§ Order read for resuming adjourned Debate on Amendment [31st March] to Question proposed [9th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Which Amendment was to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."
§ Question again proposed. Debate resumed.
At the Adjournment of the Debate yesterday I was referring to the proposal for a Referendum. I am not personally opposed to the idea of a Referendum, but I feel it is not suitable to the facts of this particular case, and, whatever else it would do, it would not effect agreement. If the verdict were in favour of Home Rule we should still be faced with the opposition of Ulster, because the right hon. and learned Genutleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) directly refused to be bound by the decision of a Referendum. If, on the other hand, the verdict went the other way, it would probably preclude the Opposition when they came in from dealing with the question. It is no use asking people whether they will have two alternatives, neither of which they want. I have no doubt the bulk of the people in this country desire an immediate settlement of the Irish question. I do not think that is seriously doubted in any quarter, and it is no good asking them whether they would agree to one alternative which means no settlement, or to another alternative which means no settlement. It is no good asking the people of the country will you have A or B when what they really want is C. Therefore I think the Referendum cannot possibly effect a settlement, and, however applicable it may be in other cases, it is no use in the present case. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman who moved the rejection (Mr. Walter Long) once more raised the question of the proposal of a General Election. I believe the same objection would apply to that. There is another objection, and that is that we on this side, at any rate, I can speak for myself, were returned by constituents many 1202 of whom returned us on the faith of our pledge to try and pass Home Rule in this Parliament. We should not be doing our duty by those constituents if we went back and said "We are afraid of the threats of Ulster, and we are not prepared to do what we said we would do." It has always been the theory in this country that even if you have not got as the main issue at an election any particular Bill, if the intention of bringing in that Bill was clearly announced to the country, as it was in this case, that then you had the right to bring it in, and you had a duty to bring it in as regards those who voted for you on the strength of it. That has been the old theory. Now, apparently, right hon. and hon. Members opposite are pressing the doctrine of the mandate a great deal further.
I understand their theory to be that you have no right to make any such change in this country, that it is almost a crime to make any such change in the Government of this country, and particularly a constitutional change, unless the change has been the main issue at a General Election. I believe that is the theory which they are putting forward. I am not sure they are willing to follow it. They propose in consequence of that to hold a General Election on the question of the Home Rule Bill and the Home Rule Bill only, and then if returned to power they propose to do what—to restore the Veto of the House of Lords and to abolish Free Trade, two of the biggest changes which could possibly be made. I think they cannot be surprised if we do not altogether accept their support of this doctrine of the mandate which they have not observed in the past, and which they have themselves announced their intention of throwing over the moment they are in power. Whatever may be one's views as to the doctrine of mandate, there is no doubt a General Election would not settle the question now. Therefore I do not myself look forward with much hope to the suggestions with regard to a General Election made by the Foreign Secretary yesterday. A General Election, like a Referendum, cannot settle the matter. We are therefore driven back to the advisability of settlement during this Parliament.
For my part, I disagree with the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) in his view that a settlement ought to be obtained, if possible, by proposals put forward by the Government and discussed on 1203 the floor of the House. I believe that a settlement, if it is to be obtained, is far more likely to be obtained by what is known as the method of conversations. Our objection to the action of the Opposition so far, has been that they have shown no readiness to consider any of the numerous propositions for settlement that have been put forward. I am not going to discuss to-day whether they have been relying on the Army or not. I feel as strongly as anybody in the House on that question, but I do think we should gain nothing by discussing any aspect of the Army question now. It will be helpful neither to the spirit of compromise existing at present nor to the preservation and maintenance of discipline in the Army. I think it is quite allowable to say that this difficulty about the Army is a reason why both sides should do what they can to settle this question amicably. I believe we are all equally concerned in maintaining the high standard of discipline in the Army and its exclusion from all questions of politics. Both parties desiring that must feel an additional incentive to effect a settlement if possible. I, personally, am not very sanguine about a settlement being obtained, but I am sure that during the last few days there have been certain signs that a settlement is possible if good will is shown by both parties. We have had a succession of speeches by Back Bench Members on both sides which have shown that those Members are willing to subordinate their own ideas as to what is the absolute best in order to arrive, if possible, at a common understanding. We on this side appreciate several of the speeches that were made yesterday by hon. Members opposite. We have the general opinion, which is growing stronger in the country, that politicians are not good for much if they cannot settle this question amongst themselves without fighting. I am certain, too, that even amongst the most extreme partisans, even amongst the Nationalists, there is a feeling growing that a settlement with good will is the best for Ireland; and I think that signs are not wanting that many people who have supported the volunteers in Ulster are yet not anxious that a blank negative should be offered to all the proposals for settlement emanating from this side.
I am sure that that feeling of compromise is not dictated by any fear of the consequences if no compromise is arrived 1204 at. I myself have never shrunk from what I believed from a very early stage to be the possibility, or even the probability, of bloodshed in Ulster. I am quite prepared to face it now, if no settlement can be arrived at. I am quite certain also that all those Members on the other side of the House who have been doing what they can to effect a settlement are by no means the most chicken-hearted Members there. We on this side have looked forward to this Home Rule Bill as a basis upon which we could found the very highest hopes. We have looked forward to a contented instead of an agitated Ireland, which should look forward to achievements in the future, instead of back to the wrongs of the past. We have looked forward to securing the good will of Nationalists in Ireland in order that in future every Irishman who went abroad might become a bond of union between this country and the land to which he went, instead of a point of hostility, as he very often is at the present time. We have looked forward to the co-operation of Ireland as an accession of strength, both moral and material, to the British Empire. We have thought those ideas worth fighting for, and we think so still. For them we have been willing to risk the horrors of the suppression of a rebel outbreak in Ulster. For them we have been willing to consent to what many of us dislike very much, the idea of a temporary exclusion of Ulster. For them we are willing now to make any sacrifices that we can and to do what lies in our power to effect a general settlement of the question.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. DILLON
Keeping in mind the history of this controversy, I have no hesitation in saying that the Debate to which we listened yesterday was the most remarkable that has ever taken place. For thirty years the controversy over Irish Home Rule has endured in this House. I have been present throughout all those Debates, and yesterday, for the first time, I heard this question debated in a spirit of reasonableness and conciliation, and with an evident desire on both sides to reach a settlement. Whatever differences may still divide us, I cannot shut out from my own mind the strong hope that this marvellous prospect, for it was almost a miracle, may be the harbinger of better days, and that we may really arrive at some settlement that will spare Ireland from any further trouble, of which she has had enough in the past, and open the 1205 gates to a brighter future for all sections of the Irish people. But when I heard the hon. Member who has just sat down (Mr. Cawley), in the admirable speech which he has delivered, say that he thought that there was growing, even in the minds of Irish Nationalist Members, a desire for a peaceful settlement, it showed me how marvellously even our warmest and most enthusiastic Friends in this House, and in England, can misunderstand. A desire for a peaceful settlement? Why, there is no section of this House that has so longed for a peaceful settlement as we have. Any man, I do not care on what bench he sits, who applies his mind impartially to the study of this problem, must see that from the very nature of the case we must desire more than anybody else a peaceful settlement of this question, because the whole future of our country and our chances of making this great experiment a success depend almost entirely on a peaceful settlement. I have said that the temper of the House yesterday was a very good and remarkable augury. The continuance of that temper is of the most vital importance to the prospects of peace, and not only to the future of our country, but to the future of Great Britain just as much; because you are now beginning to realise, more than you have ever realised before, what this Irish question is, and what a poison it has infused into your own system, and will continue to infuse until in some measure you withdraw the poison and reconcile the people of Ireland to your rule. The whole chances of a peaceful settlement depend upon the maintenance during the remaining stages of these Debates of that same temper which characterised and dominated the Debate yesterday. The Foreign Secretary closed his most remarkable and powerful speech yesterday with a great appeal. He closed his speech by an appeal for a fair start in regard to the Army, and then he said:—If by any fresh controversy on this subject the issues which we have endeavoured to close are reopened, if we are thus forced, depend upon it the neat election must be on something much more grave than the question of Ulster or of Ireland—upon something so grave that. whatever its result may be, it cannot leave things in the Constitution of this country as it found them.That was a very solemn appeal, backed up by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke), whose eloquent speech has induced me to take part in this Debate so early, because he made a pointed appeal to the Nationalist Members to break their silence and make some contribution to the Debate. He backed up the 1206 appeal of the Foreign Secretary by saying that England was now, and had been for the last week, in a predicament most grateful to all her enemies. And it was true. If anything is needed—and nothing is needed—to support the weight of those appeals, just look at the cablegram in this morning's "Times" describing the effect of our proceedings on the public in America. It says:—Just as the Panama Tolls controversy is having a lamentable effect on the atmosphere of Anglo-American relationships, so the whole Ulster business is having a lamentable effect on British prestige, for not even his most ardent American admirers imagine that Mr. Asquith has solved his difficulties with regard to either Home Rule or anything else.They go on to say that—It is depressing to find how general is the judgment that the resigning officers were tempted into a grave lapse of duty by the passionate intrigues of Unionist politicians.4.0 P.M.
[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members will pardon me for a moment. I am not quoting what I do for the purpose of continuing that phase of the question. I will tell them what I want to be at if they will allow me. What I want to point out is this—and then I will pass from the subject: The reason I allude to the quotation really is that I am anxious to preserve the tone of yesterday's Debate. The reply to that appeal coming from the Foreign Secretary, and supported by the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke), must he on both sides. If there is to be this same temperature maintained, if there is to be an absence of recrimination, then, Sir, I think both sides must give up this question of the Army. When I see the proposal to hold a meeting in Hyde Park on Saturday to denounce the Government for using the Army to coerce Ulster, I ask hon. Members above the Gangway in all good faith, "How can you ask hon. Members opposite, or us, to abstain from this controversy in the face of such proceedings?" I pass from that matter; I did not really intend to pursue it, but I quoted the statement to point out that forbearance, if there is to be forbearance, and a fresh start on the subject in response to the appeal of the Foreign Secretary—that forbearance must be practised by both sides. The hon. Member for Exeter wound up his speech by making a strong appeal to us to break our silence. Here are the words he used:—I trust that at some early hour we may hear from a representative of the Nationalist party in this Debate, in which there has been frank speaking and dispassionate and respectful speaking—1207 Quite true!—whether they are ready to come into this scheme of conciliation and to offer to Ulster the slender but generous concession upon which, as it seems to me, the peace of this country and, it may be, its future existence will depend."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1914, col. 1110.]That was a very strong appeal. I must say that the whole tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Exeter was most friendly and sympathetic to Nationalist Members. I will proceed to examine what was the nature of what he asked us to do. I shall deal further with his speech later, but in point of fact he appealed to us to consent to the withdrawal of the six years' time limit. That was the substance of his appeal—which he described as a slender concession to Ulster which would save this country. The hon. Member for St. Augustine's Division (Mr. R. M`Neill) made a similar appeal. He asked what difference did it make, even from the Nationalist point of view, if this six years' limit were withdrawn. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Croft) seemed to be also under the impression, which was shared by the other two hon. Members I have just referred to, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College (Sir E. Carson) had accepted the Government's offer subject to the withdrawal of the six years' limit. I shall deal later with our attitude and our position in reference to the six years' time limit. But first of all I want to point out that all these three hon. Members, and many other hon. Members in previous Debates upon this side of the House, had spoken under a total delusion—I am sure a perfectly bonâ-fide delusion—as to the attitude taken up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College on the occasion referred to. Here is what the hon. Member for Christchurch said:—…. last time the question of concessions were discussed. Let its examine this. I think it must he agreed that the Unionist party leaders went a very long way on that occasion and tried even at the eleventh hour … to see if we could not conic together. What was the proposition? First of all we have the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University, in which he deliberately asked the Government. Why do they not extend their exclusion of Ulster until Parliament should otherwise order? I think that was, from his point of view, a very great extension."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st March, 1914, cols. 1078–9.]It is evident, therefore, that the hon. Member for Christchurch is under the impression that if the Government had said across the Table "Done!" the whole question was settled. I want, first of all, to remove that total misunderstanding. Here is an extract from what I may describe as 1208 the official journal of the Ulster Unionist party, that is the "Belfast Newsletter," on the day following that Debate:—Sir Edward Carson had strong reasons for concentrating Ids attack upon the time limit in the Government's proposals. The excluded area, he argued, should be acknowledged as the master of its own fate for all time before any other point was argued. The advantage of that line of attack was that it compelled Ministers to say what they meant by exclusion, and it offered an inducement to them to make it a reality. When that Parliamentary point has been conceded, the question of which area should come in would properly arise. That is a matter vital to the working of any scheme of exclusion. To have opened the fight on the question whether the vote for exclusion should be by county or by province, however, would; it is feared, have confused the mind of the British public.It is perfectly plain, therefore, that the intention was to obtain first of all the removal of the six years' limit, and then go back to Belfast with some other proposals affecting the question of the area to be excluded. The "Newsletter" continues:—We are by no means surprised at the news we publish to-day from London, which states that among our Parliamentary representatives the opinion has now been arrived at against acceptance in any form of compromise based upon the Government's present proposals. The question, we are told, is not simply one of the time limit for excluded counties, as to which accommodation might be possible"—They then go onwe are Row told in this message that 'the Covenanters stand together, and nothing less than the total exclusion of Ulster will be accepted.' … This is what we insisted upon on the revelation of the Government's proposals: we said that the only voting area that could be accepted was the whole province voting in globe.There was no question, therefore, at any time of the acceptance by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College of the Government's proposals based on the withdrawal of the six years' limit. My object in making that point clear is to show that the statement made in perfect good faith by the hon. Member for Exeter in his speech, and also by the hon. Member for Christchurch, was based on a total misapprehension of the facts. As a matter of fact, the Government proposal has not been met in any fair or reasonable way by hon. Members on the Front Opposition Bench. Here is another example of the spirit in which that proposal was met. On the following day the same journal said:—The Government roust come to the Ulster Unionists' terms to avoid civil war in which case "—Mark this—it would lose the Nationalist vote, or go to the country for a way out, for it cannot now pass the Bill as Mr. John Redmond requires it as the condition of his assent to the Prime Minister's proposals for peace. Sir Edward Carson saw far when he said some advance had been made by the acknowledgment of the principle of exclusion, for he saw that the Government could not return to the prior position of passing the Bill as it stands.1209 Therefore, according to the organs of the Ulster party, all that has been said from that Front Bench in the previous Debates has been simply a piece of political tactics, apparently having for its object to try to draw from the Government further concessions, and the splitting of the Nationalist party who support the Government. That may be very astute tactics. We are rather too old politicians to be taken in by it, although some hon. Members have been taken in by it. It is not straightforward dealing. It does not fit in with the kind of temper which was displayed in this House yesterday by hon. Members on the back benches on this side of the House. Let me come to the appeal which was made yesterday by the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division. He, too, adopted a very much more peaceful and conciliatory tone than I have ever noticed before—very much so. Really, sometimes I think that the time will come, if this kind of temperature lasts, when it might be possible for us to deal with hon. Members like the hon. Member for St. Augustine's and so arrive at a settlement. Some of the things he said in his speech appealed to me very much. I will allude to them again. He made a strong appeal on these lines: He said that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had alluded to a number of schemes which had been proposed from various quarters, and known as the Horace Plunkett scheme, Home Rule within Home Rule, the Referendum, and various other schemes, all of which, he said, had been repudiated. They have. They have all been repudiated by the men who speak for Ulster. They have been, at all events, for the present, swept aside.
