§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE, Edinburgh, Midlothian)
I rise, Sir, to move that the Bill for the Better Government of Ireland be now read a second time. I recall to my mind that the stage of the Bill at which we have now arrived may, in some important senses, be called the principal stage of 1598 the Bill. It is eminently a stage at which, although all the provisions of the Bill are before the House, and there is no present intention on the part of the Government, except in one or two particulars, to change them, it is the time when it is our duty, at all events it is my duty, in moving the Second Reading, to call attention especially, not to the more minute arguments in favour of or against this or that proposition, but to the broader considerations which may fairly be called the principles of the Bill and to the great propositions of policy which bear upon it as a whole. Now, in that view of the matter there is one question which I earnestly desire to bring home to the minds of hon. Members, and it is the question where and when and how this great controversy is to end. I do not address that question—though, undoubtedly, it is one more for opponents than friends—to hon. Gentlemen opposite in any spirit of assumed superiority. I claim for the promoters of this Bill no other motives of honour and duty than those which I as freely and as largely accord in this place and in every other place to the hon. Gentlemen who oppose it. I desire to approach them on terms of perfect equality, which I trust they will allow to us as freely as we allow them to them; but I press the question earnestly upon their hearts and understandings. It seems to me to be a matter of enormous gravity that, after we have been spending seven years on the consideration of this question, it should be so closely interlocked, if I may use the word, in our Parliamentary conflicts—more closely than they have ever been interlocked before—to such an extent, indeed, that for those seven years not a single bye-election could occur in. any part of the country without producing on some small scale what may be called a fever in the public mind until it was determined. Now, as that question is put to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, it is one which admits of an easy answer. We plead the sense of Parliament which has already been declared in this House. We plead, if we look to the various portions of the country, that several portions of the United Kingdom have already declared their sense in the most decided form, and that England, the principal and most powerful member of that combination, which in 1886 1599 delivered a judgment adverse to our proposition by an enormous majority, has yet sensibly and largely moved in the direction of qualifying that decision. All this appears to us to bear largely on those considerations which ought to find their way into the minds of all the Members of this House, whatever may have been their Party associations. But, Sir, when we ask our opponents where all this is to end, we rarely obtain an answer. I believe there are many who are perfectly sincere and perfectly confident in the validity of their objections to this Bill, who nevertheless feel very great difficulty in rendering an answer to our question. Certainly, it is not often that in the House of Commons any opponent of the Bill is so daring as to point out the process by which he thinks the great Irish Question still undetermined is to be decided in any other sense except in the sense of the Bill. There is one exception in the person of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney). He is a man who never, or seldom, fails in Parliamentary courage, and he has laid before us with great courage the idea he has formed in his mind of the manner in which Ireland is to be brought unanimously to a support of the Legislative Union as it stands, and to an opposition of Home Rule. He has laid before us what he thinks a rational and a probable process for the attainment of that end. He says, "All we want is a sufficient stock of patience." ["Hear, hear!"] I am very glad that there are hon. Gentlemen who are prepared to follow the course of my observations. My right hon. Friend says—All we want is a sufficient stock of patience. The Protestants 90 years ago were opposed to the Union. The majority of the Protestants to-day are friendly to the Union. Why should not Roman Catholics come to the same conclusion? All that is required is a sufficient stock of patience.Now, observe, this is not what my right hon. Friend laid before us simply as his object or his desire. If that were all I should not question his argument for a moment. But it is put as a forecast of what he thinks a probable result of the present situation. Now, is it in any sense a probable result from the present situation? What has actually happened, and what are we entitled to ask of him? We are entitled, I think, to ask of him 1600 that, after more than 90 years have elapsed since the enactment of the Union, he ought to be able to point out to us some progress—some movement of the great mass of the Irish nation—in the direction in which he thinks it necessary for them to move. Even if that were so, it might be but a sorry prospect to be told that, according to his statement, it has taken nearly a century to bring round the Protestants, so to operate on the larger mass of the Roman Catholic people of Ireland may require, say, two centuries more, and during these two centuries more this conflict is to go on into which we have entered in great earnest, with our whole mind and soul sot upon it, thus leading to the utter destruction of the mind of Parliament, not, indeed, to the annihilation, but to the great enfeebling and impeding of its proper working, and that with the terrible disadvantage of maintaining much of the old sentiment of animosity amongst certain classes and in certain portions of the country. But the case is not even as good as that, because it is quite easy for us to show that there has been a movement on this subject, but that the movement has been in the other direction. Never was there a time when the Irish nation was so near to an acceptance of the Union as in the first 29 years of the Union. Not because they loved it, not because they wished to tolerate it, but because they were trodden under foot—because, with the exception of Mr. Grattan and a few individual survivors of the old Irish Parliament, they had no representation in this House, and because, having no representation in this House, they were not permitted to exercise the privilege of petitioning this House. For when they met at a regularly constituted county meeting—I am not speaking now of the rebellion— rebellion was tried by Emmett and was naturally put down—but when, in a regularly constituted and pacific county meeting, an important portion of the inhabitants of Ireland met to petition for the Repeal of the Union, the military were marched in and the meeting was put down, so that the maintenance of the Union between 1800 and 1829 was really a maintenance not by moral agency, but through the agency of force. For what then happened? The year 1829 arrived, and the great triumph of a great man, 1601 Mr. O'Connell, over another great man, the Duke of Wellington, whose greatness, however, quailed before the greatness of Mr. O'Connell, and who yielded Roman Catholic Emancipation from fear—from apprehension, as he did not scruple to disclose; and I find no fault with him under the circumstances, for what he felt he did not scruple to disclose; and Sir Robert Peel also intimated the apprehension that if the question were not conceded civil war would be the result. Then came the Reform Act, and with the Reform Act came to Ireland the beginning of political life; and with the beginning of political life, after a political death that had prevailed since the commencement of the century, began the movement hostile to the Union. The movement first took the form of a demand for Repeal. It has varied in its forms. O'Connell himself was willing to accept any other practical alternative; but my point is that, from the first beginning of political life, there was a steady and a, growing movement on the part of the mass of the people of Ireland pressing for and demanding either Repeal or at least a modification, which we propose in principle, of the Act of Union. If that be true, what becomes of the pseudo-historical representations and speculations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin? It is true, indeed, that the methods of Parliamentary action have not been uniformly persevered in. As long as there was hope, Mr. O'Connell's method was maintained; but after the trial and imprisonment despair took possession of the mind of the Irish people so far as Parliamentary methods were concerned, and then came the disappearance of O'Connell and Parliamentary action from the scene. Then came partial revivals of national sentiment in other forms, involving the use of physical force. These have passed by, and the Irish people have attained to full Parliamentary emancipation. They have obtained an immense boon in the extended franchise, and with it the protection of that franchise by secret voting. What has been the result? By the largest majority, perhaps, ever returned within these Islands for any purpose whatever—in the last and in the present Parliament the only elections since this great franchise has been given—the Irish people have pressed upon you in a re- 1602 spectful and Constitutional manner that you should make them this great final concession. There are a few points I. should like to bring into the notice of the House, and one I must indicate at least for a moment. Recollect the Devon Commission. This Commission, appointed by the sagacity and the equity of Sir Robert Peel, did examine into the actual state of the people of Ireland. It was a Commission wholly severed from political feeling, and it reported that, after the blessings of an incorporated Union had been fully enjoyed, as all the nations were taught to believe, for 43 years. 2,500,000 of the Irish people—I think that was the number named—passed a, considerable portion of the year in a condition bordering on starvation. That dreadful revelation was made not to us only, but to the world, and it sealed and stamped in the opinion of the world, in the deliberate judgment of the world, that sentence which the world long ago passed against the treatment by England of. Ireland. But although that revelation was so terrible, and although we are told that the blessings of an incorporated Union are so certain and so great, that extraordinary revelation produced no effect whatever upon our legislation for 50 years. For nearly 30 years Bill after Bill was allowed to be introduced, but no serious, no appreciable, effort was made to grapple, even in its first beginnings, in a serious manner with the Land Question of Ireland, and all the remedy that was applied for the mitigation of that state of things was the severe and cruel remedy of starvation, followed by the banishment of millions of the people of that country to the ends of the earth. Under these circumstances, I say can you really consider as serious the declarations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin—serious they are, but not as having any weight or substance whatever—in which he recommended patience to us as our sole hope in the treatment of Ireland, when the evidence before us is abundant and conclusive for the purpose of proving that the people of Ireland have moved towards a larger and larger measure of political life, and that the whole of their movement has been in the direction of a more resolute determination not to rest or slumber until the change for which they pray has been granted by the Legislature? There is, I admit, one 1603 form of argument upon this question that is perfectly consistent and perfectly sufficient, if only the allegations on which it is based could be substantiated. I will read it out in very few words. I do not mean to say that these exact words have been used by any one, but they are words which form the basis of the real determining argument against the concession of Home Rule. They are to this effect:—The Irish, except in Ulster, have nothing human about them except "the form. [Mr. HANBURY: Who said that?] All principle they trample under foot. All power that they get into their hands they will abuse. They have no sympathy with us, and they have not any operative or commanding sense of justice. Consequently, it is quite right that England and Scotland should have an administrative system with which they can sympathise, and that they should also enjoy large local self-government; but the case of Ireland is totally different, and what is requisite is that they should not have an administrative system with which they can sympathise, that they should be governed from Dublin Castle, and that local self-government should practically be unknown to them. Now, Sir, these propositions, I affirm, in the strictest sense constitute the entire foundation of the argument against the concession of Home Rule. They constitute a general statement that the Irish are a people in whom no political trust can safely be reposed, and that if they obtain power they will only use it to extort more power. They are the foundations of a very able article by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, in the last number of the Nineteenth Century, and if you deny those propositions you annihilate the argument. We have a very different view of this matter. We think that a strong union means a union between the hearts of the people who are affected by it, who are joined by the legislative bond. We say that that is not a dream. There was a time when such a union prevailed. There was a perfect union of hearts between the Irish Protestants and the Irish Roman Catholics, and there was a perfect harmony of sentiment between England and Ireland from 1782 to the year 1795. This is no dream. It has happened before. Why 1604 should it not happen again? Gifted with the power of self-government, why should they not exhibit, on the one hand, that strong fraternal concord among themselves, and, on the other hand, that harmonious sentiment towards England which characterised the period I have named? Why should it not come? Who will prevent it? Will the minority prevent it? [An hon. MEMBER: Yes!] I do not believe it, and I am quite sure the majority will not prevent it. Why should the majority prevent it? It is the interest of the Irish people, above all things, to stand well with England. Is that to be denied? What is the condition of the case? Ireland is a small country by the side of a large one. It is a weak country by the side of a strong one. It is a poor country by the side of a rich one. Is it not the most astounding of all propositions to imagine that the 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 of people who constitute the large majority of that country now demanding Home Rule will be indifferent to the favourable judgment and the sympathy of Great Britain? Nothing can be plainer than that it is their interest and their duty to cherish it. And there I come back to my old position. It is not only their duty but their interest to cherish it, and that duty and that interest are plain as if written in the sunbeam. Unless the Irish are a people hopelessly misconstructed and have, as I have said, little of humanity but the form, they will and they must recognise that interest and that duty. Therefore it is that we are acting upon the principles of prudence and looking for almost certainly probable results when we say we seek to establish a union of heart and sentiment between the people of Great Britain and of Ireland which has once prevailed, and which we are convinced, if we only use the measures that are indicated by common sense, will prevail again. But we are sometimes met, and have been met in the Debate upon this Bill, by a counter allegation—namely, that we have not supplied any arguments for this change. We have supplied certain arguments for the change, whether you think them sufficient or not. I admit there are arguments which we have not supplied. Of the arguments which we have endeavoured to urge, I will mention first that which is by no means the strongest—namely, that the present 1605 method of governing Ireland is incredibly, almost immeasurably, wasteful. Under it the civil government of Ireland costs twice as much per head as that of the greater country. Then we urge the argument of Constitutional convenience. We say that the Irish Question is the curse of this House. It is the great and standing impediment to the effective performance of its duties. Why is it that not a night passes in this House without questions being put to us most rationally to urge upon us the prosecution of this question and that question? It is because the Irish Question stands in the front of all other questions, and, whatever Government was in power, has stood in the way to such an extent as to reduce Parliament to a condition not indeed of total inefficiency, but in the first place of intolerable labour, and in the second place of comparative inefficiency. You have not got in Ireland a state of contentment; we want to produce that state of contentment—if you like, call it only the contentment of a very large majority—and we contend that in contentment lies the secret of national and of Imperial strength. And, lastly, we have urged that the good fame of this country is worth considering. [Opposition cheers.] Yes, Sir; but I do not attach to the words good fame the signification which I know some gentlemen attach to them. With them good fame means simply self-conceit. "You are a very fine fellow. It is true the world is against you, but the world knows nothing about it." As long as you are in that condition you are quite satisfied. Now, I appeal to a fair test, I ask whether in the whole literature of the world, among the hundreds of authors who have touched upon the relations between England and Ireland, there is so much as one who has ever denied the impolicy, the injustice, and the scandal of the management of the Irish Question by the predominating power of this country? Is there so much as one? Perhaps I ought to correct myself. About six or eight years ago there was an effort made and an author was produced to show that the whole world, except himself, was mistaken — and especially that his own countrymen were mistaken — and that England had the right in this controversy. With respect to that individual and his 1606 work, it is best that silence should cast a decent covering over him. I admit—I think it was the late Solicitor General who made the complaint—there is one line of argument which we have not used, and that is the argument of force and fear. He complained that I did not produce proofs of the intolerable state of Ireland, of the growth of crime and the general insecurity of society in that country. No, Sir, that argument from fear and force we do not desire to fall back upon, but it is an argument not new to Parliament. It was the argument which carried emancipation in 1829, which carried the establishment of the independent Irish Parliament in 1782; and I am afraid I must admit it was an argument not absent from our minds after the creation and agitation of the Land League when we passed the Land Act of 1881. I hope we shall never again have occasion to fall back upon that miserable argument. It is better to do justice through terror than not to do it at all; but we are in a condition neither of terror nor apprehension in any form, and it is in that calm and tranquil state, when an appeal can be made to the mind, we ask the House to accept this Bill. I make that appeal on the grounds of honour and of duty. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham treats the Irish Question entirely upon the principle that in all the contingencies of the future he knows what the Irish majority will do—that they will always do wrong and never right. The right hon. Member, besides the gift of prophecy, has the gift of insight; he can read the heart, and although you may have false pretences on your tongue he can confute them. Therefore, when with voice the people of Ireland assure us of their disposition to peace, that also, with equal facility and conclusiveness, he confutes, for he reads their interior and knows their tongue conveys the words of falsehood. Well, Sir, we have not those magnificent and superhuman gifts of prediction and insight, but there is one thing we can do—we can seek for ourselves to obtain light from experience in other quarters of the world. I want to ask the kind attention of the House while I endeavour to examine that important branch of the question, because, I admit, our, proposition in its form is, so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, a 1607 new proposition and totally different from the Repeal of the Union. That is a simple proposal which will get rid of much difficulty. It seems to me to be the part of rational men to ask themselves what guidance they can derive from the experience either of ourselves in other quarters of the world or of others who have been placed in circumstances substantially corresponding with our own. This is a part of the question which it appears to me we ought to endeavour to probe to the bottom. There have been, of course, in the history of the world multitudes of cases where small communities possessing territories comparatively small have coalesced into a single State, sometimes by an incorporated Union, sometimes by that kind of union which, for convenience' sake, I may call autonomous union—a union which recognises a supreme authority governing the whole, but which gives one or more of the parts local self-government in matters which are domestically its own. I want the House to be kind enough to look at the spectacle the world offers with regard to these unions. I propose for consideration, and for confutation if they can be confuted—if not, for mature and deep consideration—these four propositions. First, there is in the civilised world—I do not go beyond the limits of Europe and America—no incorporating Union effected and maintained by force against either party that has ever prospered. That is a challenge of some boldness—is it too bold?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I said no incorporating union. An incorporating Union means that which suppresses the Legislatures of the independent parts. The first case is that of Holland and Belgium. After a precarious existence of 15 years divorce is effected, and these two separate Kingdoms are now two happy, flourishing, and, above all, friendly Kingdoms. The next case of an incorporating Union is that of Austria and Hungary. That Union was maintained for a number of years, and within the memory of most of those who sit here it was given up, and why? Because the choice was between giving it up and the total ruin of the Empire. The third case of an incorporating Union is that of Russia and Poland. Take your 1608 stand, if you think fit, upon that Union, and make it the model of your proceedings. I admit that, it exists; I cannot admit that it flourishes; I cannot admit that it ought to be held up except as a warning. There is much to be said in that case in the way of apology which we cannot possibly urge in the case of Ireland; but I utterly decline to allow it, and I think the claim will hardly be made, as a case of an incorporating Union which should encourage us to persevere in the course we have so long maintained in the case of Ireland. That is my first proposition; and I challenge confutation upon it. I now come to my second proposition, which is that the incorporating Unions which have flourished have been those favoured by incidents of history, geography, language, race, and where, if force has entered at all into the original combination, it has soon ceased and given way to harmony. France is a case of an incorporating Union of a much more gradual description. Italy is a case of incorporating Union, based, however, upon history, for all the grandeur of Italy belonged to the period when it was one, and all the disgrace and misery of Italy belonged to the period when it was broken up by force and intrigue. Spain is a case of incorporating Union, with respect, however, to which it is interesting to observe that the Province of Catalonia, which, unless I am mistaken, was the headquarters of the gallant resistance to Napoleon, was the Province in which there most prevailed the maintenance of local usages and the institutions of self-Government. We admit, of course, that there are important and strong cases of incorporation, but they are told by their results, and the test applicable to them all is this: whether they require permanent maintenance by force. If force disappears, and harmony takes its place,, the Union is good. If it is maintained by force, either actual or in reserve, as a permanent principle, then the Union requires examination and amendment. My third proposition is that no concession of Home Rule, unless made under compulsion, has failed to promote the attachment of the receiving to the giving power. Take a case which may, perhaps, provoke a smile, but which, I think, will sustain the justice of my reference; it is that of Turkey, which is, perhaps, the most hopeless of all, and, 1609 therefore, the most adverse to myself. Turkey had incorporate Union with all the States in the Balkan Peninsula and with modern Greece. No sentiment of gratitude or sense of unity resulted, and these incorporating Unions were destroyed under the influence of force. But even Turkey has Provinces in which local liberties have been allowed to prevail, and in these Provinces attachment to the central power subsists. They are not very conspicuous examples, I admit, but they are still historic instances—I refer to the Island of Samos and the Island of Rhodes, at any rate, a part of it. A more important example is that of the district of the Lebanon, which it was found impossible to govern. Owing to the wise efforts of Lord Dufferin and others, about 30 years ago, local management was established, since which the Province has been contented and attached to the Turkish Empire. My fourth proposition is that Unions accompanied with legislative autonomy have been attended in all cases with success, either complete or considerable. Can that proposition be made good? Let us see. I take cases of considerable interest. I think that it will be admitted that Austria-Hungary offers to us a case of considerable success. The relations may not be altogether easy in all cases, but they have saved Austria from a terrible danger, and they have established her upon the whole in a condition of honour, tranquillity, and strength. Long may that continue! I take the case of Norway and Sweden. At this moment that combination of countries is perhaps under a severer strain than has ever happened since the Union was instituted. But even supposing that that Union were now to be dissolved, what has it done? Norway and Sweden had Armies in the field the purpose of mutual slaughter, when they were united by the action of Europe under a document which established the power of self-government for Norway far larger than Ireland asks you for; and, instead of the terrible consummation of the arbitrament of force which was then immediately impending—instead of that they have had 80 years of peace, and even of attachment. I admit, of course, there is a political crisis—that there is a sharp dispute going on between the two countries now [A laugh]—you are 1610 quite right to catch at the smallest semblance and reckon the smallest circumstance which will render you the smallest service—but here I am bound to say I do not despair of Norway and Sweden. I have paid some attention to the case of those countries; I feel a great interest in them, and I regard the Scandinavian blood as certainly amongst the very best blood that courses in our veins. We have, therefore, a friendly and brotherly feeling towards them, and I am perfectly persuaded that if common sense and moderation prevail, on one side or on the other—if they remain within or are led into the bounds of prudence—that Union will be maintained, and will become firmer and firmer for the blessing of many generations. So much for Norway and Sweden. What am I to say in another case—the case of Russia and Finland. Finland was a conquered country, and only attached to Russia by force in the beginning of the present century, when it was torn from Sweden. Finland has been kept in a state of substantial contentment by the recognition of its legislative autonomy. Some few years ago there were evils rumours that that autonomy was about to be put an end to, but whether there was any substance in them or not I am not absolutely certain, but they have happily disappeared, and even Russia, with all its greatness, in reference to that comparatively insignificant country lying by its own side, which could easily be made the subject of repression by force—Russia, with all her autocratic ideas, is not ashamed to attach Finland to itself by the ties of legislative autonomy. I will not dwell upon the too small case of Denmark and Iceland, because my claim is that in every case where there has been this concession of local autonomy that concession has been attended with considerable success. But I said that in some cases it was attended with complete success. Let us look at the case of Germany. It is impossible to conceive of a stronger and a more demonstrative case than that. How has the German Empire been constituted, having regard to all its very important constituent States? It has been constituted upon the principle of recognising in the fullest manner local autonomous institutions—of admitting no interference except by consent in any matter of internal govern- 1611 ment, and of strictly limiting the Union with that great and prosperous Empire to those affairs and those concerns which were strictly and obviously Imperial. The right hon. Gentleman has so little considered the question that he quotes the United States as a case in which by force the incorporated Union was maintained. He knows perfectly well—and I can only ascribe his interruption to the hurry and the haste of the moment—he knows perfectly well that as to every question of properly internal government the State Governments, which were themselves the original sovereignties existing after the wrenching of the American Colonies from this country—that the State Governments still subsist in unimpaired integrity for every domestic interest; and the man who would dare in America to propose to interfere with them would be regarded as mad. But what is our own case with our own Colonies? I hope the House will not grudge me referring to that case also. It may be said, and said truly, that the case of the Colonies is not identical with that of Ireland, and does not resemble it; that the fact of the Legislative Union prevents it; the nearness of Ireland compared with the remoteness of the Colonies prevents it. But there is a saying of Mr. Bright's that if Ireland could be towed out 2,000 miles towards America you would then find that there was a considerable resemblance between the case of Ireland and that of the Colonies. It is not so, and in consequence identical treatment is not proposed. The treatment proposed for Ireland—I am happy to say with the free consent of Ireland—differs in many essential particulars from the treatment accorded to the Colonies. In the first place, the Colonies share in the work of their own defence, but Ireland surrenders to the Imperial Power the whole regulation of defence. She is content to rest the safety of her people—of her families, her fathers and mothers and her children—to the wisdom of the Imperial Parliament. The Colonies pay nothing to the Imperial Exchequer—not a farthing, I think, in the case of self-governing Colonies, at any rate; I am not sure whether there is any exception anywhere. The Colonies make their own Trade Laws. Ireland freely gives to you the entire making 1612 of her Trade Laws. The Colonies not only make their own Trade Laws, but they make them in such a way and with such an exercise of liberty, that in certain cases they impose differential Duties against British products. These are the differences which I allow; I am not sure whether they are not the beginning of even other differences. By this Bill we exclude Ireland, and most properly, from all diplomatic proceedings and everything connected with Foreign Affairs. We have begun in the case of Canada to allow Canada, within certain restrictions, the opportunity of prosecuting what she thinks to be her own substantial interests and subject, of course, to Imperial control—the business of prosecuting her own substantial interests in connection with an important Foreign State. So that we do not deny the distinction between the case of the Colonies and the case of Ireland; but we affirm that there are three grand, governing, commanding features which determine substantial resemblance not to be denied and conclusive for the purpose