§ [TENTH NIGHT.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [6th April] proposed to Question [6th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ And which Amendment was, 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 again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ *MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
The Debate closed last evening by a speech from the Chief Secretary for Ireland, which was about the longest that has vet been delivered in the course of the proceedings on this Bill. I suppose we may regard it as the closing speech of the Debate from the Government Bench, because the Chief Secretary is the gentleman most intimately connected with the Government of Ireland, and it is to be assumed that it would be he, who would sum up the Debate, and put the argument at its best and in its strongest light. The Chief Secretary is to be congratulated on the fact that, he is a pleasant speaker, and one who is always listened to with interest. As he proceeded with his speech hon. Members on this side of the House wondered what possible new argument he would adduce and what answer he would give to the various points that have been raised against this Bill. About the first remark the right hon. Gentleman made was in answer to the hon. Member for Dover, who had spoken of the policy of compromise which is at present before the House. "Well," said the Chief Secretary, "we may try the policy of compro- 662 mise, for the policy of no compromise has absolutely broken down." The right hon. Gentleman was naturally challenged on this point, because we (the Unionists) firmly believe that if ever there was a policy which had succeeded in Ireland at any stage in her history, it was the policy pursued by the Leader of the Opposition during the past five or six years, a policy which has left that country in a state of peace and prosperity so great that even the present Chief Secretary has not yet had time to upset it. The Chief Secretary, however, when he was asked for proof that the policy of no compromise had broken down, said it broke down at the last Election. But where did it break down at the last Election? It did not break down in Ireland at the last General Election, and that was surely the place most of all concerned and interested in this matter. In Ireland, so far from the policy of the Leader of the Opposition having broken down, we find that five seats have been added to the Unionist representation of Ireland, and it is remarkable that two of the seats are in the Metropolitan area. It is often said that there is no better way of trying to capture a country than by beginning at the capital. Well, we have commenced at the capital by capturing two seats; and if we had only had longer time and a little longer of the administration of the Leader of the Opposition, I fancy we would have captured a great many seats in Ireland. When people heard in the poorest and most disturbed districts of the West of Ireland, the cry of "God bless Balfour" ringing on the roads as he the Leader of the Opposition who was then Chief Secretary proceeded along, without any police protection whatever, they came to the conclusion that certainly a great step had been taken towards the pacification of that country. The Chief Secretary, in addressing hon. Members on this side of the House, who have expressed their fears about the policy that was being brought forward, said—"Our hopes are, at least, as substantial as your fears. "Yes, it is very easy for the Chief Secretary, an Englishman, who is able at any time to give up the onerous and difficult appointment he at present holds, and to leave Ireland for ever; it is very easy for him to say—"You need have no fear what- 663 ever; our hopes are quite as worthy of respect as your fears." But those who have their all at stake—those who live in Ireland—have the best right to fear. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) his called attention to the fact that emigration has greatly increased during the past three months, and the Chief Secretary met that by saying there were economic and other causes which accounted for the increase of emigration, and as a sort of set-off he said that emigration had decreased by 5,000 in the last four or five months of the preceding year. Yes, but that was because the people imagined that the Home Rule Bill was going to be shelved; but as soon as it became evident that the Bill was really going to be pressed forward, then emigration began. Now, we thought that if there was one thing more than another which this Bill was to do for Ireland it was to stop emigration. Yet the fact is that when there was only a shadowy prospect of the Bill being ever brought before that House and when rumours were widely circulated in Ireland that the Government never intended to introduce it at all, and when the Government during all these months between the General Election and the month of January last seemed immensely afraid of meeting Parliament, the people of Ireland were confident that Home Rule was dropping away altogether, and emigration decreased. But as soon as the prospect of Homo Rule became a reality then emigration again commenced, and has been continuing since. The contention of the supporters of such a Bill has always been that Home Rule would put a stop to emigration, but the prospect of Home Rule has certainly not had that effect, but has had exactly the contrary effect. The right hon. Gentleman next called attention to the change of opinion in the County of Lancaster, and stated that the majority in that county in favour of the present Government had increased largely at the last Election. Yes, but in Ireland, which was really the test case, the supporters of the Government have largely decreased. In the one part of the United Kingdom where there was but one question—that of Home Rule—before the electors, five seats were captured by the Unionists 664 In Lancashire where Home Rule was studiously kept away from the consideration of the electors, the supporters of the Government had increased. In Lancashire, was the Home Rule: Question the question on which the Election turned? It certainly was not. Take a typical case, that of the Rossendale Election. There, not only was Home Rule not mentioned, but Home Rule was absolutely held up to ridicule in the address of the Liberal candidate, who said, in substance, that the Liberals were not going to be so ridiculous as to give the Irish people a Parliament with real Parliamentary powers, but they would give them a thing that they would call a Parliament, to deal with gas, water, and electricity, and Irishmen in all probability would not know the difference. I myself have addressed a considerable number of meetings in Lancashire during the past two or three years, and in almost every case I was-asked not to trouble myself about Home Rule, for the people knew little, and cared less about it, being interested in the Newcastle Programme and in the various questions which affected England. There was probably no county in Great Britain in which the Home Rule Question was so much kept away from the electors as in the County of Lancaster, and that probably accounts for the success in which the right hon. Gentleman has found so much pleasure. In his speech the previous night the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) had asked—Is there any known Constitution which exposes a Legislature to such doubt, exceptions, and restrictions as those to which we expose the Irish Legislative Body under this Bill"?The Chief Secretary's first answer to that was, "the United States of America." But there is no one of the United States of America that claimed to be a nation or that asked for national privileges. Each State of the Union in the United States gave up certain powers of its own, in order that it might be met by other States giving up those same powers to what I may term a supreme Legislature which governed them all. The United States Government found a parallel in this matter in the constitution and government of the Presbyterian Church, which the Prime Minister once declared to be the best and most 665 complete form of government he had ever known to be applied either to Church or to State. But what is the difference between the Congregational Body and the Presbyterian Body in government? Each congregation of the Presbyterian Church gave up a great amount of its liberty, in order that it might be represented in the General Assembly and rule other congregations, and that was exactly what the United States did in the Union there, whereas in the Congregational Body each congregation was entirely independent of every other congregation. In the United States, then, it was not the ease of a number of nations being restrained from exercising their proper rights and privileges, but of States voluntarily giving up to a Constitution, which they themselves had founded, certain of their rights in order that they might assist in exercising similar rights over other States. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary boasted of his Colleague, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as his source of information with regard to the American Government. But is any information supplied by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to be relied upon? If his information about the United States is as accurate as his information about Ulster, then certainly the Chancellor of the Duchy is not a person to be relied on. In the First Heading Debate on this Bill I called attention to the fact that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in his attack on Ulster, and in his position as regarded Home Rule, did not represent even his own family, and I knew that to be a positive and absolute fact. But I have got more proof since, for the leading members of the Chancellor of the Duchy's family, both from Ireland and Scotland, have written to me, thanking me for calling attention in this House to the fact that they had not the least sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman in his views. [An hon. MEMBER: What has that to do with the case?] The Unionist Members from Ulster think it has a great deal to do with the case. When a gentleman, himself an Ulsterman by birth and education, tells this House and the country that Ulster Members do not represent their constituencies, then we must take every opportunity of meeting 666 that charge, which is as damaging as it is absolutely untrue. But when the Chief Secretary came to discuss the safeguards in this Bill, he followed in the footsteps of the Home Secretary, and said, in effect, just as the Home Secretary had said, our safeguards are useless, they can restrain 110 one, who wants to do wrong; but the Irish Parliament will not want to do wrong. He used, in fact, the following words:—If you start from the proposition that the Irish Exchequer is going to be manned by a parcel of rogues, there will be an end to the argument; but I am sure my right hon. Friend will not take that line.Well, but if there are to be safeguards, let us have real safeguards, whether we are to be governed by rogues or by honest men. If there are to be no safeguards, let there be none. I myself have not much belief in safeguards of any sort in connection with a Parliament. I cannot think of any safeguard that the intelligence of hon. Gentlemen could not easily get round. If you give full legislative powers to a Parliament in connect ion with Criminal Law, then most certainly that Parliament can easily manage, by certain criminal enactments, to get rid of the practical effect of a great many, if not of all, the restrictions that might be put upon it. But the Member for South Tyrone asked the Chief Secretary whether or not the acts of the Irish Home Rule Party during the past 10 years were such as ought to inspire trust, and he referred distinctly to three organisations in Ireland—namely, the Land League, the Plan of Campaign, and boycotting, and the Chief Secretary answered only with respect to one of them, the Land League, possibly from certain points of view the most harmless of the whole of them. But how did be answer? The answer was astounding as a direct incitement to illegal methods and to crime. He said the Land League produced good fruits; that it caused the Land Act of 1881 to be passed; therefore the argument seemed to be, if it was logical at all, that if a thing produced good fruits it did not in the least matter what the thing was itself. But I have an idea that, I have heard the Prime Minister distinctly say that the Land League had nothing to do 667 with the passing of the Land Act of 1881; therefore the Prime Minister repudiated the one defence which the Chief Secretary raised with regard to the Land League—namely, that the Land Act of 1881 was the offspring of that horrible conspiracy whose steps were dogged by crime. The next point the Chief Secretary referred to was Ulster, and he is the only Gentleman of the Home Rule Party who, since this Debate began, had one good word to say for Ulster. The Chief Secretary did admit there is prosperity in Ulster, and great importance is to be attached to the demonstration in Belfast. The right hon. Gentleman estimated the number who marched past in that demonstration at 150,000. That was generous of him. The exact number that marched past was 120,000, but there were about 350,000 onlookers who were quite ready to join the ranks of those who inarched in procession, so that it would be very foolish to underrate the effect or force of that demonstration. The leading paper of the Nationalist Party in Ireland said the demonstration numbered 15,000 persons, so that if the people of England take their information from the newspapers of the Home Rule Party in Ireland they will certainly obtain information of a very misleading character. We have often known meetings to be minimised in their effect and numbers, but we have never seen the process of minimising carried to such an extent as it was carried by that particular newspaper, and by many other newspapers in England and Scotland which are supporting the same policy. I think, however, that common honesty might have caused the Radicals in this country and in Ireland to have admitted that the demonstration was a great and earnest one. The hon. Member for North Donegal (Mr. Mains) has taken another method of discounting the demonstration. He admitted that the demonstration was great in numbers, hut stated that it was made up largely of Roman Catholics and Home Rulers; and as proof that it was made up in this way the hon. Member told us that he himself, a Roman Catholic and a convinced Nationalist, was in the habit of attending Unionist meetings in Coleraine. His name was then published in the newspapers as attending, and as being, therefore, a 668 supporter of the Unionist cause, and an opponent of Home Rule. But the hon. Member for North Donegal in his speech told us twice that he is a trader in Coleraine, carrying on an important agricultural manufacture—a manufacture of manure. It might, therefore, possibly be good policy for a trader to attend the meetings of both Parties—at least, until he got a seat in Parliament, when, of course, he would be prevented from attending the meetings of both sides. That would be good business, and the Member for North Donegal is a good business man, because he has in his speech twice advertised his business, at the same time calling special attention to two newspapers—The Ballymoney Free Press and The Coleraine Chronicle, which he said were Liberal papers having a much larger circulation than the Conservative papers in the same town. Now both these papers were bound to publish that, speech in full, and to write leading articles stating that the hon. Member is doing his duty in this House, and, of course, will be as true to his customers and his business as he is to his constituents in this House. Therefore, as one good turn deserves another, the hon. Member having gratuitously advertised the newspapers, the newspapers will advertise the hon. Member, both as politician, and, what is much more important, as reliable trader. The hon. Member for North Donegal mentioned the newspapers in question with the view of showing that there is considerable feeling in favour of the policy of the Prime Minister, and that the newspapers which supported that policy were more widely read than the newspapers which opposed it. Well, I will take the newspaper test. In Belfast there is a newspaper called The Irish News, which advertises that it is "the only daily Nationalist newspaper in Ulster." Now we have been told in this House that the Roman Catholics and Home Rulers in Ulster are nearly as numerous as, or more numerous than, the Protestants and Unionists; that they are richer and better off, and a hundred other things have been said to prove their superiority. But what do we find? We find that Belfast has four daily Unionist papers—about as prosperous journals as can be found anywhere in the 669 United Kingdom, whilst it has only one daily Nationalist newspaper; and, therefore, when the hon. Member for North Donegal took the newspaper test, and by it tried to represent one-half or more than of Ulster as being in favour of Homo Rule, the first answer is that the Home Rule Party in that Province are only able to support one daily newspaper, whilst the Unionist Party support four daily newspapers. The Chief Secretary taunted the Leader of the Opposition for saying to Irishmen—"Remember how rich your British partner is." The Leader of the Opposition, when in Ireland, (Killed attention to the fact that it was a very foolish thing for Ireland in any degree to break the partnership with Great Britain. Well, that seems to me a strong argument against Home Rule, and the argument of all others most difficult to get over; for whilst sentiment or feeling might change, it seems to me that to loosen the bonds of our connection with a country as rich as England would be a disastrous and foolish proceeding indeed. How is the Laud Question to be settled by an Irish Parliament after an Irish Parliament is established? The Land Question is the one burning and pressing question in Ireland, and how is that to be settled? Where would the Irish Parliament get the money to settle it, and how would they possibly buy out the landlords? If landlordism is to cease and if the Irish Parliament has not the money to buy out the landlords, there is no possible way of dealing with the question, except by expelling the landlords altogether and robbing them of their property. But to come to another point. In the early part of this Debate there were several speeches which were made up almost entirely of a discussion of the success or failure of Grattan's Parliament. It was attempted to be proved by some hon. Members that Grattan's Parliament was a complete success, and, it was attempted to be proved by others that it was a complete failure. Now for the purpose of my argument, I do not care in the least whether it was a success or failure. If it were proved beyond doubt either one way or the other, I am perfectly willing to take that proof as an argument against the present Home Rule Bill. If Grattan's Parliament was a success, then a Parlia- 670 ment of Protestants without any safeguards at all—a Parliament without an Executive, and differing in every possible and conceivable respect from the Parliament proposed to be set up in this Bill— was a success. But what does that prove with regard to the success of this proposed Parliament? How could the success of one thing prove the probable success of a totally different thing? If, on the other hand, it was proved that Grattan's Parliament was a failure, then my reply is that this Parliament would also be a failure. Much has also been made of the opinion of Lord Clare with regard to the success of Grattan's Parliament, but the statements of Lord Clare were so conflicting that they were quoted on both sides of the House as proving totally different things. I think on this question the opinion of the hon. Member for Clare is vastly more important than the opinion of Lord Clare. The opinion of a. man given a hundred years ago as to whether Grattan's Parliament was a success or a failure is worthy of very small consideration, and is of very little value to us at the present time. But there are one or two matters which I desire to make, clear to the House regarding the Unionists of Ireland, and the first thing is, that the opposition of Irish Unionists to Home Rule is not in the least degree because the majority of the Irish Parliament would be Roman Catholics. That is not the point at all, because I, for one, believe that the Irish Roman Catholic Homo Ruler is decidedly the most honest of all the Home Rulers in this House. I divide Home Rulers into three classes. I will not call them the dishonest, the more dishonest, and the most dishonest, because that might sound impolite. I will call the three classes, the honest, the less honest, and the least honest. Now the honest Home Ruler is the Irish Roman Catholic; the loss honest is the English Home Ruler; and the least honest of all is the Irish Protestant Home Ruler. The Irish Roman Catholic Home Ruler never was a rat. He never turned round, he never ratted, he was a Homo Ruler from his earliest days, therefore he is no turncoat; but the English Home Rulers turned round so suddenly that I am justified in doubting very considerably the honesty of those gentlemen. As for the Irish Protestant 671 Home Rulers, words fail me altogether. They should follow the late Mr. Joseph G. Biggar and go over to the Church of Home hag and baggage, ns he did. Every time one of them speaks in this House he makes an attack on the Protestant Church and on Protestants, and their intolerance and so forth——
§ MR. RENTOUL
I believe the hon. Member is a very modest man, and never speaks in this House, but I have heard him express sentiments that were not in accordance with that interruption.
