§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE) (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I was the latest of the Members of this House who had an opportunity of addressing the House in the debate on the introduction of this Bill; yet I think no one will be surprised at my desiring to submit some observations in moving the second reading. And this, on the double ground—first of all, because unquestionably the discussion has been carried on since the introduction of the Bill throughout the country with remarkable liveliness and activity; and, secondly, because so many criticisms have turned on an important particular of the Bill with respect to which the Government feel it to be an absolute duty on our part that we should, without any delay whatever, render to the House the advantage of such explanations as, consistently with our public duty, it may be in our power to make.
I am very sorry to say that I am obliged to introduce into this speech—but only I hope to the extent of a very few sentences—a statement of my own personal position in regard to this question, which I refrained from mentioning to the House at the time when I asked for leave to bring in the Bill. But I read speeches which some Gentlemen opposite apparently think it important to make to their constituencies, and which contain statements so entirely erroneous and baseless that, although I do not think it myself to be a subject of great importance and revelancy to the question, yet as they do think it to be so, I am bound to set them right, and to provide them with the means of avoiding similar errors on future occasions. Although it is not a very safe thing for a man who has been for a long time in public life—and sometimes not very safe even for those who have been for a short 575 time time in public life—to assert a negative, still I will venture to assert that I have never in any period of my life declared what is now familiarly known as Home Rule in Ireland to be incompatible with Imperial unity. ["Oh, oh!"from the Opposition.] Yes; exactly so. My sight is bad, and I am not going to make personal references; but I dare say the interruption comes from some Member who has been down to his constituents and has made one of those speeches stuffed full of totally untrue and worthless matter.
I will go on to say what is true in this matter. In 1871 the question of Home Rule was an extremely young question. In fact, Irish history on these matters in my time has divided itself into three great periods. The first was the Repeal period under Mr. O'Connell, which began about the time of the Reform Act and lasted until the death of that distinguished man. On that period I am not aware of ever having given an opinion; but that is not the question which I consider is now before us. The second period was that between the death of Mr. O'Connell and the emergence, so to say, of the subject of Home Rule. That was the period in which physical force and organizations with that object were conceived and matured, taking effect under the name generally of what is known as Fenianism. In 1870 or 1871 came up the question of Home Rule. In a speech which I made in Aberdeen at that period I stated the great satisfaction with which I heard and with which I accepted the statements of the proposers of Home Rule, that under that name they contemplated nothing that was at variance with the unity of the Empire.
But while I say this, do not let it be supposed that I have ever regarded the introduction of Home Rule as a small matter, or as entailing a slight responsibility. I admit, on the contrary, that I have regarded it as a subject of the gravest responsibility, and so I still regard it. I have cherished, as long as I was able to cherish, the hope that Parliament might, bypassing—by the steady and the continuous passing—of good measures for Ireland, be able to encounter and dispose of the demand for Home Rule in that manner which obviously can alone be satisfactory. In that hope, undoubtedly, I was disappointed. I found that we could not 576 reach that desired point. But two conditions have been always absolute and indispensable with me in regard to Home Rule. In the first place, it was absolutely necessary that it should be shown, by marks at once unequivocal and perfectly Constitutional, to be the desire of the great mass of the population of Ireland; and I do not hesitate to say that that condition has never been absolutely and unequivocally fulfilled, in a manner to make its fulfilment undeniable, until the occasion of the recent Election. It was open for anyone to discuss whether the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell)—acting as he acted in the last Parliament, with some 45 Members—it was open to anyone to question how far he spoke the sentiments of the mass of the Irish population. At any rate, it is quite evident that any responsible man in this country, taking up the question of Home Rule at that time, and urging the belief that it was the desire of the mass of the Irish population, would have been encountered in every quarter of the House with an incredulity that it would have been totally impossible for him to have overcome. Well, I own that to me that question is a settled question. I live in a country of representative institutions; I have faith in representative institutions; and I will follow them out to their legitimate consequences; and I believe it to be dangerous in the highest degree, dangerous to the Constitution of this country and to the unity of the Empire, to show the smallest hesitation about the adoption of that principle. Therefore, that principle for me is settled.
The second question—and it is equally an indispensable condition with the first—is this, is Home Rule a thing compatible or incompatible with the unity of the Empire? Again and again, as may be in the recollection of Irish Members, I have challenged, in this House and elsewhere, explanations upon the subject, in order that we might have clear knowledge of what it was they so veiled under the phrase, not exceptionable in itself, but still open to a multitude of interpretations. Well, that question was settled in my mind on the first night of the present Session, when the hon. Gentleman the Leader of what is termed the Nationalist Party from Ireland declared unequivocally that what he 577 sought under the name of Home Rule was autonomy for Ireland. Autonomy is a name well known to European law and practice, as importing, under an historical signification sufficiently definite for every practical purpose, the management and control of the affairs of the territory to which the word is applied, and as being perfectly compatible with the full maintenance of Imperial unity. If any part of what I have said is open to challenge it can be challenged by those who read my speeches, and I find that there are many readers of my speeches when there is anything to be got out of them and turned to account. I am quite willing to stand that test, and I believe that what I have said now is the exact and literal and absolute truth as to the state of the case.
I shall not dwell at any great length on the general argument in favour of the Bill; but I will notice one or two points that have been taken, and which if they do not express any very definite argument, yet give expression to feelings which are entitled on my part to deference and respect. A great objection which is felt by some hon. Gentlemen is much to this effect:—"Do not, in these great matters, experiment in politics; do not let us have this kind of legislation, uncertain as to its effect, involving great issues, and therefore liable to be marked—I may say stigmatized—by the name of experiment." Because, although in one sense every law is an experiment, yet I perfectly understand, and I am the first to admit, that experimenting in politics is a bad and a dangerous practice. Now, what is experimenting in politics? If I understand it, it is the practice of proposing grave changes without grave causes. Is this a case in which there is no grave cause with which we have to deal? Why, Sir, we have to deal with the gravest of all causes that can solicit the attention of a Legislature—namely, the fact that we have to treat the case of a country where the radical sentiment of the people is not in sympathy with the law. [Murmurs.] I defy any man, be he an opponent or not, to deny that we have to deal with the case of a country where the radical sentiment of the people is not in sympathy with the law. Of course, I am making general assertions. I do not say that an action on 578 a bill of exchange between debtor and creditor in Ireland could not be settled without reference to any international prejudice. I speak of the most important parts of the law—of those parts which touch agricultural relations, the one great standing, pervading employment and occupation of the country—I speak above all of the Criminal Law, of the very first exigencies of political society; and I will not argue the question whether the Criminal Law of Ireland, especially when it concerns agricultural relations, has or has not the sympathy of the people until I find someone who is ready to say after all he knows about evictions, about the operations of the Land League, and about the verdicts of juries, that the Criminal Law in Ireland has the sympathy of the people. Not only is this a matter of fact, but it is a matter of fact with which we are constantly dealing, which has run through three generations of men, and that almost without intermission.
We have tried expedients. What has been our great expedient? Our great expedient has been that to which I admit primâ facie a Government will first and justifiably resort. Our first expedient has been that which is known as repression or coercion. Has that class of experiment, has that class of expedient been successful? I argued this point at full length in introducing the Bill, and I will not argue it now at any detail whatsoever. I will only make this one assertion, which I believe to be absolutely undeniable—namely, that this medicine of coercion, if it be a medicine, is a medicine which we have been continually applying in increasing doses with diminishing results. When a physician has before him such a phenomenon as that he should direct his attention and his efforts to some other quarter and to some other method. We have—and I am glad to admit it—tried remedies. I see it stated sometimes that nothing has been so miserable a failure as the course of remedial legislation with respect to Ireland with which the Members of the present Government, and I myself, for a long time have been associated. I refer now to the removal of religious disabilities, to the Disestablishment of the Church, to the reform of the Land Laws, and to the removal—or, if not the absolute removal, to the 579 enormous mitigation—of the intolerable grievances, perhaps the worst of all after the land grievance, under which Ireland used to labour with respect to education.
If I am asked what I think of all these measures, I deny that they have failed. We have not failed, but we have not finished. They have had this effect—that the disease of Ireland has taken a different and a milder form. [Cheers and laughter,.] I am sorry to arouse scepticism whichever way I go. When I said just now that social order in Ireland was disturbed there were signs of dissent from hon. Members opposite—[Ironical cheers]—and now, when I say that the disease of Ireland has taken a milder form, there are also signs of dissent; and it seems to me impossible that anything said by me can be true. My meaning is this—the disease of Ireland is in a milder form; but, in my opinion, it is in a form still extremely serious, and yet a milder form than it took in 1832, when murders, excesses, and outrages were manifold to what they are now, so as to indicate a different state of things at the present time from what existed then, and an undoubted growth of what are known as law-abiding habits—or I might go further back to the dreadful Rebellion of 1798, which took a great effort on the part of this country to put down. No, Sir; that legislation has not failed. I admit that it is incomplete; that it has not reached, that it has not touched the goal, the terminating point of the race we had to run, and something yet remains to be done.
But there is another notion which has gone abroad. I have spoken of former expedients and remedies; but there is now a notion that something might be done by judicious mixtures of coercion and concessions. These judicious mixtures are precisely the very thing that we have tried. Go back to the Roman Catholic Emancipation. The Duke of Wellington made a judicious mixture upon that occasion. He proposed that we should open the doors of Parliament—and I am thankful he did so—to the Roman Catholics of Ireland; but he at the same time disfranchised the 40s, freeholder on the principle of judicious mixture. When Sir Robert Peel in 1843–4 put Mr. O'Connell on his trial, and succeeded in obtaining in Ireland a 580 conviction which was afterwards quashed on a point of form, that was a strong step in the direction of coercion—but he followed it up immediately by the important Act for enlarging the endowment of Maynooth, by an Act for facilitating the granting of charitable bequests to the Roman Catholic Church; and I must also say—although it may shock some hon. Gentlemen opposite—by a third Act, which was then viewed as a great boon to the Roman Catholic interest—namely, the Act for the foundation of undenominational Colleges. There was another case of judicious mixture. It happened, when we were disestablishing the Church, there was great disorder in Westmeath, and in the middle, I think, of the Land Bill, we arrested the progress of that measure and introduced a very strong measure of coercion for Westmeath, all on the principle of judicious mixture. The Government which came into Office in 1880, and which was put out of Office in 1885—the whole course of that Government was nothing but one of rigid and incessant effort of judicious mixtures. Therefore, do not let us suppose that the merit of novelty attaches to that recommendation.
But I have seen another recommendation made, and made, I think, by a person of very great authority, I believe in my hearing, to the effect that if we could only cast away Party spirit in dealing with Ireland we should do well. Then, I think, a good many hon. Members opposite cheered, indicating that they were ready to cast away Party spirit. What is meant by this? Is it meant that Party spirit is to be expelled generally from the circuit of English politics? Is that so? Is there a dreamer who, in the wildness of his dreams, has imagined that you can really work the free institutions of this country upon any other principles than those in the main which your fathers have handed down to you and which have made the country what it is? [Cheers and loud counter cheers.] Those cheers may be meant in sarcasm. I accept them in good faith. I believe that in uttering the words that I have just used I have quite as strong a meaning, and I am ready to act upon the principle which I have laid down quite as much, and perhaps a little more, than a great many hon. Members opposite who cheered. It 581 may be said—"We do not think you can get on altogether without Party spirit, but do, at any rate, cast out Party spirit from Irish affairs." Is that a more hopeful recommendation?
It will be convenient to take the case of the two sides of the House separately, and first I ask is it desirable that the Tory Party should cast out Party spirit? I should say—undoubtedly. But if I should press it upon the right hon. Gentleman opposite he would be entitled to make an answer to me which I should feel to be a crushing answer, because he would say—"Before you talk of casting away Party spirit from the handling of Irish affairs you must show that it has been applied to those affairs in some sense different from, and in a more guilty and more mischievous manner than, it has been applied to other affairs." I will not speak of the last year or two, during which there may have been strong prejudices. I will go back half a century to the time when great resistance was offered, and I, as an humble and as a silent follower, had my share of responsibility for that resistance. I mean the resistance to the extension of the franchise in Ireland, especially of the municipal franchise. I deeply lament that opposition was ever offered; I may say quorum pars exigua fui. The conduct of the Tory Party of that day under Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington, Lord Stanley, and Sir James Graham, although very mistaken, was perfectly honest. I am not prepared to say that Irish affairs have been handled in this House, speaking generally, by either Party with a larger admixture of Party feeling or with a smaller flavour of true patriotic tone than other affairs of the country. It is idle to set up as remedies, as alternatives, and as policies to adopt in great crises these suggestions which are totally visionary and unreal, and which never could become the basis of human action in a Legislative Assembly.
So much for experiment. Here I stand upon the ground that a great necessity is before us, that a growing and urgent evil requires to be dealt with, that some strong and adequate application to the case is requisite, and that the whole and the only question is whether the application we propose is the right one. Let me say this upon this particular question of a Legislature for Ireland, that it 582 appears to be a very popular topic with our opponents, who say—"Why do you depart from the course taken by all the statesmen of the nineteenth century?" Now, let us see what has been done and said by all "the statesmen of the nineteenth century." The great case produced is the famous Repeal debate in 1834, in which I myself was one of the majority who voted against the Repeal of the Union. A very remarkable passage from a very remarkable speech of Sir Robert Peel, well deserving to be kept fresh in the memory of posterity, from its terseness and power, has again become familiar to the people of this day, as I myself heard it with my own ears that day, with admiration. What was Sir Robert Peel then doing? In the first place, he was opposing the Repeal of the Union. You call this Repeal of the Union. [Opposition cheers.] You must at least allow us to have an opinion on that subject. For my part, I am not prepared at this moment to say that the question of the Repeal of the Union should be reopened. I may be right or wrong in that matter, but my opinion is that Ireland has done much, by wisdom and moderation, by bringing her essential demands within certain limits, to facilitate the task set before us. But, even if this were Repeal of the Union, I admit, without the least question, that up to a certain point the Union is upon its trial. I admit, without the least question, that in my opinion this Bill constitutes a most important modification of that Act. But was Sir Robert Peel in the same circumstances in 1834 as we found ourselves in 1884? He had had one generation of experience; we have had nearly three. In the days when he spoke, the Statute Book of England was loaded with a mass of Acts inflicting the most cruel grievances upon Ireland, and it was a perfectly rational opinion for a man like Lord Macaulay, who was deeply interested in Ireland, and other politicians of his character, to think that by the removal of those grievances you might save the Union. What was then a matter of reasoning and speculation has now become a matter of knowledge.
So Lord Macaulay is one who is quoted like Sir Robert Peel. I remember well a passage of splendid eloquence delivered by Lord Macaulay against the 583 Repeal of the Union, a Union of which I will not say anything more now than that I do not desire to rake up the history of that movement—a horrible and shameful history, for no epithets weaker than these can in the slightest degree describe or indicate ever so faintly the means by which, in defiance of the national sentiment of Ireland, consent to the Union was attained. I think in 1834, or not very distant from that date, Lord Macaulay, in words of burning eloquence, denounced the Repeal of the Union. Lord Macaulay, I think in 1859, or certainly many years later in his life, if not so late as that, in his Life of Pitt, declared that the Union without the measures which Mr. Pitt finally hoped to procure from it—and to which it became, in fact, the greatest impediment—without those measures the Union was union only in name, and, being a union only in name, it was in rank opposition to all the national and patriotic sentiment of Ireland. How was it possible that its authority could commend itself to the people of that country? I do not admit that the question of the Union, so far as it is now on its trial, has been decided, or has been touched, by statesmen of the nineteenth century. Those of whom I spoke never had before them what we have before us, the bitter fact, the rich though painful story of the experience which the rolling years of the last half-century have afforded us.
Well, then, Sir, we are told again with extraordinary boldness—"Why do you depart from the old Whig traditions?" If there is one thing more than another which my hon. Friend the Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) was doing in his admirable speech which he delivered on this subject, it was in showing that he was acting in strict consonance and conformity with the old Whig traditions. What were the old Whig traditions? The organs of that tradition were Mr. Sheridan and Lord Grey—the Lord Grey of that day—or rather the Mr. Grey of that day, afterwards still more famous as Lord Grey. Then there were Lord Fitzwilliam and, above all, Mr. Fox, and even above Mr. Fox himself there was Mr. Burke. Upon this great subject of the relations with Ireland Mr. Burke never modified by one hair's breadth the generous and wise declaration of his youth and of his 584 maturer manhood. Mr. Burke did not live to the date of the Union, but he placed on record, in the first place, his political adhesion to the opinions of Mr. Grattan; and, in the second place, he placed upon record his full satisfaction with the state of things that prevailed in Ireland—the political state of things, especially the Acts of 1782 and 1783, and in a letter written not long before his lamented death he said that he trusted that Ireland had seen the last of her revolutions. By that he meant that the Act of 1782 did amount to a revolution—a blessed and peaceful revolution, but still a revolution—a revolution effected by those peaceful means, by that bold and wise British statesmanship, such as in 1844, and again at a later period, was commended by Lord Beaconsfield.
It may be said with perfect truth that Lord Grey declined at a later date to be a party to the Repeal of the Union. In that respect, in my opinion, he was perfectly consistent. For my own part, if I may refer to myself, I do not at all regret the vote which I gave 52 years ago against the Repeal of the Union, considering what that repeal involved, and considering the amount of information we had with regard to its working. The Union, whatever may be our opinion with regard to the means by which it was obtained, was a Statute of vast importance, for it modified and in many respects transformed the relations between Great Britain and Ireland. Such a statute as that cuts deep tracts in history; those tracts cannot be effaced in later times. But we are acting in most complete conformity with Whig traditions and the principles upon which Whig statesmen founded their action. They did not say that the principle of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland was abstractly bad; they did not say—"We in our minds are opposed to it, and therefore Ireland and Great Britain shall not have it;" but they said it was opposed to the sentiment of the Irish people. They said it was in opposition to all that was most honourable and upright, most respected, and most disinterested in Ireland, and nothing but mischief, nothing but disorder, nothing but dishonour, could come from a policy founded upon the overriding of all those noble qualities, and by means which would not bear the 585 face of day, imposing the arbitrary will of the Legislature upon the nation, in spite of its almost unanimous opposition.
Now, Sir, it should be borne in mind that there was at that time in existence the greatest difference of sentiment from what we now witness in Ireland. The North was more opposed to the Union probably than the South. I remember that the town of Cork used to be quoted as a spot on which love of the Union might be detected by the careful observer. Unquestionably the promises held out by Mr. Pitt did induce a division of sentiment among the Roman Catholic clergy of that time. I believe that the Irish national patriotic sentiment which I have mentioned with sympathy was more vivid in the North of Ireland than in any other quarter.
Well, Sir, hon. Gentlemen say—"Do not talk to us about foreign countries; do not talk to us about British Colonies; do not mention Canada, it has nothing whatever to do with the case. Canada is loyal and content; Ireland is disloyal and disaffected." But Sir Charles Gavan Duffy in an able paper admits the charge. He says—When it was determined to confer Home Rule on Canada, Canada was in the precise temper attributed to Ireland. She did not get Home Rule because she was loyal and friendly, but she is loyal and friendly because she got Home Rule.Now, Sir, I am, on this subject, able to speak as a witness. I sat in Parliament during the whole of the Canadian controversy, and I even took, what was for me, as a young Member, an active part in the discussions upon the subject. And what was that Canadian controversy? The case of Canada is not parallel to the case of Ireland. It does not agree in every particular, and the Bill which we offer to Ireland is different in many important particulars from the Acts which have disposed of the case of Canada. But although it is not parallel it is analogous. It is strictly and substantially analogous. What, Sir, was the issue in the case of Canada? Government from Downing Street. These few words embrace the whole controversy—Government from Downing Street being, of course, under the Government of St. Stephen's.
What was the cry of those who resisted the concession of autonomy to 586 Canada? It was the cry which has slept for a long time, and which has acquired vigour from sleeping—it was the cry with which we are now becoming familiar—the cry of the unity of the Empire. Well, Sir, in my opinion the relation with Canada was one of very great danger to the unity of the Empire at that time; but it was the remedy for the mischief and not the mischief itself which was regarded as dangerous to the unity of the Empire. Here I contend that the cases are precisely parallel, and that there is danger to the unity of the Empire in your relations with Ireland; but unfortunately, while you are perfectly right in raising the cry, you are applying the cry and the denunciation to the remedy, whereas you ought to apply it to the mischief.
In those days what happened? In those days, habitually in this House, the mass of the people of Canada were denounced as rebels. Some of them were Protestants and of English and Scotch birth. The majority of them were Roman Catholic and of French extraction. The French rebelled. Was that because they were of French extraction and because they were Roman Catholics? [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] No, Sir; for the English of Upper Canada did exactly the same thing. They both of them rebelled, and perhaps I may mention—if I may enliven the strain of the discussion for a moment—that I remember Mr. O'Connell, who often mingled wit and humour with his eloquence in those days when the discussion was going on with regard to Canada, and when Canada was the one dangerous question—the one question which absorbed interest in this country as the great question of the hour—when we were engaged in that debate, Mr. O'Connell intervened, and referred to the well-known fact that a French orator and statesman named Papineau had been the promoter and the leader of the agitation in Canada; and what said Mr. O'Connell? He said—The case is exactly the case of Ireland with this difference, that in Canada the agitator had got the 'O' at the end of his name instead of at the beginning.Well, these subjects of Her Majesty rebelled—were driven to rebellion and were put down. We were perfectly victorious over them, and what then happened? Directly the military victory 587 was assured—as Mr. Burke told the men of the day of the American War—the moment the military victory was assured the political difficulty began. Did they feel it? They felt it; they gave way to it. The victors were the vanquished, for if we were victors in the field we were vanquished in the arena of reason. We acknowledged that we were vanquished, and within two years we gave complete autonomy to Canada. And now Gentlemen have forgotten this great lesson of history. By saying that the case of Canada has no relation to the case of Ireland, I refer to that little sentence written by Sir Charles Duffy, who himself exhibits in his own person as vividly as anybody the transition from a discontented to a loyal subject.Canada did not get Home Rule because she was loyal and friendly, but she has become loyal and friendly because she has got Home Rule.Now I come to another topic, and I wish to remind you as well as I can of the definition of the precise issue which is at the present moment placed before us. In the introduction of this Bill I ventured to say that its object was to establish, by the authority of Parliament, a Legislative Body to sit in Dublin for the conduct of both legislation and administration under the conditions which may be prescribed by the Act defining Irish as distinctive from Imperial affairs. I laid down five, and five only, essential conditions which we deemed it to be necessary to observe. The first was the maintenance of the unity of the Empire. The second was political equality. The third was the equitable distribution of Imperial burdens. The fourth was the protection of minorities. And the fifth was that the measure which we proposed to Parliament—I admit that we must stand or fall by this definition quite as much as by any of the others—that the measure should present the essential character and characteristics of a settlement of the question.
