§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [27th January.]— "That, &c." [See page 84.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, he was desirous of calling the attention of the House to the systematic breaches of the Truck Act alleged to have taken place in Scotland. He had brought the matter on previous occasions under the consideration of the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Matthews), and he knew that the right hon. Gentleman had made inquiries, and he (Mr. Bradlaugh) had had confidential communications from him on the subject; but he desired to know why, in many of the cases, a prosecution had not taken place? He had no doubt that the reason was that, in the opinion of the Home Office, these matters. 275 were too small to be worth, a prosecution; but he submitted that such considerations ought not to weigh at all. When the Government had prosecuted poor crofters for breaches of the law, they ought not to spare the rich manufacturers. In Ayrshire and Lanarkshire breaches of the Truck Act extensively prevailed, and he had brought to the notice of the Home Secretary two cases, in which it was utterly impossible, if proper inquiries were made, to fail in bringing home the guilt to the person in each instance. He admitted that the owners were very rich men; that they were men of influence, men of great respectability; but, having agreed with the desire of the Government to have the law enforced elsewhere, he suggested that it would be as well to enforce it fairly. Unless the law was enforced fairly and impartially as well against men of influence, respectability, and riches as against the poor, it might lead to misapprehension as to the manner in which justice was administered, and the gravest results might follow. Coming to the Address which the House was asked to vote, he remarked that there was in the very first paragraph a statement that there was no apprehension that any disturbance to the European peace would result from the unadjusted disputes which had arisen in South-Eastern Europe; but not quite 20 minutes before that Speech was communicated to the House they had heard read by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) a letter from the Prime Minister, in which he stated that the outlook on the Continent was very black, and that it was not too much to say that the chances were in favour of war at an early date. Now, he should feel a difficulty in voting for an Address until he knew what the meaning of that language was. If it meant that there was no danger of war except in relation to Bulgaria, then he thought it would have been franker for the Government to have let that be really stated. If it did not mean that—if the larger phrase included the lesser, then he wanted to know whether any other favourable incident than that of the resignation of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had happened since the letter of the 22nd December was written, to lead to hopes of peace? Before voting the Address, he thought the 276 House was entitled to some very clear and distinct information on this point, especially as they had been told by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer that he found objection to the foreign policy of the Cabinet—that he regarded it as unwise, and as likely to bring us into difficulties with Austria, Russia, Germany, and France.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
said, he would do so. If he had not correctly translated the words of the noble Lord it was his obtuseness. The noble Lord's words were: —A wise foreign policy will extricate England from Continental struggles, and keep her outside German, Russian, French, or Austrian disputes. I have for some time observed a tendency in the Government attitude to pursue a different line of action, which I have not been able to modify or check.He apologized to the noble Lord if he had not correctly translated his words, and he quite agreed with him that the policy of the Government had been an unwise and irritating policy, and a policy likely to lead to war and a considerably increased military expenditure. He hoped the noble Lord would tell the House what were the particular points in which he thought his Colleagues not wise in reference to Russia and France, and on which he tried to check them and failed, and the manner in which he tried to check them. Supposing they did not understand the explanations of the noble Lord or of the Government, he wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) when they would have Papers relating to these subjects in their hands? It was quite impossible to vote the Address without knowing whether the Government meant peace or war. The country was against war; it was against that pretence of assertion in the interference with affairs with which they had no concern which had increased our Expenditure year by year. Turning to the second paragraph of the Royal Speech, referring to the affairs of Egypt, he wished to ask Her Majesty's Government whether it was true that the English Government had agreed that the cost of the Egyptian garrison in Suakin was to be paid by the English taxpayer? If yes, why? Whether that cost amounted now to 277 £73,080 a-year, or what other sum? If yes, how long the people of this country were to contribute £73,000 to the Egyptian Government for the government of a town in which they had no interest whatever? He further asked whether it was true that the English Government handed over to the Egyptian Government at Suakin stores which cost this country £15,404, without getting a solitary farthing for them? If yes, why? Whether the Egyptian Government had applied to Her Majesty's Government for stores for Suakin amounting to £14,660, and how much Her Majesty's Government had supplied? Whether there were other stores, valued at a considerable sum, which had also been handed over, and whether these concessions were not some of the fortunate results of Sir H. Drummond Wolff's Special Mission in Egypt? Trifling matters of that kind, he knew, did not weigh very much with the Government, but they did with people outside, who saw their tax bill swelling, and who wanted to know why it should be swollen in relation to Egypt—why, when their wages were being reduced, when they were compelled to work short time, they should be asked to contribute to the conduct of military affairs, not only by the English Government, but the Egyptian Government, over which they had no control? With reference to Burmah, they were informed by the Royal Speech that the district of Upper Burmah had been occupied without opposition by Her Majesty's Forces. He was at a loss to understand how it could be said that the country was occupied without opposition, if the accounts which had appeared from time to time in The Times were correct as to attacks on armed stockades, and fights with Natives, and other military operations. He asked whether the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for India (Sir John Gorst) considered an attack upon an armed village in the light of a fight; whether he considered an armed stockade assaulted by our men with great gallantry in the light of something which had the nature of a military operation, or whether the whole of the telegrams which had appeared in the newspapers, stating that the expedition to the Ruby Mines had been conducted with great military skill, with much slaughter of the dacoits who opposed us 278 in several places, and with little loss on our side, were untrue; and whether "without opposition" meant without opposition, or simply without opposition of which the hon. Gentleman (Sir John Gorst) had official knowledge at the time? It had been stated that a representative of the firm of Messrs. Streeter had accompanied the expedition to the Ruby Mines. This was most unfortunate. Why, in a matter of stealing the jewellery of other people, should the Government give preference to one firm over another? Many people would fail to understand why British soldiers—who had died by dozens on the road to these Mines—should die by disease for this object. In November the noble Lord the Member for Paddington refused to listen to pacific proposals made by Burmese Ambassadors to our Ambassador in Paris. These proposals could not be made to our Indian Government, as that Government had again and again refused to receive the Ambassadors. The noble Lord gave as his reason for not listening to these proposals that it was not possible to interfere with the Government of India. How came it, then, that within 48 hours the noble Lord telegraphed to the Viceroy of India instructing General Prendergast to advance at once? In the face of all these experiences, he thought it was not asking too much, before the House voted the Address, that hon. Members should have in their hands Papers which would enable them to form an opinion on the subject for themselves. Turning to Ireland, and particularly to the evictions at Glenbeigh, he understood the Chief Secretary to have suggested that these evictions were really the result of the action of the Land League, whose Plan of Campaign was an attempt to drive tenants into such a position of existence that evictions must necessarily follow. The condition of the people of Glenbeigh did not need any great incitement from the Land League, for General Redvers Buller himself had declared that, in his opinion, a great number of the tenants were nearer famine than the payment of rent. That was the declaration of the Representative of the Government—a declaration frankly accepted by the Chief Secretary. Was it not rather true that the Land League was the outgrowth of the persistent 279 practice of evictions for many generations? He would be the last to deny the exceeding gravity of the question. It was one on which all should unite in trying to get some cure for a disease which everyone admitted, not as the result of Land League violence to day, but which had existed for a century and a-half, and was the offspring of artificial laws made by the English few against the mass of a population who were prevented from earning their livelihood except on the land, and who could only obtain the land under conditions which often rendered earning a livelihood practically impossible for them. This was fruit which grew on a tree whose roots went back a century and a-half, and which should be dealt with without the party strife and bitterness which got imported into a question of this kind. Sometimes Irish representatives used language which he thought wicked, and which hon. Members opposite recalled and denounced. But this did little good. It was hard to refrain from speaking rashly when one's friends were hungry; but, instead of speeches filled with personal attack, it would be better if Parties could unite to find some cure for a disease which everyone admitted to have existed for 150 years, and to have had its origin in social laws made in the interest of the few against the many. The man who had built the wretched hovel, in which hon. Gentlemen opposite would not kennel their dogs—the man who gave the only productive value to the land—might well think that when he was starving he would not be met with the maxim—"From him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath." As an illustration of the effect of evictions, he (Mr. Bradlaugh) would relate a personal anecdote of the year 1851, when he, as a private soldier, formed one of a squadron of dragoons, and assisted in protecting an evicting party, not far from Ballincollig. It was on a bitter winter day; several evictions took place; and on that occasion they levelled the houses—they did not burn them. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary called them houses, but hon. Members opposite would not kennel their dogs in such places. Still they were homes. One of the women, whose goods were turned into the road, threw herself on the snow at the feet of the 280 captain, praying him to allow her tick husband to die under cover of the wretched shelter. The captain had no power to interfere. The man was turned out, and died shortly afterwards. Two nights later he (Mr. Bradlaugh) was sentry at Ballincollig barracks from I till 3 o'clock in the morning, at the front gate of the barracks, and, hearing a moaning, turned out the guard, who discovered the woman, with a dead child in her arms, and the other dying on her breast. The Land League was not dreamt of then. What wonder that these men hated us! The misery in Ireland was the echo of our crimes and of our misconduct. Considering, in conclusion, the declaration of the Government that—Bills for the improvement of Local Government in England and Scotland will be laid before you; and, should circumstances render it possible, they will be followed by a measure dealing with the same subject in Ireland,he would give two pieces of evidence in support of his belief that, with respect to the extension of a measure of local self-government to Ireland, the Government did not intend to make possible the introduction of such a measure. These evidences were the declaration of the Marquess of Salisbury that after 20 years of consistent and resolute government Ireland would be fit to accept any gifts, in the way of local government, which we might think fit to offer, and the further assertion of the Prime Minister that he did not exclude legislation for Ireland, but would recommend as little of it as possible, and that it should be undertaken with as little haste and with as much prudence and caution as they could command. This certainly did not look like rendering it possible for legislation on Irish local government during the present Session.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member who has just sat down always interests the House, and always compresses his remarks with an amount of conciseness and condensation which it would be well if all of us could imitate; but perhaps he will not think me wanting in respect to him if I suggest, as a criticism, that he has hardly been so forcible or felicitous in his contribution to the present debate as he usually is. The hon. Member alluded rather in an interrogatory fashion to the 281 foreign policy of this country, and asked a great many questions of the Government, and he also asked one or two questions of me. He appears to think that it would be proper for me to enter at length into the foreign policy which may have been adopted by the present Government, forgetting that such a course would be most unusual and most improper on my part; for it has been my advantage to possess until a very resent date official information, whereas the House is absolutely destitute of official information on foreign policy. [Ironical cheers from the Opposition.] I do not quite understand that rather precipitate ironical cheering, for I should like to know how a Government can place Parliament in possession of official information on foreign policy until Parliament meets? I understand that the Government are, as rapidly as possible, collecting Papers on the subject, with the view of informing Parliament; but it is obvious that any reference by me to foreign policy before those Papers are presented would be, in the highest degree, unusual and indecorous. But, as the hon. Gentleman has challenged me, I will venture to say this much, which I should have said in any circumstances. I read with the utmost satisfaction, and with entire approval, the Instructions to Sir William White which were communicated to the House by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith). Those Instructions appear to me to have been framed with prudence, caution, and wisdom; and if the spirit of those instructions animate our conduct in the East of Europe, I doubt not at all that Her Majesty's Government will be able materially to assist towards the settlement of the Balkan difficulty. Then the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton took a most unusual and, I think, a rather unfair course. Suddenly, without the smallest notice, he pounced down upon me with regard to the operations which took place in Burmah more than a year ago, and he seemed to think that I ought to be prepared to answer a question founded on two extracts out of a most voluminous Blue Book on matters with which I was connected some considerable time ago, but which it would be extremely difficult for me to be absolutely accurate about now, considering that since that time 282 many other matters have come before me. The hon. Member asked me why I neglected, as Secretary of State for India, to negotiate with the Burmese Embassy in Paris, and why I replied to them that I could not interfere with the Government of India? I explain to the hon. Gentleman that the Burmese Embassy went to Paris with the object of negotiating with the Government of France for a French protectorate or a French alliance in Burmah, ostensibly against their British neighbours. Consequently, it was obviously impossible for me to enter into official relations with an Embassy which was not in any way recognized by the British Government, when the whole conduct of the Burmese negotiations, which were at that time most critical, were in the hands of the Government of India. I should like to know what the hon. Member and what the House would have thought if, while Lord Dufferin was carrying on a most difficult business in regard to the negotiations before the outbreak of war, I had been carrying on negotiations on my own account with a hostile Embassy in Paris? Then the hon. Member said—"If you could not interfere with the Government of India about the negotiations, how could you send instructions to General Prendergast to advance at once?" My impression is that Lord Dufferin telegraphed to the effect that all his propositions had been peremptorily rejected by King Theebaw, and wished to know whether the Generals should advance; then, having been consulted, the Government sent the Instructions to which the hon. Member referred. I will not be absolutely positive about these matters, because they occurred some time ago, and are extremely complicated. Then the hon. Gentleman passed to the subject of Ireland, and made some remarks about the occurrences at Glenbeigh. He narrated a very interesting anecdote of circumstances of which he was personally a witness, some years ago, in connection with Irish evictions. But how very extraordinary that the hon. Gentleman should endeavour to influence the House and the country and harrow their feelings with Irish miseries and with an anecdote of what took place in 1851. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman—"What has Parliament done for the Irish tenants since 1851?" Par- 283 liament has surrounded the Irish tenants with a triple wall of protection, against nearly all that landlord oppression which undoubtedly used at that time to be exercised by landlords in certain parts of Ireland. How can the hon. Gentleman endeavour to induce the House to suppose that there is the smallest analogy between what takes place now in regard to the eviction of tenants and what took place in 1851? The hon. Gentleman is very much moved by the occurrences at Glenbeigh, and he appears to be disposed to take a favourable view of the action of the National League in regard to these occurrences. I observe that this last winter the hon. Member has been extremely active in dealing with London Socialism. The hon. Member has applied to Mr. Hyndman and Mr. Champion and his follow-Socialists, who were also very anxious to remedy the misery of London, the most rigid and strict principles of the most robust political economy. I do not wish to complain of the hon. Member having done so. In fact, I listened with some admiration to his speech. But I wish he had pointed out to the House why he considers it necessary to apply to the misery of this great Metropolis—which far exceeds, I expect, in extent anything which you can find in Ireland—the strictest and hardest principles of political economy, and why, when he deals with Glenbeigh, he follows the illustrious example of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) in banishing political economy in the case of Ireland to the planets? It would have been extremely interesting had he explained the exact difference which prevents political economy operating in Ireland and enforces it in the Metropolis. The hon. Gentleman did not seem to me to have much fault to find with the government or condition of Ireland, except as regards these evictions at Glenbeigh. On that point my own opinion is that if the landlords of Ireland, who are so cruelly abused, and who, by some persons, are held up as the most execrable of mankind, had desired to have a case put before Parliament, in which their attitude and their treatment of their tenants should have stood a closer and more microscopic examination, and out of which they could have come more favourably to themselves, I do not think they 284 could have found a case more suited to their purpose than the case of Glenbeigh. That is my distinct opinion, after having heard all that has been said in the House, and having read all that has been written in the newspapers on the subject. This must be said for the landlords of Ireland—that during this last winter, as a body, and really, as far as I know, without much exception, they have done their duty; they have put themselves behind the Government; they have supported, as far as they could, the maintenance of law and order; and, in spite of all the injury that Parliament has done them by recent legislation—in spite of the sharp chasm which Parliament has dug between them and their tenants —the great majority of them have united with their tenants, have come and met their tenants, have eased the position of their tenants, and have endeavoured, with their tenants, to carry each other through a time of great difficulty and trial. I was always certain that the landlords of Ireland would adopt that position, and I purposely refrained when I was on that Bench, on every occasion, in spite of the remarks of Gentlemen opposite, from making the smallest appeal to the landlords of Ireland, because I was confident that this course would be adopted. With very few exceptions, indeed, I venture to say the landlords of Ireland have acted a generous, a humane, and a patriotic part. If I were to criticize the Queen's Speech at all in the passage relating to Ireland—it might be hypercritical, perhaps—but I should say the paragraph has been drawn with rather too heavy and dark a brush. You must judge of Ireland at the present moment, comparatively, by remembering carefully all she has gone through during recent years. Ireland, it appears to me, to use the language of metaphor, resembles what is often seen after an immense conflagration, when great quantities of property have been destroyed. Although the conflagration has been put out, there remains a great amount of heat among the ruins, so that it is impossible for days that either the firemen or the Salvage Corps can go to work, and for some time after such a conflagration the flames will break out afresh here and there. But the conflagration has been put out, and in the course of time from these ruins and from these ashes a more solid and. 285 stately structure will arise. That represents the state of Ireland pretty clearly at the present moment. I see nothing unsatisfactory—always speaking comparatively —nothing specially alarming, in the case of Ireland at present. There is, no doubt, a great amount of popular excitement, and a good deal of disorder, and a good deal of violent speaking. There is, in parts, resistance to legal process. But the great feature, and the hopeful feature, is that, in spite of all the prophecies we have heard from hon. Gentlemen opposite that there was going to be such a desperate outbreak this year of what is euphemistically called "the wild justice of revenge," Ireland is practically free from crime at this present moment. That it is so I cannot attribute to the credit of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I cannot think the attitude they have adopted was calculated to repress or diminish crime in Ireland. But the great and main fact, and one which the House may well take notice of and found hope upon, is that crime in Ireland has been reduced to its normal level, and even below its normal level. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland has been criticized severely in various quarters, and in quarters where he might have looked for the most cordial consideration and support. I think myself my right hon. Friend is being rewarded for the great sacrifice—one of the greatest sacrifices ever made by any public man—when he accepted the post of Irish Secretary. [Ironical cheers from Home Rulers.] In spite of the ridicule with which hon. Gentlemen opposite seem inclined to meet these remarks, I firmly believe that my right hon. Friend's second administration of Ireland will, if by good fortune it is continued for some time longer, turn out to be more successful and more creditable even than was his first administration. If I might once again employ the language of metaphor in order to deal with all the criticisms poured upon the government of my right hon. Friend—criticisms from those opposite because he has acted in such a way, criticisms from certain people in certain quarters because he has not acted in such a way—I should say this much, that Ireland appears to me at the present moment to be something like a high-spirited and mettlesome horse which has been extremely 286 badly ridden for some time. There is a certain school of professors of political equitation, principally represented by The Times newspaper, who seem to think that the best way to ride a horse of that kind is to be continually jobbing him in the mouth, continually hitting him on the head with the whip, and continually digging him in the side with the spurs. This school of professors persist passionately in the advocacy of these measures, although they see rider after rider laid on his back in the ditch. My right hon. Friend appears to have adopted a better and more scientific method—what I should like to call the firm seat and the light hand, with an occasional gentle pressure with the knees in order to remind your friend that, although you admire his high qualities, and desire to be on the best terms with him, you are perfectly able to guide and control him. This is my right hon. Friend's method, and I hope he will not be taunted out of it by any remarks made from any quarter, whether nominally friendly or openly hostile. Perhaps I may be allowed to make a remark about the Plan of Campaign. I frankly admit—and I hope I shall not shock the House—that I was never much alarmed by this great Plan of Campaign. I always thought it was a singular and strange proceeding; that it attracted a great deal more attention than it ought to have done on account of its singularity and its strangeness; that it has prevailed on a comparatively small scale in Ireland; and that the instances where it has been taken up have been made the most of in the Press. But over by far the greater part of Ireland rents have been fairly paid and legal obligations have been fairly acknowledged. That was my opinion of the Plan of Campaign; and I never was much frightened of the effects which the Plan of Campaign would have on the general government of Ireland. Of course, no man who combines the possession of common sense with the habit of speaking the truth can have the smallest doubt, or difficulty, or hesitation in declaring that the Plan of Campaign is hopelessly immoral and hopelessly illegal; and this much is absolutely certain—that if the Plan of Campaign was not hopelessly immoral from a political point of view, and not hopelessly illegal, it would not have had 287 the smallest merit in the eyes of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Of course, if Irish juries are in so curious a frame of mind at the present moment as to decline to give effect to the judgment of the Law Courts with respect to the Plan of Campaign, the Government will at once ask Parliament for such measures as may be necessary for strengthening and expediting criminal procedure in that country. Parliament will immediately grant them such powers, and in that action Parliament will be supported by the country. Immediately after that action the Plan of Campaign and the Campaigners will disappear either into voluntary or compulsory retirement. Therefore, hon. Gentlemen opposite will not, I hope, take it ill of me if I do not attach much importance to the Plan of Campaign. With regard to the great question of the Union, it is not alluded to in the Queen's Speech. I am glad of it for many reasons. Sir, the great struggle for the maintenance or repeal of the Union, as far as Ireland is concerned, is absolutely over. No doubt it has left behind it in Ireland certain difficulties. It has left behind it the difficulty of great popular excitement, and I agree entirely with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) in his most able and brilliant speech on Friday night, when he implored hon. Gentlemen opposite to place more confidence in their own agrarian remedies which they applied when they were in power. I entirely believe that if the Land Act of 1881 and the Land Act of 1885 are allowed time to work they will prove to be a most powerful narcotic for popular excitement in Ireland. But, Sir, the struggle over the Union has also left a great