§ Order of the Day for resuming the Debate on the Amendment to the Motion for the Second Reading, read.
§ Debate resumed accordingly.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
My Lords, we have been told by the only man who, I will not say represents, but is, the Government on this question, that the passage of this Bill through the House of Commons and its arrival in your Lordships' House constitutes a cardinal fact in the political history of this country. I am not prepared to traverse that statement; on the contrary, I accept it to the full. It is a cardinal fact, and I believe also that it will be connected in future times with the strengthening and the revival of some cardinal convictions; and first and foremost among these will be the conviction which is forced upon the minds of all men that an inestimable value is to be attached to those functions which the ancient Constitution of our country places in your Lordships' hands, 202 because this cardinal fact of the passage of this Bill through the House of Commons and its arrival here is not one fact, but contains a dozen other facts within itself. I will mention some of them. The first cardinal fact is that the Bill which does so come is a Bill for effecting revolutionary changes in the Constitution of this country. The second cardinal fact is that it has come to this House by the employment of revolutionary means. The third cardinal fact is that it has been sent to this House by a majority of only 5 per cent. of the whole House of Commons; and the fourth cardinal fact is that in every important case there has been a large British majority against its provisions; and the fifth cardinal fact is that this Bill has never been before the people of this country. My Lords, in these circumstances the people look to your Lordships' House, to say the least, to give them time to think. We are not only free to reject it; it is expected and it is demanded of us. I have sometimes speculated within the last week what would happen if a majority of this House, by some terrible act of weakness, by some such act of betrayal of their former convictions as we heard confessed by my noble Friend (Lord Spencer) last night, were to allow this Bill to pass. What would be the feelings of the country next morning? Over a great part of Ireland it would be a feeling of absolute dismay, and I believe that with the great majority of Great Britain there would be feelings of indignation and of shame. It may be said that some of my facts, such as those I have mentioned just now, are not matters of fact, but matters of opinion. It may be denied that this is a measure of revolutionary change. I venture to say that when this Bill passes, if it ever passes, nothing in our Constitution will stand as it stood before. Certainly not the unity of the Kingdom, for I agree with the Duke of Devonshire in drawing a great distinction between that utterly vague and meaningless phrase about the unity of the Empire and the unity of the Kingdom. Certainly not the unity of the Kingdom; certainly not the dignity of the Crown; certainly not the authority of Parliament; certainly not the responsibility of our Ministerial system; certainly not, by the confession of my noble Friend opposite, the purity of public 203 life; and last, not least, certainly not the liberties of the people. Every one of these great interests would be profoundly affected, and profoundly affected for the worse. My Lords, are we all agreed upon this point of the immense importance of this Bill? My noble Friend (Lord Spencer) said last night, in that speech which was so full of that charm which belongs to his personal character, his moderation, courtesy, and good feeling, that at least we are all agreed upon the importance of the subject. Alas! my Lords, I do not think that we are agreed. Nothing in my noble Friend's speech gave us the least hint of the enormous effect which such a measure as this must have on the practical working of our Constitution—nothing in his speech. As I said before, that speech was full of kindness and of courtesy to us all; there was not one bitter word, not one word of recrimination in his speech. But we cannot deal with this question with rose water. It cuts too deep; it is too serious. I could not help being reminded when I heard my noble Friend's speech of two celebrated lines referring to his illustrious namesake—the poet Spenser—who wrote much about Ireland in the days of Queen Elizabeth. Courtesy towards opponents and moderation of tone are not the weapons with which this battle has been fought outside the walls of this House. My noble Friend may delight in them, and it is always very pleasing to hear him. I could not help being reminded of what Wordsworth has said of Spenser—A glowworm lamp, it cheered mild Spenser, Called from Faëryland to struggle through dark ways.—and most dark were the ways through which my noble Friend has been called upon to struggle. When we heard the excuses which he made last night for the abandonment of the convictions which only a few years ago he expressed on the subject of the land in Ireland and of the retention of Irish Members at Westminster, we had a measure of the "dark ways" through which the mild Spencer of our own day has been called upon to struggle. We are not agreed, therefore, upon the importance of this subject. Did your Lordships hear the Duke of Devonshire last night re-affirm the pleas which Mr. Gladstone lately denounced? The noble Duke quoted them one by one 204 —I think they were seven in number. He said Mr. Gladstone had caricatured them all more or less, but substantially he adhered to them. What did Mr. Gladstone say of these pleas of the Unionist Party? The Duke of Devonshire did not refer to that; but so far from admitting those pleas, which are the pleas which assert the importance of this measure, Mr. Gladstone said that those pleas were all of them "enormous, hideous, and monstrous falsehoods"! I hope none of us will be accused of using strong language after that illustrious example, because, after it, we can use any language we like. I rejoice in it myself, because I do not in the least object to this language on the part of Mr. Gladstone. I know it to be perfectly sincere; he is absolutely sincere, and I am not quite sure whether he is not the only Member of the Government who is sincere. I look upon my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government as I look upon the Mahdi, or any of the dervishes in the Valley of the Nile, as a pure fanatic. He cannot look on this subject with moderation, or even with common temper. That is why I like this language, because it proves to us the inflamed state of mind of that man in whose hands the destinies of this country would be if your Lordships do not perform your duty to the people. It is perfectly clear that Mr. Gladstone does not admit the enormous importance of this measure. He treats it, and has all along treated it, as a comparatively light thing—that is to say, as if it were simply the setting up of a new municipality in the country—local government, self-government. Now, my Lords, I wish to address myself to another cardinal fact which I have not yet mentioned. There is a sixth fact of equal importance to those five which I have already enumerated. I maintain that this contest has been carried on in the country by systematic concealment and deception of the people. Not only do I say that this Bill has never been before the people, but I say that the whole of this subject has never been placed by the Gladstonian Party in the light of common fairness before the people. By ambiguities of expression, by dexterous management of words, by simple tricks of tactics, the people have been misled and confused systematically and of set 205 purpose as to the great issues which are before them. I have said this on many platforms in the country, and I should be ashamed if I declined to justify that statement now in the presence of my noble Friends, who can answer for themselves. I say, in the first place, that the Prime Minister is the main conductor of this campaign. I do not say anything of my noble Friends opposite, as I have not seen one speech of theirs which answers to that description. The Prime Minister on this subject is the Government, and he alone. My noble Friends opposite are not the Government; we know that very well. "Our whole heart and soul," the Prime Minister said lately, "are set on this Bill." I did not hear much heart or much soul in the speeches of the noble Lords opposite delivered last night. No; we have to deal with Mr. Gladstone, and Mr. Gladstone alone, as regards his power, as regards his influence in the country, and as regards the methods adopted in the prosecution of this question. I say here, as I have said elsewhere, that the advocacy of this measure has been pursued by passionate misrepresentation of history. I have endeavoured to show that in another form; and I am not going to trouble the House to-night with a single word on the subject: but it has been pursued by passionate misrepresentation of contemporary events and of recent history, and especially it has been treated with the utmost deception, I think, as regards the relation between this Bill and the Union between us and Ireland, and the Repeal of that Union. We know exactly the date of the conversion of the Government by the date of the conversion of the Prime Minister—When I began last autumn to weigh deeply this question.Such are the words in which Mr. Gladstone explained, not in a speech, but in a published article, "The History of an Idea"—When I began last autumn to weigh deeply this question.That is, the autumn of 1885. My Lords, just think of the confession these words imply—I began last autumn to weigh deeply this Irish Question.Let me remind the House of the stages which have passed since the Union. 206 From 1800 to 1829, 29 years elapsed. During the whole or the greater part of that time, Ireland came before us upon the Catholic question. As you know, it was carried to a triumphant issue by the Catholics in Ireland on behalf of the Catholics of the whole country. From 1829 to 1842, 13 years elapsed. We had Ireland before us again in the form of the Daniel O'Connell agitation for Repeal. The moment he got Catholic Emancipation he set to work to start the agitation for Repeal. When that was suppressed by Sir R. Peel in 1842, then, from 1842 to 1870, a period of 28 years, we had Fenianism and many of those local disturbances which kept Ireland again perpetually before us. From 1870 to 1885, the date of Mr. Gladstone's Hegira, or conversion, 15 years, we had the Home Rule agitation under Mr. Butt and Mr. Parnell. There are 15 years between the initiation of the Home Rule policy of Mr. Butt and the new convictions of Mr. Gladstone, until he had "begun to weigh this Irish Question." Now, my Lords, I have sometimes wondered whether it is possible to argue at all with my noble Friends opposite. No argument can be conducted without some common ground of agreement. We are not agreed, I am afraid, as to what is the Constitution of the country; we are not agreed as to what are the liberties of the people; we are not agreed, I much fear, as to what constitutes the honour of public men in public questions. But, in searching diligently whether I could find any words of common agreement between me and my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, I find one striking passage. It is not in a speech; it is taken from a deliberate writing; and there I find these two propositions laid down—they are all that I desire:—This question," he says, "goes down to the very roots of our whole civil and political Constitution.Nothing