§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th January.]—[See page 84.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. HANDEL COSSHAM (Bristol)
said, he would confine the observations he had to make on the Speech from the Throne to two or three points which appeared to him to be of special import- 484 ance. He was much delighted that the first reference in that Speech was to that most important of all questions—the Eastern Question. The country was much indebted to the late Lord Derby for many excellent things he had said; but he never made a more wise or important statement than when he said that "peace was the great interest of this country." Our commerce, trade, industry, and prosperity so much depended on peace that not only its actual disturbance, but even rumours of war, had a most injurious effect on the interests of the country all over the world. The statesmanship of Europe had hitherto signally failed in devising some better plan of settling national differences than by the arbitrament of the sword. His own belief was that England would be wise if she set the example of adopting a more civilized policy. We were great and powerful enough not to be accused of weakness if we set an example of peace to the world. The time had come when we might retrace our steps in respect to the existing enormous expenditure, and when we might seek to appreciably lessen the burdens of the people by following a policy of non-intervention abroad. Therefore, although he had not always admired the actions of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), whose course had been on many occasions somewhat erratic, yet he was bound to say he felt indebted to the noble Lord for the practical view he had taken of this great question, and he knew of no direction in which the noble Lord could render greater or more distinguished service to his country than by helping to lead the House and the nation into that peaceful and economical policy of which he had spoken with so much eloquence. But there were one or two other things which it would be necessary to do before the Expenditure of the country could be reduced. In the first place, the sooner we cleared out of Egypt the better, for our presence there was of no advantage to the Egyptian people. It appeared to him that we were there rather in the interests of the bondholders than of the people. Then he wished to stop all further increase of territory by England. There was nothing more dangerous to a country than to be continually increasing its territory. Extent of territory did 485 not make a nation great and prosperous. If it were so, then Russia would be the greatest and most prosperous country in the world. In the enduring greatness of a nation, the contentment, happiness, and prosperity of the people were far more potent factors than wide-stretching frontiers. By the extension of territory we increased the danger of being drawn into contention with our neighbours, which a steady course of conciliation and non-aggression would avoid. Next, he was anxious that the fullest power of self-government should be given to all parts of our Colonial Empire, because this again would tend to lessen the burdens of the people and of Parliament at home. He would grant Home Rule to all our Colonies, and on this point, therefore, he looked upon the question of Home Rule as having a much wider and more important application than to Ireland alone. Self-government must become the rule in the future, lessening the labour of Parliament and the Home Government, together with the burden on the taxpayers of Great Britain. It would be impossible to continue the existing rate of taxation in time of peace. To have an income tax of 8d. in the pound in time of peace and with no prospect of war was unjustifiable and dangerous. If the public expenditure was to be lessened in a practical way, there were several things they must do as soon as possible. They must cut down the pension list, and no doubt the hon. Member for Northampton would secure attention to that matter. They must stop the waste which it was admitted was going on in connection with the Public Establishments, which, on the testimony of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, was something fearful; and the Services must be reduced. At public dinners, and on other occasions, they frequently heard of the value of the Volunteer Force, and he thought practical effect might be given with advantage to those statements by reducing the permanent military forces and relying more on the Volunteers. He contended, further, that the time was opportune for trying to reduce the public burdens. It was a great advantage that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had taken up the subject of economy so earnestly as he had done. Counsel in favour of retrenchment had not, in times past, emanated from the Tory Benches. 486 A research into ancient history, a reference to the days of Sir Robert Peel, must be made to find anything of the kind. He was ready to confess that the Liberal Party had not been as true to their traditions during many years past as they ought to have been in connection with economy in the public expenditure; but he was also bound to say that though they were forgetful of their duty they were not reminded of it by the other side of the House. Now, however, with the support of the noble Lord, he hoped that a new spirit was coming over hon. Members opposite in this matter—that being now in touch with the democracy they would feel, in common with the Liberal Party, the necessity of lessening the present expenditure. If so, he should anticipate great results from the united efforts that would be made; and in the present state of trade and agriculture economy was most desirable and necessary. He put it to hon. Gentlemen connected with trade and agriculture whether the time was not most opportune for trying to reduce the national burdens, and whether we should not carry into public affairs those maxims of thrift and economy we inculcated in all our social relations? Another reason why economy should be rigidly practised was that hon. Members must bear in mind that if further taxation had to be raised in the future the burden would have to be placed on property, and not on the industry and necessities of the people. With the present suffering, the great masses of the people could not be further burdened. If you tax their food, of any kind, you will have the democracy down on you with sledge hammer. Additional burdens must fall on property; therefore he asked those who were interested in property to join in this important work of economy, which he hoped to see very shortly taken earnestly in hand by Parliament. With regard to Ireland, he was glad to learn from Her Majesty's Speech that crime was decreasing in that country; but, in presence of that fact, it was difficult for him to understand why the House should be asked by the Government to strengthen the law for the punishment of crime. Surely the reduction of crime was not an argument for obtaining increased power; and they had a right to ask the Government to spare them the hateful task of having to impose fresh burdens on Ireland at a 487 time when they were told that the Irish people were more law-abiding and less criminal than they had ever been. All the experience of the past had shown that severe repressive legislation had tended to the increase of crime, and he ventured to believe that it would have the same effect now. Therefore, he begged the Government to take heed before entering upon a course which had been fatal to every Government which had tried it. They were told that they must maintain the law; but he wanted to know first whether the law was wise, whether it was adapted to the people called upon to obey it, and whether it was just, because the most dangerous and disintegrating policy which could be pursued was a policy of injustice. Therefore, while he admitted that the maintenance of the law was the duty of the Government, it was the duty of that House to see that the law could be maintained with justice and a safe conscience. The result of their discussions had been to clear up certain points—first of all, that past Governments had made great mistakes. When he saw in Ireland a declining population, a starving people, great opposition to the law, he could not but come to the conclusion that these were not foundations upon which to build a future of contentment and prosperity. This country was greatly responsible for the condition of Ireland; and, therefore, he asked the House to be calm, forbearing, and sympathetic in dealing with it. Our past policy had destroyed the trade of Ireland, and made that country to depend wholly upon agriculture. If the same was done to England, her condition would be much the same as that of Ireland; but England had trade and commerce to fall back upon. With regard to the relations between landlord and tenant, he ventured to lay down this principle for the guidance of hon. Gentlemen opposite—that rents must bear a fair proportion to what the land would yield. Any other principle would lead to friction, and it was the forgetfulness of that principle which had led to all our troubles in the past. It was said that the Land Act of 1881 was a failure. He would admit there were certain provisions of that Act which had failed. One great failure was the fixing of 15 years during which a certain rent was to be paid. What was perfectly fair and just five or six years ago would not 488 be so now. If we were to persevere in compelling the tenants to pay an utterly impossible rent we could not hope for peace. He would, therefore, appeal to the generosity and sense of justice of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and ask them to remember how great had been the decline of agriculture for the last four or five years. If rents in England had gone down 40 and 50 per cent, how-could they maintain that rents in Ireland should not be re-adjusted? Circumstances would beat hon. Gentlemen, and would beat the Government in this matter. This Land Question, therefore, must be dealt with. We could not stand still. He believed the late land scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) was by far the most liberal and generous ever submitted to Parliament, and there was no chance of such terms being offered again. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) was less liberal to the landlords, and would be less onerous to this country. Whoever solved the problem would confer the greatest benefit upon Ireland. He hoped that this solution would be arrived at in a way just to all parties, and permanent in its effect; but a full solution there would never be until we gave self-government to Ireland in some shape or other. It must come, and was so natural a desire in a civilized people that it ought not to be suppressed. For one people to be willing to be governed by another showed a low state of civilization. Every extension of self-government had tended to solidify and unite a people. Our Empire was stronger now, when 5,000,000 had a voice in the Government, than when the electorate was restricted to 500,000. Our Colonial Government had been strengthened by giving the Colonies Home Rule. He remembered the warm discussions 40 years ago on the subject of Home Rule for Canada. The Party on the other side of the House were as positive then as they were now, and if their policy had prevailed Canada would now be a part of the United States, whereas—and he spoke from experience—there were no people in the Empire more loyal than our Canadian fellow-subjects. State Government in the United States was the salvation of that country. The States had got just enough of Federal law to bind the 489 units into a whole, and the only way to bind the units of this country to the Central Government was to give Home Rule to every portion of the United Kingdom. They were called Separatists. So far as his knowledge went, there was not a Gentleman in that House who wanted separation. There were two kinds of union, the union of the man handcuffed to the policeman—that was our union with Ireland—or the union in which the hearts of the Irish, people would be united to us. He believed Home Rule would lead to greater union, and therefore he claimed that those who supported were better Unionists than those who opposed it. Hon. Members opposite appeared to be of opinion that the policy of standing still was the right one. For his part, he wanted not only union between England and Ireland, but union between the Liberal Party. In endeavouring to obtain that union he did not desire to sacrifice principle, but he wished to give self-government to the Irish people, which he believed would increase the stability of the Throne, strengthen the rights of property, and benefit the whole community. He denied that those who thought with him were not anxious for the glory of the Empire; but at the same time he did not think that the rights of property should be allowed to overshadow the rights of humanity. He desired to recognize the rights of property as far as they were consistent with the rights of humanity. No policy that was unjust to a great country like Ireland could stand. He read in The Daily News of an estate which, 20 years ago, was rented at 7s., and had risen to 20s. an acre, solely owing to the tenant's improvement, the landlord having done nothing whatever for the land. In enforcing justice in Ireland they should take care that they did not merely do justice to the landlords. At present Irishmen knew little of English law, except that it oppressed them. Hon. Members opposite had referred to the contentment with which Scotland had accepted union with England; but it must be recollected that Scotland had entered voluntarily into that union, and had not, like Ireland, been forced into it at the point of the sword. In his opinion, the English taxpayers would very shortly become weary of spending their money in coercing the Irish. He 490 should like to see the landlords of Ireland placed upon the same footing as ordinary creditors. Let them approach this question, not in the interests of Party, but in a spirit which would render the Jubilee of Her Majesty's glorious reign memorable in the future as the year when the problem was solved, and the foundation laid of a sincere and abiding union between England and Ireland.
