Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question [9th February]—"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament:
We take this first opportunity of offering to Your Majesty our sincere condolence in the afflicting dispensation of Providence with
which Your Majesty and this Nation have been visited, in the death of His Royal Highness Price Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale:
We assure Your Majesty of our heartfelt participation in the universal feeling of sympathy with Your Majesty and Your Majesty's family under this grievous affliction and in the deep sense entertained by all classes of your Majesty's subjects of the calamity which the country has sustained by the loss of a Prince who had won for himself the general affection and regard of Your Majesty's subjects."—(Mr. Hermon Hodge.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ (4.23.) MR. SEXTON (West Belfast),
in rising to move as an Amendment to the Address, at end, to add,—We deem it our duty to acquaint your Majesty that a decisive majority of the Irish people, and of their representatives in this House, are convinced of the inability of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland as her distinctive interests require, and that this conviction has been intensified by the manifest failure of the Land Purchase Act of 1891 to afford an acceptable basis for the extension of the class of occupying proprietors in Ireland,said: at the advanced stage which the Debate on the Address has reached I think it needful to refer to one passage in the Speech from the Throne, and even this reference I should not have been compelled to make if it had not appeared to me that there is a serious discord and an air of contradiction between the passsge in question and some recent speeches of the Principal Minister of the Crown. Sir, we are told in the Royal Speech that proposals will be laid before us for applying to Ireland the general principles affecting Local Government already adopted in Great Britain. Now, the fundamental principle of the scheme of Local Government adopted in Great Britain is that the majority have the right to rule; that the majority of the electors shall dictate the composition of the Local Governing Bodies, and that the majority of the Local Governing Bodies shall dictate the course of the administration of their affairs. I must say I can discover no satisfactory accord between that declaration in the Speech from the Throne and the observations affecting Ireland in the speech of Lord Salisbury at Exeter, a speech which has already been referred to in this Debate. I confess I thought it rather hard that the First Lord of the Treasury, who has otherwise 469 quite enough to do, should have to defend an orator so erratic and unruly as the Prime Minister. However, Sir, I am bound to say, in justice to the First Lord, that he associated himself as little as possible with the speech of the Prime Minister. He began by saying he had not read it. That did no credit to his powers of defence—at any rate, it was not a brilliant defence. For my own part, I should have been inclined to take no notice of any language that Lord Salisbury might apply to Ireland. We have had some experience of him. It is not so long ago since he compared the Irish people to Hottentots; he said that we were addicted to crime; he said that the only way of dealing with us was by firm and resolute government, and now we understand from actual experience what is meant by that famous phrase. Sir, it means the suppression for ever of the ordinary rights of the community and of the rights and privileges granted by the British Constitution. It means, as to administration, that every official is to be encouraged to attack the rights of the people, that if he is challenged at law he will be defended out of the public purse; that his own word will be taken as final in the matter of guilt or innocence; and that all demands for investigation are to be spurned. These being the acts of Lord Salisbury, why should we be surprised at his language? Sir, I shall be content to leave to the electors of this country, whose opportunity will shortly come, the question whether the language of insult towards the creed of vast multitudes of the people of this realm befitted the Prime Minister of Great Britain. It strikes me that the language of Lord Salisbury at Exeter was something more than mere general declamation. I know that Lord Salisbury is a scoffer by nature, that he is a bigot by calculation, and that he will not consent to bridle his tongue when his party so desire. He will denounce the religion of the Roman Catholics to-day and court their votes tomorrow, according as it suits his purpose. When I read the language of Lord Salisbury at Exeter I asked, What is his present and immediate object? What is the meaning of this elaborate attempt to exalt the minority and insult and degrade in public estimation the majority of the Irish people? Sir, the conclusion at which I arrived was that the Prime 470 Minister was endeavouring to influence the course of public opinion in respect to the Local Government Bill. Lord Salisbury has turned history upside down, has inverted his facts to suit his purposes. So far from it being true that the Catholics of Ireland exhibited an attitude of hostility towards the Government of England (which well deserved it), their great historical fault has been in, regard to the Government of this country, that they have been too patient, too submissive. If they have made progress, and if they are likely to make more, it is due to the fact that they have had much suffering, and they have learned much in the past. The Irish Catholics of the present day are men of keener judgment than their forefathers, and of more penetrating insight into political affairs. They are more stern and persistent, and it is with these qualifications that Lord Salisbury and all concerned will have to take account in their future transactions affecting Ireland. How was it Lord Salisbury described the majority of the Irish people? The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, who was very careful and guarded in his speech the other day, treated the speech of the Prime Minister as if he had only said that the rich in Ireland were the few, and that the poor were the many. But the Prime Minister said a great deal more. He said the majority contained all that is backward and unprosperous, and all that is opposed to civilisation and enlightenment. Now, what does the minority contain? It contains the Irish landlords. When you remember what they have been and what they have done, what great powers they have misused, what splendid opportunities they have wasted for promoting civilisation and enlightenment, how they have squandered their substance, how they have been the plague of Ireland and the disgrace of this Empire, do I go too far, in the view of any impartial mind, when I say that the landlords of Ireland have shown themselves to be the most backward and the most unprogressive body of men not only in Ireland, but in Europe? Its idea of enlightenment is to perpetuate sectarian rancour by keeping alive the passions of a religious quarrel that ended two centuries ago. It contains all those whose idea of civilisation is to resist—no, not to resist, to threaten to resist 471 —the grant by the Imperial Parliament and the Crown of a free Constitution to Ireland. If the majority in Ireland contain an element that is rather backward and unprosperous, to what is that due? It is due to the fact that you have, for generations, deliberately exploited their country in the interests of an intruded class, in the interests of a class to whom you gave legal power over the means of the livelihood of the people, and who use that power without stint and ruth to strip the people bare and keep them in a state of abject poverty. The true cause of the backwardness of Ireland was stated in an earlier and a wiser speech of Lord Salisbury, when he said that it was due, not to the Celtic race, to the Catholic Creed, nor to the democratic sentiment of Ireland, but to the fact that the British Government existed in Ireland, and that an alien rule had cast a blight upon the life of the people. Those of the Irish majority who have been able to make their way outside the sphere of British rule to any other country in the world, where the chance of fair play existed, or even inside the sphere of British rule, but outside the circle of Irish maladministration, have shown that they are as able to prosper as well as any other men, and that they are fully alive to, and not opposed to, civilisation and enlightenment. The backwardness of Ireland, so far as it exists, is due solely to her poverty. Her poverty is directly due to the necessary effect of your agrarian policy, and you cannot attempt, in regard to this question of Local Government, to make this wrongdoing in the past, and in the present, a justification for committing further injustice. The First Lord of the Treasury was more guarded in his own opinion than the Prime Minister, but his observations equally challenged notice. I am at a loss to understand why he brought in the question of Ulster. He spoke of Ulster as if it were a political unit. But it is nothing of the kind. The other three provinces of Ireland are political units, but Ulster is not a political unit, and, what is more, it never will be. Ulster is represented in this House by 33 Members, of whom 16 are adherents of the Government and 17 are Nationalists. It is true the four Eastern Counties have a majority of Protestants, but the five Western 472 Counties contain a heavy majority, which is Catholic, Celtic, and Nationalist. Why, therefore, the First Lord of the Treasury should have brought in Ulster, in view of the facts I have stated, which can lead to no inference unfavourable to our view of Home Rule and Local Government, is more than I can attempt to explain. But the First Lord of the Treasury has evolved out of his own reflection another delusion which may be corrected by a very little inquiry. He stated in his speech the other night, that the line of division of political opinion in Ireland corresponds with the line of demarcation between backwardness and progress—very ingenious, truly, and very convenient for the Government, no doubt; but I submit that the contrary is the case. If the right hon. Gentleman meant to refer to education, I can tell him that the Irish Catholics, class for class, are now as well educated as Protestants, and they have proved themselves well able to hold their own in every form of contest and competition, and in every walk of life. They are as well educated as the rank which resorts to the University, or as the children of the peasant who resort to the National School. Did the right hon. Gentleman intend to speak of wealth? Again, I say the landlords of Ireland, their connections and dependents, are the marrow and substance of the minority. But many of them are in a condition of insolvency. Most of them have nothing to spare, and the few amongst them that can be called men of wealth have no more claim to be counted than is justified by what they draw from Ireland, which they spend, together with their lives, in England or in some other country. Let not the right hon. Gentleman forget that eleven years ago the Irish tenant acquired by law the legal proprietorship of the soil. I have no doubt that if a precise valuation could be made of the assets of every Irishman in Ireland, and his debts deducted from it, it would be found that, poor as the people undoubtedly are—poverty, however, is a relative term, and better than insolvency—the majority of them now hold in their hands the greater part of the real, actual, and genuine value and capital of the country. If the right hon. Gentleman choose to get a Return from the London Insurance Companies, and from other persons who have loaned 473 money on Irish land which has not been repaid, and that were laid on the Table, it would be seen that the money lent to the Irish landlords, and not repaid, probably amounts to very nearly the fee-simple value, at the present moment, of the entire soil of Ireland. So much for the theory of the right hon. Gentleman—that the line of political division of opinion corresponds to the line of demarcation between backwardness and progress. I would respectfully invite him, especially in these matters of practical legislation where precision is so important, not to found himself upon baseless theory notoriously at variance with the facts. If these two Ministers, the Prime Minister and the First Lord of the Treasury, intended by their speech, and by their attack upon the majority of the Irish people and their elaborate praises of the minority, to convey that the proposals to be made before us in regard to Ireland would allow the majority to rule, their way of expressing that view is so exceedingly indirect that I may be pardoned for entertaining some doubt upon that point. If, on the other hand, the Prime Minister and the First Lord meant that they will not apply to Ireland the rule that they apply to England—that the minority in Ireland is to be fortified or protected, and that the majority is to be curbed and checked—then it would have been more frank to have advised the Sovereign not to tell the House that proposals would be made on the same general principles already adopted in Great Britain, but that the principles adopted here are opposed to those they intend to apply to Ireland. However, we shall very freely be able to judge of that as soon as we see the Bill; but, in the meantime, I think it necessary that a statement proceeding from so high an authority, and intended perhaps to have a covert bearing upon immediate legislation, should not be allowed to pass unchallenged. Sir, in the Amendment which I now move I invite the House to inform the Sovereign that a decisive majority of the Irish people, and of their Representatives in this House, are convinced of the inability of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland as her distinctive interests require, and that this conviction has been intensified by the manifest failure of the Land Purchase Act of 1891, to afford an acceptable basis for the 474 extension of the class of occupying proprietors in Ireland. I do not endeavour in my Amendment to define precisely the inability of the Imperial Parliament to legislate well for Ireland, because I think it comprises more what physicians call a complication of disorders. It proceeds from profound ignorance of Ireland, an ignorance which I may as well say is incurable, because you are resolved not to take advice; and it proceeds partly from prejudice, which is certainly not upon the decrease among the Party opposite. That inability, also, in a great measure proceeds from the increasing strain and pressure of the duties of this Parliament, and that is a cause which will not diminish, but must increase, as time goes on. It will be observed that I do not invite from this House any declaration as to the right of Ireland to a separate Legislature. The judgment of Ireland upon that subject is quite enough for me; and the judgment of Ireland is undoubtedly that, even if your legislation for her interests were as good as it is bad; that circumstance would not affect her natural and historic right, which she is, under all circumstances, determined to maintain. I do not even ask you to declare upon the expediency of a separate Legislature for Ireland. That is a question for the electors of the country, which will presently come before them, and to them I am content to leave it. I do not raise any debate upon this occasion upon any specific scheme of Home Rule. I think the gallant Gentleman opposite must admit that it would be idle for me to do so in the presence of a trenchant majority which is firmly pledged to opposition to any and all Home Rule, and also committed by its own legislative act to the perpetual coercion of Ireland. It would be idle to raise discussion now; but the time for it will come very shortly, when the Minister vested with the power of conferring a Parliamentary Constitution upon Ireland proceeds to invite the House of Commons to execute the will of the country. I am not moved by the circumstance, of which I am well aware, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham is athirst for particulars, and I know very well what he did with particulars when he had them before. He affected to accept the principle, but he used the particulars to attack the principle. He attacked the 475 principle from behind the particulars, and used the particulars both in this House and in the country as a means of procuring the defeat of the principle. The right hon. Gentleman's large family of plans of Home Rule all perished in their infancy. He frankly, I may say, cynically admits his failure in the capacity of a parent. Having failed in that capacity, he is now anxious to make a fresh start in life as a guardian of the progeny of others. But others are naturally unwilling to trust their progeny to him, as his antecedents, in their judgment, do not fit him for the office of guardian. His natural rôle—I speak with the greatest respect—is that of the wicked uncle. If I may illustrate by metaphor my view of the position of the right hon. Gentleman, I should say that he mutinied and deserted his ship because he was not suffered to take command. He has obtained another command, however, and is now captain of a band of political wreckers; but whenever or however he may regard that band, I tell him with some confidence that no Irish Nationalist will assist him in holding out false lights to the ship freighted with the hopes and fortunes of Ireland. I do not ask this House even to declare its own opinion upon its fitness to legislate well for Ireland, particularly because the Party opposite considers itself well able to legislate for the people of the whole world; while another reason is that this House is moribund. I regard it as a dying sinner, and I think it would be too cruel to ask a dying sinner to frame an epitaph commenting frankly upon his career; but it is not too much to expect that this House should make some atonement to those it has injured in the course of its ill-spent life; and I think I am entitled to ask it to make reparation for having placed Ireland under the ban of perpetual outlawry, by at least admitting the opinion which the Irish people hold upon the source of such legislation. I am asked the ground of the conviction entertained by the Irish people, that the Imperial Parliament is unable to legislate for Ireland, and I shall state it in brief and plain terms. For 90 years of what you call "Union"—the forced partnership between Great Britain and our country—we find that your population has trebled, and almost quadrupled, within that term, and has advanced—and I certainly do not 476 grudge the advance—by leaps and bounds in the standard of the comfort of life, and in every element of national prosperity and individual wealth; whilst in the same period you have brought down our population, not only to the level at which it stood at the date of the legislative Union, but to the lowest level at which it stood within the century, and that population, so decimated by your policy, stands at this moment, generally speaking, upon a lower level of subsistence than anywhere prevails within the bounds of what claims to be civilised Europe. You may say that you are not responsible, but I say the responsibility is directly and solely yours; and why, because Ireland, being a country where the people had no means of living except by the cultivation of the land, where, therefore, it was necessary for them, from the first, to have legislative protection in the pursuit of their industry and in the security of the means of living—so far from affording that legislative protection, you did just the contrary. You placed over them, as I have said, a privileged class; you enabled that class to fix the price of the natural agent by the use of which the people could find a means of living; you placed in the hands of that class the power they have used without mercy and stint; and the result was that thrift was made impossible in Ireland, and that the very idea of progress was rendered a mockery. The landlords were enabled and encouraged by your law, to take from the people all the produce of their labour, except so much as kept body and soul together, so that the formation of the first element of national prosperity, the capital fund or reserve in the hands of the people, was rendered impossible; and, therefore, we have seen, in the present day, tenant farmers in abject poverty, and we know that at present the labouring class is, by a necessary consequence of the condition of the farmer, the most wretched class, not only in the civilised world, but more wretched than some savage tribes. Well, Sir, the whole agrarian system is breaking down by its own weight, and I shall presently show that your attempt to substitute another system has proved abortive. But there is something more. Under the policy of legalised plunder that you have pursued in Ireland, you have never allowed us to come within 477 the Constitution. The time given to Ireland by the English Parliament since the Union, has been mostly passed in enacting coercive Statutes. There is an unbroken line of these Statutes, which extends from the date of the Union down to the present day, and this Parliament has capped the climax by passing what I must call an Act of perpetual outlawry, by a coercive Statute, which has placed Ireland under the ban of coercion, not for a day, but for all time. So that the nett result of the Union, which Pitt promised should bring us material prosperity, has been unexampled misery; and, politically, the result of bringing us into union with you has been, that you began by taking her native Constitution from Ireland, and you have finished in this Parliament by shutting out Ireland in perpetuity from the pale of the British Constitution. This is a brief sketch of the effect of your legislation for Ireland since the date of the Union; but I go on to say that I could found my Amendment and justify it on the effect of this Parliament alone. When you came into power in 1886 you were warned by the Irish Members, upon the amplest evidence, that the judicial rents in the Acts of 1881 would need, in that Session, to be revised, and that it was no longer possible to exclude leaseholders from the benefits of the Acts. Your reply was a non possumus. The fact that the demand was made upon you by Irish Members seemed a sufficient reason for refusal. You told us the judicial rents could not be touched, and that leasehold contracts could not be violated. Having enjoyed your satisfaction by refusing what the Irish Members then asked, in the very next year you brought in a Bill yourselves—a Bill halting, partial, and marred by great defects—but a Bill which did touch the sacred judicial rents, and broke the inviolability of the leases. You brought in that Bill when it pleased yourselves, and not when Ireland required it; and what was the effect of your Bill? In the interval, men, driven desperate by oppression, had recourse to the defence of agrarian combination, and you made the existence of that temporary combination the excuse, in the first place, for violating your pledge to the electors of Great Britain that you would not propose coercion, and, in the second place, for imposing coer- 478 cion, not for a time, but for ever. Four years passed, and last year, the old evil agrarian system having broken down, and being, by universal confession, a failure, you tried to substitute another; you set about passing the Land Purchase Bill; never had an English Minister a more splendid opportunity. The policy of purchase was generally accepted, the means in your hands were ample, your experience was sufficient, and the very machinery was ready; the country had a right to expect from you a great reforming Statute. But, unfortunately for Ireland, someone or other, possessed of a fatal love for ingenious complexity in financial affairs, was allowed to make that Act his hobby, and he rode it to death. The then Chief Secretary for Ireland anticipated a great success; he took the most elaborate precautions to provide that the large farmers should not run away with the share of the small ones; he fully expected, and avowed that expectation, that united Ireland would make a rush on that £30,000,000. The Marquis of Londonderry, in another place, got a clause inserted to provide that if the applications from the counties under the Act in any one year did not reach the