§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.]
§ [FIFTH NIGHT.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:—
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
We take this first opportunity of expressing to Your Majesty our deep concern at the sad affliction with which Your Majesty has been visited in the death of His Royal Highness Prince Henry Maurice of Battenberg.
We desire to assure Your Majesty and Her Royal Highness Princess Henry of Battenberg of our sincere participation in the general feeling of sorrow for the heavy bereavement which Your Majesty and Your Majesty's family have sustained by the loss of a Prince who was regarded with universal affection and esteem by Your Majesty's subjects.—(Mr. George Goschen.)
Amendment proposed, at the end of Question, to add the words—
And we humbly represent to Your Majesty that the time has come when the cases of all prisoners convicted under the Treason Felony Act who are, and have been for many years, undergoing punishment for offences arising out, of insurrectionary movements connected with Ireland, may be advantageously reconsidered."—(Mr. Harrington.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
in rising to continue the Debate on the Amendment, observed that there was no single subject about which there was to-day a most universal and passionate feeling among their countrymen at home and abroad than on this subject of amnesty, nor one upon which there was so complete and absolute a union among the Irish people as in this effort to obtain clemency for the men on whose behalf 469 this appeal was made. He sincerely regretted that the differences in Ireland during the last five years had been allowed to exercise their influence, even on this question of amnesty, because, during those years, while they were all united in the desire to obtain the liberation of the prisoners they differed in the question of the policy as to how that liberation was to be obtained. For his part he took the view that Ireland, during the years of the late Government, having practically the supreme power over the existence of that Government, should at least have used that power for bringing about a compromise mi the question of amnesty. Other men took a different view and the unfortunate result to-day was that after the lapse of the three years of that Government the men for whom they pleaded were still in prison. Now, so far as he gathered, there was no longer am difference of opinion on the question of policy as between the Nationalists, and if their present appeal failed the Government might take it for granted that a united effort would be made to give expression to the voice, of the Irish people on the question by an agitation which would show how deep was the feeling of resentment in Ireland at what was regarded as an obstinate refusal in extend any mercy to these prisoners. Although they found it impossible on this subject to convince the majority of the House of Commons, yet they had always obtained for the statement of their case a patient and fair hearing from all sections of the House. He asked to-day, once more, for a fair and patient hearing and for a decision upon it given with judicial impartiality. In the year 1883, a design was set on foot, apparently in America, to intimidate England by the use of dynamite into the removal of certain Irish grievances. That design never had, at any time, any sympathy whatever in Ireland. It was regarded by the Irish people then, as now, as a mad, reckless and criminal design. It was a design England was bound to put down with such severity as would be necessary to constitute a warning for the future. England did so. The conspiracy was nipped in the bud, the plot was completely destroyed, and that so speedily, that happily not a single life was lost in the operation, and to-day they were in the position that 13 years afterwards it was 470 admitted by men of all Parties that the insane and criminal idea of using dynamite as an engine of political warfare between England and Ireland had absolutely disappeared and that the conspiracy which, 13 years ago, confronted the Government of this country was now as dead as the Gunpowder Plot. Of the men convicted of that conspiracy only nine remained in prison. Of those originally convicted some were dead, and others had gone mad. Most of them, however, were released, and he asked the House to bear in mind that from the date of their release until this moment they had never given the slightest anxiety, trouble or danger to the public peace. The claim of the Irish Members to-day was, after the conspiracy had been in this way utterly crushed and destroyed, when the great, majority of the prisoners had been released, and Ireland was in a state of perfect peace, that amnesty might safely, generously and wisely be extended to these wretched nine surviving prisoners, and an end might be made of a chapter in the relations between England and Ireland which every right-thinking man should desire to see buried for ever in oblivion. The first step he took in his argument was that these men were political prisoners. Many hon. Members seemed to think that because it was contended that these were political prisoners who ought to be released, the Irish Members were thereby claiming that political offences ought not to be punished. Nothing could be more absurd. What they said was that there was a distinction drawn by all the nations in the world between the treatment of political offences and offences which sprang from the ordinary criminal instincts of mankind, and in dealing with every other nation in the world except with Ireland, England had been the first to draw this distinction. All persons to-day would admit that John Mitchell was a political offender, but Englishmen of his day did not admit it, and they passed a special Act of Parliament dealing with the subject of treason in order that he might be treated, not as a political offender, but as an ordinary criminal. All men of all parties admitted that the Fenians were political offenders, but anyone who listened to the speech of the hon. Member for South Mayo (Mr. Davitt) the other 471 night, who knew his history, and heard what he suffered in prison, would recognise that though he was a political offender he was not treated as such. In this case the Government still maintained the fiction that these men were not political prisoners; but when all these men had been released, and when another generation of Englishmen looked hack on these transactions, they would, perhaps, be just as willing to admit that they were political prisoners as men of the present day were willing to admit that the hon. Member for South Mayo (Mr. Davitt) and John Mitchell were political prisoners of their day. What was the offence for which these men had been convicted? He had said that the offence was an atrocious one, that it was one which no right-thinking man could sympathise with; but was it worse than open assassination? ["Yes."] Did the right hon. Gentleman say, for example, that the case of these men, who did not take a single life, was worse than the case of Orsini, who by the use of explosives did take a considerable number of lives? How did this country treat the case of Orsini? Did it declare that Orsini was an ordinary criminal who should not have any benefit extended to him? No. Only that day he read in The Times the report of the interesting trial, held in April, 1858, of Dr. Bernard, who was tried on the capital offence of having been a principal in the murder of certain persons in Paris at the time of the Orsini outrage. What happened at that trial? Conclusive evidence, to any impartial mind, was given to show that Dr. Bernard had himself prepared the hand grenades which were sent to Orsini and used by him in Paris in the attempt to assassinate the Emperor, and which resulted in the taking of a number of innocent lives. This man was tried in London, and he became, according to the reports in The Times, a popular hero. He could not help thinking, when reading the report of that trial, whether the trial of Dr. Jameson would be as great a farce. The trial was carried on in extraordinary circumstances. The Court was crowded by a fashionable assembly, and The Times gave a list of persons present, just as a theatrical critic might give a list of persons present at a first night performance. The defence was made by the leading counsel, Mr. James; 472 and it was a strange coincidence that Mr. Justice Hawkins, who tried the dynamite case and the Walsall cases, was one of the junior counsel for the defence. The defence made was that this man was a patriot who was attacking a foreign despot, and an appeal was made to the English jury to preserve untarnished their love of liberty and to acquit him; and without hesitation the jury did acquit Dr. Bernard. Then ensued, in the words of The Timas, a scene such as has never been witnessed before in an English Court of Justice. The entire audience rose and applauded; the prisoner waved his handkerchief; the ladies waved their handkerchiefs; and the Lord Chief Justice, after a vain attempt to restore order, sat back in his chair and bowed to the supreme will of the vox populi. Judges, jurymen, prisoner, and counsel for the defence, as they left the Court were received by thousands of persons who escorted them as popular heroes through London. He asked the hon. Member who interrupted him then, was the case of the dynamite prisoners a worse one than that of Orsini? There was really nothing in the character of those offences which ought to prevent Englishmen from dealing with the prisoners with some sense of leniency and mercy. He might be told that he was going back to ancient history. This was not the case. He would recall the case reported in the Law Reports of 1890. It was the ease of a man called Castiligioni on the charge of murdering a prominent Swiss Statesman—Senator Rossi. He was brought up under Habeas Corpus before the Court of Queen's Bench, and the question was whether he should be handed over to his own Government or not. The whole point was whether the prisoner was to be regarded as a political prisoner or not; and it was argued against him that here was a case of plain assassination. But the present Lord Chief Justice, then Sir Charles Russell, argued on behalf of the prisoner that it was a political case, and it was tried by Mr. Justice Hawkins. Sir Charles Russell founded the whole of his argument on decisions given in notorious cases in text-books of undoubted authority. Sir Charles Russell relied upon the dictum of Sir James FitzStephen to the effect that "a political offence was any offence incidental to and 473 forming part of a political disturbance." The Court upheld specifically the dictum of Sir James FitzStephen, and decided unanimously that this was a political offence, and refused to hand the prisoner over to his own Government. Apart altogether from these cases and precedents, the Government in this particular case he was dealing with was absolutely estopped by their own action in denying that these men were political offenders. What occurred on their trial? A special Act had been passed in 1883 to deal with these cases, but not one of these men was ever tried under it. If they were not political offences, why were the prisoners not tried under the ordinary criminal law? The Government declined to put this law in force, and they indicted them under the Treason Felony Act of 1848. The offence under this Act was simply treason. Sir James FitzStephen set out a list of what he called political offences, and among them were offences constituting an attack on the political order of things established, high treason, riot for political purposes, and offences defined under the Treason Felony Act of 1848, such as the offence of levying war against the Sovereign. In all these cases the prosecution went back to 1868, and established a case of treason felony by showing that all these prisoners had in the old days been members of the Fenian Brotherhood. In Daly's case there was an Informer who swore that in 1868 Daly had been engaged in swearing-in Fenians. The case was put by the Judge and the Counsel plainly as a case of levying war against the Queen, and there fore a political offence. In these circumstances, having taken advantage of this political Act to give these men greater sentences than they could have obtained under the ordinary Explosives Act, he thought that there was something singularly shabby and mean in English Members denying that they were political prisoners. It was because these offences were political that the Irish people passionately demanded the release of these men. No people on the earth had a greater detestation of the mad criminality of Anarchist movements than the people of Ireland, or a greater hatred of ordinary crime. They repudiated the use of dynamite in political warfare. The Irish people admitted that the action 474 of these men was reckless and criminal, and they did not complain that England dealt hardly with them, but none the less the Irish people said these men were political prisoners, and, now that the danger had entirely passed away, the continued torture of them was unnecessary, cruel, and vindictive. If, for the sake of argument, he admitted that they were not political offenders, then, he maintained, the enforcement of penal servitude for life could not be justified. The maximum sentence under the Explosives Act was 20 years, and for the minor offence, that of being found in possession of dynamite without reasonable explanation, 14 years. Having carefully read the evidence he did not believe that some of the prisoners could possibly have got more than 14 years. Yet they had already suffered 13 years' imprisonment—that was to say, according to the ordinary measurement and allowances, they had actually served more than the entire maximum sentence if they had been convicted under the ordinary law. The Home Secretary, in his disappointing speech, said that these men were guilty of offences which would have been equally punished if committed by Englishmen or Scotchmen. He contradicted that statement, and he based his contradiction of it on the cases that occurred in this country—very similar, although a great deal worse in his opinion—the cases of the Walsall prisoners. Now, the Walsall prisoners were tried under the Explosives Act, and not under the Treason Felony Act. They were found in possession of bombs charged with dynamite. This happened at a time when all Europe was ringing with Anarchist, outrages. Among other evidence published against them was a document showing the atrocious character of the crime with which they were charged. This document explained how to manufacture these bombs and how to explode them, and also explained how a crowded theatre or opera-house could easily be destroyed by their use. What was the evidence against Daly and others? Why, a document showing the origin of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1865 and 1868. All through their trial there never was a document of such an atrocious character as that produced against the Walsall prisoners. The 475 Walsall prisoners were not six months in prison before the whole world was horrified by the outrage in Barcelona opera-house carried out exactly as the instructions in the document found upon them directed outrages should be carried out. The Times said the next day:—This case is part of a throat system with definite tenets and recognised apostles, and with scores of paid emissaries in every land, and hundreds of fanatical supporters in many busy cities of industry.And when these men were convicted and asked if they had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon them, what did Daly say? Daly stood up in the dock and protested with all the vehemence at his command that he never was guilty of any desire to take human life by dynamite, that the evidence was untrustworthy, and he repudiated the whole thing. What did the Walsall men say? They stood up in the dock and avowed responsibility for everything that had been proved, including the atrocious document to which he had referred, and they contended, according to their principles, that it was justifiable to take human life for anarchist, objects by means of dynamite. The Judge—the same who tried Daly—after commenting on the enormity of their crime, passed sentence upon the three men of ten, seven and five years' penal servitude. In view of that case, how could any fair-minded and humane man maintain that it was a just and a wise thing, after 13 years' penal servitude on the part of these Irishmen, to insist on the full pound of flesh, on the whole sentence of life to which they were condemned at a time of terrible panic. They all remembered the intense excitement at the time of these trials, and Irishmen could make excuse for Englishmen if they went to the farthest extreme of punishment. But all that was gone. Thank Heaven the whole conspiracy was dead. Most of the men had gone out of English prisons. Home had died, some had passed to lunatic asylums, but the majority English Governments had released. What on earth could this country hope to gain by keeping this sore open, by keeping alive in Ireland these bitter feelings, all for the sake of grinding a few years more out of the wretched lives of the 476 nine last survivors of the dynamite conspiracy which died 13 years ago? By way of comparison he would refer to the report of the Sheffield Commission published in 1867 with regard to the Trade Union outrages. The memory of those outrages had faded from the public mind; the men who took part in them were, either not punished or received short sentences of imprisonment, but not one of them received a sentence of penal servitude, much less a life sentence. Yet the result of those outrages was that the organisation with which they were connected gained its point, and to-day had a position of well-known power which it had not before those outrages occurred. In those days dynamite had not been invented, and the explosions were caused with gunpowder. Some people were shot, and others were blown up and killed in all sorts of horrible ways, while the Irish prisoners did no damage and took no single life. He would give an example.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order. I think the hon. Member is going a little beyond the bounds of the Motion in going into the details of these offences at Sheffield. While he was referring to them by way of general comparison, I was unwilling to interrupt him.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
said, he was only going to quote a line or two about one case. A man, his wife, two children and an old woman were in bed in their house at one o'clock in the morning, when an explosive was thrown through the window, killing the old woman and maiming the rest. There were scores of such cases in the Report, and yet none of the persons who committed the outrages were treated with the barbarous severity of the Irish prisoners who took no human life. He hoped that if the late Home Secretary, whom he saw in his place, was going to take part in this Debate, he would not add any bitterness to this matter. [Cheers.] It would be so easy for the right hon. Gentleman or the Leader of the Opposition by a word to make it easier for the Government to show mercy to these men. He hoped the late Home Secretary would not return to the spirit of his earlier speeches, after all these additional years of imprisonment had been endured. Was it not a, disgraceful thing for England and for the Imperial Parliament that every generation with 477 relentless regularity had in face a question of amnesty? [Cheers.] England's Government of Ireland involved this—that she was almost the only country in Europe which was never, by any chance, without some political prisoners in her gaols. [Cheers.] An amnesty movement had become part of recognised political life in Ireland. He remembered that the first political meeting he ever attended was an amnesty meeting. The first Debate he, ever heard in the House was when, some 20 years ago, he came to listen to his father making a speech in favour of the amnesty of the political prisoners of his day. Irishmen had recently been blamed for telling the English people that in any foreign complications they had not the sympathy of the Nationalists of Ireland. Irishmen would have been liars and hypocrites if they had said anything else. [Cheers.] But it must not be imagined that they rejoiced at this state of things. They looked forward to the day when all these old hatreds of the past might be buried and forgotten. It was their hope and ambition that the memories which clung about such incidents in our history as the dynamite conspiracy might be banished from the minds of the people, and that the day would come when Great Britain and Ireland would be able to face the world hand in hand in amity, peace, and freedom. It was to hasten the arrival of that day that, he begged for mercy for these prisoners. He could understand that some of those around him would not lake his view in begging for mercy for these prisoners. But during the last five years he had month after month sat with these men in their prison cells. He had seen men, who were young and strong when they entered the prison, bowed with misery and turned prematurely old. He had seen the iron enter into their souls, and he, was not ashamed, even in the English Parliament, to beg for some, measure of mercy for these men. He would say to the Government that they need not be afraid to be merciful. Mercy was its own reward. In the history of the whole world, mercy had never been known to weaken the hand that bestowed it. The present Government was strong; it was on the threshold of its career, its hopes were high, and it believed that its prospects were bright, and after all, it declared that it 478 had feelings of friendliness to Ireland. It was a small thing that Ireland was asking from this Government. It was simply that the Government should be content with the 13 years of punishment already inflicted on these men—the last nine survivors of an old and dead movement of passion and madness—and no Englishman of whatever party would cavil, no nation in the world but would applaud, and no Irishman but would be grateful. [Cheers.] Let them remember that—No ceremony that to great ones 'longs,Not the King's Crown, nor the deputed sword,The Marshal's truncheon, nor the Judge's robe,Become them with one-half so good a grace As merry does.