§ MR. PINKERTON
I have never at tacked the Protestant Church, either here or anywhere else. Give me the reference.
§ MR. RENTOUL
I am not able to quote the exact words of the lion. Member in this House, but the hon. Member was not always a Home Ruler——
§ MR. RENTOUL
I am happy to say that since I was born I never was anything hut a Conservative, and I cannot well go further hack than that, except to say that my father was Grand Master of the Orangemen of County Donegal. I may tell the hon. Gentleman that I always distrusted the Protestant Home Ruler far more than the Roman Catholic Home Ruler. I do not want any ascendency. I am a Presbyterian, and the Roman Catholics never suffered any disabilities which the General Assembly did not suffer.
§ MR. RENTOUL
Regium Donum and the Maynooth Grant were about equal. We Presbyterians had no ascendency in the past, we have none in the present, and it, does not seem to be likely that we will have any in the future, for only this week the Prime Minister refused to receive a deputation of the Irish General Assembly of the Preshyterian Church, and yet the Moderator of the General Assembly stated yesterday that of the 621 ministers of the Irish Presbyterian Church 590 were, and had always been, Liberals. These were the men who struck away the three props of ascendency in Ireland—the State Church, landlordism, and a restricted franchise. The next difficulty which I 672 wish to deal with is the statements and representations which are so often made by Gladstonians with regard to the Orange Society. I can, perhaps, speak with all the more freedom, since I am not a member of that Organisation. Now I would like to point out that the Orangemen are, after all, but a fraction of the Irish Unionists. Their numbers are generally estimated at 60,000. I have never heard them estimated by Dr. Kane, the Grand Master of Belfast, at above 80,000. It is not true that the Society was organised for any purpose other than that of defence. I could not, however, better defend the Society against the charges that are constantly levelled at it than by quoting the authority of Daniel O'Connell, who, when asked before a Parliamentary Committee in 1825 why it was not necessary in Ulster for 25 years to enforce the Insurrection Act, said—There is in the North and has been a perpetually organised form of Yeomanry, mostly Orangemen, ready at any moment to meet any particular act of insubordination or insurrection, and, therefore, giving a more constant opposing force to particular acts of outrage.And again he said—My Orange fellow-countrymen are the most noble, generous, and patriotic body of men any country ever saw.In 1836 the Grand Lodge was dissolved at the wish of the King, and what was the result? Why secret societies, organised by Roman Catholics, soon sprung up to such an extent that in 1839 an Act against secret societies had to be passed. But now I proceed on to consider the basis of this demand for Homo Rule. It is based on the idea, inculcated by Irish Nationalists, that Ireland is a nation. If the contention is not that Ireland is a nation, why the name Nationalist, as applied—and used as applying to themselves—by hon. Members below the Gangway? The Member for North Kerry formerly held the view that, Ireland is a nation and should have a nation's rights. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has changed his opinion——
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
Since I am challenged I say that Ireland is a nation, and never can be made anything else; but I see no reason why a nation should not be content with a Home Rule Constitution.
§ MR. RENTOUL
The hon. Gentleman interrupted mo for the purpose of confirming my statement. That is very satisfactory. Let us, however, see what other hon. Members have to say. The Member for Cork City (Mr. W. O'Brien) declared in 1885—It seems to me to be just the moment to proclaim to the world and to warn England that in the hour of her peril she will have to deal with an Irish nation.The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. J. Dillon) said on one occasion—The feeling is ever present to my mind in favour of shaking off the Union with England.And again at Waterford, on December 8, 1888, the Member for East Mayo used these words—I have never hesitated to express my admiration for the men of '67, and I declare that our movement is in its main principles, and the great issues at which it aims, the legitimate successor of that movement.Now, who were "the men of '67"? Were they not the men of the Fenian movement—a movement the undoubted object of which was entire separation between England and Ireland? The Member for Cork (Mr. O'Brien) told his audience at Cork on the 24th of August, 1885—When the complete programme of the Land League is accomplished landlordism will vanish from the country, and the soil of Ireland will be free, its people owning no master but the Almighty, and no flag but the green flag of an independent Irish nation.So that the Member for Cork would not be content with anything but an independent nation. The Member for North Kerry said they would be content with a Home Rule Bill.
§ MR. RENTOUL
Yes, so you say, but the Constitution given by this Bill is something vastly less than the rights of a nation, then you are content with less than your rights. Now I do not know any Member of whom it is more difficult to find a statement that would place him in an awkward position than the hon. Member for North Kerry. He has made only one statement of that class, as far as I know, and that was when he said—I will not mince my words. The one prevailing passion between England and Ireland is the passion of hate.
§ MR. SEXTON
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow mo to say that I used 674 those words on the 14th October, 1881, and my experience up to then justified the use of them. Since then I have had a different experience. The words were spoken on a day when Ireland was convulsed, and when I was extremely excited by the arrest of Mr. Parnell.
§ MR. RENTOUL
In that case the hon. Member has changed his opinion, and therefore he withdraws those words.
§ MR. RENTOUL
That withdrawal will be satisfactory to some gentlemen in Ireland, but not to others. Well, then, hon. Gentlemen behind mo moan that Ireland is a nation, and nothing else, but that they will be content for the moment with what this Bill gives them. But what right has Ireland to call herself a nation? Ireland has not, and never had, any one of the marks of a nation. She never has been ruled by one King, never had an Executive, an Army, or a Navy, and has not a national language nor a distinct origin. Ireland used to have five or six Kings at one time murdering one another. That was what brought the English over to Ireland— a quarrel between two Irish Kings about another man's wife! We on this side of the House do not believe that Ireland ever bore any of the marks of a nation. In respect of race, I need only quote from the present Premier, who, speaking at Liverpool, as reported in The Daily News of June 26, 1886, said—Are you aware—probably many of you are —that of the population of Ireland, by far the greater part is of British descent"?Any of us, who have been to Ireland, and who have looked at the signboards over the shops as we passed down any street in any town, must know how true this is—for the names are mainly English and Scotch names. Ireland is no more a nation than the County of Yorkshire is a nation simply because it has some peculiar characteristics. There is no reason why Ireland should not be able to take her full and proper Constitutional part in the administrative work of the Empire; and I, for one, would welcome the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney), and be glad to see the hon. Member for North Kerry sitting on the Treasury Bench as Chief Secretary for Ireland. The hon. Member asked 675 me once whether I would trust him. I told him then that I would trust him, and I tell him so still; indeed, if the hon. Member would take his part as a Constitutional statesman in Parliament there are few men whom I would trust more.
§ MR. RENTOUL
The hon. Member for South Belfast says the Member for North Kerry would not get a seat. Perhaps he would not in Ireland, but I am sure he would in England, for I often mention his name—always courteously and with respect—in my speeches on public platforms in England, and I notice that it always evokes cheers. In that respect, therefore, the hon. Member would be perfectly safe. If Ireland is a nation —and that, after all, is the main ground on which the demand for Home Rule is made—then she ought to have the rights of a nation. But the Bill denies her those rights. The refusal to allow the Irish Parliament to protect its own trade and industries is a denial of one of the greatest and most important rights of a nation, and I could never understand why the restriction is imposed except on the ground that Ireland could not be trusted in the matter; but if she is not to be trusted in this she could not be trusted in other respects. If the restriction is imposed for the advantage of Great Britain, the richer country, then it is unfair and unjust. A proof that the promoters of the Bill mistrusted Ireland is the fact that they refused her this right of protecting her industries and also the duty of collecting the contribution which she is to pay into the Imperial Exchequer. The fact that Ulster prospers under the same laws that exist in other parts of Ireland is always a great grief to the Home Ruler, therefore efforts have been made to deny the wealth and prosperity of Ulster. Every reference to the prosperity of Ulster is met by ridicule or attempts to explain that wealth and that prosperity away. I am sorry to say that those attempts generally come from Ulstermen. The hon. Member for West Cavan (Mr. Knox) tried to prove the other night that Ulster was the most ignorant and least prosperous of any Province in Ireland. This was most unfair.
