§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [30th August] proposed to Question, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Courtney.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ *MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY (Longford, N.)
It has been contended by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury that the House of Lords has a right, before passing any measure sent up to it by the House of Commons, to ascertain whe- 1737 ther the feeling of the people generally is in favour of it. I will venture to point out that the only way by which the House of Lords can judge of the feelings of the people is through the voice of the House of Commons, and further that the House of Lords has in itself no right whatever to go behind the House of Commons and seek for a separate declaration of the opinion of the people. It has also been contended by the right hon. Gentleman that if a measure that has been passed into law does not work well, the House of Lords will be asked why they have accepted it without an appeal to the country; but I should like to know where such a novel doctrine in Constitutional history can be found. We have been told that because we have only given 80 days to the discussion of this Bill, the Lords will be entitled to call us idle and lazy men. Nothing could be more ridiculous. We have given the utmost latitude to the Debates in the House. What has occurred is that we have been listening night after night to a reiteration of the same arguments, which have exhausted the time of the House at the expense of certain portions of the Bill which might have been discussed with advantage. I will now turn to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. I should like, if I may use the words of Shakespeare, to "discourse with my philosopher." I think everyone in this House has the highest respect for the opinions and integrity of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney), and I need hardly say that he is the philosopher with whom I wish to talk. I sometimes think, however, that he rather overdoes his independence, and I am a little sorry when the effect of his own ability on himself is to impress him with a conviction of infallibility. It is a curious thing how many a worthy man who utterly scorns and scoffs at the doctrine that the Pope in Council can be infallible is yet firmly convinced that he himself is infallible, whether in Council or out of Council. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a policy of his own, or rather ho outlined his idea of what ought to be the policy of the English Government in Ireland, and he began with a suggestion which must endear itself to the mind of every Irishman when he commended the policy of Cromwell.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
The hon. Member does not, I think, wish to misrepresent me, and I think ho was not here.
§ MR. COURTNEY
Well, then, he misunderstood me. I did not wish to commend the general policy of Cromwell. What I meant was that Cromwell was the first person to assemble the United Parliament of the United Commonwealth.
§ *MR. J. M'CARTHY
I accept the right hon. Gentleman's correction, but I wish to say I heard his speech, and I was under the impression that he was commending the general policy of Cromwell. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would recommend that the course which Cromwell followed with a Parliament should be followed to-day. However, what I particularly wished to deal with was the complaint of the right hon. Gentleman as to the manner in which time was spent in discussing this Bill, and the statement that there were several passages of the Bill that were not properly discussed. I suppose that is possible, and I may admit that it is true. But why were not those particular passages discussed? Was it not because the time of this House was so much taken up by the vain and idle repetition of the same arguments and the same charges over and over again that within the limits of human life it became impossible that every important part of this Bill could have proper discussion? Why did not the right hon. Gentleman and his friends make up their minds as to what were the important passages in the Bill, and discuss them instead of spending so much of their time in each repeating over and over again what the other had said? We listened in this House to reiteration night after night of the same arguments and the same charges until it was a positive weariness to hear them, and yet the reiteration was persevered in to the necessary and inevitable exclusion of some portions of the Bill that might have been more searchingly and fully discussed. During some nights in this House it might have been thought that the usual question under discussion and the sole question in which the country had any manner of interest was not whe- 1739 ther the Home Rule Bill should or should not be passed, but whether the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) did or did not say something 10 years ago, and whether if he did it was consistent with what he said 10 weeks ago, or whether this, that, or the other right hon. Gentleman did or did not in the whole course of his career make any speech which seemed inconsistent with other speeches he had made. I want to know why time was wasted on such subjects? Then there was started a Debate by quotation. The hon. Member for the Altrincham Division of Cheshire (Mr. C. Disraeli) made a speech the other night to which I listened with very great interest, partly on account of the speech itself, and partly on account of the illustrious name he bears. He introduced several quotations into that speech, and one of them, he told us, was a particularly stale quotation. I should like to know why, if it was stale, he brought it under our attention? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) has invented a sort of discussion which I may call discussion by scrap-book. He seems to have got a regular treasury of quotations from the speeches and writings of all his political opponents. I was pleased to find that some passages from my own writings were enshrined in that interesting book. I trust that when this controversy is over the right hon. Gentleman will present his collection to the Royal Historical Society or the British Museum. I should be pleased to think that some descendant of mine, studying hereafter that most valuable book, might come upon my name written down, however humbly, in the right hon. Gentleman's roll of honour. But I would suggest that citations of that kind, however interesting, are irrelevant to the essential question the House wanted to discuss. Once I am bound to say the right hon. Gentleman broke away from political citations and burst out unexpectedly, to the joy of all of us, into a perfect anthology of Shakespearian quotation. But even that was hardly so much to the purpose as direct argument on the clauses. There was no time wasted on this side of the House in the discussion of the measure. What we wanted to discuss was whether this was a good Home Rule Bill for Ireland or not, but the utmost patience was shown 1740 by us. We of the Irish Party who, as everyone knows, belong to "a garrulous and impecunious race" certainly restrained our tendency to be garrulous during the whole of these Debates. We left the time to gentlemen opposite, and my complaint is that they did not make good use of it, even for their own purposes. I, for one, would ten thousand times rather have heard arguments about the Bill than statements as to what this man said or that man said. Now I come to the Bill itself. The question I want to direct attention to is a very simple and direct one, and one in regard to which, I hope—nay, I am sure—I speak the unanimous sentiment of the Party to which I have the honour to belong. I want to ask whether this Bill is accepted, or is likely to be accepted, by the Irish Party and the Irish people? Those of us who spoke in the Debate fought strenuously against certain sections and passages of the Bill. We fought them as much as we could, and got as much as we could out of the Government. The question is, whether the Bill as it now stands is a measure which we can accept? Mr. Speaker, I have no hesitation in saying, on behalf of my colleagues—and I am sure for the Irish people—that we accept this Bill with a cordial welcome, and we give our warm and sincere thanks to the great English statesman who has brought it before this House, and who, I hope, will ultimately carry it to a complete success. We have been asked over and over again—"Do you accept this measure as final?" My hon. Friend the Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who addressed the House with so much force and ability in yesterday's Debate, dealt very well with this question of finality. We want to know what is meant by finality? If anyone asks us whether we suppose that the measure is never to be altered or amended in the whole succession of years to come, I say the question in itself is a foolish and a futile question. No measure that ever passed through this Parliament—no measure that ever passed through any Parliament—was framed on such perfect and on such a prophetic knowledge of what was to come in the future as to be in this rigid and pedantic sense absolutely final. Why, Sir, we had a question asked to-night as to the Commission that is to be appointed to 1741 investigate the financial relations of the three countries. Let us assume that this Bill has been passed, and that the Commission has reported that there are certain changes proper to be made in those financial relations—does anyone say that the fact of those changes being made would prevent this measure being fairly described as a final measure with regard to Home Rule? Suppose that the population of one of the Irish Provinces were to increase much beyond the others, and it became necessary to meet the increase of population by a re-adjustment of representation, does anyone suppose that there would be any difficulty in coming to the Imperial Parliament and obtaining sanction for such an adjustment? In one sense there can be no finality in Parliament, but there is a finality in principle. That is why you can arrange in what path the national work of the people may move. Take the great Reform Bill of 1832. It was about that Reform Bill that the phrase "finality" was first used in politics. It was used by Lord John Russell in a sense, as ho afterwards explained, quite different from that which was ascribed to it, and he was promptly named by some of his opponents "Finality Jack!" He never meant finality in the sense in which it is sometimes used in this House, and in the sense which requires us to give a distinct and direct answer as to whether we will never at any future time suggest a single rearrangement of the details of this measure. Since the Union Ireland has been kept down under one absolutely rigid principle—namely, that she should be governed by this Imperial Parliament, and have no right of control whatever over her own affairs. This measure, when carried, will put an end to that principle, and will set up the principle that Ireland is to look after her own domestic affairs for herself under the supreme control of the Imperial Parliament, and with certain limitations and restrictions, which are most gladly accepted. That, I say, is the principle which is final. I firmly believe that when we once set up this national domestic Parliament for Ireland we shall have found finality in the true sense, and that from that principle there will never hereafter be any deviation. I believe it will be a final settlement, because it will 1742 enable us to work in the most thorough cordiality with the people of Great Britain. They will have no further inclination or impulse to interfere with our affairs. If we go beyond the limitations imposed they will have a definite authority to restrain us; but as long as we keep within those limitations the people of Great Britain will I be only too happy to see us working out in our own way our national prosperity. I call it, in the true sense, a final settlement which brings about that agreement. I do not believe, as far as one can look forward to the distant future, that there will ever be the slightest desire on the part of the Irish people to break away from the principle of this great Imperial settlement. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir H. James) asked last night what would happen if every other division of Great Britain were to ask for separate local government. He asked what would be done if Yorkshire asked for a Home Rule Bill? Well, I think we are supposed to be practical and reasonable men, discussing reasonable possibilities, and not wide and far-reaching speculations. I think that Yorkshire has at present means of local government, and of managing her own affairs to a great extent. I feel sure that if Yorkshire had the Irish Grand Jury system she would make her grievances well heard on the floor of this House. We Irishmen recognise perfectly well the possibility of times coming when other divisions of Great Britain may claim the right to settle their own local affairs. In the meantime, we decline to speculate as to what would happen if Yorkshire did this, Lancashire did that, and the sky fell. I remember that a very good answer was given in this House many years ago by the late Lord Sherbrooke. He was being questioned as to all sorts of dangers and difficulties that might arise if certain things were to happen which he did not think were likely to happen, and he replied in this way. He said—The Queen has an undoubted right to make every cobbler in this country a Peer. What would happen if the Queen did this day make every cobbler in the country a Member of the House of Lords?Then he answered the question by saying—I do not know; nobody knows, and nobody wants to know.1743 For myself, I am inclined to give the same sort of answer as to what would happen if Yorkshire set up as an independent State. I do not know; nobody knows, and nobody wants to know. This Bill is now about to pass from this House. It is like the girl in the splendid Greek tragedy; it is to go to its death. We know perfectly well what will happen to it in the House of Lords. But we know it will come back again, and that when it comes back opinion will be a great deal too strong for the House of Lords, and some day or other, and before long, it will kindly and judiciously consent to pass the Bill. Those of us who have been watching this House for long remember how on one occasion all the supporters of the House of Lords in the country were rampant for a whole Session over the action of the Lords. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) remembers well—for he took a foremost part in the discussion—what happened when the House of Lords threw out the Bill for the repeal of the duty on paper. He remembers how all the supporters of the House of Lords declared that the Peers had done their duty; that they had saved the country from the horror of a cheap newspaper Press, and that they would never fall back from the path of duty they had so nobly taken. Well, what happened? Early in the next Session the House of Lords, with what could scarcely be called a discussion, passed the Bill for the repeal of the Paper Duty. I believe they were well advised then, and I hope they will be well advised now. But for the present we have this Bill as it stands, and, speaking for the Irish Party, we are perfectly willing to accept it. It closes an agitation which has been going on ever since the Act of Union was passed. I should long ago have given up the whole cause of Home Rule if there could have been shown to me that during any year, any mouth, or any week, since the Union was passed the Irish people had ceased to protest against it. Their protest has gone on from year to year, and from day to day. That protest has been sometimes made by rebellion. The first rebellion was not quite three years after the passing of the Act. Sometimes it has been made by Constitutional agitation, then by rebellion again, then by peaceful 1744 agitation once more; but from that time up to this, the Irish people have fought resolutely, unflinchingly, and unceasingly against the continuance of the Act of Union. Everyone who has read Irish history knows that during all that time a man was popular in Ireland or was unpopular just in proportion to the strength of his opposition to the Act of Union or to the servility with which he accepted it. Now, is not this long struggle to be closed by the passing of this Home Rule Bill? Is there not to be an end to all this controversy? Have we not obtained in principle what we desire? Why, then, should we want to rake the whole question up again, and to destroy the benefit we have, after so much trial and struggle, at last obtained? Many Members of this House will remember that Grattan, in the first speech ho made in what is usually called Grattan's Parliament, said he had now to address a free people, and that ages had passed away since the Irish people could be addressed by that noble name! And what was the Assembly which he considered constituted the Irish a free people? It was a Parliament not nearly as liberal in its gift to the people of the management of their own affairs as the Parliament we are now asked to set up. Why, then, should we not accept this Bill as a final settlement? How could we avoid accepting it? We have the authority given by Grattan on so solemn an occasion. Mr. Speaker, I venture to say from my heart, and from my conscience, speaking for my Party and for my country, that we do accept it. As I said before, we give our most earnest and heartfelt thanks to the great and patriotic statesman who brought in this Bill and who is passing it through this House. We recognise the fact that he is the first great English statesman who ever risked power and popularity for the sake of doing justice to Ireland. We thank him for that; we thank those Members of the English Parliament and those of the English people, and of the people of Scotland and Wales, who have given him such noble and persevering support. We take the Bill at his hands, and we are glad and proud that it is at his hands we have to take it.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)
I do not think that the earlier part of the speech of the hon. 1745 Member in this high controversy was altogether worthy of his reputation. It was chiefly occupied with some criticisms, which I will venture to call scrappy, of certain details of the speeches of my right hon. Friends the Member for Bury (Sir H. James) and the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney). The hon. Member took my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury to task because he had indicated his opinion that when a great measure came to the House of Lords, the House of Lords would endeavour to avail itself of the usual means of information, and that the opinion which it was thereby enabled to form of the general desire of the people of the United Kingdom would probably guide its decision. Certainly it seems to me a strange thing that amongst all the complaints against the House of Lords there is now to be added this new one, that it is likely partially to be guided by popular wishes. I think the hon. Member went on to criticise my right hon. Friend beside me (Mr. Courtney), and in the course of his remarks upon what he called "he gag" he certainly brought forward a new argument in favour of that innovation which I hope will be permanently connected with his name. He said that nowadays we can go round the world in 80 days, and he seemed, therefore, to think that it was impossible to contemplate that we should bestow upon any Bill—even upon a Bill which deeply and vitally affected a worldwide Empire—more time than it takes for this pleasure trip and geographical excursion. Then the hon. Member complained of what he was pleased to call the repetition of our arguments. I suppose there must necessarily be a difference of opinion in regard to that. I can only put my individual opinion against his, and say that during the whole time I have sat in this House I have never heard a great Debate conducted with so much relevancy and so little repetition. I can understand that the arguments which to us were fresh palled upon hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were only too anxious to get to the conclusion of the measure as quickly as possible. Then the hon. Member complained of what he was pleased to call "discussion by scrap," and he referred to myself as an offender. Well, if I have been au offender, no man in this House has been 1746 a greater victim, for my speeches have supplied Ministers and their supporters with ten times the number of quotations they have taken from any other source. I do not complain of that. I have sometimes complained of the unfairness with which those quotations were detached from the context; but if these quotations fairly represent the opinions at any time expressed, either by myself or anybody else, I really cannot see why they are not germane to our discussions. It is quite true, as the hon. Member says, that I have, for a long time past, read with the greatest interest everything he and his Colleagues—or nearly everything he and his principal Colleagues—have said in reference to Irish questions; that I have quoted many of these utterances, and that now I think it fair, and right, and extremely instructive to contrast them with the present schemes and present position of hon. Gentlemen. Sir, I do not see how that can be matter of blame, or how anybody can deny that such quotations, properly used, are likely to aid us in coming to a just conclusion. I pass, Sir, to what, after all, was the more important part of the speech of the hon. Member, and I think it will be generally admitted that there is a certain fitness in the selection which has been made of him to represent the Party with which he is connected at the close of the Debate. I do not refer to his titular position as Leader of that Party, but the hon. Member has been longer in this House than any other Member of that Party. [Colonel NOLAN: No!] I think that my hon. and gallant Friend who contradicts me does not belong to that Party. The hon. Member has been, as I have said, a long time in this House, and I am sure I pay him no empty compliment in saying that during that time he has gained the good-will and sympathy of men in all parts of it. Therefore it was natural that he should be selected, and also because of his character. On the present occasion it is, no doubt, felt that it is desirable to conciliate the British people, and the hon. Member is the man to do it. If it had been desired to bully or to threaten the English people—well, I suppose the Member for Cork City (Mr. W. O'Brien) or the Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy) would have offered himself. I do not wonder at a certain tone of 1747 triumph in the speech which the hon. Member has just delivered. He has seen many vicissitudes during his long service in this House. I will undertake to say that in the earlier period of it nothing whatever would have seemed to him to be more improbable than that any Prime Minister—and, above all, this Prime Minister—should bring forward a Bill for giving Home Rule to Ireland. Therefore his tribute of gratitude and praise to the Prime Minister was called for, was graceful, and was well-deserved. The hon. Member addressed himself to what, after all, is one of the most important questions which can be dealt with by the House at this stage of our proceedings. He said—"We are asked whether this Bill is a final settlement," and he answered the question by saying that he accepted it with a cordial welcome. He went further, and said that if by "finality" you meant finality in no pedantic sense—finality of principle—he and his friends would in that sense accept the Bill. It is quite unnecessary for him to protest against any attempt, for none has been made, to fasten upon him any finality which would preclude slight alterations in this Bill such as those he refers to. But we also want to know whether in principle this Bill is to be finally accepted; whether the restrictions imposed upon the Irish Parliament, restrictions which have been grievously complained of by hon. Gentlemen opposite, are accepted by them with the determination that if hereafter in Ireland they should be assailed all the influence they can bring to bear shall be brought in order to maintain them in their present form? We want to know whether the supremacy of Parliament, about which we heard so much, is accepted as finally representing the relations which are to obtain between this Parliament and the Parliament of Ireland? These are questions to which we expect an answer, and I will not say the answer of the hon. Gentleman opposite was altogether satisfactory. I will frankly admit in that respect he went a long way. And, Sir, I am not going to question the sincerity of the hon. Member. So far as he speaks for himself I accept every word that he has said. But I cannot forget that on a similar occasion, and in a similar Debate, another Leader—and I may say, without any derogation of the qualities of the 1748 hon. Member opposite, a greater Leader than he—stood up in his place and told this House in very similar words that he and his Party welcomed the Bill that was then before the House, and accepted it as a full and complete settlement of the demands of Ireland. And I cannot forget also that in a few years afterwards that same Leader publicly declared that that statement of his in this House had only been made after a meeting of the Party at which they had agreed with him that the Bill of which he spoke was to be regarded as a Parliamentary bid—and was to be accepted pro tanto for what it was worth. I will not insult the hon. Member by even suspecting that a similar meeting may have been held before the Debate to-night. No; I will take it that he speaks for himself; and that he speaks for some, at any rate, of his friends around him. [Several hon. MEMBERS: For all.] I have said as much as I can say—he speaks, at all events, for some of his friends; but I say that he cannot speak for those who are to come after him. [An hon. MEMBER: Can you?] What is the sense of that interruption? I say the hon. Member cannot speak for those who will come after him; and in dealing with this, which is a national settlement, we have to deal not with the men of to-day, but with the generations for all time to come. Well now, Sir, it is not unnatural that at this stage of the Bill more than one Member should have thought it necessary to take some kind of retrospect of our proceedings, and endeavour to form some sort of estimate of the position which we have reached. Mr. Speaker, we are parting with a Bill which has occupied us long, and which has produced many interesting and some very exciting discussions. I know it is the opinion of some hon. Members that we have been wasting our time. That is the opinion of the Home Secretary—I do not see him in his place. That is evidently the opinion which he entertains, and he expressed it at a meeting held, I think, last May. The opinion of the Home Secretary is extremely simple. It is that a Government, however small the majority by which it is supported, however important the measure or series of measures it introduces in this House, is entitled, by its own mere motion, of its own sweet will and pleasure, to decide 1749 how long those measures should be debated; and if the Opposition does not agree with it the Opposition is to be punished by the gag, by the guillotine, and by All-night Sittings and Autumn Sessions. Well, I take note of the statement of the Home Secretary, and I beg the House to take note that we, in our opposition to the gag as it has been applied to us, have scrupulously guarded ourselves against any opposition to the Closure as a principle. We have humbly submitted to the Government that this was a Bill so exceptional in its character, so gigantic in its probable results, of such transcendent importance, that it must be treated exceptionally; we have begged of them to have patience with us, and to allow us even what they might think to be extreme consideration. Well, they have not seen their way to accept our applications, and they must take the consequences, because now lei it be well understood that there is no Government which can sit on those Benches, and there is no Bill they can propose, that they will not have justification for closuring after what they think to be a reasonable time, and without reference to any other opinion. I can conceive the possibility of a Unionist Government seated there that might think the time had come—as we do think—when there should be a review of the proportionate representation and power of Ireland and Great Britain, when there should be a redistribution of seats; and I can conceive that a Bill of that kind, brought in by a Conservative Government, might give rise to a great deal of discussion. On your heads be it if the discussion is unduly shortened. I do not entertain the view of the Home Secretary that our time has been wasted in this discussion, and I look back to see whether we have made any progress in the settlement of this great controversy—whether, at all events, we have been able to bring the issues to a more definite point, to put them more clearly before the people, the ultimate tribunal to which we all appeal, and whether, also, we have been able to throw any light on the consequences which are likely to follow on this legislation. I will ask the House for a minute or two to go back and to consider what was the position of the two great Parties when this question was introduced. I do not think anyone will 1750 say that there was great enthusiasm for Home Rule in the Gladstonian ranks. By far the larger part of the oratory of Gladstonian candidates before the last Election was undoubtedly expended on the promotion and explanation of the Newcastle Programme, and even with all the attractions of that programme, as we know perfectly well, you were unable to obtain a majority in England and Scotland together. Under these circumstances, we may fairly say that this question of Home Rule is not, and never has been, in its true sense, a British policy. It was not even initiated by a British statesman. It was accepted, under circumstances on which I will not now dwell, by my right hon. Friend from Mr. Parnell. It has since been forced through this House by an Irish majority. I say, then, that under these circumstances we may marvel at the influence and power which my right hon. Friend has exercised over his own supporters to induce them to accept this policy, but he cannot call it a British policy. I believe that all that has happened justifies what was said by Mr. Bright—that if this policy had been proposed by any other Englishman or Scotchman it would have been laughed out of the House of Commons. For the Prime Minister this day is a day of great personal victory; but I think it is a victory which some of its greatest admirers will hereafter see reason to deplore. Meanwhile, for myself, and I have no doubt for many others, I may say that while I am as strenuously opposed as ever to his policy, which I believe has struck a deadly blow at the honour and interests of this country, I am filled with admiration—[A laugh]—may I not admire the courage, the resolution, the resources, and the eloquence by which he has executed this marvellous tour de force, which has reversed all British statesmanship and policy, and has by implication condemned all his own policy up to a very recent time? His influence, and his influence alone, has been powerful enough to secure the acceptance by the Gladstonian Party here and in the country of the principle of Home Rule. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General last night quoted against me a speech of mine in which I said that the principle of Home Rule had been discussed for seven years, in order to show that I was inconsistent in say- 1751 ing afterwards that the Bill was not understood before it was introduced into this House. I have never denied that the bare principle of Home Rule has been before the country since 1886, and accepted by the supporters of my right hon. Friend; but what is a great deal more wonderful is this—and it is a point to which the Attorney General did not refer—that the Ministerial Party, which boasts of its independence, has sacrificed the right of private judgment in regard to all the details of the measure, many of which, being of the utmost importance, it has left entirely to the discretion of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. There was one Member of that Party who was not satisfied with this secrecy and concealment—I mean the Home Secretary, who protested publicly against it. He got snubbed for his pains. He accepted the snub, and now I have no doubt he has his reward. The Gladstonian Party were pledged at the last Election to vote for the establishment of an Irish Legislature to deal exclusively with Irish affairs. That cannot be disputed. But they accepted that principle subject to conditions of the greatest importance, which were laid down by my right hon. Friend himself. They were that the unity of the Empire should be preserved, that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament should be maintained unquestioned and unimpaired, and that there should be ample security for the minority in Ireland. Let me say how it strikes us that these conditions have been fulfilled. The unity of the Empire is preserved in name in the Bill; but there is not a military expert in the United Kingdom or out of it who will not tell you that our military strength will be weakened and our naval resources more largely called on in consequence of this measure. I say you cannot appeal to any military authority of eminence, either in this country or on the Continent of Europe, who will not agree with what I say; and with a separate Parliament and a separate Executive in Ireland, is it not perfectly clear that if they have the will they have the power to hamper and embarrass our foreign policy? There are 50 ways in which they could do so under this measure. They might, if they chose, make it very difficult for us to collect war taxation or to enlist troops in Ireland; they might also wink at the 1752 arming of the population. And what have we to rely upon? The only answer given to our fears is that we must rely upon the magnanimity, the generosity, and the continuous goodwill of the Irish Legislature, and at the same time we have given them every inducement to put pressure on us in order that they might secure the removal of the restrictions imposed by this Bill. Then there is the question of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. That supremacy was to be maintained intact and unimpaired over matters and persons local and Imperial. The Debates have shown that, so far as persons are concerned, the idea of supremacy is entirely abandoned. You will have a separate Executive in Ireland independent altogether of English control, and the Government have refused every Amendment which we have moved with a view to secure an Imperial Executive to carry out the decrees and the decisions of the Imperial Courts. At the same time we have heard again and again views expressed with regard to supremacy by the Representatives of the majority in Ireland which differ from the ideas enunciated on this side of the House. While we maintain that the supremacy ought to be complete, permanent, and easily capable of enforcement, they have warned us that any attempt to enforce it, unless under the most exceptional circumstances, of which their Legislature would be the judge, will be resented by them, and will lead to friction and irritation. I do not hesitate to say that the supremacy and the veto have become in this Bill mere Constitutional figments like the supremacy over self-governing Colonies—a mere Court sword which we shall never be able to draw with any purpose from the scabbard. Lastly, there is the protection of the minority in Ireland. The minority themselves are not satisfied with the protection which you have afforded. We have shown, with regard to every restriction which you have proposed for their advantage, how easily it might be evaded. We have asked you to add to those restrictions and to strengthen those provisions, but you have declined. Here, again, the whole security which we rely on does not lie in these paper safeguards; it lies entirely in your belief, and in such belief as we can summon, in the generosity, the fairness, and the justice 1753 of hon. Gentlemen opposite—those who will be the Leaders in an Irish Government, and who in the last few years have threatened and denounced the minority, and declared that they would take vengeance whenever they had the opportunity. These, then, are the three conditions which, in our view at any rate, have not been fulfilled. The Gladstonian Party, which relied on them, was bound to be very scrupulous in respect to them, to give the most careful consideration and criticism to the provisions by which they were to be secured. Have they done so? Why, during the whole of these Debates there has hardly been one single Amendment—I am not certain there has been one—that has been moved by a supporter of the Government and carried to a Division. My right hon. Friend the other day complained that we had made speeches in the proportion of more than two to one to the speeches made on behalf of the Government. He might have said much more than that. If he had omitted all the speeches—and very perfunctory speeches they often were—which were forced from the Government by their official position, and had also omitted those made by hon. Gentlemen opposite generally intended to strengthen the Government in resisting any possible concession, he would have found that he could have counted on his two hands the contributions which have been made to these Debates by his own supporters. As far as they were concerned, they might have retired from the House on the day when the Bill was introduced, if only they had been able to leave their proxies in the hands of the Government. We, complain of the gag. They think that we are unreasonable. I do not wonder. "They jest at scars who never felt a wound." They have no reason to dread the gag who are voluntarily silent, and who wear that instrument permanently as an honour and an ornament. It cannot be said that their silence was justified by the original perfection of this measure. Putting aside our Amendments, the changes which the Government have themselves made in their measure are vitally important, and have completely altered its character. The Bill, therefore, was not perfect at the beginning; but not a single improvement that may have been made in it is 1754 due to the enlightened criticism of any Member sitting on the Benches behind the Government. As far as the Gladstonian Party is concerned, you might have passed all the stages in a single day without the alteration of a dot or a comma. I observe, with reference to this matter, that the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) made an imaginative addition to current history in the speech to which I have already referred. He said that there were occasions when there was a rising spirit of independence in the Ministerial ranks, when the silent Member began to throb, and there was a fear that he would become articulate, and then, said the Home Secretary, the Government would have been in a tight fix. But, according to the right hon. Gentleman, a saviour appeared in the person of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who spoke again and again on these occations, with the result that all the eloquence which was about to burst forth was at once repressed and the silent Member became himself again. That was a most complimentary view to take of the power of my oratory; but it is not complimentary to the friends of the right hon. Gentleman, for his position is that they whose consciences had been aroused and whose convictions were against the Government voted against their consciences and their convictions in order to show their opposition to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. Of course, the silence of the Ministerial Party has thrown a heavier duty upon the Opposition. If there was to be any amendment of this Bill it was we who had to make, or at all events to suggest, the improvement. We could place no reliance on the supporters of the Government, who treated this matter from the first not as a great Constitutional change—almost a revolution—but as an ordinary Party Bill; and never, I should think, in the history of Party Bills were the bonds of Party discipline drawn so tight. In these circumstances, we have had to do their work as well as our own, and the whole duty of a deliberative Assembly has been thrown upon the minority. We have had to protect, as far as might be, the interests of the minority in Ireland and the interests of our English majority at home. We have pursued our path, with what success we may 1755 have had, undeterred by the arbitrary conduct of the Government or even by the insults which, with their tacit encouragement, have been flung at us from the Benches below the Gangway opposite (the Irish Benches). I think the country will do us the justice which the Government have denied us. Hon. Members supporting the Government say that our opposition has been factious, and that some of us have been influenced by personal rancour. I appeal to those Members. Cannot you at this last moment be for once fair to your political opponents, and cannot you ascribe to us motives a little less unworthy? Cannot you for once put yourselves in our place and feel as you would feel if for a moment you could share our convictions? We believe that the dearest interests of the country are involved detrimentally in this measure. We believe that obligations of honour which were once recognised as sacred by the Government have now been lightly repudiated. We believe that the greatness of the United Kingdom—that its strength and its influence—will be seriously undermined. We believe that these results will be accompanied by the degradation of our own Parliament, and that they will have to be paid for by an increase of the burdens upon the British taxpayer. Those are our opinions. You may not agree with them; but if we hold them, if we believe, as we sincerely and honestly do, that the policy of the Government is fatal to those interests which we are here to guard, do you think that any opposition could be too strenuous, too prolonged? We say that a fair issue has never been frankly and candidly put before the people. Who was there in 1885 who knew—or if he knew it told his constituents—that the first business to which he would be called in the House of Commons would be Home Rule for Ireland? Who in the Government of 1886 knew it? Not I, for I was told by my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) that he was committed to nothing, and that all he wanted was a fair and full inquiry into the Irish demand in order to discover whether it was a practicable one. I wrote to my right hon. Friend in accepting Office and told him that I accepted on the understanding that his purpose was inquiry, 1756 and that he was not committed to anything.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
What I said was that the Government was not committed. I did not speak for myself personally.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not want to turn aside from my argument. I only say that in 1886, as a Member of the Government, I had no idea that that Government or that its head was committed to the policy of Home Rule. [Interruption.]
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
Healy interrupts (referring to Mr. T. M. Healy, Member for North Louth).
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Again, in 1892, when that policy was before the country, as far, at all events, as the principle was concerned, who declared that he understood that the Bill was a Bill conceived as this Bill has been conceived? Who could say then that he was going to vote for the interference of the Irish Members in all our affairs, in all the details of our legislative business? Since the Bill was introduced the policy of the Government from day to day has not been known to the House. It may have been known to a few Gentlemen opposite, but it has not been known to the House, and great changes have been sprung upon us when there was not sufficient time left for their discussion. Even now the same policy is being pursued. The Government are not using all their energies to press forward this policy of Home Rule; they are not seeking that mandate from the country which they might have if the country were favourable to them now that it has a full knowledge of the contents of this Bill. No; they are seeing if haply they can extract something from the Newcastle Programme with which they can cloak this Bill, cover it up, and conceal it from the voters at the next Election. We believe that the majority which they have in this House has ceased to exist in the country. We say that when the discussion became dangerous, when the Government thought that the exposure of their policy was having some effect in the country, they proceeded to silence the Representatives of the British majority. If this had been your position—perhaps it will be before long—would 1757 there not have been superadded to the distress and dislike which you felt for the policy forced upon you some legitimate feeling of irritation, even of indignation, at the un-English and arbitrary treatment meted out to you? Well, we have performed our task to the best of our ability. We have exposed the dangers, the mischief, the absurdities of this Bill. We have shown that it is likely to bring to Ireland ruin and strife, and to Great Britain a weakening of her strength, legislative impotence, and an increase of her burdens. But what effect have we produced upon the country? I look around at the various sections interested in this matter. There is the minority in Ireland, one-third of the population admittedly containing the greater part of the wealth, a very large part of the education, and most of the industrial energy of the country. They believe—they tell you that they believe—that to them this Bill means civil war.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Their statements, their assurances, their warnings are received, as they were received just now, by the majority in a tone and with a temper which gives but small promise of that magnanimity upon which we are told to rely. They are sneered at; they are told that their solo object is to re-establish Protestant ascendency. That charge is ridiculous. There is not a shred left of Protestant ascendency. There is not a desire loft to re-establish it. All that these men ask is that under the protection of the Imperial Parliament they shall enjoy equal laws and equal privileges with the rest of Ireland. They ask for nothing more. You refuse it to them, and they fear that in the place of the Protestant ascendency which is dead there may be raised up another, even a worse ascendency—an ascendency of the Roman Catholic priesthood, and an ascendency of the promoters of the Land League. Well, Sir, any way, as far as they are concerned, their opposition is unshaken. It is as strenuous now as it was when the Bill was introduced. I wonder what is the feeling in the case of the majority of the Irish people—the 3,000,000 for whom we are taking all these risks, and for whom 1758 we are to make all these sacrifices? There is one thing I note as significant, and it is this: that during all the time that has been occupied in the passage of this Bill, during all the time when there was a great agitation against the Bill going on in Great Britain and in Ireland, hardly any public meetings were in favour of the measure. That may be explained; but this, at all events, is certain: that if this Bill were to pass it would provoke bitter disappointment, unless in some way or another it speedily and directly promoted the material prosperity of the country. That is what they are looking for, not merely from sentimental considerations. Sir, whence is this improved prosperity to come from? We know that what is desirable is, if it be possible, to promote the industrial developments of the country, and, in order to promote the industrial developments of the country, I suppose you must have good credit and good security. Is there anyone bold enough to say that the credit and security of Ireland will be better after this Bill has passed than it is now? Where does the confidence of the industrial classes come from? The industrial classes will be in a small minority in the Houses of the Legislature which you are going to set up. They will be wholly at the mercy—I will not say of the ill-will and oppression, but of the ignorance, the economic ignorance—of the agricultural classes, who will be in a great majority. I do not believe, Sir, that there is any chance of this increased prosperity. We are told by hon. Members opposite that under the Bill their finances will be bankrupt. We know that the flood, the stream of British subsidies is to cease the moment the Bill is passed. Well, Sir, I can only say that if there is any truth, any economic truth at all, the last state of Ireland will be worse than the first. I have never hoard in the course of these Debates any new sources of prosperity hinted at which are not open to them now, except the protection of Irish industries, which is forbidden by the Bill, and confiscation of the laud which hon. Gentlemen opposite repudiate, and which, even if they attempted to carry it into effect, would certainly not give confidence to capital or security in Ireland. But I do not now dwell on the situation in Ireland. That is a matter for Irishmen 1759 to speak about with more authority than I can command. I am interested in Great Britain. I do not know whether I should not say that it is my misfortune to be a pure Englishman. I am afraid that the Prime Minister might think that almost a disqualification. I have regretted in the course of these Debates to hear him in his present position denouncing British policy, British statesmanship, and, of course, by implication his own. I have heard him recapitulating and exaggerating every error, every offence, every crime that was ever committed by the British Government, and at the same time ascribing all the Christian virtues to hon. Members opposite, who are, I firmly believe, answerable for the greater part of the disorder and the misery of the last 10 years in Ireland, and who certainly, during that time, have done nothing to promote its material prosperity. Well, Sir, I cannot agree with the Prime Minister. I do not think that all the sin is on one side. At any rate, for the last 20 years, he, I think, will admit that there has been on the part of the British Government and on the part of the British people an earnest desire to remove all proved grievances in Ireland, and to act generously to the Irish people. Even now I would say that there is nothing which the majority of the Irish people can ask, provided it is not contrary to the Ten Commandments, which they may not obtain from the Imperial Parliament. But there is one thing which the majority in this House, I believe, will never grant, and that is the power, through the Representatives of Ireland, vitally to injure this country, or to wreak their vengeance upon those who in past times have served her well. Now, Sir, I have referred once or twice to the British majority. It is, I think, a significant fact—and I do not think it will lose its importance by repetition—that on all the principal clauses of this Bill, and on all the principal Amendments, a large British majority and an immense English majority have voted against the Government. The Chief Secretary (Mr. J. Morley) the other day referred to this argument, and condemned it as unprecedented and unconstitutional. I hope my right hon. Friend will excuse me if I say that his condemnation is childish and academic. Who first taught us to distinguish 1760 between a British and an Irish majority? Why, Sir, it was the Prime Minister, who in 1885 asked for a British majority in order that he might be independent of the Irish vote. And again, in 1886, when England was hostile to Home Rule, when Scotland was either hostile or indifferent, the Prime Minister introduced Home Rule. Why? Because, he told us, that an Irish majority demanded it. I say to my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary that what an Irish majority may demand a British majority may refuse. Does he really think that he can alter the Constitution of Great Britain without the assent of the British nation? Now, Sir, they have themselves to thank, for it is they who have revived this dangerous doctrine of separate majorities, and, Sir, we will meet them on their own ground. We will take up their challenge. We will appeal to the British majority. We will appeal to their good sense, to their Imperial instincts, to save us from being made the laughing-stock of all mankind. I notice that, in spite of the importance and influence of the British majority, wherever in this Bill what may be called British interests come into conflict with what may be called Irish interests, British interests go to the wall. I will take only two illustrations; they will be enough for my purpose. Take the case of the retention of the Irish Members for all purposes. My right hon. Friend spoke as strongly as anyone as to the evils of that course. He spoke of the temptation to intrigue, and the injustice—the apparent injustice—to which it led. But, Sir, in spite of that, after his pledge that he would never agree to it, after his promise that this matter should be determined by a majority of the British people—after that promise—
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. I am really very sorry to contradict him. There is nothing whatever in my right hon. Friend's speech about Parliament; it is the voice of Great Britain. I have the quotation, here. I will read it if you wish, but I do not think that is necessary, because I quoted it before. I say that my right hon. Friend pledged himself that Great Britain should have a determining voice, and then a few days, or it 1761 may be a week, before the matter came on, he further pledged himself that the Government would stand by their clause, and would do their best to carry it. In spite of all these pledges and promises, when the time came he threw the whole policy, to which he had previously given his adhesion, to the winds; and he did this distinctly on the ground that what ho then called the minor inconvenience was nothing in comparison with the cardinal importance of giving Home Rule to Ireland. Well, Sir, Ireland is to deal with her own affairs uncontrolled by us—practically uncontrolled—at the same time that 80 Irish Members, without British constituencies, without British responsibilities, are to come and take part in every act of British legislation and British taxation. "Ireland for the Irish" is a very good and a very plausible cry, but I think that "England for the English" will be a still better cry. Well then, Sir, there is the question of the financial arrangements. The principle laid down was that there was to be an equitable repartition, and that Ireland was to pay her share according to her taxable capacity. There is a great deal to be said for that, and there is a great deal against it, but at all events it is a fair principle, and one that can be defended. Unfortunately, the application of that principle would have made Ireland bankrupt, and it was a cardinal point with my right hon. Friend to secure to her a surplus of £500,000 a year. Accordingly, in order to secure that surplus for Ireland, England and Scotland are to be sacrificed, and the Irish taxpayer is to pay one-sixth of the sum per head paid by his brother taxpayer in Great Britain. Those are matters that have been brought out clearly in the course of our discussion, and our discussion is not wasted if they have sunk deep into the minds of the British people. Well, Sir, we know what we are going to lose in strength, in honour, and in money. What are we going to gain? We are to gain relief from the Irish controversy. We are to have a final settlement—not in the pedantic sense—we are to have a final settlement of the Irish Question. That was the promise that was made to the electors, and that was the promise made to the House when the Bill was introduced. It is absurd to put it before us now, when in clause after clause of the 1762 Bill we are referred to a future time when this Irish Question will again come up for discussion. But, Sir, even if there were no temporary provisions in this Bill, even if it were in the mind and view of the Government a final settlement, what could we say after the significant and remarkable speech that was made the other day by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond), the recollection of which has not faded from our minds, even after the speech—the pacific and conciliatory speech—of the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. J M'Carthy). The speech of the hon. Member for Waterford was a remarkable speech, remarkable for the strength of its arguments, and remarkable for the weakness of its conclusions. But in one respect it was distinct and clear enough. The hon. Member said that no man in his senses could now contend that this Bill was a full, complete, or satisfactory settlement of the Irish Question, and he went on to say that on every page the word "provisional" was stamped as though in red ink. You have the assurances of the hon. Member for Longford; you have the statement of the hon. Member for Waterford. You may cheer yourselves with the thought that the hon. Member for Waterford leads in this House, I think, the smallest Party within its walls, but do you doubt—does any sensible man doubt now—that that which the hon. Member has said is felt by the great majority of all the most active elements in Irish agitation—I will go further and say, by almost all of the American-Irish—who are in these matters a not altogether unimportant consideration? Is it not certain that as soon as the fulcrum has been obtained, and as soon as what the Clan-na-Gael call the plant for revolution is in working order, from time to time what the hon. Member has said here will be repeated in louder and louder tones, and that pressure will be brought to bear upon Ministry after Ministry until at last some Ministry is found weak enough or base enough to buy his support? My right hon. Friend referred the other day to foreign experience—I think rather unwisely; but, at any rate, although we do not admit that any analogy can be found in any particular case which serves as an example for our dealings with Ireland, yet we can, at all events, find 1763 in every example which can be quoted one constant, one significant lesson. And it is this—that in every case in which a superior Power has given limited self-government to an inferior it has never been accepted or treated as a final settlement. It has always been the starting point for new demands, and they have gone on, and are going on, and will go on until complete independence is secured. What the Secretary for Scotland said some time ago has never been disproved. There is no half-way house between Home Rule and Separation. For my part, I gravely doubt whether Separation itself would not be better for the country than the Home Rule which is proposed. At any rate, we should know what it is we have to guard against. We could take our own precautions. Home Rule would lull us into security, and the time might come when we should find ourselves unprepared, with an enemy on our flank. The Attorney General said, in the concluding portion of his speech last night, that Home Rule was inevitable—that the principle had been accepted by the Liberal Party, and every principle accepted by the Liberal Party was certain, in the long run, of success. I might answer the hon. and learned Gentleman by saying that a few years ago the Liberal Party pledged itself, even more strenuously than they have ever pledged themselves to Home Rule, to the maintenance of the Union. A section of the Liberal Party has changed its mind. [Cries of "No, no!"] It may change it again. In the meantime, I am perfectly ready to admit that the mischief which you have done by introducing this policy is irreparable; that you have made enormously more difficult the government of Ireland; that you have postponed indefinitely the hope of a complete and fuller Union. You have stimulated the idea of a separate nationality, which the greatest popular leaders of our time, whether in this country or abroad, have wisely desired to merge in a wider conception of national existence—men who certainly cannot be accused of being wanting in Liberal faith or Liberal aspirations—men as different in character as, in this country, Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright, and Mr. John Stuart Mill; in Italy, Count Cavour and Mazzini; in Austria, Kossuth; and in Germany, Bismarck and Karl Blind. These men, who have 1764 been popular leaders, all disapproved of the policy of stimulating the Separatist or Particularist idea of promoting national competition, and separating national interests. The Bill is going, as the hon. Member opposite said, to another place to meet its fate. I am not so certain as he is that we shall ever see it or its like again. Whether we do or do not, I am convinced that the British people will give the policy embodied in it its deathblow on the first occasion. The Bill will be defeated. Bur, the weakness of the Liberal Party, its lack of independence, its readiness to treat the vital interests of the country as though they were mere incidents in the Newcastle Programme or the Plan of Campaign—these things will not be forgotten and will not be forgiven by the British democracy.