Why, said the hon. Member for St.. Augustine's, was the one scheme put forward on behalf of Ulster not alluded to at all by the Foreign Secretary? What he described as the one scheme put forward on behalf of Ulster was the exclusion of Ulster. He went on in a most remarkable way to qualify that, because he used these extraordinary words—I was listening to every word that fell from him with really the keenest interest. I remembered that the Member for Exeter had made it a reproach, an unusual reproach, to the Nationalist Members that we were very silent. I thought how little he ought to make it a matter of reproach, though he explained his meaning afterwards. The reason why we were very silent—I speak 1210 for myself—is that we were deeply impressed, more deeply far than hon. Members perhaps appreciate and under stand, with the fateful issues that depend upon this Debate. What remains to us of our lives may be darkened or brightened by what arises from this Debate. I confess I was hanging on every word that came from the hon. Member, whose ability I had the privilege of recognising on the first occasion that he spoke in this House, and who is, undoubtedly, a man of very exceptional intellect and ability. He went on to say later in his speech that a proposal had been put forward to some extent in the name of Ulster. He saw and realised that he had rather crossed the line, and committed himself too far in what he had put forward in the name of Ulster—I mean with regard to his statement. We all remember what occurred on the occasion when it was put forward or supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College. He went down to some club the following day and explained for the benefit of his friends in Ireland that he had supported it because he knew it would make Home Rule impossible, and would wreck the Bill, and I claim all this has been put forward by the men of Ulster only in the sense of a test of exposing the impossibility of Home Rule and the unworkable character of the proposal. I do not call that an honest proposal, and I say, in reply to the appeal of the hon. Member for St. Augustine's Division, that, in my opinion for what it is worth, there is no section of the Irish people in favour of the exclusion of Ulster as a settlement. I include in that the men of Ulster themselves.
I entirely agree and recognise, and I deplore being obliged to recognise it, that the overwhelming majority of the Protestants of Ulster are bitterly hostile to Home Rule. There is no dispute about that. I recognise it, and I am very sorry for it, and they grasp at this proposal of exclusion because they think they could use it as a political weapon to kill Home Rule, either on the one hand by splitting the alliance between the Government and the Nationalist party, which was the first line of attack, or by raising such a condition of things in Ireland as would render our position impossible and throw all Ireland into confusion and bring about the failure of Home Rule. That is the reason why they have tolerated it, and the hon. Member for St. Augustine's was very careful to so partially put forward the demand of. 1211 Ulster. That is the reason why they support this proposal for the exclusion of Ulster, simply as a political weapon—
§ Mr. DILLON
That is really rather a recurrence of the old spirit, but I do not take any notice of it. This proposal for the exclusion of Ulster is simply in the hands of the Unionists a political weapon and not really a proposal for peace and settlement. The hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division went on to argue with great ability and great logical force as to the unfairness of the proposal of the six years' limit. Here is what he said, and I think I can give a perfectly clear summary of his argument. He said, "It was most unfair. We ask for an election now before Home Rule is passed into law, and all you say is, there will be two elections in the future on this question of Ulster." He said, "An election now would turn on this question of the coercion of Ulster, but if you have two further elections six years hence, how can we induce the British electors to consider the question of Ulster?" I think that is a most unfair statement of the case that I have ever listened to. Let us examine it. Supposing you go to an election now, does any person imagine—and we may have an election before many months, in view of the offer made by the Foreign Secretary yesterday—that election would turn solely on Ulster? Do you not know that 100 other questions, as recent by-elections have shown will come in, and in many constituencies will completely overshadow the question of Ulster? Take the case of two elections, and consider the greater chances you have—I am now speaking against myself, I spoke in this sense some time ago on a platform outside, and I was very severely taken to task by my own friends—look at what you get in the Government proposals. You get two further elections, and you have an almost overwhelming chance that the Tories will come into power in one of them. It is hardly conceivable that the Radicals are going to win the two next elections.
§ Mr. DILLON
I do not know what may be the feelings of hon. Members above the Gangway, but that would be a thing almost unparalleled in British history. You have all that chance, and no matter 1212 what the issue of the election may be, if the Unionist party come into power, they can do what they like; but mark this further thing, that not only will you at these elections have issues outside Ulster on which you may hope to win the confidence of the British people—surely you are not brought to that position that you have no other issues—but you will have the issue of Ulster added and superadded to all the other issues if you have an election six years hence or five years hence. You can go to the country, and there will arise the question, if Ulster is still recalcitrant, of the possibility of the coercion of Ulster, which you will have in addition to all other issues. Therefore, it is clear there is advantage to you from your point of view, but that is by no means all. How would this House stand after we had made up our minds to make to you what was to us a very dangerous and a very bitter sacrifice indeed? Some hon. Members who know Ireland were very confident we would conic to grief over it.
§ Mr. DILLON
Here is testimony from a wholly unexpected source of the difficulties we have to face, and when we were facing these difficulties and making up our minds to be parties, as we are parties, to this offer for peace and conciliation, we had to take into consideration the fact that in this Bill, with the proposed Amendments, we would be driving out of the House of Commons more than half our vote, and not only would you have the advantage in an election five years hence on the question of the possible coercion of Ulster, but you have, in addition, forty Nationalist votes cut way from the Nationalist party, while all the votes from North-East Ulster would remain in full strength. How can the hon. Member for St. Augustine's say that the offer of the Government is a worse offer than the offer which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition made across the floor some time ago? He offered, in spite of all that has been said about conscience and the duty of the men of Ulster to defend their rights, and about the Army, lie offered across the floor to put all to the test of the unknown machinery of a Referendum, which I am convinced would not bring to the polls 50 per cent. of the electors of this country, and under that Referendum, supposing 30 per cent. of the electors of this country voted in favour of the coercion of Ulster, which might possibly and probably be the 1213 result, he offered on behalf of the Unionist party to agree to the coercion of Ulster. I am against the Referendum altogether. I decline, so far as I am concerned, to put the fortunes of my country to such a test. I would almost as soon toss up a halfpenny to know whether Ireland shall have freedon or not, but the Leader of the Opposition did not hesitate, and he said he would agree that the Government were justified in coercing Ulster to submit to Home Rule if the Referendum voted for it, and he made no qualification as to the numbers voting, and though it might be only 30 per cent. of the electorate of this country the Leader of the Opposition would agree. But under the proposals made by the Government Ulster cannot be coerced until after two General Elections, when the whole thing is fully discussed in a Parliament in which the Nationalists would be under-represented, while the Unionists of Ulster would be fully represented. I put it to any reasonable man, Could a more reasonable proposal be made? Mark what the position is!
The hon. Member for St. Augustine's Division made an appeal to us to make a sacrifice. Have we made no sacrifice? Why, the hon. Member for Cork was willing to testify to the extent of our sacrifice, and he, with many others in Ireland, said that Ireland would hunt us from the country for daring to consent to these proposals. We have not been hunted from the country, but we faced that risk for the sake of peace. And mark you this: We did not say when these proposals were brought forward we would go back and submit them to a national convention. That is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Trinity College said. We took the risk. So anxious were we for peace, that we felt to go back and wrangle over these proposals, however unwelcome, as they were, to large bodies of our people, was not the road to peace, and we felt in a great crisis like this, where the whole future of generations of our country were at stake, where peace and war and civil commotion were stated to be at stake—we felt, as politicians, we should take our lives in our hands and risk everything for the sake of peace. We have been told it was a hypocritical sham. We do not think so. We made our offer honestly and faced the risks. We made a great offer more generous to Ulster than was asked for by the Leader of the Opposition. And really 1214 I do think that the representatives of Ulster ought to have met our proposals in a far larger spirit than that in which they have met them. The hon. Member for St. Augustine's made another appeal which struck me very much. He appealed to Nationalist Members below the Gangway and said that they did not probably understand or make allowance for the spirit of Ulster. He said that the spirit of Ulster was the spirit of a people who had an ideal, and that we were only looking for material advantage; and he said you can not break the spirit of the people who have an ideal. I agree with the hon. Member. The nation and people with an ideal are very troublesome and difficult to overcome. But have we no ideal? I ask the hon. Member for the St. Augustine's Division to try and put himself in our place. Have the Nationalists of Ireland no ideal? And which is the nobler ideal, his or ours? Which, I ask with confidence, is the ideal that has endured most and survived most? What have the men of Ulster ever suffered by coercion? They have never known what suffering means nor coercion. Talk about the coercion of Ulster now! As I said the other day, little they know of coercion. But our people have passed through four hundred years of coercion of the cruellest kind that was ever inflicted upon any nation, and yet our ideal survives and cannot be put down. A fresh hope arose in my breast when I heard the hon. Member for St. Augustine's talking about ideals, because, if he turns to the study of the history of his own country in that spirit, he cannot fail to sympathise with the Nationalist ideal. A habit has grown up on these benches of describing the Nationalists of Ireland as the implacable and eternal enemies of the Protestants of Ulster. That is a cruel injustice. We have never wronged these men in all history. I do not care to rake up bitter memories, or I might point out how often they have wronged us. I say, therefore, that it is a cruel and a false thing—false to the facts of history—to speak of the Nationalists of Ireland, of the Catholics of Ulster and the Nationalists of the rest of Ireland, as the sworn, eternal, and implacable foes and enemies of the Unionists and the Protestants of the country, as is frequently done. Here is what the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Duke) said:—One cannot disguise from one's mind, and it would be idle and foolish to disguise the fact, that a population so divided by race, by religion, by tradition, by 1215 ambition, by the hopes of its daily life, from what one may call the population sprung from the native stock of Ireland, can ever be united.That is a most extraordinary statement as to the native stock of Ireland. Ireland is a mixed community. I remember sitting by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) when I did not belong to the same party, in 1893, in the Gallery of the House of Lords listening to the Debate there when the House of Lords rejected the Home Rule Bill of 1893. The Duke of Argy11,.then an old man, but full of fire, was delivering a very eloquent speech. He was a very eloquent man, and here is what I heard him say:—Who are Dillon and Redmond? They come forward now and posture before the public of this country as representatives of the ancient race of Ireland. Who are they but the descendants of Norman robbers who came to Ireland centuries after my ancestors were Celtic chieftains on the coast of Scotland.Take the more recent history. Who was John Mitchell? The prophet to this day of the most extreme wing of the Irish Nationalists. He was the son of a Scottish Presbyterian clergyman only settled two or three generations in Ulster, and one of the most respected leaders of the Presbyterian Church in all Ireland. His great friend, John Martin, was a Presbyterian from Ulster. There was also James Davies, a Welsh Presbyterian, who was also a Protestant. Now let us come down almost to the present day. Who was Isaac Butt? Who was Charles Stewart Parnell? A man who came of an English stock, and whose family, as he often told me, settled in Ireland in the days of Queen Anne. And now to the very day we are now living in. Who was Douglas Hyde? The head of the most extreme society for Deanglicising the Celtic race, the president of the Gaelic League. They are all of English stock and came to Ireland about two centuries ago, and have become more Irish than the Irish themselves. Who is Professor Kettle, who was quoted as a man who was an extreme Nationalist? His name shows who he is. He is a Norseman of Norse blood, and, therefore, to talk of this hopeless division of race as an element in this problem is absurd and a gross misrepresentation of the whole case.
Let me briefly refer to the proposals which were dealt with in the Debate yesterday. First of all we had the Referendum. That has been repudiated on all sides, and on this side quite as emphatically as by the Foreign Secretary. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] The hon. Member 1216 for Exeter and other hon. Members said they did not regard the Referendurm as desirable at all. Then you had Home Rule within Home Rule. That also has been repudiated by the representatives of Ulster. Then there was the question of federalism. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs (Mr. Ponsonby) with great interest. I have no objection to make to any of the proposals contained in that speech, but I make one reservation, and I stand on the statement of the Prime Minister, that you cannot standardise Home Rule for each country, and that Ireland must have priority in this matter. That was the statement of the Prime Minister himself, and on that we stand, except that there is nothing in the speech, which I read again carefully this morning, of the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs, to which I take exception. Let me examine this question of federalism, because there has been a great deal of talk about it, and if I may say so, without being offensive, a great deal of loose talk. What is federalism? Here is what the hon. Member for Exeter said:—Is it a Bill which confers powers inherent in the prerogative of the Crown to a legislature composed of King, Senate and people, in a separate island, and you cannot take part of the prerogative of the Crown and bestow it somewhere without bestowing sovereignty.If this is done the road to federalism is blocked, because if you endow one of the constituent races of the United Kingdom with the attribute of sovereignty you cannot take it away. The hon. Member says that this Bill in its present form is not consistent with the federal idea. I never heard a more astounding argument. Take the greatest federal State we have, that is, the United States. Where does the sovereignty come in? It is to be found in each individual State. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Yes, it is, and it has been described by a great American statesman as the free combination, or federation, of sovereign States. The sovereignty lies in each individual State. [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] I can assure hon. Members that that is a fact, and the central government has only got such powers as the sovereign States of America have granted to it. That is the greatest federal Constitution in the-world. As a matter of fact the usual and normal foundation on which a federal constitution is based is sovereign States coming together forming a single community. Therefore, there is absolutely no, foundation whatever for the argument used by the hon. Member for Exeter. The hon. Member says that this Bill proposes-to transfer certain sovereign prerogatives. 1217 to Ireland. What is a sovereign prerogative? Surely in the system at work in Ireland at the present time there are sovereign prerogatives? Did the hon. Member ever hear of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who exercises a whole quantity of the prerogatives of the Sovereign, and he is part of the Irish Government. That is a remnant and a symbol of the old Irish Sovereign Parliament which has long passed away. Therefore, there is no force in that argument in the slightest degree. May I point out that there is nothing in this Bill which bars the road to federalism, and there is no foundation for the theory which is continually put forward and accepted in many quarters, that it is impossible to have a federal system unless there is absolute uniformity of all the constituent States. Therefore, there is no foundation for that argument at all.
I want to say, and I am speaking entirely for myself on this point, that personally I am against federalism, as I understand it, for this country. Nevertheless, it is evidently a question for investigation and inquiry, and that is the reason why I support the proposal of the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs. The working of federalism in the United State[...]—which I have had some opportunity of studying—is not an unmixed success by any means. Of course, it was a necessity for that great country, and they never could have come together, and they never could have held together except under a federal system. All that springs from their history. No men understand better than the hon. Members who sit below the Gangway opposite what are the drawbacks of federalism. and I think the English people will be well advised if they think not once or twice, but thrice before they commit this country to a system of federalism. Federalism involves some form of written Constitution, and I believe myself that the system under which this Bill stands of a supreme Parliament marks the end of true federalism. A system with a supreme Parliament, with an elastic Constitution, is, in my opinion, far better suited for the delevolpments of these Islands than a federal system.
