§ Order for Third Reading read, and discharged.
§ Bill re-committed in respect of an Amendment to Clauses 26 and 27 respectively.
§ Bill considered in Committee, and reported; Bill, as amended, considered (Queen's Consent signified).
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
I am very mindful of the indulgence which I have already received from the House upon the principal stages of this Bill; and it would be unbecoming in me personally, with the memory that I cherish of that indulgence, to re-enter at large upon the general field of argument which, in our opinion, justifies and requires the passing of the Bill. I shall altogether confine myself to reference to points which have arisen since the last occasion, that of the Second Reading, when I had the honour of addressing the House on the general question, now four or five months ago. There are two occurrences which I think it right to notice, as they have arisen since that period, though they appertain to the general arguments of the Bill. One of these touches what we have always regarded as a very important argument, the argument derived from experience—from the experience of a very large number of European countries, from the experience of our own race in America, and from our own experience in reference to the Colonial Empire. But since that time, and I think that during that Debate, observations have been made tending to impeach that remarkable uniformity of result which is yielded by this wide field of observation in connection with a case now attracting some 1458 attention—but not more than it deserves—I mean the case of Sweden and Norway. It has, indeed, been contended by the opponents of the Bill that none of these cases are, strictly speaking, analogous to the case of Great Britain and Ireland. That admission must be freely made if analogy requires an exact correspondence of all particulars. There can be no such exact correspondence of particulars in a comparison between the transactions of one nation with the transactions of another. But there is one grand correspondence—fundamental and radical—determining in substance and in effect the whole character of the transactions and their applicability to our own case—that every one of those instances, whether I take Austria and Hungary, Sweden and Norway, the United States, or the United Kingdom and our Colonies, all are founded on the one fundamental and radical principle—that of division between local and general and Imperial affairs. It is that principle which, in our opinion, constitutes the essence of the present transaction, and it is the extraordinary success with which that I principle has been applied in solving many problems, and in mitigating and reducing other problems, which makes it so grave and so important a lesson with respect to the present discussion. But some have observed that a great crisis has arisen in one of these cases—the important case of Sweden and Norway. Nor is it for a moment to be denied that the political affairs of those two interesting countries, so nearly allied in blood to ourselves, are at present in a state of acute tension, so much so that even the words "severance of the Union" have been in the mouths of men, not, perhaps, the wisest, but still in the mouths of men who are citizens of those countries. For my part, I venture to say that it would require a very great stock of folly on the one side in the controversy, and, perhaps, on both sides, to dissolve that Union. But for the purpose of adverse argument I will refer to the very worst supposition, and will assume that that Union is to be dissolved—which I do not believe. Supposing it were dissolved. How would the case stand? Would the argument for Unions of this kind, based on a division between local and Imperial affairs, thereby be destroyed? No; it 1459 would stand thus: That whereas at the close of a great war Sweden and Norway were actually in arms against one another, and were ready to fight out the battle in the field, by means of that Union there have been established 80 years of unbroken harmony between them. Those 80 years—come what may—represent a great good achieved for humanity, and for Europe, as well as for the two countries themselves. I might say more than that. Much progress has been made in many respects towards harmony, but I will assume nothing. I will only say that the realisation of those 80 years of peace, unbroken in any single case, except by political discussions, contrast favourably with the 93 years which have passed since the Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. But I must refer to another argument, which we, and perhaps I myself, have been especially in the habit of using. I will not say that it is as weighty as the argument from universal experience, but I confess that I think it an argument of some weight, and entitled to some consideration. That is the argument derived from the authority of the civilised world, as exhibited in its permanent literature. I do not speak of journalism, which represents the sentiment of the moment, and which in one country very often represents not the genuine judgment on the question discussed, but a judgment formed in reference to other questions and other interests. I have affirmed that it has been my object, so far as I could pursue it, to ascertain what is the sentiment of European and American literature on these subjects, and I have never found—though, of course, I do not assert it to be universal—a single case in which a European writer, speaking from some point of view that gave him a title to consideration, has approved of the conduct of England to Ireland, or has recognised it otherwise than as a great stain upon the honour of this country. There are one or two gentlemen who are bold enough to contest that proposition, and to produce five names in asserted contradiction. Not one of those citations touch the point. I have never said that all Continental and American writers approved of the Home Rule Bill. If they did, I should attach but a very secondary weight to their judgment; but I think that on particular measures the 1460 judgment of foreigners, when we get into particulars, cannot be of any great weight or value. But there was not one of those five persons who contradicted my assertion, or who had any apology to offer for the grievous, the shameful history which we have to deplore during almost the whole of our connection with Ireland. [Cries of "Oh!"] The right hon. Member for Sleaford touched upon the subject, and was severe upon me for the superficiality of my examination compared with the careful range with which he had examined the question and the results he had obtained. Out of those five names there is not one which contradicts my assertion with regard to the effect of the Irish connection on English honour and character. But there is one among them which is so eminent that I must go into it a little further than the right hon. Gentleman did, and that is the name of Cavour, who travelled and spent some time in this country. His judgment was of the highest order; his insight into politics, as we know from subsequent results, was a peculiar and extraordinary gift, one of the very few who, among statesmen, attained the very highest of their qualities—the quality and the character of the nation-maker. Cavour, said the right hon. Gentleman, had approved the union of England with Ireland; but Cavour wrote before the true history of that Union was known. It is true that Cavour did give an approval, but a very limited and qualified approval, of the Union of England with Ireland.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman challenges my statement. In that case I must refer to what Cavour said. He said—In civil respects and in economic respects, the Union was good; but as regarded the religion of the people of Ireland, it left it in a worse position than before.The religion of the people of Ireland is the heart and soul and centre of their whole life. That I call a qualified and limited approval. But that is not the point. First of all, did Cavour think that the relations between England and Ireland had been honourable to England? I will read a few lines from a translation of his book on the subject. He says this of Ireland in 1792— 1461Ireland was destined to become, after a long career of misery, an inexhaustible source of troubles and anxieties to its oppressors in order, perhaps, to give to the world a great lesson, and to teach to the most powerful nations that their crimes and their errors recoil sooner or later on those who commit them.That is the judgment of Cavour upon the conduct of England to Ireland. Of that we hear nothing from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Then Cavour contradicts himself. That is an assertion of the right hon. Gentleman which I will leave to stand for itself. But what was material was this: We were told that Cavour approved of the Union; and I have shown that it was a qualified approval. But did he approve of the Union as if it were a finished work, to be the basis of the relations between England and Ireland? No doubt Cavour looked at the Union as solving a great problem with respect to the supremacy and the union of the two countries; but was he of opinion that it left nothing to be done in the way of Constitutional and organic change? No, Sir. Here is a passage which the right hon. Gentleman will find on pages 109–10 of the work which I have quoted. This he wrote at a period when Sir Robert Peel's Government was in Office. He wrote at the period when the work of local self-government upon the principle of division of powers had just been completed for Canada, and he wrote in those words—he did not wish the repeal of the Union, he disapproved of it; but referring to the Peel Government, of which he had favourable opinions, he said—It will then pursue the work of regeneration. In support of what I have said, I will only cite the moderate, liberal, generous conduct of the Cabinet of Sir Robert Peel towards Canada. What it did for that distant Colony it will do for Ireland.It will be perceived that that great statesman took in principle, as nearly as may be, the very ground we take at this moment, of preserving the supremacy of Parliament and the unity of the Empire, but of granting that self-government—undoubtedly under limitations—in principle, which had been granted to Canada at the time when he wrote. I think that, as regards Count Cavour, I have pretty well made good more than the proposi- 1462 tions which, on various occasions, I have laid before the House. As I have already stated, my duty on this occasion, I think, will be to deal with what, according to a phrase now generally used and accepted, may be described as "the situation"—the actual state of this Bill and the circumstances which have taken place since we were discussing the principle on the Second Reading. Undoubtedly, during that interval between the Second Reading and the present stage we have accumulated a mountainous mass of Debate. I wish I could entertain the opinion that that mass of Debate will greatly add—taken as a wdiole—to the fame of the House of Commons as a deliberative Assembly. I am afraid the result will be somewhat the reverse, and that the best that can be said of it is that it has been distinguished by a very great and singular development of small points. That the future will decide. But we have to consider results; and the results, I apprehend, are these: As the reward of the 79 days which have preceded this Debate, we have secured these two things: the passing of the Bill through the House of Commons, and the leaving available, if we have the courage to use it, a residue of the Session which may be devoted to the much-needed and important purposes of British legislation. How have these results been attained? They have been attained by two instruments; one of them the use of the time-closure—a system of dealing with legislative measures in respect of which I will only say that I regard it as an evil. [Opposition cheers.] I am glad that some of its authors agree with me, and recognise it as an evil, and an evil which ought only to be tolerated for the avoidance of some much greater evil. The other instruments by which these results have been attained are the unbounded sacrifices which Members of this House—the special duty, of course, of Members of the majority—have made; they have given up their time—I hope not their health and strength—their case, their convenience, their usual habits, for the purpose of a bold and inexhaustible perseverance in the discharge of their public duties; and while, naturally, I admire this self-sacrifice upon this side of the House, especially, where it has been united, in my humble conviction, with the purposes of political wisdom 1463 and sound policy, I am glad to have, the opportunity of paying at least this compliment to gentlemen opposite: that they, too, have exhibited a very large portion of old English pluck and fortitude, worthy—if they will permit me to say—of being devoted to a bettor cause. These are the means by which these ends have apparently—and I hope I may now with confidence anticipate—been attained. I will ask gentlemen opposite—aud I think I may trust to their kindness—to hear me with patience, and I think that before I close they will find I have tried to do them justice. We have not attained these important results—namely, the passing of the Irish Bill, now immediately imminent, and of reserving at least some portion of the year free for British legislation—without paying a price for them. We have paid a very heavy price. This has been a lengthened Debate, extending beyond all previous precedent, beyond all possible expectation, and with regard to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and his coadjutor, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, have attempted, with infinite ingenuity and with a great deal, I must say, of grace and undeserved kindness, to trace it to my individual responsibility. I think, however, in all those declarations there was a strong strain of irony; at any rate, I shall not follow the right hon. Gentleman into that discussion, though I think I could do it with some effect. I think he will agree with me that it would be rather too small for the present occasion. But I will take the mass of the discussion, and it is certainly an extraordinary fact that if we divide on Friday night, as appears to be the arrangement made by consent in the House, we shall have expended 82 days on the discussion of this Bill. Those 82 days are entirely in excess of anything that has ever before happened. It may, perhaps, entertain, or even instruct the House, if I mention in what way it was that in former times great Irish crises wore wont to be disposed of by the British Parliament. In 1782 there was effected a political, but a peaceful, revolution in Ireland. Ireland became, as to legislation a free country. As to the Executive Government, it is true that it did not become equally free, for the responsibility of Executive Governments to Legislatures had not then been esta 1464 blished. That is a great political discovery, and a result of the 19th century. But there cannot be the smallest doubt that, had that Parliament of Ireland been continued, and had not the disturbances that followed the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam intervened—I say, had that Parliament continued to the present day, in a peaceful course of things, the responsibility of Irish Ministers to that Parliament would have crowned the work of G rattan. However, when that legislative revolution took place in 1782, the Debates upon it were confined to April 9 and May 17—not to the period intervening between those two dates, but to those two days themselves. In 1783, when the work was completed by a formal declaration of the sole authority of the Irish Parliament to make laws for Ireland, one day sufficed for the great consummation. In 1799 and in 1800, when the work of the Union was accomplished, when this Legislature of Ireland was swallowed up and annihilated, and the whole institutions of that country placed upon a footing essentially different—a revolution greater by far than any that is now contemplated or proposed—that revolution, where the business was not to construct, but to pull to pieces, was accomplished in seven days in 1799 and six days in 1800. That was the way in which Irish questions were disposed of in former times. But how have other questions been disposed of by us? As far as I know, the three longest periods given by this House to any Bill were, in 1887, 42 days, to what we justly term the Coercion Bill; in 1881, 46 days to the Irish Land Bill; and in 1831, 47 days—only one day beyond the Land Bill—to the great Reform Bill of Lord Grey, which went to the very root and foundation of this country, and for the first time, at any rate, in modern history established the great principle that no man should sit in this House without having a real constituency. That was a measure so great that it not only effected at the moment a vast change, and roused from their sleeping places all the dark prophecies and sinister inventions of those who opposed it, just like the present Bill, but also supplied the basis of subsequent Reform Bills in such a way that they had no new principle to introduce, and are but mere sequels and developments of the great measure 1465 introduced in the past, without a revolution out of doors, but only just without a revolution by the Government of that day. I know there are those who say that that was not such a great Constitutional measure as the one now proposed. I can only say that I am unable to enter into a discussion of that question with those gentlemen, for I am unable to appreciate their mode of reading history, their form of political philosophy, and their estimate of Constitutional changes. That is the mass of the time that has been taken. But this question of time taken is one of extreme importance. Little has, as yet, been said upon it. That little has been general. But it will have to be pursued into details and particulars; for I hold it to be certain that the time of the House of Commons is the treasure of the people. See what it is that this Bill has cost them. Having stated roughly, and generally, the amount of time, I am obliged to go forward and ask the question—By whom was that time taken? I shall come afterwards to the justification for taking it, but I am now speaking only of the past. The case stands thus. I will look first at the stage in the Committee and on the Report—the stage which relates to Clauses 3 and 4. On these two clauses in Committee, and on Report, the Amendments given notice of were 326. But the reaper, in the shape of the authority in the Chair, put in his sickle, and mowed down prematurely a certain number of the Amendments, so that the actual number moved on two clauses came to 141. The time taken on those two clauses, almost entirely in dealing with these Amendments, amounted to 110 hours. That tolerably answers my question—By whom was the time taken? because it certainly was not from the friends of the Bill that the Amendments proceeded. What was the quality of those Amendments, and what was their purpose? The purpose of a number of them undoubtedly was to restrict the powers of the Irish Parliament, to undo piecemeal the work of devolution which had been performed in the gross on the main stages of the Bill; and those Amendments upon two clauses only, entirely apart from other Amendments upon other clauses, in restraint of the boon to be conferred on Ireland, were no less than 88. That is an unexampled quantity. There may 1466 have been a reason for it. I will come to that by and-by, but it was an unexampled proceeding, which I think justifies the statement we have made, that, whether rightly or wrongly, in their reasons and aims, the opposition to this Bill was different from all former oppositions. I, at least, from all previous experience, am aware of no case in which there has been, on a great measure, a deliberate and persistent attempt of this nature in Committee on the Bill partly to destroy the work by the mass and volume of Amendments, partly to undo and take back in morsels the boon that had already, in principle, been conferred. I must resort to another method of answering this question—By whom has the time been spent? I am not going to endeavour to lay any peculiar responsibility upon any individual in respect to it, but I will take the total number of speeches in Committee. I cannot say that the account I am going to give will be found literally and in every point unassailable. It is not quite like an ordinary arithmetical process, but in the main the figures are correct. It has been taken with every possible care from The Times, which we have supposed to be the best repository for such a purpose. With the exception of a certain number of speeches, which could hardly be put down either as for or against the Bill—not amounting to 5 per cent. of the whole, and therefore hardly affecting the general result—the speeches made for the Bill in Committee were 459—an awful roll. There were many, no doubt, made by the Government, but most of them made by the Government were owing to the compulsion—the gentle compulsion, the Parliamentary compulsion—of the Opposition. What were the speeches against the Bill? The number was 938. [Opposition cheers.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer that statement. They are quite consistent. I will give them a little further material of the same kind. Besides the number of speeches, we have to look at the length of the speeches, because the object is to ascertain where lies the consumption of time—who were responsible for it, in fact—aud how far the pleas which, I admit, were urged on its behalf are sufficient. The hours taken by the 459 speeches for the Bill were 57¼, but the hours taken by the 938 speeches—twice the number 1467 against the Bill—were 152¾, so that while the number of the Opposition speeches were two to one compared with those for the Bill, the length of the Opposition speeches was not far from three to one. [Opposition cheers.] I am glad we are agreed as to the fact. This peculiar mode of proceeding, I think, justifies us in the belief that the intention was, if possible, to prevent our passing this Bill through the House of Commons. But my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) said that no such intention had ever been entertained. Fully believing the assertion, as far as concerns himself and those for whom he in this case speaks, I modify my statement to this extent: that I think it was intended, in the first place, to drive and compel us to the use of the Closure—to leave us no weapon except that most invidious weapon, no weapon by which we could attain the main object, or fulfil the commission which we had received from the country at the time of the General Election. I think also what he said was perfectly consistent with the supposition which I also entertained—and, indeed, I think it amounted to positive assertion on his part—that what he looked to was to leave us, if we liked, the power of passing the Irish Bill through the House of Commons by an unbroken devotion of our time and energies from now to Christmas; but the great object was to prevent our possessing any free residue of the year for British legislation. I hope it will be felt in the House—and I am sure it will be perceived in the country—that a great part of the battle in which we have been engaged—an important and a vital part of it—1 us been to defeat the great purpose of the Opposition, apparently specially entertained in what is called the Liberal Unionist quarter, and to vindicate, on behalf of the people of this country, and of their many legislative wants, the claim to some free time at least for the purpose of British measures. I know it is said on the other side that this is a most complex Bill, a Bill containing 16 Bills, according to one gentleman; a Bill containing a Bill in every clause, according to another gentleman; a Bill containing 100 Bills, according to a third speaker; and, according to a fourth speaker, possessing a more powerful and strong-winged imagination, a Bill con- 1468 taining 1,000 Bills. This complexity, to a certain extent, we admit, but only to a certain extent. Undoubtedly, the nearness of Ireland to England, the close intertexture of Institutions and Organisations which had been produced during the 19th century, did render necessary a great number of secondary and subsidiary—but important—provisions which it was essential for us to introduce into the Bill. Had this Bill only consumed the time which was consumed say even by the great Reform Bill of 1831, I think we should have no cause for wonder or for special remark. But the complexity of the Bill does not account for the time consumed. What does account for it is the complexity of the Amendments. It is not that the complexity of the Bill was unbounded, but it is this: that the largely greater part, the far largely greater part, of the time we have spent upon the Bill was spent not upon what is in the Bill at all, but upon what it was endeavoured to put into it. We are perfectly aware of the quarter from which these endeavours came. It was a natural and, from their point of view, a legitimate endeavour. It is alleged by the Opposition, and I think it has been confidently stated by Lord Salisbury in some letter or emission of some kind, that the main points of the Bill have not been discussed. Suppose, for a moment, that that allegation was true, on whom falls the responsibility? The Government were not responsible for it. I have shown that 930 speeches were made in 157¼ hours by the Opposition, or by the two Oppositions. Was it possible, in 930 speeches occupying nearly 158 hours, to get at the main provisions of the Bill?