§ *SIR E. GREY
—[Cries of "Morley!"]: The impatience of hon. Members will be gratified in the course of the evening; but I ask indulgence meanwhile, because I have not previously spoken on this Bill. Though following the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, I do not intend to complain of want of freshness in his speech, first, because we like his dialectical skill and the dramatic force which invests everything he says with interest; and, secondly, because, I regret to say, I shall be bound to travel over much of the same ground myself. We have recognised the old arguments in the right hon. Gentleman's speech; we have recognised the old omissions. For instance, the right hon. Gentleman has not explained how Homo Rule on the principle of the Bill of 1886, and Canadian lines, which he himself advocated, would have satisfied that military opinion which he told us in the early part of his speech would be fatal to this Bill. He has also omitted to explain how that form of Home Rule which he once advocated would have attained, as regards Ireland, that finality the absence of which he alleges in this Bill. If this Bill is not to be final, much less will any similar Bill containing real concessions, which the right hon. Gentleman himself may have advocated, and much less would any sham Bill be so. As to the methods by which the Bill was passed in Committee, and of which the right hon. Gentleman complained, they were in some degree due to the advice of the 1765 right hon. Member himself. Some time ago, on another occasion, the right hon. Gentleman said—The object of all reasonable discussion is to pave the way for the settlement of a question before the country—the object of much of the discussion in the House of Commons is to prevent any settlement from being arrived at.Well, in all the discussions on clauses from 1 to 5 in Committee on this Bill, how much was duo to the desire of the Opposition to bring about a final settlement in the souse in which those words were used. The object of the Bill is to bestow legislative authority upon Ireland; and if, on the Committee stage, the Opposition had not occupied the time by endeavouring to divert the clauses from a real to a sham object, there would have been ample time to discuss other parts of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman complains that time was not allowed, and I ask why he wanted more time? He told us some time ago that he wanted time to prove to the country how thoroughly unworkable and bad this Bill was. Has he had time to do that or not? If he has not had time to do it, why is it that the Opposition were continually asking for an Election immediately? Are they impartial judges on this question? Have they not said that every day and every hour spent on the Bill will be brought up against the Government as subtracted from British legislation? Is not that one of the weapons on which they will rely when the General Election comes? Did not Lord Salisbury the other day, in answer to a letter from theuuemployed—although he gave no hint as to what measure he desired to see introduced—blame in a vague way the present Government, because by the time occupied over this Bill they prevented important British measures being introduced? Why do they want time? Is it only to discuss this Bill, or is it to use it as a weapon against us in the country? If it is for the latter purpose—as I think they have shown it is—then I say they have no title to be considered impartial judges of the amount of time that should be devoted to the Bill. Their judgment on it is suspect—already their verdict before the country is tainted by the suspicion they have themselves attached to it. I will not say much as to the motives imputed by the right hon. Gentleman to our votes. 1766 He told us that we were a mechanical majority, that we had voted for the Bill without really believing in it. The right hon. Gentleman has used every effort in Committee to defeat the Bill. These efforts have failed, strenuous and energetic as they were, and he is left with only two consolations—one is the prophecy that the Government will be defeated in the country, and the other is that the votes by which he was defeated in the House were worth nothing. That is a matter which each man must settle for himself. One of the main charges against the Government is the 10th clause, dealing with the retention of the Irish Members. The Duke of Devonshire said the other day something which we can understand on this point—that he and his Party had scarcely realised until now how objectionable the retention of the Irish Members was. They have realised it to the extent that if the Bill is to pass the Leader of the Liberal Unionist Party says they must endeavour in the now Parliament to give liberty to the British House of Commons. Why this horror of the retention of the Irish Members? By what standard do you wish to judge the proposal before the House? It is not as if the House had a blank sheet of paper, on which nothing had been written, before it. Then how is this a change for the worse? I presume it is not because the number of the Irish Members in this House is to be reduced, though the votes given in the House on the question of the exact number of the Irish Members were most confusing. If that is not the charge against us it must be that the conduct of Irish Members in the House will be more embarrassing and inconvenient than it is at present? Why more so than now? I understand the Liberal Unionist position to be that it will be worse than it is now, or at least as bad because they say—"When the Bill is passed you will not have that control over Irish affairs—that lever with which to affect the action of the Irish Members in the House of Commons." Sir, when the control of this country over Ireland was most strict and rigid, and when it extended even to the physical restraint of Irish Members was the presence of those Members so satisfactory, from a Unionist point of view, that 1767 they wish to continue it? The real reason for any feeling in the House or in the country against the retention of the Irish Members is that their presence in this House is considered to have made the conduct of government difficult. But the friction which has taken place has been owing, in the first place, to our legislation as to Ireland having been ill-considered; and, in the second place, to the management of the details of domestic affairs in Ireland having been in the hands of a Central Authority. This Bill removes the causes of that friction which have existed between the Irish Members and the Government. The Opposition complains that under this Bill there will still be left incentives to the Irish Party to operate in a sinister way on the British Government; but if hon. Members opposite had had their way they would have crammed the Bill full of incentives. The fact is, that the whole political energy of Ireland has been devoted in this House to expressing a sense of dissatisfaction with the condition of affairs in that country, and their demands for a Home Rule measure; and in proportion as this Bill provides as it does a great and legitimate channel for that energy, in the same proportion will it lessen the concentrated force and amount of that energy which will be expended in this House. If hon. Members want further argument I would point to the growing tendency in this country—as exemplified in our County Councils and Municipalities—to remove the control of local affairs more and more from this House. I have a further reason why the presence of the Irish Members in this House will not be so objectionable, if this Bill passes, as hon. Members contend that it has been in the past. The objection is not only to the conduct of the Irish Members in this House, but to the solid bulk of the Irish majority. But when this Bill passes you will have a natural cleavage in the Irish Party. You see signs of divisions in it at present, signs which evoke the ridicule of the hon. Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) and other Unionist Members. But they are healthy signs. The persistently overwhelming majority of the Irish Party in this House on one side has been due to their overmastering passion for Home Rule, and if that pressure were removed, you would find 1768 that the cleavage would no longer be on one side. To sum up, I would say that first of all you reduce the Irish Members; secondly, you diminish the incentive of these Members to embarrass the British Government; thirdly, by the Bill you have provided conditions under which the 80 Irish Members shall give their votes, subject to the same healthy line of cleavage, the same normal perspective, the same attention to other than ulterior objects, as any body of Members who sit for British constituencies. Again, the opponents of the Bill object that under it the Executive in Ireland will be a real Executive. Let us, again, adjust our view by a reference to the present state of things. Our opponents say that the change we propose will be intolerable. But we have their word for it that the present state of things in Ireland is intolerable as regards the Executive. Is there any need of a change in the Executive in Ireland? Dublin Castle is an anachronism. It is an "alien Board of foreign officials." [Cries of "Oh!"] I admit the language is strong, but I cannot altogether withdraw the words, for they are not my own, but the words of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. Why has the Executive in Ireland been a trouble to this country, and a difficulty to the Government of Ireland? I do not think it has been solely because of the failure on the part of the Executive officers, such as the Magistrates and the Irish Constabulary. I throw no blame on them, for I consider they have never had a fair chance, because they are looked upon in Ireland with jealousy as the officials of an extrinsic and alien Government. An Executive to be useful must be strong. Its acts must sometimes be disagreeable acts. If there is jealousy of the Executive it stands no chance, because every disagreeable act is suspected. You stand no chance with public opinion; your task is for ever uphill; you contend always with those influences whose support and sympathy is the very first essential, not only of an easy, but of a fair performance of duty. A change of Executive is therefore necessary, and that Executive should be attached to the Irish Legislature. The possession of the Executive power will give a sense of responsibility to that body, and will have the same steadying 1769 influence in Ireland which it has upon Parliamentary Oppositions in this country, when they in their turn become the Government of the day. Now, we have got to the real difficulty. The real objection is that the Government we have proposed is a real one; that the Legislature and Executive in Ireland are to be real, with a full sense of responsibility. That is the gravamen of the charge against the Government. It is said that the minority will be unfairly treated. I should like to say a few words upon that. There are a few things still to be said on it. It is not the strength of the feeling of hon. Members from Ulster that is in doubt—it is the strength of their arguments. The feeling is strong and genuine, but, after all, it belongs to a minority of the people of Ireland; and when the Government are asked, as the Member for West Birmingham says, to withdraw their Bill because of this feeling of the minority, they cannot do it without proof, full and convincing, that that feeling is justified. Has that proof been given? On this question of religious intolerance, instances have been adduced where, in Protestant districts, a large Catholic minority have failed to got representation; other instances have been given where, with a large Catholic majority, a Protestant minority has had its full share of representation. The one instance wanting is an instance of a Roman Catholic majority altogether excluding a Protestant minority from representation. But supposing that the Ulster people should be, after all, right, in spite of their arguments being weak—supposing there were that off-chance—there are in the Bill such guarantees as can be put into any Bill, and, if these are not effective, no paper guarantees can be effective. But are there no guarantees outside the Bill? There is, first of all, the danger to the Home Rule Parliament of provoking the resentment of Ulster; and after Home Rule is passed, Ulster is physically strong enough—if she has moral right at her back, and the sympathy which it would provoke; moral right given by her own treatment, or by the treatment of her fellow-religionists scattered over Ireland—she is strong enough to make government by the Irish Parliament impossible. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to give the Nationalists credit only for the 1770 lowest motives, and then to say whether these men, whom we all admit to be masters of Parliamentary strategy and political tactics, do not know Ulster's power as well as anyone else? This guarantee will be always present and always effective. The second outside guarantee is the certain resentment of this country if the minority in Ireland are in any way treated unfairly. Well, Sir, I have only been a short time at the Foreign Office, but I have been there long enough to have experience of the resentment which is aroused when there is any supposed ill-treatment of minorities in foreign countries with which Great Britain has no immediate concern. How can it be doubted that that resentment will be swift and sure and strong with respect to the minority in Ireland—if it should be necessary? This, too, has to be remembered: that Ireland will be so near—nay more, she will be in our very midst—that no injustice or intolerance there will escape our notice. On the Ulster question I would say that, in the first place, we are entitled to put before the country that we have no evidence that the danger to Ulster is real, practical, or imminent; and, secondly, that there are all possible guarantees in the Bill, as well as others outside, ever-acting, ever-present, inherent in the circumstances of the case, which it is not in the power of the House, or the Government, or the Bill to weaken or destroy. Then it is said that the Bill will be unworkable. Why? It is not unworkable on paper—far less so than the British Constitution itself, if it were put on paper. But the practice under the Bill is to make it unworkable. That is proved by a simple method. The worst is assumed on both sides, both as regards the Irish Members and the Government, and then the argument proceed gaily enough. The wildest language used by any Irish Member under circumstances of exasperation and despair is taken, and then it is assumed that that language describes what will be the exact letter of procedure in power. But, Sir, I would point out that in every civilised country in the world it is found that Oppositions become moderate in power. Even the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) was looked upon as an Executive officer of great trust and capacity. But in Ireland, by some per- 1771 versity of nature, they are going to proceed to still wilder excesses contrary to all knowledge of history and human nature! With that assumption the right is claimed to doubt the truth of every word that the Irish Members now say, while these earlier words are to be held true then and now. In a greater or less degree this responsibility can always be relied upon to produce—if they do not exist—qualities of moderation and prudence. Again, it is held that the veto is unworkable. That is proved by attributing to successive British Governments a largo amount of jealousy, and a desire to exercise a nagging interference with the Irish Parliament. Sir, the Bill is an act of faith on both sides. The Irish people and the British Government have been brought into touch for the first time; and it requires an act of faith on the one side, as on the other, to accept the Bill. The Government trust that the Irish people will make good use of the powers conferred on them; and the Irish must trust that the restrictions will not be lightly, wantonly, or provokingly used. It has been sought to destroy the Bill by attacking it piecemeal. The restrictions were taken one by one, isolated from the context, and then it was shown that they would break down or be a source of difficulty. Each provision is a part of a whole; and there is no right to suppose that in every case there will be the maximum of folly on the one side, and the minimum of wisdom on the other. They argue as though the one object was to seize on the weakest provision and to break it down, and so to wreck the rest. But it is not a fair assumption to say of a living man that his greatest strength is that of his weakest limb. They argue that because there might be oppression there would be oppression—that because there might be injustice there would be injustice. The Government, however, believe that by this Bill the are giving the Irish people ail instrument which they will use for their country's good, and which it will be worth while to use and preserve. They fool a sense of relief in passing the Bill, and they were entitled to take the view that the measure will be accepted as something which Irishmen shall endeavour not to destroy, but to foster and preserve. They 1772 feel a sense of relief in passing this Bill in regard to the prospects of British legislation, and of the time devoted to Irish affairs from which the British Parliament will be free. It is reasonable to assume that this measure, accepted by one Party and freely granted by the other, is something which both will strengthen, foster, and preserve, instead of trying to destroy. Sir, the Government are accused of waste of time on this Bill, because it must be rejected, first of all in another place, and afterwards in the country. But that is prophecy, and the recital of the speeches of hon. Members opposite during the last 12 months is perfectly strewn with broken prophecies. A few fragments more or less will make little difference. As to what will happen in another place, the prophecy of hon. Members may come true, as it is in the power of their Party to realise it. But where will the Opposition be when the Bill has been rejected? Will they be on the high road to the Local Government Bill for Ireland of last year? I understand them to say that in 1885 there was no alliance between them and the Irish Party. I do not want to press that point. I only say, Sir, that the old system broke down—the action of the Tory Party broke it down, and this Bill takes its place. The Bill introduced in 1886 was worth something—it produced the Tory Local Government Bill of last year. That was not worth much, but it was worth something, considering the quarter from which it came. But if the Bill passes through the House of Commons it will be worth something more, for if it be once passed through the House you cannot go back. Can anyone suppose that the passage of the Bill through the House of Commons will not alter the standard by which future proposals will be judged by the country? I ask the House to turn to the confession of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. He said that the Bill had done irreparable mischief. It is worth while for hon. Members to remember that, when they console themselves with the action likely to be taken in another place. The passage of this Bill through this House will certainly remove the idea that it is impossible to get a majority of the electors of the United Kingdom in its favour, and it will remove the idea that it is 1773 impossible to got such a Bill through this House, and the removal of those two ideas is worth something. How can you go back even if the Bill were rejected at the next Election? Some hon. Members say that the electors are not interested in Home Rule—that they do not believe it; that they are interested in social and local measures. It is said we would be glad to see the subject dropped, as our friends care more for eight hours for miners, labour questions, and Parish Councils. Supposing that to be so, I ask whether the Opposition expect to get support in the future for 20 years of resolute government? The Union has failed. We have been unable in the past to attract the support of the people of Ireland to that system. This is a paper Constitution, as the Union was, mere dry bones; but we maintain that it has a prospect of life; that it will attract and exercise the energy and capacity of Ireland; that within the four corners of this Bill Irish politics can exist and be active, no longer as a disturbing and adverse element, but filling their proper place, and fulfilling their proper work as a part of the Constitution of these Islands. The Leader of the Opposition admits this problem. He says it is insoluble; but there we differ from him. We differ as to the solution, but that is because we differ as to the nature of the problem. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) believes in the policy of bringing the people of Ireland and the people of England near to one another, a policy which he said Cromwell first conceived. The policy of the right hon. Gentleman takes a long time for its realisation. It has been a long time since Cromwell, and how small the result has been! We have come to the end of our tether with regard to that policy. The late Conservative Government had the best chance of making that policy successful that any British Government ever had. They used British credit so largely as to arouse the susceptibilities—I think unreasonably—of many of the British electors, and they went so far in reducing Irish land rents as to strain the consciences of some Members of the Tory Party. Never was there such a chance of conciliating Ireland to British rule; but it has not led to confidence, gratitude, and content on the part of the 1774 Irish people. In bringing forward this Bill, we find the aspiration of the people of Ireland to resume the thread of Irish self-government; to control her daily business; to be free to meet the most pressing of her needs as they arise—not unnatural. Some would have us believe that the cause of all discontent is to be found in the land difficulty. But we do not find that opinion prevailing amongst the Nationalists. Others urge that we have done so much for Ireland that this aspiration after Home Rule is unreasonable and perverse. They point with triumph to Laud Acts and other remedies, of our willingness and capacity to treat Ireland justly and generously. But they forget that some of those remedies came too late. They forget, too, the hitter opposition to those remedies which was only overcome by the pressure of accumulated disorder and wretchedness in Ireland. Again, some of our best intentions, such as the Encumbered Estates Act, produced the most disastrous results. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Plunket) said last night that for the past 70 years Ireland has had nothing to complain of. But all we have done has shown, not the measure of our readiness and capacity for governing Ireland, so much as the evidence of Ireland's need and of our delay. The lesson of the past is that in the future Ireland will need constant and unremitting attention, and that concentration and sympathy and knowledge in dealing with her affairs which can only be given by a Local Authority. I would ask the House to consider the difference of the problems in Ireland and in this country. In Ireland you have a tenant's problem. Here you have a labour problem. Here we have congestion of towns and de-population of country districts. In Ireland they have congestion of country districts and stagnation of towns. The initiative for dealing with the problems is left entirely in the hands of this one Parliament. The Unionists grudge the time we are spending on Irish affairs, and say it should be devoted to the consideration of British affairs. What, then, is the situation? If we attend to the wants of Ireland we keep the British electors waiting. If we leave Ireland alone, we are soon distracted by a state of affairs which plunges us into a discussion of controversial and desperate 1775 measures, which not only occupies our time, but distracts the House of Commons by friction and Party feeling. We are anxious that that should not be the case in the future as it has been in the past. We maintain that our view of the situation and of the possible relations between the two countries is the more just and reasonable. We therefore think the Bill is wise and prudent. We have faith in it. We admit that the opposition to the Bill was a stern reality. In their enthusiasm our opponents frequently forgot their tactics. They would have us believe that they were overcome solely by a love of Office on this Bench and by time-serving behind it. I say that nothing but a faith on our part real and strong as their own opposition would have enabled us to carry this Bill. I have travelled, I am afraid, only over well-worn ground. I cannot pretend to assume for myself that in the performance of the task allotted to me I have contributed any novelty or new force to the arguments in favour of the Bill. But I am glad of this opportunity to say, speaking as an English Member, and looking to the future of this country, that I give my vote for the Third Reading of the Bill, believing in the good results not only of its passing, but of its future working; in the principles on which it is founded, and in the present application of them; and my conviction that what has taken its place as an article of faith in the Liberal Party will endure in the House of Commons and triumph in the country.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I listened with that interest and attention which is always accorded to the words of the hon. Baronet in defending this Bill. He says he approves of the Bill as it is now presented to the House. How, then, can he have approved of the Bill as introduced? The two Bills are in many points absolutely opposed to each other. I suppose one reason why the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was chosen to speak on this occasion is, perhaps, because in his view, as well as in the view of many others, Ireland will soon become a foreign country. Speaking of Dublin Castle, the hon. Baronet allowed a word to slip from him which rather indicates that that is his view. He referred to Dublin Castle as being alien—
§ *SIR E. GREY
What I said was that the Board of Dublin Castle had always been an alien Board of foreign officials. The words, however, are not mine. I should not have selected them. They are the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