which I have now in view. The first was the old disease—the disease which few of you witnessed, and the existence of which no man can doubt—and that disease was disaffection—disaffection especially in the British Colonies—pervading the mass of the people. My second was the remedy for that disease—in one word, domestic self-government. The result of that was harmony instead of discord between the Colonies and the Mother Country. Is this proposition to be denied, or is it not? I have said that there are few of those who hear me who have had local and personal experience of this in all its stages; but 1, at any rate, have had that experience, and even had a small share in the changes which have been brought to bear upon this question. I may say quorum pars parva fui. It is very nearly 60 years since I held Office at the Colonial Office when the older system prevailed. At that time Lord Aberdeen was Secretary of State for the Colonies, and I have here an extract from the interesting biography which has just been published by the filial piety of his son. It is a letter written in 1835 by Lord Aberdeen, when he was Secretary for the Colonies, to an old friend of his, and in it he said— 1613As a lover of your country you will be glad to hear that Heligoland is quiet and contented. This it is something to be able to say, for of no other Colony can it be said.That was the state of the Colonies when they were governed from Downing Street as Ireland is governed from Dublin Castle. Will the House forgive me if I read a longer extract from a letter written by a gentleman whom I had the privilege of knowing 50 years ago, Mr. Fitzgerald? That name may carry with it suspicion. I do not know whether he was an Irishman. It is possible he was, but I can assure you he was a Protestant. Mr. Fitzgerald went out to New Zealand as a colonist 50 years ago, when I had the honour of calling him my friend, and the friendship has been kept up since that time. He has been all that time a leading man, a thorough colonist, and a thorough Imperialist. I am going to read an extract from a letter which he wrote six months ago, not to me, but to a friend of mine—not to an Irishman, not to a Homo Ruler, not to a Commoner, but to a Peer—a Tory Peer—who is a most excellent man, and whom I rejoice also to call my friend, and from whom I have obtained permission to read this passage. It is a description of the Colonies as they were and as they are; and, for my own part, I adopt every word of it—If I were called on to make a speech on the Irish question, I would describe the state of all the Colonies as I have known them in my lifetime.He is in complete harmony with Lord Aberdeen—The rebellion in Canada, the uprising at the Cape, and the attempt to force convicts on them; the Press of every Australian Colony and of New Zealand for so many long years teeming with abuse of the English Government; I could tell of Governors hissed in theatres, and of one Governor of New Zealand accused of burning down the Government House, I suppose to get the insurance money. I would describe the speeches at public dinners and public meetings, and the unrestrained vilification of every man attached to the Government of the day.Such were the Colonies at the time when Mr. Fitzgerald himself became a colonist—I would then describe the Colonial world around me now. An exuberant and sometimes absurd display of loyalty to the Queen and Mother Country, and even the growing desire of closer ties by federation, at all events by the masses—though I fear there are leaders who 1614 look on federation as only a step to separate nationality; and I would ask my hearers what has been the magic spell which effected this wonderful transformation scene? It is all expressed in the words 'Home Rule.' Now, for 50 years two great experiments have been going on before our eyes. One has been carried on in Ireland and the other in the Colonies. One, indeed, has been tried for many times 50 years. The one has been a miserable failure, and the other has been a miraculous success.I hope it will not be thought personal if I finish the passage; but I trust I may be allowed to read these few words without its being understood to imply criticism on right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Mr. Fitzgerald goes on to say—What shall we say of statesmen who persist in continuing to pursue the unsuccessful experiment, and in refusing to try that which has marvellously succeeded?That is the whole case in a nutshell. I shall say nothing more on the question of the Colonies, or of the great lessons in autonomy which are to be derived from a wide, varied, and comprehensive experience of the Colonies, both of other countries and of our own. There are two subjects, however, on which I ought to say a few words before I close this lengthened address. One is the retention of the Irish Members. Though my intention was a perfectly clear and simple one, I believe it is possible that my endeavour to point out all the inconveniences of the retention may have led to a false impression. I admitted that the retention in principle was good; but I endeavoured to show that there were considerable practical difficulties in carrying it out. That, I think, is still true; but I wish to say one or two words in mitigation of some of my remarks as to the inconveniences of the retention. This is a very curious matter in every point of view. In the first place, the apprehension is felt that Irish Members remaining in this House, even if limited to Imperial subjects, will frequently give votes on questions of Confidence, or may from time to time share in Votes of Confidence on questions which are substantially, if not nominally and directly, English or British. It is rather curious to look back on what has happened in respect of that matter during the last 60 years. During those 60 years the House of Commons has not been inactive in that portion of its duties which relates to the displacement of Administrations, for there are no fewer 1615 than 12 cases, to which, I believe, I have been myself more or less a party, either as promoting or opposing. The cases were in the years 1835, 1841, 1846, 1852 (February),1852 (December), 1855, 1858, 1866, 1873, 1885, 1886, 1892. I will not go through the whole of the details, but it is a curious fact that out. of these 12 cases when a vote of the House of Commons has displaced the Government there was not one on a British question. They were not all Imperial; eight of them were Imperial and the other four were Irish. The Government of Sir Robert Peel in 1846 was put out on what we call a Coercion or Crimes Bill for Ireland. I do not call that an Irish case, because the real force by which the Government was put out was the force of the Protectionist Party, who voted against Sir Robert Peel on Imperial grounds and not on Irish. There is loss, therefore, to be apprehended from the figures I have given than might be expected on the score of inconvenience. With regard to what is called the "in and out" question—which is a convenient if homely form of expression—that is the method we propose—namely, the presence of Irish Members with limited powers of voting. All the anticipations of the great practical inconvenience from that plan depend on the assumption that those 80 Irish Members will constantly attend in the House of Commons, or will habitually attend. I know not whether that is the general anticipation; I must say it is not mine. Those 80 Members will be found here on proper occasions, and those occasions will he found somewhat rare. Many of those gentlemen will, I hope, be the same men as will be chosen by the Irish people to represent them in their own domestic Legislature, and as their domestic legislation must be for the present by far the most important subject to them I believe Dublin will, at any rate for some time, be the preferred scene of action, and that neither for convenience nor inconvenience shall we have 80 gentlemen sometimes sitting opposite and sometimes in the Lobby of the House. In the same way, if the other method is proposed—and I endeavoured to argue the case fairly between the different methods—it would allow all Irish Members to vote on all subjects—omnes omnia. But even with regard to that, and with regard to the inconve- 1616 nience which I feel myself, and have strongly urged, as to the field it might open for intrigue, yet I would observe that anything like a habitual inconvenience or interference by Irish Members with British questions I, for one, do not fear. I have noticed that wherever in this House we have had experience—and we have had a varied experience in the last 60 years—of Members who, either by religious persuasion or by special cause seem to be, not legislatively or legally, but morally by their own internal sentiment, excluded from a proper competency to give votes on this or that particular subject, the result has been to produce abstention where it was to be properly observed. I should also like to say a few words on the subject of finance. In that respect I do not intend to enter at this period polemically into that matter. I do not conceal that it is no light or easy matter to disentangle the finances of two countries which have been associated together for the last 90 years. I do not believe that it can be done in any manner which will be entirely free from inconvenience. But it is my firm conviction that the inconvenience is as mere dust in the balance when it is compared with the importance and the vital moment of the great purposes that we have in view—the real union of the two countries and the consolidation of the Empire. I do not deny that there must be inconvenience, but I pointed to two particular methods—one the method of the quota which would give the most exact results in the repartition of the Imperial burdens; and the other method (which we have adopted), the appropriation of a particular fund which, though less precise than the quota, is best calculated to minimise the occasions upon which the finances of one country might inconveniently affect the finances of the other, and to prevent anything like difficulty or interference in the internal fiscal affairs of Ireland by Imperial officers. But the question is What is it that we have to provide for? There are three states of things which I conceive it to be necessary to consider. One thing is the precise amount of Imperial expenditure and the present means of meeting it by a charge upon Ireland. That, I think, is deliberately done by the Customs Fund, as is set forth in the Bill. But then, unhappily, our expenditure in- 1617 creases, and you may say, and say truly, that apart from the exigencies of war we ought to keep in view the mode of bringing Ireland into a fair share of any increased charge. Now, Sir, I am not entering upon the question whether we have put the charge upon Ireland too high or too low. That is a question which the House will, no doubt, impartially consider. I do not enter upon that question, because about this I conceive there will be very little difference of-opinion, that it is better not to make a financial arrangement or a repartition of expenditure without limit of time, but that it is better to fix a term of years, after which the arrangement may be reconsidered. That I assume. Now, I want to note the effect on the question of an increase of expenses short of the exigencies of war. I venture to say that the Bill as it stands, not in a final form, but subject to reconsideration, contains one particular clause, contemplating an augmentation of Excise duties, which makes provisions which the House may consider, in certain contingencies, excessive. Now, Sir, under that provision very large amounts may be obtained from Great Britain and also from Ireland. I will suppose an extreme, but not an impossible case. Supposing that the Excise were to be raised to about the highest point which we can conceive, and that (with a corresponding charge on beer) a quarter of the present duty of 10s. or 10s. 6d. a gallon were added, making 13s. a gallon. Under that you would raise from Ireland a sum nearly reaching £800,000, speaking in round numbers. I do not think the House of Commons would think that all augmentations of expenditure would justify the imposition of such a burden as that upon Ireland. There is, in point of fact, a margin in the clause as it stands. We have not stated that that clause represents our absolute and final conviction as to particulars, but indeed the reverse. It is rather a clause asserting this principle, that where there is an increase in Imperial expenditure, on the principle of equitable repartition, Ireland ought to make a fair contribution towards that increase. I go one step further. We have contemplated the emergency of war. I admit on this subject I offered, on the introduction of the Bill, no detailed explanation, but I conveyed a pledge to 1618 the House when I stated in introducing the Bill that we had in view a proposal by menus of which it would be perfectly possible, going beyond the subjects of Customs and Excise, to touch direct taxation, and especially the Income Tax, upon which we mainly rely, so far as direct taxation is concerned, in the event of war. I said it would be perfectly possible so to frame a Bill that Ireland should be made contributory even without the direct imposition of a tax. The Irish Exchequer might be charged with the payment of a sum in fair proportion to the amount levied on Great Britain. One mode in which this might be done would be this—you might provide that wherever there was an augmentation of direct taxation in Great Britain for those purposes, there should be imposed upon the Consolidated Fund of Ireland for the purposes of war a contingent prior charge, and that the amount of that prior charge, which would have to be computed by the authority of the Imperial Parliament, should be paid by the authority of the Viceroy out of the Irish Consolidated Fund before any local charges could be met. The matter to which I am referring is a question which I do not think we feel justified at the present stage in endeavouring to remove from the free judgment of the House. It is rather an important question, and not one in which (in my judgment) all the arguments lie one way, whether the House, so far as direct taxation is concerned, would do well to trust to the Parliament of Ireland, or whether it would be best to insert a provision which, if expedient to be inserted, could certainly be so framed as to secure a fail proportion from Ireland of the Imperial charges in case of war. I do not think I need go further in dealing with the subject of finance; but I will take, by way of illustration, a strong supposition. Supposing that we were requiring £40,000,000 of annual Revenue over and above what we now require, £20,000,000 might be raised in Great, Britain, I will suppose, from the Excuse, by an addition of 2s. 6d. to the Spirit Duty, together with some other taxation which might be required to bring England within its scope. The corresponding sum to be taken from Ireland in the proportion that the 1619 Bill contemplates would be £800,000. If we raised the Income Tax from 6d. to 1s. 4d., which was done, I believe, in one year during the Crimean War, that would raise £20,000,000 from England, and would impose upon Ireland a burden of £800,000. If we contemplate the payment of a proportion like that of the Customs Fund to the aggregate Imperial expenditure, it would entail upon Ireland a war burden, so to call it, of £1,600,000 sterling. That is a considerable sum, but a much smaller sum, I admit, than Ireland would pay if the system of taxation remained as now. We propose to fix the Irish contribution at a little over 4 per cent., whereas the present Irish contribution to the Imperial Revenue is no less than 12 per cent. That contribution, I am sorry to say, has been for some time an injustice, and its continuance would be simply a prolongation of injustice. I have detained the House a very long time. I have hut one word more to say. It is to remind the House of what I take to be indubitable historical facts. Until a very recent period—certainly, I think, until within the last 60 years, until the epoch of the first Reform Act, the question between Great Britain and Ireland was a question between a nation and a class, or rather between a class and a nation; because I do not think that, except in a very limited sense indeed, we could call this country substantially a self-governing country until the period of the first Reform Act. During all the previous long, weary, deplorable centuries the question was, in the main, between a governing class on one side of the Channel and a nation on the other side. Sir, it is not so now. It is now a question between a nation and a nation. If there is, as we believe that there is, injustice in the present legislative relations between England and Ireland, and if that injustice be deliberately accepted and prolonged, it will not be inflicted by a class upon a nation, not by an aristocracy, not by a body of landed proprietors, not by a body of merchants and manufacturers, not by the property of the country, but by the people of the country. It has now become—and it appears to me a consideration of extreme importance—it has now become a question, in the strictest sense, between a nation and a nation, and not only between a nation and a nation, but 1620 between a great nation and a small nation, between a strong nation and a weak nation, between a wealthy nation and a poor nation. There can be no more melancholy and, in the last result, no more degrading spectacle upon earth than the spectacle of oppression, or of wrong in whatever form, inflicted by the deliberate act of a nation upon another nation, especially by the deliberate act of such a country as Great Britain upon such a country as Ireland. But, on the other hand, there can be no nobler spectacle than that which we think is now dawning upon us, the spectacle of a nation deliberately set on the removal of injustice, deliberately determined to break—not through terror and not in haste, but under the sole influence of duty and honour—determined to break with whatever remains still existing of an evil tradition, and determined in that way at once to pay a debt of justice and to consult by a bold, wide and good act its own interests and its own honour.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone.)
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
Mr. Speaker, Sir, I have often listened during many years' service in this House with pleasure, and I hope with profit, to addresses from the right hon. Gentleman, but I never remember a more remarkable instance of his power to engage the interest, not merely of his own followers, but of the whole House, than we have experienced this evening, because, with all respect, I would venture to say that nearly the whole of his speech was absolutely beside the question before us. There were a few minutes spent upon an explanation of the mode in which Irish Members were, or were not, to take part in the proceedings of this House, there were another few minutes devoted to the suggestion of some new method by which Ireland would be made to pay a contribution to the expenses of a war—a suggestion which I noticed was received with ominous silence by hon. Members from Ireland who so rapturously cheered the earlier portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. But beyond that what was the staple of the right hon. Gentleman's address? The Question before the House is that this Bill be now read a second time. On that question he treated us to an excursus of considerable 1621 length upon Irish history, according to the view he has taken of it during the past seven years.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
The excursus, I admit, was on Irish history for 90 years, but the views which the right hon. Gentleman enunciated were certainly never expressed by him, it they were ever entertained, until seven years ago. He then proceeded to give ns his notion of our views of the humanity of the Irish people, and generally upon the Irish Question—views which none of us recognise as our own, and which for myself I would entirely repudiate, and as to which the right hon. Gentleman, I will venture to add, was as absolutely inaccurate as he was upon Irish history. He then went on to hint at the argument, which was ineffective in 1886, and which I hope the House will always treat with the contempt it deserves—the argument of fear and force. And, finally, he dwelt at considerable length upon examples of Federation or Union, more or less close, culled from every quarter of the globe, most of which had as little bearing upon the question before us as that extraordinary suggestion which he made—that there was anything, or over had been anything, in the relations between Russia and Poland, which for a moment could be compared with the equal, and more than equal, representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to dwell upon our Colonial policy, and suggested that if we would but adopt that policy in Ireland all would be well. Our answer to that is this—As the right hon. Gentleman knows, as he has shown in his own Bill, Ireland is not a Colony, and can never be treated as such. The Question before the House is the Second Reading of this Bill. On that question we had a. right to expect from the author of the Bill some kind of reply to the criticisms that have been made on it, not merely in this House, but also in the country, and some reference to the position of the question in view of the growing objection to the measure in Ireland itself. What is the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman? It is to substitute for one Legislature for the United Kingdom and one Government responsible to that Legislature two 1622 Governments and two Legislatures within the United Kingdom. I would observe that there are two reasons why this House should approach the subject with the gravest deliberation. It is not a subject, as the right hon. Gentleman has stated, on the close consideration of which we have really been spending seven years. We have never had anything before us during these seven years but the vaguest and most indefinite statements until this Bill was introduced by the Government in February last. The principle of Home Rule for Ireland is, I admit, accepted by the majority of the electors of Ireland, but it has been decisively rejected by the other party to the Union—by Great Britain. I cannot agree with the light-heartedness with which some hon. Members on that side of the House seem to me disposed to approach this question. Members of the Government have, I believe, actually stated that we might pass this measure in the belief that it could be repealed if it should fail. I am convinced of this—that if we once were persuaded to take this step it could never be retraced without civil war—a civil war in which we should most probably have the whole of Ireland against us, one party despising us for this surrender, and the other hating us for this desertion. Therefore, I would venture to suggest to hon. Members who have pledged themselves in the country to grant, in some indefinite way and to some indefinite extent, the management of Irish affairs to Irishmen that they are bound as much as we are bound to consider the proposals that are made in this Bill, and to see how far those proposals can be carried into effect consistently with their own principles and the safety of the country. I do not approach this question from the point of view of one who regards the present system of Irish government as perfection. I have often expressed a very contrary opinion. I have suggested amendments and improvements, though I am bound to say I have not been very successful in inducing others to agree with me; and if I could see in this Bill what, the Nationalist Convention in Dublin recently described as "a certain and lasting bond of unity and concord between Great Britain and Ireland," no private friendships and no Party 1623 ties would induce me to stand here and move its rejection. But in my belief, whatever may be said against the present system of Irish government is as nothing compared with the evil which this measure would bring on Great Britain, on the Empire, on Ireland, and especially on those interests in Ireland to which, by the admission of Her Majesty's Government, this House is bound, on account of our past history, to pay special regard. There are two main requirements which in the view of the authors of this Bill must be met by its provisions. They are, first, that it should grant a real and genuine autonomy to Ireland in purely Irish affairs, to be exercised by a Legislature and Government in Dublin; and, secondly, that it should visibly and effectually maintain over that Legislature and Government the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. I contend that this measure fulfils neither of these requirements. I cannot believe it to be possible that if you were to grant a Legislature to Ireland, that Legislature could rest contented with a definition of purely Irish affairs which would place it in a worse position than the Legislature of a self-governing Colony, which would exclude from purely Irish affairs Customs and Excise, external trade and navigation, the power to raise Militia and Volunteers, treason and treason-felony, all of which subjects would be placed by this Bill more completely under the domination—if that be the proper word—of the Imperial Parliament than they are at present; and which in respect of the matters which are included as purely Irish affairs would impose upon the Irish Legislature restrictions as to its power of dealing with religion, with education, and with the rights of property which would be all the more insulting because I believe they would be practically useless. On the other hand, I deny that this Bill effectually maintains the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. It does not pretend to maintain it in matters of administration. The whole administration of Ireland is handed over to the Government of Ireland, and I do not know that legislative supremacy is worth very much when some other persons are charged with the administration of the laws that are made, But as to legislative supremacy, the Bill purports 1624 in purely Irish affairs to maintain that by the restrictions in Clause 4, by the power of veto given to the Lord Lieutenant, to be exercised at the instance of Her Majesty, on certain Bills passed by the Irish Legislature, and by the power reserved to the Imperial Parliament to override the Irish Parliament in matters of legislation. Now, I imagine that these powers are retained not so much for any Imperial object as in order to secure the necessary safeguards for the minority in Ireland. Who are the minority in Ireland for whom Her Majesty's Government think it necessary—in spite of the enthusiastic views of the right hon. Gentleman as to the nature of the Irish people—to introduce these safeguards into this Bill? They are larger, I think, and more important and more determined than the authors of this Bill imagined a year ago. For the purposes of my argument I will take the Irish minority according to the definition given of them by the right hon. Gentleman in 1886, though I think it is very far from an exhaustive definition. He defined the minority as, first the classes immediately connected with the land; secondly, the Civil servants and officers connected with the Executive Government; and thirdly, the Protestant minority. I will say nothing as to the second class—we are not yet in possession of all the proposals of the Government on their behalf, and can only hope that the pledges which have been given will be properly redeemed. But what of the Protestant minority? I wish, if I can, to argue this matter upon the same ground as hon. Members opposite. I certainly do not feel that Irishmen are likely always to do wrong. I would ask them in return to admit that Irishmen will not always do right. I cannot understand the safeguards in this Bill for the Protestant minority. I do not know that the Protestant minority have ever suggested that it would be likely that the Roman Catholics of Ire-land would wish to establish their Church—in my belief it is the very last thing the Roman Catholics would desire—or that an Irish Parliament would be likely to prohibit the exercise of other forms of religion, or to put an end to Protestant schools and Protestant charities. I do not believe myself that there is any danger of anything of that sort; but what I do 1625 feel is this: that an Irish Legislature would be specially partial to the Roman Catholic religion, and that it would be very much disposed indirectly to subsidise the Roman Catholic religion, nominally, perhaps, for educational purposes, by taxes levied on Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. I think that in matters of administration and patronage there would be a good many disabilities imposed and a good many advantages conferred, on account of religion: and I do not believe that an Irish Government, depending upon an Irish Legislature, would, either in letter or in spirit, carefully enforce a Conscience Clause in schools in favour of the Protestant minority in the South and West of Ireland. Well, none of these things would for a moment be prohibited by the restrictions in Clause 4 of this Bill, and I believe that that clause would be all the more certainly evaded, because those restrictions would in themselves be felt to be degrading by the Irish majority. Then I come to the case of the Irish landlords—the third portion of the minority, according to the right hon. Gentleman in 1886. What was the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman in 1886 on this matter? There was nothing more remarkable in his speech on the introduction of this Bill, and in his speech on the Motion for the Second Reading, than the entire omission of the slightest reference to the position of the landlords of Ireland. In 1886 he took a very different view. He then introduced a Land Bill as a twin sister to the Home Rule Bill—a Land Bill which gave to Irish landlords of agricultural land let to tenants the right to be bought out at from 20 to 22 years' purchase of their judicial rents, with something extra by way of compensation for arrears. Well, Sir, why did the right hon. Gentleman do that? He said he had—Adopted this proposition under a serious conviction of honour and duty; because the landlords were our garrison in Ireland; we planted them there, and we replanted them; we could not wash our hands of responsibility for their doings, or for the consequences of their doings. Their deeds were to a great extent our deed; we were particeps' criminis; we, with power in our hands, looked on; we not only looked on, but we encouraged and sustained.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