Parliamentary difficulty behind. I have, however, the utmost confidence that the strength, that the resolution and the ingenuity of the House of Commons will be competent to deal with it. But, as far as Ireland is concerned, I look upon the battle of the Union as over. I suspect that if I could take hon. Gentlemen opposite to a quiet room, where no one could over repeat what passed between us, I feel perfectly certain that they would confide the fact that they entirely agreed with me in that view. Now, Sir, I pass to another aspect of the Union, on which the House will, perhaps, allow me to 288 make a remark or two. The battle of the Union may be over in Ireland, but it is not over in England. The battle of the Union has still to be fought out in England. There are various ways of maintaining the Union. I mean from my point of view, and not from that of hon. Gentlemen opposite. There is a certain school of Unionists who, I think, are at the present moment imitating the conduct of the old Ephesians, who thought they could resist and check the progress of the new religion and new social system by perambulating the streets for hours, crying out, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." And there are some persons at the present time who, by constantly clamouring and talking of the Union, and denouncing anyone whom they think at the moment is endangering the Union, think that they can maintain the Union for all time. That would not be the method that I would recommend to hon. Members on this side of the House. Hon. Members on this side of the House profess to be anxious to maintain the Legislative Union between England and Ireland. Opposite to them sits the Party of Repeal. They are your opponents now; but if you fail to retain your hold on the English people they and their policy of repeal will be your successors. I believe that the right way to maintain the Union is to identify the Government of the Union—the Party of the Union—in the minds of the English people with good government, with efficient administration, and with wise and progressive legislation; but if, unfortunately, it should happen that the Government and Party of the Union should become identified in the minds of the English people with the reverse of those throe factors, or should fall short of the standard to which the English people in these respects are looking, then I greatly fear that before long—possibly sooner than some may expect—down will go your Government, down will go your Party, and, with them, down will go that Union to which you profess to be so devoted. I notice a little tendency—and I am anxious to say this while there is time—I notice a little tendency in the Party of the Union to attach too much importance to precarious Parliamentary alliances, which are as transient and uncertain as the shifting wind, and perhaps to leave out of sight, and not attach enough 289 importance to the vital question of all, that it is only by the excellence and merit of your policy that you can keep the English people at the back of the Party of the Union. I frankly confess that when I was in the Government I made it my constant thought and desire to make things as easy as possible for the Liberal Unionists; to induce the Government to produce such measures as they might conscientiously support; to pursue a policy which would be in accordance with their general principles; and to make such electoral arrangements as might enable them to preserve their seats; but I frankly admit that I regarded the Liberal Unionists as a useful kind of crutch; and I looked forward to the time, and no distant time, when the Tory Party might walk alone, strong in its own strength, and conscious of its own merits; and it was always to the Tory Party, and solely to the Tory Party, that I looked for the maintenance of the Union. If the Tory Party want to know the danger of their position outside their own ranks, they have only to watch carefully the negotiations which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir William Harcourt) is conducting at the Round Table with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), who is acting, as far as I am aware, with the knowledge, and not without the consent, of the noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Harrington). So greatly is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham enamoured of the progress of the negotiations, with such hope and confidence does he regard them, that he is not satisfied with the Round Table; he proposes that it should be a rounder and a larger table, at which Lord Salisbury is to meet the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), and the noble Marquess opposite is to meet the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), and there, after sweet converse, devise a scheme for the future government of Ireland. I do not know what are the feelings of hon. Members on this side of the House; but I know that my own feeling with regard to these proceedings of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham is that he is pursuing an erroneous and mistaken course. Hon. Members on this tide of the House will, I think, never follow a line of policy which, by any 290 reasonable construction, can create in Dublin anything in the nature of an Irish Parliament. That is the clear and broad position of the Tory Party. That is the position from which under no pretence of the extension of local self-government shall we depart; and it would be well for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, who is now indulging in such extraordinary gyrations, to lay to heart and keep well in mind that whatever schemes of Home Rule for Ireland may commend themselves to him, they are not, under any circumstances, likely to commend themselves to Members on this side of the House. I hope the House will pardon me for having made those remarks in regard to Ireland. I now desire to glance at another subject. I noticed, with great satisfaction, that it is the intention of the Government to press forward the proposals for reform in the Procedure of the House of Commons. I make no remark on the proposals now, further than this—that I notice, with equal satisfaction, that they are precisely in the same form as when I left the Cabinet. I see below me, in the corner, a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) who has spent much time during the autumn in perambulating the country, and alarming the country with the most fearful assertions and insinuations as to the awfully drastic form of restrictions on debate which I was pressing the Government to bring forward. I hope he will now admit that his alarm is entirely unfounded; that his assertions were perfectly baseless; and that the proposals for restricting debate are not one whit stronger, or more dangerous to Parliamentary freedom, than what he himself is perfectly prepared to agree to. I do not think, however, there would be much use in making that acknowledgment, for I imagine that certain persons on this side of the House would still assert that, of all dangerous Radicals who ever existed on the face of the earth, the Member for Paddington is the most dangerous. I pass on to glance for a moment at the programme of legislation contained in the Gracious Speech; and on that I will only say that I have observed, and possibly others have observed, a striking similarity—a strong family resemblance—between the programme in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech and the programme which ap- 291 peared in a certain speech made in Kent not long ago, and which speech at the time it was made was declared by the Government organs in the Press to have no Ministerial authority of any sort or kind. All I can say is that the programme in the Queen's Speech appears to me to be an ample and abundant programme. Of course, it is impossible to judge of the merits of that programme merely by the titles of the Bills; but I have every hope myself that those Bills when produced will be found to contain much that is good, and much that is wise; and I am sure that if there should be portions of those measures which fall short of what the country requires, the Government will be only too anxious to defer to, and to be guided by, the wisdom of Parliament. I pass now to another part of the Queen's Speech which more closely concerns me—the paragraph which states that the Estimates will be laid before the House, and that they have been framed with due regard to economy and efficiency. It is a curious thing that this last statement, with regard to the Estimates being framed with due regard to economy and efficiency, had almost fallen into disuse and desuetude. It is very rarely used nowadays. I suppose it is the strong Conservative proclivities of the present Government that had rescued it almost from oblivion. But I own I cannot help regarding it, as far as I am concerned, as something very like the manœuvre of waving a red flag in the face of a bull, for if the Estimates are really framed with due regard to economy and efficiency they must have been greatly altered since I left the Cabinet. It is quite possible that there may have been some alteration, because I observe that Lord Salisbury, speaking in "another place," was good enough to say that I, in common with all other public men—and, of course, he included himself in the number, as being one of the most public men in the country—was deeply impressed with what he called the "rapid and most injurious increase of Public Expenditure." Well, Sir, really I believe I may confess to the House that this is the first indication I have ever received from Lord Salisbury that he was of that opinion. I look upon it as a distinct advance; and I am not at all disinclined to take the credit of his conversion to myself. At any rate, I take these words 292 "most injurious," and I commend them to the attention of the House of Commons. When the Head of the Government admits in his place in Parliament that the rise in Expenditure has been "most injurious," it is certain that he is prepared to co-operate with Parliament in the effort to reduce Public Expenditure. The hon. Member for North Islington (Mr. Bartley) made a speech on the subject of economy on Friday night to which I listened with much attention. I pass over the amiable and generous suggestion he threw out that in the action I had taken I had been mainly guided by personal motives, and I turn to the more practical, useful, and material portions of his speech. The hon. Member seemed to think that Parliament can do a great deal in this matter of economy, and he appealed to Parliament to do this, that, and the other. The hon. Gentleman has certainly the advantage of me in years of natural life; but I think I have the advantage of him in years of Parliamentary life. And I can assure him that Parliament is impotent—absolutely impotent to promote economy unless the Government lead the way. I ask my hon. Friend and those who think with him to consider this. We may be of opinion that the Expenditure of this country is abnormal and excessive; but how are we to give effect to that opinion? Are we to move an Amendment to the Address? Are we to move a Resolution in the House to that effect? Why, that would be a Resolution or an Amendment hostile to the Government, which the Government would be bound to treat as a hostile Motion, and which, if carried, would terminate the existence of the Government. And, Sir, neither the hon. Member nor I would be prepared to initiate or to take part in any proceedings of this character. Therefore, as far as regards getting Parliament to pronounce an opinion on the Expenditure of the country, that mode of action is out of our power. Well, we are thrown back upon the ordinary proceeding in Committee of Supply. What takes place? A Minister comes comes down with the Army or Navy Estimates. He makes a long statement, probably of an optimistic character, which, as a rule, is listened to by a thin House; and the Members who do listen are so exhausted 293 at the end of the statement that they are quite incapable of discussing the contents of that statement. Then, suppose that either the hon. Member for Islington or I adduce a number of facts tending to show great extravagance on the part of the Department, what takes place? In those statements of ours there would probably be something that was inaccurate, as well as things that were accurate. The Minister gets up; he fastens upon their inaccuracies; he proves them to be such with every appearance of virtuous indignation, and he sits down amid a burst of Ministerial cheers, uniformly overlooking all that was accurate or valuable in the facts submitted to him. The nest morning the papers would have something to this effect:—The First Lord of the Admiralty, or the Secretary of State for War, as the case might be, satisfactorily and finally disposed of the frivolous and absurd charges brought before the Committee by the right hon. Member for Paddington. That would be the result of our efforts to promote economy. So the Expenditure goes gaily on. I want to show that I am right in saying that unless the Government leads the way Parliament is absolutely impotent. I have a suggestion to make to my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, which he may be able to consider. It is that the discussion of the Army and the Navy Estimates—and, indeed, the discussion of Ministerial Statements connected with the Estimates generally—would be immensely improved, and the House would be enormously assisted, if the Minister in charge of Estimates, instead of making a long speech, which is only the reading of a written document prepared by the Department, were to circulate with the Estimates, or some days before the discussion of them, the written statement which he would otherwise read in the House. Then, Sir, Members would come down to the discussion of the Estimates, having had ample time and opportunity to get up the facts, and fully prepared to initiate and sustain a useful discussion of great public questions. I commend this suggestion to the consideration of my right hon. Friend. It is a course which I have for some time wished to see adopted, and I really think it would be an enormous convenience and saving of time. My right hon. 294 Friend was good enough the other day to say in answer to me—and to say it in a speech of generosity and kindness, for which I desire to thank him—that he would welcome any assistance from me in the direction of economy, and would place all information at my disposal or that of the House, and would give the House every facility, either by way of special discussion or Committee or Commission, for arriving at the true reason of this great increase of Expenditure. Encouraged by that invitation of my right hon. Friend, I make another suggestion, which, if it please, and is agreeable to the House, he and the Government may consider. The fact of the increase of £6,000,000 in the Army and Navy Estimates, as compared with three years ago, is not disputed; and I would suggest that, in order to meet the apprehensions of the House and of the public, my right hon. Friend should be content to produce the Estimates, should take the first Votes in each, and should then allow them to go to a Committee of the House of Commons, to be thoroughly gone through by a powerful and properly constituted body, who would have the power to send for persons and records, to take evidence, and to get all necessary information. I believe that that is a course which the House would be inclined to support, which the public would approve, and which would have the enormous advantage that it would relieve the Government from the responsibility for the increase, which responsibility they ought not to bear, because it is an increase which they inherit, and it is not an increase for which they are personally responsible. If my right hon. Friend would refer the Army and the Navy Estimates to a Committee of this kind, if the idea should find favour with the House, I have no doubt the House would from time to time grant the Government such Votes on Account as might be necessary for carrying on the business of the country, and possibly the Government would be willing not to make progress with the Estimates until the Committee had examined them and reported upon them. Of course, it would be quite impossible for the Government to undertake to abide by all the recommendations of the Committee this year, because an enormous amount of expenditure has been already ordered and incurred; orders have been given for 295 stores and materials, and they cannot be altered now. But the Government might enter into a general engagement to be guided in framing the Estimates for next year by the general recommendations of the Committee. I cannot help hoping that my right hon. Friend and his Colleagues will consider that suggestion. If that course should be adopted it would relieve my mind of an immense difficulty, and would save me the trouble and the disagreeable duty of worrying and attacking the Government upon minor points. I should be prepared to lay all my case before such a Committee as a Parliamentary arbitrator, and to abide by the decisions to which Parliament might come. Well, Sir, I only desire, as a matter of personal explanation, to allude for a moment to the question of the coaling stations, and because I was unable to do it the other night. There seems to be a great deal of misapprehension about this question of the coaling stations. I never resigned upon the question of the coaling stations—never. In conversation with my right hon. Friend—and long conversations we had—we went through the Army Estimates item by item, and my right hon. Friend was of opinion that not one of those items could be reduced. At the end of a conversation, when I asked him whether it was quite impossible to make the smallest reduction in the Army Estimates, he said there was only one item, of £400,000, on which a reduction could be made, and its reduction he would never consent to, as it was the Vote for fortifying the coaling stations. In the correspondence with Lord Salisbury I mentioned—although I saw no prospect of its being agreed to—that this was an item in which a reduction might be possible if the policy of the Government could be reconciled with the reduction; and on that intimation Lord Salisbury, who is a master of the art of tactics—I do not in the least complain, but he at once, by the cleverness of his reply, identified my resignation with the question of the coaling stations. Really, I never resigned upon the coaling stations. I resigned upon retrenchment—whether there was to be retrenchment or there was not to be. I considered that I was absolutely pledged to retrenchment, and that unless the Government went in for it it was impossible for me to be Chancellor 296 of the Exchequer. I do not wish to say much about the coaling stations; but I may take the opportunity of saying that if we are to adopt a policy of expenditure upon the fortification of coaling stations, we shall be showing conclusively the utter baselessness of the well-known proverb that "a burnt child dreads the fire." The House may not be aware that this year we come to the practical termination of the enormous Terminable Annuities —no less than £5,000,000 a-year—which were used by Lord Palmerston to raise loans for the fortification of coaling stations.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
Not so large an annuity, but one to produce a certain number of millions.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
There were other loans included; but the main portion of the annuities which practically come to an end this year were for the loans for fortifications; and it is not too much to say that of that money which was expended upon fortifications years and years ago, and which you have just paid off, two-thirds or three-fourths of it was absolutely thrown into the gutter and wasted. I think it is quite probable that if the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and when he had that great dispute with Lord Palmerston in which Lord Palmerston said he would sooner lose Mr. Gladstone than lose Portsmouth Harbour—if he had stuck to his guns, and had stood out against Lord Palmerston, the country might have been saved the outlay of many millions. As to the coaling stations, all I have to say is that, if you can show me that the moneys will not be wasted, that the engineers know how to construct scientific fortifications, and that you will arm them when they are constructed and maintain them in an efficient state, I shall have nothing to say against the policy; but I approach the question with the utmost apprehension and scepticism, because of the previous experience of this country on the question, which certainly hon. Gentlemen ought not to exclude from their consideration. It is a great question, well worthy of the consideration of the House, whether the policy of the defence of the British Empire may not follow upon the lines of foreign policy which we adopt towards other nations—not by any means a policy of cowardice, but a 297 policy of the careful and prudent avoidance of all unnecessary entanglements and all unnecessary quarrels. Again, I would venture to repose the policy of the defence of the Empire, if it is to be followed up with courage and resolution, on the patriotism and loyalty of a free and contented people, animated not so much by the strength of their fortifications as by their undying historic memories. And, in the third place, I would prefer to repose the defence of the British Empire upon a careful, thrifty, and frugal husbanding in time of peace of those national resources, in order that in time of war they may be exuberantly displayed in all their irresistible might. I am not at all clear that these general remarks do not indicate a safer and more economical policy for the defence of the Empire than that of throwing ourselves hysterically into the embrace of engineers, or of lying down pusillanimously in a cemetery of earthworks. All I venture to deprecate is legislating or spending money in a hurry, and under the influence of panic or clamour. It is supposed that the working classes take no interest in this question—that any line against National Expenditure is not popular, because the working people do not pay taxes. A lot of people come to me and say—"Oh, you have taken a most unpopular line; the working classes do not care; they pay no taxes." It seems necessary to point out, what has been pointed out before, that this question of Expenditure concerns not only what the right hon. Gentleman opposite erroneously calls the classes, but also deeply concerns the masses, because the right hon. Gentleman must bear this in mind—that out of every shilling's worth of tea which the workman purchases he pays 6d. to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; that out of every shilling's worth of tobacco he pays 10d., and out of every shilling's worth of beer he pays 2d. Now, I would ask my right hon. Friends on this side of the House who are prepared to defend a policy of the larger Expenditure—Are you going to put this question of the fortification of the coaling stations or the increase of the Army and Navy—are you going to test its popularity by the imposition of new taxes? Will you propose to meet this £6,000,000 by a re-imposition of the Sugar Duties? That would be a very practical way of 298 testing it. Will you raise the Tea Duties, or, by what probably ought to be done, will you propose to test the fidelity of your friends, the licensed victuallers, and ask them to contribute to these fortifications of the Empire by an increase, and a very proper increase, of the Beer Duty? These are practical questions which I invite my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury to answer. It is no use turning round on me and saying—"The whole country desires this expenditure, and you are wrong," or that economy is old-fashioned, and out of date, unless the Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared to get up in his place at the Table and put such expenditure on the taxpayers of the country. My right hon. Friend and his Colleagues would be the last persons to propose for one moment that this expenditure should be placed on the Income Tax, and I am sure they would not contemplate for one moment a permanent maintenance of the Income Tax at 8d. in the pound in time of peace. These are questions which I respectfully submit to the attention of the Government and Parliament. These great questions of public economy are not to be disposed of by mere ad captandum statements, or by general denunciation of all persons who wish to bring the Expenditure of the country within normal limits. This is a matter which the Government must seriously consider. I feel perfectly certain that the attention of the people is being concentrated on this great question of Expenditure; it is interesting the people; and I rejoice greatly that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian refused, and very properly refused, the other night to identify himself with it, for fear of making it a Party question. He appealed to those on this side of the House, and I hope he did not appeal in vain—he appealed to the Conservative Party, whose best traditions are connected with public economy—to take up this question and support the Government, so that the Government, with the support of both sides of the House, may lead the way to a more reasonable expenditure of public money, and a revision of taxation. I may be allowed to make one final remark which is personal to myself. I know there are many hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, whose opinion and whose esteem I greatly value, who are greatly incensed 299 against me for having taken the course I have done—for having resigned my place in the Government. They are severe in their criticism, sharp in their censure, and righteous in their wrath, when they consider my action. I can only say that I confidently believe that the progress of events will probably modify that judgment. It is not the first time that it has been my evil fortune to wrestle with the Tory Party. I remember only about four years ago that so greatly did I displease the Tory Party that there was hardly one Conservative Member who would give me at that time so much as a nod of recognition. Why was that? I had proclaimed—I admit with much frankness—that I thought the Tory Party was going wrong on a great principle. I have once more proclaimed—this time by action—my opinion that the Tory Party is going wrong on the great question of Expenditure, and again there appear all the charges of disloyalty, treachery, and such like, to which I am accustomed, and to which I do not listen. I appeal on that subject to the tribunal of time. Any little political influence which I may possess—any little political strength which may have been given to me—has not hitherto been drawn, for any practical or permanent purpose, from within the walls of this House, or from within that circle whose centre is the Treasury Bench. No, Sir; it has come from outside, and I appeal on this question to Cæsar—to the just and generous judgment of the people. I know that I have sought for nothing—absolutely nothing—except to protect and promote their most material interests, and on this great question of economy and retrenchment I patiently wait for the judgment of the people.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)
said, he wanted to say a few words about the Plan of Campaign, and to explain how it operated with regard to his estate. He hoped the hon. Member for South-East Cork (Mr. Lane) was in the House, as he should not like to say anything derogatory or otherwise about him behind his back, although that hon. Gentleman had not scrupled to attack him when, being 500 miles away, he was not in a position to reply to the reckless slanders of which the hon. Member was the mouthpiece, until those slanders had done their work, and had spread amongst his 300 neighbours, whose good-will he valued. This was a very serious affair for him; but he would not ask the House to take anything upon his own ex-parts statement. He would refer to the words of the hon. Member for South-East Cork, as reported in The Cork Herald, and it would then be for the House and the country to judge whether the language used against him was justified or not. On the 7th of November last a public meeting was called at Youghal, which was addressed by the hon. Gentleman, and a report of which appeared in the Cork papers of the following day. He (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) had no derogatory or censorious remark to make about that meeting, or its professed object. The chair was occupied by the respected parish priest, and a Government reporter occupied a seat on the platform. It must have been a treat to the latter to hear two Home Rule Members—for there were two—attacking another behind his back, carefully avoiding to give the latter an opportunity of reply. He understood that a great number of the people of the town and neighbourhood knew what was to take place at the meeting; and as the man to be attacked could not reply the attack was expected to be the more spirited, and the attendance was consequently greater on that account. The borough of Youghal had recently been disfranchised, which borough had been represented in Parliament for a number of years by himself (Sir Joseph M'Kenna).