§ An hon. MEMBER here made an observation which was inaudible in the Reporters' Gallery.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am very sorry that I did not catch what the hon. Member said, because I aim unwilling to lose any valuable suggestions that may be made from the other side. But is it true that the main provisions of this Bill have not been discussed? What are the provisions of the Bill that have been discussed, and that at an enormous length? I will shortly recite them. They are all contained, I admit, in 11 clauses, and I also admit that 26 clauses, 1469 besides the Schedules, have not been discussed. I think, however, that that is rather a better proportion than that which was discussed in the case of the Coercion Bill of 1886. You alleged on that occasion that the clauses that were discussed contained the main body of the Bill. That is what I contend with regard to this Bill, and what I think I can prove. What were the points that were all of them largely discussed—not one of them except in a considerable number of hours? First, the supremacy; secondly, the great devolution of legislative powers and responsibilities from the Imperial upon the Irish Parliament; thirdly, the constitution of that Parliament in two Houses; fourthly, the disabilities and limitations which we thought it wise to impose upon the Irish Parliament; fifthly, the position, responsibilities, and duties of the Executive; sixthly, the retention of the Irish Members in Parliament; seventhly, the Financial Clauses, with respect to which, although the very important particulars are only temporary, yet every principle for the regulation of them is strictly defined and laid down in the Bill; and, eighthly, what is important, but less important in principle than the other seven, the great principle of adjustment with the Constabulary and Civil Service in Ireland. I affirm that these eight heads contain a Home Rule Bill. You may tell me that there was much else that was important in the principle adopted by gentlemen, not perhaps exclusively in this Bill, which might be elevated to supreme rank. But, whatever individual fancy may tend to exaggerate, my affirmation is—and I submit that affirmation to the country—that the great cardinal principles and provisions of the Home Rule Bill are contained, and are contained throughout, in the heads which I have now enumerated. The justification then, in my opinion, is not to be found in the observation that the Bill has not been discussed. Neither can it be found in the allegation that the Bill is so complex. But I must say one word more of that complexity, and it is this: Why is the Bill complex? Because of its moderation. You have before yon a vast and insoluble, or as yet unsolved, Irish problem. There are more ways than one of solving that problem. I think I have found in the works 1470 of Lord Macaulay—who, in a most eloquent and powerful speech, opposed the repeal of the Union in 1834—a distinct admission that, rather than continue in permanent and vital discord with the mass of the Irish nation, the separation of the two countries would be a less intolerable evil. One of the arguments quoted against me by the hon. Member for Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), disapproving of the Home Rule Bill, was that of an extremely clever French writer. He did not disapprove of the Home Rule Bill. And why? Because he said the only rational plan was separation. But there is another measure very different from separation, and much more within legal and Constitutional purview, and that is the repeal of the Union; and it has to be borne in mind that the advocates of Irish nationalism have never to this hour, as far as my knowledge goes, admitted the moral authority of the Act of Union. If that which I do not expect were to come about—namely, a prolonged, bitter, obstinate resistance to the granting of this restricted claim, the question of repeal might arise in most gigantic form, and might become the ground of the National question—not certainly in my hands—not in the hands of men of my age, nor could even men 30 or 40 years younger face that question. But my capabilities are one thing, and the possibilities of the political world are another. And I state confidently to gentlemen who treat this complexity as if it were some capital offence of ours, the complexity of our Bill, as I admit it in certain limits, is due to the fact of Irish nationalism adopting the counsels of moderation, adopting them in principle, and, I must say in justice to the Irish Members, sustaining them in detail throughout the whole course of this interminable discussion. Nay, Sir, these principles, in taking resort to this limited form of legislation, have introduced a complexity which I think it is rather hard to turn against them and to turn against their country for the purpose of opposition. Is there to be found, either in the complexity of the measure or in the incapacity of the House of Commons to discuss all these clauses, a ground broad enough to form a justification for the very novel and remarkable description of opposition that has been pursued? I have deliberately 1471 refrained, on the score of time, from analysing the character of that opposition—from going into detail. I have given yon nothing but summaries and the totals; but the statement would be more remarkable, and would be strengthened and corroborated in all its parts, if I were to pursue the subject in all its details, which I hope on the part of other speakers will be brought fully to the notice of the country. But now I come to what I think is the main justification of the Opposition in the course of this Debate. I come to the nature of the pleas which they have urged against our measure. I will state them very shortly, and I think that gentlemen will recognise that I reproduce them faithfully, I do not mean that every speaker, or even every prominent speaker, has used every one of them. I mean they have been used by these prominent speakers, and that they might all of them be collected from the speeches of the most prominent Members. At any rate, they are, in my judgment, the only pleas of those made by the Opposition which afford primâ, facie, and, from their point of view, a justification for the peculiar and unprecedented mode which they have adopted, and which now, for the first time, has been introduced into the proceedings of Parliament. Although I admit there has been obstruction before, there has never before been obstruction by any Party prevailing from the First Reading down to the Second and Third of a character which is admitted to be entirely without example. Now, what have been the pleas and allegations against our Bill? If gentlemen can command their nervous systems, let them exercise that command for a moment over their alarm and horror at what I am about to read. I am going to give an extremely brief recital of what, according to our opponents, will be the certain and probably immediate results of passing the Home Rule Bill. It will separate the islands; it will destroy the Constitution; it will break up the Empire; it will, within the House of Commons, annihilate financial control—and I apprehend that financial control in the House of Commons over the Expenditure and taxation of the country is of itself a large part of the life of the Constitution; it will make Irish delegation supreme in British affairs within 1472 these walls. Then there is the loyal minority. What is to be the result to them? Virtual slavery in person, property, and religion; and, lastly—this is the seventh of this goodly list of pleas—whereas we have been wickedly inveigling Parliament into this dreadful scheme, by representing to them that if they would only pass it a huge load would thereby be lifted off the shoulders of every man by the reduction of Parliamentary work, and making it easier for Parliament to discharge its duties to the country—we are met with the allegation that besides breaking up the Empire and ruining the Constitution, and all the rest, Parliamentary controversy within these walls will become worse and fiercer than before, and will become quite intolerable. It is my duty to admit that, if those seven pleas be sound and true, it must go hard with Home Rule. Let gentlemen make of these allegations what they like. If they can make them good, the result will not be altogether of a satisfactory character for themselves. Suppose for a moment that they are true. I believe them to be enormous, monstrous, hideous falsehoods; but let it be understood when I say falsehoods, I do not say a word against the sincerity of any gentleman. I am bound absolutely to believe, and I do absolutely believe, that each believed what he said. If these seven pleas be true, if they be just, would they not have a terrible recoil upon ourselves? Are we, then, bound to admit that, after 700 years of the British connection with Ireland—after England, during the whole of that time, has occupied a dominant and Ireland such a subordinate position, after all the responsibilities of superiority resting upon us, the result of our treatment of Ireland is this—that we have brought her to a state in which she cannot undertake, without danger and ruin, the very responsibilities which in every other country have been found to be within the capacity of the people and to be fraught with the richest benefits to them. I do not envy those who feel that they have to sustain the force of the recoil. With regard to the pleas themselves, it is not necessary for me to discuss them. It would be contrary to my pledge. It would be quite unnecessary and quite intolerable. But I will venture to treat them within the compass of a single sentence. These pleas rest, like other pleas gene- 1473 rally, on either assertion or denial—on the affirmative or on the negative. In that well-known work of Lady Mary Stuart Wortley Montagu she describes the growing prevalence of the spirit of scepticism in this country, and she says—The fashion now is to take the word 'not' out of the Commandments, and to put it into the Creed.This indictment will suit exactly the case of the seven pleas. Where the seven pleas deny, take the word "not" out; where the seven pleas affirm, put the word "not" in, and you will arrive at the sound and satisfactory conclusion. I close with a very few words. In my opinion, and I think it will be the general opinion of those who in different countries have examined the question, the history of Ireland has implanted an inveterate stain, by no means as yet fully washed out, upon the honour and the escutcheon of England. At any rate, I will put the case as between England and Ireland on this footing, which I think can hardly be disputed. The state of those relations, the estrangement of the vast majority from the present Constitution, the exaggerated, and, as I believe, injudicious, but still, as I am bound to admit, sincere, apprehensions for what are called the loyal minority—the whole facts of the case show that the state of these relations between England and Ireland, even taking it at the present day, when I joyfully admit that by good legislation from time to time much has been done by way of correction, reform, and real conciliation—yet still the condition of these relations is far from being to the honour either of the splendid political genius of England or of her warm and generous heart. There is a great necessity, and I know not in what quarter, except the quarter which we have endeavoured to probe, the materials for meeting it are to be found. We, Sir, repel those charges. We deny that the brand of incapacity has been laid by the Almighty on a particular and noted branch of our race, when every other branch of that race has displayed in the same subject-matter a capacity and has attained a success which is an example to the world. We deny that that brand has been placed on the Irish race. We have faith in rational liberty, and we have faith in its efficacy as an instrument 1474 of national education. We believe that experience, widespread over a vast field which has been traversed at every point, encourages us in our work; and, finally, we feel that the passing of this great measure through the House of Commons, after 80 and more days' Debate, does, will, and must constitute the greatest among all the steps that have hitherto been achieved towards its certain attainment and its early triumph.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone.)
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Government, in the course of a speech which well deserved the plaudits of the House, has revived some of the old controversies, and I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the details of those matters. I must deny the exactness of the inferences which the right hon. Gentleman drew from the case of foreign countries, the Colonies, and the United States, and the relevance of them to the question under discussion. There is not a single Member in the House who is not ready to allow that, in certain circumstances and in certain relations, the establishment of a federation of States might be the most convenient system of government. Nor will any one question the propriety of the Federal system in the United States; no one will question the propriety of the Federal Institutions of Switzerland; none are disposed to question the policy of setting up free Representative Institutions in our several Colonies; but each of those cases has to be judged on its merits with respect to the circumstances of the case, and the experience of all together furnish but little light on the problem what one should do with respect to Ireland. The situation as regards Sweden and Norway has no bearing whatever on the question, and the fact that the relations between the two Scandinavian Kingdoms has become one of extreme tension is no argument against Home Rule any more than it is an argument in favour of it. My right hon. Friend has revived again the question as to the opinion of the "civilised world" upon the problem before us. What I understood the right hon. Gentleman to have said and written on former occasions is very different from 1475 the proposition which he now puts forth. I understood the right hon. Gentleman in former times to have declared that the opinion of the civilised world was in favour of his policy of Home Rule. All that he now asserts is that the opinion of the civilised world views with disfavour the past conduct of England towards Ireland. Why, Sir, he need not go as far outside as the civilised world to discover that. I do not suppose there is a single Unionist who would not echo that declaration, and say—"I join in the opinion of the civilised world in that regard." It is impossible for any of us to view with approval the past conduct of England towards Ireland; but if that is all we can get from the opinion of the civilised world, what bearing has it upon the question whether the Home Rule Bill should become law? That is the practical question we have now to deal with, and if the opinion of the civilised world is worth anything it must be brought to bear on the problem. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford will, no doubt, take an early opportunity of vindicating the position he has taken up. I must say a word or two on the statement of the Prime Minister as to the attitude of Count Cavour. What was the conduct of Count Cavour with respect to the special question which agitated England and Ireland at the time he visited this country and visited Ireland—namely, the repeal of the Union? His article, which is a classic on the subject, is a long-sustained argument against the policy of the legislative separation of the two countries. It is no answer to say that Cavour was arguing against O'Connell and repeal, for his arguments were as applicable to a subordinate Parliament free from the intervention of this great Assembly as they were to the proposal formerly under discussion—the separation of the two Parliaments. Cavour was altogether opposed to the policy of the present Government, although the form of his opposition was directed against the repeal which was then advocated. My right hon. Friend cites the declaration of Cavour with respect to the conduct of Great Britain towards Canada as being conclusive. I am not aware of the context, but even as I heard it read it did not in the slightest degree appear to justify the conclusion 1476 drawn. Cavour only suggested that in dealing with Ireland the same tolerant, free spirit should be shown.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The words were these: "What they did for that distant colony they will do for Ireland."
