§ The QUEEN'S SPEECH reported by The LORD CHANCELLOR.
§ *THE EARL OF DENBIGH (who wore the uniform of an officer of the Royal Artillery)
My Lords, in rising to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to thank her for her Gracious Speech from the Throne, I hope I may remind your Lordships that the duty of moving and seconding this Address is, I believe, almost invariably entrusted to two of the more junior Members of your Lordships' House who cannot claim to have any, or at all events but little, experience in the matter of addressing this august assembly; and consequently, my Lords, your indulgence is always 23 asked for, and is always as readily conceded. But, my Lords, I feel that to-day I have perhaps a somewhat extra claim upon your generous consideration, because on ordinary occasions the Mover and Seconder of the Address to Her Majesty are able to apply their remarks to the future policy of the Government as foreshadowed in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech; but unfortunately on this occasion, as your Lordships will have perceived, I am afraid that course is open neither to me nor to the noble Earl who follows me. And perhaps I may ask your Lordships' permission to depart therefore from the usual precedent which has generally been followed, and, instead of applying myself entirely to prospective issues, to cast more retrospective glances at what has been done in the past history of the Government. My Lords, looking back at the last Session of Parliament I think that we who sit on this side of the House and support the Government of the noble Marquess may lay just claim to the fact that there has been a steady continuance of that policy of wise and beneficent legislation which has distinguished this Government during the last six years of its holding office. Perhaps, my Lords, one of the most important Acts which was passed during the last Session of Parliament—at all events, an Act which may be described as striking out an almost entirely new line of legislation—was that important Act for the purpose of facilitating the creation of small agricultural holdings. My Lords, we cannot claim for this Act, as can be claimed for many other important Parliamentary Acts, that there will at once be seen far-reaching and important changes throughout the country as a consequence of the Act. We may rather say that its results, which we hope will be effectual, cannot be other than very gradual; and it is quite possible that to mere casual observers its effects will not be very patent for some time to come; but still, at the same time, we regard it as an honest and conscientious experiment in the direction of endeavouring to solve a difficulty and of supplying a want which is very considerably felt by a large section of Her Majesty's subjects. I 24 am afraid, my Lords, that the success of this measure may be said to be somewhat in danger, both from the action of its opponents and the action of its too zealous friends. I am afraid there are in the country, at least if we may judge from their speeches, some who would not perhaps be sorry to see it fail in order that they might be able to have a stone to fling at its authors. But there are its more zealous friends who persuade themselves that there will be an immediate considerable reduction, and a very palpable reduction, in the number of those who forsake the rural districts and crowd into our manufacturing centres. I am very much afraid that those zealous friends are doomed to a certain amount of disappointment. We hope that there will be a good many who will stay in the country and devote themselves to agricultural pursuits as a consequence of this Act of Parliament; but, still, I am afraid that the natural increase of the population of the country will so far outstrip any number of small holdings which could be artificially created by this or any other Act, that the number of those who are prevented from going into the towns will be as it were but a drop in the ocean. It has been complained, my Lords, that no principle of compulsion was embodied in this Act, and that question was very fully argued both in your Lordships' House and in another place; but I am certain that your Lordships will be strongly of opinion that it is wiser to walk before we attempt to run; and surely it is better to prove the success or even the failure of these artificially created small holdings before introducing any system of compulsion which, if it is not a sham, must inevitably do a great deal to unsettle the agricultural interest and to cause a considerable amount of insecurity of tenure in the minds of the occupiers of large farms at the present moment. My Lords, there are many other Acts of Parliament which I will not weary your Lordships by detailing at the present moment, as I have no doubt the noble Earl who follows me will apply himself to some of them; but apart from those, and apart from actual Acts of Parliament which have been dealt with by this House, I think, my Lords, 25 we can fairly also congratulate ourselves upon that great and wise policy, to which this Government devoted itself, having been continued of doing its utmost to popularise and to strengthen our Army, and to improve the condition of our soldiers; and also to add efficiently to the strength of our Navy. My Lords, I have seen a criticism on that policy of the Government which I must say I think a most unworthy one. I have seen it stated both on political platforms and in the columns of important journals that although the Government presided over by the noble Marquess can certainly say that they have not spent a penny in actual warfare since they came into office, yet they cannot deny that they have spent very large sums of money upon preparations for war in the time of peace. I said, my Lords, that I think that is an unworthy criticism—I will go further, and I say I think it is a most short-sighted and mischievous criticism. My Lords, which nation is it that would be most exposed to attack in modern days—the nation that is prepared for war, or the nation that is not? And which section of the population is it which would first feel the dire effects of such a calamity as the defeat of our Navy on the high seas? My Lords, you know very well it would not be the rich in this country, it would not he the capitalists, or the landowners, or the employers of labour, nor would it be those who have got money in the Bank; but it would be the working classes of this country, who would most assuredly be the first to feel that rise in the price of provisions and that dearth of employment which could be the only result of such a calamity as I have mentioned. My Lords, in these days of great democratic power, when the wrath of the masses is perhaps more easily aroused than it is allayed, I would not envy the feelings of any Minister at whose door it could fairly be laid that he had contributed to the defeat of the Navy by starving that Navy and by practising a false economy in order to win some cheap popularity by the introduction of what are called "popular Budgets." My Lords, perhaps your Lordships will consider that this is neither the proper time nor the proper place to make any 26 remarks about the political situation in another place; but yet I would submit to your Lordships that the prospect of future legislation which is mentioned in the third paragraph of Her Majesty's Speech is so intimately bound up with the present political situation that it is almost impossible to deal with the one and to ignore the other. I noticed the other day, my Lords, that a prominent Member of the Irish Party, speaking in Ireland, said—We have the whole strength and power of Great Britain pledged to our cause.And then he said—After six years' reflection the electorate of Great Britain has deliberately elected a majority to Parliament pledged to the demands of the Irish nation.My Lords, all I can say to that is that unless the hon. Gentleman places on geographical expressions a somewhat different interpretation from that in common use in our elementary schools, I think it is a somewhat novel way for Great Britain to show her determination to grant Home Rule by returning a majority of about fifteen against it. My Lords, there is certainly a majority of the United Kingdom returned against the policy of the present Government, and that majority is called a majority strongly in favour of Home Rule; but I think, my Lords, it is a matter of common observation how that majority has been obtained. I would submit to your Lordships that it has been obtained mainly through appealing to individual and particular classes of the electorate, and by giving those classes to understand that the particular legislation which they most desire, and which they believe will do them the most good, will forthwith be adopted and placed in the forefront of national politics. Well, my Lords, for this reason the future policy which is mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech will be watched with a considerable amount of interest, and we shall be able to judge for ourselves as to whether performance in office bears any resemblance to criticism in Opposition. I venture to say, my Lords, that there will be some considerable disappointments expressed in the various sections of the electorate. I should say that most certainly there will be very considerable disappointment in the minds 27 of those agricultural voters who have contributed so largely to the return of that gallant forty, unless they see a very speedy approach of that millennium of excellent cottages and high wages, coupled with unlimited quantities of the best land held at the minimum of rent, which is to be established by the installation of practically omnipotent parish councils. My Lords, I am not here to-day to attempt to speak against the question of what is called Home Rule for Ireland; but still I would, with your Lordships' permission, before I sit down, like just to refer to one aspect of that question. Attempts have been made, as your Lordships well know, up and down the country to try and prove to the people that the noble Marquess levelled insults at, and maligned wilfully, the Roman Catholic body of the United Kingdom. I am certain that your Lordships would consider it gross presumption on my part to attempt, in the presence of the noble Marquess, any sort of explanation of his words; but still I should like to say that I can only regard the interpretation which has been placed upon those words as very little short of a most gross calumny. I think, my Lords, that if a certain section of the Irish clergy, by certain acts and by a certain abuse of their position, have brought down upon themselves some rather sharp criticism from this side of the House they have only got themselves to blame. Then, my Lords, we have been told that one of the principal arguments against Home Rule is the fear of religious persecution. I was glad to see that the noble Duke, who sits above the Gangway opposite, (the Duke of Argyll), in one of his vigorous and eloquent addresses some two or three months ago, stated that in his opinion the talk of religious persecution was all humbug. My Lords, I venture to agree with him. I think that religious persecution in the sense in which that term was known many years ago is now-a-days impossible. It is not religious persecution that we fear; it is intolerance, not necessarily religious, hut certainly political. We do not fear intolerance against a man necessarily because he is a Catholic or a Protestant, 28 but from what we have seen in years gone by from the action of the Nationalist Party in Ireland we do fear very great intolerance against those who wish to be honest and to pay their way, and who are likely to oppose what is known as the Nationalist policy. My Lords, I am certain that everybody in your Lordships' House, and I believe nearly everybody in the country, is now willing to admit that the Catholics of Ireland in days gone by were subject to a most unjust and most cruel persecution; and, my Lords, we must remember that the memory of that persecution remains in the minds of the Irish people, and I think it is only just to make a certain amount of allowance in that regard. But still, at the same time, we must remember that we live in the nineteenth century, and not in the eighteenth or the seventeenth. We have got to look at things as they are, and are likely to be in the immediate future; we have not so much to take into consideration what they were or were not some 150 years ago; and I do most distinctly feel that, even after making all allowances that can possibly be made, it is impossible to deny that the polling-booth and the vanguard of an election mob are not the places where the clergy of any denomination can add to their self-respect, or to that esteem and power for good which by the nature of their calling should be theirs. In conclusion, my Lords, I would with all respect venture to bring before you an opinion which I can only claim as my own humble one. I certainly do feel that there is a very large section of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland who still have a great right to claim additional advantages and additional freedom in the matter of higher education, and in the matter of removing vexatious and irritating restrictions in the conduct of the management of the elementary schools. But, my Lords, I do not by any means despair of these matters being dealt with and of these boons being conceded through the generosity and the broadminded liberality of the Parliament at Westminster; and, looking to the fact how Ireland has been torn and sundered by political and religious jealousies in days gone by, and how at the present moment there are all the 29 elements for a renewal of those jealousies, I do strongly feel that in the interest of religious peace, and liberty in Ireland it would be far better for those matters to be dealt with by an independent Parliament at Westminster than by any Parliament that could be instituted at Dublin. My Lords, I have now, in conclusion, to thank your Lordships for your most kind indulgence and your kind reception of me to-day. I could not help remembering the other day a speech that was made by a noble Earl who sits on the Front Bench opposite, the late Secretary for Foreign Affairs, when he stated that it required, I think he said, a considerable amount of courage to address your Lordships' House. If my memory serves me aright, he said that your Lordships rarely applaud and never smile. Perhaps, my Lords, I may therefore be excused for having approached my task to-day with a certain amount of trepidation, and I can only thank your Lordships for having made that task so much easier than I had dared to anticipate. My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name.
§ Moved, "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for Her Most Gracious Speech from the Throne, as follows:—
§ 'MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.' "—(The Earl of Denbigh).