§ MR. HORACE PLUNKETT (Dublin Co., S.)
said, that his opinion had been very considerably changed on this question. ["Hear, hear!"] Although he could not agree with the presentation of the case from the Benches opposite, he was prepared to join in the eloquent appeal for mercy to which the House had just listened. He was sure the House would understand how extremely anxious, under the circumstances, he must be to explain the reasons which had led to this change. He would not be a party to any attempt to mitigate the punishment of the cruel crime of which these men were accused. He did not think it mattered whether these men were "reckless what they do to spite the world," or were enthusiasts who believe that the millennium must be ushered in with a blast of dynamite. Whatever were their motives, society was bound to protect itself ruthlessly against such crimes. As far as the actual crime was concerned, it did not matter whether the men who committed it were political prisoners or not. A man was a political prisoner who was imprisoned for a crime committed with a political motive; but no political motive could mitigate the guilt or the punishment of such crimes as those, of dynamiters. Nevertheless the penalty imposed on these prisoners was he thought, a proper subject for consideration. If they had not been tried by the Treason Felony Act they would have been released some of them long ago, and all of them probably by this time. But tried under that Act they could receive, life sentences, because in addition to the dynamite crime there was the crime of 479 treason brought against them. Therefore, while he distinctly opposed any clemency towards these men so far as the crime was concerned, he thought a case for clemency could be made out in regard to the charge of treason. In addition to what this hon. Member for Water-ford had said on the subject of the Treason Felony Act, the circumstances which justified that Act, should be taken into account. It was passed in 1848 to meet very special circumstances, and although it was directed against special kinds of crime, it was not directed against the, crime of which these prisoners were guilty. There was a fearful amount of sedition in Ireland at the time. Men were making inflammatory speeches and writing inflammatory articles. He would read an extract from one of those men, James Finton Lalor.
§ MR. PLUNKETT
The article appeared in the Irish Felon, and it was worthy of mention that the newspaper was suppressed on the appearance of this article. "In the case of Ireland now," said the article, "there is but one fact to deal with, and but one question to consider. The fact is that there are at present in the occupation of our country some, 40,000 armed men in the, livery and service of England. The question is how best, and soonest to kill and capture"—there was some, local colour in the sequence of the verbs—"these 40,000 men." The difliculty of the Government was that they could not effectively deal with the great emergency of 1848 if they relied on charges of sedition, because sedition was a bailable offence, and between the committal and the bringing to trial of those men they could and most undoubtedly would, continue their seditious utterances. At the same time the alternative of proceeding against them for high treason had the obvious objection that the elaborate machinery of a State trial would have to be put into operation. Therefore the Act of 1848, creating the half-way house of Treason Felony, was justified by the exigencies of the case; and as the situation in 1883 was in some ways similar to that in 1848, that alone justified the trial of the prisoners—who were the subject of the present Amendment—under the Treason Felony Act. His 480 contention was that if special circumstances justified exemplary punishment for these, prisoners, the removal of those circumstances made a strong case for exceptional clemency. The Home Secretary in his speech on Friday night said that the same punishment would be meted out for the same crime to Englishmen who were not actuated by political motives. That showed the right hon. Gentleman had missed the whole contention of hon. Members opposite, which was that if these prisoners had not been actuated by political motives they would not have been tried under the Treason Felony Act, by which severer sentences were imposed than if they had been tried under the ordinary law. He wished it to be distinctly understood that he did not agree with the major part of the case presented on behalf of these prisoners. He repudiated the suggestion that they had been unfairly tried; the suggestion that the whole case against them was a conspiracy on the part of the police was hardly worthy of notice; and the statement of the hon. Member for Water-ford that they were convicted because they were Irishmen revolted against his common sense. He based his claim for amnesty for these men on the broader ground of public policy. In the first place he could not see how any danger could be anticipated from these nine men if they were liberated. He admitted that if the Home Secretary of the late Liberal Government had released them a most mischievous construction would have been put upon his action, as it had been said that the Nationalist Party held that Government "in the hollow of their hand." He therefore fully sympathised with the praise that had been lavished on the late Home Secretary for the courage with which he had dealt with a difficult situation. But with a Unionist Party in office with a majority of 150 the situation was entirely changed. It seemed to him absurd to suppose that the release of these men after 13 years' penal servitude would encourage them to follow their nefarious practices. On the other hand there was no doubt that a policy of amnesty would engender a better feeling in Ireland, and he would pledge his reputation for observation or judgment in Irish affairs, whatever it was worth in those matters, that this concession, if given 481 by the Government, would be received by Irishmen in the spirit in which it was intended. [Parnellite cheers.] He hoped however that the Amendment would nut be pressed to a division. He could not vote for it himself, simply because he objected to much of the case advanced in support of it. A much better course would be for the Leaders of the Nationalist Party to join with Members of other Parties who agreed with him—and he believed from private conversation there were many such—in making an appeal for mercy to the Home Secretary on the lines he had indicated. He should not join in such a movement as a politician; but he should simply join as an Irishman anxious for the peace and prosperity of his country. [Cheers]
§ MR. R. B. HALDANE (Haddington),
doubted whether all that had been said for the release of these prisoners during the past three years was likely to have as much effect as the short and simple speech to which the House had just listened. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. Member was well known for the sincerity of his advocacy of Irish interests, and the sentiments which he had expressed carried with them a measure of approval to many a Member who, if the Motion were pressed to a division, would go into the lobby against it. ["Hear, hear!"] He could not help feeling, as he listened to the early part of the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford, that the hon. Member was advancing arguments that had not the slightest chance of acceptance in the House of Commons. ["Hear, hear!"] There were some things that could not be done, and among them was to bring within the category of political offenders men who carried bombs charged with dynamite and threw them among innocent persons who never heard of their existence. Whilst this was true there were other things that were clear and true, and might be put into four propositions. In the first place it was plain that these were heinous offences, for which the punishment might not have been too great. In the second place it was clear that the convictions were proper and unimpeachable convictions. In the third place it was not less clear that the trials took place and the sentences were passed at a time of great public excitement, and it was possible that the 482 length of the sentences might have been influenced by the feeling which prevailed at the time. In the fourth place it was plain we had arrived at a time when the situation was different from the situation of three years ago, when the question was last considered, in that the appeal was now made to a Government with a very large majority, which could not be suspected of weakness in any action it might take. Then the prisoners had suffered three years longer than they had when an appeal was made on their behalf to the late Government. He could not help thinking that, if they were looking at the action of the English Government from the point of view of foreigners, or better still, if they were looking at the action of some foreign Government which was taking the course of the present and the late English Government ["Hear, hear!"], very different sentiments would be awakened in their minds. It was our weakness as a nation that we were deficient in the power of seeing ourselves as others see us. ["Hear, hear!"] We did not admit that the action of President Kruger was capable of being considered as weak; and the case he had to deal with differed only in degree, although it might be a large degree, from the case the House was now considering. He could not help thinking that if they could see this case and these prisoners in another country there would be evoked among our people a sentiment which was not evoked, simply because of our party conflicts and our methods of controversy, which ought to be considered altogether foreign to the questions involved in this case. It seemed to him that the time had come when the Government might reconsider these sentences, not only without danger, but very reasonably on other grounds. He did not appeal to the Government in any sense on the ground that the offenders were political offenders, or ought to be put in that category, although political motives might have entered into the minds of those who brought about the offences. Who could suppose that Daly and those connected with him would have acted as they did if it had not been for the intense agitation going on at the time? Who could imagine that these things could have taken place if it had not been for the feelings of resentment with which 483 the Irish people regarded coercion. The time was coming for the reconsideration of these cases, and the men and their antecedents must be taken into account. As a member of the Prison Committee it had been his business to visit Portland, where there was pointed out to him a broken-down old man, obviously not so old as he looked, and perhaps not in such a state of health as to bring him within the category of those entitled to release on the score of ill-health, but still broken down by imprisonment and no more dangerous than Rip Van Winkle; and he was told that that was John Daly. It seemed to him that the circumstances were such as to warrant reconsideration; and he could have wished that the case had been kept free from party recrimination, and that it had been dealt with simply on the grounds that had been urged by the hon. Member opposite. Believing that the time had come when changing circumstances and a changing spirit in Irish affairs rendered it desirable that a policy of mercy should be pursued, he should support the Amendment.
§ MR. W. O'MALLEY (Galway, Connemara)
said, he rose to support the Amendment, but he would admit at the outset that he had no hope of its being carried; the speech of the Home Secretary on Friday had doomed it to inevitable failure. In speaking in the House for the first time he wished to record his protest against the callous and inhuman attitude of the Government and its supporters upon this question. He did not share the disappointment expressed by some of his colleagues at the stereotyped reply of the Home Secretary, for neither the 24 years that he had watched the course of Irish politics, nor the history of Ireland as he had read it, had produced a single act of magnanimity or generosity practised by England in her treatment of Ireland. The whole course of England's connection with Ireland had been a continuous course of confiscation, rapine, corruption, fraud and injustice, unrelieved by a single act of generosity or magnanimity. However, if ever there was a time when England might unbend, and when the ignorance and prejudice represented by the supporters of the Government might give way to a healthier and a better feeling, 484 the present was the time and the opportunity. He could understand and appreciate the difficulties which beset the English Parties with small majorities on the eve of general elections in dealing with a question of amnesty. Notwithstanding the noble efforts of Mr. Gladstone, and the hearty response of a considerable section of English people in the direction of repairing the wrong done by England to Ireland, there still remained a vast amount of fierce hatred on the part of England and a mass of ignorance yet to be dispelled. But we were not now on the eve of a General Election, and the Government were so strong that they could well afford to be generous and just even to Ireland. If they could by any chance be moved to compassion for these misguided men, who loved Ireland not wisely but too well, he, would ask them to remember the centuries of cruelties and wrong inflicted by England upon Ireland, to remember that England's policy had been one breeding despair and exasperation in the hearts of Irishmen, and that some of, if not all these men, had been the victims of our secret service money and our agents provocateur. The Leader of the House the other night, in referring to the attitude of the Irish in America upon the Venezuelan Question, declared his conviction that the anti-English feelings of Irishmen was traceable to the wrongs done to Ireland in the 17th century, and that Irishmen had no reason to complain of England's treatment of them in modern times. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that Ireland had been abominably treated in the past, and he presumed, from his speech the other night, that he considered his own Administration, when he was Chief Secretary, was of a most beneficent and healing character. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was disappointed that a monument had not been raised at Mitchelstown to record the heroic conduct of those who hesitated not to shoot on that memorable occasion, and he supposed he was disgusted that Members on the Irish Benches who had tasted the sweets of an Irish gaol were not full of gratitude for his generous treatment of them; and of course their friends across the Atlantic should feel thankful that their forefathers and themselves——
§ MR. O'MALLEY
said, he was simply Irving to show that a better feeling towards Ireland had actuated the present Ministry in their treatment of this question. It had been stated in that House and outside of it that the Irish people did not love England. He wished to point out that it was not Ireland's fault but England's. He himself believed that, if the English people did even a small share of justice to the claims of Ireland, the bitter feeling that had existed between the two countries would disappear and die out, and they would live in happier and better times. He appealed to the Government to reconsider the decision of the Home Secretary. But he did not trust altogether to the generosity and magnanimity of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If these Irish political prisoners were to be released, and the rights of Ireland regained, they must trust to a united, independent, and self-reliant Irish Party. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,), Manchester, E.
