§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
who had given notice to call attention to the views of Irish policy which are reputed to have been expressed by the President of the Board of Trade: and to ask how far they are to he taken as the views of the Cabinet—said, My Lords, I have to offer an apology to the House, and to my noble Friend (Earl Granville) who leads the House, on two grounds. The first is for having brought forward a matter in your Lordships' House, which has undoubtedly arisen in connection with the debates of the other House of Parliament —in respect to which I can only say that, while I think that such a course is improper in ordinary cases, in cases of declarations on the part of principal Members of the Government, it. is essential we should have the power of questioning Members of the Government in one House as to declarations made by their Colleagues in another. As to any objection that may be raised to my conduct in this respect, I would remind noble Lords opposite, moreover, that this power was freely used, by those who are now in power with respect to a noble Friend of mine during last Session. The other ground on which I owe an apology is for the length of time which has elapsed since the speech was made—it being a week ago. Had I been in town on Monday I would have given an earlier Notice; but it must be remembered that this is only the third day on which the House has sat since the speech was delivered. Now I desire to put a question to the noble Earl on this subject, because it seems to me that the attitude of his Colleague in the other House of Parliament has differed. and differed disadvantageously, from his own conduct in this House. We ventured to question him, and to question him closely, as to the policy of the Government in respect, of the Irish land question. The noble Earl distinctly declined—and he was supported in that refusal by the Lord Privy Seal—to lay down the policy of the Government on the question, and he gave reasons which appeared to his own mind sufficient, and were undoubtedly within his competence, in order to defend himself from being further pressed as to the intentions of the Government upon that subject. Now I did not conceal at the time my own. impression of this 358 silence; this reticence on the part of the Government was not an act of prudence. I thought it was giving encouragement to those who were entertaining extravagant hopes in Ireland and who were rousing the population to unfounded expectations; but I never doubted that it was within the competence of the Government to maintain that reticence if they thought fit. They have a right— however much I may question the wisdom of their decision—to keep back from the House, if they please, their intentions on this subject. We never know the value of a thing till we lose it, and I only wish we had the diplomatic reticence of the noble Earl. I only wish the noble Karl could invest his Colleagues in the other House of Parliament with the exquisite sense of discretion which he has always exhibited in this House. But I do venture to say that it compromises the position of the noble Earl with respect to those whom he addresses in this House, and is hardly respectful to your Lordships' House, that when a declaration of the policy of the Government is for high, reasons of State desired here, their intentions should be blurted out by a Member of the other House of Parliament. Therefore I have to ask the noble Earl whether the speech to which I refer be a real representation of the intentions of the Government. I do not question his right to reticence—his right to assume the attitude of discretion if he maintains it; but I do question his right to conceal the intentions of the Government in this House, and then allow a Colleague in the other House of Parliament just to lift up the veil slightly so that the discontented in Ireland may have the benefit of it. Now, my Lords, I will state the passages to which I wish to call the attention of the noble Earl, as they are attributed to the President of the Board of Trade —passages which appear to mo most inconsistent with the position which the noble Earl took up the other night—passages which appear to me, if they are interpreted according to their natural meaning, dangerous to the rights of property in Ireland; and, if they are not interpreted according to their natural meaning, are most dangerous as raising unfounded expectations in the people of Ireland. What the President of the Board of Trade is reputed to have said in the other House was this—I said before, and I say now, that there can be no peace in that country till the population, by 359 some means or other—I am prepared to propose a means, and I believe it can be done without injustice to any man—are put in possession in greater numbers than they are now of the soil of their own country.In that statement the policy of the Government is laid down as "putting the population in greater numbers than they are now in possession of the soil." But the President of the Board of Trade not only states the policy of the Government, but he states that he has the machinery at hand for carrying it into effect. What that machinery is he does not tell us, but he states with the utmost distinctness the object the Government has in view; and that he has-well thought over and fully resolved on the means by which that object is to be attained. Now, this is not the only point in the speech which seems to me to call for explanation. The President of the Board of Trade does not only state the object, but he goes on to point out to some extent the means by which it is to be carried into effect—or rather, I should say, he does not point out, but he lets drop pregnant hints— transparent insinuations—through which those in Ireland who are looking to the policy of the Government, or the promises of the Government, to find some support for their own discontented and disloyal schemes, may find at least a ground of hope if not confident expectation. In the first place he says—But I say that the time has come when acts of constant repression in Ireland are unjust and evil, and that no more Acts of repression should ever pass this House unless attended with Acts of a remedial and consoling nature.An Act of repression is at this moment passing through the other House of Parliament; therefore, I suppose, the pledge so distinctly given by the President of the Board of Trade must be fulfilled—it must be attended by measures of a remedial and consoling nature. But now I come to the most remarkable part of the speech. The speech lays down clearly the policy that the population are to be put in possession of the soil of the country; and it lays down distinctly the time—that ''no more Acts of repression are to pass unless attended by measures of a remedial and consoling nature;" and then it ends with a most pregnant sentence, which cannot be overlooked in Ireland—I have stated before in this House and elsewhere that there is no proposal whatsoever with regard to the land of Ireland that I could not support if I 360 were myself an Irish landowner that shall have any sanction from me. I believe the policy of our law with regard to land in Ireland has been destructive and fatal to the true interests of the landlords. Your present condition shows it. It would have been better for you fifty years ago to have lost half of your estates, if by that means you could have given content to the people and security to the remaining half.The object, therefore, of the measure which the President of the Board of Trade knows of, but would not lay on the table, is to give content to the people of Ireland; it is an essential condition of that measure that it should be such as that a landlord could not prudently disapprove it; and he concludes by saying that no landlord in his judgment could disapprove of a measure which, in order to give content to the people of Ireland, should deprive him of half his property. I put these sentences together. I candidly admit that I do not in the slightest degree believe that the President of the Board of Trade desires to deprive landlords of half their property—on the contrary, he says—and there is no man whose statements, from the courage and consistency of his past life, are entitled to more absolute credence—that he would do nothing which, in his judgment, would interfere with the rights of Irish landlords. What I complain of in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is that his views have too much vagueness on the one side and too much distinctness on the other. Their distinctness consists in holding out to the people of Ireland an object which, they desired to attain by lawless means —their vagueness with respect to the lawful and legitimate means which, in his belief, are necessary to attain it. Something of the same complaint must be made of the speech of the Prime Minister who followed. I do not mean to say that he expressed his approval of the measure indicated by his Colleague, but he did not disclaim it. He said, it was a measure which several on that side did not approve. He pronounced no disapproval of it on the part of the Government. He said that, on his part, fixity of tenure should not be