§ The QUEEN'S SPEECH reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW (LORD IN WAITING)
(who wore the uniform of a Deputy Lord Lieutenant): In rising to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty in response to the gracious Speech from the Throne I feel that I stand in a position of unusual difficulty. There are two reasons for that. In the first place, I am un- 23 able to claim from your Lordships that measure of indulgence which has invariably been accorded by you to young Members of the House who have risen to address it for the first time. I recollect also how, not more than six years ago, your Lordships were kind enough to extend to me similar kindness. And, in the second place, I crave indulgence because the Address I have to move is founded upon a text of unusual shortness and brevity. It is said that "Happy is the country that has no history, and the nation whose annals are dull;" and if that is true of a country, it may well be believed to be true of a Queen's Speech which contains no reference to foreign relations, because it proves how satisfactory are its relations with Foreign Powers, and that, at least, there is no subject engrossing the attention of the Government in regard to foreign affairs which is of such importance as to necessitate the calling of the special attention of Parliament to it. I venture to think that that is in some measure due to the very able and successful conduct of foreign affairs, during the tenure of Office of the late Government, by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Rosebery), who represented that Department. I think it is no disparagement to the noble Earl to say that he has followed successfully the principles laid down by his Predecessor, who now, in his turn, has formed an Administration of his own, to succeed that of which the noble Earl was a shining ornament. The highest praise, I think, that can be accorded to the noble Earl is to say that, by adopting those principles, he has given a unity and consistency to our foreign policy which has raised this country in the estimation of the diplomatists of the world, and which, owing to the peculiarity of Party Government in this country, has unfortunately, of late years, been too seldom found to exist.
Now, it cannot have escaped the observation of your Lordships, in reading the Queen's Gracious Speech from the Throne, that there is a singular and significant absence of any reference to the future policy of the Government towards Ireland; but I cannot believe that there is any Member of your Lordships' House who will think that that omission is in consequence of any want of feeling on the part of Her Majesty's 24 Government as to the due importance which attaches to the very unfortunate state of affairs existing in that Island. The Speech shows, in my opinion, that Her Majesty's Government are fully alive to the dangers and difficulties of the present situation in Ireland. The appeal which was recently made to the country placed before the people of England a scheme which has already been before Parliament; and the voice of the country has pronounced, in no uncertain tone, against the scheme of the late Government with reference to the future government of Ireland. It therefore rests with Her Majesty's present Government to propound some alternative which will be agreeable to the newly-elected Parliament. I believe one reason why there is no mention of this and many other important matters in the Queen's Speech is because Her Majesty's Government are anxious to wind up the affairs of the Session with as much expedition and as little controversy as possible. I will shortly call attention to what have been the duties of Parliament and of Members of Parliament during the last two years. In 1884 the Parliament met on the 7th of February, and it sat till the 14th of August in that year. It adjourned until the 23rd of October, when it met again and sat till the 6th of December. It met again on the 19th of February, 1885, and sat until the 14th of August in that year. Then supervened the General Election of 1885, which kept Members of the other House of Parliament before their constituencies, and unable to enjoy their well-earned leisure, during the whole of the latter months of 1885. On the 12th of January, 1886, the new Parliament met, and sat until the Dissolution in June last, after which supervened again the work and the worry of another General Election. I think that, seeing how the country has been kept in a ferment of political excitement, it is not too much to expect that the great majority of its Members must be anxious to be released from their duties. Another reason why it is highly desirable that the Session should be wound up with the greatest expedition is because Her Majesty's Government have fallen on a task of no ordinary magnitude—namely, to frame and propound a policy for the future government of Ireland 25 I venture to think that it is of the last importance that Ministers should not be distracted by those questions and influences which are inseparable from their career during the Session of Parliament. It may be said that noble Lords who sit on the Treasury Bench have so recently occupied the places of Ministers of the Crown that they ought to be able to formulate a policy for the government of Ireland immediately, and at once. To those I would point out what is the political situation now, and what it was then. Then they were faced by a hostile majority in Parliament, composed of the unbroken and undivided ranks of the Liberal Party, and also of those who represented the Nationalists of Ireland. The late Government, on the other hand, depended for its existence upon the support of Mr. Parnell and his followers. Now that has been greatly changed. Her Majesty's Government no longer depend upon Members of the late Administration, nor do they depend upon the goodwill of Mr. Parnell; but they do look for support to a number of noble Lords opposite, and of Gentlemen in the other House of Parliament and throughout the country, representing—I think I shall not be exaggerating when I say the flower of the Liberal Party—those who are called the Liberal Unionists, and who, rather than look back to the records of the past for their political reputation, are anxious to look forward to what should be the record of the future for maintaining that honesty and uprightness which have always been the leading characteristics of our Legislators. That being so, I think I shall not be out of place in asking those Members of your Lordships' House who sit on the other side, and who are Liberal Unionists, to give their support to the Government and to me in moving the adoption of the Address, in order that Her Majesty's Government may have ample time and opportunity, during the coming months, to consider the legislation which they should adopt towards Ireland, and so to support the Government in doing that which they believe to be best for that country, as well as for the general well-being of the United Kingdom. My Lords, I beg to move this humble Address in reply to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech from the Throne.
§ MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, bog leave to offer our humble thanks to your Majesty for the gracious Speech which your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ "We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty has summoned us to meet at this unusual season of the year for the transaction of indispensable business.
§ "We thank Your Majesty for informing us that the Session of the last Parliament was interrupted before the ordinary work of the year had been completed, in order that the sense of Your Majesty's people might be taken on certain important proposals with regard to the government of Ireland; and that the result of that appeal has been to confirm the conclusion to which the late Parliament had come.
§ "We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that the provisional nature of the arrangement which was made by the last Parliament for the public charge of the year renders it inexpedient to postpone any further the consideration of the necessary financial legislation.
§ "We thank Your Majesty for informing us that at a period of the year usually assigned for the recess, and after the prolonged and exceptional labours to which many of us have been subjected, Your Majesty abstains from recommending now, for our consideration, any measures except those which are essential to the conduct of the public service during the remaining portion of the financial year.
§ "We humbly assure Your Majesty that such measures shall receive our prompt and careful attention."
LORD DE ROS (LORD IN WAITING)
(who was attired in the Lévee dress of a Lord of the Bedchamber), in rising to second the Motion, said: Although the noble Earl has left me very little to say, I feel I should be wanting in courtesy to the House if I did not, in a very few words, allude to what has been justly called the burning subject of the day—namely, the present condition of Ireland. Ever since the Land Act of 1881, which, by the way, was supposed to be a panacea for everything that was evil in Ireland, that country has been in the most unsettled condition; and that Act has satisfied no one, but, on the contrary, has had the effect of straining the rela- 27 tions between landlord and tenant to the utmost point. It has also given rise to the formation of one of the most formidable organizations which has been known in modern days—I mean the Land League, which, being gradually merged into the National League, received, to so great a degree, the powerful support of the late Prime Minister and the late Government when in Office. Happily, the verdict of this country, at the last General Election, pronounced most decidedly against its pernicious doctrines, and more particularly against that doctrine which advocated the disruption of the Empire. I feel certain, therefore, that the announcement made a short time ago by a prominent Member of the present Ministry that it was their determination to administer the present ordinary law with firmness and decision, and, if that action should not prove sufficient, to resort to such extraordinary measures as they might consider advisable for the maintenance of peace and order in Ireland—I feel sure those sentiments will be received with the greatest satisfaction by all law-abiding persons in Ireland.
I cannot pass over the unfortunate circumstances which have taken place lately in Belfast. Being a resident in that part of the country, naturally that is one of the subjects most prominent in my mind. It has illustrated beyond anything the very strong Party feeling which exists in that part of the country. As I understand that a judicial investigation is about to take place upon the subject in general, it would be improper in me to pronounce my opinion as to the original cause of those riots. But I may say that I am clearly of opinion—and I know it is the general opinion of the magistrates and gentry in my neighbourhood—that one of the main causes of those unfortunate outbreaks was the permission of Party processions with bands and flags and banners. It is well known that the beat of a drum excites the Irishman to such a degree that he loses all control over his actions. I think it very unfortunate that a large force of Irish Constabulary was, under the late Government, drafted into Belfast from the country; and I believe the conduct of some of those men is open to severe criticism, and I sincerely trust that an investigation on oath will be taken 28 upon their conduct, as well as upon the general subject of the riots. The first act of the present Chief Secretary for Ireland was to summon the Mayor of Belfast to Dublin, in order to obtain his views as to the best means of suppressing the riots; and I cannot help thinking that, if that had been done in the first instance, a very great deal of bloodshed might have been stopped. In conclusion, I may say that every topic in the Queen's Speech has been exhausted by the noble Earl who moved the Address, and it only remains for me to reiterate the hope with which the noble Earl concluded his speech. I beg to second the Motion that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty.—[See page 26.]