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he was very sorry to interfere; but they were now discussing the Address to the Throne, whilst the hon. Gentleman appeared to be entering into a personal explanation of some altercation he, unfortunately, had with some other Member of the House. He could not allow that to be in Order.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he would not pursue that line of observation, but would proceed to explain what had been done with respect to the Plan of Campaign, as far as he was himself concerned. The hon. Member for South-East Cork, at the meeting to which he had alluded, stated that every tenant, with one or two exceptions, on the M'Kenna estate had within the past week been served with writs of ejectment. That statement was not correct. With one or two exceptions, writs had 301 not been served at all. The hon. Member then told the people that he had been investigating the affairs of the M'Kenna estate; and he advised the tenants to show a bold and firm front against the treatment which they were receiving from a person whom he did not hesitate to call their heartless and inhumane landlord; he told them to discuss among themselves what was a fair and reasonable reduction; when they had decided upon that, to pledge themselves to stand by one another in insisting upon it as a general reduction; and then to go to the landlord or his agent and tell him that they would not pay until they were allowed 30, 40, or 50 per cent reduction, or whatever was agreed to. There was no foundation whatever for the statement which the hon. Member made about his treatment of his tenants. He (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) purchased the Cork estate 20 years ago, with the several tenants on it, who were on it now, and on the rents as fixed between his predecessors and the tenants. He had paid 20 years', and 22 years'in some cases, purchase for the holdings, so that there was no land-jobbing or speculation in the matter. He had devoted the savings of many years of hard work to purchase the estate; and at the time he made the purchase, the tenants, one and all, expressed themselves satisfied that the rents they had undertaken to pay were moderate. He had discharged his duties to them ever since in a considerate and generous spirit, never having raised the rent on any one of them. The total acreage was 1,400 acres. The total rental receivable was £595 1s. 10d., out of which was a tithe-rent charge payable by him of £80, and a quit rent of £10. The Ordnance valuation was £533 14s. when he bought it; but some slight reductions had since been made, a few tenants having permitted dilapidations. The total amount receivable by him—if everyone paid his rent, which no one could expect in all circumstances—would give him about 4½ per cent on his money, and would be less than Griffith's valuation. The statements which the hon. Member for South-East Cork made with respect to him were in every material circumstance unfounded, and he challenged the hon. Member to prove them before a Committee of that House. He did not deny that in other places hardships had to be 302 undergone by both tenants and landlords; but the application on his estate of the Plan of Campaign was without a single instance of cruelty or inhumanity on his part to justify it, and it was an outrage not merely upon a Member of the House, but a Member of the Party to which those Gentlemen professed to belong; the Plan of Campaign had not been adopted by the Members of the Irish Party as a body. A half-dozen Gentlemen, to whom he imputed no unpatriotic, unjust, or dishonourable motive, had come to the conclusion that in certain cases a strong course should be adopted. But nothing alleged to have been done in Ireland approached the degree of baseness with which the Plan of Campaign had been applied in his case. He hoped some day the hon. Members to whom he alluded would express their regret for having attacked a landlord who for 10 years had never issued a writ of ejectment. The only case in which during 20 years such a writ had been issued on the estate was in the case of a tenant who owed four years and said he would not pay one year.
§ MR. LANE (Cork Co., E.)
Perhaps the House will allow me to say that the tenants of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down did not adopt the Plan of Campaign at my instigation, but upon their own account, and under the presidency of their own parish priest, without the slightest compulsion on the part of anyone else. I am perfectly guiltless of any complicity with the tenants of the hon. Member in inducing them to adopt the Plan of Campaign against him. I understood, however, that they did so on his refusal to grant them a small reduction of 20 per cent upon their half-year's rent.
§ MR. J. F. X. O'BRIEN (Mayo, S.)
I think the pantomime to which the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) treated the House on Friday night was entertaining; but, if we subtract from it the slanders upon the Irish Nationalist Members, I really do not think it added much to the information of the House. Hon. Members have from time to time dilated on the resistance of the Irish people to the law, and it is very sad to think of the long struggle that has taken place in Ireland, in resistance to the law. Three hundred years ago the poet Spenser, although a sharer in the plunder of Ire- 303 land, was so horrified at the atrocities he witnessed around him that he expressed himself to this effect—he feared much that Providence was preserving the Irish nation to be a punishment to England for the crimes and cruelties she had perpetrated in Ireland. Later on, Sir John Davies, the Attorney General of James I., complained bitterly that English law was withheld from the Irish people; and he added that the object appeared to be the extermination of the natives by the settlers, without affording them the protection of the law. This principle of extermination has continued generation after generation in Ireland, and it prevails to this day. About 50 years ago, when the state of things which existed in Ireland was very similar to that which is prevailing there now, an upright, fair-minded, and honourable English gentleman—Mr. Poulett Scrope—was travelling in Ireland. He was, I believe, a Member of this House at the time, and he wrote a letter describing what he had seen to the Prime Minister of that day—Lord Melbourne. His words are so applicable to what is happening now that I think I may, with advantage, quote an extract from that letter. Mr. Poulett Scrope wrote—Is there no point of oppression at which resistance to the law becomes a duty? We have the recent authority of the head of the law for the principle—a principle as old as it is true—that allegiance is only due where protection is afforded. Does the law protect the Irish peasant? Not from starvation. It does not protect him from being thrust out of his home and little holding into absolute destitution to perish on the highway. It does not preserve him from this fate at command of an absentee landlord. The law affords the Irish peasant no protection from a fate so horrible. Hundreds are at present exposed to it; millions know they are liable to it. Can the law justly require their allegiance? No. The peasantry of Ireland feel that the law places their lives at the mercy of the few whom it invests with sovereign power over the land of their native country; with power to sweep them all, at will, off its surface.Such was the state of Ireland, as observed by this Gentleman, in 1834. Ten years afterwards, without altering a syllable of this letter, he addressed a copy of it to another Prime Minister—Sir Robert Peel—matters being still unchanged. When I read further, the House will be astonished to find how much things to-day resemble those of 53 and 43 years ago. At the time Mr. Poulett Scrope 304 wrote to Lord Melbourne, the Irish tenants had banded themselves together, and resistance to the law was carried on by an Association known as the Whiteboy Association. The Whiteboys did not stick at trifles. They soon came to think as little of the lives of their oppressors as their oppressors thought of theirs, and small blame to them, many would say. Hear what Mr. Poulett Scrope wrote of the Whiteboys—They feel that the system of clearing estates, which has been so many years in progress, is a question of life and death to them. Therefore, they combine against it. Therefore, however little minds may wonder at the past, they show no more repugnance to the shedding of blood in open day, in the presence of assenting thousands in execution of sentences of self-organized tribunals, looked upon by them as the sole safeguard of their lives, than does a soldier hired to fight for his country's safety on the field of battle. It is to their own Whiteboy law they consider their allegiance due. Let those who know Ireland deny the fact if they can. The peasantry of Ireland do more or less obtain from the Whiteboy Association that essential protection to their existence which the established law of the country refuses to afford. The Whiteboy system is the practical and efficient check upon the ejectment system. It cannot be denied that, but for the salutary terror inspired by the Whiteboys, the clearance of estates would proceed with a rapidity, and to an extent, that must occasion the most horrible sufferings to hundreds of thousands of the ejected tenantry. It is easy to satisfy the mind of an interested person that what the law allows cannot be wrong. Yes, But for the salutary fear of the Whiteboy system, ejectments would desolate Ireland.Is it not wonderful how exactly these words describe what is to-day passing before our eyes? So little has the government of Ireland altered that, with only the substitution for the death penalties of the Whiteboy system of the bloodless resistance of the National League and the Plan of Campaign, every word fits exactly. I was a little amused—I do not know whether other hon. Members, too, were also amused—at the tender professions of love for Ireland by the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) on Thursday evening. Professions of love for Ireland from a Tory statesman are certainly a heavy draft upon the credulity of the Irish people. One would not imagine from the personal appearance of the right hon. Gentleman that he was inclined to romance. His principal characteristic is that of a practical business man; but he does romance with regard to Ireland, and I think it would be much more becoming 305 on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, if he would approach the question in something like a business style. His latest connection with Irish politics—his 24 hours' visit to Ireland—would not, perhaps, lead us to expect a businesslike policy from the right hon. Gentleman now in regard to the Irish Question. I feel bound to take strong exception to one remark which fell from the right hon. Gentleman. He denies to the Irish Members the right of interfering in the Irish Land Question. To say that we, who, above all men, ought to be most interested in the affairs of our country—we for whom I may say every inch of the soil of Ireland is made sacred—mingled as it is with the dust of countless generations of our ancestors—to say that we have no right to interfere in the affairs of Ireland is, to say the least of it, a most audacious assertion. The Plan of Campaign has been attacked in unmeasured language in this House; but I have not heard any hon. Member urge a single substantial argument against it. We are told that the Plan of Campaign is immoral and dishonest; but no hon. Member gives a single reason for his assertion. I venture to say, without fear of contradiction, that the Irish people, in point of morality, are inferior to no nation in the world; and any political question they take up will, from a moral point of view, bear investigation as closely as that of any other people upon the face of the earth. All the immorality imputed to the Irish people is based on their resistance to law and contract. Then, Sir, let us try to understand in what way this test of law and contract is applied to the morality of the Irish people; and let us see how the Plan of Campaign is concerned in the Irish Land Question. The root of the Land Question in Ireland turns on the hostile legislation of the English Government, which has destroyed the manufactures of Ireland and her trade, and every other means by which the people could live. The hostile legislation of the English Government towards Ireland has been the foundation of the land troubles in Ireland. The people are left nothing to fall back upon, and have but one means of subsistence—namely, the land. Having reduced the people to this one means of subsistence, the land itself was handed over to a tribe of land thieves from 306 England and Scotland. In giving these men possession of the land of Ireland, the Government also gave them the power of conferring upon themselves every possible advantage, and of surrounding the possession of land by the natives with every possible disadvantage. They became the makers of the laws; and the result of their legislation on the Land Question was to give themselves immediate possession of every improvement made by the tenantry upon the land. They were enabled to confiscate every improvement of the tenant, and to raise the rent at will, so that, in a brief period, the rents in Ireland have been absolutely quintupled. The position of the Irish tenantry has been this—that no matter what the industry of the tenant farmers of Ireland may have been, the landlords were always raising the rents, until they became beyond the power of the tenants to pay. The Irish landlords being in that position, and being able to raise the rents beyond the capacity of the tenants to pay them, were able to keep the tenants with a load of arrears upon them. This system has continued in Ireland down to the present day. In fact, the Glenbeigh of to-day is a mere illustration of this system of rent-raising and of arrears hanging over the people for ever. The rents on the unfortunate tenants in Glenbeigh have been raised by 70 to 100 per cent above the Poor Law valuation. They have been paying it as long as they could scrape the money together by any possibility, in order to keep the roofs over their heads. They have for generations paid these enormous rents; but, in spite of all, the arrears have swelled, and have been hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles. The landlords have in this way established for themselves a cheap system for the practice of generosity by consenting to accept a year's rent, or half-a-year's rent, out of arrears piled up in this manner.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. J. P. X. O'BRIEN
resumed: I warn the House that it is impossible to legislate for Ireland with any prospect of success until you first cease from judging the Irish people by the law and contract test of morality. The test 307 they have been accustomed to look up to is the Divine Law of the Ten Commandments. English laws forbade to the Irish people the practice of their religion; forbade them education; placed a price of £5 on the head of the priest and of the school teacher. I should like to know what connection there is between such laws and the Divine Law? How can the Irish peasant be expected to have respect for laws of this kind? The class of people for whom the Land Laws have been made by the English Government have constantly confiscated to themselves every improvement these unfortunate people have made on the land. The law is made for the people; it is not the people who are made for the law. Although we have never ceased to have Judges in Ireland, such as Baron Palles, at Sligo, and Justice Johnson, in Dublin, who have denounced the people in unmeasured terms for their disobedience to the law, it must not be forgotten that the law itself had been framed in a spirit contrary to morality and the Divine Law. The policy which has been developed in Kerry by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was an unexpected commentary upon the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister of 20 years of resolute government in Ireland. The Chief Secretary for Ireland went over last September leaving us all under the impression that he was instantly to carry out that Cromwellian policy. But he had hardly landed in Ireland when we found him playing the part of fairy godmother in Kerry. We do not object to what the right hon. Gentleman did in Kerry; but, on the contrary, we wished to see the good work extended to all Ireland. Hence the inauguration of the Plan of Campaign; and if it had not been resorted to, I believe that evictions, such as those which have taken place at Glenbeigh, would have occurred in every corner of Ireland. No English landlord can pretend to ignore the consequences of the terrible depression in the prices of agricultural produce, and every English landlord must have felt the consequences of it. I believe that, to-day, land is even of less value in England than in Ireland. If we want to form any opinion on that subject, we have only to refer to the evidence given before the Commission on the Depression of Trade, and the causes of that depression. The evidence of well-known gen- 308 tlemen, before that Commission, shows that the tenants have been paying the rent out of capital for some years past, and not out of what the land produced; and if no protection is provided for English agriculturists, before many years have elapsed the farmers will be completely bankrupt, and their capital expended. To us Irish Representatives, who are bound to sympathize with our own people, the Bill introduced into this House last Session by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) showed the wonderful foresight of my hon. Friend; and, had that Bill not been rejected by the House, it would have relieved Ireland from much disturbance, and have made the Plan of Campaign unnecessary. Every hon. Member present in the House last Session knows that the object of that Bill was to submit the question in regard to what relief ought to be justly provided for the tenants to the Land Courts of Ireland, and requiring the tenants to pay 50 per cent of their rent in order to enable them to enter the Court. Yet the right hon. Gentleman who now occupies the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer stated at Liverpool, the other day, that the object of that Bill was to reduce rents by 60 per cent. For a right hon. Gentleman occupying so prominent a position in the Government to make such an unfounded statement as that is an attempt to hoodwink the English public which I will not stoop to characterize. Some hon. Gentlemen, in attacking the Plan of Campaign, have asked why the Irish tenants should assume to themselves the right of saying what rent they should pay? But the Irish landlords have assumed to themselves for many generations the right of saying what rent the tenants should pay, and I think that one party to the bargain has just as much right to have a word in the bargain as the other. But the tenants have not assumed to themselves the right to say what they should pay, nor was that done in the Bill of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. No one can accuse the tenants of unfairness in attempting to settle the rent for themselves, when the landlords and their friends in this House rejected the proposal to submit the question to a disinterested tribunal—namely, the Land Court. Let us test the system carried 309 out under the Plan of Campaign by the action of the Land Courts. Now, I do not suppose that the average demand made by the tenants under the Plan of Campaign would exceed 25 per cent all round—certainly 80 per cent at the most. But during the month of December the Judges of the Land Commission in Ireland decided several cases in which application had been made for the fixing of judicial rents. Upon the estate of the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Colonel Tottenham)—a gentleman who has been posing for a considerable time before English audiences as a victim of the National League—the Land Court has reduced the rents by 49 to 65 per cent. The reductions made by the Land Court on this estate show that the rents exacted were 136 per cent above fair rents. Yet, if it had been suggested by those who are connected with the Plan of Campaign that a reduction should be made by 25 or 30 per cent, the hon. and gallant Member would have complained loudly; and yet the rents upon this estate have been reduced by 49 and 65 per cent. At Sligo, on the 21st of December, the Land Commissioners were engaged in hearing 48 applications by the tenants on 12 different estates, and they made reductions averaging 40 per cent. At Longford, on the 22nd of December, the Land Commissioners dealt with applications from 45 tenants on 11 different estates, and made reductions averaging 41 per cent. These facts, I contend, show that the reductions demanded by the Plan of Campaign have been exceedingly fair and moderate. I think there are evident signs that the people of this country are at last beginning to interest themselves somewhat more than was formerly the case in the Irish Question. Under the new Franchise Bill the democracy of England have obtained power, and with power they must also accept responsibility. Nowadays no Government can exist in this country against the will of the democracy. The democracy is responsible for every Government that exists. They may be excused for having placed a Tory Government in power at the last Election; probably it was because they had come into their new inheritance so very recently, and they had not had time to familiarize themselves with their duties and their responsibilities. Now that they 310 are becoming better acquainted with those duties and responsibilities, I think they will henceforward take a more active and conscientious interest in the government of the country. I believe that the people of this country are being rapidly educated and the public conscience is being stirred up by the state of things in Ireland; and when another Election comes I am convinced that the democracy of Great Britain will give a very different answer to that which was extracted from them last year, notwithstanding the fact that we were told it was to be a final mandate. The next mandate from the English democracy, which is not likely to be long delayed, will, I think, show a very different result.
