HL Deb 08 May 1882 vol 269 cc315-20

My Lords, I rise to move the adjournment of this House until to-morrow. I have not a doubt that after the ghastly and appalling tragedy of Saturday I am in sympathy with all your Lordships' feelings, which I believe represent the feelings of the whole Empire. I have not any personal knowledge of the work of the Under Secretary; but I believe there are noble Lords on both sides of this House who are well aware of how distinguished a type he was of the permanent civil servant of this country placed in a position of great difficulty. My Lords, I have known intimately for many years Lord Frederick Cavendish, and I have never known a higher or a finer nature. He was absolutely without personal vanity, without any love of display; but his great ability, his knowledge, and his industry only required a difficult position in order to show the metal of which he was made. He was reluctant to leave the Office which he filled so well; but, like a soldier, he obeyed without one moment's hesitation the call of duty to a place of enor- mous difficulty. He has suffered a miserable death, but one glorious to himself, dying, as he did, in the service of his country. That death has left a noble woman desolate, and may we all join in her most courageous prayer at this moment that God may influence the results of this fearful crime in a manner contrary to the hopes and expectations of its perpetrators, and that it may result in the eventual good of Ireland. I have nothing more to say, my Lords. It would be perfectly incongruous in me to touch on any political subject. You will, however, perhaps allow me to state one matter of fact. Your Lordships are well aware that some days ago I announced the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose to Parliament three measures—one with regard to strengthening the administration of justice and the security of private rights in Ireland, one affecting arrears, and another affecting what are called the Bright Clauses. Her Majesty's Government adhere to that intention. After very careful consideration by a Committee of the Cabinet, and by the Cabinet itself, a Bill for the first of these objects was drafted before the end of last week. It still requires some little consideration as to some of its details; but it is hoped that the Government will be able to ask the House of Commons next Thursday to give a first reading to that Bill.

Moved, "That this House do now adjourn."—(The Earl Granville.)


My Lords, I have only to tender to the noble Earl, on the part of my noble Friends who sit behind me, our hearty concurrence in the course which he has proposed, and the expression of our deep grief and sympathy with those who have suffered, and our indignation at the horrible crime which has been perpetrated. I agree with the noble Earl that this is not the occasion for any political observations. I have no doubt that the course he has taken to-night is only the prelude to stern and vigorous action; but now, at this moment, what we have to do is to mark by this tribute of respect our reverence for the memory and our grief for the fate of one who, if ever any statesman did, deserved the expression of those sentiments at the hands of those who worked with him in Parliamentary life. He belonged to a family greatly esteemed and respected in this country; and he himself, by his blameless qualities, by his endearing personal characteristics, had won the love and honour of all who knew him. His loss will be deeply mourned. What else may come of it, what else we should do, another day and another opportunity will disclose. At the present moment we merely concur with the noble Earl in this step as a fitting tribute to the memory and qualities of those whom we have lost, and as a fitting expression of our deep sense of the terrible import and character of this event, and as a mode of offering our respectful sympathy with those who have been so deeply tried and afflicted.


My Lords, I do not wish to delay the House, but I can hardly refrain from saying just one word on this painful subject. A worthy tribute has been paid to the loss which has been sustained in the death of Lord Frederick Cavendish. He was a man well known in both Houses of Parliament, and I concur in all that has been said respecting him. But I wish to say one word in regard to Mr. Burke, with whom I have been in constant daily intercourse for the last two years. I feel that in him the country has sustained an irreparable loss. This moment is not the time when we can afford in Ireland to lose such a man. He had that full integrity of character, that honourable uprightness of mind, which, I am happy to say, are not rare among our permanent officials. He had also other qualities which neither among permanent officials nor in any other class are so common. He had extraordinary quickness of decision and soundness of judgment, and also a depth of sympathy with all classes, joined to a fixed feeling in his own mind of the necessity of preserving authority. He had these and many other qualities which, as I have said, will cause his loss to be irreparable, and which made him a most valuable counsellor in times like the present.


