HL Deb 03 February 1893 vol 8 cc357-82

Order of the Day for resuming the Debate on the Motion for an humble Address to Her Majesty, read.

Debate resumed accordingly.


said, before entering upon the question of Ireland, the topic which had absorbed most of the Debate on the Address in their Lordships' House, he desired to make a few remarks on another subject. He was not going to investigate the heterogenous materials of which the Programme of Her Majesty's Government, as set forth in the Speech from the Throne, was composed. Doubtless the House was not supposed to take that Programme very seriously, as, indeed, Lord Spencer had frankly stated. The noble Earl last night, in the name of the Government, explained quite frankly that, have pledged themselves to a great many measures during the last six years, the Government thought it advisable so far to fulfil those pledges as to make mention of many measures in the Queen's Speech, although there was no possibility whatever of those measures ever becoming law. He thought the proper moral of that was not that au impossible Queen's Speech was desirable, but that it was undesirable to give pledges to the constituencies which they knew perfectly well they had no intention or power of fulfilling. It was all very well making these candid and somewhat cynical avowals in that House; but why were not noble Lords and their friends equally holiest to their constituencies in explaining that their pledges meant nothing more than the shadowy satisfaction of a mention in the Queen's Speech, and that they had no intention whatever of attempting to carry those promised Bills into law or even of placing Bills upon those subjects upon time Table in either House of Parliament? Not content, however, even with the immense volume of the Queen's Speech, it appeared that the Prime Minister had stated, in another place, that it was the intention of the Government to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the land question in Wales. He should like very much to know what the land question in Wales was, wherein it differed from the land question in England, whatever that might be, and, if so, in what way? If the Government were of opinion that agricultural distress was in any way due to anything faulty in the system of land tenure in these islands, let the Government issue a Royal Commission to inquire not only into the system of land tenure here, but also in the Colonies, the United States, and Continental countries, and let a thorough investigation be made of the subject. But this Commission was of quite a different complexion, and must be looked at in the light derived from the speech that Mr. Gladstone made amid the appropriate mists of Snowdon some little tune ago. It appeared that the owners of landed property in Wales had been unfortunate enough to incur Mr. Gladstone's displeasure. He was not satisfied with the deductions they had made from their rents, and, therefore, their conduct must be inquired into. This Royal Commission to inquire into the land system in Wales was a direct outcome of Mr. Gladstone's Speech. He protested against such interference with the exercise of private rights. The proposed Commission was nothing more nor less than an inquisitorial visitation into the private business of certain private individuals—men who were not accused of doing anything in any way beyond the law, but who had not administered their properties in a way which the Prime Minister approved of. However tempting it might be as an owner of land in Wales to court full inquiry, he protested against this proposed action. He protested against Parliament turning itself into a sort of private inquiry office; he protested against such interference in the private affairs of private individuals, mid against such arbitrary, despotic action on the part of the Executive. This looked ominously like taking a leaf from the Parnellite book. That most astute organiser of men bought the adhesion of one class in Ireland to his political Separatist ideas by money obtained for them from the pockets of another class in Ireland, a very simple and efficacious, but, he ventured to say, an exceedingly immoral proceeding. He protested against this on account also of the injury to agriculture that must ensue throughout the whole country. The noble Earl the Lord President of the Council (Lord Kimberley) made light of the effects on agriculture, that doubt and distrust as to the security of capital could produce. Did he think that owners of land in Wales would be encouraged to invest their capital in keeping their estates and farm buildings in good order and that they would be encouraged to assist farmers by liberal reductions in their rent with such an inquiry as this hanging over their heads? Did he think that such an inquiry would inspire confidence among landowners in England? There was no difference whatever in the system of laud tenure, or practically in the system of management of lauded estates in England and in Wales. A similar inquiry might be undertaken tomorrow in England or in any county in England at the pleasure of the Government. The proposed action on the part of the Government could not fail to react injuriously on agriculture, and he would be glad to be informed by Her Majesty's Government what they considered the land question was in Wales, and in what way it was different from other parts of Great Britain. Landowners in every part of the country had a right to expect information on those points. And now, with regard to Ireland, he did not intend to occupy the time of the House in going over the ground that had been so well explored by his noble Friend the Marquess of Londonderry, in making good his general contention that the action of the Government during the last six mouths had been detrimental to the peace and prosperity of Ireland. The noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack took great exception to the facts and figures quoted by the noble Marquess as being unofficial, and grew eloquent on the theme that they had no right to rely on figures as true which were not derived from an official source, or on anything stated in the public newspapers—that, in fact, nothing in the world was reliable except statistics in Blue Books. He was always glad to quote from Blue Books where possible; but really the noble and learned Lord appeared to carry his reverence for Blue Books to the verge of superstition, and whether the statistics there to be found were accurate or not, it was scarcely the fact that truth was not to be culled from other sources also. They on that side of the House were not to blame if they could not quote from official Returns of the last six months during which time the Government had been in Office; they were not yet published, but the noble Marquess (Lord Londonderry) had referred to sources not unreliable, the Charges of Judges, the records of outrages derived from the ordinary source of information—the newspapers—and he had adduced in evidence a meeting of the magistrates of the County Clare convened by the Lord Lieutenant of that county. Whether such evidence was in every item absolutely correct or not, their Lordships must admit it carried so much weight that the onus of proof to the contrary lay with the other side of the House. If they could prove that that information was incorrect, well and good; but he submitted they had done nothing of the kind, and it therefore deserved to be accepted as fairly accurate by their Lordships' House. He had some knowledge and some little experience of the southern and western portions of Ireland. He had the doubtful privilege of possessing some little property—very little, he was glad to say—in the Counties of Kerry and Clare, and a little more in the adjoining County Limerick. In that county he was born, and there he principally lived and lived, he was thankful to say, in peace. Thought he might have no intelligence, he had at least some local instincts, and it would take many columns of statistics to convince him that, as far as agrarian crime was concerned, the country had not deteriorated during the last few months. A great deal was said about the fact that agrarian crime throughout the country generally had diminished, and that they had no right to pick out particular counties. He entirely denied that the condition of crime throughout the whole country should alone be considered, and no Government had a right to dispense with powers which would enable them to detect and prevent crime in particular districts or counties or parts of them. He would not argue the point whether crime of this nature had diminished or not throughout Ireland as a whole. His point was that, whatever might be the condition of crime throughout the country, if it was increasing in any particular county or district, if it could not be dealt with by ordinary powers of the law in any particular county and district, the Executive were not justified in abandoning powers which in that particular county or district would enable them to put down crime. What comfort was it to a law-abiding citizen in County Clare, who went about in terror of his life, to be told that agrarian crime was diminishing in Ireland? The first duty of the Executive, the main end and object of any Government, was to afford proper security for life, property, and liberty in every portion of its jurisdiction. The system of averages might be very conveniently adopted in some cases; hut it was a poor consolation to the unfortunate persons whose lives and properties were insecure in certain districts in Ireland. The noble and learned Lord upon the Woolsack spoke about the Gweedore case, and appealed to their sense of humanity whether he was not perfectly justified in letting those murderers loose upon society. He informed their Lordships, also, that the ordinary course had been pursued, that the Judge who had tried the case had reported, and that he was fully justified in recommending the clemency of the Crown. But the Judge reported two years ago. Why was he not asked to report again? Why was an unusual course pursued in this case? He knew of no instance when the Lord Chancellor of England had been consulted as to whether the clemency of the Crown should be extended to prisoners convicted in Ireland for an offence committed in that country. Was the Lord Chancellor of Ireland consulted in the matter? If so, what did he say? And if not, why not? Under ordinary circumstances the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, not the Lord Chancellor of England, would have been the proper person to consult. That would have been the ordinary course.


