§ [SEVENTH 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. RIGBY (Cambridgeshire, Wisbech)
said, that the attitude of the opponents of the Bill was now somewhat singular. For a long time they had nothing except complaints from the Tory Members that the measure was so great in extent, and involved topics so new, that time must be given for the purpose of allowing the House and the public adequately to consider the arguments on one side and the other. In those days a great deal of curiosity was expressed as to the opinion of new Members who had not yet taken part in the debate; but of late much of that curiosity had died away, and now the opponents of the Bill 355 seemed to think that the tide had turned against them, and that they had had enough of the debate. He thought, however, that the time had not yet come for closing the debate, because so many statements hostile to the Bill had been made, and made with a great appearance of authority, that if they were not in some degree met in argument it might be said that no argument could be adduced against them. It was, therefore, with some diffidence, but still in the hope that he might be able to say something that would, at any rate, express the views of those who thought with him, that he had ventured to address the House; but he would promise to eon-fine himself strictly to the legal and Constitutional aspects of the question, because they were connected with the subjects which had been his particular study, and as to which he had been obliged from time to time to formulate opinions, and in some degree to apply them. The points on which he should address his observations referred to such titles as unity of Empire, and supremacy of Parliament. Outside the House the opponents of the Bill had fastened upon those who had supported it epithets which they, no doubt, thought would have some effect upon public opinion. The supporters of the Bill had been called Disruptionists, and non-Unionists. He came forward to say that, as a supporter of the Bill, he was not, at any rate, a Disruptionist, and was no opponent of the Union. On the other hand, he was a firm supporter of the Union, and certainly a firm supporter of the unity of the Empire everywhere. They heard a great deal about a rival Parliament being established in Ireland. The only Constitutional Body in this country that could be called a Parliament was the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. There was but one Parliament throughout Her Majesty's Dominions. A Congress could be constructed by a paper Constitution; Legislative Bodies of different kinds might be made by means of a delegated authority derived from Parliament; but a Parliament such as they knew it in this country could not be created by any paper Constitution, and it did not derive its authority from any superior Body, but by virtue of its own intrinsic power, and it had through centuries absorbed into itself all power and authority in the 356 country, and now stood in a position altogether different from that of any other Legislative Assembly in the world. It was absolutely without control from any other authority without. It was controlled only by the feelings of justice and moderation that actuated the different Members of the different branches of the Legislature. That Parliament was supreme not only throughout the United Kingdom, but throughout all the Colonies and Dependencies of Her Majesty's Dominions; and it was equally supreme in those Colonies which had received a legislative form of Constitution by delegation by Parliament as it was in those Colonies which had not yet received any such Constitution. It would be equally supreme the day after this Bill had passed into an Act, and when the Legislative Body which was to be formed in Dublin was carrying on the functions delegated by Parliament as it was now. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) preferred a movement in the direction of federation, somewhat on the lines of the American Constitution. He would not argue now how far that was desirable; but he was certain that if any such measure was to be adopted now or at any future time, those who supported it must cease to speak of being supporters of the Union of the Empire in the sense in which it was now bound together in unity, and, above all things, they must cease to speak of being supporters of the principle of the supremacy of Parliament. Whatever else they did, if they approximated at all to the lines of the American Constitution, if they adopted any form of federation yet devised, they must have the elements out of which a federation was to be formed, and those elements necessarily must be independent States. How they could have federation or anything that had a resemblance to the Constitution of the United States without, in the first instance, dissolving the Empire and sacrificing altogether the supremacy of Parliament he, for one, was unable to say. He did not see why they should not look forward to the development of our Constitution, and at some future day invite Representatives of Her Majesty's Dominions not represented in that House to seats within those walls; but he trusted that when that day came this 357 would be brought about, not by surrendering any of the powers of Parliament, not by altering the nature of Parliament, or by creating anything that might be co-ordinate with or superior to Parliament, but, if need be, by introducing Representatives to Parliament who would succeed to all the traditions of the history of that Body, and who would have all the privileges which Parliament had received through all the centuries of its existence. He entirety concurred in the principles that had been laid down by the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), whose great authority upon such a question as this he fully recognized; but he ventured to differ from the right hon. Gentleman as to the application of those principles. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had commenced his speech by quoting a passage from the Prime Minister's speech to the effect that there was no intention on the part of the framers of the Bill to weaken or to impair the supremacy of the British Parliament; and the right hon. and learned Gentleman then went on to read the 3rd section of the Act of Union, which declared that the United Kingdom should be represented by one and the same Parliament, to be called the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and said that as long as that Parliament existed so long would the unity of the United Kingdom be an established fact, and that as soon as it was done away with we should no longer have a United Kingdom. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, however, went still further, and contended that the unity of the United Kingdom consisted not in the identity of the law, but in the unity of the manufactory of the law. That, of course, meant that we must have one Parliament to manufacture the laws for both countries. But the Attorney General (Sir Charles Russell) had pointed out with fatal force that such an argument would not hold good for a moment as far as our Colonies were concerned. If our laws must be made in one manufactory, then unity of the Empire no longer existed. But how far did such an argument hold good, even as regarded the United Kingdom itself? In this country we had many manufactories of law other than Parliament. Large manufacturing powers had been conferred upon our 358 municipalities, who were authorized to make laws of great importance for themselves, involving a largo amount of taxation. Then, again, the Judges of the land were authorized to legislate upon matters of great importance affecting the administration of justice. These large legislative powers had been conferred upon these numerous subordinate Bodies, because it was believed that such Bodies could legislate better upon the subjects within their jurisdiction than the Imperial Parliament could. But the existence of the powers of such subordinate Bodies was fatal to the right hon. and learned Gentleman's contention as to what constituted the Union of the Empire. In his opinion, true unity consisted in the continued identity of the Imperial Parliament, from which the subordinate Bodies received their powers. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had laid down two conditions as necessary for the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament—the first being that that Parliament should be at full liberty to alter its own Constitution and to remodel and to vary that Constitution; and the second being that it should not be subject to the decisions or the decrees of any man or body of men who should have power to say that it had exceeded its jurisdiction. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had rather shrunk from giving any opinion upon what he termed the refinement of the law as to whether a Parliament, such as the Imperial Parliament would be after this Act was passed, would be able to repeal the Act. But when the Imperial Parliament passed an Act there was no authority within its jurisdiction which could dispute the force of such an Act. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that whenever the Imperial Parliament thought fit to pass an Act varying the Irish Government Act every Judge in England and Scotland would be bound to take notice of and to obey such varying Act. No doubt they would be bound by such an Act. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman thereupon proceeded to ask what would be the position of a Judge in Ireland who would say that the Imperial Parliament had given the Irish Parliament authority to make laws, and that as they were passing very good laws he should obey them, notwithstanding any laws which the Imperial Parliament 359 might make. The only opinion which the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave in the matter was that the Irish Judge would be right. The Judge of First Instance sat in Ireland, and he must found his judgment upon the Government of Ireland Act, and any other Act or Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which might be supposed in some degree to conflict with it. Those were the only materials before him for his judgment. But suppose the decision of the Irish Judge was questioned, then the matter had to come before the supreme tribunal, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, composed of Scotch, English, and Irish Judges sitting in England, and they would be bound to obey the Acts of the Imperial Parliament. Therefore, they were brought to this extraordinary conclusion—that two tribunals, having to deal with one and the same question, the one being an inferior tribunal and the other the Court of ultimate appeal—the Judge of First Instance would be right in arriving at a decision which the Court of ultimate appeal would be right in reversing. To arrive at a result so contradictory involved something wrong in the premisses, and that he found to be no other than this—that the Parliament of England had parted with some of its supreme authority to the Irish Parliament, and that from the passing of the Act there were two co-ordinate independent legislative authorities. But they had heard from the Prime Minister when introducing the Bill that the question of an independent Parliament or of a federal arrangement was not to be mentioned; and if there had been any doubt on the point almost the first sentence in the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley), that if the Bill were passed into law it would be within the legal capacity of our Parliament to effect its repeal, would be sufficient to dispel it. He thought the Prime Minister must have introduced the question only to make an eloquent appeal to the Irish Members not to be beguiled by the offer of a Parliament so unlike what a Parliament ought to be. The terms laid before the Irish Members were plain. The Prime Minister said that the paramount object was that the Irish people should be left to manage affairs which were Irish; that in times past some had looked for sepa- 360 ration, at least some in the Greater Ireland beyond the seas, but he did not offer them anything of the kind; that he had tried to find out what made the cry for separation possible; that not separation but the closest possible union was required; that he had probed the matter to the bottom, and that he found not separatist tendencies but the demands of the Irish people for local self-government, and that he offered to them freely. We did not disguise that we were keeping over Ireland the same dominion as ever; we only pointed out that the Irish might depend upon it that in ordinary circumstances the independence of the Irish Legislative Body would never be interfered with. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the Inverness Burghs (Mr. Finlay), in a speech which attracted the attention of the House, followed, to some extent, the line of argument of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury. He observed that it was said that, as a matter of strict law, there might still remain a power in Parliament to repeal or alter this Act, even without the attendance of the Irish Members, but that he doubted that very much. The hon. and learned Gentleman was not prepared to express an opinion more confident than the hint of a doubt. The question was, what would be the state of the law after this Act was passed? Parliament would not be called upon to interpret it, unless, perhaps, by a Declaratory Act, though they might be called upon to amend or repeal it if a repeal was forced upon them. The hon. and learned Gentleman was bold enough to say that the omission from this Act of the clause inserted in the Colonial and Indian Acts reserving all the authority of Parliament led him to the irresistible conclusion that the jurisdiction and powers of Parliament had been weakened and infringed. But the fact was that this clause, which might sometimes be inserted, was always understood, and thus this argument of his hon. and learned Friend had no weight whatever. He listened with a very great deal of pleasure and instruction to the speech of the hon. Member for the Romford Division of Essex (Mr. Westlake), who had contended that we should have no authority in Ireland to carry out the wishes of this Parliament. The hon. Member referred to the original Constitution of the United States, 361 under which it was found that there was no provision for the exercise of any power by the Executive authority. Unquestionably, that was the fact in the first Confederation of the 13 States, each State being independent, and the central Federal Body having no means of enforcing its decrees, and being, in fact, as helpless as this country would be if it attempted to carry out its laws in France or Germany. But that could not happen with regard to Ireland, for in that country the authority of this Parliament was indisputable, and would remain so after the passing of this Bill. In Ireland, if an Executive officer were appointed to carry out that part of the government of Ireland which was reserved to the British Parliament—all matters relating to Customs, Excise, commerce, and navigation being reserved to the Imperial authority—when anything of that sort was required to be done, no Treaty with Ireland was requisite, and the British Parliament could empower persons to carry out its decrees. It would be known that there was a reserve of supreme power in the Imperial Parliament, and that would place us in a totally different position from that which was occupied by the first Federal Government of the United States. He should like to explain why he was one of those who were disposed to support the Bill. He had satisfied himself that this Parliament was not governing Ireland at the present time in any satisfactory sense which they could ascribe to the word "government." He did not consider that government to be satisfactory which caused among so large a majority of the people a feeling of discontent and hostility towards the governing power. He had satisfied himself that, unfortunately, the feeling of discontent and the desire for greater independence were not likely to pass away from Ireland. The root of that hostility might be in history and in times long ago; but a great deal of discontent existed in Ireland, and he did not see how they could hope to mitigate or to do away with it. So far from their governing Ireland, he felt that in a most intolerable sense of the word Ireland governed England. They found it impossible to carry out legislation for their own country in the presence of a body of Members united in the disposition that the Irish Members had shown 362 for some time past. For that he did not believe in any panacea. No doubt, by the English and Scotch votes they could easily outvote the Irish Members upon every point; but they would be bound to surrender their freedom of action, and they would not be able to separate from their co-gaolers to take any steps independently of them, and in which they might wish to oppose them. He saw no hope of remedying the present state of things except by advancing boldly with the object of removing all sources of Irish discontent. They might think that Irish grievances were exaggerated, but there could be no doubt that the Irish were sincere in the demands they had put forward; and he thought that they should no longer fight against that sentiment, but do their best to carry it into effect.