§ MR. RENTOUL
I could follow in the very smallest degree the process by which such conclusions were arrived at. In Ulster we have the City of Belfast— the most prosperous city in Europe, without exception—the city that has progressed most rapidly of all European, cities in population and wealth during the past half century. It may be said that the district around Belfast is prosperous, and that that prosperity made the prosperity of Belfast. But what made the prosperity of the surrounding district? It is not that the law is better than in other parts of Ireland, for the reverse is the fact. The fact is that wherever there are industry and loyalty there is prosperity, and this is the case in all the Unionist portions of Ireland. It has been denied that the majority in Ulster is against Home Rule. It has been said that the farmers are in favour of it. If they are, then where are Mr. Serjeant Dodd, who contested North Antrim on a most advanced land programme; Professor Doughty, who stood in North Tyrone; Mr. T. A. Dickson, who stood in South Tyrone; and Mr. Greer, who stood in. North Londonderry—all largo and important agricultural constituencies? Where are they? Beaten, every man of them, by the tenant-farmers. Members who speak of the farmers of Ulster being for Home Rule know nothing about Ulster. Statistics have been quoted to try to prove that other parts of Ireland were as prosperous as Ulster; but we have not yet had the statistics as to pauperism, and surely they ought to form a test as to wealth. In Minister pauperism stands in the ratio of 1 in 28; in Leinster it is I n 34; in Connaught I n 38; in Ulster, I n 98: in Scotland it is I n 44, and in England I 39. This shows how Ulster stands in that matter—best in the United Kingdom— not only much superior to the other Provinces of Ireland, but actually much superior to any part of England or Scotland. But we have been asked whether we are not willing to trust the Irish Home Rulers. Well, I am not. Individually, and in matters of private business, I would, and do, trust them as fully as other men, but in public matters the case was different. Their own public utterances and conduct cause me to distrust them. The experience of neither the past nor the present will warrant that 677 trust, and, therefore, I cannot give them my confidence in the future. In the past there were the records of boycotting—the most cowardly thing that could be done — and the Plan of Campaign, which has been pronounced illegal and immoral by the highest authorities of the Church and the Bench. Can anyone show me in the past of the author of these weapons of warfare anything to trust? Leaving the past, and referring to the present, there is the famous Pastoral of Bishop Nulty. That Pastoral is simply abhorrent to me, as it must be to every Protestant. It is shocking that a clergyman of any Church or denomination, however high his position, should undertake to openly dictate to voters how they should exercise their franchise, and simply horrible that he should imply to the voter that he would be violating the laws of God if he voted in a certain direction. This, and such like incidents, make Loyalists fear the rule of these men. Then there is the case of Father McFadden, of Grweedore. Father McFadden may be the most upright man in Ireland. Hut when the order was out for his arrest under the Crimes Act, he said he would not be taken without bloodshed: he insisted upon being arrested, if at all, in the presence of his congregation after Divine service, and murder followed. Father McFadden made that statement—a statement which no Catholic in this House will defend. The greater his power the more guilty he was in making that statement, and I want to know who was responsible for that murder? The real murderer is not always the man who strikes the blow. In the opinion of all unprejudiced men the murder of Inspector Martin lay at the door of Father McFadden, and at his door alone. The hon. Member for North Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) at Newcastle made the statement that the Presbyterian ministers of Ireland out-distanced by long odds the priests of Meath in intimidation. Well, I have been trying in this House, on public platforms, through the Press, and in every possible way to get either a confirmation or a withdrawal of that statement from the hon. Member. I promise that if the charge be substantiated in the case of a Presbyterian minister I will bring that minister before his Presbytery and have his con- 678 duct inquired into, but no confirmation of the statement has been tendered. Well who after that can trust any statement made by the hon. Member for North Louth? How am I to defend the Church to which I belong and its ministers under such circumstances? I will give another instance to show how unfair is the treatment which Unionists receive from Nationalist Members, those Members whom we are asked to trust, and it might be said that the case was trivial, but though straws were small things they served to show which way the wind blew. I have put a question to the Government—the only question I have put this Session, for I an. not fond of that sort of advertisement, and undoubtedly a great many frivolous and unnecessary questions are put to Ministers, some, no doubt, by Conservative Members, but by far the larger number by supporters of the Government, solely for purposes of self-advertisement. I had asked if there were any police present at the Unionist meetings at Seaford and Dunmore in County Down? Before I could receive a reply, the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McCartan) rose and asked if the Government were aware that the meetings in question were got up by landlords and their agents in order to intimidate the Government? Now, I knew that that statement was untrue, so I wrote to the locality, and found that no landlord or agent had been present at one of the meetings or had had anything to do with it, and that the other had been got up entirely by tenant-farmers and labourers, and that they had invited the local landlord to preside. This incident, and the manner in which Unionist Members are interrupted, generally, does not encourage us to believe that we would be likely to get a very fair hearing in an Irish Parliament, if one were established. As to trusting to the future, we have to face the unrevoked pledges of the Nationalists to punish us. The hon. Member for East Mayo, on the 4th December, 1886, said—When we come out of this struggle, we shall remember who were the people's friends and who were their enemies, and we shall deal out our rewards for the one and our punishments for the other.How is it possible to trust these men? I hen we Unionists do not believe this 679 Bill will satisfy the Nationalists—the Nationalists will not be such fools as to rest content with the miserable powers conferred upon them in the measure. There is no finality in it, and the Nationalists are aware of the fact, and the Bill does not satisfy one of them, therefore the whole 80 will come to the British House of Commons and make bargains with the Government, and get their powers added to. The Unionists are told, "You are going to be beaten; will you agree to a compromise?" That is the very thing the Unionists will refuse to do. If they were certain of being beaten tomorrow or to-morrow week, if they were sure that a Home Rule Parliament would be established, they would be as far from assenting to a compromise as they are at present. I do not remember a more thrilling incident in history than the story of the French war vessel which, when it had been surrounded by the enemy and knew that it bad no chance of escape, nailed its colours to the mast and went down with colours flying. That is what Unionists will do if they are to be beaten—they will be beaten thoroughly, but they will have nothing to do with compromise. When the Prime Minister comes to make his triumphant statement, "I have solved the difficulty," his boast may be put in plain words thus—" I have handed over a million and a half of Loyalists to the Government which they hate, and I keep them down by British bayonets." One thing, however, we ask, and it is this: "If the Bill passes withdraw the Army." I do not know that anything could induce me to vote for. the SECOND READING of the Bill; but if there was one thing more than another which would make me pledge myself to support it, it would be an undertaking on the part of the Government that directly the measure became law the British Army would be withdrawn from Ireland. I have been informed by hundreds of officers and soldiers in Ireland that they will never fire a shot on the Unionists of Ulster — that they will fire on no man who will meet them singing "God save the Queen"—but if the British Army is to be used against the Loyalists, I suppose they will be put down, though even then they will not be easily beaten. They will struggle; 680 but I trust that such a state of affairs will, under no circumstances, become necessary. If we can believe anything that Ulster people say, then we must believe their constantly repeated statement that never under any circumstances or at any time will they submit to a Home Rule Parliament. But if they fight in Ulster who first advised them to do it? Home Rule Members had threatened it, but the Unionists did not take their cue from them. They took it from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Bryce). He was sent over to Ireland in 1885, and he met a deputation of Liberals there to talk to them about Home Rule, which he said was coming. This was what a, well-informed gentleman wrote in regard to the right hon. Gentleman's visit—I remember the late Mr. Robert Jamison expressing great anxiety with regard to the possibility of the Judges, Magistrates, or police being under the control of a Dublin Parliament. Mr. Bryce fully agreed with his remarks, and I distinctly recollect his significant reply—'That would be handing over the sheep to the Wolves.' On the same occasion Mr. Bryce remarked to a gentleman, whose name I am at liberty to give him if required, 'Home Rule is coming; take my advice and buy a revolver.'
§ MR. RENTOUL
The writer I have quoted said, "whose name I am at liberty to give him if required." The name of the writer himself is John Rogers, of Windsor Avenue, Belfast. That gentleman will give the name to the Chancellor of the Duchy if he requires it. A great deal has been made of the conversion of the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. Davitt). That conversion has been trumpeted about, and the Chief Secretary for Ireland has exulted in the fact of that conversion. But a man might be converted too often. If he was converted backwards and forwards repeatedly, then his conversion was not much worth. Speaking at Bodyke in June, 1887, the hon. Member for North-East Cork used these words—I and others have been preaching to the people for the last six or eight years, Do not commit outrage; do not be guilty of any violence; do not break the law. I say it here to-day. I do not care who takes down my words, f am heartily ashamed of ever having given such advice to the Irish people.Therefore, this hon. Gentleman was first a revolutionist, and countenanced out- 681 rages and suffered for it; then for six years he went up and down the country advising the people not to commit outrage. That was conversion No. 1. Then he made his speech at Bodyke. That was conversion No. 2; then came his speech in the House—conversion No. 3. Surely when a man could be converted ail round in that way it was difficult to attach importance to his declarations. But if this measure is to be forced upon us, at least let the Government make some effort to prove that our fears are groundless. Let them take a little time, and if the work is good work it will be all the better done. The man who made Home Hide possible—its creator, if it should ever pass —is in his grave. A few years more or less will not matter to him. The Prime Minister was 53 years in this House before he became a Home Ruler. He also can wait a little longer. To the Members sitting for English constituencies I would say — You undoubtedly went to your election last July pledged to do something for Irish legislation on Irish soil. But was it this? Did you bargain for this? If not, then surely honour is above a seat in this House, even if you lose your seat over it. Be true to yourselves and to that independence which is your proudest boast. This is not a Party question. This is a question going to the root of Party government and going to the root of national life. Therefore we appeal to you to pause and consider what it is we ask of you. Do we ask you to go out of your way to serve us, or to bear any burden for our sakes? No; we simply say, We, the Loyalists of Ireland, have been with you for 93 years. We like you, we respect you, and we trust you, and our only petition— and surely it is an humble enough petition—is to remain with you, and to be partners in the Empire which we did so much to build up. This Empire is not yours to break up, for it was not made by you. It was made by your forefathers, and handed down to you as a sacred trust to pass on to future generations. It was not made by Englishmen in the past, nor by Irishmen, nor by Scotchmen, but by that union of English pluck, of Scottish prudence, and of Irish enthusiasm, which has saved us from French instability, from German stolidity, 682 and from Yankee bombast. Treat us fairly, and you will never regret your action. Be true to fair-minded English principles; be true to the understanding on which our forefathers went to people Ulster; be true to the past history of Britain, which doomed no man to slavery. In a word, be true to yourselves, and "it must follow as the night the day: Thou canst not then be false to any man."
§ *MR. LENG (Dundee)
said, the hon. Member who had just sat down had made an appeal to the Nonconformists of this country to do justice to the Nonconformists of Ulster. He (Mr. Long) was a Nonconformist, and he would proceed to respond to the hon. Member's appeal, and to give reasons why the Nonconformists in this country, who were most desirous to live in accord and agreement with their brethren in Ulster and throughout Ireland, thought the Ulster Nonconformists were suffering from certain hallucinations which the experience of other States and countries had shown to be needless, and which their experience under that Bill would soon satisfy them were unfounded. It had been said that "rightly to be great is not to act without great argument." If that were so, the protracted Debate they had had showed that the House adequately measured the greatness of the question before them. It was to be regretted, he thought, that in the earlier part of the discussion they had had so many long speeches, some of them characterised by vehement vacuity, others by prolix feebleness, and others by quotations so ancient that many of them might be said to be putrid. They had had also speeches full of envenomed bitterness, made by those who formerly denounced the government of Ireland by a foreign garrison and by Dublin Castle, and who coquetted and conspired with those who they now said were the enemies of England and conspirators against her welfare. He did not propose to follow on any of those lines. He wished first to point out some lessons from the history of the inception and adoption of the Constitution of the United States, and, secondly, to consider this Bill in relation to Home Rule all round. The Constitution of the United States had been frequently adverted to in the course of this discussion, and he 683 had been glad to observe that upon both sides of the House it had been invariably spoken of with admiration and commendation. That Constitution was established more than a century ago. There were then 13 States. The hon. Gentleman who had spoken had denied that any of these States were nations: but they were in their character independent sovereign States, having all their individual rights, and in the formation of the Constitution they gave up nothing except what they themselves agreed to surrender for the formation and strength and efficiency of the combined United States. The 13 States existed on what might be called the seaboard of the Atlantic. There were now 44 States spread across the entire Western Hemisphere from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast. He had passed through the great majority of the States. He had attended the meetings of their Legislatures, and it was because of what he had there seen that he felt a special interest in this question, and he would not have troubled the House if he had not thought that he could contribute some information with which Members were not generally acquainted. All, however, knew that in the United States there were many great cities with populations ranging from upwards of a million to hundreds of thousands. The entire population of the United States to-day exceeded 62,000,000. In London there was a cosmopolitan population—there were representatives from all countries and all climes—but, compared with the United States, London was a microcosm. The population of the United States was the most composite that existed in any part of the world. There were representatives of all nations, kindreds, peoples, and tongues, and there were the greatest contrasts in the conditions of race and the greatest differences in religion. Was it not remarkable that during the century that had past, during the period that the Union had grown from 13 to 44 States, and had come to cover millions of square miles, only one great struggle had occurred between the different sections of those States? That straggle having passed, the States were now united, and their Union would never be dissolved. The people in the South, as well as in the North, were proud of the greatness of the Union and the magnitude of its territory. The States 684 existed under a Constitution which had truly been described as a monument of human wisdom. It had certainly been proved by a century of experience. That Constitution was the product of a Convention of Delegates from the 13 different States which was held at Philadelphia, and sat during the heat of a scorching summer for four mouths. It was presided over by Washington, and its most influential as well as its oldest Member was Benjamin Franklin. Another Member was a descendant of a Scotchman— Alexander Hamilton; and another— James Wilson, who was born and educated in Scotland—was one of the most learned jurists that America had produced. The Convention sat