I believe he was consulted in addition to myself.


said, that the substitution of the highest legal authority in England for the highest legal authority in Ireland was a somewhat strange and curious comment upon the Government's idea of Home Rule. Her Majesty's Government appeared to think Ireland perfectly capable of managing her own affairs, and that her dependence upon England should be of the most slender kind, but the course they had adopted in this matter seemed hardly consistent with that idea. The noble and learned Lord had appealed to their Lordships' sentiments of mercy and charity; and they must have been touched by the pleading of the noble and learned Lord that a man might in a moment of passion commit a terrible offence and be convicted for a long term of penal servitude which might justly be commuted in consideration of the fact that the offence had been committed in a moment of great excitement. These facts were generally taken into consideration by the jury and by the Judge. But this was a peculiar case. The case of the murder of Sub-Inspector Martin was no ordinary one. He was executing a warrant, and was killed in the execution of that duty. It was no private quarrel. It was a case of resistance to the law. The noble and learned Lord said that this release would have attracted no attention if it had occurred in England. Would the noble Lord give an instance where a man in the position of Sub-Inspector Martin had been murdered in England in executing a warrant and where the murderers had been similarly released? Though the noble and learned Lord might not have been actuated by political motives, he must have known (at any rate, he ought to have known) that his action would lead to grave political and social consequences. He absolved the noble and learned Lord at once from any sympathy with crime, or any desire to extenuate crime, but he could not suppose the noble and learned Lord had failed to apprehend the inevitable consequences which his action must have upon Ireland. The noble and learned Lord spoke of the Commission for the reinstatement of the evicted tenants, and attempted to traverse the argument that it was a partisan Commission by stating that it could not be partisan, because neither landlords nor tenants were upon it. What had that to do with the matter? What they contended was that the Commission was partisan in its constitution, that it was composed of individuals perfectly well-known to be partisan in their proclivities, whereas the landlord's interest was not in any way represented on the Commission. It might as well be said that a Commission to inquire into vivisection was not partisan, notwithstanding all its members were Anti-Vivisectionists, because the dogs, cats, and other animals to be operated upon were not upon it. He presumed the object of a Commission, whether it was Viceregal or Royal, was to arrive at the truth; and in a case like this, to forbid cross-examination by counsel, was to make it absolutely im- possible to arrive at the truth. But what he mainly objected to about this Commission of Mr. Morley's was not so much the method as the nature of the Reference. It was supposed to be instituted to carry out Clause 13 of the Act of 1891. That clause enabled landlords, if they thought fit, to sell their property to tenants who had been evicted; but the arrangement lay with the landlords. If the tenant had been evicted through misfortune, through no particular fault of his own, the landlord could, if he chose, still avail himself, and allow the tenant to avail himself, of the privileges of the Land Purchase Act. This Commission was an entirely different matter. It was to be compulsory, and evicted tenants were to be put back again, though, as Lord Londonderry had said, they were fraudulent bankrupts. It was not instituted to discover whether a tenant should be reinstated or not. It was instituted to find out the best means of reinstating them. It was appointed with its finding stated for it in the Reference, and he did not believe that a Commission of that kind, whether Viceregal or Royal, had ever before been issued in the United Kingdom. The noble Earl (Lord Spencer) spoke about the Lunatic Asylums Boards. He appeared to think that a man's religion qualified or disqualified him from serving on any Board of Administration, and lie attempted to prove the righteousness of having a proper proportion of Protestants and Catholics upon these Boards. But what on earth had religion got to do with a thing of this kind? The noble Earl went so far as to say that because the majority of the lunatics were Catholics the majority of the Board ought to be Catholics. He might with equal logic have said that because the majority of the lunatics to be dealt with were insane therefore the majority of the Board should be insane. He could not conceive anything more utterly unreasonable, more utterly contrary to all the dictates of the most ordinary commonsense than the process which the Government had carried on of turning out men of proved integrity and proved intelligence, who had devoted long lives to doing excellent work, simply on account of their religious belief. Her Majesty's Government were indignant at the idea expressed of their sympathising with crime. He did not for a moment accuse