§ [FIRST NIGHT.]
§ VISCOUNT WEYMOUTH (Somerset, Frome)
(who wore the uniform of a Yeomanry officer) said: Mr. Speaker, I trust that the House will credit me with the feeling which I sincerely entertain of my inability adequately to do justice to the variety of topics which are mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech, which has just been read from the Chair. In craving the indulgence which this House has always so generously extended to those who have occupied a position similar to that which I have the honour to fill to-day, I beg to assure the House that I do so with all earnestness, impressed as I am alike with the responsibility of my position, and with the consciousness that, both in years and experience, I have the good or ill fortune to be numbered among the youngest Members of this honourable Assembly.
Sir, I have the honour to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in answer to the Speech from the Throne; and in doing so I desire, in the first place, to acknowledge the high compliment which has been paid to the constituency by whose favour I enjoy a seat in this House through the selection of its Representative for the performance of this distinguished and loyal duty.
In the first place, Sir, I crave the special permission of the House to refer 78 for a moment to the sad subject which has already been treated in such eloquent terms by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. Before I obtained a seat in this House, and since I have had that honour, it was my privilege—and I shall ever esteem it a high privilege—to have been closely associated with the distinguished statesman who has so recently passed away. I trust I am not offending against the Rules of the House, or against the feelings of any hon. Member, if I ask for permission to pay a personal tribute of sincere respect and admiration to the memory of the high-souled, patriotic, and generous-hearted Englishman with whom my first acquaintance with political life was so closely connected, and whose remains only the other day were borne to their last resting-place, to the deep regret of the Sovereign he loyally served and the people he passionately loved.
Her Majesty's Gracious Speech gives us the gratifying announcement that her relations with Foreign Powers continue to be on a friendly footing; and that, with regard to the affairs of South-Eastern Europe which are still in an unsettled condition, Her Majesty entertains no apprehension that the peace of Europe is likely to be disturbed. I know, Sir, that the House will re-echo the wish that Her Majesty's anticipations maybe altogether fulfilled, and that, especially in this year, which marks the Jubilee of her great and glorious reign, not even the shadow of a cloud of war may throw dark its reflection over any portion of the world which owns the sway of our beloved Queen. It is greatly to be desired that the difficulties to which Her Majesty alludes may ere long be solved—the difficulties which led to the retirement from Bulgaria, under circumstances highly to be regretted, of a Prince who had endeared himself to the people of that country by his military achievements on their behalf, and by his personal qualities. Sir, the House will receive with cordial approval the assurance that this country will not interfere in the election of Prince Alexander's Successor, but that strict regard will be had to those provisions of the Treaty of Berlin which dictate the position to be assumed by the Powers of Europe in the event of 79 any vacancy occurring in the Bulgarian Throne.
Mr. Speaker, I venture to congratulate Her Majesty's Government upon the welcome intelligence which is conveyed to this House in regard to the condition of Egypt. Our troops are being withdrawn from Egyptian territory because they are no longer needed, and in consequence of the state of external and internal tranquillity which their exertions have so happily brought about.
Then, Sir, I would venture to suggest that no more acceptable intimation is conveyed in the Royal Message than is contained in the announcement with reference to the affairs of Burmah. The brilliant genius of the hero of the march from Cabul to Candahar has found yet another field for its exercise in the service of his Queen and country; the valour and devotion of our brave troops have added fresh laurels to their previous records. The wisdom of the statesmanship of the Earl of Dufferin has already exacted an approving acknowledgment; and while a new and vast area has been opened out to British trade and commerce, we have the satisfaction of knowing that the Native population are already reaping the fruits of the civilized Government which replaced a barbarous and besotted despotism, and that a country of rich resources has been reclaimed to honest industry and secure cultivation. In addition, we have the satisfaction of knowing that most of those who were at first leaders of rebellion are now laying down their arms and becoming willing subjects of the Queen. It is with justifiable pride, I think, that we may reflect that once again in the history of this country the planting of the British Flag on foreign soil is synonymous with the institution of the blessings of civilization and order.
I turn now to the declaration that the Estimates which are to be presented to the House for the service of the coming financial year have been framed with a strict regard to economy, and to the efficiency of the Public Service. The House and the country demand of the keepers of the national purse that there shall be no waste of the resources of the nation. At the same time, the House and the country demand, with equal insistance, that every Department of the State 80 shall be efficiently administered. The English people have ever been generous taskmasters to those who have served them well; but to no fault would so little indulgence be shown as to those who have charge of the defences of the nation, and who fail to fulfil their trust with scrupulous exactitude. The greatest of English interests is the maintenance of peace consistently with the national honour; and the surest way to maintain that peace is by creating an unmistakable impression of your ability to render the position of the peace-breakers one absolutely unsatisfactory so far as their own future comfort is concerned. A free and independent commerce, which belongs to a nation like ours, can only be secured by the possession of the means to defend it in the event of attack; and I would humbly submit that those means are mainly, if not entirely, to be found in the maintenance of the naval superiority of our country. I feel sure, Sir, that in their honest and earnest efforts to combine economy with efficient administration Her Majesty's Government will not be forgetful of the spirit breathed by the poet's lines—The Fleet of England is her all-in-all;Her Fleet is in your hands;And in her Fleet her fate.Turning now to that portion of the Royal Speech which refers to home affairs and domestic legislation, I would venture to suggest that the prudence which has induced Her Majesty's Government to determine upon dealing first with the problem of the Reform of Local Government in England and Scotland before proceeding to legislate in the same direction with regard to Ireland will commend itself to the common sense and business-like faculties of hon. Members. A modicum of good work achieved is far preferable to ambitious projects which cannot be carried out; and I would venture to suggest that a comprehensive scheme for the improvement of Local Government in England and Scotland, which commanded the support of a majority of this House, would pave the way for the introduction of a similar measure in Ireland, due regard being had to the difference of locality, and the conditions of those for whom it is sought to legislate.
The next measure to which reference is made is one, Sir, which, under a modest guise, will, perhaps, raise high 81 hopes in the breasts of those who are anxious to improve the legislative machinery of the House of Commons. This is a matter which, undoubtedly, underlies the success of all future legislative projects. The Business of this House is retarded by two evils—one the unwieldiness of its own machinery, and the other the growth of what is called wilful or designed obstruction. It is with the former of these evils that Her Majesty's Government propose to deal. Now, Sir, I believe that there is a general agreement that the Business which this House is called upon to transact is far too great for the capacity of the machinery with which it essays to do its work. To improve the process of Private Bill legislation will go far towards improving the legislative path which has so long been seriously blocked. Should these evils assert themselves in the future, as, unfortunately, they have done in the past, the House will look to its natural Leaders for protection. So far as freedom of speech within proper bounds is preserved, and so long as the rights of honest minorities acting within Constitutional limits are respected, those Leaders will not call upon hon. Members in vain for their support in re-establishing this ancient House in its proud position of Mother o! Parliaments and a pattern for all Legislative Assemblies.
The Royal Speech conveys an intimation that the House will be asked to consider measures having for their object the removal of hindrances which exist as to the cheap and rapid Transfer of Land. I do not think that this measure, so desirable in itself, will be based on certain principles—or, rather, on certain no principles—which in some places have been advocated. I do not suppose that the transfer of land will be made so cheap as to cost nothing, or so easy of passage that the mere exercise of will will put one man in the possession of the property of another; but I venture to hope that by rendering the description of parcels of land more simple—perhaps by some system of registration of title—the cost of transfer may be so diminished, and the law's delays so removed, that the Crown may be set on legislation in this direction which is for ever connected with the name of Earl Cairns. In the same paragraph of the Speech we are promised a measure to provide greater facilities for the acquisition of 82 Allotments by Small Householders, and to encourage the Sale of Glebe Lands. The latter measure, while conferring an undoubted advantage upon the present owners of glebe lands, will, in itself, tend to assist in the achievement of the former measure. Representing, as I do, a constituency situated in a district which is closely identified with agricultural pursuits, the House will, perhaps, permit me to express my belief that these measures will be welcomed by the rural population, equally with the dwellers in the neighbourhood of small towns, as legislative benefits for some time promised on their behalf.
The question of the levying of tithes has also attracted the attention of Her Majesty's Government. Upon this question, which affects some parts of England and Wales, I can only venture to express the hope that the grievance, which is limited in its area, but which is exceedingly irritating in its circumstances, will be removed by the legislation which is proposed.
The proposals which are contained in Her Majesty's Speech with regard to Railway Rates will be received with no inconsiderable hope of relief by a large portion of the community, who are now labouring under the intolerable pressure of rates levied with undue preference. Those who are connected with the agricultural interest will hail with satisfaction a measure which will afford to them some prospect of assistance in the carriage of their produce to market; and the great mining industries of the country will receive a fresh impetus from the acquisition of greater facilities of transit for their outputs, owing to a fairer method of imposing the rates with which they are charged.
Sir, in approaching the last subject in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, on which I feel bound to say a few words, I know that I shall carry the general consent of the House with me, at all events, in recording the satisfaction and the pleasure with which the House receives the assurance that crimes of a grave character have been rare during the last three months in the Sister Isle. I wish I could think that every reference which will be made to Ireland in the ensuing debate would be equally free from controversy. It is very sad to think that every ray of sunshine which seems about to burst through the clouds 83 of Ireland's trouble is destined to be obscured by the baneful conduct of evil conspirators and pernicious agitators. Class hostility, dishonesty in social relations, and treason to the Constitution are the stock-in-trade of those who fatten upon an impulsive and misguided people. There have been, Sir, we are authoritatively told, in some parts of Ireland organized attempts to incite the occupiers of land against the fulfilment of their logal obligations. Behind that conspiracy is another for the repeal of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. The men who are engaged in these conspiracies are both active and mischievous; and, to quote the words of Mr. Pitt—It is enough to make them hate the Union; that it has a tendency to preserve order, for order is the extinction of their hopes.Her Majesty's Ministers declare that these evils have gained way, owing to defects in the machinery of the law, but not owing to the law itself, and they have expressed their intention to ask for powers to remedy those defects. The country will consider that, in making this declaration, Her Majesty's Ministers are doing their duty. The evils which, unhappily, they are called upon to encounter are not too great for the genius of the people of this country to overcome, or for the majesty of those laws to counteract which prevail in every other well-ordered and civilized community. But, Sir, with the suppression of crime Her Majesty's Government have not lost sight of remedial measures for real grievances; and in the Report of the Commission which has recently been engaged upon an inquiry into the causes of the failure of the recent land legislation for Ireland, and into the best means of developing the resources of that country, we look for wise measures to promote the comfort and welfare of the law-abiding population.
It only remains for me now, Sir, to thank the House for the kind manner in which it has acceded to my original request for its indulgence. I cordially acknowledge the generous forbearance with which it has received my first effort to elicit its sympathy and engage its attention. If, Sir, I have omitted to mention any matter of interest in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, it is because I feel that I should be unduly trespassing on the time of this House, and be- 84 cause I knew that I could leave those subjects to be fully dealt with by the hon. Member who will immediately follow me.
In conclusion, may I venture to express a hope that ere long, in every quarter of Her Majesty's Dominions, all Her Majesty's subjects, without distinction of race or creed, may be united in a common devotion to Her Royal Person, in attachment to the fundamental principles of the Constitution, in affectionate regard the one to the other, knowing no rivalry, save that in which each strives to excel the other in promoting the well-being of a common country and a united State.
Sir, I have the honour to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in reply to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne—the terms of which it is now my privilege to read:—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to thank Her Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech which Her Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty's relations with all Foreign Powers continue to be friendly:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the affairs of South Eastern Europe are still in an unsettled condition; but that Her Majesty does not apprehend that any disturbance of European peace will result from the unadjusted controversies which have arisen in that region. Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that while Her Majesty deplores the events which compelled Prince Alexander of Bulgaria to retire from the Government of that Principality, Her Majesty has not judged it expedient to interfere in the proceedings for the election of his successor until they arrive at that stage at which Her Majesty's Assent is required by the Stipulations of the Treaty of Berlin:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the task which has been undertaken by Her Majesty's Government in Egypt is not yet accomplished; but that substantial advance has been made towards the assurance of external and internal tranquillity:To assure Her Majesty that we learn with satisfaction that the operations in Burmah have been conducted by Her Majesty's Troops with bravery and skill, for the purpose of extirpating the brigandage which has grown up during recent years of misgovernment. Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the bands of 85 marauders by whom Upper Burmah has been long infested have been dispersed, that many o the leaders have laid down their arms, and that Her Majesty entertains a confident hope that the general pacification of the Country will be effected during the present season:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that Commercial Treaties have been concluded with the Kingdoms of Greece and Roumania, and that Papers on these subjects will be laid before us:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Estimates for the Expenditure of the ensuing year, which have been framed with a careful regard to economy and to the efficiency of the Public Service, will be submitted to us:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the condition of Ireland still requires our anxious attention; that grave crimes have happily been rarer during the last few months than during a similar period in the preceding year, but that the relations between the owners and occupiers of land, which in the early part of the autumn exhibited signs of improvement, have since been seriously disturbed in some districts by organised attempts to incite the latter class to combine against the fulfilment of their legal obligations. Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the efforts of Her Majesty's Government to cope with this evil have been seriously impeded by difficulties incident to the method at present prescribed by Statute for dealing with such offences, and that our early attention will be called to proposals for reforms in Legal Procedure, which seem necessary to secure the prompt and efficient administration of the Criminal Law:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that since Her Majesty last addressed us, the Commissioners directed to inquire into certain subjects of great importance to the material welfare of Ireland have been actively prosecuting their labours, and that the Report of the Commission on the operation of the recent Acts dealing with the Tenure and Purchase of Land will shortly be laid before us, which will doubtless receive from us the careful attention which the serious importance of the subject demands:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Bills for the improvement of Local Government in England and Scotland will be laid before us, and that, should circumstances render it possible, they will be followed by a measure dealing with the same subject in Ireland; that a Bill for improving and cheapening the process of Private Bill Legislation in England, Scotland, and Ireland, will be submitted to us, and 86 that we shall be asked to consider measures having for their object to remove hindrances which exist to the cheap and rapid Transfer of Land, to facilitate the provision of Allotments for Small Householders, and to provide for the readier Sale of Glebe Lands:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Commission which Her Majesty issued in 1885, to inquire into the lamentable depression under which Trade and Agriculture have been suffering for many years, has presented a valuable Report, which, together with the important evidence collected by them, will be laid before us:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that a Bill for altering the mode of levying Tithes in England and Wales will be submitted to us; that, in regard to Scotland, we shall be asked to consider Measures for the reform of the Universities, for completing recent Legislation as to the powers of the Secretary for Scotland, and for amending the Procedure of Criminal Courts; and that Measures dealing with the Regulation of Railway Rates, and for preventing the fraudulent use of Merchandise Marks, will also be brought under our consideration:To assure Her Majesty that our careful consideration shall be given to the subjects which Her Majesty has recommended to our attention, and to the Measures which may be submitted to us; and we earnestly trust that, with regard to these and all other matters pertaining to our functions, the keeping and guidance of Almighty God may be vouchsafed to us.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR (Leeds, Central)
(who wore a Court dress) said: Mr. Speaker, in rising to second the Address in reply to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, which has been moved by my noble Friend, although I cannot, like him, plead that this is absolutely my first experience in addressing the House, I, nevertheless, venture to express the hope that I may receive an equal measure of consideration in the discharge of the difficult duty which has been laid upon me.