through long, anxious, and exciting discussions. The interests of the different States were not the same. In many instances they were not only diverse but conflicting, and the views of the Delegates were in some instances diametrically opposed. On more than one occasion the Convention was in danger of breaking up. He would read one or two extracts to show that a century ago the circumstances attending the framing of the American Constitution were not dissimilar from those which attended this question of Home Rule—At the very outset some of the Delegates began to exhibit symptoms of that peculiar kind of moral cowardice which is wont to afflict free Governments, and of which history furnishes so many instructive examples. It was suggested that palliatives and half-measures would be far more likely to find favour with the people than any thorough-going reform, when Washington suddenly interposed with a brief but immortal speech, which ought to be blazoned in letters of gold and posted on the wall of every Assembly that shall meet to nominate a candidate or declare a policy or pass a law, so long as the weakness of human nature shall endure. Rising from his President's chair, his tall figure drawn up to its full height, he exclaimed in tones unwontedly solemn, with suppressed emotion— 'It is too probable that no plan we propose will be adopted. If to please the people we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God.' This outburst of noble eloquence carried conviction to everyone.The great difficulty in that Convention was precisely the great difficulty they had to consider with regard to this Bill. It was how to harmonise the independent government of the individual States with a strong and efficient Central Government and Executive. The problem was how each 685 State should have thorough control of its own State affairs, and at the same time how all the States combined should form a united nation for national purposes, in which all the States had a common interest. Mr. Fiske, in his admirable work. The Critical Period of American History, 1783–1789, said—The great mind of Madison was one of the first to entertain distinctly the noble conception of two kinds of government operating at one and the same time upon the same individuals, harmonious with each other, but each of them supreme in its own sphere.He was the chief author of what was known as the Virginia plan, which based the representation upon direct election by the people throughout the whole of the States. In opposition to it there was what was called the New Jersey plan. It contemplated the equal representation of the several States as States voting equally without regard to wealth or population. Both the Virginia and the New Jersey scheme proposed a single House of Representatives. The arguments over those two schemes extended to many sittings. The situation had become dangerous—The Convention," said Martin, "was on the verge of dissolution, scarce held together by the strength of a hair.When things were looking darkest a compromise was suggested—The famous Connecticut compromise led the way to the arrangement which was ultimately adopted, according to which the national principle was to prevail in the House of Representatives and the Federal principle in the Senate, but at first the compromise met with little favour.When the question was put to the vote the result was a tie, but the moral effect of the vote was in favour of the compromise. That tie took place on the question of the equality of the suffrage of the States, but ultimately at a further division it was carried by five States to four. When the Convention had come to an agreement, and had adopted the Constitution, it had to be submitted for ratification to the several States. There was an agitation in the States corresponding with what was being witnessed now in Ireland and this country, and the historian of the period said there was an outburst of vituperation, vilification, ridicule, and abuse. Washington, who had hitherto been worshipped, was denounced by the anti-Federalists as a 686 man knowing nothing of politics. Franklin, notwithstanding his great reputation, was spoken of as an old dotard in his second childhood. Wilson, being a Scotchman, was denounced as a country-man of Lord Bute, a patrician, and a snob. Stump speeches, pamphlets, caricatures, and manifestoes were issued— such as were being issued now. In the Assembly of Pennsylvania, the Opposition resorted to what was called filibustering, and what nowadays went by the name of "obstruction." Five days were consumed in defining the meaning of two words. Three weeks passed, and then the State of Delaware took the initiative in ratifying the Constitution, and this led to so much enthusiasm among the people of the several States that the example was quickly followed; but the Constitution was not always adopted peacefully. Just as the Home Rule Bill was publicly burned in Belfast the other day, in Albany the anti-Federalists publicly burned the Constitution, and there was a riot, in which knives were drawn, stones thrown, and blood shed. In New York violence was threatened. The Constitution was declared to beas deep and wicked a conspiracy as ever was invented against the liberties of a free people.But one man, Alexander Hamilton, by his ability and eloquence, convinced the people, not only of the City, but of the State of New York, as to the wisdom of the Constitution, and it was ultimately ratified in the Assembly by 30 votes to 27, and the first Congress being called, Washington was elected its first President. He (Mr. Leng) had referred to the inception and adoption of the Constitution of the United States as showing how difficult it had always been to secure the acceptance of new and important proposals of this character, how numerous the objections were which always were urged against, whatever proposals were made, and how much personal misunderstanding, rancour, misrepresentation, and abuse existed; but those who were convinced as to the desirableness of such proposals survived such storms of invective. When the clouds passed away sunshine followed, and in the course of time those who made the strongest opposition to sound proposals—as they had witnessed over and over again in our own Parliamentary history 687 —accepted what had been adopted, and admitted that wisdom prevailed. He would now turn briefly to consider the Bill. It sought to secure the loyalty and advance the best interests of Ireland. How did it propose to accomplish that? Simply by giving every Irishman in Ireland what he would obtain if he crossed the Atlantic and landed at New York, Philadelphia, or Boston. When an Irishman landed in one of these cities he soon obtained his rights as a citizen of the city, and he also became a citizen of the State, whether it were Pennsylvania, New York, or Massachusetts. He could vote for the election of the State Governor, its Senate, and the Members of its Representative Assembly; and at the same time, as a citizen of the whole of the United States, he had indirectly a voice in the election of the President and the Senators of the United States, and directly in the election of the Members of the Representative Assembly of the United States. It was the same under the Dominion of Canada, where a citizen voted both in the elections of the Departments, and also for the Members of the Dominion Parliament. This was under an Act passed in 1867 for the union of Canada, Nova Scotia, and Now Brunswick. This Act was passed by a Tory Government, led by Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli— men who could recognise the signs of the times, and could adapt their measures to what they felt was required for the best interests of their country. The Act defined what were Dominion and what Provincial affairs, just as the Constitution of the United States defined what were official and what were State affairs, and as the present Bill defined what were Irish and what were Imperial affairs. The Bill, by relieving this Parliament of a mass of local and parochial details, would leave it a truly Imperial Parliament, with time, which it did not at present possess, to devote itself to questions of Imperial gravity. He was strongly in favour of the retention of the Irish Members, because it involved recognition of the Federal principle, and theoretically he should prefer that the principle should be thoroughly applied all through—to Scotland, Wales, and England, as well as to Ireland. In other words, he was for Homo Rule all round. He would devolve legis- 688 lative power on National Assemblies in each country, and at the same time would provide that the Members of each separate Legislature should also be Representatives in the Imperial Parliament. He should support this Bill as a step in the direction of Home Rule all round. With regard to the bellicose remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he was certain that if hon. Gentlemen from Ulster would only have confidence in their own intelligence and ability, and would cordially accept the establishment of the Irish Parliament, and work for the good of Ireland in that Parliament, they would soon obtain a position and influence corresponding to their capacity and worth. He was surprised that they showed so much distrust of their own power in this matter. He hoped they would yet have sufficient patriotism to make common cause with their own countrymen and join hand in hand with them in carrying out the Bill. If the measure had had the effect of taking away from them any power or influence they possessed he could have understood their opposition to it, but all it contemplated was the placing of their fellow-countrymen in an equal position to themselves. In conclusion, he would merely suggest that hon. Members should pay some attention to the historical aspects of the question as presented by other countries, and that Parliament should take courage and follow the path on which it had entered.
§ MR. J. SCOTT-MONTAGU (Hants, Now Forest)
asked the House for the kind indulgence always extended to new Members while he endeavoured to give expression to a view of the question which he had not heard set forth in the course of the Debate. He was, he said, a strong supporter of the principle of decentralisation, and he believed that the legislation of the next 10 or 20 years would tend in that direction, and that the outside Party of our Empire would secure more control over their own affairs. There was a necessity for decentralisation in labour, which was now congested in the towns, the result being strikes and low rates of wages. A remedy for that was decentralisation. Capital was congested, as was shown by the fact that people were willing to put their money into investments returning a very low percentage, and he thought, also, 689 that they had congested legislation in this country at the present moment. He considered, therefore, that, both as a Party and as individual Members, they ought to recognise the principle of decentralisation. If this had been merely a measure of wide Local Government, he would, with pleasure, have given his support to it. Such a measure was a necessity for Ireland, and it would become still more necessary if the present Bill did not pass. A wide measure of Local Government for Ireland would be a wiser plan than this Home Rule Bill. He frankly admitted that the supporters of the Government had many arguments in their favour. They pointed, and rightly pointed, to disturbances in Ireland, and to the fact that that country had not prospered in the same way as other parts of the Empire; but they would hardly deny that this was in the nature of an experiment, and was really a leap in the dark. He thought it was a dangerous experiment, and that it would lead to a still more terrible state of things than that which now existed. They wore asked to confer upon Ireland a wider measure of self - control than Scotland or England possessed; and they were putting her in the position of a Colony. Ireland was far too near to us to be safely trusted in- that position. He did not think that the mere fact that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had changed their opinions was in itself any disgrace. The power of being convinced was a merit rather than a disgrace. If they had been convinced, their change of view was rather a credit than otherwise. Hon. Members on his own side of the House had often changed their minds when they had been convinced. But the question was, had the change of mind on the part of the supporters of the Government been brought about by reasons which in themselves were sufficient to show that they were convinced of its wisdom? Was it not, on the contrary, a significant fact that it was accompanied by the transfer of about 80 votes from one side to the other, and did not this naturally lead to the suggestion that the change had been dictated by political necessity? He did not think that Ireland had any right to Home Rule until the alternative of a wide scheme of Local Government had been tried. The hon. Member 690 for North-East Cork, in his remarkable speech the other day, presented, he thought, a fine example of the Constitution of the country, which enabled a man who had been confined in its gaols and had confessed himself, in times past, a sworn enemy of this country, to stand up in the House and say that he was converted and was willing to continue in future a law-abiding member of the community to which he belonged. This question of Home Rule was one which he admitted would have to be faced in the future, whatever the way might be in which the present Bill were rejected. He was warmly attached to the principle of Imperial Federation, and he would be pleased to see Departmental Committees in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, which would relieve the present congestion of Public Business. Let them give Ireland Local Government such as they had given Scotland. At present capital was leaving Ireland, and that was one of the great difficulties of the position. It was all very well for the Prime Minister to say that he regretted that the capitalists were not with him, and that the wealth and intelligence of the country were against him. Capital was a thing which was very easily frightened away, and which it was very difficult to attract, and he was afraid, unless something was put into the Bill for the greater security of capital, Ireland would be very badly off', he would be in favour of giving Ireland far more commercial freedom than she had at present. If the Bill were to pass he would wish it success. But he believed it to be unwise and premature. Nobody who thought over the grave questions before the country could wish that disaster should attend any of the great measures of this House which affected the prosperity of the Sister Kingdom. He hoped that concessions would be made by the Government in Committee. If it were only a question of Local Government he would find it very hard to vote against the Bill. There was one other point which should be borne in mind. It was easy to extend the privileges of a Legislature, but it was enormously difficult to withdraw them. Therefore he thought it incumbent on any statesman who brought forward a measure dealing with a question of this kind to see that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway should have a minimum of power to start 691 with, because it could be extended afterwards. He did not think it would be safe to trust those gentlemen with the settlement of the Land Question for the next three years, or, indeed, at any time. He would like to see the three years extended, and even that the Imperial Parliament alone should have power to deal with the question, because it was full of thorny points and was the cause of nine-tenths of the disturbances in Ireland. He did not think that the Land Question would get in an Irish Parliament the calm consideration which it would receive in that House. Had hon. Members from Ireland shown that they could be trusted in this matter? He would have been glad to see hon. Members below the Gangway possessing the confidence of the Government and sitting on the front Ministerial Bench. He believed they would have come out with credit to themselves, and he was quite certain they would rise to the responsibilities of the position. Why did not the Chief Secretary invite them over? [Mr. J. MOR-LEY: Because they would not come.] The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy on the previous night said there was no need to indulge in dismal prophecies as to the future, while the, Prime Minister had told them of the dismal sayings of the past. It did not matter what hon. Members had said in the past now that they had accepted Home Rule. The future concerned us more than the past. But could any Gentleman on the other side say that the Bill would be an immediate success? He hoped it would succeed eventually. But with regard to the immediate future he could not but entertain grave fears when he knew, as he did on thoroughly good authority, that three big firms intended to sever their connection with Ire-land if this Bill became law. He begged to apologise to the House for having detained it so long. He must repeat that he was very strongly convinced that they must have decentralisation. They had congestion of capital and labour, congestion in the legislation of that House, and congestion in public offices; and if the Bill could only get rid of that congestion he would have much pleasure in supporting it. It was entirely on that principle that Lord Beaconsfield, whose memory they were celebrating that day, was a Conservative, and it was on such lines that the progressive Conservative Party 692 would be still the most powerful Party in that House. If we kept that principle in view in our Local Government in England, and if we gave Local Government to Ireland, the House and the country would be mutually benefited. But it was not for him to reproach hon. Members opposite, for every mind that was free was liable to be convinced. He did not believe the Bill would survive the Committee stage; but if it did and if it passed he hoped that even the opponents of the Bill would, as far as in them lay, try to make it a success, even though they might not agree with all its provisions. He desired to make it clear that in voting against the Bill he was not voting against decentralisation, but against a measure for giving Ireland Home Rule before giving her a smaller measure of Local Government. That was an important question, and he believed the Government had begun at the wrong end.
