§ The PRIME MINISTER
I have detained the House longer than I had hoped. I trust I have succeeded in making plain the proposals of the Government. These are the lines upon which we ask Parliament to proceed in taking the first, the most urgent and the most momentous, step towards the settlement of the controversy which, as between ourselves and Ireland, has lasted for more than a century, and of a problem—and I lay great stress on this—which, even apart from the special circumstances of Ireland, has every year, year by year, become increasingly vital to the efficiency of Parliament itself. We maintain in this Bill unimpaired, and beyond the reach of challenge or of question, the supremacy, absolute and sovereign, of the Imperial Parliament. The powers which we propose to give to Ireland of taxation, of administration, of legislation, are delegated powers, but within the limits of that delegation they embrace at once, with the exception of the reserved services, all matters of local concern. If, as we believe will be the case, as certainly has been the case elsewhere, power carries with it a sense of responsibility that will give to the Irish people a free and ample field for the development of their own national life and at the same time bind them to us and the Empire by a sense of voluntary cooperation, and, as I believe, in sincere and loyal attachment. At the same time this Imperial Parliament will have begun to break its own bonds and will be set free by the process, of which this is the first stage, for a fuller and more adequate discharge of its Imperial duties. I read a speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Bonar Law), delivered to an audience in Belfast early in the present week. I gather from that speech that he can see in all the proposals of this Bill, and in the attitude and action of the Government in regard to it,Nothing better,1425 to use his own words,than the latest move in a conspiracy as treacherous as has ever been formed against the life of a great nation.He tells us, and he told the people of Ulster—The present Government turned the House of Commons into a market place where everything is bought and sold.He added—In order to remain for a few months longer in office, His Majesty's Government have sold the Constitution.We have sold ourselves. This, Mr. Speaker, is the new style.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Presumably because of the completeness of the contrast which it presents to anything to which they or we have hitherto been accustomed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Limehouse."] This is all very well for Ulster, but what about the House of Commons?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Am I to understand that the right hon. Gentleman repeats here, or is prepared to repeat on the floor of the House of Commons—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Let us see exactly what it is: It is that I and my colleagues are selling our convictions.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
We are getting on with the new style. The right hon. Gentleman said that I and my colleagues are selling our convictions—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That we are producing a Bill which the right hon. Gentleman said, elsewhere in the same speech, does not represent our views—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
In order that for a few months longer we may cling to office. Does he really believe that? What have I to gain? [An HON. MEMBER: "Office."] What have my colleagues to gain—[An HON. MEMBER: "Office"]—by a transaction to purchase for us—
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
To purchase for us a short further spell of the burdens and responsibilities which we have borne in very difficult and troublous times, now for the best part of seven years, at the price of surrendering our convictions and soiling for all time our personal and political honour. How many people, I wonder, in this House really believe that? We put this Bill forward as the responsible advisers of the Crown as the embodiment of our own honest and deliberate judgment. What is your alternative? [HON. MEMBERS: "Tariff Reform."] Are you satisfied with the present system? [HON. MEMBERS: "Quite."] Were you satisfied with it two years ago? What do you propose to put in its place? Have you any answer to the demand of Ireland—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes"]—beyond the naked veto of an irreconcilable minority, and the promise of a freer and more copious outflow to Ireland of Imperial doles? There are at this moment between twenty and thirty self-governing Legislatures under the allegiance of the Crown. They have solved, under every diversity of conditions, economic, racial, and religious, the problem of reconciling local autonomy with Imperial unity. Are we going to break up the Empire by adding one more? The claim comes this time, not from remote outlying quarters, but from a people close to our own doors, associated with us by every tie of kindred, of interest, of social and industrial intercourse, who have borne and are bearing their share, and a noble share it has been, in the building up and the holding together of the greatest Empire in history. [An HON. MEMBER: "Cheering our defeats in South Africa," and another HON. MEMBER: "Did Lynch do that?"] That claim no longer falls on deaf ears. There has been reserved for this Parliament, this House of Commons, the double honour of reconciling Ireland and emancipating herself.
§ Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the provision for the Government of Ireland."1427
§ Sir EDWARD CARSON
I do not mind in the least if I am accused of adopting what the Prime Minister calls the "new style" if I say that, in my opinion, and I think there will be many both in the House and outside who will agree with me, more ridiculous or fantastic proposals than those which have been so clearly outlined by the Prime Minister have never been put before this or any other Parliament. I am one of the survivors of the old fight in 1893. I am sorry I have not got the energy I had then, but while the proposals of Mr. Gladstone were difficult and complex, the proposals that we have heard made here to-day are, as I believe will be shown in the course of the Debate we will have, absolutely unworkable and ridiculous. The new Senate, the great safeguard of that contemptible minority which I attempt to represent in this House, is to be a nominated body. That is a Radical proposition. Any such proposal as that is a deliberate insult to this House of Commons. What is the use of it? Nominated by whom? Nominated, I suppose, by the Imperial Government. Will it be nominated, or could it be nominated, against the wish of the hon. Members who will be retained in this House, and supported by a Parliament in Dublin which you yourselves created? The thing is fantastic. It is worth nothing, like all the other safeguards that you have put forward. Take the safeguard of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that he is adding anything by putting that into the Bill? He knows well it adds nothing. It is put there merely as a picture, merely as something of a palliative for those who have some conscience left. I do not think there are any such words in the British North American Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "There are."] They add nothing there to the Act.
This Parliament which passes an Act has an inherent right necessarily to alter or change or repeal any Act that is passed. Therefore these and the other great safeguards put there, and announced by the Prime Minister, are simply delusions. At all events, they are nothing to us. We care nothing about them. I rise at the earliest moment to say that, so far as I am concerned, I oppose even the introduction of this Bill, and I do so for this reason, that I gather—and with me, at all events, this is the main principle that I have to consider—I gather that we will no longer have in Ireland the protection of an Executive which is responsible to this Parlia- 1428 ment. That is what we have now. That is what this country invited us to have. That is what we loyally accepted, that is what, with those matchless phrases but I do not think always with great sincerity, the Prime Minister now asks us to abandon. The Prime Minister waxed very warm and eloquent over the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition at Belfast the other day. I shall put a question in a moment to the Prime Minister. We are now here opposing a policy which has been twice rejected by the electorate. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO, no," and HON. MEMBERS: "Only once," and HON. MEMBERS: "Twice."] It has been twice rejected by the electorate. More than that, it is a policy which has been rejected upon the only occasions upon which it was ever put into concrete form. The late Duke of Devonshire said, and I think said very truly, speaking on the Home Rule Bill in 1893:—Before this measure is passed into law we have a right to demand that the judgment of the country shall be given not upon a cry, not upon an aspiration, not upon an impatient impulse, but upon a completed work, and that this measure, the result of the collective wisdom of the Government and Parliament, shall be submitted for the approval of the country aye or no.The Prime Minister is angry at being charged with selling us to the Irish party. I ask him this question: Is he going to allow this Bill to be submitted to the electorate? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Will he assert in this House that that Bill which he outlined to-day before this House has even been approved of by the electorate? It was the details of the other Bills that were rejected. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not the principle."] I am on the question of submitting the Bill to the country at the present time. It was the details of the Bill that were rejected. The details of this Bill are far worse for England, and, in my opinion, are far worse for Ireland, but that is not all. What is the moment at which you are bringing in this Bill? You are bringing it in while the Constitution of the country is in suspense. You are bringing it in while the lying Preamble remains unrepealed. We believe that you passed that Bill, and certainly that you got the Irish assistance—the Irish Nationalist assistance—to pass it for the purpose of passing Home Rule while the Constitution was suspended. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite cheer that. If that is true, every word that was said by my right hon. Friend as to the disreputable bargain is true also. You cannot plead 1429 now that you have no time to carry out the Preamble of the Parliament Bill. [Several HON. MEMBERS: "Parliament Act."] Parliament Act—if hon. Members opposite get a little comfort from the fact that it is an Act. You cannot plead that you have no time, because you are at the present moment entering upon this controversy, which not only sets up two new Houses in Ireland, but smashes this House in this country and for the United Kingdom. The truth of the matter is that, so far as this Home Rule Bill is concerned; you are compelled to do what you are doing by the necessity of retaining the Irsh votes in this House. That is a matter that is demonstrable. As long as you had a majority independent of them we heard nothing of Home Rule. It was then, as I think the Prime Minister called it, an abstract or academic question.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
On the contrary. In the Parliament to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, a Resolution in favour of Home Rule was moved by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) and supported by me on behalf of His Majesty's Government.
§ Sir E. CARSON
That is what I call an academic question. They did not bring in a Bill. No; on the contrary, they said that the proper policy and the one they believed in was a Council Bill. Why did they bring in a Council Bill if they believed in a Home Rule Bill? Are they ever genuine? They brought in a Council Bill; the Council Bill was submitted to an Irish Convention; and the Irish Convention rejected it. Then, of course, they toed the line, and we heard no more of the Irish Council Bill. It was not the House of Lords who threw it out; it was something far more important to the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite; it was the Irish Convention. The great Government of England, with the largest majority that any Government has ever had, bowed the knee to the Irish Convention. Then they say, forsooth, that they have always acted upon the highest motives and with the greatest independence, and they repudiate even any kind of transaction or bargain for the sake of votes.
Since these proposals were last before the House, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, a great deal has happened in Ireland. Nearly twenty years have passed. Yes, but all that has passed has 1430 gone to show how right we were and how wrong the Government of the day was. The right hon. Gentleman has asked what is our alternative. Our alternative then was to maintain the union and to do justice to Ireland. That has been done with results which, I venture to think, so great have they been in the direction of the prosperity of Ireland, could not have been contemplated by even the most optimistic Member of this House of either party. On the other hand, what about the finance of both those Home Rule Bills? Is there any man who, having gone into the subject, will deny what was stated the other day at a meeting of the General County Councils Assembly in Ireland by Mr. Ellis, one of the witnesses before the expert Committee, namely, that of the finance of 1893 had become law in Ireland, Ireland would long since have been in a state of bankruptcy? Surely after twenty years it is something for us to stars with this, that you were demonstrably wrong and we were demonstrably right. What has been done since then? County councils have been set up in Ireland. I am not prepared to join in the panegyric which the right hon. Gentleman has pronounced about them. I think that if he knew a little more about them he would not have been so lavish with his praises of them. The University question has been settled. Primary education has been enormously improved. Above all, land purchase has been brought not to completion—because you for your political purposes have checked it—but a sum of some £115,000,000 raised upon British credit has been either paid over or agreed to be paid over under the land purchase system. Where would all that have come from if Home Rule had been granted in 1893?
I go further. What are now the outstanding grievances in Ireland? I know of none. I do not say that there are not many things to be remedied there as there are here. Primary education is one of them. But it will want money, and the way we are going to get money—I hope Irish Members will go down and candidly say so in Ireland—is by taxing lane subject to instalments, and, I suppose, by taxing the industries in the North of Ireland. I noticed an emphatic phrase of the Prime Minister that the Irish Parliament will have the power of taxing everything. That is a pleasant outlook. I shall deal in a few moments with the argument about Ireland not paying its way, but before I do that I should like, because I do not think 1431 its importance can be exaggerated, to say a few words more about what has happened under Unionist policy in Ireland since the last Home Rule Bill was rejected. Take a speech made by Lord MacDonnell on 29th November. He said:—Within the last eight years he had seen marvellous improvements in the state of Ireland. He had seen confidence growing up. Men looked them in the face. Men were no longer afraid of the future. He put that down not to taxation of this or that; he put it down to land purchase, the first great remedial measure that had been introduced He himself was a Liberal; but counting the measures that had been introduced into Ireland in the last twenty years, the great majority had been introduced by the Conservative party. They would give them credit for that. From Mr. Balfour's time in 1891 up to the present day there had been a succession of great things. Consequently they must admit that however Ireland might have suffered in the past, the day of her regeneration had already dawned.The Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture a short time ago said:—People talk about poor Ireland, but I have the opinion that relatively Ireland is doing quite as well as any part of the Empire.I will not trouble the House by going into figures to show that prosperity. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted it. But if anybody likes to go into the matter they will find that, whereas we were always being taunted in the old Home Rule discussions about the illiberality of this country towards Ireland, about the want of development in Ireland and the poverty of her citizens, the one boast of every Irishman now, whatever his political creed may be, is the advancing prosperity of his country and the progress that her citizens have made. It is that moment, when Ireland was progressing—to use the words of the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture—as fast and as greatly as any other portion of the Empire, when confidence was largely restored, when great differences were dying down, when men of all creeds were meeting each other in a spirit that, I think, has never existed there before—it is that moment that you select, before even these measures of which I have been speaking have reached their full fruition, to pack Ireland into the melting pot of discussion and the melting pot of all those political and religious passions which have in the past so distracted her from true economic progress and co-operation. I was surprised at the Prime Minister's claim to-day about the cost of Ireland to the Exchequer of the United Kingdom. I think his argument was a false one, and, if I may say so without wishing in the least to say offensive things—[Several HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, 1432 hear."]—if you like, I will say them—I think the argument was a foolish one. What was his argument? Of course, I know what he was leading up to. He was leading up to this: Taking the finance of Ireland, he had to announce to this House that in getting rid of Ireland, or, rather, in putting Ireland "on its own," so to speak, in the new Parliament, this country would have to give her a free Grant of £2,000,000 a year. That is what it comes to; also that for ever this country would give up the power under any circumstances, or under any difficulties, of ever again taxing Ireland for any contribution. I do not envy the Prime Minister who ever tries to do it. When you start with this state of finance, when you advance £2,000,000 a year over which you are to have no control, and you are to ask for no contribution, either towards Imperial purposes or the National Debt—not forgetting always that you took over the National Debt of Ireland in 1817—or towards the upkeep of the Empire! The Prime Minister affects to think—of course he does not really do so—that it is the same thing to give away £2,000,000 a year to Ireland over which you have no control, as Ireland being deficient £2,000,000, when Ireland forms a part of the United Kingdom, and you have control of everything. I venture to think that argument will not stand a moment's examination.
What is the object of the United Kingdom? As I understand it, it is that all parts of that Kingdom should be worked together as one whole; under one system, and with the object that the poorer may be helped by the richer, and the richer may be the stronger by the co-operation of the poorer. If you were to take certain counties in England at the present moment—I shall not name any, as it might seem invidious—and work out what their contribution to the United Kingdom is, you will find that many of them do not pay for their upkeep. Is that a reason that they should be deprived of that upkeep? No; and I say this further, that a worse, a more foolish, and a more impossible policy it would be impossible to inaugurate than to suggest that either Ireland, or any other part of the United Kingdom, whether large or small, should be allowed to go back in the race of progress, and civilisation, and not to be kept up to the same standard as you yourselves, or as near thereto as possible. The whole of this argument is based upon a fallacy, 1433 because the moment you make a common Exchequer you have no right to segregate any unit paying into that Exchequer towards local or Imperial upkeep. As Ireland pays exactly the same taxes as Great Britain pays, you have no right whatsoever to segregate her. It is not true in argument to say that Ireland contributes nothing at the present time to the Imperial upkeep.
There was one observation made by the right hon. Gentleman to which I must reply somewhat. He says, as I understand, that this Bill is to be the precursor of similar devolution to the other countries of the United Kingdom. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is cheered. We also know that a Resolution was passed by this House—a pious Resolution supported by Members of the Government—calling upon the Government, in the same Parliament, to pass a scheme of Home Rule for Scotland. I am not sure whether poor England was mentioned at all! Just let us look at this for a moment. We are told there was a mandate for this Home Rule Bill at the last Election. I believe that to be false myself; but take it so for the moment. Was there a mandate for Home Rule for England? Was there a mandate for Home Rule for Scotland? I believe the whole of this question as regards the giving of "Home Rule All Round"—as you call it—or Federal Government, to be absolutely hypocritical as regards this argument. It is put forward simply for the purpose of pretending that you are only giving to Ireland something that, you would also give to England and Scotland. You have not the least intention of doing any such thing. You may as well put it in your Preamble; we will then know it is false. I remember all this same pretence years ago. Why, twenty years ago, there was even a Scottish Home Rule Association got up. What has it done for the last twenty years? Has it ever produced a scheme?
§ Sir E. CARSON
What about Home Rule for England? You will see in a moment how important it is to take the thing together. If you are going to have 1434 a federal system, if that is really your view, you are now laying the foundations of these Bills—if you are doing anything at all! Was there a mandate for this at the last Election? Was there a mandate for Home Rule for England? Where are the offices of the English Home Rule Association? Let me in this context try to deal with the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. He says this is to be the foundation of Home Rule all round, including Home Rule for England. The only reason he gives as to why it should be granted is because there is a majority of Irish Members in favour of it, and the congestion of business in this House. Very well. But mainly, he says—and this is the unanswerable argument—it is because a majority of Irish Members are in favour of it. Will the right hon. Gentleman refuse it to England if a majority of the English Members are against it, or, as at the present moment, even against this beginning? How do you know you are ever going to have a majority of English Members in favour of English Home Rule? If you do not get it, are you going to force it upon them? Are you going to do exactly the opposite to what you say you are going to do as regards Ireland? If you are going to act upon the principle that you have laid down, this separatist doctrine, with regard to the majority, and taking each of the three Kingdoms in this way, is the only country that is never going to get Home Rule to be England? And what becomes of your pretence that this is the basis of a great system of devolution all round, for which you have never had even a majority of the constituencies of the country, which you say is necessary before you enter upon it? There, is even more than that. If you are going to rely on giving federal government, you must give it in one measure, or you must have it at one and the same time. For this reason: what is the first thing you will have to do? The first thing you will have to do is to lay down what is to be the Imperial system of taxation, not as regards any one of the Kingdoms, but as regards all; secondly, you will have to lay down not the relations of one of them, but the relations of all of them to this House, or rather to the Imperial Houses; thirdly, you will have to lay down the relations of each of them to the other. Have you done that? Why have you not? Because you are only pretending. I go further.
Does the right hon. Gentleman really tell this House that he is going to have 1435 Home Rule all round? Does he say that until the other Constitutions are completed the Irish Members are to be here dealing with the local affairs of England and Scotland, and England and Scotland are to have nothing to say about the local affairs of Ireland? No. If you were in earnest you would have these schemes, whether brought in in one Bill or three all operating together. I will put it to the test. I will ask the right hon. Gentleman a question which will test his sincerity upon the subject. Will he agree to hang up this Bill until he has framed the others? Of course he will not. Do hon. Members think he would be allowed? The truth of the matter is that all this is simple hypocrisy. When you are granting to Ireland this system, which is said to be part of the federal system, there is really behind it a much deeper matter than the right hon. Gentleman has dealt with. Before you can grant a federal system at all you must make up your mind as to what is the demand, the real demand, of Ireland. Does Ireland demand national independence—"Ireland a nation." Is that her demand? If it is, what has a federal system to do with it? It is inconsistent. You say: "We cannot grant you national independence. It would not be safe for this country"—though I do not know how that operates upon the argument as to yielding to the majority of Members—"we cannot have a second independent nation, such as Canada is, practically at our doors." How much of the feeling I have mentioned do you satisfy by the federal system? Nothing. All you do by your federal system—and indeed there is a great deal of confusion of thought upon this matter—is to give a larger and a greater power to the new Parliament—that is to Ireland, than ever it had before; a power which I believe—and which I think time will show—is irresistible if those concerned persist in their demands in the direction in which they are going—that is of national independence, of "Ireland a nation"!