*THE EARL OF POWIS (who wore the uniform of a Deputy Lieutenant)
My Lords, in rising to second the Motion which has been so ably proposed by my noble Friend, I would say that it is a curious circumstance that in the year 1859, which is 33 years ago, my predecessor moved in this House the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech under circumstances almost identical with the present. My Lords, I would ask you, therefore, to accord to me that attention which you always so kindly extended to him on the few and rare occasions on which he spoke; and I would ask that it should be tempered with indulgence, 30 inasmuch as I am unable to bring to bear any of that scholastic knowledge with which he was able to amuse and interest your Lordships' House. With reference to the Gracious Speech from the Throne, I am sure that it is a source of the greatest satisfaction, not only to your Lordships' House but also to all the people of this country, to ascertain that the Parliamentary business has been so successfully completed that it will not now be necessary to detain Parliament at this unusual season of the year, and that Members of both Houses will be able to take that rest and recreation which is so necessary, not only for their health, but also for the further prosecution of their duties. My Lords, with reference to some of the beneficent legislation which has been referred to in the third paragraph of Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, I would ask you to pardon me if I give precedence to some of those measures which more closely interest the Principality in which it is both my pleasure and my privilege to dwell. By the passing of a measure, which has amply justified the hopes of its creators, the disgraceful scenes which at one time characterised the collection of tithes have been done away with, and I hope the question has now been laid to rest by the Tithe Act of 1891 once and for ever, to the satisfaction of all interested parties. I have further to congratulate Her Majesty's Government, if they will not think it presumptuous of me in doing so, upon the success which has already attended the measures which they have introduced bearing upon technical and elementary education. It is, indeed, a source of great satisfaction to the dwellers in the rural districts to observe the efforts which have been made by Her Majesty's Government to assist them in obtaining a better knowledge of those handicrafts by which they obtain their livelihood; and also to the poorer classes to find that they are now able to save the money which was formerly paid for the education of their children, either for the better clothing of their children or for their better food—or still more, for laying by a sum to start their children, when they leave school, in some trade or business. And, my Lords, this measure should largely 31 encourage thrift, inasmuch as the Post Office Savings Bank has come to its assistance. And now that I have mentioned the Postal Department, I would ask your Lordships to pardon me for an instant if I congratulate Her Majesty's Government upon having seen their way to introducing a universal and reduced rate of imperial and national postage. That subject brings me to the question of Imperial Defence; but I will not detain your Lordships long upon this subject, for the noble Lord who has just sat down has already mentioned it. I think it is a source of great satisfaction to us to know that the coaling stations and harbours of all Her Majesty's dominions have been strengthened, and also to remember that an Australian squadron has been established in southern waters with the assistance of the Colonies. I am sure that the noble Lord who rules over the destinies of our Navy in another House will allow me to congratulate him upon the efficiency of the Navy and the almost superhuman change which has been worked, not only in the number of the ships, but in their readiness to meet a foreign enemy. And as regards our Army, I am sure nothing can be more satisfactory to your Lordships than to know that every effort is being made to insure healthy quarters for the men, for, deeply as we deplore the loss of gallant soldiers in the field, it is far more terrible to hear that one of Britain's sons has perished from some malignant fever, from the fact that in time of peace an ungrateful country would not provide him with accommodation such as a man would think suitable for his dog. And I would not wish to convey the impression to your Lordships that I consider that England has been obtaining the entire advantage of the beneficent legislation which has been mentioned in the Speech from the Throne; but, my Lords, Ireland also has had a large measure of beneficent legislation, and I would ask your Lordships, therefore, to pardon me if for a few moments I dwell upon the Irish question. My Lords, we are told that a majority of the British people have demanded Home Rule. I would ask you to consider for a few moments who are the majority that have demanded 32 Home Rule. My Lords, is it in Great Britain, as the noble Lord who has just sat down asked, that we find a majority in favour of Home Rule? No, my Lords. If we look at the Sister Island, is it in the North of Ireland, amongst the educated portion of the population,—amongst the law-abiding inhabitants of the North—is it there that we find the demand for Home Rule? No, my Lords, most emphatically no. We have to look to the South of Ireland before we can find a majority in favour of that measure; amongst the population where till recently murder and outrage walked hand in hand, and where the law was of no avail; in a district where the population were accustomed to wreak their petty spite against their neighbours by torturing dumb beasts in a manner that would have disgraced a barbarous nation. Of such, my Lords, is the majority composed who are in favour of Home Rule, and who are dictating to Great Britain as to a revision of the Constitution. The majority is composed of those who have already declared their hatred, not only of England, but also of their brethren in the North. And what hope, I would ask your Lordships, would Ulster have of justice, let alone of safety, if a hostile majority of this description sat upon College Green? My Lords, you have heard much of Ulster's appeal to England. Ulster has appealed to England, because she knew it was useless to appeal to Ireland; but I am sure that the British people have not sunk so low that they will hand over the just to the unjust. I say the just unto the unjust, because it is well known that only a few years ago justice was impossible in the three Southern Provinces of Ireland. My Lords, we are told that the Union is intolerable to Ireland, that it stinks in her nostrils. I would ask you to review the condition of Ireland, only for a few seconds, previous and subsequent to the Union. We are told now that Ulster is the garden of Ireland. Well, my Lords, you well know that a 'garden can be formed almost anywhere if there is a judicious mixture put into the 'soil. That has been the case in Ulster. Previous to the Union, Ulster was the most barren and the most desolate of all the Provinces of Ireland; the inhabitants were the most 33 squalid and the most wretched of any in that country. But, by a judicious administration of the Union, upon those barren hill-sides a garden has arisen in Ireland. My Lords, I ask you whether you would destroy that garden and render it a waste once more? My Lords, we are told that Ulster demands ascendancy. That ascendancy, I conclude, is a religious ascendancy. Ulster has no such ascendancy, and it claims no such ascendancy. Its people live under the same laws under which your Lordships live. Your Lordships—at any rate Irish Lords—have no such ascendancy. My Lords, the lawless inhabitants of Ireland demand that you will change your Constitution—that you will give them a Parliament to sit upon College Green. These are not small demands. But, my Lords, what does Ulster demand? We have heard much of the demands of Ulster; but I fail to remember any demand on the part of Ulster. My Lords, I think you will remember that Ulster asks you for nothing. The only thing that Ulster asks you for is that you will leave her as she is at present, with the same protection which is given to every subject of Her Majesty's dominions. And now, with your Lordships' permission, I will, for a few moments, review the change which has taken place in the last six years in Ireland during the Government of the right hon. Gentleman who, if he will pardon my presumption in saying so, now so ably leads the other House. When the late Chief Secretary first went to Ireland we were told that his rule was "base, brutal, and bloody"; but whether it were base, or whether it were brutal, I think your Lordships cannot fail to see that a marvellous change has taken place in the condition of Ireland; crime has diminished, outrage has diminished, boycotting has disappeared, and the law has been re-established; and, if your Lordships require any proof of that, all that it is necessary to do is to point to two Charges given to the Grand Jury by Mr. Justice O'Brien, in one of which he says on the 10th of March, 1887—These Returns present a picture of County Kerry, such as could hardly be found in any country that has passed the confines of natural society.34 And he proceeds—The law is defeated; perhaps I should say it has ceased to exist.And then he concludes—A state of terror and lawlessness prevails everywhere.But in 1892 the same Judge, addressing the Grand Jury at Cork Assizes, said—He was very much pleased, indeed, to be able to state that the county was in a most satisfactory condition. The offences reported for the corresponding period last year were 94, while for the present period they amounted to only 31. All trace of any kinds of offences indicating a state of disorder or agrarian disturbance was entirely wanting; boycotting was at au end; and the attention of the people generally was found to be turned to questions that affected their material prosperity.All this has taken place, my Lords; and the stringent measures which were necessary previously have been abolished. My Lords, I would say that the reign of the Unionist Government has been bloodless in Ireland, for crime has almost ceased, and not only that, but a dangerous famine, which at one time threatened the inhabitants of Ireland, has been averted by the quick intervention of the Chief Secretary and the Lord Lieutenant. In those districts where there was danger of famine the people were provided with food and with employment; and the very means which were taken for the averting of the disaster have proved a source of permanent prosperity to the country. Your Lordships will, no doubt, know that I am referring to the Congested Districts and the Light Railways Acts. And now, if your Lordships desire any further proofs before I sit down of the prosperity which has come to Ireland during the last six years, I would ask you to remember that the prices of produce have risen; that Railway receipts have increased 14 per cent.; that deposits in Joint Stock Banks have increased 18 per cent., and in savings banks 53 per cent.; and, side by side with this, pauperism has decreased 13 per cent., emigration 18 per cent., indictable offences 28 per cent., and evictions 79 per cent. Well, my Lords, I will not detain you longer; but I think it has been abundantly proved that not only is the government of Ireland by England possible, but that it is absolutely necessary to its happiness. I think 35 it is proved that the rule of the Union is beneficial to Ireland, and that all that is necessary for that country is a firm administration of the law. My Lords, I thank you for your courtesy in having listened to me so long, and for your indulgence; and I have very great pleasure in seconding the Motion which has been already so ably moved by the noble Earl.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
My Lords, I am not at all surprised that the noble Earl who moved the Address felt some difficulty as to what he should say upon such an occasion as this; but I am bound to say that both the noble Earls who moved the Address and seconded it have managed to give us two very interesting speeches, and found a variety of topics with which they could entertain the House. My Lords, for my part I felt very great doubt whether I ought to say anything to your Lordships on the occasion of the consideration of this Gracious Speech of Her Majesty. I am, however, very conservative in my instincts, and I wish, therefore, to adhere to the ordinary practice. And perhaps I am rather more conservative in this respect and on this occasion than Her Majesty's Government have been, because I think I am right in saying that this is the first occasion when a Speech of this kind has been delivered, on the advice of Her Ministers, by the Queen to a Parliament after a Dissolution. On the occasion which is historical, when Lord Melbourne advised the Dissolution of Parliament in 1841, and the result was a very large majority against his Government, the Government of the day in meeting Parliament made a full statement of their policy in the Speech which they advised Her Majesty to deliver from the Throne; and I do not think that any example can be found where a Speech of this colourless description has been delivered. However, my Lords, I do not complain of that; I merely make the remark in order that I may excuse myself for making very few observations indeed to the House on this occasion. I apprehend we are here to consider the Speech which has been delivered to us by the Queen's command, and when we find in such a Speech, as we ordinarily do, a statement of the policy of Her Majesty's advisers, it is natural 36 that we should take the opportunity in some sense to criticise that policy, and express our views with regard to the measures which maybe promised in the Speech. But here we have nothing of the kind. The words are certainly most unobjectionable; but I wish to comment upon the words themselves in order to show that it is impossible, upon this side of the House at all events, that we could have the smallest objection to the expressions used. The hope is expressed that Parliament will again direct its attention to measures of social and domestic improvement, and that it will continue to advance in the path of useful and beneficent legislation, which has been so judiciously followed in previous Sessions. I have not a word to say against that. In previous Sessions it has happened that those who sit on this side of the House have been responsible for measures, and we are quite entitled to consider that the path of useful and beneficent legislation which has been followed in previous Sessions may apply to Sessions when Her Majesty was advised by Gentlemen who sit now on the Opposition side of the House as well as by those on that side. Therefore, there is nothing in the words of the Speech upon which any criticism can be grafted. The noble Lords, the Mover and Seconder of the Address, have most naturally applied the sentence to the legislation advised by the Government now in office. For my part, I am quite willing to say that some of that legislation was such that we had very great satisfaction in giving our support to the measures which were proposed; and I hope that it will be felt that in those measures which were not of a contentious kind—such a one as that to which the noble Earl opposite alluded, the measure for the creation of Small Holdings—we did not show the smallest disposition to throw any kind of obstacle in the way of the Government. On the contrary, we were very glad to give them all the assistance in our power, and to make suggestions which we think might have improved and carried further the legislation proposed. I can only say that if in the chances of political life before very long it should happen that we who sit on this side of the House should become responsible for 37 the proposal of measures to Parliament, I hope in such measures for social improvement as we may suggest we shall meet with the same spirit, and shall find noble Lords on the other side of the House as willing to co-operate with us in such measures as we have been to co-operate with them during the last Parliament. My Lords, with regard to all that interesting review of the measures of the Government, as to which we were not in agreement, and as to the present state of England and Ireland, and a variety of other topics, our opinions upon the measures have been expressed on every occasion when they were brought before us, and I am certain that no one in this House is ignorant of our opinions upon the general policy pursued by the late Government; and I should regard it as entirely out of place on an occasion of this kind, when no Amendment has been moved to the Address, and when there is no question before the House of a contentious kind, to enter into any discussion of that policy. My Lords, the Government now in power have thought proper to present us with a Speech to which I make no objection, in terms which raise no questions of policy of a contentious kind; and, for my part, I believe that the wisest and most proper course I can pursue under the circumstances is to say no more on the subject than that I fully concur in the Address that has been moved.
