§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into a Committee, read.
§ Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee."—(The Marquess of Clanricarde.)
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, as I stand in a somewhat peculiar position with regard to this Bill, I venture to ask your Lordships' indulgence in making a few observations upon it, and in referring to what passed on a former occasion. Your Lordships will remember that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) proposed the second reading of the Bill in a remarkably temperate speech, and in a tone of great courtesy towards Her Majesty's Government. He defended its provisions, and took occasion to advert to certain revolutionary doctrines with regard to the rights of property, which he very properly denounced. It was my duty to follow him—not in order to give my individual opinion, but to state the decision at which the Government, after serious and earnest deliberation, had arrived, the decision being one in which I entirely concurred. I stated that, in the opinion of the Government, it would be desirable, if it were 1537 possible, finally to settle this question at once; but that the state of Parliamentary business made it impossible for them to attempt to propose a measure this Session with any likelihood of passing it into law. I further stated that an attempt followed by failure would not only be discreditable to the Government, but would be exceedingly prejudicial to the object which we all had in view; and that the Government, while admitting that the Bill contained many excellent provisions, thought the example of successive Governments was a proof that it was not sufficient to settle the question. I then expressed a hope that, by making use of the labours of the Committee of your Lordships' House, and by carefully considering the different propositions made by successive Governments, and other reasonable suggestions, they would be able, while avoiding anything like a subversion of the rights of property—which the noble Marquess had denounced and which I had condemned—to frame such a measure as would satisfy judicious and intelligent men of both parties, and would effect a satisfactory settlement of the relations of landlord and tenant. In the course of the debate, moreover, we clearly explained that we would not take the unprecedented and most injudicious course of publishing now an outline of a scheme which we had no hope of embodying in a Bill before next Session. Well, that course was criticized from both sides of the House. My noble Friend whom I do not see present (Lord Athlumney) advanced his views with great moderation, and, speaking with the authority which his long attention to the subject gave him a right to do, he gave a friendly warning to the Government of the difficulties which we should have to meet in introducing any provisions beyond those contained in the Bill; at the same time he expressed his great satisfaction with the assurance given by my noble Friend (the Earl of Kimberley) and myself that we should not propose anything in the least subversive of the rights of property. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Westbury) followed him; and I am bound to say that though he put a little more spirit into his criticism than my noble Friend, his speech was a good-humoured one. He indulged somewhat in a sneer at the Government having found it necessary to answer the question whether they 1538 meant to respect the rights of property, and he passed a very just eulogium on the labours of the Committee—adding that he had attended all its meetings at which the services of any lawyer were required. The only inference I can draw is that the Committee was very seldom in want of such services, for if the noble and learned Lord will refer to the number of his attendances he will find that they made no great tax on his time. He expressed approval of the Bill, although it falls immeasurably short of the principles which he laid down as a Law Officer of the Crown, in 1855, in a remarkable speech—principles which frightened all the Conservative lawyers in the House of Commons out of their seven senses. He was, however, perfectly impartial, for, while asking us to speak out, he asked noble Lords opposite to do the same. The noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) had already spoken, and had stated—a fact with which I was not previously acquainted—his personal objection to well-balanced and antithetical sentences, paying an unmerited compliment to the slip-slop English in which I had addressed your Lordships. The noble Marquess, with the greatest fairness and candour, said he did not in the slightest degree complain of the Government for not attempting legislation on the subject this year; but he laid down a theory of which I have certainly some doubts, as to the necessity of having no diplomatic reticence on the part of the Government—he did not even tell us what was the character of the declaration which he wished us to make, and he refrained from saying whether he approved those provisions of the Government Bill which he had officially sanctioned, and which were criticized by Members of this House. Well, the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Cairns) rose with considerable alacrity in response to the appeal of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Westbury); but, so far from stating his opinion, he did not even attempt to defend those provisions of the Bill of the late Government which had been attacked—he gave no views of his own, and did not even inform us whether he was of the same opinion with regard to retrospective compensation as some years ago. The noble and learned Lord had recourse to a proceeding which I must say I think not a very convenient one, and which I should have thought repug- 1539 nant to his judicial habits. Without notice, without reference, without dates, he quoted from memory certain fragmentary sentences of speeches which he remembered to have seen reported—where, he could not tell—and made by two Members of the House of Commons, who, of course, were not here to explain or deny those quotations. The result has been, as I anticipated at the moment, that both. Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bruce deny that they ever used the expressions or arguments attributed to them in the quotations of the noble and learned Lord, as reported in The Times and the Standard of last Wednesday. Another attack was made on the Government by the noble Earl on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey.) He began by expressing regret at what I had said—and I am bound to say that for the last twenty years I hardly remember half-a-dozen cases in which the noble Earl, immediately following me in debate, did not begin his speech with one of two declarations—the one that he had heard with the deepest regret all I had said, the other that strong as had been his previous opinion, that opinion had been intensified and strengthened by all the arguments I had used against it. The noble Earl went on to say that the course I had pursued was most undignified, and was unworthy of a person having the honour of being a Servant of the Crown. Moreover, because Her Majesty's Government, with a due sense of their responsibility, did not take the course which he pointed out and desired, he held them solemnly responsible before the House and the country for the outrages and murders in Ireland—things which have been the bane and misery of Ireland for years, and the last outbreak which commenced before the present Government assumed Office. I stated the other day that I regard my noble Friend as a privileged person, and it is impossible that any personal attack will affect my regard and friendship for him; but I really would put it to him whether it was desirable that a man of his high character and reputation should set the first example of infusing a spirit of violence into our discussions on a subject which, above all others, requires the most judicial consideration, and which had been conducted up to that night with an utter absence of personal and party feeling. I am sure my noble Friend, though he has found one imitator to- 1540 night, will not, on reflection, think that was a desirable course. I will add another thing which cannot have escaped his strong insight and clear mind—that, when indulging in this exaggerated indignation and suspicion towards the Government, he conveys to those who do not know him as well as we do, to ignorant persons in Ireland, that he has some secret means of knowing the hidden views of the Government which his words do not fully express. The noble Earl maintained that there were only two proper courses before us—either to oppose the Bill, the greater part of the details of which we approved, or to support the second reading and amend it in Committee. Now, I must say that this advice does not come with particular favour from the noble Earl, who failed to persuade the Committee to commit themselves to the opinion that no further provisions should be inserted in the Bill than those it already contained, and who on two occasions in this House contended that any further provisions that might be suggested must be of the most dangerous character. Putting that, however, aside, it is obvious that to adopt this Bill, and change it in Committee, is tantamount to introducing a Bill of our own, but in a much less convenient way. My noble Friend says nothing is easier, if we choose, than to legislate at once on this matter. Now, it is all very well for my noble Friend, who is perfectly irresponsible as to the conduct of affairs in the other House, to make such a declaration; but I have drawn up a list of the business which will already occupy that House. I will first take the Bills recommended by Her Majesty in her most gracious Speech. There is the Endowed Schools Bill, which is sure to lead to frequent discussions, on account of the religious and vested interests involved, when it comes up from the Select Committee. Then there is the Scotch Education Bill, in pressing which my noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll) has been very zealous, but which is not to be galloped through even in this House. There is a Bill relating to Assessed Rates, and affecting the elective franchise, and which is sure, therefore, to excite discussion. Then there is the Bankruptcy Bill, and also the Bill for abolishing Imprisonment for Debt, measures in which legal and mercantile men take much interest. The County Financial Boards Bill, though 1541 prepared, has not yet been introduced, so difficult does Mr. Bruce find it to find a day for it. Then there is the Valuation of Property Bill, which excites great interest and will be much discussed, but no date can yet be found for the second reading. It is a Bill of seventy-seven clauses; while a similar Bill for the metropolis contains seventy-three. There are also Bills relating to Poor Law Administration in the metropolis; to the Cattle Plague—a measure with 125 clauses, most of which will be hotly discussed; to the Regulation of Mines; and to Post Office Savings Banks and Annuities, a measure of great social importance. There is also the Courts of Law Bill; and, considering how many Members interested in it on grounds of law, of taste, and of economy are likely to discuss it, your Lordships will not expect it to occupy a very short time. Then there is the Habitual Criminals Bill, as to which Mr. Bruce was exceedingly anxious that no time should be lost, and my noble Friend (the Earl of Kimberley) redeemed his promise by carrying it through this House, after a careful discussion of its details; but though it has been two or three weeks in the House of Commons, the 31st of May has been fixed for the second reading, with hardly any prospect of its being then brought on. I will not mention innumerable administrative measures of great importance, such as Extradition and Naturalization. Then there is the Budget, which is not altogether simple in its character, and which will require a very long Bill to carry out its proposals. It is certain to be discussed at great length. There are many Notices by private Members, relating to some of the most important questions that can occupy Parliament; and there are Bills of the same sort also in the hands of private Members. The Army Estimates, too, have to be taken, and 151 Votes in the Civil Service Estimates, some of which will raise discussion. This, I think, is a tolerably full bill of fare, and I venture to appeal to noble Lords who have been Members of the House of Commons whether it is not much more than the usual programme of a usual Session, and likely to exhaust the energies even of a young and energetic House. When, however, I have said this I have really left out the part of Hamlet from the play. There is that most important, most difficult Bill, 1542 a piece of legislation on which enormous pains have been bestowed—the Irish Church Bill. Supported by enormous majorities, it is very slowly forcing its way against the resistance—quite constitutionally exerted—of a minority against all its principles and all its details. That Bill, I believe, is now certain to come up to this House, and I trust I am not taking too sanguine a view if I believe your Lordships will not reject it; but if you make alterations, whether for the better or the worse, it is quite clear that such Amendments will require lengthy discussion on the part of the House of Commons. I think, therefore, I have made out a case showing why Her Majesty's Government think it impossible to deal with this most difficult and complicated question this Session with any likelihood of success. Whether they have decided rightly or wrongly, I venture, that decision having been come to, to appeal to the noble Marquess, who has shown so much temper and courtesy with regard to the Bill, whether, without any practical end being gained, it is likely that the constant renewal of discussion on this question this year is likely to increase or diminish the excitement which prevails in Ireland on the subject? I venture to make that appeal, but I cannot change anything of the declaration which I trust I have neither on this nor the former occasion stated otherwise than fairly and temperately.