Just picture what you are setting up. Do picture it in relation to the complicated system of taxation you are setting up, and which I venture to think will not last six months, and try to realise what it is that will then happen. Just think of the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer bringing in his Budget and explaining to an Irish House of Commons mainly composed of agricultural Members that it is 1436 necessary to raise more money, and that it must come from the land, or if he had the power, which he never will have, from the industries of Ulster. What will be his argument? He would tell the Irish House of Commons, "This is a very bad system; you have got your instalments to pay to that brutal English Government; they have reserved that to themselves. You have got a great many other taxes to pay, but the one thing we are not allowed to set up is a system of taxation which we know and believe would be best for our own country. We cannot help it. It is the brutal English Government that has done this." You will not find everybody at that time with all sorts of pleasant death-bed repentances like the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, and then in addition to that you will have your forty Irish Members over here. I doubt if you will have one who will be on the side of England. I do not know why you should. You will have your forty Irish Members over here probably holding the balance between both parties in this House, and they will be asking you not paltry questions about a post office at Ballaghadereen or some other place, but they will be directing your serious attention probably to an outbreak against taxation in Ireland which has all been caused by the artificial system of taxation you have set up, and by your partial gift which only gives power to ask for more. That is all you are doing by setting up a federal system. Lord Derby in 1887 wrote this, which is mentioned in the Life of the Duke of Devonshire:—I hold, and have held fill along, that there is no middle course possible. If Ireland and England are not to be one. Ireland must be treated like Canada or Australia, All between is delusion and fraud.Yes, Sir, and delusion and fraud is what you are adopting. But whatever limitations you put into your Bill, and whatever reservation and whatever limitation of taxation you make in your Bill, believe me once your Bill passes you will have no power on earth to resist. Will the Irish Members tell us that this is going to be accepted as a final settlement? I venture to think that not one of them will. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford himself was the Member who got up when Mr. Gladstone's "final settlement" was passing its Third Heading, and told us this:—As the Bill now stands no man in his senses can regard it as a full, final, and satisfactory settlement of the Irish question. Sir, the word 'provisional,' so to speak, has been stamped in red ink across every page of this Bill.1437 I venture to say in addition to the word "provisional" the word "fantastic" will be found on every Section of this Bill. Anybody who has watched the movement in Ireland will see that at the present moment, even before your Bill is brought in, there is an outcry against the very limitations you are attempting to impose by it. The hon. Member for East Mayo said in 1904:—I say deliberately that I should never have dedicated my life as I have done to this great struggle if I did not see at the end of this great struggle the crowning and consummation of our work in a free and independent nation.What has that got to do with Federalism? We have had very little discussion of the Bill by English Ministers during the autumn or up to the present. I imagined the reason was they did not know what they would be allowed to put into the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty made a speech at Belfast, and that speech was adopted, as I understand it, by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. Two or three days afterwards one of his followers, the Member for North Meath, said this:—On the question of legislative freedom he noticed that Mr. Churchill was silent, but that was no reason why they should be silent. Wherever Irishmen met they must declare they would not be satisfied with anything short of a free and unfettered Parliament. Irishmen had always maintained that Ireland was a nation, but Mr. Churchill was somewhat inconsistent, for subsequently he said the Imperial Parliament could repeal a Bill passed by the Irish Parliament. Was there any free Parliament in the world that would allow an outside Parliament to repeal its laws? If the Irish Parliament is to be dominated by the English Parliament, and if the English Parliament has power to repeal a law which is passed then that Irish Parliament would only be a sham, and in less than twenty years the people of this country will find themselves worse off than they are now.The extraordinary part of it all is that we are always being told we ought to trust the Irish Nationalist Member. I believe myself it is only in trust, if you can trust them, that any guarantee counts at all. But on what ground are we asked to trust them? Upon the ground that we ought not to believe a single word they have ever said. Now the right hon. Gentleman took some time in developing the guarantees that we are to have. There is not one of them worth the paper it is written on. There can be no guarantees of an administration unless you have confidence in the Parliament to which that administration is to be responsible. The Executive is everything. It is idle to tell us that the Lord Lieutenant is to exercise his veto. Is it upon the advice of his Executive in Ireland or is it upon the advice of the Cabinet in England? Is it upon both, or 1438 is it sometimes upon the one and sometimes upon the other? What a farce it is to tell us you are going to establish a Parliament, and all the paraphernalia of an independent Executive, answerable alone to that Parliament, and the moment anything arises you are to send over hereto Downing Street and say, "Stop the Parliament you set up! Stop the nominated Chamber you yourselves have nominated! Override the Lord Lieutenant, and tell him to set at nought your Parliament and your nominative Chamber!
What a position for any country to be in. No, Sir, the veto of the Lord Lieutenant is worth nothing. Instructions from His Majesty are worth nothing in this Bill "to bring about better relations; and for the better government of the two-countries." And just think, the Lord Lieutenant is to hold office for six years; he cannot be changed when there is a change of Ministers in this House, and he is to receive his directions from the Government of the day in power. The next Government, coming in a few days afterwards, can upset every one of them. What other guarantees are there? If anything is done ultra vires you can go before the Privy Council in England. That is a good thing to tell a man who feels that he has been unfairly dealt with: "What grievance have you—you man in a dockyard or in a factory? Go before the Privy Council of England?" No, Sir, the guarantees are valueless. I do not often agree with the hon. Member for East Mayo, but he said this, speaking in November last at Salford:—Then there was the question of guarantees. The Irish party were asked if they were willing that guarantees should be inserted in the Home Rule measure to protect the Protestant minority. He attached no importance to those guarantees at all. He did not believe that artificial guarantees in an Act of Parliament were any real protection.That is why they have allowed the Government so profusely to put them in. Let me take one example of what I me in by administration throwing over any guarantees even under our present system. You passed the University Bill. It was a Bill which Nonconformists opposite were very careful to see had safeguards against it being turned into a denominational Bill. I was under no such delusion. I remember seeing posted up somewhere on one of your organisations, or some place that was in sympathy with you, a document giving a list of your great aims, and bearing the statement that this was the greatest Protestant Parliament that ever existed since the time of Cromwell. That 1439 was a great boast, and it did them great credit to pass that Bill; they took great are that there should be safeguards in it to prevent its being turned to denominational purposes. And to follow this you must remember that the Bill provided that county councils were allowed to give scholarships to the University, and what is the first thing they did? Did they care about your safeguards? Here is what Cardinal Logue said:—No matter what obstacles the Nonconformists of England may have inserted in the constitution of the University to keep it from being made Catholic we will make it Catholic in spite of them.6.0 P.M.
I am not blaming him. I am only calling attention to the fact. Then what becomes of your scholarships? When you have made the University Catholic the county councils give the scholarships, but they tell you they will not allow them to be held unless you go to that University because it has been made Catholic. What becomes of your elaborate provision that they are not to be allowed to endow any religion? They will tell you that there will be no open persecution. Of course not. Nobody suggests that anybody will go and shoot a man because he is a Protestant or a Catholic or vice versâ. That is not the way it is done, and nobody is afraid of that. That is the kind of thing they represent us as being afraid of. No, Sir, it is the working of the institution for political or for religious purposes and objects, and that no guarantee set up by any Parliament can prevent. What we may look for, too, can be seen by the threats that have already been made. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), speaking last October when he wanted to put pressure on certain landlords to compel them to sell their land, said:—I tell these men that the sands in the hour-glass are running out fast. Home Rule is coming and we will get it whether they like it or not, and when Home Rule has come and there is an Irish Parliament sitting in Dublin I do not think they will get English Ministers to trouble themselves much about their woes in future. They will make their bed with the people of Ireland and, be it short or long, they will have to be on that bed. It is better for them to make friends with their own people while there is yet time.Yes, we know what "making friends" means. No wonder that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), who has taken so great an interest in land purchase and who was a party to the bargain that has been so disgracefully broken, said in relation to that speech that once the Unionists, aye, or the Liberals, got it into their heads that an Irish Parliament would produce 1440 the hell upon earth foreshadowed by Mr. Dillon there would be an end of any Home Rule Bill for years. It is not possible for me on a Motion of this kind to examine all the various proposals that have been indicated by the right hon. Gentleman. I have taken the matter in a general way. All through the Prime Minister's speech I have asked myself what are the benefits that he indicates to Irishmen, and I have not heard one. Does he think his complicated finance will make it easier to raise taxation in Ireland? Does he think the separation of the poorer and the richer country will benefit the poorer country? Does he think that in Ireland, in a country torn asunder unfortunately by religious dissension and by very grave political differences, the withdrawal of England as the arbitrator between the two will bring about a better state of things? No, Sir. I at all events represent here a minority only and I admit it, but it is a minority which has always been true to the United Kingdom.
Some people say this is really a religious question. I do not see if it is that it is any less to be considered or any less important on that ground. But, Sir, it is a religious question added to various other questions. There is no doubt that the broad dividing line in Ireland in relation to this question of the Home Rule Bill can broadly be said to put on one side the Protestants, and on the other side the Roman Catholics. I know there are some Protestants, not many I think, who are Home Rulers, just as there are some Catholics, a great many I think, who are not Home Rulers. It is unfortunate that that should be the dividing line, but it is there and you cannot neglect it. The reason this is the dividing line in my opinion is an historical one. In my opinion it is the dividing line, because Protestantism has in history been looked upon as the British occupation in Ireland. It is the dividing line, because when you attempted to bring home to the people the principles of the Reformation, you did not succeed in Ireland as you did in England and in Scotland. There remains, however, the dividing line, and I would like to know when a statesman takes up a question he has to solve with that line there, what argument is there that you can raise for giving Home Rule to Ireland that you do not equally raise for giving Home Rule to that Protestant minority in the north-east province? I believe there is none. But in. addition that minority which is there 1441 gives an answer to the argument of the failure of the rule of the United Kingdom Parliament in Ireland. The success of Belfast, which has grown from 15,000 or 16,000 people before the Union to a population of 400,000 or thereabouts, the success of the surrounding counties, not at all the most prolific or the most fertile in Ireland, give the lie to those who say that it is English misrule in Ireland, as they call it—though why it should be called English I do not know—that has prevented the other parts of Ireland attaining a similar state of prosperity. Those are the men at all events that I represent here—the men whom you invited into your Parliament when Pitt passed his Bill.
§ Sir E. CARSON
You had better not talk of bribery. [An HON. MEMBER: "We shall talk a great deal of it."] I do not think there needs much to be said about bribery since the corruption of last year on the Parliament Bill, when you were prepared to buy votes for peerages. You had then a little less to say for corruption, because that was done at your bidding. The Unionist minority in Ireland were invited into your Union. Reading Mr. Gladstone's speech the other day I noticed he said that they were the men who opposed the Union. Sir, that seems to me to be the strongest reason why you should not now turn them out of the Union. You ask them into the Union and they asked to be left out. They came in and they got satisfied under your rule, and became loyal, and because they did, now you tell them to go out. Sir, that is a policy of cowardice. Where is the precedent in the whole of history for any such action by a Parliament—a Parliament turning out a community who are satisfied to stay under their rule. We used to hear of Norway and Sweden, but that argument has gone, and gone in the direction which it necessarily must go, when the tendency is for separation and not for union and co-operation. We, at all events, in this matter have a plain and a ready duty before us. It is to oppose this Bill with all the energy we can at every stage and at every moment that it is before the House. That is our duty. We believe it to be an unnecessary Bill. We believe it to be a fatal Bill for our country, and an equally fatal Bill for yours, and, above all things, we believe it to be involved in the greatest series of dishonourable transactions that have ever disgraced any country.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
Whatever views may be entertained by hon. Members for or against this Bill, as described to us by the Prime Minister, everyone will agree that this is a great historical occasion, and that the subject we are called upon to discuss is a vast constitutional and Imperial issue. Such a theme deserves from opponents, as well as from supporters, calm and serious discussion. It may possibly be considered the interest of some people in this House to engender passion in debates and to endeavour to overwhelm the issue by personal attacks and by insulting and irritating references to the nationality and the cherished aspirations of the Irish people. But I would like to say at the commencement of these discussions that, so far as my hon. Friends on these benches are concerned, we will not be tempted to retaliate, and I can assure the House that, so far as we are concerned, we will enter on these discussions with a heavy sense of responsibility, and will conduct the Debate, so far is we can, with self-restraint and good temper. I have held for a very long time that as a rule First Reading Debates are more or less futile. Until hon. Members have in their hands the print of the Bill, no matter how great and lucid the exposition of it may have been, it is impossible to have anything except something very much in the nature of a futile discussion, and I think one of the earliest reforms in the procedure of this House in the future ought to be to abolish First Reading Debates altogether. But, with reference to the right hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat, this consideration is scarcely a disadvantage at all. He is not in the position of a man objecting to this Bill because of its details; he stands as an opponent to Home Rule in any shape or form. He said the other day in Belfast that if both parties in this House united to carry a Home Rule Bill, in fact, if the House of Commons were unanimously in favour of it with the exception of the half of the representatives of Ulster, he would be opposed to it. He stands therefore not as a critic of the details of the Bill, but as a root and branch opponent of Home Rule in any shape or form. Although, as the Prime Minister has reminded us, a little over a year ago a number of prominent Unionist politicians in this country and many leading Unionist organs of public opinion were seriously discussing the possibility of making Home Rule, under some different name, perhaps, part of a general settlement of the Constitutional question, 1443 and although undoubtedly there are many Members in the Unionist party to-day of the same opinion, still, so far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, he takes up the clear and frank position that under any circumstances, no matter what the majority of the United Kingdom in favour of Home Rule may be, he will oppose it so long as he has at his back a certain number of the representatives of the constituencies in Ulster.
I will not delay the House by any academic discussion on the principle of this Bill. The principle of devolving on local assemblies the management of local affairs has at its back the sanction of the whole world. It has at its back the sanction of the Empire. Why, it is the foundation of the Empire to-day, and it is the bond, and the only bond, of union. I think it is true to say that no community of white men within the Empire has ever asked for this right, and up to this has been refused the exercise of it. The right hon. Gentleman let fall a phrase, the exact meaning and significance of which I do not appreciate. He endeavoured to draw a clear line of demarcation between those whom he represents and the rest of the people of Ireland, and he said, if it is right to give Home Rule to the rest of Ireland, is it not right to give it to Ulster? Is that his proposal? Is that his demand?
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
I would like the proposal to be made first. I did not appreciate the importance of that statement, and I do not know that I do now. I do not know whether it is a statement in the air or whether there is anything behind it, but, under the circumstances of this case, the onus undoubtedly lies upon those who argue that what has proved to be good and just everywhere else in the world is bad and unjust and mischievous in Ireland. What are the main arguments against the principle of self-government for Ireland? The first of them is the question of separation, and Unionist orators, especially in the country—I notice more in the country than in this House, where they are face to face with their opponents—have constantly been saying that the Irish people want separation, and that the Irish leaders are separatists. I will be perfectly frank on this matter. There always have been, and there is to-day, a certain section of Irishmen who would like to see separation from this country. They are a small, 1444 a very small section. They were once a large section. They are a very small section, but these men who hold these views at this moment only desire separation as an alternative to the present system, and if you change the present system and give into the hands of Irishmen the management of purely Irish affairs even that small feeling in favour of separation will disappear, and, if it survive at all, I would like to know how under those circumstances it would be stronger or more powerful for mischief than at the present moment. It is constantly said that the late Mr. Parnell was a separatist in disguise, and it is one of the commonplaces of the platform of this country that I am separatist in disguise, and that my Friends are all separatists in disguise. Of course, when an assertion of that kind is made, as far as I am concerned, I can only deny it. What is Mr. Parnell's record on this matter? In his evidence before the Parnell Commission on 1st May, 1899, he said:—I have never gone further, either in my thought or action, than the restitution of the legislative independence of Ireland,and in 1886 he specifically accepted as a final settlement of that demand the concession of a strictly statutory subordinate Parliament for Ireland, and that acceptance by him was endorsed by the mass of the Irish people. I came across the other day a really interesting statement by him, made quite early in his career when he was engaged in a violent movement in Ireland, when time had not mellowed his views or turned him into what might be regarded by Englishmen as a matured statesman, and when his views naturally would be more vehement than they were later in his life. What did he say? He said:—Home Rule would be the introduction of a system which would remove the rankling sting of suppressed but not extinct enmity. Give back to Ireland her nationality, her individual existence, and soothe thereby the wounded pride that goes for so much in history, and that often turns the scale in the destinies of nations as well as of individuals. Such a system as that—Mark these words—would teach Ireland to regard Imperial affairs with interest, as being the concerns no longer of a master and oppressor, but of a dear colleague and sister, whose honour and dishonour would be alike hers, whose downfall could never be her profit, and to whom she would be bound by ties sacred because voluntarily assumed. It would be a system that would de facto though not de jure be an intimately closer union than England has yet brought about by six centuries of coercion, or than she could bring about by six centuries more of the game method.That was not made at a time when Mr. Parnell was endeavouring, as it is said I am endeavouring to-day, to cajole public 1445 opinion in England into giving Home Rule to Ireland. It was made years before Home Rule became a reality in this country. It was made when fighting against both parties in this country, and I cite those words to show that Parnell was never a separatist, and that his evidence before the Parnell Commission was absolutely true. We on these benches stand precisely where Parnell stood. We want peace with this country. We deny that we are separatists, and we say we are willing, as Parnell was willing, to accept a subordinate Parliament created by Statute of this Imperial Legislature, as a final settlement of Ireland's claims. If I might be allowed to say so, I was extremely gratified and relieved to find that the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken put the religious aspect of this question in a very different way from that in which I am sorry to say it is put from the platform, and in leaflets and pamphlets. As far as we are concerned, we in Ireland regard no insult as so grievous as the insult that we, as a nation, are intolerant in matters of religion. We believe that your Protestant Unionist historian Lecky told the truth when he said that was never a characteristic of the Irish people all through their history. We believe the testimony of John Wesley, who, after his journey in Ireland, recorded in his journal, that he was received everywhere with kindness, and who spoke in the highest terms of the tolerant spirit of the Catholics of Ireland. Still, there are, we admit, Protestants in Ireland, and in this country who do not believe that, and who, many of them apparently, entertain honest fears upon this matter. Our position on that point is this: We say, "put into your Bill any safeguards you like." There are many safeguards in this Bill; and it is idle to tell the House of Commons or to tell any sensible man that these safeguards are of no use. You have got your nominated Senate.
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
Nominated, in the first instance, by the Imperial Parliament. Then, there is the safeguard of the veto, a most far-reaching safeguard. The right hon. Gentleman apparently thinks the veto makes this Bill such a sham and a fraud from the Nationalist point of view that it is not worth our taking. What free Parliament in the world, he says, would submit to it? Every free Parlia- 1446 ment in the Empire is subjected to it. Is it not trifling with the House of Commons to say that we must regard as a humiliation to us and as a degradation to our Parliament, a provision with reference to the veto which is in operation in every one of the self-governing Colonies? [An HON. MEMBER: "IS it exercised?"] Yes, and exercised. It has been exercised, and it would be exercised to-morrow, if anything in the nature of an unjust and intolerant Bill attacking people because of their religious faith were to be passed, and so it will be exercised in Ireland, and so only. No one suggests that veto will be exercised every day in the daily life of the Irish Parliament. Of course, if it were, the latter state would be worse than the first, and the whole system would break down. I say it is a safeguard to the Protestants and to those who really have a fear for their property or their religion. Any Bill interfering unjustly with them can be reserved for the decision of the King in Council here on the decision of the Imperial Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman did not allude at all to the Clause which the Prime Minister read out, and which expressly forbids—making any law interfering with the free exercise of religion, or endowing or giving any preference or privilege to any religion or making any religious belief or religious ceremony a condition of the validity of any marriage in Ireland.Any law made in contravention of these things would not have to be vetoed by the Crown at all. It would be void by itself. Then, behind that, there is the inherent and inalienable supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. This Parliament has the power to pass legislation for every one of the self-governing Colonies. It has the power to repeal any of their Bills It has the power to pass concurrent legislation. It will have the same power here, and no more. And how, in the name of common sense, anybody can say that the small minority in Ireland—and that minority is a very small minority—can entertain really honest fears under these circumstances passes my comprehension. The right hon. Gentleman went into the question of finance, and said, "You are not only giving Ireland the management of her own concerns, but you are asking England to pay £2,000,000 a year to enable her to have that privilege." You are doing nothing of the kind. You are paying £2,000,000 a year, more or less, at present for the privilege of misgoverning us, and of keeping Ireland discontented and dissatisfied. This financial business is worth considering for a moment. When 1447 the first Home Rule Bill was introduced in 1886 Mr. Gladstone was enabled to provide an Imperial contribution of three and a quarter millions sterling. Seven years passed, and when he introduced his second Home Rule Bill he found he was only able to provide an Imperial contribution of two and a quarter millions. The contribution has been a decreasing contribution for many years. Its history is extraordinary. In less than a century Ireland has contributed to the upkeep of the Army and Navy, in addition to paying out of her own taxes the whole of her own cost, a sum of £325,000,000 sterling, and it is an extraordinary thing that, during the famine years in Ireland, from 1846 onwards, Ireland was still contributing, although you were sending money over to keep her people from starvation, something like £2,000,000 a year to the upkeep of the Empire.