§ MR. ABRAHAM (Limerick, W.)
I have obtruded myself upon the debate for the purpose of giving the House my own personal testimony as to the working of the Plan of Campaign. I think it is desirable that the English Members, and the English people generally, should be made acquainted with the way in which this Plan of Campaign has been working. On one estate in the county of Limerick some of the tenants approached their landlord, and asked for a reduction of rent to the extent of 25 per cent. The landlord made an offer of a reduction of 20 per cent, and the tenants met together to consider whether that offer ought to be accepted by them. They naturally sought for counsel and advice from the Members who represented them in this House; and, accordingly, I and my Colleague in the representation of the county (Mr. Finucane) waited upon the tenants, and discussed the question as to whether the reduction offered would meet the difficulties of the present time. On meeting together, the tenants chose as their chairman the parish priest of the locality; and it was agreed that the minority should be bound by the majority. Nine only were in favour of persisting in the demand for a reduction of 25 per cent; but the vast majority, numbering some 75, decided to accept the offer of 20 per cent. Upon that decision being arrived at, the rent was paid; and not only so, but it produced another salutary effect. Some trouble had originated in the locality previous to the attempted settlement; and, owing to the intimidation and threatening language resorted to, a num- 311 ber of arrests had been made. But so great was the impression produced by the adoption of the Plan of Campaign that at the next meeting of the Petty Sessions the magistrates were able to dismiss all the prisoners, because peace and harmony had been restored in the district. It has been stated here tonight that the condition of Ireland is satisfactory. We are told, in the Queen's Speech, that crime is found in its normal condition; and I assert that the reason why crime is at so low an ebb is that the people of Ireland have ceased to have recourse to the wild justice of revenge. They have found a better way of making their grievances known—namely, by Constitutional action, by meeting together and relying on united action and the justice of their cause. They also are aware that the feeling of this great country is with them in their sufferings and trials. Last Session a short Bill was introduced into this House by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) to enable the Irish tenants to tide over their present difficulties. That Bill was laughed to scorn. We were told that there was an abundant harvest, and that the Irish people were able to pay their rents. The Bill of the hon. Member was rejected; but the Chief Secretary for Ireland has told us that when he came face to face with the circumstances of Ireland, he found it absolutely necessary to bring pressure to bear on the landlords in order to induce them to treat their tenants fairly. Wherever they have done so, peace and harmony have prevailed. Why, Sir, the testimony with regard to the depreciation of the value of agricultural produce does not come alone from the Irish Representatives. I hold in my hand the opinion of a gentleman which I am sure will not be disregarded by this House, and will certainly not be undervalued. I refer to Mr. Horton, the late Valuer of the Land Court, who says he is able to state without fear of contradiction that when the judicial rents were fixed on the then existing value, no one anticipated the great fall of prices which has since taken place, and that it will be found that wheat, grain, butter, and various other articles of produce have fallen 50 per cent. Any impartial observer, he says, must come to the conclusion that judicial rents fixed under such circumstances cannot 312 continue to be paid, and leave the farmers enough to live upon. "The farmers," adds this gentleman, "are so impoverished that they cannot pay their rents." This is the testimony of one who cannot be said to sympathize with any desire to withhold the payment of rent. If this gentleman sees that large reductions must be made in the tenants' rents, why is it that we, who have simply endeavoured to induce the landlords to be wise, are taunted with inaugurating an immoral policy? Allow me to state that, as a Protestant, I am in favour of the Plan of Campaign, and that the course we are pursuing has the sanction of the Archbishops of Dublin and Cashel. We feel that we are adopting a course which is justified both in the sight of man, and also in the sight of a higher tribunal to which we must all give an account. It is a matter of wonder how hon. Members who sit on these Benches can have the patience to listen to some of the remarks which have been made with regard to them. It is because our case is just; because we have confidence in the justice of the English people; because the present Government is a Government acting solely in support of the Irish landlords as far as Irish administration is concerned; it is because we feel that this Government cannot long stand in face of the feeling which has been evoked in the country, and because we believe that the democracy will be generous enough to give to a poor population of 5,000,000 that justice which 30,000,000 can give to themselves—that we can afford to pass by with silence and contempt the language which has been used towards us. We are face to face with an important crisis in Ireland. We know that our people are looking to our action here with the utmost confidence; they are determined that no crime shall stain the soil of Ireland, but that, by Constitutional methods, they will win what they demand. We have always desired that our cause shall not be stained by a single crime or outrage, and we feel confident that acting in that spirit we shall continue to advance, relying on the justice of our cause and the generosity and kindness of the great English nation.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
Other hon. Members besides myself have listened with pleasure to 313 the remarks of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), with regard to economy; but, if I mistake not, the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), as long ago as 1878, in the Committee on Public Business, made certain suggestions which were practically the same as those of the noble Lord. A Resolution to a similar effect was brought forward in the House last year by an hon. Member, who then represented one of the divisions of Edinburgh. We must all rejoice that the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington has joined our ranks; and, for my own part, I would appeal to other Members on the opposite Benches likewise to join us in what is really not a Party matter. Many of us have heard with satisfaction the remarks which fell from the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) with respect to what is going on in Burmah. It was my lot to be a faithful follower of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) when he was Prime Minister, and I listened attentively to the remarks which fell from him when he was in Office in the month of February last year in reference to the expenses of the Burmese Expedition; but on that occasion I felt myself compelled to go into the Lobby against the right hon. Gentleman on the question of the Burmese policy of the Government, and I am satisfied that when the Liberal Party returns to power any Liberal Government that represents fully and freely the opinion of the whole Party will find that such expeditions as that to Burmah are not supported by the country, and the expense connected with them ought not to be sanctioned. But our minds are now full of another subject. We are all of us thinking of Ireland. I venture to say that on that subject the measure proposed by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian still holds the field against the various suggestions that have been made from different quarters, both in this House and in the country. I think we have some reason to be surprised and disappointed that in what the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down described, and most truly, as a grave crisis in the history of the country, Her Majesty's Government should come to us with an Address in which the only reference to Ireland is confined to a single sentence recommending reform of criminal procedure. Her Majesty's Govern- 314 ment, however, do not seem to have made up their own minds even upon that matter, because the expression put in the mouth of Her Majesty is this—The condition of Ireland still requires your anxious attention. Grave crimes have happily been rarer during the last few months than during a similar period in the preceding year. But 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. The efforts of my 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. 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.Surely, if their minds were made up on the subject, they might have used a stronger and more decisive expression than "seem necessary" before inviting the House of Commons to proceed to make an alteration of the Criminal Law. I should have thought that they should have stated, precisely and definitely, that the proposed reform was actually necessary in order to secure the better administration of the law. One may translate that sentence which has been put into the mouth of Her Majesty pretty much in this way—that Her Majesty's Government come before the House of Commons and the people of this country with no other remedy at present for the Irish difficulty than a better way of helping the Irish landlords to collect their rents. I think it is desirable that we should analyze a little more this expression "legal obligations," which is used in Her Majesty's Speech. There have been many discussions in and out of Parliament upon Ireland during the last 50 years; but in all of them the great point which the speakers have tried to enforce was the vital and fundamental difference between the agrarian question in Ireland and in this country. On the 9th of June, 1845, the late Lord Derby, who had then been called to the Upper House by the title of Lord Stanley (as his son has been recently), spoke on this matter at great length. He was for many years the Leader of the Tory Party; and his utterances, therefore, will surely carry the greatest weight with hon. Members on the other side 315 of the House. Lord Stanley pointed out that there were many distinctions between agrarian matters in this country and in Ireland. He showed how, in England, there were many freeholds, whereas in Ireland there were very few. He pointed out how, in England, the landlords mostly resided on their estates and took an interest in them, while in Ireland the landlords were generally absentees; he pointed out that in England the relations between landlord and tenant were direct, but that Ireland was cursed with a system of middlemen; that, on this side of the Channel, there has been a long hereditary connection between the owners of land and the soil itself, whereas in Ireland the tenants or their families have been in possession of the land long before many of those to whom they pay their rent become connected with it; that England is a country of large farms, whereas Ireland is a country of small holdings. Those differences exist at the present moment, just as they did in 1845, when Lord Stanley called attention to them, and they lie at the root of the Irish Land Question. There was one matter referred to in the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) upon which I desire to say a word. The hon. Member described to the House a scene, of which he was a witness, when he occupied the position of a private soldier. Some hon. Members may say this occurred a good many years ago; but similar scenes are occurring in Ireland at the present day. The hon. Member pointed out that the cabin from which a man was evicted had been built by the tenant, and that he had been born in the place. This reveals the fatal and fundamental distinction to which the Devon, the Richmond, and the Bessborough Commissioners called attention in their Reports—namely, that the creation of all the buildings and improvements in the land of Ireland, which are valuable, is due to the industry of the tenants. That is proved by the operation of the Land Act of 1881. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Heneage) suggested, when the Land Bill was under consideration, that English-managed estates should be exempted from the operation of the Act. That proposition was resisted by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian 316 (Mr. Gladstone) and the Cabinet, and rejected; but in "another place" a somewhat similar proposition was made, and a clause was introduced into the Land Act, the effect of which was to provide that any owner who could prove that the improvements upon a particular holding had been made by himself and by means of his capital should be excluded, to a certain extent, from the operation of the Act. I am informed that the applications under that clause of the Land. Act have been practically nil; and, therefore, it may be assumed that almost everywhere in Ireland the rental value of the holdings has been created by the toil of the tenants. It seems to me the significance of this matter is hardly appreciated in this country. We think of the Irish holdings as small, and the houses as mere mud cabins. But that is a very inadequate view of the matter. In September last I was speaking to a man who, two years ago, was evicted from his holding; and upon that holding of 50 acres the house in which he lived, the buildings attached to it, the roads, gates, fences, drainage, even the planting of the trees, and everything of that kind, had been done by himself or his father within the last40 years; and I venture to say that in this country a similar dwelling-house and out-buildings, and other improvements, would cost at least £700 or £800. Such a thing could not happen in England. But this is not an isolated case, and I cannot too strongly emphasize the immense influence of circumstances such as I have mentioned in destroying any analogy which has been attempted to be drawn between England and Ireland in the matter of the just payment of rent. It entirely destroys the argument of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), the other night, when he asked whether a landlord in England could be found who was generous enough to forego two-thirds of the rent? My answer is, that there is not a landlord in England who owes the property for which he claims rent to the toil of his tenants, and not the outlay of his capital. In England these improvements are due entirely to the outlay of capital on the part of the owner. The Chief Secretary argued that it was legal to burn down the roofs and to destroy the houses of the poor people in Glenbeigh, and he 317 said that if the landlord had simply evicted them, they would have gone back again. Some hon. Member made the remark—"Quite right too." Then the right hon. Gentleman continued—An hon. Member says, 'Quite right too.' In his opinion, then, poverty is to give a right to a person to live in a house that does not belong to him; but are you to apply that maxim not only to the West of Ireland, but to other parts of Ireland, and to England and Scotland as well?Now, I venture to say that that is a most unfair illustration and a most unsound argument. No doubt, it is very difficult for the right hon. Gentleman, who, I believe, is a most kind-hearted landlord in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, to understand the position of these poor people. No doubt, the whole of his out-buildings and farmsteads are kept in most excellent order, entirely at his own expense; all his gates are kept hanging on their hinges; all his fences are well maintained, and he and his predecessors have made a vast outlay of capital upon the estates during the last 30 or 40 years. The right hon. Gentleman is in a very different position from most English landlords if that is not the case. But nothing of the kind occurs in Ireland. The rent in Ireland, I venture to say, arises from the outlay of capital on the part of the tenant from the sweat of his brow and the result of his toil; and the word "rent," therefore, does not mean the same thing in the two countries. I come now to another point. There are two classes of tenancies in Ireland. From the most recent Report of the Land Commission, I see that there are 170,000 tenants who have had the advantage of having their rents fixed by the Land Court, or by agreement; but there are between 450,000 and 500,000 tenants who have not had the advantage of any decision of the Land Court with respect to their rents. In these cases the rents have not been fixed in any way by the operations of the Land Act of 1881, and I think it is desirable that we should know how these rents, in the case of the larger number of tenancies, have been fixed. We have seen that the value of the holdings has arisen from the toil of the tenant; let us look, then, for a moment at the manner in which the rents have been fixed. I take the Report of the Bess-borough Commission as an authority 318 which will not be disputed. In that Report the Commissioners described the condition of a tenant—Not to come to terms with his landlord means for him to leave his home, to leave his employment, to forfeit the inheritance of his fathers, and to some extent the investment of his toil, and to sink at once to a lower plane of physical comfort and social rank. It is no matter to him of the chaffer of the market, but almost of life and death. The farmer bargains with his landlord under sentence of losing his living if the bargain goes off.'You take my life when you do take the means By which I live.'We grant that it would be inexpedient to interfere with freedom of contract between landlord and tenant if freedom of contract really existed; but freedom of contract in the case of the majority of tenants, large and small, does not exist.That is the language of three Irish landlords and an Irish Judge, and the words entirely cut away any moral sanction from the phrase "legal obligations" used in Her Majesty's Speech. Where there is no freedom of contract, there cannot be said to be any moral obligation on the part of those who have been coerced. The figure of the rent has, in fact, been fixed on the one hand by the rapacity—in some cases by the need, I admit, of the Irish landlord, because, in many instances, he is sunk in the morass of embarrassment—it is fixed on the one hand by the rapacity and need of the landlords, and on the other by the actual hunger—almost to starvation point—of the tenant. It may be asked, why do not the 450,000 tenants outside the Land Court enter it and bring themselves under the operation of the Land Act? And, on this point, Englishmen have need to become acquainted with the facts before coming to a hasty conclusion. We know, in the first place, that leaseholders are excluded by the terms of the Land Act itself, and their case is a cruel one. "Leases," say the Bessborough Commission—have been imposed on tenants against their will, and when, from their legally helpless condition, they could not refuse.That is a strong statement for a Royal Commission to make upon such a matter. It would appear that there are more than 100,000 tenants, out of the number of tenants who are outside the Land Act, who are in that position of hardship. But the fact that there are still so many tenants who have not the advantage of 319 judicial rents is not only due to this law. There is abundant and overwhelming proof that the utmost hostility is entertained by the landlords against the tenants who desire to enter the Land Court. In October last I became acquainted with the circumstances of a property between Tralee and Listowel. There was one holding, in the middle of many others, the tenant of which obtained a judicial rent. He happened to be in the possession of money, and, therefore, was independent and cared nothing for his landlord. The result of his appeal to the Land Court was that the rent was reduced from £30 to £12, while all the tenants around him still remained rack-rented. Only last week, in Enniskillen, the agent of Lord Massey received a large number of notices from tenants anxious to have judicial rents fixed by the Land Court; and he retaliated at once by serving something like 100 notices of ejectment on the unfortunate tenants. I now come to the 170,000 tenants who, up to August last, had their rents fixed in one way or another. What is their position? During the first years of the existence of the Land Court, the reduction of rent was so insignificant that to perpetuate such reduced rents for 15 years was a grievance of which there was much bitter complaint, even among the 170,000 tenants whose judicial rents had been fixed. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), in a forcible speech which he made last year on the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), gave the House some striking instances of rack-renting. I cannot mention the name of the hon. Member for Mayo without paying him a tribute in this House for the courage and ability with which he has enunciated his views. I think that a somewhat unfair and unworthy sneer fell from the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), the other night, with respect to the hon. Member for Mayo. The hon. Member for Mayo always has the courage of his convictions; and, as far as I have come across him, his honour, truthfulness, and everything which proceeds from him, make him a man whose qualities may justly arouse our sincere admiration. Since August other reductions have been made. The other day the Land Commissioners went through a list of cases 320 at Manorhamilton, in Leitrim County. The name of the landlord in every instance was that of Colonel Loftus Tottenham. In five instances the rents were reduced from £89 to £37. In other years Colonel Tottenham had been annually charging the five tenants to whom this reduction applies 178 per cent too much, if the reduced rent is a fair rent. There are some other cases reported from Ireland in reference to the estates of Colonel King-Harman. In that case, the rents upon four holdings were reduced from £42 to £19. I am told that these are the names which are borne by the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester and the hon. and gallant Member who sits for the Thanet Division of Kent. If that be so, I think it concerns them and some other hon. Members of this House who are in a similar position to give some explanation. I have here also some figures in regard to the County of Longford. Upon one estate the facts appear to be very remarkable indeed, for I find that upon 25 holdings the total rent was reduced from £232 to £73; and that in one instance it was reduced from £6 10s. to £1 12s. I quite agree with Lord Salisbury that there has been "organized embezzlement" in Ireland; but it has not been on the part of the tenants. Nor is the organized embezzlement on the part of the Land League; but on the part of the landlords, who have behaved in this manner towards their tenants. No doubt I may be told that the rent of the 170,000 tenants which has been fixed by the Land Court ought to be held sacred, as their case is different from those of the tenants who have not gone into Court. The sacred character of these rents was held up to us from the Treasury Bench last August, and I remember the Prime Minister saying that if any mistake was made by the Sub-Commissioners the English taxpayer would have to bear the loss and not the Irish landlord. The hon. Member for Cork proved to demonstration that in regard to many of the tenants who had gone into Court, their case was much worse than if they had remained outside. In the case of those who went into the Land Court in 1882, 1883, and 1884, the reduction was of such an infinitesimal character that the fixing of it for 15 years was a greater wrong than the relief the tenants were afforded. I do not, how- 321 ever, rely on anything stated by the hon. Member for Cork in this matter, or on anything that was stated by anyone on this side of the House. I prefer to fall back upon the words of a great Irish landlord who holds a high position in the service of Her Majesty, and who wrote a letter on the 31st of October last which contains this sentence—Her Majesty's Government have, by their action in appointing a Royal Commission, to some extent re-opened the question of rent.He backed up his opinion by making a reduction of 4s. in the pound upon the rents on his own estates in the County of Kerry. There is, as will be seen, a qualification in that letter. I believe it is one of the customs of this House that when a Messenger from the House of Lords approaches the door, the Door-keeper is required to close the entrance to this chamber. Now, I venture to say that this, which is an assertion of the Privileges of this House, would be inoperative if the door were left open for only three inches, and the Door-keeper received no orders from the Sergeant-at-Arms to close it effectively. I look upon the words of the letter to which I have referred, "to some extent," in the same light. "The Government, by appointing a Royal Commission, entirely abandoned the sacredness of judicial rents. These words were written by Lord Lansdowne, a nobleman whom Lord Salisbury, in his dire extremity, towards the beginning of January, telegraphed 3,000 miles away to come and help him. In giving an abatement of the judicial rents, Lord Lansdowne was only doing what has been going on all over Ireland. Judicial rents, fixed under the Land Act, in this time of pressure have become unfair. Sir, I have endeavoured to show to the House that the property of which we have heard so much has been created by the tenants; that the rent has been fixed by one side only; that a large portion of those outside the Land Court are precluded by law from entering it; that obstacles are placed in the way of the tenants which prevent them from obtaining relief. Wherever rents have been adjudicated upon, rack-renting in Ireland has been proved up to the hilt. Under these circumstances, I maintain that the legal obligations we are asked to enforce by the Criminal Law are obligations to 322 which the moral law gives no sanction. I am quite willing to agree to the appeal of the Chief Secretary the other night—that we should discuss the law as we find it. But what I contend is, that the law, as it now stands, is unjust. The rights of property, reasonably understood, form a great security for the rights of the people; and if you do anything to sap the rights of property you will strike a great blow against the security of the rights of the people. All we want is that property should be understood in its right sense; and I think that property in this case rather lies with the tenant than with the landlord. It would be very much better if we heard a little more of the rights of humanity. We hear a great deal about the maintenance of the Union; and I am sure all of us on this side of the House will respond to all that has been said to-night by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) upon the subject. There has been a great deal of going up and down shouting about the maintenance of the Union; but the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) towards the conclusion of his speech on Friday last were somewhat significant. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that it was no use to maintain the Union unless you maintain the law. We say the law must be made just before you maintain it. The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), who has been treated a little disrespectfully this evening—for he has been called a crutch, to be thrown aside whenever no longer needed—the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale, who, I believe, in the opinion of himself and his supporters, holds the fate of the Government in his hands, recommends all who are interested in this Irish Question to read Mr. Dicey's book. I hare read that book with very great interest, and I think that one of the books which will contribute most to the solution of the Irish problem will be that book, because it contains all that can be said on the side of those who are posing as Unionists, and that is very little indeed. I should like to ask whether Her Majesty's Government and the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) stand by these words of Mr. Dicey?— 323If the Union is to be maintained with advantage to any part of the United Kingdom, the people of the United Kingdom must make the most strenuous, firm, and continuous effort—lasting, it may well be, for 20 years or more—to enforce, throughout every portion of the United Kingdom, obedience to the law of the land. This effort"—and I particularly call the attention of hon. Members to this passage—This effort can only be justified by the equally strenuous determination (which must involve an infinity of trouble) to give ear to every Irish complaint, and to see that the laws which the Irish people obey are laws of justice, and, what is much the same thing, laws which, in the long run, the people of Ireland will feel to be just.If the Government and the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) apply themselves to carry out the proposition which Mr. Dicey there tries to enforce, they will have to move in a very different direction to that they have indicated in the Queen's Speech. Now, Sir, the agrarian question is only part of this Irish problem, as anyone who has only looked even at its fringe will readily admit. I suppose there will be another opportunity within the next few weeks—namely, when Her Majesty's Government lay their proposals for the reform of the Criminal Law before the House—to discuss the administration of Criminal Law in Ireland; and, therefore, I do not propose to dwell upon that subject. I, however, pledge myself to make good, if I then have the chance, my words that the state of things which has lately existed in Ireland would not be tolerated for a single week in England. A very astounding remark fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) during his speech on Friday last. The right hon. Gentleman appears to have been somewhat nettled by the very remarkable speech which was delivered at the Connaught Winter Assizes by Chief Baron Palles. The Chief Secretary for Ireland remarked that the Chief Baron appeared to have fallen into a mistake on that occasion. Well, now, Sir, I am not sure it conduces to the administration or enforcement of law and order in Ireland that the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should be found to say in his place in the House of Commons that a great Irish Judge has fallen into a mistake. I would like to point out that, if the Chief Baron fell into a 324 mistake at Sligo with regard to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, is it not possible that another Irish Judge sitting in Dublin has fallen into a mistake with regard to the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)? Is it calculated to teach the Irish people to respect what Judges say—that the Member of the Cabinet responsible for Irish government should tell us in the House of Commons that an Irish Judge has been making mistakes? Sir, if the law with regard to the agrarian question were put upon a proper basis, we should only have begun with the Irish problem. The demand for self-government in Ireland is much more ancient than the agrarian difficulty, and it is much more deeply rooted than any question about rent. It rests upon the most indestructible feeling that animates any of us—the love of liberty. We all know that the agrarian question, so far as evictions and small holdings are concerned, is mainly the creation of this century. It is largely due, as Mr. O'Connell showed in this House in 1846, to Acts of Parliament passed between 1815 and 1830, and to the political circumstances which favoured the creation of small holdings. The demand for self-government rests upon another basis. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) as to the tone and temper in which we should discuss this matter. I do not think that clever speeches from criminal lawyers on the other side, made up very largely of cuttings from the speeches of Irish Members below the Gangway in very different times to these, add much to the prospect of a solution of the Irish problem. The attitude of the Liberal Party in this matter is perfectly clear and unhesitating. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) alluded very significantly, and with great force, to the great volume of public opinion of which sometimes we hear the faint echo in this House, but which does not penetrate into those palatial chambers in Pall Mall. We had a representative conference of the Liberal Party at Leeds in November last. Men were gathered from all parts of the country, and it was my honour to move a resolution, which I venture to quote in this House, That resolution was— 325That the best interests, both of Great Britain and Ireland, imperatively require that the great effort to give a better Government to Ireland which was begun by Mr. Gladstone should be firmly persevered in until a desirable settlement is arrived at; that such settlement must meet the wishes of the Irish electors, as expressed by their Constitutional Representatives in Parliament; and that the only plan which will satisfy either the justice or the policy of the case is that of an Irish Legislative Body for the management of what Parliament should decide to be distinctively Irish affairs.That resolution was drawn with great care, and I think that within it are to be found the elements of a desirable settlement of the Irish Question, and that without the lines of that resolution no permanent settlement can be arrived at. I think that, by adopting measures in harmony with that declaration, and by that course only, shall we be doing what lies in our power to bring about the realization of that prayer with which we begin our proceedings every day—namely, that the result of our deliberations may lead to the uniting and knitting together of the hearts and estates of all within this Realm.
§ MR. LYELL (Orkney and Shetland)
said, he was anxious to say a few words on this debate, being a Scottish landlord, who, within the last few weeks, had taken the trouble to go over to Ireland to try and judge for himself of the position of the Irish small tenantry; and, as far as in him lay, to understand the apparently irreconcilable differences which pervaded the discussion of the Irish Question in Parliament and throughout this country. For this purpose he visited the West and South of Ireland, and not only found much to interest him, but much to instruct him. Coming, as he did, from a district where he was pretty well acquainted with the ordinary system of land tenure and cultivation, to a land where all the arrangements were entirely different, the first thing that mainly impressed him was the absolute difference between the notions of the natural sequence of law and order which prevailed in Ireland and in this country. The Chief Secretary on Friday expressed very well the feeling of this side of the Channel, when he declared that law was for the protection of the many against the few. But the first notion that impressed itself upon him (Mr. Lyell) in Kerry and the West of Ireland was, that the law was regarded by the great bulk of the people for the 326 protection of the few as against the many. The law of the land there was not followed by order, but by disorder, and any addition to the law with the view of promoting order would rather tend in the opposite direction. In fact, the state of feeling among the Irish people had given rise to the common notion that anyone who broke the law was doing a useful and patriotic deed; and if he should be so fortunate as to get into gaol on account of his law-breaking, he became a hero in the eyes of the Irish people, whether he had done rightly or wrongly. And this was more particularly the case if the law-breaking had reference to a question of land tenure or the payment of rent. The law was regarded as an engine for upholding a system of police rule centring in Dublin, of which the chief function in the country districts was to bring home to the minds of the small tenants the rights of the landlord as denned by law, but which did not bring home to the landowning classes the duties they owed to the tenantry. He had twice visited Glenbeigh during the course of the evictions; and, regarding the character of the land and the extraordinary rents charged for it, he would say that if any Scottish farmers were to be asked to pay anything like these rents they would scorn the idea. It was notorious that the money paid as rent was derived from the wages of labour in other districts of the country, and in the harvest fields of England and Scotland. With the increase of machinery in agricultural operations, however, and still more from the general depression in agriculture, those sources of additional income were cut away from them, and now they had only their own holdings to depend upon. It was only natural, therefore, that the rental which they had unguardedly agreed to pay should be in arrear, as it was perfectly impossible to extract it from the land. Glenbeigh was an instance of inconsiderateness on the part of the landowner in allowing a population far in excess of the capabilities of the land to obtain a footing on it; and of the utmost carelessness and cupidity on the part of the mortgagee, who had advanced a large sum of money to the owners on what was absolutely insufficient security, and the tenantry were now paying the penalty. He must say 327 his sympathies, when he saw them, were entirely with the people. In reading over the reports of the denunciations that were levelled against the mortgagee and the owner, he could not think that the terms used were too harsh in condemning a system which led to the wanton and brutal outrage of evicting a number of those wretched peasants in the winter season, and leaving them on the roadside. It was utterly impossible to earn rent there; and the whole system cried out to this country against the use of the forces of the Crown and the law to support what was quite contrary to the most elementary principles of ordinary justice and humanity. If a farmer in Scotland or England gave up his holding at the end of his lease, he was entitled to get from the incoming tenant, or the owner, the value of such improvements as he had made, and such conditions were supposed, in a broad way, to be included in the Land Act of 1881; but the tenant in Ireland could only obtain value for the improvements he had made by public auction from the incoming tenant. Under these circumstances, the tenant found that he could obtain no money equivalent to the improvements he had made. A man who took a holding from which a tenant had been evicted, and on which the tenant's improvements had been confiscated, was called a "land grabber," and was ostracized by all his neighbours. These evictions were not only contrary to our ideas of right and humanity, but were also discrediting the law. How could they wonder that the law was discredited, and that disorder followed its enforcement? For his own part, he believed that the law and the agents of the law, in the shape of a large military police force, were kept up in the interests of the landlord class, with the result that the people were becoming thoroughly demoralized. The other organization for the promotion of order—the National League—was doing a useful work for maintaining peace in the country, and it was in the places where it was least in operation that they found those Moonlight outrages committed which were universally deplored. He thoroughly endorsed the opinion expressed by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) in one of the debates of last Session, when he said that if the ad- 328 ministration of order were left in the hands of an Irish Executive they would be able to deal effectively with any outrages that occurred. With regard to the question of over-congestion of the people on the land, he had seen that this was the case in the West of Ireland; and he thoroughly endorsed the opinion of the Chief Secretary that this question was one of the most urgent and one of the most difficult that the Administration could undertake; but, for his own part, he did not believe that any Administration framed as the present one was could solve it. There was no doubt that the population there was far in excess of what it ought to be; that was admitted on all hands. The removal of a portion of the people was absolutely necessary; but it was a question which could only be effectively dealt with by a Body which was in sympathy and in harmony with the feelings of the people, and which thoroughly understood the conditions of the case. He felt sure that if more hon. Members would follow his example and go once to Ireland with the desire of impartially examining into the whole question, it would not be difficult to arrive at a settlement which would be final, which would reasonably satisfy the Irish people, which would be honourable to this country, and which would secure the union of the two countries in a bond of peace, amity, and increased prosperity.
§ LORD ERNEST HAMILTON (Tyrone, N.)
said, that they had heard in the course of that debate several expressions of indignation at the action of the landlords in Ireland in evicting their tenants. He did not dispute the existence of the evictions, but he denied that they were attributable to tyranny or cruelty on the part of the landlords as had been alleged. The landlords in Ireland had, on the contrary, been doing their utmost to avoid the necessity of evictions, and it was hon. Members opposite who had done everything in their power to encourage evictions. They would all remember that during the debate last autumn on the Tenant Relief Bill they had heard most gloomy forebodings from the hon. Member for Cork. What had turned out to be the case? Instead of the wholesale evictions which had been prophesied, they found the landlords giving great reductions. Although several Irish Members had spoken, in 329 that debate, there had been very little said about the Glenbeigh evictions; in fact, most of the hon. Members opposite had avoided the topic. What was the reason for this? Hon. Members opposite had told their constituents in Ireland that these evictions were the deathblow of Irish landlordism, and that they would proclaim to the English people the tyranny of the Irish landlords. The reason of their reticence now was that full publicity had been given to the facts of these evictions, and that it was seen that, so far from landlords and their agents being rack-renters, they had acted with a forbearance almost unprecedented; and that these evictions had been caused, not by the landlords, but by the operations of hon. Members on the opposite Bench. In reading the accounts of these cases in the papers, it was impossible not to feel pity and commiseration for the unfortunate people; but, at the same time, it was impossible to avoid some feeling of contempt for people who were such absolute slaves as to allow themselves to be duped in order to please a party of unscrupulous agitators. It had been abundantly made manifest that the agent on this estate had shown indulgence to the verge of abandoning the property. Certainly, the landlord and agent on this estate contrasted very favourably with certain Irish Members opposite, who were landlords, and almost all of whom exacted the uttermost farthing from their tenantry. The hon. Member for Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare) had taken an active part in the proceedings at Glenbeigh. It might be well if the hon. Member purchased the estate, which he could obtain very cheaply, and set an example of what a modern landlord should be. Some of the advice he had given to the tenants was remarkable. He had suggested that bailiffs should be brained, and that jurors should commit perjury.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
, rising to a point of Order, asked whether the noble Lord was in Order in charging an hon. Member with inciting the Irish people to commit perjury?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he understood that the noble Lord was arguing that on the interpretation of a series of speeches they amounted to a recommendation to that course.
