§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th January.]—[See page 84.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. MAHONY (Meath, N.)
said, that he wished to refer to the remarkable correspondence from General Buller, which had been published in order to show that General Buller was following out, distinctly and faithfully, the line of policy laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, during 558 his examination at the Police Court in Dublin. The Chief Secretary there stated that everything the Government had done had been done in the interests of the landlords. That, he maintained, was the clear and distinct reading of the correspondence which General Buller wrote. The first thing which directed General Buller's attention to the state of Glenbeigh was not the poverty of the people, or their inability to pay the terms fixed by Judge Curran; but as he himself said in his letter of the 22nd of November—I have every reason to be anxious about the possibility of preserving order in the district.It was the old story—the Government did not care in Ireland for simple justice. No; it was only when injustice was made difficult that then they began to think about justice. It had been alleged that the National League had interfered in order to prevent the tenants settling with their landlords, and that the Plan of Campaign had been put in operation on the Glenbeigh estate. Such statements only showed utter ignorance of what the Plan of Campaign really was, for the essence of the Plan of Campaign was that these people should pay a fair rent; and their position was that at this time these poor people were utterly unable, many of them, to pay rent at all. Another fact was that his hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) stated at a public meeting at Killorglin that if the Plan of Campaign had been put into operation, or there had been any idea of it, he would have been the first man to hear of it, and yet he said that until these evictions commenced he never heard of the property. There was a local branch of the National League existing in Glenbeigh; on the committee of that branch were 14 of the tenants, and, out of these 14, eight had paid their rents; so that did not look as if the local branch of the League were preventing the payments of rent. The total number of tenants was 300, and, out of these, in or about 100 had paid; and, to his own certain knowledge, there was not the slightest ill-feeling against those who had been able to pay. In reference to the Glenbeigh evictions, General Buller had said, in one of his letters, that the tenants were poor and ignorant, and misled by bad men. He (Mr. Mahony) had searched in vain in the whole of the 559 subsequent correspondence for one particle of evidence to show that the tenants were misled by bad men; and he challenged the Government to produce one single particle of evidence to show that "the bad men" influenced the tenants in any way. The system of joint tenancies had an unfortunate effect on the Glenbeigh tenants. Many of the tenants, although holding separate portions of land, and holding separate houses, were joined by the landlord in one common receipt, and in one common Poor Law valuation. The effect of that in regard to the landlord was this—If one tenant failed to pay his rent, the whole of the joint owners must suffer; and it also enabled him to escape his liability to pay poor rate. Mr. Roe was often represented as being willing to accept six months' rent, and give a full discharge of all existing arrears on its payment; but they should remember that the costs made a serious difference to the tenants. He (Mr. Mahony) could only, therefore, describe the statement as inaccurate and misleading; inasmuch as an additional sum was demanded from them for costs, and the total amount asked amounted in some cases to two years' rent. It was useless to ask men for rents which they had afforded the most convincing proofs of their inability to pay by allowing the houses which sheltered them to be burnt or levelled to the ground. He would like to say a few words about a precious document which had just been put into his hand, which was published by the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union. As well as he could judge, the greater portion of it was merely reprint from the London organ of the Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union. It contained what purported to be statements of facts relating to Ireland, and emanating from reliable sources. There were one or two of those statements to which he wished to refer. The first was a statement that—Although 64 decrees had "been issued by County Court Judge Curran, only 31 had been placed in the hands of the Sheriff for execution.That was intended to convey the impression that Mr. Roe had only executed 31 out of 64 decrees, and had mercifully refrained from executing the others. But almost without exception—he doubted, indeed, if there was a single exception—in every one of those cases where the decrees were not exe- 560 cuted the tenants had paid their rents; that fact, however, had been carefully and purposely suppressed in the precious document to which he alluded. Another statement was that, in a case where two joint tenants had been evicted, one of them had been restored as a caretaker with a promise to let him alone. He (Mr. Mahony) could only say that that statement was utterly false if it referred, as he understood it was intended to do, to the case of two men named Diggins. The Irish Loyal and Patriotic Union knew that that was one of the worst of all the barbarous atrocities committed during the late evictions, and therefore tried to minimize it. The men had been evicted in 1884 for four years' arrears of rent. One of the joint tenants offered to pay £4, but Mr. Roe refused to accept it, unless his wretched partner would produce a like amount. The eviction campaign in Ireland was only just beginning, and the object of the National Party was to defend the lives, the homes, and the very existence of the people. If the technicalities of a harsh and cruel law stood in their way, then they appealed to a higher law founded upon the eternal principles of justice, and they appealed in the spirit of Him who said—"The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath." The Government might go on in their course of coercion. Coercion was the natural consequence of their rule. They could not govern, by Constitutional means, a people against their will. Let them go on—how long did hon. Members opposite suppose the democracy of England would consent to pay for the 30,000 soldiers which, as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) had said, were encamped permanently in Ireland as in a hostile country. How long would they be content to pay for the police to protect the persons engaged in carrying out these barbarous evictions perpetrated at Glenbeigh? Perhaps not so long as hon. Gentlemen opposite imagined. During the Vacation he went among the democracy in some of the so-called Unionist strongholds, and was received in the kindest manner. At every meeting he justified the Plan of Campaign, and when he had explained it his auditors accepted his justification. In spite of the efforts of the Unionists, the demo- 561 cracy would yet follow their old and trusted Leader. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had a policy. If hon. Gentlemen opposite had a policy at all, it was one of war at home and war abroad. The policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian was a policy of peace. Might God preserve him to complete that policy, and to bind together in the bond of true and lasting friendship the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland.
§ MR. ERNEST BECKETT (York, N. R., Whitby)
said, he must apologize for interfering in the debate; but, even if he had not risen, the time of the House would not be saved as some Gentleman on the other side intended to keep the hall rolling for the rest of the evening. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), in opening the debate, made an important admission, which he hoped the House would take note of. He said, of the subjects mentioned in the Queen's Speech the great bulk appeared to be very rational and very beneficial. The programme unfolded in the Queen's Speech was, according to the right hon. Gentleman's admission, a satisfactory programme, and, if the measures contained in it were not passed into law, whose would be the fault? It would not be the fault of the Government. No one could question their zeal for reform; it would not be the fault of the hon. Members sitting on the Conservative Benches. Their zeal for reform was greater even than the zeal of the Government. They took their stand on the Dartford programme. Unfortunately, the author of that programme was no longer in the Cabinet; but the spirit which he inspired still survived. Most of them on that side of the House were pledged to every jot and tittle of the programme; and he trusted that before the time came for the Government again to appeal to the country, every jot and tittle would have been fulfilled. If not, whose would be the fault? The fault would lie with hon. Gentlemen on the Irish Benches, assisted by their friends the Radicals, under the leadership of the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). It was a curious thing how Party prejudice tended to warp the mind. The senior Member for Northampton said, that because the Tories received a ma- 562 jority at the last General Election, that they were only actuated by lust and greed for Office, and that they should be resisted by every means in their opponents' power. On the other hand, no doubt if the Radicals had obtained a majority, the result would have been hailed as the vox populi vox Dei, and all the usual Radical clap-trap. The hon. Member for Northampton had been very active of late. Taking nothing seriously himself, much to his own surprise he had been taken seriously by a large number of Gentlemen opposite, and had been exalted to the position of a sort of leader of the left wing of the Radical Party. Abandoned by the vine and the fig tree, and the olive, they came to the bramble, and said, "Come thou and reign over us." The bramble accepted with pleasure, and forthwith declared his intention to burn down the cedars of Lebanon. The hon. Member, in his references to the Tory Party, had indulged freely in bluster, and seemed to think that under his fierce fulminations and flippant philippics the Tory Party would melt away. The hon. Member made a violent attack upon Lord Salisbury's foreign policy, and asked if he intended to play a great or a small part in European politics. His answer was that Lord Salisbury intended to play no part at all if he could help it. The hon. Member had commented severely on what he called Lord Salisbury's Jingo speech. Well, that Jingo speech, if it had any effect at all, had had the effect of preventing the armed occupation of Bulgaria by Russia. The hon. Member then spoke of Lord Salisbury as the perturbator of the peace of Europe, and seemed to think he was anxious to pose as a modern war-god. But Lord Salisbury, more than any man, knew that peace hath her victories no less renowned than war. Never could he forget the ovation he received when he returned from Berlin, bringing back "peace with honour." To no Roman general, having his brows bound with the laurels of victory, and dragging captive kings at his chariot wheels, was ever accorded a more gracious and honourable triumph. No tears mingled with the rejoicings; no sighs rose up with the shouts of applause; no sad hearts nor houses of mourning rebuked the general rejoicing. Bearing this indelible recollection in his breast, Lord 563 Salisbury could never do otherwise than seek peace and ensue it, and thereby maintain the traditions of the Tory Party. The Tory Party had ever been the Party of peace. ["Oh, oh!"] A hon. Member said "Oh"; but since the great Napoleonic wars the Tory Party had not embarked the country on a single war on the Continent of Europe; and even as to the Napoleonic wars, Pitt was forced into them against his will, for there was no more sincere lover of peace than Pitt. He need, however, go no further than bring to bear against the hon. Member for Northampton the wonderful testimonial which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian gave to Lord Salisbury in his address on the Queen's Speech last year, in which he stated that Lord Salisbury's foreign policy had been worthy the name and the fame of this country. A great deal had been heard, in the course of the debate, about the peaceful tendencies of the democracy. He rather doubted those peaceful tendencies, for two reasons—democracies never were of a peaceful character, and the English people were most pugnacious. Even the members of the Peace Society had to let off steam occasionally, with the result that there was no more turbulent and aggressive set of politicians in the country. An hon. Member opposite who had addressed the House said that until he entered Parliament the voice of the democracy had never been heard. He would not mention the hon. Member's name, because he complained that he had received too much attention from the Tory Party already. The Tory Party paid him attention for the same reason that the public paid attention to Pears' Soap—it was forced so prominently on their notice that they could not overlook it. The democracy might have peaceful tendencies; but it was not for peace at any price. The wealth and possessions of the British Empire rendered it an object of covetous desire all over the world, and, if we wished to retain our own, we must be as "a strong man armed." He thought the expression of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) the other night had been very much misapprehended. He did not understand the noble Lord to say that we were not to be prepared for war, or that we were to let our ships rot on the ocean and our guns 564 rust upon their carriages. The noble Lord said if the money was not wasted on coaling stations and fortifications he should have nothing to say against the policy of maintaining them. All, therefore, that he gathered from the noble Lord's speech and the illustration he drew from Lord Palmerston's fortifications was, that they were not to expend any money upon fortifications and armaments; but that they were to expend it judiciously, and that stricter care and supervision should be exercised over those who had the spending of it. It was impossible to deny that the Navy Estimates were in an satisfactory condition, and that they were not properly investigated, when it was possible for such a thing as he had heard only yesterday to happen. He was told by a well-informed correspondent that a case came under his knowledge in which the gig of a man-of-war was painted at a cost of £5; but the cost was entered in the Naval Estimates at £60; and he said that that sort of thing went on habitually, and was not the exception, but the rule. Such outrageous waste, to give it no harsher name, amply justified the statement of the noble Lord, that while the fortifications and armaments might be kept more efficiently, the amount expended might be materially reduced. It was natural that any inquiry into the expenditure would be met with considerable hostility on the part of those into whose pockets the difference between the £5 and £60 went, and they need not be surprised at it; but they must not regard it too much. The inquiry should be unsparing, and a searching eye directed to every single item of expenditure. The noble Lord referred to the historical memories and patriotism of the English people, and said that they could rely upon them. The people who forgot its historical memories were already on the high road to ruin. They might fence it round with fortifications; they might guard it with guns; they might enclose it with navies; but, nevertheless, the day of its decline, though put off for a while would inevitably arrive. But, though historical memories are a great deal, they are not all, and patriotism would not propel ironclads, nor would it protect their coasts from bombardment; and if their ancestors had relied on patriotism only, they would never have shattered the 565 Spanish Armada, or hurled the French Guard down the slopes at Waterloo. If they had not had ships that could sail, and men that could fight, those splendid historic memories would never have been ours. He understood from what the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) said, that he had resigned on the question of retrenchment; but he (Mr. Beckett) maintained that the whole Tory Party was pledged to retrenchment as well as he. Was it not well within the memory of hon. Members that, at the General Election of 1885, every Conservative candidate pointed to the extravagance and the growing Expenditure of the Liberal Party, and denounced it in the most forcible language he could command; and was it not also a fact that political thermometers in red and blue were posted on all the walls of the Kingdom, showing the abnormal and extravagant expenditure of that Party? And were they not to practise the economy they had preached? If they did not do so their words would be flung in their teeth, and their pledges would be flaunted in their faces, for they would have followed the worst of all examples—the example of the Liberal Government that came into Office in 1880. It would be well if the Government appointed a Committee at once, and invited the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) to preside over it, for they would thus guarantee that the work of investigation would be thoroughly done. The suspicions of the country had been aroused, and it would not be satisfied that the Government intended to move effectually in the matter until the Committee was appointed, and had begun its work. The spending Departments, he believed, needed the most thorough overhauling. There was a story told about a schoolmaster and a boy whom he met on a Sunday. The master asked him, "What are you doing?" "Please, sir," he replied, "I am doing nothing," and the boy's companion, when asked what he was doing, said, "Please, sir, I am helping him." He maintained that until these gentlemen who were helping each other in doing nothing were sent packing, and, until sinecures were swept away, and all snug berths provided for Ministerial hangers-on remorselessly abolished, they would have no proper economy; and then he believed the sacrifice of the Chancellor of 566 the Exchequer on the altar of thrift and economy would not have been in vain. He did not think they sufficiently considered what that sacrifice was. They heard a great deal about the sacrifices made by the Liberal Unionists, who were held up to admiration on every Tory platform in the country. No doubt the Liberal Unionists had made very great sacrifices—but not one of them had made a sacrifice to be compared in scope and magnitude with with that made by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. Why, then, should they attribute honourable motives to them, and unworthy motives to the noble Lord? The parallel held good in all ways. Each of them had sacrificed power and place to be true to pledges; each had incurred unpopularity in order to maintain principles; and, therefore, he could not see why they should praise the Liberal