Mr. Gladstone warned England what would happen. In his speech he distinctly pointed out that this contribution was a diminishing quantity, and, if Home Rule were refused, it would speedily disappear. I think he said it would do so in fifteen years, and, as a matter of fact, in practically fifteen years, it has disappeared. You are not asked to finance the Government. You are not asked to pay anything in addition to what you are paying already, or what you will be paying if this system goes on for the next two or three years. I therefore think myself, from the financial point of view alone, that this Home Rule Bill ought to commend itself to the judgment of the people of this country. But, after all, is not that a rather unworthy standpoint from which to view a question of this kind? Is it not an unworthy standpoint for a great, powerful, and wealthy country like England to take up? Think what it cost to settle the Transvaal. You forgave them a loan of £30,000,000. You gave them £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 sterling for other purposes. I say nothing about what you spent on the war, but if, instead of £30,000,000 the sum had been £300,000,000, do you think there is any Englishman who will say it was not worth it in order to have cemented the races as it has done and turned South Africa into a loyal portion of the Empire? It is unworthy the people of this country to talk in this way about terms. If Home Rule is unjust and wrong, refuse it; if it is just and right, what consistent argument can you put forward which is founded upon 1448 the question of a few paltry pounds, shillings, and pence? I want to pass from this general subject to the proposals of the Bill. The House will naturally expect to hear from me some definite views upon those proposals, and upon the Bill as a whole. Take, first, the case of the nominated Senate. I personally have for many years taken the view that, from a democratic point of view, a nominated Senate, nominated not for life but for a short term, is a far safer body than a Senate elected on a narrow franchise. The late Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, who was one of the most experienced men in the working of free institutions in your Empire, was a standing object lesson of the value of Home Rule in his own person, because, having been tried for treason in Dublin, he went to the other end of the world and became one of the most loyal, wise, and honoured statesmen of the Queen in Australia. In a remarkable pamphlet, issued a few years ago, he said:—Nomination and not election is a method by which a Upper House is commonly chosen in free countries. Teuton, Celt and Magyar, Catholic and Protestant, large and small States, hare equally preferred deliberate selection to the hazard of the hustings. Senators are nominated in Italy, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Prussia, Portugal, Bavaria, and several smaller States, and among British Colonies in Canada, New Zealand and New South Wales. In Victoria, where they are elected, there has been an intermittent struggle for five-and-twenty years by the elected Upper House to exercise financial powers which on principle and by nearly universal practice are reserved for the popular Chamber.Only the other day, and this will interest hon. Members on the Labour benches opposite, we had a most extraordinary instance of the danger of an elected Upper Chamber—elected on a narrow franchise. It occurred in Australia. In South Australia the Labour party was returned to office and introduced a number of what, seemed to them and to a large majority of the elected Members valuable measures. They were all rejected by the tipper elected Chamber. Then the Labour Government dissolved Parliament and came back a second time with a majority and sent their measures up again. Again they were all rejected, and then they introduced and passed a Parliament Bill, like the one passed here last year. They sent that up, and that was rejected. They had no Royal prerogative to fall back upon, and the result was an absolute deadlock. That is an instance which I give to my hon. Friends opposite of the danger of an elected Upper Chamber when it is on a narrow franchise, and it is a proof, I submit, that a nominated Upper Chamber is more valuable.
1449 Let me take another point. Let me say a word on the reduction of Irish Members at Westminster. On this question of—I will not call it federalism, because that is a word which is very much misunderstood—on this question of local bodies managing their own affairs at home and sending local representatives to this House I personally have a perfectly consistent record. In the Debate on the Second Heading of the Home Rule Bill in 1886, when a proposal to exclude all the Irish Members was made, I stated in my speech that while, of course, I agreed, as Mr. Parnell had agreed, to accept it, I only agreed with great reluctance, and I said I looked forward to the time when if Irish Members were entirely excluded they would be called back in very fair numbers to take part as representatives with other portions of the United Kingdom in what would be a real Imperial Parliament. I entirely share the hope and belief of the Prime Minister that this Bill will be the first great step in a movement which will end by giving local control over local affairs to the other parts of the United Kingdom. But until that is completed I admit the presence of Irish Members here in any numbers is an anomaly. Your Constitution is full of anomalies and full of inconsistencies, which is worse. The point I want to make is this that until the system is completed you must have a certain amount of abnormality in your proceedings here. What is the best way of dealing with it? The best way is that taken by the Government in reducing the numbers. For my part, they might reduce them considerably more. I would not complain. On this question of reduction of the Irish Members may I remind the House that Mr. Parnell was willing in 1886 to have no Irish Members here, although such serious questions, as the police and the judiciary, were reserved to this House; and when Mr. Gladstone changed his mind and decided that the Irish Members should be here Mr. Parnell took the view that they ought to be here in small numbers. I was reading the other day an extremely interesting statement made by him in a published letter on 5th February, 1891. It was when he was having an unfortunate controversy with Mr. Gladstone and the Liberal party. He said:—But within the last twenty hours, information of a most startling character has reached me from a reliable source. It will be remembered that during the Hawarden communication, the one point upon which the views of the Liberal leaders were not definitely and clearly conveyed to me, was that regarding the question of the retention of the Irish Members at Westminster. It was represented to me that the unanimous 1450 opinion was in favour of permanently retaining a reduced number, thirty-four, as the symbol of Imperial unity but not with a view of affording grounds, occasions, or pretexts for Imperia interference in Irish national concerns, it being held most properly that the permanent retention of a large number would afford such grounds.And he goes on to say:—But from the information recently conveyed to me it would appear that this decision has been reconsidered and that it is now most probable that the Irish Members in their full strength will be permanently retained.From that point of view we certainly have authority for the position we take up—in order to meet the anomaly which will exist and prevent a manifest injustice by calling on Irishmen to manage their own affairs and come over here in such numbers as to dominate your affairs. We desire to be here only under such condition as to make it practically impossible for us to govern decisions on Scotch, Welsh, or English Bills. We are only brought here at all because, pending a final settlement, it is necessary that this symbol of Imperial unity should be, at any rate, maintained. On the question of finance I desire to express my strong opinion that this is a far better Bill than either the Bill of 1886 or that of 1893. As I understand the Bill—the Prime Minister will correct me if I am wrong—the Irish Exchequer will have at its disposal the proceeds of all existing Irish taxes, and the balance between that amount and the expenditure on Irish services—that is to say, the deficit—will be met, and over and above that there will be a surplus of £500,000 a year. The Customs and Excise Duties, I understand, are to be fixed, in the first instance, on Imperial authority, but once they are fixed by Imperial authority, if I understand the Bill properly, they may then be abolished or reduced or increased by the Irish Parliament. In fact, Ireland will not have the power to put Customs or Excise Duties on any articles that do not bear such duties in this country. But she may decide for herself within certain limits as to some taxes, and without limit as to others, the amount of those duties and increase them to any amount, so far as the Excise on beer and spirits is concerned, and under certain limitations with regard to other articles, old age pensions, insurance, land purchase, the cost of Land Commission, are to remain an Imperial charge. Old age pensions, insurance, land purchase, and the cost of the Land Commission remain an Imperial charge, the Irish Parliament having the option of taking these charges. That is an important point, 1451 the option of taking over old age pensions, the charge still remaining an Imperial charge, but the Irish Parliament being able to take advantage of any savings in the administration which she may be able to effect, and until the deficit has been worked off by means of the increased prosperity and increased taxation of the country, this country will continue, at her own cost, to collect the taxes, but when there is an equilibrium between the expenditure and the taxation then this new Board—the Joint Exchequer Board—will make a report, and some machinery will be devised whereby an arrangement can be come to, by agreement between the two parties, as to the future, whereby we get back the collection of almost all of the taxes, and some Imperial contribution will be fixed for Ireland in the future, and, in addition, Ireland has authority to put on any new taxes she likes.
On the question of Land Purchase, I listened very carefully to what the Prime Minister said, and I would like to say to him and his colleagues that, so far as the Land Purchase Acts are concerned, we fully and completely accept the principle that the Imperial Government must have the most absolute security for the payment of the loans advanced under those Acts. We believe that this principle involves the consequence that Ireland cannot claim powers to legislate as to the terms on which those loans are to be raised, or in any way whatever to interfere with the security for those loans. Subject to these two principles, I have no doubt that it must be quite easy to come to a satisfactory arrangement as to the administration of the Acts. I must not delay the House by going further into the question of police or the question of the judges; we shall have plenty of opportunity for, I hope, frank and friendly discussion of these matters in Committee. What I want to say is this, that, viewing this Bill as a whole, I say here—and in what I say I speak for my colleagues on these benches—it is a great measure, and that it is a measure adequate to carry out the objects of its promoters. It is a great measure, and we welcome it. This Bill will be submitted to an Irish National Convention, and I shall, without hesitation, recommend to that Convention the acceptance of this Bill. I say of this Bill what Parnell said of a Bill which was far worse in my opinion, the Bill of 1886. 1452 Here are the words he used regarding that measure on the night of the First Reading:—The Prime Minister has truly said that it ought not to proceed unless it is cheerfully welcomed not only by the Irish Members, but by the Irish people. I cordially agree in that proposition, and I am convinced …. that it will be cheerfully accepted by the Irish people and their Representatives as a solution of the longstanding dispute between the two countries, and that it will lead to the prosperity and peace of Ireland and the satisfaction of England.On the Second Reading of the Bill, after discussion had gone on all over the country about it, Mr. Parnell said this:—I now repeal what I have already said, on the First Reading of the measure immediately after I heard the statement of the Prime Minister, that we look upon the provisions of this Bill as a final settlement of this question, and that I believe the Irish people have accepted it as such a settlement.I beg leave to apply every syllable of those two statements on behalf of my colleagues and myself to this Bill. If I may say so reverently, I personally thank God that I have lived to see this day. I believe this Bill will pass into law. I believe it will result in the greater unity and strength of the Empire; I believe it will put an end once and for all to—[An HON. MEMBER: "Cattle-driving"]—the wretched ill-will, suspicion, and disaffection that have existed in Ireland, and to the suspicion and misunderstanding that have existed between this country and Ireland; I believe it will have the effect of turning Ireland in time—of course, it will take time—into a happy and prosperous country, with a united, loyal, and contented people. I well remember the night when the Home Rule Bill of 1886 was introduced to this House. It seems to me only yesterday that there stood at that box the venerable figure of that grand old statesman, who, with an eloquence that moved every heart of friend or foe alike, extended the hand of friendship to Ireland for the first time; and it seems only yesterday to me that the figure rose up of that great Irishman whose work had made the scene of 1886 possible, and whose career has made this scene of to-day possible, and who accepted the proffered hand of friendship, and accepted the Bill. These two great figures have disappeared, but their spirit dominates this scene to-day; and the memory of these two great men will be for ever cherished in the grateful hearts of their countrymen respectively in England and in Ireland.
Twenty-six years afterwards, to-night, another Prime Minister, with magnificent power and eloquence, has again extended the hand of friendship to Ireland; but under what happier auspices! No one can 1453 realise better than he himself how happier the auspices are to-day. Since 1886 the two peoples have learned to know each other far better. Ireland to-day is peaceful beyond record. She has almost entirely, I believe, cast aside her suspicions and her rancour towards this country; and England, on her side, is, I believe, to-day more willing than ever she was in her past history to admit Ireland, on terms of equality, liberty, and loyalty, into that great sisterhood of nations that makes up the British Empire. Have Members of this House read the cabled messages which were published in the papers of London this morning? One paper publishes a whole page of them from the leading statesmen of every one of your self-governing Colonies—from Canada, from Australia, and last, but not least, from General Louis Botha—all in favour of Home Rule for Ireland, and giving their blessings to this Bill and encouragement to the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it. In addition, there is this happy auspice, that England has witnessed that great experiment, to which the Prime Minister referred, of self-government in local affairs in Ireland; and England has admired the wisdom and efficiency of the Irish people in the management of their own local concerns. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Sir E. Carson) threw some doubt upon the efficiency and good working of those boards. If it were worth while, I could read to him the testimony of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham), the testimony of Mr. Gerald Balfour, and in addition to that, I could read to him the Reports of the Local Government Board for Ireland year after year, showing that the conduct of these boards has been efficient and pure, and I could quote the figures showing that on the whole in Ireland their work has been economic and has led to the reduction of taxation. Therefore, I believe that the right hon. Gentleman to-day is introducing this Bill under far more happy auspices; and the portents, in my belief, point in the direction of a settlement now of this Irish question. I pray earnestly that this Bill may pass; that it may achieve all the objects which its promoters have in view; and that, in the beautiful words of the prayer, with which the proceedings of this House of Commons are opened every day:—the result of all our counsels may be the maintenance of true religion and justice, the safety, honour and 1454 happiness of the King, the public health, peace and tranquillity of the realm, and the uniting and knitting together therein of the hearts of all persons and estates within the same, in true Christian love and charity.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD
Although I am sure that it is the desire of most Members of this House to see the details of the Bill, leave to introduce which has been moved this afternoon, it is necessary at this stage, that certain general observations should be made. Details we can discuss later. For instance, there is the whole question of safeguards. We cannot tell whether these safeguards are adequate or inadequate until we have them on paper before us, but I am bound to confess that I am one of those who do not believe that safeguards of any certain efficiency can ever be put into an Act of Parliament. A safeguard depends upon public opinion and common intelligence. There is not the least doubt that unless that common intelligence and public opinion are both sound, safeguards on paper are of very little effect. One of the reasons why I am going to support this Bill at every stage is that I am profoundly convinced that its effect upon the people of Ireland will be such that safeguards will really become unnecessary, that you will have a people, both in the north and the south, who will know each other so well that social co-operation will become as the very breath of their lives, and that to the differences that now unfortunately lie between them this Bill will give a final and decisive answer. With reference to the question of a nominated Senate,, if we are going to have a Senate at all—which I do not think is necessary—I think I agree with my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. John Redmond) that on the whole a nominated Senate is more democratic than an elected Senate. [Laughter.] I will tell the hon. Gentleman who laughs why. Because the nominated Senate then becomes an adjunct of the elected body, and a nominated Senate is far nearer to Single Chamber Government than an elected Senate. Our experience in our own self-governing Dominions supports that view. The right hon. and learned Gentleman told us that very interesting story about South Australia, but he began at the wrong end of the story. There were many years of struggle between the Labour Government with Mr. Price at its head and the reactionary minority in the Lower House, and the reactionary majority in the Upper House on the extension of the franchise, and I myself saw a most extraordinary scene in the 1455 Lower House, when Mr. Price, returned with a majority after a general election, forced through in three-quarters of an hour with the consent of the Lower House, the minority being so beaten that it did not object to it, a Bill altering the franchise upon which the other House was to be elected. That Bill was carried, but even with that lower and broader franchise the second elected Chamber was still so reactionary and so out of touch with public opinion that the crisis lasted and the struggle went on, and then the story comes in where the right hon. and learned Gentleman began it this afternoon.
Surely it is perfectly true that were there no Ulster—were there no North-East Ulster—there would be no opposition to Home Rule for Ireland. The various objections that the right hon. and learned Gentleman made from the other side are all duplicated in our Imperial affairs. There is nothing simpler, and at the same time there is nothing more futile, than to begin picking logical objections to a Constitution. There is no Constitution on the face of the earth which will stand a logical examination, and no Bill purporting to do what this Bill is going to do will stand that examination. What we have to do in examining these Bills and estimating their value is to take our experience, and I am quite certain there is not a single objection to the details of this Bill which has been taken to-day which will stand the test of experience. They have all been experienced, they are all working in some place or other, more particularly within our own Empire, and they are all just as good as can be devised in this very imperfect world. But the fundamental position, and that is why my colleagues are going to support this Bill heartily and thoroughly, is that the whole of our Empire is based upon self-government. If our predecessors had not been wise enough to establish local self-government for Canada, for New Zealand, for Australia, and more latterly for South Africa, there would have been no Empire in existence at present. The whole of our Empire would have crumbled to dust, and it would have been the prey of disruption and invasion and everything that we contemplate now with horror. To-day we are being asked, and we are going to support the request, to allow the Prime Minister to introduce a Bill which will do for Ireland what wise statesmen have done in years gone by for more remote parts of this 1456 Empire. There is not a single self-governing Dominion in this Empire but has officially passed a resolution declaring itself in favour of Home Rule. Those personal and private opinions published in the "Daily Chronicle" this morning are weighty and important, but not nearly so weighty nor nearly so important as the resolutions which have been carried time and time again in open public session by the representatives of our kith and kin over the sea, who are proud to belong to our Empire because it is a self-governing Empire.
We all welcome the hint thrown out by the Prime Minister that this is only a beginning. We know with him that you cannot hasten too much in this matter. Nothing will make this Bill more acceptable to the outside public than the knowledge that it has been drafted in such a way that when Scotland is ready, when Wales is ready, and when England herself is ready, they may have the same measure of justice and common sense meted out to them. Therefore, we will support all these consequential details, like the retention of hon. Members opposite in this House, which really adumbrate the extension of the principle and the final formation of a real Imperial Parliament representing the Empire and not merely the home country. Moreover, there is another reason. It will be of enormous benefit to Ireland. Hon. Members who talk simply about land purchase and peace and prosperity, more or less doubtful, miss the whole point, I think, about Ireland. There was a point in the Prime Minister's speech which really brought this home to us. He reflected, quite truly, that whilst those of us who sit as representatives of British constituencies are subject to very considerable fluctuations in our political fortunes, hon. Members opposite have got very safe seats—so safe, that I think the Prime Minister said 80 per cent, of them are here without having spent a brass farthing on a contested election. I think that is very bad for Ireland, and it is very bad for my hon. Friends opposite. It is very bad for every section of the country to be so lost in its own separate existence that it is not conscious of the great waves of political and social opinion which are washing and rewashing across the other parts of the country with which it is connected. I think Ireland has everything to gain and nothing to lose by the establishment of parties within it that represent 1457 not merely national aspirations, important and essential as these were whilst they were in doubt, but parties in Ireland which will represent economic differences and differences in political ideals, parties in Ireland which will split up my hon. Friends opposite, some on those benches, and I fondly hope and believe some on these benches; but this will never happen to Ireland. This enormous improvement in the conditions of Irish politics cannot possibly take place with a Bill such as is going to be introduced after this Debate is finished, when it has gone through this House and the other and become part and parcel of our Constitution.
