doubt, has been taken for reasons which appeared to them sufficient; but it was open to them to have said—"Parliament meets in February next, and we intend to reserve till then any statement as to our policy." That course they did not take, and I have no doubt they had good reasons for not taking it. But a noble Lord in "another place" stated in very definite outline the whole policy affecting Ireland, both in the present and in the immediate future. Under the circumstances, then, it was almost inevitable that the character of that policy should have led to a very extensive debate. Certainly, however, so far as I, and I believe most hon. Members on this side of the House are concerned, there will be every desire to confine the debate within reasonable limits. I think the proposal of the noble Lord's a fair one, and that it should be accepted—namely, that the debate on this Amendment should be brought to a termination to-morrow night.
§ MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S., and Belfast, W.)
There is no one below the Gangway competent to pledge the Leader of this Party in his absence. But, for my own part, I think the proposal of the noble Lord a fair one, and, with the consent of my Colleagues, am willing to agree to it.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I beg to state that it is not alone the Representatives of Irish constituencies who are concerned in this question. There is a considerable number of Radical Members who have not yet been able to express their views upon the Amendment.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.