Unionists, and bestow blame upon the noble Lord. Was nothing but the voice of censure to be heard from the Conservative Benches? Should they not also express profound regret that the noble Lord no longer sat on the Treasury Bench? Surely, the measure of their regret was that of the services which the noble Lord had rendered to the Party. These services were great and inestimable. Did hon. Gentlemen realize that at present many right hon. Gentlemen would not be sitting on the Treasury Bench, and many hon. Gentlemen would not be sitting on the Ministerial Benches, but for the influence and exertions of the noble Lord? Why then should those who were under such obligations to the noble Lord to turn round on him and lift up their hands against him to stone him? By such conduct they reached a depth of political ingratitude happily rare in the history of this country. The noble Lord was now accused of having violated the cardinal principle of the Union. In what way had he done so? Had anybody in the House delivered a stronger Unionist speech than that made by the noble Lord on Monday last, and had not the effect of his resignation been to bring one of the Liberal Unionists over to the Treasury Bench? The principle of the Union was still intact. No doubt, there were Liberals who wished to receive the noble Lord into their ranks, and the hon. Member for Cockermouth (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) 567 put himself into almost an affectionate attitude towards him; but the hon. Baronet would have to extend his arms for a very long time before the noble Lord would rush into his embrace. Another expression used by Lord Randolph Churchill had been very much misunderstood. The noble Lord talked about a "crutch." To his mind that expression was not an insult to the Liberal Unionists, and it was not even a term of reproach. A crutch was a very sound, useful thing, and it exactly illustrated the position of the Tory Party with reference to the Liberal Unionists. Neither of them could get on without the other at the present moment. The alliance between the Tories and the Liberal Unionists might be permanent—they would all rejoice if it were. On the other hand, it might not; and then, if they were not able to stand alone or to walk by their own strength, what would become of the Union? Therefore the noble Lord taught them a useful lesson—he wished to impress upon them that if that Party had not confidence in itself, in its Leaders, and in its principles, it could not expect the country to have confidence in it. One hon. Gentleman yesterday indulged in the sanguine expectation that the present Government would be out of Office in three months. If the hon. Gentleman liked to comfort himself with that reflection he had no objection, but, if they were to go out in three months, who was to take their place? Hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House? Had not they better agree among themselves first? The senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) said he was satisfied with the unity of the Liberal Party. Well, if the hon. Gentleman was so satisfied, so were his opponents, but there was no unity either in the Liberal Party, or in the Home Rule Party. ["Oh, oh!"] By the Home Rule Party, of course he meant the entire Party who sat on both sides of the Gangway. Was there agreement on the Plan of Campaign? No; that had been an apple of discord; some approved of it and some did not. He quite admitted that the Plan of Campaign had been a godsend—not to the Irish people, but to those persons gorged with American gold, who, if the Plan of Campaign had not come to their rescue, would have had to replenish, the 568 eviction fund from their own pockets. That Plan had had very evil effects. In the first place, it marred and interrupted the friendly relations which were growing up in Ireland between landlord and tenant. When the National League found that landlord and tenant were gradually regarding each other with more friendly feelings, they felt that something must be done, and accordingly the Plan of Campaign was brought into the field, with all its "devilish enginery," and its pernicious influence soon stamped out the germs of happier things which had commenced to spring. In the second place, he objected to it because it had a political purpose. A Member of the Irish Party, in December last, said—"We have been able to force the Government to give up the ordinary law and to fall back on coercion." Therefore, it was evident that the Plan of Campaign was invented in order to stir up strife and animosity in Ireland, to make the Government interpose by strengthening the law in such a way that they could stigmatize it by the name of coercion; and then their idea, no doubt, was that if coercion was introduced it would be rejected, and the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) would be reinstated in power. Therefore the Plan of Campaign had a political more than a philanthropical object. The third reason why he objected to the Plan of Campaign was, that not only was it illegal in itself but it made others break the law. If landlords did not receive their rent, how could they pay their debts? The other day a landlord told him he had not received a penny of rent for two years, and if he had not been able to live on the charity of his relations he would not have been able to meet his just debts. It must be remembered that when a landlord did not receive his rent from his tenants and was made bankrupt others suffered—the tradesman and all to whom he owed money. Therefore the Plan of Campaign spread ruin and bankruptcy over a very wide area. With regard to evictions, he found that in the first six months of last year there were only 850 evictions out of 565,000 tenancies. If a man was not to be evicted when he did not pay his rent, what was to be done with him? Were those who were unwilling or unable to 569 pay rent to be left porpetually on the soil? Such a course would be to put a premium on rascality and incompetence. The truth was that evictions were not only necessary, but in many cases they were right. If a man could not do justice to the land on which he lived, it was only right that he should make way for another who could. The policy of keeping those on the soil who could not pay their rents, was the policy of protecting the weakest against the strongest. The law of Nature was that the weakest must go to the wall, and if they violated that law, and the ignorant and incompetent were kept upon the soil by artificial means, then the country to which they belonged must suffer. That was the reason why there was so much misery and poverty in Ireland, because the tenants there were not able to do justice to the capabilities of the land, and therefore its full productive power was never called forth, and the number of those it was able to support was proportionately reduced. What they wanted were men of means and men of trade—the very men the Member for East Mayo wished to drive away from the country. The country in the southwest of Ireland was of a barren character, and it was hardly possible under any circumstances to extract a living out of it; but if they would encourage men of capital to come there, an entire change would be wrought. It would be the same as it had been with some parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire in the past. Men of trade and capital came and waved their wands, and, as if by magic, wealth and prosperity grew up. If they would encourage trade and commerce, especially in the south-west of Ireland, they might see mills and factories rise up on the banks of every stream, thriving populations throng the towns, the fleets of commerce passing in and out, and Ireland renovated throughout. That might be a vision, but it was a vision they could realize if they were to encourage the advent of capital and credit to Ireland. But it never would be realized if Ireland did not understand the "things which belonged unto her peace." The National League were the greatest possible enemies to the peace and prosperity of Ireland, for peace and prosperity would blot them out of existence. They throve in misery, they made a living out of poverty, they drew 570 their incomes from distress, and were clothed, fed, and lodged by rags, starvation, and destitution. The National League in Ireland was like the cholera, which throve and flourished and spread in the midst of squalor and discontent, want, and wretchedness; but, where it was confronted by healthier, purer, and more wholesome conditions of life it dwindled and disappeared. Therefore, if prosperity was to return to Ireland, the National League must be exterminated with a strong hand. It might be a long struggle in which they were engaged, but it was one in which they did not mean to be defeated. He considered they had more on their side than had their opponents. Had the Home Rulers numbers? So had they. Had they enthusiasm? So had they. Had they unity? So had they. Had the Home Rulers a cause? So had they—a greater one. The Homo Rulers were fighting for a country; they were fighting for an Empire, and they did not intend to lay down their arms until the cause for which they contended was safe from attack.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, he looked upon the observations of the hon. Member for York, N. B., Whitby (Mr. Beckett) in regard to Ireland as of a fossilized character; indeed, it seemed that the hon. Member, like the rest of his Party, appeared to have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing concerning Ireland. The hon. Member had undertaken the defence of his absent Leader (Lord Randolph Churchill). That noble Lord had left this country, and it was to be regretted that he had been obliged to do so on account of his health. It might, however, be that it was necessary, in the absence of the noble Lord, that there should be young and fiery speakers like the hon. Member to speak in his behalf. The hon. Gentleman declared that the noble Lord had resigned not only his Office, but the Leadership of the Party, on the score of the disposition that was shown to avoid retrenchment, to which he was committed by his utterances at Dartford and elsewhere, and to which not only he, but the whole Conservative Party were deeply pledged. Well, that was the most joyful news which had been communicated to the House for some time past. The hon. Member had pointed to the wicked Liberal Party and its deeds when in 571 power. He (Mr. Illingworth) did not intend to make himself the apologist of the policy of the Liberal Government when in power, for he was bound to confess that, with regard to the Army and Navy, it had been extravagant, and had forgotten its duty and traditions. It should be observed, however, that in the attempts which had been made in the past by a small minority to bring the Liberal Party back to its duty and professions of policy in regard to retrenchment there had never been the slightest assistance given in aid of those efforts by a single individual in the Tory Party. The hon. Member had rejoiced that the Tory Party had been responsible for no European war since the Great War of 1815; but the Tory Party had been so seldom in Office that their opportunities had happily been few. When they had been in Office, we had always been trembling on the verge of serious European complications. As to the Crimean War, both parties were responsible for it, and there had only been one or two individuals on the Tory side who had not hounded on Lord Aberdeen's Government to undertake the war, even sooner than he had felt himself obliged to do. However, let bygones be bygones. He hoped that the Government would soon and sincerely make an attempt at retrenchment in the expenditure. If they did, they would find on that side of the House as cordial a co-operation as they could desire; for his own part, however, he must confess he did not place much reliance on the cheeseparing attempts at economy as coming from the Government side of the House. An arbitrary proposal of a reduction of £1,000,000 or £500,000 was a most unsatisfactory method of approaching the question. After a year or two the permanent staff of the different offices would force on an increased expenditure, on the ground that the Services had been starved. As had already been stated, it was in the question of foreign policy that any relief to the taxpayer must be found. Complaints had been made in certain quarters, and among others by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), that, as far as they could see, the present debate had been of no interest or value to the business of the country. He (Mr. Illingworth) had no doubt that that was 572 the feeling in certain quarters; the appreciation of hon. Members opposite for the time of the House depended largely upon what side of the House they sat. For his own part, he denied that under the circumstances under which they had met the time of the House had been in any way wasted. Parliament had met in a fog, and the Conservative Party in the House of Commons had lost that head which had provided it with a programme and a cry at the General Election. The Government were in a minority, being indebted for their present position to the "crutch" they had found in the noble Marquess and other Liberal Gentlemen. Therefore, discussion upon matters of general policy could not be regarded as out of place at the present moment. He was anxious to know how far the policy of the Government had been altered by the resignation of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. They had been told that he had resigned on the question of retrenchment; but in so far as that was concerned, he understood that none was to be effected; but were they quite sure that the noble Lord had resigned on the question of retrenchment only? Were there not some serious differences between the noble Lord and his Colleagues with regard to other and even more important matters? He (Mr. Illingworth) had serious misgivings that on foreign policy there was a serious and radical difference between the noble Lord and his late Colleagues. Lord Salisbury had made a speech at the Guildhall, on the 9th of November, with regard to the affairs of Austria and South-Eastern Europe, which had caused serious disquietude to many thoughtful people in this country. The noble Lord had since that time seen fit to modify some of the opinions which he had then expressed, when he said that Germany was not prepared to assist Austria in any perilous enterprize she might undertake. Lord Salisbury had told them that the opinions and judgment of Austria must be of enormous weight in the Councils of Her Majesty's Government, and would largely shape the policy which England would also pursue. That was a dangerous view for Lord Salisbury to hold even in his secret mind; but when spoken before a large audience it was dangerous to the last degree. Of all countries in Europe 573 Austria was the last for us to rely on. In the present state of Europe no one could be confident, seeing the extensive military preparations that were being made by both parties, that war between France and Germany might not break out at any moment, for it was hardly possible that the present system of enormous armaments could go on without making a collision inevitable. He should like to have seen Her Majesty's Government using their good offices with foreign nations in favour of disarmament; but, unfortunately, our home policy bad been such as to considerably weaken our moral influence. He appealed to the Government—indeed, he thought it was their duty—to do all in their power in order to bring about a better state of feeling between Germany and France. There were people who said that the next collision between Germany and France would lead to the rapid discomfiture of one or other of the combatants. But for himself, he thought there was good reason for believing that the next contest would be far more protracted than the last, and that it would draw other nations into it. We, at any rate, ought to take care beforehand that we were not dragged into it. We were under Treaty obligations to safeguard 20 countries, or parts of countries, and it would be well to disentangle ourselves from such engagements, so that we should not be induced to take part in European complications; and he hoped that the House, by some expression of opinion on the matter, would safeguard the Government against falling into those complications. Turning to the Irish Question, he would point out that it was in the hands of a Government who had many difficulties to contend with, and who were mainly put in office by the landlord class; the result being Irish legislation in the past had all been in the interest of that class, and it was this legislation that was mainly responsible for the miseries of Ireland, which had so long hung over, and which even now continue to distress that country. In the past, laws were conceived in the selfish interests of a small and powerful class. They had been maintained, and had worked the impoverishment of the tenants of Ireland. It was, therefore, no easy matter for the Tory Party to originate anything that would be for the permanent benefit of Ireland. But Ireland, through 574 the great majority of its Representatives, had formulated a demand which had happily found staunch supporters in the great body of the Liberal Party, and in the head of the Liberal Party. He (Mr. Illingworth), for one, wished to speak on the question of Home Rule with no uncertain voice. He admired the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale more almost than any other Member of the Unionist Party. The noble Marquess had laid down the terms on which he was willing to go back to his Party, and upon which he was determined to support the Party opposite. He (Mr. Illingworth) for once thought, with the noble Marquess, that it was infinitely better that there should be a fair understanding between the two sections of the Liberal Party. It seemed to him, however, that the noble Marquess was just at the "8s. duty" stage of this question. Those who were for Home Rule had founded themselves upon a rock—the principle of all or nothing. They must either treat Ireland as a Crown Colony, or grant her Home Rule. He hoped that the "Round Table" would soon be put up for sale. As a relic, it might be interesting, and he wished to bespeak it on his own account. He had had some misgivings with regard to the use which it had been put to; and, as he had said, he admired the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale for keeping himself disengaged in the matter. To show how little progress had been made with regard to Ireland, he would quote from a debate in that House in 1844, when Lord John Russell moved for a Committee of the Whole House to take into consideration the state of Ireland. That debate showed that since then they had been moving in a vicious circle, and had not made the slightest progress. What were the points with which Lord John Russell then contended? Why, one of them was the state of the magistracy, and the gross injustice done to the great majority of the people in excluding them from any share in the magistracy. The question of packing juries was also prominently dealt with; and there were some Gentlemen conscientious, but mad, who did not hesitate to say that it was unsafe to trust Papists, and that the policy of legislation and