common level of £1.200,000, an applicant of either class might come and take the balance. We remember the glowing terms in which the Act was heralded through Ireland, and in the Speech from the Throne at the end of last Session. Why is the Speech silent on the subject this year? The Tory Party is always ready to blow its own trumpet; why does not the right hon. Gentleman perform on that instrument with regard to the Act? There is what appears to me to be a conspiracy of silence. The Annual Report of the Irish Land Commission, which is usually distributed in December, has not yet been distributed for the year 1891, and the Monthly Reports of the proceedings of the Land Commission have been kept back since July last year, the month before the Land Purchase Act was passed. I think all this silence can only be explained by the fact that there is no pleasant story to tell. I have said that financial complexity ruined the Act, and there was no excuse for the blunder of the Government. They had the result of the working of the Ashbourne Act for five years before them when passing the Land Purchase Act, and at 479 that date, out of an amount of £400,000 repayable to the Treasury, the arrears only amounted to £600. Has the British Treasury ever come off so well with any other class of debtors? The Land Commission had only sold up 47 farms for default, and generally found process by a civil bill effective. During the whole of the stupendous transansactions, extending over five years, not a penny has been lost to the State. The moral inference which the right hon. Gentleman might have drawn from all this was that the securities provided by the Ashbourne Act were sufficient—they were the security of the holding and the amount of the guarantee deposit. What did the right hon. Gentleman do in his Bill? He added four others—a reserve fund of £400,000, which Ireland was to provide; an insurance fund provided by the purchasing tenant; power to hypothecate £1,200,000 of the Imperial grant; and power to make a levy on the local rates to recoup the Imperial Exchequer. All this was superfluous. To my mind, however, the reserve fund would not have impeded contracts, nor would the power of hypothecation, which was unconstitutional; nor would the power to levy a county rate without the consent of the ratepayers, which was grossly and excessively unjust. These would not have prevented the practical working of the Act if individual landlords and individual tenants had seen that transactions under it would be to their advantage. The fatal blot on the whole Bill was the insurance fund. Before I come to that, however, I ought to say that the Act satisfies neither landlords nor tenants. Landlords decline it because they are unwilling to take Irish Land Stock instead of Consols, and as they are both National Stock it was a piece of financial pedantry to refuse them the taking of either. We begged the right hon. Gentleman to leave out the insurance clause, but he would not, and it was a fatal blot; because a land purchase system had been in operation for five years successfully in which there was no such fund. Since 1885 every purchaser under the Ashbourne Act has been allowed the full benefit of his bargain from the first; he was only asked to pay the State 4 per cent. on the purchase money, whatever that might be. Under the Ashbourne Act they had to wait a long time for the settlement on the 480 judicial terms, but times have changed. The Irish people expect the return of a Liberal majority to power, and for a better administration of the Land Law; and looking to all these facts, was it reasonable, was it intelligent of the right hon. Gentleman to expect the farmers of Ireland to bind themselves, rather than wait three or four years, by a contract by which they and their successors would be bound for half a century, so that every man for the first five years would have to pay to the State for an insurance fund perhaps double as much as was paid in the first five years by his neighbour in the next parish who had purchased under the Ashbourne Act? The right hon. Gentleman knew little of Ireland, and next to nothing of human nature, if he expected anything of the kind. By insisting on the provision of an insurance fund he foredoomed his Act to failure. We told you so last year; you neglected our advice, and the result is before you. The legislative mountain has been in labour, and has brought forth, what? Not even a mouse. For, half a year ago, an Act was passed offering thirty millions to anyone who would come and ask for it, and the Secretary for Ireland has to-day told us that not £1 of Irish Land Stock had been sold. Not only do I judge the failure of the Act from the paucity of transactions, but from the national indifference. The landlords have discussed it only to damn it with faint praise, and it has been practically ignored on the part of the tenants. The Act which might have done a great, vigorous, and potential reform if it had been intelligently drawn, has fallen dead. In the space of nearly half a year the transactions, instead of reaching three-quarters of a million, as they would have done on the same lines as those under the Ashbourne Act, only amounted to £80,000, or to £130,000 to the end of January. We know the eagerness of the Irish landlords to escape from their present position; what must be their opinion of the Act when, out of 9,000 landlords, only 43 have applied under it, and out of half a million tenants only 175? Such failure is hopeless and absolute. Is it not a pitiable thing that in a House where you have the means of ascertaining the opinions of Irishmen who are well acquainted with their country, a measure of this kind, undoubtedly great in its conception and vast 481 in potentiality if wisely applied, should be doomed totally, because of the miserable attempt to impose unnecessary guarantees and an insurance fund which five years of experience had shown to be unnecessary? That fund was intended to meet a bad year, but the tenant would rather have gone on the security of his farm to meet it than be compelled by compulsory clauses to provide an insurance fund excessive from the first, and which would not benefit him till the end of his payments. No Irish Member, responsible to an Irish Assembly, dealing with this question would have thought of doing so, and ignoring the evicted tenants. After a night's Debate the right hon. Gentleman did insert a clause dealing with the question, but it has done more harm than good, as it discouraged and almost warned landlords not to deal with evicted tenants when their farms were relet. It did harm by fixing a limit of time absolutely inadequate. Why should the landlords and evicted tenants be forbidden to agree at any time if they wished to do so? It has tempted landlords to demand exorbitant prices by warning the tenant that unless he had signed an agreement by the fifth of this month his last chance of restoration was gone. The agreements, few as they, are likely to be abortive, as they will probably not be sanctioned by the Land Commission. I repeat the opinion I expressed last year, that this clause should be revived without the limit of time, and the landlords should be encouraged to deal with the evicted tenants whether the farms have been relet or not. If they cannot agree, the terms should be determined by the Land Commission or by arbitration. I deeply regret the failure of the Act, and in face of the evidence in my hands, of the public attitude in regard to the Act, and the contemptible number of these transactions, I think the right hon. Gentleman can hardly deny that the Act, as a means of substituting a new agrarian condition for that which has broken down of its own weight, has been a total failure. In my judgment, this Parliament has beaten the record, not only of blundering, but also of despotism, since the date of the Legislative Union. We have seen what has become of your great remedial measure. What has been done in the way of oppression? This Government found 482 Ireland a country in possession of a popular franchise and faithfully represented by a body of Members in this House. They were, nevertheless, guilty of the despotic folly, the amazing blunder, of placing Ireland outside the pale of the British Constitution by the unprecedented act of passing a Coercion Act unlimited by time. I can hardly believe that you imagine that in a country so maltreated, and represented in this House, you will be free for one Session or one month from the confusion and distraction in legislative affairs due to a discontented country. I think you have begun to understand that until you have set Ireland free to manage her own affairs you will never be free to manage yours, or to proceed with calmness and the necessary deliberation to even approach with the slightest prospect of decreasing the heavy arrears of the great and primary duties which lie in your hands as the legislative organ of this Empire. But the mandate of the Tory majority is exhausted, their power for evil or good is at an end. Moreover, the country has made up its mind, the turn of the country has almost come, and cumulative evidence leaves not the slightest doubt that the judgment of the great majority of the electors of Great Britain on the majority of this House, for their sins of omission and commission against the people of Ireland, is one of unqualified condemnation.
Amendment proposed.At the end of the Question, to add the words, "We deem it our duty to acquaint Your Majesty that a decisive majority of the Irish people, and of their representatives in this House, are convinced of the inability of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland as her distinctive interests require, and that this conviction has been intensified by the manifest failure of the Land Purchase Act of 1891 to afford an acceptable basis for the extension of the class of occupying proprietors in Ireland."—(Mr. Sexton.)Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ (5.25.) THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JACKSON, Leeds, N.)
I have listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. Member who has just addressed the House, and I do not think he has, in any degree, specified the particular distinctive legislation which he thinks is necessary for Ireland, and which he thinks this House is unable to pass. He has, however, told us that he 483 does not think it necessary to define the inability under which he thinks the House is unable to legislate for Ireland. If he did, his definition lacked completeness, and certainly lacked preciseness. He has declined to specify the scheme of Home Rule which would satisfy the aspirations of Ireland. He has devoted the greater part of his speech to what he calls the failure of the Land Purchase Act of last year, and he relies entirely, apparently, upon the short experience that we have had of that Act up to the present. Surely, however, there are causes which it is not difficult to specify which may to a very large extent account for the small number of applications and the small amount of business done. The hon. Member led us to believe that, in his opinion, a comparison between the operations under the Act of 1885 showed that the transactions under that Act were very much more extensive than they had been under the Act of 1891. It is necessary for me to remind the House that the Act of 1885 made changes which were, at that time, certainly unexampled and without precedent. They offered to the tenants of Ireland opportunities and advantages which had never been offered before. The Act of 1885, for the first time, permitted the advance of the full amount of the purchase money. And I think the House will remember that the prediction was—and I am not sure that the hon. Member for West Belfast was not one of those who joined in the prediction—that the Act of 1885 would be a failure.
§ MR. JACKSON
Well , I must say that I have seen quotations from the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I think those quotations justify me in what I am saying. I think it would not be difficult to make quotations from the speeches of hon. Members opposite in regard to that Act for the purpose of showing that, in the opinion of hon. Members, it has successfully done its work, and that, by contrast with later Acts, it has been held to have been almost the perfection of legislation. There are, no doubt, other causes which have tended to some extent to delay the operations under the Act of 1891. Under that Act certain rules were prescribed, in the issue of which by the Treasury there was some delay, for which there was 484 reasonable cause; and the absence of these rules may have to some extent tended to delay the working of this Act. The hon. Member has referred to the Insurance Fund principle as being fatal to the Act. That opinion is quoted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, but so far from the Insurance Fund being a fatal blot, I believe it is a distinctly valuable feature. The hon. Member for Longford can scarcely have read the Act, or he would not have fallen into such an error; he would not have forgotton that the Insurance Fund is a fund provided for the tenant's own protection. It is a provision which the tenant is asked to make, so that in the event of certain possibilities taking place he may, at all events, be able to draw upon that fund and to provide for his difficulties; and so far from its being a blot upon the Act, I am inclined to regard it as a wise protection for the tenant, and for the Government. Another point to which the hon. Member for West Belfast referred as proof that the Land Purchase Act of last year had not been successful related to the fact that the landlords wished the Government to give them the option of taking Consols instead of Land Stock, and that was the real cause of the failure.
§ MR. JACKSON
I understood that was what the hon. Member meant, and I think he emphasised it that if that option were given them the Act would have been a success.
§ MR. SEXTON
No, no; I said nothing of the kind. I said that the difficulties of the landlords would have been diminished if this opportunity had been given.
§ MR. JACKSON
Well, I confess I am surprised. I think I may venture to say that no man paid greater attention to those Debates in the House during the passing of this Bill than did the hon. Member for West Belfast, and that he followed closely, day by day, every section and every line of the measure; but is it possible that the hon. Member has not read Section 15, and the sub-section relating to it, of that Act?
§ MR. SEXTON
It places upon the landlord engaged to sell that he should take the Land Stock in the first instance, and he cannot say what the value of that Land Stock would be, and it is upon the value of that Land Stock that the whole thing depends.
§ MR. JACKSON
I am sorry that I cannot appreciate the point of the hon. Member. The landlord in selling his estate has a certain guide and indication as to what would be the minimum price that he would get for his Land Stock. That minimum price is the price of Consols, and the Land Stock being at 2¾ per cent., without the liability of reduction to 2½ per cent. after a certain period of time, is a better security than Consols, and has just as good a market as Consols, because it is exchangeable for Consols at any time,
§ MR. JACKSON
The answer to that question is that the public are not yet familiar with it. I have no doubt whatever that so soon as the applications already received have been sanctioned, it will be found that there is a ready—a good market for any of the Land Stock which anybody could desire to sell. The hon. Member referred also to what he deemed to be one of the blots of the Act, namely, Section 13, which dealt with evicted tenants. I hope that whatever difficulties stood in the way in regard to this matter are being overcome. I am sure that every Member of the House desires to see that process hastened, and I am sure it is the desire of hon. Members not to interfere with it in the smallest extent. But I desire to put the House into possession of the real facts in regard to the comparative periods as to business transactions under this Act. I have referred to the inducements held out under the Act of 1885, and to what changes were made by that Act. I have taken out the actual business done in the period between September and January, 1891–2. In the first period there were 1,551 applications, representing £641,895. Of those applications 880 were connected with the Salters' Company Estates, and those 880 applications, representing £212,503, had been negotiated prior to the passing of the Act of 1885. When the prospect of the passing of the Act of 1885 came, these negotiations, I dare say, were delayed a little in order that they might take advantage of the Act of 1885. With regard to the second period there were 1,634 applications, representing £596,166; in other words, the business of land purchase in the two periods of time was practically the same. 486 It is the duty of Land Commissioners when they find the funds running down to give notice at a particular time that they will not sanction any more applications for the balance of what is called the "Ashbourne Money" unless those applications are founded on notice signed prior to a certain date. They gave that notice upon the 22nd August, and they fixed as the date the 26th August. More than £200,000 of notices have been received consequent upon the declaration, and of course, this has to some extent absorbed the demand on the market for the time being. But there is no proof in the figures I have given to show that the business of land purchase has slackened now, or has been slackened in the past six months more than it has been during the six months beginning with the Act of 1885. If that be true, it is too early to draw a conclusion that because the applications under the Act of 1891 have been comparatively few in the earlier months the Act of 1891 has been a failure; the demands have been supplied by the balance of the money which was available under the Ashbourne Act. I say that it is much too soon to draw any conclusion, and I deny altogether that the hon. Member for West Belfast has proved his case, that there has been a failure of the Land Act of 1891 as judged by any evidence that we have. It is too soon to determine that yet. The business of land purchase continues to proceed at about the same rate, and I have no doubt whatever that when the Land Commissioners are in a position to put in a clear and precise manner the operations of the Act of 1891, both buyer and seller will be in a better position to know what will happen from their transactions, and we may fairly look forward to a continued business in regard to land purchase. The hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, referred to certain matters which he thought proved the necessity of Home Rule. He told us that, in his opinion, one of the causes was the condition of the people of Ireland with regard to their poverty. Now the hon. Member proposes to remedy that poverty of Ireland by separating it from England—from the country that has given its credit for the purposes of Ireland. He 487 spoke with great fairness, and, I think, with great eloquence, of the position of England, which has advanced by leaps and bounds, and he has told us of a part of Ireland to which certain privileges were denied, but he did not tell us that there was a part of Ireland which possesses the wealth and intelligence of the country, and which, under the same laws, has made much progress. He did not tell us of a district of Ireland, of which I know something, which competes with our manufactures, and which successfully competes with us in everything it undertakes; and that most progressive portion of Ireland is not that part which demands separation from this country, and desires to be released from the control of the Imperial Parliament. No; they are the very people who believe that in the long run they will be benefited by being stout champions of that Union between Great Britain and Ireland which has existed so much for the benefit of both countries.
§ *(5.55.) SIR GEORGE O. TREVELYAN (Bridgeton, Glasgow)
I think that no one who has sat opposite the right hon. Gentleman for the last five years will begrudge him the warm hearted cheers with which he was received upon his first speech as Irish Secretary. But I consider that the Member for West Belfast was justified in defending his proposals to-night solely upon the grounds of the Land Purchase Bill of last Session, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will never have a more difficult task than that which lie has had to-night in replying to it, for it was a difficult task indeed. He gave statistics to the House that were absolutely of a phenomenal character; but what do these statistics mean? They mean that Parliament has spent its time in passing this measure of Land Purchase as a remedial measure for Ireland, but the fact of it is that instead of promoting the purchase of land in Ireland it has checked it, and checked it to a degree that is quite incredible. I approach the Purchase Act from a different point of view from the Member for West Belfast. He approved of the principle of the measure, and I was opposed to it. But I heartily agreed with him in this. I trusted that when the Bill was passed that it would be of benefit to Ireland in making 488 a great number of peasant proprietors, and I believed and I trusted that it would tend to the reconciliation and pacification of Ireland, and in all the leading reforms in detail which the Member for West Belfast proposed in Committee I heartily agreed with him. It is precisely these points of detail on which we from this side of the House gave one class of advice and the Government adopted another class of advice—it is precisely these points of detail that have wrecked the Purchase Bill. I want to read to the House a few very significant figures indeed. In 1886 the estates that were sold were sold for 18 times the rent. In the year 1887 they were sold for 17.6 times the rent. In 1888 they were sold for 17 times the rent, and in 1889 they were sold for 16.4 times the rent; and in 1890 for 16.7 times the rent. And observe this: that all this while the average rents of Ireland had been going down on account of the operations of the Land Commission, and yet in five years the number of years' purchase had fallen from 18 times the rent to 16.7 times. Now, these significant figures have, in my mind, only one meaning, and that meaning is, that in the mind of the Irish tenant, which would be the mind of an Irish Parliament, the principle of the Land Act of 1881 still holds sway—the principle that the rent of Ireland should be subject to constant revision, and in the eyes of the tenant constant reduction. I think the argument I have given is a most practical one to see—constant reduction before you arrive at the real figure of the landlord's claim. Now, that is not the view of the Government—that was not the view of the Government. Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords spoke on this subject in the strongest words that a man can possibly use. He said—this was, I think, in August, 1886—We do not contemplate any reduction of the judicial rents. We do not think it would be honest in the first place, and we think it would be exceedingly inexpedient.The Government tried to adopt that policy, but they could not for two reasons: First, the pressure of the Irish Members; and, secondly, what was much more important, the pressure of the nature of the case. Mr. Parnell brought forward his proposal for revision for the purpose of reducing the rents. The 489 Government accepted that proposal in spite of what Lord Salisbury said. They accepted it a year too late. They did more; they extended the Act of 1881 to leaseholders, and it was only because they made that concession that even the Government with all their power were able to carry through this period of disturbance and discomfort in Ireland. Well, now, the Land Purchase Bill was brought in to destroy this system of dual ownership and revision of rents; but it has not destroyed the national way of regarding the question of the land. The figures which I have read to the House prove that the Irish tenant only uses the Land Purchase Bill for the purpose of completing and extending the work of the Land Courts and of reducing his rent. This is the position which I am anxious to prove—which I say these figures absolutely prove. What are the reductions which the Land Courts make? We have not got, I think, any Returns of reductions later than July, 1891.
§ * SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
Oh, there are others. I have not been able to lay my hands on them. But in July, 1891, what was the statement? All through the whole of Ireland the rents had been reduced by the Land Courts from £20,000 to £16,000—that is to say, a reduction of 20 per cent.; but under the Land Purchase Act, when the tenant gives 16½ years' purchase, it is more than 30 per cent. reduction, and so it is quite evident that the tenants will only use the Purchase Act, if at all, for the purpose of reducing their rents more than they would be reduced by the Land Courts. That is the attraction which, under the Ashbourne Act, tempted so very many tenants to purchase. Now, I want to tell the House—and I think it is a very serious matter—what the result of the recent Purchase Act has been. During the operations of the Ashbourne Act the average number of applications was to the extent of £2,300,000 a year; that is to say, to the extent of about £200,000 a month. Since this Act has been passed, there has been the entire time only of the half year; instead of some thing like £1,150,000 being applied for, there has been only £75,000 applied for. But it is fairer to take it by the month, because there is a rise in the month of January. The best month—January— 490 since the present Purchase Act was passed has brought it up to £550,000 of applications, against this monthly sum of £200,000 that was applied for one year with another during all the four years that the Ashbourne Act was under operation. That is the most remarkable comparison of figures that I think has ever been known. Now, the reason of it is perfectly plain. I have shown that the reason the tenant applies under the Purchase Act is because he wants to have his rent reduced; but more than that, he wants to have an immediate reduction. But the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in his Purchase Bill, postpones to an almost indefinite time the opportunity of the tenant of having his rent reduced. He has to pay for five years only 20 per cent. less than his former rent, and what does that mean? Hon. Members must remember that he not only pays 80 per cent. on his rent, but he likewise pays, I think, on the average, 7 per cent., which was the share of his landlord's rates. And the consequence is, that the only immediate reduction——
§ * SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
He pays the rates whatever they are; but I shall pass from that point for the present, and say it is 20 per cent. That is the reason, and the main reason, so far as I have been able to learn, that the tenants will not apply under the Act of 1891. But there are other reasons likewise. I have been informed, from more quarters than one, that one of the reasons that the Act of 1891 is unpopular is the very unfortunate amalgamation of the Commissioners of the Act of 1881 and the Act of 1885. Now, this amalgamation would be very inexpedient in any case, but it was undoubtedly inexpedient after the extremely strong remonstrances and representations that were made against it by the hon. Members who really speak the voice of the people of Ireland. Now, I have no doubt that the Government will say that this interference of the ordinary Land Commissioners has been postponed until the appeals have been worked off; and this is another point on which I should like some 491 information, and that is, how near the appeals are of being worked off, and how soon the Commissioners under the Act of 1881 will take part in the operations of the Purchase Act with the Commissioners of 1885? But the tenants know very little about that small point of whether or not these particular Commissioners have yet the power of determining values. What they know is that the general conduct of the affairs of purchase has been made to the whole Commissioners, and under Sub-section 6 the Land Purchase Act is administered by a majority of the Commissioners; that is, by those very Commissioners against whom the Members for Ireland on this side of the House, at any rate, unanimously protested as being Commissioners who had not the confidence of the Irish people. Then there is another point which weighs with me a good deal, and which I am quite satisfied must weigh with the tenants; that is, that the tenants are unwilling to purchase, because they do not know what obligations will be thrown upon them in the future. Hon. Members for England sometimes forget that there are many important burdens on the English rates, and on the English land, which do not lie upon the Irish land; and the most important of all these is education. In the country districts in England here a landlord pays largely for the education of the people, or it is paid out of the rates. Over at least three-fourths of Ireland the landlord pays nothing, or next to nothing, for the education of the people, and nothing whatever is paid out of the rates. But I suppose the House does not believe that if Ireland had the Parliament which is foreshadowed in this Amendment—that undoubtedly greater claims would not be made for education upon the districts in the shape of rates, and that all these would fall upon the tenant. And I think it is a very great blot indeed on this Purchase Act that the landlords are able to go off with the money in their pockets, with the prospect of the education rates, and other rates in the future, all capitalised so that they escape them, and so that in the future the burden would be laid upon the tenant, and the risk, will be on the British Treasury. For all these causes small proprietors are very shy of buying. The average value of au Irish farm in Ireland is £184 now. In the first 492 15 months of the operation of the Ashbourne Act the average value of the holdings sold was not £184, but £450. In the next 15 months the average value went up to £460; and as I took down the figures of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, so far is the Act of 1891 from encouraging the small tenants to buy, that this very large average, already between twice and thrice the price of an average holding in Ireland, instead of falling has run up to nearly £500.
§ * SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
I think that is very near the figure. It is too evident that this land purchase system has failed to establish small proprietors over the country hitherto, and that its action, instead of being quickened, has been very much diminished by the legislation of 1891. What your land purchase system has done is this: that certain great landlords—sometimes they are corporations—who were prepared to sell and had everything ready before the Ashbourne Act was introduced—sold directly, in the course of the first year, at 20 years' purchase. They got the benefit. But I imagine that after the first burst of selling very little has been done, and the pace is less quick than ever. Well, then, the land purchase system of the Government has failed to tranquillise the country. We earnestly trusted that it would put a stop to evictions. Now, it is not at the present moment the question of mere eviction; it is now a question of the more insidious eviction notices by which a tenant loses the status of part owner of his farm, and is put in the position of an ordinary individual, with no hold on the farm. The purchase system of the Government came into full operation in 1888. In that year there were 9,700 eviction notices served, in the next year there were 6,500, in the next year there were 5,932, and in the first half of 1891 there were 2,258. I say, when you have an average of 5,000 eviction notices in one year, it is a very poor result of the immense sacrifices which were made by the British people in granting this purchase system to Ireland, and the great obligations which Ireland has incurred. Now, Sir, I want to say two or three words about the general character of this Amendment. I can quite under- 493 stand that there are a good many Members in this House who do not wish to see this Amendment placed on the Journals of this House. Can they for a moment deny any single word that is contained in it? What is it?—We deem it our duty to acquaint Her Majesty that a decisive majority of the Irish people and of their Representatives in this House are convinced of the inability of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland as her distinctive interests require.Are we not so convinced? In 1885 over three-fourths of the Irish population—over, I should say, five-sixths or eleven-twelfths of the area—there were contests on this question, and that part of Ireland declared quite unanimously, by an absolutely phenomenal majority, in favour of this question. In 1886 there was another General Election. There were no contests, but the same results occurred. Since then there have been contests, and very hot contests indeed. But it is observable that every Member who came into Parliament successfully on either side—if I may so express it—in these contests was in favour of the theory that this Parliament could not properly legislate for Ireland. At Cork the population has increased very substantially since 1885, but the number of citizens of Cork who were opposed to the declaration made in this Amendment fell off at the last Election from 1,500 to 1,100. What have hon. Gentlemen to say against the only conclusion we can draw? In the first place, they say it is a question of clerical influence. At the election of Sligo the candidate whom the Ecclesiastical Party supported succeeded; at the election of Waterford the candidate whom the Ecclesiastical Party opposed succeeded; and they both were in favour of this Amendment. It is quite idle to use the clerical argument against this declaration of Irish Nationalist feeling. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, with great assurance, said there was a province in Ireland which stood aloof from this way of regarding Ireland.
§ * SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
Well, what is that part of Ireland? This body of opinion is entirely confined to three or four counties, and does not even exist outside them in such force as to be able to return a Member of Parliament. You may fairly say that the part of Ireland to which the right hon. 494 Gentleman refers touches the shores of a single lake, and yet on that lake there are counties, where there is a numerous Nationalist tinge amongst the people—counties where it is very doubtful whether there is not a Nationalist majority. The Prime Minister tells us that the minority are rich, and that the poor and needy are the majority; and he gives two instances of cities in support of this, and one of these cities returns one of the most respectable and influential Nationalists in this House; and, therefore, I say that it is quite worth while putting the hon. Member for West Belfast's Amendment on the Paper in order to teach the Prime Minister a lesson in political geography. There is another theory, which is the one held apparently by the late Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Londonderry. He says the cry is factitious, and is got up by demagogues. When Lord Londonderry came back to our part of the country in the North of England he was treated with great ovations, and a great banquet was given in his honour. This is what he said on the subject—I am not sure, by the way, whether these words were spoken in England or at Belfast—but they are his words. He said, "This demand for a Parliament in Dublin comes solely from a body of men," whom he then describes—and I shall not insult the Irish Members of Parliament by reading the description then given of them by a man who was sent to Ireland to be their ruler. Now, I maintain that the manner of this speech of Lord Londonderry is a tremendous argument in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman—the mere fact that the ruler of Ireland should speak in this way of the chosen Representatives of the country that he ruled—in a way that I will not read. (Cries of "Read it!") Well, I will read it if it so wished—Whence comes this demand for a Parliament in Dublin? It comes solely from a body of men whose leaders have no stake in the country, who have contributed nothing to the wealth of the country, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain, who trust that in the change they clamour for they will share in the benefits arising from the enterprise of others, which they themselves have no part or lot in, and divide the spoils which they never helped to win.It is a sufficient reason for this Amendment that Ireland is governed by rulers 495 who thus speak of the chosen representatives of her people. But it is to the matter, and not the tone, that I now object. It is not a question of demagogues in Ireland. Anyone who has had to do with the administration of Ireland knows that the national feeling is not a slight feeling, that it is not a superficial feeling—that it is a genuine irrepressible feeling, an immutable feeling in the population; that it does not depend on the land question, that it does not depend on clerical influence, and that it depends still less upon the exhortations, however eloquent, however sincere, of any public man, to whatever section of the Irish Party he may belong. Before I sit down, I will accept the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. That challenge—for I took down the words—was to bring forward a distinctive instance of the inability of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland as her interests require. I cannot even conceive how anyone can have lived through this Parliament and have the very slightest doubt that the case, in the exact words of the right hon. Gentleman, has been absolutely made out. Each Session Bills are brought into Parliament—Bills of the very greatest importance to Ireland—Bills as to which there is no difference at all amongst five-sixths or nine-tenths of the people of Ireland. Each Session these Bills come to nothing, and that for three causes—first, that they are opposed by the majority of the Members of this House; next, that they cannot pass through another House—where not one single Nationalist sits; and, thirdly, and this is almost as important as the other two, there is no time for them. What do hon. Gentlemen say to this? At this moment, except, I think, in two municipal towns, an enormous majority of the Irish residents and citizens in the boroughs are deprived of taking any part in the municipal life of their country.
§ * SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
I thought it was two. What do hon. Gentlemen say to this? Irish registration is still ineffective, and many points on which Irish Members feel most keenly cannot be amended, because in old days the House of Lords—now I am sorry to say a majority in the House of Commons—was set against them. What do 496 hon. Gentlemen say to the question of the boundaries of Dublin? I do not say whether it is right or not, but I have no doubt almost all Irishmen, especially all Dublin men, want to enlarge the boundaries of Dublin. Have hon. Gentlemen read the paper put into their hands this morning—the census of Leinster? Have they seen how the city of Dublin is diminished in population; how, on the other hand, there has been a very large increase in those suburban districts where rich men live? But the Dublin citizens cannot increase the boundaries of their city because Imperial Parliament has no time for it, and if it has time, has not the will. Again, the Corporation of Dublin, even the House of Commons, were unanimous in favour of doing away with the most humiliating, and most inefficient, and I think in some degree, the most cumbrous system of conducting the finances of the city. Yet though the Corporation of Dublin and the House of Commons were in favour of it, the Committee of the House of Lords, at the instance of a paid official of the Corporation of Dublin—paid by the Corporation of Dublin, but not responsible to the Corporation of Dublin—at his instance a Committee of the House of Lords (five Lords sitting in conclave) were able to defeat what is the overwhelming opinion, perhaps almost unanimous, of those who live in the capital of Ireland. No, Sir, none of Ireland's wishes can be met unless it suits the views of that minority in Ireland which has the ear of the majority in this House, and of almost the entire complement of the Members of the other House. Ireland is not unavenged. I shall vote for this Amendment, as hon. Members last year voted for the Irish Purchase Bill and voted for Free Education in England, because I am convinced, just as they were, of the need for a change in our policy. I shall vote for this Amendment as a British Member of the House of Commons, and still more as a Scottish Member. While Irish grievances are being ventilated, while Bills which Irishmen approve in principle are being passed through Committee, while details which Irishmen recommended are accepted grudgingly or are rejected—in all cases with immense expenditure of time—still more while Coercion Bills, which Irishmen hate, are being thrust down their throats. 497 (Some cries of "Oh, oh!" and laughter.)——To laugh is not to answer, nor is it mannerly—I say while these things are being done English, Scottish, and Welsh business is thrown into a corner. All last Session Wales got nothing except a Tithes Bill, which it did not want. The crofter districts of Scotland, about half the area of Scotland, wish to get certain legislation. Part of it this Parliament approved of in principle, against other parts of it there is really nothing to be said. These districts can get nothing, largely because Ireland blocks the way. When we take the whole of Scotland what do we find? The majority, and indeed the whole of Parliament, voted in favour of entirely reforming the system of Parochial Boards—a matter equally as important to Scotland as District Councils in England. Nine years have passed, and Scotchmen—on a matter which they understand, on a matter on which they are as good as unanimous—cannot have their way because business is so blocked. English, Welsh, and Scottish measures are waiting by the dozen and by the score, and they will have to wait until Irishmen can do Irish business on the soil of Ireland according to Irish ideas. Sir, I think it is high time that there was an end to this system of mutual hindrance between communities who could carry on their own affairs much better and much quicker if they were allowed to carry on that part of their affairs which concerns themselves, and which can be managed without detriment to others. Therefore it is, that out of goodwill to Ireland, and because till this question is settled the rest of the nation cannot have the arrears of legislation for which they have been so long waiting, I shall most cordially support the doctrine laid down in the Amendment.
§ (6.40.) MR. DUNBAR PLUNKET BARTON (Armagh, Mid)
I trust the House of Commons will be lenient to a new Member. I see very little about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, who has just sat down, to reply to. It seems, however, to be the fashion now to attack absent Peers.
§ * SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I spoke of Lord Londonderry, not as a Peer, but as an ex-Viceroy of Ireland.