The same thing will happen to this country. It is all very well for hon. Members opposite to talk about the Government being kept in by Irish votes. I do not think they would object very much to the same servitude themselves. At any rate, I have heard of Irish votes being cast for Conservative candidates during election, and I think the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition is not quite innocent in the matter. Without going to the extreme of the new style of expressing myself which he has adopted, I think I am not going far astray in the decencies if I say that when a man who was a candidate exploits the Irish vote to make him a Member, and then becomes a Member—and let us assume a Prime Minister—he is not going to develop conscientious objections against using and exploiting the Irish vote in keeping him in office. I think that is good logical reason, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir E. Carson) would not object to. But, again, I think that is bad for this country. I think it is very bad for this country that there should be any block of electors in any considerable number of constituencies which give or withhold their votes, not primarily for reasons which are of any political interest, but for reasons which relate to one corner of the country and to one section of the country, and to one political cause only. I want to see the Irish labourer, whose lot in this country, goodness knows, is perhaps the hardest of any, to be released, knowing that his country is safe so far as his nationality is concerned, to use his political influence in order to improve his social condition here, and to see that those Members who represent him in this House, those candidates who try to get his vote in the various constituencies serve him, not merely as an Irishman, but as a wage-earner who is subject to all the pains and 1458 penalties of a wage-earner in Great Britain.
But there is something I cannot help referring to regarding Ulster itself. There in Ulster you get an illustration of exactly the opposite kind. Whilst in other parts of Ireland you have all natural political divisions eliminated and all natural social divisions eliminated, and the one thing that a loyal and patriotic Irishman cares for is Irish nationality; in Ulster you get something different, more particularly in Belfast. In Belfast, which has beer held up to us this afternoon as a rich and prosperous and powerful city, and as a great example of the beneficence of English rule in Ireland, you get labour conditions the like of which you get in no other town, no other city of equal commercial prosperity from John o'Groats to Land's End, or from the Atlantic to the North Sea. It is maintained by an exceedingly simple device. When a slum landlord is cleared out he becomes religious. Whenever there is an attempt to root out sweating in Belfast the Orange big drum is beaten, and the men and women who are suffering in these mills from wages that cannot enable them to keep body and soul together, immediately go, one section on one side of the road and the other section on the other side of the road, and one section dresses itself in green and the other in yellow, and they forget all the real problems and those who beat the big drums and arrange for the beating of them go on sweating the people. I shrewdly suspect from a fairly intimate first hand knowledge of Belfast politics that whilst the poor working classes imagine that this is a religious trouble the people who pay the piper know perfectly well that it is an economic trouble and Belfast prosperity shared so little by the great mass of the wage-earners of Belfast, and more particularly the poor women wage-earners, would be far more real and solid, and far more fruitful in the lives of the whole of the Belfast population than it is now if we could only get a Bill like this which will bring these two sections together when they are face to face with their responsibilities for social, factory and workshop legislation in a Parliament sitting in Dublin and responsible to Irish opinion.
As a matter of fact it is impossible now to raise the furious passions which were raised twenty-six years ago. There are various reasons given for that, but I will give one that has not been mentioned. The party to which I belong once assaulted 1459 Belfast. In that attempt we were beaten, but a defeat is very often more fruitful than a victory, and there is not the least doubt that in the assault we made on Belfast we did open the eyes of workmen there against religious bigotry being made the sole cause of political partisanship, and one of the reasons why the Queen's Island men cannot be roused to the old fury that used to characterise them is that the wage-earners of the Queen's Island are beginning to understand why they used to be trotted out to break the heads of their Catholic fellow-workmen. Let Catholic workmen and Protestant workmen in Belfast quarrel and fight as much as they like upon their religion as religious men, but as politicians and as citizens let them come down to the solid bedrock of real social fact, and then they will not be in opposite camps. They will be in the same camp, and that is precisely what those who are going to oppose this Bill are most anxious to prevent. This is another attempt at reconciling Ireland, opening out to that country modern political influences, and establishing in it modern political conditions. It is another attempt to increase the stability of the British Empire. These attempts are being made by going on the very simple, sound, and well-established-by-experience principle of giving self-government to people in order to make that people contented and united to the Empire to which they belong. I believe this House will once more declare to the world that it believes in self-government, and I believe it will declare most emphatically to Ireland that it desires to give that country an opportunity of working out her own destinies in co-operation with the Empire—working them out upon her own racial and historical lines. When that has been done, Ireland will be no longer discontented, but one of the most happy and peaceful corners of the whole British Empire.
§ Viscount CASTLEREAGH
The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) has been endeavouring to infer that there is no real fundamental opposition to the question of Home Rule in Ulster. I hope he does not hold that opinion, because if he had had the opportunity, as I had of being in Belfast in the course of the last few days, he would have seen clearly and decisively how real, deep, and earnest is the feeling among the population of that city, and he would understand to the utmost their opposition 1460 to any attempt of the present Government to make inroads upon the Union which now exists between England and Ireland. He made a very interesting speech in which he told us that he and his followers were proposing to support the Bill as brought in by the Government. He did not support his argument by very profound reasons, if I may be allowed to say so. He certainly told us that all historical analogies were in favour of this measure. I shall endeavour to demonstrate that on that question he is entirely in the wrong. But with respect to this measure which the Prime Minister has brought forward I venture to say that he has made out no case whatever for introducing a great fundamental change of this description. I may say that I personally regret the introduction of the measure more than I can very well express. I regret it because at this period of Irish national history, when we see all those difficulties under which Ireland has suffered for a century disappearing one by one, and being effaced from the political slate, the Government bring forward this measure for granting Home Rule, which merely acts as a disease upon the body politic and postpones indefinitely the great settlement to which Ireland is rapidly coming.
The question I should like to ask the Government is this: Is this the method which they believe to be the best one for introducing a great fundamental change of this description when we consider that the South African Constitution was brought about by the joint advice of all parties concerned? How is this measure being introduced? It has been considered by the Government and by some Irish Members—by a section of individuals who hold one set of political views—and it is to be forced upon an unwilling community in the North of Ireland. I say that of all methods of bringing in a measure of this description, that is the worst that could possibly be devised. I have not had the opportunity which the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) has had of knowing exactly the provisions which are going to be included in this Bill. At first sight there are three objections which come to one's mind. The first is that it is only by common consent that a measure of this kind can be introduced into a country. The second is that you are introducing this system of government with the ultimate object, as we are told, that it should be extended to other portions of the United Kingdom. It is obvious that this measure should be brought 1461 forward in conjunction with the other measures which are to apply to other portions of the United Kingdom. The third objection to the introduction of the measure is that the Government cannot possibly escape from the accusation that they have brought it in under necessity and as a question of expediency. To my mind the main objection to this Bill is that it is a retrograde step. It is entirely in opposition to the process of modern civilised development as we have been able to see it in different portions of the world. The tendency of modern development is to bring closer together rather than to make division between countries or communities.
If we consider a measure of this description as a half-way house between complete unity and complete separation, it must be obvious that the great and important factor is the question from which direction you are approaching this half-way house. It appears to me that the tendency must be to go from unity, whereas if we take the Colonial analogy we see that under the system of Federal Government which exists there those countries have come from disunion towards the half-way house, and from a system of government in which there has been no cohesion whatever. It must be obvious that that is a step towards unity and towards what is the natural tendency in all civilised communities. The Colonies, to my mind, present no analogy whatsoever, and I was very surprised to hear the hon. Member for Leicester refer to the expressions of opinion which come from the Colonies in respect to the granting of Home Rule to Ireland. I think this is an internal matter which affects us in this country. Just as we have no desire and no intention to interfere with the affairs of Colonial Governments, so in the same way I say these Colonies and Colonial Governments have no right to interfere with our arrangements in this country. If to-morrow any one of the self-governing Dominions were to announce that they had no desire to remain inside of our Imperial Federation, we should be only in the position of regretting it. We should have no power whatever to say to them that we intend that they should remain within our Imperial Federation. But Ireland is in an entirely different position from that. In future, under the separate Parliament which is to be instituted, if the people of Ireland should then say that they desire to be a separate country from this one—if, in a word, they carry 1462 out the prophecies expressed by so many of the supporters of Home Rule for Ireland, we are in a position to say to them that they cannot under any circumstances be separated from us, and that they are bound to us for reasons of great importance. By no means the least of those reasons are perhaps strategical reasons. It is impossible for us to have lying on our flank in the way of the trade routes by which we receive our supply of food what may possibly be a hostile country.
In engaging in this question I may say that I perhaps have a personal and special interest in it from the fact that I am connected by ties of relationship with one who I may claim to have taken a leading part in bringing about the union between England and Ireland. I need hardly say I am proud of that connection, because I believe when the union between England and Ireland took place it was impossible that any other state of affairs could have taken place in 1800. I am certain that the Union was the sole solution of the question, and that if only Ireland is allowed to continue as she is doing at the present moment we shall see that the results of the Union have been very beneficial to Ireland and also beneficial to this country. There is, perhaps, one regret which I may mention, and that is that this question has made an immense chasm between myself and a great number of the leaders of a certain portion of public opinion in Ireland. I always think that the enmity is on their side and not on mine, because I am perfectly convinced of this, that until those individuals who sit behind me realise the necessity for hearty co-operation of the different sections, races, and creeds in Ireland the real prosperity and real success of Ireland must be indefinitely postponed.
The attitude of the Government on this question is, to a very large extent, under the suspicion that they have brought in this measure as a matter of expediency. We have heard the old phrase of being compelled to toe the line. I believe that that really expresses the situation. On the two previous occasions on which a Home Rule Bill was introduced the Government were in exactly the same position. They were depending on the Irish vote for their position on the Treasury Bench. Now, on the third occasion, they are also in the same position. So it is impossible to relieve them from the suspicion of acting merely from considerations of expediency, and merely for the purpose 1463 of paying a price which they have run up during the time they have been in power. There is one very conclusive proof of that. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister endeavoured to show that this Bill embodies convictions in which he has long believed, and that it is absolutely necessary for the stability of the Empire that Home Rule should be passed. He has been in power since 1906 and until 1912 there has been practically no mention whatever of Home Rule. It is true that in the early days of his administration there was a scheme known as the Irish Councils Bill, and it is very hard to reconcile the views of the Government, as expressed in that Bill, with the convictions which the Prime Minister now professes. The fate of the Irish Councils Bill is now a matter of history. It was rejected with contumely, not by the House of Lords, but by the Irish Convention in Dublin, and we heard no more about it. Now, in 1912, the Government put forward this measure. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Birrell), who is now on the Front Bench, will tell us that the Government have held those views with regard to relieving Ireland from the injustice of the present system; but I shall be interested to hear how he will explain the fact that during these last seven years, and until the Government were dependent on Irish votes for the maintenance of their position, there was practically no mention of this great measure of self-government there. I go further, and refer to the last General Election, when no mention whatsoever was made of granting Home Rule to Ireland. Electors in this country were kept in entire ignorance of the measure which the Government proposed to introduce; and it was not until half the Members of this House had been elected that, in answer to a chance heckler, the Prime Minister went so far as to say that he was in agreement with the Home Rule Bill.
The main reason which we have seen given, in all the speeches of the Ministry, with respect to the granting of Home Rule for Ireland, is that it will relieve the congestion of business in the House of Commons. I say that to put forward, as a reason for such a great fundamental change as this, the plea that it will relieve the congestion of business in the House of Commons, is a miserable reason to give to a civilised nation. The congestion of business in the House of Commons we have seen relieved during the last 1464 few years. We have seen Committees set up which deal in a far more comprehensive manner with measures before them than is the case with measures which come before the House, and I have no doubt that there is a great possibility of extension in that direction. But to say that Home Rule, which affects the liberties of a great portion of the community in Ireland, must be given to relieve congestion of the House of Commons, is a travesty of the manner in which Government should be carried on. I have very little hope that I shall be able to convert hon. Gentlemen who represent Nationalists in this House; but I would like to say a few words to hon. Gentlemen who represent constituencies in this country, and I am sorry to think that there are not more of them in the House at the present moment. We take a vital interest in this question. We feel that it is one in which our liberties are involved to a very large extent; and what we feel is that hon. Gentleman who represent English and Scottish constituencies do not consider this question in the correct perspective. They look on it as more akin to a drainage Bill or a railway Bill; and they go further, and say, "If only this Irish question is removed from politics, we shall have the field open for bringing in those measures of social reform in which we believe." But this is not a settlement of the Irish question. By acceding to the request of the importunate widow, by which I mean the Nationalist party, you are not going to remove the Irish question from the field of party politics. You are only going to accentuate all those difficulties which exist at present in Ireland. When you have once granted Home Rule, the next step that you will have to take will be to bring Ireland once again under the Imperial rule.
I would appeal to hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House, who look on this question as a tiresome one and one to be got rid of as quickly as possible, to consider it on its merits. I know the arguments which have been put forward that there may have been some substance in the contention that the Union should have been brought about in 1800, because then there was in Ireland a population of eight millions and in England a population of fourteen millions, and it was therefore expedient at that time that you should unite Ireland to England. But at the present moment, although there is a small population in Ireland and a very large population in England, that does not alter, front 1465 the strategical point of view, the question of granting Home Rule to Ireland, and when we are told that England overshadows Ireland, and that by the merest threat Ireland would be reduced to subjection, I say that that is a poor argument on which to grant self-government to Ireland. With respect to the views of the Nationalist Members in this House, their contention all during the last century has been that self-government should be granted to Ireland for the purpose of giving expression to a separate nationality. They have endeavoured to say, "We in Ireland are a separate race from you, and for that reason we should be allowed the management of our own affairs." There may be some substance in that argument if you desire separation altogether, but to have a separate nationality subsidised by strangers is a situation which I do not sec how they can maintain. They supported their argument as a separate nationality by saying, "If only you will make it agreeable to us to manage our own affairs, we will remove all these difficulties under which Ireland exists." In the course of the last century we have seen all those difficulties, which they assured us could be removed only by the granting of Home Rule, removed one by one from the sphere of politics, and at the present moment we see Ireland a prosperous and prospering country under the Union. I do not want to quote figures, but the great index by which hon. Gentlemen opposite can be guided is the savings in the Post Office Savings Bank and also the trade of Ireland which, during the last few years, has increased by leaps and bounds. All these things go to show that Ireland under the Union is prospering as it never prospered before, and by means of the great Land Act of 1903 we have seen the great agrarian problem, by which Ireland has been torn from top to bottom during the last century, vanishing before our eyes; and now Nationalists come to this House and simply ask for Home Rule not for any reason—for all those reasons have been swept aside—but, as they say, to give expression to their separate nationalities.
If there is any force in the argument that expression should be given to a separate nationality we must realise that there are two races and two creeds in Ireland, and the same argument which urges the Government to grant to Nationalists the self-government which they desire must also give force to the argument that self-government should also be granted to 1466 the individuals who live in the north of Ireland. We do not want that government; we want to remain under the rule of this country, as it has existed for the last hundred years, and I would make an appeal to all hon. Gentlemen in this House to realise that under the Union Ireland has prospered, that she has gone through difficulties and distress, and although there were moments during the past century when perhaps even its stoutest supporters might have said that the Union was a great political blunder, yet here we are seeing the achievement of all our ideas. We are seeing all the prophecies which were proclaimed by Statesmen in the earlier part of the century come to the fruition which it was said they would come to. We see a prospering prosperous Ireland. We see agitation dying down, and it would indeed be dead if it were not kept up by the hon. Gentlemen who sit on these benches behind me. We see that Home Rule is now merely a war cry, and I would urge on all hon. Gentlemen who say that they have the prosperity and welfare of Ireland at heart to realise that it is only by cooperation and by mutual assistance in our own country that we can carry out the great ideals which we have in view; and it is not by forcing a form of government on an unwilling section of the people that you are going to achieve the great ideal by which alone Ireland can come to prosperity.
§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
I agree with the remark that this Debate is only the beginning of a prolonged and bitter war between British parties in this House, and it is the duty of all Irishmen to avoid adding any element of personal bitterness to the passions and recriminations that are already raging around us. I listened with a good deal of pain to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) and to his explanation of his position, the extraordinary and misguided position that he has taken up. The Prime Minister certainly delivered a memorable speech and one worthy of this theme. Whatever the ultimate fate of this Bill may be, I cannot conceive of any Nationalist of any type, of any school, who will not approach its consideration with the deepest respect and with the most anxious desire to put the most favourable construction upon it. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) had the advantage of speaking with full knowledge 1467 beforehand of the secrets which the Cabinet has kept so long and, in my humble opinion, so unwisely from the country. I fervently hope that his optimism to-night may be justified by events. I have not the advantage of speaking with any such plenary inspiration. The first any of us Irish Nationalist Members heard of the nature of the Government scheme was what we heard through the lips of the Prime Minister, but I quite recognise that in these matters minorities must suffer. I do not want to make any unfair reference at all, and I simply mention the matter to explain why it is that, although the Prime Minister approaches more nearly than any other man in the House to the French genius for terse and limpid exposition, and although he has certainly exhibited that quality to-night as vividly as ever, yet I must confess that I am not in a position to offer any fair and settled, much less final, judgment upon a measure so vast, so necessarily complex, and of such transcendant importance to the people of my country.
In any observations I have to make I must guard myself most carefully against being carried away either by the utterance of the Prime Minister or by the utterances of others. There is one observation which, if I can form any reliable conception of this Bill, in the interests of that Bill itself I ought to make. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin dwelt upon the feelings of the Unionist minority in Ulster, quite properly and legitimately; but we are bound not to leave altogether out of account the feelings of fifteen or twenty millions of Irish Nationalists who are scattered all over. The observation I want to make is, that if the Irish people are to be asked to accept this Bill as a complete and final satisfaction of Irish national rights and demands, it will involve a certain degree of renunciation by Irish Nationalists of the old school of those dreams, perhaps only dreams, but dreams that came in the youth of some of us as the blood in our veins—dreams for which many generations of the best men of our race were proud to risk their liberties and their lives. I do not think that we are changed, or can ever possibly be changed, in our readiness to incur risk for Ireland, but we may be changed and have been changed in our eagerness for a genuine and enduring peace with the people of 1468 England, and with what was once called their garrison in Ireland. I would submit to fair-minded opponents of this Bill that it is a solemn thing, if it be the case, that the representatives of an ancient cause say sincerely—and they would not say it unless it was sincere—that they would give up much for the sake of peace between these two countries.
I would beg of those who oppose the Bill to remember that although this measure, so far as I can follow the Prime Minister, does I think undoubtedly offer a large and courageous and perhaps a generous proposal of administrative Home Rule, and of local, purely local, legislative power, it does not offer anything in the remotest degree approaching to that national independence which was declaimed against at Belfast the other day, and it offers nothing in any way whatever savouring of that separation which in the old time caused the apprehensions, the legitimate apprehensions of men on this side of the Channel. This Home Rule Bill, if I understand it rightly, is not repealing the Union; it is not Colonial Home Rule any more than it is an Irish Republic; it is a federal devolution scheme pure and simple, subject, of course, to those modifications, those exemptions and abatements in the language of the Act of Union which are necessary to adapt it to the necessities of the time. I am not sure whether it may not be a strong point in the Bill, but it is undoubtedly not a very sensational one for those of us who once dreamed dreams of an Irish nationhood revolving in a higher and more splendid orbit. But if this Bill can be conscientiously accepted by all Irishmen who are willing for a sensible compromise in this world of compromises, then I think that under happier stars it ought not to be impossible for Liberal-Unionists and Conservative Statesmen to find in this Bill—I do not say, of course, in the present moment of fever, but in a later stage of this Session or next Session—a good many compensations and a good many vindications of their own proposals in reference to Ireland. There are not many of us in this House now who heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) in the Debate on Mr. Gladstone's first Home Rule Bill, but anyone who heard him will remember well that he proposed to take Canadian Provincial Home Rule as his solution of the Irish difficulty, and he was willing to withdraw his opposition to the Second Reading 1469 of the Bill if Canadian Provincial Home Rule were substituted as its model, in which case I should say it was nearly certain that the Bill would have passed in the Parliament of 1885. I daresay most of us engaged in the transactions of that day may have our share of responsibility for not closing with the offer, and healing the wound, the open wound, between the two countries a quarter of a century ago.