administration of law in Ireland must go upon the determination and plan of 575 treating them still as aliens and as untrustworthy. He would like to know whether any substantial advance had been made upon that position to-day? They were sometimes asked, why could not the Irish Members be satisfied with the equal rights with England and Scotland which they were now supposed to possess? But the treatment of Ireland, in nearly everything, was different from the treatment of Scotland and Wales. If the words which were uttered with regard to Ireland a few months ago by the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) had been uttered with regard to Scotland, the peace of England and its relationship with Scotland would have been within a week completely upset. Imagine a responsible Minister speaking, not for himself, but for the Government, declaring legislation in regard to Scotland should go on, utterly regardless of the great majority of the Members returned from it. Yet, with regard to Ireland, that was the avowed policy of the Government. There were such arrears to make up, that even with a well disposed body of Representatives in this House they could not put Ireland in the same position as Scotland. That was a work beyond their power. The Liberal Party had not the wish to undertake the task of regenerating Ireland. They wished to delegate the duty to Ireland herself. He believed that the proposal of Home Rule made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, which was accepted by the people at first as an article of faith, and because they trusted, as they had a right to trust, the right hon. Gentleman, was now becoming a conviction, and the masses of the people of England would gradually swing round to support the policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and would not allow him, or any Government, to give grudgingly, when it was determined to give at all, in returning to Ireland her filched rights and privileges. For his part, he wished the battle to go on, not only for the sake of the question and Ireland alone, but for the sake of the Empire at large, until a settlement was reached. Was there a man of any experience in the House who had any hope or expectation that the hands of Parliament would be free till this Irish Question was disposed of? There was, he ventured to say, only two 576 alternatives upon the Irish Question. If the Government again asked the House to give them increased coercive powers for Irish Administration, there would be strenuous opposition to that proposal; but if right hon. Gentlemen opposite succeeded in gaining those powers, and in placing upon the Statute Book another evidence of the folly of this country towards Ireland, he (Mr. Illingworth) would tell them that they would be driven to the expulsion of hon. Members below the Gangway, and, in the most ignominious way possible, they would then have to govern Ireland as a Crown Colony. Since political power had been given honestly to Ireland, there had been two Elections; and the second was a repetition of the first, and an equally full endorsement by Ireland of the demands of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and they were now in a position to regard those 85 or 86 Members for Ireland as the Representatives of the overwhelming majority of the people of Ireland. So far as that Protestant feeling which was opposed to those Representatives was concerned, he had never known anything more insane than the spirit which had governed the Orange Party; and should they refuse to learn good sense, taste, and consideration to those who, at least, so far as their treatment in Parliament was concerned, had hitherto been their inferiors, he should not object to see them brought to a better state of mind by the majority of the Irish people. The only other alternative was to give Ireland Home Rule; and he believed the happy moment had arrived when they might grant Ireland her demands, in order that there might not be left a vestige of the animosity that had prevailed between the two countries in the past. He was convinced that, if justice were done, the Irish would prove as warm-hearted and loyal friends of the Empire as any to be found in England or Scotland. Only one word, in conclusion, as regards this troubled question of the Plan of Campaign. Now, he was not careful to ask himself whether the policy of the Plan of Campaign could altogether be squared to the Statute Law of this country, or the Common Law. He was free to admit that it might be extra legal; and the Law of Conspiracy might be so construed that if they had a jury which had lost all feelings of sympathy with the masses of 577 the Irish people, they might possibly get a conviction. [Laughter.] Ah! the smile that came from hon. Gentlemen on the Government side of the House showed the very unhappy frame of mind in which they were with regard to the masses of the Irish people—with regard to their troubles and their sorrows. All he could say was, that he would be very slow, indeed, to give to any Government any power which would enable them to escape the judgment of a jury upon any action the Irish Members had taken with regard to the Plan of Campaign. If it were a stretching of the powers and rights conferred by law, it was only to meet legalized injustice which had too long prevailed. The land system of this country was reaching a pass which would call for the serious attention of that House, with the view of a radical change. If they had been as helpless in this country, if they had no other resources but to throw the surplus population upon the land, as was the case in Ireland; and if they had no other employment for the people, England would have dealt with the Land Laws and the landlord class long ago; and it was because Ireland had no other industry she was now reduced to this miserable plight; and he could not believe for one moment that the working classes of this country would condemn what Irishmen had been doing in Ireland in order to escape those horrid evictions. Considering the cruel conduct of landlordism, they might be obliged to be tolerant to some extent to the remedy—the only remedy which was open to them to help in saving their fellow-countrymen from the roadside and beggary. This being so, he was sure that it would only hasten a genuine and satisfactory settlement of the question. Ho, for one, believed that if he had been an Irishman, placed as these men had been, he would have gone heartily with them in the work they had been doing. They had so far his support as to say they were excusable in the action they had taken. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland told them that he had brought pressure to bear. Why had he taken that course? The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington declared, in the last Session of Parliament, that the Government were not convinced that the judicial rents were 578 too high. How had they since found out that they were? What Commission reported in order to give them unerring guidance upon the question? Well, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the Government succeeded, happily, to a great extent in the pressure they had employed. In the great majority of cases, the landlords of Ireland had given substantial reductions of rent, and in many other cases such reductions as showed a disposition to meet their tenants. But the Plan of Campaign had succeeded where the Government had failed. The worst and most extreme cases the Government had not been able to deal with, and they were obliged to hand them over to the Gentlemen who worked the Plan of Campaign. There were some landlords in every country who worked in such a way as to place themselves outside the pale of any sympathy whatever. He supposed he might say that as regarded some of the landlords in Ireland; but he would say this as regarded others—that their position was deserving of the greatest commiseration. They were themselves the victims of this vicious land system. They had tied up the land, and allowed such settlements to prevail that, with the reductions which had taken place under the judicial rents, and the events which had since taken place, these nominal owners of the land were without any income from their own estates. Their position was desperate, and they did not know which way to turn. The hon. and gallant Member for the Holborn Division of Finsbury (Colonol Duncan) said Party spirit had been the curse of Ireland. As had been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), why should they not take the Land Question first, and leave for after consideration the question of local self-government? He believed that a separate Parliament would not eradicate the hostile feeling which was now entertained by a large portion of the Irish people towards England; and he believed that an Irish Parliament would not achieve the impossibility of enabling five Irishmen to live on a spot of land where Nature had made provision for only one. He believed that the Irish Question was the question of the hour, and from the necessity of the case must be made the 579 question of the hour. Parliament suffered from paralysis, owing to the engrossing character of the Irish Question; and he believed that paralysis would continue until they had found a satisfactory settlement of the Irish Question. Any statesman who succeeded in effecting such a settlement would deserve and receive the gratitude of Parliament and of the country.
§ MR. DUNCOMBE (York, E. E., Howdenshire)
said, he must confess to a feeling of disappointment, in common with other Members, that year after year at the opening of Parliament the great Irish Question confronted the House; year after year they had reference in the Queen's Speech to Ireland; year after year they had abundant promises of reform; year after year they had earnest efforts to carry out those reforms, but still the much-looked-for settlement never arrived, and the woes of Ireland remained the pity and the despair of the civilized world. So much was this the case, that they were tempted to ask whether statesmanship had undergone a partial eclipse in regard to this matter, and whether it was no longer able to meet the demands that were made upon it? They were tempted to ask whether this question was destined to be settled by political parties in that House, or whether it was destined to settle itself in a manner that at the present moment was unforeseen and unexpected by political parties in this country? They might be sure of this, that there must be a settlement of some sort. The do nothing policy was rejected on all sides, and, if the nation last year refused to give its consent to the scheme of the late Government, they might be quite sure that it did not intend to give its confidence to those who were prepared to do nothing except assert that they would do something hereafter. He took it that there must be a settlement of this matter, and one proof of that was the very small minority of Members in the present Parliament who were not pledged to some alteration in the existing machinery for the government of Ireland. How was it that the spirit of the Legislature being so willing in connection with this matter, its flesh was so weak? It was the result of the predominance of Party spirit which had been the curse of Ireland. If only they could have laid aside the aphorism that 580 an Opposition was bound to oppose, they would, he believed, have arrived at an adequate settlement of the question long ago. There were several precedents for political parties combining to settle a question. Only a few months ago there was a combination of parties to settle the important question of the Redistribution of Seats, and, if both political parties could meet in order to settle that question, he could not see how there could be any objection to their meeting together to settle this Irish Question, which was just as important and far more difficult. If the question could not be settled as a whole, why not divide it in the manner suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain)? Why not take the Land Question first, and then leave for after consideration the question of local self-government in Ireland? The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), said that the Irish Members would not consent to this course. He did not understand why they should object, because, after all, the Irish Land Question was not an exclusively Irish affair. It concerned English interests, and might possibly have something to do with English money. When the Land Question had been settled, then the opportunity would at once arise of dealing with the question of local self-government. He was one of those who were not in favour of that question resulting in a separate Parliament in Ireland, because he believed it was impossible to have a separate Parliament for that country. It was impossible to believe that one Parliament in Ireland could rule Ulster as well as Connaught. He believed a separate Parliament could not of itself institute that great system of manufactures which was necessary for the prosperity of Ireland. He believed a separate Parliament could not eradicate that hostile feeling which was now entertained towards England by a large portion of the Irish people; and in his opinion a separate Parliament in Ireland could not well accomplish the impossibility of enabling five Irishmen to live on one spot of ground where Nature had made provision for only one. He believed that when the Land Question was settled it would not be difficult to find a scheme of local self-government which would give satisfaction to what would then be a nation of 581 freeholders. We needed to give Ireland more than verbal sympathy, and he maintained that that sympathy had been deepened and intensified by the sorrowful scenes which had recently occurred in Glenbeigh. Even if they granted that the evictions there had been carried out in strict conformity with the law, and that the utmost generosity had been previously exhibited by those who owned the property, it would always remain incomprehensible to him, why it was thought consistent with humanity to carry out those evictions in the depth of a most rigorous winter, which was trying alike to the ailing and the aged. He made no apology to the House for confining his remarks to the subject of Ireland, because he believed it was the engrossing question of the hour, and must from the necessities of the case remain so. What was the reason why our efforts in legislation were paralyzed at the present moment? It was because we were always thinking of, and perpetually dealing with Irish questions. Parliament was suffering from partial paralysis; and this state of things would continue to last until they had found a satisfactory settlement of the Irish Question. And, what was more, he believed that the demand for Home Rule—heard at present only in whispers—on behalf of the Scotch and Welsh Members, was owing to the fact that Parliament was suffering from this partial paralysis. The Scotch and Welsh Members were convinced—perhaps justly convinced—that Parliament was unable at present to pay sufficient attention to the wants of those localities with which they were especially identified. Hence it was, that the Scotch Members and the Welsh Members were proposing to come to Parliament in order to get powers to manage those affairs with which they thought Parliament could no longer deal. It was under this feeling, he had ventured to express the earnest hope that this question might be settled at once. If, in the meantime, Parliament should have its ancient powers restored to it, and there should arise some statesman—he did not care whether he was Irish or Scotch—who would find a way of settling this great question, he believed such a man would be entitled to, and would assuredly receive, not only the praise of Parliament, but the praise of all future generations.
§ MR. A. J. WILLIAMS (Glamorgan, S.)
said, there was one fact which was being brought home to hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House since the rejection of the Home Rule Bill. It was to this effect—that, on the whole, it was a very good thing that the Home Rule measure of the late Government had not been passed. To his mind the rejection of that Bill, seen in the light of subsequent events, was to be regarded as a sort of revelation. It revealed, probably in the most remarkable way history could show, the radical soundness of the people of this kingdom. That Bill approached very nearly to the working of a miracle—the miracle of converting the whole people in a few months from a narrow policy of harsh repression to a policy of intelligence and justice. Conservative politicians and journalists, who were never satisfied, said that the Land Act of 1881 had been a failure. He thought they were a little hasty in saying so. No doubt it had been a failure in one direction; it had failed because the judicial administrative machinery was simply a mockery of justice to the Irish tenantry. The great bulk of the tenants in Ireland had been prevented from entering the Land Courts, and had thus not been able to get the advantages of the Land Act. But in another direction the Land Act of 1881 was a great and a conspicuous success. It first began to bring home to the minds of the people of this country the true conception of what property in land ought to be. What had occurred in Ireland during the past six months had given another practical lesson as to what property in land ought to be. What was property? Property had been defined as that which insured to all persons what they had produced by their labour. He was glad that one of the results of the sympathy which had recently been evoked for the Irish people had been to spread information, and to give rise to just conceptions of what property in land really meant. Although it had been maintained that the Bill of the late Government, and the Bill which the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) brought in last Session, would not have touched the cases of the tenants who had been recently evicted, yet he contended that the Irish Members pointed out what the troubles of the ensuing winter would be, and that the readiness 583 they showed to accept the measures proposed, including the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork, proved the moderation of the Irish Party. He contended, also, that if the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in the last Parliament had been adopted—namely, that evictions should be stopped, and that, in the meantime, the landowners should receive a certain amount as a first charge on the rent, while a thorough inquiry was made into the condition of the tenants as to what they could pay—the present troubles, with all their attendant miseries, would have been prevented. The Government must take action with a strong hand to prevent evictions until a most searching inquiry was made throughout Ireland to ascertain what rent the tenants could pay and what rent they ought to pay. For his own part, he believed it would be found, when such an inquiry was made, and the true facts of the case were ascertained, that the rent which the tenants could pay was very much less than what was now demanded of them. He firmly believed that the wisest course to pursue was to leave the whole difficulty to be dealt with by an Irish Representative Assembly with a large responsibility.