who was received with cheers, said: Sir, I cannot but hope that now, with the general consent of all parts of the House, we may come to a Division upon this matter without any great delay. There was a fairly full discussion the other night, and to-night we have had the case for the Amendment stated with masterly eloquence by the hon. Member for Waterford. I do not rise to prolong the Debate, or add any new arguments on a subject on which argument has, I think, almost been exhausted. But something in the nature of a challenge has been thrown out to the Government, not only by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, but by hon. Friends sitting on this side of the House. In one word, I would wish to make our position clear. Perhaps that necessity is greater, inasmuch as I gather from what fell from the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire that even he—who has carefully watched this question and has addressed the House more than once in regard to it—does not quite comprehend the position we on this side, and especially my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, take up with regard to the Amendment. Sir, my view is that, 486 especially where great Parliamentary pressure is brought to bear upon any Minister or any Party to extend the prerogative of mercy to particular individuals or sets of individuals, there is one safe course for this House to pursue, and that is to intrench itself carefully behind the ordinary practice of the Home Office in such cases. [''Hear, hear!"] We are always in danger of falling into one of two extremes. Either we may be moved, as some have been moved this evening, by such eloquence as has been displayed by the hon. Member for Waterford, to take a course with regard to the prisoners on whose behalf this eloquence has been exercised which we should not take in regard to equally heinous, indeed exactly parallel, cases where no such able advocacy is to be found within the walls of this House. On the other hand, there is always the danger—I trust a small danger in this House—that political feeling, or even a feeling which cannot strictly be described as political, but nevertheless an unworthy feeling—the feeling that being pressed by political opponents we therefore will not give way and may be induced to more severe action towards the class of prisoners for whom this appeal has been made than in the ordinary course would be pursued by the Home Office. These are opposite dangers—the danger of undue leniency on the one side, and undue severity on the other. Against this there is one sovereign specific, and that is to rigidly follow the habitual and ordinary practice of the Home Office, and waver neither to the right nor to the left, but to treat the matter exactly as it would be treated if the persons concerned had no powerful backing in this House and had no political Party behind them to whom they could trust to plead their cause. That is the policy we intend to pursue. What is the practice of the Home Office? I am informed that that practice is to have a quinquennial revision of the sentences of long-sentence prisoners—quinquennial at least, and a revision more often if any special circumstances should arise. I do not understand that any special circumstances have arisen in these cases. There would, therefore, in the ordinary way, be in a year or two a revision, as of course, of the whole circumstances attending the confinement of these prisoners, and I am 487 perfectly certain that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, If he be still in office—as I hope he will be—will apply to his decision in these cases the most absolute impartiality, and will allow himself to be moved neither to the right nor the left by either of the contending sets of considerations to which I have made reference. I think, that that being the course which the Government mean to pursue, we may claim the vote of the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire, for he does not usually express himself with obscurity, and, unless I greatly misunderstood the tenour of his observations, he was recommending to us and pressing upon our attention that very policy which I now declare, on behalf of the Government, it is our intention to pursue. I do not refer to the speech of my hon. Friend on this side of the House, who has expressed his unexpected intention to vote in support of the Amendment.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I think my hon. Friend is well advised, for certainly his vote would not have added any weight to that which properly belongs to his speech, and he would have placed himself in the very uncomfortable position of passing a Vote of Censure on the Government which, I am well convinced, he desires to see remain in office. Having made this declaration of the policy of the Government, which follows perfectly on the lines of my right hon. Friend's speech on Friday night, I have only two further observations to make. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford, in his powerful address, made his argument turn on two phrases, and two phrases alone. They were of constant recurrence in almost every sentence of his speech, and the whole force and virtue of the speech were contained in them. The first was "political offences," and the second "torture in prison." With regard to the first, I think the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire was right when he said—You will never get the House of Commons, or any body of ordinary Englishmen, to regard these murderous attacks on unoffending citizens as natural and proper incidents in political warfare.488 [Cheers.] Into the motives of these men I make no inquiry. Probably no human tribunal could pronounce a verdict upon a question of that kind with absolute security. But whatever their motives were, if animated by the purest desire for the good of their species, if that good were to be obtained by the miscellaneous massacre, by explosives, of people who gave no offence——
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The whole point, as I should have thought the hon. and learned Gentleman might have understood, was, that these men were found guilty of having made preparations clearly showing that they intended to use dynamite bombs. ["Hear, hear!"] The effect of dynamite bombs, as used by them, would have been exactly as I described, and I might have been spared the interruption of the hon. Member.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
As I have said, whatever the motive may have been—and I am ready to make any concession asked of me on the point—it does not mitigate, in the eyes of the House of Commons, and will never mitigate in the eves of any rational assembly, the gravity of the offences committed. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to commit himself to this extraordinary paradox—that men who would have been guilty of offences deserving life-long sentences, if there had been no political intention attached to their action, were less guilty because, in addition to the murderous intention which guided the bomb, there was some other political intention which by itself would deserve punishment. I do not wish to suggest that the sentences on these persons should be increased on account of the treasonable element in their crime. But I say it is an extreme paradox which this House can hardly be expected to accept, to say that, because in addition to the crime of intending to throw dynamite bombs, there was an additional crime of treasonable intention, therefore a special degree of leniency and mercy should be extended to the criminals. So much for the phrase ''political offences," which was the first pivot on which the speech 489 of the hon. Member for Waterford turned. The other phrase he used was "torture," reiterated over and over again, and, though perhaps used with no intention of misleading, it certainly would mislead ignorant audiences if they did not know all the circumstances of the case. What are the circumstances? In Ireland, year after year, and even in foreign papers of repute—which have been quoted to me, but which I have not seen—it has been asserted that these prisoners are treated with special inhumanity and with a severity which is intolerable to modern ideas of civilisation, and would not be applied if the English Government were not animated by a specially envenomed hatred against Irish criminals. I do not say that that is the view of the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I do think that possibly the use of the word "torture" does engender and has engendered these fallacious views among the ignorant population in Ireland, and among those who, if not ignorant, appear to me to be extremely ill-informed.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to interpose a sentence? When I used the word "torture" I did not mean that men were tortured in the old-fashioned sense of the word, but merely to convey that many of these prisoners are men of intelligence and refinement, whose modes of life in the past make the ordinary penal servitude system an absolute torture to them—much more of a torture to them than it is to the usual class of criminals. Of that system of torture I have year by year myself been a sad witness. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
The hon. and learned Gentleman in making these remarks is really attacking, not the application of our present prison system to these particular criminals, but the system itself. ["Hear, hear!"] Our present prison system may or may not be a good system; it may or may not be deserving of reform; but as long as it exists it should be applied impartially. ["Hear, hear!"] The hon. and learned Gentleman says that the same criminal punishment bears far more heavily upon men of education and refinement than it does upon those who have been accustomed to a rougher and 490 a harder existence. That may be so. But if any of these particular prisoners—and I take it to be so upon the evidence quoted by the hon. and learned Gentleman—are persons of intelligence and refinement, which makes their sentences weigh more heavily upon them, are they in any way different from the man who forges a bill of exchange, or a banker's clerk who takes the money of his employer, and others of the same class who have used their education for the purpose of enabling them to break the laws of the country? ["Hear, hear!"] Whatever may have been their previous life, they ought to be subjected to the ordinary incidents of our prison system. It is impossible—and I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will admit it to be so—to introduce these class distinctions into our punishments. To do so would lead to endless difficulty, and would shake the confidence of the public in the impartiality of our prison administration. I do not think that, whatever changes may be made in our laws, we shall ever permit ourselves to fall into such a trap as that of laying down the principle that men of education and of cultivated life are to be treated more leniently than other offenders when they break the laws of the country. ["Hear, hear!''] The hon. and learned Gentleman told us in eloquent language that he looked forward to the time when these bitter disputes between sections of the Irish people and those who live in this island may be brought to an end, and when, hand in hand, Ireland and England might face the world. No man desires that happy consummation more earnestly than I do, but I would seriously press upon the attention of the hon. and learned Gentleman the question whether he thinks that he is bearing his fair share in the labour of bringing about that result, when he and his friends make speeches in Ireland which induce the Irish people to believe what certainly is not the fact—namely, that we are animated in our treatment of these men by a hatred, not merely of the crime of which they were guilty, but of the race from which they have sprung, or that we should for one moment permit ourselves to be diverted from the plain path of our duty by any political animosities 491 or feelings, or even by the faintest echo of these racial hatreds which, I hope, may soon be absolutely forgotten? ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)
said, that he sympathised most deeply with the unhappy men who were the subject of this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, had endeavoured to shelter himself behind what he called the ordinary practice of the Home Office, which was to revise the sentences of those prisoners who had been sentenced to long terms of penal servitude at periodical intervals. The Home Office, however, was not infallible, and it was for the House of Commons to bring pressure to bear upon the Department in reference to particular cases in which they might deem it advisable to do so. The right hon. Gentleman had repudiated the idea that racial hatreds could in any way influence the action that was pursued towards any particular sections of the people; but as a matter of history, they had influenced the course that had been taken in relation to the crofters of the Islands and the Highlands. He had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury would have considered the advisability of liberating these political prisoners, and that the same sympathy would have been extended to them as had been extended to the English millionaire prisoners at Pretoria. There could be no doubt that these men were kept in prison Because they were Irishmen. The Government of this country ought to adopt the same course as had been taken by the Government of France, who had passed an act of amnesty, and so enabled those who had at one time been obliged to fly from Paris to return and to do valuable work for their country. The other evening the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary had urged upon President Kruger the necessity for removing discontent from among the Uitlanders in the Transvaal, but why did not the English Government seek to put an end to the discontent of Irishmen? It was a mistake to pursue a policy which resulted in our having a discontented people at our doors.
§ DR. COMMINS (Cork Co., S. E.)
said, that the First Lord of the Treasury had remarked that as long as a 492 question of this kind was made a political one, it would be extremely difficult to deal with it. It appeared to him, however, that the right hon. Gentleman had overlooked some considerations that applied to the case of these unfortunate prisoners. A great deal had been said on the subject of these men being political prisoners, but in his view it had no bearing upon the question before the House whether they were originally political prisoners or not. Another matter that had been dwelt upon was the severity of the sentences that had been passed upon them. But in regard to both those matters the sole question was whether now, after the lapse of 13 years, and in a totally different set of circumstances, mercy ought not to be shown to these unfortunate persons. The Home Secretary had said that no new circumstances had arisen in the last twelve months which required to be taken into consideration. He was of a different opinion; the matter did not need to be reconsidered from Party or political reasons, the principle which ought to be considered by them was a very old one, and one which had been laid down by jurists from Beccaria to Bentham. It was, that punishment was imposed for two purposes; first, to prevent crime, and secondly, to reform the criminal. That was the only moral justification for the infliction of punishment, and when these purposes had been served, the punishment ought to cease. These purposes, he contended, had been served in the present case; there was no conspiracy at present in Ireland for the purpose of terrifying the people of England by explosions, and there was no further danger to be apprehended from these worn-out old men if they were released. The people of Ireland most heartily abominated offences of this sort, and the recurrence of the crime had been prevented. The hon. Member for Haddingtonshire had seen these prisoners, and knew what they had undergone, and the changes, physical and moral, which they had experienced, and he had stated that no danger would be incurred from their liberation. He submitted to the House that as the objects of punishment had now been served, it would be cruel and inhuman to continue the infliction of penal servitude upon these men. He thought their release would promote 493 a better feeling among the people of Ireland towards the law and the Government.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said he must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury for interrupting him in his speech, but, as he understood the right hon. Gentleman's argument, it was that in these matters it would be better not to interfere with the Minister of the Crown, who had a very great responsibility, and ought to be allowed to deal with matters of this kind. He would remind the right hon. Gentleman of a precisely analogous case, and that was when Mr. John Morley, who was then Chief Secretary for Ireland, advised the Crown to exercise the prerogative of mercy in the case of the Gweedore prisoners. At that time hon. Members opposite fell foul of the action of Mr. John Morley, and an Amendment to the Address was moved on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman the present First Lord of the Treasury was the principal offender in the matter, and condemned the action of the then Chief Secretary. He did not wish to trespass upon the House, but he would point out, especially to the hon. Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall, an exemplary illustration of the old parable of the unmerciful servant in his treatment of the English prisoners in the Transvaal recently. President Kruger had for given the English their debt of many talents, why then should the English not forgive Ireland its debt of a few pence? The hon. Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall had invited the President to sing with him the 68th Psalm, but he would invite the President, if he came to this country to deliver a lecture on this parable of the unmerciful servant. Dynamite outrages he condemned as mean and detestable, but this was the case of men who had committed an awful crime 13 years ago, and they ought not to say there shall be no statute of limitations. They must not convert themselves into small and feeble Nebu-chadnezzars. He had the authority of the illustrious Member for Dublin University for saving that in reference to matters of amnesty Ireland would have to exercise mercy towards England rather than the reverse. He hoped the right 494 hon Gentleman would come shortly to a more reasonable consideration of the matter.