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I have some doubt as to whether, considering the unusual circumstances of our meeting, it is desirable that I should adhere to the custom of rising after the Mover and Seconder of the Address; but, although I certainly do not intend to trouble your Lordships at any length, I shall endeavour to make a speech, following the example of brevity which Her Majesty has been advised to adopt. I think that if I speak now, it may, as I desire, give the noble Marquess the Prime Minister the advantage of the best opportunity for making that statement which I have no doubt he is desirous to make to your Lordships and to Parliament generally. My Lords, I have said there are unusual circumstances connected with our meeting. In the first place, there is no doubt that there have seldom been such rapid changes of Administration as have lately taken place. In reading some remarks which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack (Lord Halsbury) made to certain dames of the Primrose League with regard to the great disadvantages of rapid changes of Government, it just struck me that those remarks might have had still more weight if the noble and learned Lord had made them a month before the change of Government took place, and he came into Office, instead of a month after. But I very much agree with the noble and learned Lord. I have no doubt that, under representative institutions, it is most desirable that there should be occasional changes of Government, and that each great Party in 29 the State should have an opportunity of acquiring official experience, and of obtaining the sense of official responsibility. There is no doubt that if these changes take place too quietly it is a disadvantage, and I am afraid it is one of these things which individual cannot control, but of which it may be said—"Man may propose, but God alone can dispose." There is another unusual thing, and this is with regard to the time of our meeting; and I only wish, upon this subject, to point out that the promise to meet as early as this was absolutely conditional, and was only done to dispel any unworthy suspicion that we wished to cling to Office after the decision of the constituencies had declared against us. It was perfectly open to Her Majesty's Government to have taken more time, if they thought it necessary, for the consideration of measures, and to call Parliament together before the winter began, and in time to meet all the financial requirements of the nation. Well, I think I need not point out how singularly meagre the Queen's Speech and the Address in answer to it are; that has been very well done for me by the two noble Lords who have spoken; and now I may say one word with regard to the noble Earl who moved and the noble and gallant Lord who seconded the Address. It has been very often my fate of late years to have the privilege—with few exceptions, and with perfect sincerity—to compliment the noble Lords who have moved and seconded the Address, particularly when those noble Lords were young Peers, and were about thus to make their first essay in coming before the notice of your Lordships. Now, it would be unbecoming for me to compliment two respected and popular Members of this House, whom I have often listened to with interest and pleasure, with regard to the manner in which they have performed their task; but I cannot conceal my admiration at the skill with which they have imitated, and I may say have far surpassed, the ancient Egyptians in being able to make bricks without the trace of a straw. The want of material for a speech has created a difficulty. We all know the large number of independent supporters who follow the noble Marquess opposite; and I suppose that fact made it impossible for him to persuade 30 any one of them to move or second this particular Address, and obliged him to impose a duty in a very novel manner upon two salaried Members of the Government. The noble Earl (the Earl of Onslow) was obliged, in order to make a speech, to go outside the records of the Queen's Speech, and so much so, that I can hardly follow him in all the remarks he has made. The subjects of India and the colonies, however, have occupied, and require, public attention very much of late; yet there is not one word about them in the Queen's Speech. With regard to India, there are some very important questions. I only hope, in alluding to these, to induce the noble Marquess to give us some information on the subject. I mean with regard to the state of Burmah. The annexation of Burmah was inaugurated by the late Government of the noble Marquess. We took over the policy as we found it; but there are reports which I should mention, in the hope that he will be able to minimize them, tending to support the argument which the noble Marquess near me raised against the expedition to Burmah, and the statements which I myself made, that the noble Marquess's late Administration rather underrated the difficulties of their task. With regard to the Colonies, I read a speech the other day by the noble Marquess on the question of Imperial federation; and, if he will allow me to say so, I was very much struck with the justice and good sense of that speech, and the appreciation he seemed so justly to have formed, on the one hand, of the feelings and sentiments of the Colonists in regard to the matter; and, on the other hand, of their practical opinions on the subject. With regard to foreign affairs, the noble Earl who moved the Address said the omission of any reference to foreign affairs showed that there is nothing occurring at this moment of a critical nature. I trust the noble Marquess will be able to confirm that statement. The noble Marquess did make a speech at the Mansion House the other day, in which he touched with a light hand upon the immortality of the Afghan and Egyptian Questions, although I may point out that more than a year ago we were severely censured for not having solved them. On these matters I trust he will have some reassuring information to give us to-night. 31 My Lords, there is one question referred to by the noble Earl which is excluded from the Speech, or, rather, which is alluded to in so faint a manner as to be practically excluded. I mean the question of Ireland; and I cannot help thinking that, in asking the noble Marquess, who is likely to follow me, to give us a general—without detail—and clear indication of the policy of Her Majesty's Government, I am not doing anything but giving expression to the desire of both sides of the House. I remember Lord Lansdowne, who was so long and well known as the Leader of this House, saying that a noble Earl from the Sister Island, when sitting in Committee by him, used, after putting a question, the remark that he put the question because he knew the answer. I am bound to say I am not in the position of that noble Earl. I have no idea of the answer, or of what is the policy of the present Government in regard to Ireland. In order, in some degree, to enlighten my ignorance on this point I have been studying the utterances made by some of the most important Members of the Government during the last year and a-half, and I will venture to quote some of these declarations. In 1885 the noble Marquess, in his Ministerial Statement, said he would avoid any reference to Ireland, and would trust to the noble Earl, who was then the Viceroy, to explain the policy of the Government. The noble Earl whom I see opposite (the Earl of Carnarvon) obeyed that mandate, and, following a very illustrious example, said there were three courses open to the Government. One was to re-enact the whole of the Crimes Act; the other to re-enact a portion of it; and the third was to let it lapse. But he objected to the first two courses, because he objected to exceptional legislation; and because, as he remarked, exceptional legislation had been almost continuously applied to Ireland. The statement which he thus made was of a negative character, still the tone of it was such as to please Mr. Parnell and his supporters. It led to communications between those Gentlemen and the Viceroy, in the course of which that conversation which has become famous occurred, and it led to some effectual results in the ensuing Elections. I will not quote from the speeches delivered during the autumn by some leading Members of 32 the Government. On the eve of the meeting of Parliament the Viceroy resigned. We are told that he was in perfect accord with the Government, and that his resignation was only a preconcerted arrangement six months old. The Chief Secretary in the other House also resigned; and it is a matter of some observation that neither of those two public men have joined the present Government. The Queen's Speech, you will remember, my Lords, contained a very vague declaration as to what the policy of the Government was to be. Mr. Smith was appointed Chief Secretary, and was sent to Dublin to report. We were warned by the noble Marquess that that would take a long time; but Mr. Smith was better than his word; and we all know what happened and what were the results. A new Government came into Office, and Mr. Gladstone introduced two measures within a very few weeks of the formation of his Government. They led to a very warm and able discussion on which I need not dwell, and speeches were made both in Parliament and out of Parliament on the subject during the recent Elections, with respect to the intentions of the Government. I do not wish to argue now on the merits or demerits of these measures; but I think I can safely say that they constituted a policy at once wise and expedient, and that I believe the postponement of them was a great national misfortune. But I think we can safely assert that, whether the policy was good or bad, it was a very clear and very well-defined policy, and one which anyone who had chosen could understand. During the Elections various speeches were made, and among them the noble Marquess made a declaration which attracted great attention, which was to the effect that, in his opinion, if there were 20 years during which Parliament enabled the Government to govern Ireland resolutely, then, at the end of those 20 years, it would be possible to repeal that exceptional legislation, and give some sort of self-government to Ireland. That declaration appeared to me to be a very clear one; but on three subsequent occasions the noble Marquess had completely denied the meaning which some of us had thought seemed necessarily to flow from his words, and said that he had been misunderstood. The noble Marquess had 33 an opportunity of making another declaration only last week, and he declared that the policy of Her Majesty's Government was to maintain social order in Ireland. But the question naturally arose, "how" and "when"? As to the question of "how," the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Matthews) has enlightened his constituents. He said the policy of the Government was to defy Mr. Parnell. Now, I admit that it may be easy, and that it is a legitimate policy, to defy Mr. Parnell when he is wrong; but when it comes to defying the great majority of Members who represent the great majority of the Irish people, that is hardly a sufficient basis for a permanent policy of government in regard to Ireland. I am perfectly certain, for instance, that such a policy would not meet the case of Belfast at the present moment. I must say I regret that the noble and gallant Lord who seconded the Address (Lord de Ros), with his knowledge of Ireland, should have taken the opportunity to condemn at once the action of the police—the Queen's police—at Belfast.
LORD DE ROS
The observation that I made with regard to the Constabulary in Ireland was that it was a case that required investigation. I am not quite sure that I did not use the words "criticism" and "investigation."