could be stronger than that. This is no Bill to give local liberties; it is no Bill to set up a new municipality; it is no Bill for the mere extension of what we know very well as connected with domestic government. It is a Bill, he says, "which goes down to the very roots of our whole civil and political Constitution." The second proposition is that this is a subject with which up to that 207 time the British mind was absolutely unprepared to deal—"as ignorant of it," are his words, "as of the differential calculus." On these two facts and admissions by Mr. Gladstone I base my argument tonight; and I venture to lay down this principle as one which should gain the assent of both sides of this House—that if a great measure which goes to the "roots of our civil and political Constitution" is brought forward at a time when the British mind—not one class only, but the whole British mind—was "as ignorant" on the subject "as they are on the differential calculus," it is the absolute duty of those who attempt to devise a new British Constitution to exercise the duty of perfect candour towards the people of this country. Anything like shiftiness, concealment, deceit, is a great crime against the people of this country, and the more so when we remember that the task of drawing up a new Constitution "going to the very roots of our whole civil and political Constitution" is an absolute novelty in the whole history of England. Not one of our revolutions has been made in any other name than the name of pre-existing laws. No group of 12 or 13 men, whatever their qualifications in their own minds may be, have ever sat round a green table and deliberately determined to frame a Constitution "going to the whole roots of our civil and political Constitution"; it is an absolute novelty in the history of England. Now, my Lords, has this been the conduct of the Government? What is the explanation we are to give of the sudden conversion of the Prime Minister and certain of his Colleagues? It is all very well to say it was in the autumn of 1885; do we not all remember what happened in the autumn of 1885? Was not that the date when a certain large contingent of Irish Members was added to the Irish brigade in the House of Commons? I would like to read to your Lordships what was the plan of campaign under which and before which Mr. Gladstone struck his colours. Here is a description of the policy of Mr. Parnell—Why not start in the House of Commons an Irish National Party, which should express by its very action in Parliament the distrust and hatred felt by so many of the Irish people to any and every English Parliament? Would not the vast majority of the Irish people soon begin to put faith in the Party which employed 208 its position in the House of Commons to worry and obstruct the House of Commons and make it ridiculous in the eyes of foreign nations? What ardent Irish Nationalist could refuse to give his support and approval to a Party like this?There is the explanation of the sudden conversion—and whose words are these? They are the words of your nominal Irish Leader—the mild M'Carthy. It was to this conspiracy, and nothing else, that Mr. Gladstone struck his colours; contemporary events prove it. It was because you were overmastered in Parliament, and because you saw a chance of making a dishonourable alliance with the Irish Party. That is my explanation of the Hegira in policy of a portion of the Liberal Party. This policy, these tactics, this policy of dealing with this tremendous question—cutting to the roots of our whole civil and political Constitution by tricks of tactics—is not my accusation; it is the avowal of the Prime Minister himself. Do we not remember the speech he made on January 8, 1886, on the Address to the Crown? I have read that speech over and over again with ever-increasing astonishment. He began by professing a desire to separate this question from every Party interest; he said it would be a great crime to make it a Party question; he could not use language strong enough; nothing he did should tend, so far as he could help it, to mix it up with politics. He said—I hope some Member of the Government opposite will take up that view of satisfying the demands of Ireland.Then came the contradiction. Addressing the younger Members of the House of Commons, his language was to this effect—"There are many young Members in this House. Perhaps I may be allowed to give the advice of an old man, an old Parliamentary hand. Hold your tongues; keep your counsel. I mean to keep my counsel; I advise yon to keep yours. I am the great Panjandrum; I am the great necromancer, the old Parliamentary hand; watch me, follow me, and I will show you how to win the trick."
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (The Earl of KIMBERLEY)
Is that a quotation?
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
No. Quotations, my Lords, are quite fair in two forms—when they are avowedly given verbatim, and when they are avowedly given as the meaning of the words used. I have the precise words of Mr. Gladstone here. He said—Addressing those who have taken their seats for the first time, I may avail myself of the privilege of old age to offer a recommendation. I will tell them of my own intention to keep myself and to reserve my own freedom until I see the moment and the occasion when there may be a prospect of public benefit in endeavouring to make a movement forward.And these are the last words—And I shall venture to recommend them, as an old Parliamentary hand, to do the sameThis is the Leader who deprecated above all things mixing up this Irish question with Party tactics—an open avowal that he was going to treat it in the spirit of an old Parliamentary hand. And well he has fulfilled his part. His one object throughout this campaign and that of all his followers—and they have followed him with abject slavery—was to arouse passion, to conceal his cards, and to take advantage of that universal ignorance which he declared to exist in the British mind. How did the campaign begin? It began by a ferocious attack on the Act of Union and on its great author. I suppose we all remember the expression which slipped out with regard to the action of the most illustrious figure who has ever appeared on the political horizon of this country—the "blackguardism" of the Union and of Mr. Pitt. It was in a private letter, I am bound to say a letter which I do not think was ever intended to be published, and I quote it merely as showing the temper of mind in which the Prime Minister of the country addressed himself to this great topic—"the blackguardism of the Union." And this was followed by an attempt to connect the opposition to the Union with the Liberal Party and with Liberal politics. Now, I hold this to be a fundamental part of the historical question, and on this subject I rely on an authority which will be acceptable, I think, to noble Lords opposite. On this subject I place myself almost entirely in the hands of the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary. Many of your Lordships may have read the admirable little book which Lord Rosebery has published on the life of Pitt. It is a 210 very brilliant performance, and, what is better than brilliant, it is a solid contribution to the political literature of this country. There are some passages in it which I venture to think are purely conventional. The noble Earl obviously did not wish to accentuate too much the broad divergence between the view which he takes of his illustrious ancestral kinsman—for I believe he was such—and that which is common to the Liberal Party of the day. A few sentences are dexterously added, with the diplomatic skill of the noble Earl, just to take off the edge of the contrast; but, with the exception of those passages, the book represents the exact view of the Union and of Mr. Pitt's conduct on that great question which I am disposed to take. I agree with Lord Rosebery on these three great questions—(1) On the conduct of the Whig Party at that time—that is to say, the Foxite Liberals: (2) the conduct of Mr. Pitt; and (3), which is more relevant to this controversy, the true character of the Act of Union. As regards the Whig Party, I cannot forget that I myself belong to a Whig family. I have never held Office in connection with the modern Conservative Party, but I am bound to say that, although I think some of the expressions of the noble Earl with regard to the Foxite Whigs are somewhat over-severe, and almost spiteful, yet in the main I agree with him. They had but one motive in the world, and that was to oppose everything that was proposed by Mr. Pitt. Their conduct at that time was, in my opinion, eminently unpatriotic. I never had the smallest sympathy with them, and I subscribe altogether to the language in which the noble Earl has condemned them. But the noble Earl must remember that the Whig Party and the Liberal Party have long repented of their failure upon that celebrated occasion; and the repentance was not alone -with them, but it was with others who were still more deeply engaged in the resistance to Mr. Pitt. Grattan himself, who came across to this country, and was for a short time a Member of the House of Commons, in 1820, upon his death-bed, spent his last breath on earth in expressing his earnest hope that the Union which he had so long resisted should never be repealed. We have that on the 211 authority of two of the most illustrious men who have ever sat in the British House of Commons—the authority of William Wilberforce and of Sir James Mackintosh. Then, as regards the attempt to connect modern Liberalism with that of 1800, do we not remember that Lord Grey in 1834 was the Minister who put into the mouth of the Sovereign—the King's Speech at the time—the opinion, in language which I declare even now I think was exaggerated, that the highest interests and salvation of the Empire depended on the maintenance of the Union? How dare you quote the Liberalism of 1800 when you have these facts staring you in the face? Do you not know that so late as this Session it has been stated—and I believe with perfect truth—that a son of Daniel O'Connell has signed a Petition to Parliament against the Home Rule Bill? I agree with the noble Earl when he says in his volume that the Union was passed with a rare unanimity, and I believe Mr. Pitt was right when he said it was supported by all who were not secret enemies of the British Empire. I pass to the question of the corruption of Mr. Pitt—the corruption by which the Union was effected. There has been no weapon used more prominently by Mr. Gladstone than this old story. On that subject, also, I put myself in the hands of the Foreign Secretary. I admire his account of it, and believe it to be true. He says that in Ireland at that time nothing could be done without corruption. The enfranchisement of the Roman Catholic voters was obtained by corruption. Lord Rosebery is right when he says that Mr. Pitt's conduct can be defended on this broad ground—that it was his object to buy out corruption and close its annals for ever as regards the relations of the two countries, and he did it. The Union did put an end to corruption in that gross form. That is the true explanation, and, my Lords, he did put an end to corruption. There is only one observation of the noble Earl's in that book, and in reference to this subject, to which, alas! I cannot subscribe. It is part of the conventional form of treating these former times to say that we must not judge them by the standard of morals of our own time, and the noble Earl implies that as to any corruption in our day, the thing is so entirely out of the 212 question that it is hardly fair to