§ MR. W. E. H. LECKY (Dublin University),
who was cheered on rising, began a brief maiden speech by saying that nothing could be further from his intention as a very new Member, than to intrude upon the attention of the House, but after the speech to which he had just listened he should like for a few moments to explain his own point of view. It appeared to him, in the first place, that the greatest difficulty in dealing mercifully with these prisoners arose from the line taken by a certain number of Irish Members opposite, who perpetually looked upon this as a political question. He looked upon it from a different point of view; he thought it was simply a question of clemency. [Cheers.] He thought a strong case might be put in favour of the extension of mercy towards these prisoners. [Irish cheers.] If this Amendment were pressed to a division, which he most earnestly trusted would not happen, he did not intend himself to vote at all. There were two or three things which might justly be said, the most important being that they had two Acts of Parliament dealing practically with the same crime, and under one of the Acts these men hail almost completed their maximum penalty. [Irish cheers.] That, at all events, established a certain claim. He did not in the least degree palliate their offence. He considered there could be no greater crime than for a man to set explosives which might destroy the lives of multitudes who not only had done him no offence, but who, probably, had taken no part in politics whatever. He thought this offence was one of the most heinous crimes that could possibly be named, and he also thought it most criminal and monstrous to speak of those who had committed such an offence as if they were in any degree either martyrs or heroes. [Cheers.] One or two things, however, might be admitted. One was that they had fulfilled the full limit of their penalty under the Explosives Act [The FIRST LORD of the TREASURY: ''No, no!"] or very nearly. [Irish cheers.] They had been in prison 13 years, and criminals, 495 if they behaved well were always released somewhat earlier than the expiration of the full term of their imprisonment. He did not at all admit that these men had acted under any provocation. They acted, no doubt, under a certain intoxication, At the time when their crimes were committed, Ireland was driven mad by inflammatory speeches, and some of the gentlemen who had made those speeches—he was afraid he must say hon. Gentlemen—were in that House. He thought, in considering these unfortunate victims, they ought to pay some slight attention to the extreme excitement, the extreme passion which existed at that time. [Cheers.] Ireland was now quite quiet, and they had now for the first time a Government which might show mercy in this matter without being suspected in any degree of being intimidated and overawed. He did not think that this clemency ought to be imposed by a vote of the House of Commons. He thought it ought to be done freely by the Government, but he would join with the hon. Member for Dublin in expressing his earnest hope that the Home Secretary, who, he believed, brought to his high Office as judicial a temperament and as compassionate a heart as any of his predecessors, would reconsider this matter without waiting for another year, and, at all events, release some of these prisoners as soon as possible. He most earnestly hoped that Gentlemen on the other side would abstain from making the kind of speeches which they had been making lately, and which only tended to make mercy far more difficult than it otherwise would be, and that they would withdraw the Amendment on the present occasion. [Cheers.]
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I must express the universal opinion of the House that we have welcomed with the greatest gratification the presence and the participation in our Debates of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken [Cheers.]; but I do not feel myself qualified in any way to intervene between him as a supporter of the Government and the Government to whom he has made an appeal. I have no longer any direct responsibility in this matter—a responsibility of which one is not sorry to be rid, for it involves the most painful and invidious duty of refusing 496 such appeals for clemency as have been addressed to this House. At the same time, I do not feel that I would be justified in giving a silent vote. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Water-ford, not for the first time, has attributed to me a peculiarly harsh and unyielding attitude in relation to these prisoners. I examined the case of every one of these men with exactly the same amount of painstaking care, and with as strong a desire, if possible, to temper justice with clemency, as I am sure has been the case with the right hon. Gentleman who has succeeded me, and I was obliged to come to the conclusion—as I was reluctantly obliged—that the convictions were justified and that in the state of the facts at the time in which we then stood it was impossible, consistently with the rules which actuated and ought to actuate the Home Office in the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, to interfere. I think the hon. Member ought to have taken our assurance, often given in this House, that it was with reluctance I discharged a painful duty. ["Hear, hear!"] I do not think there is any difference between us and the present Government in this matter. I am unable to accept the suggestion that these offences come within the category of what is commonly called political crimes. They were probably committed from a political motive, and the hon. Member said that they could not have been properly convicted under the Treason Felony Act unless there had been a political motive at the back of their proceedings. I entirely assent to what was said by the First Lord of the Treasury, that it does not follow that because a man was actuated by a political motive therefore we should disregard the circumstances of the crime, the kind of sufferings it would have caused, or the character of the individuals and the society against whom it was directed. ["Hear, hear!"] These, to my mind, are ingredients which must be taken into account, just as in war you discriminate between legitimate and illegitimate classes of war. It was on these considerations I came to the conclusion that these could not be looked upon as political offences. My opinion remains now what it was—that these prisoners should be treated with neither more nor less severity than other offences that are habitually dealt with by the 497 Home Office. The argument of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down well deserves consideration, that this sentence of penal servitude for life could not have been passed if the prisoners had been tried under the Explosives Act. I agree with that. In my judgment they ought not to be prejudiced because their cases were tried under the Treason Felony Act rather than under the Explosives Act. The fact that all subsequent offences of a similar character have been tried under the Explosives Act and not under the Treason Felony Act is good ground, in accordance with the ordinary rule of the Home Office, for reviewing these sentences in the light of subsequent facts. If that was so, the next sentence imposed on any of these prisoners would be a sentence of 20 years. Referring to the rules of the Home Office which govern the mitigation of punishment, prisoners sentenced to 20 years, who had conducted themselves properly, would be entitled to release at the expiration of 15 years—practically a remission of a quarter of the sentence. I do not know, of course, what the views of the present Government may be in the matter, but I do not suppose that anything that has been said by the Home Secretary or the First Lord of the Treasury in the least degree suggests that they would be unwilling to take this view of the question when the proper time comes, by following the ordinary rules for mitigation of punishment. Therefore if I am unable, as I am unable, to vote for the Amendment, it certainly is not from any desire that these men should be placed in a worse position than those subsequently tried. I feel the enormous disadvantage, the unspeakable prejudice to the administration of justice in this country which would result if the House of Commons, in obedience to a perfectly honest and a perfectly intelligible demand, based, however, upon political and national considerations, were to lay down that the Home Secretary should apply the administration of this great and most delicate prerogative of mercy on different rules for the mitigation of punishment in one class of cases from those he would apply to another class. [Cheers.] It is solely for the maintenance of that principle which I conceive to be vital to the purity of the administration of justice, and for no other reason, 498 that I feel myself constrained to give a vote against the Amendment. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY rose in his place and claimed to move ''That the question he now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 270; Noes, 107.—(Division List, No. 2.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 117; Noes, 279. (Division List, No. 3.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words:—And, while glad to learn that Your Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers continue to be friendly, we deplore that Your Majesty's Speech contains no assurance that all matters in difference between this country and the Republic of Venezuela in relation to the delimitation of frontier between that State and British Guiana will be referred to arbitration in accordance with the suggestion of the Government of the United States of America.He remarked that in dealing with the subject he was not animated by any spirit of hostility to the Government, nor by any desire, directly or indirectly, to drag down the important issues involved to the level of Party questions. The Government might possibly be displeased with him for bringing the matter forward, but he thought they should rather be glad of the opportunity thus afforded them of ascertaining the opinion of the House of Commons on the line of policy that ought to be pursued. In accepting the Amendment in that spirit, the Government would only be following the example set them the other day by the President of the United States, who, immediately after his communication to Her Majesty's Government, asked the opinion of Congress upon the whole scope of the proposition which he submitted for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. He would further remind the Government that in seeking, in the terms of his Amendment, to maintain the great 499 principle of arbitration, he was only pursuing and carrying to its logical issue that policy which in 1893 was adopted by the Congress of the United States, and which was accepted, in the same year, in the form of a Resolution by this House of Commons—namely, that in the case of all disputes and differences which might arise between the United States and any Government by diplomatic relations therewith, it should be the prime effort of that Government to settle those disputes and differences, failing direct negotiations, by the principle of arbitration. He had an admiration, which was only right and proper, for Lord Salisbury's wide experience in Foreign Affairs and his undoubted sagacity, and he had the greatest confidence in the ability and the assiduity of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, but upon the question involving such momentous issues as the relations of this country to the United States, he was not satisfied—and he believed he was speaking the sentiment of all those who had democratic tendencies—to leave them in the hands of two or three men, however able and however desirous to serve their country. He admitted it would be undesirable to go into details upon the line of policy which had been pursued by the Government, but he submitted he was entitled to obtain, either in the form of a declaration from Ministers, or by a Vote of this House, this indication of policy from Her Majesty's Government, that, in respect of the whole scope and ambit of the difference between Venezuela and Great Britain upon the frontier question, the decision, upon due evidence submitted, should be taken by the arbitrator, either of a Foreign Sovereign or an eminent jurist. He contended it was their duty to submit this difference between us and Venezuela, and, consequently between us and the United States, to arbitration, as the mode most in consonance with the honour, dignity, and permanent interest of this country. He admitted it was quite natural that this great country should resent the uninvited intervention of another Great Power in affairs which apparently had no immediate concern with it, and that the intervention was none the less obnoxious by reason that it was founded upon the pretext of a declaration of national policy which had never 500 had accorded to it the weight of international sanction. He quite agreed that it was reasonable and natural, nay, it was the duty of this country to resent any intervention by a Foreign State which savoured in the slightest degree of menace, but he was persuaded that the language of the United States, neither intrinsically nor in its origin nor conception, partook in the smallest degree of the character of menace. He did not purpose discussing what was known as the Monroe doctrine. He would only say that, as he understood the Monroe doctrine, it was nothing more than the solemn declaration of the United States that they would not tolerate any attempt by a European Power to extend its dominions within any portion of the Continent of America, and, if he gathered aright, the First Lord of the Treasury, when he spoke in the general Debate on the Address, gave to that declaration his cordial assent as an English Statesman. He believed it was intended that the Monroe doctrine should only be held to apply to cases where there was an approximate cause of danger to the United States, and he took it that the United States were the best judges of where a cause of danger arose. It certainly was not competent for us to enter into any inquiry as to whether or not the United States were right or wrong in the view they took of the application of the Monroe docrine. The point of view from which he looked at this intrusion—if he might use a somewhat harsh term—of the United States into this controversy, was that they would have been untrue to their great position as the natural protector of the Republics of the American Continent if they had not responded to the repeated entreaties made to them by Venezuela, and if they had not approached Her Majesty's Government in the language of friendly remonstrance, and sought to obtain from them some assurance that this difference should be settled upon the basis of friendly accommodation, or, failing that, it should be settled by the only rational system by which it could be settled, because war between Venezuela and Great Britain was an absurdity—by the arbitrament of reason instead of the arbitrament of the sword. He was delighted to hear the First Lord of the Treasury insist that Lord Salisbury had not repudiated the intent of 501 the Monroe doctrine, because that seemed to him to indicate that there was a desire—and he was sure there was—on the part of Her Majesty's Government to accommodate the difference between this country and the United States. But he would draw the attention of the House to the words of Lord Salisbury, in his Dispatch of November 26, 1895:—In the remarks which I have made I have argued on the theory that the Monroe doctrine in itself is sound. I must not, however, be understood as expressing any acceptance of it on the part of Her Majesty's Government. It must always he mentioned with respect on account of the distinguished Statesman to whom it is due, and the great nation who have generally adopted it. But International Law is founded on the general consent of nations; and no Statesman, however eminent, and no nation, however powerful, are competent to insert into the Code of International Law a novel principle which was never recognised before, and which has not since been accepted by the Government of any other country. The United States have a right—like any other nation—to interpose in any controversy by which their own