But the hon. Baronet adopted them; and it is a very curious thing that at the present moment the only alien in Dublin Castle is his colleague the Chief Secretary. To one part of the hon. Baronet's speech I listened with satisfaction. That was where he spoke of the guarantees that existed in the future for the Irish minority. Apparently, we have at last persuaded a certain section of the Radical Party, at all events, that the threatened resistance of Ulster is not a sham and a dream. We have at last persuaded hon. Gentlemen opposite that the stand taken by Ulster has not been idly adopted; that it is, in fact, a fixed and unalterable stand taken up by perhaps the most determined section of Her Majesty's subjects. The hon. Baronet spoke of another guarantee which did not convey to my mind any degree of satisfaction. He spoke of the protection of the Irish minority by Imperial assistance. The hon. Baronet is acquainted with Imperial affairs. I ask him, what suffering minority has this country ever protected? I venture to say that the history of Parliament does not recall one; and, therefore, I gain little from allowing my life, liberty, and property to depend on Imperial assistance. The people of Ulster have never come cringing like cowards for the assistance of the British. We have always said that if Britain will let us we can take care of ourselves. Whether Britain allows this or not we intend to do so should necessity arise. I find fault with the hon. Baronet and his colleagues that they base their belief in the success of Home Rule on sunny prophecies as to the effect the Bill will have on the prejudices and even the hatred of the people of Ireland. These prophecies, however, do not warrant hon. Gentlemen opposite in attempting a fundamental change in the Constitution. The Prime Minister is always ready to talk of the happy future for Ireland should this Bill pass. This always reminds me of the triumph of hope over experience. The Government know that 1777 experience is against them. Every right hon. Gentleman opposite knows right well that the experience of past Irish history is directly against the probability that the Home Rule Bill will bring peace, order, and good government to Ireland. The Government, however, found all their anticipations on a sanguine view of the future, though we cannot see that that is any foundation for the hope. The Prime Minister has quoted the experience of foreign countries as to the benefits of Home Rule. But it has always struck me that there is one country and one people which the right hon. Gentleman forgets to mention, and that is the country of England and the English people. The English people are now in the black books of the Prime Minister, and I do not think that recent elections will place them on better terms with the right hon. Gentleman. It seems to me to be a most unparalleled condition of affairs that the Parliament of England is asked by the Prime Minister to accept a policy with assurance because other countries approve of it, while the right hon. Gentleman knows his own people condemn it. But it is said that all will be changed in Ireland. The granting of responsibility to the Laud League and the priesthood of Ireland will change everything. There is to be a Parliament of reformed Irishmen. Why should they reform? All the experience of the past shows that the more authority and the more power the Nationalist Party possessed the more they used it to tyrannise and grind down all who dared to oppose them. In that Irish Parliament there will be probably two factions fiercely hating each other—the Land League faction, elected by the priests; and the Fenian Party, led by the hon. Member for Waterford, whose policy the Chancellor of the Exchequer described as Fenian Home Rule.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
It is so long since the right hon. Gentleman made a speech about Ireland and Home Rule that he actually forgets his own words. I, however, cannot see any prospect that the Irish Parliament will become in the future other than it was before, representing the most merciless, most tyrannical, and the most oppressive tyranny that ever existed in any civilised country. I can conceive a condition of affairs where, if the Irish people were 1778 united and claimed Home Rule with the same united voice as Hungary claimed autonomy, a statesman might say that the only hope for pacifying the country and in seeing it advance would be to grant its request. But is there anything in the condition of the Irish people which would lead any sane man to believe that the granting of autonomy in the case of Ireland will make her a peaceful and happy country? There are two sections in the Irish Party hating each other more than they hated the Loyalists, and that is saying a good deal; a third section will arise which will take the opportunity where it offers to crush the other two. Is there any country so unfit for self-government as Ireland, containing as it does those contending Parties? I venture to say that as one of the outcomes of Home Rule, if we allow the Irish Parliament to settle its differences alone, it will be found that in a short time there will be only one Party. What Party that will be is hard to say, but we all hope to belong to that Party. There appears to be an idea in the mind of the Attorney General that the Ulster people are becoming lukewarm in this fight, and the Prime Minister said that the Irish landlords should keep their eyes open as to the future action of the Ulster tenants. I know the Ulster tenants better than the right hon. Gentleman; and though the Ulster tenants would be glad, naturally enough, to get cheap land, there is one price which they will never pay for the privilege, and that is to place their lives, liberties, and property at the disposal of the men who led the Land League during the last 10 years, supplemented by the action of the Roman Catholic priests. I do not exaggerate in these fears for the future. I will read a very short quotation from a speech made by the hon. Member for Waterford. The hon. Member for Waterford invariably states what he believes to be true, even though it militates against himself. I entirely disapprove of the policy of the hon. Gentleman; but I make that concession to his political conduct. At a meeting in Dublin on August 10 one of the inducements held out by the hon. Member to the meeting to adopt this Bill was that the whole Criminal Law of Ireland would be in the bauds of the Irish Parliament, and that it could by a stroke of the pen abolish Grand Juries 1779 and elect County Boards. The Ulster farmer does not like the idea of criminal procedure and the powers of legislative enactment being in the hands of his former enemies. I do not believe that Land League Judges, or priestly-elected Judges, as they will be, or Land League prices would give him fair play. I do not say that the Irish Parliament would, if they were allowed, openly persecute their opponents. I believe they would execute the operation in the most legal manner possible. They would simply sweep away one law and enact another, and in the hands of the Irish Parliament the country would be a hot place for the minority. One of the great charms held out for the Home Rule Bill to be supported was that Parliament would get rid of the Irish Members. This was the Chief Secretary's view. Undoubtedly, that was one of the lessons which my right hon. Friend said had induced him to become a Homo Ruler. But you are not to get rid of them. You will have 80 Irish gentlemen here, and I invite the Chief Secretary to explain how he reconciles that change of view. We were told that this was to be a final settlement. But where is the finality? It has gone with the retention of the Irish Members. The hon. Member for Mayo said the Bill will settle something. I believe it will. It will finally settle Imperial supremacy, and it will finally settle the Irish minority. There is one thing I cannot understand, and that is the systematic abuse which we hear of England in regard to her dealings towards Ireland in the past. I venture to say that there is no more miserable cant than expressions like these, which are appeals simply to the ignorance of the people, or are made in the belief of the people's ignorance of history, to try to persuade them to press this Bill in order to make reparation for England's disgraceful dealing with Ireland in the past. During the last 50 years the record of England's dealing with Ireland is one of which any great nation might be proud. What is the condition of Ireland now compared with what it was? The people of Ireland are infinitely more prosperous, better fed, and better educated than they were; and, with the aid of British capital, many industries have been established in their midst. One hon. Member has spoken about the ruin 1780 which England has brought upon Ireland. The population of Ireland has undoubtedly decreased; but the diminution of population is no test of decreased prosperity. Population has decreased simply because the people, being more educated, have learned that there are more countries besides Ireland in which they can live and thrive. They have gone abroad, and they have thriven there, I am glad to say. Irishmen in America would look upon it as a poor prospect if they had to leave New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, and live in a congested district in Ireland. The argument as to the decrease of population has, therefore, no bearing whatever on the prosperity or non-prosperity of Ireland. As a matter of fact, the wealth of Ireland is ten times greater now than it was at the Union. I have tried, on behalf of the section of the Irish population which I represent, to show the country that our opposition to Home Rule is an opposition which we will never recall, and I believe the House is beginning to credit it at last. Is there any instance in history of a great country like this being forced by the gag to pass a measure for pulling down its Constitution and for the re-erection of another? I say there is no instance which has any analogy to this monstrous attempt to subvert the Constitution of a country without Debate. But despite the gag, we have been successful, to some extent, in fixing the attention of the country on the iniquities of this Bill. There is one critical point on which the country is now wide awake. That is the 9th clause. You will never be able to convince the English people that it is right to give the Irish not only the right to control their own affairs, but to come here and control the affairs of England. At the present moment there is growing in the country a belief—we have heard echoes of it from the bye-elections—that this Bill is an attack upon England; that you are not only willing to gag England in the House of Commons, but that you are going to enslave her outside, there is no doubt that you will get a very broad, clear, explicit answer from the country when the opportunity arises. There is one other thing we have also shown. We have shown that the safeguards put into this Bill are shams and delusions which are not worth the paper on which they are written. I think we have amply 1781 justified the attitude which Ulster has taken. I think the speech of the hon. Baronet is proof of that. He says that in the attitude of Ulster is the best guarantee for the safety of the minority. We have been accused of disloyalty to the Crown. We are not disloyal to the Crown. But we never owed obedience to the power of the majority in Ireland, and we will never acknowledge it. The stand taken by us has been acknowledged in the country, for no sentiment is more applauded by the British people than that expressing the ultimate and irrevocable determination of Ulster. we have shown the British people that there is a strong and determined minority in Ireland that will have to be counted with. Before Home Rule can be shoved down our throats the forces of the Crown must be employed; and there is no case in contemporaneous history where autonomy was forced on a country at the bayonet's point, against the will of the most influential section of the people. It will, no doubt, be said that the very fact that Irish Unionists moved Amendments to this Bill showed that if the Amendments had been adopted we would have become Home Rulers and have adopted the Bill. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We moved Amendments not because we believed the Bill could be made acceptable, but in order to show up the corpse we had been dissecting during the last five months, and I think we have succeeded. We have also shown that Ave intend to force the Government to go to the country on Home Rule alone. The cry of obstruction has been raised, but the country has given no indication that it approves of that cry. We have shown a determination, and I believe we will be able to defeat any attempt to sandwich Home Rule between other measures of the Newcastle Programme. I have never doubted that the Government would carry their Bill in the House of Commons, knowing from experience something of the character of British Radicals. But it will be beaten in another place; and why? Because in the House of Lords there is not a Catholic majority. It is only because the Government have a Catholic majority here that they have brought in the Home Rule Bill. These things shall be made plain to the country, and we shall do it with this laudable object—that right hon. Gentlemen who 1782 have sown the whirlwind shall reap the storm.
§ *MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
said, that in the course of the Debate the argument had been freely used by the Opposition that there was an absence of independence amongst the occupants of the Benches behind the Government, and that there was no real honest feeling in support of the Home Rule Bill. At all events, the new Members could say that they were not controlled by the powerful incentives which influenced some of the older Members of the House. In the first place, their opinions and judgment were not warped by personal antipathy, nor had they been under the painful necessity of bringing down to the House long selections from old speeches—annotated, expurgated, and often retracted. There were two arguments advanced by the opponents of the Bill which would have no effect in his constituency. One was that the Bill had not been sufficiently discussed in the House; and the other was that it was not understood by the country. He represented an agricultural constituency, composed of clear, common-sense men, and he ventured to say that if any eminent Member of the Liberal Unionist Party were to go down to the agricultural districts of Lincolnshire—for example, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings), whose services to the agricultural labourers nobody would attempt to underrate—aud advance these two propositions, he would find that, while he got a most respectful hearing, his arguments would not have the effect which he expected. He had found one of the most powerful expositions of the case of the opponents of the Bill in an article which the Leader of the Opposition had written for a popular paper with his usual lucidity and moderation. The right hon. Gentleman there said that the Liberal Party were influenced by two fallacies, which were at the foundation of most of their arguments. One was that they paid by the Homo Rule Bill a debt they owed to Ireland for past delinquencies; and the other was the theory that the majority must rule. He did not deny that those wore two very powerful motives, so far as he was personally concerned. The fact that large sums of money had been unjustly taken by the 1783 landlords from the pockets of the Irish tenants in the shape of rents, and that equally large sums had been appropriated for many years by an alien Church, were powerful reasons why England should in financial concerns deal generously with Ireland. He was not ashamed to admit, also, that he believed in the good old doctrine that the majority must rule. When the Leader of the Opposition challenged that doctrine they were justified in expecting from him some clear and logical exposition as to when the majority must and when they must not rule. Take the Province of Ulster. Protestantism was in the ascendency there. He supposed that, according to Unionist opinion, there the majority must rule. In the South of Ireland, and in Ireland as a whole, Roman Catholicism was in the ascendency. There the minority must rule. Again, they were told that an important section of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, embracing the culture, the wealth, and the intelligence of that Church, was against the Bill. In that case, they were told, the minority must ride. Now, apply this same doctrine to the Presbyterian Church. The vast majority of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland was opposed to Home Rule. In that case they were expected to turn the doctrine completely round, and say that the majority must rule. In fact, when they once got away from the principle that the majority must rule they were landed in anarchy, sedition, and disorder. It was said, too, that the Nonconformists of England had turned a deaf ear to what was called the plaintive appeal of their fellow-Protestants in Ireland. He belonged himself to a Nonconformist Body which had 34 candidates in the last General Election, every one of whom was in favour of Home Rule, and he was persuaded that they would not have got 34 men of the Methodist Church to stand up in this country as defenders of the Bill if it were tainted in any degree with religious persecution. He believed the Irish Nonconformists were in earnest, but the danger they feared was not real. Among the Protestant ministers of Ulster who had taken part in the anti-Home Rule campaign was Dr. Nicholas, who had written a pamphlet which had been widely circulated in the English constituencies; and the peculiarity of 1784 the pamphlet, as of the speeches made by the ministerial delegates, was that the appeals to English Protestants were based mainly on secular grounds, and not oh any alleged intolerance exhibited by Catholics towards Protestants in Ireland. The chief contentions were that Home Rule would send down Bank Stock and Railway Stock, and otherwise affect trade. This was not an appeal by Dr. Nicholas to his fellow-Methodists, but to mere capitalists. They reminded him of a Petition presented by the City of London years ago with regard to the question of the naturalisation of the Jews. The Mayor and Corporation of London came to the Bar of this House and presented a Petition that Jews should not be permitted to be naturalised—first of all, in the interests of religion; secondly, in the interests of the trade and prosperity of the Empire; and, thirdly, in the interests of the City of London in particular. So also in this case there was a large mixture in the appeal to sordid considerations. There was the amplest possible protection in this Bill for every section of Nonconformity in Ireland. He did not know how to account for the extraordinary state of panic into which the Protestants of Ireland seemed to have fallen. There were only 25,000 Methodist members, with possibly 50,000 adherents, in the whole of Ireland, and a great number of those were living in Roman Catholic districts. They had Committees appointed to bring forward any case of persecution, but they had not heard on this side of the Channel of any case of Methodists having been persecuted in districts where they were surrounded by Roman Catholics. No particular religion was established or endowed under the Bill, directly or indirectly; no disability imposed on account of religious belief; no ecclesiastical property could be diverted without the consent of the parties interested; no denominational education, he presumed, in the Training Colleges and elsewhere could be prejudicially affected; and, further, they had the Conscience Clause for the protection of children in the elementary schools. In the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford the other night, which was not a very wisely-worded one, they were told that in legislating for a people there was no such 1785 thing as finality. But he would ask what was the alternative policy to that of Her Majesty's Government? Let some responsible Members of the Opposition say what they proposed to substitute for the policy of Her Majesty's Government; many had been anxiously waiting to hear what the alternative was to be. Was it to be a battering-ram to-day and a light railway to-morrow? The noble Lord the Member for Paddington had said there must be some measure of Local Government for Ireland, and that this was a subject which no Government and no Party could afford to shirk. Yet the Opposition did shirk it for six years, when they had the security that any measure carried through this House would pass in another place. Would the Opposition, if they could, enter into some new compact, or would they fall back upon resolute government and the policy of not hesitating to shoot? The policy of Her Majesty's Government was one of conciliation; it was offered by the democracy of England to the Irish nation at the hands of the leading statesman of our age, and for that reason he gave it his cordial support.
§ LORD F. HAMILTON (Tyrone, N.)
should not detain the House for more than a few minutes, and he had the less I compunction in rising, as he had occupied very little of the attention of the House during any of the stages of the Bill. He should, however, be wanting in duty to those who returned him to the House if he did not before the Bill was read a third time enter his protest, both in their name and his own, against this measure. They had been for 82 days discussing one quarter of a Bill three-fourths of which had been forced through the House without a word of discussion of any sort or kind whatever. What was the measure? It was a measure which introduced vast Constitutional changes, which bristled with difficulties, and which had been riddled through and through by the arguments of the Opposition during the Committee stage. He could only think of one reason which could excuse the introduction of the Bill, and that was that when the Government introduced it they were aware of the fact that it could not become law. It was a Bill made for show, and not for use. It was a species of article manufactured in Germany, or, 1786 perhaps, after what they heard last night, "manufactured in Devonport" would be a more felicitous expression. This Bill was the outcome of the labour of six years. Surely after such an abnormally prolonged period of gestation they might have expected some measure a little more creditable to those the impress of whose paternity it bore. There were only two clauses in the Bill upon which he should like to say a word. The first was the 9th clause and the other the Second Schedule, which might be regarded as part of a clause. The Irish Members were to be retained, and at that he rejoiced. The Members from Ulster were returned by the constituents to the Imperial Parliament, and not to a species of glorified Vestry in Dublin. The Ulster Members, he supposed, ought to congratulate themselves on the fact that the Prime Minister, in his graciousness, had only partially disfranchised their constituents. Instead of returning 102 Members to this Parliament, Ireland in future would only return 80 Members; but, at the same time, the constituencies in the North of Ireland had been gerrymandered in the most barefaced, thoug skilful, manner in order to reduce the present most inadequate representation of the Loyalists of Ireland to a still smaller figure. Why should the principle of electoral districts, upon which that House after long deliberation had finally resolved—why should that principle, which was considered best for England, be abandoned in the case of Ireland? The reason was perfectly obvious. It was to reduce the representation of the Loyalists. In the County of Tyrone, for instance, by this Second Schedule, it would mean almost the entire, if not the entire, annihilation of the Loyalist and Unionist representation. Coming to the Financial Clauses, he confessed that, as an Irish Member, it was a matter of most supreme indifference to him whether the financial burdens which were to fall upon England under this Bill were to be heavier than they were at present. Luxuries must be paid for; and if gentlemen chose to buy a pig in a poke, they must pay the price. It would be interesting to see whether the constituents of hon. Gentlemen opposite regarded this matter with the same indifference that the Irish Members did. The hon. Member for North Armagh had 1787 alluded to the attitude of determined hostility which the Ulster Unionists had adopted towards this Bill. There was one Member of the present Government who was an Ulsterman by birth, and he regretted to say that the only contribution he made to this difficult part of the subject was a sneer at the Unionist representation of his native Province. The other night there was a Debate on absentee landlords. He (Lord F. Hamilton) confessed he had very little sympathy with absentees of any sort. He regretted the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Bryce) was not in his place, and he would suggest to that right hon. Gentleman that it would be a most interesting, instructive, and novel experience for him to re-visit his native Province during the Recess. He could address meetings in Belfast and Derry, and ascertain how far Ulstermen coincided and believed in the views he himself expressed. Possibly it might fail to be an altogether agreeable experience to the principal performer. Much capital had been made out of the mysterious Memorial which was said to be signed by 3,500 Presbyterians, who were in favour of the policy advocated by the Prime Minister. The names of the signatories to this Memorial up to the present had been enshrouded in the darkest mystery, and the Unionists were a little sceptical as to the genuineness of the signatures. Assuming, however, that this number of 3,500 was correct; there were 500,000 Presbyterians in Ireland, so that the Prime Minister would actually have succeeded in convincing very nearly ¾ per cent, of the total of the Presbyterians in Ireland—a most magnificent and convincing demonstration of opinion! It was, perhaps, natural that there should exist a certain lack of sympathy between the Unionists of Ulster and the occupants of the Government Bench. The Ulster Protestant, and especially the Ulster Presbyterian, was a man of few words. He was essentially and pre-eminently a man of action. It was natural there should be this lack of sympathy between men, on the one hand, who were practical and men of action; and, on the other hand, of men who were nothing if not theorists. But though this lack of sympathy might exist, he confessed the Protestants of Ulster had not received 1788 fair play in this matter. During the whole course of these Debates no more extraordinary argument had been put forward than that with which the Chancellor of the Duchy met the Amendment of the hon. Member for Leeds the other night. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was no particular force in endeavouring to meet a difficulty of one kind while leaving it open to the Irish Legislature to obtain the same ends by other means. In other words, the present measure opened the door to so many evils that it was no use guarding against any particular one. As well might a man decline to take any precautions against the inroads of cholera on the ground that there were so many other diseases to which human beings were liable that it was absolutely absurd to single one special disease out. Every one of them thought that Bill a dead Bill. They had been sitting round a corpse for the last few weeks, and it would be difficult to imagine a duller wake than they had had. Everyone who lived in Ireland knew that the Land Question was the very root of the whole Irish difficulty, and yet there was no attempt whatever to settle the Land Question in the Bill now before the House. There was one legacy the Government would leave. They had succeeded in fanning into a flame the dying embers of religious and racial animosity. Those who lived in the North of Ireland had hoped those flames had died out, but they saw again the old strong Party feeling aroused, and he feared it would take nearly a generation for those feelings to calm down. This was the only legacy the Government would leave when they had been turned out of Office and when this Administration had passed into the limbo of forgotten things.