§ LORD ERNEST HAMILTON
said, the hon. Member for Cornwall (Mr. Cony- 330 beare) had stated that in the past juries had violated their oaths rather than convict under certain laws that they considered unjust, and he said that was a precedent they should remember. Not a single hon. Member had suggested what he would have done if he had been the landlord of the Glenbeigh estate. Some people seemed to think that Irish landlords took a cruel and vindictive delight in evicting their tenants. But the Irish landlord had everything to lose and nothing to gain by eviction. He lost the goodwill of his tenant and the rent of his farm, for no one would take it when vacant. No landlord, therefore, would think of resorting to eviction unless driven to it. He had listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. T. Fry), and had been impressed with its evident sincerity; but that hon. Member declared that he had no sympathy with any tenant who could pay and combined not to do so. He said that from his visit to Glenbeigh he felt convinced that the tenants could not pay. But that there were combinations on certain estates where the tenants could pay was admitted by the speeches of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon); and if there were such cases, how were the landlords to tell whether it was inability or combination that led to the refusal to pay rent? Speeches delivered in various parts of Ireland by the leaders of the Plan of Campaign showed that those leaders were desirous of pushing on evictions, which served them in various ways. Evictions stirred up ill-feeling against the landlords, afforded fuel for agitation, filled their ranks with reckless men, and secured money from America—money which was not always devoted to the purposes for which it was contributed. What had taken place on the Clanricarde property was very characteristic. The tenants demanded a reduction of 25 per cent, and the landlord subsequently wrote offering 20 per cent. A settlement was about to be arrived at when the hon. Member for Mayo came down from Dublin, and though he had not been there for five years, and could not, therefore, know anything of his own knowledge of the circumstances of the estate, he advised that 40 per cent should be demanded. There was no pretence that in this case the tenants could not pay. The estate had been 331 selected because of the known stubbornness of the Clanricarde tenantry. The hon. Member for Mayo had recently challenged the administrators of the law in Ireland to produce one case in which he had advised tenants to refuse to accept a reasonable reduction. The Woodford case, he held, might be cited conclusively in answer to the hon. Member's challenge. If, at a future time, there should be scenes at Woodford like those which had been witnessed at Glenbeigh, who, he asked, would be to blame—the landlord, or the hon. Member for Mayo? The Nationalist Members were of opinion that landlordism was the great obstacle in the way of separation; and they had, therefore, determined to cut off the supplies of the landlords in order, if possible, to exterminate them. The destruction was sought to be accomplished by a No Rent Manifesto, or by inducing the tenants to ask for impossible reductions of rent. Was it not apparent to everybody that in a case like that of Glenbeigh, where the tenants had not paid rent for five and nine years, something more than a reduction of rent was necessary? The landowning class was credited by hon. Members opposite with the wish to rob and crush the tenants. He could assure the Members to whom he was referring that many of those sitting on his own side of the House would, gladly join with them in any rational movement for the improvement of the tenants' condition if there were the slightest indications that their desire to benefit the tenants was sincere. It was, however, impossible to find any such indications; instead of benefiting the tenants they wished to lower them in order to injure the landlords. Hon. Members opposite never tried to improve the conditions of farming, or to teach the tenants how to make the most of their wretched holdings. Even an insolvent tenant was seldom allowed to sell his interest in his farm; he was compelled to wait in order that he might resist eviction. The boast of the hon. Member for Mayo that at this moment 400 farms in Kerry were derelict, no tenant daring to set his foot upon them, showed to what a state the interference of hon. Members opposite had reduced the country. He thought that if all the parties concerned were to co-operate, much might be done to raise the tenants 332 —even those at Glenbeigh—to positions of comparative affluence. At present, the different parties were directing their energies to one another's injury, and the landlord was unwilling to improve his property, because experience taught him that if he were to spend every farthing of his income upon it he would still be held up to odium as a rack-renter, and his tenants would still be induced to withhold their rents. If the landlords, the parish priests, and the Nationalists combined to effect it, the condition of the tenants might be improved; but as long as this war between the landlords and the Nationalists continued their condition might get worse and worse. The National League might succeed in ruining some hundreds of landlords; but they would ruin hundreds of thousands of tenants. He would remind the Government that there were other measures besides coercive and repressive measures by which the National League could be met and defeated. There was the compulsory measure of which hon. Members opposite were in great terror, which would cause every tenant to become an owner. This was the vulnerable point in the armour of the Nationalists. When every tenant should have become the owner of his holding—from that moment the National League would die a natural death. The patriotism of Irishmen was ruled by worldly considerations, and as soon as tenants should find that no gain could result from agitation they would cease to pour their contributions into the pockets of hon. Members opposite.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
said, in rising to take part in this somewhat discursive debate, he desired to refer to the very able speech of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) on the subject of economy, and in doing so he would endeavour to observe the wise spirit of conciliation and absence of Party recrimination that characterized the remarks of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). He fully admitted, for his part, that the present rate of Expenditure was due to the concurrent action of both sides of the House; and that it could only be alleviated and reversed by a concurrent movement on both sides of the House in an opposite direction. Looking at the changes of Government that had 333 taken place in the last two or three years, and that might take place in the next two years, nothing, in his opinion, could be more detrimental to the interests of the public, and of the Services, than that there should be Party division on the subject, and that there should be violent fluctuations in economy and expenditure. The Liberal record during the last three or four years had not been so satisfactory that they could afford to throw stones at the present Government; and he must admit that any immediate considerable reduction beyond the very modest sum to which the noble Lord was prepared to limit his demands was rendered impossible by the obligations contracted by the late Government either in the autumn of 1885 or in the middle of last year. Any movement in the direction of economy must be slow, but he hoped it would be permanent. He hoped, also, that both sides of the House would concur in making the effort. The noble Lord had done an immense service to the country, and to his own Party, by sacrificing himself on the altar of economy in the Military Departments. He thought also that the noble Lord was fully justified in dealing with the Estimates in gross—in calling the attention of the two great spending Departments to the fact that their Estimates, compared with three or four years ago, had greatly increased; and in demanding from them a return to more moderate expenditure without specifying any particular items. The right hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) had challenged the noble Lord to meet the Government on the details, and had promised to justify each one of them. He knew from experience extending over 20 years that such a course must be delusive. Very plausible arguments could always be adduced to support every item in the Estimates taken separately; and yet in the aggregate it might not be wise, or right, or justifiable that all the items should be taken together and at one time. The Expenditure during the last three years had increased by upwards of £6,000,000. That was due to a variety of demands from the two great spending Departments—the demand foriron-clads, armed cruisers, torpedo-boats, protection to coaling stations, protection of mercantile and military harbours, and provision of arma- 334 ments. For all those, as he had said, plausible and excellent arguments could be found. The question, however, was not whether these things were necessary or desirable, but whether the expenditure on all of them should be undertaken at the same time. It seemed to him that that was a point that could not be well discussed on the Army and Navy Estimates. It could only be discussed in principle, and at the instance of the Government itself. And, therefore, in his opinion, the noble Lord was quite right in calling upon the Departments to marshal their demands in their proper order. It was only the Departments that could form an opinion as to which of the various items were the most important. An illustration of the difficulty of dealing with large items of Naval Expenditure was furnished by the unsuccessful efforts he made last year to reduce the outlay by the cost of two large iron-clads, which were estimated at nearly £1,000,000 each, entailing a charge on the next four years of about £500,000 each year. Never, he thought, was a stronger case made out. It was shown that the French Government had laid down two vessels of the same kind, and that they then abandoned their intention of building them, and, indeed, of building any more iron-clads. It was also shown that the present and the late Chief Constructors were opposed to the designs of these vessels; and yet, although he did not ask for the absolute rejection of the Vote, but only for the postponement of the expenditure until the matter had received further consideration, he failed entirely, and he was out-voted on a Division by a rush of Members who had not heard the debate. He had never known any good to result from a general discussion of the items of the Army or the Navy Estimates, and any attempt to effect economy in this way was absolutely hopeless. It could be effected only through the action of the Treasury upon the great spending Departments. As to the course suggested by the noble Lord of remitting the Estimates to a Committee, if it were to be adopted every year it would lead to an increase of expenditure rather than the reverse, because it would relieve the heads of Departments from responsibility by devolving it upon the Committee, upon whom the pressure of the spending interests would be stronger 335 than they could resist. At the same time, it was worthy of consideration whether once in a way, and especially at a time when the House was in a mood for economy, the suggested course might not be adopted with advantage; but it should be regarded as an exceptional course, to be resorted to only once in 10 or 15 years. After all, Naval and Military Expenditure must be determined by foreign policy. With what the noble Lord said on that head he cordially concurred. If we were really to pursue a spirited foreign policy in the East, and to be ready to go into conflict with the great Military Powers of Europe, then our Military Expenditure was not only not excessive, but it was not enough. But he believed that the country would adapt the expression of Prince Bismarck to our case, and would say that in such a policy as that we ought not to risk the life of a single Englishman or the loss of a single Sovereign. As to Egypt, there were few who did not at this time deplore that we ever entered upon an Egyptian campaign, and who did not regret that we found ourselves in the occupation of Egypt. Few would now say that we had derived any real advantage from that occupation. He even doubted whether the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian was right in saying that the Egyptians had benefited by it. In his belief, the only parties who had gained were the bondholders, and they were not entitled to sympathy. The occupation of Egypt was the main cause of the large increase of Military Expenditure the last few years, for, as the result of our occupation, there was the greatest ill-feeling in France towards this country. The French did not believe that we were sincere in our announced intention to withdraw. If we could make France and the other Great Powers of Europe understand that we intended to leave at no distant day, and if we could invite their co-operation so as to make it more easy for us to leave, we might get rid of the hostile feeling there was against us, and the main cause for this large expenditure would be disposed of. Referring to Ireland, if he rightly understood the speech of the Chief Secretary, the Government in no case had refused to give the aid of the police or the military to any process of eviction when they had been finally called upon to do so; but, 336 when asked to lend these forces, they had brought moral pressure to bear upon landlords with the view of effecting arrangements between them and their tenants. The Chief Secretary said that suggestions were made to creditors to induce them to be merciful to their debtors. That was a roundabout way of saying that pressure was put upon landlords to induce them to abate their rents. For his part, he had no fault to find with the Chief Secretary in this respect. In the circumstances in which he found himself he was thoroughly justified in adopting the course he did adopt. He had done only what any humane statesman would have done in his position, and little or no hostile criticism would be directed against him from the Opposition side of the House on that account. But it would be interesting to hear from the right hon. Gentleman a little further explanation of the exact nature of the pressure he brought to bear on the landlords. He believed he was right in assuming that one of the landlords dealt with in that way was Lord Clanricarde, who, up to a late date, had declined to make any abatement in his rents. It was said that the agent of the estate—Mr. Joyce—in his evidence before Lord Cowper's Land Commission, had stated that he had advised Lord Clanricarde that the rents ought to be abated, and that if they were abated that part of the country would be quiet; but Lord Clanricarde still declined to offer any abatement. Later in the autumn pressure was brought to bear upon him by the Chief Secretary, and then, tardily, he made some reductions. It would be interesting to know the nature of the correspondence which passed between the Chief Secretary and Lord Clanricarde. It might throw a good deal of light on the whole situation, and show what was the argument which induced Lord Clanricarde to make that tardy abatement. It might show whether it was made on account of the great depression and fall in prices, or on account of the condition of Ireland. He (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) believed it was on the ground of the great fall of prices; and this was important as regarded both the past and the future. In July last the Government denied that there was any emergency; they denied that there had been any such fall in prices as would justify 337 the passing of any temporary measure; and, therefore, asked the House to reject the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). The Chief Secretary, at the same time, admitted that if there were a considerable number of tenants who could not pay their judicial rents, Parliament ought at once to relieve them from the possibility of eviction until their case could be further considered. As, however, he did not at that time believe that prices had fallen beyond the expectation of the Land Commissioners, he invited Parliament to reject the Bill; but, after a too short holiday, he went to Ireland, and found the circumstances of the case and the depression in agriculture such as necessitated and compelled a course of action quite different from that which he had contemplated. Thereupon he began to put that pressure upon landlords of which the Opposition certainly did not disapprove. Personally, he voted for the temporary Bill with great hesitation, feeling that it was a serious matter to interfere with the operation of the Land Act of 1881, and that nothing but a strong case could justify their doing so. He still believed that it was a great and important measure; but, after listening last Session to the case of the hon. Member for Cork, he was bound to admit that the fail in prices had been so great as to justify the temporary measure then proposed. He certainly thought it would be very unjust that the whole of the loss due to the fall of prices after the rents were judicially fixed should fall on the tenants alone. It was on that account that he felt it right to vote for the Bill which was brought in by the hon. Member for Cork, and he thought some measure in that direction was still necessary to the peace of Ireland. The action of the Government and of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in rejecting the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork in July last, had practically thrown upon them the responsibility of the trouble that had arisen in Ireland during the past few months; indeed, it appeared to be admitted now by the Chief Secretary from the action he had taken in Ireland, and the pressure he had brought to bear upon the landlords, that a mistake was made in July last in throwing out that Bill. The position of things at that time was very similar to 338 what it was in 1880, when the House of Lords rejected the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, and when in the winter that followed there were evictions on the one hand, and crime and outrages on the other. In the present case, the pressure by the Government on the landlords and the Plan of Campaign were the consequence of the rejection of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork. As to the Plan of Campaign, if the Chief Secretary's description of it was right—namely, that it was intended to give to the tenants of Ireland the possession of their tenancies without paying rent—he should heartily condemn it. No one condemned more strongly than he did the issue of the "No Rent" Manifesto in 1881; and he should take the same course with regard to the Plan of Campaign if such were its object. But it must not be supposed that on that account he condemned absolutely all combinations of tenants under all circumstances in Ireland. He would take a case in illustration. On Lord Dillon's property in Ireland there were several thousands of small tenants occupying from one to 10 acres each; and those tenants suffered greatly, not merely from agricultural depression, but also from the difficulty of obtaining employment away from their holdings. He believed he was right in saying that up to a very late period Lord Dillon had declined to make any abatement in the rent. What were the tenants to do in such circumstances? Singly they were helpless against the landlord, living in England, and managing his property through an agent. Was it strange, then, that they should be advised that by union and combination they might become strong? Was it surprising that these poor tenants should take this advice and combine for their mutual interests? They did combine, and they made an offer to the landlord by which they resolved to stand or fall together. The result was that Lord Dillon came to terms with the tenants; an abatement of 20 per cent was made over the whole estate; the decrees that had been issued against about 70 of the tenants were withdrawn; and peace, instead of disorder, now reigned on the property. He doubted whether any hon. Member of that House would condemn combination under such conditions as those to which he had just referred. Looking at the question from a purely legal point of 339 view, however, he was obliged to admit that those poor men were all engaged—according to the law of the country—in a criminal conspiracy for which they might have been indicted; and those who advised them were parties to the conspiracy. He knew something about the law of conspiracy, because, some years ago, he had to consider it carefully with reference to trade unions, whose combinations were then illegal, although so far as those organizations were concerned the law had since been altered. He did not hesitate to say that the Law of Conspiracy was the most dangerous, difficult, and elastic part of our law, and could be twisted by a Judge so as to include almost any act. He recollected one case in which it was held that, although it was perfectly legal for one man to refuse to pay Church rates, and to put the clergyman to legal remedies of distress, yet that a combination of two or more persons to do the same thing was an illegal conspiracy. He had no doubt that the Welsh farmers who, by joint action, were now trying to get a reduction of the tithe, were guilty of conspiracy, and might be indicted. The Law of Conspiracy was wholly Judge-made law. He believed there was no similar law in any other country in Europe. It might be that in some cases it was desirable that this law should be maintained; but it was not a law which, on the whole, commended itself to the public feeling of this country. The application of this law was, however, controlled by the healthy action of juries, which very often refused to convict. If the Welsh farmers, or the tenants of Lord Dillon, were put upon their trial, few men in this country would find them guilty of conspiracy. In ordinary times he should condemn morally combinations to reduce judicial rents; but under the circumstances of the moment, looking to the admitted necessity for the reduction of rents, he was forced to the conclusion that combination such as he had described, when carried out with moderation, was not unjustifiable, even if it infringed the Law of Conspiracy. The question, then, before the House was, what ought to be done with the present state of things in Ireland? He feared from the speech of the Chief Secretary that the Government had resolved to adopt the old plan of measures of coercion on the one hand, 340 and of concession on the other. It was known that Lord Cowper's Commission had already come to the conclusion that judicial rents could not be sustained; and he was certain that when the evidence of that Commission was in the hands of the Government, they would see the absolute necessity of making some changes in the Land Act of 1881. What had occurred, and was occurring, in Ireland, was the direct result of the neglect of Parliament, and of the Government, to apply a remedy at the time it was required. Matters would only be made worse by pursuing further a course of criminal proceedings, and by endeavouring to bolster them up by changes of law and coercive measures. If there was any lesson that had been more clearly taught than another by the past 86 years in Ireland, it was the failure of the mixed policy of coercion and concession. Coercive measures had invariably blighted the remedies and frustrated the desires and intentions of Parliament. The Chief Secretary had stated that the Union could not be preserved unless law was maintained. He himself believed that the Union could not be preserved in its present position, even if the law was maintained. But there was an earlier condition—a condition precedent even to the maintenance of the law—and that was that the law itself should be just, and that remedies for admitted evils should be applied without delay, and in answer to the demands of the Irish people—demands constitutionally expressed by their 86 Members.