adopted till other measures bad been tried. He gave no opinion against the fixity of tenure. He did not disavow—as we might have expected he would disavow —an unabashed assault upon the laws of property. What we want of Ministers in this country is not that they should say they will not attack the laws 361 of property till some other conditions are fulfilled—what we want is that they should set up these laws as conditions; which, under all circumstances cannot be transgressed, and to warn those who attempt to break them that they do it at their own peril. This vacillation, this invitation of pressure, these intimations that they will be prepared to yield to increased agitation, are not the way to repress unlawful desires, or to calm agitation, but rather the means of inciting men of violence to continue their intrigues against property. My Lords. I have ventured to bring this matter before the noble Earl because I wish to press tip on him especially this point— that if he and his Colleagues hold up before the population of Ireland an object they have been accustomed to contemplate as to be acquired in a violent and illegal way—if they say here is the possession of land to the population of the country; you have been accustomed to look to this by violence and insurrection, we will attain it for you by some circuitous method we do not explain—if you do this You are encouraging them, whatever you may think, in their lawlessness and violence. The project of the President of the Board of Trade, as stated some years ago, is one, as I understand it, to buy the properties of landlords in Ireland and sell them again on easy terms to small tenants. Whether he still entertains the same project I do not know; but surely he could not have alluded to it in his speech the other night; because it is obvious that to produce any permanent impression on Ireland, and to be a measure worthy of the name of a statesman, it would have to be carried out—whether wise or foolish—on a large scale. You must be able to offer for sale large properties in every part of Ireland; it would not do to confine it to one particular part of Ireland—you would have to furnish land to all who would buy it. And how is the land to be procured? It is obvious that the land must first be obtained from the landowners. Has the President of the Board of Trade received any assurance from the landlords of Ireland that they are prepared to sell? or is he prepared to make them part with their land by compulsory legislation? and is he prepared to order the land at so low a price that it must be made up by the tax-payers? And if that be so, has he ascertained 362 that the British tax-payers will approve the bargain? If he did not refer to that, what did he refer to? The proposition of the President of the Board of Trade is to put the population of Ireland in possession of the land of Ireland. Now, I ask the noble Karl to enter the confessional which he declined to enter some weeks ago. He has now no alternative but either to accept or reject the proposition, which has been most distinctly laid down by a leading Member of the Government what I desire to know is—whether the Government adopt the view of Mr. Bright that there can be no peace in Ireland until the population by some means or other are put in possession, in greater numbers than they now are, of the soil of the country? If so, has Mr. Bright laid before them the measure which he says he has prepared to attain that object? and, if so, have they approved that measure? I am not seeking to dictate to the Cabinet. I ask these questions for the sake of the landlords, whose rights are assailed, and of the population, whose enthusiasm may be abused. I say you are now bound to give us the benefit of an explanation of your policy. If you cannot prevent individual members of the Cabinet from betraying the intentions of the Government, you are bound to avow those intentions—for the greatest injury you can do to Ireland- is now to maintain vague expectations which you have not the means of realizing. The greatest benefit you can do is to explain to Parliament the policy which is to satisfy all classes in Ireland. State distinctly what you think ought to be conceded, as being just and fair; at the same time declaring that your convictions do not allow you to go beyond that point, and that no agitation in the country and no pressure employed in Parliament will induce you to stir one inch beyond that which you consider just and right,
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, in the first place I acknowledge the courtesy of the noble Marquess in making two apologies. The second apology, I can assure him. I do not require in the slightest degree. I own my feeling is that although the noble Marquess is quite right to act upon his own. sense of responsibility, it is an advantage and not a disadvantage that some time should occur between the notice and the attack on a subject of the greatest delicacy and 363 importance, and which all parties are agreed can lead to no practical result with regard to the other apology; so far as I am concerned I shall say nothing But with regard to the excuse which the noble Marquess has made, I think he is taking the most irregular course I ever remember to have been taken in the House in referring to the debates in the other House. I remember that a noble Lord opposite (Lord Cairns) gave a castigation to a noble Duke behind me because ho. had criticized a letter written to Mr. Disraeli, having nothing to do with the other House of Parliament. On this point will read to your Lordships the statement of a great authority on Parliamentary practice. In his work On the Law and Practice of Parliament, Sir Erskine May says—The rule that allusions to debates in the other House are out of Order is convenient for preventing fruitless arguments between members of two distinct bodies who are unable to reply to each other, and for guarding against recrimination and offensive language in the absence of the party assailed; but it is mainly founded upon the understanding that the debates of the other House are not known, and that the House can take no notice of them. Thus when, in 1641, Lord Peterborough complained of words spoken concerning him by Mr. Tate, a Member of the Commons, their Lordships were of opinion that this House could not take any cognizance of what is spoken or done in the House of Commons, unless it be by themselves, in a Parliamentary way made known to this House.' The daily publication of debates in Parliament offers a strong temptation to disregard this rule. The saint questions are discussed by persons belonging to the same parties in both Houses, and speeches are constantly referred to by Members which this rule would exclude from their notice. The rule has been so frequently enforced that most Members in both Houses have learnt a dexterous mode of evading it, by transparent ambiguities of speech; and although there are few orders more, important than this for the conduct of debate, and for observing courtesy between the two Houses, none, perhaps, are more gene rally transgressed. An ingenious orator ma; break through any rules in spirit, and yet ob serve them to the letter.No one will doubt that the noble Marquess is an orator and a most ingenious one; but he appears to me to have taken an irregular and inconvenient course. It is most irregular to read reports from the newspapers of what has been said in the other House, because it places this House in danger of being in a disagreeable position with regard to the other House and it is a course singularly inconvenient to Her Majesty's Government. The noble Marquess is aware that our Pro- 364 ceedings for mutual convenience are exchanged between the two Houses. The Notice which the noble Marquess gave of putting this Question did not contain the particular passages in Mr. Bright's speech which have been commented on. I do not, however, assume that there was anything unfair in that proceeding —on the contrary, if the passages had been quoted in the Notice, I should have objected to such a Notice being recorded in the Order Book—it was, therefore, impossible for me to know whether the noble Marquess meant to allude to a speech in Parliament or to any of the numerous speeches which Mr. Bright has made in different parts of the country. If, however, the noble Marquess had exercised his ingenuity, and, without referring to any person, had asked whether such and such constituted the policy of Government with respect to Ireland, he would then have avoided irregularity, and would have given me the advantage of knowing the nature of the language to which he referred. Neither did the noble Marquess give mo any intimation that he was going to allude to any opinion expressed by Mr. Gladstone. However, I will endeavour to make some answer to the noble Marquess's observations. The noble Marquess has referred to what I have said previously, and I may remind your Lordships that on move than one occasion I have been told that we are responsible for all that has happened in the shape of outrage in Ireland, on two grounds—one of which was that we did not legislate on important questions: and the other was that we have observed too much reticence