My noble Friend, as well as the Representatives of both the Front Benches, have spoken in feeling terms of the loss which the country has sustained in the sudden and lamented death of Lord Iddesleigh. I desire to add my voice to theirs in the expression of the deep sorrow which has been caused by that melancholy event throughout the length and breadth of the land, alike in friend and foe. And yet I 87 doubt whether Lord Iddesleigh had a foe, and whether this word is appropriate in the case of one who was so blameless as a man, and so selfless as a statesman. Of Lord Iddesleigh it may be truly said that he died in harness; for I am assured, Sir, that Lord Iddesleigh left no arrears in his Office—that he finished the whole of the work up to the very day on which he was taken from us. The nation will cherish his memory with respectful affection; and the absence of his sage and moderate counsels will be a loss to his Party which they can ill afford at the present critical stage of affairs.
For I think, Sir, that no one will deny that Parliament meets on the present occasion at a moment of grave anxiety, and in circumstances calculated to put to a severe test the statesmanship of our leading men, and the political sagacity and steadiness of the nation at large. Whether we look at home or abroad the prospect is serious, and even menacing. It is certainly satisfactory to learn, from Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, that her relations with Foreign Powers continue friendly. But Governments, as we know, are always at peace until they are at war; and I think if we look for solid comfort we shall find less in this general assurance than in the more explicit declaration which immediately follows it, that Her Majesty has no reason to apprehend that any disturbance of peace will result from the condition of affairs in the South-East of Europe.
Undoubtedly there had arisen in the public mind a not unreasonable apprehension that a spark might be lit in Bulgaria which would set all Europe in a blaze, and, perhaps, involve this country in the universal conflagration. Allusion has been made in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech to the events which led to the abdication and retirement of Prince Alexander. The midnight plot, the kidnapping of a brave and gallant Prince in his own Palace in the capital of a country which he had just led to victory; his deportation beyond the frontier; his triumphant return; his second retirement, under open pressure from a Power which could not brook the defeat of its secret machinations; the bullying mission of General Kaulbars, and the steady courage and quiet dignity of the Bulgarian 88 people and rulers under circumstances of the greatest provocation—all this is too fresh in our memory to need recalling in detail. Sir, the circumstances which led to Prince Alexander's abdication excited, and justly excited, in this country the greatest indignation; but there is a long step between sympathy and active interference. It would be ridiculous in us to assume the office of knight-errant to the whole world. To adopt a line of action that would be likely to lead to conflict would not only be Quixotic, but wholly unjustifiable, unless our own interests were attacked, or unless a duty were imposed upon us by Treaty obligations.
Sir, I rejoice that Her Majesty believes that a settlement of this perplexing question is likely to be effected by the peaceable methods of diplomacy. For that this country has got interests in the East, and that, in certain contingencies, these interests might be seriously jeopardized, I hold to be undoubted. It is true that Austria stands sentinel on the ramparts, and that she has nearer and dearer interests in any changes that may take place in the Balkan Peninsula than we have. Austria's is the house next to the house on fire; ours is only the next but one. But we cannot expect that Austria will do our business, any more than Austria can expect that we shall do hers; and if we approach the question with that expectation, we shall be apt to find that what is everybody's business is nobody's business. We have joint interests in the East, and, therefore, joint responsibilities, and in those joint responsibilities Austria's share is the largest.
The censure implied in the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) on the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government is testimony, at least, to this—that the duty of maintaining the interests and honour of this country in foreign parts is not one the obligation of which they are likely to minimize. If the noble Lord is right, the foreign policy of the Government is likely to be too spirited, rather than too tame. I yield to no one in my admiration of the brilliant talents of the noble Lord, and in my regret that he should have found it necessary to leave the ranks of a Unionist Ministry; but I do 89 not believe the country will be ready, without further evidence, to take his view of the imprudence of the foreign policy of Her Majesty's present Advisers. We know that his view is not shared by any one of his late Colleagues; and, at least, they may claim that their policy shall be judged by results. However this may be, of one thing we may be sure—that no matter to what Party a Minister of this country may belong, the foundation of his policy must be an earnest striving for peace. As my noble Friend has said, peace itself is one of the greatest of British interests, and no Minister could be so guilty or foolish as to choose the alternative of war, if he thought it possible to escape that alternative consistently with the honour and welfare of the nation. What possible reason could we have for a policy of aggression? We have no war of revenge to make—no war of revenge to anticipate. We have no tottering dynasty to support; nor have we any temptation to silence complaints at home by dazzling achievements abroad. The life of this country is commerce, and the interests of commerce require peace—peace, if possible, between our neighbours in Europe one with another; but, above all things, peace between our neighbours and ourselves.
But, Sir, there is an old saying, and, as I believe, a wise one, that those who desire peace must be prepared, if need be, for war. That saying does not appear to commend itself to the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. If I understand him rightly, his view is that those who desire peace ought to take care that they shall not be strong enough for war; that we should continue weak lest we be led into temptation. Sir, the noble Lord, in one of the letters which he read to the House, spoke of the danger of having a sharp sword, the possession of which, he said, was almost sure to lead to the desire of using it. Metaphors are somewhat misleading; but if I were to use a metaphor at the present moment, I should say that the Government, in insisting that our coaling stations and ports should be defended, is not asking for a sword, but for a shield. If the question is one of temptation, and if strength is likely to tempt us into war, we ought to remember that weakness would be no loss a temptation to our enemies to attack us. If the War Minister had asked for gigantic armaments 90 and a vast increase of expenditure, then I could understand the position taken up by the noble Lord; but, unless I am mistaken, the Estimates for the coming year will actually show a reduction. And what is the item which the noble Lord has singled out for attack? Why, it is the most defensive item in the whole Military Budget.
No doubt, the view taken by the noble Lord is a very convenient one for the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but I think, in the long run, it would prove a very inconvenient view for the nation. We learn from Her Majesty's Speech that the Estimates have been framed with a due regard to economy and the efficiency of the Public Service. I trust that the first part of this formula is not a mere formula, and that the noble Lord has not sacrificed himself in vain on the altar of thrift and economy. But in every question of Expenditure we have two things to look at; the money spent and the value received. Zeal for economy ought not to blind us to the paramount necessity of efficiency in the Public Service. No doubt, the burden of taxation is heavy and grievous to be borne, and I fear it is also beyond question that much of the large sums raised by taxation is unprofitably spent. It is the business of those who are entrusted with the management of the national finances to discover the particular points where waste or leakage occurs, and to do their utmost to stop it. But, Sir, if a private individual wishes to set about curtailing expenditure he does not commence by cutting off the sums annually paid for insurance. I hope that we, as a nation, will not be guilty of a folly which we should shun in our private capacity. A great nation like ours, with Possessions in every quarter of the globe, whose commerce extends to all parts of the habitable world, cannot carry out the requirements of its Public Service for nothing. I trust the day will never come when the British nation will be afraid of its own greatness, and will shrink from those sacrifices which may be found necessary to maintain not only its greatness, but even its safety.
Sir, I now pass to the question in which, as the Representative of a great industrial centre, I am peculiarly interested—I mean the question of trade. Attention has been called in Her Ma- 91 jesty's Speech to the Report of the Royal Commission on the Depression of Trade. The Report of the Commission is, indeed, of a most interesting character, and it bears throughout signs of that calm sobriety and genial wisdom which was characteristic of its lamented Chairman (the Earl of Iddesleigh). The fears expressed at the time of its appointment by over-jealous Free Traders have, I think, not been justified; for the Report may be studied from beginning to end by the most orthodox without the slightest fear of having their faith perverted. Its general character may be fairly described as optimistic, and the revival which has lately taken place goes some way to confirm the view which the Commissioners have taken. In their view the depression resolves itself, on inquiry, into lowness of profits, and, in many cases, even an absence of profits. But although, if that state of things were to continue indefinitely, it could not fail sooner or later to affect the wage-earning classes, it does not appear that, so far at least, there has been any great fall in the rate of wages. It is a satisfaction to learn from the Report of the Commissioners that the condition of the working classes appears, on the whole, to be one of prosperity. The recommendations which the Commissioners have made are comparatively few in number, and apply, I think, to two questions only—to the question of railway transport, and to that of the fraudulent working of merchandize. Measures dealing with both of these subjects are announced in Her Majesty's Speech from the Throne. With regard to the latter, I do not think it is a matter on which much difference of opinion is likely to arise; but the question of railway rates is certainly one which involves difficult and delicate considerations. I have, however, a confident hope that when Her Majesty's Government produce their measure they will be able to reconcile the legitimate interests of the public with the established rights of the Railway Companies, which it would be unjust, and therefore unwise, to infringe.
As being myself a Scotchman, I see with pleasure that, in addition to the Local Government Bill referred to by my noble Friend, several measures are in contemplation dealing with the wants of Scotland; and, in particular, a mea- 92 sure for the reform of the Universities. The Scottish Universities are institutions of which the Scottish people are justly proud. They are national and democratic in the best and worthiest sense, and it is high time that those changes should be introduced into their constitution which are confessedly necessary to maintain them in healthy growth, and enable them to continue in the future that work which they have so successfully carried out in the past.
I must not omit to notice the prospect which is held out to us of a Bill for cheapening and improving the process of private legislation in the Three Kingdoms. This measure is intended to meet what I believe to be a very genuine grievance, and will, at the same time, relieve the Imperial Parliament of a portion of the work with which it is at present overburdened. I trust, too, that it will go far to satisfy whatever there is genuine and reasonable in the demand of the Sister Kingdoms for greater control over their own local affairs.
I think, Sir, that I have now adverted to most of the points mentioned in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech which my noble Friend has omitted to touch upon. There remains the question of Ireland, which, following his example, I have reserved to the last, although, in point of importance, it will be generally allowed that it ranks first of all. Sir, I entirely agree with the view of those who believe that if a settlement of the agrarian question in Ireland could be effected, the agitation in favour of Home Rule would cease to be formidable. I also think that any real settlement of that question must be in the direction of converting the smaller tenants into peasant proprietors. We are informed in Her Majesty's Speech that the Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the causes which have hampered the operation of the Acts dealing with the purchase of land will shortly be presented to us. But we hardly require to wait for the Report of the Commissioners to be convinced that the principal causes are the opposition of the National League, the agitation carried on under its auspices, and the hopes which it has excited in the breasts of the peasantry of Ireland that they have only to hold on and they will get their land at a 93 mere nominal price, or even for nothing at all. The agitation fomented by the National League has always been unscrupulous in its character; but for open defiance of the law it has reached a culminating point in the scheme known as "the Plan of Campaign."
Her Majesty informs us in Her Gracious Speech that the Government, having found the existing legal procedure too cumbrous and dilatory effectively to cope with the organized attempt to incite the tenants of Ireland to combine against the fulfilment of their legal obligations, proposals will be laid before the House for such reforms of legal procedure as are necessary to secure the prompt and efficient administration of the existing Criminal Law. If the Government deem it necessary to make such a demand, certainly the greatest responsibility will rest upon this House if it withholds its assent. To maintain law and order, and to secure to every class of the community its just rights, is the object for which Governments principally exist. If a Government considers that the present methods of procedure are inadequate to the effective vindication of the law, it is their absolute duty—a duty from which nothing can absolve them—to make good the defect. In the absence of that habit of obedience to law which is necessary for the stability of the social structure, no remedial measure and no concession of power to Local Bodies in Ireland is given a fair chance of working successfully, It is useless to build additional storeys to your house when its foundations are crumbling away. [Irish Cheers..] Sir, I appeal not to those hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side who are so ready with their ironical cheers; but I appeal to the followers of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), and I desire to address to them one question. They are resolved to secure, if they can, Home Rule for Ireland. We, on this side of the House, are determined to resist the demand for Home Rule to the utmost extent of our power. But are they prepared to connive at the warfare which is being carried on by their allies in Ireland with unlawful weapons? Are they prepared to sit quietly by while the attempt is being made to wrest the concession of Home Rule by reducing the 94 deliberations of this ancient Assembly to impotence, and by making all government in Ireland impossible? To poison the wells has always been held to be a base and barbarous method of carrying on war. This method has its counterpart in political warfare also. To spread the deadly germs of anarchy and lawlessness, with a view to gaining some particular political end, what is this but to poison the wells, and to taint at its very source that which is a necessity of life to every civilized community? I hope the followers of the right hon. Gentleman will pause before they enter upon so reckless a course. Sir, I beg to second the Motion of my noble Friend.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, &c."—[See page 23.]