§ MR. COURTNEY
Does my right hon. Friend mean to say that Cavour had in his mind the setting up of an autonomous Legislature in Ireland?
§ MR. COURTNEY
I contend that that is wholly against Cavour's argument. We need not, however, dwell upon what Cavour said in his article, though it is extremely pertinent. I invite my right hon. Friend to consider another fact. What did Count Cavour do in Italy? Cavour was invited to set up a Federal Monarchy. Strong pressure was put upon him to preserve the system of component States in Italy. An ardent Home Ruler who has now passed away from us, the late Professor Freeman, thought Cavour made a mistake in not giving Home Rule to Sicily. That was not the opinion of Cavour. Cavour's practical action was directed, in spite of the pressure of the French Emperor and of the apparent difficulty of the work which he undertook to the unification of Italy, the suppression of autonomous Legislatures, and the forbidding altogether of any suggestion of Provincial Assemblies. The unification of Italy was Cavour's work, and it stands out as an eminent illustration of what he really thought was the policy of dealing with States situated with respect to one another as the States of Italy were and as Ireland is in respect of Great Britain. He carried out in Italy precisely the policy he advocated in his celebrated article on the question of Ireland and Great Britain. The Prime Minister directed the greater part of his argument to the way in which the Bill was discussed in the House. That argument was an appeal to the country on the question of the way in which the Bill was debated and considered. I am quite ready to face that argument. In saying that no Bill had ever been so debated and dealt with before, my right hon. Friend was using the same fallacy as he used in respect of Home Rule. He was disregarding the particular circumstances of the Bill. I venture to say that if 1477 examined it will be found that no Bill has ever been submitted to this Assembly under circumstances similar to the present. I do not dwell merely on the complexity of the Bill. That is admitted by my right hon. Friend, and undoubtedly a Bill on this subject must be complex. But inasmuch as it is complex it necessarily provokes a great deal of criticism and a great deal of discussion; and where should discussion be initiated—whence should criticism come—but from the Opposition? To complain of the Opposition because they criticise is to complain of them for discharging what is their proper function. But in reference to this argument there is a more important matter than the complexity of the Bill. What is obstruction? The question has been often asked. I attempted to answer it a dozen years ago, and quite apart, therefore, from any relation to the circumstances of the hour. I take leave to repeat what I said then—that obstruction does not lie necessarily in the making of many speeches, in the moving of many Amendments, or in the occupying of much time. The essence of obstruction is the using of the Forms of the House in order to gratify your own self-will, or in opposition to things you dislike, without any larger aim and without any public motive. But I added that if the questions raised were those upon which it was necessary or justifiable to educate the electorate, then the Opposition was not only justified, but bound to use the opportunities of Debate in order to elucidate the issues so raised. I apply these principles to the Bill. The Bill is not only complex, full of new principles which require examination, and pregnant with issues which demand investigation; but it has been presented to the House with at least the doubtful sanction of national approval. You cannot claim that there is behind it the strong, clear power of the nation. A score of Members shifting from one side of the House to the other would ruin your majority. Not only is the majority small, and secured without reference to the details of the Bill, but it was obtained upon the presentment of several other issues which were ingeniously, perhaps necessarily, tied up and bound up with Home Rule; and it, therefore, cannot be trusted upon that issue alone. Under these circumstances, and with the certainty from the 1478 first that the Bill will not pass into law, it became the duty of the House to engage in discussion for the very purpose of elucidating the issues involved in the Bill, and of securing that if the question were again put before the constituencies they should know exactly what is the issue, and should, as far as possible, be enabled to vote upon the precise question submitted for their decision. We acknowledge the binding and conclusive authority of the nation when the national will is once ascertained and once declared. We might regret the decision, but when it has the form and substance of a deliberate judgment we bow before it. The Government have not that support behind them now; and the labours of the Opposition are directed in order to secure that at some time—we hope no very distant time—we will obtain the determination of the national will upon the question to be submitted to it. So far from thinking that we have spent too much time, or raised too many questions, on the Bill, I think we have not occupied enough time, or raised a sufficient number of questions. There are many questions which we could not raise—some because of the Forms of the House, others because of the process to which the Government allege they were driven—but which must be debated before any Home Rule Bill can become law. Reference has been made to the situation in 1831, when Lord Grey was passing his Reform Bill through the House. That Bill, no doubt, met with a strong Parliamentary opposition. But what was the temper of the nation in respect to it? It was impossible to hold a meeting against the Bill in any part of Great Britain. Wherever they went the opponents of the Bill were in a small minority, and were exposed to violence if they made any declaration of their opinions. There had been a national demand for the passing of that Bill which was felt within Parliament, and which necessarily operated on the length and course of its Debates. But now go to any part of Great Britain you please; go to the most populous centres, industrial or commercial, and you can hold a great meeting on behalf of the Bill. Next week you can hold an equally great meeting against it. Go to Liverpool; go to Manchester; go to Glasgow; go to Edinburgh—let a Leader of one Party go down, and he will be received 1479 by thousands; let a Leader of the opposite Party go down, and equal thousands will greet him. You have not, in the present instance, got anything like that national determination which would enable you to carry this Bill through under circumstances similar to those of 1831. I do not dwell on the fact that Great Britain by a majority has decided against Home Rule. But it is a fact, and Lord Brassey, a trusted friend of the Government, has declared that it is hopeless to try to settle this question unless you have a majority in Great Britain as well as in Ireland in your favour. I defy the right hon. Gentleman to cite an illustration of any Bill of the same far-reaching character, involving issues of the same degree, which has passed, or could pass, except under such conditions as those under which the present Bill has been making its way through the House. The Chief Secretary, addressing his constituents the other day, told them that the Constitution of the United States was drawn up and agreed to after five months had been spent upon it. I suppose that my right hon. Friend, like others, has a platform manner as well as a Parliamentary manner, and he says things on the platform which at all events will not instruct—will not edify—those who hear them. Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that the framing of the great Constitution of the United States is a parallel case? One thing at the back of the framers of the American Constitution was a sense of the imperative necessity of its being done. There is no such sense in the present case. The framers of the American Constitution sat in secret. The parallel to their conduct is not the action of the House of Commons, but the action of the Cabinet of Her Majesty. The action of the Cabinet Ministers in the framing of this Bill may be cited as a parallel to the action of the framers of the Constitution of the United States. There is no parallel whatever between the conditions of their action and the conditions of this branch of the Legislature receiving and discussing a scheme of Home Rule from the Advisers of the Crown. My right hon. Friend the head of the Government is very much disturbed at the length to which the Debates have run. Let me recommend to his attention something which is happening in a country 1480 with which he has a strong and lively sympathy. He once reproved one of the minor Members of his Government for casting a slur upon the position of the Kingdom of Belgium. It is not a very old Kingdom; it has lived for 60 years with great honour and respect; Parliamentary Institutions have taken up their abode in it; they are well developed and appear to be strong. What has happened there? Three years and more ago, after many years of debate outside, the Chambers agreed by a unanimous vote that a particular article dealing with the Parliamentary franchise and the constitution of the Chambers should be considered, revised, and amended. This happened in 1890; it was re-affirmed in 1891; and the work of that revision is still going on. It has been all these throe years before the Belgian Chambers; and The Times of yesterday shows that the Senate is still discussing a particularly contentious point. There has been considerable excitement in Belgium, but at the same time the people have patiently awaited the progress of the discussion, in which the issue is really no more than the issue involved in that part of this Bill which is concerned with the constitution of the two Houses of the Irish Legislature. If they can spend three years in discussing these questions in Belgium, it would not be very much for Members to spend a whole Session in considering these three clauses alone.
§ MR. COURTNEY
We have not spent one hour on the question of the constitution of the two Chambers, or the two branches of the Irish Legislature. We have spent a great deal of time, no doubt, and I am not here to declare that on every point that time has been wisely or judiciously appropriated. I do not think it is possible in any Parliament to exercise a rigid economy in the disposition of time; and it may be that the lesson to be derived from this attempt at legislation is that we may have considerable changes made in our procedure—not such as were adopted at second hand by the Government, but something which will secure the discussion of all the principles contained in a Bill, and possibly a more rapid review of the details branching out of them. But we have not spent an hour over the composition of the 1481 Irish Legislature. We discussed and voted that there should be an Irish Legislature, and that it should consist of two Chambers. The vote in favour of two Chambers was notoriously given by many Members with much hesitation, and it is conceivable that their action would be entirely changed by a discussion as to the composition of the two Chambers. But we never came to that discussion. Now conceive of such a course of procedure as this. You have brought in a Bill to establish a Legislature in Ireland; you determine that there shall be two Chambers; you leave the details to be filled in without discussion; and you call that Parliamentary government—you call it legislation by a deliberative Assembly. The Belgian people spend three years; we have not spent three minutes; and yet we are to pass this Bill as worthy to become law. I understood my right hon. Friend to say this was one of the subjects that had been debated in the country, entirely forgetful of the way this House had dealt with it.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I said that what had been determined was the constitution of a Legislature with two Chambers. I never said that the constitution of each Chamber had been debated.
§ MR. COURTNEY
But on this, which is treated as a small question, many people believe the whole aspect of Home Rule depends. To-day I met a Home Ruler in the Lobby who said—"The whole thing depends upon the way you compose the Lower House in Ireland. If you make that a fitting House, you may then trust the Legislature to act justly and wisely, and you may hand over the fortunes of Ireland to it." The whole matter depends on the decision of the House on what my right hon. Friend considers a small matter. I think anyone who reads the Prime Minister's speech will infer that the actual constitution of the two Chambers has been examined and determined, whereas there has been no examination of their composition. One of the followers of Her Majesty's Government, who has so far supported them unflinchingly, declared in Debate that his vote on the Third Reading would depend upon the nature of the Lower House. I am not speaking of the hon. Member 1482 for Newington (Mr. Saunders), who said he would not vote for a Bill with a Second Chamber in it; I am speaking of the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Little), who said his action upon the Third Reading would depend entirely upon the question whether there was any provision for the representation of minorities in the Lower Chamber. And this is a matter which my right hon. Friend considers a matter of minor importance. I might name half-a-dozen other subjects which were not examined, and could not be examined, under the scheme of Closure adopted by Her Majesty's Government. We really have had no examination of the question in what respect, if at all, Irish Members should sit in this House. It was disposed of very rapidly after a complete change of front on the part of the Government, and the main discussion of the question occurred in two speeches of my right hon. Friend, one made in bringing in the Bill and the other in abandoning the original clause. But a question which vitally affects Great Britain, supposing Home Rule to be set up, was not seriously examined in this House. A good deal has been said about it at different times; there has been a good deal of assertion on the part of my right hon. Friend which I should like to examine briefly. He seems to have declared that the Liberal Party was strongly, and the Liberal Unionists were still more strongly, in favour of the inclusion of the Irish Members. The Chancellor of the Exchequer devoted a great deal of time to the examination of the question how far one eminent Liberal Unionist was committed to the retention of the Irish Members. As a body, the Liberal Unionists never committed themselves to any declaration on the point. The late Mr. Bright, who was an eminent Member of our Party, said of the Bill of 1886 that the one thing in it of which he approved was the exclusion of the Irish Members. Lord Hartington never committed himself any further than this—that their exclusion was a demonstration of the degree of separation which was involved in the Bill then before Parliament; but he never committed himself to any declaration as to whether he would have included them supposing it was necessary to pass a Home Rule Bill. I 1483 can speak on behalf of many of my friends and myself. Speaking of the subject in the country, I have declared that, if ever Home Rule became law, the exclusion of the Irish Members would be a necessary consequence. On the part of Liberal Members I crave some recognition, some little consideration of these facts. Let us consider the situation when the Home Rule Bill of 1886 was introduced. It excluded the Irish Members. The Bill itself was a staggerer, we know, to the Liberal Party, and in their dislike to it they naturally seized upon the thing open to the strongest criticism. But let us look fondly at the matter, and ask ourselves this. Suppose that the Bill of 1886 had been brought in with the inclusion of the Irish Members, would there not be very much the same severe criticism to the inclusion as there was to the exclusion; and was it not, in fact, simply an expression on the part of Liberal Members who objected to exclusion that they were not ready for the Bill at all? The inclusion or exclusion was seized upon—the point which was most open to objection, most damaging, and which would most completely get rid of the Bill. If we are to consider the matter in a practical way as to what will follow when Home Rule becomes law, we must approach the question with an open mind; and I venture to say it would demand a much larger consideration and minuter examination to be given to it, and that it will be found that the majority of this House are decidedly in favour of exclusion. Even if it be true that the majority of the Liberal Members are deliberately in favour of the retention of the Irish Members, the majority of the Liberal Members are not necessarily the majority of the House, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the majority of the country, and they must give way to what is demanded by the majority of the House. This is another point which cannot be said to have been exhaustively examined; in fact, the view I have presented to the House was never presented before at all, and it seems to me to require some consideration and examination before the matter can be considered exhaustively. I might go to the matter of finance, of which, no doubt, we have had several versions, but of 1484 which certainly we had no final or complete examination. In finance, as in respect of the retention of the Irish Members, we have had illustrations rather of the uncertainty of the handling of the matter on the part of the Government, and I think we have come, at the end, to the solution in this case as in that, worst of all. I can conceive of an arrangement of finance as between a supreme and a subordinate Parliament under which the subordinate Assembly would have authority over particular taxes local in their nature, and which would not interfere with trade relations between the two countries, which would furnish the subordinate authority with a Revenue which it might economise, dispose of, reduce, or extend, and over which it would have a free hand. That is a reasonable form of solution, suppose it were necessary. I can conceive, again, of a situation in which a fixed amount of money should be paid by the subordinate to the supreme authority, which could be revised from time to time by the united Parliament or by delegates representing the two authorities, but which for each period would be unchanged. Again, you leave the financial conduct in the subordinate Parliament. But in the settlement you have adopted you have not given freedom to Ireland or the United Kingdom. You have tied the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; you have given no motive of economy to Ireland whatever. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes any alteration, he is bound to take into consideration what effect this will have upon the third which is allotted to him in respect of Irish charges. Both will be hampered, neither will be free. You have settled on a scheme without adequate debate, and you have presented hurriedly this third plan of dealing with the question, which contains within it the maximum of inconvenience with the minimum of convenience. I might refer to one other matter on which there was no discussion at all, although it is of the highest importance in respect to the settlement of this question. Yon are retaining to the Imperial Parliament certain authority and certain jurisdiction within Ireland itself. You propose to secure the maintenance of that authority and that jurisdiction by setting up certain Exchequer Judges, 1485 who shall be your agents to enforce the supremacy of Parliament within Ireland; but by what machinery? How are they to exercise their power? We never had a word of discussion about this; and yet upon the framing of the machinery which the Exchequer Judges will use, upon the giving to them of power to exercise their authority, the whole of their authority must depend. It is in vain to talk of supremacy to be exercised through these Judges, unless these Judges are somehow endowed with the power and machinery to enforce their decrees. You never considered the mode in which these gentlemen should be appointed; you never considered the security they wore to have for their authority; you never considered in any way in what fashion they would be able to enforce obedience to their decrees. I pass on to that which is surely the most vital question of all—the question of the land. Did we have any debate whatever in respect of the land in Ireland? We had, for above an hour, some discussion on the question whether the subordinate Commissioners of the Land Commission should or should not be appointed from Westminster instead of Dublin; but as to discussion on the Land Question of Ireland as a whole we had none. And yet the Bill contains the extraordinary clause that for three years the Irish Parliament shall be debarred from dealing with the Land Question. I will recall in this connection the words used by an eminent Member of the present Government. Some two years ago the Home Secretary, speaking at Manchester, uttered some words of wisdom on this point; and here I may observe that it is not by design, but a happy circumstance apparently, that the most formidable critics of the Bill, those who showed by their declarations beforehand how much they understood the character of the problem, have almost all been absorbed in the ranks of the Government, so that they have been debarred from uttering that criticism which would have been so valuable, and from which the House would have derived so much assistance. What did the Home Secretary say two years ago at Manchester? Why, he implored the Leaders of the Liberal Party to do then what would have saved an infinite amount of trouble in the next 1486 Parliament, to give at least the outlines of their scheme—Because," he said, "if you do not do so you will be told that the country has not voted upon your scheme, and that the scheme must be sent back to the country.He went on to say—It would be absurd for any Home Ruler to think of setting up a Parliament in Ireland, and to deny the amplest power over the Land Question.The Home Secretary is now a party to what he then denounced as absurd—at all events for a period of three years. For three years the Irish Parliament are not to interfere with this Land Question. Again, that is a reason for refusing to accept a Bill which for three years exposes it to the condemnation which the Home Secretary pronounced beforehand, and which also leads us to conclusions which have never been considered and discussed by the country at large. I will not go through the many other points which might be examined, as many other persons will have to take part in this discussion. But there are half-a-dozen matters of importance in respect of the Bill which have never been discussed at all. It is sufficient for me now to say that this Bill is, in my judgment, ill-conceived; and it has been worse developed. It is wholly wanting in certain organs which are necessary to carry out the scope of its action, if it ever becomes a vital law. Other parts in it are rudimentary and cannot be trusted, and the Bill, as a whole, is in that position that it is impossible it could pass. It is lop-sided; it is amorphous; it is undeserving of, and does not receive from anyone, respect. There is no Legislature with any self-respect which could pass this Bill. I will go further and say this. If this House suddenly found itself vested with full powers to make the Bill as it stood the law, this House would reconsider its position and withhold this Bill from its last stages. You go through the form of passing it; you give it sanction in order that it may meet its fate elsewhere; but if you had the power in your own hands, if you, by your fiat, could make this Bill law you would not do it. You would be suddenly sobered by the sight of it. You would see that there are things to be supplied which must be supplied. This must, of course, be known to Her Majesty's Ministers 1487 even more than to their followers. They are perfectly conscious of this. This Bill is described as a workable Bill. It is an extraordinary phrase. The Bill could not be worked. The Bill requires improvements, amplification, reconsideration, and much alteration, before it could ever hope to be launched into law. It is going already from here, and it will meet, no doubt, its fate elsewhere—a fate which few will regret, and which will, on the whole, be considered well-deserved. Already Ministers are groping about to see if they can discover some method of dealing with this question hereafter. I think it is well worthy of consideration how it can be dealt with hereafter, because it certainly will not be disposed of now. I think I may be permitted in passing to say, with reference to the suggestion which the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean (Sir C. W. Dilke) has recently made, that, whatever may be said in its favour under apt circumstances, that suggestion could not be entertained here. The suggestion is that if a Bill has been deliberately considered and finally settled, and once passed by either branch of the Legislature, it should then become law, or that the branch of the Legislature from which it has passed might provide by a Resolution that the Bill should be again taken up in exactly the same stage as it was when it last left them. A good deal may be said for that proposition under apt circumstances. It is, in fact, nothing more than a suggestion for suspension and resumption which has been made by many persons charged with the responsibility of Government. The suggestion for suspending a Bill and resuming it at the stage at which it was left off has been made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—[Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: Hear, hear!]—and met with strong opposition from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But in respect of this Bill the suggestion is inapplicable, because the first condition is wanting. It is only applicable when the House which seeks to revive the Bill has deliberately considered it, has gone through all its details, and has given a considered and final judgment upon it. But a Bill which has been passed through the House by preventing two-thirds of its details from being considered at all—a Bill of that character does not come in any degree 1488 within the scope of the suggestion, and that, at all events, must be set aside in respect of this Bill. But, Sir, we need not consider at present how this matter is to be dealt with hereafter. It is enough now to know that the Bill is moving to its doom. The Bill is moving at present to its doom, and I observe already that some thoughtless, some reckless persons are disposed to raise a cry against the other House on the supposition that the other House will refuse to pass the Bill. I believe no person with any sense of responsibility, no person who believes at all in popular sovereignty, who understands or recognises what is meant by the expression "the will of the nation," will for one moment seek to quarrel with the House of Lords if they refuse to approve the Bill. If, indeed, the Lords reject this Bill simply from wilfulness or wantonness, because it is personally repugnant to them, no one would condemn their action more loudly than I should. Further, if they refused to accept the Bill on a deliberate examination of the whole subject, for the reason and conviction that it would work mischief to Ireland and to England, much as I should respect such a decision, I should not be able to accept it as a final dealing with the matter. But at the present time, in relation to present circumstances, I look beyond the Beers to the people. [Cheers.] I am glad to think there are others who agree with me in that respect. We want to go to the people. We demand the national judgment. We are ready to go to the people. They are the judges—they must decide. Let them at least know the arguments; let them at least know what the issues are on which they are to pronounce. Yes; we will go to the people; let it be an understanding people and we do not shrink. But the people at the last Election had not before them this Bill. They did not know what was involved in the plan. The people at the last Election were not furnished with the means of judgment such as they now possessed; and, furnished as they were, they gave that halting and uncertain verdict, which I ventured to describe immediately after it was delivered as being nothing more than a determination to give my right hon. Friend "another chance." He has had his chance; he has presented his Bill. That Bill has been 1489 exposed, not fully, because the opportunity of full examination has not been given. [Ironical laughter.] I have cited parts of the Bill which have never been examined at all. You cannot get rid of a hard fact like that by laughter. We are ready to go to the people on the issue now debated and now understood. Let them decide between the two alternative policies. There is the policy of interfusing the people of the two countries; of bringing us nearer to one another; the policy of effacing, except for historical, and retrospective, and sentimental purposes, all distinction between Irishmen and Englishmen. That is the policy which great men adopted in past years. It was the policy which the genius of Cromwell—not a friendly name in Ireland—first conceived. It was the policy which the great men of the 18th century longed for, which Pitt consummated, and which for 60 years at least, from 1832 down to the present, has been steadily developing in better government for Ireland, and in drawing nearer to each other the people of the two countries. That is one policy. On the other hand, if you realise what is meant by this Home Rule; if yon realise that what you call "liberty" is the domination of a class, that what you call "peace" is warfare, that what you call "order" is the breaking out of discord, that instead of the unity of the nation being established you are tearing asunder social and international bonds; if they realise the contrast between the two policies which all statesmen of any authority down to 1885, including my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government himself—
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
No, no! Read my speech on the Address in February, 1882, where I said I was favourable to the principle of Home Rule provided that means were adopted for maintaining the supremacy of Parliament.
§ MR. COURTNEY
I will qualify my statement with respect to my right hon. Friend by saying that all except him had approved, and which he himself had been understood to approve. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no !] I remember well the speech of my right hon. Friend at Aberdeen. [Mr. GLADSTONE: In 1871?] No; later than that—a much later one than that—it 1490 might have been in Edinburgh. I remember, however, the speech very well, in which the whole audience rose when my right hon. Friend made a declaration which they believed to be adverse to Home Rule. The language used, when carefully examined, did not bear out the interpretation which the whole audience put upon it. Let, then, the two policies be set aside in their entirety and fulness, in all their meaning. Let them be set before the people. Let their judgment be ascertained, not as a passing fancy, but as a deliberate and well-understood and well-conceived resolution. Whatever the consequence may be, I at least—and I believe I speak for my friends—would not shrink from it, although it might not be what we desired. We have confidence that if the issue is honestly presented, the issue between the unity and this partial separation of the two Islands, the principle of unity will prevail, because the nation will see in it a finer ideal, a grander future, to wash away all traces of the dismal past, and so make us, indeed, a united nation, breathing one spirit and working through one Legislature to a common end. I beg to move that the Bill be read a third time this day six months.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six mouths."—(Mr. Courtney.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. NEVILLE (Liverpool, Exchange)
said, he felt that he owed an apology to the House for continuing a Debate upon a subject which undoubtedly now must inevitably be one of weariness to the majority of Members. Indeed, one felt that one ought to be gifted with the wit of the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. R. Wallace)—and then it was necessary to speak against one's own Party in order to get it fully appreciated—or to leave the discussion to those wise and eminent persons whose speeches were interesting on all subjects ex efficio. But he had two pleas in extenuation. One was that until the present time he had not spoken in any of the Debates on the Bill, and the other was that he was a Home Ruler of somewhat longer 1491 standing than some of his friends, and, consequently, felt a very profound interest in the fate of the measure. He would like to make one reference to the discussion as to the opinion and policy of Count Cavour. The right hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) told the House that although the passage cited by the Prime Minister undoubtedly was an expression of the opinion that the self-government which was given to Canada would prove effective for the peace of Ireland, still he was to be judged by his actions and not by his words, and that his own policy, when confronted with a similar difficulty, was in favour of unification, and not in favour of the autonomy of the several States with which he had to deal. The right hon. Gentleman said that considerable pressure was put upon Cavour to induce him to preserve the autonomy of the States; but he did not tell them—and it was the most important part of the question—what was the opinion of the people of those States upon the question? Did the right hon. Gentleman wish them to believe that Count Cavour insisted on the unification of Italy against the wishes of the Italian people, and of the citizens of the autonomous States? There could, he thought, be no difference of opinion on that point, and that what Cavour was doing in that instance was exactly what the Prime Minister was doing now—namely, giving effect to the wishes of the people themselves as to the form of the Government under which they should live. With regard to the Bill itself, it had been subjected to severe criticism. He was prepared to admit that it had been, to some extent, subjected to damaging criticism. But the first Consideration that occurred to one on the point was—Was any paper Constitution conceivable which could not be subjected to damaging criticism in the House? He thought not. Suppose, to take an example, the British Constitution were put in the form of a Bill and introduced by the Prime Minister. Imagine the torrents of invective and ridicule which would be poured upon it by the right hon. Members for East Manchester and West Birmingham. The British Constitution could not stand such criticism unscathed; and yet the British Constitution marched—he was going to say worked, but the right hon. Member for Bodmin disap- 1492 proved of the application of the word "workable." Or take the boasted Constitution of America; was not the measure of success which undoubtedly attended it due a great deal more to the genius of the people and the social conditions resulting from the undeveloped resources of the country than to any extraordinary or superhuman ability on the part of its framers? The truth was that any reasonable scheme would effect its purpose if those to whom it was entrusted were honestly desirous that it should; while, on the other hand, he was convinced that if the Angel Gabriel himself were to design and draft a Bill for the self-government of Ireland, it would be a most unsuccessful measure unless the citizens both of England and Ireland were determined to make the best of it, and turn it to the purpose for which it was intended. At to the attitude that should be taken on the Third Reading by supporters of the Government, they could not possibly have a Bill which would suit the precise taste of every supporter of the Government, to say nothing of the Opposition; and it seemed to him a very extraordinary position for a man to take up who was convinced of the soundness of the principle of Home Rule for Ireland to go off on this point or on that of minor importance, and refuse to support the Government, because in every particular the Bill did not carry out his wishes in the way in which ho would most like to see them carried out. It seemed to him that the main question was whether this was a workable measure of Home Rule or not? If it was a workable measure of Home Rule, then he thought every sincere Home Ruler was bound to vote for it; if it was not, it would be of no good either to England or Ireland, and they ought to vote against it. He was willing to confess that in one regard he should very gladly have seen the Bill other than it was. He alluded to the 9th clause. He did not conceal the opinion he had always held that, however strong the theoretical arguments against it might be—and he admitted that they were of very great strength—the compact that was entered into in 1886 for the exclusion of the Irish Members was one which in practice would have been found to be beneficial both to the English and to the Irish people. But there was this to be said— 1493 that undoubtedly before the General Election of 1892 the present Prime Minister distinctly declared that any measure of Home Rule that he introduced would contain a provision for the inclusion of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament; and, therefore, whatever his private opinions might be, he could not possibly, after seeking the suffrages of his constituents upon the footing of the Prime Minister's policy, vote against the Third Reading, or any part of the Bill, because it contained a clause for the inclusion of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament. From his point of view, the actual details of the Bill, though, no doubt, not unimportant, were not of paramount importance. The real question was whether they had or had not got a scheme of self-government which would enable the Representatives of Ireland in their own country to deal satisfactorily with their own affairs. His contention was that, with the present Bill, they had such a scheme. The right hon. Member for Bodmin, in his argument, resorted to one of those assertions which had been so very widely spread and frequently used in the Debate on the Bill—namely, that the supporters of the Government relied in their support of the Bill upon the knowledge that the House of Lords would reject it, and that if they were put in the position of being able to make the Bill law to-morrow they would shrink from doing it, and would go back from their word. That kind of assertion could only be met by an assertion to the contrary. From what he knew of his own opinion, and of the opinion of his friends, he could say that, so far from the right hon. Gentleman's statement being correct, no political gift that could be offered to them at the present moment would be so highly prized as the right to make this Bill law, and proceed at once to the transaction of English business. He fully admitted the responsibility which they owed to the minority in Ireland, to sec that they were not subjected to tyranny and misgovernment, which they must suppose that minority seriously feared. What he said was that their true and only possible protection depended upon the power of Great Britain and the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and that by no possibility could they 1494 make the position of the minority secure, although they inserted hundreds or oven thousands of limitations upon the action of the Irish Parliament. Whatever powers they gave to the Irish Parliament must be powers which, if that Parliament was maliciously inclined, it would be able to turn to the detriment of the minority in Ireland. The only protection worth talking about which the minority in Ireland could have was the protection afforded by the perfectly well-known fact—well-known in Ireland as well as in England—that if the Irish Parliament were to attempt to abuse their powers to a degree, however small, in proportion to the degree which it had been suggested they would abuse them, these powers would be taken away from them, and their last chance of Home Rule would be absolutely gone. That was the real protection which the minority in Ireland had got, and it was the only protection they could have, and he believed it to be an ample and sufficient protection. It had been said by the Leader of the Opposition and others that the followers of the Government would find it difficult to justify their support of the 9th clause before their constituents. He took quite another view. The first matter to consider, when they were dealing with the question of whether the Bill was or was not worth having, was what was the condition of affairs which the Bill was intended to replace. There he at once joined issue with the right hon. Member for Bodmin, when he declared that, in his opinion, there was no imperative necessity for the Bill. That seemed to him the fallacy which underlay all the arguments of the Opposition. They had always spoken of the matter as though some kind of ideal relation existed between the countries of England and Ireland, and as if the Liberal Party were constantly interfering with a state of things which was acting admirably. His view of the matter was exactly the opposite. The condition to which that House had been reduced before the introduction of the Home Rule Bill in 1886 was one which, in the interests of this country, was utterly intolerable, and which held out every threat of getting worse. There was then among them a substantial minority who came from Ireland with a fixed determination to prevent the trans- 1495 action of Public Business? as long as their claims were disregarded. Hitherto he would have referred to their conduct as obstruction; but accepting the definition of the right hon. Member for Bodmin it was not obstruction at all, for according to that definition no course could rightly be termed obstruction that was resorted to for public purposes. According to the right hon. Gentleman, for a public purpose one might abuse every form of the House with a view to prevent the transaction of business.