with regard to our policy. The former point appears now to have entirely disappeared from our discussions, and the noble Marquess has told the House that he does not complain of the Government for not legislating during the present Session as the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) had previously done. That particular point, then, which laid me open to censure, is, for all practical purposes, disposed of. The noble Marquess said that what has happened has made him change his opinion with regard to my reticence. On that point I venture to say that some years of official life impress on us the importance of observing certain official rides as necessary for the furtherance of Public Business. I admit that the rule of maintaining a, certain 365 amount of reticence, on the part of Members of the Government, was disregarded by Mr. Bright the other evening. I hardly like to say—and I should not have done so if Mr. Bright had not told me— that he had made the mistake of not pro facing what he had to say, by observing —"If I were speaking for myself, I should say so-and-so;" and I ask your Lordships to consider whether there is anything unnatural or extraordinary in what took place. Whatever you may think of Mr. Bright's political opinions, no one will deny that during upwards of a quarter of a century he has exercised an immense influence on the public opinion of'; this country by the power of his arguments and the extraordinary force and eloquence of his language. During all that time he has been in the habit of speaking what was uppermost in his mind without any official restraint; if during the two or three months which he has been in Office—which he reluctantly accepted—lie may have forgotten some of those official rules which we find convenient for the conduct of business—is he to be reproached for that? I beg to remind your Lordships of the circumstances tinder which this language was used. A speech had been made full of charges of a very grave character, which, in my opinion, Mr. Bright, in his reply, showed were utterly groundless. That speech was made by a noble Lord (Lord Claud Hamilton), in a tone and spirit which were condemned in "another place," and which I will only venture to characterize as quite opposed to the tone and spirit with which the speaker's elder brother sometimes, though not so frequently as we might wish, addresses your Lordships. In reply, then, to these unfounded accusations Mr. Bright rose. After what I have said, the noble Marquess can hardly expect that I should say whether the opinions expressed by Mr. Bright are entirely agreed to, or are not agreed to, by the various Members of the Cabinet. But the noble Marquess reproached Mr. Bright by saying that he had a measure to carry out. I have not the slightest doubt that the measure so alluded to was that which Mr. Bright suggested two years ago and it is. I believe to this effect—Mr. Bright thinks it would be desirable that money should be advanced by the State to enable tenants, if their landlords are willing to 366 sell, to purchase the fee simple of the farms they are cultivating. Now, contrast this plan with the plan of the noble Marquess and of his Colleagues in the late Government. The one is a plan for advancing money wherewith tenants may buy land which landlords are willing to sell: the other is a plan for advancing money to these same tenants to make improvements—in some cases contrary to the consent of the landlord—to be repaid to the Government by a rent-change upon these landlords' estates. Now. I am quite free to admit that with regard to either of these plans the noble Marquess and noble Lords opposite have a right to argue on financial, on political, and on economical grounds as to their practical results, or how far the limit of Government interference should extend: but while I state positively that Lord Mayo's plan—sanctioned by the noble Marquess and the other Members of Lord Derby's Government—is open to discussion as to whether it does or does not interfere with what we understand to be the rights of property, it is just as impossible to argue that Mr. Bright's plan, whether good or bad, interferes in the slightest degree with the rights of property as understood by any one of your Lordships on the opposite side of the House. The noble Marquess asks whether this measure has been submitted to the Cabinet, whether they approve it, and whether it is substantially the plan which we shall introduce next year? I have no doubt that Mr. Bright is warmly attached to his plan, and prefers it to any other yet proposed. I have no doubt that he will try to induce us to approve any plan for the good of Ireland which he may think the best. But I also believe—for I never sat with a fairer man —that if his Colleagues can show that the plan is faulty and can suggest a better, he will be ready to consider it. I think, then, I have answered the question of the noble Marquess, whether the declarations of Mr. Bright are to be accepted as the final proposals of the Government on this question. It is not for me, in the slightest degree, to explain or defend any arguments or expressions which he may have used—I might do injustice were I to attempt to do so—but when the noble Murquess complains so bitterly that Mr. Bright has said that he thought it would be for the advantage of Ireland that more of the population should be- 367 come owners of the land, and that he hoped to be able to carry out the plan, no OUR has a right to say he wishes to do so in a manner that would he an injustice; to anyone. No one will say that Mr. Bright was the inventor of the theory which has gained such currency in England and France, as to the great advantage of the population being possessed of small properties; we have small holders of land already in France, in Belgium, and in Germany. Nor can we wonder if Mr. Bright referred in 1865, as Mr. Burke did years ago, to the action of the Penal Laws as one cause of the difficulties of the land question, and said that those abominable and outrageous Penal Laws had excluded three-fourths of the Irish people from all property in the soil. My Lords, I do not wish to allude to any particular scheme for the settlement of the land question—because I adhere entirely to the course which I have adopted, and which, to a certain degree, is approved by the noble Lord. When my noble Friend (the Marquess of Clanricarde)— the only Peer who has made definite proposals on this subject—recently introduced his Bill, I was asked to bring Amendments before your Lordships which would show the scheme of the Government measure. I declined to comply with that request, because it was absolutely without precedent that a Government should produce income Session the scheme of a. Bill which they mean to introduce only in the next Session. Such a course would be disadvantageous to them, would be discreditable to them, and would also be highly disadvantageous to the final settlement of a delicate question. At the same time I am quite ready to repeat the answers which I gave when this subject was last before your Lordships. On that occasion the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) described certain visionary schemes to which he hoped the Government would never assent. I gave him that assurance in the most direct and clearest manner. Another noble Lord asked whether Her Majesty's Government would do anything to subvert the rights of property. I gave a distinct answer also to that question. The noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Cairns) asked me to declare whether, in the opinion of the Government, the rights of the landlord to his property were, or were not, 368 identical with those of the Irish Church to its property? [Lord CAIRNS: I did not ask a question.] I understood the noble and learned Lord to express a hope that the Government would state their views on that point. At all events, I am ready to repeat that I believe there is not one Member of the Government who does not consider those rights to he of a perfectly different character. Well, then, as we appear to be in the habit of referring to what parses in "another place," I saw a Question which was asked there with singular fairness by a prominent Member of the Conservative party. He admitted that legislation this year was perfectly impossible, and he did not ask the Government to enter into any details of their scheme, but to say that, while on the one hand the claim of the tenant to compensation should be admitted and respected, so on the other hand the proprietary rights of the landlord should be firmly maintained. I am not clear that that is not a better balanced sentence than any to which the noble Marquess refers; and I have not the slightest hesitation in saying "Yes!" to that declaration, which appears to me not to go one inch further than my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal, and other Members of the Government near me, have gone in stating their views on former occasions. I have now endeavoured to give to the House all the information which 3 think I am entitled to give. But I decline to give any information as to the particular character of the plan which we may hope to embody in the Bill next year—and that is the only answer I can give to the speech of the noble Marquess.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
