§ [Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question, 5th February, see page 15.]
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. J. REDMOND (Waterford),
in rising to move, as an Amendment to the Address, to add—And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the time has arrived when it is the duty of Your Majesty's Ministers to advise Your Majesty to dissolve the present Parliament and submit the question of Home Rule to the electors of the United Kingdom,said,—Mr. Speaker, in explaining the reasons which have induced me to move the Amendment which stands in my name, I shall be forced to ask the indulgence of the House while I go back to some extent upon the recent history of the Home Rule question and while I recall to the attention of this House the commanding position of pre-eminence and urgency to which this question was raised by the late Mr. Parnell; and it will be necessary for me briefly to consider the position in which this question admittedly, confessedly, stands at the present 466 moment. In the year 1886 the Home Rule question, which up to that time had been denounced, derided, and repudiated by every political Party in this House, suddenly became the foremost in the policy of the Empire, A great English political Party accepted the policy of Home Rule; a great English Government staked its existence on the policy of Home Rule, and although that English Party, as a result, was divided in its own ranks and defeated, and although that Government was, as the immediate result of adopting the policy of Home Rule, wrecked, still the Home Rule question remained the foremost political question of the day. It absorbed public opinion in this country; it was the one topic discussed upon every platform throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain; it was the one political topic which engrossed the attention of the Press of the United Kingdom, and not merely of the United Kingdom, but, I might almost with truth say, of Europe; and every bye-election that was fought was fought on this question of Home Rule. More than that, every triumph which the Liberal Party won at the polls, from the year 1886 down to the destruction of Mr. Parnell's power as Leader of a united Party in this House, was won by the Liberal Party on the question of Home Rule. It was, Sir, the one great plank in the Liberal platform, and British people were told that all questions of merely British concern, all questions of domestic reform, should be put upon one side until the Irish question was settled. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian informed the people of Great Britain that Ireland blocked the way, that Ireland was mistress of the political situation, and that she would remain mistress of it until this Irish question had been settled; and in the most solemn tones again and again the right hon. Gentleman told the people of Great Britain that everything else must wait until the Irish question was solved. He told them that this Irish problem was urgent from the Irish point of view, because social peace and order could not be preserved in Ireland without its settlement; and he said it was urgent from the British point of view, because no British reform, now matter how just, and no matter how much it was 467 demanded by the British people, could even be considered, much less settled, until the Irish question was out of the way. Mr. Speaker, it is scarcely necessary to fortify myself by extracts from the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian to establish the first position that I take up, but I will just read two or three words to show that I am not overstating the case. On April 13th, 1886, the right hon. Gentleman stated in the House of Commons—As the plan holds the field so the subject holds the field. Never, I think, have I witnessed such signs of public absorption in this House and out of it. Moreover, it is safe to prophesy that the subject will continue to hold the field. Many are here who advocate important reforms. Many think, and I am one of them, that legislation is in arrear. But you may dismiss all these subjects from your mind until this matter is disposed of, until this Irish problem is solved. I am looking at the nature of the case. I am looking at the profound interest of the whole English and Scotch people, aye, and of the whole civilised world. Until this problem is solved, it is idle to think of making progress with the business of this country.And on June 21 in the same year he said—I will illustrate what the position is. It may be briefly stated in one word—'Ireland blocks the way.'And then he went on to say—People have the audacity to reproach me with not endeavouring to force upon Parliament—to force upon them by effort which would be absolutely vain—the consideration of other subjects of legislation when I told them that this Irish question would sweep into the shade the whole of that legislation, and you would hear no more of it until this business was settled.In June again, Sir, later on, the right hon. Gentleman said—Your Parliament is in a state of paralysis. It has worked hard. Many a man has sacrificed his life to his public labours, but the difficulties cannot be overcome. And what is the cause of these difficulties? The cause of them has been Ireland. The Irish question is in a position in which every man knows no work can be done until the question is got out of the way.I might multiply those extracts indefinitely, but I think no one will question the position which I take up when I say that the policy laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, and accepted by the entire Liberal Party in 1886, was, that Ireland blocked the way, and that this Irish question was so vast, and so urgent, and so pressing, that it should be settled before any attempt could fairly be made 468 with domestic reforms or English legislation. Sir, that was the position to which the Home Rule question was raised by the genius and the labours of the late Mr. Parnell; and, Sir, that was the position in which it remained until his power as the Leader of a united Party in this House and in Ireland was destroyed. But the policy enunciated in the cry that Ireland blocks the way has absolutely disappeared; its place has been taken by a feeble cry that the cup of the Lords should be filled up. This Parliament has been sitting for over two years; it has been engaged every day since the rejection of the Home Rule Bill in giving the lie, as far as it is possible to give it, to the cry that Ireland blocks the way. What has been the history of the last two years of this Parliament? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, speaking on this question said—I do not think in the history of our legislation for the last 20 years you can find any Parliament in which more has been done—that is, as to the importance of the Bills which it has passed.Yes, but has that work, so far as it consisted in passing Bills into law, been work done in the interests of Ireland? This Parliament has passed Bills into law conferring Parish Councils upon England, Scotland, and Wales; it has dealt with the Equalisation of Rates in London; it has passed a democratic Budget. What has it done for Ireland? [Mr. SNAPE: "It has passed Home Rule."] I only wished that it had. It did not pass Home Rule, and when a Home Rule Bill, having passed through this House, was rejected in another place, it was quietly put upon the shelf, and from that day to this we have heard nothing about it. I will tell the House the one thing that this Parliament has done for Ireland. Last Session it increased the taxation of Ireland by making Ireland pay towards the deficit in the Budget of last year a sum which represents more than double the proportion which Ministers themselves admitted was her fair proportion towards the Imperial taxation. I was interested in reading to-day a leading article in what I suppose may be called the organ of the Government, the Daily News, in which they state that another election on the question of Home Rule is no longer within the range of practical 469 politics. We are told that the next election is not to be held on the question of Home Rule, but that there is to be interposed between the electors and the consideration of the Home Rule question another question, a vaster and greater question from the English point of view, even than Home Rule—the question which has been described by the Prime Minister as the greatest constitutional question which the people of Great Britain have had to consider for over 200 years. There has come within the last three years an extraordinary change over the position of the Home Rule question in Great Britain. There has been a slow and gradual, but a steady, change of policy and attitude towards the Home Rule question on the part of the Liberal Party and of the present Government. That change has no doubt been a gradual one in its stages; it has been almost imperceptible, but at the end of three years that change is patent to the naked eye. In that change there were seven distinct stages. The first of these was when in the year 1891 the Newcastle Programme was adopted as the policy of the Liberal Party. Sir, up to that time Home Rule had been the sole great issue before the people of Great Britain. So far from saying that other measures should go abreast of Home Rule, as I have shown, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, and his Party declared that all other measures sank into insignificance as compared with Home Rule and could not be touched by the Parliament of England until that greater question was settled. But the Newcastle Programme changed all that; Home Rule was declared, no doubt, to be still the first item in the, Progrnmme, but it was declared to be one item only in a vast programme of reform; and in the words of one of the Newcastle delegates, the way to get it passed was to sandwich it in between other measures. In my view that constituted a complete reversal of the policy of "Ireland blocks the way." The second stage in this change of policy was, when the Leaders of the Liberal Party refused to disclose to the country the general outline of the Home Rule Bill of 1893 before the Election. Nobody asked for the details; what was asked for was, that the electors before the Election should be put in posses 470 sion of the main outlines of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in a famous speech made at Leeds before the Election, said:—If they went to the country with a vague formula willing it Home Rule, or whatever they pleased, and obtained a majority on behalf of that formula, what would be their position when they went back to Westminster and introduced a Bill? It might be the wisest and best scheme, but the position would tell them that that was not the issue the country had voted upon. You have no mandate for the introduction of that measure, and we are justified in forcing the Government to take it back to the constituents.Many of those who were amongst the most enthusiastic supporters of the Government and of the Liberal Party in Ireland spoke in precisely the same way. In November 1890, Mr. Michael Davitt wrote in the Nineteenth Century as follows:—On this Irish Question there is no satisfactory response to the growing anxiety as to what the next Home Rule scheme is to be, and both friends and foes alike are in the dark as to whether the next Genera Election is to be fought on a distinct and definite Home Rule proposal, or on the name and fame of Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone's reticence on this point may be defended by politicians. This would be all very well if the masses were as ignorant or as indifferent as they were 20 years ago, but such is not the case.Now, Mr. Speaker, just as the adoption of the Newcastle programme, in my view, made it certain that if the Home Rule Bill were passed in this House and rejected in the Lords, the Government would hang it up and go on with the rest of the programme, so in my opinion the refusal to satisfy the demand made by the Home Secretary and others made it certain that the Home Rule Bill would be rejected by the Upper Chamber. Now, I come to the third stage in the change of policy on the part of the Liberal Party. It was reached in an acute form when the Home Rule Bill was rejected by the House of Lords. What occurred? This was a great measure, and it had been described by the Prime Minister and by his colleagues as of overpowering importance and urgency. It was a measure, we were told, upon which the interest of the United Kingdom and the welfare and integrity of the Empire depended. It was a measure at the back of which the great heart of the masses of the people was to be found in enthusiastic support, and this measure, sent up by a large 471 majority from this House to the Lords, was rejected. What happened? Was Parliament dissolved? Was Parliament summoned immediately to repass the Bill, and send it up to the Lords? No. Was an agitation started in the country to protest against the action of the House of Lords? None of these were done, but the question of this great reform, which, it had been said, would have to be settled before anything practical could be done for the people of Great Britain, was quietly put upon the shelf, and the Government turned with an easy conscience to the consideration of those other matters which Mr. Gladstone had stated sank into absolute insignificance as compared with Home Rule. I want to know where in the annals of this Parliament anything similar is to be found in reference to the passage of any great measure of reform on which the hearts of the people were set? [Cheers and Laughter.] I invite hon. Members who laugh and doubt what I say to search through the annals of this Parliament for the last 100 years and to find a parallel for such treatment being given to any measure described as this measure has been described. Let them go back over the great measures of reform of the century. Was it in this spirit and in this half-hearted way that the action of the House of Lords in reference to the Reform Bill of 1831 was met? No! Was that great measure, when the House of Lords rejected it, put upon the shelf, and were there other and less important measures taken up for the consideration of Parliament? Was it by half-hearted action of that kind that Catholic Emancipation was passed, that the Corn Laws were repealed, and that the Paper Duties were abolished? Was it by action of that kind that the Government in 1884 passed their Franchise Act? No! In 1884 the House of Lords took action which amounted practically to a rejection of the measure. Was the measure then hung up? Did the House of Commons go on quietly with the consideration of other Bills? No! We know that all England was made to ring with protests against the action of the House of Lords, and it was announced that Parliament would be assembled in the Autumn to pass another Bill, to send it up to the Lords, and to insist on its passing. But in the case of the Home Rule Bill none 472 of these things occurred, and in my view this shelving of the Home Rule Bill, after its rejection by the Lords, must have meant to the minds of the British people that it was no longer an urgent measure, and might with safety be put into the same rank with the questions of Local Veto or Triennial Parliaments, to be dealt with at some time or other in the dim and distant future, but not to be allowed to interfere for an instant with the smooth course of practical and humdrum British legislation. The next stage in the change of policy was easily detected in the altered tone at English elections. It is quite true that at all these elections Home Rule appeared in the candidates' addresses. It was still at the head of the Newcastle Programme, and no doubt every candidate in his opening speech declared that he was in favour of Home Rule. But I shall not be contradicted when I say that in recent time little has been heard of Home Rule at English elections, while much has been heard of the other items of the Newcastle Programme. How much was heard of Home Rule at Forfar or Brigg? When English elections were fought on Home Rule, and Home Rule alone, the Liberal Party won them, but since they have taken to dwell more on Disestablishment, Local Veto, and other questions, upon which their own Party are divided, they have been losing election after election. [Cheers and Laughter.] Do hon. Members who laugh doubt what I say? If they do, I can give them a very interesting specimen of what I mean. There was a recent election at Birkenhead, and the Liberal candidate there was a very candid gentleman. He said at one of his meetings that they had had a great number of red herrings drawn across the trail by the Conservatives, and the first of these was Home Rule, and he asked what Home Rule had then to do with that election? There were many other questions, he said, which had to do with the election. That seems to me to be a very sorry plight for the prospects of Home Rule at the present moment. The fourth stage of the decline of policy on this question by the Liberal Party is to be found in the practical disappearance of the question on British platforms. I now come to one of the most serious facts in the situation—the disappearance from the scene of the late Prime Minister. 473 It is perfectly clear that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, after the defeat of the Home Rule Bill of 1893, did not contemplate putting the question upon the shelf, and taking no action upon it to resent the course pursued by the Lords, because immediately afterwards he spoke at Edinburgh, and said that the next Session of Parliament would not pass over without their seeing this subject reappear above the waves beneath which it had for the moment sunk. That clearly pointed to some action on his part to keep Home Rule to the front, and that he, at any rate, was not in favour of delaying the question. One of the most powerful arguments used for the destruction of the power of Mr. Parnell, as Leader of the Independent Party in Ireland, was that his disappearance was necessary in order to preserve the advocacy of Home Rule by Mr. Gladstone. To-day our country is in the miserable position of seeing Home Rule indefinitely postponed, and of finding herself deprived of the services of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, as well as the services of the late Mr. Parnell. The sixth stage in the decline of Liberal Policy was reached when Lord Rosebery made his first speech as Prime Minister. That speech contained the extraordinary doctrine that Home Rule could not be carried into law unless and until it had at its back a majority of the people of England. Yet the Daily News declares that Home Rule is not now within the range of practical politics. So far from declaring that the Home Rule question is urgent, and that he would push it on, the present Prime Minister has done exactly the opposite; and, so far from contesting the action of the House of Lords, he has, by the extraordinary argument he has used, justified their action in the rejection of that Bill. I assert that the Prime Minister, from that day to this, has never made one straightforward and clear declaration that in his opinion Home Rule—that is, Home Rule as we were given to understand it last year—is still a cardinal point in his policy; that he is determined, in opposition to any influence in the Lords or out of it, to push that policy to success. But the last stage in this downward course is the most serious of all, and it is to be found in the Bradford speech of the Prime Minister, in which he de 474 clared that the next election was not to be held on the subject of Home Rule at all. No. He declared that, between the electors and the consideration of this great question, there was to be interposed another question—from the English point of view a far graver and more wide-reaching question, and one which he himself described, as I have pointed out, as the greatest question for the last 200 years. In my view, the starting of this House-of-Lords agitation means, if it is persisted in, the indefinite postponement of Home Rule. I do not take the view that it is impossible to pass Home Rule through the House of Lords as it is at present constituted. I know from the history of the House of Lords that it is the weakest Second Chamber, perhaps, in the world For my part, I think the whole history of the House of Lords shows that it has no power permanently