It appears to me a somewhat inconvenient course for my noble Friend to reply to-night to a speech which was made in debate nearly a week ago. I cannot quite accept his statement of the facts of the case. My noble Friend says I pressed the Government to take up the subject. Now, what I said was that when a Bill relating to a subject of urgent importance—a Bill carefully considered by a Select Committee, and unanimously recommended by it as fit to pass—a Bill, moreover, approved by several members of the present Administration in the Committee—when such a Bill came before the House, it was hardly a fitting course for the Government to say that they were not prepared to oppose it in this House, but that it would be rejected by their means in the House of Commons. [Earl GRANVILLE denied that he had so stated.] I am in the recollection of your Lord- 1543 ships. I am quite aware that my noble Friend did not say, in exact words, that the Bill would be rejected by the Government in the House of Commons, but he recommended the noble Marquess not to proceed with it, telling him it would not be adopted by the Government in the other House, and that it would therefore fail. Now that is surely tantamount to what I said just now. Proceeding to the main point which we have to consider, whether or not this Bill might pass in the present Session, I venture to observe that it appears to me that it would not be so impossible to pass the Bill as the noble Earl assumes, and that it might be passed this Session if the Government desired it. I may remind your Lordships that, on the greater part of the Bill, the Government and the Members of the House who have recommended that it should be passed are agreed. My noble Friend (the Lord Privy Seal) expressly said the other night that he could not move the rejection of the Bill, because he approved all that it contained—it was what it did not contain that constituted his objection to it. My noble Friend who has just sat down himself used very much the same language. He said it was not expedient to pass the Bill, for it would not be a final settlement of the question without it contained something more. Now, I agree with him that when we pass a Bill upon this subject, it ought to be one which will settle the question; but if my noble Friend concurs in the general provisions of the Bill as it stands, if he also concurs with us in thinking that the rights of property should be respected, the difference between noble Lords on the Treasury Bench and those who recommend the passing of the Bill in its present shape is reduced to a very narrow compass. There is only one point, and that comparatively a small one, on which a doubt remains—under what conditions and to what extent is compensation to be given to tenants for improvements which they have made without the sanction of their landlords. Now, there is nothing impossible in dealing with that point, and supposing the Government had assented to the Bill proceeding they might have asked the noble Marquess to postpone the Committee till after Whitsuntide—to which, I am sure, he would at once have assented—and during the 1544 Recess they might have maturely considered the four or five clauses—for upon their own showing there would not be more—requisite to provide for that one point in which they say the Bill is defective. "Would not that have been perfectly practicable? I know this House too well to entertain a moment's doubt that if clauses had been so prepared and moved in Committee by the Government they would have received the most impartial consideration; that not the least party feeling would have been allowed to enter into their discussion, and that there would have been on all sides an anxious desire to acquiesce in them if possible. For myself, I go so far as to say that, as long as there was no direct infringement of what I regard as the great and important principles of justice and the rights of property, I should have thought it advisable to accept almost any clauses which the Government might propose—even though those clauses had, in my opinion, been injudicious and calculated to impair the working of the Bill, I should have thought the passing of the measure cheaply purchased by consenting to the introduction of such Amendments. That is the spirit in which I should have been prepared to discuss the Amendments, and I doubt not that a similar spirit would have animated the House. But then we are told it is impossible to do this because there is a long bill of fare which is now before Parliament. Now, in the present state of Ireland, with these outrages going on, does my noble Friend, for one moment, put a Eating Bill—a Bill for improving the accommodation of Courts of Justice, and other measures which might be deferred without out any serious inconvenience—in competition with one the early passing of which I believe to be essential for the very safety of Ireland? My noble Friend said last week it would not contribute to the success in settling the question of any Bill that Parliament may pass on this subject that it should have proceeded from your Lordships' House. Now, on that point he differs from some rather high authorities. In the able evidence given, in 1867, before the Committee by a Gentleman who is, I believe, the leader of what is called the tenant-right party—I mean Mr. Maguire—while he expressed his opinion on the danger and evil which would arise from 1545 not settling the question, he added a further opinion of the facility and advantage with which that settlement might be undertaken by this House. Your Lordships are not exclusively Irish proprietors, and for myself I can say that, in consenting to the request of the noble Marquess to serve on the Committee, my desire was to do what I believe to be fairest towards all parties, and most conducive to the general welfare of Ireland. I believe the passing of the Bill to be of great importance, because the more I consider the present state of Ireland the more firmly am I convinced that I was not wrong in the opinion I expressed shortly before Easter of the real causes of the present increase of outrages in Ireland. The Question of the noble Viscount (Viscount Lismore) was postponed in a somewhat unusual manner at the request of my noble Friend; the increase of agrarian outrages in Ireland has at length become most formidable, and no cause is suggested by the Government—all that my noble Friend is able to say is that agrarian outrages have prevailed more or less in Ireland for a great length of time, and that the seeds of the disease have never been entirely exterminated. Now, it is quite true the evil is an old one, and that it has also been more or less of an intermittent, character; it is true we have had periods of comparative tranquillity followed by sudden outbreaks; but, as far as my recollection serves me, there has been no instance in which this aggravation of the evil did not admit of being traced to some distinct cause—there was always something in the circumstances of the time which enabled one to account for the outbreak. Now the Government have suggested no cause for the present outbreak; but I think the causes are easily traced. In the first place, I cannot doubt that the manner in which the Irish Church question was brought forward last year, by those who admitted that their eyes had been opened to the urgency of the evil by the Fenian conspiracy, has aggravated the spirit of lawlessness which unhappily has long prevailed in Ireland, and has increased the disposition of the Irish people to believe that to act on the fears of Government and Parliament is the readiest mode of obtaining anything they desire. I believe also that the effect of this was greatly aggravated 1546 by that unhappy mistake, the discharge of forty-nine persons convicted of that conspiracy. Those mistakes, however, are past, and cannot be now corrected; I will not therefore advert to them further than to