With every wish to make allowances for the difficulties under which the Colonial Secretary has spoken, I am at a loss to understand how he can flatter himself that the speech which he has just made is an answer to the question of my noble Friend. Your Lordships will allow me to say that I think the circumstances of the case were such as amply justified my noble Friend in bringing this question to the notice of the Government. It is beside the question for the Colonial Secretary to quote works on Parliamentary practice; for the practice of both Houses is really undeniable. Since I have had the honour of a seat here I have repeatedly heard discussions raised in this 369 House as to speeches in the other House; and only last year I remember the present Prime Minister in the House of Commons, speaking' in very strong language, indeed, of a speech made by a noble Earl not now present (the Earl of Derby) with regard to the Suspensory Bill. May I state how this question now stands, and what are the difficulties in which we are placed? I am not one of those who have complained that the Government declined to introduce a Bill this Session on the subject of the tenure of land in Ireland. I readily recognize that, from their point of view, they would have had insurmountable difficulties to contend with in any legislation of that kind, and, though T may add that I doubt very much the wisdom of the reticence on their part in connection with the question to which allusion has been made. I do not personally complain of that reticence, because, if there was a risk that misapprehension would be caused by it on the one hand, I am bound also, in fairness, to admit that there might be a risk of misapprehension arising out of any general statement which they might make on the subject. More than that— though I regretted the course taken—I abstained from expressing any censure on the Government when they declined to take up the Bill of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Clanricarde) —a Bill which was admitted on all sides to be a good Bill, and to embody many of those principles which it would be necessary to adopt in seeking to effect a settlement of the land question in Ireland. The Government refused to take up that measure, because, as one of my noble Friends on the Treasury Bench said, it did not go far enough; and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack implied at the time that, although the. Government were not prepared to bring forward a Bill themselves, they still had erne under their consideration which they would be ready to produce when the proper time to do so had arrived. The difficulty I feel we are in after those statements — as my noble Friend near me put it just now—is that that which was refused in your Lordships' House has been promised in the other House of Parliament. What the measure is which has been promised there I will not undertake to say. The noble Karl the Secretary for the Colonies has given us his interpretation in very 370 vague and general language of what may be the meaning of the words used by Mr. Bright. My noble Friend near me (the Marquess of Salisbury) has indicated another interpretation which may be put on those words. But what the real interpretation is does not much signify. What I complain of, and where it appears to me real mischief has been done, is that these vague and crude statements thrown out by a most eminent Member of the Government are calculated to confuse men's minds with, respect to a matter in which there ought to be no shade of uncertainty—the rights of property—and the rights of property in a country which is, at this moment, agitated by the wildest and vaguest illusions on the subject. I am not one ever to argue in favour of straining the rights of property. I know very well that all rights must be tempered by good sense and good feeling, and bounded by moral considerations. I know that any rights, no matter to whom they belong, if pushed to their logical and extreme conclusion, will end in failure and disappointment. I admit, further, that the condition of English and Irish tenants is not in all respects analogous. It is quite possible that many of the evils in the condition of Ireland arise out of the unhappy relations which subsist in some cases between landlord and tenant in that country, partly from the want of capital, partly from absenteeism, and partly from other causes to which it is unnecessary more particularly to allude. I, for one —and I may, I think, say the same for the vast majority of your Lordships— would be glad to accept any measure dealing with this question which was framed in a reasonable and liberal spirit, and which, at the same time, kept strictly within the bounds of what is just. I should be perfectly willing to argue fairly and openly the question of compensation; but there is a wide difference between compensation laid down and defined by an Act of Parliament, and any-thing that would approximate to a forcible setting aside of the established rules of law. I do not say that principles which may be applied in Ireland are of necessity applicable in England, because I might be supposed to be addressing to the House a selfish argument; but I will venture to say that the principles which any Government applies to the large landowners in Ireland are 371 equally applicable to every small owner and occupier in this country; and, moreover, that any principles which you may apply to the case of the land in Ireland will be found to be applicable to every other class of property in the United Kingdom. When men's passions are heated, and such questions as these are brought into debate—when, above; all, vague illusions pervade the public mind—then the subtle-distinctions drawn by lawyers between one class of properly and another are swept away out of the domain of practical politics, and you are brought face to face with a very awkward state of things. Depend upon it, every class of people is equally concerned in seeing that the laws of property — as generally accepted — are rigidly adhered to. It is a matter in which every depositor in a savings bank every holder of Government stock, every one possessed of property in any form or degree is concerned. Why do I make these observations? In many cases I frankly admit these observations would be out of place; but, unfortunately, the case of Ireland is an exception to that rule. There I admit there are great difficulties to contend with. You have, unfortunately, something like a Reign of Terror established in that country. At the present moment men are shot down there, not only because they happen to possess property, but, perhaps, because of the use of a hard word or an unkind expression, or, it may be. for turning a labourer out of his employment. How all this has come to pass I do not think it necessary to inquire. Those public men, in my opinion, have to answer for a great deal who have made speeches inciting almost directly to out rage, who have extenuated the outrage when committed, or who have insinuated that the whole cause of the offence rests with the landlords in Ireland. I do not, I may add, wish to go out of the way to find fault with the Government because they released a short time ago the Fenian convicts. I think they must now feel that the clemency which they advised the Crown to exercise has not been understood in its proper light by a large portion of the population in Ireland, and that it is certainly not understood by a class of men who are just now the pillars of our existence in that country—I mean the Irish constabulary. The position in which 372 they have been placed by the act of the Government is, I think, singularly unfortunate, because they must feel that those criminals whom it cost them so much labour and so much risk to bring to justice are once more let loose upon the country, to the danger of their lives. Hence the opinion, I am afraid, prevails that the Government are not prepared to punish effectively and severely the commission of offences against the law, and—although I give them credit for being actuated by the best intentions —they sympathize with the wild and vague notions which exist in Ireland as to the possession of the land. This I look upon as being a most dangerous state of things to exist, and I own it was with regret that I did not hear from, my noble Friend opposite (Earl Granville) a fuller and ampler statement of the policy of the Government, which would have the effect of crushing such views as those to which I refer. I quite admit the necessity of having remedial measures applied to Ireland, provided always that the law is first enforced and the open defiance of it suppressed. I readily admit all the difficulties under which any Government must labour in dealing with this subject, and I can assure Her Majesty's present Advisers that they will find in me, at least, a hearty supporter if they will grapple with this question and endeavour to meet a difficulty which day by day grows more serious, and which, I am sorry to say, the speech of my noble Friend opposite has certainly not tended to lessen.