the Government of sympathising with crime, but simply with what their actions had shown—namely, the most complete ignorance on the subject of Ireland, and an absolute incapacity for governing that country. He wished to treat the Gracious Speech with the utmost respect; but it was evident that the paragraph in the Queen's Speech relating to the improvement as regarded agrarian crime had been dictated by Her Majesty's advisers rather in a sense of humour than with a full and clear appreciation of the facts. The fact that their sympathies appeared to be with criminals was, no doubt, due to coincidence. It was a coincidence, no doubt, that Mr. Morley issued this Commission to reinstate evicted tenants, members or dupes of a criminal conspiracy, at a time when the reinstatement of those evicted tenants was a financial and political necessity for the allies of the Government in Ireland. It was a coincidence that excellent men who happened to be Protestants were removed from the Asylums Board to make room for Catholics at a time when the clerical party, supporting Her Majesty's Government, demanded consideration at their hands. It was a coincidence that prisoners had been released at a time when the release of those prisoners was clamoured for by an Irish Party upon whose votes Her Majesty's Government depended for their maintenance in power. Those were mere coincidences—unfortunate ones, no doubt. He noticed that the noble Lord who moved the Address, in speaking on this question, used the expression "local self-government," while the noble Lord who seconded it invariably adopted the expression "Home Rule." Now, there was an enormous difference between the two expressions, as they were generally understood. With regard to local self-government, lie entertained very strong, and what some of those among whom he lived in Ireland might regard as very advanced, opinions. He was warmly in favour of a large and liberal measure of local self-government being granted to Ireland, for he had great faith in the educating effect of responsibility, in the advantages to be gained by affording useful employment for the energies of people, and by gratifying their natural ambition to manage their own local affairs. There might be some trouble and difficulty at first, there might be to some extent maladministration, and difficulties might arise from the natural results of a delight in the exercise of unusual powers, but he had not the slightest doubt as to the ultimate result. The Irish people were certainly not fools. They were by nature aristocratic in their ideas, and if they were administering their own local affairs they would in a very short time take good care to administer them well. The course now pursued for instance in Private Bill legislation was a great grievance to Ireland. But between the devolution of powers to Local Bodies in Ireland under one supreme Parliament and the creation of another and a separate Parliament, controlling and practically selecting its own Executive, there was a fundamental difference a difference not of degree, but of kind. Even if he had time he would not attempt to discuss Home Rule. It was, in his opinion, little better than a waste of time to discuss that impossible craze, Home Rule. What was the condition of public sentiment on that question? Home Rule as the Irish understood it, and if it were to be anything like that proposed by the former Bill, was what had been ardently pressed for by the open and avowed enemies of England and America. It was ardently desired by some honest but mistaken enthusiasts in Ireland, and it was rather languidly acquiesced in by the majority in that country. It was vehemently repudiated by the minority—not a small one, and one they must remember that comprised practically all the wealth of the country, not only in capital, but in skilled industry, and cultivated intelligence. Great Britain had pronounced against it, and England had done so in words to which they could not possibly shut their ears. How was it possible, therefore, to dream of carrying a great constitutional change in the system of union that existed between the different parts of the United Kingdom in the face of such forces and such opposition as this? It was because Ireland was deprived of constructive legislation she needed while the Government persisted in an impossible policy, and because he knew the evil results that would be produced by Home Ride that he so strongly opposed it. Ireland was to wait for relief in matters which pressed hardly upon her, such as the inconvenience and cost of attending at Westminster in Private Bill legislation while Government were insisting upon carrying out their idea of Home Rule. The Party opposite seemed to think that they had some kind of monopoly of sympathy with the Irish people. Nothing of the kind. Many of their Lordships were born in Ireland and had lived there for the greater portion of their lives, they knew the country and loved it, knew the people and loved them, and in spite of the enormous temptation, especially amongst the smaller landed proprietors in Ireland, to make friends with the Mammon of unrighteousness, they had stoutly resisted temptation. They were opposed to this measure of Home Rule, and as long as they could they would continue to oppose it.