say that they appear to me greatly to have aggravated the effect of another and remaining cause of the present state of things in Ireland, with which it is still in the power of the Government to deal. I venture to say that the uncertainty with regard to the future relations of landlords and tenants is at the bottom of these outrages. Since the discussion which occurred the other evening I have seen a letter, written in Ireland by a person whose testimony—though I know nothing of him myself, I am assured may be safely relied on—and he says that the mischief arising from the unsettled state of the country is hourly increasing, and creating a feeling of insecurity. He states of his own knowledge that the effect of the uncertainty as to what course the Government would adopt is, in the first place, to make it impossible to obtain loans on the security of Irish landed property; and that he knew of a case in which what would lately have been considered as a perfectly unexceptionable landed security for a proposed loan in Ireland was rejected, on the avowed ground that Mr. Gladstone contemplated measures which would make land in Ireland no longer a good security. This is a great evil for the landowners and for those capitalists who are willing to lend money on land. But what is the state of the case with respect to the occupiers? They have been told by the highest authority, and with undoubted truth, that the present state of the law is bad; that it exposes them to frequent injustice and creates serious grievances, and they have been promised that that injustice would be redressed—some great been of an undefined nature has been held out before their eyes, but the time when it would be granted was kept uncertain as well as the nature of the been itself. In this state of things, when, in the disputes connected with land, some ease occurs in which the landlord thinks himself compelled, in order to protect his own interests, to eject a tenant, is it very unnatural, considering the temper of the Irish peasantry, and their feeling on this subject for many years, for them to say that they would not continue to obey a law 1547 which, their rulers tell them, is so bad that it must be abrogated? "It is in vain," they would say, "to hold out to us the prospect of a future remedy. What is a remedy, next year, to us who may beejected this year?" "When you foster this sense of the badness and injustice of the law, and at the same time create indefinite expectations of some great been for the tenants in the future, while withholding all present redress and improvement, can you be surprised that those tenants should resist the law, and that, in that resistance, serious outrages should be committed such as those of which intelligence reaches us day by day. If we really desire to check this system of agrarian outrage in Ireland, it becomes us, without a moment's unnecessary delay, to apply all our energy and efforts to the purpose of settling the law. My noble Friend has found great fault with me for having said in the former debate that Her Majesty's Government would be responsible for what may occur during the coming winter in Ireland. In what I said, on this subject on that occasion, I did not utter a syllable implying personal blame to my noble Friend, but I did express my opinion—and that opinion I must now deliberately repeat—that if the Government neglected to do their best to settle this question without delay they would be morally responsible for the effects which delay is calculated to produce. Among those effects it may undoubtedly be apprehended that, during the next winter, there would be agrarian outrages and murders in Ireland, and especially in the South. Before sitting down, I wish to join my noble Friend (Earl Granville) in advising the noble Marquess not to push his Bill forward for the present—at the same time I do not recommend that he should drop it—but postpone it until after Whitsuntide; and I would hope that during the Recess Her Majesty's Government would deliberate on the point whether it is still impossible for them to adopt the course I have ventured to recommend, to prepare Amendments to the Bill, to take the measure under their charge, and pass it into law. I have not the smallest doubt that, if the Government apply themselves to the question, they will find it in their power to carry a measure on the subject. If they are not inclined to take that course, I would advise the noble Marquess not to proceed 1548 with his measure, for I can see no advantage in sending the Bill to the House of Commons, unless it receives the support and countenance of the Government. I therefore hope that, if the Government continue of the same mind as at present, the noble Marquess will after Whitsuntide drop the Bill, and throw upon the Government the sole and undivided responsibility of preventing legislation on this question during the present year. That responsibility would be most heavy, and I trust that they will take time to consider whether it is impossible that this Bill should pass in the present year. In considering this great subject it is their most solemn and bounden duty to look at all the great interests involved. It is of paramount importance that they should not allow their decisions to be biassed by any regard to party interests, or by any apprehension that they might lose in reference to another measure the support of some of their more violent adherents. Let not any consideration of that kind weigh with them, but let them only regard the necessities and welfare of Ireland.
§ LORD MONCK
said, he did not rise to inform Her Majesty's Government what were the responsibilities that rested on them with regard to Ireland, but, as an Irishman who was deeply interested in the tranquillity and prosperity of Ireland, to enter his protest against the greater part of the noble Earl's speech. The noble Earl, in endeavouring to account for what he called agrarian outrages in Ireland, had assigned causes which, if true, would apply to the whole of Ireland. The noble Earl attributed those outrages to the mode in which the Irish Church question had been dealt with, and to the hopes of the tenantry in respect to the future settlement of tenant-right. Those were manifestly causes which would apply to the whole of Ireland; and, if they occasioned agrarian outrages, it might naturally be expected that outrages would be found prevalent all over the country; whereas, it was notorious that agrarian outrages were confined to a small portion of the country, and that a portion which, to his knowledge, had always been notorious for them. In his own part of the country life and property were quite safe. The noble Earl had apparently discovered the way of solving the difficulty of the question by a very simple process—namely, by the introduction into 1549 the noble Marquess' Bill of a few clauses. This, it was alleged, would settle the land question in Ireland. Now he (Lord Monck) had been for upwards of twenty-five years engaged in public life, and during the whole of that time he had scarcely remembered a single Session in which the Government of the day, or some private Member of either House, had not taken up this question relating to the tenure of land with the idea of solving it. But, as their Lordships were aware, every effort of the kind had utterly failed. Under such circumstances he left it to the judgment and common sense of their Lordships to say whether they thought it possible, within the short period of the Session then remaining to them, that Her Majesty's Government, with the existing pressure of Public Business upon them, could execute the task sought to be imposed upon them by the noble Earl. He could not help entering his protest against the speech of the noble Earl? but his main object in rising was to add his mite to the weight of opinion already expressed, with the view of inducing the noble Marquess not to press his Bill.