MR. CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)
said, he was desirous of expressing his confidence in the Government; and if that expression of feeling came from one who had not before spoken in the House, yet he hoped the House would extend to him that patience it had always shown on similar occasions. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down seemed to be in the position of one who was anxious to make out something against Her Majesty's Government, or, at all events, something in favour of their opponents; but he laboured under the initial difficulty of lacking materials—he was trying to make bricks without straw. At the end of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, he (Mr. Curzon) was left in total doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman was more in agreement, or disagreement, with 341 Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Government contemplated measures of coercion. Now, coercion they knew was a nickname adopted by hon. Members on the other side of the House for any measure for the suppression of crime. But, understanding by coercion attempts made by the Legislature to detect and punish crime, the very essence of which was that they were exceptional and temporary, he believed he was right in saying that the Government had no intention of introducing coercion. The measures to be introduced by the Government—as he gathered from the Queen's Speech—were measures for the amendment of the Criminal Law, and they would be neither exceptional nor temporary, but permanent and possibly universal. Therefore, the argument as to coercion fell to the ground. With the leave of the House he would allude to observations which had fallen from some hon. Members that night. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), who opened the discussion that evening, in the analytical examination to which he subjected Her Majesty's Speech, made some remarks on foreign policy, and pointed out an apparent discrepancy between the terms of that Speech and a passage in a letter from Lord Salisbury, which was read the other night by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), and he asked how they were to be reconciled. The Queen's Speech said that the Government did not apprehend any disturbance of European peace; but Lord Salisbury's letter had said that the chances were in favour of war. Now, a sufficient explanation of that discrepancy, if indeed it existed, might be found in the difference of dates. The letter was written on December 22, and the Speech was delivered on January 27, and they all knew that the face and form of European politics changed with Protean swiftness. But, as a matter of fact, no such discrepancy existed at all. It was evident that the hon. Member had not read that portion of the Speech which he affected to quote. Lord Salisbury said—The outlook on the Continent was very black, and it was not too much to say that the chances were in favour of war at an early date.That, presumably, referred to the chances of war between France and 342 Germany. But in the Queen's Speech they read—The affairs of South-Eastern Europe are still in an unsettled condition; but I do not apprehend that any disturbance of European peace will result from the unadjusted controversies which have arisen in that region.That was clearly limited to the Balkan Peninsula, and therefore it was perfectly obvious that there was no such discrepancy as the hon. Member for Northampton supposed, and in bringing the matter before the House he had acted both with precipitancy and ignorance. He would like, however, to have suggested to the hon. Member, if he had been now present, that there was another authority possessed of superior information to the Government—information enjoyed by no other Government in Europe—upon the chances of war in Europe; an authority with which, no doubt, the hon. Member was acquainted—namely, the editor of The Daily News; and, if rumour was right, behind the editor of The Daily News loomed the commanding and inscrutable personality of the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). Therefore he ventured to say the hon. Member for Northampton might have derived the information hedesired from the domestic circle of which he formed one of the most important Members. The hon. Member for Northampton blamed the unwise and irritating policy of the Government, and said that, in his opinion, it was likely to lead to war; yet not a single fact was advanced or reason stated for that opinion. The hon. Member wished to know whether the Government desired peace or war? He must have a very poor opinion of Governments in general if he thought any Government desired war. Turning to other speeches, the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington had said that he had spent a good deal of time in wrestling with the Conservative Party. He (Mr. Curzon) had no desire to wrestle with the noble Lord, because he knew perfectly well that the result would be the fate which befell Jacob in his historic contest with the Angel. But, much as he admired and entirely as he agreed with a great part of the speech of the noble Lord, he must say there was one expression in it which gave pain to both sides of the House. It was when he described Gentlemen sitting on the opposite side, who were known as 343 Liberal Unionists, by the somewhat undesirable metaphor of "a political crutch" on which the Tory Party was obliged to lean in order to support its tottering steps. Then the noble Lord said he looked forward to the time when the Tory Party would cast off this fortuitous aid and walk alone. The term "crutch" was not one which was complimentary to the Gentlemen referred to, nor did it truly represent either their relations to the Conservative Party or their position in the State. What he thought was more serious was that it was not complimentary to the Conservative Party, because it implied that they were in the condition of the halt and maimed, and could not walk alone. But he did not think there was any harm in confessing that the Liberal Unionists were to them as a staff. Then, so far from looking forward to the time when the Conservative Party should be anxious to walk alone, he hoped that many of the hon. Gentlemen opposite would walk, not temporarily, but permanently with them. He was quite certain they did not suffer by contact with the Conservatives, and he did not think the Conservatives had suffered by contact with them. Already there had been evident certain improvements in the political demeanour of that Party, which he thought he might attribute to Conservative influences; and he thought that they might be capable of still further amelioration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), in his speech the other night, re-awakened those old principles of economy which used to be the cherished watchwords of his Party, but which had recently fallen into such sad disrepute. As the right hon. Gentleman was uttering these remarks, the House must have regretted very much that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Peter Rylands) was not in his place to witness the triumph of his lifetime. The right hon. Gentleman passed on to criticize the structure of the Government. He severely blamed the structure of the present Government, and spoke in terms of condemnation of the divorce between the functions of the First Lord of the Treasury and Prime Minister, and of the concentration of the Offices of Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister in a single man. He said there had been no instance of the former for a period of 170 years; and 344 that to the latter there were formidable objections, to which he knew of no compensating advantages. But the question was not one of abstract right or Constitutional precedent, but of simple expediency. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the "wanton rupture of an old-established and invariable practice." Had the other side of the House never perpetrated such a wanton rupture? Had not its occupants committed a more wanton rupture of a practice, if not as old established, at any rate more invariable—a practice, moreover, which had been the fixed tradition of this country, the fixed principle of the opposite Party, and the fixed policy of the right hon. Gentleman. The charge of the transgression of Constitutional principles hardly came well from a quarter which had been guilty of greater violations. [An hon. MEMBER: What violation?] Why, Home Rule. He did not think the argument about the concentration of Offices came with an altogether good grace from the Leader of the Opposition. It was not long ago since he filled the two Offices of Chancellor of the Exchequer and First Lord of the Treasury, and was Prime Minister as well—Lord Salisbury was two in one, but the right hon. Gentleman was three in one. Then the right hon. Gentleman said there was no compensating advantage in the present combination of the Offices of Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister. But the advantage was that at a time of European crisis and danger the Seals of the Foreign Office were in the hands of Lord Salisbury. He would next turn to a subject of more pressing interest—namely, Ireland. They had been told that the Plan of Campaign had been blessed by an Archbishop. It had also been praised by the hon. Member for Northampton. It was probably the first time in his life that the hon. Member had found himself in the same boat with an Archbishop. Hon. Members opposite boasted that it was they who had organized the Plan of Campaign. He must confess that he did not think that the patronage of Irish Members lent a movement any especial sanctity. The Plan of Campaign had also had the honour of the advocacy of an English Member. It had received the Constitutional and moderate support of the hon. Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall 345 (Mr. Conybeare). The hon. Member might, perhaps, give them a speech similar to the one he recently delivered in Ireland. [Mr. CONYBEARE: Hear, hear!] The hon. Member cheered; and, therefore, he (Mr. Curzon) would tell the House his humble impression of that speech. As he read it he could not help thinking that he must have been in church—a somewhat extraordinary connection, he admitted—but in church on the first day of Lent, when the Commination Service was read from the desk. For, if hon. Members compared the Service and the speech, they would find an almost precisely similar volume of imprecation in each. He hoped, also, that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) would give expression to his opinion on this subject. From a cause which they all deplored, the hon. Member had not, as yet, pronounced upon the question. But the hon. Member for East Mayo, in addressing an audience at Enniscorthy, had said that the Leader of the Home Rule Party in that House had abstained from expressing his views from motives of public policy; and that never since he took his stand on an Irish platform for Irish nationality had he served the Irish people more effectually, with greater spirit, or with more self-denial, than he was then doing. Those words were rather singular, for the inference naturally suggested by them, and by what they had since heard, was that Mr. Parnell was prostrated on a bed of sickness from motives of public policy, and that he served his Party most effectually when he was absent from the scene of action. That was, he thought, a legitimate conclusion to draw. The other night the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition had delivered some remarks about the Plan of Campaign. Hitherto the right hon. Gentleman had observed a curious silence on the subject, and, though appealed to on the point, gave no reply. There were a good many hon. Members who hoped that when the right hon. Gentleman rose to speak the other night he would utter something definite upon this point; and yet his language appeared to be either an exculpation of the Plan of Campaign, or to approximate to an exculpation so closely that there was not more than the difference between tweedledum and tweedledee. But at the very time 346 the right hon. Gentleman was speaking two of his former Colleagues were also speaking on the same subject. One of them furiously denounced the Plan of Campaign, and the other said that he abominated every form of illegality. Yet, at the same time, the right hon. Gentleman opposite was trying to throw the rags of respectability round the naked form of the scheme which the best of his old Colleagues denounced. If the right hon. Gentleman were in the House, he (Mr. Curzon) would take the liberty of repeating the question put to him the other day, as to whether he did or did not approve of the Plan of Campaign? He was aware that there were some hon. Members on the opposite Benches who had said they were not called upon to pronounce an opinion upon the Plan of Campaign until the Law Courts had given their verdict. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had just given that excuse, and it had also been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stirling (Mr. Campbell-Banuerman), although, when they remembered the latter announced to the country that he had "found salvation," they might have expected him to give a better leading to the public conscience. In answer to this argument, he would say that it was very much the same as if a man were to claim to be excused from giving his opinion about the legality or illegality of theft until a particular jury of his countrymen had pronounced a verdict upon a particular thief. In justification of the Plan of Campaign, they had been told that it was a consequence of the rejection by the House of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork. No doubt it was a practical consequence, and it had been consequent in point of time. The Plan of Campaign was the second move in a well-thought-out and well-organized game of hon. Members opposite, in which the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork was the first move. It was within the knowledge of almost all hon. Members that the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork was introduced in order that it might be thrown out. [Cheers, and cries of "No!"] That Bill was introduced in order that it might be thrown out, and the Plan of Campaign had been set up in order that it might be put down. He would admit that the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork was 347 nominally introduced for the benefit of the tenants, and he would not deny the sincerity with which hon. Members opposite advocated it. But the Plan of Campaign had not even been nominally introduced with that object. The Plan of Campaign had been introduced simply as an attack upon landlordism, and as a challenge to the Government of this country. That the Plan of Campaign was the logical or the inevitable consequence of the rejection of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork he entirely denied. Could anyone say that if the Bill had not been rejected they would never have heard of the Plan of Campaign? It was perfectly notorious that the majority of cases in which the Plan of Campaign had been applied, or attempted to be applied, were cases which would not have been touched by the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork had it been passed. The two chief provisions of the hon. Member's Bill were—first, a limitation of the application of the Bill to tenants under the Irish Land Act of 1881; and, secondly, a limitation of the relief of abatement of rent to those who had paid half of their year's rent for 1886 and half the antecedent arrears. It was within the knowledge of the House that, in the majority of the cases where the Plan of Campaign had been applied, very few of the cases came within the first limitation, and hardly any under the second. In the Glenbeigh case the tenants were not legal tenants at all, but squatters who had retaken forcible possession of their holdings; they would not come under the first limitation, and there was not a single tenant who would have come under the second by paying half his rent for 1886 and half the arrears. He thought he had clearly established that there was no connection whatever between the rejection of the Bill of the hon. Member for Cork and the Plan of Campaign. While they had heard in that House from some hon. Members on the other side faint disapproval of the Plan of Campaign, and from others, including the Leader of the Opposition, what sounded like faint praise of it, he believed there was but one opinion of it throughout the country, and that was an absolute chorus and tempest of indignant condemnation. If the Plan of Campaign were a challenge to the Government, he hoped they would take it up, not in the interest of 348 the landlords—though some pity might be felt even for them—but in the superior interests of the principles of property, order, and law. In this matter, he believed, public opinion was decidedly ahead of Parliamentary opinion. In that House opinion was largely formed by nice calculations of votes and the prospects of the Lobbies; but public opinion was uninfluenced by anything of that kind. It looked at things from a broader standpoint and with much clearer vision, and had pronounced in an unmistakable voice that the conspiracy should be stamped out. Hon. Members opposite had spoken in feeling terms of the miseries which Irish tenants suffered, and of the cruelties to which they were subjected; but he was tempted to ask why these hon. Members were silent during the domination of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian, when scenes of infinitely greater and more horrible cruelty were being perpetrated day and night in all parts of Ireland. They had heard about the barbarities of the crowbar, and the smoking thatch; but, in his opinion, there were worse barbarities still—namely, those of the loaded gun, the mutilated animals, and the murdered women and men. Irish Members raised a great clamour about the former; but through the latter they sat as silent as stones. Nothing showed more clearly the hollowness of this agitation than the conduct of hon. Members now and their former attitude. In face of this Plan of Campaign, which had been so cleverly organized, was it not permissible that Conservative Members should have their Plan of Campaign also? In that House, and on every platform in the country, they would have their Plan of Campaign to meet that of hon. Members opposite; but it would be a Plan of Campaign without any suspicion of violence, or illegality, or intrigue. On that side of the House they would lose no opportunity of meeting their opponents in discussion, and of endeavouring to substitute sense for sentimentalism—of meeting their arguments by arguments, and of confronting their statements with facts. That, he believed, was the Plan of Campaign which ought to be, and would be, adopted by Conservative Members of Parliament, and it was one the success of which with the public opinion of the country could not for a moment be doubted.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I beg to congratulate the hon. Member who has just sat down on the speech to which the House has been listening. We have seldom heard a more clever and, certainly, seldom a more lively, maiden speech. He has spoken more in dispraise than in praise, and has made a series of attacks on hon. Members on this side of the House. He commenced by attacking my hon. Colleague (Mr. Bradlaugh). He said my hon. Friend showed his ignorance by insisting that there was some difference in the tone of the letter with regard to foreign politics that the noble Lord read at Paddington and the tone of the Address. This, he said, was a mistake, because in the letter Lord Salisbury had merely said the outlook was black, whilst in the Speech he said there was not likely to be a disturbance in the South-East of Europe. We can well understand that Lord Salisbury thinks, rightly or wrongly, that there will soon be a great conflagration in Europe, but thinks it will not break out in the South-East of Europe, but on the Rhine. We are confirmed in that, not merely by the statement of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, but by his remarks as to his own impression of what took place in the Cabinet. He thinks that these large armaments Lord Salisbury is asking of us are mainly due to a belief that before long there will be a great war, and to the fact that Lord Salisbury wishes to play a great part in it. That Lord Salisbury does want to play a great part there is no doubt. ["No, no!"] No? Then does he want to play a little part in it? I regard Lord Salisbury as the great perturbator of the peace of Europe. When Prince Bismarck and everyone was trying to calm down the Balkan Provinces and prevent Austria and Russia going to war, what did Lord Salisbury do? Why, he made a Jingo speech at the Guildhall, in which he said that if Austria went to war she would not go alone. We know from the past career of Lord Salisbury that his opinion is that we ought invariably to meddle in European disputes. We know from the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, his own Colleague, that at present he believes that a European war will break out, and that, therefore, we may legitimately suppose that he is most anxious 350 and desirous of meddling in that war. Having thus attacked my hon. Colleague the junior Member for Northampton, the hon. Gentleman proceeded to attack the senior Member—myself. I will not waste the time of the House by replying to attacks on so humble an individual. Having done that, the hon. Gentleman flew at higher game, and attacked the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. He was indignant with the noble Lord for saying that the Liberal Unionists were a "crutch." He considered that an offensive epithet, and declared that the Liberal Unionists were not a "crutch," but a staff to right hon. Gentlemen in Office. I confess I cannot see much difference between a "crutch" and a "staff." The hon. Member then attacked the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). He was indignant at the right hon. Gentleman's complaining of Lord Salisbury holding the two Offices of Prime Minister and Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He said it was monstrous that the right hon. Gentleman should protest against this, even though it were a fresh precedent, seeing that he (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had himself established a fresh precedent in bringing in a Home Rule Bill. I confess I could not follow the argument of the hon. Member there precisely. It seems to me, as a matter of fact, most undesirable that Lord Salisbury should hold these two Offices. When Lord Salisbury replied to the charge of departing from Constitutional precedent in holding the Offices of Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary at the same time, he said he was under the control of the Cabinet. Under the control of the Cabinet! Then the hon. Member attacked the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Camborne Division of Cornwall (Mr. Conybeare), and said his speech would remind every man in the House of the Commination Service on the first day of Lent. Well, it did not remind me, for the simple reason that I never happen to be in church on the first day of Lent. Having attacked these Gentlemen, and having attacked the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell)for shamming an illness in order to avoid condemning the Plan of Campaign—
MR. CURZON (Lancashire, Southport)
I must correct that; it is not a fair statement of what I said. What I 351 did say was, that I sympathized with, the causes which had prevented the hon. Member for Cork from expressing his opinion, but that a new light seemed to be thrown on those causes by certain passages which I quoted from a speech delivered by the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Member implied that it was a political illness; but I will not dwell on the point further. The hon. Gentleman then passed to what we usually do pass on to in these debates—namely, to the question of Ireland. The hon. Member, as is usual on that side of the House, denounced the Plan of Campaign. In one thing I can agree with him. I think the Speech from the Throne does in no measured words denounce the Plan of Campaign, and proposes that the Plan should be met by changes in the Criminal Law—that is to say, in other words, by coercion. It seems to me, from observations I have heard from hon. Members on both sides of the House, that hon. Gentlemen are under a misconception as to what is the meaning of individual ownership in land. No individual, Sir, has any ownership in land. What an individual has is the right to use the land, and he only has that right on condition that he makes a proper use of it—that is to say, renders it productive for the common good. In England you generally have landlords who have built houses on agricultural land and have made improvements, and I can understand their having some sort of special property in that which has resulted from their expenditure. But you do not find that condition of things prevailing in Ireland. There the houses and improvements on the land are made by the tenants, and they belong entirely to the tenants; and all the right, therefore, that the landlords should have, should be to receive a ground rent for the use of the land. Well, what is this land for which these landlords have the right to receive rent? It is laid down in the Land Act of 1881. The first charge upon the land is a sufficiency to enable the tenant to live and thrive; the second charge is the rent—that is to say, any margin that remains after the tenant has lived and thrived. The tenant has a preferred charge upon the land, and the second, or deferred, charge is the rent to the landlord if any margin remains. I say the sooner that hon. Gentlemen 352 who are landlords understand that, the better it will be for the country, and the better it will eventually be for themselves. The Land Courts were established to fix judicial rents; these judicial rents were estimated according to the margin after the tenant had lived and thrived, and they were based on the existing prices, but prices have fallen since then; the margin that existed in the judicial rent which was to go to the landlord does not exist at the present moment. Therefore, it does seem to me that as the landlord and tenant are but partners in a joint property, it is monstrous that the landlord should take advantage of there being no margin this year, and of the tenant being unable to pay his ground rent, and not only seize the land, but also the improvements effected by the tenant, and the very house he occupies. Some landlords in Ireland recognize this; but in every class there is a residuum—there is a residuum of bad landlords in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) admitted that a considerable number of landlords ought not to exact the rent which they are exacting; and the right hon. Gentleman certainly used pressure upon those landlords to prevent them getting such rents from their tenants. I am not in the least complaining of the right hon. Gentleman for having done so. He said that Members on this side of the House had complained. They do not complain of that; but they complain of this—that the right hon. Gentleman himself had, according to his own view, violated the conspiracy law by confederating with the police and the magistrates to use pressure; and that, when he had failed, he then turned round on the Irish Members—who were more clever than himself in exercising pressure on the landlords—and wanted to prosecute them for doing precisely what he had himself attempted to do. It is asserted that some tenants can pay, and I will make that concession; but there are others who cannot pay their full rent, and even those who can pay