But it is never too late for peace among nations; and I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) in his speech, a very recent speech, dealing with the necessity for dealing with the congestion of this Parliament by a large devolution of local government, did not repeat the sentiments of his distinguished relative. I do not say that the right hon. Gentleman absolutely repeated the offer. I am not attempting to trip up any man on small points when we are dealing with a great national question; still, I would submit to the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for East Worcestershire, and to the leader of the Opposition, to consider whether they ought not to recognise that this Bill, whether it is a good Bill or a bad Bill, unquestionably introduces the essential features of the Canadian Provincial Devolution Bill; and, by and by, as soon as the present tempest of passion has subsided, and as soon as recent memories of Belfast are diminished, let them ask whether there might not be even in this Bill the basis for a sensible agreement that would be to the eternal honour, rather than to the dishonour, of the party which entrusted Ireland with a daring measure of self-government in the Act of 1898, and which was willing to entrust Ireland with the price of the whole land of Ireland under that wretched, rotten, and sickening policy of conciliation which some of us remember, and which the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Dublin assailed almost as fiercely as he has assailed this Bill. As to what I may call the constitutional proposals of the Prime Minister's speech I have not any criticisms to offer; but I do regret deeply that the Cabinet did not see their way to accepting the recommendation of the expert Committee whom they themselves called in in favour of giving fiscal independence, full, and at once, to the Irish Parliament in raising of their own revenue, and that they have been content instead to 1470 follow the programme of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, published in "M'Clures Magazine," in which the Customs were surrendered sans phrase to the Imperial Parliament. At the first blush it seems to me a pity that the Government did not go the full length of this Committee of experts and of a great many other distinguished persons, including Mr. Erskine Childers and some Members of their own body in this House, and did not give the Irish Parliament right away the complete control of Irish finance. So far as I can understand the proposals now made it is that we are to have a slice of what is an already overdone and existing source of revenue. Then we are to have the power of devising new taxes. I regret to say I can scarcely conceive of many of much importance that could be devised, except an Income Tax which would set the north of Ireland against us or a Land Tax that would set the entire of Ireland against us. As to the Customs, apparently there is to be a sort of con-dominion between the two parties after a certain time, but the vital question as to what are the articles on which an Irish Parliament is to raise revenue must be settled by this Imperial Parliament in which henceforth our representation is to be cut down to the attenuated and almost derisory figure of forty instead of eighty that was proposed in one of Mr. Gladstone's Bills. I am afraid that that sort of dual control over the Irish purse wilt not turn out a very happy one.
I do think with a view to avoiding the danger of friction hereafter it would have been better if the Government had taken their courage in both hands and if they had given complete power over the Irish purse to the Irish Parliament, and if they had trusted to their good sense and to their obvious material interests not to enter upon a mad tariff war against the manufacturers of England, the only certain result of which would be the ruin of our only market for nine-tenths of the produce of the country. I do hope that the Prime Minister has not altogether bolted and banged the door finally upon this subject. As to how the Irish Budget is to work out it would, of course, be folly for ms on the spur of the moment to attempt to form any settled judgment on so complex a pecuniary scheme until it has been examined in every particular by expert financial authorities competent to speak for the Irish people. There is, however, one observation which I feel bound to 1471 make, and it is this. When I heard the Prime Minister to-night explain the difficulties of financing Home Rule at the present moment he seems to have forgotten that the difficulty has arisen in the main from the Liberal legislation, however well intended, of the last six years. If Ireland is to be cut down to a representation of forty men in this House on the plea that she can no longer afford to pay an Imperial subsidy, that is the fault of the Liberal Government, and of their Irish allies, and they have been driven to some extent to try and undo their work in Ireland.
Up to the year 1906 Ireland was paying a very handsome Imperial subsidy of something very nearly amounting to £2,000,000, and if the account has now been turned to the extent, it is claimed, of a million and a-half against Ireland and on the wrong side of the account by the Treasury, it is Liberal legislation that has done it. It is legislation that was devised without any reference to the special circumstances of Ireland. It is legislation which we felt bound to resist as hard as we could, in spite of a good deal of vilification, and it is legislation to which, and I say this without hesitation, the Irish people would never have submitted only that they were assured that that was the only means of paving the way to this Bill. On the other hand, of course, while I say that, I recognise that considerable atonement is proposed to be made under this Bill. Whether the atonement is adequate or not I cannot at this moment pretend to offer any serious opinion, but considerable atonement is offered by the recognition that Old Age Pensions and Land Purchase and the subsidies under the Insurance Act are, and must, continue to be Imperial charges. That is obviously the barest fairplay, considering that all those heavy burdens have been imposed on Ireland, and are simply the consequence of the extremely ill-matched Union, and they are essentially National and Imperial in their origin.
The point on which I desire to maintain most reserve as to the Prime Minister's speech, and the point which I think will cause the deepest and the most widespread disappointment in Ireland, is his extremely brief allusion to the great subject of land purchase in Ireland. That, in my humble judgment, is the point of all others on which ultimately the success or failure of this Bill will depend. I recognise at once that the Prime Minister has refused to 1472 listen to the counsels that came to him from somewhat influential quarters to leave the remainder of the landlords to be disposed of by the Irish Parliament, and to leave 180,000 or 190,000 unpurchased tenants out in the cold unsettled. That would have been, to my mind, sheer madness. The best that all sensible men in Ireland can hope for the new Parliament is that it may be disencumbered of all these old bitter controversies and past wars, and that it may be set free from the very outset to devote itself to the task, the peaceful and not very sensational but very noble task, of the social and educational and industrial regeneration of the country. If the first business of the infant Parliament were to be to wrangle over what was to be the price at which half the land of the country was to be purchased, and to find eighty or ninety millions of money on Irish credit to pay for it, or, still worse, if the whole agrarian settlement of 1903 were to be uprooted by some new agitation for the nationalisation of the land, or by some new class war between labourers and farmers, or between town and country, the result would inevitably be bankruptcy right away, and a state of turmoil and social convulsion which the Chief Secretary once compendiously described as hell. Therefore it is that I most heartily congratulate the Government, upon their determination, so far as I understand it to be their determination, to complete the purchase of the land of Ireland as an Imperial business on Imperial credit.
But what I am not at all so well satisfied about, and what I am afraid the people of Ireland will be equally dissatisfied about, is how far the sentence or two which the Prime Minister devoted to this all-important subject means that the Bill will contain any machinery to complete the purchase of the land of Ireland, to relieve the Irish Parliament at once of this incubus, of this nightmare, and to complete the transfer of the whole land of Ireland from the landlords to the cultivators rapidly, universally, and simultaneously on fair terms to both parties, whether by compulsion or by voluntary agreement, as was being triumphantly effected until the Land Act of 1903 was killed by the Act of 1910. This land question I regard as the capital point, the vital point, for good or ill as to this Bill, and it is a point on which, and I confess I am speaking only for myself, I for one admit at once I should be ready to go to any extreme to 1473 fight for any Amendment that may be necessary in the Government scheme. As I said, I cannot pretend to offer anything like a settled opinion one way or the other as to the Government scheme, because the Prime Minister left it entirely unrevealed. As soon as we see the text of the Bill we shall look and strive with sympathy and the utmost desire to find out if the provisions are adequate. Let me repeat that for the future peace and happiness of Ireland you will find that these land purchase Clauses will be incomparably the most important Clauses in the entire Bill. Before I sit down I have one other general observation to make. My own view as to what is, or what is not, a satisfactory Home Rule Bill is an exceedingly simple one. There are two types of Home Rule Bills. There is the Bill which might be ideally best, and the Bill that has the best practical chance of being carried into law in the present Parliament. In my judgment the success of the Irish Parliament will depend to a large, to a very large, degree upon its being won by consent rather than by compulsion. By that I do not for a moment mean by Its being carried with imaginary or impossible unanimity, but I mean carried by a larger degree of acquiescence and good will on the part of the better thinking men of the Protestant minority in Ireland, such as Lord Monteagle, whose interesting letter appeared in the "Times" of today. Any Bill that goes in the direction of securing that good will and co-operation would be to my mind of infinitely more permanent value to Ireland than any mere politician's point as to whether this or that particular power was given to or withheld from the Irish Parliament. I, for one, would be prepared to go to any reasonable lengths, and even to some unreasonable lengths, to secure that co-operation and good will. How far this Bill may take us in that direction, time only will tell; but if the Government and the majority of the Irish National representatives, who have taken upon their own shoulders the full weight of responsibility with reference to this Bill, have made up their minds that this is the form in which Home Rule has the best chance of passing into law in the lifetime of the present Parliament, as the Irish people have been so confidently assured that it can and will, I, for one, bow the head, and if, upon full examination of this Bill, the Irish people make up their minds, provisionally, at all events, that it is a Bill which can, even in an 1474 unamended shape, be accepted by Ireland with honour and with a considerable degree of financial safety, assuredly no pettifogging objections and no chopping of constitutional logic will prevent me from giving the Bill a cordial and loyal support, regardless of any narrow sectional interest or personal feeling. Further than that I do not feel that I am competent or authorised to speak, either for myself or for others, until we have had an opportunity for a close and anxious study of this naturally very complicated measure. I do not think I have anything more to say, except to press the Government, if this Bill should meet with acceptance in Ireland, to bring it to Second Reading at the earliest possible practicable date, considering that we have already got through nearly one-half of the term of a normal Session, and that we have as yet reached only the threshold of the first of the three gigantic measures promised in the King's Speech.
Although I lave listened to most of the speeches to-day, I rise now without having heard one single justification for the introduction of this Bill. I have looked forward for year after year to the time when this struggle would arise in Ireland and in this country, but I confess that on hearing the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond) I was filled with amazement. One would have thought that the burning grievances of the Nationalist party, their wants and aspirations, whatever they were, would have been brought forward in a powerful and eloquent appeal to the Members of this House and to the country to save them from some disaster or some wrong. Instead of that, what was the exhibition made by the Leader of the Home Rule party this afternoon? An apologetic speech for all the speeches that he has made in the past. He said, "Trust me, and I pledge my word, not alone for myself, but for my party, that this will be a final solution of the whole question." Anything that the hon. and learned Member says in this House, as far as he personally is concerned, I would accept immediately, as I would the word of any hon. Member of this House; but how long does anyone imagine the hon. and learned Member would be leader of the Nationalist party if the pledges which he personally gave in this House interfered with the onward march of what are called Nationalist aspirations towards total 1475 separation? We have seen the leader of the Nationalist party overthrown before now for less cause. Now, on the eve of this great fight—and it is going to be a great fight, no matter how smooth the speeches may be, and however unctuous the Prime Minister was this afternoon—the hon. and learned Member said that as far as he and his party were concerned, they were going to behave like the best children that were ever in the Nationalist school. There was to be not a word and no interruptions, just as I said when I made an appeal to Mr. Speaker this afternoon to give us some of their places, which they no longer required, except as spectators in the drama which is to be worked out in the next two years.
I want to point out that in Ireland itself the demand for Home Rule, to which the hon. and learned Member referred, has in the last twenty-six years, certainly within my memory, become less and less accentuated amongst people of all classes and creeds. If anyone has made a careful inquiry, as I and my party have done, he will find that just as the demand for Home Rule has steadily gone down, so the opposition to Home Rule in any form has steadily increased. I do not make that remark without having made the most cautious inquiries, through channels of all sorts, in order to verify what I have said. The Prime Minister said the Nationalist party to-day are a majority of the Irish Members in the House of Commons, and many of them have been returned unopposed. On that he bases his claim for the disintegration of the Empire, and the kingdom at its heart. He failed to tell us under what conditions elections could be held in some of these Nationalist's quarters. The right hon. Gentleman failed to toll us that when the hon. and learned Gentleman at that time, the Member for Louth, was elected to this House, and then subsequently defeated, what awful scenes were witnessed in those quarters—and later in North Cork—in order to prevent the people recording their strong views as to the differences between the Nationalist party and themselves. When one reads the evidence that was given in these cases, is it any wonder that people hesitated to go up against the caucus that runs these elections and which makes it so impossible to get at the real feeling of the people where the leagues run very strong? That is the whole matter.
1476 In Ulster, where there is a sprinkling of loyal manhood which refuses to be intimidated by these leagues, you find that you are able to have elections—and you get them! We from the North of Ireland are the only people really who go before the democracy and stand the racket of an election—and come back to this House! From all quarters of Ireland not represented by Unionists we are constantly, daily requested, not alone by Unionists, but by Nationalists who are tired of being league-ridden, to represent their case here on the floor of this House. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] An hon. Member below the Gangway says "Hear, hear." He knows perfectly well; I have heard it—I will not say from his constituents—but frequently from people in the constituencies of Nationalist Members, saying, "It is no use applying to Mr. So and So because we know perfectly well that the party machine will not permit him to bring our case before the British public." That is the pathetic condition which prevents freedom of election in certain parts of Ireland. It is no use for the Prime Minister to base his flimsy claim for this horrible suggestion of putting into force a Bill, for which he has not the sanction of the country, in a country where I defy him to prove there is any preponderance or desire for it among the people. The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the Colonies all being in favour of Home Rule. I can deny that most emphatically. For For every message from the Colonies, obtained as we know by the wire-pulling which has now become such an accustomed part of running elections, wishing the Nationalists success in their efforts, I can produce six telegrams or messages from Canada and Australia—and am quite-willing to do so and publish them—
Wishing the very loyal men of Ulster the very heartiest support, material and monetary, in the struggle that lies before them.
Does any man suggest that they who stood by this country in its last great struggle are going to take the miserable part of assisting the present Radical Government, who are going down the hill steadily, as shown by the last by-election, to force through a Bill against the wishes of those who have proved quite 1477 loyal? The Colonies are not to be besmirched in that way. Wherever the flag of England flies the Colonists and Ulstermen will be found shoulder to shoulder. Some hon. Members, as we all remember, cheered our enemies. Some of them even took the part of our enemies in our last great war. It is those people that the Colonists are going to be associated with in the stern trial that is before the people of Ulster? I say not! Not one argument was used by the Prime Minister in order to show why he was bringing forward this measure. Neither was there one by the hon. and learned gentleman the Member for Waterford. The reason was that there does not remain any longer what they were so accustomed to call "the open sore" in Ireland, to be remedied by Home Rule. Consequently they rely, not so much upon the justice of the case, as upon a false cry or sentiment, which hitherto has kept them in power by the collection of dollars from American-Irish who have gone abroad. If anyone doubts what I say let him read the hon. Member's old speech. He said that support for Home Rule in Ireland from a monetary point of view was quite insufficient to keep it going, and that if it were not for the Americans it would be impossible to proceed with the campaign for Home Rule.
I saw in the Press the other day that in one county in Ireland the manager of the funds of the United Irish League said that the league was getting all broken up, and that many of the people did not think the Nationalist cause was worth subscribing a few shillings to in the year. Wherever anyone makes inquiries in Ireland they will find the same thing. I will put it to the Prime Minister, or to those who represent him at present on the Treasury Bench—God knows which of the three is going to deal with the matter, whether it is that turncoat I see opposite, or the Postmaster-General who is going to hand over his organisation to the Nationalists to run, or whether it is the Patronage Secretary who pulls the wires so successfully in every part of the United Kingdom except Belfast! I will ask one of them this question: Can they or anybody say why it is that the Ulster Members are so bitterly opposed to Home Rule for Ireland? [HON. MEMBERS: "Half Ulster."] I suppose Newry is called half Ulster? The whole thing is because hon. Members below the Gangway over-represent Ireland. Whether you look at Ireland for administrative purposes, or from the point 1478 of view of railways, or county council work, or industries, it is only a little bit larger than the county of Yorkshire. You have all the Members below the Gangway, year in and year out agitating, and you ought to set yourselves to work to see that Ireland is properly represented, and that their representation is put down to a fair proportion. That is my answer to the interruption of the hon. Member.
Why is it that our opposition to Home Rule is so stern and unbending? I say this frankly to the House as a person who is absolutely independent, that if I could see any good to my native country from Home Rule I would retire from politics and allow it to pass to-morrow. It is because in studying this question independently and looking at it from the point of view of the welfare of the people of my native land that I throw myself heart and soul into the endeavour to prevent this grave wrong which the Government are doing and in seeing that it shall never be put upon my countrymen. What possible benefit can it be to those people to be cut off from the protection of Great Britain and the greatest Empire in the world? How can they hope to prosper if you clip their wings? If you give the financial basis suggested you cripple the natural inclination of any country to expand and to go forward either in its prosperity as a whole or in regard to those ameliorative measures which naturally follow where a country is developing itself on natural lines. You destroy all that, and you hand over the control to a miserable body, I am almost ashamed to mention it, of forty men, nominally nominated by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but really nominated at the dictation of the hon. Member for Waterford. For eight long years you are to have an Upper Chamber consisting of the nominees of the United Irish League, and the Sinn Feinners, the Molly Maguires, and other extraordinary leagues. The thing would be absolutely absurd if it were not so cruel; such is the jobbery and the trickery of the present Government and such is their callousness to all decency in dealing with this great subject. It would be laughable if it were not so pathetic to think that the party in Ulster should be handed over to the tender mercies of forty chosen spirits picked from the Nationalist party.
Then we come to the Lower Chamber, which is to consist of 164 Members. What heart-burnings, what pathetic scenes must not have occurred in the Prime Minister's 1479 room when the hon. and learned Member for Waterford prayed him to allow the Universities to return two members, and to be fair towards the minority in Ireland. What a fortune for a cinematograph show if they were able to present this appeal for fair play for the minority in Ireland. Two Members for the Universities in Ireland are to be thrown in, bringing the numbers of the Lower Chamber from 162 to 164. We give them credit for that, but when we come to consider the general constitution of this House of Commons, as it is to be called in Dublin, I hope that even the Radicals will bear in mind that they are placing one and a quarter millions of the most loyal and law-abiding citizens in the Kingdom entirely under the control of hon. Members from Ireland below the Gangway. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, as all Radicals have done, talked about the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament being maintained. I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University and Chairman of the Irish Unionist Parliamentary Party has killed that argument once and for all.
Let us picture to ourselves for one moment a Bill passed in Dublin, as the hon. and learned Member for Waterford would say, by the will of the people. Supposing that was a Bill which affected the education, say, of the children in Ulster, and that it was grossly unfair. Supposing that even the people in this country thought that an Act passed by the Irish Parliament was unfair to some section of the people in Ireland, what proceedings will be taken in this House? Supposing you are busy here with some enormous revolutionary scheme, like the Parliament Act, and one of your forty Members here said he wanted to bring some grievance before this House, what effective action could this House take against the House in Dublin? Suppose the House in Dublin had risen, and that the forty Members belonged to both Houses and were over here, would that grievous wrong have to go on for six months during which the Irish House was not sitting? Supposing you decided to interfere, how could you interfere? You could have no effective control of the Irish Parliament no more than you could have over Canada or Australia if they passed some law which you thought was not fair. Supposing South Africa for some reason reverted to Chinese slavery, would the Radical Government 1480 have power to reverse the decision of the Parliament which they themselves created? It would be said that the Act was passed by the will of the people.
