§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [21st January.]— [See page 92.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, they were not able last night to respond to the appeal of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) that the general debate on the Address should be allowed to close as soon as he had himself sat down. If there were no other reasons for refusing to close the debate, they considered that it would not be duly regardful to the position held in the Government of the country by the noble Lord himself if they were to allow his speech on this important occasion to pass by without any notice. Moreover, they knew the secret of the haste of the noble Lord. They know that he was very anxious to go on with what he called the reform of Procedure. The noble Lord wished the House, in regard to the length of the debate on the Address, and in regard to other matters, to go back to the habits and practices of the good old times; but there were more recent times than the good old times when the noble Lord himself was not anxious to curtail debate. Those times might soon return, and the Irish Members, for their part, had too sincere a regard for the freedom of debate in 194 that House to abet the noble Lord in any measure which might prevent aspiring and active Members of the House from rivalling the former courses of the noble Lord, or which would prevent him, when opportunity and occasion served, from returning to the practice which he formerly adorned. That being so, they were not in a hurry at that moment to approach the question of the reform of Procedure. With regard to the speech of the noble Lord, he would say that surprise was its keynote. According to the noble Lord, everything was surprising and everybody was surprised. The country, the noble Lord said, was surprised by the Queen's Speech. He should not wonder if he heard that the noble Lord himself was surprised when he first saw the Queen's Speech. The country thought that the Government was composed of men consistent in their course of public action. It was thought that they were men whose minds were animated by a consistent principle of conduct. If that were so, he admitted that the country had good reason to be surprised. None of the Irish Members could forget that in the brief interval during which the Government had been in power the Primo Minister made a public speech of the greatest gravity and moment, in which he referred to the dualism of Austria-Hungary in connection with the Irish Question. The fact was that those words of the Prime Minister were placed before the country by him at a time when the question of the national legislative freedom of Ireland was occupying the public mind to the exclusion of everything else. Those words were uttered after the Irish Leader had made his declaration that the claim of the Irish people to legislative independence would be the immediate care of the Parliamentary Party; and he contended, therefore, that the words of the Primo Minister could have no other interpretation in the minds of intelligent men, and they had no other purpose in his own, but to convoy to the country that his Administration were ready to consider the claim to legislative independence of Ireland; and in the settlement of that question to consider— at least as a general guiding principle— the settlement which had made the Imperial authority of the Emperor of Austria consistent with the concession of the claim of the people of Hungary to national independence. At a later date 195 the Prime Minister distinctly shadowed out a settlement of the Irish Question in a public speech limited, on the one hand, by the integrity of the Empire, and, on the other, by the protection of the rights of the Protestant and territorial minority in Ireland. What was the meaning of making those limits at all, and of defining them in a public speech, unless they had a relation to a project of legislative independence for Ireland, and unless the Prime Minister meant to indicate to the country that the Tory Government were ready to concede that freedom within the bounds of those limits? The Government came into Office last June; the elections took place in November and December. Ministers spoke often in that interval; and they never directly or indirectly, by any declaration or hint, gave the country to understand that there was lurking in the minds of any of them a fundamental objection, or objection in point of principle, to a settlement of the Irish national question, provided the integrity of the Empire were preserved and the rights of the minority respected.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL)
I particularly inserted in my speech a passage saying that I would always do my best to support the maintenance of the Parliamentary Union between the two countries.
§ MR. SEXTON
replied that the noble Lord appeared to have felt called upon last night to make a very specific declaration on the subject. But up to the General Election—and that was the date which the House would have to keep in mind —there was not conveyed to the mind of the country any intimation or hint that the Government, as a whole, or that any important individual Member of it, saw any objection in point of principle to the concession of the Irish claim for the native care of native affairs, provided only, on the one hand, that the integrity of the Empire was maintained, and, on the other hand, that such guarantees as were available should be given that the rights of the minority should not be abused. If the Government saw any objection to the concession of the Irish claim, they deliberately withheld from the knowledge of the country the condition of their minds. They deliberately excited certain hopes in the breasts of the people of Ireland. They deliberately spread a certain impression through the minds of 196 the English people—they did all that to secure a certain result at the polls; and, failing to secure that result, they now turned round, without a moment's warning, and by an unprecedented act had by their advice induced the Sovereign in the Royal Speech to use language which he held to be not duly regardful either of the freedom of speech of that House, or of the usage, the custom, and the spirit of the British Constitution. Ho had always understood the function of the Sovereign of the Realm, in regard to the passing of laws, to be either to give or to withhold from Bills sent up by the consent of both Houses Her Majesty's Royal Assent. But observe the language used in the Queen's Speech with respect to the Irish National question. The Sovereign was actually advised to say—I am resolutely opposed to any disturbance of that fundamental law—that was, the law of the Legislative Union—and in resisting it I am convinced that I shall be heartily supported by my Parliament and my people.The Party who professed themselves to be the guardians of the Constitution had thus advised and induced the Sovereign to depart from the Constitutional course of waiting on the action of the House. They had advised and induced the Sovereign to take what would be found to have been the regrettable course of declaring in advance Her Majesty's opposition to a certain Bill before the two Houses of Parliament had been pleased to consider that Bill. Was it meant by that paragraph (for which the Government were responsible) that if it should happen that both Houses were to agree to a Bill for the legislative independence of Ireland, the Sovereign would unconstitutionally persist in the exercise of the Royal veto to the extinction of the powers and of the functions of both Houses? If it did not mean that, it did not mean anything. He thought it would have been more decent, more seemly, and more Constitutional for the Government to have refrained from giving the advice reflected in that passage until the time had come for the Sovereign constitutionally to act—not in anticipation of the action of the two Houses, but as the sequel to it. Again, what did the Government mean by the "disturbance of that fundamental law?" 197 How or why was one law more fundamental than another? Did not all laws rest on the same sanction—namely, the will of that and the other House of Parliament, and the assent of the Queen? And the lightest law to which those united consents were given had the same sanction as any other law, however great and vital it might be. Moreover, Her Majesty's Royal Predecessor and Relative, King George III., in 1782, gave the Royal Assent to a law which not only conceded the legislative independence of Ireland, but actually declared—and the language remained on the Statute Book to England's eternal shame—that that legislative independence, to which the Sovereign now declared itself to be resolutely opposed, should for ever remain in force. People sometimes talked as though an independent Irish Parliament were a matter of ancient history; but it should be remembered that there had been a series of Irish Parliaments. It was only 100 years since the last Irish Parliament met; and yet Irishmen were now told that it was impossible to alter "the fundamental law," although the Sovereign and both Houses of Parliament were pledged 100 years ago to the concession, and to the permanent exist-once of that legislative independence which now must not be even argued. Her Majesty's Government had, unfortunately, given the Sovereign ill advice. The truth of the statement would, no doubt, be accepted hereafter. Those who believed in the consistency of the action and mind of Her Majesty's Government must have been surprised at some passages in the Queen's Speech. Even those who had no faith in their consistency, and no belief in their intelligence, must have experienced similar astonishment. For while he found that the rising in Eastern Roumelia was giving an expression to the desire of the inhabitants for a change in their political arrangements, and although the desire of the inhabitants of Roumelia, expressed in that moderate and Constitutional manner, had led Her Majesty, under the influence of her Advisers, to feel herself bound to carry on negotiations to realize the wish of those inhabitants, a little lower down in the Speech he found that deep sorrow was recorded to have been caused in the Royal mind by an attempt to excite the people of Ireland against the maintenance of the Union. A rising 198 in arms by a rebel population in Roumelia was conclusive proof to the Royal mind of the justice of their cause; but the election of Nationalist Representatives by five-sixths of the Irish people, in the manner prescribed by the British Constitution—that election being conducted in a peaceful and orderly way— was not to be accepted as an expression of the desire of the people; but was to be treated, in the language of the Sovereign, as simply a regrettable and deplorableAttempt to excite the people to hostility against the Legislative Union.What was the moral Her Majesty's Government wanted to drive home to the mind of the people of Ireland from these things? "Were they to understand that as long as the Irish people confined themselves to orderly and legal and Constitutional modes of giving expression to their desires they would be despised and contemned; and that there was no probability that the expressions of their desires would be taken to be valid by the Government or by the Royal mind of England until they were driven and compelled to rise in arms? No body of men vested with the grave and solemn responsibility of the issues of Imperial rule had ever committed themselves to an inference so imbecile or so fatal as that which might be drawn, and which must be drawn, from those two paragraphs in the Royal Speech. The Cabinet consisted of 14 Members; and ho ventured to say that any 14 schoolboys in the country who could not produce a more congruous document than that which he was criticizing deserved to be whipped. The question of local self-government in Ireland had occupied the fore-front in the Recess, and the Press and public men of all sections had recognized its urgency. The Government had played for a certain stake at the General Election, and they had lost it. And now it was found that, with an in-difference to their own past constructive promises and of the expectations which they had raised, and with an insincerity which could scarcely be exceeded, they were preparing, by means of the Queen's Speech, to make a fresh raid at a convenient moment upon public simplicity and credulity. That Speech was hot meant to be taken by anyone literally—it was simply intended to meet the requirements of a dramatic exigency. He could only 199 compare that Speech to a letter written by a lady who had an action for breach of promise looming in the distance, with a view to its being read before the jury. The Queen's Speech had been drawn up, not as an exposition of the intentions of the Government, but for consumption in Ireland, so that after they were turned out of Office they might point to it and say—"See what splendid things we would have done for you had we remained in Office; and see what splendid things we will do for you if you place us in Office again." But, after all, what promise did the Government hold out to the Irish people? They were told that as soon as Procedure was done with the Government would go on to give to England and Scotland county councils of a representative character. They all knew that in England and Scotland county government was not so offensive or so injurious to the people as it was in Ireland. In England and Scotland county government was conducted by gentlemen between whom and the people there existed not only no conflict, but a general confidence; and yet, while councils of a representative character were promised to England and Scotland, not one word about the representative character of the councils was said in the case of Ireland. The Bills of England and Scotland were to precede the Bills for Ireland; and if they indulged the wild and improbable supposition that Her Majesty's Government were to remain in Office, the prospect before Members for Ireland was this — that Procedure would occupy till Easter; that the English and Scotch County Government Bills would consume the time until Whitsuntide; and that the House would approach the consideration of a worthless Bill for the County Government of Ireland about the time when hon. Gentlemen in that House began to pine for the pleasures of grouse shooting, and to think of the charms of country life. The sole principle which actuated the present Government was the desire to get into Office whenever they could, to occupy it as long as they could, and when they were thrown out to get back as soon as possible. This Queen's Speech was not to be treated as a frank and candid contribution to the political questions of the time. It was simply a kind of device whereby the Government, after having lost Office, 200 might be able once more to deceive the opinions of the public. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) had a majority over the noble Lord, and, upon an Amendment, could throw the Government out if he liked. The noble Lord, when he nodded assent, loft another material element out of view. The noble Lord forgot that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had not a majority of the House. The right hon. Gentleman had not been engaged for 50 years in the conflicts of public life without knowing that it was not wise to take so grave and vital a step without something like an approach to certainty as to the resulting consequences. He, therefore, thought the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, in abstaining from moving an Amendment and taking a division upon the Address at the present moment, had shown that prudence he had gained by the length of his experience. He would also say that it was too soon for the noble Lord to attempt to give lessons in Parliamentary strategy to the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. But the noble Lord had also been surprised by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) refraining from moving an Amendment upon the Address, and thus having prevented a general debate upon the Irish National question being raised with a view to a division being taken on the subject. Had the Government made any definite propositions with regard to Ireland; had they laid down any definite principles, and had they held out any hope or prospect of a permanent settlement of the Irish Question, the Irish Party would have been prepared to consider those proposals, and to have arrived at a conclusion whether those proposals were satisfactory or not. The Government, however, had made no proposals whatever. The paragraph in the Queen's Speech was simply a blunt and an emphatic "No." That paragraph, therefore, in the opinion of the Irish Party, offered no fit materials for a debate. The effective answer to a blunt and emphatic "No" was not action in that House, but organization outside. The noble Lord had pointed to the example set by O'Connell as one to be followed by the Irish Members; but that example was set a long time ago, when the Irish Party was in a very different position from that which it at 201 present held, and when the science of Irish political action had not advanced to the point now attained. Moreover, the final success of O'Connell was not such as to tempt the present Irish Party to follow his example. And he thought that no hon. Member who hoard him would question the accuracy of what ho said when he asserted that the present Irish Leader had proved himself to be a man of original faculty. He had shown, by his manner of dealing with circumstances, that he was a man who used his faculties with signal success; and, therefore, he might be absolved from following in all respects the example of O'Connell, and especially ho might be pardoned for declining such advice when it came from a British Minister. Another reason why the hon. Member for Cork had refrained from moving an Amendment to the Address upon the present occasion was that the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian had repeatedly affirmed, with the consent of the country and, as ho believed, of all reasonable Englishmen, that he was favourable to the settlement of the claim of the Irish nation to have a national Legislature, provided the integrity of the Empire, the supremacy of the Crown, and the authority of this Parliament to wield the requisite supremacy wore respected. They know of nothing in the desires of the Irish people, they knew of nothing in the proposals which had up to the present been placed before them, which were inconsistent with the securities demanded by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had told them, moreover, that the study of this question, unutterably grave, had been, and was, his daily and nightly care. Well, they desired—and no one would deny the reasonableness of the desire—to allow the right hon. Gentleman to complete his studies. They desired to allow the right hon. Gentleman time to arrive at a conclusion on this question with deliberation, and to have an opportunity of stating that conclusion, when the proper