their full rent are unable to do it from the produce of the land this year. They have to take it from the little store saved through their economy, or receive it from a daughter or other relative who has gone over to America and is in receipt of good 353 wages, or they have to procure it by depriving themselves of a piece of furniture, or something of that kind. What would have happened if the Plan of Campaign had not been undertaken? Why, no doubt there would have been a considerable number of evictions; in all human probability evictions would have led to outrages. If you had turned men out of their houses in considerable numbers—and there are a great many who would have been treated in that way if it had not been for the pressure which has been put upon the landlords—you would have inspired in many breasts a feeling which would have found vent in lawlessness and outrage. Under the circumstances, I consider that the representatives of the Irish people were perfectly right in stepping in. How did they step in? They proposed that all the tenants should subscribe to a common fund; that the subscription should be the amount of what these Representatives thought was the fair and proper rent they should pay; this rent was to be offered to the landlord; if the landlord did not accept it, it was to be kept in hand—not thrown away, but kept in hand, to be used, not to support these tenants, but really to support those evicted by the landlord. The Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) asserts that there was intimidation; but the right hon. Gentleman has not cited one case, and he cannot cite a single case in which there were speeches of intimidation. The tenants were perfectly ready to come into the Plan of Campaign. They did so voluntarily when the advantages of the Plan of Campaign had been pointed out to them; and if the right hon. Gentleman can cite one case of intimidation, I shall be glad to hear of it. The fact, is that this Plan of Campaign is simply the application of trades-unionism to agriculture. The principle of trades-unionism is that men, working-men, labourers, have a right to combine to make a decent wage to themselves, the first charge upon the property that is brought into existence by their labour and by the money of the capitalist. Well, how did the Government meet this? Why, by attempting to arrest hon. Gentlemen who are concerned in this Plan of Campaign on that old, miserable, and weak law of conspiracy. The law says that one man may do a thing, but that two men in 354 combination may not do it; that one man may do a thing, but that another may not advise him to do it. It will be remembered that this law of conspiracy was brought into operation when first trades-unionism commenced. It was attempted to crush out trades-unionism by means of it; but the artizans of England were strong enough to be able to resist it, and the result was that trades-unions were especially exempted from the law of conspiracy. The landlords of Ireland ought to be thankful for this Plan of Campaign. Take, for instance, the case of Lord Dillon. He has got 75 per cent, of his rent. [An hon. MEMBER: No, 80.] He has got 80 per cent of his rent from a large number of holdings of five and six pounds. Do hon. Gentlemen opposite mean to say that they would not be very thankful to the Members representing their districts, if they would take the trouble to collect 80 per cent of their rents and hand it over to them? Well, now, how do the Government propose to meet the state of things which is existing in Ireland at the present moment? The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) tells us that he would do nothing. He is perfectly satisfied with the present state of Ireland. The Chief Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would meet the whole question by migration. [An hon. MEMBER: Or emigration.] Migration or emigration, I am not sure which. He said that would meet the case of Glenbeigh, and I think Mr. Goschen, the latest convert to Conservatism, says the same thing. We are told we must have sense and not sentimentality in this matter. Then the noble Lord the Member for Paddington tells us to take what occurred in Glenbeigh as the finest example of the generous magnanimity of Irish landlords. Do you mean to tell me that when these tenants, according to Sir Redvers Buller himself, could not pay one gale and costs, there is anything magnanimous in burning their houses over their heads. We are told by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington that in London persons are turned out of their houses, but supposing that in any part of London a number of these people had built their own houses and made roads, and that there was some ground landlord who had a small ground charge upon the land; and supposing 355 that these men, owing to circumstances over which they had no control, could not pay their rent, what would the inhabitants of the Metropolis say if they saw proceeding through their streets a body of policemen, marching along followed by a number of bailiffs carrying crowbars and petroleum to level the houses of those tenants and burn them to the ground? Should we not regard it as monstrous? I tell you that the opinion of Europe is, that a more monstrous and iniquitous crime has seldom been committed by any country than the crime of Glenbeigh. The Chief Secretary says he does not justify it, but surely it would have been better if he had tempered law with humanity. I do not believe that my right hon. and gallant Friend near me, if he had been Chief Secretary for Ireland, would have consented to send an armed force with an expedition such as was despatched to Glenbeigh to stand by while the bailiffs destroyed the property of those unfortunate people. Lord Salisbury, as the head of the Government, has laid down what his view is of what is to take place in Ireland. And what is his view?It is idle," he said, "to talk of leaving the Irish people to govern themselves. You know very well that they will not govern themselves, but that the majority will govern the minority in a way utterly inconsistent with its rights, and in a manner utterly fatal to all its industrial and commercial hopes.That is the real Tory way of looking at the matter, for the Tories will never believe that people can govern themselves—they always think that it is necessary for some superior class to step in and govern them. The result of this is that we are to have one more of those detestable Coercion Bills thrust down the throat of the House of Commons. Surely England ought to have realized by this time that there are only two ways of dealing with Ireland. That is to say by either treating it as a Crown Colony—turning the Irish Members out of the House of Commons, and ruling the country by the sword,—or by some species of Home Rule on the lines proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). Sir, the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) alluded to the Liberal Unionists. I do not think that they will very cordially thank him for the view which 356 he expressed in regard to them. It seems they are to trust each other—we have heard a great deal about mutual confidence. None of the Liberal Unionists were returned by Liberal votes at the last Election, and they seem to hope in this House that, if they are faithful to their friends opposite, at the next Election they will again be returned by Conservative votes. The noble Lord has cleared away that delusion from the minds of the Liberal Unionists. They are a "crutch,"—they are to be thrown aside, and the Conservative Party is to run without them in the future. I hope the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (Marquess of Hartington) will take that declaration to heart. I do not believe what the noble Lord the Member for Paddington said—namely, that the noble Lord, on the other side of the House (Marquess of Hartington) is the crutch of the Conservative Party. I believe he is the bit in the teeth of Gentlemen opposite. I say this, I consider it most improper that the noble Marquess should take his seat on this side of the House; his proper place is on the Benches opposite; and I am surprised that the noble Lord does not see the absolute bad taste of his sitting among the Liberals. When hon. Gentlemen opposite were casting about to find a leader, what did they do? Why, they telegraphed here, there, and everywhere to the noble Marquess, begging him to come back and help them. The noble Marquess declined to join them himself, but he lent them a Gentleman in whom he had confidence to sit on their side of the House. And what has been the result of this action on the part of the noble Marquess? We hear of all sorts of appeals being made, of conferences being held between the noble Marquess and Members of the Government. In fact, the Government do not dare to attempt a policy without coming humbly to the noble Marquess to see first if he agrees with it. The noble Marquess is the master of the position at the present moment; the noble Lord is the master of those who sit on the Treasury Bench, and it does seem to me that he would have pursued—I will not say an honest, because I believe him to be a most honest and honourable man—but I think he would have pursued a far better course if, having this power, he had accepted the 357 responsibilities of it instead of superciliously handing them over to Mr. Goschen, and had taken the lead himself. Then, we had the leader of the other wing of the Liberal Unionists, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). It seems to me that that right hon. Gentleman hesitated, and doubted as to what he should do. At the General Election, he told everybody that the Union was so paramount a matter that he should support the Conservative Government against any Liberal Government, until the Liberals, by seeing the Conservatives in, were coerced into giving up the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian as to Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) has very considerably changed his attitude since the Election. He now informs his friends, the Conservatives, that he will desert them, as he previously deserted his own Party, if their policy is reactionary or inadequate. That is to say, unless the policy of the Government meets with his approval, he will simply vote against them and leave them to take care of themselves. The right hon. Gentleman admits he is in a difficulty—he does not like to vote for the Liberals because they are Home Rulers, and he does not like to vote for the Conservatives because they are Tories. It seems, in fact, that he is only inclined to vote for himself. He appears to be under the impression that he has elaborated, in his own mind, so wonderful a scheme for the settlement of the Irish Question, that Tories and Whigs, Liberals and Radicals, all ought to unite to say, "This is a prophet come down from Heaven. Let us accept him and vote for his proposal." His proposal is somewhat vague. He tells us he wishes to place the question of land before that of Home Rule. We do not; we are pledged to a Home Rule policy. But even on the question of land, so far as I can make out from his speech, he says he intends us to buy all the land that is absolutely worth nothing in Ireland; how it will be paid for, he says, is a secret. The "secret," however, appeared to me to be pretty well divulged, because I find that he says of his plan that it would impose no excessive burden or risk on the taxpayer of the United Kingdom. We do not want it 358 to impose any burden on the taxpayer of the United Kingdom. We think that if there is one thing we ought to resist more than another, it is the idea that English taxpayers should bear any burden or risk in order to buy out Irish landlords. We wish to say to Ireland, "Go, govern yourselves; arrange matters with the landlords just as you like; you must settle these matters yourselves, but when we say govern yourselves we do not intend to put our hands in our pockets for the benefit of landlords, of whom we have the worst and lowest possible opinion." When the Land Question is settled on this most extraordinary plan of the right hon. Gentleman, he is prepared to look into the question of local self-government in Ireland—he would, give Ireland a subordinate local authority, founded, apparently, on the model of that at Birmingham. He looks upon that model, no doubt, as one of the most perfect schemes of self-government that ever existed. The Town Council of Birmingham, however, has the charge of its police, and, as a matter of detail, the Irish Local Authority was not to have charge of the police. When this Body the right hon. Gentleman describes was established, Ireland was to receive an Executive. The right hon. Gentleman protested against refusing to give it an Executive. "We have a Mayor in Birmingham," he said; "why should they not have a Mayor in Ireland? We have a surveyor in Birmingham; why should they not have a surveyor in Ireland? We have a treasurer and other officials in Birmingham; and why should not similar appointments be made in Ireland?" He said that as the Irish people were somewhat silly and easily caught with words, and desired to have high-sounding names for their officials—"I see no reason why you should not call your Mayor a Prime Minister, and your Surveyor a Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, or what you like." This is what the right hon. Gentleman calls a national settlement. I call it a Birmingham settlement. It is a Birmingham settlement that, in my mind, will meet with the approbation of exceedingly few Members of this House. I cannot understand that it will meet with the approbation of the Gentlemen sitting round the Round Table, of whom I see one close by me at this moment. I 359 should like to know about that Conference. I myself was sorry that it was ever held, as it seemed to me to place the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) on an equality with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). For my own part, I do not know why we should not receive the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham. In speaking in the country I have always expressed myself anxious to receive him with open arms, provided that he would repent. I thought, however, that as the preliminary to his being received with open arms by the Liberal Party, he should be prepared to say that our Leader is his Leader, and that our Irish policy is his Irish policy. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that, perhaps, the scheme he proposes will not be accepted at once, but that, after a little time, when he has had an opportunity of talking my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian over, the country will accept this sham and bogus and bastard Parliament that he suggests. I do not think that my right hon. Friend will accept it, and I am certain that hon. Gentlemen from Ireland will not; and I remember this, that at the Leeds Conference, which was attended by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), it was laid down that no system of Home Rule would be acceptable to the English Liberal Party that was not acceptable to the Irish Party. I deny that the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham would be acceptable to the Irish Party; and I, therefore, deny that it would be acceptable to the mass of the Liberal Party all over the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham tells us that the Unionists are increasing. Where does he discover that? Did he discover it at Liverpool?—are Gentlemen opposite satisfied with the Liverpool election? I received a letter from a friend to-day giving me an account of a Liberal Unionist meeting which took place in his part of the country. It was termed a "mass meeting" in the newspapers. It was most orderly, and the proceedings were marked with great unanimity; but there was one thing very peculiar about this mass meeting, that it consisted of exactly six men. I venture to say that if the right 360 hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, or the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, were to go into any district—I do not care which—and attempt to pass any resolution opposed to Home Rule, unless the meeting was composed of Tories, they would not be able to do it, if, indeed, they succeeded in securing a hearing. Our army is perfectly sound; there are, no doubt, a certain number of superior Gentlemen in it, and these superior Gentlemen, who have no followers, wish to impose their will upon us, but I tell them that they will not be able to do so. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) told us that the battle had been won. Why, Sir, the battle has not begun yet. We mean to fight on—to fight again and again, until the Home Rule cause prevails. We have nailed our colours to the mast. We are not bound to every detail in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian. But we recognize Home Rule as stated broadly in that Bill. We want a real, genuine, domestic Legislature for Ireland, with Acts becoming law when they have passed that Legislature, and when they have received the sanction of the Crown; and we want a real, genuine Executive, proceeding from, and dependent upon, that local Legislature. We believe that by sticking to this we shall, in the end, convince the country that we are in the right. We very nearly won at the last Election—we were within 70,000 votes of winning. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot believe how bad our organization was; and it must be remembered that we had Gentlemen who are now sitting on this side of the House firing into us during the whole engagement. Do not think that we are going to give up because we have been defeated once. Do hon. Gentlemen think that any of the great reforms we have secured in modern times would have been obtained, if the Party of progress had yielded the cause after one defeat? We mean to go on, because we believe that that is the sole way of promoting peace, affection, and goodwill between this country and Ireland.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)
The House has had the advantage to-night of listening to more than one very brilliant speech, and I venture to say that that which has just fallen 361 from the hon. Member for Northampton is not the least brilliant. I am sorry to have to disturb one of his most cherished delusions; but he has gone up and down the country saying that no Liberal Unionist was returned to Parliament by Liberal votes. I am very sorry to disturb the illusion, but I would point out to him that I am a living example to the contrary. At my election I was opposed by a Tory, and I have beaten a Tory.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
I beg to congratulate the hon. Member on his courage, because he has been almost the only Home Rule Liberal who has had the courage to get up and back up through thick and thin the Plan of Campaign. We have waited for a declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone); we hope to hear what Lord Spencer and Lord Granville will have to say in "another place"; and what did they say? Why, that they could pronounce no opinion while judicial proceedings were in progress. As if the matter had not been decided already. The Judges have pronounced the Plan of Campaign in Ireland to be illegal. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members from Ireland contradict me; but I ask them what was the ground upon which the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) was bound over to keep the peace? Those hon. Members toss their heads. The Judges of Ireland—the law of Ireland—already count for nothing with the Nationalist Members. A deliberately pronounced legal opinion is to be met with a toss of the head. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) has left the House; but if he were here I should like to ask him what is his opinion about the Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." If asked to pronounce an opinion upon that, would he say—"Oh, let us wait until a burglar I know of is tried at the Old Bailey. Then I will give you my view of that Commandment." The hon. Member for Northampton was much more courageous than that, for he backed up the Plan of Campaign through thick and thin; he has nailed his colours to the mast; and even though the policy should be abandoned by some of his friends, he, like a political Casabianca, will remain to be blown up with the 362 burning deck. For the hon. Member to try to induce us to believe in the legality of the Plan of Campaign, and say it is nothing but trades-unionism, is to play with the intelligence of the House. It is obvious that Irish tenants, like English workmen with their employers are at liberty to combine to make what terms they like before entering into a contract with the landlords; but when once a contract is entered into they must be compelled to abide by it. Then there is another speech, that of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill), upon which I would make a few other observations—and I am sorry not to see the noble Lord in his place. The speech I refer to was one in which he sparred all round, and in which he had the goodness to direct many of his remarks to the Liberal Unionists. He spoke of us as a "crutch." He said he would be glad of the opportunity of throwing that "crutch" away—and he wished to see the Conservative Party stand alone, and have nothing to do with the Liberal Unionists. When he said this, I could not help carrying my memory back to the speech he delivered at Dart-ford. I found a copy of that speech in the Library, and with the permission of the House I will read a short extract from it. It was delivered on the 4th of October last. The noble Lord alluded to the Liberal Unionists when speaking of the great sacrifices that the Tory Members had made during the last Session. He said of their success—It has also been due to the loyal, the thoroughly loyal, support which we have received from Lord Hartington, Mr. Chamberlain, and the whole Party of Liberal Unionists.But he did not stop there, and this is the passage to which I should like to direct the attention of the House; and I hope the noble Lord the Member for Paddington will reflect upon it if he happens to glance his eye over my speech—The main principle and guiding motive of our policy—and I pray you to bear this in mind—will be to maintain intact and unimpaired the union of the Unionist Party. We know how much—how almost entirely—the future of England depends on the union of the Unionist Party—how every institution which we value, all the liberties which we prize, are, for the time, bound up in the union of that Party. Everything that we do, either in domestic or in foreign affairs, will be subordinate to that cardinal principle, the union of the Unionist Party. I am 363 not ashamed to state, before this great meeting, that we, the present Government, owe much of our existence, and much of our efficiency, to the Unionist Liberals.I should like to ask the House which is Philip sober and which is Philip drunk? Was it Philip sober during the delivery of that speech at Dartford, or is it Philip sober to-night? If it was Philip sober at Dartford, what have we heard to-night but a wanton insult to the Liberal Unionists? Sir, it is a great deal more than a wanton insult. From the point of view of the noble Lord himself, it is treason, it is a betrayal of the best interests of England, which, he said, were bound up with the union of the Unionist Party. I take it that it is to-night that the noble Lord has spoken his real mind, for he is now free and unfettered, no longer connected with the Ministry. At Dartford he was a Minister, and he had to speak in a manner of which he knew his Colleagues would approve. If, then, it is to-night that he is speaking his mind, I venture to say that his speech at Dartford, if it was not a burlesque, was an organized hypocrisy. The House knows that, according to our opinion—we may be right or we may be wrong—there is no sacrifice we Liberal Unionists are not prepared to make in order to maintain the Union. But has the House considered what value the noble Lord puts on the Union? It seems to me he cannot value it above £500,000, because he says that if the Government had been willing to allow an economy of £500,000 he would not have left it. Therefore, it being a cardinal principle of the Government to maintain the Union and the union of the Unionist Party, the value he puts upon it is only £500,000. Well, Sir, I do not think that that is the way in which an English statesman should reply to the sacrifices made by men like the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. When we Unionists speak of the Union and our intention to sacrifice all to maintain that Union, we mean what we say; and it seems to me, as a Member of the Unionist Party, now that we know the extent of the sacrifice which the noble Lord is willing to make to maintain the solidarity of that Party, that we are well rid of the noble Lord as a 364 Member of the Government. We do not want within the Unionist Party any man who puts the price of the Union at £500,000, and will say one thing in October which he will flatly contradict on the following January. Our course, Sir, is extremely clear. So long as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) makes it a cardinal part of his Irish policy to establish a Legislative Body in Dublin with a complete executive proceeding from it, Liberal Unionists will have nothing to say to him. Beyond that, we are determined to support the present Government in maintaining law and order in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) spoke the minds of Liberal Unionists when he said that our idea of the maintenance of the law meant a permanent alteration of the law of England and Ireland, and not a temporary addition to it or temporary alteration of it. Our position, I am perfectly aware, is a difficult one. It is not altogether a pleasant one. There are many of our Friends on this side of the House with whom we agree on all other political matters except this question of Irish policy, and with whom it is a great pain to us to differ; but we place, according to our own ideas, this question of the Union before every other question of current politics. It will rest with the Government whether we shall continue to support them. We cannot abandon entirely our Liberal principles, and support them in reactionary legislation. They will not, I hope, go in for reactionary legislation, Sir; but if they do, speaking for myself, I—and I know many others will do the same—shall not be able to give a vote to turn them out. [Laughter.] No; we wish to be perfectly plain with you. There is a third course. If they make us choose between abandoning our seats or our principles, we will abandon our seats. That, Sir, is the position of the Liberal Unionists, and I do not think that the House will consider that the position of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington is consistent with the position and the ideas of the Party to which I belong. I do not wish to follow the noble Lord through all the length of his speech. I have detained the House too long already; but I wished, on behalf of the Liberal 365 Unionists, to take up the challenge that the noble Lord has thrown down, and to tell him that we are the true Unionists, and not he. I wish to tell him that he is playing to the gallery—that he is not thinking of what is right or wrong, but of what may win an election at some future time. We, for our part, do not follow that course. We believe the Union is the right thing, and we are prepared to sacrifice everything—even our seats—to maintain it.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) (Middlesex, Ealing)
I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Lord George Hamilton,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.