to withstand the declared will of the people in favour of any great reform. It has never done so. I quite admit that it has interposed obstacles; it has been an influence thwarting and hindering the progress of useful Radical legislation; but when it came to the point the House of Lords never yet attempted to assert its power in opposition to the clear declaration of the will of the people. And on this question of Home Rule, just as on every other reform of the century, I believe that a clear declaration of the public will in its favour would mean the passage of the Bill through the House of Lords. Indeed, Lord Salisbury has him-self admitted that such a declaration would be sufficient to warrant the House of Lords in passing the Bill. But it is not necessary for me to cite him as a witness. The whole history of the House of Lords supports my assertion that in these circumstances it could not interpose a permanent and effective barrier to the passage of the measure. But for Home Rule to wait for either the abolition or the reform of the House of Lords is a very different matter. Home Rule is a great question. I do not think its magnitude was exaggerated by the late Prime Minister. It is a great question, but I admit that from the point of view of the people of Great Britain, at any rate, this question of the House of Lords is a greater question; and whatever way this question of the House of Lords comes to be dealt with in the end, 475 no sane man can seriously believe that it can be settled without years and years passing, without Parliaments—many Parliaments, perhaps—being dissolved and many Governments coming into office and going out again. On the merits of this House-of-Lords question this is not the time to enter, and it is not my business on the present occasion to deal with them. But when we are asked to postpone Home Rule until the House of Lords is abolished or reformed, I am justified in pointing to the fact that you yourselves are not united on this question of the House of Lords, And if you were united in your demands with reference to the House of Lords, if you had at your back a great wave of popular enthusiasm such as carried other reforms of the century; if you were led by some great man who would inspire enthusiasm amongst the masses; even then, I say, it would take years and years, dissolutions coming and going, and Parliaments disappearing, before the question could be settled. But is that the case now? Have you a great man at your head capable of inspiring enthusiasm amongst the masses of the people? Have you at your back a great man of enthusiasm; and, above all, are you united? Do you know your own minds upon it? Why, the Prime Minister declares himself in favour of a reformed Second Chamber. The Home Secretary, as I understand, and a large number of the members of the Party declare themselves in favour of one Chamber. [Mr. ASQUITH dissented.] Then the right hon. Gentleman has been mis-reported, and I will not attempt to press it upon him, but undoubtedly a large section of the Liberal Party are in favour of the total abolition of the House of Lords, and in favour of having only one Chamber. On the merits of these two proposals it is not my business to enter. So far as Ireland is concerned, I said, in the discussion on the Home Rule Bill, that I was in favour of a Second Chamber for Ireland; but in the question of a Second Chamber for England I can understand the position of those Radicals who are in favour of a single Chamber and the total abolition of the Lords, because while the Lords cannot permanently withstand the popular will, it is true that they can delay the realisation of the 476 wishes of the people, and hamper and impede the progress of Radical legislation. Therefore the policy of the hon. Member for Northampton and many other Members of this House—that is, the total abolition of the House of Lords, is to my mind a perfectly reasonable and intelligent policy for English Radicals. But I confess I cannot understand English Radicals who want a reform of the Second Chamber, because the whole experience of the world shows that the very moment you reform a Second Chamber by introducing the elective element into it, or in any other similar way, that very moment you increase its moral force and power, and thereby increase enormously the power of the House of Lords to withstand the progress of your Radical Programme. At the present moment I believe the House of Lords is the weakest Second Chamber in the world. But if Lord Rosebery had his way; if he reformed the constitution of the House of Lords and made it to some extent representative, and introduced other elements into it; I believe its power to withstand Radical legislation would be enormously increased. For my part, I have always regarded a reformed House of Lords of Lords as a question of the future; but I have regarded it, I must candidly say, as a part of Conservative rather than of Radical policy. My firm belief is, that the House of Lords eventually will be reformed, but that it will be reformed by Conservatives and in the interests of the Conservative Party. But one thing to my mind is absolutely certain, and that is, that if Home Rule is to be postponed until the agitation against the House of Lords which was started in the Bradford speech be galvanised into life and succeeds, few indeed of us who are assembled in this Parliament can hope to see a Parliament established in Dublin. A more extraordinary proceeding than the starting of that agitation at Bradford I never heard of. Lord Rosebery went to Bradford and made a valiant speech, and from that day to this he has been engaged in making speeches minimising the effect of his first speech and explaining that he really did not mean to touch the House of Lords at all. It reminds me of the famous historical cartoon that appeared of the late Lord John Russell, in connection, I 477 think, with the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, when he was represented as a street urchin chalking up on a street wall "No Popery," and running away again. For all the world it seems to me that is the attitude taken up on this question by Lord Rosebery. From our point of view, all I have got to say is if we are to be asked to wait until this agitation, which seems already to have died of inanition, be galvanised again into life, and until it succeeds in its object, we will have to wait, I am afraid, longer than any of us hoped a few years ago, or can view with any equanimity now. I have endeavoured to show as briefly as I can the perilous condition in which, in my opinion, the Home Rule movement stands at this moment in Great Britain; I have endeavoured to show that it has fallen absolutely away from the commanding position to which it was raised by the genius of the late Mr. Parnell; and I now declare my opinion that it is the duty of Ministers, by dissolving the present Parliament, to do what they can to restore that question to the position that it occupied. Home Rule must be kept to the front. It must be still made, in my opinion, to block the way. It must, in my opinion, still remain the great question on which Governments will fall and Parliaments will be dissolved. In this case I believe a state of suspended animation is almost as bad as death, and may lead to death; and I believe that the first step necessary to restore Home Rule to the position which it occupied three years ago is once more to appeal upon it to the electors of the United Kingdom, who, after all, are the masters of Lords and Commons alike. Before I conclude let me briefly deal with just one or two of the more specious of the arguments of those who are opposed to the dissolution of Parliament. It is said that when the dissolution takes place Home Rule might be defeated at the polls. Well, how do you propose to avoid defeat? You propose to avoid defeat by running away. You propose to avoid defeat by saying that the next election will not be held upon Home Rule at all. If that does not mean the practical abandonment of Home Rule I do not know what it means. Let me take an example. A General Election was held after the rejection of the Home Rule Bill of 1886, and Home Rule was 478 defeated at the polls. Does anybody mean to pretend that if the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Midlothian, instead of appealing to the electors on Home Rule in 1886, had hung it up and gone on with British reforms that it would have been for the benefit of the cause of Home Rule? Why, we know that the defeat of Home Rule at the polls did not injure the cause of Home Rule in Great Britain. We know that it was followed by election after election where Home Rulers were returned, and that the campaign set on foot in the country after that General Election and that defeat resulted in the return of a Home Rule majority to this House. The fact of the matter is it come to this—either this is an urgent question and the Liberal Party are in earnest about it, or it is not an urgent question and you are not in earnest about it. I hold that it is plainly your duty to keep the question to the front, and to appeal upon it to the electors again and again, whether that appeal results in the defeat of one Government or of ten Governments. But it is said that the only chance of victory for Home Rule at the polls was to accompany Home Rule with other measures. That is the sandwiching policy advocated in the Newcastle Programme. Now, I have never been able to convince myself that that is a wise or practical policy. Home Rule is to great a question to be juggled with. Home Rule is too great a question to be smuggled into law, and it will be absolutely necessary, if it is to pass into law, that there should be a fair and square issue taken on that point, and on that issue the people should decide. But there is another argument, which is more intended for Ireland than for this House, for after all most of the Members of this House are practical politicians, and that argument is that this Parliament should be continued and the life of the Government prolonged in order to obtain certain legislative benefits for Ireland. Now, my first answer to that is that Ireland has reaped no legislative benefits at present from this Government—absolutely none, and my second answer is, that no responsible man can pledge his opinion that any really useful legislation for Ireland can be passed by this Parliament. I will again cite the Home Secretary, who is candid, perhaps too candid 479 for his friends. Speaking at Birmingham in November last as to the chances of legislation passing in this Session, he fell into sporting phraseology, and he asserted his opinion that the odds against the Irish Bill passing into law were 100 to 1. The right hon. Gentleman and the Chief Secretary for Ireland spoke together the other day on the same platform at Newcastle, and I was anxious to see whether the sporting price had changed. But while the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary gave a glowing account of his Bill, he refrained from saying that in his belief that Bill would pass into law, and the Home Secretary did not say anything to encourage the idea, so I suppose the same price holds good. The fact of the matter is that this Government are absolutely impotent to pass any useful legislation whatever for Ireland, and over and above all these arguments, it is my opinion that the longer this Government remains in Office the less chance there will be of winning a victory at the polls, and I believe that is the view of many hon. Members on that side of the House who will vote against me. This Home Rule question was brought to the front by making it block the way of British reform. It was forced on the Liberal Party by the necessity of the situation in which they found themselves placed by the political genius of Mr. Parnell. If this block be removed, if the situation be eased, if the electors of Great Britain find it a pleasant and a safe process to put Home Rule on the shelf, then I believe the chances of Home Rule passing into law in this generation will be very small indeed, In conclusion, I say that this policy of indefinitely postponing the General Election, coupled with the declaration that this General Election is not to be held upon the issue of Home Rule at all, and with the interposition between the electors and Home Rule of a still greater constitutional question, amounts to a complete reversal of the policy of the Liberal Party towards Ireland in the past. By this Amendment I call upon the Government tonight, in fulfilment of their pledges in the past, to restore Home Rule to the position it held before the late Mr. Parnell died, and to make it the chief legislative issue in the country, by dissolving Parliament and submitting it 480 once more to the electors. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name. (Cheers.)
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND(Mr. J. MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
I am very sensible of the importance and significance of the occasion on which I rise to oppose the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member. I profess, and I am sure the hon. Member will agree with me sincerely—I profess to be as much in earnest about the good government of Ireland as he would claim for himself to be. This is, therefore, an occasion of some significance, and I make bold to say that no more mischievous blow has been struck at the cause of Home Rule than this Amendment. Sir, the hon. Member was cheered in various parts of his speech by gentlemen sitting above the Gangway opposite. I do not grudge them at all the irresponsible enjoyment they exhibited on this occasion—temporarily irresponsible. The hon. and learned Member's arguments are really less important and less interesting than the fact that he brought forward a Motion which those arguments are used to support. I really do not feel called upon, in connection with this Amendment, to discuss that portion of the hon. Member's speech which was taken up with an exposition of his own views as to the direction in which the House of Lords should be reformed. I take it that that would more properly come forward, if it came forward at all, on the occasion of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. The hon. Member's division of the stages through which the Home Rule question has passed during the last eight or nine years was a very curious one, and not a very novel one. I was struck by this—that he enumerated four or five stages in which he thought that the Home Rule question had been deliberately damaged, and then he came to an event which nobody deplores more bitterly than we on this Bench do—the disappearance from the leadership of the most illustrious Member of this House. But my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian was the Leader of the Party during the time when all those various downward stages enumerated by the hon. Member were passed through. He says that Home 481 Rule was placed in the front of the Newcastle programme, but that the design of that programme was in effect to postpone Home Rule and to sandwich Home Rule amongst English measures. That was well known to him and his friends. It was well known to the country that we were going to the country, not upon one single issue during the election of 1892, but during that election it was well known that the Home Rule question was in the forefront, that it was the first question with which we had to deal. That is a pledge which we have amply fulfilled. It has often been said that Ireland is like a fever-stricken patient, who tosses first on one side and then on the other to seek relief. I do not believe any responsible Irishman ever before put himself or his country in such a posture as the hon. Member has placed himself in to-night. I ask gentlemen in all quarters of the House to mark this. If they look at the position of the hon. Member they will see that he has committed himself a political paradox of very considerable dimensions. Here is a Government in power which has passed a Home Rule Bill through the House of Commons. Let the hon. and learned Member carry his memory back to 10 years ago. Would any man—would any Irishman, or any Englishman—then have dreamed that within 10 years a Government would have been in a position to have achieved such a feat as that? Then I come to the next paradox, that this Government, which has gone so far, which has taken these enormous strides in the direction desired by the hon. Member—that this Government is to be ejected by the friends of Home Rule and in the name of Home Rule. How is it to be ejected? The hon. Gentleman wishes to eject this Government by the aid of the Party which regards Home Rule as treason to the Constitution and the dismemberment of the Empire; has declared that the passing of such a measure would be a justification in some parts of the United Kingdom of civil war. Has the hon. and learned Member asked himself whom his Motion will please? Does he not know that all those gentlemen who sit above the Gangway opposite, and who delight (I am afraid I must say it) in cynical and ill-natured views of the conduct of Irishmen and the prospects of 482 Ireland—[Opposition cries of "No, no," and cheers]—does he not know that these are the gentlemen who will view this Motion with favour? I should like to point out one or two very extraordinary feotures in a paradoxical direction in the Motion of the hon. Member. On Friday last he went into the Lobby to vote that the greatest attention of Parliament and of the Government and the country ought to be given to agricultural distress, to the unemployed, and to social questions, and not to constitutional questions. To-day the ruined farmer and the unemployed are to be thrown overboard, and he calls upon the Government to break up Parliament in the midst of its work, in order that the attention of the electors may be concentrated, not upon the condition of the farmers and the unemployed, but upon a constitutional question. To-morrow or the next day another constitutional question is to be forced to the forefront by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham—that is, the question, of the House of Lords. There, again, the hon. Member is going, I presume, in pursuance of this same suicidal and infatuated policy to vote against the Government. Now, I should like to say a word or two as to his confederates. I understand Lord Salisbury taxed us the other day with sweeping up a majority from the refuse of the electors. The refuse he charged us with sweeping up are electors of Scotland and Wales. Is there no other sweeping up going on at present? Here are the landlord Party doctoring their Amendment in order to capture the representatives of the no-rent Party; and to-day the Liberal Unionists below the Gangway are going to join hands with those who alone, according to their own version, possess the pure milk of the word in the matter of Home Rule. I wonder whether the right hon. Member for Manchester has had any share in doctoring this Amendment.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
I can answer that question; and in answering it let me state that the paragraph which appeared lately in some Liberal newspapers to the effect that I had changed the original Amendment is absolutely untrue. Nobody has doctored this Amendment. The Amnesty Amendment which my hon. Friend is going to move is in the terms in which it has 483 always been moved, and in which it was drafted by Mr. Parnell. This Amendment was drafted before I came to London at all.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I accept entirely the assurance of the hon. and learned Member; but there are more ways than one of doctoring an Amendment. I do not deny what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. I do not say for a single moment that the right hon. Gentleman has had any share in the wording of this Amendment; but, no doubt, in framing it the hon. and learned Gentleman had in view language which would commend itself to Gentlemen above the Gangway. The hon. and learned Member says quite truly there is on the paper an Amendment in favour of an amnesty. Are your confederates above the Gangway going to vote for an amnesty?
§ MR. J. MORLEY
My answer I gave to friends of his in Ireland not long ago. Following this historic Amendment, there is another in favour of a Maamtrasna inquiry. Have you arranged about that, as you arranged in 1885, with gentlemen above the Gangway?
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that, so far as I am concerned, there was no arrangement in 1885, and there is no arrangement now. The Amendment stands upon the justice of the case, and the decision of the House will be taken upon that.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I do not want to argue the justice of the case now; I am quite prepared to do it at the proper time. I remember that when, in 1885, the gentlemen who had for two or three years jeered at Lord Spencer for not being sufficiently energetic came into office, as everybody supposed in consequence of the understanding arrived at, there was a most astonishing change of front on their part. The change was so astonishing that it shocked nobody more than my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square; the change was so remarkable that it was described by the hon and learned Member for Waterford as marking a break of continuity in Irish policy. I would warn gentlemen above the Gangway to beware lest they find themselves victims of the same historic pranks as 484 they played in 1885. Have your confederates agreed to send to Ireland a Lord Lieutenant who shall confer with the hon. and learned Member on the possibility of setting up a Parliament in Ireland? One would like to know these things. There is nothing bitter or uncharitable in asking the question of hon. Gentlemen opposite, for this is the very thing which was done in 1885. One more question. The hon. and learned Member moved the Closure on the Bill of last Session for the repeal of the Crimes Act, and the Second Reading of that Bill was carried. Is he going to lead into the Lobby the Leader who told the House of Commons last year that the advent of a Unionist Government to power would be the signal for the revival of the old problems and the old difficulties and for the necessary resort to coercion? The words are so remarkable in view of the effect which the hon. and learned Gentleman desires to procure by his Amendment that I will take the liberty of reminding the House of them. The Leader of the Opposition said—Is it not unreasonable, intolerable, to ask us to abandon the method of enforcing the common law of this country—that of the Crimes Act—Which is, by the admission of the advocates of the present Bill, will become necessary as soon as Irish patriots see the prospect of Home Rule receding into space?The hon. and learned Member has told us that the prospect does seem to be receding into space. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—I am certain that must come sooner or later, and then we shall find ourselves face to face with that problem and difficulty and without the present method of meeting them as they arise.The methods to which he was referring were those of the Coercion Act. With all this political paradox, the position of the hon. Member is not to be concealed or disguised by that Parliamentary plausibility of which he is such a distinguished example. A word as to the general position of the hon. Member. He represents himself as an advocate of the policy of independence. Well, Sir, independence is a very fine thing, and an Independent Party may be a very fine thing; but independence in itself is not a policy. What is the calculation of the hon. and learned Member as to the effect of this Amendment? What does 485 he anticipate will be its effect either in Ireland or in Great Britain? I make great allowance for desperate Party necessities; they are overmastering elements; but, after all, they ought not to overmaster cool and sober calculation. [Mr. W. REDMOND: What about your own Party necessities?] Certainly the statesman to whose name the hon. and learned Member is fond of appealing, Mr. Parnell—[Mr. W. REDMOND: The man you killed]—would have been the ast man to have embarked on such an Amendment without making a very cool and sober calculation as to what its effect must be. According to the hon. and learned Member, the Government is bound to devote itself wholly and exclusively to Home Rule, without regard to any other object, or policy, or cause whatsoever, and without regard, moreover, to the effect which attention to other demands besides Irish demands would have on the promotion of the Irish cause itself, even although legislative activity in other fields, such as Local Government in English and Scotch counties, the financial system of the United Kingdom, and Temperance, should be not only wise in itself, but should put the Government in a still stronger position in taking up Home Rule again. Does the hon. and learned Member seriously contend that we should have done better by the Irish cause, in the minds of the English and Scotch and Welsh electorate, if we had told them we were indifferent to all other social necessities and demands, and if we had made no effort to satisfy them? I put that question to the hon. Member, and I do not think he can answer it. I put two plain questions: Do you think we can carry Home Rule against that English, Welsh, and Scotch electorate? Do you think you conciliate English, Scotch, and Welsh Liberals by trying to defeat and turn out a Liberal Government? Take the case of Wales. There are some 31 or 32 Representatives from Wales who are in favour of the Disestablishment of the Church in Wales; but every one of those Members voted for Home Rule. They voted for Home Rule in the same spirit that hon. Gentlemen opposite voted against it; and hon. Gentlemen opposite are bound to give to gentlemen from Wales credit for the same Parliamentary integrity as they claim for themselves. They voted for 486 Home Rule because they believed, wisely or unwisely, that it would be a good system of government for Ireland. The effect of what the hon. Member for Waterford wishes to do would be to baulk the national desire represented by those gentlemen, and to hinder the prosecution of a measure on which they had set their hearts. That is a policy of independence indeed; it is independence of gratitude, independence of common sense. The hon. and learned Member says the Disestablishment Bill will not pass. I do not know whether it will or not; but after a very remarkable and interesting letter written by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, I do not know what astonishing and unexpected combinations may happen. At any rate, it is not for any who wish to remain good friends with the Representatives of Welsh public opinion to take for granted that this is a mere parade of a measure that is not intended to pass. Or interest in the Irish question has been thoroughly roused during the last eight or nine years. It has been roused in my own constituency, and the interest remains great to this moment. But those who voted for me at Newcastle in 1892, on the strength of my accepting Office to be instrumental in carrying out a certain course of policy towards Ireland, are also interested in other questions which we propose to deal with by legislation this Session. Does the hon. and learned Member think he is doing a good turn to the Irish cause in the minds of men like those when he takes up the attitude he does? The hon. and learned Member talked about Home Rule being "shelved," and he referred especially to the Prime Minister. I cannot find a single word uttered by the Prime Minister since he first occupied that great Office which justifies the construction he chooses to put on the Prime Minister's words. Take Lord Rosebery's speech in another place on Tuesday night last. Speaking of the diminution of crime he says—I believe the reduction of crime is due in Ireland to another cause—the knowledge that the policy of establishing an Irish Legislature for distinctively Irish concerns, satisfying the just aspirations of Irish people consistently with Imperial unity, remains in the forefront of the Liberal Programme.Does the hon. and learned Member suppose that Lord Rosebery is capable 487 of making in his place in Parliament, under the most solemn circumstances under which any Minister can speak, a declaration of that kind not meaning to carry it out, not meaning that the policy is a wise policy, or intending to do what he can to press it forward at a speed which any question in the forefront of the Liberal Programme ought to command? I will tell the hon. and learned Member what my view is of what he has described as the slackening of energy and interest in the Irish cause. From 1886 and onwards until 1892 there was a passionate awakening of the national conscience in respect of Ireland due to those treasures of genius, eloquence, and enthusiasm which were poured by my right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian into the most heroic task of all his heroic life. That passionate awakening has been transformed into firm and steadfast conviction of national honour and dignity. I do not regret that. I am glad the stage has been reached when we discuss this question without passion from the point of view of sober and steadfast conviction; because the ground of a reason and conviction of that kind is stronger than the ground of passion alone, and I repeat that, in my judgment, frankly stated to the House, this firm conviction of the impossibility of governing Ireland on the old lines, the necessity of regenerating the national character in Ireland and building institutions in Ireland up by self-government, has not one whit slackened or weakened. But—I do not know one need be ashamed to remark—human nature is human nature after all, and demands that friendship shall be met by friendship; and I say once more frankly and plainly to the hon. and learned Member that, if the electors of this country were so misguided as to take him—I do not wish to speak with any discourtesy—as a representative of Irish judgment, I think the cause of Home Rule would, as he says, be set back for a very indefinite time. I said I would say something of the effect of the hon. Member's attitude as regards his own country. He says no responsible man will pledge himself that our Irish Land Bill will become, law. I quite agree—especially that rather capricious body whom the hon. and learned Member is doing his best to strengthen; but I fancy my right hon. Friend behind 488 me himself now thinks that the odds offered at Birmingham ought to be what is technically called "shortened." A remarkable speech was made in the House of Lords the other night by the Leader of the Unionist Party. The Duke of Devonshire said he quite admitted that—there are some proposals which the Government are fully entitled to consider necessary and practical subjects of legislation. There is the measure dealing with the subject of Irish Land. That is a subject upon which it is quite possible Parliament might be called upon to legislate successfully. It is admitted by all that the time approaches for the expiration of the first period for which judicial rents were fixed, and some revision of the existing law would be found necessary, and I have not the smallest doubt that in this House, as well as in the House of Commons, every disposition will be felt to approach the consideration of this question and of any new principle which it may be found necessary to adopt for the settlement of the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland. I am sure any proposals of the Government on that subject will be met in a perfectly fair and temperate spirit.Sir, I am sure the Duke of Devonshire would not have made a declaration of that kind without consultation with my right hon. Friend, and I say it is most premature for the hon. and learned Member to suppose there is no chance whatever of our proposals in respect of Irish Land becoming law. I have pointed out that his attitude towards English, Scotch, and Welsh electors is extraordinary, but I wonder what his own countrymen will say? The hon. Member must know that the demand for a Bill on such lines, as it is probable that the measure to be introduced by us in a few days will be framed upon, is universally demanded in Ireland, not merely—as the hon. Member for South Tyrone, a formidable and distinguished opponent of the Government, could bear me out—by the Protestant north, but in the south and west there is a strong overmastering feeling in favour of passing such proposals as we shall introduce. The hon. Member does not deny that? But what is his action? On Friday night he gives a vote full of sympathy and interest in the farmers of Great Britain, and yet tonight he comes down to this House and asks this House to turn out the Government, as soon as it possibly can, which is going to bring in proposals which he himself knows, and all his countrymen admit they expect, will bring relief to 489 the farmers of Ireland. Does he wish the present confusion in the present Land System to remain? He will probably say he does not. Then why is he now doing his best to weaken the hands of the Government in dealing with these evils and to turn out the Government that proposes to deal with them? The hon. Member talks about practical politicians. I submit that this is rather a curious way of recruiting his rather thin and emaciated ranks, by setting the whole of rural Ireland against them. That is Independence if you like; call it by any name you like, but do not call it Patriotism. The hon. and learned Member asked: "On what is the next General Election going to be fought out?" To that question I have only one answer to make, and I will give it in words which I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite will not object to—in the words of Lord Salisbury himself. Lord Salisbury at Edinburgh said:—Lord Rosebery had been kind enough to say he was proposing something analogous to a foreign referendum, and he was determining what should be the subject of reference to the electors at the next Election, He had no more power than himself or his (Lord Salisbury's) hearers to determine what should be the subject of reference to the eiectors at the next Election. They would vote upon the matter that peculiarly concerned them.This at all events is certain, and this is all that I will say—that the Liberal Party and the Liberal Leaders will go to the General Election, whenever Her Majesty is advised to dissolve Parliament, with the question of the Better Government of Ireland, the question of the Concession to Ireland of a Full Measure of Local Autonomy, not falling behind the measure of 1893, as the prime policy of the Government and of the Party.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
I had not intended when I came down to this House to-night to intervene in this Debate, neither should I have now risen if the quarrel that has been going on in this House had been confined solely to a dispute between the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down and the hon. Gentleman who has Moved the Amendment, The right hon. Gentleman thinks it is policy, and I daresay that it is policy, to make a speech which I suppose is intended to damage the electoral prospects of the 490 hon. Member in Ireland; and certainly his speech was more flatly directed to that end than to answering the arguments which have been brought forward by the hon. Gentleman who has moved the Amendment. That is, however, after all, no affair of mine, and had not the right hon. Gentleman thought fit to drag into the controversy those who sit on the Unionist Benches I should not have troubled the House on this occasion. But there was one general argument running through the whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman, to which I listened with utter amazement. What was the central argument of the right hon. Gentleman? What is his chief weapon directed against the mover of this Amendment? Why, it was that the hon. Member for Waterford had to deal in the present case with a Government which has shown by its action that it is deeply committed to Home Rule and desired to see Home Rule passed.How, then," said the right hon. Gentleman, "can you do this Government, friendly to your main object, the enormous injury of voting for this Amendment? How can you injure the cause to which you and we on this Bench are equally pledged?The right hon. Gentleman assumes, of course, that, if beaten on the Amendment, the Government will have either to resign or to dissolve Parliament. If the Government dissolves, I suppose, from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman, they will come back in a position to carry Home Rule which the hon. Member and the right hon. Gentleman so much desire. Therefore the hon. Member in hurrying the date of the Dissolution is only hurrying the bringing to power a Government which, unlike the present Government, would bring in at once and carry through a Home Rule Bill. It is admitted that the present occupants of the Treasury Bench in this Parliament are not going to touch Home Rule, and therefore they are to come back after a General Election with a majority. Clearly the advent of Home Rule would be greatly hastened thereby. How, then, can it be an injury to Home Rule or to the Government that they should be obliged to go to the country? There is one reason.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
I will say why I vote for it. I am now dealing with the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman. I say from his point of view there can be but one possible reason why he thinks that the carrying of this Amendment will be inimical to Home Rule, and that is that when the Government does dissolve the verdict of the country will be against them. The hon. Member for Louth interrupted me just now, but if he, one of the most ingenious Members of this House, will show any other reason in the course of this Debate why the carrying of this Amendment will injure the cause of Home Rule I will promise not to vote for it. I think that it is plain that the Government, by the whole course of the speech delivered on their behalf by the Irish Secretary, admit that they are, what I for a long time have told them that they are, holders of power, holders of Office which they know in their hearts they have no prospect of retaining for one hour if they accepted this Amendment. Having listened to the speech of the Mover of the Amendment, and to the reply made to it on behalf of the Government, I confess that if I were in the position of the hon. Member I should have great doubt of the moral sincerity of right hon. Gentlemen who sit on that Bench in that quarter of the House. What is the feeling on Home Rule which at this moment exists in the bulk of the Liberal Party? A very extraordinary historical account is given by the right hon. Gentleman of the changes of public opinion on this subject. In 1886–7 there was an overwhelming passion on the part of the Liberal Members of the British electorate for Home Rule, but the first fervour of the honeymoon is now over. A calm and rational affection has now succeeded the earlier transports, and, if I rightly interpret the view of the right hon. Gentleman, he thinks that domestic felicity between the two important parties to this contract is more likely to come about under the second state of things than under the first. But there is very often in matrimony, as in other relations of life, a strange resemblance between calm and rational affection and something which cynical outsiders call indifference. I cannot help entertaining the suspicion that the calm and rational affection in the Eng 492 lish constituencies, which takes the form of leaving Ireland severely alone from the beginning to the end of an election, is something rather different from the settled desire to see this question brought to a successful issue with which the right hon. Gentleman credits his friends in the House and in the country. Any man the least acquainted with the course of electoral policies in the last few years knows that it is the most earnest advice given by Liberal managers to a Liberal candidate that he is to say as little as he decently can about Home Rule, and to say nothing at all unless there is some chance of his being reported. Well, I leave the more general aspect of the question and come to that which caused me to rise this evening. I refer to the hints and the innuendoes—I will not say charges—thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman that there is on the present occasion some dark compact, some hidden arrangement, between the Mover of this Amendment and the Unionist Party, of whom I am one, who mean to vote in favour of it. The right hon. Gentleman has talked as if the historical facts which he related took place some ten years ago. He asked whether some arrangement has been made between the Party led by the hon. Gentleman and the Unionist Party with regard to the Maamtrasna Inquiry and the amnesty of political prisoners. I should like to know what is the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman in throwing out these hints and innuendoes. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe them himself? Does a single man now sitting in this House, acquainted with what has taken place during the last five or six years in Parliament, acquainted with the public behaviour of those who are responsible for the policy of the Unionist Party, believe these insinuations? There is not a man who does, and the last man to believe them is the right hon. Gentleman himself. But I suppose he thinks that outside of this House there are persons less well informed than himself, on whose minds this legend of an arrangement made for the purpose of obtaining power at the sacrifice of principle between Gentlemen below the Gangway and us might have the effect of chilling the feeling of enthusiasm which they have for the Unionist Party. There are such things as discreditable political alliances. It 493 may be possible, it may be even easy, to find an example in political history of a great Party which finds itself in a minority, and which sees it can turn that minority into a majority by accepting a great Constitutional Revolution, which up to the very moment of that political necessity it had publicly and vehemently refused, forming an alliance designed to give it a long term of power. Such cases occur. I do not defend them, nor does it rest with me to plead the cause of those who have followed the example. There are Gentlemen in this House who are generally sitting not far from the right hon. Gentleman, who might be called upon to explain the circumstances in which it is justifiable to give up your often-stated opinion in order to turn a Parliamentary minority into a majority. I am not among them, and certainly the defence of such a policy—if it be defensible—does not necessarily or properly rest on me. In my judgment, the honour of the Party with which I am associated seems to me to be the most valuable of its political assets—putting it on no higher ground. I should consider that he was not merely an unworthy but a dishonest politician who would attempt to barter that honour for the temporary support of a few votes. No, Sir, the reason that I am going to vote for a Dissolution is that I want a Dissolution. The reason that I want a Dissolution is because I am convinced, with the Government themselves, that the people of this country have made up their minds what they think of the present occupants of the Treasury Bench. I am, however, in no hurry to see this event. The complaints of the right hon. Gentleman against the hon. and learned Member for Waterford were that, if this Amendment were carried, and if a Dissolution took place immediately, the opportunities of gaining favour with the democracy of the country would be taken away from them. As far as I am concerned, they are welcome to this opportunity. I have never observed in the history of this country, that any Party or any Government have gained credit for hanging on to Office, in the vulgar sense, without power and with only the insignia of Office—for hanging on to their places when they were deprived of all real influence over the course of events, 494 and when the general trend of public opinion was against them. Under such circumstances, a Government may possibly do good administrative work; it may possibly continue to hold its tenure of Office for one month, two months, six months, or even for a year or more, but you will never find, in the history of this country, that this had the result of increasing the credit of a Government with those in whose favour their fortunes must ultimately rest. Therefore, it matters nothing to me, nor does it matter to the ultimate success of the Party with which I am associated, whether the Government do or do not carry out the intention of this Resolution. But, Sir, holding, as I do, that the Government no longer represents public opinion in the country; seeing that they themselves, by their own admissions, hold that the work of this Session is to be a mere waste of Parliamentary time—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, I will not stop to argue that now. Holding all these opinions, rightly or wrongly, should I or should I not be doing my duty to my constituents and to my Party if I refused to vote for an Amendment which exactly carries out the policy which I have in view? The hon. and learned Gentleman who moves this Amendment and I are divided by differences as profound, as irreconcilable, with regard to the legislation and the Constitution of this country, and with regard to the mode of administration by which order is to be observed in Ireland, as are any two Members of this House. No thing leads me to believe that he has modified his opinions? certainly I have not modified mine. There is no declaration of public policy that I have made ever since I had anything to do with Ireland which I feel in the least degree called upon to modify or explain away. The opinions I held last year and the year before—the opinions I held five years ago—are the opinions I hold now; and it is because I believe that the democracy of this country share those opinions that I call on the Government to give us the opportunity of seeing whether or not they are the legitimate holders of Office. It is for these reasons that I shall go into the Lobby in support of the Amendment calling for an im 495 mediate Dissolution; and I shall do so in the full belief that my action will not be misinterpreted by the Government, by this House, or by the country to which we desire to appeal.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his frankness. It does him the utmost credit. At the same time, I think he might have been more merciful to those who are temporarily to become his allies. I quite agree that the important statement of Conservative policy to which he has given utterance will be regarded as having far-reaching and possibly historical effect. What is the situation? A section of Irish representatives in this House, small, it is true, in numbers, but, as I do not disguise from myself or the House, representing a fair body of opinion in Ireland, have put forward an occasion in which the Tory Party and the Liberal Unionist Party would have had an opportunity of making, on the eve of the General Election, a grave and weighty statement of policy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, with a frankness which does him credit, and with an absence of duplicity which we all expect from him, has nailed his colours to the mast. He has declared that, if his Party come into Office, so far as he in concerned, he has not one jot or one tittle to alter in the policy, the speeches, or the declarations which guided and animated him and his Party from 1886 to 1892. I honour him for that declaration of policy. I think it was frank, manly, and straightforward, and like the man who made it. That is his policy. And are we to be asked to-night to join in this unholy alliance? Sir, the right hon. Gentleman challenged me to give any reason for not voting for the Amendment of the Member for Waterford, except the one that Home Rule would be beaten if the present Government were driven out of office. I, on the other hand, desired to know his reasons for voting with the Member for Waterford, and we are now left with little speculation on the point. The right hon. Gentleman believes that, by supporting this Amendment, he can strike a deadly blow at Home Rule. Is not that a sufficient reason why I should vote against the Amendment? The Member for Manchester and the Member for Waterford, 496 as well as the Member for the Harbour Division, have declared that there are no terms of agreement or alliance between the two sections who will be found together in the Lobby to-night. I accept that declaration, but I lament the fact. I lament for the sake of the Parnellite Party as well as the Tory Party. I should have been pleased to hear that the Parnellite Party were not selling themselves for nothing. I have been in alliance with the Tory Party before now; we may be in alliance with them again. But I know no occasion when the Irish Party ever gave their votes unless they got something for them. But, Sir, we have fallen upon new times; or, rather, I should say, we have gone back to the early course of altruism; and here are votes—a most valuable commodity in this House—and they are to be given freely to the Tory Party to-night, for their purposes, and without even a promise to take a sixpence off the whisky tax. I confess that I feel a sense of painful surprise at that. It may be Parnellism; but I call it nonsense. And when we are told of what the deceased Mr. Parnell would have done upon this occasion, and what he would have done upon another occasion, remembering that there is now a Land Bill in promise, my memory goes back to 1881, when Lord Edmund Fitzmaurice moved a hostile Amendment as to a minute portion of the Act of 1881. We had the Tory Government then at our mercy, and we could have put that Government out of office. But the late Mr. Parnell did not seize that opportunity, although he could have done so, and could have come back 30 stronger at least upon the old franchise. The Member for Waterford recited, in Shakespearian manner, seven stages of Home Rule; but there was one stage of Home Rule which it was remarkable that he should have forgotten, that being the only stage to which I attach any considerable importance—namely, the passing through this House of the Home Rule Bill. Fancy a gentleman getting up in this House to give an account of the progress of Home Rule and omitting the slight incident of the framing, drafting, and passage of that measure! It is the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out. What was this Home Rule Bill? Let the House cast its mind back to the time of the split, and they will remember 497 that it was stated by Mr. Parnell that there were four vital points of difficulty upon which the charge of treachery was made against the Liberal Party. The Member for Waterford is four years late in making this charge. The first of the four vital points, as I recollect them, was the question of the retention of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament; our number, it was stated, was to be cut down from 103 to 32. The Bill of 1893 gave the lie to that. That is my first stage of Home Rule. It was stated also that a settlement of the Land Question was to be withheld from the Irish Parliament, and that the English Legislature would be asked to settle it. The Bill of 1893 gave the lie to the first statement, and the Land Bill of 1895 will give the lie to the other. That is my second stage of Home Rule. Then it was stated that the control of the Royal Irish Constabulary was to be denied to the Irish Parliament; the Bill of 1893 gave the control within a limited period to that Parliament. Lastly, we were told that the appointment of the Judiciary was to be denied for a period of 10 or 12 years; the Bill of 1893 contradicted that statement. And now that every statement in the document which is the Charter of Parnellism has been denied, and refuted by the facts of the time, are we to drive out the Government which passed this Bill because, as I understand, it is not proceeding rapidly enough to present to the electorate the Home Rule issue? And in what year is this demand made? Why, Sir, it is in the year in which the Land Bill is to be introduced which every farmer in Ireland is longing to see passed—a Bill so important, although it is only the necessary complement of the Bill of 1891, that I venture to say the Tory landlord party of Ireland will not go into the lobby against it, so keen is the demand of the Northern farmers in regard to the subject. But I will pass the Land Bill by, and argue the case as if there were no Land Bill. There is to be a Welsh Disestablishment Bill, and, so far as I am concerned, Mr. Speaker, I welcome it, if it is only to repay the loyalty of our Welsh friends. Ireland returns 80 Home Rulers out of 103 Members, but Wales returns 32 out of 34. I am not merely thinking of their votes for Home Rule, I am thinking also of the Irish 498 Church Disestablishment of 1869. For my part, I shall be quite ready to continue to give them my support in putting down an Establishment that I believe is as odious to Celtic Wales as was Protestant-established ascendancy in Ireland. Have we no other reasons for our action? The right hon. Member for Manchester challenged me to give them, and I will give them. Is the best way to recommend Home Rule to the electorate to drive to the polls, defeated, discredited, and disgraced in this House, the men who are responsible far the Home Rule Bill of 1893? I will not mention the word gratitude, because you all know there is no gratitude in politics, but, as a matter of tactics, are we to recommend Home Rule to the British electorate by kicking out of Office the men who helped to make Home Rule possible? With what face should I go into the country to carry on that work—carried on so successfully by the Member for Waterford and the Member for North Dublin for many years, namely, the work of recommending the British constituencies to support Home Rule—and ask Newcastle, Manchester, or Bristol to return men for whom I had given a vote of No Confidence in the House of Commons? I should expect the electorate to ask me if I believed in the sincerity of these men or not. The Member for Waterford was careful not to commit himself upon that point; he made no actual charge of insincerity, but he connoted a number of scattered details from which he asked that the inference of insincerity should be drawn. If it be the unhappy fact that the Liberal Party and its Ministers are insincere about Home Rule and have no intention of passing it, are we to turn to the Tory Party? Are we to put out of Office the men who declare, at any rate it may be lip-service, and are we to support those who so far from declaring even lip-service threaten us with civil war if Home Rule is passed? If I shared to the full the opinion of the Member for Waterford, that the Liberal Party was not doing all that it might or should in regard to this question, I have to consider their performances as contrasted with the attitude that may be taken up by the Tory Party when they get into Office. Would the Tory Party release the political prisoners? The 499 Member for Waterford has been most careful not to offend the susceptibilities of the Tory Party. Although the Parnellite Party has a large and varied programme they are not so foolish as to put all their eggs into one basket, and, accordingly, with the nicest care and discrimination, considering that there is no bargain struck, and that there is nothing to be given for these votes, the Tory Party are asked to-night simply and solely to go into the Lobby for an Amendment which every Tory can support, and they are entirely free from the contamination of pledging themselves in any way about amnesty or about Maamtrasna. Now, if the Parnellites adopt this system I can only say that I believe it will not be regarded favourably in Ireland even by their friends. If their votes are valuable, and if an alliance is maintainable, the very least thing which the Parnellite Party should have got for their support of the Tories would have been the promise of the release of the political prisoners. If the Member for Manchester or his Friends will say that on their responsibility as Ministers their first act will be to release all the dynamite prisoners—
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
If he will make that statement, I shall be most happy to go into the Lobby tonight with the Member for Waterford. But we are neither to have a Land Bill from the Tory Pary, a Home Rule Bill, the reduction of the Whisky Tax, the release of the political prisoners, nor even so far as I know, the grant to the Christian Brothers. I am at a loss to know what solid ground there can be for an alliance between Irish Nationalists and English Conservatives on this question. Having, I think, disposed of the idea that any advantage to Ireland can come out of this vote, I should like to refer to some remarks, which have been recently made by the hon. Member for Waterford, in support of the Government on this occasion. We have been told that the Government are slackening in their enthusiasm for Home Rule. Last year, the hon. Member for Waterford made a speech, and charged the Government with not having 500 sufficiently grappled with the House of Lords, but to-night he has complained that they have been grappling rather too much with it, and have been putting the question of the Upper Chamber in front of that of Home Rule. He also suggests that certain Members of the Government are insincere in their action. I should like to give the Tory Party an idea of the grounds on which this policy of expelling the Government from Office is defended in Ireland. The hon. Member for Waterford did not venture to tell us to-night what was to be the policy of the Tory Party if they came into Office; but, in addressing his supporters in Waterford, he was much more communicative, and set out for their behalf a sort of unauthorised programme. The hon. Member said: "I do not believe the Tory Party would dare to resort to a coercion policy." Will the right hon. Member for Manchester endorse that assertion? No; there is a dead silence on the part of the Opposition. The hon. Member for Waterford continued: "I believe, on the contrary, they will be inclined to deal with practical Irish questions." I should like to know what are the practical Irish questions with which the right hon. Member for Manchester will deal when they come into Office. What are the Irish questions on which the Tory Party and ourselves are likely to agree? And the hon. Member, who it, must be remembered, is a strenuous Home Ruler, says—It would be a question for us to consider whether, if we cannot get Home Rule this year, or next year, from confessedly a liberal Government, and when they will not give us anything else, it is not better to have a Government in power that could give us, and probably would give us, something in the meantime.The hon. Member for Waterford wants Home Rule placed in the front, yet he is willing to put a Tory Government in Office for seven years, who confessedly would oppose Home Rule, just for such sops and doles as might be flung to us by the Tory Party in the meantime. Sir, I venture to say that this is practically an abandonment—nay, a prostitution, of Irish nationality. I, at least, am not willing to put a Tory Government in Office because, while abandoning Home Rule, they would give us something practical in the meantime. I believe Home Rule to be practical, and the Liberal Party believe it to 501 be practical. It comes with remarkable grace from those who claim to be ardent Nationalists that they would drive this Government out of Office and put a Tory Government in power for seven years on the chance or the promise of getting something practical while the Home Rule question was set aside—a Poor Law Guardians Bill, a Light Railways Bill for Connemara, or a Docks Bill; or some other mess of pottage for the sale of the country. But even the mess of pottage is not guaranteed by the right hon. Member for Manchester. No, the right hon. Gentleman declares in the most frank and manly way that he does not recede by one jot or tittle from the position he took as the coercionist Irish Secretary from 1887 to 1892. I confess I should like to have seen more progress made on this Home Rule question. I deplore as earnestly as the hon. Member for Waterford any slackening of enthusiasm, or cooling of the fires, which has hitherto animated the British people on this great question. But are the Liberal Party alone responsible for this slackening of enthusiasm, if it has taken place? Do you not think that the British electorate were affected against us by such incidents as the calling of the great and venerable statesman who pledged himself to the service of the Irish people on this matter, a "grand old spider," or a "garrulous old man," or "a vain old rhetorician"? Have these things had no prejudicial effect? Do they not offer some ground, at least, of explanation for the position in which we now find ourselves? Sir, I recognise that against the idea of the liberation of Ireland—against the idea to restore its Parliament, there is arrayed a combination of forces such as never were directed against any measure hitherto proposed by British politicians. The hon. Member for Waterford spoke of the great Reform Bill, the Redistribution Bill, and the measure for Catholic Emancipation: but these were Bills which directly affected the English people themselves. In dealing with the Home Rule Bill, however, we have to place before the English people a measure which not only does not directly concern them, but which, it is carefully represented to them, would lead to the separation and ruin of the Empire if it were passed. Am I to be told that action and statements of this kind have no pre 502 judicial effect on the progress of the question? Are the Government, which have had the courage to deal with this important subject, entitled to no consideration whatever in relation to its progress? And are we, forsooth, to be stigmatised as traitors to our country because the Liberal Party, while endeavouring to benefit Ireland, at the same time are trying to do something to relieve the working classes of England and Scotland, or to relieve our Celtic kith and kin in Wales from a groaning oppression which we ourselves in Ireland had shaken off? Sir, as I understand, we are in alliance with the Liberal Party. That alliance connotes more conditions than one. It does not connote the dominance of Ireland in the alliance, nor does it connote its subjection. It is impossible, however, to form into words a definition which would meet the circumstances. I will only say this, in conclusion—that, having upon the one hand a Party which I believe is dominated by a desire to restore to Ireland her Parliament, and upon the other a Party which desires only landlord ascendency, landlord oppression, and the continuation of the oligarchy which has so long oppressed us in Ireland—I do not think it is good for Ireland that a gentleman, in the position of the Member for Waterford, has no other encouragement to give to the Party which is trying to aid us and protect us against the Party which is seeking to continue our enslavement, has no other medicine or cordial for them but doubts and sneers, and quips and quotations, and suggestions of despair. I believe that the best way to win Home Rule for Ireland is to stick to the Party which is trying to win it for us, and to oppose the Party which refuses it; and until we see some good ground for smashing up an alliance, pieced together with great care and sacrifice of time, and through the genius, not of one man alone, but of generations and hundreds of men, the cause of Ireland requires us to vote down Amendments such as this, which have no other object than bringing into power the very worst enemies of our country.
§ MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said, if any other hon. Member had made the speech just delivered, he should have taken occasion to remonstrate with him, on the opportunity he had 503 sought to make an attack upon a dead man. The hon. and learned Member had taken up what was known as the Parnell Manifesto, and, dealing with it paragraph by paragraph, had characterised its statements as lies. He congratulated the Government upon the support and the advocacy of a man of that character. The hon. and learned Member said he was not going to mention the word "gratitude." He (the speaker) was not surprised that the word stuck in his throat. He did not think the Chief Secretary would be very grateful to the hon. and learned Member for his speech. The right hon. Gentleman, he believed, was in earnest on the question of Home Rule; and his greatest difficulty was the weakness of his own colleagues in the Government. And, most unfortunately, the effect of the speech just delivered would strengthen their hands against the Chief Secretary, and furnish arguments for further postponing Home Rule. The hon. and learned Member spoke of his (the speaker's) Party having sold their services for nothing. He admitted that it had not been the policy of the hon. and learned Gentleman to sell his services for nothing. But his language, while it might be used to his own colleagues in the bosom of his own Party, had no application to the Independent Irish Members. Both in the speech of the hon. and learned Member, and in that of the Chief Secretary, the leading idea was, that in submitting the question to the electorate they were necessarily defeating the Government. On what did they base that argument? Did they believe that Home Rule had gone back in the constituencies? If they did, what had the hon. and learned Member and his friends gained by the abandonment and betrayal of Parnell? Home Rule was solidly supported in the English constituencies at the time of his death. Was the verdict they had to give upon their actions and their conduct, that they were afraid to face the English electorate? The Chief Secretary had not grappled with the arguments which the hon. and learned Member for Waterford addressed to the House upon the Home Rule question. His whole object was to make an electioneering speech on behalf of his colleagues from Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman thought that the Irish 504 farmers were discontented with the attitude which he (the speaker) and his friends had taken up, and would hunt them from the hustings, why did he not take up their challenge and place the question before the constituencies? Surely the obvious answer to all the right hon. Gentleman had said was, that he did not himself believe in the argument he had addressed to the House with regard to the Land question. He should be sorry to make any accusations against the general run of the English Liberals, in regard to their sincerity on the Home Rule question; but an enormous change had taken place in the policy of the Government, and Home Rule did not now occupy the position it occupied some years ago. It was true that the Home Rule Bill had passed the House of Commons. The Government could not have faced Parliament in 1892 without bringing in such a Bill. Faithful as their Irish colleagues professed to be, it would be impossible for them to support a Government which did not at least make an appearance of fulfilling its pledges. They were accused of endeavouring to drive the Liberal Party out of office. They were not fools in Ireland. They had watched the progress of the controversy, and they had seen that the moment disunion in the Irish ranks cropped up, every interest included in the Newcastle Programme came prominently to the front. He would be glad to support Welsh Disestablishment, but when the question came up he would have to make up his mind how far the Welsh Members were responsible for the present condition of Home Rule, because they were the first to seek to change the position after the rejection of the Home Rule Bill by the House of Lords. They were told that it was the policy of the Liberal Party to "fill up the cup." That policy had been very well characterised as a sham. It was an attempt, not to strengthen the position of Home Rule, but to maintain the Liberals in their present position. Then it was said they could not allow the Lords to fix the time of a Dissolution. That again was a pretence to stick to Office and to postpone the Irish question. The hon. and learned Gentleman had passed a great eulogium on the Liberal Leaders for their sincerity. He wanted proof of that sincerity, and he looked to the broad fact that, since the 505 General Election of 1892 the political situation in the House of Commons had been absolutely in the hands of the Irish Representatives, and yet not one single Irish measure had been placed on the Statute Book. The Chief Secretary had, in his electioneering speech, lectured them on patriotism; but they were not going to take any instructions in patriotism from him. The right hon. Gentleman commenced his speech with a declaration that he was as earnest on this question as they were. They did not dispute his earnestness. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman could point, during the present administration, to a speech from any one of them in any way impugning the earnestness of the right hon. Gentleman on this question; but the right hon. Gentleman knew perfectly well that the Irish people, whose whole interests were at stake in this question, were aware that behind the Chief Secretary, and acting with him and in his counsel, were prominent members who desired to see the Irish question put very far indeed into the background. He deplored the speech which had been delivered from the Irish Benches that night, giving encouragement to defaulters and dissenters in the Liberal ranks. He deplored the position that Irishmen had taken up. Instead of supporting the right hon. Gentleman in his earnest intentions, and giving him encouragement to combat the dissensions in his own ranks, arguments were addressed from the Irish Benches which would be used in the councils of the Liberal Party in favour of the belief that the Irish Party in that House were prepared to take whatever the Liberal Government chose to give them. He would like to take the right hon. Gentleman's memory back a little. Every word that had been said with regard to their Land Bill was said last year with regard to the Evicted Tenants Bill. Did the right hon. Gentleman think that they could admit that the men who got the benefit of the Land Acts of 1881 and 1887 had a prior claim to the men who were evicted and cast out, who went into the fight and sacrificed all in the endeavour to gain these advantages? They were not afraid to face the electorate of Ireland on that question. He wished to point out that precisely the 506 same language was used in the House towards them at the beginning of last Session as had been used that night. When they brought forward an Amendment they were upbraided in the same manner, and charged with endeavouring to turn out the Government that were going to pass the Evicted Tenants Bill. What did that amount to, after all? An attempt was made to pass that Bill through the House of Commons. It was placed in the Government programme early last Session, and Irish Members were kept hanging about the House to support English legislation by having the Bill dangled before their eyes. It did not get a proper chance of being considered in the House at all, and the Bill was rejected in the House of Lords. Not a single effort was made by the Government to restore one of those evicted tenants. In the face of all that, and in the face of the language held out to them then, they would view with very light hearts indeed the language now used by Ministers and their supporters on the Benches opposite.
§ MR. J. ROSS (Londonderry)
remarked that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary said that the carrying of this Amendment would be a deadly blow to Home Rule. What did that mean but that if the Government went to the country at the present time on the question of Home Rule alone, the country would be against them? He had never known a more important admission to be made by a Minister in Office. More than that, they had the hon. and learned Member for Louth making the same admission. The hon. Member besought his own Party to stand by the Government and to fight, because the effect of going to the country on the question of Home Rule alone meant the establishment of a Tory Government for seven years.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
I meant that if we are put out of Office by an Irish vote, that would be a deadly blow to Home Rule.
§ MR. ROSS
thought that that was a distinction without a difference. From the very beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech to the end the same damning admission was apparent. The right hon. Gentleman was pleading for the life of Her Majesty's Government, and was backed up in that by the hon 507 and learned Gentleman the Member for Louth. He contended that in all common sense, what fell from the right hon. Gentleman was an admission that the country on the question of Home Rule alone was against the present Government. He did not wonder at the anger displayed by the Chief Secretary against the Member for Waterford, because he had no answer to make to that Gentleman's arguments. The hon. Member called upon the Government for some proof of their sincerity.For four Sessions," he said, "We have been giving you the entire support of the Nationalists, and what price have you paid? We never do anything without a price.He did not think that the Nationalists of Ireland would be content with mere lip service, or with the mere intonation of the Home Rule Creed at Cardiff or Derby with damnatory clauses against the Liberal Unionists. The Government were on the horns of a dilemma. Either the last Election was no declaration on the part of the constituencies in favour of Home Rule, or else the constituencies had changed their minds. There was nothing he liked so much as to appeal from language used in debate to what had been written. He held in his hand a volume of history written by the right hon. Gentleman who led the majority of the Nationalist Party. In that history some remarkable sentences were to be found, which threw some light on the attitude of the Party. Discussing the cause of the collapse of the Young Ireland Party after Mitchell's trial, the right hon. Gentleman said—It is another illustration of the fact which O'Connell's movement had exemplified before, that in Irish politics a climax cannot be repeated or recalled. There is something fitful in all Irish agitation. The national emotion can be wrought up to a certain temperature, and if at that boiling point nothing is done, the heat suddenly goes out, and no blowing of eyelopean bellows can rekindle it. The Repeal agitation was brought up to this point when the meeting at Clontarf was convened. The dispersal of the meeting was the end of the whole agitation. With the Young Ireland movement the trial of Mitchell formed the climax. After that a wise legislator would have known there was nothing more to fear.He asked the right hon. Gentleman now to apply his language here. The wise legislator knew perfectly well that the climax was reached; that from the death of Parnell there remained no real combination for Home Rule in the country. 508 He supported the demands of the hon. Member for Waterford from another point of view. The contention of the Representatives of the North of Ireland was that they had a direct mandate that the question of Home Rule should be submitted by itself to the constituencies. Over and over again they heard the charge made against the Government that they had no mandate to carry a Bill of that kind, but there was always some supporter of the Government found to produce an obscure paragraph from his election address to show that he made it clear that he was in favour of a Home Rule Bill, the particulars of which he knew nothing about. The present afforded the Government an opportunity of showing whether they had a mandate at the last Election or not. If they had not, why should they not ask for a mandate now? Their action now showed that they dared not face the country. The House of Lords threw out the Home Rule Bill with ignominy. That gave a chance to the Government to show whether they had a backing in the country, and they could have done it without a revolution or a Resolution; but they dare not face the House of Lords because they knew the country was behind it. The people of Ireland, who were said to be enslaved by an Orange hierarchy, took the rejection of the Bill with the utmost equanimity. There was more indignation in Ireland over the addition to the whisky tax than there would be over the rejection of half-a-dozen Home Rule Bills. In the bye Elections the subject had been kept in the background and had been forced to the front only by Unionist candidates. Government candidates tried to keep it in the rear by describing it as a red herring drawn across the track. The Unionists, believing that the results of Home Rule would be disastrous, had determined that the question should be submitted to the country by itself without being mixed up with others. The Ministry could not be expected to carry the Newcastle programme with a majority of twelve. They said they must remain in office to pass a Land Bill; but even about that Bill there were circumstances of suspicion, for, although it was declared to be drafted and ready, when they were asked whether it contained anything about evicted tenants, they were not able to say. In his opinion it would be brought forward to 509 help in the policy of filling up the cup, and there would be something in it to make it unacceptable to the Lords. Happily one supporter of the Government had given them his opinion of the policy of filling up the cup, and had said that he would not be a party to it any longer, and would not support a Government which existed with no other purpose. The Welsh supporters of Disestablishment did not care a straw for Home Rule, but they were appealed to for assistance in sacrificing the liberty of free citizens in Ireland. The hon. Member for Waterford believed there ought to be a clear verdict given, and he manfully said that Home Rule ought not to be smuggled through Parliament. If the Government refused to submit the question by itself, they were smuggling it into law. Speeches had been made almost vituperating the Mover of this Amendment, who challenged the Government to show what they had done. "Few and evil have been the days of their pilgrimage," and the sooner they were over the better for all concerned. One reason for putting the question before the electorate was that every well-wisher of Ireland must desire to see her freed from suspense; the people wanted to know their fate. The challenge had been fairly given; it had not been fairly met; and by remaining in office the Government forfeited the respect of the constituencies.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
the Government had the best reason in the world for remaining in office, and it was that they were supported by a majority in that House. If the Ministry had to lament the defection of a follower, so had the Opposition, and one can balance the other. As for enthusiasm in Ireland dying out, was there a single constituency in Ireland that had voted for Home Rule which would not do so again? Would the Unionist Party in Ireland be increased when the inevitable appeal was made to the country? It was well known that in Ireland enthusiasm for Home Rule had risen during the last two or three years, and the Party representing that policy would be successful at the elections to a degree they never had been before. It was said the Government were evading a challenge; but they had not been in office three months before they were told that. Yet three years had passed, and every obligation of 510 consistency and honour demanded that they should remain in office until the House expressed a contrary opinion. There was no diminution of Home Rule feeling in England; public feeling was just as high as it ever was. It was too much to expect people in England to follow the details of the Irish quarrel, and the Parnellite split was a little incident that should be mentioned as some excuse if the constituencies were thought to have shown a little coolness. Against what part of the kingdom had the policy of the House of Lords been chiefly directed? What part of the kingdom had suffered most at the hands of the House of Lords? The Lords threw out the Home Rule Bill, although in the House of Commons everything was done that could be done to pass it into law. Therefore, if the agitation in England was turning against the House of Lords, Ireland would benefit as well as everywhere else when the right of the House of Lords to fling out legislation passed by the House of Commons was checked. Now he wished to submit two or three reasons why he hoped the Government would stand firmly against this Amendment. The first was, that the condition of Ireland made a change of Government undesirable. It was stated in the Queen's Speech that crime in Ireland was less than it had ever been since the present records had been taken. Therefore, they should keep in Office the Government that had produced such a result. Most of the legislation with regard to Ireland to be proposed that Session, would be of a non-contentious character, as many of the opponents of the Government wished to see it passed. Once again they saw in Ireland the sad picture they had seen constantly there since the Union—of a country threatened by the spectre of famine. It had been sad to him at Question Time since the Session opened, to hear the Chief Secretary for Ireland applied to, to open relief works in different parts of Ireland. The people would die like flies unless something in that direction were done for them. The Chief Secretary had shown a sympathetic spirit in the matter. He was face to face with what might be a grave emergency. There was an old maxim that "you should never swop horses while crossing a stream," and the House should pause before it displaced the Government under present circum 511 stances. It seemed to be assumed that in the west of Ireland the distress arose entirely from the failure of the potato crop last year. The potato crop was not so important to the well-being of the people as it was formerly. The crop had failed all over Ireland to the extent of 30 per cent., but the hay crop in Ireland, which was far larger than the potato crop, was 20 per cent, above the average yield last year, and oats were 7 or 8 per cent. above the average. Other crops also showed an increase, yet in spite of this the country was reduced to starvation. What Ireland lost in potatoes this year was not nearly as much as England lost through the fall of prices in barley and wheat, yet there was no famine in England. Why should the shortness in Ireland result in famine? Because the poor people in Ireland were struggling under burdens of various kinds far too heavy for them to bear. The Government should continue in Office to study this more closely. The rents in Ireland amounted to £10,000,000 per annum, and the taxation of Ireland to £11,000,000 per annum—£21,000,000 being, in all, wrung out of this starving people. By the failure of a single crop, men, women, and children were threatened with starvation. Then the Government should be kept in Office because the question of agricultural rents in Ireland required to be further dealt with by the House of Commons. Every person who took a reasonable view of the situation, must admit that there were certain points which must be settled before Home Rule could be conferred on Ireland. In 1887, at Glasgow, the Duke of Devonshire said that if the question of rents were dealt with, and the claims of landlords were satisfactorily met, one of the great difficulties in the way of Home Rule would have disappeared. Every one must feel that the House of Commons, which imposed these rents, should deal with them more effectively than it had hitherto done before Home Rule, was given to Ireland. This House had fixed the principles upon which rents were assessed; it appointed the judges who fixed the rents; it provided police and soldiers by whom the decisions of these judges were enforced. All nature declared that the rents were so high as to be unpayable. These rents were chiefly paid to absentee landlords, and absenteeism had been steadily increasing 512 during the last twenty-five years. This was one result of the "remedial legislation" which had been passed for Ireland. Under the Irish Church Bill the tithes, which had always formerly been spent in the localities had been turned into an absentee, rent. Under the Irish Land Act relations had been established between tenants and landlords, which tended greatly towards banishing the latter from Ireland. Three-fourths of the rents in Ireland were paid to absentee landlords. Some of the evils of the absentee system ought to be dealt with before the country was entrusted with Home Rule. His third reason for keeping the present Government in Office was, that the taxation of Ireland required further reform before the question of Home Rule was referred to the Constituencies. He believed Ireland had far more to gain from the reduction of taxation even than from the reduction of rent. The total taxation of Ireland amounted to £11,000,000. The country could never prosper until this was reduced to £5,500,000. Before the Union the taxation of Ireland did not exceed £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. Yet the population of Ireland was as great then as it is now, and the wealth of Ireland was much larger than at present, because all agricultural countries in Europe were better off before competition from abroad had come into existence. After the Union the first thing the Government did was to double the taxation of the country, and it had been regularly increased, until now £11,000,000 was wrung out of Ireland in local and Imperial taxation. He believed that an excellent system of Government could be established in Ireland for £5,500,000. Both the Chief Secretary and the late Prime Minister had shown a sympathetic spirit in the treatment of this difficult question. A Committee had been appointed and valuable evidence was now being collected which, he believed, bore out the strong statements he had made. The question of taxation, therefore, was also one on which the House should have fuller information before it referred this great question of Home Rule to the consideration and decision of the constituencies. For all the reasons he had adduced he appealed to the House to reject the Amendment of the hon. Member.
