THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, I do not rise for the purpose of commenting on the statement which has now been made by my noble Friend. I am sure that every one of your Lordships will feel, and the country will feel, that we may place the utmost reliance upon the personal honour and accuracy of the noble Earl; but, at the same time, I am bound to observe that his statement did not appear to me to be altogether complete. The noble Earl made it clear that the communication made to Mr. Parnell was a purely personal communication; but he omitted to explain to the 1261 House—and I am not sure he did not intend to do so—what the nature of that communication absolutely was. But, as I have said, I do not intend to make any comments upon the speech of my noble Friend. As there is no question properly before the House, and as I wish to put myself in Order, I shall conclude by moving the adjournment of the House. I am very sorry that my noble Friend who usually leads the Government in this House is absent to-night. At the same time, we have the Government represented by two noble Earls of great ability, both of them intimately connected with the administration of Ireland, and one of whom is, perhaps, almost as responsible as is the Prime Minister for the proposals which are bringing this Parliament to an end. I rise to complain of the extreme meagreness of the explanation which has been given to this House. We are in the midst of a great political crisis. It has been raging around this House for weeks and months; but hardly an echo of it has been heard within these walls. But when a Minister of the Crown comes down to tell us that our labours in this Session are to be brought suddenly to a close, and that the Parliament so lately elected is to be dissolved, although we ourselves are not personally interested in the Dissolution of Parliament, as of course our seats are independent of personal election, I think it is scant courtesy to this House that the Government should not utter one word of explanation as to the causes which have led to this serious inconvenience to the course of Public Business. They do not tell us why this Parliament is dissolved. They do not give us even a hint of the question upon which they are going to the country. I think we are fairly entitled to ask—what is the question upon which an appeal is to be made to the constituencies? I do not for a moment question or dispute the right of the Government to advise Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament. I was myself, some years ago, a Member of a Government which took refuge in what may be called a penal Dissolution of Parliament. The Cabinet of Lord Palmerston, in consequence of an adverse vote of the House of Commons on the Chinese Question, suddenly dissolved Parliament in the middle of a Session and appealed to the country; but there was no question what 1262 the issue then was. It was whether the Executive Government had or had not committed a great mistake in foreign policy, whether the people would or would not support Lord Palmerston in the energetic action he had taken against the Chinese Government. My Lords, there is no parallel between this case and that. I cannot help feeling that, although there have been no measures before this House, that is no excuse for the total and absolute silence of the Government upon a great Constitutional question. There are three or four questions which the independent Members of this House have a right to put to the Government. I believe the latest definition of the question on which an appeal is to be made to the country is whether or not there shall be "an Irish Parliament for the management of affairs specifically and exclusively Irish." These are the words under which has been last defined the question which has been put to Parliament and is now to be put to the country. I find no meaning in these words by themselves—things "specifically and exclusively Irish." I want to know from the Government what they mean by these words. Is it exclusively an Irish question that every Irishman shall be able to go to his bed without the fear of being dragged out of it and murdered before his family? Is that a matter which is exclusively and peculiarly Irish? I want to know that from the Government. Is it an exclusively Irish question that commercial companies shall be free to trade with all the world and with the subjects of the Queen, and to perform their commercial duties to the community without violent interruption? Is that also an exclusively and peculiarly Irish affair? Then I want to know whether Irish shopkeepers are to be entitled to deal with all classes and ranks of the Irish people? Is that an Irish matter exclusively and peculiarly? Is that a matter of which we are to wash our hands and hand it over to an Irish Parliament? Is that the subject upon which the Government is to appeal to the people of this country, and with regard to which they will have the hearts of the populace with them? Then I want to know if it is peculiarly an Irish question that the Irish Judges and the Irish magistrates shall be able to administer justice without being 1263 bought out and bought off by Parliament? Is that also a peculiarly Irish and an exclusively Irish affair? I want to go to the meaning of these words. I want that the people should understand, and we have a right to understand, what the Government mean when they are dissolving Parliament on this question—this enigmatical question. Then, I want to know, further, whether Irish landlords should be secured in rents which have been fixed by an Imperial Court appointed by Parliament under the authority of the Crown? Is it a peculiarly and exclusively Irish affair that honour should be kept with these proprietors after the manner in which their property has been dealt with? Is it an exclusively Irish affair that Irish farmers should be able to sell their cattle and their produce to whom they please, and that they should take land from whom they please—that is to say, provided those persons have the lawful right to dispose of it—and that farmers should go to the Land Court without the Land Court being threatened and the Registrars being threatened? Perhaps the Lord Chancellor will tell us whether these are peculiarly Irish affairs, and whether the honour of the Imperial Parliament is involved in these questions. Well, my Lords, there is another question which I wish to ask with regard to the policy of the Government, which is quite as important as those I have already put. We have been told that it was part of the policy of the Government—and I really believe that this was the origin of their scheme—to restore the efficiency of the British Parliament by excluding the Irish Members. That was the foundation of their scheme; has that provision been dropped? Are you going to the constituencies upon the question whether or not there shall be one Imperial Parliament, or whether there shall be two Parliaments, one essential condition of which is that the British Parliament shall be free from the obstruction of the Irish Members? That is one of the great boons you held out to us to be gained by your scheme. Have you been paltering with the question during the last month, and what is the present condition of your mind in regard to it? Surely the people of this country have the right to know this? How can they answer your appeal in the highest interests of the nation without 1264 knowing your answer to this fundamental question? Is it your plan now that the Irish Members shall indeed be excluded, but that they shall be now and then invited to appear as an excursion party is invited to take luncheon in one of your Lordships' parks? Is that your plan? And if it is, is every such invitation to be a matter of debate; and, if it is, will you have disembarrassed the Imperial Parliament of obstruction? Will not the subject provoke Party animosity and Party organization? What is your determination? Nothing can be more important, nothing can be more fundamental than this question, and so far the public are absolutely bamboozled; they know nothing. But I believe they are not more bamboozled than you are yourselves. I do not believe Her Majesty's Government know their own plan, or know what they will