§ MR. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
said, he was glad to see in the Queen's Speech that this country remained on friendly relations with all foreign Powers; but he would venture to ask the House whether, if they adopted the policy advocated of retrenchment, there would be a greater chance of peace? History showed that a policy of peace led to war, and he would refer to the Crimean War in confirmation of that view. That war would never have occurred had there been a firm and continuous policy in this country, and they would not have had so much trouble in Egypt and the Soudan had the late Government been more firm. He ventured to assure the House that the Conservative Party deplored warlike operations, and he thought that the present Government had shown that they were anxious to maintain peace—at any rate, they had had nothing to do with the increased armaments of Germany and France; and as to Bulgaria, the present Government would act in conjunction with the other Great Powers of Europe in preserving peace, and would do nothing which would not be necessary to uphold the honour, dignity, and interests of this country. He ventured to think, looking at present circumstances, that war would be avoided. It appeared to him that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) desired to have control not only over the Exchequer and the Army and Navy Departments, but also over the foreign policy of the Government. It was remarkable that the noble Lord had not been able to place his finger upon any particular item of expenditure which he thought ought to be reduced. He (Mr. Webster) yielded to no one in his desire for economy: but when it was spasmodic and ill-considered, it was not true economy, and led only to increased expenditure. The noble Lord seemed to ask the question, in his own mind, whether it would not be wise to go behind our 491 plighted word to our Colonists; and, as the Crown Colonies were not represented in this House, he probably thought not very much would be heard about it. What were the facts? Lord Carnarvon's Commission entered into negotiations with the various Colonies with regard to our coaling stations, and the consequence was that they promised to carry out certain works, and would construct the fortifications if we would send the guns to arm them. Accordingly, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mauritius, and other places had performed their part of the contract, and had constructed those works; but, so far from carrying out our part of the bargain, we had not sent a single gun to one British Colony. We were, therefore, bound in honour to fulfil our part of it. To break faith with our Colonies would, in his opinion, be a most stupid and most wicked piece of economy, and would do a vast injury to our trade and commerce. He trusted the day would never come when Colonial questions would be made the battledore and shuttlecock of Parties in that House. With regard to Ireland, he ventured to hope that the Government would pursue a firm and consistent policy in that country, and that brighter days might ere long dawn on that land.
§ MR. S. WILLIAMSON (Kilmarnock)
said, he did not intend to follow the speech of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Webster), which was so full of Jingo sentiment. He proposed to confine his attention to the subject of Ireland, whose industrial, political, and social condition was the main cause of our own political divisions and difficulties. It was a matter of great regret that so many of the speeches of new and young Members of the House, sitting especially on the opposite side, had been marked with so much bitterness and animosity towards the Irish people. Some of those speeches might be characterized as a mixture of brimstone and treacle; but he was sorry to say some of them were undoubtedly mere undiluted and unadulterated brimstone, sword, fire, and vengeance. In that category he must class the speech delivered on Tuesday night by the hon. and learned Member for West Ham (Mr. Fulton), in which there was not one expression of generous sympathy for the Irish people, or the slightest regard to the national aspirations of the people. Speeches of that 492 character must only increase the existing difficulty. A speech of a different character, containing a good deal of brimstone, but also an admixture of treacle, had been delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). The hon. and gallant Member took a different view from that presented on Tuesday night by the hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead (General Hamley), whose ponderous speech, he was sorry to say, was characterized by much bitterness. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh had admitted that the Land Act of 1881 had laid the foundation for a solution of the Irish Question; whereas the hon. and gallant Member for Birkenhead had spoken as if the acts of the late Government had been the cause of the troubles both present and future of the Sister Island. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh desired to see a settlement of the Irish Land Question on the basis of the Irish landlords being bought out. But first they must see that the bargain between the landlords and the occupiers of Ireland should be a fair one. That must be done by an Irish Legislative Assembly in Dublin—not four or five Provincial Assemblies, but one Assembly, embodying the aspirations of the people, composed largely of the young enthusiastic men of the National Party, modified by an infusion of men from the North of Ireland—men engaged in commerce in Belfast and elsewhere, and men representing the landlords, like the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh himself. Let them find out the real value of the land in Consols or other securities, and then they might expect a settlement of this question. The hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh had said that it was a matter of paramount importance that Ireland should be happy and contented, and that the way to effect this object was to make the tenants owners of their holdings. The hon. and gallant Member then said that the final solution could only come from the Irish people themselves. The hon. and gallant Member's speech was, therefore, a Home Rule speech. He was delighted to see one who was so identified with the Protestantism of the North of Ireland thus going back to the old and better traditions of the Irish Protestants, for the right hon. Gentle- 493 man the Member for Mid Lothian had recently pointed out that before 1800 the Protestants were the most zealous assertors of National principles; and not until the legitimate claims of the people were satisfied could we expect peace, happiness, and contentment in Ireland. He would not follow the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Wallace) in his logical analysis of the Plan of Campaign, which was a matter sub judice, further than to observe that logic and moral right were not always coincident. It might not be logically defensive on the grounds of legality; but there might be other arguments used in defence of those who had identified themselves with this Plan. Supposing there was a family in distress, or had lost its bread-winner, and he happened to be in the house visiting the poor people when a tradesman came in and demanded his pound of flesh, fearful lost others might get in before him to seize the goods of these poor people, he thought he would be justified in taking that man by the throat and turning him downstairs. He might be arraigned before a Court of Law, and the matter submitted to a jury; but he thought under the circumstances he would get off with a farthing damages, if he were not acquitted on the plea of humanity. The House, he thought, took a wrong view in fixing tenancies under the Land Act, at the long period of 15 years. Neither landlord nor tenant was a party to that settlement, and they would do well in many cases to revise it by agreement with each other. Mention had been made in the Queen's Speech of the question of tithes, and the only hon. Gentleman who had referred to the matter, the Member for Maldon (Mr. Gray), said he hoped the Government would re-open the whole question, and would not allow tithes to be made use of for any other purpose than that which the original donors intended. He only wished to point out that there were no original donors at all. The tithes were not really gifts; they were exactions; and the recommendation of the hon. Member simply meant that in clearing out a foul well, they were not to probe it to the bottom, but simply to skim the surface. He hoped the Government would take no such course as that, but would thoroughly go into the matter; and he commended the subject to the considera- 494 tion of his hon. Friends the Members for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) and Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), knowing those hon. Gentlemen would not rest contentedly until the matter was thoroughly dealt with.
§ COLONEL HAMBRO (Dorset, S.)
said, that a perusal of the recent debates would lead the reader to conclude that there was only one subject which Parliament was assembled to consider—namely, Ireland; and the discussion had been to a large extent concerned with the Plan of Campaign and the Glenbeigh evictions. That Plan of Campaign had been pronounced by the highest legal authority to be an illegal combination, and he thought they were rather flogging a dead horse. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, if the law was not strong enough to reach it, the sooner it was amended the better. In the Glenbeigh evictions great consideration had been shown by the landlords; but they were eagerly seized upon by Irish Members who were anxious that the Irish Question should not be settled, but kept an open wound. Although, as an English Member, he did not feel qualified to suggest a solution of the Irish problem, in his view the probable real solution of that question would be to give the tenants a greater proprietary interest in the soil. But, when that was done, every tenant should have full compensation for the expenditure on improvements he had effected when he was evicted from his holding. At any rate, he hoped the whole of the Session would not be devoted to Irish subjects. There were, however, other subjects than Ireland referred to in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. With regard to local self-government for England and Scotland, he would like to see a termination to the controversy which had been "hung up" so long. He trusted the Government would deal with the subject in a thorough and comprehensive manner. He was glad also that measures were promised to facilitate and cheapen the transfer of land, and to encourage the extension of allotments. The last Liberal Government had increased the difficulties of land transfer by doubling the fees of the Court of Chancery. With regard to allotments, in his own part of the country no legislation was needed to facilitate the allotment system, which was in full operation by 495 voluntary effort. He was of opinion that on some estates no Bill was necessary to carry into effect the objects contemplated, though he believed that in some parts it was desirable that legislation should be passed for the purpose. He was sure that the sale of glebe lands, which had attracted the notice of the Government, would do much to increase allotments, especially as glebe lands were often very favourably placed for the purpose. He was sure the country would be glad to hear that the Government intended to practise economy; but there was no desire that economy should be attained by the sacrifice of the thorough efficiency of the two Services.
§ MR. CRILLY (Mayo, N.)
said, as one of the five Irish Members who were being prosecuted for having advocated and promoted the Plan of Campaign, and, as one who, by the means of a well and carefully packed jury, might probably be sent to prison within the next 10 days, he would ask the House to permit him to explain and defend, as far as his capacity allowed him, his connection with the agrarian movement in Ireland within the last three or four months. With almost every phase of the Plan of Campaign since its initiation he had a close association; and he desired to say that he was neither ashamed of his action, nor afraid to face the consequences of what he had done. He was not ashamed for three reasons: in the first place, because he was not inclined to accept those who condemned the Plan of Campaign as authorities on the moral law; in the second place, because he had higher authorities, whom he reverenced, who said that the Plan of Campaign was perfectly moral, and. under the circumstances of the hour, perfectly legitimate and justifiable; and, in the third place, because the Plan of Campaign had proved abundantly efficacious in bringing unjust landlords to their knees, in having saved many pounds to many tenants in Ireland, and because it had saved many tenants from eviction in Ireland during the past winter. On Monday evening he listened to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), who had a brother in another branch of the Legislature, and the noble Lord declared that the Plan of Campaign was hopelessly immoral. It did not lie in the mouth of the noble Lord to taunt the Irish people with immorality. The 496 moral lives of John Dillon and William O'Brien were as clean and pure as the life of the noble Lord, and cleaner and purer than the lives of many of those who were associated with the noble Lord in politics or by consanguinity. It was not for those who lived in the glass house of Marlborough to throw stones on the ground of immorality. Then the Prime Minister had spoken of the Plan of Campaign as organized embezzlement. He had only to say in reply to this that there was a very interesting and very instructive work published at the small price of 1s. It was entitled Our Old Nobility, and, in the fourteenth chapter of that work, there was an historical sketch of the house of Cecil which he would commend to the Members of the House and the outside public, and then ask their verdict as to who should carry off the palm for organized embezzlement—the noble house of Cecil, or the plebeian Plan of Campaign. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), who had been described by the noble Lord opposite as a "crutch" to the Tory Party, had also denounced the Plan of Campaign. It was amusing to hear such declaration from the author of the doctrine of "ransom"; who had been compared by the Prime Minister to Jack Cade, and who was looked upon by his newly-found friends on the Tory Benches, only a little time ago, as the arch-apostle of spoliation. He and his friends were convinced of the usefulness and the morality of the Plan of Campaign, which was an attack upon the system which was responsible for all the miseries of the Irish people; and so long as they knew that it had the approval of such ecclesiastics as Archbishop Walsh, of Dublin; so long as they knew that, in promoting this Plan of Campaign, they could have standing on their platforms by their side the priests of Ireland; so long would they bear with equanimity, and regard with contempt, the censures and strictures of a Tory Party, and their crutches in that House. But, if he was to be condemned for his connection with this Plan of Campaign, the two men who were responsible for his connection with it were the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Attorney General for Ireland. If he were a criminal, it was those two men who induced him to become a criminal; if he were a conspirator, it was those two men who had enticed 497 him into the conspiracy. The man who was primarily responsible for his connection with this movement was the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The Chief Secretary made a speech in Bristol on November 14, and he then used the now historic phrase that the Government had brought what further pressure they could, acting always within the law, to bear upon those few landlords who would not follow the example of their more generous fellows; and he added that the result had been an evident improvement in the state of Ireland. During the last six weeks, he said, outrages had diminished by half, compared with what they were in the previous six weeks Outrages had diminished. Why? Because the Gentlemen who occupied positions on the Front Ministerial Bench, and their officials in Dublin Castle, had brought what pressure they could to bear upon those few landlords who would not make concessions. The promoters of the Plan of Campaign wanted to do the same. They wanted to supplement the action of the Government, and assist the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to bring pressure upon those landlords who would not give reductions, and thereby to lessen still further the number of outrages, and the number of crimes. The right hon. Gentleman, on Friday, said that the word "pressure" was unfortunate; but they interpreted it in connection with other facts—they interpreted it in connection with the action of General Bullar, and Captain Plunkett, and Captain Moriarty, and of Judge Monroe in Dublin, and Judge Curran in Kerry. In United Ireland of December 4 there was a legal opinion published, signed "Hugh Holmes, Attorney General," which was written in answer to a landlord who suggested that the money should be seized and taken by force. The right hon. and learned Gentleman replied that there was a mode by which the landlord might get the whole of his money; but that it was not a matter for the Government, and that he did not see how any action could be taken by the Executive. He and his Colleagues brought pressure to bear on unjust landlords with more effect and more satisfactory results than any that the Government could show. They were trying to gain the same end; but while the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General could shelter themselves behind the bar of privilege, he and his Colleagues 498 would have to defend themselves from behind the bars of a penal dock. The three speeches which he was prosecuted for making, and for delivering which he might have to go to gaol within the next 10 days, were delivered, one at Castlerea, on the 5th of December, one at Ballaghadereen on the 10th of December, and one at Loughglynn on the 12th of December. They were delivered amid the silence of the Government as to the illegality of the Plan, and he desired to say that, on the face of the facts which he had stated, the Government stood condemned; and, with a knowledge of these facts in the minds of the English people, he was satisfied that they would not tolerate for one moment that John Dillon or William O'Brien should be sent to prison for doing what they honestly and conscientiously believed the Government of England was also doing. It was very difficult for public men in Ireland who desired to relieve the misery of their kindred to know what to do. If the people were driven by despair to seek the fields of secret organization, to lift their country into a position of prosperity and comfort, they were hanged or sent to penal servitude; if the leaders of the people advised them to abandon these paths, and to come to that House, and if they asked for such a petty measure as was submitted last Session by his hon. Friend and Leader the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), it was insolently rejected by a brute majority; if they adopted the plan of going as public men upon the public platform, where the police reporters could take down every word they uttered, and advised the tenants of Ireland to follow the example of the trade unions of England, and by uniting in combination wring some justice from the landlords, they were again brought to the prison dock, and the men who refused them the very small concession they asked last Session were the men to stand before them now as their accusers in Green Street Court House; because they had advised the tenants to do what they believed to be perfectly legal, and what they believed the Government had already done—that was, to bring pressure to bear upon unjust landlords. What was their crime? They were accused by the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) with having preached a crusade of no rent in Ireland. 499 They had done no such thing. What they had done in Ireland was to advise the tenants, on those estates where the landlords refused to give any concessions at all, to combine for their own protection. It had been stated by several hon. Members on the Government Benches that the landlords of Ireland had acted generously and in a humane way during the past winter, and that they had given voluntary reductions. Where these reductions were given voluntarily by the landlords, the tenants had met them at once generously and handsomely; and the fact that the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh and other landlords on the Government Benches were not in conflict with their tenants was a proof that the Irish Leaders had not preached a No Rent crusade in Ireland. The Plan of Campaign was only put into operation in such cases as those of Lord Clanricarde and Lord Dillon. Whether the Tory Party believed it or not did not matter much, but the truth was he and his friends had no desire to prolong the ceaseless fight between the tenants and landlords. They had no desire to come to that House from their own country to carry on a perpetual war between the Irish people and England. It would be very much better for young men like himself and many of his Colleagues if they could pay attention to their own domestic affairs, and in commercial or professional circles build up careers for themselves. It was not true that they were paid for coming there, as was insultingly, and frequently offensively, said by the other side. They fought with all the strength of their nationality and their love for their native land to lift Ireland up from her present enslaved condition, and put her in a position that they believed would tend to her great good in the future. He was being prosecuted for speeches he delivered to the tenants on the estate of Lord Dillon. Not very long ago the rental of that estate was £5,000; but, owing to the ceaseless industry of the tenants, it had increased to £25,000. Yet the tenants of that estate never saw their landlord, and never received from him one single penny to improve the condition of their wretched homes. To-day there was standing near the avenue leading to the mansion of Lord Dillon, at Loughglynn, a village of hovels that 500 would simply disgrace a Zulu kraal. A Zulu kraal would be comfort and magnificence compared with the village of Loughglynn; and, as Mr. John Dillon had said, no English Member, be he Tory or Radical, could look upon that village and not go back to the House of Commons with the conviction that there must be something bad and vicious in the system that could bring the people to such a low ebb of poverty and allow such a village to exist. Lord Dillon was asked to give 25 per cent reduction. He had been all over the estate, and considered that that was a perfectly fair demand. He could say, defying contradiction, that not 20 per cent of the tenants could pay their rents from the produce of the soil. The other 80 per cent of the tenants paid their rents from their earnings in the harvest fields of England; but, during the last two or three years, that source of income having failed owing to the agricultural depression which prevailed, the tenants were not able to pay their full rents, and when they asked for the moderate reduction of 25 per cent their request was insolently refused. Lord Dillon, so the story ran, declared that he would rather go into the workhouse for two years than grant one single penny of abatement. The tenants joined the Plan of Campaign, and the result was that, though the pressure of the Government brought by the Chief Secretary failed to induce Lord Dillon to give one penny of reduction on rents that were not made on the land at all, the Plan of Campaign induced Lord Dillon to give 20 per cent reduction, pay all law costs, and reinstate evicted tenants. To-day the receipts—if he might use the phrase—given under the Plan of Campaign to the tenants of Lord Dillon were legal coin of the realm in the rent office of Lord Dillon; and if he were a criminal for advocating the Plan of Campaign. Lord Dillon was also a criminal, and standing beside him and his Colleagues in the dock when they were brought to trial ought to be Mr. Maurice Hussey, agent to Lord Dillon, and Lord Dillon himself. He and his hon. Colleagues were prosecuted for what Lord Dillon acknowledged to be a perfectly legal transaction; but no matter what the consequences to them might be, whether they were in a prison cell or in that House, they would have the con- 501 sciousness that the Plan of Campaign had done good work in the past, and, despite coercion, would do good work in the future. Their conviction would do the Tory Government very little good. They had often tried coercion before; but the Anglo-Irish difficulty still survived. They had sent men to prison and to the block; but they had not broken the spirit of the Irish people—they had not quenched their desire to have legislative freedom, nor shaken their purpose to have sitting in Ireland a Parliament which, though subservient to the Imperial Parliament in all Imperial matters, should have authority to legislate for the wants and requirements of the Irish people. They might send the traversers to prison; but when the prison doors were locked on them the landlords of Ireland would not be one inch nearer their object, and the English Government would not find a smoother path to their goal of subjugating Ireland. He might tell the House many a harrowing story of the poor people whose homes he and his hon. Friends had saved and whose pockets they had protected. He had listened with much feeling and sympathy to the speech delivered the other evening by the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Theodore Fry), and also afterwards to the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). The hon. Member for Darlington had declared, in reference to the technical question of the arrears that were pressing on the tenants of Ireland, that a large portion of these arrears was made up of law costs; and the hon. Member for Northampton, examining the question from an economic point of view, showed that the first charge on the land should be that which enabled the tenant to live and thrive, and the second charge the rent due to the landlord. But, in fact, the first charge on the land in Ireland was neither that which would enable the peasant to live and thrive nor the rent that went to the landlord, but the law costs which went to the agent. The men who lived and thrived and made their fortunes out of the land in Ireland were neither the landlords nor the tenants, but the agents of the landlords and the solicitors connected with them; and he knew it to be the fact in the West of Ireland that they had thrown obstacles in the way of tenants pay- 502 ing rent in time, so that they might serve writs and processes on them, for which they must receive payment before the landlord got a single penny. In one case, a poor widow, with a rent of only £5, had paid from the 1st of November, 1883, in addition to her rent, £9 2s. in costs—that was to say, she had paid to the land agent about twice the sum which she owed to the landlord for rent. He would put a suggestion to the Inland Revenue—that some steps should be taken to prevent land agents giving such receipts as he held in his hand to tenants. On one side was the ordinary receipt for the rent, and, instead of giving a separate receipt for the law costs, they wrote it on the back of the rent receipt. Hon. Members might assist the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) in becoming economical by inducing the Inland Revenue to charge these land agents 1d. for every receipt they gave for law costs above £2. In conclusion, he would say that every humane man, who was not charged too much with political passion, whether Tory or Whig, would admit that they were warranted in making a desperate fight to save the homes and the lives of their people, and in fighting to the death the system of land tenure which existed in Ireland. He believed that there could be neither peace nor comfort nor happiness in Ireland until that system of land tenure was broken down; and that, even when that system was broken down, there could still be no lasting peace or prosperity in Ireland until the British Parliament gave into the hands of the Irish people, landlords and tenants alike, the control and direction of the domestic affairs of their own country.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, he thought that the speech of the hon. Member for North Mayo (Mr. Crilly), who had just sat down, was an admission that the Plan of Campaign was not a scheme for securing fair rents but to promote the abolition of all rent. It must dispose entirely of that gloss which hon. Members below and above the Gangway opposite had chosen to place upon the agitation which had been disturbing Ireland for the last few months. The junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) evidently felt very strongly the sentimental side of the question of evictions. Undoubtedly, 503 the misery which, had followed on the evictions appealed to the feelings of hon. Members on both sides; but he hoped before they allowed their compassionate feelings to be aroused—which might be entirely misplaced—they would examine the facts and circumstances that had occurred, in order to form an opinion upon whose shoulders the blame for these evictions must be placed. It was his aim to prove that they were to be attributed to the action of hon. Members below the Gangway. The hon. Member for Northampton had expressed his opinion that the evictions were the cause, and the National League and the Plan of Campaign the effect; but he should have examined the facts of the case before he arrived at such a conclusion. An analysis of the evictions that took place in the first six months of last year would show that they were not very harsh or very numerous, and that they could not have entailed any very great misery. A Parliamentary Paper laid upon the Table when the Tenants' Relief Bill was before the House last Session showed that the total number of evictions for the six months ending June last amounted to 2,007. Those evictions had been investigated, and full details received in 1,233 cases. In the first place, it had been found that 15 per cent of those evictions took place in houses in cities and towns; 21 were from town parks; 143 were from unoccupied farms, or farms derelict. That would leave, out of the total number of 1,233 cases, 878 evictions to be accounted for from agricultural holdings that were in the occupation of tenants. Of these, 118 were on title—that was, the persons evicted were trespassers, and had no right to be there. That left 760 cases to be accounted for. He did not know what the law was when those evictions took place; but at present the landlord was bound, under a penalty of £20, to give notice to the Poor Law officials of the evictions, in order that they might provide accommodation for the evicted persons. Of the 760 he found that 250 of the tenants so evicted were immediately reinstated as tenants, while 377 were reinstated as caretakers; so that out of the whole number of 1,238 cases there were only 117, or rather less than 10 per cent, in which tenants were evicted and not re-admitted. With regard to the 504 sentimental side of the question, he would draw attention to the following significant fact:—If public opinion had been so much aroused as to the desperate state of the Irish tenants, would they not have expected to find the fund which had been set on foot to relieve their necessities swelled by an enormous amount? But the sums of money received by hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway showed a totally different result. For the general purposes of the National League, during the half-year ending December 31, the National League received £8,000; for the Parliamentary Fund they received£43,000; but for the evicted tenants they only received £200. It appeared to him that these figures were conclusive as to the sentimental feeling of the public on this point. It was impossible to suppose that the evicted tenants' fund would have amounted to so small a sum if their condition had been so lamentable as had been represented by hon. Members opposite. He would recall the attention of hon. Members to the fact, that there was no anticipation in the early part of the autumn last year of evictions. They could not be expected at that time, for there was no reason to suppose that the rent would not be paid, and there was a better feeling prevailing. There was a revival of security and trust for the future, and a fair prospect of peaceful relations in the autumn and winter between landlord and tenant. That was the exact opposite of the state of things predicted by the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) when the Tenants' Relief Bill was before the House. The policy of the National League, on the other hand, received in the last Session a defeat in this House. Its prestige in Ireland had been enormously diminished, and the supplies from America were arriving in diminished volume. It was, therefore, absolutely necessary for its Leaders to revive that prestige, and to justify the policy of introducing the Relief Bill; and on that account it was that the hon. Member for East Mayo introduced to the public in Ireland the Plan of Campaign. It was introduced with a good deal of mystery; its authorship was not avowed; but at length the hon. Member for Fermanagh (Mr. W. Redmond) revealed to the public the real authors of the Plan. He said— 505It was the mercy of God that put into the minds of Mr. Dillon and Mr. O'Brien this Plan of Campaign.He had also told them why the Plan was propounded, and he (Mr. Macartney) found it was not because of the agricultural condition of Ireland.
§ MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
asked the hon. Member to quote the speech from which he was reading more fully.
§ MR. MACARTNEY,
in reply, said, that he was reading from a report which appeared in United Ireland on December 11, and, no more of the speech being reported than he had read, he could not give it. The hon. Member, according to that report, told his hearers that it was not because of the condition of the tenantry of Ireland that the Plan was started, but because the English people refused to give any concession to Ireland. The Plan of Campaign was also stated to be the platform of national independence; and Mr. W. O'Brien, as one of its authors, had declared that it had been started for the purpose of freeing Ireland from landlordism and British rule, which were spoken of as the two great curses of the country. Ireland had been the scene of much agitation in the past; but he (Mr. Macartney) ventured to assert that never on any occasion had an agitation been forced upon the country so wantonly, needlessly, and cruelly as this Plan. He would refer the House to the speech of the hon. Member for South Monaghan(Sir Joseph M'Kenna) the other night, who had told them that nothing approached in baseness the application of the Plan of Campaign to his estate. When the plan of Campaign had first been brought forward it had been received not only with indifference, but with absolute apathy. For the first few weeks it had fallen completely flat, and it was not taken up by the tenants until after desperate exertions on the part of hon. Members opposite, who promised them that if they joined in the Campaign they would find that it would be extremely worth their while. At the Central Branch of the National League in Dublin, Mr. W. O'Brien, speaking of the period at which the Plan of Campaign had first been brought before the country, said that he feared many people had looked upon the Plan of Campaign as rather a forlorn and wild proposal. It was then necessary to put the country through its 506 facings, and the various branches of the National League were put into motion; but this indifference to the work of their saviours still pervaded the tenants in Ireland, and the hon. Member for East Mayo, on the 7th of November last, had been obliged to confess that the people of many districts, while pleased to read of the fights of tenants elsewhere, did not like to fight themselves, and that they had not the courage to do so. That opinion had been corroborated by the hon. Member for the St. Patrick's Division of Dublin (Mr. Murphy), when he had spoken of the "educational policy" going on rapidly. What was that educational policy? It had been carried on upon the platforms of the National League, and without it the Plan of Campaign would never have succeeded, even in the instances where it had done so. Public meetings were held, and orders given to the agents of the local branches of the League. Committeemen were ordered out, and sent round the country to see all the tenants on the estate, or in the neighbourhood, who had not paid, and these tenants were given a certain day up to which they were free to give in their money. If they did not, they were subjected to the coercion of the local branch, denounced as slaves and cowards, and warned of the judgment of the