§ MR. NEVILLE
said, he had carefully noted what the right hon. Gentleman had said, and he had certainly understood him to exclude from the category of obstruction tactics which were resorted to in furtherance of a public object. But by whatever name the state of things that prevailed before 1886 might be called, it was a formidable state of things that had to be dealt with. They had resorted to a number of expedients in order to meet that state of things. Everyone should admit that these measures had been ineffectual in securing the satisfactory transaction of the Business of the House. It was only natural that that should be so. Representative Institutions were never intended and could not be directed to the government of the discontented. Where there was a substantial minority who were dissatisfied with the method of Government the representative system must inevitably break down, and there must be a paralysis of the legislative power. The question, therefore, which the House had to consider was whether this Bill would afford any amelioration of the difficulties which had undoubtedly existed? He held that it would. In the first place, the representation of Ireland in that House would be substantially reduced, and from this a direct advantage would accrue to British electors, for it was only right that they should have what they had not had up to the present time—namely, their fair proportion of representation in the House of Commons. But indirect advantages would be gained which would prove to be so great as to be a solution of the difficulty he had referred to, and which would restore to the House of Commons the power of transacting its business in an efficient way. Under the new system the Irish Mem- 1496 bers would have something to lose, and they would act in such a way as to make sure that they would not lose it. Irish Members and Irish electors were spoken of in such a way that one almost doubted whether hon. Members thought they were capable of seeing their own interests. His opinion of Irish Members had been largely increased by the manner in which they had acted during the discussions on this Bill. They had shown the greatest self-control in the manner in which they had listened to the Debates. He confessed that if he had heard the English nation and British Members spoken of in the House as Irish Members and the Irish nation had referred to, ho would have found it hard to display the same self-control which had been displayed by the Irish Members. It was contended, of course, on the opposite side that Irish Members were shrewd enough to see that it was their self-interest to act in the way they had done while the Bill was under discussion. That was what he relied on for the future success of this Bill. Their own interests would dictate to them such a course of action as would secure the continuance of the benefits which they would derive under this Bill, and lead to the removal of those restrictions with which it had been thought necessary to hamper their new powers for the present. A course of intrigue on their part, impeding the progress of English Business, would be the greatest error they could commit. The Irish Members knew that the patience of the English people, though large, was not inexhaustible; and no country had ever yet tried that patience beyond endurance without being very sorry for it afterwards. It had been said that if this Bill were passed the Irish Members would become Delegates, and cease to be Representatives; but in what sense in which they were not Delegates now would they be Delegates then? With regard to their co-operation in English legislation, they would be in precisely the same position as they now occupied. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham had said that under the new system the British portion of the House of Commons would have no power of retaliation. The policy of retaliation might be very dear to the heart of the right hon. Gentleman. But he would ask him in what way this alleged power of retaliation had been 1497 effective to deal with the difficulties which the House had encountered in the past. Could one instance be pointed out in which the power of retaliation had been effective in mitigating the opposition of the Irish Representatives in the House of Commons? This weapon, if serviceable at all, had been kept in its scabbard until now, and was only hunted out from the armoury to show the injury that would be done to British interests under the Bill. The right hon. Member for Bodmin spoke of an alternative, and, in his peroration, referred to some ideal Union with Ireland. But no alternative to the present scheme had ever been offered to the country. Therefore, they had to choose between this scheme and leaving things as they were, or, rather, in a worse position than they were, inasmuch as the agitation of the past 12 months would absolutely increase the demand for Home Rule in Ireland. In 1886, and even later, the proposed alternative to Homo Rule was 20 years of resolute government—in a word, coercion. But that was no alternative, though ho was quite prepared to admit that superficial order was, to a large extent, maintained under that system. A Government by police was, however, a very hateful, though, he admitted, a possible form of Government, as was proved in Russia. But coercion in Ireland could not possibly be supposed to improve the condition of affairs in that House. Was it likely to cure disaffection? Would the Representatives of Ireland be less vigorous under it? So far from affording any possibility for improving the Parliamentary position of things, it would inevitably result in an increased strain when dealing with our own business. He submitted to the House that he had shown that great advantages were likely to result from the passing of this measure, and that, if the House were to refuse to pass it, nobody had anything to offer them in its place. He believed that the House would pass it with an undiminished majority, for ho could not conceive any true Liberal who believed in the efficacy of Home Rule, but who, because he disagreed with this or that particular clause or provision in the Bill, should think it right to vote against the measure as a whole. What would be the effect of such a course if it were followed by each 1498 individual Member, or by any substantial number of hon. Members? They would be throwing away the labours of the last seven years; they would be committing the country to a long period of Tory Government, and, if he might use the expression, Pinchbeck reform. Therefore, no true Liberal should withhold from giving his vote in favour of the Third Reading of the Bill. They had been told that neither the country nor the House had had time for the discussion of the measure, and they were referred to the example of Belgium. If the Belgians liked to spend three years in discussing a portion of their Constitution, let them do so; but he was quite sure that such a course would not suit the people of this country. After seven years' discussion, which the principle of Home Rule had received in the country, and after the discussions upon the present Bill in this House, he was sure that if the Liberal Party failed at all in obtaining the suffrages of the people of this country, it would not be on the ground that this matter had not received sufficient consideration both in the country and in the House.
§ *MR. CONINGSBY DISRAELI (Cheshire, Altrincbam)
said, that as the last speaker bad stated that he was converted to Home Rule by the former obstruction of the Irish Members, he certainly ought to be brought to give his vote against the present Bill through the obstruction of a far more numerous minority, which had been so frequently charged against the Members of the Opposition.
§ *MR. CONINGSBY DISRAELI
replied that they did not, and that was all to the point. The Government motto bad seemed to be for the last seven months, not carpe diem, but carpe dies. He desired to look at the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to his constituents, because it was a very good keynote of what the speeches would be in the different constituencies. The right hon. Gentleman had a very admirable platform manner. He spoke from experience, because he had the opportunity of hearing a speech from the right hon. Gentleman in his own Division at the last Election; and, therefore, he could say that his speech on Saturday 1499 must have been very pleasing to the people of Newcastle. The right hon. Gentleman told them the number of lines passed in the Bill, the number of hours that were taken, and the number of Amendments that were put down; but he did not tell them the number of times that the Government could not answer questions put to them. He did not tell them how thoroughly changed the Bill was since its introduction, nor how time after time the House adjourned with a great part of the Bill left unintelligible to Members like himself. Ho would compare this precious measure to Galatea. It was brought into the House a living—a "workable"—model; but when they desired to inquire into the character and past history of it the curtain was drawn. He was certain that this Galatea would now be judged by the Peers, not as something workable, but as "a woman of no importance." The Chief Secretary spoke at Newcastle of the necessity for this Bill, and drew a parallel between the present position and Washington and his elders drawing up the Constitution of America. The parallel was not a good one. Washington and his elders were confronted with an imperative necessity which they were compelled to meet with promptitude, and which was wished for by a great nation. But what was the necessity in the present case? What necessity was there for Home Rule to be passed into law this year or next year, or the year after that, or even for 20 years to come. If the Prime Minister had been true to his former life, he would have thought it necessary to have a true discussion of the provisions of the Bill, and then to let it be judged on its merits. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had spoken about the "aspirations of a nation." What change, however, had there been in the condition of affairs since 1885? The case for Home Rule was the same, and the Irish Leaders, with one notable exception, were the same; nothing had altered, and nothing had been dropped by the Irish National Party. Their demand was for a full and satisfactory measure of Homo Rule, but it was admitted even by the Nationalists themselves that this was not a full and satisfactory measure, and would only be accepted as the stepping-stone to the complete achievement of their objects. 1500 And they were to pass this Bill in order, to quote Mr. Butt, "to construct fantastic baby houses, or to frame political toys. It was in vain to-expect that the English people would consent to pull the fabric of Government to pieces for the sake of giving us Home Rule." That was the opinion of the father of Home Rule, but was that the opinion of the Irish Nationalist Party at the present moment? It was said that the Bill was perfectly safe, and that the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. H. H. Fowler) would not, vole for it unless it were safe. Yet, as soon as Members began to investigate the safeguards with which it was said to bristle, the supporters of the Government remained silent, and the discussion usually ended in the Closure. This treatment of those who were anxious to grasp the supposed safeguards, and to find out what they really meant, reminded him of the dinner party in Alice in Wonderland. What had been the policy of the Government respecting the retention of the Irish Members? It had been a policy of change and vacillation all through. First the Irish Members were in; then they were out, then they were in again, and then they were out again, and now they were in once more. It was a policy of drifting, with Age at the prow, and 80 Irish Members at the helm. They were to have in the Imperial Parliament 80 Irish Members, who must always be a very strong force for any Government to contend against, and who would vote on questions in which they had absolutely no interest. Those Irish Members were to vote on English questions. They were to vote for the schooling of English children, whilst English Members were to have nothing to say respecting the schooling of their children, and they were to vote on taxes which they were not to pay. The Government talked of "finality." What finality could there be when 80 Irish Members were left in the House with their Nationalist aspirations unsatisfied? Did the Government think these 80 Members were going to rest quietly in their seats when they had their duty as Representatives of a great "Nation" to perform? No; the result would be that Ireland would always have a strong and a determining voice in the Constitution of 1501 this country, and in the constitution of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, speaking at Manchester in 1886, said—I will not be a party to a Legislative Body to manage Irish concerns, and at the same time to having Irish Members in London acting and voting on English and Scotch questions.How must that statement have been cheered by the Liberals of Manchester, who liked strong things! Now he wondered, however, what they would think of the position. "Never," said the right hon. Gentleman, throwing his cloak around him; and the Opposition said, "Hardly ever." Then there was the question of finance. Not only were the Irish Members to remain in the House of Commons, but Great Britain was to pay very dearly for the not very great benefit of having them there. Under the Government scheme Ireland would pay-over £500,000 less than at present, and over £1,500,000 less than she ought to pay, according to her taxable capacity. On the admission of I he Government itself, the British taxpayers stood to lose at the outset over £500,000 as the price of setting up Home Rule. Not only was Great Britain to have the benefit of Irish Members interfering in the Councils and deliberations of Parliament, but she was to pay out of her pocket money to enable the Irish people to set up their own establishment, and yet be allowed to remain at Westminster. If the Irish people had anything to lose, were they going to lose anything at all for their loyalty to the principle of Home Rule? No; it was the British nation who had been betrayed on these questions, and it was the vital interests of Great Britain that were to be destroyed by this measure. The more they bad been allowed to discuss the Bill the more the difficulties and the dangers of it had been brought to light, and to avoid further exposures the Government had resorted to an extraordinary expedient for the purpose of passing the Bill. The Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley), and the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Bryce)—that extraordinary triumvirate of Prime Minister, philosopher, and professor; that trinity of disunity—were responsible for the imposition of the Closure. Fortu- 1502 nately, the reign of the gag was brief. It did not go beyond those walls. The Government could not gag the "man in the street"; they could not closure public opinion; they could not guillotine hon. Members when they addressed their constituents, and the constituents of the Government and their supporters. The Government had drunk deep of this cup of unconstitutional practice. Hon. Members would remember Balzac's story of the Peau de Chagrin, the hero of which became possessed of a magical wild ass's skin, which yielded him the means of gratifying every wish; but on every occasion on which he indulged in undue licence the skin shrank, and his life became less and less. On the same principle, Her Majesty's Government had indulged in weekly bouts of unconstitutional debauchery, and their skin of life was shrinking more and more. Hon. Members opposite were never tired in defending the action of the Government with regard to the gag, and referring to the precedent of 1887, but they might as well compare Magna Charta with the present Home Secretary's Pistols Bill, as the present occasion to that of 1887. It was no precedent at all, but the Government had by their action set an example by which any future Government, no matter how constructed, no matter what their majority, no matter how small, or how big, or how obtained, would be able to pass any measure, however feeble, through the House of Commons. That was the legacy, and the only legacy, which this Government would leave behind it. It was said that Home Rule was not separation. If not, what was it? As a, matter of fact, it was worse than separation. Great Britain was cut off, and Ireland was not. The Irish Members would be able to take part in all British discussions and to enter into all British affairs, whilst British Members were to have nothing to do with the two Chambers in Dublin. This Bill had been thoroughly exposed. It had been born in deceit, nurtured in evasion, swaddled with the gag, and thrust upon the people's Parliament unsanctioned by the people. He would read an extract, part of which, no doubt, was very stale, from a speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt). The right hon. Gentleman said— 1503Liberals must not be in a hurry to turn the Tories out. He would let them for a few months stew in their own Parnellite juice, and when they stank in the nostrils of the country, as they would stink, then the country would fling them discredited and disgraced to the constituencies, and the nation would pronounce its final judgment upon them.He would say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he were in the House—"Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's," but Cæsar was not there. He would, therefore, "preaching another man's sermon," only say that when the present Government stank, as they would stink, in the nostrils of the country the country would fling them discredited and disgraced to the constituencies and the nation would pronounce its final judgment upon them. That would be the end of this miserable travesty of legislation.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND (Waterford)
