§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [31st January], "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
§ Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Lambert).
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR MARK JOHN STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
We have had so few opportunities during the Recess of hearing Ministers speak on any question of public interest and public policy that we are entitled to hear from them on this occasion something more explicit than the fragmentary sentences in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech; and though I do not propose to-day to go fully into all the matters referred to in that Speech, yet there are several subjects that claim my attention as an Agricultural Member, and as connected with what I conceive to be the best interests of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister last night made very few remarks indeed on this pressing question—that is to say, the question of agriculture. We heard what the Mover of the Address said to us. He seemed to base his view of what would benefit agriculture on a different tenure being granted to farmers for the cultivation of their lands. Well, having had as much experience as that hon. Gentleman—having had experience in many parts of the country—I can only say that on the best, managed estates there are practically no impediments put upon the free cultivation of the land. If any tenant has an idea, novel or otherwise, the landlord, if he be a wise one, Will assist him in carrying it out. We all know that we cannot stand still in agricultural paths any more 131 than we can in the paths of other industries. If we think we can raise more produce by a more enlightened system of husbandry there is, I am satisfied, no landlord sitting on this (the Opposition) side of the House who would not gladly enforce that view. There are many ways in which, in my opinion, we could considerably mitigate the difficulties of husbandry at this time; and I am glad to see that more than one of my friends have Motions down with that object. At the same time, we must remember that in this matter a great deal depends upon the action taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I trust that he will see his way to reduce those local burdens which press so heavily upon agriculture, and which give foreign countries and our colonial possessions so great an advantage over home producers. Speaking as largely interested in land, and as being a very large farmer on my own account, I know that America and our colonial dependencies can send produce to London very much cheaper than we can send it from the south of Scotland, simply owing to the inequality of railway rates. Although I am not an advocate of protection—and I can tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that I have never advocated protection—I do think that home producers ought not to be unfavourably handicapped by preferences given to foreign competitors. We ought to stand on level terms with the foreigner when his produce reaches this country. It is said that it is the best foreign produce that is sent to this country. We cannot help that. We do not wish for any protection beyond that which is fair and just and needful. And this applies not only to dairy produce and meat, but also to fruit and other matters with which we are deeply interested from an agricultural point of view. There is another point on which I should like to see something done—a point of which some notice should have been taken in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech. I think that all foreign animals ought to be slaughtered at the port of debarcation. That would entail no extra cost or inconvenience to the consumer, and it would be a great protection against the importation of foreign disease. Then I should also be disposed to schedule not only pleuropneumonia and rinderpest, and every other disease at present scheduled under 132 the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act, but also swine fever and tuberculosis. I have no doubt we shall be met with opposition from different parts of the House, and mainly from gentlemen opposite, who always imagine that we are trying to raise the price of meat on the poor man. We are trying simply to do what is right and just, and we think that unless these diseases are stamped out the poor man will suffer more than the rich man. I have the greatest horror of tuberculosis. I am satisfied that many young people have their constitutions tainted with that fell disease amongst cattle, and it is rather to prevent that, and to take the proper and right view in regard to the poor man, that I venture to make this suggestion to the President of the Board of Agriculture. And here I must congratulate the President of the Board of Agriculture (Mr. Herbert Gardner) on the firmness of his attitude in carrying out the action of his predecessor in office. No doubt he has had difficulties to contend with. No doubt he may have felt disposed to take a somewhat opposite view, but he has not acted from Party motives. He has been just and equitable, and for that he deserves the support and confidence of this side of the House. I trust the suggestions I have made will meet with a favourable response from Members sitting below the Gangway on this side of the House. They have every reason to desire that all cattle diseases should be stamped out, and that foreign cattle should be slaughtered at the port of landing. If this is done we shall have to go to Ireland for our store cattle, and knowing that Ireland is essentially an agricultural country, and that every Irish Member must feel deeply interested in the agricultural industry, I do trust that those Members will give us their support in carrying out the measures which we deem so necessary. If the Government propose those measures we shall be very glad to afford them all the assistance in our power in carrying them. Another matter I wish to refer to is this: Could we not make some effort during this Parliament—whether it be a short or a long-lived one—to give better houses and homes to the working classes? Could not the Government see their way to enable landowners, who are by no means in a very healthy condition as regards 133 their finances, to raise money at a cheap rate in order to give better houses to the working classes? If they could see their way to do that they would earn great credit throughout the country. Just one word on Ireland. To my mind there is far more interest taken in social questions than in the one great question that I suppose is to monopolise the whole of the time of this House during the present Session—a question which two-thirds of the constituencies do not care a rush about. It is monstrous that where there is so much depression in trade, particularly in agriculture, we should be concentrating our attention upon effecting a revolution in our Constitution, and in satisfying the small hand of so-called patriots in Ireland who do not, as we believe in this part of the House, represent Ireland in its entirety. Then there is a question which, I believe, Gentlemen on the other side of the House lay great store by. They talk of "One Man One Vote," without in any way looking at the consequences of such a piece of legislation, or considering the justice and fairness of the proposal. Why should not a person, provided he has intelligence, be permitted to vote in two counties, supposing he has property in them? "One Man One Vote" seems to me a monstrous proposition, unless it is accompanied with the provision of "one vote one value." I hope it will not meet with ready acquiescence—at any rate on this side of the House. In regard to Uganda and Egypt, the Government deserve the hearty congratulations of the House for the course they have followed. Coining to Scotland, the most important paragraph in the Queen's Speech is that in which it is stated that attention will likewise be invited to measures "for the prevention of the growth of new vested interests in the Ecclesiastical Establishments in Scotland and in Wales." I want to know the reason of that sentence. We have had none assigned as yet, except the precedent quoted last night. The Prime Minister stated last night that a Suspensory Bill was passed in the case of the Irish Church because the House was on the eve of a dissolution. Are we to understand, before the Address has been voted, that the Government are going to the country in a very short period of time? That is the 134 interpretation which any one would place on what the right hon. Gentleman stated to the House last night. He denied altogether that the Suspensory Bill was the sequence of the passing of a certain Resolution, which stated that the Irish Church would he disestablished and disendowed. That was the meaning my right hon. Friend on this side of the House attached to the Suspensory Bill, but it was repudiated by the Prime Minister. The Welsh Members, I understand, are fairly unanimous as to the expediency of disestablishment in Wales, but it must be remembered that there are a large number of persons in the Principality who are not quite so anxious for the change as the Welsh Members. There are a large number of clergymen who are doing good, and who wish to continue doing it, who are not desirous of the change, also a large number of students who are preparing for the ministry. Those