do. When this invitation to the Irish Members has been voted, is it your plan that it shall be compulsory? Are the Irish Members to be free to refuse your invitation, or is it to be necessary that they shall accept it? Everything depends upon these questions, but we know nothing whatever about the answer. Are the subjects to be defined upon which the Irish Members are to be invited to vote, or is it to be left haphazard? My Lords, if that is the plan of the Government, it is a plan involved in hopeless confusion; and I say that this House and the constituencies of the country and the people of the Realm have a right to know what the plan is upon which an appeal is now to be made. In short, my Lords, I ask, Is the British Constitution to be torn to pieces, and to be left to the mere chance of being put up again? Nothing less than this is involved in the questions which I now put. Then I have another question to put. We have heard a great deal—and much is to be attributed to my noble Friend the President of the Council—of the opinion of at least some Members of the Government being pledged as a matter of honour that the purchase scheme shall be an inseparable part of the Government scheme. I want to know whether this is still your determination? Are you, or are you not, appealing to the country not having made up your own minds whether it is inseparable or not? Is it possible that after several of the most prominent Members of the Government, 1265 including my noble Friend the President of the Council, have distinctly declared that there is an honourable obligation on Parliament, in the event of a separate Legislature being set up in Ireland, to see that those whose property we have good reason to know will be dealt with by that Body shall be offered a purchase by Government—is it possible that that declaration is to be withdrawn because of the position of the Government in certain quarters, and on the pretext that the offer has been made to the proprietors of Ireland, and that they have refused it? Who was entitled to make that offer? No Government; only Parliament. Not even the Prime Minister was entitled to say—"I have made you this offer, and because you do not choose to support me at this moment I will say that I have made an offer and you have refused it." No Prime Minister, no Cabinet, has a right to say that. Such an offer as this cannot be made except by the authority of Queen, Lords, and Commons; and I ask, Has it been made, and will you venture to say that any proprietor in Ireland has had it in his power to accept or refuse it? My Lords, I say the people of this country are entitled to know whether you do or do not appeal to them knowing and avowing that this honourable obligation is one which you are prepared to accept on the responsibility and on the faith of your Government. No answer has been given to this. If you are getting out of your obligation, who is it that has absolved you? I hold it to be an honourable obligation, and I will not believe that the President of the Council, at least, will back out of the declarations that have been made. Then there is another question I would like to ask my noble Friend. We had a short discussion the other night in which he told us—I am afraid only too truly—that the evils of Ireland have arisen mainly from the necessary evils of Party government in this country. I am afraid he was only too near the truth. Are he and his Colleagues not continuing the very worst evils of Party government in the course they have taken, and can they appeal to the country upon the assurance that the evils of violence, of factions, will be less in Ireland under their proposals than they are in the United Parliament of the United Kingdom? Are not events teaching us, even at the present moment, 1266 the same lessons that were taught for so long and so sad a number of generations? Is this your policy, my Lords, to wash your hands of all responsibility in regard to the affairs of Ireland, to say, We cannot tell that the parties will not play into each other's hands, and will not make this question a question of Party organization and manœuvre? Samuel Johnson, in a letter to a young man, once said—"If you wish to acquire a purely English style give your days and nights to the pages of Addison." In a like spirit a very enthusiastic and gushing friend of mine, who is in favour of Home Rule, wrote to me some months ago—"If you wish to understand the Irish Question and the duty of this country to Ireland, give your days and nights to the pages of Edmund Burke." Well, that was a very agreeable prescription; I have given myself to the pages of Edmund Burke. Those pages are full of incomparable dignity and wisdom. I have seen many passages of his which I could have cut out and applied either to my own arguments or to those of my opponents; but my conscience always obliged me to confess that by the context of these passages it was perfectly clear that Edmund Burke was thinking and speaking of a condition of things which was absolutely different from that which now exists. He was speaking and thinking of a small Protestant Parliament, with the mass of the nation excluded from representation. He was thinking of the rights of the Irish people to be emancipated and to become Members of their own Legislature. He was thinking of the monstrous iniquities perpetrated by the trading classes of this country in the exclusion of Free Trade from the Irish people. He was not thinking of anything which is comparable to the condition of things with which we have now to deal. But there is one passage, written by him towards the close of his life, which I can confidently recommend to your Lordships' reading as having some reference to the present condition of affairs. Burke was at the time one of those who were in favour of the Parliament of 1782. As an Irishman, he rejoiced at the election of that independent Parliament; but in the year before his death, in a letter to the Rev. Dr. Hussey, he recognized the danger of that which you are now wishing to do— 1267 washing your hands of the responsibility of Irish affairs, by handing them over to an exclusively Irish Parliament. Let me read his impressive words to this House—Ireland has derived some advantage from its independence of the Parliament of this Kingdom, or rather it did derive advantage from the arrangements that were made at the time of the establishment of that independence. But human blessings are mixed, and I cannot but think that even these great blessings were bought dearly enough when, along with the weight of the authority, they have totally lost all benefit from the superintendence of the British Parliament. Our pride of England is succeeded by fear. It is little less than a breach of Order even to mention Ireland in the House of Commons of Great Britain. If the people of Ireland were to be flayed alive by the predominant faction it would be the most critical of all attempts so much as to discuss the subject in any public assembly upon this side of the water. If such a faction should hereafter happen by its folly or its iniquity, or both, to promote disturbances in Ireland, the Force paid by this Kingdom—supposing our own insufficient—would infallibly be employed to redress them. This would be right enough, and, indeed, our duty, if our public Councils at the same time possessed and employed the means of inquiring into the merits of that cause in which their blood and treasure were to be laid out.Is that the condition of things to which you wish to reduce Ireland by handing over all its affairs to the local Parliament and washing your hands of all responsibility? My Lords, look at the speech delivered the other night in "another place" by Mr. Parnell. He himself said that if terrible abuses arose the power would be in your hands, and, strangely inconsistent with the nonsense that is now talked about coercion, he went on to say that power is the basis of all government, and force the ultimate remedy which, in the case of such abuses, you must resort to. Then there is the last question which I wish to ask, and which pieces on to these observations of Mr. Parnell. Are the Irish people to be left to the coercion of the lawless masses? That is what I want to know. Is this the question upon which the