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
Sir, I rise at this somewhat inconvenient hour (8.10) on account of the value which I attach to the old traditions of this House, and on account, perhaps, of my own inclination to adhere to those traditions, hoping against hope, even when they have become somewhat superannuated. It has been almost uniformly the anxiety of Governments to limit the debate on the Address; and the person occupying the place of Leader of the Opposition has usually—indeed I think invariably—been found willing to promote that purpose by rising immediately after the Mover and Seconder of the Address. But I am bound to say that that arrangement has always proceeded upon the assumption that the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Address were not to be polemical speeches. I shall do nothing to notice any polemical portions of those speeches upon the present occasion; but I will content myself by discharging a much more agreeable duty in making the statement that, in my opinion, both of them have shown abundant ability in the course of those speeches, and shown faculties which may enable them to take an important and valuable part in the discussions in this House. Therefore, while I congratulate these Gentlemen, I waive entering upon certain portions of their speeches, which, however, I anticipate will draw forth, answers from others. I shall notice first the declaration of the Gracious 95 Speech from the Throne that the Estimates which are to be laid before us have been prepared with due regard to economy. Of course, it will be easily anticipated that I commence with that portion of the subject in consequence of the speech which we have just heard from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill). My own opinion is that that speech, which has already provoked an animated rejoinder—partly, I think, delivered while the noble Lord was out of the House—from the Seconder of the Address, has laid the foundation of very many future discussions. I shall observe all the care and caution I can in referring to it on the present occasion, because my anxiety is not to turn that speech to any Party advantage, but to regard it as affording hopeful opportunities for bringing about a recurrence to the older methods of public administration, and to principles of public expenditure, which have undoubtedly, of late years, lost much of their efficiency and power. The noble Lord has read a Correspondence of great importance, and has explained to us, in terms the most distinct, the nature of the reasons which compelled him to resign his Office. There was no portion of the speech of the noble Lord which I thought more directly commended itself to the general acceptance of the House than that in which he indicated his own sense of the greatness of the sacrifice he was making. The noble Lord has made a great sacrifice. He was entitled to the presumption that such a sacrifice could only have been made under the influence of deep conviction. I have known nothing of the noble Lord in regard to questions of finance and of public Expenditure until to-night, except that he had undoubtedly, as he told us in his speech, pledged himself largely on the subject of economy. To-night, in my opinion, he has shown he has formed a firm resolve to act upon and to redeem those pledges, if it be in his power. He has stated principles which have great breadth and comprehensiveness. He has also explained to us in very clear language the manner and the degree in which he proposed to apply those principles on the present occasion. I am bound to say, as far as my judgment goes, the principles he propounded were safe, and not only so, but the manner in which he 96 proposed to apply them. I do not mean as to this or that item of reduction; but the scale upon which he had proposed to apply them was judicious and was moderate. The noble Lord referred to a subject of great importance in touching upon the connection between foreign policy and the scale of our Expenditure; and I think it was the late Lord Beaconsfield who, standing in the position I now occupy, expressed, an opinion of great force and weight as to the existence of that connection. The noble Lord appeared to indicate to us that there are reasons why we should recognize a tendency towards increasing Expenditure, or a hindrance to the reduction of our Expenditure, in certain tendencies in our foreign policy. I do not mean to make any broad assertion upon that subject, and the general purpose of what I have to say on several points will rather be to invite re-assuring explanations from the Government, than to state propositions in the nature of charges or accusations against them. On the question of foreign policy I am bound to say that, as far as I know, the Prime Minister and now the Foreign Secretary, and the late Lord Iddesleigh as Foreign Secretary, have taken just views of the position of the recently emancipated races in the Balkan Peninsula, and of the reciprocal obligations between them and the Porte. Yet there was a speech delivered by Lord Salisbury, at the Guildhall, which raised in many minds some apprehension, and appeared to lay a foundation for the question whether it was true that we, in our negotiations upon the politics of the Balkan Peninsula, had indicated to one particular Foreign Power that if she were disposed to take a particular course, and that course led to a conflict with any power, we should be prepared to range ourselves on her side. I shall not enter into any discussion of that matter. I make no assertion beyond the fact that such was the idea conveyed to many minds, and I simply express the hope that upon that subject we shall receive assurances from Her Majesty's Government in the course of this debate which will entirely remove any such impression. With regard to the general bearing of the speech of the noble Lord, I consider it is a speech which is not delivered by way of appeal to the Party who sit on this side of the House; I consider it is a most important declara- 97 tion, addressing itself mainly to Gentlemen who sit opposite. If the question of economy be taken up largely on this side of the House it becomes a Party question. What I desire from the bottom of my heart is to see the question of economy once more what it was for the first 20 years of my political life—a question in which there was no distinction of Party, in which each vied with the other in real and energetic attempts to keep down the public Expenditure. On this question of economy I am bound to say I am only too familiar with the stereotyped official apologies which always proceed from the Representatives of Departments when they feel themselves unable to comply with demands like those of the noble Lord to derive the smallest satisfaction from those apologies. The challenge to the noble Lord to put his finger on this or that item appeared to me to be a challenge to fight a battle upon very unequal terms. The noble Lord cannot have the technical, professional, and official knowledge, armed with which every Representative of the spending Departments comes into the field. I will not pursue the question further than to say I trust that Gentlemen opposite, especially those who represent the large towns of the country, will deeply and profoundly weigh the declarations made by the noble Lord to-night, and that they will, while the question is still within the precincts of their own Party, consider what they can do to impress economical views upon Her Majesty's Government. Economical proposals made by us naturally come to them with prejudice; there is a flavour, there is a colour of Party, and the possibility of Party collision about them. When they come from those who sit on that side of the House there can be nothing of the kind. Let me tell them that the speech of the noble Lord and the effort of the noble Lord will be much considered and weighed in the country. They lie under a great and a special responsibility, because they can take up the views of the noble Lord as friends of Her Majesty's Government, and they can impress the mind of the Government, before it is finally committed to a given scale of expenditure, with the necessity of doing something to indicate, at all events, even if it be only as a symbol, yet as something in the nature 98 of a real symbol, an intention of endeavouring to reverse that incessant tendency towards the augmentation of Expenditure in the great Departments under which we have so long laboured. The favourable course of affairs in Egypt has, I think, afforded a great opening for encouragement. The heavy duties with which we were charged in that country added largely to the Expenditure of this country; and, unless such opportunities are made use of, I feel it is idle to indulge in mere generalities. There has been no period at which these generalities have not been thrown broadcast over the country; no period in which the Ministry of the day have not given constant assurances of their desire for economy. I remember the day when the Army, Navy, and Ordnance Estimates—for there were then three Departments—amounted in all to £11,000,000; and these Estimates were proposed on the responsibility of Sir Robert Peel as the head of a Conservative Government, having for his leading and most important Colleague the Duke of Wellington, then in the full vigour of his age and the full maturity of his experience. These days are gone by, and cannot be revived. But between £11,000,000 and £30,000,000 there is a very wide space indeed. It is not a question upon which there need be the smallest distinction between Party and Party. If the day comes when it is—and it need not come as yet—it will be because Gentlemen opposite have lost their opportunity. I am making my appeal to Gentlemen opposite, who have the opportunity, if they think fit to use it, of distinguishing themselves and serving their country by endeavouring to press upon the Government the necessity of some spontaneous effort, not to do great things, not to make flourishing statements, but to make some spontaneous effort of a real though moderate character, which may indicate a fixed determination now in time of peace to work the public Expenditure into the direction of economy. There is a question in connection with the retirement of the noble Lord on which I think it necessary to speak some words of criticism. That question is in reference to the changes in the construction of the Government which have followed upon the retirement of the noble Lord. Those changes, though they are not numerous, are of the most 99 important character. They are open, it appears to me, to very grave objections, and I will state my objections under three heads. To the first objection I do not attach the same importance as to the second and the third; at the same time, it, is one which I think ought to be stated. My first objection is to the severance of the Office of First Lord of the Treasury from the Leadership of the Government. I do not know why it is that a Government which avows itself to be Conservative should, upon some temporary consideration of convenience, depart from an important tradition of 170 years' standing. For 170 years, with two exceptions, there has been an unbroken union between the Office of First Lord of the Treasury and the headship of the Government; and I should detain the House too long were I now to explain all the consequences of that union. But I will refer to one of the consequences of that union which at this moment is directly applicable to the case of the noble Lord. When the First Lord of the Treasury is the Prime Minister of this country, as by fixed tradition he has been for many years and ought to be, his position in regard to the Chancellor of the Exchequer is this—that he never interferes with him, at least he never legitimately interferes with him, in regard to the ordinary public Expenditure. But, on the great annual occasion when the scale of that Expenditure and the mode in which it is to be met are determined, the position of the First Minister as First Lord of the Treasury is of great importance. It is for him then to determine whether he should support the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I may say, Sir, from an experience of 12 years in the Office of Chancellor of the Exchequer and nearly 11 years as Prime Minister, that there is no Minister who requires the support of the head of the Government like the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, one may say, is, in the public interest, the standing enemy of all the Departments. It is no slight matter to carry on that warfare. I rejoice that a man of the noble Lord's age and energy has set about it. No man, except one in the fullest possession of hopeful courage and energy, would undertake it; and that he should have at his back the First Lord of the Treasury, who is responsible for disowning or supporting 100 him, is a matter of the greatest consequence. I need not remark that it is no reproach to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, when I say that if the First Lord of the Treasury is not the head of the Government he has no power whatever. What is the position of the right hon. Gentleman as First Lord of the Treasury, not being the head of the Government? He has the Leadership of the House of Commons, and in respect of that he will have to perform extremely laborious duties for six months, through which I heartily wish him well; but for the other six months of the year the right hon. Gentleman will be in possession of an excellent sinecure—a sinecure substantially in the same sense as that hold by the Lord Privy Seal, whose duties consist of affixing that important instrument from time to time. Apart from the headship of the Government, any man of business much inferior to the right hon. Gentleman—whom I believe to be an excellent man of business—could perform the whole of the duties of the First Lord of the Treasury in the space of less than three days. That is an arrangement, then, which, I am bound to say, does not commend itself either to my antiquated or my utilitarian notions. I come now to the two other points; and, first, I ask how is the Foreign Secretary, being also the First Minister, to exercise concurrent action with the heads of Departments in all the important affairs of those Departments? I say confidently that, according to the scale of the human faculties as they have been known in this country during the present century, the thing cannot be done. The Foreign Office requires the continuous attention of the Foreign Minister, who has the most exacting, unsleeping Office in the whole Government. It is impossible that a Prime Minister also holding that Office can watch and keep an eye upon the important proceedings of other Departments of his Government as he should do; and, so far as the action of the various Departments is concerned, I affirm that where the Foreign Secretary is also the Prime Minister the Government must be a Government without a head. In my opinion, the Cabinet, which has grown almost unobserved, passing on from step to step in the development of its existence and its powers, is at once the most delicate and also, perhaps, the 101 most important part of the whole of our Constitution, and serious public and political evil must follow any derangement of that machinery. It might be said that this is not the first time that Lord Salisbury has been Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, and that no objection has been taken to it. That is perfectly true. It is true that I objected very strongly at that time, as I do now, though it is also true that I did not lay my objections before the House. Why? Because when in January last we met the first Government of Lord Salisbury, I looked upon that Government as having a purely transitory existence. It was supported by only 250 Gentlemen out of 670, and it required no Zadkiel, no prophetic almanack or instrument of that kind, to predict, or at least to be conscious, that its days were numbered. I think it was not unknown before the present Government was formed what my sentiments were. I will now deal with the third objection, which is this—that this arrangement introduces a fundamental change into the machinery for working the foreign policy of the country. For the whole period of my political life—and I am pretty confident for many years before—the foreign policy of this country—I do not mean in mere Departmental concerns, but in everything of an important and delicate character—has been worked by the joint action of the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. One incidental consequence of that arrangement has been that in almost all cases, though I admit there have been exceptions to this, there has been in each House of Parliament one person specially responsible for Foreign Affairs. I may refer to the time of Lord Palmerston, Lord Grey, and Lord Melbourne. It is of the greatest importance that that dual action should be maintained, because it was in the nature of a security to the Sovereign, to the Cabinet, and to the country. I do not wish to convey to the minds of the House that the Prime Minister stood in the same relation to the Department as the Foreign Minister did; because, although it was the duty of the Foreign Minister to call the Prime Minister's attention to foreign matters, the decision would rest with him, and not with the Premier. That was the process in constant operation; but the system has now been swept away. Few 102 are the days, especially in the Session of Parliament, in which close communication with Foreign Affairs must not go on between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister; but now one man will be the sole judge, will be the judge of the diction of the despatches, and those niceties even of expression upon which our foreign relations, and even the peace of the world, so much depend. I am not going to speak, as I saw it stated in a newspaper the other day, of this arrangement as an "unconstitutional one." If I have avoided the use of that epithet, it is because it is an epithet which is the foundation of infinite disputation. But I will say this—that it is a wanton rupture of an old-established and invariable practice of the greatest importance, in my opinion, to the good conduct of the public affairs of this country. Nor am I aware of any compensating advantages which can be shown in the face of the formidable objections to which I am now alluding. Before quitting the subject, I will explain what I meant when I spoke of 170 years without a break. It is commonly considered that about 120 years ago—perhaps not quite so much—Lord Chatham was Prime Minister of this country. What I believe to be true is that Lord Chatham did perform a particular function ordinarily performed by the Prime Minister. He was the maker of the Cabinet, which afterwards became so well known as the Cabinet, first of the Duke of Grafton, and afterwards of Lord North. But I am totally unaware that Lord Chatham, after the making of the Cabinet, ever managed it as its Chief; on the contrary, it is well known, on the surface of history, that he substantially retired from public life, and from the Metropolis, and hardly took any part in public affairs, except to vindicate principles of his own. Well, these are principles of very great consequence and importance, upon which, entertaining