Well, Sir, that has been more briefly defined in a Resolution of the Dominion Parliament of Canada, with which, although the definition was simpler than my own, I am perfectly satisfied. In their view there are three vital points which they hope will be obtained, and which they believe to be paramount, 588 and theirs is one of the most remarkable and significant utterances which have passed across the Atlantic to us on this grave political question. [Cries of "Oh, oh!" from the Opposition.] I just venture to put to the test the question of the equity of those Gentlemen. You seem to consider that these manifestations are worthless. Had these manifestations taken place in condemnation of the Bills and policy of the Government, would they have been so worthless?
A question so defined for the establishment of a Legislative Body to have effective control of legislation and administration in Ireland for Irish affairs, and subject to those conditions about which, after all, there does not appear in principle to be much difference of opinion among us—that is the question on which the House is called upon to give a vote, as solemn and as important as almost, perhaps, any in the long and illustrious records of its history.
Sir, in the interval which has taken place since the introduction of the Bill much discussion has arisen upon a variety of its particulars which I am very far from grumbling or complaining at. One of them, however, is exciting so much feeling that it is quite necessary that it should receive the notice of my Colleagues and of myself in the present debate. I mean that which relates to the exclusion or disappearance—for it really can hardly be called an exclusion when it is rather desired and sought for by the parties themselves—of the Irish Members from the Benches of this House.
Now, Sir, in this explanation which I am about to give, I do not address myself to those who are hostile to the principle of this Bill. I wish with all my heart I could say something, without vitally prejudicing the public interests involved in this measure, that would tend to reconcile or to abridge the differences between Her Majesty's Government and a body of Gentlemen with whom hitherto they have had the happiness of acting in as perfect concord—allowing for the necessary freedom of human opinion and the occasional differences that may arise—as ever consolidated together the different sections of the Liberal Party. Unhappily, Sir, while I have the most cordial respect for those Gentlemen, I am not able to pro- 589 mise myself that they will listen with much interest to what I have got to say. There are others who as I believe accept not less cordially than Her Majesty's Government themselves what I have declared to be the principle of this Bill, and who at the same time see greater difficulties than we do—though we have seen great difficulties all along, and I never represented this measure as one in which all the points were clearly indisputable. The case bristles with difficulties of detail throughout, which only require goodwill and patient intelligence to deal with, and different men feel them in different modes and different degrees.
What has happened, Sir, is this. I do not deny the fact that many friends of this measure, whom we should be loth indeed to alienate, have taken strong objection to the provisions with respect to the future absence of Irish Members from this House under two heads. In the first place, they recall a proposition which I myself stated very strongly in introducing the Bill—namely, the great political principle that there ought not to be taxation without representation. In that I stated what was an obvious truth. It is quite evident that we never would enforce upon Ireland taxation without representation, and nothing but the consent of Ireland could have induced Her Majesty's Government to contemplate such a thing for a single moment. But many gentlemen—and I do not find fault with them—are not satisfied even with the consent of Ireland. Gentlemen will recollect that though we now hear sometimes of persons being more Popish than the Pope, and many phrases of that kind, the original phrase was Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores. The meaning of that phrase was this—that those English families, those portions of the English race, who went and planted themselves amongst the Irishry, after a moderate time became more Irish than the Irish themselves. We have had that illustrated wholesale on the present occasion. I must own that this is a difficulty which I regard with respect and with sympathy, and I trust that in any attempt to meet it I shall have the sympathy of the House in general—at all events, of those who can on any terms tolerate the principle of this Bill. Besides that objection—which is an objection strictly 590 upon argumentative and Constitutional grounds as respects taxation—there is undoubtedly another sentiment more vague, less definite, in a different region of the human mind; there is a sentiment of regret that there should cease to be a symbolical manifestation of the common concern of Ireland with ourselves in the unity of the Empire, and in the transaction of Imperial affairs.
Well, now, Sir, how do we stand with regard to this case? First of all, let me say, however much it may appear to be a paradox to English Members, yet history undoubtedly teaches us that, to whatever cause it may be due, foreign affairs, what I may call over-sea affairs, do not stand in exactly the same relations to Ireland as they do to England and Scotland. This is what I mean—I am not raising any disputable proposition—I mean the feeling of the people; and it appears to me perfectly natural that the inhabitants of a country like Ireland, whose difficulties have been so great, whose woes have been innumerable, whose hopes have been intermittent and continually disappointed—the history of a country like that must throw back the mind of the people upon itself and its own concerns, and in that way it is that I can understand why it is that Irish Gentlemen do now—what we all do if we are men of common sense in the common affairs of life—that is, we look to the principle, and do not think so much about objects which in our view are secondary as that which is central and essential, that which is central and essential being the management of Irish affairs. What I am now going to say has not had so much notice as it deserves. Ireland is not so entirely excluded by the Bill as it stands from Imperial affairs as Gentlemen may be disposed to think. I refer, and I by no means refer alone, to the principle which is contained in the 39th clause of the Bill—the clause which provides for the recall of Irish Representatives of both Houses before this House can proceed to any alteration of the Statute upon which the two Legislatures are not in accord. I hope that is a provision which there will be little, if any, occasion for putting into action. But the principle involved is an important principle.
Besides that, there is another clause which provides that in certain circumstances the Irish Assembly may vote 591 sums of money in relation to subjects which are excluded from its ordinary cognizance. This provision has been misunderstood to mean that the Irish Legislative Body might, in certain circumstances, vote money for the establishment of a Church.
Well, Sir, I have really not examined whether the words of the Statute will bear such a construction as has been put upon them. But if they bear such a construction, undoubtedly an effectual remedy ought to be applied. The meaning of the words is simply this—our belief in drawing the Act was this—that it might be felt right in the event, as I trust the improbable event, of a great war, wherein this country and Ireland were engaged with a common feeling and common interest, for the Crown to send a Message to the Irish Legislative Body to ask them freely to testify their participation in our interests and privileges by voting money and supplies. [Opposition laughter.] Some Gentlemen differ from me as to the measure by which they estimate the ludicrous and the serious. My own estimates are sometimes in an inverse relation to theirs. What they think ludicrous seems to me to be serious, and possibly vice versâ. It is supposed to be ridiculous that a practically independent Body in Ireland—[Opposition cheers]—yes, practically independent in the regular exercise of its statutory functions—should entertain such a proposal. But it was not ridiculous when Ireland had an independent Parliament.
I said just now that it was a wonderful thing to see how little in other days Ireland had interposed in foreign affairs. I have had the debates looked up during the whole period of Grattan's Parliament, and if I except certain discussions relating to foreign Treaties of Commerce—I will speak of that matter by-and-by—there are only two occasions upon which that Parliament debated foreign affairs so far as I can discover. Both of those occasions are occasions on which by Message from the Crown they were invited to vote sums of money for purposes of war. One of them was in 1790, when there was a seizure of British vessels by Spanish men-of-war. A vote of money was then asked and was given. The second was in 1795, when a contribution was asked towards the expenses of the French War. On the first occasion the 592 Irish Parliament granted the money without question. I do not believe myself that pecuniary illiberality has ever been a vice of Ireland. On the second occasion they granted it, but moved an Amendment, full, I think, of good sense, hoping for a speedy conclusion of hostilities. For my part, I heartily wish that prayer of the Irish Parliament had been complied with. I take blame to myself for not having explained to the House the provision to which I have just referred—namely, the provision for the voting of money by the Irish Legislative Body in answer to the Message from the Crown. But my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will bear me out when I say that after I had spoken I remarked to him that I regretted the omission of which I had been guilty.
Moreover, Sir, although the Statute will limit the legislative powers of the Irish Legislative Body, there are other moral powers of influence which it will possess, and which we do not and cannot limit. The privilege of speech is not going to be taken away from Ireland—that privilege of free speech will attach to the Members of this Legislative Body and to the Legislative Body collectively, and a considerable influence may be exercised upon proceedings at Westminster through Resolution, and by Address from the Legislative Body.
However, Sir, while I wish these provisions to be understood, I do not mean to limit what I have to say by reference to them. I wish to say what Her Majesty's Government have thought to be their duty with regard to the feeling which has been copiously expressed in many portions of the country by gentlemen friendly to the principle of the Bill. Undoubtedly, it is our plain duty to consider how far we can go without prejudice to the main purpose of the Bill to meet that desire. We shall do that upon grounds of policy, and upon grounds of principle. We shall make willing steps in that direction as far as duty will permit us to go. There are three things which I had better at once say we cannot do, and are unwilling to entertain in any shape. We are not willing to break up the Parliamentary traditions of this House, or to introduce a principle of confusion into the working of the House. That is the first. The second is, we are not willing to fetter against its will the action of the Irish 593 Legislative Body in any case except where cardinal and Imperial interests require it. We will do nothing that shall have the effect of placing our measure in such a condition that Ireland, through her Representatives, can only offer to it a qualified and a grudging, instead of a free, cordial assent and acceptance. And, third, we can do nothing that will have the effect of placing the Committee of the Bill before the second reading. That may be a phrase mysterious to some, but the meaning of it is this—that to determine in detail, even if upon points of importance, everything which is of great interest touching this Bill before you obtain assent to the principle of the Bill is not practicable, and if it be practicable the Rules of this House are based upon folly, for undoubtedly it would be much more convenient in many respects, before you are called upon to assent to the principle of a Bill, to have it in the exact form in which it is to be finally adopted.
There is another thing to be considered, and it is this. It has very often happened to me, in the course of a great experience in Parliamentary legislation, that you hold communications with one class of gentlemen—you happen to be good tempered or bad tempered as the case may be—you feel a great desire to meet the views of that class of gentlemen, and you unwarily pledge yourself to propose the thing they desire. It is settled within the four walls of a private room. Then you come into this House, which, happily—I thank God for it—is the place of the most thorough publicity in the whole world, and you find other sets of persons, quite as much entitled to be heard, who are at daggers drawn with the first. But the Government has unwarily committed itself; and a quarrel ensues. While it is perfectly possible that if they had been allowed to reserve their discretion, and freely to consider the particulars in the Committee, they might have been able to find means to conciliate those of opposite views, so as to bring about general satisfaction. What I mean is this, and I think the House will agree with me, I admit that when a thing is right, and when you see it to be practicable, you may promise before the second reading of a Bill that, if agreeable to the House, you will do it. But we cannot do more than promise a 594 fair consideration hereafter to a fair proposal, unless it is such a proposal as we can see our way to embodying in a workable shape. I do not think that is an unfair proposal. In violation of these three conditions we can do nothing. But we are ready and willing to do everything that they will allow.
Then I take the first objection that has been made to the proposed exclusion of the Irish Representatives from this Parliament. It is that the principal that representation should accompany taxation would thereby be violated. Now, what I am about to say involves a considerable responsibility; but the question whether and how far the difficulty may be met has been considered; and I am prepared to say that we can give full satisfaction to those who advance this objection. If agreeable to the House, we will meet it in Committee by providing that when a proposal is made to alter the taxation in respect of Customs and Excise Irish Members shall have an opportunity of appearing in this House to take a share in the transaction of that Business. It will then be impossible to urge against the Bill that it is proposed by the Govnrnment that representation should not accompany taxation.
In regard to such matters of common interest between Great Britain and Ireland as those which form the subject of Foreign Treaties, no doubt the objections urged from some quarters may be met in some considerable degree by the adoption of a system of executive communications, which is the system adopted in certain foreign countries. There are cases in which two countries are disunited in their Legislatures, but united in national action and feeling. They find themselves able, by executive communications, to provide for the common handling of common subjects. But we do not feel that the plan of executive communications need of necessity be the only one. There are various plans which have been proposed in order to indicate and maintain common action on Imperial subjects, and which are well worthy of consideration. For example, it has been proposed that a Joint Commission should be appointed representing the Houses of Parliament on this side of the water and representing the Irish Legislative Body in due proportion of Members, and that that Commission 595 should meet from time to time, as occasion might arise, during the Session of Parliament to consider common questions and report their opinions to both Legislative Bodies upon many, at any rate, of the Imperial matters that are reserved by the Bill as it stands. I hesitate to say upon "any" of those questions, for I incline to the belief, for example, that the question relating to the succession of the Crown—in all the different branches of the subject—ought not to go to any secondary authority. But I can conceive that many subjects, such, for example, as Treaties of Commerce, might well be considered by a Commission of this kind. I do not say of this plan as absolutely as I do of the plan as to taxation, that we are quite ready to propose it if it be the wish of Parliament, for it has been little canvassed, and objections may be raised to it which we have failed to anticipate; but I can say that we look at the proposal as one which might satisfy jealousies, might have other advantages, and is not open, so far as we know, to serious objection.
Another proposal is that a Joint Committee of the kind which I have described could be appointed to consider how far and upon what conditions other than those provided in the Statute Irish Members should come here. There is yet another suggestion, that Irish Members might be entitled to come to Parliament—I assume generally that corresponding opportunity would be given to Irish Peers—upon occasions when the Legislative Body should, by an Address to the Crown, have expressed a desire that they should do so. I do not say that that is open to objection on principle. At the same time, I see considerable difficulties as to the particular way of making it a practicable plan. I will, however, state broadly that it is our duty to give an unprejudiced ear to proposals which others may make for the purpose of insuring the continued manifestation of common interest between Great Britain and Ireland in Imperial concerns. That end, we say distinctly, is a good end; means for attaining it we regard with favour, subject to the condition that they shall not be so handled as to introduce into this House the principle of confusion, nor so handled as to impose on the Irish Legislative Body limitations of its liberty in any 596 matters except such as affect high Imperial policy.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
asked whether the Irish Members would re-appear in their full numbers?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am much obliged to the noble Lord. The clause now in the Bill contemplating the recall of the Irish Representatives in a certain contingency makes no difference from the present arrangements as to the numbers in which they would come. We do not feel that the subject involves a vital principle, nor have we arrived at any binding decision; but my own personal opinion is that if we were to bring back the Irish Members in any other numbers than the present we should first have to devise a new system of election, and I am not sure that it would be wise to complicate the matter in that way. I should be inclined to hope that, so far as it is desirable that Irish Members should re-appear in Parliament, the Irish people would be liberally and amply, rather than scantily and jealously, represented.
There is only one other subject to which I must advert. We propose a change of which, if viewed as an abstract and speculative change, the postponement for a year or even longer would not have been a matter of vital consequence. But this concession, if you like to call it so—in my view it is something much higher than a concession, it is a great reformation and improvement—this change is not proposed upon grounds of general expediency alone, or in the view of abstract improvement alone; it is proposed in order to meet the first necessity of civilized society. Social order is not broken up in Ireland, it is undermined, it is sapped, and by general and universal confession it imperatively requires to be dealt with. It is because this measure is one for the restoration of social order by the removal, not merely of the symptoms but of the cause of the mischief, that we recommend it to the consideration of Parliament. We are all agreed up to a certain point—[An hon. MEMBER: No!]—all except a solitary Gentleman opposite. We all agree upon this, that social order in Ireland imperatively requires to be dealt with; but when we come to the method, then, unfortunately, our differences come into view. Were 597 I to take all the individual opinions that have been expressed as to the mode of dealing with Irish questions, I should simply bewilder the House. I will only look at the main and leading divisions of power and influence in this Assembly.
There are in the House two great Parties, independently of the Irish Party, and there is a third Body whom I will not call a Party, because I am happy to think that as a Party we are not yet divided from them, and I trust may never be. But we are vitally divided on this great and significant question from those whom I will not call a Party, but whom I must call a Body, but who are so important that they may possibly hold the balance and decide the question between the two great British Parties in this House. The mass of the Irish Representatives have committed in the eyes of many Gentlemen opposite a new, a mortal offence—an offence more deadly than any former offence. They have committed the offence of agreeing with us in this matter. As long as their favours were bestowed in another quarter great toleration was to be expected, and was happily experienced, by them from those who are now very much shocked in their highest moral qualities at our alliance with the Irish Party, which alliance amounts simply to a coincidence of views on a great vital and determining public question.
Of the two political Parties in the House both have spoken and spoken plainly. I do, indeed I must, admire the tact, the caution, I will not say the astuteness, with which most of the Leaders of the Tory Party have abstained from overmuch hurrying themselves with forecasts of the future, or pledges as to the mode of meeting it, with regard to the Irish Question. Finding that they had on this side of the House allies—I do not use the word in an invidious sense, it is the same kind of alliance that there is with Gentlemen from Ireland—that is to say, it is an honourable and conscientious coincidence of opinion—finding that they had allies of that kind ready to do their work with equal politeness and wisdom, they have left the doing of that work to them. But notwithstanding that, they have spoken and spoken plainly for themselves. When the noble Lord the Member for 598 Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) was brought to the point, and when it was said he had not declared a policy, he pointed—and he was justified in pointing—not even to a phrase, but to a date, and he said—"Our policy is the 26th of January." I accept that reply from the noble Lord. It is true and it is just, and that was, and that is, the declaration of policy for Ireland from the Tory Party.
I remember, and many others may recollect, the fervid and almost endless cheering with which the Gentlemen then sitting on this side of the House accepted the announcement of the 26th of January. That is a plain, manly, and straightforward announcement. What was it? The notice did not convey, and we could not expect that it should convey, a full description of the proposals that were to be made; but it so far described them that it indicated one point with perfect clearness, and that was the suppression of the National League. I may say, in parenthesis, that I trust that we shall be suppressors of the National League. That, if it comes about, will certainly be by a different process. The suppression of the National League—what does it mean and what does it come to?
A noble Friend of mine, to whom I refer with the greatest respect, when he held office in Ireland, said:—"We want to drive discontent under the ground." I own I thought at the time that that expression was what is called a slip of the tongue, and I suppose there is no man among us who does not occasionally slip into that form of error. But if instead of its being a slip of the tongue it is exalted into a policy, then what is the meaning of the suppression of the National League? It is the conversion of the proceeding's of that body—which I am not now called upon to discuss or characterize—it is the conversion of the proceedings of that body, taken daringly but openly in the face of day, into the proceedings of secret societies—the last resort in this and other countries of the extreme and hopeless difficulties of political problems; and, in my opinion, nothing is to be gained by procuring and bringing about the substitution of the secret communities for the open action of a body like the National League.
It is sought apparently to take away discontent from the surface. We are 599 not contented with so limited an ambition. We desire to take away discontent neck and crop. We desire to abolish it root and branch, or, if I may once more put into requisition a phrase which had its day, we desire to abolish Irish discontent "bag and baggage." I do not believe that Parliament would pass a proposal for the abolition, in the present circumstances, of the National League. If it did pass such a proposal, in my opinion it is doubtful whether it would have made any contribution whatever to a real solution of the Irish difficulty; whether, on the contrary, it would not have administered a new aggravation to it. However that may be, I own that that Party has spoken plainly, and their policy is summed up in the words "repression or coercion."
When this Government was formed it was formed on the principle of looking for some method of dealing with Ireland other than by the method of coercion; and that policy has now taken definite form and shape in the proposal of autonomy for Ireland. You have spoken plainly and we have spoken plainly. Has the third power in the House spoken plainly? Has that power which is to hold the scales, and which may decide the issue, told the country in what manner, when it is forced to face this tremendous problem, it intends to deal with it?
There are few men in this House, I am sure there is no man outside of it, who does not admire the temper and the courage with which my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) has behaved on this question. In obedience to his conscience, and to his conscience alone, he has rent asunder with pain, and perhaps with agony, Party ties to which he has been among the most faithful of all adherents. And speaking generally of those who act with him, I believe that in their several spheres the same may be said of them. Nor do I feel, although I may lament that they have come under what I think are narrow and blind influences, that their titles to my respect are one whit diminished by what they have said or done. I make these admissions freely and without stint. My noble Friend has assumed an immense responsibility. It is not for me to find fault with those who assume immense responsibility. My responsibility in 600 this matter is perhaps even greater than his. Next to mine, and you will never find me here to extenuate it, I know no subject of Her Majesty that has a greater load of responsibility upon him than my noble Friend. I do not blame, I have no title to blame, him. All honour and praise to him for his undertaking the task which I know to be of enormous difficulty. But it may be a task of leading the determining and superior forces of Parliamentary opinion towards a conclusion on the Irish Question. If that is so, I ask what does he mean to do? Has not the time arrived when we ought to know what his policy is to be?