§ *EARL COWPER
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down, generally so eloquent and able, and capable of making a long and powerful speech, has only said a few words. I think he never showed his ability more than by doing so. I can quite understand that he should wish not to have a division in this House, because I think that would show rather the small extent of his following. I can also understand that he is not very anxious that this House should come very prominently before the public; because, among other things, it is possible that he and his Party may before very long come into serious conflict with this House, and it would, perhaps, be better that the less this House is thought of in the meantime, and the less the real ability which is contained within its walls is displayed, the better it may be. My Lords, I can 38 also understand that the noble Marquess, who, if I had not ventured to intervene, would probably have followed, will not think it necessary to say much. If he had been seriously attacked, or was actuated by motives of vanity and self-love, or if he thought it was an occasion to make a great and elaborate defence of his policy during the last six years, I venture to say that no Minister ever stood in a position so able to make a brilliant and eloquent vindication. Peace preserved abroad, under what people are beginning to find out have not after all been very easy and exceptionally favourable circumstances, and which I am afraid when his strong hand is removed from the helm will be found to be even less favourable and less easy than we have hitherto imagined them to be; financial policy, which has relieved the burdens of the people in a marked degree, and, at the same time, has added to the strength of our defences, particularly our Navy; Ireland, which when he came to the Government was in a state of outrage and intimidation on the one hand, and fear and discomfort on the other, now perfectly calm and quiet, not a single district being proclaimed; besides all this, numerous truly liberal and useful measures for the benefit of the people, conceived in the most statesmanlike spirit, Local Government, Free Education, the Allotments Bill, and the Small Holdings Act, and numerous other small ones, very good and very useful, which I need not go into; all these might make the foundation, as I say, if there had been any attack, of a most brilliant vindication. But, my Lords, there has not been any attack, and I think, unless somebody intervened, in a very few minutes our Debate would have come to an end. Now, my Lords, considering the exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves, I cannot, for one, think that that would have been advisable or creditable to this House. I only venture to rise, not of course because I think that anything I myself may say would be such as to demand any very great attention from your Lordships, but because I feel that under these circumstances the only person who could rise must be a man independent, who did not himself hold office at this moment and is not 39 aspiring to do so; perhaps it should be one who is not an immediate supporter of those who are holding office at this moment, or of the other side. I do so because I think that one thing that the present Government and all who support them are most anxious, and most justly anxious, for, is that they should not for one moment be supposed to have any desire to cling to office after there has been a majority declared against them in the country, however small, compared with what it has been at the beginning of last Parliament, which we lately remember, and however mixed the character of that majority may be. My Lords, I hope I may be followed by others who will perhaps speak with greater weight than myself; there are plenty of people of ability and willingness to address your Lordships; but there is, unfortunately, a sort of nightmare feeling which oppresses every individual who ventures to rise, which, I believe, is totally unfounded, but which nevertheless exists—I do not know why—but which I very often suffer from myself, that this House, from the moment of its assembling, is anxiously and impatiently looking forward to the time when it may break up, and is very impatient of anybody who stands, even for a few minutes, in the way of its doing so. But I hope that that will not deter people on this occasion. Now, my Lords, in what circumstances are we placed? They are certainly most unusual, and, as I shall venture to show by-and-bye, altogether unprecedented. We are likely, as we all know, very shortly to have a change of Government, and the result of that will be the introduction of measures which deeply affect us all in this House, on which we, most of us, either here or elsewhere have expressed a most decided opinion. We all of us hold a great stake in the country which is likely to be affected by these measures—I do not only mean Ireland, but Great Britain also. Our natural vent for the expression of our opinions, when we feel strongly, is within these walls; it is because we have that vent for the expression of our opinions—it is this fact which is the excuse, and the only excuse, for our not being allowed to take any part in General Elections in 40 this country. I say, therefore, we ought to make use, and are justified in making use, of the natural vent which is afforded to us of expressing our opinions, and if we shrink from doing so we shall injure our position in the country. Now, my Lords, as I say, there is very likely to be a change of Government. It is not, of course, for us here to do more than to glance lightly at the circumstances which have occasioned that; as I say, I do no more than glance at the strange state of that majority which will shortly enable other people to assume the reins, resting as it practically does entirely upon the Irish Nationalists, who have declared over and over again that they intend to hold themselves aloof as a separate Party, and to watch their opportunity and only give a limited support to any Party in this country, whichever it may be, as long as it suits their own purposes. Nor will I do more than glance at the incidents of the last Election. We, as your Lordships know, and as was eloquently pointed out to us by Mr. Gladstone some years ago, are living in a balloon; we are not supposed to have any cognisance of those struggles and contests, although accompanied very often with great excitement, that have been going on below us during the last few weeks. I myself have sometimes felt inclined to have a glance over the car of the balloon to see what was going on; and I think probably some of your Lordships have done the same; and you could not help seeing, particularly in the rural districts, by what means that majority was too often got together—those disgraceful false promises about a cheap loaf, when those who made them must have known they could never be fulfilled. How could we have a cheaper loaf than at present except by subsidising the bakers? Can anybody imagine that to be possible? Then, as Lord Denbigh has pointed out, the promises about having land for next to nothing what can they mean but either confiscation from those from whom the land is to be compulsorily bought, or the difference of rent being paid by the ratepayers?—neither of which I think any Government would venture to propose. I only allude to this to show that the majority is not formed in such a way or of such materials 41 as to command very great consideration on our part; though, of course, we are bound to admit it as it stands. Now I have said that the circumstances in which we find ourselves are, or will be, altogether unprecedented. I will tell you why. This mixed mass of people holding different opinions, of different nationalities and of different feelings, is to be got together to propose a vote of want of confidence in the present Government. Well, it will probably carry that vote, and the present Government will retire. What then happens? Another Government will take the reins. Will it have any opportunity of seeing whether it has the confidence of the House of Commons? It does not always follow that because a vote against Lord Salisbury has been passed there is also a feeling of confidence in Mr. Gladstone. Will they have any opportunity of showing whether they can carry one single measure through the House of Commons, to say nothing of this House, which of course they consider out of the question? I say there would be no chance of this—when they have formed a Government Parliament will disappear, and they will be left for six months in absolute unrestrained possession of the field, without anybody knowing the least in the world whether they command the confidence of the House or not; they may bring us into every kind of difficulty abroad and at home, and when they come back in January or February, or whenever it may be, they may perhaps find after all that Parliament is not inclined to support them, and not inclined to carry them through. On no previous occasion, I believe, has such a state of things happened. On no previous occasion has Parliament separated without some interval, long or short, in which the new Government could show the public that it had the confidence of the other House and command over it. This is why I consider our circumstances thoroughly unprecedented. Now, my Lords, with regard to some of the evils that may happen during the approaching winter, I may perhaps allude shortly to them. I will not allude to the question of Foreign Affairs, though things grave enough may happen with regard to them; but 42 there are many in this House more conversant with that subject than I am. I will take the case of Ireland. If any people ever were pledged, to the very eyes, irrevocably pledged against anything like Coercion, it is the Members of the Government which will be likely to succeed the present one. I think that they have shown great adroitness and great facility in explaining pledges away and in changing their views; but I do not think they could have recourse to Coercion under any circumstances. Therefore, we may assume that, whatever happens in that country during the winter, no use will be made of the Coercion Act, so-called, and that no single district will be proclaimed. But will those districts be quiet? We hope so. Have we reason to hope so with any confidence? Already I see that Mr. Gladstone has been assailed with demands on behalf of the evicted tenants, that they should be put back. Of course this does not mean put back after paying their rent; it means put back without paying their rent; because there are very few of them who, if they had been willing to pay their rent, would not have been put back long ago. I believe there has been a very wide feeling amongst the tenants in Ireland, encouraged very often by those who ought not to have done so, that when Mr. Gladstone comes in there will be either no rent at all or very little, and they need not trouble themselves about it. I say if these men act upon this idea, if there is a general strike against rent—which I think not improbable—and outrage following when there is an attempt to collect that rent, what will happen? I say anything in the shape of Coercion will be out of the question. The ordinary law has been proved in a state of great national excitement to be altogether useless. Will they trust to the National League to keep the peace for them? I believe there was a time, when the National League was united and strong under the iron hand of Mr. Parnell, that the League could do something in that way; but look at it now! It is broken to pieces; it is in two parties, to begin with; and the bigger party is virtually without a leader. I do not think even the miserable expedient of keeping order through the National League can be successful; 43 and I look with great apprehension to what may happen in Ireland during the coming winter. I will not allude to other matters that may occur; perhaps it may be said that a good deal of what I have discussed is matter for the other House and not for this House. I have explained that I do not think so. I have been a Member of this House for many years now, and in my recollection, and I think in that of most of my contemporaries, in former days we were in the habit of discussing great public questions far more copiously than we do now; and I think there was some advantage in doing so. There were a certain number of independent men, who had filled high places in the State and were generally looked up to—men like Lord Grey, who, I am happy to say, is still alive, though old age prevents him coming among us; like the late Duke of Somerset and many others; and later on Lord Carnarvon, who have disappeared from among us and have left no successors in the same sort of position. The result of this was that there was hardly an important public question of any kind that was not fully, elaborately, and ably discussed within these walls. I think it is a very great mistake to have debating-club speeches here, or anything of the kind. I think, also, it is a great thing, no doubt, that we should only speak and keep the reputation of speaking purely with regard to matters of business and the subject on hand; but I think this may be carried too far. I think we ought occasionally to have broad discussions about things of universal interest, and which keenly interest the nation. I think this is an occasion on which this House ought not to have separated without something of the kind. I am not vain enough to think that I personally have contributed anything to the discussion; I have risen simply in the hope that I may be backed up and followed by others; and if I am able to secure that this Debate shall not immediately collapse, and that this august, able, and great Assembly shall show that it is not indifferent to the great crisis in which we stand, but takes the keenest interest in it, my object will have been successfully accomplished.