§ LORD CAIRNS
I cannot let this discussion close without calling your Lordships' attention for a few moments to a question which has been raised by the noble Karl the Secretary for the Colonies, and which is of considerable importance both as regards the subject under discussion and the general position of your Lordships' House. I am perfectly prepared to admit that I believe no rule to be more wholesome, so far as the relative position of the two Houses of Parliament is concerned, than that to which the noble Earl has alluded. That rule I understand to be simply this,— that we are not in this House to refer to speeches which may have been made in the other House merely as speeches, for the purpose of answering them, or of replying to an attack which any of your 373 Lordships may conceive has been made on himself. That rule, I believe, obtains in this House, and I believe in the other House also; and it is, in my opinion, a most excellent and salutary ride. But there is another ride which, so long as I have known anything of the proceedings of Parliament, has, I believe, obtained with equal certainty; and that is, that the Members of the Government being devided between the two Houses—some of its Members sitting in one House and some in the other—there exists that degree of responsibility and partnership among them as a whole, that if, cither in the one House or the other, a declaration is made which is intended to be or savours of being a declaration of the policy of the Government, to any question regarding that policy all its Members are bound to answer, whether called upon to do so in the House in which the declaration is made, or in the other House of Parliament. I believe your Lordships will find that not a year has elapsed within living memory in which that ride has not been acted upon. I have myself known it to be acted upon during the whole time that I have had the honour to have a seat in Parliament, and I believe it to be a rule winch is vital to the existence and good conduct of the Government of this country. My Lords, I am free to admit that it is a disagreeable rule. I am quite free to admit that if you happen to have in the Government a Colleague who, however able he may be, is, as the noble Earl very frankly said, a statesman who has only been in Office for two or three months, and who is prone to be somewhat frank and indiscreet, it is a rule —
§ LORD CAIRNS
Then I am to understand that the noble Earl considers his Colleague to be not frank and indiscreet, but reticent and discreet. But, my Lords, be that as it may, it is a rule which may be disagreeable, but, at the same time, it is a rule, the non-existence of which, would perfectly paralyze the action of your Lordships' House. The greatest confusion would be caused, if a Minister could rise in his place in this House and say that on a particular subject the Government had not a policy, or were not prepared to declare their policy this year; while, in the other House, or even out of Parliament, another Mi- 374 nister of the Crown may rise and say— "We have a policy; we are prepared to propose a measure on this subject, and all that has taken place 'elsewhere' must be passed by unnoticed." Allow me to point out some degree of advantage which occasionally arises from comments or declarations in your Lordships' House on statements made "elsewhere." A few nights ago, when your Lordships were occupied with a conversation on this very important question of the legislation as to land in Ireland, remarks were made in this House, as to declarations on the part of Members of the Government, which appeared to be of such a character as might lead to misunderstanding in Ireland. Remarks were made in this House as to some expressions which were said to have fallen on this subject from the Home Secretary at his election, and from the Prime Minister when the right hon. Gentleman was addressing his constituents on the eve of his re-election. I felt surprised when, some nights afterwards, the noble Earl (Earl Granville) rose in his place and, no doubt, after consultation with his Colleagues, said that no such remarks had ever been made by those right hon. Gentlemen. I took the opportunity of saying that I thought that circumstance showed the advantage of explaining frankly what had been reported in the usual channels of information, and that we were now prepared to accept the repudiation of those words having been uttered by Ministers of the Crown. If I am not mistaken, however, the phrases which the noble Earl used on that occasion were quoted elsewhere, and these right hon. Gentlemen were taxed with having used the expressions originally ascribed to them. The paragraphs which had been read in your Lordships' House were also read in "another place;'' and the attention of the first of these right hon. Gentlemen (Mr. Bruce) was called to the fact that some question had been raised in this House as to the use of the words by him. The right hon. Gentleman remained silent, however, and uttered no repudiation of the words. But with regard to the words which the noble Earl said were not used by the Prime Minister, what did the right hon. Gentleman do? Rising in his place, he admitted having used the words, adding that he was prepared to justify them, and that he had said the same thing in 375 other terms on several previous occasions. Now if we were to shut ourselves up within the impenetrable wall with which the noble Earl would have us enclose ourselves, and if we were to take no notice of anything which passes in the world around us, every one of your. Lordships would be under the impression that the denial which the noble Earl was authorized to give to these expressions of opinion by two Members of the Government was a denial that was still adhered to by the persons who were said to have used the words. I think, therefore, that without violating any rule of debate or any practice of your Lordships' House, we may gain advantage by sometimes taking notice of striking observations made in the House of Commons. In reference to the particular point urged by the noble Earl opposite, I would ask your Lordships to consider this. I agree with every word which the noble Earl said as to the ability of the President of the Board of Trade, and as to his eloquence and the influence which he exercises, and has long exercised, in this country. But these considerations are precisely the considerations which render more dangerous every declaration and opinion which comes from a Member of the Government of whom all this may be said. Without adverting, just at this moment, to the character of the declarations made by the right hon. Gentleman. I want your Lordships to be so good as to try the effect of these declarations by this very simple test—what is the effect which these declarations have produced in Ireland? I have not the papers here, but none of your Lordships could have taken up any of those newspapers which circulate among the tenantry in Ireland without being struck with the fact that in the largest type permitted in publications of that kind the tenantry of Ireland are informed of the glorious declarations made by Mr. Bright and Mr. Gladstone—that the people of Ireland were to be put in large numbers in possession of their own land. And I recollect also that a public meeting was thereupon held at one place where these declarations were treated as promises on the part of the Government, a resolution being passed stating that the meeting had perfect confidence in the pledges thus given by Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Bright on behalf of the Government. Were these people justified or 376 not in drawing such conclusions from the language which had been made use of, and was that language merely an expression of the opinion of one individual? It may be brought to that now, and the Government may repudiate the expressions which were used; but they were in reality of such a character that by no possible construction can they be said to be merely the expression of one individual's opinion. Reference has been made to a certain letter, written in 1866, which, if the matter had stopped there, ought never to have been made public or charged against any public man; and I should not now have referred to it had not the writer repeated and justified the statements it contained. Mr. Bright said—To the main argument of that letter I adhere. I say that the condition of things in Ireland which has existed for the last 200 years, for the last 100 years, for the last fifty years, would have been utterly impossible if Ireland had been removed from the shelter and the influence and the power of Great Britain.Now, my Lords, observe what follows, and say whether it be an expression of the opinion of a single individual—I repeat that if Ireland were unmoored from her fastenings in the deep and floated 2,000 miles to the westward, those things that we propose to do, and which in all probability may be offered to the House in the next Session, would have been done by the people of Ireland themselves, and that if they had become a State of the American Republic, under the condition of that country, those things would hate been done.Mr. Bright, you may observe, does not usually speak of himself in the plural. This, then, is the first declaration which goes over to Ireland. But we have also an indication of the nature of the measures referred to, for Mr. Bright went on—The time