I have endeavoured to search it out by such means as I could. Is it to be the policy announced to the Loyalist minority at Belfast in November last? [A HOME RULE MEMBER: So-called Loyalist minority.] I assume the phrase. In politics I like to give to every class of men the name by which they like to be called. Well, Sir, in Belfast my noble Friend made very considerable promises on the 5th of last November, and he said an extremely bold thing—"I should not shrink," he said, "from a great and bold reconstruction of the Irish Government." Well, all I can say is this, that we who are now the Government are exceedingly daring; but our daring is nothing like yours. The man who will undertake to reconstruct the Irish Government without touching the legislative principle from which administrative government derives its life, if he is not a traitor or a fool—these are words not ours, but are reserved for Gentlemen quite different from us—he is either a magician or a man not much accustomed to the practical transaction of public affairs.
That is not all, Sir. My noble Friend did not stop by promising, in the exuberance of his zeal, that which I am convinced is absolutely impossible—namely, to reconstruct the Irish Government for any practical purpose without providing a new spring of action, which can only be provided on the principle of the policy we propose. But my noble Friend did not promise absolutely the principle of the policy we propose, because he said that nothing could be done in the direction of giving Ireland anything like complete control over her own affairs, either in a day, or a 601 Session, or perhaps a Parliament. But he pointed to the means by which it was to be done—namely, by the work of time, by the growth of small beginnings, the superstructure was to be raised on a wise and safe foundation. Yes; but what is the principle really at issue between us? It is this, not whether we are right in proposing at one step to give to Ireland complete control of her own affairs, but whether it is a thing right to be done at all. At Belfast in November my noble Friend in this passage implied that it might be a thing right to be done. To-night he is to move that it is a thing wrong to be done. What, then, is his policy? I am sorry to think that since November the movement of my noble Friend has not been forwards, but rather, as it appears to me, backwards. We have heard nothing since November of this complete reconstruction of the Irish Government, and the gradual progress on a sound foundation of a well-built structure. But I rejoice in that declaration on one ground—namely, that it implies that the complete control by Ireland of her own affairs is a thing which may be contemplated, and that in the view of my noble Friend it is a thing compatible with the unity of the Empire. Therefore, I am convinced that it is not a thing to be renounced ab initio—to be renounced and proscribed as a something tending to disintegrate and break up the unity of the Empire.
I confess that I do not believe in this gradual superstructure. I believe the meaning of it would be, if practicable, that a series of boons would be offered to Ireland, everyone of which would, with an enormous loss of Parliamentary time and temper, and with an immense obstruction of Public Business, be either entirely repudiated by Ireland, or be received in a grudging temper and with the fullest notification that whatever power of that kind you gave her would be used simply as an instrument for acquiring more power. I am very disinterested upon that subject. I should have disappeared from the scene while my noble Friend's process was in a very early stage indeed. But I own I do not believe that that is the wisest method of dealing with the great Irish Question. I believe we have reached one of those crises in the history of nations where the path of boldness is the path, and 602 the only path, of safety. At least we have come to a time when there is one thing we ought to know, and that is our own minds. We ought to know and we ought to tell our minds. There is another thing which I hold to be essential—we ought not to take this great Irish Question, and cast the fate of Ireland into the lottery of politics. I think it is obvious that I am not open to the reproach of casting the fate of Ireland into the lottery of politics, because what you tell me is that I am steering Ireland to utter destruction and certain ruin. If we are proposing to drive Ireland down the cataract, point out to us the way of escape. Is it really to be supposed that the last declaration of my noble Friend, which was the keeping alive of two or three clauses of the Crimes Act, which we intended to have kept in existence had we remained in Office last year—is that really the policy for Ireland? To that no assent, no approval has been given from the important Party opposite.
Sir, Parliament is entitled to know at this time of the day the alternatives that are open to its choice. You say that we offer the alternative of ruin. At any rate, in our view, it is of a very different character. But, even in your view, it is a definite proposal which is our justification on its behalf, and is the only contribution which we can make to the solution of the question. Parliament is entitled to have before it the alternatives proposed—the alternatives of policy, not of plan, proposed by those who are taking steps which may in certain contingencies with high probability bring into their hands the supreme direction of affairs. The Tory Party have announced their policy. Repression—the 26th of January. There is a policy I understand. Here I know with whom, and with what, I have to deal. But as regards my noble Friend, I must say that I am totally ignorant with whom, and with what, I am dealing, so far as policy is concerned. I hope that the Notice he has given for to-night has been given with the intention of tracing out for us a palpable and visible road into the darkness, and that he will tell us on what principle it is that he proposes to make provision for the government of Ireland. Let us know these alternatives. The more they are examined the better I believe it will be for us all. It will 603 become reasonably clear—I will not say to demonstration—that we have before us a great opportunity of putting an end to the controversy of 700 years—aye, and of knitting together, by bonds firmer and higher in their character than those which heretofore we have mainly used, the hearts and affections of this people and the noble fabric of the British Empire.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
, in rising to move "That the Bill be read a second time this day six months," said: Mr. Speaker, in moving the Amendment of which I have given Notice, I shall have to ask something more than the usual indulgence of the House. The House knows that it is not an easy or an agreeable task to follow in debate my right hon. Friend who has just sat down. During my long experience in this House it has never hitherto been my painful lot to have to do so. I have very frequently very far from envied those who had to take that part, and I feel now more convinced than I have ever done before that this can never have been an easy task, and especially I feel it when I have to follow a speech in which argument has been mingled to a considerable extent with statement, and when the provisions of a measure which has now been before us for a month have been, as far as I can understand, very considerably modified. I shall endeavour to refer to those points by and by; but before I come to the reasons which I shall give for moving the Amendment of which I have given Notice, I shall detain the House for only a very few moments by some observations with the smallest approach to a controversial character upon my right hon. Friend's speech. My right hon. Friend said in the early portion of his speech that he had asked himself the question whether Home Rule was compatible with the unity of the Empire, and he considered that that question had received a final and authoritative answer. And what was that answer? The question was settled in his mind by a speech made on the first day of the Session by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), who said that all he 604 wanted for Ireland was autonomy, or the management of her own affairs. Now, Sir, is this great question, which has long been perplexing the mind of my right hon. Friend, to be solved by a single sentence spoken in debate for a manifest and obvious purpose by the Leader of the Irish National Party, when that sentence is in direct contradiction to almost everything that he and his Friends have hitherto said, and to the repeated assurances which they have given us that they were working and would work for and would be satisfied with nothing but complete separation? Did the hon. Member for Cork ever use the words "severance of the last link," or "complete independence," or did he ever say that no bounds were to be set to the aspirations of the Irish nation? I have not got the hon. Member's speeches here; but I ask everyone who has studied those speeches whether the hon. Member has ever stopped short of advocating for Ireland complete independence—[Several hon. MEMBERS: Legislative independence.]—and its restoration to a place among the nations of Europe? Well, Sir, I must say that I think the answer which my right hon. Friend has obtained to his doubts upon the subject of the compatibility of Home Rule in a united Empire is an unsatisfactory and an incomplete one. My right hon. Friend has said that the Government are charged with experimenting upon this great question; and the definition he gave of experimenting in politics was that of treating grave questions without grave causes. I do not deny that there may be grave causes, and that this is a grave question; but I should be rather inclined to define experimenting in politics as treating grave questions for grave causes, but without grave and mature consideration. Whatever may be the consideration which my right hon. Friend may have himself given to this policy and his measure, it is certain that the country and its Representatives have had no sufficient opportunity of forming their judgment or giving their decision upon it. And it is also equally notorious that, with very few exceptions, the Colleagues of my right hon. Friend up to the moment of their joining the present Government had formed opinions and expressed opinions upon the question of Ireland, I will not say diametrically 605 opposed to, but certainly very little in harmony with, the policy of the Prime Minister. Sir, I do not know why my right hon. Friend should be disturbed at his policy being termed an experiment. That, in my opinion, is not the worst that can be said about it, for whether it be good, or whether it be bad, it must, at all events, be admitted that it is a novel experiment; for never, I believe, in the history of the world—certainly never in our own history—has the attempt been made to carry on the government of a country upon any such system as that which is now proposed for Ireland. I am not going into details; I went into them at too great a length the other night; but I venture to say there is no precedent for a great part of this scheme or the policy which is the foundation of it. It is, as I have before said, concocted from various precedents and examples; but there is no precedent which bears, with an approach to accuracy, upon the case that is before us. I say, whether it be good or bad, this is a policy which can be nothing but an experiment, and can only be ultimately judged by its results. Sir, I was astonished to hear my right hon. Friend throw some ridicule upon the policy which has been pursued in past times by Governments of which he has himself been a Member—I think he was a Member—but at all events by Ministers for whom he entertained a high respect. That policy he designated as the policy of "judicious mixture." He stated several cases in which a measure of a conciliatory character had been accompanied by a measure of coercion, or in which a measure of coercion had been accompanied or followed by a measure of conciliation. I do not think that any Minister or any Government ever admitted that these measures either of repression or of conciliation were proposed on any principle of judicious mixture. Each of those measures was proposed because the Government thought it a measure of justice or a measure of necessity. Catholic Emancipation, my right hon. Friend is fond of reminding us, was not conceded as a measure of justice, but it was conceded under the threat of civil war. But the other reforms to which he has referred to-night, and especially those which he carried himself, the Disestablishment of the Irish Church and the two Land Acts, 606 were measures which we had always thought were inspired by a desire to do justice to the people of Ireland, and were not administered on any principle of counterpoise or judicious mixture. On the other hand, if there have been measures of repression, they have been proposed from time to time by former Ministers and by my right hon. Friend himself because they believed that they were measures of absolute necessity, which did not alter the spirit, the intention, or the scope of the law, and which were only necessary to enable the ordinary law to be put into execution. As on a former occasion, my right hon. Friend has denounced the Union between Great Britain and Ireland and the means by which it was accomplished. None of us, that I am aware, approve of those means. I have before admitted that I think it probable that the carrying of that measure at that time was premature. But will anyone—will my right hon. Friend himself—say that he believes the Constitution of 1782 and the relation between Ireland and Great Britain which existed in 1800 could have been a constant permanent Constitution, or could have been a permanent relation? Will he deny that it was certain that long before this time that Constitution must have been modified either in the direction of a more complete separation between the two countries or in the direction of some such Legislative Union as was effected in 1800? My right hon. Friend spoke of the statesmen of the 19th century, who are quoted as having all been opposed to the Repeal of the Union; but he was compelled to admit that one of the most illustrious of the Whig statesmen to whom he alludes was Lord Grey, and Lord Grey, who had been a great opponent of the Union, lived to be one of the strongest advocates of the Union and one of the strongest opponents of Repeal. My right hon. Friend says that those statesmen who thus supported the Union never had before them a state of facts similar to that with which we have to deal. I gather that he refers to the circumstance that until now there has never been an explicit Parliamentary declaration that the people of Ireland were in favour of Repeal or in favour of Home Rule. But, Sir, I believe, from all I can read, that the agitation of Mr. O'Connell was one which, although it 607 did not attain to such large Parliamentary proportions, attained to at least as large National proportions as the present agitation has ever done; that it was supported with as much enthusiasm by at least as large a proportion of the people of Ireland. And, undoubtedly, that agitation enlisted upon its side a far larger and a more varied representation of all classes in Ireland than the Home Rule movement of later years has done. My right hon. Friend, in the eloquent peroration with which he closed his speech, said that I have taken a great responsibility upon myself in having taken so prominent a part in opposition to this measure; and he taunted the right hon. Gentleman opposite with having allowed us upon this side of the House to do most of the work in opposition to this Bill. I have explained on a former occasion why my Friends and I have taken this course. We know that this measure cannot be defeated merely by the opposition of the Conservative Party. We believe this Bill is a mischievous measure. We believe it is not one which will heal the feud, the long-standing feud, between Great Britain and Ireland. We believe it does not satisfy any of the essential conditions which have been laid down by my right hon. Friend himself. We believe it is not a final settlement of the question. We believe there is nothing in this measure which specially commends it, or ought to commend it, to those who profess Liberal principles; and, holding these opinions, we, who have the misfortune to differ from my right hon. Friend and from the great bulk of the Liberal Party which he leads, have thought it necessary not to conceal our opinions, not to take a passive or a neutral part, but to take that part which alone could give effect to the convictions we entertain, and which alone, in our judgment, can result in the defeat of this measure, which we believe to be injurious to the best interests of the nation. My right hon. Friend says that we have taken a great responsibility; and he calls upon me now and at once, and in answer to his invitation, to state what is my policy for Ireland. Sir, I can recollect no instance in the long and honourable political career of my right hon. Friend himself in which he has taken the course he now calls upon me to take. It has been, I conceive, the duty of my right hon. 608 Friend on various occasions to oppose measures which he thought bad; but I do not recollect any occasion on which my right hon. Friend in Opposition has unfolded a policy which he was going to propose as soon as those measures were rejected. All I can say is that I recollect nothing of those passages in my speeches which my right hon. Friend has done me the honour to quote to-night. It is all very well to pass measures for the reconstruction of the Irish Government. Before Liberal statesmen embraced the doctrine of Home Rule we heard a great deal about the necessity for a reform and decentralization of the Administration. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to say that the existing system of Government in Ireland—the system popularly known as Dublin Castle, is the best system which can be devised concurrently with the Legislative Union between the two countries? Although I am not prepared to say in what direction and in what manner that system can be at once revised, I do believe that there are many reforms which can be made in that highly centralized, but yet somewhat inefficient, system of Government which has been for a long time past the object of the opprobrium, not only of hon. Members calling themselves Representatives of National feeling, but of many representing other shades of political opinion. Sir, I would reply to my right hon. Friend as my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen) replied to him on a former occasion—it is not possible for any man now standing here to say what measures he is going to apply to Ireland after this Bill has been thrown out. Why, Sir, it depends, as my right hon. Friend said, upon the course taken by the Irish people and the leaders of the Irish people. We have a right to assume—we will assume until we are forced to assume the contrary—that the agitation in Ireland will be conducted by Parliamentary methods and Constitutional means; and, if that be so, I do not see why an attempt should not be made at the gradual process of the extension of local self-government in Ireland to which I referred in my speech at Belfast, and which I still believe to be sound, and a more statesmanlike method of proceeding than to attempt to confer on Ireland a cut-and-dried Constitution, separating and cutting off 609 Ireland completely from all political connection with the United Kingdom of England and Scotland. Before I leave that point, there is only one observation I must make. My right hon. Friend referred to my speech at Belfast as if I had indicated my willingness ultimately to grant to Ireland as large a measure of decentralization as is embodied in this Bill. I spoke simply and exclusively of those subjects which we understand in England and Scotland as included in the term local self-government; but there is nothing I said in that speech, or in any other speech, which ever indicated the slightest intention or willingness on my part to place the responsibility for the administration of the law relating to life and liberty and property entirely in the hands of the Representatives of the Irish people, and to separate from that responsibility altogether the Parliament and Government of this country. Now, Sir, after the speech of my right hon. Friend, and after the declaration which was published by him a short time ago, I think we are entitled to ask whether, in voting on the second reading of this Bill, we are now asked to vote for a measure which it is intended to pass into law or for an abstract Resolution? We were told the other day, and we have been told in similar terms to-night, that we are not now to busy ourselves with details and particulars; that their time will come; and that all we have to do now is to say that we will establish in Ireland a Legislative Body for the control of Irish affairs. Well, surely, if we are not to discuss details and particulars, if we are not to be allowed to discuss a plan proposed by the Government, for which the Government intend to take the responsibility, and to which they mean to adhere, how is it possible that we can give an answer to the question whether we are prepared to establish in Ireland a Legislative Body for the management of Irish affairs? That was formerly the view of my right hon. Friend himself. In 1874—["Oh!"]—well, my right hon. Friend has told us to-night that the first Home Rule movement took place in 1871, and he has quoted a speech made in that year. My right hon. Friend has, therefore, had time to give some attention to this subject. In 1874 Mr. Butt moved an Amendment to the Address raising the question of Home Rule, and 610 my right hon. Friend himself replied. He said, if a Home Rule plan was proposed—We shall first inquire whether it he intelligible before we inquire whether it be expedient.He further said—It is a dangerous and tricky system for Parliament to adopt—to encounter national dissatisfaction, if it really exists, with the assurance which may mean anything or nothing—which may, perhaps, conciliate the feeling of the people of Ireland for a moment and attract a passing breath of popularity, but which, when the day of trial comes, may be found entirely to fail. It is a method of proceeding which, whatever Party may be in power, or whatever measures may be adopted, I trust this House will never condescend to adopt."—(3 Hansard,  131–2).Well, Sir, when my right hon. Friend used those words, was it his intention that we were absolutely to exclude from our minds, in discussing Mr. Butt's Amendment, all details and particulars? How is it possible that we can discuss at length a plan, and say whether it is a good or a bad plan, unless we are allowed to discuss details and particulars, and unless we have some knowledge as to which of those details and particulars represent the fixed and settled opinion and judgment of the Government—to which they intend to adhere, and which are not to be left to the hazard of discussion in Committee? My right hon. Friend said the Committee stage of this Bill is not to be anticipated. I maintain that the essence of this question—whether it is wise or politic to grant a Legislative Body to Ireland?—lies in these details; and that unless we can see beforehand a good, intelligible, and satisfactory plan, no man among us will be entitled to say "Aye" to the Motion for the second reading of this Bill. Well, Sir, my right hon. Friend used much language of the same kind on the introduction of this Bill. He said he wanted no longer that we "should fence and skirmish with this question," but that we should "come to close quarters." But how are we to come to close quarters with this question unless we are allowed to discuss the details and particulars, and to know what are the main points of the plan of the Government to which they intend to adhere, and which are not subject to alteration in Committee? My right hon. Friend said a good deal to-night upon the question of the retention 611 of the Irish representation in this House. He has hinted—I cannot say I entirely understand his proposal—he has hinted at, I believe, the outlines of certain proposals which the Government themselves intend to make. But, as I understood, the whole question of the retention of Irish representation in this House is one which is open to consideration in Committee. Well, now, let me point out one or two of the consequences which rest upon the decision to which the House may come upon this point of detail, as it was described the other day by my right hon. Friend. If the Irish Members are to be absolutely excluded from this House, it follows as a necessary consequence that a large measure of legislative independence must be conceded to the Irish Legislative Body and to the Irish Government. There must be in Ireland some kind of representative government, and there must be in Ireland some power of legislation, and if the Irish Members are excluded from this House it is clear that we cannot legislate for them here. Therefore, the necessary alternative is that we should allow them to legislate for themselves. But if this detail be settled the other way, if it be ultimately settled that the Irish representation is to be retained in this House, then there no longer arises this imminent necessity that the Irish Parliament should have complete power of legislation over every Irish matter. On the contrary, there arises a very strong presumption the other way; because if the Irish Members are present in this House—whether they come to discuss finance or anything else—I maintain it will be impossible that Irish questions should be excluded from discussion in this House; and thus two influences, acting possibly in opposite and contradictory ways, would be brought to bear on the Irish Government, and pressure might be applied to the Lord Lieutenant, and through him to the Irish Government, by a majority in this House, which is altogether opposed in political opinions to the majority of the Irish Legislature, to which the Irish Government would be responsible. Therefore, I say it is of first and cardinal importance that we should know, before we decide this question, whether Ireland is to have a Legislature competent to deal with all Irish matters; whether it is or is not proposed that Ireland is to 612 retain a permanent, a temporary, a complete, or a limited representation within the walls of this House. We know very well, Sir, what are the causes which have induced the Government to give their benevolent consideration to the proposal that the Irish representation in this House should be retained. We know that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) formulated his demands on this subject in a somewhat imperative fashion. We know that the fate of this Bill may not improbably depend upon the decision to which my right hon. Friend may come. Well, Sir, I do not know, I am not able to say, what effect upon my right hon. Friend's opinion the proposals announced to-night by Her Majesty's Government may have. I should doubt whether they would be such as to satisfy his requirements or to conciliate his opposition. What has been the main ground, as I understand it, of my right hon. Friend's demand that the Irish representation in this House should be retained? Why, because their exclusion was the clear, the palpable, the unanswerable proof, the outward and visible sign of the complete separation which is intended by this measure between Great Britain and Ireland. I do not understand my right hon. Friend to have made this demand as a complete and final satisfaction to all the alterations which he would require in this measure. He has made it as the indispensable preliminary for the further alterations which he thinks scarcely less necessary. He has told us what are the modifications which he thinks are required. He has told us that he would like to see a separate Legislative Body or Provincial Council, or whatever it may be called, granted to Ulster. He has told us that he would wish to see the complete control maintained over taxation retained in the hands of the Imperial Parliament; and he has told us that he would wish to see all the arrangements about the first and second Orders and the property qualification removed from the Irish Legislative Body. These are all necessary alterations which he considers would logically follow upon the retention of the Irish representation in Parliament. I am not sure whether in any case it would have been admitted that those alterations would logically 613 have followed from these concessions; but I feel tolerably certain that no such alteration will follow from the extremely limited concession which my right hon. Friend has made to-night to the demands which have been put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. The fact, as I understand it, is this—that although my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham has spoken of a federal arrangement, he has not departed in principle, or departed very far, from his original proposal of granting to Ireland a great municipality for the management of certain strictly specified objects, strictly limited and controlled by Parliament, and acting in subordination to, and under the control of, Parliament, and of a Government responsible to Parliament. That, Sir, I understand to be the form which my right hon. Friend would wish to give to this Bill. I cannot say that I have heard one word to-night from my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government which shows that he is in the slightest degree inclined to make any concessions to my right hon. Friend, or to those who agree with him, in this direction; and that although he intends, for certain specified exceptional and rare purposes, Irish Representatives may return to this House, yet that this complete and virtual separation of the two Legislatures and of the two Governments is to be as complete, if not even more complete, than when the Bill was originally introduced. It seems to me, if I rightly understood something that fell from my right hon. Friend to-night, that one of the new proposals goes far towards making the Irish Legislative Assembly a co-ordinate Assembly with the British Legislature. I understand that there is to be something in the nature of a Commission which is to report on foreign and other matters; that the two Houses are, through this Commission, to have the power of conferring with each other, and upon an Address from the Irish House the Irish Members may be invited over here to discuss Imperial matters.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE,