§ *THE EARL OF NORTHBROOK
My Lords, I certainly expected, after the 44 speech which has been delivered by my noble Friend, that some Member of the Treasury Bench would have replied to the remarks that he has made. I particularly expected my noble Friend Earl Spencer, after the very grave words used by his predecessor in the office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, would at once have risen to his feet and explained to this House what the policy of those who desire to overturn Her Majesty's Government is with respect to the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. Can any man say that the question is not one of the gravest consequence? Does my noble Friend Earl Spencer recollect, on the occasion of the Queen's Speech in the year 1886, when it was notorious that the Government could last but a very few days, that he thought it was his duty in this House to put pointed questions to the Government in respect to the maintenance of law and order in Ireland? I cannot believe that, feeling as he does, and as I know he does, the grave consequence of this question, and that he personally will be held responsible for the maintenance of law and order in that country, he will refuse, on the present occasion, to answer the challenge of my noble Friend behind me. I said, my Lords, that surely this is a proper question to be put on the present occasion. I certainly congratulate my noble Friend the Earl of Kimberley on the adroitness of the course which he has taken on the present occasion. Whether that course is for the honour of the House of Lords is another question. Whether it is right that this House of Parliament, on the verge of a great crisis, should be debarred from the power of expressing any opinion, either upon the reasons why it is hold that no confidence should be placed in Her Majesty's Government, or upon the policy which is to be pursued by those who expect to take their places, is, I think, a very doubtful question indeed; and I cannot think that my noble Friend is right to have taken shelter under the technical plea that there was no Amendment to the Address, to avoid discussion in this House. Look at the position that that gives to the Leader of the Opposition in this House! He has simply to say that no Vote of Want of Confidence is to be moved, no Amendment made on the 45 Address, to prevent this House from entering into any discussion, except within the mere four corners of that Address. My Lords, I cannot think, as I said before, that that is a position which can commend itself to those who have far greater experience in this House than I have. And, certainly, I must say it is not a position tending to support the dignity and importance of this House; neither, moreover, is it, in my opinion, a position for the advantage of the country. My Lords, I said just now that the question put by the noble Earl behind me to the Government cannot but be considered to be a proper question. Will this House have any other opportunity but this of discussing this question? Will my noble Friend the Earl of Kimberley rise in his place and say that, supposing the Government is in a minority in the other House of Parliament, he, on behalf of the new Government, will, in his place in Parliament, give expression to the views and policy of the Government before we separate? If so, we shall have a legitimate opportunity of discussing these questions. If he does not intend to do so, what will be the result? The result will be that we shall have no power whatever of discussing these important matters. With respect to the question that has been put as to the maintenance of law and order in Ireland, I hold that tins House should receive some explanation from my noble Friend the Earl of Kimberley, or from one of those who sit on the Bench beside him. What has happened during the last six years in regard to that matter? My noble Friend Earl Spencer especially, and my noble and learned Friend Lord Herschell again, on many occasions have been making speeches on different platforms in every part of the country; I should think Lord Spencer has made at least seven or eight speeches a year in different parts of the country, something like fifty speeches on the whole; and in those speeches they have attacked the administration of the Government in Ireland. My noble Friend the Earl of Kimberley said just now that he and his friends had always expressed their opinions in this House upon the policy of the Government. I venture with great 46 deference to my noble Friend to object to that statement. It has always been to me a matter of surprise that Lord Spencer and Lord Herschell, in both their great positions, one having been Lord Lieutenant and the other having been Lord Chancellor, should have been all over the country making speeches against the administration of the law in Ireland; and never, to the best of my recollection, on any one occasion have they brought forward their objections in this House, where there sit no less than five Lords who have been or are Lords Lieutenant of Ireland; four, I think, who have been and one who now holds that office, where the Lord Chancellor for Ireland sits, and where these questions could have been discussed with a weight, and with a dignity, and with an absence of Party feeling, which would have been very greatly to the advantage of the general interests of the country. That being so, my Lords, I think it is still more necessary for them at the present time to express what their views are as to the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. There is, my Lords, another question of quite as great importance, which I venture to add to the question which has been addressed by my noble Friend behind me to noble Lords on the Front Opposition Bench, and that is, what is the real policy of Mr. Gladstone with respect to Home Rule? It has been put forward as the first plank of the platform. No doubt there has been adhesion to the platform generally by the majority of those who have been returned to Parliament; but, my Lords, it has never been clearly explained I think to anyone what Home Rule really means. Whenever questions are put in this House noble Lords on that Bench, I am sorry to say, get rather angry at the question being put to them. One noble Lord told me once—"You might as well ask me how much stands to my credit at my banking account." That is the sort of answer that we receive. But I wish to say that the difficulty of explaining what Home Rule means is not a difficulty of a stupid Liberal Unionist like myself, or anybody on the Opposition side of the House at all; it is a difficulty which has been felt and has been expressed by the strongest 47 supporters of Mr. Gladstone himself. At this present moment, I suppose, a distinguished Member of the other House of Parliament (Mr. Asquith) is moving a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government. My Lords, Mr. Asquith made a speech, in 1886 I think it was, in which he said—I should like to use his own words—The Leaders of the Liberal Party would be acting wisely if they were to take the country a little more into their confidence. There ought to be a broad general outline on which the opinion of the country should be taken. If they went to the country with the vague formula of Home Rule or Local Self-Government and obtained a majority and introduced a Bill, some of their own followers would say: 'Our electorate sent us to support Home Rule; but this is not the kind of thing they intended.'That is the opinion of a very distinguished lawyer, one of the keenest supporters of Mr. Gladstone; and I suppose may be taken to represent to a great extent the cultivated intelligence of the Gladstonian Party. My Lords, there is another branch of the Gladstonian Party—namely, the Labour branch. I suppose we may say that Mr. Davitt, who has been returned to Parliament, is one of the most distinguished Members of the Labour Party in the country, and is also not unconnected with Ireland. What were his views upon the subject? He wrote an article in one of the Reviews immediately after one of the Midlothian campaigns, in which he expressed the greatest dissatisfaction at the reticence in regard to the Home Rule measure of Mr. Gladstone, and he said—The Bill of 1886 was anti-democratic and a retrograde measure. It was a fair question for the British working men to ask Mr. Gladstone before they gave him the power of framing the next Home Rule Constitution for Ireland, what he intended to do as respects the land in that country.There we have a representative of the Gladstonian Party in England, and a representative of the Labour Party. Now as regards the Irish Nationalists, I presume nobody can deny that they are not aware what the Home Rule proposed by Mr. Gladstone is—at any rate not publicly. Perhaps the most able and most liberal-minded and moderate member of the Nationalist Party of Ireland is Sir Gavan Duffy, who, as 48 your Lordships know very well, was one of the Leaders in 1848 of the Revolutionary Party, who has since had a distinguished career in the Colonies, and has now come back and is taking an active interest in the furtherance of the Nationalist Party at the present time. He again complained in the strongest terms of the reticence of Mr. Gladstone in respect to the Home Rule measure. He called his complaint "The humble remonstrance of an Irish Nationalist," and he saidthat the original plan of 1886 had been cast to the winds five years ago. It was a great mistake that Mr. Gladstone did not publish his revised scheme of Home Rule.He saidthat the principles and details cannot be made too plain for the encouragement of its friends and the confusion of its opponents. Nobody would think of omitting this kind of precaution in framing an agreement for the expenditure of £100. Is there any sufficient reason for omitting them in an agreement involving, not a handful of coin, but the peace and prosperity of two neighbouring nations?Then Sir Gavan Duffy proceeded to give seven different heads of questions to which he would like to have an answer. Not one of those questions has been answered up to the present time. He is representing the Nationalist Party; and I may sum up what I am about to say on this subject with what he ends with. We have had the representative of the English or Scotch Gladstonian Party; we have had the representative of the Labour Party; we have had the representative of the Nationalist Party; and he ends with these words—The House of Lords would be justified in refusing to adopt a constitutional change which has not received the sanction of the people, unless full explanations of this kind have been given.Now, my Lords, are we never in this House to be taken into the confidence of the Leaders of the Opposition? After five or six years have they not now made up their minds upon what Home Rule is to be, and are they not able to explain it to us at the present time? My Lords, I am not going to argue the question of Home Rule now; but I think it is as well to recollect what kind of questions 49 those are to which we have had no answers.Is the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament to consist merely in the power of repealing a law which creates Home Rule in Ireland; or is that supremacy to confer some power to the Imperial Parliament to remedy what the Imperial Parliament may consider to be an injustice, either legislative or executive, in Ireland?We have had no answer to that question. That question is by no means a question of detail; it is a question of principle.Is Home Rule to be confined to Ireland, or is it to be extended to the other side of St. George's Channel?Many supporters of Home Rule in the country who have advocated a federal system have advised the establishment of separate Legislative Assemblies and separate Executive Governments for Scotland, for Wales, and even for England, and the setting up of a new Imperial Parliament with some powers over the whole. Is that the plan of Home Rule at the present time? There have been indications in its favour, and there have been indications against it. Then, again, what will be the position of the Irish Representatives in the Imperial Parliament if Home Rule is passed? We know that they are in some way to be represented. What powers are they to have? Are they to have a power of voting upon English and Scotch measures, or not? That is a question of the greatest importance; and I may observe that it is particularly important and most interesting to the Government of Mr. Gladstone, if he comes into Office in a few days from this time, because your Lordships will observe that if, as I believe, there is a majority of forty in favour of Mr. Gladstone, and if the number of Irish Members is to be considerably diminished, that majority must at once vanish, and, therefore, the whole foundation upon which the measure was introduced would be taken away. I will not dwell upon any other of these matters. The problem as to what protection is to be given to the minorities with regard to land is one that is most interesting; and I should think here again my noble Friend Earl Spencer, ought to feel it his duty to explain to your Lordships before we separate what his view is as 50 to the protection of the minority of landed interests in Ireland. He has said over and over again that he considers that it would be extremely wrong to hand over the power over the land to a Home Rule Parliament. Is that my noble Friend's opinion now? Is that the basis upon which, if he joins it, he will join a Home Rule Government? That is a question upon which I think my noble Friend should certainly feel himself in some degree bound to give an explanation to your Lordships. My Lords, these difficulties and these objections which I have endeavoured to express are not, as I said before, the opinions of Liberal Unionists or the opinions of Conservatives; they are the opinions which have been expressed by very important Members of the Party who have confidence in Mr. Gladstone. Is this system of reticence in this House to continue? Are we the only people in this country who are to be debarred from discussing these questions? They have been discussed on the public platforms; they are being discussed now in the other House of Parliament; but your Lordships, by the adroitness of the Leader of the Opposition in this House, appear to be about to be debarred from entering into any discussion of the kind. I myself feel that it is totally against the interest of Gladstonian Peers in this House to continue this conspiracy of silence upon this matter. I think so, because I am one of those who believe that free public discussion is a safety to any Ministry who have to introduce a great and important measure. Surely it is better that the objections to that measure should be discussed beforehand rather than, as happened in 1886, a measure prepared in secrecy should be introduced, and the faults only found in it after it had been actually introduced into Parliament. If the objections which can be raised by those who are against the measure are sound ones, let them prevail. If they are weak ones, if an answer can be given to those objections, surely it is to the advantage of the Government, and to the advantage of the cause they advocate, that they should be able to give such answers without delay. All that I can say in conclusion is, that no doubt my noble Friends have the right to remain silent 51 on the present occasion; they have a right to decline to discuss anything in this House; no one can force them to open their mouths upon the subject; but, if they decline any discussion, I am sure your Lordships will feel that the responsibility of declining it rests upon them, and that their so declining it may possibly be a great injury to the interests of the country.
*THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
My Lords, I desire to say one or two words to the House, owing to the very deep interest which I take in the present political situation. We are not all of us so deficient in imagination as the noble Earl who leads the Opposition has declared himself to be to-night; we can see a little beyond the four corners of the Queen's Speech, and we know its purpose; we know that it was designed with regard to events which have happened elsewhere, and with the purpose and the intention of giving an opportunity to the Opposition to challenge the policy and the existence of Her Majesty's Government. It is quite true that it may be right not to take any step of that kind in this House. I am not altogether certain though whether, if the battalions behind the noble Earl were a little more numerous than they are at present, we should not have seen Her Majesty's Speech approached and treated in a somewhat different way. My Lords, if it were in our power to look through these walls into another place, we should discover I think a very different state of things. We should find that there it is found easy, and not only easy but profitable, to move an Amendment; and there it is found possible and profitable to discuss the policy of Her Majesty's Government. Now, my Lords, it is a fact which none of us dispute that in this House there are very few who are in favour of the policy of Home Rule, and the reason is not that there has been any change of opinion on our part, but because only a few Peers have followed noble Lords who sit on the front Bench in changing all their opinions and sentiments with regard to this question of Home Rule, which, up to a few years ago, had been the opinions of all responsible politicians of every kind and sort. Now, my 52 Lords, to-night we are treated to a continuance of the policy of silence. It is a policy to which we have become accustomed; it is the policy which has been observed carefully during the whole of the last six years. It is quite true that outside this House noble Lords have expressed their opinion very freely with regard to the Criminal Law Amendment Act, and with regard to the administration of that Act by the Government. From a public point of view it appears to me that it would have been advantageous if they had brought before this House, for examination and discussion, some of the Acts of the Government to which they have so much objected in other places. My Lords, there is no better place than this House for the consideration of matters of that kind. It is not a question of minorities here; but, if any Member of the House has facts and arguments which carry with them any force, there is no assembly which is more ready to listen to him than this House. My Lords, this Government's policy, to which they have taken exception, holds the field; it has disappointed all the prophecies which were whispered in this House, and which were repeated much more loudly in the country. I know it has been said that there was no exceptional state of crime in Ireland in 1887. I never was able to understand how those who made that statement justified it. This I do know: that in 1887 there were nearly five thousand persons who were wholly or partially boycotted in Ireland, which I suppose everyone in this House will admit to be a crime, and that at the present time, owing to the administration of that Act, there is not a single person in that condition in Ireland. But that is not all, my Lords. The Act is not at the present time in operation in any part of Ireland; there is not a district in Ireland which is proclaimed; there is not a person in prison under those clauses of the Act. And that is the state of things which Her Majesty's Government will hand over to their successors when they follow them. And there the Act remains. It has been effectual in the hands of the present Government; it is now upon the shelf; but it remains a weapon 53 ready for use if any future Government should find that they are unable to preserve peace and order in Ireland by ordinary means. My Lords, the noble Earl has told us that they have often stated in this House their general opinions of Home Rule, and that it is needless to repeat them. They may have stated their opinions in a very general way, but they have done nothing else; and until February next, under the most favourable circumstances, supposing that this Government leaves Office, Parliament will have no means whatsoever of knowing what the policy of Home Rule is which is to be substituted for the present policy; nor will they know whether Mr. Gladstone commands a majority in Parliament upon this question. Hitherto all statements have been made in vague and general terms. Well, the time will come when in February next it must be embodied in a Bill, and that Bill will have to satisfy men belonging to different Parties and holding the most different opinions. Reference has been made to-night to a gentleman who we have reason to suppose is, in another place, moving an Amendment expressing no confidence in Her Majesty's Government—Mr. Asquith; he represents a Scottish constituency, and, as an illustration of what I was saying, I may adduce his name. He and Mr. T. P. O'Connor appeared on a platform together to make speeches with regard to Home Rule, and they were asked, each of them separately, to define what were to be the powers of the Imperial Parliament. Mr. Asquith saidthat the Imperial Parliament is to retain absolute and paramount powers of legislating for the Irish Parliament if necessary.And Mr. O'Connor, when he was asked, saidthe Imperial Parliament is to have full control, so far as Imperial affairs are concerned.A countryman of mine, who was heckling them, pointed out to them the difference between these two answers, and Mr. Asquith's reply was that he was not responsible for Mr. O'Connor's opinions. Yes, my Lords, but the time will come when both of those gentlemen will be responsible for the measure of 54 Home Rule which is to be submitted to Parliament. They entertain entirely different views no doubt at the present tone, and the question is, how are their views going to be reconciled, and can they be put in such a shape as not to interfere with the supremacy of Parliament? My Lords, it is almost unnecessary to glance at the present state of political Parties. Mr. Gladstone leads, not a Party but a collection of Parties; those who advocate an eight-hours day, those who are in favour of Disestablishment, those who are extreme supporters of temperance; and what they are looking to is their own views in the first instance, and Home Rule only to some extent in the second; and what may be the effect of the policy of Home Rule upon the country they appear, judging from their utterances, to care very little. My Lords, we know there is no majority in Great Britain in favour of Home Rule; we know that the opposition in Ireland is strong and is every day growing; and, moreover, we know that the strength of that opposition is not to be measured by the number of Members of Parliament whom even at the present time they return. Now, my Lords, this is all I propose to say on the present occasion. I do not think it is a time for going deeply into these matters; but, if nothing were said, it might be supposed in the country that this House does not take a very deep interest in a question which is of the most vital importance to the British Empire. It has been sufficient, I think, to point out, so far as I have done, some of the anomalies of the present position. It is sufficient now merely to glance at the vague responsibility which noble Lords on the Front Benches are prepared to take; and it is only necessary to add that the measure which they have in contemplation is one of extreme gravity and importance; it amounts to nothing less than a re-casting of our Constitution; and it is quite right that the body of this House—that we the ordinary Members of the House—should represent that, if at any time that measure should be produced in this House, it will be our duty to submit it to the most careful and searching examination.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (The Marquess of SALISBURY)
I rise, my Lords, in the first instance to perform the grateful task of thanking the two noble Lords behind me for the manner in which they have performed a duty which the noble Earl opposite is perfectly right in designating as one of unusual difficulty. Especially my noble Friend who moved the Address gave us ground for hoping that there is added to this House one who in future discussions will illustrate the eloquence for which it is well known. But, my Lords, I feel that I owe almost an apology to my noble Friends for the difficulty which they have encountered in the task they have had to perform. It is said that when a great King of Prussia wished to test the ability of a new clergyman he gave him the text from which he was to preach wrapped up in an envelope, to be opened in the pulpit, and, when he came to open it, he found there was nothing inside. I feel that there was something, perhaps, of that difficulty in the task which it was my duty to set my noble Friends; but the skill with which they extricated themselves from that difficulty, and the interesting manner in which they surveyed the political situation in which we find ourselves, deserves, I think, more than the ordinary perfunctory acknowledgments that we pay. But I cannot agree with the noble Earl opposite that I have departed from the precedents which have been set. There is no precedent for the present occasion. In 1841, the precedent to which the noble Earl alluded, it is perfectly true that the Speech did go into the measures which it was proposed that Parliament should discuss, but it did it for the very good reason that there were some measures which it was proposed Parliament should discuss. In consequence of the state of foreign affairs and operations that had been going on, the Government was in considerable financial difficulty, and it was necessary that ways and means should be found for defraying the expenses that had been incurred. Finding ways and means at that juncture was not a very easy matter, and the proposal naturally lea Ministers, through the mouth of 56 the Sovereign, to discuss those difficult questions of fiscal adjustment which were then coming up for arrangement, and the Speech went largely into the question of fiscal policy. It did so because there were measures of fiscal policy to be passed; and, if the noble Lord really thinks that that occasion was a precedent, I would ask him to remember that in the Debate which followed Members who were then in Opposition were not at all chary of giving at great length and with perfect clearness their opinions as to the burning questions of the day. My Lords, I confess that, as we have no measures to recommend to Parliament at this moment, and as, if it had not been for the necessity of allowing the other House to pronounce its opinion on the question of Confidence, Parliament would have been immediately prorogued, I should have been disposed, on the whole, to advise the abandonment of the formality of the Queen's Speech altogether; but the rugged Conservatism of noble Lords opposite, I found, was opposed to any such deviation from precedent, and, of course, it could only be done by general consent. My Lords, I do not think I can very properly defend the policy of the Government, because it has not been attacked, and if I were to select any particular part for defence people would say, "You show that you think that is the part that most requires it," because there has been no attack in order to guide the course which the defence should take; and, therefore, I shall not enter upon any such defence. Though I quite understand that independent Peers should survey the situation, should express their opinions, and should urge the course which they think ought to be adopted by the Opposition in the present instance, I do not think that the Government would be acting according to the duty that would be expected of them in entering upon a detailed vindication of the policy which the authorised opponents of that policy, who are called further south the advocates of the devil, have not themselves thought it necessary to attack. I would, at the same time, express some little surprise at the reticence which noble Lords have thought it necessary to practise. 57 That is a matter for their own judgment, and I do not in the least complain of it; but I am surprised at it, because I should have thought they would have wished to defend opinions to which they are deeply attached before a body representing, as this does, the opinion of the island in which we live. It is quite true the House of Commons represents the opinion of the United Kingdom, but we live in days when matters are viewed separately from the standpoints of Great Britain and Ireland, and, adopting that current tone, I am forced to call attention to the fact that, while the House of Commons represents the opinion of the United Kingdom, the House of Lords represents the opinion of Great Britain a great deal better than the House of Commons. Therefore, before such a tribunal, I should have thought noble Lords would have wished to vindicate their opinions. They do not do so. I do not say that this is an occasion on which they can be forced by any process of pressure or torture known to Parliamentary law to express their opinions; but we are now met in this building in order that the House of Commons may exercise a prerogative which is exclusively its own. The House of Commons, under our Constitution, as it is practised, has the exclusive determination with respect to men. When the men have been selected, afterwards will come the measures. I hope the men will be found who can agree upon the measures. But, when the measures are adopted, then the exclusive position of the House of Commons ceases, and, with respect to all matters not financial, the share which your Lordships must bear in legislation is as large as that of the House of Commons. When that comes forward there will then, I think, be no difficulty in finding occasion for debate; and, when the measures are presented to us, I presume even noble Lords opposite must abandon the conspiracy of silence. I do not expect to see them moving the First, Second, and Third Readings of their future measures in dumb-show. Therefore I quite admit that they have a right, if they will, to dam up the full tide of their eloquence until that time; I have no 58 doubt it will then flow with a devastating force. But I do not think that the apprehensions, which I thought seemed to glimmer through the speeches of some of my noble Friends, that the part taken by this House in these matters might become unimportant and uninteresting, are in any danger of being fulfilled. It is more likely to prophesy that in the year that is coming the centre of interest and the centre of action will be found within these walls. I hope that to that serious task and to those grave duties this House will bring the wisdom and decision to which in the past it has established a title. I trust that it will feel the enormous responsibility that it has imposed upon it by a crisis of affairs that is absolutely unexampled in this country—in a year which, whether you consider it from the point of view of the career and the character and the present position of the distinguished statesman who is leading the attack, or whether you consider it with respect to the composite and unstable nature of the majority which supports him, or whether you consider it—most important of all—with respect to the vital and fundamental nature of the changes which are shadowed forth for our acceptance, will be one of the most momentous years that has ever passed over the history of this country. We are dealing, my Lords, with a great Empire, but it is a great Empire that has not grown by natural force or in obedience to the necessary dictates of the circumstances and conditions under which it was found. It is rather an artificial fabric that has been reared by the devotion and the commanding qualities of the race which inhabits this island, and I pray that in the future we may allow no glimmer of new-found theories, no imaginary or speculative doctrines, to lead us from those great principles of thought and action by which this Empire was framed and by which alone it can he sustained.