time had arrived, with duo definiteness. And when the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to state to the House and to the country the conclusion at which he had arrived, the time would have come when the Government would be somewhat in the frame of mind of the hero of a fanciful anecdote of a countryman of his (Mr. Sexton's) who was said 202 to be "blue-moulded for want of a beating." Upon this question the Government were the challengers, and they must recollect that the challenged had always a right to the choice of weapons. It was for them to say whether they would proceed by moans of a division on the Address or by some other method which, though less direct, might be more effectual. It was quite plain to them that this paragraph in the Speech was not intended so much as a declaration of opinion as for coaxing either the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid. Lothian or the Irish Members into the presentation of a measure. In regard to the hon. Member for the City of Cork, he would say that his hon. Friend was now beginning to be rather too old a bird to be caught by a certain familiar method; and, even if he were not an old bird in politics, the chaff in this case had been spread in an exceedingly artless manner. The Government expected that the Irish Members would propose an Amendment on the subject. When coercion was proposed, and when the Government came forward with their Bills, they, or their Successors, would be left under no mistake for a single moment as to the intention of the Irish Members to resist such an attempt to injure and insult their people. They would fight every inch of ground along which the measure would have to pass to the utmost of their power. They would fight it by every means at present known to Parliamentary usage, and every means their future study of Parliamentary usage would enable them to conceive. While, however, they were ready to fight positive proposals, they were not prepared to hang a debate on a contingency, and to go to a division on a "when" or an "if." The truth was that he pitied the Government more than he blamed them. Ho believed that they had good intentions last week; but those intentions had disappeared under the pressure of circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had, of course, to bear in mind that he had arrayed in the ranks of his Party a certain poisonous element in the shape of 18 Irish Tories, and that nine English constituencies had done him the ill-service of returning Irish Tories to the House. Everyone knew that Ireland needed remedial measures; yet if the Government proposed a speck 203 or an atom of remedy for Irish grievances about 27 Irish Tories, sitting for English as well as for Irish constituencies, would desert their Party. ["No!"] "No," they said! Why, he saw a Gentleman, an Irish ex-official of undoubted military spirit, opposite him (Mr. Johnston), who had proclaimed over and over again that upon the day that Home Rule was passed—they should remember with the consent of this Parliament —that he and his valorous followers would line with rifles every ditch from Belfast to the Boyne. They all knew that the cardinal article of this Gentleman's creed—an article which threw into the most complete insignificance the Thirty-nine Articles — was that rather than allow Home Rule for Ireland they would kick the Queen's Grown into the Boyne. Irish rebels might in former days have been found in the Nationalist ranks; but Irish rebels were today enshrined in the ranks of the Constitutional Party. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol think of gentlemen who were capable of insulting the Royal dignity by kicking the Queen's Crown into the Boyne?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman will have a full opportunity afterwards of combating any statement made by the hon. Member. He is out of Order in interrupting.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not continue in that House the habit of indiscipline which led to his severance from official life in Ireland. He never said that the hon. Gentleman had used that specific language; but he did assert that the hon. Gentleman had repeatedly declared that if Home Rule were passed he and his friends would line every ditch from Belfast to the Boyne with rifles. [Mr. JOHKSTON: Hear, hear!] Consequently, he could not perceive the practical point of the hon. Gentleman's contradiction. It rather appeared to him to be based on a fine distinction, like those points of Calvinistio doctrines which caused very violent discussions inside the fold, but the meaning of which was not very clear to outsiders. It was very sad to see these rowdy supporters of disunion springing up in the ranks of the "Loyal 204 minority." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol was well aware that if ho were to propose the smallest and moat contemptible measure of reform he and his Government would immediately die of an "internal disorder." On the other hand, he believed that the right hon. Gentleman could not propose coercion, for the common-sense of the country would reject it. The right hon. Gentleman could only go on doing nothing, and for that reason ho from his heart rather pitied than blamed the Government. He denied that any case had been made out for coercion. In the Queen's Speech reference was made to the absence of serious crime in Ireland. The Grand Juries, the Constitutional pilots of coercion, had been silent; not one word had fallen from the Judicial Bench to intimate that witnesses would not come forward or that juries were unwilling to find verdicts. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman showed himself that the ordinary law was amply sufficient to deal with the existing state of affairs. Only a few days ago two Judges in Ireland refused to change the venue in a certain case, and stated that their knowledge of the verdicts found by the juries in that and other counties did not entitle them to do what they were asked. The only claim for coercion rested upon the charge of "Boycotting." He would solemnly tell the House that "Boycotting," though it had its grave and condemnable aspects, was, in fact, a safety-valve against outrage. He would prove it in a few words. The condition of things in Ireland was this—that the bulk of the small occupiers had cleared themselves of their last penny — sometimes selling their stock, sometimes their very furniture— two or three years ago, in order to gain the advantage of the Arrears Act. They robbed themselves of the last penny they had in the world in order to procure a clean slate; but in the years which had elapsed since then the value of every staple of agricultural produce had gone down upon the average all round, about 40 per cent. He could assure the House that the small farmer in Ireland was not able at the present moment to get for his produce all round within 40 per cent of what he could have got when the judicial rents began to be fixed. The tenants could not pay the judicial rents this year—it 205 was impossible. English Gentlemen who listened to him knew the truth of what he said. They had reason to know the gravity and reality of the agricultural depression. They knew that they themselves had cut down their households and retrenched their expenses; that some of them had parted with their town houses, and in various ways had practised a rigid economy in order, in obedience to the dictates of their own consciences and public opinion, to make abatements to their tenants. He had seen many remissions of 50 per cent. Was it not strange that English gentlemen, who had shown so generous a regard for their tenants, who themselves were often men of capital able to bear a strain as well as the landlords, should unite themselves for the purpose of denying similar rights to Ireland with a body of hard driven and unscrupulous Irish landlords, who refused to give any abatement? The Duke of Devonshire had given an abatement of 20 per cent to his Irish tenants, and another great English landlord in Ireland had given a similar abatement; but in these cases the Irish tenants had the good fortune to be under landlords whose instincts were guided, and whose conduct was governed, by the usages of English life. But what was very strange to him was this—that the Duke of Devonshire having given this abatement of 20 per cent, and thereby admitted the urgent pressure of the Irish agricultural crisis, should have accepted association with the landlords who were refusing abatements, and had placed himself at the head of the extermination association, and given countenance to the deputations which waited on the Marquess of Salisbury to urge either that the Irish tenants should be compelled this winter to pay unreduced rents while parting with every shilling they had for food, or for dealing with their land this year, or else that they should be turned out of their holdings, and the landlords enabled to break the tenancy. He was glad the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) was present to hear him; and he would tell the right hon. Gentleman that the real object of this cry for coercion was to enable the landlords to break the tenancies created by the Laud Act of 1881; to enable these rack-renting and unscrupulous landlords, with millstones of debt round their 206 necks, to immorally and flagrantly evade the responsibilities and duties placed upon them by the solemn fiat of the law. These purblind landlords wore all in favour of the Legislative Union. The Legislative Union, indeed! Why, the Legislative Union had ruined them. It took them away from their own country into competition with the landlords of England. It had sent them out upon a wild goose chase of competition in the cost and expense of life with a far wealthier set of men than themselves. After 85 years the consequences of that course were soon. They saw this set of poor extravagant Irish landlords, with two-thirds of the fee-simple value of their land in the hands of English money-lenders, engaged in the idle attempt socially to compete with the landlords of England. Was it because three generations of these spendthrifts found themselves in the hands of those who were generically termed the Jews, that when they had got to this desperate pass they were to be enabled to extract their unabated rents for the purpose of endeavouring to meet engagements contracted by their own folly and their own vice? That was the real case for coercion in Ireland. As to "Boycotting," if it was not for the comparatively moderate means which it placed in men's hands for vindicating public opinion against those whom the people of Ireland considered to be public enemies, it would not be within the power of law or government to limit outrage. The force of "Boycotting" lay in the universality of that public opinion. When landlords persisted in heaping law costs upon indigent tenants, thrust out tenants for the non-payment of impossible rents in order to break their tenancy and obtain once more the arbitrary ownership of the land, he said that the people of the country having no power to make the law for themselves, and finding their Representatives in the House of Commons always overborne and often insulted, were morally justified so far as they could in making public opinion and their consciences stand in the place of the law. They were justified in refusing association, in refusing dealing, with anyone who availed himself of an alien law. He would tell the House, once for all, that there was only one way of ending "Boycotting" in Ireland. It was an impalpable 207 evil, which was the growth of public opinion. So long as laws wore maintained in Ireland which the people know to be unjust, which they saw to be an agency for their extermination and for driving them from their homes and their country, they would say that as between English law and their own self-preservation it was their duty to make their public opinion felt as far as they could. The only way to prevent the formation of that public opinion was to confide the power and responsibility of making Irish law to the hands of Irishmen, thereby giving the best security that the law should be administered satisfactorily. The Nationalist Members felt that they had a position of growing influence and of gathering strength. Attempts had been made to minimize the National success of the General Election in Ireland; but he thought that the Gentlemen who listened would agree with him that wherever that National success might be questioned, it was not doubted in the House of Commons. They wore five-sixths of the Members from Ireland, and they represented five-sixths of the population. ["No!"] Unquestionably. ["No!"] An hon. Gentleman opposite, who looked studious, but who was not well-informed, said "No!" He invited that hon. Member to go to any record he liked and add up the population in the 85 seats they had won, and he would find that the total generally represented five-sixths of the population. He invited him further to add up the electors of these 85 constituencies, and he would find that those electors generally represented five-sixths of the electors of Ireland. Another fact was one that English gentlemen who knew how few seats were uncontested in Great Britain would hear with interest. Out of the 101 seats —counties and boroughs—in Ireland 20 fell into the Nationalists' possession without contest. The House would perceive the significance of that. All the contests against the Nationalists were managed by a central bureau— the silk mercers, he understood, gave £1,000—and it had ample funds. They had the authority of Viscount de Vesci, one of the leaders of the so-called Loyal and Patriotic League, that those contests were inaugurated and carried on for the purpose of giving every man in favour of upholding the Legislative Union between Ireland and Great Britain an 208 opportunity of voting. Why did they not give this opportunity in these 20 seats? It was, he presumed, because there were no men there who wanted to record their votes in favour of the Legislative Union. They fought 68 contests with anti-Nationalists. Well, in the four Divisions of the county Tipperary the Nationalists polled 16,000 votes, the upholders of the Legislative Union polled in the four Divisions 800. In South-West Meath the so-called Loyalists polled 200; in South Cork, 195; in South Galway, 164. [Mr. BRODRICK: East Antrim.] Viscount de Vesci was confident that every man who was in favour of upholding the Legislative Union would come forward and vote. In East Galway, 133 voted; in North Kildare, 174; in North Mayo, 131; in Mid Cork, 106; in South Mayo, 75; and in East Kerry, 30. Out of 68 contests in which they engaged, in only 10 did they poll over 1,000 votes; while the average vote for a successful National candidate was in every case 4,000 or 5,000 votes. When he heard talk of intimidation and illegal acts connected with the elections, he asked how came it to pass that after this ridiculous result, after this proof that the anti-National Party of Ireland had no appreciable existence, how came it to pass that not a single election had been questioned by an Election Petition? Well, he would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite what was the definition of a real contest? It was a contest in which each side had at least some chance of winning. Now, was it expected that people at sham contests would have behaved as they would at real contests? Many National voters were old and feeble and were very poor, and the magistrates and the Government in Ireland took good care not to extend facilities for polling in proportion to the extent of the franchise; and yet, though the proportion of the voting was so great as it was, it had been suggested by an hon. Gentleman opposite that there had been abstentions. He knew of poor men in his Division of Sligo, badly clothed and badly fed, who walked in the most inclement day of the week for over 20 miles in order to record their votes, and that, of course, was a sham contest where he received 5,000 and the other man got 500, and everybody knew from the beginning that the seat was won. He never saw 209 anything like the eagerness of the voters to exercise the franchise. He knew what he was talking of, for he was a candidate in two elections, in one of which he was defeated by 35 votes. He knew of a large number of cases that proved beyond doubt the eagerness of the people to exercise their votes. During his unsuccessful contest in the town of Belfast, a dying man when told that he could not go to the poll replied, that if only ho could record his vote for the National Party his death would be a matter of no concern. Another man, aged 91, proposed to walk seven miles to vote, and did actually walk four before ho could obtain a seat in a conveyance. Even the police admitted to him at the booths that at other elections the difficulty was to bring up voters; but in this case it was impossible to hold them back; but he noticed in the deputation which recently waited on the Marquess of Salisbury, that a flagrant falsehood was placed in the forefront of the proceeding. ["No!"] Yes; that was the fact. In the progress of reform the transition of the party of tyranny was generally from brute force to lies. When brute force failed, they resorted to falsehood. It was their last card in the pack. The Marquess of Salisbury was told that owing to intimidation (though there was no Petition) one-third of the voters outside Ulster did not go to the poll. Now, could they have common patience with that. Could statements such as those be listened to with patience when he said that in Ulster, Leinster, and Connaught, with 51 contests, the total number of votes in the three Provinces reached 300,000? Striking out the constituencies where there wore no contested elections, and where there could be no appeal, and which, therefore, should be thrown out of account, the proportion of electors who actually came up to poll in the contested Divisions in three Provinces was 75 per cent, not including spoiled votes. Would anyone say that there was intimidation in London? Yet, in the London boroughs the proportion of voters was 74 per cent, whilst the percentage all over Ireland was 75. Now, would anyone have the hardihood—though he knew that was the chief stock-in-trade of some Gentlemen opposite—would anyone get up and say, after that conclusive proof that Ireland went to the poll more 210 numerously than London, that intimidation kept any number away? There were six contests in Dublin, four of which were shams, two were real. That was, there were two contests in which the anti-Nationalists might have been supposed to have a chance; but four were places in which his hon. Friends could not be beaten. But in the two cases where there were contests the voting was 80 per cent, and that in a place where, if they wished to intimidate, and could have done so, they would, doubtless, have been supposed to perform the operation. Out of 68 contests which the Nationalists fought they were beaten in four only; and when he told the House that one of these seats was taken from them by a majority of 27 