§ *MR. W. SAUNDERS (Newington, Walworth)
said, he was more than willing —he was anxious—to have an opportunity of voting for a measure which would establish in Ireland an authority for dealing with Irish affairs. He had long recognised the advantage of bringing government home to the people; having had the good fortune to graduate in Home Rule—if he might be allowed to say so—under the tuition of one of Ireland's most gifted sons; there certainly could be no idea further from his mind than that Ireland was not entitled to local self-government, and would not make a most excellent use of it. How much had Ireland assisted them in the legislation passed in that House? He at any rate, as a London Radical, wished to acknowledge that help, and he would be glad to render any return that was in his power. Then, why could he not support the Bill? Because it demanded from the Irish people a price which ought not to be paid for Home Rule. They had earned Home Rule by the devotion and energy which they had shown with reference to public affairs; and yet, now it was proposed to concede it, what were the conditions sought to be imposed? They were that, practically, two-thirds of the voters in Ireland should be disfranchised. It might be said that if the Irish were willing to accept those conditions we 693 ought to make no objection; but he demurred to that argument. They were responsible for the conditions under which Ireland commenced local self-government, and the property qualification imposed by the Bill would be fatal to good government in Ireland, as it would be fatal to it in any other part of the world. For 30 years he had been doing all in his power to abolish property qualifications, and he thought it was the accepted creed of the Party to which he belonged that, all property qualifications should be abolished. He believed that the effect of the property qualification was altogether bad. It was like shifting ballast on board ship—the weight of it was always on the wrong side. He had no objection to safeguards, but the safeguards he should like to see introduced into any measure, if they were necessary—and he did not think they were necessary in the present case—were safeguards to prevent the rich from making exactions on the poor, and which would prevent the strong from being unjust to the weak. He demurred altogether to the doctrine that protection was needed against majorities, and had never heard that the sheep were in a minority as compared with the wolves. It was the wolves in politics that had perpetrated the injustice from which the people suffered; and it was absolutely impossible, under any system of property qualification, to bring about just and righteous legislation or administration of justice. Property naturally and necessarily gave to its possessors a. very large amount of political power. Under the Bill there were to be two co-ordinate authorities in Ireland—the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly was to be elected by the existing constituencies, and in these there were 170,000 owners and occupiers of property above the rating of £20 a year, which was the limit wider the Hill. The total constituencies in Ireland numbered 744,000 electors, and the 170,000 owners and occupiers of property would naturally exercise a very much greater influence than they were numerically entitled to. That must be so, in consequence of the great power which property gave in elections. Therefore, in the Legislative Assembly property would have the same proportion of ascendency which it had in the Imperial Parliament, because it would be 694 elected on something like the same franchise. They knew by experience that, under the franchise as it now existed, there was an unfair representation of property; and yet, not content, with leaving to property the very natural authority which it possessed, the Bill actually proposed that the other Chamber —the Legislative Council which was to have co-ordinate authority with the Legislative Assembly—was to be elected exclusively by the 170,000 owners or occupiers of property. Such a provision was absolutely fatal to any possibility of good government. It made the exercise of the franchise on the part of those who elected the Legislative Assembly—he would not say a fraud, but a delusion. Those voters would have no power. Three-fourths of the political power in Ireland would be placed by this arrangement, distinctly and emphatically, under the control of the owners or occupiers of property. What chance had the working man under these circumstances? In Ireland the wages of the working man per annum did not exceed the amount of this qualification. He ventured to say that if a £20 property qualification were suggested at any political meeting in London the man who suggested it would not be allowed to finish his sentence. And why should they impose on Ireland a condition which would be absolutely intolerable and absolutely impossible in this country? He recognised the great difficulties which surrounded the question of Home Rule; and he felt it would be his duty, as a Member sitting on the Government side of the House, to render any assistance in his power to a Government which undertook to meet these difficulties—difficulties which were not inherent in the nature of the case, but which were rendered almost insuperable by our conditions of Party Government. But, while he would be glad to render the Government assistance in that direction, he could not accept a Bill which introduced conditions which were not only unnecessary to Home Rule, but which were absolutely opposed to Home Rule. That Bill, or anything like that Bill, if it became law, would not give to the people of Ireland more political power than they now possessed, but would actually take it away from them. They were told that they must vote for the Second Reading of the Bill and then 695 amend it in Committee. He had a vivid recollection of what took place with respect to Home Rule in 1886, and he should have thought that the experience would operate upon all as a warning and not as an encouragement. He believed that when one objected in toto and absolutely to any principle introduced into the Bill, the only honest and straightforward course was to vote against the SECOND READING of the Bill. He was deeply disappointed by the introduction of the Bill. He had listened to every word which was said by the Prime Minister during the Debate of 1886. The right hon. Gentleman then said that the Bill which he then introduced had been prepared under greater pressure than he had ever been subjected to before, and that in that measure he had introduced concessions to powerful interests, concessions which would not be repeated. He had hoped— and he thought fairly expected—that when they had the new Home Rule Bill the tendency of the Bill would be in favour of the masses rather than in favour of the classes. But on reading the Bill he found that every clause which introduced a distinction introduced a distinction in favour of the classes and against the interests of the masses. Why should he be called upon to vote for a principle which he believed to be absolutely fatal to good government, and which he had consistently opposed during a long political life? He could not do anything inconsistent with his professions. He felt sure that the Bill would introduce difficulties which it would he impossible to overcome. They could not take from the people by injustice and give back to them in charity. Injustice in legislation and injustice in administration were certain to result from the property qualification, and injustice in legislation and administration were the cause of untold suffering to the people of Ireland and the people of London. Whether they looked to poverty-stricken Ireland or to wealth-stricken London they saw a degree of wretchedness, misery, and privation which, in the natural condition of things, was absolutely incurable. He believed the main cause of it was the unjust action of legislation originated and carried out by the propertied classes; and, as he had said, they could not allow 696 that injustice to continue and restore the balance in any possible manner. Nothing would relieve the sufferings which they all so much regretted, except giving the working classes a fair opportunity of supporting their own Government. A property qualification proposed in the present day—and unnecessarily proposed, because it certainly had no kind of connection with Home Rule—was an anachronism and a mistake. He could not lift up his head amongst London Radicals if he supported a property qualification. 'And what about London? He had assisted the Irish in obtaining their legislation, and he would like some help from the Irish in obtaining legislation for London. At present they were, in regard to London, in this unhappy position—Parliament would not do what they wanted, or allow them to do it themselves. They wanted Home Rule for London as much as the Irish wanted Home Rule for Ireland. The Prime Minister asked them what was to be the end of it all? He would not venture to prophecy—he did not know what was to be the end of all this: but he thought he knew what was their duty, and that was to persevere with this question of Home Rule until they got a practical, a just, and an efficient measure. In a multitude of counsellors there was safety, and he would wish that the question could be discussed by a multitude of counsellors exercising independent judgments of their own. If ever there was a time in the history of the country when it was necessary that patriotism should supersede Party, that time had now come, and he sincerely hoped that before long they would see some abatement of the extreme Party feelings which were now manifested. He was quite sure that there was no inherent difficulty in this question. Not only was it reasonable in itself, but they had a vast amount of experience available for application to the question. He believed that before long they would see this country living and thriving under a system of Federation and Home Rule under which there would be no apprehension of difficulty— no apprehension of separation, but under which the prosperity and happiness of the country would flourish to a degree of which they had now no notion.
§ *MR. HORACE PLUNKETT (Dublin Co., S.)
said, the Prime Minister in his speech on the First Reading of the Bill, commenting upon the return of five additional Unionist Members from Ireland, attributed it. to "circumstances somewhat peculiar and to him wholly and absolutely unintelligible." The simple fact was that, while the right hon. Gentleman was congratulating his countrymen upon the flowing tide, in Ireland the tide had begun to ebb. As, therefore, the Representative of a political fact which even the right hon. Gentleman himself could not explain away, he begged leave to state the objections which came from that part of Ireland, for whose exclusive benefit this legislation was proposed. If he could do so without egotism, he should like to repel the charge that was brought against every Irishman who was opposed to Home Rule, that he was out of sympathy with the Irish people. No other conceivable motive than sympathy with the Irish people brought him as a Representative to that House. He had no propertied interests whatsoever in Ireland — nothing to tie him to it except the associations of a family which had clung, through those "seven centuries of discord," to their home, had become more and more Conservatively Irish, and had ever recognised the value of the English connection. He had had ample opportunities of knowing her people, especially the poorest, of them, at home, and had further had a large experience of the more numerous section of the Irish beyond the sea. He was a believer in the capabilities of his countrymen, and only wished to see those capabilities turned to the best account. He was honestly convinced that these capabilities were best developed when there was fusion between the Saxon and the Celt; and, failing racial fusion, when they were associated in political, social, and industrial partnership. He knew well the argument repeated in the House by the hon. Member for Waterford in his eloquent, speech last. Thursday, that since Irishmen come to the front all over the world except in their own country it must be English 698 oppression that kept them back. He thought, if that argument was properly worked out, it would tell in exactly the opposite direction. In America the Irish succeed as politicians, as journalists often as contractors (this being largely due to organising ability and the connection between politics and contracts), as publicans, and in some other departments of city life. But just in that very sphere in which, according to all the usual commonplaces about the Irish race, they ought to have succeeded, they had signally failed. Since the great emigration from Ireland commenced, a promised land, rich beyond the dream of agricultural avarice, had been opened up between the Alleghanies and the Rocky Mountains which his countrymen had only to occupy in order to possess. To-day two-thirds of the Irish in America were on the east of the Alleghanies, while two-thirds of the Germans were on the. west. If the truth were told, where the real greatness of the Irish race came out was not where Irishmen were associated with Irishmen and revelled in Home Rule, but under the discipline and in the service of that world-wide Empire which they had done so much to create, and which they would do their part in upholding. Hut it was with Irishmen at home and with their welfare the House of Commons had to do. He laid it down as his first proposition to be admitted in considering the probable operation of a Constitutional change such as that under discussion, that the progress and prosperity of Ireland must mainly depend on improved agricultural conditions (including the relations between classes dependent on land), and the development of her industries and manufactures. With these two subjects he would briefly deal. Now, it appeared to him that there was only one way in which even temporarily a Home Rule Parliament would confer upon the majority of the agricultural class any benefit which an Imperial Parliament might withhold—namely, by wiping off arrears and the abolition or the practical abolition of rent — in other words by wholesale plunder. There was, of course, the possibility of indirect plunder by unfair taxation of proprietorship. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham had told them the Irish Parliament would not be able to do this 699 in face of the opposition of the forces of prospective ownership. He know many instances of farmers who did not take that view, and were prevented, by fear of taxation, from buying their holdings on advantageous terms. Assuming, however, the main object to be achieved, and that a general transfer of property from the landlord to the tenant had been brought about by unjust legislation, there would, of course, be an immediate ruin of credit which would extend most rapidly, through the connections of the large Insurance Companies which had money invested on the security of Irish land, into Irish finance and commerce at large. Now, whatever shuttle of the agricultural cards, so to speak, might take place under Homo Rule, it was quite certain that additional capital would be required to effect what he had politely called the transfer of interest from one class to another. There was nothing more strange to his mind about the attitude of the Irish farmers and their political advisers than their utter disregard of all the conditions which were necessary to give them the use of capital. An instance within his own recollection would illustrate this point. He remembered a farmer coming to a very good landlord and offering to take a farm of about 100 acres. The man was in every way respectable and apparently intelligent, and the landlord seemed well satisfied until he put the simple, and what would in England be considered the pertinent, question—"Well, what capital have you got? "The would-be tenant appeared to be amazed at the in-quisitiveness of the landlord, and replied, "Sure, isn't there the lad." But it was in quite another direction which Ireland would have to look for the solution of the agricultural problem. He was moderate in saying that the productiveness of Irish land might be increased 25 per cent. simply by improved methods of cultivation, drainage, erection of suitable buildings and use of agricultural machinery, and the improvement of the cultivator by education. Their live stock needed improvement. He was taking some part in demonstrating what could be done to improve the butter trade. Cheap money was absolutely necessary for the attainment of the above objects, but it would, he feared, not be available. They were absolutely dependent for it upon English 700 credit and English liberality. He did not propose to go to England in formâ pauperis, nor did he advocate a policy of "doles, bribes, and fat sops." England owed them a debt in respect of past misgovernment, a debt insignificant for her —sufficient for them. She acknowledged the debt, and as long as the partnership was maintained, was prepared to pay it. But if, with wanton infatuation, they accepted the financial settlement of the Bill, and gave her a receipt in full, her liberality would be at an end. There was, further, a very serious danger involved in Home Rule to our cattle trade, which was the life blood of Irish agriculture. The President of the Board of Agriculture (Mr. H. Gardner) was asked a few weeks ago by some Scotch farmers to extend to Canada the same facilities for landing their cattle as were accorded to Ireland. His reply was—You must remember Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and is therefore entitled to privileges which we could not think of granting to Canada.This reply had been noted in the Irish papers by an Irish farmer and cattle-dealer. He further pointed out what he (Mr. Plunkett) had pointed out to some of his agricultural constituents before, that a pleuro-pneumonia scare (originating perhaps in some conduct on the part of the Irish Representatives at Westminster), and consequent restrictions on importation into this country, would immediately ruin Ireland. Indeed, he thought it was the only effective veto they would have. For such reasons as these, and for many others which he had not time to enumerate, the farmers in Ireland were very generally beginning to regard the Bill as one to be agitated for but not passed. He would quote a letter from Patrick Cody, written this month, from Thurles, in County Tipperary—There is not one solvent man of my class that I know who is in favour of this Bill. At fairs and markets one hears nothing but words of dread about it. No one dare hold a meeting in favour of the Bill in the town of Thurles tomorrow. All the merchants and shopkeepers I know are dead against it. Who is in its favour? The corner boys, the insolvent farmers, and a few wild young curates.701 He had not mentioned the case of the landlords because he always tried to look on the Irish Question from the broad majority point of view, but whatever might be said of the past abuses of the landlord system, and the consequent failure of the landlords to perform the duties of their station, he believed that now it would be found that in their ruin would be destroyed an influence for good in the country which it would be hard to replace. He passed now to the question of industries and manufactures. Dependence on a single industry was the great cause of Irish poverty and discontent, and in the development of fresh industries was to be sought the real remedy—that was, unless remedies were to be confined to a treatment of the "mind