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, it may seem somewhat presumptuous on my part to attempt to address your Lordships after the Leader of the House has addressed you, and when it might be expected that this short discussion would come to a close; 59 but I think that there are still some things that ought to be said, and, perhaps, may be said, better by one who is in an independent position than by any Member of Her Majesty's Government or by any immediate supporter of that Government. I must acknowledge that I have observed with some surprise the apparently willing acquiescence which Her Majesty's Ministers and their supporters have given to the policy of silence which has been adopted by the Opposition. It appears to me, in view of the events that have recently taken place, and which are taking place at this moment, that the course which has been taken on this occasion is not in accordance with the precedents and traditions of Parliament, and that it is not a course which is likely to conduce to the benefit of the country. The noble Earl who leads the Opposition has said that in Her Majesty's Speech he finds nothing to criticise; but the occasion of an Address to the Crown in answer to Her Majesty's Speech is usually an occasion not merely for criticism on the Speech itself, but is also a fitting opportunity for criticism upon the policy of the Government; and I presume that, when my noble Friend says that he finds nothing to criticise in the Speech, we may also assume from his silence that he finds nothing to criticise in the policy of the Government. The noble Earl said that the opinions which are held by himself and his friends as to the policy of the Government are well known; but the time has arrived when effect is about to be given to those opinions in another place, and I presume that there, at all events, some reasons will be given for the Vote of Want of Confidence which is going to be moved; and it appears to me to be a mark of some disrespect to this House that reasons which are to be alleged in another place to show why the country has no confidence, or ought to have no confidence, in the Government, are to be entirely withheld here from our discussion. My Lords, everyone who has spoken in this extremely brief discussion has referred to the fact that we stand in a position which is without any precedent; but that position has been brought about in a great degree in 60 consequence of the exertions of my noble Friends behind me and their friends in the other House of Parliament; and it does appear to me that this occasion is one on which it would have been desirable that some explanation should have been given by them as to the course which they have thought fit to take in the country, and that some indication should be given as to the policy which will be adopted in the event, as is probable, of their friends coming into power. It seems to be assumed very generally that two facts have been established by the General Election—first, that Her Majesty's Government does not possess the confidence of the country or of the House of Commons, who represent it; and next, that Mr. Gladstone does possess that confidence. It is possible—in fact, it is very probable—that the first of these propositions will very shortly be conclusively proved by the Debate and Division in the House of Commons; but the second of those propositions, which is also apparently so calmly assumed, does not in any degree follow. It is possible and probable that the various sections which compose the majority in the House of Commons may combine in order to vote a want of confidence in the present Government; but it is not by any means a matter of course that they will combine also and give their support and confidence to the Government which may be formed to take its place. As a matter of fact, I believe it is the case that the present Government is supported in the House of Commons itself by a much larger number of Members than are prepared to give a constant or unconditional support to any other political Leader. Under these circumstances it would appear natural that Her Majesty's Government, being supported by a larger number of the Representatives of the people than any other section, should continue to bold Office until it has been proved that one or more sections of the House of Commons will not only combine for the purpose of turning out the present Administration, but for the purpose of supporting the new one. No one, I suppose, will contend for a moment that either the Labour Members 61 or the Irish Members—Parnellite or Anti-Parnellite—not to speak of the Scotch and English Members, have been elected on any understanding or on any pledge of giving an unconditional support to the policy of Mr. Gladstone. It is only by a combination of those Parties that a new Government can be formed and can remain in Office, and it is only by such a combination that a permanent Government can be secured. I think we are entitled under these circumstances to ask, in the first place—I think the question has been already suggested by one of my noble Friends behind me—whether, in the event of the present Administration being displaced and a new one formed by Mr. Gladstone, Parliament will be immediately summoned in order to hear a full statement of the views of the new Government, and to take measures to ascertain whether that Government possesses the confidence of the House of Commons. If that course should not be taken the country and Parliament may be placed in this position, as has already been pointed out—that the affairs of the country may for a period of five or six months be conducted by an Administration which, when the question is brought to the test, will be found not to possess, and not to have possessed at any time, the confidence of a majority of the House of Commons. I suppose it would be considered a very unconstitutional act for Her Majesty's Government to remain in Office after a Vote of Want of Confidence had been carried; there is, I believe, no Constitutional principle which would compel them to abandon Office under such circumstances until they found it impossible to obtain from Parliament the necessary Supplies for carrying on the Government; I conceive that if Her Majesty's Government were to take that course, we should hear a good deal of the unconstitutional nature of the proceeding; but the state of things which may arise, if Parliament is not going to be summoned to meet again for five or six months, may be a state of things not very unlike that which would arise under the circumstances that I have suggested. The only difference would that Her Majesty's Government would have been made aware that they do 62 not possess the confidence of the majority of the House; but in the other case Mr. Gladstone will not be able to give any proof, until Parliament has assembled, that he does possess that confidence. Well, my Lords, if, as I presume, there is no intention of giving any pledge that Parliament will be summoned at an early date to place these facts in a position of certainty, I fully admit that we are not, in this House or in the other House, in a position to exact such a pledge; but it follows that there is all the more reason why, at the present time, before a decisive vote upon this question is taken, the fullest explanation should be given, both, in my opinion, to this House and to the other, of the reasons which induce the Members of the Opposition to think it necessary to turn out the Government, and the fullest indications possible should be given of the policy they intend to pursue in the event of their succeeding the present Government in Office. I cannot doubt, my Lords, that such explanations and such indications will be given in the other House. If they are to be given in the other House, I ask, why are they not to be given in this House? I was surprised to hear my noble Friend explain his reticence and that of his friends by the plea that no action was being taken in this House. My noble Friends are not acting in accordance with the precedents of their own Party. I believe the nearest, the most recent, and the closest precedent for that which is taking place at present occurred in 1859. I had the honour of being selected to move a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government in the other House of Parliament. On that occasion no such Motion was moved in this House.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My noble Friend says "Hear, hear!" but the course which was taken by his predecessor in the Leadership, Lord Granville, was not the course which he is taking on this occasion. In this House, Lord Granville, as the Leader of the Opposition, arraigned the conduct of the Government in a speech precisely similar to that which would have been made if he and his friends had thought it expedient to move a 63 Vote of Want of Confidence in this House. A Debate followed, and every charge which could be made against the then existing Administration was made in this House as fully as it was made in the other House. Every question which could be asked as to the possibility of forming a stable Government to succeed that which was being ejected was replied to and discussed as fully in this House as if a Vote of Want of Confidence had been before it. Well, my Lords, I do not understand why this precedent should not have been followed on this occasion. I do not understand, unless my noble Friends are prepared to recognise in this House no Constitutional authority, unless in their opinion the time has come when it is hereafter to take no effective part in the government of the country, how they can reconcile it with their duty to pursue the policy of silence which they have pursued in this House—a policy which is altogether different from that which we have reason to believe is being pursued in another place. My noble Friend says that no action is being taken in this House. I do not suppose he and those who act with him will deny that the action which is being taken in the other House is being taken with their advice and on their counsel. They will not deny that they are prepared to take advantage of anything that may result from that action. They will not deny that they are prepared to accept such offices as may be assigned in a future Government to Members of the House of Lords; and, as they have in these ways made themselves responsible for the action which is being taken at the present moment in the House of Commons, I do not understand how they can reconcile to themselves the absolute silence which they have observed in this House as to the reasons which have induced them to give that advice and to take that course. My Lords, in this total absence of any information on the part of the Opposition, we can only endeavour to ascertain for ourselves from their previous declarations and from previous discussions what are the grounds upon which Parliament is going to be asked to displace the present Government, and to gather some indications of the policy which their 64 successors are likely to pursue. I will not take up your Lordships' time by discussing the grounds on which it is possible, though I do not think probable, that any Vote of Want of Confidence will be demanded. I do not think it likely that the grounds which will be brought forward will rest upon a condemnation of the general policy of the Government. I do not anticipate that either the foreign, colonial, or Indian policy of the Government will be impugned, or that it will be alleged that it has been weak, unwise, or unsuccessful. I do not conceive it likely that the administration of any of the great Departments of the State will be impugned. If any of these allegations are now to be made they will be made for the first time in a period of six years, for I believe that neither in this House nor the other House has any Motion involving confidence in the Government upon questions of general policy been as much as moved or suggested. But, my Lords, I think, when we are on the eve of a change of Government, there is one question which we have a right to ask from those who acknowledge that they are prepared to accept the responsibilities of Office, relating to foreign affairs. Although the conduct of foreign affairs by the Government has not been attacked, yet we have heard from time to time hints more or less obscure, more or less clear, that the time has come when a different policy is to be pursued in Egypt from that which has hitherto been pursued. We have had from not unimportant authorities suggestions that the time has arrived, if it has not already passed, when the evacuation of Egypt by Her Majesty's Forces ought to take place. Now, at the time when a new Government is about to take Office, and when it is probable that Parliament may not meet for five or six months, I think we have a right to know whether the Members of the Opposition, on whom the real responsibility for the government of this country is about to rest, have as yet formed an opinion that the time has come for the evacuation of Egypt; and whether any undertaking will be given that no steps will be taken which will irrevocably and irretrievably pledge the honour of 65 this country on that subject, until Parliament shall have had some opportunity of expressing its opinion either upon the subject of evacuation or the conditions under which that evacuation is to be carried out. My Lords, if it is unlikely, as I think it is, that the general policy of the Government is going to be impugned, is their administration of the government of Ireland going to be impugned? If these events had taken place two or three years ago, I think there is little doubt that the administration of the government of Ireland would have been the main if not the only ground on which the House of Commons would have been asked to vote the condemnation of the Government. The severity, the rigour, the alleged injustice and cruelty with which the Crimes Act was administered formed the perpetual subject of Resolutions of Want of Confidence in the other House; and if a great and remarkable change had not taken place in that country since that time, I have no doubt that a similar Resolution would have formed the ground of the action of the Opposition on this occasion. If your Lordships will allow me, I will read one specimen of the numerous Motions of Censure upon that subject which were moved in the other House. In 1888 Mr. John Morley moved—That, in the opinion of this House, the operation of the Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act, 1887, and the manner of its administration undermine respect for law, estrange the minds of the people of Ireland, and are deeply injurious to the interests of the United Kingdom.Your Lordships will observe that that Resolution was aimed not merely at the existence on the Statute Book of that Act, but at its operation and the manner of its administration. I will read one or two sentences from the speech of Mr. John Morley supporting that Resolution—How long, I ask, is this to go on? Under such a system as this, a system which has alienated and is alienating the minds of the people from the law and throwing all their sympathies on the side of the offenders against the law, under that system no civil virtue can ever grow or ever thrive.