§ EARL GRANVILLE
The noble Lord said more than that. He spoke of the conduct of the police who came from the country districts. I have now mentioned some facts as an explanation of my ignorance as to the policy of the Government, and I am sure the ignorance of hundreds of thousands, both in this country and Ireland, and it surely cannot be desirable that we should wait six months before receiving some explanation of the Irish policy of the Government. The noble Marquess may complain that we are asking for premature information; but I repeat that I do not ask for any statement of a detailed character, but only a statement of a clear and general character as to the views of Her Majesty's Government. I dare say the noble Marquess may find a precedent for a Minister asking for six months in order to elaborate his policy with regard to Ireland; but I am perfectly sure that he will not find a precedent where those measures are not merely measures of ordinary legislation, but 34 those deeply affecting social order in Ireland. Are the Government to remain absolutely without any action and perfectly silent during this period of six months, in the same way as they did a year ago, which led to deplorable results to Ireland? The noble Marquess may complain of my questions being premature; but what was the language of the noble Marquess and his Colleagues last year? When the Government was formed, Mr. Gladstone promised, in six weeks, not to make a statement merely, but to bring in a perfected Bill on the subject. The noble Marquess received this announcement with perfect indignation, and said it was treating Parliament with levity, and that it was not only treating Parliament badly, but playing with a question of life and death to Ireland—that of social order. A little later in the year, when we had produced plans which we had hoped, if carried, would have dealt successfully with the question of social order, and when a Bill—the Arms Bill—was introduced of a precautionary character, the Lord Chancellor of Ireland got up and said a certain noble Lord was perfectly justified in insisting on the Government giving more information. What did the present Lord President of the Council (Viscount Cranbrook) do? He said—"The question is one of the moment—you are neglecting the moment." I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether there is anything of the moment at the present time? Reference has been made to the strained relations between landlords and tenants in Ireland. If there is anything more distasteful than another to us, who supported the policy of the late Government, it is anything in the nature of agrarian outrage, "Boycotting," or the wilful non-payment of rent. Anything that we can do to discourage such acts we shall do to the utmost; but I do not think the noble Marquess can say that the relations between landlord and tenant are not strained at this time. Is it safe to assume that, contrary to the experience of the last year, you are safe in taking six months—not six weeks—to consider your policy, with the view of meeting questions involving the maintenance of social order? I do venture to hope that that is hardly the view taken by the noble Marquess, and I earnestly appeal to him to make some clear de- 35 claration in answer to the question I have put to him, and not to allow it to be said that he is treating Parliament with levity, and the Sister Kingdom with fatal injustice, with regard to the vital question of social order in Ireland.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My noble Friend who has just sat down (Earl Granville) has said, in his gentlest and softest tones, quite enough to break through the languor of the season; and the quiet prudence with which his speech has been commended to the House has indicated the tone which, from the point of view of the late Government, this question is to be presented to the House. I do not regret that my noble Friend has alluded to past transactions, and has made a demand upon the present Prime Minister which I maintain the last Prime Minister is of all people in the world the least entitled to make. I should not have risen at present to interfere in this debate after the change of Government if I did not feel, as we all must feel, that we are not at the end, but at the beginning of a great political crisis. So far as my own opinions and action are concerned, and those of other noble Lords, especially my noble and learned Friend near me (the Earl of Selborne), I have done what I could, both by pen and tongue, to oppose the Irish measures of the late Government in company with many others of much greater authority and ability, and of greater persuasive powers than I possess; and I desire to avow in this House the delight with which I saw their measures defeated, and the change of Government which has taken place. Having these feelings, I think I am bound (o explain them in this House. I desire shortly to recall the attention of the House to the past transactions with regard to Ireland which have brought us into the position in which we are now placed. The executive duties of a Government are always its first and paramount duty. Let us see how the late Government treated this part of its functions—the part of its functions which bears on the liberty of the Queen's subjects. I do not ask the House to go very far. Fifteen months is enough for the purpose I have in view. Let me recall the attention of the House and the country to the position in which we were then placed with regard to the protection of the Queen's subjects in Ireland. That position was 36 a very remarkable one. In May of last year, 15 months ago, the Crimes Prevention Act was about to expire. There was much speculation as to the course Mr. Gladstone's Government would pursue. It was believed at the time, and I believe now, that there was a great difference of opinion in the Cabinet, and that the Members of that Government had great difficulty in making up their minds as to what they were to do. The expiring of the Crimes Prevention Act at that time was entirely the fault of Mr. Gladstone's own Government. My noble Friend the Secretary of State for India of the last Government (the Earl of Kimberley) told us fairly just before the Dissolution that there was not public spirit enough in political Parties to render it safe to deal with this question as it ought to be dealt with. No doubt, that was the difficulty of the Government of which my noble Friend was a Member. The Government of Mr. Gladstone had an opportunity of dealing with this question as it ought to have dealt with it, and how did it utilize the opportunity? The Crimes Act could either have been completely renewed, or could have been renewed in a partial manner. They knew that, on the expiration of that Act, difficulties would arise in the British Parliament with regard to the government of Ireland. Yet they deliberately passed it for three years, knowing that the termination of that period would be close upon the Dissolution of Parliament. Was that an act of public spirit, of patriotism, or of duty towards Ireland? Was it a fulfilment of executive obligations to protect the Queen's subjects? Although I had left the Cabinet some little time, I felt so strongly on the subject that I ventured to volunteer a remonstrance to a distinguished Member of the Government on the shortness of the period for which the Bill was passed; and I received what I thought was an unsatisfactory reply. It may be said that there were provisions in it which were stronger than was necessary. The Act had been passed under a strong feeling of indignation—almost amounting to a panic—arising out of the dreadful murders comprising the Phœnix Park tragedy, and, no doubt, it did contain some provisions of so strong and drastic a character that no Government could put them in force. It may be said that there were some 37 clauses too strong to be enacted for a longer period than three years; but, on the other hand, however, it contained provisions which could have been put in force, and with very useful results, as to which politicians agreed, when not speaking against each other, were of permanent value. Why were not they made permanent or passed for a longer time? Owing to the miserable Party temptations which have been deprecated, Mr. Gladstone's Government deliberately provided that the whole of this legislation should fall to the ground at a date when they knew that Parliament was to be dissolved, and when they knew from past experience it would be difficult for such legislation to be renewed.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
Ah! You dispute the motive; then I will go upon public facts. This Act of Parliament was passed for three years; and can my noble Friend deny that everybody knew that those three years would terminate close to the end of the last Parliament? Was it a piece of sound public policy, was it an act of patriotism, to pass that Act for so short a period? Was that the way in which to perform a duty of so much importance? I think not, but there was something more. There were rumours in London that the Government was rapidly breaking up on this question; whether they were true or not I cannot say; but on the 15th of May what happened? Why, Mr. Gladstone came down to the House of Commons, and announced that the Government had determined to allow certain of the most severe parts of the Act to drop and to renew certain other parts, upon which he deliberately passed this eulogium—he said that he thought they might be applied to all sections of the community, and that they were valuable and equitable. It is well known to what clauses he referred; they were the procedure clauses, which were equitable and valuable for the protection of property. So they had this deliberate information given to them by the Government—that, in their opinion, there were certain provisions of the Act which they regarded as equitable, and thought might be employed with advantage 38 for the protection of life and property in Ireland. But what happened next? Between the 15th of May and the fall of the Government there were repeated allusions both in and out of Parliament to the determination of the Government to renew certain portions of the Crimes Act; and on several of these occasions the Head of the Government vehemently protested that the clauses which the Government had determined to renew were not coercive. He denied on two or three occasions that the word coercion could be properly applied to them. On the 8th of June there happened the catastrophe on which the Government were defeated on another subject; and on the 7th of July, after the new Government had been formed, it was announced that the Government had determined not to renew any part of the Act. Mr. Gladstone made a speech in which he renewed his language about the clauses being valuable and equitable, and he actually described the clauses he had intended to renew as being of a remedial character. He went on to point out the distinction which he contended there was between the clauses that might be described as coercive, and those which were to be regarded as remedial clauses. The distinction which he drew was this—that there were certain clauses which acted in restraint of public liberty, and those he called coercive, and certain clauses which he contended would be valuable for the protection of life and property, and these he called the remedial clauses. Now, I accept that definition, and I ask why did not the Government, when they made that distinction, make the remedial clauses of a more permanent character and pass them for such a length of time as would have allowed Ireland and this country to have had a period of rest? If the clauses were remedial, why do the Leaders of the Liberal Party and Mr. Parnell denounce the operation of the measure as coercive? But apart from that, I think your Lordships will agree that when the noble Marquess came into power he would have been justified in proposing to renew the portions of the Act which his Predecessors had intended to renew. But if the Queen's Speech had recommended the recasting of the clauses which the Leaders of the Liberal Party had pronounced to be remedial and valuable 39 what should we have seen? We know that the mere rumour of such an intention would have been received with a universal howl of "Coercion, coercion," from all the followers of Mr. Parnell. As you are aware, the noble Marquess came to the conclusion that any attempt to renew the Act, either in whole or in part, would have failed, and I think he had some good reasons for coming to that decision. This is another case of the pure effect of faction. If the clauses were remedial in May, 1885, they must be so now; if there is any value in the definition of these clauses which was given in May, 1885, it is as valuable now as it was then, unless they can say, as perhaps they will say, that they have some other means of enforcing the law—namely, that of giving it into the hands of the law-breakers. The noble Marquess has been much blamed—at the time he was twitted and jeered at—for not renewing the Crimes Act. In my opinion the noble Marquess would have done better if he had said—"Here are clauses which you have declared to be remedial and not to be coercive; we will pass them." If the noble Marquess had done that, he would have put the Leaders of the Liberal Party in a hole, out of which it would have been difficult for them to escape. There are many men of the Liberal Party who will vote black or white with Mr. Gladstone. I do not believe the Government could have done it, considering the obstruction they would have received from the Irish Members and the number of defections in the Liberal Party itself. My opinion is, the noble Marquess would have failed in carrying it. Therefore, I view with considerable lenity the decision of the noble Marquess to govern Ireland without any exceptional powers. But then I think a good deal of the language held at that time by Members of the Conservative Party was not very discreet, and not very sincere. They hoped they might scramble through the