§ MR. BARTON
I reply to the right hon. Gentleman as an ex-Chief Secretary for Ireland. No more insulting language has been used by Lord Salisbury or by Lord Londonderry, or any other Peer, than that of the right hon. Gentleman himself, which we, as Unionists, well remember. He said "there were two Irelands—the Ireland of loyalty, and the Ireland that sympathised with crime." I would not venture to rise to-night, but my constituents are deeply interested in the two subjects with which this Amendment deals, namely, with the capacity of this Parliament to legislate for Ireland and with the Land Purchase Policy. My constituents, Sir, are strongly in favour of land purchase, and I heartily sympathise with them. Many of them wish to see land purchase universal, and I am not afraid to say that if that could be carried out with the concurrence of the Treasury. and with the concurrence of the landlords and tenants of Ireland, I would be in favour of universal land purchase. But, Sir, my constituents, who are mainly tenant-farmers, and who are themselves enthusiastic about land purchase, are not so impatient as to condemn an Act of Parliament because it does not boom in six months. They are not so ingenuous as to suppose that they ever would get a Purchase Bill from the hon. Member for West Belfast as Chancellor of Exchequer of an Irish Parliament, and they are wise enough to know that the Purchase Act of last Session was a large, a liberal, and a very carefully considered step towards the ultimate reaching of their aspirations. We are in Ulster in favour of land purchase, because we believe that if we can make a large majority, and, if possible, all of the occupiers of Ireland, owners of their farms, you will make Ireland easier to govern, and you will make Ireland more difficult for hon. Members opposite to agitate in. The Ulster tenant farmers who returned me here six weeks ago have given a denial to this Amendment. Though they like land purchase they have been convinced in the last five years that this country is capable of governing Ireland. For the rest of Ireland my test is found in the speeches of hon. Members opposite during the Recess—speeches made to their constituents, and speeches which are directly inconsistent with the Amendment which they now offer. What is the Amendment? It asks the House to 499 Adopt three propositions—first, that the Act is a failure. With reference to that we have had very reassuring statements from the Chief Secretary. The hon. Member has said what will surprise most Irish landlords, that this Stock could not fall below the price of Consols. That statement is most reassuring, and it will certainly have a very important effect upon this Act. The hon. Member also told us other matters which were very reassuring—that all the money is not applied for and is not all dealt with. You cannot expect the Irish tenants to commence their dinner before digesting their lunch. Secondly, it is said that the failure of this Bill is because of its defects. It is because of that statement that I call in question the speech of the hon. Member. The hon. Member for Longford, who can speak with authority as a lawyer, as he is familiar with the Bill as a lawyer, but also with authority as a Member, addressing his constituents, said in Longford, when dealing with the Insurance Fund, which we are told is to be the final proof of the incompetence of this House to deal with Irish matters, that 20 per cent. is the biggest reduction under the Balfour Act; but if this Amendment is right the Act has failed because this Parliament is incompetent. What did the hon. Member for Longford say? He said the reason was because there was a section, 33 strong, led by Parnell, who said that it was a grand Act, and they could not amend it in the House of Commons. So that the reason of the Insurance Fund failing is not because of the incompetence of the House, but because of the split in the hon. Member's own Party. The moral of that argument is that his own Party should be united, and not that this Parliament should be broken up. What did the hon. Member say within the last few weeks when, in addressing a meeting, he referred to the various defects of the Act? Did he tell his audience that the reason of the failure of the Act was that Parliament was unfit to govern Ireland? No. If it has failed it is not due to the incompetence of Parliament, but to his own Party. If that is the reason of the defect, why has it failed in Ireland? I now turn to the hon. Member for East Mayo. I think he can provide the Answer. The hon. Member for East Mayo did not allow the grass to grow 500 under his feet. Before this Act was passed, he told the tenants what was his advice. Speaking at Wexford, where delegates from every district assembled, addressing the tenant farmers, a Member of this House who claims, and rightly claims, to be influential in Ireland—one whose speeches are read all over Ireland, says—That the first question which suggests itself to my consideration is that the tenant farmers ought not to avail themselves of that Land Act.There is the question put very clearly, but it is not more clearly put than answered. He says, my advice is simple and distinct. Have nothing whatever to say to the new Purchase Act. Add that to the reason that we are told this Bill has failed because Parliament is incapable. I say that speech alone would account for the failure of this Act. What reason does the hon. Member give? Does he give the reason that this Act is a bad Act? He gave a reason why they should not buy. His words were:—Now my advice to the farmers of Ireland is simple and distinct, and it is this: have nothing whatever to say to the new Purchase Act. (Cheers.) The ranks of the people of Ireland are re-forming. The National movement is rising again to its full former strength after the troubles of last winter. (Cheers.) We have shown in the past that by organisation and by perseverance we have been able to get each succeeding year better and better terms, so that those tenants who settled and bought ten years ago are sorry to-day, some of them, for having done so. The darkest days are over. (Cheers.)On the face of that statement to the farmers of Ireland, I suppose the hon. Member will walk into the Lobby to ask the House to affirm that the failure of the Act is due, not to his advice, and the reasons he gave to the people of Ireland, but to the absurd, ridiculous view which he has expressed on this Amendment. I am not the only person who has put this construction upon his words. The hon. Member for Waterford, speaking in County Kildare on this matter, referred to the Land Act as a valuable Bill for the farmers of Ireland, and he referred to the reasons why it failed. He said:—That Bill, as you will remember, last Session was first attacked and opposed by the leading Members of the Seceders, and it was only when Mr. Parnell went into the House of Commons, and showed that that Bill would be an enormous benefit to the farmers of Ireland, 501 that they desisted from further opposition. Even then they hung on the flank of the Bill, and though they did not openly destroy it, they did their best to impair it.I am against the insurance fund. I would like to see this Bill even a much larger Bill than it is. But for the first time in the history of legislation it has been said that because an Act requires amendment—I think it requires amendment—not that the amendment should be effected, but that this Parliament should be broken up. The hon. Member for East Mayo answered the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford by a long letter in the papers, but he never referred to the taunt, nor thought it worth his while to deny it. On the 7th February Mr. Davitt, who was chosen as the representative of hon. Gentlemen opposite, said in Kildare:—All I have got to say on this point is this If the tenant farmers will put this Act in operation at the present time they will regret it.Can hon. Members wonder that the Act has fallen dead? It has fallen dead by the words of the very men who blamed the incompetence of this Parliament to deal with Irish questions. Before sitting down I would say one word as representing the tenant farmers in Ulster. We are told that there are none but Irish landlords represented by Irish Members on this side of the House. I believe I have nearly 5,000 supporters, but hon. Gentlemen opposite did not give me the opportunity of testing how many. Among these I am not aware, I think, of more than five landlords. I do not represent the landlords, I represent the commercial, industrial, and, especially, the agricultural classes. On their behalf I say I object to the way in which the hon. Member for North Belfast, following the example of the right hon. Member for Derby, has tried to raise the cry of religious bigotry. It is from the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, and not from these Benches, that the cry of bigotry has been raised.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
It has been said that the government of Ireland is carried on for the benefit of those we represent. I would like to test that charge by the measures of the last and the preceding Session. What were these measures? They were for the relief of 502 the people of Ireland. We rejoiced that they applied to the constituents of hon. Gentlemen opposite. When the right hon. Gentleman, now the Leader of the House, nobly conceived and carried out that work of charity, not one penny went to the people I now represent. The Bill for light railways and tramways did not benefit our constituents, but those represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Even this Purchase Act which they are now attacking we do not think was adapted to Ulster, but far more to the farmers of the West of Ireland. If I had to protest for a grievance it would be on behalf of the farmers of Ulster, that land legislation ought to be framed more to suit their grievances. Hon. Members laugh. We have our grievances in Ulster, but we expect to see them remedied by this Parliament, and this Parliament alone; and we are grateful to the Government for the measures they have passed during this Parliament for relieving the distress of their Catholic subjects. We are grateful to them, above all, for restoring to Ireland order and settled government, and showing by the policy they have pursued that England is capable, and has never been incapable, of, in this Parliament, meeting the wants, redressing the grievances, and governing the people of Ireland.
§ (7.5.) MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
In congratulating the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down upon his speech, I may say that we heard with great satisfaction his declaration that he had been convinced by the speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast, if not convinced before, that the Land Purchase Act of last Session is defective, and when in the course of a few days we endeavour to remedy those defects we hope we shall have the assistance of the hon. and learned Gentleman. Sir, the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast raises two distinct points. Each one would have been sufficient to engage the serious attention of the House. So far as the smaller or more restricted of the two questions is concerned—namely, that dealing with the Land Purchase Act—I desire to say that I heartily sympathise with the arguments used by the hon. Member for West Belfast, in which he pointed out the defects which have led to the failure of the Act up to the present. 503 It is conceded by all who know anything of the matter that this Insurance Fund—to which the hon. and learned Gentleman has declared his hostility—is the main defect which stands in the way of the tenant farmers of Ireland taking advantage of the Act. That Insurance Fund had not the support, so far as I know, of any section of Irish Nationalists in this House; it certainly was opposed by the late Mr. Parnell and by those who were honoured in following his lead; it certainly was opposed by us, and it was inserted in the Bill undoubtedly to cater to English public opinion and to provide another safeguard for the money of the British taxpayer. Another defect in the Bill which the hon. Member for West Belfast most rightly alluded to was the failure of Clause 13 to provide any assistance to the evicted tenants in Ireland. Sir, I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast with attention and interest, because a Bill has been introduced by the hon. Member for Roscommon dealing with that defect in the Bill of 1891 in almost the very manner recommended by the hon. Gentleman. I sympathise with the position taken up by the hon. Member for West Belfast, but I do not go the full length of his Amendment. I do not think he established his case for saying that the Land Purchase Act of 1891 was a manifest failure to provide an acceptable basis for the establishment of a peasant proprietary. My opinion is that it does afford a basis, and a valuable basis, There are defects in the machinery which prevent it from working, but the machinery is there, and the defects can be removed, and when that is done an enormous boon to the tenant farmers of Ireland will result. Therefore, while joining with the hon. Member in calling attention to these defects, and calling for their removal, and showing that these defects were not due to the Nationalist Party, but were put in to satisfy English opinion, I am not prepared to deny, as this Amendment denies, that the Act forms a valuable basis for the creation of a peasant proprietary. The other portion of the Amendment seems to me to raise questions of the widest interest and the greatest importance. For my part I regret that the hon. Member did not see fit to introduce a little more appearance of reality into this portion of the 504 Amendment. I was oppressed all through with a feeling I could not conquer that there was an utter absence of reality in the observations he made on that part of his case. Sir, a debate has been raised in this last Session of Parliament on the subject of Home Rule in a somewhat half-hearted or faint-hearted fashion. But I believe that no Debate on this question of Home Rule for Ireland ought to be allowed to terminate without the voice and opinion of all sections of the Irish people, and the requirements of the moment being clearly and unmistakably heard in this House. There is no use in disguising the fact that at this moment amongst large masses of the Irish people there exists the very gravest anxiety on this question. There is, among large masses, a wide-spread desire for some further information—not for the details of the measure which the Liberal Party have promised to introduce—that is a cry that we have never raised; that is a foolish and impossible demand. No, not for information as to the details of the Home Rule Bill, but for information with reference to certain of its main features and proposals. We know from the speech delivered a few days ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, we know for the first time officially, that it will be proposed to keep the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament, but as to the consequences likely to flow from that change in the Home Rule Bill of 1886, and especially how far the Imperial Parliament is to retain the power of interfering with and controlling Irish legislation, we know absolutely nothing. Not only do we know nothing, but we hear contradictory voices. I believe that the Irish people have real and substantial ground for the anxiety which they feel. We are told we should simply trust to the admitted, recognised and honoured earnestness of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. We are told we should trust implicitly to his good intentions and the good intentions of his Party, that we should not embarrass our friends. Sir, in asking for information, I deny that I am taking a course which will embarrass the Liberal Party in the future. They have succeeded in bringing over to Home Rule the great majority of the people of England, who are convinced that in 505 order to carry out the pacification of Ireland it will be necessary to grant Home Rule with a large and a generous hand. That being so, how can it be an embarrassment to the Liberal leaders and their party to declare the main features upon which they intend to shape their Home Rule policy. Sooner or later these main features will have to be discussed in the constituencies, and if these main features were voted upon by the constituents the House of Lords would not dare for one instant to stand between Ireland and that Home Rule which the English electors want. In asking for information I am taking the most direct course to hasten the progress of Home Rule. Much has happened within the last year in Irish politics. I do not care to refer to all the circumstances which have undoubtedly shaken the faith and confidence of a certain section of the Irish people in this matter. The policy of patience, silence and confidence, which might have been safe when Ireland had a united Nationalist representation and a wise and powerful leader, is, as many of us know, both unsafe and unwise in the present circumstances of political life. Every event of the past year in our opinion has only tended to increase the anxiety of those who are doubtful in Ireland on this question. In December, 1890, a demand for further information was made upon the Liberal leaders, not by a section of the Irish Nationalists, but by the united Irish representation. In view of the differences of opinion arising between Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Parnell on the accuracy of Mr. Parnell's recollection, the 'Whips were instructed to obtain from Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Morley, and Sir William Harcourt, before further consideration of the question, what their views were with respect to these two vital points—the control of the police and the land question. Two days later another Resolution was passed in these terms:—That the following members of the Party, namely, Mr. Leamy, ?gr. John Redmond, Mr. Sexton, and Mr. T. M. Healy, are hereby authorised to request a conference with Mr. Gladstone for the purpose of representing the views of this Party, and requesting an intimation of the intention of himself and his colleagues with respect to certain details connected with the following subjects:—Therefore, Sir, so far back as December, 1890, the necessity for obtaining further information was admitted by the Irish Nationalist Party. We used all the arts of persuasion, and I may add entreaty, to carry out the object with which we went to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, but we made our appeal in vain. What the Irish people have been asking ever since is, Why the information was refused. There was a terrible and cruel situation for Ireland at that moment, which threatened us with months, and perhaps years, of internal discord, and we were all of opinion that, if the desired information were given, that situation could be ended and that discord stopped. Though that was our opinion the information was denied. After an interval of some weeks the United Nationalist Party again endeavoured to obtain the information which was desired from the Liberal leaders. The same considerations were pressed—the necessities of the general situation, and the necessities of the particular situation that existed at that moment—and again that information was refused. It was suggested that the information might be given secretly, so that no embarrassment might be felt by the right hon. Gentleman. But secret as well as public information was refused. These two refusals under these extreme circumstances of pressure, naturally as I think, had the effect of arousing anxiety, doubt, and misgiving in the hearts and minds of Irishmen. But I come to the gravest case of anxiety of all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby began to make speeches in England. Almost the very first of his utterances on the Irish situation was an utterance in which he stated that, while the English people were still firm in their allegiance to Home Rule, and the Liberal Party still prepared to grant it, neither he nor his colleagues nor the Liberal Party nor the English people were in favour of what is called Mr. Parnell's Fenian Home Rule. Now, Mr. Speaker, what did he refer to? What was Mr. Parnell's Fenian Home Rule? Was it not then what it had always been—not the demand of Mr. Parnell, but of the entire Irish people; and, finally, I will ask, Was it Fenian 507 Home Rule? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham made a speech the other night in which he displayed his usual hostility and malignity to Ireland. He made a speech, not for the purpose of doing anything great or noble, but with the view of making a little mischief, and, in furtherance of his policy, he had the hardihood to misquote the words of the late Mr. Parnell. He professed to quote Mr. Parnell's definition of Home Rule. I will read the whole passage, and I think I have reason to complain that the right hon. Gentleman did not read one sentence more, because that sentence more might tell against his argument. Here is the whole passage. It was made in a speech on 25th January, 1891:—
- 1. The settlement of the Irish Land Question.
- 2. The control of the Irish Constabulary in the event of the establishment of an Irish Legislature."The Liberal Party and Mr. Gladstone know what Ireland wants. There can be no mistake about it. We want a Parliament with full powers to manage the affairs of Ireland—this is the part that the right hon. Member for West Birmingham carefully omitted, and across which he drew his pen:—without trenching on any Imperial prerogative or injuring any Imperial or English interest: but a Parliament we must have that will be supreme in regard to Irish questions.It may be said that that was an uncorrected speech, but I have a report of a Convention held in July last, over which Mr. Parnell presided, and which defined the Nationalist programme to be the restitution to the Irish people of the right to manage their own affairs in a Parliament elected by the people of Ireland. Is that what the right hon. Member for Derby is speaking of when he talks of Mr. Parnell's Home Rule? It is the Home Rule supported by every man who sits on this side of the House. There is not an Irish politician who will take that programme in his hand and say he will accept one whit less as a satisfactory solution. If that is what he refers to, he is wrong in calling it Parnell's Home Rule Bill. It is the Home Rule of O'Brien and Dillon and McCarthy, and I say it is monstrous on the part of the right hon. Member for Derby to pretend that it is a Fenian Home Rule scheme. I also deny that the scheme has any connection with Separation. We are a Constitutional Party seeking, within the Constitution, to obtain the restitution of the Irish Parliament. We are not Separatists, and those whom I repre- 508 sent are willing to accept the scheme which I have read as final and conclusive. A great deal of nonsense, it seems to me, has been spoken on both sides of this question about the words "supremacy of Parliament," "a subordinate Parliament," "aco-ordinate Parliament." I will explain what I understand by these phrases. This Imperial Parliament is supreme. None of us desires to touch its supremacy, and it must remain to the end of all things the supreme Imperial Parliament. I would be inclined to repeat the argument which, I am sorry to say, was used without effect in the pre-Union Debates in Ireland, when it was urged by the great constitutional lawyers that the Irish Parliament had no power to abdicate its own functions; so I would say you have no power to destroy the supremacy of your Imperial Parliament; at any rate, we have no desire to interfere with it. We belong to this Empire, and the symbol of our right to take part in the Government of that Empire will be found in the continued presence of the Irish Members here. We are willing to come here to take part in the government of that Empire, which owes its existence quite as much to the intellect and energy of Irishmen as to the intellect and energy of Scotchmen and Englishmen. Under these circumstances, it is an absurdity to suggest that we desire to interfere, in the remotest degree, with the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. While we object to the words "subordinate Parliament," we do not object to such a phrase as a "minor Parliament," because a Parliament created under this, for Ireland, must always be a minor Parliament. But I and others gather, from the constant repetition of the phrase, that what is desired and intended by some people is, that after you have given us the right in an Irish Legislature, to deal with Irish affairs, then you are to have the right of constituting yourselves a Court of Appeal, wherein every Act passed by the Irish Parliament would be brought up and re-considered, and interfered with, and destroyed. That is a danger we foresee. It may be said that there exists a veto, with reference to Colonial Legislatures, and undoubtedly in theory that is the case; but everybody knows that the exercise of that power is a dead letter. The colonies are not represented here. They are at the other side of the world, and 509 it would be preposterous and ridiculous for this Parliament to endeavour to revise and control Acts passed by them. You are going to keep the Irish Members here—I do not know in what numbers—but in that case you will have here representatives of the small body which is working against Home Rule, and would have them trying to wreck Home Rule by raising Debates, and the result would be that the Irish Parliament would have every Act and word criticised and interfered with in this Parliament. I have no hesitation in saying that no Legislature that the wit of man could devise could possibly exist if all its transactions were to be made the subject of discussion and amendment and control by a Court of Appeal in the shape of Imperial Parliament. While, therefore, we admit that this Parliament must remain supreme in Imperial matters, we demand that in those Irish matters which are to be committed to the Government of the Irish Parliament, that Irish Parliament shall be supreme. I do not know what the views of the right hon. Member for Derby are in this matter, and the Irish people are in doubt and mystery on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Liberal Party and the English people will not have Mr. Parnell's Fenian Home Rule. We know that Mr. Parnell's Home Rule is the demand of the whole Irish people, and they want to know whether the Member for Derby means—I do not believe that he does—that the Liberal Party will not accept such a scheme of Home Rule as Mr. Parnell propounded. The right hon. Gentleman makes us fear that the Liberal Party may be tempted to destroy the chance of Home Rule by some attempt to disregard Irish opinion, and therefore it is that we ask for some general declaration of policy. I do not believe in the wisdom of the Irish people or the Liberal Party living in a fool's paradise. We ought to know what is in one another's minds. I am not alone in making this demand. There are Members of the Liberal Party who have made it. The hon. and learned Member for Fife has made exactly the same demand, and for the same reasons which I have given. There is another, and possibly a more powerful, ground on which I base this demand for information. The right hon. Member for Derby some little time ago delivered a speech 510 in the City of Glasgow which created considerable uneasiness in Ireland; and just as it was beginning to disappear, that bad impression was revived in a startling manner by a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman who has taken part in this Debate to-night. Lord Salisbury had stated that the House of Lords had the power and was prepared to exercise it—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed the statement—of peremptorily throwing out a Home Rule Bill, if its main provisions had not been voted upon at the General Election. On the 8th October in Glasgow the right hon. Member for Derby said, speaking of the House of Lords—They hope to wear us out by dissolution forced on us by the House of Lords. Well, I fancy they will find themselves mistaken. In my opinion, if they are going to play that game they should have rope enough; they should be allowed to do their worst on the whole scope and tenour of Liberal reforms; to make clear to the nation their attitude towards the popular will on all the heads of popular reform and upon all its measures.We read that in Ireland as meaning that if the Home Rule passed by the House of Commons were rejected by the House of Lords, it would be hung up while the House of Commons proceeded to discuss the items of the Newcastle programme. The Liberal Party would pursue the even tenour of its way, and Ireland be left out in the cold, and the chances of Home Rule for this generation would be fading into the far distance. But what did the right hon. Gentleman who spoke to-night say on the 22nd January last at Rothbury? I am quoting from the Times of 23rd January, 1892. He said—Questions such as the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church, the registration of voters, local control of the liquor traffic, one man one vote, District Councils and Parish Councils, were ready for settlement, and would be dealt with by the Liberal Ministry immediately it came into power. It had been stated that the House of Lords would throw these Bills out. All he had to say was, let them try.Now what is the meaning of that? How are the House of Lords to try the policy of throwing out these Bills if they are not sent up from the House of Commons first? I want to know whether these seven or eight measures of Liberal reform are to be passed simultaneously, in the same Session, with the Home Rule Bill?