a very decided opinion, I have thought it my duty to lay them before the House, because I think it should have an opportunity of forming a practical judgment on the matters with which I am now concerned. Now, there are certain points in the Speech to which I should like to call attention. I am very glad to see that Her Majesty's Government do not anticipate any rupture of the peace of 103 Europe. But what I wish to know is, whether it is intended to lay before us at an early date Papers relating to affairs in the South-East of Europe? With, respect to the condition of the people of Bulgaria, I feel—and I think it is generally felt—that after Bulgaria had been liberated by the arms of Russia, and at the cost of Russia, it would have been a perfectly natural and legitimate consequence that Russia should enjoy a large moral influence in Bulgarian concerns. The effect of gratitude would, in the natural working of the human breast, lead to that result. If Russia be content with that moral influence, I, for one, cannot grudge it her. But recent events have not tended to convince the whole world that she has been content with that moral influence. I believe it to be an error on her part, both with respect to her dignity and her power, if, instead of being content to reap the fruits of her former exertions in the spontaneous gratitude of the Bulgarian people, she should attempt to lay her yoke upon the necks of that people. With respect to Egypt, I rejoice to see reference made to the reduction of the force in that country. Indeed, I should be glad if we could be informed, in the course of the debate, to what point it is likely to be reduced. In November, 1882, we were so happy as to give instructions for its reduction merely to a single brigade. I think 4,000 men would have been the number, when the news came of the disaster to General Hicks' column, which entirely upset our plans, and entailed an enormous additional charge on this country. One thing I shall always be glad to state, whoever may be in Office. I said it when in Office myself, and I restate it now when the benefit is to be reaped by others—that, although our position in Egypt has been on many grounds a very difficult, slippery, and perilous undertaking, and although it is open to question from many points of view, one thing I think no rational and candid man can doubt—and perhaps it would not be admitted in some foreign countries—but I do not think any rational and candid man among us can doubt that the administration of affairs in that country, largely under British influence, has been eminently beneficial in many vital and primary matters to the population of that country. There is a question not 104 mentioned in this portion of the Speech on which I wish to address an inquiry, and that is the question of the Canadian fisheries. Undoubtedly, what we have heard and seen through secondary authorities does not leave our minds in a state of entire immobility. I should be glad if the Government would assure us of one of two things. What we should like best of all to hear is that the question of the fisheries does not at this moment present inconvenient complications; but, if that assurance cannot be given, then that there is a likelihood that we shall be speedily put in possession of information which will enable Parliament to form a judgment. The noble Viscount, in the able speech in which he moved the Address, said in substance that it was the object of the Government to achieve a modicum of Business rather than to make vast professions likely to be followed by small performance. Happily for himself, the noble Viscount is very young, and, therefore, very sanguine, and so he regards as a modicum the Business which is proposed in the present Speech. There is one subject coming off which cannot be included in the Speech; I mean the Procedure of Parliament. But, as I make out, there are 13 important subjects, all of them likely to make considerable demand upon the time of Parliament, which go to make up this modicum which the noble Viscount was so sanguine in hoping would be passed. He has my best wishes in the matter. I will not now dwell upon this question further than to say that, looking at the great bulk of them, they appear to be subjects upon which legislation may be very rational and beneficial. But we must recur to that which is the standing question on every debate on the Address under present circumstances—I mean the question of Ireland. We see how little there is to satisfy, as we now stand, the aspirations of those, and they are very numerous—the aspirations are not less numerous than they are rational—of those who say that it is a very hard case upon England and Scotland that they have so very little of the time of Parliament. Sir, I entirely agree with them. It is a very hard case, and, in my opinion, it is a case which is likely to be harder still. I draw the indications of it from many sources, and, among others, from the Speech which 105 is now before us. For, no doubt, the object of Her Majesty's Government, as far as they can properly pursue it, would be to reduce within limited and moderate bounds the share of attention to be given to Ireland; and yet I find, omitting the minor reference to Private Bill legislation, there are five references to Ireland, each of great and cardinal importance. The first of these references is an announcement which we must all receive with satisfaction. But perhaps I had better first take the legislative references. There are three references to Ireland with regard to legislation—one with respect to Criminal Procedure, one with respect to the Tenure and Purchase of Land, and one with respect to Local Government. With regard to Local Government, I am very sorry to find that we are losing ground instead of gaining it. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington did not acquaint us that the subject of Local Government for Ireland had formed one of the differences between himself and his Colleagues. But the noble Lord certainly announced, in an important speech, that Local Government for Ireland should be dealt with, "in simultaneity"—the peculiarity of the phrase assisted to stamp it upon the memory—"in simultaneity" with England and Scotland. How does that stand now? There is to be a postponement of Local Government for Ireland until England and Scotland be dealt with, and that not accompanied by a pledge of immediate sequence, but a postponement qualified by the expression that Local Government for Ireland is then to come, provided that circumstances should render it possible. I venture to say that Local Government for Ireland with reference to this Speech, which only relates to a particular Session, must be regarded as a shadow, a delusion. It cannot be regarded as a promise at all. If it were a question of betting only, I would venture to bet at least 10 to 1 with any Gentleman on those Benches that there will be no Local Government for Ireland during 1887, and I do not believe that there is a man of them who would not have shrewdness enough to refuse my offer. With regard to any measure relating to the tenure and purchase of land in Ireland which Her Majesty's Government intend to introduce, I should not, under the circumstances, wish the right hen. Gentle- 106 man to say a word as to its nature and character—and, indeed, were I to ask him to do so, he would be justified in refusing—and I will, therefore, content myself with expressing my satisfaction that it is coming at all, and that it is coming early. Then, we have another promise which is still more proximate—that is, a measure in relation to the Criminal Laws of the country. I observe that the Mover and Seconder of the Address have drawn a distinction between law and procedure. There is, it seems to me, no idea of altering the law, but only of altering the procedure; but procedure is a very elastic word, and may cover a great deal. I apprehend that if a Bill were to be introduced into this House for the abolition of trial by jury in the Three Kingdoms, it might be argued that it was not an alteration, of the law, but only an alteration of procedure. We must not be too sure about the limited character of this apparently very modest proposal. This subject is not entirely new to mo. We were in Office in 1885, when we had determined to drop what we considered to be the coercive portions of the Crimes Act. I believe I may probably have used the very words—the very phrase—undoubtedly I did state to the House that all we intended to do was to make one or two proposals tending to the sort of improvement which is now called the improvement of procedure. Our attempt to make our rose smell sweeter by calling it by another name did not succeed. The hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) declared that he believed we were going to re-enact the worst portion of the Crimes Act, and that opinion was taken up by those who are now in the Government who broadly distinguished between their conduct and ours, because their conduct was the abandonment and ours the retention of repressive legislation. I will not ask what this amendment of procedures is to be. The words are very ambiguous, but I will be content to wait to learn the meaning of them when the proper time comes. The measure may be of small and limited scope, or it may be of very great scope and importance. I shall not enter into the subject of repressive or coercive legislation for Ireland at this time. My opinions upon it have been placed in the very fullest manner upon record, when I proposed the Irish Government 107 Bill on the part of the late Administration, and to those opinions I entirely adhere. But there are two other statements with regard to the condition of Ireland. One of them is an announcement which we must all receive with great satisfaction—namely, that grave crimes have become more rare in Ireland. I am bound to say that this announcement in the Speech of the Queen reminds me of the words which fell from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington when, towards the close of the proceedings of 1886, he was acting as Leader of the House. I then said that it was exceedingly to be desired that Her Majesty's Government should, at an early period, announce their intentions with respect to the government of Ireland, because in Ireland the administration of government was intimately allied to social order, and the noble Lord replied that I had forgotten the great change that had taken place. He said—You have associated yourselves with a movement of local and domestic government in Ireland; since you have done that, the country has put on a new face with respect to legality.[Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH dissented.] Not the right hon. Baronet opposite, who, if I remember rightly, contradicted the noble Lord. I am quoting the noble Lord to show that while he stated that, in his opinion, they had a right to expect a greater regard for legality in Ireland on account of the course we had taken, he is borne out in this respect—that the Queen, in the Speech from the Throne, thinks it right to announce that grave crimes have been more rare in Ireland during the last few months than was the case in a similar period last year. Then there comes another passage, upon which I must say a few words, regarding the organized attempts to incite occupiers to combine against the fulfilment of their legal obligations. I do not find fault with the Government for putting a reference like that in the Queen's Speech. But I think, if a reference were to be made, it is defective in one important if not essential point. I think that from the nature and incidence of the evictions which have taken place in Ireland, which have produced a profound sensation in this country—I do not enter into the question of blaming anyone connected with them—which has, as a matter of fact, struck with horror 108 multitudes of men, I might almost say the general public of this country—it would have been well to have referred to them, and to have expressed some regret on the part of the Sovereign and the Government that it had been necessary to proceed in the depth of winter to eject people by force from their houses and to consume the houses by fire, when there was no evidence, as far as I am able to judge, that they were really able to pay their rents. I do not wish to enlarge the scope of my present observations further than the terms in which I have couched them. The hon. Member who has just sat down asked me what I thought of the "Plan of Campaign." I will tell him what I think of it. It is the consequence of the policy which he and his Friends have pursued. How does the matter stand? If it be necessary to remind the House of what took place at the opening of the Second Session of Parliament in 1886, the whole of those whom I am permitted to call my political Friends, as well as the whole of those who are known as Irish Nationalists, contended and urged on the Government in the strongest manner the absolute necessity for some legislation for Ireland with a view to the difficulties of the winter. We urged that it was absolutely necessary that there should be some legislation to enable persons who were unable to pay their rent, on proof of their inability before a Judicial Tribunal, to obtain relief in point of time. There was some difference in the arguments by which we supported our proposition; but our proposition was one and the same. I contended that Her Majesty's Government were bound to do it by their own declarations and by their own acts. I contended—and I contend now—that Lord Salisbury's speeches admitted that there were cases of the kind. I was not able to quote his words at the time. But I have referred to them since, and I have them now in my pocket. Lord Salisbury's words were that representations had been made that the people were unable to pay the judicial rents, but that he did not credit that declaration to any great extent; and yet he issued a Commission which was to inquire, among other matters, into the ability of the Irish tenants to pay the judicial rents. I argued on those grounds that it was an absolute duty to save the people who were by 109 presumption unable to pay their rents from the pains and penalties of eviction during the winter, by provisional legislation of that character which would enable them to obtain relief in point of time. What was said by the Government? In the first place, they said that I had misquoted Lord Salisbury—that he had never expressed any such opinion. They said the Commission did not imply that; and they went a great deal further; because when some of my hon. Friends near me contended from what they knew that the rents absolutely required reduction, and supported their statement by what was going on in England and Ireland, the general tone of the debate on the part of the Government was to contend that the rents did not require reduction, and that on that account they met the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork, not by another proposal of their own providing temporary relief upon proof of inability to pay before a judicial tribunal, but with an outright opposition on principle, and they refused to make any provision whatever to meet the difficulties of the winter. We thought, and we said, that great public evils must arise in consequence of that refusal on the part of Her Majesty's Government. I said—"Can there be anything more monstrous than to appoint a Commission to inquire whether people can pay their rents or not, and, in the meanwhile, while the Commission is inquiring, to allow the people to be turned out?" That was answered by declarations that there were necessary steps in the process of law, and that before the people could be turned out we should know what the Commission re commended. That has been completely falsified. The evictions have taken place, and a great deal besides has taken place. A great deal has been said about there being no occasion for a reduction o rents. I am now going to speak of matter of which I have no original know ledge, but which, I believe, rests on good authority. We are given to believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant—far be it from me to censure him for it—has been, what we call, exercising pressure on the landlords. The right hon. Gentleman has been exercising pressure in one direction, because he thought there was a case of necessity; and some of the Nationalist Members, feeling it was no 110 use for them to go to the landlords and enter upon a course of reasoning and argument, it appears that some few of them have been exercising pressure in another way. I am rather jealous of the exercise of pressure by the Executive Government upon landlords, and I think it would have been far wiser and fairer that they should come to the House and say—"Pending this inquiry, we must make temporary provision for those persons who are unable to pay their rents. We will not be put off by professions of inability to pay; we will require judicial proof, and upon judicial proof time shall be given." Instead of that the extreme course was taken of putting pressure on the landlords; and it was said there was no necessity for the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork, of which, I confess, I have no knowledge, except as to its fundamental principles. Then have come these proceedings tending to compromise the dignity of the law, and which have given rise to the deplorable scenes which have caused such a thrill of horror throughout the country. In that state of circumstances, the hon. Gentleman the Seconder of the Address thinks he is in a position to ask me, who three months ago pointed out what ought to be done, what I think about the Plan of Campaign. I will detain the House no longer. I sincerely hope that the performances of the Session may justify more than I anticipate the sanguine expectations with which it is quite evident the Queen's Speech has been framed.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), but who is of necessity not in his place at the present moment, referred to the old traditions of Parliament. He spoke of the necessity of limiting debate. I think, Sir, that I may, even in his absence, remark upon the fact that the speech which he has delivered is one which is not likely to limit the debate on the Address to be presented in answer to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, for he opened questions of great width and magnitude, and with a force and a vigour which belongs to any statement that proceeds from the right hon. Gentleman when he throws his whole heart into the subject with which he has to deal. He congratulated my noble Friend behind me 111 (Lord Randolph Churchill) upon the step which he had thought it right to take conscientiously in the interests of economy, and in the interests of the country itself. He spoke of it as a great sacrifice. Well, Sir, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does my noble Friend only justice in making the remark of him that it was a sacrifice which a man in the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was very rarely called upon to make. I have already, Sir, referred to the observations which fell from my noble Friend in justification of the course which he took. I should be the very last person in the slightest degree to derogate from the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the position in which my noble Friend found himself. On the other hand, I will say for myself that there is also a duty on the part of those who are the heads of the great public Departments; and that duty is to maintain, from their own point of view and of their own responsibility, the efficiency of the Services for which they are responsible. It may happen that they may take an exaggerated or a mistaken view of their duties. I was myself perfectly prepared to take the full consequences of the acts for which I was then personally responsible. I believe that in the circumstances of the present day, looking at the condition of affairs abroad, looking at the vast interests of this country, looking at the great trade which we have to protect, looking to the multitude in this country who depend for their livelihood upon the security of their daily wage and their daily labour, that I should not have been justified in reducing the defensive forces of the country below the standard at which they existed and at which I proposed to place them. Nor should I have been justified in refusing to provide for the continuous defence of our coaling stations, which had been undertaken. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the necessity of economy. He spoke of the judicious and moderate views which were advocated by my noble Friend. I believe that my noble Friend, in advocating those views, was convinced in his own mind that they were both judicious and moderate. But I had also a duty to discharge, and I may say for myself that I believe no economy can be more short-sighted or more extravagant than to enter, under the pressure it may be 112 of Parliament or of public opinion out-of-doors, upon an expenditure which may be one-third, one-half, or two-thirds incurred, and then to abandon that expenditure before the object which was sought to be obtained and which was recognized as a necessity for the security of the country had been accomplished. My view of the duties and obligations of Parliament is that we ought not to commit ourselves to expenditure rashly, heedlessly, or thoughtlessly, but that we ought to examine carefully the necessity for such an expenditure, and that if we have begun an undertaking we ought to complete it. If we have entered upon an undertaking to fortify, it may be, our coaling stations, to provide defences for our commercial ports, to make secure our military forts, we ought to carry it through with economy, and in such a way that the expenditure already incurred shall conduce to the security and safety of the nation. For my part, as long as I have any responsibility for the conduct of Business in this House I shall invite it to realize for itself the importance of a particular work on which it embarks, and to commit itself to the completion of that work, or not to enter upon it. The right hon. Gentleman referred at some length to the remarks which were attributed—and which were attributed, I believe, with perfect accuracy—to Mr. Disraeli, that foreign policy and financial policy go closely together. They do. From what I know of the foreign policy of this country I claim that it is economical, and that it is directed to secure the peace of this country, the continuity and security of the industry of this country, spread, as its interests are, throughout the world. No, Sir; we are not aggressive; we are not disposed to interfere in the disputes of other countries or of other peoples; but we are bound to maintain the honour and the obligations of this country, and we are bound to fulfil the engagements to which Treaties bind us. The right hon. Gentleman referred to some observations which fell, I think, from my noble Friend as to the disposition which is supposed to exist that we should range ourselves on the side of one Continental Power or of another. I again, Sir, repeat that our disposition is bounded by the duties and interests of this country and by its obligations under Treaties, and that we 113 shall never interfere, unless we are bound to do so, either in the interests of the commerce and industries of this country, or on account of those obligations which we have undertaken. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of my challenge to my noble Friend to put his finger on any expenditure which he believed to be unwise as a challenge to fight a battle on unequal terms. Now, Sir, I have been most anxious to avoid anything which appears, in the slightest degree, to suggest a difference of feeling between my noble Friend and myself. It was natural that the right hon. Gentleman should avail himself of the opportunity to point out circumstances which would bring to pass a difference of opinion between Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House and the Government which they support. I believe there is no real difference of opinion between my right hon. Friend and myself on a single point. We desire economy, but we desire practical economy. Having invited my noble Friend to put his finger upon a single blot, upon any single excess or extravagance, I do not ask him to fight a battle on unequal terms; I ask him to assist his Friends on this side of the House in the endeavour to enforce that economy which is in our interests, as completely as it can be in his, or of the country itself. No, Sir; Parliament itself must be taken into council in matters of this kind; it must, by its own effort, aid the Government in the detection and correction of extravagances which may exist—extravagances, however, which, from the point of view I take, I believe do not exist. But in the conduct of the great Departments—and I see right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been associated with them—there no doubt always exist opportunities for retrenchment and improvement. In that direction, and in the direction of the maintenance of the armaments which exist, I ask the House to assume the responsibility to discharge its duty, and to acquaint itself with the system which exists. There appears to be an impression that the Estimates which have been presented and the armaments which are proposed are in excess of those which existed and were proposed by the late Government of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). There is no foundation for that impression. They are really less 114 in magnitude and less in amount than those which were proposed last March by the right hon. Gentleman, who then sat upon this side of the House. I admit that they are not reduced in effective strength, and that the reduction which has been effected is due to the economy and supervision which has been exercised in the various Departments, and which, I hope, may conduce to still better results for the public benefit. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the proportion which exists between the Expenditure of the present day and the Expenditure of many years ago. I am afraid that there is no hope that these proportions will be very largely altered. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the circumstances under which we are acting are entirely different—that the ships and the guns of the present day are as distinct and different from those of 10, 15, or 20 years ago as it is possible to conceive. We might as well almost go back to the days of bows and arrows for comparison as to compare the ships and guns of to-day with those in use 20 years ago, and the cost relatively is almost as much greater. But this is not the opportunity for entering into a discussion of this kind. Such a question can only be minutely investigated either by a Committee of this House, or by the discussion in Committee of the Whole House when the Estimates are produced, which will either justify or change the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the changes in the structure of the Government—to the position of my noble Friend the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Salisbury), and to my own position in this House. Well, Sir, I feel some hesitation in remarking on my own position. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will feel that I am at a disadvantage which almost shuts my mouth in the attempt to speak of the position which I myself occupy in this House. I had no desire to fill that position, and I occupy it merely in the discharge of what I believe to be, under the circumstances, a public duty. I would only say this—that I have never yet, even for a limited portion of the year, had the enjoyment of a sinecure. It is absolutely inconsistent with the life I have led, and I cannot imagine that I shall at any period of my public and 115 active life arrive at that happy position. But the right hon. Gentleman insisted, with great force apparently, upon the impropriety—at least, that appeared to be his argument—of my noble Friend who is at the head of the Government being also the Foreign Secretary. He admitted, I think, that the circumstances of the present day were grave, and that the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government was not, on the whole, unsatisfactory even to him; but he did not indicate that there was any one man at the present day better fitted to discharge the duties and the responsibilities of Foreign Secretary than my noble Friend. I believe, speaking with great deference, and with full regard to the great qualities which exist in public men at the present day—I believe that the country is prepared to say that there is no man, on the whole, better fitted to discharge the duties of Foreign Secretary than the Marquess of Salisbury. The question then arises whether the practical object which we ought to aim at of having the best man for the position, which has to be filled under circumstances of great difficulty, anxiety, and danger, not, perhaps, to the interests of England, but to the peace and the interests of the world—whether, under those circumstances, it was not wise and right that my noble Friend should assume the responsibilities and the duties of Foreign Secretary as well as those of Prime Minister. I will not presume to judge upon a question of this character. I only say for myself that I occupy the position which has been assigned to me from a simple sense of duty; and I believe I and my Colleagues will be fully informed—as if, indeed, we were Prime Ministers ourselves—of the views, of the mind, and of the policy of my noble Friend, and that we shall have all the influence which we ought to exercise, and all the power which we ought to possess, in the decision of any question which affects the interests of this great Empire and concerns the honour of Great Britain. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government, under present circumstances was without a head; that it was a Government of Departments. Sir, I deny that altogether. I say that in Council we meet together under circumstances which give to the Prime Minister, and to those who exercise influence one with 116 the other, that complete interchange of responsibility and duty which enables is to act as one Government, responsible to the country, responsible to Her Majesty, and in complete accord with the Prime Minister himself. Reference was made to the advantages of dual action. The right hon. Gentleman insisted that there always had been dual action in this country—that there had been a Foreign Secretary and a Prime Minister—the Prime Minister reading the despatches, and the Foreign Minister sending them. I do not think we can say that the results of that dual action have been always entirely successful. Looking back upon the past, it must be confessed that we were involved in liabilities and responsibilities in Egypt as the result of dual action, which, had there been single individual responsibility on the part of a vigorous and capable man, might possibly have been avoided; and very much of the expenditure now objected to has arisen from that dual action in Egypt. I will pass now to other passages of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He asked me whether Papers with regard to the Balkan Peninsula would shortly be produced to the House. Yes, Sir; they will be produced immediately. But I think it would, perhaps, re-assure the House if I venture to state more precisely what the views of Her Majesty's Government are with regard to the Balkan Peninsula, and I will say that—An invitation has been conveyed to Her Majesty's Government to give Instructions to the Ambassador at Constantinople to associate himself with the Representatives of the other Powers in the hope of arriving at an acceptable solution of the difficulty, and he has been informed that Her Majesty's Government are very anxious for the adjustment of the controversy which exists with regard to the future government of Bulgaria; that we should act, in the first instance, under a sense of our responsibility as signatory of the Treaty of Berlin; secondly that we desire to give effect to our wish for the independence and the freedom of the Bulgarian people, in accordance with our traditional policy and, thirdly, that subject to those considerations we desire to give all legitimate satisfaction to the wishes of the Russian Government.Sir, I do not think I could give an more clear statement of the views an policy of Her Majesty's Government wit regard to Bulgaria than I have read out to the House, and I have read out substantially the Instructions which have been conveyed to Her Majesty's Mini 117 ter at Constantinople. I was thon asked with regard to Egypt. I was asked to state to what number the British troops in Egypt were to be reduced. We found them at a very large number when we assumed Office. They were in excess of the provision which had been made in the Estimates for the year; and, thanks greatly to the skill, the moderation, and the good feeling exhibited by the Representatives of the English Government in Egypt, especially to General Stephenson, we have been, or shall be, able to reduce the number of the Army of Occupation to about 5,000 men before the 1st of April next, and, at the same time, there will be a considerable reduction in the Egyptian Army, probably to about 10,000 men. I need not say the effect of these reductions has been beneficial both to the Egyptian and to the English Exchequer; but, at the same time, there appears an excess of expenditure for which Estimates will have to be produced in this House. I concur entirely with the observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman as to the beneficial effect upon the people of Egypt of the administration of the country by the English Government. I believe it has been most beneficial to them in every sense of the word. I believe they have been relieved from trouble and difficulty which oppressed them before, and they have the advantage of orderly and settled government. With regard to the question of the Canadian fishermen, I need not say that Her Majesty's Government are most anxious to do anything in their power to bring about a satisfactory settlement of the question at issue between the United States Government and this country with regard to those fisheries. The Canadian Government itself has assumed a most moderate attitude in the affair. It has been the policy of the English Government in the past, under all Administrations, to maintain Colonial rights, and we are bound to do so so far as we can; but there are two kindred peoples who honestly desire, I believe, to arrive at a settlement of the questions in dispute, and no efforts will be spared on the part of Her Majesty's Government to bring those questions to a fair and equitable and amicable settlement. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the question of Ireland, and spoke of the hard case of England and Scotland in the past, and of the probably still 118 harder case of England and Scotland in the future. I can only say that if the right hon. Gentleman will give his assistance, with a view to bringing about peace and order in Ireland, and a termination of those interruptions to the conduct of Business in this House, we shall be most glad to accept that assistance; and he will thus contribute largely, I believe, to the happiness of Ireland, and to the advantage of England and Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that there were five references to Ireland in the Queen's Speech; that there were three with regard to legislation, and others to the condition of crime and outrage. The right hon. Gentleman has said, with regard to Local Government, that it was losing ground; that it would have to be postponed; that we have qualified our intention to introduce a Bill for the Local Government of Ireland, provided circumstances rendered it possible. I think myself it is always better, in dealing with questions of this kind, to be perfectly frank and open with the House and the country; and we say, as my noble Friend behind me said, that if the condition of a country is such that it is incapable of receiving any large measure of self-government, then it would be absurd and impossible to force such a measure upon it. The right hon. Gentleman offered, indeed, to bet me 10 to 1 that the Bill would not be introduced. Well, he has it in his own hands, as the head of the National Party of Ireland, to exercise that influence which will bring about a condition of order and obedience to the law in that country which would justify Her Majesty's Government in proposing measures for the increase of local self-government. If the right hon. Gentleman will, as the head of the National Party, in conjunction with the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), exercise that control over those combinations and those agitations which disturb and distress and unsettle that country, then there will be no question that the measure for the local self-government of Ireland will be brought forward. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that great crimes are becoming more rare, and he spoke of the allusion in the Queen's Speech to the organized attempts at agitation and resistance to the law which had been made.