is come when acts of constant repression are unjust and evil, and no more acts of repression ought ever to pass this House, unless attended with acts of remedial and consoling nature.And now comes the climax. It is a declaration which, considering it proceeded from a statesman looking to future responsibility, surpasses everything I ever knew to be uttered in Parliament. Mr. Bright said—There can be no peace in that country till the population by some means or other—I am prepared to propose a means, and I believe it can be done without injustice to any man—are put in possession, in greater numbers than they are now, of the soil of their own country.377 Now, my Lords, is it possible for any person reading these two sentences not to couple the one with the other? Now, observe the consequences of the latter statement. Some suggestion has been made as to the means by which this operation could be performed—the purchase of land at an extravagant price, or by compulsion, for the purpose of selling it to the tenantry. Now every one will, T. think, see that it is not utterly impossible that land may be bought and afterwards re-sold to the tenants or other persons—that is a practicable operation under certain conditions—but the whole question is whether you can conduct an operation of that kind over the whole of Ireland, and whether any means can be suggested to conduct the operation without getting into the dilemma which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) pointed out, of either offering a price so high as to bribe the landlords to sell their land—a price so high that the tax-payers of the country will not give it—or else offering a price so low that no landlord will sell his land for it. I ask your Lordships, was it wise—was it statesmanlike—to make this declaration in the face of the people of Ireland, difficult as the subject is, and impossible as it may be when considered—"Yet I am prepared to affirm in Parliament, to the Government, to the House of Commons, that there can be no peace in Ireland till this is done?" And is that all? I will ask your Lordships to consider the ending of the same speech, and to consider whether it is possible for persons in Ireland to read it otherwise than as a declaration of the policy of the Government. How does the speech go on?—I have stated before in this House and elsewhere that there is no proposal whatsoever with regard to the land of Ireland that I could not support if I were myself an Irish landowner that shall have any sanction from me. I believe the policy of our law with regard to land in Ireland has been destructive and fatal to the true interests of the landlords. Your present condition shows it. It would have been better for you fifty years ago to have lost half of your estates, if by that means you could have given content to the people and security to the remaining half.I have read that in fairness to Mr. Bright; and let me ask your Lordships' particular attention to the manner in which the speech winds up—I will trust to the absence of passion and of party feeling in Gentlemen opposite, and hope they will judge us fairly; and I believe that they who live twenty years to come to look back to the 378 policy of this Government with regard to this great question will say we acted not only according to our light in this matter, and with the most honest intention, but we acted with a wisdom which all that has succeeded has demonstrated to be political wisdom of a high order in connection with this question.Now, if this had been the announcement of a policy completely settled and agreed upon in the Cabinet, I ask whether it could have been made in any words more distinct than those? In effect he says—"There is something which in all probability will be done next year; I am prepared with the means of doing it; no peace can be attained in Ireland till it is done; the thing to be done is to place the people in possession of the land; and I believe when you come to look back twenty years hence to what we have done, you will think that we have acted with political wisdom of the highest order." Is it wonderful, then, that people in Ireland are at this moment under the conviction that this is the policy of the Government? I ask you whether anything has fallen from the noble Earl to-night which Mill undeceive the people of Ireland on this subject? And further, I ask you to consider what we see in some of the newspapers, in which we find a triumphant account of the manner in which these declarations were received in that country. Why, I find that in one large town of Ireland— not in one of the counties which have been so much disturbed during the last few weeks—an arrest of a person has been made on a charge of possessing Fenian documents of a novel and somewhat alarming kind; and we are told that in the broad light of day men with arms in their hands rescued the accused from the custody of the police. I find that in the North of Ireland, in a city still larger and more populous, an inroad was made, also in the broad light of day, into a repository of arms, and a quantity of arms, worth about £100, was abstracted. I think, therefore, that my noble Friend was quite justified in bringing this subject before your Lordships, and I only wish I could add that his object in doing so had been more completely attained, by a more distinct disavowal on the part of the Government of declarations so likely to be disastrous in their results.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
The noble and learned Lord has concluded his remarks by expressing his regret that 379 my noble Friend (Earl Granville), in answering the speech of the noble Marquess, did not give a more complete disavowal of the statements to which he referred. Now, the noble Marquess said that he would put my noble Friend in the confessional, and induce him to disavow those statements on the part of the Government. But, when he said that, I own it occurred to me that if my noble Friend confessed to the noble Marquess he was not likely to get absolution, Does not the language held by noble Lords to-night with regard to former declarations from the Government all tend to prove that these repeated demands made upon the Government for general disavowals of some vague evils which it is assumed will follow from some imagined policy, can only produce disavowals which, in whatever form they may be expressed, must necessarily utterly fail to satisfy noble Lords opposite? I think that conclusion might be fairly gathered from what has occurred this evening, and if my noble Friends follow my advice they will decline altogether to make such disavowals as are thus asked from them. Such a course could not possibly lead to any useful result. It will not be unfair if I suppose that these repeated attempts to bring on a discussion upon what is termed the Irish land question do not proceed from any desire merely to embarrass Her Majesty's Government; for the question is much too grave for me to suppose that that can be the only motive which actuates noble Lords. It must rather be taken that they proceed from a real and sincere desire to put an end to the agitation and uncertainty which is said to prevail in Ireland on this subject. ["Hear!"] Yes; but I venture to ask the House very confidently whether the course which noble Lords are pursuing is the course best calculated to attain the end they profess to wish for? The course which noble Lords opposite have pursued to-night was, first of all, to make a statement of what was said by Mr. Bright in the other House of Parliament; and then to follow that up by asking whether Her Majesty's Government adhere to that statement as a statement of policy which the Government had determined upon? And, then, after my noble Friend had distinctly told the House that what Mr. Bright referred to was a plan perfectly well known to Parliament and 380 the public, the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) piecing together with great skill various speeches of Mr. Bright, inferred that it was impossible, if that were his plan, but that there was some dark design behind—some dark conspiracy promoted by Mr. Bright against the rights of property and calculated to stir up and encourage a lawless spirit among the people of Ireland. My Lords, it is quite a fair tiling to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are prepared this Session to bring forward a measure on the subject of the land question; but after we have distinctly stated that we shall not this Session bring in such a measure, unless you are to have a change of Ministry and re-place the present occupants of Office by other men, the only result of discussions like that of to-night must be to aggravate the state of things in Ireland which we all deplore and all wish to see terminated. I do not know that I have anything more to add to what my noble Friend has said. That I have risen on this occasion is merely with the view of pointing out that the reception given by noble Lords opposite to the disavowals and the declarations already made on the part of the Government is not encouraging to us to proceed any further in that direction; and I appeal to the House whether I have not intimated reasons which would induce all who have the patriotic wish to see Irish affairs assume an aspect of greater tranquillity and greater satisfaction to the Irish people to desire that these discussions should not be further prolonged.