On the return of the SPEAKER after the usual interval,
§ MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
said, that the hon. Member who had last addressed the House had taken the same melancholy view of the prospects of the Government as the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland and the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. T. M. Healy), had done. All those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen appeared to be agreed that the Dissolution of Parliament and the Government were synonymous, and that a General Election would have the result of bringing the Unionist Party into power. If distress in Ireland were to be apprehended the past conduct of the Leader of the Opposition would be a guarantee that a Unionist Government would be able to cope with it and would show quite as much sympathy with the Irish people in their affliction as a Home Rule Government could do. The hon. Member had made a most pathetic appeal to Her Majesty's Government not to dissolve Parliament. He was not in the confidence of Her Majesty's Ministers, but he could assure the hon. Member that his prayer was granted before it was uttered, because the last thing which the Government desired to do was to dissolve Parliament and to face the people of this country. It was true that the Government belonged to a party whose watchword was, "Trust the people." But if they really did trust the people they certainly had a most singular way of manifesting their confidence in them. He rejoiced that notwithstanding the efforts of the Government to keep Home Rule in the background, the Amendment now before the House would remind the people of the continued existence of what the Unionist Party believed to be a movement most dangerous to the best interests of the Empire. The policy which begat Home Rule was a policy of secrecy. So secretly was the idea generated in the minds of the Liberal Party, that even the most trusted companions and life-long friends of the late Prime Minister knew nothing whatever of his intentions. The writings of the present President of the Board of Trade afforded one instance. He, as recently as 1886, wrote with regard to the threatened desertion of Ulster—Those who know the people of Ulster best will be the first to agree that the passionate protests which come thick and fast from them against being left to the mercy of an Irish Parliament are well entitled to respect.514 The moment that proposal was laid on the Table of the House of Commons it was rejected—first by the House, and then by the country, in 1886. From that year down to 1892 the Liberal Party again pursued that policy of secrecy which the Opposition maintained they were still attempting to pursue to-day. Although very many efforts were made to draw from them a declaration of their policy with regard to Home Rule, those demands were in vain. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford quoted that evening from a speech delivered by the Home Secretary; but the hon. Member stopped short, for the Home Secretary went on to say that if his Party were returned to power, and if they passed a Home Rule Bill, the House of Lords would reject the Bill on the ground that the Liberal Party had no mandate from the people, and he added that the House of Lords would be justified. This was what had happened. The Home Rule Bill had been rejected by the House of Lords, and the manifest intention of the Government had been to avoid an issue with the House of Lords and with the Unionist Party upon what was, admittedly, a grave constitutional question, or to submit the question to the judgment of the people. The Mover of the Amendment showed that the Liberal Party had claimed for this question supreme importance and urgency, but he did not carry the House down to the claims most recently made with regard to the last Home Rule Bill, to which, as the House had been told by the Chief Secretary that night, the Liberal Party were pledged as the very minimum of Irish demands. The House would remember the occasion of the introduction of the last Home Rule Bill. In the course of the speech of the late Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman said he wished the Bill were more worthy of its object, for its object was certainly, he said, a very lofty one, being no less than to remove the stain of an old and inveterate dishonour from the fair fame of England. But was it true that this country was, at the present moment, labouring under the stain of an old and an inveterate dishonour? If that were so, and if the Home Rule Bill were meant to remove that stain in 1893, how came it they were in 1895 without any attempt being again made to remove it? Was Local Veto, or One Man One Vote, 515 or Payment of Members of Parliament, to compare in importance with removing from this country the stain of an old and inveterate dishonour? On the 29th of June, 1893, when the late Prime Minister was bringing forward the Resolution for closuring the Home Rule Bill, he stated that it was with real pain that he made that Motion. He also said that to deal with this measure was the mission they had received from their constituents, and that, unless they did all they could to pass it, they would return as a disgraced majority to their constituents. It was no stretch of the imagination to say that, in the view of the Government, that was the position which they occupied at the present moment. It was, therefore, not surprising that the Unionist Party were going to vote in favour of putting that issue plainly before the electors of this country. He and his Party believed that England was as deeply concerned in this question as Ireland. He rejoiced that this question had been raised, and that the electors would be forcibly reminded by the events of to-night that it was the Unionist Party that were desirous of putting a plain issue before them, and that it was the Members of the Government who were desirous of obscuring that issue. He listened with regret to the insinuation of the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman was, he thought, like Mrs. Candour, in The School for scandal, who, after making all sorts of insinuations, said: "Not that I believe them." The Chief Secretary assured them that, in his belief, it was their firm duty to carry forward this measure of Home Rule. Then why did not the Government nail their colours to the mast if they believed that? The Government were only gilding the pill in order that the British elector might be induced to swallow the noxious compound. He thought that some of the remarks of the Chief Secretary that night appeared like a veiled threat to the hon. Member for Waterford. The Chief Secretary said: "Remember, friendship should be met with friendship." The Chief Secretary left it there, and did not pursue the argument further. He understood that remark to convey that, if the Parnellites were going to turn round, and make things uncomfortable for the Government, English and Scotch and 516 Welsh Members might hereafter turn round and vote against Home Rule. If that were so, how did that friendship, of which the Chief Secretary spoke, come into consideration? He trusted that Home Rule would be the chief issue at the next General Election, and agreed with the hon. and learned Member who had moved the Amendment, although of course wholly opposed to him on the question of Home Rule, that the right and just course to take was to submit the question to the arbitrament of the electorate at the earliest moment.
§ MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)
desired to repudiate on the part of the Party with which he had the honour to be associated any confederacy with the Conservatives. The idea of such a confederacy had never entered their minds. Hon. Gentlemen who taunted himself and his friends with inconsistency appeared to be ignorant of the fact that they claimed to be following the lead of the right hon. Member for Midlothian, whose idea, unless rumour was entirely wrong, was to go to the country on the issue of Home Rule. The right hon. Member believed with the late Mr. Parnell that Homo Rule was the only platform upon which all Liberals could stand together, and when the majority of his Ministry disagreed from him on that point he retired, leaving the management of affairs to those who differed from his policy. The existing Democratic Ministry had chosen a Peer for a Premier; and one of the first public statements of that noble Lord was, that he was not an enthusiastic witness for Home Rule. Yet Parnellites were asked to believe that a Ministry held by a Peer, who had made such a statement as that, were in earnest about carrying a Home Rule measure. In the Speech from the Throne no reference whatever was made to the policy of agitation against the House of Lords. Personally he had no belief in the political worth of a body of hereditary legislators, but he did not understand how Ministers could ask for support for a Programme, as to which they were not in earnest and were divided among themselves. They were asked to support the Government on the ground, among others, that an Irish Land Bill was promised. He wished to know whether this Bill was to be used as a kind of 517 decoy, just as the Evicted Tenants Bill was last year, with the object of keeping a number of Irishmen in attendance to assist the Government in passing British measures. He was as much in favour of a Land Bill as any other Irishman—in fact he had suffered himself from felonious landlordism—but he could not approve a policy of holding out an Irish Land Bill as a kind of bait to insure the attendance of Irish Members and their support of British Bills. He had been sent to the House as a Home Ruler, and he put Irish Home Rule before any other question, and it was in the hope that Home Rule might regain the position which it occupied in the past that he should vote for the Amendment of his hon. and learned Friend. There were other Irish questions besides the Land question that demanded attention from the Government. The agricultural tenants were not alone in having a grievance; the town tenants suffered also from insecurity of tenure. He had presented petitions from 40 places in Ireland praying relief from insecurity of tenure in towns, and yet the Government had refused to assist him to pass a measure for granting such relief. There were also questions of the Irish mails, of harbours, of Dublin drainage, of a veterinary college, and others—with respect to all of which promises had been made and nothing done. The practical benefits to Ireland of what was called a Home Rule Government had hitherto been very insignificant. The hon. and learned Member for Louth, in referring to the Irish political prisoners, had called them "dynamite" prisoners. He wished to protest against such a description. The men were tried under the Treason Felony Act, which was specially passed by the House in order to make it easy to convict Irishmen upon any charge whatsoever, and they were therefore political prisoners, and ought not to be described in any other way. If the Party to which the hon. and learned Member for South Waterford were, as he had said, in the habit of obtaining a quid pro quo for their votes, why did they not ask that at least £1,000,000 out of £20,000,000 voted last year in aid of the Navy should be spent in Ireland? The Chief Secretary was apparently always in fear of the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and when money was wanted 518 all the fine promises made by the right hon. Gentleman came to nothing. He had received a number of complaints from those who were in Government situations in Ireland, and others, of the parsimony practised in Ireland by the Government. In the Board of Works in Kingstown 35 poor men were dismissed at the beginning of the winter without the customary honorarium. The whole policy of the Government was to extract as much as they possibly could from Ireland, and to expend as much as they possibly could in England. He would be glad to have an official contradiction if that were not the case. The Independent Party were perfectly honest in intention, and had no confederacy whatever with the Tories. They were the sternest upholders of Home Rule; but they desired to see it definitely placed before the country, and did not want to enter into a long conflict with the House of Lords which might take half a generation. They had had in Ireland, where most things were possible, a revolution headed by a Lord, but he had been an outlaw, and neither a millionaire nor a Minister, and it, would be a new development in history when a millionaire Minister donned the red cap and commenced a revolution, and one for which they did not wish to wait. Whenever Ministers showed that they were quite in earnest about bringing Home Rule to the front the Independent Party would be just as strenuous in their support as they now were in opposition. He trusted that in the immediate future the policy of parsimony, promise, and procrastination, which had been the main feature of the so-called Home Rule Government in Ireland would be abandoned. He urged the Government to go to the country, in order that the issue should be definitely determined by the electorate.
§ MAJOR E. R. JONES (Carmarthen)
said, that if it were not for the serious consequences to Home Rule which might follow from the Division on the present Amendment, the present situation might be looked upon, not only as funny, but as positively ludicrous. They had on the same side men who were sworn to the principle of Home Rule, and men who were sworn against it, fighting side by side for the defeat of the Government which was pledged to that great measure He could not understand the suspicion and distrust which 519 characterised his hon. Friend the Member for Waterford and those associated with him. They had received every possible assurance. His right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland had quoted the words of the Prime Minister; and the Chief Secretary himself, speaking in Ireland and to Irishmen, said that he "had nailed the green flag to the mast." Even if that were not sufficient, the meeting of the Liberal Party which was held a few weeks ago at Cardiff pledged itself again to the great principle of Home Rule, declaring that it should be still the great and leading principle of the Liberal Party in this country. The hon. Member for Waterford knew perfectly the situation; for nearly a quarter of a century the people of Wales had sent up their Representatives to demand the principle of religious equality for the Principality. They had striven hard to this end in Wales, especially since the people had been free to speak their minds, under the protection of the Ballot, without fear of being evicted from their homes, and ever since that time they had sent, in increasing numbers, to the House men who asked for religious equality. The figures in the Principality were in the proportion of ten to one in favour of it. They had at first drawn an evanescent hope from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in which he had commended very heartily religious education on the Voluntary principle; but very soon their hopes had been overthrown by the well known arguments and denunciations of those who generally acted with him, and which he adopted in his Manchester speech. They had been assigned the second place in the Newcastle Programme by the great Liberal Party, and at every successive meeting of the Liberal Party in the country the same place had been given them, and they felt that, whatever Unionists might do, they were safe in turning for support to their Irish friends. The people of Ireland and Wales sprang from the same stock. The hon. Member for the Harbour Division said he would not have any sympathy with the cause of Disestablishment in Wales because the Welsh Members were to blame for the Home Rule Bill not having been again brought forward. Welsh Members, however, might ask him, on the score of service rendered to the cause of Ireland, to think twice before defeating a Government 520 which was pledged, after full inquiry and examination, to give Wales a Disestablishment Bill. They did all they could to give religious equality to Ireland and to forward the Land Act of 1870, and when it was sought to exclude Ireland from the operation of the Ballot Act, again they did what service they could for Ireland. They helped forward the Compensation for Disturbance Bill in 1880, the Land Act of 1881, the Arrears Act of 1882, and the Extension of the Franchise in 1884; and in 1886, when an important section of the Liberal Party withdrew from the flag, taking much of the ability, and more of the wealth, of the Party with them, the Welsh were true to the cause of Ireland. Their fidelity in this regard had never been denied. He appealed to Irish Members if Wales had not been true from first to last, and it ill-became the hon. Member for the Harbour Division to lay any blame of any kind upon the Welsh Representatives. More than that, he asserted that now here amongst the Irish electors residing in the United Kingdom would the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Waterford find a single echo. If the case were fairly put before the Irish electors from Giants Causeway to Cape Clear, nowhere would the hon. Member find any sympathy for the cruel thing he was attempting to do to-night. On other fields than this he had played a small part with Irishmen. He had seen the Irish brigade fighting the men of Virginia for the freedom of the slave, but they did not desert their colours in the face of the enemy, nor turn their fire upon their comrades in arms.
