HL Deb 04 June 1886 vol 306 cc986-90

My Lords, I should like to ask the indulgence of your Lordships for a few words of personal explanation. Eminent persons "elsewhere" have been in the habit of turning aside from their own proper antagonists and discussing my observations. I have no objection to that practice. I only desire that they should quote correctly. I should not in general trouble your Lordships with corrections of any misquotations except where the position of the individual or the special nature of the challenge rather exposes me to the choice between doing so and of allowing it to be believed that the quotations were correct. The first person to whose quotation I demur is the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley). I observe that last night, if he is properly reported, he used these words— Do my hon. Friends below the Gangway think that any modus vivendi can be found between us and Gentlemen opposite who are in favour of 20 years of coercion? [Opposition cries of 'Withdraw!'] I will withdraw that imputation," Mr. Morley replied, "as soon as I hear one single right hon. Gentleman on that Bench disavow what Lord Salisbury said in Her Majesty's Theatre. Now, my Lords, that statement of my observations is not correct. I never used these words either in Her Majesty's Theatre or in St. James's Hall. I never said that I was in favour of 20 years of coercion, and I never spoke in that sense, which is more important. The object of my observations was to show that the application of the word "coercion" to the measures recommended by us was wholly unsuitable and improper; and coercion, according to the ordinary use of the term, means legislation in restraint of liberty and directed against political disaffection. I have never, either in Her Majesty's Theatre or in St. James's Hall, recommended legislation in restraint of liberty or legislation against political disaffection. What we have desired to recommend is legislation in protection of liberty—legislation to defend the innocent population against the unlawful acts of criminal men and criminal associations. This has never been called coercion up to this time. If it is coercion, I agree with the noble Duke, whom I do not see present (the Duke of Argyll) that it ought to be recommended, not only for 20 years, but for ever, and not only in Ireland, but in every civilized country. The other correction which I humbly wish to make is directed to the observations of a gentleman who is not a subject of Her Majesty. I observe that Mr. Blaine, who, I believe, is canvassing for the exalted post of President of the Republic of the United States, did me the honour to denounce me in somewhat vigorous and un-Parliamentary terms. If it in any way assists the candidature which Mr. Blaine has in view, I trust that he will continue his denunciations of me; but I hope he will do so without misquoting entirely the observations I have made. I venture to correct him because, stated in the prominent manner in which his observations have been, I am afraid that if I did not do so it might be thought there was a shred of foundation for the language he has imputed to me. What it appears, by telegraph, he wrote yesterday is as follows:— I was referring to Lord Salisbury's declaration that the Irish might remain as they are now or emigrate. I never made any declaration of that kind, or any declaration which could be by any ingenuity or malignity tortured into that statement. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to remind you of what I did say. I said that I thought I could not recommend the expenditure of £150,000,000, because I thought that it would be too heavy a burden for the people of this country; but that if the money was to be spent it could be better spent in emigrating an additional portion of the Irish people than in buying out the landlords. I did that, as my words will show, in no sense of telling them to go if they did not like the institutions under which they lived. I did that on grounds of pure humanity. My words were these— I would point out to the Government that if they could only emigrate another 1,000,000 of the Irish people they might do it for a great deal less than £150,000,000 sterling. They could set them up in a distant Colony under conditions in which they would be certain to prosper. They could give them in place of present misery and agitation a bright future of industry and prosperity; and if they should spend this money in conveying a large portion of the inhabitants of the congested districts to Manitoba, the result would be magical on the social condition of the Irish people. Wages would immediately rise; rents, if they were too high, would fall. I may be wrong in my estimate of the value of emigration; but it used to be universally admitted as true that to assist men to leave a country where wages were low and employment was scarce and to go to a rich and a new country was a beneficent act. I adhere to that belief; but whether I am right or wrong, there is not the slightest ground for saying that in such a suggestion there was anything in the least degree approaching to insult to any portion of the Irish people.


My Lords, it is natural and proper that the noble Marquess should desire to give a contradiction to what he considers to be a misunderstanding or a misquotation of one of his speeches. Of course, we are placed at a considerable disadvantage. [A laugh.] The noble Lord laughs.


As the noble Earl very frequently does. [Cries of "Order!"]


I am perfectly in Order. The noble Lord laughs before he hears what I have to say. What I was about to state was that, of course, I have not the advantage of having with me a copy of the speech of the noble Marquess. If, therefore, in any remarks I am about to make I should fall into error, the noble Marquess will, perhaps, correct me, as I only speak from recollection. The noble Marquess takes exception to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley) in "another place" last night. With regard to that speech of my right hon. Friend, from a report of which the noble Marquess quotes from The Times, and which report, I presume, is substantially correct, the noble Marquess complains that my right hon. Friend ascribed to him the recommendation of 20 years of coercion. In the first place, I wish to observe that a vast deal more is made to turn upon a verbal difference than can be really sustained. My own view may be expressed in this way—just as a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, so the converse may be perfectly true. What I wish to point out to the noble Marquess is, that in the speech he made at St. James's Hall he said that after 20 years of such measures as he recommended there might come a time when you might repeal or get rid of coercive measures. If I remember rightly, those were the words used. Is it, therefore, very unreasonable that, connecting one part of the speech with another, it should be generally assumed that 20 years of resolute government—the very words used by the noble Marquess—meant 20 years of, I will not say coercion, but the kind of repressive measures to which we have been accustomed for so many years? There is no question about that. We have had a system of repressive measures towards Ireland, and the arguments that the noble Marquess is recommending a continuance of that system. For my own part, I think the inference drawn from the speech of the noble Marquess was very natural, not only because of what I believe were the words used in the latter part of the speech, but also as coupled with an announcement made by the Government of which he was the Head at the commencement of the Session. What was the policy which was recommended at the beginning of the Session, after the journey and examination by the right hon. Gentleman Mr. W. H. Smith, but the introduction of some repressive measures? When my right hon. Friend argued, as I understand he did in the other House, that the alternative to our policy is a policy of repression, such as we have pursued for many years past, and that this was the policy recommended by the noble Marquess, I must say that, notwithstanding the explanation now made by the noble Marquess, that I think my right hon. Friend was entirely justified.