THE MARQUESS OF CLANRICARDE
said, there was one important point which his noble Friend (Earl Granville) had not touched upon, or, at least, had not treated with the fulness that might have been wished. Although he seemed to speak of Mr. Bright's plan as one which undoubtedly had not been accepted by the Cabinet and as one that was not likely to be so accepted, still he spoke of the object of creating a peasant proprietary in Ireland as being desirable. Now they knew that in foreign countries where the experiment of creating a peasant proprietary of the soil had been tried, it had worked most injuriously as regards extensive land improvements. In his opinion the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), instead of being open to censure, was 381 entitled to the thanks of every Irishman for bringing the question before their Lordships That night's discussion might be of considerable use in quieting or enlightening the minds of those persons in Ireland who were cherishing the wild idea that the Government were about to propose a scheme by which the Irish tenantry were to be put in possession of the lands they now occupied. No reasonable Irishman — and there were many more persons of that class than some people supposed—would approve such schemes. They had read in the papers to-day of the robbery of arms in one case, and in another of the rescue of a prisoner by the mob in the open day. Such a state of things was truly lamentable, and they were in this extraordinary position, that upon present occasions it was independent persons who endeavoured to excite the Government to take proper measures whereas upon other occasions it was the Government that had to apologize for extra-constitutional steps which they thought it necessary to take for the maintenance of law and order.
My Lords, I am bound to say I agree to a great extent with my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal. I do not see how a declaration could be clearer or more explicit than that which, so far as the principle was concerned, my noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies has already enunciated. But this is just one of these subjects on which general declarations are literally worthless. They mean nothing; you can put any interpretation you please upon them when you come to discuss the matter. It is measures, and measures only, which will settle this question. My Lords, I am not going again to argue the point, but in spite of the high authority of my noble Friend the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), and other persons of great weight, who declared that legislation on this subject was this year impracticable, I still think it was quite within the power of Her Majesty's Government to have settled this question in the present Session in the only way in which it can be settled—by legislation. But I am willing to assume that Her Majesty's Government are right, and that it was impracticable to legislate. Then, I say, it was a duty—a most solemn duty — upon them collectively and individually to be most cautious in 382 the language they use upon a subject so exciting in Ireland—a subject which has roused the very fiercest passions among the peasantry. I say upon a subject of that kind it was their duty, if they did not contemplate immediate legislation, to abstain from language which was capable of being misunderstood. I think the result of this discussion must be to conviuce every man that not only during the late elections, when the responsibilities of coming Office were nearly on their shoulders, many of Her Majesty's Government have been proved to have used language of an exceedingly imprudent character; and that the language which has been referred to to-night, and which I will not pretend to quote, was most unfortunate, to say the least. It is in vain to say that this language merely referred to a plan of selling property in Ireland in small portions. That is not the interpretation which has been put upon it by the advocates of tenant-right in Ireland. Let me remind your Lordships that in the Committee two years ago, when the principal Parliamentary advocate of these views was examined as to the effect of selling property in small lots in the Incumbered Estates Court, of the necessity which had been imposed upon the old proprietors of selling their land, and the bringing in of a new description of proprietors instead, he said it was getting out of the frying-pan into the tire"—that was the phrase he used—and that the persons who bought this property in small lots were speculators, that they generally acted with great harshness towards the tenants, and were infinitely worse than the former proprietors. Is it right, then, my Lords, that we should have brought Ireland into this position, that the population should have, been taught to look for some great change with respect to the tenure of land, something that will moot the wild wishes that they have been led to entertain, and that any attempt to settle the question authoritatively should have been deferred? My Lords, I was particularly struck by an observation which my noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies made on this subject on a former evening. He told us that the first effect of any treasonable measure would be to increase the agitation and discontent which exist. My Lords, I am afraid that is a true account of the probable result of any just and reasonable measure. 383 But what is the inference to be drawn from my noble Friend's own argument? Is it not that the longer the question is deferred the greater is the discontent that will be produced, and the greater the danger that a state of feeling will be aroused which no just and reasonable measure will have the effect of satisfying? We have been told that the present state of things has actually paralyzed the course of business with regard to land in Ireland; that sales of land, or loans upon the security of land, have become almost impracticable, and that even the levying of rents is almost impossible. Well, my Lords, if that be the case, I do not think that any reasonable man, looking to what the conduct of Her Majesty's Government has been, can deny that no small share of the responsibility must be considered to rest upon them.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will detain your Lordships only a short time by making a very few remarks on the course of this debate. The first question I asked myself, as I listened to the discussion, was what good could possibly result from it? The charity of my noble Friend the Lord Privy Seal has suggested that the motive for the discussion might be a desire and anxiety to tranquillize Ireland; but at the same time he asked the very obvious question, —"Is this the course that will probably lead to that result?" Fault has been found with my noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies because he has referred to the rides of debate, and has pointed out the inconvenience resulting from a departure from the rule that speeches made in one House of Parliament shall not be referred to in discussion in the other House. The rule is a very fair and proper one; for, if any Member of Parliament wishes to ask for an explanation with respect to anything another Member may have said, the House in which to put the question is that in which the statement was delivered. Reference has been made in the course of this discussion to observations which fell not only from Mr. Bright., but also from the Prime Minister. Now, I can easily understand that those are two Gentlemen from whom it might be inconvenient to ask for an explanation, if explanation were not really what was wanted; but if explanation were really desired they were the proper persons from whom it should be demanded. If 384 you want to ask for an explanation from the Government, what better place is there than where the Prime Minister is, and where the Gentleman also is whose observations are impugned? Now, I protest against the course which I am sorry to have seen my noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns) follow on more than one occasion—of diving into newspapers for his facts—for instance, the Cambrian Daily Leader the other evening —a paper which I confess I have never seen. And now he tells us to-night that in another paper—the name of which he has not given, but I suppose it is an Irish paper—the speeches of Mr. Bright and the Prime Minister are said to have been hailed with delight at a meeting which I suppose was of a seditious character. Well, for my part, I have not the leisure nor the taste for reading those papers. I confine myself to those of the metropolis, and do not think it necessary to go to the Cambrian Daily Leader, or to whatever papers may be circulated in Ireland. Now, it appears to me that it is not for us to busy ourselves with what has been said in one place and what in another, and what constructions some ill-disposed persons may be inclined to put upon such statements; but I think my noble and learned Friend himself has shown conclusively that the right place to ask a question is where it can be answered:—because, what has he told us to-night? He told us that when Mr. Gladstone and the Home Secretary were asked what they had said upon one occasion, they gave a dear answer, and so removed some misconceptions which had prevailed with respect to the language they had used.