I do not profess to dogmatise on that question, nor am I saying that this Irish Bill bars the road to federalism. I believe this Bill will fit in as it stands perfectly well with a federal system. Let us by all means inquire into the question, but when we are told, as we were told in the 1218 "Spectator," that we must consent to the withdrawal of this Bill, and wait until a statutory Commission devises a system of federalism for Scotland and Wales and the whole of this country, then I agree with the "Spectator" that we should have to wait till the Greek kalends. Of course, that is the object of the proposal, but that was not the proposition of the hon. Member for Stirling Burghs. He proposed that Ireland should have the Bill, and then during the six years this inquiry should be made. I want to say a few words upon the contribution made to the Debate by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil). He gave us at the beginning of his speech a lecture on temperature. Having advised us all to abstain from any charge or recrimination, the Noble Lord immediately proceeded to charge the Government with one of the foulest crimes of which any body of men could possibly be guilty. What was his proposal? He proposed, by way of a contribution to peace, that the Government should throw down on the Table of this House, in the form of suggestions, all their proposals for discussion in this House. He said, "For pity's sake put down your proposals for Home Rule within Home Rule, and let us discuss them at full length." He also said, "Throw down your proposals, in the form of suggestions, for the exclusion of Ulster, and let us discuss them, although I think they are thoroughly bad." I dare say the Noble Lord would like that course. He would like us to spend two or three months in discussing these proposals in the shape of suggestions, but certainly his ideas would form no road to peace. I am perfectly certain that before long he would succeed. [...] raising the temperature to boiling [...] or over boiling point.
That brings me to the question of procedure, to which I attach great importance if there is to be any chance of agreement. There are two ways, and to my mind only two ways, in which this Bill can be amended if there is a settlement, and, if there is no agreement or no peace, assume that the Bill will not be amended at all. If there is peace, and I must say that I have a strong hope of peace, there are two ways in which this Bill can be amended. There is no way of amending it by following the guidance and advice of the Noble Lord. One was, is for the House of Lords to read the Bill a second time and insert amendments in it, which can be done quite easily; but, if as I know 1219 is held by many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, responsible Leaders, that is an intolerable proposition, and if the House of Lords cannot assent to the principle of the Bill, then let the Bill be put on the Statute Book and an agreed amending Bill be immediately introduced. That can only be done if there is agreement and peace. It is a perfectly easy way to solve the question, even if the House of Lords will not agree. I assure hon. Members that we mean peace. We have run great risks for peace, we have exposed ourselves to ferocious denunciations in the cause of peace, and we will do all that we can to secure peace and to conciliate Ulster. I do not say that by way of boasting or bragging, or pretending that we are very great saints to turn one side of our face when the other has been smitten, but because it is our clear, unmistakable interest. Remember this: If you do really want peace, do not seek to force us to do what we cannot do, and what our people will riot allow us to do. If you adopt that course, then we will be reluctantly driven to the conclusion that it is not peace you are seeking, but some effective weapon to destroy the Bill.
§ Sir R. FINLAY
I am sure that the House must have noticed with pleasure the conciliatory tone with which the hon. Gentleman began his speech, but I am afraid that the manner in which he ended his speech may not advance the prospects of an agreement. He criticised very unfavourably the attitude of my right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson), and the general tone of his criticism upon the attitude of the Unionist party was certainly not particularly friendly. One part of his speech struck me very much. It was near the end, when he said that he was not in favour of devolution, though he was ready to consider it, and when he said that this Bill was not to be regarded as a measure of federalism. On what ground did the Prime Minister justify this Bill when he introduced it? He said it was a step towards federalism. I rather agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) than with the Prime Minister. So far from being a step towards federalism, this Bill is the very negation of federalism. The speech of the Foreign Secretary, if he will allow me to say so, offered a most agreeable contrast to some of the speeches that we have lately had from, at any rate, some of his colleagues. 1220 The speech of the Foreign Secretary was conciliatory in tone, and in some parts it was very grave in substance indeed. I shall endeavour to deal with the attitude of the Government as we have it in the latest and most authoritative pronouncement from him in the same spirit in which he approached the question. One thing he said was this, "Failing agreement the Bill must pass as it is." Why is it that the Government are captives to their own Parliament Act? Is it that they are working in fetters and not with the liberty of amendment which this House has always had? Is it that failing agreement, failing the acceptance of the principle of the Bill and agreement upon modification, the Bill must pass in a certain form, however objectionable and however certain to lead to disastrous consequences? Surely that is a deplorable attitude to be taken up by anyone.
The Bill, we are told, must be placed on the Statute Book, and then a General Election. I welcome the statement I understood the Foreign Secretary to make: that until a General Election has taken place the forces of the Crown would never be used to compel the submission of Ulster to the Home Rule Bill. I understood the Foreign Secretary to say that, and I welcome the statement. But surely the people of this country ought, to be consulted before the Bill becomes law, and not afterwards. What fatal influence is it that prevents the Government from being willing to take the opinion of the people of this country as to whether this Bill should or should not be put upon the Statute Book? We have lately had some talk about a Referendum, and an offer was made to the Government to take the opinion of the people of this country on the Referendum. One most able and Ministerial journal pointed out the many merits of the proposal, but said that there was one fatal barrier, and that was the obligation of the Liberal party to their Irish Nationalist allies. Surely it is a most extraordinary thing that the issue at the next General Election is not to be, "Will you or will you not have this Bill passed into law?" but "Will you or will you not repeal a Bill which has already been placed on the Statute Book?" Surely that is a very odd way of proceeding. Would not the straightforward course be to ask the people, "Do you desire this to go on the Statute Book?" I will not attribute to the Government any tactical reasons for putting the question in that form, but surely they 1221 must see that, if the matter is to be looked at fairly and squarely, apart from the question of party manœuvres, the proper course is to ask the people before the Bill is put on the Statute Book.
In considering the question whether this Bill should be read a second time, I desire to put to the Government this question: Would the Government now with all the knowledge that they have, as distinguished from that which they had at the time this Bill was introduced, if they were beginning again with their knowledge of the state of feeling in Ulster, and with their knowledge of the consequences that are likely to ensue, would they introduce the same Bill again? I venture to say that to that question there can be only one answer. They would not. Is it not as clear as daylight that when the Government introduced this Bill they totally misunderstood the situation in Ireland. They did not in the slightest degree appreciate the strength of the feeling in Ulster. They did not realise that in Ireland you have, if I may use the expression without offence to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo, two nations to deal with, and not one. I am not going into the old racial considerations into which the hon. Member entered, and which seemed to result in establishing to his own satisfaction that there is no such thing as an Irish nation. We now know that there is a great division, a great distinction in national characteristics, in history, in traditions, and in ideals between the Scottish and English centres in the North-East, and the population of the South and West of Ireland. There is a difference in religion, there is a difference in history, and there is a difference in the national objects which both sections of the Irish population have in view. In dealing with a country so divided, would it be a wise plan to say: We are going to settle the Irish question by putting one of these bodies under the rule of the other?
The Government have talked a good deal about the Colonies. Have they ever considered what took place in Canada with regard to the two provinces of Quebec and Ontario. There you had two provinces, the one French by descent, and Roman Catholic by religion, and the other English by descent, and mainly Protestant by religion. For a long time they formed but one province, and it worked so badly that the first thing that had to be done when federation was taken in hand was to separate the province of Ontario 1222 from that of Quebec. What was done in South Africa when you were approaching the question of the Union? In the predominantly British province of Natal you did not approach the question of Union until you had taken a plebiscite of the population, and had ascertained that they were willing to come in. The Government now know what is the feeling in Ulster, and what the consequences are likely to be. I say that to introduce this Bill was a blunder, but to carry it through and put it on the Statute Book now when the facts are known to the Government would be a crime. The Foreign Secretary said that agreement may obviate the necessity of settlement by force. A great deal has been said about the proposal for modifications in the Bill. May I venture to make to the Government one practical proposal. It is that they should take up what they think the best idea for arriving at a settlement and put it into practical shape. We shall never make any progress at all until some proposal, which it is for the Government to adopt as the most hopeful, is put into the form of Amendments to the Parliament Act, or into the form of a separate Bill. It is no good discussing these things in the abstract. We have had fleeting phantoms—one idea after another, which no one has ever been able to put into definite shape. We have Home Rule within Home Rule. How is that going to be worked out? We have had the exclusion of Ulster by counties. How is that to be embodied in a working measure? I put it to the Government that the very first step to be taken is to reduce one or more of these proposals into the form of a Bill or a definite Suggestion under the Parliament Act. Time is running on. We have been talking about a settlement without making very much progress. We have been pursuing these phantom ideas—we have been embracing the clouds. The only test of practical ability is to have something put into definite form. Then you begin to know where you are. But the alternative presented by the Foreign Secretary to agreement is of the utmost gravity. He asked, failing agreement, there to be a settlement by force? True, he added, the Home Rule. Bill is not to be enforced by the forces of the Crown until after a General Election. But in his speech he went on to make it perfectly clear that there would be some interval between the passage of the Home, Rule Bill into law and the General Election. If a General Election were going to 1223 immediately follow the pa3sage of the Bill contemplated by the Foreign Secretary, the point which I am making would not have so much importance. But it is perfectly plain that the Foreign Secretary contemplates that it is possible that there may be a considerable interval between those two events. He referred to the possibility of outbreaks in Ulster, outbreaks which might render necessary the interference of the Army to put them down. I think no one can have followed attentively the history of Ireland of late without seeing that there is some ground for the apprehension of the Foreign Secretary, that the state of tension in Ireland is such that you might have, in such an interval as that, outbreaks of considerable gravity, and that indeed you might have conflagrations which could only be quenched in blood. Are we to face this as a probable consequence of the policy upon which the Government have embarked if they force this Bill on to the Statute Book under the Parliament Act? I agree with the Foreign Secretary that there is indeed a possibility of such melancholy events.
In what state did the Government find Ireland when they took office? According to the testimony of everyone, Nationalists and Ulstermen alike, and according to the testimony of the Chief Secretary himself, they found Ireland making great strides in material prosperity. They found old animosities dying away, and a state of things arising in which the feuds of the past were beginning to be forgotten. What a change—what a disastrous change has this calamitous policy of Home Rule wrought in a comparatively short time! The Foreign Secretary has actually to contemplate, as a probable event, outbreaks in Ulster of such a nature as to require the use of the forces of the Crown to restore order; he contemplates the putting down of those outbreaks by the extreme use of force. Is not that a most disastrous consequence of the policy in which the Foreign Secretary has declared it is the intention of the Government to persevere? You are going to put this Bill upon the Statute Book whatever the consequences may be. You say you have a mandate from the people of this country. Did the people of this country ever give a mandate for a measure of this kind which entails civil war, or something like it? Will any hon. Member opposite say that they did? Will any hon. Gentleman say that even the Government, when they introduced this 1224 Bill, realised that the state of feeling in Ulster was such that a disaster of that kind will be the probable consequence of that measure? [An Hon. MEMBER: "We thought the Tory party would be loyal."' They did not know it. The Chief Secretary for Ireland might have known it, but, at all events, he did not warn us, and the measure has now been carried to a point at which surely you ought to ask the electors: "Do you, or do you not, desire this measure to be persevered with?"
All sorts of reasons are given by the Government for not consulting the electors. They say it would be of no use asking whether the electors want this Bill to go on. I say it would be a very great deal of use. If the by-elections are any guide at all, most probably the result would be that the people would say that they did not want this Bill to be put on the Statute Book. At all events, that is a possible consequence of consulting them, and I shrewdly suspect that, with some of the supporters of the Government, the possibility or probability—the high probability—of that result is the most potent reason against a General Election. It would solve the difficulty, because this disastrous policy would be reversed, and Ireland would return to the paths of sober progress on which she was engaged, according to the testimony of the Irish Secretary himself, before the policy of Home Rule was brought to this point. It is said you might have parties equally divided—a sort of stalemate. If that were the result of a General Election, and if parties were so evenly divided that you could not say either really preponderated, it would be perfectly clear that no Government would be justified in pressing on a revolutionary measure of this kind under such circumstances. The third possibility is that the Government might secure a substantial majority. If they did they would go forward, and they would go forward with the knowledge that they had the people at their back, and that the responsibility for what might follow would rest on those who had voted for them—the electors of the country. But none of these reasons generally alleged against a General Election by the supporters of the Government is the true reason. The true reason is that there is some compact, the particulars of which we do not know. I am not going to discuss the merits of the Referendum—
§ Sir R. FINLAY
I will not say a word either in support of or against the Referendum, I have very definite opinions upon it, but I am not going to encumber my present speech by discussing it. I do, however, want to point out that a newspaper, one of the leading journals which supports the Government, expressed an opinion that there were great merits in the proposal, but added, that, to adopt it, would be inconsistent with their obligations to their Irish allies. I suppose, therefore, there was some arrangement, or sonic understanding, that there was to be Home Rule, and not only Home Rule, but Home Rule under the Parliament Act and without consulting the electors of the country. Why cannot the Government take heart of grace, and say to the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, "It is perfectly true, we entered into this arrangement, compact, understanding (or whatever you choose to call it), but you did not know, and we did not know what terrible consequences the passage of the Home Rule Bill might have. Now that we do know it, we tell you honestly we feel it would be wrong to carry it out." It is a bargain which I think every unprejudiced person will admit ought never to have been entered into. There was one passage in the speech of the Foreign Secretary, to which I listened, I confess, with very great pain, and I think it must have overtaken many hon. Members with great surprise. The Foreign Secretary said that we were approaching a tremendous issue, and that was, "Is the Army to govern, or is Parliament to govern—the Army against Parliament." The Foreign Secretary did not adopt the formula put forward by some hon. Members sitting on the same side of the House—the People against the Army—the Army against the People. He put it—the Army against Parliament. The truth is that what you suspect as being wrong with the Army is that it is too much in touch with the feeling of the people of England on this subject. I do not think that the majority in this House of Commons is very much in touch with the great majority of the people of England, and that is the cause, I think, of your fear that the Army is too much in touch with the feeling of the people to be altogether relied upon for carrying out your behests. A more idle and mischievous cry than that raised against the Army was never heard of in this country.
§ Sir R. FINLAY
I am not going to discuss whether or not the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent is entitled to the whole merit of the idea. I say that the cry against the Army, the cry of Parliament against the Army, is an idle and mischievous cry, for which there is no justification whatever. Inquiries made by the Government resulted in their ascertaining that there would be, in certain parts of the Army, a great reluctance to undertake operations against Ulster, on the part both of officers and of men. These men answered the questions that were put to them. Is that an attempt to domineer? You put a question, and when you do not get the answer you like you say, "What a domineering tyrant you are!" We are told that we are to have a democratic Army. Does a democratic Army mean an Army which is in touch with the people, or out of touch with the people? It may occur to some hon. Members of the House how a great Scottish poet, de[...]ribing the English, Scottish and Irish [...]oops who took part in the great struggle for the liberties of Europe under Wellington, described the characteristics of those troops. Depicting the English, he spoke of—Free-born thought, that leads the soldier with the laws.I trust we shall never see in this country an Army which will be the blind instrument of despotism, whether it be a despotism of a dictator or the despotism of a scratch majority in the House of Commons. You cannot uproot the feelings that permeate the Army as Englishmen without tearing up a great deal that has rendered the British Army most valuable in the history of this country. To carry out the idea which some hon. Gentlemen seem to have of a democratic Army you would have to have an Army of foreign mercenaries, such as those that were employed in the rather regrettable episode in our history of the war against the American Colonies by the British Government of the day. We do not want an Army of that kind, and I pray that England may never see an Army which is so thoroughly out of touch with the people as to lend itself to any task, however odious, to which it might be set by the Government of the day. Wherever you have an Army which is composed of citizen soldiers, you reach a point where ordinary rules of action are strained to the breaking point if you embark on strife of a civil nature. No maxims, no rules, 1227 bear to be pushed to the bitter extremity, and hardly any rules can be made of universal application. You come to a state of things where there is a conflict between duties. You come to a state of things where conscientious scruples must be respected, and it would, indeed, be disastrous if you succeeded in reforming the Army to such an extent that such scruples were impossible. It is perfectly plain from some things said during Debate that some Members of the party opposite are looking forward to the cry of "The Army against the People," or "The Army against Parliament," as a profitable election cry.