§ MR. E. W. BECKETT (York, N.R., Whitby)
Sir, in approaching the consideration of this Bill we are met with a very remarkable phenomenon. Everyone at the outset must ask himself—"How is it that men whose views on all other questions are wide as the poles asunder, on this are in solid and substantial agreement; and how is it that, regarding it from every conceivable point of mental perspective, they arrive at a conclusion absolutely identical, that conclusion being that at any cost this Bill must be rejected?" The answer is plain—because the principle on which this Bill rests is inadmissible, and the Bill itself, which was to have been a monument to the Prime Minister's genius, is unworkable. It sweats difficulties at every paragraph, every provision breeds a dilemma, every clause ends in a cul de sac, dangers lurk in every line, mischiefs abound in every sentence, and an air of evil hangs over it all. It is almost unnecessary to argue against this Bill, because it is not recommended by argument. Nor do we know what Bill we are arguing about. In fact, hon. Members are invited to figure for themselves a Bill that will please the fancy, and after agreeing to the second reading of the present measure to imagine that in an Autumn Session a Bill will be brought in which will satisfy all their aspirations. Speeches on behalf of this measure have been delivered in nearly every style of oratory. We have had specimens of the ludicrous, the pathetic, the turgid, the confidential, the denuncia- 363 tory, the light and airy, the tragic and solemn; but all the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken have not provided between them one argument that holds the field. In fact, Ministerial speakers seldom refer to the Bill. They keep at a distance from it, as if it were a dangerous thing to meddle with. They steal shy glances at it over their shoulder, but never do they fairly grapple with it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt), in a speech of nearly two hours' duration, did not dare to touch upon the Bill, and he is bold enough when there is no dynamite about. This last new creation of the Prime Minister's brain, this abortive, monstrous leviathan of legislation, is pierced and riddled through with hostile arguments, and wallows helplessly in the mire, rolling about its huge, ungainly bulk in a vain attempt to get upon its legs. But these spasmodic struggles are its last, and before many days are over it will have given up the ghost. Upon another ground it is unnecessary to produce reasons against this Bill. Reasons can only be addressed to reasonable people; they appeal only to the intelligent; and a high authority has confessed that the reasonable and intelligent part of the nation is against this Bill. I am glad that the claims of the Tory Party, so long ignored, are at last acknowledged. We have been designated as the stupid Party; but now it seems we are the intelligent Party, and so magnanimous are we that we rejoice that we can share this honourable title with many of those who have hitherto denied its justice. But does it satisfy those Members on the other side of the House, who consider themselves the salt of the earth, to be numbered with the ignorant and the foolish, the blind and the prejudiced? Surely, Sir, these lights set on a hill, these minor prophets in their own estimation, who call all men to run unto them, cannot be very well pleased to be classed in such a category. It is a strange occurrence, and one significant of the time, when such a man as the Prime Minister says—"Darkness be thou my light; folly be thou my friend and stay; ignorance be thou my guide and counsellor." Most Ministers are satisfied if their measures have to encounter only the regular opposition to which all Ministerial measures are exposed. But such a course would be too 364 tame and unexciting for the Prime Minister, who has accordingly ranged against himself hostile forces of an unusual and formidable character. In the first place, he has to meet himself in arms, he has to argue against himself or confute himself, to explain away himself, and smash, pulverize, and demolish himself in the most thorough-going fashion before he deals with anyone else. I am afraid he will find himself rather an awkward customer to tackle. Having got rid of himself, he has next to cope with the opposition of, at least, a third of those who sit on his own side of the House, and the strength of this third is not to be measured by mere numbers, inasmuch as it contains nearly all the intelligence, honesty, and backbone of the Liberal Party. The Prime Minister and his followers have very much the appearance of a tadpole—the right hon. Gentleman being the head, and they the little insignificant, invertebrate, wriggling tail. The Prime Minister stands alone on this question, for the support of the Home Rule Party can hardly be said to be impartial, and the support of the Home Rulers was not, in Liberal estimation at the last Election, a passport to popular favour. It is, indeed, a sorry spectacle to see those very same politicians who raged so furiously against the Tories for their supposed alliance with the Parnellite Party now rubbing noses with that Party, and marching arm in arm with them to the dismemberment of the Empire. Such a flagrant exhibition of political immorality has not been seen since the ill-omened coalition of North and Fox more than a century ago, and it is quite enough to debauch the people of England for more than a century to come. Consistency will soon cease to be regarded as a virtue at all. The Liberals have been invited by the Prime Minister to sit down to a banquet of their own election speeches and addresses; but their digestive organs not having yet acquired an assimilative capacity of equal strength and vigour with his, some flatly refuse to come, some munch their own words with manifest repugnance, and some gulp them down wholesale, and try to look as if they liked them. The truth is that the bulk of the Liberal Party in this House do not follow their own judgment, their own convictions, or their own inclinations on this question. They are traitors 365 to themselves. They are bound at the chariot wheels of the Prime Minister. Their devotion is magnificent, but it is not patriotism. It is hero worship run mad. Imagine an impossibility. Suppose the Conservatives had introduced this Bill. The whole Liberal Party, with the right hon. Gentleman at the head of them, would have exploded with indignation. The country would have rung with their denunciations. Fierce, fiery orators would have rushed to and fro like comets, scattering behind them a tail of burning words. Platforms would have sprung up like mushrooms; processions, with drums beating and flags flying, would have paraded our streets, monster demonstrations and cheap trips would have been got up at so much a head, and all the machinery of agitation would have been brought into play. And the Liberals would have been in earnest. Their indignation would have been honest, for I believe they dislike Home Rule, and I venture to say that in their heart of hearts they would like to change places with the Conservatives, and would have been infinitely happier if we had brought in this Bill, and it had fallen to their lot to throw it out. It has been laid down that the duty incumbent on any one Minister or Member who brings in a Bill is first of all to prove the existence of an evil, next to suggest a remedy, and, lastly, to prove that his remedy would cure the evil. Of these three things the Prime Minister has only done one—he has suggested a remedy; but for what? What is the precise and particular evil this Bill is designed to cure? We do not know, for neither he nor anyone else has told us. Is it agrarian? Is it political? Is it sentimental? To say chronic discontent is the evil from which Ireland suffers is to substitute the effect for the cause, and as to left cause we are left entirely in the dark; and, without good cause shown, we should be madmen to pass this Bill. The House must be well aware that this measure is dependent entirely upon the influence of the Prime Minister. Its life is bound up with his life. The cause of Home Rule stands or falls with him, and were his support withdrawn it would collapse completely. No Bill at all resembling this would have the slightest chance of being accepted by Parliament or the country if introduced by anyone 366 else. The demand for a separate Legislature would die a natural death, and it could not be revived. The people would marvel by what witchcraft so many of them were induced to take temporary leave of their senses, and would feel proportionate gratitude to those who, in spite of threats and obloquy, had saved them from themselves. Is there any precedent in our Parliamentary history of a measure of this magnitude being passed at the dictation of one man, which, if that man were removed from public life, would be scouted, mocked at, derided, and kicked into the kennel? Is there any justification for passing such a measure? Were all the great measures of the century so passed? Were the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities, the three extensions of the franchise, and the repeal of the Corn Laws so passed? These measures had all taken hold of the heart and mind of the country. The country insisted that they should pass, and if whole Cabinets had gone down into the pit they would still have been passed. But this measure, more important than them all, is imposed on the country as by an Edict from an Eastern despot; and I hope that the presence of a despot has not so far corrupted the free spirit of the people as to load them to sanction legislation which, in his absence, they would most certainly condemn. This assertion is not more conjecture. We have sure and certain evidence of its truth. Last December, in a moment of convivial confidence, the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. H. J. Gladstone) dropped a hint of his father's intentions. The Liberal editor, who was the recipient of his confidence, was so horrified that his bosom could not contain the dread secret. On December 17 it became public property by appearing in the columns of The Standard. All will remember the angry incredulity with which the country, and especially the Liberal Party, received the news. Monstrous, impossible, absurd! they cried with one voice, and denounced it as an infamous Tory fabrication, a malicious invention, without a shred or particle of truth. Indeed, so excited did the Party become that the Prime Minister himself wired from Hawarden disavowing all responsibility for the announcement. Thus were troubled consciences set at rest, and the leading Liberal organ declared that the 367 Prime Minister had repudiated the sinister designs attributed to him. This little history proves that the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman are unacceptable, nay more, hateful to the free, unbiassed mind of the country. The Liberal Party has greatly changed since last December. Quantum mutatus ab illo! It has been educated into ignorance. It has bathed in the waters of Lethe, and the oblivious stream seems to have washed away not only all memory, but all manhood, veracity, sensibility, honour, integrity, and courage. There are certain phrases which in this debate do duty for arguments. One of them is "Ireland a Nation." The President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Stansfeld), in particular, expressed his belief in the principle of nationalities. The reappearance of the right hon. Gentleman as a Cabinet Minister is exceedingly interesting; and I am not surprised that the Government should have sought his assistance at such a time as this. The right hon. Gentleman in his youth played with the fire of revolution, and had to resign his Office, because he was implicated with conspirators and assassins, so that there is something peculiarly fitting in his resuming Office just at the moment when the Government are engaged in a conspiracy against the Empire, and in an act of surrender to traitors and rebels. Well, Sir, we believe in the principle of nationalities, so long as it is not adopted indiscriminately. But before you create the Irish or any other nation you must be sure that it can stand alone. Of its ability to do so there is only one test. Has it credit in the markets of the world? Can it, from time to time, raise loans as may be required to meet the extraordinary needs of Government, either for purposes of public improvements, of internal development, or national relief? Would Ireland command this credit and power? Even the bare prospect of Home Rule has depressed Irish securities 50 per cent. The realization would probably knock them down to zero. Without borrowing power, an Irish Government could do nothing to improve the condition of the Irish people, and in certain contingencies their condition would be infinitely worse than it is now. In the event of another famine, for instance, their situation would be desperate indeed. The Irish Govern- 368 ment could not help them, so unless relief came from England—England, hated and maligned, but always ready to assist with her wealth her poorer sister in the day of trouble—they would starve by thousands. This would be only one of the happy results of "Ireland a Nation." Another cry is "Justice to Ireland. That parrot cry was raised in this House on the first reading by the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Arch), and I suppose in the forthcoming campaign it will be used again to supply pumped-out politicians with perorations. The hon. Member said that if he went round England and asked every labourer whether he wanted "Justice to Ireland," 90 per cent would say "Yes." Of course they would; but everything depends on how you put a question. If you were to go round England and ask every labourer whether he wanted civil war in Ireland, 90 per cent would say "No." Ten per cent would perhaps say "Yes," as they might be of opinion that a good civil war, in which one half of the Irish nation did their best to exterminate the other half, would be the readiest and quickest way of settling the Irish Question. I would ask the hon. Member if he has ever seen a representation of Justice? I will not refer him to the classics, for though the idea is taken from the ancients, the figure is familiar in modern prints. Justice is always drawn as a tall and stately female, with a pair of scales in one hand and a sword in the other. Hon. Members too often forget the sword. They would substitute for it the gilded bladder tied to a gilded stick which mock Kings carry in pantomimes. Yet the sword is essentially necessary to a true conception of justice. By all means hold the scales level and mete out equal measure to all, showing fear and favour to none; but always remember that without the sword justice is impossible, as the unruly passions of men, unless held in check by a salutary awe, will disturb the true balance and throw it out of gear. Those Gentlemen who call out for justice to Ireland must either get another cry or alter fundamentally their false and shallow conception of justice. Another cry is that Ireland must be governed according to Irish ideas. What are Irish ideas of government? Have they ever been defined? Do they exist at all ex- 369 cept as a phrase? Are we sure that government, according to Irish ideas, is not misgovernment according to English ideas? The ideas that lie at the root of a good government are pretty well understood all the world over, and at least as well understood here in England as anywhere else. We have served a long apprenticeship, and should know our trade by this time. We wish to establish in Ireland peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, as much as in England, or in any other country throughout Her Majesty's wide Dominions. But is it pretended, or can it be maintained for a moment, that the principles by which these blessings are to be secured have their dwelling-place in Irish ideas alone? Is there in these ideas a subtle magic—a potent alchemy—that enables them to overcome and transform the essential vulgar characteristics of human nature? Can they make a silk purse out of a sow's ear? If so, how is it that in the speeches of the Irish Leaders this elixir vitœ has never been detected? If Irish ideas do not clothe themselves in Irish brogue, where are we to look for them? These speeches have run along the whole political gamut, and not a note do they strike, except in this House, that leads us to believe that government by Irish ideas means nothing else than the plunder of therich by the poor, and the oppression of the weak by the strong. Sir, Ireland is now governed according to Irish ideas; and what do we see? Liberty of speech, liberty of action, liberty of conscience, sore beset and hindered, and almost ceasing to struggle for existence. We see the whole nation, all but the brave North, in the grasp of an iron tyranny that threatens to crush out all healthy life. We have seen that tyranny imposed upon the people by a series of barbaric crimes and brutal outrages, that have excited horror and indignation throughout the civilized world. As a natural result of all this, we see capital leaving the country, business at a standstill, enterprize dead, poverty and wretchedness alone flourishing, a spirit of suspicion and malevolence abroad throughout the land, and a fearful looking forward to the things that are to come; every sign, in fact, that Ireland is in a disturbed, distressed, unwholesome condition. This, Sir, is government according to the law in- 370 augurated by the Land League, and continued, upheld, and strengthened by the National League. The men who have established this illegal system, and who, though not absolutely perpetrators of the execrable deeds by which it is maintained, cannot certainly be acquitted of moral responsibility for them, now demand that we should pass a sponge over the past, and that we should set the seal and sanction of Parliament to an instrument which would be a justification of all their proceedings, and would hand over an integral and important part of the United Kingdom, and with it the lives and properties of thousands of Her Majesty's most loyal subjects, to the government of those who have for years striven to render all good government impossible. We are invited to make the wolf the guardian of the fold. The antecedents of the Parnellites should make it impossible for us to grant their demands; and I maintain that by placing Ireland under the authority of these men we should put a premium upon conspiracy and crime, and should enthrone not a Constitutional Government, but a secret society. We should establish not the rule of a Parliament, but the rule of a despot. The Prime Minister is very strong on this point. On May 24, 1882, speaking of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), he said—He comes here as the apostle of a creed which is a creed of force, which is a creed of oppression, which is a creed of the destruction of all liberty, and of the erection of a despotism against it, and on its ruins different from every other despotism only in this—that it is more absolutely detached from all law, from all tradition, and from all restraint."—(3 Hansard,  1553–4.)Now, Sir, the hon. Member has not changed his creed. The only change since the day on which those words were spoken is in the number of Apostles who profess that creed. In the last Parliament there were 34; in this there are 86; but the creed remains the same; and, apparently, the only reason why the Prime Minister has become an advocate of this creed of force, oppression, and despotism, is that its Apostles have increased from 34 to 86. This opens out a very serious speculation. At what precise number does oppression become liberty—does despotism become mild and Constitutional government? What is the exact figure at which demands which wore a harsh and forbidding 371 aspect assume such a gracious and beneficent air that we are no longer to repel them sternly, but to embrace them gladly? What numeral has the magic power of transforming things to their contraries—of turning into white what was black, and of making wrong become right? I have only dabbled in moral philosophy, but have never yet come across a system of ethics which was founded on an arithmetical progression. Sir, I deny that the 86 Nationalists who sit in this House are in any true sense Representatives of Ireland. If we look at the numbers alone, they only represent 4,823 more than half the electors of Ireland. Then, Sir, votes should be weighed as well as counted. The South and West—the source and seat of disorder, disaffection, grievance, poverty, and crime—voted for the Nationalists; but the hardy and industrious North—where the trade and commerce and wealth and intelligence of Ireland congregate—is bitterly opposed to the Parnellite programme. Of those who supported it, how many did so from a conscientious conviction, or with any real knowledge of what they were doing? I believe that the number of illiterate voters amounted to one-fourth, and that they voted, almost without exception, for the Nationalists, for to them the Ballot was no protection, and they knew an adverse vote would have exposed them to the terrible vengeance of the National League. The voters in Ireland were acted upon at the last Election by two of the most powerful influences that can control human nature—greed and fear; greed for the property of others, fear for the consequences to themselves. Bribes and threats were dealt out in equal measure. Even religion lent her hand to the agitators. As an inducement they were promised the possession of the land; as a deterrent they were threatened with "Boycotting" in this world and damnation in the next. Can anyone who knows the character of the Irish peasantry be surprised that they voted for the Nationalists, or can anyone so blind himself to notorious facts as to entertain the belief that such a vote was an honest expression of a national conviction? There is no doubt that the Nationalist Party in this House were returned in the main by the Irish peasantry. What is the character of the Irish peasantry? Here is a picture of 372 it drawn by the hon. Member for East Mayo on May 11, 1882, in a speech delivered in this House—I know something of the Irish nature and I I know something of Irish crime.… "Who is there that understands, or pretends to understand, the peasantry of Ireland who will say here, without stating a falsehood, that crime and outrage has not the sympathy of the Irish peasantry? I state that because I know it to be a fact."—(3 Hansard,  488.)I congratulate hon. Gentlemen on those Benches on the character of their constituents. I think I have said enough to show that the Nationalists are in no true sense Representatives of Ireland, or if they are they represent what is worst in Ireland and ought to be suppressed, not what is best and ought to be encouraged. On behalf of the idle and vicious they come here, not on behalf of the industrious and respectable. They have usurped the name of the Irish nation; but the true Ireland has not spoken, and cannot speak, while she is in the hands of Thugs. The Prime Minister has taken those who make the loudest noise at their own estimation. He has regarded a foul, malignant, and traitorous organization as the mouthpiece of Ireland. Because we refuse to grant Home Rule we are told that we are the enemies of Ireland. The Irish Leaders are the worst enemies of Ireland. They exaggerate every petty grievance such as must exist in every country, in every age, under every Government, into wrongs of the first magnitude, in order that they may win a bubble reputation and fill their own pockets. They fan the embers of discontent that are always smouldering in the Irish character into a glowing flame of passion; they fill the ears of an excitable and credulous people with tales of English cruelty and oppression, mostly false, in order to arouse a passionate and undying hatred to English rule, English order, English law, English manners, and English religion. They never cease to teach and to preach hatred to England; they exalt it into a moral obligation; they draw the minds of the Irish away from their peaceful avocations and daily toil in order to plunge them in the turmoil of politics. They intoxicate their senses with the alcohol of agitation. You say we know nothing of the Irish. What do the Irish know of us? You take care that they do not know the truth, or your occupation would be gone. The idea the 373 ordinary Irishman has of England is so monstrous as to be absurd. To say that she figures as a vampire sucking the life blood of Ireland—as a Minotaur that not yearly, but daily, demands its victims—is but a poor and faint representation of the character in which England appears to many Irishmen. For this distorted, extravagant conception the Nationalist speakers are responsible. Has a single man on those Benches ever tried to do anything but excite ill-will between England and Ireland? Has he ever endeavoured to point out the many advantages that she undoubtedly owes to her connection with us? Has he ever dwelt upon the honourable position which Ireland occupies in being associated in the government of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen. Has he ever told his fellow-countrymen that the great achievements which adorn English history are as much theirs as ours? Has he ever informed them that they are heirs of our glory and partners in our Possessions? If they have declaimed in favour of England a tenth as much as they have declared against her, the Irish Question would be dead and buried for evermore, and Ireland would be a peaceful, happy, and prosperous country. Are we, then, to repeal the Union, to set up a separate Parliament, with all its attendant and contingent embarrassment, at the bidding of a lawless organization? I cannot believe that Parliament or the nation will be guilty of an act of such fathomless folly. The principles of good government, by which alone a nation can thrive, are neither English or Irish. They are peculiar to no age or nation. They existed before the world, and will remain after the world has ceased to be. Those principles are of Divine origin and nature, and we can never apply them in the fulness of their perfection. I fully admit that so far in our dealings with Ireland they have often been overlaid by ignorance, by corruption, by selfishness, by prejudice, by ambition, by Party passion; and we reap to-day as we have sown throughout the centuries the mistakes which have been made by both nations. We recognize ours, and repent of them, and intend to avoid them in the future. Can the Irish say as much? It is not too late to retrieve our errors. We stand, as the Prime Minister said, at the parting of two ways. Do not let us 374 choose the broad and easy way that leads to destruction, but rather the straight and narrow way which, if consistently pursued with patience and firmness, will, in the end, regenerate Ireland and bind her fast to England in the strong ties of reciprocal interest, and perhaps at last in the silken cords of affection under one Throne, one law, and one Parliament.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
said, he had come to the conclusion, after carefully listening to the debate, that no Bill had been exposed to more varied and more merciless criticism than that now before the House. It would be impossible to deny that, to a very large extent, this criticism had been successful. Even he, an advanced Liberal, could not deny that it was with feelings of somewhat mixed satisfaction that he viewed some of the provisions of the measure; but he believed he was expressing the opinion of those who sat on the same side of the House when he said the Bill was not to be regarded from the point in view of its details, but in its general scope, and that as such it fulfilled the aspirations of the Liberal Party. It was because they were not to deal with the measure on a merely abstract idea, or as endeavouring to find a Constitution for two Islands placed in juxtaposition, but because they were dealing with a question of great complexity, and after a bitter experience of eight centuries, that they were convinced it was the only one which would justly satisfy the desires and aspirations of the Irish people. He asked if the Bill had been criticized fairly? They had heard speeches from the opponents of the Bill, prophesying every calamity, vice, and folly to those who would have the administration of this measure in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) had raised a number of chimeras in order to terrify the House from giving a cordial reception to the measure; and if the people of Ireland were all lunatics and also criminals, he could not have prophesied more absurd and nefarious acts as being likely to be committed by them. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) had met the Bill with what sounded very like incitement to armed hostility to the Forces of the Crown. He should like to deal briefly with the principal argu- 375 ments against the measure. The first serious argument against the Bill was that raised by the noble Marquess the Member for the Rossendale Division, who urged that the House of Commons should not pass the Bill because it had not received a popular mandate to deal with the subject. The doctrine thus propounded by the noble Marquess was, however, an absolutely un-Constitutional doctrine, and had been denounced as such, and as likely to lead to the greatest danger, by no less an authority than Mr. William Pitt. It was the prerogative of Parliament fairly and freely to represent all the Estates of the Realm. The argument of want of mandate from the constituencies was used against the Union with Ireland, against the granting of representation to the Principality of Wales, in the case of the Union with Scotland, and in settling the Succession to the Crown. In all those cases there had been no such thing as a mandate from the constituencies. But had not, in fact, the constituencies given a mandate? It was stated that the Prime Minister had sprung this question on the country. In fact, however, the right hon. Gentleman had in Mid Lothian pointed out that now, for the first time in the history of Ireland, it was open to the people by Constitutional means to declare what their will was as to the government of their country. Nor was that way of regarding the question confined to one side of the House. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale had charged the noble Lord the Member for Paddington with trifling with the question of Home Rule, and the noble Lord did not attempt to deny the charge. There was hardly a single Member who did not, in addressing his constituents, refer to this question as one of momentous gravity. It was laid clearly before his own constituents, who declared distinctly and emphatically in favour of Home Rule. He passed on to consider the second material objection. As to the argument against the Bill that the integrity of the Empire had disappeared, in a system like ours, with a number of Colonies, whose tie to the Mother Country was purely one of sentiment, that argument had been abandoned, and it was now clearly understood that the concession of Home Rule to Ireland could not really impair the unity of the Empire. Then it was urged that 376 the Bill was one for the Repeal of the Union. The speech which Lord Clare made in 1802 had been much criticized, and it had been quoted very largely against the Liberal Party and against the Prime Minister. Speaking of what was called the unity of the two Kingdoms, Lord Clare enumerated a certain number of matters which go to constitute legislative independence. He said that all legislative authority in either country was denied to the other, not only in municipal regulations, but in every branch of Imperial policy, whether of trade and navigation, of peace and war, or Revenue, or of Executive Government. The points Lord Clare mentioned to prove that Ireland was separate from England were precisely the points which the Prime Minister had in this Bill reserved for the exclusive control of the Imperial Parliament. He (Mr. Atherley-Jones), therefore, submitted to the House that the Repeal of the Union had gone to the same limbo as the original accusation about the integrity of the Empire. The last foothold of the opponents of the Bill was that the present proposals would impair the supremacy of Parliament. He did not hesitate to say that the arguments addressed to the House by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) and the hon. and learned Member for the Inverness Burghs (Mr. Finlay) upon this point, and on which they had descanted at great length, were absolutely fallacious. But if there was one question of Constitutional law more clear and undoubted than another, it was that, unless they absolutely took away or abdicated the whole sovereignty of Queen, Lords, and Commons, the absolute supremacy of Parliament could not be impaired by any Act of Parliament. Mr. Dicey, whose book had been quoted in opposition to the Bill, and who, unfortunately, was himself one of its opponents, had in more than one passage, in the most unqualified language, insisted on this doctrine, and shown that even in the case of Colonies to which the largest powers of self-government had been granted the most absolute power of veto was reserved to the Crown, which was, in effect, the same thing as the Imperial Parliament. He (Mr. Atherley-Jones) was not so foolish as to suppose that they did not intend practically to give 377 to the people of Ireland exclusive control over their own affairs; but, although they so intended to do, they did so from moral considerations, founded on the principles of good faith. They gave this power to the Irish people believing that they would use it to the advantage of their race; and they did so in the conviction that if, unhappily, circumstances should arise hereafter that might render it unnecessary for the Imperial Parliament to intervene, in no wise should it be deprived of the full exercise of its power. Before concluding, he desired to say a few words with regard to the position in which he and his Friends stood. There could be no doubt whatever that those hon. Members who sat on the Ministerial side of the House, with a few exceptions, were agreed upon the point that autonomy should be eon-ceded to Ireland. That being so, he asked what were the alternative schemes? What were the proposals which were made by hon. Gentlemen who sat on the opposite Benches, and by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), and the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) and the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan)? All these hon. Gentlemen had tried their hands at what the scheme should be; but they had all failed most grievously. He was satisfied in his own mind that there was not a Gentleman in the House who did not believe that the measures proposed or suggested by the noble Marquess and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham were totally inadequate to meet the requirements of the Irish people, or in any way to bring this great Irish question to a final close. He was an advanced Liberal, and had always been taught to look up to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham with feelings of the keenest regard and the deepest respect; but there were times when such feelings received a rude shock. His feelings towards the right hon. Gentleman had upon this occasion received a rude shock. The right hon. Gentleman, who would reap the full harvest of democracy in England, would deny the first germ of it to Ireland. The people of England would consider this fact. They asked themselves why it was they now found the right hon. Gentleman deserting, and even reprobating, 378 the Prime Minister? He feared the answer in this case was that the democracy knew no limits beyond the limits of the human race. The right hon. Gentleman condemned the policy and scheme of the Prime Minister, and said he felt it his duty, as an ex-Cabinet Minister, to unfold his scheme. What was the right hon. Gentleman's scheme? He appealed to the consideration of the House for the poor crofter and the agricultural labourer that they should not be allowed to spend their hard earnings in paying taxes to buy out the Irish landlords; but in the very same breath he announced that he would tax the crofter and the labourer in order to set up a gigantic Poor Law Union to relieve the distress of Irish landlords. The right hon. Gentleman said he objected to the scheme because it was tantamount to the Repeal of the Union; but the very next day stated his readiness to go in for federation. One single elector of Birmingham was found sufficiently bold to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he meant by federation; and what did the right hon. Gentleman say in reply? Why, that the system which obtained in the United States of America was the system which most commended itself to him. Now, he (Mr. Atherley-Jones) was of opinion that the amount of power which was vested in each individual State of America was far larger than that which was proposed to be granted to the people of Ireland by this Bill. Besides, he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that if they had federation they must have something to federate. For his part, he felt that he should be acting in accordance with the sentiments of the people who had elected him when he said that he was in favour of the Bill, and he should vote for it in that belief in his heart that it would satisfy the just aspirations of the Irish people and conciliate that country to England, so that she would still remain an integral part of the British Empire.
§ MR. FISHER (Fulham)
said, that they were asked no longer to vote upon this measure, but only upon an abstract Resolution, whereas the whole difficulty of the measure was in its details. They were now told that the Irish Members were to be included and were to sit in that House; but, in his opinion, the inevitable result would be the anarchy and confusion which the Prime Minister 379 had referred to. What was there to prevent some combination being made with the Irish Members who came over to vote in that House whereby the Church in England should be disestablished, while as a quid pro quo they would have to be granted some change in the Constitution given by this Bill by which hon. Members below the Gangway might establish another Church in Ireland? They would be able to enact a measure by which England should have dearer beer in order that Ireland might have cheaper whisky. They were told that the Irish Members were only to sit in that House for special purposes; but the Prime Minister himself had said that it was impossible to separate local and Imperial affairs. Let them take, for instance, the case of a debate on the Budget. Would Irish Members be allowed to vote upon an Amendment to the Budget? Undoubtedly hon. Members below the Gangway would be affected by some Resolution as to the Expenditure upon the Army and Navy and the Services. The Rules of Procedure, again, would affect them, even if they were only admitted once a year. The consequence would be that on a measure of that character the Irish Members would have the fate of the Ministry in their hands; and if that was the case there was an end to all finality in this measure, because everything would become a matter of bargaining with the Irish Members. Apart from that, something else had been overlooked—namely, the enormous voting power which Irishmen possessed in this country. If the Irish Members wanted some concession in the way of an alteration in the Constitution which was now to be imposed upon them, they would be able to traffic with the promise of the Irish vote in this country at the next Election. He did not believe that Ireland would be satisfied by the grant of a separate Legislature of the sort which was now contemplated. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) had told them that there was no half-way house between government by the Imperial Parliament at St. Stephen's and complete independence; and, in his opinion, anyone who attempted to build a half-way house would find that he was building it on sand, and that the fall of that house would be great, and would be accompanied by bloodshed and by dis- 380 aster to this Empire. He knew that many hon. Members opposite believed that this would be a final measure, and that Irishmen would be satisfied by it; but he would ask which Party in that House was most likely to be right upon this point—those who relied on the sayings and speeches of hon. Members below the Gangway, or those who relied upon the assurances, with many reservations and many qualifications, and upon the promises yet unperformed of the hon. Member for Cork? They had the authority on their side of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] From the Prime Minister's speech at Aberdeen, he would have said that the right hon. Gentleman, at that time at all events, was not in favour of granting a separate Legislature to Ireland. The Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Morley) was the only Minister on the Front Bench who had been consistent. But even he had taunted the Conservative Party with advocating a policy of "soft words and hard cash." He would describe the Chief Secretary's policy not as one of "soft words and hard cash," but of soft words and promissory notes, drawn upon other people's property. The Bill, he contended, did not contain the elements of finality. Hon. Members would be reminded of the promises they had made in the past, and would be called upon to fulfil them. The national sentiment in Ireland might be described as not "Three acres and a cow," but "Three acres and a pig." What had they seen in recent years in Ireland? They had seen men like John Mitchel returned to that House. [An Irish MEMBER: He was a noble Ulster man, but he is dead.] Well, he should not refer further to John Mitchel, as he had learned that he had gone to the "bourne from which no traveller returned;" but could they forget that not so long ago Tipperary returned O'Donovan Rossa as Member of Parliament for that county; and he would ask the House to consider what was to prevent him being elected to the Irish Parliament? Was that an argument for handing over power to these men? He could not wonder that the loyal Irishmen in Ulster were aroused and angry. And he should not be surprised if they submitted themselves to many pains and penalties rather than allow themselves 381 and their property to be placed under the control of men of such an infamous character.
§ MR. FISHER
said, he did not know whether the hon. Member for South Tyrone would apply that to O'Donovan Rossa.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
O'Donovan Rossa is new what you made him. Whatever he was before, he is now what you have made him by your tortures, while he was in your prisons.
§ MR. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
I never said so. I said John Mitchel was one of the noblest characters Ireland has produced.
§ MR. FISHER
said, he was extremely glad they had done some good in Ireland. He saw nothing in the Bill to prevent Rossa being Prime Minister of Ireland, and the hon. Member for South Tyrone Speaker of the Irish House of Commons. References had been made to the Conservative policy as one of coercion. He denied that it was so. Coercion was only employed to meet exceptional crime. When he went before his constituents at the General Election, he stated to them that he was prepared to grant a large measure of local self-government to Ireland. He did not woo the Irish voters in his constituency by saying that he would vote for the establishment of a separate Legislature in Dublin. He denied the statement of the hon. Member for North-West Durham (Mr. Atherley-Jones) that this question had been settled at the last Election. His opponent for the constituency which he represented (Mr. George Russell) was a Member of the late Liberal Administration, and in his Election address that gentleman statedthat—In the interests alike of England and of Ireland, he should oppose the legislative separation of the two countries.He was under the impression that that gentleman was at that time in the secrets of the Prime Minister; but, at all events, he denied that the question was before the constituencies at the General Election. He maintained that it was not fair on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to say that coercion was 382 the only alternative which the Conservative Party had to offer. He invited Irishmen still to take some part in the preservation of our great Empire, in the building up of which they had borne a glorious and a conspicuous share—an Empire which administered just and merciful laws, and which never could be maintained in all the fulness of its vigour as the chief factor in the civilization of the world unless it was preserved under one Queen and one Parliament.
§ SIR THOMAS ACLAND (Somerset, Wellington)
said, that he addressed the House not from any desire to make personal explanations, or to vindicate the course which he intended to take with respect to this measure. He did not presume to speak for other hon. Members on his own side of the House; but if the difficulties which he had felt were felt by others, and which he himself had overcome, could be any proof of the sincerity of his convictions, he wished to put his views shortly before the House. Much as he admired the frank and high spirit of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), he could not sympathize with him, or believe that he was justified in the remark which he had made as to the Prime Minister bringing this question forward as a surprise on the country. Knowing as he did from personal friendship, and not from any public or official connection, the frank way in which the Prime Minister expressed his own feelings to those with whom he came in contact, he should, indeed, be surprised if some of the most bitter opponents of the right hon. Gentleman at this moment would get up in the House and say, before they went to their constituents at the Election, that they were not aware of the tendency of his views. What did the right hon. Gentleman himself say at the Election? It would be remembered that on certain burning questions a red flag was hoisted at Birmingham, which was followed by the hoisting of a blue flag at Hatfield. The Prime Minister, however, did not appeal to the electors on any burning question. He called upon them to apply themselves sincerely and earnestly to the primary duties of a deliberative Assembly, and the right hon. Gentleman warned the constituencies and the candidates that if order was to be maintained in Ireland it was necessary to have a strong Liberal Go- 383 vernment. So far as he was personally concerned, he certainly spoke on no exciting topic to his constituents. He impressed on them the important fact that three of the greatest Liberal measures passed by Parliament had been passed when the Liberals were put out of Office and their Successors came in. So, in like manner, when the question of Ireland came most prominently to the front it was necessary to have a Liberal Government and not a Conservative Government in power for the purpose of maintaining order in that country. He wished, however, to avoid all Party imputations; but he could not refrain from observing that in the course of the discussion a great deal of vague language and many vague catchwords had been employed—as, for example, "the Empire," "Imperial interests," and "Repeal of the Union,"—mixed up with a great many vague sentimental appeals to nationality. He could not bring himself to vote for an abstract Resolution in favour of autonomy in Ireland; he wished to have something in definite and clear language which lawyers might interpret afterwards. He believed that if there was one thing for which the country was anxious it was a united Empire maintained by the supremacy of an Imperial Parliament. The Bill proposed to constitute for Ireland a legislative authority, an executive authority, and a judicial authority. On these points he wished to see not legal theories but practical propositions. The right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) spoke clearly about the supremacy of this Parliament; but he was not strictly accurate in what he said. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Bill as defining the delegation of a limited portion of the legislative power of this Parliament to the new Body; but the Bill rather defined the power it did not delegate. As the matter stood it was possible that in the future great differences of opinion might arise. The new Body was to be intrusted with matters of Irish concern; but what were they? They involved the protection of life and property, and generally the maintenance of social order, including liberty of contract and the payment of debt. Making allowance for all restrictions, the Legislative Body would be practically independent. It would, for all practical purposes, have legislative 384 independence; and, according to the Attorney General, there would remain in this Imperial Parliament a great reserve of power which was not intended to be used except in some great emergency. The responsibility of this Parliament for the happiness of Irishmen would be in abeyance. Irishmen in Ireland would be absolutely dependent on the sense of responsibility to which he hoped the granting of power might train the Members of the Irish Parliament. Many of the Irish Members of this Parliament were rising to this sense of responsibility; but still we could not forget the vindictive spirit in which some of them had spoken of Earl Spencer and of the Prime Minister, and the opinions of the 85 Members could not be accepted as the last word from the whole of Ireland. Their position might be strong, constitutionally, and many might by Parliamentary service have earned claims to personal respect; but still, before displacing the Executive of Ireland, creating a new system under the control of a Legislative Body, and surrendering the power of the Imperial Parliament, he must look at what was going on in Ireland, and particularly at the "Boycotting" which so largely affected tradesmen, and appeared to be countenanced by high ecclesiastical authority. He should feel more comfortable if he could see Irish Members effectively using their influence to put a stop to this system. What was the remedy proposed? That the Imperial Parliament should abdicate its whole responsibility, and trust to a sense of responsibility arising suddenly as soon as absolute powers over Irish affairs was transferred to an Irish Legislature. He wished to trust the Irish people, and he believed that they might, as a whole, be trusted if their passions were not aroused and their self-interest was not appealed to by those who misled them. But he had to look at that as a practical question of government, and he said that if a measure could not be carried at once for establishing social order in Ireland, he earnestly hoped that Englishmen and Scotchmen might appeal to their Irish fellow-countrymen to show themselves worthy of the trust which we wished to place in them. With regard to the veto—although Mr. Dicey, whose authority had been quoted, had told them very plainly in an article which appeared 385 three months ago, that the Colonial system of veto was utterly inapplicable to the case of England and Ireland, still, for himself, he believed that the Government had framed that Bill with an honest intention that the veto should be a reality; and from what he had heard yesterday, he understood that it would undoubtedly be in the power of Parliament to call the Ministers of the Crown to account if they neglected their duty in Ireland. He felt quite sure that it was not by a union of Parties, or something in the nature of coercion, that we could look forward to the restoration of order in Ireland; but it was to a growing good feeling between the toilers of Great Britain and Ireland that we were to look for a good understanding between the two countries. With regard to alternatives, he admired the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale as a true-hearted Liberal and a fine manly specimen of the English aristocracy; but it seemed to him that the noble Marquess offered them nothing but a simple negative to the carefully-prepared plan of a responsible Government, and he neither indicated any alternative nor even his willingness to undertake the responsibility. Then as to those who aspired to head the Radical Party, he did not understand their policy, nor did he presume to fathom their purposes. For himself, he came to the conclusion that he could not refuse to join in sending a message of sympathy to the Irish people as a whole. He wished to believe and to trust their Representatives. He could not trust the Nationalist Members as a Party, because they had surrendered their freedom of deliberative action; but he thought he might safely rely on some indications of a gradually growing sense of responsibility, and a changed tone of feeling towards this country. He believed, also, that among the English and a largo proportion of the Scotch people there was a disposition to meet the Irish in a responsive spirit. He was convinced that a mere recasting of the machinery of local government was quite unsuited to the emergency, and he thought that more good was to be expected from a collective representation of all interests meeting at Dublin and speaking, not in unison, but in that harmony which might result from variety. The Ulster men were sometimes more 386 Irish than other Irishmen; and he did not believe that in their hearts they were so much afraid of what was coming as was sometimes supposed. He was, therefore, in favour of the 1st clause of the Bill. The words of the 2nd clause were wide reaching, but they must be taken with the restrictions and exceptions and with the prerogative of the Crown. He was prepared to face the problem as inevitable of establishing a bonâ fide Legislative Body in Ireland; but he hoped that the Government would pause before they gave it control over the Judges, and he certainly was not prepared to make it independent of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Reserving in every sense the abiding and continued responsibility of Parliament to promote the happiness of Ireland, he believed that a Legislative Assembly in Dublin was, under all the circumstances, expedient, provided that the extent of its powers was not prejudged. The people of both countries were, in his opinion, anxious to come together and to work in harmony, and he hoped that these debates would result in the promotion of the welfare and the happiness of the people and the maintenance of the honour of the Empire.
§ SIR THOMAS ESMONDE (Dublin Co., S.)
Sir, I do not think that the Representative of an Irish constituency can rise to join in this debate without feeling that it is the most momentous discussion in which the Irish Members have taken part since their entrance into this House. Looking back beyond the present century, through the vicissitudes which have marked the connection of England and Ireland, I do not believe that, at any period of that connection, a more fateful issue has been raised between the two nations than that which confronts us to-night. Hon. Members on opposite sides of the House will doubtless form widely different estimates of the policy which Her Majesty's Government is pursuing; but no section of the House will deny that the problem which the Government seeks to solve is of vital import not alone to Ireland, but to the Empire. An opportunity has arisen, under circumstances which I will venture to describe as especially favourable, for the healing of a long-standing feud between the two peoples. In Ireland, it has at length been possible to 387 frame, in a Constitutional manner, the demand of the country for what it considers its rights, and to give a practically unanimous expression to that demand. It has, furthermore, been possible to bring the Irish people to the temper of mind in which they are willing to forget and forgive the wrongs that have been done them—in which they are willing to enter into cordial union with the present generation of Englishmen, leaving the unfortunate past to history and historians. It has been possible to inspire them again with confidence in Parliamentary methods, and to induce them to look to this House for a redress of their grievances. They are waiting, in silent expectation, for the answer of Parliament to the demand they have addressed to it; and I believe it is only the foes of England, or her very shortsighted friends, who could wish them to be disappointed. In England, too, a temper of mind seems to prevail which is favourable to the solution of the Irish difficulty. Among a large section of the English people, the bigoted hatred and irritating contempt of the Irish nation, to which we were so long accustomed, have given place to a better understanding of our claims, and a more generous sympathy with our necessities. There are, too, among responsible English statesmen, some at least who are enlightened enough, and patriotic enough, to seek in their solution of it not the mere triumph of a Party, not the mere gratification of personal ambition or personal spleen, but only the welfare of the peoples whose destinies they are set to control. To such men, and to the unprejudiced Englishmen whom they represent, our claim to self-government must be easily intelligible. Addressed to them by any other people under the sun, it would at once command their sympathy and ensure their support. We base our claims on our natural rights to enjoy the privileges, as we possess the character, of a free nation. We are a people geographically distinct from the English. We have a national spirit of our own. We have our own historical traditions. We have our own peculiar wants, and, in great part, we profess a different religion. This character of a distinct nationality we have ever upheld, as the incidents of a somewhat unfortunate history bear witness. We are now, as we have ever been, fully conscious of 388 our right to national autonomy; and as we have striven to enforce that right in the past, so shall we strive to enforce it now. In asserting that we are a people distinct from the English, I must not be understood to mean that we are by nature antagonistic to England, nor even that we are necessarily opposed to her by tradition. It does not follow that because a man is not English, or of English blood, that he is therefore the enemy of England. We were not born Englishmen, and we will not die Englishmen; but that is no reason why through life we may not co-operate with Englishmen for a common political purpose. In many parts of the world men who are not English by race are nevertheless staunch friends of England. In many portions of the habitable globe men, alien by birth, are politically connected with England, and are fervent supporters of the English connection. There is, therefore, no firm reason why we cannot be at peace with England without being forced to become Englishmen. I wish to insist strongly upon this point—that it may be understood that, in putting forward this claim, in no sense do we meditate an attack upon Great Britain, and in no way do we wish to make our just demands a menace to her greatness. Being, therefore, a people apart, and forming a distinct, though not a separate, nationality, we assert our claim to the privilege of a people, and insist upon our right of national self-government. The claim thus put forward determines at once our attitude regarding all proposals of local self-government. We cannot consent to accept minor measures of parish administration by Elective Boards as a compromise of our demands for a National Legislature. Being a people, we claim a people's right—the government of our nation by our nation. We claim to manage for ourselves in National Council the national concerns which affect us and us only. We can accept nothing less than this. We have a duty to our country's ancient name and to the undying aspirations of our race, and we should fail in our obligations to both if we demanded less. I trust hon. Gentlemen will so far understand our demand as to perceive that no arrangement of County Boards or Provincial Councils will in any way meet it. I trust, too, that we shall not again be 389 asked to explain why Ireland cannot submit to be governed in the same way as the Municipality of London, or the county of Middlesex. It may seem, perhaps, to hon. Members that this aspiration is but a striving after a romantic idea. To that we reply that the ideas which govern men are factors of political life with which practical statesmen must deal. The history of mankind proves that ideas have had much to do in shaping the destinies of nations. I might add that ideas of this kind, when entertained by other nationalities, have found ample sympathy and encouragement from English statesmen, and that, thus fostered, they have not unfrequently revealed themselves as forces of vast power in the history of the modern world. Let English statesmen then realize, once for all, this plain truth—that the Irish people are determined at all cost to be a free people. We do not object to form a portion of the Empire; but we protest that we must be a free portion of it, requiring that we shall be recognized as a nation within the Empire. We demand that we be permitted to enjoy within the Empire the legislative and administrative independence which befits a free people. We cannot consent to have our laws made by an Assembly which is the Representative Body of another people, which does not live with our political life, which is not vitally concerned in our national prosperity, and which therefore cannot legislate in our name. Allowing such an Assembly to be actuated by a desire to accord us the fullest and most ample justice, the fact of its being virtually a foreign Assembly would still make its legislation a yoke, and at best a well-meant oppression. Again, we cannot submit to have our Administration placed in the hands of strangers, who are ignorant of the condition of our people, who are unable to sympathize with their feelings and aspirations, and whose government in consequence does not represent the national will. Granting that they were animated by the most honourable motives, the fact of their being strangers makes their interference in our domestic concerns a grievance, to which force alone will oblige us to submit. So long as the Senate in which our laws are made shows a majority of five to one against the Representatives of our people, so long will this grievance subsist; and, 390 furthermore, so long as the control of the Irish Administration rests with a Parliament so constituted, so long must we hold with the distinguished Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) that the Government of Ireland is an alien bureaucracy. I would again beg the House to understand that when I say "strangers," I do not mean enemies. I would convey that our laws are made and administered by men of different race, of different nationality, with but very imperfect opportunities of becoming acquainted with our circumstances and our wants, and whose political education has not fitted them to sympathize with either. You may still govern the ryots of India through English gentlemen appointed by the authorities at home; but in Ireland the point has been reached in political education, and I trust in political power, when this system is no longer feasible. The time I hope has arrived when the Rulers of Ireland shall be appointed by the will of the Irish people and not by a Government which comes and goes by the will of the people of England. Giving credit to Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen, for a sincere desire to rule Ireland aright, we still hold that they ought not to rule her because they are not of her people, and we emphatically decline to submit to their government. Is there anything preposterous in that? I appeal to the fairness and common sense of this House, and of the English people—Would the people of England consent to have their laws made by a Legislature sitting in Washington or Sydney, were those cities within four hours' sail of London? Would they submit to have their Administration placed in the hands of the American or Australian nominees of such an Assembly? We know full well their national spirit would revolt against such an arrangement. Why, then, should the Irish people acquiesce in a state of things under which their laws are framed by a Senate established in London, and the administration of their affairs is placed in the hands of individuals appointed by such a Parliament? But, Sir, the legislative independence of Ireland is not merely an idea—independence is something more than a mere ornament of a people's life—it vitally concerns the material interests of the nation, and affects profoundly its general welfare. 391 I do not know if the history of the human race furnishes one example of a country which has prospered without being free. If it does so, I have not heard of the example, nor read of it. It will, I think, be found that an alien domination, established in the midst of a people, has ever formed a centre from which deadly influences radiated to blight and blast the national prosperity and paralyze the national life. That, I believe, has been the rule in other nations. It certainly has been the rule in Ireland. The era of our Parliamentary independence was the one era of prosperity amongst us. With the destruction of our Independent Legislature began a period of decay which, continuing without interruption, has eventuated in the condition in which we find ourselves now. During the years immediately preceding the Union Ireland was a thriving nation. She possessed a widespread and ever increasing trade. The ferment of industrial life was active throughout the country, the bustle of commercial enterprize enlivened the streets of our towns; numerous native manufactures afforded occupation to our people, and swelled the sum of the nation's resources. The City of Dublin, which was then worthy of the name and dignity of the Metropolis of Ireland, was among the most brilliant and most wealthy of the European capitals. Sir, the statements of Lord Clare and of Lord Plunket as to the pre-Union prosperity of Ireland have been given to the House during the course of this debate. I shall now ask the attention of hon. Members to some other statements to the same effect—statements of the traders and bankers of Dublin in 1798 and 1799—and that Parliament, be it remembered, was representative only of a section of the nation—it represented the Protestants of Ireland only. Yet under the rule of that Assembly, thus imperfectly constituted, the progress of Ireland was rapid beyond example—so rapid, that jealousy has been assigned as the motive which prompted English Ministers to destroy the liberties to which that prosperity was attributed. I will not dwell upon the means to which Ministers stooped to effect their disastrous purposes. I believe there is not now an instructed Englishman who does not look with shame upon the devices by which the Legislative Union was effected. I 392 believe that there are few amongst those who advocate the continuance of the Union who, if it had to be effected again, would not shrink from participation in the loathsome horrors by which it was accomplished. Hon. Members, who are strangers to the methods of government that have hitherto obtained in Ireland, may think this language exaggerated. Were they natives of an Irish county, through which the ancient Britons and their mercenary German allies had been encouraged to carry ruin and dishonour and death, and where every glen has been the scene of some fiendish outrage, perpetrated by public authority on a defenceless peasantry; had they spoken with men who were eye-witnesses of the ghastly imfamies done in the name of the British Government to force a wretched people into rebellion, they would not esteem any language of indignation and abhorrence too strong for the crimes denounced. But I do not wish to keep the attention of the House fixed further on these melancholy events. I trust we are about to enter on an era of good feeling between the people of the two countries, in which the remembrance of these wrongs may be suffered to die out. What I am concerned to bring under the notice of the House is the circumstance that the Union has been disastrous to that prosperity in which, under a free Parliament, Ireland had advanced so rapidly. I shall be brief in my reference to the significant statistics which prove the dismal truth—statistics as to Irish manufactures. It appears, then, that the commercial and manufacturing prosperity of Ireland did not long survive the Legislature to which it owed its existence—a period of gradual decline began with the advent of the foreign Government which has lasted to our own day, and which has now reached its lowest point, because there is nothing left for it to destroy. An attempt was made some time since, in an Address presented to the new Viceroy by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, to prove, from the Returns for the Port of Dublin, that the trade of Ireland had increased during the past 80 years. The tonnage of the vessels that entered and leave the port is much greater than it was at the beginning of the century—therefore, argued these discerning merchants, the prosperity of Ireland has increased, The Returns of 393 the Port of Dublin seem to furnish the most melancholy evidence of the decadence of Ireland that could well be offered us. It will be found, on examination of these Returns, that the bulk of the imports to Ireland come in the form of manufactured goods, and that the exports are mainly agricultural products. The fact that, since 1800, Ireland has been driven to buy more largely manufactured articles, and to pay for them in agricultural produce, is proof that her own industries have died out. Instead of utilizing her agricultural produce in maintaining a native manufacturing population, and exporting only as much of her surplus produce as would pay for the raw material, she has now to export as much as pays not only for the raw material, but for the labour which, 80 years ago, was supplied by a thriving population at home. The barristers and half-pay officers who form the Dublin Chamber of Commerce can hardly he regarded as authorities upon matters commercial; but their fallacies are worthy of notice, since they have been taken as a test by more thoughtful men. The one industry which, since the unfortunate Act of Union, has thriven in Ireland—apart from landlordism—is that of cattle raising. But that increase is no indication of national prosperity—it is rather the reverse. It indicates that a large part of the population has been exterminated to make way for cattle; that a readier means has been found of paying foreign countries for the commodities that were before manufactured at home, and a simpler method introduced of raising the yearly revenue which the people of Ireland have had to furnish to the 1,500 absentee landlords, who claim an exorbitant rent for some 4,500,000 Irish acres, of which they assert themselves owners. I will not weary the House by quoting further statistics in proof of the melancholy effects of the Legislative Union on Irish industries and Irish trade. I could wish that hon. Members who have no experience of our country could pay a visit to Dublin or any other of the Irish towns that, 80 years ago, were thriving centres of commercial and industrial life. It would do more to convince them than volumes of statistics. They should see the ruin which is gradually settling down upon those towns, the half-empty streets, the lines of noble houses crumbling into decay, the 394 squalor and misery which are invading the quarters in which wealth and rank had their home; and I venture to predict that, after an experience of this kind, they will not be deeply impressed by the figures of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. But the loss of our industries and our commerce is not the only material disaster which we owe to the Legislative Union. We had a right to expect that the new Legislature, which usurped the functions of our own, would give attention to the one industry which was left to us, only because we could not be deprived of the soil of our own country. Shut out from other fields of labour, the Irish nation was forced to give itself almost entirely to the cultivation of the soil. Agricultural industry being almost the sole source on which the nation had to depend, it might have been expected that the Imperial Legislature would have regulated the condition of that industry so as to secure the cultivators against the evils of an extravagant competition for land; yet, for 80 years, the Imperial Legislature looked calmly on, till the evils, which grew out of the misery of the nation, reached the point at which they were endurable no longer; and, even then, it took an agitation which convulsed the country from end to end, and a supreme effort on the part of England's greatest statesman as well, to secure some measure of justice for the Irish farmers. The want of all legislative protection to the Irish tenant farmer against the exactions of a grasping landlordism must stand as a condemnation of that Government which arrogated to itself the guardianship of the rights of the Irish people. In less than a century, the landlords of Ireland, as a class, took advantage of the competition for land, occasioned by the practical extinction of other industries, to increase their levies on the labour of the poor beyond all reason; but Government did not interfere to assert the plain principles of economical justice in favour of the oppressed. From 1782 to 1874, the Irish rental of the Marquess of Bath rose from £28,000 a-year to £78,189; that of the Earl of Devonshire, from £18,000 to £81,326; that of the Earl of Caledon, from £1,000 to £19,754; that of the Marquess of Conyngham, from £9,000 a-year to £32,644; that of Lord Bantry, from £800 a-year to £14,561; and so 395 on through a melancholy list; and when, at last, the Imperial Legislature was brought, under the pressure of what looted like a social revolution, to take cognizance of this gigantic evil, the Court which it established proclaimed the grievous neglect of the Government by proceeding to cut down the landlords' rentals by from one-fith to one-quarter, and as its courage grew and its experience increased, by one-third, one-half, and even a higher fraction. If the proceedings of that Court are but the assertion of the principles of strict economical justice, what are we to say of the system of government which delayed 80 years to establish it—which waited until the country was on the verge of ruin before initiating remedial legislation? The further evils which government by the Imperial Legislature has brought upon Ireland have, of late years at least, become familiar to the ears of the Members of this House. Our educational system neglected, or, if not neglected, constructed in direct antagonism to the wishes of the nation, the law administered by partizan Judges and by ascendancy magistrates; the public offices in the gift of men who were most frequently at open war with the country, and filled by strangers whom they thought most likely to serve their purposes—a system of Administration in no way amenable to the public opinion of the nation, and supported in every unpopular act by the public opinion and the Press of another people. Famine at stated times; the Constitution suspended periodically; and, finally, the usual outcome of tyrannical government, chronic disaffection, and at due intervals spasmodic rebellion. I do not make these assertions in any contentious spirit. The Irish Question has now reached a phase in which the Representatives of Ireland may dispense with long arguments. The political Parties in this House are, I venture to believe, in accord as to what is due to Ireland in justice. The difference between them is a difference as to how much of justice shall be conceded. Concession is inevitable, and, let me add, the concession of the full measure of our rightful claims is inevitable. There is much talk about the choice between coercion and justice. I do not believe that the advocates of coercion put the least faith in it themselves; and I make bold to assert that, from coercion, Eng- 396 land has much more to fear than we have. We have reached a depth of political misfortune in which we have nothing to lose but the modicum of individual and public liberty which we are permitted to enjoy during the periods when the Constitution is not suspended by Act of Parliament. Commercial prosperity we have not, and it is difficult to imagine a worse condition of our agricultural industries than that in which we find ourselves at this moment. What, then, have we to lose by coercion? The additional Army that coercion would quarter on us would be but a trifling addition to the evils we have to wince under already. But what has England to fear from coercion? I have no hesitation in asserting that the statesman who, at this moment, would enter into a course of repressive legislation towards Ireland would deserve the reprobation of every man who values the dignity and the stability of this Empire. A people that have suffered, as few peoples have suffered, are willing to forget their injuries, and to join the people of England in maintaining a common Empire. They are willing to lend to the support of the Imperial power the strength of a people whose day is only beginning; they are joined in their friendly advances by the millions of their race scattered over the face of the globe, and the sympathy of every nation in which freedom is a sacred thing with them in their endeavour. Sir, I do not envy the man who can look with a light heart on the results that must follow if their advances are rejected. They have expressed their demands in the form and through the channels prescribed by your Constitution. They have unanimously asked from you the privilege you have accorded to many other peoples within the Empire. If you refuse them, you will have to deal with an insulted and maddened nation, familiar with the methods of political organization, united at home, and supported by their kinsmen in Britain and in every region under the sun; and you will have this hostile opinion at home and abroad impregnably strengthened and irresistibly justified, by the fact that the Prime Minister of England has proclaimed their demands to be just, and declared it your duty to satisfy them. United in the demand for mere justice, supported by the public opinion of the civilized world and by the enthu- 397 siastic sympathy of their own kinsmen, vindicated in their determination by the Prime Minister of England and by the most enlightened as well as the most patriotic of England's sons, they cannot be defeated. A cause that can command such resources must succeed, were the opposition against it ten times what it is. The certainty of our success is the best guarantee that we will never relax our endeavours. I trust it will be a motive to the hon. Gentleman who are opposed to us to relax somewhat of their opposition. They may be able to delay justice, or to minimize the measure of justice accorded to us; but a triumph of that kind would be a national disaster. It would not prevent us reaching the end we seek, but would leave us without friendly feeling towards those who had hindered us. If it is important that the relations of Ireland to England should henceforth be those of cordial friendliness, those who seek to make ungracious the concessions which must ultimately come, are doing scant service to both countries. It has been the misfortune of English remedial legislation for Ireland that every concession has always come too grudgingly to command our gratitude. I trust that mistake will not be committed now; and that all who are concerned for the welfare of both nations will concur to make this last concession a basis of genuine concord between them for all time to come. We have been asked for guarantees of loyalty to the Empire. The best guarantee in our case is that of self-interest. Make it worth while for us to be loyal, and we will be so. Make the Irish people a recognized member of the Imperial system, and they will be faithful. Permit us to share in the Imperial prosperity, and we will defend the Empire of which we are a part; and we will sacrifice, if needs be, our properties and our lives to uphold its greatness and enhance its glory. And count also upon our gratitude. We are willing to take the great Leader of this House and his Colleagues as the exponents of the wishes and feelings of the people of England towards us and towards the people for whom we now speak; we are disposed to be grateful. We know they have done a just deed; and on account of the generosity they have shown, we are willing to forget the littleness and the bigotry which have opposed them. As to the insulting predictions that 398 we should plunder the property of our fellow-subjects if power were placed in our hands, if we are able to govern at all we must be able to govern with justice, and we shall have as much interest in making the minority contented in Ireland as the British Government could have in protecting it. I pass by the foolish appeal to the prejudices of the British traders, which represent us as excluding British manufactures from our markets. The common sense of the ordinary British trader will convince him that, in a prosperous and thriving Ireland, he is likely to have a better market for his wares than in the empty towns and ruined villages of Ireland in her present state. These pretended difficulties are not worthy of the consideration of thoughtful men. Hon. Members, in discussing this question, should look to higher issues. They should, I think, be swayed chiefly by motives dictated by justice between nations, and by the honest desire to undo a great national wrong and alleviate a great national misery. On behalf of the people of Ireland, we now ask for justice from the people of England. "We appeal to them to cast aside unworthy prejudices, and to accord us generously the rights we claim. If they will concede to us the privilege of self-government, if they will grant us our rightful share in the Imperial dignity, we will contribute to the support of the common Empire with the enthusiastic zeal and unconstrained devotion of a free and grateful people.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER (Isle of Wight)
I am sure that everyone who has heard the hon. Baronet must feel that, from his point of view, he has made a moderate speech, and one which shows that he has the interest he speaks to very close to his heart; but I feel that we must not, at the present time, blind our eyes to the fact that the Irish Members in the House have an object in view which they surely conceal, and that their speeches are not made for the purpose of showing what their real feelings are. Those, on the other hand, who venture to oppose this measure have got their responsibilities to regard towards their country, and their duty to regard towards Ireland as well as towards England. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister made an appeal yesterday to some section of the followers of 399 his Party, and pointed out to them the responsibility that rests upon each one of them. Does the right hon. Gentleman suppose that the opponents of the measure do not feel the responsibility of their position? Does he think that we are careless or indifferent to the duties we owe to the country and the House? I trust that the Prime Minister, and those right hon. Gentlemen who have assisted him, will pardon me if, in expressing my views in opposition to this measure, I may, perhaps, do so in somewhat stronger language than they may think befitting in their much greater experience. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will admit that I have the right, to the best of my ability, to present my views to the House. I cannot help noticing that the position of the House, and certainly the position of hon. Members who feel it their duty to oppose this measure, is most peculiar, for we have not got to deal with the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues delivered from the Bench opposite, but we have got to deal with an exposition of policy made at a meeting at which none of us were present. That puts hon. Members who desire to deal thoroughly with the measure in a position of the greatest difficulty, because it will be open to the right hon. Gentleman to say, if by any chance we have not understood correctly his speech as reported in the newspapers—"You have not appreciated what the position was, and what I meant when I made that statement." The hon. Baronet opposite gave a large number of reasons for voting against this Bill, yet, strangely enough, at the end of his speech expressed his intention of voting for it. The hon. Baronet said he could not vote for an abstract Resolution; but what is the House called upon to do at the present time but to vote on an abstract Resolution? [Cries of "No!"] I do not ask hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to assent to my view; but, at the same time, I do ask them to hear the reasons why I suggest to the House that this Bill is no better than an abstract Resolution. There have been some who have spoken in this House who say that they are only prepared to vote for this measure when they see it as a complete scheme; and the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in a speech of unexampled eloquence and of the greatest 400 possible detail, has described the grounds which make the measure, in his opinion, complete. What is our position now? We have at length elicited that there is no intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government that this Bill shall ever reach the Committee stage at all. Not only is it that the second reading is to be a mere farce—a mere matter of form—but we are told that this Bill is not again to be presented to the House; but some other Bill is to be proposed that is to embody, as far as we can judge, the measure that the right hon. Gentleman introduced. Sir, if that is not the position, why is it that the right hon. Gentleman, addressing first those present at the meeting, and now, to-night, the House of Commons, has told us that the measure is not to be proceeded with beyond the second reading? The right hon. Gentleman must forgive me for expressing my feelings—they are the feelings of conviction—when I say that I think the Members of the Liberal Party were put in a most humiliating position yesterday. It was conceded to them by the right hon. Gentleman that they might have very good reason for opposing the second reading of the Bill in its present form. It was conceded to them that they might very likely feel that they could not support the second reading of the Bill in its present form; but what were they invited to do? They were invited to vote for the second reading while retaining their liberty to vote against the third reading; and yet, in the very next sentence, they were told that they never would have an opportunity of voting on the third reading. This seems to me an extraordinary thing. Here are these Gentlemen who will go down to posterity as having been at that meeting. Are they, I ask, when their conduct is referred to, to get up, or is someone to get up for them, and say—"It is true we do appear as having supported the Bill; but we only voted for the second reading, on the distinct understanding that we shall have an opportunity of voting against it on the third reading, if the matters of which we complain are not set right in it?" I do not pretend to put this—or even to suggest to the right hon. Gentlemen that I have a right to put this—as a matter of Parliamentary experience. I admit that I may be making a mistake, for I have only been able, in years gone by, to read 401 from outside what has been said and done in this House; but this I will say, that, as a matter of principle, I can see no difference whatever between the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, and voting for an abstract Resolution, which is repudiated by the right hon. Gentleman. I think the House ought now to have some statement from hon. Members below the Gangway on this side as to whether they do, or do not, approve of the proposed course. I can well understand a certain view being adopted by them. I can well understand the Representatives from Ireland saying—"We are only too glad to take this measure, because it is a step in the direction in which we seek to go;" without openly saying in this House—"It is a platform on which we can stand, in order to make further demands." We can understand that they, with perfect honesty, are entitled to accept what is given to them, and that then, in years to come, they or their successors may ask for more; but I do think, if it is to be understood by the House that those hon. Gentleman are really satisfied not only with this measure, but also with the course adopted by Her Majesty's Government, they ought to say so. I do not think it is fair to the House—it is scarcely fair to Her Majesty's Government, and it is certainly not fair to the opponents of the Bill—that it should be assumed without a statement on their part that they will be satisfied with the course that has been taken. One cannot help being struck by what one reads in some of the Irish organs in regard to this matter. Of course, hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway may say I have no right to refer to this paper, when they have heard what I am going to read; but I find this passage in a paper which is, I believe, not unconnected with some of the hon. Members below the Gangway—The proposal to withdraw the Bill, either before or after the second reading, is absolutely out of the question. It would be a defeat more disastrous than could, by any possibility, be sustained in the Lobbies.Does the hon. Baronet below the Gangway agree to that? If that is the position, the hon. Members below the Gangway, instead of supporting the proposal, ought to let the House know what is their opinion of the proposed second 402 reading. The same organ goes on to state—The proposal to strike out the clause excluding the Irish Members from the Westminster Parliament is no less inadmissible. It will be a gratuitous admission by the Government