Does anyone imagine these words "supremacy of the Imperial Parliament" are worth any more than the Preamble of the Parliament Act which the Government have now thrown to the four winds? That is the way they have been fooling the people of England and Scotland so long. The people have been hoodwinked. In many instances they salved their consciences by thinking that "we the British people, will have some say in the matter through our Parliament at Westminster. The people in Ulster all through these various stages of iniquity have never for a moment been fooled or humbugged; they saw what was going on, and made their provision accordingly. They saw clearly that under the Parliament Act this disgraceful performance would probably take place. They saw that, and we did our best to try and persuade the country to see with us, and they are beginning to see with us now. Why, the Government cannot promote one of their men to be a Whip without losing a seat. The Government are absolutely tied up now; they have shot their last bow, and they dare not create a vacancy in any part of England, and Scottish Members will not give up their seats in order to fill up the Government ranks. That is clear, and why? Because the English people and Scotch people were much slower in discovering the awful fraud perpetrated upon them. They are now beginning to see through it, and they are fighting with us for the integrity of the Empire and against Home Rule. That is what the effect will be in the future. The Front Bench have hardened their hearts on the question, and we in the North of Ireland have had to prepare for this eventuality. The Bill may be rejected by the House of Lords, and under the Parliament Act it can be passed, although the country in every possible way has shown itself dead against it, and the people are of opinion that a wrong is being done and yet they are impotent in the matter. What can we do in this House when you will not listen to the voice of those who have sent you here?
This Measure is being passed because you are pledged to one class of legislation, which includes Welsh Disestablishment, the reversal of the Osborne Judgment, and Home Rule, and it is being passed by a party which is bound together by a log- 1481 rolling process. But for that all those projects must go by the board. In that appalling state of affairs we loyalists in Ireland find ourselves compelled to take the whole matter into our own hands. I will deal with that point for a moment, because I wish to make it perfectly clear what our attitude is so far as I have any responsibility, and I shall not go one word beyond what I feel I have authority to state on this question. I say that under no circumstances whatsoever shall we who have control of certain parts of Ulster accept this Bill, or submit to it when it is passed under a shattered Constitution secured by trickery from the country while it was blind to the mad rush you were making at the time. You may say that is a boast. Every boast that was made and every word that was said by us in this House has so far come true. Will any Nonconformist sitting on the opposite side of the House rise in his place and deny the truth of every word we said when the University Bill was being tricked through this House when we moved to insert the word "undenominational" in it in order to ensure that it would be denominational? Does anyone deny that the Ulster representatives were perfectly right in saying that the long and short of it would be that, no matter what you did in this House, it would turn out to be a purely denominational University? No one denies that it is a purely denominational University. When the Trade Disputes Act was brought in the Attorney-General got up and spoke strongly about the abuses that this peaceful picketing might entail in the future if the Government went forward with that particular measure, but the Prime Minister threw his colleague to the four winds in consequence of pressure from a certain quarter of the House. Does anyone who has seen the gross abuse of that Act that has recently taken place deny that we were perfectly justified in pointing out the dangers that would arise if you persisted in that iniquitous course?
When the Government determined to drop the Peace Preservation Act I remember the hon. and learned Member for Louth making a pathetic appeal in which he said we were all wrong and that all these poor people wanted was a few guns to shoot the rooks, and that it was a sin and a shame that some of the English farmers were allowed to walk about openly with guns to frighten off the birds picking the fruit off their trees, while Irish farmers 1482 were not allowed the same privilege. It was one of those speeches which appealed to all of us from its depth of sentiment and for its want of logic. We pointed out to the Government the fatal error and the wrong they were doing in taking away that protective measure from those people in Ireland, and now we find the Chief Secretary admitting that his own Government were wrong and we were right, and admitting that that Bill should never have been taken off the Statute Book. Any child would have known very well the fatal consequences of allowing excitable people to carry arms. [Laughter.] Hon. If embers laugh, but mark the distinction. I refer to the temperament of the Nationalists in Ireland, because we are not so very excitable in the north. I will ask hon. Members opposite to restrain their laughter for a few days until they see the return which has been promised to me by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, county by county, of the outrages that have taken place since that Act was taken off the Statute Book. They will then see whether I am right or wrong in saying that appalling murders and outrages have taken place in the south and west of Ireland.
What are the facts so far as the north is concerned? Have hon. Members realised this fact that in Scotland it requires twelve police constables to 10,000 of the population to maintain law and order; in England it requires fourteen constables to 10,000 for the same purpose; in the very heart of Ulster, in Antrim, Down and Londonderry, it requires the minimum number of twelve constables for 10,000 of the population. If you take a pair of compasses and mark Ireland away from that loyal centre you will discover that this proportion goes on increasing until you get no less than forty-four police constables to 10,000 of the population in the County of Clare to maintain law and order, and forty-sight constables per 10,000 of the population in the county of Galway. That speaks for itself. Look at it as you will; take any standard you care to set yourselves, and you will find that in the northern provinces you have as quiet, law-abiding, peaceful people as you have in any part of England or Scotland. Remember that the south and west of Ireland all through have been more suited by nature for cultivation and grazing than the hard north, or, as it has been called, the black north; and in spite of that the hon. and learned Member says you have got to right the wrongs that are afflicting Ireland. I can 1483 only say it is a pathetic, a sad, and an unfortunate thing. Friendly relations between the Unionists and other people in Ireland were being cemented every day. I was desirous, and I am sure every loyal son in Ireland was desirous, of bridging over any estrangement so far as religion is concerned, and my right hon. Friend who to-day spoke about that dividing line knew, and has himself said, it was growing less and less as generation succeeded generation. If Land Purchase had been permitted to take its ordinary course, and if the few small and trifling grievances in Ireland—small matters connected with the pay of the teachers, with local administration, and with the examination of private Bills without the expense of coming here—had been settled and we had been allowed to go on as we were, I have no hesitation in saying that any discord in the relationships between the various sects and creeds in Ireland would have been removed and peace would have settled down in the country, without attempting in this way to satisfy a mere faction who are pulling the strings, and who are really not representative of the people at all. I for one would have been delighted if this whole matter could have been settled in some other way. I would have been delighted had it been possible to have given hon. Members another five or six years of their representation in this House, as it stands at the present time, if only we could have got a strong and a fair man to act as Chief Secretary for Ireland. The course of our country for the past five years has not been the warring factions to which people refer: it has been that the Government and the Chief Secretary have failed to do their duty. If either the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour) or the late chairman of our party, the Member for the Strand Division (Mr. Walter Long) had been Chief Secretary during the past six years—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or the Member for Dover"]—I picked my two men, and surely hon. Members will recognise that our difference with that right hon. Gentleman shows the sincerity of any action we take with regard to this Government. We blamed our own Government at the time, as we blame the Government to-day for attempting anything of the sort. It shows the sincerity of our convictions in the north that we have objected to any tampering with what we consider to be of vital 1484 importance to the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. I only wish at the earliest possible moment to make my emphatic protest against this Bill. I do not care a straw for its details. You may print it in gold, you may rivet it all round with orange and blue, and you may have any gilding you think proper, but I know, and our people know, that there was no sincerity behind the speech of the Prime Minister in introducing the Bill to-day. He was a man cornered. He was a man who had to choose between throwing up for himself and his followers the fruits of office and obeying the behests of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and his following in this House. It will not, therefore, be wondered at if at this early stage we enter our emphatic protest. We mean to make good every single word that we and our people have said either inside or outside this House as to taking care of ourselves when you hand over the Government of Ireland to the Nationalist party who have failed to govern themselves in their own part of the country. I have given a certain number of votes in this House since I came into it in 1906, but I have never given a vote so heartily and so conscientiously against a measure as I shall against the First and Second Reading of this Bill, and against every clause, every line, and every word in it on behalf of those not only in Ulster, but in all parts of Ireland who have been the friends of this country in the past, and whom you now intend to throw to the wolves simply that you may have a small and temporary political power.
§ Mr. EUGENE WASON
I have only risen because up to the present time no Scotch representative, excepting the Prime Minister, of whom we are proud as a Scotch representative, has spoken in this Debate. There are very few left who, like myself, were in this House in the year 1886 and in the year 1892, and who have been fortunate enough to live to see this day. I remember 1886 so well. It was brought to our recollection to-day by the speech that was made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Waterford. I remember so well the circumstances at that time. I myself was a wobbler. I was not quite sure at the time whether I would vote for or against Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill. I was offered the seat which I then had the honour of holding, South Ayrshire, by the leader of the Conservative party and by some of the most distinguished men in that county. I was told if 1485 I would vote against that Homo Rule Bill I might sit for that seat for life. Well, I did not take the advice. I refused it. It was a great temptation, but I rose superior to it. I had my own chairman as the chairman of the Unionist party, my old agent as the agent of the Unionist party, and I was forsaken by every chairman and every agent I had in that great constituency—and at that time it was the largest in the United Kingdom, and I think I may say it had the largest man to represent it—but with all these disadvantages against me, I was only beaten by a handful of votes, by only five. There was no man more responsible than my right hon. Friend the Member for North Tyrone (Mr. T. W. Russell) because he went through every village and hamlet and the victory was his. I am proud to think that now he, like myself, is a stalwart, and that he, like myself, is living to see the day of a pacified Ireland which will surely be the result if this measure passes into law. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University claimed to-day that the country had twice rejected Home Rule Bills introduced into this House. He stated that in the year 1886 the country rejected Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill, and that in 1893 it again rejected it. I am here to state most emphatically that, so far as the Home Rule Bill of 1886 was concerned, it was never rejected by the country. It was the Land Purchase Bill, and the Land Purchase Bill alone, which was the cause of the Liberal defeat in 1886. If we could have had the Home Rule Bill without the Land Purchase Bill I believe we should have been able to cary it. Time has gone on, and this very measure, which was the cause of their defeat in the year 1886, was passed by a Unionist Government when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dover (Mr. Wyndham) was Chief Secretary for Ireland.
There were many who, like myself, were in the Parliament of 1886, who refused to vote for the Land Purchase Bill. I was not one of those, and I rejoice in it. I am glad to think it has passed, and that the result has been better feeling and better security than ever before between England and Ireland. I remember well when I came up here as a student of the law in the year 1866 that in the conveyancer's chambers in which I was there were the usual conveyances dealing with advancing money and there was a clause put in every well-drawn conveyance 1486 that while money might be lent on real estate in Great Britain, Ireland was always exempted, because the conditions of land tenure in Great Britain and Ireland were totally and absolutely different. Mr. Gladstone's first effort was in the direction of giving to the Irish tenant farmer the rights which Ulster men had already got in Ulster. That was a great effort, and from that time to this we have endeavoured in every way in our power to conciliate and make friends with Ireland. I think the happy moment has now come, and I am glad to have lived to see this day. I am glad to be able to stand up here and say, on behalf of the Scotch Members, of whom I have the honour to be chairman, I believe every one will stand loyally by the Government in support of this measure, notwithstanding the opposition, the religious opposition, for it is nothing more or less than that—it is perhaps rather irreligious. I know what it is. I was brought up in a narrow school of Presbyterianism, where we were taught to believe that Catholics were idolaters, and that they would all be found in the wrong place in the other world. But I have long outgrown that, and I am glad to think that these religious differences have small effect on men who have lived in the world and have rubbed shoulders with men of other races and other creeds. I remember very well the late Lord Russell of Killowen, as a junior on the Northern Circuit, quoting with great effect lines which may not be familiar to other persons in this House, but which, I think, are not inapplicable to the present occasion. They read:—But oh! it were a glorious deedTo show before mankind,How every race and every creedMight be by love combined.Might be combined yet not forgetThe fountain whence they roseAs, filled by many a rivulet,The stately Shannon flows.The Bill will pass, and, in that event, I venture to say the only reason which has kept the great Republic of the United States of America in a sort of semi-hostility towards us will pass away. We shall be reconciled for all time, and the great English-speaking people of the world will make a permanent and lasting peace with their fellow-Catholic brethren in Ireland.
§ Sir THOMAS ESMONDE
I am glad to follow the right hon. Gentleman in his support of the measure now before the House, and I should like to thank him for the support which he and his Friends in 1487 Scotland have so consistently given for so many years to the party to which I belong. This is a most interesting occasion, and I make no apology for intervening in the Debate. It is the third Home Rule Bill I have seen introduced, and, what strikes me more than anything else in connection with this Bill is the extraordinary contrast between now and twenty-seven years ago. In those days passions were aroused and feeling was intensely strong. The idea of conceding the Irish people the right to manage their own affairs was looked upon as a proposition almost inconceivable. We have in this House to-night an illustration of the extraordinary change. There is no passion in our Debates. There is a certain amount of political interest shown in the question, but the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who represents one of the northern constituencies (Captain Craig) is a speech which none of his compatriots would have dreamt of making twenty-seven years ago. In those days Members from the North of Ireland thought Home Rule meant their physical extinction. There is not one who believes that to-day. I will, later on, deal with one or two of the aspects of the Ulster question, but for the moment let me say this. We have been discussing this question of Irish self-government for nearly a generation—for more than a generation—and really there is nothing to be said on one side of the question or the other which has not been already said. There is no new argument to advance, and no fresh ground to open. Every argument has been thoroughly sifted in these long years and in our many Debates, and I think the people generally have made up their minds what they intend to do about it. I believe that the majority of the people of this country, from my own observation, have come to the conclusion that it is time the question was settled.
After the long experience we have now had of the results of leaving the question unsettled, there is no thinking man who will not agree that the settlement of this question would be a good thing for both countries, and there is no man, to whatever political party he may belong, who will not admit that it is in the interest of both countries that an arrangement should be come to in this case. It appears to me that the Unionist party have never taken the trouble to understand what the 1488 position of Ireland really is. The Unionist party—I say it with much respect—invariably meet this national demand of ours with what I may call a sullen non possumus. They say, "We will give you everything that we think you want; but we will not do for you what you say you want." They say, "We will give you all the British money you may ask for; we will pledge British credit for you." After defeating one Home Rule Bill on the plea that it meant giving Ireland twenty millions of money—because there was a Land Purchase Bill connected with it—a few years afterwards they came along and gave us 120 millions. Well, there is no harm in that. The one thing that the Unionist party will not do is what we ask them to do, and that is to give us the right to make our own laws. The Unionist party and their predecessors have been very eloquent in the cause of oppressed nationalities in days gone by; they have assisted oppressed nationalities in other parts of the world with great success. It is an extraordinary thing that while their sympathies can range practically over the entire globe, looking for other people who are oppressed by somebody else, they cannot see the case at their own doors. Periodically they have glimpses of political common sense, and come near to a position in which they can discuss the claims of Ireland with some sort of sympathy, but by and by a political easterly wind blows, and they withdraw from their position of conciliation and of friendship for Ireland in her national demand, and fall back upon their old principle of refusing to allow the Irish people to govern themselves.
May I put to the Unionist party what is the position of Ireland? I put it quite frankly. If they know it as well as I do I am pleased, but I doubt it. The position that Ireland takes up, and has always, taken up for 112 years, is this: That this Parliament has no right to make laws for Ireland. The Irish people have always held that the only power competent to make laws for Ireland is a Parliament of Ireland. When hon. Members who oppose the Irish claim speak about the powers, and position of this House it seems to me that they might with advantage study the records of this Parliament. There stands in the journals of this House an Act passed in the time of George III., known as the Act of Renunciation. I could quote the exact words of that Act, but I will give the sense of it. That Act declares that the 1489 exclusive right of the Irish Parliament to make laws for Ireland was "hereby established and ascertained for ever." That was the Act of this very House. It went on to say that "this right shall at no future time either be questioned or questionable." You have there in an English Statute the embodiment of the Irish position. That Statute embodies the fundamental principle of constitutional liberty, inasmuch as it lays down that the only power competent to govern a free people is a legislature of that nation. Our claim has been for 112 years that the Act of Union, which violated that principle, an Act which was obtained by force, by fraud, and by inconceivable bribery, was an Act which the Irish Parliament itself was not capable and had no power of assenting to, and it was an Act the legal force of which Ireland could never recognise. That has been the Irish case, and that is practically the Irish case at the present day.
Ireland is anxious to make peace with England; Ireland is anxious to be friends with England, provided that England shows an anxiety to make friends with her. In view of the altered condition of things, in view of the good temper which prevails in England, and which prevails in Ireland, Ireland is ready to abate her national demands, provided that England will consent to meet her half way. That brings us to the situation in which we find ourselves at the present moment. Ireland is anxious for peace, and is anxious to make friends with England, and the question is, does England wish to make friends with Ireland? That really is the key to the position. I am not an Englishman. If I were I would say I consider that peace with Ireland is of very great importance to England. I would say that it is quite as important for England as it is for Ireland that this ancient feud should be settled for ever. Nobody who has had experience of the last twenty or twenty-five years of our politics, who has seen the result of this continued feud, who has seen the jarring domestic relations which it has produced, and who has seen the weakness in Imperial matters that this feud has engendered, will deny for a single second that it is in the interests of both countries that the feud should be settled for ever. But we believe that the Bill is likely to settle disputes. We Irishmen can honourably accept it, with the consent of our people, in the belief that we can work it for the benefit of our country, and anyone 1490 who listened to the Prime Minister's great speech—a speech worthy of such an occasion—ought to feel perfectly satisfied that the safeguards that the Bill contains, and the whole structure of the Bill itself, is an absolute answer to all those who fear that Home Rule means the oppression of the minority or the dismemberment of the British Empire.
We Irish people have no rooted antipathy to the Empire. The Empire is quite as much our Empire as yours. As a matter of history Irish brains, Irish valour, and Irish genius have done quite as much to build up this Empire and to hold it together as either British genius or British intelligence. But we must be allowed a propor position in the Empire. We are quite prepared to join in defending the Empire, and to do what we can to consolidate it, provided we are admitted in the Empire on terms of international equality. That is the long and the short of our demand. I am not an Englishman, but it seems to me that if England can gain the friendship and the good will of Ireland by this Bill—not merely of Irishmen at home, but of Irishmen and sympathisers with Ireland all over the world, by agreeing to this Bill, she is making an extremely good bargain. [An HON. MEMBER: "TWO millions given away."] We have been told this evening, and the leader of the Opposition said at Belfast the other day, that land purchase in Ireland must be carried out at any cost provided Ireland remains a partner in the Empire. If the hon. Member now grudges us £2,000,000 a year, what about land purchase under a Unionist Government in future? Some of the arguments used by Members of the Opposition rather defeated their purpose. If the peace of Ireland and friendship with Ireland can be obtained it is worth not £2,000,000 a year, but millions uncountable. After all, these two countries are neighbours. There is more in common between them than between any two peoples on the face of the earth, and their natural destiny ought to be to walk together hand in hand. The only way in which England can ever become really united with Ireland, the only way in which England can ever secure the friendship of Ireland is by frankly and ungrudgingly recognising Ireland as a self-governing nation. Ireland as a free and self-governing nation within the Empire will contribute to the strength and greatness of the Empire. If she should continue to be of 1491 no assistance to the Empire it is conceivable that in time she may come to be something very much the opposite.
I should like to say a word on another phase of the question. Ulster as an aspect of the Irish question is worth more than a passing reference. The majority of the people of Ulster are Home Rulers, although one reason given on the platform for not granting Home Rule is that Ulster is opposed to it. Even under the existing rather curious demarcation of the representation of the North of Ireland there is almost an equality between Home Rulers and Unionists returned for Ulster. Political Ulster, as we know it, really means the North-eastern section of Ulster, where a majority of the population possibly are opposed to Home Rule. Even Belfast, the capital city of Ulster, is not altogether an unmixed Unionist stronghold. Belfast itself returns a very distinguished Irishman as a Home Rule Member, and were the electoral conditions of Belfast somewhat different they might return more than one Home Rule Member of Parliament. When we talk of the Ulster question we really mean a minority of the people of Ulster. We really mean the North-eastern portion of Ulster. [An HON. MEMBER: "All the industries in Ireland are to be found there."] We have some industries in the South of Ireland, and one in Dublin, which is represented on the benches here, and which is probably the largest industry of this kind in the world.