§ Sir R. FINLAY
I believe hon. Gentlemen are utterly mistaken. I do not believe it would advantage them, and it rather fills one with despair that the Foreign Secretary, whom we all so highly respect, should have appeared to lend countenance to such a cry. I hope that this House will not read this measure a second time. When the Parliament Act was introduced we were told a great deal about the tremendous amount of discussion and brain power that would be put into every measure which passed through the three Sessions There was quite a moving passage in a speech which the First Lord of the Admiralty made some two years ago, when he said:—Think of all this expenditure of effort, all these colossal exertions in the three successive Sessions!and that passage was quoted with approval by the Prime Minister. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Gentlemen opposite cheer that. What is the reality? The reality is that in the second Session you have no Committee stage at all, and I suppose there will be no Committee stage in the third Session. Is that what was intended? Was not what was contemplated this: That any measure which was to be passed in this extraordinary way over the heads of the Second Chamber was a measure which would have run the Parliamentary gauntlet and received the approval of the House of Commons three times after being thoroughly considered and thoroughly sifted? We 1228 now know what the reality is. You have no Committee stage in the second and third Sessions, on the plea that if you have a Committee stage and any Amendment were introduced, you would lose the benefit of the Parliament Act. That condemns your Parliament Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] But it is no excuse for your carrying through these measures without that consideration which was promised.
I desire to add only a very few words as to the strong objections which I feel to this Bill upon its merits. Apart altogether from the question of Ulster. I regard this measure as being a mischievous one, and in three capital respects. We have been told that the control of the Imperial Parliament is to be absolute, unquestioned, effective. The control of the Imperial Parliament under this measure would be a paper control; it would be no more an effective control than the control which you have over your great Dependencies to whom the boon of self-government has been given. The Imperial Parliament would never venture to interfere in the internal affairs of those great Dependencies, and no more would it venture to interfere in the internal affairs of Ireland if an Irish Parliament were set up under this Bill. The second is the retention of forty-three Irish Members in this House. I remember rely well hearing Mr. Gladstone, in 1886, demonstrate that if you had a Parliament in Ireland you could not have the Irish Members in the Parliament at Westminster. That speech has never been answered and never can be answered. In 1893 Mr. Gladstone. although he could not answer his speech of 1886, altered his plan and proposed that the, Irish Members should be admitted to the Parliament at Westminster. The present Government have found out a plan which combines the defects of both those proposals. We are to have forty-three Irish Members here. That is far too few for the adequate representation of Ireland in Imperial matters, and it is far too many to take part in discussing British matters when the Imperial Parliament has no effective voice with regard to Irish matters. The third dejection which I have to this measure, apart from Ulster, is on financial grounds. I am not going into details upon that matter, but I think the situation was very pithily described by the hon. Member for Cork when he pointed out that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford was responsible for this measure, and that 1229 it was a measure of such a nature that in six months it would put. three provinces into bankruptcy and the fourth into insurrection.
Above and beyond all these objections, there is the great Imperial objection, that you would be setting up, within sight of our own shores, a semi-independent State, and that you have no security, and can have no security, that the attitude of that State towards this country would be uniformly friendly. I shall say very little about the case of Ulster. We have heard a great deal about it lately, and it is simply irresistible. Whatever doubt there is about the feeling in the South and West of Ireland—and I believe that the Parliamentary representation of those parts of Ireland does not on this point give a fair idea of the people towards Home Rule, and with regard to a very great many people there their attitude is described in the words of an honest farmer who, when asked, "Are you in favour of Home Rule?" replied, "Well collectively I am for it, but individually I am against it"—whatever doubt there is about the attitude of the South and West, there is no doubt about the resolute antagonism of Ulster to this measure. These men claim no ascendancy, and they claim no privilege.
The situation is most paradoxical. They are the most loyal men in the United Kingdom, yet a state of things is produced which threatens to drive those loyal men into resistance to an Act of Parliament passed under the Parliament Act. You generally find that revolt occurs on the part of the disaffected who want to go under another rule, but here we are to employ the forces of the Crown to drive these men out and put them under a rule to which they declare they will never submit. One word as to the effect that such a policy, if carried out to the bitter end, mist have upon the Empire. Suppose that Ulster is coerced, that all resistance is put down, and that Ulster is held in subjection to a Government in Dublin which it detests. Is this Empire in the same position in the councils of Europe as she was before? Is not this country permanently weakened, and is it not clear as can be that the effect of this Home Rule policy, adopted in deference to the Irish Nationalist Members, would be to deal the deadliest blow at the greatness of this country that can be conceived by creating a Poland in the North-East of Ireland? Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been awakened rather rudely from the soft 1230 dream of three years. They have been dreaming of a Parliamentary arrangement, of log-rolling, of the manipulation of votes, and of a coalition. They had come to forget that there were realities in this world which far transcend the manœuvres of Parliamentary life. They are rudely awakened. They have come into conflict with the determination of one of the best parts of the population of the United Kingdom. What is their answer going to be? I trust, I pray, that it will not be "Shoot them down!"
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir S. Buckmaster)
I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman in the discussion that he introduced with regard to the Army. It does not appear to me that that question is relevant to the great matter that we have to discuss to-day, and in my judgment the duty of every man at the present moment, is to do what he can to allay the feelings of irritation and suspicion which have been occasioned by the events of the past few weeks.
§ Sir S. BUCKMASTER
The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to discuss the question of the Army and the people, and it is that question upon which I hold opinions as strong and as definite as these, but not of the same character, which, for the reasons that I have already stated, it appears to be unwise at the moment to express. This is the third time that this Bill has come before the House for Second Reading, and in one more stage it will have passed from our control. That is a fact which cannot shake or change strong and deep-rooted prejudices which are entertained against the measure, and still less can it give new and added argument in its support, but I think it lends a further gravity to the discussion, and I think that has been felt and expressed in every speech which has been delivered during this Debate. To my mind one of the most striking and significant features of this discussion has been that very little criticism has been directed against the details of the measure. Only occasionally have arguments been brought against the principle of the Bill, and the greater part of the discussion has taken place in relation to proposals on the one side and on the other by which the matter may be reasonably and peaceably arranged. That I cannot help thinking is the sincere desire of every Member in every quarter 1231 of the House. It certainly must seem to all reasonable men possible that, however strong opinions may be on both sides, there ought to be a common ground upon which men can meet, and without the breach of any pledge, and without the abandonment of any principle, be able to come to some reasonable terms by which the principle of this measure can be carried into effect without unreasonable apprehension on the part of any man. I should myself have thought that the speeches were hopeful in connection with such an arrangement if it were not that without exception the proposal that has been put forward by the Government has been received with derision and contempt, and yet how far-reaching, how generous those proposals are I do not think even at this moment hon. Members opposite really recognise. I myself think you could obtain no better assurance of the good will of the Nationalist party and of their sincere and earnest desire to have this measure carried through with good will among all people than the fact that they have assented to the proposal which the Government has made.
Let me just restate what I understand the position to be. Hon. Members opposite assert that we arc making an unauthorised use of a Parliamentary majority for the purpose of carrying a Bill of which the country does not approve. We are quite satisfied that this Bill does no more than carry into effect a principle which for thirty years has been the marked, the essential, and the distinctive characteristic of Liberal opinion. Be that as it may, the Leader of the Opposition has time and again demanded that another election shall be taken at this moment in order to determine what the people of the country may think, and he has said that if their verdict is in our favour his support of Ulster's opposition to the Bill will be withdrawn. Considering that the proposal of the Opposition, what is it that the Government has proposed? The Government has made a proposal whose meaning is perfectly plain. The counties of Ulster are to have the option to select if they will avail themselves of the privilege of being excluded from the operation of the Bill for the period of six years. If during those six years, when two elections must take place, the Parliamentary majority in this House, gathered from whatever source, thinks that the operation of the 1232 Home Rule Bill is acting or will act partially and unjustly to the excluded counties, they will have full power to, extend the exclusion. But that is not all. From and after the passing of this Bill the majority of the Nationalist Members in this House will be reduced, the Members for the excluded counties will be retained, and in point of fact the proposal that is being made by the Government means that we are prepared to face the result of an election with the number of our followers depleted, while your. followers will remain the same. We offer-you that, that this must take place within eighteen months, and you say that that is a proposal which is a hypocritical sham. I cannot help thinking from the language which was used in the Debate yesterday, and from some observations which have fallen from the speakers to-day, that it has not been rightly apprehended that it is the first, as well as the last election which will give the opportunity to a majority in this House to change, if they think right, this measure that we are now reading a second time. From time to, time hon. Members spoke as though this question was going to be relegated into obscurity for six years, and that it was only at the end of six years that it could ever again come before the consideration of the House. This is what the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Duke) said:—Ulster is to he brought in automatically at the oat of six years, unless a miracle happensI do not suppose that any Members on our side of the House take a very sanguine view of the electoral prospects of hon. Members opposite, but we have never said that it would be perfectly impossible for them to be returned at all within the next six years excepting by the intervention of supernatural power.
Now let me see what is the proposal which was suggested by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir E. Carson), the proposal which has been supported by many hon. Members opposite, and which they suggest is the exact equivalent of their own, giving Ulster a more favoured position. That proposal is that Ulster shall be excluded from the Bill, and shall not be brought within the ambit unless this Parliament so determines, and they say that there is really no material difference between the two, and that if we are sincere about our proposal, we might readily accept that. Let me point out what the differences are. In the first place, that proposal is based upon the 1233 assumption that the Home Rule Bill will not embrace Ulster. It is based on the assumption that there is to be exclusion, and that principle is fundamentally opposed to what we believe to be the true principle. But it does not rest there. If the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman be accepted, this is what will follow: lf an election takes place and we are returned again, and once more seek, in obedience to the directions of the constituencies, to include Ulster in the Home Rule scheme, what will follow? We shall be restored to the exact position that we occupy to-day. We shall have the drilling of Ulster volunteers; we shall have the long, slow, laborious, existing process of driving the measure again three times through the House of Commons in two years; we shall have the same obstinate resistance to all our measures, both from within and from without the House; and we shall have a repetition of all the speeches that we have listened to upon this measure when that proposal comes to the front. I do not think that even now hon. Members opposite realise how bitterly we resent the injustice of our present Parliamentary position. They think that the Parliament Act has smoothed all obstacles and put us on a footing of legislative equality with themselves. It has done nothing of the kind. It has modified but it has not removed an intolerable injustice, and if our scheme were adopted, and hon. Members opposite attained a majority in the country, and they brought forward their Bill for the purpose of further excluding Ulster from the operation of the Statute, that Bill from the time it left this House would have a triumphal procession to the foot of the Throne. Our Bill would meet with every form of organised resistance. There is a difference between the two schemes, and not a mere difference of language. It is a difference of substance, and the substance is so important that I do not wonder that hon. Members below the Gangway say that they have gone to the last limit of concession in respect of the proposals which have been put forward.
Great and important as we all think this Ulster question to be, I think there is a danger lest the consideration of Ulster should dominate and overshadow the whole issue of Home Rule. In considering and attempting to give full and considerate attention to the objections of Ulster, there is a tendency lest people should shut their eyes to the strength and the passion of the movement which is represented by hon. Members who sit below 1234 the Gangway. [Laughter.] That appears to excite the merriment of hon. Members who sit opposite, and who must be strangely unfamiliar with the facts. For what is the truth? Ulster has never been made bitter with oppression, Ulster has never been kindled with the national ideal, but if you glance back only a few years in the history of Ireland, you can see what are the conditions under which hon. Members who sit below the Gangway have come to represent the national faith. If you will consider events merely within the memory of living men, Ireland has been scourged with famine, she has been torn, with faction, she has been the subject of oppression, she has been honeycombed with conspiracies, gunboats have-occupied her rivers, battleships have threatened her ports, troops have invested her soil, not directed against drilled, armed, and organised resistance to law lawfully passed according to the Constitution of this country, but they have been used without one single word of protest from hon. Members opposite against a defenceless and disenfranchised peasantry; and through the whole of her history, through the whole long time of her trouble, in all the sorrows by which she has been afflicted and struck down, two things have remained to her—the consolation of her religion and the inextinguishable flame of her national faith.
It is easy for hon. Members opposite to laugh when we talk about the passion represented by hon. Members who sit below the Gangway, but if they have forgotten history, surely they should know of the conspiracies, the intrigues, and the lawlessness which afflicted Ireland. Yes, these are the dark and devious pathways' from which they have been rescued by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. Redmond). It is under his guidance that they no longer tread these mazes, and that their cause has been put on the broad highway of a constitutional demand. I know that there are dark scenes in Irish history—scenes that the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Sir E. Carson) would recall with clear, and, I believe, with painful recollection. A crowded Court, a packed: jury, a spy on the witness stand, and some desperate, fanatical peasant in the dock waiting to hear his doom from the lips of a man who, be he never so wise or just, fails to command confidence and to inspire trust in the people for and against whom he executes justice. Is it surprising that, under circumstances such as those, Ireland 1235 should have felt that her cries for help were addressed to ears so far away, and so dulled with the sound of many voices that either they passed by unheeded or were only listened to when it was too late to grant full and adequate relief. This, fortunately, has changed. The Irish movement is no longer a conspiracy that can be crushed. It is a constitutional demand which people who believe in constitutional Government can no longer deny. I do not for one moment doubt that there are difficulties even yet before us. The past of Ireland lies in dark shadows, and shadows even now gather about her path. It is our belief that, given good will and self-government, those shadows will lift and drift away; but hon. Members opposite believe that they will deepen and grow more dark. That is the great and grave issue between us, and unless this matter is settled by conciliation and agreement, that is the issue that must go forward to the proof.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
The Solicitor General at the beginning of his speech said it was his duty to damp down the irritation which had been caused by what I venture to call the poisonous cry of The People against the Army." Who is responsible for raising that cry? What is the position of the Attorney-General, who has so opportunely left the House? Why, only on 28th March he was sent down to Blackburn, and he used these words:—The issue that has been raised is this: Is the policy of this country to Is influenced by the polities of officers in the Army.
§ Mr. PIRIE
On a point of Order. May I humbly submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is scarcely germane to the Debate on the Second Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill to discuss as a principal point this question of the People versus the Army?