… I say that the state of Ireland is becoming, not better from day to-day, but is becoming worse. I think that before many months arc passed, if 66 you test those propositions by all that comes up from Ireland, you will see the necessity for doing away with a system which is deepening the confusion in Ireland, and which tarnishes the credit, the honour, and the renown of this Parliament and of the people of this country.I should like to ask whether such a Resolution as that, supported by such assertions and such prophecies, does not, in the light of our present knowledge of the condition of Ireland, appear to be something more than unfounded, and to be almost absurd and ridiculous? Is there any reason why we should feel confidence in placing the administration of Ireland in the hands of men who have proved what is their knowledge of the condition of Ireland, and of the influences which have sway in Ireland, by committing themselves to phophecies which have been so completely and so utterly falsified? My Lords, I think upon this subject also we are entitled to some little information. Ireland, as we have been reminded already, is at the present moment governed under no coercion at all. The mere existence of a permanent, instead of a temporary and exceptional law, has produced the effect which those who supported it always anticipated that it would produce. It has proved so efficient that it has been possible to lay aside that weapon in the armoury, and to trust to the ordinary law, which has, by its agency, been restored to the efficiency it had once lost, for the preservation of order and for the good government of Ireland. But, my Lords, if we are to judge by the perpetual denunciations of the Crimes Act which we have heard from the Members of the Opposition, one of the first Acts which they will ask Parliament to sanction will be the repeal of that law. The denunciations in which they have indulged make that almost a necessity, even if they are not bound by any understanding with the Nationalist Members, whose support is essential to the permanence of the existence of their Government. There are many noble Lords in this House who have had great experience of the government of Ireland. There is one noble Lord who sits behind me who has had greater experience in the administration of Coercion Acts probably than any other person. I should like to ask my noble Friend to whom I refer 67 (Earl Spencer) whether he will deliberately get up in this House and say that he prefers the existence in Ireland of such a state of crime, anarchy, and disorder as he has himself on former occasions had to cope with; whether he prefers the existence of such a paralysis of the law before and after periods of exceptional legislation, too late resorted to and too soon abandoned; whether he deliberately prefers the possibility of the existence of such a state of things in Ireland to the mere existence on the Statute Book of a law, the efficiency of which has been proved by the fact that it is no longer necessary to put it in force? There is a further question which we are entitled to ask of the noble Lords who are ready to assume the responsibility of Office: in what spirit is the ordinary law going to be administered in Ireland? During the last five or six years the Government have been constantly attacked, not only by the Irish Members, but by English Members of the Opposition, because they have not refused to give the support of the forces which the Crown can control to the officers of the law in the execution of their duty in a certain class of cases. Now we have a right to know whether or not effect is to be given to those denunciations. We have a right to know whether the law is not going to be supported if the execution of the law relates to any matter connected with the land, or whether, in spite of all they have said during the last four or five years, they are now prepared to say that, while the law remains unaltered, the law shall be obeyed, and that disobedience to the law shall not be condoned any more in agrarian than in any other class of offences or of lawlessness? We have a right to ask whether they are prepared to look on quietly while the National League revives, or attempts to revive, that agrarian war which was the curse of Ireland not long ago—whether they are prepared to take a side in that war which is not the side of law, or whether they are prepared calmly to look on while Ireland is once more reduced to that state of anarchy and disorder which had the effect of converting, first Mr. Morley, and subsequently Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues, to the 68 necessity of Home Rule? My Lords, if neither the general policy of the administration of the Government nor their Irish administration is likely to be made the ground on which the Government are to be condemned, I would ask whether it is their failure to meet the necessities of the country either in their past or their prospective legislation? As to their past legislation, such measures as the Local Government Act, the Free Education Act, and many others which I need not enumerate, have been admitted even by Members of the Opposition to be measures of a useful and progressive character, though, no doubt, it has been open to them to think that they would have been far better if they had been passed by other hands. As to prospective legislation, it is a matter of opinion whether the legislative policy which has been frequently indicated by the Government, and which, if they had obtained the support of a majority in the country, they would have been prepared to continue in another Session of Parliament, is a more useful, more timely legislative policy than that which is embodied in the Newcastle programme. I should be very much surprised, if we could induce some of my noble Friends who sit behind me to enter into a perfectly confidential and unofficial discussion on these subjects, to find that they are very strongly convinced of the superiority of the legislative programme which embraces a new Reform Bill, Disestablishment, and the other miscellaneous items of the Newcastle Programme, the London Programme, and the agricultural labourers' programme. I should be much surprised to find that they have any enthusiastic preference for those measures of legislation over the continuation of local government reform, the establishment of local government in Ireland, and the other social reforms which have been promised by Her Majesty's Government. But I do not entertain the slightest doubt that the Elections have been influenced to some, perhaps to a considerable, extent by promises of extensive and far-reaching legislation on a variety of subjects; and it would be interesting to know, now that the time for making promises has passed, when nothing more is to be 69 gained by promises, but when the time for performance is approaching rather more closely, whether, either in the form of Resolutions to be moved in the other House, or in the form of declarations by responsible Members of the Opposition, those pledges are going now to be renewed which they have been so freely making for themselves in the country, and which their followers and supporters have been undertaking in their name to a still greater degree? But, my Lords, whatever may be the pledges which the Opposition are going to give on the subject of their future legislation, there are none of them relating to Imperial legislation affecting the three kingdoms which will be able to maintain them in power for a single clay, after once they have met Parliament, unless they are prepared, at the same time, to redeem the pledges which they have given to the Irish Members for the establishment of an Irish Parliament and an Irish Parliamentary Government. The Members of the Opposition are deeply pledged to the Irish people and the Irish Members, but they are not less pledged to the people of Great Britain. They have pledged themselves that any Parliamentary form of government which they will concede to Ireland shall he one which shall in no degree impair the authority of the Imperial Parliament. I am not going to waste your Lordships' time by asking for any assurance from my noble Friends as to the nature of the Home Rule measure which they contemplate introducing. I refrain from asking these questions, not because I think we have not a perfect right to ask them, but because I feel perfectly certain that they will obtain no answer. I think we have a right to ask a good deal more. I think we have a right to ask how the pledges to which I have referred, pledges which seem to me to he absolutely incompatible, are to be reconciled. We have a right to be told whether the Government which it is proposed to establish in Ireland is to be a sort of dual independence, or a system of federal or colonial autonomy. We have a right to know whether they adhere to the opinion which they held six years ago, that to deal simultaneously with the Irish law and with 70 the position of Irish landlords is an obligation of honour and of justice. We have a right, above all, to know in what manner the claims of the Protestants of Ulster—claims which six years ago were admitted to exist, and which in the present year have been put forward with far greater distinctness and clearness than in any previous period—are going to be recognised. But, as I have said, I refrain from putting these questions, not in the belief that we have not a perfect right to demand explanations upon them before the Government of this country is placed in other hands, but because I know that it is absolutely impossible to obtain information upon them. We have done our best to induce the people of this country to require that no Minister shall receive authority to reopen the question of Irish Government until he has made some more explicit declarations as to the nature of the Government which he proposes to set up. I regret that we have failed in those endeavours. I regret it, because I believe that to re-open the question of Irish Government will have the effect of unsettling Ireland, of delaying the progress which is going on, and of checking the prosperity which is beginning to appear. I regret it, because I believe that to re-open the question of Irish Government will bring back the disorder and perhaps the misery which has been undergone in that country within the last few years. I regret it, because I think that such an attempt, in the absence of the explicit declarations for which we have asked in vain, cannot in its nature be a final settlement of the question. It can only have the effect of wasting the time of Parliament, and of preventing it from paying attention to those other matters of social reform with which otherwise it would be able to deal. But, my Lords, these are the only reasons for which I regret that failure of our endeavours to elicit some more explicit pledges from the Members of the Opposition. If they had had more courage—if they had been willing to risk more—it is possible that they might have gained more. If they had thought fit to take the people of this country into their confidence, and had given the general principles and outlines of the measure they proposed to intro- 71 duce, and after this had defeated us, it would have been possible for them to say that they had obtained something like an expression of the feeling of the people upon this subject. Now they have obtained nothing except leave to attempt again to do that which they have already attempted once and have conspicuously failed in doing. No Irish Representative sits in the House of Commons who is pledged to his constituents to accept any measure which may be offered to him. No Member for any British constituency is pledged to his constituents to offer anything which may be asked. It will be the right and it will be the duty of every Member of Parliament, of either House, to form his own independent judgment on any measure which may be submitted to him and, what is more, he has no authority from his constituents either to accept or offer any measure of Irish Government in their name. The measure which will come before this Parliament can by no possibility bear upon its face the stamp of the deliberate approval or judgment of the people. It will be the duty of this House, as well as of the other House, to form its own judgment on such a measure when it comes before it, not only upon its merits, but upon the extent to which it deserves or is likely to obtain the deliberate acceptance of this nation. My Lords, these are subjects upon which the members of the Opposition would, I think, have lost nothing if they had thought fit to give us some explanation of their views upon the present occasion. They have not thought fit to do so, and in the omission of the discharge of that duty, which will no doubt be effectually discharged in another place, I humbly submit to your Lordships that they have been wanting in that respect which is due to the Assembly of which we are members.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
My Lords, although I propose to address a few observations to your Lordships, I am afraid they will not afford any satisfaction to the noble Duke who has just sat down. I only rise to assure your Lordships, if you need such assurance—to assure the noble Duke that it is from no want of respect to this House that we have taken the course which 72 we have thought it right to adopt. No doubt that course is open to such criticism as the noble Duke or anyone else may please to pass upon it, and, so far as that criticism is just and wise either in this House or outside of it, we shall no doubt reap the disadvantage which we may incur by having taken the course which we have done and which we propose to take. But I entirely deny that the noble Duke has been able to allude to any precedent which justifies the observation that we arc departing from the course which has been taken on previous occasions. The noble Duke alludes to 1859 and to the discussion which took place on that occasion. But he did not call your Lordships' attention to the fact that the Queen's Speech at that time bore no sort of resemblance to the Queen's Speech to which we have listened to-day. I suppose he read the speech made on that occasion by the late Lord Granville as leading the Opposition; and if he read it he would have seen how the observations which were made by the noble Earl were largely dictated by the situation which then existed, and to which allusion was made in the Speech of Her Majesty on that occasion, and that the speech was one which naturally followed the declaration of policy on the part of the then Government—a declaration which is entirely wanting on the present occasion. But where, I should like to know, is the noble Duke's precedent for questions put, as questions have been put to-day, not to those who are in Office and have the responsibility of Office upon them, but to those who are under no responsibility at this moment? We, my Lords, are private members of your Lordships' House, and are no more subject to be criticised than the noble Duke or any other member of this House who may be sitting on these Benches. The noble Duke has alluded to a variety of questions. I have observed that every one of the noble Lords who has touched upon this question of Home Rule, and who has invited us to make full declarations upon it, has said that he was not about to do so, and that this was not the time to discuss the matter.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
I heard the noble Lords, Lord Northbrook and Lord Camperdown, say so. About the other two I am not sure; but that is two out of four.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
I said that this was not the time to enter upon a discussion of the whole question of Home Rule; but I did not say that it was not the time for the noble Lords to make a declaration.