judge of Mr. Pitt by the magnificent standard of our own time. Alas! my Lords, this may have been the case within recent times, but it is no longer the case since the formation of the present Government. I know no Government in the history of the Kingdom which has been so corrupt as this Government. There is nothing that has not been put up to auction—the auction of a few votes. "Marching through plunder to disintegration" was Mr. Gladstone's own description of the Irish Party; to give them the means and the opportunities of plunder has been his great object in order to secure their votes. My Lords, it is not merely in the sale of principles, in the sale of opinions, but it is actually in money's worth—in money. The dangerous principle that the State can regulate values and determine prices is eating deeply, by moral and pecuniary corruption, into the constitution of society in this country. When candidates address themselves now to the Irish people they say—"We will form a Government that will reduce your rents to prairie value." That is worse than any money corruption ever invented by Pitt. Pitt's corruption was temporary and for temporary purposes; this is a permanent fountain of corruption planted in the hearts of the people and the customs of the country. All I can say is that if this is to be your principle of government I am sorry for the coming democracy. My own belief is, and has always been, that, however you may define it, what people call democracy is absolutely inevitable. But a democracy may be a virtuous democracy or a corrupt democracy, and it depends much on the conduct and character of public men in such controversies as that in which we are now engaged whether the democracy of the future is to be an honest one or not. As regards this form of corruption, something like the words of Shakespeare often occur to my mind—Who bribes with money bribes with trash,But he that bribes with our good lawsSells that which naught enriches him,And makes us poor indeed.There is another phase of this controversy in which I agree with Lord Rosebery, and that is the character of Irish independence as given in 1782. Mr. Gladstone always praises excessively the Act of 1782, which set up Grattan's Parliament. He treats it as the con- 213 cession of an ancient right which Ireland had always possessed. The view he thus takes of it is historically, entirely untrue, but I pass over that. Indeed, I have not found one historical statement of Mr. Gladstone that will bear investigation. I do not mean to say that the individual facts are wrong; but, as we all know, "truths half told are ever the blackest of lies." If you tell half the truth and not the other half you may prove anything Mr. Gladstone's speeches are full of truths stated in carefully-selected language—one-half the facts is given, but the other half is carefully suppressed, so that the whole representation is false. Lord Rosebery does not praise this scheme of Irish independence; but, on the contrary, says that it was "an act of cowardice," and I entirely agree with him. It was the sheer shame of impotence. He says—"In the sheer shame of impotence this Parliament of Grattan's was set up." And how was it so set up? It was set up by repealing a Declaratory Act. This shows you the value of Declaratory Acts, how strong they are, and how worth your while it is to rely upon Declaratory Acts, Declaratory Clauses, and declaratory words. But the shame of that transaction was this: that Grattan's Parliament was set up without a single attempt to define the future Constitution or relations of the two countries. I come now to the question of Home Rule, and on this matter, again, we have had the most dexterous management on the part of the Government of the day—that is to say, on the part of its head. I really cannot blame any of my noble Friends opposite for any of the misstatements to which I shall have to call attention. Now, with regard to the relation between Repeal and this Bill of Home Rule. My noble Friend (Lord Spencer), in the course of his electoral campaign, came down to the West of Scotland and made an interesting speech in the County of Dumbarton, in which he said that other people had indeed set up the notion of Home Rule as distinguished from Repeal. For, though Mr. Gladstone did all he could to damage the Union, he knew well enough that the words, Repeal of the Union, had been so long familiar to the people of this country that it would never do to say that he went in for Repeal of the Union, so he adopted the minor phrase of Home Rule.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
No; I am coming to them, if my noble Friend will have a little patience; but really the quotation I am going to give has nothing to do with special words. It is his representation at Dumbarton that nobody knew what Home Rule meant before Mr. Gladstone defined it. That is not the fact. The noble Earl ought to have known that early in 1870 the policy of Home Rule had been formulated by Mr. Butt much more distinctly than it was formulated by Mr. Gladstone before he introduced his Bill of 1886. I have recently found the original resolution drawn up by Mr. Butt, and used by him at a meeting held in Dublin in 1870, and I was very much surprised to find that all the formulas used by Mr. Gladstone in this campaign were bodily stolen from Mr. Butt. The very words and expressions of Mr. Butt's resolution were copied by Mr. Gladstone, repeated all over the country, and constituted his battle-horse with the constituencies. Mr. Butt said he wanted Home Rule for Ireland for exclusively Irish and domestic affairs. Yet how did Mr. Gladstone treat that for 15 long years? What was the relation he recognised between Home Rule and Repeal of the Union? Did he begin by saying—"I see what you are at. You call it Home Rule, you mean Repeal of the Union?" Yes, that is what he did say. He called it a "new formula," and that was exactly what it was. It was a new formula for Repeal. For 15 years, up to the age of 75, when most men have sown their wild oats pretty successfully, he resisted Home Rule admirably, defined though it had been by Mr. Butt. And on what grounds? He said in the first place it is a new formula, and then more specifically—"Until you tell me what you mean by Irish domestic affairs one by one we cannot even judge of your proposal." Well! That is exactly what we Unionists have been saying for the last seven years. And yet this is the formula which he carefully repeated after his conversion, knowing that it was an unintelligible, because ambiguous, formula admirably adapted for deceiving an ignorant electorate. He also said—"I see what you mean. You mean to have a separate Parliament of your own, and also Irish Mem- 215 bers here to control us." On which poor Mr. Butt got up and mumbled something to the House of Commons, as much as to say that he did not mean that, and then Mr. Gladstone pounced on him and said—"It is all very well for the hon. Member to say that when the blot has been hit." That is the "blot" which he now presents to the British Parliament, and asks the British House of Commons and the British House of Lords to swallow to the very dregs—to give Ireland a separate Parliament, and to have an Irish contingent here also to overrule us in our home affairs. Well, then, my Lords, is this one of our monstrous falsehoods? Yes, it is. This very doctrine, which for 15 long years Mr. Gladstone insisted upon on every platform of the country, is the very doctrine that he now condemns as one of our "monstrous and hideous falsehoods." How can you trust a public man whose mind is permanently in such a state of instability that he constantly discards one day what he had said the previous day. That is the question here. Now, I want to show your Lordships a few more of the points on which Mr. Gladstone has dealt disingenuously with the people of this country. Comparing Home Rule with Repeal of the Union, which is the stronger measure of the two? He knows that it is not safe to take up the old dishonoured and discredited cry of Repeal. He says—"I only want you to grant Home Rule. These blessed Irishmen are willing to take only a little part of what they once had. They had entire independence under Grattan's Parliament, but they ask you now for some scraps of the great powers they enjoyed then." That was the tone of Mr. Gladstone during several years. It is the tone of many of his speeches up to the latest date. I need not tell you that this is absolutely deceptive unless it be true that the measure of Home Rule would give less than the restoration of Grattan's Parliament. Well, I turn to the language of himself and his Colleagues the other day, and I find that they use these two opposite arguments exactly as it suits them. "Repeal is much more than Home Rule; Repeal is much less than Home Rule." There is no continuity of argument. My noble Friend said the other day he was converted because there was no continuity of policy. Has 216 there been any continuity of policy in his arguments, and in those of his Colleagues? Here is what Mr. Gladstone said about the independence of Grattan's Parliament—What was the condition of Ireland before the Union?This was in May, 1892.It was that of a country governed by a Parliament as entirely independent as is the Parliament sitting within these walls at the present day.That is when he wanted to exaggerate the power of Grattan's Parliament, and to prove how reasonable and moderate were the demands of his Irish friends. Let us compare that with a sentence of Mr. J. Morley, who did not find it convenient to take that view of the matter. In this very year Mr. Morley said—Then there was Grattan's Parliament; but would anybody contend that Grattan's Parliament gave the Irish people such control over their own laws and destinies as this Bill would give them.Exactly; this Bill is not less but greater than Grattan's Parliament. If you had repealed the Union before, and restored Grattan's Parliament, you would have had complete control over legislation in Ireland; but under this Bill you will have practically none. It is on this great question of the relation between this Bill and the old demand for Repeal that there has been systematic deception of the people. Then, my Lords, I pass to another point of cardinal importance, upon which I think the people have been equally deceived, and that is the power and value of Declaratory Acts. The Government say—"We have satisfied our supporters by putting in a declaration of the supremacy of Parliament." I believe there has never been such a case of political imposture as this. Have we had no experience of Declaratory Acts? What do we know about the Declaratory Act for America in 1766? It was immediately answered by the Declaration of American Independence. That Act was passed by Lord North and the other Tories of that time, and that is the policy of the Liberal Government now—to resort to Declaratory Acts or Declaratory Clauses. Then what is your other experience of Declaratory Acts? There was the Declaratory Act of 1719, which asserted the supremacy of the English Parliament over Ireland. What became 217 of that? When there was great pressure upon us, when we were in low water with the Continental Powers, and had hardly a regiment to send to Ireland, that Declaratory Act was immediately repealed. Are you really trying to deceive the people of this country by giving them to understand that a few words in the Preamble of an Act of Parliament are better than a whole Declaratory Act? Are you not resorting to the same kind of double dealing to which my noble Friend (the Duke of Devonshire) referred last night, when he spoke of the play between the words the "unity of the Empire" and the "unity of the Kingdom?" In this Bill there is a declaration, not of any supreme power of control over Ireland specially, but only over all the "dominions of the Queen." We know that already it is a doctrine of Constitutional Law. It is a pious opinion, and nothing more. Try to put in force the doctrine of the supremacy of the Crown over New Zealand, South Australia, or in Melbourne, and you will find where you are. That effort will be followed immediately by another Declaration of Independence, and you would have to repeal the Declaratory Act. There is nothing in this declaration of supremacy which has the smallest practical effect, because you have no arms with which you can enforce it. I look upon this as a very dangerous deception of the people. People ignorant, as Mr. Gladstone says the electorate are, upon these great Constitutional questions are apt to be deceived by vague words such as these. Let us try if we can undeceive them by reference to our own history—alas! calamitous history—within comparatively recent times. Then take the reference to colonial independence. Can anything be more deceptive? Mr. Gladstone himself said in 1886 there could be nothing more dangerous than to give to Ireland so much of independence as to excite her national feeling, and not enough of independence to satisfy her desires. That is exactly what you are doing in this Bill. You are pretending that Ireland is a separate nationality; you are talking of our laws as "foreign" laws; you are talking of our Army as a "foreign" Army: you are talking of all our legislation, most falsely, as the origin of all Irish troubles; and you pretend to think that that modicum of liberty which you give under the Bill will satisfy the spirit 218 of nationality in Ireland, to which you appeal. No, my Lords, that is impossible. I have a few other instances to give of the deception practised upon the people, and none greater than the constant repetition of the expression "Irish affairs." I have counted in one declaration of Mr. Gladstone's no fewer than 14 variations of the expression "Irish affairs," invented by Mr. Butt, and taken by Mr. Gladstone second-hand—" Irish affairs," "domestic affairs," "affairs exclusively their own," and so on, but no definition ever being given as to what was meant by "Irish affairs." Municipal Government was suggested. But what was really meant we now know was free scope given to the Irish Legislature to take action involving the complete sacrifice of the life, liberty, and property of the subjects of the Queen. Nothing has struck me more during the whole of this electoral contest than the utter absence in the speeches of my noble Friend opposite and of his Colleagues of the slightest reference to the personal liberty of the subject. They were great on the "unity of the Empire," which may mean anything or nothing. They were great on various other vague phrases, such as "Irish affairs"; but never once did they say that they meant to secure to Irishmen the personal liberty for which we have fought through so many centuries of English government. Never. And yet you pretend to be the only people who represent the Liberal Party. The vindication of personal liberty has been the one great object of the Liberal Party in this country from its earliest times. I should say it is the definition of their creed, and yet in the whole of this contest you have not even promised or held out the hope to the minority of the Irish people that their personal liberties will not be sacrificed. Then as to the consent of the Irish Members. The Duke of Devonshire told us last night that in 1886 Mr. Gladstone never consulted his Colleagues about his change of policy. Whom, then, did he consult? Did he consult Mr. Parnell? Was there any secret communication—any underground railway between Hawarden and Mr. Parnell? I never knew, and I do not know now; but I know that Mr. Gladstone took care to speak early in the Debate at the opening of the Session, and held out the flag of Home Rule. Mr. Parnell followed, 219 and followed suit. He took care to use words which might be interpreted as meaning his acceptance of the offer vaguely made by Mr. Gladstone, and from that moment Mr. Gladstone declared that he had the assent of the Irish Members to his schemes. Now, my Lords, what turned out to be the fact? We have the revelation of Committee Room 15, where both Irish factions united in saying that a message was sent to them by Mr. Gladstone, or at least on his behalf, telling them that if they did not accept his offer he would retire from public life and they would get nothing. That is how the assent of the Irish Members was obtained. I was a Member of Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet when the Coercion Act was passed. I agree with Mr. Gladstone that we made a mistake in that Act, not in enacting coercion, but in the particular form which that coercion took. Arbitrary arrest was a bad form, and Mr. Gladstone has revealed to a large extent the secrets of the Cabinet at that time in the article which he wrote on the life of Mr. Forster. I think Mr. Gladstone was quite right to back out of that Act as soon as he could, but Mr. Forster was also quite right when he said—"Do not back out of it until you have a substitute in some better and safer Act." Mr. Gladstone said—" Oh, no; we will back out of it at once. The one thing we have to ascertain"—and this is a wonderful instance of the credulity of Mr. Gladstone—"is the state of Mr. Parnell's mind at the time. The moment we have ascertained the state of the prisoner's mind, the moment we have reason to believe that he will be a good boy for the future—we will let him out without any precautions." And who was sent to ascertain Mr. Parnell's views? Who but Captain O'Shea! The idea of making a great question of State policy depend upon the "state of Mr. Parnell's mind" and of sending this unfortunate Captain O'Shea to ascertain what was the "state of his mind" was a perfect specimen of the credulity and folly which have characterised the Government in the whole management of this business. There is another matter in which the Government have treated the people of this country most unfairly. They have said—"Let us put confidence in the Irish people; let us trust to the union of hearts." 220 Yes; but what have they done in this Bill? What have they done to show confidence in the Irish people where their own money is concerned? When the lives, liberties, and property of your fellow-subjects are at stake you express perfect confidence in these men, but when your own money is at stake you make the harshest and severest stipulations in your own favour. Trust in the Irish Parliament! Was there ever such an imposture? Remember, my Lords, what you have done. You have advanced £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 to the peasantry of Ireland for the purpose of buying land. The money has been advanced by the British Treasury at considerable sacrifice. Could there be a debt of honour more absolutely due from the Irish Parliament than this? But do the Government trust to their honour? No. Look at Clause 13 of this Bill. Under that clause, if the interest on the money is not paid, the British Treasury, through the Lord Lieutenant, is empowered to arrest the whole Revenue of Ireland and to prevent the expenditure of a penny of it on Irish purposes until the debt is paid. In these circumstances, the pretence of trusting in the Irish people is a great political imposture—nothing but an imposture—by your own confession. Then there is the Tribute. If you had perfect confidence in the Irish Parliament you would not impose tribute at all. Why do not you trust to their voting supplies if there is a perfect union of hearts, if the honour of our Crown is the honour of their Crown; why, if the honour of our country is the honour of their country, cannot you trust the Irish Parliament? "Oh, no!" you say, "we must have a fixed sum in the form of Tribute." I will not discuss the amount of the tribute. I believe that it is £2,000,000 at least less than the Irish people ought to pay; but I will not higgle over the mess of pottage for which you are selling the liberties of your fellow-men, for that is the nature of the transaction as I regard it. There is another point which ought to be interesting to my noble Friend (Lord Playfair) who is, I believe, to follow me in this Debate—I refer to the question of Irish Protectionism. Does my noble Friend see what lies before us in the future? This Bill prevents the Irish Parliament from imposing Customs 221 Duties or Excise for Revenue purposes; it prevents them from adopting Protectionism; it prevents them even imposing for Revenue purposes Customs Duties. Does my noble Friend think that that is a secure arrangement? Is he aware that Mr. Gladstone has distinctly stated that he does not hold that fiscal unity is a necessary part of Imperial unity? Does he know that Mr. Gladstone has declared that it is only with the consent of the Irish people that we can impose upon them Revenue restrictions? How long do you think that the Irish people will remain contented with this scheme? If you set up a separate Parliament and a separate Executive in Ireland, if you establish her people in the position of a separate nationality, sooner or later they will certainly demand to have the control over the whole of their Revenue. I wish now to say a few words on the question of ascendency in Ireland. The accusation against the Ulster people is that they are seeking for a renewal of their old ascendency. I say that that is a gross libel on the Ulster people. The Presbyterians of Ireland never had any share in the Protestant ascendency. The golden age of Presbyterianism in Ulster, according to Mr. Gladstone, was when they were all Jacobins and wished to throw over the authority of England, and to bring Ireland under the government of Wolfe Tone, and under the government of the French Democracy. That was the golden age in Mr. Gladstone's opinion; he is always appealing to it. But there was no ascendency on the part of the Presbyterians of Ulster, and what they dread now is that you should give them over bound hand and foot as regards their personal liberties, their property, taxation and everything else, into the hands of men whom you yourselves have described as advancing through plunder to disintegration. The Presbyterians of Ulster have no desire for ascendency, and do not possess it now. "Let us alone" is all they ask. Now, my Lords, there is another point to which I must allude, because I must say it appears to me to be another conspicuous instance of political imposture; and that is the importation into this Bill of a few words taken from the American Constitution. No later than October last Mr. Gladstone wrote a 222 paper in which he said that any quotation or any line adopted from the American Constitution could be nothing but "a frivolous amusement." Those were his words. When I heard that this Bill was brought into the House of Commons, and that it contained a clause copied from the American Constitution, I was quite sure what had happened; the "old Parliamentary hand" had determined that the quotation from the American Constitution should be nothing but "a frivolous amusement." And so it turned out to be. It was copied from a part of the American Constitution which had reference to the Central Government, and not to the Local Government at all. It was copied from a part of the American Constitution which imposed restrictions on the Executive as well as on the Legislative power. But he applied it only to legislation, thus rendering it perfectly useless. The great difference is