diseased." Industries had an immense importance to the farming class, not only in respect of home consumption for their produce, but even more so for employment for their unemployed sons and daughters. Their want was likely to be more severely felt as the years went by. If there was one thing upon which the whole Irish race were agreed, it was on the absolute necessity of increasing the population of Ireland. Politicians, from O'Connell down—and O'Connell declared that Ireland should support 16,000,000, and this on the eve of the great famine— had had a passion for population, and had regarded it as the true test of the wealth and prosperity of the country, or the reverse. Personally, he had the utmost confidence in his countrymen's ability, under the slightest encouragement, to increase the race, at least up to the means of subsistence. But to return to the industries—he could be very brief, as the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) had, with his unrivalled lucidity, dealt with the main facts which he (Mr. Plunkett) wished to lay before the House. He might add, from his own personal know-ledge, that one of the strongest attractions of Home Rule to its Irish supporters was, before the Bill was introduced, the hope of a separate Custom House, and was now a system of export bounties. Great consternation had been caused by a doubt first suggested by the Lord Mayor of Dublin as to whether bounties would be permitted under the Bill. His 702 own belief was that the only sound way industries and manufactures could be fostered was by the creation of an industrial class by general and technical education. Laws undoubtedly destroyed the industry of all others which those who knew Ireland would wish to see restored—namely, the woollen industry. Although those laws had been withdrawn for more than a, century, they were suffering still from their cruel operation. Whether they must confess to some inherent defects with which to balance their admitted excellences he was not prepared to say. It had been well said of their past industrial character and history—We were reckless ignorant improvident, drunken, and idle. We were idle, for we had nothing to do; we were reckless for we had no hope: we were ignorant, for learning was denied us; we were improvident, for we had no future: we were drunken, for we sought to forget our misery. That time has passed away for ever.Yes, it had passed away, but it had left bitter memories, which it was ever the height of patriotism to revive. It had left them, too, with sore need of help both in money and in men who, by race and history, were better fitted to lead in this department of national life. In his opinion no solution of the Irish industrial problem would be satisfactory which did not bridge the river which separated North from South. He intended to leave the Ulster question for others to discuss, but he would say here that one of his loading objections to this measure was that if it were possible to force it on Ulster, which he did not for a moment believe, it would perpetuate and intensify a state of things in which the Boyne seemed to be broader, deeper, stormier than the Irish Sea,. He now turned to the religious question, and that, too, he should treat from a South of Ireland, a majority, a Roman Catholic, point of view. He knew well that when a Protestant presumed to speak upon Catholic subjects he laid himself open to the charge either of being actuated by anti-Catholic bigotry, or if he escaped that imputation he was accused of a patronising concern in a. faith with which he had no sympathy. The House was, no doubt, aware that a large number of prominent Catholics in Ireland, men 703 he thought, he could say without fear of contradiction from any Irish Member, who at any rate commanded the respect of their fellow-countrymen, had in terms calm, moderate, and dignified, publicly stated their opinion that Home Rule, if imposed upon Ireland, would foster a revolutionary spirit disastrous to the true interests of their religion. He took it that if the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland continued to act as a political organisation she would inevitably be involved in a conflict with at least one political faction. The danger he referred to would not arise so much with the country clergy as with the Hierarchy. The country priest was of the people, and in politics would, if left alone, probably be with the people. But when in alliance with lay politicians, the Bishops met, declared themselves in political matters, and joined in the fight even to extent of actively running a powerful political organ, he said they would come into conflict with forces which would overwhelm them. That would rapidly develop, as in the Meath elections, into a conflict between religion and irreligion in which, according to modern notions, irreligion was largely in the right. The result he apprehended would be a general triumph of revolutionary forces over not only the Roman Catholic, but all other religious influences. He believed that a large number of Irish Roman Catholic priests looked with the greatest apprehension upon the passing of the Bill. It was no new apprehension on their part. Cardinal Cullen, in 1873, made a statement to a friend of his (Mr. Plunkett's), Mr. Edmund Dease, of Queen's County, who was not unknown in that House, which Mr. Dease took down at the time. Here was the statement—I cannot and will not take any part in this movement— I must approach the whole question from my own standpoint, as a Bishop in the Catholic Church. I hare had 25 years' experience in Rome of the Revolutionary Leaders there. Now I have 25 years' experience in Ireland, and I am quite convinced that the spirit of revolution so strongly condemned by the Holy See is the moving spring in Ireland to-day as it has been, and is still, in Rome, and I am convinced that the first attack made on the liberty of the Church in Ireland will come from a Home Rule Parliament if we ever have one.He was convinced the Cardinal's fears were well grounded. They might ask why he, a Protestant, shared those fears? 704 Because it would destroy the legitimate influence of the priesthood, which among the Irish peasantry and especially in the poorest parts of Ireland was, looking at it simply from a common-sense and human point of view, too often the only influence for good upon which the people had to rely. As a member of the Congested Districts Board he recognised that they must rely very largely upon, and he was thankful to say they had already been greatly assisted by, the co-operation of the priesthood. He might wish, as a layman again, that the teaching of those clergy dwelt a little less upon the blessing of poverty and a little more upon the virtue of providence; but still he had no criticism to offer which in any way disparaged or reflected upon the beneficial and patriarchal sway exercised by those worthy men over those somewhat primitive communities. He had tried to deal with this question in what would be considered a spirit of moderation on the part of a man who lived in County Meath. He hoped the supporters of Her Majesty's Government would spare them the sophisms which they applied to their financial and other objections to the Bill, and would not pretend to ignore the possibility of a struggle in which one religion would not gain what the other lost, but which would be disastrous to all religions alike. His case was that in the most Catholic portions of Ireland Home Rule would not mean Rome Rule, but something far worse. Those opinions had been formed from his own experience in Ireland and among the Irish elsewhere. And, indeed, he was in good company. If ever a political opposition was supported by men of weight their opposition was. Their leading commercial men were speaking for themselves, and the country would listen to them if the Prime Minister would not. He would not repeat their tale; but he would say that there was absolutely no satisfactory explanation of the commercial panic which the introduction of the Bill had caused. It was absurd to try and put aside such cold facts and figures as were adduced, for instance, by the Dublin Stock Exchange and the Commercial Deputations. He had gone carefully into the question as to whether that appalling decline in stocks and shares, a decline terrible in the more saleable stocks, and naturally far greater 705 in those not quoted, could be accounted for by what was called a "bear raid." He had satisfied himself that it was a bonâ fide withdrawal of capital, based upon honest apprehension and in no sense upon any such device. At any rate, if hon. Members opposite had any faith in the assertion that these stocks were improperly and artificially depressed, they had an opportunity of realising enormous profits by their acquisition during what they considered their temporary decline. He would not attempt to enumerate the forces opposed to Homo Rule; but he wished, in passing, to say a few words for those who could not speak for themselves—namely, the Civil servants and the members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who thought they had reason to dread that dies ira, "the appointed day." He might have mentioned the latter body as an instance of Irishmen who had distinguished themselves under the discipline of England on their native soil. He would only say now that every Unionist, in Ireland was bitterly opposed to the Bill on behalf of both of these Services. He was not going to attempt Committee work now; it was enough to state that Irish Unionists were pledged to do their best for these able and faithful servants who, if we are to believe the utterances of those who would be in power, would be stripped naked because they had worked in Ireland in that odious integument known as the foreign—that was, the English—garb. For a general summary of the forces opposed to the Bill, he would adopt the eloquent words of the Bishop of Deny at the recent meeting of the Church of Ireland Synod—It is the voice of trade, it is the voice of commerce, it, is the voice of capital, it is the voice of our great seat of learning, it is the voice of all who think and all who work.Against this, with cruel mockery—and he could not believe with sincerity—the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill threw it in their teeth that they were but a minority. He should like to know whether there was any country in the world where the leaders of all departments of work and thought were not in a minority? Was it not in the nature of things that in commercial and industrial life the leaders must be few, and must, to some extent, be in conflict with 706 their less successful competitors? The right hon. Gentleman, speaking last summer at Edinburgh, taunted them (the Unionists) with having in their ranks "that education, that enlightenment, that leisure, that high station, that political experience," in fact, the heavy baggage of which his followers must disencumber themselves before they made their final attack upon the Constitution. They in Ireland refused to accept, this apotheosis of illiteracy as a canon of enlightened government. Leaving the forces opposed to Home Rule, he (Mr. Plunkett) asked what was this demand for its establishment? Last month the Prime Minister described it in the House as "that darling purpose which they (the Irish) have pursued under varying circumstances with undeviating energy." He had not time to discuss this historical proposition. From his reading of Irish history he could not conceive a greater misstatement of the facts, unless the right hon. Gentleman had used similar words to describe the consistency of his own attitude towards Irish demands. There never was a time when the demand for Home Rule could find any strong or effective expression unless it was tacked on to some far more darling purpose, the remedy of some particular grievance, or the attainment of some immediate, definite, and substantial gain? The entire force of the demand in its latest phase had been due to certain desires, some legitimate and others illegitimate, in connection with the land. Now, there was absolutely no nucleus to the Home Rule comet. The Land Question was so well advanced towards settlement that that, as a political engine for Home Rule agitation, had exploded. It would have been more consistent, more honourable, more statesmanlike, to have assumed again the responsibility assumed in 1886. The right hon. Gentleman well knew that his Bill would be accepted, if it was accepted at all by his Irish allies, mainly with a view to such a settlement of the Land Question as he would not venture to propose to his own followers in this House. Then, forgetful of his own disregard of similar appeals, he challenged them to produce an alternative policy, and because, while their houses were on fire, they did not take precautionary measures against a possible future conflagration, he assumed they 707 had nothing to propose, and triumphantly asked, Where was it all to end? They replied that it was ending, and ending rapidly. The change of a few votes at the last Election would have enabled them to continue a policy of which the policy of the late Administration was the logical precursor. He could not help thinking, two weeks ago, when the right hon. Gentleman tried to show that they were opposed to any attempt to govern Ireland with a fair regard to Irish feeling, that he chose an illustration which lent itself to something more than the support of his proposition. The right hon. Gentleman told them of a certain Mr. Drummond who had governed Ireland successfully for a short period over half-a-century ago, and how this gentleman met with adverse criticism from their Predecessors compared with which their criticism upon some of the acts of the present Chief Secretary (Mr. John Morley) wore feeble indeed. Now, what manner of man was this Mr. Drummond? He was a Scotchman, presumably pure, of rare intellectual gifts, and high scientific and literary attainments. He was, at the same time, a man of extraordinary sagacity in administrative affairs. It was he who first established the Royal Irish Constabulary, and used them to enforce the law and restore order out of disorder. He first appointed Stipendiary Magistrates, and devised schemes for developing their resources; hut above all he presided over a Commission, the object of which was the construction of railways by the State for the opening up of the country. Was there not a remarkable parallel between the administration of Mr. Drummond and that of a certain right hon. Gentleman who sat opposite the Prime Minister: an analogy of origin, attainments, administration, success achieved, and abuse by political opponents? He stated his belief that if they in Ireland had been fortunate enough to have had another six years of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition's Administration, they would have seen an improvement in the machinery, and possibly a further development of the principle of land purchase: a removal of any remaining Catholic disabilities; a broadening of popular control in local affairs; and Private Bill legislation to the effect that, so far as 708 possible, Irish legislation in its preliminary stages should be prepared by Irishmen. Decentralisation in Ireland was a Democratic principle, which would be accepted by the best opinion in Ireland and would find universal favour with the Democracy of England. What they wanted was equal treatment of the two islands, and they objected to having their country made the corpus vile of this experiment in disruption. He could hardly think that they (the Liberals) believed in Home Rule; that they believed in it as being, in the language of the Home Secretary, "a natural and necessary step in a normal and Constitutional development." If they did they would never choose for their first venture a country which, by racial differences, by social and religious animosities, was least fitted to receive it. Did they look forward to Imperial Federation? Well, it was a grand idea. But could they seriously contemplate roaring such a stupendous edifice on the unstable foundation of Irish discontent? He had left it to others to show that this Bill was both unworkable and lacking in finality. Not a man in Ireland pretended that it would be final; and as to its grateful acceptance by the Irish people, he thought, the best indication of their attitude towards the Bill was contained in the words of the hon. Member for Waterford in his speech upon its First Reading. He coldly reminded the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill that had it not been for his dead master, instead of introducing a Home Rule Bill, he would have introduced a Coercion Bill. It was unworkable in many ways; but broadly because it established a Central Authority in Dublin, charged with the most important duty of redeeming an enormous annual liability to England with no means of enforcing its decrees except, he supposed, 32 local police forces who might favour meeting the national obligation in County Dublin, but would surely repudiate it in County Clare. The Home Secretary told them that the American Constitution—the sort of "inquire within" of the present Government—furnished them with the solution. He thought, he said, United State Marshals, or something like them, could go and collect. Well, a new substance had been invented in Germany in whom 709 they might clothe this official when they clothed him with authority. But the right hon. Gentleman did not anticipate repudiation. Could he seriously doubt that the same arguments which were used by the Member for North Louth, when he advised tenants under certain circumstances to avail themselves of the Ashbourne Act and then repudiate the instalments, would be applied to repudiation of a National Debt? The moral principle, or want of it, which governed one agitation would surely be applied to the other. Then it was a drunken Bill. The hon. Member for Waterford told them he believed that under Home Rule Ireland would become temperate, and that thus her surplus would disappear. He must say his experience of Irish government elsewhere was that his country-men did not favour temperance legislation. He feared that if temperance proposals (not intended to be immediately withdrawn) were introduced into the Irish Parliament they would be loudly denounced. They should be reminded of the school girl's definition of a, demagogue as "a thing you fill with whisky." They were threatened in 1886—and he presumed the threat was supposed to hold good now—that if they did not yield to "this unvarying— this undeviating —demand," they must take the consequences of the passions they aroused. In other words, they must capitulate to crime. Well, crime capitulated to them, and they were not afraid to encounter it again. In his humble way he had tried to lay before the House the conclusions formed from an intimate acquaintance with Irish people and Irish needs. He opposed the general principle of the Bill, but he did not meet it by what he had heard described as "an eternal non possumus." They were prepared to meet the Prime Minister at the parting of the ways as they did in 1886. The right hon. Gentleman told them that there were but two roads: the road of coercion and the road of autonomy. He could not forget that the right hon. Gentleman travelled the road of coereion further than ever they did. What the Prime Minister called the road of autonomy was a road of evasion and of England's shame. By neither of these roads was the goal to be reached. They did not propose to turn to the right or to the left, but to press forward on the highway which they had 710 travelled for the last six years, which had led through law and order to peace and increased prosperity.