winter, and through the short period, perhaps, of their own existence; but I cannot believe that any part of the Conservative Party thought that Ireland would be governed under the sway of Mr. Parnell without taking an additional means of enforcing the existing law. But the truth is that a Government in the position of that of the noble Marquess at 40 that time could hardly be said to be a Government at all. It is a great law of nature that all creatures that cannot live by strength are obliged to live by cunning; and the noble Marquess was obliged to live by cunning. He was in this position—that he was the Head of a Government in a minority in Parliament, and unable to withstand the hostile attacks of the Parties opposite, and he could hardly be said to be able to call his mind his own. I must say I believe the experiment has been, in my opinion, a disastrous one. We have had two Viceroys in succession trying this policy, and I must say that if the pick of this country had been chosen for two men from opposite sides of the House to try this policy the choice could not have been better. They were both Members of this House, men of the highest character, highly honourable men, incapable of doing anything mean towards any Party in the world; and it is impossible to read the accounts of these two Viceroys without feeling that they had been trying to govern by fear and flattery. There was a very curious incident reported the other day about Lord Aberdeen. Shortly before the change of Government the noble Earl in his progress came to Cork, and I saw it intimated, and it was most admirably descriptive of the whole facts of the case—"His Excellency was graciously pleased to accept a complete suit of Blarney tweed." These two Viceroys were clad from head to foot in Blarney tweed. Now, Blarney tweed may be a good thing in its way, and a part of a man's costume made of it might be of use; but to have a complete suit of it is rather too much even in Ireland, and I believe myself it has been a complete failure. I have received, within the last two or three days, a letter from a gentleman in Ireland, and whom I shall not name for the reasons which your Lordships may very well understand; but I can assure the House he is a person of very great ability. He is not one of the landlords of the country at all; but he is a native Irishman, and he is thoroughly competent to give an opinion. He gives the result of the government by Blarney. He says—It will be no simple task to restore the fabric of Government in the country, the Irish Government having so hampered and defeated the law it has fallen into utter contempt.41 I have received another letter from the same gentleman this morning, in which he gives some details, showing that the League which is called the National League is in close alliance with the men who commit outrages. A man who had been under police protection came and asked that it might be withdrawn; and when the Inspector asked him what had happened he replied—"My apology has been received by the Leaders of the National League, and I am safe now." There you have coercion with a vengeance. The same complaint was heard from all officials; from the Poor Law Inspectors, from the Police Inspectors, and the magistracy. It would, seem to be the set purpose of the Irish Government to break up the machinery of government, in order to say that nothing was left but to hand it over to the majority. That is an account of the result of trying to govern Ireland under the present condition of things without these clauses which the Leaders of the Liberal Party themselves declared to be necessary for the safety of the country. Is it not a mockery for Members of the two Parties to bandy about the word coercion, when they have Irishmen going about in fear of their lives under the desperate coercion of an illegal society? I now pass on. I wish to refer to the now departure—the General Election of 1885. I must say that I have always been one of those who think it is the perfect right of a Member of Parliament, and still more the perfect right of a Minister of the Crown in the place of Mr. Gladstone, to change his mind on any subject whatever; but then he ought to avow it is a change of opinion, and explain the grounds on which the change was made. I remember as a young man listening to the speeches of Sir Robert Peel in the Government of Lord Melbourne, and my impression, which afterwards turned out to be true, was that Sir Robert Peel was then shaking on the subject of Protection, for he said—"We must open the ports, and when open I shall never propose to shut them again." That was how his change came about. It was perfectly open; but look at the way in which the Leaders of the Liberal Party—the Parnellite section of the Liberal Party—changed their minds at the last Election. Mr. Gladstone, then Prime Minister, said the other day, for 15 years Mr. Bright knew very well 42 he never opposed Home Rule in principle. I happened to be a Member of the Cabinet during that time. That 15 years takes us back to 1871, and on looking back on the speeches which Mr. Gladstone made during that period I find one delivered on the 27th of September, 1871. It is a long speech, and I am not going to trouble the House with it at any length. It is almost a violent speech against Home Rule. He distinguished in that speech between repeal of the Union and setting up a separate Parliament, Mr. Butt's proposal. He admitted that Mr. Butt's proposal was not repeal of the Union, but a separate Parliament for Ireland; and then he used these words with regard to it—Can any sensible man, can any rational man, suppose that at this time of day, in this condition of this world, we are going to disintegrate the great capital institutions of this country for the purpose of making ourselves ridiculous in the sight of all mankind in crippling any power we possess for bestowing benefits through legislation upon the inhabitants of Ireland?Could a stronger passage than that be given? Why, he not only opposed Home Rule on principle, but ridiculed it. I must say that those who have been Members of his Party have a right to have explained the circumstances under which this change has taken place. It is quite true that the form his argument took in subsequent years was this—"I do not know what you mean by Home Rule; define it." But when we come to close quarters we find Home Rule denounced as disintegration of the Empire. Mr. Gladstone and his Colleagues, after the General Election in last year, not only turned completely round to Home Rule, but he also ridiculed certain of his Colleagues for maintaining the opinions from which he had himself broken. This raised a feeling of exasperation among the Members of the Liberal Party, and it ended in the breaking up and disintegration of that Party. Now, my Lords, I want to ask my noble Friend, who has been so free to ask the noble Marquess opposite for a policy, what was the policy embodied and shadowed forth in the two Bills of the late Government? Let us stand back as an artist viewing a picture, and look at the general outlines of them; and, in the first place, I must say that for any Government to take it in hand to draw up a new British Con- 43 stitution in the course of six weeks or two months was an act of the profoundest audacity. The British Constitution is not a written Constitution. It has not been made that way. It is not a Constitution that has risen suddenly; it has been made by gradual accretions from time to time; and I know no man in this country who by previous study or constructive mind and power is in a position to draw up a British Constitution, or to recast the existing one, and if anyone were to attempt it I should prophesy failure at the commencement. I ventured to prophesy the failure of these Bills at the beginning on that ground, and on that ground alone, and the result has been the ridiculous fiasco which we have witnessed, from which the Members of the right hon. Gentleman's Government retired in disgust. Those noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen posed as the friends of Ireland; but what was the nature of their scheme? First of all, and that was the root of the whole business, the expulsion of the Irish Members from Westminster—that was the forefront of the Bill; it was to get rid of the Irish Members. It was in that light the whole scheme was conceived; it was the triumph of Obstruction—the triumph of the flag which Mr. Parnell had run up and nailed to the masthead. The second object of the Bill, consequent upon the expulsion of the Irish Members from Westminster, was the exclusion of Ireland from all Imperial concerns. Is that a boon for Ireland? I know many Irishmen who do not think it, and who are furious with indignation. I can tell the House this—that soon after these Bills were announced I was brought into personal contact with many Irishmen in this country—distinguished men who did not mix with politics—and I never saw men so indignant and so disgusted—and justly indignant as I think—that they and their countrymen should be expelled from all concern in the Imperial Government. The third object of this Bill was the establishment of a separate Parliament in Dublin, with power to plunder the minority; and the fourth was to open a door of escape to certain classes in Ireland who refused these terms. What came of the scheme when we came to discuss it? In what I have said of the late Government I must make one, or rather two, exceptions— 44 that of Mr. John Morley, whose speeches have been eminently honest and straightforward, and my noble Friend the late Lord President of the Council (Earl Spencer), who stuck to his principles, but with some dexterity avoiding some points of it. What happened with the other Members of the Government? My right hon. Friend once said that the resources of civilization were not exhausted. Is such a scheme as that to which I have referred a resource of civilization—to reduce Ireland to the position of a tributary Province, paying a fixed tribute and having nothing to do with Imperial concerns? Is that a resource of civilization, and is there any Government in Europe, or the world, that has ever reported to such an expedient in regard to an integral part of their own Dominions? There is none. It is a resource of barbarism, and not civilization. If you tell me that is the right of the majority of the Representatives of Ireland, I say there is no man, not even Mr. Parnell, nor three-fifths of the Irish people who support him, who have the right to barter away the liberty of the other two-fifths for their own temporal benefit. Those Bills were a corrupt bargain for your own temporary convenience, made in order to avoid the difficulties of the problem of the government of Ireland. Mr. Parnell asked—"What are you afraid of? Surely Ireland is a small nation, and you cannot be afraid of her. You have your Army, and your Navy, and all the military resources of the country at your command; why, then, should you not allow us to do as we like?" My Lords, I answer that question by saying that we are afraid of nothing except dishonour; and we think it would be dishonourable to give up the minority of the Irish people to the uncontrolled power of the majority without laying down any fundamental principles for the protection of life, property, and honour. It is a bargain we have no right to make. Now, I cannot pass on, even for a moment, without referring to the strange attack made in the stress which has been laid by the Head of the late Government on the Union; and what I wish to point out is this—that the question of the morality of the Union of 1800 cannot be affected by the addition of 40 or 45 Members to the Parnellite Party in the House of Commons. Men who have been 50 years in Parliament, without saying a 45 word upon this subject before, now jump up and say, "Was anything so immoral, so atrocious?"—I will not use the words that were used by the late Leader of the Liberal Party—but morality does not depend on Party exigencies, and I deny and repudiate the whole argument. In the first place, even if it were true, nothing would be more childish than to condemn the Union because it was corruptly obtained. How was the reformation of the English Church effected? Look at the conduct of Henry VIII. and his proceedings. Will Mr. Gladstone allow that the atrocities of Henry VIII. are a reason for pulling down the whole thing? But I deny the immorality of the proceeding. The Irish Parliament was a small and a very corrupt one. Mr. Gladstone himself has told us there wore 120 or 130 placemen—a great many pensioners and holders of small boroughs—and I say it was impossible to get the Government out of their hands and destroy corruption, except by paying the price that existing law enabled them to demand. It was like ransoming the nation from the hands of bandits. The money paid was a ransom rather than a bribe, and it was to raise the Irish people to an equality with ourselves. Let me tell the Leaders of the Liberal Party that there is no man, and there is no Party in this country, who can with impunity revile the character of Mr. Pitt and his Party. Look at his speeches in 1800, and compare them with the shrieking speeches we have heard at this day. Look at the magnanimity of his tone towards Ireland, and the manifest desire he had to raise Ireland, to make her perfectly equal with England in a united Parliament, and to induce her to take an equal part in the management of Imperial affairs. As public opinion is now being instructed by such speeches as those of Mr. Gladstone, I take exception to the whole argument, and I maintain that the conduct of Mr. Pitt was pure and elevated conduct with a pure and elevated purpose. Well, my Lords, what happened to these two Bills when they came to be discussed before the constituencies? At the suggestion of the expulsion of the Irish Members from Westminster there was an immediate outcry by the Radical Party—"You are going to separate taxation and representation." The result was that the Government ran away before their own Bills. For in- 46 stance, there