this—that in America the Central Power has Central Courts to administer its Supreme Law, bringing home the liberty of the subject, or of the citizen to every man's door, to every man's domestic hearth in every State of the Union. And whenever the Opposition brought forward any Amendment for the purpose of putting life into this quotation from the American Constitution they were met by the resistance of the Government, which acts under the dictation of the Irish Party. My Lords the people of Ulster have reason, and very good reason, to fear. I must traverse the assertion of Lord Spencer that the Ulster people have no right to refuse this Bill. I stand here to say, speaking to the people of the United Kingdom and to the people of America and of the Continent, that men have a right to refuse to agree to the transference of their allegiance from one authority to another. I repeat what I stated in this House upon a recent occasion—that the duty of allegiance and the extension of protection are correlatives in all civilised societies. If you give up protecting men, their lives, their liberties, and their property—if you delegate it to others, you have lost the right to their allegiance. I say that distinctly as a general principle. The Liberal Party ought to acquiesce in this doctrine. It is not for them to deny it. Absolute obedience to Kings or to 223 majorities has never been a principle of the Liberal Party. I am myself the descendant of men who resisted authority and suffered death in defence of the liberty of the subject. I, therefore, cannot hold the doctrine of passive obedience in all circumstances. If you throw over the people of Ulster and commit them to the authority of men who you confess have done constantly what my noble Friend Lord Spencer calls discreditable acts—I say that if you treat the people of Ulster in that way, you will lose your right to their obedience; and they will have a right, as Lord Rosebery remarked last year, in his reference to a Cossack prisoner in the Crimea, to refuse to be taken captive by their new masters. I have but little more to say. I must, however, tax your Lordships' patience a little longer in order to refer to a favourite theme of the Prime Minister's, in which, I believe, we may detect the cause of much of the extraordinary conduct we have seen. The Prime Minister says we must submit to the inevitable. He says it is quite inevitable that this separation should come—that this breaking down of the Imperial Parliament is inevitable. I have a great respect, my Lords, for men who submit to the inevitable, for men who bow their heads to fate, cover their heads with the toga, and receive the stabs from the swords of their enemies; but I have no respect for men who make things inevitable, who make inevitable misfortunes which they could easily avoid by a little manliness and a little courage. I maintain that nothing like this Bill is inevitable. On the contrary. My Lords, do not let us think that to-night we are fighting for the last time in a losing battle. I believe we are winning in a great campaign. I believe that the future is on our side. Ours are not the times when great Empires are being broken up into petty Principalities. Ours is the era, ours is the century of union, of strength by union, and I believe that our strength will lie in the maintenance of this Union. Inevitable! Why, I have been spending the last few weeks in a part of Scotland whence we look down upon the hills of Antrim. We can see the colour of their fields, and in the sunset we can see the glancing of the light upon the windows of the cabins of the people. This is 224 the country, I thought the other day when I looked on the scene—this is the country which the greatest English statesman tells us must be governed as we govern the Antipodes. Was there ever such folly? I agree with Thomas Carlyle when he said, in his own picturesque style, England, Scotland, and Ireland are one by the ground plan of the world. By geographical propinquity, by common brotherhood, by common blood, we are one. We want nothing but equality—equal laws on both sides of the Channel. My Lords, if there is a single grievance remaining in Ireland at the present moment, it is entirely due to the present Prime Minister. That grievance is this—that the Roman Catholics of Ireland have not been allowed any University system. Why was that? It was because Mr. Gladstone introduced an absurd Bill a few years ago, which my noble Friend opposite, Lord Playfair, took a leading part in defeating, having, no doubt, the guidance of the professional spirit. And since that day what has Mr. Gladstone done? Nothing.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
I know; and I am quite willing, if my noble Friend wishes it, to explain how that was. I thought it was an absurd Bill at the time, and that it must inevitably fail. And who defeated it? Nobody had a greater hand in defeating it than my noble Friend opposite, Lord Playfair. Mr. Gladstone declared that the Catholics of Ireland had a great grievance. What has he done since to remedy that grievance? Nothing. Not only that, but he has practically declared that because they resisted his measure, and defeated him, they would get nothing more out of him. I must say that, in my opinion, the Catholics of Ireland have a grievance, and it is Mr. Gladstone's fault that it hag not been remedied. All I can say is that we wish, my Lords, for a union of hearts; we wish for a union of interests; we wish for nothing more and nothing less. We desire and are determined that this Union shall be maintained—not a nominal Union, not a Union under the Crown merely, but a Union of Parliaments, a Union of Executive, a Union of the Judiciary, a Union with one system of just and equal laws.
§ LORD PLAYFAIR
My Lords, it is a formidable task to speak after the noble Duke, whose stately eloquence has long been the admiration of your Lordships and of the public. Not one word of that speech would your Lordships have wished unsaid; but I noticed that in a speech which occupied more than an hour and a half, he only gave about twenty minutes to the Bill before us. He gave an interesting history of how this has become a substantial question, and stated his arguments why Home Rule should not be given. I will traverse that part of his speech in due time, and show that the condition of things is such that Home Rule must be given. I hope, however, to be able to traverse his main arguments, which I take to be the tendency to separation, supremacy of Parliament, and the danger to the minority; but before doing so I desire to lay before your Lordships some general considerations which, to my mind, render a Home Rule measure inevitable now, or in the near future. On June 10, 1886, the noble Duke delivered a remarkable speech in this House, in which, as he has now done, he offered to redress the grievances of Ireland. Upon that occasion he offered a large measure of Municipal Local Government to Ireland—a measure so wide and broad that he included in it some matters which we consider so Imperial that in this Bill we have prevented the Irish Government from dealing with them. The noble Duke said he was prepared to grant to his new Municipal Government the right to repeal Free Trade and establish Protection if they thought it desirable. Mr. Courtney, in another place, said the same thing, and divided the House upon that subject; but the Duke of Devonshire yesterday was much more guarded. He did not say that that was a subject either of Municipal or Parliamentary right of the Irish people; but he did say that his mode of redressing the grievances of Ireland would be to give Local Government in an enlarged form; and he mentioned the fact that the last Government had introduced a measure for the introduction of County Councils. It is true that they did, but they smothered the measure with such restrictions and suspicions that it died on the day of its birth. Lord Clare, in 1801, argued that a system of Local Government in Ireland should be the corollary to the 226 Union, and had such a measure been introduced the demand for Home Rule might not be so clamant as it now is; and certainly the Irish would have been better prepared for a separate Parliament. In the latter half of this century frequent demands have been made for the reform of Municipalities and of County Government. But even when the House of Commons passed measures of this kind the House of Lords persistently refused their consent. Since 1836, 12 Bills for the better Local Government of Ireland have been rejected, and four others have been dropped. It is true that in 1840 Parliament passed an Act reducing the franchise for Irish Municipalities to a £10 rateable value; but the same Act disfranchised 58 existing Municipalities. No wonder that it did not please or content the Irish people. They will no longer accept mere local government as a full answer to their demands. The words "too late" are often the last words of moderate reforms, though they are but the beginning of measures which many of your Lordships may deem to be revolutionary. It is understood that this Bill will be rejected by a large majority of your Lordships' House. But I doubt whether there is a single person here who believes that our negation will extinguish the demand for Home Rule. Four-fifths of the Representatives of Ireland are sent to Parliament to make this demand, and must persistently continue to make it, with increasing force, unless you are prepared to deprive Ireland of the franchise. How can it be otherwise? Even Englishmen must admit that they have not succeeded in governing that country to the content of the governed. I am not going to trouble your Lordships with many references to the past history of Ireland; but I would ask your attention to one test of good government. The object of every Government is to make the country governed so prosperous, by the continuous development of its resources, that an increasing population can be maintained in increasing comfort and happiness. If you apply that test to England and Scotland the government of Great Britain has been efficient. Since the beginning of this century England has increased its population by 226 per cent. and Scotland by 150 per cent.; while, at the same time, the increased populations are in 227 every respect better in wages, in health, in education, and in lessened pauperism and crime. Let us apply that test to Ireland. The population now is even less than it was at the beginning of this century, and it is 40 per cent. less than it was 50 years ago at the Census of 1841. It is quite true that those who live in Ireland now have greater comforts than formerly, even though they have not yet reached the plane of civilisation of Great Britain. But that is no reply to the terrible depopulation of Ireland. If you expatriated half a million more of the people the residue would be richer among the working men, though the landlords would be poorer. That is not the way to look at the results of good government. This Parliament has undertaken to govern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom, and our success must be judged by comparing the prosperity of Ireland as a country, and its population as a community, in relation to the United Kingdom. Is Ireland since the Union a richer or a poorer part of the United Kingdom? At the time of the Union we took over Ireland with a population which was one-half that of Great Britain and one-third that of the United Kingdom; now it has sunk to one-eighth. Its proportional gross income was then two-seventeenths that of the United Kingdom; it is certainly not one-seventeenth now. Its taxable resources when we took it over