Government are appealing to the people of this country, or are new laws sanctioning this lawless coercion to be sanctioned by the Crown of this country? Is the Land League, with all its vast machinery of cruelty and coercion—that great instrument of coercion—are you going to allow it to be set up by local laws in Ireland? I want to know what are the issues you are to 1268 place before the country upon these great questions? It is not a question whether we shall agree to any rational scheme of local government. I should be willing to consider any scheme of local government which is rational in its outlines; but we have no such scheme presented to us. The scheme of the Government was a confessed abortion. If you are to set up a local Legislature in Dublin I should give it liberal powers in respect of all those subjects which come under the denomination of municipal government. I would keep absolutely on the foundation of universal law all those rights of property and of free contract and freedom between man and man which in the Constitution of the United States have been carefully preserved and placed under the high sanction of a great and noble Judicial Body. But as regards the administration of local affairs in the municipal sense of the word, I would give them large powers, and I am not very sure that I would refuse, if they wished it, to give them the power of trying the experiment of protective duties. I firmly believe that the desire for Protection, be it wise or be it delusive, has a strong hold of the Irish people, and it is quite possible that by means of Protection they might be able to begin manufactures which would not otherwise arise. I should not object to see that experiment tried; but I protest against a scheme such as that which the Government proposed, and which involves nothing but utter confusion in all the relations of human life. I deny that the Government are dealing with the people fairly and justly on the subject of local government in Ireland. I deny it altogether; and I maintain that unless they interpret more clearly the vague phrases into which they have been driven for the purpose of cajoling and threatening the present Parliament they cannot say that they are dealing with the constituencies of the country upon a fair and honourable issue.
§ Moved, "That the House do now adjourn."—(The Duke of Argyll.)
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (the Earl of KIMBERLEY)
My noble Friend behind me complains that your Lordships have been treated with scant courtesy, and that no reason has been given for the advice tendered to 1269 the Queen to dissolve Parliament. That reason has been fully stated; it is known to the country and the House; and it is that the Government was beaten in the House of Commons by a considerable majority on Monday night upon a measure which certainly is not unknown to my noble Friend, because he has discussed it at length, upon a measure which was debated as fully and amply as any measure ever was debated, and upon a measure which, whatever my noble Friend may say, is not a "confessed abortion," because it is one upon which we have had some support in the other House, and still more in the country. ["No, no!"] I am aware that it has not much support in this House; but I hope your Lordships will listen to me while I say a few words in reply to my noble Friend. My noble Friend evidently thinks that this is an opportunity which ought to be seized by Her Majesty's Government, as it has been seized by himself, for making an electoral Manifesto. I doubt whether, when no Bill is before the House, this is the place where an electoral Manifesto ought to be made. My noble Friend has made his Manifesto, and he has made it by discussing a Bill which is not before this House.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
The noble Duke went into detail, and condemned the Bill as a confessed abortion. That being his opinion of it, I wonder he paid so much attention to its provisions. My noble Friend says that there is no issue before the country. I venture to think that there is not one who hears me, and my noble Friend least of all, who does not know what that issue is; but he seeks to obscure it by bringing forward a number of details, and asking—Are you going to do this? are you going to do that? are you going to make this exception? or are you going to abandon this detail? If the explanations given during a debate extending over many days has not satisfied him, I cannot hope to do so by any explanation that I can offer. The issue before the country is a very simple one—it is, whether you will persevere in governing Ireland entirely from this country against the wish of the majority of its inhabitants; or whether you are prepared to abandon your old system 1270 and place in the hands of the Irish people the principal portions of the government of that country for their own administration? That is a plain and distinct issue. My noble Friend says that the Government are seeking to cajole Parliament by raising unfair and obscure issues. What can be more unjust—and I do not mean this personally—more absurdly untrue than that statement? Is it an attempt to cajole Parliament when you lay before Parliament a detailed and full scheme? It may be one which you do not approve; that is another matter; but to say that it is an unfair or obscure issue is to say what I must characterize as simply absurd. The measure contained the fullest details; it contained a complete plan. My noble Friend doubts that because the Government indicated that if it came into Committee there were portions of the plan which they were willing to reconsider. I wish to know whether there was any great scheme which ever came before Parliament the details of which a Government was not bound to reconsider. And are we to be told that we submitted no plan? I contend that we submitted a full, distinct, and most intelligible plan, which has been rejected by the House of Commons, and it is because it has been rejected that we are going to appeal to the country to say whether it approves our policy or not. The scheme is before the country, and the country will have to judge whether we are to go back to the old system and to have a certain number of years—an indefinite number of years—of that which the noble Marquess opposite calls "resolute government." I will not put into the noble Marquess's mouth a single phrase which he did not use; but I interpret these words in the only way in which they can be interpreted. The history of the past interprets them. The history of the past tells us what "resolute government" means, and the history of the past tells us that in spite of resolute government you have conspicuously failed. I happened, many years before my noble Friend behind me (Earl Spencer), to hold the position of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and after I came back from that country I took the opportunity of making some remarks on one of those occasions when measures of coercion had been resorted to on the renewal of the suspension of the Habeas 1271 Corpus Act. I said that the experience I had had during two years of government in that country had convinced me that there was no such great failure on the part of the people of this country as in the government of Ireland, and that I felt strongly that we should never succeed in healing the wounds of that country until we had touched the heart of Irishmen as we never had done, and had brought them into sympathy with the people of this country. Now, whatever you may say of your "resolute" government, there is no possibility of touching the hearts of the people with that. The only way you can do it is by paying respect to the strong feeling of nationality that they possess, a feeling so strong that it overpowers every other in that country. An Englishman has no idea how strong that feeling is in Ireland; and it was not until I had experience of a great many years that I understood it. You have endeavoured to keep that feeling under from year to year. Your system of government by a small minority; your deprivation of Roman Catholics of their franchise; your overwhelming power; the circumstances of the famine; the absence of the ballot, and many other causes, tended to obscure the true state