people, and many besides them, think that disestablishment, instead of increasing the activity of the Church, will have the reverse effect. But I can speak with more authority and knowledge on the subject of the Church of Scotland. To disestablish that Church I am convinced would be to damage the zeal of many who aspire to the ministry, and wish to devote their lives to the service of the Scotch Church. What reason does the Prime Minister or any of his colleagues assign for this part of the Address? There has been no reason whatever assigned. We had in the last Session of Parliament a very remarkable illustration of the versatility of the Prime Minister's mind. We saw how completely he changed his front, because he thought that change of from was suited to the circumstances of the day. It was not long before the General Election. He had had many opportunities of satisfying himself of the attitude of the Scottish people on this question, and he had promised over and over again that full opportunity should be given to Scotland, as it had been given to Ireland, to express its feeling on the matter. The right hon. Gentleman went down to Midlothian apparently satisfied that he had hit the right nail on the head; and what was the result of his extraordinary change of from during the last Parliament? Why, in 1885, when 135 the right hon. Gentleman was elected for Midlothian, after a long and severe contest, he had the magnificent majority of 3,931. At the election of 1892 he had the insignificant majority of 660. To what was that attributable? Why, it was entirely to be attributed to his conduct in connection with the Established Church of Scotland. If anything was calculated to injure his reputation as a far-seeing statesman it was his attitude on the Church of Scotland, and now he invites Its to commence this scheme of confiscation. The right hon. Gentleman has said over and over again that all he wishes to live for is to give justice to Ireland. Does he wish to give injustice to Scotland? The Scotch people do not want this measure. The people of Scotland are satisfied in the matter. We may have a majority against us in this House, but I am satisfied that if a fair plébiscite of the whole of Scotland were taken—if a double ballot could be taken at a. General Election, one for the election proper and the other for the Church, as the Church Party desire—a large number of people who voted Liberal would also vote for the Established Church. Is there any reason why, in the year 1893, we should for the first time have a direct proposition from the Government in power for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of Scotland—for that is what this amounts to? It is the first nail, as you might say, in the coffin. If yon drive home that nail, you must follow up and drive many more nails in before you effect your purpose. Does the Church of Scotland command the sympathy, the respect, and veneration of the people of Scotland? Why, there never was a time when more life, more vigour, more work was done by that Church. I do not say by any means that the Church of Scotland is perfect. Far from it. It is after all only a human institution. You may find ninny flaws in the constitution of that Church, but I will say that there is a more determined effort now made by the Church to do good than there ever was before is proved by the universal liberality shown by it during the past few years. It is proved by the fact that you have over 350 new parishes organised and endowed since the great disruption in 1843. It is proved by the fact that it is possible not only to continue the old parish 136 system in outlandish places in the Highlands and Islands and elsewhere, where no other provision is made for supplying the religious needs of the population, but to place new churches in large centres of the population where no church could have existed but for some endowment, and but for the existence of a great organising body like the Church of Scotland. The members of the Scotch Church desire to join hand in hand with its sister churches, and even to share its endowments with them. There are agitators in Scotland, however, as there are in Ireland, and when the Prime Minister and his colleagues are under their heel, they, of course, find it necessary to introduce drastic measures to keep themselves in power. Those who are advocating these changes in Scotland are, however, by no means the largest following of Gentlemen opposite. How will disestablishment quicken the activity of the Church of Scotland? Is it to be supposed that the many young men who are pressing forward in the Universities with the object of entering the Church of Scotland will display the same eagerness and ardour if they find that the endowments of the Church, small as they are, are in extremis? The State may later on seize something else. There are endowments in the Free Church as in the Established Church. I know it is not at present proposed to torch them, but political affairs move very quickly, and if Gentlemen opposite are successful in one act of spoliation, they may perhaps be successful in others. Hon. Members have heard a good deal about buying support, but I consider the present, proposal of the Government a greater act of corruption than the hatbands at the Walsall election. When the result of the last Midlothian election was announced, a whisper went round the country that disestablishment was to be dropped, and immediately the Liberals who had been supporting. Unionist candidates went back to their old cause, in the belief that the Church of Scotland was safe. The people of Scotland feel on this question of disestablishment a great deal more strongly than they feel on the question of Uganda or the question of Egypt, and they are determined, come weal or come woe, to bitterly oppose and resent any proposal tending in that direction.
§ *MR. J. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
congratulated his right hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire (Mr. Marjoribanks) upon the state of discipline into which he had brought the Liberal forces, and said he was pleased to see that even six months of absence had not led to any desire on the part of the Government supporters to express any opinion in the house. He thought, however, they would presently come to feel that readiness to meet their political opponents face to face had more weight in the country than mere willingness to harangue in places where they could not be answered. It had been intimated that Suspensory Bills for the Church of Scotland and the Church in Wales were to be introduced. The Prime Minister had said that the Irish Suspensory Bill was passed because the House was on the eve of dissolution, and not because it was au adequate sequel to the Disestablishment. Resolutions, and, further, that there was no connection between the two. He (Mr. Smith) was totally at a loss to understand that statement, inasmuch as the Irish Suspensory Bill embodied the substance of the Resolution previously passed, which declared that it was expedient to prevent the creation of new personal interests by the exercise of patronage. It was quite true that the Suspensory Bill was not an adequate sequel to the Disestablishment Resolutions, the only adequate sequel being the Bill for the complete disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, which was brought in immediately after the appeal to the country. The probability of being able to carry a measure of that kind was the only thing that could justify the Government in bringing forward a Suspensory Bill. Was it the intention of the Government that the Suspensory Bill they had just announced should follow on the lines of the Irish Bill by being made of only one year's operation? If that was their intention, and they were prepared to follow the measure up by immediate action, they were justified on their own principles in what they were doing. If they merely wished to pass a Suspensory Bill which would be nothing more than a Resolution their action was wholly unjustifiable. It must be remembered that in the case of Ireland almost the whole 138 of the patronage was in the hands of the Crown and the Bishops. It was perfectly arguable in that case that during the period that must ensue before the Disestablishment Act was passed there might be abuse of patronage by the ministers then in power and by the Bishops. In Scotland there was no patronage at all, the appointment of ministers being wholly in the hands of the people. Was there the smallest shadow of pretence that there would be any abuse of power of that character? He could hardly believe that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was serious in saying that a measure of the kind proposed would not injure the Church. At the present moment the Church to he himself belonged was vacant, the minister having gone to another parish, and he (Mr. Smith) was a member of the committee that was looking for a new minister. Every man who had the slightest chance of being chosen was in charge of a church in another part of the Country. If a Suspensory Act were passed, could anyone expect these men to leave their present positions, in total ignorance of the conditions under which they would have to work in the future? The particular church he was referring to was an important one, in an important parish, and yet, the people would have to be content with the ministry of some raw young man, as they would be totally unable to obtain such a man as they wanted. This was just, one instance of the mischief which the passing of such a Bill would do. He could understand and sympathise with the position of men who held that it was wrong that there should be any connection between Church and State, and that in severing such connection they were doing nothing but good to the Church of Scotland. He could also understand, but did not sympathise with, men who were blinded by jealousy and dislike of another ecclesiastical body. He could not believe that any man who was seeking to do not evil to the Church of Scotland but good to religion would accept such a scheme as was contemplated by the Government. Only those whose concern was the benefit not of religion but of their own sect would accept it. Their outcry was like the cry of the false mother before King 139 Solomon, because genuine voluntaries would be prepared rather to give up the child altogether than to destroy it. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was a pure Scotchman when it was a question of depreciating or chastening the English race, but on all ecclesiastical matters he was a pure Englishman and an Anglican of the Anglicans. The right hon. Gentleman, who boasted himself of Scotch birth, had now been a Scottish Member of Parliament for nearly 15 years, but whenever these questions were under discussion he looked on from the outside, never pretending to have any knowledge of them, or to take any personal interest in them. For many years, instead of expressing any opinion of his own, which as a Scotch representative he might have been expected to form, it had been his pride to look at Scotch questions from the outside, and to express his views by quoting and misquoting the declaration of an English statesman avowedly speaking on general grounds, and in ignorance of the merits of the question. With regard to Wales, no doubt the right hon. Gentleman did feel strongly, and had spoken in a way that was probably not altogether acceptable to his supporters below the Gangway. How could the right hon. Gentleman bring himself to leave the Church in Wales in such a position as he knew it would be left in by the passing of a Suspensory Act? There was one patent fact to which with perfect candour the right hon. Gentleman had alluded on the previous evening—the fact that the representatives of Wales, by a majority of 28 to 2, were in favour of disestablishment. The right hon. Gentleman, whenever he happened to be defeated, could, with most marvellous subtlety, enter into all sorts of meteorological calculations, which would reason away any state of facts, but when he was successful he declined absolutely to look behind the most immediate facts, or to take into consideration anything that could give a truer picture of the state of public opinion. He pinned his faith to the numbers on the benches behind him, and resolutely refused to see anything further. There was a certain Midlothian plébiscite which very decidedly changed in 1885 the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman was popularly believed to have gone down 140 to Scotland ready to adopt. There was also a very significant Midlothian plébiscite which took place last July. What the Church of Scotland asked was that the opinion of the people of Scotland should be taken fairly on the question. Ten years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian held the view that the case of Scotland was far stronger than that of Ireland, and that if the latter country was entitled to a General Election upon the question of the disestablishment of its Church, Scotland had a far stronger claim to one. At the last General Election the Disestablishment question was kept in the background, and did not greatly influence votes in most of Scotland, and for this reason, therefore, they demanded that before the subject came imp for serious consideration, there should be taken, either by a plébiscite, by a referendum, or by a direct vote, the opinion of the Scotch people upon it. By the result of such a verdict they were perfectly prepared to abide. Their feeling could not be stated more clearly than it was by Mr. Gladstone in 1879. He (Mr. Parker Smith) did not intend or desire to quote the right hon. Gentleman's words in order to make a point against him, for it appeared to him there was nothing which so completely proved the greatness of the man as the fact that there were no fetters which could bind him. He was stronger than Sampson; he could not be bound even by his own words. But at that time the right hon. Gentleman evidently well understood their position, for he said that all they were afraid of was that some attempt would be made to smuggle the Established Church of Scotland out of existence, and the question he put into their mouths was whether members and ministers of that Church might make themselves assured, so far as there could be certainty in human affairs, that consideration would be given to these fears on the part of the people before Parliament proceeded to deal with the question. The right hon. Gentleman on that occasion stated that that was an absolutely reasonable demand. Had he now changed his opinion? It seemed to him that the present proposal to introduce a Suspensory Bill was a piece of Parliamentary strategy, used in the hope of gaining votes; it was a mere trick, and the 141 attempt to deal with the matter in that way would be strongly resented in Scotland. It would fail to secure the support of hundreds and thousands of those who were most profoundly in favour of Disestablishment, and it certainly would not pass through the House without full discussion and without the Government being pressed to disclose its scheme of Disestablishment, and to pledge itself to follow up the Bill by immediate action. If they failed to get this information and these assurances they would know that behind the Bill was the desire to cripple the Church, to scotch it, and to leave it maimed and paralysed until such time as they were ready to come forward and kill it. He did not suspect the From Bench of any special hatred of the Church of Scotland; he had no doubt that in their own minds right hon. Gentlemen looked upon it as a mere counter in the high game of politics. They had had no time to look into the merits of the question at all; with them it was a vote-catching fulmination. But the people of Scotland would not sympathise with it; whatever view they might take upon the question they still had faith in the Church of Scotland; they believed in it as an agency which had worked mightily for good in the past; and, whether established or disestablished, they believed that would be a grand agency on the side of religion and goodness in the future.
§ *THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Sir GEORGE TREVELYAN,) Glasgow, Bridgeton
It is from no desire to prolong a general Debate upon the subject of the Scotch Church that I rise at this moment, but I do so out of respect for the measured and thoughtful speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down, and the earnest speech which was made from the Benches opposite. I shall certainly not enter into this subject at length; but I desire to answer one or two criticisms which have been made on Our Suspensory Bill—which has not yet been seen by the hon. Member—and the Suspensory Bills in general. One or two questions put by the hon. Member who last spoke merit an answer. In one respect the hon. Member occupies rather a weak position, seeing that he, speaking from Benches which recognise the leadership of a certain eminent man, has made a speech directed against the prin- 142 ciple of religious equality and against the principle of Disestablishment, with special reference to the disestablishment of the Scotch Church, when his own leader on a critical occasion voted with those who called for the disestablishment and disendowment of that Church on broad public grounds. My hon. Friend has not left us in any doubt as to his own feelings in the matter: he is against the disestabment of the Scotch Church, and he does not follow his leader in that, matter. Now, into the question of religious equality in general, and as to whether or not the Church should be disestablished—
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
I did not enter into the merits of the Church Disestablishment question, though I did not conceal my opinion on the matter; all I contended was that that question should be fairly and fully submitted to the people most concerned.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