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
On the point of Order. I beg to submit that I was not going to discuss it as a principal point. It was raised by the Solicitor-General.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I regret very much that it should have been raised, but it was not raised by the hon. Member. It was raised by previous speakers. This is the first occasion on which my attention has been directed to it.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
Not only that. May I point out that the Foreign Secretary devoted a good deal of his speech 1236 to this part of the question yesterday. I would only point out that it ill becomes the Solicitor-General, when his colleague is as much responsible as anyone for raising this cry in the country, to say that he is put here to damp it down. The Solicitor-General said t the end of his speech that he was making an appeal for conciliation. Well, a great part of it did not sound very conciliatory. When he tried to revive ancient memories of ancient wrongs he was doing his best once more to inflame the temper of the House, and he has partially succeeded. Nobody knows better than he that it was Liberal Governments, of which his is the successor, that were more responsible for the wrongs that were committed than any Governments which were drawn from the predecessors of those hon. Members who sit on this side of the House. Besides, what is the good, when we are talking of conciliation, and when an appeal is made to us to try to lay the way for peace, of taking a tone of this kind? It is said that the Irish Nationalists have all the ideals on their side. Nobody denies—I less than anybody—that the Irish Nationalist party are actuated by a very high and real ideal, hurt I say that the ideal of the people of Ulster is a far finer and larger one. They wish, as a component part of the strength of our Empire, to join with the rest in doing what they can for that power which makes, by common admission, for the peace and prosperity of the world. I say that the Imperial ideal is of far finer texture than any raised or professed by hon. Gentlemen who sit below the Gangway. The Solicitor-General said that this was a constitutional question which ought to be solved in a constitutional manner. We ask that and nothing else. It is as a constitutional question we wish it to be settled by an appeal to the whole of the citizens of this country, with no possible advantage of plural voting, because the Leader of the Opposition has offered that it should be submitted to a Referendum in which one vote would have one value. Is not that a settlement in a constitutional manner? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The Solicitor-General could not have heard the speech of the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), in which he said that. a real constitutional settlement would be by the two elections promised by the Prime Minister. The hon. Member pointed out that this was an issue which could not be judged alone. He said it would be obscured by every other sort of 1237 extraneous matter. That is partially true, but how will it be after six years? How will it be when the land campaign has been elaborated for another six years? Will a straight vote be obtained then? If a straight vote is to be obtained, it will be much more likely to come with a submission of the question to the electors now, when there will be nothing to obscure the issue and when there will be nothing to darken understanding.
As one of those who hopes, in spite of hope, that the spirit of reason will revisit the House, I confess that I listened to the hon. Member for East Mayo with dismay, almost with despair. He began with a profession of good will, but his words, and, so far as I could judge, his intentions, were those of the new spirit of Hibernian ascendancy. He did not advance one yard along that path of conciliation of which he spoke when he started. He actually dragged in the opinion of an American newspaper to show how far he was wishing to bring in conciliation. He said that the Army had lapsed from its duty. He said that in spite of the fact, as he knows, that the Prime Minister and Lord Morley liav3 denied that the Army had disobeyed its orders, or done anything amounting to a lapse from duty. He said that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University had been guilty of bad faith, bad faith to this House, and bad faith to the country, and he finished up with the usual threats of force. What is the good of telling us that we ought to approach once more the consideration of this question in a spirit of good will if these threats of force are used every night, with greater bitterness than ever?
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
At the end of his speech the hon. Member distinctly said that this Bill would be thrust through without amendment unless the compromise to which the Nationalist party have agreed were freely accepted as a final solution here above the Gangway. He knew that that was impossible, and he said that the law would then be enforced.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
The hon. Gentleman undoubtedly said that the Bill was to be thrust through without amendment, and he once more threatened the Unionist party.
§ Mr. DILLON
I think that this is a little bit unjust to me. I was talking of Parliamentary procedure. I pointed out that there were only two ways in which the Bill could be amended under the Parliament Act. I said that if either of those ways were adopted, of course the Bill would be put through.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
Yes, he said that, knowing that his Leader sitting behind him has said that all the forces of the Crown would be used to enforce the law when passed without amendment through Parliament. It is trifling with the House. If the Bill is passed without amendment it is the intention, we know from the Foreign Secretary, to enforce it by use of arms if necessary. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] The Foreign Secretary, within the knowledge of the House, said last night that the forces of the Crown would be used to see that the law is carried out. I do not think that is capable of dispute, but I do not wish to weary the House with quotations. Therefore, we are once more in the atmosphere of threats, and in that atmosphere we are told we are to approach in a new spirit the consideration of this problem. I, for one, was glad to recognise that there was one thing that stood out in this Debate—that is that the House did not want the crambe repetita of the old speeches for and against Home Rule. They were very good speeches—better speeches, I fancy, after the lapse of years, than we hear in these days. They were very good speeches, but they have served their turn. I should like personally—and I believe that there are many others who want to do the same—to approach this problem in a new spirit. The First Lord of the Admiralty, the House will recollect, said that he wanted to approach it with the modern eye. But his eye has become a very bloodshot eye or a very bloodthirsty eye. I want to see him approach this with a clear eye and conciliatory eye, but it must be a real eye not an artificial eye. [HON. MEMBERS: "The glad eye!"] I think personally that there has been perhaps too much talk of arms and too little of ways and means. We have heard a great deal of physical force and very little of moral authority as concerning the future government of Ireland. I want to make an appeal to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway.
After all it is quite true that government rests upon physical force, but it is only moral authority that enables that 1239 force to be properly organised and to work well. The great deficiency—perhaps it is the great misfortune—of hon. Members is that, much as they know of politics, they know very little of administration. And suppose that there were no possibility of armed force being used in Ulster—suppose that there were no Ulster Volunteer force, I think that the difficulties of the government of Ireland, in face of the bitter hostility of a million of its citizens, would be far too great for them to compass and to overcome. I do not know how they propose to deal with the details of administration that they will have to face, and to bring into the hearth and home of every citizen, if they have not the good will and the consent of those with whose affairs they seek to deal. It has never been found possible in any part of the world. Certainly it was even carried so far years ago that, when it was proposed in the Philadelphian Convention, which determined the constitution of the United States, to readjust the boundaries of the States, it was said, "You would not get the people to render the same obedience to a new State Government that they did to the old," and the proposal was rejected. In fact every time and everywhere it has been found to be impossible to transfer, in such a way as is now proposed, the civil allegiance of a community like the Protestants of Ulster. My Noble Friend the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) spoke of having searched in vain for precedents. I venture to point out that there is one precedent that is very much against what the hon. Member for Mayo thinks can be done now. Take the case of Holland and Belgium. They were linked together in 1815. There was much that was akin between the Flemish and the Dutch. Yet in 1830, in order to secure good government it was found necessary to dissolve the Union, and to establish the two States as they are now. I hold it to be a crime to attempt to do it now; and I quite admit that in recent years we had another example which I do not think can be repeated. Nobody respects the memory of the late Lord Salisbury more than I do, but I hold now, as I held then, that the Government committed a great mistake in transferring, against the will of the people, the allegiance of the people of Heligoland to Germany. I did not think that it was justifiable then, and I do no think that it can be repeated now. It was on a small scale, but I think that it is a 1240 warning which stands in our way when we are considering the case of Ulster to-day, and all these difficulties which are certain to come, and which ought to make hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway make every concession they can in order to obtain the consent of those whom they seek to govern.
§ Mr. HARRY LAWSON
We heard talk this afternoon once more of the possibility of a federal solution. The hon. Member for Mayo dealt with it. I submit to the House that the essential condition, of federalism is that there should be a free will offering of those who go into the Union. They must come of their own accord. That is of far more importance than exact equality of terms. Unless the people of Ulster come in there can be no real federation able to effect what has been found to be possible in other parts of the world. But I am in doubt, and I dare say that somebody on the Front Bench will clear it up as to what they mean when they talk of a federal system. Do they mean a system under which Ulster would be considered a separate entity? [HON.- MEMBERS: "NO."] If they are to take the existing units it would be impossible for Ulster to be prepared to enter into a federal system on those terms. It must be a real unity of unities. That can only be if the consent of Ulster is obtained, and Ulster is ready to come in just as the States of all the federal systems in the world have come in, and that is of their own free will and accord. It is a very favourite doctrine of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I have listened to it with amused indifference, that the newspaper. Press is guilty of engendering a great deal of the heat that has made the calm consideration of this problem impossible. In another place Lord Crewe said he wished that there had been a Press Act which would have enabled the Government to, have muzzled the Press for the last few months, and prevented the publication of all the articles which they have had on the Irish question. Surely this is very belated nonsense. It comes very strangely from those who were supposed to be attached to the idea of the liberty of the Press. I rather understand it, because the Press can be neither closured nor guillotined; but if we have advanced any further in the consideration of this question it is very largely due to the fact that the Press has incessantly called attention to the fact 1241 that this country is standing nearer a ghastly catastrophe than it has stood for nearly 300 years.
You cannot trade profitably in these days on public ignorance. That seems to be one very strong argument against the proposals of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that private conversation should be resumed on the Irish question. Surely, what we want is a little more frankness and honesty. We do not want secret conclaves of political cardinals. What is brought forward should be laid on the Table of this House. If it is open to public criticism, and if it stands the right of criticism and reason, then it will serve; if not, none of these secret agreements will be of much value. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs is always listened to with great respect in this House, and we were very anxious to know last night what he had to say. But I venture to say that, in one regard, he put forward an argument which is not at the root of this matter and will not stand examination. He said that one of the great purposes that would be served by the passage of this Bill would be the relief of the congestion of business that was killing this House. I do not believe that devolution will have any such effect. I believe that devolution has an equivalent force both ways. It extends the scope of the discussion of business one way as it contracts it in the other. Suppose this House were relieved of Irish business, what would it mean? Two or three days of Committee of supply—nothing more. Suppose that we gave yet a further instalment of time, anybody who sits through the consideration of Estimates knows that 99 out. of 100 of these Estimates are not ever discussed or considered. It merely means that there will be a little more discussion of matters which now escape consideration. It will not relieve in any other way the congestion of business. The real truth is that the one thing on which the House ought to concentrate its attention is how far the passage of this Bill will tend to secure the prosperity of Ireland. I say that it is only by proceding along the paths of peace that that is possible, and that is what makes one so disappointed at the two speeches that I have heard here this evening. They have not advanced us a step.
There are rumours outside—I do not know whether they will be confirmed in this Debate—that there has been some idea of giving Ulster a second opportunity 1242 and a second term of six years' exclusion. If that were so, I think that it would materially alter the offer to which the Prime Minister at present stands committed. But nobody knows whether anything of that kind is to be done, and we have the same empty threats of force and violence, that mean nothing, which have been used on both sides, and may serve hon. Gentlemen now, but which those who sat before them on that bench many years ago were the first to counter, because when Ireland was in the throes of another crisis more than a hundred years ago it was Fox who said:—Legal or illegal, I approve of t he manly determination which in the last resort flies to arms for deliverance.Of course that has been the talk of Radicals throughout the ages, and it only serves them now to exalt the doctrines of law and order which I heard them in the old days—and nobody more effectively than the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary—ridicule when they were applied to the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. Is anything to be done in this Debate to clear the issue? Are we to be content to leave things as they are now? Ireland has been to this Empire like the Nessus shirt of Hercules—burning and lacerating everything which it has touched in the past. If we are to get rid of it we shall have to be wiser than Hercules was in the old fable, and we shall have to pray to the gods of good sense and good feeling to come to our aid. Yes; and have we heard much of good sense and good feeling here to-night? I should have been glad to respond to any offer, but has the hon. Member for East Mayo said one thing which is in advance of the terms, the impossible terms, already rejected by the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues? All that has been done now has been to unsettle everything and to settle nothing, and, if we are to have any settlement, I think it had better be admitted that it must be on the ancient ways of peace, by frankness, by honesty, and by good will.
§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
The grave speech of the Foreign Secretary last night made two things perfectly plain, and which strangely escaped the notice of the hon. Member for East Mayo, but will not escape the notice of the people of Ireland. The first thing is that in this year, which is known in Ireland as the "Home Rule year," we will not have Home Rule for Ireland—we will not have Home Rule for even three-fourths of Ireland. The next point 1243 which was made absolutely clear is that we will never have an Irish Parliament, or even three-fourths of an Irish Parliament at all, unless and until the people of England give their leave at a General Election, which we were assured in Ireland a thousand times over was never to conic off again on this issue. The only comfort the Foreign Minister had to give us is that the Government mean to go through the farce of nominally placing upon the Statute Book this dummy Bill—a Bill which they themselves have offered to transform in its most vital particulars, and which they admit that they have not the least notion in the world of putting into force without the authority of the people of England, and without that appeal to the people of England, which, I must candidly say, it was one of the principal recommendations of the Parliament Act to avoid. If, under those circumstances, that ghastly farce is gone through, I have to say that in my judgment it is an imposture at the expense of the Irish people, in order to save the faces of the parties sitting here.
I cannot congratulate either the Government or their Irish followers in regard to recent events. They may have postponed the trouble in Ulster, but they have demoralised their Army, they have swelled the head of the Covenanters, and they have destroyed their Irish settlement without pleasing anybody. That, at least, is my profound conviction. I do not know which to admire least, the levity with which they took up this plan for the dismemberment of Ireland, or the alacrity with which they have changed front. The Prime Minister said that they still stood by the principle of the Bill, but what he calls the principle of the Bill we call an absolute negation of the first principle of Irish nationality, and the only principle which makes this Bill worth fighting for. I cannot add very much more than that in respect to the fourth fact, for which I suspect the First Lord of the Admiralty is to a large extent responsible, namely, the marching of the Army up the hill in Ulster and then marching it down again, so far as they could get it to march at all. All those matters I dismiss entirely from my consideration—all these military alarms in Ulster, Curragh, Downing Street and elsewhere, which were undoubtedly of most painful and vital interest to the people of Great Britain, and I sincerely sympathise with them; but Irish Nationalists are all thinking of one question that now overshadows. 1244 every other, the fact that for the first time in our history the majority of the representatives of Ireland have consented to partition Ireland.
The only consolation that is administered to us in Ireland was the whisper that went round that this offer was deliberately framed with the idea that it would be flung back in the teeth of the Government. But that is not what has happened. On the contrary, they have gone very much further than I should in the direction of accepting the six years' offer, and the Foreign Minister last night again acknowledged that the Government are pinned to the principle, arid not only to the principle but to certain details which are not specified, and about which we will know nothing until, perhaps, we hear of some further surrender by the party behind. At the present moment, in spite of the increase of temperature that has taken place in Ulster, I believe the danger is that both British parties will agree only too well to divide the oyster, and to present the Irish people with the empty shells. At the present time—and there is no disguising the fact—we are no longer discussing a Bill for the reconciliation of Ireland, for both British parties are discussing projects for saving England from civil war. That is a very good object, but it is not the object for which this Bill has been fought.