said, he would first refer to certain matters relating to the Evicted Tenants Commission, as he happened to be a member of the Landlords Convention Executive Committee, which was responsible for the advice given to the Irish Landlords, and taken by the majority, not the whole of them, not to appear before the Commission. Several objections to it had been already pointed out by previous speakers, but he would only refer to what he considered the two principal ones. He complained of the course adopted by the Commission in refusing to comply with a respectful request made to them that no evidence against a landlord should be published until he had been heard in reply. Another cause of dissatisfaction with the Commission arose in connection with the right of cross-examination, and, though he confessed that he had himself some doubt as to that right, it had certainly been admitted on many Commissions held in Ireland during the last 20 years and more, including the Belfast Inquiry Commission in 1864, the Londonderry Riots Inquiry Commission in 1869, the Dungannon Inquiry Commission in 1871, the Municipal Boundaries Commission in 1878, and the Lurgan Riots Inquiry Commission in 1880. On the Belfast Inquiry, of which Baron Dowse was one of the Commissioners, Serjeant Armstrong examined and cross-examined witnesses, mid Mr. Commissioner Barrow said with regard to the course of procedure "We shall place ourselves entirely in the hands of professional gentlemen present" and he allowed them to take part in the Inquiry. At the Londonderry Commission, of which Mr. Wrexham was one of the Commissioners and the present Justice Murphy another, the witnesses were examined and cross-examined in the same way, and Mr. Wrexham said as to the course to be adopted— I am glad to see professional gentlemen present, and to state that we shall suit their convenience on both sides. Mr. Wrexham also presided on the Dungannon Commission, and Serjeant Armstrong again appeared there with other professional gentlemen, the Commissioners stating that their presence "would ensure that the matters complained of would receive the most complete and searching investigation." There appeared before the Municipal Boundaries Commission in 1878 the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, the present Master of Rolls, and other distinguished Queen's Counsel. On the tinge n Commission, the parties concerned were represented by solicitors, and the Report concluded— We desire to say that the Inquiry has been greatly facilitated by the manner in which the professional gentlemen concerned discharged the duties devolving upon them. He had read sufficient to show that the privilege asked on the part of the landlords of cross-examining the witnesses could not have been considered unreasonable. The first witness called before the Commission was Mr. Roche, a Member of the other House, who had been called as a witness before the Parnell Commission, and his evidence and cross-examination were given at great length in the Report of that Commission. Mr. Justice Mathew had the Blue Book containing the former examination before him. Certainly, upon one important point, Mr. Roche had, in his cross-examination, contradicted his evidence in chief out of his own mouth; but that cross-examination was not made use of by the Commissioners, nor was cross-examination on behalf of the landlords allowed. Thereupon, Counsel having consulted together, thought it their duty to withdraw, and upon hearing the circumstances of the case the Committee of the Landlords Convention thought they were justified in advising their friends not to appear. Although 15 out of 18 had taken that advice, they had watched the case very closely, and when the Commissioners Report should have appeared he trusted and believed that the landlords would find some way of answering any material allegations against them that it might contain. With reference to the recent appointments to Lunacy Boards in Ireland, which had been the subject of an explanation by the First Lord of the Admiralty on Thursday, he wished to express his agreement with the view, that a fair amount of representation on these Boards should be given to the Roman Catholics. No Member of the Conservative Party would have objected to the Members appointed, provided competent persons had not been thereby displaced on the Boards. He agreed that as the main business of the Boards was financial in administering funds largely provided by the cess-payers of the county or united counties from which the lunatics came, it was only fair that the Roman Catholic cess-payers should be properly represented. What he objected to in the action of the Government in the matter was the capricious exclusion from the Boards of gentlemen who had done good work upon them in the past. Several cases of the kind had been brought to his notice in the counties of Armagh, Monaghan, and Down. In Donegal, also, a striking instance had occurred in the case of a gentleman well-known in the North of Ireland for his business habits and capacity, Colonel Montgomery; and it was remarkable that the first act at the new Board, including all its Nationalist Members, was to unanimously memorialise the Lord Lieutenant to replace the gentlemen. The noble Lord who bad seconded the Address (Lord Thring) had argued that there was no ground for supposing that under a system of Home Rule the majority would oppress the minority; hart he could assure the House that the minority, who were devoted to the principle of un-sectarian education, felt a genuine fear lest their interests should suffer in educational matters. But beyond the questions of Worship and of education, there were those of commerce and of the land—the agrarian question. Many people in a position to form a just opinion held that the effect of Home Rule upon the com- merce of the country would be disastrous. There had been several important meetings lately in the North of Ireland, and this view had been expressed at all of them. It was well known that the main commerce of the country was carried on in Dublin, Belfast, Londonderry, and neighbouring towns, and the great manufacturers there were against Home Rule. If a Home Rule Government, in which those engaged in trade had no confidence, was established in Ireland, trade would be withdrawn from the country and established elsewhere. The figures of that trade were very large, and if the trade went, of course the artisans would go also. Some of their Orange friends lied talked of "dying in the last ditch," but the artisans at any rate would not die in the last or any other ditch. His own opinion was that the artisans generally would follow the trade across the Channel and would flood the labour markets of England and Scotland. After all, the land was the pivot upon which the whole of this question of Home Rule turned. The land must remain whatever happened to trade and commerce and the great fear was that with a Nationalist Legislature, however it might be nominally guarded, it would be impossible to collect rents. Having lived long in Ireland and knowing the country well, He strongly recommended these points to their Lordships' consideration; and as regarded religious differences, the differences were not on the part of the Protestants against the Roman Catholics, but that the Roman Catholics were against the Protestants. In the south the people were afraid of the priesthood, but in the other parts of Ireland they were afraid of each other.