was the expulsion of the Irish Members from the House of Commons. The people of this country are not particularly fond of the Irish Members as now represented in the House of Commons; but they had a political instinct that if these men were turned out they would have a separate Parliament for Ireland. What were the views of the Members of the late Government as to that matter? They were all different. Some of them said—"We will give up the expulsion;" and I think that even Mr. Gladstone consented to deal with the subject. Now, what was the next part of the scheme? It was the separation of Irish from Imperial concerns. I wish my noble Friends on the Front Opposition Bench to remember this—that the separation of Irish from Imperial concerns stands at the very root of the whole scheme. If you cannot make that separation, you cannot carry out your scheme. Well, what did Mr. Gladstone say in his opening speech, which has now been published as a pamphlet? He said that "it passed the wit of man to devise a separation between purely Irish and Imperial concerns." Well, then we have the Purchase Scheme. I must say that my noble Friend the Lord President of the Council is one of those who stuck to his guns about the Purchase Scheme, not, I think, with a perfect and complete resolution, because he talked about the number of years' purchase as a matter of detail. But Mr. John Morley throughout said—"I never will be a party to any Bill which does not secure the land interest in Ireland against confiscation." The other Members of the late Government did not say the same. I can compare their conduct to nothing but two familiar words—"cut" and "shuffle." Some of them cut the scheme altogether; others shuffled. Mr. Childers, at Edinburgh I think, said he would have nothing more to do with any Purchase Scheme. If the Members of the then Government differed so much during the Election, what right have they now to come to the Conservative Party and say, "Give us a policy"? Why, they had no policy to be called a policy to present to Parliament, not having made up their minds on the points to which I have referred. Just before the Dissolution I ventured to ask what was meant by purely Irish affairs—was it a purely Irish affair that 47 Ireland should be allowed to conduct her business in peace? My noble Friend had not a word to say in reply. A separate Irish Parliament is no policy at all, unless you tell us what an Irish Parliament is to do. I maintain, therefore, that the late Government have no right whatever to ask their Successors for a policy, when they have produced two Bills from every part of which they have retreated in disastrous flight. May I now address a few words to the Benches opposite, and to the noble Marquess at the head of the new Government? I hope he will not be induced by such feeble questioners to announce some brand-new land policy for Ireland; that he will not fall into the trap into which Mr. Gladstone fell, of trying, with his unassisted resources, to frame a new Constitution for the British Empire. It is a task not to be accomplished even by my noble Friend opposite; if he attempts it he will assuredly fail. The noble Lords who are so fond of their own policy, but who cannot decide what it was, would run into it in one place, and the Parnellites in another; and possibly the noble Marquess would not be able to carry his disciplined forces with him in a policy so far-reaching and gigantic. But there are some preliminaries which I wish earnestly to urge on the attention, not only of the Members of the Conservative Party, but of the public of this country. The first thing is to clear our minds of the wretched cant that has been talked about the misgovernment of Ireland. It is all very well to say that we have not been wise in our treatment of Ireland, and that we repent of our errors. That is quite fair; but to say that we have done nothing but injure Ireland for centuries, and to say that all the evils of Ireland have resulted from our treatment of her, that is pure cant. Decidedly, it is not historically true. Let me take one or two of the greatest wrongs of Ireland. Take the Penal Laws. They were very bad and horrible, and much to be deprecated; but I believe Mr. Froude to be right when he says that the Penal Laws in Ireland were merely a rebound of the Penal Laws against the Protestants in France. They were a rebound of the echo of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes; they were part of a system under which Europe then groaned. It was a period of universal persecution, 48 and unquestionably the Protestants of Ireland would have been subjected to the same penalties if the Catholics had had the same opportunity. Bad, therefore, as those laws were, let us condemn them in the light of history, and not pretend that it was the peculiar fault of the British Government. Take, again, the restraints on trade. I declare that more harm was done to Ireland by our commercial legislation than by all the landlords and Land Laws in that country; but here, again, it was a period of universal Protection. Do we not know that our own municipalities were founded on Protection? Every Scotch burgh was steeped up to the ears in Protection. It was an era of Protection, and England is not to be blamed in that sense for having pursued the general and, as I believe, the wretched policy of that day. Well, then, with regard to the land system. Now, on this point I wish to say a word, because I see that Mr. John Morley said that we have given to Ireland a land system the most wretched in the world. There never was a more gross historical misrepresentation. The Land Laws of Ireland, in so far as they are the same with our laws—as they are to a great extent—are the same Land Laws which prevail all over civilized Europe. What is peculiar and miserable in the Irish Land Law is a direct descent and derogation of the old Celtic customs, purely Irish in its origin. Look at the account which Sir John Davis gives of this subject; look at the miseries which existed beyond the Pale in the old Irish Celtic customs; look at the statement which he makes of the desire on the part of the unfortunate Irish to be brought within the Pale that they might enjoy the protection of the English landlords. They are poisoning the ears of the Irish people who do not know that the worst customs of the Irish land system, and which have led more than anything else to the misery of the country and the poverty and superstition that exist, are directly descended from their own Celtic Chiefs. Then take a modern case, and look at the last Land Act, which you passed yourselves. What did my noble Friend the late President of the Council say? At Lancaster, during the Election Campaign, he said that the last Irish Land Act was a right and salutary Act; but the Irish themselves would not allow it to be worked. 49 It came to this, then—that the Irish people are not allowed to have the benefit of the Land Act, because the National League are determined that it should not be put in operation. They will not accept land legislation from a British Parliament. In the letter which I have read from a friend he mentions a curious fact. One of the prominent parts of Mr. Gladstone's Land Act was that of the free right of sale of the tenants. But the National League have denounced the farmers who sold their tenant right, and I am credibly informed that a great many farmers are not allowed to sell their tenant right on account of the new rule of the National League. Here we have the miseries and distress in Ireland all arising from the Irish themselves thwarting in every conceivable way the boon which the British Parliament is desirous of giving them. Take the Cottage Act, which passed your Lordships' House a few years ago. It was grumbled at and objected to by some noble Lords. They thought it a dangerous Bill; but we have some Irish Legal Peers, and they told us that it was all right, and would do no harm. I am told now that the amount of gross jobbery being perpetrated under that Act is considerable; and, as we know from other sources of information, the labourers of Ireland are getting no benefit whatever from your measures. On the contrary, they are worse off than ever. My friend says that the measures of Mr. Gladstone are like the story of the veterinary surgeon who sent in a bill with this heading—"For curing the mare until it died." Mr. Gladstone is very fond of referring to Edmund Burke. Here is a passage from Edmund Burke, in which he uses this expression in a letter—"I must speak the truth; I must say that all the evils of Ireland originated within itself." I venture to propound in this House now that the miseries of Ireland are not mainly due to misrule, but to the mischievous customs of the people themselves. I wish to say a word before I sit down as to the demand made on the present Government for a policy. The late Government have no right to make that demand; but, at the same time, I am not prepared to deny that there are things to be done for Ireland. I have long had an opinion—and I am rather ashamed that I have not publicly ex- 50 pressed it; but I express it now with the fullest conviction of its truth—that in our dealings with the Roman Catholic population of Ireland we have not been fair, or even reasonable. It is part of the ultra-Liberal creed—of Liberalism as distinguished from liberality—that religion should be separated from education. That is a doctrine which is resolutely resisted by the Roman Catholic priesthood. We have insisted upon enforcing secular education. I maintain that we should go as far, at least, as they do in Canada, and allow purely denominational education, avowed to be such, as such, in every part of Ireland in proportion to the population. That is the rule in Canada, where there is a large mixed population. I believe our national system has been getting more and more denominational in fact; but still, in principle, the present system is opposed to the feelings and sentiments of the Irish Roman Catholics, and for those feelings, however much I may differ from their Church, I have the strongest sympathy and respect, and with which, as I differ from the Roman Catholic Church, I do not feel entitled to interfere. We have been told by Mr. Gladstone that for the last 15 years he has never resisted Home Rule on principle. That is a declaration as to the perfect sincerity of which I have no doubt; but certainly he has contrived to conceal his opinion from those about him. Some may have suspected it; others may have had a doubt; but there is no public utterance which would lead to that conviction. But I imagine that the people of Ireland have felt that they were dealing with a mind that was uninformed upon these subjects—with a mind that was not firm, just as a vicious horse feels the hand of a weak rider. And the result has been what might be expected. When Irish tenants have been urged to buy their farms under the favourable terms offered them by the late Government, their reply has been—"No; why put ourselves in that position just now, when we know that the Liberal Government will concede anything to successful agitation? Let us bide our time, and we will get land, if not for nothing, at least at a nominal price." My own conviction is that that is the feeling at the root of the difficulties with which we have to deal. There is a sense of weakness and insecurity and uncer- 51 tainty as to the very fundamental doctrines of human society. Everything is giving way under the feet of those who long for some firm foundation on which to stand. In the most remarkable Address that was ever delivered—the farewell Address of Washington—he said—All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive to this fundamental principle, obedience to the law, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force, to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a Party, often a small but artful and enterprizing minority of the community.I commend these words to the growing Democracies. I am myself for a Democracy, provided it be an honest and a virtuous Democracy.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