The reference is to the right hon. Gentleman's speech in moving the Second Reading of the Land Bill. I do not quite agree as to what the right hon. Gentleman then said as to the wrongfulness of the doings of the landlords; but the more wrong the landlords have been in the past the more bound, according to his own arguments, are we to take care that they do not suffer in the future. Yet what is the position now? Does the right hon. Gentleman propose anything on behalf of the landlords? Merely to reserve for three years the power of dealing with the land question to the Imperial Parliament. Will he legislate on behalf of the landlords during those three years? No, Sir, he cannot. The Newcastle Programme prevents him. Will he protect the Irish landlords in the enforcement of their rights under the existing law during those three years? No, there is no proposal of that kind. Have they less to fear now than they had in 1886? Why, assume if you like—it is a very bold assumption — that the illegal actions which form go large a part of the agrarian side of the Home Rule movement during the past seven years were merely means to a political end, and would be discountenanced by those hon. Members who were responsible for them if they were made responsible for the Government of Ireland; but remember that the teaching—the fraudulent teaching—of the Plan of Campaign has sunk deep into the minds of ignorant Irish tenants, that they have been taught to expect that under a Home Rule Parliament they will get their land, it not at prairie value, at any rate on much better terms than the Imperial Parliament will give it to them; remember the denunciations of landlordism by leading Members below the Gangway from Ireland during the past seven years, which, so far as I know, have never been retracted, and which even, if retracted, would make it morally impossible for them to enforce on behalf of the propertied classes their legal rights which they have so continually denounced and resisted during the whole of the last seven years. The position of the Irish landlords at the end of the three years' grace will be just this: Whatever of their rents is not lost to them by the non- 1627 enforcement of the law, or by the decisions of new Assistant Land Commissioners appointed by the Irish Government during that period, can be taken away from them by Act of the Irish Parliament with duo process of law, and with just as much or as little compensation as seems just to the Irish Parliament. Now, I have never been a bigoted defender of the Irish landlords. When I was responsible for the government of Ireland, I risked something, and incurred a good deal of misconstruction, because I felt it my duty to express very plainly my opinion to one of those landlords, whose actions were, in my belief, injurious to his tenants, his class, and his country. The right hon. Gentleman talks of the good fame of this country. I will venture to say this: If this Bill were to become law, and the Irish landlords were to be left with no better protection than its present provisions afford them, no more base, no more cruel desertion will be recorded in history. I want to put this to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Morley). He has shown in his recent correspondence with the National Board of Education that he, at any rate, would have considerable scruples in dealing with Irish educational matters solely according to the views of the Irish Roman Catholic majority. He has not met, as we wish he had met, the necessities of the case with regard to the present condition of County Clare; but, at any rate, he has deplored and denounced the present condition of that county, and expressed his intention of strengthening the police force there, and in other ways of endeavouring to restore order and to put down agrarian crime. Well, Sir, does the right hon. Gentleman believe that an Irish Government, depending on the majority of an Irish Parliament, will be as scrupulous in educational matters for the liberty of conscience as he is? Does he believe that an Irish Government, depending on the majority of an Irish Parliament, would care much for the complaints of the propertied classes in Clare, or would send additional police to that county? If the right hon. Gentleman does not believe those things, I would put it to him: Is he not perpetrating that which is almost the worst crime a statesman could commit in deliberately handing over to 1628 others the power to do what he knows it would be wrong to do himself? He may tell us that there are safeguards for the Protestants and the landlords in the Legislative Council, for instance. Well, I think that the Legislative Council is a valuable provision in this Bill. After six months' deliberation Her Majesty's Government have embodied in this Bill their view of the extent to which a Second Chamber may properly delay legislation passed by the popular Assembly. They may delay it for two years, or until after a Dissolution. After this enunciation of an important Constitutional principle, I am sure the Members of Her Majesty's Government will say nothing unpleasant to the House of Lords if this Bill should be postponed until after a Dissolution, or even for two years. But, Sir, as a safeguard to the minority the Legislative Council is a farce. It is not equal even to the-Second Order, as I think it was called, that was proposed to be established in the Bill of 1886. The franchise is £20 instead of £25, the Peers have been struck out, and the proportion it bears to the popular Assembly is less than it was in the former measure. It could have no power over administration; and with regard to legislation the most it could do — even on the almost impossible supposition that the great majority of it was composed of representatives of the propertied classes—would be to delay legislation for the time I have stated. At the end of that time its power would be gone. There are other safeguards—the power of veto professed to be given to the Lord Lieutenant on the initiative of the Crown with regard to particular Bills and the power of legislation in purely Irish affairs reserved to the Imperial Parliament. Now, can anyone suppose, if Parties were divided as they are now in this House, that with 80 Irish Members here any Government would direct the Lord Lieutenant to exercise the power of veto, or that this House would be asked by the Government to legislate on purely Irish affairs? I can conceive that if Parties were composed as in the last Parliament, the Government of the day might be tempted by the complaints of the Irish minority, or compelled by the feeling of English Members, to direct the Lord Lieutenant to veto some Act of the 1629 Irish Parliament which, in the words of the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Bryce), might be considered of a tyrannous character. But how long would that veto last? I do not believe it could be repeated on the same Bill, or that it would ever be tried again, because under this Bill the Imperial Government would have no power whatever of administering the affairs of Ireland, and the only persons who would have that power would be the Irish Ministers responsible to the Irish Legislature. The Lord Lieutenant could obtain no Ministers commanding a majority in the Irish Legislature, except the very men whose popularity in Ireland would be enormously increased by the fact that the Imperial Government had directed him to veto their measures. Then, even under such a state of things in this House as prevailed in the last Parliament, would it be possible for it to legislate on purely Irish affairs? What happened in this House only two years ago with regard to the Colony of Newfoundland? The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt) will very well remember it. A matter was brought before us, not solely affecting Newfoundland, but one in which the interests of the Empire were gravely concerned, for it was considered necessary to obtain in some way power for the Imperial Government to enforceour Treaties with a Foreign Power in order to prevent the possibility of war. Yet such was the repugnance of this House to overriding the Legislature of Newfoundland—a repugnance that was enforced by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer—that the proposals of Her Majesty's Government did not become law. Can anyone conceive that the Imperial Parliament would act so directly in the teeth of our whole Colonial policy as to override the Irish Legislature by its own legislation on those purely Irish affairs which had been deliberately committed to the control of that Legislature? I think I have shown that the safeguards in the Bill are absolutely unreal. There is not one of them that is not at the complete mercy of the very persons against whom they are devised and, for my part, if this measure were ever unhappily to become law, I would infinitely sooner see it without any of these safeguards at all, in the interests of our own honesty, rather than that we 1630 should pretend to retain powers which we know very well in practice we could not exercise. But the Irish minority is not confined to Protestants, Civil servants, and landlords. This Bill is also opposed, as we have seen during the last few weeks by proofs that cannot be denied, by those who are really the authors of whatever there is of commercial industry and prosperity in Ireland. They say that this measure would give Ireland a Government and Legislature powerful for mischief, but which would be incapable of doing good: that capital would be driven away from the country and labour would be unemployed. These opinions, strongly entertained and expressed as they are, are almost ridiculed by Her Majesty's Government. The Chancellor of the Duchy not very long ago attributed them to ignorance of the circumstances. I thought it was part of the Home Rule creed that Irishmen ought to know their own affairs better than Englishmen or Scotchmen, especially when the latter happen to be in the Imperial Cabinet. The Prime Minister has gone even further, and has confronted these opinions with a direct negative. The prophecies he makes as to the industrial future of Ireland under Home Rule are as wonderful as the historical arguments on which he bases them. It is a very favourite contention of the right hon. Gentleman that Ireland was exceptionally prosperous between 1782 and 1800. So it was, but other parts of the United Kingdom were exceptionally prosperous also.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
And have been since.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
A higher authority than the hon. Member, because he lived at the time, and one to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, also stated that the debt of Ireland had increased tenfold during that period, and that the collapse of credit at the end of it was such that she was within measurable distance of national bankruptcy. But if she did prosper, it was not under the conditions under which this Bill would place her. She was under a Legislature dominated by a Protestant oligarchy. The right hon. Gentleman does not propose that. She was under an Executive responsible to the Imperial Government. The right hon. Gentleman does not propose that. He gathers 1631 from some successful financial operation, which the ability of the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Sexton) enabled him to effect for the Corporation of Dublin, that the national credit of a Home Rule Government would be very high under this Bill. But the Corporation of Dublin was able to borrow cheaply because order is maintained by the Imperial Government, and because legislation for Ireland has to pass through the Imperial Parliament. If this Bill became law the Corporation of Dublin would have great cause to congratulate themselves that they had obtained their loan before it passed. The prophecy of the right hon. Gentleman that there would be in Ireland a chronic plethora of money is the most extraordinary thing I ever heard——
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
That is a very big "if" indeed. Ireland will be sometimes imprudent. I have not the youthful imagination of the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot take so rosy a view of the future. I will try to meet him half way. We all know that the great want of Ireland is the want of private capital. I will suppose that there is no greater temptation for the investment of private capital in Ireland under Home Rule than under the present Government.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
There is a little misunderstanding. I was not talking about a general abundance of capital in Ireland. It was entirely a question of the Revenue arrangements.
§ SIR M. HICKS-BEACH
That is precisely the point to which I am now coming. It is due to the want of private capital in Ireland that for years past the Imperial Parliament has been compelled to provide by loans and by grants aid for public works of all kinds, such as has never been given to Great Britain. That aid is to cease. That is one of the principal arguments which the right hon. Gentleman has to offer to Englishmen and Scotchmen in support of this Bill. The responsibility for such aid in the future is to rest on the Irish Parliament There is one thing on which Irishmen have always been united, and that is the complaint that the 1632 Imperial Parliament has never sufficiently encouraged Irish industries. What will be expected of the Irish Parliament in the future will be not only the maintenance of the aid which has been given in the past, but a very considerable increase of it. This is not a matter of the ordinary conduct of Government, although that I expect will be a good deal more costly than the right hon. Gentleman appears to anticipate. He has made no allowance whatever for expenditure which, I am afraid, will be very much required—on the maintenance of public order and the enforcement of the payment of taxes. Nor is it a matter of ordinary improvement to be made by the Government. There is one point, for instance, in which there is a continued demand for improvement—I refer to the Postal and Telegraph Service. What will the Irish Government be able to do in that matter with a Postal Revenue which starts with a deficiency of £50,000 a year? What I am now dealing with is the system of grants and loans for public and private improvements and the development of industries. There has been nothing more popular or useful in Ireland for some years past than the recent grant of £900,000 for the extension of the railway system. Is the Irish Parliament likely to be able to find means for carrying on that policy? Our whole system of loans for public improvements really depends on the power of Government to borrow at 2¼ per cent. Is the right hon. Gentleman sanguine enough to suppose that anybody would lend to the proposed Irish Government on those terms? If they have to pay a higher rate of interest they would have to charge more for their loans; and then the whole system of loans would be found absolutely ineffective for the purpose for which it has hitherto been so useful. What, then, will be the position of the Irish Legislature? They will have liabilities of this kind imposed on them, far exceeding in proportion the liabilities imposed on any Colony possessing responsible Government, and with less means to meet their responsibilities than any such Colony has. The right hon. Gentleman is compelled by the geographical necessities of the case to maintain fiscal unity between Ireland and 1633 Great Britain, to devote the Irish Customs Revenue to the Imperial Service, and to allow the Imperial Parliament to retain their authority over Irish Customs and Excise. I do not mean that in this matter Ireland will be the only sufferer. Our British affairs will suffer at least as much, for you cannot dissolve a partnership without injuring both parties to it. I do not envy any future Chancellor of the Exchequer his inability to propose a reduction of indirect taxation without depriving Great Britain of a certain part of that contribution from Ireland which the right hon. Gentleman says it is only fair Ireland should pay for Imperial purposes; or the certain deficit in his Irish Customs Revenue when the Irish Constabulary are no longer available for collecting that Revenue, and Irish patriotism is enlisted on the side of the smuggler. But it will be a much graver matter, looking at the enormous armaments of Europe, that we should not be able to insist on any contribution from Ireland for the defence of the country except by raising indirect taxation under the provisions of this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has this evening suggested some kind of scheme by which an additional charge might, be imposed upon the Irish Consolidated Fund for that purpose. He did not venture to tell us how we wore to get it. Perhaps it is by that wonderful provision through which the Viceroy, by order under his hand, without any counter-signature, is to make the Irish Consolidated Fund pay over a certain sum to the English Treasury. But what is worst of all in the proposed financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland is this: You retain a power over finance to the Imperial Parliament, but you leave the Imperial Parliament no means for enforcing the legislation it is to enact. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to our Colonial system. Why, Sir, have we given up all administrative machinery in our self-governing Colonies? Is it not because we have deliberately abandoned to them all legislative power in such matters? I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that the great reason for the success of our Colonial policy is that we have generously handed over to our Colonial 1634 fellow-subjects all powers over trade and finance, matters that have been throughout the history of the world a fruitful source of quarrels between nations and individuals. I do not want to charge Irishmen with being not human, or with having more than a double dose of original sin, but I would venture to submit to the House that the Government are incurring enormous dangers in leaving these matters to the Imperial Parliament. It is not merely possible, but it is most probable, that the majority of the Imperial Parliament may, on matters of trade and finance, take a different view to that of the Representatives who are to come here from Ireland, and of the Irish Government and Legislature. On these most important matters, therefore, legislation, will still come to Ireland in a foreign garb. We may insist here on maintaining Free Trade, and Irishmen may attribute their difficulties to Free Trade. We may insist here on raising the Customs and Excise to pay for a foreign war of which Ireland may disapprove, or on altering the Customs or Excise in some way which the Irish will consider unfair to Irish interests, as they very often have done in the last 30 years. What will be the position then? How is our legislation in matters of this kind to be enforced in Ireland? The Exchequer Judges may decree, but how are their decrees to be carried out? The Chancellor of the Duchy is not here; but he knows that in the United States there is a whole network of executive and prosecuting officers appointed by the Federal Government who are responsible to the Attorney General as head of the Department of Justice at Washington, and also that the people of the United States are everywhere loyal to the Federal Government. Is there anything of that kind in this Bill or in the circumstances of Ireland? What is the great difficulty which besets the Irish Government now? What is the main reason on which this measure is based? Is it not the difficulty of enforcing unpopular judgments in Ireland on matters arising out of laws made here, even when the whole Government of Ireland is responsible to this House, and has the Constabulary at its back? Do we think, can we believe, that our laws can ever be enforced in 1635 Ireland when those interested in resisting them well know that those laws have been opposed here by the Irish Representatives, and are disapproved of by the Irish Government of the day? Oh, but I am told that the Lord Lieutenant is to come in. He is to use the Naval and Military Forces of the Crown to carry out the judgments of the Irish Court of Exchequer. Is he to do so against the advice of his Irish Ministers? How long will he remain a Constitutional Governor of Ireland in such a case? What effect will any such attempt at foreign domination and coercion have upon the relations between Great Britain and Ireland and upon the permanence of the Constitution you propose to establish? But I have been tempted to digress from the main subject of my argument, which is the financial position of the Irish Legislature under the provisions of this Bill. I have shown they will have no power over indirect taxation, and will be unable to increase their receipts from Excise beyond the point at which those receipts would stand under the present rates. They cannot increase their Revenue from that source; can they increase it by direct taxation? Why, Sir, the whole number of Income Tax payers in Ireland is only 100,000, and the whole amount of the Income Tax they pay is only £550,000 a year. Supposing the Irish Legislature were to materially increase the Income Tax on profits from Trade and Commerce to a higher rate than that levied in this country, it would certainly fulfil the prophecies of those who say that the commerce and industries of Ireland will disappear if this Bill should become law. I can understand some hon. Members desiring to retain the Irish landlords as subjects for taxation, but when the Irish tenant has had his way that would be found impossible; and we shall, I think, all agree in this—whether we are Unionists or Home Rulers—that any attempt to extract direct taxation from the Irish tenant will be about as hopeless a task as could be undertaken by an Irish Parliament. Therefore I can quite understand the argument of hon. Members below the Gangway, on which the right hon. Gentleman has said never a word, that the financial provisions of this Bill, if they be enacted 1636 as they stand, and be really enforced, would threaten early national bankruptcy. Those hon. Members know very well that under these provisions it would be absolutely impossible for the Irish Legislature to perform what is expected of it, and that Home Rule must fail. Well, then, what is their remedy? A very natural one; they propose to impose further burdens on the British taxpayer. I think the position of the British taxpayer is bad enough already. The right hon. Gentleman in 1886 devoted some arguments to showing that it was an equitable and even generous provision for Ireland that she should pay one part in 15 of the total Imperial expenditure; but he went on to propose, as he has done in this Bill, that Ireland should only be charged with about one in 27. I do not know why he has departed in practice from his own theory; and if I had time I think I could prove by figures that the surplus of £500,000 a year to be given to the Irish Government will prove to be a much greater loss than that amount to the British taxpayer. But hon. Members from Ireland ask for much more. We have had definite proposals made by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) and his friends. I do not think the hon. Member for Louth is likely to underbid them. What are they? The hon. Member proposes that we in Great Britain should pay, besides the burden already proposed to be thrown on us, one-half of the total pensions payable to the Irish Civil servants, the whole of the pensions or gratuities payable to the Irish Constabulary, and two-thirds instead of one-third of the cost of maintaining the Irish Constabulary. I cannot help thinking that hon. Members from Ireland anticipate that the Irish Constabulary may be a more permanent force under, the Irish Government than has hitherto been supposed, and that their idea is that the British taxpayers should pay two-thirds of the cost of keeping order in Ulster. I do not want to dwell upon these proposals, but I should like to hear the opinion of the Government with regard to them, and I hope we may hear that opinion during this Debate. Supposing, however, these proposals were granted, would that content the Irish Representatives? We have heard nothing yet about the debt due to the Im- 1637 perial Exchequer for Irish purposes. There is a certain amount which the Chancellor of the Exchequer may see some day, which has been lent to Ireland under the Ashbourne Acts, and a further sum under the Act of 1891. It is supposed to be a debt due from the Irish Exchequer to the Imperial Treasury under this Bill. When the Irish tenant who has not purchased has got his farm sit prairie value, how much longer will the instalments of the Irish tenant who has already purchased be paid, and if they are not paid, do any of us really believe that the Irish Government of the future will compel them to be paid? That would be in direct opposition to the principle of live and thrive, and to the statements that have been made by responsible Members of the Irish Nationalist Party. In their opinion the money advanced for the purchase of laud while the Crimes Act was in force was lent on very bad security for the Imperial taxpayer. Can anyone imagine that taxes would be levied in Ireland by any Irish Government—I do not care what political opinions its members might hold—in order to recoup the Imperial Exchequer for these loans? But, supposing the Imperial Exchequer is not recouped, then in comes the provision of the right hon. Gentleman that the Lord Lieutenant is to make an order without any counter signature for the payment. How is that order to be enforced? I hope we shall have an explanation on that point from the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the Debates on this Bill. But perhaps it is not necessary, for I do not believe that any such order would ever be made. I cannot believe that, with 80 Irish Members in this House, any Government would ever venture to direct an Irish Lord Lieutenant to make such an order. And then what becomes of the securities which the financial provisions of this Bill give to the British taxpayer? Why, they are as great a sham as the safeguards to the Irish minority. The presence of 80 Irish Members here will, in the first place, ensure a perpetual succession, in return for their support, of grants and loans and assistance of all kinds to Ireland at the cost of the British taxpayer. This will be the most common form of that wholesale political corruption which the right hon. Gentleman 1638 dreaded—though a less dangerous form than the perpetual demand which will also be made to extract from us further powers to the Irish Legislature. That is bad enough, but worse remains behind. By the retention of these 80 Irish Members you will absolutely reduce this Imperial Parliament to impotence in the transaction of purely British affairs. Take the present state of Parties in this House. Her Majesty's Government would be kept in power solely by the vote of the Irish majority. Yet if Clause 9 of this Bill were fairly interpreted and acted upon, what would happen? Why on every Bill, Motion, or tax relating solely to Great Britain or any part of it, the Government would be absolutely at the mercy of the Opposition. I hope the promoters of the New castle programme would like the situation. But we, on our part, should not be able to propose, or at any rate to carry, any legislation which we might deem necessary in the interests of Great Britain, because we should not be in Office. I think this situation was characterised by the Secretary of State for War in the Debate on the introduction of this Bill as possibly inconvenient. I say it would be a mischievous absurdity that Great Britain would not tolerate for a single Session. Perhaps, after all, the Bill, in this matter as in others, is not quite what it seems. I noticed that the Chancellor of the Duchy and the Secretary of State for War gave us very plain hints in their speeches upon the introduction of this Bill that they at any rate had no personal objection to Irishmen being allowed to manage purely Irish affairs in Dublin without our interference, and then coming hero and interfering with us in purely British affairs. But the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), on behalf of the Government, has not ventured to make such a proposal to the country. He knows that, although England has often inflicted inequalities on others, she has never submitted to them herself. The right hon. Gentleman has a wholesome fear of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labonchere) and the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. R. Wallace) before his eyes. But what has he proposed? Why, he has proposed that each House shall be the sole interpreter of the manner in which the restrictions on the 1639 powers of Irish Pears and Irish Members under Clause 9 are to be curried out. The Secretary for War told us, when we were inquiring—an inquiry which has never been answered—how you can draw the distinction between British and Imperial affairs, that the solution of the problem would be easy to any Town or County Council. I will venture to tell the Government how I think it would be solved by the present majority in this House. The present majority would readily accept the hint of the hon. Member for Waterford, and would at once decide that the Irish Members might speak and vote on any Motion, Bill, or tax, however solely relating to Great Britain, which the Imperial Government chose to state was a question of confidence in themselves, and, therefore, a question of Imperial importance. We should have hon. Members for Ireland—of course, for a consideration given—coming into the House to support the Government on purely British affairs, made a question of confidence whenever their votes were wanted, and excluded from voting whenever their votes were not required. This would be the destruction of the independence of the House of Commons, and a grave aggravation of the difficulties under which we at present suffer; and it would be a wanton aggravation of these difficulties, for, so far as I know, the Irish Members themselves have never for a moment asked to be placed in such a position. It is not a position of political equality; it would be a position of political supremacy for Ireland. But what is the alternative? It is the disintegration of Parliament by the exclusion of Irish Peers and Irish Members of Parliament—the divorce of Ireland from all power of controlling the affairs of the Empire. Both alternatives are enormous evils. I think the right hon. Gentleman chose the least of them in 1886, but I believe that both are evils of such magnitude that they are insurmountable objections to the Bill now before the House. I thank hon. Members for the patience With which they have listened to me. I have ventured to press these arguments upon them, for we have no longer to deal with the abstract question of whether we should give the power to Irishmen to manage their own affairs. That has been a fertile and easy 1640 subject for many speeches during the past seven years. But we now have before us a concrete proposal for carrying that idea into effect. I ask, then, whether hon. Members can consistently vote for the Second Heading of this Bill unless they believe that it carries that principle into effect with safety and advantage to the country. Thousands of the electors of England, Scotland, and Wales last year gave their support to the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister because they were heartily sick of the discussion of Irish questions in this House, and because they thought Home Rule would enable this-House to get rid of them. Sir, I think I have shown that Irish questions must always be with us, and will be with us in a worse form than ever before if this Bill should unhappily become law. Many more electors gave their support to the right hon. Gentleman because they believed this Bill would, in the words of the Speech from the Throne, be an additional security for the strength and union of the Empire. How can a measure give additional strength to the Empire which renders unworkable the delicate machinery by which the majority in the Imperial Parliament controls the Imperial Cabinet and supervises the affairs of the Empire? How can a measure give additional strength to the Empire which deprives the Imperial Government, which is responsible to the Imperial Parliament, of any power to enforce the legislation of the Imperial Parliament in one part of the United Kingdom? This Bill is a novel Constitution. It is not a Union; it is not a Federation; it is not Colonial Self-Government; it is a bastard combination of the three. And it deserves rejection for the mischief it does to Great Britain and to the Empire—even if it would content Ireland. But would it content Ireland? Hon. Members below the Gangway may accept the Bill, though they have not yet accepted it, because they know that if they refused it they would get nothing at all, as was the case in 1886. They may accept it because they can penetrate its disguises and see through the shams of restrictions and securities, the germ of that Irish nationality which they have consistently advocated. They may accept it because they know that the 1641 weakness which offers it to them now will enable them or their successors to mould it as they will in the future. But, Sir, can a Bill which, in the words of a well-known Irishman, "provincialises, degrades, and beggars Ireland," be anything but a basis for further agitation? Can there be contentment in Ireland without peace, and what prospect of peace does anyone find in this Bill? We see every day arising, thanks to the introduction of this Bill, that spirit of enmity between classes and creeds in Ireland which has been diminishing for years past, and the danger of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who remembers Belfast in 1886, will never underrate. Some think they are supporting this Bill as an alternative to coercion, but there will be plenty of coercion in Ireland if this measure becomes law. The only difference will be that the coercion then will be the coercion of men who have hitherto been law-abiding subjects of the Queen, who ask us now only to be allowed to retain the benefits of the Union, to which, in their belief, all their prosperity, all their liberties are really due. We have been appealed to in the name of our common patriotism to assist in passing this measure into law. To us it seems the duty of every patriotic subject to leave no stone unturned to insure its rejection. We have been told that our resistance is vain, and that Home Rule must come. Sir, Home Rule will never come until Great Britain wills it. Whether this Bill be accepted or rejected by this House, the real issue, as every hon. Member among us knows and feels, remains for the decision of the constituencies of Great Britain. To them some day we shall confidently appeal, because we believe that they never will accept a scheme so pregnant with injury to themselves and so incapable of benefiting Ireland. I beg, Sir, to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir Michael Hicks Beach.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."1642
§ MR. BIRRELL (Fife, W.)