§ MR. R. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
said, he hoped the House would not think him wanting in respect for the able and diverting speech which, in common with others, he had listened to with very great interest if he did not pursue the heads of argument which the noble Lord too briefly, for their profit and instruction, placed before the House, except in so far as he might encompass them incidentally in the remarks he might have to make in seeking to address the House, because he felt he had hardly any right to intrude 1789 into this Debate with the view of offering any contribution to the discussion as a Debate. he rose to ask the indulgence of the House more on a personal ground in consideration of the somewhat unfortunate, to him almost calamitous, relation which he had now got into with respect to the Third Reading of this Bill. He had the satisfaction of voting for the Second Reading of the Bill, and it was to him a true gratification. He regretted to discover that he should not be able to repeat that satisfaction in connection with the Third Reading; but not from any change that had come over him or from any cause for which he was to blame. He said in all sincerity that it was for him a sorrowful experience to find himself separated from his Party in voting on this Bill, but he declared that it was not his fault; he had not gone away from the Bill and the Party, but the Bill and the Party hail gone away from him, and had left him in a predicament. Like Joseph—he referred of course, to the patriarch of that name—he found himself, if he might use a colloquialism, "in a hole," but it was a hole in which he had been put by his brethren, who had thereupon abandoned him. Since the Second Reading of the Bill a good many things had happened, especially in what was to him a vital part of the Bill—he referred, of course, to the powers conferred upon Irish Members in this House. The Prime Minister, with the support of the Government and the Party, had adopted tactics which seemed to him to be diametrically opposed to his principles, and he was so much attached to his principles that he supposed, owing to some constitutional peculiarity, he was not able to follow his tactics, with the result that he found himself reduced to the position of a political curiosity, being he supposed now, on that point at all events, the only Gladstonian extant.The last, of the faithful left trusting alone, All his late co-believers thirsting and gone.Japhet in Search of a Father, Cœlebs in Search of a Wife, were works of fiction that once had a certain vogue; but under the title of Gladstonius in Search of a Leader,or Item in Search of a Chief he could tell a tale of woe, but he would refrain and draw a veil over his feelings. But, besides this change to which he had briefly referred, he found 1790 other aspects of the Bill which filled him with regret. As it was originally introduced the Bill was an honest and substantial attempt to bestow self-government upon Ireland, but marred by the, to his mind, regrettable and needless reservations. Against these reservations, as inconsistent with Home Rule and also as being in themselves absurd and vain, if viewed in the light of conciliatory concessions to an absolutely and necessarily irreconcilable Opposition, as being in fact, if he might so say, in the nature of unworthy dodges which were, besides, useless, being a spreading of the net in sight of the bird, he said against these he protested, ineffectually it was true, but as well as the limited opportunity of doing anything enabled him to do. At the same time, he steadily supported the Government in their resistance to the endeavours of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, which he admitted were perfectly natural from their point of view, because though he held their opposition undoubtedly contained sporadic, perhaps more than sporadic elements of destruction in it, yet to a certain extent it arose entirely and distinctly out of their deep, though to his mind erroneous, aversion to the principle of the Bill. As originally introduced, he supported the Government in resisting the efforts of the Opposition to make Home Rule practically as well as theoretically a subordinate dependent, but he found, in respect of its being an independent Home Rule measure, the Bill had come out of Committee worse than when it entered it. Amendments had been made or resisted, postponements and limitations had been introduced or persisted in to such a degree that he found now many of the most practical friends of the Bill describing it as a transitory, experimental, and a partial version of Home Rule. If that be so, if that description be right, then he had to remember that he was sent there to support Home Rule and not half-Home Rule; he was sent here to support virtually a final settlement, and not a more instalment or scrap instalment of Home Rule. Of course he should be told he was not much hurt by that, because half a loaf was better than no bread; but he demurred to that application of this piece of proverbial philosophy, and in its relation to Homo Rule to take a position upon this half-loaf policy 1791 which he regarded as one of those articles which were entirely more mischievous than integrated falsehood. Let him ask what was a loaf? A loaf seemed to him to be a homogeneous mass of semi-evaporated dough in which the homogeneity was the emphatic term. Owing to its homogeneity, if they halved the loaf they got something which was worth taking, because, though diminished in quantity, it still possessed all the qualities of the original. But if they tried their maxim upon something that was similarly homogeneous, but an organism, such as a political Constitution like Home Rule was, they would find a defect in its application. Would they say that half a watch was better than no chronometer? It was worse, because it was a burden. Or that half a fiddle was better than no orchestra? It was worse, because it was a nuisance. Or that half a man—whether they bisected him vertically or horizontally—was better than nobody? It was worse, because they would have to bury the moieties, whereas no body would cost them nothing for undertakers' or other fees. And similarly he put the question, was half-Home Rule necessarily bettor than no autonomy? He thought it was possible, without pushing the analysis too far, to put that proposition in doubt. It might be that in the present case the result of half-Home Rule would be the creation of Irish discontent and cabal in Dublin, with a continuation of the old Irish controversy and intrigue at Westminster. Now, on that point he had rather failed to new follow the action of his hon. Friends from Ireland. He thought that they wanted thorough Home Rule, but he had found them often voting against the most elementary characteristics of what he had considered as Home Rule. He had protested against all the absurd reservations proposed by this Bill upon Irish autonomy, but he had not experienced much sympathy from the Irish Benches. He voted for the complete control of Ireland over its own taxation, but he found Irish Members going into the other Lobby; they would not have self-taxation on any account. He voted for giving the immediate control of the land to Ireland, but he found Irish Members, for the most part, at all events, going into the other Lobby; they would not have their own land at any price. In these circum- 1792 stances, he was tempted to ask whether Home Rulers really wanted real Home Rule? At all events, he had objected to the use that was being made of this half-granting—this partial postponement of Home Rule. They were told they must keep the Irish Members here for all purposes, because they were keeping so much of their business with them. In passing he would ask, even if that were a sound argument, why for all purposes, why for more than their own purposes? But, leaving that point, he said that that plea was no answer to the like of himself, who objected to Irish rule in British business, because he said that he did not want their land, or their taxation, or their Police, or their Judges to be left here for them to deal with; he wanted them to take away these things with them, and to manage them themselves. He said they were artificially creating a false excuse for perpetuating a wrong, and when they had done the wrong they said it was necessary, and justified by the false excuse they had first artificially created; they did exactly what the street impostors did—that was to say, they got up fainting fits, and then fell down in them in order to lay a basis for brandy, half-a-crown, and a cab home. It was very old, and he thought by this time an exploded strategy, the same as for his Irish friends to vote against the taking away of all their property with them, and then come round and say, "We must stay behind in order to watch our property, and must have complete power over you and yours, in order to do it effectually." He was not able to follow them in this matter at all. His doing them a favour was no ground for their insisting on interfering in every respect with him and his. They insisted on leaving a large part of their farewell luggage in his hall. He said he did not want their luggage to be left there, but if they would insist on leaving it, that gave them no right to sit down upon it, far less to insist upon wandering all over his house and doing whatever they pleased. They might be very thankful he did not throw their luggage out into the street, and, in the meanwhile, he thought they ought to retire in order to make sure of their not losing the train. At the same time, he said, much as he disliked this imperfect aspect of the Bill, in all the circumstances, it was not a consideration 1793 that would have prevented him from supporting it, and regarding it as he had still been able to do—if there had been nothing else to find fault with—as a substantial though imperfect assertion of the principle of Home Rule. Then there was another feature which he disliked intensely in the Bill as it now stood, and that was the Second Chamber constituted upon a narrow property qualification. He asked, why did a Liberal Government and a Liberal Party create and sustain a monstrosity like this? Amongst the Amendments which they rescued from the guillotine, why did they not put down one at least that would have placed this Second Chamber suffrage on a rational basis; or, if Ireland demanded this Second Chamber, based on this qualification, of which he saw no evidence, because submission was a very different thing from demand; but still, if she did demand it, why did not the Government cast on Ireland herself the responsibility and the duty of framing, of fabricating, her own Second Chamber to her own mind? He heard great talk among some of his friends on that side of the House of the terrible things that were going to be done when the House of Lords threw out this Bill. For himself, he was anything but a friend to the principle of hereditary legislation, and accordingly he regretted deeply that he thought that this Bill, in the hands of this Government, would prove rather a strengthening than a weakening of the position of the House of Lords. It seemed to him, in present circumstances, a pretty Government and a pretty Party to attack the House of Lords, and a pretty Bill to attack it upon. A Democratic Government that spent a considerable part of its energy in creating and distributing hereditary honours with a special loaning to wealth over worth, a Democratic Party whose most iconoclastic Members were actually tumbling over each other in their steeple-chasing after baronetcies, with the wild whoop of "knighthood take the hindmost," proposed to attack the House of Lords upon a Bill, one of whose most characteristic clauses created a privileged tribunal of landlords empowered to veto the will of the people. His own belief was that considering the mess into which this Bill had got in this matter as well as in one or two others, when the House 1794 of Lords threw out this Bill the country would not go off into paroxysms of grief and rage; some part of it even might laugh, and say—"Serve them right as a Democratic Government and Democratic Party that takes such singular methods of working out Democratic principles." But even that blot, considerable though it be, in the Bill, would not have made it impossible for him to support it if it had remained what it was at first, a coherent assertion of the principle of self-government. But that the Bill no longer did. By the sudden and absolute sacrifice of the protective sub-sections of the 9th clause—or, as he should say, of the old 9th clause, for he believed it was now in the amended Bill the 10th clause—by the sudden and absolute sacrifice of those protective sub-sections the Government had changed the Bill essentially, and, in his opinion, had converted it into a self-contradictory measure. The Bill now said that self-government was right for Ireland, but it was wrong for Great Britain. It said, and it said rightly, that Irish affairs ought to be managed in Ireland by Irish Representatives to the complete exclusion of non-representative British interlopers, but it also said that British affairs ought not to be managed in Britain by British Representatives without the inclusion of non-representative Irish interlopers, and in that way he said that the Bill was not merely wrong, but he said further it was incoherent and did not hang together, and was inconsistent; it was an attempt to construct a yes-no or black-white proposition, and which, therefore, by the necessity of the case, when they attempted to grasp it, not only repelled assent, but actually transcended the apprehension of a sound understanding. The former opponents but present apologists of this Constitutional heresy attempted to extenuate it as something that was trifling, minor, and secondary, and he had considered, as it was his duty to do, very carefully what they had said on this matter; but he was not able to see it in that light. No one could have put the case more powerfully than the Attorney General did yesterday, but he could not see that he had been successful in upsetting those formidable and preponderating reasons which were assigned by the Prime Minister for proposing the now, as he thought, unwisely and weakly abandoned sub-sections of the 1795 9th clause. At all events, he would say of this change in the Bill that, so far from seeming secondary and minor, it seemed to him to be a vital, a supreme, and a perilous innovation—subversive of the principles of representative Government and pregnant with the possibilities of political disaster; and, until he saw the contrary, he should continue to believe that the country would take the same view. He thought when the Scottish people came to understand that while not one individual of their 72 Members was to have a syllable to say in Irish affairs, which would be all separately transacted by the Irish themselves in Ireland, there were still to be 80 Irish Members here who would have exactly a ninth part more control over Scotch affairs than Scotland would have itself. He said that when once it came to be understood in Scotland that when this Bill became law, if it ever became law, it would then undoubtedly become the interest of Ireland to oppose Scotch Home Eule—[Cries of "No, no!"]—yes, the interest of Ireland to oppose Scotch Home Rule—because that would be the best way of retaining Scotch matters here in order to enable them more effectually to coerce the Scotch vote on Irish affairs—they would be of opinion that this was a very unjust and dangerous proposal. When once they came to understand that, they would be of opinion that that was a very unjust and dangerous proposal. It would he a surprise if the English people took any other view when they came to understand that the Irish presence meant, in practice, the casting vote of Ireland in the mass of English and Scottish concerns. Of course, if at a General Election Scotland and England, with their eyes open, declared that they desired to be ruled by an outside authority, if the cry of "One man one vote, one Irishman two votes" carried the day, then he, for one, would be not, indeed, convinced, but he would be silenced; but until that, to him, inconceivable course, he, for one, would do what one very humble individual could to warn such portions of the constituencies as his voice could come across against the iniquity and the danger with which he believed this Bill was charged. Of course, he was told that he had got his answer, because the Liberal Party as a 1796 whole, almost in its entirety, voted for retaining the Irish Members for all purposes. But he desired to ask, Had the Liberal Party, in the vote, the mandate of the constituencies on this point? From his own experience in different parts of the country, he should conclude that if this point had been clearly put to the constituencies at the last Election, they would have declared against the Trish usurpation in British politics. But, putting that aside, he wished to ask whether there were not many Members who voted in the majority upon totally different grounds from that of an eager desire to bring about Irish domination in British matters? He would ask liberty here to introduce a quotation from one who would be recognised as undoubtedly one of the best informed commentators upon the proceedings of this House. He referred to his Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor). That hon. Member, like some other Members of the House, was not satisfied with the opportunity of stating his mind from his place in this House, but kept a newspaper to himself for the ventilation of his views, which, from the pardonable belief he had, no doubt, on his part, that it was the true centre of political light—and it certainly was the focus of political and other heat—he courageously called The Sun. As it happened, it was part of his hon. Friend's solar system to present the public with a weekly review of the Debates of the House under the heading of "At the Bar of the House," which, whatever hostile criticism might think of its good feeling, good thinking, or its good taste, or even its good facts, was always, at all events, good copy. The week after the Prime Minister turned his remarkable and unexpected somersault on the 9th clause, by which he voted out his own just and reasonable proposal for retaining the Irish Members only for the common affairs of the Empire, and moved in the very opposite proposal, his hon. Friend darted some sunstrokes from the "Bar of the House" on the proceedings in Parliament, which were to this effect—Last week we were down in the very depths of the dumps, when we were certain that last Thursday would see the end of us and the Government of Mr. Gladstone, and, above all, of the Home Rule Bill. We had heard all kinds of tales about the desertions which were going 1797 to come from the faddists, from the cranks, and from the half-hearted.Then the hon. Member gave a list of those persons, in which he was astonished to find his name included. And his hon. Friend went on—Well, the great day has come and gone, with the result that the Government is stronger than ever. The malcontents, trimmers, and the disgruntled have done their worst and the Government still stands secure, and indeed is now stronger than ever before, and the voice of the trimmer is soft in the land, and the crank and the faddist have gone back to the dark recesses of their cave.He (Mr. Wallace) might be allowed to remark that, inasmuch as the opinions he and others advocated were, and he supposed are, the opinions of the Prime Minister and the Government, they thought they found themselves in very good company when they were called disgruntled faddists, and cranks, and trimmers. If they were disgruntled, who was the leading disgruntler? He would say the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). If they were faddists, who was the chief faddist? The Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. Bryce). If they were cranks, who was the leading crank? The Secretary for Ireland. If they were trimmers, who was the arch trimmer? Why, the Prime Minister. His hon. Friend, however, proceeded to trace the causes of this, and to give an explanation of the happy Party unanimity and unity which he had just signalised. His hon. Friend traced it to a mysterious influence which he called by the monosyllablic name of "Joe."To Joe it should in justice be said that the chief honour belongs of having produced this transformation.To him this was considerably mysterious. "Gee" he knew, and Gehu he knew, but who was Joe? Was it an African potentate? Was it a chemical substance? Was it by any possibility the redoubtable client of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, whom in his absence the right hon. Gentleman so ably represented in this House? In the pre-Confucian days he knew there was a Chinese deity called Foo. Was Joe possibly his second cousin?