said he could not refrain from speaking in this Debate after the invectives directed to that side of the House by the noble Marquess, who had held high office in Ireland (Lord Londonderry). He would first, however, deal with the proposed reform in the registration laws, which was in London a very burning question indeed, whatever it might be in the country. In London about one person in nine only of the population was on the Register, while in quiet country towns in which the workmen did not move about the proportion was one in five.


When the noble Lord speaks of the population, does he mean the adult population or the population generally, including women and children?


referred to the population generally. The result of the present state of the law was that in London nearly one-half of the working men were not on the Register, and many of those who were on it were obliged before election time to go away in search of work. Of course he knew how this Registration Bill would be met. It would be said, "If you have a reform of the Registration Laws, you must also have Redistribution with it." In answer to that he proposed to quote the opinion of a very distinguished Member of the Unionist Party, which was expressed when this matter was so much discussed in 1883. The case was put so well in the extract he was about to read that he would add nothing of his own to it. Speaking in 1883, Mr. Chamberlain said— The two questions are, to my mind, independent and distinct. There are two benefits to be conferred on the people of this country, two wrongs to be redressed. The first is an Injustice which is done to many of our fellow-countrymen who have no votes at all; the second is an injustice done to those who have votes and whose political influence is nullified by the excessive weight awl power given to the smaller constituencies. It may, and probably would, be impossible to carry both these reforms in a single Session, but why not carry one of them? Why should we delay giving a vote to men who are absolutely at the present moment outside the pale of the Constitution because we have not yet agreed among ourselves as to the machinery by which we will endeavour to estimate the proportionate weight and value of the vote which should be given"? The right hon. Gentleman went on to say— Those who are honestly anxious for reform should do all they can to secure it step by step. Those who are opposed to reform in any shape, but are afraid of saying so, will no doubt be very wise if they can contrive to jumble the two questions up together, so that the one that is plain and simple may be overlaid and stifled in the embraces of the one that is difficult and complex. That was Mr. Chamberlain's opinion in 1883. He would now turn to the very temperate speech of the noble Earl (Lord Dunraven) who, in opening the Debate, fell foul of the Land Commission for Wales. It was difficult to understand why the noble Earl should object to the appointment of the Commission to inquire into the conditions of laud tenure in Wales if he was right in the facts he had himself given, because he had declared that everything was going on smoothly in that part of the country.


said he thought that was the case.