of the Irish national feeling. But from the moment you gave the people the protection of the ballot, and, still more, a full power of voting in the same way as in this country, you had set before you unmistakably what is the true feeling of the country, and that is that there is a national spirit which cannot be satisfied unless you give the people a far greater power of managing their own affairs than Ireland ever had except during the short period of Grattan's Parliament, and that was confined to one religion. That is the issue to be placed before the country. Are you going to prefer your old system—what my noble Friend calls "upholding the law?" I am for upholding the law; but when you strive to do it under the present system the spirit of the people rises against you, and then you take measures which increase the hatred of a large portion of the Queen's subjects in that country to the Queen's subjects in this. Suppose that ages have not diminished the difficulties of governing Ireland; suppose your system of government has been such that Ireland is a source of weak- 1272 ness to the Empire rather than strength; suppose that you are obliged to keep there some 25,000 soldiers and 11,000 armed police, and that in spite of all, Ireland is a constant source of embarrassment, not only in the government of that country, but in the management of the affairs of this—I ask, is it not an intelligible policy to put to the country this issue—"Will you prefer that policy which has conspicuously and continuously for centuries failed, and which has produced calamity upon calamity, or will you rather prefer to resort to another system, to allow Irishmen to govern themselves?" My noble Friend, referring to what Mr. Parnell said in a recent speech, stated that Mr. Parnell contemplated that it might be necessary for the new Irish Government to resort to a new Coercion Act. I suppose no rational man can deny that the Irish Government may have to employ force in the management of their affairs, as every other Government has to do occasionally. But my noble Friend misses the point. The question is, who is to apply that force—is it to be applied by the Irish Government under the influence and consent of the Irish people, or is it to be applied by what they term an alien Government——
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
The National League, I apprehend, represents the national feeling. ["No!"] Well, when there is a National Government in Ireland the National League will no longer exist. But however mischievous an association of that kind becomes when in antagonism to English feeling, there is reason to believe that with an Irish Parliament it would cease to exist. All the measures which are taken under the present system against agrarian crime are set down by Irish feeling, not to a proper and just desire on the part of the Government to maintain the law, but to a desire for oppressive measures on the part of an alien people. It is for the purpose of remedying that state of things, and of disconnecting ourselves from it, and it is for the purpose of relieving ourselves from the consequences of maladministration, thinking, as we do, that the Government of the country would be far better conducted by the people themselves, that we have proposed that there 1273 should be established a separate Legislature in Dublin. The noble Duke spoke of some of the difficulties in the way of framing a Legislature, and of the reservations necessary to be made. I am not going to undervalue those difficulties. It is certainly not a light matter to reconcile Imperial requirements with local wants, but we think that these questions can be solved. We have made an attempt to solve them in the measure we have put before the House of Commons. We believe that although you may part with some portion of your power, although you may no longer have in your hand all the strings of government in Ireland, yet, in point of fact, Imperial unity may be preserved. The noble Duke also made an appeal to my noble Friend behind me upon the Land Question. My Lords, I do not think it a convenient doctrine that any one Member of the Government should be considered responsible for any part of the policy of the Government. For my part I do not hold that doctrine, and I consider myself as much responsible for that part of the policy of the Government as my noble Friend behind me. With reference to that part of the Question, I suppose it is within the competence of a Government to propose a measure intended to benefit any particular class of Her Majesty's subjects. I am not aware that it was received with any great amount of gratitude by those whom it was intended specially to relieve.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My evidence is entirely negative. I never heard of any gratitude on their part; but, of course, I should be delighted to receive some affirmative assurance. At all events, this I do know—that that Bill was an honest attempt to bring about a settlement of a very difficult and a very important question; and I should be extremely sorry to have it supposed that because we may not have been able actually to bring that Bill before Parliament the Government had therefore abandoned all the principles upon which the Bill rests. As yet the matter has never been discussed, and my view is that, while I consider the principles upon which the Bill is based are sound, there is one preliminary question to determine, upon which we ask the decision of the 1274 country—namely, is there to be a separate Legislature for Ireland or not? And when we know the answer to that question we shall know how to deal fairly and justly with all classes.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble Earl has referred to some words of mine in which I advocated a continuous and resolute government for Ireland, and he takes great exception to those words and seems to think I recommended something of a very horrible description. Well, I will put this simple test to the noble Earl. Am I to assume that the noble Earl wishes for 20 years of irresolute government? I have no doubt that if the prescriptions of the noble Earl and the Government are followed, that will be the probable result. But a Government must be either irresolute or resolute, and if you cry out so angrily because resolute government, which I should imagine is recognized as a virtue in all countries of the world, is recommended for your adoption, the only conclusion it is possible to draw is that in your mind irresolute government is preferable. The noble Earl has, it appears to me, answered very imperfectly the stringent questions put to him by the noble Duke. He has not at command that wealth of ambiguous language which would have enabled him to appear to answer them without leaving any distinct impression on his hearers' minds, and he is therefore obliged to resort to the more common-place device of ignoring the questions altogether. He was asked to give an account of what is the real state of the mind of the Government in the first place as to the question of the purchase of the landlords' interest in Ireland. Upon that he tells us absolutely nothing, except that he intended to do justice whatever happens. But he did not allude to that statement of the noble Earl the late Viceroy of Ireland, that it would be a mean and cowardly thing to leave the landlords without compensation. We wish to know if the Government are still in that same mind, and if we are to look upon this effort to relieve themselves from the performance of a mean and cowardly action as a part of the policy they recommend to the people of this country? But there is a more important point still. We never have been able to ascertain the state of the mind of the Government with respect to the 1275 presence of the Irish Members in the House of Commons; which touches the much larger question, What is the state of the mind of the Government with respect to the amount of supervision which the English Parliament is to exercise in reference to the new Legislature at Dublin? That is a vital question. It concerns deeply the highest Imperial interests; it concerns the integrity of the Empire; and it concerns, above all, the interests of those minorities to whom the noble Earl paid so