§ Mr. MALCOLM
Neither in Parliament nor in the county councils has Ulster got really a majority in favour of Home Rule.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
Anyhow, in the greater part of Ulster, certainly in the greater part of rural Ulster, the representatives are in favour of Home Rule. That is an admitted fact. I quite admit that there are very important industries in Ulster, industries of which we, as Irishmen, are all proud, but I deny altogether that those industries are exclusively anti-Home Rule industries, and I deny altogether that the majority of the workers in those industries are opposed to Home Rule. However, that is not really the point. I should like to consider what has been the historic attitude of Ulster on this question. A hundred and twenty years ago Ulster was among the strongest opponents of the Union, and she produced some of the most able and eloquent opponents of the Act of 1492 Union. During the time of the Irish Parliament, and before the institution of the Irish Parliament, some of the most brilliant patriots that Ireland produced came from Ulster. It was in Ulster that we had the famous convention of Irish volunteers. It was at Dungannon that the men of Ulster said that the people of Ireland, and the people of Ireland alone, had the right to manage their own affairs. Really it is an astounding thing that the descendants of men of that kidney should now declare themselves as opposed to the national claim of Ireland. The people of Ulster, including great and brilliant Catholics, were in sympathy with the rising in '98. Ulster was as rebellious as Munster or Leinster. It shows that something has come over the spirit of Ulster when such a curious change has been brought about among the descendants of rebels such as these.
My interpretation of the case of Ulster is this. Ulster opposed the Act of Union very strongly. The Act of Union was carried, and Ulster made the best of it. In Ulster in those days the majority of the people were not of the Roman Catholic religion. These were the days before Catholic emancipation, and Ulster obtained a large share in the Government of Ireland, and as years have gone on Ulster has practically governed Ireland. [An HON. MEMBER: "When?"] Certainly, Ulster in those days practically governed Ireland. At all events, Ireland was Governed to the satisfaction of Ulster. The best proof of that is that all the patronage and all the political emoluments of the country were enjoyed by Ulster. That condition of things prevailed and continued until the passing of the Franchise Act of 1884. Until then only the democracy of Ulster were able to assert their rights, and carry forward the prominence and pre-eminence of Ulster in the government and administration of Ireland. There is another point to which I wish to draw the attention of the House, for really the Ulster character is to me one of very great fascination. Ulster men opposed the Union, but when the Union was carried they made the best of it. When, later on, Catholic emancipation was proposed, Ulster opposed it for all she was worth. When Catholic emancipation became law, Ulster accepted it. Later on there was the question of the disestablishment of the Irish Church. Ulster opposed the disestablishment of the Irish Church for all she was worth. Wonderful speeches were made, and I think drilling went on 1493 to a great extent. It was a case of Ulster was right and would fight. However, when the Irish Church was disestablished, Ulster made the best of it. Then came the extension of the Land Acts. Ulster opposed the Land Acts in this House.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I understand that the hon. Member has risen to a point of Order. The hon. Member will be good enough to put his point of Order.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Baronet made a statement with which the hon. Member for North Armagh does not agree. The hon. Member will have his opportunity of putting his view of the case later on, and I would ask him not to interrupt by continually interjecting remarks during another speech.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
The hon. and learned Member for North Armagh made an interesting revelation. I would like to know whether he can convince the House that the Unionist Members supported the Land Act of 1881? I pass from the Land Act and come to the Franchise Act of 1884. Can the hon. and learned Member assure the House that the Unionist Members for Ulster supported the extension of the franchise? The Local Government Act for Ireland was introduced by the party to which the hon. and learned Member belongs. I do not know that even that Act was received with particular enthusiasm by hon. Members for Ulster. The general political action of Ulster has been this: Whenever the rest of Ireland wanted anything particular, Ulster opposed it as much as she possibly could. Whenever the thing was carried and agreed to by this House, Ulster accepted it. Ulster did more than that. Ulster took advantage of it, and made the most of it. She has certainly 1494 made the most of the Local Government Act, and the Land Purchase Acts, no matter how much she opposed them when introduced. I might also refer to the Labourers Act, of which ultimately she made the greatest possible use. The moral I would like to draw is this. However much Ulster opposes Home Rule at present, as soon as Home Rule is passed Ulster will accept it and will unquestionably make the most of it. I would put this one consideration to hon. Members from Ulster. What do they imagine will happen if the proposals of the present Government do not succeed? Does anybody in this House, or out of it, imagine that the existing condition of Irish government is going to continue? The Noble Lord below me seems to think that the present System of Irish administration is likely to last. With the exception of him I do not suppose that anybody would be found in the House to believe that the existing system of government in Ireland is likely to continue much longer. Supposing the present proposals of the Government were to fail, the Irish question would remain. There is no doubt about it, and the Irish question would have to be dealt with when the next Government come into office. The Unionist Government would have to deal with it as a condition of retaining office. The Government of this country cannot carry on without dealing with the Irish question, and the only way in which it can be dealt with is in accordance with the wishes of the Irish people.
What will happen supposing the present proposals of the Government fail? Some months or years hence the Unionist party would bring in a Home Rule Bill under another name. The thing is inevitable. If the present proposals of the Government fail and the Unionist party come into power they must take up the question of Irish government and make some attempt to solve it. Everybody knows that that is so. What will the Irish Unionists do when that sad event takes place? The Irish Unionists' party, which finds the proposal of the present Government such a bad one will probably swallow a similar Bill painted another colour. I am satisfied of this, that however much she opposes Home Rule at present, once it is the law of the land, Ulster will accept it and take her part loyally and patriotically in carrying it out. I cannot conceive that the descendants of the men who met at Dungannon and the men who have laid down their lives for their common country, 1495 can forget that they are Irishmen. I do not believe in this division into the north and south of Ireland. I would like to see the Irish question settled with the assistance of Ulster, but if Ulster will not help, it must be settled in spite of her. The question will undoubtedly be settled, and that before many years are over. I believe that this Bill will pass. I listened to the able and enlightened speech of the Prime Minister to-day, and I believe that it is a Bill which we Irish can accept as a fair settlement of the difficulty, and which can be worked with advantage to our country. I congratulate the hon. Member for Waterford on this very splendid result of his many years of labour and anxiety in this cause. He has had an extremely difficult part to play, and he has played it with singular ability and singular moderation and singular success, and I hope that his name will go down to the future connected with the establishment in Ireland of an Irish legislation which will unite Ireland with England in a real unity for the first time in history.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
Like the hon. Baronet who has just sat down who undertook to speak for Ulster, I understand without any warrant or authority, and like the right hon. Member for Clackmannen and Kinross (Mr. Eugene Wason) who indulged in the somewhat irrelevant reminiscences of his genial personality, I am one of the "remainder men" of the Gladstonian Home Rule. I am one of the remnant, who sat through the Debates of 1886 and 1893.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
Certainly, and I am one who has learned a great deal since those days. It ill becomes me to apologise for political inconsistency when I see opposite to me the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture for Ireland (Mr. T. W. Russell) who made the most eloquent speeches on behalf of Ulster, which were made during two elections, and the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Churchill) who even since he joined the party opposite has justified any resistance which Ulster might choose to make, if the men were prompted by their conscience to show their courage, he said by deeds rather than by words. I confess that I had hoped that I should not have to sit through the Debates of another Home 1496 Rule Bill after the former Bills had been twice rejected by this Parliament and by the country, but at least then we were under the wand of the magician. There is no magician on that bench now who in honeyed speech can gloss over the crude absurdities of the scheme which was outlined here this afternoon, or who can explain why we should pay twelve million pounds out of the British Exchequer in order to set up a rival Parliament in Dublin, and why we should have forty Members here who will vote in the local affairs of London which I represent, whereas I am to be debarred from having anything to say in the local affairs of Ireland. It was said by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that the old arguments had all been used over and over again, but he did not add that a great many of them ought to be withdrawn on the first night of this Debate, because they can never be used again. The champion arguments that were used for Home Rule by the men of that day are as dead as the great statesman who forged them. The main one was that in a realm where there are racial and religious divisions you can obtain the union of hearts, as it was then called, by a cleavage of parliaments and executive governments. Mr. Gladstone was never tired of citing the case of Austria and Hungary, of Russia and Finland, and, above all, of Norway and Sweden. In the speech which he made in 1886 he said:—Every man who knows the condition of Sweden and Norway knows that I speak the truth when I say that in every year that passes the Norwegians and Swedes are more and more feeling themselves to be children of a common country united by a tie which never is to be broken.In 1893 again he recurred to the same text and said:—I do not despair of Norway and Sweden. I am perfectly persuaded that the Union will be maintained, and that it will become firmer and firmer for the blessing of many generations.We know what has become of that Union now, and that it was only by separation that bloodshed has been avoided. With regard to Austria and Hungary he said the same:—Austria-Hungary offers to us a case of considerable success.I believe at the present moment the venerable Emperor of Austria has announced that he will resign, will abdicate his throne, unless Hungary allows him to call out the reserves. That is the present state of the relations between Austria and Hungary. What may come most European statesmen fear. But then 1497 Finland, says Mr. Gladstone, has been kept in a state of substantial content by the recognition of legislative autonomy. I was in Finland myself last year. Legislative autonomy was never recognised in Finland, but so little is it recognised now that not a single measure is allowed to be submitted to the Finnish Assembly that has not been passed by the Russian Privy Council and been authorised by the Government of the Czar. These are the examples given by Mr. Gladstone, and by all who spoke from that bench in those days of the national reconciliation which would follow upon the institution of separate Parliaments. I am dealing with it for what it is worth. I do not suppose that after the rejection of those Bills we should have had this Bill but for the truth that was most plainly stated by Mr. Parnell at the end of his life, when he said:I think of Mr. Gladstone and the English people what I have always thought of them. They will do what we force them to do.And we know how the hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway forced the Government to bring forward this Bill in spite of the fact that for many years the Prime Minister and several of those intimately associated with him did all they could to shelve it and to shut it out of the Liberal programme. If the Liberal League meant anything—and he was one of its prominent members—it meant the suppression of Home Rule for Ireland. But if then there is nothing to point to the success of a policy of Home Rule for national reconciliation abroad, there is certainly nothing to point to the success of Home Rule as a means of national reconciliation at home. Only the other day the Irish in America, I believe, in spite of the fact that this Bill was about to be introduced, succeeded in defeating, through their influence with Congress, the last arbitration treaty that had been made with the United States. That does not show much of the union of hearts, and we know what the feeling in Ireland is at this moment. The hon. Baronet who has just sat down has told us that Ulster will agree to Home Rule. He did not produce the smallest proof to show that he had a jot or tittle of substance for the statement that he made.
We only know that Ulster is the central fact of the situation to-day, and that will be increasingly recognised as time goes on, even by right hon. Gentlemen on that bench, when Ulster has said that under no circumstances will she bow her head to the yoke. I am not an Ulster man and 1498 do not pretend to share the prejudices of Ulster men, but the fact that these prejudices exist is quite sufficient for the point I am trying to make, that they have a dogged determination which enables them to carry those pledges into effect. Lord Rosebery said he took off his hat to the sturdiness of the Ulster man, and that of all Scots the Ulster Scots were the best; and nobody had said so, in such eloquent terms, as the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture (Ireland, Mr. T. W. Russell). He has made classic speeches on the point, and I do not know whether he is going to make them in this Debate. In one of his speeches he spoke of how in the darkest times Ulster stood by England when all others were ranged against her, and that nothing could shake the nerve and virility of Ulster men. I do not suppose he recants that now.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I am glad to have his assent to the proposition that these facts exist now as they have always existed. And if Ulster will not have Home Rule I should like to know how the Government is going to force the minority of a million into the servitude of those whom they regard, rightly or wrongly, as their hereditary foes. We know that in Ulster, in North-East Ulster—because it is of no good confusing the question by trying to define what the word "Ulster" means, we know that in North-East Ulster are aggregated all the industries of Ireland except agriculture. We know that they have shown an enterprise there which has enabled them—
§ Mr. DEVLIN
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the head of one of the greatest industries in Belfast is a Home Ruler?
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I am quite well aware of Lord Pirrie's history. I am also aware that in the demonstration that took place three days ago in Belfast, his workmen turned out almost to a man to hear the Leader of the Opposition.
§ 10.0 P.M.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
What I wish to point out to the House is that North-East Ulster is practically united against Home Rule, and that it is as certain as anything can be, that if, as they say, by fraud, or as at least we say by artifice, this Bill 1499 passes into law, they will resist it to the utmost of their ability, and it certainly does not become right hon. Gentlemen sitting there to rise in protest against passive resistance in Ulster. They urged the people of England to resist the education rate by passive resistance, and nobody was so prominent in that campaign as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. How are you in these days, these democratic days, in this democratic age, and in this democratic country, to force a million of men into a system which they refuse to join? More than that, how are you going to expel them from the citizenship which they claim they have a right to belong to through all time? In the eloquent speech in which Pitt introduced the Act of Union into the House, he asked the people of Ireland to enter into the inheritance of the British Empire, no matter how they came in, and on that foundation has been built up the whole prosperity which Ireland at present enjoys. How are you going to expel the Irish minority from citizenship in the United Kingdom? They will be content with nothing less; they do not ask anything more. I confess I am disappointed. We have heard the jeers and sneers which were levelled against the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for East Down this evening. I believe few hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway disbelieve the force of Ulster. I fancy they know that if they were left to themselves the chances are a good deal in favour of the minority subjugating the majority in Ireland. At any rate, if unfortunately it came to question of physical force, the Ulster men would show of course the qualities they have always shown. The hon. Baronet who has just sat down said that Irishmen have just as good a right to speak of Empire, and just as great a share in making Empire, as Englishmen have. We quite admit they have done that under the Union from the common patriotism they bear to the United Kingdom. Nobody wants to rule out the people of Ulster if they refuse to go out and they still claim to retain their share. The Prime Minister spoke of this Bill as a step towards federation. There is nothing about which there is so much loose thinking and loose talking as about federation. Federalism is not a principle of political dissolution, and federation is not a fissiparous process of shedding sovereignty as some people imagine. It is a curious thing 1500 that the most authoritative pronouncement upon federation as it affects the United Kingdom comes from the great historian, who was a great Home Ruler, and who, in 1886, always supported Mr. Gladstone—I mean Professor Freeman. He said:—No one can wish to cut up our United Kingdom into a Federation, to invest English counties with the rights of American States, or even to restore Scotland and Ireland to the quasi-federal position which they held before their respective unions. A federal union to be of any value must arise by the establishment of a close tie between elements which were before divided, and not by the subdivision of members which have hitherto been closely united.If that is true, there can be no federation that does not mean a closer union, and to talk of this as a step towards federation is as absurd as to try to persuade this House that before long there will be introduced into the House a Bill for setting up separate Parliaments in Wales, Scotland, and in England. I know that Scotch Home Rule has been one of the historic jokes of this House ever since I have been here, and it remains a joke.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
May I ask the hon. Member why Unionist candidates in Scotland supported Scotch Home Rule?
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
I did not know that they did, but if they did it shows still more that it is a joke. Nobody takes it seriously. The truth is that this Bill is anti-federal in the sense in which we use the word. By federation we mean federation of the British Empire, and federation must be, and always has been, to a large extent simultaneous. By confession of the Prime Minister this is not to be simultaneous federation. It must not deprive citizens of their share in the larger patriotism of the nation, and of the country of which they are a part or a subdivision. This Bill does nothing to hasten the federation of the Empire. On the contrary, once passed, it would be a great barrier, and, curiously enough, nobody has recognised that more than Mr. Erskine Childers, who has just written a book, which is so largely used as a text-book by hon. Gentlemen opposite in the cause of Home Rule. The Prime Minister said that Ulster would be satisfied if brought into the scheme, just as South Africa has been pacified by the South African Union. He forgets that in South Africa there were no religious divisions, there were no social divisions, and there were no industrial parous process of shedding sovereignty as division, and I should think that the House 1501 must bear in mind that it was only after a bloody war that the Union was effected. I doubt whether it could have been effected without a bloody war. In any case there are none of the conditions present in Ireland which have made the South African Union a success, though we cannot boast too soon that they have escaped the dangers which were pointed out by those who knew South Africa best. We cannot boast yet, because sufficient time has not elapsed.
Ulster is to be satisfied, the Prime Minister says, by the safeguards which have been provided, and the principal of which was, I understand, the institution of the Senate to be nominated by the present Government in the first place, and by the Nationalist governments in Ireland in subsequent years. I wish the Chief Secretary had been here when the Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) spoke. He said he supported that arrangement because it virtually would be Single-Chamber Government in Ireland. That is the opinion of the Members for Ulster. They know it does establish Single-Chamber Government in Ireland, and they are perfectly well aware that every one of the men nominated to that Senate will have to pay homage to the present Government and to those who dictate to them on the other side of the Channel. How can the Chief Secretary seriously ask the Ulster Members to accept a Senate constituted under those conditions as any safeguard when he knows perfectly well that the Irish United League will probably have as much to say to their nomination as to the election of Members from the three provinces. I should like to know whether we ought not to inquire how far we can accept the assurance of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford that this is a final settlement as authoritative. Naturally anything he says I accept here, but I also recollect what I have heard from those benches in former times. I heard Mr Parnell make that declaration to which reference was made, and since those days the Irish Members have taken every opportunity of pointing out that their aims are what the aims of Irish Nationalists have always been, virtual independence for Ireland. You do not have to go far back for a statement of that kind. The hon. Baronet who has just spoken claimed that Ireland would not be satisfied with less than Grattan's Parliament. He quoted the declaration of this House that it could have no power to legislate over, or inter- 1502 fere with, the Irish people. We have it in Mr. Grattan's own words:—We may talk plausibly to England, but as long as she exercises power to bind this country, so long are the Nations in a state of war.The hon. Baronet asked for an independent. Parliament to-night, and I believe he has for many years been intimately associated with the management of his party, so that what we hear from the hon. and learned Member for Waterford requires considerable modification. Here is one of the Members of the party who says that they will be satisfied with nothing but the independence of Grattan's Parliament.