said if it were the fact the Report of the Commission would demonstrate that that happy state of things existed in Wales as the noble Earl supposed, then why should he object to it? It seemed to him that the Commission might be the means of making capital invested in land more secure. With regard to the noble Earl's remarks on Clare and Kerry, his noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty had distinctly shown that there had been an appreciable diminution in crime. As to that part of the noble Earl's speech which referred to the release of the Gweedore prisoners, he thought it was rather bold on his part to venture a fall with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack as to the law of murder, especially after the duel which took place last night on the subject between the late Lord Chancellor for Ireland and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. The noble Earl also fell foul of the Commission of which Mr. Justice Mathew was President, but that was simply a Commission of Inquiry, and was not bound to do anything, and. it might show that some tenants, at all events, could be reinstated without doing injustice. The noble Earl could not have been present when the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord Spencer) quoted Mr. Balfour's own words, to the effect that he would desire to restore peace to that part of the country in which his property was situated, and to see that on fair and equitable and even generous terms the tenants were restored to their homes. It was plain, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman in the House of Commons had expressed himself in favour of something being done to reinstate the tenants on the land. The noble Earl made a very considerable admission when lie said he was in favour of giving Ireland Local Government, for Local Government would do much to pave the way for Home Rule. Then the noble Earl called attention to the fact that the majority of the electors in Great Britain declared against Home Rule at the General Election. No doubt that was true; but the majority in 1892 was very much less than it was in 1886; and, therefore, though opinion on Home Rule might not yet have reached the high-water mark, the tide was still advancing. He had very little knowledge of Ireland, and would not have said more on the subject bat for the tone of Lord Londonderry's evidently very carefully prepared speech. The noble Marquess made a terrible indictment against all who disagreed with him on the subject of Home Rule, and talked of the "depths of degradation" to which noble Lords on the Government side of the House had fallen, adding that he would not exult over it. That was very kind of him. He also charged them with "truckling to lawlessness and outrage." Those were strong words. Well, it had been said if an Irishman was to be abused another Irishman could always be got to do it. But on his own showing be should be a little more charitable. The noble Marquess said he was willing to fight on behalf of his opinions. That was a very serious announcement. It might be assumed that the noble Marquess seriously held such strong opinions as to Home Rule that he considered everything ought to be clone to avert it. But supposing things came to the worst, supposing that there was a rebellion in Ulster, and, which Heaven forbid, that the noble Marquess should "die in the last ditch," would the noble Lords who differed with him say that in taking the course he did the noble Marquess was a "murderous ruffian"? On the contrary, they would admire the noble Marquess for his courage and deplore his fate; and why should the noble Marquess not extend the same charity to others that he wished extended to himself? Home Rule was just as sacred a cause to many persons as the Union was to the noble Marquess. The noble Marquess intimated that he considered the tenants who did not pay their rents were mere vulgar robbers. On the other hand, a very large number of tenants in Ireland, who did not belong to the criminal class at all, firmly believed that the greatest robbers in Ireland were the Irish landlords. He did not suggest that was the case, or that they had any right to say so; but when noble Lords talked of hundreds of thousands of tenants in Ireland as mere robbers because they did not pay their rents, he ventured to think they took a very uncharitable view of the case. The Liberal Party had been accused by the noble Marquess, and to some extent by the ex-Lord Chancellor of Ireland, of having concluded au unhallowed alliance with ruffians; but he would remind noble. Lords opposite that the same thing had been said of themselves. He did not suggest that the Conservatives, in allowing coercion to elapse in 1885, were animated by other than purely patriotic motives, but persons now holding high and distinguished positions in the Unionist, Party believed that they were truckling to crime and to lawlessness. In a speech delivered in July, 1885, by Mr. Chamberlain, now a light in the Unionist Party, the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Conservatives had received with laughter and disapprobation an Amendment by Mr. Morley against the renewal of the Crimes Act; and that, subsequently, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, on behalf of the Tory Government, announced their adhesion to the policy of Mr. Morley. The reason, Mr. Chamberlain continued, for this astounding tergiversation was to be found in a Circular issued by the Central Conservative Association inquiring how many Irish voters there were in each constituency, and whether their number was sufficient to turn the balance at the next election. "A strategic movement of this kind," Mr. Chamberlain added, Executed in opposition to the notorious convictions of the men who effected it, carried out for Party purposes, and for Party purposes alone, is the most flagrant instance of political dishonesty and of political immorality that the country has ever known. These extracts were quoted from the revised edition of Mr. Chamberlain's speeches. Next he would remind their Lordships of what was said of the Maamtrasna Debate by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the late Government. Speaking at St. Leonards on September 18th, 1885, Mr. Goschen said— I wonder if they (the Conservatives) have forgotten what the Conservative Press to a greatextent wrote after that famous Maamtrasna Debate. I was in the House that night, and as I stood at the door of the House some Conservative Members rushed past me saying, when they had listened to speeches which hail been made from the Front Bench, 'We cannot stand this.' They did not understand, they could not understand, the attitude of their leaders towards Lord Spencer. They could not understand how a man who had come back, having held his life in his hand in Ireland, having done a great service to the Crown and country, should be met with such cold praise, if praise it was, and with such sneers, for sneers they were, at the hands of different members of the Conservative Party. And what said one of the most influential organs of the Conservative Party after that? We say, without the least hesitation, that it would be a thousand times better that the Conservative Party were once more in Opposition, rather than we should be again exposed to the humiliation of such a speech as that which Lord Randolph Churchill delivered. The National conscience has been shocked by the ungracious requital of the difficult and dangerous services which Lord Spencer has discharged with as much success as intrepidity.'' He would not say anything half so damaging as those words of Mr. Goschen, spoken no longer ago than September, 1885, but would only suggest that when noble Lords opposite found that Party rancour was capable of representing what they admitted to be a most innocent and meritorious transaction as evidence of a culpable motive and spirit, to say the least of it, they should give to their opponents some portion of that charity of which they themselves stood somewhat in need. Surely after this it behoved the late Lord Lieutenant and the late Lord Chancellor of Ireland to be careful how they threw stones in the matter of truckling to crime and lawlessness. He did not ask noble Lords opposite to become converts to the principle of Home Rule, but he did ask them to extend to the Government a reasonable amount of charity, and to believe that the Government was actuated by patriotic motives in advancing Home Rule and by as honest and earnest a desire to do their best for Ireland and the honour and fame of the Empire as were those who disagreed with them as to the best method to be pursued.