little attention in his speech; whether the minority in Ireland is treated fairly or not, whether the elementary rights of property are observed, whether contracts are upheld, or whether a new and sinister ascendancy is established. Those things depend entirely on whether you reserve power in the last resort—power, real, practical, efficacious—in the hands of the British Parliament. On that point the noble Earl gave us no indication whatever, and we do not know now whether the Government is going to the country in favour of an Irish Parliament practically independent of that which sits at Westminster, or in favour of an Irish Parliament which will be subordinate to, and controlled by, that which sits at Westminster. The difference is vital and essential; and yet on that most vital and essential point we can obtain no indication of the wishes of the Government, or of the issues they desire to submit to the people. My Lords, that is really a point which excites most keenly and most immediately the interests of the people of this country upon this question. The noble Earl talked again and again of allowing the Irish people to govern themselves. Do you suppose it is because they have a horror of governing themselves that these loud congratulations have been heard from Belfast, Londonderry, and many other towns in the North of Ireland? This phrase "governing yourselves" is a miserable sort of sophistry. To tell a whole population, when their dearest rights are submitted to the absolute control of their hereditary enemies, that they are governing themselves, is to add the deepest insult to the grossest injury. I see no comfort in the argument with which the noble Earl recommended this measure which the Government has failed to pass. The argument he pressed most of all was that the Irish people, or 1276 the majority of the Irish people, would have no more of the system which exists now, and that they insisted on change. Well, then, carry your minds a few years forward. See the precautions and safeguards which are intended to protect the minority at work. See the discontent, the resistance, the rebellion they will raise in the minds of the majority, and then the noble Earl's argument will apply again, and because you will still be unable to govern Ireland without the application of force, again the Government of the day will, according to the precedent of the noble Earl's argument, come down to Parliament and ask that even these small and poor precautions and guarantees should be abandoned. You must make up your minds on this point. Is there anywhere you mean to stand? Have you renounced the exercise of your Imperial power altogether? Are you merely prepared to stand on that which the Irish people are prepared to tolerate? Or is there anything which, in the supreme interests of justice and good faith, and of the claims that have been made especially upon you by those who have fought your cause—is there anything for which you are prepared at all hazards to contend, no matter how bitter the opposition from the majority of the Irish people? That is the real issue you have to determine, and when the noble Earl tells us that what he wishes to bring into existence is a national form of government, if it could be a national form of government in which all classes could heartily concur, and if there was every ground for believing that they would preserve towards each other consideration and goodwill, there might be much to say for his contention. But the national form of government will be what the national form of government has hitherto been. The national form of government will have that one-sidedness and hardness, that contempt of legal rights, that recollection of hereditary feuds which characterize the form of government the National League has been carrying on in Ireland; and the real issue that the Government is submitting to the people of this country is—Shall the Imperial Government try to fulfil its task, its allotted task, of governing Ireland, and insuring justice between man and man, or shall it abandon the minority of the people in that country to be governed in obedience to the instigation 1277 of hereditary animosity upon the methods which the dominant Party in Ireland have up to this time shown themselves only too ready to adopt? That is the issue which the people have to decide, and until, by the exercise of British power, and by that continuous and resolute government which the noble Earl so much despises, this terrible wound shall have been healed, and this divided people brought more closely together, it will be hopeless for you to expect that the methods which have answered with a homogeneous people such as we have in this country will restore peace and happiness to Ireland.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (Earl SPENCER)
The noble Duke behind me has asked what is the policy of the Government with regard to land in Ireland. I have always held that one of the most important parts of the Irish difficulty was that connected with the land. I have always felt that without settling the Land Question you could not hope to settle the Irish Question. Various attempts have been made to settle the Land Question, but without success. I attribute their failure, to a great extent, to the fact that they were not supported by the general sentiment of the people. I do not say that the measures which have been passed have been abortive; they have removed some of the grievances; but they have not effected a complete settlement. I maintain the views I have always held as to the great importance of settling the Land Question. We now, no doubt, shall approach the whole subject of English policy in Ireland from a different standpoint in consequence of the decision given in "another place" with reference to the scheme for local government. But I do not think that the Land Question will disappear; it will still remain an important, perhaps the most important, question to be settled. Until it is settled in one way or another, it must be difficult to establish peace and order in Ireland. The noble Marquess referred in a pointed manner, while the noble Earl near me was speaking, to the National League, and implied that the future Government of Ireland would be the National League. I have been brought frequently in contact with the League, and I have not been favourable or friendly to it, and I know that as a political organization it has done great 1278 evil. But I deny that if the policy of the Government were agreed to the government of Ireland would pass into the hands of the League. By making the people of Ireland responsible for the government of their country, you would make them responsible for law and order. The main object of the National League was to procure self-government; it was not created to maintain law and order. Its object was the very contrary of that; and I believe that if you throw upon the people the responsibility of maintaining law and order they will maintain them like all other nations, and the League will then disappear. The noble Marquess seems to suppose that we were ready to give up all our guarantees for the protection of the minority; but we never contemplated withdrawing the provisions in the Bill which contained those guarantees, and we were quite ready to listen to suggestions for strengthening and altering them if they should be thought insufficient. The policy of the Government was, no doubt, such as to throw upon them very serious responsibility. We quite acknowledge that responsibility; we quite acknowledge that the social condition of Ireland is not satisfactory; but it was because we felt it to be impossible to continue in the same groove that we decided to adopt this new policy. We were convinced that the old lines of policy must be left, and that in order to restore social order in Ireland and to unite her people firmly to this country it was necessary to take a new departure. We believe that the best thing to do was to give the Irish people the responsibility of the management of their own affairs. Our policy has been negatived in "another place;" but we confidently look forward to the time when it will be adopted by the people of this country as the only safe and certain policy by which to unite Ireland permanently to Engand.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