interests are affected; and they are the judge whether those interests are touched, and in what measure they should be sustained. But their rights are in no way strengthened or extended by the fact that the controversy affects some territory which is called American.That was a clear declaration—and there was no Gladstonian obscurity about it—that if there was any controversy in respect to a country other than American, the United States would be equally justified, or not justified, in interceding in respect of that controversy, as they would be in interceding in any controversy affecting America. In his opinion, that was an unequivocal statement and justified the contention that there had been an absolute repudiation of the Monroe doctrine by Lord Salisbury. With regard to arbitration, he justified his Amendment upon the words of Lord Salisbury contained in the Dispatch of November 26, which, he contended, justified a Member of the House, however humble, in bringing before the House this great and all-absorbing question, not of the territorial dispute with Venezuela, but of a possible conflict with the United States of America. Lord Salisbury said:—They (Her Majesty's Government) cannot consent to entertain or submit to the arbitration of another power or of foreign jurists, however 502 eminent, claims based on the extravagant pretensions of Spanish officials in the last century, and involving the transfer of large numbers of British subjects, who have for many years enjoyed the settled rule of a British Colony, to a nation of different race and language, whose political system is subject to frequent disturbance, and whose institutions, as yet, too often afford very inadequate protection to life and property.What did that mean? It meant that the substance of the question upon which the United States asked for arbitration was repudiated by Lord Salisbury. It might be that these words would not carry with them any lasting effect—and he did not say that with any intention of being insolent towards Her Majesty's Government; but he remembered when the San Juan controversy took place, Lord John Russell said, in almost identical words, that the Government would not in any possible circumstances regard the question of the ownership of San Juan as open to arbitration. When wiser counsels prevailed, that policy was abandoned, and the whole matter was submitted to arbitration; and that Island, which had been declared by Her Majesty's Government then to be indisputably in the possession of the British Empire, by the award of the Arbitrator, was assigned to the United States. It was asked, "Where do you draw the line of arbitration? To what length are you going to carry the principle?" It had been asked even in one newspaper, "Would you submit the question of the sovereignty of the Isle of Wight to arbitration if it were demanded by France?" Could anything be more absurd than such a comparison? The geographical position of the Isle of Wight was such that the question was utterly absurd. But when he found that in the case of two nationalities—Venezuela and British Guiana—a controversy had continued during the whole period of their political existence, as to whether certain territory was British or Spanish, then, he said, it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to submit that issue throughout its whole scope to arbitration. This controversy involved a very wide stretch of territory, many thousands of square miles, possessing considerable mineral wealth. The British Government had consistently contended that the British territory extended up to and included the mouth of the Orinoco. 503 The Venezuelan Government, on the other hand, contended that the British territory ended at the mouth of the Essequibo. The territory involved had been debateable since the year 1840. It was not until 1840 that it was ever seriously contended that the British territory extended as far as the mouth of the river Orinoco. The Venezuelan Government contended—and this was the bone of contention—that the arbitration should cover the whole of the territory in dispute, up to the banks, or nearly to the banks, of the Essequibo. On the other hand, the British Government had contended that the Sovereignty of Great Britain up to and including the mouth of the Orinoco should be admitted without question, and that the arbitration should be confined to the comparatively small stretch of territory which extended beyond the Schomburgk line of delimitation. Thus a vast tract of territory was involved, some of it being very valuable. So far from the contention of the British Government as to its frontier being consistent, it had, since 1841, changed no fewer than seven times, the line of demarcation which it contended was the limitation between the two countries. In one case at least, in 1844, it took up a position many miles remote from the Orinoco boundary. How, in face of these facts, showing that the sovereignty of the British Government in respect of this territory had, since the year 1841, been of this variable and shifting character, could it be contended that the Schomburgk line of limitation was outside the pale of arbitration? In 1814 this country acquired possession of British Guiana by cession from the Dutch. To the treaty then made there was no map or plan attached. The country had not then been carefully explored by geographers; but in that treaty there was no description of the boundaries of the territory between British Guiana and Venezuela. Certain "Governorships" were ceded to Great Britain under the description of Berbice, Demerara, and Essequibo. Every one of those districts was remote from the Orinoco and from the Moroco rivers. There was nothing in the treaty of cession on the part of Holland to Great Britain to indicate that we had any rights outside a few miles west of the 504 Essequibo. That was a central point of the dispute because nothing occurred in respect of a territorial right dispute between the two countries until 1840. Now, in 1840, instructions were given to the great traveller Schomburgk, to make a survey of British Guiana. First he made a preliminary survey, which, be it observed, was short of his ultimate survey by a distance of 11,000 square miles, and in his ultimate survey he put up posts and signals to indicate what the boundary of British Guiana was. All this territory was, If they liked, a "no man's land," but no claim was ever raised till 1841 by Great Britain lo any portion of territory beyond that which the Venezuelan Government was prepared to submit indisputably belonged to them. As soon as these posts were put up the Venezuelan Government remonstrated with Lord Aberdeen, and insisted on their removal. What was Lord Aberdeen's response? It was this:—These posts wore not put up to indicate a line of demarcation between the two territories, they were merely put up to indicate a line which should be the subject of future discussion and negotiation between the two nations.The Venezuelan Government, persisting in their objections, Lord Aberdeen directed British officials to travel to the district and remove the posts, and they were removed and the status quo ante was resumed. Would it be believed that the last public communication that passed from Her Majesty's Foreign Office to the American Government and to the Venezuelan Government was a declaration of their determination to rely not upon the abandoned Schomburgk line, but upon a line infringing still further upon territory which Venezuela claims to be here. In 1844 Lord Aberdeen proposed to the Venezuelan Government that the line of the Moroco should be accepted as the boundary line. Had that line been taken instead of the Orinoco, it meant that some most valuable mineral land would have been at this moment under the sovereignty of Venezuela, together with the mouth of one of the greatest water-ways of the South American Continent. Unfortunately, that proposal was not accepted, but let that not be imputed by way of blame to the Venezuelan Government or as entitling the British Government to 505 take up their former position as to the Orinoco, because at that time, and for 25 years afterwards, Venezuela was convulsed by civil commotions. He did not believe that much value was to be attached to the evidence of maps, but it might be well to notice that the earliest map which he had seen, a chart drawn up by Quartermaster General Walker in 1798——
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! To a certain extent, no doubt, the Amendment permits the hon. Member to refer to the evidence with a view to show that the case is one which is proper for arbitration, but I do not think it permits him to go into details on either side, and to dissect the evidence.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
cordially bowed to Mr. Speaker s ruling. It was enough for him to say that as far as the evidence and maps went, it was various and contradictory, and that the earliest maps at least went to show that the Moroco river was as much the accepted boundary as was the Orinoco. But there was one passage to which he attached considerable importance, and that was contained in a local guide to British Guiana which was published in 1843, and which, curiously enough, bore the name of Robert Schomburgk in manuscript upon it; and that guide——
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
passed on to 1881, which might be called the next historical period in this controversy, when Venezuela expressed to the British Government her willingness to accept the line which in 1844 had been offered to her by Lord Aberdeen—the line of the Moroco. He regretted to say that Lord Granville declined to entertain that course. He absolutely declined to entertain that which, 30 or 40 years before, had been offered by the British Government as the true line of delimitation. From 1881 onwards, there was nothing but a miserable and painful record of representations made by Venezuela, often in the form of treaty, never in the form of menace. In 1887, when the British Government had made still further aggressions on the territory of Venezuela; when it had, by various agencies to which it gave an official or quasi-official sanction, planted posts and 506 settlements throughout the territory of Venezuela, the Venezuelan Government in despair and indignation, suspended diplomatic relations; and except through the medium of the United States, nothing had since been done to restore those relations. Under these circumstances, in face of our action on the Moroco, and in face of the very different frontiers put forward as constituting the true boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana, was it reasonable to contend that arbitration between the two countries should only extend westward of the Orinoco? And here he must complain of the imperfect nature of the Blue-Book. Why had the communications published been limited to so small a period of time? The United States Government had published the correspondence between themselves and the Governments of Great Britain and Venezuela from the earliest, time. He also protested against the statements which had been made in the Press that the attitude of the United States Government on this question was merely a Party dodge. Though no responsible person had made this statement, it had not been properly repudiated. The action of the United States Govern merit was not to be judged by the Message of President Cleveland nor by his last Dispatch to Lord Salisbury. It was to be judged by the fact that since about 1883 representations in a spirit of friendly entreaty had been made to this Government. In 1888, Mr. Bayard wrote the following letter to Mr. Phelps:—If, indeed, it should appear that there is no fixed limit to the British boundary claim, our good dispositions to aid in a settlement might not only be defeated, but give place to a feeling of grave concern.That language, written in 1888, was stronger than the language of President Cleveland's last Dispatch; and he repudiated with scorn the suggestion that the American Government, in yielding to the entreaties of what they, perhaps rightly, considered to be an oppressed nationality, were animated by any unworthy motive. Some people regarded the intervention of the United States as a menace. He did not. He regarded it as the friendly act of an influential Power; and he could quote numerous instances in which this country 507 had intervened in the affairs of Foreign States in a friendly spirit, which had been reciprocated. It might well be said that the United States had acted worthily of its position as the great protecting Power of the young democracies on the American Continent. He did not suggest that feelings of sentiment should exercise too strong an influence with us. Whatever were our fraternal feelings towards the United States, he was not sure that they were fully reciprocated. And whatever feelings animated the fraternal Saxon in America, there was also the fraternal Hibernian to be considered. The Amendment was not conceived in any spirit of hostility to the Government; but merely in the consciousness that it would be the most deplorable act not only of the century, but of all history, if this great Empire, which was the champion of Christianity and civilisation in the Eastern Hemisphere, should be involved in war with the great democracy which occupied a corresponding position in the Western Hemisphere, and over so trifling and contemptible a cause. The Amendment was proposed solely with the object of getting some assurance from the Government that they were anxious to use their best efforts to bring to a satisfactory solution this difficulty with the United States. No false pride nor fictitious sentiment should prevent the Government from submitting this question to arbitration.
§ MR. SPEAKER
, who had called on the First Lord of the Treasury, said: I understood that the hon. Member for Gateshead was not going to second the Amendment, but simply desired to say a word or two at the close of the opening speech. But the Leader of the House desired to be called upon, and I thought the House would wish to hear him.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I do not mean to make a speech in order to intervene between the Mover and Seconder of the Resolution; but I wish to make an appeal to the House on my responsibility as a Minister of the Crown. In my judgment, the continuation of this Debate cannot serve the objects which the hon. Member, no doubt quite sincerely, has in view. 508 ["Hear, hear!"] The discussion will not have the effect of making an honourable and satisfactory arrangement of this difficulty easier, and I earnestly trust that the House, feeling how grave the issues are at stake, will not take this premature opportunity of discussing the policy which has been pursued, or which is being pursued on this question.
§ MR. W. ALLAN
, in seconding the Amendment, said, that no speech was required in a matter of this kind. The whole question was simply a storm in a teacup; and, as in a great many other cases, gold was found to be at the bottom of it all. The boundaries between British Guiana and Venezuela were known to anyone who looked at a map. Some of them were ex parte lines, and consequently could easily be settled by arbitration; and he was sure the Government were capable of seeing that without going to war with America. There was not the thickness of brown paper between the Venezuelan coast and Hades. The country was full of yellow fever and malaria. For miles there was nothing but swamp and forest, and it was only on the hills where gold had been found that the country was worth anything. It was not worth fighting for, and if we sent troops out they would die of fever like flies in winter. He seconded the Amendment because he had faith that the Government would not waste an ounce of lead or a grain of powder over such a country.
§ MR. H. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
After what has fallen from the Leader of the House in his official position I do not think it is possible for us to continue this Debate. [Ministerial cheers.] I think we are indebted to my hon. Friend for a valuable speech in moving the Amendment, but I trust that the statement made by the Leader of the House may give us hope that the dispute between the United States and this country will be settled speedily and satisfactorily to both countries.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo E.)