§ LORD WESTBURY
My Lords, I wish to take this opportunity of saying a very few words as to the present state of feeling in Ireland. I am not going to speak of agrarian outrages, of criminal assaults, or murders; but of the general depression of spirit and, universal depreciation of property which have followed on the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government. The agitation commenced with the introduction of the Suspensory Bill; for, from that moment, men of property in Ireland knew not upon what conditions they were to hold that property in future. The alarm increased—increased to an enormous extent—owing to the speeches made on the hustings by certain Gentlemen who have since become Members of Her Majesty's Government. The alarm has reached its acme by reason of the provisions of the Irish Church Bill, and the discussions which have attended the introduction of that measure in the House of Commons. Now, speaking in the manner of a lawyer, I will put this alternative—Her Majesty's Government either have formed an opinion upon what is called the Irish land question and the nature of the measures that ought to be introduced in respect to it, or they have not. If they 1550 have, we are entitled to know them. If they have not, what justification was there for the introduction of the Irish Church Bill; which, though it may be one of the measures required for the pacification of Ireland, is well known to their friends to be by no means one of the most important demands of that country. Her Majesty's Government come forward as the pacificators of Ireland. Their only justification for doing away with rights which have been enjoyed for 300 years—their only justification for trampling on the legal rights of property, is the plea of expediency—that it is absolutely requisite for the peace of Ireland. Now, those who know anything about Ireland, know very well that three measures are demanded, and have been long demanded, by agitators in that country. One is the demolition of the Church. To that, Her Majesty's Government have yielded a ready assent. The other is the settlement of the land question. But in what form has that been agitated in Ireland? Not, my Lords, as a question of compensation for improvements, for these are the words of one of the most eloquent of the agitators—We must not alone have compensation for agricultural improvements, but we must have land tenure, for compensation without tenure is of little value.And a Gentleman, now occupying a very prominent position in Her Majesty's Government, said to the electors of Mallow—There are three Bills which Mr. Gladstone will give to you. One is on the Irish Church, the other is on the land tenure, the other is on education.These three things are demanded by agitators in Ireland;—but there is a fourth card which they hold in their hand, to be played at their convenience, when the other tricks have been won; and that is the repeal of the Union. Now, what is the education question? It is this—that the priesthood of Ireland intend to have the sole and uncontrolled dominion over the education of the people. If that be conceded, what can you expect but that, in a few years, Ireland will become a mere province of Rome? With regard to fixity of tenure, we know that the tenantry of Ireland regard that as the most important demand. Then, was it not the duty of Her Majesty's Government to have formed de- 1551 cided opinions upon that question before they commenced their work of agitation, and introduced the Irish Church Bill—knowing as they well did that that would create the utmost confusion in the enjoyment and holding of property in Ireland? My noble Friend (Earl Granville) said he had no doubt that the Irish Church Bill would come up to this House, and that their Lordships would pass it. At all events, he said your Lordships must either reject it or pass it. My Lords, that has not exhausted the whole mode of regarding this question. There is a triple alternative, and I throw it out for your Lordships' consideration—for I feel so strongly on this matter that I even venture to put myself more prominently forward than my position in this House warrants. I say there is a triple alternative; and, if the Government still refuse to tell us what they intend to do with the land, I should suggest that your Lordships should postpone the consideration of the Irish Church Bill until the whole of the Government measures for the pacification of Ireland have been formed in their own minds, and have been laid before Parliament and the country.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, the extreme violence and, as it appears to me, the extreme injustice of the accusations which have been brought against Her Majesty's Government Compel me to say a few words in its defence, and especially in answer to the speech of my noble and learned Friend (Lord West-bury). The further this discussion proceeds the more apparent does it become that the animus of the objections which are now made against the course of the Government in respect to land—I except the speeches of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) and the noble Marquess—but the animus of the more violent and intemperate opponents of the Government springs from their hatred to the measure dealing with the Irish Church. They are speaking nominally against the Government about the land—they are really speaking at us about the Church—and that was especially apparent in the speech of my noble and learned Friend., although, as I am informed, he is himself one of the traitors and conspirators who voted for the Suspensory Bill of last Session. Now, I cannot help thinking that, when your Lordships consider the position of the Government, 1552 in an impartial spirit, they will confess that it would have been perfect madness and folly on our part to deal with these two great questions—the land and the Church in the same Session of Parliament. We felt it to be our duty to take the Church question first. And why? Who forced us to take the Church question first? Was it not the late Government who took up that question in a different sense, and announced measures for what they called "levelling up,"—that is, for the equal endowment of all Churches in Ireland? Was it not then absolutely essential that the Leaders of the Liberal party should consider whether to consent to that policy or advocate another one instead? I say it was the policy of the late Government, and the course announced on their part by Lord Mayo—although they endeavoured to repudiate his words almost as soon as they were spoken—which compelled us to deal with the Irish Church, and we took a line in respect to that Church which was perfectly consistent with the opinions long held—although in the abstract—by the whole of the Liberal party. Having decided to undertake that question, I say it would have been madness and folly to undertake the land question as well; and I confess I have been astonished at the language of the noble Earl upon the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) that the Government have nothing to do but to add a few clauses to the Bill of the noble Marquess. It may be all very well for the noble Earl, because his doctrine is that the less we do the better, and probably if we do nothing that, in his opinion, will be better still. Nothing to do but add a few clauses to the Bill! Why, I remember having, some years ago, been Chairman of a Committee, composed mainly of Irish proprietors, upon this very land question, and I was then staggered—as everybody else has been who has been brought face to face with the difficulties of the question—with the enormous complications which are involved in it. Is it credible, then, that the noble Earl with his knowledge of Public Business and his intimate knowledge of this subject, should declare that by adding a few clauses to this Bill we can settle the whole land question in the present Session? What is the pretext for the assertion that those horrible outrages are due to our having taken up the 1553 question of the Irish Church? Does not everybody know that this great outburst of agrarian crime in Tipperary, and some other parts of Ireland, occurred while the late Government were in Office? Why, one of the most atrocious outrages which has been committed—one which amounted almost to the character of civil war—occurred under their conduct of affairs. Was that, I would ask, due to their feelings with the Irish Church, or with the land question? I cannot help saying that from what I have heard—and I should be glad to know if any Member of the late Government can contradict the statement—I believe it to be true that that Government were singularly lax in the measures which they took for the purpose of endeavouring to vindicate the law on the occasion of the attack made on Mr. Scully. I was very much struck, during the discussion which arose the other evening, by the reception which noble Lords opposite gave to the observations which fell from the noble Lord behind me. The noble Lord (Lord Athlumney), speaking with great knowledge and authority of Ireland, and speaking what may be called the language of political economy—and, in the abstract, I entirely agree with him—said it was a misfortune that we should have to legislate on this subject at all, because the more tenants in Ireland were left to themselves the better. That was a perfectly natural observation coming from the noble Lord; but what was the reception which it met with from noble Lords opposite, especially from the noble and learned Lord by whom the Opposition is led (Lord Cairns)? Why, it was received with loud cheers!—and I now ask them if it is their opinion that the Irish land question had better be dealt with by leaving the tenants to themselves? If that is, and has all along been their opinion, why, I should like to know, did the late Government not leave the tenants to themselves, and why did they propose an elaborate Land Bill which violated, in their opinion, the rights of property? Did they not feel that the land question had got into a condition in Ireland which compelled them to attempt to legislate upon it, and which rendered it impossible for them to take that course, which political economy and abstract reason might make it most advisable to adopt in most countries—namely, to leave the relations of 1554 landlord and tenant to the ordinary laws of supply and demand? The late Government must have been actuated by some such feelings when there were in a responsible position; and this, I will venture to say, that, although some difference maybe advisable between the language which is held by men when in Office and in Opposition, yet it can scarcely be right that the margin should be so wide as that which noble Lords opposite have lately made familiar to the public mind in dealing with great political questions.
THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH
declared, as a man of honour, that he totally and entirely denied that his opinion upon this question had, directly or indirectly, anything to do with the subject of the Irish Church Bill. He was free to own that he had never entertained the least doubt that a sweeping reform was necessary in the Irish Church. He only rose now to complain of the conduct of the Government in not going on with the present inquiry; because, he believed that, if it were properly handled, it would go far to put a stop to those abominable outrages that had occurred in Ireland. In conclusion, he repeated that, as a man of honour, he utterly denied that his conduct in respect to this measure was, in the slightest degree, actuated by any feeling of hostility to the Government for their policy in respect to the Irish Church. The noble Duke (the Duke of Argyll) said that the conduct of certain noble Lords in respect to this question was of a "violent" character. He did not know whether the noble Duke, in using that epithet, referred to him; but if, in the noble Duke's opinion, he was violent, he could tell him that he was also perfectly sincere.