§ Sir T. ESMONDE
What I said was that the historic claim of Ireland was repeal of the Union, or something to that effect but that we were prepared to abate our claim and to meet England half way in consideration of this House passing the Bill which the Prime Minister is introducing.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
The hon. Gentleman said in so many words that they stood by the declaration made in this Parliament, after Grattan's Parliament had been established, that we could have no say in the affairs of Ireland. That is in the face of what the Prime Minister talked about the first Clause of the Bill keeping; in our hands the power to legislate for all matters concerning Ireland just as we have had it before. I quite agree that that Clause has been retained in other Constitutions, but how many people think that we should dare to legislate for the internal affairs of the Dominion of Canada, in spite of the Act of 1867? They know that this paper supremacy, so far as we are concerned, is wastepaper supremacy. We have no supremacy and we could not exercise it, and we recognise it. I think it is fair, without in the least doubting what the hon. and learned Member for Waterford said, to point out that as late as 1909, when he was speaking at Waterford, he said:—The generation with which Captain O'Meagher Condon had worked had almost entirely passed away, but the presence of the young men of Waterford there that night meant that they upheld the same principles as the men who had associated with Captain O'Meagher Condon in working for the freedom of Ireland. It showed that every man in His crowd knew the history of the Manchester rescue and treasured in his heart of hearts the real meaning of the prayer in the dock, 'God save Ireland.'The hon. Gentleman, who is I believe, organiser of the Irish League for the party, said in September, 1909, at Cork:—They all believed that Ireland's destiny was to be a free land under a free sky, but they were all agreed, 1503 the revolutionist of the past and the constitutionalist of to-day, that it was the function of practical and sane Irish patriots to utilise whatever instrument God and progress had given them to forge their way to Irish freedom.I will not weary the House with further quotations, but I have another quotation of the hon. Gentleman which is exactly the same kind. I think, therefore, it is fair to ask how does that tally with the statement of the hon. Member for Waterford that he accepted this Bill as a final settlement. We heard Mr. Parnell say the same thing of the former Bill, which would not have conduced much to the prosperity of Ireland, because it would have landed her in bankruptcy, as we know from the statement of the Prime Minister. There have been any number of speeches made by those who speak for the Nationalists in America and here stating distinctly that they would be satisfied with nothing less than Irish freedom and that anything else they accepted as an instalment. Then we know perfectly well this statutory Parliament is only an instalment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Gentlemen are cheering me now because they are well aware that the first thing they would do is to use that Parliament as a stepping-stone to higher things, as they could by taking advantage of England's necessities, and of course that, as we know, has always been Ireland's opportunity, in order to extract further powers and to secure that independence which the hon. Baronet has said Ireland has always claimed, and which is found embodied in the Grattan Parliament; not so much, I fancy, as they think, though still they say Grattan's Parliament was an independent Parliament, and they claim as much now. For those reasons, I think, we have great cause to distrust the statement made by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and to question whether any real settlement is arrived at by this Bill. If not, it does seem an extraordinary thing that we should be asked to spend another Session in debating what England has twice rejected at two great elections. But there was a bribe held out in the first instance by Liberal statesmen which is not, of course, going to be offered now. It was said that this House would benefit enormously by being relieved of the presence of Irish Members. Lord Granville, in his correspondence, says:—The great bribe to us, and I expect, to England and Scotland, would be to get rid of the Irish Members of Parliament who are introducing the dry rot into our Constitution.1504 That was the argument used by the Liberals in the days of the first Home Rule Bill. To-day it is rather changed. The Prime Minister now says that it is to relieve the congestion of business in this House. Does he think there will be much relief with forty Irish Members here? Does he not know perfectly well that the minority and the majority will raise from day to day in this House the very same questions that are being debated in the Parliament in Dublin? There will be nothing to prevent them, though, of course, rules may be forged with that object. But we know that Irish Members will in the future, as they have done in the past, manage to break through any rules of procedure this House may draw up, and you will have a double consideration of these questions. In fact, I am inclined to believe that more time will be spent on Irish questions here in future under this Constitution than has been the case in the past. There will be continual grievances on both sides, and appeals will be made to this House to rectify them. The very fact that nominal powers are retained in the Bill will make that certain. Therefore there will not be the relief from congestion that the Prime Minister has prophesied.
Another argument in the old days is frankly abandoned—the argument of Swift: "Our misery appeals to you." That can hardly be said now. Only the other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the great test of a country's prosperity was its railway traffic. In the last fifteen years the railway traffic of Ireland has increased by 28 per cent., against an increase of 30 per cent, in England. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite are always saying that this country was never so prosperous as now under Free Trade. Therefore, if we have advanced 30 per cent. and Ireland 28 per cent., that does not speak badly for the prosperity of Ireland. I suppose that that argument will be frankly abandoned. This prosperity has all been built up on the foundation of the Union. You talk of laying a new foundation. So far as material conditions go—the Vice-President of the Board of Agriculture says that the condition of the people of Ireland is advancing as fast as that of any country in Europe—I do not think the Union has been found wanting. Nor do I think there is any reason for the deportation of Irishmen to this country suggested by the leader of the English Nonconformists. Dr. Horton, the most distinguished of the Nonconformist divines, said that there was a 1505 way out of any possible injustice being done to the minority in Ireland: they should be transported to this country, and in return Ireland could retain the labourers sent to the English harvests and employ them in her own industries. He said this quite seriously, but he hoped that justice would be tempered with mercy. Members from Ulster are not inclined to believe much in the latter part of the appeal. But it does not look as if that desperate remedy need be tried if only the industrial minority in Ireland have some real protection and guarantee for the industries they have raised. I hope that this House will pause long before it assents without strong protests to the introduction of a Bill that will upset the stable foundations upon which so much has been done. This is not an age when we think that we gain strength by splitting great empires into small principalities. We believe that union is strength, and that we find strength in union. Carlyle once said that Ireland and England were one by the ground plan of the world. I believe they are one by the ground plan of the Empire. It is only so long as we keep them one that we can have that unity in the United Kingdom which shall pave the way to the larger unity of the Empire, which we all in common profess to seek.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
My hon. Friend who has just sat down said he was not an Ulsterman, and that therefore he had not any of the prejudices of the Ulster people. I am in a different position, for although I have the honour of representing an English constituency, which is as strongly opposed as any part of the country can possibly be to the proposals of the Government, I cannot forget, and I do not wish to forget, that I am an Ulsterman. I am perfectly willing to plead guilty to having all the prejudices of the Ulster people. The advantage of the proceedings of this evening appear to me to be that for the first time for many years we have got back from the vaguest of generalities to practical details. In the discussion of this great controversy it is no longer a question of vague, bombastic rhetoric, but of actual concrete proposals. The first objection—I think lawyers would call it "the preliminary objection"—which I think we on this side take is that, apart altogether from the merits of this proposal, the present Parliament is not competent to carry it into law. I do not want now to go back over the old ground, which we debated earlier in the Session, 1506 as to whether or not there was a mandate for the principle of Home Rule at the last General Election. I am perfectly willing to admit, for the purposes of argument at all events, what was contended by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that the notice given by the Prime Minister to the country at the Albert Hall was sufficient to justify him in proposing Home Rule so far as the principle was concerned. The country, however, is entitled just as much to take into its consideration and decide upon the particular methods by which that principle is to be carried out, and upon the details such as are contained in this Bill, as it is entitled to decide upon the principle itself.
It is often said, though I think very falsely, that on the last occasion when this matter of Home Rule was before the country the House of Lords was the obstacle to carrying it out. It is constantly put in that way. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford, in one of his speeches, said that the destruction of the House of Lords' legislative power would remove the last obstacle to Home Rule. It was not the House of Lords that was the obstacle to Home Rule, but the people of this country. By what took place in the General Election of 1892 the people of this country may be taken to have given their assent to the principle of Home Rule, which had been before the country since 1886. It was certainly much more before the country in 1892 than in 1910. A majority, if a small one, was returned to support a Government pledged to Home Rule. The country, therefore, may be said to have assented to the principle. But in the General Election of 1895, when the method by which that principle was to be carried out and the details of it were before the country, the same electorate which had passed the principle in 1892 rejected the details and the method. I noticed the other day that no less an authority than Mr. Parnell himself, who certainly was not interested in bolstering up the authority of the House of Lords, and who I suppose was anxious at the moment to obtain for himself further information upon the intentions of the Government, used these words:—The House of Lords would only be carrying out its constitutional right in rejecting a Bill, the details of which had not been before the country at the General Election.Not merely the question of principle, but Mr. Parnell said if details of the Bill had not been before the country the House of Lords would be justified in 1507 throwing it out. I understand the Prime Minister himself said very much the same thing. I have not been able to verify his actual words, but they were quoted in 1893 in this House by the present Lord Selborne, who was then a Member of the House, and they were not challenged in any way by him, and I can myself perfectly well remember that the present Prime Minister made his first step towards his present eminent position by making a demand that Mr. Gladstone should give more information than he had at that time given to the country upon the principle and the details of his coming measure of Home Rule. The Prime Minister, as quoted by Lord Selborne, said that if information was not given upon details the Lords would be justified in rejecting the Bill. Of course, he used that argument as a reason for forestalling that action on the part of the Lords. In these circumstances we strongly contend, on this side of the House, that whatever may be the justification for the introduction of this measure to-day it would be utterly unconstitutional if the Government attempted to carry it finally into law without submitting the details of the measure to the electorate.
I do not wish in this Debate, and I do not suppose any of us wish, unnecessarily, to indulge in that practice of unearthing old speeches to which objection was taken by one hon. Gentleman opposite in a recent Debate. Certainly in this Debate the reluctance of hon. Gentlemen opposite to have old speeches unearthed is exceedingly intelligible. I do not suppose that, especially the right hon. Gentleman the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture in Ireland, is in the least anxious to be put upon the rack by having the compliments paid to him which my hon. Friend paid to him with regard to his eloquent speeches upon this subject in the past. At the same time it seems to be necessary to make a certain amount of reference to what has been said in the past, and for two reasons; first of all to test the sincerity of the professions made by hon. Members to-day, and, secondly, to ascertain how far some of the old predictions have been fulfilled and how far certain old arguments still hold good. I think one thing will certainly be admitted with regard to these proposals—in fact, it was practically admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister—that these proposals would never 1508 have been brought before this House if it had not been for the history of 1886 and 1893. The Bill of 1886 laid the foundation for all subsequent Home Rule proposals in this House. There were two main grounds of support put forward by Mr. Gladstone in that Bill as reasons for the acceptance of Home Rule and upon one of them the Prime Minister has to-day again laid stress. The same point was also referred to by the hon. Member for Wexford (Sir T. Esmonde). It is what may be called the constitutional argument, namely, that because a majority from Ireland have with persistence put forward a demand for certain changes in the government of Ireland, therefore, on constitutional grounds, that demand cannot be resisted. That is the argument put forward and accepted by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway. I should like to call the attention of the House to a very short passage in the writings of one of the greatest political thinkers, Sir Henry Maine, who says:—Democracies are quite paralysed by the plea of nationality. There is no more effective way of attacking them than by admitting the right of the majority to govern, but denying that the majority so entitled is the particular majority which claims the right.Let me apply that pregnant saying to the present situation. That is exactly what hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are doing. They are attacking the British democracy with precisely the same weapon as that alluded to by Sir Henry Maine. We have the British democracy as represented in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway are attacking that democracy by saying that, although the majority is entitled to govern, the particular majority returned by the United Kingdom to this House is not the one which is entitled to govern, and that they must set up a new unit, the majority in Ireland, and isolate that from the other part of the Kingdom. That is a process which is absolutely disintegrating to any democratic Government. Observe to what length that may be carried. We have heard an hon. Member opposite emphasise the fact that there is a majority in Scotland to be isolated in a similar way, and that its voice is to be heard to the exclusion of all others, and that it is to prevail in the particular area of Scotland. The same claim is to be put forward on behalf of Wales. Is this going to stop there? I represent in this House a Division of an English county which in a much more real sense than Ireland was once a separate kingdom. The people 1509 of Kent are ethnologically as separate from the people of the rest of England as the Irish people. We have at the present moment in Kent an overwhelming majority demanding Tariff Reform, but we have not yet put forward the demand—although we may be encouraged to do so—that we are entitled to isolate ourselves from the rest of the British democracy and constitute ourselves a separate country demanding that our voice is to be exclusively heard, and that we are not to be merged in the rest of the country. The second ground, and I think it was the main ground, which was put forward in 1886 was that the proposals then put forward were the only conceivable alternative to the government of Ireland by coercion. At all events we have not heard that plea put forward to-day, and I suppose we may take it that that plea will not be put forward. Consequently one of the two main grounds on which those proposals were based in former times has to be absolutely abandoned.
I wish to say a word or two about the very important matter dealt with by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and I think I shall be able to supplement what he said with regard to the attitude of Mr. Parnell on this question. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford was dealing with the vitally important question as to whether or not this Bill will provide a final or even a durable settlement of this problem. Mr. Gladstone said it was essential in any proposal which he put forward—and I suppose the Prime Minister would say the same to-day—that there should be an element of finality in that settlement. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford told us this evening that he and his Friends are prepared to accept this Bill as a final settlement, and he also told us that Mr. Parnell and his party had in the same way accepted the Bill of 1886 as a final settlement. In order to prove that point, he read some passages from the speeches of Mr. Parnell both on the First and Second Reading of that Bill. I absolutely deny that Mr. Parnell did accept the Bill of 1886 as a final settlement. I absolutely disbelieve that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford accepts this as a final settlement; and I go further and I say that even if he did accept it there is behind the hon. Member and his Friends a public opinion in Ireland which is much more important than the opinions held upon those benches, and an opinion which the hon. Member and his friends with the 1510 best intentions in the world are utterly unable either to influence or to control. I do not accept the assurance of the hon. Member for Waterford. I do not wish to say that in any offensive sense, and I will couple it with what I hope he will take as a compliment. The hon. Member is in the position, or considers himself in the position, of a diplomatist. He calls himself and thinks himself the representative of a nation. He will not take it amiss perhaps if in that connection I compare him with the late Prince Bismarck. All the world knows that on a famous occasion in carrying out his duty as he thought, and carrying it out very effectively for the benefit of his country, Prince Bismarck was not above what is called "editing" a telegram. Therefore, if the hon. Member finds it necessary, in the pursuit of his duty or in the interests of his country and his nation, either to "edit" a telegram or to convey a modified impression of the truth to this House or to the country as to his intentions regarding the Bill, it will not be thought to his disadvantage to say that he will act as Prince Bismarck would have done in similar circumstances. I want to deal with his contention that the Bill of 1886 was accepted as a final settlement by Mr. Parnell, remembering that the hon. Member stands "precisely where Parnell stood." It is quite true, speaking in this House upon the First and Second Reading of that Bill, that Parnell absolutely accepted as a final settlement of the question the Bill then before the House. But on St. Patrick's Day in 1891 two significant speeches were made in the country on the same day. Mr. Gladstone, speaking in Cheshire and referring no doubt to the attitude which he remembered on the part of Mr. Parnell in this House when the policy of Home Rule was announced by the Government of 1886, said it was "frankly, unanimously, and patriotically adopted by the Irish Nationalist party." On the very same day, perhaps at the very same hour, Parnell was speaking at Cork, and this is what he said:—I never really trusted Mr. Gladstone. I hoped he would have been able by degrees to have given us a solution of the national question which we could have accepted. That was the point to which I was encouraging him.What I want to know is whether in this particular, as testing his candour in accepting this as a solution of the Irish question, the hon. and learned Member stands precisely where Mr. Parnell stood? Strongly as I differ from the hon. Member in political opinions, there is one thing I 1511 always remember as very greatly to his honour, and that is the fidelity of his adherence to his great leader. If the hon. and learned Member were in his place I should like to ask him whether to-day he is prepared to say here that Mr. Parnell was a less truthful, less trustworthy, and less honourable man than he himself is? Unless he is prepared to say that—unless he is prepared to cast that stigma on the leader he so faithfully followed when alive, I do not know how he can possibly stand up in this House and resist our claim that we are entitled, to look beyond the literal meaning of words—to his position as a diplomatist and the probabilities of the case. So much for the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and his final acceptance of the Bill. There are other Members of his Party, one of whom was quoted to-night by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dublin University—the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon)—who have made speeches which went far beyond the acceptance of this measure as a final settlement. The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Devlin), speaking in the year 1902—I understand he is now the most influential Member of that party, and therefore his words carry special weight—said:—When equipped with comparative freedom—I suppose this Bill will be comparative freedom—then would be the time for those who think we should destroy the last link that binds us to England to operate by whatever means they think best to achieve that great and desirable end.Then there is Professor Kettle—another distinguished leader of public opinion in Ireland—who said:—They would take as much as they could get. They would demand as large a measure relating to the life and government of Ireland as was practically attainable; but whatever they got they would not express themselves as satisfied.There we have the gravest possible warning that whatever they get they will ask for more, and they will not be satisfied, and in the face of such declarations it is absolute folly for this House or the country to accept their assurance that this particular measure is going to satisfy the aspirations of Ireland, of which we have heard so much. I want to carry this one point further. The House will remember a significant incident that occurred eighteen months ago, when the hon. Member for Waterford and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool took a trip to the other side of the Atlantic. They went there, apparently, as disciples of the 1512 right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. They went there thinking imperially—or talking imperially, at all events, and the hon. Member for the Scotland Division was good enough to say he would plead for England even if she had not a friend left in the world. I am sure England is to be congratulated upon having so stalwart a friend, even though it be so unexpected a friend. Various speeches in the same tone were made both in Canada and the United States, with which I will not trouble the House. But I want to refer to what happened at the time of an interview published in the "Daily Express." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] I am quite aware that the hon. Member for Waterford says he did not give that interview. I am not alleging for a moment that he did, but I want to tell the House what he did not say in that interview. The interview that he did not give contained these words—the hon. Member did not say this:—We are entirely loyal to the Empire as such, and we desire to strengthen the Imperial bonds through a federal system of Government.He did not say that, but it was said that he had said it. It was published as having come from him, and the point I want to lay before the House is that the very idea that he could have said such a thing caused consternation throughout Ireland. The hon. Member for South Louth (Mr. J. Nolan), the hon. Member for North Kilkenny (Mr. Meagher), the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) himself, I think, found this profession of Imperial loyalty in America absolutely incredible, and they warned the people of Ireland that it was incredible, that they were to take all this talk about the interview with a grain of salt, and assured them that they were not being betrayed in the way that they imagined. What was the Press saying? Let me read to the House what the "Kilkenny People" said:—Of course, Home Rule is a very elastic term, a term that lacks any reasonable sort of definition, and we do not all mean the same thing by it. For instance, Mr. T. P. O'Connor has just been talking about it in Canada, and all we can say is, that if Home Rule be anything like what he describes it, we shall not be greatly concerned if it does not come until Tibb's Eve. We believe we would be infinitely worse off than at present under the Home Rule system as outlined by Mr. T. P. O'ConnorThen there is the "Enniscorthy Echo," which said:—We publish to-day a statement that will astonish, and pain every Nationalist in county Wexford.This thing that was going to astonish and pain was the alleged interview with the hon. Member for Waterford.
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
I am sorry I cannot gratify the hon. Member with what the "Skibbereen Eagle" said, but I will gratify him to the extent that I can tell him what the "Connaught Champion" said. It said:—Bewilderment is the only word which can describe the feelings of the supporters of Mr. Redmond at his profligate barter of what he proclaimed to be his unalterable principles a few months ago.When these "Enniscorthy Echoes" and these "Connaught Champions" reached America, and had reached the ears of the hon. Member for Waterford, he then sent over the cablegram entirely repudiating the interview in the "Daily Express."
§ Mr. RONALD M'NEILL
What I want the House to ask itself is this: the hon. Member repudiates this interview; what was it he found so necessary to repudiate? Of course, what he had to repudiate, in the face of this demonstration of opinion, not only from newspapers, but from hon. Members, was that he had said he was entirely loyal to the Empire, and that he desired to strengthen the Imperial bonds. He had to repudiate it, and it is because he had to repudiate ft that I repeat that, even if we could take at its face value the acceptance by the hon. Member and his friends of this particular Bill as a final settlement, you have got that opinion in Ireland which is utterly disloyal to the Empire, and is not going to strengthen its bonds, and which will soon wipe out the hon. Members below the Gangway from this House, and anywhere else, unless they in their turn toe the line in this matter. If I have not said much about Ulster it is because I cannot trust myself to do so. I do not believe if I were to attempt to present the true facts as I understand them as regards Ulster I should be capable of the necessary restraint to keep my language within the limits of order. But there is one fundamental difference of view which no debate upon matters of detail ever touches at all. Hon. Members below the Gangway, and hon. Members opposite accept their statement, look upon Home Rule as an extension of liberty. We look upon it as a degradation of status. Between those two points of view it appears to me that there can be no compromise, and that all the talk about 1514 whether or not this particular little safeguard will get rid of that particular objection really does not touch the heart of the matter at all. For it is not merely, or perhaps mainly, because we have apprehensions with regard to this or that particular, but because we are proud of being part of the United Kingdom, because we do not wish to lose that status and to be cast out into what we consider an inferior and degraded status that we object to proposals of this sort. It seems strange that the present Government, who, if report speaks truly, such is their enlightenment, avoided the thirteenth day of the month for the summoning of Parliament, should have chosen to introduce this Bill on a very significant anniversary. It was on the 11th April, just fifty-one years ago, that the first step was taken in the great American civil war. I say, in all earnestness and with all reverence, that I pray God that on this 11th April, fifty-one years later, the Prime Minister may not by his action have been setting his hand to business which may lead to a similar tragedy.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next, 15th inst.