§ *MR. BENNETT (Lincolnshire, Gainsborough)
said, he had not the audacity to suppose that anything he could say would affect the Division, and if he thought the few minutes he would occupy would delay the Division he would refrain from taking part in the Debate. He ventured to say that if that House had been an ordinary business Assembly the opinion would long since have been arrived at, that the time for speaking had expired, or ought to expire, and the time for voting or action had come. They bad had speeches of all qualities and all dimensions, but there had been one quality absent from all the speeches, and that was the subtle power to grapple with prejudice. Alas! that was a thing-it was impossible to grapple with by speeches. They bad heard speeches of marvellous superiority and wonderful ingenuity. He wished they had been spared the insults that were conveyed to hon. Members on his side of the House by a few of the speakers who did not hesitate to speak of those who were prepared to support the measure introduced by the Prime Minister as servile and as items, resurrecting that miserable insult of The Times of seven years ago. He had been induced to rise for a few minutes that afternoon partly in consequence of a kind of challenge thrown out by the hon. Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. A. Chamberlain), who gave them an excellent and most promising speech the previous day. That hon. Member stated that no Member representing an English constituency had ventured to stand up and give something like an unqualified approval in the name of his constituency to this Home Rule Bill. Having heard that challenge, he felt it was his duty to get up and state that his was a constituency in which the majority of the electors were in favour of giving this measure of Home Rule to Ireland — or something like it, at all events. The interest in his mind, and the sympathy he had long evinced in Irish affairs, sprang up during a visit to Ireland in his early days. It 711 was about three years after the great potato famine of 1846, when it was ascertained that one-fourth of the then population of Ireland had disappeared— or something like 2,000,000 inhabitants —as a consequence of that famine. It was then that his first thoughts of interest and sorrowing sympathy were excited for that generous, polite, and kindly, though unfortunately misgoverned and unhappy, people, and, therefore, when, seven years ago, he had the honour to be returned to that House, he rejoiced at the opportunity thus given him of supporting the measure of practical sympathy with Ireland contained in the Bill introduced seven years ago by the Prime Minister. He was then convinced, and he was still more convinced now, that the day of better things for Ireland would begin when the Irish people were entrusted with the management of their own affairs. He could then see that this was a genuine illustration of true Liberalism—trust of the people. During that Debate opponents of the measure had not hesitated to say that as regarded the agricultural Members, they did not make Home Rule a question of discussion during the electoral contests. It was his duty to give a flat contradiction to that statement, which had been made by the right hon. Member for Bordesley (Mr. Collings) and other hon. Members in that House. Not only in the Election of 1886, but, in the Election of last year, and during the six years intervening between the two Elections, the question of Home Rule was thoroughly debated throughout the great agricultural division which he had the honour to represent. It was a subject which excited the liveliest and most intelligent interest not only in his own, but in many other large agricultural constituencies. The people thoroughly understood the question, and they clearly recognised that an early settlement of the Irish difficulty would be a gain to them, and could not be a loss. There was a real ground of interest and sympathy between the agriculturists of this country and Ireland, and they remembered they were enfranchised alike at the same time and by the same Party. In a word, the electors in the agricultural constituencies of this country knew that justice to Ireland meant also justice to their English villages. He should like to say a word as to the position of those who opposed 712 Home Rule and stopped it seven years ago, and who were loud in their boasts that they had saved the Empire thereby. He thought their position now, after the interval of seven years, during six of which they had enjoyed Office and Parliamentary power, was most humiliating, as all they could point to as an alternative to Home Rule was a policy of coercion and of almost unlimited use of British credit without any sound security. He pitied them in the position in which they found themselves now, because they had failed signally and entirely to produce that acceptable alternative measure of which they had boasted. The prospects of the passing of the Home Rule Bill had improved since the opening of this Session, and one contributory cause of that, improvement undoubtedly arose from the demoralised condition of the Opposition in that House since the opening of the Session, and from their violent language and obstruction. Their arguments, it seemed to him, had not been much regarded; they were either worn out or exploded, and so, instead of argument, they had loud language and speeches two hours long—which would have been much better if they had been an hour shorter—and, above all, they had threats, and even menacing words as to civil war, which, in his opinion, were to frighten the timid amongst them. The responsibility for this condition of things was to be laid more particularly at the door of those highly-placed men who had so sadly lowered themselves by resorting to such a course. But, speaking as an English Protestant, it appeared to him that one of the most painful features of the day was the way by which Protestants, particularly in the North of Ireland, sought to revive and to excite the feelings of religious bitterness and bigotry which they had all begun to hope were almost dead. It seemed to him intolerable that such a course should be pursued by Protestants from Ireland. And then they wore told of the mortal fears of the Protestants of the North of Ireland. He never knew before that the people of the North of Ireland were a timid people, but he had always been taught to regard them as a people who could hold their own anywhere, even in an Irish Parliament. Therefore, he could not understand these shrieks of fear. He could 713 not help asking himself what this really meant? Was it honest? Was it real? He would tell the House the conclusion he had come to. It was not that they were in fear of persecution, as was alleged, but they were afraid that the days of Protestant ascendency were coming to an end, and they believed the Home Rule Bill would hasten the end of such unworthy aspirations as they continued to have for ascendency. They believed that the days of religions equality were rapidly coming upon Ireland as well as upon this country, and that this Bill was calculated to hasten the arrival of such days. There was an attempt now to make capital out of the various utterances of the Methodists of Ireland, and even Lord Salisbury of late had found it worth his while to recognise the Methodists, though it was many years before the members of that Body could get an inch of land, at a certain place not many miles from London, on which to build a chapel. But Lord Salisbury had, latterly, thought it worth his while to banquet with the Methodists again and again, and to point out to the English and Welsh Methodists the example of the Irish Methodists as a guide to the course they should adopt during the present crisis. A great deal was being made out of the Methodist opinion in Ireland, and there was great activity in sending communications from Irish Methodists to English Methodists. The Irish Methodists said, "Take notice of us. We Methodists in Ireland are far better able to judge than you, because we live in Ireland. You who live in England are not to presume to put, your judgment against the judgment of those who live in Ireland." If that principle was good for the Methodists to use, surely it could not be bad to use the same argument, and to say that the people who lived in Ireland were better able to deal with Irish affairs than gentlemen who came to Westminster, who probably had never been in Ireland at all, and who knew precious little about Irish interests. He had great pleasure in supporting the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ *MR. V. GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
esteemed himself fortunate in having the opportunity of following the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, so 714 that he might answer an insinuation made by that hon. Member about one who lived in his (Mr. Gibbs's) constituency. That old lie had been dragged up again and again, but gentlemen were afraid to bring it forward on public platforms at the last Election. The hon. Member said he had some acquaintance with Ireland, but he certainly had no acquaintance with the facts about Hatfield, or he never would have ventured to bring the statement forward which he had just made, and which he, personally, was glad of the opportunity of meeting.
§ MR. BENNETT
I wish to take the opportunity of observing that every word I uttered I am prepared to stand by and to prove.
§ *MR. V. GIBBS
was not going to alter a single word he had said. At the same time, referring to the hon. Gentleman's observations about the importance of people being brief when they addressed the House on this matter, he would say it was equally important they should address themselves to the question in hand. He could not see what the question as to whether Lord Salisbury let land for a Methodist chapel had to do with the better government of Ireland, and he thought the House would see he was quite right in not continuing to deal with the subject. The hon. Member had told them the lime for speaking had gone, and the time for action had come, but he could not help thinking that in these matters precept was better than example: and if the hon. Member had spared them his address, it would have been a. better illustration of his opinion on the subject than merely telling them to be silent. But he did not expect the hon. Member—he did not know what constituency he represented— he did not expect him, as a Gladstonian "item"—the phrase was first used on the other side of the House—to have a very full acquaintance with the subject of the Debate——
§ MR. BENNETT
I can tell the hon. Member who first used the term. It. was the hon. Member for Central Hull (Sir H. Seymour-King).
§ *MR. V. GIBBS
said, he did not think that was material to the issue. It would be better if the hon. Member would allow him to proceed. It was through no want of respect that he passed by the remarks of the hon. Member. He had not said anything, however, that had not been said before, and as well said, from the opposite (the Government) Benches. He (Mr. Gibbs) preferred to turn to views which might carry greater weight in the House and in the country. He turned, in the first instance, to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, who on the previous evening told them that never before had Ireland an English Party standing at her back in this national controversy. What about 1886? He imagined that at that time Ireland had an English Party at her back, and yet the Nationalist demand was not conceded by the country. The Chief Secretary had told them, too, that the emigration which had taken place during the past three months was duo to economic causes, and not to fear of the Home Rule Hill. But if this was so, then it was also true of all the emigration which had been going on in the past, and the rate at which that had proceeded should not be adduced as an argument for the abandonment of the Union, as had been done by other speakers. The Chief Secretary said that the Constitution of the United States exposed the State Legislature to the same restrictions to which this Bill would expose the Irish Legislature. The United States had been referred to ad nauseam, but he would like to observe that the United States Government could rely on the loyalty of the States Governments. It was perfectly true, however, that certain American citizens once felt that their loyalty was due to their particular State rather than to the Central Government, and that was the cause of the Civil War in which the United States were involved. Might they not take the United States as a warning in that respect as well as an example? The Chief Secretary said he was not in love with the Second Chamber proposal. If they were to have such a Chamber, at all events the Go- 716 vernment had taken care that it should be so constituted as to be absolutely valueless as a check on the popular Assembly. It, was just the same as if they had no Second Chamber at all. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) pointed out that the supremacy of the British Parliament was not in danger, because it was inalienable; but at the same time he declared that the supremacy must be dormant. De non apparentibus, et non existentibus, eadem est ratio. If the supremacy was not to appear, it might as well not exist. The hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. Davitt) was justified in holding that they should not withhold the Land Question from an Irish Parliament, for if they could trust Irishmen with the management of their affairs they ought to be able to trust them to deal with the land. But the Bill excluded the consideration of the land. The hon. Member just referred to attacked many speeches made on questions of property by men who now supported the Unionist cause. They were told that these gentlemen used violent language in regard to property. It might be foolish to make such attacks, but it made all the difference if they were not reduced into the concrete; it was a very different thing to say generally that one disapproved of the Land Laws of a country and to make an attack on a particular landlord. It had been said that the hon. Member for South Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) made a violent attack on the House of Lords. He (Mr. Gibbs) could not help thinking that the hon. Member had lived long enough to feel very glad that they had not accomplished the destruction of the Second Chamber, and that the House of Lords was there to step in to prevent this measure passing into law. He would now pass to the remarks of the Home Secretary, and, following his precept, if not his example, he would endeavour to be argumentative and not declamatory. The Home Secretary said that Ireland as a nation existed only in Tory imagination. How could that be said when the very name by which hon. Members below the Gangway went indicated the notion of a separate Nationality for Ireland? Then the Home Secretary asked why Ireland should object to Free Trade. She would object to it because her Leaders had continually 717 objected to it, and when they got their Parliament they would carry that objection into effect. The Home Secretary had contrasted the conduct of Unionist Members in the cases of Ulster and Wales, because they declared that in the first case the wishes of the majority of the Representatives should be respected; but in the second case they were prepared to disregard the wishes of a much larger majority, in the matter of the Welsh Church, but there was a difference between protecting ones own property and desiring to obtain that of somebody else, and the majority from Ulster told them distinctly that property would not be safe if that Bill were carried. The risk of its passage had already brought about a depreciation in securities to the extent of £3,000,000. Would they be told that that depreciation was not due to Home Rule but to economic causes? Home Rule, of course, was the cause. The Home Secretary said that the first time there was a democratic suffrage Ireland sent a majority to Parliament to make that demand. By what method was the majority sent? They knew, by the revelations at the Meath Elections, how those Parliamentary Representatives were chosen. He had a great respect for the Church of which the majority in Ireland were adherents. There was, however, no country in the world where it showed to less advantage than in Ireland, and the priests had too often failed in their duty of safeguarding life, property, and morality in that country. He found that it was in those parts of the country in which the recommendations of the Head of the Catholic Church (the Pope) had been disregarded that the greatest injury had been inflicted in the cause of morality. They were told that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had no right to indulge in prophecy; but the Home Secretary did not hesitate to do likewise in respect of the Bill before the House. He (Mr. Gibbs) said if the Irish Parliament were ever set up it would be more than likely it, would be the duty of his Party to interfere in the exercise of whatever rights were allowed them. They would in the British Parliament have to stand firm on all questions relating to property, the Army, and Navy, and on these questions they would be con- 718 stantly involved in disputes with the Irish Government. He now came to some of the arguments of the Prime Minister. In the first place, the hon. Member for Sunderland had advanced the argument that it was not worth pointing out what was said some years ago by Ministers, as that was past, and they had to deal with the present, and what was being said now. But this proved too much, for if that were to hold good, what was being said now would also be of no consequence after a while. The Prime Minister gave as his justification for the measure the continuous and increasing feeling of dissatisfaction with the Union that had existed since it was passed. That statement, no doubt, formed a serious ground for attack on the Union; but was it sufficient to justify the passing of a Home Rule measure? Did dissatisfaction with the Government of this Empire entitle any portion of it to Home Rule? If it did, how could that argument be withheld from the people of Ulster? If Ulster was perfectly satisfied with the present system of government, why should a new system of government be forced upon her? And if the argument held true about Ireland, surely it held true of every other part of the Empire. They took India by the sword, held India by the sword, and they would lose India when they ceased to rely upon the sword. What was their justification for holding India in that way? That they administered it for the benefit of the people in accordance with their ideas of right and wrong. Was not that exactly the attitude adopted by this country to wards Ireland? What were the reasons against abandoning the government of India? In the first place, that it would have a very injurious effect upon us in the eyes of foreigners; and, secondly, that their ceasing to govern it would cause troubles arising from differences of creed and feeling, and, in fact, would involve the country in civil war. That was exactly the position of Ireland. The Prime Minister had referred to the economical advantages of the Bill, but there were also economical disadvantages. How was it possible, oven admitting that the Irish Parliament conducted its affairs with the same respect for property as the English Government, for the Irish Government, without the credit which this 719 country possessed, to manage its affairs as economically as England did? The Prime Minister had stated that the attitude of the Opposition with regard to foreign opinion on Home Rule amounted to this, "I am a fine fellow, the world is against me, but the world knows nothing about it." Now, was this not the position of the Prime Minister himself in the matter of Free Trade, and had he on that account ceased to be a Free Trailer? If they were to have their policy shaped in accordance with foreign criticism—and not according to their own ideas—then that was very unreasonable for Englishmen, yet that was what the Prime Minister would have them do. The right hon. Gentleman told them that an incorporated Union could not be forcibly maintained, and he wandered over every country in Europe in search of arguments for his Bill; but surely it was as good a proposition that no nation ever abandoned an honest, industrious, and loyal Province without disgrace and retribution. He did not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman through all the foreign countries to which he had alluded; but he would like to say, with regard to Norway and Sweden, that it would be very difficult to get any Swedish politician who was satisfied with the position of these two countries. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to Germany, but the strength of that country arose from the fact that it approached more nearly to their own system by strengthening its Central Government. They had also the argument of the diminution of the population in Ireland. Well, if, under the present system of government, the population of the agricultural counties of Ireland had diminished in numbers, the diminution could not be ascribed to that system, but was one of those evils which laws could not cure. Ireland was an agricultural country. It was no reflection upon the Union that an agricultural country should be depleted of a portion of its population. Ulster was told that it must fight this matter, not in the trenches, but in the Chamber, with about one-fifth of the representation of Ireland—which was all that Ulster would receive. How would she be able to fight in an Irish Parliament; for she would not be able to count permanently upon even one-fifth of the representation? Under 720 this Bill it would be in the power of the Irish Parliament to gerrymander the constituencies in the interests of the Nationalist Party, and he had very little doubt that that was exactly what would occur. A comparison was made between the proposed Parliament and Grattan's Parliament, but nothing could be more unreasonable than to imagine that such success as had attended the latter would attend a new Irish Legislature. How could a Parliament which rested entirely upon property and was practically composed of a Protestant oligarchy be compared with a Parliament which would consist of men opposed to Irish commercial interests and thoroughly distrusted by everybody concerned in Irish commerce? What was the reason of the measure of success which had been obtained by the Nationalists who were carrying on this agitation for Home Rule, and which had succeeded in capturing the greater part of the Liberal Party? It was a man named Lalor, he believed, who, in 1848, had first recognised that every agitation for Home Rule would be useless unless combined with an agitation against Irish landlords. The success of the agitation was owing to the fact that the agitators who were hostile to British rule desired to get hold of the landlord's property. He was, however, satisfied that the farmers were beginning to realise in Ireland their true interests. There were 12,000 or more landlords created under the Ashbourne Acts who were beginning to see that they would lose a great deal more in taxation than they would gain in reduction of rent if that Bill became law. He had now said all he wished to say in this matter, and be did not propose to indulge in any sort of peroration. Instead of doing that he would read a small passage from the peroration of the Chief Secretary for Ireland the other night, and comment on it for the benefit of hon. Members opposite. The right hon. Gentleman said—I should say to the men of Ulster, and the country has to decide—this House has to decide —in giving your decision on this Bill, whether their ideal of dividing a section of Ireland from the rest of the country, whether their ideal of inviting this North-East section to turn her back in sullen brooding upon all the rest of the country, blind to her needs, deaf to her cry, doing nothing for the country. Is that a higher ideal, a higher matter, than ours, which is to say — No; let all Irishmen of all creeds, whatever 721 their geographical position, whatever their pursuits, whether commercial or agricultural, join and pray that, though England does not need them or want them. Ireland, their own country, does.That was an entire perversion of the Unionist position. They did not. say that they wished to see Ulster separated from the rest of Ireland. They wished to see the two parts of Ireland combine and remain an integral part of the Empire, and what they asked was, Is not ours the "higher ideal," that all sections of the United Kingdom should live together under one Government, "joining and praying" together for their mutual progress and prosperity?
§ MR. JACKSON (Leeds, N.)
I desire to say a, very few words on the Bill, because, although I should have been glad to have given a. silent vote against it, still I have had some opportunity of forming an opinion upon the general condition of Ireland, and of the remedies proposed from time to time for its better government; and it may, therefore, be fitting that I should express my reasons for offering the strongest opposition to the measure. I appreciate the difficulties of the Government, and recognise frankly and fully that their position is a somewhat serious one. I would even go further, and say I recognise the desire of the Government to do something and to pass some legislation which shall result in benefit to the government of Ireland. I do not suppose that any Member of the House desires otherwise than to do his best according to his knowledge and convictions to pass such legislation as will confer upon Ireland the greatest advantages that can possibly be conferred. In support of that I think I am justified in pointing to the fact that it has not been proved—and I believe it cannot be proved —that the Imperial Parliament is unable to legislate for the benefit of Ireland, or to remedy grievances that might be shown to exist in Ireland. In the past the Imperial Parliament has shown no unwillingness to devote not only a large measure of its time, but a large proportion of national resources to the benefit of Ireland, and this cannot be denied, in spite of the statement of the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. Davitt). No one 722 who knows anything of Ireland, no one who has watched the course of events there, no one who has studied Irish statistics but must admit that it is proved up to the hilt, test it by any test you may apply, that the prosperity of Ireland in recent years has been continuous and great. It would have been strange had it been otherwise, for Parliament has done much for Ireland—aye, even more than Parliament has done for Great Britain. There has been laud legislation which has largely benefited the occupying tenant; there have been great efforts made to extend the advantages of education in Ireland, great efforts to assist local resources and to relieve local taxation in Ireland, and all these efforts combined have produced their natural result, shown in the continuous and steady progress Ireland has made in recent years. Now the question is not whether Parliament desires to confer on Ireland a better system of government. If it could be proved that a plan for a. better system of government was before Parliament we may take it that it would be the natural desire of Parliament for it to become law. But the question is, will this Bill which is now before the House produce any such result? In my humble opinion, so far from producing any good results, it will tend, it is bound to tend, by every clause and by the whole of its machinery, in the direction of producing increased and increasing friction in every department of Government in Ireland in its relations with this country. Sir, I have sometimes thought, when looking at Ireland, that perhaps the greatest advantage that could be conferred upon Ireland, if it were possible, would be the filling up of the Irish Channel. There is no doubt much of the difficulty that has arisen in Ireland in the past has been due to the fact that Ireland is isolated, and in some parts of Ireland completely isolated, from British influence and British sympathy. It is not the fact that the British people have shown unwillingness to help the Irish people in every way in their power. It is not the fact that the British people have ever been wanting in sympathy with any real grievance proved to exist in Ireland. In confirmation of the view that I venture to put forward, that isolation from England has been detrimental to Ireland, what do we find if we 723 examine the present condition of that country? Why, if we look along the East Coast of Ireland, where contact with England is more close, we find there the greatest industry and enterprise, the most energy and the greatest prosperity. I do not say that in all the districts far removed from English influence poverty prevails; but I say that undoubtedly the poorest districts are in the parts of Ireland most distant from Great Britain, and that there there is the most disaffection for the English. Sir, I think that this measure, if passed into law, would tend to separate still more than they have ever been in the past the people of Ireland and the people of Great Britain. The tendency of the measure would he still more to set the two peoples apart—to divide them into two countries and two governments. I do not for a moment admit that the admixture of English, Irish, and Scotch in the past has been injurious to Ireland, or anything else than an advantage to her. I believe that, not only would this Bill lead to great friction, but that that friction would increase as time goes on. I think I am within the truth when I say that I have listened to a great many and read other speeches that have been delivered, and the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Bennett) was the only English Member who approved unqualifiedly of the Bill as it stands. It has been torn to pieces hit by bit. There is hardly a clause that, has not been denounced from both sides of the House, and there is not the least evidence that the Bill is acceptable in its present form to any section or Party or individual in the House. If that is the case, how can it be expected that it would do otherwise than create friction in the future? I will just mention two points on which I am certain friction would arise. The first of these is the Customs collection. It was my privilege to be for some time Secretary to the Treasury, a post in the work of which I took great interest. I saw a great deal of the working of the Customs Department of this country. The Bill proposes that the collection of the Customs in Ireland shall continue to be carried out by Imperial officers, and that the money so collected shall be paid directly into the Imperial Exchequer. Well, Sir, I venture to say that in my 724 judgment no system could be better calculated to create a feeling in the minds of the people of Ireland that the Customs Duties are being collected from the people of Ireland to their injury and for the benefit of England, and that they, the people of Ireland, are being called upon to pay taxes which not only are obnoxious in themselves, but are collected in the most obnoxious manner it is possible to conceive. I think I am justified in saying that such a system must result not only in a largely-increased cost which it will be necessary to expend upon the Customs Service in Ireland, but also in a diminution of Revenue derived from the Customs, because nothing can be more calculated to encourage smuggling in Ireland. What have we to rely upon? We have first the Customs officers, and behind them the Coastguard Force; but the latter are not directly responsible to the Customs Department. They are controlled by the Admiralty, and treated as if their primary duty is not to assist, the Revenue, but to act as a Reserve Force for the Admiralty. I am betraying no secret when I say there is, on the part of the heads of the Customs Department, a strong feeling grounded on their past experience that the Coastguard, admirable Service as it is for certain objects, is of little use as regards the collection or protection of the Revenue. Now, something has been said about the possibility of bounties being given in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin referred to the important question of the distinct tendency in Ireland to protect native industries by a system of bounties. Well, Sir, I say it in no carping spirit, but I state it as a fact, that there exists in Ireland at the present time a Department, presided over by the Chief Secretary himself, the procedure of which is based and founded on the protection of Irish industries—namely, the Congested Districts Board, founded by the late Government. What does that Board do? It is expending large sums of money in endeavouring to foster industries in Ireland. Last year—and I make no complaint because I think the money was wisely spent—a large sum of money was devoted as an experiment, to testing the question whether, during the spring, the mackerel fishing in Galway and in the neighbourhood of Achill could be prosecuted with commercial success. The 725 experiment was a success, I will not say that it was a commercial success, because everybody was paid—the fishermen were paid to take their boats there, the agents were paid for the transport of the fish— in fact, bounties were paid all round. Unquestionably it produced this good result —it proved conclusively that there was in the neighbourhood of Achill, during spring-time, a large fishery, if prosecuted by men who had boats large enough and the energy to carry it forward. The Congested Districts Board, in regard to agriculture, have spent some thousands of pounds upon stallions, bulls, and poultry, and in this way a bounty is given to the Irish farmer to enable him to prosecute his business successfully, and, at the same time, to compete more advantageously with his rivals in other parts of the world. Therefore I say that the question of Free Trade, or protection of trade, is an important one for Ireland; and if a separate Legislature is given to that country, her Representatives, even if less in favour of Protection than I believe them to be, will be inevitably driven by the men behind them to obtain for her the advantages of a system of bounties. If such measures were adopted, they would tend to increase the friction and the difficulties between the two peoples and their respective Governments, and to bring about an estrangement greater than any we have ever had yet. Well, Sir, in view of the time (5.25), I have no further opportunity at present of dealing with this question; and I will therefore leave the other questions and only say, in conclusion, that, having given the best thought I can to this important subject, I am driven to the conclusion that the Bill proceeds in exactly the contrary direction to that in which, in my view, it ought to proceed. I listened, as I am sure everybody listened, to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) with great interest. In one of its most eloquent passages the hon. Member appealed to the House to put upon the shoulders of the Irish people the "sobering responsibility" of self-government. Sir, I entirely agree with the hon. Member that it is desirable to put upon Ireland and upon her Representatives that sobering responsibility; but it is not 726 necessary, in order to accomplish that purpose, that you should separate the two countries and set up two Legislatures. Everybody admits that in almost every department of public life there have been illustrious Irishmen who have taken their share of responsibility and have done great things towards building up the British Empire as it now exists. I say, in my humble opinion, the remedy for any grievance that may exist in Ireland, and the way to put increased responsibility upon Irishmen, is to call upon them to take their share in the government of their country as part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. There is no reason why they should not do that. I do not agree with the statements which are sometimes made— and which were, I think, last night repeated by the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. J. Morley)—to the effect that there has been in Ireland a disposition to shut out from positions of responsibility in the Government of Ireland Irishmen of ability and capacity, whatever their religious or other opinions may be. Certainly no such disposition was shown during my short experience in Ireland. There is no reason why the United Kingdom should not continue to grow and prosper in the future as it has done in the past; and I say that in my opinion if you pass this measure into law, you will not only do a serious and permanent injury to Ireland, but you will do a great injustice, and cause grave danger to Great Britain. For these and other reasons I shall give my vote against the Second Reading of the Bill, and do everything I can to prevent the passage into law of a measure which I believe would be injurious to Ireland and a disgrace to Great Britain.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."— (Mr. Sexton.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Tomorrow.