that they are wrong in the main point of their Irish policy, and that they dare not take the judgment of Parliament on that particular proposal.What I say is, that if this does express the views of a section of those who are represented by the Irish Members, I think that in candour the latter ought I to let the House know what their opinion is of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in offering to withdraw the Bill after the second reading in order to I save a defeat which is otherwise inevitable. I will now pass to so much as has been left of the measure, and to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, which I read with a great deal of attention, in The Times of this morning. I apologize to the right hon. Gentleman if I am misrepresenting his views. I have only brought to bear on the matter such explanation as I could, putting the two things together; but I must say I have less difficulty in speaking against the second reading to-night, because if the right hon. Gentleman is true to the statement he has made—if he does not change again as he has changed so many times in the course of these discussions—["No, no!"] Well, I must be allowed to express my own opinion. I will submit to criticism. I have never shirked it, at any rate, in this House. I cannot reconcile the various statements of the right hon. Gentleman, even in the course of the debate on this Bill, without coming to the conclusion that he has changed his opinions. I therefore say that if the right hon. Gentleman does remain true to the exposition of policy given at the Foreign Office on Thursday, the principal blots and objections and vices of this measure will still continue in it, or in the Bill that is to be introduced, and the measure brought in on these I lines would be open to the Constitutional objections that have been raised by more than one hon. Member in this House to the measure as it at present stands. A great deal of the debate during the last few nights has turned upon the speeches of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) and the hon. and learned Mem- 403 ber for Inverness (Mr. Finlay), and I do not wonder at it. I do not wonder that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce), the Presisident of the Local Government Board (Mr. Stansfeld), and the hon. Member for the Wisbech Division of Cambridge-shire (Mr. Rigby) should, in their turn, have attempted to answer those speeches. It is, at any rate, my duty to say what my view, and what our view on this side of the House, is upon this question; and I do not hesitate to say—not as a matter of doubt, not as a matter of opinion which I am afraid to quote, not as a matter of statement which I desire to withdraw—that if this Bill passes in its present shape, or if an amended measure is brought in in the shape indicated in the Prime Minister's speech, the authority and supremacy of the Imperial Parliament will be seriously impaired. Sir, this, at any rate, is clear—and I am not going to deal with it from any special-pleading point of view, I am going to test what the right hon. Gentleman called "the root and substance of the matter"—this is clear, from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and from the clauses which exist in the Bill, that certain matters are intended to be put within the exclusive domain of a Legislative Body in Ireland, and that these matters, upon the face of the Bill, are to be excepted from the supremacy and from the domain of this House of Commons. The hon. Member for Wisbech, speaking to-night, said that it would be right to postpone all consideration of the clauses of the Bill until the Committee stage—a very safe observation to make, because it is a stage which will never be reached. But I protest against the doctrine that in discussing the fundamental parts of the measure we ought not to regard the provisions of the clauses as presented to the House for the purpose of second reading. These clauses were referred to by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke yesterday; and I say again that Clause 37 provides in so many terms that that which is left to the Irish Legislative Body is no longer within the power of this British House of Commons. I am perfectly willing to read the language; but the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary cannot plead ignorance of the language to which I refer— 404Save 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 no wise be diminished or restrained by anything herein contained.I will not deal with this by blinking the subject. I will point out a reason why, if the Bill were to pass, the supremacy of Parliament would be seriously impaired; but I will for a moment adopt the language of the right hon. Gentleman and say that if, after the passing of this measure, which purports to give not merely municipal government, but an Irish Legislature, which purports to give to that Irish Legislature the power of making every law, and the power of altering every law, except in so far as is excepted by Clause 3 and Clause 4, and which only reserves to this House of Commons—the Imperial Parliament as it will then be—those matters which are not handed over to the Irish Legislature—if, I say, after the passing of this measure, this House were to pass a Bill respecting one of those matters that are assigned, it would be guilty of a gross breach of faith, and will do that which will be far more than a breach of some technical rule of law. I listened with the greatest interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General. He knows how I respect his opinion. He knows how I should look for guidance from him in such a matter, and I was astonished to hear that, though he quoted the speeches of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay), beyond saying that their arguments were futile, he never ventured by argument to point out in what respect they had erred. It does not make an argument bad to call it a futile one. Though the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech was eloquent and moving on general topics, I think the House was entitled to have some exposition from him—something more than the statement that the arguments to which I refer were futile. He ought to have dealt with such a matter as this very much more in detail. I am not going to weary the House with technical matters. I want it to remember that there is one part of this Bill that seems to be lost sight of by all the 405 lawyers who have attempted to advocate the Bill. The Attorney General talked of the 30 Legislative Bodies in the British Empire. Does he forget—I am sure he does not—but does the House forget that not one of the countries, districts, or peoples who have a separate Legislative Body ever had representation in the Imperial Parliament? It is, I say, one thing by a grant of the Crown, or a grant of Parliament, or, it may be, by some other Constitutional means, to give certain limited powers of legislation, reserving—as always has been hitherto reserved in express terms—the power of the Imperial Parliament; but it is quite another thing where you take a section of the House—a section entitled to the same rights as we have, a section who now form an integral part of the Imperial Parliament—and say—"We will cut you adrift; we will place you in another country, and give you separate legislative rights." I do not hesitate to say that, looked at from a practical point of view, looked at from the point of view of making a Parliamentary contract with these Gentlemen who have the right to represent Ireland, it is an entirely different thing to say—"Leave this House, and leave it on the terms that you shall have the sole right of legislating in Ireland in respect of Irish affairs," and to say to some Colony, who has never had representation—"We give you the right of autonomy, subject to the express power reserved to the British Parliament of legislating, if they think fit, and of your being bound to obey their laws." I think I may make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to deal with this point when he addresses the House. He will do me the justice of saying that I am not treating it in the least degree in a technical manner. I think we are entitled to say, having regard to the precedents of the India Act and the Colonial Laws Act, and having regard to the admission made by the Attorney General, that this Bill was framed on the lines of those Acts, the omission of clauses analogous to those expressly reserving to the Imperial Parliament the right of legislating for the Colonies—the omission of a clause enabling the Imperial Parliament to legislate on Irish matters—was in itself significant. But I say, further, that the Prime Minister made no question about 406 it. When he introduced this Bill he made it perfectly clear that he did not intend that this English Parliament should legislate in respect of Irish affairs as distinct from Imperial affairs. What was his language? He said that there could not be a Domestic Legislature in Ireland dealing with Irish affairs and Irish Representatives sitting in Parliament to take part in English and Scotch Business. It is perfectly clear that if Ireland is to have a Domestic Legislature Irish Peers and Irish Representatives cannot come here to control Irish Business. I appeal to the House whether the meaning of this was not that, as Irishmen are to have exclusive rights in regard to Irish affairs, therefore they have no right to come and interfere with English and Scotch affairs? If the right hon. Gentleman meant that there should be a practical power of legislation in this House with regard to Irish affairs, I will do him the justice to say he would have said so, and would not have allowed the House to remain under the false impression it did. If this Bill passes into law with the clause in it giving the Irish Legislature the exclusive right to deal with Irish affairs, and reserving to the English Parliament no right to deal with Irish affairs, and if, at the same time, the clause stands which declares that the Bill can only be repealed and altered in the presence of the Irish Members, all that I can say is that it would be practically impossible and against the terms of the Bill for the Imperial Parliament to pass an Act of Parliament dealing with Irish affairs without repealing this Bill. It may be possible that such a breach of faith may be committed by the British House of Commons; but, if it were possible, it would be so gross a breach of faith that I cannot conceive that it is a matter which ought to come within the range of practical politics. Now, let us for a moment consider one or two other matters in respect of which the power of the Imperial Parliament is seriously impaired. It has astonished me that it occurred to no one—at any rate, on the Government side—to point out the extraordinary nature of the veto given to the Privy Council by the 25th section. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE dissented to the use of the word "veto."] I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. Perhaps I have 407 used a wrong expression. I think he will see in a moment what I mean—that the Privy Council have the right of deciding finally whether or not an Act of Parliament passed by the Irish Legislature is, or is not, beyond the scope of that Legislature to pass. I used the word "veto." Unfortunately, I am not the master of language the right hon. Gentleman is; but I am quite willing to make my meaning clear. I was about to refer to what was said by the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Stansfeld), and certainly the most extraordinary proposition was laid down by him in connection with this matter, and one which I was also sorry to hear somewhat confirmed by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce). They said that this idea of submitting these matters to the tribunal of the Privy Council was taken from the well-known precedent—to use the expression of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board—of the Supreme Court of the United States. Well, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman was in the House when the hon. Member for Wisbech (Mr. Rigby) spoke to-night when he referred, perfectly correctly, to the constitution of the Supreme Court of the United States, to what its functions are, and to the functions proposed to be given to the Privy Council. I assert—and I invite the criticism of every right hon. and hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House—that there is no real analogy between the function of the Supreme Court of the United States, which is in itself entirely unique, and the function which it is proposed shall be exercised by the Privy Council. But if the functions of the Privy Council are as the right hon. Gentleman assumed, then the power of the Imperial Parliament is most seriously impaired. It was pointed out by the hon. Member for Wisbech, that by the Constitution of the United States the Legislatures of the different States have equal rights, and if by any chance any Act passed by those States should be contrary to the terms of the Constitution, the function of the Supreme Court is to set it aside. There is nothing at all analogous to that in the British Constitution. [Mr. BRYCE here interposed with some words of dissent.] I can assure the hon. Gentleman 408 the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that I have not the smallest objection to being corrected. Perhaps he did not hear the speech of the hon. Member for Wisbech. The hon. Member stated the fact with perfect correctness. He said that the right of the Supreme Court of the United States is to control the State Legislatures within the terms of the Constitution. [Mr. BRYCE: To interpret the Constitution.] What is the distinction for this purpose between interpretation and control? ["Oh, oh!"] The hon. Member is trifling with terms, for if an Act of one Legislature in the Union is passed, and it is contrary to the Constitution of the United States, the Supreme Court interprets it as being invalid and beyond its power, and that, I maintain, may be interpretation, but it is also control. I can give chapter and verse of instances in which the legislation of one of the federated States has been held to be ultra vires by the Supreme Court of the United States; but there is nothing analogous to this in the British Constitution. The nearest approach is that, in regard to Colonial legislation, the Privy Council has certain powers in the matter of the Royal Assent being given; but I need not tell the House, because it has been admitted by many right hon. Gentlemen, that the Imperial Parliament can pass an Act overruling the decision of the Privy Council in any such matter. Will the House bear with me whilst I point out what the provisions of this Bill are? By the provisions of this Bill in regard to this matter, if the Irish Legislature passes an Act beyond the scope of its authority, under Clauses 3 and 4, this would be submitted to the Privy Council, whose decision would be final. But if the supremacy of Parliament is to be left unimpaired, the power of deciding whether the Irish Parliament has exceeded its authority should, of course, rest with the Imperial Parliament. What, then, becomes of the finality of the Privy Council's decision, if it is not intended to override the power of this House? No doubt, the immense ingenuity of those who are advocating this Bill will be brought to bear upon this matter, and that we shall be told that there is some different view to be taken. But where is it in the Bill? You find it stated in the measure that the judgment of the Privy 409 Council is to be final, and, under the circumstances I have pointed out, the exercise of that judgment would be a complete infraction of the supremacy of Parliament, unless it is understood that the authority of the Privy Council is never to be put in force. When it is sought to justify this part of the measure by an appeal to the existence of the Supreme Court of the United States, all I can say is that the Supreme Court of the United States has nothing in common with the Privy Council, for there is no tribunal here which can control the Imperial Parliament or interpret its Statutes in the same way that the Supreme Court of the United States can interpret the Acts which have been passed by the federated States. Now, there is one other matter upon which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) has been entirely and completely misunderstood. I forget whether it was the Attorney General or the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or both, who referred to it, but they have said there is no possibility of a judicial conflict. I should like just for a moment to put to the House what the true position of matters is. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has said it will be competent for this House to pass an Act of Parliament respecting Irish matters the day after this Bill is passed. Well, if that be so, it is contrary to the provisions to which I have referred relating to the jurisdiction, both of this House and of the Irish Legislature, with respect to Irish matters. But assume that this Parliament did pass Acts in direct contradiction to some of those passed by the Irish Parliament. Now, what would be the position of an Irish Judge who had brought before him an Act of the British House of Parliament—I speak, of course, of the House of Parliament sitting at Westminster when the Irish Members are not here? Suppose an Act of this kind dealing with Irish affairs, laying down a different law to the Acts passed by the Irish Legislature, came before an Irish Judge, what would be his position? I say that, adopting the principle of Constitutional Law that has been recognized by every lawyer who has spoken in this debate, no Court of Law would venture to question the right of Parliament to legislate in any case—I say that, adopting that principle, 410 it would be incumbent upon the Irish Judge to follow the law of the Irish Parliament. ["No, no!"] I am perfectly willing, as I have said more than once, to submit to criticism; but it is only fair to listen to my arguments. The Judge would have before him an Act of Parliament passed by an Irish Legislature—an Act which would have received the Royal Assent. He would have before him this Act—the Magna Charta of the Irish people, according to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister—whereby, on the face of it, there was left to the English Parliament, as I have already urged, no right of dealing with the matters which were committed to the Irish Legislature. In following the Statute passed by the Irish Parliament, this Judge would have the encouragement of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minster, who has told us that the laws passed for Ireland by this Parliament, even when the Irish Members are here, are foreign laws. If they are foreign laws whilst the Irish Members are here, how much more will they be foreign laws in every way when the Irish Members are absent? I do not hesitate to say that if we are to place the Irish Judges, who would owe no allegiance to the British House of Commons, in conflict with the English Parliament, it would be the duty of the Irish Judges to obey the Irish Parliament. They would be removable by the vote, or rather the Address, of the Irish Legislature, and if, as I say, a conflict arose, they would naturally obey the Acts of the Irish Parliament. It may be said—"It is all very fine to make these statements, but in such criticisms as these hon. Members who oppose the Bill seem to assume that the Irish people are either criminals or lunatics." I was sorry to hear language of that kind used by the Attorney General. Has anyone ever heard from these Benches any insinuation that the Irish people are criminals or lunatics? One may have thought them misled and misguided, and to be under influences which are not for the best, and which have for their result that the true opinion of the nation is not elicited at the elections; but, at any rate, we have never attributed to the Irish nation the suggestion or idea that they were going to act either as criminals or lunatics. We are taunted with having criticised the "safeguards," and with 411 having pointed out that they are not sufficient, and that the Imperial Parliament will be shorn of some of its supremacy. It does seem strange to me that these taunts should come from right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are responsible for this Bill. For where do we find the strongest testimony that the framers of the Bill feel that the dominant Party—meaning thereby the Party represented by the Home Rulers—are not to be trusted? It is in the Bill itself. The hon. and learned Attorney General—and I hear him making the remark again sotto voce—twitted us the other night because some of us who contend that this Bill would impair the authority of Parliament, have also pointed out that that which is to be given to the Irish nation ought not to satisfy them. These arguments are not inconsistent. I wish to show that this measure has not been carefully thought out. I also wish to show that the framers of the Bill have considered that the power which was going to prevail in Ireland was not a power which was entitled to full trust and confidence. I will not, except in one passing reference, allude to the Land Purchase Bill; but it does seem to me, whatever view may be taken of the right of this House to deal separately or together with the two measures, that the Prime Minister himself represented that, in the opinion of the Government, the union of the two measures was necessary. If there was that absolute trust and confidence in the Party that was to have the dominant influence in Ireland, what was the necessity for the introduction of a measure framed in these terms? But it does not stand there. I am referring to what is on the face of the Bill. Will any hon. Gentleman get up and say that the Irish Judges have not done their duty? Will Earl Spencer, or anyone who has had a knowledge of the course of judicial business in Ireland in these troublous times, say that these men—these Judges—have not done their duty gallantly? They have enforced the law as representatives of the Queen, and have done in their own country what the Judges of Her Majesty are in the habit of doing. Will the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley), or any other responsible Member of the Government, say that Mr. Justice Lawson, Mr. Justice Murphy, and Mr. Justice O'Brien are not worthy of the confidence 412 of Her Majesty? I do not think it could be said that they were not gentlemen in whom the Prime Minister had confidence when some of them sat on the Front Bench beside him. I say that no one will suggest that these Judges have not been worthy of respect and esteem; yet so little confidence has the right hon. Gentleman in the dominant Party in Ireland that he provides for the retirement of the Judges, if they wish to retire, and enacts that they shall be obliged to abdicate the duties which they have fulfilled to their own credit, and to the safety of the nation; and here, again, I will not fence at all with the question, but will take the right hon. Gentleman's own language. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General quite right in suggesting that this is a fear that is only expressed by those who think the Irish nation is composed of criminals or lunatics? Had he in his mind the language of his great and eminent Leader when he threw that reproach in our teeth? I will quote the words of the right hon. Gentleman, which seem to me a complete refutation of the words of the Attorney General—Some of the Judges, by no fault of their own, have been placed in relations more or less uneasy with popular influences, and with what, under the new Constitution, will, in all probability, be the dominating influence in that country.It seems to me—I will not use the word "unfair," because we know the Attorney General would not be unfair intentionally—but it seems to me hardly just, when these provisions, which will protect men who have only done their duty against dominating influences, are inserted in the Bill, to suggest that we are the persons who are afraid that the Judges in Ireland will not do their duty. I do not wish to-night to deal with the question of the connection between the Legislative and the Executive. It has been amply dealt with by the hon. and learned Member for the Romford Division of Essex (Mr. Westlake), and I do not think it would be right to detain the House with further argument when it has been so well put by the hon. and learned Gentleman; but I will say this, that I share the feelings and the views of the hon. and learned Member, and it does seem to me to be a most serious thing that we are to have a complete 413 severance between the Legislative and Executive, and that we are to have no control over those Ministers who represent the Offices of State in Ireland. It involves serious questions as to the Army, and as to the action of the Military Forces in Ireland, who cannot act of themselves, but only on the authority of the Civil power—questions which, in my opinion, call for some answer, and which, I trust, some Member of the Government will be able to answer. I will content myself with adopting the hon. and learned Gentleman's arguments. I have but a few more general observations to make, and I crave indulgence in making them, because we all feel the importance of the question. The President of the Local Government Board, in order, I presume, to inflame the feelings of the House, has said that the feelings of Ireland are the result of many years of obstinate injustice and repression. If the right hon. Gentleman had referred to what had happened 30 or 40 years ago, I should have absolutely and entirely agreed with him; but if he referred to what has happened during the last 20 years, then I contend that there is no ground whatever for the assertion. I do not wish to quote the Prime Minister, but the House knows perfectly well that the right hon. Gentleman has asserted more than once that there is nothing which Ireland has asked for that this country and this Parliament have refused. I wish to call the attention of the House to the very remarkable difference between the present cry and that which existed in former times. Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Butt were able to state to the House grievances which existed, and which required Parliamentary remedy by legislation; and in many instances, if not in all, the House admitted that their complaints were right. Have hon. Members below the Gangway been able to quote a case of legislation which is now required for Ireland with which this House is not competent to deal? Is it to be said that the British House of Parliament has so fallen that it cannot respond to the just appeals of the Representatives of the Irish nation in their places in the Imperial Parliament? It seems to me that such a supposition is little short of an insult to the British House of Commons. Before the introduction of a measure of this kind, we ought to know in what respect the Imperial House of Commons 414 has failed to do its duty to Ireland. Another matter has been mentioned, and as it is a matter of most serious importance, I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in his place whilst I refer to it. When my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) was speaking, he referred to some observations of the Chief Secretary, and apparently, or at any rate to the mind of the Chief Secretary, misquoted those observations. I do not know that there was a misquotation, but the Chief Secretary repeated his words. I shall read to the House the words of the Chief Secretary; and when it is suggested that this measure is put forward in the interests of the Irish nation; when it is said to be a measure of peace that is demanded by the Irish people, what is it that the Irish Secretary said with regard to this measure of peace? I took down his words on that occasion. The words were—The dynamiters and assassins will be very delighted if you reject this Bill.Now, what does that mean? Does it moan that this House is going to make a bargain with dynamiters and assassins? ["No!"] Then, what is the meaning of the statement that they will rejoice if you reject this Bill? All I can say is, that this is pointing to that spirit of fear which was repudiated by Mr. Disraeli, when he spoke in that debate referred to by the Prime Minister, and when he said we ought to vote on the measure as Englishmen, and not with the fear that we should meet Rory of the Hills in the Lobby. It seems to me that the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary is unworthy of him.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY) (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
The hon. and learned Gentleman absolutely misconstrues the force and drift of my argument. My argument was that if you reject this Bill you will divert the movement in Ireland from the hands of Constitutional agitators into the hands of violent Extremists on the other side of the Atlantic.
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Nobody can quote the exact words of the right hon. Gentleman without misunderstanding him. I have quoted the words, and I will submit to the judgment of the House. What is—— 415Diverting the movement in Ireland from the hands of Constitutional agitators into the hands of violent Extremistsbut saying that we must be afraid of rejecting this Bill, because the fact of its rejection will rejoice the dynamiters and assassins? Perhaps it appears to me in that light owing to the infirmity of my own mind. If he can show me that I have misunderstood his argument, I will gladly admit it; but at present I can put no other construction or meaning on his argument. I maintain that dynamiters and assassins are factors which ought to be left out of the calculation altogether. We have suffered enough, God knows! through them in the past, and there are those amongst us who know that the course pursued by Liberal Governments on other occasions have led to some terrible results; but I say that the Government is surely not so craven and cowardly as to be affected by such arguments as those. But it is not from the right hon. Gentleman alone that we have heard these arguments. I trust the House will remember the observations made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who is, I think, not present. No one doubts his sincerity. I have never for one moment doubted the sincerity of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. They know what they want, and, from their point of view, they are fighting honestly for it. I, perhaps, misunderstand the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo, as I misunderstand the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. He says there is a Truce of God in Ireland—there is a Truce of God in this House. With whom is this truce? Why is it we are appealed to to continue this truce to-night? It can only be that it is supposed that by passing this Bill the truce which the introduction of this measure has begun will be continued with the Extremists, who are capable of outrageous acts. ["No, no!"] Well, I know of no other Party to whom the hon. Member could refer, and it would be a monstrous thing if we were afraid of doing justice to Ireland, as well as to other parts of the United Kingdom, under a fear of this kind. Then the phrase "cessation of hostility between the two peoples" is used, and it is a remarkable thing that the fact that there is no hostility between England and Ireland should be spoken of as "a Truce of God 416 in Ireland and a Truce of God in this House." How has this hostility been shown? The Extremists have adopted the system of conducting matters by violent means. We do not need to have any fear of the legitimate Representatives in Ireland. They have the most perfect right to represent their views in most forcible language, and they certainly do adopt a forcible method of bringing their wishes and desires before us. But to speak of this cessation of the use of this method as "a Truce of God," is a remarkable thing, and I should scarcely think the hon. Member for East Mayo, if he were here, would defend the words. I have plainly—and I hope in not too strong language—put my convictions before the House. The Tory Party feel their responsibilities just as much as hon. Gentlemen opposite feel theirs. But I cannot help saying one word, in conclusion, with regard to this measure, of which we are never to be allowed to discuss the details, and which we are only to deal with as an abstract proposition of Home Pule—Home Rule being, as has been over and over again pointed out, a thing which may mean anything until the details are fully explained. Sir, I wonder if it ever crosses the minds of those who are prepared to follow the Prime Minister with such blind obedience what the real position of this legislation has been. It was repudiated by the Prime Minister himself in December last. ["No, no!"] An hon. Gentleman opposite says "No!" He may have been in the secrets of the Prime Minister. He may have understood the original utterances of the right hon. Gentleman; but how did the honest people outside understand the language of the Prime Minister in December last? When the scheme was first put forward in a semi-authorized version it was repudiated by the right hon. Gentleman in language that convinced the nation at large that there was no such scheme. There was nothing that would have justified any reasonable man in coming to the conclusion that the right hon. Gentleman meant to bring in such a scheme. The scheme, however, repudiated by him in December last was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman a few weeks ago, supported by the remnants of a shattered, and, adopting the Prime Minister's phrase, I might say an almost emasculated Cabinet seeking to 417 obtain safety on the wreckage of a disorganized Party. It is by such means as these 1hat it is hoped safety can be attained by Her Majesty's Government at the present time. Of the ultimate passing of this measure I have no real fear. [Cheers and counter cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen must not misunderstand me; I do not think they will affect to do so. I have no fear that the Bill will ever pass. The House and the feelings of the nation will be true to that which is right and just in this matter. What I am afraid of is the influence that the fact that such a measure could have been introduced by the Prime Minister may have upon the ignorant classes to whom the right hon. Gentleman has appealed. ["No, no!"] Do hon. Gentlemen opposite repudiate the language of the Prime Minister? Has not the Prime Minister admitted, in his Manifesto, that the professional classes, the men who have to work by their brains, are against him? It is because I fear the influence on the uneducated classes that I think it dangerous and most disastrous that this measure should have been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman. It is to be feared that, for many years to come, the proposal of this measure has inflicted a serious blow on the bond of Union between England and Ireland—a bond that can only be strengthened by straightforward and honest adherence to a moderate and firm policy of law and order. Sir, I trust that the independent opinion of the country will join the independent opinion in this House in resisting a measure which can bring no lasting benefit to Ireland, and can only injure the United Kingdom, of which Ireland is a part.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(The Secretary to the Treasury, Mr. Henry H. Fowler.)
§ Motion agreed, to.
§ Debate further adjourned, till Monday next.