amounted to one-tenth; now they do not exceed one-fiftieth. In case of war Ireland, at the time of the Union, added largely to our strength in men and material; now, with its dwindled population and diminished production of food, it is of small account in national defence. The capital of Ireland, upon which her prosperity so much depends, amounts to about 400 millions, but is only one-twenty fourth that of the United Kingdom. Its total capital now scarcely exceeds one year's interest of the capital of Great Britain. The whole trade of Ireland is insignificant, and scarcely reaches £40,000,000, an amount much less than that of our trade with distant Australia, which is £55,000,000. It is very much less also than our trade in India. As a country for receiving the products of Great Britain, made by our own working men, the trade amounts to only two or three millions. In relation to Great Britain, Ireland, 228 as part of the United Kingdom, as a country and as a community, has sunk wofully since the Union. It has remained stationary in some things, gone backward in others, and has not shared the progress of Great Britain. The English Government is responsible for the decline of prosperity and for the depopulation of Ireland. "When the herd degenerates the herdsman is to blame" is a true maxim, though it is as old as Socrates. The main purposes of a Government have never been achieved in Ireland by English administration. Neither in times of tranquillity nor in times of disorder has the English Government received the consent of the governed, or secured the progress and happiness of the people. Alison, the Tory historian, has summed up the result of our English government in these words—Conquest has failed in producing submission, severity in enforcing tranquillity, indulgence in awakening gratitude.If Ireland could be governed as Great Britain is, 12,000 troops, the number in proportion to its population, ought to suffice; but we kept 25,000 to 30,000 in addition to an armed constabulary. It is under a conviction that the British government of Ireland has signally failed that this Home Rule Bill has been introduced. The Bill before us offers decentralisation of government and delegation of duties without disintegration, and it completes your former gift of full representation to the Irish people by its natural complement and sequel of a Representative Government by consent. Some of your Lordships outside this House have attacked the Bill with bitter words. My noble Friend opposite, who once was Chancellor of Ireland, described this Bill at a meeting in Leeds as "a Bill marked in every line and every provision of it both by madness and meanness," and a little further on in his speech, "by meanness, treachery, and infamy." I am glad that the discussion in this House has been carried on by your Lordships in a more sober spirit. The noble Duke has a perfect right to think that we are committing a grave error, and he is justified in asking us to prove three cardinal points—that the Bill preserves the supremacy of Parliament; that it will not lead to separation; and that it will protect the rights of the 229 minority. I take up his challenge. I take the question of supremacy of the Imperial Parliament as the leading issue. You may think that we have failed, but you cannot deny that our purpose is to found a subordinate, not a co-ordinate, Parliament. To the Irish Legislature would be delegated domestic affairs; but from it would be excluded, by express enactment in Clauses 3 and 4, all subjects of Imperial interest. We have ample foreign and colonial experience that local interests can be delegated to subordinate Parliaments, and that Imperial interests can be preserved by an Imperial Parliament. In the United States there is not one State, but 45 States, autonomous in domestic legislation and executive, yet acting as 45 pillars in upholding the strength of the Federal system. In our 15 self-governing Colonies their powers of self-government are more complete than are contained in this Bill; but they do not endanger or conflict with Imperial unity. The Bill tries to surround the Imperial interests with many safeguards. In this Bill there is a provision which was absent from that of 1886. That Bill proposed to exclude Irish Members from the Imperial Parliament on the principle that has been applied to Colonial Legislatures. A good deal can be said in favour of this proposal, which, however, was then fiercely opposed by the Liberal Unionists as well as by the Conservatives. They argued with much force that the exclusion of Irish Members rendered our Parliament British and not Imperial. Mr. Chamberlain considered that the retention of Irish Members was the key of the position. In a letter to Mr. Bolton on May 7, 1886, he used these words—In the Bill the Government have proceeded on the lines of separation or colonial independence, whereas they should have adopted the principle of Federation. The key of the position is the maintenance of the full representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament, and her full responsibility for all Imperial affairs.On the 16th of April, Mr. Chamberlain, speaking in Parliament, said—The retention of the Irish Members is a matter of the first and cardinal importance; it is a matter to which I have always attached the greatest possible weight, because if the Irish Members are retained at Westminster, the Imperial Parliament remains the Imperial Parliament, and its supremacy would then be an established fact.Undoubtedly the country agreed with this 230 view during the General Election, At its conclusion Mr. Gladstone found himself with a mandate from the country to bring in a Home Rule Bill, but with a strong indication that he should retain Irish Members in Parliament to keep it Imperial. In yielding to this desire, Mr. Gladstone had a right to expect the support of every Conservative and Liberal Unionist. But when the Government proposed to reduce the Irish Members from 103 to 80, the Unionists voted for the higher number, and then, after a series of contradictory Amendments, they ultimately voted for excluding them altogether, thus recurring to the proposal of 1886, which they then deemed rank treason to Imperial supremacy. They boxed all round the compass in a manner incomprehensible to my logic and ethics, so I do not attempt to argue upon their rotatory conduct. As the Bill now stands, if it become law, Irish representation would be reduced from 103 to 80. The Bill does not put these 80 Members into Parliament; that was done by the Act of Union, not by this Bill. Yet Sir Henry James at Sheffield describes these 80 Members "as an overwhelming and overshadowing power in the Imperial Parliament." It is, at all events, 20 per cent. less of a power than was conferred by the Act of Union. Supposing that all the 80 Members were on one side and voted solidly against Imperial interests, the British Members would still be able to outnumber them by seven to one. Practically we know that the Protestant minority would have 20 seats, and if we could rely upon them for support, there would be nine Members to every Nationalist on a vote. Of course, I know that you fear a close balance of Parties and the weight of an outside Party being thrown into the scale. But it is an insult to British Members to think that they would not unite to protect the interests of the Empire. It is an equal insult to the Irish Members to believe that, when they had attained the object of their desire—an antonomous Government for Ireland—and had no longer need of continued isolation, that they would remain hostile to British and Imperial interests. On the contrary, their ambition and their interest would impel them to bring their quick intelligence to 231 bear on Imperial questions, and to take that position in the counsels of Parliament which they could readily attain by their ability and perseverance. The fear of separation, which has been largely used as a bogey to scare timid people in the country, has scarcely preserved even its shadowy shape in the discussions in the other House or before your Lordships. In the long agitations by responsible Leaders, from the time of Daniel O'Connell to Parnell, separation has neither been advocated nor threatened. In 1799 O'Connell, speaking in Dublin, used these patriotic words—I know that the Catholics of Ireland still remember that they have a country, and that they will never accept any advantages as a sect which would debase and destroy them as a people.His successors—Butt, Shaw, Parnell, and Justin M'Carthy—have always held similar views. Though Grattan's Parliament of 1782 was an independent Parliament, in the words of Lecky—It was unfeignedly and heartily loyal to the British connection.That was due to the national spirit which permeated it, not to the fact that the Members were Protestant, for at that very time the Presbyterians of Ulster were showing a strong anti-English spirit. Grattan explained why the Irish Parliament ought to be true to Great Britain. He said—The Crown is one link, the Constitution another. You can get a King anywhere; but England is the only country with whom you can participate in a free Constitution.But there is even a stronger bond of union in the fact that all the material interests of Ireland depend upon Great Britain. We buy all the Irish exports, with trifling exceptions, and we furnish, either as merchants or producers, all their imports. Surely when Home Rule has been given these interests would be Stronger for union than the mere memory of grievances, which we had redressed, would be for separation. The two noble Dukes are especially alarmed on the subject of the Protestant minority, and it is a subject worthy of the fullest consideration. The Duke of Argyll read to us the clause of the American Constitution, Clause 14, which has been found sufficient to protect personal liberty. The essential part of that clause is verbally adopted in Sub-section 8, Clause 4, of 232 the present Bill, with words added to insure compensation for any private property taken. But, in addition to that important provision, there are eight other reservations in Clause 4 which fully cover all questions relating to education, religion, and corporate property. Beyond these clauses there are the Exchequer Courts in Ireland, and an Appeal Court in England, to determine Constitutional encroachments against the law, and any violation of private rights. There is also the power of veto, and, in the last resort, the undiminished power of the Imperial Parliament to prevent and restrain wrong-doing. The fears in the mind of the noble Duke are that the Protestant minority may be oppressed by a Parliament which will naturally have a large Catholic majority. He does not trust the historical fact that Irish Catholics have been singularly free from a spirit of religious intolerance. I know that in former times there have been wild insurrections, in which both Protestants and Catholics have committed very cruel and savage acts. These insurrections were retributions of a savage character for acts of long-continued oppression, some of which were attempts to suppress the Catholic religion. But in the short and only Catholic Parliament of 1689 a memorable Act was passed in these words—That it is a law of the land of Ireland that neither now nor ever again shall any man be persecuted for his religion.Mr. Lecky draws attention in his history to this peculiarity of the Irish character. He says—Amongst the Catholics, at least, religious intolerance has never been a prevailing vice; and those who have studied closely the history and character of the Irish people can hardly fail to be struck with the deep respect