§ LORD CAIRNS
My Lords, up to the time when the noble Duke who has just resumed his seat (the Duke of Argyll) rose to speak no one, I think, with the exception of a Member of Her Majesty's Government and two Friends—I may, perhaps, call them Supporters—of theirs got up to address the House. I leave it to the noble Duke to settle with those two eminent Members of the House the use of the terms which he has applied to their speeches, and what he has described as the violent and intemperate language in which they have expressed themselves towards the Government. I 1555 would, however, venture to suggest, by way of finding some excuse for those noble Lords in the eyes of the noble Duke, that when, on the mere recollection of a cheer which he. fancies was given by myself on a former occasion—which I must say exists only in his own imagination, and has no foundation whatsoever in fact—he was able to rouse himself to such a pitch of excitement as your Lordships witnessed at the close of his speech, they must be prepared to make some allowance for the terms used by the noble Duke in describing their speeches as "violent and unjust." I can only regret that some of that excitement did not manifest itself on a former occasion. It is not very long since we had in this House a discussion of some length with reference to crime and outrage in Ireland generally, and especially in reference to one of those most melancholy occurrences in Ireland to which the noble Duke has referred—I mean the attack on Mr. Scully. On that occasion, several of your Lordships expressed your opinions on that lamentable case, and the course with regard to it which was taken by the Government of the day. I wish to know why it was that the noble Duke did not then propound the question which he has to-night propounded—I speak of the question demanding an answer from the Members of the late Government—whether they were not in that instance fairly chargeable with laxity in the administration of the law? I leave it to your Lordships to consider the fairness of such an attack from a leading Member of one Government towards the one it superseded, in relation to a matter which occurred at some distance of time before, and upon which, up to the present time, the noble Duke has remained silent. I now turn to the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies—and everything which he does is done with so much of persuasion and blandishment that I can hardly find it in my heart to condemn any course which he has taken. I must, however, be permitted to observe that the course which he has adopted to-night seems to me to be somewhat unusual. The Order of the Day before us is the question of going into Committee on the Bill of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde). About a week ago we had a discussion on the second reading of that Bill, and in the course of that discussion various 1556 Members of the Government addressed the House—among them the Lord Privy Seal and my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack. The statements which were made in the course of that debate in favour of legislative action on this subject were answered by those and other Members of the Government; but what has been done to-night? It is, I believe, the habit in certain meetings of a different kind from those in your Lordships' House to read at the outset of the proceedings the Minutes of the previous meeting. Now, I was very much reminded of that course by what the noble Earl did this evening. He took unusual pains to refresh our memories of what tad occurred by rehearsing to your Lordships the whole debate on the second reading of the Bill, from beginning to end. He told your Lordships what the noble Marquess had said, what the noble Earl (Earl Grey) had said, and what was said by my noble Friend the Marquess of Salisbury, who is not now in the House, as well as by other noble Lords. He even thought some observations which fell from me not unworthy of his notice. The noble Earl not only favoured us by reading the Minutes of our proceedings on the second reading, but he made a running answer to the speeches delivered on the second reading, which I contend ought to have been answered, if at all, at the time at which they were spoken. But my noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Westbury) and the noble Lord who sits on the cross-Benches are quite able to defend themselves, and I shall briefly refer to what the noble Earl has said with respect to the few remarks which fell from me. The noble Earl wants to know whether I retain the opinion which he says I expressed in the House of Commons many years ago with reference to some Irish Land Bill. He told the House the other evening that, while I complained of the Government for not stating their opinions on this question, I abstained from stating my own. Now, I beg in reply to the noble Earl to observe that I have for many years taken a great interest in the subject of the land in Ireland, and that I shall be prepared, at the proper time, to justify and re-affirm any statement I ever made upon it in the House of Commons. But I would remind him that the matter in question the other evening was not my opi- 1557 nion with regard to the land in Ireland, but the opinions of Her Majesty's Government; and I want to know what answer it is, when Members of your Lordships' House conceive they have some right to have information from the Government on this subject, to be told on a subsequent evening that they had never made known the opinions which they themselves entertained. The noble Earl further says that I misrepresented the statement which was made by the Members of the Government on the subject of the land question in Ireland. I deny it. What I did say on a former occasion was this—that Her Majesty's Government—the late one—had a measure in preparation on the subject of land tenure in Ireland—a measure they believed to be necessary, because, in their opinion, the land question in Ireland was in an unsatisfactory position. Now, people in Ireland who take part in the agitation in connection with this question naturally look for indications of the opinion of the Government on the question from what falls from time to time from its Members, and I referred from memory to expressions which had fallen from two eminent Members of the Government. One of those eminent persons is Mr. Bruce the Secretary for the Home Department who, I said—speaking entirely from memory—when he was engaged in his canvass at Merthyr Tydvil in South Wales, for which he was a candidate, said, that it was a most unsatisfactory thing that nine-tenths of the land in Ireland should be owned by Protestants. That, I added, was exactly the opinion which prevailed among certain classes in Ireland; and, relying on this expression, they will expect redress from the Government which will go in the direction of remedying that which is said to be an evil. I will read a report of the speech delivered by Mr. Bruce, and your Lordships will then be able to judge whether my recollection of its purport was accurate or not. The speech, I may remark, has been made the subject of comments in the newspapers, but no disavowal of the accuracy of the report has been made by Mr. Bruce. I may assume, therefore, that the report is correct. It appeared in the Cambria Daily Leader.
§ LORD CAIRNS
Well, I am merely endeavouring to justify myself. I am very glad to hear that Mr. Bruce did not use the words attributed to him; but still it is very unfortunate that, considering they have been publicly commented upon over and over again, he never took the trouble to contradict the report, and, indeed, never disavowed the words until they were mentioned in your Lordships' House. This disavowal now, I think, shows the advantage of referring to the statements of Members of the Government; and it must be remembered that these words have gone to Ireland, and have spread all over that country, and that they are extremely popular there, because they agree with the opinion entertained by a considerable portion of the Irish people. My object is merely to justify myself, and therefore I will quote the report of Mr. Brace's speech from the Cambria Daily Leader of the 26th of September last. The right hon. Gentleman is represented to have said—Was it not a deplorable fact that only 7 per cent of the land belonged to the Roman Catholic population? How was such a state of things effected but by the enactment of the most cruel—yes, and he was not ashamed to state—the most infernal laws that had been made and enforced upon a people?I am very glad to hear that Mr. Bruce said nothing of the kind, and I hope it may go forth that this is an entirely erroneous statement.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
Is the noble and learned Lord now reading the words which he referred to last week?
§ LORD CAIRNS
Last week I spoke from memory, but I now hold the paper in my hand, and I leave it to your Lordships to decide whether my memory was very far astray. I am not now quoting my own words, but the Welsh paper which reports Mr. Brace's speech, and which says that it was received with great cheering. Let the statement as to the inaccuracy of this report go forth to the people of Ireland, who have been labouring under the impression that Mr. Bruce was of opinion that "infernal laws" had led to the land being in such a state that only a small percentage was held by Roman Catholics. And now as to the expression which I attributed from recollection to Mr. Gladstone. I mentioned, as your Lordships will remember, that before his election, Mr. Gladstone had said there was a great 1559 tree of noxious growth in Ireland—the tree of Protestant ascendancy—and that the Irish Church question, the land question, and the question of education were all branches of this same tree, which poisoned everything which came under its shadow. Well, I spoke then from memory; but now I have the advantage of the report of the speech to which I referred. At Wigan, on the 23rd of October last, Mr. Gladstone is reported to have said—It is clear the Church of Ireland offers to us indeed a great question, but even that question is but one of a group of questions. There is the Church of Ireland, there is the land of Ireland, there is the education of Ireland; there are many subjects, all of which depend upon one greater than them all. They are all so many branches from one trunk, and that trunk is the tree of what is called 'Protestant ascendancy.' It is upon that system that we are banded together to make war. So long as that system subsists, our covenant endures for the prosecution of that purpose for which we seek your assistance; and because, as I said early in these remarks, we have paid instalments to Ireland, the mass of the people would not be worthy to be free if they were satisfied with instalments, or if they could be contented with anything less than justice, we therefore aim at the destruction of that system of ascendancy which, though it has been crippled and curtailed by former measures, yet still must be allowed to exist. It is still there, like a tall tree of noxious growth, lifting its head to Heaven and darkening and poisoning the land so far as its shadow can extend.I again appeal to your Lordships as to whether my memory went very far astray as regards the words which I attributed to Mr. Gladstone. I am glad it has been stated that Mr. Gladstone never said anything of the kind, and that it is all a mistake of the reporters; but the misfortune is that these reporters have been believed, and their reports been circulated throughout the land. The Prime Minister is, at this moment, believed to have said he was making war on the tree of Protestant ascendancy; that that tree consisted of three branches—namely, the Church question, the land question, and the education question, and that it poisoned the country so far as its shadow extended. To-night the noble Earl (Earl Granville), in reply to what has been urged on the Government with reference to the present Bill, has entertained the House with a very long list of the measures now before the House of Commons, and he has endeavoured to alarm your Lordships by recounting to you the number of clauses to be found in various ad- 1560 ministrative and consolidation Bills which are at present going through the House of Commons. Indeed, I think the noble Earl went further and told your Lordships the number of items in some of the Estimates which the House of Commons will have to dispose of.