At first it seemed to me as if the Prime-Minister and the party behind me were a little daunted by the consternation that proposal caused in Ireland, but it seems that they have made up their minds that Irish public opinion does not object, or that Ireland should really stand it. I quite admit that there may be some ground for the confidence of hon. Members that the silence of Ireland means the approval of Ireland, but I say that public opinion in Ireland at this moment is rigorously repressed under the heel of a powerful secret society and place-hunting Press as it was under the English Coercion Act, which I can remember. The Bishop of Kildare, who is a supporter of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), has told us that he himself heard of this offer with the feelings of a man who is informed that his leg would have to be amputated above the knee, but he added that no doubt the mass of the poor people would submit in sullen acquiescence—not a very cheerful frame of mind for the people who were assured that they were on the eve of recovering 1245 national independence. But let nobody be too sure that this policy of amputation above the knee may not raise Irish feeling to a state of violence very considerably livelier than even sullen acquiescence. The Foreign Secretary stated last night that they would not go beyond the six years. That appeared to leave the door open for some arrangement. As I understand it, the length of the time limit might be settled by the introduction of some temporary scheme. I will not be an opponent of any well-considered effort towards settlement. I am not sure that eventually it may not be the only form in which a practical settlement may be arrived at. All I do say, and say at once, is that we will not have any federal plan which will be based upon the exclusion of Ulster. I am so far apart from other hon. Members that to my mind the difference between the six years' limit and indefinite exclusion of Ulster is, from the Irish Nationalist point of view, simply a fraud and a sham. In my belief, if Ireland is once divided by the consent of her representatives, it will remain divided. The hon. Member for Waterford regards this matter of exclusion as so comparatively unimportant a detail that in his Patrick's-day banquet speech he actually put it on the same level as the reservation of the Royal Irish Constabulary. In the very act of speaking to the toast of "Ireland a Nation," he actually talked as if the dispensing with the control of a British military force which never belonged to us was on the same level as amputating the body of Ireland of four or five or six Irish counties. He actually spoke as though in six years it would be as simple a matter to get the victorious "Orange Free State" into the Dublin Parliament as to induce the Royal Irish Constabulary to exchange one paymaster for another. The hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) went still further. He actually discovered material for a Te Deum in this offer for the exclusion of Ulster. The hon. Member, to my deep regret, and to the sorrow of all Ireland, has been undoubtedly the most deadly enemy of conciliation in the country for the past ten years. It is a deep regret to me to-night that when for the first time he figures as a conciliationist it should be on the basis of a concession which practically wipes the name of Ireland off the map. Speaking the other day in England he said:—I have no hesitation in saying that, so far as I am concerned, this offer is an honest offer, and I pray to God they might accept it.1246 Unfortunately he speaks with two voices he referred here to-night to what he said upon a former occasion a few days ago:—As regards the question of the time limit the Irish party recognised that they were running great risks because in the not unlikely contingency of the Tory party returning to power in the next six years it would. be possible for them, by a one-clause Bill to make the-exclusion perpetual.A day or two previous, addressing an Irish audience in the north of England, he used these words:—If at a future election the Tory party were to comeback into power, and were to decree that the exclusion of Ulster would be perpetual, what would be the result? The Irish Government and the Irish Members would immediately take up the gauge of battle and we would fight again with a united Ireland.There is a forecast of the millennium in. one sentence, and he tells that Tory party that nothing would be simpler than a one-clause Bill for perpetual exclusion, and he tells us in the next breath that he and his Dublin Government would resist. it to the death. The hon. Member must forgive me if I attach more importance to the danger of the one-clause Bill than I do to his successful resistance. The only successful resistance the hon. Gentleman has ever offered in his life was resistance to the national policy which the whole Irish party and the whole Irish nation were solemnly pledged to, and which only for him would long ago have brought us the happiest solution of this question, without a shot being fired or an angry word being spoken in Ulster. The hon. Member for Waterford evidently does not address his prayers for the success of the offer, because I remember with what a majestic wave of the hand he told us if it were not accepted nothing would be simpler than to go on with the Bill and put down force with force. I think in-that, he is about as wise and far-seeing as he was when he assured the country there was no longer an Ulster movement. It is not quite so simple a matter as that. The First Lord of the Admiralty, whom I am glad to see present, and whose unlucky visit to Belfast was the beginning of all this trouble—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] You know very little of Belfast who doubt it. The right hon. Gentleman has since boxed the compass on-this question from his raid upon the Ulster Hall to his recantation at Dundee, and then to his speech at Bradford recanting the recantation invoking the God of battles and promising to put these grave matters to the proof. He has put these grave matters to the proof, with the result of the honest misunderstanding at 1247 the Curragh and in Belfast and in Downing Street with which we are only too painfully familiar. In that speech at Bradford the right hon. Gentleman used these words:—Bloodshed, gentlemen, no doubt is lamentable, but there are worse things than bloodshed even on an extreme scale.I cannot think that the right hon. Gentleman knew what a shudder those words sent to the hearts of Irish Nationalists, who had given up their lives trying to create a genuine feeling of peace. Bloodshed upon an extreme scale may seem a comparatively light matter to a War Lord or to a. Sea Lord. How can the right hon. Gentleman possibly have failed to realise that if any blood were once shed, the blood of Irishmen, upon an extensive scale by Irishmen or by Englishmen, it would defile and it would poison the entire life of Ireland for generations. It would certainly lead to the ruin of all our labours for the unification of Ireland as a nation. I condemn and abhor with all my heart the preparations of the Ulster Volunteers for even the possibility of slaughter between Irishmen and Irishmen. They are, to my mind, outrageous, and they are ridiculously disproportionate to any disastrous consequences that would follow to Ulster from this somewhat paltry Dublin Parliament. But if anybody is indicted I am afraid the so-called Government of Ireland and their Hibernian advisers will have to be joined in the indictment. The Foreign Minister last night complained of the difficulties that had been thrown in the Government's way as to the concessions that it offered. The Foreign Minister is honourably distinguished by a long course of efforts to try and bring about a settlement of this question, but, with that one exception, what concessions have the Government offered to Ulster during all the last two years until within the last few weeks, and then the concession they have offered is one that they know to be hateful to almost every man in Ireland. I have said that I condemn the Irish Government for three-fourths of this trouble.
They had two years to think over the concessions which they are now offering with a lavish hand in the utterly wrong direction. They conceded nothing, and they did nothing except to gibe and jest. Two years ago there was not a mouse stirring in Ulster, and when the Unionist party were not yet committed in any way, 1248 and if two years ago, if even six months ago, you had taken the advice of Lord Loreburn and called in the best and wisest men of all parties, of whom undoubtedly the right hon. Gentleman who moved this Amendment and the Foreign Minister are among the very highest types, and even if you failed to find agreement—if you had then honestly made an appeal to the people of England, as you will have to do by and by, and very soon with less grace and with less merit, nothing would have been easier, I venture to say, if the victorious commander of the Ulster Army will allow me to say so, under those circumstances, than to have suppressed this Military organisation within one month, and to have punished, if need be. Your opportunity was lost, and you have done too much and you have done too little: you cannot now do that without bloodshed on an extreme scale, which perhaps the First Lord may regard with Napoleonic serenity. You have tried at the last moment to redeem your inconceivable want of foresight as to one-fourth of Ireland by rushing to the opposite extreme, and offering the one concession which has scandalised almost every man in Ireland, Protestant or Catholic, and which is as execrated, I venture to say, in Belfast as it is in Cork. That is the consequence of the new system of government of Ireland by secret conspiracy. You have allowed one secret conspiracy to lead you by the nose and you allow the other to intimidate you. Look where I will I can see no hope for Ireland, or for the Unionist party, or for the Government, unless—[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might really remember that we are discussing a question of cutting up our country and not theirs. I should like to know what their feelings would be if Germany, for instance, proposed to leave them all the rest of the country and to reserve the county of Middlesex as a German "Ulster." Hon. Members will find that they had better not laugh too readily. The one way of saving the situation is that the Government should retrace their steps that they should abandon entirely this hateful plan for the breaking up of Ireland; that they should call into counsel the best representative men of all parties, and try if they cannot even now hit upon some better solution. The Government have hit upon the one solution which has united all Ireland against them. Is there no other form of conciliation? The Prime Minister, in developing to the House his own hopelessly bad plan, confessed that in 1249 his judgment there was another and a better solution; and, if I understood him rightly, the Foreign Secretary last night expressed the same opinion. The Prime Minister, after referring to the local minor reforms, which are known as "Home Rule within Home Rule," said:—Then, as regards legislation, my proposal was this—and I am still rather wedded to it, though I am afraid I met with very little support in any quarter—that Ulster should return, like all the rest of Ireland, representatives to both the Upper and the Lower Houses of the Irish Legislature, but that when any law was passed by those two Houses to which in respect of its application to Ulster the majority of the representatives of Ulster were opposed, it should not come into force quo-ad Ulster, if they protested, until it received the sanction of the Imperial Parliament. That, I think, was going a very long way—a very much longer way than many people expected or desired. I gather it receives very little support in any part of this House, but it had this advantage, that, in the first place, it completely met the question of possible administrative oppression; in the next place, it started Ireland with a fully representative Irish Parliament; and, in the third place, it preserved the veto of the Imperial Parliament in regard to legislation which might injuriously affect the Ulster minority—preserved it, not only as it is in the Bill, when it can only be exercised on the initiative of the Imperial Parliament itself, but preserved, or rather extended it, in such a form that it could at any time be brought into operation upon the initiative of a majority of Ulster Members. I am not going to press that suggestion upon the House. I part from it myself with regret and with reluctance, but it has one drawback, and a very serious drawback. It does not commend itself to any of the parties concerned. That was the first road which we pursued—or, at any rate, which I pursued—in the direction of peace."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1914, col. 910–11, Vol. LIX.]It is a misfortune that the Prime Minister is absent at this critical stage in the fortunes of his Bill. I should have liked to have asked him what was the influence which compelled him to abandon that scheme "with reluctance." When he says:—I gather it receives very little support in any part of this House,I want to know what steps were taken to test the feelings of the House outside half-a-dozen politicians. This is a question not of half-a-dozen politicians, but of the fate of millions of men. What steps were taken to test the feelings of the Protestant minority in Ireland upon this question? If the House will give me their attention I will show that the real opposition came from the party who sit behind me. It was because the substance of that proposal came originally from my colleagues and myself, that these Gentlemen overruled the Prime Minister's own conviction as to the best road to peace, and forced upon him this hateful alternative of disruption, which is not only incomparably more humiliating for Ireland, but will be absolutely destructive of this Bill as a measure for the reconciliation of the two countries. When I determined to take the 1250 opinion of the people of Cork as between us, I did so in a public letter under the heading "What the Cork election will mean." It began:—I desire to set forth in precise terms the programme of conciliation, on which I intend to stand or fall in the election which Mr. Redmond's official representatives have forced upon the city of Cork.[Laughter.] I really do not know what that loud laugh means unless it is what a great poet once said it meant. I will not trouble the House with all the concessions that I suggested, such as the representation of the minority in the Irish Parliament and the filling of official positions by merit and not according to the signs and passwords of a secret society. I will quote only the first paragraph, and I think the House will find that it is almost identical with the proposal which the Prime Minister recommended:—First, as to the Ulster terror of parting with the active authority of the Imperial Parliament. We propose, for an experimental term of five years, to give the Ulster party which would remain in the Imperial Parliament (say ten, with the possible addition of two members, one for Trinity College and one for Rathmines, to represent the southern minority) a direct suspensory veto upon any Bill of the Irish Parliament unless and until it shall either be approved or rejected by a resolution of the Imperial Parliament to be passed within a month after the exercise of the veto. Further, to give the Ulster party the right, upon a signed requisition to the Speaker, of discussing, on a motion for the adjournment of the House of Commons, any administrative act of the Irish Executive dealing with education, justice, or police. For the experimental period these powers would give the Protestant minority the direct and active protection of the Imperial Parliament in a much more effectual way than they possess it at present. Such a suspensory veto may seem an unheard of concession to a minority, and so it is. It would, in my judgment, be gladly submitted to by the best thinking men of our race, in the belief that it would serve as a wholesome restraint upon an infant Parliament in its first inexperienced years, and in the firm conviction that nothing will be attempted which would either tempt the Ulster party to exercise the veto or the Imperial Parliament to enforce itThat proposal is in substance the proposal which recommended itself to the Prime Minister, with the exception that the Prime Minister confined himself to, Ulster, while we proposed to extend the protection to the minority in the other parts of the country, whose anxieties, I confess, appeal more immediately to my sympathies. The Prime Minister proposed to leave the veto of an indeterminate length, while we proposed that the whole thing should be settled one way or the other within one month by a simple resolution. How was that proposal received by the party behind me—not in this country, where they are a little more cautious, but by their paid organisers and subsidised newspapers in Ireland. In the first place, they suppressed my letter almost entirely. That they had a perfect right to do if 1251 they did not misrepresent it. But while they suppressed every other line of that letter, they picked out one sentence from the paragraph I have just read in order to propagate a most gross libel with regard to its author. They dreaded to let their own supporters know what we really proposed. They dreaded to face the people in the secrecy of the ballot. When, on their own insolent challenge, I gave them the opportunity of doing so, they hypocritically pretended that it would have been a national scandal to have taken the opinion of the people in the only constitutional way in two great Nationalist constituencies in Ireland.
But they do not think it in the least a national scandal to do what they are doing at the present moment—to proclaim a war of extermination, not only against us Members of Parliament, but against every county and district councillor who adheres to the policy of conciliation which the hon. Member for East Mayo approved so unctuously in this House. Many hundreds of representative men are, in the favourite phrase of these Gentlemen, "to be wiped off the face of the earth," simply because they approve of the recommendation which the Prime Minister himself acknowledged to offer the best hope of permanent peace between the two countries. As the "Freeman's Journal" phrases it, they have commenced their holy war for extermination of these men in order to wipe out the blot of factionism." [Laughter.] There goes the chorus. "Factionism" means every Irishman who dares to raise his voice against the ring of secret society bosses and Dublin Castle place-hunters, who are butchering the cause of Ireland. And the "Freeman's Journal" is the patriotic newspaper which has quartered no less than sixteen members of its old staff in Dublin Castle offices, from the Lord Chancellor downwards, since this Government came into power. What is the pretext for this war of vengeance against hundreds of humble but good representative Irishmen? The only pretext is that this one sentence has been singled out from the paragraph which I read to the House, and on the strength of it an appeal has been made to the basest and most bigoted passions, with the cry that I am proposing to hand over Ireland to the veto of ten Orangemen. I ask any fairminded man who has listened to the paragraph which I have read out, to say whether that is not shameful! In the first 1252 place, I do not know that there are more than ten Gentlemen connected with Ulster who are concerned. What I do know is that in the course of these Debates I have heard at least four of them intimate that upon our lines the consent of Ulster might and could be won. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Trinity College said something very much the same at Belfast two or three days ago. What I proposed was to give a suspensory veto for one month and no more, not to ten Orangemen, but to the elected representatives of a million of the Irish people. I proposed doing it under modifications which would have made it almost certain that the veto would never have been exercised owing to the completeness of the protection it would afford, and owing to the immediate action the House of Commons could take to punish any arbitrary exercise of it. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), who is always obliging in his candour—to his opponents—in a speech only a week or so ago in England, stated that there were as many vetoes in this Bill as there were links in a chain. That is a very fitting commentary on this great measure of national freedom.
The hon. Member has never raised any objection to the veto of the Lord Lieutenant, the veto of this Parliament, the veto of the Privy Council, the veto of the Joint Exchequer Board, and several others. All of these vetoes would have had to be exercised by strangers and aliens. The moment, however, it comes to the question of allaying the apprehensions of one quarter of our own countrymen and co-religionists, the Hibernian Liberals are horrified at the notion of the veto, even for a month. They denounced the representatives of one million of the Irish people, although I heard the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford not long ago in this House repeat the saying of O'Connell, which I must say goes a great deal further than I should be prepared to go, "That he would be prepared to have Ireland governed by the worst Orangemen than by the best Englishman." That is the secret why the judgment of the Prime Minister himself was overridden in this matter, and overridden by gentlemen who, while they refused that small concession to their Protestant fellow-countrymen, simply because it had the misfortune to come from us, would, without scruple, have consented to tear asunder Ireland—the Ireland that we 1253 have known and laboured for!—and to divide her by Statute into two different countries, two different races, two different creeds, upon the cheerful calculation that they in six years were going to charm the covenanters back into the Dublin Parliament with the genial arts by which they are at the present moment working for the extermination of many hundreds of fellow-Nationalists, simply for the crime that they have dared to make the word "conciliation" a reality and not a hideous sham!