said, that had they on the Irish Benches understood that the Amendment was moved merely for the purpose of firing off a speech and would not be pressed to a Division, another Amendment would undoubtedly have proceeded from the Irish Benches. He trusted, however, that an appeal from the Leader of the 509 House would induce the mover of the Amendment to withdraw it. He thought the American people ought to have due notice of the intensity and extent of the feeling which existed in the House of Commons against any attempt on the part of England to go to war or to threaten war in case the United States insisted on full and unrestricted arbitration in the case of Venezuela. Anyone who had even looked into the Official Correspondence that had been published, or had taken any interest in the articles in the Press on the subject either in America or in this country, must feel that the conduct of the American Government in the matter had been most patient and most forbearing. Over and over again during the last six years the American Government had addressed to this country most respectful and most courteous invitations to accept arbitration on this question, and it was only after years of delay and shuffling on the part of the Government of this country that the Dispatch, which was felt by the American people and by many people in this country to be a most insulting Dispatch and something in the nature of an ultimatum, addressed without any excuse whatever by Lord Salisbury to President Cleveland—it was only after that Dispatch was sent that President Cleveland addressed his message to Congress. He thought it ought to be known to the American people that the Dispatch of Lord Salisbury did not represent the feeling of the people of this country. He knew it represented the feeling of only a very small fraction of the people of Ireland, and he was convinced, from the public Press of this country, and from the knowledge he had, which was pretty considerable, of the working class of England, that the Dispatch of Lord Salisbury did not represent the feeling of the people of Great Britain. Many of them thought that President Cleveland exhibited in this matter a great deal of forbearance, when at last he felt compelled to let the Government of this country know that America was not going to be bullied, and that she was determined to stand on her rights. It was then that President Cleveland was met in the Press of this country, led by The Times, with a torrent of insult which should not have been levelled against any foreign Power, much less 510 against a man who holds what he considered to be one of the most honourable positions held by any man in the civilised world to-day—that of President of the United states. He had over and over again read articles in The Times and in other Unionist newspapers in this country, declaring that the message sent by President Cleveland to Congress, giving voice to the almost unanimous opinion of the people of America, was nothing more nor less than a dirty electioneering trick. He was very glad to recognise as an Irish Nationalist Member the great change of tone in the Press of this country, notably in The Times, and also amongst Ministers. The Marquess of Salisbury, the Prime Minister, had now turned his attention towards the Boer Republic—a somewhat smaller Republic than the United States—and had ceased insulting America. That was a very marked improvement to those of them in this House who had felt outraged by the conduct of the Prime Minister—those of them who admire and sympathise with America, who believed as he believed, and as he thought every Nationalist in the House believed, that, from the beginning of this dispute down to that hour, the Government of America had been in the right, and the Government of England in the wrong; and they believed, furthermore, that the Government of America could confidently rely on the justice of their case and on the immensity of their power. The Government of America had exhibited throughout this controversy an amount of dignity and self-control which did credit to them, and it was right to give expression to that feeling in the House in spite of the appeal of the Leader of the House; and he, for his part, took that opportunity of expressing what he took to be the view of at least nine-tenths of the people of Ireland, that this question ought to be and must be submitted to unlimited arbitration, and that if any attempt was made on the part of the British Government to plunge this country into war for an unjust cause, because they had refused the claim which the American Government had put forward of unlimited arbitration—a claim which they had a perfect right to put forward—on this question, that there will be without any restriction, from Members 511 of this House, and from many millions of the English and Irish people outside this House, a strong voice of condemnation of such a policy. He did not know what course the mover of this Amendment was going to take. He had not intended to take any part in this Debate, if it had been a real Debate, and if the proposer of this Amendment wanted to withdraw it, he should certainly protest against any such withdrawal.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
My hon. and learned Friend, who has made this Motion, has made it in the interest of arbitration. In that view of the proper solution of this question I am entirely in accord with him, and I said so the other night. But I would ask my hon. and learned Friend whether to pursue this Motion is the best way of securing the object we both desire. He has couched this Motion in a well-known form. It is a censure on Her Majesty's Government, and the House could not accept it unless it was prepared to displace the Government. My hon. and learned Friend knows enough of the methods of the House of Commons to be aware that his Motion could not be accepted by the Government. If a Division were to be taken there would be a great majority against the Motion, and it would go forth to America and to the world that the House of Commons has refused arbitration. Now, I believe that, properly dealt with, and on a proper occasion and in a proper manner, the great majority of the House of Commons are in favour of arbitration with America. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore, what we ought all to seek to accomplish is that that view should be put forward in a manner in which it could be accepted by all parties. ["Hear, hear!"] I have always felt that in this matter what we have to do is not to exhibit difference of opinion on this subject, but, as far as we can, a consensus of opinion on the part of the people of this country. [Cheers.] I am perfectly certain that there is a consensus of opinion in favour of a peaceful and honourable accommodation with America; and whether in the House of Commons or elsewhere our main object should be to give expression to that feeling. [Cheers.] What we have to consider is how that can best be accomplished. 512 It certainly cannot be accomplished by taking a Division on a Motion like that which is now before the House. My hon. Friend who has just sat down referred to the dangerous and mischievous language that has been used in different quarters of this country which has exasperated the people of the United States. I join with him in deploring the employment of such language. It has been said that the President of the United States was acting from electioneering motives, and so forth. Nothing could be more injurious to peace than language of that sort. ["Hear, hear!"] It is absolutely untrue that the President of the United States has or could be actuated by such a motive. ["Hear, hear!"] I was talking to-day to a friend who said the United States had sprung this question upon us by surprise in a most offensive manner. I said:—Are you not aware that the United States have been pressing this question upon us for ten years, and in language not at all offensive, but of the most conciliatory kind?Therefore to impute that the President of the United States took up this matter for electioneering purposes is not only offensive but absolutely untrue. We ought all to endeavour to remove as far as we can those sources of irritation, whether they come from this side of the Atlantic or from the other. ["Hear, hear!"] There is one thing I should like to say. I am strongly impressed with the evils and the dangers of delaying some settlement of this question. ["Hear, hear!"] I know that there are people who say that if you only delay this matter it will blow over. No, Sir, it will not blow over. ["Hear, hear!"] It has to be settled, and it ought to be settled with the smallest possible delay. ["Hear, hear!"] I cannot help asking why there has been so much delay hitherto in presenting our case from the Foreign Office? Just consider this. The Dispatch of Mr. Olney was received on August 7th—six months ago. We are assembled in Parliament in February, and no case is ready. The reply of Lord Salisbury was made on November 26th—four months after Mr. Olney's Dispatch. One would suppose that in those four months the whole case upon which the Dispatch was founded must have been prepared, but the papers have 513 not been laid before us. We have got a small batch of communications between Great Britain and the United States; but we have not the papers which are most important—namely, the communications which have passed between Great Britain and Venezuela; and still less have we got those investigations that, during this half-century, ought to have been made into this matter. At this moment we are without the materials which the United States, by their Commission, are now engaged in collecting. I think that is a great disadvantage, and it is an injury to the cause we have all at heart that there should be this delay in the presentation of the papers. I make these observations with the desire that delay shall be put an end to as soon as possible and that public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic shall be informed upon the subject in a manner in which it is not now informed. This is one of the first things that ought to be done in order to diminish the differences of opinion between the peoples of the two countries. ["Hear, hear!"] But my main object in rising was to show how many differences of opinion have been removed and not how many still exist. My hon. Friend who spoke last said that in this country the opinion had been expressed that the intervention of the United States in this question was a wrong to us. That is abandoned now. It is made clear that we do not resent that; but, on the contrary, we welcome the co-operation of the United States. There is one great difference removed. The right and wish of the United States to co-operate in this matter is not repudiated, but accepted, and even welcomed. There then is a point in which we are at one. There were in the Press indications that the appointment of the Commission was somehow to be resented, and that we were by no means to recognise it. That objection is now set aside, and we have now no difficulty about it. There again, we are at one. Now I come to the question of arbitration. we are all agreed that there is to be arbitration; Lord Salisbury has indicated that he agrees to it. Therefore those who were of opinion that this was not a question for arbitration are mistaken. That is not the view of the Government; and I am sure it is not the view of the majority of the English 514 people. My hon. Friend wishes us to declare ourselves for arbitration; we are all in favour of it. There is another thing on which I think substantially there is agreement, and that is that it is impossible, in the present state of our knowledge, that any fixed line can be laid down. I pointed out the other day that you cannot lay down a fixed line that shall include extreme claims on one side and exclude them on the other. That we are all agreed upon; there is no difficulty about that. Then there has been an objection raised in certain quarters upon the subject of occupation. I am not going into it now; I do not wish in any way to prejudice it or to bind the hands of the Government upon it. But I would call attention to Mr. Olney's Dispatch with reference to this very question of occupation. Mr. Olney says:—Or if there is any question of occupation, what is the legitimate consequence? It is not that all arbitration should be denied, but that the submission should embrace an additional topic—viz., the validity of the asserted prescriptive title (i.e., by actual occupation) either in point of law or in point of fact.Therefore there is in the American Dispatch a declaration that occupation, in law or in fact, might be an element of the arbitration. That shows that upon this point also we are not at issue. These are two things which are totally different and to be kept apart. You may insist as a condition precedent that the acceptance of occupation as it now stands should be a preliminary to any arbitration, or you may say that occupation shall be a question for the arbitration. The proposal in Mr. Olney's Dispatch is that occupation shall be a question for the arbitration. This is an important question. I do not know whether it is dealt with in the Papers already laid before Parliament, but it is referred to in Mr. Olney's Dispatch. He speaks of the Agreement of 1850 between Venezuela and Great Britain as "one which bound both parties to refrain from occupation pending the settlement of the dispute." Now, it has been suggested that the Agreement came to an end in consequence of the breach of it by Venezuela, who, on the other hand, affirms that we have broken the Agreement. But it is important to observe that, on the 515 12th January, 1887, Lord Iddesleigh, who was Foreign Secretary under Lord Salisbury, referred to the Agreement of 1850 as a binding agreement at that date, saying that:—An attempt to erect a lighthouse at Barima Point without the consent of Her Majesty's Government would be a departure from the reciprocal engagements taken from the Governments of Venezuela and England in 1850 not to occupy or encroach upon the territory in dispute between the two countries.Therefore, in 1887, it was regarded as an agreement that neither party by occupation should make, or endeavour to make, a title which they did not possess without that occupation. It stands to reason that you cannot by simply occupying a portion of territory which belongs to others make it your own. But the real point that brings us together in this matter is the statement by Mr. Olney that that is a proper question for the arbitration both in law and in fact. My object, as I said, is to show not the differences which exist, but the points on which we are agreed, and I believe the real points of difference between the two Governments are insignificant. Delay I deprecate strongly. There is nothing so dangerous as to leave disputes of this kind open to the ignorance and prejudice of people who do not understand the question. If you can only get the two Governments to come to an agreement you will have the matter settled. If you allow people on both sides of the Atlantic to listen to incitements which arise from total ignorance of the real matters in issue, in my opinion you run a great danger of strife arising out of these misunderstandings. I venture to suggest to my hon. Friend, after the speech made on behalf of the Government, that there will be no advantage in pressing this Amendment, least of all in pressing it to a Division. It would be entirely misleading as to the feelings of the House on the question; and it would do infinite mischief in the United States to negative such a Motion as this. We have had the opportunity of inviting the Government to say what they thought desirable. They have told us that the discussion of this question would be injurious to the cause we have at heart. We ought to follow the course that will most speedily and successfully lead to a good understanding 516 between this country and the United States, and therefore I hope my hon. Friend will withdraw this Motion. [Cheers.]
§ MR. MICHAEL DAVITT rose with
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES,
who said that, after the appeals made to him by the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition, he felt bound to withdrawn the Amendment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
put the question, "Is it the pleasure of the House that the Amendment be withdrawn?" and then said, "Amendment by leave withdrawn." [Cries of "No, no!" from Irish Members.] Hon. Members should have said "No" before I announced the decision of the House. I heard no negative before I announced in the usual way that the Amendment was withdrawn.
§ MR. DILLON
In this quarter of the House we did not hear you, Sir, put the question, and I must remind you that, before the hon. Member asked leave to withdraw the Amendment, I had asked that I might be called upon.
§ MR. SPEAKER
repeated that he put the question in the usual way, and did not hear any one say "No" at the proper time.
*SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire) moved at the end of the question an Amendment to the Address, to add—
But we humbly express our regret that the present Government, reversing the policy of their predecessors, have decided not to withdraw from Chitral, thereby violating the pledge expressly given in the Viceroy's proclamation, dangerously adding to Government responsibilities beyond the North-west frontier of India, and inevitably leading to an increase of the overgrown expenditure in the Indian Military Department, and further our regret that the Treaty of 1893 with the Amir of Afghanistan has not been placed before Parliament.
The hon. Baronet said he desired to make an appeal to the national conscience against what appeared to him to be a grievous breach of the national good faith. It might be urged that he was too late, but in his opinion it was never too late to remove a blot on the good name and honour of the nation. They were told it was "no use crying over spilt milk." That was true, but we should do our best to prevent more milk
of the same sort from being spilt. In the present case there was a special cause for reconsidering the position. They were told in the Queen's Speech that a delimitation of the Indian Empire had been completed with Russia, and therefore there was no longer the same anxiety in regard to frontier matters. While congratulating the Government upon having come to a satisfactory delimitation of the frontier with Russia, he would like to know what was the relation of the Indian Empire, so referred to, to those dominions which were vested in Her Majesty under the Government of India Act of 1858. That was important, because the boundary line that had been drawn with Russia included a vast mountainous territory 600 miles long and 200 or 300 miles broad, which was now, for the first time, included in the Indian Empire. He was anxious to know what was the financial responsibility involved as regarded the revenues of the Government of India. As he understood, this territory was not so much incorporated in the Indian Empire as it was a delimitation of the respective spheres of influence between this country and Russia. The fact that the boundary had now been established had a very important bearing as regarded all the future arrangements on the frontier. It might have been noticed that in the Anglo-Indian Press there had been a persistent allegation that in undertaking the expedition to Chitral we had a special object in view. It was stated that the object of the expedition to Chitral was to show we had effective control over the mountainous regions, so that when the treaty with Russia was made we might show we were in effective possession of those regions to put them within our sphere of influence. Was that the actual state of the case? When the frontier had been amicably settled any further activity on the frontier by taking up posts in this way was simply a challenge to Russia and an incitement to her to put forward other posts to the boundary and spoil the amicable settlement made. If this boundary was not intended only to show the sphere of influence, but was really an incorporation of these great territories with the Indian territories of Her Majesty, then he hoped proper steps would be taken to incorporate these regions legally within the territories of the Indian Government. Was it the
real intention to annex these regions? He had never been able to obtain from the present or the late Government any statement of what the real boundaries of our Indian territories were. He had asked for authoritative maps, but they had never been furnished. Now this immense addition had been made to our Indian Empire the House was entitled to know what the exact position of this new territory was, where the territories vested in the Queen by the Act of 1858 extended, and where they ended. If those regions were not included in that Act it would be necessary for the Government to take steps to obtain the consent of both Houses of Parliament to the expenditure on the expedition to those parts coming out of Indian revenue. If the regions were not within Indian territory, and the expenditure was not legalised, he presumed the cost would be Imperial, and would be borne by the Imperial revenues, and not placed on the Indian ryots and the Lancashire operatives as it now was. The reasons for which he proposed to make his protest were three. Firstly, to retain Chitral permanently was a violation of the pledge made to the Border Tribes. In the part of the Queen's Speech relating to Chitral, gratification was expressed that the engagements entered into by the Border Tribes had been loyally carried out. Sic vos non vobis. We appreciated the Border Tribes for carrying out the engagements with us, but we had not carried out the engagements made with them. It was a good saying that an ounce of example was worth a pound of precept. He would point out the nature of the pledge that had been violated by the permanent occupation of Chitral. Lord Elgin issued a certain proclamation to the tribes before we set out on the Expedition, and the questions were: What was the meaning of the proclamation? What was the object we were going there for? and What was the promise we made? Was it to rescue officers and men in Chitral, and afterwards retire? or to seize military posts and permanently remain there? It must have been one or other of those objects. What were the circumstances? A number of our people had been shut up and caught in a trap 180 miles beyond our frontier. We were separated from them
by passless mountains inhabited by warlike and independent tribes. Without permission of these tribes we could not get over the mountains to save the lives of our people. So we went to the tribes, and assured them that, if they would give us permission to pass, we would retire as soon as we had effected our object. According to the Viceroy's Proclamation—
The sole object of the Government of India is to put an end to the present and prevent any future unlawful aggression on Chitral territory, and as soon as that has been done our force will be withdrawn. The Government of India have no intention of permanently occupying any territory there, or to interfere with the independence of the tribes.