§ SIR WILLIAM PLOWDEN (Wolverhampton, West)
said, the hon. Gentleman on the other side—the Member for the Howdenshire Division of Yorkshire (Mr. A. Duncornbe)—who had just addressed the House, had stated that Irish Members on this side were attempting the impossible task of making five persons live and thrive where Nature intended only one so to do. It seemed that, in forming this conclusion, the hon. Member was forgetting the facts. He must be well aware that 40 years ago or more Ireland supported 8,000,000. It would therefore appear that, under proper conditions, the country could certainly support 5,000,000, its present population. The hon. Member for the Whitby Division of Yorkshire (Mr. Ernest Beckett) had replied to the crutch simile which the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) had applied to the Liberal Unionists. The hon. Gentleman had spoken with such earnestness and energy that it was impossible to suppose he was a Member of the "crutch and 584 toothpick brigade." But it was clear, from his own confession, he was a disciple of the political Gamaliel who led the Tory Democracy—and yet he was an insubordinate disciple, for he approved altogether of the Foreign Policy of the present Government, which the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had emphatically condemned. They had been told by the hon. Member for the Southport Division of Lancashire (Mr. Curzon) that the great advantage of the present arrangement, whereby the present Prime Minister held two Offices, was that he held the Seals of the Foreign Office. Now, judging from the language of Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech relating to Foreign Affairs, it did not appear that this was an altogether unmixed advantage. He thought the reference to Prince Alexander was not couched in the happiest terms. Why was he now spoken of as Prince Alexander of Bulgaria? At all events, it would have had the advantage of conciseness, and would have been equally accurate if the words placed in Her Most Gracious Majesty's mouth on this subject by the present Government had run thus—"Events which compelled Prince Alexander to retire from the Government of Bulgaria." That, certainly, was shorter than the words used, and could not possibly convey offence. With regard to the question of economy and efficiency, he listened the other night with great attention to the speech of the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord George Hamilton), who caused some laughter when he said that not only were the Estimates of the Department very moderate, but he was surprised at his own moderation. That reminded him of the story about Lord Clive, who, having taken as much as he liked from the treasury of an Indian potentate, and being afterwards accused of rapacity, exclaimed that he was only surprised at his own moderation. He hoped the amount taken by the First Lord of the Admiralty would be administered with economy, but he confessed he had misgivings on the subject. As for the arrangement lately made by the Government to take possession of great merchant steamers in time of war, he was told that two vessels of the White Star Line and three Cunard steamers had been engaged by the Admiralty at £1 per ton per annum. That would 585 entail an expenditure of £40,000, which, capitalized at 10 years' purchase, would be £400,000. These vessels would be perfectly useless for war purposes in their present state, and to make them into belted cruisers would cost £100,000 more. That would make, in all, £500,000. He contended that that was not an economical and advantageous arrangement, and that it would be better to build outright two vessels—and they could be built for £400,000—which should be all our own, and which might be extremely useful. Then, with regard to Ireland, it had been stated that Members on the Opposition side would not express their opinions on the Plan of Campaign. That objection must have fallen to the ground after the statements which had been made that night. He had, before his own constituents, condemned the Plan of Campaign, but he now retracted the condemnation. He had been under the impression that the money which the tenants had placed in the hands of trustees was to be used in the Courts to prevent the landlord from obtaining his rights. That seemed to him like seething a kid in its mother's milk. But now he was told that the money was held for the landlord as soon as he chose to come to terms with the tenants. It appeared to him that the case was analogous to one of salvage, when the terms agreed upon were afterwards found to be too high. In that case, the Court would go behind the contract, and decree that the sum to be paid should be considerably less than had been agreed to.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, that every Irish Member who spoke after the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) ought to thank him for the manner in which he had defended them. The Queen's Speech generally indicated what the Government intended to do, and in this case it showed that for the next three or four months they would live on three things—first, the Address; after that had been discussed, they meant to live on coercion, and after that, they would live on Parliamentary procedure. In the meantime anything might happen. There might be a Continental war; but, owing to the Coercion Bill and the new Rules, they would do nothing, and that was what they wanted with two such allies 586 as the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) behind them, and the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) in their front. The moment they produced a new policy, it would be impossible for the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale to support them, and it would be impossible for them to satisfy the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. It was a miserable thing for Ireland that she had become the sport of Parties, and that a Conservative Government should be attempting to hold Office by coercing her. By altering the procedure of the House, and by bringing in a Coercion Bill, the Government would occupy the attention of the House and of the country, and would thus be able to put off the reforms which they had pledged themselves to effect. He regretted that the Queen's Speech had not touched upon the subject of the means to be adopted for developing the material resources of Ireland by carrying out a scheme of general arterial drainage of the country, and by constructing railroads and deep-sea harbours. The Government were taking no steps whatever in that direction. No doubt the Royal Commission which had been appointed to consider these subjects would report towards the close of the year, and the Ministry might possibly bring in some measure dealing with them, which would not pass; and so the matter would go on indefinitely. Although politics had a very strong hold of the Irish people at the present moment, still the bitterness of the Home Rule Question would be largely mitigated if the people saw that the Government really intended to do something to develop the material resources of their country. At present, the arterial drainage of the country was in a most disgraceful state, principally in consequence of the fact that the landlords, who alone had the power under the existing law to deal with it, had no interest in improving it; whereas the tenants, who would be benefited by a proper system being carried out, had no power whatever in the matter. It was clear from the terms of the Queen's Speech, that the Government did not intend to do anything in this direction. The subject of railways was not of so pressing a character; nevertheless, a great deal of benefit would be conferred upon Ireland if 587 the Government would guarantee 2½ per cent interest upon loans for their construction, to be repaid by the local authorities. Of course, this State guarantee would only be given in respect of lines which the Government thought would be of benefit to the districts in which they were constructed. A great step towards settling the Land Question in Ireland would be effected if the smaller tenancies were dealt with. There were 150,000 tenants holding under five acres of land. For £5,000,000—£4,000,000 of which would be a loan, and £1,000,000 a gift—all these small holdings could be purchased, and a great part of the Land Question would be settled. These holdings were too small for the tenants to live on, and the bold step ought to be taken of doubling them, and that could be done without loss to the Exchequer. To double all small holdings under five acres would cost £9,000,000, which would all be paid back to the Exchequer. If a Conservative Government were to attempt to settle the Land Question on such a basis, they should not stop at five acres, but should purchase all holdings up to 30 acres. Then the very small holdings could be extended without injustice to anyone. He believed that if a Conservative Government would boldly face the question of the purchase of small holdings, and would develop the material resources of the country, a great advance would be made in securing the peace and prosperity of the country. Not that the Nationalists would for a moment give up Home Rule.—[Mr. JOHNSTON: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member for Belfast knew they would not do that.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
said, that the paragraph of the Royal Speech to which he took special exception was that which referred to Ireland. It was said that the condition of Ireland still required anxious attention, and that grave crimes had been rare; but he maintained that, during the last four or five years there had been no such thing as grave crime, though there had been disturbances owing to the aggressive and unjust conduct of the landlords of the country. Outside those disturbances, those ebullitions of bad temper, he controverted the statement in the Queen's Speech that within the past four years there had been anything deserving the name of 588 great crime in Ireland. It seemed a curious commentary on that paragraph that it was immediately followed by another stating that Parliament would be asked to amend the criminal procedure of Ireland. That meant that Her Majesty's Government intended to devote their energies and a considerable portion of the time of the House to the propping up of unjust rents in Ireland and preventing the natural action of the economic laws in regard to the prices of produce. In view of the answer of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) with reference to the Woodford evictions that evening, when he said that the cost of sustaining Lord Clanricarde's evictions had been £13,000, and in view of other recent events in Ireland, he thought he was entitled to argue that the paragraph in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech to which he had just referred meant neither more nor less than this—that come what might, and be the result to the tenantry what it might, impoverishment, waste of capital, turmoil, and disturbance, Her Majesty's Government were determined, at any cost, to prop up the system of rack-renting which prevailed over the greater part of Ireland. They had been told that a great deal of the time of Parliament had been devoted in the past few years to the question of Irish agriculture. No one who knew anything of the subject would deny that the maladministration of the Land Act of 1881, in the interests of the landlords, was at the root of much of the disturbance in Ireland. But, even with the best administration, the scope of that Act was so limited that it could not affect the cases of two-thirds of the tenants in that country. He thought, therefore, that the statement of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), that the tenantry of Ireland were surrounded with a wall of triple brass, had a very limited application indeed. He (Mr. Flynn) represented a constituency largely engaged in the manufacture of butter, and it could not be denied that his constituents were as much interested in the development of Irish manufactures and agriculture as any body of Members in the House could be, and he must express his regret and astonishment that an hon. Gentleman should have thought fit to 589 cast the ungenerous stigma upon his Friends and himself that they had no interest in the industry, the honesty, and the thrift of the people whom they represented. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland was in his place, and perhaps he could convey to the Chief Secretary for Ireland the facts of one particular case which had come under his own observation of pressure put upon a landlord by subordinates of the Chief Secretary. He (Mr. Flynn) did not blame the Government, for the pressure in the circumstances was wise, judicious, and necessary. Near Clonakilty, in the county of Cork, the eviction was endeavoured to be carried out of a tenant named Tim Hurley. The rent was excessive, but the landlord was inexorable to have the full rent. Hurley made a resistance to the law; the eviction was not carried out on that day; and a great deal of disturbance in the neighbourhood resulted. Captain Plunkett, Resident Magistrate, acting, if not with the knowledge, at least with the authority, of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, went to the district and called upon the parish priest to make inquiries concerning the relations between landlord and tenant. On two occasions he had interviews with Father Lucy, and he also visited Hurley's farm and pronounced the rent to be a rack rent. Father Lucy was present when Captain Plunkett told Inspector Kerr, of the Royal Irish Constabulary, to ask Mr. Bonnet, the landlord, to meet him. Mr. Bennet accordingly met him at the police barrack, when Captain Plunkett informed the landlord that the rent was excessive, and asked him to give an abatement. Mr. Bennet declined, however, to do so. Thus far, this was judicious and wise pressure. The Chief Secretary for Ireland denied that any evidence could be adduced of a threat to withdraw police protection; but Captain Plunkett gave Mr. Bennet a week to consider, and told him that if he did not make an abatement he (Captain Plunkett) would withdraw the police protection. Mr. Bennet then threatened the High Sheriff with an action for loss and damage, and the eviction was eventually carried out. They asked the Government to put such pressure on the landlords as would prevent them from evicting from their homes people who were unable to pay exorbitant rents. The Government then, in an underhand 590 manner, did what they had refused to do openly. As to the alleged immorality of the Plan of Campaign, the answer of himself (Mr. Flynn) and his Friends was, that it was a legitimate combination against unfair demands, and had received the sanction of those whom they looked upon as more authoritative exponents of the moral law than those who denounced their proceedings.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
said, he should be glad to learn what explanation the Government had to give with reference to the passage in referring to brigandage in Burmah. It was said, ourOperations had been conducted for the purpose of extirpating the brigandage which has grown up during recent years of misgovernment.He should like to know how much of that brigandage had grown up during the last year and a-half. He remembered the time when the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a speech delivered last year, encouraged Parliament to expect a speedy close to the disturbances in that country, that the population were glad to welcome us, and that a great revival of English trade would result from the policy the noble Lord had pursued. No doubt trade had begun to revive; but he failed to trace any of that revival to those operations in Burmah. Indeed, he could not see what they had done, except cost this country a considerable amount of English blood and treasure, If the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was so bent on economy, as he believed the noble Lord now was, he trusted that if, in the future, he should hold such a responsible Office as that of Secretary of State for India, he would avoid plunging the country into a policy which entailed that there should be an open end to our purse. On the question of retrenchment, he was glad that any Member of the Tory Party should have taken so strong a step in the direction, not only of economy, but of a peaceful policy. With regard to the Plan of Campaign, he remarked that he did not desire to treat the question in any narrow sense. He wished to look at it as it was likely to influence public events; they must look at the question in its broad issues. There was no doubt in his mind, viewing the question as he had indicated, that the Plan of Campaign was to be regarded as a combination on the part of the tenants to keep down or reduce their rents. It bore 591 a great resemblance, in many respects, to the organization of the English Trade Unions—he did not say a complete resemblance; and this was the more suggested to him by the fact that the Tory Government were meeting it by an appeal to the same law with which, when it was applicable, they met the Trade Union combination. But he was aware that the Plan of Campaign was objected to, and to a certain extent rightly objected to, as involving some attack on property. No one felt it more desirable than he did, in the beginning of a democratic time, to see that the rights of property were duly protected; but, when they spoke of property, and especially that in Irish land, they were naturally led to ask the question, Whose property? An hon. Member opposite said that the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881 had initiated for the tenants in Ireland a property in land. He differed wholly from that interpretation of the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881. On the contrary, they were the first endeavour, after many years, to re-instate the Irish tenants in something of a legal claim to rights of which the Imperial Parliament since the Union had, to a large extent, by direct legislation deprived them. The Devon Commission had been referred to. There were recommendations made by that Commission giving the tenant some legal right to his own property in the improvements that he had made; but the recommendations were not listened to, and the only result of that Commission, so far as legislation was concerned, was the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849, which enabled the owners of encumbered estates to deal in a better manner with them. Under that Act there occurred a wholesale confiscation of the property of the tenant. It enabled and encouraged landlords to sell, along with their own property, tenants' property to an enormous amount to a new and untrammelled set of proprietors, who might justly maintain that they had paid for such property, although it was sold by those who had no right to sell. Within the first eight years after the passing of that Act, there was no less than £20,000,000 sterling worth of estate property in Ireland which changed hands. To take one typical fact in connection with an estate sold under that Act in 1866; the auctioneers' advertisement contained the phrase—"The ten- 592 ants are respectable and most comfortable; the rents are extremely moderate, and may be readily increased." That meant increased on the tenants own improvements. He found that on a farm, the valuation of which was £19 per annum, the rental was raised under the new purchaser to £48. On that same farm, under the Act of 1881, the judicial rent had been fixed at £28. That that rent had been improperly doubled was, therefore, admitted by the Act of 1881. No doubt, the Acts of 1870 and 1881 gave a certain security to the tenants; but the landlords, it was well known, had got behind even those Acts by "decreeing" the tenants, and also by means of actions for ejectments, the result being that the tenants in many cases were not able to obtain the value of their improvements, and their property was confiscated. It was facts like these which showed how incompetent was the English Parliament to legislate for a country which it did not understand. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had spoken of tenants living in houses that did not belong to them, and when that phrase was objected to, he said that by law the dwellings were the property of the owner of the estate. That was exactly what was complained of. Our laws had been passed in ignorance of what were Irish custom and Irish law. To quote the words of Baron Pennefather—The entire landlord and tenant code of Ireland goes to give increased facilities to the landlord. It never entered the head of the Legislature to make provision for the tenant, and all these enactments, at least 32 in number, are invasions of the common law.By the 32 Acts referred to, and by such laws as those of 1816 and 1818, which there could be no doubt were for the facilitating of ejectments, and that of 1849, this House had swept away the old Irish land law, which had many points in it far more favourable to the tenant, like all other Celtic law, than either the Saxon or Norman laws under which we lived, and had substituted for it fragments of Saxon and Norman Law wholly unsuited to the circumstances of Ireland. They talked, forsooth, about capital being withdrawn from the country! Why, capital had loft the agricultural parts of Ireland because the landlords, unlike English landlords, had never put their 593 capital into Irish land, but had drawn it and spent it out of Ireland, and they did so to this day. He supposed there was at least £1.000,000 sterling sent out of Ireland every year to absentee landlords. [Cries of "More."] Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite denounced as brigands and miscreants those who sent over money from America to further the cause of the National League, but they did not object when the money was sent by those same persons to help to pay rack-rents. It was well known that agricultural labourers came over from Ireland to earn money here in order thereby to pay their rent. It must not be forgotten that, to a very large extent, rent in Ireland differed from rent in this country; there it was in the nature of a poll-tax, and, as in the case of Glenbeigh, it was levied by what, in the biblical sense of the word, might be called publicans, who did not even pay a tithe of it to the National Treasury, but who cost a large sum of money to it in raising that poll-tax. With respect to the Plan of Campaign, however much they might endeavour to argue about it, or apologize for it, or even condemn it, there was one thing in connection with it which must be considered. When the Plan of Campaign was first struck at by the authorities in Ireland, the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), speaking of the prosecution against him, had said—"I shall in a very short time stand in a criminal dock, where almost every Irishman who has befriended Ireland has stood before me." When any man of high principle like that Gentleman—who was regarded by the whole nation as a patriot, and as fighting the cause of the poor against government by another people—brought against the Government an indictment so heavy as that, and could point to such a miserable state of circumstances, that was enough of itself to make that Government rotten and cause it to fall. With regard to the resignation of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), perhaps too much significance had been given to it, but, in conjunction with the Speech from the Throne, it was of some significance in relation to what he might call the cause of the Liberal Unionists. When the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (The Marquess of Hartington) had spoken at a certain great meeting in 594 London, he had said that the Liberal Unionists would be able to obtain great Liberal reforms. The principal person belonging to the Tory Party who had promised those reforms had been the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. From the first it had seemed doubtful whether the noble Lord would be able to carry with him the rank and file of the Conservative Party, and now it seemed as if the rank and file of that Party, now that the noble Lord was out, had not got beyond what Lord Salisbury had indicated as their programme—that was to say, the carrying out of whatever they did on thoroughly Conservative principles. A great change had also taken place in the tone of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale. There was no jubilant tone in the speech of the noble Lord at Newcastle about Liberal reforms, and he was content with keeping the pass as at a new Thermopylæ. At the last Election, he and his friends had contended that there was only one alternative to Home Rule—namely, coercion; and, even more, that it would be necessary to send the Irish Members out of the House, because the objection to Home Rule practically was that the Irish were not able to govern themselves; and, if so, why were they able to govern this country? They had been told that a middle course was possible—namely, that of governing Ireland by the ordinary law. But the proposals of the Government in the Queen's Speech amounted to a statement that the law by which they stood was unfit for the purpose they undertook to carry out. Last Session the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had told them that whatever they did in the way of local government for England, Scotland, and Wales, they would do with similarity and simultaneity for Ireland. But the whole legal system in Scotland was different from that of England; the Education Act was different, and passed at a different time; and even its Registration Law was different. If they turned to the Colonies they would see that the Representative Institutions which we had set going were in no three cases exactly on the same lines. On the contrary, the principle on which this country had acted had been not any doctrinaire or new-fangled principle of similarity and simultaneity, but that they should give self- 595 government where, when, and how it was needed. Now they were told that local government would be given to Ireland when circumstances rendered it possible. He would like some responsible Member of the Government to explain what that meant. They heard irresponsible Members of the Tory Party telling the gloss which they put upon it, and their gloss amounted to this—that if Ireland would keep quiet she should have some measure of local government. Was there ever a more hand to mouth policy? If Ireland were unfit for self-government it was because of the ill and evil growth of centuries—it was because of the misfortunes and misgovernment she had suffered under, and these were circumstances which, if true, could not be remedied by a passing quietness. The root of the Irish agrarian difficulty was to be found, not in the agrarian question, but in the question of the government of the country. It had been well said that the Irish people were like patients who were being administered to by a physician at a distance, who was a stranger alike to their constitution and the nature of their disease. We in this country were trying in vain to make ourselves acquainted with the circumstances of a nation different from ourselves, whose newspapers we rarely read, and whose circumstances were only occasionally brought before us by the tedious and continuous knocking at our door by persons to whom we refused to listen. He wanted the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) to understand that the belief of the Radical Party was that the fundamental difficulty of Ireland was her government. Let those right hon. Gentlemen know clearly that the contention of the Radical Party was, that there should be a Parliament for Ireland and an Executive proceeding from that Parliament. No amount of consulting around a Round Table would ever change that view of the Radical Party, to which they were determined to adhere. For his own part, he was not prepared to accept a little reform here and a little tinkering there. He was afraid that there were a few hon. Members in that House who had voted with the right hon. Gentleman the Member 596 for Mid Lothian on his Bill, who were only sitting upon the rail, and who would be glad to salve their consciences by granting the Irish people a little reform. It was, therefore, most important that their leaders should fully understand that the Radical Party intended to obtain a Parliament and an Executive for Ireland. He had heard it said that it was time that they made haste to solve the Irish Question while the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian was still alive. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman might yet live to see the Irish Question solved upon his own lines; but, whether that was so or not, the cause of the self-government of Ireland, which was the embodiment of great Liberal principles to which they had adhered as a Party, would not die with the right hon. Gentleman, but would endure as long as those principles of justice on which their Party reposed.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM (Gloucester, Cirencester)
said, he did not think that the time of the House had been wasted in a debate which had brought so general and practical an agreement amongst all Parties and sections of the House with reference to two out of the three questions which had been the subject of debate on this occasion—namely, the questions of National Expenditure and Foreign Policy. With regard to the first he was glad to find that the old bugbear of efficiency had been sat upon, and that there was a general desire to cut down the National Expenditure and relieve the taxpayers. As regarded our Foreign Policy, the Jingo fever appeared to be at the very lowest ebb, and the principle of non-intervention had received general support from both sides of the House. He thought that the views which had been expressed with regard to our Foreign Policy would have a good effect, not only upon the Prime Minister, but upon foreign States, who would learn that we were not prepared to spend England's blood and treasure for the purpose of snatching the chestnuts out of the fire for the benefit of Germany and Austria. Upon the Irish Question there was, unhappily, great difference of opinion. He wished to say a word or two, from the point of view of a Liberal Unionist. He was one of those who had voted against the measure of the right hon. 597 Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. He had never regretted that vote, and, if a similar Bill were to be reintroduced, he should vote against it again. But, on the other hand, he was strongly opposed to coercion. He could not shut his eyes to facts, and to the general course of events and the general sentiment in the country; and he did not believe that any return to coercion would over be permitted by the electors of Great Britain until a fair and honest attempt had been made to allow Irishmen to manage their own local affairs under safe and proper conditions. The problem to be solved by every Liberal was, he thought, to be solved on the lines of conciliation and self-government. The old line of coercion would not do. On one point he wished to enter his protest. In the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), at Leeds, he spoke of the new gospel inaugurated by certain parties in Ireland, saying that, for the first time in the history of the civilized world, a Party had arisen that did not scruple to preach the doctrine of public plunder. Hon. Members below the Gangway—he wished to do them justice—had not given up one plank in their platform; they had consistently preached the same gospel from city to city, and from hill-side to hill-side. Their converts had been many. The hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had naturally accepted the new gospel readily and greedily. It was in consonance with his ideas upon religion generally—[Cries of "Oh, oh!"]—that was to say, upon the religion of politics. It had been also accepted, with some hesitancy, by other hon. Gentlemen, who found in it salvation. We all had heard of salvation by works and by faith; but salvation by plunder was the newest form of doctrine—he was using not his own words, but those of the Leader of the Opposition. He ventured to say that thousands of people in this country learnt with feelings of intense regret, that this doctrine had been excused by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, whose high standard of religion, virtue, and morality had ever been conspicuous. He (Mr. Winterbotham) could not apologize for, or excuse, the Plan of Campaign. He thought it illegal and immoral. But it was only 598 one exemplification of the new doctrines which had found favour with the loft wing of the Liberal Party. It was not new; the doctrine was preached by Mr. Henry George, and it taught that killing was no murder as applied to landlords, and that robbery was no robbery as applied to land. They had been told that no rent was an economic rent which was not actually obtained from the holding. To admit such a principle would be dangerous to those who like himself were interested in the question of allotments, and who wished to see thousands of agricultural labourers in England holding a one-acre allotment each. In a very few years the same gospel would be preached to them. If the doctrine were accepted, where was its application to stop? It was sapping the foundations of property, and destroying its legitimate rights. As a Radical he protested against it. It was a new gospel, and not the old Radicalism. No justification could be found for it in the speeches or writings of John Stuart Mill and Mr. Fawcett. The line of its application could not be drawn at any particular kind of ownership. The doctrine, if it should creep into recognition, would be applied to every kind of property. This new gospel showed itself in other ways. The other day at a Liberal meeting at St. James's Hall the National Anthem was hissed. As a Radical he protested against this as a new departure, and he protested against the conduct of others, who, holding similar views, had lately taken to going to church to hiss the Eighth Commandment. He was bound to say that he had heard no word during the debate which had been any sufficient apology to him for the evictions at Glenbeigh. It was quite fair to talk about the right of the landlord to evict tenants who did not pay, but he thought the evictions were carried out with a cruelty and heartlessness which deserved the reprobation of every honest man. Granting that the tenants had not paid rent for four or five years, it would not have caused any great hardship to the landlord to wait for the summer months before turning them out on the naked hill-side. It was our duty, now that there was a lull in the Home Rule controversies, to see if we could not come to some sort of agreement about these congested districts. There were 60,000 of these small holdings 599 in Ireland which yielded no economic rent, and these people were so devotedly attached to their holdings that they contemplated emigration with dismay. One priest told him that, of 80 families who had emigrated to Canada, 30 had dribbled back by degrees to exist on the hill-side because they liked the life. With circumstances such as those a question was presented which hon. Members on both sides of the House ought to take up. Neither Home Rule nor the Tenant Relief Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) would solve the difficulty which they presented. Nor could, nor ought it to be solved by the crowbar brigade and the flaming torch. He regretted that some hon. Members should say that the Land Question could not be settled until after the settlement of the government of Ireland question. To think thus was, he believed, an error. He did not understand how the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who must possess a secret which Maskelyne and Cooke might envy, was going to pay landlords the fair compensation which they ought to have under his scheme, if they were not to be paid in English Consols or gold, unless he imposed a heavier burden on the purchasing tenants. The question awaiting solution ought not to be approached from the point of view of Party; but he feared, nevertheless, that Ireland would continue to be made the shuttlecock of Parties, and that hon. Members would still be more concerned in fighting for the "outs" and "ins" than in striving to benefit the unfortunate Irish tenants. If they could but settle the Land Question, they would come to the consideration of the question of the government of Ireland with less prejudice in their minds, for they would approach it uninfluenced by the remembrance of outrages, differences between landlord and tenant, and inflammatory speeches. We had heard of a policy of the resolute government of Ireland for 20 years. We had heard suggestions of the turning of Irish Members out of the House, of the suppression of representative government in Ireland, and of government by a benevolent despotism. Nobody doubted that we were strong enough to govern Ireland in that way; but the difficulty was that our Government was based on the democratic vote, and the 600 democracy would not agree to such a policy. The democracy might come to agree to it some day; but it would not be until we had tried generously to let Ireland, under proper conditions, manage her own purely domestic affairs. So he dismissed that policy; as he did also that of the old Fenian Brotherhood, which was that of making Ireland a separate nation or a Republic. The Irish now said they did not want that; and if they were to demand it we should give the answer the North American States gave to the South—"You are too near us; our necessities and our safety will not allow it." Dismissing these two alternatives, there were between them two middle courses, both of which were experiments. The first was to give to Ireland a Parliament and an Executive practically independent of this Parliament. This was what the Unionists said the scheme of the late Government was. He had not forgotten that on the night of the Division on the Home Rule Bill the hon. Member for Cork said that the Irish Party were willing that the Irish Parliament should be strictly subordinate to the British Parliament. All that the Unionists said was that that was not in the Government Bill. They said—"You may try any experiment you like as regards Irish self-government, if you will only uphold this Parliament, representative of England, Scotland, and Ireland, as the supreme authority." Leave the supreme authority in the British Parliament, and he did not care how soon we gave a subordinate Parliament and Executive to Ireland. That was the other course; and such an alternative he believed would be accepted by moderate men, Conservatives as well as Liberals. We could not go on governing Ireland with a miserable policy of half coercion. It had been tried, and had failed. The present Government could not do more than the Liberal Government had done and Lord Spencer had done. If the Irish Members were put in gaol they would have 85 successors to-morrow. Therefore, he beseeched the Government not to embark on any policy based on the old lines of coercion. Was it impossible for them to come to some sort of agreement as to another experiment? He knew that some Liberals did not like the idea; but the election addresses of the Gladstonian Liberals showed that 601 nine out of 10 of them has said that what they were most anxious about was to maintain unweakened the supreme authority of the British Parliament. Yes! But what a pity they did not say it on the floor of the House of Commons. He did not believe that the issue had ever been plainly put as it was the other day before a Dublin audience by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who spoke to a resolution that nothing would satisfy Ireland but an Irish Parliament, free from any control by the Westminster Parliament. But that was not the view of the great bulk of the Liberal Party of England and Scotland. He emphasized this because he was anxious for peace, and he desired to get the question settled, and to see Irishmen hard at work on their own local affairs. What was the objection to preserving the control of the British Parliament? If the Irish Parliament attended to its own local concerns, and did justice to the minority, which Irish Members said they were anxious to do—and he believed them—why should the British Parliament want to re-discuss Irish questions in detail because it had final authority? He had faith in the practical common-sense of the House of Commons, and in that of his own countrymen, and he did not believe there would be any such tendency or practice. If the objection were founded on the belief that the Irish Parliament would pass laws which the British Parliament would not approve, then there could be no stronger argument against the creation of any Irish Parliament. If Ireland had an Executive without any force behind it, how could the Imperial forces be employed to enforce laws in the making of which the Imperial Parliament had no concern or voice? The right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister, in his article in The Nineteenth Century, argued straightforwardly that the veto of the Crown was sufficient; but that was not the veto of the British Parliament, which was not sitting half the year, and would hesitate to impeach a Ministry for having advised the Sovereign to assent to an Irish Bill. No sham, no subterfuge would do; but the question could be settled if the Irish people merely wanted the management of their own local affairs, and if they would acknowledge in the 602 words of an Act the supreme authority of the Imperial Parliament; and if Irish Members would continue to sit in this House of Commons on the same footing as English and Scotch Members. If the supreme control of this Parliament were maintained, he did not think there would be any difficulty about Ulster, because its people would know that they had the protection of this Parliament, which every citizen was entitled to. Such a settlement was necessary in the interests of England and Scotland, whose business had been too long neglected. To protest against reconciliation, and to talk of buying the Pound Table as did the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Illingworth), than whom no one on this question had been more lucid and bitter—that was not the way to approach this question. It was not difficult to understand the feelings of Gentlemen who wished to shoot off their officers so as to give a bettor chance of promotion to corporals and sergeants; but he was afraid there was a little of that feeling at the bottom of some of their speeches. He appealed to Statesmen on both sides of the House whether Irish questions had not been too long the battle-ground of Party, and whether they could not agree that what was inevitable should be done by the collective wisdom of that House. We could not go on in this country as we had done for the last few years. Was it not possible to appeal to the patriotism of Statesmen on all sides of the House to try to find a solution of this question in the giving of some measure of safe local self-government to Ireland? He had not lost faith in the Liberal Party nor in its greatest Leader; if he would only listen to moderate counsels, and turn his back on the advice of his corporals and sergeants, he might close his illustrious political life by settling this the greatest question of our time, and by reuniting the great Liberal Party, which must be the great instrument of progress in the future of this country.