There is still, I dare say, a month or two between us and the last word in this tremendous controversy. The Foreign Minister said last night that that time might well be used in investigating whether there is not yet a chance that some measures of agreement may be reached. It ought to have been reached in the way of suggestion. If the Prime Minister were here I would respectfully appeal to him to do justice to his own higher repute as a Statesman, and to return to the policy which he, and which the Foreign Minister himself admits, they only abandoned with reluctance. Let them not be afraid of the people, especially the Irish people. When it came to a question of facing the people in the secrecy of the ballot in all the great Nationalist constituencies we know what became of the men who are taunting me now for desiring the best for Ireland. I am absolutely convinced it would be the same with the masses, both of the Protestants and Catholics of Ireland, if they were really tested in the only reliable way. At all events, I say let us, even now, have the merits of the two conflicting programmes, the programme of "contracting in" and the programme of "contracting out," the programme of uniting Ireland, and the programme of deliberately and by Statute dividing her; let us have the merits of these two programmes threshed out for the first time by some such representative body as Lord Loreburn suggested. If there be no agreement, let the Government at once go to the country and ask the people for the power which they lack at present, and which alone will enable them to suppress the movement of opinion in Ulster. No matter what the prospect and how the people may take a settlement upon the lines on which you are at present travelling, these lines will never bring you anything except division and disaster. Instead of appeasing the national sentiment, which it was the first 1254 duty and the first object of the Bill to achieve, you have inflicted a deeper wound upon the dearest associations of the Irish people. Though we may be a small minority of Irishmen in resisting this proposal, we shall do so by every Parliamentary means. It may be, as the hon. Member for East Mayo anticipates, that the country is for the moment dragooned into a state of sullen submissiveness: the time will come when that sullen submissiveness will cease, and you will rue the day that you ever touched this fatal and criminal conspiracy against the unification of Ireland as a nation.
§ Mr. PRATT
We must keep steadily before us in this controversy the ideal of the unity of Ireland. If the speech of the hon. Gentleman has done nothing else but emphasised that, it has at this time rendered a service. I could not help being impressed by an incident that occurred during the eloquent speech which was delivered earlier by the Solicitor-General. He made reference to the strength and passion with which the hon. and learned Member for Waterford and his followers have clung to the ideal of freedom for Ireland. I noticed that when he referred to that strength and passion there was a smile—I had almost ventured to say a contemptuous smile—on every face upon the benches opposite. It seems to me that we cannot get ahead in this matter until we recognise and realise that if we are to take seriously the people of Ulster, the people who follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University and we have been charged to do that—we must also take seriously, too, the people who represent the majority of the people of Ireland. I cannot understand the spirit upon which this division of Ireland is based in this House. We heard a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition at the beginning of the Session. He said that the Government by this measure proposed to hand over the people of Ulster in chains to the domination of a Dublin Parliament. We heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcester in a speech the other evening representing the Nationalist party in Ireland as waiting in that Dublin Parliament for six years, ready at the end of that time to pounce upon their prey. One naturally asks what is the meaning of language like that? Upon what is it based? It surely means this, that the great majority of the people of Ireland have very little true love 1255 for freedom; nay, are so infinitely removed from real freedom that the first thing they will do when you give them a measure of political freedom, for which they have asked for generations, will be to enslave their fellow countrymen within their own lands.
Before we accept that we are, I think, entitled to make two observations. If we are to believe that the great majority of the people of Ireland have so little real love for freedom that they would do as represented, it seems to me that that is the most bitter commentary upon the government of England in Ireland during all these centuries. Because what is the test of good government? What is the true elemental test of good government—at any rate to one who has been brought up in British traditions? It may be said that the test is the prosperity of a people, the tranquillity of a nation, the culture of a race. I think these are great tests—but I think the ultimate test as to whether a government has been successful, has been good government, and effective government is this: Has it made men free and lovers of freedom? And if the result of centuries of British oppression, or, as I prefer to say, of English government in Ireland, has been that which we are asked to believe, that the mass of the people are strangers to-day to the very elements of freedom, then I say it may or may not prove that the principles embodied in this Bill are bad, but it does prove beyond question that the government of Ireland in days gone by has been bad.
There is another observation I would make in this connection, and it is this: The Noble Lord the Member for the University of Oxford appealed to history in the speech which he made yesterday. I would like to appeal to the Noble Lord, and to Members opposite: Can they give any instance in history of a nation that has struggled for generations and for centuries, as Ireland has struggled, for freedom that has ever used that freedom for the enslavement of others? I believe there is not the remotest truth in the charge alleged of the incapacity of the Irish people to act as freemen, and, if there is the slightest proof of that charge, it seems to me it must be traced to the historical fact that they have never had the training that free government would give them, and if there is the remotest truth—I do not believe it, and it has never been attempted to be proved—if there is 1256 anything in that charge, I venture to say that the one way to deliverance is along the road which this Bill goes. Then we are asked to take it for granted that there is not one Ireland but two. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh University this afternoon, in one part of his speech, repeated that assertion. I suppose in some respects there are two Irelands; but deeper than all divisions is the fact that there is one Ireland. The people of the North have boasted many of them of their Scottish descent and ancestral inheritance—the very greatest and noblest thing which men can boast. But if they were asked if they were Scotch-men, what would their answer be? Their answer would be that as much as the men of the South they are Irishmen.
Deeper than all divisions in Ireland is the unity of Ireland, and, Sir, if the knife is put into Ireland, North, South, East or West, you cut and mutilate and maim Catholic as well as Protestant, North as well as South. And if that real and elementary unity which is deeper than all divisions is to become a living thing, a thing of common texture in Ireland's existence, if it is to work itself out in the ordinary concerns of administration of local government, and of all the duties that pertain to civil and national life, if that freedom which already exists elementarily is to become a living land a human thing, I can conceive of no other way in which it can become that real thing except by the granting of free political institutions. A stable community does not rest so much upon unity of opinion as it rests upon adjustment of interests. It is the sound foundation of a stable community that you have those institutions working to-day and adjusting various interests of a living and throbbing community, and it is through that that you have the hope of true and full freedom. It is not real and full freedom for men who think alike, to come together. True liberty and real freedom is found with men who think differently, and have really very little in common, work together and see the larger ideas as well as the smaller, and I do not know, as man who knows a little of British history, any other way in which that real freedom and unity can be secured, except by the principle which is in the Government measure we are discussing to-day. I am profoundly convinced that Irish freedom can never be fully attained except in and by Irish unity, and that likewise Irish unity cannot be fully 1257 realised unless you grant Irish freedom. I speak not only as a supporter of this large measure of political freedom which we call Home Rule, but I speak as one who has believed for years that such a measure should be granted not only to Ireland but to Scotland as well.
We in Scotland have played our part in the affairs of the Empire. Our sons and our representatives have played a noble part in every portion of the British Empire, but there is a feeling in Scotland at the present time that the glamour of our far-flung Empire is beginning to pall before the realities of our industrial and agricultural life. We cannot bear in mind the great facts of the depopulation of the rural areas in Scotland; we cannot look to our great cities and industrial and mining centres and see the wretched housing and wretched conditions in which thousands of Scotch men and women are living to-day, without feeling that there is a problem of Empire as real and as serious as any that has taken our sons beyond the sea, and we feel in Scotland that if we had the management of our own affairs, if we had the same principle applied to us, that we would not only save ourselves by our exertions, but help to save the rest of the United Kingdom by our good example. We are, therefore, brought up against this larger question of what is termed on the one hand the federal system, and on the other a system of devolution. I think the times are propitious for such a discussion. The second reason I would be inclined to give for the Government's compromise remaining just where it is, at the six years' limit, would be this—my first reason I have already given. It was that, by leaving the contract there, it lays down the unity of Ireland. If you take out that limit, you take away the unity of Ireland. By leaving that limit there, you look ahead to the end of the vista where you see Ireland united. My second reason is this: that the Government would be well advised to stick to that limit, because I think it will hasten, nay it will make imperative the facing of the problem raised in a system of federalism, or a system of general devolution. I think it would be bad at this time, if that larger question was left too open and wide and indefinite as to time. I think it ought to be laid upon all of us on either side of the House to address ourselves at once, not merely to this question, but to the question of general devolution which has been discussed.
1258 An hon. Member on the other side told us a little while ago that the difference in time gained in taking Ireland out of our discussions here would be that we would have a day or two longer for discussing our financial affairs. Is there anything more important than that this great Imperial Parliament should have more time to discuss this question of finance, and all the other important Imperial questions, such as the question of the relations of our Dominions, the great and grave question of India, which are hurried through this House in a few days from time to time. We must have that additional time; but, on the other hand, there must be closer attention to the domestic and social problems which are ripe, and rotten ripe, for solution. Therefore, one would hope that after all the experience we have gone through lately would lead us to be of one heart and one mind, in this, that we should carry this measure forward to its ultimate conclusion, and that immediately upon that we should be free to address ourselves to these larger questions before six years. So far as we in Scotland are concerned, I do not think we intend to wait for six years. We want to have the Scottish question faced within that time and before the effluxion of that time. Is it not better far to realise, to use the phrase of Mr. Gladstone, that there are great social forces marching onward in their majesty and might? Will we not be bound during the next few years to put ourselves into communication one with another to see if we can find a way out of these far-reaching questions, and to bring them to a happy conclusion?
We have heard from many speakers that the circumstances in which we find ourselves just now constitute a crisis greater and more menacing than this realm has ever known for centuries. I am not competent to give judgment upon that. The historian alone can do so, but he is blind indeed who looks forward on the affairs of this nation, and cannot discern grave dangers upon the horizon, and he is deaf, indeed, who cannot, with listening ear, hear the tramp of a greater Army than the Army now encamped in the divided North of that unhappy Ireland of which we have been hearing to-day. There is a mightier Army than that. Millions of the toiling people of this proud, rich, realm are marching forward to a larger liberty and a fuller life, and that cannot be denied them, and that they will claim, and rightly claim. The crisis which, 1259 to my mind, is greater even than the Irish crisis is just the crisis that is contained in the choice the toiling people of this country will make, and make before long, whether their deliverance is to be obtained by the cruel and eternally unjust arbitrament of force, or whether they will seek their deliverance through the working of representative institutions. It seems to me that we should leave unspoken every word and refrain from expressing every thought that would hint, or suggest, to any section of the community an appeal to force. That should be a duty cast upon every one of us here. On the other hand we should address ourselves to the task of making our representative institutions representative indeed. In that lies, in very truth, the mirror of the nation, and the reflection of the ideals and the hopes of all sections of the community. It is because I believe that the measure of the Government is carrying us along that path, and towards that goal, that I for one shall heartily support the Second Reading of this Bill.
Sir MARK SYKES
The Debate has taken rather a different turn to what one might have anticipated from the whole of the speeches that were made yesterday. Speaking personally one felt more hopeful yesterday of the country being delivered from the dreadful situation in which it now stands. Yesterday, and at certain moments during the present Debate, we had been more hopeful, although, of course, it is quite impossible, until the Debate has run its course on Monday next, to judge exactly of the situation. I was rather disappointed at the way in which the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) kept down the temperature of the House, because I feel that he rather did it by pouring cold water on all the statements made. I could not say that the Solicitor-General's speech was provocative, but it seemed rather like the kind of speech one had heard on occasions which were less contentious. Personally, it is impossible for me to disguise the fact that I have never felt in public affairs so great a feeling of personal distress as during the last eight or ten days. Particularly I felt it myself, because I was introduced into politics by a very dear friend of mine, Mr. George Wyndham, who had two things nearest to his heart, namely, Ireland and the British Army. In view of the terrible position in which Ireland and the British Army have been in the eyes of the public 1260 for the last few days, that was a very deplorable thought to me. It is impossible to say who is to blame. If one sitting on the Back Benches may dare to say so, I feel that the blame must lie upon all. We have drifted on passions, and both sides have gone from one wild cry to another, until we have divided class from class, creed from creed, in order to further our policies, until at the very end of it all one cannot deny that the military forces, and even the very Throne itself, has been involved in our quarrels.
In this particular Debate we have occasion to pause. Personally, I feel that for this country the future yawns in the most terrible way, and unless this question is settled now I see no way that can save this Empire from ultimate disintegration. If you have an election now, or next year, or whenever it is, whichever party wins, wins to its own ruin. If the supporters of the Government win, they will win with a mandate to coerce Ulster by force. If the Unionist party wins, as things now actually stand, they will have a mandate to thwart for many years hopes which are now just on the verge of fruition. I feel that ruin is inseparable whichever way is adopted, and if a settlement is not arrived at I see no way out of the difficulty but bloodshed sooner or later in Ireland. If an election is won on one of those two issues, whichever party is returned, I cannot see our Army otherwise than compromised in politics. You may call it the Army which has held certain views, or the Army which is to be democratised, but it will never be the same non-political disciplined Army of which rich and poor were so proud, but it will be an Army, like so many armies that have verged upon politics, in which there will be suspicion, spying, and intriguing. Following that comes the situation in the Navy, and in the wake of that this House may have even more bitter factions in it than it has at the present moment. Once blood has been shed, and once we have come to a moment of actual acts of violence, of course the factions grow more bitter.
Behind the whole of that dreadful situation one sees rising up the prospect of labour troubles, which, I am sure, are the cause of honest apprehension to the Members of the Labour party, as they are to other hon. Members. One still sees India in the most critical mental condition, and, looking back to the state the country may he in in another twenty months or less, when the loyalist will be shaken in his 1261 faith, the anarchist will be hardened, and the fanatic will see in our difficulties the hand of God Himself. That is a position in the world which one does not like to contemplate. Speaking personally and entirely from a Conservative point of view, I say that the England of 1895 was good enough for me. I am not saying that as a partisan remark, but I prefer the general structure of that year. But it is impossible now to go back to that. We cannot go back to the latter part of the Victorian era, because new forces have come into play. Labour now has a different meaning to what it had at the end of the nineteenth century. The Empire itself has an entirely different meaning, and the Irish question, owing to Mr. George Wyndham's Land Act, has been fundamentally altered—financially at least—and the social condition of the people in the South of Ireland has also been fundamentally altered since that time. Listening to the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs yesterday, I noticed that he said one thing which seems to me more important than the whole of the rest of his speech. It may have been a suggestion, and I do not ask for an answer now, but I think it is one which really may solve this problem. The right hon. Gentleman said:—Unless we do get a federal solution in time, Parliament, and I believe this country, will go under from the failure of Parliament to transact its business I think that is absolutely essential, and if that be the case, to make sure of the federal solution within the six years, that at any rate is a matter which can be discussed.I cannot help feeling that that was the most important observation which the right hon. Gentleman made. It may be a real basis, not only of settling the Irish question, but of settling a great many of other questions as well, and I feel that it should not he regarded merely as a pious hope. This may find us a way out of the difficulty. I believe that if both political parties could only give us good undertakings, as they could, that this country would have a sound federal Constitution of such a kind that Imperial business could be conducted without being trammelled by local factional feeling, and that local business could be got through locally, without being constantly hampered by the interference of highly centralised party machinery—if such a solution as that could be arrived at, we should have done far more even than settle the Irish question.