§ LORD HERSCHELL
No doubt; and anything more mischievous, anything more misleading, and anything more likely to do injury to the country than partial declarations upon a great question it is impossible to conceive. If we could go into the whole question it would be intelligible that we should be asked to do so. But when it is admitted that we cannot, and when we are invited to make declarations upon the explicit parts selected by noble Lords themselves, I say that we have a duty which we must discharge as best we may. I observe that the noble Lord (Lord Northbrook) constantly spoke of "those on the Treasury Bench." He was under the supposition that we had already changed sides. I quite admit that then his questions would have been pertinent and just; but he has forgotten the not immaterial fact that at present we are sitting on this Bench and are under no such responsibilities as those with which he has invested us. What course ought we to take under such circumstances as these? We must take that course which we think is least likely to create difficulties and to render us less able properly to discharge the duties which devolve upon us, if ever they should devolve upon us. The noble Duke says that they have a right to ask such questions as they please. No doubt they have. But I venture to suggest that there is a right which we possess equally with that right, a correlative right, and that is the right not to answer them, and that right is one which we are just as much justified in exercising, and just as much possessed 74 of, as those who put the questions. No doubt the noble Duke and noble Earls have dealt with questions of a very serious character. I do not deny their gravity for a moment. Who can doubt that anyone who may hereafter become Her Majesty's Ministers, and who have to deal with such subjects as the noble Lords have dwelt upon, must do so under the deepest possible sense of responsibility; and I have been asking myself, while this discussion has been going on, what object there was in view in making the speeches to which your Lordships have listened. Was it a solicitude for our interests, a desire to assist us in the task which they think we may hereafter be called upon to perform? Did they think that if they asked those questions, and dwelt upon those matters which they put as points of great difficulty, and as requiring much care and discrimination in their answers—did they think that if on the moment we were, as they proposed, to give them these answers, it would assist us, supposing that duty should devolve upon us which they seem to anticipate is likely? I cannot think so. I have no doubt that they are extremely solicitous for our welfare personally, but beyond that I doubt if they have any solicitude about us at all. I believe they would desire to throw every obstacle in our path, to make every difficulty that is going to rest upon our shoulders infinitely more difficult, and to render the task that they suggest is likely to devolve upon us as difficult of performance as possible. All that is right and fair enough, but if they have made these speeches in that spirit with that object in view, thinking that if they could induce us to answer to the call and make the declarations, not that the country would gain—I do not for a moment understand how that would be likely to be the case, and there was hardly a suggestion of it—but how we might be placed in a more difficult position, then it is obviously quite competent for us to think, and we do think, that the best way in which we can discharge our duty at the present time, and the duties that now devolve upon us, is not to enter upon these discussions and not to make declarations which might mislead 75 and which must mislead unless they can be much more full than would be at all possible on an occasion such as this. Now, my Lords, I confess I regretted to hear one or two things that were said by the noble Duke, and by the noble Earl who first took part in the discussion. I should hope that as regards the condition of Ireland, however much noble Lords may be opposed to our policy, at least they will not try to render our task in that respect more difficult than it necessarily will be. And I confess I regretted to hear those predictions of disturbances and out-rages and troubles in the winter of that description. According to my belief, nothing is less likely to conduce to the maintenance of order and peace and quietude than observations of that kind, and suggestions that if there is a change of Government such things are likely to take place. Our policy may be mistaken; it may be altogether wrong; but whatever advantage might be gained from a Party point of view, I do not think there would be any compensation which would justify the observations that have been made when you think of the grave danger of suggesting to the people of Ireland, or any other part of Her Majesty's Dominions, that those who may hereafter be called upon to take part in the Government of the country will be indifferent to the maintenance of order and the maintenance of the law. And there was one other observation of the noble Earl who first took part in this Debate which I heard with regret. He suggested that affairs abroad were somewhat critical, and indicated the fear that when foreign affairs passed out of the strong hands of the noble Marquess, and passed into other hands, the difficulties and dangers would be increased by that transference, and the outlook would be graver than it was before. There again, with all respect, I think that nothing but disadvantage can result from suggestions such as those. Before he even knows into whose hands they are to fall, or may fall, the suggestion—I am going to say nothing disparaging to the noble Marquess, but it amounts to state this, as I understand it: a suggestion to all foreign nations that there is no other person, at all events none in the 76 Party to which I belong, into whose hands the management of foreign affairs can come, who will bring to bear upon them the firmness, the skill, and the wisdom of the noble Marquess. Is it wise to preach a doctrine of that sort to foreign nations? It seems to me, my Lords, that no advantage is to be gained by it. I would only say this: that whatever may have been our short coming during the years we have been in Opposition, we have never done anything to embarrass the conduct of foreign affairs by the noble Marquess, either in this House or in the other. We have always done our best in this matter, whatever may have been our differences, to act loyally, and not even to put questions at critical moments which might have caused embarrassment. I trust that that may be a policy which will continue. It was not the policy which I recollect from 1880 to 1885—I am not speaking of this House, but of the other which I knew at that time, and I trust we shall have no recurrence of such discussions as were very common in those days. I am not speaking, of course, of the mass, probably, of those who were then in Opposition, but I am certainly speaking of many who seemed to take it as their mission in life to preach to foreign nations that the Government in power were indifferent whether they maintained the honour of the country, or its dignity, or its interests at all. My Lords, I do not think that any useful purpose is served by a discussion of legislation, or by the suggestion that, if there were a change from the present Government to another, foreign affairs would thereby necessarily fall into weaker hands and become a subject of graver concern to the nation. My Lords, I have said all I intended to say. One thing I may perhaps add. The noble Duke has dwelt upon the manner in which, as he says the majority which exists now in the other House was obtained. He has alluded to a variety of promises which, he says were made, in this quarter and it that. In order to ascertain at all accurately what was the state of things in that respect, it would be necessary to take a somewhat wide retrospect of the history of the late Election. I dare say there were indi- 77 viduals who made excessive promises; some people have temperaments extremely sanguine; but I should be very much surprised if, upon a review of the promises made, it was found that these sanguine temperaments have existence more amongst one set of politicians than another. I have read some very remarkable promises which have been made by those whose politics were not exactly mine. Indeed, if I remember rightly, there was a suggestion made to the Nonconformists of Wales by a distinguished politician that the best way to obtain Welsh Disestablishment was to vote for the Union and the Conservative and Liberal Unionist Members. That was the promise held out, no doubt, to Wales. It may not have succeeded in accomplishing the end for which it was made; but still I give it as an illustration. I could allude to a good many others. I see indeed that a very distinguished supporter of Her Majesty's Government suggests that the true policy of the Conservatives is to defend the Union, not by making promises which they believe will be beneficial to the country, but by making promises which they think will catch votes, whether they believe them to be beneficial to the country or not. I am alluding to an article by Mr. Edward Dicey, which, I dare say, many of your Lordships have read. That is another way in which votes may be obtained, and I am not quite sure that some of those with whom the noble Duke acts did not take counsel with Mr. Edward Dicey and follow the advice that he gave. But, my Lords, we can only deal with matters as they are, and it seems to me that to enter into a controversy after an election as to promises that one or other may have made which may have affected this election or that is a very idle controversy indeed. One other word only I will say with regard to the doctrine of the noble Marquess, that no policy with reference to legislative measures can be said to have the sanction of the country, though it has returned a majority of Members in support of that policy, unless the details of the measure are laid before it. That is an absolutely new doctrine. It is one that has not been sanctioned, so far as I know, on any previous occasion. When 78 the Irish Church was disestablished after the Election of 1868, and when the great Irish Land Bill was brought in after that Election, those measures were passed, and the Parliament was regarded as having been elected to support and pass those measures. But were the details of either of them put before the country, and were they asked to express an opinion upon them? Most assuredly not. And it seems to me that that would be impossible, because you would place yourselves in this position, so far as I understand my noble Friend: that if when Parliament came to deliberate they saw that some change had better be made, that the measure would be safer, wiser, better, if it were modified to some extent from that which was put before the country, the result would he that Parliament would not be competent to pass it into law; but Parliament would only be competent to pass into law just exactly that measure which had been put before the country, after which its discussion would necessarily be idle and useless. Therefore, I humbly enter my protest against that doctrine of the noble Duke, although I do not think it is a very practical matter on the present occasion. With regard to discussion by your Lordships of great questions, to which allusion has been made, they can only have any effect after they have been discussed in your Lordships' House; they can only be passed into law after they have been discussed in your Lordships' House. And, no doubt, when they come to be discussed here a full discussion will result as an absolute certainty. But, for the reasons which I have given, I do not think that there would be any advantage in a preliminary discussion of them on the present occasion; nor do I think there is any precedent for asking those who may be called upon hereafter to introduce measures to your Lordships, before they have had any opportunity of considering them and preparing them, to tell your Lordships what the details of them are to be.
Address agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.