§ MR. T. E. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
In the course of this debate a considerable number of speeches have been delivered in support of the policy of the Government. I have listened to them with great interest; but none of them excelled in interest the speech which we 603 have just heard from the hon. Member for the Cirencester Division of Gloucestershire (Mr. Winterbotham). The hon. Member is in favour of a Legislature and Executive for Ireland on an elective basis; and the only complaint he seems to make of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) is that he does not give the control of the military to the Executive. Another important point in the hon. Member's speech was that he emphatically asserted the rights of property, and also the right of the landlord to extort the last farthing of rent; but, rather incautiously, when he came to speak of the evictions at Glenbeigh, which was an application of his general principle, he protested against them as barbarous and disgraceful. In five-sixths of the speeches delivered there has been an emphatic assertion of the necessity for maintaining law and order in Ireland; and, although some of them have been lively, and some of them even gay, most of the Government's supporters appear to be hurt at the description given of the Liberal Unionists by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), when he spoke of them as the "crutch" by which the Tory Party is supported in Office. The hon. Member for the Southport Division of Lancashire (Mr. Curzon) tried rather ineffectually to take the edge off this sharp description of the Liberal Unionists by calling them a "staff." But when the hon. Member talked of a staff, did he forget what has been written of the staff of broken reed whereon if a man lean it shall go into his hand and pierce it? If ever the Tory candidate for St. George's, Hanover Square (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) should succeed in getting a seat in this House, the Tories will, in all probability, find out how the pieces of a broken reed can pierce the hands of those who are unfortunate enough to lean upon it. It is remarkable, to say the least, to observe the kind and degree of union which prevails among the Gentlemen who call themselves Liberal Unionists. It is not many days ago that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) threw over the noble Marquess the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington); and only last night we see how, speaking at Newcastle, the noble 604 Marquess has in turn thrown over the Chancellor of the Exchequer; while the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), with his usual and characteristic boldness, has thrown them all over together. It seems to me that the only momentary and artificial bond of union which keeps together these Gentlemen to whom I have been referring is the emphatic assertion of the necessity for maintaining law and order in Ireland. This insistance on the necessity of maintaining law and order means practically the passing of a series of Coercion Acts for Ireland; and I should like to point out that Coercion Acts in regard to that country have been due to a straining of the forbearance of the Irish people and the rejection of timely and moderate demands for reform. We are sometimes told that the Land Act of 1881 was a very drastic measure, and, in consequence, it has been denounced over and over again by hon. Members on the other side of the House. I should like to know how it was made a drastic measure. The drastic character of the Act is due to the fact that for many long years the House has refused to listen to the moderate demands of Irishmen like Sir Charles Gavan Duffy and Mr. Sharman Crawford. Last night an hon. Member opposite alluded to the fact that the present Irish Members are not continuing the policy of Sir Charles Gavan Duffy for uniting the North and South of Ireland. But what came of his moderate proposals when they were presented to the House of Commons? One after another were contemptuously rejected, until he broke his heart, gave up the work of Parliament in disgust, and emigrated to one of our Colonies. The Land Act of 1881 was passionately denounced by the very men who now cling tenaciously to its letter. They cling to its letter, utterly oblivious of the fact that during the last few years we have been passing through a vast economic revolution, which has well nigh crushed British agriculture, and which has almost placed many British farmers in the pitiable condition of the peasants of Glenbeigh. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington referred the other day to the generosity and magnanimous conduct of the landlord at Glenbeigh in foregoing several years' rent. But where was the 605 generosity of foregoing four or five years' rack-rent when economic rent itself was impossible? We in this country are beginning to understand the sufferings of the peasantry in Ireland; the crofters of Scotland and the small peasants of Wales are beginning to understand why it is that the Irish tenants are clamorous. We sometimes hear now that a Conspiracy Bill has been drafted, and may, before long, be introduced into this House, applicable not only to Ireland, but to England and Wales. Why is it that there is any likelihood of a Conspiracy Bill? It is for this reason: That this House refuses to listen to the grievances, not only of those who suffer in Ireland, but also of those who suffer in Scotland and in Wales. We find that there are not only evictions in Ireland, but in Scotland as well. Scotch crofters have not only been evicted from their houses, but sent to prison. Considerable light has been thrown upon the condition of the crofters of Scotland by the Crofter Land Commission. That Commission has been instrumental in bringing about a large reduction of rents—in one estate of 52 per cent, and in another of 37½ per cent. And these reductions have been made, not on the rent of 10 or 20 years ago, but on reduced rents. For instance, one crofter formerly paid £16 a year as rent. It was reduced to £10 10 years ago, and it has been reduced, under the Commission, to £6. This is a sample of the reductions which have been made in the rents of the crofter holdings. It is not a matter of wonder, therefore, that the official conscience should have been touched, and that the crofters who had been sent to prison should have been liberated. We find that in Wales the same economic revolution has worked havoc. It is interesting to find that in the Queen's Speech we are promised a Bill for altering the mode of levying tithes in England and Wales. Some hon. Members—and especially those on the other side of the House—attribute the disaffection in Wales in regard to tithes either to Nonconformist ministers or political agitators, but in reality it is due to the first pinch of suffering and hunger in Wales. I should like, with the indulgence of the House, to call attention to the tithe agitation in Wales, not merely because it is an 606 agitation against an alien Church, but because it is the beginning of a serious agrarian question. It is unfortunate that in Wales, as in Ireland, the landlords are almost all English speaking Tory Churchmen; while the tillers of the soil are almost without exception Welsh speaking Liberal Nonconformists. This estrangement in language, politics, and religion has brought about rather startling results, and has worked great injustice to the tenants in Wales in one respect—in a heavy increase of rent in prosperous years, and a very slight decrease of rent in ruinous years. In Ireland, from the year 1840 to 1880 the rents were raised 23 per cent; but in Wales, where the land is poorer, the rents, during the same period, were raised 34 per cent. And what about the decrease in rents now that Wales and England are suffering from agricultural depression? In England the landlords have made vast reductions. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has reduced his rents by 40 per cent, and other landlords have reduced theirs by 50 and even 60 per cent. I find that the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, who are supposed to know everything about agriculture and agricultural prices, have reduced the rents of 75 farms from £41,480 to £30,000 a year. I heard only the other day that one Yorkshire landlord has remitted the whole of the last half year's rent. But what is the case in Wales? One landlord in Cardiganshire has reduced his rent by 50 per cent, and he is looked upon as a perfect marvel. A few other landlords have reduced their rents 25 per cent, but the vast majority, in spite of the representations of the farmers, have only made reductions amounting to 10 per cent. This is the way in which the Welsh landlords generally treat the farmers. A year and a-half ago one landlord was generous enough to give his tenants 5 per cent in lime. Before the next rent day he was asked for a further reduction, and he was so kind as to give 10 per cent to those who had not asked for a reduction, while he refused more than 5 per cent to those who had been bold enough to apply to him for relief. In short the farmers and peasants of Wales who till very poor land have a very hard lot. The Duke of Richmond's Commission reported that these men live a very much harder and 607 more thrifty life than the English agricultural labourers. The tillers of the soil in Wales have been hard hit by oppressive rents and the estrangement which has existed between tenant and landlord, and they have been hard hit as well by the land hunger, which seems to be one of the characteristics of all Celtic people. Up to three or four years ago they were able to do fairly well. Of course, they lived a very hard life; but during the last four or five years their small black cattle by which they lived have fallen in price from 50 to 60 per cent, so that those men have in reality been paying rent out of capital. In Wales the justice of the landlord is not tempered with mercy as it is in England, and those men who do not pay their rent to the very day are often evicted from the soil which has been tilled by themselves and their forefathers. The Chief Secretary said the other night that the Irish tenants are protected by a triple wall of protection. He did not say what the three walls were; but hon. Members from Ireland must confess that there are three walls. One is the Land Court which is set up by the Land Act of 1881; the second is the Land League with its Plan of Campaign; and, whatever hon. Members opposite may say as to the National League, that organization draws its strength and power from the suffering of the people and from the unflinching determination of the leaders of the people that this suffering shall not last. But there is a third wall quite as effective as either of the others, and that is that the Chief Secretary for Ireland has, upon his own confession, spent the winter in Ireland as a preacher of mercy to the Irish landlords. I venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House and the present Cabinet, if they cannot afford to send the noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord John Manners), who is supposed to represent agriculture, as a preacher of mercy to the landlords of Wales? We are asked to humbly thank Her Majesty for informing us that a Bill for altering the mode of levying tithes in England and Wales will be submittted to us, but speaking as I do for the Nonconformist farmers of Wales it would be sheer hypocrisy for me to thank Her Majesty for bringing in such a measure, the only effect of which would be to make the 608 landlords of Wales tithe publicans. To hand the tithes over to the landlords would only occasion a battle against the landlords, and hasten a bitter land struggle in the Principality of Wales. I wish, also, to call attention to an omission in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne. We are told that with regard to Scotland we shall be asked to consider measures for the reform of the Universities; but there is not a single word in the Speech in regard to the glaring defects in the education of Wales. In the year 1881 Earl Spencer appointed a Departmental Committee to inquire into the question of education in Wales, and the noble Earl said then that it had been represented to Her Majesty's Government that the very best of existing educational institutions in Wales of a class above elementary schools were not only insufficient in number but inconveniently situated, and, in some cases, so fettered by denominational restrictions as to be quite inadequate to meet the wants of the people. This has been fully and abundantly confirmed by the Report of the Committee. We are told, on the authority of the right hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), that Wales has been making remarkable strides since the Education Act of 1870, for, whereas in 1870 only 674 schools existed, there are now 1,422. In 1870 only 77,000 pupils were receiving education, but now the number has increased to 188,000. In 1870 the grant earned by each child was 9s. 10d; the grant at the present moment is 17s. 2d, which is higher than the grant earned in any other part of the United Kingdom. Since 1870 the Welsh people, chiefly the working classes, have contributed nearly £120,000, in order to endow three University Colleges, and the Government every year gives a grant of £12,000 to help in the work. Those three Colleges have to do the work of intermediate schools, and education in the whole Principality is thoroughly-crippled. Now, no reference whatever has been made to this in the Address. The late Earl of Iddesleigh, on the occasion of a public visit to Wales, admitted the urgency of the question; and Lord Salisbury, as well as other Gentlemen now on the Treasury Bench, when in Opposition promised to give attention to the matter. The neglect of intermediate education and of religious 609 equality in Wales will, I am afraid, in a few years make the question a difficult one for the House of Commons. I should imagine that the consequences of neglecting Ireland would have boon sufficient for the House of Commons, because the neglect of the affairs of that country has weakened the power of England at home and abroad. Foreign statesmen read your difficulties in Ireland between the lines of every despatch sent from your Foreign or Colonial Office; and they laugh at your fine phrases about the integrity of the Empire, when that integrity only means a blind adhesion of legislative juggle which, 87 years ago, robbed Ireland of its Parliament and of its prosperity. Your failure to settle the Irish Question, arising as it does from a refusal to listen to the Representatives of the Irish people, causes terrible neglect of most urgent legislation for Wales, Scotland, and England. This persistent neglect is wearying the people, and is bringing discredit not only upon successive Ministries, but upon your whole legislative machinery and, not least, upon this honourable House.
§ MR. JOICEY (Durham, Chester-le-Street)
Although I am afraid that the debate is becoming somewhat wearisome, I feel bound to say a few words; but what I desire to say will only occupy a very short time, and I do not think hon. Members will find fault with me for detaining them. I was much struck with the speech delivered the other evening by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) in explanation of his resignation, and also with his subsequent speech in the course of the debate; but I was disappointed at the character of his remarks, and at not obtaining more information from the noble Lord. The noble Lord stated that the ground which induced him to resign Office was the want of economy on the part of the present Government; but I think he ought to have given us much more information than he did on that subject. It is scarcely to be credited that the noble Lord's sole or main reason for resigning was the refusal of his Colleagues to cut down the Estimates by £6,000,000 or £500,000. I am sure of this—that had that been the real reason, he would have accepted the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Trea- 610 sury to point out any blot in the Estimates or any special extravagance that might be got rid of. As the noble Lord did not avail himself of that opportunity, I feel almost certain that the real reason of his resignation had more connection with the foreign policy of the Government than the want of economy. I am glad, however, to see—at all events, that is my opinion—that the resignation of the noble Lord has had some practical effect on the policy of the Government. I can see clearly that their policy is not exactly what it was when the noble Lord resigned; and I am certain of this—that although the noble Lord is no longer on the Treasury Bench, his influence will continue to have considerable weight with Her Majesty's Ministers, and that he will, to some extent, still continue to regulate their legislation in connection with home and foreign policy. The noble Lord gave us a quotation from a speech delivered by the Earl of Beaconsfield, in which that noble Lord told us that expenditure is very greatly affected by policy. I would add to that that there is a considerable amount of expenditure that is not affected by policy. There is a great expenditure of a permanent nature, and I hope the noble Lord will, be able to point out to us some way in which that permanent expenditure can be decreased. As a new Member, I have been greatly struck by the easy way in which millions of money seem to be voted by this House, almost without question, and absolutely without information being given to hon. Members. As a private Member, I must say that it is quite impossible for the House to have any control whatever over the expenditure of the money. I believe that the proposal which has been made by the noble Lord for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into these matters is an excellent one, and would have a good effect; but the usefulness of the Committee would depend, in a great measure, upon the powers given to it. I am not going to enter into any details in regard to the expenditure of the Army; but I think there are one or two things which I am in a position to point out with regard to the Navy. During the last few years a serious depression has existed in this country and in other parts of the world. That depression, possibly, many of us have looked upon as an evil; and so it is, but not an 611 unmixed evil. When manufacturers have low prices to contend with, they are compelled to take into consideration questions affecting the economy of production. They are compelled to inquire whether, by the application of new machinery or otherwise, they can reduce the cost of production; but that feeling, I regret to see, does not appear to affect the Navy to any appreciable extent. We find that whether there is depression or not, or whether the cost of production is high or low, the expenditure in connection with Her Majesty's Navy goes on increasing year by year. There is another matter to which I ought to call attention in regard to the Manufacturing Department of the Navy, and that is the want of competition. In all private shipbuilding yards, we find that prices and the cost of production are materially regulated by the competition of outside firms. There is a keen competition between all shipbuilding firms, and the result is that ships of every description are being constructed at the lowest possible price. We do not see anything of a corresponding kind in the Navy, and I cannot understand why some system is not adopted which should give to the country the benefit of competition. It is a common thing for the Government to decide upon the construction of three or four ships upon exactly the same designs, and upon the same lines; but the practice is to construct them in some Dockyard where it is impossible to test the expense of constructing one vessel with the cost of constructing another. I am of opinion that when the Government decide upon building three or four vessels of the same type, they should construct them in different Dockyards, by which means they would be able to find out which Dockyard works in the most economical manner. In future, when Her Majesty's Government have decided upon building three or four ships on the same lines, I think it would be a good plan to put out two or three of them to open competition among private contractors, and to construct one only in a Government Dockyard. They would then be able to compare the cost of the ships built by private contract with the cost of constructing a similar vessel in the Dockyards; and I think it would afford a good test as to whether they are getting the full value for their money or not. I feel 612 quite satisfied that it would be to the interests of the taxpayers of the country if the Admiralty would take into serious consideration whether in future it is not advisable to take tenders for the construction of all new ships that are required for Her Majesty's Navy, and to; use the Dockyards for repairs only. Whore there is new work, it ought not to be a difficult thing to arrive at the cost of that new work; and I am quite sure that an invitation to the private Shipbuilding Companies to give tenders to Her Majesty's Government, would have the effect of cutting down the expenditure to the lowest possible point, because there would be keen competition among the different private firms in order to secure the Government custom. The advantage of appointing the Committee suggested by the noble Lord would be that it would enable the Lords of the Admiralty to satisfy the country that they are really getting efficiency for the expenditure they incur. There is another point which I think it highly probable has never been considered at all, and that is the position of the Dockyards themselves. We find that in all trades which are subjected to competition there is invariably a tendency for a particular manufactory to find its way into the district where it can be carried on most satisfactorily. I remember the time when there were a number of shipbuilding yards on the Thames, and also in other Southern ports of England. But those shipbuilding yards, owing to the competition of the North of England and of Scotland, where shipbuilding can be carried on more economically, have been obliged to close. I am satisfied that if Her Majesty's Government had carefully studied the question of competition, the shipbuilding yards would long, ere this, have