for sincere religion in every form which they have commonly evinced.In proof of this, I cite the remarkable fact that Ireland is the only European country which never had a Christian martyr, or where the Jews and the Quakers were never persecuted. Nearly 280,000 Protestants live in the Catholic Provinces of Ireland in a hopeless minority, yet they live in perfect peace and safety with their Catholic countrymen. In fact, the Southern Catholic Provinces show a remarkable religious toleration, for not only have they elected Protestants to municipal offices, but they 233 send Protestant Members to Parliament, and have accepted as the Leaders of their National movement Butt, Shaw, and Parnell, who were Protestants. I wish that Ulster would show equal liberality. Nevertheless, I admit that the Protestants of Ulster are seriously alarmed at the prospect of Home Rule. It is the only Province of Ireland in which the Protestants have a majority, not a great one, but still there are 54 per cent. of Protestants to 46 per cent. of Catholics. Is it possible to conceive that an Irish Parliament, largely Catholic, would seek to injure a Province in which nearly one-half of the population consists of people of their own religious faith? In five out of the nine counties of Ulster the Roman Catholics are in a majority. Even the representation of Ulster is nearly evenly divided between Home Rulers and Unionists—at present the Unionists are 19 as against 14, but in the last Parliament the majority was the other way, and a change of only 600 votes would place them in a majority. Unquestionably the town of Belfast predominates Ulster from its size, activity, and prosperity. Belfast is a town nearly as large as Sheffield, and nearly as wealthy as Hull; but would your Lordships consider that a cry from either of these English towns against a great national movement in England ought to be sufficient to promote or defeat a policy desired by the great majority of the English people? It is right to attach weight to the views in Belfast, but it is wrong to say that it is the voice of Ireland, or even the voice of Ulster. I know that many of your Lordships attach the greatest importance to that voice, and that you attribute the prosperity of Ulster to its content with the Government of England. If I apply my former test of good government to Ulster—namely, the increase of population with increasing comforts—how does Ulster stand? Comparing the population of 1841 and 1891, Ulster has lost no less than 750,000 of its population in 50 years. This depopulation is not confined to the Catholic counties, for Protestant Down has decreased faster than Catholic Donegal. Even the rapid development of Belfast scarcely stays from decline the two counties in which it is situated, for their population has only increased by 1,137 persons in the last 234 census. The voice of Ulster ought to be listened to in the controversy, and the remonstrances should be taken at their full value. Unfortunately, they rarely reach us in calm and well-considered words, but are usually wild words accompanied by wild threats. We must examine these words by the evidence of past experience. Our predecessors, and many of your Lordships, have heard equally wild words on previous occasions, when measures were introduced mitigating the effects of Protestant ascendency. If you go back to the time of Catholic Emancipation the resolutions against it passed in Ulster were truly bloodcurdling. I was in Parliament when we disestablished the Irish Church in 1869. I have a distinct recollection of the threats of Ulster that 200,000 Orangemen were to rise in rebellion, kick the Queen's Crown into the Boyne, and march upon London. The Protestant minority in other parts of Ireland were equally determined. Mr. Plunket, the Member for the University of Dublin, after an excited speech referring to the action of Protestants in past times, said—As they were willing to seal with their blood, in martyrdom and battle if need be, to protest against the oppression and slavery of a system which they could not and should not, and which their descendants never will submit to.The Ulsterian outpourings of wrath are now of the same character, and almost the same in expression, as they were in 1869. We have become accustomed to them, and do not even resent such names as a kind-hearted Bishop of my acquaintance called the Liberals at the Protestant Synod in Belfast, when he designated us as "political Sangrados who are willing to shed streams of blood—to flood all Ulster with blood." For 60 or 70 years, on the occasion of every reform, we have become familiar with this style of oratory from Ulster, and we are not frightened. The recent utterances from Ulster are pitched in the same key. Perhaps if I were to guess at their source, I would recommend noble Lords to read the remarkable speech of Lord Stanley, afterwards Lord Derby, and well known for his fiery eloquence. The speech was delivered in 1837 against the proposal to give Home Rule to the Province of Quebec. That Province contained, as Ireland does now, two-thirds Roman Catholics to one- 235 third Protestants. Lord Derby was certain that the minority would be trampled upon by the majority; that a religious war would take place, the Protestants being assisted by the great Protestant family of the United States; and that, after the shedding of much blood, the Lower Province of Canada would become a French Republic, and that in six months. The strange thing was that Sir Robert Peel agreed with him. Undismayed by this terrible prophecy, Home Rule was granted to the Canadian Province; and the present Lord Derby, who had just returned from the Government of Canada, could testify to your Lordships that its loyalty to the British Crown is as great as in any part of the Dominion. Looking, then, at past experience we may more safely prophesy—or, at least, we are justified in believing—that Ulster will neither fight actively, nor resist passively, Home Rule if it become law; but she will continue to take that distinguished position in the new Legislature, to which she is entitled by her industry, talent, and perseverance. I fear that it is a foregone conclusion that your Lordships will reject this Bill. Yet you must feel that the task of continuing to govern Ireland by means of coercive law, instead of by the consent of the people, is a hopeless failure. England has tried to govern Ireland in her own way, that is by English methods, twice as long as the Turks have held Constantinople and the Turkish Empire, and in both cases with about as little satisfaction to the conquered people. Ireland is a country that should be easy to govern. The soil of Ireland is naturally productive, and its climate is temperate. The Island is indented with noble harbours, and is intersected by great rivers. Had it been a State in America, its water power would have made it one of the most active industrial countries in the world. It is near the Welsh and Scotch coalfields, and has the conditions for industrial prosperity far greater than Switzerland or Holland. You still insist on refusing to Ireland a form of Government desired by the people, and while you refuse the population dwindles. Three millions of the people depend on agriculture directly, and yet the agriculture of Ireland, its main industry, dwindles also. Its former chief crop—potatoes— 236 no longer produces on the average of years more than 3½ tons per acre; while in Great Britain the average produce is nearly double. I hear a noble Lord say that is owing to the potato disease of 1846; but that disease struck Scotland with the same severity as in Ireland, yet the product of the former country is now double that of the latter. In root crops, for which the climate is favourable, the average crops have sunk 22 per cent. below those of Great Britain. So much arable land has gone into pasture that, even after a full allowance for the increase of live stock, the production of human food in Ireland would feed 1,500,000 fewer people than 20 years ago. A couple of bad harvests bring the peasants to the verge of starvation, and you are obliged to make them objects of charity. The mineral industries of Ireland are not very rich; but such as they are they have not been developed so much as they should have been. The fisheries, which would be prolific in other countries, are neglected in Ireland; and what is the cause of this decline? We have one cause and you another. You attribute all this inferiority as a nation to radical defects in the character of the 'Irish people. Our answer is that we consider that these defects are the melancholy outcome of governing a country against the consent of the people. When the Irish emigrate to other lands, especially to the United States and our Colonies, they become peaceful and productive citizens in the second generation. The industries of New England, in the large factories, are chiefly worked by Irish and by French Canadians, so even new emigrants quickly adapt themselves to trade. We expect no miracles from this measure, and it may be more than one generation before we get Irish of the character we desire. The fact of Local Government by the people for themselves has an admirable effect. I quote a short passage from a noble Lord opposite, and I think it is very well put—Men can manage the affairs which concern their own immediate life and which concern their localities far better than those at a distance could manage them, and if they did not manage them better they manage them in a manner more suitable to their own taste, and they submit to whatever inconveniences are necessary with much better grace.237 That is a capital description of the working of Local Government. I dare say the noble Marquess recognises he is the author of that speech, which was made by him on the 19th of June, 1887, at Leeds. I quote another passage from a speech of his at Newport, which my noble Friend (Earl Spencer) was unable to read last night—A Local Authority is more exposed to the temptation and has more of the facility for enabling a majority to be unjust to the minority than is the case when the Authority derives its sanction and extends its jurisdiction over a wide area. That is one of the weaknesses of Local Authorities. In a large Central Authority the wisdom of several parts of the country will correct the folly or mistakes of one. In a Local Authority that correction to a much greater extent is wanting; and it would be impossible to leave that out of sight in the extension of any such Local Authority to Ireland.I think that is admirable. In those two speeches one shows the advantage of Local Government, and the other that Local Government will not do alone, but must be supplemented by Central Government. I am content to leave the case as the noble Marquess has put it. There is one thing I should like to ask, Do you expect the democracy of the future to do better than the aristocracy have done, because if you expect the democracy to work on the same lines it is impossible. A democracy ceases to be a democracy when it governs against the consent of the people, and the democracy is now established in this country, and it is impossible for you to continue in the ancient path. I am a new Member of your House, and am not imbued with your traditions. But if I were a man of landed possessions, in the interests of my order and of my property, I would do everything within my power to make Ireland a contented country. A distracted and discontented Ireland is the fortress of advancing Radicalism, and even of Socialism. Since 1867 the conflicts in Ireland have been looked upon by the democracy of this country as battles between the rich and the