My hon. Friend, in the course of his speech, commented on the nature of time agitation in Scotland and upon the conduct of the Government in taking up the question in a way that would prevent any measure for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of Scotland from being carried if his views were generally entertained by Scotch Members, and would indeed prevent any Minister from moving in the matter. The hon. Member put two questions, both of which it is important should be answered. The first reassured me very much as to the manner in which hon. Members will meet the Bill when it is brought before the House. He asked whether this Bill in favour of cancelling vested interests might be regarded in the light of a general resolution in favour of Disestablishment; and if it would leave the Scotch Church long in suspense, was it intended merely to catch votes, or was it a definite, practical measure intended to remain in force for a limited time, which he himself defined to be a year, and to be followed at the expiration of that period by immediate action on the part of the Government? Was it a genuine earnest of the intention of the Ministry to deal practically and promptly with the question? I say that we desire to be judged by the test which he himself has laid down, and I ask him to wait for a short time until we can lay the Bill before the House. I am 143 willing to rest our justification on that ground. Then my hon. Friend, in a particularly interesting part of his speech, spoke of the damage which this Bill might inflict on the Church of Scotland even after it was disestablished. He apprehends that there are certain large populous, and, therefore, probably very well-paid livings which may become vacant; that ministers who could fill them with propriety and satisfaction to the congregation would be debarred from accepting an invitation to them through the fear that their vested interests would not be considered, and that, therefore, they would fall to the lot of those whom he speaks of as young and crude ministers, who were not at all adequate to the duties to be performed. That is a point which has been very carefully considered by the Government. I quite agree with my hon. Friend that to make this Bill a method of damaging the Church in that particular—for a very serious damage it would be—would not be a justifiable proceeding. I fully admit the force of the argument of my hon. Friend when he says that the Church of Scotland stands upon a very different footing from that of the Irish Church, inasmuch as the patronage of the former is in the hands of the congregations, by whom, as Scotch Members know, it is most worthily exercised—whereas that of the latter is, to a large extent, in the hands of the Government. But when a good minister is appointed by the congregation of the Established Church he has advantages over equally good ministers who are appointed by the other Churches of Scotland, advantages which we believe the great majority of the Scotch people hold ought not to continue to exist. [Au hon. MEMBER: "No!"] At any rate, it is my opinion that the majority hold that view. The hon. Baronet who spoke first to-day asked, "What is the use of introducing this Bill as a Suspensory Bill?" I will tell him a good thing cannot be done too soon, and a good thing cannot be begun too soon; and this is, at any rate, a beginning. I cannot understand why the hon. Baronet lectures us on our small majorities. He talks of himself as standing on a rock raised by the confidence and gratitude of the Scotch people. But the rock from which he looks down is nothing compared with that on 144 which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian stands; and, as compared with my own, so far from being a rock, it is a miserable molehill. Anyone who consults Dod will see that the hon. Member for the Partick Division should be the very last to speak of small majorities. The hon. Gentleman below the Gangway asks my hon. Friends about me why they do not repeat in Parliament the speeches and promises made on the platform. The reason is that the promise which they most frequently made on the platform was to do everything in their power to further business, and to give the country that legislation for which it has been so long waiting. They want to see the Bills and to help to pass them, and they know that every half-hour spent in discussing the general principles of measures which are not before the House, and in the bandying to and fro of old Party taunts, of which we had enough at the General Election, is so much time wasted and taken from the practical legislation which they promised on the platform. The hon. Gentleman below the Gangway made one reference to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister which I cannot allow to pass. The hon. Gentleman says that the Prime Minister makes use only for political purposes of Scotch ecclesiastical questions, that his heart is with English ecclesiastical questions, and that he does not understand Scotch feeling on these matters. I appeal to every Member who belongs to one of the two great non-protected religious bodies in Scotland, and to a great many who belong to the Established Church, to say whether the most satisfactory, the most ample, the most exhaustive, and the most pregnant speech ever made on Scotch ecclesiastical matters within these walls, in our lifetime at any rate, was not that made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian upon the Patronage Bill? In that speech he showed that he thoroughly understood the feeling of the great voluntary Churches in Scotland, and expressed that feeling as it has never been expressed before. The feeling of those Churches is that, whereas their fathers, and in some cases themselves, many years ago, on a great occasion, vindicated freedom for them- 145 selves, now they have come to the conclusion, by slow but sure degrees, that it is their duty to extend that freedom to all Scotland together. They believe that true freedom can never be obtained by a Church trammeled by State support, and that true religious equality cannot exist where State privilege has been given and is preserved. Privilege—always oppressive and always indefensible—they believe to be most oppressive and most indefensible in religious affairs; and they firmly believe that it will be not only an act of justice towards themselves, but an act of liberation, of strengthening, and of true advantage in the highest sense to the Church of Scotland itself when that measure is passed, of which this measure which will he soon on the Table of the House, is a forerunner, under circumstances which, in the words of the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway (Mr. Parker Smith), will be "absolutely justifiable."
§ SIR CHARLES PEARSON (Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities)
I shall not interpose for many moments to give further colour to the charge which has been made, that this discussion tends to a waste of the timed the House. The topic which the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with is one of such surpassing interest, not only to Scotland, but to England and Wales, that it would be wrong to suppose that anyone who associates himself with the protest which has been made is in any sense whatever wasting the time of the House. In the Speech from the Throne a declaration is made by the Government that they intend to legislate for the prevention of the growth of new vested interests in ecclesiastical establishments in certain parts of the country. The right hon. Gentleman repudiated one view which gives a possible meaning to these words. I wish he had been able to give the House a little more information than he did as to how vested interests in the immediate future can be prevented from increasing consistently with any Suspensory Bill which would not have the effect of paralysing the action of the Church and of laying a practical interdict upon it. Any proposal which may be wrapped up in the words of the Speech must necessarily be an unjustifiable proposal, and must result in the paralysis of the Church. I 146 carry the matter further than the hon. Member for the Partick Division, who quoted a case in his own experience in which ministers having vested interests would be unable to accept a call to a Church. If the right hon. Gentleman accepts the precedent of the Irish Church Suspensory Bill, then the present Bill either will have no application to the present state of ecclesiastical arrangements in Scotland, or else it will operate not only to deter existing incumbents from competing for a vacancy, but will prohibit the filling up of the vacancies themselves. A reference to the Irish Church Bill will show that, so far as it was intended to have operation, that would have been its effect. I should like to know whether the Government admit the Irish Church Bill as a precedent or not? I think I have said enough to show that if it is this Bill will have a most unfair and partial operation against the best interests of religion in those parts of the country to which it is intended to apply. A distinction ran through the remarks of the Prime Minister on this topic which the House should take note of. The right hon. Gentleman stated that there was no connection between the previous passing of the Resolutions for Irish Disestablishment and the introduction of the Suspensory Bill. That the introduction of the Suspensory Bill wits not an adequate nor satisfactory sequel to the passing of the Resolutions for Disestablishment, I admit; because undoubtedly the only adequate sequel was the introduction of the Disestablishment Bill itself. The right hon. Gentleman, however, denied that the one was the natural sequel of the other. There I am totally unable to follow him. I say that to take up this question of the suspension of further vested interests, before Parliament has affirmed the proposition that the Church should be disestablished, and that it is inexpedient to allow further vested interests to be created, is, in the strictest sense of the wool, a preposterous proposal. I go even further. The right hon. Gentleman said we