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
I beg pardon. I think that report in the Times of my speech at Rothbury, a very remote village in the centre of Northumberland, is about twelve or fourteen lines long. I will send the hon. Member the report of my speech published by the Liberal Association there, as corrected by myself. If he will read that he will see what I really said.
§ MR. REDMOND
The right hon. Gentleman will make allowance for me when he remembers that I am not a subscriber to the Liberal Association of Rothbury. The report in the Times was read, of course, by the right hon. Gentleman, but it was never corrected by him, and it is quite enough for my present purpose. If the right hon. Gentleman would take advice from me he would, instead of referring me to the Liberal Association of Rothbury, stand up and, in one sentence, say that he is entirely against any such policy as the Times has attributed to him.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
I am entirely in favour of the policy of bringing forward, one after another, those Liberal measures, and daring the House of Lords to throw them out. But that has absolutely nothing to do with this question of Irish Home Rule. I never said it was to be done in the same Parliament, or anything of the sort. If the House of Lords does venture to throw out either the Home Rule Bill or any of those Liberal measures, we shall see how the House of Commons will act.
§ MR. REDMOND
I feel myself in a worse position than before, because it now seems to be uncertain whether the Home Rule Bill is to be the first Bill, after all, to be submitted to the House of Commons and the House of Lords. However, I pass over that; and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will take some early opportunity of letting the Irish people know definitely, first, why he was unwilling to give us the information we asked for; and, secondly, whether he will protest against any delay with, or hanging up of, a Home Rule Bill beyond the Session in which it is passed by the House of Commons? In giving such information as we ask for, the Liberal Party would be acting wisely from their own point of view and that of the masses to whom they will have to submit their policy when the General Election comes. All I have to say, in conclusion, 512 is this: Let England and the English people and English Political Parties be under no misapprehension whatever as to this Irish question. Grant to Ireland a partial and halting measure of Home Rule, leaving power to the English Parliament to discuss and revise—thwart and destroy—Irish legislation, bring Irish Members to this House, and constitute it a sort of Court of Appeal to which the grievances of every section of the Irish people could be brought, and I say your last state will be worse than your first. Act in a spirit of distrust to the Irish people, and they will continue to act in a spirit of distrust to you. But, on the other hand, if you deal out justice to the Irish people with a free and generous hand; if, having made up your mind that Home Rule is necessary, you do not halt and "let I dare not wait upon I would" in your policy; if, having made up your mind that an autonomy ought to be given to Ireland, you go to the full logical length of that conviction and give to Ireland, in certain purely Irish affairs, supreme control of her own business, then I believe England will be repaid in the near future by having an end put to this Irish question which has been for generations the plague and the torture of this House and the disgrace of this English Empire, and Ireland will be repaid after her long and troubled and fevered history by being enabled at last to enter upon a new era of liberty, prosperity, and peace.
§ *(7.50.) MR. W. JOHNSTON (South Belfast)
I have been greatly interested and somewhat amused by the turn which the Debate has taken; and I have been impressed by the feeling that if Ireland is to have a Legislative Assembly granted to her, it would be desirable that those of her Representatives in this House who claim that position for her should first settle amongst themselves their own disputes. The Amendment which has been submitted by the hon. Member for West Belfast has been objected to in part by the hon. Member for Waterford, and I must leave these two gentlemen to settle between themselves the policy they will propound to this House as the policy of the Irish people. I am sure the House must have listened with great gratification to the "maiden" speech of the hon. Member for Mid Armagh, who has come to this House to give assistance to the loyal minority of Ulster, and whose voice 513 will not be raised to break up the legislative union. We have been accused in Ulster sometimes of uttering bitter words concerning other sections of the Irish people, but in no part of Her Majesty's Dominions more than in my constituency is there a strong desire to see an advance made in the material and moral prosperity of the Roman Catholic subjects of the Queen in Ireland. We have to thank Her Majesty's Government for having on various occasions brought in measures for the promotion of the prosperity of Ireland, and we have regretted that by some sections of the Irish Party those measures have been bitterly opposed. The complaint now comes from them with a bad grace, that all they have desired has not been done for Ireland. I wish to give my strongest opposition to the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast, who, as I know, does not represent the majority of that constituency. He may sit for that constituency at present, but another story will be told after the General Election, when the majority will send to this House a Representative who will give expression to their sentiments. We have been told that Ulster returns a majority of Nationalists to Parliament. It is so by a majority of one, but the votes that have been recorded for them are so small that we are certain to reverse that position at the General Election. We, at least, who represent the loyal minority in Ireland are not afraid of an election, because we know that the policy we advocate in this House is the policy of the loyalists of Ireland, and that they desire the maintenance of the Union as the best guarantee of the prosperity of their native land.
§ (8.35.) MR. DOUGLAS H. COGHILL (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
The hon. Member for West Belfast alleges by his Amendment that this Parliament is unable to remedy Irish grievances, and the same remarks were made in the course of the Debate by Scotch and Welsh Members in regard to their own country. Now, at the General Election in the year 1886, the Unionist Party said, in reply to this demand, that if the question of Home Rule for Ireland were once entertained it would not be long before the same demand was put forward by Scotland and Wales. Of course, we were told that we were foolish to indulge in such predictions, but we had not long to 514 wait. Demands have been made for separate Parliaments for Scotland and for Wales, and I should like to ask where this multiplication of Parliaments is going to stop. We have been reminded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton of what has taken place in Ireland at bye-elections; we have heard of clerical interference in Irish elections; we have been told that it is wrong to complain of clerical influence, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby was very angry last week because Lord Salisbury had gone so far as to mention one of the Catholic Archbishops by name. The right hon. Gentleman was most in dignant at it, but I would ask why should not a Catholic Archbishop, if he separate himself from his sacred office, and take to electioneering, be mentioned apart from that sacred office which he has abandoned, and in connection with the work he has substituted for it? As long as a priest confines himself to his functions, so long may his office be respected. I should like to remind the House of what has taken place in Ireland, and I should like to quote to the House two short extracts—I am not going to quote from a Unionist paper, I am going to quote from what may be regarded as the official Gladstonian organ, the Star, referring to the Kilkenny election in December, 1890. This was said upon the 22nd December by that paper:—But of all the work that has been done, the most important was accomplished this Sabbath morning, when, throughout the constituency, the blessing of Holy Church was practically pronounced upon Sir John Pope Hennessy's candidature. It amounts to this, that in almost every parish in the constituency the Holy Sacrament of Mass was adapted to purposes of political organization. Hennessy was not exactly blessed, nor Mr. Parnell denounced, from the steps of the altar, but it was very like it at 36 parish chapels in the constituency.The same correspondent upon the next day says:—At Ballyragget, voters, as they came up to the station, were taken into the priest's house for the last word of good counsel; at Johnstown, the priest was in the booth. All over the division priests acted as personation agents. At Gowran, each of three personation agents was in a black frock. In the electoral history of the world there is registered no device to compare with this. Voters found the priest so all-prevailing that some of them must have believed a ballot-box itself to be an ecclesiastical appurtenance with a priest inside it.515 These statements, I think, justify the Unionist Party in their contention that when a Home Rule Parliament is established in Dublin the most improper influences would be brought to bear upon the electors. We have been asking for a long time what the Home Rule policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian really is. The right hon Gentleman the Member for Derby has made a statement with regard to that policy. He said, first of all, that Home Rule is not local government. But it has been dinned into our ears, and I have heard it stated over and over again at bye-elections, that the only thing meant by Home Rule is local government for Ireland—that local government was understood to mean that the Irish people were to have the power to deal with the supply of gas, water, electricity, and other matters of that kind; but now we have a statement from the right hon. Member for Derby that Home Rule means none of those things; we have it upon the right hon. Gentleman's authority that Home Rule is to be something very different. Then, the right hon. Gentleman referred to Canada: he asked us to look at the self-governing powers possessed by Canada; but are you prepared to give the same powers to Ireland as to Canada? Canada might, and could, raise an army or a navy; Canada could send Ambassadors to foreign Courts; it could impose protective duties, and yet, when Unionists said it was possible that Ireland might demand any one, or all of those, we are told that it is only a Unionist bogey. Are you prepared to give Ireland the same rights? I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, are these the powers that he would give Ireland? "No such thing," it is said; all that is meant is to give Ireland a subordinate Parliament. Yes; but the Irish Members say that it is not a subordinate Parliament that they are aiming at. We have heard it again from the hon. Member for Waterford. The hon. Member for North-East Cork, speaking in Ireland, at Drogheda, on November 15th of last year, said:—They, on their side, had now an Irish Party united enough and formidable enough to stand no nonsense in reference to the pledges that the English Liberals had solemnly given them, and with the help of the people of 516 Ireland they would succeed in giving back to the old country all the blessings of National unity and independence.In all that there is nothing about a "subordinate Parliament." I think every man inside and outside this House knows full well the meaning of these words—"National unity and independence"—and that what is implied is a Parliament that would be supreme. That is what is put forward before the Irish people. In England, no doubt, the tone adopted is very different, and very different, too, to that adopted across the Atlantic. Here they say they are in favour of a subordinate Parliament to manage local affairs, but it is very different upon the other side. We have asked over and over again what the policy is, and we have complained over and over again of the old policy of concealment, obscurity, and silence. Are the powers they propose to give something like the powers possessed by the people of Canada? Now, we find that what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby would give the people of Ireland is something like what the Canadian people have; and very likely, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian comes back to the House, the first thing he will do will be to throw over that policy. We want to know, before the General Election takes place, what is the exact scheme of Home Rule that is to be the programme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian. It is complained in this House by the hon. Member for West Belfast that sufficient attention is not paid to the opinions set forth by Irish Members; and the Gladstonian Party say that we do not represent the opinion of these Members; but only last year, on the Second Reading of the Irish Land Bill, all the Irish Members went into one Lobby and the Gladstonian leaders went into the other. Thus, the right hon. Members for Derby and Newcastle deliberately tried to vote down the legitimate expression of Irish opinion. No charge is made more frequently in this House than that we disregard the opinions of the Irish people; but if those charges are to be made they should be made by somebody other than Members of the Gladstonian. Party, and especially by leaders of that 517 Party. Last week, in the Division on Friday on the convicted dynamiters, I observed with much interest that the hon. Member for Rossendale considered it his duty in the first vote he gave as a Member of this House—and I watched it with great interest—to vote against his own leaders, and we had Members of the Gladstonian Party in one Lobby and the leaders in another, deliberately voting down the opinion of the Irish Members. The hon. Member for Rossendale—a new disciple so recently returned—voted against his leaders, and became a Dissentient Liberal. And, by the way, with reference to the Debate upon the question of the release of these prisoners, I would like to ask whether it was one of the pieces of business to be entrusted to an Irish Parliament; because, if not, this Imperial Parliament would still have the eternal Irish question with us, and we should have it with us as much, if not more, than ever. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle denounced the right hon. Member for Birmingham for sitting on these Benches. For my part, I can see nothing wrong in it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle ought rather to be proud of it, for we all know that in the years 1885–6 the Tory Party were carrying on a small flirtation with Home Rule, and he ought to be pleased that the Members of the Tory Party have been won over to the old Liberal creed, and taken up the attitude formerly so firmly held by the Liberal Party, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle, than whom, of course, we all know, no one more energetically denounced the idea of giving to Ireland a separate Parliament. There is small temptation, indeed, for the Unionists to join the ranks of the faithful, because we do not know how long they will be in favour of Home Rule as the man "convinced against his will is of the same opinion still," and the time might come when we may see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian travelling about the country and proclaiming from railway carriages that anyone who was so foolish and misguided as to believe in Home Rule must be either a lunatic or a madman. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle said that the country was against the Government, but I do not gather that from the 518 number of English Members who were amongst the new Members who took their seats the other night. The tactics pursued at election after election by the Gladstonian Party showed that Home Rule by itself was not good enough to win upon. In North-East Manchester, where there is a large section of Irish people, it was not Home Rule that was put forward; in North Leeds it was thought better not to take it up, and a flagrant example of these methods was found in the bye-election that took place at Wisbech last summer. The question there was not whether the Gladstonian candidate was a fit and proper person to represent the constituency; the only question was as to the abilities of the wife of the hon. Member singing Irish airs with a touch of the real Irish brogue. We wish to know what the Home Rule Parliament is to be; the Home Rule question ought to be put fairly before the people, and I think if the question is put before the constituents, and when electors have an opportunity of deciding upon it, the people of this country will endorse once more the policy of having one Parliament for the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ (8.55.) MR. WILLIAM E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
I must say that I do not believe that this question of Home Rule is a burning question throughout the country, and I would call the attention of the House to the extraordinary fact that for a considerable time during a speech of much interest and importance the Front Opposition Benches were absolutely tenantless, and that not one of the Gladstonian side of the House rose to continue the Debate. In fact, this Debate is a mere sham and parade, and I am afraid there is some idea of trying to carry the Amendment in the absence of a considerable portion of Members of the House. When hon. Members are so convinced upon this Home Rule doctrine why do they not rise to carry on the Debate upon an Amendment raising very important issues? In Ireland we have three Parties, one of which is bitterly hostile to Home Rule, and another of which is absolutely indifferent upon the question. I am one of those who think that this question of Home Rule does not excite any very great interest in this country, and I think the hon. Member will find 519 himself greatly mistaken if he really and bonâ fide endeavours to carry the next General Election on the cry of Home Rule without taking up local questions which are supposed to interest the country, and gradually putting them forward in the manner described by the hon. Member opposite. I naturally took considerable interest in the General Election of 1885. I was opposed by the hon. Member for North Tyrone. It is quite true that the hon. Member for North Tyrone in many of his speeches dealt largely with this question of Home Rule. For my own part I always on that occasion declined to follow the arguments of the hon. Member, because I did not conceive it possible that Home Rule could ever be brought forward in the House of Commons. I quite admit that the hon. Member had a better idea of what was coming than I did, and I quite admit that if I had known that we were so near raising a question of this kind I should not have remained so silent as I did in replying to his speeches. At the same time, my silence could not be construed as any attempt to minimise so important a question, nor could it in any way be described as coquetting with Home Rule. I do not wish to occupy the time of the House further. As I have said before, the attitude of the House and the manner in which the Debate has been carried on appear to me conclusive of the fact that this was a parade and a sham, a mere form, and that the question has been brought forward in a perfunctory way with the view of making a show. I believe it is unnecessary to discuss this question, and that those who appear now to support Home Rule know that if they left other questions out of sight at the Election their chances of return at the Election would be slight indeed.