The noble Lords who have, on behalf of the Government, answered the noble Duke have not had a very easy task. Mr. Gladstone, we know, has explained himself seven times, and yet he has left everybody still in the dark as to his intentions; but some points have been raised as to which there should be plain speaking and plain meaning. The position taken up by the Government with reference to 1279 the Land Purchase Scheme affects the honour and public character of the noble Earl who spoke last. Some Members of the Government are more directly and personally responsible than others for certain measures; and all the explanations that could be made by his Colleagues cannot divest the noble Earl from personal obligation in connection with this particular matter. It was supposed, apparently, that the "separate Parliament," as it has been called, could not be trusted to deal fairly and equitably with the landed interest in Ireland. That idea underlay every part of the Government of Ireland Bill, and Mr. Gladstone announced that it was an inseparable part of his policy to deal with the Land Question concurrently with the other matters to which his Bills referred. Now, if the noble Earl had not publicly and ostentatiously given the sanction of his name and experience to this measure for the government of Ireland, it would have been absolutely impossible for the Prime Minister to obtain a discussion for it. Therefore, the responsibility of the noble Earl is certainly greater than that of his Colleagues, and I have a right to ask—"Does he still think that it is an inseparable part of the Government plan to deal adequately, and without delay, with the question of land purchase in Ireland?" I think the nation has a right to have a plain answer, yes or no, to this question. The noble Earl said that this Irish Land Question ought to be settled. What is the meaning of that? When and how is it to be settled? I have the Prime Minister's statement founding his whole position largely on the authority of the noble Earl that the way to settle this Land Question was, at all events, not to intrust the Irish Parliament with its settlement. Mr. Gladstone pledged himself about a month ago that it was a question of policy and a dictate of honour to deal with this question. I ask, is it still regarded by the Government as a question of honour to settle it, or has it since then vanished into the region of ever-shifting political expediency? The noble Earl the Lord President in his remarkable speech at Leeds explained the provisions of the Land Purchase Bill, demonstrated, as he thought, its fairness, and proved, from his own point of view, that the method adopted by the Government was the 1280 method required by honour towards the landowners of Ireland. To-night he says that until the Land Question is settled it is impossible to obtain peace and order in Ireland. Am I to understand that the settlement of the Land Question is to be a necessary condition precedent to any attempt to grapple with the setting up of a separate Parliament in Ireland? I have presented the matter fairly, and I hope plainly, to the Government, and I think we are entitled to something like a plain answer. I pass on to another point. The noble Earl spoke of trusting the Irish people and governing them by their own consent. What is the meaning of these vague and flimsy phrases? What do you mean by the Irish people? Who are the Irish people? Why, more than one-half of them are of English blood, a great many of them are of Scotch blood; there is great intermixture of races in Ireland; and to speak of the Irish people, and the consent of the Irish people, as of something that is one and indivisible, is perfectly absurd in regard to this legislation. When you talk of trusting the Irish people you mean that you are able to trust a certain portion of them—who have returned 85 Representatives to the other House—to govern themselves as they please, and to govern the rest of the Irish people as the rest of the Irish people do not please. When you talk of governing the Irish people with the consent of the Irish people, you mean that you will hand over Belfast, with its rich and growing community, and the most thriving parts of Ireland, to be swayed not by their own consent or their own voice, but in a way that would prevent their own consent having any potency, and would silence their own voice. The events that are happening in Ulster are regarded by us all with pain, and must be regarded by every Member of the Government who does not desire to blind himself to facts with grave and anxious forebodings. And must not the Government entertain serious anticipations as to what might occur if some of the things which they dignify by the grand term of governing the Irish people by their own consent were worked out? To find the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council the apologist, the expounder, the explainer, must I add the eulogist, of the National League, and speaking of its 1281 future, is certainly a very startling and novel position of affairs. The noble Earl said they had found the men connected with the League bad in the past, and therefore they should have confidence that they would do good in the future.
§ EARL SPENCER
What I said was that if the Government Bill had been carried the National League would have been at once dissolved.
§ A noble LORD: What ground has the noble Earl for that statement?
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I was aware that the noble Earl spoke for the Government; but it seems he has authority to speak also for the National League. It has been remarked in the course of the discussion that the Bill would hand over the government of Ireland to the National League, and the sentiment was adopted by the noble Earl the Secretary of State.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I deny that I adopted the sentiment. I said that the National League, which, to a certain extent, represented the Irish people, would be replaced by a National Government.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I readily listen to anything that falls from noble Lords, especially in the way of personal explanation. I did think that the Lord President of the Council was the explainer, or an expounder, or an excuser, or an extenuator, or, at all events, a prophet in reference to the National League. I wish to ask whether the Irish Members are to be summoned to the Imperial Parliament and to take part in its deliberations at all times and on all Business, and whether their presence there is to be the outward and visible sign of the unity of the Empire? That is a plain Question. Because if they are not this Parliament will be a kind of mongrel Body such as never existed before. If the Irish Members are only to be invited to come if they please, if they do not choose to come and their presence is necessary to the transaction of Business for which they are invited, what is to happen? It is said that the proposed Irish Parliament is to be a subordinate Parliament; but if you hand over to it almost all the principal functions of Parliament in reference to Ireland that is a matter of Constitutional compact, and the compact will make the subordinate Parliament practically supreme 1282 in reference to those functions. I am not speaking of the mere technical effects; but do you mean to retain the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament by having always present in it for all purposes some Representatives from Ireland? That is a fair and reasonable Question to put; and I trust that as this debate has been inaugurated some Member of the Government will yet be found to give it some direct answer.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord HERSCHELL)
The noble and learned Lord who has just sat down has alluded to a few matters on which I desire to say a few words. I do not, of course, wish to repeat what has been said by my noble Friends who have already spoken. My noble and learned Friend touched upon the disturbances in Ulster, which we all deeply deplore, and he put the blame of those disturbances solely and entirely upon the introduction of the measure which has been discussed and defeated "elsewhere."