§ LORD CAIRNS
said, what he had stated was that while one right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bruce) gave no denial of what was imputed to him, the other (Mr. Gladstone) admitted that he had used the language attributed to him, and that the denial in this House was not correct.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Well, that very fact shows that, as I am contending, the proper place to ask for an explanation is the House in which the Member who used the language is sitting. I ask in solemn seriousness whether it is worthy of this House to enter into the discussion of topics of this character—I might almost say of this personal character. The noble Marquess 385 who introduced the subject could never have imagined or believed that Mr. Bright's policy in respect to the land had been deliberated upon by the Cabinet. He could not have done so. I am not learned in these newspaper controversies; but, as far as I have been able to gather the facts, Mr. Bright merely stated that he had said elsewhere such and such a thing in respect to the land, and he was only repeating what he had said elsewhere before he was a Member of the Government; and he added that he had a scheme for settling the land question which he would be willing to communicate to all those interested in the matter. The noble Marquess no doubt wishes to play the Grand Inquisitor by placing the noble Earl (Earl Granville) in the confessional; but it is allowed to everyone to choose his own confessor, and I presume the noble Earl would not have chosen the noble Marquess, unless it were under the seal of secrosy. I implore your Lordships to consider whether debates, such as we have listened to this evening, can really servo the purpose of tranquillizing Ireland. Here we have noble Lords on the other side saying to the people of that country—"You have a Government who will not pledge themselves not to introduce measures affecting property—a Government which will not itself say what it intends to do with the land question, but which allows a Member of the Cabinet to say that he has a measure for putting the people of Ireland in possession of the soil." And the people are told—"Never mind what others say; the Government won't give an explicit answer." Now, what is the inference to be drawn from that? Why that, in the opinion of the noble Lords on the opposite Benches, this land question ought to be settled either by the plan of that individual Member or some other. Therefore the noble Lords are in reality stimulating that very agitation which they profess to desire to see repressed. What are all these questions and debates upon this subject? They are but the preliminary skirmishes—what the Irish call the faction fights—previous to the general engagement. All I shall say in addition is this—that I believe that when the right time comes all the Members of Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to state their views upon the land question, and I shall be 386 mistaken if anything is said upon that occasion that will make the owners of property in any way tremble for their rights.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
I should not, my Lords, have risen to take any part in this discussion had it not been for the remarks which have just fallen from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. I beg on the part of the noble Lords who sit on this side of the House to repudiate, in the most distinct terms, the charge which the noble and learned Lord has brought against us. I venture to say that nothing has been said in the course of the remarks, either of the noble Marquess or of the noble Earl who followed him, to justify the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack in his assertion that the question asked by the noble Marquess on this side has anything whatever to do with that of the Irish Church Bill now before Parliament. It is all very well for the noble and learned Lord to say that this is a ''faction fight," preliminary to the general engagement after the holidays; but I repeat that nothing whatever has been said on this side which gives him the title or the right to make such a remark. The noble and learned Lord has told us that he has not time to read all the newspapers which my noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns) has referred to, and I believe that he has not, considering the onerous nature of the duties which he discharges; but he should remember that though he may not have time, there are others who may have, and that it is not a thing to be ashamed of, that of consulting the usual channels of public information and quoting them in this House. I presume my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary will hardly assert that he never consults the newspapers to see what is going on outside the House, and if noble Lords opposite do not do so they are neglecting to avail themselves of a privilege which they have often boasted of having placed within reach of their countrymen at large by measures resulting in the marvellous cheapness in the price of newspapers. The noble and learned Lord is of opinion that your Lordships ought to confine yourself to the discussion of topics which arise in this House. I beg to take exception to that doctrine. We have not seats in the other House of Parliament, and subjects of a personal 387 nature are often discussed there upon which noble Lords may find it necessary to ask questions in this place and to get information—there are often no other means at the command of your Lordships of arriving at the truth. There is one other point. The noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies has assumed that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) has quoted a portion of Mr. Blight's speech from a newspaper; but there is no evidence whatever entitling him to say it was from a newspaper; and having listened attentively to all that has fallen from the noble Marquess I can state, without fear of contradiction, that the noble Marquess based his comments simply upon what Mr. Bright "was reported to have said." That was surely a fair and proper way of raising the question.
§ THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
The question which has been debated tonight is one of very great importance— one, I may say as important as any that can be propounded in Parliament and is much superior to the flippant manner in which it has been met by the Members of Her Majesty's Government. The question raised by the noble Marquess is one that has peculiar significance at present, for we have seen Her Majesty's Government propounding a Bill which is based upon the principle of confiscation, and one which plunders wholesale the revenues of the Church of Ireland. The conciliation of Ireland has been put forward as the excuse for that policy. But let mo ask, has that been realized? I have no hesitation in saying that, so far from conciliating the people of Ireland, it is making enemies of the Protestant population of that country, upon whom we could formerly most depend. Discontent, instead of decreasing, has increased ten-fold. And when we ask that some declaration of their views respecting the land question should be made by the Government to allay this discontent, the representatives of the Government in this House give us no information, but it is left to a Member of the Cabinet in the other House to explain his individual views upon the matter. In this House all our attempts to obtain information are met with the vaguest generalities. I say therefore that the question which has been raised is a great question of i State policy, and deserves to be treated 388 rather more seriously than it has been treated to-night. The state of Ireland at present is such as should occupy the serious attention both of Parliament and Government. I hope that the Government will adopt some policy which will be more likely to conciliate the people of Ireland, more likely to establish respect for the law, peace, and security than the declarations we have heard tonight are likely to do.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past Eight o'clock, to Monday next. Eleven o'clock.