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), among other things, referred to the fact that there was no allusion to the evictions that have occurred in Ireland, and gave it as his own belief that if a certain Bill, introduced before the Session closed only four months ago, had been passed, these evictions might have been prevented. Well, Sir, there is no one in this House, or in this country, who has a greater sympathy for the suffering poor of Ireland than I have individually. I pity them from the very bottom of my heart; but there is nothing more deplorable than the fact that their sufferings have been made the instruments for agitation by men who have no regard whatever for the real interests of those people, but who only use them as ammunition for the attainment of their own particular views and objects. What are the facts of the case? I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman really understood them. The particular case of eviction to which he referred was the Glenbeigh eviction. It is notorious that if the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) had been passed, no single eviction at Glenbeigh would or could have been avoided. No, Sir; put it how you like, the Plan of Campaign which the right hon. Gentleman appeared to justify, and which has been solemnly condemned by one of the Judges of the land, is a campaign directed against the interests of the poor suffering tenants of Ireland, because it compels a landlord, if he will not accept the terms offered by people who have no concern whatever in the question, to assert his rights in the manner in which he has done in the past. The right hon. Gentleman chose to refer to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) as having given colour end sanction to the Plan of Campaign. Why, Sir, what has my right hon. Friend done at the most and at the worst? He has, perhaps, on one, or two, or more occasions exercised his personal influence with gentlemen to endeavour to induce 120 them not to press their legal rights to the last extremity—from information which he has received, and believing that in doing so he was benefiting alike the owner and the occupier of the land. But what is this Plan of Campaign? It is the interference of other persons, who have no local concern in the place at all, to compel individual tenants not to pay the rent which they are able and capable of paying, and which they are willing to pay, to pledge them not to pay them, and to compel the landlords to accept that which they offer them, whether or not it is just or right. In the one case we have the influence—not the influence, but the suggestion—of a gentleman who feels deeply for the country, and for the interests of the people over whom he is called to govern; and in the other we have an organized attempt to bring the owner of the land and the tenant of the land into hostile relations, so that if the owner is not content to forego all his rights he must proceed to extremities against the tenants by having recourse to legal remedies. I have no sympathy whatever with the hardhearted landlord. I do not believe that there are 10 men in this House who have any sympathy with him. But you are putting the good landlord into a position from which it is impossible to extricate himself, except by the assistance of the law, and the miserable tenant into a position in which he is forced to accept the dreaded alternative of eviction. Let hon. Gentlemen be reasonable, considerate, humane to the tenants of Ireland. Let the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) exercise his influence, and let him take care to inform himself of the facts of the case. Let him act with the facts as his judgment, knowledge, and conscience direct, and then we may have some hope of peace and prosperity in Ireland. I do not propose to occupy the time of the House at any further length. I may venture to express the hope that the debate may partake of that character which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian himself desired—that it may be a short debate—that it may permit us as speedily as possible to proceed to the real Business of the Session, and that we may endeavour to devote some portion of the time of Parliament to the amelioration of the condition of the people of Ireland.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
said, that the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. W. H. Smith) had made an appeal to the late Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) to do something to promote order in Ireland; and he said it would be a good thing if the Members of the late Government exerted their influence to put an end to those things which were interrupting the exercise of the law in Ireland that day. To put an end to the obstructions which the law had received in Ireland, or what was considered to be law in Ireland recently, was first of all to put an end to scenes like those which occurred at Glenbeigh, when, at that time of the 19th century, under the flag of England, and with the forces of England, unfortunate people, who were unable to pay what the landlords demanded, were not only hounded from their homes in the depth of winter, but, to the disgrace of the Government and of England, had the roofs burned above their heads, and were smoked from their houses as if they had been rats, and not human beings. The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had said that the Plan of Campaign was the cause of the bad relations which now existed between the landlords and tenants of Ireland. What was the fact? In Glenbeigh, where these unheard-of atrocities had taken place, the Plan of Campaign was never heard of; and if it had been exercised in the district of Glenbeigh, instead of the people being hunted through the fields, while their houses smouldered in ruins, they would now be at home under their own roofs, and would be receiving overtures of peace and settlement from the landlords, and would have got what reductions the landlords had given on other estates where the Plan of Campaign was in operation. The right which Irish Members had to interfere in such cases was this—that they were the elected Representatives of these people; and one of the chief duties which these people had delegated to them was that they should spare no exertion in order to keep them safe in their homes. He would remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), when in the witness-box in Dublin, had not denied that he had used pressure on the landlords to abstain from enforcing their technical 122 rights; and the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had at last admitted, as Leader of the Government, that there were harsh landlords, and that it was the duty of the Government to discountenance them. That was to say, the Irish Nationalists were reviled in England because they persistently preached what the First Lord of the Treasury had now admitted in the House to be necessary. That right hon. Gentleman had confessed—and he (Mr. Redmond) felt bound to say that he received the admission with great satisfaction—that there were harsh landlords whom it was absolutely necessary to appeal to, to prevent them from exacting from their tenants more than the tenants could pay. He (Mr. Redmond) and his Friends hoped the Government would exercise pressure, and so fall in with their efforts to put a stop to evictions in Ireland. The Government had acknowledged to-night that it was necessary to interfere between landlords and tenants, and endeavour by personal influence to stay evictions. That admission altogether demolished the argument sometimes used—that the landlords were a class of men who might be left to the kindness of their own hearts in dealing with their tenantry. If Her Majesty's Government thought it their duty to interfere to prevent the harshness of landlords, how much more strongly must the Representatives of the poor tenants feel it would be their duty to interfere for the same purpose? It looked very much as if it was because the Government failed by their method of personal pressure, that they were so jealous and bitter against the Plan of Campaign. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House described the Plan of Campaign as an engine brought to bear on landlords who refused to surrender all their rights. But that showed a complete ignorance of facts. The Plan of Campaign was only adopted upon a few estates; and in these cases the landlords were only asked to give a fair reduction, and it was always promised that when that reduction was made the rent would be paid. It was also said that the Plan of Campaign was not fair, because the tenants themselves fixed the reduction that they asked; but there was every desire to meet the landlords in a fair arbitration. This, however, they would not do, and the answer they usually gave was a 123 shower of writs. It was under circumstances such as these that the Plan of Campaign was adopted. The right hon. Gentleman spoke contemptuously of the "persons" who were returned for trial for their connection with the Plan of Campaign. He (Mr. Redmond) was proud to say that he was one of those persons. The estate he had been connected with was that of Lord Dillon, in the county Mayo, from which Lord Dillon, though he had never put his foot in Ireland, drew £25,000 a-year. The tenants had themselves reclaimed the barren rocks and hills of the estate, and, owing to the severe depression, they asked for a reduction. Lord Dillon refused, and a quantity of writs were served. Then the Plan of Campaign was adopted, and Lord Dillon, after some time, consented to grant a reduction of 20 per cent. Then the entire rents, less this reduction, were paid over to him. Under such circumstances as these, the Plan of Campaign was fully justified; and if he and his Colleagues were found guilty of the mythical criminal offence with which they were charged—if by packing of juries and changing of venues that was possible—they would nevertheless rejoice in their action, which had saved many hundred people from the horrors of unjust eviction.
§ SIR GEORGE RUSSELL (Berks, Wokingham)
said, that it was melancholy to find once again in the Queen's Speech a phrase drawing attention to the fact that, although grave crime had become rarer in Ireland, violence of a more insidious nature prevailed. It was, he believed, attributable to the defeated measure of the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister, which was still being dangled before the eyes of the people of Ireland, who were led to believe that, by resorting to this system of violence, they would at last attain their ends. He often wondered that the late Prime Minister should be so anxious to deny that separation would result from his proposed legislation; because, if there was any merit in his scheme, it was that its adoption would result in our being no longer troubled with the Irish Question. Now, there had been enough of surrender by instalments. It was supposed by its author that the measure for the Disestablishment of the Irish Church would bring content to Ireland; but the change was only re- 124 ceived as an instalment, and the same was the case with the two successive Land Bills of the late Prime Minister. The Conservative Party had been asked to disclose an alternative policy. Their policy was "no surrender," as opposed to "surrender;" they had been sent to Parliament to maintain the Union at all hazards, and they were determined to do it. It was greatly to be regretted that there existed statesmen who were prepared to throw over to-day the principles which they advocated yesterday. For example, it seemed but yesterday that the late Prime Minister threw into gaol the very men who were now his close allies. Then it was not very long ago when the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) declared that all minor considerations must yield to the maintenance of the cardinal principle of Party union; and yet that very night they had heard from the noble Lord that the small question of a difference in the Estimates of £500,000 had been sufficient to induce him to discard that cardinal principle. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) appeared now to be anxious to arrive at a modus vivendi with the late Prime Minister, and half-inclined to offer Home Rule with safeguards. In the present temper of the Irish people it would, he believed, be very dangerous to make any such offer. The only policy that had been tried and failed was that of "shilly-shally." There must be firm and resolute government, and it would be useless to offer Ireland any further legislation of a remedial nature until the people were prepared to accept such legislation as a final measure. The present Government were, he trusted, resolved to carry out a firm policy in Ireland, and in that resolution they would be supported by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington). It was only by following a policy of that kind that they could insure the ultimate welfare of a distracted country.
§ MR. LANE (Cork Co., E.)
I believe the English and Irish people will prefer to take their ideas of honesty and morality from the opinions expressed by the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland and the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister, rather than from the hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the 125 House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, in the speech which he delivered a short time ago, said that the late Prime Minister, in the views which he has expressed this evening as to the Plan of Campaign, showed that he knew very little of the facts of the case. Now, I think that any person from Ireland who listened to the remarks of the Leader of the House must have been satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman himself knows much leas of the facts of which he has attempted to speak than the right hon. Gentleman the late Prime Minister, because the Leader of the House said that the Plan of Campaign was an uncalled-for interference in the relations between landlord and tenant by persona who had no interest whatever in the payment of rent in Ireland, and that it was, to a certain extent, an act of coercion or intimidation on the part of the Nationalist Members, in order to prevent the tenants of the property where the plan has been put into operation from paying their just and legal liabilities to their landlords. That sentence alone convinces me that the right hon. Gentleman must have made a very superficial inquiry indeed into the meaning and working of the Plan of Campaign. If he had asked right hon. Gentlemen who sit at his right and left for information I think he would have obtained much better information than he seems to possess at present. Now, it was my privilege to be the first Irish Nationalist Member who co-operated with any body of tenants in Ireland for putting this Plan of Campaign into operation. I need not inform the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland of that, because it is on public record that when the fact was brought under the notice of the right hon. and learned Gentleman he gave an opinion upon the Plan of Campaign, the genuineness of which has been much debated ever since. Well, Sir, having been the first to co-operate with the tenants in putting the Plan of Campaign into operation, I think I may claim a more intimate acquaintance with it than the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House; and it is only right that the Members of this House should hear from one or two Irish Representatives who have been connected with the Plan of Campaign something 126 more about it than they have heard up to the present before they begin to discuss it, or even to speak about it. I do not know a single case in Ireland where the initiative in this matter has been taken by a Member of Parliament, or by any other individual than the body of tenants who were interested, on the estate where the Plan was put into operation. It is well that hon. Members should clearly understand how this Plan of Campaign works in Ireland. The first step which is taken by the tenants is to meet together to discuss the rents on their holdings—the excess of rents over the valuations, and then the particular depression of prices in their various departments of agriculture, because, owing to the distance from markets, and a great many other local causes, the prices got for the same sort of produce in different parts of Ireland vary to a very large extent. These tenants, having fully discussed their affairs, came to an agreement among themselves as to what was a fair all-round reduction of rent to ask from their landlords for their mutual protection. Having done that, they go to the agent or landlord and make the offer which they say is the best they are able to make. If the landlord or his agent on the spot agrees to accept that offer, in every case the rent is paid without the slightest hesitation on the part of the tenants; but if the landlord or his agent refuses to make the reduction, then the tenants adjourn to some place in the district in order to determine what is to be the next course they ought to pursue. The general result of that action is that these men, not being able, to a certain extent, to manage their own affairs, ask their Representative, or some other Member of Parliament whom they happen to know, to go down and consult with them, and help them as to the best mode of procedure. I am stating now the course which has been adopted in reference to various properties from my own experience. I was asked by 400 tenants to assist them in this matter, and having met them I found that the largest number of them were inclined to ask for a reduction of 50 per cent; but, having gone thoroughly into the particulars of each case, I came to the conclusion that a demand of that kind was excessive. I was assisted in the matter by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid 127 Cork (Dr. Tanner), and after a great deal of persuasion we induced the tenants, who were determined in the first instance not to pay more than 50 per cent, to abate their demand to 35 per cent as the maximum reduction. In regard to that estate, I can vouch for the fact that when the tenants came in to pay the rent they had agreed to pay into the common fund a very large number of them stated to myself personally, and to the clergymen who were co-operating with me, that they had in many instances been compelled to sell articles of household furniture, not to speak of cattle and other portions of their stock, which might be considered legitimate things to dispose of for such a purpose. They had had, actually, to dispose of their household furniture in order to obtain the amount, which they were perfectly ready to hand over to their landlord or his agent if it was agreed to accept it. On properties immediately adjoining this of which I am speaking, and on land running into it, other landlords—and there are hon. Gentlemen opposite who know the fact—other landlords who are Members of the Tory Party in the County of Cork made much larger reductions than these tenants asked for, and I know that they tried to use their influence with the particular landlord I was dealing with on that occasion in order to induce him to accede to what was considered to be a fair and legitimate arrangement in regard to his estates; but he refused to do so. On that particular property there are more than 400 tenants. Under ordinary circumstances I know, for a positive fact, that a good many of them could not have made an offer to pay the rent this year at all; but, owing to the fact that they were called upon to adopt some united course of action, the agreement they arrived at was that which I have stated. I believe that their conduct will stand the test of the closest investigation, and that it will be found that these men scraped the money together from sources of which I and their neighbours had no idea, for the purpose of paying the last farthing it was possible to pay to their landlord. That, Sir, I think is clear proof that there is no such thing as wholesale dishonesty on the part of those tenants of Ireland who have adopted the Plan of Campaign. I believe that every Member 128 from Ireland who will follow me in the course of this debate will be able to give similar testimony as to the great sacrifices which have been made by the tenants of Ireland in order to meet every fair, just, and reasonable demand their landlords can possibly make upon them. As a proof that there is no dishonesty on the part of the tenants of Ireland, and no general combinations to refuse to pay rents, I may mention the fact that there have not been more than 50 or 60 instances, up to the present moment, in which the Plan of Campaign has been adopted. In all other cases the landlords, with a few exceptions, have met their tenants in a fair and reasonable spirit; and I am myself acquainted with a great many properties and estates where the Plan of Campaign would not have been adopted if the landlords had shown the slightest disposition to treat with their tenants, or to meet them fairly. It was only resorted to where the landlords displayed no inclination whatever to abandon the pound of flesh they demanded in the nature of rack-rents. If there had been any conciliatory attempt to meet the tenants on the part of these harsh landlords, there would have been a desire on the part of the tenants to meet them half-way. As an invariable rule, wherever the Plan of Campaign has been adopted, it will be found that the landlords are inexorable in their claims. They will not acknowledge that there has been any depression of prices; that their tenants are suffering any hardship whatever; or that there is any fair ground for making a reduction. I think I have given proof to the House that we have not been trying to prevent the tenants from paying the rent. In every case where the Plan of Campaign has been adopted, and the money put into the common fund, the landlord has been told plainly and distinctly that the money is there ready for him to take if he is willing. There is no hesitation in paying it over to him; and in every case where the landlord has come to terms the whole of his half-year's rent, less the reduction which the tenants have asked him to make, has been paid to him, without the slightest deduction on account of any expenses which may have been incurred in reference to legal proceedings. One proof of the actual necessity of putting this Plan of Campaign 129 into operation, and particularly in the South of Ireland, with which I am personally connected, is contained in a fact which I will mention to the House. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Penrose Fitzgerald), who led the opposition last Session to the Tenants' Relief Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), called a meeting of the landlords of the county of Cork, and of the South of Ireland, immediately after he returned to Ireland from Parliament. Speeches were made at that meeting by the hon. Member for Cambridge and the hon. Member for South Huntingdon (Mr. Smith-Barry), calling on the landlords of Cork and the South of Ireland generally to acknowledge the badness of the times and the depreciation of prices, and to make fair and reasonable allowances to their tenants upon the half-year's rent. It is only right that, in speaking from these Benches, I should acknowledge that many of the landlords, in answer to that appeal, did make large reductions, and among the foremost of them was the hon. Member for South Huntingdon himself, who made a larger reduction than we have asked for under the Plan of Campaign upon property immediately adjoining that upon which the Plan of Campaign was put into operation. Surely this fact affords strong justification for the proceedings which the tenants have been compelled to resort to. The hon. Member for Cambridge led the opposition, to the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) last autumn. But when he went home and inquired into the circumstances, he saw at once the absolute necessity of making a wholesale and sweeping reduction of rents to the tenants. One very curious thing connected with the Plan of Campaign is this. It has almost invariably been in connection with properties where the landlords are absentees that this Plan of Campaign has been put into operation, for the simple reason that, unlike those gentlemen who live among their tenantry, and who are able to inquire into their affairs, these absentee landlords know nothing of the circumstances of their tenantry, and are altogether guided by the reports which they receive from parties who are interested in making no settlement. It is a very well known fact in Ireland, if it is not known to Members in this House, that almost invariably the land 130 agent in Ireland, or some one of his relatives, is a member of the Legal Profession. Of course, the more law there is on these properties the better it is for the land agent, or for his brother or son, or whatever relative happens to be solicitor to the estate. If the landlord came to terms with his tenant, and gave a proper reduction, there would be no law costs find their way into the estate office. I believe that in a large number of cases where this unfortunate strife prevails between landlord and tenant, if they could be thoroughly investigated, it would be distinctly found that this is one of the primary causes which prevents the landlord and tenant from coming to an amicable settlement. Upon one particular property in which the Plan of Campaign has been adopted, the entire reduction, if allowed, would not have come to more than a few hundred pounds, and yet I am informed that the landlord has already incurred costs which amount to £600 or £700 without having received a single farthing of rent, or being likely to do so. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House seems to have gone somewhat out of his way in order to show how little he knows of this Plan of Campaign and its operations in Ireland. He referred to it as one of the causes of the Glenbeigh evictions. My hon. Friend who spoke from these Benches has already referred to that matter, and has told the House that in Glenbeigh, where those unfortunate cottiers live who have been hunted out of their homes by the agents of the Hon. Rowland Winn, and left without a roof to cover them for some weeks, the Plan was never heard of. It is an extraordinary fact that on all the properties in Ireland where the tenants have adopted the Plan of Campaign, up to the present moment there has not been a single case of eviction. If the Government have been, as has been stated, doing their best to prevent evictions in Ireland, and if these evictions are, in the eyes of the British people and of the Government, a source of shame and degradation, how is it that the law does not prevent them, and why s it that the forces of the Crown are used in order to assist in carrying them out? It is a source of congratulation to us who have been connected with the Plan of Campaign that not a 131 single unfortunate family has been put out on the road-side in this inclement winter on any property where the Plan of Campaign has been adopted. Whatever may have been thought of our action here in England—and I believe that very different views are held of the morality and the justice and the necessity of the Plan, of Campaign in England generally from those which have fallen from the Tory Benches opposite—we shall always look back with pride to the fact that we were, in this winter of abnormal agricultural depression, able to maintain upon their farms, in many localities, persons who would otherwise have been driven out upon the road-side or compelled to emigrate. There is one other circumstance in connection with this Plan of Campaign which I would ask English Members and others to give their attention to, as a justification and reason why a different view may be taken from that which has bean persistently adopted by the Members of the Government; and that is that while this great persecution of the tenants is going on all over Ireland, and while these grossly harsh evictions are taking place which are arousing the indignation of the whole civilized world, Her Majesty, in the Speech which she has addressed to the Houses of Parliament, has announced the fact that there has been less of grave crime committed in Ireland in the present winter than for a long time past. What is the cause of it? Why is it that we have not this winter, as we have invariably had in other winters, long records of agrarian outrage and crimes following directly in the wake of evictions and as the direct consequence of evictions? It has been acknowledged by Captain Plunkett, the representative of the Government in the South of Ireland, that the reason why we have not had these crimes is this—that the Plan of Campaign has obviated the necessity for the tenants of Ireland to have recourse to those acts of violence which they have adopted in former years, when they were handed over unprotected to be persecuted and exterminated by rack-renting landlords. That is an additional reason why we who have taken part in this Plan of Campaign in Ireland, instead of feeling intimidated by the State prosecutions which have been initiated in Dub- 132 lin, or by the threats which have been thrown out from the Treasury Bench this evening in regard to the adoption of the Plan of Campaign being a violation of the law, are able to stand up here as fearlessly as we do in Ireland to acknowledge with pride and pleasure that we have taken part in the Plan of Campaign, and that we have done so knowing intimately the circumstances of the tenantry with, whom we have co-operated. We know that the tenants have been making a fair and honest demand, and that if they had paid more than they have offered they would have been doing great injustice to themselves and families. If they had made any effort to meet the unjust claims of the landlords at the present moment, they would have been merely staving off, for a very short time, the same drastic course of persecution on the part of the landlords, because it would be sure to be repeated when the March rents came round again, and when they would be less able to meet the claims made upon them. I must apologise for detaining the House at such, great length, but I thought it was necessary that some of us who have taken part in the Plan of Campaign should deny the deliberately false reports which have been made in regard to our proceedings in Ireland, and endeavour to place before the House the real circumstances and conditions under which we have put this Plan of Campaign into operation. We challenge a verdict on our conduct from all fair-minded and impartial Englishmen as fearlessly as we do from any fairly constituted Jury of our fellow-countrymen in Ireland.
§ MR. SHIRLEY (Yorkshire, W. R., Doncaster)
Any measure for the reform of county government which is likely to meet with the approval of Members on this side of the House must be of a distinctly democratic character. I con fess that I have little faith in the re forming pretensions of the present Government; and we have already heard in Ministerial speeches made within these walls, that the new County Board are to be composed largely of ex officio members. Now, I venture to say that any scheme of that nature which may be brought forward will not meet with acceptance. The desire of the country to have Councils elected on a purely de- 133 mocratic basis; that the members should be the direct representatives of the ratepayers of the locality; that the electors should have the protection of the Ballot; and that the principle should be adopted of one man one vote. Under these circumstances, I should like to have some information given to the House by some Member of the Government as to what their plan is. It has been suggested by some that the parish should be the area, and by others that it ought to be the Union; but my opinion is that, while on the one hand the parish would be too small, on the other the Union would be too large. I would suggest myself that the Boundary Commissioners who were sent round the country in connection with the Redistribution Bill should be sent round again in connection with the system of local government, so that districts might be mapped out with populations averaging 6,000 or 7,000—in some cases by giving a Charter of Incorporation to a large village or a small town, and in other cases by the grouping together of a number of villages; and to the Councils representing these districts ought to be transferred all those powers which are now exercised by the Court of Quarter Sessions. I sincerely hope that the scheme to be introduced by the Government will be on lines of that kind. As the Representative of rural electors, I know what it is they want. They do not want a sham Bill; they have no desire to find out, when the new system is brought into operation, that they are to continue to be governed by the parson and the squire, and that they have only got Quarter Sessions over again under a new name. That is certainly not what they want; but their desire is to have the full power of local self-government exercised by the persons who pay the rates. At the time the Municipal Corporations Act was passed, in 1835, the people who lived in the towns were given the full right of managing their own local affairs; and that system has answered so well in the case of the towns during the last 50 years that it ought now to be applied to the rural districts as well. My opinion is that Her Majesty's Government are only making a pretence of legislating in the matter, and that they will not put into the hands of the electors the real power which they ought to have. Then, again, there is another branch of the 134 question of local self-government which is very inadequately referred to in the Speech from the Throne—namely, local self-government as it relates to Ireland. I am glad to be able to believe that the cause of Home Rule has been making considerable progress during the last few months; and nothing, I think, indicates that more clearly than the Liverpool Election. There we saw the spectacle of a Tory statesman of the first rank, holding a high official position, and with every kind of advantage in his favour, not only enjoying the powerful support of the Press, but also the assistance of a large number of influential persons calling themselves Liberals, and the fight was on the one question of Home Rule. And yet in that great constituency of Liverpool, where the commercial ability of Mr. Goschen must have been so thoroughly understood and appreciated, the Home Rule candidate was returned. All that I have observed of late shows that the cause of Home Rule is making rapid progress. We have been told by hon. Members opposite, not only in this House, but throughout the country, that we who advocate Home Rule are Separatists. We deny the accusation, and hurl it back with scorn and indignation at the men who make it. We say that it is you who are the real Separatists, and that it is we who are the real Unionists; and that it is foolish for you to keep up that condition of separation which has now existed for the last 86 years. Have you had any solid union during those years? You have had a paper union; but no union of heart or affection. You have had the union of Parliaments; but you have never had a union of people; and, therefore, I say that it is we who advocate Home Rule—we, who are willing, under proper safeguards, for the protection of minorities, for the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and for the unity and integrity of the Empire, to intrust the Irish people with the power of managing their own local affairs, who are the true Unionists. I believe that the people are getting more clearly to understand that the concession of a statutory and subordinate, not a co-equal and co-ordinate Parliament, does not mean separation. We are not Separatists, because we desire, and intend, that Ireland shall always remain an integral portion of the Queen's Dominions. We do not in- 135 tend that Ireland shall ever be separated from Great Britain; and the people of this country are rapidly beginning to understand that to intrust the Irish people with the management of their own local affairs would be a perfectly safe experiment.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I have noticed that the present debate is very similar to others which have taken place upon the Address in answer to the Queen's Speech. Debates on the Address generally turn upon the question of Ireland and of coercion. I think it is somewhat strange that on the present occasion we do not find the many embryo statesmen in this House prepared to descant upon the foreign policy of Her Majesty's Government. We have not heard anything of Prince Alexander in the course of this discussion, or of the Eastern Question, or of Austrian sentiment, or anything like that. The debates which usually follow Her Majesty's Gracious Speech generally hang upon Ireland, and in most cases on the propriety of coercing Ireland. No matter how the ideal may be put, no matter what may be the language used, there is always found in the Queen's Speech some hint of coercion for Ireland. We have that very mildly put in the Speech of Her Majesty to-day, for I find that Parliament is invited to consider that question in these terms—Your early attention will be called to proposals for reforms in legal procedure, which seem necessary to secure the prompt and efficient administration of the Criminal Law.Now, Sir, I am somewhat curious to know whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Law Advisers to introduce into that Bill some means by which Her Majesty's Crown Prosecutors in Ireland may be prevented from packing juries. We, in our capacity of Representatives of the Irish people, have often strongly to protest against the efforts made by the Crown Prosecutors in Ireland to pack juries. We were successful in one case this year in smashing up a jury panel in Sligo, and we were also successful in securing for the prisoners sent to Cork for trial the benefit of the doubt. For the first time the unfortunate prisoners brought to Cork for trial got fair play, and it was only because my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner) and myself demanded fair play in such a remarkable fashion that the 136 juries of Cork and the Crown Prosecutor himself dare not deny fair play. I trust that in any legal procedure that may be introduced by Her Majesty's Advisers they will take good care to put it beyond the power of the officials in Ireland to pack juries and deny the rights and privileges of citizens and the British Constitution itself. But I am inclined to think that the language of the Royal Speech, although very mild, does convey to those who are able to read between the lines that something more is intended to be done. For my part I believe it is intended to coerce Ireland again, and I have only to point out to Her Majesty's Government, as I have often pointed out before, that in proportion as you coerce the people of Ireland, in proportion as you oppress them and deny them their rights, will be the crime that exists in Ireland. I remember—I think it was in 1881 or 1882—reading a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Air. Gladstone), in which he clearly proved that as the local leaders of opinion in Ireland were put in prison so did the number of outrages increase in the localities in which the arrests had taken place, and that when these men were restored to their homes and the influence which they had always exercised over their neighbours was again exerted, crime was throttled and suppressed. I believe that if the same course is pursued by Her Majesty's Government now a like result will follow. As I have said already, it is very strange that in all the debates which occur after the reading of Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, the principal topic of discussion is Ireland. On this occasion the speakers who have already occupied the time of the House have fortunately the much-abused Plan of Campaign to fall back upon. We have seen the Plan of Campaign abused by the Press; we have heard it abused on the platform; and we now invite discussion upon it. We are satisfied that after a full discussion of the matter the Government will sing very small indeed. I have very little to say as to the Plan of Campaign. That Plan of Campaign has only been put into operation in order to effect that which the Government themselves desired to bring about. Why, Sir, the landlords of Ireland have entered upon a Plan of Campaign of their own. Hon. Members of this House 137 as well as the Irish Members have witnessed the operations which have been carried out under the Plan of Campaign. I myself had not the opportunity of witnessing the terrible evictions which have been taking place in the district of Glenbeigh; but although I was not in the South of Ireland I was in a district in the North in which evictions were attempted to be carried out—namely, in the district of Gweedore, in the County of Donegal. A more miserable country I have never put my foot in. The inhabitants of the district live amidst rocks and stones. The whole surface of the land is white with granite—great granite boulders weighing five or 10 cwt.