I am desirous of saving a few words with reference to that part of the speech of the noble Earl opposite which, in some degree, referred to myself. He recapitulated some of my words and deeds during the late Administration of my noble Friend the present Prime Minister. I do not feel that I can take exception to his inferences from those words and deeds, because it was difficult to know what inferences he drew; but if there was an innuendo, it was one conveying that I was unable to continue as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland owing to my being unable to agree with my Colleagues. If that was what he intended to convey, I can only tell him that he is entirely deceived. Reference has also been made to the government of Ireland during my Viceroyalty; but when my noble Friend (the Duke of Argyll) said that the whole course of my Administration in Ireland was to govern by flattery and blarney, he went far beyond the facts of the case. I can only say that the materials at my command were scanty; but such as they were they were fully utilized. The materials were insufficient, but the law was enforced with remarkable success. Convictions were obtained at the Winter Assizes, and there was not a single miscarriage of justice. I quite agree as to the importance of the maintenance of the law; but there is another question besides that of the maintenance of the law, and 52 that is the sufficiency of the law. There were certain parts of that Crimes Act the value of which I never concealed, and the absence of which would have rendered government in Ireland very difficult. I have tried the full force of the existing law in Ireland, and I do not hesitate to say that that law was insufficient for the purpose; but, having said that, I wish to add that I adhere to my opinion that the remedy for that state of things is not the enactment of exceptional and temporary legislation. I believe that exceptional and temporary legislation really weakens the hands of the Government, inspires a sense of disquiet, and is calculated in the long run to weaken rather than to strengthen the authority of the law. In 1844 or 1845, when the state of Ireland was as bad as it could be, Sir Robert Peel deprecated appealing to Parliament for exceptional legislation. The remedy lies in strengthening the law, but in making that law at the same time general and permanent, and such as would apply to all parts of the United Kingdom. During the last two or three months many people have attributed to me very different opinions from those which I hold. I desire at once to express my satisfaction, at the opening of a new Parliament, that upon this great question—after long controversy—the decision of the country has been clear and undeniable. It would have been a great misfortune if the country had seemed to be halting between two opinions. I understand the opinion of the country, as expressed in the present Parliament, to be this—there is to be a complete supremacy of the Imperial Parliament in Irish matters; in other words, whatever liberties are granted, whatever concessions are made, the control of the Imperial Parliament is to be clear, real, and effective. The Bill of Mr. Gladstone did not secure this. It created an Irish Parliament and an Irish Executive responsible to the Irish Parliament. It did not leave the effective control in the Crown, because the Crown would be advised by the Irish Ministers, and not by the Imperial Ministers. This was the broad issue that was before the country, and I hope all reasonable men will accept its verdict. I believe that within the limits of the popular decision there is enough to be done, not only to provide for the due administration, enforcement, 53 and maintenance of the law, but also to give a reasonable amount of contentment to the Irish people. One of the great faults of Mr. Gladstone's scheme was that it must have failed in the nature of things to bring contentment to Ireland. It stimulated, but it could not satisfy, hopes and aspirations. But the most grievous part of the recent proceedings is that, by his failure, Mr. Gladstone has, by raising these aspirations, by creating these false hopes, deferred to a more distant day anything like a real settlement of the Irish Question. Over and above that it overlooked the A B C of the question—the existence of discordant races and creeds in that country. The Belfast riots proved the miscalculation that was made on this point. No real provision was made to meet it. The fact remains that you have to deal with two distinct nations; and any settlement made in ignorance of that fact will be a settlement in name and not in reality. I cordially echo the hope that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) will not express any opinion on this subject at present, but will preserve at present that reticence which characterizes the Speech from the Throne already hinted at. It is a problem both great and grave which is before the Government. I will not say that I think it an insoluble problem; that would be to give up all statesmanship. But it needs every advantage, and not the least that of time for its consideration, to produce anything which shall give peace and contentment to Ireland, and which shall prevent its being' in the future, as it has been in the past, the sport of Party and the mere football of factions. Some of the principal evils may be summed up in this formula—too much has been extorted, or has seemed to be extorted, from the English Government by fear; each concession has been used too much as a lever to obtain more. From first to last, through successive Governments, there has been a failure of that continuity of policy which alone can give rest and peace. I would urge my noble Friend to consider how far some change may not be made in Private Bill legislation. Nothing can be less satisfactory than that Gas and Water Bills, which concern the purely domestic life of Ireland, should be dealt with here, at Westminster. Then I hope the noble Marquess will turn his attention 54 to the burning question of education, and especially higher, technical, and industrial education. There is no light in Ireland burning so brightly as that of industrial education. It has done more good, probably, than anything else; and the work is capable of almost indefinite expansion, with results which can only contribute to the public safety. Some parts of Ireland are in the position of an undeveloped Colony. There can be no prosperity in the absence of good roads to enable the people to bring their produce to the markets. Then I hope the noble Marquess will consider the reconstruction of certain parts of the Executive Government, and in particular the powers of the Lord Lieutenant. That important functionary possesses powers just enough to expose him to misunderstanding and misrepresentation, but not sufficient to enable him to render any real service. There can be no doubt that in certain parts of Ireland the Land Question is at the root of the difficulty. There are certain parts of Ireland in which the poverty is so great—the condition of the people is such that, until this is remedied, all chance of attaining prosperity is simply delusive. Time after time this has been stated by statesmen, travellers, and writers; but still there is the same story to tell that was true 100 years ago. There are many distinguished Viceroys who have been brought face to face with this grinding pauperism. Why have they all failed? Many reasons might be given; but perhaps this reason would be found deep down in the question—there has been a serious want of accord in the English and Irish nations. The Irish heart was not attuned to concord, and until that sympathy is in some degree restored there cannot be a real and satisfactory settlement of the Irish Question. I have heard a great deal lately as to the value of giving identical institutions to England and Ireland. It is a very large question; but I must say it is true only up to a certain point. Ireland does not want exactly the same institutions locally as England, and could not endure them if she had. The condition of things are different in the two countries; and an identity of local institutions in Ireland, if forced upon her, may not only be useless, but will, in my opinion, be made very harmful. The greatest possible caution ought to be 55 observed by those who press forward that view. I will only add that there are two sides to this question. On the one hand, there is the promotion of education, material interests, and the development of the country, which would call out all the local energies, and which would, to a certain extent, satisfy local aspirations; and, on the other hand, there is the maintenance and enforcing of the law, the supremacy of the Crown, the authority of Parliament; and, lastly, the maintenance of the sanctity of private rights. It may be difficult to reconcile these different and apparently conflicting interests. But I cannot agree that it is impossible. There are many plans. I hope the Government will carefully consider all these. I hope they will take time to do this. They have my best wishes. For several years there has been a time of public disgust. Confidence has been shaken, credit has been damaged, and many questions which call aloud for settlement at home and abroad in the consolidation of the Empire are waiting. I wish them energy to discharge their task, and long life in which to perform it; and when the time of their political decease arrives—as I suppose it must arrive for them as for other Governments—I can wish them nothing better than that it should be recorded of them in Scriptural language—"For many years the land had rest."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
My Lords, in taking part in this debate, which has been singularly varied, I wish to point out that it has wandered further from the original subject that was submitted to your Lordships than any debate that I remember. I freely admit that perhaps it was due to the scantiness of original matter rather than to your Lordships. But I do not intend to attempt to go into all the matters that have arisen in this debate. I will rather endeavour to answer one or two of the criticisms that have been passed upon ourselves, and give such reply as I can to the benevolent questions of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville). And, in the first place, I will venture to say a word in defence of our action in asking Parliament to go on with the Business of the Session now instead of putting it off, as the noble Earl suggested we might have 56 done, until October. There seems to us a vital objection to the latter course. The public money is granted till the 1st of November. If we had met on the 15th of October, say, and it was known that if only 15 days passed away without the passing of the Appropriation Act the Government of the country could no longer be carried on, I am afraid considerable apprehension would have taken hold of the public mind. Without imputing to any persons a desire to embarrass the Government, or to lengthen the proceedings of Parliament to any unreasonable extent, I do not think it probable, knowing that, with the best intentions, the other House of Parliament is not always able to confine its labours within reasonable limits—I do not think it at all improbable that the limit of the 1st of November could have been reached without the necessary financial provision being made for the year. We do not think it right to run such a risk as this, and we have appealed to the patriotism of Parliament to close the Session forthwith. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) has spoken of the many omissions in the Queen's Speech. Well, they say that the size of a tree depends upon the size of the root from which it springs. Possibly the magnitude of the discussion on the Queen's Speech depends on the length of the Speech to be discussed. We were anxious to limit the Speech to that matter for which Parliament has been called together, in the traditional words which are addressed to the House of Commons at the beginning of every new Parliament; and, therefore, the Queen's Speech on this occasion is confined to recommendations as to the passing of the Estimates. We could not recommend the passing of legislation, because we do not propose that any legislation should be passed in this fragment of a Session. With respect to the statement on foreign and Colonial affairs, to which reference has been made, it must be remembered that not much more than six weeks have passed since another Queen's Speech was addressed to Parliament containing the views of the Ministers of the day on all those questions. There has hardly been time enough to make any new statement with respect to public affairs that should have the merit of novelty; and if it had the merit of novelty, it might have the demerit of 57 expressing views in a formal document different from those which Her Majesty had been previously advised to express. But I shall be very happy to answer, as far as I can, the one or two questions which the noble Earl has addressed to me on that point. The most important question was that, I think, with regard to Burmah; and with respect to Burmah I have to acknowledge that it is not in a satisfactory condition. How it reached that unsatisfactory condition I do not know. We were not in Office, or in possession of official knowledge, during the time that process took place. I think when we left Office the annexation was proceeding in a very healthy way, and there was every prospect of the speedy restoration of order and the government of Burmah in peace and prosperity. I do not wish for a moment to suggest that the noble Earl opposite is responsible for matters not turning out in a different way. I do not suggest, and I do not in the least know; but I deny that we are responsible for what took place between the beginning of February and the present time. If the process has been difficult and has gone wrong, I daresay it is from causes which are unavoidable; but, at all events, it was from causes for which we cannot be held responsible. With respect to the actual state of affairs, although they are very unsatisfactory, it would be very exaggerated language to say that there was any cause for apprehension and alarm. I think an intelligible mistake has been made in not using enough men and not spending as much money as was necessary at first; but as soon as the hot weather is over measures of a larger character will be taken, and, as far as I can judge from the opinions of those who are entitled to pronounce an opinion on the subject, the difficulties in the way of the restoration of order which exist will speedily be removed. I hope when the cold weather comes we shall have but the regret that we have not been able to restore it sooner. I do not apprehend that there is any doubt of the anticipations drawn that British rule in Burmah will result both in an extension of trade to this country, and also much greater happiness and well-being to the people of Burmah itself. I have no fear whatever but that those anticipations will be realized. With respect to the Afghan Frontier, I think there is a little mis- 58 apprehension on that subject also with, respect to the withdrawal of our Commission. What has taken place has not been stated with absolute accuracy. The matters at issue between us and the Russian Government, though of some considerable importance, are not very large in point of territory. The knowledge with respect to it is complete. The discussion can be carried on quite as well between London and St. Petersburg as it can in the desolate regions where the demarcation is to take place. There is also always a considerable inconvenience in leaving British officers throughout the tremendous winter of those regions far from any support, far from their own officers, and still farther from their own Government. It is impossible to say, with the best will on the part both of the Russian and Afghan Governments, what accidents might happen in a