§ LORD CAIRNS
Well, Votes or items—a Vote is taken upon an item. The remark, however, that I have to make is that the noble Earl's statement failed to meet the sore point which has been raised in the present discussion. It is perfectly well known—and has not been disputed by any one whom I have heard speak in this debate—that there is intense interest, or I may say excitement, in Ireland on the subject of the tenure of the land. It is not disputed that there are most exaggerated opinions entertained among certain classes of the Irish with reference to the law affecting the tenure of the land. It is not disputed that the people in Ireland who are excited in this manner are at present watching with intense interest to ascertain what the measures are which the Government intend to introduce. It is vain to dispute—and I think the noble Earl opposite will not venture to dispute—that the dreadful occurences which have filled our minds with horror during the last two or three months are connected with the subject of the tenure of land and with the opinions entertained by the people respecting their rights in the land. No doubt there are many other measures which are passing through Parliament, but here is a case where you have to deal with an agitation which is constantly going on and increasing every day. I do not stop now to consider when it began, though I entirely repudiate the conclusion of the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) that it began at any other time than can fairly be connected with the agitation respecting the Church. It has been increasing week after week during the last two or three months, and, if we may judge of the future from the past, it will grow to a greater height than it has hitherto attained. It is, therefore, of vital consequence to the peace of Ireland and the security of property and to the dealing with property in that country that it should be known what are the views of the Government on this question of the 1561 tenure of land. I agree with what has been said by several speakers that this ought not to be a party question, and I believe the noble Earl on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey) exactly reflected the opinion of your Lordships when he remarked that, if the Government brought forward a measure on this subject, it would receive, on both sides of the House, a fair and indeed cordial treatment, and that there exists a great anxiety to consider a measure which might be passed into law during the present year. Now, the Bill of the noble Marquess which is before us is agreed by all parties to be excellent as far as it goes. Does it not, therefore, afford an admirable opportunity to your Lordships of engrafting upon it those additional provisions which Her Majesty's Government may deem requisite? What reasons have been urged by the Government why this should not be done? I want to know further, whether I am not right with my recollection that I heard from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, on the former occasion, that he had no doubt that the measure intended to be introduced next year by the Government would be one that would violate no right of property; and that it would be acceptable to those who sit both upon this and upon that side of the House, and also as to the people of Ireland. As I know the accuracy with which my noble Friend speaks, I do not believe he would have hazarded that statement unless he had been acquainted with the nature of the measure which the Government will propose. Well, if there be such a measure it is exactly the measure we want to see. That is exactly the measure which will be hailed with applause by your Lordships, and if there be such a measure in the possession of the Government I hope they will lay it on the table of the House.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I shall certainly not detain your Lordships by entering into any question as to the personal views which I am. supposed to have expressed on the last occasion when this Bill was before the House; but I must say I do not altogether like my noble and learned Friend for my reporter. I do not exactly admit the accuracy of all the statements he has made, although, no doubt, he intended to express himself accurately; but both my noble Friend and myself have been ad- 1562 vocates, and know that a set of facts may be so stated as to convey different impressions. Neither shall I enter into a discussion concerning what was said or not said by the Home Secretary and the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government in addresses which they may have delivered to their constituents. What I rather wish to say is, that if anything more than another could convince the House of the expediency of delaying this measure for regulating the great land question in Ireland, it would be the tone and temper which seems, unfortunately, to be manifested on any occasion when this subject is brought before the House. Now, if there be one question which more than another requires calmness and deliberation—I might almost say judicial deliberation—it is this great question, which has been for centuries vexing Ireland, which so many have attempted to deal with, which all have admitted to be a grievance, and to which no adequate remedy has yet been found. And, whatever I may be supposed to have said in the late debate, I certainly am not prepared to take upon myself the responsibility of doing what the noble Earl who spoke early in the debates (Earl Grey) seems to think there are special facilities for accomplishing—namely, the settling, by inserting four or five clauses in this Bill, this great question which has been agitated for centuries. Look at the mode in which this discussion was introduced. When certain noble Lords, sitting on the same side as my noble and learned Friend (Lord. Cairns), interposed to prevent the withdrawal of a question that was about to be asked on the unhappy occurrences in Ireland, it was certainly with very great warmth that their observations were made, and that we were told that unless the Government would say what they were prepared to do life would not be safe. Why, does anybody suppose that the passing of any Bill whatever, however wisely devised, now, would at this moment and for over, or instantaneously, allay the disturbances which are occurring in Ireland, and creating so much misery and apprehension? Is it in the power of this House by any legislative measure to overcome the wrongs of centuries? It cannot be done. Patience, time, and deliberation will be wanting on the part of the people; and, 1563 on the other hand, that patience and calmness will never be attained if they see that your Lordships' House is prepared to pass a measure in extreme irritation, in extreme panic, or in any mode whatever not befitting the deliberative character of this great assembly. The noble Earl who spoke from the cross-Benches (Earl Grey)—himself most candid, fair, and reasonable in his ordinary mood—in almost his first sentence to-night, showed that he was under a most extraordinary misapprehension as to what fell the other evening from my noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies; for he stated that my noble Friend had said—"We will allow you to pass the second reading of your Bill. Here it shall pass; but you shall be opposed by the Government in the other House." I cannot conceive any misapprehension so singular as that, and I can only attribute it to the unusual degree of excitement evinced by the noble Earl. What my noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies did say was in effect this—"Here is a Bill which you can possibly pass through this House, but which the Government cannot adopt; because in their opinion it is not a measure that will finally settle the question; and, in our opinion, it is not desirable to show the people of Ireland that you will only partially deal with this question; and, therefore, if you send this Bill down to the other House, where it will not be received as a Government measure, and where numerous measures brought in by the Government are pending, what possibility is there of its passing this Session?" That the noble Earl on the cross-Benches represented as a grave and almost ungentlemanly offence, and as a threat on the part of the Government that they would throw the Bill out in "another place." There was no such threat, no such indecent or dishonourable proceeding on the part of my noble Friend. I only mention this as an instance of the extraordinary misapprehension that arises whenever a matter of this kind is discussed. I do not censure the noble Earl for repeating the discussion of the other night; but really to suppose that the insertion by the Government of four or five clauses in this Bill can be a settlement of this question is a notion which I can hardly conceive as seriously entering his mind; because, if four or five clauses would really have that effect, 1564 is it not astonishing that the Select Committee themselves did not insert them and so prevent all further difficulty? It must be obvious that these continued attempts to make the Government say what is their plan and their remedy, when they have told you fairly from the first that it is not their intention to bring forward any plan whatever in the present Session with reference to land tenure in Ireland, cannot lead to any happy result or conduce to the proper settlement of this great question; and, therefore, I am justified in passing them by. But there is one point which I cannot omit to notice, and it is this—It has been said over and over again—"You have brought forward a measure with respect to the Irish Church which you have told us was forced upon you by pressure from without; the Fenian agitation has made you think of that measure." Now, anybody who knows the history of the question of the Irish Church must know how long that question existed before the Fenian agitation. As a humble individual I myself expressed my opinion on that subject more than twenty years ago in the House of Commons. But it is nevertheless said that our measure has been brought in through pressure on the part of the Fenian agitation, and we are asked—"Will you legislate on such principles as these? You have introduced a Bill that deals with one of the three questions which are agitated in Ireland, and will you show that agitation is to drive you into legislating with the view of satisfying those who cherish wild schemes and projects in regard to the land?" Now, I hold, my Lords, that those who say there is no distinction between the land question and the Church question do really put the land in great peril. If we held that there was no difference between the land question and the Church question, you might then fairly say that the time had arisen when there was something to justify your alarm as to what might be done in regard to the land of Ireland; but what we have asserted—and we will maintain it when the proper time arrives—is that there is no comparison whatever between the great question of the corporate ownership for public purposes and the question of the private ownership of land. As to the Fenian agitation having pressed upon us, the wise statesman will always observe the signs of the times; 1565 and the passage which was quoted by my noble and learned Friend, on a former occasion, from