My Lords, I should not be doing justice to my own feeling on the present occasion if I were not to trouble your Lordships with a few words in corroboration of those sentiments which have been so ably and eloquently expressed by the noble Earl who has just left Ireland. My Lords, I allude to that most indus- trious and valuable public servant, whose loss, I may say, is almost irreparable in that country—Mr. Thomas Burke. My Lords, during the three years when I was in Ireland I had the advantage of being in constant and daily intercourse with him. I had not only the advantage, but the privilege, of learning a great part of my official duties from the vast store of his experience. I can fully endorse what has fallen from the noble Earl (Earl Cowper). I know no public servant who more brightly and honourably reflected those great qualities which are so valuable in the permanent official servants of this country. My Lords, I know no one whose depth of knowledge, whose experience, were equal to Mr. Burke's; and if he had not been in the official capacity which he occupied, I have not a doubt that Mr. Burke would have risen to one of the highest posts of eminence from his administrative ability. Ireland has suffered a great loss by the death of that gentleman. I had the honour of, and shall have the pleasure of reflecting upon, his friendship. There was one peculiar characteristic connected with Mr. Burke, and that was this—that during the period of three years of my official connection with an Administration which was politically opposed to Mr. Burke's own principles, I can say that I never could have found anyone of a more faithful, devoted, and more self-forgetting loyalty to those who were his official superiors. In no one instance could I find the slightest movement away from those duties which properly belonged to him in his official capacity. My Lords, there was one very trying period during which I had the advantage of Mr. Burke's assistance, and that was during the semi-famine winter of 1879–80. It is due to Mr. Burke to say that he foresaw the calamities that were threatening Ireland, and that his experience and knowledge of the country, and of what had taken place on former occasions in that country, enabled him to foresee the probability that there would be a scarcity of provisions during the winter. He advised me, and through him I was enabled to take those necessary steps of forewarning the Government of what was likely to occur during the winter. Those vaticinations were amply verified, and the precautions which Mr. Burke induced me to take on that occasion, and which were so ably seconded and carried out by the Government of Lord Beaconsfield, were the means of preventing a vast amount of want and distress in that country. My Lords, not only must I allude to this, but I feel a debt of gratitude is due which I should not fitly discharge if I did not at this moment refer to one other circumstance. There are those to whom Mr. Burke's loss will be irreparable; there are those who are now sorrowing and mourning over this dreadful event. There was a near relative of Mr. Burke's—his sister—who during that trying time rendered him the most efficient service in alleviating the distress which existed, and, by her able co-operation, assisted that fund which my wife was enabled to set going, and which, I believe, was the means of saving a vast amount of human life during that trying period. Mr. Burke has passed away, and I quite agree with the feeling and wish of your Lordships that these few utterances should be merely a tribute of respect for one who is so justly mourned. I will not digress from that now. I trust that Mr. Burke's memory will long remain in Ireland, beloved, as it will be, by all who knew him. Your Lordships must remember that not only his loss, but the death of many others, perhaps less notable, more humble, but still no less important to those around them, has cast upon the Government an enormous responsibility.


My Lords, I hope you will forgive me if I add one or two words of tribute to the memory of that one of these two martyrs to public duty who is less known to the greater number of your Lordships—I mean the memory of Mr. Burke. It so happens that in former years he and I were closely connected by ties of both official and private friendship. At one time he was my Private Secretary, and it was largely through my means and recommendation that he was appointed to the Office which he has so long, so honourably, and so admirably filled. I need not say how entirely I agree with every word which has been said about him on both sides of the House. It is to me a matter of pleasure, in this moment of calamity, and even of pride, to have heard his character and services spoken of as they have been spoken of by two ex-Lord Lieutenants of Ireland on different sides of this House. I believe that the character of Mr. Burke and his conduct have been subjected to attacks of late from certain quarters. But if any have represented him in the discharge of his duties as a man of arbitrary and tyrannical sentiments, as I believe has been the case, I can only say that the malignancy of such representations is only equalled by the absolute ignorance which they display of the character of that noble public servant.

Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at a quarter before Five o'clock, till To-morrow, a quarter past Ten o'clock.