interrupting, was understood to say that the noble Marquess was referring to an entirely distinct matter.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Well, Sir, I will not discuss this matter, because I confess that I do not 614 understand fully what the proposal was. I think it is unfortunate that a proposal which seems to me of very considerable importance, and which may have a very considerable effect on the opinions of many hon. Members in giving their vote on the second reading of this Bill, should be only before us in the form of a statement by my right hon. Friend, and that we should not have, and I suppose we cannot have, before the second reading of the Bill, a clear and definite statement in the form of clauses in the Bill to tell what are these actual proposals now going to be made. I must assume, after what we have heard to-night, that although this Bill is subject to large modifications in Committee, it is the intention of the Government that it should remain substantially in the form in which it was introduced. Well, then, perhaps I may say briefly what are some of the principal objections which I entertain to this Bill, and why I cannot give my support to it. In the first place, I should like to say, before I pass away altogether from that point, that it seems to me altogether erroneous to say, as my right hon. Friend said in his Manifesto the other day, and I think he repeated it to-night, that the sole principle which is contained in this Bill is the concession of autonomy to Ireland. Sir, I find in this measure other principles, or, at all events, provisions involving principles, which are of far greater importance than are contained in a dozen ordinary Bills. In the first place, there is an alteration in the constitution of Parliament. For all practical purposes, notwithstanding what we have been told to-day, the Imperial Parliament is henceforward to be representative of two Kingdoms instead of three. That is a principle of some importance. This Bill, for the first time, limits the authority of Parliament. Hitherto Parliament has been omnipotent—perhaps the expression is somewhat too wide—but we have been accustomed to consider Parliament omnipotent; and I believe, subject to the laws of nature and of its own will, there has, up to the present time, been no limitation upon the authority of Parliament. But this Bill, for the first time, will limit the authority of Parliament. The 37th clause in the Bill, under the guise of saving the Legislative power and authority of Parliament, 615 virtually parts with a part of the power now possessed by Parliament. That clause says that the powers of Parliament shall be preserved, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, in relation to all matters with which it is not competent for the Irish Parliament to deal. Therefore, inferentially, that clause lays down that with matters with which it is competent for the Irish Legislature to deal, it shall no longer be competent for the Imperial Parliament to deal. That is a new principle of some importance, and not a detail. Then, again, for the first time, a judicial authority is set up which will have power to take cognizance of, and pronounce an opinion on, the limits of Parliamentary authority Constitutional questions are to be referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Lord Lieutenant or the Secretary of State may refer such questions to the Privy Council. The Privy Council is to decide whether such a question is or is not within the competence of the Irish Legislative Body; and if it decides that it is so competent it will by the same decision decide that it is not Constitutionally within the competence of the Imperial Parliament. Sir, I say that these are enormous changes of principle, and changes of principle which may have a more far-reaching effect than even is contemplated by them as they are presented to us in this Bill. I will not attempt, I cannot attempt, to forecast what may be the future influence upon our Constitutional notions and Constitutional practice of the importation of innovations such as these; but I say, at all events, they are not details; they are principles which the House ought to bear in mind, and ought to have clearly before it, previous to giving its assent to an abstract Resolution affirming, in the opinion of my right hon. Friend, only the principle that Ireland ought to have some control over its own affairs. I should like to state one or two objections to the Bill. I maintain that the cardinal principle laid down by my right hon. Friend—the maintenance of the unity of the Empire—is not secured by this Bill. I think, Sir, it would be an error to suppose that the unity of the Empire is maintained if it presents a united front in foreign policy, if it is represented by a united Navy and a united Army. As far as external 616 matters go, and as far as our relations with other States and nations are concerned, we may be able to preserve the semblance of unity after this Bill is passed; but, as far as our internal position goes, I say that with the passing of this Bill the unity of the Empire will have disappeared. We may have not only different laws in Ireland from those which prevail in England and Scotland; but laws founded on totally different principles, and administered in a totally different spirit. And I say that is no extravagant supposition. If the principles recently preached by the Irish Land League and the Irish National League be translated into legislation by the Irish Parliament, and if laws founded on those principles be administered by those who have had control over the National League, then we shall find in Ireland a state of law relating to property, liberty, and security of life which will be of an altogether different character to that prevailing in this country. Can it be said that the unity of the Empire is maintained when an Englishman, going from England to Ireland, or an Irishman remaining in Ireland, finds himself subject to a code of laws administered in a totally different spirit from that which prevails in the rest of the Empire? And, in my opinion, it would be no exaggeration to suppose that it would be perfectly possible, if this Bill is passed, for an Englishman to emigrate to the United States of America and find himself in a condition of things less altered in all that relate to his Government, and to the laws under which he lived, than if he transferred his domicile from England and Scotland to the newly-created Kingdom of Ireland. I maintain that no adequate safeguards have been provided for the minority. That is a point on which my right hon. Friend dwelt in his introductory speech. He told us who those were for whom protection was required. There were the Ulster Protestants, the landlords, and the Civil servants. I think the Ulster Protestants have had but cold comfort offered to them. They have been told that various suggestions have been made which shall receive in Committee full consideration; but none of which have assumed so practical a shape as to be worthy of attention, or worthy of adoption, by the Government; and the Ulster Protestants are given to 617 understand that if somebody cannot put these suggestions into a more practical shape than the Government have been able to do, they must be left to take their chance. Then the landlords are to be provided for, if the Land Purchase Bill passes, by being bought out. We have had significant hints regarding the Irish landlords. We have been told that "The sands are running out," and that as yet the Irish landlords have made no sign; and it would seem that unless the Irish landlords can discover some Constitutional means by which they are to express their gratitude for being, in the first place, compelled to become exiles from their native country, and, in the second place, compelled to receive only about half the income to which they are now legally entitled—unless they can find some Constitutional means of expressing gratitude for these boons, it appears that they also will have to go without any compensation at all. We will assume that the landlords are bought out, and the Civil servants pensioned off. There will still be a large minority behind in Ireland, exclusive altogether of the minority we have in Ulster, who will be rendered the more helpless by the departure of the landlords and of the Civil servants. There will be all those who have done service to these obnoxious classes, who have in times past done what they thought good service, as the right hon. Gentleman says, to the maintenance of law and order; men who have acted as jurymen, and have done their duty; men who have acted as independent witnesses; men who, in one capacity or another, have made themselves obnoxious to what will become the dominant power in Ireland; and for this minority, rendered more helpless by the departure of those to whom they would have a right to look for assistance, no protection whatever is provided. I recognize, I admit, that the provisions respecting the constitution of the Irish Legislative Body were probably devised with the honest intention of giving what protection could be given to this minority. But how have these provisions been received? How many of the Members who have intimated their intention to vote for the second reading of this Bill have expressed their intention to abide by such provisions? And if these provisions were passed into law, I must confess that they appear to 618 me, however honestly intended, to be far more likely to produce a deadlock and confusion in the Irish Parliament and the Irish administration than to answer the purposes for which they were intended—namely, of giving adequate security to the minority. Can we doubt that if there was this deadlock and confusion lasting for a few years an agitation would arise—and probably a successful agitation—for the abolition and removal of these restrictions, and for the abolition of the last provision in this Bill, which is intended for the protection of any Irish minority? My right hon. Friend suggested in his Manifesto the other day the possible extension of this measure to Scotland, and he spoke of some who viewed this proposal with horror. I do not know whether he referred to anything I said on this subject. I certainly have never said one word to show that I am in the slightest degree disinclined to give a large measure, and a liberal measure, of local self-government to the people of Scotland, if they wish it. What I have endeavoured to point out is this—that if this measure is founded on sound principles, it ought to be one capable of being applied to Scotland. And I have pointed out that if it was proposed to extend this measure to Scotland, the people of Scotland would scout and reject it; and I have attempted to show that it is extremely likely that the Irish people would in a short time be as dissatisfied with the measure as the Scotch people would be at the very first, and that this measure is not therefore likely to be any final solution. But my right hon. Friend says in his Manifesto that if the Scottish question were raised, it would be debated upon its own merits, and without reference to any of the painful considerations which have been dragged into this controversy as regards Ireland. My right hon. Friend says—If the case of Scotland is discussed, it will be done without the painful and disparaging circumstances of controversy with which we are now threatened in the case of Ireland, whose woeful history for centuries emboldens some of us to treat her as if she had but a limited share in the great inheritance of human right, and none at all in the ordinary privilege of immunity from gross and wholesale insult—emboldens, I say, some of us, but only some of us, and not, I rejoice to think, the nations of Scotland or of England.I do not know who "some of us" are 619 to whom my right hon. Friend refers. I suppose that he refers to what he termed the representatives of class. I may be included—I probably am included—among those representatives of class whose evidence is discredited evidence, whose opinion upon this subject is not worth having; but I shall not be debarred, nevertheless, from expressing my opinion of the character, the political antecedents, and the political record of the men whom we are now told are the Representatives of the vast majority of the people of Ireland, and to whose hands will be intrusted, if this Bill should pass, the future destinies of Ireland. I shall call as a witness no discredited representative of class; but I will call as a witness my right hon. Friend himself, and shall quote his words used five years ago, in 1881, when my right hon. Friend was then, as now, the Leader of the "upright sense of the nation." What was the description which he gave then of the political Party which we are now told by him is representative of the great majority of the people of Ireland? The passage to which I refer has been often quoted; but as it is important in this connection I will read it to the House. My right hon. Friend, speaking at Leeds in 1881, said—For nearly the first time in the history of Christendom a body—a small body—of men has arisen who are not ashamed to preach in Ireland the doctrines of public plunders. I make that charge advisedly in the situation which I hold, and I shall ask you to judge with me whether it is not wrung from me by demonstrative evidence and by the hard necessity of the case.My right hon. Friend then contrasted the policy and the principles of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) with those of Mr. O'Connell, and drew a distinction between them on five points. He said—Mr. O'Connell professed his unconditional and unswerving loyalty to the Crown of England. Mr. Parnell says if the Crown of England is to be the link between the two countries it must be the only link; but whether it is to be the link at all—I am not now quoting his words—is a matter on which, I believe, he has given no opinion whatever. O'Connell desired friendly relations with the people of this country—cordial and hearty friendship. What does Mr. Parnell desire? He says the Irish people must make manufactures of their own in order that they may buy nothing in England.… Friendship with England was the motto of O'Connell, who on every occasion declared his 620 respect for property, and, as far as I know, he consistently maintained it; but what says Mr. Parnell upon that subject?.… Now that the Land Act has passed, and now that he is afraid lest the people of England by their long-continued efforts should win the hearts of the whole Irish nation, Mr. Parnell has a new and an enlarged gospel of plunder to proclaim. He says now that whereas the rental of Ireland is £17,000,000 the landlord is entitled to nothing but the original value of the land before the spade was put into it; and that the rental he may justly claim is not £17,000,000, but possibly about £3,000,000. And I ask you, gentlemen, as honest men, not as politicians, not as Liberals, not in any other capacity—I ask you whether it is possible to describe proceedings of that kind in any other words more just or accurate than as the promulgation of the gospel of sheer plunder. The next of the five points was respect for law and human life. On this I think O'Connell was consistent; and I believe he was unimpeachable. Mr. Parnell is somewhat copious in his references to America. He seems to set up America as the true and only friend of Ireland; but in all his references to America he has never found time to utter one word of disapproval or misgiving about what is known as the assassination literature of that country. Not American literature; no, there is not an American who does not scorn it, and spurn it and loathe it, as you do. But there are, it is sad to say, a knot of Irishmen who are not ashamed to point out in the Press which they maintain how the ships in Her Majesty's Navy ought to be blown into the air to destroy the power of England by secret treachery, and how gentlemen that they are pleased to select ought to be made the object of the knife of the assassin and deprived of life because they do not conform to the new Irish gospel.Well, Sir, that was the description given five years ago—it may be said a long time ago—of that party, the small party of the hon. Member for Cork at that time. I want to know which of the doctrines that were held by the hon. Member for Cork at that time, and which were thus denounced by my right hon. Friend, have been ever renounced or repudiated by the hon. Gentleman or by his Party in this House? I do not know that they have been verbally repudiated. I want to know whether there is any visible sign that they have been practically repudiated? Is there any difference—any essential or practical difference—in the methods and procedure of the National League from the methods and procedure of the Land League, which was thus spoken of by my right hon. Friend then? As far as I can see, the description given of the policy of that Party then is not materially altered in any respect now, except that the description then given was the description of that small Party which it might then 621 have been reasonably contended did not represent any large proportion of the Irish people; but it is now a large Party, which it is asserted does represent the vast majority of the inhabitants of Ireland. Well, what was the course, what was the advice, what was the policy of my right hon. Friend at that time in reference to that state of circumstances? My right hon. Friend said—But if, when we have that short further experience to which I have referred, it shall then appear that there is still to be fought a final conflict in Ireland between law on the one side and sheer lawlessness on the other; if the law purged from defect and from any taint of injustice is still to be repelled and refused, and the first conditions of political society are to be set at naught, then I say, gentlemen, without any hesitation, the resources of civilization against its enemies are not yet exhausted.That was the policy which my right hon. Friend recommended then, and which I venture to recommend now. If this war—this final conflict between law on the one side and sheer lawlessness on the other—is to continue, that is the policy which I venture to recommend still, but for recommending which I and my Friends are called the representatives of class. I forget what the other epithet which my right hon. Friend applied was. [An hon. MEMBER: Dependents.] But these, we are told, are now the principles held by the representatives of class. Well, Sir, my right hon. Friend concluded that speech by saying—I, for one, in that state of facts relying upon my fellow-countrymen in these three nations associated together, have not a doubt of the result.I wish that I could say the same now. I wish there was not a doubt as to the result of the policy which my right hon. Friend then recommended. But, Sir, I say that the circumstances which were then described by my right hon. Friend are not materially or substantially altered; and, therefore, in my opinion, the policy my right hon. Friend then recommended, founded on that state of facts, ought not to be substantially altered either. I see no reason, simply because the Party professing those principles has acquired greater strength and possibly a greater claim to represent a larger number of the people of Ireland—I see no reason why we are to retire from that which has been called by my right hon. Friend a conflict between law on the one side and sheer lawlessness on the other, 622 and why are we to sacrifice, without any further struggle, the principles upon which, in the opinion of my right hon. Friend at that time, the structure and basis of society reposed. Sir, it is for these reasons, only a few of which I have thus imperfectly been permitted to give to the House, that I, believing that this measure is fraught with mischief and disaster both to this country and to Ireland, now beg to move, as an Amendment to the Motion which you have put from the Chair, that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(The Marquess of Hartington.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN (Tyrone, S.)
Mr. Speaker, I think that most of us on these Benches are disposed, to a great extent, to regard the opposition of the noble Marquess as a manly and a straightforward opposition. To a politician of his temperament it seems natural that apprehensions such as he seems to entertain should occur; but we cannot forget that very much the same kind of apprehension and anxiety weighed upon the noble Marquess in reference to other Irish reforms; and notably in regard to so recent a reform as the extension of the franchise and the retention of the full complement of Irish Members in this House; and we cannot forget that his doubts on these matters did not prevail even with himself, to prevent the passing, and I think all will now admit the happy passing, of these reforms. I do not know that there is a single Irish reform of this century as to which doubts just as grave, and terrors just as great, as those which seem to oppress the noble Marquess have not prevailed. But the great question is this—Will any man in this House, will even the noble Marquess himself, stand up here and declare, in the face of the House and of the country, that any of these Irish reforms, which so terrified people when they were being passed, should be recalled, that any of these measures should be repealed? I do not intend to follow the noble Marquess through the somewhat irritating topics that he has touched upon. We are de- 623 termined to see, once for all, whether there is a chance of having peace, and putting an end, if it is possible to put an end, to this accursed feud between the Irish and the English people. If trouble and exasperation should come again, we are determined that, at all events, it is not on our side the responsibility shall lie, and it will be a heavy responsibility on whosoever it shall lie. The noble Marquess has quoted what the Prime Minister said five years, and he also made a quotation—I believe an inaccurate and unfounded one—from a speech delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Cork, quotations all intended to show that up to a comparatively recent period the Irish people were not particularly well affected towards English rule, and that hard things were said. Well, hard things were said; but they were said and done on both sides. I do not know what object there can be in reviving them by these quotations. I think if we were to go digging into the grave of the past we might possibly retort, and retort even more successfully in raking up unpleasant memories. After all, where is this kind of thing to end? What chance is there of this great controversy ever being settled if we go over old battles and handy about stale quotations over and over again? I think I can speak for myself and for the others who sit by me when I say that the noble Marquess and his Friends may spare the House those quotations. I, for one, admit in the fullest manner that, until I learned something of the temper of this new Parliament, until this great measure appeared on the horizon, that I worked with all my might and all my heart against English rule in Ireland; and I must candidly say that my only regret was that my ability and my capacity and my power in the matter were so exceedingly limited. I do not think there ought to be any difficulty about our admitting that. But the question, after all, is not what we said and what we did then, or what we said of others or what others said of us, but what we say and what we do now, or rather what the Irish people will feel and say if, by a free vote and a free gift of the people of Great Britain, the Irish people are made rulers in their own land, where for many a day they have been outcasts or slaves of hon. Gentlemen, some of 624 them above the Gangway, and their friends in Ireland. I hold that this is, after all, the great question. I candidly admit that the state of feeling up to the present between the two countries was about as bad as it possibly could be. Why, the state of feeling in Ireland is the reason why we are discussing this Bill, and I say the worse the feeling is at present the greater the justification for the Bill; and it will be the glory of the Bill if it should succeed in removing that feeling, and in replacing and converting the present rancour and passion into feelings of friendliness and goodwill. The question is, will it succeed in doing that? for I take it for granted that if Englishmen could really persuade themselves that this Bill would satisfy Ireland and cure Irish discontent the objections of three-fourths of reasonable Englishmen—even the noble Marquess himself—would vanish and fall to the ground. I do not suppose that anybody would for a moment