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Yes, the noble and learned Lord expressed regret; but let me say that if there is a responsibility on the part of those who introduce a measure that may excite people there is no less a responsibility on the part of those who oppose and endeavour to defeat that measure for the language which they use. And language has been used in opposition to the measure which has been calculated to arouse and excite passion and which has served, I do not say to encourage violence, but to encourage men to think that there are occasions on which violence is not only excusable but justifiable. I say that such language is dangerous. I have never myself uttered language—and I trust I never shall—without reflecting upon what use may be made of my language afterwards; because this is a matter upon which not a single word can be uttered without incurring responsibility; and we may do the most serious mischief even if for the purpose of defeating a measure to which we are strongly opposed we employ language which may be turned to purposes which we entirely condemn. Therefore, I think I shall have the sympathy of all your Lordships when I say that those who deal with this question, from whatever point of view they regard it, should 1283 weigh well the words they are using and remember that however sanguine they may be as to the issue to be hereafter determined no man should use words in relation to it without having in view either result. To use language such as is used with regard to this measure or any measure like it would have the most grievous and the most dangerous results. An appeal has been made to me by the noble Duke as to whether I consider that a defiance of law and order on the other side of the Channel was a matter which has been left to them as concerning them alone, and as to which we could wash our hands and take no manner of interest in it. I understood, I confess with astonishment, the noble Duke to quote with apparent approval the words of Mr. Burke—words which struck me as strange—suggesting that with a separate Legislature in the Sister Island the people in this part of the United Kingdom would view with complete indifference the flaying alive of their brethren on the other side of the Channel, and that the question could not be discussed in any public Assembly on this side of the Channel. Those were strange words to be written by Mr. Burke, even in his later years, and it is strange to us to find that they meet with the approval of the noble Duke. He seems to think, even at this time of day, touched as we are with the electric shock of sympathy, that we should be indifferent, with a separate Legislative Body in Dublin, and unless there was complete legislative union between the two countries, as to what happened to the weal or the woe of the people there. I trust and I believe that that would never be the case, whether the complete legislative union which exists continues or whether it ceases to exist. I am certain that it is impossible to be indifferent to such a state of things if it were to arise. The noble Duke asks whether it is no concern of this country whether the law is to be defied or not? Undoubtedly it is the concern of this country; but this defiance of the law of which he speaks has come into existence, has been seen to flourish, and it has been impossible to arrest it under the existence of the institutions which it is now suggested may be capable of some amendment. What moral does the noble Duke draw from the fact? He suggests that that state of things might exist if you had a separate Legislature in Ireland; 1284 but it exists now, and we have not been able to prevent its existence with all our efforts and with all our repressive measures. What is the moral that has been drawn by those who desire a change? It is that, notwithstanding all our efforts, we have failed to bring the people of Ireland into harmony and sympathy with law and order, and to some extent to enforce the law and make it respected. We might be right or we might be wrong as to whether some such change as is proposed would improve matters in that respect; but surely it is not an argument against it to say that now under the existing laws and institutions the law is not respected and the people do not sympathize with it. But it is asked if it is not the first duty of a Government to enforce the law and make it respected? Certainly it is the first duty of a Government to make the law respected; but is it the only duty? Suppose you can suppress all outward manifestations of disorder, suppose you can limit the extent and the area of crime, but supposing you did it in such a manner as to make the people of the country you were governing hate you more and more—suppose you make them suffer, it may be mistakenly, suppose you affect their moral nature in such a way that, instead of sympathizing with the detection of crime, they sympathize with crime itself—would you be performing all your duties as the Governors of the country, would you be satisfied to say—"We have done all we could for the happiness and the contentment of the people, and their respect for the laws, or their sympathy with them, is a matter of absolute indifference to us; we wash our hands of these things; let us have legislation to repress crime and outrage?" That is not the sole and exclusive duty of a Government; they have a duty beyond that, perhaps of a higher character than that. Both those duties the Government must endeavour to perform, but oftentimes the duty is performed with the utmost difficulty. My noble and learned Friend has referred to certain matters in regard to the proposals of the Government, and he desired some information. If the Government or any other persons, desiring to introduce, as they believe, a change for the better in the mode of making and administering the laws in Ireland, were to profess to have introduced a scheme which had completely solved the problem, which should 1285 not be open to such criticisms as would allow it to be amended by the assistance and the association of those who endeavoured with them to make it better, they would not be worthy the name of a Government; they would be a set of obstinate pedants who would shut their ears to the criticisms and their hearts to the assistance which they would have a right to expect from all interested in the legislation of the country. It seems to me the most unwise thing for a Government on such a grave question to introduce a measure and say—"These are our ideas; nothing else than these will be sanctioned." It is surely the wiser course to say—"We propose a scheme; we are ready to accept the assistance of all who believe the end to be a desirable one, and in any way capable of accomplishment; help us to make this scheme better, remove its difficulties, and bring it into a more satisfactory and acceptable position." That is the course which the Government have taken, and it is consistent with the introduction of the scheme by themselves. It is the wisest course to put forward their scheme as the scheme to work upon, and at the same time to accept the assistance of others to make it complete. As to the extent to which it is expedient that such a scheme should be altered, and the necessity for retaining the Irish Members in the Parliament here, it seems to me that it is ridiculous to speak of that as a point on which it was possible for any Government to go to the country with a definite plan which they were going to say they would adhere to and not alter. It is a difficult question. I do not say that it is impossible of solution that for some purposes you should have Irish representation in the Imperial Parliament; but