§ (9.5.) COLONEL JOHN P. NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I myself do not look on the Amendment as a sham. I look upon the Amendment as brought forward by my hon. Friend with very considerable ability for a specific purpose. The hon. Member for Preston, of course, was only joking when he said the Parnellite Members were not anxious for Home Rule. The hon. Member for Waterford defined what he meant by Home Rule, and it seems almost useless for any other Member of the Irish Party to do so until the questions he put 520 to the front Opposition bench have been answered. They are plain and simple questions, and I think it is absolutely necessary that they should receive a reply. I should say that this Amendment is not a sham, but a very real Amendment. This Amendment is really a reversion to the days of Mr. Butt. In the days of Mr. Butt we Irish Members were in the habit of bringing forward what have been called entative or undefined motions for Home Rule. We used to make an almost annual motion in favour of Home Rule, and we succeeded in getting from about 6 to 20 Members to vote for us. We used to have a majority of Irish Members—very likely not more than a bare majority, but we had a majority always, and we succeeded in getting from 6 to 20 English Members to vote with us. In those times I think it was very good tactics to bring forward an undefined Motion, and the usual form of our Motion was that this House do resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Relations between England and Ireland. Mr. Parnell quite abandoned these tactics. He would not bring forward any Resolution in the House. He thought it was perfectly useless to ascertain how many English Members would vote for us. He threw that plan to the winds, and he brought pressure to bear upon the great English parties until Lord Carnarvon very nearly took up the question; and, finally, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian took it up and made it a great Party question. Then it was put to the House and a vote taken on it, but at that time it went against us. Of course the Liberal Party could not stand against the opposition of the Duke of Devonshire, Mr. John Bright, and many other very distinguished men. The verdict was temporarily given against us, but I believe that if the Irish Party only stood united in November last year they would now be going to the General Election with an absolute certainty of winning it. This Amendment is introduced as an undefined Amendment, almost an illusory Amendment. It is a declaration for Home Rule, and if any hon. Member votes for it he must vote for something labelled Home Rule. This Amendment merely compels an hon. Member to give some sort of vote for some kind of Home Rule. I think we would 521 have been better without this Amendment than with it, but now that it has been introduced—it is my own personal opinion—I should say we ought to vote for it just as we ought to vote for any pronouncement in favour of Home Rule. But I do not think it is a judicious one. I think it is rather letting people out of their pledges in place of binding them more closely to their pledges. That is the reason I consider the Amendment to be an injudicious one except so far as it gave an opportunity to my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford to address those very pointed interrogatories to the Front Opposition Bench. At the last General Election and afterwards there was a sort of compact or treaty that we were to get the old Home Rule Bill or something better. That was the position up to November last year. Then according to the proposals made to Mr. Parnell it was agreed that a certain number of Irish Members should stay in Parliament—34 was the number mentioned. This matter is a matter for the most urgent and immediate attention. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle spoke about that the other night. He said we must have the Irish Members remaining in the English House of Commons. That is the only modification of the old Bill that has been stated by the Front Opposition Bench. I have not the slightest objection to the whole of the Irish Members staying here when we have a Home Rule Government. If they stay here, they will keep their power here, and any power we get in Ireland will be something to the good. But, on the other hand, if some power is to be taken away from the Irish Parliament because a certain number of Irish Members stay here, it becomes a matter of the most vital importance, as Mr. Parnell pointed out, how many Irish Members stay here. Now, 34 is about one-third of the present Irish representation. It is said that because the Irish Members would be able to vote on Imperial Motions as well as on English and Scotch Motions in the House of Commons, their number should be reduced to one-third; but really that is an absurdity. I do not think that 34 Irish Members now vote upon every question in the House of Commons, and that number would not have as much power as three times 522 the number now has on strictly Imperial questions; and, consequently, to reduce the number of Irish Members is simply to reduce the powers of the Irish Members. It would be 34 Members instead of 103, and it would be a serious question indeed if the Laws that were made in Dublin were all to be revised in the House of Commons, and if only 34 Irish Members were here, either directly to support these propositions or indirectly to influence Ministers by voting for or against them on foreign questions. It is quite a different matter having no Irish Members here at all. If there were no Irish Members here the Government would then have to consider Ireland as it now considers Canada or Australia. I have some fault to find with the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast for its vagueness, after the public declarations that the Irish Members were to be reduced to 34 made by various English speakers. The hon. Member for West Belfast said very little indeed about Home Rule. The reason was very simple. He is not only a great orator but a great tactician; and he saw the embarrassment it would cause to his friends on the Front Opposition Bench. The right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench do not desire to state what sort of Home Rule they are in favour of now. They say this is a great tactical advantage to keep it a secret, but I fail to see where is the tactical advantage. You want either to humbug the Irish voters by afterwards giving us less than we expected, or to humbug the English voters by giving us more than we expected. The hon. Member for Waterford has pointed out to the Front Opposition Bench how frequently he has tried to elicit the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and others on this subject, and how the Irish Members of all Parties went last November to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, and almost went on their knees to ask him to say something on the subject of Home Rule, and without any result; and what can be the tactical advantage of it? I do not believe much in that theory that Home Rule will be discovered at the right time, and I do very much fear that the Irish voters in Ireland may not have the proper means of making up their minds on this subject at the General Election. The Irish voters 523 were very moderate on this question. The Irish voters in England are men who have to a great extent adopted a new country and formed new ties—some for Liberals and some for Conservatives. A good many of them have formed local ties. If the Irish Members unanimously called upon them, as they did once or twice, for their support to enable Ireland to get a real measure of Home Rule, there can be no doubt that a very large number of these gentlemen would throw up their local ties and go for Home Rule. But how can they call upon them to do so when we do not know what the Home Rule is to be? The right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench could make it clear in one sentence. They might also make it a broad question and push it forward strenuously. What the Liberal Party are going to do when they get into power is, I consider, almost of as great importance as the question of what Home Rule is to be. The occupants of the Front Opposition Bench might very well say, "If you want a very small Home Rule Bill we will get it through Parliament; but if you want a very big one we will get it through the House of Commons all right, but it will be stopped in the House of Lords." I believe that is what will happen next Session. Then the Liberal Party might turn round to the Irish Members and and say: "We must go on with our English Measures now." What we want is a large and sufficient Measure of Home Rule to be pushed through tenaciously and sent up to the House of Lords; and if they do not assent to it, then we should either bring in a Bill to abolish the House of Lords or declare a Dissolution. That would be the only way of taking the verdict of the electors on the particular Home Rule Bill that is needed. Lord Salisbury has threatened that he would use his influence with the House of Lords to throw out a Home Rule Bill out of the Lords unless the principles of it were first stated. Well, I think that is a challenge. I do not understand after that the reticence of the leaders of the Liberal Members in not telling us broadly and simply what is meant by Home Rule for Ireland. Curiously enough, in this Amendment a reference to a particular Land Bill has been mixed up in a very intricate fashion with the 524 general Home Rule Question, so that it is very difficult to disentangle it. If I vote for this Amendment, which I intend to do, and I think the Irish Members ought to do, it must be clearly understood that I do not agree to vote for the last half of it. It simply means this: that the hon. Member for West Belfast is so clever that he is able to tie a knot up I cannot disentangle. What the hon. Member said with reference to the Land Purchase Act is, I think, inconvenient. What Mr. Parnell said was very simple. We did think the Bill of last year was a very good one. We would have liked to change many points in it, but what was got by that Bill would not have been got but for Mr. Parnell—for I daresay Members would have managed to throw it out, but we brought them into the Lobby with us. They could not stand out, and so we got a credit for £40,000,000 or £50,000,000. A large number of Members objected to? this pledging of English credit; but what Mr. Parnell knew was that, after he got a credit for £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 opened, it would be very difficult to close it. But it is very difficult to get money voted. Here was an opportunity, however, for doing so; and, although the Radicals might give us something considerable in the way of Home Rule, they would never have given a credit for £40,000,000 or £50,000.000. Mr. Parnell was most anxious to get this credit opened; not that he approved of the general details of the Bill. I have no private information as to his views—only his public utterances; but all his speeches were directed to getting this credit opened. Afterwards a new Parliament might bring in any measures to increase the advantages to the tenants. I think it is a little premature to say whether the Bill is good or bad. I attach very little importance to any views on that subject at this stage of the proceedings. The hon. Member for West Belfast has brought forward an absolutely indefinite Motion with regard to Home Rule. Anyone who likes may say, after the Division, I voted for a Home Rule proposal, but if he were asked "Which did you vote for—Parnell's Bill, or what particular kind of Home Rule," he could say, "Oh! that was not in the Amendment." If the desire was to get a large vote, then this was a 525 clever Amendment, but I do not see any object in a large vote. I think it a pity to have drawn up an Amendment with such vagueness. There is still ample time for the Front Bench men to set this matter right. They can make a perfectly happy family by simply getting up and defining Home Rule, and say that when the Liberals take up the measure, they mean to push it right through without giving way to any other measure. The Parnellite Party as we are called—we do not repudiate the name; I would possibly call it the Parliamentary or Nationalist Party—are not indifferent to Home Rule. But we want precision; we want to know what we are to ask the Irish people to vote for. We ought with politeness, but humility, to ask gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench to throw a little light upon this subject—a little glimmer as to their course of action in the next Parliament. What are to be the principles we are to vote for, and what the application of the principles? I hope every Irish Member will join in that entreaty.
§ *(9.35.) MR. WEBB (West Waterford)
An hon. Member opposite said there was a great want of reality in the Debate, and it is also said that Home Rule is dead. I do not agree with either assertion. Somehow Home Rule is always coming up. We are only at the commencement of the Session, and yet there is not a day the question has not been brought forward. An hon. Member brought the charge that we were inclined to be disingenuous regarding Home Rule, and that while using one language here we used a different language in Ireland. It appears no use saying over and over again what we are not afraid to say in Ireland as here, that in the matter of protective duties, or the Army or Navy, or questions of that kind, we do not desire to have any power under our Home Rule Bill. The hon. Member also made a charge that our Liberal friends did not vote with us always on Irish questions. That does not show want of sincerity, and it is quite a different thing from desiring to give us liberty to settle our own affairs. But we cannot leave out of notice the speech of the Prime Minister. It has been said the tendency of the majority in Ireland is backward; that all that is progressive in Ireland and all that is enlightened is in the minority. The majority might say 526 something very unpleasant of the minority, but we do not desire to make disparaging comparisons. Our desire is to try and elevate every Party in Ireland. We desire, also, that the minority should be strong and respected. We do not want to pull down, but to raise up. The. whole object of this Parliament for ages was to degrade and pull down the majority, and it is only within recent years that they have emerged out of that attempted state of degradation. That they are not permanently degraded is due to their own innate qualities and powers. To say that the majority are unprogressive is contrary to the truth. Anyone who has travelled in Ireland must have seen the beautiful churches and institutions which these unprogressive and unenlightened people have raised. If a visitor to Ireland asked me to bring him to any similar institutions founded by the minority, I would have difficulty in finding them out. There are other institutions in Dublin of the same kind, such as the Hospital for the Dying. In Cork you find the same thing. Some of the great institutions there, such as the Institution for the Blind and the Institution of the Good Shepherd, are of the same class. Surely these are not the institutions of a backward or uncivilised people. In England, great country as it is, are there any institutions to compare with the institution of the Christian Brothers in Ireland? When education was banned in Ireland, after the people were only beginning to rise by the exertions of the Irish Parliament from the depths of ignorance to which you consigned them, the institution of Christian Brothers was founded and took up the work, and made exertions when there was no other popular educational institution in the country. There are now some 700 of these men who devote the whole of their lives, for nothing but the poorest living, to the toil of teaching the young, without hope of rising to higher positions such as is given to most men in other walks of life. I am quite unable to understand how any man with any knowledge of Ireland can attribute backwardness and ignorance to the majority of the Irish people when such qualities are found among them. We have a Corporation in Dublin elected by this retrogressive and backward people. Just in proportion as the backward majority obtained power in the 527 election, matters municipal were placed upon a right footing; and now Dublin possesses the best water supply perhaps to be found in any city in the United Kingdom. That was due entirely to the efforts of the majority as against the wishes of the minority. Every effort that has been made for good in Ireland in the present century has received the support of this backward and unprogressive majority, and has been opposed by the highly enlightened and civilised minority. When you wanted to reform the Corporations, to put an end to the infamous system of tithes, and to disestablish the Irish Church, it was not to the enlightened minority you appealed, but to the unprogressive and backward majority. I know for myself, having taken an active part in politics in Dublin for some time, that the only time I saw a meeting broken up with brickbats and stones was when some Protestants held a meeting in favour of Disestablishment, and it was broken up by other Protestants opposed to Disestablisment. I am prevented from going as fully as I could wish into the real character and conduct which sometimes disgraces the minority in Ireland; but I will not be thought unfair or out of order if, Mr. Speaker, I refer to the Belfast riots. There never was such a state of things as arose in these riots; and that was not the work of the unenlightened majority, but of the highly educated and enlightened minority, who arrogate to themselves all the virtues. If I wanted to give a test by which to judge the spirit of the minority as compared with that of the majority, I would refer hon. Members to the song books of each Party. Let any man here who wants to know the real spirit of the minority in its purest form in Belfast buy a minority song book, and they will there see the sentiments of this enlightened minority, and let him buy a song book of the unenlightened majority, and contrast the spirit of the two. He will find in one a feeling of hatred and bitterness, and in the other nothing but a desire for union and kindly feeling. It is true that the majority did not always entertain this feeling. We would be more than human if we had not felt bitterly at one time towards this country who so cruelly oppressed us. But my own belief is, from what I know of the Irish people, that they have quite 528 as much of the civic virtues in their hearts—the very poorest of them—as the rich and wealthy have. I find, in moving among all classes of them—that there is a much more Christian spirit among the poor than among the rich—among that poor who are so much sought to be despised. It is quite possible that, as between the minority and majority, the paths of civilisation may run in different lines, but I firmly believe both are progressing. I believe that if the power were taken out of the hands of the minority, both sections would come to be on the best possible terms. A few years ago, when it was said that the Conservative Party were coquetting with us in this House, I visited a manufacturer in the North of Ireland. He was then in the best spirits regarding us and our people, and gave us the best character, both Catholics and Protestants. But now that there is a possibility of throwing us off they look upon us differently; and I heard that same man lately, when asked what he was doing with his Catholic workpeople, say, "Oh! he was quietly weeding them out." That is what we fear will continue until the Catholic majority get upon more level terms with the minority. We are asked what could an Irish Parliament do better for us than the English Parliament can do? Well, I might answer, in what respect could any hon. Gentleman opposite manage my house as well as I can manage it; or how could this Government manage the affairs of France better I than the Government chosen by the people of France? The Member for West Birmingham said that one of the difficulties he and his Party were now placed in was that now there were two Parties amongst us, and they did not know who they were dealing with, whereas before they could have dealt with Mr. Parnell. It appears to me that you will now have a much more solid ground to go upon in the knowledge of the real opinions of those whom you are dealing with, because, after the next General Election, you will have the real opinions of the Irish people, each constituency giving its own. Then you will not be able to say that, in accepting whatever Home Rule we may accept, it is being accepted on the fiat of one man. I shall only add one word more, and it is 529 this: that I do think, when one Party enters upon a course that brings it to the position of criticising its best friends and receiving the cheers of its worst enemies, that Party can hardly be adopting its proper course.