National League whenever it was in a position to carry out its decrees. No tenant in Ireland, however desirous he might be to fulfil his legal obligations, had the power of withdrawing from this conspiracy to rob, once he had become a party to it. The hon. Member for East Mayo enforced the decisions of local branches of the League by reference to the power which it was able to exercise, and which had kept 400 farms in one county alone without occupiers. It was difficult for hon. Members in that House to imagine the extent and authority of that power; but it could be best explained by saying that it possessed that authority and influence in Ireland which the majesty of the law possessed here, and which it did not possess there. It was not necessary for the hon. Member for East Mayo to define it to his hearers; what that power had done in former years was stamped upon their recollection by many outrages and crimes; and it would have been impossible for a tenant, unless he chose to much himself by paying a 507 double rent, to do anything but join his neighbours in what, in many cases, he considered to be an illegal, conspiracy. But not only coercion had been employed; it had been found necessary to hold out bribes as well, and tenants were told that if they came into the Plan of Campaign they would be paid far more than they could make out of the profits of their farms. Even this had not been as successful as hon. Members opposite had hoped, and the hon. Member for East Galway (Mr. Harris) had said that he could not disguise the fact that there were men among them who had paid at the miserable reduction of 15 per cent. The object of the Plan was not to obtain such reductions as might be necessary under the difficult circumstances of the time, but practically to make the payment of rent in Ireland impossible. ["No!" from the Home Rule Benches.] Hon. Members would no doubt deny that; but other people would draw a different conclusion from their speeches. It was part and parcel of the policy of the National League and of hon. Members opposite to do away with all rent in Ireland. They wanted to upset the Constitution. ["No, no!"] If hon. Members opposite denied that, he would refer them to the words of the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) who, speaking in America, said—I want you to understand that the reduction of rent we require is no small or petty one, but the total abolition of rent.That was the policy which was aimed at at the present moment, and that was what hon. Members opposite hoped to attain, and not merely a temporary relief in respect of agricultural depression. The National League had often objected to and opposed an amicable arrangement between landlord and tenant, and in the last few months had done their best to prevent any agreement being arrived at. What the National League intended was to usurp the functions of a Court of Law in Ireland. Hon. Members opposite said that the National League was not a secret society. He quite admitted that it was not; but it was engaged in as dangerous a conspiracy as any secret society ever was—a conspiracy against the first principles of law and order. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian had said some years ago, the struggle 508 was between the law on one side and lawlessness on the other. The National League claimed to be conducting a Constitutional agitation; in reality, it was aiming at upsetting the Constitution of the Three Kingdoms. [An hon. MEMBER: It is not so.] On this side of the water, Nationalist Members were wont to pose as Constitutional agitators; on the other side of the water, however, they appeared in quite a different figure, using unmistakable language full of menace to all the best interests of Ireland. It would, indeed, be impossible for them to retain the sympathy of their friends in America if their agitation had anything Constitutional about it. This Plan of Campaign had been forced on the people of Ireland, and there had been no hesitation as to the means employed to carry it out. The hon. Member for East Mayo had, in one of his speeches, stated that he would not raise his voice against any excesses of the people; and Mr. W. O'Brien had stated that the Government would have to face the consequences, and he added significantly—"God forbid that the Irish people should lie down and die without a struggle." In a subsequent speech, he pointed out that the struggle would not be a peaceful one. In the course of the agitation the landlords, and those who sided with them, had been threatened with the "day of reckoning," and they were told that those who were the friends and those who were the enemies of the people—that was, of the National League—would be remembered and rewarded or punished accordingly. Were English Members, on either side of the House, prepared to give their support to a Party which made "the day of reckoning" so conspicuous an element in their future policy in Ireland? The language of hon. Members opposite had been full of menace to all the best interests of Ireland; but the Loyalists of Ireland, fighting as they were for what the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Mid Lothian termed "the elementary principles of civilized society," felt confident that they would be victorious in the end. It was true the Government had asked for additional powers, and hon. Members on the Opposition side told them that the power demanded was an invasion of free government; but, he would ask, were free Governments to be less capable than absolute Governments 509 of maintaining law and order, and were they to be deprived of methods which all other Governments had? In doing so the Government were only putting themselves in possession of that which Lord Grey declared to be "the condition of all free Governments." With regard to the paragraph in the Most Gracious Speech which referred to local government in Ireland, he admitted that there were difficulties in the way of granting it which did not exist for England and Scotland; but he hoped that a measure would be introduced for all the three countries at the same time, and that it would be of such a nature as to take away the assertions that hon. Members opposite had not the same power in joining in the local government of their country as was enjoyed by hon. Members representing English and Scotch constituencies. Besides, he did not think it would be for the advantage of that country that the measure should be unduly delayed.
§ MR. CRILLY
said he wished, as a personal explanation, to say that the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Macartney) had not correctly represented him. He did not say that the Plan of Campaign was adopted, not for the purpose of reducing rent, but for the purpose of abolishing it. On the contrary, he said the Plan of Campaign was not for the total abolition of rent, but for the reducing of unjust rents.
§ MR. CALEB WRIGHT (Lancashire, S.W., Leigh)
said, he desired to draw attention to the great increase in the Military and Naval Estimates in recent years. For many years, financial affairs had been grossly neglected in that House by successive Governments. During the last 14 years, from 1874 to 1886, Expenditure had increased from £71,000,000 to £92,000,000. This monstrous expenditure could not go on without injury to the trade and commerce of the country. Excessive taxation was a national injury, and no class felt it more than working men; and he was therefore glad to see the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) was making a stand against this continued extravagant expenditure. In 1870 the Naval Estimates were £8,500,000, last year they amounted to £13,000,000; the Army Estimates in 1870 were £12,000,000; last year they were £18,000,000. The debates on the 510 Estimates during last Session disclosed an amount of incompetence and extravagance in those Departments which had caused great dissatisfaction among all Parties, and he believed the country would demand retrenchment and reform. Yet, while these large increases of expenditure had been going on, the Military and Naval Authorities had been constantly representing the country as being in a state of insecurity; and year by year Parliament had been asked for more and more money—for more war ships and more big guns, although they had not agreed among themselves as to the proper sort of guns and ships they needed. But there was the greatest variety of opinion among naval men as to what was wanted. Some cried out for big guns—five of which when obtained burst—others for torpedoes, and others for rams and small vessels. At a lecture delivered not long ago at the United Service Institution, Major General Codrington pointed out that France, Germany, and Russia had each over 400,000 men under arms, and that any of them could, without difficulty, select 150,000 choice troops for the purpose of invading England. The lecturer stated that in 24 hours a fleet of merchant steamers would be ready to convey from one of those countries six or seven Army Corps of 30,000 men each, and that the preparations could be made in a time of peace without exciting attention or arousing suspicion. With reference to this point, he would like to ask for what we paid our Ambassadors and Diplomatic Agents, if not to inform the Government of transactions such as the lecturer described? General Codrington further stated that we ought to have an organized Naval Reserve, corresponding to the system of Military Reserves adopted on the Continent. This formation of a large Naval Reserve with a view of meeting an imaginary evil would never, he felt sure, be sanctioned by the House of Commons. The House should remember what Lord Salisbury told the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, speaking on the depression of trade, a short time ago. His Lordship said—The real cause of the increase of protective duties is the establishment of these gigantic military forces which are increasing every year in every one of these large countries of this hemisphere, and constitute a permanent drain 511 on the forces of industry, and a permanent danger to commerce.The other evening the House was told by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington that the Military and Naval Authorities controlled the Government. If that were so, then he thought the sooner they reversed that state of things the better, so that the Government might control the men who wished to urge them to incur expenditure. But if they could not do that, the House should control the Government, and demand the large reduction of expenditure, which those who sat on the Opposition side of the House believed might be made without impairing the Services, and with the effect of increasing their efficiency.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
said, hon. Members from Ireland sometimes expressed surprise that those on the other side of the House did not readily accept the evidence which they offered as to the state of Ireland. He would give them a reason for that—and, in doing so, he did not refer to his own authority, but to that of a man who had lately addressed to the Irish people, and particularly to the Nationalists, something of a rebuke and something of a reproach. This was a man who belonged to a generation which was passing away—a man who was a warm sympathizer with the Irish cause, and a practical exile from this country for the part he took in the National movement. This was Sir Charles Gavan Duffy; and he had recently reproached the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) with ingratitude, and he proceeded to place his finger on what was the weak spot in the Irish cause. He said—"You have failed to fuse together in Ireland the conflicting interests which you found there—the North and the South"—and then went on to point out that the fusion of these two distinct Parties in Ireland was the key to the solution of the Irish Question. By these statements Sir Charles Duffy had placed his finger upon what constituted the strength of the Conservative Party in connection with the Irish Question and the weakness of their opponents. Take the agrarian question. How could they, who believed they were impartial, accept evidence given them on the agrarian question, when those who supplied the evidence were pledged to the eyes, as 512 far as they possibly could be, to extirpate Irish landlords, and were thus themselves parties to the suit awaiting the judgment of the country. Neither could they accept the evidence altogether of the Irish Members who sat on the Ministerial side of the House. That was the main reason which induced him, last Session, to vote against the Tenants' Relief Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). The House was asked, almost solely on the evidence of hon. Members opposite, to break a great contract; and he, for one, refused, without independent evidence, to give his vote to