§ MR. R. WALLACE
said, it could not be a Member of this House, for in all the circumstances that would have implied a vulgarity of literary form, of which he knew the hon. Member was perfectly incapable. Accordingly he (Mr. Wallace) dealt with the difficulty in the traditional way of commentators; and having looked it squarely in the face he passed on. The hon. Member (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) continued—The other night, when we were discussing the 'in-and-out' clause, there were a certain number of Liberals, as I have always said, who were a little shaky, and some of them even would have gone the length of voting against the Government; but when they heard Joe and the malevolence of his attack their minds underwent a conversion, and many of them who would have voted against us were able to summon up their courage and Party loyalty so far as to walk out of the House. Whether that is what the voters who elected them intended when they sent them to Parliament is a matter which may be left to their constituents. Not the eloquence of, Gladstone, not the subtlety of Balfour, not the stern sense of Party loyalty did half so much good as the malignant tongue of Joe.Whatever the occult power called Joe might have been, it clearly was not faith in the propriety of Irish control in British affairs, and this was really why he (Mr. Wallace) had taken the liberty of inflicting this long quotation upon the House. Because it showed that, in the opinion of one of the best-informed and competent critics and historians of their proceedings, the majority did by no means consist entirely, or to a large extent, of believers in British subjection to Irish supremacy. According to the hon. Member, it was due to entirely other causes. The Member for the Dumfries Burghs (Mr. Reid) had told them that he knew 15 or 20 who were believers in the principles of the Prime Minister and of the Government; and from his (Mr. Wallace's) own ordinary channels he gathered indications that in this majority there were a very considerable number who had an aversion to Irish intrusion in British matters, but who voted as they did for the purpose of what seemed to them the right purpose—of avoiding the discredit and the danger of Government defeat. He himself held that the very worst Liberal Government must be better for the country than the very best Tory Government; and if a Liberal Government announced that it was going to make a certain vote a 1799 Vote of Confidence or of No Confidence, he could conceive himself, while nominally voting in apparent support of a measure which gave him the greatest dissatisfaction, making an avowed protest against the measure on its merits, and declaring that his votes were not given in support of it, but for the totally different purpose of preventing a Tory Government from coming into power. Accordingly, so far as this particular majority vote upon which so much stress was laid was a vote given merely to keep the Government in Office, he declined to regard it as any indication of the opinion of the country that Irish rule of Great Britain ought to be one of the conditions and parts of Home Rule. The Prime Minister had said that the House was master. No doubt; but the House had a master, and that was the country. The verdict of this higher master he awaited at the General Election. Hitherto he had not heard that the country had welcomed the proposal of Irish usurpation with any very great signs of enthusiasm and cordiality. He noticed that the Chief Secretary at Newcastle and the Home Secretary in Northamptonshire last night gave this aspect of Home Rule, and, indeed, most of the aspects of Home Rule, a very wide berth, and very prudently confined themselves to copious and, he should not say, undeserved abuse of the plaintiff's attorney. Since the brief and inadequate Debate upon the protective sub-sections of the 9th clause he had studied all that had been said in defence of the form that the Bill had now assumed by his friends on the Government side of the House with the honest desire of being converted by it, if possible, and brought into line with the voting of his Party, but he was bound to say he had not been so successful as he could have desired. He applied his mind, of course, naturally, first of all to the Prime Minister's Midlothian letter. He had there expected to find the highest authority upon a matter such as this. In his recent speech the right hon. Gentleman had said nothing with which he (Mr. Wallace) could not cordially coincide, and, therefore, he had no trouble in applying his mind to the letter. He had made that application of his mind in the reverential frame of spirit in which he always regarded deliverances from such a quarter, but he must acknowledge that it did not seem to him to be one of 1800 the most successful of the right hon. Gentleman's performances. It presented itself as an artless account of how the right hon. Gentleman came to turn the Bill round to precisely the opposite of what had been originally introduced, and of why it was that he was now the more or less ardent opponent of what, after all the pros and cons, he had decided and still thought to be the right course on the merits of this question. He said he had deferred to the opinion of the House and the Party which he had ascertained, not as in his simplicity he would have expected the right hon. Gentleman would have done, in the formal Debate and deliberate pronouncement of the House upon the matter, but by private inquiry, as was done in connection with divorce, cases and the like. Through his private inquiry agency he ascertained that the real majority of the Party thought he and the Government were right in this matter. Again, in his simplicity, he (Mr. Wallace) should have supposed that if the right hon. Gentleman had convened his Party, and had urged on them to take the right course, he would have persuaded them to follow it; and he could not help thinking it was a very great misfortune indeed that the finest head in this Assembly should have been put to no better use than counting the noses of duller men. But the right hon. Gentleman thought he could not carry his own view; and as, apparently, he must carry something, he determined to carry the opposite view; and carry it he did. In declaring the "in-and-out clause" unworkable the Party did not act with that servility which was sometimes attributed to them; but, in his opinion, a highhanded and unreasonable masterfulness commended them. The famous "Herod" illustration was perfectly inapposite in this case. On the subject of the "in-and-out" clause the items did not say—"It is the voice of a god, and not the voice of a man." They said something very different. They practically said—"It is the voice of a botcher, and not of a master." Of the "in-and-out clause," which he himself regarded as a just and rational proposal that might have worked well if it got a chance, they went about saying, "In-and-out, Ho, ho! Out-and-in, He, he!" and this harmless chuckling proved too much for the solemnity of the Liberal Party, and then the 1801 Liberal Party proved too much for its Leader, and that was how the great change actually came about. Regarded as political coachmanship, he must say he thought it was coachmanship extraordinary. The coach was being driven slowly but surely uphill. The most experienced and the wariest driver upon the road was upon the box. All seemed to be going well, and it was merely a question of time to reach the summit. But the guard—a new guard—came forward, and said he understood the horses did not like the up road, and wanted to turn and go down. Strangely enough, the champion driver, instead of saying, "I know better than that," merely remarked, "Is that so?" He turned the team round, gave them their heads, and off they ran, with the result that the whole cavalcade must be turned into the nearest available potato field in order to insure a halt, although it should cost a spill. "The country," said the right hon. Gentleman, "will be of opinion that in the actual circumstances of the case we judged aright." No doubt, if they were put to it, an overturn was better than a smash. But let them hope that when the Home Rule coach, after the necessary repairs—and they must be considerably extensive repairs—was next put upon the road, it would be the driver and not the horses that would settle the course. At the same time, he (Mr. Wallace) was bound to admit that, having made up his mind to revolutionise the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman executed the operation with perfect nerve and consummate address. Although himself one of the credulous victims who had to be sacrificed in the matter, he could still admire the style of his immolation. Never should he forget that Wednesday afternoon seven weeks ago, when in the quietest manner possible, just as if he were going to do nothing in particular, at the last moment and without one word of warning to those who had put faith in the sagacity of his proposals—proposals which he had declared to be demanded by a dangerous political intrigue which he had described as more than he and his Colleagues had been able to face, proposals which he further stated to be the best plan that he and they, after much labour, had been able to fashion, and which had been for months before the country 1802 stamped with his own and the country's imprimatur—the right hon. Gentleman, in a few hours, without calling for the vote of condemnation on them which he himself had invited, before the country had an opportunity of pronouncing an opinion, or even of apprehending what he was doing, and in the teeth of his own express declaration that he could not propose any alteration in the clause, took up the proposals, and, in the very eyes of the House, who still valued them, not only for their sakes but for his own, threw them straight and clean overboard—The waters wild were o'er them piled,And we were left lamenting.Whatever might be thought of the performance in other respects, it was inimitably done. He did not think that dexterity of transaction had yet been properly understood or appreciated in the country. To his mind, it was one of the ablest things of the kind ever done in any Parliamentary arena. In France their lively neighbours would have recognised its merits; they would have raised it to the dignity of a coup d'état, and have handed down its author to immortality as the man of the Twelfth of July. He said, in language of the most unaffected admiration, that all the smartest men of ancient and modern times—Ulysses and Simon—Jeremy Diddler and Sam Slick—the Artful Dodger—the Patriarch Jacob, and the heathen Chinee—all found their special exploits eclipsed, while at the same time redeemed and rehabilitated, by this marvellous tour de finesse. Although occupying the position of a yokel at a country fair, deluded by the clever gentleman from London living upon his wits, he was still glad to have participated in any capacity in this brilliant performance. He once knew a man, not personally, but by reputation, whose boast it was to his dying day that, under memorable circumstances, he had been kicked by George IV. He would always regard it as a distinction of a kind that during a large portion of the history of the Bill he was illusionised, no doubt for his own and his country's good, but, surely by the deftest manipulator who ever for lofty purposes practised the art and mystery of political prestidigitation. The Prime Minister, in his Midlothian letter, did not condemn upon their merits the policies either of total 1803 exclusion or retention with limited powers. He did not say, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said, that the "in-and-out" clause was unworkable. He could not say that. He was careful to say that many Members were of that opinion, leaving for himself the reflection that, just as "a book's a book, although there's nothing in't," many Members might also be Members possibly upon the same footing. What the Prime Minister said on behalf of the policy of Irish intrusion into British affairs rested upon half-a-dozen distinct predictions, the general effect of which was that not-withstanding what had been said of dangerous and wholesale political intrigue, these persons might not, after all, do the damage some people expected. But even if that were so, it would be of little consolation to him. If a stranger was in his house against his will, he should not be comforted by being told that the stranger would probably not break the furniture or empty the larder. There would be no saying what he might come to do if he got hungry, or if he became angry. At any rate, however harmless, the stranger would be out of place. He would be a trespasser. His very presence would be an annoyance and a burden, which he (Mr. Wallace) would do his best to get rid of. When he tried to think of Home Rule actually at work as proposed in the Bill, with 80 exotic gentlemen from Ireland in the House, with no representative character any longer for British interests, and with no interest in British affairs, and when he thought of them forcing their interference, he thought the whole thing would come to be found to be an intolerable irritation, burden, and nuisance. The Prime Minister said that the Irish Members would be fewer than they were now. Still they would be as numerous as they had any right to be. The transition from 103 to 80 was not the great concession it was represented to be. The transition from wrong to right was in no way a concession, and the Prime Minister had put forward 80 Members as a just and equitable quota of representation for Ireland, Their plea on that head was really the plea of the knavish attorney who, having had an over-charge of 25 per cent., struck off his extortionate bill of costs, wanted to pass it off as a generous 20 1804 per cent. discount. They never could cancel one fraud by a second. Eighty not Irish Members were not only numerous enough for justice, but for mischief, The Prime Minister's second prediction was that when Home Rule had been carried the Irish Members would be more busied with their own affairs, and would not trouble the Imperial Parliament. Yes; but just as if to blast the hope which was rising in some quarters, the Bill made a special feature of creating a special representation of Ireland, the Members of which were to come to the Imperial Parliament and find some employment for themselves. Everyone knew what that representation would be. It would consist of London Irishmen, voting under telegraphic orders from Dublin. Although it was a far cry to Cork and Tipperary, even the most otiose of Irishmen could easily come from Highgate or Brixton whenever he was wanted, and more particularly when he was not wanted. The third prediction was that the natural restraints of good feeling and goodwill could not but check meddlesome and undue intervention. He must say that in times like these, when the business of Parliament could not be made to move at all unless the majority used the persuasion of the gag, it appeared to him that that prediction possessed all the beauty, but all the futility, of childlike innocence. It might have done very well for the Garden of Eden during the supra-lapsarian history of that institution, but he did not think it was well fitted to a fighting and fin de siècle House of Commons. The practical politician, whether English or Scotch, was generally a hard and a worldly person, and he would feel that good feeling and goodwill was not likely to act as a powerful Parliamentary protection against an Irish Member securing all his own, and certainly in some eases all other people's. Then the fourth prediction of the right hon. Gentleman was that after Home Rule was granted the Irish Party would in all likelihood be returned in greater variety of sections, which would balance each other. But his (Mr. Wallace's) second sight informed him that it was far more likely they would be a solid Irish majority in that House, whoso object it would be to support that solid Irish majority across the Channel, 1805 and to aid that majority to get rid of the Imperial veto, to ameliorate the conditions of Irish finance, to break down the absurd restriction upon Irish autonomy contained in the Bill, and to leave the Irish Legislature free to deal as they chose with education and with religious endowments. In these matters the Irish Representatives would act, and be obliged to act, as one man. Then, the fifth of these predictions was that, after all, they would not have the same motive for direct intervention as in 1885, and, as hon. Members opposite would add, in 1886, when the Home Rule Question, which happily Parliament was now seeking to dispose of, was all in all to them. His clairvoyant faculties, however, seemed to show him that the motive of the Irish Members would be substantially the same in the future as it had been in the past, though the direction and aim might be different. For Ireland having obtained independence, their great work would be to retain and, if possible, to extend it. Intervention in British interests would be their natural and most effective weapon in the second stage just as it was in the first. Then the sixth and last of the Prime Minister's predictions was that a repetition of what they had suffered under the present system on Ministerial crises, and that almost certainly with mitigated features, would be the worst that could happen. Was that not enough? The right hon. Gentleman said, lightly, that the worst that could happen would be the occasional destruction of the Liberal Party. To an earnest and anxious Liberal that seemed but very cold comfort. This would be brought about, said the right hon. Gentleman, by dangerous wholesale political intrigue, but the right hon. Gentleman's rhetoric seemed only the thumping of the big drum for lack of better music. When was it the right hon. Gentleman told them this wholesale and dangerous political intrigue was likely to occur when some vital British measure was before the House? But was that a rare occurrence, was it not rather so common as to be actually habitual? As to the 500 British politicians in the House who "never, never would be slaves," the difficulty was that, in present circumstances, the 500 British Representatives were usually divided in the proportion of 260 against 240; and, 1806 therefore, it was unlikely that they would combine for the purpose of preventing one or other of the Parties from obtaining a majority by the assistance of the Irish Members. He trusted that, having gone through with the care and respect due to what the Prime Minister had said in defence of the changes in the Bill, and having found them unsatisfactory, he (Mr. Wallace) was freed from the responsibility of considering what others might have said. He had addressed the House mainly for the purpose of explaining and defending the somewhat painful and difficult position in which he found himself placed. He regretted extremely that the Government should have decided to pass the Bill in its present form. He thought the Government might have made some compromise, at all events, in the way of numbers, rather than have pushed that point to the extreme. It seemed to him that, both Parties in this House had got into a position of extremity. The Unionists thought nothing too evil could be said of Ireland and the Irish. The Tory Party, on the one hand, would not trust the Irish Members with the porterage of a parcel or the expenditure of a sixpence; while, on the other hand, the Prime Minister and the Government seemed to have got into the opposite frame of mind, and thought nothing was too good for Ireland and the Irish; that they ought to be trusted, not only in true positions, but in false positions, and that they ought to have the management, not only of their own business, but of the business of everybody else as well. For a moderate politician like himself to be placed between these two cross fires was to realise all the disadvantages of that proverbial position which is bounded on the one side by the deep sea. Surely in this matter the truth lay somewhere in the middle between the Hibernia-phobia of Birmingham and the Hibernia-mania of Downing Street; and he would appeal to the Government, even at the eleventh hour, whether it would not be possible to work back, and work the country back, to some of the earlier solutions of the difficulties in which, if he was not mistaken, some of them maintained unshaken confidence? The Government having marred their measure, his chief regret, when the House of Lords should throw it out, 1807 would be that an opportunity would have been lost of aiming a great blow at the hostile power of the hereditary Chamber. This Bill would not, in his view, be the final form in which Home Rule would be conceded, and he would live in the hope that the failure of this Bill would lead to some other proposal founded upon those considerations of reason and justice, which had been the weapons which had won for the Liberal Party all its triumphs in the past, and without which, or against which, it would gain no victories in the future.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he did not rise because of the personal allusions which the hon. Member who had just down had good-humouredly made to himself. At the same time, he felt bound to thank the hon. Member for supplying the journal with which he (Mr. O'Connor) was connected with gratuitous advertisement which otherwise would cost a great deal of money. But he had risen to say a few words only as to the retention of the Irish Members. He thought the hon. Member had, no doubt unintentionally, misunderstood and misrepresented the final form of the Bill in regard to the retention of Irish Members. It was perfectly plain that if the Government had proposed the exclusion of those Members they would have been attacked with equal violence by both the Unionist and Tory Members, and a great many of their own supporters would have been obliged to withdraw support from them. The hon. and learned Gentleman the late Solicitor General, at an earlier period of these Debates, had alluded to some remarks which he (Mr. O'Connor) had made on this subject in 1886. Well, he had no hesitation in saying that the views which he had expressed on this subject in 1886 had been considerably modified by the events which had intervened. Since then the Liberal electors had declared that they would not regard any Home Rule Bill as satisfactory which excluded any part of the Kingdom from representation in the Imperial Parliament. In the face of that generous confidence and expressed wish of the English people, it would be foolish for the Irish Members to raise any objection to their retention in that House. This point had been settled far more by English than by Irish opinion. The Irish Members were 1808 willing to accept any settlement that seemed good to the English mind or to English opinion; and even yet, if the settlement arrived at seemed to be unsatisfactory, the Irish Members would be ready to have the question reconsidered. The hon. Member who last spoke had raised a number of bugbears, and he (Mr. O'Connor) was at a loss to know what was the object of the hon. Member's speech. He had applied a number of epithets to the Prime Minister. He had called him a Jeremy Diddler, an Artful Dodger, a Sam Slick, a Simon, a Jacob, and had used many other expressions culled from his ecclesiastical, his journalistic, and legal experience. But he (Mr. O'Connor) failed to see what the object of the hon. Member's speech was, unless it was the wish of the hon. Member that the Bill of the Government should be destroyed. Was that his wish; if not, what did he mean? Look at the dangers he had conjured up. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Irish Members would be 80 strong. But did he think that all would be of the same opinion? Would the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton) and the hon. Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) be found always acting together? If an attempt was made to denominationalise education in Ireland, or to endow a Church which, in the opinion of the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston), was the origin of most of the evils of the world, would the hon. Member for North Kerry and that hon. Member be found in the same Lobby? His hon. and learned Friend was a splendid metaphysician, and had been a good journalist, but he was a bad politician. In his (Mr. O'Connor's) opinion Parties would remain much as they were, and much as if there were no Irish Members. As to the sending of London Irishmen to the Imperial Parliament, he did not believe in it. Ireland would be foolish to send here a lower or meaner class of Representatives than she sent to College Green, and she would send to London men having their roots in the soil of Ireland. These men would only come when an Irish question or an Imperial question was under discussion, and was their right to do that denied? In practice the in-and-out plan would be followed in a better form than the scheme 1809 originally proposed by the Government. As to interference by the Irish Members with English, Scotch, or Welsh business, he would give a warning to his brethren from Ireland, though he did not believe it to be required. It was perfectly plain that they could only be there occasionally when an Irish Bill was under discussion. If they interfered to defeat a Welsh Bill which was desired by the Welsh people, a Scotch Bill which was desired by the Scotch people, or an English Bill desired by the English people, they would soon have forced on Ireland a Bill which was not desired by the Irish people. He would conclude by hailing the Bill as a generous and great act of emancipation to the Irish people at homo and abroad, for which he thanked the Government and the English people.
MR. A. J. BALEOUR (Manchester, E.)
I am far from complaining of the two preceding speakers in that they confined their remarks to one clause in this Bill, because probably there is not a man in this House who conceals from himself the fact that when this controversy is reviewed in the country before different audiences, and before a final tribunal, the clause which was 9, and is now 10, will probably occupy a large amount of the attention of the orators and the audiences on those occasions. But I should like to remark that the two hon. Gentlemen have not altogether in this respect followed the example of the Front Bench. The Third Beading stage of the measure has, up to the present time, been considered to be that stage of a measure in which the House, looking back over its labours on the First and Second Reading in Committee and on Report, finally pronounced whether the result of its labours be good or be bad. We are not in that position. We cannot look back as to a Bill discussed in Committee and discussed on Report, because, for reasons familiar to the House, and on which I do not mean to dwell at length, we have never discussed three-fourths of the Bill either in Committee or on Report, and what is the result of that? The result is that this is not a Third Reading discussion at all. It is a Second Reading discussion—a First or Second Reading discussion, for the most part seasoned with criticisms and invectives against those who have ven- 1810 tured to offer reasons why this or that clause should be rejected, and why, if not rejected, it should be amended. I do not know that the House has wasted its time wholly in venturing to criticise the Bill and engaging in these long Debates. The Prime Minister and the Attorney General and the hon. Baronet who made so interesting a contribution to our Debate to-night, as well as the Home Secretary, who yesterday spoke in another place, have spent their time in explaining or endeavouring to persuade the country that if the liberties of Parliament have been interfered with—if debate has been curtailed—the fault rests with gentlemen on this side. They urge that we, and we alone, are responsible for the fate which has overtaken us; and yet when I listened to the speech of the Attorney General, which was devoted to this interesting and fertile theme, I arrived at the conclusion that we had not devoted enough time to Clause 5 and Clause 10 to satisfy the wishes of those who have charge of the Bill. For how did the learned Gentleman spend most of his time? The hon. and learned Gentleman spent most of his time in delivering on the Third Reading fragments of speeches which he himself admitted would have been appropriate to the Committee stage or to the Report stage, but he had not delivered them for fear of wasting the time of the House. I do not mean to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman, because his arguments have already been completely exposed; but the impression produced by his speech upon my mind was that the Government themselves had suffered more acutely by the gag than any gentleman sitting on this side of the House. The gravamen of the Government charge rested upon certain statistics which they presented with regard to the length of time taken up on this Bill. The extraordinary uniformity of example brought forward, first by the Chief Secretary at Newcastle, then by the Prime Minister, then by the Home Secretary at Althorp, then by the Attorney General, and to-night by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, shows that all the statistics emanated from a common source; that they have been got up by some diligent private secretary, circulated among the Members of the Government, and freely used as material and padding for the speeches 1811 which they have delivered. The favourite example of a measure which ought to have taken longer is the Reform Act of 1832. I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether he has ever read that Act? but there are literally only two principles involved in it, one the principle of substituting genuine constituencies for what were known as rotten boroughs, and the other the settling of the franchise upon which the new electorate were to vote. The whole mass of that long Bill was occupied solely with discussing whether this borough should have one Member or two Members, whether the boundaries should be settled in this manner or in that, how constituency representation was to be divided; and there was not in that Act questions of principle which were contained in more than one or two clauses. One clause and one appendix in this Bill contained both these questions. On Clause 6 of the Bill you not only had to determine—or you would have had to determine if you had taken the trouble to discuss it—not merely the question whether there should be two Chambers, not merely the question of the Constitutional relations of those Chambers, but what the franchise for the electorate was to be; and in the appendix you had questions which, though they did not apply to an area as large as Great Britain, involved questions not less important, not less vital to the interests of the populations concerned. Grattan's Parliament was mentioned by the hon. Baronet (Sir E. Grey) and other speakers, who said that it was established in two days. Under what circumstances was Grattan's Parliament established? Grattan's Parliament was established when England was at the lowest depths of her fortune, and when the English Ministry felt they had no choice but to surrender to the Irish demand. I can well believe that it only took two days to run away, and I think it not impossible if this Bill or any Bill like it becomes law, and if England again finds herself involved in great foreign complications and warlike difficulties, that it may happen that Ireland will again make demands upon the British Administration, and that the British Administration may again run away, and that it will only take them two days to do it. But we are not 1812 legislating in a panic. We are not now—or do not profess, at all events now—to be making a Bill the insufficiency of which is to be exposed, as was the insufficiency of the Act of 1782, in the course of a few years. We profess to be making a Bill which in its main outlines and in its fundamental provisions is to last through many generations and to be a law to us and to our descendants for ever. These are circumstances, if circumstances ever could exist, in which the full discussion by this House of every detail was required, in order that we, at all events, should be bound by the agreement to which we came with the Irish Parliament, and in order that some moral obligation would rest upon us to carry out the treaty which this Bill, were it to become law, would establish between England and Ireland, now no longer one United Kingdom. Before I part from the question of comparative statistics I should like to refer to the interesting and able speech made by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. E. J. C. Morton), to whom I listened with great pleasure, and who, I am sure, will be an ornament in our Debates. He went more than almost anybody else into the question of the period taken in the discussion of different measures. He gave a long list of Bills, including the North America Act, all of which he said could be pressed into the 83 days which were taken by an obstructive Opposition over this measure. I have two observations to make: The first is, that it is wholly absurd to compare the procedure of this Democratic Parliament in 1893 with the same Parliament 100 years ago. If we are so much a superior Assembly to our forefathers, three or four generations ago, undoubtedly one result of the great changes which have taken place in the political life of England since they lived has been in the direction of an increased participation in our Debates from all sides and all quarters of the House. There was a time when the whole business of Debate was carried on by a number of gentlemen whom you could enumerate upon the fingers of your two hands. Practically, the whole Business of the Government was carried on by three gentlemen, and the whole business of the Opposition by three more, with a certain admixture of independent Members. That way of carrying on 1813 Debate is wholly impossible under modern conditions, and, therefore, it is absolutely ludicrous for anyone with the slightest perception of historical perspective, with the slightest power of projecting himself into the life of the past, to institute these statistical comparisons between the time it took to discuss a great question in 1793 and the time it took to discuss a similar question in 1893.