I will make a suggestion, although I hardly dare do so after the last speech but one to which we listened. It is that if Ulster could be excluded until a federa- 1262 tion scheme had been adequately discussed, and if the Home Rule Bill could be passed in a way in which it would not be incompatible with a federation scheme, I believe that somewhere between those two the solution of this difficulty lies. If it does, then the future is much brighter, because immediately the question of politics in the Army and all those other contentious points drop out of sight, and not only is the Irish question settled, but the country will have a Constitution which will enable it to employ every useful individual in every class of the community, from the squire to the labour leader. I am certain this Empire wants them all, and we want every useful man there is. I think what I have suggested will do much to lift politics out of the quagmire of personalities, ill-feeling, hate, and pettiness, with which it is affected at the present moment, and then the smallest as well as the greatest matters of Imperial concern can be treated on their merits. But to achieve that it is not so much necessary, I feel, as to appeal to English Members of this House, or even to Scottish Members, as to appeal to Irish Members of all political views.
I venture to suggest that such a settlement as that would give the Irish Unionist Member an opportunity of saving the Union in the highest sense of the word—the Union that we love. I believe that it would also give the Irish Unionist not only time to think, but eventually an opportunity of participating in the development of his own nation, while avoiding the fears and dangers which at present haunt him. I believe that such a settlement as that would be an honourable tribute and concession to the real determination and sincerity which everybody in this House admits inspires the people of Ulster even in their resistance, no matter how much they may dislike it. May I venture at such a juncture as this to lay before Gentlemen of the Irish Nationalist party a suggestion? I say I believe, party polemics apart and off the platform, that the honour of the British Army and the future of our Empire is as dear to them as it is to us, not only because of the Irish regiments with their splendid record, but more than that—because of the thousands of men of their own political belief, race and creed who serve in British regiments as well. If they feel bitter at the demonstrations in Ulster, if they feel bitter at the choice which the officers at the Curragh 1263 exercised—well, it was a choice, and there was no dishonour in making the choice; and, even without a choice, you may press men too far in some directions.
In France, I believe, when the Suppression Law came in, several officers were perfectly legally requested to do certain things by the French Government—that is, to enter certain sacred buildings and perform certain acts. They were ordered to do that perfectly rightly by the French, but rather than do it they resigned their commissions. I think that I personally, and many hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, would have done the same thing under the same circumstances; but I put in this proviso. In saying that, I make no suggestion that a man should not be punished if he fails to do what he is ordered. If a man is ground between the nether and upper millstones of conscience and duty, it is only his own peace of mind and the verdict of posterity that can be his reward. He must in the interests of the order of things be sacrificed on the altar of the God of things as they are. I ask for no clemency for anybody who disobeys an order, but I do ask hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to remember that they also have bitter memories. They have thirty years behind them, dark years when dreadful things happened to some of them, and when several of them broke the law and went to prison for acts they thought right. I ask them to remember that other people have strong opinions. I entreat them, if there is a possibility of settlement, not to make use of a commanding political position in order to press good men too far.
Mr. SILVESTER HORNE
I am sure there is but one opinion in all parts of the House in regard to the speech to which we have just listened, a speech which was not only scrupulously fair, but which was in my judgment an exceedingly magnanimous speech. Whatever may be the outcome of the Debate in which we are taking part to-day, I am certain that the hon. Member will have the satisfaction of knowing that every word that he spoke was a definite contribution to the peaceful settlement of this question. I do not think that I am personally qualified to understand the state of mind of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien), who spoke earlier in the Debate, but I confess that it did seem rather extraordinary to me that the leader of a party which is specially dedicated to the cause of conciliation should have said that he was positively afraid that the 1264 two leading parties in this House were now coming together on common ground and were within measurable distance of an agreement.
Mr. SILVESTER HORNE
Of course, the hon. Member is entitled to say that, but in point of fact there are many Members in all parts of this House whose one desire it is to see these Debates trend to a position in which it shall be possible for all Members, without sacrifice of essential principles, to come together and to secure that settlement which is dear to all our hearts. It seems to be the fate of this Bill while it is passing through the House of Commons to raise every problem that can be raised in regard to the government of a free people. We have had the question raised of the rights of minorities. We have had the question raised of the best method of ascertaining the judgment of the constituencies. We have had the question raised—the very critical question in any country—of the limits of civil obedience. We have had the question raised of the limits of military obedience. And now it does seem, in its final stage through the passage of the House of Commons, that we are called upon to consider—and I think rightly called upon to consider—the reality and the effect of a federal system of government in this country, and whether it may not be possible to secure greater efficiency in regard to the administration of Imperial affairs, while at the same time giving the fullest possible rein to those local feelings which are so strong in various parts of our country, and which this measure in one particular is intended specially to conciliate.
It does seem to me, sometimes, as if there is a danger that in the discussion of this great and important point we may be distracted from the merits or demerits of the special Bill, the Second Reading of which we are now discussing, and that we may not face, as I think we ought to face, the real feelings that are animating the men who, greatly to the distress of us all, have armed themselves in Ulster, have drilled in Ulster, and have taken up an attitude certainly of potential rebellion in Ulster. Nothing astonishes me more than the contrast between the arguments that are advanced against Home Rule in this House and by hon. Gentlemen opposite and the arguments that are advanced against Home Rule in Ulster and that are incorporated in the manifestoes that are sent across the 1265 Channel from the Ulster people, and some of which, at any rate, I hold in my hand to-day. I venture to say that there is not a single right hon. or hon. Member on the benches opposite, although he is championing the cause of these people, who would in this House take upon his lips the sort of thing that is being used by the Ulster people and adopt the arguments they have adopted against Home Rule.
I want, if I may, to point out to hon. Members how strange the situation appears to some of us. They are actually making themselves the champions of those in Ulster with whose opinions they do not agree, and whose public pledges and manifestoes many of them—the hon. Member who spoke last included—would be the very last people in this country to sign. I do not want to say any words here that will, as the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) said, raise the temperature of this Debate, but I do want hon. Members opposite to face the facts as they are. We have had, for instance, proposed to us from that side the possibility of taking a Referendum in regard to this matter. I am going to quote from two of the manifestoes that have reached me, and that are made the special appeal, if I may say so, to the Free Churchmen of this country, and then ask hon. Members whether they imagine that the mere fact of a bare majority on a Referendum would make the slightest difference in the world to people who believe what these people believe. Let me take, first of all, a manifesto that is being issued by the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland. I understand—I want to be perfectly frank in this matter—that this is not a very large body, but these men are part of the Covenanting Army. These are the men who have been drilled, and who have enrolled themselves under the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson). In their manifesto, as sent to me, these words occur:—It will be for ever impossible to fight Home Rule successfully so long as it is contended or admitted that the Romanists and other open enemies of the true religion ought to have any political power. We regard the so-called Catholic Emancipation Act as the first great step towards Home Rule. From the time of the passing of the Act which gave the Romanists the franchise dates the beginning of their power to threaten the liberties of the Protestants.I repeat that these men and those whom they represent are members of the Covenanting Army. These are the watchwords 1266 that are going through the North of Ireland. These are the men whose cause hon. Members opposite are championing. All I can say is, if any of them ever said upon the platform that all the Covenanters of the North of Ireland are standing for is perfect equality, and that they are not asking for ascendancy, then they have to face the manifestoes of people who ask that their Catholic neighbours should be disfranchised in order that they may have absolute political power themselves. I quite admit that I do not lay any great stress upon that particular manifesto, but I hold in my hand a manifesto which is much more serious. It is a manifesto sent by the Rev. Dr. Macauley, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. I am bound myself to take note of a document of this kind. This is an appeal to the Free Churchmen of England to support them, and I hope that the House will understand that I have read it with every desire whatever to see things as far as I can from their point of view. Let me ask the House what is the position that is adopted by these Gentlemen, and let me ask hon. Gentlemen opposite once again whether they suppose that any Referendum that can be taken in this country would make the slightest difference to people who believe the kind of things that are put into this document. I will only quote four short sentences from this appeal:—You may be assured that nothing will be left undone by the Vatican to form Ireland into a submissive and efficient instrument. of its will.That is the first point they take up—that this is a sort of ecclesiastical conspiracy against the well-being of Ireland, that the Vatican is behind it all, and that the Vatican's one determination is to form Ireland into a submissive instrument of its will. If I believed that, I would go out with the Covenanters. The fact of the matter is that this agitation in the North of Ireland has nothing whatever in common with the arguments that are used. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh University (Sir R. Finlay) to-day came in the last part of his speech to certain practical difficulties and pointed out as he believed defects of machinery and so forth, there was weight no doubt in his criticism, as there has been much weight in the criticism passed from those benches, but for the criticisms passed from those benches not a hundred men in Ireland would drill or arm themselves. They are not out there as Covenanters, because they believe there is a 1267 difficulty in adjusting local and Imperial finance; they are out there because they believe a pure hallucination, which is that there is a sinister Roman Catholic conspiracy to bring them into a submissive instrument to the will of the Vatican. Take the second:—You are under no illusion as to the persistence and resourcefulness of the ecclesiastical crisis, as you know that, under an Irish Government the worst form of sacerdotal lordship will have an open field.Take the third:—We entreat you not to take part in thrusting us and our children under this insidious and intolerable rule.And, finally:—Would it not be an amazing spectacle to see the Free Churches of Great Britain in alliance with Irish Roman Catholics to put their Protestant brethren under the heels of a Papal absolutism.That is the document which represents the real opinion of the Covenanters, and it is a document I defy any hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite to rise and say is the reason why he himself is supporting the Covenanters or opposing Home Rule. In point of fact, we have come to this position: that nothing that this House can do, no concessions that this House can make, can possibly alter the judgment of men who believe that they are going to be put under the heel of a Papal absolutism. I have fought as hard as most people against what is called a sacerdotal lordship, but throughout it has never occurred to me to go to the Chief Whip of the Unionist party and ask him to organise the whole forces of Unionism in this country to prevent me from being put under the heel of Papal absolutism. The whole point of the Irish situation is simple. You have a large body of people, who, on the score of their industry, of their integrity, and their commercial genius are deserving of all respect, but on the other side of their nature, on the side of their theological and ecclesiastical opinion, they are the victims of a pure hallucination. That is just the difficulty with which we are confronted at the present time. It may be possible we shall have it urged upon us that, after all, our sympathies ought to be enlisted with men whose creeds in some respects we share, and with whose general witness and testimony we are associated. But I absolutely deny on the floor of this House that that is Protestantism. After all, the Protestantism as we understand it, the Protestantism of which I am a most sincere and earnest supporter has, as part of its 1268 genius, the genius of toleration, and when we are told that in supporting the Home Rule Bill we are doing an injury to the Protestant faith, I ask the Government to believe that the Home Rule Bill is, in our judgment, by strengthening the power of the people, the most important weapon that can be used in support of that faith in Ireland. And we believe, as was pointed out by a previous speaker, that to bring all types of people together, to bring all forms of creeds into one assembly, not to discuss the merits of Transubstantiation, but to discuss the well-being of the Irish people and the promotion of the welfare of Ireland, is the best way to deliver Ireland from this nightmare on the part of the Protestant community.
I did not rise to make a long speech, but there is one thing I want to impress upon the House. If any words of mine could reach my Protestant co-religionists in the North of Ireland, many of whom I know personally, I would say this: They have said that the guarantees for safeguards put into the Bill are inadequate. I would put to them this point: The guarantees on which they have got to rely are not paper guarantees; they are not the Act of Parliament. The guarantees upon which they have to reply for their freedom are certainly not the muskets and bullets of which they talk so much. The guarantees on which they have to rely, the guarantees on which a great free people does rely, are the century in which we live, the new atmosphere of toleration in which we live, and the national spirit that now regards all creeds as of equal value in the life of a community, and that does not distinguish between one man's religious opinions and another's. We have to rely upon these things, and they, too, will have to rely upon these things. I venture to say to them that, in the judgment of those with whom perhaps they are most in sympathy in this House, there is no element in the life of Ireland that an Irish Parliament more needs than that the Ulster Covenanters, men perhaps of harsh and narrow theological views, but men of proved worth, integrity, and industry, should bring their business capacity into the new Parliament. I believe they would be welcomed. I do not believe for a single moment that there is any desire on the part of any section of the Irish Nationalist party to give them anything else than a most hearty welcome. 1269 We have had put before us the federal principle as a possible development of the problem. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as has been pointed out, hinted that this is the line on which we might possibly seek a peaceful solution. I should like to say a few words about those bitter years around 1886, when a multitude of Free Churchmen and their friends deserted the Liberal ranks. We know quite well how the wedge of division was driven into the Nonconformist ranks in that year. The two leaders of Nonconformity—the two greatest leaders at that time—were both associated with the life of Birmingham. One was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who, we all wish, was able to be present here today, and the other was Dr. Dale. The life of Dr. Dale has since been written. In it there was a remarkable letter in regard to the position of Mr. Chamberlain, and I mention it here to-day because it shows that he was wishful, even at that time, to see such a settlement as pointed to an eventual federal settlement. Dr. Dale wrote these words, and they have never been denied. The book has been published for many years:—Mr. Chamberlain's own settled convictions have been long familiar to me. We discussed them at a time when they were considered perilously rash by members of the present Cabinet. I always told him that his proposals were inadequate, and that a body in Dublin with powers which would justify the name of a Parliament was a necessary element in any final solution of the difficulty. When Mr. Gladstone s Bill was brought forward he recognised the gravity of the new conditions of the case and was willing to accept a Dublin Legislature on condition that the Irish Members were retained at Westminster, and that the Bill received the modifications which were necessarily involved in their retention.Immediately afterwards, Dr. Dale wrote to the "Contemporary Review" a remarkable article on Home Rule, which drew from Archbishop Walsh the testimony "that it contained in it practically all the elements of a thoroughly satisfactory, because complete and final, settlement of the whole question." The Nonconformists at that time—the dissentient Nonconformists at that time who have so largely come back to the Liberal party over the question of Education—were represented by Dr. Dale and Mr. Chamberlain, and they took the action they did because they thought Mr. Gladstone's original scheme lacked a certain vital element which was going to point to the federal solution of "Home Rule all round." If I could speak to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) I would ask him 1270 to make himself the trustee of that noble tradition of Liberal-Unionism. We have come to the point now when quite clearly this has to be taken into consideration, and it would be, in a way, if they followed it, to their own prestige and a justification of their own prescience if they were able to say, "We stood out then for this very solution of the Irish question, that it was a compulsion on Parliament to make this scheme a federal scheme all round. Show us there is a disposition on the part of the Government to complete that scheme within a reasonable time, and we will support it now." I believe we might, firstly, find therein a Parliamentary solution of the difficulty, and secondly, what I regard as infinitely more important, a solution which would enable Catholics and Protestants in Ireland to come together under free institutions and to act in co-operation for the welfare of their common country.
§ Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Thursday).
The remaining Government Orders were read and postponed.