the breaking of that contract. He was not at all of opinion that the mere fact that the Irish rent was fixed, in some sense, by Parliament, made it most easy, or possible, for tenants to pay it; and he was glad the Government, last Session, issued a Commission to inquire into the Land Act of 1881; and he presumed that, on the Report of that Commission, something would be done to settle the question. The declaration of Sir Charles Duffy supplied a very strong argument against the legislation proposed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). It recognized that in Ireland there were two classes, which, though once fused by the efforts of the writer's Party, were now again separate and antagonistic. A few nights ago the Chief Secretary for Ireland offered a defence of the policy which had been pursued recently by the Government. He asserted the two principles, that whoever was charged with the Government of Ireland had no business to refuse the protection of the law to all those who demanded it. That was generally admitted; but he said another thing, which was not so generally admitted. That was that the Government might justly use its influence, whether in the way of persuasion, or suggestion, or conciliation, to assuage the bitter differences between landlord and tenant with the view to obviate, if possible, a resort to the powers of the law. That, he thought, might almost meet with the approval of anyone, though it had been questioned. No one doubted that the pressure used by the Chief Secretary for Ireland was both legal and moral; but he found it very difficult to follow the workings of the minds of those hon. Gentlemen who 513 contended that the pressure used by the Plan of Campaign was moral. For his own part, he did not find much difficulty, resolving the Plan of Campaign into its natural elements, in asserting that every one of its elements contained an immoral doctrine. It was immoral for a man, no matter whether to a tailor or to a landlord, to refuse to pay his debts; it was immoral to use money improperly withheld for the purpose of perfecting an engine for the repudiation of the debt; and it was no less immoral for those who were educated and intelligent to recommend that course to others. It was, indeed, argued that on account of dual ownership the debt of the tenant could scarcely be called an ordinary debt; but the Acts of 1870 and 1881 did not give a legal sanction to an original right; they initiated the tenant's ownership in the land—["No, no!"]—subject to the condition that a certain rent should be paid, and apart from that the dual ownership did not exist. He could not find any defence of the Plan of Campaign on the considerations offered by Archbishop Croke. An eminent historian said recently—"A great idea never lays down its arms with impunity for its country." They—the Conservatives—believed they were maintaining a great idea in seeking to maintain the Legislative Union; and he had no doubt hon. Members opposite thought they were doing the same thing by seeking to dissolve it. They—the Conservatives—certainly could not lay down their arms in their cause; and he admitted hon. Members opposite could not, because if the cause was really deep in the hearts of the Irish people, if they laid down their arms others would arise, and the difficulty would only be postponed for a while. It was much better that the battle should now be fought out to its ultimate and bitter end. He hoped it would be fought by his side in such a manner as to get rid of and pulverize the idea represented by hon. Members opposite—not by crushing it down, but by studying more carefully the characteristics of the Irish people, in order that the legislation which flowed from that House might be more in accordance with their wishes than it had been in the past.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's County, Ossory)
said, that a right hon. Gentleman, who had an important seat 514 in the Government, but no seat in the House, had lately spoken about making his will. The Government, he (Mr. Macdonald) thought, had made their will, and it was contained in the Queen's Speech, the document which they were now considering. They had, indeed, heard of a codicil, which was a preparation which would require the residuary legatee to pay the modest sum of £6,000,000 for military and naval expenditure, but he believed that before the codicil was executed, the testator would have died. The Tory Government were weakened by the resignation of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) and by their refusal to adopt the policy of the Dartford speech, and they were also discredited by the peculiar course they had adopted in Ireland. That had also discredited them; and he believed that a Government which a few months ago had a prospect of living three or four years, could not now live for more than three or four months longer. He said that, because he never knew an Administration which, in so short a time, had been so tremendously discredited as the present Government. It was once supposed that the policy of the Government was to be found in the Dartford speech. According to that, Ireland was to be governed by the ordinary law, the Irish Members were to be gagged, and England and Scotland were to have legislation of a radical character. It was a very clever policy, but the noble Lord did not consider the circumstances of his Party; he did not realize that he was the only Member of it who possessed anything like original ability, and the power to understand and act in a crisis like this. If the Government had recognized that it was their own objects that were promoted by the Plan of Campaign, there would have been peace in Ireland, and no prospect of a Coercion Bill. Then, a great blow was struck at the Government by the melancholy circumstances attending the tragic death of Lord Iddesleigh. According to the medical testimony, the worry, anxiety, and trouble which that most amiable and kindly statesman suffered at the hands of one of his Colleagues and of his Leader, had the effect of shortening his life. ["No, no!" from, the Ministerialists.] In saying that he expressed not only his own opinion, but, he believed, the opinion of the country at large. The 515 final blow was given to the Government when they had to send round begging for some one to take the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer; and they ultimately took a man whom everybody before knew perfectly well to be at heart a Tory, and who would be indebted to a Tory constituency for a seat in this House, and who was unable to obtain a seat in a popular constituency. An hon. Member had said in the course of the debate, that the Plan of Campaign was disapproved by the people of this country. He (Mr. Macdonald) was astonished when he heard that statement; and in presence of it, he was forced to the belief that many hon. Members opposite, as regards that matter, appeared to be up in a balloon, for they really did not know the state of feeling existing in their own country at the present time. He had attended a large number of popular meetings in the country, in Devonshire, Cornwall, and in the neighbourhood of Lancashire, and when he had fairly and fully explained the objects and aim of the Plan of Campaign, instead of being disapproved of, it was received with unanimity and enthusiasm by the meetings. Any serious opposition to the Plan of Campaign on the part of the rank and file of the Liberal Party in England absolutely did not exist. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had written a letter in reply to an hon. Member in which he said, that whatever suffering might arise from the evictions on the Glenbeigh estate was to be traced to the previous action of others; but the other night he abandoned that position, and admitted the truth of the statement that the tenants on that estate were unable to pay their rents. If that was so—if the poor people were unable to pay the money demanded of them—it was absurd to say that the miserable things done at those evictions were due to the actions of others, the right hon. Gentleman said he was anxiously considering the condition of those poor tenants with a view to improving it, and he, added, that if any hon. Member would place a plan for this object before him—a plan that should, at the same time, be consistent with the maintenance of the rights of property as those rights were understood in England and Scot- 516 land—he would give it his serious consideration. Now, there was a doctrine of political economy which was also a doctrine of common sense, and he would commend it to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman as suggesting the lines on which he should proceed. There was land confessedly so barren that it would not pay to cultivate it on any terms; and there was land so rich that it would yield a profit to the farmer, and, at the same time, pay a rent to the landlord. There was land, again, only sufficiently fertile to keep life in the man who toiled upon it, and which could not possibly yield any rent. It was land of the latter sort which the poor tenants on the Glenbeigh estate had to deal with; and the idea that the poor people could be evicted for the non-payment of rent which the land did not produce, was altogether unjust and unfair. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had also told them that he had exercised pressure on the landlords; but that this pressure was of a moral and persuasive kind only, and within the law. He was careful, however, not to say what that pressure was. What was it? He would like the right hon. Gentleman to explain what were the arguments he addressed to some of the Irish landlords. And why was the right hon. Gentleman so anxious to assure them that he only exercised moral pressure? Because he did not wish to admit that he had been exercising a dispensing power in Ireland. The law of eviction in Ireland was a bad law, and should not be carried out. If a law equally as vicious prevailed in England, if there were certain to be great disturbances, great difficulties, and great discontent as the result of carrying out that law, the Government would not use the law if they could possibly avoid it. The carrying out of the law of eviction in Ireland was, he believed, the outcome of the extraordinary love of the English fetish—the love of law and order. There was so much said about it in the House, that he was absolutely sick of the subject. A law should be respected and obeyed so long as it was a good, just, and merciful law; but, when a law was unjust and cruel, so far from it being entitled to reverence because it was a law, it was deserving of less respect. On that account, it was deserving of no respect at all, and 517 the sooner they got rid of the absurd idea that the law must be respected—whether good or bad—the better it would be for them all. He had been much interested in reading some remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who had spoken of the law with extraordinary reverence. The right hon. Gentleman asked what law was, and said it was the security of the weak against the strong, the protection of the poor against the rich, and the safeguard of the few against the many; but he (Mr. Macdonald) could only say that the law as it was known in Ireland—the law of eviction, the law of rent—was directly the reverse of all this. Instead of the law protecting the weak there, it sacrified the weak to the strong; instead of the law preserving to the poor man in Ireland the possession of what was his own according to all moral considerations, it deprived him of it; instead of the law being a friend to the poor Irish tenant, it was his enemy. There was only one other matter to which he would refer—namely, the agrarian question in Ireland. It had been said by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham that, if the agrarian question was settled, they should not hear any more of Home Rule; and the hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Mr. Curzon) said the other night that the Irish Celt cared for nothing but his pocket. But was that true? He did not believe that anyone could say that of Michael Davitt, for instance, an Irish Celt of the Celts. It was true that the people of Ireland wanted a settlement of the Land Question, but they wanted a settlement of the National Question still more, and until that question was settled there could be no peace or contentment in Ireland. And the settlement they wanted was one which must give to Ireland a real, and not a merely fanciful, control over her own affairs, and must iuclude an Irish Parliament and an Irish Executive responsible to that Parliament. That was the least they would take, and if anybody supposed they would take anything less than was offered in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) he did not understand the Irish Members and the Irish people.