been removed to some Northern District where the work can be more economically carried out. I trust that the Government will take that question into consideration. In the interests of economy, I hope that no further amount of money will be sunk in the existing Dockyards; but that the Government will seriously consider the desirability of removing the Dockyards to more suitable positions, by means of which they would save a large portion of the cost of carriage, which they have at the present moment to incur. I am 613 satisfied that if the Government take this matter into consideration, the country will not be disappointed with the result. I do not propose to detain the House longer upon this matter, but I should like, before I resume my seat, to say a few words with respect to the question which at this moment is principally occupying our minds—I mean the condition of Ireland. There have been a good many hard words used in the course of this debate, and those hard words have not been confined to any particular part of the House. They have proceeded from the Treasury Bench, from these Benches, and from the Irish Benches; but I scarcely think that their use is the best means of assisting us in arriving at a solution of the existing difficulty. Last night I see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) made use of words which certainly very much surprised me. He is reported in The Times—alluding to the principles enunciated by his opponents, and by the main body of Members on this side of the House—to have expressed a hope that traitorous principles would not be in the ascendancy. If those words had come from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), before he was promoted to the Treasury Bench, I should not have been surprised; but what are we to think of such sentiments from the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, occupying so important a position in Her Majesty's Government. My own opinion is that the use of such language would be disgraceful on the part of any person in this House, but more especially on the part of one who occupies so important a position in the Ministry. We have also heard very strong language from the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson). I confess that I was surprised at the contemptuous manner in which he spoke of the late Prime Minister. I felt that, as I am a Gladstonian, I suffered, to some extent, from the language of the hon. and gallant Member. One of the things he said was that the late Prime Minister had changed his mind. Now, I do not look upon it exactly in that light. The right hon. Gentleman has not so much changed his mind as that he has changed his policy. He has, for the last; 30 years, been most anxious, and, perhaps more anxious than any hon. 614 Gentleman sitting on the other side of the House, to bring peace and prosperity, and contentment, to Ireland. He has adopted various policies in order to effect that object, and he has brought in various measures, such as the Land Act of 1870, and of 1881, and the measure for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church. But, notwithstanding all the efforts which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman in this House, we are bound to admit that no satisfactory result has yet been arrived at. I think it is the duty of a statesman who has a particular work to do, when he finds that one method has failed, to try another. The right hon. Gentleman has now adopted the principle of Home Rule, by means of which he proposes to give to Ireland a Legislative Body sitting in Dublin for the purpose of dealing with Irish affairs. The right hon. Gentleman has adopted that principle, believing it to be the only solution of the Irish difficulty; and I am sure that his efforts to secure the passing of such a measure will meet with the support not only of Gladstonian candidates, but with the support of the great bulk of the people of this country. There have been many things said of the acts of Gladstonian candidates in connection with their support of this Home Rule measure; but I can scarcely understand what course the hon. Member for the Stroud Division of Gloucestershire (Mr. Winterbotham) proposes to take. He seems to approve of the measure of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). He thinks that it would be right to constitute a Legislative Body in Dublin, to deal with Irish affairs; and the only point on which he hesitates is, that he thinks the plan of the right hon. Gentleman fails to secure the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Now, that is entirely a question of opinion. We have had views expressed on that subject by some of the lawyers in this House; and I think that the majority of them—certainly the most weighty of them—have given a decision in favour of the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman has again and again challenged any Member to produce any other scheme that will effect that object—namely, the object of giving a Legislative Body to Ireland capable of dealing with Irish affairs; and at the same time maintain- 615 ing the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, which will meet with the support of the Irish Representatives. So far, no such scheme has boon suggested. I have read the speeches of right hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, and of Liberal Unionists sitting on this side; but I fail to gather from any of them a plan which will carry out what we believe to be the only solution of the difficulty in a better way than the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. Until such a plan is proposed, I, for one, am prepared to support the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman in preference to any other. Hon. Gentlemen sitting on the opposite side of the House are of opinion that the best way to solve the difficulty is to give to the Irish people a measure of self-government similar to that which is suitable for local self-government in this country—a sort of County Government. Now, I cannot see the slightest use in producing such a scheme, when we know that it will not meet with the approval of the Irish people, and the support of the majority of their Representatives in this House. I fail to understand what advantage there could be in giving local government of that kind, which would simply place more power in the hands of the Irish Representatives, which power they would certainly not fail to use in support of their further demands. There have been grave doubts in the minds of many Liberals on this side of the House as to the policy of the Plan of Campaign; and I question whether the Plan of Campaign has met with the approval of many Members of this House, or many of the people of England, who are giving that cordial and hearty support to the efforts of the Irish Members to secure some measure of Home Rule. At the same time, I quite agree that, as the Plan of Campaign is put more clearly before the country, many of the doubts which have existed with regard to it are disappearing. I cannot see that there is any very serious difference between the Plan of Campaign and the plan which was proposed by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) last Session. The proposal of the hon. Member was that in cases where the tenants were unable to pay the rent, they should deposit 50 per cent of the amount due in the hands of some authority who should lawfully take charge of it until the tenants had 616 an opportunity of treating with their landlords, or of bringing their case before a legal tribunal who would decide what was the amount of rent they ought to pay. I cannot but think that the House was ill-advised in refusing to accept that proposal. If it had been accepted much of the evil which has since occurred would have been avoided. So far as the Plan of Campaign is concerned, I simply see in it the same measure which was supported by a large number of Members on this side of the House last year, with this difference—that the plan proposed by the hon. Member for the City of Cork would have had the sanction of Parliament; whereas the Plan of Campaign is the same measure without the sanction of Parliament. I cannot see, that apart from that distinction there is any greater amount of immorality in the one plan than in the other. I know that many Gentlemen say that because no agreement has been arrived at between the tenants and the landlords, it would be wrong to interfere and prevent any tenant from carrying out his legal obligation. But it does not always follow that because an agreement has been made, that that agreement is a moral and a just one. I think that if hon. Members who heard the speech of the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. James Stuart) to-night, would think over the subject of that speech they would come to the conclusion that the tenants, in a great measure, are justified in the course they have adopted. Our own Courts are in the habit of setting aside agreements which have been entered into upon an unfair basis. Take the question of salvage. A ship is in difficulties, and gets another ship to come to her assistance. Before that vessel goes to her succour or attempts to take hold of the disabled ship, the crew asks for an agreement. An agreement is made; but hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who are acquainted with law are aware that in many instances when such an agreement has been brought before the Courts it has been sot aside, and the amount fixed upon for salvage has been altered, notwithstanding the fact that an agreement had been entered into practically by both parties before the work was done. I was very much struck with some of the remarks which were made this evening by an hon. Member close 617 to me who recently addressed the House. Very few Members who have supported the Irish Party have advocated a policy of plunder, and the hon. Member to whom I refer remarked that, although he had heard of salvation by faith, he had never heard of salvation by plunder. I maintain, however, that the salvation we advocate is salvation by faith, and not salvation by plunder. In discussing the Irish Question, it is necessary to come down to this main point, which is the central pivot upon which everything else turns—namely, whether you can trust the Irish people or whether you cannot trust them. I am one of those who believe that in establishing a Parliament in Dublin we should not hand over that country to unscrupulous persons in Ireland, but that we should hand it over to the Irish people; and I challenge any man to say that the Irish people, as a body, are more unscrupulous than most men. I am afraid you may find a few unscrupulous people everywhere; but if you were to create a Representative Government in Ireland, I am satisfied that you would find men of honour—men who believe in the rights of property and in law, who would come to the front, and those are the men on whom you would have to rely. I am satisfied that, in supporting the Irish policy of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), we have been pursuing the right course. I believe the time will not be long in coming when many hon. Members, who have opposed that policy most strongly in this House and in the country, will rejoice at such a measure being carried, and will become strong and useful Members of the new Legislature to be established in Ireland.
§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
I feel bound to express my surprise and indignation at not having heard from some right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench that Her Majesty's Ministers have been able to see their way to some interference which would have the effect of protecting the tenants of Glenbeigh from the shocking atrocities—for I can call them by no other name—which have been, and are being, perpetrated there. If the law did not apply, why did not the Government ask for an Order in Council in order to put a stop to these atrocities which have been taking place in the South, of Ireland 618 during the last month? It has been my lot to live, for many months, in the South of Ireland among some of the very poorest of the agricultural tenants in the county of Cork, who are similarly situated to those of the county of Kerry. I have seen in that county, women and young girls struggling with the ocean for the means of subsistence. I have watched them going down to the sea at low water in order to gather seaweed to make bedding for their cattle, to manure their land to provide food for themselves, and to enable them to secure the means of paying their rent. I have seen them carrying up the sand from the sea, in order to manure the land upon a farm scarcely the size of the floor of this House. The fences were built of the stones gathered from the land, and no one who has not been there can appreciate the difficulty they experience in raising the small stock of potatoes which are necessary to their existence. Let me contrast with this my experience as an English landed proprietor. Twenty-five years ago I had two farms adjacent to each other. Both were worth 7s. an acre. I spent something like £30 or £40 per acre upon one, and raised its value to £3 10s. an acre. The other remained on the tenant's hands, and never advanced in value, nor could it have done, unless the farmer had taken the place of the landlord. Then I maintain that those tenants who effect the improvements are entitled to six-tenths of the whole value of the land. I was surprised at the attitude which Her Majesty's Government took up last Session in regard to the Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). Having told us that exceptional circumstances would prevent the tenants from paying the rent, and having issued a Royal Commission to inquire and report upon the subject, they found themselves unable to assent to a Bill the object of which was simply to stay evictions until that Report was received. What has been the consequence? Why, that tenants who morally owned nine-tenths of the farms they tilled have been evicted, and left to starve by inches on the road-sides. I would ask hon. and right hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite, who have travelled abroad, to say how such a state of things would be regarded in Russia, Poland, or in any other part of the civilized world. Her 619 Majesty's Government, who are in Office, but not in power, appear to be conniving at atrocities which were supposed to have become extinct, at least 200 years ago.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
Like other Members on this side of the House, I supported last Session the Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) in the belief that it would have met the exigencies of the coming winter. That measure unfortunately was rejected by a majority in this House, and the tenants of Ireland were left face to face with the great and serious difficulty of an agrarian crisis. We endeavoured to show the House that the prices of agricultural produce had fallen in an enormous degree, and we pointed out that that was the reason why the rents that were fixed between 1880 and 1884 had become impossible rents now, but hon. Members scouted that Bill out of the House. On our part, we were most anxious that the House should accept it because, we believed that it would enable the landlords to receive, at any rate, some portion of their rents. When the Bill was rejected, the tenants found themselves face to face with a serious crisis. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland was one of the first to recognize that fact. He went over to Ireland, and having stated that there were no grounds for the Bill of my hon. Friend, one of his first acts was to bring pressure to bear upon the landlords in order to induce them to accede to the demand for reduced rents. Unfortunately for the country, he had not the courage of his convictions. He endeavoured to put forward a Plan of Campaign of his own, and he left the tenants face to face with panic. Now I ask what was the duty of the Irish Representatives under those harrowing circumstances? Were they to allow the scenes of 1848 and 1849 to be re-enacted? Were they to allow famine to stalk through the country, or was it not their imperative duty to stand between the people and the famine that was then threatened? We have it on all sides that this Plan of Campaign, which the Irish Members find it necessary to promulgate, does not mean the non-payment of rent. Hon. Members are labouring under a great mistake who entertain that view, because the fundamental principle of the Plan of Campaign is that a 620 fair rent must be paid by the tenants. In every instance we pressed upon the peasantry the necessity of making a moderate demand; and, having made that moderate demand, we impressed upon them the necessity of sticking to it. The tenants, as a rule, have adopted that advice, and by the moderation of the figures they have demanded, they have gained on their side the conscience not only of their own countrymen, but of every thinking Englishman, Welshman, and Scotchman. No doubt in some cases, there might be men who would take advantage of the situation to levy black-mail, but in the majority of cases the demand put forward by the tenants was moderate in the extreme. They have simply invited harsh and cruel landlords to consent to moderate terms. They have desired to bring such landlords as the Marquess of Clanricarde and Lord Dillon to reasonable terms, such as those which the Duke of Devonshire, of his own accord, has granted. No doubt we did endeavour to bring harsh landlords to their knees, and to make them submit to the reasonable arrangement we offered to make. I maintain that there is no greater justification for the Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork than the conduct of the Government in endeavouring to force landlords to do that by pressure which they were not prepared to do by the enactment of this House. We are accused of being parties to political agitation in Ireland; but I would ask those Gentlemen who make this charge against us, what reform has ever been granted to Ireland, except by agitation, either within the last 20 years or long before that? Let me go back many years ago, and call attention to some of the bribes that were offered to the Representatives of the Irish Parliament in order to bring about the Union—bribes which were never realized until the country was on the eve of a revolution. Let me refer to a period of agitation in my own county, which was instrumental in bringing about one of the reforms which were promised prior to the Union. Hon. Gentlemen who have read the history of Catholic Emancipation will be aware that although that concession was promised to us, it was never made until the Duke of Wellington declared, on hearing that the Beresfords were defeated 621 in the County Waterford, that Catholic Emancipation should be granted, or England should be prepared to meet civil war in Ireland. You have taught us the worst of all lessons; you have taught us that you will refuse our just demands, but that you will give in to an imperative agitation. It is, no doubt, an unfortunate lesson to teach; but having taught it to us, I do not think the Irish people would deserve to be treated as slaves and serfs, if, having been taught that lesson, they refused to act accordingly. We acknowledge that the carrying out of this Plan of Campaign has caused many landlords to suffer to a certain extent, and that at the first glance it appears to act unfairly towards them. It is quite clear that what would be a reasonable reduction on one farm upon a particular estate, would not be a reasonable reduction upon another farm on the same estate. But we sought to pass a measure which would have adopted, to some extent, the principle of a sliding-scale, and would have enabled a different course to be pursued in regard to different farms. You rejected our suggestion, and then it became our duty to ask for a uniform reduction, which, no doubt, might inflict some hardships upon some landlords. But leaving out of the question the measure which the House rejected last autumn, let me point out that in the unfortunate circumstances of Ireland, a few months before the Irish people and their Representatives proposed to make largo sacrifices for the sake of peace, they were prepared to give a very large sum to the landlords for their estates. There, again, you rejected our terms; and if to-day the position of the landlords is one of extreme difficulty, they have themselves, and themselves alone, to thank for what has followed. According to the arguments we have heard from the opposite side of the House upon that measure, and many others, it appears to me that the principal argument relied upon by our opponents against listening to the voices of the Irish Representatives is that the Representatives are now, to a great extent, of a different class from the Irish Representatives who have heretofore been Members of this House. I think that hon. Members who will, apart from Party feeling, judge the case dispassionately, will see that the Irish people 622 only did their duty in selecting from themselves those who are to represent them in this House. The landlords long enjoyed the representation of Ireland in this House. What did they do for the people? They simply used their position for their own advancement. They did nothing for the country; but they sat here quietly voting for coercion. Surely English, Scotch, and Welsh landlords who act dispassionately, looking upon this agrarian question, and study it calmly, will acknowledge that the Irish people were compelled to have recourse to drastic remedies. Again and again we returned Irish landlords to represent us in this House; and those landlords, so far from using their position for the advantage of Ireland, used it for their own advancement. The Irish people were, to a large extent, a Conservative people. But they tried that system long enough; and they have now had recourse to another plan, and they have done so because those in whom they trusted formerly, and who by birth should be at their head, have neglected to take up that position; but, on the contrary, have sold their constituents, and sold their country. Their exclusion now from political life in Ireland is due alone to the wretchedly small spirit which they have displayed. I think the words which fell from the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. James Stuart) will have a re-assuring effect upon us