In offering to the hon. Member who has just sat down my congratulations on the interesting occasion of his maiden speech in the House, I may say I am sure he will acquit me of any discourtesy to him if I do not follow all the arguments he has used. I desire to occupy the time of the House for the briefest possible space, and therefore I will come to what I wish to say at once. I am glad that the frequent opportunities which have been accorded to mo by the indulgence of hon. Members, of expressing my opinion both on the principle and the details of this measure, render it unnecessary for me on this occasion to occupy more than a very few moments indeed. I do not intend on this occasion to discuss the principle of the Bill or to criticise its details. In my opinion, the long time which has been spent in Committee has been well spent. The discussion, though it has been no doubt often marred by trivialities, by rancour on the part of a few and by a want of bona fides on the part of a great many, has still, on the whole, been a worthy discussion, and has thrown much light on a most difficult and complicated problem. We have, however, now arrived at the end of that discussion, and for the first time are entitled to look on this measure as a whole. So looking at it, I have no hesitation whatever in repeating the few words I used in this House on the very night, I believe, in which the measure was introduced and which to-day, as they did then, exactly 1504 express my opinion on the merits of the Dill. I said then—In my opinion, this Bill is defective in some very grave and important matters. In some other matters it is gravely disappointing, and in the financial aspect it is not only ungenerous, but absolutely unjust.I went on to say that, in my opinion, it would be the duty of Irish Nationalists to endeavour so to mould the Bill in Committee that it might become the settlement of the Irish Nationalist Question. Since I spoke those words the Bill has gone through the ordeal of Committee. We have endeavoured, using such opportunities as were afforded to us, so to mould the Bill that it would satisfy what we considered to be the necessary conditions of a reasonable settlement of the question. I regret now, at the end of all this discussion, to think that every single effort of ours in that direction failed. Those portions of the Bill which we regarded as objectionable and dangerous we voted against, but our votes were overborne; those portions which we considered faulty and defective we endeavoured to amend, and again our Amendments were rejected by the Government and by the overwhelming majority of the House. The changes which have been made in the Bill are, in my opinion, changes which, on the whole, are for the worse, and not for the better. It is a significant fact that almost every change which has been made in the Bill has emanated from men who are openly opposed to the principle of Home Rule, and who have openly boasted that their object in moving Amendments was not to improve, but rather to maim and destroy the measure. One result, and one result only, of the discussions in Committee, to my mind, is thoroughly satisfactory. As this Bill now stands, I maintain that no man in his senses can any longer regard it either as a full, a final, or a satisfactory settlement of the Irish Nationalist Question. The word "provisional" has, so to speak, been stamped in rod ink across every page of this Bill. From one point of view, of course, I have been bound to regret this. I have always believed that one of the strongest arguments in favour of Home Rule among Englishmen is the hope that the passage of a Home Rule Bill into law would mean for them getting rid of the Irish Question, and from an Irish point of view I cannot help feeling 1505 that we can do nothing really effective to the amelioration of the condition of our people until full and unfettered powers over all purely Irish affairs are placed in the hands of Irishmen. But, Mr. Speaker, as far as this particular Bill is concerned, no doubt it is most fortunate that the result of the discussion in Committee has been to stamp its leading features with a temporary and provisional character, because I will say at once, without any concealment whatever, that were this Bill put before us—perhaps I had better say put before me, as I had better, perhaps, not profess to speak for anyone in this matter but myself—if this Bill were put before me as the be all and end all of the national aspirations of Ireland, if it were put before me as a full, final, and satisfactory settlement of the national demands, and if I were asked to accept it as such, I would feel myself bound to refuse to vote in favour of the Third Beading on those conditions. On the contrary, I would say that this Bill as it now stands cannot under any conceivable circumstances, if it passes into law, afford either a full, a final, or a satisfactory settlement of this question. It would not be a full settlement, for it leaves over for further consideration by the Parliament of Great Britain some of the most vital of all Irish interests, and withholds control over them from Ireland. It would not be a final settlement, because, in my opinion, of necessity no partial grant of autonomy can be final. Whether the experiment be successful and the Constitutional liberties of the people widen and increase, or whether it be a failure and those Constitutional liberties are narrowed or destroyed—in any case, no man can claim that such partial and restricted powers as are conferred by this Bill can by any human ingenuity be invested with any element of finality. I say also it would not be a satisfactory settlement. It would not, in my opinion, be satisfactory to England, because no settlement would be satisfactory to England which does not end, as it ought to end, this Irish Question, while no settlement can be satisfactory to Ireland which does not make Irishmen masters in their own country. So far as the restrictions on the powers of the Irish Legislature are concerned, for my part I have no objection on principle, up to a certain point, to such restrictions. 1506 Every reasonable man must recognise the fact that very large masses of people in this country are profoundly distrustful as to the wisdom, the stability, and I would say the ability, which are necessary for Irishmen to rule themselves. But those who, like myself, have profound faith in the common sense, the moderation, and the abilities of our countrymen say—and we take a reasonable and a logical position I think—we do not object to restrictions such as many restrictions in this Bill on the powers of the Irish Legislature, because we know if once the experiment of Home Rule be fairly tried, the result of that experiment will be to justify and to necessitate the disappearance of those restrictions altogether. More especially do I say this with regard to those restrictions which are inserted in the Bill with the object of offering security to those of our fellow-countrymen who imagine that their civil and religious liberty would be menaced by an Irish Parliament. I can conceive of scarcely any restrictions having that object in view to which I would object, because I am so certain in my conviction that the almost immediate result of the working of Home Rule for a few years would be to show the absolute want of necessity for any of those restrictions, and the natural effect would be that those restrictions would eventually disappear. As long, therefore, as we are not asked to say, as we were in 1886, that this Bill is a full, final, and satisfactory settlement of the national demands of Ireland, for my part, I see no objection to going the longest way possible along the road to conciliation. The attitude I desire to take with regard to this Bill at this stage is well expressed in a resolution recently adopted at a gathering of Nationalists held in the City of Dublin.The manifest injustice of the financial provisions, the constitution of the proposed Legislature and the degrading and petty restrictions with which its action is hampered, the reservation to the Imperial Parliament of the power to impose and control Irish taxes, and of power over so many Irish interests of paramount importance in the development of the nation, coupled with the reduction of the Irish representation in the Imperial Parliament during the period of such reservation, leaves little beyond the mere assertion of the principle of Home Rule to commend the present Bill to Irish Nationalists, and renders it impossible of acceptance as a full, final, and satisfactory settlement of the National question.1507 Every one of the objections mentioned in the resolution were dealt with by my horn Friends and myself in Committee as far as opportunity permitted. Unfortunately our views and votes were overborne. With regard to the financial part of the Bill, if in every other detail the Bill were satisfactory, that part of the Bill is so grave and faulty that it would be impossible for me to allow the Third Reading to go without uttering a protest and making it clear that my vote cannot be held as approving that part of the scheme. It is not merely that Nationalists regard the Financial Clauses as ungenerous, in view of the past history of the two countries and in view of their great disparity in wealth; it is not merely that they think the Financial Clauses to be unjust, and that under them Ireland will be practically robbed of millions of money; it is the practical ground that they believe it to be impossible to govern Ireland successfully under these Financial Clauses. The effort to govern Ireland under the proposed scheme will not merely make it absolutely impossible for the Irish Government to enter upon those works for developing the resources of the country and for improving its material condition which would stop the tide of emigration and make the people comfortable and happy in their own houses; not only would it negative that possibility, it would bring about national bankruptcy. Under these circumstances, it may be asked what Ireland will gain by the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons, in view of the fact that it is to be rejected by the House of Lords in a few days. The value I attach to the passage of the Bill by the House is that it will mean that, after nearly a century of struggle, after the wasting of innumerable lives, the spilling of much precious blood, and the enduring of much misery, Ireland will at last have obtained from the Representative House of the masses of the British democracy a reversal of the policy of the Act of Union, and the solemn affirmation of the principle of Irish self-government. That principle may be rejected to-morrow by the House of Lords; but its affirmation by the House of Commons will stand on record, and, as far as I know, the affirmation of no great principle such as that which is undoubtedly contained in the Bill has been 1508 given by the House without its sooner or later finding its way into the Statute Book. The passage of the Bill by the House means the certain and speedy enactment of Home Rule for Ireland; and if indeed it should happen, as probably it will, that the Irish people have yet to endure another period of hope deferred and of oppression, they will be sustained by the consciousness that the inevitable end of their sufferings is at hand, and that the measure of their liberties will in all human probability be all the greater, wider, and more generous because of the futile delay which is now interposed by the Representatives of the very classes in whose interests Ireland have been so long and cruelly misgoverned. Whatever vicissitudes may be ahead—and the prospect has shadows and darkness enough—for my own part I feel perfectly confident of the future of Ireland. I regard it as absolutely secure and beyond the reach either of the selfishness of class or of the prejudice of ignorance. It will be a future of freedom, prosperity, and honour. John Henry Newman, one of the greatest Englishmen, in speaking of Ireland, used these beautiful words—I look towards a land both old and yonng—old in its Christianity, young in the promise of its future. A nation which received grace before the Saxon came to Britain, and which has never quenched it. I contemplate a people which has had a long night, and will have an inevitable day. I turn my eyes to the future, and I see the island I am gazing on become the road of passage and union between two hemispheres and the centre of the world. I see its inhabitants rival Belgium in populous-ness, France in vigour, and Spain in enthusiasm; and I see England taught by advancing years to exercise in its behalf that good sense which is her characteristic towards everyone else.It is because I believe that the latter part of this picture will be fulfilled that I shall, with a light heart, and in spite of all the Bill's defects, vote in favour of the Third Reading.
§ *MR. COCHRANE (Ayrshire, N.)
said, he wished to call the attention of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken to the fact that besides the point of view which he advocated there was also the point of view of the rest of the United Kingdom to be taken into consideration. There was not only the English, but there was particularly the Scottish point of view. In Scotland they had no ill-will at all towards Irishmen; on the contrary, 1509 they entertained the best wishes possible towards the Irish people, and were their demands for some scheme of self-government similar to that which was enjoyed in Scotland and in England—fully as wide, and possibly wider—they would find an immense deal of support amongst Scottish Unionists. There was a practical point of view from which they looked on this question. They saw that this measure of Home Rule, on which 82 days had been expended, had absolutely obstructed all those social and industrial measures upon which they in Scotland were particularly set, and that in the arrangements which were proposed under this Bill, instead of seeing an end to the Irish Question, they discovered in it a long vista and a long future in which those questions in which they were deeply interested would be placed in the background. The Prime Minister told them in 1886 that in any scheme which lie should propose, the political equality of the three countries must lie maintained, and it was in this respect that Scotland suffered a peculiar and extra hardship. The Members returned for English constituencies would number 495, and from Scottish constituencies only 72; whereas there would be from Ireland, which would have a Parliament of its own, 80 Irish Members in this House, who would have an overwhelming voice so far as Scottish affairs were concerned, and in regard to them would be entirely irresponsible to any constituency. That, he thought, was an important consideration, and he believed when the notice of the Scottish constituencies was brought to the fact that their nation would be absolutely swamped, they would regard it as a matter which was absolutely monstrous and intolerable. The Irish Members would have the opportunity of doing what no Scotsman would permit—that was, of putting their hands in the pockets of the Scottish people; of dealing with their Budgets, and assisting in making Scottish laws. In Scotland they did not relish such an idea. They would have Donegal, with its mass of illiterates, dictating to the citizens of Aberdeen, where there was scarcely a percentage of illiteracy, upon educational questions, and they would have the followers of Archbishop Walsh dictating to the descendants of John Knox as to the establishment or disestablishment of the Church. This 1510 opened a vista on which they could not but look with horror and disgust. When they took into consideration the fact that the Irish Members were to be retained in the Imperial Parliament, and also what were the financial proposals under this Bill, it would lie found from the Scottish view that there was a very serious question for consideration. They were assured that by passing the Bill they would secure the gratitude of hon. Members opposite; but was that gratitude likely to be anything more than a lively sense of favours to come? In dealing with the Financial Clauses, the President of the Local Government Board laid down the principle upon which the finance of the Home Rule Bill was to be conducted. He said that the principle of the scheme was to bring out, as nearly as possible, Ireland's normal contribution under the new system of Home Rule government, and the amount she contributed under existing financial arrangements. If Scotland were to pay in future under Home Rule what she paid at present, Scottish Members would look at the matter from a different aspect than they did at present. The First Lord of the Treasury laid down in 1886 what he considered was the right method of assessing the proportion of wealth in the three countries, and his rule was that the measure was the amount of property assessed for the Death Duties. If they took that as the measure, they found that the proportion of wealth in Scotland to the proportion of wealth in Ireland was about 7 to 4. Scotland paid in contribution to the Imperial Exchequer nearly £7,000,000. Therefore, in the proportion of 7 to 4, Ireland should contribute about £4,000,000 per annum, instead of the net result, which worked out at about £1,500,000. That would show the inequality that would exist under this Bill. Not only would the Scottish contribution be stereotyped, and they would go on paying too much, but they would in addition be burdened with the amount which was to be paid to Ireland as the contribution for the police and collection of taxes. Under this arrangement the proposed contribution from Ireland would be about 6s. 6d. per head, and the contribution from Scotland would be about 34s. 6d. per head. He hoped that when Scottish Members went 1511 to their constituents, and talked about a Scottish Home Rule scheme, they would bring out the fact that they had laid down as the principle upon which Home Rule should be granted, that the contribution to the Imperial expenditure should be based, not upon what was fair, and just, and right, and what the wealth and the population were entitled to pay, but that it should be simply what each country was paying at present. The hon. Member for North Aberdeen, who took a forward part in the Scottish Home Rule movement, introduced a Bill to give Home Rule to Scotland, and wrote an interesting pamphlet to explain the Rill. He said the Bill was backed by 12 Scottish Members, the largest number permitted by the Rules of the House—which he (Mr. Cochrane) supposed was meant to express the opinion that there were more than 12 apostles of Scottish Home Rule—and thatThe principle that people should be taxed according to their means was so obviously just that it, had become a common-place with writers on political science. There might be some difficulties in applying the principle, but the principle itself was incontestable, and would not be contested.The hon. Member laid down the principle which, in a Home Rule measure, could not be contested, that the measure of the wealth of the country and the population should be taken into consideration, and yet, when it came to an Irish Home Rule Bill, he and the hon. Members who supported him in the Scottish Bill voted for the principle laid down by the President of the Local Government Board, which was totally opposed to the principle which they themselves supported in their Scottish Homo Rule Bill. That was one of those instances of inconsistency of which the House had seen a great many. Ho thought that when those hon. Members went back to their constituents, and explained what they had done, their constituents would understand how it was their requests for a financial inquiry into the position of Scotland were put in such a milk-and-water fashion, and received no recognition from the Prime Minister, until he was compelled to pay attention to the representations that came from the Unionists. If the people of Scotland obtained a proper explanation of these financial arrangements they would express their feelings very strongly to their Home Rule 1512 Representatives. As to the safeguards for the minority, that was a question which interested them in the West of Scotland very deeply. They knew the minority had taken, and would take, every possible constitutional means to call attention to their feelings, and their Representatives had told them that the safeguards were illusory, and did not exist. They in the West of Scotland deeply sympathised with them, and regretted exceedingly that this Bill had not carried out the promise of the First Lord of the Treasury, that he would introduce adequate safeguards for the minority. The hon. Member for Waterford had just told them that the Bill could not be accepted as a final settlement, and the Opposition were consequently justified in asserting that it did not contain those provisions which were laid down as essential by the Prime Minister in 1886.