§ MR. MASON (Lanark, Mid)
said, he wished to direct attention to the expenditure of the country—a question to which he had devoted attention from the time he had entered Parliament, when he had proposed that the Estimates might be revised by a Committee before they were submitted to the House. He thought that the debate showed that this question had made a very distinct advance, and the practical outcome, he believed, would be that a Committee would, in all probability, be granted by the Government and the House. He had listened to the speeches of the noble Lords the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers). The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh said that the proposal which had been made by the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill), and partially adopted by the First Lord of the Admiralty, was identical with one which was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) when Prime Minister, and when the right hon. Member for South Edinburgh was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was glad to hear that such high authorities were in favour of the method, but he was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman, when he was in Office, did not do something to advance this proposal which he had so much at heart. However, it was a good thing to find both the Front Benches in accord. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington wrote a letter to an elector of Glasgow about a month ago. The noble Lord was rather in the habit of writing letters expressing his most advanced opinions to Glasgow gentlemen; about a year and a-half ago he wrote one to a Glasgow gentleman in which that famous sentence occurred about Ulster being called upon to fight, and that Ulster would be right in doing so. In the letter he wrote about a month ago, the noble Lord referred to the advance of expenditure in three very distinct periods during the last 20 years, in which he said that the gross expenditure of this country from 1868 to 1874, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was Prime Minister, was "satisfactory"; from 519 1874 to 1880, under the Premiership of Lord Beaconsfield, was "not quite so satisfactory"; and from 1880 to 1886, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was Prime Minister, was "simply infamous"—a very strong word, he must confess. What, however, were the facts in connection with these periods? He had looked them out in the Statistical Abstract on the preceding evening, and he found that the gross expenditure of this country during these three periods was as follows:—In the first period, the average expenditure was £72,000,000 per annum; in the second period it was £79,588,000; and in the last period it was £86,507,000. He did not say that that expenditure was justifiable of a Liberal more than any other Government, but he would say that it was extravagant. The cause of that expenditure was quite another matter. But there was another fact, and it was this—he was astonished to find that in 1874 the unfunded or floating debt was only £4,479,000; but when the next Liberal Government came into power, it was no less than £27,344,000. He never had any doubt that the House of Commons had practically no control over the Estimates. He admitted that the policy of the Government must dominate the expenditure of the country, and he admitted that the Government in power was to a very great extent reflecting the majority of the hon. Members of this House, and of the country; but that was not the question he was discussing. The real question was this—Did they really get value for the money spent? £90,000,000 a-year was a sum of money they ought not to be spending on the government and defences of the country; and, he believed it was becoming the feeling of the wealth-producers of the country, that no Government, whether Liberal or Tory, was worthy of their confidence unless they could make up their minds and determine that the country should be governed and defended efficiently for not more than £75,000,000 a-year. He held that they could cut down the expenditure to that amount with safety, and that, if they did so, they would immediately relieve the springs of commerce, wages would rise, the money now wasted would be applied to productive sources, and everyone in the 520 country would feel the effect of it. There was no reason why they should not do so. It was not so long since Mr. Cobden stated that the Government and the defences of the country should be carried on for £50,000,000 a-year; and, making allowances for the difference between that time and the present, he (Mr. Mason) held that the expenditure for the Government and defence of the country should not be more than £75,000,000 perannum. Whilst he freely admitted that the policy of a Government must dominate the expenditure, he wished to know whether or not they were getting value for the money they were spending so lavishly. The Departmental scandals that had been spoken of by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, and by numerous speakers in the course of the debate, and the evidence given to them lately, had shown very clearly that they were not getting value for their money. Brittle swords, bending bayonets, jamming cartridges, bursting guns, rotten food, and ships that when ready to launch were found to be obsolete and useless, was a list condemnatory of the way in which the affairs of this country were managed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh in his speech told them that the Army had increased by 15,000 men; but, at the same time, the right hon. Gentleman told them that the expenditure had increased by £4,000,000. Surely, there was in this a great disproportion between the additional number of men and the expenditure. This was a question that required great consideration, especially when they bore in mind the fact that, during the last seven or 10 years, the value of clothing and all other supplies required for the Service had gone down from 50 to 30 per cent. Yet, in face of this immense fall in the value of all commodities, the expenditure had increased by £4,000,000, whilst the additional number of men was only 15,000. That being so, he thought he was entitled to ask where the money had gone? What had become of this-enormous sum of money, for which there was apparently no explanation or reason given? The same right hon. Gentleman stated that during his experience—extending over 27 years—he never saw a sensible reduction made in the Estimates by the House of 521 Commons. That was precisely the contention of all economists, both in and outside of the House of Commons; and they held that the House of Commons had practically lost all control over the Estimates. It was in consequence of this that he had raised the question that they should have some other method set in motion by which they might be able to overhaul and revise the Estimates before they came to the House pledged and supported by the Government of the day. Then came the question of the method—whether it should be by a Select or a Standing Committee. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh recommended that it should be done by a Select Committee, and he was glad to find that both Front Benches agreed in this—that there should be some sort of Committee. He thought a Committee of any kind would lead to beneficial results; but he failed to see why they should not have the Estimates brought before a Standing Committee. Still, he thought it was absolutely necessary they should be revised and overhauled every year, and not merely in the present year. The reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh for rejecting the Standing Committee, did not appear to him to be a very satisfactory one. The right hon. Gentleman said that if they sent the Estimates to a Standing Committee they would be bidding good-bye to all control over the Army and Navy administration. To him it appeared that they had already lost all control over both the Army and Navy administration. The First Lord of the Admiralty seemed to be disposed to give way in regard to a Standing Committee, provided that the Government of the day were not to be committed to its decision. When he introduced the question last year, he stated that he had no intention of depriving the Government of its responsibility, nor to hamper the action of the House, but to assist individual Members in cutting down the Estimates. The Committee of which he then spoke would strengthen the Government of the day. He did not cast any reflection upon the First Lord of the Admiralty, or the Secretary of State for War, either in the present or past Administrations; but he merely said that these right hon. Gentlemen could not possibly have the knowledge in connection with sup- 522 plies and the value of ships and material that experts had, and, therefore, in regard to the Army and Navy contracts they were constantly called upon to sanction, they would be very much strengthened and supported if experts from the House of Commons were appointed to work with them in overhauling the Estimates. The reason for this was very simple. Ministers came and went, but the heads of Departments went on for ever. It was quite clear that if these right hon. Gentlemen had not the knowledge, the heads of the Departments were practically the masters of the situation; and, having all the technical knowledge, they were apt to be careless, if not worse, if they were not looked after. As the Government had evidently turned their attention to this question, if they would appoint a Committee of some kind to carry it out, they would receive the support of many hon. Members on that, the Opposition, side of the House. He would not have spoken in this debate but for the prominence that had been given to this question; but, before sitting down, he wished to say a few words on another point of great importance—that of finding a solution to the terrible Irish problem that blocked the way. No legislation was likely to be accomplished until they got this serious Irish Question out of the way. He visited Ireland in October, and came back with the strong conviction that the Irish demands were just; and that they must face the question in a conciliatory way that would solve it; and by doing so they would unite the Irish people more closely to the English and Scotch than had ever been the case before. The representation of the Irish people, which was now ample, showed clearly what the Irish demands really were. The Irish people were undoubtedly at the back of their Representatives, and, unless they reduced representative institutions to a complete mockery, they must accede to the demands of 85 per cent, of the Irish people by giving them Home Rule. He did not believe in the dangers which the opponents of Home Rule had conjured up in connection with this great question. He was sure if they met the Irish demands, they would find the Irish people joining England, Scotland, and Wales in carrying forward the future greatness of this country, in a way they had never 523 done before. He was sorry he could not congratulate the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington on the references he made in respect to Ireland. He was glad that the noble Lord had come round to the question of economy, but he regretted that he had not made the same progress in connection with the Irish Question. If the noble Lord had announced his views in the direction of Home Rule, he believed that he would probably have settled the question; and they would have seen a solution of the difficulty either this year or next, which would have satisfied both countries alike. He regretted that justice should not be done to the sister country during the present year. The Irish were an interesting and warm-hearted people—there was no more warm-hearted or better race of people under the sun. He regretted that this great question should not have been settled during a year in which they were all looking forward to congratulations in connection with the benignant reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty—a Jubilee year, which would have been a fitting time to settle this question of giving to the Irish people those just demands of which they had been so long deprived.
§ MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helen's)
said, that if he were inclined to be critical with regard to the financial paragraph in the Queen's Speech, he would say that of late years Ministers had been in the habit of making professions of economy which they subsequently did not act up to. In 1868 the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) professed to desire the abolition of the Income Tax, yet he had gone on increasing it ever since. In 1880 he sailed into power chiefly under the flag of economy, yet, in the short space of five years, he plunged this country into a greater amount of taxation than had ever been known before. These were no doubt matters of ancient history; but, at all events, the expenditure had left a legacy of debt on the present year which was not a matter of ancient history. The large expenditure of which they had heard so much from the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, was inherited from the faults of the Liberal Party. With regard to the resignation of the noble Lord the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, his case was that there was a necessity for absolute 524 and unconditional retrenchment, and he set that up as an idol to which they must all bow down. He admitted the ability with which the noble Lord had stated his case, but suggested that that case did not hold water, because the premises on which he founded his arguments seemed to be unsound. He could not agree with the noble Lord as to the paramount, absolute necessity for retrenchment under all circumstances. No doubt it pleased popular constituencies, but it was not absolute and unconditional, and depended on the efficiency of our Army and Navy. They were absolutely required for the defence of our commerce and industries at home and abroad, and must be kept in a state efficient for that purpose. If they admitted the principle of absolute retrenchment, the measure of the national expenditure in any year was not to be the growing needs of the Empire, but the personal opinion of the Minister of the Crown who happened to possess the greatest force of character and the strongest will. He did not advocate extravagant expenditure, but they had it on the authority of the wisest of the Jewish Kings that there was a time to save and a time to spend. Instead of unnecessarily sacrificing himself, he thought the noble Lord would have done better had he devoted his great ability to seeing that the nation got fair value for its money, for that seemed to be the direction in which all true national economy ought to go. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Cocker-mouth Division of Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) approved of the noble Lord's resignation on the ground, apparently, that all warfare was wrong and the Tory policy was warlike, and that in the resignation of the noble Lord he thought he saw a true repentance from Tory Policy. As to all warfare being wrong, the hon. Baronet might one day find himself in the position of the Quaker who went a voyage. The ship on which he sailed was attacked by pirates, and the Quaker did not disdain to take up a handspike with the rest; but, as he plied his weapon, he accompanied every blow with the exclamation—"Friend, keep to thine own ship." It did not follow because the hon. Baronet had turned his sword into a ploughshare that they should all follow his example. He doubted whe- 525 ther the hon. Baronet meant what he said on the subject of war; but, taking him at his word, he might remind him of the elements of International Law, which told them that where they had hostile nations with opposing interests the sword was the only final tribunal to which they could appeal. Unfortunately, the millennium of peace was yet far off, and, in the meantime, this country could not escape from the responsibility of protecting the lives and liberties of her subjects and of her Colonists all over the world, however wicked and deplorable warfare might be. In their speeches with reference to Ireland, hon. Members below the Gangway opposite had ignored altogether the fact that it was the first duty of any Government to protect the lives, the property, and the liberty of its subjects. They seemed to think that hardship or poverty was sufficient excuse for any amount of political agitation, inflammatory language, or lawlessness. It was not, however, the province of legislation to indulge in sentiment, and allow the law to be broken with impunity. He believed that any Government which permitted such a state of things to continue would be rapidly swept from Office by the indignant constituencies. He asked those hon. Members why they did not resort to other methods for the relief of the distress in Ireland. Why, for instance—pending the legitimate and final settlement of the Irish Question—did they not appeal to public sympathy, and why did they not utilize some of those dollars which came across the Atlantic in such large quantities, but as to the destination of which we were so profoundly ignorant, in a benevolent way, for the relief of those poor people? Ireland was not the only part of the United Kingdom in which poverty, suffering, and distress were to be found. In the East End of London and the large provincial cities of Great Britain there was, he ventured to say, ten times as much undeserved suffering as in Ireland; and yet the poverty was not made the excuse for political agitation and systematic lawlessness and outrage. Although he had heard a great many harrowing descriptions of the sufferings of the Irish peasantry, he had failed to gather any facts showing that the landlords had acted unjustly. On the other side, however, he had heard plenty of facts showing that the landlords had 526 only resorted to eviction in the last extremity. He had alluded to the large amount of poverty and distress to be found in London and other large towns in England; and it was chiefly owing to the large amount of public attention absorbed by the Irish political agitation that this great social evil had not received its proper share of attention. He hoped that the Government, encouraged by the Report and evidence of the Royal Commission on Trade and Agriculture, would see their way to bring in some measure for the relief of the poverty-stricken people of both these Islands by some scheme of State-directed colonization. Private enterprize in that direction had failed, owing, as he contended, to the fact that it was not, and could not be, conducted on a sufficiently extensive scale. The matter must be taken up by the State. The increase in the population since the beginning of the century rendered some measure of that sort an absolute necessity, and he earnestly appealed to the Government seriously to consider whether they could not, by some well-organized scheme of State-directed colonization, find at least a partial remedy for the social and political evils of the present day.
§ MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
said, one hon. Member had stated that there were two distinct Parties in Ireland; but he would ask him if it was not a fact that there were more than two very distinct Parties in England; and he would also call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that the Irish Party, as at present represented, had done more than any other Party in modern times to consolidate the whole opinion of Ireland. He pointed to the fact that, at the present moment, the majority of the Members from Protestant Ulster sat with them on the Opposition side of the House. In fact, they represented at the present moment five-sixths of the Irish people; and he would like to know when English Parties had been so divided that one Party was so overwhelmingly strong as to represent five-sixths of the English people. As regarded the policy of the present Government towards Ireland, he thought they must look for the mainspring of that policy to a notable declaration made in one of the early days of last Session. That declaration was to the effect that, if judicial rents had to be reduced, the 527 landlords should be compensated for the reduction. There was no getting out of the fact that that declaration was made. [Opposition cheers.] He had heard it denied; but if the English language of 1886 meant what it meant in the year 1885, it was beyond yea or nay that the Prime Minister did declare that, if the judicial rents had to be reduced, the landlords ought to be compensated for the loss. Bound by that declaration, the Ministers of the Government in that House had practically no course left open to them but to endeavour to prove that no reduction was necessary. He maintained that in their endeavour to prove that they utterly and absolutely broke down. He maintained that the Irish Members had proved beyond yea or nay that the fall in the prices had been so great and so general that rents which might have been fair in the year 1881 or 1882 had become hopelessly unfair in 1885 and 1886. Since last Session the finishing touch was put to the unfortunate position of the tenant farmers in Ireland by the very bad end to the harvest. Men who were in a difficult position then had become hopelessly embarrassed now. What had happened since the House last separated? Last Session they based their arguments on the price of agricultural produce for the year 1885. Since then the year 1886 had come to an end, and the price of every single article of agricultural produce in the year 1886 was lower than in the year 1885; so that, if the position of the tenant farmer of Ireland was bad in 1885, it was worse in the year 1886. Since last Session, they had had a Return collected of the amounts of the agricultural produce in Ireland, and that Return, collected by the Government officials from sources which were by no means friendly to the tenant farmers of Ireland, showed a marked falling-off in the amount of produce; so that, so far from anything having occurred to alter the position of the tenant farmer for the better, several things occurred to show that his position was much worse. He had no intention of further arguing the necessity for a reduction in the judicial rents, because the Government had, by their action, shown the necessity for it. The Government had endeavoured to do, in an un-Constitutional manner, and by means of persons who had no knowledge of the subjects and no way 528 of obtaining satisfactory information, what his hon. Friend the Member for Cork proposed last Session should be done by means of properly constituted Courts and the assistance of official experts in the work. If the landlords were entitled to compensation, by all means let the Government bring in a Bill to give it to them. They had heard a good deal about Glenbeigh, and statements had been made in the public Press about Glenbeigh, which he had no hesitation in branding as absolutely false, and without a tittle of foundation. He should not be doing his duty as an Irish Representative if he did not take that opportunity of endeavouring to lay before the House some facts which he had ascertained on the spot regarding the tenants. That duty was all the more imposed upon him from the fact that, although one of the chief London daily organs, The Times, published an account from one side of what happened in Glenbeigh, it refused to publish any contradiction of accounts written by people on the spot. He wrote a letter, at the request of some gentlemen in Glenbeigh, to The Times contradicting the statements of the agent. He told his friends that The Times would not publish the contradiction, and he took the precaution of sending a copy of the letter to The Daily News. It appeared in The Daily News, but it did not appear in The Times; and he would ask hon. Members to read that letter for themselves, and then judge whether The Times gave fair accounts of what was going on in Ireland. They had in Glenbeigh a population which was never well off, but which, up to the year 1879, paid exorbitant rents with punctuality—they paid those rents, not out of the produce of the land, but by the earnings of the men who went as labourers to other parts of Ireland; by the wages of girls who went as dairymaids and servants to other places; and by small industries of their own, such as the collection of periwinkles on the sea-shore of the coast. The source of income derived by the labour of the men in Ireland had practically ceased with the depression, and since then their only remaining source of industry had suffered terribly by the fall in the price of stock, which in Glenbeigh and other mountainous districts had been far greater than in districts where there was good land. He had 529 bought largely of this class of stock in the year 1882, and two-and-a-half year heifers, which in that year would have fetched from £6 10s. to £7, were sold freely in the autumn of last year for £3 10s. He bought in the fair of Cahir-civeen in November last two-and-a-half year old bullocks at prices ranging from 30s. to £2. He would like to know where was the profit to the people, who had kept the cattle for two and a-half years. The tenants of Glenbeigh were too poor to avail themselves of the benefits of the Arrears Act, and the vast majority were too poor to avail themselves of the Land Act of 1881. But a few did find their way to the Land Courts. He had not been able to ascertain the result in all cases; but in 12 cases which came under his notice, and which were in no way specially selected by him, the reductions given in the Land Court amounted in the 12 cases to 27½ per cent. These reductions were given in the years of 1883 and 1884—good years—and he had no hesitation in saying that the fall in the price of this class of stock since then rendered a further reduction of 35 per cent, at least, necessary now, while those tenants who were too poor to go into the Land Courts should get 60 per cent. In the last seven years this unfortunate property had had no fewer than five agents, and very often the tenants did not know to whom they ought to pay their rents, owing to unfortunate disputes between the owner and the mortgagee. Last year, 70 of the tenants received processes for non-payment of rent, and the cases came on for hearing before the County Court Judge in October. The majority of the persons summoned, knowing that they were wholly unable to pay, did not put in an appearance; but 12 appeared in Court and raised a legal point, which was over-ruled. When their legal point was over-ruled, they thought they would be decreed in the ordinary way, but since the last Quarter Sessions a new County Court Judge had been sent down to Kerry with special instructions, and he, and also the County Court Judge of Clare, had interviews with General Buller. It would be satisfactory if the Government would give the House an account of those interviews. He was informed that one of the County Court Judges, in reply to General Buller, remarked—"What you ask me to do is perfectly illegal"; and that the General 530 thereupon observed—"By some means or other we must stop evictions." [The hon. Member then proceeded to refer in detail to the circumstances leading up to the Glenbeigh evictions, and read parts of the correspondence which has already been read several times to the House.] He referred specially to a passage in a letter of Colonel Turner's to the agent, in which he said—"Sir Redvers Buller could not, in common fairness, support the exception of Griffin." He contended that the use of the word support implied more than persuasion, and that if the influence which they had heard was used by Sir Redvers Buller with the landlords in favour of the tenants was moral influence merely, it was impossible to distinguish it from actual pressure. [The hon. Member then described what took before Judge Curran, and stated that the Judge offered them a receipt in full, up to November, 1885, on payment of one year's rent and costs. He would not listen to any explanation on their part of their inability to accept these terms, but said—"If you do accept this, I will decree you for the full amount." The hon. Member added the tenants then chose the lesser evil.]
It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the debate stood further adjourned till To-morrow.