out of nearly 4,000, and in his own case that he was beaten by 35 out of 8,000, he thought it would be seen that hon. Gentlemen opposite who sat for these constituencies in Belfast and Derry wore not safe in their possessions; and he might quote for their comfort the words of Macbeth—To be thus is nothing; but to be safely thus.If they drew a line round Antrim and around two-thirds of Down, they would have brought the anti-National Party within a paddock. So that it was apparent that the anti-National Party in Ireland had no longer any practical standing. As to the charge of intimidation, in the 10 contests between Liberals and Tories where the Nationalists had no interest, the total poll was 78 per cent of the register. Where, then, was the intimidation? But in the two cases where they had a real contest the poll was 80 per cent; and now, to cap the climax and crown the argument, he would point out that in the four Ulster contests, where they were beaten, and where they had supreme reason for intimidation if they could, and were it lawful, in these four, so full and free was the election that the voters numbered 90 per cent of the register. Well, if that was not a conclusive case he did not know what was. He had proved that where the fight was real the voting went up, and that the vote was lower when they were not concerned. He hoped that the House would not in future be troubled or irritated by attempts to minimize the effect of the Nationalist victory at the last General Election. Considering the poverty of the 211 people, and the distance they had to travel to record their votes, there never was an instance of such a manifestation of complete confidence in a Parliamentary Party as was afforded by the results of the last General Election in Ireland. If the verdict then given by the Irish people could not gain for Ireland Parliamentary freedom, he feared that no Party means could gain it. It was for the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, who he hoped would soon have Ministerial responsibility, to consider whether he would make himself a participator in the folly of the present Government, who, while friendly to the rising in arms of the Roumelian people, appeared to think that a great Constitutional movement was to be despised and contemned because it was in a country within the British Empire. They, the Irish Members, were not called on in this stage to define the means of satisfying the demands of the Irish people. It was for them to state the grievance; it was for the Government, with its resources of statesmanship, to find these means. It had been shown that during the last 85 years since the Union the population of Ireland had decayed and fallen away, while that of every other country had increased; that land had fallen, and was falling, out of cultivation; that distress and poverty were increasing; that famine was becoming more frequent and periodic, and that discontent and the convulsion of society were increasing. When these facts were established the functions of the Irish Members were discharged, their duty was done. Those who had the responsibility as well as the power of Government knew well that within the bounds of the British Empire there were a score or so of Parliaments, and that, nevertheless, the integrity of the Empire still existed; the Government must be versed in the framing and revising of Constitutions; they must be acquainted with the construction of these various Parliaments, and with the securities established to prevent these Parliaments transgressing proper bounds. They had agents in every country, and could examine the duality of Austria and Hungary, of Norway and Sweden, of Pin-land with Russia; they could consider the great Federation of the German Empire, and the miniature Federation of Switzerland. It was for the Govern- 212 ment, with these details in their hands, to inform themselves and cull and select from those various precedents that system of check and counter-check, of balance and counterpoise, by which freedom might be granted the people of Ireland, and the integrity of the Empire at the same time protected. It was absurd and delusive to pretend that the integrity of the Empire, the supremacy of the Crown, or the authority of the Empire were imperilled or called in question by the wishes or necessities of the Irish people. The supremacy of the Crown was never called in question. It remained unaffected in the Irish Parliament that previously existed. The supremacy of the Crown was, in fact, altogether outside the scope of the question. The supremacy of this Parliament required no guarantee; and he would tell them that the only permanent guarantee rested in the satisfaction of the people. Let them only consider the effect of arbitrary coercion. Nothing but discontent and opposition could be felt towards the insulting rule of alien officials. Let them contrast that with the state of affairs which would ensue if the laws for Ireland were made by Irishmen, and if the Irish people were sensible that the law deserved their respect and obedience because it was framed with a view to their wishes and necessities, where, then, would be the danger to the integrity of the Empire? As to the authority of this Parliament, had they not all the authority necessary for the supremacy of the Crown—the authority that was inherent in them? The Act of 1782 was repealed—foully, shamefully, and corruptly repealed—in 1800 by this Parliament. It must, therefore, be obvious that if at any future time they found that the existence of an Irish Parliament endangered the supremacy of the Crown or the integrity of the Empire this operation could be repeated. He called upon them to believe him when he said that if they looked around, if they considered the numbers of the Irish race, if they considered their growth and power in other lands; their growing influence in England, in the Colonies and dependencies, of this country and in other countries; if they took into account and into their minds the persistent and unquenchable determination of that race to procure the freedom of their country; if they also 213 remembered the growing complications of British interests in various parts of the world, and the ease with which such complications might be affected and disturbed, the growth of military spirit in Europe and other parts of the world, they would, he thought, agree with him that the danger to the integrity of the British Empire would, as far as Ireland was concerned, lie in a dogged perseverance in the fatal—the now anachronistic —fallacy of keeping at their doors a discontented country and a convulsed society; and that so far as Ireland was concerned the permanent, and sole permanent, safety, both for the integrity of the Empire and the supremacy of the Crown, lay in boldly, courageously, and frankly approaching the question, and once for all giving a safe and rational measure of freedom to the Irish people. Ho would not be drawn for a moment from these grave questions before them by any speeches that had been made on the other side of the House into any idle or bitter discussion. He would only say that the peculiar qualities of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Major Saunderson) were rather thrown away on that House. That House liked to hear a little argument. The House was patient and attentive whenever it heard a speech such as reasonable men might be expected to offer, or reasonable men to hear with patience; but as far as the hon. and gallant Gentleman was concerned his eloquence was rather thrown away—ho would be more at homo in a ditch-lining region. From what ho had seen of the gallant Gentleman he would say that ho would probably have made an exceedingly presentable dervish. He would conclude by saying that lie had taken from the right lion. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, with all the respect that was due from one of his inexperience to one of his great ability and experience, the advice ho had given with regard to the spirit in which the Irish National cause should be discussed. The question required the wisdom of counsel, the moderation of thought, and the forbearance of language which had proceeded from the right hon. Gentleman; and he (Mr. Sexton) was also mindful—and he believed that England as well as Ireland would be mindful—of the prudence and forbearance and statesmanship of the course and example set by the hon. Member for Cork. 214 For his part, he had endeavoured to confine himself to arguments relevant to the question; and ho thought he could say with some confidence, both for his hon. Friends and himself, that they would, with all that force that was in them, whatever provocation might be applied, and from whatever quarter it might come, refrain from doing any act, or from saying any word, by which they might compete with others in the evil system of exciting passion. They would say nothing which could prejudice, or hamper, or delay that calm, wise, peaceful, and he hoped friendly, settlement of the great national and international question in which their thoughts and affections were engaged.
§ THE ATTOENEY GENEEAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES)
said, that whatever might be the surprise felt by the House at the course taken by the Irish Party, that course could scarcely have been, anticipated. That House, which met a few days ago for the despatch of Public Business, was elected under very peculiar circumstances, the House would remember, and it had been reminded by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), that over 80 Representatives for Ireland had been returned to Parliament for the purpose, and with the object, of promoting and effecting, if possible, the separation of themselves and their country from the Legislative Union with England which now existed. The speeches made by those hon. Gentlemen during that electoral contest were not ambiguous. What was claimed by the hon. Members who were returned was complete and entire legislative independence, and, therefore, as a necessary consequence, that there should be conceded to Ireland and the Parliament established there power and authority over the Irish Executive, and, with that, power over the persons and property of everyone in Ireland. That programme was a very extensive and exceptional one; and, when a Parliament was assembled in which those 80 Members found their places, it would surely seem to be the clear duty of the responsible Ministers of the Crown to advise Her Majesty to refer in some way to these circumstances in the Speech from the Throne. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Sligo had, however, criticized the paragraph relating to Legislative Union in the Speech from 215 the Throne, and he had called it unusual and unconstitutional. Well, he (Mr. Holmes) would admit that it was unusual; but he denied that it was unconstitutional. A paragraph of that sort, it was true, did not appear in every Speech from the Throne. Indeed, it necessarily appeared in very few such Speeches; because the state of circumstances in which such a paragraph would be inserted was very exceptional. When, however, those very exceptional circumstances did exist, the Ministers of the Crown would be wanting in their duty if they did not advise the Queen to express the opinion which they, as her Advisors, were understood to entertain. He might refer the House to a great authority upon Constitutional usage. When a similar agitation arose in Ireland more than 50 years ago—and many hon. Members were returned from Ireland pledged to a similar programme—a great Constitutional authority, Earl Grey, advised His Majesty to address Parliament in language stronger than any which was used on the present occasion. These, then, being the circumstances under which the House assembled, and the Speech from the Throne was delivered, it might have been expected that the Leader of this powerful Party would, in some way or other, bring the subject to the notice of the House, and take the sense of the House upon it. He (Mr. Holmes) would admit that it was not necessary for the hon, Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork, or his Colleagues, to take that course in order to show what their views were, for those views had been most distinctly formulated on many occasions, when they had said that what they desired was a separation from the Imperial Parliament. For the same reason, it was not necessary that they should respond to the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) to state what were their views, or what their countrymen required. But he (Mr. Holmes) must confess ho was surprised to hear the hon. Member for the City of Cork, the Leader of their powerful Party, address the House in very calm and temperate language in the course of the debate without referring to the repeal of the Legislative Union from one end of his speech to the other. He made some remarks on the Land Laws 216 in Ireland, and the necessity for some further legislation, overlooking the fact that for the last five years the Legislature had been employed in dealing with that question. He referred to the fact that some landlords were just and others unjust; but, from the beginning to the end of his speech, he never once referred to the platform on which he and his Party were elected, or to the question on which they took their stand. Beyond that, on the previous evening two other hon. Members of the hon. Gentleman's Party had addressed the House; and if they had not altogether abstained from the subject, they had by no means given it a prominent position in what they said. He (Mr. Holmes) must, however, confess that the hon. Member for Sligo had that night, to a certain extent, relieved the House from the surprise with which they listened to the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and had enabled them to clearly understand the principle and policy of the distinguished Leader of his Party. He (Mr. Holmes) understood the hon. Member for Sligo to say that he and his Friends were not sure at present of the course which might be taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and that it would, therefore, be premature in them to formulate their demands in a Resolution until they saw what prospect there was of that Resolution not only commanding the votes of the 85 Irish Members, but also receiving the support of the right hon. Gentleman, who might ultimately succeed in educating his Party to a greater extent than he appeared to have done at present. But there was no necessity for the hon. Member for the City of Cork to explain what his policy and his views were on this subject. Last night the hon. Member for the Nuneaton Division of Warwickshire (Mr. Johns) had approved the policy of the Leader of the Opposition not opening his hand, and had said that it was not for the right hon. Gentleman or his Party to supply views or suggest a policy to the Government. He (Mr. Holmes) quite agreed with that proposition, and Her Majesty's Government had not asked for any views; their own views were expressed in the Speech from the Throne, and in the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, who, in his speech, had given a temperate and grave explanation, not 217 merely of the views of Her Majesty's I Government, but of the entire Tory I Party. The hon. Member for the Nuneaton Division of Warwickshire seemed prepared to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian wherever he went; but it would be more to the purpose to know the policy of the Leaders of the Party to which the hon. Member belonged, and that, at all events, appeared to be the view of the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey), who had expressed a desire to know what the views of his Leader were, and a wish that would, it was to be hoped, be gratified before the debate concluded—to hear from the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington), or some other Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench, whether they were not disposed to furnish some little light and leading on this, one of the greatest questions ever submitted to the House of Commons. Ho (Mr. Holmes) would express the hope that the hon. Member for Northumberland would be gratified in that desire; but it was a very slight hope, since the condition of the Front Opposition Bench from 11 at night to 1 o'clock that morning had not been of a character to lead one to believe that there was that profound interest in the subject which one would have supposed would be taken. The hon. Member for Sligo in his speech set forth the distinct issue that his Party asked, and would accopt—namely, nothing less than complete legislative independence, free from any control whatever. Here was the issue, as to which there was no doubt or ambiguity; and if it could not be submitted to the House for those reasons of policy which had been thrown out from time to time, the day was not far distant, he hoped, when the country would know the views of all its politicians on the subject. The paragraph in the Royal Speech dealing with Legislative Union was not the only one dealing with Ireland. It was followed by another of grave importance, requiring most serious consideration from the House. It represented that the present social condition of Ireland was not a cheerful one. It painted that condition in colours that must be called gloomy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, in referring to this paragraph, said that he had not the moans of knowing what 218 the social condition of Ireland was. He (Mr. Holmes) would admit that, in a question of that kind, Her Majesty's Government had more moans of information than any independent Member of the House; and ho did not quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman for suggesting that this was a matter for the Government to consider for themselves. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that his mind had been engaged daily and nightly in considering this question for some time past; but he (Mr. Holmes) would be sorry if the right hon. Gentleman had confined his attention to one single aspect of the question. After all, the foundation of all legislation must rest on the social condition of Ireland; and, though Her Majesty's Government had more, still every independent Member must have much information on this point at his hand. Then the right hon. Gentleman had been engaged, and, as he (Mr. Holmes) thought, honestly engaged, from 1869, during the time he had been in Office, in promoting measures for Ireland. It must surely occur to the right hon. Gentleman, from time to time, to consider what had been the result of all his efforts. Avery remarkable statement had been made by the hon. Member for Sligo in the course of the debate—namely, that during the past five years Ireland had been going from bad to worse; that discontent had increased and prosperity lessened; and yet those years were those wherein the greatest efforts were made at conciliation. [Mr. SEXTON: I said 85 years, not five years.] At all events, they might take the last five years of special effort as typical, during which time so much had been done for Ireland. He should, however, go a little more into detail, and he should ask whether that debate had not thrown some light on the matter? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian might not have made up his mind; but the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. A. Grey) had no difficulty on that point. The hon. Member had told them that in three Provinces in Ireland the only law recognized was the law of the League. Now, ho (Mr. Holmes) was not accepting that himself in its broad and general lines. He, however, asked, what had they on this subject from the Representatives of the National Party? He thought the speeches of the Members for the City of 219 Cork and for Sligo were very remarkable. The House would remember what was stated in the Royal Speech, that there was no marked increase in serious crime; but it was further stated that there was evidence of concerted resistance to the enforcement of legal obligations and also organized intimidation. Now, he had followed carefully the observations of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, who, in referring to the many branches of the National League, said strong efforts were made by the Central Authority to keep those branches within legal and proper bounds. He (Mr. Holmes) would admit that those efforts had been made; but the hon. Member had not told the House how the efforts were received by the local branches, and whether they were successful. [Mr. T. C. HARRINGTON: They were.] What were the facts? The National League had been growing steadily for some years; indeed, from 1883, when it stood at 242, until, at the end of 1884, it had 592 branches. In July last it had over 800 branches, and on the 31st of December it had 1,280 branches. ["Hear, hear!"] He was quite prepared for those cheers. He knew that it was their anxiety and wish to increase this organization; and, further, the House had been told, in the most distinct terms, by the hon. Member for Sligo, that the League intended to continue its work until the Irish Party had carried their great object, an independent Legislature. Indeed, he was very much mistaken if a great portion of the hon. Member's remarks was not a justification of that very intimidation condemned in the Queen's Speech, seeing it was referred to by him as a safety-valve. What was the character of this concerted action, this organized intimidation? From the information they had been able to obtain it amounted to this—that the League dictated to every person in many parts of Ireland what their course of action should be, and interfered with that individual liberty which should be protected in every civilized State, and that not as between landlord and tenant alone, but in every relation of life. ["No, no!"] He should be able to satisfy the House by evidence that that was so. The question could not be resolved by mere statistics of crime. To borrow a word from the hon. Member, the operations of the system were fre- 220 quently intangible; they could hardly reach it, or touch it. They knew meetings were held; but they had no means of learning what was done at them. ["Oh, oh!"] He was well aware that there were public meetings of this body; but the dangerous action of this organization originated not at the public, but at the private meetings. It was in private houses that their plans were carried out with regard to intimidation, and it was there that the danger lurked, that the danger was to be found. The effect could only be judged by combining the evidence of certain isolated facts, each one small in itself, and by the statements of those well acquainted with the country. The statements in the Royal Speech were based on documents prepared by Government officials. They were based on statements of those who had no power or wish to manipulate statistics. They were also based on the statements of the Judges, who, in the month of December, had directed that the writs of the Superior Courts should be served through the post, and not personally, owing to the system of intimidation by these 1,200 branches of the National League. They were also based upon the fact that at the Licensing Sessions in October it was necessary for the Crown to oppose the issue of licences; because publicans, by refusing to supply persons obnoxious to the League, failed to fulfil the obligations attaching to their licence. He might also refer to the remarkable case of the "Boycotting" of the Cork Steam Packet Company. That was once a prosperous and wealthy concern; but because they carried out their obligations as common carriers to an Association, they had been almost ruined and brought to the verge of bankruptcy. ["Hear, hear!"] The cheers of hon. Members showed that they approved of that. It was unfortunate, perhaps, that Her Majesty's Government were obliged to say that they considered that such action on the part of any organization was one which was contrary to the first principles of law. In support of his assertion that that organization carried on its operations in almost every part of the country and in relation to almost every business of life there was one piece of evidence he would like to bring before the House. It so happened that there was published in United Ireland, a journal conducted with great ability, and in support of the 221 National League, each week, a series of resolutions supplied by the secretaries of various branches throughout the country; and by reading those resolutions one could form some idea of the nature of the operations of this organization. In a copy of the paper for October 24, he found that at a meeting of the branch at Oughterard the following resolution was passed: —That in view of the present depression and fall in the price of stock and farm produce we call upon the shop keepers to grant a reduction of 25 per cent in all outstanding debts, as it is impossible for the poor tenant farmers to meet all their liabilities at present.It would thus be seen that this was not a matter between landlords and tenants, but that the ordinary shop-keepers were called upon, with the sanction of the National League, to make a reduction of 25 per cent. From the same journal, and almost next in succession, he read that at a meeting at Caherline, County Limerick—The case of a land-grabber, who had made a half-hearted surrender of his ill-gotten plunder, was before the meeting. It was resolved to exercise the force of public opinion against him until a complete restitution is made.What was the meaning of a land-grabber according to this resolution? It meant a man who, when a farm was vacant, chose to enter into it, having made a contract with the owner. It was not contended that this person was not perfectly entitled by the law to do so. He made a bargain with the owner to occupy the land for a certain time on certain terms, and for this the operations of the society were directed against him. It might be said that proceedings were only taken against men who had taken farms from which men had been evicted. [Mr. T. C. HARRINGTON: Unjustly evicted.] But he (Mr. Holmes) maintained that men who took land year after year from certain landlords were put under the same ban. Again, he read in United Ireland, of November 21, that the following resolution was unanimously passed at a meeting held at Grane and Urlingford:—That as Lord Mountgarret's agent, Mr. Keough, has deprived James Herke of his position as gamekeeper for no other crime than refusing to herd an evicted farm, we hereby announce to all whom it may concern that whoever grabs James Herke's situation as gamekeeper shall be looked upon as an ordinary grass 222 or land-grabber, and that we use all lawful means to secure that Lord Mountgarret's ducks and grouse shall be allowed henceforth to take care of themselves.It would be observed that this was not a case of land-grabbing, but that of taking the ordinary situation of gamekeeper. Here was a resolution put and carried at a meeting at Kilworth and Aralen—That we hereby reiterate our determination not to pay rents without the abatements already agreed upon, and that any one receding from this determination be hereby declared a traitor.''He would go next to a resolution passed on the same day at a meeting of the branch at Barraduff, County Kerry—That the resolution against Patrick Neagle be rescinded, and any persons who wish to hold intercourse with him may do so, though we will not at present admit him a member of our branch.Again, at Ballygran (Charleville), the following resolution was unanimously adopted:—That we call on the contractors for labourers' cottages throughout the Croom Union not to deal with any obnoxious persons in the taking of lime or any other materials for the building of same.At Rathmore, County Kerry, on December 12, the following resolutions were passed unanimously:—(1) That any person found communicating with a few obnoxious individuals in this locality will be expelled from the League henceforth; (2) that every person presenting cattle for sale at a fair shall produce his card, and that no buyer purchase from any person without producing same; (3) that no individual sell to any dealer without presenting his card, as it is the only way of detecting those employed by the Defence Unionists, and that we call on the other branches to follow this example.So that, in point of fact, every person who did not belong to the League was prevented from buying and selling in the ordinary fairs and markets of the country; and in County Limerick one of the branches called the attention of the surrounding branches to the presence of an Emergency gang in the neighbourhood, and asked the people to cooperate with them in refusing to have any dealings with the "wretches." At Newcastle West, according to the record—A man came before the meeting and expressed his sorrow for having worked for Darcy, the 'Boycotted' land-grabber. He now promises to leave his employer forthwith, as did also his wife, who is a washerwoman there. His apology was accepted, and the League promised 223 to find a house for him. The secretary was directed to write to the landladies of two public officials who are persistently keeping company with Darcy and his family, with the view to have them shift their lodgings.At Ballylanders, a charge being made against Peter Creagh for using English-made nails, he promised to encourage "Irish manufacture for the future." There seemed to be some notion of a Statute of Limitations on the part of the League, as was shown by a resolution from the branch at Ahabollogue, County Cork—Mr. J. Carroll laid a statement before the committee of his eviction in 1867 and the grabbing of his farm by his brother. The committee consider that the conduct of Mr. Thomas Carroll was very bad; but having some doubt as to the power of the League in a case occurring in 1867, the secretary was directed to communicate with the Central League on the subject.Would the National League go to the trouble of passing resolutions of that kind if they were not aware that there was a power behind them which gave a sanction to such resolutions? The fact was, that unless this organization changed its mode of operation, or unless it could be compelled to change that mode of operation, they could not have in many parts of Ireland that authority of law and order which was necessary in any civilized country. Now it might be said, what had the Government done for the purpose of getting this organization under control? He did not, in the slightest degree, shrink from that question. The Government had been in Office for six months. During the years 1884 and 1885 the National League was rapidly developing, and the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian did nothing to cheek its advance. "Boycotting" was not a growth of six months, but had been going on for some years past. It was somewhat difficult for the Government to find a remedy when they had been in Office only six months, seeing that the late Government were unable to discover any practical remedy after being in Office five years. Then, again, in November last, there was a great deal of excitement arising from the Elections; and he thought that it would be unreasonable to take notice of words that might be used at such a time— words which would not be repeated in calmer moments. Before the Executive 224 took exceptional powers, it was quite right that they should wait and see what the state of the country would be when the contest was over. During that period of excitement, however, all measures that could be taken ought to be taken under the ordinary law. No blame, he submitted, could be attached to the Executive, who had been making every effort to crush intimidation. But if they had not succeeded up to the present time, it might he asked what they intended to do in the future? The Speech from the Throne indicated pretty clearly that if the ordinary law was found to be insufficient for crushing this organized intimidation, exceptional measures would be asked for by the Government. The Speech indicated something further— namely, that, as far as the present information of the Government went, the powers which the ordinary law gave were not sufficient for that purpose. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Albert Grey) had asked what was the necessity of waiting for the Report of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith), who, in a day or two, would be responsible for the Government of Ireland? The Government of Ireland had in its possession many means of information; but, surely, it would be a very exceptional course to formulate what might be necessary at a time when the Government was in a state of transition. The House had the assurance of the Government that it would shrink from no responsibility for the purpose of securing in Ireland good order and obedience to the law. He contended that the language used in Her Majesty's Speech was justified by the state of the case. But he took no pleasure in making that statement. He believed that Her Majesty's Government were as anxious as any Government ever were to do full justice to Ireland; and he said more, for he believed that the Supporters of the Government, from whatever part of Ireland they came, were convinced that full and fair justice must be done where it was necessary to carry out any change of the law. As far as the Irish Executive were concerned, the House might rely that no effort would be lost to restore order and to remedy any grievance that existed— any grievance that could be legitimately remedied. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian yesterday, in solemn words, asked the House to 225 remember that in the difficult position in which they were at the present time placed, their great object should be to arrive at the truth, and that they should put aside prejudice, and free themselves from anything like Party conflict. As far as they on the Ministerial side were concerned, they would be sorry indeed to make any political capital out of this question. In anything they might do, and in anything they had said, they had the deepest sense of responsibility, and were under the obligation of a most sacred duty. If it had been announced that it was the opinion of Her Majesty's responsible Advisers that the Union should be preserved, the reason of that was that they believed the dissolution of the Union would not only be fatal to the interests of the Empire, but also fatal to Irish interests. If the Government thought it might be necessary to ask the House to confer upon them powers to cope with intimidation, their only reason was that they believed it was of the first importance for Irish interests and for everyone connected with that country to have order and law maintained.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he did not pay any very great attention to what fell from the lips of the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Holmes). He had observed that the very last persons consulted by the Government with regard to its policy in Ireland were the Law Officers for Ireland. As far as he (Mr. Labouchere) could understand, the right hon. and learned Gentleman threw over, as far as ho possibly could, the Leader of his Party. He stated, after explaining that all the supporters of the Government coming from Ireland—a very small body—would do full justice to Ireland, that he considered the Government ought as soon as possible to bring in some Coercion Bill. It was perfectly true, he said, that in the excitement of the Elections things were said and done that ought to be overlooked; but it should be remembered, he remarked, that "Boycotting" still continued, and therefore a Coercion Bill should be brought in at once. There had been, he pointed out, a great deal of "Boycotting" Why had not the Government prosecuted the "Boycotters?" The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) said that in 226 every case where the crime was known, and "Boycotters" had been prosecuted, convictions had been secured. In the face of that admission of the right hon. Gentleman, he (Mr. Labouchere) failed to see the necessity for any coercive legislation. Ho should like to know why the ordinary law was not put into force against the persons known to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, who stood alone on the Front Bench in demanding a Coercion Bill to deal with intimidation? He thought he was justified in saying that the Government rarely consulted their Law Officers for Ireland as to what they intended to do in Ireland. With respect to the Address, there was one paragraph to which he was not prepared to give his assent. It was the paragraph relating to Ireland. The paragraph stated that the Queen regretted that an attempt had been made to excite the people of Ireland to hostility against the Legislative Union between that country and Great Britain, and Her Majesty was resolutely opposed to any disturbance of that fundamental law—namely, the Legislative Union. He (Mr. Labouchere) did not attach undue importance to a Queen's Speech; for, as hon. Members were well aware, it merely embodied the sentiments of the Government for the time being, and was in itself of no more binding effect than a speech delivered by a Minister in his place. Lord Salisbury and his followers had been prating and protesting a good deal of late against any disturbance of fundamental law, forgetting that that fundamental law was only established at the beginning of the present century, and had already been changed by the destruction of the Irish Church. It might be supposed, from what had been said, that this was one of the laws made by the Saxons. It was, however, not an old law, but, practically, a new one. If hon. Gentlemen who were always talking about the Constitution knew what the Constitution was, they would see that there were no fundamental laws in it. The Constitution meant not permanency, but change. They could change and modify anything to suit the requirements of the age. It was a most unconstitutional thing to say that one law was a fundamental law and that another should be changed. He stood by the Constitution, and con- 227 tended that those who called themselves the defenders of the Constitution had invented an entirely new principle with their fundamental law. He did not regret that the attempt spoken of had been made. He rejoiced that it had been made, and hoped that it would be successful. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked why an Amendment had not been proposed from that side of the House? He (Mr. Labouchere) was not going to answer for right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench; but the reason why an Amendment had not been proposed by hon. Members sitting below the Gangway was because an Amendment only dealt with practical politics, and there was no reason in the world why they should interfere with the regrets contained in the Queen's Speech, or rectify, by means of an Amendment, the historical errors of the Government. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to consider that this Parliament was a sort of Irish faction fight. They were continually trailing their coat along the ground, and asking someone to jump upon it; and they almost went on their knees, imploring someone to come forward and turn them out of Office. Considering the present state of Ireland, as set forth in the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, he should have thought that the Government would have made some more practical recommendations in the Speech from the Throne than were to be found there. Ministers absolutely told the House that they knew nothing at all about Ireland. They had been in Office for many months now; they had had the assistance of Lord Carnarvon and of the late Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant; but at present their only scheme for the government of Ireland consisted in sending the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. W. H. Smith) to Ireland as the new Irish Minister. He could not understand how that right hon. Gentleman, in a few weeks' time, was to discover everything connected with the state of Ireland, or how he could possibly know more about the condition of the country than Lord Carnarvon or the late Chief Secretary. There was one fact, however, more important than this new appointment. It consisted in this—that 86 Members had been returned to this 228 Parliament under the Electoral Law passed last year, and passed deliberately with the intention that the opinion of the people of Ireland should be fairly represented in this country. The Irish Representatives had come back to the new Parliament with a policy. He did not say that they were prepared at once to go into the details of that policy; but the Government certainly knew what the opinion of Ireland was. In these circumstances, what did the Government do? In the Speech from the Throne, the Government tried to tell the Irish Members that no conciliation was possible. The Government would not even listen to their arguments, but immediately stepped in, before hearing what they had to say, and told them that it was a fundamental law of this country that they could not grant what Irish Members considered just and desirable for Ireland. Was the government of Ireland, at the present time, so excellent that the Government could come forward and say that no possible change in that government could be made? He would read two extracts from speeches which had been delivered on this question by two distinguished politicians. One was from a speech delivered by Lord Cowper, whom the Conservatives almost lauded when in Ireland, a Nobleman not distinguished for his exaggerated Radical views.In Ireland all local matters are really managed through the instrumentality of the Resident Magistrate, and the Resident Magistrate is in constant communication with the Castle. This state of things has partly arisen from the helpless nature of the Irish. ֵ A hateful system of bureaucratic government is the result.The other extract was from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain), in which he said that the system of Irish government was founded on the bayonets of 30,000 soldiers, encamped permanently in a hostile country, and that it was a system completely centralized as that of Russia in Poland, or Austria in Venice. But the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill) said that the Government would not even grant to Ireland at present any concession in regard to County Government. The noble Lord had adopted a most extraordinary theory in regard to this matter. He said, in effect, that 229 the Government would, perhaps, provided the Irishmen conducted themselves properly, kindly grant this reform to them, and would throw to them some little sop in the way of County Government. The noble Lord complained, frequently, of some ambiguity in the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). It was pointed out that when the right hon. Gentleman referred to Local Government, he, perhaps, did not mean the same thing that was meant by the Government when they spoke of Local Government. He (Mr. Labouchere) thought it was somewhat strange that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should complain of ambiguity on the part of any Member on the Opposition side of the House, considering that during the last few weeks they had been doing nothing but trying to muddle up the whole question of Local Government or Home Rule, and to insist in their newspapers and in public that Home Rule meant nothing but separation. Did Home Rule mean nothing but separation? Were they to understand that if in Ireland there was a separate Parliament, perfectly independent of the Imperial Parliament, this would necessarily mean separation? Did hon. and right hon. Gentlemen know that in Hungary, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, and in many other countries there were local Governments and an Imperial Government also, and that the local Governments were absolutely independent in all local matters of the Imperial Government? What was Canada? Was Canada an integral part of the Empire, or was it not? Were our Colonies not an integral part of our Empire? To pay that the fact of there being one, two, or three Parliaments must necessarily produce the disintegration of the British Empire was to absolutely ignore the fact of what the British Empire was composed. As he had said, the British Empire was composed not only of these Islands, but also of our Colonies. One would suppose that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were under the impression that the system of one Parliament for two Islands was a sort of Divine institution, and that anything else was likely to bring ruin to the Empire that accepted it. What was this Union? It was the outcome of the grossest corruption ever 230 perpetrated. That was an historical and admitted fact. Titles were sold openly in the market like cattle, and yet they were told that they must listen to the views of Dukes and Peers, when they chose to say that we must not grant Home Rule, or, if we did, those who called themselves Liberals now would join the Conservatives henceforward. Ho noticed the other day in a Conservative paper a statement to the effect that the letter written by the Duke of Bedford and the speech delivered by the Duke of Westminster were of more importance to the country than the results of the late General Election. As far as he (Mr. Labouchere) was concerned, it was a matter of the most absolute indifference to him, and he thought to most hon. Members of the House, what the Dukes of Bedford and Westminster thought. He knew this, however—that the Duke of Westminster the other day made one of the most disgraceful and scurrilous speeches which could have been made either by a Duke, or by any other person.
§ M R. FINCH-HATTON
I rise to Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether the hon. Gentleman is in Order in referring to a Member of the other House of Parliament in such a manner?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Gentleman reflects in disparaging terms on a Member of the other House of Parliament he is clearly out of Order. But I do not gather from the remarks of the hon. Member that he is referring to the House of Lords, or to anything which has passed in that Assembly.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that hon. Members who had sat in the previous Parliament were well aware, from his conduct in the past, that he would not say a word of a disparaging nature in reference to the other House of Parliament. Ho was referring to a speech delivered by the Duke of Westminster in his individual capacity; and he said that if that was the mode in which the allegiance of Ireland was to be won over to this country, the mode adopted was a most strange one. He thought that the Duke of Westminster ought to be ashamed of that speech. The Legislative Union with Ireland had lasted less than a century, and it had been one of the most conspicuous failures in political history. There had been some 80 Coercion Bills; and, so far from our having won over 231 the Irish, they were, with few exceptions, determined to do all they could to put an end to that Legislative Union. No doubt, as the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) pointed out, the land was the difficulty; but when hon. Gentlemen opposite said that the object of hon. Members from Ireland was to confiscate the property of the landlords, what justification had they for that assertion? Could they produce any statements on the part of Irish Members showing that they dreamed of confiscating the land in any way? It was always said that anything which would allow tenants to live and thrive on the land must, in the nature of things, be confiscation. But why should not Irish Members be believed when they said that they did not aim at confiscation? Why should not that declaration on their part be received with the same respect as would be given to a similar declaration coming from the right hon. Gentleman the late President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain)? If the rents fixed under the Land Act were right at the time they must be wrong now, because produce had gone down enormously in value. The primary idea of the Act was to enable tenants to live and thrive on the land by their own industry, and to pay the excess, if there was an excess, to the landlord; but in many parts of Ireland that had become an impossibility. The Irish clung to the land; but you could not get rent from them if they had no money. They could not pay, and we ejected them. Why did not we hear more said against wholesale ejectments? "Boycotting" had always existed, and always would; and the meaning of it was that you were not to have social relations with a man who was regarded as an enemy of his country, and who was injuring, as far as he could, the cause of his country. He wished hon. Members would read Irish newspapers, instead of reading only the letters of correspondents in the London papers. They would then see that "Boycotting" was not the crime they assumed it to be; but that the real crime in Ireland was that some landlords were driving men, women, and children out of their homes because they could not pay rent. Would fathers allow their wives and children to starve on the roadside if they had money to pay rent? If such evic- 232 tions were going on in England, there would be such an outcry that they would be put an end to at once. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Brodrick) had protested against "Boycotting" in Ireland, and against the terrorism exercised during the Elections; but that terrorism was nothing to be compared with the terrorism exercised by squires and by dames of the Primrose League, some beautiful and others not, over the labourers in the English counties; while, in the National churches, clergymen might have been heard invoking damnation in the next world upon anyone who voted against the Conservatives. Thon it was said that in Ireland Catholics were the difficulty—-showing that as soon as you disposed of one difficulty another was raised. Yet, in Ireland, Protestants were returned by Catholics; but how many Catholics were returned by the Protestants of England? Sectarian spirit was stronger in England than it was in Ireland. Orangemen used Protestantism as a means to an end; and for a long time Orangemen had been the curse of Ireland. They made use of religious differences to perpetuate ill-will; and he rejoiced, that even in Ulster, in the greater number of constituencies, they had been defeated. Now these self-styled Loyalists were talking of civil war, and trying to frighten us by saying that if Home Rule were granted they would die in the last ditch. It was a scandalous speech that was made by Lord Cole the other day, and his language exceeded in violence any that had been used by Nationalists in the moment of their wildest excitement; but he (Mr. Labouchere) had never heard of its condemnation. Why should not the House believe the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his Friends, when they said that they did not desire any separation beyond legislative independence? Why should they desire more? There was nothing to be gained by it. The Irish Members were ready to give every species of guarantee that could be desired; but what need of them?—for England was far stronger than Ireland, and would hold the forts and command the troops in Ireland, and could destroy the country in a fortnight if she should choose to do so. There was no desire on the part of Ireland to claim or demand a Navy and troops for Ireland. 233 Did the Government mean to tell him that the Irish would be such absolute fools as to engage in a wild, mad, rebellion with England? Our real guarantee was the Army, and the fact that we were the stronger power. If Ireland was as strong as England, and had a large Army and Navy, we might say, with some show of reason, that we would not give Parliamentary independence to Ireland, because it might lead to separation. The utter absurdity, how-over, of holding such a view under the present circumstances was quite apparent. What did hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest as the only alternative to Homo Rule? Coercion. They must elect to do either one thing or the other. They must either please the Irish, and gain their goodwill and good feeling, or perpetually coerce them. If they embarked in coercion, they would finally arrive at the point of treating Ireland as Russia treated Poland, and deprive her of her whole representation, and rule her by martial law and the sword. There was no choice between the two. It was curious to hear the hints of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland with regard to coercion. They did not hear any of those hints when the Conservative Party were desirous of obtaining the Irish vote. He believed it was also a coincidence, and not the result of any arrangement to that effect, that the Conservatives, although now ready to bring in a Coercion Bill, did not bring in that Bill during the last Parliament. He accepted that as a simple coincidence; but he might also observe that they heard nothing either about the "fundamental law." There was a speech made by Lord Salisbury at Newport which did not contain anything about it; and it was only when the Irish votes had been given to the Conservatives that they heard about these "fundamental laws" and the integrity of the Empire. As regarded that, the integrity of the Empire would be unimpaired, if there were a dozen Parliaments in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. But the suggestion that it was assailed was thought to be a good electioneering cry by those who wished to stave off democratic changes in this country; for if they could engage this country in perpetual disputes about Ireland, they knew that they would arrest 234 democratic progress in this country. It was the old game of the Conservatives. Mr. Pitt engaged in foreign wars simply to stop the progress of democracy, and Jingoism was only another means towards the same end. The Jingoes wanted to make them forgot all domestic reforms; and now that they found the country was not prepared to grant to any Government money to aid, as it was called, some foreign nation—the aid offered generally ending in the absorption of that foreign nation, they wished to engage them in an internecine war at home, and to force England and Ireland to become perpetual enemies. If once they were unhappily embarked in such a contest with Ireland, whom would the electors of England prefer to carry it on? The Conservatives, of course. The Liberals were not the fit agents to do that abominable work; and if the Conservatives could establish such a war between the two countries, and absolutely refused to listen to the voice of Ireland uttered through her Constitutional Representatives, he believed that they would remain in power, with some short intervals, for the next 20 years. Supposing that Sicily desired to have a local Parliament, and Italy refused to grant it, insisting on ruling Sicily by means of coercion, would there not be articles written in many of our newspapers to show how absurd it was for Italy to deny self-government to that island? They were always fond of lecturing other Powers on such matters, tolling them what grand principles and rocks of men and liberty England possessed; but when they were confronted with a problem of that kind at home they could not find a way to deal with it, and at once threw over their principles, and talked, forsooth, of a "fundamental law." An eminent Irish Conservative statesman (Mr. Burke), in 1798, had said—Ireland could not for one moment be separated from England. The closest connection was essential for the well-being of the Three Kingdoms, and the whole of the Imperial politics should be decided in England; but Ireland should have local, civil, and commercial independence, but look up to Great Britain in all matters of peace or war.That was substantially what the Irish Members said now, and that was the statement of an Irishman respected all the world over; and he did not believe there was anything in the Irish demands 235 which would not be in conformity with what had been said nearly 100 years ago. What Ireland wanted was to be civilly and commercially independent. They did not ask for separation, or absolute independence, and were ready to leave to Her Majesty's Government and to the Imperial Parliament all Imperial matters; but they asked to be allowed to legislate for themselves on matters essentially regarding Ireland, in order that they might insure that Ireland should be in the future more prosperous than she had been in the past. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had urged them to look at that question with calmness and deliberation. That was the spirit in which hon. Gentlemen on that side were ready to discuss it, desiring by every means in their power to unite the local independence of Ireland with the maintenance of Imperial authority. He therefore protested against any English Minister meeting the just and reasonable demands of the Irish people, expressed on their behalf by the vast majority of their Representatives, with a mere non possumus.
§ COLONEL WARING
said, he did not wish to go into the whole question of Home Rule for Ireland on that occasion, his object being to say a few words in reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) in regard to a speech attributed to Lord Cole while he was speaking in County Fermanagh. He would not contend that the noble Lord was justified in making the remarks which had been attributed to him. He had not seen the source from which the report had been quoted, and he was unable to say whether it was or was not correct. If it was correct, it was to be regretted that Lord Cole should have used such language; but it must be remembered by those who condemned it that the speech was made under strong provocation. He did not intend to adopt a tu quoque argument; but it would not be out of place to remind the House that the hon. Member for South Londonderry (Mr. Healy) informed thorn that loyalty in Ireland would be driven into the North-Eastern portion of the Kingdom, and then hedged in with a ring of fire. In such circumstances Lord Cole would have to migrate; and lie did not think it wonderful that an 236 excitable young Nobleman should have thought the time had come when retaliatory measures ought to be contemplated. With regard to the main question at issue, he held that no one could understand or could deal properly with the Irish Question who did not study history, both ancient and modern. It was not sufficient to go back to the history of the Union, or even to the history of the 18th century. It was, he believed, necessary to start with the first connection between England and Ireland, and to follow through the successive centuries and varying chains of events. The hon. Member for Cork professed that he could not conceive what it was that the loyal Gentlemen of Ireland mistrusted in the proposition he made. In the first place, they would like to know a little more definitely what that proposition was. At all events, there were strong reasons for mistrusting any proposition which proceeded from the hon. Member. The House must not judge of the views of the hon. Member from the moderate, temperate speech he delivered last night, or of the views of hon. Members who acted with him from the words they used when speaking from those Benches. A more correct opinion might be, perhaps, formed by a study of their gestures when Gentlemen who disagreed with them were speaking. But if English Members wanted to know why the Ulster Members were unwilling to trust themselves to the tender mercies of the hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues they must look back into Irish history, and study the annals of the periods when the Party now represented by the hon. Gentleman held power in Ireland. He believed they must begin in the year 1641. If they wanted to see what would be the probable result of any line of policy, they should ascertain what had been its consequences before. When the Party which the hon. Member for Cork now professed to lead held sway in Ireland in 1641, they knew what the loyal portion of the community suffered at their hands. They also knew how the loyal minority were treated in 1687 and 1688; and they had good reason to suppose that if the same Party again held sway in Ireland similar results would follow. He did not believe in the possibility of safeguarding the loyal minority by any guarantees whatever. In the first place, by whom were the gua- 237 rantees to be given? It did not appear to him that there was any person on the part of the so-called National party in Ireland who could guarantee what they would do, or what they would not do. Secondly, to whom were the guarantees to be given? If they were to be given to the English Government, what security had the Loyalists that when the time came the English Government would exact those guarantees? It was possible that, under certain circumstances, the Loyalists might take guarantees for themselves; and, if so, they would be very careful to exact observance of them. The Loyalists did not fear Home Rule in the abstract; they did not fear that any English Government would ever agree to establish an independent Parliament in College Green. But they did fear that, bit by bit, and little by little, concessions might be made to the disloyal Party, and that tribunals might be established, with small powers at first, but by degrees having such scope and power as might sap the safeguards of Loyalists' lives and liberties. They did not fear at all the withdrawal of the English power from Ireland. If that power was withdrawn, the men whose ancestors dispersed the Army of King James II. at Newtown-Butler, and starved behind the ramparts of Derry, would be able to take care of their own interests; but they did not wish to be chained by English laws, like Prometheus to the rock, while the twin vultures of bigotry and Atheism from Rome and from Chicago were pecking at their vitals.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM
said, that that debate showed that they had already realized some of the advantages which they hoped to realize from the extension of the Parliamentary franchise. Nothing in connection with the debate had given him more pleasure and hope than the exceedingly moderate and courteous way in which the hon. Member for Cork approached the solution of this problem, and the magnificent speech of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, which raised the discussion to a very high position. He was, however, sorry that the House did not get from the Government the aid they expected in the solution of this problem; but the Tory Party seemed to be incapable of striking out any policy but one of coercion, or of applying any other method than that to the 238 solution of a political problem. Coercion was spoken of by them as if it had never been heard of before; but the truth was that it had been tried in Ireland for the last 80 years, with what results they saw. He, for one, would never vote for any coercion for Ireland which was not applied to England. The facts and arguments in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the previous evening pointed to the conclusion that coercion was not required; but his conclusion was that it must be adopted. When they were told this on the opposite side of the House, ho could not forget that they hoard nothing about coercion for Ireland from the Tory Party six weeks ago, and that the cry for it had only recently sprung up in that Party. A Party which got the Irish vote at the Elections by abstaining from saying aught about coercion, and then, when the last vote was polled, turned round and said that coercion was required, was not, in his (Mr. Handel Cossham's) opinion, worthy of the confidence of that House or of the country. For his own part, he could not believe that a Government was deserving to be trusted with coercive power in Ireland who first used the Irish Party as the means of climbing to power, and then, when they had attained power, kicked down the ladder by which they had mounted to Office. It was, at any rate, surely their duty to listen to the Irish Members, who had been returned by the great body of their countrymen; and it was also their duty, if possible, to give effect to the demands which they preferred on behalf of those whom they represented. As to the integrity of the Empire, he was charged to say that no one on that side of the House attacked that integrity; but he believed that the integrity of the Empire could be best secured by doing justice. The more they built their laws on doing justice and on the belief in the justice of those laws, the more likely their laws were to be permanent. The only shock which the permanency of the Empire had ever received had, in fact, come from the policy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They had, as everyone knew, lost the Colonies in America through following their policy, and they might lose Ireland now by following the same course. He believed, however, that not only the Irish Party, 239 but a large contingent of the Liberal Party, would be able and would be- determined to prevent a coercive policy being adopted towards their fellow-subjects in Ireland. As a Party, it was true that the Liberals were under no obligation to the Irish. As a Party they owed them nothing, while hon. Gentlemen opposite owed thorn a good deal. In truth it was notorious that a great many seats on the other side of the House would be vacant if it had not been for the Irish vote. But, allowing that the Liberals owed nothing to the Irish as a Party, they did owe something to justice. More than that, he believed that he Union between the two countries would be cemented, and would be rendered more firm, by giving the Irish jurisdiction over their local affairs. He had, he must confess, heard with some surprise the regret expressed by an hon. Gentleman opposite, that they had not come to finality in legislation for Ireland. The truth was that there was no finality in human affairs, and they certainly had not attained it in Ireland. A great deal of misery still existed in that country; but, at the same time, it was not true that our legislation had been unsuccessful. For instance, the removal of the Irish Church had, he believed, altogether removed religious dissensions and the religious difficulty. As to the existence of "Boycotting" in Ireland, he wished to confirm a remark of an hon. Friend of his on the previous evening, that "Boycotting" was not confined to Ireland. Let hon. Gentlemen visit the rural districts of England, and they would find the Primrose League ladies, the parson, and the squire "Boycotting" to an extent they ought to be ashamed of. The Nonconformists in the rural districts were, to his knowledge, as much "Boycotted" as anyone in Ireland; and he could only say that if these practices continued it would be necessary to take adequate steps to make those guilty of "Boycotting" in England ashamed of themselves, and to put a stop to these practices.
§ COLONEL DAWNAY
said that, in common with many other hon. Members on both sides of the House, he deeply regretted that Her Majesty's Government had not seen their way to take immediate action for the better protection of the loyal classes in Ireland. 240 The hon. Member for Sligo had said he and his Friends were unable to proceed with their demands because they were thwarted by 27 loyal Members. He (Colonel Dawnay) ventured to Say that that extended further than he supposed, and that he would find other Members in the House who would stand by those 27 loyal Members. The House was told in the Queen's Speech that if the existing provisions of the law proved to be inadequate, further provisions would be asked for. But could there be better proof that the existing laws had broken down than the statements of the deputations that waited upon the Prime Minister last Tuesday? It seemed to him that the speeches on that occasion proved to any unprejudiced person that the Loyalist classes in Ireland were suffering under a system of persecution and terrorism which no other civilized Government would tolerate for a single day. That this system of persecution was steadily increasing, that it was spreading to all classes, that it was paralyzing every trade and industry, and rapidly bringing Ireland to social, moral, and financial ruin was perfectly plain. He listened attentively last night to the speech of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. It was a studiously moderate speech; but the hon. Member for the City of Cork, speaking to the House of Commons, was always moderate. He only disclosed his real views and intentions when he spoke in Ireland and America. They all knew what his real intentions were, because ho had said he would never rest until he had broken the last link which joined Ireland to England. And his method of carrying this object out was simple. Every concession wrung from an unwilling British Government was to be a lever, a coign of vantage, and a starting point for a fresh concession. Now, only one thing was necessary for the success of this plan, and that was to have a weak and irresolute Government to work upon—in fact, the sort of Government the country had during the last five years. The experience of the last five years had proved that concessions to lawlessness were alway useless, and that the hon. Member for the City of Cork would never be satisfied with concessions—in fact, he dared not be satisfied until he had ruined England, because he drew his support from the enemies of England in 241 every part of the world. There were two faces to the Irish Question. These were the real Constitutional agitation and the sham agitation, the sham Constitutional agitation inside the House and the real agitation outside the House, the dagger and the dynamite of the Leaguers and the Fenians. We had now a new Government—a Government that in its foreign policy, on the testimony of the late Prime Minister, had proved itself worthy of the highest traditions of English statesmanship. He earnestly trusted that it would show the same courage in protecting the loyal classes in Ireland; that it would throw aside all unworthy Party considerations; that it would proclaim the National League and put down with a strong hand the most brutal and cowardly system of despotism and terrorism the world had ever seen.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, he thought the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) had been somewhat premature in expressing a wish that the general debate on the Address might be concluded in one evening. When it was remembered that this was a now Parliament, with many Members now to Parliamentary life, that they had practically a new Government, and a House of Commons elected on an enlarged constituency, they must all agree that it would be improper to leave the important questions in the Speech from the Throne without some discussion. The noble Lord had made a pitiful appeal to the Leaders of the Opposition to initiate legislation; and then, not having much expectation that his wish in that direction would be gratified, he turned to the hon. Member for Cork in the hope that issue would be joined with the Government on the Address. He (Mr. Illingworth) thought every Member on the Liberal side of the House had reason to be satisfied with the position which the Opposition had taken up. They held it was the duty of the Government to initiate legislation, and the duty of the Opposition, if not constantly to oppose, as used to be the canon of the noble Lord, yet to examine with care and deliberation, the proposed legislation. An additional reason why they should act deliberately at this stage was that they might have very few chances for some time to come to criticize specific measures of legislation. If they were to enter into a wrangle about procedure as soon as 242 the Address was disposed of, he would advise new Members to say good-bye for this Session to any specific proposals of legislation on any subject whatever. He thought hon. Members who had just spoken, and also the Secretary of State for India, had very much exaggerated the commendations made by the Leader of the Opposition of their foreign policy. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke with approval of the foreign policy of the Government, he almost specifically limited it to the course taken by Lord Salisbury in regard to the union of Bulgaria and Roumelia and the agreement with Russia. The less that was said on the opposite side of the House upon this question the better. They had come to adopt the views of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian; and the moral was that they should distrust their own inspirations and their own selfish views as to what was good for other countries as well as for their own, and more readily adopt suggestions from that quarter. As to Burmah, the right hon. Gentleman had distinctly reserved any definite opinion; and, for his own part, he (Mr. Illingworth) did not listen with satisfaction to the observations of the Seconder of the Address (Mr. Houldsworth) when he broadly hinted that the industrial classes of this country would condone an action which might not be politically or morally sound if, forsooth, an increase of trade would come to the people in the North of England. The hon. Member was then exorcising his own imagination, for there was no class of the community which more readily took sacrifice upon itself, in order to escape immoral transactions, than the majority of the working classes of this country. The House could not forget the course taken by the working classes in Lancashire, who voluntarily subjected themselves to privation rather than this country should take part with the South in the quarrel between the Northern and Southern States of the American Union. He begged the Government to understand that they on the Liberal side had not abandoned their right to a free and unfettered examination of the merits of the annexation of Burmah. Then the noble Lord had sought to raise political capital out of the Mission of Sir H. Drummond Wolff to Constantinople and Cairo; and in this case, too, he (Mr. 243 Illingworth) thought they should wait to see some fruits before they gave even that astute diplomatist very much credit. He was afraid, indeed, that, instead of benefiting Egypt by asking for the interference of the Sultan in its internal affairs, they would add another evil to the mischief which they had already done to that misgoverned country. The next part of the Queen's Speech to which he would allude was that addressed exclusively to the House of Commons, stating that the Estimates for the ensuing year had been framed with due regard to efficiency and economy. In the very next paragraph they were assured that Her Majesty felt great sympathy for the great number of persons in distress; but he should like to see deeds as well as words. They knew that for the last 10 years there had been a general failure of harvests, and that as a result all classes in the country, from the most opulent and idle to the most industrious and needy, had been called upon to bear more or less privation. They had not command of the sunshine; but when the suffering was so acute and protracted as to be recognized in the Queen's Speech they had a right to ask whether the Expenditure of the country was on such a scale as would relieve the people from unnecessary burdens? He must admit that economy had not been duly observed by his own Party for many years; but he did not see how they could have economy with the spirit which the present Government had displayed. Economy could not be made to any large extent in the Civil Expenditure; but this new Parliament owed it to the country, and particularly to the industrial classes, to watch with a vigilant eye the extravagant Estimates to which of late years they had been accustomed for the Army and Navy. It was impossible to look into a newspaper without seeing every day that a new ship had been either launched or put upon the stocks. Ever since the time of Sir Robert Peel, when Liberal Ministers vied with Conservatives in keeping down expenditure, a new spirit had prevailed of rivalry in increasing the Army and Navy Expenditure; and what were the fruits of this rivalry? Was this country stronger in comparison with the other countries of Europe for these bloated armaments? The reverse was the case, and the increase of our ships and our 244 munitions and armaments had only found its fruit in corresponding increase abroad, and an increase of the burdens on the industrial classes in every country in Europe. Lest this rivalry led to some great calamity and crash, he would urge new Members not to yield to the evil traditions of the last 30 years. Then there was another point. Towards the close of Her Majesty's Speech there was a paragraph to the effect that a Royal Commission had been issued to inquire into the working of the Education Act. This Government had, during the short time it had been in Office, hastened most indecently to avail itself of every opportunity of perpetrating a job. He augured from that that their confidence of remaining in power a long time was not very great. He did not complain very much of those smaller acts; but it was a reasonable ground for complaint that when Commissions were appointed on great public questions they were not fairly constituted. Whatever might be the Report of the Commission on Trade, the fact that it was unfairly constituted would affect its value; and he regretted that when he looked over the names of the Commission on Education ho found a repetition of the same unfairness. The object of the Government in appointing this Commission was to buttress up what were called the voluntary schools. The Address gave the House plainly to understand that the object of the inquiry was as to the value of the two methods — namely, the miscalled voluntary system on the one hand, and the State system on the other hand. The Commission should have had upon it equal numbers of men known to favour either side, in order that there might be no suspicion of partiality at the source of the inquiry. But, so far from that being the case, from two-thirds to three-fourths of the Commissioners were men wedded to voluntary schools. Why should such a man as Mr. Alderson, who recently received an important appointment as Charity Commissioner, and whose services should be given to his office every hour, why should ho be taken away to this Commission when other men could have acted who were eminent in education? Why should the Hon. Lyulph Stanley, who probably knew as much of the national system of education as anyone in the country, have been overlooked or 245 thrust aside? He also would like to know why a late official in the English Department, now a member of the Scotch Department, should be made a Member of the Commission? The Department with which, that gentleman was connected formerly was coming under the review of the Commission, and he was, in point of fact, to be put in judgment upon his own work; and that he (Mr. Illingworth) held to be a disqualification in the case of Sir Francis Sand-ford. He could only say that whenever this great education controversy was reopened, he, and those who thought with him, would not feel themselves bound by the verdict of a packed Commission. The Education Act of 1870 was regarded as a compromise in which every consideration was shown to what were called the voluntary schools—schools which were really State supported, though unfortunately not under public management; and if that compromise were now disregarded on one side, those who held that public expenditure should be followed by public control would, of course, no longer be bound by the contract.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, it was easy to understand what had prompted the delivery of the speech to which they had just listened. The hon. Member spoke with indignant regret of the enormous Estimates of the last few years, during which, while those Estimates were growing, the hon. Member was a loyal supporter of the Government under which those Estimates grew.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
protested that he frequently took exception to the amount of the Estimates under the late Government.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, that if the hon. Member had done so ho had always done it in a very gentle voice; and there was very little heard from the economists of the Liberal Party while the expenditure was rising year by year. With regard to the Commission on the Depression of Trade, which the hon. Member had criticized so adversely, it was rather curious to hear the hon. Gentleman lamenting that the present Government had words and not deeds with which to remedy the sufferings of the people, when the present Government, at all events, had set on foot that inquiry, which the hon. Gentleman and his Friends would rather not have seen 246 commenced. As to the criticisms of the hon. Gentleman on the appointments made to the Commission on Education, he did not believe that any appointment made by the Government was open to adverse criticism in the House. With regard to Mr. Alderson, he was known by those who were acquainted with his Department to be a careful and zealous worker, and that he had had a large experience in matters of education; and as to Sir Francis Sandford, ho was well known to be one of the most experienced and capable men, and well qualified to guide the deliberations of the Commission. He wished, however, to say a few words to the House upon the other subject which the House had already been considering, and upon which he hoped, before the debate on the Address closed, they would get from the Front Opposition Bench some definite and intelligible speech. No one, he thought, could feel that the discussion that evening had been in any way wasted. It was a clear advantage to the House that the challenge which was thrown out in definite and deliberate language by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India at the close of the debate on the previous evening had been, to a certain extent, accepted by the hon. Member for Sligo that evening, and that he had ventured to say what his Chief (Mr. Parnell) yesterday did not say—namely, what was the real meaning and purpose of the Irish Part. In the speech of the hon. Member for Cork there was a very curious suppression of the meaning and purpose of the Irish Party; and he said there was only one difficulty with regard to the Irish Question, and that was the Land Question, and that if that difficulty wore solved there would be nothing to interfere with the discussion and decision of the question. But when the hon. Member spoke of the Land Question as being a difficulty, he meant that it was a difficulty in the way of the establishment of a Legislative Assembly in Ireland; and his suggestion was intended to be that if this country would only provide the funds to buy out and pacify the landlords of Ireland, it would cease to be to their interest to resist the severance of the Legislative Union, and they would easily submit to that proposition. Now, he thought it was desirable that the House should exactly see what was the position of things in this Parliament 247 with regard to the Irish Question; and, with the permission of the House, he would say a few words upon the question from the point of view of an English Member of Parliament not associated with either of the two Irish Parties, and as one who, he thought he might venture to say, had held himself, during the past five years, somewhat free from Party with regard to this question. The ingenious speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had two very obvious purposes. In the first place, he invited hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite to object to any discussion of procedure in the House of Commons until the Government had put forward a definite proposal of its own with regard to Irish affairs; and, in the second place, he expressed, in magnificent terms of sympathy and moral feeling, his desire to do all that could possibly be done to serve the purpose of those hon. Gentlemen. The right hon. Gentleman's suggestion was acted upon. They had a speech from the Leader of the Irish Party, in which ho took care to be as graceful and pleasant as possible in his reference to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, and studiously kept out of view anything that could clash with the suggestion made from the Front Opposition Bench; and the Party opposite now declined to formulate their proposals to the House until they heard what the Government proposed. The fact was, they would wait to hear what the Government said, and what the right hon. Gentleman opposite would say, and then they would deal as seemed to them best with regard to this problem. Hon. Gentlemen opposite came to the House, being five-sixths of the Representatives of Ireland. He was not going to quarrel with the argument of the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) as to their authority to represent the greater portion of the people of Ireland. The world was governed by facts, and not by explanations; and whatever might be the explanation of the presence of hon. Members opposite, it was a very serious fact with which Parliament had to deal. Ho should have thought that with 86 Representatives of Ireland there, with a Leader at their head who had been trusted for years past, and who, by his Parliamentary conduct, had well deserved the reward of their trust —he should have thought that Party 248 would have been perfectly capable of formulating and putting forward a definite proposition. The straightforward course would have been to say through their Leader's lips what was the measure they asked the English Parliament to grant. ["No!" from the Irish Members.] They repudiated that suggestion, because they held that such a course would not be wise in a tactical point of view. They desired to hold the balance between the two great Parties in the House of Commons, waiting to know what the Government had to offer them, and whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian would not outbid that offer, and then their conduct would be guided by expediency. They might think that an astute and well-calculated policy; but he thought it a mistaken one. They could not consign to oblivion the statements made by their leaders outside the House, and they could not involve in obscurity the real objects for the accomplishment of which they had won their way into the House. In the debate yesterday the hon. Member for the Guildford Division of Surrey (Mr. Brodrick) had quoted from a speech said to have been delivered by the hon. Member for the City of Cork in 1882. The hon. Member for the City of Cork repudiated the quotation to a certain extent, saying that he was not in a position to speak in such a tone in 1882, as he was in another place, referring by that euphemism to the locality to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) consigned him in 1881. The fact was that the hon. Member for the City of Cork went to America in January, 1880. ["No!"] He was sure he was correct; and from January 2, when he arrived at New York, until shortly before March 21, he was peregrinating in that country, and making speeches with a view to obtaining money. It was on the evening of February 20 or 21 he spoke at Cincinnati, and unless the newspaper reports were designedly incorrect he used the words which the hon. Member for the Guildford Division quoted as to separating the last link between this country and Ireland; and up till last night no repudiation of that quotation, which had been used over and over again in political controversy, came from the hon. Member for the City of Cork. But yesterday the hon. Member spoke of it as a quotation for 249 which no authority was given, and as having occurred, if it was uttered at all, in a speech delivered a considerable time ago. He had referred to speeches of the hon. Member for the City of Cork delivered at a later date. On the 25th of September, 1881, there was a great procession and demonstration in the streets of Dublin. In that procession the hon. Members for the City of Cork and Sligo were the two principal personages; and the hon. Member for the City of Cork was reported in The Times, in his speech on that occasion, to have referred to theSpirit which will never die until it sweeps that detested alien rule, with its buckshot and its bayonets, clear away over the Channel whence it came, never to return. We ask to rule ourselves; we ask that Irishmen shall make laws on Irish soil.The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), speaking on the same occasion, said—To-night will be marked for over as a memorable and glorious night in the history of Dublin and Ireland. The City of Dublin has broken loose from the Hon and the Unicorn, and has arrayed itself under the sacred banner of the Shamrock and Harp. Whereas Ireland poor has long been Ireland enslaved, I toll you that Ireland prosperous will soon be Ireland independent.The hon. Member for Sligo had said that night that there was nothing in the desires of the Irish people inconsistent with the limitations laid down by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. The sentences which he had read to the House were in direct opposition to those limitations. [Cries of "No!" from the Irish Members,] There was the phrase "The independence of Ireland."
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
No; "the independence of Ireland." Nothing was said about legislative independence.
§ MR. EDWARD CLARKE
said, that it was such phrases as "The independence of Ireland," "Sweeping away the alien rule," and "Severing the last link that binds the two countries," that had given the Irish Party subscriptions in America and votes in Ireland. Those declarations could not, by any stretches of ingenuity, be brought within the compass of those laboured ambiguities to 250 which they listened last night from the Leader of the Opposition. But hon. Members did not choose to avow and to ask the support of the House for the programme which they had proclaimed in the country. No doubt they were exercising a wise judgment, as a matter of tactics, in not seeking a division; for ho imagined there were very few Liberal Members who would venture to go into the Lobby with them. If they put upon the Notice Paper a Motion declaring that the time had arrived for reconsidering the existence of the Legislative Union between this country and Ireland; if they really meant what they had said; if all this fine language was an expression of a real and deliberate determination, and was not merely a bid for political and pecuniary support, why did they not take the first opportunity of putting their proposals before the House, and of letting their Loader expound the reasons by which those proposals could be defended? The fact was that the moment they began to make speeches about the Legislative Union of the two countries, they furnished the House with the best reasons why that Union should never be severed. That very night the speech of the hon. Member for Sligo with regard to the landlords of Ireland and the practice of "Boycotting" afforded the strongest warning which could be given to an English Parliament against allowing an Irish Parliament to be set up in Dublin. If such a Parliament were set up, those who would guide its policy and direct its debates would be the very men who represented Ireland in the House of Commons now. By them the system of "Boycotting," which was a social tyranny of a most intolerable kind, was not only extenuated, but almost justified, as a mild but effective substitute for outrages; and the words uttered that night by the hon. Member for Sligo with reference to landlords, if spoken in a Legislative Assembly in Ireland in which the hon. Member and his Friends wielded a commanding influence, could not but have a deplorable result. The hon. Member and his Colleagues were possibly miscalculating the general tone and temper of Parliament. He had spoken of the presence of 16 or 17 Ulster Members who would not allow the present Government to do anything in the way of concession or justice to 251 Ireland. The hon. Member misunderstood the position and desires of those Ulster Members. They were, at all events, just as deeply interested in the welfare of Ireland as a great many of the hon. Members on the opposite side of the House. They had been attacked as the Representatives of that landlord class, three-fourths of whose estates were said to be in the hands of English usurers. If that was the case, they had manifestly an immense interest in the welfare of Ireland. Men in their financial position would be the very men to whom it would be of intense importance that Ireland should be law-abiding and prosperous. He did not believe that the interests of the Irish landlords would be safe in the hands of an Irish Parliament. Was there ever a Parliament which made more sacrifices of time and energy, of traditions and of prejudices, of the principles of political economy, and of justice and equity, than the last, in the vain and futile hope of satisfying those who made each successive concession a ground for coming forward with further demands? He believed that if they were to deal with the interests of all classes in Ireland, protecting the rights and interests of the majority, while considering and carefully desiring to serve the interests of the great body of the people, it was in that House that that work could and would be accomplished, and that it would be accomplished far better there than by any Parliament assembling in Dublin. The hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton) had thrown out a hint that if his Party assisted or allowed the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to carry an Amendment against the Government, the Liberals might themselves be subsequently thrown out by the votes of the Irish Members. In that case, he (Mr. Clarke) was, he believed, expressing the feeling of a very large number of those who sat on his (the Conservative) side, that if the Government which took the place of the existing one was a Government in which the opinions of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) were sufficiently represented, and in which they held authority, hon. Members from Ireland would be quite mistaken if they thought the Conservative Party would join them in any attempt to eject such a Government from 252 Office. The immediate necessity of the moment was the good government of Ireland; that was the object of the House; and the great body of the House, without distinction of Party, would be prepared to support any administrator of affairs in Ireland who showed himself determined not to yield to the invitation to establish a separate Legislature for Ireland, but who, subject to that limitation, proceeded to endeavour at once to enforce the law of the country as it should be enforced, and to study the interests of the people. It was possible there might be a change of Government; and it was precisely because those who sat on the Conservative side and spoke without dread, without anxiety, and without bitterness of the possibility of a change of Government, that a Government which, while refusing legislative disunion, would steadily endeavour to serve the interests of Ireland, would have the steadfast support of many on his side of the House. They had had the advantage in that debate of a distinct avowal from the hon. Member for Sligo of the aims of his Party. If this debate went on to its end, if no Amendment was moved, if the Address was agreed to, the country would have the satisfaction of knowing that underground influences or intrigues had not hitherto sapped the fidelity of the Liberal Party to that which he believed was essential to the cause of good government of the Empire—the maintenance of the Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland.