what fell from my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government wont to this—not that the Government was yielding to the Fenian agitation, but that that agitation did give cause for deep searchings of hearts to ascertain what there was that was wrong in a state of things where so unhappy a spectacle presented itself. There have been periods when great public measures have been carried in consequence of agitation; and a bad example, I think, was set by one who was in other respects a high authority—the late Duke of Wellington—when he said he had not changed his opinion on the Roman Catholic Belief Bill, but that he yielded because there would otherwise be a civil war in Ireland. That was a most dangerous opinion to express. But I say when we hear the people loudly complaining of their grievances, and when we find them committing indefensible and perverse acts, but showing at the same time a determination and a perverseness which are not likely to give way to simple reasoning, it is then time for all who are at all responsible for the conduct of public affairs to give their earnest attention to the remedies which may be needed for a state of affairs of which these things may possibly be the symptoms. Her Majesty's Government have been accused of great public delinquency in bringing forward this measure for the reform of the Irish Church, and it is said that this course on their part is leading on to other and frightful consequences. A noble and learned Lord has said there are three great measures which are sought for in Ireland, in a sense which he looks upon with dread and apprehension—one relating to the Church, another to the land, and the third to education; that he found that agitation had commenced on those subjects, that the Government had given encouragement to that agitation, and that in his opinion all this mischief began when the Suspensory Bill of last year was brought forward. According to this view, then, all the mischief was begun before the dissolution of the late Parliament. Since then you have had a General Election, and you have challenged the verdict of the country upon the conduct of the authors of all that mischief. Among other things, it was 1566 said by my noble and learned Friend that the Pope was to have the control of the whole education of Ireland; and it has likewise been argued that the destruction of the Church will lead to the confiscation of the land. Well, all that has been before the minds of the people; and you have had the nearly unanimous voice of Scotland pronounced upon it—you have had the Protestant people of Scotland, of England, and of Wales, and the Catholic and Protestant people of Ireland, all combining to tell you, by large majorities, that they approve and ratify the policy which led to the Suspensory Bill. The real blame cast upon us is that we have not laid before the people these two other questions, that we have not distracted their attention, that we have fixed their minds upon one project, and declared that the root of all the evils which afflict Ireland has been bad legislation, and that—as my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government said in one of his addresses—it was due to the fatal principle of Protestant ascendancy. Protestant ascendancy is not simply a question of holding land; it is one which excluded six-sevenths of the Irish people from having any voice in their own Parliament; it excluded them from office; and it passed laws so monstrous that no language is sufficient to characterize their injustice and iniquity. What do your Lordships think of a law which gave to the second son the inheritance of his elder brother, if he conformed to the Protestant religion and denounced his brother as a Roman Catholic? Can any language be called too severe to denounce such iniquitous legislation? It is the last remnant of the ascendancy that led to such things that we are engaged in removing—and now it is made a reproach to us that we are not dealing with the land question also. Well, then, my Lords, what I say is, that we have one great measure in hand, and we do not intend to be turned from it by any other. With respect to further measures we prefer to stay our hand, not terrified by those frightful outrages which may occur, but which the passing of any Bill could not for a moment avert; not terrified by the repeated denunciations of the noble Earl that the Government would be answerable if these catastrophes continue; not terrified by anything which would urge us to rush into 1567 crude and hasty legislation; but rather waiting calmly until the opinion of Parliament shall have been expressed on the one great question now before it, thus biding our time until we can deliberately enter upon the great land question, which will be, we hope, at least a measure so well matured that no one will be justified in rejecting it because it has not been calmly and weightily considered.
§ LORD ATHLUMNEY
said, that, as the observation which he had made a few evenings since had been alluded to he wished to, say a few words on the present occasion. His noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll) had complimented him for having spoken with authority and moderation. He should be sorry if he had not done so, and would, in that case, have taken the first opportunity of apologizing to their Lordships: but there was one remark which fell from the noble Duke to which he wished to allude. The noble Duke had attributed to him the remarks that he would prefer to leave tenants and landlords in Ireland to make their own bargains. He wished that could be the case. He wished Ireland was in such a position that Parliament could leave landlords and tenants to make their own bargain. What he ought to have said was that he thought, and did still think, that it would be better to leave matters as they were than to endeavour to introduce a system of compulsory legislation between landlord and tenant. It was his wish to take a practical view of the view of the question before the House. There might be differences of opinion as to the course which Her Majesty's Government was pursuing; but since, acting no doubt upon information that was accessible to them, and not others, they had informed their Lordships that they thought it better and wiser to abstain from legislation on this subject during the present Session, he believed it would be unwise for his noble Friend near him to persevere with his Bill. He was quite sure Her Majesty's Government were alive to the gravity and also the difficulty of the present state of the question. Her Majesty's Government had told the House that, during the Recess, they would turn their mind entirely to this subject, and would be prepared, at an early period of the coming Session, to lay a Bill on the table which, without violating the rights of property, 1568 would settle the question to the satisfaction of all reasonable men. Under these circumstances, he was of opinion that they had better leave the matter in the hands of Her Majesty's Government, and he would beg his noble Friend not to press his measure any further. Many allusions had been made to the frightful events which had lately shocked their Lordships, and some attempts had been made to account for them. He had himself had had some experience in the government of Ireland, but neither he, nor his noble Friend, nor he believed anyone else, could say why these outrages arose, how they arose, or what their object was. They seemed to break out periodically, sometimes in one part of the country, sometimes in another; and it was very often impossible to trace their cause. All that Government could do was vigorously to apply the existing law for the preservation of life and property in Ireland, and he for one should be quite satisfied.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, he wished to say one word on this question. He was very desirous that the Government should state their views on the condition of Ireland, for he held in his hand a report of a speech delivered by a Gentleman who was now a very influential Member of Her Majesty's Government the President of the Board of Trade, on the subject of land in Ireland. This speech was not made in the excitement of the elections, but was made at Edinburgh on the 5th of November, 1868, and he hoped it could be said of that report also that it was not correct. In that speech Mr. Bright was reported to have said—In Ireland the land really is not in the possession of what I may call native proprietors, or natives of the country, to a large extent. It seems to be an essential thing for the peace of every country that its soil should at least be in possession of its own people. I believe that in Ireland it will be necessary to adopt some plan—and I believe there is a plan which can be adopted without injustice or wrong to any man—by which gradually the land of Ireland may be, to a considerable extent, transferred from foreign, or alien, or absentee Protestant proprietors—transferred into the hands of the Catholic resident population of the country. I do not anticipate myself that, until something of that kind is put in process and operation, we shall find tranquillity and content in Ireland such as we should wish to see.This was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman; as to which he (the Duke 1569 of Somerset) would only observe that it was contrary to the principles of religious liberty, because it was a proposed transference from Protestants to Catholics; it was obviously contrary to equality, and was contrary also to the principles of political economy. They had been told that the principles of political economy should be observed; but now it seemed to him that the principles of political economy were gone also. Then he would ask who were the native proprietors—or, in other words, who were the original Irish? If they could get at the primitive Irishman, they could, perhaps, set things to rights. He believed he might have produced other speeches of the same kind from other Members of the Government if he had chosen to cut out the fag ends of newspapers or rake among the dust heaps of old debates; for he was sorry to say that these kind of extracts might be abundantly found. But when these topics were alluded to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack rose and said—"Oh, do not touch that sensitive subject; it is too exciting for this House." Now, he really wished, and should be very anxious to see, this question discussed without any party feeling. There ought to be none, for in some respects both parties were in the same position; both had got into the difficulty, and they ought to get out of it in the best way they could. With regard to the Bill before them he would only say that for the future it would be excellent, but in connection with existing agreements it had some inconveniences; and he was quite sure if they were to press the Bill of the noble Marquess as it stood, and send it down to "another place" they would do injustice to the measure itself, and diminish the chance of any future satisfactory adjustment. He hoped, therefore, they would be allowed to consider the question calmly when it should again come before them, unaffected by speeches during the elections, and all the false reports—for they seemed to be all false—which they had lately heard or read.