§ MR. R. G. WEBSTER (St. Pancras, E.)
failed to see the relevance of a great proportion of the remarks of the hon. Member. But though he did not agree with the hon. Member for Waterford in many things, he agreed with his Amendment. For there was a great constitutional aspect to this question. When the House of Lords decided not to accept the first Reform Bill, what was the action of the Government of the day? Their action was to dissolve Parliament, for the Members to go to their constituents and ask for the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. He was the descendant of the representative of a constituency that had been heard of a good deal lately—the constituency of Forfarshire. The con 521 stituencies pronounced for the Bill, and the Whigs came back in a majority. In the case of the Home Rule Bill, thrown out by the Lords, the present Government had not considered it desirable to take the opinion of the people. He thought it was their duty to do so. The country ought to have the opportunity of deciding whether the Union was to be maintained or not. When the Member for Midlothian retired, how did the new Prime Minister allude to this question? In one of the first speeches he made Lord Rosebery said that Home Rule ought to be decided by the predominant partner. Well, England was the predominant partner in this question, and when one considered the tremendous taxation which had to be borne by the English people, and especially by London—because London paid more to the Imperial Exchequer in rates and taxes than all Ireland—they were entitled to claim that the Unionist Party had the vast majority of votes. He intended to support the Motion, but, on the other hand, he did not agree with the hon. Member's views as regarded Separation; still, the constituencies should be enabled to decide whether the present majority was right, or whether the Unionist Party was right. He knew that in other countries they had various ways of deciding between Union and Separation. Our brethren beyond sea, when the question of Separation came before them, had to resort, unfortunately, to arms. He recollected that on the great American Continent the firm determination of a united people was to stand by the Union. The same spirit, he believed, animated the people of this country. Probably they would not have occasion to defend the Union of the United Kingdom by force of arms, but, at any rate, he did not see why they should not have the opportunity of doing this by the Ballot Box. A large number of those who once belonged to the Liberal Party had, since the introduction of the Home Rule question joined the Unionist Party, and he contended that where a Party was torn asunder by differences of opinion on any particular question that question ought to be submitted to the country for decision. He was perfectly certain that if an appeal was made to the country the verdict would be in favour of the maintenance of the Union.
§ MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said, he would appeal to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and his colleagues to withdraw the Amendment, and he did so because it was perfectly clear that he would not succeed in carrying it, and that the continuance of the Debate would only delay urgent public business. Many Members were anxious to have an opportunity of bringing forward Bills, but they would be deprived of the chance of doing so if the time of the House were occupied in discussing Amendments, the objects of which could not be attained. The Highland Members, for instance, were anxious that the Bill for the Amendment of the Crofters' Act should be brought forward. They were now almost within reach of it, and he begged the hon. Member not to jeopardise their chance by pressing the Amendment. There were, too, large sums of money to be expended on the Army and Navy, and in other directions as well, and it was very important that the time of the House should be economised as far as possible so that hon. Members might have an opportunity of examining and criticising this expenditure at a reasonable time of the Session. The people of the Highlands had been true and faithful to the cause of the Irish people, and he was surprised that at a time like this any section, however small, of the Irish Nationalists should practically desert the Crofters by adopting a course which would stand in the way of the speedy realisation of their hopes. Even if they continued to pursue that course they would not succeed, for the Government were sure of a round dozen under any circumstances. But if the Government only had a majority of two, they w[...], as the Prime Minister had stated, still go on with the Business of the Nation. He earnestly hoped that the Government would show some courage in the conduct of Business, and would not hesitate to follow the example of their predecessors by a drastic application of the Closure. With respect to the Crofters' Bill, he assured the Government that if it were not facilitated there would be troubles ahead, and the Highland Members would do their utmost to make the lives of Ministers intolerable.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, the Debate, so far as it had gone, had been remarkable for the 523 admission, by both the Chief Secretary and the hon. Member for Waterford, that an appeal to the country would be fatal to the continuance of the present Government in Office. The hon. and learned Member for Louth, too, in his speech seemed to agree with this statement, and in the course of his speech he paid a high compliment to the Leader of the Opposition; for, having admitted that the present Government would be excluded from Office by an appeal to the country, he assumed that the Unionist Government would be in office the full term of seven years, so admirable would be their administration. For the first time in the House of Commons, as far as he was aware, a Member had had the courage to get up and say that he and his Party—whatever that Party might be—were on sale. The main accusation which the hon. and learned Member for Louth hurled against the hon. and learned Member for Waterford was, that he had not sold himself for a price. He said that the hon. and learned Member did not even ask for 6d. to be taken off the Whisky Tax. Was that the price of the hon. and learned Member for Louth? After this he thought he might well leave the hon. Member and his Party to the judgment of all honest men. In regard to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, he might say that there were no two men in the world who differed more absolutely in their political opinions than they did; and yet on this occasion he should support the hon. and learned Member, for the reasons which he would explain, and he hoped the whole of the Unionist party would also go into the Lobby with him. With one part of the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford he disagreed. The hon. Gentleman blamed the Government for their action after the defeat of the Home Rule Bill, and that was one of the principal accusations he hurled at his former friends. They all remembered what happened. No man who took part in the discussion on the Home Rule Bill could ever forget it. They talked by the month, they walked through the division Lobby for miles; and after having discussed this measure and threshed it out, exposing it in all its malformity, it went to another place where it was treated with scant courtesy. He did not suppose in all the record of Parliamentary history there was a case that at all com 524 pared with the way that Bill was treated in the House of Lords. It was a Bill that took up the most part of the Session, which was debated with great ability and sometimes with ferocity, and yet it only took four days to debate it and to turn it out from the House of Lords. What he wanted to point out to the hon. Member for Waterford was, that if the Home Rule Bill had been a Bill that had any backing at all in the country, if the electors to any large extent had formed an attachment to the principles of that Bill, there would have been an outcry in Great Britain that nothing could have stopped. The hon. Member for Waterford blamed the Government because, after this Bill, which they had debated so long in the Commons, had been treated with such contempt by the other House, they did not immediately start an agitation similar to that on the Reform Bill of 1832, on Catholic Emancipation, the Repeal of the Corn Laws, and the Reform Bill of 1884. The Chief Secretary forgot to speak on that point, and he should, therefore, take up the cudgels for the right hon. Gentleman. He did not wonder, after the scarcely veiled threats uttered in that House by distinguished statesmen as to what would happen if the Lords ventured to throw out the Home Rule Bill, that the hon. Member for Waterford and his party felt surprised that the Government did not take up the cudgels and terrorise the House of Lords, as, undoubtedly, if the whole voice of the country had been in favour of Home Rule, they could have done. He ventured to say he had no doubt at all that if the Government could have done it they would have done. He did not blame them at all, knowing as they did that, so far from the Home Rule Bill having sunk deep into the affections of the country, nobody really cared twopence about it. Not only in Great Britain had they no great public manifestation on the part of the people that they were enraged at the House of Lords for the way in which they had treated the Bill, but in Ireland, where Home Rule was supposed to be the very essence of the aspirations of the people, there was no agitation. It all fizzled out, and he remembered reading a speech by the hon. Member for Waterford himself in which he said that, if they considered the apathy that existed in England and Ireland with regard to the rejection of the Home 525 Rule Bill, it would appear as if nobody cared for it at all. He entirely agreed with the hon. and learned Member. He had often said in that House that there was a most exaggerated importance placed upon the feelings not only of the British, but of the Irish, people concerning it; and if he wanted to prove this statement he had only to refer hon. Gentlemen to speeches made in Ireland by the Leaders of the Home Rule Party themselves. So long as they were able to show that Home Rule in Ireland meant the acquirement, practically for nothing, of other men's property, then he would admit that Home Rule was popular in that country. But since that time a great deal had been done for Ireland. This country had been generous to Ireland; they had displayed more generosity than, perhaps, any other Parliament or country in the world; the Irish people were not blind to these things, and they naturally asked themselves what, after all, would they gain by placing the supreme authority in Ireland in the hands of the hon. Gentlemen who sat below the Gangway. Therefore he did not blame the Government for not having attempted to initiate an agitation against the House of Lords for rejecting the Home Rule Bill. What the hon. Member for Waterford forgot was, that the popularity of Home Rule in this country entirely depended upon the position, the influence, and the vast ability of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Midlothian, and when he was removed from the scene, the name with which they conjured departed for ever. He intended to support the Amendment, because he agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that it was desirable to ascertain as soon as they could exactly how they stood on this question. Speaking as an Irishman, he felt it was disastrous to the best interests of Ireland to keep a question like this perpetually hanging over their heads. What Ireland required more than anything else was rest and peace, and unless political Parties ceased to use Ireland simply as a makeweight in political warfare he feared the prospects of peace were very remote. But his main reason for voting with the hon. and learned Member was his belief that the result of an appeal to the British constituencies would be an answer so clear and distinct 526 —and that was the view shared by the Government—that this painful policy would be shelved at any rate during the lifetime of all who now sat between these walls. He had some hopes that if Irishmen realised that it was impossible again to bring forward the Home Rule policy, they might learn to forget and forgive, and might join together to promote the peace and happiness of their country He confessed that the Session so far had been a disappointment to him. Lord Rosebery had informed the country that he was about to undertake the initiation of the greatest and most formidable agitation that the country had seen in 200 years, adding that it would require all the effort and courage and determination of the Radical Perty. He accordingly expected when he came down to the House to find the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his shirt-sleeves; but, so far from the revolutionary programme described in the Bradford and Glasgow speeches, he never saw a quieter or tamer Queen's Speech submitted to Parliament. The policy of the Government might be described as the policy of the three P's—plundering churches, plundering landlords, and, if time admitted, plundering publicans. He alluded to the general policy of the Government because they were informed that the measures to be dealt with this Session were really part of the Home Rule policy. Lord Rosebery said that, so long as the House of Lords existed, it would be impossible to carry a Home Rule Bill, and they were therefore to be asked to examine and debate Bills which were brought in, not to pass, but simply to act as Home Rule battering-rams to drive the impediment which the House of Lords offered out of the way of Homo Rule. He objected to that policy, not only on account of its evil effect on Ireland, but because it would degrade Parliament to the position of a debating society. They were asked to spend six months' hard labour at political shot-drill in the House of Commons, and when they had debated Welsh Disestablishment, the Land Bill, and the Local Veto Bill, these measures were to be sent to another place so flavoured as to cause the Peers to throw them out without delay. That was the occupation in which they were to be engaged during this Session. He looked upon such a Session with absolute 527 horror. To have to debate Bills that were not intended to pass was insufferable and degrading to the House of Commons. He took it the country had been challenged to compare the House of Commons with the House of Lords, and he believed hon. Gentlemen opposite would be rather surprised by the verdict the country would give as to which assembly merited most honour in their estimation. If the Government were a strong Government some excuse might be found for them, but for a tottering Government to reel through this Session, depending upon the shaky majority of 12, with a view of carrying measures which would each require, probably, a Session to itself was to ask the House of Commons more than the House of Commons should grant to any Government. He did not estimate the strength of the Government by their majority, but by what they themselves said. He was much struck the other night by a metaphor of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman compared the Leader of the Opposition to a cannon loaded only with powder. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had read the speeches of his Leader he would never have mentioned a cannon. Speaking about the condition of the Government, Lord Rosebery said—We are like a cannon. We may be compared to a great cannon loaded to the muzzle with ball—ordnance heavy and destructive in their character, but with a perfectly insufficient charge behind them to launch them at the enemy, and what, is more, with a chamber in front.A chamber in front! He could not conceive a piece of ordnance of a more monstrous character, and when he heard the very eloquent and entertaining speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer he thought if a cannon with a chamber in front went off it would not so much injure the people in front as cause destruction and confusion in the serried ranks behind. There were hon. Members below the Gangway who were disposed to put off Home Rule in order that a cry might be raised against the Upper Chamber. They were satisfied to put off Home Rule until some future day, when after many dissolutions, after many changes of Government, the country might be persuaded to wreck 528 the Second Chamber. The hon. Member for Louth found great fault with the hon. Member for Waterford, because, he said, if they turned out the present Government they would evidently put off the Home Rule question for seven years. He ventured to say that those Home Rulers who trusted to the House of Lords being broken up before Home Rule was carried would have to wait three times seven years. There was a Home Rule flavour about all the measures to be presented to the House this Session, The Land Bill was not intended to pass, indeed the Home Secretary had said he would bet 100 to one it would not pass. It seemed to him that a Minister who brought in a Bill against the passing of which one of his colleagues was prepared to bet 100 to one was trifling with the House of Commons. What was the Land Bill to be? It was simply a Home Rule dodge. It was said it was to satisfy the tenants, but it had other objects. Hon. Members below the Gangway had reiterated their opinion that the chief obstacle in the way of Home Rule was the Irish landlords; "sweep them away and you will get rid of England and English authority for ever." Within the last two months the hon. Member for Cork had said the Land Bill was to be a scorcher. What was meant by a scorcher? He should say a Land Bill that was a scorcher would be a Bill that, in the first place, consumed all the Irish landlords. But was the Land Bill still to be a scorcher? The Chief Secretary had informed them the betting had rather gone down; it was no longer 100 to one but 90 to one, or perhaps 50 to one. He dared the Government to alter the Land Bill. The other day Mr. Davitt, who took a great share in the counsels of the Home Rule Party, delivered a speech in Ireland. Whether that Gentleman was consulted in the framing of the Bill he did not know, but Mr. Davitt used an expression the other day which he commended to Her Majesty's Government; he said—It will be the duty of the Home Rule Members in the House of Commons to make the Government toe the mark.Fancy the Government being reduced to that condition—a row of recruits at drill under the authority of a Home Rule drill sergeant! They did not know yet—for they had not 529 seen the Land Bill—whether or not the Government had toed the mark, or whether the Bill, to which he and his colleagues were prepared to give a fair and just consideration, provided it did not contain principles subversive of all rights of property in Ireland, was a "scorcher," as was said by the hon. Member for Cork. The Bill was a bait that was being dangled before the eyes of the Ulster farmers. Meetings had been held in Ulster, advocating extreme measures in regard to land; but when he examined the reports of those meetings, and saw who had spoken at them, he found that they were Home Rule meetings. He knew something of the farmers of Ulster, and he ventured to prophesy that if the Bill were a "scorcher," and they opposed it, as they undoubtedly would oppose it if it contained such principles, they need have no fear at all of confronting their constituents in Ulster. He had given his reasons why he meant to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Waterford. He knew there were some members who thought that if they supported an Amendment, moved by so well-known a Home Ruler as the Member for Waterford, they would lay themselves open to the danger of being thought by their constituents to be in favour of Home Rule. If that were so, he did not envy those hon. Gentlemen their constituencies. He thought a constituency that would thus judge must be a constituency of men of extremely weak brains. But the country would recognise clearly why the Unionist Party supported the hon. Member for Waterford. They certainly desired to turn out the Government. About that they made no disguise. It was only natural in the opponents of the Radical Party. But, more than that, they desired that the Government should be ejected by the vote of the people, and that that vote should be one so clear and so distinct that during their lifetime they never again should have the labour and the trouble and, he might almost say, the horror of repeating the Home Rule Session of two years ago.