§ *DR. MACGREGOR (Inverness-shire)
said, he hoped he would be in Order today in making a few remarks more or loss having a bearing on this Bill. Last week, when he was very properly called to Order, he in the hurry of the moment attributed a quotation to Sydney Smith which he now found was not the work of any Smith, but a Pope's bull. When he sat down, ho was on the point of agreeing once again with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. He said "once again," because at one time he used to agree very much indeed with all his utterances. At that time he regarded him as his beau ideal of a Democratic Leader—the coming man, in fact—but the Member for West Birmingham had gone over, not to the majority, but to the minority. He had gone over to a class that toiled not, neither did they spin. He ventured to say that the reputation of the right hon. Gentleman would have been better regarded if he had paid more attention to the cultivation of the orchid than to the lily. However, he was inclined to agree with the right hon. Gentleman once, again, and it was in this respect. Not long since the right hon. Gentleman expressed the opinion that as the legal magnates of the House had spoken, the lay Members of the House should now give their judgment. In this respect he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. His verdict was that Home Rule was now inevitable, not only for Ireland, but on 1513 Federal lines. It would be just as easy to sweep back the Atlantic with the proverbial broom as it would be to stop the tide that was now steadily flowing on to government by the people for the people. That being the case, he could not understand why so much opposition was exhibited in a certain part of the House. It would be more prudent on the part of the Opposition if they were wise in time, and made such concessions as would conciliate the democracy, and perhaps prevent a revolution of much greater magnitude than they were threatened with. He always understood that the functions of the Opposition was honest criticism, but he now found it not only to mean obstruction, but destruction of the measures of the Government; and he thought it was unworthy of the Mother of Parliaments to waste the time of the country in this fashion. He only wished to say in conclusion, on this the Third Reading of the Bill, that his profound conviction was that Home Rule for Ireland was not only just, but reasonable and necessary.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
I have been so pointedly challenged by the Prime Minister in the course of his speech that I may, perhaps, be allowed to intervene for a few minutes. I was, unfortunately, not in the House when the right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech; but I will reply to what I did hear, and to what I gather from my friends was the material portion of the observations made. The House will remember that the question of the testimony of foreign authors in regard to the government of Ireland by England was raised, in the first place, on the First Reading of the Bill by the Prime Minister, and there was likewise discussion upon it in the Second Reading Debate. I may remind the House of the original statement by the Prime Minister to which I took exception. It was to this effect. On April 6 the right hon. Gentleman said—I ask whether in the whole history of the world, amongst the thousands of authors who have touched upon the relations between England and Ireland, there is so much as one who had ever denied the impolicy, and injustice, and scandal of the management of the Irish Question by the predominating power of this country"?1514 The House will observe there was nothing in the statement limiting the authorship to foreign authors. I came down to the House on the Second Beading armed with a number of English authorities in order to confute him, but when I proceeded to quote them the right hon. Gentleman said he referred to foreign authors alone. I frankly own I was not so well prepared as I otherwise might have been had I understood the view of the right hon. Gentleman. On this particular point the right hon. Gentleman has been rather prejudiced and partial, and the wish, no doubt, has been with him father to the thought. The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, adhered to the statement which he made on a former occasion. I will supplement what I said before regarding the views of two men of eminence, whose opinions are entitled to the highest respect. The first which I will quote is M. Guizot, from a work written by himself, and entitled, History of England from the Earliest Time to the Accession of Queen Victoria, translated and published in 1882. M. Guizot, who died, I think, in 1874, was a man of great distinction. He was Foreign Minister' in France from 1840 to 1848, and must have been well known to the right hon. Gentleman. He speaks of the Union as follows:—Henceforth the Union of Ireland and England was definitive, advantageous, and efficacious for both countries alike, in spite of the difficulties it had still to-meet with.That was M. Guizot. Now I am going to quote another eminent authority, who, I think, has expressed opinions which justify me in using him in contradiction to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I refer to M. do Laveleye, a great writer on economics, and who, being the leader of the Bimetallic Party on the Continent, I am disposed to regard with greater favour. M. do Laveleye, in Le Gouvernement dans la Démocratic, published in 1891, dealing with the question of nationalities, quite incidentally remarks—Even England is not escaping from national claims. The Irish, under the name of Home Rule, are demanding a complete autonomy. … If Home Rule is to be synonymous with a separate Government and a complete autonomy, it will hand Ireland over to the Catholic clergy, and will bring back persecution and civil war, with all its horrors.1515 But M. de Laveleye was well known long before 1891, and was held in great esteem by a high authority in this country. In 1875 he published a pamphlet, entitled Protestantism and Catholicism. This book contains some passages, I am bound to say, very derogatory to the influence of the Roman Catholic religion as compared with Protestantism in Ireland. I may quote one sentence—Since the Scotch have embraced the He-formed religion, they have outrun even the English. The climate and nature of the soil prevent Scotland being as rich as England; but Macaulay proves that, since the 17th century, the Scotch have in every way surpassed the English. Ireland, on the other hand, devoted to Ultramontanism, is poor, miserable, agitated by the spirit of rebellion, and seems incapable of raising herself by her own strength. What a contrast, even in Ireland, between the exclusively Catholic Connaught, and Ulster, when Protestantism prevails. Ulster is enriched by industry; Connaught presents a picture of desolation.Now, that may or may not be a fair description of the state of things which prevailed in Ireland at that time; but, at all events, M. de Laveleye was asked by a very distinguished man to translate the work into English, and this distinguished man also wrote a preface to it, in which he speaks of the writer as "a Belgian of known liberality and tolerance." Who was this very distinguished man I have referred to? It will interest the House to know. I turn to the beginning of the book, and find that the preface ends in these words—"I remain, dear M. de Laveleye, most faithfully yours, W. E. Gladstone, 23 Carlton House Terrace, May 26, 1875." So here we have a foreign authority of "known liberality and tolerance," according to the right hon. Gentleman, who, so far from admitting the impolicy, the scandal, and injustice of the management of Ireland, and the preponderating power of England, is apparently of opinion that if the present state of things is to be reversed, and the policy of the right hon. Gentleman adopted, it "will bring back persecution and civil war, with all its horrors." That is an opinion which, I think the House will agree, justifies pretty fully what I said on a former occasion. I now come to the opinions of Count Cavour, and I am bound to say that if anybody has a right to complain of the way in which Cavour has been represented in 1516 this House it is I, and not the right hon. Gentleman. I desire to vindicate myself in the matter, and, in doing so, I am afraid I shall have to make four or five quotations, and detain the House for a few minutes. The first is on page 19 of his work—But, putting aside the appreciation, and the merits of those who took part in the Act of Union, let us examine this measure in itself, and let us see if, in fact, it has been unjust and iniquitous towards Ireland, and if it deserves all the hatred which it excites, even at this day, all the vituperation which O'Connell and the orators of the popular Party lavish upon it without ceasing.Then he goes on to refer to the economic relations of the two countries, which he describes as irreproachable. The right hon. Gentleman said that, as regards religion, Cavour stated that the Union made the condition worse. But he omitted the next sentence, in which Cavour says—The points I have now examined are only subsidiary. The essential provisions of the Act of Union are those which regulate the proportion of the political power reserved to each of the two countries, and the manner in which the public burdens are divided between them.And, in the second place, he says all religious grievances have disappeared. At page 28 he says—After 1800 Ireland was governed, like the rest of the British Empire, by the three Estates sitting at Westminster. Did the great majority of that country, the Catholics especially, lose much by this political change, and have they had serious reasons to regret their National Parliament? This cannot be maintained.And then he goes on to argue the question at some length, and ho concludes in these words, which are entirely conclusive of the case against the right hon. Gentleman—Therefore it is that, all things considered, I must regard the Act of Union, in spite of all its defects, as an event at which humanity must rejoice.So that we are confronted with this extraordinary position—that while an illustrious man describes the Union "as an event at which humanity must rejoice," we have another illustrious man—a man, perhaps, more illustrious—in the year 1893, denouncing the Union as one of the greatest acts of blackguardism perpetrated in the history of Europe.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
No, no! That word "blackguardism" was used in a private letter, and that letter was pub- 1517 lished as to that word without my knowledge. But the word is a strict and accurate description of much that took place as a means for procuring the Act of Union. It did not refer to the Union itself.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
I will not press that point. I should be sorry to pin the right hon. Gentleman to an expression in a private letter which was never meant to be made public. I turn to Cavour again, because he has shown in another part of the work the enormous difficulties with which any statesman must be confronted who tried to carry out the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, and to establish a Parliament in Dublin. Difficulty after difficulty are mentioned—many of which were, indeed, mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman himself when lie made his first statement on Home Rule in 1886, and more particularly in connection with the question of the retention of the Irish Members. In fact, when I became acquainted with Cavour's work, I thought that many of the arguments used so successfully by the right hon. Gentleman against the retention of the Irish Members must have been taken from this great authority. What was wanted, Cavour said, wasThe creation of a National Parliament … in which the Catholic and popular element should have an incontestable preponderance.And here he points out thatWe see numberless difficulties arise, which neither O'Connell or any other Irish orator has yet attempted to resolve. If in the British Constitution the functions of the Parliament were purely administrative; if, even, it did not extend beyond the sphere of legislation, we might manage to understand the co-existence of two independent Legislatures, sitting one in London the other in Dublin. But everyone knows that in England the Parliament has the preponderating influence on the Executive power; that foreign and colonial policy is subject to its control; that nothing of serious importance is done without its approval and sanction. That being so, how can these high functions be divided between the legislators of the two countries? How can their independent action be harmonized? I do not think that it is possible to devise for this end any means that can resist a few minutes' examination.This was precisely the expression of the right hon. Gentleman in his famous statement in 1886, when he declared that it passed the wit of any man to devise any satisfactory scheme for this purpose. And now I wish to say a word upon the 1518 quotations from illustrious men made use of by the right hon. Gentleman himself. He quoted, if I understood him aright, one passage from Cavour as actually in support of the policy which is now before the House. The passage I understood him to quote was that in which Cavour says that,In support of what I have said, I will only cite the moderate, liberal, and generous conduct of the Cabinet of Sir Robert Peel towards Canada.And this quotation was loudly cheered by the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman. But does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that Cavour referred to a National Parliament when he used these words? Nothing of the kind. I turn to the context; and the context shows conclusively how entirely his meaning has been misrepresented. Cavour says—In fine, I shall lie asked what conclusion is to lie drawn from all the reasoning by which I have endeavoured to ascertain the present state of the questions relating to the condition of Ireland. In the first place, I have a firm conviction that Repeal would not be effected. But I shall next, perhaps, be asked—What, then, will happen?And what will happen he describes in these words—It is probable the present Ministry and those which shall follow it will apply to Ireland the system of amelioration of reform which Lord Melbourne was the first to adopt on a broad basis.And then he asks—What will be the final result of these progressive and moderate reforms? …. These are grave questions, which only the future can resolve. I hope, and I ardently desire, that the solution will be favourable to that Ireland which is so worthy of interest, and which inspires so deep an attachment. May the real progress which the efforts of honest men of all Parties, aided by time, must accomplish, compensate her for the loss of those brilliant dreams of National independence that she can never realise.These are the words of Cavour in his work. Now, Sir, I will not dwell further upon that subject. I am perfectly content to leave to the House, and to the public outside the House, to determine whether I have misrepresented Cavour in the Debate on the Second Reading of the Bill, and whether it is not the right hon. Gentleman who has placed a wholly erroneous interpretation upon Cavour's opinions this afternoon. Perhaps I may be allowed to add a few words in regard to some other 1519 aspects of the question. I do not wish to say much on the subject of the Bill itself, about which the House and the country have, I think, heard quite enough by this time. But I do want to say a few words upon some of the incidents which have marked the passing of the Bill through the House, and upon some of the methods by which the Government have endeavoured to force it through. The passage of this Bill has certainly been signalised by various incidents and episodes which are not by any means uninteresting. I cannot say that the Liberal Party has gained any strength or any popular support in the country during the time which has been occupied in passing this Bill. As a general rule, we have frequent opportunities for forming some opinion, more or less accurate, of the estimation in which the Government is held in the country through the results of the bye-elections. Bye-elections of late have been singularly few; but, notwithstanding that, I find that since this Bill was laid on the Table of the House of Commons, and since the discussions have been carried on, the Government have lost no less than three seats. But if the losses of the Liberal Party have been few, owing to the cause I have mentioned, the desertion from the ranks of their supporters have been much more numerous. They have lost during the passage of this Bill, in addition to their losses at the bye-elections, seven of their supporters, who have declared their hostility to the measure in the form in which it stands at the present time. In addition to these, there has been one resignation on the part of a Member of the Government—though, I admit, a Member of the Government not occupying a very important position.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Lord Wolverton. He was a Member of the Government, and he resigned because he disapproved of this Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer snorted something between contempt and defiance at that. But in spite of that, and of the scoffs of the Home Secretary, the defections from Her Majesty's Government would have been much more numerous were it not for one powerful and prevailing reason. Hon. Members opposite know very well that the defeat of the Government would have led to a Dissolution, which would, in all 1520 probability, have meant the exclusion of many of them from this House. We have also witnessed the use of the weapon called the gag by the Government to a degree which is absolutely without precedent, and which was never contemplated by its authors, or by the House of Commons at the time it was accepted by Parliament. It has been, in my humble opinion, destructive of free speech, and this evil precedent having been once set, it will become more and more dangerous and destructive to the freedom of Parliament in the future. One of the most deplorable and unfortunate results of the reckless use of that weapon by the present Government was the disgraceful scene which we witnessed in the House not so long ago, when certain Members of this great and famous Assembly came to blows. That episode resulted more or less directly from the use of this weapon by the Government. in my opinion, that scene has made the existing House of Commons unworthy of the continued confidence of the country, and unfitted to transact in future such serious business as that in which we are engaged, and the only mode of purging the House of such an offence would be the immediate Dissolution of the House which has been guilty of such an abominable act. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and he is probably the only person animated by such feelings—thinks that deplorable incident a proper subject of amusement.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
You can explain yourself afterwards at whatever length you please before this discussion closes. I do not wonder much at the dissensions in the ranks of the supporters of the Government when we recollect the methods by which the Bill has been conducted. I venture to say that no Bill ever submitted to the House has been the subject of so much concealment—I had almost said so much sharp practice—towards Parliament and the country as this Home Rule Bill. We have only to remember what has happened in connection with the question of the retention of the Irish Members. Everyone knows what has occurred in respect to that matter. We recollect the emphatic and unqualified declaration 1521 made by the Prime Minister very shortly after his defeat in 1886 that he would not be a party, if there was to be Home Rule in Ireland, to the Irish Members coming here to Westminster to interfere with Scotch and English business. Then there was that unfortunate episode which occurred when Mr. Parnell had an interview with the right hon. Gentleman. Mr. Parnell declared that it was agreed upon that any difference of opinion in the Liberal Party as to the retention of the Irish Members should be carefully concealed pending the General Election.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
That is what I complain of; that it did not end at the time of the General Election. This concealment has been carried on absolutely to the very last day, and until it was not possible to conceal it any longer.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