contend, for instance, that if the people of Scotland wanted a Parliament they could not have it. I do not believe there is any Colony in the Empire that could not have for the asking that Parliament the Irish people have so long and so passionately been asking for. The Prime Minister has quoted to-night the words of a distinguished Irishman—Sir Charles Gavan Duffy—with regard to Canada. Canada was disloyal when refused Home Rule; but she was friendly and loyal because she was granted Home Rule. Well, I think the same thing may be said of Ireland. Of course, it is a very serious and a very grave question whether this measure, as it stands, will be a completely successful one. We are not here to offer you any exaggerated assurance on that subject. We cannot, of course, lay open the future. We cannot forecast the future, and make you certain of what will come to pass. There is no doubt that a certain risk will have to be taken; but have you been taking no risks in the past, and will you be taking no risks if you should reject this measure? I am sure the House will not misunderstand what I say. It is very much the habit to misunderstand and pervert our opinions, even if they are put in the very plainest and frankest language we can command. I do not think I need say that in speaking of risks I do not mean dynamite. I 625 do not suppose you put us so low as to suggest that, or that your courage is at so low an ebb that would pay any attention to miserable risks of the kind. I speak of the risk of having ever at your door a discontented, a coerced, and an exasperated Irish people, struggling for what your greatest statesman labours to accomplish, and for which he has pledged his reputation to be her right. As I have said, we do not pretend to dive into the future; but short of doing that, short of something like a revelation from Heaven, I ask any reasonable Englishman what proof he can demand that he has not got, seeing that this Bill is accepted by the Irish Representatives, by the Irish people, aye, and by the Irish race throughout the globe, accepted, as at all events embodying upon the whole a Treaty of Peace between the two countries—a Treaty of Peace that can and will be loyally and honestly stuck to by them. I would ask you what topic has over been started, what question raised upon which any people have ever been so heartily united, so marvellously unanimous as the Irish people were on this question? If men are determined to disbelieve us, then there is an end of the matter—if you believe that 20,000,000 or so of us have entered into a conspiracy of lying and hypocrisy, why of course there is an end of the matter. But I ask Englishmen, what evidence have you in Irish history, or, indeed, in the history of the Representatives of Ireland, as long as Ireland has had real representation in this House—when did they ever conceal their opinion of you, or where? Certainly I am under the impression that our weakness is rather in the opposite direction. We have been often enough charged with violence of language, brutality of language, and a great many other things. I will not go back upon these subjects now, I will not even say whether these taunts have been just or unjust; but I do say we have never been charged with want of candour to you. Yes, my hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Party in this House have represented the Irish difficulty in all its extent, and breadth, and depth. That is what brings us here—that is our pride and our strength. It was your advantage so long as you were dealing with us as enemies, and it is so now that you are dealing with us as friends. It is our 626 advantage too. You know, in dealing with the hon. Member for Cork, that you deal with the Representatives of the whole Irish race throughout the world. We have never said a more extreme thing in Ireland than we have said to your faces in this House; and, on the other hand, there is not an extreme assemblage of Irishmen throughout the world to whom we would be in dread to repeat what we say here to-night. The Irish people are as eager as you can be to have an end to this miserable and everlasting quarrel; and we believe that this Bill offers us a means of ending this quarrel upon terms that will not harm you and which do no dishonour to our cause. We believe that, Sir. Of course, I have no doubt that attempts will be made—as attempts have been made—to manipulate and torture the expressions of individual Irishmen and some of our own Members who expressed themselves not altogether satisfied with the Bill. But the hon. Member for Cork told you so himself the first night he opened his mouth on the subject—the Bill is not a Jove-born goddess sprung perfect from the brain of the Prime Minister. It does not pretend to be without failing or fault, or to satisfy everyone. We intend to fight as strongly as we can, and to protest against some of its details. Why do we protest? Why should we try as hard as we can to amend parts of the measure? It is simply because we mean to accept it, and to work it loyally. If there was any Machiavellian motive at work Irishmen would hold their tongues about the defects of the Bill instead of criticizing it. They would swallow everything—they would bind themselves to every clause and line of the Bill. But is that the sort of assent that Englishmen want from intelligent men to this Bill? What is the heart and essence of this Treaty of Peace between the two countries? Is it that the Irish people shall pay an Imperial contribution of so many hundred thousands more or less—that the Irish Parliament should have the power of dealing with this or that particular subject? Is it that we shall come here or not? No. What we want is not an absolute guarantee that in every particular this or that detail shall or shall not be fixed or unchangeable—this is not a measure like the Laws of the Medes and Persians—for there is a provision 627 for revision. No; the heart and the marrow of the Bill is that it shall be accepted in a spirit of honesty and of loyalty and of goodwill to this Empire. The essence of its successful working is that the Irish Parliament of the future—that its relations to this Empire shall be relations of friendship and cordiality and peace, instead of being relations, as they have been and are now, of deep and sullen resentment. I believe that that is the spirit in which the Bill is accepted; and if that is the spirit in which it is worked, the English people will receive without the least alarm and with every sort of goodwill any proposals to give more enlarged effect to the system of Local Government in Ireland, and the goodwill of the two countries may determine our course. That is what we have to look to. We are not here splitting straws. If we could not see our way honestly to accept this Bill, honestly as a settlement of the question, we would say so to you; aye, and if we did not say it the Irish people would say it in spite of us, and I promise you you would not have the least reason to mistake them for an instant. The question after all is one whether you will trust us and believe us? We do not for an instant pretend that this Bill will satisfy every man of the Irish race. I may say that O'Donovan Rossa, for instance, is discontented with the Bill, and we do not hope altogether to conquer his objection. We do not even promise that by any incantation you can eradicate feelings the growth of many a sad year and many a sad century. We do not believe anything of the kind. It will take a long time completely to eradicate these feelings; but see what has occurred in the case of Earl Spencer. Now, Sir, I admit, and perhaps nobody has better reason to admit it than I have, that we sadly misapprehended Earl Spencer in Ireland. [Ironical Tory cheers.] Well, I trust hon. Members may make their own comment on that; but I believe that Earl Spencer was the first to acknowledge that the misunderstanding was not altogether on the one side. At all events, he has to thank the unfortunate system of the government you sent him over to administer, and the sort of officials he had around him there. I say this, and I say it from my heart, that the mistakes he made were mistakes that belong to the system; but certainly 628 the manliness with which he has acknowledged them belongs altogether to himself, and not to the system. What has happened in the case of Earl Spencer? One touch of kindliness in one speech at Newcastle has effaced and obliterated years of bitter memories from the hearts of Irishmen; and the speeches of the Prime Minister in this House and the kindly English feeling shown in this House, and, I am glad to say, out of it, Sir, these things have done more than 50 Coercion Acts could do—have done more to bring about a union, a real union, a union of sympathy and of generosity and respect between the two countries. Well, Sir, I ask you is that a people so hopeless to conciliate? Are you afraid to go on in that path both of conciliation and of trust; or are you less afraid to plunge back again into that miserable, dismal labyrinth of repression and anger and wretchedness which has left you and the Irish people where they stand to-day? I cannot pretend to gauge the effect all at once of the propositions which the Prime Minister has laid before the House to-night with respect to the question of the exclusion or retention of the Irish Members in this House; but I shall humbly say this—that in so far as they seem to promise that there shall be, at all events, no immediate and no enforced retention of the Representatives of Ireland away from their own country in this Parliament, in so far I most solemnly believe that his views are views recommended in the interests of lasting peace and union. The noble Marquess has, like many other opponents of this Bill, shown some concern for our dignity and our feelings in this matter. Of course, we are very much touched by that. But so far as our feelings are concerned, the noble Marquess and his Friends may be quite content to let us take care of ourselves. So far as we are concerned, we are disposed to think our rights are sufficiently guarded by the provisions to which the Prime Minister alluded. So far as we ourselves are concerned, if we entertained the sinister and Machiavellian views and designs that hon. Gentlemen sometimes affect to pretend to think we hold, we would stick to that representation. We would keep our people's eyes fixed upon you here as the persons responsible for anything that might go wrong in Ireland. We would keep our 629 grip of this place and use our power here to distract your councils and wring further concessions. That would obviously be the policy. And it would be the advantage of my hon. Friend the Member for Cork if he had those dark and sinister designs. That is not his policy—he has no such designs. He is ready and willing to take upon his own shoulders the whole duty and responsibility of governing and satisfying Ireland. He is anxious that his whole energies, and the energies of my hon. Friends and the Representatives in the new Parliament, should be devoted entirely to that task—and it is a task almost for a Hercules—of building up the resources and happiness of our unfortunate people, and of pulling up for ages of misery and neglect. If he fails the Irish people will not reproach you. We believe that he will not fail. We believe, at all events, that that will be a sufficiently onerous and honourable task to occupy all the energies of the Irish Members. In other years, when a happier spirit reigns between the two countries, if you should desire the participation of Irishmen in the Government of the Empire, or if Irishmen themselves should desire it, as they possibly might, you would then be glad to have some of my hon. Friends coming back here as your friends and equals. I believe you would then find them to be a greater strength to your Empire than ever they are likely to be so long as you retain them here against their will for the purpose of humiliating the Irish people. Sir, the noble Marquess dwelt once more upon the woes in the future of the loyal minority. Well, Sir, we on these Benches candidly are not inclined to take altogether seriously the opposition of some of those Gentlemen from the North-East of Ulster. To my mind, instead of depriving them of any power they possess at this moment, this Bill proposes to confer upon them power of the most enormous character.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
Power which they have lost, and which by no earthly possibility can they hope to recover without this Bill.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
The hon. Member who says "No" is somewhat of a Mark Tapley. Is that hon. Member enamoured of the present position of his class? Is he hopeful of its prospects if this Bill should be wrecked through the folly of his class? I say those men are at present perfectly helpless and perfectly hopeless. As to another power in this House, all I can say is it is not so apparent to us as it seems to themselves. Such of us as were in the last Parliament remember the attention that was paid to their views upon the Redistribution of Seats, for instance, by the Chiefs of their own Tory Party. We remember what short shrift they used to receive from the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), who is now ready to "rush to glory or the grave." The ablest lieutenant of that noble Lord called them a set of "reactionary Ulster Tories." That was when they were about double their present number in this House. I confess I find it extremely difficult to believe that these Gentlemen can feel so very acutely being obliged or invited to exchange their position of helplessness, and I will not say of insignificance, but, at all events, of want of appreciation, in this House, for the position of forming more than one-third of the entire Legislature of their own country, in which, according to this Bill, they would almost have a veto upon all legislation they did not like. In fact, it is possible that, with 103 Representatives of property and 32 Representatives of the Orange Democracy, an Irish Conservative who would be willing to become an Irishman, and who was endowed with a reasonable amount of brains, and who possessed a reasonable capacity for framing a moderate and Conservative national policy, might yet oust my hon. Friend the Member for Cork from the Leadership in the Irish House of Commons. Sir, we do not object to all the power that is being given these men. We recognize that a great number of our Protestant fellow-countrymen are estranged from us by bitter memories and misunderstandings, and through causes which were not of our making, which it is perfectly evident every consideration of policy as well as of patriotism would induce us to remove. Sir, 631 we do not forget our Protestant Volunteers in Ireland. We do not forget our Protestant Parliament—and our Parliament it was, although it was exclusively Protestant. If Irish Protestantism never did anything for us but produce our Leader—the Leader of the Irish race—I can hardly argue it with patience—everybody knows that the Irish Catholic who would be a bigot or a persecutor would be hooted out of any assembly of Catholics. Some of us can speak with some slight authority on behalf of the Protestant democracy of Ireland. My hon. Friend sitting below me (Mr. Jordan) is one of those persecuted Protestants whom his fellow-countrymen elected for one of the most Catholic constituencies in all Ireland by a majority of 7,000. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Derry (Mr. T. M. Healy) and myself are proud to acknowledge that we owe our seats to the votes of Protestants and Presbyterians; and although our tenure is supposed to be precarious, I will have very little hesitation in going back to the masses of honest, industrious Protestant farmers in South Tyrone, and asking them to find in the provisions of this Bill more comfort and consolation than they are likely to find in the alternative policy of rushing to "glory or the grave." Sir, we do not grudge our Protestant fellow-countrymen every safeguard and every security which can be given them. We are not afraid of their having the most ample power in our Irish Parliament. We are bound by dear and sacred ties to our Protestant fellow-countrymen. In spite of what is said in this House, our country is one country. The race which gave us Grattan and Emmett, and Davift, and Butt, and Parnell, is not a foreign race. I venture to say time will yet show that they and we understand one another better than this House is likely to understand either. We shall object to the money-bag qualification for the first Order, although it is exaggerated. I do not think we shall object to the special franchise. We do not object to the utterly disproportionate representation of the propertied classes; because we recognize that this Bill, instead of being a measure for the dislocation of society, is, in reality, to my mind, a most marvellous plan for re-creating society out of its ruins almost in Ireland—aye, and of giving to a caste that is 632 fallen and helpless such a chance as it never had before, and never could have anticipated, and, I must say, such as it scarcely deserves. Still it opens to them the door, if they have not the folly and madness to reject the offer of becoming once more men of weight and influence in their own country. If I have not trespassed too long on the attention of the House, I would wish to say something on the speech of the Prime Minister; but really, under the present circumstances, it would be impossible to do anything but praise the Prime Minister. Perhaps the House will allow me to recall the fact that there was just one occasion during the bitter conflicts of the last five years when I felt at liberty to give my own humble opinion of the Prime Minister personally, as divorced from his administration in Ireland. It was just after the right hon. Gentleman had carried a Resolution temporarily exiling me from this House. I hope he can look back upon the circumstance with as much equanimity as I can. On that occasion, addressing a meeting of 100,000 people in the Phœnix Park, I spoke with as much warmth as any Irish Member feels to-day regarding the Prime Minister. We are not mere worshippers of success. My Friends will bear me out that most of the men who have embraced the career of Irish nationality did so with the knowledge that it is a heart-breaking business. I do not know what the fate of his Bill is going to be; but this I do say—that whatever may be its fate, and whatever conflicts may have to come—and in spite of all we are not in the least tired of the struggle, if the struggle is to come again—aye, and even if we were tired, there are others, and others, and others who should take it up. This much, however, I do say—that I believe as long as the Irish name remains Irishmen will remember with gratitude and affection the great measure of liberty and of peace to which the right hon. Gentleman has devoted the glorious sunset of his genius and his days.
MR. HOARE (Norwich)
said, he would crave that indulgence of hon. Members of the House which he knew was never asked for in vain by an hon. Member addressing them for the first time. He would not have ventured to take up the time of the House were it not that he felt that during the discussion of these 633 Irish questions the agriculturists of East Anglia, of which the town he had the honour to represent was, perhaps, the Metropolis, had long expressed a decided opinion upon the questions now before the House, and he should be sorry to have it supposed they took other than the deepest interest in this great subject. He was sure that if Home Rule could in any way bring justice, and by justice prosperity, to Ireland and to this great Empire, the people of the agricultural districts would look upon it in a very different light from that in which they looked upon it now. They had to consider, if this measure was carried out, in what manner and to what class it would bring prosperity and so-called justice. In Ireland, it had been rightly said, there were almost two nations; and they need scarcely for a moment consider whether it would bring any advantages or so-called justice to the Loyal minority who had struggled so long in Ireland to keep the Union intact. There was no demand among the Loyal minority in Ireland for this measure. On the contrary, from all sides they had Petitions from that minority having an opposite object—Petitions telling them that if Home Rule was granted Ireland the most serious consequences would result to the Loyal minority, to the trade of Ireland, and to the Protestant religion in Ireland. They could not, therefore, feel that such a Bill would be of advantage to the minority he referred to. Would it, then, be of advantage to, and would it be received as a finale by, the rest of Ireland, by the majority who had agitated for it and brought about the present discussion? It would ill become him to criticize the Bill that they had now before them after the eloquent and exhaustive speech that had been made by the noble Marquess the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), and it would be unnecessary for him to say anything as to its position. So young a Member as he was might well hesitate to criticize schemes which it was almost impossible for the House to understand at present, or, at any rate, to realize what those schemes really were. But was it possible that the majority in Ireland would receive this measure as a finale? He felt sure that if justice was being done by this measure—if the rights of Her Majesty's subjects 634 were being protected—the House would not hesitate to meet any difficulty, however great, or incur any expense, if a measure of this kind could be properly carried out. In spite of what hon. Members below the Gangway might say, he had reasons for feeling satisfied and confident that the measure would not, and could not, possibly satisfy the aspirations of the Irish Nationalist Party. If it satisfied hon. Members in that House, it certainly did not satisfy other Irishmen, who freely gave expression to their opinions both in America and in England, some of whom treated the Bill as the breakfast or opening meal, while others regarded it as a first instalment, declaring that Ireland would not stop in her demands till she got all she required. If any attempt was made to work this Bill, the Government would be met with difficulties that would necessarily produce irritation as between Ireland and Great Britain. The one particular point as to not having the entire disposal of their finance—he meant the idea so eloquently expressed by the Prime Minister, of the money passing through the throat of some English official—seemed in itself a point that must, in the natural course of events, lead to considerable irritation as between Ireland and Great Britain. He felt, too, that the position of the Irish in the Empire would materially and most seriously suffer if this measure of Home Rule was carried out. They had been told that one reason why Irishmen did not accept the laws made by the Imperial Parliament was that they came to them in a foreign garb. He must express his regret that they should consider this question of Ireland as being in any manner in an alien garb. In the Government Offices, in the Army and the Navy, in commerce and in agriculture, they were in the habit of mixing with the Irish people; but instead of regarding them as aliens they treated them as fellow - subjects with themselves of this great Empire. If, however, Home Rule were granted, the working classes especially might, when they saw Irishmen coming to compete with them in these times of depression, be only too ready to receive them as coming in an alien garb. If we began to dismember our Empire the consequences must be serious and fatal. Some hon. Members had aspirations, perhaps high ones, with 635 respect to the confederation of our Colonies and Dependencies with the Mother Country; and it might have been hoped that the great occasion of the opening of the Colonial Exhibition by the Queen the other day could be regarded as the commencement of that great work. But he feared the Colonies would not care to join in such scheme of federation if the United Kingdom was first to be broken up, as it would be, by this measure, and still less if it was to be further broken up by the subsequent passing of a similar measure in regard to Scotland. He should expect that, under the circumstances, the Colonies would hold aloof; for they would feel that if we could not keep our own kith and kin together we could not be expected to keep our Colonies, which were at so great a distance from us, together. The Prime Minister, in opening the discussion on this question, quoted with all reverence words from Holy Writ, and exhorted them to walk by faith rather than by sight. To-day the right hon. Gentleman took a somewhat different line, for he said that with the knowledge of events now before them they could judge for themselves. For his own part, he thought the time had arrived when, in dealing with Ireland, they had better walk by sight. They had walked by faith when they dealt with the Established Church of Ireland and the Land Question; but they might feel that they could walk by sight now. They had knowledge enough now to enable them to judge whether in granting Home Rule they would be giving peace and prosperity to Ireland. A Paper had lately been circulated which he considered was, in itself, convincing proof of what the feeling in Ireland of a large proportion of the population must be in reference to this Bill. The First Lord of the Treasury having asked for the free communication of the views of the people of Ireland, a large correspondence had been received and published; and it was extremely interesting to look through it, for there was scarcely a single extract in favour of Home Rule. He concluded from this that there must be a second volume to be issued by the Prime Minister, and that the right hon. Gentleman had reserved the favourable extracts for that volume. Another point of the Prime Minister's was that there were two roads—one, they were 636 told, would bring peace and happiness to Ireland, whilst it was said the other road would lead to all manner of evils; and it was sought to frighten them from taking that road by threats made use of by the Chief Secretary for Ireland and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. Well, they might meet with dangers and risks by taking that road; but, for his (Mr. Hoare's) part, he was not afraid of the dangers and risks. He would take the road which he believed to be the right one—the road of duty—which they knew was not always the smoothest or the most pleasant for the time being. The hon. Member below the Gangway who had just sat down (Mr. W. O'Brien) said Ireland was one country—a united country. Well, he (Mr. Hoare) wished this Empire to be one and united. He wished to prevent the weakening and breaking up of the British Empire, because he was convinced it would not only be disastrous to this country, but to Ireland; and because he believed that by such disruption the whole civilized world must suffer. In the previous debate on this question the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had quoted an old nursery rhyme about "Ifs and Ands," which was scarcely appropriate to the solemnity of a debate on such a very grave and important question. He would not follow the right hon. Gentleman in the tone of his remarks; but he would conclude with a quotation from an old English author, which he considered more appropriate to the subject—Oh, if you rear this house against this house,It will the woefullest division prove,That ever fell upon this cursed earth;Prevent, resist it, let it not be so,Lest child, child's children cry against you—woe!