said, he would not have ventured to ask their Lordships' attention at that late hour were it not for the observations which had been made by his noble Relative (the Duke of Somerset) with respect to the sentiments of Mr. Bright. As to whether they were 1570 accurately reported he was not prepared to deny or affirm without further investigation; but, knowing the great influence which Mr. Bright exercised over the minds of his fellow-countrymen, he had very carefully noted whatever observations on this subject might, from time to time, have emanated from that right hon. Gentleman. The first occasion on which Mr. Bright entered at any length upon the Irish land question was when he came over to Dublin, and unfolded a very important scheme for the regeneration of Ireland. That scheme had been very much misrepresented by the local newspapers. Mr. Bright had simply said that, with a view of establishing a class of peasant proprietors, he was prepared to support a measure in Parliament for the purchasing of such properties as might belong to absentee proprietors and others at 10 per cent above their market value. He (Lord Dufferin) confessed, as an Irish proprietor, that the proposition was very liberal, and in all probability he would be prepared to a certain degree to take advantage of it. The next occasion on which Mr. Bright had alluded to this complicated question of Irish land tenure was in the House of Commons last year. Having had the good fortune to be present upon that occasion, he remembered that the expression Mr. Bright used made a great impression on him, because he had stated, as nearly as he could recollect, that he neither had, nor was he prepared to advocate, any measure whatever for the settlement of the Irish land question which would interfere with the legitimate rights of property. That announcement was received by the Conservatives with derisive cheers; upon which Mr. Bright turned round and said—"And my interpretation of the rights of property is identical with yours." This declaration secured from all sides of the House one of the most hearty cheers he had ever the pleasure of hearing. The third occasion on which Mr. Bright had addressed himself to this question was in his speech at Limerick, in which he j had been reported as saying that no matter what had been done or might be in reserve with regard to the Irish land question, legislation on that question ought to be free from the slightest taint of suspicion of any interference with the legitimate rights of the landlords of Ireland. It had been said by a noble Lord 1571 that that right hon. Gentleman was the only Member of the Cabinet who was not orthodox on the subject of land; but he hoped he had now satisfied him that the right hon. Gentleman entertained no sentiments detrimental to those rights of property which they were all anxious to respect.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
desired to say, with reference to advice which had been given to the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde), that if he postponed the measure with a view to further discussion on the matter, he could not encourage him in the hope that there would be the slightest chance of the Government altering the decision to which it had come.
THE MARQUESS OF BATH
said, their Lordships had now heard comments upon Mr. Bright's speeches, and an historical review from the time of the Duke of Wellington; they had also heard something of the Bill for the disestablishment of the Irish Church, which satisfactorily proved to him that Lord Mayo's conduct last year had required the Opposition to do something desperate to outbid the then Government; they had also heard recriminations between the present and the late Ministers, and taunts thrown out by the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies and others that the conduct of noble Lords on this side of the House, when in Office, was not very different from that pursued now. He (the Marquess of Bath) feared that these taunts were not altogether undeserved. He admitted that each party had tampered with the question; each had brought forward measures which were never intended to pass, for the sake of gaining a Parliamentary triumph and catching a few votes in the House of Commons. But he wished to call away the attention of the House from this Leader or that, from the conduct of Governments either in expectancy or in possession, to the condition of those unfortunate persons in Ireland whose lives were menaced, whose property was threatened in the present state of the country; and on their behalf he appealed to Her Majesty's Government to make at once a full and immediate statement of their intentions with regard to this subject. The silence of the Government was a primary cause of the danger that threatened them—it was this uncertainty that had brought matters 1572 into a worse state than they were ever in before. The frequent murders that were committed there, and every letter they received from Ireland, as well as the information of everyone that came over, all gave a sad description of the state of the country. One noble Lord (Lord Athlumney) said that the bad feeling only existed in one or two districts of the country. It was at its worst there, he admitted; but the remarkable thing was that the bad feeling that had always existed in those districts was spreading over the whole of the country. What was this founded on? It was founded on the belief of the tenants that it was the intention of the Government to give up the land to them; for they said quite openly—"We brought this Government in, we gave them a majority, and the least thing they can do for us is to give us the land." Now, it was most important for the Government at once to set this right, and let these misguided men know that there was no foundation for their expectations. If the Government did not accept the Bill of the noble Marquess, at least let them tell the country in what way they intended to deal with the question. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack talked of their waiting in calmness and patience till the proper time for legislation; but let him consider what was the case of those unfortunate persons the landlords of Ireland, in which class there seemed to be committed a murder a week. He begged and entreated of the Government at once to give a sketch of the policy they intended to pursue, in order to put an end to the proceedings of those wicked men who were fomenting disloyalty throughout the land.
THE EARL OF PORTABLINGTON
wished to say a few words on this question. There were no doubt parts of the country that were in a state of partial rebellion, and there were wicked men everywhere; but he utterly repudiated the notion that the bulk of the respectable tenantry of Ireland were only thinking of how they might swindle their landlords out of their property. Now, he would trace the discontent at present existing in Ireland to the proceedings of those bad men, who were always ready to make use of any exciting circumstances to forward their own "vile" purposes. It was a remarkable thing that these outrages were confined to 1573 some particular districts in Ireland, and he was glad to hear the noble Viscount state that they were repudiated by the great body of the Irish people. He was himself extensively concerned with the management of Irish property, and he was well acquainted with other districts, and he did not believe that there was a single one of his own tenants, or upon any of the estates he knew, that would be guilty of such abominable murders as those they now heard of. It was extraordinary and unaccountable that these outrages broke out in particular districts, and in certain seasons, no matter what Government was in. When the last Government was in Office there was the dreadful murder of Mr. Featherstonhaugh, and now there were other murders. As to the measure before the House, he should be glad if it could be adopted; but the noble Earl opposite said he was satisfied that the Government would bring in a Bill next Session which would please both sides of the House; and that, he thought, ought to satisfy the noble Marquess. With regard to the loyalty of the Irish people, he thought the reception Prince Arthur had received was a convincing proof of it. He had received a letter from a distinguished friend of his in Tipperary, which stated that nothing could exceed the spontaneous loyalty of all classes of the population.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
said, he could not avoid expressing his deep regret that, in the course of the evening, the debate should have contracted the tone of party that had marked some portions of it. He protested against the theory respecting the responsibility of the Government which had been adopted by his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies. His noble Friend appeared to think that if he succeeded in establishing a tu quoque case against the opposite party he had done all that was required of him. By all means let the members of the late Administration bear the whole of the responsibility that properly belonged to them; but, whatever might have been the conduct of past Governments, the present Government were alone responsible for the present tranquillity of Ireland. He had noticed with pleasure that the only part of his Bill to which his noble Friend had taken objection was that which had reference to compen- 1574 sation. The main feature of the measure concerned the law tenure of land, and that matter ought not to be mixed up at all with the murderous outrages recently committed in Ireland. It was, however, impossible to deny that the ignorant part of the Irish people had been induced to take up the notion that the occupation of land would give the right of ownership, and that in a very short time there would have to be a transfer of property. But his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies had distinctly declared that no measure that might be introduced by the Government would be subversive of the legal rights of property, and he hoped that that statement would go forth through the length and breadth of Ireland, in order that it might in some degree dispel the delusion that now possessed the minds of some of the Irish peasants. In regard to this measure, he was willing to accept the proposal of the Government, that the Committee should be postponed till the 25th of May.
§ Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn; and House to be in Committee on Tuesday the 20th of May next.