§ (9.55.) COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Sir, I should not wish that the Debate on the Address should terminate without some expression of the great grief felt, I believe, universally in Ireland at the affliction that has befallen the Royal Family. The Irish people, with all their faults, are a warm-hearted people, ready to enter into the joys and sorrows of those they know and like; and the Duke of Clarence went the right way about acquiring the sympathies of the Irish people. He came over and lived in the country; and we had the touching letter from the Prince of Wales to the Lord Mayor of Dublin that he was very happy there. And the Irish people entered into the happy and auspicious event that promised to crown his life with gladness; and when the tragic event occurred which cut off his young life, it struck a sad chord in the Irish heart. I hope it will be a solace to Her Majesty and to the Prince and Princess of Wales to realise that their sorrow is shared by, I believe, the great majority of the Irish people. Now, I would say a few words with regard to the Amendment you are now considering and to the speech of the hon. Member for West Belfast. The Amendment would, I think, have served its purpose well had it not been for the fact that behind the hon. Member for West Belfast sat the hon. Member for Waterford. The Amendment undoubtedly raised a question of the very highest importance. It is to this effect: That the British Parliament, having tried every method to satisfy the wants and requirements of the Irish people, and, having failed, had better give up the hopeless task; and then it went on to criticise a Bill which we passed last year. Now, I would ask any fair man which part of 530 this Amendment was the most important? To consider a Bill which we passed last year, which received the sanction of the then Leader of what was then a united Party, or to consider whether Ireland is to be dissociated for ever from British Parliamentary control? I wonder that the hon. Member for West Belfast did not see he laid himself open to this objection, that he ignored the important and vital part of his Amendment. He spent twenty minutes of his speech in attacking the language of the Prime Minister, which he said was insulting to the nation. However strong and objectionable to the Irish Members that language might have been, it is mildness itself compared with the language which hon. Gentlemen have recently used about each other. The hon. Member for West Belfast said very few words about the main or Home Rule portion of his Amendment, and I do not think he occupied four minutes by the clock in his observations about Home Rule. Yet his whole contention is that as the House has failed in the past in dealing with Irish questions, including the question of Land Purchase. Home Rule ought to be granted. The hon. Member, in the matter of Home Rule, occupies a very critical and a very delicate position. He does not like to say anything to embarrass his friends on the Front Opposition Bench. He appears to me to occupy the position of a Nationalist waiter attending to the commands of his friends above the Gangway. That may answer the purpose of the Liberal Party and his Liberal friends, but he makes a grand mistake if he thinks that a course of that kind will ever secure a great following in Ireland. We had a speech from the hon. Member for Waterford of a very different kind. The hon. Member, with whom I entirely disagree, whom I am ready to oppose in this, and do my best to oppose by all means in Ireland, is at any rate a foe-man worthy of any man's steel. He puts 531 forward something to hit at. He is not an oratorical eel that comes in as the hon. Member for West Belfast did on Home Rule and steps out on Land Purchase. The hon. Member for Waterford raised this Debate from the position into which it had been degraded by the Committee speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton and the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast to its proper level of a Government Debate, before a General Election, brought forward in this House with the object of centreing the opinion and attention of the British people on one of the greatest questions that they have ever had to consider. We learned from the hon. Member for Waterford exactly what his idea of Home Rule is. I believe his views are shared by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway and the whole of his Party, and from what the hon. Member for Waterford said, and from the reception his speech met with from his present friends and former allies, we must conclude that his definition of Home Rule is a definition which accords with the views and which had the general assent of the majority of the Gentlemen sitting opposite. His idea is, so far as I can make out, that this Parliament is to retain supremacy. I must say it is an Irish supremacy, because it is a supremacy that consists in this, that the Irish Members in full force shall have the power of coming over here to London to sit in this Assembly and to assist in directing the course of British Imperial affairs, whereas the British Parliament shall not have any authority whatever to interfere in Irish affairs. That is not my idea of reciprocity. Still I am glad to have the authoritative definition from a united party on the subject of Home Rule, because we have had no authoritative opinion from the Front Opposition Bench. I do not believe it exists. The Home Rule of the Front Opposition Bench depends altogether upon the state of parties after the next General Election. We know by the answers of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton that his mind is affected by the volume of opinion coming from the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. He gave us every intimation of the reasons why he became a Home Ruler, and apparently it was because he disapproved 532 of the arrangement of the borough boundaries of Dublin. As regards the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, he has laid it down as his final opinion that he will never accept Fenian Home Rule. He has not defined what Fenian Home Rule means, and if a large and united Nationalist Party in the next Parliament sit below the Gangway, and he finds himself in the position of leader of the Party that has not a sufficient, backing in England and Scotland and Wales, the word Fenian will become a very elastic term. Now, Sir, it is said you are to grant Home Rule not because Ireland is a country tyrannized over, ground down beneath the heel of the Saxon, but forsooth because the Irish people have not swallowed the Land Purchase Bill with sufficient avidity. I thought the hon. Member for West Belfast would have supplied us with some more sufficient reason than that for dismembering the Empire. But it was simply and solely because enough money had not been advanced to the Irish people under the Land Acts that the hon. Member for West Belfast justified his demand for Home Rule. I am sorry the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant for Ireland is not here, because I wanted to give him a bit of advice. It is the greatest possible mistake to quote from any speech of any Gentleman opposite unless you have the quotation in your hand. I have always come down to the House to make a speech on the Irish Question with a considerable sheaf of paper in my hands. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, thinking it was my speech, have called out "Read, read!" But it was not my speech; it was elegant extracts from the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite. When my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary said that hon. Gentlemen opposite had interfered with Land Purchase by asking the Irish tenants not to buy, the hon. Member for North Longford interrupted him in an almost violent manner, and said, "No, no"; "Quote, quote." My right hon. Friend, not having sufficient experience, had not the quotation by him. But here it is. On the 28th February the Member for North Longford said:— 533The farmer who bought his land to-day would, when a Home Rule Parliament was in is three or four years' time, be very sorry he had been in such a hurry.I do not suppose the hon. Gentleman will say that that was not inducing the Irish tenants not to buy their farms.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
That may be, but the House will now understand how it is that the Irish tenants have held somewhat aloof from taking advantage of the Land Purchase Act.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Will you read the context of my speech? I had to read all the speeches of the hon. Member I would never have done. The hon. Gentleman has not spoken, and he can give us the whole passage. Therefore, Sir, I was going to say that if the Land Purchase Act has not gone down with that rapidity which some of its supporters hoped, one of the reasons is that the chosen and trusted leaders of the Irish people have advised Irish tenants over and over again to refrain from purchasing under the Act, and to wait for better times, when they will get their land, as they were told by the hon. Member himself, at prairie value. Sir, the test by which the Irish policy of the Unionist Government is to be tried is not the test of the success of one measure, such as the Irish Land Purchase Act, but the test of the success of their whole policy during the last six years; and in order to test that policy it is absolutely necessary for us to consider what was the task that the Unionist Government undertook, and whether they have completed that task with success. We undertook to govern Ireland under the laws of this Imperial Parliament, and to make Ireland a peaceful and prosperous country, and the record of the last six years proves conclusively that we have succeeded in our task. It is the duty of any speaker on the opposite side to show to the House and the country that the Unionist Party 534 have failed in this great task. The hon Member for West Belfast never even attempted to do so. All he said was that the population of Ireland had largely decreased since the Union. I believe it has; but I venture to maintain that 5,000,000 of well-to-do and thriving Irishmen are far better than 8,000,000 of Irish paupers. The present Irish population is ten times more wealthy than Irishmen were at the time of the Union, and the commercial prosperity of the country has steadily advanced. Take the savings banks, and you will find that the capital of the Irish people has rapidly increased. Take the joint-stock banks, the commercial returns, the trams, and you will find all along the line—
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
All along the Irish line—that prosperity has steadily increased. Then take the question of the condition of the country. When the Unionist Party, a few years ago, undertook the task of governing Ireland, they were met with difficulties which had never been experienced by any British Government before. Never before in the history of this country had a British Government found itself confronted by those who opposed the law of the land in Ireland, and by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, who had been themselves responsible for maintaining the law, and who deliberately banded themselves with the opponents of the law in Ireland against the Government. It was said, if you pass a Coercion Bill, you will force crime under the surface; but the condition of Ireland at present, so far as crime is concerned, compares favourably with her condition at any previous period. Five years ago there were 5,000 persons boycotted, but now there are none; and, from every point of view, that is one of the greatest triumphs achieved by the Unionist Party. This is the only Session for many years past when we have met without some Irish Member being in gaol.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I think it will be found that Irish Members in 535 future will be very shy of appealing to British sympathy by undergoing intermittent periods of incarceration and retirement. The arrangement was this: Hon. Members opposite, having fairly stated their intentions, went over to Ireland and defied the law, and were put in gaol, and they appealed from their prisons to the sympathies of the British people, some with clothes and some without them. And then their Saxon sympathisers, not willing to allow them to suffer alone, came over and shared their fate. Even distant Cornwall sent us a martyr from Camborne, and he appealed to the British people, but found to his surprise that he could not elicit the sympathy he had expected. Apparently, the opinion of the British people was that when he was in prison picking oakum he was engaged for the first time in his life in a really useful and interesting occupation. The right hon. Member for Newcastle was stirred in his soul by the condition of the hon. Member for North-East Cork when he refused to use those clothes to which I have referred, and the right hon. Gentleman said he was "a spectacle to the civilised world." Right hon. Gentlemen opposite, not having a sense of humour, failed to see the comic side of the question which the British people perceived. I venture to say that the Member for Mayo and the Member for North-East Cork have learned a lesson by their recent incarceration which they will never forget. They went to gaol as they have been in the habit of doing periodically, but the British people absolutely forgot their existence; and, wonderful to relate, after all their manifold sufferings, there is hardly at the present moment a county in the South and West of Ireland which they can visit without police protection. The game is not worth the candle, for martyrdom is no longer a trump card. Eviction was a trump card which was played with great success in those "Remember Mitchelstown" days. But eviction failed to elicit the sympathies of 536 the British people, because they found out that those unfortunate Irish tenants were evicted not because they could not pay their rents, but because they would not pay their rents, and would not pay their rents because they dared not when they were ordered not to do so by the Member for Mayo and his friends. The eviction sham failed, and what about the coercion sham? There-never was a greater sham played out in this country. There is just as much coercion now as there was two years ago, but we have no flights of English Members coming over to Ireland, and returning to England to make violent speeches on English platforms detailing their horrible experiences of the reign of "Bloody Balfour." I am a subscriber to United Ireland, but I see nothing in it now about "Bloody Balfour;" nor have I seen in the paper of the other Party any allusion to "Sanguinary Jackson." It must be a consolation to the Leader of the House to. see that the violent vituperation which was learned by those on the other side at his expense, and which was developed to heights to which no Irishman ever attained before, is now entirely devoted by them to describing the moral enormities and political turpitude of each other. All these shams have been exposed, and cannot again be made use of in this country. What is the next sham? I imagine it will be Home Rule, and I expect that opinion is shared by hon. Gentlemen opposite of both Parties; for I have observed in the speeches of the Parties to which the Member for Belfast and the Member for Waterford respectively belong certain grave doubts expressed as to the reality of the Home Rule of the right hon. Member for Derby and the right hon. Member for Newcastle. What failure is there in Ireland? It is peaceful, and crime has disappeared. The National League, which we were told was too strong for the law, has practically ceased to exist, and lies shattered and dis- 537 honoured in the dust. What about the Plan of Campaign, which was to destroy all our efforts to maintain law and order? What has happened in New Tipperary, which was to have been the metropolis of regenerated Ireland? I saw the other day that the O'Brien Arcade, that magnificent structure of which we heard so much—the culminating point of Nationalist architecture—had ceased to belong to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and had become the property of the hon. Member for South Hunts. I ventured to suggest to my hon. Friend that he should for ever retain the O'Brien Arcade in its integrity, and outside it erect a statue of the Member for North-East Cork in his Tullamore clothes. If that statesman was so handed down to future generations they would know what Ireland would have been and what her statues would have looked like if the Plan of Campaign had succeeded. While there is a laughable side to these questions there is also a tragic side to them; there is the side of the tenants who were duped and betrayed by the hon. Member for Mayo and his friends. It is difficult to excuse the course pursued by those tenants; but yet there is one great excuse, for the men they had learned to trust and to obey had promised that if they refused to pay their rents they would never be the losers. But what has been the result? I have in my hand one result of this arrangement between hon. Members opposite and their unhappy dupes, who are now starving on the roadside. It appears that the total grant from the 1st of August to the 31st of December, 1891, to the "wounded soldiers" and those isolated tenants who were abandoned by the National League, amounted to £11,456 1s. 2d. The hon. Member for Mayo stated that there were 1,495 evicted families, numbering 7,500 souls, at the present moment on the books of the Federation. If we divide £11,456 by 1,495, we arrive at the fact that for five months £1 10s. 8d. per month, or 7s. 8d. per week, has been paid for the support of each family, or, in other words, 2½d. a day per head for those who obeyed the hon. Members opposite.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
For that interruption I am very glad; it is by the hon. Member for Mayo who makes an assertion which he cannot prove. I have quoted from his own accounts, published in his own newspaper, and the result is that these miserable tenants who obeyed him and forsook their homes in which they had lived in happiness and peace all their lives are living on a pittance of 2½d. a day. I would like to know what those men would have said if the hon. Members had gone down to Tipperary and said that they would give them 2½d. a day to leave their homes. The crowning feat of all is, that these poor men, having found that they had been betrayed and made fools of, have gone back, and have refused to give up their shanties at the assurances of the hon. Members. Never has the policy of a Government during six years triumphed more gloriously than this Government along a more difficult line. And yet we are to give up all this and grant Home Rule. Whose Home Rule? In my early days there was only one Ireland. Then it was discovered that there were two Irelands—law-abiding Ireland and criminal Ireland—that was the discovery of the hon. Member for Bridgeton. Then came the Union of Hearts, that political espousal, and as a result there was an increase in the Irish family. There are now three Irelands—loyal Ireland, disloyal Ireland, and the priests' Ireland-to which the hon. Member for West Belfast belongs. And then we have Parnellite Ireland, to which the hon. Member for Waterford belongs.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
Can any right hon. Gentleman opposite, who hopes some day to occupy a responsible position in the country, really conceive that he can possibly frame a Home Rule Bill which would satisfy all the demands of all the various sections now fighting for the mastery in Ireland; it passes the wit of man. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, however, do agree on one point—and it is the only one in the world on which they do agree—that they must have the control of the police. I do not at all wonder at it. I will give an illustration from a speech made the other day at the Waterford Election; it gives a forecast of what Home Rule would be. It is 539 part of a speech made by the hon. Member for North-East Cork. He says:—On Friday night Dr. Fitzgerald announced publicly in Dublin that if we came down here to Waterford we would be mained and wounded for the crime of addressing our fellow-countrymen.
§ MR. J. G. FITZGERALD
I never made such a speech; I never had any intention to main or wound the hon. Gentlemen. They must have taken some body else for me.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I never said it was the hon. Gentleman; I was merely quoting from the Freeman's Journal part of a speech by the hon. Member for North-East Cork. I will leave the hon. Gentleman to settle with his late colleagues as to who Dr. Fitzgerald is. The hon. Member for North-East Cork went on to say:—The Police Authorities had full notice of that intention to murderously assault us here to-day. To-day, instead of seeing fair play they have batoned our men and given every opportunity that men could give to other men to murder and assault us in the streets of Waterford. But the day will come, please God, when the Irish people will have command of their own police.Now, Sir, what did that mean? It meant that the hon. Member for North-East Cork was looking forward to the happy day when he would have command of the Irish Police. I wonder what the Member for Waterford will think of that? I believe that the Irish Constabulary—whose chief occupation of late has been to protect hon. Members when visiting their own constituencies—is a safer force to have to deal with than this Prætorian guard which hon. Members opposite hope to conjure up when they get Home Rule. A Home Rule Parliament, Home Rule Judges, Home Rule juries, and Home Rule police will indeed make Ireland a happy land. Will any man who has thought dispassionately on these matters consent for a single moment to place his life, the lives of his family, and his property at the disposal of such a combination? The section of the Irish people I represent—which includes many Roman Catholics—would never sanction it. We have no religious rancour amongst us in Ireland at present, and I challenge hon. Members opposite to point to one sentence that I or my friends have uttered which tended to religious animosity; but is there anyone 540 who blames us when we declare our intention to resist to the utmost such a state of affairs. At the Waterford election—I now allude to Tannerism—the hon. Member for North-East Cork would have been absolutely skinned by the Tanners if he had not escaped under the protection of the police. I can assert that whatever the exigencies of British parties may demand, whatever politics they may choose to adopt, we, constituting a very large and very powerful section of the Irish people, will never consent for one moment to obey such an authority. And this is the policy that hon. Gentlemen propose to go to the country with. To bring in a Home Rule Bill, which they dare not define, to satisfy the Irish people, which although they hate all Britons, hate each other more. To produce a Home Rule Bill that will satisfy and bring peace to Ireland is a task beyond even the wit of the right hon. Member for Midlothian. I hope that the majority of the House will reject this Amendment, and that the rejection will foreshadow the rejection of this policy at the next election; that as the House refuses to admit that the British Parliament is unable to maintain the law and satisfy the requirements of Ireland, the British people at the next election will re-echo our decision, and decide that the policy of Great Britain in the future shall be that Ireland shall remain under the authority of the British Parliament.