§ MR. B. FLETCHER (Wilts, Chippenham)
said, he thought it must be clear that the proposals of the noble Lord the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington) were unacceptable to the Members who certainly represented Ireland. Therefore, they were thrown back on this position. They had no proposals which were acceptable to the Irish Members; and, consequently, either the present Bill must be read a second time, or the policy of the Members of the Opposition must be the policy of the future. He thought that was not a policy which 637 could commend itself to the House. When he was before his constituents this subject was much discussed, and at some 30 large meetings which he attended he was asked what his views were with regard to the future of Ireland. The scheme he propounded was very simple. It was that we should give local government to Ireland, and also to England, Scotland, and Wales, and that Members of Parliament, after transacting the local business of their respective countries in various large towns, should meet together at Westminster for Imperial work alone. The Conservative Press was good enough to tell him he had better attend to his Profession and not endeavour to make laws for nations. His scheme, he might observe, would lead up to the federation of our Colonies. It was most desirable, in dealing with so great a question, to make the measure so complete as to give reasonable expectation that it would form a final settlement. Nothing was easier than destructive criticism. He remembered, when it was proposed to enable dividend warrants to be sent by post, the Bank of England raised 84 or 86 objections; but when the Government of the day said the thing was to be done all those objections disappeared. The longer the Bill was before the country the more certain was it to be accepted as an adequate and final setting to rest of the Irish problem. Conservative Members ought to welcome the removal of Irish Members from the House, as that would be a return to the state of things existing in former days. There was no ground for assuming that the Irish Parliament would show a hostile spirit to this country, as they would be acting under a sense of responsibility in the eyes of Europe and of the world. It was said that the so-called Loyalist population of Ireland would have recourse to arms. But that was a strange species of loyalty, as the Bill if it passed would be law, and loyalty was obedience to the law. It was idle to talk of the right of nations to freedom and self-government with the case of Ireland before us, which had been governed so long by exceptional coercive legislation. Why should we not in this matter walk by faith and wipe away this reproach? It was a disgrace to this country that we should employ more soldiers to keep Ireland in order than were required in 638 India; and he believed that the Bill would do much to remove that reproach and to draw the two nations more closely together than they had been in the past. Believing also that the Bill would remove a stain from the English character, would open up to Ireland a new future, and would be the beginning of a reign of peace and harmony, he hoped it would pass with a considerable majority.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT (Sheffield, Eccleshall)
Whatever cause of complaint the hon. Member who has just sat down may have, the ground of coercion must lie against Liberal Administrations. During the last 60 years about 50 Coercion Acts have been in force, and of these 39 have been passed by Liberal Governments. Out of the 10 which have been passed by Conservative Governments, nine were merely modifications of the legislation of their opponents. The Prime Minister has disestablished a loyal Church and passed two Land Bills, each of which he promised should be a final measure, and yet the question is as far from settlement as ever. The hon. Member (Mr. B. Fletcher) has advised us to walk by faith. It requires, indeed, a vast deal of faith to trust in the Prime Minister's Irish policy after his 20 years of conspicuous failure. The hon. Member refers to this Bill as if it might benefit Irish commerce, and yet every trading body in Ireland, and even the trade unionists, have protested against this Bill, and some of the largest employers of labour are about, in consequence of this Bill, to remove their establishments to Scotland or England. A policy of separation has been abruptly flashed upon the country and upon a Parliament elected on entirely different issues. That policy of separation is expressed in a measure the most unsettling and the least final of any within human experience. The influence and outcome of this scheme of disintegration will be even more fatal in its ultimate results upon our Imperial greatness than disastrous in its immediate effect upon the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. The Prime Minister's proposals are, beyond doubt, a complete surprise to Parliament and to the country. In June last the Prime Minister and his Cabinet had decided to pursue what they now stigmatize as a policy of "coercion," though then they would have called it "renewing the 639 Crimes Act," or "simply enforcing the law," or, perhaps, "the repression of sheer rapine." A premonition of his own weakness in face of such a temptation did thus force its way to articulate expression, in spite of the experienced caution of the "Old Parliamentary Hand." The Prime Minister contemplated the certainty of a great increase in the Parliamentary forces of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. In face of that increase, he warned the Liberal Party that it "would not be safe" for them to hold Office in a Parliament where the Irish Separatist Party held the balance. I quite agree with the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) that this Parliament has no moral right to carry through such a revolution as this Bill proposes without giving the country the opportunity of deciding upon the question. As to the verdict of the country, I entertain no doubt. The great mass of the people of Great Britain will be as resolute in defence of their National Union and their Imperial greatness as the English-speaking people of the American Republic were unflinching in defence of their Union 20 years ago. It is the greatest outrage and insult to Constitutional and Popular Government and to public candour that the Prime Minister should have kept the Irish Question in Cimmerian darkness during the General Election; that he should then try to cram his policy down the throats of a new Parliament, without warning and in face of a hundred counter declarations from himself. When the honest patriotism of many of his most tried and devoted followers revolts from this fatal scheme of disruption, and when the defeat of the measure is imminent, then the Prime Minister makes use of the most flagitious weapon in political warfare. He tries to light up the baleful fires of class antagonism and of social hatred. He appeals to the basest passions of the people in a way infinitely more mischievous and more reprehensible than the incitements of the Socialist agitators of Trafalgar Square. He denounces all those who oppose him as "class," or the dependents "of class." The appeal from argument to prejudice, and from education and intelligence to the passions of the street, has been common enough among the demagogues of the decaying democracies of the past. 640 It is the first time that a Minister of the British Crown has stooped to such a weapon. It is at once a confession of failure and an irrefutable indictment by the right hon. Gentleman of himself and of his followers. There is something ludicrous in the attempt to stigmatize old Colleagues and staunch Liberals like the two right hon. Members for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright and Mr. J. Chamberlain), like the lamented Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster), like the right hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen), and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), as "class or the dependents of class." It is quite true that all the Professions; that the most eminent men in literature, art, science, and history; that those who have position, title, or wealth; and that the trading and commercial classes are opposed to this destructive Bill. But these are not all. If the Prime Minister is so rash as to appeal to the country, he will find that there are millions of loyal and patriotic working men as firmly determined to maintain national Union as those unfortunate persons who are, in his opinion, disqualified by their wealth and position from giving judgment upon it. The most deplorable result of this Separatist policy for Ireland will, in my opinion, be its influence upon the cohesion and union of the Imperial Dominions of the country. The Imperial ascendency of this country has been of priceless advantage to the countries and to the peoples where it has been exercised. The British race has been the foremost agent in the civilization of the world. It has peopled vast countries; it has civilized Continents; it has led the van of Constitutional progress and of well-ordered freedom. The British rule over those 250,000,000 of alien population in India is the most marvellous example of beneficent Government—good for the Rulers, and, beyond precedent and estimate, good for the ruled—that the world's history can show. But there are personal and race jealousies; there are slumbering ambitions and antagonisms that it would be easy to fan into fever heat. There are hostile and aggressive Governments ready to grasp at any opportunity for supplanting the influence and eager to act as the residuary legatees of our matchless Empire. Already agitators in India are clamouring for the same separation there. Once 641 start the dangerous principle of disruption; once foster these destructive centrifugal forces, and no man can say where the end may be. You enter upon that course of disintegration which has been fatal to every Imperial Power in the past, which is in our own age scattering the Ottoman Empire into fragments, and which, if allowed to develop, must reduce England to the level of Holland and Spain. The word "foreign" was applied by the Prime Minister to the Irish people and to laws made in Ireland by this Imperial Parliament, in which 103 active and capable Irish Members have a full share. Ireland has been for centuries an integral portion of these Realms. Irishmen have borne their part, and a brilliant part, in the construction and safeguarding of the Empire, and in every profession, career, and phrase of our national existence. Hundreds of thousands of Irish labourers now freely compete with English labour in the seaport and manufacturing towns of England and Scotland. Irishmen are found in every Colony and Dependency of Great Britain. To describe Irishmen as "foreign" is a monstrous and mischievous paradox. How will the new Irish Parliament, if it be established, how will the Irish people—or how can you even expect them to—accept the control and ascendancy in the matter of law-making, of Foreign and Colonial policy, and of Imperial taxation from the hands of an Imperial Government and an Imperial Parliament which the Prime Minister deliberately teaches Ireland to regard as "foreign?" What an evil misnomer to supply for the misguiding of other races that are our fellow-subjects in distant Continents. If Irishmen are to be treated as "foreigners," what is to hinder other portions of the Empire from claiming the same position for themselves. Nothing that the Prime Minister has ever said or done is likely to bear such baleful fruit as this reckless and baseless epithet. The scheme for a separate Irish Parliament which the Prime Minister has originated, and which his emasculated Cabinet have swallowed, has been so analyzed, dissected, smashed, and pulverized, that not even the most servile of the Caucuses dares to defend it more than in the vaguest terms. Those portions of the scheme which were paraded by the Prime Minister in his opening 642 speech as essential and vital are, we are now told, subject to reversal. Even the Land Purchase Bill, which was emphatically described as an inseparable portion of the scheme, and which Earl Spencer said, so late as April 21, it would be "base and treacherous," not to carry out in its entirety, is trembling in the balance. This Bill is, to the last degree, inconsistent, anomalous, impracticable, and unsettling. It bristles with causes of dispute and quarrel between the two countries. It contains the certain seed of civil war in Ireland. It can only, if passed, lead to separation or to a deadly struggle between Ireland and Great Britain. This Bill means repeal of the Union. That is clear. It removes the Irish Members from the Imperial Parliament, and, with certain exceptions, it transfers the control of Irish affairs from the Imperial Parliament to a separate Irish Legislature. That is, this Bill repeals the chief conditions of the Act of Union. That Union has been of great advantage to Ireland. At the outset it raised Ireland out of the slough of Jacobinism, anarchy, and bloody rebellion into which she had sunk under Grattan's Parliament. It has been the cause of enormous development in her commercial prosperity and in the material comfort of her people. The immutable laws of Nature, which have placed Ireland close to our Western shores, have rendered the closest union between the two countries essential and inevitable for both. The Irish would suffer far more than the British by separation. Great Britain is the best, almost the only, customer for Irish produce. Thousands—it might almost be said millions—of Irishmen find profitable employment in England and Scotland, and in the British Colonies. How would they like the Prime Minister to be taken at his word? How would they like to be treated as "foreign," or to be requested to seek their livelihood within the narrow and over-populated limits of their native land? So long as Ireland is an integral portion of these Realms, Irishmen will be welcomed in every part of the Empire. When they become "foreigners," the feeling will be very different, and justly so. There is no finality about the measure. That is my chief objection to it. Heaven knows that Englishmen would consent to heavy sacrifices in order to set at rest 643 for ever this harassing and troublesome problem of Irish government. But there is no settlement within this Bill. Throughout it is pregnant with disturbance and dispute. The remedy it offers is no cure; it is an aggravation of the complaint; it is tenfold worse than the disease. It has been well said that the Irish are the worst people in the world to run away from. Never was there a truer word. The Celtic Irishman has many generous and attractive qualities. His humour, his vivacity, his warmth of heart, and his eloquence are appreciated by all who know the race. But among the peoples of the world the Irish are not the least exacting, nor the most easily contented, nor the fondest of the reign of law. There are restrictions—strange and unreasonable restrictions—in this Bill, with which neither the Irish Parliament nor the Irish people would ever be content. It banishes the Irish Representatives from the Imperial Parliament. And here let me say that I should deeply regret to see all the Irish Members removed from the Imperial Parliament. I do not think that either our debates, or our policy, or our legislative wisdom would gain by such a removal. If the Prime Minister consents to allow them to remain, he has entirely failed to-night to show how this can be done, and how their presence in the two Parliaments can be practically arranged. One by one the concession of these restrictions will be demanded by the Irish Parliament. If we resist, it can only be by force—that is, by war. If we yield, it means a rapid and certain descent towards absolute separation. Better, far better, immediate and complete separation than this uncertain, ever perturbed, and anxious relationship, which every year must produce a fresh crop of troubles. But better still the resolute enforcement of the law at once, and a united and emphatic declaration by all Parties that the United Kingdom and the United Parliament must always so remain. This Bill will not satisfy the Irish. Indeed, I do not believe that the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his Friends would ever accept a Legislature bound by such humiliating restrictions, did they not recognize and welcome in it a sure fulcrum towards that entire separation which they have over and over again declared to be their ultimate aim. This Bill creates 644 and places in the hands of those who have been the avowed and recognized foes of British power a tremendous lever for ultimate separation. Depend upon it that lever, once it is established, will be used, ruthlessly and to the bitter end. The entire civil administration of Ireland is to be in the hands of the new Irish Parliament; that is, every town and district in Ireland will be administered by the National League—by the lawbreakers, village tyrants, "Boycotters," and blackmailers who constitute the agents and the power of the League. It is too probable that the darker and more dangerous Irish conspirators across the Atlantic will really control the new Parliament and its policy. Ireland will, therefore, be in a very brief space, organized and guided by those unfriendly, perhaps by those bitterly hostile, to Great Britain and to everything British—hostile to our race, creed, laws, and form of government. At present two-thirds of Ireland is discontented, demoralized, hostile, owing to the weakness and shifting of the Prime Minister's policy since 1880. But Ireland is not a serious danger. A rising would have no chance of success. It is not improbable that, even without British help, the Loyalists might hold the Island for the Empire against a Rebel Party. Let the British people consider calmly and in time what the existence of an armed Ireland, close on their Western shores, within 60 miles of their greatest seaport, will mean in these days of rapid communication and of sudden political cataclysms. Let them carefully reflect what an enormous increase in their military and naval preparations, and in their Imperial Expenditure, and in the burdens upon the British taxpayers, such a portentous danger must involve. In these cases it does not do to take anything for granted. The danger might possibly not arise; but it would have to be guarded against. I fear it would arise, and, under the disturbing conditions of the Bill, speedily arise. And this brings me to a very serious peril involved in this Bill, and one which has been strangely overlooked. I mean the certainty of complications with Foreign Powers, and especially with the United States. It is obvious that the Imperial Government will be fully responsible for Ireland in all our relations with Foreign Powers. Yet the practical means of 645 enforcing respect for International rights upon Ireland will be small. If Ireland has an independent Administration, the Foreign Enlistment Act may easily be infringed, as privateers may easily escape from Irish ports. Great Britain will have to bear and to pay for the consequences. But the gravest danger will result from the United States. There is a very large Irish population in the States. It is a most formidable political force, carefully organized, and voting solid under the direction of its leaders, much as the 85 followers of the hon. Member for the City of Cork are disciplined to vote solid in this House. It is a great temptation to American politicians, Irish and non-Irish, to coquet with this organized vote, even at the risk of hostility to England. But hitherto the opening for interference has not existed. It would be a gross International outrage for the Government of one nation to interfere between the subjects and Government of another, except, of course, in case of open war. Ireland is an integral part of these Kingdoms, and Irishmen are absolutely and directly subject to the Imperial Government. The Irish in America have, therefore, been, perforce, content with a private agitation and subscription, and with now and then a platonic Resolution in a State Legislature. But, give the Irish a separate Parliament, and all will be changed. From that moment, Ireland will be regarded as a separate and a quasi-independent nation, by Irishmen in the United States, and, perhaps, by those who are not Irishmen. The right of interfering will be boldly and irresistibly claimed. Every dispute that arises between the Irish and the Imperial Parliaments and Governments—and they will be legion—will find a ready echo in America. Agitation by the enemies of this country will be fanned more and more fiercely with each fresh dispute. Do not believe those who say that this Bill will satisfy the Irish in America. It will do nothing of the kind. It will influence their hopes and strengthen their agitation. The fiercer and more active spirits there desire to humble, and even to destroy, British power and British prosperity. They hate the British Monarchy and British Institutions. They wish to substitute an anarchical Republic for the authority of the British Crown. I see in this Bill a terrible 646 leverage given to the foes of Great Britain, and the fatal germs of quarrel and war with the great and kindred people across the Atlantic. Such a contest is most to be deprecated, and would, in my opinion, be the most deplorable of catastrophes. This scheme imposes grievous and intolerable burdens upon the taxpayers of Great Britain, and without any corresponding advantage. At the outstart the Prime Minister presents the new Irish Parliament with a gift of £1,400,000 a-year as a gentle inducement for those whose policy he described four years ago as one of "sheer rapine," to accept the control of Irish affairs. Next, he fixes definitely the annual contribution of Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer. The Empire may be engaged in a life-and-death struggle for its most precious Dominions, or even for our national independence. Success may be as important for Ireland as for Great Britain. Yet the Irish will not contribute a farthing to the cost of such a great Imperial struggle, save by the consent of those whom the Prime Minister described four years ago as labouring to "place different parts of the Empire in direct hostility one with the other." The Prime Minister has quoted the instance of 1795, in which the Irish Parliament did refuse to contribute anything towards the expenses of the great war with France; and he said that the Irish Parliament was right in so refusing. That was a very ominous statement. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Oh!] Yes, Sir; we have been accustomed to hear from the right hon. Gentleman covert attacks upon Viscount Palmerston, the greatest Liberal statesman of our time. But now the Prime Minister goes farther. He attacks and denounces Mr. Pitt, the greatest statesman that England has ever possessed. He approves of the cowardly and un-English policy of Mr. Fox and the pro-French Party of the last century. He approves of the refusal of the factious Irish Parliament of 1795 to support Mr. Pitt's manly resistance, first, to French Jacobinism, and then to the military despotism of Napoleon. Let the country now understand what the Prime Minister's views really are, and to what this Bill will lead. He condemns the magnificent, Imperial, statesmanlike policy of Mr. Pitt, which preserved the independence of this country, rescued the liberties of Europe from the tyranny 647 of Bonaparte, and gave the world 50 years of peace and prosperity. Heavy burdens will also be placed upon England and Scotland by the Land Purchase scheme. With regard to that measure, I will only say I agree with the Prime Minister in his argument that, if this Separatist Bill is passed, and we deliberately place the Loyalists of Ireland at the mercy of those who are their traditional and inveterate foes, then the Imperial Parliament is bound, by honour and duty, to give compensation to those who by its act are ruined. £135,000,000 at least will be requisite for that compensation. The responsibility for the £5,000,000 interest for the Land Purchase Bill will fall upon the taxpayers of England and Scotland. I pass over the enormous expense in military and naval preparation which an organized and quasi-independent Ireland must impose upon this country. Within five years after the establishment of a separate Legislature for Ireland, I venture to prophecy that the extra burdens which would thereby be imposed upon the British people would amount to at least £10,000,000 a-year, and possibly to a great deal more. How much wiser, kinder to Ireland, and juster to England, it would be to meet this crisis with the small amount of manly courage and resolute vigour which would suffice to settle it. How much better and more far-sighted to enforce the majesty of the law in Ireland as in Great Britain. How infinitely more statesmanlike to teach Irish agitators that, while we will give Irishmen every privilege and right that we concede to Englishmen and to Scotchmen, we will give them no more, and, above all, that we will never yield either to self-seeking ambitions, or to the menaces of terrified Ministers, or of lawless conspirators the National Union and the Imperial integrity of these Realms. For weal or woe Ireland must remain an unseparated and an inseparable member of the United Kingdom. The most repulsive feature about the Bill is the injustice and ruin it must inflict upon the Loyalists of Ireland. After all, the hon. Member for the City of Cork only succeeded, with all the temporal terrorism of his National League, and with all the spiritual terrorism of the Irish hierarchy and priesthood, in driving a little over half the Irish electorate to the polls in his 648 support. There is a population of 1,500,000 of declared Loyalists in Ireland. There are at the outside only 3,500,000 of Separatists or rebels, or whatever it is right to call them. Out of this 3,500,000, I believe that if the law were enforced and individual liberty firmly upheld by the Government, not one-half would ask for separation. The Irish Loyalists know what they have to expect, and they do well to prepare against it. Existence would soon be intolerable to them; they would be fortunate, indeed, if they escaped with their lives. But Ulster and the Loyalists of Ireland have other claims upon our respect and support. They are our garrison; but they are more. They are the salt of Ireland. They pay four-fifths of the Irish taxation received by the Imperial Exchequer. They are the promoters of almost all the manufacturing industry and wealth of Ireland. Without them Ireland would soon become a desert. Drive from Ireland the loyal and Protestant population, you not only inflict upon them a cruel injustice, but you ruin the whole of Ireland. There are agrarian causes at work in Ireland which need careful study, and Great Britain will grudge no practical remedy. In some districts the soil is over-populated with a needy and miserable peasantry. In such places a Government plan of emigration is the best, if not the only, cure. A tithe of the sum which the Prime Minister proposes to spend in breaking up the Empire would remove many hundreds of thousands of half-starving persons to ample and fertile lands in the Colonies, where they might, with industry, flourish and be happy. The desire of the Irish peasant to own the soil he cultivates might also be assisted by a system of State loans, on easy terms, which would benefit alike tenants and landowners. There is no lack of schemes to accomplish these beneficent purposes; but, first and foremost, the authority of the law must be asserted. It is the primal condition of all national progress and social amelioration, and until the law prevails all else will fail. Union is strength. The example of all the prosperous and powerful nations of the world is directly opposed to this fatal course of disintegration. The inapplicable and unhappy precedents of Turkey, and Norway, and Austria, 649 quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, really constitute warning beacons to guard Englishmen from their fatal course rather than precedents to follow. On the other side, the conspicuous instances of Germany, Italy, and the United States at once occur. These are the leading, the progressive, and the prosperous nations of the world. Germany, Italy, and the United States owe their success and their present grandeur to the principle of unification, and not to that of disruption. They have become great and strong by taking a course the exact opposite of that now urged upon this country by the right hon. Gentleman. Germany, Italy, and the United States have bound together and united in closer and more irrefragable ties their divided and shattered members, and they have thereby wonderfully flourished. The British people will do well to copy the splendid example of German, Italian, and American union rather than that of Turkish disintegration. If the Prime Minister wishes to know what a real and patriotic Democracy will do to maintain Imperial integrity, let him read and digest the history of the United States 25 years ago. The American people, not a "class," or the "dependents of a class," were then confronted with separation and dismemberment, much as Great Britain is now threatened. They faced the peril like men, and they overcame it. They poured out their treasure and their blood till victory crowned the Standard of Union. Since that tremendous sacrifice and victory, they have flourished and progressed as a powerful and united people. I believe the people of England and Scotland will decide as did their brethren across the Atlantic in that momentous crisis. Had, by ill-fortune, the Prime Minister guided the destinies of America at that fateful time, the United States would have been split up into discordant and hostile Principalities, instead of being a great, free, and compact people. There are two phrases which play a large part in this Irish controversy. "Justice to Ireland," and "Coercion." Even if there be now injustice to Ireland, far greater than Irish interests are involved in this question of separation. There is the security and well-being of 32,500,000 of loyal Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen who are opposed to the dismemberment desired by some 650 3,500,000 of discontented Irish Celts. There is the Imperial union and strength, so essential for the welfare of the whole 300,000,000 of the Queen's subjects in all parts of the world. It is high time that less was heard of this cuckoo cry of "Justice to Ireland," which only means a succession of quack remedies for the insatiable demands of Irish revolution. More of justice is needed for England, Scotland, and for the Empire at large. But has not Ireland had full justice? "Coercion!" What does "coercion" really mean? Nothing but the repression of crime, and of crime that in England or Scotland would not be tolerated for an hour. All we ask is, that foul murder and fiendish outrage upon man and beast and dark terror shall be punished in Ireland as they are punished in England and Scotland. The odious crime of "Boycotting"—the special product of the régime of the hon. Member for the City of Cork and of his Leagues—has broken out in the United States. In New York City they have made short work with what is well termed this "accursed exotic;" 120 "Boycotters" have been shut up in prison, and not one of them is a native American, or bears an English name. The whole moral sense of large sections of the Irish people has been perverted and demoralized by long indulgence in agrarian crime and in repudiation of their just obligations. The only remedy for this debasing and destroying coercion that now prevails in Ireland, is the firm and unswerving assertion of the majesty of the law. Whenever this Irish agitation has been boldly faced and manfully dealt with it has collapsed. We remember how ignominiously Smith O'Brien's rebellion ended. Ireland enjoyed 18 years of peaceful progress from 1850 to 1868. Then came the fatal policy of surrender and destruction invented by the present Prime Minister. Since the Prime Minister resumed power in 1880 all has gone to wrack and ruin; and now we are confronted with revolution and disruption. The task is by no means so difficult as the craven fears and the puerile menaces of the Irish Secretary would have us think. He would have the British Government yield to the Jacobin Revolution of the National League, in order to escape the dark plots of the dynamitards. Was 651 there ever such an unworthy and pusillanimous gospel of surrender? It is a modern Danegelt, a Dynamitegelt, that would result just as its prototype resulted. It only requires a modicum of consistent and resolute government to restore peace to Ireland. The most cowardly policy to adopt is to yield, as the Government proposes, to the forces of anarchy and revolution, and to give up Ireland to the National League. If they did not yield, it is said that they will be obliged to give Ireland over to the control of the dynamitards and the secret societies. That is, indeed, a worthy confession for a great and powerful Minister to make. If there is a danger to be feared from secret societies, from dynamite and assassination, the best answer which can be given to the Government is in the words uttered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen)—words which would live as long as the English language lasted—words of statesmanship and patriotism. If the statesmen of this country are threatened with the dagger and dynamite, then they "can make their wills and do their duty."
§ MR. JORDAN (Clare, W.)