Irishmen, and upon the Irish people. He stated, in no uncertain words, that the Party, of which he is a brilliant Member, are prepared to forego none of the demands which they put forward here last Session; that they are prepared to be guided by no Round Table Conference; that they have made their stand, and, like men, they intend to abide by that stand. We, the Irish Representatives, are glad to hear those words, and we re-echo them. I know that they are re-echoed by the people of Ireland, and by their friends beyond the seas. No Local Government Bill which the Government can prepare will meet the Irish Question. I can assure hon. Members that it is an entire mistake to suppose that a mere Vestry Board will meet the Irish demands; we might accept it; but we should simply accept it as the platform from which to demand greater concessions. We should accept your Local Government Bill as a lever 623 with which we could work for an Irish National Parliament; and we should accept ultimately nothing but a measure drawn upon the lines of that which was introduced last year by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). The Irish National demand is one which unites Irish people the wide world over. The people of Ireland are united with their fellow-countrymen they have never seen; and those who speak of Chicago Conventions, and hurl the "Almighty dollar" at the Irish Representatives, will do well to consider that those who were formerly the bitter enemies of England have, by one touch of sympathy on the part of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, been changed into the firmest of friends. I think that those who advise further coercion—which no doubt the ambiguous words in the Queen's Speech mean—will do well to remember what coercion has done in the past. It has simply embittered the feelings between this country and Ireland. We have tried it long enough. Is it not time to try the other rôle of conciliation? I do not think we could have a better specimen of the advantage of that rôle of conciliation than the change of feeling which has taken place in Ireland towards England in the last few months. Those who are conversant with Irish political life could have hardly imagined how a few words of sympathy and kindness, instead of the bitter taunts we have been accustomed to, could have wrought so marvellous a change. The words of comfort and encouragement expressed towards us by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian have had a powerful effect. We believe that the solution of this great question lies in your hands; that if you adopt a wise and conciliatory attitude towards us, you will reap your own reward; and that the people whom you have, by your bitter persecution, made your enemies, will in the better state of feeling become fast and lasting friends. The Irish National League has been accused by various Members of inciting to crime and outrage; and that charge has also been made against the Plan of Campaign which the Irish Parliamentary party have forwarded. I think that those who make this charge should look unto the statistics, and there they will find that in districts where the Plan of Campaign has been adopted, 624 excesses on the part of the tenantry have boon few and far between; and, what is most important, that excesses on the part of the landlords have also boon few and far between. But in the districts in which there has been disorder it will be found that the Plan of Campaign has not been adopted. In Connaught, where the Plan of Campaign has been adopted, the excesses on the part of the tenants have been nil, and the same remark applies to excesses on the part of the landlords. The Irish National League has, in point of fact, during its existence, been a curb upon popular feeling. Hon. Gentlemen who take their information from the English papers may doubt the accuracy of that statement; but those who have been connected with the working of the League know that its branches, scattered throughout the country, have done everything in their power to decrease crime, and bring about a proper settlement between landlord and tenant. Let me give an instance which occurred in my own district. We all know that land-grabbing has been largely the cause of crime in Ireland, and we have been told that the National League are perfectly indifferent whether crime is committed or not. Now, in the district to which I refer we investigated five cases of land-grabbing, and in one instance we decided that it was a case of land-grabbing, so that the tenant had to give up the land he had grabbed and the lease he had entered into. But with regard to the other cases, we decided that they were not cases of land-grabbing, and the tenants were allowed to remain in the peaceful occupation of the property. Now, if these cases had not been investigated a great deal of crime would have arisen; but the National League were able to exercise the vocation of peacemakers between the tenants and the landlords. It is very easy to bring forward accusations against political organizations and hon. Gentlemen in this House; but hon. Gentlemen have no information about Ireland themselves, and they are entirely deceived and misled by the information which they derive from the London newspapers. I shall not trouble the House with any further remarks except to say that those who rely on the polluted sources of the London Press, and make these serious charges against Irish Nationalists and 625 the Organization of which, they are members, should see that they are accurately informed. I think it is proved that we in Ireland laid before you a measure which, if it had been passed, would have enabled you to get over your difficulty. You rejected that measure; the people of Ireland were left to their own resources; and I think they would have been to blame if they had not taken steps for their self-preservation. They have clone so, and I am happy to say those steps have been effective in Ireland, and that the Plan of Campaign has kept in their homes many families who but for it would have boon on the roadside.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
During the time I have sat in this House it has been my privilege to hear three Addresses emanating from Tory sources. The first Address showed that the Government were at the time forging fetters for Ireland, which fetters, I am glad to say, were broken by a right hon. Gentleman whose name is associated with the ever-memorable cow, and who may be said to have tossed the then Government over his shoulders. The second Address was merely an apologia, and it was chiefly conspicuous by its want of conception and its vacuity of purpose. We all recollect the Address which this Government brought in last autumn on their coming into power; which showed that, as is usual with Tory Administrations, they only wanted to spin out the time. Tory Administrations have always been associated in the minds of the Irish people with a well-known personage who figures as one of the characters of Dickens—Mr. Micawber. They are always waiting for something to turn up, and failing that they fall back upon their usual policy of coercion. It is satisfactory to hear from one hon. Member to-night that the "crutch and tooth-pick" Party are not going to bring in coercion for Ireland; and I recommend that announcement to the serious consideration and attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite, because we know that if they are lame and halt they cannot get on without the crutch; and because it is certain that they cannot stand if they intend to take up the position shadowed out in Her Majesty's Speech. The third Address resembles one of those fogs common in the Metropolis in November; it is hard to pierce, 626 but when one gets through he finds that there is actually nothing in it. This Address commences with the statement that "my relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly." I will ask the House if that is true, and particularly I ask those right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench if it is true with regard to America? During the last fortnight we have heard and road many facts connected with the administration of affairs in America and in Canada, as well as in this country; which show that there is at the present time existing a state of great and abnormal tension between this country and America. I have in my hand some extracts relating to this subject. It appears that at Washington on the 24th of January, the Senate discussed a Bill authorizing the President to protect and defend the rights of American fishing vessels and fishermen, and the trading of other vessels in certain cases; which Bill, after debate, was agreed to by 46 votes to 1. This debate was characterized by such language as we seldom hear in this House; but what was the character of the remarks made? Were they friendly to this country? No, sir; they were of a directly opposite character. Mr. Frye (Maine) pointed out that the object of the rôle played by Canada was to obtain reciprocal Treaties, and expressed the opinion that the operation of the Bill would end the troubles for the United States and Canada. He accused Canada of committing outrages and inhumanities which would disgrace the Fiji Islanders; and declared that the purpose of the proposed legislation was to notify to Great Britain that if she continued in her present course, it would be at her own peril. He declared that Great Britain knew the utter inhumanity of its action in the recent fishery cases, and referred to England's approval of the recent Canadian Statute, which he said destroyed the hope that she would do what was fair and just. Mr. Frye particularized the outrages against American vessels, and cited the case of a vessel of that nationality which conveyed to a Canadian port 17 shipwrecked Canadian sailors, and was refused the right to purchase a barrel of flour to avert the starvation of the crew. I commend that to the consideration of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have heard a great deal 627 about "boycotting" in Ireland, but here is a case of boycotting with a vengeance; and we know that those who were boycotted were Protestants and were dependent upon their fellow-men in the part of the world where it took place. This is a case of boycotting in the extreme, and how can Her Majesty's Government avoid rising in their places and condemn it? ["Oh, oh!"] We know that right hon. Gentlemen opposite like to jeer occasionally; but the salient point of this is that we should apologize for what has taken place, and take care to prevent its recurrence. Then Mr. Ingalls, of Kansas, said that the fishery difficulty must be settled "either by negotiations or by war." This, Sir, comes to us from the American Senate, and Her Majesty's Speech tells us that everything is in a perfectly peaceful state. Mr. Ingalls went on to say that, before the Vote on the Bill was taken, the Foreign Affairs Committee should state whether the measure was intended to be pacific or hostile, and whether in effect it was an invitation to negotiate or a practical declaration of war; that a feeling of irritation prevailed, the real party being Great Britain, and not Canada. These are most important words. He went on to declare that England had always been—a ruffian, a coward, and a bully among nations; insolent to the weak, tyrannical to the feeble, and cringing and obsequious to the strong;and he added that her rulers were unfriendly to the United States; that her course was in the direction of wrongs, insolence, and outrage; he thought there was no special reciprocity of good will in America towards her, and that England desired to render it impossible for free and friendly reciprocal relations, political or otherwise, to exist between Canada and the United States. Mr. Hoar (Massachusetts) said that Canada's object was to secure the right to sell fish in the United States without the interference of the tariff; and he regarded it as an attempt of a Foreign Power to force upon the United States, against her will, a certain domestic policy, and—as one of the most emphatic and flagrant acts of hostility which it was possible to commit short of actual war.When I consider this language, ex- 628 pressed by the Senate and endorsed by a large majority in the Senior House of Representatives in America, I can by no means reconcile it with what is said in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne as to the position of our relations with Foreign Powers. Finally, Sir, we learn, through Reuter's Agency, that the Canadian Minister of Marine thinks the question is now, whether Canada shall wholly abandon her fisheries, or persist in a policy which, he asserts, "has received the approval of the Imperial Government;" and his Colleagues are apprehensive as to the possible effect of the debate in the American Senate upon the approaching Canadian elections. What has happened with regard to other countries? We are all aware that, not very long ago, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Randolph Churchill) made a journey abroad; and although we have heard that it was not connected with political events, still it is noteworthy that the feeling of hostility between Russia and Austria was initiated about the date at which that journey took place. Well, Sir, what does this mean? Does it mean that we are friendly with Russia, or that we are friendly with Austria? I ask that, because it is perfectly clear that we cannot be friendly with both Powers at a time when they are armed to the teeth, and are standing like two muzzled bull-dogs waiting for the lachets to be unloosed. Is it not that we favour Austria? It was to promote the claims of Austria versus Russia that the policy which the Government have been endeavouring to carry out was initiated, and which has brought affairs to the present crisis. And, again, do we not know that, a short time since, Austria was told by the present Prime Minister that in case of war she should not stand alone? If it be true, as we see in the public Press, that a crisis of affairs has been reached; if it be true that we are prepared to back up Austria; then I say that the position is indeed serious, and that the statement that our relations with Foreign Powers are friendly, is hardly correct. There are some remarks with regard to Egypt which I shall defer to another opportunity. I recollect what took place in this House last Session with regard to Burmah. I obtained information from 629 gentlemen who had served in the country, and knowing something about the malaria after the floods had subsided, I begged to call attention to the fact that the country was most unhealthy. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laugh at my having given utterance to what has practically turned out to be a fact. But what has happened since? The Commander-in-Chief—the senior officer in Burmah—has died of that malaria. I do not think that a very laughing matter. We were told at that time that everything was perfectly quiet in Burmah; that there were only a few dacoits straying up and down the country, but that they could soon be settled by sending out a small force. But what has occurred? Practically speaking, General Roberts, the Commander-in-Chief in India, has been obliged to go over and take the command of the troops, and matters are very far from settled. Finally, with regard to Ireland, the remaining portion of the Queen's Speech deals with the condition of that country. Throughout the course of this debate, we have heard a great deal about the unhappy condition of things which has existed there. We have been told that since the inauguration of a Tory régime, affairs in Ireland have been very quiet. For my own part, I believe it. I go further, and say I know for a fact that those affairs are extremely quiet: the Irish people were never more quiet in their lives. But what has brought about this reign of tranquillity in Ireland? It has not been the Tory Administration, it has not been the commencement of a 20 years' "firm government." No; on the contrary, the present peaceful condition of Ireland is solely due to the introduction of a measure of justice by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). It is that measure which enables Irishmen to come forward and say, "Well, at last we have found that there are good points in Englishmen, and we have at last found a large number of English Members—almost a majority" [Laughter]—hon. Members may laugh, but we were only 30 votes behind—they will say, "We have at last found almost a majority in this House who are ready to go the utmost length in their endeavour to provide adequately for the wants of our native land." That is 630 practically what has promoted this feeling of peace and good - will in our country. When we go into this Land Question, what did the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) say down at Dartford not so very long ago? He told people there that dual ownership of land was impossible. What does that mean? It means that the present existing system of landlord and tenant cannot go on any longer. The noble Lord, it must be remembered, was at that time a most responsible Member of Her Majesty's Government, probably one of the most responsible Members of Government sitting on the Benches opposite—aye, even at the present moment. When such a person as the noble Lord makes such a statement as that, I think it is time oven for a Tory Government to take the matter into their serious consideration—I mean the fact that dual ownership of land is impossible. But we also find that clearly set forth in the reports of Land Commissioners. If any hon. Members will take up the Report issued by Mr. Walters, or that written by Mr. McCarthy, he will find it stated by both of them—as indeed it is laid down by many other gentlemen—that the judicial rents that were fixed two years ago are impossible, and are really rack-rents at the present moment. These gentlemen, it must be remembered, are authorities who have been charged in Ireland with the duty of judicating between landlord and tenant. If they come to you and say that the rents which they have fixed are at the present time impossible, I think it is high time for us to give the subject careful consideration. Now, Sir, with regard to the Plan of Campaign, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) stated not long ago in a letter he wrote that the plan was perfectly legal. We have heard from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, that it was both illogical and illegal. That is not the view of Irish Law Officers of the Crown ["Oh, oh!"] Well, the Attorney General for Ireland has been here night after night, and surely he would have contradicted the allegation which has been repeated over and over again if it were not true. We all know that what has been written still remains; the letter written by the right hon. and learned Gentleman re- 631 mains to this very day and cannot be denied. However, I myself know something about this Plan of Campaign. I know that the people are in earnest in carrying it out. I have seen it initiated several times. I have seen it commenced by the tenants, and perhaps it would amaze people sitting in this House to know that really the Irish tenantry are most moderate in their demands. We all know that when any body of men combine together for the purpose of carrying any point, there are some amongst them who will go in for stronger measures and for a higher reduction than others; but I can assure you, Sir, and this House, that in all the instances where I have seen the Plan of Campaign initiated—and they have not been few—certainly the majority of the people have gone in for a minimum reduction of rent. I recollect a case within the last fortnight, where two or three of the tenants wanted to got a reduction in their rents of 40 per cent, but the majority of the other tenants said "We won't have that; let us have a fair medium;" and, accordingly, 25 per cent was agreed to by the majority. All these people are very much abused from time to time, and abused, I am afraid, by Gentlemen who know very little about them. It has been my privilege, both in the exercise of my profession, and since I have become acquainted with the Nationalist Members occupying these Benches, to mix intimately with the people, and this I can safely say, as the result of my experience, that intolerance and bigotry, and that extreme method of dealing with the landlord which is supposed to be characteristic of the Irish people, do not really exist. I can assure the House that if you take them in bodies you will find them tolerant and ready to deal in the fairest way with their landlords or any people set over them. Fortunately we have got a hearing in England. It is satisfactory to find that those who have opposed this measure of peace and good-will to Ireland are gradually beginning to see the error of their ways; and I think that in the course of this debate no one could have helped being struck with the language which has fallen, from the Leaders of the Unionist Party in the House. I myself was perfectly sensible of the moderation they showed in their 632 speeches, especially when referring to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), whose name will ever be enshrined in the hearts of the Irish people. As the hour is late. I must apologize for having trespassed so long upon the time of the House. I will only say this much, that if matters go on as they are going on at the present time, I sincerely hope that that measure of policy and of peace promoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian will shortly be again taken up and carried to its full completion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Cremer.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. Smith) (Strand, Westminster)
If it is the intention of the hon. Member to make his speech on the Amendment of which he has given notice, I shall make no opposition to the adjournment. I understand that to be the intention of the hon. Member, but I wish to appeal to the House, now that we have at last reached the first stage of the consideration of the Address, to proceed with as much despatch as is consistent with the due consideration of the important questions before us; and to remember that we have a reputation to maintain as the Chamber for the conduct of the Public Business of this country, as well as for the adequate discussion of public affairs.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till to-morrow.