That was a clear statement. Did it mean that we were going to rescue our people and then retire, or that we were going to occupy valuable military posts and stay there? There was no doubt about the meaning of the Proclamation. Agreements entered into with the local tribes at Chitral were just as binding upon us as though they had been entered into with Sovereign Powers, and we were as much bound by the laws of morality in public as we were in private affairs. What difference could it make whether we were doing a wrong thing by ourselves or with the aid of three others or thirty millions others? Supposing that he had a fire upon his premises, and a member of his family was in danger of being burnt, and the only way of rescuing him was by passing through a neighbour's house, a house bolted and barred. Supposing he got permission to pass on the promise that he would afterwards retire at once. What would be thought of the man who then took possession of his neighbour's house, saying that his prestige and sense of honour compelled him to do so? A person acting in such a manner would be no better than a burglar. By remaining in occupation of Chitral we were violating the distinct pledges we had given to the tribes. Looking at the surrounding circumstances, there could be no doubt that the meaning of our declarations was that as soon as the rescue was effected we should retire. Supposing, however, that a doubt did exist as to the meaning of our declarations, the air just now was full of the word "arbitration,"
and we ought to be ready to submit the question how far we were bound to retire to the arbitration of some impartial authority. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had said that in his opinion some general system of arbitration ought to be adopted, and therefore he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to adopt arbitration in the present case. The fact was that it was easy to have recourse to arbitration with the strong, like America, but not with the weak, who could be coerced if they resisted us. The second reason why we should retire was that our remaining at Chitral would be mischievous and dangerous. He would not trouble the House with the military reasons for our retiring, but he could only express his regret that the views of Sir D. Stewart and Sir Neville Chamberlain on the subject had not been placed before them, they having given some strong military reasons against our remaining in Chitral. He would, however, rather rely upon the political reasons against our continuing that occupation as he was more capable of expressing an opinion with regard to them. It appeared to him that, according to the views of the people of India, we were not securing them any advantage by piercing through their impregnable mountain barriers and by making roads through them, paving the way for the invader. The brave tribes who inhabited these regions would be prepared to defend their natural barriers against all comers. To crush and kill such men was the worst course that we could adopt. The chief hold that we had over the people of India tribes was their belief in our good faith, and it was impossible to calculate the mischief that might be inflicted upon our power if it were found that our open promises, made in the face of day, were repudiated in that House. The third reason for retiring was the great cost which would be entailed by our remaining, a cost which would have to be borne by a very poor population, who were perpetually in danger of starvation. He had no doubt that the Secretary of State would repeat the assertion that the cost would not be great, but they knew what former expeditions had cost. The cost of the Afghan War was officially estimated at one and three-quarter millions; shortly afterwards it was stated that it would cost eight millions,
and in the end the Bill was for twenty-one millions. The cost of the Abyssinian war was estimated at three millions, but actually cost ten millions. They were told that the annexation of Upper Burmah would be a source of profit, but for the last eight years it had cost this country one and a half millions a-year. He warned the Government that in all these cases the beginning was the only easy part of the business. We had been to Cabul several times, and it was after they got there that the elements of difficulty arose. The quarter-of-a-million of fighting men to whom Lord Roberts had referred were still there, and in due tune would make themselves felt. He was convinced that the cost of this expedition would, in the end, be very great, and that we were bound to retire. Such action would also be beneficial to the welfare of the Indian people. The Secretary of State had said that the Treaty with Afghanistan would be placed upon the Table of the House; he was glad that that would be done, as hon. Members ought to know whether the six lakhs of rupees, which were to be granted annually to the Amir, would be spent in a useful manner to the benefit of the Afghan people. He was afraid this money would be used for buying stocks of arms, which might not be used in a satisfactory way. He had heard of the doings of the Amir and his generals in Kafiristan, against which people, he feared, the Afghans were now carrying on relentless war. Under the guise of religious fanaticism, he believed, the object of the Afghan expedition was in order to carry on the slave trade in its most odious form. Her Majesty's Ministers ought to see that the supply of means to the Amir was used in a proper way. The whole forward policy in India was entirely opposed to that which was laid down when Her Majesty took over the Indian territory from the East India Company. It was then solemnly declared that no extension of her territory was desired by Her Majesty. They were assured that she would defend her territories and rights, but that she had no intention of interfering with her neighbours. Upon all these grounds he begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
§ MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
said he had great pleasure in seconding the Amendment. He thought it was 522 desirable that the Indian Government should keep its faith with the border tribes, to whom special promises were made. The proclamation of the Indian Government set forth that the sole object they had was "to put an end to the present, and to prevent the future aggression of Chitralese territory, and as soon as that end had been obtained the forces would be withdrawn." It was also stated that the Government had no intention of permanently occupying any territory or of interfering with the independence of the tribes. That seemed to be a very clear and straightforward statement, and he did not see how the Government could find a loophole remaining after that. They had the permission of the tribes to allow the troops to pass, and he thought the least we could do was to keep faith with them. They knew that the whole system of the forward policy in India entailed immense expenditure upon the revenues which were obtained from people whose income was infinitesimally small. They were not a people who could be largely taxed, especially for a border war in which they would have but little interest. In order to maintain the equilibrium of the Indian finances, it had been found necessary to place duties not only on the products of Lancashire, but on nearly all the goods coming from other large centres. It seemed to him that though this policy had been denounced again and again, it needed still more condemnation, and its inadvisability brought home to the Indian authorities. The very fact that we had arranged with Russia as to the frontiers of our Indian Empire made it all the more necessary that we should not remain in these outlying parts, which could only be maintained at a large military cost, [Opposition cheers.]
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON) Middlesex, Ealing
said the House would recollect that this question of the occupation or the evacuation of Chitral was discussed at some length some time ago, when, by a large majority, approval was expressed of reversing the policy of leaving Chitral. Both the Front Opposition Bench and other Members held that the occupation of Chitral would entail very heavy expenditure, that it would be repugnant to the feelings of the people, and would not tend to promote peace with Russia. 523 Although Her Majesty's Government did not wish to deny that there was a certain amount of risk, as there always must be in a movement of this kind, they believed it was a danger they ought to face, and face boldly. The most sanguine anticipations that any one could have indulged in had been more than realised. ["Hear, hear!"] So far from their occupation being regarded in a hostile spirit by the people of the country, on the contrary, they welcomed the English occupation, because it had inaugurated a period of security which they had not known before. ["Hear, hear!"] Reference had been made to slavery, but before they went there one of the very worst forms of slavery prevailed. The result of their occupation was that the slave trade had ceased. Before they went there women of the poorer class were abducted; and, so far as Chitral was concerned, during the few months they had occupied it their occupation, he believed, had given almost universal satisfaction. Then, Chitral was a much richer country than was anticipated. Irrigation works, hundreds of years old, were found, and the facilities were such as to enable them to supply the large amount of food necessary for maintaining the garrison. So far, therefore, as Chitral was concerned, the occupation had been an unmixed success. The hon. Member went on to say that Indian finance would not carry this expenditure. He thought the expenditure would be less than was anticipated, and, so far from Indian finance being in a critical condition, they must bear in mind that it had been possible to grant a considerable remission of taxation by the reduction in the Cotton Duties. He thought they would find, notwithstanding the Chitral Expedition, his statement of last year as to the equalisation of income and expenditure, would be more than realised. What did the hon. Gentleman want them to do? He wanted them to retire from Chitral and hand it over to anarchy. They could not do that. They were bound within their sphere of influence to prevent disorder, and if they did not preserve law and order, would that not be an invitation to some other country to come in and perform the duties which they had abdicated? Then the hon. Member went on to say that the occupation of Chitral gave offence to Russia. That 524 was a statement against the policy of which he uttered a strong protest. Those who advocated it put into the mouths of Foreign Powers and peoples arguments and ideas which neither these Governments nor these peoples would ever have thought of. [Cheers.] Why should Russia object to the occupation of Chitral? Russia had honourably fulfilled every engagement into which she had entered so far as the Indian Empire was concerned, and she would no more object to interfering with Chitral than of interfering with any other territory on the English side of the line. He, therefore, objected to that being attributed to Russia which the Russian Government never thought of. Then they were reminded of the country intervening between Chitral and Peshawar. The Government had succeeded in making an excellent road from Peshawar to Chitral, and the tribes through whose territory it passed had of their own accord undertaken to protect it. The result was that commerce had largely increased. The number of animals and caravans passing through that country had immensely increased, and, moreover, the country was by no means so poor as was supposed. On the contrary, it was evident that many hundreds of years ago it was much more thickly populated than it was now, and there were many signs of returning prosperity. It was, therefore, in the interest, both of the intervening tribes as well as of the Chitralis, that the policy this House maintained last year should in no sense be disturbed. ["Hear, hear!"] The proposer of the Amendment had accused the Government deliberately of a breach of faith. Was the hon. Gentleman acquainted with the facts of the case? It was perfectly clear, from their speeches, that neither he nor the Seconder of the Amendment had mastered the rudiments of the question. [Cheers.] The hon. Gentleman said there had been a breach of faith, and that the terms of the Proclamation had not been complied with. That Proclamation was issued by the Indian Government. The Indian Government from first to last said they had adhered to every letter of that Proclamation. The Proclamation was issued to the tribes who lived between the territory of Chitral and Peshawar. Did these tribes say the Proclamation had not been adhered to? Could the hon. Gentleman 525 quote any fact in support of such a statement?
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
I have asked the hon. Member for his authority for the serious charge which he has advanced against the Indian Government, and he says, perhaps the newspapers would give me some. [Laughter.]
§ LORD G. HAMILTON
said, that perhaps the hon. Gentleman did not quite realise that that was not a place for humorous amusement. For a Member of Parliament to advance against the Indian Government a charge of breach of faith was not a humorous peformance. [Cheers.] He assured both the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment that they were absolutely wrong, and that they did not understand in the least to whom the Proclamation was issued or what its object was. The Proclamation was issued to all the people of Swat and the people of the adjacent territory who did not side with Umra Khan, and Umra Khan was the person against whom we were fighting. The Proclamation merely applied to the territory between Peshawar and Chitral, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the people of Chitral, because our suzerainty and authority were already there asserted. What the Indian Government undertook was that, if they were not opposed in passing through the intervening territory, they would not occupy that territory, or in any way interfere with the independence of the people through whose country they were passing. Did either of the hon. Gentlemen mean to say that the independence of the tribes had been interfered with or their territory occupied? Did they mean to say that any chief of any tribe, or any considerable number of any tribe, had protested against the action of the Indian Government? He would tell the hon. Gentlemen exactly what had occurred. There had been a difference between the Indian Government and the tribes as regarded the Proclamation, but only in one sense. The heads of the tribes petitioned the Political Officer, asking to be incorporated in British territory. [Laughter and cheers.] They said they 526 had felt such advantage and sense of security from the presence of the troops, and no doubt from the better prices they got for their produce, that they thought they would like to have these benefits permanently. They were told it was impossible they could be so incorporated. Then they wished to go on a mission to the Viceroy at Simla, in order that he might reconsider the decision which had just been conveyed to them. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore, he hoped the House would hear no more of charges of bad faith. [Cheers.] The fact was that, unfortunately, the question of the occupation or evacuation of Chitral got into the arena of Party conflict at the commencement of the General Election. So soon as that question came to be discussed on its merits it was clear that the case of the present Government as against the late Government was an overwhelmingly strong one; and, therefore, when all their tangible arguments in reference to occupation were annihilated, the supporters of the late Government fell back on breach of faith. It was a pure concoction from beginning to end. There was not a word of truth in it. [Cheers.] It was not based on one iota of fact. He thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to reflect that the Viceroy of India, a high-minded gentleman, was a member of their own Party. It was not creditable to English politics that they should bring this charge of want of honour and breach of faith against a member of their own Party, who was carrying out a policy which he believed to be consistent with national and Imperial interests. [Cheers.] The result, therefore, of our occupation had been pre-eminently satisfactory, and Gentlemen opposite who belonged to the Radical, or Progressive, Party, as it was now called, could hardly realise what they were asking the House to do. There was an excellent road made through a country which had previously been unapproachable, which road had led to a large increase of commerce and trade. There were a number of rivers traversed by excellent bridges, and he was informed that parts of the road were as good as an English turnpike road. The road had daily been improved; it had been watched and guarded by local levies, who were paid; and trade was greatly increasing all along the 527 route. Why now, in the name of common sense, were we to retire and break up this road? Hon. Gentlemen appeared not in the position of reformers, but of vandals. ["Hear, hear!"] Before sitting down he congratulated his Friends behind him that the first time they had to give a Party vote last year they were actuated by true political instincts when, by an overwhelming majority, they assented to this forward movement. He believed there had been no forward movement in recent years made by any Government which had been more beneficial to all concerned, and which would tend to put an end to those periodical disturbances and outbreaks of fanaticism and terrorism which had previously characterised this remote corner of Her Majesty's dominions. [Cheers.]
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 79; Noes, 193.—(Division List, No. 4.)