§ MR. MATHER
said, he must apologize for interrupting the debate upon the Irish Question; but, taking advantage of the presence of the Vice President of the Council on Education, he must say that he was painfully struck with the remarks of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Houldsworth), in seconding the Address yesterday, on tho proposed Royal Commission to consider the operations of the Education Acts, inasmuch as he, in a position almost official, strongly denounced the operations of the Act of 1870. He felt that the remarks of the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) might possibly be justified, when he said that the Commission would not be a Commission fairly representing the opinions of the House and of the country, if the definition of the hon. Member for Manchester of what it was to do and to consider was accepted. The hon. 253 Member had declared that the operations of the Education Act had been unjust to a large number of voluntary schools in the country, and that that injustice was extremely detrimental to the welfare of the nation. He (Mr. Mather) took exception to that statement as being a gross exaggeration of the case; and he differed from hon. Gentlemen who cheered the ton. Member for Manchester. The operation and administration of the Education Act in the larger towns of the country—he spoke from experience—and in Manchester had been conducted with the most sacred—he thought that was not too strong a word—regard to those institutions which existed before the Education Act of 1870 came into force. The efficient, well-managed voluntary schools then existing in Manchester and other towns had boon immensely benefited by the operations of the Act, by the education given in thorn being made of a higher and more far-reaching character than it formerly was. There was not in the whole country a voluntary school that had suffered in the least from the Education Act of 1870 that was worthy of existence at all; but such had been put into a more efficient condition, and only those schools had gone to the wall which were inefficient and cumbered the ground. He wished it to be understood that the hon. Member for Manchester did not represent the entire feeling of that large industrial community. Their constituencies were contiguous, and they represented much the same class of people; and he (Mr. Mather) spoke with some authority, having served on the Salford School Board for 12 years. The hon. Member for Manchester declared that the Act required revision, and its operations carefully examined, for the purpose of restricting and taking some power and control from the boards which they had previously exercised. He ventured to say, from his experience, that the control and powers which the boards had exercised during the last 12 years in Manchester and Salford had never been used except in the cause of education, both in board and voluntary schools. On both boards the majorities had been continuously composed of the Conservative and Church Parties, and had, therefore, represented the sectarian, or so-called religious interests in education. He 254 looked forward to the work of this Royal Commission with far greater expectation than if he thought it would merely take into consideration no wider question than that of a few decrepit voluntary schools. The working classes ought to have still greater power of exercising their faculties by being taught to be more scientific and more artistic in industrial and technical schools. Then they would have every reason to believe that in the immediate future the working man would take a different and a higher rank than at present, in comparison with the highly educated artizans of some other nations. The hon. Member for Manchester had told them of now markets to be opened up for our trade in Burmah; but, in his own opinion, what they had to look forward to was a consuming power continually increasing at home, effected by an improvement in the condition of our working classes. The policy with regard to the annexation of Burmah would be judged on the issue whether it was just or unjust, and not with reference to the opening up of new markets. His opinion was that the best markets for English industries were those which were nearest home. The wants of civilization, rather than those of semi-civilized or barbarous countries, were those which beat suited the manufactures we ought to produce; and if we would only endeavour to satisfy those wants by providing for the improved education of the children of this country there need be no fear for our industrial future.
§ MR. BARTLEY
said, he thought that with regard to Ireland they had come to where two ways diverged. The one was a road on which each step required the greatest caution, and which was dark and difficult, but which, if boldly taken, would lead to safety; the other seemed easy, but was dangerous and treacherous, and would lead them into an abyss of revolution and disaster. He believed that the right way was firmly and distinctly to maintain the law as it stood, and that anything else would only tend to promote and foster the idea of disloyalty. They must, undoubtedly, make up their minds, first of all, to maintain the law in its present state, before they thought of reforming and improving. During the first three years of the last Parliament Ireland had monopolized a great part 255 of the attention of Parliament. In what way had the heroic legislation which had then been passed tended to promote the well-being of Ireland? They had had the Disestablishment of the Church, the two Land Acts, the Arrears Act, and others, none of which had done the good to the country which was confidently predicted. Since 1868 she had been going backwards; why should another sop be given in the form of County Government? Would it tend to promote justice in that country, or the welfare of the people, in handing over the government to what would practically be the National League? These concessions had been made to Ireland simply and solely because, from time to time, each side of the House had competed for the Irish vote. The late Government had in 1880 refused to renew an Act which was absolutely necessary to enable the law to be maintained in Ireland, and had had to retrace its steps; and in 1885, he regretted to say, his own Party had done the same. Those who depended upon the Irish vote depended upon what could not be trusted; the Party which had given so much to Ireland had not gained one seat in that country at the last Election. The Irish Party wanted separation, and nothing less. The hon. Member for the City of Cork spoke plainly outside the House; while, from his mild speech in that debate, it appeared that they would be satisfied with a few millions for the present. The policy of always giving to Ireland was the greatest possible mistake. The first principle was to maintain the law. He considered that the perpetual saying "that something must be done for Ireland" was one of the great curses of our relationship with that country. Ireland, at the present time, had no practical grievance. Ireland had all the advantages which this country enjoyed. No doubt, Ireland had had a bad agricultural time. [Ironical cries of "No, no!" from the Irish Members] Well, he was glad to hear that; but if she had had a bad time she was no worse than England and other countries. It was said that Ireland wanted capital. Was that to be wondered at with the legislation which had been going on? Ireland was as free as England, and certainly freer than America. For was it to be supposed that any State 256 in America would be tolerated if it treated the United States with dynamite as the Irish had treated this country? All he could say was that America would have found a short way to put a stop to it. The only grievance of Ireland was a sentimental one—that she formed part of Great Britain and Ireland—and this grievance many greater nations than Ireland would like to share; but it was one which England would never allow to be removed. The only power of this agitation consisted in the 86 votes; and he trusted that both Parties in that House, leaving aside, of course, a few "faddists," would unite to uphold the Constitution, and to oppose all idea of separation. The integrity of the Empire was of greater importance than the triumph of Party. What Ireland wanted was a firm and decided maintenance of the law, which was the primary condition of government; and he hoped that the powers necessary for that purpose would be embodied in what should be called an anti-Coercion Act, which might be made applicable not to Ireland alone, but to the United Kingdom. When, under the provisions of such an Act, the maintenance of the law in the country was restored, the power of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Par-nell) would fade away.
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT
said, a great deal might be urged on this important question of coercion pro and con; but there was a much more important subject before the country than the mere question of inserting fresh clauses in a Criminal Law, or whether this or that measure should be passed. It was undoubtedly the case that for the last five or six weeks the whole country from one end to the other had been disturbed by this question of Home Rule, which, in his opinion, was one of the greatest questions that had arisen within the last generation. He regretted to say that in the new House of Commons they had not had in the two days' debate that amount of leading which they had a right to expect. The whole country had been ringing with one subject. The Press had been full of it; and yet they had but one speech, and that from their great Leader, the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian. He should like to hear a great deal more than that from the Leaders of the Liberal Party. The 257 question of Home Rule was not so prominent when they were before the electors as it was now; but they had discussed the question of Home Rule to some extent, and ho should like hon. Members to say in the House of Commons what they had said to their constituents. He remembered that a few months ago ho sat below the Gangway with several of his hon. Friends. There were the two hon. Members for Manchester (Mr. Slagg and Mr. Jacob Bright), and there was his hon. Friend (Mr. Hopwood). Better and steadier Members of the Liberal Party never sat in that House than those with whom he used to sit in that part of the House. Where were they now? He should like to ask why they were not there? The reason, he believed, was this—that those hon. Members followed in their policy the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. If they had had any idea in their minds that any policy of this kind was to be suggested, they would have been bound, as honest men, to tell the electors. The views of the Liberal candidates were not concealed during the battle of the General Election. The noble Lord the Member for the Rossendale Division of North-East Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), who was not now in his place, went over to the North of Ireland during the very height of the contest, and, personally, he was very glad he did go over. What did he say, with the full sanction and approval of the Liberal Party—because not one Member of Parliament, not one leading statesman on their side, ventured for a moment to throw doubt or discredit upon the views held by the noble Lord? The noble Lord told the people of Belfast that the differences between Conservatives and Liberals, important no doubt, were as nothing to the differences which divided loyal men from disloyal men. That kind of language was held not only by those who, like the noble Lord, were Whigs—a name certainly not to be ashamed of—but also by other hon. Members of a very different type, such as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. John Bright), who had been so long identified with Birmingham. That was the way in which they of the Liberal Party went to the country, and now what did they find here? He hoped he did not find any departure from the line recently 258 taken; but he was bound to say that if there was to be no departure from it they should be told there was to be no departure. Ho, for one, could only say that if this debate came to an end without a speech, and a speech expressing such views as he had indicated, from the noble Lord and from the right hon. Gentleman in whom he had very considerable faith, the more youthful Member for the town of Birmingham, he could only say that they, the Liberal Party, were loft in that House in the position of a helpless crowd. However admirable the selection of the constituencies might be, they were nothing better than a crowd unless they were led. What they wanted was leading, and leading of a definite and certain kind. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, for whom no one had a higher respect than he had, was a little too humble in the way in which he had described his position in that House. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that unless he was occupying the position of First Minister of the Crown he had not any gigantic responsibility. For his part, he thought the position which the right hon. Gentleman held and his great abilities and eminent services to the country made the responsibility weigh upon him wherever he sat. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Government as being responsible; but was he not one of those who governed the country as much as any who sat in that House? [Cries of "No, no!"] Hon. Members said "No;" but he did not think they quite followed his meaning. In the House of Commons they were often rather narrow and limited in their views of the word "Government," for those who governed the country, in fact, were very often men who sat upon the one side of the House as upon the other, He hoped they would have clear and plain language. The Gentlemen whom he saw around him on the Liberal Benches were a mere perversion of the Liberal Party. And those who thought that these Benches at present represented the Liberal Party would some day or other find themselves uncommonly mistaken. He, for one, had road with immense satisfaction those words in Her Majesty's Speech—I am resolutely opposed to any disturbance of that fundamental law,259 that was, the Legislative Union between Ireland and Great Britain—And in resisting it I am convinced that I shall he heartily supported by my Parliament and my people.He had no hesitation in saying that with that paragraph he thoroughly and entirely agreed, and he wished to congratulate Her Majesty's Advisers that that appeal had been made to Parliament, which, at all events, had not been made in vain. They had heard some explanations asked for as to why no Amendment was moved. His hon. Friend the Member for Northampton had said the Speech bound no one; but he thought that it did, because if they differed with that they were certainly bound to come forward and say so. They knew what the real reason was; it was that not a single Member below the Gangway dared move such an Amendment. For his part, he was prepared to vote for that paragraph in the Speech, and he believed the greater part of the Liberal Party would support it. ["No, no!"] If the hon. Member who said "No" believed that, let him put it to the test. This question was important, and the views of the Liberal Party should be declared before the debate came to a close. The whole country was waiting for it. There was no closer attendant upon the House of Commons than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, but he was not the only right hon. Gentleman; and lie wanted to hear—and he know that the majority of the Liberal Party wanted to hear—what other right hon. Gentlemen had to contribute to the debate. Owing to the hesitation which seemed to have come over so many, they were in some serious danger of drifting to he knew not what. This was not the time to discuss in detail the merits of the Home Rule Question; but what they had to do, as reasonable men, was to bear in their minds what it was that Home Rule really meant. The Government had described it as severance of Legislative Union; but it would not hold good for a moment. They heard a good deal about good policy and management, and how to manage their own affairs; and he could only say he honestly believed that the country was in want of outspoken, simple honesty, and he hoped as this debate went on there would be no lack of that quality. He did not think there 260 would be from those who sat on those (the Liberal) Benches; but those sitting there now were not the Liberal Party— they were the Irish Members who were attached to the Liberal Party. In conclusion, he would appeal to hon. Members and right hon. Members to come forward and tell them what they thought the policy of the country ought to be. It was the function of the Leaders to lead them; and he said without any hesitation that if any Leader of the Liberal Party came forward, and appealed to them— and not only them, but the whole country—to maintain the Legislative Union of the three countries—he oared little whether it was the noble Lord or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham—he felt sure that whichever of those Gentlemen it might be who spoke for the country and desired to maintain the Union, he would rally at his back those who would make him the principal Leader of the Liberal Party.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he hoped that some expression of opinion would be got from right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench in regard to this important subject. As for himself, he would give an independent support to any Government that would maintain the integrity of the Empire.
§ MR. THOROLD ROGERS
observed, that an hon. Gentleman had that evening compared their fellow-countrymen in Ireland to highwaymen and wolves. That did not seem to him to be a particularly conciliatory spirit in which to approach the great question between the two peoples. His hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. A. Elliot), with an audacity which he hardly expected from a Scotch Member, had forgotten the very fundamental rule which had always governed Constitutional opposition in that House, and which was laid down by so great a Conservative as the late Sir Robert Peel—namely, that it was not their business to announce a policy until they were called on. It was not just, fair, or generous, to the Front Opposition Bench to demand of them that they should explain before their imitators and their enemies what policy they intended to adopt with regard to Ireland. The House had been told that there was a great deal of crime prevailing in Ireland. That had been denied by Irish Members; and he frankly told the House that he would as soon believe 261 them, as he would believe the Dublin Correspondent of The Times. Nothing had done more harm to the good relations between the English and Irish peoples than the incessant trumpetings of those Solomons of the day—the daily papers. He regretted that Her Majesty's Speech held the threat of coercion over the Irish people. He believed that no greater political blunder could be committed by any Government than the establishment of a special Criminal Law, and he repented very much that he had ever supported coercion. Nothing could be baser than the temporary alliance of the Tory and Irish patriot. That alliance had borne its fruits, and one result of it, at any rate, was to convert him for the future against supporting, under any circumstances whatever, a single scintilla of special criminal legislation for Ireland. That legislation had been tried over 85 years, and it had failed. If they adopted it again over a similar period they would only embitter still more the Irish people, who ought to be our natural allies and our friends. The present state of things brought dishonour upon this country. The hon. Member for Roxburghshire had told them about the sentiments of the people of England. Had he ever reflected that there were 2,000,000 Irishmen in England, and had he ever found the slightest bitterness, the slightest hostility, on the part of the English working men towards their Irish fellow-countrymen? He had not, except on the part of some foolish persons. Did they believe that if Scotland was governed by Englishmen on the lilies on which they had governed Ireland they would not have rebelled? If he, an Englishman, had been governed in the same way as the Irish had been, he confessed that he should have been a rebel, and, perhaps, a village ruffian. Those who were distinctly responsible should endeavour to settle this great problem, and not claim from Her Majesty's Opposition anything more than the high duties and the great privilege of criticizing that which Her Majesty's Ministers might submit.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Hunter.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH)
I understand that the hon. Member makes 262 this Motion with the view of proceeding with his Amendment at the next meeting of the House. With that understanding, and being aware that there are not a few hon. Members who desire to introduce Bills of which they have given Notice without being compelled to sit up till a late hour, I willingly yield the Motion.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.