for all purposes, and to say to what extent, is a matter, I maintain, which is not vital to any scheme which is suggested by the Government for consideration to Parliament. The truth is that there has been hitherto, I suppose until to-night, between many a complete gulf—those who believe that a considerable change is needed to be made, and might safely be made, and those who thought that the union of the two countries for legislative purposes should remain as at present. I confess that we have seen a striking change. I should not have dreamt a short time ago of hearing the noble Duke who introduced this discussion get up and speak of 1286 a Legislative Body in Dublin for municipal purposes of a wide and extensive kind, giving it even the power, beyond all municipal power, of imposing protective duties upon their manufactures. A great step has been taken when the noble Duke, who maintains that no change should be made in the Legislative Union between the two countries, is prepared to yield so much as that. The great bulk of those opposed to the Government who defeated them in the other House a few nights ago have expressed themselves as not opposed to all change in the Legislative Union which now exists; and that, it seems to me, is a plain and clear issue. The extent, the degree, and the details are matters which necessarily must be left; but will they be left whenever this question is taken up for consideration? In reference to the Land Purchase Bill, my noble and learned Friend asked—"Will you undertake to introduce it concurrently with the proposal giving legislative powers to Ireland?" That is a Question which the noble and learned Lord can hardly expect to receive an answer to, or, indeed, can hardly think that he has a right to an answer.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Because, if they are inseparable, it does not follow that it would be wise to introduce the Land Bill concurrently or consecutively. For my own part, I have never for a moment concealed the view which I entertain of the enormous importance of a settlement of the Land Question, whether you are going to give legislative powers to Ireland or whether you are going to withhold them. I do not believe in either case that you can hope for anything like a peaceful condition of that country until you have arrived at some settlement of the Land Question apart from giving legislative powers to Ireland. But I believe that the giving of legislative powers makes it easier for the settlement to be carried out. I do not think any Member of the Government has ever withdrawn any statement or speech he made on the subject. I would remind my noble and learned Friend of the use which is being made, not by Radical, but by Conservative orators, of the Land Purchase Bill. My noble and learned Friend expresses a doubt as to whe- 1287 ther that Bill had not been accepted by those who were supposed to be opposed to it. I have not seen any symptom of it. I have seen that those who one would have supposed considered it was a step in the right direction, whether you had an Irish Government Bill or not, have used the Land Bill for the purpose of defeating the Government of Ireland Bill. They have not discussed it on its merits; they have tried to exaggerate its dangers. The time may come, whether an Irish Government Bill be carried or no, that they may have cause to regret the course they have taken. They have tried to exaggerate dangers and also the burden it would be likely to cast upon the people of this country; they have trid to frighten them and to suggest that a tremendous sum of money would have to be given to the landlords at the expense of the people of this country; and they have thus tried to make it difficult to arrive at a settlement of the Land Question. It would well become not only noble Lords but others who take an interest in this question to weigh well the words they use. A Land Bill may be a useful weapon to fight a Government of Ireland Bill with; but it is a dangerous use to make of it; and the time may come when, a Government of Ireland Bill having been passed, those who have so used a Land Bill may bitterly regret having taken a course which may make the settlement of the question more difficult. Noble Lords will understand what I mean when I urge this consideration, which I do as one most desirous to see the Land Question settled on a fair basis. It is not only a landlord's question, but it is one which affects the peace, the order, and the contentment of the country. I have ventured to trouble your Lordships with these observations in consequence of what has been said, and I have endeavoured to express to you, so far as I could, the views of the Government.
§ LORD HALSBURY
I concur with the Lord Chancellor in the remark he made with reference to the extreme care and caution with which one should guard one's utterances in discussing questions which excite men's feelings. If you apply the word coercion to laws for the suppression of crime, and directed against murder and outrage, what do you expect the persons against whom these laws are directed to say of them? 1288 I should have thought it was the interest of all to recognize murder, robbery, cruelty, and wrong as things which it was the duty of the community to suppress, and not to regard the legislation against them as coercion any more than the laws under which prisoners are tried at the Assizes. The noble and learned Lord appeared to misunderstand the Question which was addressed to him. It was not what would the Bill of the Government be; but it was, what in the opinion of the Government is the issue to be submitted to the country? That is a totally different Question. Then, is it the intention of the Government, if they have a majority in the next House of Commons, to introduce a Bill establishing a Legislature in Ireland, with respect to which the Government themselves feel that the Land Question cannot be left to them to settle? These are Questions to which, so far, no answer has been given. Vague expressions of a wish that the Land Question should be settled mean nothing. The Government may have found that a proposal to spend from £50,000,000 to £200,000,000 may have a bad effect on the constituencies, and, therefore, they will not say what they will do, and will neither admit nor deny that this is still part of their scheme. Surely, when the people are appealed to, it is not unreasonable to ask what is the general line of policy adopted by the Government. Is it the fact that you are still committed to a scheme of government in Ireland establishing an independent Legislature, to which you dare not, as a matter of justice, intrust the settlement of the Land Question, and is it to be settled by the Imperial Legislature at a cost of from £50,000,000 to £200,000,000? This is one of the Questions lying on the surface, and it is a Question to which we have the right to expect a plain answer from Her Majesty's Government.
§ EARL STANHOPE
appealed to the Government to say whether the Irish Parliament was to be subordinate to the Imperial Parliament? He also asked what ground there was for asserting that the Land League would disappear as soon as an Irish Parliament was established? It could not be put down by a stroke of the pen, but some of its proceedings could be made illegal. None of the Prime Minister's legislation for Ireland had produced the results that 1289 had been expected from it; but had been distinct failures. If he received no answer to his inquiry, it must be assumed that no Member of the Cabinet could give a reply except the Prime Minister, and that the Bill was the proposal only of the "one man power."
§ On Question? Resolved in the negative.