—scattered all over the surface of the laud. The people descend to the shore and bring up on their backs huge piles of seaweed, which they lay down between the crevices in the rocks and over the surface of the stones. On the land thus formed they sow potatoes, but I am sorry to say that a very small crop indeed is produced. I myself examined the crop produced upon the land of one of the tenants who was evicted, and this (holding up a small potato) was the largest I could find. Nor is it very inviting. But no sooner have the peasants made this land than the landlord comes down upon them for the rent. They have in this district of Gweedore patiently paid rent for years, but owing to the pressure of the times they have now found themselves unable to do so. But because these people are unable to meet the landlords' demands, by virtue of necessity they have been obliged, if not to adopt the Plan of Campaign, at least to strike against the payment of the exorbitant rents that were demanded from them. The landlord put the law into operation, and last week he proceeded in this terribly bleak and barren district to evict some 13 families. With the aid of 200 policemen he succeeded in evicting one man, but no sooner was he evicted than the people, in their resentment, put him back again into the house from which he had been expelled. Now I maintain that it was a worthy act. That, Sir, is the state of things at Gweedore. If the people in other localities have adopted the Plan of Campaign they have done so by virtue of stern necessity, and not with any intention to defeat or evade the law, or to refuse to fulfil their legal obligations. I am acquainted with 138 another estate in the South of Ireland on which I have witnessed on one or two occasions the collection of money from the tenants, and I know that many of the farmers in that district have been compelled to encroach upon their domestic resources in order to contribute their portion to the common fund. Many of them have gone to the meetings of their friends, assembled to take council, and have professed their inability to pay anything, either to the landlord in the shape of rent, or into the Tenants' Defence Fund. They have said that it would be necessary to go to some fair and dispose of their last cow, or sheep, or pig, as the case might be, and they have appealed to their friends, as they would appeal to the agent or landlord himself, for time to enable them to pay in the money to the Tenants' Defence Fund. This is, I believe, the state of things which exists on all the estates where the Plan of Campaign has been adopted. Yet because the Plan of Campaign has been adopted, by virtue of stern necessity, the advisers of Her Majesty make her say in the Gracious Speech from the Throne that—The relations between the owners and occupiers of land, which in the early part of the autumn exhibited signs of improvement, have since been seriously disturbed in some districts by organized attempts to incite the latter class to combine against the fulfilment of their legal obligations.What has been stated here by my Colleagues who have preceded me is a fact—namely, that the Nationalist Members of Parliament in Ireland have not identified themselves with the initiatory steps which have been taken by the tenants in adopting the Plan of Campaign. Never until they had themselves decided upon adopting that plan have the Nationalist Members interfered, I and very often they have only intervened for the purpose of cutting down what might otherwise have been an exorbitant reduction. A case came under my observation last Sunday. A body of tenants waited upon me, and, having made a statement, I advised them not to demand the reduction which they thought they ought to get in order to enable them to live and thrive. I have no hesitation in saying that I believe Her Majesty has been very badly advised in regard to her Speech so far as Ireland is concerned. I believe that 139 there is no foundation for the assertion that there have been organized attempts to incite the tenants to combine against the fulfilment of their legal obligations to the landlords. I believe that there has been no combination among the Irish Members, or on the part of any organization in Ireland, to incite the tenants to refuse to fulfil their legal obligations. I believe, also, that Her Majesty has been badly advised in stating that she wishes this House of Parliament to introduce any measure of coercion in Ireland. The coercion, if any is to be applied, should be applied to the officials of Dublin Castle, and those officials under British rule who tyrannize over the subjects of Her Majesty in Ireland, who pack juries, and send subjects into penal servitude who are innocent of the crimes laid to their charge. Not only am I of opinion that Her Majesty has been badly advised, but I believe that the Government will know it before long. It is not the first time that a Tory Government has advised Her Majesty wrongly in relation to Ireland. They are out of sympathy with the majority of the people of Ireland, and they are in sympathy and harmony with the oppressors of the Irish people. They are trying to get for the landlords the best bargain they can possibly make, and at the present moment they are using the forces of Her Majesty to keep up the land at a fictitious value in order that they may enable their friends, the Irish landlords, to retire with flying colours and full pockets. But they are counting without their host. The Irish people to-day have friends; they have advisers and counsellors who will not allow the Government to play into the hands of their enemies in the manner in which, perhaps, Her Majesty's Government desire. No doubt before long we shall have some grand scheme of land purchase in Ireland. I think it is foreshadowed in Her Majesty's Speech. When the Government find that they are unable to maintain the rents in Ireland at a fictitious value by other means, they resort to the old methods of coercion. They prosecute the advisers of the Irish people, put them in prison under a Peace Preservation Act, and prosecute them under some special Statute which provides some hasty and obsolete means of dealing with them. We are asked now to furnish Her Majesty's Government with means for removing the advisers of 140 the Irish people, who now stand between them and the landlords, in order, as I have said, to sustain the rents at a fictitious value, so that they may retire the old garrison before they create a new one, with flying colours and full pockets. The Irish landlords have been for a long time in the occupation of the country, and now, like a retiring army, they are endeavouring to lay waste the land as they retire. They are seeking to devastate the country, but we will not allow them if we can prevent it. On the contrary, we desire to hasten their retirement, so that they shall have no time to carry out their work of devastation. I have felt it my duty to point out to the Government the mistakes they have made in the advice they have given to Her Majesty in the Royal Speech which was made to-day from the Throne. I believe that a grave mistake has been committed; and whatever course is before us, whether it be coercion or conciliation, we are prepared for any fate in store for us, and are resolved to stand by the people, no matter what the consequences may be.
§ MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
Some hon. Members on this side of the House have touched upon what is called the Plan of Campaign. Now, I maintain that the Government have had at their disposal a devastating army, and that that devastating army has not confined its operations to what are called the rebel and disaffected portion of the Irish people. I know of my own knowledge that what has been termed the English garrison in Ulster has suffered as much, and perhaps more, from the ruffianism of landlordism as any other Province. I know something of Ulster. I remember when, in North Armagh, Lord Lurgan cleared out 100 families in one locality, and for what purpose?—in order to make a run for dogs. And yet this arbitrary course of procedure was resorted to in the case of the men who, whenever the Empire is in danger, are to rush to the front and defend the integrity of the Empire. They were supposed to be Loyalists in the true sense of the word, and yet Lord Lurgan swept them off in droves like cattle. That is the estimate in which the Loyalists of Ulster are held by one of the Irish landlords. They have not been treated in any degree better than the rebels and disaffected, as they are called. I know, of my own knowledge, that during last 141 winter, in that part of the county of Armagh which I have the honour to represent, the tenants in what are called the Nationalist districts got a reduction of rent from 25 to 30 per cent, but no such reduction was made in the Loyalist districts. I commend this fact to the notice of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), who must often have heard of the Protestant garrison of Ulster for the defence of the unity of the Empire and of the Crown. It would be much more proper to speak of it as the defence of the landlords' half-crowns. We are not told much of the loyalty of the landlords; and in a time of emergency, judging from the past, the landlords, as a class, are not the men who would be prepared to stand in the breach. Indeed, we have been told by The Times that in the time of the Crimean War 2,000 aristocratic cowards laid down their arms; and I, for one, certainly do not regard such men as the defenders of their country. I have thought it right to intervene in this debate because I have heard so often, both in and out of Parliament, that the Irish garrison of Ulster is to maintain the country for England. My belief is that the Loyalist garrison of the North would be the worst enemies of the country, and that it would fill it with combustible materials. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) has, to a large extent, bridged over the differences between England and the Irish people. He has endeavoured to create a real union between the two peoples; and it must not be forgotten by the men who now call themselves Unionists, on the other side of the House, that more than 100 years ago, at the time when the Americans wanted to rule themselves, Lord North and his Party said they would not tolerate any disruption of the Union. What was the result of their refusal to concede right and justice to the American people? I have myself seen, on the Chesapeake and Potomac, the Stars and Stripes waving where the British Flag might have been floating to the present day. The right hon. Member for Mid Lothian and the Liberals who follow him have no intention, certainly, of adopting a policy which, in the case of America, threw away a Colony of the Crown. At the present moment you have a difficulty with the American people. You have the Canadian Fishery Question at issue 142 with the very people from whom you separated, and whom, if you had not separated from them, you might have had some share in ruling. Taking the advice of the Unionists of those days you threw away all your chance. You may possibly have a war now, for the United States are not likely to submit tamely to the piratical acts of Canada. If you were not able to contend with them 100 years ago, or in 1812 or 1814, you may not fare much better in these days. Surely the sympathy of the Irish people in any European or American complication is worth consideration, and it may be far more worth your while to have the goodwill of the Irish people by allowing them to rule themselves than to have them ruled by bad landlords, and disaffected towards your rule when a time of difficulty arises. The landlord class may collect their rents, because they are Justices of the Peace and judges in their own cause; they have control of the Sheriffs and bailiffs who execute the law; they empanel the Grand Juries, and form the Visiting Committees of the gaols. In addition, they are ex officio Poor Law Guardians, equal in number to the whole of the elected Guardians. They can sit on more than one Board; and in the county of Armagh, although you may find different Boards, they are always the same men. The law as it now exists enables them to oppress the people, and it is put in force by such men as judge Lawson and Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar, a German. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary himself has such contempt for the law in Ireland that he anticipates the judgment of the Courts and sends down his emissaries to seize the money of the people on the ground that they have incurred legal liabilities to the landlords, notwithstanding the fact that no writ has been issued or judgment delivered. Before any judgment is got at all the Chief Secretary directs a number of policemen to go down and throttle one of my hon. Colleagues, so that they may wrest the tenant's money out of his hands. The magistrates themselves have so much I contempt for the Judges that they do not wait for the ordinary operations of the law, but direct the seizure of money which never belonged to them. I can understand the Chief Secretary sending down to seize this money if a 143 writ or judgment had been previously obtained; but he has waited for no authority whatever. Well, a pickpocket I could not do more than that, and I believe there is a Statute in existence which inflicts the penalty of flogging upon any man who takes money out of the pocket of another. Small as my knowledge of law is, I must confess that under these circumstances my respect for it is still less, and for this reason—that the responsible Officers of the Crown in Ireland do not respect it themselves. You must respect the law yourselves if you desire to make it respected. And the law must be in accordance, not only with the Divine law, but the natural law. But how can you look upon any proceeding as being in accordance with either Divine or natural law by which men are thrust out upon the roadside and their houses pulled down or set on fire? In a military campaign a victorious army would do far less than you have been doing in Ireland by means of the Sheriffs and the bayonets and rifles of the police. And this, too, in the year of Her Majesty's Jubilee. What a monument it is to Her Majesty upon her Jubilee! 4,000,000 of Irish people have been done to death since the accession of Her Majesty in 1837, and 270,000 houses were levelled in the years 1846 and 1847. These are the monuments of the reign of Queen Victoria. We are asked to be loyal, and we do the best we can; but you will not allow us to be loyal. I would ask how loyal you would be under the same circumstances? What have not Englishmen ventured in the past for the preservation of their rights and liberties? But if we dare to murmur a complaint against the harsh and cruel laws which are imposed upon us, our mouths are immediately closed and we are put in prison. The police in this country do not carry rifles and bayonets; but in Ireland they have them, and charge them with buckshot. The Government do not care what happens, although I believe that Englishmen generally are ashamed of the transactions which take place in connection with Ireland. I have heard Englishmen say that they are ashamed of the accounts they have read in regard to the conduct of the troops and police in Ireland. Surely the Irish people have a natural right to the soil of their own country. I have no right to the soil of this country be- 144 cause I am not an Englishman, but I venture to submit that, as an Irishman, I have some right to the soil of Ireland. Therefore I maintain that the law which you support in Ireland is not the natural law. It is a law which gives the lives and bodies of other men into the custody of third parties. It does not make much difference whether a man owns a slave or whether he owns the land on which that slave is kept; he is a slave all the same. We deny that there is any power on the part of this country to put an end to the natural rights of Irishmen to the soil of their own country. Certainly the Irish Representatives refuse to admit your power to legislate for their country in that spirit, and if they took any other course the Irish people would very soon send another class of Representatives to this House, who would probably not treat you as respectfully as we do. We do our best to respect your procedure and your stupid laws, but we endeavour to induce you to alter them. You, on the other hand, manifest no disposition to alter them, and you are slow indeed in taking any steps that will be for the benefit of the people. On behalf of our constituents, we protest against the violation of their natural rights and law of which you have been guilty. The course you have pursued in the past has not tended to produce tranquillity in Ireland, but it has made the Irish people the enemies of your Empire. You talk about the American Irish. How is it possible that they can have any feeling of loyalty towards this country? No doubt the action of the National Representatives, of the National League, and of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), has done very much to soften the asperities which exist in other parts of the world. I would therefore ask who are the greater friends of the Empire—we, or those who increase the number of the enemies of Great Britain and bring the law into contempt? Not only that, but they bring the Sovereign of this Realm into hostility with the people, for every writ that is issued against the people runs in this way, "Victoria, by the Grace of God." I ask fearlessly whether we or the landlords are the best friends of the Empire? These are the remarks I have to make on this subject, and I have to thank the House for the attention paid to them. I could not allow the debate to close 145 without saying a few words, more particularly with, regard to the events which have occurred in the North Armagh Division.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Colonel Saunderson.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.