country which is, of course, only very partially governed and partially controlled; and we do not think it desirable, merely for these 20 miles of frontier that still remain in dispute, that the Commission should spend another winter in those regions. But some time will elapse, and I think there is every reason to hope that the Governments will come to an agreement on the subject. With respect to other matters of foreign affairs, the noble Earl inferred from the silence of the Speech that there was nothing in foreign affairs which deserves mention or which could cause solicitude. Perhaps that would be carrying an optimist view of the situation too far. But there is nothing to cause apprehension. Many regions of the world have been for some time past, and are still, in a state of equilibrium which cannot be described as stable. The maintenance of peace depends upon many accidents, as noble Lords opposite have experienced during the last six months of Office. They saw how many difficulties were arising from the conflict of rising nationalities and old Dominions in the South-East of Europe. I will not say, any more than in the last spring, all cause of solicitude is entirely taken away; but I do not think there is any good cause for perplexity. The policy of this country has been very clearly marked out for a considerable time, and it is our intention to adhere to the traditions that we have inherited. The integrity of the Turkish 59 Empire, as defined by Treaties, is of great importance in our judgment, as it has been in the judgment of many statesmen in past times—of great importance to the peace of Europe—of great importance to the interests of this country. While desiring to do all we can to insure the welfare and the progress of the populations of those regions, we still hold by the integrity of the Turkish Empire as one of the conditions on which the present European system is based. We have every hope that, in holding that view, we shall, as in times past, have the support of our Allies. We heartily approve the action initiated partly by ourselves, and carried on consistently by noble Lords opposite, which was directed towards maintaining the integrity of the Turkish Empire during the spring and summer of this year. That was a specimen of the difficulties which may arise, and it was an indication of the ease with which, under firm treatment, those difficulties will disappear; and though from time to time causes of alarm will seem to arise, though they will be magnified by the eagerness of rumour, and though there may be in the political sky ambiguous indications from time to time, I still maintain the firm hope and belief that by adhering steadily to the policy which has been the English policy for a great number of years, we shall contribute, and contribute effectively and with success, to the permanent maintenance of the peace of Europe. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Argyll) and the noble Earl behind me (the Earl of Carnarvon) have urged us not to be too speedy in announcing a policy for Ireland. That is not precisely the advice we got from the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville). I do not wish to go much into the past. A great deal of the discussion has turned on the past, no doubt most legitimately; but I think I should, perhaps, be unnecessarily wasting the time of the House if I were to follow far into the subjects that have been opened up. Among many other well-worn subjects, the question of our innocence or guilt for not renewing the Crimes Act has been brought again before your Lordships. I have nothing to add to what I have already said on that subject. May I say that I think the importance of the Crimes Act, as such, or at least some particular clauses of it, has been a great deal over- 60 rated. Whether any legislation was then or may be hereafter required in aid of the Criminal Law in Ireland is quite another matter. I am ready to admit that our policy of last year is open to discussion on that point. I am not ready, however, to admit that the success or the failure of our Irish policy depended on those particular clauses of the Crimes Act on which so much has been said. I think they were valuable, but their importance has been very much overrated. I can only say, with regard to this vexed question of our conduct in not proposing special criminal legislation in July last year, that those who judge us must remember the extraordinarily peculiar circumstances of the time. We had not a tenure of Office in the ordinary sense. We were governing during a necessary interregnum—an interregnum produced by the peculiar action of the Reform Bill and the sudden fall of the Government which passed it. The question before us was not, in my mind, whether we should pass criminal legislation or not. I am perfectly convinced that it was impossible to have passed it, but the question was whether it was so necessary for the purpose of governing Ireland that if we were not prepared to pass it we ought to have refused to take Office altogether. I admit that that is a question open to discussion. It might have been our duty to refuse Office at that time because we could not pass criminal legislation. I did not think so. Believing, at that time, that Home Rule was out of the question—both Parties were thoroughly agreed in repudiating it—I looked upon the movement in Ireland as in the nature of a transitory movement which would have its rise, its culmination, and its fall, like all moral movements of the kind, and I thought we were approaching a period in which additional criminal legislation could be dispensed with. I do not know whether any additional criminal legislation would have done any good; but of this I am certain—that it is a mistake to ridicule, as the noble Duke did, what he was pleased to call the "blarney suit of conciliation"—that is to say, the assumption of a conciliatory attitude in governing the people of Ireland. I think we were perfectly right in doing all we could by conciliation to put an end to the war against the law which unhappily prevailed. I 61 am sure that if our efforts failed it was not due to any want of devotion or want of ability on the part of my noble Friend the then Viceroy (the Earl of Carnarvon), who did all that was possible to be done in the circumstances. I am willing to leave to the judgment of the House whether we erred or did not; but it is merely a question of history, which has no bearing on the present. The whole surface of the problem has been changed by what has taken place during the present year. I do not wish to discuss in a controversial spirit the measures proposed by the late Government; but a tremendous change in the attitude of political Parties, the abandonment of the position which had been held for so long, the proposal of measures which would have had a revolutionary effect in the strictest sense of the word, which would have put those at the head who have been under, and those under who had been at the head—measures which would have placed the whole machinery for the repression of crime in Ireland in the hands of those who hitherto, with too good reason, have been suspected of being themselves the favourers and the instigators of crime—I say, such measures as these, such a history as that which has been the history of the relations of England to Ireland during the past half-year, have changed the whole of this problem; and I, for one—and I am sure my Colleagues too—do not feel competent, until we have been able to study the question with much greater care than we have hitherto given to it, to offer that solution of the problem which the noble Earl calls upon us to give. We were returned with one mandate—to maintain the Union. We believe that we represent accurately the wishes of the people of this country when we say that it is our duty to give our efforts, above everything else, to the restoration of social order and the maintenance of legal rights. It is our duty, besides this, to study carefully every measure by which prosperity or contentment in Ireland can be secured. But when I am asked to go into details—when I hear talk of Irish Government Offices, of the educational question, of the reform of the government, of local government, which is not an Irish question, but a United Kingdom question, and which must be dealt with on lines generally similar at the same time over 62 the whole country at once—when these matters are suggested for discussion, I can only answer that, whatever legislation we may have to propose, time, consideration, and inquiry are, above all things, necessary, so that we will give the utmost attention to all these questions, but that we are not ready now to furnish any sketch of our future legislative proposals. I have indicated the broad lines within which the policy of the Government must be kept; but into the details I could not go with any prospect of satisfaction to your Lordships. But I am bound to recognize that there are matters into which we may inquire, and there are administrative measures we may take. My noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Carnarvon) has spoken of the material resources of Ireland, which he justly said require the attention of the Government for the purpose of their future development. There is no subject which, I think, is more worthy of the attention of the Government than that to which my noble Friend has drawn attention. I hope that we shall give full and special inquiry to that question of developing the local resources of Ireland, following, in some respects, the steps of our Predecessors; and I hope, also, in some respects, improving on their doctrines. The development of the fisheries, the extension of arterial drainage, of local railways, and many other things of that kind, which have occupied the attention of Governments in the past, but in respect to which nothing like a full or complete or satisfactory determination has been arrived at—these things will occupy our careful attention during the Recess. With respect to social order, I think I can say that we have shown that we are not without a policy. Measures of the most summary, of the most effective kind, have been taken for the purpose of restoring order in Belfast, and they have succeeded. I cannot mention those terrible conflicts without expressing the horror which they must have excited in men's minds. I think that they are well fitted to prove to the British public the abnormal conditions of society in Ireland, and how far removed is the harmony and agreement which does so much to make our institutions work well in this country. But I would not express an opinion further in detail in regard to these proceedings, because an 63 inquiry was set on foot by the late Government, to which we shall give expansion, and possibly we may seek special Parliamentary powers—an inquiry which will place on the firm basis of fact the controversies as to the responsibility of the various parties in connection with them, which can now be only a matter of speculation. I will only say, in passing, that I do not think there is any ground—at least, any primâ facie ground—except what may be shown by subsequent inquiry, for impugning the conduct of the Constabulary. As to the statement that constables have been brought from the South to the North, that is, I believe, no exceptional proceeding. I think it is usual, and it is obviously convenient, to appoint constables in those districts where they have no special connection; and I do not think there was an intention or wish to offer anything like a challenge, or to produce anything in the nature of division. I believe the police have, upon the whole, on this as on other occasions, behaved with courage, discretion, and discipline. Of any individual case of indiscipline the Commission will take cognizance; but in dealing with a body like the Royal Irish Constabulary we are bound to remember that they have borne a great part in maintaining the English Government in Ireland, and we are bound to consider all their actions with the utmost consideration, forbearance, and generosity, and not hastily to believe that they have fallen away from the merits which in former times they have so prominently displayed. There can be no doubt whatever that it was by the concentration of the military that the uproar was put down. The state of disorder was so great that it would have justified the exercise of far sterner measures than those to which we were driven; but I believe it is often the wisest and kindest thing to employ the military at once in cases of that kind; and I believe that the result obtained of the experiment in Belfast will be a guide to the Irish Government in the future. With respect to social order generally in Ireland, it is difficult to say that it is in a state unusually bad. Unfortunately, we have been accustomed to phenomena which have not in this present year been repeated in any excessive form. But there still is, undoubtedly, a considerable amount of 64 outrage, though small as compared with that of former years, when it attracted the attention of Parliament. I will not trouble your Lordships with many figures; I will simply state one or two just to show, with respect to the law in Ireland, how matters really stand. In 1882, which was one of the worst years, the total number of outrages for the six months ending on the 31st of July was 2,310; whereas, in 1886, they were 551—so that they have fallen to about a quarter of what they were in the former year. With respect to their progress, they seemed to have increased in intensity in the beginning of the year up to June, and the month of July shows a rather better record. But the most remarkable circumstance with respect to them is that they are mainly confined to the South-West of Ireland. The counties of Kerry, Clare, and a portion of Limerick, I think, take not far from half of all outrages recorded. We have reason to doubt whether the administrative arrangements are as good as they might be for maintaining order in these counties. For instance, in the county of Kerry there are 300 more policemen than