ought not to be prohibited from having regard to other circumstances. I agree with him. There are many circumstances which ought to be taken into account as applicable to the present case. But, as to whether the proceedings of 1868 form a precedent or not, one of the most cogent circumstances to be taken 147 into account is that, whereas in 1868 the House had by a considerable majority passed Resolutions affirming the necessity for Disestablishment, in the present case there is not only the absence of that fact, but the presence of the contrary. The Resolution has been over and over again laid before the House of Commons, and it has been always negatived. That seems to me to be a circumstance to which the Government is bound to look in considering whether they are entitled to lay before the House a suspensory measure, and I therefore associate myself in the strongest way with the protest against the unfairness—the double and the treble unfairness—of this proposed piece of legislation. I say treble unfairness, because, in the first place, I have no doubt whatever that upon fuller discussion of this question the opinion of Scotland in the main will be that it will have the most disastrous effect upon the interim administration of Church affairs. In the second place, we are face to face, for the first time in the consideration of this question, with an attempt to shirt the issue from the only fair ground on which it could be tried, for the House is asked to discuss a measure which, though it does not directly raise the question of disestablishment, will not prevent the discussion of that question, and can only be passed on the assumption that disestablishment is certain to come. In the third place, I should like to hear a little more as to the aspect of the case that I am going to refer to, and that is the comparison of the relative situations upon this question of England and Wales and Scotland. If there was anything in the reply of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Trevelyan) it was this: that the circumstance which he looked at as justifying the introduction of this measure is the fact that certain majorities of the Scotch Members had pronounced, in what he considered a constitutional way, in favour of the disestablishment of the Church. I should like to know how that consideration is to be applied to the question in England and Wales? We deprecate altogether the right of the Government to brush aside the interest of the Church of England in this matter, and say that it is to be treated merely as a matter of local interest and concern. If that be so, I should like to know how the Govern- 148 ment would like to be treated by the same principle which they are willing to apply to Scotland in the great question—the much larger question than the Scotch one—that is, the disruption of the Church of England into two parts, when it is notorious that if the votes of the English Members were taken in the constitutional way in which it is supposed the votes of the Scotch Members have been taken, the proposal of the Government would fail. I therefore join in the objection against this proposed measure, and regret that at this stage we cannot go further.
§ *MR. RICHARD M. DANE (Fermanagh, N.)
said he desired to say a few words on the condition of Ireland He had always regarded it as a most unfortunate fact that Ireland should have been made from time to time the battlefield of Political Parties, because the result of such had been that the work of every Minister, and the efforts of every Government who meant well towards Ireland, had been frustrated by reason of the fact that each successive Minister, or each successive Government, had endeavoured as rapidly as it could to undo the work which its predecessor had done. He thought, also, that the history of Ireland had not been as thoroughly appreciated by the people of England and Scotland as it ought to have been. That history told us that since the country had been conquered in the reign of Henry II., and filially subdued in the reign of Elizabeth, it had been the battle-field of English Political Parties, and that before that latter period it had been the battle-field of its own native Princes and Chiefs. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian had told us in his interesting speech that he had always been moved by a strong belief in the policy of conciliation towards Ireland. He (Mr. Dane) admitted the fact, but he believed the House would come to the conclusion that the right hon. Gentleman had not always been successful in justifying that belief. It was that same policy of conciliation which drove Earl Cowper and poor Mr. Forster from the Government of Ireland in 1882. It was the same policy of conciliation which was rewarded the day their successors came to Ireland—that memorable day in May, 1882—when Lord Frederick Cavendish and the unhappy Mr. Burke met their fate on the soil of the Phœnix Park. The so-called policy 149 of conciliation of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian was considered by those in Ireland who respected the laws of their country as a mere pandering to the disloyal classes of the country. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted some figures in reference to the decrease of agrarian crime in Ireland. He told us that whilst in 1891 the number of agrarian cases of crime was 472, that in the succeeding year it decreased to 405. To anyone who knew the history of the country that was certainly a striking decrease. To what was it due? He claimed to know the condition of Ireland well; he lived in the country; he loved the country, and he had all intimate knowledge of the people of the country; and he said without any hesitation that the decrease in crime was due to the firm and able administration of the right hon. Gentleman who now leads the Opposition. And he said, further, that at no tune in the history of Ireland—since Scotland sent Drummond as Secretary to Ireland in 1835, until the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition went there its Chief Secretary—was such; In intimate knowledge shown by any statesman of the condition of the people, or a greater desire to benefit them, regardless of politics or Party. The Prime Minister analysed crime in 1892, and placed it in two divisions, and said that whereas in the first six months during the Administration of the late Government the cases were 231, since the present Government had been in Office they had fallen to 174. It might be perfectly true that the number of cases of crime had decreased, though he had reason to know—indeed, the matter had been stated in the public Press—that a number or serious crimes had been committed throughout the country which had not been recognised in the published Returns; but, assuming that crime had decreased in the six months of last year, to what was it due? In his opinion it was due, in the first instance, to the continued effects of the firm administration of justice in the country by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and it was due, in the second place, to the compact which was entered into by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and the Nationalist Party prior to the 11th of August last. The terms 150 of that compact were, that, in consideration for his policy of conciliation, his Government was not to be embarrassed, and there was now no public meeting held in Ireland by the Nationalist Party in which from layman and cleric the word was not sent out—"do nothing to embarrass the Government." Therefore, if crime had decreased in Ireland during the past six months, was there any reason to suppose that if the right hon. Gentleman failed to carry his measure of conciliation there would be no recrudescence of that crime? He was as convinced as that he stood on the floor of the House that within 48 hours after the defeat of the Home Rule Bill we would see Ireland in as worse a condition as it has been in during the last half century. In pursuance of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, the first act his Government did was to send over to Ireland an estimable nobleman as Lord Lieutenant, who in the opinion of every respectable man in the country, worthily tilled that high position. But he was not looked upon as an independent nobleman who had to govern the country, but merely as a puppet in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian and the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and nothing could have been done to horrify more the feelings of the law-abiding classes than Lord Houghton's action in rejecting the loyal addresses that were about to be presented to him. As a lawyer he (Mr. Dane) had always understood it was one of the rights of the people to approach the Sovereign, and he also understood that, as a matter of practice, the Sovereign was approached in Ireland through the Lord Lieutenant. The loyal people of Ireland—the million and quarter of Protestants Ireland—feel that since the Revolution of 1688 they have never been placed in so critical a position as they are in now, and, therefore, in all fairness they should have been heard by the Lord Lieutenant. If His Excellency did not approve of what was said in the addresses, he might have said so; but to deny to the people of Ireland their constitutional right, and that by the act of a Political Party, was going a little too far; and he