§ (10.55.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I have seldom listened to a speech with more satisfaction than that just delivered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I hope we may have a few more such speeches from Members of the Orange Party, because the effect on these Benches will be most salutary, and the more the hon. and gallant Gentleman rubs in the salt and dwells on the differences which exist in Ireland between the various sections of the Nationalist Party the better for Home Rule. I think, however, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going to play the Tory game, that is hardly the policy to pursue. I think the policy of the First Lord of the Treasury would be not to offer insults to both sections of the Irish Party. In the language of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, we are all "in one red burial 541 blent." I may tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that if he has his sport against us to night—sport which we can always appreciate—our time is shortly coming; the Local Government Bill is about to be introduced. We hear a great deal about the details of the Home Rule Bill; why does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman ask for details of the Local Government Bill? How ardently he longs for that Bill, how fully he believes in it, how the Orange drum will be beaten at all the cross-roads in Ulster to the glory of the First Lord of the Treasury. We have our troubles and trials which it is not for me to seek to minimise, but I will not consent to make the differences which exist between myself and my late colleagues the sport of the British Philistines in the British House of Commons.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is now much amused at the downcast and fallen condition of Ireland, but she will rise like the Phoenix from the ashes, as she has done many a time before—after '98, '48, and '68, and only the epitaph of the First Lord of the Treasury remains to be written on the Irish tomb. Unless the Irish question is settled by statesmen who have some conception of its magnitude you will find some haunting form hovering round which will yet crush you. At any rate, Sir, the worst medicine from the Tory point of view is to pour poison and gall into the wounds, and I can retort that those who have heard the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman have some conception of what we have to stand in Ireland. It is, no doubt, great sport to hon. Gentlemen upon the other side of the House to hear the sentiments uttered on behalf of a class of men in Ireland who, by your decisions in your Judicial Land Courts in Ireland, have been robbing and slandering the Irish people for centuries and generations. Search your Blue Books dealing with Ireland, and you will find in them the record of your robberies. Your accusation against us is that we—the sons of a people having a Government and powerful Empire to contend against, and in an entrenched camp of the enemy—have not wholly succeeded in the task 542 we have taken up. No, Sir; it is true that we have not succeeded—as yet; but we have not yet done, and we feel that, whatever be the dissensions which at present exist amongst the Irish Members, the healing hand of time will come to repair them, and that Members who have borne no part in the dissensions and tribulations of this time will carry forward the Green Flag of the country. hope that the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman to which we have listened tonight will be printed verbatim in every National newspaper in Ireland, and I hope that his words will be read in every home in Ireland, and I believe it will do good; the rancour he has expressed on behalf of the landlord minority as his contribution towards the settlement of the Irish question will, I think, go far to bring about a settlement of the difficulties that now exist in the Irish ranks. I pass from that, and I ask what is the material upon which the hon. and gallant Gentleman depends? He wants to know what kind of Home Rule we are going to have. What, he asks, is the kind of Home Rule that the Liberal Party intend to put forward? He asks. Are we going to have "Popkin's Plan"; is it going to be Canadian Home Rule; or the Home Rule of Parnell; or that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby? The hon. and gallant Gentleman said you cannot satisfy everybody, and therefore he argues that you ought to try and satisfy nobody. I must compliment the hon. and gallant Gentleman upon the speech he has made here to-night. For my part I do not intend to give hon. Members opposite anything to hit at. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman has ever heard of the remarks of a French general—"My children, you have come here to kill others, and not to get killed yourselves." Therefore, when the hon. and gallant Member opposite compliments the hon. Member for Waterford upon his speech, I begin to think that there is something in it that should be avoided. So far as I am concerned I do not intend to play the Tory game. We may be told that there are differences, and that on this question of Home Rule for Ireland, English statesmen differ among themselves, and differ from Irish statesmen, and that Irishmen differ amongst themselves; 543 that some say there is one way of conducting a campaign and some another. I do not pretend to make people comprehend this Home Rule Question; I do not attempt upon this occasion to teach my grandmother to suck eggs. Those who have to deal with it have a difficult question—a great and weighty task before them. But we shall have to be reckoned with in the settlement as we have had to be reckoned with before, and for my part I say that I see no reason to shake my confidence in the Liberal Party. I believe in the honesty of its intentions, and I have read no declarations by any Liberal statesman regarding the Home Rule Bill to change my mind from that day in 1886, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian made his statement upon that measure. So far as my judgment goes I think the English people, instead of showing themselves to be little-minded, have shown the greatest magnanimity in this matter. I have not hesitated to say it in Ireland, and I do not see why I should hesitate to say it here. My judgment is that "too many cooks spoil the broth," and that if we were content to follow the policy adopted from 1885 to 1891 by a united Irish Party, after the next General Election it would be possible to pass a Bill which will satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the Irish people. There is only one other remark. The hon. and gallant Gentleman desired to show the great success of the Unionist policy; that the Irishmen "were down in the dust and ashamed to be seen," and he went on to show how the Unionists had been successful all over the country. After the tremendous chain of successes which has been achieved I should have expected the hon. and gallant Gentleman to have gone on to advise the First Lord of the Treasury to dissolve Parliament at once, and go to the country in a blaze of glory. But that is the last thing the hon. and gallant Gentleman wants; the last thing they want is to be brought face to face with their constituents, and the strang thing is that, while the Irish Members are told that they cannot go to their constituents without police protection, we are most anxious to go, and yet cannot go. The Debate has taken a wide range; but I say it has taken a very 544 fortunate range for Her Majesty's Government. A Motion was brought forward to-night for the purpose of exposing the failure of the great plan of Irish pacification passed by the Unionist Ministry; and yet instead of considering that question straightway we started to count our chickens before they were hatched, and to discuss a Home Rule Bill which has not yet been produced in a Parliament that has not yet been elected. I think that has been a very fortunate thing for Her Majesty's Government. After the speech of the hon. Member for Mid Armagh—whose appearance in the House both sides I am sure must welcome—no person, no Tory, could deny that this great panacea for Ireland has been a miserable failure. The hon. Member called it a failure; he admitted it to be a dead failure, and proceeded to give reasons why he thought so.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON
I did not say it was a failure. I admitted that it had faults, but not that it was a failure.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
That was my impression; that he had twice used the phrase, but I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will now withdraw the expression if he has used it. The hon. and learned Gentleman admits that there has been failure in connection with the Bill. The hon. Member for West Belfast has been greatly blamed for bringing forward a single measure as an illustration of the necessity for Home Rule and as an illustration of the fact that the British Parliament is unable to legislate for Ireland. It is true it is a single measure, but it was brought forward as a great bulwark and buttress of the Unionist Party, and it was put forward as such, not only by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, but by Lord Salisbury and other statesmen of the Unionist Party. The Irish Members are, I contend, entitled to rely upon the failure of a measure of this kind as further proof of the inability of the English Parliament to deal with Irish questions. We know what human nature is, and 545 we know that selfishness is a very large ingredient in it; and I say if this Bill was a success, and if it had offered advantages to the Irish tenants, they would surely have taken advantage of it; it is a failure, and it matters nothing what I said three or four years ago, when we are dealing with a Bill passed last year. What happened in 1881? Never was there a more powerful organisation than the Land League of those days. They advised the people to test the Act then passed before availing themselves of it; and yet, no sooner was the Act passed than 40,000 originating notices were served in three weeks because the Irish people believed that it would be for their advantage. In 1887 we had the same experience. In regard to the Act of 1891 not a single fraction of money has been advanced, nor has a single transaction taken place under it. Why is that? That certainly is not due to any speeches of the Irish Members. I maintain that the Act is a failure because the First Lord of the Treasury refused to take Irish advice; but not only did he refuse to take Irish advice, but he refused to take any advice from any quarter of the House. He was advised by Irish officials of great experience and judgment that his scheme would not work; but, of course, the right hon. Gentleman disregarded their advice. What he said was, "I am Irish Secretary. I believe I know Ireland better than any Irishman." Then he goes and puts in this Insurance Clause, which it is due to the memory of Mr. Parnell to say was—I believe: I only speak from recollection—was opposed by him quite as much as by us; so that therefore we were ad idem on that point. The right hon. Gentleman was distinctly warned that the Irish tenants would not be tempted by 20 per cent. reduction; we told him that at the time, and that has turned out to be the fact. The Irish Secretary to-night, who had the task thrown upon him, as the apostolic successor of the First Lord of the Treasury, to defend a Bill which, of course, he had nothing to do with framing into law, was obliged to admit the extraordinary fact, that in the first six months of the present Act no money had been passed and only £80,000 applied for, and that in the first six months of the Ashbourne Act over half a million of money had been applied for on behalf of some 546 thousands of tenants. And what was his excuse? "Oh," he said, "they are all going in for the Ashbourne money." That is exactly our case. The landlords—and I do not blame them—do not like your paper. They want your sovereigns. What is the good of the Irish Secretary telling them that his paper is as good as Consols if the landlords do not think so? Of course, it is exactly the same with the £1 notes of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am sure, believes that there is nothing like a £1 note. He says the financiers of the City will not take £1 notes. He says they prefer the solid metal. The Irish landlord has a great streak of the City man in him on that point. These landlords may be very dull men on a great many points, but when you come to where their heart is—the region of their pockets—no amount of rustle of paper will fetch them. They want the ring of the money; as we say in Ireland the arragaseesh—the money down. You may praise your Land Stock as much as you please, you may flourish it before the eyes of the Irish landlords, you may rustle it into a Wagner harmony; but if the Irish landlords will not take it up, what is the good of it? That is the state of the case; your Land Stock is a drug in the market in this sense, that it is not applied for, and the people will not take it; and to tell us at once that this Stock is of great value, but that they will not have it, is to take part in more or less of a farce. Who is it that has given the most deadly blow to the Land Stock of the right hon. Gentleman? It is one of the right hon. Gentleman's own Ex-Attorney-Generals—Mr. Justice Gibson—who, the other day, in having to deal with this question, gave a deadly stab to the great Act of 1891. What was his view? A landlord had been offered £18,000 in chinking sovereigns for a property in County Down by an outside land jobber—a speculator! The tenants came in and said: "We will give a great deal more; we will give you as much as the Land Commission will allow us to pay." The one was, I think, about 15, and the other about 20, years' purchase, the tenants giving five years more than this land jobber. What did Mr. Justice Gibson say? "Yes," said Mr. Justice 547 Gibson, "you will give it in stock that is below par." Well, I think that was a very shrewd thrust at the measure of the right hon. Gentleman, and that is exactly what is hindering transactions. The landlords do not know the value of your stock; and I say that the Amendment of my hon. Friend is an Amendment, so far as that portion of it is concerned, which I should have thought would have been boomed by the Orange quarter opposite. The other difficulty is the difficulty about the insurance. I have no doubt that the Irish Secretary quoted me correctly; but what I had in my mind was this: that so far as the rents are concerned, you compel the Irish tenants, willy-nilly, to guarantee one another. If I spoke of insurance at all when I should have spoken of the rents it is only an error of phrase; but the idea remains, namely, the idea that one man who is an honest, thrifty tenant has to pay the piper for some other man in another portion of the county because he happens to be behind in his instalments. Well, then the other defect in the Act is the £50 limit. Now, we are at odds with some of our colleagues from Ireland as regards this matter. I do not wish to labour that point needlessly, but at any rate one effect it will have undoubtedly is that the landlords—to use a phrase used last Session—are unwilling to "chess-board" their estates. They do not want to sell them piecemeal. They want to sell them altogether or not at all. These are the reasons why your Act has been a failure. It is no pleasure to us to chronicle it as a failure. We only chronicle it as an instance of the chronic inability of this House to legislate for Ireland. If my hon. Friend, instead of taking the Land Purchase Act to hang his Amendment upon, had taken a small measure, an attenuated measure, I would be perfectly satisfied to rest the case upon it. I will take a small measure, and I am prepared upon it to rest the validity of this Amendment. Last year we passed through this House with enormous difficulty a little measure called the Drainage and Improvement of Land Act—a measure so microscopic that it escaped the observation of the hon. Member for Camberwell, who is blocker-in-ordinary to Her Majesty's Government. The effect of it was to enable judicial tenants 548 to borrow money from the Board of Works for the drainage of their holdings. What happened? It reached the Upper House, and there every Peer of Parliament interested in Irish land came down with one accord and strangled this little Bill. I challenge any man to say that this Bill had anything contentious in it. It was taken out of the Bann Drainage Bill which the Government found themselves unable to pass; and Lord Cadogan was obliged to get up at the Table of the House of Peers and to announce that this Drainage Bill was one that he could not invite the attention of their Lordships' House to during the present Session. Well, you think yourselves able to legislate for Ireland, and you cannot pass a little Bill of this kind. Now, I say, that any Bill introduced by an Irish Member, even if you pass it with enormous time, labour, and trouble in this House, the moment it goes beyond that hall, it has the axe of the executioner levelled against it. What has happened in this House for the last 12 years? We have been keeping up the fight so far as that goes, but so far as legislative enactment goes, I can scarcely remember anything except such grafts as we have been able to make on Government Bills; but, so far as actual legislation is concerned, the whole of the Irish Party have been engaged for the last 12 years in the work of Sisyphus, bringing in Bills, laboriously rolling them up to Third Reading, and when they crossed the Lobby, finding them slain in the home of Toryism on the other side; and, therefore, so far as we are concerned, this Amendment, in instancing the Land Purchase Bill as one of the Bills proving the failure of your legislation, is only taken as a further example, because it was your most boasted measure, and my hon. Friend might just as well have rested his Amendment upon any other Bill introduced during the last twelve years. Your Land Policy, we have been told, was the great arrow in your quiver. It has failed. Your next great measure is now going to be produced. I do not know what is going to happen to that; but I am quite sure that as every Bill you have produced has been a failure, that a Bill which now has the secret antipathy of every Member of the Conservative 549 Party for Ireland, and which you were not able to get your Conservative Association at Birmingham the other day to pass a vote in favour of, I am quite sure that that Bill may be pronounced a failure in advance. I think when we have the works and failures of the Tory Party at the present moment to attack, we have our hands full enough without having to consider the shortcomings of a Bill of a Party not yet in office. On these grounds, Mr. Speaker, I believe it is our duty to challenge the existing Administration, and deal with the next Administration according to its works. That is the policy which our Party intends to push forward. It is the policy that engaged our united support for many years, and I believe that when our work is done, or when our time comes for judgment—that, after all, must be the judgment of the country—I believe it will be found that that policy will yet produce great and salutary good for our country.
§ (11.35) MR. C. W. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Newington, W.)
We Unionists are always asking right hon. Gentlemen opposite to produce their Home Rule Bill. We say in effect, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has said, if you expect to come into Office, say within twelve months, with a vast majority at your back, then you will have to bring in a Home Rule Bill. You will then have to bring in a measure that will be a credit to you as a Government, and which you can recommend to the nation. If you can produce that Bill, then you can produce it now. If you produce it now it will be a credit to you, and it will be an advantage to you at the General Election. On the other hand, if you do not produce the Home Rule Bill now you will lay yourself open to a sort of suspicion that you have no such Bill at all. I venture respectfully and humbly to take a more charitable view of the disposition and conduct of the Opposition whenever there is a difference from the view of the Unionist Party. The Unionist Party assume that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Gladstone) has an honest and a genuine intention of producing some Bill at some time, but for my own part I do not share that belief. I am under the impression that they have lost 550 faith in Home Rule as completely as others have. It was once said of Italy that it was merely a geographical expression, and I think it may be said far more truthfully that Home Rule is now but a political expression, about which they talk in Party politics, and in which they affect an interest so long as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian remains a force in public life. But beyond this I think we shall hear very little more of Home Rule from the Opposition Benches. That is my view, and I must, of course, say something in support of the bare statement. That view is, to some extent, supported by the proceedings to-night. We are told by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite that the statesmen who lead in the policy of Home Rule are sure of a vast majority at the General Election, that the people are in favour of Home Rule, that, in fact, the matter is settled. Then in the face of this immediate prospect we have hon. Members coming to the House and putting down Amendments to the Address as though the subject requires ventilation, and information is needed. Now, I think Home Rulers, in taking this action, place themselves very much in the position occupied by "Fair Traders." Three years ago Conservatives, at large gatherings of their Associations, passed resolutions in favour of Fair Trade, and everybody supposed that the whole Party was going to embrace that policy as part of the Conservative creed. But what it has come to is this: an Amendment moved to the Address, on which its authors do not think it desirable to take a Division. What the hon. Member for West Belfast will do remains to be seen to-morrow. There was one part of the hon. Member's speech to which I should like to reply, and that was the threat to the effect that if we did not get rid of Home Rule now we should not be able to get on with our own business. Now, a similar threat was made a long time ago by a Party resembling in many respects the Nationalist Party of to-day—a Party advocating a policy of Repeal. Of the conduct of this Party Sir Robert Peel wrote to the effect that the members of this Party were insensible to the effect of British opinion, and wished to disgust English Members and induce the 551 belief that legislation would be impossible while Repeal was withheld. Now, that was some sixty years ago, but notwithstanding the obstruction offered to public business anyone may see that from that time to this we have passed legislative measures to the great advantage of the Empire. As threats of obstruction then were overborne by the weight of public opinion and the common sense of most, so we may hope that the obstruction threatened in the future may be equally inoperative. Something has been said, and a good deal might be said, with regard to the present social position of Ireland since the present Government have been in office. I think I may put it in a word, and say that the effect of the rule of my right hon. Friend has shown that the resources of statesmanship are not exhausted, and that a great deal more might have been effected for the good of the Irish people had there not been now in this country, as there were in the days of Burke, persons who would be thoroughly disappointed if the people were ever satisfied. Who they are I need hardly point out. Now, the mention of the hon. Member for West Belfast induced me for a moment to diverge from the line of my remarks. I was saying that I took a more charitable view of the conduct of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in not producing a Home Rule Bill than did the majority of the Unionist Party. I said that they had lost faith in Home Rule, but I must prove that statement—not leave it resting on a mere allegation of my own. First, I will cite an authority from below the Gangway opposite, the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), who is, I understand, a gentleman deep in the councils of the Nationalist Party, and is or was president or chairman of some association of the Home Rule League. He has thought fit, as a tribute to the memory of his late leader, to publish a biography before the blood was cold in his body. In the course of this, the hon. Gentleman remarked that when he left America in March the cause was lost, and was for the moment dead. It is rather a Hibernian expression, and if a corpse is to be revived, it is only by means of a miracle, and this is not precisely the age for miracles. Now, what does this mean, 552 that the sacred cause of Home Rule is dead? It means that the Americans and the American-Irish, those whose sympathy has done most to promote the Home Rule agitation, have failed to keep it alive. The subscriptions of these men in America were to the subscriptions in Ireland, to use a well-remembered phrase of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, "as gold is to silver or copper." Then, these men had lost faith in Home Rule, and would finance it no longer. Why? Was it on account of private misconduct on the part of the late Mr. Parnell? One can hardly suppose they would not condone such conduct. Was it because of the ingratitude of the late leader? I think not, for ingratitude in public life is not much regarded. What could it have been then? Well, I think it was in consequence of the extreme folly of deposing a leader on whose single personality, to quote the words of the hon. Member (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), the success of Home Rule almost exclusively depended. When the King of Terrors claimed the Uncrowned King, if he had not been alienated from his party his name would still have been a tower of strength to the movement. As the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Healy), in his declaration of allegiance at Leinster Hall, said, the deposition of the chief would lead to a scramble among Irish patriots who should take his place. Well, the dissensions in the Home Rule camp showed that Home Rule was dead.
§ (11.57.) MR. MCLAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)
rose in his place and claimed to move "That the Question be now put."
(12.0.) Question put, "That the Question be now put," and agreed to.
Question put accordingly, "That those words be there added."
The House divided:—Ayes 158; Noes 179.—(Div. List, No. 2.)
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Resolved that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—Most Gracious Sovereign,We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United King- 553 dom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.We take this first opportunity of offering to Your Majesty our sincere condolence in the afflicting dispensation of Providence with which your Majesty and this nation have been visited, in the death of His Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale.We assure Your Majesty of our heartfelt participation in the universal feeling of sympathy with Your Majesty and Your Majesty's family under this grievous affliction and in the deep sense entertained by all classes of Your Majesty's subjects of the calamity which the Country has sustained by the loss of a Prince who had won for himself the general affection and regard of Your Majesty's subjects."—(Mr. HermonHodge.)
To be presented by Privy Councillors.