said, the quotations which bad been made from Mr. Chamberlain's and Mr. Goschen's speeches delivered some years ago were hardly applicable to the policy adopted by Her Majesty's Government at the present day. Before touching upon the affairs of the most distressful country the world had ever seen, he would turn to another country which, if history were to be credited, had in its time suffered a good deal of distress. Egypt, for he supposed, not excepting Nebuchadnezzar and Nero, two of the most extreme types of cruel rulers—of absolute typical brutality—the Pharaohs must take the first prize. He had visited Egypt when he was younger, and also not long ago, and the differences which he had observed in the condition of the country and its people were such as we have every reason to be proud of. There was an extraordinary improvement in the manners and customs of the people, and it was to be accounted for by the humanising effect of a closer connection with the more civilised nations of Europe. He quoted in support of this view a passage from a new work on the English in Egypt, to the effect that without the English nothing could have been accomplished, and that if they were to withdraw now all that had been won by our long and patient endeavours would be lost. Turning to the Irish Question, and as to what, we were permitted to know about the Government measure relating to the government of Ireland, he was rather surprised at the leaders of the Opposition criticising a secrecy which they would have observed themselves; but, while he censured the policy adopted on his own side of trying to force the hands of the Government, he reserved to himself the full right to criticise, and all the more freely on account of the reserve that had been maintained, the measure when it was produced. He had come to the conclusion that the Government were not quite as hopeful of success as they wished to be. For the big jump of the Session they lied constructed a high stone wall for themselves, and it was a question whether they would clear it, scramble over it, or fall in the attempted leap—whether the crumbled stones of the fence should form for them a triumphal arch or a funeral vault. The noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition gathered from the words of the noble Lord who moved the Address that the Home Rule Bill was to be a measure of a very mild character, and he further presumed that its proportions would be represented by zero. He ventured for once to disagree with his leader, for he drew from the speech in question a totally different conclusion that its proportions in no way resembled zero, but that on the contrary it was of such unusual substance and proportions that it would be impossible for an unassisted Minister to get it through the Second Reading. He gathered that the noble Lord who deeply oppressed with a feeling that the grant of legislative autonomy to Ireland in harmony with the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was a problem which it passed the wit of man to solve. The excuse put forward by the advocates of Home Rule was that it was demanded by the majority of the Parliamentary Representatives of the Irish nation; but he denied that Ireland was in any true sense a nation, as the Portuguese, the Dutch, or the Danes were each a nation, having separate and distinct languages, laws, customs, blood, and appearance. Lord Thring, in seconding the Address, mentioned the fact that Ireland had been conquered three times. Poor Ireland! Conquering armies left their mark behind them. Pure Celtic blood was a thing unknown, and Ireland had no right to call herself a separate nation; and certainly those who called themselves her Representatives in another place, did not represent what was best and truest in that unfortunate island. This comprehensive remedial measure which was to do good to one part of the country would do harm to another. The principle of the forthcoming measure, as he understood it, was unconstitutional. It proposed to give to one portion of Her Majesty's dominions—namely, Ireland—privileges which were denied to the remainder—namely, England, Scotland, and Wales; and at the same time English, Scotch, and Welsh Members were to be liable to interference in their domestic affairs from Irish Members, without having, in turn, a similar right of interference with the Sister Isle. Such a measure, giving exceptional privileges to one portion of the country over another, would never hind favour with an Assembly whose business it was to conduct its proceedings with even-handed justice and strict impartiality. Ministers who had climbed into office with the assistance of those who had given them a very slender majority should remember that the day might not be very far distant when, betrayed by those same men, they would be hurled to the ground by the fall of the treacherous ladder on which they stood.


said, that in view of the fact that during the last six months Her Majesty's Government had enjoyed unrestricted and unquestioned power, it might not be waste of time on his part if he brought under notice one or two points in its action during that period which seemed to him, as one of the younger and more inexperienced Members of their Lordships' House, to stand in need of some justification. In the course of these last six months, considerable complications, more or less serious, had arisen. Some of these seemed to have been dealt with by a firm hand; but in other instances the remedies applied seemed more vague and success less marked. The policy adopted by Her Majesty's Government with regard to Uganda, leaving aside the question of the Slave Trade about which he felt sure there could be no difference of opinion between either Party, seemed to him vague and undefined. What was to happen in the interval between the evacuation of the country by the British East Africa Company and the arrival of the Commissioner's Report? In any case some months would be required for the completion of Sir Gerald Portal's Mission, and by that time, under the present arrangement, no trace would remain in Uganda of the British East Africa Company. Their stores, their agents, their implements would all alike have disappeared; and the maintenance of peace and order, the protection of the lives of the Europeans there, and the whole possibility of the future peaceful development of the country would depend upon a British Commissioner supported only by a small force, surrounded by tribes which at any moment might become hostile, and with a line of communication 700 miles in length to keep up through an arid and more or less unsettled country. Did not such a state of things seem very like the first step towards a repetition of the lamentable events which occurred in the Soudan in 1885? Or, looking at the question from another point of view, supposing the Commissioner's Report were such as to induce the Government to retain possession of Uganda, and directly or indirectly to open it up to British commerce and enterprise, would the fact that in the meantime the East Africa Company had its whole commercial apparatus make these objects more easy of attainment, or would such a state of affairs be likely to afford inducements to private enterprise to step in where the operations of the East Africa Company had proved such a disastrous failure? Would it not be better, pending the Report, that Her Majesty's Government should come to some understanding with the East Africa Company to induce them to retain, for the next few months at all events, their position and influence in Uganda? Then, with respect to the difficulty created in India by the heavy and continuous fall in the value of the rupee, some information ought to be given as to when the Committee on Indian Currency would have completed their labours. It was reported that the Viceroy of India had expressed to a deputation the sympathy of the Government on this subject, and implied that when the Report of the Committee was produced steps would be taken to relieve the distress caused by the present state of affairs in regard to the fall in the exchange. If these steps involved any alteration in the standard of value in India, he would like to know whether they were to have any opportunity of a full discussion of the subject in Parliament before any decision was taken?