declared, without fear of contradiction, that not only every Protestant, 151 but thousands of Roman Catholics—men of interest, position and stake in the country—had their feelings outraged by that act of the Government. What was the next proceeding? It was, practically, the repeal of the provisions of the Crimes Act. The two provisions which, in the experience of those who bad governed the country ably and well for six years, were necessary for the preservation of law in some parts of the country—he referred to the provisions relating to secret inquiries and to change of venue—were set aside. But the Government which took this step, within a very short period after their accession to office, were compelled recently to put in force the provisions for a secret inquiry under the Explosives Act of 1883 in reference to the most diabolical dynamite explosion in Dublin. In further pursuance of that policy of conciliation, the men who were concerned in the brutal murder of one of the most faithful officers that ever served his country—District Inspector Martin—were released, and within forty-eight hours after the release an attempt was made to blow up the room in Dublin Castle in which the Chief Secretary carries on his business as a Minister. It had been stated, and not contradicted, that a portion of the body of the detective Synnot, who was killed, was actually blown into the library of the Chief Secretary. Within twelve hours of the occurrence of that diabolical outrage he (Mr. Dane) stood on the spot dyed with the blood of the unfortunate man, and he saw portions of his flesh on the pavement beneath the windows of the Chief Secretary's office in the Castle. That was the mode in which this policy of conciliation was received by the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman in Ireland. Another most valuable portion of the Crimes Act was the power to change the venue. He thought the people who talked about coercion in Ireland were entirely ignorant of the condition of that country when the country was conquered by the English people, and up till 300 years ago, it was in a state of utter barbarism. He often heard of "Ireland a nation." It had been a curious nation. It consisted of a number of Princes and Chiefs—from one of whom was descended the present Attorney General for Ireland—whose subjects were always at one another's throats. After the country was 152 finally conquered in the reign of Queen Elizabeth it was partially colonised, and this was followed up in the reign of James I., when large numbers of Englishmen and Scotchmen—from whom he (Mr. Dane) was proud to claim descent—went over to that portion of the country called Ulster; they civilised it, and made it the fairest portion of Ireland, so that it was now called the garden of Ireland, though at the time they took possession of it it was the poorest, the most barren, and the most barbarous portion of Ireland. Shortly after the attempt to colonise Ulster in the early portion of the reign of James, the English Government sent over as Attorney General Sir John Davies, an able and most distinguished Englishman, who had left behind him some very remarkable historical tracts, published in the year 1787, which he (Mr. Dane) would recommend confidently to the reading of the English and Scotch Members of the House. Sir John Davies found that in the portions of Ireland inhabited by the Celtic population, it was absolutely impossible to get a just verdict from a jury. Writing in 1607 to the Earl of Salisbury of that day, and giving a description of the Ulster Assizes, he said—Touching the service performed in this country by the Justices of Assize, albeit they found few prisoners in the gaols, the most part being bailed by Sir Edward Blaney, to the end the fort where the gaol is kept might not be pestered with theta, yet when such as were bailed came in upon their recognisances, the number was greater than we expected. One Grand Jury was so well chosen as they found with great expedition all the bills of indictment true; but on the other side the juries that were empannelled for trial of the prisoners, did acquit them as fast and found them not guilty; which, whether it was done for favour, or for fear, it is hard to judge; for the whole county consisting of three or four names only, viz., McMahonne, Mcliena. McCabe, O'Connoly, the chief (i.e. the foreman) was even one of these names, and of these names this jury did consist; so that it was impossible to try him but by his kinsman, and therefore it was probable that the malefactors were acquitted from favour; but on the other part, we were induced to think that fear might be the cause; forasmuch as the poor people seemed very unwilling to be sworn of the juries, alleging that if they condemned any man Ids friends in revenge would rot, or burn, or kill them for it; and that the like mischief had happened to divers jurors since the last Session holden there, such is the barbarous malice and impiety of this people.Since that year,1607, down to this present year of 1893 the same state of things 153 exactly existed in the portions of Ireland inhabited by the descendants of the original Celtic population, and therefore since Ireland has been governed by England it has been found absolutely necessary, in order to protect life and property, to pass year after year Acts for the preservation of law and order, which Acts were now popularly called "Coercion Acts." It was most essential that the power should exist, in the government of Ireland, of exercising this right of change of venue, because it was absolutely impossible—as the Chief Secretary would find in cases of agrarian crime—to put men on their trial in the local venues where that crime took place, because, as Sir John Davies said in 1607, the juries would never convict the prisoners, but would acquit them either through fear or favour. He, therefore, thought that the Government should never have abandoned—even in futherance of this policy of conciliation—so powerful a weapon as the change of venue for the repression of crime in Ireland. There was another matter which had caused considerable alarm in Ireland—that was the mode in which Resident Magistrates who had discharged their duties during trying and difficult times had been treated by the Government. Why should certain Resident Magistrates have their services absolutely dispensed with, and why should others be removed to other parts of the country? And he would also like to know why the only vacancy which had been caused had been filled up by a gentleman named Mr. McDermott, who was not entitled to it by reason of his position in the force to which he belonged, but who, it, was said, was a relative of the present Attorney General of Ireland. This appointment had caused widespread dissatisfaction amongst the District Inspectors of the Constabulary, who looked upon it as a gross job. He wished now to call attention to one of the most extraordinary things which they had had in Ireland for a long time—he referred to what was known as the Evicted Tenants' Commission. In dealing with this question, he wished to say that he could not be set down as a bigoted Orangeman, like his friend the Member for North Armagh, or his friend the Member for South Belfast, because he did not happen to belong to that institution; he 154 could not be set down as a landlord, because, thank God, he owned no land in Ireland, and he could not be set down as a landlord's partisan, because he represented an agricultural constituency in Ireland which consisted entirely of tenant farmers, and a constituency which was deeply and vitally interested in the amendment and in the extension of the land laws in Ireland, but one which, he was proud to think, recognised that a matter far more vital to its interests than even the land question was the attempt of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian to impose the yoke of Home Rule upon them. With reference to that Commission, he might say that great things were expected from it in every part of Ireland, as showing up the iniquitous results of the Plan of Campaign, and it was a remarkable fact that the only attempts, which he was glad to say were unsuccessful, made by the right hon. Member for Midlothian to get his own followers, Gladstonians, returned by any constituency in Ireland were made in the North of Ireland. In five constituencies in the North of Ireland, five pure and unadulterated Gladstonian candidates came forward, and they kept the Home Rule Question completely in the background, and put in the forefront of their appeal to the constituencies this land question, which they knew people of the North of Ireland, Protestants as well as Catholics, were so deeply interested in. They thought that by appealing to the self-interests of these men they would be able to carry some, if not all, the five seats on the land question. Accordingly, North Londonderry, South Londonderry, North Antrim, North Tyrone and South Tyrone were all, some days before the General Election, inundated with those five pure Gladstonian candidates, all men absolutely sound on the land question—men who would not only give the tenants what they wanted in the way of sale, but who promised them the most liberal measures from a Liberal Government. He was glad to say that not one of those five impostors succeeded in their attempt, and that at the present moment there was not a single