Mr. Speaker, the House will perhaps indulge me for a short time, being, as I am, a Northern man and an Ulster Protestant. I was born and live in one of the most ultra Loyalist counties of Ulster. I was born of the peasantry, and I have lived amongst them all my days. I think, therefore, that I am as well qualified to speak in relation to the Protestantism of the North and of the feeling of the Loyalist minority as any Member from Ulster, or as any other Ulster man. It is said by the opponents of the measure that the House ought to reject the Bill in the interests of the Protestant people of the North of Ireland on several grounds—first, that the Bill would remove the Protestant population of the North from a Protestant Parliament, and place them under a Parliament elected by the 1,700 branches of the National League, by which means they would come under the tender mercies of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and Archbishop Walsh. It is further stated that the Protestants in the North would either have to leave Ulster voluntarily or be expelled by the new Irish Parliament. It is further contended 652 that the Bill ought to be rejected because the Protestants of the North fear that their property, their liberties, and their lives would be jeopardized; and, finally, that it ought to be rejected because, in case the Bill passes into law, the Protestants of Ulster will refuse to obey this law, and that they will refuse also to obey the laws made by the Irish Parliament. It is said, further, that they will refuse to pay the taxes which may be imposed by the Irish Parliament; and, lastly, that they will fight. In reference to the first of these objections, perhaps I may be permitted to say that the objectors seem to me to forget altogether the nature of the Irish Parliament, and the constituent elements of that Assembly. In the first place, it would not be, as has been intimated already, a Parnellite Parliament, nor would it be elected by the 1,700 branches of the National League; because the National League, having answered its purpose, having been incorporated in order to procure a National Legislature and a National Parliament, would, in the natural course of events, having attained that object, be dissolved, and, like the organizations which were called into existence in relation to Slavery and the Corn Laws, it would pass away and a new order of things would arise; consequently, the election to seats in the Irish House of Commons would be upon new and other issues altogether. The Members of the Irish Parliament would not be elected on any question as to independence, because that would have already been brought about, but on Irish issues in reference to the welfare of the country. The new Assembly would be composed of 28 elected Peers and 75 other elected Members possessing large pecuniary or property qualifications, and elected by a franchise of a very high order. It is estimated, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien) stated to-night, that the Conservative and Loyal Members in the North with those from Dublin University would amount to some 36, making altogether 140 in round numbers, as compared with the probable majority of 160 who would represent the Catholic and Democratic Protestant people of Ireland. Therefore, the people of Ireland would not be likely to be handed over to the tender mercies of what is called a "Parnellite Parliament." 653 The second reason why we are asked to reject this Bill is that the Protestant population of the North would either have to leave Ireland or be expelled from it. Now, I think they might go further and fare worse. I know that many of the peasantry have had to leave Ireland on account of evictions, and some of them may have to leave it again in order to better their condition; but there will be no necessity for either Irish Protestant peasants or landlords to leave Ireland on account of the establishment of an Irish Legislature. To my knowledge, a Protestant landlord has had as little respect for a Protestant as a Catholic peasant. In fact, the great complaint of the Orange peasantry is that the Irish landlords, in order to get an additional pound or two of rent, have frequently paid more respect to a Catholic than to them. But why, even if the landlords find themselves compelled to sell, should they leave the country if their incomes are reduced? I do not see to what country the Irish aristocracy can go where they will be able to live cheaper. Assuredly they will not come to London in order to live cheaper; and as their castles and demesnes will be left to them, even with a reduced rental, they will be able to live cheaper in Ireland than they can elsewhere. There is every reason why they should remain in the country. Take the situation and the beauty of their residences. What can be more pleasing to the eye than some of the baronial halls which I, as a humble peasant, have had the pleasure of admiring? We do not want the Irish peasantry to leave the country. We want the people of the country to be producers; we want the labourer, the artizan, and the manufacturer to remain in order that they may, by their skill and industry, add to the wealth of the country; and we want the gentry and others who are not producers to be the consumers of what Ireland itself produces. It is in this way, and in this way only, that we can by any means build up a State. If you ask any of these men in the North of Ireland, as I have done during the last fortnight, whether they are getting ready to leave the country, you will soon find that all this talk is mere nonsense. Not long ago I asked a most intense Tory—a most ontrageous Orangeman—what he proposed to do. I said to him—"The times are momentous; are you getting ready 654 to go?" Sir, that man, with a twinkle in his eye, laughed at me, and said—"I am not going yet." During the Recess I had an interview with a very boisterous Member of the loyal minority. He said—"What is to be the end of all this?" I replied—"I think it will be very serious, and I think that you ought to throw in your lot with the national cause at once." He remarked—"I would rather pay a pound an acre more under the present Administration than under an Irish Parliament." "Well," I said—"If you are content to pay a pound an acre more I am sure these Protestant gentlemen will take it from you, and nobody will stand between you and your wishes." "Then," said he—"If it comes to the worst I will leave the country." I told him it might be a very good thing to leave the country, but that I would advise him to wait a little longer, and to have all his affairs arranged as he would pack his travelling bag, and be ready to go at a moment's notice. He said—"Come up and tell the people that." And he left me with an incredulous smile. They have no notion of going, and they are only keeping up this kind of feeling in the hope that they may frighten and coerce the British Parliament into refusing to pass this measure. Now, I know these men as well as any man in this House, and I know this, that the more you assure the people in the North of Ireland that they are absolutely safe the more row they will kick up. As they are certain that nothing will happen to them, so their cry is—"Let me get at 'em, Mr. Policeman." It is said that they are afraid that their liberty, their property, and their lives will be jeopardized and endangered if they remain in the country under the Irish Parliament. I do not believe in anything of the kind; and as to their religion—property with them is religion. Property is very largely their religion. You will hear them sometimes praying and trusting in Providence, and alternately trusting in the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). The noble Lord reposes his confidence in them for the integrity of this great Empire. But then, again, they put their trust not only in Providence, but in powder and ball. Really you cannot understand these men—whether it is in God, in the Member for Paddington, 655 in the great Tory Party, or in powder and ball that they trust. You cannot possibly tell because they use the phrases indiscriminately. I have the greatest possible respect for real and earnest and sincere religion, but I have no respect for this travesty of religion. I have a respect deep down in my soul for God, but I have no respect for this ideal god of the Orangemen of Ulster. It might really be imagined that in the North the people have lost their God, and they are looking for one to replace Him, crying, "O Baal, hear us!" They do not seem to know how to get out of the difficulty. At the same time they have no real fear of losing their liberty. The Protestant ladies, who, as we are told, have been so much alarmed, have no fear whatever, and if the ordinary farmer's wife says that she has no fear, I do not see why the stalwart military majors we hear so much of should be afraid. Only the other day I said to a lady—a very respectable farmer's wife—"Are you not getting ready to go?" "Oh dear, no," she replied, "I am not thinking of going at all; I have not the least fear." Sir, it is passion and not fear which animates the opponents of this Bill. These people have been pampered all their lives up to the present time; they have been in the ascendancy and they have monopolized power in the country. What they fear is that they will now have to be placed on an equality with other people. They are enraged because they—the "loyal minority," as they call themselves,—will have to undergo a competitive examination with their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen in order to obtain a fair share of what is going. That is what they fear. If this Bill becomes law—and I hope it will—they will be quite prepared from the greatest to the least among them to make the best of what they now regard a a bad job, and we shall see them running and flying, not out of the country, but to take advantage of every benefit which may accrue from the Bills. Indeed they will be the first to clamour and cry out for more. I am perfectly certain the Roman Catholic population of the North of Ireland, where the loyal minority have fought them foot to foot, are just; which the loyal minority is not. Over and over again during the last five or six years I 656 have heard Catholics and their teachers, the priests, advising discontented men to take no offence, and to give no offence; and I wish that the same could be said on the other side. They have no fear that their liberties are in jeopardy, and as to their lives they are perfectly certain they will be protected. I have said that the Catholics in the North of Ireland are just. I will go further. I have often asked Ulster Protestants—"What has your Roman Catholic neighbour done to you? Has he not been just, civil, and obliging, and has he not done everything which a neighbour ought to do?" I have invariably received the reply—"My experience of my Catholic neighbour is that often he is far better than my Protestant neighbour." Then, what are they afraid of? It is said that that may be the case in the North of Ireland, but we must go to the South and the West to find Catholic oppression of Protestants. They are obliged to go into an unknown region in order to find their ideal of Catholic oppression. They say—"Go to the South and the West and there you will find such crimes and outrages that every Protestant man living there has his life frightened out of him." Now, as a Northern Protestant, and a Protestant from principle, I have myself gone to the South, and what have I found both there and in the West? Not merely justice, but generosity "pressed down and shaken together and running over." Nothing could be more generous than the action of the priests and people of the South to myself. The whole question resolves itself into one of fear of landlords losing their land and their power. As other hon. Gentlemen have discussed that question, and as I have very elastic views as to the manner in which landlords have obtained their property, and the way in which they have kept it, I will say nothing more upon that subject; but if there is discontent or disloyalty in Ireland, it has all been incited by landlordism, aided in too many cases by Protestant clergy who have incited the multitude from the pulpit—but landlordism is at the bottom of the agitation. Mr. Speaker, I have seen old men compelled to take their hats off to the bailiff of an estate. In my early days I have seen them following at a respectable distance behind the bailiff in a market town; and I have 657 heard my own father, coming from the estate office, complain of having been grossly insulted by the agent, who told him that he was a liar. He was a man, Sir, who would not tell a lie. In Ireland the tenant effects all the improvements upon his holdings, and just in proportion as he effects those improvements his rent is raised. When he complains, all the redress he gets is to be served with notice to quit and told that he will be ejected from his holding. I hold this to have been property most unjustly acquired by the landlord. Talk about the rights of property; the landlords are the robbers, and not the tenants. It is the landlords who have incited to discontent, and if there be discontent and disloyalty in Ireland they are the cause of it. But for the ingrained dread of Popery—I do not use the word offensively, but as it is used—in which the Irish Protestants have been trained from their mothers' knees, and which they have imbibed from their earliest training, the Protestant farmers in the North are as ripe for revolution in order to throw off the yoke of landlordism as any Catholic. True, the majority of the Protestant farmers now vote against Home Rule; but having eased their minds in that direction, they come to the Nationalist and say—"Let us see what you will do for us in regard to the land." If this measure be passed into law, will they fight against the law—not only English law, but against Irish law—and refuse to pay taxation? There is a great deal of talk about maintaining the connection between England and Ireland. If this measure passes that connection will largely depend on the amount of tribute which will be paid by the Irish Parliament to England. It is against this tribute that the Orangemen of Ulster will fight, say they; and I do not imagine that the Irish Parliament will be very much enamoured of collecting the tribute. The loyal minority will tell us that we have a National Parliament imposing taxes; but it is by those taxes the tribute must be paid, and it is against the payment of that tribute which is really to maintain the tie between the two countries that they will fight. If they will fight against paying that tribute to England, then it will be more England's concern than it will be Ireland's. A very worthy minister in this country wrote a pamphlet a few days ago in 658 which he stated that it would be an awful thing to send Scotch and English soldiers to shoot down the Northern Protestants because they would not pay taxes. Now, I maintain that if they refuse to pay taxes you must either send English soldiers to compel them to pay, or the English Parliament must not expect to get the money which the loyal minority refuse to pay. You may take either horn of the dilemma; I do not care which. The question is—"Will these men fight?" The House will excuse me if I offer an opinion. We have scarcely heard anything during this debate from the opponents of the Bill but mere opinion. The question is—"Will they fight?" In my opinion, when it comes to the point they will have no notion whatever of fighting. I know that the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Major Saunderson) was not long ago breathing out "slaughter and threatening;" but I believe that he will be speedily converted, and in the end become a Nationalist himself. I was very much struck with a speech recently made by the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston). The hon. Member reminded me very much of a vision in the Apocalypse, where it is said—"And I saw another angel flying through the Heavens." I thought I saw the hon. Member with a Bible for one wing and a rifle for the other. That is the gospel of the Royal Patriotic Association. They desire to preach to the heathen abroad, and shoot down their fellow-countrymen at home. The hon. Member for South Belfast occupies so peculiar a position that it is difficult to understand whether he is going in for death or glory. But when I have spoken quietly to these men at home—for instance, a District Master of Orangemen, a very important personage, fierce and pugnacious, of course—when I asked him what appointment he was getting, whether he was going to be a lieutenant, or a captain, or a major in the new Ulster Army, he has honestly told me that he had got no appointment. I know that among the loyal minority there are many professional agitators who are going round the country on the rampage, including many clergymen who are accustomed to preach the gospel of peace, inciting and inflaming Protestant prejudice and bigotry and swaggering for fight. I have asked some of 659 the most earnest Orangemen in the North—"Do you really imagine that these men will fight?" And they have told me distinctly and clearly—certainly one respectable gentleman did—that it is all bunkum and bounce, and that they have no notion whatever of fighting. I have told them that there will be no National Army to fight; I have reminded them that if they intend fighting they will want arms, ammunition, a commissariat, a medical department, and horse, foot, and artillery, and, in addition, that they will have to borrow a General from the English Army. I have told them that their fighting implies all that, and when they are ready, they will have to fight, not against the National Army, but against the Army of the Queen. They told me that they did not mean to do anything of the kind. Nor do they. There is only one thing which could make fighting somewhat palatable to me, and that is, that if all the farmers were out in the field arrayed against the law, the landlords would have no opportunity of charging them with rent; it would be a practical no-rent policy. The only thing which could make fighting tolerable to me would be that it would be the beginning of the end of rack rents. I have never objected to what is a fair rent. I have attended very many meetings, and I have had thousands of tenants asking me for advice. I never gave any advice yet that I should be ashamed to hear recited in this or any other Assembly. No tenant has ever been led to do an act in consequence of any advice I have given to him that could do injury either to himself or his landlord. I have heard it stated in this House, that all the Protestant communities in the North of Ireland are unanimously opposed to Home Rule. Now, Mr. Speaker, I beg to take exception to that assertion. I am not only a Protestant, but I am a Dissenting Protestant, and a Dissenting Protestant is the staunchest of all Protestants. It has been stated in this House that the Methodists of Ireland are unanimously against Home Rule. That is not so. I admit freely that the majority of the Methodists of Ireland are antagonistic to Home Rule; but there is an intelligent, and a growing, and an increased inclination for Home Rule among the Methodist population. In almost all 660 their Church meetings and Church courts there is an intelligent minority, small though it may have been, in favour of Home Rule. Even at the last meeting of the Committee of Privileges of the Methodist Society, at Dublin, there were three gentleman who distinctly spoke in favour of Home Rule, and of the measure of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). I have letters in my pocket from Methodist people in different parts of Ireland, wishing success to this measure. No doubt, there is an attempt to suppress and "Boycott" those who express such opinions; and the loyal minority can "Boycott" with a vengeance when they set themselves about it. They have been "Boycotting" for the last 25 years in the North of Ireland every man who has opposed them in any shape or form. Nor are the Presbyterians unanimous against Home Rule. I have in my pocket a letter from a gentleman who is a leading Presbyterian. Over and over again he has refused to join the National League; but now he writes that he has decided in favour of a National Irish Legislature. Neither are the English Methodists or the English Presbyterians against Home Rule. The most influential English Methodist journal in England—The Methodist Times—the Editor, Rev. H. P. Hughes, the staff, and many of the shareholders, and very many English Methodists, are strongly in favour of the settlement of this Irish Question upon the lines of the present Bill. It is altogether a mistake to say that either the Presbyterians or the Methodists are unanimously against Home Rule, and the longer the matter is studied and considered the more and more will the intelligence of the different Protestant denominations, who are now opposed to it, become favourable to it. I would urge the House not only to give us a measure of Home Rule, but a large measure of Home Rule. We are prepared to give up agitation, and to commence the building up of a National Legislature and a nation, if we can only obtain the conditions which will enable us to do so; but if you give us only a partial measure, you will repeat the blunder you committed in the Land Act of 1870, and you will simply continue the agitation instead of putting a stop to it. The present Bill, with some amendment, will be 661 perfectly satisfactory, and we are prepared to accept it. The guarantees, though unnecessary, should be satisfactory to the minority; and I believe that the measure will not only be of advantage to Ireland, but I am also certain that it is just as much to the advantage of England to have these questions settled, rather than to continue a burning agitation.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON (Devonshire, Tavistock)
The hon. Member who has just sat down, although he has given a very instructive and amusing account of his experiences among the Loyalist minority in Ireland, and the manners, customs, and religious observances there, has not contributed much to the debate, and certainly not as much as the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien). The latter hon. Member made a very remarkable speech, the sincerity of which I do not desire to question. But the hon. Member has also made a good many other speeches at various times, and on various occasions, which compare very strangely with his present utterances. But, although I do not question the sincerity of the hon. Member, I must be permitted to doubt whether the conversion of the rest of Ireland will be as sudden and complete as that of the hon. Member. Like a good many others who have spoken in favour of these Bills, the hon. Member for South Tyrone has dealt rather with assumptions than with arguments. Foremost among his assumptions is that the 85 hon. Gentlemen who obey the orders of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) are the true and only Representatives of the people of Ireland. They are here, and there is no good discussing how they come to be here. As a matter of fact, the funds by which the National League is supported come rather from America than from Ireland. This was practically admitted in a letter recently sent by the hon. Member for Cork acknowledging American remittances; and further proof is to be found in the National League Parliamentary Fund, which showed, at the December meeting of the League, that the American contributions amounted to £6,000, while the Irish contributions only amounted to one-tenth of that sum. It is not as if there was no money in Ireland available for Parliamentary purposes, if enthusiasm in the cause was 662 great. There is considerable movement among builders, carpenters, and others in Ireland at the present time, caused by the building and repair of churches, monasteries, and religious houses; and everybody knows that contributions for those purposes would be the first to be knocked off if the people were really hard up. But, no doubt, the hon. Members who follow the hon. Member for Cork are accepted by the majority of the Irish people as their Representatives. It is, however, a remarkable thing that while there are in Ireland a certain number of successful commercial concerns, and there are men eminent in business and men who have made reputations in the learned professions, there are no representatives of those classes among the followers of the hon. Member for Cork who sit below the Gangway. Probably, if we were to draw the names of any 80 Members of the House at random, it would be impossible to find a collection of Members so entirely unrepresentative of the various interests and communities that make up a people as the 85 hon. Gentlemen who claim to represent that nondescript article—the Irish nation. Another assumption frequently urged in this debate is that the passing of this Bill will have a sort of magical effect upon the Irish people and their present Leaders, and that they will develop a new and unsuspected capacity for self-government. It has been truly said that if it is desired to teach them responsibility, power must be given; but people generally content themselves with this assertion, and they have not shown that to teach responsibility to the Irish people it is necessary to give them much more power than it is proposed to intrust to the Scotch or Welsh, or to the inhabitants of any other part of the United Kingdom. Last December the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said that if we wished to teach the Irish people the duties of citizenship, and to create in them a fitness for self-government, we must first of all teach them responsibility; and we could not teach them responsibility without giving them power. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of creating a capacity for self-government—creating that which is now non-existent. That is starting de novo and producing it, and doing it not by 663 any gradual and well-considered process, not by any improvement of existing machinery, or by the development of existing institutions; not by methods which have succeeded in England and Scotland in creating a sense of responsibility and a capacity for self-government; but by a stroke of the pen. The method by which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to create that capacity is to put the Irish in a position which would try the civic virtues of any nation; and that, too, under Leaders whose antecedents, to say the least, do not augur well for the success of the experiment. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), in the debate on the Motion for leave to introduce the Bill, said the first duty of the new Government of Ireland would be to restore order in a distracted country. How is that to be done? Is it to be done through the agency of the National League, through men like Mr. Sheridan, of Tubbercurry, whom the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) proposed to use two or three years ago for the suppression of outrages? Or would he make use of the civil servants whom this Bill makes independent of him after a couple of years, or of the police who are to be under the control of a different Executive? And I should like to know, further, supposing there was a difference of opinion between the Irish Government and the Irish Executive as to the employment of the police, and disaster should be the result, on whom would responsibility rest, and by whom would responsibility be brought home? By the Irish Parliament or by the English Parliament? The Viceroy, be it remembered, is to survive changes of Administration in England, and he may be the Viceroy of a former Government not agreeing in politics with the Ministry of the day; and this will not make it easier to fix responsibility upon him. Then another duty of the new Irish Government, according to the hon. Member for Bedford, would be to establish the credit of the country, and to invite capital to come back. The way in which Irish securities have gone down in the last few months does not augur very well for the success of that experiment. I wonder if there is any hon. Gentleman in the House who is prepared to invest trust money for which he is responsible in securities of the new 664 Irish Government. I wonder how many votes any hon. Member would get in a division who proposed to add Irish Government securities to the list of those allowed for investments under the Settled Land Act. Then, in regard to the settlement of the agrarian difficulty, that is one of the points which the Irish Government would have to deal with. Would they deal with it on the basis of the hon. Member for Cork, or on the basis proposed by the Prime Minister? Would it be a case of prairie value with three years' purchase, or proposals similar to those which have been put forward in the House and generally repudiated on every part of the Ministerial side? No doubt, the Land Purchase scheme would do something towards the solution of the land difficulty in Ireland; but even then a very considerable difficulty would remain in the case of the gombeen man, whom no Land Purchase Bill would remove, and who would, in the event of one passing, be left virtually the landlord in a great part of Ireland. Then is it proposed to deal with mortgagees on the same principle as landlords? The great trouble in Ireland, it is said, is that it is a poor country. Is it likely to become richer or to recover prosperity if governed on a system under which no country can possibly flourish? Are banks under the new dispensation to have security for their advances? We are told that the first duty of the Irish Government would be to secure quiet possession. Is that to be accomplished by putting the unwritten law over the statute law? A somewhat curious case appeared in the newspapers in December last. A tenant in the county of Waterford got into difficulties four or five years ago, not with his landlord, but with the National Bank, who sold him up and bought his interest in the farm. A certain Mr. O'Donnell, having offered to pay a fine, was accepted as tenant, and took possession. At first he was "Boycotted;" but afterwards, for a time, matters went on quietly. Last winter, however, he was denounced as a land-grabber; his case was sent for trial under the local organization of the National League, and it was decided that no arrangement he had entered into was to be valid until it had been confirmed by the League. How will the Irish Parliament carry out the law in a case of that kind? Is a man to make the best bargain 665 for himself which the law permits; or are contracts to be valid only if countersigned by the National League, or by whatever body takes its place? And can we intrust the enforcement of the law in matters of this sort to the authors of the "No-Rent Manifesto?" It seems to me that it would be no safer to intrust them with that duty, notwithstanding the doctrines they now profess, than to intrust them with another duty on which the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) most eloquently laid great stress the other night—namely, the eradication from the minds of the people of that deep-rooted feeling that it is justifiable to have an unwritten code running alongside of the Constitutional law. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien) has referred in glowing terms to what Lord Spencer said at Newcastle; but what Lord Spencer did say was that though the Irish Members had not been privy to outrage, as far as he knew, yet they had maintained silence in regard to crime at a time when speech would have been golden. Be it remembered that this unwritten code proceeds from the very men of whom this is the best that can be said. They may have looked upon crime and outrage as regrettable incidents; but on more than one occasion they have abstained till too late from denouncing them as they might have done. If the Irish Members of the new Parliament are to cope with all the tasks which may be imposed upon them, it is likely enough that they may not care to come over and take part in the deliberations of the House of Commons at Westminster. The Prime Minister has made a statement on that subject this evening; but, as far as I can judge, there would still remain considerable difficulties. I will take two points only. I do not think the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman would meet the difficulties which might arise as to military affairs, or as to foreign affairs. This is the only country in Europe where a system of compulsory service in the Army does not prevail. Although the power exists of enforcing the ballot for service in the Militia, it has long been dormant. Under the new arrangement Ireland is not to contribute anything beyond its fixed quota for wars; and is it not possible that the English people may say—"It is bad enough, to have to find nearly all the treasure for this war; 666 but there is no reason why we should find all the blood for it as well." Recruiting in Ireland has not been very flourishing for some years, and I doubt very much whether it is likely to increase for some years to come. In times gone by thousands of brave men from Ireland fought in our Army, and an eloquent and distinguished Irishman in this House repudiated on their behalf the term of alien when it was applied to them. Now that they are to become aliens and mercenaries in reality the recruiting is likely enough to fall off. But there is nothing in this measure, as far as I can see, to prevent the English House of Commons from reviving compulsory military service in this country, and compelling Irishmen to serve in the English Army whether they like it or not; and although, perhaps, no such necessity may arise, it is one which will always be possible under the stress of a great foreign war. Then, again, as to foreign affairs, the proposed constitution of Ireland would expose us to the same danger which already exists in our Colonies, where excessive zeal on the part of some of the citizens, or want of attention on the part of the Executive, may embroil us in far-reaching complications with a foreign country. In our Colonies, it is true—thanks to the affectionate loyalty of their inhabitants, the happy-go-lucky system has worked tolerably well; but is it desirable to extend that system to a country, the leading men of which have hitherto been ostentatiously disloyal? Federation is a goal to which I hope we shall one day attain; but it seems to me that we should be only putting an obstacle in the way of federation, instead of promoting it, if we make governors of Ireland men whose influence would disappear if they ceased to be disloyal, and if we were to establish close to our shores a Tributary, whose "uncrowned King" has already taken an opportunity of protesting against the tribute, and a Dependency, a large section of whose people have always hitherto declared themselves to be in favour of independence.
§ MR. LEWIS (Londonderry)
Without reference to anything else, I think I am entitled, after the speech we have heard from a so-called Protestant Representative from Ulster, to ask the indulgence of the House while I endeavour to give 667 what I believe to be the true opinion of Loyalist and Protestant Ulster in reference to this Bill. The hon. Member for West Clare (Mr. Jordan), who spoke so much to the entertainment of the House, is perfectly well known to the North of Ireland; but I do not think that anybody there would look upon him as a representative either of Protestantism or of loyalty. It is a piece of singular good fortune, both for the measure itself and the country, that hardly any measure has ever received such ample and broad discussion both inside and outside the House. Speaking on behalf of the Protestant and loyal minority in Ireland, I may say that they are deeply indebted to three Members of the Party opposite for the extreme care and diligence they have taken to point out the real defects and demerits of the Bill. The noble Marques the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) and the right hon. Members for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen) are entitled to and will receive the thanks of the Loyalists of Ireland for the clear and exhaustive way in which they have exposed what are the real defects of this Bill. Hitherto the question with reference to Home Rule has always been—What is it; what does it mean; how is it to be interpreted? We certainly expect to understand what Home Rule is when we have a Bill presented to us from a so-called united Cabinet. The Prime Minister has said we have to deal not only with a determined Ministry, but with an intelligible plan. But the House and the country have reason to complain that there is nothing like determination on the part of the Ministry, and nothing like intelligibility in the plan. The House and the country have viewed with amazement a great statesman, who for years past has set up his back against abstract Resolutions, committing the extraordinary offence of first proposing a Bill and then an abstract Resolution, because that is the result of the right hon. Gentleman's speech to-night. Notwithstanding the breadth of the discussion which has taken place in regard to this Bill, it appears to me that there is one point which has been almost entirely overlooked which is of a most important practical nature. We have heard much about the results of the Union to this and that religious party, 668 to loyalty towards England, and with regard to foreign countries; but no one has taken the trouble to inform the House what has been the result of the Union as regards the prosperity and progress of Ireland. I will give a few figures which I have borrowed from the Prime Minister himself. They appear to be accurate, and they refer to two periods since the Union and after the Famine. I will first take shipping, and I find that the tonnage inwards between 1854 and 1884 shows an increase upon the tonnage inwards of 1854 of 120 per cent. The tonnage outwards in the same period of 30 years showed an increase of 193 per cent. In savings banks, between 1851 and 1884, there was an increase of 244 per cent. If we proceed to stock, we shall find that the value—between 1852 and 1885—of cattle, sheep, and pigs rose from £30,000,000 to nearly £60,000,000, and showed an increase of 97 per cent; and I must remind the House that during that period the population had greatly declined. Notwithstanding that decline, from 6,500,000 in 1851 to 5,000,000 in 1883, there was this vast increase in the wealth of the country. I now come to the social condition of the people; and, first, as to their habitations. In the Census Returns of Ireland the house accommodation is divided into four classes. In the 30 years from 1851 to 1881 the increase in the first-class house accommodation was from 39,000 to 96,000, or an increase of about 140 per cent; in the second-class the increase was from 202,000 to 467,000, or more than 100 per cent; while in the third and fourth classes, consisting of the small tenements and mud huts, which were occupied under insufficient sanitary arrangements, there was a great declension. So much was that the result, that while in 1851 there were 873,000 families living in the poorer houses placed in these classes, or 72 per cent of the whole, with little more than 27 per cent living in the better class of houses, by 1881 the number had immensely diminished, so that while 43 per cent of the population lived in the poorer houses, 56 per cent lived in those placed in the higher classes. Do not these figures prove that the prosperity of Ireland has increased under the Union? I might go through a vast number of other items, all of which show a similarly important result, but 669 I will only name the heads of them. The commercial returns show that the money invested was two and a-half times greater than it was in 1852; that the available capital measured by the contents of the deposit banks increased 2¾ per cent; and that the Revenue of the country was greater in 1885 by 1¾ per cent than it was in 1882, and that it had increased in a greater ratio than that of the rest of the United Kingdom. A strong feeling pervades the minds of a good many people that Ireland has suffered greatly from the depreciation in the value of agricultural produce. It is conceded that Ireland is an agricultural country, and having regard to the fall in the price of cereals, it is suggested that the Irish people must have fallen into a state of great wretchedness and misery. But is the House aware of the ridiculously small extent to which wheat is grown in Ireland as compared with England. I am in a position to give the figures. Out of 5,000,000 acres under crop in 1885, only 71,000 were under wheat; in other words, for every acre of wheat grown in Ireland in 1885, 70 acres were under other crops. If you compare that with the position of affairs in England, you will find that whereas the great decrease in the price of wheat resulted in great depression and disaster to the agricultural classes in England, the result in Ireland was insignificant. The acreage under barley was equally small. It is quite true that a great deal of land has been under oats, in which there has not been the same decrease of price; and as the value of straw has largely increased, the effect of the depression in the prices of cereals has been insignificant and does not detract from the value of the figures I have quoted as a proof of the national prosperity of the country. Statistics show that, instead of trade and commerce and general prosperity being depreciated by the operations of the Union, they have been fostered and encouraged to a marvellous degree. Let me ask the House to consider some figures in reference to the period before the Union, which, to my mind, are of great importance in regard to many items of production, and are to be found in the document which the Prime Minister has laid upon the Table. During the last five years of Grattan's Parliament, as compared with the preceding five years, 670 there was a declension in articles of production, in some cases to the extent of 30 and 40 per cent. So, also, with regard to the tonnage statistics, which since the Union have greatly increased. The amount of sugar entered for home consumption has also increased greatly, together with wine, malt, and whisky; and another notable fact is that the National Debt, which was only £2,500,000 in 1791, increased to £25,000,000 by the end of the century under Grattan's Parliament. I would ask hon. Members who have followed me in these statistics to say whether I am not justified in maintaining that under the Union the commercial and trading prosperity of the country has increased? The figures which I have ventured to quote show that instead of the trade and general commerce having depreciated under the Union they have been fostered and encouraged. I will now pass on to other topics. What has been put forward as the prominent reason for the introduction of the Bill? It is the fact that 85 Nationalist Members were returned from Ireland demanding Home Rule. I am prepared to contend that although these 85 Members may represent a very large number of people in Ireland, they do not represent the majority of the people; still less do they represent the majority of the intelligent people of the country. I will venture to ask how were these Members elected? What amount of priestly tyranny was exercised in bringing them here to Parliament; what amount of National League oppression was brought into operation in order to get the voters to the poll; and what amount of actual ignorance was exhibited by large numbers of voters on the Nationalist side? A most important and interesting Return was placed upon the Table and circulated last Saturday. It shows that 98,000 illiterate voters recorded their votes at the last General Election in Ireland. In other words, one in five of the entire number of voters in the contested elections in Ireland were found to be illiterate. That is not the whole of the case. From the experience which I have had in my own county, and from inquiries which I have made in adjoining counties, I know that hon. Members may take it that of these 98,000 illiterate voters 90,000 polled for Nationalist candidates. What is the result? Enough voters polled for Nationalist 671 candidates to make their numbers in this House more than four to one. This state of things must bear one or two interpretations. Either these men were made to go up, as I believe was generally the case in the county of Donegal, and declare themselves to be illiterate because they were not to be trusted to poll without a priest or a National agent being with them, or else these men were of such stolid and dense ignorance that they could not work out the simple problem of polling, though marked out for them on a printed paper. Then, taking the county of Donegal, in three out of its four constituences 8,424 persons in that single county actually went up and voted as illiterates out of 13,748 who polled for the Nationalist candidate; in other words, nearly two-thirds of the voters who sent three out of the 85 Nationalist Members to Parliament from the county of Donegal were unable to read or write. In the City of Derry how many voters polled for my hon. Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy)? Out of 1,795 voters for the Nationalist candidate 635 were illiterates, or more than one in three, and that too in a city which has all the advantages of social life, business habits, and education. More than one in three of the supporters of the Nationalist candidate had to go up to the poll and vote as illiterates. Now, is it to be wondered at that we who represent the Protestant, loyal, educated, and intelligent classes, who have been always true to our Queen and country, to the Constitution and laws under which we live, should ask the House, and the country through the House, not to pay any regard to this mechanical return of 85 Members from Ireland, or to suppose that you have by that process obtained any true representation of the principles held by the majority of the law-abiding people of Ireland? There is one reason which has been put forward by the Prime Minister, and it is one upon which the Chief Secretary for Ireland is in the habit of relying, and that is the helpless state of government and law and order in Ireland. That, in point of fact, has been put forward from time to time to justify the carrying out of measures which are to destroy some of our dearest rights and some of our most cherished privileges. Sir, we have been told about coercion, 672 and it is said that 56 Acts of a coercive character have been passed since the Union. Well, Sir, it has struck me, and I believe, that the passing of so many Acts was the result and the evidence of misplaced and foolish lenity on the part of Parliament; and, in my opinion, instead of passing an Act for one, two, or three years, and renewing it on expiry, the common-sense course would have been to pass a general Act—[Ironical cheers]—yes, and when its non-necessity was demonstrated to have repealed it; and am satisfied that if that had been done we should have been spared all this nonsense about the matter. Connected with this subject there is a point to which I desire to refer, inasmuch as it involves a matter personal to myself. The right hon. Gentleman intimated that one, if not the proximate, reason for the introduction of the Bill was the conduct of the late Ministry with reference to the Coercion Act last year. I say that no man in the country took a plainer course than I did with regard to that matter; I totally disagreed with the conduct of the late Conservative Government in refusing to renew the Crimes Act; and it was with the greatest pain and personal distress that I separated myself from their action on that occasion. [A laugh.] The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland laughs; but I think he has sometimes taken a course different from that of his Colleagues, and I see no reason why he should laugh at my taking the definite line which I did take. It is well known that I expressed my regret at the time, and I still regret the course taken by right hon. Gentlemen below me; but it does not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland to taunt the Conservative Ministry, for we had constant dilly-dallying before their Predecessors left Office and bequeathed to them, in June, 1885, the impossible legacy of passing the Crimes Bill. This passage of history, however, is closed. As I have said, I regretted, and still regret, the course pursued by the late Government; but I am not now going to strike a blow at them on that account, when their conduct is made an excuse for a measure to surrender Ireland to disorder and rapine. We have precedents, of course, cited in support of this Bill, and among them there was 673 one which, probably owing to the abstruseness of the subject and the smallness of the Kingdoms concerned, did not seem to attract much attention in the House. I refer to the precedent of the Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway. I have received a letter from a gentleman in Sweden who has held Office in the Ministry of Norway, to the effect that there is no parallel between the relations of Sweden and Norway and those between England and Ireland; that between Sweden and Norway there is no hate of race, no difference of religion, no century of oppression and blood souvenirs, and that in the attitude of these two countries to each other there is no atom of resemblance to the state of things in England and Ireland; and yet he adds that, in spite of the apparent harmony and the total absence of conflicting interests, the union between Sweden and Norway is so delicate that it requires the greatest caution and care to keep the two nations together. Now, I venture to suggest, seeing that we are on the subject of precedents, that this letter opens up most important considerations against our blindly following a mere precedent which has the appearance of similarity, but is essentially very different from the present case. Now, with reference to the changes contemplated by the Bill. No matter how long Ireland may have had a Parliament, she has never had a separate Executive. This is the first time it has ever been proposed that Ireland should have an Executive separate from England. What does that mean? Does it mean that the same spirit, the same ends, the same loyal Constitutional views will be the guides of the Irish Executive, as they have always been the guides of the Imperial Executive? What do we say will be the result in Ulster? We do not hesitate to say that education there will be distinctly Romanized, and that although Church endowment is not provided by this Bill there is nothing in the Bill to prevent annual endowments being made to the Roman Catholic Church which we shall have to pay for. A constituent of mine said to me a short time ago—"We, the prosperous citizens of Ulster, will have to pay for this"—Protestant Ulster, loyal Ulster, which already pays three-fourths of the entire taxation of Ireland. Another result will be that we shall have new Judges, 674 new magistrates, new policemen, under the control of a Nationalist Parliament, which will be a mere reflection of the National League. All the useful control of the Local Government Board in Ireland, which now prevents so much injustice being done, will be destroyed, and the country will be placed at the feet of another Local Government Board, of which I suppose some hon. Member below the Gangway will be the well-paid head. But under this new régime will assistance be forthcoming from the police for the enforcement of contracts; does the House believe that the assistance of the police will be easily obtainable for the purpose of enforcing either special duties or ordinary obligations? Well, Sir, we in Ulster believe that upon all these points there will be a desertion of the Loyalists, and that they will be unable to obtain even ordinary justice. I invite the House to consider the serious risk they run of destroying the prosperity of such a city as Derry. Within the last 40 years—long since the Union—a large industry known as the shirt industry has grown up there; it is carried on principally at four large establishments, the proprietors of which are either Englishmen or Scotchmen, and the money which started this industry came from England and Scotland. Now, what do these proprietors do for Derry? They distribute £3,500 a-week in wages amongst the lower orders, employing, as they do, 4,000 persons, the majority of whom are Roman Catholics, although the proprietors are Protestants. Is it probable that this industry, which has made Derry a veritable hive of prosperous activity, will receive fair play, or that it will be maintained if this Parliament is to be instituted, with all its powers of taxation, which will be brought to bear on Derry and other places similarly prosperous? What will happen? Why, two of the proprietors I have referred to have manufactories in England, and they will have no difficulty whatever in transferring their businesses to this country. This would undoubtedly be the result of the measure put forward by the right hon. Gentleman if it ever became law. Again, the flax and linen industry at Belfast has been the subject of the gravest threatenings on the part of some hon. Members below the Gangway who would be Representatives in 675 this new Parliament. I was very much struck with one paragraph in the communication of the Prime Minister, in which the National Press Agency was authorized to announce to an astonished world the conversion of the right hon. Gentleman to Home Rule. It is certainly not complimentary to hon. Members below the Gangway, and I do not think they were then quite so much in love with him as they are now. The right hon. Gentleman said in the communication to which I refer—It is not likely that the composition of that Legislature would be at all similar to the present personnel of the Irish Party in the House of Commons.Do hon. Gentlemen from Ireland think that the Prime Minister meant that the representation would be better or worse?As soon as that question is settled—the question of an Irish Legislature—the unity will vanish, and all the sectional differences of the Irish people will re-appear. The forces of intelligence, the wealth and interests of every class of the population will assert themselves, and the Members returned to the Parliament in Dublin will be very different in all respects to those who represent Ireland now. What is it that gives the force of intelligence, the wealth and the interests of every class of the population which will assert themselves and cause the Members returned to the Irish Parliament to be very different from what they are now?Complimentary or not, what a warning is conveyed in these words, which were, at all events, suggested by the Prime Minister. But what does the right hon. Gentleman think of the necessity of the change? I must say that I do not admire the right hon. Gentleman as a prophet; but this time he may be right. He says that if he is enabled to eject the Government on this issue he will have a large majority in the House of Commons for his Irish Bill; and he believes that the House of Lords, weighing the gravity of the situation, will not reject it. Well, Sir, I think the House of Lords will not reject the Bill; I do not think they will have the chance of doing so; I think we in the House of Commons are likely to give a very good account of it. Then there was another prophecy of the right hon. Gentleman, who said that there is reasonable expectation that Lord Hartington and Mr. Goschen will come round to his view, and that Mr. Chamberlain and Sir Charles Dilke, in spite of their present 676 attitude, could not consistently oppose it.
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. HENRY H. FOWLER) (Wolverhampton, E.)
Those are not the words of the Prime Minister, but of the Central Press.
§ MR. LEWIS
I am glad to be instructed by the hon. Gentleman opposite, because he is a lawyer, and knows the effect of evidence given in the presence of a person who does not dispute it. This language is stated as issuing from the Prime Minister. I do not wonder that Gentlemen opposite do not like it. It is a very deplorable thing that this scheme should have been sprung upon the country through the agency of the Press; but I say that the right hon. Gentleman has not contradicted it, and if he were present I do not believe that he would do so now. At this hour I am very anxious to have regard to the time and to the convenience of the House; but I have one or two more observations to make. We have heard a good deal on the subject of guarantees; but I do not think that we ought to pay much regard to the guarantees which are in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has declared to us, in words which I have heard at least four or five times applied to Irish affairs, that if we pass this measure everything will be put right in Ireland—that we shall have peace, goodwill, and amity between the two countries. But how long will it be before the right hon. Gentleman will, under the influence of some Divine light, come down and tell us that we must not keep up these conditions, and that we must throw them away as the last rag of British domination in Ireland? Why, Sir, we should be asked to do that probably within three or four years. I desire to refer to another subject which is especially germane to Ulster. I venture to say that never did a statesman of the first rank introduce a Bill of this importance in so reckless a way. The right hon. Gentleman, having said that three propositions had been made with regard to Ulster, threw the whole difficulty, as it were, on the floor of the House of Commons, and told us to pick it up. I ask if that is the way to treat the loyal people of Ulster? I say that we are insulted when we, the minority of Irish Members, numbering only 16 out of the 677 entire representation of Ireland, are asked to formulate a plan which will satisfy you and not be outvoted. We say that the Prime Minister must have felt that this was a matter requiring special treatment; that it was his duty to formulate a plan and propose it with the full sanction and authority of his Ministry; but instead of that the right hon. Gentleman says in effect—"I admit that you are in a bad plight; I admit that you have little hope for the future; but I am not clever enough to find out a remedy by which you may be protected." Now, what is the attitude which Ulster takes up? We do not want any tinkering, or exceptional legislation; we do not want to be invited to form for ourselves a separate Parliament, and desert all the Protestants to be found in the other three Provinces of Ireland. We want to walk with them as members of the same community, as subjects of the same Queen, and by sending Members to the same Parliament. We do not want any pretentious schemes for the purpose of separating us from our fellow-citizens elsewhere. We have been told over and over again by those who advocate this scheme that the weakness of the position of those who oppose it is that they have no alternative. You might as well taunt a soldier defending a citadel with having no alternative, as taunt us who are defending the fortress of our liberty. We have no alternative to propose but a United Empire; there is no other alternative; and I put the matter in this way—you want to break the Union—it is our duty to maintain it; you want to fly before your enemies; we want to defeat them; you propose to bribe the landowners to leave the country so that they should not be despoiled; we prefer to remain in a country which is our own, to take our chance there, and we say—"You shall not turn us out." I am not here to make empty boasts as to what will be done; but I do say that you have not the right to transfer the allegiance of the subjects of the Sovereign of these Realms. We believe that this Bill is only the first step in that direction; and believing that to be the case we, the Representatives of the loyal people of Ulster, without boasting and without threatening, are here to say that we stand by the Standard of England, and that we do not mean it should 678 be taken out of our hands. We ask you to substitute a policy of manliness for one of meanness, a policy of courage for cowardice; and we ask you to forego the base and treacherous course of handing over the government of Ireland to the avowed enemies of the Queen and of the United Kingdom.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir Henry James.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.