§ MR. E. J. C. MORTON
The Act to which I referred, and to which the right hon. Gentleman has himself referred, is only 26 years old. It only took two days to pass.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes. That Act was wholly uncoutroversial. I mean, as a matter of fact, it was uncontroversial; there was nobody who differed from it. My criticisms against the hon. Gentleman were not directed to that final sentence in that part of his speech in which he dragged in the Canada Act. They referred to the whole of his interesting statistics. I have not misrepresented him or the Prime Minister when I say they dragged into this controversy a Debate which took place under Parliamentary conditions absolutely different from those under which we live and with which ail fair comparison is impossible. Why did not the hon. Gentleman deal with Bills opposed by gentlemen with whom he sits, who were elected under the same franchise to that under which we were elected, and who fought Bills under the same conditions under which we fight them? I will remind him of two Bills, one very small but very controversial; the other more or less complex, but not controversial. They were the Crimes Act of 1887 and the Land Act of 1891. I was myself in charge of both these Bills. I had to do my best to pass them, though I have a very lively recollection of the sort of opposition they encountered. The Crimes Act of 1887, which, as we all know, was closured, took before it was closured 41 days. Every principle, speaking broadly, of that measure had been discussed and approved and sanctioned by Parliament on previous occasions. Most of the clauses were copied verbatim from the legislative efforts of the present Prime Minister. I do not wish to overstate the case, and I will not say there was nothing new in 1814 the Bill. There was. But, broadly speaking, the Bill was framed on familiar lines and copied from familiar models, and had been discussed and dealt with in this House over and over again. As for the second Bill, it was not a controversial Bill at all. It took two days on the Second Reading. I do not believe there was a Division on the Second Reading; and the Irish Members, who naturally and properly took the great part in discussing it, themselves would have been bitterly disappointed had that Bill not ultimately become law. It will be observed, therefore, that these two Bills, taken together, were fought under far more favourable circumstances, so far as Parliamentary time is concerned, than the Bill we are now dealing with—a Bill new in its provisions, with unheard-of details, involving every kind of principle, dealing with every sort of interest and every class in England, Ireland, and Scotland. I do not think it will be denied—I do not think it can be denied—that those two Bills together—the one, I say, brief but controversial, the other uncontroversial, although undoubtedly complex—together do not equal the sum of legitimate controversy which this Bill arouses. Who can maintain that these two Bills—and I can assuredly add many others to them—are equal in the bulk, scope, and importance of the issues they raised to the vast measure now being thrust through an unwilling Assembly? I do not think anybody will maintain it. These Bills together took within two days of as long as the Bill we are now discussing, and I recommend the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. E. J. C. Morton) not to go back to ancient history, not oven to go back 25 years, but to consider the Parliamentary performances of his friends and allies. I do not ask him to read the Debates; I do not ask him to see which is the most relevant and most important, in which there was the least unnecessary expenditure of Parliamentary time; but I merely ask him to go to the proved evidence of figures, and I am sure he will agree that, whatever may be the performances of the present Opposition, they pale before the performances of the Opposition which preceded; and that we, at all events, can feel that if the dignity of the House is to be raised by honest, relevant, and earnest discussion of the 1815 details of a Bill we have done something to raise Opposition criticism from that slough in which it was left by gentlemen opposite. There is but one other point in connection with the conduct of the Opposition to which I wish to refer. The Chief Secretary was good enough at Newcastle on Saturday to quote a sentence of mine in regard to the attitude of the Opposition on this Bill, and to quote it as an adequate ground for the interference with the liberty of Debate in which this Government have so lavishly and with so much satisfaction to themselves appeared at times to indulge. What was that sentence? I said that our intention was to improve the Bill and, if possible, also to destroy it. That is the substance of what the right hon. Gentleman quoted with perfect accuracy. Is there anybody who objects to that proceeding? Our duty in Committee is to improve all Bills, and our duty at any stage of the discussion is to destroy Bills of which we disapprove. It is mere cant to say we are to come down to this House and in Committee to discuss the details of measures which we think destructive of the greatness of the Empire merely with a view of improving them, and to exclude from our minds, to throw away as an accursed thing, the very thought and project of, if we can, destroying them in the process. If the Chief Secretary thinks that wrong, I would ask him what his views are as to the course he took upon, let us say, the Crimes Act, I presume for the purpose of improving it? Would he have thought it consistent with his duty to omit any opportunity of destroying that Bill in its passage through the House?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Of course he would have destroyed it. Every Opposition dealing with a Bill of which it disapproves in its essential and immutable principles is bound by the same policy, which I have the courage openly to avow, which the right hon. Gentleman apparently does not disavow across the Table of the House, which, nevertheless, he apparently thought it consistent with the respect due to the intelligent electorate who sent him here to use as a justification for the interference with our liberties 1816 and their liberties which he and his friends have perpetrated. I think I have said enough now upon what I am bound to say under ordinary circumstances would hardly be relevant; but as such matter has filled the whole of the speeches of gentlemen on the Front Ministerial Bench, I thought I could not pass it altogether without some comment and some reply. I pass to the Bill. I do not mean at this time of night to review in detail the many defects, and worse than defects, which, as we think, attach to the measure. The Prime Minister, in his opening address on the Third Reading, enumerated seven points which we had urged, and which, he said, if they were true were conclusive, or almost conclusive, against the Home Rule Bill of which he was in charge. I think the enumeration of the Prime Minister was an admirable enumeration. I think every man would be well-advised if when he has to fight this question in his constituency he was to placard the seven deadly sins of Home Rule on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman. But I shall not repeat the proofs which the Opposition have given that these deadly sins really are incident to Home Rule. I shall confine myself to a much briefer area of discussion, and I would ask this question: What exactly is the gain to Ireland which you think this Bill will introduce? Gentlemen below the Gangway in their speeches always hold out to us the prospect that when they come into power with an adequate financial sum at their command—which they do not think at present they have—they are going to regenerate Ireland materially. The whole condition of the people is to be raised. Emigration is to cease, because Irishmen will find employment at home; poverty is to be arrested, agriculture is to be promoted, industries are to be fostered, and if all their prophecies are to come to pass, there are few nations in this world likely to be so blest as the new Ireland under the new Irish Government. But I confess that, looking back now over the whole 14 years in which I have been a Member of this House, and in which Members below the Gangway have arrogated to themselves the exclusive representation of Irish interests, I have seen a wonderful display of Parliamentary ability, perseverance, tact, and eloquence; but I have 1817 never seen or heard, anxiously as I have looked for it and listened for it, the slightest sign that any single one of those gentlemen has at his disposal a plan of dealing with Ireland which would commend itself to any economist, to any statesman, to any man of moderately large views. I have heard attacks on landlords; I have heard them attack Castle officials; I have heard them deal destructive criticism against every action of the Irish Government, but never yet have I heard from them a single proposal likely to be of permanent ameliorative effect upon the long-standing ills and troubles of the country which they aspire to rule. Now that is a challenge I throw down, and I hope it will be taken up by the Chief Secretary opposite. I do not count such expedients as the Evicted Tenants' Restitution Bill. I say that, outside the facile policy of spoliating landlords, I have not seen or heard from any one of those gentlemen any large or well-conceived plan by which the great mass of their countrymen might be elevated in the social sphere. If such a plan had ever been propounded by them, if any such plan had come from gentlemen below the Gangway, I say, without a moment's hesitation, that, whatever Party had been in Office, that plan would have been eagerly grasped at by every British statesman.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
You have always refused it. The late Mr. Parnell introduced a Light Railways Rill, and you refused it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Mr. Speaker, I shall modify the statement I have made. I go this length: that over and over again attempts have been made, crude and impossible, upon the purse of the British taxpayer, and in that sense gentlemen have always been ready to bring English money into Irish pockets. I am talking of a well-considered scheme, and I say boldly no such well-considered scheme, so far as I am aware, has over been propounded by gentlemen below the Gangway, and such schemes as have been propounded could never have been carried out by Irish resources, and Irish resources alone. Before I pass from that let me say a word with regard to the attacks made upon what is called the centralisation of Castle government by the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign 1818 Affairs (Sir E. Grey), who, much as I believe he knows of Irish questions, knows very little of Irish Government. He has no need to know of it, and the attacks of the Attorney General, who ought to know something—attacks unworthy of gentlemen of their position, and which should have been left to third-rate politicians, who perambulate Ireland and who take at second-hand old wives' fables which, in my opinion, ought not to be used in this House by responsible politicians. Well, what is the centralisation of Castle government? Do the gentlemen who appeared to approve of the remarks about the centralisation of Castle government know anything about it? The police in Ireland are centralised, and, in my opinion, ought to be centralised. But, apart from the police, what is called Castle government answers, Department for Department, to the various offices which you preside over in Whitehall. Local government is not more centralised in Ireland than in England. The Board of Works is not more centralised. It is quite true that as yet there is no county government in Ireland on a representative basis. [Laughter.] Yes; but that does not make the government of Ireland centralised because, although the county government which does exist in Ireland is not popular, it does not depend upon the Castle. That is familiar to everybody who knows anything about Ireland. At this moment this Castle government, which you choose to denounce, is carried on by members of your own Civil Service elected in the same way as every member of the Civil Service is elected, and is modelled upon the same principles as the Civil Service of England and Scotland. I do not say that there are not minor differences; but this I do say: that to describe government in Ireland as centralised, and in England as not, shows great ignorance of the facts. I think even gentlemen opposite will be disposed to grant that Ave cannot expect from Home Rule the material advantages to Ireland which were so lavishly promised by Members below the Gangway. Still, they will say that Ireland is governed as much by ideas as by material facts, and that it is better that Ireland should be governed by her own ideas and live in poverty than that she should be governed by us and live in wealth. I am the last man in this House to under-rate the value 1819 of ideas. I agree with those who think that these are things which cannot be ignored, but I do not agree with the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs when he says that experience and history have shown that it is impossible for us under the Union to govern Ireland in a manner which will meet all the aspirations of that nation. The hon. Baronet, however, under-rates the magnitude of the task he has undertaken. He himself belongs to the school of politicians who talk of seven centuries of misgovernment by England. I take it from them that for the six centuries before the Union Ireland was brutally tyrannised over by England. If so, how can you cure in 93 years woes of such long standing? I do not talk of our intentions. Everybody admits they are good. ["No!"] Everyone but the hon. Gentleman who says "No." I ask not whether the intentions were good, but whether they have borne fruit, and I think any man who chooses to examine with impartial eyes any contemporary account of the condition of the peasantry of Ireland in the beginning, middle, and end of the last century will see that an incomparable improvement in their lot has been effected during the 93 years of the Union as contrasted with the corresponding class in England and Scotland. I believe the improvement in the condition of the working class in England has been immense, but I do not believe that it is to be compared with the progress made by the Irish working class, politically, socially, and materially since the Union. They have been endowed with civil and political rights, their material condition has been greatly improved, and, in spite of the famine by which Ireland was overwhelmed, and for which we were not responsible, I say that the improvement in Ireland, the contentment in Ireland, and the diminution in the causes of agrarian discontent in Ireland are such as in my judgment to clearly show that England and Ireland may be left to settle their own affairs without the meddling and muddling of politicians. One further question remains. If you are not by this Bill, as you cannot hope to be, placed in a position to improve the material condition of Ireland, who, at all events, are you going to satisfy by passing it? That is a very simple question. If you im- 1820 prove Ireland in a material form by it, you may say that you will satisfy sentimental opinion. But whom are you going to satisfy? I will begin with the smallest class—a class who are not dependent on this House. You will not satisfy the Civil servants of Ireland at any rate. Henceforth every Civil servant in Ireland will know that Home Rule means to him the absolute destruction of every prospect in life. He may have been in doubt, he was in doubt before the Bill was brought forward as to that fact, but he knows now that he is not likely to have a Chief Secretary more devoted to his interests than the present Chief Secretary, and that he is not likely to have any statesman over him as his protector more anxious to see justice done than the right hon. Gentleman, and yet he knows that a Home Rule Bill formed under the auspices of that very Minister is one which puts an end absolutely to that career to which he had a right to look forward when he entered the service of this Imperial Parliament. Do you think you will satisfy the Loyalists? Whatever else has come out in these Debates, this at least has come out plainly—that not one single man who has been returned to this House by the Loyalist minority in Ireland has been reconciled to the measure by any change suggested or promised in it. Their hostility is as embittered as it over was, and they know now, on the authority of the hon. Member for Govan, that they must rely for justice in future not upon the paper guarantees of the Bill, but on the strength of their own right arm. As the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has stated to-night, the Loyalists of Ireland, whether in Ulster or in the South-West, must rely upon that for the protection of their dearest interests. You may say that though you do not satisfy the Civil servants, or Constabulary, or the Loyalists, you have satisfied the Nationalists. I have heard speeches delivered in this Debate by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway who represent Nationalist opinion, in which they have expressed themselves perfectly satisfied with this Bill as a final settlement of the question. But there was one exception to this. The hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond), speaking for an important section of Nationalists, has told us that it is absolutely impossible 1821 that the Bill could be regarded as a final settlement of the question by the Irish nation. His view is that though we give to Ireland by this Bill more money than she has a right to, though we hand over the lives and property of the minority who depend on us, and though we even hand our own local affairs to be managed by an Irish delegation, we still have not done sufficient, and that when the Nationalists reach the height of their demands this Bill will be found insufficient, and they will ask for more. I am disposed to believe that the hon. Member for Waterford is pretty correct in this. You have established in Ireland by this measure all the ponderous machinery of national government, and it is perfect folly for you to suppose that you can prevent that machinery having full play. You have imposed restriction upon restriction by the Bill; out Ireland looks upon itself as a nation, and you have encouraged it to do so, and having given it the machinery for national government you may be certain that not one of these restrictions is worth the paper it is written on. I am perfectly aware that other gentlemen take a different view, and that the hon. Member for North Longford and the hon. Member for East Mayo have pledged themselves with a splendid recklessness not only for Ireland, but for the whole of the Irish race across the seas. I do not attack the credibility of those gentlemen, but we have to compare their utterances now with their utterances in the past. They are sincere now; they were sincere then; and the question is which of those two forms of sincerity is likely to be the more permanent, which represents the real opinion destined to last? On that I refrain from dwelling. I will only say that whilst they have acted consistently year after year upon their old opinions, their new opinions are the growth of a few hours, and may perish in a similar period. Well, if you have not satisfied Nationalist opinion, have you satisfied British opinion? The Chief Secretary for Ireland at Newcastle was very angry with us for talking about British opinion. [Mr. J. MORLEY dissented.] And his indignation, real or assumed, has been copied by many gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. I am not going to 1822 justify this talk about a British majority, because it has been effectually dealt with by my right hon. Friend opposite; and it does not lie in the mouth of gentlemen who wish to talk about a Welsh majority, a Scotch majority, and an Irish majority to condemn us for talking about a British majority. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said tonight—You talk of your British majority and you have it, but what right have you to suppose that that majority is not in process of being still further converted to Home Rule? In 1886 there was a majority against Home Rule in Great Britain; there is a majority against it still, but it is a largely reduced majority. There is evidently, therefore, a growth of opinion, and in the long run the British elector will come round to the opinions already held by the Irish elector.That argument is ingenious, but it will not hold water. What were the circumstances in 1886? The whole Liberal Party were asked to execute a volte face at a moment's notice. The capacity for that particular evolution differs with different individuals. It is immensely developed in some quarters, in others it shows but a slight development, and when the Election of 1886 took place there wore still some Members of the Liberal Party who were stupid enough to hold to the opinions in which they had been brought up, stupid enough to believe that what every British statesman—the Prime Minister included—had said until 1886 represented, after all, a fair Liberal policy, and who therefore, for the moment, wore not prepared to follow their Party these lengths. The process of conversion in their case was slower than in the case of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for example; but it has taken place, and Party discipline has shown itself stronger than ancient convictions, or even reasonable argument. But why are we to suppose that that process is going on? I admit it took place in 1886 and 1893; but, surely, it has come to an end now, and as far as I can judge the signs of the times—I do not go by bye-elections, or regard them as a perfectly true index of the feeling of the country, and I do not wish to overrate them—but, as far as I can judge by any signs of the times which have come to our notice, the feeling of Great Britain—which, after all, 1823 is one of the parties to the Treaty of Union—is getting more and more adverse to a plan by which they feel that their dearest interests will be sacrificed. If you have pleased neither the Loyalists nor the Nationalists, nor the British public, have you pleased the House of Commons? The House of Commons, I suppose, is going to vote for the Third Reading of this Bill. But I am sure there is not a single man who feels the force of Parliamentary tradition who does not look back upon this Session with regret, as the moment in our Parliamentary life when we can distinctly trace and note the beginning of a decadence, and when it became clear for the first time that this House is not in the future to be what it has been in the past. The House of Commons, at all events, will not look back upon our proceedings with pleasure, whatever view may be taken of the particular measure before us. So far as I can judge, there is but one body of men in the whole country who have reason to congratulate themselves upon the part you are compelling them to play—that is the House of Lords. The Attorney General filled up his speech with a certain amount of criticism of the Tory Party as being the Party that had invariably resisted reforms desired by the people. I think myself that that is a shallow view of history, but I will not dispute it now. However, it must be a gratification to the learned Gentleman to feel that at last the Tory Party have the people on their side, and that there is not an elector in the whole breadth of Great Britain who will not feel, after the proceedings of to-night and the proceedings of next week, that if he has to look anywhere for the discussion of matters nearest to his heart and for the protection of interests which he holds to be vital it is not to the Chamber which he has done something to elect. These, after all, are facts which do not depend upon opinions. They depend upon statistics, and it is a mere question of arithmetic as to whether the House of Lords, in any action they may take next week, will or will not back up the majority of the Representatives of Great Britain. That is not a question of opinion; it is a question of fact. I say that by your insane action you have 1824 done more than a hundred Tory Governments to demonstrate the necessity for the House of Lords and the part it may play as the bulwark of the interests and greatness of the Empire. Well, Sir, I have already detained the House far longer than I intended, and, considering how often I have addressed it during the last seven months, I have been ashamed of this invasion upon their patience. I will only say, in conclusion, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary reproached me with expressing a desire to destroy the Bill. Well, Sir, I have desired it, and I feel that we have accomplished it. You may pass this night, by what proportion of the 670 Members of this House I know not, the Third Reading of this measure. Every man who votes for this measure to-night knows that he is endeavouring to put life into that which is dead. Never again can you come before the constituencies of the country, and with all the mist of ingenious rhetoric pretend to them that you can give to Ireland everything she wants and to subtract from Great Britain nothing which she cherishes. This Bill has brought you into the open. Every elector will now know what the grant of Home Rule involves to him—a diminution in the authority of this House, a diminution in the security and unity of the Empire, a diminution in the safety of those in Ireland to whom his honour is so deeply pledged. Every elector must now know, and will know, that in the management of his affairs will mingle the voices of 80 irresponsible Members from Ireland, of 80 gentlemen not belonging in any full sense to our political system, not bound by our traditions, not looking forward to the same object; and every elector will know that in order that he may obtain a questionable privilege he must give up everything that his fathers cherished, everything he was taught to revere, and that he must throw upon himself a perfectly unnecessary and superfluous burden of taxation. Do not tell me that if this Bill be Home Rule—we know it to be Home Rule now—that Home Rule will ever commend itself to the views of the majority of the British people. I have reason to coincide in the opinion expressed by a 1825 subordinate Member of the Cabinet. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: Of the Government.] I mean of the Cabinet—the head of the Board of Works. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] Well, I will say a man of equal authority to the Prime Minister, who stated in 1892 that a measure like that of Home Rule ought to be carried by a large majority; that it was a Constitutional change which ought to have in its favour a large majority of all the Representatives of all the four countries; and who stated that he would never be satisfied unless they had that majority in England, and in Scotland, and in Wales, and in Ireland, which would justify them in saying that the majority of the people of all parts of the United Kingdom were in favour of this great Constitutional alteration. It has been my misfortune to differ from that important Member of the Cabinet on many different occasions. Allow me to express on this occasion my heartiest agreement with him, and let me indulge in the prophecy, as prophecies are fashionable, that until that comes about, and until England and Scotland, the great contracting parties with Ireland in the Treaty of Union, are satisfied that the dissolution of that Union is for their best interests, that dissolution will never take place.