§ Main Question again proposed:—
§ MR. J. G. WEIR
proposed, at the end of the Question, to add the words:—And we humbly express the regret of this House that no reference is made in Your Majesty's Speech to questions specially affecting the interests of the fishing population in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.He said there was very great disappointment in the Highlands of Scotland that no reference whatever had been made in the Queen's Speech to any legislation during the present Session for the Highland people, and especially for the fishing population. They had every reason to hope that the present Government would have introduced some substantial Measures for the improvement of the condition of the Highland population. The Leader of the House, speaking at Manchester on the 9th of July, said:—He hoped and believed that if his Party were returned to power it would be their privilege to do much to help those whom every Government was bound to help, both in the poverty-stricken Highlands of Scotland and in the poverty-stricken West of Ireland.Highlanders had every reason to expect from that speech that there would be some substantial legislation passed for them. There were also promises made by the hon. Member for Inverness and the hon. Member for 528 Argyll, on the strength of which they captured both those seats. Were they to be sent back empty-handed? If they were, he could assure the Leader of the House those hon. Gentleman would get notice to quit. Those constituencies had been beguiled by fair promises, and he called upon the Government to fulfil them. He was glad to see the Colonial Secretary in his place, for he did not think there was anyone on that side of the House who was better acquainted with the state of matters which existed in the Highlands, and with the poverty and miserable conditions of life that prevailed there, than that right hon. Gentleman, who had gone through the Highlands and had promised to do what he could for the people. He could not for one moment think that the right hon. Gentleman would go back on his promises. Governments have had troubles in the Highlands, and gunboats had been sent to the North as well as Marines to shoot down the people. He was glad to say they had not been shot down. He could not think the Government had any desire to repeat a process of that kind. The Secretary for the Colonies, speaking of the Transvaal, had said that wherever there was discontent there would be trouble. He now asked the Government to remove the discontent and trouble in the Highlands, and he looked to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies to keep the Government straight. He would have liked much to have gone into the whole Crofter Question, but seeing that there was already before the House two Bills to amend the Crofters Act, he would not do so, and he would reserve his remarks to a future occasion. He would now confine what he had to say to the fishing population. Most of them had very little land, and many of them none at all. In the Report of the Deer Forests Commission it was stated that there were two million acres of land available for cultivation and grazing. Why should not the fishing population get some of this land near the shore? If that course were adopted they would have a better chance of making a living. It was difficult for them to get a living out of the sea, for they were sadly in want of piers and harbours, and facilities for conveying their fish to market. It was very difficult to get money out of 529 Governments for such purposes. He wished the Lord Advocate would go to the Highlands. Two or three years ago he asked the late Lord Advocate to go to the Highlands, and he went as far as Inverness. People went to Inverness, and thought they had seen the Highlands. No doubt they did see some of the hills and lochs, but they did not see how the people lived in the remote districts. He could not understand why members of the legal profession were so timid. Perhaps they were afraid of the Stormy Minch. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would go to the Highlands and see for himself. No elaborate machinery would be required for giving some of the two million acres of land to which he had referred to the fishing population, and he hoped the Lord Advocate would do something in that direction. The question of whether the Highlands were to be given up to deer or men was a very serious one. Mr. Wynans, the American, had four hundred square miles of land used solely as a deer forest. No human being, except Mr. Wynans' gillies, dared put his foot on that large area of land. Indeed, so little was it used, that grass in the Straths grew positively as high as a man's waist where thousands of people used to live and bring up their families in comfort in days gone by. It was a most serious matter to find the population of the Highlands decreasing. The Highlanders were now driven off to the large towns, where, he was sorry to say, they were liable to became demoralised. Formerly a great many soldiers were drawn from the Highlands, but this could no longer be said. The colonel of a Highland regiment, speaking at a dinner at Inverness a short time ago, with tears in his eyes, deplored the fact that the greatest difficulty was experienced at the present time in getting Highlanders to join the Highland regiments. The late Secretary of State for War sent to the Highlands of Scotland the finest troop of kilted men he could put his hand on, on a recruiting expedition. They went up to the Island of Lewis with bands playing, colours flying, and pipes skirling; they spent many weeks there, and succeeded in obtaining only five recruits, one of whom had to be sent home to his mamma because he was under the prescribed age. The late Secretary for War, when questioned on this subject, admitted that the 530 obtaining of these recruits had cost the nation £100 each. That was not a very profitable undertaking, and the money might have been much more usefully employed in developing the resources of the country. The fact was that the people of the Highlands would not join the British Army because they had not been properly treated, and they would not join the Highland regiments so long as there was discontent and dissatisfaction at the treatment to which their people were subjected. If money had been expended in the Highlands, in opening up the country, providing roads and telegraphic stations, opening up communication, making boat-slips, piers and harbours, and furnishing facilities that would enable the fishermen to send the harvests of the seas to southern markets, it would have been much better employed than in making railways in Uganda, or in spending money in South Africa, or indirectly providing funds for the shooting of the Matabeles. In the last Report of the Fishery Board, the statement appeared that it would be impossible to over-estimate the advantages of an extension of the telegraph system to the more remote fishing localities. Referring to Stornoway, the Board declared that telegraphic communication had been of great service to the fishing community, and had contributed to the advancement of the industry. At present it was most difficult to obtain the consent of the authorities to the establishment of telegraph stations. After strenuous efforts, he had only been able to get three additional stations for Ross-shire in three years. Why was so much money spent on telegraph stations in England and so little in the Highlands? All-night sittings were not liked in the House; but if something more was not done for the Highlands than had been done in recent years, he should take every means of drawing attention to the grievances of his country. There was a district in Lewis inhabited by 2,000 people. There was not an inch of road in it, and no telegraph, and yet the people had to pay road rates! Another matter to which he desired to call attention was the question of steam trawling in the Moray Firth and on the Western Coast. More gunboat protection ought to be supplied within the three-mile limit; two additional vessels ought certainly to be dispatched to the Moray Firth. 531 The result of the encroachment by the steam trawlers was, that the line fishermen had been brought to the verge of starvation. He understood that there would be a surplus of upwards of £6,000,000 in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer this year, and that the Government was going to devote a large portion of it to the building of war ships and the supply of ammunition. He supported that policy with all his heart. He did not believe in the policy of the "Little Englanders"; but he maintained, also, that the whole of the surplus should not be used for this purpose. A portion of it should be utilised for the objects he had been advocating in connection with the Highlands. Where were the Government to get the men to man their ships; were they to be drawn from the slums of Whitechapel? The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Admiral Field) had stated the best men for the Navy were taken from the ranks of the line fishermen of the north of Scotland. The trawlers were, however, crushing and destroying the industry of these men and driving them into the towns. When an enemy was almost at our shores it would then be too late to alter our policy. He appealed to the Government to take measures now to redress these grievances, and to see that the Navy was well manned by men of good physique—men who could stand a good strain and of good fighting quality. This policy of neglect of the Highlands was a very serious one which he trusted would not be allowed to continue.
§ MR. J. CALDWELL (Lanark, Mid)
seconded the Amendment. He said it was not in any hostile Party spirit that this Amendment was being moved; it was being moved entirely in the interests of the Highlands. The case of the Highlands was very much like that in congested districts of Ireland, the conditions being practically the same. There a Unionist Government had introduced light railways and opened up communications with the view of facilitating the transmission of fish and other produce to market, and thereby improving the condition of the people. That was precisely what was wanted in the Highlands; and, surely, it was not unreasonable for Scotch Members, and especially Highland Members, to press the Government at 532 this stage for a declaration of policy? What was going to be done in regard to the subsidy for the Mallaig scheme? Were the Government prepared this Session to go forward with that subsidy? There was another proposal to subsidise a new line from Garne to Ullaport, having for its objective point the Island of Lewis, and he should like to hear an announcement with regard to that particular scheme. And a third idea was to make a light railway in Skye and also in Lewis, so that the fish, instead of going to waste, should be carried fresh to the London market, and also to the markets in the South of Scotland. The congested districts of Ireland had got upwards of a million of money, and the Highlands were entitled to same consideration. He believed the Unionist Government had really no desire to do other than justly to the Highlands in this matter. He knew the First Lord of the Treasury had deep sympathy with the scheme of light railways in the Highlands, and he regretted that he was not present to make a declaration of policy on behalf of the Government in this matter. These light railways were an advantage to all classes of the community. As in Ireland so in the Highlands, where light railways on roads existed, there was prosperity; and where there was none there was congestion. The subsidy generally granted by Government in aid of these light railways was given in reduction of local rates; but that would benefit the poorer classes in the Highlands very little. Half the subsidy went direct into the landlord's pocket, and of the remainder, the deer forest tenants and other large tenants got the lion's share. Telegraphic communication was especially necessary with regard to the centres of the fishing industry on the Western Islands, and that was why it was necessary in those cases to abrogate the ordinary requirements of a guarantee. As to the trawlers, there had been want of supervision by the local authorities, though the question had been pressed on successive Governments by the Radical Members. The Highland Question, indeed, was not a Party question at all. The supporters of the Government who stood as candidates in Scotland, declared themselves in favour of the extension of the Irish Land Purchase Acts to the 533 Scottish Islands and Highlands. How did the Government itself regard such a proposal? The remedies which had been supplied to the congested districts in Ireland ought, as far as they were applicable, to be extended to the Highlands and Islands.
§ MR. J. E. GORDON (Elgin and Nairn)
said, the House had now listened to two humorous Amendments to the Queen's Speech. He shared in the sentiments of the hon. Member for Ross-shire, but he did not appreciate his humour at that time of the night. His memory went back to August last; and when the hon. Member for Ross-shire threatened the House with late sittings, he would tell the hon. Member that they on the Government side of the House sat twice until early in the morning to vote public money for the Inverness Railway.
§ MR. GORDON
said, he thanked the hon. Member for his vote; but he did not thank the organisation of the hon. Member and his friends for defeating the policy of the Government in regard to that railway.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Sir CHARLES PEARSON,) Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities
said, that in the few minutes which remained he hoped he would be able to give some satisfaction to the hon. Members who moved and seconded the Amendment. He would begin by assuring the hon. Members that the opinions which had been expressed in recent times by those who had been described as Leaders of the Party in power, had undergone no change in regard to a policy of improvement for the Highlands of Scotland. He found himself a little at a loss to understand the exact position of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, for though their proposal professed to be an Amendment to the Address, and commenced with an expression of regret for an alleged omission from the Speech from the Throne, the main point involved in the speeches of the hon. Members turned upon the facilities in communication which it was desirable to introduce into the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Now, it happened that that very topic was prominently dealt with in the Speech. It 534 was true that the measure indicated in the Speech—namely, that for the construction of light railways—was to be applicable to the whole country; but had it come to this, that the Highlands were not to benefit except by special legislation? Surely the hon. Members must perceive that the proposed measure for facilitating the formation of light rail wars would be in a very special manner applicable to the Highlands of Scotland, and would facilitate communication in the ordinary fishing and agricultural occupations of the people. That being so, he thought there was no ground for an expression of regret that there was no reference in the Speech to legislation affecting those parts of the Kingdom. Then there was another topic dealt with in the Queen's Speech, which was applicable to Scotland. That was the measure for the amelioration of agricultural distress. Nor did he hesitate to describe the promised measure to consolidate and amend the laws of public health in Scotland, which will apply to the Highlands, as one of an ameliorative character. In regard to the suggested railway having a terminus at Mallaig, it was well known, as the House had been reminded, that it was the last Unionist Government that had originated the proposal; and it was through no fault of theirs that it had not been carried out during their term of office. The proposal was again mooted during the time of the late Liberal Government, and, for reasons to which he need not allude, it was not carried. He hoped before long that a definite announcement on the subject would be made on behalf of the present Government. At all events, it was under careful consideration, and he looked forward with some confidence to its being brought forward again in the House. In regard to what had been said on the subject of trawling, he would point out that that was a matter for administration and not for legislation. So far as he could gather, neither the Mover nor the Seconder of the Amendment had anything to say against the present Government as compared with the late Government, in dealing with this question. The Seconder had said that both Governments had failed to deal effectually with trawling. The present Government were, therefore, no worse 535 in that particular than their predecessors in Office; but he could say that there had been, recently, additions made in the force for looking after the line-fishing interest on the east coast of Scotland. The gunboats had remained on the station because it was necessary to prevent trawling within the three-mile limit. As to piers and harbours, no application for the money that was applicable to those purposes had been refused except upon purely engineering grounds; and surely the seconder of the Amendment would not have the Government commit themselves to the expenditure of public money upon schemes which were reported against by their engineering advisers. It could hardly be expected that telegraphic extension should be mentioned in the Queen's Speech, and he had no declaration of policy to make, because it was well known there was already a special grant of public money to be devoted to telegraphic extension, not under guarantee in the ordinary way, but in districts where it could not be expected that the Post Office would make extensions on commercial principles. Such extensions were made mainly in the fishing interest, and it had been made a matter of complaint that the fund was not made more generally available instead of being devoted specially to that interest. Within these limits he had every reason to believe that the plan had operated well, and development on the same lines would be continued during the present year. Therefore the Highlands were enjoying the benefit of exceptional treatment. As to roads, he sympathised with the hon. Member for Ross-shire in the complaint that there were parts of the Highlands which appeared to derive no direct benefit from the rates they paid; but several sums had been specially devoted to the county represented by the hon. Gentleman for the formation both of roads and footpaths, especially with a view to furthering the attendance of children at school, and he had no doubt but that that expenditure would be continued. How far the plan was capable of extension he did not know, but it was well known there had been experiments in the way of extending roads in the Highlands that had not been altogether successful. It was a difficult subject, but it was the duty of the Government to see that the money 536 laid out was thoroughly well spent in a business-like way. In conclusion, he submitted that no case had been made out for this Amendment and certainly none for the expression of regret that it contained.
§ Question proposed, "that those words be there added."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY rose in his place, and claimed to move "That the question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned"—(Sir William Wedderburn),—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow.