§ [FIFTH NIGHT.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [10th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ And which Amendment was, 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 again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY (Longford, N.)
Sir, I can well understand that hon. Members opposite who are anxious to "assist" the measure in the sense in which that word was used by the Leader of the Opposition should be anxious to assist it by a silent vote. Despite the assurance just given by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), the Friends of the Bill can congratulate themselves upon the improving and ripening prospects of the Bill within the past few days. Those bettering prospects have been brought about by some things occurring within the House, and by some things occurring outside the House. I think that the lengthened debate which we have already had in this House has done some good. I have no intention of referring to any of the points of last night's debate, though they are not unimportant; 1668 but it is well that the House of Commons should have a practical illustration of the extent to which sectarian hatred and the long-existing spirit of ascendancy, bitterness, and anger and passion in the North of Ireland depend upon the patronage and support of men in England. On that ground I am disposed to be glad that we heard some extraordinary Constitutional doctrines preached lately in this House by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). I am even disposed to be glad of the warlike statement made by the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), who told us that he has not only the honour to be a Member of this House, but is also a full private in a regiment of Militia. But some events that have taken place and some words used outside the walls of this House have also done much good in bringing about improved prospects for this great measure. I should like to refer especially to one or two remarkable speeches made within the last week. At one time it appeared to me as if a single speech made by the Marquess of Salisbury was likely to prove the most powerful agent yet devised for bringing about the success of this great measure. The noble Marquess made a speech so full of passion and rancour—he endeavoured to revive the worst of the old No-Popery spirit—he spoke with a violence, energy, and bitterness that certainly did not become one in his position. He appealed in words of admonition to the opponents of the measure to "sharpen their swords." Of course, he only spoke in the language of metaphor; still, at a time like the present—at a time when even a great General and soldier, called upon to say whether he had or had not used certain significant expressions, could only answer that he did not use them in a public speech—when we have the bold declaration of our own Miles Gloriosus of the Militia regiment, I do not think it is well for any great English statesman to dabble too much in perilous metaphor. I could not help thinking that if the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had a chance of meeting the noble Lord on some platform he might well address to him the words of Shakespeare in King John addressed by Faulconbridge to another Salisbury— 1669Salisbury.… put up your sword betime; Or I'll so maul you and your toasting-iron That you shall think the devil is come from hell.I trust Lord Salisbury will put up his toasting-iron, and not flourish it any longer during the remainder of this controversy. But I am bound to say the Marquess of Salisbury made a second speech in which, having, as it were, sheathed the "toasting-iron," he went on to contribute something more substantial to the discussion. Yes; he did at last propose a programme for the government of Ireland; and we would do him wrong if we did not admit that the noble Marquess did see his way to a programme, and confess that if he should succeed in turning out Her Majesty's Ministry, he, at least, knows what to do when he comes into their place. I invite the House to listen to the clear and precise statement of the Marquess of Salisbury's plan for the government of Ireland. There is, of course, to be coercion. That he now admits. At first he did not propose coercion—now, however, he admits it must be; but not that only. Here is what he proposes to do for Ireland—what he considers the duty of the Conservatives when they come into Office—It is the duty," he says, "of the Government in Ireland to devote its energies to the amelioration of the condition of the people, to do all they can for the amelioration, moral as well as material, to do all that is possible to stimulate their education and increase their culture, to do everything that can be done to make their industry easy, to open the paths of prosperity at home, to facilitate the development of their commerce, so that by the action at once of peace and order and moral advancement, and that amount of prosperity which is secured by keeping off pinching want, they may reach to the level of that happiness which in this land it has been our privilege to enjoy.Whoever does not at once admire the exceeding definiteness of that plan must, indeed, be very hard to please. One criticism must, unfortunately, be applied to it—that the noble Marquess, when telling us he was going to do all these things in accordance with the highest statesmanship, did not give us one hint or suggestion of how he was going to bring them about, or how he proposed even to set about establishing them. I was reminded of something that happened during the heat of the American War. President Lincoln was waited upon by a deputation—a most consequential deputation—who said that they had a 1670 most important programme to lay before his attention. The leader of the deputation said—Mr. President, our programme is the settlement of this controversy on a speedy and peaceful basis.The President said—Exactly; that is my programme, too, only I do not yet know how to bring it to accomplishment, and you have not told me how it is to be done.This is the defect of the noble Marquess's programme; he does not give the slightest idea of how to bring about all these magnificent results he tells us it would be his duty to accomplish. Therefore, we may say that, so far as any practical settlement of the case is concerned, we are still left with the old remedy of coercion, and the old suggestion as to the "sharpening of swords." Then another prominent figure in this present controversy is that of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington). Now, I have entire respect for the position occupied by the noble Marquess. He has never professed to have any sympathy with the National claims of the Irish people; but, on the other hand, I am bound to say he has always been consistent, and never said, so far as I know, anything unfair or unkindly of the Irish people. If there is a man in the world who might be excused for cherishing some painful associations with the very name of Ireland it is the noble Marquess; and I never remember his saying anything unfair of Ireland, or even, I would say, of the National Party. Only he has never been in favour of Home Rule, but was always opposed to it, and is so still. But he, too, contributes nothing towards the settlement of the question. His attitude has been simply one of negation, saying—"I will not do this; I will not do that; I will not do the other thing." But he has no suggestion to make on his own behalf, or on the part of his Friends. We may, therefore, safely leave him out of consideration when seeking where to turn for a settlement of the question. So that there is nothing open but the measure which the head of Her Majesty's Government proposes. There is, indeed, another, and, in some respects, perhaps, a more interesting figure prominent in this controversy. Novel writers are said to be fond of 1671 what is called a "complex character." I think that in the right hon. Gentleman I am referring to we have a decidedly complex character—the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). At one time it was well understood that he had a plan of his own. I remember reading a speech of the late Lord Beaconsfield, then Mr. Disraeli, delivered many years ago, and a passage in it struck me as being not inappropriate to the present state of things. He was discussing some of Sir Robert Peel's political projects; at that time he was more friendly to Sir Robert Peel than he afterwards became. He was speaking to a Member who had been a follower of Sir Robert Peel, but who was falling away somewhat. This Member talked to Mr. Disraeli about the Prime Minister's policy, and suddenly said—"Oh, we do not want his plan—what we want is Popkin's plan;" and Mr. Disraeli replied—"Sir, I object to this country being convulsed for the sake of Popkin's plan." But, Mr. Speaker, we are now in the inconvenient position that we have not even Popkin's plan. Popkin's plan has been withdrawn. Is no one prepared to come forward in the place of Popkins? Surely we may hope the right hon. Member for West Birmingham will yet bring something forward, and let us know what he proposes. So far, then, to use an expression with which we are familiar, the plan of the Prime Minister "holds the field" at present. We are only discussing the principle of the measure. I am not going to say that every one of the details has my complete approval, or the approval of those who are found on these Benches; but, on the other hand, we must remember that there never was a really great measure of legislation brought into the House that had not to undergo modifications before being passed into law. I remember no such measure that did not need, and that did not undergo, amendment in point of detail. Why do we accept this measure—why do we admire it? It is because it is a measure for the self-government of Ireland—because, for the first time since the Union, a great Minister and a great Party have raised the national flag of Irish self-government. In that spirit, and with that view, we cordially accept the Bill which proposes to give us a Parliament on College Green. Of course, 1672 we know just now that there is a very strong and passionate desire growing up amongst Members of this House and out-of-doors that the Irish Members should continue to retain their places in Westminster. Well, I can only say that we feel proud—not to say vain—of the extraordinary position we have come to. It is surely most delightful and flattering to us to be told that we are the keystone of the Imperial arch. Yes; it now appears that once we are withdrawn this splendid structure falls to pieces. Our opinion of ourselves grows every day. We never knew we were such nice people before. We never knew in what tender affection we were held. We never knew what pleasant company we are, and what tears would be shed at our departure. So attached are some hon. Members to us that they say they will absolutely wreck the Bill if some delegation of us is not left here to gladden them. Now, it is curious that some years ago, when I first began to write on questions of Home Rule—when I wrote several articles in a leading review on the subject—I always advocated the retention of the full number of Irish Members in this House. I was always met by English writers and Members of this House with the one self-same stereotyped answer—"We never can allow you Irishmen to go home and govern yourself apart from us, and then to come over here and take part in governing our Empire." Over and over again I was met with that reply, until I began to think it was hopeless to endeavour to frame any scheme of Home Rule which did not involve the exclusion of the Irish Members, and their relegation to an Irish Parliament in Dublin. No sooner did I come round to that state of mind—no sooner did I, if I may use the now familiar expression, "find salvation," than I was met by an instant change in the whole form and style of the criticism applied to that same proposition, and I was told—"We will have no Home Rule unless we have every one of you Irish Members, or a large number of you, to take part in the Business of this House." Well, I quite admit the force of the argument that in preparing a scheme of federation it would be better that such a course should be adopted; but how long are we to wait? Is Ireland bound 1673 to wait for the making of symmetrical and comprehensive schemes of federation? No such scheme has come within measurable distance of practical politics. This House of Commons has so much weighty work to do that it must be very long indeed, I fear, before it could frame and work out to practical success a broad, vast scheme of universal federation. But, Mr. Speaker, we in Ireland cannot afford to wait for that time. Our cause and our grievances will not bear the delay, and the question has reached a point when its settlement is imperatively called for; and we say to this House that the best thing to do is to form an Irish Parliament to begin with; and if at any time there should arise a demand for this scheme of federation, and if practical statesmen work it out, you have the Irish Parliament ready to be made a portion of that scheme. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Londonderry (Mr. T. M. Healy) said very well in this House, a federation is a federation of Parliaments; and if you have an Irish Parliament you have, at least, that one step towards an Imperial federation. But, in the meantime, we want to do something. We want to bring back prosperity, material and moral, to our country. We think we see our way a little more clearly to such an end than the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) appears to do in the programme he set forth. I was very much impressed by an argument used at an early stage of this debate by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread). In the course of a singularly powerful and eloquent speech he impressed on the House the necessity and importance of leaving the Irish Members free to do the work of their own country, and that alone, for he showed what immense—what terrible—need we have to devote ourselves with all the energy in our power to bringing our country into the way of prosperity. We have, indeed, a great and responsible work to do. Think of the number of demands we have made, unsuccessfully, to this Parliament from year to year, from generation to generation. Think of the number of wants to be supplied, and still left unsupplied. Think of the mere question of national education—primary, University, and technical education. We want to give our country a measure of education which the Irish people, hungering 1674 and thirsting as they are for culture, will be able to accept as an ample and satisfactory settlement of their just claims. On that point hon. Members of this House know there is a considerable concurrence between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. There is a large number of Irish Protestants who object to secular education as much as Irish Catholics. As to University education, that is, of course, in a most unsatisfactory condition in Ireland; and the House will well remember how scheme after scheme on that subject has been brought forward in Parliament; how some schemes were rejected, some accepted, amended, supplemented, and none of them going near to a satisfactory reform—to the universal demand of the Irish people. A scheme such as we desire would be settled in an Irish Parliament in the course of a single Session. Here it will come on Session after Session, and remain still unsettled. The reason is simply that there is in the English Parliament want of time and want of understanding too. First of all, you have not a proper understanding of the question; and, next, you have not, and cannot have, time to deal with it properly. You have other things to deal with which appear to you, and not unnaturally perhaps, more pressing; and this great question, as it seems to us, and as it is, is thrust aside meanwhile and forced into the background. There is nothing we want in Ireland more than a proper and substantial system of technical education. Many of the trades and manufactures of Ireland would become prosperous and vigorous if there was only sufficient technical education in the country. I do not believe that one of the wants of Ireland is, as has been stated, the want of capital from abroad of which we hear so much. A Committee sat upstairs to consider the subject of Irish industries, and some of the best authorities told us that there was in Ireland itself capital enough, but the capital wanted fluidity. It was there; but it was lifeless. That would not long continue if we had an Irish Parliament. Our capital under a Home Rule Government would be induced to flow, for we should have industry and trade. We would bring all the resources of the country into play, as to Irish fisheries, piers, harbours, canals, navigation, roads—in fact, with regard to almost everything 1675 concerning the internal traffic and life of the country. The other day I came across a Report by Dr. Sullivan, President of the Queen's College, Cork, and in that he gives details as to what ought to be done, and would be done, as to improving the manufacturing industries of Ireland. He pointed out the great want of harbours and piers all round the Coast for the accommodation of the fisheries; and he added that these, or anything like these, cannot be provided satisfactorily by the petty jobbing system hitherto adopted. He pointed out that if a country can afford to construct a network of water way through it without the expectation of immediate profit, it will be doing a work that is certain to be beneficial at large to the whole country, in the same way as a network of roads is constructed in all civilized countries, not for the benefit of the State, not for the benefit of individuals, but to facilitate the intercourse of the inhabitants. The same authority makes a remark which I commend to the attention of certain Members from Ulster above the Gangway. He speaks of the neglected condition of Lough Neagh. He says—Lough Neagh stands in need of being deepened, and of having a few piers and landing places erected. I do not believe there is a sheet of water of the same extent in all Europe in so complete a state of nature as Lough Neagh is.That does not speak so very well for the enormous energy of some of the people of Ulster. Under an Irish Parliament that reproach, I venture to say, would not exist. I have often been asked what sort of Parliament I think it is likely we should have in College Green—would it be, one English Member asked, a mere Parliament of politicians? Well, I may express my opinion, the opinion of one looking at the subject for many years at something of a distance, and say emphatically that it will not be a Parliament of politicians, but one of earnest, energetic, practical men, anxious to restore the prosperity of their country, and well knowing how to set about it. Sectarianism or class ascendancy would never, I believe, find a place in the debates of that Parliament. There would be eloquence, talent, and statesmanship; but there would be the hard work of practical administration. Further, I believe, and hope, and trust we 1676 would have men of the landlord class with us. I trust we should have some even of our Orange friends or enemies working with us cordially. I never care to join in any sweeping attack on the Orangemen. They have their weaknesses—others of us have. They speak strongly—sometimes far too strongly—and so, perhaps, do others; but my earliest political memories are drawn from the days of 1848; and in those days our dream was to regenerate the country by the union of "Orange and Green." That sentiment was conveyed by the refrain "Orange and Green will carry the day." I would rather have the Orangemen for friends than enemies. I say that, however, without the slightest fear of any danger that can come to our Party or our cause from the serried ranks in "the last ditch" or the battle array. I do not think the Leaders mean much fight, and I sincerely hope they do not mean any fight. When they cool down a little, and the battle does not come off, and the swords or "toasting irons" are sheathed, and the revolvers which have been ordered, we are told, in such vast numbers, are sent back to the makers, and the rotten eggs which have been ordered elsewhere have been buried in the earth, the Orangemen may see that the wisest thing is to settle down with us, and let all "take off our coats" and go to work together for the regeneration of our common country. One good thing, Mr. Speaker, this debate has done—it has entirely disposed of the mythical Ulster which was believed in by so many Englishmen. We have shown that Ulster is, by the majority of its population and of its Representatives, a Nationalist Province of Ireland. We have heard over and over again that the Ulster Members would do this and that. Who are the Ulster Members? One of them (Mr. William O'Brien) sits below me. I presume he would not vote for the exclusion of Ulster from the National Parliament. There are a number of Ulster Members sitting around me who are amongst the most advanced Members of the Irish National Party. I do not suppose they would vote for the exclusion of Ulster. In fact, there is nothing we could desire better than that this House should by some machinery take a plébiscite amongst the population of Ulster, and we should 1677 then soon see what was left to be said for the proposal to exclude Ulster from the shelter of an Irish Parliament. But I believe that the exclusion of Ulster is not a very serious proposition. If I am not mistaken, it forms part of the proceeding which I ventured to liken to Popkin's immortal plan. I do not believe that anyone who proposes that plan will get a great many Members of this House, even amongst the Secessionist Party, to "march through Coventry" with him. It has nothing to commend it to sane men's serious consideration. I do not think that very many hon. Members of this House, even those who now avow themselves Secessionists, will follow any Leader of Secession below the Gangway in support of such a proposal. It is possible that some right hon. Gentleman may try to play a game of brag. There is a legend told about the American War of Independence. A certain heroic American came in front of a British fort and called upon the fort to "surrender in the name of the Great Jehovah and of the American Confederation." His bluff game of brag was successful. The British commandant pulled down his flag. It may be that some such demand of surrender is being made at present to the Prime Minister with the same loud sound and the same amount of force behind it. But the Prime Minister is a very different kind of man from that English commandant, and I am perfectly satisfied he will not be induced by any bluff or game of brag to haul down his flag. I strongly trust that the right hon. Gentleman will listen to no suggestion for any serious mutilation of his measure. I strongly hope he will listen to no suggestion about hanging up this measure for another year. I trust that he will do exactly what he did in the great Reform struggle of 1866, of which he was the most prominent figure. I well remember the peroration of that memorable and magnificent speech with which he wound up one of the great debates on the Reform Bill in 1866. I well remember with what power and eloquence, quoting from the noble words of Virgil, he prophesied that an avenger would soon arise from the bones of those who were to perish on that field. Very soon the avenger did arise, and, curiously enough, from the quarter to which you might least have looked for it. The Reform 1678 Bill in the following year was brought in by the Tory Party. If I might venture to be prophetic now, I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the avenger will surely rise from the bones of those who may perish in this fight, as well as from the bones of those who perished in that fight. Let him persevere, and let the enemies of this Bill and of Home Rule do their worst. On them and on their heads be the responsibility—the terrible responsibility—for any consequences that may follow. But let the right hon. Gentleman go straight on to a decision. One thing I will say to him with perfect confidence. I have not been much given to pouring out language of high compliment to him; but I would say, come what will, the right hon. Gentleman has secured National self-government for Ireland. The Irish people feel that, and know that, and they will never forget it. There was a great Englishman—another great Englishman—who stood up for the Irish people, and whose merits and whose services were so revered by them that our National poet Moore described the Irish banshee as wailing over his grave. That statesman, I need hardly say, was Mr. Fox. Moore wrote of him as of oneOn whose burning tongueTruth, peace, and freedom hung.I think the words might well be applied to the right hon. Gentleman. I would urge on this House the necessity for the deepest consideration before they take any course which may threaten to destroy, or even to delay, this Bill. I speak now for the principle of the measure. I ask this House to be most careful and most cautious how it seems to stand between the Irish people and the establishment of this great principle. Goethe, in some great words translated by Carlyle, admonishes those who hear him to "Choose well; your choice is brief, but eternal." Now, I do not, of course, believe that the consequences of a mistaken choice in this case would be anything like eternal, but they might be painful; they might be long-lasting; they might do much to destroy the feeling of hope and confidence and the peaceful desire for a settlement which is spreading in the breasts of the Irish people. But the right hon. Gentleman, I trust, will persevere. He has been invited, or challenged, to go to the country. By all 1679 means, if it be necessary, let us go to the country, and ask the English people and the Scotch people what they think of the right hon. Gentleman and of the cause he now has at heart. Let us fight the battle here first—let our enemies do all they can to injure and destroy the Bill. If they do destroy it, then let Parliament be dissolved—let us go to the country, and, in the good old phrase which used to precede the ordeal by battle, "God show the right."
MR. FINLAY&c.) (Inverness,
said, he desired to crave the indulgence of the House while he very shortly stated the reasons for the vote he proposed to give on the second reading of that measure. He was sure he expressed the sense of every hon. Gentleman present when he said that they had been all struck by the fairness and moderation of the speech made by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. It had been a pleasure to him to hear it, and it had been a pleasure to read almost everything he had written. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that hon. Members in all parts of the House were animated by a desire to do justice to Ireland not less ardent than that which burned in his own bosom, and that the only difference between them was as to the choice of the means best calculated to effect that end. It must be matter of great concern to any Liberal, and, above all, any Scotch Liberal, to find himself unable to agree in any line of policy propounded by the present Prime Minister. He did not believe that anything could happen that would destroy in Scotland the personal attachment felt by the people of that country for the right hon. Gentleman. But political allegiance even to the greatest of Party Leaders had its limits. And when a measure of such transcendant importance as that now before the House was brought forward, he conceived that it was the duty of every man calling himself a Liberal to examine it for himself, and to decide how he should vote upon its merits. He had listened, and listened most attentively, to the various speeches that had been made in defence of this measure and in explanation of its provisions, and he was reluctantly driven to confess that the objections which occurred to his mind when it was first introduced had been rather strengthened than weakened. He was sure that the House was immensely indebted 1680 to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce) for the very clear and intelligible statement that he had laid before the House a few days ago. One had a clear and definite statement with which it was possible to grapple. The hon. Gentleman undertook to show the House that the supremacy of Parliament was maintained, and that there was nothing in that measure which need render any advocate for the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament apprehensive that that supremacy would be trenched upon. The hon. Gentleman stated that if that measure became law the Imperial Parliament would retain the right to repeal it if it pleased next year, or to alter it in any manner that seemed fit; and the hon. Gentleman also stated that of the necessity and propriety of so doing the Imperial Parliament would be the judge, and the sole judge. He himself had read the measure with much attention, and since his hon. Friend stated his views the other night he had reconsidered the subject with all the care that he could bestow upon it, and he regretted to say that his conclusion was directly the reverse of that which his hon. Friend had arrived at. He should feel some hesitation in pitting his opinions against those of the hon. Gentleman; but it was some satisfaction to have the best reason to know that the views he himself entertained were shared by some of the very highest authorities on such a subject in the country. He desired to draw the attention of the House to the fact that if the measure was intended to have the effect that his hon. Friend stated, it would appear that extraordinary pains were taken to conceal that intention. The measure destroyed the Imperial Parliament as it now existed. It created out of the materials which the Parliament provided two Parliaments—one the British Parliament on this side of the water, and the Irish Parliament on the other side of the water. It made provision for the reconstitution of what might truly be called an Imperial Parliament, by summoning back the Irish Members in certain events to take part in the deliberations of the House. Now, he would call the attention of the House to the 37th section of the Act, and ask that honourable House whether that section was, on any reasonable reading of it, consistent with the view propounded by the Under 1681 Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs? Section 37 was in these terms—Save as herein expressly provided, all matters in relation to which it is not competent for the Irish Legislative Body to make or repeal laws, shall remain and be within the exclusive authority of the Imperial Parliament, save as aforesaid, whose power and authority in relation thereto shall in nowise be diminished or restrained by anything herein contained.He asked the House and his hon. Friend, if his view be the correct one, what was the meaning of the section? There they had an express provision, as regarded matters not competent to the Irish Legislature, that the powers of the Imperial Parliament should remain unimpaired. Was not the obvious inference from that that it was intended, as regarded matters which were within the competency of the Irish Parliament, that the power and jurisdiction of the Imperial Parliament should be curtailed? If that were not intended, the language was most unhappily chosen for the purpose which, they were assured, was within the contemplation of the framers of the Act. But the matter did not quite rest there, because the 37th section referred them on to the 39th section, and in the 39th section they found these provisions—This Act shall not, except such provisions thereof as are declared to be alterable by the Legislature of Ireland, be altered, except by Act of the Imperial Parliament, with the consent of the Irish Parliament, testified by Address or by the Imperial Parliament to which the Irish Members have been summoned in pursuance of the powers conferred on Her Majesty," &c.What was the meaning of a provision of that sort? The Act should not be altered except by Parliament to which the Irish Members had been summoned. And then they were told by his hon. Friend that really meant nothing at all. The Act might be altered next day, or next year, by the Imperial Parliament, although not an Irish Member had been summoned to it. What, might he ask, if that were the correct meaning of the Act, was the object and intention of Section 39? But his hon. Friend put the case in this way. He said—"Oh, there would remain in point of strict law the right in the British Parliament, which is also the Imperial Parliament, to alter the Act in spite of Section 39." Whether that were so in point of strict law he was not much concerned to discuss with his hon. Friend. [Mr. W. E. 1682 GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] He entertained the very gravest doubt as to the correctness of that position, even looking at this matter in the narrowest and most technical manner, even looking at it in a manner, perhaps, more suitable for the Court of Chancery than the House of Commons. But of this he was thoroughly assured—that from the Constitutional point of view—from the point of view of good faith—the British Parliament could not deal with this Act in the manner suggested. It was said that—"Oh, if the Irish Parliament did not observe the spirit of the Act, you, the British Parliament, may alter it." Did not observe the spirit of the Act! Was there ever such astounding vagueness in any expression brought before the House to assist in carrying a measure of the sort?
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. BRYCE) (Aberdeen, S.)
My hon. Friend has misapprehended me. There is no vagueness. What I called the spirit of the Act is exactly what my hon. Friend calls the Constitutional meaning or bearing of the Act.
§ MR. FINLAY
did not think his hon. Friend's explanation added very much to what he had said the other night. If the Irish Parliament did not observe the Constitutional meaning of the Act the British Parliament might repeal the Act without calling back the Irish Members. But who was to decide whether the Irish Parliament had observed the Constitutional meaning of the Act? According to his hon. Friend, the British Parliament. Then, might he ask, was not that a clear breach of the Treaty arrived at between this Parliament and the Irish nation by this Bill if it became an Act? What reservation was there in this 39th section that the British Parliament should be entitled to decide whether the Irish Parliament had observed the spirit or the Constitutional meaning of the Act? He affirmed without the slightest hesitation that the supremacy of Parliament arrived at in such a manner would, in every instance in which it was exercised, be based upon a breach of faith. Here was a Treaty with the Irish nation by which the Imperial Parliament contracted that this Act should not be altered except in a particular manner. There was no reservation to the British Parliament of 1683 the right to decide whether the Irish Parliament had or had not observed the spirit of the Act; and yet it was contended that, in defiance of that Treaty, the British Parliament might at its will and pleasure say that the Irish Parliament was not observing the spirit of the Act, and recall what they had given. But they now knew what the intention of the Government in this matter was, and if this Bill should ever reach the stage of Committee he supposed they might take it as now certain that the Government would remove all doubts by introducing words which would make it clear to hon. Members below the Gangway on the other side that their Parliament was to be entirely subject to the British Parliament, from which the Irish Members were to be excluded. He wondered how they would like it. He could not help being struck by the significant silence upon the Nationalist Benches, from which tumultuous applause usually proceeded when anything in support of the Bill was said, particularly when it came from the Treasury Bench—he could not help being struck with the silence when his hon. Friend was explaining his views on Constitutional law. The draftsmanship of this Act, if the intention was what his hon. Friend described, was indeed extraordinary. The draftsman must have had before him two well-known Acts of Parliament, the Indian Councils Act of 1861, and the Colonial Laws Act of 1865; and in both those Acts, dealing with closely analogous subjects, there were contained sections expressly reserving the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Might he ask why those provisions, which could not have escaped the attention of those who drew this Act, were excluded from this Bill? The inference from their omission, if this Bill became law, and the question ever were argued in a Court of Justice, would be almost irresistible. But suppose this provision to be introduced, and the subjection of the Irish Statutory Parliament to be made so clear that no question could arise about it, were they to learn nothing from the teachings of history in this matter? His hon. Friend knew well that this very question, whether the British Parliament could make laws to bind Ireland, formed the subject of a long and envenomed controversy between the two countries. Volumes had 1684 been written on the subject. A Statute was passed in the Reign of George I. for the purpose of declaring that the British Parliament had power to make laws to bind Ireland; and the Irish nation—if he might quote the words of the historian Hallam—could not avoid writhing under the indignity of its subordination, and it was impossible that the Irish House of Commons, constructed so much on the model of the English, could hear patiently of liberties and privileges it did not enjoy.Were they in those matters to travel for ever in a vicious circle? Were they with their eyes open, and in spite of the teachings of history, to reproduce all the conditions that led to the agitation which culminated in the granting of Grattan's Parliament? He did not think so meanly of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland. They would not be the descendants of those ancestors who won their liberties last century if they tamely acquiesced in a state of things so degrading. They heard a great deal from the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Stansfeld) of the rights of nationalities, and a great deal about Irish nationality. He (Mr. Finlay) asked, would any nationality worthy of the name be content with a measure of this sort, giving it a Parliament subject to an alien Parliament, from which its Representatives were excluded? Grattan's Parliament had many faults, but it had, at least, one merit which this Statutory Parliament never would have—that it did satisfy the aspirations of the Irish nationality. [An. hon. MEMBER: It did not.] Then, was he to take it that the Irish nationality would not be satisfied even with Grattan's Parliament, and that they would take this measure as a stepping-stone to another, and they would regard another Grattan's Parliament as only a stepping-stone to complete separation? This proposed Parliament could not satisfy those aspirations. Not only would it be subject—if the intention as expressed by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs were carried out—to a British Parliament; but in the management even of Irish affairs it would be "cabined, cribbed, confined" in a way which the Irish nationality would not long endure. Even if the Irish were content with a Parliament which would not have free scope with regard to religion and 1685 education, Customs and Excise, he asked how long was it likely the Irish would acquiesce in that provision which restrained their Parliament from passing any measures with regard to trade and navigation? What had been the cry of the Irish patriots since the time of Dean Swift, who took up the matter? It was protection for Irish industries. Dean Swift advised his countrymen to burn everything that came from England except English coals; and if he was not much mistaken there had been speeches made at a very recent date, amid tumultuous applause, at meetings in Ireland in which large measures of protection for Irish industries were advocated. How long would the Irish people acquiesce in restrictions of the sort that were named? They had heard a great deal of late of "autonomy." In the speech of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) the word "autonomy" occurred in nearly every third sentence. He rolled it as a sweet morsel under his tongue. He seemed to think that in that "blessed word" he had found that peace which followed those anxious searchings of heart which preceded his complete acquiescence in this measure. Autonomy was a word which would bind no one who used it to anything. It might mean anything up to, and including, complete independence; and he apprehended the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) would find little difficulty in satisfying a tribunal much more critical than any he was likely to meet with in Ireland that that, after all, was the true meaning of the word. Of one thing he was perfectly satisfied, and that was that this measure did not grant autonomy to the Irish people. Autonomy was the right of a people to make its own laws. Did they call it autonomy when they struck out the power to make laws relating to religion and education, Customs and Excise, trade and navigation, and other subjects which were excepted? Hon. Members would be the very slaves of words if they were induced to pass the second reading of this measure by the introduction of this new phrase into the debate. He had listened with some surprise to some of the arguments that had been adduced in support of this measure. They had heard a great deal of the Treaty of Union. They might learn something, perhaps, from the 1686 history of Ireland during the last century; but he thought the House might also learn something from the history of Scotland in connection with this matter. They were told that the Treaty of Union was obtained against the unanimous sense of the Irish people; that it was obtained by the foulest corruption; and that it had long failed to bring prosperity and content to the people of Ireland. Every one of those things might have been said, and long was said, with even more truth, of the Treaty of Union with Scotland. Was the Treaty of Union with Ireland obtained without the sense of the people of Ireland? [Cries of "Yes!"] So was the Treaty with Scotland. If he might quote Sir Walter Scott, he said—Men otherwise the most opposed to each other—Whig and Tory, Jacobite and Williamite, Episcopalian and Presbyterian—all agreed in expressing their detestation of the Treaty.Was the Treaty with Ireland obtained by bribery? So was the Treaty with Scotland. The only difference was that the Irish Representatives, to do them justice, seemed to have driven a much better bargain with the Imperial Parliament than the Scottish Representatives did. The list of the bribes that were given to obtain the Scottish Treaty of Union had been published; and it had been well said that it would be difficult to say whether the descendants of those noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen would be more shocked at the fact that their ancestors were corrupted, or scandalized at the smallness of the bribes they received. It was said the Treaty of Union had failed to bring content and prosperity to Ireland. So the Treaty of Union with Scotland also failed to bring content and prosperity to Scotland for many a long year. It was not until after the accession of George III., after the year 1760, that Scotland began to experience any benefit from the Treaty. For some 50 years Scotland was a sufferer by the Treaty. Her shipping trade suffered, all classes suffered. The favourite inscription on sword blades in Scotland during the first half of last century was "Prosperity to Scotland and no Union," and no sermon was complete without having a slap at that obnoxious Treaty. No doubt, the conditions in Ireland were infinitely more trying, and it would be no matter for surprise if a much longer 1687 period of time and greater efforts were necessary to heal the scars, to heal the wounds, that centuries of wrong had inflicted upon Ireland. He did not think any Englishman could read the history of English dealings with Ireland without a blush; and accumulations of wrong were not done away with in a day; but he very much questioned whether the Treaty of Union with Ireland had, in point of fact, been a failure. They heard statements sometimes put forward as if it were the Treaty of Union that was responsible for the Irish Famine. ["Hear, hear!"] If hon. Members believed that, they would believe anything. The Treaty of Union has brought a great increase of prosperity to Ireland. It was true that that prosperity had of late been checked; but he believed that the check had been due to causes unconnected with the Treaty of Union, and to causes which its repeal, total or partial, would rather aggravate than remove. He desired very shortly to lay before the House what appeared to him to be the insuperable objections to the second reading of this measure. The maintenance of the Treaty of Union was thoroughly compatible with a large measure of local self-government. He desired to see a large measure of local self-government, not for Ireland only, but for the whole of the United Kingdom; and he believed he expressed the sense of the great majority of those who were opposed to this measure when he said that the devolution, to a very great extent, of the powers which now rested in the overworked Imperial Parliament might be effected upon Local Bodies to be elected in suitable districts. He believed that inquiries, for instance, as to Railways and Canals, Gas and Water Bills, ought to be conducted in Ireland before Irish tribunals; and what he would do for Ireland he would do also for Scotland and England. He would go a great deal further in giving power to hold these local inquiries as to local measures on the spot. A large measure of local self-government for Ireland would be perfectly compatible with the maintenance of the Union; but he believed this measure to be incompatible with the maintenance of the Union. They were sometimes told they ought to read the measure a second time, by way of affirming its principle; but it must be recollected that before the House could affirm 1688 a principle, whether it were embodied in a Resolution or a Bill, it must have some reason to believe that that principle was capable of being satisfactorily reduced into a good working measure. But were there 12 hon. Members outside the Cabinet who thought that this measure, if passed as it stood, would or could be made into a good working measure? The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) the other night was very clear in his desire that the principles of the Bill—which, by the way, he did not define—should be affirmed by the second reading, and then he made this significant statement—that every hon. Member had his own ideas of what alterations should be made in it. The hon. Member did not state his own idea; but he did say that the better a Constitution was on paper the worse it was in practice, from which he seemed to draw the comforting conclusion that the worse it was on paper the better it was likely to be in practice. He (Mr. Finlay) ventured to say that, not merely on matters of detail, but on matters of capital importance, which went to the very roots of this measure, there was an astounding diversity of opinion among hon. Members who were yet prepared to vote for the second reading of the Bill. He apprehended that if every hon. Member were to state how he thought the Bill ought to be transformed, they would find that the true Babel was among the supporters of this measure, and not amongst its opponents. One could not help being reminded, in looking at this measure, of the words used by that great master of argument and illustration—Lord Macaulay. In speaking of a proposal for separate Legislatures for the two countries, he said that such a measure would unite England and Ireland somewhat after the fashion in which the Siamese twins were united—united by an unnatural ligament, making each the constant plague of the other, always in each other's way; more helpless than others, because they had twice as many hands; slower than others, because they had twice as many legs; not feeling each other's pleasures, but tormented with each other's infirmities, and certain to perish miserably by each other's dissolution.He thought they were justified in coming to the conclusion that the fault was not in the workmanship, but in the essential principles of the Bill. The Bill was the work of the greatest political genius in 1689 the world, and he thought they were justified in concluding that if the measure was not one which could work well the fault was not in the execution, but in the principles from which the Bill had started. He did not wonder at the resolute refusal of the Government to acquiesce in the demand that the Irish Representatives should remain at Westminster. If the demand were conceded the whole Bill would be revolutionized. It would require to be re-drawn from beginning to end, and would not be the same measure, but another measure altogether. They had heard it suggested that there was diversity of view among those who, on the Liberal side, had led the opposition to the second reading of the Bill. He apprehended that the wish had been father to the thought, for it struck him that if the demand of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) for the retention of the Irish Members were acceded to, it would be found that there must, by logical sequence, emerge a measure to which neither the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (Lord Hartington) nor any other hon. Member of the House could have any objection. But the Bill would be totally transformed, and would not be the measure which the House was now asked to read a second time, but another measure altogether. But what followed from the adherence of the Government to that attitude as to not retaining the Irish Representatives in the Imperial Legislature? Why, this. Ireland was reduced to a mere dependency, paying tribute to a stronger and wealthier neighbour, but which had no voice in the shaping of the policy for which the tribute was required. They were told that that was the position of the Colonies, and this measure was intended to treat Ireland as if it were a Colony. The answer to that observation was short and decisive. The Colonies had no voice in the control of Imperial affairs; but they did not contribute taxation for Imperial purposes. It was impossible, therefore, to suppose that Ireland could acquiesce in a state of things similar to that which justly gave rise to the American War of Independence. He was quite sure, if he might speak for his own country, that Scotland would reject with indignation the proposal of such a measure. Were they to put upon 1690 Ireland what Scotland would spurn? But they were told the Irish took no interest in foreign affairs; that their attention was concentrated upon their own home matters. He very much doubted that statement. He believed that the interest in Imperial matters in Ireland was limited only, as it was in Great Britain, by the diffusion of education and intelligence; and Irishmen took just as much interest in Imperial affairs as Englishmen or Scotchmen of the same class. But he thought they had the best proof that there was one department of Foreign Affairs in which the followers of the hon. Member for Cork had taken a very keen interest indeed. When anything emerged in foreign affairs that was likely to humiliate and embarrass Great Britain, the most lively interest in these foreign affairs was manifested at Nationalist meetings. During the difficulties in the Soudan, after the hon. Member for Cork, the Mahdi was the most popular man among his supporters. He did not think that was a happy omen for the concern which the Irish, under this or any other Bill, would be likely to take in foreign affairs. They were told that the Irish Representatives accepted this measure, and that those who objected to it were Hibernis ipsis Hiberniores. He had listened very attentively to the debate, and to what had been said by the Irish Representatives; but he had not heard one word which would entitle them to charge them with breach of faith, if, after some months or years, they were to agitate to get rid of provisions in this Bill which they found to be impracticable and unworkable. They were tied to nothing, and if this measure were to pass, so far as the future of their country was concerned, they would have free hands; and he honoured them for that, with every motive for the passing of this measure, with victory and the spoils of victory almost within their grasp, the Irish Members had been careful not to say anything which would tie their hands, or prevent their asking more in the future. But even if they had said a great deal more than they had done, the question was not whether they were at this moment prepared to accept the Bill, but how long would the people of Ireland be content, under such a state of things, to accept it? What powers had hon. Gentlemen to bind the people of 1691 Ireland as regarded the future? How many years would elapse before every Irishman worthy of the name—[a laugh]—the hon. Member who laughed would not assume the same tone at a meeting of Irishmen in his own country—how many months would elapse before every Irishman who was worthy of the name would be up in arms against the continuance of a state of things so intolerable and so degrading? But he had another objection to the measure, an objection that related to it so far even as it dealt with purely Irish affairs. This measure proposed to create one Parliament for two nationalities. Here he would again, if the House would permit him, quote from Lord Macaulay, whose speeches upon this subject really contained almost everything that could be said upon it. Lord Macaulay said—Of this I am quite sure, that every argument which has been urged for the purpose of showing that Great Britain and Ireland ought to have two distinct Parliaments may be urged with far greater force for the purpose of showing that the North of Ireland and the South of Ireland ought to have two distinct Parliaments.
§ MR. FINLAY
said, he thought the date was 1833. He was not aware that there was the slightest reason to suppose that Lord Macaulay, up to the end of his life, in any degree changed or modified his opinions. He asked hon. Members who had listened to the debate on the Arms Act last night whether they thought the tone of that debate was re-assuring as to the prospects of Ulster if this measure were passed? Ulster was largely inhabited by a population nearly akin in blood and religion to that of Scotland. That population, if this Bill passed, would be in a permanent minority. They protested with one voice against the passing of this Bill. [Cries of "No!"] The population of which he was speaking protested with one voice against the Bill. Should they hand them over bound hand and foot to a rule which, rightly or wrongly, they would abhor? The problem was still further complicated, for there were scattered throughout the South and other parts of Ireland groups of settlers of the same race and religion. Ulster would not abandon them, and Ulster asked that she herself should not 1692 be abandoned. He had heard with some surprise complacent references made last night to the probability that John Bull might employ the Forces of the Crown for the purpose of putting down the Ulster to which he referred. As to that, John Bull might answer for himself; but, if he knew anything at all of his own fellow-countrymen, he was perfectly certain that Scotland would never abandon Ulster. But they were told the fate of Ulster was to be determined in Committee. He asked the House whether such a proposal was ever made before? He thought it should be made clear, before they passed a Resolution relating to Home Rule or autonomy for Ireland, whether or not Ulster was to be included. Were they to read the Bill a second time without determining a vital principle of that sort? He maintained that the mere fact that the fate of Ulster was as yet undetermined was a sufficient reason for not reading the Bill a second time. But then they were told provisions were made for the protection of the minority by the constitution of a first and second Order. There were to be two Orders. There was to be an Order elected by owners of property of a certain qualification. They had heard a good deal, in the course of the discussion, about this measure; but they had not heard this proposal for the two Orders seriously treated. It was a proposal which in its nature was inconsistent with the democratic tendencies of the age. It was a proposal which he did not believe could become law, and it was a scheme which, if it did become law, he did not believe could last for six months, Then they were referred to another provision made for the protection of the Loyal minority in Ireland. They were told that there was a power of veto to be exercised by the Lord Lieutenant on measures that might be passed by the Irish Parliament, and this provision was contained in the 7th section of the Act, which provided that—Subject to any instructions which may from time to time be given by Her Majesty, the Lord Lieutenant shall give or withhold the assent of Her Majesty to Bills passed by the Irish Legislative Body.Now, he thought the House was entitled to have a clear and explicit statement whether that veto was to be a real one or not. Was it intended to be exercised as the veto of the Crown in this country 1693 was exercised—on the advice of the responsible Ministers who represented the majority in the Irish Parliament? That proposition was one which would render the veto no veto at all, because the Ministers who represented the majority of the House which had passed the measure were certain to advise the Crown to give its assent to it. If this was a real veto, on whose advice was it to be exercised? It must be on the advice of the British Cabinet. Then they would have this extraordinary state of things produced—that every time the veto was exercised they brought into collision the Executive of Ireland and the Executive of Great Britain. Was that a state of things to which that House would lend its sanction? Would it allow of the veto being really operative and effective? They had got a very substantial proof that it was not contemplated that the veto should be effective, and that proof was found in the fact that the sister measure, for the purchase of land in Ireland, was regarded as being an essential part of the scheme. He was not going to discuss the details of a measure that was not then before the House; but it was manifest that such a measure as the Land Purchase Bill was required, because there was an idea that injustice might be done to landlords; but if the veto were a real veto the injustice might be prevented. There was no confidence in the veto; therefore it was necessary that the Land Purchase Bill should be passed. He would particularly call the attention of his hon. Friends below the Gangway to that point. If the Bill now before the House passed and became law, the passage of the Land Purchase Bill into law became inevitable. It was not only that they had been told that honour and policy alike required some such measure, but there would be behind the Government such support as would render the passage of the measure certain. It would be of no use for hon. Members below the Gangway to vote against the Land Purchase Bill. They might record their protest against it, and discharge their consciences, but the Government would have behind it a solid phalanx on the other side of the House who would vote for the passage of the measure as, in their opinion, a necessary measure of justice to the landlords. He appealed to his hon. Friends whether, under these circumstances, 1694 they would think it right that the Bill now before them should be read a second time, which, if it became law, would render it necessary and inevitable that the Land Purchase Bill should follow, and also become law? He protested against the second reading of this measure, because, if it passed, they would have to pass another measure by which the working men of their Scottish towns, their agricultural labourers, and their Highland crofters would have their credit pledged as taxpayers for the purpose of providing compensation to Irish landlords. He had submitted what, to his mind, were five blots in this measure. The first was, that he thought they had the best reason for believing that the principles of the Bill were not capable of being embodied in a measure which would work satisfactorily. The second was, that it had about it no element of finality, but would, in the very nature of things, only open the way to agitation for fresh concessions. The third was, that it would reduce Ireland to the position of a tributary, without a voice in that policy the taxes for which it had to provide. The fourth was, that it would put the population of Ulster, to which he had referred, in a permanent minority, and under an Executive representing a majority in the South of Ireland. And the fifth, and perhaps the most serious of all, was that, if this measure became law, as surely as the sun would rise to-morrow it must be followed by the passing of the Land Purchase Bill. But they were told that, whatever were the objections to the Bill, they ought to pay deference to foreign opinion. He paid all proper deference to foreign opinion. He believed that on that point it was really in suspense; but even if it were more clearly pronounced than it was, after all, we ought to know our own business best. The risk was ours—it was upon us, upon Great Britain, and upon Ireland that would fall the penalties failure; and if the measure did not not succeed, these very nations, in deference to whose supposed opinion we were asked to pass this measure, would justly deride us if, on such grounds, we passed a Bill that in its results proved disastrous. They were told that the opponents of the Bill incurred a great responsibility. What, he would ask, was the responsibility of those who supported 1695 it? They were told that the opponents of the Bill on that—the Liberal—side of the House were seceders from the Liberal Party. He denied it; and, more than that, he retorted the charge. It was not they who were seceders, but those hon. Gentlemen who were prepared to vote for a measure at variance with the principles of every great Liberal statesman, till recently, since the Union. They were told that their action might injure the Liberal Party. To his mind, the real enemies of the Liberal Party were those who seemed to be bent on conveying to the mind of the country the impression that the rank and file of the Liberal Party was made up of men who were ready to vote for anything at the word of command. He believed that to reject this Bill was the path of honour, and he hoped and believed that for the Liberal Party it would prove to be the path of safety also.
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON (Dewsbury)
Sir, my hon. and learned Friend who has just sat down (Mr. Finlay), in the very able speech which he delivered, said, with reference to the opinion of foreign nations, that we best know our business. I wonder that he did not see the application of that principle to the Irish Members. They, I should think, know what is best, what is good for their country, and they come here to say so, and they support this measure. My hon. and learned Friend quoted the speech of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce); but he did scant justice to his argument. It is true that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs laid down a very wide proposition as to the power inherent in the Imperial Parliament. Every tyro in Constitutional and political history knows that the Imperial Parliament is omnipotent; and, in referring to its jurisdiction, Lord Coke said—"Si jurisdictionem spectes, est capacissima." The Imperial Parliament has the power to change the succession to the Crown, as it did in the time of Henry VIII. and William III. It has power to change the established religion of the country, as it did in the time of Henry VIII. and his three immediate Successors; and it has the power to change the Constitution itself, as it did at the time of the Revolution. But, Sir, I did not understand my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State 1696 to mean that Parliament, although it has the Constitutional power, would have the moral right to repeal a Statute which formed the substance and subject of a compact between ourselves and another country; on the contrary, if my hon. and learned Friend had continued the quotation from the Under Secretary of State, he would have found that he went on to say that, if this measure become an Act, it would be a compact between the Imperial Parliament and the people of Ireland, and that if the compact was not violated by the people of Ireland, we should have no right to alter or rescind it without the consent of the Irish people declared through their Representatives. In that way he qualified the larger proposition he had laid down. My hon. and learned Friend has quoted from the pages of Hallam, to show that there was a long contest between the Irish Parliament and the Imperial Parliament, and that the Irish Parliament was continually claiming independence; and he referred to the Statute of 1 Geo. I., which declared that the Irish Parliament was subservient to the Imperial Parliament. But my hon. and learned Friend forgot another Statute, that of 23 Geo. III., which repealed the Statute of George I., and which distinctly laid down and declared in the most positive manner that the Parliament of Ireland and the Judicature of Ireland were entirely independent of the Imperial Legislature and the Imperial Judicature. That Statute of 23 Geo. III. repealed the Statute on which my hon. and learned Friend laid so much stress, and it was an extraordinary omission on his part that he did not allude to it. But in quoting from Hallam I will remind my hon. and learned Friend of another passage in the very same page, I think, from which he quoted, in which the historian tells us that, from the time of Henry VI. or Edward IV., it was established that the Statutes of the Imperial Parliament had no effect in Ireland, unless they were re-enacted by the Irish Parliament. It is true that the contention between the two Parliaments was afterwards revived; hence the Statute of George I.; but that Statute, as I have shown, was repealed' by 23 Geo. III., and the independence of the Irish Parliament declared by it. Hon. Gentlemen, both inside and outside of the House, speak 1697 of this measure as if the idea of an Irish Parliament was something new. The whole discussion, from first to last, seems to go upon the assumption that Ireland has never had a Parliament, and that it is proposed for the first time to establish one in Ireland. Why, in the time of Henry II., immediately after the Conquest, the King introduced into the country, as far as he could, all the political and judicial institutions which existed in this country, and King John, I believe it was, summoned the first Parliament, and the Parliament then instituted existed, in a more or less developed form, down to the time of the Act of Union. It is true that, until Grattan's Parliament, it was subservient to the British Parliament; that before "Poyning's Law" there was no limitation to its power. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] Poyning's law introduced the first limitation, and that limitation was taken away by the institution of Grattan's Parliament. But it is said that—The Irish Parliament was, after all, a miserable affair; that it was only a Protestant Parliament, a Parliament for the Protestants of Ireland.That is true; but it had, nevertheless, jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland, and it exercised it. But suppose it was only a Protestant Parliament, what else was the Parliament of England at that time, and down to a very recent period? Why, in that respect, the English Parliament was even inferior to the Irish Parliament, for it was not merely a Protestant Parliament, but a Parliament composed of the members of one Protestant Church only; none but a member of the Church of England could sit in it down to 1828, when the Test Act was repealed. I do not care to traverse the ground which has been so often traversed already; and I will say nothing as to the manner in which the Parliament of Ireland was induced to put an end to its existence. I would rather consider the circumstances and the necessities which caused the introduction of this measure. It is the result of a long and bitter experience; an experience that has taught us to know and to feel that we have failed utterly in governing Ireland through the Imperial Parliament. I hold in my hand a list of measures rejected by this or the other House to prove my statement. We have here, for instance, 103 or 106 Irish Members, considerably 1698 outnumbered by the Members representing England and Scotland. In the House of Lords Ireland has no representation at all, for the 28 Irish Peers who sit there are the Representatives of a class—they do not represent the country. What is the consequence? Whenever a measure is introduced with the most beneficent purpose—take the case, for instance, of the Land Act of 1870—it is mutilated here first, in order to conciliate its opponents, and when it gets to the House of Lords it is torn to tatters, if not rejected entirely. That was the case also with the Land Act of 1881—[Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!]—when the Prime Minister, although he had been cautioned again and again by the Members from Ireland as to its insufficiency in many particulars, was unable to move a step because of the difficulties by which he was surrounded. Then, what became of the question of Irish Education in 1873? The right hon. Gentleman was sent to power in 1868 by an overwhelming majority; in 1873 that majority was broken up and his Government wrecked on the Irish Education Question. What hope, therefore, can there be for Irish Members who set their hearts upon improving the educational system of their country, and who cannot have that improved system because the Imperial Parliament cannot agree to give it in the form in which it would be acceptable to them? I have here a list of measures which were rejected when hon. Gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House were in power. Measures which were non-political, such as Bills for the reform of Corporations, for the Registration of Voters, for the Improvement of Harbours and Fisheries—they were ruthlessly and invariably rejected. I remember remarking on many occasions to hon. Members on both sides of the House what a mistake it was, how the very thing was being done to encourage and to justify the demand for Home Rule. When we see a state of things like this, when we see a Parliament constituted as we are, even with the best intentions and endeavours, failing to satisfy the wants and wishes of the Irish people, is it surprising that they should demand to govern themselves, and to legislate for their own wants? I do not fear the evils which are predicted by the passing of a measure of Home 1699 Rule; and if I may be allowed to say something personal, I am not "one of the herd, or blind followers" of the right hon. Gentleman, to use the expression of some newspaper writers. I have judged for myself in this matter, for it will be in the recollection of some hon. Members that I voted for Mr. Butt's Motion in 1876. The experience of the years which have elapsed since that time has convinced me that there is no other solution of the difficulties between the two countries but that of giving to Ireland the right of legislating for her own internal affairs. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), whom I am sorry not to see in his place, says that you will destroy the union of the Empire if you pass this measure; and my right hon. and learned Friend defined "union" as being union of law, or, as he further explained it, union of the law-making power. I should have liked to ask him—"Is there no union between Great Britain and her Colonies?" There are two law-making powers here and in our Colonies to which we have granted Constitutions; and allow me to show you the result of the division of the law-making power. I believe that in all the Australian Colonies and in Canada a man may marry his deceased wife's sister. In Australia and Canada she is his wife; but if he brings her here she is his mistress. His children can inherit his property in Australia and Canada; they cannot do so here. In those Colonies, if he marry another woman in her lifetime, he commits a crime; if he does the same thing here, it is no crime. Now, could there be a more striking example of divergence in the law-making power? Yet would my right hon. and learned Friend say that, because there is that divergence, there is no union between Great Britain and Australia or Canada? There was a great deal of discussion last week about "right," and "abstract right." I have never read of any such distinction in any work on "Morals" or Jurisprudence. I have read of "perfect" and "imperfect rights," and of "perfect" and "imperfect obligations;" but I have never read of any distinction between "right" and "abstract right." But away with all these scholastic subtleties! They are, no doubt, interesting to us while we 1700 are students, and they are appropriate to the lecture-room; but they are, I think, out of place in an Assembly like this. I would rather appeal to those considerations and employ arguments that go straight home to the common sense of ordinary mortals; and I believe that the appeal which has gone forth now to the country, to the ordinary sense and instincts of right of the people, will not have been made in vain. They feel that injustice is going on, and that there is constant collision, and bitterness, and disaffection in Ireland, reaching to the verge of insurrection. They feel that something must be wrong, if all the attempts we have made to conciliate and to benefit that country have been failures, and they will say—"Give the Irish people a chance; let them manage their own affairs!" That is the plain, straightforward, common-sense view. But then we are told by a noble Marquess—the Marquess of Salisbury—that instead of this measure our true policy is a course of 20 years' firm government of Ireland—that is, of coercion. But the late Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Chaplin) said the other night that coercion was a misnomer, when used in reference to Ireland—that coercion was merely to compel obedience to the law. Well, it is true that all laws are coercive. Laws to make men keep their contracts, and laws to make one man keep his hands off his neighbour's property or his person, are coercive; but coercion as applied to Ireland is a very different thing. It does not mean merely compelling men to respect the law; it means the suspension of the liberties of the people. It means government by spies and policemen. It means the imprisonment of the innocent as well as the guilty, indiscriminately, upon mere suspicion, and for an interminable period without trial. I remember the effect of that state of things even upon hon. Members upon the opposite Benches. It was repugnant to their instincts and feelings, as Englishmen and Scotchmen, that men should be kept in prison on mere suspicion for an indefinite period without trial and without inquiry; and I remember a gallant Admiral (Sir John Hay), no longer in this House, putting a Question on this subject from the Benches opposite, and giving Notice of a Motion with a view to protesting against such a state of 1701 things. Well, are we now to go on in this old groove? Are we to have 20 years of this sort of government in Ireland? Are we to allow our country to play the rôle of Russia towards Poland? I believe that there is no Englishman or Scotchman who would face that alternative. I am astonished when my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Finlay) stands up here and says that the Union has been a success. Why, it has been one succession of Coercion Acts, one succession of repressive measures, suspensions of the Habeas Corpus Acts. In the whole course of the 86 years of the Union we have had 85 Coercion Bills of one sort or another, each of them of increasing severity, and the result is widespread disaffection and misery in Ireland, and hatred of English rule. Is this success? Then we hear it said—"What are you going to do with the loyal inhabitants of Ireland?" I have a great respect for those who are loyal, and I should be very sorry to take part in doing them wrong. But my advice to them is that they should show their loyalty by making peace with their fellow-countrymen. Give up your part of the "English garrison," and remember that you are Irishmen, and as Irishmen recognize your countrymen of different race and faith as your countrymen, and I believe you will have nothing to fear from them, and that you will reap good for yourselves and your country. It is said that you possess, and that you represent, the capital, the intelligence, the education, and the enterprize of Ireland. If that is so, apply those gifts and those advantages to the good of your country; bring your talents to its councils, and they will have their full weight. Then it is said that the feeling of Party is so strong in Ireland, that if hon. Members from Ireland sitting below the Gangway opposite were to become hereafter the Representatives of their country in an Irish Parliament, they would show no mercy to the minority—they would starve them out of the country. Well, Sir, I have mixed a great deal with my fellow-men, and I have known a great many Irishmen; but I never yet met an Irishman who was a fool. I have always found that, genial, and kind-hearted, and agreeable as he is, no one has a keener eye to his interest; and I do not think you would find the Irish Members, if returned to an Irish Parliament, so 1702 foolish and so stupid as to wish to drive all the capital and the best intelligence out of their country. I believe the whole thing is a myth, and that any apprehensions as to the action of an Irish Parliament, when it was established, would prove to have been unfounded. It is true that the Parliament of Ireland, as respects this Parliament, will hold an inferior position; but it will have all that the people of Ireland are asking for—namely, the right to legislate for their own internal affairs. And then "tribute" is spoken of. I say the word is not appropriate, because the Irish will simply be paying a fixed sum previously agreed upon for the benefits conferred upon them, and for the protection which will be afforded by Great Britain. As to separation, the idea always seems to me utterly absurd. Ireland separate from us when we are in actual possession of the country, when we shall have an Army there, and a Navy to guard and protect her Coast! How is it possible that there can be any separation under such circumstances? No, Sir; there is far more separation now. There is separation in feeling; there is disaffection towards the Imperial Government, the causes of which I have briefly referred to. But my earnest belief is, that if a measure of this kind be passed you will find a cordial union between the two countries spring up which has never existed before; and that, so far from wishing for separation, the Irish people will rather seek to draw more closely than ever the ties between England and Ireland. There is another question to which I wish briefly to refer—namely, the removing of the Irish Members from this House. I am not one of those who object to that provision in the Bill. It seems to me that if the Irish are to have a Parliament of their own they will have quite enough to occupy their best men in conducting the business of their own country. But I go further. I protest against Irishmen, who will have the right to conduct their own business in Ireland, coming over here and interfering with ours. I cannot see any injustice in their exclusion. But it is said that their retention would be a sort of pledge or symbol of the union of the two countries. Well, it would be a symbol that would be more likely to produce mischief than good, because it would not only bring them here to interfere in our 1703 business, but it might bring about those very agitations to which my hon. and learned Friend in his speech referred. I, therefore, do not join in the cry that the Irish Members ought to remain in this House. Then it is said that the principle of the Bill is inseparable from its details. I cannot see it in this Bill any more than in any other Bill. The principle is clear and patent. It is local legislation for Ireland. That is the principle of the Bill as I conceive it; and it is to that, and that only, that I commit myself in according the Bill a second reading. I will only conclude by saying that I hope, notwithstanding any opposition that may take place, and notwithstanding any secession from our ranks, hon. Members from Ireland will be patient, as we English and Scotch Members are obliged to be patient. We do not have our grievances removed in a day. We require many years of agitation to pass our measures. This question is now thrown before the country for the first time by a responsible Ministry; and you cannot expect that the country will in a few weeks make up its mind to do something almost entirely new to them, and which is presented by some men of weight in a highly objectionable light. This is the first time that a measure of this kind has been introduced by a responsible Ministry. The Repeal of the Union was agitated by Mr. O'Connell, who moved for it in this House. He failed. His movement was crushed; but it was not killed. Mr. Butt moved his Motion in 1876, and although he failed to carry it the movement had only smouldered; and now it is taken up and proposed on the responsibility of one of England's greatest Ministers, supported by the able men who compose his Cabinet. Introduced and laid before the country under these circumstances—do you think that it is possible that this movement can ever die? It will live, and it will grow; and if its opponents succeed in throwing out the measure, what will be the result? They will be dashing to the ground hopes which have been raised; they will be trifling with the tenderest and most sacred feelings of a people. I am not prepared to take upon myself, as an individual, any responsibility for throwing out this measure; and I shall vote for the Bill in the hope that, even if we 1704 fail to pass it this Session, the principle of self-government for Ireland may be adopted, and that the country will rally round the Prime Minister, and support him in his noble endeavour to establish peace and goodwill between the two countries.
§ MR. J. F. X. O'BRIEN (Mayo, S.)
Sir, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between the speeches of certain hon. Gentlemen on the Government Benches and those of our Tory opponents. The extraordinary bitterness with which the hon. and learned Member for Inverness Burghs (Mr. Finlay) has assailed this measure and the Irish Members must have struck the House very forcibly. There is, however, a reason for it. The hon. and learned Member has not forgotten that the votes of the Irish Party destroyed a little project of his with regard to the Church of Scotland which was in opposition to the views of the people of Scotland. Hinc illœ lachrymœ and the hysterics which we heard a short time ago. The hon. and learned Member went through the whole gamut, seeking for every possible objection to this measure. It would appear that he not only desired to keep the Irish people slaves, but to make them feel that they were slaves. He paid his tribute of respect to Ulster nationality; but that was a matter which has so often been explained that I am really surprised at the pertinacity with which hon. Members advance the same old arguments. What is Ulster nationality? Out of the two counties of Antrim and Down no such thing as an Orange nationality exists. Should Ulster get a Parliament, it is perfectly manifest that she would, under even the existing circumstances, throw in her lot with the rest of Ireland, or else elect the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) her Prime Minister—a result which it is questionable whether or not it would be pleasing to hon. Members above the Gangway. The views of Lord Macaulay have been described to the House in opposition to the views of the whole Irish people. The fact is plain—that the Irish Members have been elected on this single plank; and what is the sense or reason for parading the views of Lord Macaulay, or anyone else, in opposition to that wish? The hon. and learned Member wishes to drag Scotland into 1705 the controversy; but it is very doubtful whether he is authorized to represent the views of Scotland on the subject. There is no doubt that there is no means, except by a measure of this kind, to allay the disaffection existing in Ireland. Sir, the House has, in the course of this debate, listened to a great variety of opinion, favourable and unfavourable, to the merits of the measure under discussion, the importance of which cannot be exaggerated. And I trust in the resulting haze of argument pro and con the House will not lose sight of what is the real object of the Bill, and what, by its authors, it is calculated to accomplish. Sir, its aim is no less than the pacification of Ireland; the ending of the bitter strife of centuries between Ireland and England. I do not think a proposal of vaster importance can be brought before this House. No enterprize affecting more closely the welfare of the British Empire has ever been undertaken; and, should it be the good fortune of the Prime Minister, as I hope it will be, to succeed in his great endeavour to effect this pacification of Ireland, and to link these countries in bonds of lasting friendly Union, he will have done a service to England and to Ireland transcending in importance anything accomplished by any other British statesman who has preceded him. I have been amazed, and I am sure many hon. Gentlemen must equally have been amazed, to observe the pertinacity with which the opponents of the Bill have indulged in the use of irritating language, the only result of which could be to stir up and keep alive religious animosities in the Orange quarters of some Ulster counties. The existence of a partizan spirit amongst the Orange Ascendancy Party of Ulster, however much it is to be deplored, is intelligible, and to some extent, perhaps I might say, to be excused; for, unhappily, those men have been nursed and brought up in the midst of hateful prejudices and religious animosities, which Irish landlords and English Governments have, for their own base ends, zealously cultivated in that part of Ireland. But what is to be said for Englishmen, for whom we can make no such excuse, and who, nevertheless, recklessly join in and encourage the employment of such language? Sir, the bitterest enemies of your Empire have no more powerful allies than those 1706 Gentlemen who, in the interests of base Party tactics, employ purposely irritating language in the discussion of a question of such vast importance as this. Some of the opponents of the Bill, apparently more anxious for Party-tactics than regardful of the merits of the measure, or of the consequences of its success or failure, have taunted Irishmen that they have not always spoken of the Prime Minister in laudatory terms. But, as an Irishman who for a good many years has taken part in the politics of my country, I can tell the House that the feelings of the bulk of the people of Ireland for the right hon. Gentleman have, for many years, been those of gratitude for what he has striven to do, and admiration for his commanding abilities. Even on occasions when he became the instrument of suffering to themselves they strove in their own minds to distinguish between the man and the politician, forced by the exigencies of his position to be a party to what in his heart he detested. Among the number of those who will have addressed the House on this question, perhaps the opinions of one so insignificant as myself may, because of the circumstances of his past, be considered not unworthy of being recorded. Of the earnestness and sincerity of my convictions I have given unmistakable proof; for, acting on the Constitutional theory of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), having satisfied myself that Constitutional methods had been fully tried and tested, I joined in an attempt at armed resistance to misgovernment in the year 1867, and for which I was sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. But, notwithstanding the distinctness of my record in opposition to the misgovernment of my country, I have, for some years, been of opinion that some tolerable modus vivendi between Great Britain and Ireland would be a desirable and satisfactory settlement of the quarrel. I should never have consented to enter this House if I had not first made up my mind to do my best towards establishing and carrying out such a Treaty of Peace between Ireland and England. And I beg to assure the House that, in my opinion, this measure—amended as suggested by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. 1707 Parnell)—will be loyally accepted as a settlement by the vast majority of the Irish people at home and abroad, and will effect the pacification of Ireland, and put an end to that bitter strife of centuries, substituting for the hateful state of things now existing a real Union between the countries, founded on mutual goodwill and mutual respect. The opponents of the Bill assert that the authors of it have put into it the clauses and safeguards providing for the protection of the minority, because they distrust the majority of the people of Ireland. But the Prime Minister and other Members of the Government, on the contrary, have assured the House that those safeguards have been framed, not because of their distrust of the Irish people, but only to satisfy the groundless fears of the minority. For the same reason, Sir, we consent to those very elaborate safeguards, though they are positively restrictions which, in the hands of an unreasonable minority, would make the proposed Irish Legislature entirely unworkable. Nevertheless, we are willing to consent to those restrictions, because we do not believe that our Protestant fellow-countrymen, any more than ourselves, are the mad idiots they are represented to be. We believe this horrible mist of prejudice and religious animosity will not long resist the sun rays of healthy, actual experience when Irishmen of all Parties come together, and when each shall find that the strongest feeling in the breasts of all is an earnest desire to serve their common country. Sir, if any other country could point to a record of patriotism equally free from religious bigotry and intolerance, it would not need to assert before the people of England—the greatest admirers in the world, perhaps, of patriotism and religious liberty everywhere out of Ireland—that a like minority under like circumstances would be safe within its borders. Sir, the Protestant minority would be far more safe in Ireland than in any other country in the world under like circumstances. This is my honest and sincere conviction, and I must pretend to know my countrymen far better than those who have so grossly maligned them in this House and out of it during the past few months. Next, will the people of Ireland honestly carry out the contract? On this side of their character, also, the 1708 people of Ireland have been shamefully slandered. Let anyone for a moment consider how the property of Irish tenants has been confiscated for many generations; many millions of rent having been levied upon the very property created by themselves, and consider how those poor Irish tenants have, generation after generation, steadily paid those cruelly unjust exactions, so long as the barest subsistence for their families was left them. Let anyone consider the evidence, the honourable evidence, which Members of the Government have given in this House recently of the punctuality of the repayment of loans in Ireland. Sir, it is a shameful slander to impute dishonesty to the Irish nation. Sir John Davies—no biassed Irish authority—long since recorded his belief in their love of equal and impartial justice. From the manner in which the opponents of this Bill have been carrying on the discussion, one would be led to imagine that it is an indispensable sine quâ non that those for and against this or any other measure must have been all their lives of the same way of thinking on the same subjects; that the merits of a question and the knowledge acquired by experience count for nothing, compared with the critical question as to what one said 20, 30, or 40 years ago on this or that subject. Surely that is the merest childishness, and not the way to approach the discussion of any question, much less a question involving the fate of nations, the happiness or misery of the millions composing the populations of these Islands. The fate and happiness of Ireland and the Irish race are, of course, in the chiefest degree concerned in this great question. But the connection between these countries and peoples is now so close that happiness and prosperity for Ireland must mean peace and friendly feelings for all; while if you are about to doom Ireland to a further period of torture, to 20 years of coercion, it is idle to think that Great Britain shall go free of the consequences. I trust, then, that a question of such magnitude, and involving consequences so grave, will no longer be handled in such puerile fashion as reading to the House the opinions Mr. So-and-So entertained on this question 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Sir, the Ireland of to-day and its circumstances are not those of 40 or 50 1709 years ago, and men in everyday life act not upon the views of men and things they entertained in the dead past of 50 years ago, but upon the views they entertain of them in the living present of to-day. Among the opponents of this measure, the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) told us in this House, on the 9th ultimo, that he declined to join the Prime Minister in his proposal to examine and inquire into the Irish Question, forHe felt that an inquiry of that kind could not stop short of action of some kind.A peculiar piece of statesmanship surely on the part of one who, in Belfast, on the previous November, six months ago, pledged himself to a thorough reform of the Irish Government, and giving to Ireland large control of her own local affairs! The noble Marquess made on the same day—April 9—another remarkable pronouncement. He said—Whatever be the fate of this measure—the Irish Government Bill—its mere introduction by a responsible Government, by a Minister wielding, and justly wielding, the influence and authority of my right hon. Friend, will have done much which can never be recalled. This measure will henceforth be the minimum of the Irish national demand.And, Sir, that is quite true. It is what all intelligent opinion, English and foreign, all over the world, is agreed upon. And is not the logical deduction from such a consensus of opinion this—that the postponement of the settlement between the two countries is to be deprecated by everyone having at heart the good—the best interests of these countries? Is the state of Ireland such as any wise or good man would like to see continued? What can one think of the statesmanship which, while acknowledging that the introduction by the Prime Minister of this Bill makes this measure henceforth the minimum of the settlement between England and Ireland, refuses even to examine the question, because, forsooth, such "examination must lead to action of some kind?" Surely this is to be compared only to the action of the ostrich, which tries to avoid danger by hiding its head in the sand. In his Opera House speech, on the 14th ultimo, the noble Marquess said he objected to the Bill "because it invalidated the Union between Great Britain and Ireland." Why, the only 1710 chance of a real Union between the countries is to be expected from this very measure. On no less terms can the Irish people consent to a Union. On the same occasion the noble Lord indulged in a number of "ifs"—If the sanguine hopes with which this measure has been introduced should be disappointed; if it should turn out that the statesmanship of Mr. Parnell and of the National League fails to solve those difficulties which have hitherto baffled and perplexed the statesmanship of British statesmen; if it should be found after trial—if it should be found that the poverty of Ireland is not removed, but rather increased—if it should be found that the law is not observed; if it should be found that injustice has been committed," &c.A splendid style of argument surely! But could not that style of argument be turned against anything and everything? And, because one can start an "if" on the other side, is that to be held sufficient reason why the most grievous injustice is to continue undisturbed? But we can, after 85 years of bitter experience of the Union, say of it, without an "if," or any sort of hesitation, the sanguine hopes with which it was forced upon Ireland have been disappointed. The best statesmanship of England has failed to solve the difficulty created by it. It has been proved, after long and bitter trial, that the poverty of Ireland has been intensified by it; it has been found that that accursed Act of Union has made law hated in Ireland; it has been found that under it most grievous injustice has been done to Ireland. Mr. Giffen, a high English authority on financial statistics, shows strikingly and conclusively the results to Ireland of having her affairs recklessly exploited by Englishmen and Scotchmen, in the supposed interests of Great Britain, instead of being managed by Irishmen for the good of Ireland. Mr. Giffen shows that at the time of the Union, on the estimate of Ireland's wealth as compared with that of Great Britain, her quota of taxation was fixed at 2–17ths. Now, after 85 years of Union, he himself estimates that Ireland's gross income has fallen from that proportion of 2–17ths to about 1–20th; her capital to 1–24th, and her taxable resources to 1–50th of those of Great Britain. At the outset of his anti-Irish campaign the noble Marquess was very shy, lest he should be charged with allying himself with the Tory Party. He denied that 1711 the platform at the Opera House was a Tory platform. His opposition was so wanting in clearness of ring that, for a considerable time the Prime Minister evidently had hopes of him. But on the 18th instant, at Bradford, he boldly adopted the Tory views of this matter, and apparently he expects to carry his following into the Tory camp. He declared himself "an extreme opponent of Home Rule." He said—The people of Ireland sent their Representatives to Parliament to obtain for them the land of Ireland for nothing, or next to nothing.If he thinks 20 years' purchase nothing, it would be interesting to know what are his views of the real value of property, the bulk of which consists of the confiscated improvements of the tenants of Ireland. He assumed that—In a few years the Irish people may repudiate every article of this contract.In fact, he pretends to fear that the Irish people would think of nothing but how to do every possible evil—He never swerved from equal justice to Irishmen and Englishmen.And wound up that—England has in the past striven to do, and has done, her duty to Ireland.The position of the noble Marquess is, therefore, that of Lord Salisbury—each of them regarding Ireland from the point of view of the feudal aristocrat, who cannot bear to see his slave removed from his lash. It would be interesting if the House could learn to what extent the confiscated improvements of Irish tenants have been made to contribute to the swollen coffers of the House of Devonshire. Why, every fish that swims in the River Blackwater—for some 20 miles of its course, and for considerable distance into the sea at Youghal Harbour—must pay tribute to the Ducal Devonshire. It is easy to understand the noble Marquess's sympathy with the Landlord Orange Ascendancy Party. He is one of them. The attacks of these men upon Ireland are in their own interest, on more grounds than one. To those in the position of the noble Marquess the thought is not a far-fetched one—When Irish landlords are bought out—how soon shall attention be turned upon English landlordism? It is not quite certain that we may get as good terms as are now offered to the Irish landlords—for Englishmen are apt to improve upon the lessons they learn—and a 1712 much closer scrutiny may be applied to our case; and obviously, then, the longer we can maintain landlordism in Ireland, the longer shall we postpone the evil day for land monopoly in England.A word as to the "equal treatment of Irishmen and Englishmen," from which the noble Marquess has "never swerved." Some 15 years ago—in 1871, I think—he treated H.R.H. the Prince of Wales to a right royal spectacle. An amnesty meeting was held in the Phœnix Park—it was Sunday, and the weather being very fine the Park was crowded with men, women, and children; on a sudden, without warning, a large body of police, previously ambushed in contiguous hollow places, burst upon the scene, and with truncheons beat down the people most mercilessly, sparing neither age nor sex. We have not yet learned of his having treated the people of England after this fashion. I do not doubt he would if he dare. The opponents of this Bill have harped constantly upon the string—that the people of Ireland cannot be trusted with the powers proposed to be conveyed by this measure. It is assumed that the people of Ireland, if endowed with this Legislature, would at once proceed to the making of all kinds of absurd and wicked laws—Abolishing the crime of murder;" "confiscating property;" "cutting down to one-half interest payable to English and Scotch investors.But, I presume, it is only of the Catholic majority this estimate is formed. I presume those gentlemen have trust and confidence in the Loyal Orange Landlord Party, who would form a powerful Party in the proposed Legislature, and endowed with a veto power which would make all legislation impossible so long as it would be unsatisfactory to them. Notwithstanding that, the Irish people would have every possible reason for conciliating that minority, in order to secure the harmonious working of their new Government. Notwithstanding that, the Irish people would be fully aware how closely and jealously they would be watched from this side of the Channel in the exercise of their new powers. Yet Lord Derby pretends to believe that the Irish people are the mad idiots and fools to wreck and ruin their new-found happiness—that for which they have striven so long, so patiently, and so persistently, and with 1713 so much self-sacrifice—and all for what? to gratify a spirit of religious animosity! I have repudiated the imputations on the part of the Catholics of Ireland, and every Protestant Member of our Party will endorse my repudiation. But to place this matter beyond dispute, with the permission of the House I will read an exceedingly interesting letter lately published in a Belfast newspaper—The Northern Whig; the writer of the letter is the Rev. Matthew Kerr, the Presbyterian minister at Cork. He writes—Sir,—Can it be that Ulster Presbyterianism has no voice to raise on behalf of Ireland's claim to manage her own affairs? I cannot believe it. Presbyterians in Scotland, in England, and in America are speaking with no hesitating tone, and shall we be silent? We are loyal, but we will not be silent and allow the impression to go abroad that the Loyalists, Whig or Tory, speak for us. Let the sturdy farmers of Down and Derry, of Antrim and Tyrone, lift up their voice. The day for silence is past. I claim to have some right to speak on this question. All my ministerial life has been spent outside Ulster—in the West and in the South. I can fairly say that I have come into closer contact with the Roman Catholic people of Ireland than, perhaps, any minister of our Church; and, with this experience, spreading over a period of 35 years, I believe with all my heart that I am ready to intrust my civil and religious liberty to the Irish people with the fullest conviction that the trust will be safe in their keeping. The agitation that has raged so vehemently of late is the old agitation that began seven centuries ago, when England first conquered Ireland. It is in no sense with the Irish people a religious agitation. The feeling was as strong when England and Ireland were both Roman Catholic as it has been since England became Protestant, only that the religious difference has added a special acrimony to the future on both sides. The men who are hated most in Ireland to-day are Roman Catholics who have separated themselves from the national life, and have joined the English garrison. As Lord Spencer truly stated at Leeds, the trusted Leaders of the Irish people since the Union in 1800 have all been Protestant, with the exception of O'Connell. They who tell us that Home Rule means Rome Rule do not know Ireland, and have not studied, but in the surface, the present National movement. It is a National movement, pure and simple, except in Ulster, where Protestant prejudice has brought in the religious element. I was for a long time enable to understand the National feeling, brought up, as I had been, in a county Derry home, and educated entirely in Ulster. I tried to find out what was my native land. I could not find it. My friends and associates refused to be called Irishmen. Scotland could not well be my country, for my people had been out of it for more than two centuries, I settled down into the belief that I was an Ulsterman, and nothing more. Now I have learned to take all Ireland as my country, and I can feel the throbbings of patriotism within my breast. The 1714 National feeling is patriotism, and it is the most powerful factor in the settlement of the Irish Question. This patriotism, too, has had a wonderful influence in elevating the character of the Irish people, and kindling hope in their hearts through all the long years of their sad, sad history. I regret exceedingly that our Church, through the voice of her leaders, appears to be opposed at present to give to all Ireland the right to manage her own affairs. I regret, too, that some of my dearest friends are fighting, as I most firmly believe, not only against Ireland, but against our own Church interests. The mists of prejudice, however, are already beginning to scatter, and I believe that when the Assembly meets in June there will be a large body of both ministers and elders who will be prepared to do justice to Ireland. There is no ill-feeling in the South against Protestants. The strong, and I would say the ill-advised, language so often used in the North is not resented. All true Nationalists, Protestants, and Roman Catholics yearn to see a United Ireland—Ulster holding her own place in the front rank.For myself, I believe that a very short period of Home Rule will suffice to disabuse the minds of the Protestants of the North of Ireland, and to entirely exorcise the demon of religious discord. If hon. Gentlemen who oppose this Bill can be supposed to fairly represent English and Scotch opinion respecting Ireland, the outlook is not very re-assuring, and the only result humanly possible would be that the lamentable internecine struggle must go on to the dreadful bitter end—to the irreparable misfortune of both countries. But, as far as we can judge, it does not appear that those Gentlemen do fairly represent the opinion on this question of the ruling power in these countries—the enfranchised democracy of Great Britain and Ireland. We therefore hope that, in this measure, the great statesmanship of the Prime Minister has laid the foundation of a satisfactory modus vivendi, and of lasting peace and goodwill between the two Islands. Is this Irish Question to be settled now, and in good temper, or is it to be prolonged still further, embittering the antagonisms of race and creed? Will you never agree to give to Ireland a good measure until it is too late to produce the desired results—too late to be accepted by Ireland in a thankful spirit? If the old struggle is to go on, our position has been incalculably improved by the introduction of this measure, by the debates in this House, of which the whole world has been the attentive audience, and whose sympathy has at length been attracted to the cause of 1715 Ireland by the powerful championship of him who, by his great trumpet-blast has, ere now, caused the shackles to fall from the limbs of Bulgaria. Irish sympathy was strong in favour of Bulgaria, and rejoiced in her good fortune. I think it is doing no injustice to Bulgaria to say that the wrongs of Ireland are even more deserving of the sympathy of the friends of suffering nationalities as Ireland certainly has greater claim upon the sense of justice of the right hon. Gentleman, since it is the injustice perpetrated by his own country that is to be abated. There is an inducement for Great Britain to yield to Ireland this measure of justice, which is well worth the consideration of everyone who has at heart the fortunes of this Empire. If you are now ready to settle Ireland's claim on the terms named by your own Prime Minister, we are in a position to offer you the friendship of the whole Irish race all over the world. And anyone capable of valuing at its proper worth the establishment, on a firm basis, of friendly relations between Ireland and Great Britain—now so egregiously miscalled the United Kingdom—if he will read, with the interest they deserve, the words of John Boyle O'Reilly, addressed to a meeting of 10,000 Irishmen in Boston, will think more than once ere he votes against this Bill. The words are—Mr. Gladstone has, in one day, softened the hatred engendered and increased by centuries of misrule in Ireland. He has astonished Irishmen themselves by demonstrating that it is possible for England still to win the hearts of Irishmen. I cannot speak for Irishmen, but I can speak for one Irishman, who was a rebel, that I respect, and honour, and love Mr. Gladstone for his offer to Ireland.I, too, have been a rebel, and I sincerely accept and indorse the words of Boyle O'Reilly. You can now make friends and allies of those who have been lifelong rebels and enemies. Will you do so?
§ THE VICE CHAMBERLAIN (Viscount KILCOURSIE) (Somerset, S.)
said, he asked the indulgence of the House in rising for the first time to address it, on two grounds. In the first place, fortunately or unfortunately, he happened to belong to one of those classes from whom the Irish people and the Irish Representatives had not found much sympathy; and, in the second place, he realized, as everyone must realize who 1716 rose in that House for the first time, how serious were the drawbacks of one who essayed to speak in that Assembly in such a position. But among the many disadvantages of new Members he recognized one great advantage. On the morrow of their debates men read with cool brains and calm feeling speeches which had been spoken, perhaps, with passion in the House; and those who had been in that position from 1880 to 1885 would be able, he ventured to think, to approach this great question with less prejudice, possibly, than older Members. They had not experienced a 40 hours' Sitting, or the many restless nights which old Members of the House had experienced. They had no old sores to heal, no disagreeable memories. In approaching this great question they were met on the threshold by two arguments—the one was that brought forward by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who had pointed out how discontented the people of Ireland had been, and to some extent were—how turbulent they had been, and how riotous; and he seemed to give that as a reason why at this time little or nothing should be conceded to them. Shortly afterwards an hon. Member who represented an Ulster constituency had risen from the opposite Benches, whose argument against the measure had been that the people were prosperous, and that there had been a steady increase in their prosperity from 1854 to 1883 with regard to trade and commerce. History repeated itself strangely; and when he saw two hon. Members pointing out precisely different grounds why this measure should not become law, he was reminded of a strangely appropriate passage from Mr. Burke, where he had said—If the people are turbulent and riotous nothing is to be done for them on account of their evil disposition; if they are loyal nothing is to be done, because their being quiet and contented is a proof that they have no grievances.Mr. Fox had spoken of the happiness of the country as being the object which they should bear in mind. He said—"What is the end of all government? Surely it is the happiness of the governed." He had been astonished to listen to speech after speech in that House, in which the happiness of the country seemed to have been little 1717 thought of. The opinions of two other old Whigs—Mr. Sheridan and the great Lord Grey—had been quoted; and he hoped that he might be excused if he ventured still to hold the opinions which old Whigs had held, being himself a grandson of an old Whig who had been Secretary for Ireland, and having been imbued in early life with the ideas of the old Whigs. He wished to say a few words to meet the objections which had been brought forward by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale against the introduction of the Bill. It might be said that it would have been more appropriate to have done so at an earlier stage; but circumstances had happened since then, which rendered it more easy to answer those objections now. One objection of the noble Marquess was that the constituencies had not been consulted. But they had not been consulted at the time when coercion had been proposed. To some extent, however, the constituencies had been consulted, because every Minister who held Office under the Crown had been before his constituency. Other Members had gone down to their constituencies, and resolutions had been passed and published in the papers, of which they understood the meaning. Then came a question which had been raised at the meeting in Her Majesty's Theatre by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen). "Since how long," asked the right hon. Gentleman, "has Home Rule been the policy of the Liberal Party?" Since how long? Since circumstances had demanded it. That was the simplest answer which could be given to the simplest of questions. He had always thought that in advocating Liberal politics he was supporting a Party who were prepared to alter their policy as frequently as circumstances demanded. Even regarding the question from a Conservative point of view, was there not once a "Ten Minutes' Bill?" When he contested a seat some time ago he believed he spoke the mind of the old Liberal Party when he said that the Party desired the extension of the franchise, particularly in Ireland, on the ground that the views of the whole people might be heard. To-day, however, they were told that they were to listen, not to the 86 Irish Representatives in that House, but to the voice of one-fifth of the Irish people. 1718 Since how long had that been the policy of the Liberal Party? Again, he was told that he ought to go into the Lobby and vote for views contrary to those entertained by his constituents. Since how long had that been the policy pursued by the Liberal Party, and was it for this that the Caucus was formed? He occupied too humble a position to criticize the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain); but he might remark that the wisdom of our ancestors had never been more distinctly shown than when they selected as the motto of the Heir Apparent to the Throne the two simple words "I serve." It was thus that men were prepared for the exigencies of command. Till Saturday last it would have been true to say, with reference to the second reading of the Bill, that those who went into one Lobby wished to legislate for Ireland, while those who went into the other wished to legislate by the Irish people for Ireland. To-day he supposed they must give a different description of those who would occupy the two Lobbies. On the one side there would be those who believed the shameful acts of 1800, which brought about the Union between England and Ireland, ought to be blotted out by more honourable acts, and that a peaceful solution of the differences between the two countries should be found, while those who walked into the opposite Lobby would desire the resolute government of Ireland for 20 years. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition (the Marquess of Salisbury) had explained what he said on that occasion; and it must be admitted that it required some explanation. How the division would go he, not being a prophet, was unable to tell; but this he knew—that if the division went against the Government, and an appeal were made to the country, no men sitting in any portion of that House would dread the result less than those who followed the Prime Minister.
§ MR. McIVER (Devon, Torquay)
Sir, I do not propose to reply to the noble Viscount who has just sat down (Viscount Kilcoursie), partly because I am not aware that he has said anything calling for a direct reply, but chiefly in recognition of the fact that this debate has been a series of lectures and expositions of individual views rather than a 1719 connected discussion. My object in rising is to present to the House an expression of one shade of Liberal opinion and of Liberal dissent which has not yet found utterance in this debate—a shade of opinion distinctly friendly and anxious for a settlement of this question, but resting on a definite principle which may not be surrendered. It is a shade of opinion which is held by a group, not, perhaps, numerically large, but large enough, I believe, to sway the issue before the House. As one of the humblest of this group, I will try to put our standpoint before the House, premising merely that of course I am not speaking with authority for anyone but myself, although I am satisfied that I shall very fairly represent the views of the Gentlemen to whom I have alluded. Our position briefly is this. We accept Irish autonomy; we accept Home Rule; and we accept the establishment of a Legislative Assembly for Ireland as inevitable. Some of us receive it with a welcome; others of us regard it with misgiving; all of us accept it as inevitable. We believe Home Rule is the only solution, worthy of the name, of the Irish difficulty, and we believe that it is possible to give to Ireland legislative and executive autonomy without doing violence to the lines of the Constitution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and without undue risk to the rights of the Irish minority. We believe that it is possible to achieve this only by a large trust in the Irish people, and that it is safe to undertake this only within the lines of the Constitution. That being so, the House will understand that we are very largely in sympathy with the sentiments of the Prime Minister as revealed in his speeches, and that our difficulty is that those sentiments find so little echo in the provisions of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman's speeches breathe the most generous confidence in the good intentions of the Irish people; the speeches are devoted to unity; the speeches insist on finality. The Bill is stained in every clause, from cover to cover, with indications of mistrust; the Bill has no element of finality; the Bill not only gets rid of the ultimate supremacy of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, but it puts an end to that Parliament altogether. The continuance of that Parliament and of its ultimate supremacy is the principle for which we 1720 contend. We say that the Government has sacrificed finality in order to give legislative effect to somebody's mistrust, and that they were obliged to give effect to that mistrust because they had let go the supremacy of Parliament. This contention has been replied to in anticipation, somewhat defiantly, by the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Stansfeld), and very learnedly by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce). The former says that all the Bill does is to "delegate a portion of the legislative powers of Imperial Parliament," and then he goes on to admit that it also "suspends a portion of the sovereignty of that Parliament." The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stansfeld) challenged a reply from one learned in the law. I am not learned in the law; but, if I were, I should begin by asking him to be more precise in his terms. This Parliament in which we sit is not yet the Imperial Parliament in relation to the Three Kingdoms. The Crown is Imperial, and Parliament may be Imperial in relation to India and the Colonies; but in relation to the Three Kingdoms it is a Royal Parliament, and its legal title is the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. ["Oh, oh!"] Will hon. Members who question that statement point to a single Statute relating to the Three Kingdoms in which this Parliament is described as "Imperial?" My hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, with more precision, lays down certain Constitutional propositions in support of the Government contention. He says—"We cannot divest ourselves of the supremacy," and "We cannot bind our successors." All that is true; but it is beside the point; for it is true of this Parliament, which will cease to exist, if this Bill becomes law. The Act of Union created the Parliament of which these propositions are true, and christened it in the Third Article of Union, "The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland." This Repeal Bill substitutes for that Body a new British Parliament, which, in its 3rd clause, it christens the "Imperial Parliament." Viewed in this light, none of the arguments of these hon. Gentlemen apply. The new Imperial Parliament cannot "at any moment repeal" the Magna Charta of Ireland. 1721 The only power it has is to galvanize the old Parliament of the United Kingdom into temporary existence, and for limited purposes. "Parliament cannot divest itself of certain powers." Then Parliament cannot pass this Bill. "We cannot bind our successors." Sir, we shall have no successors. This Bill not only proposes felo de se, but infanticide. This Parliament will have no legitimate successors, but only the bastard "Imperial Parliament," which does "not succeed to the title." The sovereignty and the supremacy in relation to Ireland, created in 1800, lapse with the withdrawal of the Irish Members. We regard the continuing supremacy of Parliament as at once the symbol and the substance of the Union; and we believe it to be not only compatible with, but essential to, a successful and workable scheme of Irish autonomy. We believe it to be absolutely necessary, in order to fulfil the Prime Minister's fifth condition, that this measure should be "in the nature of a settlement, and not merely a provocation to fresh demands." Why, Sir, the absence of this principle, the destruction of the ultimate supremacy of Parliament, has necessitated all those limitations and guarantees which the Orange Members ridicule, which the Nationalist Members detest. The absence of this principle, this supreme safeguard, has involved the introduction of the other so-called safeguards, which are at once impotent and irritating, which are both insulting and futile, which will cramp and fetter the working of the scheme, and will limit and narrow its power for good more than its power for evil. The absence of this principle has involved the endless and exasperating indications of that mistrust of the Irish people which, as I have said, discolour every page of this Bill. I remember the Prime Minister eloquently repudiated the imputation of distrusting the Irish people. I accepted the repudiation absolutely. I believe the Prime Minister does trust the Irish people; but if he trusts them sufficiently to grant them Home Rule, the forms of the Home Rule granted should embody that trust. The Prime Minister said—The safeguards provided, as far as I am concerned, are not in consequence of mistrust entertained by me, but they are in consequence of mistrust entertained by others.1722 I venture respectfully to challenge the Prime Minister's right to assume that position. The Bill is his, with its many virtues, with all its faults. It is not open to him to say—"Its virtues are mine; its vices belong to the Gentlemen over the way; the trustfulness is mine; the distrust is theirs." We are considering the second reading, not of the Prime Minister's sentiments, which I honour and humbly share, but of the Bill with its merits and demerits, its two-pennyworth of concession, and its bushel of mistrust. I contend that those indications of mistrust with which the Bill bristles, and which are pregnant with future danger, are due solely and exclusively to the sacrifice of the supremacy of Parliament. That sheet anchor of the Constitution has been slipped, and replaced by a dozen trumpery kedges, which will drag one by one. Supremacy is the real guarantee, and in its default these other paper guarantees are introduced to the utter destruction of any hope of finality. This supremacy is not a mere phrase. What I mean by the supremacy is this. Hitherto Parliament has been the final arbiter of all things in this Empire. Nothing has been over Parliament. Parliament has been over all things. What we ask is that Parliament should continue to hold its high Constitutional place as the ultimate Court of Appeal in Irish as in other matters. I may be asked, do I mean that every Act of the Irish Legislature shall be laid upon the Table of this House before it becomes law? No, Sir; I do not. My time in this House has been short, but it has been long enough to know that that would not do. It is necessary, if you mean business, to give the Irish Legislature a long tether. It is necessary and desirable to give a large measure of unfettered action to the Irish Legislature in relation to Irish domestic matters; and I fully recognize that it will be necessary to provide elaborately against the supremacy to which I cling being used or abused for purposes of factious or irritating interference. I recognize that danger; but I do not believe it is either impossible or difficult to provide against it. I would closely limit the classes of subjects and questions arising in the Irish Legislature which, in any case, could come before Parliament; and I would limit the manner 1723 in which they should be brought up. Furthermore, even such limited questions, admitted by such restrictive procedure, need not reach the full House until after close filtration through a Committee of this House, on which Ireland would be largely represented. I would leave to the Irish Assembly the final disposal of the great majority of the Irish questions, reserving only special subjects or classes of questions upon which a reference on appeal might, under strict limitations, be made to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. I would so limit this power of reference or appeal as to throw the entire responsibility on the Irish Legislature, that they should so conduct their work as not to come into conflict with the higher authority. I would so limit the power of that higher authority that so long as the Irish Legislature goes straight, so long as it does nothing repugnant to public law or the comity of nations, so long as it acts intra vires so long as it works within the principles of justice, equity, and good conscience it should be safe from interference. That, Sir, is what I mean by the supremacy of Parliament. It is a supremacy which might in time embrace other forms of local self-government extended to other parts of the Kingdom; it is a supremacy which is a real guarantee against real dangers; it is a supremacy based upon trust in the Irish people, and on our own Constitution. More, Sir; it is based on mutual trust—trust on our part that the Irish Legislature will "go straight;" trust on their part that we mean to give them a fair field. The continuance of that supremacy gives Ireland a peaceful resort in troublous times against herself; an appeal from Ireland drunk to Ireland sober. The Bill provides no appeal except physical force. I am not referring to the warlike talk about Ulster, but to military operations undertaken by Britain against Ireland. I join the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) in earnestly deprecating that dangerous, foolish, and wicked talk about Ulster. When the Ulstermen have definite and specific reason for fighting, they may look for sympathy and substantial support in England and Scotland, but not before. I do not believe they ever will have that reason. If the supremacy be 1724 retained, and if this measure, modified as will then be possible, pass into law, I believe the Ulstermen will give it a trial, and that they will then find that those good intentions indicated by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), whose sincerity no man in this House doubts, will be realized. And if they are not realized, you have the supremacy to fall back on. I believe that, with a workable scheme, the Nationalist Members would strive not only honestly, but even humbly, to conciliate the minority. But their good intentions are impotent so long as the scheme is fettered and unworkable, so long as you decline to rely on the one hand on a spirit of trust, and on the other on the supremacy of Parliament. The continuance of the supremacy to which I have referred involves Irish representation in this Parliament, and it involves their having a full voice in all subjects that come before this Parliament, except such British matters as correspond with those Irish matters dealt with by the Irish Parliament. The supremacy involves Irish representation, although Irish representation does not necessarily involve the supremacy. Here I may say a word to remove a possible misunderstanding. It is the craving for that supremacy which is at the root of the desire expressed by many hon. Members that the Irish Members should retain their seats. No doubt there are other good reasons; but we ask that Ireland should continue to possess a full right of representation at Westminster, chiefly in order to maintain the position of Parliament as the Final Court of Appeal. Much as the Irish Members have done in the past to endear themselves to this House, real and sincere as may be the personal affection with which we regard them, it is not so much from anxiety for their personal presence that we ask that they should be entitled to sit in this House, as for what that right involves. It is not that I am more Irish than the Irish. I can believe that they are indifferent to the charms of our society. I can believe that, in their earnest desire to attend to their domestic affairs, they are not anxious to come over here at present. Well, Sir, that is their affair. All I want is, that Ireland should continue to have her full voice in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, in order that the direct supremacy of that Parliament should be maintained— 1725 not an intermittent voice, not a spasmodic or periodic voice, but a continued and a continuous right of representation; and if her Representatives stay away occasionally, or even habitually, and leave that duty to be fulfilled in their absence, that, too, is their affair. Our affair is the supremacy of Parliament. I agree with the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. William O'Brien) that the Irish know themselves and their wants better than we can. If they would like us to attend to their share of Imperial duty, well and good. If they are not scared by the phantom of taxation without representation, well and good. If even they think that such limited share of Irish Business as would come before this House can be safely intrusted to us in their absence, surely they ought to be allowed to judge of that. But we want Ireland to have its continuous right of representation in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, in order that the Parliament of the United Kingdom may survive, and with it may survive the ultimate supremacy. The Bill kills that Parliament, and replaces it for legislative purposes by a bastard Imperial Parliament, and for its other functions by a hybrid tribunal, within the Privy Council; with a vague veto, by a machinery of Address to the Crown, and the impasse of the two Orders in the Irish Assembly. We say restore the supremacy and you get rid at once of all necessity for all that complicated set of devices which mar and blemish the Bill, which deprive it of the nature of a settlement, and invite internal strife and continued agitation. We may be told that the sovereignty and supremacy of this Parliament survives, because, as has been hinted, the veto—that mysterious and undefined innovation—will be exercised on the advice of a British Ministry responsible to this Parliament, or rather to the residuum of this Parliament. If this is so, what does it involve? That the final disposal of Irish matters will vest in a Body in which Ireland is wholly unrepresented, and that, so far from this House being released to the discharge of other pressing duties, it will continue to be the battle-field of Irish politics; with this difference—that on any trifling Irish question may depend the fate of any British Ministry. Our system will become a Government by Vote of Censure. I can hardly believe 1726 that this is intended; but if the veto is designed to this end, then I say, why this hole-and-corner retention of the supremacy? Why not state it boldly in the Bill and in this House? And then we shall know where we are, and the hon. Member for Cork and his followers will know where they are. Sir, I have endeavoured to make clear what is my position in relation to this measure, and what I believe to be the position of many other Members on this side of the House, who, while friendly to the Home Rule principle of the Bill, are immovable on the great Constitutional principle of the supremacy of Parliament. How, Sir, has this conscientious dissent been treated from this side of the House? Very variously, Sir. The Prime Minister, with that fairness and breadth of view which we have learned to expect from him, has paid a just tribute to those of his followers who, with pain and possible penalties, find themselves obliged to differ from him. My hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has treated our scruples with similar generosity. But for the rest, both in and out of the House, we have been spoken of with contumely, with threats, and with scorn. We have been told by the senior hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) that we are playing the Tory game, and that we shall lose our seats. Is it impossible for the hon. Member to conceive that there may be Members who would endeavour to do that which they believed to be right without regard to either of those considerations? We are told that we are breaking up the Liberal Party, and that we shall find out the truth of that when we face our constituencies. A good many of us have faced our constituencies, and are not wholly dissatisfied with the result. It will never injure the Liberal Party to have men in its ranks who think for themselves, or who subordinate pleasure or self-interest to duty. The worst enemies of the Liberal Party are those who thus endeavour to stamp out individuality of judgment within its ranks; and the worst blow that can be dealt to Liberalism will be to root up its cardinal doctrine of freedom of conscience. When it is said that dissidents will be opposed at the General Election by Ministerial candidates, I wonder where they are coming from. It may 1727 be that those who are threatening the seats of others will have enough to do to look after their own. It has been suggested that the Bill should be read a second time and then withdrawn; but that suggestion was received with silence on the Nationalist Benches. Perhaps it appeared to the Nationalist Members to savour rather of the confidence trick. I understand their objection; they wish for a settlement of the matter. So do I; and I seek for a settlement very much in the direction in which they do. And now, Sir, how do we view the second reading of this Bill? The Prime Minister, in his recent Manifesto, and again somewhat indistinctly in his speech on Monday night, urged that the second reading of this Bill meant simply the acceptance of the principle of Home Rule. I wish most sincerely that I could accept that assurance, for in that case I should have infinite pleasure in voting for the second reading. But I fear it is not open to any Minister, however eminent, to put his own interpretation upon, or to assign a new significance to a stage of Parliamentary procedure. He cannot, on his ipse dixit, convert a Bill into an abstract Resolution. I accepted the principle of Home Rule on the first reading. I accepted that principle much as I believe it was understood by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). I now start with Home Rule as a postulate. The principle involved in this Bill, on which I shall give my vote on its second reading, is the maintenance of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and the ultimate authority of that Parliament. The Bill kills that Parliament, and merely gives to the new Imperial Parliament it creates power to galvanize and resuscitate the old one for temporary purposes. If the Government will restore that supremacy they can widen the measure from an Irish point of view, and they can widen it towards finality. They can get rid of those features against which in Committee the Nationalist Members will, to use the words of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, "fight as hard as they can." They can simplify and widen it towards finality, whereas the absence of the supremacy has forced them to narrow it, until it is a step away from finality, until it is a direct challenge to fresh demands—and just demands—on the part 1728 of the Irish people. "Only breakfast," said one distinguished Irish patriot. ["No, no!"] Am I to understand from that contradiction that Mr. Davitt is not a distinguished patriot? For my part, I think he is—a very distinguished patriot.
§ MR. PARNELL
Will the hon. Member allow me to explain for Mr. Davitt that what he said had reference to the fault found with Irishmen for seeking further concessions after the Disestablishment of the Church? He stated that it was perfectly right for the Irish people, after the Disestablishment of the Church, and after the passing of the Land Act, which they regarded as a breakfast, to look for a dinner in the shape of the present Bill.
§ MR. MCIVER
Without fastening the words on Mr. Davitt, I will adopt them for myself, and I will say that this Bill is a mighty poor breakfast, which involves further discussion and trouble. I desire to give the Nationalist Members a full day's rations at once, and have done with it. Recognize the supremacy, and you can do this. But the recognition of that supremacy must be specific and definite. Tell us that you will, in set terms, restore that supremacy, and at the eleventh hour you may save your measure. But you must recognize the immediate facts. The opposition in your own ranks has appreciably stiffened during the last week. The shattered hopes of last Monday week, and the "open mind" of the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), have only strengthened this tendency. Individual doubters have drifted further away from you, and nearer to one another. Community of interest and of self-defence has combined the dissenters. A community of principle has crystallized many forms of hesitancy into compact opposition. Those processes are going on. The sands in the hour-glass are running down. I would say respectfully to the Government you can give this pledge without loss of dignity. To us it is vital, while to you it is apparently an accidentally omitted detail. To you it is initiatory, to us it seems an essential principle. Its concession will be very welcome, even to many of those who will support you. In any case, it ought to be very welcome to the Nationalist Party, for it will give them a real instead of a paper Constitution. Give this pledge 1729 specifically, and I believe you will at once render a final settlement possible, and I believe you will rescue from its present imminent peril, and preserve to its great future usefulness, the united Liberal Party.
§ MR. RATHBONE (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
said, that no one would deny that this was a subject on which the greatest deliberation should be exercised. The Americans took two years to settle their Constitution, and it was too much to expect that England could provide a new Contistution for Ireland in the course of two months. He had taken for 40 years a deep interest in Irish questions and Irish interests, and he was by no means so hopeless as many as to the possibility of a satisfactory arrangement which should place Irishmen in possession of a large measure of self-government. But while feeling this, he could not shut his eyes to dangers of the most serious character which were utterly unprovided for in the Government scheme. Provisions were wanting to carry out the principles laid down by the Prime Minister, not only for the protection of the rights of property of every description and interests of the British taxpayer, but to protect the Irish people themselves against most serious dangers. It would be useless to attempt to protect the rights of property, or ultimately the British taxpayer, from the action of the Irish Parliament unless we protected them and ourselves from the imposition of confiscatory rates or the contraction of unlimited debt by the Local Authorities. They all knew that the highest expectations would be formed by the Irish people of the benefits they were to receive at the hand of the State. One of the greatest dangers in Ireland would attach to the unlimited contracting of debt by Local Authorities. They had heard that night something of what the Irish people expected to get under this Bill. As soon as their legislation was within their own control they would expect roads, harbours, piers, tramways, manufactures—above all, outdoor relief. They would press on their Local Authorities expenditure in all these directions; and the consequent expenditure could only be met by borrowing, while the ultimate security for the loans must be the land and other fixed property. Unless, therefore, the property-owning taxpayers were adequately represented 1730 on the Local Governing Bodies of Ireland, and unless provisions restricting the power of borrowing—as it had been necessary in the United States—by Local Authorities to a certain proportion of the rateable value of the property in their district were inserted in the very Constitution or Magna Charta of Irish Government, what was there to hinder the most lavish, and, if lavish, certainly most demoralizing expenditure in all these ways? Now, whether the land were left in the hands of the landlords or acquired for the State by the use of English credit, it was the only security ultimately liable for these debts. England had stated boldly with respect to Egypt, and stated truly, that the first charges on the Revenues of a State were for securing the protection of the law and the maintenance of order, and for carrying on the absolutely necessary functions of government. The Irish National Government would, of course, insist on our carrying out that principle, and would claim to retain in Ireland the funds necessary for the primary functions of government. We could neither let the people starve in Galway any more than we could let them starve in India, nor could we allow anarchy to prevail in Ireland any more than in Egypt. England could not practically allow any part of the United Kingdom to lack the funds absolutely indispensable to guard against, say, a famine, or to maintain order or any of the institutions absolutely necessary for the preservation of civilization. So long as the unity of the United Kingdom was in any sense maintained we could not wholly divest the Imperial Parliament of responsibility for the welfare of Ireland. If we were to allow Ireland to recklessly incur public debts on the security of the land or other real estate to an extent which encroached on the revenues absolutely required to maintain efficiently such institutions, for instance, as those which dealt with Poor Law relief, the maintenance of the police, or the provision for education, we should have, not only to abandon our claim to the repayment of the loans proposed in the Land Purchase Bill, but also to find additional funds to rescue Ireland from insolvency. We could not by mere statutory declarations divest the Imperial Government of moral responsibility for the condition of Ireland, 1731 if we were to retain any form of direct or ultimate control over her government. But it was not the loss of British, money which seemed to him to be the chief or the most serious danger. He believed that this country would make great pecuniary sacrifices if it believed that by so doing it could really promote the well-being of Ireland and make her a source of strength and honour instead of discredit and danger to the British Empire. It was not the loss of the money of this country that he principally dreaded, but the ruin and demoralization of Ireland from the lavish expenditure that would go on. He by no means attributed to Ireland what the Prime Minister called "a double dose of original sin;" but the right hon. Gentleman himself said that we had given Ireland little experience hitherto in local self-government. England and America had, perhaps, had more experience than any other countries in the world in the habits of self-government; yet each, America as well as England, had committed blunders in local expenditure which were frightfully demoralizing, and would be absolutely ruinous to a poor country like Ireland. He could show in a very few words how the experience of England and America, both long trained in the responsibility of self-government, both rich in material resources, should caution us against placing Ireland in a position where she would be almost certain to commit blunders which would return her on our hands at the first period of famine or distress, impoverished, encumbered, and, worst of all, with her population demoralized by unwise expenditure of public money and contraction of debt which the taxpayers of this country would have to meet. Let anyone look at the Report of the English Poor Law Commissioners of 1834. The farmers of that day thought that by outdoor relief—that was, relief in aid of wages—they could benefit themselves and throw upon the landowners some part of the expense of the cultivation of the land. The result was that perhaps few countries had ever been brought nearer to the brink of utter ruin, moral as well as material, than the whole agricultural community of England was in 1834. The Commissioners said that the system practically destroyed all those virtues for the possession of which the English 1732 nation had hitherto been so remarkable, that it destroyed the ties of family affection, parents deserted their children, and children refused to maintain their parents. It made bastardy profitable, and destroyed the purity of women; and though the Commissioners said that not many cases of the actual dereliction of estates had been stated to them, yet they did mention the case of one parish in which the expense of maintaining the poor had swallowed up the whole value of the land. Why, it required a generation of the tremendous centralized despotism of the new Poor Law Board in a measure to redeem the agriculturists of this country from the material and moral degradation into which they were sinking under unwise and extravagant expenditure. Then had America, with all its experience in self-government, found that it could do without the checks which were wanting in this Bill on a system of local expenditure? Between the years 1870 and 1880 there was apparently a great reduction in local indebtedness, but unfortunately it arose from compromise and repudiation; and, notwithstanding this experience, we found that in nine of the principal towns in one of the oldest and steadiest States in the Union—New Jersey—the annual charge for debt was now equal to the whole expense of carrying on their local government, and in two towns the amount of debt was equal to one-half the whole capital value of the taxable property. So much had this been impressed upon the public mind in America that State after State had introduced into its Constitution the most stringent limitations upon borrowing and rating powers. In Illinois no Local Authority could become indebted to an amount, including existing indebtedness, exceeding 5 per cent on the capital value of the taxable property in its district; and, before incurring any indebtedness within that limit, the Local Authority was obliged to provide for a direct annual tax sufficient to pay the interest and principal of that debt in 20 years from the time of its contraction. Ten States, including New York, had adopted similar safeguards against excessive rating. All spoke of these restrictions as having worked satisfactorily. He was sure everyone who had had experience of the difficulties and dangers of local government 1733 would be glad to see such restrictions existing in all parts of the United Kingdom; but they would be almost indispensable in launching Ireland on her new course of self-government. The British taxpayer would certainly be right in demanding that he should not be exposed to the almost certainty of having enormous sums to pay which, instead of benefiting, would demoralize his Irish fellow-countrymen. He had certainly not approached this Bill from any strong Opposition point of view, or in the interests of the well-to-do classes to whom the Prime Minister had recently alluded. The classes that engaged his deep interest were the poor tenants and labourers of Ireland; and if he felt the gravest misgivings respecting the effect of these measures, it was not only or mainly because he feared injury to the physical well-being, but because he dreaded demoralization, which would make it almost impossible to raise them out of misery and poverty. And he must remind the House that nothing could be more fatal to the development of mercantile and industrial enterprize in Ireland, to which they must mainly look for the means of supporting her population, than any expenditure which would threaten it with taxation calculated to make Ireland unable to compete with the industries of other countries. He listened with the deepest interest and attention to the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon). He was quite right when he pointed out that he and his Colleagues would be the first sufferers if they were foolish enough to plunge into mad excess at the risk of ruining their country, and he did not doubt at all their perfect honesty and sincerity of intention to carry out their pledges; but he would urge them to consider that it would be absolutely impossible for them to do so unless their hands were strengthened by the provisions of the Bill itself to enable them to resist the pressure which would be brought to bear upon them arising out of the expectation, utterly impossible of realization, which would be formed by their countrymen of the results to be derived from this measure. There was one point which he did not think had received sufficient notice. He meant the withdrawal, when it was most needed, of the tried experience and independence 1734 of the Judicature and Civil Service of Ireland. He believed that under a democratic form of government there was nothing more essential than an experienced, reliable Civil Service. Half the mistakes and discredit at times attached to the State legislation and local government of America were traced by the best citizens of the Union to the degradation of its Civil Service and Judicature which arose since General Jackson's Presidency from the practice of changing all the civil servants of the State whenever one political Party succeeded the other in the government of the country; and at this moment the most earnest efforts of American patriots were devoted to obtaining again for their country a pure, experienced, and independent Civil Service and Judicature, such as this country had the happiness to possess. It appeared to him to be most unwise to withdraw them from Ireland just at the moment when their assistance and continuity of experience were essential for the success of the new measure. He also thought that the Bill ought to have enumerated the matters which were to be delegated to the Irish Parliament rather than those which were to be excluded from its authority; for in a Bill, however carefully drawn, they might find some serious omissions, and it was easier to add to the powers intrusted to the Parliament of Ireland than to withdraw any of them that had been given. Again, the veto seemed to him to be one that ought to be exercised with the support of some Representative Council if it was to be any protection against violent and dangerous legislation. Lastly, it seemed to him worthy of consideration whether the Home Rule Bill should not be passed with a clause suspending its operation except as regarded the meeting and legislative functions of the Irish Parliament until after that Parliament had met and passed organic laws for local government as to land and taxation, and until after such laws had received the Royal Assent. Such laws might be made unalterable for a term of years as regarded their leading Constitutional provision except with the consent of a two-thirds majority of the Irish Parliament as well as the consent of the Queen in Council for Ireland. After such laws had been passed there would be less danger of violent and oppressive action, and the new Irish Executive 1735 would be started under conditions which would have tested the moderation of the Irish representation. At the same time Acts so passed by them would be less likely to be regarded with jealousy than Acts of the same kind passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. To meet the difficulties which had been pointed out in this debate surely more time, deliberation, and consultation were required than this Bill could have received. The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) urged the danger of delay; but was there not danger from hurry? Great as the Prime Minister's abilities were—and no one had a higher opinion of them than he had, for he had followed the right hon. Gentleman for 40 years—yet it was impossible that he, or anything short of omniscience, could in the time he had had, under the pressure which he admitted to have acted, and with access to the limited advice of a few friends, have prepared a measure duly guarding against the difficulties and dangers which must be guarded against if it was to cure and not add to the evils with which it proposed to deal. If, with his great intellectual and all the official and other information at his elbow the Prime Minister had failed to meet all these difficulties and dangers, was it fair to expect that those who saw these difficulties and dangers should be bound, without much time and thought to propose offhand the necessary remedies? Surely the only chance of dealing safely and effectually with this question was to bring to bear upon it with deliberation and sufficient time for consideration the experience and wisdom of the whole country through its Representatives. It would be impossible in any circumstances to carry this Bill through this Session; and it did seem grievous to him that some plan could not be found to unite the different sections of the Liberal Party all anxious to see this question settled, some plan to give time to bring to bear upon it the experience and ability of the House. He could not regard without dismay the prospect of this Bill being referred to the judgment of the country with the constituencies in the present state of perplexity. An Election fought upon a question raising such vast issues and so little understood, on which Parties were so split up and disunited, could not fail, he feared, to 1736 raise an amount of bitterness and class antagonism, not in Ireland only, but in England, which would sadly diminish the prospects of a safe and harmonious working of our new democratic Constitution. What was wanted beyond everything at the present moment was more time for Ministers, more time for this House, and more time for the country to consider one of the most difficult, one of the most perplexing questions ever submitted to the consideration of any people. How that object was to be secured he left their Leaders to suggest. It was not necessary that they should shelve the consideration of all Irish remedies. It appeared to him that they might be doing good work in the meantime by attempting to deal with the agrarian question by legislation which by common consent must come into operation concurrently with the measure for the government of Ireland. They need not underrate such a vast measure as the Land Purchase Bill, applicable to all Irish lands; but they might deal first with the small tenancies, and thus dry up one of the great sources of Irish misery and discontent. These small tenancies ought first to be dealt with. The Prime Minister had pointed out the impossibility of proceeding otherwise than gradually in carrying out his measure; and in the time necessary to deal with this portion of the subject they should acquire experience and be able to give full consideration to the question and decide whether it was necessary to go further.
§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)
said, that there was one point connected with this great discussion as to which he most respectfully claimed a hearing on account of the treatment which he experienced in regard to it in the recent electoral contest. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), the right hon. Member for South Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair), and other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, threatened Gentlemen of their own Party who opposed the Bill with the wrath of their constituents, and would lead the House to believe that the opinion of the rank and file of the Liberal Party was in favour of the Home Rule policy of the Prime Minister. An incident in his own electoral experience would dispel that idea. In the constituency which he had the 1737 honour to represent (North Kensington) there was an Irish Club, numerically not very strong, but containing several gentlemen of great political activity and intelligence, whose friendship he was proud to possess, even when he differed from them on political points. At the inception of the recent electoral contest they passed a resolution, which they communicated to him and to the candidate on the other side, that they would vote exactly according to the direction of their Leaders in that House, and that nothing which the candidates could say or do would in the slightest degree influence their decision. He was free to say that seemed a very honourable way of putting it, for it held out to the candidates no temptation whatever not to proclaim the opinions which they conscientiously entertained. These Irish gentlemen invited both himself and his opponents to address public meetings in their club-room, and he availed himself of the invitation. The very next day he was honoured with a letter in The Times from a "Moderate Liberal," in which he was denounced and held up to execration as a Home Ruler. The denunciation spread from The Times to the whole Liberal Press of England, Scotland, and Ireland. He was denounced, not only by Liberal journals, such as The Scotsman, which were consistent opponents of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, but also by Liberal papers which supported that policy. The York Herald said—"The issue of the circular by the Sarsfield branch of the Irish National League inviting members to rally round Sir Roper Lethbridge shows how the game is being played." That stated that he was "playing a game," though the circular simply called a public meeting to hear him address it. But this was the point to which he would call special attention. The York Herald—this supporter of the Home Rule policy at the present moment—said, on October 10—"It is absolutely useless for Lord Salisbury to endeavour to win the confidence of the Moderate Liberals when his followers openly coalesce with Irish Separatists." He at once wrote to The Liverpool Mercury and other papers to explain and justify his position, as he was ready to do again at any moment. He hoped the House would allow him to read a line. He said— 1738Why should you hold me committed to National League views, or 'Boycotting,' or anything else, by my addressing the electors in the room of the Sarsfield Club, when you do not hold me committed to forward Cobden Club views, when I did precisely the same thing in the Cobden Club?And his letter, which appeared also in The Western Morning News, further stated most clearly the position he had assumed at the Irish Club; and he might, perhaps, be permitted to read the statement—I believe my views to be in strict accordance with those of Lord Salisbury, being broadly in favour of the most complete measure of local self-government for Ireland that may be found compatible with the absolute and unquestioned maintenance of the unity of the Empire (these words will appear in my election address).He asked the House to draw from that incident the conclusion which seemed to be perfectly obvious, that the whole Liberal Press throughout the country endeavoured to secure the success of his opponent, and to prevent himself from winning the seat for North Kensington, on the supposition that his opponent was a champion of the unity of the Empire. It was notorious that the very same thing happened in many other constituencies, and that in some other constituencies it succeeded. How, he asked, would it be possible for hon. Members opposite, elected on these terms and with these professions, to vote for the Bill of the Prime Minister? He held resolutely by the terms of his election address, and asked for the unquestioned maintenance of the unity of their glorious Empire. Would the measure now before the House secure the unquestioned maintenance of the unity of the Empire? That measure was questioned not only on the Tory Benches, but by every section of the Liberal and the Radical Party. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Friends had themselves questioned that measure. They had objected to its financial arrangements. They had objected to tribute being paid by Ireland without representation—[Cries of "No, no!"]—or if they had assented to it to a certain extent, they said that their assent bad been purchased by a payment of £1,400,000 a-year. Would they for such a sum barter the inalienable rights of a free people? He did not wish to impugn the motives of Irish Members 1739 below the Gangway; but he asked them whether that measure could be a final one when it left Ireland in the position of a tributary Province, prohibited the Irish nation from endowing the religion of the majority as Englishmen and Scotchmen had the religion of their majorities endowed, and would impose on them a number of other restrictions which certainly would not be acceptable for any length of time to the people whom hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway represented? Englishmen and Scotchmen were determined that the future of this great Empire should be as glorious as its past, and they called on hon. Members below the Gangway and the whole of their Irish fellow-subjects to be sharers with them of that glorious future.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
Mr. Speaker, I shall make no apology to the House for addressing it for a short time on the subject of the present measure, not merely because my name is on the back of the Bill, but because it is well known to my Friends that for five or six years past I have held a strong opinion that the Irish ought to manage their own affairs. And it is satisfactory to me to be able to say that before the last General Election I placed before a body of Englishmen, my former constituents, in the clearest manner I could, my opinion that the time had come when Ireland should be granted that power. I stated what were, in my view, the internal affairs of Ireland which might be fairly intrusted to an Irish Legislature, distinguishing in detail what were, in my judgment, Irish local affairs and what were Imperial affairs. Now, the Bill which I have had some share in preparing and bringing in adopts precisely the division between Irish affairs and Imperial affairs which I then described. Therefore, I have nothing to repent or to apologize for; but I have only to do my best to explain why I have taken these views, and to give the best information I can to the House as to the certain results of this Bill. Three questions have been raised during the course of the debate to which, I think, an answer should be given. First, does the Bill repeal the Union? Secondly, does it abrogate the unity of the Empire? And, thirdly, does it qualify in any way the sovereignty 1740 of Parliament? These three points have been argued and debated by my hon. Friends on this side of the House and by our opponents on the other, and I now propose to give a short answer to each of them. In the first place, does this Bill qualify the supremacy of Parliament? The hon. and learned Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Finlay) has to-night attempted to get rid of the powerful arguments which my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce) placed before the House the other night. My hon. Friend the Under Secretary had argued that while the legal supremacy of Parliament would be unaltered, morally only and Constitutionally would it be debarred from dealing with the domestic affairs of Ireland as long as the Irish Legislature kept within the powers granted to them. The hon. and learned Member appears to me to have failed to controvert this position so powerfully taken up by the Under Secretary. I will endeavour, in one sentence, to show to the House how, at any rate, from the analogy of former writers, such a proposal as ours does not in any way qualify the sovereignty of Parliament. The proposals in the Bill are far within the division between the powers of Grattan's Parliament and the English Parliament of that day. But although that is the case—and it will be my duty in the course of a few minutes to say something on the point—if you look through the publicists and writers on Constitutional questions during the period of Grattan's Parliament, you will never find a suggestion that the sovereignty and omnipotence of the British Parliament was diminished because of the concession made in 1782 by the repeal of 6 Geo. I. That Act distinctly, on the part of Great Britain, gave up entirely to Ireland the power of legislating for Ireland. Yet, though that was done in 1782, in 1784 no one wrote more powerfully in favour of the absolute supremacy, or, as it was then called, the omnipotence, of Parliament—using the curious expression that Parliament could do everything except make a man a woman or a woman a man—than Mr. De Lolme, who, at the time I am referring to, was fresh from examining the recent arrangement with regard to Ireland. In his view, nothing had been done with respect to the Parliament of 1741 this country to qualify its omnipotence in legislating for Ireland. As to the unity of the Empire, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) argued strongly that if this Bill were passed the unity of the Empire would be gone. In the latter part of his speech my right hon. and learned Friend was a little confused between the unity of the Empire and the unity of the Kingdom. But in the earlier part of his speech he argued as to the unity of the Empire. Going back again to the experience of those who had to speak and write about the unity of the Empire during Grattan's Parliament, I cannot trace a suspicion on their part that there was not a complete unity of the Empire. On the contrary, Sir, in the Speech from the Throne, for which Mr. Pitt was responsible, in 1796, proroguing the Irish Parliament, one of the most effective passages referred expressly to the unity of the Empire as it then existed. Mr. Pitt's Cabinet said—Great Britain and Ireland form one Empire; they are inseparably connected.If, Sir, that were the case when the absolute division of powers existed between the Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland, how much stronger will be the case when the Parliament of Great Britain will still be the Imperial Parliament, though we shall have granted, as this Bill proposes to grant, limited powers to a Legislative Body in Ireland? Then I come to the third question, which has been a good deal discussed, and towards the solution of which I should like to contribute a few words. It is argued that by this Bill we are proposing the repeal of the Union. Are we proposing to repeal the Union? We must first of all remember what the Union is. The Union is the result of an Act of Parliament passed in 1800, under which, at the beginning of 1801, the Irish Parliament was altogether swept away, and the legislative powers with respect to the whole United Kingdom were vested in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. What I wish to show to the House is that the present Bill does not repeal the Act of Union. On the contrary, very large powers which the Act of Union centred in the Parliament of this country will still be retained by the Parliament and the Government of this country, and are not proposed to be ceded to the Legislature 1742 of Ireland. Let me take them one by one. Under the former state of things, before the Act of Union, the Parliament of Ireland claimed and exercised authority to deal with matters affecting the Crown. For instance, it claimed to deal with the question of the Regency in 1789. By the present Bill any Act of the Legislature of Ireland with respect I to the Crown—the word "Regency" is expressly mentioned—is specially barred and cannot take place. In the second place, the former Parliament of Ireland, up to the time of the Act of Union, had the entire control of the Customs and Excise and the Revenue derived from these two sources. In the present Bill any control over Customs and Excise by the Irish Legislative Body is expressly refused. Then, Sir, under the former Parliament the highest Court of Appeal in Irish cases was in Dublin; and those who have studied the history of the change which took place in 1782 know how much that was the subject of controversy. What is done under the present Bill? Not only is the Privy Council at Westminster to be the judge of questions whether any Act of the Irish Legislature or any proceeding taken under an Act of the Irish Legislature is void or not, but the ultimate Court of Appeal in Irish cases remains where it is now—in the House of Lords at Westminster. Therefore, in that respect, undoubtedly, there is no repeal of the Union. Then, again, under the state of things which existed up to 1801 there was no Court in Ireland either appointed by the English Government or responsible to the English Parliament. In the present Bill the Irish Court of Exchequer will be appointed by the British Government, and will be responsible to it in the sense of no Judge being removable except by Address from the English House of Commons and the English House of Lords. Then, again, under the former state of things the Parliament of Ireland had cognizance of all Treaties, and could legislate with respect to Treaties between the Crown and Foreign Powers. By the present Bill that power is expressly denied. Under the former state of things—that is, before the Union—the Irish Parliament might have legislated as to trade, as to questions of legal tender, as to weights and measures, and as to copyright and 1743 patents. All these powers are expressly denied in the present Bill. And, finally, the Irish Parliament exercised a limited control over the Army—especially in respect of recruiting, which on several occasions it exercised most liberally for the purposes of the Empire—over the Militia and the Yeomanry, and it had a voice in the Appropriations for the Services. Under the present Bill these powers are not granted to the Irish Government, which will have no cognizance of military affairs, and no control over them. In all these respects, then, the difference is very great between the powers of the old Irish Parliament and the powers of the Irish Legislative Body which we propose. But there is, on the other hand, something that is far more valuable to Ireland in this Bill than all those powers. That is to say, that whereas under the former state of things the Executive Government of Ireland was a branch of the British Government, and the Members of the Executive were appointed practically by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet in London, in future the Executive Government in Ireland under this Bill will be responsible to the Legislature of Ireland, precisely as the Executive Government here is responsible to the Legislature of this country. In my opinion, the powers to which I have referred, as not being granted to Ireland by this Bill, are far less important for the purposes of Ireland than that power of governing herself, as well as legislating for herself, which it is proposed to grant to her by her Executive Government being a Government responsible to the Irish Legislature. That is my answer to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Finlay), who spoke of the degrading character of our proposals to Ireland, and which he said would reduce Ireland to a mere Dependency. Although the Bill does not give those powers which Irishmen do not ask for, it gives what is far more important—an Executive control over their own affairs. These are differences, and real differences, between the former state of things and the future state of things as we propose them, and they justify me in saying that we do not propose to repeal the Union. What we propose to do is to substitute something else for some of the provisions of the Act of 1800, and to establish a better balance 1744 of power than existed between the years 1782 and 1801; and this, in my opinion, will result in far greater satisfaction to the people of Ireland than even the powers which they enjoyed before the Union. We give to Ireland autonomy—I do not mind criticism on that word, for I think it is a very good expression—autonomy in the internal affairs of Ireland, and the unity of the Empire and the Kingdom in matters of common interest remains, as I have tried to prove to the House, absolutely intact if the Bill which we offer should receive the approval of Parliament. But, Sir, I may be asked this question—"You propose a fresh division of power between England and Ireland, and a different division of the power than that which existed between 1782 and 1801, when the Union between Great Britain and Ireland was effected; how is that division affected by the arguments which were used at the time to justify the Union of the two Parliaments under the proposals made by Mr. Pitt?" Now, I think that that question is one that should be answered. Both in 1799 and 1800, the subject of the Union was discussed at very great length in the Parliament of Ireland and in the Parliament of this country; and I think it is important that we should see whether this Bill fairly meets the arguments for the Union which were put forward by the English Government, especially in the year 1799. I should like to refer hon. Gentlemen who may desire to verify the arguments I am about to use, to two great debates in Parliament on the 23rd of January and the 31st of January, 1799, when the whole bases and grounds of the Union were very carefully and fully put before Parliament by Mr. Pitt and by other Members of his Government, and when, at the end of those two debates, the Parliament of Great Britain, by a large majority, adopted the Resolution that formed in the following year the bases of the Union. I have gone very carefully through the two great speeches of the 23rd of January and the 31st of January, 1799, which were made by Mr. Pitt. In 1800 the whole matter had been argued out, and the debates had reference to the details of the Bill; but in 1799 a great debate on the question as to whether the Union was desirable took place. I 1745 have been anxious on this matter to master, as far as possible, the main arguments which were used by Mr. Pitt in support of the Union, and I will ask the House to consider how they affect the measure which we now ask Parliament to adopt. Mr. Pitt had to convince the Parliament of Great Britain that the Union was desirable and necessary. He had six great reasons which he urged with surpassing eloquence on the House of Commons for the adoption of his proposals. His second speech, on the 31st of January, 1799, was the greater of the two. A more masterly collection of arguments for the proposal which he made to Parliament I think it would be difficult to find. His first reason—and that appears rather in his speech of the 23rd of January—was that the difference which had been found to exist on the Regency Question made it absolutely necessary, as between the two countries, that the Parliaments should be united. That difference could not exist under the present Bill; and, therefore, that argument in favour of the Union and against any power being given to Ireland to manage her local affairs, entirely falls to the ground and cannot be applied to the present Bill. The second argument of Mr. Pitt was this—and it was based on the failure of Ireland to conclude a Commercial Treaty with Great Britain in 1785—that in 1782, when the Act was passed establishing the independence of Grattan's Parliament, it was expected to be followed by another Act to be passed by the Irish Parliament, establishing commercial relations between the two countries. Mr. Pitt urged that, as the Irish Parliament had failed to carry out what was understood in 1782, it was necessary to insure a complete union between the two countries. I need not tell the House that that argument, at any rate, has no force now, because, under the present Bill, no Commercial Treaty would be necessary between England and Ireland, and because the Bill itself provides for free commercial relations between England and Ireland. The third reason given by Mr. Pitt was that there were, under the Constitution of the two countries, two Parliaments with—to use his own words—Distinct powers on questions of peace and war, of alliances and confederacies.I need not tell the House that that argument 1746 does not apply now, because the Bill gives no power whatever in questions of peace and war. The next argument used by Mr. Pitt was that Ireland would gain thereby free trade with Great Britain. Ireland, as I have just said, has free trade with Great Britain, and therefore that is no objection to the proposals contained in the present Bill. Then it was argued that by the Union the Roman Catholics would gain by Catholic Emancipation becoming an Imperial, instead of a local, question. Of course, that argument has no force now, when Catholic Emancipation has long prevailed all over the Empire. Therefore, it has no connection with the present proposal. The sixth argument was that the existing military system was fraught with danger, since Ireland, having control over the Army, might declare any war in which England engaged unjust, extravagant, and hostile to freedom. On that ground Mr. Pitt proposed that the double authority which then existed should come to an end, and that the Union should be established. It is now well known that this question respecting the Army was the main reason why Mr. Pitt proposed the Union. Anyone who reads the debate which took place at the time will see that this was wrapped up in general expressions as to the military operations. But since then we have had published the correspondence of eminent men who were living at the time, and it clearly appears that the question of the Army was that which chiefly influenced those who urged the Union. I should like to explain shortly what was precisely, at the time, the controversy upon the question, and how it was solved. Lord Lansdowne, in the House of Lords, during the debate of 1799, gave in a single sentence what he thought was the general position of matters, especially as far as the Army of the United Kingdom was concerned. He used these words, which are germane to the whole question—Unless there was such a union of the two countries as would enable us to say there was but one Army, chaos must ensue in the affairs of the British Empire.Now, what was the state of the Army which we now know was so dangerous at that time? There is ample evidence now forthcoming that the real justification for the Union was the chaotic state 1747 of the Army in Ireland. We have on the subject two sets of Papers, published 50 or 60 years after the Union—the Memoirs of Sir Ralph Abercromby, and of Lord Cornwallis, who was Lord Lieutenant. With the leave of the House, I will read some extracts from these letters, because they put the case as to the condition of the Army in an unmistakable form. In the first place, I will refer to the letters of Sir Ralph Abercromby; and I need not tell the House what a distinguished soldier he was, and how his memory is respected to the present day in Ireland, where he was the penultimate Commander-in-Chief before the Union, for the great interest he took in that country. I will only read one or two sentences. Sir Ralph Abercromby said—The efforts to correct abuses in the Army were entirely thwarted by the powerful influence of the magistracy and gentry. …. The magistracy and resident proprietors, who shrank from the performance of their own duties, were constantly urging that the troops should be at their call for the purpose of enabling them to harass and oppress the people. …. The magistrates encouraged and promoted the licentiousness of the troops and the oppression of the people. …. The country gentlemen and magistrates do not do their duty, but ruin the troops by calling upon them to afford personal protection. …. Discipline suffers exceedingly from the dispersed state of the Army, and many of the regiments could not take field. …. The Cavalry are in general unfit for service, and more than half the Infantry are dispersed over the face of the country. The Army is in a state of licentiousness which must make it formidable to everyone but the enemy. The Army has been thrown into the hands of a faction, and has been made a tool under their direction. Within the last 12 months, every crime, every cruelty that could be committed by Cossacks or Calmucks has been transacted here. …. The way in which the troops have been used would ruin the best in Europe.And then Sir Ralph Abercromby quotes a General Order of May 7, 1798, in which there is this passage—Troops having been placed at free quarters the General Officers are ordered to double, triple, and quadruple the number of soldiers so stationed to be moved from station to station until it is reported to the General Officer by the gentlemen holding landed property. … that all rents are completely paid up.Is it to be wondered at that just before the Union, writing to an Irish friend, Sir Ralph Abercromby should have said—Long observation has convinced me that all your misfortunes, all the evils with which you 1748 are threatened, proceed from the illiberal, the unjust, and the unwise conduct of England, from the wretched system of English domination.Those are the words of a very distinguished soldier, who had seen service in every part of the world, and who was at the time Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Ireland—a duty which he exchanged for a great command in Egypt, where he died gloriously for his country. He felt it his duty to put these opinions, as to the Army, on record. It appears to me that this account of the total failure of the military system is a strong argument, if argument be wanted, against the idea of another 20 years of coercion. Well, Sir, I have gone through these passages in order to show what was the state of the Army in Ireland before the Union, and how that condition of the Army was the main cause which led Mr. Pitt to urge the Union upon the Parliaments of the two countries. Is it possible now? Under the Bill we propose the Irish Legislature will have no concern with the Army nor with the Irish Executive.
I argue it because it is according to the words of the Bill now before the House. If the noble Lord studies the Bill, he will find it is proposed that neither the Executive nor the Legislature of Ireland shall have any part in, any control over, or any concern with, the government of the Army. It was the bad government of the Army, and the condition to which it was brought, that was the most powerful argument in favour of the Act of Union. These are Mr. Pitt's six great reasons in favour of the Union. They are mixed up, no doubt, with some reference to the Republican state of affairs on the Continent; but Mr. Pitt never attributed to the Irish Parliament any sympathy with Republicanism. What he did was to urge strongly on Parliament that such being the state of the demoralization of the Army, and its failure to protect us from foreign attack, owing to certain official acts, it was necessary for the public safety—I am not arguing whether he was right or wrong—that the Union should take place. What I say is that not one of Mr. Pitt's arguments affects the present question. 1749 The proposal we make for a Legislative Body in Ireland is one which does not give them one single power which, as Mr. Pitt said, had caused so much mischief, and had rendered union necessary. So much for the arguments which I have ventured to put to the House, not at too great length I hope, from the policy and able speeches of Mr. Pitt when he conducted the arrangements for the Union between the two countries in 1799 and 1800. And now a word on the other side of the question. If, then, these arguments fall to the ground and we have to look for fresh ones, I ask is there any danger now in conceding the powers proposed by the Bill, or, rather, is there not greater danger in refusing them? The House will, perhaps, allow me to refer to my own experience. On a small scale, I have seen in one of the Dependencies of this country what, to a certain extent, has influenced me in arriving at the conclusion I have arrived at with respect to the power the present Bill proposes to give to an Irish Parliament the power of self-government in Ireland. I was a resident in Australia 30 years ago, and I was a witness of the great struggle which was constantly going on there between the Australian Colonies and the Crown when the English Government refused them control over their own financial affairs, and also refused to give them responsible government. By responsible government we all know what is meant. I saw some years of that controversy, and I also saw the victory that was gained by the Colonies. And at the end of that struggle I was myself one of the elected Members in the Legislature of the Colony of Victoria, and a Member of the first responsible Cabinet. I can say, without exaggeration, that from the time those powers were given to the Colony all the old feelings of distrust towards the Mother Country, and of hostility to her action which had sprung up in later years, and had led to considerable mischief, passed away. And at the present time the 3,000,000 of people in the Australian Colonies are probably as loyal and contented subjects of the Queen as are to be found in her Dominions. This, Sir, is due to the concession of responsible government, and entire control over their own affairs, which was so stoutly resisted by the Government of this country, 40 years ago, and the difficulty 1750 has been ended by the establishment of most satisfactory relations between us and these Colonies. Similar results have been seen on a much larger scale in Canada. In moving the second reading of the Bill my right hon. Friend briefly and clearly showed what was the result of the controversy between Canada and this country 50 years ago, and of our yielding. All that we yielded was the establishment of a good and responsible Government. At the time I speak of—52 years ago—there was a limited representation of the people in the Legislative Body in Canada, but there was no Representative Government. The Executive was nominated from this country. All that the Local Legislatures could do was to refuse or to qualify some of the Appropriations proposed by the Government. Their functions were limited to a qualified financial power, and even that financial power, more than once, was taken away from them. What was the result? Then came the two rebellions—one on the part of those of British and Irish descent, and the other on the part of those who were of French extraction. It gave this country great trouble to put down those two rebellions, and Canadian affairs occupied a very painful and important part in the proceedings of Parliament and the acts of the Government. Many persons of great authority in this House at that time said it would be better and wiser to adopt a policy of concession, and to give the Canadians the management of their own local affairs under the authority of the Crown. But the majority of this House was not of that opinion, and proposals of the kind at first received only scanty support from Parliament. I will read to the House a passage from a speech made in this House on the question of self-government in Canada in 1838 by a very distinguished Member of the House, who, since that date, was either two or three times Prime Minister—I mean the late Earl of Derby. I think that some of the expressions in that speech will appear very familiar to hon. Gentlemen opposite, even if they may not have studied Canadian affairs. In the debate on Lord Durham's plan of self-government for Canada, the Earl of Derby said of the Canadians—They were a people of ignorance the most profound, of prejudice the most moderate, of 1751 simplicity the most undoubted, of vanity the most egregious, a people in the most absolute and entire dependence upon those demagogues and leaders who flattered their prejudices for the purpose of obtaining their support. If it were desirable to retain the Colony, this project, which would at once render nugatory on our part all control over them and plunge us into difficulties which could only be escaped from by violence, must not be entertained for a moment. What would be the consequence? The establishment of a Republic. The concession would remove the only check to the power of the dominant majority—a majority in numbers only; for in wealth, in education, in enterprize, it was greatly inferior to the minority, who were settlers of British descent.Now, Sir, what was the course taken on the advice of that far-seeing statesman, Lord Durham? He went out to Canada, and he advised Her Majesty's Government to settle the question. There is one sentence of Lord Durham's which I will quote to the House. He proposed that—The Colonies themselves should be allowed to execute as well as to make the laws.Now, for this Lord Durham was called a great many hard names—almost as many as have been applied to my right hon. Friend. His policy was called a seditious and shameful policy; and that is only a sample of the attacks which were made upon him. But his policy was carried out; wiser counsels than those represented in the speech from which I have read an extract were adopted, and some persons, who at that time denounced Lord Durham and his proposals, within 20 years discovered that the Canadian Constitution was one that was thoroughly fit for a people of British origin, even with a large admixture of Frenchmen; and no one even of those sitting opposite fails now to appeal to the Administration of Canada as a good and sound and Constitutional Administration. So I venture to believe will be the case with regard to Ireland. If I have troubled the House too long with these references to another country, it is because I feel that human nature—British human nature and Irish human nature—is the same, whether on this side of the Atlantic or on the other. I cannot but feel confident that, as all those fears which were prevalent at that time and for some years on the part of the majority of the House of Commons were dissipated by experience when Lord Durham's proposals were thoroughly carried out, so these fears with regard 1752 to Ireland will be dissipated by experience. I have spoken upon this question, I hope, without heat and without introducing any matters of personal controversy—although I confess that from the tone of the debate I have been tempted to refer to some such matters; I have not done so, and I have tried to keep the House strictly to arguments derived from facts and from analogies, hoping that, for once, such a line of argument will be acceptable to the House, even without the introduction of any personalities. I will conclude with the words used by Mr. Burke on this subject, in his famous letter to Lord Charlemont, which will be known to hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, even if it is not known generally to English and Scotch Members. Mr. Burke used these words—Mutual affection will do more for mutual help and mutual advantage between the two Kingdoms than any ties of artificial connection whatever. No reluctant tie can be a strong one.At the present time the tie which exists between Great Britain and Ireland is not only a reluctant tie, but one which I believe is deeply disliked—I might almost say hated—by a large portion of the Irish people; and, in my humble judgment, the new bond of amity and equal interest which this Bill proposes will be accepted with cordiality, and will, I believe, result in a permanent attachment to, and affection for, this country.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the interesting historical sketch we have had from him; but I cannot help saying that the ultimate fate of this Bill will not be decided by what Mr. Pitt said or did, or by what Sir Ralph Abercromby said or did, but that it will be decided by the facts of the case as they exist in 1886. The right hon. Gentleman has informed us that the Army in Ireland was in a bad state before the Union; but that does not seem to me to be a particularly strong argument for repealing the Union.
I said it was a good argument not for repealing the Union, but for maintaining the Army under British authority.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
That is exactly the point on which we differ. We believe that you are repealing the 1753 Union. The right hon. Gentleman also gave the House information as to his experience in the case of a Colony; but that Colony is a very long way off. Besides that, there is this material difference between the case of that Colony or of Canada and of Ireland, that the Colonies have never paid tribute, as far as I understand, to Great Britain, and, therefore, never acquired direct representation in this House. Anyone who has sat long in this House will realize as intensely as I do, from the condition of the House and the nature of the debates we have lately heard, that the House has almost had enough of this business. Nearly every argument which can be offered to the House on either side of the question has, I believe, been already offered to the consideration of the House; and therefore I will, if I can, avoid trespassing much upon those topics which have been so maturely discussed, but will confine my remarks to the practical point of view in which the Party to which I belong regard this Bill. After all, I can speak with more authority on their behalf than I could in a more general way. Some years have now elapsed since the Separatist Question assumed definition and a complete shape and form under the auspices of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). Before the advent of that hon. Gentleman to the position of Leader of the Separatist Party the Home Rule Party was without form, and void. Practically it had no real meaning; but since the advent of the hon. Member for the City of Cork he and his supporters have undoubtedly given it a definite shape. We fully understand what they mean. They have never disguised their intentions; they have never hidden their object; and, although I am bitterly opposed to their opinions, I have always given the hon. Member credit for having been entirely honest and straightforward in defining what his objects are and what was the goal at which he aimed. Therefore, I can understand exactly what it is he wants. In bygone days I have often wondered what arguments the hon. Member intended to adduce in this House in order to persuade it to accede to his demand for a separation between the two countries, because the hon. Member has repeatedly stated that separation is the goal at which he aims. I do not think the hon. Member has 1754 ever denied that; he has distinctly stated it. ["No!"] The word "separation" may be objectionable to hon. Gentleman below the Gangway; but the House will understand what is the meaning of the phrase—"Ireland a nation among the nations of the world, free from outside control." I have no wish to argue the meaning of the word "separation;" but the meaning conveyed in that passage is certainly, from an English point of view, separation. The hon. Member for the City of Cork, who is a very astute politician, if he will allow me to say so, thought better of trying to persuade the House by any arguments of his own, and he has, therefore, employed the most able advocate that could be found in the length and breadth of Great Britain. The hon. Member discovered that advocate in the person of the Prime Minister. Well, Sir, undoubtedly we, the Irish Loyalists—[Laughter]—well, I will alter the word, in deference to the feelings of hon. Members below the Gangway, and I will say that we, the Irish Unionists, from the very first looked upon this Bill with suspicion and abhorrence. We have been accused of treating it unfairly; but I think it can be easily shown that we have every right to look on this Bill with suspicion and abhorrence. First and foremost we believe that the Liberal Party, under present conditions, is not to be trusted. ["Oh!"] Hon. Members below the Gangway do not appear to like that observation. I would not have ventured to make such an assertion if I were not backed up by a very high authority. There are certain conditions under which even the Liberal Party, which is supposed to be a truly patriotic and honest Party, is not to be trusted. What are those conditions? That the Liberal Party should find itself in such a position that the hon. Member for the City of Cork and his supporters could transfer it from that side of the House to this whenever they please. In order to back up my opinion I will quote the authority on which I make that statement—a statement I should never have dreamt of making in this House of my own accord seriously. These are the words on which I make this statement—and the House will see that, at any rate, I have good reason for making it—it will be seen that we, Unionists, have grounds for looking with great suspicion 1755 on a Bill proposed under the conditions named by this high authority—Let me now suppose, for argument's sake I may suppose it possible, that the Liberal Party might be returned to the coming Parliament—that is rather a staggering supposition, but I beg you to indulge me for an instant—might be returned to the coming Parliament in a minority, but in a minority which might become a majority by the aid of the Irish vote; and I will suppose that owing to some cause the present—that is the Conservative—Government has disappeared, and that the Liberal Party was called upon to deal with this great Constitutional question of the Government of Ireland in a position where it was a minority dependent upon the Irish vote for converting it into a majority. Now, gentlemen, I tell you seriously and solemnly that although I believe the Liberal Party to be honourable, patriotic, sound, and trustworthy, yet in such a position as that it would not be safe for them to enter upon the consideration of a measure in respect to which, at the first step of its progress, it would be in the power of a Party coming from Ireland to say—'Unless you do this, and unless you do that, we will turn you out to-morrow.'That is exactly the position in which the right hon. Gentleman is now standing. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: No.] The right hon. Gentleman says "No." I admit that there is this difference—that the Liberal Party in this House is in a majority as compared with the Conservative Party, but the Government is exactly in the position mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that the hon. Member for the City of Cork can say to the right hon. Gentleman—"Unless you do this, or unless you do that, out you go to-morrow." As I believe that the right hon. Gentleman had the exact gauge of the morality of the Liberal Party in his mind at the time, and as I should imagine that the right hon. Gentleman was speaking for himself, it must be taken that the right hon. Gentleman fully understood the terrible temptation it would be if he and his Government were placed in such a position that the hon. Member for the City of Cork might say to them—"Unless you do this, or unless you do that, out you go to-morrow." The right hon. Gentleman must have felt in his innermost conscience that if he were ever placed in that position he could not be trusted to carry out such a measure as this. Irishmen from the North, therefore, look with intense suspicion upon a measure brought forward by a Government exactly in the critical and delicate situation indicated by the right hon. Gentleman in that speech. But, besides 1756 that, we have other reasons which induce hon. Members from the North of Ireland to look with grave suspicion upon this measure. In the first place, it has been accompanied by a series of reciprocal conversions. Of course, we can all understand the conversion of any single hon. Member who might suddenly change his views. I admit it frankly; but we find it extremely difficult, however, to realize the fact of the sudden conversion on this subject of the whole Treasury Bench, and of such a large number of hon. Members below the Gangway. It is rather extraordinary that these conversions should synchronize and that they should take place at the same moment. Perhaps the House will permit me to refer to one or two wonderful changes of opinion that have taken place among right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, and among many hon. Members below the Gangway. In the immediate past, several of the most distinguished occupants of the Treasury Bench undoubtedly entertained views which were diametrically opposed to those which they hold at present. I have no desire to rake up the antecedents of the right hon. Gentlemen, and I should not do so on this occasion were it not for the fact that it materially affects the point of view from which we regard this measure. For instance, I will take, in the first place, one of the most distinguished occupants of the Treasury Bench—a right hon. Gentleman who is supposed to be one of the most distinguished Whig statesmen in this country. I refer to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman will probably make a speech during the course of this debate, and then he will have an opportunity of informing the House how it was that so remarkable a conversion has been brought about in his own case. What did the right hon. Gentleman say? I do not intend to go back upon ancient history in the few remarks I propose to make; and, indeed, the only great statesman of the last century to whose words I shall refer will be one who will meet with the entire approval of the right hon. Gentleman—namely, Mr. Burke. I wish, however, to refer to living personages who live and breathe and have their being in the House of Commons at the present moment. This 1757 is a speech delivered no longer ago than last autumn, and that can scarcely be called ancient history. At the time the right hon. Gentleman delivered it he was in an unconverted state. This is what the right hon. Gentleman said—I read only the other day a speech made in Ireland by an hon. Member, in which he said that he deprecated outrages, I am very glad that Mr. Parnell and others have, for the first time, deprecated outrages. But there has been a still more serious question than 'Boycotting' raised in Ireland, because since the declaration of Mr. Parnell there can be no doubt what is the policy which he and his Party have adopted. It is a policy of absolute separation between the two countries. How has that declaration been met? Two speakers most eminently entitled to represent the Liberal Party—Lord Hartington and Mr. Chamberlain—have spoken on this question, and they have spoken in a manner worthy of their position and worthy of the Party they represent.A very strange conversion certainly has taken place in the right hon. Gentleman, for he does not appear now to sympathize entirely with either the noble Marquess or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. Let me take another case of conversion which appears to have taken place at the same time, and, apparently, with the same object—the conversion of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. I listened with great attention to his speech the other night, and, for a man who spoke against his convictions, I thought it was a very good speech. I do not mean that phrase at all offensively. The right hon. Gentleman always gives me the idea of being a brave and robust Scotchman—a man not likely to change his opinions suddenly. Yet we find that not very long ago the right hon. Gentleman held opinions diametrically opposed to those which he expressed the other evening. This speech was delivered not very long ago; it is still later than the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. On October 16, 1885, at which period the right hon. Gentleman was in an unconverted state, he said, speaking about the condition of Ireland—Would Lord Salisbury make light of intimidation if he held a small farm from which he drew his whole income, and if, in consequence of some act of his against a certain political organization, he were to find his labourers leaving his employment against their will, his servants quitting his house, his shopkeepers refusing to supply him with food and clothing, the markets closed against him, his 1758 children refused admission to school, and his family denied any attention or comfort in sickness, or when, perhaps, in the arms of death? He spoke by the book of things that he knew.Those were the words of the right hon. Gentleman when describing the condition of Ireland, and speaking of the organization of which the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) is the head; and yet, in the speech which he made in this House the other evening, the right hon. Gentleman informed us that the very organization which he justly condemned in these scathing terms was an organization to which the British Parliament and the British people were unconditionally to surrender. But we have learned something more about the right hon. Gentleman's conversion. We have learned a remarkable and interesting fact about the right hon. Gentleman from a speech delivered at Sheffield by the President of the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) not long ago visited his constituents, and delivered a speech, in which he described the process through which the Secretary of State for War had passed. This is what he said—I consulted also Mr. Campbell-Bannerman, and when I told him the conclusions I had come to, he said—'Ah, you have discovered it also, have you? I found salvation long ago.'This gave me the idea—I do not know how far it will convince the House—of a swimmer sinking in deep water, but at last, getting his feet on a mud bank, lifting himself to the surface and shaking himself clear of all his former convictions. The conversions of hon. Members below the Gangway have been equally remarkable. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien), in the very moderate and eloquent speech which he delivered the other night—a speech so entirely different from others which we have heard him deliver—deprecated the making of quotations from speeches delivered in past times. I do not wonder that the hon. Member does deprecate such quotations.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN (Tyrone, S.)
I did not deprecate them. I simply said that the hon. and gallant Member and his followers might spare themselves the trouble of making these quotations, because I admitted in the frankest manner all that they could prove.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
I quite understand the position of the hon. Member. I must, however, explain why I feel bound, when I speak in this House on this question, to make quotations from speeches delivered by hon. Members below the Gangway. We often in the streets pass by a man whose character we are aware is not of the best description. I do not apply that to the hon. Gentleman. We never feel it necessary—indeed, it would be an odious occupation—to rake up the misdeeds of particular men unless they propose to acquire an influence over our affairs. Otherwise, we should leave them alone; and if the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien) and his Friends would be content to remain Members of this House, and to debate and deal with Irish questions—as I believe it is our honour and privilege to do now—I should be the last man to get up here and rake up what they have said and done in former times. But it is a very different thing when it is proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite to place the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Friends over me and my Friends, giving them the power of making our laws and guiding our destinies. In such a case it behoves us, if we have any remnant of common sense left at all, to ask what right they have established by their words and deeds in the past to a position of trust in the future. We do not object to see a horse in the street with capped hocks so long as we have not to buy it ourselves; but, if we desire to purchase the animal, we are justified in inquiring whether these capped hocks are due to the fact that the animal has kicked in former times. Now, Sir, there are several quotations which I feel it necessary to read to the House—interesting speeches delivered several years ago. I do not intend to go further back into ancient history than last year; but I wish to show that strange conversions have taken place below the Gangway in the opinions which hon. Gentlemen who sit there now hold. The hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien) wound up his speech the other night with some very complimentary remarks about the Prime Minister, and lest the right hon. Gentleman should feel over vain, I will read to the House an interesting paragraph which I conclude 1760 was written by the hon. Member himself, because it is taken from a leading article in his own paper. The hon. Member can deny the authorship of it if he likes. It is most interesting, and is written in graphic English—This hog-wash about Liberal philanthropy to Ireland had better be dropped if ever we are to come to business, and see how much the Liberal Party are prepared to offer and how much they require in return. The spectacle of the hoary British Pharisee, sleekly congratulating himself upon his goodness in coercing, plundering, and depopulating Ireland, is sickening enough in the dense average Briton, but is really a little too bad in a perfectly wide-a-wake statesman who has just been turned out of Office with a Crimes Act in his pocket.Now, Sir, I venture to point out that some sudden change of mind must have taken place so far as the hon. Member for South Tyrone is concerned between that date and last December, for he certainly at that time did not speak of the right hon. Gentleman in the same flattering terms. How the subsequent conversion of the hon. Member came about we cannot say. And the right hon. Gentleman himself, if we may judge from his speeches, was also in an unconverted state at the time of the last Election, because he appealed to the constituencies to give him a majority sufficient to enable him to deal with hon. Members below the Gangway. Perhaps we may never learn how that reciprocal action took place between the Treasury Bench and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway; but, at any rate, whatever happened, there occurred an injudicious mixture of the innocent principles of hon. Members below the Gangway and the old traditions of the Liberal Party, which the right hon. Gentleman is supposed to represent. Our wonder is that we should have presented to us that lame and limping British policy which goes with one leg from the Liberal Party on the one side and another from Cork on the other. What has been the first result of this ill-omened policy? It has been the disruption of the Liberal Party. The very first thing that occurred was that a seccession happened of the great majority of Liberals on the other side of the House. ["No!"] Hon. Members below the Gangway say "No!" I hope they are right. Perhaps they are right, because the Party of Secession is led by the Prime Minister. We have heard a great many speeches; 1761 but, as far as I am aware, we have had no instance of any Liberal or Whig politician who has expressed himself in favour of the policy now proposed by the Prime Minister. It is a new policy, and it is just as much opposed to the real policy of the Liberal Party as to that of hon. Members who sit on this side of the House. In bringing in the Bill the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had two things to say. He admitted that it was an expensive Bill. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] Of course, that is not the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman. It involves two items of expense. The right hon. Gentleman calls it an economical measure, because he does not set much store on one of these items. To his mind it is only of trifling value; but to my mind it is the greatest item—namely, the unity of the British Empire. That is the first and the greatest item of expense. The second item of expense is the £50,000,000. These two items are inseparably bound together. That is an established fact; and if the first is carried by a great majority, the second will be carried by a still greater majority. In opposing the Bill we feel that it is our duty to show that there is a less expensive and more satisfactory way of accomplishing the objects the Prime Minister has in view. The principal argument of the right hon. Gentleman was that 85 Members have been returned from Ireland representing the policy of separation. Has the right hon. Gentleman read the statistics of the elections which have taken place in Ireland? There were 738,058 electors in Ireland, of whom only 307,596 voted for the policy of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), while 430,462 did not vote for the policy, so that there was a majority of about 113,000 electors who did not vote for the policy of separation represented by the hon. Member for the City of Cork. It should also be remembered that the 307,596 voted under the compulsion of the most powerful coercive organization that ever existed. And, because they so voted, the House of Commons is now asked to agree to the disruption of the Empire. [An hon. MEMBER: What about the uncontested elections?] I venture to say that that is an argument which will not prevail in this House. The argument put forward by the right hon. Member for 1762 Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) was that, up to the present moment, crime and outrage have been the means by which Irishmen have ever extorted concessions from England; and, therefore, says the right hon. Gentleman, this Bill should be conceded before the Irish begin their congenial methods of arguing the matter. ["Oh!"] I am only using the expression of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
That argument cuts both ways. How do we know, if this Bill is passed, that this method of argument will not be resorted to in the future to secure the ultimate object hon. Members below the Gangway have in view—the separation of the two countries? How do we know that that method will not be resorted to which the right hon. Gentleman says has, up to the present moment, always been successful? The principal point in the speech of the Chief Secretary was that if this Bill is not passed something terrible will happen—we must look out for squalls. It is true that we may have outrages and dynamite explosions; but the English nation is different from what it has been in former years if it has not pluck enough left to deal with arguments like that. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council (Sir Lyon Playfair) made a speech in favour of the Bill. I will not attempt to follow the right hon. Gentleman through that speech, which certainly appeared to me to be a rhetorical Sahara without an oasis. He tried to show that potatoes and turnips sympathize with the views of the hon. Member for the City of Cork, and that they have decreased both in size and volume since the Union. But, in the end, his great argument was that we have to deal with America. That is the argument put before the British House of Commons, I presume, as a menace. But we know how to deal with the Irish-Americans. I want to know, however, if it is quite certain that the Bill, as it stands, will satisfy the Irish Americans as the right hon. Gentleman assumes? [An hon. MEMBER: It will.] That is a matter which I venture to doubt, and which I venture to contest. I read in The Irish World—a newspaper of which hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway have heard—this passage— 1763When Hicks-Beach asked whether the Irish Members of Parliament would be content with Mr. Gladstone's proposals as a final settlement, Mr. O'Brien responded, 'Every one of them.' This reply may have been fitting in a heated debate; but in sober earnest, and after cool reflection, I do not think it would be repeated.That is the opinion of The Irish World, which is cognizant of Irish feeling. [Mr. W. O'BRIEN: Yes; of the dynamiters.] This paper is decidedly of opinion that the Irish people would not be satisfied with the concessions of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
Will the hon. Gentleman say whether the extract he has read is the opinion of The Irish World, or an extract from a letter?
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
I have quoted it from a leading article which appeared in The Irish World. I should not quote these things were it not for the fact, as I have already observed, that this Bill proposes to place hon. Members below the Gangway in a responsible position in Ireland. I want the House to remember what these hon. Members have said in the immediate past before they were converted. Let me take the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien). If the Bill passes he will probably be in a leading position in the new Government of Ireland. I think that is a very natural thing. He is one of the most able and most eloquent Members below the Gangway. He says he will give me any pledges we please; but I do not value his pledges. What did the hon. Member say when the Prince of Wales was in Ireland last summer? The hon. Member made a speech, in which he said—There is no loyalty in Ireland to England or an English Prince, and wherever the Prince would go throughout the country there would not be wanting evidence to remind him that the sincere and earnest prayer of the Irish people was that the British Empire would be sunk for 24 hours to the bottom of the sea.Yet the right hon. Gentleman proposes to place the hon. Member for South Tyrone in a position of responsibility in the Irish Government. I do not wish to make any more quotations. ["Go on!"] Very well, then, I will give one more. This is a very interesting quotation—a speech from The Freeman's Journal—and, therefore, I presume it is correct—If the olive branch that we are holding out to England now should meet with no better response 1764 than the raving of the Cockney newspapers—'We've a hand for the grasp of friendship,And another to make them quake,And they are welcome to whichsoeverIt pleases them most to take.'If they do not want peace Mr. Parnell will give them war. He will give them such a war as 80 Members can carry on in the heart of the English Parliament, and such war as the Irish people are able to carry on outside with the weapon of the franchise and the weapon of the 'Boycotting' pike, as they call it, or any other weapons that time and opportunity may offer us or those who come after us from generation to generation.[Cheers from the Irish Members.] Now, Sir, those are the opinions of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, and opinions which are now cheered from below the Gangway. As far as I can understand, and can interpret those cheers, they mean that if the House of Commons is willing to grant their demands, formulated as they are by the Bill, they will not proceed to these desperate remedies, and will abandon the "Boycotting" pike. Now, I do not think that the House of Commons, unless it has lost all its pluck and determination, will allow itself for one moment to be intimidated by arguments such as that. This question ought to be dealt with on its merits. Is it likely to succeed? That is the question which the House of Commons ought to ask themselves. Is it likely to be a final settlement, or a successful settlement; and is the House of Commons asked by this Bill to pay too dearly for the operation? I believe, Sir, that it will not be a final settlement. Before now, I have challenged hon. Members below the Gangway to get up in the House of Commons and inform the House and the country that they have foresworn and abandoned all the objects which in past years they informed us was the goal and object of their lives. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) has never informed us that he has abandoned, permanently, the idea of Ireland becoming over and over again a separate nation, which he has stated was the object at which he aimed. ["Never!"] Surely hon. Members below the Gangway will not get up in this House and state that they have abandoned the intention of making Ireland an entirely independent country free from outside control. [An hon. MEMBER: We never entertained it.] I have challenged them to do so, but they 1765 have not done it. Why is this? It is because they have not abandoned that intention.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
In these circumstances I think we come to a fair conclusion when we say that this Bill would simply be made use of as a lever to work out the final ends and aims of hon. Members below the Gangway. It cannot be a final settlement, for this reason—that the Irish people are not united in making the demand. ["Oh!"] Surely hon. Members below the Gangway will not assert that the Irish Protestant population are in favour of this measure? ["Yes; large numbers of them."] I venture to say that the House of Commons is not yet quite so lost to all sense of what is right and true as to believe the assertion that the Irish Protestants are in favour of this measure, even although the statement should be made in this House by an Abraham backed up by the Lamentations of Jeremiah. It will not be a final settlement of the question, because the strongest part of the Irish population are opposed to it. ["No!"] I do not hope to conciliate the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, because he has thrown overboard all classes, including the education and property of the country; and he believes that all patriotism dwells outside that category. But the property, the commerce, and the education of the country have distinctly declared themselves to be opposed to this measure. ["No, no!"] I think the very fact of the constitution of the 86 Members who sit below the Gangway proves what I say. Where among them are to be found the bankers, the merchants, and the landlords of the country? I am not saying this in any invidious way, but I am simply relating a fact which cannot be denied. There are, I believe, a few landlords among hon. Members below the Gangway; but the exception proves the rule. I believe that the hon. Member for South Dublin (Sir Thomas Esmonde) is a landlord; but that was held to be the very reason why he should not be elected until he proved to demonstration that a relation of his had been hung in 1798. Now, I think I must inform the House as to what I believe 1766 the alternative policy should be. There was an interesting work, published a good many years ago, entitled Rejected Addresses. It would be an interesting thing to publish, after this debate is over, the rejected alternative schemes, headed by the measure now proposed by the Prime Minister. My alternative scheme is a very simple and clear one. The great argument brought forward by the Prime Minister and those who support him is to this effect—that everything has been tried and everything has failed. Well, Sir, when a physician has prescribed remedies for a sick man, and when he finds that those remedies have not succeeded in curing the patient, he ought to find out first of all, before he changes the remedies, or before he gives up the patient, whether the sick man has taken the remedies. If the physician discovers that the sick man for whom he has prescribed has never taken any of the remedies, but that the attendants have thrown them out of the window, the physician would then be justified in saying—"You must get rid of the attendants, and let them follow the medicine." Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has said that all the remedies applied to Ireland have failed. Why have they failed? When I challenged the right, hon. Gentleman some time ago to whitewash the character of his future Irish Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman paid no attention to my invitation. I observe, however, that Earl Spencer went down to Newcastle and attempted that process. He also went to Leeds, where the operation was repeated; but I venture to say that, instead of the noble Earl improving the case, like an inexperienced rubber-out he has made the smudge still worse. What did Earl Spencer say with regard to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell)? He said at Newcastle that one of the objections urged against the hon. Member becoming a Minister for Ireland; was that some men had connected him with crime in Ireland; but of that he entirely absolved the hon. Member. Now, Sir, I want to know who it was that accused the hon. Member of having been connected with crime in Ireland? It was the Prime Minister himself. The right hon. Gentleman accused the hon. Member of being the head of an organization whose steps were dogged by crime, and he accused 1767 him also of leading men on a pilgrimage of plunder and spoliation. Why did not Earl Spencer at the time go and tell the right hon. Gentleman that the hon. Member was entirely guiltless? Why did he allow the Prime Minister to remain under the impression that the hon. Member was guilty of the crimes of which he was accused? Earl Spencer then went on to explain how it was that Ireland had not yet been pacified by the efforts made by successive Liberal Administrations. Listen to this, which I think is very interesting. He said—They (the Liberal Government) have passed drastic measures to relieve the grievances of the tenants. They have lowered the rents and deprived the landlords of a great part of their profits. They have done much to remove the difficulties of the Irish Question; but that question was never settled. It was never allowed to be settled by the Irish National League Party, and it will never be allowed to be settled by the National League Party until they have a Home Rule Government in Ireland.At Newcastle he said much the same thing. He said—Some of the measures were so strong"—these were the measures passed by the Liberal Party to try and coerce Ireland—that we had to strain the loyalty of many English Members to carry those measures, and yet those measures were hardly allowed to take effect in Ireland by the National Party in order to get the government into their own hands—the self-government of their land—they would not allow those remedial measures to take effect; they would not allow them then, and they will not allow them hereafter.And so, because an organization led by the hon. Member for the City of Cork would not allow those great remedial measures to be accepted by the Irish people, because the hon. Member has prevented the Irish people from reaping the benefit of those measures, we are to disintegrate and dismember the British Empire. Is it possible that the House of Commons will consent to a proposal so monstrous and so devoid of common sense as that? First of all, let us get rid of the National League. That is supposed to be an impossibility. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have simply thrown up the sponge. They say they are incapable of coping with that organization, which prevents the Irish people from obtaining the advantage of the great Acts which have been passed for their benefit. Then why, before making this desperate experiment 1768 and proceeding to cut off one of the limbs of England, should we not try and see what would take place in Ireland if we restore the authority of the law, and crush the coercive authority of this nefarious organization, which has destroyed the life and the liberty of our native country? Is it impossible to do so? I venture to say—and hon. Members below the Gangway know perfectly well—that if the Government would put its foot down—if the right hon. Gentleman would himself put his foot down—which he never has done without allowing a little streak of daylight to be seen beneath it—if he would, put his foot firmly down, not only would he be backed up by the Protestants and Orangemen of Ulster, but by those very farmers and tenants whose condition has been and will be so much improved by the Land Laws which the right hon. Gentleman himself has passed. A remarkable speech was made at Monaghan on October 10, 1885, by a distinguished Member below the Gangway on this very subject; and it is important to notice that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway know very well that one of their great difficulties is to prevent the tenant farmers of Ireland from asserting their right to enjoy the benefits of the legislation which has been passed for them. The hon. Member to whom I refer said in that speech that there were two points that should be seen to—two chinks in their armour; and the first was a combination that would make it impossible for the rich farmer to break up that organization—that is, the National League. What does "seeing to" a man in Ireland mean? It means preventing him from paying his rent. ["No!"] In the part of Ireland, at least, that is under the dominion of the National League, it is a thing that is thoroughly understood. The Southern and Western farmers are to be "seen to," in order that they may not break up the National League—there will be no more necessity for "seeing to" the farmers in the South or West of Ireland. Our alternative policy, then, is to crush the National League. If you are not men enough to deal with the National League the days of England will not be many. But you must do something more. You must deal generously with Ireland; you must help—and that, I believe, will be the ultimate salvation of Ireland—you 1769 must help the Irish farmers to become the owners of the land they till. That is the policy which I have maintained for years. I believe that if you spend that £50,000,000 in helping the farmers of Ireland to own the land they till, you will raise up a wall and barrier which that miserable organization cannot overthrow. Now, Sir, there is one more point I wish to touch upon before I sit down. The attitude which the Northern Protestants now occupy with respect to this Bill has been animadverted upon very freely in this House and in the country. We are called half rebels and disloyal men because we have asserted publicly, as I now assert before the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), that as long as we have the power we shall use that power to prevent the hon. Member and his Friends from ruling Ireland. I admit that the House can pass any Bill it pleases. But even if the House has got that power, there are certain things it has no right to do. Allow me to put a case which exactly illustrates what I mean. Let me suppose—which, of course, is very hard to suppose—that Russia succeeded, by corruptly subsidizing a certain number of Members of this House, in getting a Bill passed, and the Bill was passed by a majority of the men so bribed, should we not be justified in employing all the power we possess in contending against and in fighting against such a measure? Well, Sir, what is the case at present? There are 85 Members of this House paid by America.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must ask the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien) not to interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman. If the hon. Member, or any other hon. Member, continues this interruption it will be my duty to take serious notice of it.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
As a matter of Order, Sir, I will ask whether the hon. and gallant Member is justified in stating here what he knows to be a falsehood? [Cries of "Order!" and "Name!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The expression which the hon. Member has just used is quite un-Parliamentary. On the other hand, I am quite sure that if the hon. 1770 and gallant Gentleman intended to impute any unfair motive to any hon. Member of this House he will at once withdraw the imputation.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I rise to a point of Order. I saw the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien) get up in his place and accuse the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Major Saunderson) of stating what he knows to be a falsehood. I ask you, Sir, whether an expression of that kind can be allowed to pass without its being fully withdrawn?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already told the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien) that the expression he has used is un-Parliamentary, and must be withdrawn. On the other hand, I must say that the imputations contained in the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member are very irritating. I must call upon the hon. and gallant Member now in possession of the House, and also upon the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien), to withdraw the expressions they have used.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
I withdraw, with pleasure, any expression I may have used which is contrary to the Rules of this House.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
I hope some hon. Gentleman from below the Gangway will rise in his place and inform the House whether the Fund called the Parliamentary Fund is not derived principally from America? The accounts of that Fund are published periodically by The Freeman's Journal, and a sum of £12,000 was mentioned, at a very recent date, as having been received from America. I do not, therefore, think that any hon. Member belonging to the National Party will be able to get up and say that they derive no money from America—money which is contributed for the purpose—perhaps a very laudable purpose—of enlisting the services of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. If they tell me that no money has been received from America for that purpose, 1771 of course I shall only be too happy to withdraw any expression I may have used; but I do not believe that any hon. Member will get up in his place and say that the Nationalists derive no money from America.
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
The difficulty is this—that we have below the Gangway 85 Members who have distinctly stated over and over again that their object is to dismember the Empire, and bring about a separation between England and Ireland. ["No!"]
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I rise to Order. I ask you, Sir, whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to accuse the Irish Members of desiring to bring about a separation between England and Ireland?
§ MAJOR SAUNDERSON
I will again withdraw the expression which I used. Hon. Members, it appears, do not like the word "separation;" and I will, therefore, say that their object is to place Ireland in such a position that she will be free from any control or interference on the part of England. I call that separation. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway do not call it separation. If this Bill is carried, it will be carried by a majority which will be formed from below the Gangway, and a measure carried in that way in this House, which, to my mind, leads to separation between England and Ireland, is a measure to which I, and those who think with me, would never give our adhesion. We do not intend—we are not quite so foolish—to rise, as some hon. Members apparently imagine that we should rise, in arms against the passing of this Bill; but what we say we are prepared to do, and what we intend to do, is this—to absolutely refuse to acknowledge the authority of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Friends, when their Government is formed. I believe, Sir, that that determination will be approved by the great mass of the people of this country. I should like to appeal to the memory of the Prime Minister as to his former experiences with regard to Ireland, and ask whether they ought not to lead him to pursue an entirely different course from that which he is pursuing at the present time? What is statesmanship? Statesmanship, according to my notion, may be roughly described 1772 as the science of giving past experience a concrete form in legislative enactments. What is the past experience of the right hon. Gentleman? Irish wrongs took the shape with him of a Upas tree, and with the desire he always manifests to cut down every tree he sees he determined that it should fall. It appeared that the tree had three branches—the Church, the land, and education. The right hon. Gentleman cut off two of the branches; the third he attempted to cut off, but it fell upon himself, and swept him and his Colleagues from the Treasury Bench. He first disestablished the Church to satisfy the demands and to acquire the loyalty of the Roman Catholics. But did he acquire their loyalty? Is the priesthood of Ireland loyal to the Crown of England? The very paper which contained the letter from Archbishop Croke to the Prime Minister also contained a letter from him subscribing to the murderers' fund at Manchester. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No murderers.] The right hon. Gentleman disestablished the Church in Ireland, but he has not satisfied the Catholic clergy; he disestablished the landlords to satisfy the tenants, but has he satisfied them? And now, as the culminating act of his great career, he proposes to dismember the Empire to satisfy rebels. Sir, in conclusion, I can assign 85 reasons why the House of Commons should not consent to this Bill. These are not abstract, but concrete reasons, and they are to be found sitting below the Gangway. I ask hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite whether they would consent to place themselves under the authority of those hon. Members? I venture to say that the most rampant Radical in this House would scorn the notion of being governed by them. Sir, I see two roads which we can take. One of them is the adoption of this Bill, and I believe it to be a sinister path that leads to confusion, to bloodshed, and to the destruction of my country; the other is the path of resolution; it is a difficult one, but I believe it is the path that will lead ultimately to the salvation of the Empire and the happiness of Ireland.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
Sir, the speech of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down (Major Saunderson) illustrates, I think, more than anything else the futility of a policy 1773 of exasperation; and I cannot help contrasting the hon. and gallant Member's speech with that delivered by the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) at the commencement of the evening. That speech was characterized by a union of patriotism and philanthropy, which are too often separated the one from the other. The hon. Member for Longford did not allow the earnestness of his political aspirations to lead him into any uncharitable or unjust aspersions on those who differed from him; on the contrary, the hon. Member held out the olive branch to those who have hitherto opposed this measure, and endeavoured to show how all may work together for the good of his native land. Very different has been the tone of the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down; but I hope that the advice and counsels of the hon. Member for Longford will yet prevail in the North of Ireland, and that Irishmen will make up their minds to work together for the good of their common country.
There was, however, one point in the speech of the hon. Member for Longford in which, I think, he committed a little injustice to a distinguished Member of this House. Speaking of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), he said that the speech delivered by the noble Marquess recently in Bradford did not contribute anything to the discussion of the Irish Question. I am not, of course, giving his exact words; but that I believe was the substance of what he said. Sir, I cannot but think that certain words uttered by the noble Marquess towards the close of his speech at Bradford give us the cue to the whole problem before us, and that if that advice were acted upon we should very speedily pass the second reading of the Bill. The noble Marquess, in disavowing any sympathy with the measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, went on to say in conclusion that, for his part, he was in favour of doing away with every grievance of which the Irish people could complain, and, he added, of extending to Ireland "the liberties which you claim, and which you value for yourselves." This was before an audience of some 3,000 or 4,000 English people, members of a mighty nation, well competent to manage its own affairs, and thinking itself well 1774 able to manage the affairs of other people as well. What are the liberties which we value for ourselves? They are that the majority of the inhabitants of this country shall have their way, and that all our affairs, whether Imperial or local, shall be conducted in accordance with the opinions of that majority.
But many hon. Gentlemen say—"That is precisely what we want the Irish people to submit to; they are parts of the United Kingdom politically; and they are bound to submit to the voice of the majority." But, Sir, I think that that argument omits to notice certain essential conditions apart from which the rule of the majority cannot be just or fair. Those conditions are that any group of men amongst whom the rule of the majority is to prevail must have certain interests in common, and interests which are more or less equably diffused throughout the community, out of which the ruling majority is taken. You cannot take any group of persons at haphazard, and say that the rule of the majority will act fairly amongst them. Take, for instance, a small number of capitalists, and a large number of workmen. Would you think it right to combine them together, and to decide the rate of wages by the voice of the majority? The capitalists would think it a very unjust way of deciding it, because they form a little group amongst themselves, and have their own interests. Similarly the workmen have, or believe they have, certain common interests on which a majority of themselves alone ought to decide. But to throw the two groups together and to let the majority in the combination decide would be clearly unjust.
Now, I say that we ought not to act on this principle in politics. Is it not an obvious fact that there are a considerable number of local interests in Ireland which are not shared by the majority of the United Kingdom, and which they ought to be allowed to manage for themselves? If I wanted an illustration as to the manner in which the opinion of the majority in Ireland has been unjustly overruled, I would not go back to the history of the last century, or to the days when Catholics were oppressed; I should be content to appeal to recent legislation, even in the last Parliament, and I should find abundant proof of it. I would refer to the case of the Irish 1775 Church, where the property which ought to have gone to the secular uses of the Irish people was lavished away on the indulgence of that Establishment, and, as it was said, of the disendowed clergy of the Church; and then I would refer to the Irish Land Act, in which case what I should call the rights, or certainly the needs, of hundreds were forgotten, because of the opinions held, not by the majority in Ireland, but in this country. I might refer also to the fiasco of the Education Acts in Ireland, which have always broken down, because they were not drawn in accordance with the opinion of the majority in Ireland.
The problem is to make our Empire exhibit an instance of unity in variety, and it is perfectly true in this case that the greater the variety the greater the union. Of course, different conditions are needed for the adaptation of this principle to various parts of the Empire. It is laid down that whatever the feeling may be in various parts of Ireland the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament must be preserved. We have been told over and over again that the Bill before us does away altogether with the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. I should like to know whether or not Parliament is supreme over the Isle of Man? It is a small Island; but the principle involved is the same as on the larger scale of Ireland. The House of Keys, if I understand the matter rightly, is an ancient Institution; but it is strictly subordinate to the Imperial Parliament, although it manages the local business of the Island. The same may be said in principle with regard to the Channel Islands.
I should like to refer to certain remarks made by an authority already referred to by the Prime Minister, and one which I am certain will be received by the eminent legal Members of the House who are present with respect. Speaking of the relations between the Imperial Parliament and the Parliaments of the Colonies, Professor Dicey says that the assertion, although it might seem paradoxical, is, nevertheless, strictly true, that the acknowledged supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is one of the main causes of the wide power of legislation allowed to Colonial Assemblies; that the Constitution of the Colonies depends, directly or indirectly, upon Imperial Statutes; that no lawyer 1776 imagines that Parliament could not abolish any Colonial Constitution, or repeal or override any Colonial law whatsoever; that Parliament constantly passes Acts affecting the Colonies; and that the Colonial, no less than the Imperial Courts, admit the principle that an Act of the English Parliament binds in any part of the Dominions to which it is intended to apply. And he says that if an Act of the Victorian Parliament contravenes an Imperial Statute it is for legal purposes void; and if an Act of the Victorian Parliament is considered so opposed to the interests of the Empire that it ought not to be passed, the British Parliament may render it of no effect by means of an Imperial Statute. Thus, a Colonial Parliament, which is apparently almost unlimited in its powers, is limited in everything which affects the security of the Empire by the acknowledged supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. But it is said that, according to the Bill, Parliament altogether resigns the power to control the Irish Parliament, unless it at first sends for the Irish Representatives. Well, Ireland is much nearer to us than any of our Colonies; and our relations with her must continue proportionately intimate. We may alter the laws passed by the Irish Parliament in a way we should never dream of altering the laws of the Colonies; and, therefore, it may be necessary occasionally to send for Irish Members to this House. For these reasons I think that the argument as to the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament ought to be given up.
I should like, before concluding, to say one word as to the state of opinion on which we have to depend for the passage of this Bill. No one can dispute that a marvellous impulse of opinion in the direction of Home Rule has recently been developed in this country. It is said that a great change in popular feeling has been brought about; it is alleged that this is due entirely to the authority of one distinguished man; and it is assumed that if by any evil fate his voice should be silenced, we should hear nothing more of the question. But, Sir, I take that to be an egregious mistake. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government is the cause of an outburst of popular opinion in favour of Home Rule for 1777 Ireland at the present time only in the sense that the engineer who lifts the weight from the valve is the cause of an outburst of steam; the pressure was there before, and the right hon. Gentleman himself was the main cause of its being kept down. But now he signifies his opinion that the time has come when Home Rule may be granted to Ireland; and thus it is that the feeling, which has been developing for a long period in the hearts of the people of this country, breaks through. His powers may be great; but even he has not sufficient strength to put a hook in the jaws of the leviathan democracy and to lead it as he will. He has the perspicuity and he has the legislative skill to give definite form to the ideas which have been lying dormant in the minds of the people. He has the inspiring power to concentrate all popular forces on the attainment of a great purpose. These are the powers which he has exercised, and not those dictatorial powers to which it is assumed the democracy are so ready to bow down. The action of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to this measure reminds me of what took place on the occasion of the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. Only two years before the Act of Disestablishment was passed the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister (Mr. Gladstone) told the House and the country that such a measure was altogether outside the range of practical politics; but when two years later he took the weight of his influence off the safety valve of public feeling, the impulse in favour of Disestablishment spread with the rapidity of a fire on the prairie driven by the wind, and he carried his Bill. I maintain that that is the case now, and I know from my own experience, not only in one centre alone, that for years past the democracy have been ashamed, bitterly ashamed, of the relations between this great country and Ireland. They have longed for the time to come when they may extend their hands to their brethren in Ireland, not to wish them a long farewell, but to bid them good luck and God speed in managing their own affairs.
I am not in the least degree desirous of implying that any blame is due to the statesmanship of the Prime Minister, because I know it is not for a man in the right hon. Gentleman's high position to act as any obscure Radical might do. The 1778 right hon. Gentleman has exhibited great statesmanship. If he ever utters an opinion in favour of a particular measure, he is expected, and, indeed, he must introduce, a plan upon the subject, and carry it out at once. Therefore, I think he has acted properly in keeping this great measure back until the time came to carry it through; but the democracy have a too long political education to follow blindly in the wake of any Leader, and they are in the habit of looking calmly and dispassionately at the proposals of those Leaders. Of this we had a very remarkable instance in the recent meeting of the Liberal Federation. It would be a mistake to suppose that it has forgotten for a moment the man to whom it owes its birth, nor has the Federation ceased to regard the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Chamberlain) as amongst the supreme statesmen of the future. But when it became a question between the older and more experienced statesman and the younger one they came to the conclusion that the settlement of this great question is to be expected from the Prime Minister rather than from his former distinguished Colleague. It would be a mistake to suppose that any recasting of this measure, or any shuffling of Offices, or any Dissolution of Parliament can make any change in the inevitable condition of the problem which lies before us; and why? Because, however ignorant the people may be supposed to be, they have learnt the duty of doing to others as they would that others should do to them; and, in the present instance, that duty takes the form of demanding fair play for Ireland.
There are those who are convinced of the necessity of carrying Home Rule, but who say with more or less regret that this Bill will not do. I am bound to acknowledge that, when I first saw this Bill, I noticed many points in it which I did not like; but I thought more of the Bill when I had examined into it a little further, and the more I study it the more convinced I am of its being a wonderful piece of legislative statesmanship. Taking the Bill as a whole, I think it an admirable one—in fact, a work of consummate political excellence. There are others, however, who will not consent to go into Committee on this Bill, for fear that they will not be able to effect alterations in 1779 it; but, for my part, I wish hon. Members would remember that, on the second reading of a Bill, they are only called upon to affirm the principle.
At the same time, I admit that, when the lives and liberties of millions are concerned, statesmen and Members of Parliament may not unnaturally wish to take the safest course. But are there no dangers on the other side? When I consider the circumstances, I am convinced that no more dreadful blow could be struck against the welfare of both Great Britain and Ireland than would be dealt by the rejection of this measure. The mere introduction of this Bill has already worked a wonderful change in the condition of Ireland. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is lauded and praised for his liberal policy even by the men who have at other times bitterly assailed him. The language of violence is changed into the language of moderation, such as we have listened to to-night. Even Earl Spencer, who has been the subject of so many attacks in Ireland, is applauded by his accusers; and the memory of the late Mr. Forster is hailed, as it deserves to be, with respectful honour. Not only do Irish exiles rejoice in the better prospects of their country, but our own Colonists applaud the measure. America, always generous to the best aspects of our national life, pronounces its deed sympathy with us in the measure; and even Germany, Italy, and France, little comparatively as they know of Constitutional order and freedom, see that we are going in the right way to solve this great problem. The whole world gathers round us to welcome the reconciliation between the Sister Islands as a work of good, strong, and generous statesmanship. Shall we disappoint assembled mankind? [A laugh.] There are hon. Members who think they can afford to laugh at the sentiments of assembled mankind; yet the very same Gentlemen declared that they were shamed and disgraced when foreign critics sneered at our generous peace with the Boers. I think we ought to be so much in accord with humanity that its blame or encouragement ought to be of some value to us. Whatever may be the risks of this act of statesmanship, I believe that the evils involved in the rejection of the Bill are far more terrible; and though its defects, which I hope 1780 may even yet be improved away, were far worse than they are, I would say, in the language of one of old—"Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Viscount Lymington.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Londonderry, S.)
Will the Government say what Class of Supply they propose to take on Monday next?