the ordinary establishment. Well, that is a considerable number for a single county, and you would imagine that it would give very considerable aid in the detection of crime; but the fact is that almost the whole of these 300 policemen are employed in the practice of what is called personal protection. That is to say, about 300 policemen—I believe the exact number is 292—are engaged in the protection of 145 persons. Of course, that is a very small contribution to the figures of a whole county, even if they were divided equally among those 145 persons; but I find that a noble Earl with whom we are all acquainted, the Earl of Kenmare, employs no less than 38 policemen for his individual protection. A lady who lives in the same county takes 32 policemen for her own protection. Now, it is, of course, very desirable that there should be protection for valuable lives; but I believe that each policeman costs, when you take all expenses, something like £100. I cannot help thinking that we might protect the Earl of Kenmare more cheaply than that, and that the £3,800 which will represent the whole cost of the 38 policemen shows some weakness 65 in the organization. Of course, I must not be supposed to impute the smallest blame to the Earl of Kenmare; but I say that the system has drifted into an unreasonable shape, and that it is a matter which requires careful overhauling and inquiry, and probably entire reorganization. We think it is a matter that requires a fresh eye, and that order will not be restored unless we can bring to bear some new arrangement, or, at all events, that the attention of minds which have been engaged in the solution of similar problems in other parts of the globe—of men who know how to exercise discipline, and who know how to extract from a small force the greatest possible effect—that by the employment of some such men we might attain to a system more effective than that which I have indicated, and that so large a number of police may, under such guidance, really accomplish the prevention and the detection of crime in those districts. We propose to send Sir Redvers Buller to control all the local Police Force and the local organizations; and we believe—at least, we have good hope—that, even with our present powers, and without any large expenditure of force, we shall be able to bring to an end the outrages which now disgrace parts of Ireland. At the same time, we must not look upon social order in Ireland as entirely or mainly a matter of outrages. If it were merely the outrages we had to consider, Ireland would be now in a tolerably satisfactory condition, because the outrages are restricted to certain very limited districts, or, at least, the excessive number of outrages are so restricted. The evil we really have to deal with is the organized system of intimidation. I do not say that any reorganization of the police can reach that evil. It has grown larger and larger. Boycotting has extended, not so much, but still a little, since this time last year, and intimidation appears to have reached that point that it is impossible in many parts of Ireland to obtain evidence of it. I merely indicate it as the most difficult of the problems that we have to solve, and I am sure that in that sentiment I shall have the assent of two or three former Viceroys of Ireland. The precise mode in which we are to deal with it I do not venture to indicate. I merely wish to point out to the House that until we 66 have dealt with it we have done nothing to restore the freedom of the innocent and to provide for the punishment of the guilty in Ireland. That is one of the first and most pressing duties of the Government, and we shall address ourselves to it with an earnest hope that either by the use of the powers of the law, or, if they do not suffice, by the further powers which we shall ask of Parliament, we shall be able gradually to diminish and extinguish this great evil. My noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Carnarvon), I think, referred to the Land Question, to the total poverty of many of the cultivators, and to the fearful and appalling problems which that poverty presents, not only to the Government, but to all who wish well to Ireland. The Land Question is one on which we have had anxious and even angry controversies in this House. I do not wish to go back on questions that are past now; but I did not approve of the legislation of 1881, and I offered my protest against it. I was overruled, but I have ventured more than once to press on your Lordships, both in Office and in Opposition, that it is not open to an English Party so to carry its opinion into practice as to break away from a policy which Parliament and the people of this country have, after due deliberation, laid down. That Act of 1881 has passed; it has been acted upon; it is part of the policy of Ireland, and I wish to say this, in order that it may not be imputed to me as an inconsistency, that I do not see on what other theory of procedure Government by Party is possible in this country. The Act of 1881 was a compromise and bargain, and I should have been very glad at the time if the landlords had resisted it; but, as a matter of fact, they did not resist it. They resisted partly, but they were content that the Act should pass. Whether they liked it or not, they did not think it right that an Act which was desired by vast numbers of Irishmen, and of which great things were hoped, should be hindered by their objections. I therefore say that this bargain, such as it was, they accepted, and that bargain is one which I think Parliament is bound to observe. The bargain was this—the landlords were deprived of that to which they had an undoubted right—namely, the power of changing their tenants or taking their lands into their own hands, 67 and fixing their own rents in the open market. In place of that power, in consideration of that sacrifice, they were offered for 15 years a fixity of rent, which under all circumstances they were to receive. Now that bargain, in one sense, has been unfulfilled. The landlords do not receive the rents—the judicial rents—that have been fixed by the Courts. I do not say that they receive them nowhere; but in many parts of Ireland they do not receive them. What is the cause of that failure? My Lords, I think that is a subject, among many others, which we are bound to investigate with very great care. Undoubtedly the first and most obvious reason why they have not received their rents is that there exist illegal combinations for the purpose of preventing the payment of rents—which hinder even those who are able and willing to pay their rents from doing so. With these illegal combinations it is our duty to grapple. We hear of them in every direction. Everybody must have heard numberless stories of the occupants of estates previously contented and willing to pay rent suddenly demoralized by the advent of the Nationalist Leaders, and persuaded to refuse the obligations which they were ready to carry out. Everybody must have heard stories of tenants forced to pretend that they did not pay their rent, yet wishing honestly to discharge the obligations they had incurred, meeting their landlords privately, and giving them the rent, and entreating them to give them no receipt for it. All these things exist, I am afraid, in many parts of Ireland. They prove the great force exercised upon the tenants by these illegal combinations, and in justice to both tenants and landlords we are bound to seek to probe the evil, to see how far it spreads, and to examine what remedies we can apply to it. We propose to issue a Commission for that purpose. At the same time there is another matter we must also inquire into. It is loudly said that the cause of non-payment of rent, at all events in some parts of Ireland, is that the tenants cannot pay, because the price of produce has fallen so low that the payment of rent has become impossible. I have great doubts whether that is true to a great extent, and I doubt it for two reasons. In the first place, the fall in price of produce which has taken place in this 68 country—a fall which has created so profound a depression in agriculture—is a fall chiefly in wheat and barley, two rains which Ireland does not to a very great extent grow. There has, no doubt, been, a fall in the price of stock; but that appears to be recovering itself. There is one article of produce in which I am told the depreciation has been very considerable—I mean butter. Whether that depreciation is due to a fall in the price in the market, or whether it is owing to the troublous times the manufacturer has, is a matter which, I think, is open to controversy; but, undoubtedly, there has been a fall in that article. But though that is the case, I am not at all sure that the judicial rents were not fixed with a perfect consciousness on the part of the Judges that a fall in the price was going on. That fall has been going on now for several years, and it is highly improbable that the Courts, in assigning judicial rents, have not taken that into consideration. However, I think that, considering this matter has been stated so loudly and on such high authority, and considering that if we were to refuse an inquiry we should be accused of neglect—I think it ought also to be a subject for investigation by Commission; but in saying this I wish to guard myself against one misapprehension—we do not contemplate any revision of the judicial rents. We do not think it would be honest, in the first place, and we think it would be exceedingly inexpedient. If you announce a revision of judicial rents, you practically destroy all hopes of finality in agricultural questions. Neither landlord nor tenant will be able to count on the legislation of the future with the slightest glimpse of certainty. The tenants will constantly have before them the belief, and the landlords will constantly have before them the fear, that, under the pressure of some future agitation or in the light of some future controversy, Parliament may be forced to fresh legislation; and that confidence, that repose, that rest, which my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Carnarvon) said is the one thing which this country, and especially Ireland, needs will be indefinitely postponed. But if it should turn out that the Courts have made blunders, and that there is that impossibility in any case of paying rent, I think it is not the landlords who should bear the loss, I think 69 this would be one of the cases for the application of the principle of purchase by the State, and that the State, and not the landlords, must suffer for the errors that have been made. The question of policy does not arise at present; but it is so common in Ireland, to exaggerate that which is being done or intended that I thought it necessary to guard myself in giving any countenance to the idea that any remission of judicial rents was in our contemplation. My Lords, I mentioned the system of purchase, and the Commission that has been proposed will have that question principally in view. I do not think that its most earnest advocates can say that the Act of 1881 has solved the Land Question. I believe it is far more true to say, as the Marquess of Hartington said at the time it was passed, that it was only a modus vivendi until a sounder principle could be introduced. The duality of ownership is not consistent with the prosperity of the country. We cannot, of course, go back to the system which existed before the Act of 1881. We must go forward to that sounder system which consists in converting the judicial leaseholder into a freeholder as fast as we can. Of course, this can only be done by degrees and tentatively—it cannot be done suddenly by any heroic act; but we think that great good may arise from pushing further our inquiries into this subject, and ascertaining how far legislation already passed has succeeded in this respect, and whether it is not possible, by bringing to our aid the credit of the Local Authorities, especially in congested districts, to push the process a little further, and to make greater strides towards bringing the tenure of land in Ireland into a healthy condition. I do not believe that any tinkering with the land system will have the slightest effect until we can get rid of the duality of ownership which the Land Act of 1881 introduced. I believe, as a consequence of that, in the opinions which many have expressed in this House, that in the peculiar circumstances of Ireland the multiplication of freeholders will be a blessing and security for all who live in that country, and a solution of all the political questions with which we have had lately to deal, to an extent which must make us anxious to push forward every means of bringing such an improved state of things into existence, 70 and which can only be limited by the financial difficulties which undoubtedly exist. It is for the purpose of throwing light upon that question of financial difficulty, and aiding us in removing the obstacles to this much wished for and necessary reform, that we shall appoint this Commission. From this statement, my Lords, it will appear that I am not at present prepared to indicate any legislative policy—that, as far as legislation goes, our action is one of examination and inquiry, and, as far as executive administrative acts are concerned, we have already done our best to enforce the law. We intend to continue in that path, to restore social order, secure all existing rights, and to give back to Ireland the repose which she needs. I will only further say that in all the efforts we shall make in this direction we shall consider ourselves strictly limited, and shall take care that all our legislation is inspired by the decision—the great and critical decision—of the constituencies upon the great issue that has been submitted to them. We exist as a Ministry to maintain the Union. The condition of the maintenance of the Union is the restoration of social order, and to the path so traced we shall unswervingly adhere.
Address agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.