§ MR. E. F. VESEY KNOX (Cavan, W.)
said, that as he listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member he could not help thinking that the Irish Party was not the only party in the House that was divided. He wondered 530 what the hon. Member for South Tyrone thought of all the allusions to the Land Bill with which that speech was studded. It was said that the Land Bill would be the subject of long debates. They all knew what that meant. Whatever differences Nationalist Members might have had with the hon. Member for South Tyrone, he believed the hon. Member was honestly anxious to see the Land Bill carried into law; and, that being so, the hon. Member must have listened with some apprehensions to those threats of long debates from the hon. and gallant Gentleman. It was absurd to say that the meetings in Ulster, which passed resolutions in favour of the Land Bill, were Home Rule Meetings, because if they were Home Rule meetings they would have meant that a majority of the Protestants of Ireland were on the side of Home Rule. They were Unionist meetings. These meetings passed resolutions calling upon the Unionist Members from Ulster to strengthen the hands of the Chief Secretary for Ireland so as to enable the right hon. Gentleman to carry his Land Bill. Did the Unionist farmers mean, by that, that on the very first available occasion the Unionist Members from Ulster should strike a blow at the Chief Secretary, and by destroying the Government destroy the Land Bill? But he wanted to suggest a reason to Unionist Members why they should pause before going into the Lobby in support of the Resolution, The Resolution concluded with these words, "and submit the question of Home Rule to the electors of the United Kingdom." There was in this Parliament a majority for Home Rule, and if, after the General Election, there was again a majority pledged to Home Rule, would Gentlemen above the Gangway abide by the result? [Mr. Ross: "Will you abide by the result?"] The Home Rule Party would have to abide by it. They had no power in the other House. When the Conservatives got their way at the polls they were powerless in another place. He, therefore, asked the Unionist Party, who could control that other place, would they, after the next General Election, if there were a majority in favour of Home Rule, do all in their power to push the Home Rule Bill through both Houses, and see that the other House abided by 531 the result of the appeal to the people? He should be glad to vote with the hon. Member for Waterford if he received an assurance from the Leaders of the Conservative Party that they were ready to abide by the result of the polls. There were some things in the hon. Member for Waterford's speech with which he agreed. Since the change of Leadership in the Liberal Party there had been some incidents calculated to cause concern to Irish Members. The Prime Minister had, in some of his speeches, seemed to throw cold water on Home Rule; but then he had also thrown cold water on many other of the notions of his followers. He had given a taste of Erastianism to those in favour of Disestablishment; he had referred the Peace Society to Agincourt; and no one had suffered more from him than the hon. Baronet who was associated with Local Veto. So that the Prime Minister had no special animus against the Home Rulers. He suggested to the hon. Member for Waterford that the reason why those whose notions had not been accepted by the Prime Minister with full enthusiasm continued to vote for the Government, was that they knew the sense of the country to be with them, whatever the Leaders might say. He should vote against the hon. Member for Waterford, not on the strength of the declarations of any Minister, but because he believed that the heart of the Liberal Party was still sound on Home Rule, and that the majority of the Liberal Members and their Liberal constituents would not allow the Leaders to throw over Home Rule, even if they wished to do so. He agreed with the hon. Member for the Harbour Division of Dublin, that the Evicted Tenants Bill was not given fair play in the House last Session. It was kept to the last and passed through the House as no other Bill was ever passed before. But, with that warning before them, he was sure that the Government would treat the Land Bill differently. By waiting a little they would find out whether the Land Bill was going to get fair play; and if it appeared that the Committee Stage was to be taken in Committee of the whole House, after the Committee Stage of the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, so that there was no practical hope of its getting through, then it might be the duty of 532 Irish Members to take strong action. At present there were no sufficient grounds for supporting the Amendment.
§ MR. J. A. BRIGHT (Birmingham, Central)
said that he was so absolutely and entirely opposed to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, that he felt great reluctance in doing anything which might have the appearance of agreeing with him, or of joining with those who might be suspected of making any compact with him. But he had decided to go into the Lobby with him, though, he must frankly state, from exactly opposite reasons to those which actuated the hon. Member for Waterford. The hon. Member no doubt desired Home Rule to be at once brought forward again, and believed that there was an overwhelming majority of the British electors in favour of what was called "Justice to Ireland." He himself hoped and believed the very opposite to that, and so equally desired a Dissolution. The country was getting very tired of Home Rule, and many Members of the Liberal Party shared the feeling. The Home Rule Bill passed the House of Commons in a form very different from that which was expected by the voters who returned a small majority in its favour; and henceforward they would not look on the question as they did before the General Election, when they had nothing but vague promises of Home Rule. A great many Liberal electors, too, were disgusted with the personal squabbles which obscured what patriotism there was in the Party most interested in Home Rule. Having driven out of the camp men like himself, who were, and always would be, Liberals, it was surely time for the Government to appeal to the country, and either carry Home Rule or else drop it. If the country were eager for Home Rule, why not consult it? The question of Home Rule was entitled to precedence even over the question of the relations between the two Houses of Parliament. He believed that the electors of the country were very dissatisfied with the way in which the Home Rule question had been thrust upon them, and he knew that many supporters of the Government were very dissatisfied. He thought that freedom of opinion in the Liberal Party would before long have to be allowed, that a kind of local option would be permitted as to whether the 533 Government supporters agreed with the policy of Homo Rule or not, or whether they would leave it out of the programme and agree to join and work together with other Liberals on behalf of other Measures which many had more at heart. He would support the Amendment of the hon. Member.
§ MR. WILLIAM REDMOND (Clare, E.)
complained that some time ago at Newcastle the Chief Secretary spoke in what he must describe as a sneering way with regard to the Party to which he belonged. The right hon. Gentleman lectured him and his Friends and dared them to take the action which they might consider it to be their duty to take. He trusted that the Chief Secretary would give himself and his hon. Friends the credit for acting in this matter, as well as on other questions, in accordance with what they believed to be the interests of the Irish people whom they represented. The right hon. Gentleman had declared that their action that evening was not the action of patriots. He said it in no offensive spirit, but he could not help thinking that it was really impertinent of the right hon. Gentleman to lecture the Irish Members on what their attitude on Irish patriotism should be. All his life he had been brought up to consider that the worst possible quarter to which an Irishman could look for trustworthy instruction with regard to patriotism was an English quarter. Whenever he heard the view of an Englishman with regard to Irish patriotism his instinct invariably induced him to take an opposite course. Then the hon. Member for Louth spoke in a sneering way of the alliance of his hon. Friends with the Tory Party. The Leader of the Opposition had truthfully declared that there was no alliance. As far as he was concerned he had no alliance or connection with any Party in the House or in the country. He had been sent to Parliament to represent his constituents and to speak and vote for what he thought was right in their interests, and he should only give his support to that Party which was doing what he thought ought to be done to further the cause of Ireland. The hon. Member for Louth also said that Irish Members in gratitude ought to support the authors and the items of the Newcastle Programme. If he wanted a lecture on gratitude he would not go to the hon. Member for Louth, who, undoubtedly, did not in the 534 popular mind of Ireland stand out as a great authority on the subject of gratitude. It was not worthy in any section of the House to claim the gratitude of the Irish people for action with regard to Home Rule, when they knew that the policy adopted was simply a measure of justice and reparation to the Irish people for past wrongs. No doubt the Welsh people were entitled to have their Disestablishment Bill. The subject was pressing, but the Irish Land Question was still more pressing. The Irish Evicted Tenants on the road-side constituted a greater claim on the attention of that House than the demand of the Welsh people to be relieved from the Church. He admired the Welsh Members for having forced their question to the front, but 80 Irish Members ought to have more influence with the Government than 30 Welshmen. There was really nothing to be said by way of excuse for the Government in failing to introduce a Bill to re-instate the Evicted Tenants. The Chief Secretary knew very well that when the House went into Committee on the Welsh Bill, it would be nonsense to talk of passing an Irish Land Bill. Even now, if the Government would say that they would give the Evicted Tenants Bill a foremost place, it would make him hesitate as to voting for the Amendment, but to talk about the Land Bill after the Welsh Bill was a hollow mockery. When the Evicted Tenants Bill was before the House it did not get fair play. He did not say that the fault of allowing the Welsh Bill to go ahead of the Irish Land Bill was altogether that of the Government. The Irish Members were to blame for allowing the troublesome Welshmen to compel the Government to look after them first. He did not know what the Tory Party would do if they came into Office, but this he knew, they could not do less than the present Government had done for Ireland. Up to the passing of the Home Rule Bill he gave the Chief Secretary thanks, but he dated his objection to the policy of the Government from the period when they dropped the Bill without saying one word. The hon. Member for Louth asked him, if the Tory Party came into power, if they would release the men the hon. Member had the shamefacedness to call dynamiters—he supposed the hon. Gentleman meant the Irish political prisoners. He did not 535 know whether the Tory Party would release them or not, but one thing he knew, the Tory Party did not lead the Irish people to believe they would release them. They did not send hired representatives to Ireland to talk to the masses about amnesty, and then when they came into power, tell them there was to be no amnesty. The Chief Secretary had given his explanation of that matter, and he had given him credit as far as he could for that explanation; but no Irishman, Tory or Whig, Nationalist or Parnellite, could deny that for any man to speak to Irishmen of amnesty could only convey the idea that amnesty would be granted. He did not know whether the Tory Party would grant amnesty or not, whether they would deal with a Land Bill or not, or whether they would be better than the Party now in power or not. All he could say was, that when the Tory Party was in power before, and did not do what the Irish people thought they ought to do, he took his humble share against them; and he told them that night, that if they came into power again and refused to do justice to Ireland, he would work heart and soul to put them out of office. Of course, he did not profess to be anything in the shape of a profound politician, but he was profound enough to stick to a good thing when he found it. He stuck to Parnell because he thought he was the best man. At any rate, he would stick to Parnell's principle, that Ireland should block the way, and that Government after Government should go out until the Irish National Question was settled. Various speakers had spoken of the desires and requirements of the British people. He granted the necessity for many reforms, but Ireland had waited for seven centuries for justice. Local Veto might be required, but it could wait better than the Irish people. All reforms should be made to wait upon Home Rule. Let them carry Home Rule, and the field would be clear for all these measures. He could not, by vote or voice, consent to any policy of shelving Home Rule. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Midlothian, told them, and they all drank it in, that the greatest argument in favour of Home Rule was that Ireland blocked the way. That had been completely reversed, and, so far as he was concerned, he would do everything in his power, not out of any ill will to hon. 536 Gentlemen opposite, among whom were many friends of his own, not out of any desire to interfere with their measures of reform, but simply because he believed it to be his duty, as an Irish Nationalist representative, to keep the question of Home Rule to the front in the interests of Ireland. He believed that could only be done by proving to the British people that until the Irish Question was out of the way, it would be impossible for the British masses to enjoy the reforms which they required. The Chief Secretary seemed to think the Parnellite Party would be smashed at the General Election; but it was probable he was very much mistaken. If the Chief Secretary would come to his constituency and deliver a few speeches upon the true inwardness of Irish patriotism they would help him very much; but he was afraid the right hon. Gentleman would be subjected to awkward interruptions by those who wished him to liberate many prisoners from the constituency. But even if he could foresee that he should be defeated at the next Election by as great a majority as the Chief Secretary could desire, he would still take his present course, being convinced that Ireland would never make substantial progress towards freedom as long as her time-honoured cause was allowed to drag behind, and wait upon measures of social reform.
§ MR. ELLIOTT LEES (Birkenhead)
wished to explain the vote he was going to give. If he thought for one moment there was any alliance or any bond between his Leader and the Mover of the Amendment, he would go into the other Lobby It was a strong thing to say; but he would rather ally himself with the Government than with the constituents of the last speaker who were languishing in gaol. The Mover of the Amendment had given a challenge to the House; he had thrown down the gauntlet and, unlike the Prime Minister, he was prepared to abide the result. The hon. Member believed the country was in favour of Home Rule. On the contrary, he and his Party believed it was not. The hon. Member had appealed to Cæsar, and the explanation of his own vote was—Unto Cæsar let him go.
§ SIR EDWARD CLARKE (Plymouth)
said, he did not think the Debate ought to close, after the speech of the hon. Member for Cavan, without a word being 537 said from the Front Opposition Bench with regard to the question on which they were about to divide. He had no authority to speak for either section of the Unionist Party; but he confessed he listened with much interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Cavan. He was a little surprised that those Members of the Irish Party who were present to support the Government should have been content to accept the championship and the exposition of the hon. Member for Louth, who was not known to be the recognised mouthpiece of the Irish Party. With regard to the speeches of the hon. Members for Cavan and Louth, he said his own personal view was, that when a great constitutional question, such as the establishment of a Legislature for Ireland, with an Executive dependent upon it, had once been raised, it could only be disposed of by a specific decision by the electorate of the United Kingdom. We had one decision upon it in 1886, and from that decision the country, as far as he knew, had never departed. It was true that in 1892 there came to the House a majority in favour of the present Government. In 1893 they had one of the most ingenious Parliamentary manœuvres ever seen, by which the original form of the Home Rule Bill, as then introduced, was changed into a form which would leave Irish Members voting in that House. It succeeded as a means of getting a majority in favour of the Government at a time when there was a little doubt as to the existence of the Government, but from that day to this, as far as he knew, no Minister or supporter of the Ministry had ventured to defend that manœuvre before his constituents. An hon. Member had said that night that he would be content to leave this question to the judgment of the country. For his own part, he had always said that if the country distinctly and clearly decided in favour of Home Rule, it would be the duty of all to endeavour to carry that decision loyally into effect. But he would ask, on the other hand, whether, if the country at the next General Election clearly and distinctly decided against Home Rule, right hon. and hon. Members opposite would break their alliance with hon. Members below the Gangway and would abandon Home Rule as part of their policy? He did not believe that among 538 the courageous statesmen sitting all in a row opposite any one would be found to accept his offer. It was clear, therefore, that challenges, such as those that were held out to them by hon. Members opposite, could carry no weight. By an admirable exhibition of Parliamentary capacity the Home Rule Bill of two years ago had been forced through that House, and it was defeated in the House of Lords. What was it that the Unionist Party had then claimed, and which they justly and reasonably claimed? It was that the decision of the country should be taken upon the issue. The Unionist Party had had long to wait, but the longer they waited the more confident were they of the result. Hon. Members opposite and hon. Members below the Gangway must be aware that Home Rule could never pass unless the judgment of the country were specifically and distinctly pronounced upon the question, and it would be of no avail for the Government to obtain a chance majority by confusing the issue with other matters. He could not understand what practical object the Representatives of the Irish people could have in endeavouring to postpone placing the issue of Homo Rule before the country. It was because he felt that the decision of the constituencies would be against Homo Rule that he desired that their judgment upon the question should be taken as soon as possible. If the Government were really in earnest, surely they would put Home Rule separately to the constituencies. In that case, if the Government succeeded, they would come back with a force they had sadly lacked in the past; if the election went against them, then, he hoped the House would take up the duty, which had been well discharged before, of governing Ireland in a way that would conduce to the peace and prosperity of that country and of this, and to the unity of the Empire.
§ The House Divided:—Ayes, 236; Noes, 256.—(Division List, No. 2.)