said, as to Ireland's monopoly of misery among the nations, surely the noble and learned Lord who seconded the Address could never have lived for any time in that country; and the restlessness among a portion of her people had been fostered by an injudicious and over-zealous course of legislation. For 17 years he had been constantly resident in the South of Ireland, and every day of his life he mixed with the people; and he could say that among the greater part of the tenant farmers in that country there was no desire for Home Rule. Knowledge of the country and people could not be obtained by a short stay in Dublin, by reading Reports in Blue Books, or by drafting and preparing Bills on Irish affairs. A prominent politician had made up his mind on the Irish Land Question simply from the knowledge he had gained during a short yachting tour round the coast of Ireland. Certainly he must have possessed great powers of observation. Why should the tenant farmers of Ireland desire Home Rule under the present system of land confiscation? The land system had left the Irish tenant very little to desire in the way of legislation. The Irish Members professed to have great sympathy with the farmers, but they did not seem to have any with the Irish landowners—men who had always had the best interests of Ireland at heart. A great deal of generosity had been shown to the Irish tenants, but very little justice had been dealt out to the Irish landlords. If Home Rule was given, it would be for the Irish landowners a question not of their property, but of their lives. Let the Government ask the opinion of the Resident Magistrates or any persons who knew the country, and they would tell them that Home Rule meant in the North of Ireland civil war, and in the South the extermination of everyone who was loyal to England.


said, it was some years since he had taken part in an Irish Debate in that. House, and it was possible that a very long period might elapse before their Lordships would again have the opportunity of discussing this very important subject. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had denied that the Government had any political object in releasing the Gweedore prisoners; but the political situation, particularly in Ireland, should have been taken into consideration. Anyone who understood Irish affairs would know that to liberate men of this character was a direct incentive to persons of the same class to act in a similar manner in opposition to the law; but he was glad to hear the course adopted by the Government in these cases was not the beginning of a general amnesty. The noble and learned Lord stated that this proposed policy was the only one that had been left untried, and he further begged them to bring calm and judicial minds to the consideration of the question. In that last remark he would thoroughly agree, but an examination of the events of the last few months would show how far the minds of the Government supporters had been calm and judicial in their proceedings for paving the way for the great measure to be introduced this Session. What had been the effect of Mr. Morley's methods in Ireland during the last year? Mr. Morley had himself represented that his mission in Ireland was to show as striking a contrast as he possibly could between the policies of Coercion and Conciliation. It had been plainly declared, both in the House and in another place, that the release of these prisoners was not to be taken in any way as the opening out of a general amnesty policy; but, as the Irish Party had been clamouring all round for a political amnesty, he was inclined to think that the support Her Majesty's Government looked for in that direction, and were so dependent upon, would not be likely to be much strengthened by such a declaration. As showing the not very gracious way in which their Irish supporters had received the concession made to them by the repeal of the Coercion Act, he would quote Mr. Redmond's statement last September that it would not benefit the people one way or the other, because that Act had long since fallen out of use. As to the Evicted Tenants Commission, he had never clearly understood what the Government wanted it for, and he doubted strongly whether it would result in any real practical good. With regard to Home Rule, he urged that it was of great importance that the subject of national education in Ireland, and the system and control of the Imperial Grants in connection with it, should be seriously considered before that question came on for discussion. A curious friendship seemed to exist between the Chief Secretary and the Clerical Party in Ireland, and it was remarkable that while information on the Home Rule Bill had been withheld from all others, the details had been confided to the Nationalists. That Party seemed to acquiesce in the Bill, and this was calculated to raise serious doubts on a very important point. The various members of the Government and most of their followers had admitted the absolute necessity of maintaining the Imperial supremacy in any Home Rule Bill; but, remembering the statement of the Nationalists on this point, the fact of their acquiescing in the details of the coming Bill appeared to indicate that either the Nationalists had, to use an American phrase, "considerably climbed down," or that the Government had thrown their declarations on this cardinal point to the winds. He would not express an opinion -upon the matter one way or the other, but one thing was plain: there never would be a final settlement of the Home Rule question except upon the terms agreed upon. The Lord Chancellor had said that no human being on the civilised globe would say that in Ireland there was no problem to solve. He would join issue with the noble and learned Lord, and ventured to say that the problem had been solved. When Her Majesty's Government took over Ireland from their predecessors she was in a state of unexampled quiet and calm, and it had been distinctly proved that the country could be governed without coercion, though the resources of law and order were not extinct. He trusted she would be so governed again, and not abandoned to a large and factious majority and an unscrupulous priesthood; and he would reecho the words of the noble Marquess from the North of Ireland, he coining from the South, that it was a disgrace to see such a policy put forward by English statesmen.


asked the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack whether he had said that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was consulted with reference to the proposed release of the Gweedore prisoners; and whether the Lord Chancellor of Ireland was consulted before or after the noble Lord on the Woolsack had had the matter brought before him?


That he was consulted, I know; but to the second question of the noble Earl I am unable to give any answer.

Address agreed to, nemine dissentience, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.