Gladstonian representative returned from Ireland. They were here assembled in a House consisting of English, Scotch, Welsh and Irish Member, and the right hon. Gentleman 155 the Member for Midlothian was entirely dependent upon the 79 gentlemen who had been returned from Ireland, not as Gladstonians at all—men who would not touch Gladstonism—but men returned from Ireland as pure Nationalists. He was very glad to say that every one of those constituencies swept those impositions from them by majorities of 3,000 downwards. Having regard to the previous promises which were made by these candidates during the Election, the tenants throughout Ireland expected great things from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian in regard to the land question, and when they heard that a Commission was to be appointed wit It reference to the tenants who had been evicted in Ireland, they hoped it would be of such a wide scope that it would have enabled the trite history of the evictions to come out, and that it would throw such light upon the land question as would enable amendments of the Land Acts in Ireland generally to be shortly obtained. What was the result? If there was one circumstance connected with the constitution of the Commission to which they would have looked with favour, it would have been the appointment of an English Judge as its chief. They in Ireland had always held in great respect and repute the Judges of the land, and more particularly the Judges of England, because they necessarily were not so much connected with agrarian matters as possibly the Judges in Ireland were, who at Assizes twice a year, and sometimes three times, had to sentence a number of persons for agrarian offences. The result was that on the very first day this Commission sat this English Judge, from whom they expected so much, absolutely prejudged the case which he had come over to investigate. That was not calculated to inspire hope or respect for the Commission; and, further, the Judge not only in his opening statement prejudged the case, but when counsel, two of the most distinguished men at the Irish Bar, appeared for some of the owners of the campaign estates, he absolutely insulted them on the spot. He, as a member of the Irish Bar, could say that the treatment dealt out to those two distinguished counsel of the Irish Bar at the hands of the Judge was conduct that was reprobated by the Bar of Ireland as a whole. Further, he was aware that since that, and with reference to the inquiry as to 156 one of these estate two other distinguished members of the Irish Bar refused to take briefs before a tribunal that had so grossly insulted their colleagues. The Member for Midlothian asked the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition what it was he wanted cross-examination for, and the right hon. Gentleman immediately referred the Prime Minister, as an instance, to the evidence given by the hon. Member for East Mayo, evidence winch it would have been vital for the people of England and Scotland to have inquired into and investigated with reference to the Plan of Campaign, but which it was absolutely impossible to have done, because there was no one there allowed to cross-examine. He would give the House another instance of what tat might have been elicited. This Commission, which they were told was to inquire into the particulars of all evictions in Ireland, had only scheduled seven estates, and had only dealt with estates which had been placed by the hon. Member for Mayo and his confederates under the Plan of Campaign. With reference to one of these estates, a gentleman who had been agent, a solicitor of the name of Dudgeon, was so amazed and shocked when he read in the newspapers the evidence which had been given by some of the witnesses at the Commission that became to Dublin and interviewed Sir James Mathew and the members of the Commission, and asked that he might he supplied with a copy of the shorthand notes that had been taken. That application was, in the first instance, refused, and the gentleman was told that he might go and read the Freeman's Journal, and see in that patriotic paper what had taken place; but subsequently Sir James saw the error into which he had fallen, and sent Mr. Dudgeon a copy of the shorthand writer's notes. The result was that Mr. Dudgeon found, when he came to read the transcribed notes, that most extraordinary evidence had been given with reference to the Massereene estate, and that two witnesses had been examined whose evidence had passed the fittest muster before the Commission. And who were those two gentlemen? They were two of the leaders of a conspiracy on the Massereene estate—a conspiracy to boycott every tenant on that estate who did not fall in with the ways of the Land League; 157 they were two men who, in furtherance of that conspiracy, had followed the tenants of the Massereene estate on the steamboat from Drogheda to Manchester and other English markets, and boycotted their cattle there, and they had been detected and brought to justice by the constabulary in England; by an English Judge and jury they were tried and convicted of that boycotting, and were sentenced to imprisonment. He wanted to know whether the Chief Secretary, in his policy of conciliation, intended to release those men, if still in durance vile? He had been sent to Parliament by a loyal population in the North of Ireland to speak their opinions, and so long as he had the honour of holding the seat he now held he would honestly tell Englishmen and Scotchmen in the House what was the feeling with reference to this national conspiracy in Ireland which was entertained by their brothers in Ireland, who were men of English and Scotch descent, with English and Scotch blood in their veins—descendants of men who were sent over to Ireland 300 years ago to civilise it, and had so civilised it, SO far as it was possible. These loyal men looked to them, Englishmen and Scotchmen, to protect them from what they believed would be a fearful imposition, which might drive them into civil war, or force them to leave the country they loved so well.
§ MR. H. SETON-KARR (St. Helen's)
said, he bad hoped from the tone of the first speeches of to-day that they were going to get rid of the Irish Question, but the able speech to which they hail just listened had dashed his hopes to the ground. Yesterday, no sooner had the Mover and Seconder of the Address completed their task than they drifted into the Irish Question, and he took it that the Debate was to all intents and purposes going to be an Irish Debate, whilst the Address in answer to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech indicated that they were going to have an Irish Session. As an English Member, he ventured to make his humble protest against this state of things. For seven years the wants of the greater portion of the United Kingdom had been postponed to this ever green Irish Question. The responsibility for that did not he with the late Government, but with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, who brought 158 matters to a crisis in 1886 by the introduction of the Irish Home Rule Bill. He protested against this state of things, and he asked how long were the wants of about 30,000,000, the population of this Kingdom, to be postponed to this Irish Question, which after all only represented the wants, at the outside, of something like 2,000,000 of Her Majesty's subjects. He wanted, however, to drop this part of the question, and as an English Member to allude particularly to one paragraph in the Speech, which he thought was more directly important and affected more directly the welfare of a much larger number of the people of this Kingdom. The paragraph to which he desired to call attention was that which alluded to the widespread agricultural depression at present prevailing in this country. He should venture to make one or two criticisms on the manner in which this matter had been presented to the House of Commons. They were told that agricultural depression existed in many parts of the country, which was no more titan a statement of a fact; but the paragraph then went on to express the hope that the depression might be only temporary in its nature, and beyond that there was no indication whatever of any remedy by which the Government proposed to deal with this important question. What grounds were there for supposing that this agricultural depression was going to be only temporary? Anyone with the slightest knowledge of the question knew that the agricultural distress, beginning ten years ago or more, had been gradually getting worse, and its cause was the result of foreign competition and of the low prices of agricultural produce, chiefly corn. While the means of transit continued to improve, and while they should be practically a free trade country, how was this agricultural depression going to be dealt with, and how could any reasonable man suppose that it was going to be otherwise than permanent? That was his first criticism; and, in the second place, he wanted to know why notice of depression hail been confined to agriculture alone? They all knew that this depression prevailed in industrial as well as agricultural districts. They had, not many years ago, a great coal strike. At the present moment a great cotton strike prevailed in Lancashire and other parts, 159 whilst strikes in other industries