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman wound up his speech by expressing his satisfaction that as a result of all these prolonged Debates they have drawn us into the open. I have observed in the course of these Debates more than once that it does not follow, because a subject is very important, that therefore the speaker should make a very long speech upon that subject, and it is not my intention to detain the House very long to-night. But when the right hon. Gentleman says that he has brought us into the open, I can only say that I for one greatly rejoice at the issue which on this stage of this great controversy is to be decided to-night; and I do not think after that issue is stated to the country, with all the light which the right hon. Gentleman and his allies and confederates have brought to bear upon it, that we have anything to lose. It is a new thing in one who has been himself Leader of 1826 this House, in one who has taken a great and important part in the discussions of this House for the last six or seven years, that he should now appeal from the authority and from the decision of the Representative Chamber, should make naught of that, and should appeal to a Chamber which is non-representative. I can understand that on the great controversy of Irish government there may be differences of opinion, and that this may be an issue on which the country may have searchings; but as to the question whether, after the legitimately constituted majority of this House has pronounced its verdict, that verdict should be over-ruled by a non-representative House we have no fear. I will travel as briefly as I can over the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman. He found some fault with me because I had accused the confederate Opposition of bad faith in the Debates which have taken place since the Bill was first introduced. He began by noticing that certain figures had been produced by various speakers in which all of us seem to agree, and that this seems to indicate some plot on our part. We have those figures in our favour, because they all emanate from the obvious source of the true facts of the situation. I do not say in the country what I am afraid to say in this House, and I repeat hero what I have said before—that the opposition to this Bill has been an opposition conducted in bad faith. I do not for a moment say that the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and many of you, and many of the Gentlemen behind (the Liberal Unionists) are not absolutely sincere in your aversion to Home Rule; but I say, from a Parliamentary point of view, this discussion has been an insincere discussion, a hollow discussion, a discussion in bad faith. The House declared it was expedient that a Legislature should be set up in Ireland for the peace, order, and good government of that country. If you had been discussing a Bill resting on that foundation in good faith you would have made Amendments, of course, and you would have, I quite agree, done your best to overthrow the Bill; but that has not been the conduct of the Debate. What did the bon, and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) 1827 say? That by resort to the Closure we were subverting the very foundations of the British Constitution. But my hon. and gallant Friend made a very interesting declaration on that subject which sheds a great deal of light upon the question. The hon. Member said in some speech in the country—We detest this Bill; we shall obstruct this Bill; the Government may tax us with obstruction—those are his very words—as much as they like; in a case of this kind obstruction is patriotism.That is an aphorism. I will make him a present of another—Where obstruction is patriotism Closure is patriotism. The House assented to the proposition that it was expedient that the Irish Legislature should make laws for the order, peace, and good government of Ireland, and then you began to whittle it all away with a view not to amend the Bill, but to destroy the foundation upon which the Bill rested. I submit I was absolutely justified, and we are absolutely justified, and shall be, in charging hon. Gentlemen opposite, and their confederates, with conducting these 82 days' discussion on this Bill in a spirit which has never before marked our Parliamentary Debates. There has been resistance before, but there has never been resistance of this kind; where you endeavoured to smother, to choke, and to extinguish every principle on which the House has agreed, and which the great majority wish to see carried out.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Of course, for the purposes of the moment, it answers very well to say that this is a gigantic measure, and that it contains a thousand Bills. One would suppose that this Parliament had never before granted local self-government to any one of the Colonies. I do not under-rate the importance of our proposal; but when the right hon. Gentleman says that this has been an honest, a relevant, and an earnest Opposition, we do not believe a word of it. The right hon. Gentleman says—"What is the gain to Ireland by this Bill?" He admits that, in Parliamentary ability and Parliamentary knowledge, hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway show a competence in which they have scarcely any superior, 1828 and not many who are their match. Then he says—Where is there any sign in all the parts they have taken in the discussions in this House during the last 10 or 12 years of a plan for dealing with Ireland that would recommend itself to any economist or any statesman?I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman means by a plan, but this I do know, that since 1880 hon. Members below the Gangway have been pressing upon Liberal Ministers and upon right hon. Gentlemen opposite a series of suggestions which, in the long run both by gentleman here and gentlemen opposite, have been accepted, and without which Ireland to-day, I do not scruple to say, would be ungovernable. Does the right hon. Gentleman expect hon. Members below the Gangway, without responsibility and without official knowledge, to produce some Utopian scheme for the regeneration of their country? It is not possible; it is not reasonable. He cannot expect it. Can he look back to his own experience. I will give him one case, and one case only, the case of the Revision of Rents Bill of 1886. The right hon. Gentleman opposite withstood that proposal which was pressed upon him. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: I did not.] The right hon. Gentleman says he did not resist it; but I will undertake to say, within one month of the passing of that Bill, he said it was an inexpedient and immoral measure which could not be reconciled with common honesty. The Conservative Prime Minister in the other House up to the very eve of the passing of that Bill denounced it, and the right hon. Gentleman himself sitting here declared that it would be most dishonest, inexpedient, and immoral to accept the proposal which hon. Members below the Gangway pressed upon him, but he was bound to and did accept it. Take the Land Act of 1881. It was a great measure, but nobody—I doubt if even the right hon. Gentleman himself, who has watched the working of that Act—can deny for an instant that it would have been a far more effective measure if the suggestions of hon. Members below the Gangway had been accepted by the Ministry of that day. The right hon. Gentleman does not think so, because he objected to the Bill altogether. Then the right hon. Gentleman made some re- 1829 marks upon Dublin Castle. He taxed my hon. Friend the hon. Baronet who has made so admirable and interesting a contribution to our Debate this evening with using strong language about the Castle. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Oh, that is the language of third-rate politicians who go perambulating about the platforms of the country showing their ignorance about Ireland and Irish affairs." Who is the third-rate politician? It is no loss a person than my right hon. Friend West Birmingham. It 1885, declared Dublin irritating anachronism. to pursue that subject further, but I must say that it is very awkward for us, who have to thread our way through the mazes of the present Parliamentary situation, to find two coadjutors using this kind of language of one another. The right hon. Gentleman asks, How can you cure? He admits, for the sake of argument, that for 600 years, more or less, the government of Ireland by this country was not a blessing, but something like a curse, and he says, How can you cure in 93 years the evils that grew up in 600 years? But how many of those 93 years were years of improvement? Take one case of which he will understand the significance. In 1843 there was the Devon Commission, which made that terrible Report as to the condition of Ireland. And what was done? Nothing at all. True, in 1848 or 1849 the Encumbered Estates Act was passed; but that Act, as the House by this time is aware, did a great deal more harm than good. It was the result of what the Prime Minister has called "the heedless and unreflecting good intention of this Parliament;" and that Act is one of the best arguments in favour of the Bill now before us. I suppose there are no two men in this House who agree more than the right hon. Gentleman and I do in our perception of the difficulties of Irish government. We have both—if he will allow me to join him with myself in this matter—endeavoured to look at these difficulties with a clear gaze. Napoleon said that he hated a general who made pictures. He liked a general who looked through a field-glass and saw things as they were. And the right hon. Gentleman and myself have both of us endea- 1830 voured to see things as they are in Ireland. He has had great experience of Irish government, and I have had some, though much less. In diagnosis of Irish maladies there is, I fully believe, considerable agreement between us. It is when we come to remedies that we disagree. That is what I felt all through the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and it is what I feel every time ho speaks on this subject. Our disagreement can be stated in a sentence. The right hon. Gentleman is for a persistence in the conditions which have produced that state of things now baffling and confounding us. I and those with whom I have the honour to act are in favour of a resort to those conditions, those maxims, and those principles of government which the English-speaking race have tried all over the globe, and have never tried without finding in them healing and a remedy. The right hon. Gentleman says, "You do not satisfy the Civil servants." That is a matter, Sir, which I feel strongly about. If the right hon. Gentleman himself were to come into Office with a different Irish policy to his old Irish policy, that he felt would go to the root of the matter, he would have to reorganise the Civil Service of Ireland. Whether he would do it on more generous and liberal terms than we have devised and proposed I very much doubt. Then we had from the right hon. Gentleman, as we had from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham the usual argument about finality. But I, for my part, never claim finality for any solution of any large and deep-rooted political question. There is no such thing; and I should like if it were not too late to quote some most wise and sagacious words of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham in 1885, when he declared that finality was out of the question in practical politics. So far as I can make out, all politics are an affair of second best; you do not get perfect ideal solutions. All that we contend for our proposals to-night is that they open a new way in regard to Ireland, but an old way in regard to our own experience over the whole field of our self-governing Empire. In every part of that Empire where there is self-government the principles on which we 1831 rely as the foundation of this Bill have been a uniform and a great success. It is quite true that my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford—whom I, for one, always listen to with interest and respect—said that there was nothing approaching to finality in our proposal.
§ MR. J. E. REDMOND
I did not say there was nothing approaching to finality. I did not use those words.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I shall be very glad to draw from my hon. Friend a limitation of the proposition which the House, I think, understood him to lay down, and which was used by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham and the right hon. Gentleman opposite in the course of their arguments.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
What I said on the question of finality was this: that in my opinion this Bill could not be regarded as a final settlement, because no partial concession of autonomy could in the nature of things be final; that this concession was in the nature of an experiment, and that if it was successful no doubt the Constitutional liberties conferred would increase and develop; but if, on the contrary, it was a failure, those Constitutional liberties would be narrowed or destroyed, and in that sense I said this Bill was not a final settlement.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I, for my part, understood my hon. Friend to go much further than the line he has now traced; and, so far as that declaration and enunciation go, I do not believe any reasonable person can find fault with it.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I was referring less to the exact words used by my hon. Friend than to the interpretation put upon them by many Members of the House, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg to say that I gave no interpretation. I quoted literatim et verbatim the words of the hon. Member.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I was dealing with the argument which my right hon. Friend based upon the quotation. My right hon. Friend says that the Member for Waterford represents the most active element in the agitation both in Ireland and the United States. I do not know how far that is true; but I submit with great 1832 confidence to the House that if it be so—I do not believe it is—the strongest bulwark that you can set up against these active elements, so far as they are mischievous—and everybody knows what I mean by that—whether in Ireland or across the seas, is such a Legislature and such a system of government as we propose to confer on Ireland, and such as gentlemen sitting round him have accepted. Sir, let me go to the argument the right hon. Gentleman used on another point. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think I was very angry at Newcastle because of some remarks I made upon this leaning upon the argument of a British majority, and he said—"British majorities! Oh, there have been wonderful evolutions in the relation of English Parties to the Irish Nationalist Party! "That is quite true: and when I have been listening to these prolonged Debates of 80 days; to the language used about Irish Members and their sense of political honour and morality; upon my word, when I look back upon the political transactions of the past seven years, I think gentlemen from Ireland might very well retaliate upon gentlemen from England, and point out to them that their standard of political honour and morality is at least as high as theirs.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman has rather mistaken me. I attacked nobody's political honour; but if I attacked the political honour of anyone, it was not that of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
But in attacking the honour of gentlemen who sit on this Bench, I think he must have forgotten the history of his own Bench. If there were by chance an Irish Mephistopheles sitting below the Gangway, what food he would have for enjoying his own arts and views on human nature, if he reflected upon the machinations of the Conservative Party. [Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: When?] Has the right hon. Gentleman—have you forgotten the October of 1885? You think that is all past and gone. Have you forgotten Lord Salisbury's speech when he declared that he was musing in a disinterested spirit upon the possibility of an Austro-Hungarian Union as applied to Ireland, and in a kind of abstract way—which I can imagine the right hon. Gentleman himself employing — medi- 1833 tating that boycotting was the Irish version of mediaeval excommunication?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Of course I have no right to interfere on behalf of Lord Salisbury, and I am not responsible for Lord Salisbury's words, but in the words which the right hon. Gentleman has put into his mouth he has entirely misquoted him.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I do not carry all Lord Salisbury's speeches about with me, but I will undertake to say—and hon. Gentlemen will do mo the credit of believing that I try to quote correctly—that I am not misquoting him by a jot. It is a locus classicus. Why, I see sitting opposite to me, next to the Leader of the Opposition, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer. Did he or did he not taunt the Tory Party of that day, of which he is now a Member, with that utterance of Lord Salisbury?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
My right hon. Friend remembers my speeches bettor than I do. I have no recollection of it.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I leave the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to settle it with another of his coadjutors.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The Prime Minister always exacts from us, when we quote him, that we should give the exact words, and my right hon. Friend should have provided himself with extracts from the speech. I do not remember it.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I believe that my right hon. Friend used the word "coquetting." Of course I may have been mistaken with regard to Lord Salisbury, but I think Lord Salisbury's words wore as I have quoted. At all events, I will venture to say, with all Parliamentry certainty, that my right hon. Friend opposite did make it an article of charge against the Tory Government of that day, that they were coquetting with these traitors and rebels sitting on the Irish Benches. I am all for letting bygones be bygones, but I really think that you ought not so rapidly to forget your own past. You have taunted us during these 82 days with our tergiversations. Do not forgot your own. Now, Sir, I will proceed to deal with one or two other points if the House will bear with me. Last night the right hon. Member for South 1834 Tyrone—[Hon. MEMBERS: Not "right hon."] Well, not yet. The hon. Member taunted me with carrying out the behests of clericalism and sacerdotalism. He said here I sit to carry out the behests of clericalism and sacerdotalism. Sir, no one knows better than the hon. Member who used that language last night that it is not true. There are more kinds of clericalism in Ireland than one; and from what I have heard of the Tyrone Election, what Milton said is still true—that "new presbyter is but old priest writ large." My answer to that taunt is that, in my judgment, there is no surer bulwark against what is illegitimate in the pretensions, or claims, or practice of a Clerical Order so far as it is illegitimate and outside the spiritual sphere, than a lay, political, secular, national authority. A much more interesting speech than that of the hon. Member for Tyrone was that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Plunket). That speech was marked by a fine and touching eloquence. It was marked by what I do not dispute for a moment—love of country. But what country? That speech, I can well suppose, made a deep impression upon the House, because the right hon. Gentleman has never played for Party or factious purposes with the Irish Question. But what country? Sir, I cannot help saying, with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that the country he loves is the Ireland of the ascendency. That is the Ireland to which all his attachments, honourable and moving as they are, cling. This is not merely a personal argument. You have here the very best spokesman the Conservative Party could have from Ireland. And what was that eloquent, moving speech of his yesterday, from first to last? What was it? It was a vast, bitter cry on behalf of the landlords. It was a narrow view. He is sitting next a right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Jackson) who was once Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I do not think he will agree with the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin in the doctrine and position that the Irish landlords constitute the people of Ireland as to whom only, or principally, we need concern ourselves.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
It is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman did not put it in that way; but I listened to his speech, and I understand what he means, and that speech from first to last was a speech upon the attitude of the Government upon the Land Question, and a plea on behalf of the landlords.
§ MR. D. PLUNKET
I am unwilling to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but what I said at the beginning of my speech was this: that I would not impose upon the House any speech upon the subjects which I had before had an opportunity of dealing with in Debate, but that I did insist upon having some explanation upon that one subject as to which we had not been able to extract one word of explanation from the Government.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The whole point and substance of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was a plea for the landlords. I go with him. I am now just as adverse to being a party to permitting any injustice to the landlords as I have ever been. The right hon. Gentleman's whole speech made out that the possibility of injustice to the landlords was the great and substantial objection to our policy. I do not mean to say for a moment the right hon. Gentleman has not other objections. He said Parliament has been doing its best for 70 years. I have already said in answer to the Leader of the Opposition that Parliament has by no moans been doing its best, and that it was not until 1870 that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took up this question that anything serious was done, and even that was only a nibble at the fringe of the question. Therefore, it is a mere delusion to say that for 70 years this Parliament has been freely dealing with the Irish Land Question and endeavouring to reform the Irish land system. I do not know how many of these reforms, of which the right hon. Gentleman is now so proud, and which he makes the foundation of his case for the retention of the power by this British Parliament over the whole government of Irish affairs, he and his Party have supported. I do know how many have been resisted and have been deferred by his Party in another place. I do know that resistance 1836 and procrastination have robbed all these remedial measures of which he boasts of all their efficacy. The right hon. Gentleman talked of the power of the Land League. The Land League was the terrible result of these blind, these heedless, these selfish delays, for which the right hon. Gentleman and his Party here and in another place are mainly responsible. Sir, nobody has been clearer in sight than the right hon. Gentleman. In 1884, in this House, in a speech that all who heard it will always remember, he presented to the House his fears and his prophecies that the extension of the franchise which Parliament then was going to concede to Ireland would lead up to and would precipitate the demand for the establishment of a separate Irish nationality. He knew very well what that extension of the franchise would lead to, and he warned the House against it. That was consistent in him. But does he not now see, and do not those who are affected by his great eloquence see, that he is the soldier of a lost cause? The hon. Member for Tyrone last night talked about their being the last outpost of danger against the aboriginal inhabitants of Ireland.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I did not use the words. I made a quotation from Lord Macaulay's history in which they occurred, but I never applied them myself.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I admit it shows a want of literary tact on my part, but I really did not know where Macaulay ended and the hon. Member began. I will pass over some topics which, if there had been more time, I would willingly ask the House to listen to me upon.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour) talked about the great Reform Act. With what he said as to the scope and purport of it I am afraid I cannot agree; but one circumstance about the passing of it is worth a minute or two. This Debate has been a Debate of prophecies. In intervals of this Debate I have looked at some of the prophecies about the Reform Act. Let them be a warning to some gentlemen sitting opposite as to the view 1837 that perhaps will be taken in the House 30 or 40 years hence, and how their prophecies will be quoted as being just as great examples of absurdity and folly, because they are the same prophecies. One Member said—Before 10 years have passed away, all the institutions of the country would sink under the effects of the measure. The Reform Bill was like the plan of Cromwell for the assassination of the Monarch and the destruction of the Peerage. The Peerage enjoyed its rights under an instrument granted under the Great Seal. The Bank of England, the East India Company, the Corporation, all existed under Charters, and all of these would be reached by the mischievous principle now promulgated, which left no safety for monied interests, landed interests, the Peerage, or the Church.I commend the last passage of this prophecy to my right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen)—He who broke into and bore away the archives of the Town House"—which means destroyed the rotten boroughs—"would not hesitate much about plundering a cathedral.Sir, the House of Commons to-night takes a step which can never, never be retraced. At the end of seven-and-a-half years of incessant controversy and passionate conflict this branch of the Sovereign Legislature of the Realm, freely chosen, popularly representative, and virtually supreme, passes a Bill which grants to Ireland a Legislature with power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of that land in the future. This great affirmation can never be cancelled and never recalled. Let them do what they will in other places to delay, to resist, to obstruct this solemn declaration. [Laughter.] Well, you may laugh; but it is a solemn declaration. Try to undo it if you can—[Cries of "We will!" and "The country will!"]—but do not deny—[Interruption.]
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Do not deny that the fact that this Representative Chamber passes this solemn declaration is a very solemn fact. [Cries of "The gag!" "The gag!"]
§ MR. J. MORLEY
Do you suppose—I note that interruption—that if the Debate had been prolonged for as many 1838 months as it has filled weeks; do you suppose that the Bill would not at the end of the time have been passed just as it will be passed to-night? We may have been right or we may have been wrong in the Closure; but who in his senses really can contend that, at the end of the discussion, if it had been 120 day instead of 80, the Bill would have been read a third time? [Cries of "No!"] Gentlemen above the Gangway are beyond the reach of argument. Nevertheless, I submit, even to them, that this solemn declaration constitutes a recognition of the national demand of Ireland—constitutes the giving of a promise which can never be taken back. Sir, whatever may be the immediate future of this Bill, to the ultimate future of the Bill, to the cause, we at least look forward with hope invincible and with confidence that cannot quench. We have had during these seven years long, toilsome, and harassing marches under skies that were sometimes starless. We have had many dark moments, which were not only dark but tragic. But we have had an indomitable and unfaltering captain. We have had a great band of comrades in this House, and out of it, who have "scorned delights and lived laborious days," and whose courage, whoso patience, whose tenacity, whose faith bear witness to the awakened conscience and mind of England as to the case of Ireland. Whatever may happen, there is a Party in Great Britain who have made up their minds that Ireland shall no longer be the sport of an aimless destiny; that she shall no longer be the cockpit in which English factions choose to fight out their battles. Let us for tonight—we at least on this side of the House, aye, and even gentlemen opposite—let us raise ourselves above the mire and the confusion of ephemeral faction. You, Sir, in a few minutes will declare this Bill to have been read a third time. When you have made that announcement it will be felt by this time tomorrow that wherever the Irish race toils, and hopes, and yearns, wherever Englishmen and Scotchmen are weary of the inveterate stain on the fame and honour of their country—it will be felt that we at least have taken a decisive step towards the true incorporation of Ireland in a United Kingdom.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, he did not think the Debate ought to close without some protest against the Financial Clauses of this Bill. [Cries of "Oh!"]
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, Ireland had been extremely badly treated under these Financial Clauses. He made out that altogether the loss to Ireland under the Bill would amount to £3,290,000. The effect of the Financial Clauses would be to stereotype the bad and unjust financial system which had been pursued towards Ireland for many years. They would not be much better off than they were at the present time. Ireland had been robbed in the past. She would be neither better nor worse off under the Bill than at the present moment, and he considered it his duty to protest, even at that late hour, against the perpetuation of the injustice that had been inflicted in the past.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 301; Noes 267.—(Division List, No. 285.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.