said, he was sure that the House had listened with unmixed pleasure to the agreeable accents of the right hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat, once more discoursing upon those Irish affairs with which at one time he was no less intimately than honourably associated. The tone, temper, and disposition of the right hon. Gentleman towards the Irish people and towards this Irish Question had ever been marked by a mildness and generosity of treatment which differed in a remarkable degree from the manner of those by whom he was surrounded. The right hon. Gentleman, in the speech just delivered, had never risen to that epic strain of fury which had characterised the speeches made on the First Reading of the Bill by the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench, but, nevertheless, when the criticisms of the right hon. Gentleman came to be examined, they would be found to turn upon the same entire lack of faith in the Irish people, on being accused of which by the First Lord of the Treasury he was so angry. The right hon. Gentleman refused to believe that the Irish tenant farmer would consent to direct taxation for the benefit of the country. When one listened to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman made either in the House or elsewhere one often wondered whether there was such a thing as an Irish Question at all. Could it possibly be that this question, which had been for centuries the torment and despair of statesmen and philanthropists, and which was a disgrace to Europe—could it be that it had been dissipated, and that it had disappeared once and for ever? He would not ask the House to go back with him to Strongbow, Spenser, Dean Swift, or Mr. Pitt and Mr. Secretary Cooke; he would he perfectly content with the year 1885. Even the youngest of them was alive in 1885. What had happened since 1885 to induce any sane man to believe that the current of Irish opinion, then, at all events, running so strong, had turned back upon its source? What new element had become so intermixed with our political Constitution as to induce anybody to believe that Irish souls had grown fainthearted in this enterprise? Nothing had happened since 1885 of any note or mark at all. There had, indeed, since then appeared above our political 1643 horizon the interesting, the accomplished, but surely the by no means colossal, figure of the Leader of the Opposition. However great his character, however high his ability, however courageously the right hon. Gentleman had defended in this House his administration as carried on across the Channel, his policy, after all, had been the old, but by no means venerable, policy which had always been thrust upon any man who took upon himself to govern a community without the goodwill of its inhabitants—the policy—namely, of kicks and half-pence. The right hon. Gentleman had administered the kicks with great heartiness, and the taxpayers had supplied the halfpence with lavish hand. Even were it admitted that the right hon. Gentleman's administration of the Criminal Law had suppressed disorder, put down crime, made boycotting difficult, and that his outlay of public money and the use he had made of British credit had resulted in deeds and acts of benevolence, he had failed to do anything contributing to the settlement of the Irish Question, because, even if he had converted lawless paupers into law-abiding proprietors, he had found them Home Rulers and left them as he found them. He had not advanced one single step towards settlement, but had only increased the persistency of the Irish Constitutional demands, and had made it the more impossible to refuse to accede to those demands. What evidence was forthcoming that the right hon. Gentleman had ever coerced a single Nationalist out of his Nationalist faith, or had bribed a single Nationalist voter by British money to change his mind or purpose? When this country kept faith with Ireland, and gave it as wide a franchise as England and Scotland, it became perfectly clear that the first use the Irish people meant to make of the privilege or right of Parliamentary representation was to demand a Government at home. That demand they had made with unbroken continuity and unceasing tenacity from that time up to the present, and if the House rejected this Bill they would still continue to make it. It was, therefore, impossible to suppose that this question had undergone any great alteration since 1885. But something had happened since 1885 to prove how inextricably this de- 1644 mand for Home Rule was bound up in the very texture of the Irish people. If ever a political Party in this House had been threatened with temporary political extinction it was the Irish Party, when under trying circumstances they lost the services of their incomparable Parliamentary Leader, who had conducted them along so difficult a path almost to victory. It seemed as if in a single hour the fruits of a hundred victories had been squandered in the dust.Omnia ademitUna dies infesta tibi tot præmia vitæ.Whatever had been the consequences in Ireland of that catastrophe, Great Britain now saw that it had made no difference whatever in the attitude of the Irish people and in the clearness of their Constitutional demand for Home Rule. That demand remained unimpaired. It was the rule for hon. Members opposite to pretend that the only duty now imposed upon the House was to reject this Bill, but there was still the problem of the future government of Ireland. This Bill proposed one solution of the question. The whole matter was now fully and fairly before the House for its consideration. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, with a majority behind him firm, compact, and determined, had embodied proposals in the Bill which were serious and responsible—experimental, if the House liked to call them so, anomalous if they wished so to designate them, and even dangerous, if they went so far as to say that, but none the less proposals solemn and responsible— to confer upon the Irish people representative institutions of their own under an Executive Government responsible to those institutions. Was there an hon. Member who did not know that the introduction of such a Bill by such a man and at such a time marked an epoch in the history of Ireland and was a step that, once taken, could never be retraced? Would a high-spirited nation— numbering something like 18,000,000 Irish hearts beating somewhere under the sun at this moment—would that nation ever forget that a veteran statesman four times Prime Minister of Great Britain had come to the Parliament of 1893 with a majority behind him and had read for the second time, as no doubt he would do, this Bill conferring great liberties 1645 and privileges on the Irish people? Nations refused to forget things of much less importance than this for long centuries. The Irish Question had now entered upon a new era, and some scheme of Home Rule, some substantial modification of the Act of Union, was, consequently, a plain political necessity. He protested against this policy of entire repudiation, of holding up the hands in holy horror over the measure as if it were something ungodly and absurd, when it was perfectly well known that at some time or other, either by one Party in the State or the other, some measure not remotely unlike this, though differing possibly from it in detail, would certainly be passed. But, hard as it was to comprehend the wisdom or patriotism of the attitude assumed towards the Bill by the Tory Party, it was still more difficult to comprehend the attitude of the Liberal Unionists, who in 1885 were good Home Rulers, but were now bound by hoops of steel to the Tory Party. He read not infrequently the early utterances of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham on the subject of Ireland with the kind of melancholy with which one read the letters of some one who was dead. He bore no animosity to the right hon. Gentleman, and he could never forget the courage and inspiration which, when he was still seeking admission to that House, he obtained from the right hon. Gentleman's speeches in 1885. The right hon. Gentleman's doctrine then was that the foundation, origin, and root of the Irish difficulty, the central wound from which Ireland was bleeding, was the divorce which existed in that country between the governing and the governed classes. The right hon. Gentleman denounced Dublin Castle, not as a sink of infamy or den of vice, for it had not been either the one or the other, but as an emblem of an alien rule, not always intelligent and usually extremely unsympathetic. He then sought to restore to the Irish people (and no statesman ever imposed upon himself a nobler task), that self-respect and proper pride in country without which Irish character, whether of peer or peasant, of merchant or lawyer, of soldier or artisan, could never be otherwise than impoverished. He sought to restore self-respect and proper national pride. The attitude 1646 which the right hon. Gentleman then adopted attracted attention and excited enthusiasm; it won converts by hundreds, and, whatever the right hon. Gentleman might say now, he was one of the fathers of the Home Rule movement. The right hon. Gentleman might disown his progeny, but he could not deny his paternity. He would not ask the right hon. Gentleman to adopt this Bill without reservation, although it did not contain that provision for the exclusion of Irish representation from that House which, as they all knew, was the pit out of which Liberal Unionism was dug—he would not ask the right hon. Gentleman to adopt the Bill, because he knew too much of human nature to think it possible that the right hon. Gentleman would select the present moment to return to the Liberal Party. But he did say that the right hon. Gentleman would be doing more justice to the great part which he once played in Liberal politics and to the position which he occupied in the country, if, instead of confining himself to picking holes in this no doubt not immaculate measure, he were to set himself to explain to those who once hung upon his words how it was possible to cure the "central wound" of Ireland without entrusting to the Irish people in some way or other a Parliament and Executive Government of their own. It appeared that the rank and file of the Liberal Party were unfortunately to have no assistance in this great matter from the right hon. Gentleman. The oracle was dumb; the pet Apollo of Radicalism had deserted the shrine at Delphi and now sported with Amaryllis in the shade and played with the tangles of the hair of the Neæras of the Primrose League. Apparently they were to have no assistance in tills great cause from the right hon. Gentleman. That was a great pity. He could well understand that it was part of the unholy alliance into which the right hon. Gentleman had entered with the Tory Party that the should not produce any of those schemes which he once was so ready to develop. It was a pity that the fertile author of the unauthorised progamme—and a very good programme it was—better than the old umbrella of the same period—and of at least half-a-dozen schemes of Home Rule should be condemned by the terms of the 1647 compact into which he had entered to sit in ignominious silence and to refrain from saying how he himself proposed to deal with what he once considered to be the real source of all Irish difficulties. Apart from the question of Ulster, there were in the Bill only two very contentious classes—namely, the 9th clause, providing for the retention of the Irish Members in that House, and the 10th clause, which dealt with the subject of financial relations. He did not propose to deal with the question of financial relations. That was a matter of a bargain between the two countries. It was natural that the Irish should want to start with a big balance in their bank, and he believed that the people of England, remembering the cruel wrongs that had been inflicted on Irish trade in the past, were prepared to be generous in the matter. In any case, surely it did not pass the wit of man to settle a bargain of this sort. Then there was the retention of the Irish Members. He rejoiced very much at the retention of the Irish Members. It was said that all sorts of dangerous consequences would flow from that arrangement. Well, he dared say that Scottish Home Rule would follow—and that was an excellent thing. Attempts had been made to cast ridicule upon the Irish Members under such an arrangement. It was said that they would be demi-Members of Parliament, who would be able to vote in some Divisions and would not be able to vote in others. But he knew something far more ridiculous than a demi-Member of Parliament, and that was a whole Member of Parliament who voted in countless Divisions without knowing what they were about, without knowing the name of the Bill under discussion, without knowing the number of the clause, or the effect of the particular Amendment on which they were about to vote. Any Rule of that House which cleared the Lobbies of Smoking Room and Tea Table politicians might interfere possibly with the traditions of that Assembly, but would certainly aim no very serious blow at the fortress of common sense. It was common knowledge that Ulster presented the only real difficulty in the way of the Bill, and that if Irish opinion were at one and united on the question, they might dispose of the measure in two or three Wednesday afternoons. But un- 1648 doubtedly the question of Ulster did raise solemn, serious, and difficult questions. He had often wondered, as a Scotch Member, that there had been so much apathy and indifference displayed by the rank and file of the nation of Great Britain towards the people of Ulster. He had often wondered how it was that they had been able for so long a time to turn a deaf ear to Ulster's bitter cry. But he thought he could give two or three reasons for this apathy and deafness. One was that the men of Ulster used far too habitually the language of poetry and metaphor. They said that this Bill would sell them into slavery. The Bill held out no such prospect, and in his opinion no British tourist to Ireland need be hopeful or fearful of seeing the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh and the hon. Member for South Tyrone tied together and exposed for sale in the market place of Dublin. Then they were told that the Bill would hand the people of Ulster, bound hand and foot, over to their hereditary foe. That, again, was poetry; and exceedingly bad poetry. The British Constitution was not going to die in childbirth; it would survive even the delivery of this by no means Gargantuan birth; and under the protection of the British Army and Navy the "douce and dour" inhabitants of Belfast—for he hoped some of them were "douce," though the noble Lord had said they were all "dour"—might sleep as peacefully in the future as do the inhabitants of Glasgow under the tutelary influences of St. Mungo. Another reason why there was a certain amount of hesitation in adopting the views of Ulster on this question was that the people of that province too frequently invited sympathy upon the ground of their being fellow-Protestants. That appeal was a belated appeal; it came a century too late. The people of Scotland were not adverse to theological discussion; but as citizens of this great country they cared no more whether the inhabitants of Belfast were Catholics or Protestants than they did whether the hon. Member for North Armagh sipped his hock out of a red glass or a green. Protestants and Roman Catholics could both be if they liked loyal subjects of the Crown, and his constituents resented the introduction of the name of religion into the discussion of a merely 1649 secular dispute. He did not wish to be offensive, but he did not seriously recognise in the tones of the Irish Protestants of Ulster the mild, gracious and pleasing accents of religion pure and un-defiled. The Unionist Members from Ulster might be excellent men of business and loyal subjects of the Crown, when they got their own way; some of them were strict teetotalers, but they were not always recognisable in that House as men remarkably religious; at all events, if they were, their religion was of that unpleasing variety whose votaries had so great a zeal for it that they never had time to say their prayers. No popery was once a formidable cry, but it was always a sorry creed, and it is too much the creed of Ulster. Another objection he had to the position taken up by the Ulster people in this matter was the Brahminical attitude they assumed. They always talked as if they were a great deal better than the people in the other parts of Ireland. He read the other day of a Brahmin in India who adopted the creed of Jeremy Bentham with his excellent aphorism, "the greatest happiness of the greatest number"; but it was subject in his mouth to this Brahminical qualification—that every Brahmin by the law of his religion was entitled to just 25 times as much happiness as anybody else. So with the people of Ulster. They talked as if they were entitled to 25 times as much happiness as the people of Connaught or Munster. But putting aside this poetry, this no-popery cry, and this Brahminical attitude, he agreed that the people of Ulster had graver and more genuine objections to urge against the proposals of the Government. They were afraid of the loss of patronage; they dreaded the loss of patronage. He observed that the Leader of the Opposition, speaking a day or two ago in Ulster, had the wisdom to put that objection in a very prominent position in his speech, and said Ulster would lose the patronage of the appointments of its Postmasters and Postmistresses, but he (Mr. Birrell) ventured to say that the House would not greatly deplore the departure of that system. But behind this there was the fact that large numbers of men of character and wealth in Ulster really dreaded the advent into Ireland of the proposed new system of administration, which they believed would impose 1650 upon them unfair taxation, fantastic methods of finance—possibly bimetallism, for aught he knew—and would prejudicially affect the order and prosperity of Ireland, in which, of course, the men of Ulster were bound up. In other words, those men of Ulster declared that the people in Ireland were absolutely unfit to be entrusted with the ordinary routine of self-government. If so, it was a terrible judgment to pass upon our connection with Ireland for so many centuries that the result of it had been so to brutalise one of the most keen-witted people that ever lived to such an abject degree that they could not be safely entrusted even under control and supervision with ordinary self-government without reducing the whole country to a state of absolute ruin and anarchy. Bad as our treatment of Ireland had been in the past, he should be very sorry to believe it had bad so direful a result as that. But even were the statement true, surely the time bad come when they should, at all events, begin to teach the Irish people some of those lessons of freedom and self-government to which we had for so long been treating the inhabitants of Egypt, and which, perhaps before long, they should be teaching the pleasing populations of Uganda. The time had come when they should go boldly and resolutely forward with this work of justice to Ireland. Though he attached great importance to the views of Ulster, and though he admitted that the people of Ulster were entitled to every possible consideration, and to every possible safeguard they could suggest in their own defence, yet he could not accept them as perfectly impartial judges as to the capacity and needs of their Catholic fellow-country-men. He could not forget that the people of Ulster were satisfied with the status quo. The people of Ulster said—"Leave us as we are, to build our ships and weave our linen, and make our pile of money—we are well off, so leave us alone." But there was another voice in Ireland; and that voice, the voice of the majority of the nation, had a right to be heard. It was idle to say that because there were difficulties, and because, in the opinion of some people, the outlook was gloomy, therefore they were to do nothing. "He that considereth the wind shall not sow, and he that looketh to the clouds shall not reap." The time had come when 1651 they should have courage in this matter. If they wore really Liberals and Radicals, let their faith be tested in Liberal and Radical doctrines. Their fathers—their predecessors in the House—to do them justice, had never hesitated in the hour of difficulty and danger to sow in Ireland those dragons' teeth from which we had reaped an abundant and appropriate harvest; but the time had come for them to exhibit a nobler courage, and, relying upon the political faith they professed, to sow seed in Ireland of bettor omen, in the hope, the persuasion, and the confidence that those who came after them would be able to reap in that hitherto unhappy soil a rich harvest of contentment and prosperity.
§ SIR SEYMOUR KING (Hull, Central)
said, that it was more than six years ago that as a Member of the House he ventured to criticise a Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian—then, as now, the head of Her Majesty's Government—with the professed object then, as now, of "amending the future Government of Ireland." He could not help thinking, as he listened to the right hon. Gentleman's striking and eloquent exposition of the features of the Bill now before the House, how different in many respects that Bill was from the measure which in 1886 the right hon. Gentleman, with equal conviction, and no less vehemence, commended to the House and the country as a final and sovereign remedy for all the ills of Ireland—he could not help thinking how lucky it was, if the right hon. Gentleman was right now, that they did not then accept his prescription! It had, indeed, occurred to him that perhaps six years hence he might, under the favour of Providence, be sitting in the same place and listening to the right hon. Gentleman proposing a third and totally different scheme, and appealing to them to pass it as the true and only method of making Ireland happy, and enabling them "to cherish and love one another through all time to come." In the light of the changes which the right hon. Gentleman had introduced into this new measure, they were able to appreciate how fortunate it was that they did not pass the old; and, with this experience before them, would it not be well to permit 1652 the mind of the right hon. Gentleman to work on this scheme for another half dozen years, so that they might have the benefit of any further developments of his fecund and versatile ingenuity? When he thought that had the right hon. Gentleman, in 1886, had the advantage of a pliable majority he might have carried through a Bill some of the main provisions of which he had since discovered to be inexpedient or impracticable; that Mr. Parnell might have become the first Prime Minister of Ireland; that he would have been in a position to bid defiance to the Nonconformist conscience, and could have crushed with ease any such revolt as that of Committee Room No. 15; that there would now have been no Irish Members at Westminster, and that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, deprived of an Irish majority, would be sitting in the chill shade of Opposition—with no Local Option Bill to rouse the enthusiasm of the teetotallers, with no Royal Commissions to pave the way for conferring a premium on defiance of the law in Ireland and robbing the Corporation of London—when he thought of all that, he could not help fancying that the right hon. Gentleman must be grateful to the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for West Birmingham and Bury, to the recalcitrant and re-recalcitrant right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland, to that wandering and returning sheep, the hon. Member for Bradford, and to other equally sound Liberals, for having saved him from committing a blunder which would have conferred a bad Government on Ireland and a Tory Administration on Great Britain. Among the revenges which the whirligig of time had brought was this—that they now had a clear demonstration that the right hon. Gentleman was not infallible, and a clear warning that what he declared to-day to be just and expedient he might, six years hence, were the opportunity afforded him—as he (Sir Seymour King) sincerely trusted it might be—see reason to abandon and disapprove. In the circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman could not be surprised if he supported the proposal to remit this question once more to a future period, in the hope that a few years hence—after the right hon. Gentleman had passed through a second period of political fasting and penance—they 1653 might get the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman's maturer judgment as to the best means of giving Ireland her independence without separating her from the United Kingdom; for if the Irish Members were to be believed that was the curious and excessively Irish problem which the right hon. Gentleman had set himself to solve by this Bill. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman had entered so thoroughly into the spirit of the thing that there was an obvious Irish bull on the face of his Bill, which proposes to "establish an Irish Legislature" (in Clause 1) "without" according to the Preamble "impairing or restricting the supreme authority of Parliament." Why, it was manifest that the supreme authority of Parliament was impaired or restricted in Ireland, to the extent of the powers conferred on the Irish Legislature; and all the marvellous sophistical ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman cannot alter or conceal that fact. In truth, the words "Supreme authority" were delusive. They were evidently intended for the gallery. They could deceive no man who had the least knowledge of Constitutional questions. The word ''Supreme" there could only be used to give vagueness, while conveying an impression of emphasis. It was clear that the simple word "authority" was stronger. If the meaning intended to be conveyed by the words but not implied in them were to be effectively expressed, it would be in some such terms as the following: "while maintaining the control and authority of Parliament over all acts of the Irish Legislature." That, however, hon. Gentlemen from Ireland would not accept, so this proviso, which meant nothing, and in any case had no legal effect, was, as he had said, a delusive proviso. He said it had no legal effect because it was inserted in the Preamble. He was no lawyer, but he was informed that the function of a Preamble was to explain the object of the Statute; but it could not operate to limit, or alter, or restrain the plain words of the enactment. If a Preamble declared that it was advisable to alter the regulations for hansom cabs and the Act went on expressly to declare that the enactments were to be applied to four-wheelers, the Preamble would be disregarded. He would take the liberty of reading to the House the rule, as it was stated by 1654 Baron Channel in the case of "Hughes v. Chester Railway Company," 31, Law Journal, Chancery 100—It is a well established rule that effect is to be given to the clear words of an enacting clause, though they may go far beyond the language of the Preamble; that is, that, where the words of an enacting clause are clear and explicit, then their natural and obvious meaning shall not be restricted or cut down by the use of language of less extensive import in the Preamble. If, then, the words of the enacting clauses taken together are words admitting according to their natural import but of one meaning, that meaning must prevail, notwithstanding an argument to the contrary otherwise desirable from the Preamble.He asked hon. Members to apply the principle laid down in that case by Baron Channel to a concrete instance which, if the Bill passed, would be certain to arise. He took the House to Clause 12, "Financial arrangements between the United Kingdom and Ireland," Section 3. That section enacted that—After l5 years from the passing of this Act the arrangements made by this Act for the contribution of Ireland to Imperial liabilities and expenditure, and otherwise for the financial relations between the United Kingdom and Ireland, may be revised in pursuance of an Address to Her Majesty from the House of Commons of from the Irish Legislative Assembly.Now, it was certain—at all events, it was probable—that in 15 years the Irish Government would begin to complain of the burthen imposed on its finances by this Imperial contribution. Let them remember, when gentlemen from Canada or elsewhere tried to persuade them that there was an analogy between the state of things to be created by this Bill and the relations between this country and our Colonies having responsible Government, that there was no such Colony which had been subjected to an Imperial contribution—no Colony in which this Parliament and the British Executive had reserved a right to appropriate the Customs and regulate the Excise. The attempt to enforce that right, or its equivalent, lost us the most magnificent territory on the globe, and no one who knew anything about the Colonies would deny that had they attempted in relation to Canada or Australia to reserve such a right as was here proposed to be reserved to the Parliament and Crown in Ireland the Colonies would have resisted it, even by 1655 force. Well, we had among us a distinguished Canadian statesman, who might be fairly asked to tell them what would have been the effects of introducing into the historical measure passed for the Union of Upper and Lower Canada in 1840, and conferring responsible Government on those provinces—a measure which was the precursor of the existing Government of the Dominion—a proviso that the Customs and Excise were to be regulated by this Parliament. Why, had the Act been accepted in that form, and had a clause like Clause 12 of this Bill been inserted—that hon. Member could tell them that at the end of 15 years the Canadian Parliament would have addressed the Crown, claiming a re-arrangement of the financial relations. And what kind of a re-arrangement? A rearrangement based on an actual and total repudiation of the right of this Parliament to reserve a control over Customs and Excise—the two great sources of any National finance. Well, if this Bill passed, were they to expect anything less from an Irish Government and an Irish people—after they had enjoyed 15 years of practical self-government, and had organized a State—a nation—a solid and compact system which nevertheless found itself restrained from further development by want of means. Now came in his point about the supremacy of Parliament. Assuming that in 15 years the Irish Legislative Assembly addressed the Crown on these subjects—to use the words of this Bill— ofThe contribution of Ireland to Imperial liabilities and expenditure and otherwise of the financial relations between the United Kingdom and Ireland.This Bill says, "the arrangements may be revised," but it did not say how they were to be revised; by whom they were to be revised; or what was to be the first authority in such a revision? They might be sure that a demand of that kind, which touched the pockets of the Irish people, would be pressed with all the force and vehemence of the Irish character. Then this Parliament would have to face this question, how to deal with that demand, and with whom rested the first authority to settle it? The Irish Government would urge, "You gave us authority to raise the question at the end of 15 years. We 1656 have followed your own prescription. We have resolved that we cannot carry on the Government of Ireland without the control of Customs and Excise. Against the unanimous voice of the Irish people you have no right to continue to impose these taxes—if you do we shall resist you." Well, when that happened—as if this Bill passed it assuredly would happen—he wanted to know where this Parliament would stand? They might recite in the Preamble that its supreme authority was not to be impaired; but the English Parliament would contend that Section 3 of Clause 12 gives them expressly a right to open the question and demand a revision of all the financial relations. The Irish Parliament would point out that, practically, this Section 3 puts them on an equal footing with regard to such a revision with the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and that, therefore, it would be absurd to suppose that the final and supreme authority in the matter rested with the Imperial Parliament. Evidently against the express enactment of that section the Preamble would have no force. A Constitutional crisis of the gravest kind would have arisen. Its danger and its importance might be made all the more serious because at that juncture we might be engaged in a foreign war which was taxing all our resources, and obliged us to levy heavier contributions out of our Customs and Excise Duties. Who could regard such a possible crisis as that without alarm? Who, with a light heart and too sanguine hopes, could consent to pass a measure which would expose us to so great a danger? Who for a moment could contend that this Bill was to place Ireland in the same relations to this country as our self-governing Colonies? Who could venture to affirm that this Bill did not create elaborate possibilities of friction which had been avoided in those Acts under which our Colonies had received their Charters of semi-independence. But that point had already been made clear to the House by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen learned in the law, and he only alluded to it in order to show how frail a barrier the right hon. Gentleman interposed between a fractious Irish Legislature and that Supremacy of Parliament which the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary pro- 1657 fessed themselves so determined to assert and preserve. It is obviously one of these sham obstacles composed of rushes or willow wands, which was meant to look formidable, but which any ordinary Irish political steeplechaser would take at the stretch of his gallop. It seemed to him that the Government could not decide definitely on what principle it would give self-government to Ireland. The Government dare not bring in a Bill conferring on Ireland so large an amount of autonomy as is enjoyed by our Colonies, which had responsible Governments. The Ministry knew too well that the country would not stand it. Therefore they had brought in this hybrid and mongrel Bill, which neither made Ireland a Colony, nor conferred on it a National independence such as was enjoyed by Hungary. But while the Ministry was afraid to bring in a Bill which would endow Ireland with legislative independence, because on their side there were many thoughtful men who cling to the idea of the supremacy of Parliament throughout these Realms, the Ministry could bring in a Bill which would appear to limit and restrain the freedom of action of an Irish Legislature, and vet contain within it the certain germs of independence and of liberation from the control of Parliament; and that was what had been done, and done with a Machiavelian ingenuity which was perfectly stupendous. The Bill was sown throughout with germs and provocations of future quarrels, quarrels to which the only solution must be that final resort to force which it was well known that Parliament, infested and perhaps controlled by Irish Members, would be reluctant to use. Such germs of future quarrel were the clause as to financial relations; the reservation as to the control of foreign trade; the whole of the restrictions detailed in Clause 4; and the provisions for the enforcement of the decrees of the Exchequer Judges in case the officers of the Irish Government should fail to give them effect. And the answer to the statement that the Bill was a moderate Bill was this: that it did not satisfy the so-called "aspirations" of the Irish Nationalist Party, and if it did not on the face of it so ostensibly satisfy those aspirations and yet they accepted it, the House might be sure they only accepted it either because 1658 they saw and know that those restrictions were only paper restrictions, and could be and would not be enforced, or because they did not regard it as final. But there was one great, and to his mind overwhelming, objection to their proceeding any farther with this Bill. He denied the competency of the House, as at present constituted, to undertake so large and important a revision—he should rather have said a revolution—of the Constitution. Let it be clearly understood that he did not intend to challenge the long acknowledged and confirmed rights of the House of Commons to pass any measure which it might deem necessary for the welfare of these Realms. Technically, its competency to initiate the greatest Constitutional changes was beyond dispute. But between the technical and legal rights to do a thing and the Constitutional propriety and expediency of doing it under certain circumstances, a distinct line could be drawn—and that line had in this case been overstepped. Theoretically, under all popular Governments the right of Constitutional revision rested with the electorate—the people. He might add that it did so practically as well, for it was certain that no great Constitutional change could be carried in this or any other democratic country without the assent of the people—and that not a mere majority of the people—but a majority sufficiently large and over-mastering to impose its will. He might illustrate what he meant from the case of Belgium. Belgium for some years had been agitated over the question of Constitutional revision. But parties there had been so equally divided that it had been found impossible for either one of them to impress its will on the other. Had either, relying on a casual and numerically inconsiderable majority, passed through Parliament a measure making profound alterations in the Constitution, yet, in such circumstances, it would have been impossible to carry it into effect, because it was certain that in no country would a strong, compact, and almost equal minority succumb to a majority on a matter they consider vital to their country's fortunes. Hence it was that provisions were made in such a country as France for the meeting of a Constituent Assembly for Constitutional revision and the requirements that alterations in the form of Govern- 1659 ment were to be made by an effective majority in that Assembly. The absence of any machinery for a revision of our Constitution as was provided in the systems of the United States, Canada, France, and other countries, had often formed the subject of discussion by writers on our Constitution, and it had been recognised that there ought to be some more satisfactory machinery for such revision than now existed. At all events, it was perfectly clear that no revision could take place—no grave changes in the Constitution could be effected—without the assent of the House of Lords and the Crown. The Crown and the Lords had an equal responsibility with the House for seeing that any proposed reforms in the Constitution shall be not only just and expedient in themselves, but that they were supported by such an overwhelming mass of opinion among the people as to assure their certain and uncontested operation. That, then, was the point he wished to make. The right hon. Gentleman could point to no such great and general alteration of the Constitution of these Realms as he proposed by the present Bill being attempted with a majority so small and so uncertain as he commanded in this country; and, viewing the matter from the ground of reasonableness and of expediency, it was not right that those profound changes should be attempted by this House in its existing condition. Its mandate was neither sufficiently clear nor sufficiently authoritative to justify it in attempting to alter the terms by which this Parliament existed for the United Kingdom, to restrict its authority in one part of that Kingdom, and to change the Constitution of this House. For though this House had perfect competency to discuss and legislate upon the question of the Succession of the Crown—or even of the abolition of the Monarchical system and the establishment of a Republic—who could argue that it would be Constitutional for a Minister with a majority of 30 or 40, representing only a diminutive majority of say 5 per cent. out of an electorate of nearly 5,000,000, to undertake to legislate on those questions. No Ministry would dare to attempt it without a clear and overwhelming mandate from the constituencies. The Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to insist that before a public house should 1660 be disestablished in a district there must be a majority of two-thirds of the ratepayers to authorise it—and yet the right hon. Gentleman, with a bare majority of votes out of millions, was proposing to alter an ancient and venerated Constitution. He ventured to lay down this proposition— that no Minister had the Constitutional right to tamper with the Constitution in the manner proposed by this most unnecessary Bill, unless he was backed by a majority in. the country vast enough to enforce its will on the nation. If it was attempted it would be lawful to resist. He called the Bill most unnecessary. If he were asked to describe this measure in a sentence he would say that it was a Bill to encourage and endow revolutionary agitation. It was, indeed, a Bill to rehabilitate the character of the men whom the right hon. Gentleman had branded as pursuing through rapine the dismemberment of the Empire. He spoke of the Bill as the right hon. Gentleman's Bill for a reason. If there ever was a Bill introduced into this House which was a one-man Bill, it was this. From the capacious brain of the right hon. Gentleman sprang the idea that the only way to trump the Tories, who were predominate in Britain, was to win over the Irish vote, which held the balance between the two Parties. Coincidently with that the right hon. Gentleman's mind became suddenly alive to the wickedness of the conduct which the English Government, during a long series of years, in the largo proportion of which he was chiefly responsible for its policy, had held towards Ireland. He woke to the fact that to enforce the law was injustice, and resistance to law, if not a virtue, a thing to be palliated, if the criminal were an Irishman, owing to the fact that his ancestors, like our ancestors, had been shabbily and even iniquitously treated by former Governments. He it was, and he alone, who in the tortuous mazes of his mind worked out this tortuous and mazy Bill. There was no other right hon. Gentleman sitting on that Bench who would dare to accept the entire responsibility for this Bill; only a statesman with the great and splendid reputation of the right hon. Gentleman could venture to affront the sound sense of the British electorate with a farrago of anomalies and absur- 1661 dities which if ever they should become embodied in an Act of Parliament would make it an act of lunacy. On the strength of that reputation Ministers were trying to force this Bill through the Commons, relying on the ignorance of the electorate preventing it from seizing all the purport and significance of this political jumble. Aye, and not alone the ignorance of the electorate—for not long ago one intelligent Gladstonian candidate so far vindicated his right to sit hero and take a part in the criticism of legislative measures for his country as to declare that he knew nothing about the Bill, but would say ditto to anything that the right hon. Gentleman proposed. That hon. Gentleman was sitting in this House among other items who offered a silent and ignoble tribute to the influence of the right hon. Gentleman and their own incapacity. So low had fallen the privilege and the pride of representing the people in this House—so low had one Member fallen as to be not ashamed to confess it—Infra Ventidium deject us! In the great struggle which was now going on to defend the Constitution of these Realms from risky and mad experiments, they were protesting against this most perilous and most unconstitutional domination of one man—one man who had not even at his back a sufficient majority to sustain the authority which he arrogated for impairing the supremacy of Parliament, revolutionising the Constitution, and imperilling the unity of these Realms. He might succeed with his casual superiority in votes in carrying this Bill through this House, but his task would only then begin. For he had yet to face a majority of Englishmen outside powerful enough, compact enough, and resolute enough on this supreme appeal to compel even his autocratic will to reject this cowardly surrender to the forces of anarchy and discord.
§ MR. SPICER (Monmouth, &c.)
said, he wished to say a few words in support of the Bill, because he had been sent to the House by his constituents for that purpose. The hon. Member who had just sat down had stated that hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House were following blindly the Prime Minister, but it might be interesting to the hon. Member if he told him that he received his first lesson in Home Rule some 20 years ago, at the hands of a 1662 gentleman who was entrusted with the Irish business of a very distinguished Conservative statesman who had now passed away. The hon. Member had asked what would happen with regard to this country in time of war it seemed to him extremely ungenerous to think that Ireland would not stand by the old country in that event, as she had done before. But he would like to point out that they were running a far greater risk now owing to the position of the Irish question, for he believed that if difficulties should arise before this question was settled, the Irish party in the Colonies and in America would throw in their lot against England, whereas if the matter were once settled it would help to solidify the bonds that bound us to all parts of the British Empire. He would leave Constitutional questions to those who knew more about them than he did. He had been connected for some years with the commerce of this country, and they were constantly being told that if Home Rule came Irish trade would be ruined, and that in 1886 there was a fall in Irish securities. They knew that there had been a certain fall in Irish securities to-day, but the reason was that those who were interested in Irish securities belonged to exactly the same class as those who were opposed to Home Rule. In the North of Ireland there was a great deal of borrowed capital, and naturally if those gentlemen who bad borrowed said they were going to be ruined, those who had lent would ask for their money back. It was said that trade would be ruined and that manufacturers would leave. He had yet to learn that it was possible for manufacturers to remove their factories as quickly as some people imagined: and he would ask, why was it that these manufacturers were in the North of Ireland at all? They knew very well that in regard to one branch of manufacture climate had a great deal to do with it, and they knew also that the North of Ireland was extremely well placed for obtaining large supplies of coal and iron, and they knew even more than that, that the price of labour in the North of Ireland had been simply a disgrace to commerce as a whole. He questioned very much whether a good deal of this outcry in the North of Ireland with regard to ruined trade had not arisen from a feeling 1663 that if there was a more general state of prosperity throughout the whole of Ireland the price of labour in Belfast and other parts would not be as low as it was to-day. Then, again, they were told that trade would be harassed if Home Rule came. He admitted that that would be so if Irish opinion was against the Bill, but the Government did not propose to pass the Bill in opposition to Irish opinion. England was the great purchaser of Irish commodities, and must ever remain so, and was it not, therefore, reasonable that it was in the best interests of Ireland that she should maintain friendly relations with this country? They were told that the resources of Ireland were unequal to supporting National Government; but when they read of the resources possessed by many of our Colonies when they were first permitted to have self-government, they would see that the resources of Ireland were quite sufficient in that respect. Then they were told that the Irish people had no business instinct; but it seemed to him that the Irish people had shown very clearly, since the English Parliament gave them an equal franchise with that of England, that they knew something about their own needs, and when they requested the British people to give them powers of self-government, he thought they gave a good proof that they really understood their own interests. This matter had not been fairly treated. There had been a great deal too much undue pressure. Even in the City of London, where they were supposed to be free, there had been pressure brought to bear upon many gentlemen, who in the early stage of this conflict raised their voices in favour of justice to Ireland in a way that would surprise most people. They had had, for instance, the City Companies, some of whom, at any rate, had passed resolutions that no one should be elected to a Court of the Company who held Home Rule views. [Cries of "Name!"] He would mention a Company, if they wished—the Fishmongers' Company. [Sir E. CLARKE dissented.] He believed he had heard the voice of the hon. and learned Gentleman in that Court.
§ MR. SPICER
said he spoke from personal experience; he had been told that such a resolution had been passed. If a further explanation were required he would go further and say that this thing had occurred with regard to himself. He was called upon by a member of the Court one day, and was asked whether he would allow his name to be submitted, and a few days afterwards he was again called upon by the same gentleman, who said that he was sorry he had called, that a mistake had been made, and that because he held Home Rule opinions nothing further could be done. That sort of language made some of them feel that there had been undue influence. Then they were told that under Home Rule they would have no religious freedom in Ireland, and that no safeguards in the Bill would be of the slightest use. He would, first of all, ask whether they had any proof of willingness to tamper with religious freedom in those districts of Ireland where the vast majority belonged to the Roman Catholic Church? He could not find the slightest evidence of it. The North Meath election was a peculiar case; it was not a question there between Protestant and Catholic but between Government and Government. He fully appreciated religions freedom, and was almost amused at the new-born zeal of gentlemen opposite in that regard. There was a great deal of petty persecution going on in hundreds of English villages to-day on the part of clergymen and curates in connection with their national schools and the boycotting of tradesmen, and in other ways, and why did not hon. Members go to their constituencies and find that out for themselves? He believed the days of religious persecution were over, and he saw nothing in the recent history of Ireland that would justify him in believing that intolerance would prevail. In the interests of the trade of Ireland and of religious freedom he should have great pleasure in supporting the Prime Minister when they went into the Lobby.
Notice taken, that, 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft),
though claiming the indulgence usually extended to a new Member on 1665 first addressing the House made no apology for intervening in the Debate, first, because the Bill was acknowledged to be of such enormous importance and proposed to introduce such novel changes in the Constitution, that every Member of the House would be entitled to be heard upon it; and, secondly, because he had the honour to represent a constituency which had had this question brought before it more prominently, perhaps, than many others. It was that constituency in which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer made a very celebrated speech, in the course of which he congratulated the Tory Party upon "stewing in Parnellite juice." Then the Prime Minister himself had honoured Lowestoft with a visit, and at its conclusion had prophesied the triumph of the Liberal cause at Lowestoft in words of unusual confidence when he wrote to his (Mr. Foster's) opponent—From all I have seen and heard, I am certain you will be the Member at the next Election.The issue had shown that the right hon. Gentleman was entirely in the wrong, and the House would not expect his (Mr. Foster's) constituents to put very great faith in the Prime Minister's prophecies about the blessings of Home Rule. The Prime Minister, in introducing the measure, had made an appeal to the electors of the United Kingdom, which he knew very well would be an effective one; he had said that it was a Bill which would do "justice to Ireland." Great names had been frequently invoked for the purpose of furthering unrighteous proposals; the name of justice before now had been invoked for the purpose of perpetrating great injustice and oppression, and he ventured to say that never was the name of justice more improperly invoked than at the present moment by the Prime Minister. As a new Member of the House, whose father was not born at the time the Prime Minister first became a Member of Parliament, he had made it his business to endeavour to ascertain some of the principal tenets of the public life of the Prime Minister, and he had also endeavoured to ascertain how it was that the Prime Minister, who had been in the House for over 60 years, and who had had a larger share in the government of the country than any 1666 other living man, and who had seen this "gross injustice" for so long a period of time—how it was he had never endeavoured to remedy it until within the last six years? One might have supposed that this demand for Home Rule was one raised in recent times, and to which the attention of hon. Gentlemen had been only recently directed. The Prime Minister had told them that day that it had been persistently before the country ever since 29 years after the Act of Union. If one could ignore the history of the last seven years, and could have gone to sleep and appeared in the House that night, one would have expected that the very man who would be leading the opposition to the Bill, and who would have exhausted the vocabulary of condemnation of the English language in denunciation of it, would have been the Prime Minister himself. He made, amongst other contributions to the literature and speeches of the day, a notable speech in 1871. He (Mr. Foster) knew that was a long while ago. It was a long time for him, but it was not a long way back in the political history of the Prime Minister. In 1871 he was the Prime Minister of England, and had been for 40 years a Member of that House. In that speech he said he did not know what was meant by the cry of Home Rule for Ireland. He said he was glad to know that those who raised that cry did not desire to break up the United Kingdom into fragments. He said also—"We are told that it is necessary for Ireland to choose her relations with the Parliament of this country, and to have a. Parliament of her own. We shall say to this learned gentleman" (Mr. Butt), "'Why is Parliament to be broken up? Has Ireland any great grievances? What is it that Ireland has demanded from the Imperial Parliament, and that the Imperial Parliament has refused?'" It was then the view of the Prime Minister that Home Rule would break up the Imperial Parliament. The Unionists had got the word "disintegration" from the vocabulary of the right hon. Gentleman himself, who, when he had a great majority of the House of Commons behind him, rendering him independent of the Irish Party, had viewed Home Rule as "a policy of disintegration and breaking up of 1667 the Empire." In 1886 the Prime Minister said they had come to what he called the "parting of the ways"; he said there were two alternatives—the one Home Rule, the other coercion. There was no ground for his confining himself to two alternatives. The alternatives from which the Unionists had to choose and the parting of the ways at which they had arrived was this: that while the Gladstonians desired to grant a Parliament to Ireland, Unionists considered that the proper remedy for devolving some of the work from the shoulders of the Imperial Parliament upon the localities was the granting of a large measure of Local Government to Ireland—and to further such a policy was one of the closing acts of the late Government. The Prime Minister ought to have said that the alternatives were Local Government or Home Rule. Speaking in 1879 at Dalkeith the Prime Minister pointed out the distinction between Local Government and Home Rule, and said he was friendly to any scheme of Local Government provided nothing was done to weaken or compromise the authority of the Imperial Parliament. Now, had any of the Prime Minister's supporters the audacity to stand up in that House and deny that this Bill, if it passed, would not weaken the authority of the Imperial Parliament? The Prime Minister in 1879 said that nothing that created a doubt upon that supremacy could be tolerated by any intelligent or patriotic mind; but, subject to that limitation, if they could make arrangements under which Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and portions of England could deal with questions of local and special interest to themselves more efficiently than Parliament, it would be the attaining of great national good. So far as relieving Parliament of some of the burdens which it now had to undertake, every hon. Member of the House, of whatever politics, desired to see a reform, and measures which were generally understood under the title of "gas and water" would be very much better dealt with in the localities. But that was a long way from the proposal now made. The right hon. Gentleman came back to power in 1880, and the whole source of our present troubles in Ireland dated from that time. The Con- 1668 servative Party had then been in Office six years, and the right hon. Gentleman found—A diminution of crime and outrage, and a general sense of comfort and satisfaction, such as was unknown in the previous history of the country.He (Mr. Foster) would remind the House of the relations between the Prime Minister and the Nationalist Party before he surrendered to them at the end of 1885. The Prime Minister described Mr. Parnell and the Members of his Party, in the House and out of it, as men who were preaching, almost for the first time, the doctrine of public plunder, and he described the contest between his Government and the Irish Nationalists as a contest between law on the one hand and sheer lawlessness on the other. He had spoken of the Nationalist Members as "steeped to the lips in crime," and as "marching through rapine and plunder to the dismemberment of the Empire." What a change there was now in the Prime Minister's policy! The Chief Secretary for Ireland now did not dare to doubt the word of an Irish Nationalist Member in regard to any statement in that House, because he knew that his Government held Office only at the beck of the Irish Party. Then the House would probably like to know what was the opinion of the Nationalist Party with regard to the Liberal Party. This was the Manifesto of the Nationalist Party addressed—To our Countrymen in England and Scotland.The Liberal Party are making an appeal to the confidence of the electors at the General Election of 1885, as at the Election of 1880, on false pretences. … We feel bound to advise our countrymen to place no confidence in the Liberal or Radical Party, and so far as in them lies to prevent the Government of the Empire falling into the hands of a Party so perfidious, treacherous, and incompetent. In no case ought an Irish Nationalist to give a vote, in our opinion, to a member of the Liberal or Radical Party, except in some few cases in which courageous fealty to the Irish cause in the last Parliament has given a guarantee that the candidate will not belong to the servile and cowardly and unprincipled herd that would break every pledge and violate every principle in obedience to the call of the Whip and the mandate of the Caucus. We earnestly advise, our countrymen to vote against the men who coerced Ireland, deluged Egypt with blood, menaced religious liberty in the school, the freedom of speech in Parliament, and promised to the country generally a repetition of the crimes and follies of the last Liberal Administration.1669 It was interesting to look at the signatures to that document. It was signed by T. P. O'Connor, President of the Irish National League of Great Britain, Justin McCarthy Thomas Sexton, T. M. Healy J. E. Redmond, James O'Kelly, and J. G. Biggar. Those were the views that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway entertained—and seriously entertained, no doubt—of the Prime Minister, so that at the end of 1885 the right hon. Gentleman was utterly and bitterly opposed to the aims and objects of the Nationalist Party, and that Party were equally opposed to the right hon. Gentleman, and now what a change had come over the scene. To-day, if a question were addressed to the Chief Secretary by one of the ordinary Gladstonian Members, no doubt he was treated with courtesy; if a question came from the Opposition was answered; but if an inquiry were made by a member of the Irish-Nationalist Party it was to be observed that the right hon. Gentleman answered with bated breath. The manner and method of his answers depended entirely upon the Party to which the questioner belonged—courteous to a Gladstonian, curt to a Unionist, cringing to a Nationalist. Why, the other day, in answer to a Nationalist question which reflected upon an Irish landlord, the Chief Secretary stated he knew nothing as to the alleged facts, but added, apologetically, that he had no doubt they were as stated by the hon. Member. The right hon. Gentleman accurately gauged the position of the Government. He knew that they held Office at the nod of the Irish Party. He knew that if the Irish Party were offended in however slight a degree, and they remained away from the House, the Government would be in a minority of 40, and he knew that if they were provoked to the extent of voting against his Party the Government would at once be in a minority of 120. How had the change been brought about? Why, the great Liberal Party were content to submit to the dictatorship of one man. The Bill was the product of the marvellous intellectual power of the Prime Minister, who had thrust his views upon a reluctant Party. ["No, no!"] Yes; that was an accurate statement. The Party knew nothing about the Bill seven years ago. 1670 They were absolutely startled by its introduction—so startled that the very pick and flower of the Party refused to have anything to do with the measure. Something like one half of the Prime Ministers' Colleagues broke off their political ties and the strong ties of personal friendship rather than put their hands to a measure that they felt was fraught with danger to the Empire. The Prime Minister had not taken the country into his confidence, he had not even confided in his own colleagues. In 1885 the Prime Minister had in his view the fact that there would be at least 80 Nationalist Members returned. Did he say that that would be a strong ground for granting Home Rule? Not at all. He said it would be a good reason for opposing it, unless the Party who undertook the consideration of the question was entirely independent of the Irish vote. He said to his constituents in Edinburgh, in November, 1885—It will be a vital danger to the country if at the time of the demand of Ireland for large power of self-government there is not in Parliament, ready to deal with that subject, a Party totally independent of the Irish vote. It would not be safe for the Party to enter upon the consideration of the measure, at every step of which would be in the power of the Party from Ireland to say, 'Unless you do this and unless you do that we will turn you out to-morrow." Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that?Was he in a position to judge of the dangers that would arise if any Party attempted to deal with the question in total dependence on the Irish vote? No doubt he meant what he said. Well, could it be denied that the Government to-day existed on the sufferance of the Irish Members? The Prime Minister had said that it would not be safe for the Liberal Party to enter even into the consideration of the measure if at every step it would be in the power of the Party from Ireland to say: "Unless you do this or that particular thing, we turn you out to-morrow." If the right hon. Gentleman had desired to describe exactly the political situation of the present time, he could not have done it more exactly. In 1885 the right hon. Gentleman did not get a majority large enough to make him independent of the Irish Party, and then, when he found he was dependent upon the Irish vote to be returned to power, then, 1671 for the first time, almost at the end of his political career, after a lifetime in the House, he embraced the principles of Home Rule. He embraced those principles suddenly—so sudden and startling was the change, that as he (Mr. Foster) had said, the right hon. Gentleman lost some of the pick and flower of his Party, who preferred the good of their country even to the claims of their Party. To-day the right hon. Gentleman came before the House and sought to press upon it and the country his claims, in the name of justice, to pass this Bill. The course of the right hon. Gentleman was a course of inconsistency, which could not commend itself to the House or the country. The country was asked to accept this Bill practically on the sole responsibility of the Prime Minister. Now the right hon. Gentleman had laid down certain canons of consistency by which he said statesmen ought to be judged. It so happened that the right hon. Gentleman himself had been accused of inconsistency in connection with the Irish Church Disestablishment Bill, and at that time, as many hon. Members would remember, he published an autobiography, in which he said—There are abundant signs by which to distinguish between those changes which prove nothing worse than the fallibility of the individual mind, and manœuvres which destroy confidence and entail merited dishonour. Changes which are sudden and precipitate— changes accompanied with a light and contemptuous repudiation of the former self— changes which are systematically timed and tuned to the interest of personal advancement — changes which are hooded, slurred over, or denied — for these changes, and such as these, I have not one word to say, and if they can be justly charged upon me I can no longer desire that any portion, however small, of the concerns or interests of my countrymen should be lodged in my hands.Well, he (Mr. Foster) for his own part, willingly subscribed to these canons, and he was willing to judge of the right hon. Gentleman by the standard he had himself laid down. He held that the right hon. Gentleman's action came under the description of "manœuvres which destroy confidence and entail merited dishonour." The right hon. Gentleman came under the further description of having been "sudden and precipitate." 1672 Within a month of the General Election of 1885 by the ballon d'essai from Hawarden the right hon. Gentleman had changed his view so suddenly that the world was startled, and no persons more so than the Nationalist Party. The members of his own Cabinet knew nothing of his mind, and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt) was actualling ridiculing the prospect of "stewing in Parnellite juice." The right hon. Gentleman came under his own description in that his action was "systematically timed and tuned to the interest of personal advancement," and, lastly, he came under his own description in that his changes had been "hooded and slurred over or denied," for the only explanation the right hon. Gentleman had given of his conversion to Home Rule was that 85 votes were in favour of that policy. This, however, was clearly foreseen before the Election by all men, and notably by the Prime Minister himself, who actually gave the figure of 80 as the number of Nationalist Members. With regard to the Bill itself, he confessed that his own feeling was very much the feeling of one who should be asked to consider in that House what terms they should make for surrendering part of their Empire to France or to Russia. He and his friends were opposed utterly to the principle of the Bill, and because they were opposed to the principle of the Bill it seemed absolute mockery to enter into the details of it. And yet there was the Bill on the Table of the House, and whether they liked it or not, they had to consider some of its details. The Bill commenced with a doctrine of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. On this point he wished to call the attention of the House to one singular passage in the Preamble. Every right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench pledged himself at some time or other before the production of the Bill to one formula—namely, that he would agree to nothing that would interfere with the supremacy of Parliament. It was clear, therefore, that there was present to the minds of right hon. Gentle- 1673 men the danger which might exist, of impairing the supremacy of Parliament. This was a danger which had always been present to the minds of those who had to meet that question. There was the challenge that the Prime Minister used to give to Mr. Butt that "before Parliament were invited even to consider this question, it ought to be made clear in what way the supremacy was to be maintained." A great puzzle was to know when this Bill was produced how they were to give a separate Legislature to Ireland consistently with this principle. The wit of man would not be found to have devised any proposals by which they could give an independent and separate Parliament to Ireland and at the same time maintain the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. They on that side had always said that the thing could not be done—that the right hon. Gentleman was attempting to solve the insoluble. How did the Government get out of the difficulty? In a remarkable way. A member of the Government, though not a member of the Cabinet (Sir C. Russell), made a speech in which he announced the startling discovery that nothing this Parliament could do could by any possibility interfere with its own supremacy. He (Mr. Foster) could imagine what a chorus of delight went round the Cabinet when that way out of the difficulty was discovered. Having made that discovery, they placed the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament on the Prime Minister, who himself said that he had placed "it reverently in the Preamble of the Bill." The word "reverently" was not ill-chosen. He (Mr. Foster) imagined that one of the first acts of the new Irish Legislature, if ever that Legislature was established, would be to set up a monument to the Preamble of the Bill, and to inscribe on it the words "Sacred to the memory of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament." It was quite certain that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament would be reverently buried. The supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, so far as that Bill was concerned, was a paper supremacy, and not a real one. At the first attempt to exercise anything like control over the Irish Legislature one of two things would happen—either the Imperial Government would have to 1674 be prepared, by force of arms, to enforce their will, to reconquer the country, or the supremacy would be treated as worthless, and become a thing of the past. Then they were told that in giving this measure they were to be guided by Colonial precedents. There was no analogy between granting representative institutions to our Colonies and the granting of a Parliament to Ireland. In the Colonies the system of Government had grown up. First, they wore Crown Colonies; then, when the community had become sufficiently ripe and educated to be entitled to representative institutions, those institutions were given to them. But Ireland already possessed representative institutions. Ireland had equal representation with ourselves during the last 100 years. Only the other day the Prime Minister had told them that Ireland was even over represented. It was clearly not a case of granting representative institutions to a people who were despotically ruled. The suggestion was that they should drive out from the Parliament something like 1,500,000 or 2,000,000 of people, who enjoyed and craved for a continuance of the protection of that Parliament, for the purpose of pleasing another section by giving them a separate Parliament. For the first time in our history it had been reserved for a responsible statesman to bring down a proposal, not for enfranchising an enslaved people, but to break up the Parliament, to break off a large section of that Parliament, and to that extent weaken and endanger our position. He wished to add that it appeared to him that this proposal was wrong in principle. The Treaty of Union between Great Britain and Ireland was a Treaty between two contracting parties; it was a Treaty formally approved by the Parliaments of the two countries. To-day they knew that as a result of the last General Election one of the two contracting parties did not desire to have that Treaty broken. He wanted to know by what Constitutional or moral right it was sought to compel the people of Great Britain, one of the two contracting parties, to consent to the abrogation of the Treaty, or to its modification. Many measures besides Home Rule had been dangled before the eyes of the electors at the General Election to induce them to swallow this bitter pill, and it 1675 was unconstitutional and immoral to endeavour to compel the larger partner to dissolve the partnership against its express will. Even one of the Prime Minister's own supporters, the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir E. J. Reed), had expressed that view, for in a letter to The Times he had said—The result of the recent Election was to show that even if the most moderate measure of Home Rule was to be carried by the present Parliament, it would have to be carried by the votes of Irish Members overpowering at Westminster the votes of the Members of Great Britain.As to the retention of the Irish Members, the treatment of that subject by the Prime Minister was an insult to the intelligence of the House and the country. The Prime Minister admitted that the question was a difficult one, nay more he emphasised it, and then, as one of the essential principles of his Bill, he sought to throw on the House of Commons the responsibility of solving the insoluble. "Let us hope you will take the right view," said the right hon. Gentleman. But what was the right view of this matter which cut into the very essence of the Bill? The Opposition contended that the problem of a separate Parliament combined with the supremacy of Parliament was insoluble, and therefore incapable of solution, and that they ought not to attempt to deal with it by granting Home Rule to Ireland. If the Bill was remarkable for what it contained, it was also remarkable for what it did not contain. It was remarkable for the desertion of Ulster, and on this matter the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in The Nineteenth Century for February, 1886, had written—Those who know the people of Ulster best will be the first to agree that the passionate protests which come thick and fast from them against being left to the mercies of an Irish Parliament are well entitled to respect.Let them contrast that with the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bryce) of to-day about the "Bluster of Ulster." Was it respectful to the minority to use such language—was it wise and statesmanlike? Then the Bill was remarkable for the absence of adequate protection for the loyal minority; it was remarkable for the absence of any provision for dealing with the land question. It would be remembered that the Prime Minister, when the Land Bill of 1676 1881 was introduced, had said that "as a rule the landlords had stood their trial, and have as a rule been acquitted." The right hon. Gentleman had in 1886 declared that before establishing a system of Home Rule "the land question must first be settled," and the Chancellor of the Duchy, in the article already quoted, had said—The honour of England is pledged to their (the landlords') rights. At no cost can we abandon them. We could not look other nations in the face were we to throw over men whose property we confirmed as lately as by the Act of 1881.How would they be able to look other nations in the face, seeing that it was proposed to abandon the landlords to their fate? And, again, he said—Everybody knows how such a power would be used; with the police under the orders of an Elective Board the landlord might whistle for his rent. He would be lucky if he kept a whole skin. His property would be gone without any need for confiscating legislation.He would ask the House, in conclusion, what would happen if that Bill should pass and be sent to another place? They knew the Bill would be sent to the country on the ground that this Government had no mandate from the electors to pass this Bill. There were many of their proposals put before the electors at the General Election besides Home Rule, and Home Rule itself was only put in general terms. No particular proposals like those of the Bill were put before the electors. A journal conducted by one of the supporters of the Government, who had not found it necessary to reconcile the interests of Truth with the interests of the Cabinet, that was to say, the hon. Member for Northampton, on the 22nd September, 1892, had said—It is time that a few plain words should be said about popular feeling in England in regard to Home Rule. The electors are sick of the subject…We won the Election because the electors wanted certain Imperial and local reforms, and the only way to get them was through Home Rule.He quite agreed with that statement. He believed that there was no real and intense desire on the part of the people for the granting of Home Rule to Ireland, and he did not think the policy of the measure was one which would commend itself to the people. What the Prime Minister had done had been to make the task of future Prime Ministers more difficult. He had raised hopes 1677 which no patriotic British statesman would ever be able to gratify. The right hon. Gentleman had put arguments into the mouths of the Nationalists of Ireland which they would be likely to use with embarrassing effect for generations to come. But, amid all the difficulties that surrounded them, and that must attend them in consequence of the raising of these delusive hopes, he saw one ray of comfort, and it was this, that the controversy had thrown much light in dark places, and had dissipated many a cloud of ignorance as to the treatment which Ireland received now from Parliament. It would serve to unite more firmly the two islands in indissoluble bonds. The Prime Minister had been educating his Party in a retrograde policy. He was trying to put back the clock 100 years. But the discussion was causing all men in both islands to educate themselves, and nothing but good could come out of increased light. Mr. Gladstone had endeavoured to throw a lurid and distorted light on Irish history, not remembering how he discredited himself by the attempt. But Englishmen had learned the true lesson—namely, that the Irish were a generous and impulsive people—that their errors were due rather to ignorance than inherent vice—that the had ever been an easy prey of the professional agitator—that they would be the first to suffer from the policy of abandonment, and that when once this nightmare had passed away and the irrevocable decree had once more been promulgated inflicting a death blow on this mischievous proposal—one Parliament with full representation of all classes in these islands—Ireland, more united than hitherto to Great Britain in mutual affection and reconciliation by the increased knowledge of the two peoples and by the manifest value which we, the British people, place upon her kinship to us, would yet become one of the brightest jewels of the Imperial Crown.
§ MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
, after a graceful compliment to the eloquence of the last speaker, said, it had scarcely come with a good grace from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down to make reflections on Liberal Members for not treating one section of the Irish people well when he himself accused another section of not paying their rents and of treating their landlords unfairly. The hon. Member had 1678 spoken of English opinion being against the Government proposals. He must, however, be a ware that during the last six years there had been a great movement of public opinion in England, and that something like 80 seals had been won in Great Britain by the Government. He (Mr. Lough) believed that the longer this measure was discussed the more determined the people of this country would be to carry the Government policy to a successful issue. The task the Government had undertaken was not so great as Gentlemen opposite had represented. It only consisted of securing the settlement of the local affairs of Ireland in Ireland. It had happened that his (Mr. Lough's) life had been divided about equally between Ireland and England. During his earlier years he had lived exclusively in Ireland, but he had since constantly revisited it, and during the last 20 years he had been watching with intense interest the progress of decay in that country. On the First Reading of this measure right hon. Gentlemen opposite asked why there should be any Bill. If they had had more experience of Ireland they would not have put such a question. The district with which he was best acquainted in Ireland was peaceful, and quiet, and fairly fertile. When he was born in it there were 245,000 people there; now there were only 110,000. All classes had suffered alike. The houses of the rich had emptied in the same proportion as (he houses of the poor; villages and towns were depopulated, whilst industries had vanished, and no now ones had arisen in their places. This experience of one district was common in the whole of Ireland. During the period he referred to the population of Ireland had fallen from 8,300,000 to 4,600,000. There was no other portion of Europe in which such a state of things had taken place. In 1800, when the Union was cemented between the two countries, Ireland contained about one-third of the population of the United Kingdom. To-day it had one-eighth of the population. Scotland and Wales, on the other hand, bore now the same proportion in population to the whole as they did in 1800. Surely there must be something wrong in the legislative system under which Ireland had wasted away. He could 1679 not help recognising that there was the greatest goodwill on the part of the English people, speaking without regard to Party, towards the people of Ireland. He had seen it in all classes of society, and also in the House of Commons. They were, therefore, faced by the fact that, although the House had the best dispositions towards Ireland, the evils he bad spoken of continued and tended to increase. The House of Commons approached all its tasks in reference to Great Britain with a certain amount of confidence and success, whilst whatever it undertook for Ireland it seemed to fail in. Therefore, while in this greater island the House had risen higher and higher in the popular estimation, in the smaller island it had sunk lower and lower. What was the reason for this? The explanation of the failure in Ireland might be found if we asked for a moment why did the House succeed so well in England? It was not because it was so ancient an Assembly, because there was a much more ancient Assembly in another part of that building which did not command so strong a position in the nation. Nor was it because the House managed to summon to its councils men distinguished in Arts, Commerce, and Literature. What was the reason, then? It was because the House of Commons represented with singular effectiveness the public opinion of the country. What that public opinion could do this House could do. It could do nothing else. This public opinion exercised its discretion over the House in English affairs with absolute rigour. Take a recent illustration. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed more than one most logical financial experiment which he failed to carry through, although supported by a majority of 120. Why? Simply because public opinion outside would not stand them. This consideration lay at the very bottom of the Irish Question. Whatever else this public opinion might know, it knew nothing of Ireland. He was a believer in educating public opinion, but you could only do so when you had one basis to work upon, and that was that the people you tried to educate were interested; but the public outside, who made and controlled the House of Commons, wore not sufficiently interested in, and had not an adequate knowledge of, Ireland to enable them to 1680 govern the island with success. The case of the supporters of the Government in this matter rested in convincing the public that they knew nothing of Ireland. The Opposition could not succeed unless they satisfied public opinion that they knew enough about Ireland to be able to govern it. It might be urged that these objections carried him too far. No doubt it would be said by gentlemen opposite that, while great mistakes were made in Ireland a generation or two ago, we are doing better now. That was what was said by every generation of Englishmen. They always thought that they themselves had got hold of the true secret of settling the affairs of Ireland, although they generally admitted that their forefathers had made mistakes. Remedial legislation, however, had not proved successful, because during the last 25 years the feeling in favour of autonomy had grown stronger and stronger. Nor had it remedied the decrease in population, because while in the '60's the decrease amounted to 6 per cent., in the '70's it was 4 per cent., in the '80's it was 9 percent. The great measures for Ireland during the last 25 years fell under three heads — first, Bills which were not passed; secondly, measures which were passed, but which when transferred to Ireland would not work; and thirdly, measures which were passed and which operated in a way entirely different from that which their authors in this House intended. The late Government passed the Second Reading of the Local Government Bill by a majority of 98, but the impression was then so strong in their minds that the measure did not meet the case at all that they went no further with the Bill. About 20 years previously a Liberal measure which was to settle education in Ireland was introduced by a very strong Government, but it did not get through its Second Reading. In 1880 the Compensation for Disturbance Bill failed to pass through the House of Lords, although it received the assent of the Commons. There was something to stop everything in the way of legislation for Ireland in its passage through Parliament. Surely it was a terrible tax on this House to spend so much time and effort on these futile Bills. As to the measures which had passed and would not work, one was the Evicted Tenants Clause of the Land 1681 Act of 1891. Even the many provisions of that great land purchase scheme were crank, and, like the Land Act of 1870, would not work. As to Bills which had not answered expectations, he would first take the Irish Church Act. He was strongly in favour of Disestablishment. It seemed to him to be as foolish to establish churches in those days as it would be to establish astronomy. But when the Government of 25 years ago approached the question of Disestablishment, they forgot that alongside of that question lay one of infinitely greater importance in a poor country like Ireland—namely, the question of disendowment. So it came about that the old tithes, which belonged to the country districts, and to which they had an indefeasible claim, were swept into a common fund, that accumulated into millions, until in 1880 it was felt that something must be done, and a million went here, and a million there, until the fund was scattered. He held that the poor localities should have been allowed to retain that fund for their own purposes, and that the scattering by Parliament of that revenue of £700,000 a year had inflicted an enormous injury on Ireland. Then there was the Land Act of 1881. The idea of that Act was good. But it was an Act which depended for its success almost entirely on its administration. The then Government found landlord and tenant fighting, and they set up an arbitrator to decide between them. Of coarse, everything depended upon getting an impartial arbitrator, and he contended that it had never been possible to do this. A representative of the landlords had been appointed as High Commissioner, one of the most unscrupulous representatives of landlordism that could be found in Ireland. The first bad appointment of the Liberals was succeeded even by a worse from the Tories. Owing to this defect in the administration, the Act was a failure. Conceived to help the tenants, it had been seized by the landlords and turned altogether to their advantage. Probably this explained why the House had to amend the Act so frequently. In 1881 the leaseholders were excluded, but they had to admit them six years afterwards, and the keeping them out only played havoc with the 1682 men of Ulster. In 1888 a law was passed empowering the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to reduce judicial rents for three years, and now he noticed that all the Tory Members from Ulster were agreed that the judicial rents must again be reduced. For some reason or another, then, it was clear that the Act had not met the evil at which it was aimed. The first evil in Ireland was absenteeism. This they had encouraged by making the tithes an absentee rent. Another defect of English government in Ireland—and it was an inherent defect—was the wasteful administration of property. This waste he believed to be a feature of Anglo-Saxon life; they did everything wastefully. When a great and rich country like England took to governing a poor country like Ireland it could do nothing but create evil owing to the want of economy. An hon. Member opposite who represented an Ulster constituency made a strong speech against this Bill, and subsequently asked a question as to £206,000 spent in draining Lough Erne. The hon. Member asked for a statement of accounts, but no answer was given to the question; it was put off for two or three weeks and then it was said there was no use in furnishing accounts. The fact was that this £206,000 was lost because everything was done at second hand and grossly mismanaged by an Assembly accustomed to deal mainly with vast figures. He had not one word to say against the intentions; but whenever either Party had hitherto tried to deal with Ireland the machine they had control of would not work, and therefore he thought it was absolutely necessary to accept some such proposals as those embodied in the present Bill. One difficulty raised by hon. Members as to carrying into effect those proposals was Ulster. His father was born in one county of Ulster, his mother in another, and he himself in a third, and he was perfectly familiar with the details of those counties. Ulster was the happy hunting-ground of the Unionist romancers, who affirmed that Ulster was Protestant and prosperous and Unionist. He denied entirely the truth of those statements. As to the religious point, he would for the present leave Belfast out of sight. There were 1683 about 4,000 more Catholics in Ulster than Protestants. Five out of the nine counties in Ulster contained an average of 68 per cent. of Catholics, two 45 per cent., and the remaining two 25 per cent. Therefore, according to the religion of the greater portion of the province, Ulster was Catholic and not Protestant. Again, Ulster was not Unionist. Four counties returned exclusively Home Rulers, two returning 11 Members were exclusively Unionist, and three counties returned mixed Members. In seven out of the nine counties of Ulster 14 Home Rule Members were returned and only eight Unionists. It therefore could not be said that Ulster as a whole was on the Unionist side. But these were small points, the real point was that Ulster was not prosperous. Still leaving out Belfast, the decline in the population during his lifetime had been 1,000,000. The population had decreased from 2,300,000 to 1,300,000, and he held that no country could be described as prosperous where such a decline in the population occurred in so short a period. Ulster had suffered more under remedial legislation than any other part of Ire-laud. In the '60's the population declined 130,000, in the 70's the population declined 123,000, and in the '80's the population declined 170,000. But there was a still more interesting fact as to the prosperity of Ulster. In the Bill of the Government there was a provision for the establishment of a Legislative Council in Dublin, which was to be elected by the £20 ratepayers throughout the country. No surer indication of the standing and prosperity of a locality could be found than the number of £20 ratepayers. Taking the 32 counties of Ireland, the highest county was Dublin, with 64 £20 ratepayers to every 1,000, and the lowest county was Mayo, which had only 10 for every 1,000 ratepayers. The first Ulster county was Down, which was 13th on the list. Dividing the 32 counties into quarters, in the first quarter there was no Ulster county, in the second there were only two, in the third there were five, and in the fourth there were two, so that Ulster was the third poorest of the Irish 1684 provinces. Therefore all Unionist arguments founded on the prosperity of Ulster fell to the ground. He now came to Belfast, which he admitted was a Protestant city; three-fourths of the population were Protestant; Belfast was opposed to the Bill, and he did not wonder, as it was the one ewe lamb in Ireland that had prospered under the Union; but that he considered gave away the case, because Belfast was almost the only one of the cities or counties that had prospered, and, therefore, by the same reasoning, all these others must be in favour of Home Rule. The prosperity of Belfast was much exaggerated. It came third on the list of Irish cities in the number of £20 ratepayers, Dublin being first with 37, Cork second with 27, and Belfast third with 23 per 1,000 ratepayers. Belfast came last on the list of 20 of the chief cities of Great Britain and Ireland, judged by the average amount of Income Tax paid per head of its inhabitants. Dublin paid in an average of £20 per head; Belfast £11. The period from 1782 to 1801 under Grattan's Parliament had made Belfast what she was. In 1785 the Linen Hall was founded, in 1792 shipbuilding commenced, and in 1797 the first dock was opened. The Union for the first 30 or 40 years stopped the rapid progress of Belfast. He believed that under this Bill Belfast would increase in prosperity and become as great a city as Glasgow in the next 20 or 30 years. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite got into difficulty because they generalised about Ulster. They could not do that, as Ulster was a great Province, and they might as well try to generalise about England north of the Humber. He would be the last man to sanction any step that he thought would bring harm to the people of Ulster. He admitted there was religious dissension in Ulster, but who had planted it there? One hundred years ago a Party in that House sent over instructions to Dublin to sow dissensions between the rival parties in the North of Ire-land. They set the Orange drum beating for political purposes, and was not a Party in that House still playing the same bad game? Where was the Leader of the Opposition that evening? Over in Ulster trying to fan into flame the dying embers of religious 1685 strife. He entreated that House to leave Ulster alone. Then Catholics and Protestants would amicably settle their grievances together. He was much struck with an argument advanced by the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington. The noble Lord said that he had come to the conclusion, as he did six years ago, that Ulster would fight. But six years ago he gave no reason for the belief. Now, however, the noble Lord had given a reason, and it was this: that Ulster would fight because religion would be interfered with and taxation increased. In a Debate in that House the late Mr. Parnell expressed an exactly opposite opinion, for he said he believed Ulster would not tight, because the Dublin Parliament would respect the religious liberties of Ulster and decrease taxation. He himself most firmly held the same opinion, for he believed the new Assembly, by their care and energy, would reduce taxation and would respect the religious prejudices of the people. Ulster would then rise to strengthen the hands of the National Assembly and to assist it in the great task set before it. The principle of relegating to Ireland the management of its local affairs was not a new one for the House of Commons to adopt. Their fathers did that with respect to the Colonies, which had prospered accordingly. It was an exception to the practice of England to hold a country like Ireland and manage its local affairs in the manner in which this House had done for the last 90 years. When this House tried to interfere with the affairs of the United States it came to grief, and the same with regard to Canada; but their attempt to manage the affairs of Ireland had been the most grievous failure of all. He appealed to the House to act in accordance with all its nobler and hotter traditions; to accept the proposals of the Bill and give Ireland some chance of healing the wounds that had been inflicted upon her during the last 100 years, and at the same time relieve the Imperial Parliament of an intolerable burden.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
did not propose to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down through all the mazes of the argument he had addressed to the House, but he must say 1686 he considered a great portion of it was of a most extraordinary character. The hon. Member refused to generalise upon the facts of Ulster, but he was quite prepared to gerrymander them to suit his own convictions. It would be impossible to deal before the House with the version which the hon. Gentleman gave of the rise and progress of Belfast. All he could say on that point was, that he did not believe the real facts of the matter would accord with the hon. Member's version. The hon. Member spoke of the city of Belfast as if it was the only town in Ulster which exhibited any signs of prosperity since the date of the Union, and he had stated this as a great authority on matters in Ireland.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, the hon. Member stated Belfast was the only town in Ireland that exhibited signs of prosperity.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
asked if the hon. Member admitted there were many other towns in Ulster which had increased in prosperity and in population? The hon. Member seemed to be entirely ignorant of the fact that there existed towns in Ireland—like Lisburn, Lurgan, Portadown, Ballymena, Cooks-town, Coleraine, Larne and others—which had largely increased, both in population and prosperity. The speech of the hon. Member was interesting from that point of view, and from no other; he was an admirable Balaam of all the legislative career of the Prime Minister with regard to Ireland, and was a remarkable warning of the want of confidence with which the House and the nation ought to receive any proposals the right hon. Gentleman made. The hon. Member had based his support of the Bill upon what was known as the population argument; and he was certainly astounded that the hon. Gentleman, who pretended to speak with authority on this matter, should have 1687 advanced such an argument at this time of day. He seemed to think that the decrease of population was a fact peculiar to Ireland, and that it was the result of certain action in the government of the country. The hon. Member apparently had not even made himself acquainted with the A B C of the causes of the decline or rise of populations, and if he would only take the trouble to examine the facts, not relating to foreign countries but to agricultural counties in England, Scotland, and Wales, he would find that the very same results had occurred in those counties as had occurred in Ireland, and that those results flowed from precisely the same causes. Ireland was almost entirely an agricultural country and depended upon agricultural interests, and wherever they found a district in England, Scotland, or Wales which depended on those interests, and had no mineral resources, they would find, as in Ireland, that the population had maintained a steady ratio of decrease. But these principles which had governed the decrease of population, not only in Ireland, but in the United Kingdom, were also to be observed universally on the Continent of Europe. The constant stream of population of rural districts to the towns was to be observed in Germany, in Italy, and in France, in just as great proportions, and quite as significant, as in Ireland, or any other portion of the United Kingdom. He desired, before entering into any discussion on the Bill, to allude to an observation made by the Prime Minister in the preliminary part of the speech delivered by him that evening. He noticed it, because it was a statement which the right hon. Gentleman had frequently made upon public platforms, but to which he had never lent, the weight of his authority in the House before. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it had taken 90 years to reconcile the Protestant population of Ireland to the Union.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, that at all events the right hon. Gentleman had intimated that at the time of the Union the Protestant population of Ireland was hostile to that measure.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That is not the statement I made. I admit that the foundation of the attachment of the Protestant population to the Union was laid before the Union, that that attachment made some progress, and that the progress continued afterwards.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, he did not know exactly what position the right hon. Gentleman now occupied in the matter. If the right hon. Gentleman retreated from the absolute assertion he had made, that the Protestant population of Ireland had been hostile to the Union, then he had nothing further to say on that point. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman, did he still hold that the Protestant population was opposed to the Union at the time the Act of Union was passed?
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, then he would take the opportunity of disabusing the mind of the right hon. Gentleman of that belief. There could be no statement more opposed—he said it with all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman—to the real facts of the case, and he knew of no greater hallucination than that which possessed the right hon. Gentleman in believing that during the period of what he called the Independent Parliament of Ireland, Ireland enjoyed an uninterrupted career of prosperity. He admitted that up to a certain date—up to February 1, 1799, the opinion of the Protestant population of Ireland was not only unfavourable, but it was adverse to the proposal for the Union.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, that that admission did not help the right hon. Gentleman at all, and did not support the assertion he had made. After that date there was a vast and rapid change in the opinion of the Protestant population of Ireland, due to the circumstance that some of the details of the measure and some of the intentions of the Government had leaked out with regard to important interests in Ireland, and due also to discussions in England on the subject. There was overwhelming evidence to 1689 show that it was the almost universal opinion of the Protestant population of Ireland of the period that the Union was in their interest and in the interest of the country. ["No, no!"] Hon. Members said "No," but the Counties of Londonderry, Antrim, Armagh, Tyrone, Donegal, and Monaghan all gave in their adhesion publicly to the Union. ["No, no!"] But they did. Of course it was a question of fact, and any hon. Member could satisfy himself by referring to the authentic sources of information. The Corporations of Kilkenny, Cork, Bandon——
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, yes; Bandon was a centre of Protestant opinion: it was called "the Derry of the South"—Waterford, Belfast, Antrim, Coleraine, and Londonderry all testified in the most unequivocal manner that they supported the policy of Mr. Pitt. But once an idea had taken possession of the mind of the right hon. Gentleman lie would not relinquish it. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to be capable, unfortunately, of ignoring or shutting his eyes to every historical fact and every fact of the present day which was likely to tell against his proposal. When this Bill was introduced he felt from the course of the Debate on the First Reading that it was very difficult to form any opinion of the nature of its proposals, because the Prime Minister apparently unfolded the whole machinery of practical independence and separate Parliaments, while the speech of the Chancellor of the Duchy tended somewhat to limit and circumscribe the authority of the Irish Parliament. Now that they had the Bill in their hands, they were able to form an opinion as to the relative correctness of those two divergent views. While he was prepared to admit that the Bill contained certain expressions which might justify the colour given to it by the Chancellor of the Duchy, and certain clauses which might appear to content any one who was satisfied with the shadow instead of the substance, that the rights of the minorities were guarded, yet if they brought to boar upon the 1690 clauses a proper consideration, guided by the experience of history and of modern dual Constitutions, they would be con-strained to acknowledge that the Prime Minister was correct in his exposition, that the Bill contained the substance of an absolutely separate and independent Legislature, and that it was nothing more than the waning shadow of Imperial supremacy which flitted across its face. He did not propose to discuss the measure in the ordinary Parliamentary acceptation of the term. No alteration of the details of the measure, no modification of its clauses, would ever satisfy himself or his constituents. They believed that in the Legislative Union, and in the Legislative Union alone, were to be found the only true safeguards for the interests and prosperity of Ireland. It might be that he numbered among his constituents those rogues and fools of whom the Prime Minister had spoken; it might be that the Representatives of the Unionists of Ireland were open to the charge of blustering which the Chancellor of the Duchy had brought against them with that flippancy which was the badge of the professional tribe. But although their constituents might be rogues and fools, and the Ulster Members themselves be "blustering" Representatives, having devoted all the capacity they had to the study not only of this Bill, but of the Bill of 1886, they were strengthened in their belief that it passed the wit of man to conceive any measure which would safeguard the minority in Ireland, and at the same time place them under the authority—legislative and administrative—of a Parliament in Dublin. The Chancellor of the Duchy said in his speech on the First Reading that the opposition of Ulster showed signs of diminution. He did not know where the right hon. Gentleman got his facts, but it appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman in his political researches had abandoned all that anxiety for accuracy which distinguished his historical writings. The right hon. Gentleman stumbled by chance on an accurate statement once, when he said that Ulster had made no demand for separate treatment. Yes; Ulster had not asked, and would not accept, any separate treatment. The loyalists of Ulster had declared their intention of making common cause with their fellow Unionists in the rest of 1691 Ireland, whose interests and perils were the interests and perils of the Ulster loyalists themselves. They did not ask to be administered to them any treatment but the treatment administered to the rest of Ireland. He also wished to make it clear to the Liberal Party that Ulster did not oppose the policy of Home Rule from any provincial or local reasons, though they believed that provincial and local interests would be specially threatened. But, even if all Ireland were Tory and Protestant, they would still believe that a separate Irish Legislature would be disastrous to the interests of Ireland. It was constantly stated that the opposition of the North of Ireland to Home Rule was founded on bigotry and religious intolerance. They had more solid reasons for opposing Home Rule. It was the connection with the Imperial resources of the United Kingdom which Ulster dreaded to lose; because that connection had been of inestimable advantage in developing the resources of every section of the population of Ireland. Since 1817, £40,000,000 of Imperial money had been spent in Ireland, and in the last few years alone the labourers had had £1,200,000 devoted to their interests. The Unionists of Ireland did not believe that a separate Parliament would be able to develop the industrial and agricultural interests of the country to anything like the extent the Imperial Parliament had done. The Prime Minister had that day supplemented a very remarkable omission from his speech on the First Reading. It referred to the example and experience of foreign countries. The right hon. Gentleman had now shifted the ground which he took up in 1886. There was a great deal of danger in the argument of analogy, because it was always difficult to find a sufficiently close connection between the circumstances and conditions of different countries, which would warrant an absolute deduction from that argument. The first proposition laid down by the right hon. Gentleman was that it was impossible to find any case where an incorporating Union established by force had been successful. It was easy to take two or three facts and then make a proposition which would fit those facts. He could do the same thing.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said, that he would also take every case that existed. He would take precisely the same cases as the right hon. Gentleman for the proposition he was going to lay down, which was that it was impossible to find a case where a weaker country, having by fortuitous circumstances obtained control over a stronger country, had been always able to compel the stronger country to submit to it. That proposition applied to two of the three cases quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, and it would also cover the third case, which the right hon. Gentleman admitted was not a strong example of his general proposition. The right hon. Gentleman took the case of Austria and Hungary. But when Austria succeeded in capturing Hungary it was not the Austria of to-day, but the Holy Roman Empire, with all its power and authority, that made Hungary submit to Austria. There was no similarity whatever between the relations of Austria and Hungary and the relations of England and Ireland. Just in the same way the incorporated Union of Belgium and Holland disappeared, because directly the stronger country was able to assert its right it kicked over the traces and got rid of the weaker country. The right hon. Gentleman's argument was that Great Britain was to follow those examples where the stronger country released itself from the bondage of the weaker country—that they merely grant to the weaker country, Ireland, "release from what had been called the intolerable tyranny of England." He would call the attention of the House to the language used by the right hon. Gentleman in 1886, when he appealed to foreign experience, and cited the case of Sweden and Norway as an unimpeachable example of the policy he recommended in regard to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman then described the Union between Sweden and Norway as a complete success, and said—Every man who knows their condition knows that I am speaking the truth when I say that every year that passes the Norwegians and the Swedes are more the children of a common country, united by a tie which can never be broken.1693 He was bound to say that the eulogy quoted was most delusive when judged by the record of the facts since that date. The right hon. Gentleman went on to speak of the relation between the two countries as being not one of discord, convulsion, danger to peace, or aversion, but one of constantly growing sympathy. No language could be stronger; the right hon. Gentleman was as positive as he could be, but he was also as erroneous as when he gave to the world the fable of Colonel Dopping, the boy, and the gun. The discords between Norway and Sweden threatened the solidarity of the Kingdom; and the example quoted by the right hon. Gentleman in 1886 could now be claimed by the Unionists as a warning. The position of the two countries was a signal illustration of the depth and gravity of the objections that were urged against the Hill of 1886, and could be urged with additional weight against this Bill. The antipathy between the two countries had been growing in volume, and every fresh appeal to the constituencies in Norway had resulted in the expression of an increased desire to sever the tie which the right hon. Gentleman had said would never be broken. Norway was not satisfied, and Bjornsen, a leader who was as popular as the Prime Minister once was in Midlothian, had written—Norway has not been satisfied for 80 years. She is now possessed of the necessary force and reason, and is determined to become an Imperial partner in the Union with Sweden.The Prime Minister was fond of appealing to the judgment of the civilized world, and this was well illustrated by a French political writer of great eminence, M. Hamelle, a Home Ruler himself, who wrote, in reference to the Home Rule Bill of 1886, some remarks which applied with even greater force to the present Bill.The supremacy of Great Britain, which seems to be respected, is in reality menaced. The veto of the Lord Lieutenant is a theoretical right stripped of all practical sanction. What will happen if the Irish Parliament become obstinate? An appeal will be made to the Committee of the Privy Council. But the same difficulty confronts one here. How can the execution of the sentence be assured? Even in America, where the tribunal has tradition and public sentiment on its side, it has not always been successful.1694 Mr. Hamelle also cited—and this was most important in view of the weight which the Prime Minister attached to the clause from the American Constitution introduced into the Bill by the Chancellor of the Duchy—the defiance of President Jackson in the well-known case in which the Supreme Court of the United States came into contact with the Local Legislature of Georgia. In that case the Cherokee Indians appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States against the proposals of the Local Legislature of Georgia in their regard, and the Supreme Court held that the proposals of the Legislature of Georgia were invalid. But what was the effect of that decision? President Jackson declared—"John Marshall has pronounced his verdict; let him execute it if he can." The Chancellor of the Duchy, in his book on the American Constitution, said that that case showed the powerlessness of the Supreme Court to help the unhappy Cherokees; and that the success of the resistance of the State of Georgia gave a blow to the authority of the Court. M. Hamelle added that the guarantees for the protection of minorities in the Bill were illusory, and were intended to be so.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
said the article appeared in the Nouvelle Revue of September 1, 1892, and he would have great pleasure in sending the right hon. Gentleman a copy of it. He did not propose to follow the Prime Minister into the sophistical examination he made on the First Reading of the Bill as to the meaning of Home Rule. During the last six years there had been an attempt to smother the real consequences of such a policy by the use of such vague phrases as "local autonomy" and the extension of the powers of local legislation by means of statutory authority, but these platform definitions never drew the attention of the country to one of the gravest issues raised by the measure now before them. It had always been assumed by speakers who supported the Govern- 1695 ment that the Imperial supremacy was an assured fact. M. Hamelle said, with regard to the Bill of 1886, that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was menaced; but in the Bill now before the House it was absolutely nullified. Clause 9 left no room for doubt on the point. The veto as proposed in this Bill was absolutely different from the veto in the Bill of 1886. Then the Lord Lieutenant was empowered to veto any measure of the Irish Parliament upon the advice and by the instruction of the British Cabinet, but that reservation had disappeared from the present Bill, and die Lord Lieutenant could only act on the advice of his Irish Cabinet. Did any hon. Member suppose that any Irish Cabinet would be so stupid as to recommend the Lord Lieutenant to veto a Bill which they themselves had probably drafted and passed? The idea was absolutely absurd. It might be said that there was a veto reserved to Her Majesty the Queen upon the advice of Her British Ministers. Let them suppose the case of a British Minister summoning up sufficient courage to recommend the Queen to instruct the Lord Lieutenant to veto some act of the Irish Legislature. In what position would he be? In the first place, he would have to meet the 80 Irish Members in that House. Upon that point the opinion of a well-known Irish politician was instructive and interesting. Mr. Frank Hugh O'Donnell had informed the people of Ireland and also warned the people of England what they might expect, and what was the value of the safeguard for Imperial supremacy. Mr. O'Donnell said that no veto would be worth even a minute's purchase, "so long as you keep 40 or 50 couples of wolf dogs able and ready to fly at the Imperial throat at the first hostile demonstrations against our country." Again, the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton) had not hesitated to tell the House that he did not look upon the 80 Irish Members merely as emblems of Imperial unity, but that they were there for the purpose of embarrassing and overthrowing the first British Government that would dare to attempt to make this shadow of Imperial supremacy into a reality. He did not envy the position of a British Ministry on such an occasion. First of all, they would have to enter into a life and death struggle 1696 with the 80 wolf dogs; and then, if they emerged politically alive from that struggle, they would have to enter into a struggle with the Irish Parliament. Such a struggle must end in one of two ways: The Irish Parliament must either beat the British Ministry, in which case they would resume the march onward to a full assumption of sovereign power, or else the British Ministry must beat the Irish Parliament. In the latter case the Irish Parliament would not be beaten by reason or argument, but there would be a recourse to arms, and this unfortunate experiment would end in a ghastly failure, and they would be forced to re-establish that Constitution which by this Bill they were now asked to demolish. The Bill of 1886 showed some consideration to the wants and wishes of the minority in Ireland, but in the present Bill the right hon. Gentleman had made a singular departure from the principles he then laid down with regard to one important branch of that minority. It appeared to him somewhat strange that the right hon. Gentleman, who in 1886 said that the two channels to social order in Ireland depended on the settlement of the land question at the same time as the settlement of the government of Ireland, should now be prepared to allow Ireland to embark on its uncertain course without giving any guidance on a question of such importance. He would like to ask the House how the pledges with regard to the guarantees that had been promised to the Protestant minority had been fulfilled? He would only quote one example. On one occasion during the life of this Parliament they came forward with a Bill for the purpose of protecting the religious interests of the Nonconformists of Ireland, the President of the Local Government Board having on a previous occasion at Newcastle invited the Nonconformists of Ireland to state to the House what danger they apprehended and what were the interests they desired to have protected. What reception did they get from right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench? They asked for the very modicum of Parliamentary control; they made the smallest possible demand, and by implication they were practically hooted out of the House by the Chief Secretary. That example of the way in which the pledges of the Front Bench had been redeemed gave them very little assurance 1697 as to the manner in which they might be redeemed under this Bill. They had been referred to Clause 4, Sub-section 5, and they had been told that that was a sub-section which permitted the Irish Parliament by duo process of law to deal with the life and property and the interests of the minority, and that that was an ample redemption of the pledges given to them. He was bound to say it seemed to him a matter of indifference whether they were robbed—as undoubtedly the minority would be robbed — by due process of law, or whether they were robbed without it, and, for his part, he would much prefer to see the Bill without these so-called safeguards and guarantees, which were absolutely illusory. He would ask right hon. Gentlemen to tell him what clause or sub-section there was in the Bill which would protect the minority from a policy animated by the spirit displayed by an hon. Member for one of the divisions of Cork, who said that the spirit the Irish Representatives and people would have to display to the end was a spirit of love for the friends of Ireland, and open and relentless war upon her foes. In that Bill there was absolutely no protection which could induce the minority to say they felt any confidence in the safeguards provided. Would the Chief Secretary point out any provision which would protect the interests of the minority from a policy founded upon the principles laid down by the hon. Member for South Longford when he appeared as counsel for the Bishop of Meath—namely, that the right of private judgment was the right of private stupidity? He had come to the conclusion that the Chancellor of the Duchy was perfectly correct when he said that the safeguards were not intended to interfere with the ordinary working of the Irish Government. But it was just this ordinary working of the Irish Government, dictated as it would be by the principles and political conduct of those men who would lead it, that had aroused the apprehensions of the minority in Ireland. These safeguards had been introduced solely for the purpose of satisfying the susceptibilities of the English followers of the Prime Minister and not for the purpose of protecting the interests of the Irish minority. In a speech he delivered at Bristol the Chancellor of the Exchequer said— 1698No doubt the Ulster people think Home Rule may jeopardise their ascendency. I daresay it will, and so it ought.That was the principle of the Bill. It was to strike at what right hon. Gentlemen opposite called the ascendency of the people of Ulster. He did not know what that ascendency might be. The only ascendency he had known in Ulster was the ascendency which a large proportion of the people of that Province had acquired for themselves by their habits of industry, law-abidingness, and honesty, and the fruits of that ascendency they were quite prepared to share with any one of their fellow-citizens in any Province of Ireland. If this Bill failed, as he contended it did fail, in redeeming the pledges scattered throughout the country with regard to safeguards which it ought to contain, then its opponents had a right to criticise very closely the grounds on which right hon. Gentlemen opposite said they wore authorised to present it to the House. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Bryce) had contended that the Government had received a commission from the country to introduce the Bill, but already an hon. Member on that (the Opposition) side of the House had quoted the high authority of the hon. Member for Northampton to the effect that Home Rule was never sanctioned or spoken of at a great number of elections. He would quote an authority of as great, even if not greater, importance than any hon. Member who sat on the Government Benches. Mr. Stead had said—One thing is certain, and that is: had the Liberals gone to the country on Home Rule alone they would have been hopelessly beaten,and precisely the same opinion was expressed by the Rev. Mr. Tuckwell at a meeting of the representatives of the National Liberal Federation in Newcastle. Again, in London, at the General Election, it was not Home Rule for Ireland which was placed first, but Home Rule for London. As for Ireland, the potency of the demand for Home Rule, as it was described by the Member for West Fife in his poetic speech, had grown not stronger, but weaker there. After six years of what the Prime 1699 Minister called coercion—but six years which had contributed most materially to the advancement of the prosperity of the country—the result had been not an increase to the right hon. Gentleman's forces in Ireland, but a gain of five seats to the Unionist Party. Then, again, the conduct of the House by the right hon. Gentleman himself since the opening of Parliament was a significant admission of the fact that he knew the country did not support him in the policy of Home Rule. He had been obliged to consolidate his Party by purchasing votes right and left. He had bought the Welsh Radicals by the Suspensory Bill; he had bought the teetotalers by his Local Veto Bill; he had bought some Scotch Members by promising to disestablish the Church of Scotland, and he had bought one hon. Member by the support he was going to give to the Channel Tunnel Bill.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
did not know whether the transaction was completed, but he never heard of the right hon. Gentleman paying cash down unless he was secure of the goods being delivered. As regarded Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman got rid of the receding wave of Home Rule by declaring that the Unionist minority was only a fifth of the whole representation of Ireland. But the majority on which he depended for support was an absolutely artificial majority, which only existed on account of the arbitrary exception of Ireland from the basis of representation laid down in 1884. If Ireland were represented in that House on the same basis as England, Scotland, and Wales, then one-half the majority which enabled the Prime Minister to bring forward these mischievous proposals would be at once withdrawn from him, and the relative proportion of the Unionist and Nationalist representation would appear in its true light before the country. He would go further, and say that the Irish Home Rule majority, like the English minority, was not a majority for Home Rule pure and simple. Home Rule in Ireland was now only the vehicle for agrarian plunder and spiritual domina- 1700 tion. He believed the Irish Nationalists would absolutely refuse Home Rule unless they were permitted by the measure which granted it to carry out the policy of the Land League, just in the same way as the English followers of the right hon. Gentleman would refuse to support him unless they thought it was the means of carrying out the policy of One Man, One Vote, Disestablishment, the Payment of Members, or Local Veto. He asked the House whether this measure, or the policy connected with it, was likely to carry out one of the two great reasons which the right hon. Gentleman alleged animated him in proposing this policy in 1886. Was this likely to be a final settlement of the question? Could he appeal to any authority which would support him in that view? There was, too, this astonishing feature about the present condition of things: that while there had been remarkable demonstrations of public opinion in Ireland against the Bill, there had not been a single demonstration of any popular Body in favour of it. How did the Corporation of Dublin treat it? They did not say it was a good Bill, or give any expression of opinion favourable to it, but referred it to a Committee to examine the financial proposals which they believed to be extremely dangerous, and which had been condemned by the head of the profession in Dublin, who, he believed, was a strong Nationalist. The right hon. Gentleman could not quote any opinion of any leader of the Irish people in favour of this Bill as a final settlement, but they had told him with one voice that it was a Bill mischievous in many of its details. There were grave defects in others, and it required considerable amendment. The right hon. Gentleman asked the people of Ireland to place confidence in this future Parliament. But what confidence had the right hon. Gentleman himself placed in his own creature? When the Bill dealt with the interests of the minority in Ireland the right hon. Gentleman was full of confidence in the justice of the Irish Parliament, and in the integrity of their Judges and the instruments of their Government. But when he came to deal with British interests, then the confidence which the right hon. Gentleman exhibited in the Parliament and its agents entirely disappeared. The Irish 1701 Judges were paid by the Irish Parliament; that was, the Irish Consolidated Fund was good enough when it was only a question of the life or property or liberty of one of the minority in Ireland; but when it came to a question of Customs, the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman in the Judges appointed by the Irish Parliament vanished, and he proposed that all legal suits in connection with questions arising out of the Customs should be referred to two Exchequer Judges not appointed by the Irish Parliament, and not receiving salaries out of the Irish Consolidated Fund, but appointed by the British Government, and paid out of the English Consolidated Fund. And he did not even permit an appeal from these Judges to the Irish Court of Appeal, the only appeal being to the English Privy Council, Again, it was provided that if one of the two Judges had reason to believe that an Irish Sheriff would not execute a decree of the Court of Exchequer in Ireland, then that Irish Judge was to have power to appoint some agent of his own to administer the decrees of the Court which protected British interests. If there was one thing more significant than another it was the alarm which had seized a most important section of the population in Ireland—not confined to Unionists, whether they were Roman Catholics or Protestants—and which was gradually making way amongst the very people who were supposed to be the staunchest supporters of the policy of Home Rule in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman recently told a deputation which represented some of the most important commercial interests in Ireland that the fall in Stocks in Ireland might possibly be attributed to a "bear" in the London Stock Exchange. The right hon. Gentleman dissociated himself from that interpretation, but certainly the speech he made was open to that interpretation, and had been so generally interpreted. It had been asserted in the House that these Stocks were sold from timidity or apprehension on the part of Unionists in Ireland. If these Stocks were good Stocks, why did not the believers in Home Rule purchase them; why did they not exhibit their confidence in the future prosperity of Ireland, and seize with avidity this opportunity of acquiring Stocks at less 1702 than their proper value? He was bound to say that in this Bill the right hon. Gentleman afforded no ground to the minority in Ireland to believe that their interests would be safeguarded. The question for them in Ireland remained exactly where it was in 1886. Government had not advanced one single step further in their attempt to solve the difficult question or reconcile the problem of separation and independence; they had not afforded, either to this House or the nation, any further reason for inducing them to take the course which they proposed to them in 1886; they had advanced no single ground to this House or the country for supposing that the Bill and its proposals would either be a final settlement of the question or secure the prosperity of Ireland in the future, or reconcile the differences that had unfortunately existed between one section of the Irish people and the overwhelming majority of the British race. On account of the fallacy of those arguments, on account of the fatal disaster which he believed this Bill would deal to the best interests of Ireland, he must now and hereafter give it his steady and stern opposition.
MR. MAC NEILL (Donegal, S.)
said, he would only trouble the House for a few moments, but he wished, as an Ulster Member, to follow an Ulster Member. He was a member of the same religious community as the hon. Member who preceded him, but, unlike the hon. Member, he was returned as a Nationalist and sturdy Protestant by the most Catholic constituency in the Empire. This was a proof of the intolerance of the Irish people. He was one of the persecuted minority, and he was returned by a majority of 2,500 Irish Catholic peasants. When would he see a Nationalist returned for an Orange constituency? He had a great regard for the Protestants of 1800, and he would not allow it to go forth that they were in favour of the Union. It was a foul calumny against them to say that they were. Surely Mr. Lecky was as good an authority as his hon. Friend, and Mr. Lecky said that the whole un-bribed intellect of Ireland was against the Union. There was a close and in- 1703 timate connection between the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and the Act of Union of 1800. It could be proved as clearly as any historical fact that that Irish Rebellion, which cost 70,000 lives, was deliberately fomented by the Castle Government to bring about the Union. In 1834 Mr. O'Connell stated in the House, and no one could contradict it, that a man named McGivan informed Lord Castlereagh of every movement of the conspirators, and Mr. O'Connell charged the Government with deliberately fomenting the Rebellion to secure the Union. The Parliament which carried the Union was elected in 1798, and the Union at that time was never mooted. The first official announcement appeared in The Times of November, 1798. Notwithstanding, it was rejected in 1799 by a majority of five; and if there had been an Irish Ministry in 1798 responsible to the Irish Parliament, the Union would never have been carried. When the Union was defeated, the Irish House of Commons began the work of bribing the Irish Members. The Ministry of the day, instead of resigning after their proposals had been first defeated, went on with other measures, and then they proceeded to the conversion of the Irish Protestants to the Union. The Irish Protestants were never converted to the Union. It was only the borough owners who were. Mr. Grattan stated on his honour that of all the Irish Members of Parliament who voted for the Union only seven were unbribed. Several of the Orange Lodges protested against the Union; but the Grand Orange Lodge did not, because the chief officers were borough owners, and were bribed in that way, receiving a sum averaging £15,000 a piece. Every promise made by statesmen at the time of the Union was broken. Lord Clare had stated that his chief reason for being in favour of the Union was that it would prevent Ireland from being the battleground of English faction. Could they say that was the case, when they bore in mind the recent performance in Ireland of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Speaker Foster declared that the Union was carried in order to increase Irish taxation. The Irish National Debt at that time was only £4,000,000, whereas the English National Debt was £21,000,000. The Irish Na- 1704 tional Debt was consolidated with the English National Debt, and the Irish people were hampered with a burden to which they had been no party whatever. The Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister gave them all that they ever had under Grattan's Parliament, and it gave them more than they had under Grattan's Parliament—an Irish Ministry responsible to an Irish Executive, and likewise their fair share in the management in the affairs of the Empire. The measure would prove, he believed, a true and lasting compact between the two peoples, unlike the measure which had been formed by fraud and forced on by the most disreputable means.
§ MR. DUNBAR BARTON (Armagh, Mid)
said, that in a very able speech the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Birrell) had referred to the Province of Ulster as a rich Province; on the other hand, the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Lough) proved, apparently to his own entire satisfaction, that Ulster was one of the poorest Provinces of Ireland. But he did not think the House was concerned with the question whether Ulster was rich or poor; it was the spirit of the people of Ulster upon which the question turned. He had come straight from Belfast, where that spirit was shown to its fullest-extent; and from what he had seen and heard he submitted that Home Rule was impossible. [Ironical laughter.] He was quite prepared for ironical laughter and for jeering observations; but when he said that Home Rule was impossible, it was not on account of that House or the House of Lords, but on account of the spirit of the people he represented. He said that in this 19th century they could not force upon a people such as the people of Ulster a Government which they absolutely refused to accept, which through their Representatives they repudiated, and which they declared they would not obey. [Cries of "Order!"] He was entitled to speak the truth in this House, and to warn the Members of this House; they need not believe him, but he said that not a single loyal man of Ulster would have Home Rule. This House 1705 might pass it; the House of Lords might pass it, and it might become the law of the laud, and yet the people of Ulster would not have it. [Ironical laughter.] He believed it, and he said it as one ready to take the risks of what he said. Yesterday he enrolled himself as one of the Organisation that now existed in Ulster. He did not know what that act might lead to; it might lead to his spending his life in penal servitude——[Ironical laughter.] Yes, he said it deliberately, that he would rather spend his days in penal servitude than under a Government of the National League. For himself, and those who agreed with him, nothing the present Government could do in the shape of enforcing a law like the one proposed had as much terror for them as the Government they proposed to set up in Ireland. They were dealing with a people who wore resolute and determined; and speaking as a humble Representative, he said that when they had a people who were as determined as that they could not force this Bill upon them; this Bill if it became law would be as dead a letter as the Acts they tried to force upon the colonists of America, Acts which passed this House and the House of Lords, and which never operated in that country. As certainly as the colonists of America refused to obey them, as certainly would the people of Ulster—and he begged to remind the House that those men who refused to obey the laws in America were the same race as the Ulster men. At Bunker Hill England lost 1,100 men and the colonists 500. Such things, he hoped, would not happen in Ulster; but if they did, it would be due to the crime—it would be owing to the conduct of Ministers who, if they had their deserts, would be impeached. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] He asked some responsible legal Member of the House to contradict him when he said it would not be treason or treason-felony to disobey the Bill if it became law. Last year in Ulster they had a Convention of 12,000 delegates, which solemnly declared they would not obey the law if passed, and in his election address he—in fact, most of the Ulster Members did the same—pledged 1706 themselves that they would adhere to the resolutions of the Ulster Convention, and he was elected on those terms. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Bryce) said they did not represent their constituencies. Eleven of them were returned unopposed, and in no other part of the Kingdom, not even in the South and West of Ireland, were 11 Members returned unopposed in the same area as in Ulster. They were declared and pledged to resist this Bill, and that, he said, would not be treason or treason-felony. [An hon. MEMBER: Why?] The onus lay upon those who attached treason or treason-felony to any disobedience. Unless they inserted provisions for the purpose in the Bill they would find great difficulty in using Her Majesty's troops and ships in Ireland to enforce this law. The Lord Lieutenant would have no right to use the Forces of the Crown for the purpose of forcing this law on any part of Ireland without introducing powers in the Bill, and he challenged the Attorney General for England and the Solicitor General for England to deny that proposition. To impose this proposed Constitution upon Ulster they would have to use the Army and Navy of the Crown, and the Forces of the Crown would not only have to put down occasional riot, but they would have to be kept in Ulster year after year; therefore it was with considerable confidence that he told them that this law had no more chance of becoming operative than any of the other arbitrary Acts that Parliament had sometimes attempted to impose and enforce upon the Colonies. [An hon. MEMBER: Coercion.] Yes; and this was the largest coercive Bill that was ever introduced. Parliament might alter the conditions of property in Ulster and other matters without there being room for objection, but to say that the lives and liberties of Ulstermen were to be handed over to a new Authority was beyond the power of Parliament. It had no Constitutional right to transfer or divide Ulster's allegiance, and if it attempted to do so it would not be obeyed.
§ It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.