were threatened. It was a very curious fact that whilst statisticians told them those periods of depression came and went in cycles they always became acute simultaneously with the advent of a Liberal Government to power. The depression affected the industrial districts as much as it did the agricultural. In the former districts wages were low; they had constant meetings of unemployed in the great City of London, together with other signs of depression. When he protested against the prominence given to the Irish Question he did so as an English Member; he did so, because he felt that this Session the House ought to deal with questions of industrial and social reform, the hours of labour, and many other subjects, which had been postponed so long to the sentiments and romance of the Irish people. He desired to ask why the Government, having specially called attention to this distress, had not suggested any remedy? He would like to call attention to a remedy which had been partly put in operation by the late Government, and that was the remedy which proposed to get rid of some of the surplus population by placing them on the unoccupied land in our colonies. He was glad to hear the right hon. Member for Midlothian, in his speech yesterday, allude to the colonies of this country as establishing and forming a great part of the moral position of this Empire. He ventured to think the colonies were not only a source of moral, but also of material strength, and he thought that in continuing the steps which had already been taken to make use of our unoccupied colonial lands a great deal of good might be done in alleviating the distress which was now so extensively prevalent throughout the country. The result of this agricultural depression was to send a large number of agricultural labourers, who were thus thrown out of employment, to swell the ranks of the unemployed in the large towns, and thus to become a burden on the country, although many of them were able-bodied and willing to work. In colonisation they had a remedy which was practical, mid which proposed to deal with this state of things. They had read notch, and he believed they would shortly hear a great deal in that House, about alien pauper emigration. The subject of pauper emigration was another 160 side of this great question. The first great cause which aggravated the evil with which they had to deal was the natural increase in the population, which was over 1,000 daily, amid the influx of pauper emigrants directly added to that aggravation. The prohibition or restriction of this foreign emigration was merely the negative side of the same question with which colonisation proposed to deal. The one would cut off the supply of these foreign emigrants, who had no means of existence, and the other—namely, colonisation—would send the surplus population, properly selected, to people the lands of our colonial possessions. With regard to colonisation, he should like to refer to some figures in reference to the steps that had been taken by the late Government during the past six years in this matter. In 1888 two colonies were formed in Western Canada, named Killarney and Saltcoats, to which a certain number of families were sent in the following year. A Report was issued last June describing the state of prosperity of these families. They now knew, after three years practical experience, how these colonies had succeeded, and he ventured to think they had succeeded in a most marvellous and satisfactory manner. Thirty families were sent to the Killarney settlement in 1888, and the value of wheat in the year 1891 was estimated at over £5,550, and oats about £355, in other words, the average value of crops amounted to something like £200 per family, a sum considerably in excess of the amount originally expended in sending these families out to Western Canada. They were planted on settlements of 160 acres, which were obtained for nothing, and which would shortly become the freehold property of the families settled there. They could not find anything to equal that in this country. The value of the security offered for these developed properties—that was, the value of the land in this settlement—was £16,000, against an indebtedness of about £5,000. In other words, the freehold value of this settlement was more than three times the value of the mortgage upon it. The neighbouring settlement of Saltcoats had not been quite so successful, but the Report stated that the crofters who formed that settlement acknowledged that they had never been so well off. He did not know how far 161 the present Government intended to continue this system of emigration, which had been commenced on a small scale. They had in the country where this experiment had been tried a railway which was 4,300 miles long, they had land almost limitless in extent, a great deal of which could he available for the same purposes, and these colonies could be largely extended. Were the Government going to extend these operations, and if they were not, would they state the reasons which induced them to decline to so extend them? Another important step was taken by the late Government to carry out this principle of colonisation. Negotiations had been going on for a long time with British Columbia in regard to a loan of £150,000, to be used in the colonisation of certain lands in that colony with Scotch crofters and others suitable for the purpose who desired to go there. That loan was finally agreed upon, part of this money had already been advanced, and he believed a private company had been formed to act under the guidance of the British Columbian Government to carry on the scheme, and an opportunity would be given to large numbers of crofters' families to be sent out to British Columbia, where they might improve their lot in a way they could not do in this country. He hoped the Government, so far as opportunity was offered to them, would prosecute this matter, and do their best to carry the scheme to ultimate success. He was over in that part of the world 18 months ago, when he had the honour of an interview with the late Premier of the British Columbian Territory. The old country, said the late Prime Minister, was suffering from over population, whilst Canada, on the other hand, was suffering from the want of population. The remedy was obvious, namely, to transplant suitable and well selected families from one country to the other, and then place them on properly selected land. That process had been commenced, and he hoped would continue for some time. The late Prime Minister of British Columbia told him that an able-bodied colonist was worth 1,000 dollars to the colony in which he was settled. He (Mr. Seton-Karr) thought these were words worthy of serious consideration. The late Prime Minister of British 162 Columbia said the Imperial Government seemed slow and inactive in this question, and hardly appreciated the value of the Colonies as an outlet for the surplus population at home. He (Mr. Seton-Karr) thought the opinion of a man on the spot, who occupied the responsible position of Premier of a Colonial Government, was worthy of most serious consideration, and that the remedy suggested should be carefully looked into. He had alluded to these matters, because a debate of this kind afforded one of the few opportunities for dealing with such questions; but the most important paragraph of the Address was concentrated in the paragraph which informed them that on Monday next the Home Rule Bill would be laid on the table of the House. The responsibility for the time that would be occupied by the present Parliament in dealing with the Irish Question rested on the shoulders of the Member for Midlothian. That right hon. Gentleman desired to spend the next four months, he presumed, in tinkering with the British Constitution, and the case became more aggravated when they remembered that, so far as the present Parliament was concerned, the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman could only end in inevitable failure, for until the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had succeeded in amending the British Constitution by abolishing the other Chamber there was not the slightest hope of the Home Rule Bill becoming law. In view of these facts, all who were interested in social and domestic reform, and in legislation for the alleviation of the distress now prevalent throughout the country, looked upon this state of things with the utmost concern. He had endeavoured to put before the House what he believed to be a practical remedy, and if the Government, in the intervals of their Irish legislation, would give some little attention to this question, they would meet with support from his side of the House. They were, he supposed, committed to Irish legislation, but they had a considerable number of Labour Members in their ranks, and possibly, by pressure put upon them from that quarter, they might spend some time in attending to this question. At any rate, he had endeavoured to indicate some remedies for dealing with the prevalent distress, and if the Government 163 would try to pass measures having for their object the alleviation of that distress, they on that (the Opposition) side of the House would gladly accord them their support.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Colonel Waring).
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned until to-morrow.