The right hon. Gentleman must forgive me for differing from him on this point. I do not make this statement without being able to give chapter and verse. Here is his statement on the 30th May, 1893, and I presume the right hon. Gentleman is referring to the 9th clause, which he said—It is our intention to propose, and to do our best to induce the House to accept.[Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] Yes; but be never did it. Did you ever propose the 9th clause to the House of Commons? Nothing of the sort; the right hon. Gentleman is entirely in error, and in complete forgetfulness of what passed with regard to his own Bill. Questions were over and over again put to him, and he was asked as to what his intentions were; but he never would tell us anything about it until the day before the question of the 9th clause was settled. Then when the Resolution for the gag had been successfully passed, with the full knowledge that the question could only be debated for one day, then he did tell the House of Commons, and this was the first occasion upon which we were really allowed to know their true intention on this question. This was the first occasion upon which the policy of concealment was departed from, and only on the night before the whole question was to be settled by the gag did the right hon. Gentleman ackowledge that the 9th clause was not to be 1522 proposed as he had declared it would be; that the House of Commons was not to be asked, and the Government were not going to do their best to induce the House of Commons to accept it, as he declared they would do, but that, on the contrary, he was going himself to propose the propositions which are now contained in the Bill, and which are absolutely different to the 9th clause as it was introduced. I do not think it requires much of a magician to know why the policy of concealment was carried on so long, because if the country had known for a single moment that the right hon. Gentleman had always had this in his mind—that although you were going to have a Parliament in Ire-laud which all the Irish Members might attend, but which the English Members might not attend, yet, at the same time, the Irish Members were to come to Westminster, interfere with, manage, dominate, and practically control all our affairs in this country, do you mean to tell me, if the English people had known that at the time, you would ever have had the slightest chance of a majority at the last Election? You know perfectly well your chance would have been hopeless, and I think I can tell you something more if you do not know it already. It is this very proposition which is now contained in the Bill, which will be absolutely certain, if nothing else does, to insure your defeat by a triumphant majority at the next Election. I would like to ask this question—How far does this Bill fulfil the pledges of its authors, and the conditions which they laid down as absolutely essential to the vital parts of any measure to which they would agree to be party? There is the question of supremacy of unity, of the division of burdens and of finance, which have been so frequently discussed already that I will not say anything further upon them on this occasion. There are two questions only to which I do wish to refer for a moment. One is as to the safeguards for minorities, the other that this shall be a final settlement of the question. As to its being anything whatever in the nature of a final settlement, as to its being anything whatever in the nature of a settlement at all, I contend that in the present shape of the Bill that if absolutely impossible, and the Government must be perfectly well aware on 1523 it themselves, and for two reasons. In the first place, you reserve some of the most important subjects in connection with this Bill altogether for future consideration. There is the question of the land, the question of finance, and the question of the Constabulary which you have reserved. And, in the second place, you are going to maintain 80 Irish Members still in the House of Commons at Westminster. Now, one of the main reasons by which you have always supported the Bill has been this—Ireland, you have said, blocks the way, and until that difficulty is got rid of it will be absolutely impossible to transact British business in a satisfactory manner in the House of Commons. Why is it to be better in the future? The great difficulty which has always stood in your way—the presence of the Irish Members—is to be maintained. As far as I can form any opinion—as far as any unprejudiced person, I think, can form an opinion—this difficulty appears likely to be in future worse than ever; and it is no answer for the right hon. Gentleman when dealing—or professing to deal—with this among many other objections raised this afternoon, to turn round to the House of Commons and meet it by a joke about Lady Mary Montague and the word "not." That is the only contribution of the right hon. Gentleman which can be supposed, by any stretch of the imagination, to dispose of the arguments used by the Opposition. I suppose it is perfectly useless to remind right hon. Gentlemen opposite of what they have said in former days upon these subjects. They are perfectly deaf, it appears to me, to all remonstrance from this side of the House when they are directed to the solemn declarations which they have made themselves. But whether they are deaf to it or no, I am going to remind the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant and the Prime Minister of two things they have said on this subject. I remember a speech delivered at Chelmsford upon the 7th January, 1885, when the Chief Secretary made this statement—I want order in Ireland, and I want power in the House of Commons at Westminster. Do what you will with your Rules of Procedure, you will not have restored the old British Parliament. You will not have made the British people master in its own House until you have devised some scheme or other which will re- 1524 move the Irish Members from the British House of Commons.Was it not one of your main claims for the support of this Bill that by what you were going to propose you would make the British people master in its own House, and you would have restored the old British Parliament? What escape have you from that position? These wore the sort of statements you made to the country, and upon the faith of which the country have accepted you and your policy with regard to Ireland, and now you throw all your old statements to the wind without the slightest feeling of compunction, much less of remorse. I think the charge against the Prime Minister is even more serious, because there is, in my judgment, no more binding or solemn statement which can be made by a man in his position than is contained in the electioneering address he put before the country at the time of a General Election. The country has a right to believe when the Prime Minister—or, indeed, any Member of Parliament—puts before his constituents and the country the various points of his policy in an electioneering manifesto, that he has every intention of abiding by them and carrying them out. What did the Prime Minister say on this very point of the freedom of Parliament in 1892? He said—I now say it is a proposition which set both Parliament and Ireland free, Ireland for the management of her own domestic affairs by a local Legislature in close sympathy with Irish life, and Parliament for the work of overtaking the vast arrears of business and supplying with reasonable despatch the varied legislative wants of England. Scotland, and Wales.How was this to be done? By getting rid of and by settling the question. It was then to be a final settlement. It was held out to the country that it was to be a final settlement of the Irish Question which it is now acknowledged is not to be final, or anything of the kind—[Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: It is not acknowledged.] You may be stupid as much as you like, but you will be obliged to acknowledge that what the right hon. Gentleman indicated in the quotation I have read could only be attained by a final settlement, and also, and above all, by the exclusion of the Irish Members from this House. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: No.] That was part of the policy you put before the country at the time. [Mr. 1525 W. E. GLADSTONE: No.] Then what was the meaning of the words? How were you going to obtain freedom for Ireland and freedom for Parliament as well? There is no meaning to the words unless it be the meaning that I have submitted to the House. There is one other subject upon which I had desired to say a few words, but I am sorry to say I have left the papers I had behind me. With regard to the safeguards for minorities, I desire to call attention to what seems to me one special cause of complaint by one class in Ireland, at all events, against the proposals of the Government. After all the various Members of the Government have said upon this subject, there is no class in the country that has been so abominally treated or so grossly deceived as the Irish landlords. The Irish landlords are in future with their fortunes—I might say almost their lives—to be placed at the mercy of an Irish Executive in that country. The right hon. Gentleman was so conscious in former days of the extreme hardship of this position and of the wrongs it would inflict upon them that he did not scruple to declare it to be an obligation of honour and duty upon his part to make provision to safeguard the rights of the Irish landlords if the policy of Home Rule was carried. Since then I am aware he has stated that the observations ho made then applied strictly only to the circumstances of 1886. I am at a loss to know in what respect the position has varied since 1886. The dangers to the landlords are not loss; the obligations of honour and duty appear to lie as great as at that time. Similar statements were made by the Colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman—by Lord Spencer and by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. What has become of all their declarations upon this point? On that, Sir, no doubt, Lord Spencer will be challenged, and will have to answer for himself in another place; but the Chancellor of the Duchy ought to have answered the challenges made to him over and over again in this House, and which he has never attempted to meet. I am afraid I have not got the quotation of what the Chancellor of the Duchy wrote upon the subject, but I recollect the tenour and effect perfectly well. He declared we should be ashamed to look any other country in the face, unless either prior to, or concurrently with, the 1526 passing of the Homo Rule Bill we had taken measures to insure the rights of the landlords. Then I know we are met in this way. We are asked from that side of the House—" What are you afraid of? Why do you mistrust the Irish Members? What is the great danger that you apprehend at their hands? "The answer is perfectly simple. We do not trust the Irish Members, first, because Ave believe what these gentlemen themselves have said on the subject; and, secondly, because we believe what you have said about them. Everybody knows the old statement of the right hon. Gentleman that a, small body of men had arisen in Ireland who preached and practised the doctrine of public plunder. We have always contended that it is from Representatives of that small body of men, who, as far as we can judge, will be Members of the new Irish Executive, that the dangers to the Irish landlords are to be apprehended. The right hon. Gentleman, when challenged on one occasion by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), denied that he had made any allusion whatever to anybody except to Mr. Parnell, and he stated that he had never identified—[Mr. W.E. GLADSTONE: Never marked any individual]—or identified anyone except Mr. Parnell. He had, he said, identified none of them with Mr. Parnell's policy at that time. I am very sorry I have not got the quotations with me, otherwise I would have been able to bring home to the mind of the right hon. Gentleman that he is in error. I recollect a great speech the right hon. Gentleman made at Leeds, in which he rated Mr. Parnell most soundly, and in which he announced to the people of England that the resources of civilisation were not exhausted. A week afterwards, at the Mansion House in London, the right hon. Gentleman said that that very day he had heard that the man who was responsible for this anarchical oppression in Ireland—I think those were the terms—had been arrested and placed in gaol. This was the first step towards carrying out the resources of civilisation and giving back freedom to the Irish people. That happened on a certain 13th October, and that was the first step taken by the right hon. Gentleman. What was the second? On October 14 he imprisoned the Member for North Kerry 1527 (Mr. Sexton) and the Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and on the 15th lie imprisoned the Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien). If they wore not identified with the policy of Mr. Parnell, for what were they imprisoned? I venture to say, with all possible respect to the right hon. Gentleman, if he will make a review for himself of all the circumstances which occurred at that time, to say that he did not identify any individuals of the Irish Party with Mr. Parnell and his policy because he did not identify them by name, is the greatest quibble that ever was uttered in the House of Commons. And it is, Sir, to these men, without the slightest safeguard whatever, that in face of all your pledges, and all your promises on this subject, you are going to abandon the Irish landlords without the slightest regard whatever. I do not wish to use strong language either on this or any other point; but I must say it does seem to me to be the most cruel, the most uncalled for, and the basest betrayal of the interests of a class that I can ever call to mind in the annals of the House of Commons, taken in connection with the statements made over and over again by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman when he sat down this evening ventured to hazard a prophecy with regard to the future of this question. He stated, if I heard him aright, that in his humble judgment the passing of this measure through the House of Commons would constitute a great factor, which must tend and inevitably lead to the certain and not distant triumph of this question. I venture to hold a totally different opinion. What I think, and what I am convinced of, is this: That when it comes to be known how you have forced this measure through the House of Commons, when the methods of mystery and concealment, and of the arbitrary use of your power in the House of Commons, are realised by the constituencies in the country, your policy will meet, at their hands, with such just and such emphatic condemnation, that both Parties in the State—whichever Party may be tempted to deal with this question in future—will think not once, not twice, nor thrice only before they endeavour to settle, in a manner like this, the great questions which have agitated so long England and Ireland.
§ MR. WASON (Ayrshire, S.)
said, they had been told that the Government majority would be smaller if hon. Members sitting on those (the Liberal) Benches were to vote according to their convictions. Ho ventured to tell the right hon. Gentleman who had made that statement that those who supported the Government, and who sat on those Benches, were going to vote according to their convictions. The hon. Member for North Ayrshire (Mr. Cochrane), in the speech he made, told the House that he spoke from the Scottish point of view. He (Mr. Wason) ventured to speak also as representing one of the largest constituencies in Scotland. The point the Member for North Ayrshire made was that the Scotch people would not tolerate that they should only send 72 Members to the Imperial Parliament, while Ireland, which would have a Parliament of its own, would send 80 Members to Westminster. Speaking as a Scotch Member, he was rejoiced to think that the Government had determined to retain the Irish Members hero for all purposes. He quite agreed that this was not a complete and final measure of Home Rule, but it was the foundation-stone, and having laid it they hoped to be able to rear up a measure of Home Rule, not only for Ireland, but also for Scotland, Wales, and England as well. So far from the people of Scotland being dissatisfied with Ireland sending 80 Members to the Imperial Parliament whilst Scotland only sent 72, he would point out that they would be in a better position than they were at the present time, because now Ireland sent 103 whilst Scotland only sent 72. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) maintained that had it not been for the other items of the Newcastle Programme the present Ministry would not have been in power. He ventured to say that had it not been for the question of Disestablishment in Scotland the Government would have had eight or 10 more supporters of their policy from that country. If a man was a strong Home Ruler and in favour of doing justice to Ireland, if he happened to be a member of the Established Church, the way in which the matter was put to him at the last Election in Scotland was this: "What does it matter to you about Home Rule for Ireland? It is the Established Church you want to 1529 support, therefore you ought to vote against the Liberal candidate." Other arguments were used, and the Scottish Liberal candidates were opposed tooth and nail by the Established Clergy in a way, he ventured to say, which the priests in Ireland had scarcely equalled. They were denounced from the pulpits, and one clergyman went so far as to say that any Liberal Churchman who voted in support of the Liberal candidate was unfit to be a partaker of the Lord's sacrament. That was stated in one of the pulpits in South Ayrshire, and he should like to know if any priest had said anything worse than that?
§ MR. WASON
Because I won the seat. If the Scottish clergy were going to interfere in the future as they had hitherto done, and use their pulpits against the Liberal candidates in the same way as they did at the last Election, he ventured to say there would be Petitions which would tend to throw light on the subject and result in certain of the elections being declared void. He was very glad to have the opportunity of saying these few words. He should vote strongly in favour of the Bill, not because he thought it was or could be a final settlement, for that was absolutely impossible, as the questions of the land, the police, and finance were reserved to the Imperial Parliament, but because, as a Scotch Home Ruler, he believed that every one of the component parts of Great Britain was better able to manage its own affairs than the Imperial Parliament. It was only by this devolution that they would ever be able to relieve the Imperial Parliament of the intolerable burden to which it was now subjected and to restore to it its ancient freedom.
§ MR. TRITTON (Lambeth, Norwood),
as one who had not spoken at all upon this question, ventured to hope that even the Prime Minister would allow that he, at any rate, was not one of those hon. Members who had taken up any of the 1,500 hours which the right hon. Gentleman said had been occupied in the Debates upon this Bill, nor could the Chief Secretary place him amongst those Members against whom he levelled the bitter charges of obstruction in which he indulged at Newcastle a few days ago. 1530 The Prime Minister had made a great many claims on the devotion of his followers, but he ventured to think that the claim he now made for the Third Reading of this Bill was, after all, the heaviest claim the right hon. Gentleman bad yet made upon them. They recognised the devotion which had led his adherents to follow the right hon. Gentleman thus far. They also, on his (the Opposition) side of the House, believed in devotion to their Leader. They believed they had a Leader who inspired devotion because he was one of the best Leaders who ever led a Party in the House, and they followed him because they knew be was leading him right; but he was afraid that some hon. Members opposite followed their Loader while they could not help thinking that he was leading them wrong. The Prime Minister had told them that this Bill had occupied so much time that it was by no means likely to add to the fame of the British House of Commons as a deliberative Assembly. He ventured to think that reading this Home Rule Bill a third time in its undigested, undiscussed, and un-debated condition was the most humiliating task the House of Commons could be asked to undertake.
§ It being half past Five of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.