poor, and those rights which have been given to Ireland have been observed by the British people here, and they will be demanded also. I think it will, before long, be a very formidable thing if we do not succeed in making Ireland contented. I shall make a very few more remarks on the question—"Has this country accepted Home Rule? "The 238 Duke of Devonshire asks your Lordships to reject this Bill, and he gives this reason—Because we have no knowledge, and we can have no knowledge, that either the principles or the details of the measure command the consent of the people of this country.The noble Duke is strong on that point. What is there in this Delphic utterance? Is he going to ask you to adopt that most democratic of measures, a referendum ad hoc? That would be a much more fundamental interference with the Constitution than this Bill. If that is not the meaning, then the meaning is that the country does not know the details or principles of the Bill. Everyone knows that Members are returned to frame measures and arrange details. In regard to details, the people trust their Representatives in Parliament assembled. As to principles, what are the facts? At the last General Election the voters of this country, by a majority of 229,000, affirmed the principle of Home Rule. It does not lie with your Lordships, who are such strong supporters of a United Kingdom, to deny the force of this majority because it is chiefly from Ireland. That fact increases the strength and significance of the majority. Yet against all logic you have become Separatists and cut off Ireland from your considerations, arguing that you should be guided by the votes of Great Britain. But the majority of British votes was also on the side of Home Rule. Your newspapers sometimes deny this by cutting away the Labour votes from the Gladstonians, though every Labour candidate was a Home Ruler, and, therefore, it was unfair to cut them off. At all events, you will not deny that the Gladstonian majority in Scotland and Wales was very largely in favour of Home Rule. In England the majority of voters was greatly with the Unionists. Yet it was England that sent us back to power. We lost in Ireland, and on the balance, excluding England, we gained only two seats. It was the revulsion of feeling in England that brought Home Rulers into power. Your English representative majority against Home Rule was 214 in 1886; it dwindled to 71 in 1892—you lost two-thirds of your English majority—and that shows that the desire and feeling of the country had greatly 239 increased in favour of Home Rule. The Duke of Devonshire did not know for what the Members were returned; some he knew were returned for labour, some for local option, and some for disestablishment. It is useless to deny that there has been a clearly expressed mandate of the people in favour of Home Rule. In the Division on the Second Reading in the other House every Liberal voted for the Bill and every Unionist against it, showing that each Party understood the conditions on which they were elected. You say that you are entitled to reject this Bill because the majority in favour of it in the other House was only 40. Yet the Unionist majority in Great Britain at the last Election of which you boast so much was only 17. Your Lordships cannot defend the rejection of the Bill on your ignorance of the wishes of the country. Do not let us delude ourselves by thinking that, now or hereafter, we can settle this question of Home Rule by a mere negation. I give full credit to the majority of your Lordships that in rejecting this Bill you act upon the deepest conviction that it is injurious to the highest interests of the United Kingdom if it is passed. We ask your Lordships to give to the minority who support the Bill equal credit for the sincerity of their convictions. We believe that it is calculated to bind Ireland more firmly to Great Britain, because it removes the sources of past discontent and distrust; because it confides to the Irish their own domestic government and makes them responsible for its efficiency; and because large experience has shown that organised government of a people through their own Parliament is the best safeguard against the excesses which follow from a disorganised and irresponsible democratic liberty.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
My Lords, I have listened with interest to the very clear and able speech of the noble Lord who has just spoken, and I have listened closely to see what arguments he would adduce to show that this Bill was necessary, and safe, and just. It is obvious that these are three cardinal propositions which should be present to the mind of any honest man wishing to get a vote on the question. The noble Lord has dealt with, and I might say revelled, in statistics. I pass away, at the outset, from all the figures which have given such 240 pleasure to my noble Friend who has just sat down with this remark—that the Bill comes up to your Lordships' House only by the votes of the Irish majority in the House of Commons, with a majority of 23 British Members against it, and a majority of 48 Members against it from England and Wales. Those are clear figures that cannot be gainsaid. Now, it is obvious that in substance and in reality this is a Bill for the Repeal of the Union. In order to prove that such a stupendous measure is necessary it should be shown that the Union has failed, and that a disruption is desired by the two nations that entered into that great conflict. This has been entirely left out of view by the noble Lord, as well as by Earl Spencer in his speech introducing the Bill. It is manifest from the figures I have given that Great Britain is in favour of the maintenance of the Union, while a great and growing minority in Ireland hold strongly to the same view. The views of the noble Lords on the other side go rather to indicate, not by bold and manly assertion, but by indirect and devious suggestion, that the Union has failed. I at once take issue upon that point. The Union has not failed. Contrasting the state of Great Britain and Ireland in 1800 with the state of the United Kingdom now the Union has distinctly succeeded. The noble Lord who spoke yesterday (Lord Ribblesdale) dealt shortly with the history of Ireland since the Union. I do not think he went into it fully; I do not think he went into it in such a way as would be satisfactory to this House. The great difference between the manner in which the Union was entered into and the disruption of the Union is that the Union was a deliberate Act by some of the greatest statesmen that England ever had, headed by the great name of William Pitt, not in a moment, not in a month, but after years and years of study and contemplation, before arriving at the conclusion that the Union was the safest course that could be taken in the interests of the Empire and Great Britain, and, not least, in the interest of Ireland itself. The Union, which has subsisted for 93 years, has been, I venture to think, attended with immense benefit to Ireland. It has controlled the 241 antagonisms of race; it has controlled as well the bitterness sometimes caused by different creeds. Under it commerce and imports have increased; Belfast has grown from the condition of a small town to a gigantic commercial centre; Catholic Emancipation has been granted, religious freedom secured, national education dealt out with a generous hand to all the people. The Land Laws of Ireland are for the tenants the most liberal, the most generous of any Land Code ever formed in the civilised world, the envy of the tenants of Republican France and of Democratic America. Taxation which has been imposed has been marked by differences of generosity in favour of Ireland. Public money has been poured out freely for land purchase, for land improvement, and to develop the industrial resources of the country. I cannot quite follow the curious arguments from statistics to which we have been treated. To a certain extent a man becomes intoxicated with too much of his own figures. The idea of suggesting that in consequence of the Union the potato crop has diminished by one-half; that in consequence of the Union the fish will not come to be caught! He did not say that it was in consequence of the Union, but that "was what he desired to convey, and what he wished us to understand. It is about on a parallel with what the noble Earl indicated yesterday in his rapid résumé of the history of Ireland since the Union, when he seemed to suggest that things which had occurred since the Union were consequences of the Union. The noble Earl, for example, mentioned religious animosity. I ask, was religious animosity developed or assuaged by the Union? It was under the Union you had Catholic Emancipation. It has been said that under the Union there has been poverty and famine. What is the meaning of that? The suggestion appears to be that the Union has worked out poverty and famine, and that if this wretched Bill is passed famine will cease and poverty will be over. Looking at the reality of things, everyone knows that it is the Union which has assuaged the bitterness of poverty. Everyone knows that when the pinch of famine came generous help was extended by the British Parliament. Taking the broad view such a statesman 242 should take; taking into consideration everything by which you can measure the real worth of a nation, it was all acquired under the Union, and you now ask us to destroy it. At the time of the Union Ireland was not prosperous. At the time of the Union the only growing thing in Ireland was its Debt. Its exports, its shipping, and trade were all diminishing. It was stated by a great authority that Ireland was at the time of the Union within three years of bankruptcy; 25 years after the Union, and long before the great change took place, commerce, shipping, and exports all increased. A vague impression is sought to be worked into men's minds that Ireland at the time of the Union was in a state of happiness and prosperity; that the Union gave it a check; that ever since Ireland has been going from bad to worse; and that, therefore, you must interfere. There never was a suggestion more absolutely unfounded. The truths I have presented are not directly encountered by the noble Earl who spoke yesterday or the noble Lord just now, who presented such a vast array of figures to us. They are not even directly challenged; but I tell you—and I speak on this question with the advantage of not being a Scotchman—these obvious truths are recognised in Ireland by all the law-abiding classes; they are recognised by the commercial classes to whom security of commerce is as the breath of their nostrils; they are recognised by the banking, the railway, and the industrial communities; they are recognised by the great seats of learning—or the great majority of them—and by the great bulk of the professional classes. I decline in every way to make this a religious question. It was almost suggested to me by the noble Lord to use some words that might stir up old religious differences; but I will not do it. I will not put it for a moment that it is a question of religious differences. Almost to a man the great Protestant community of Ireland is against this Bill. Is it not a fact that the mass of educated, independent, and intelligent Roman Catholics are against it? Why is it that these men, over 1,000,000 in number, a third of the population—some of the most intelligent, educated, and independent of all those who have anything to lose—are against this Bill? Why do 243 they loathe and detest it? It is because they are on the spot, because they will have to suffer, because your empty philosophical theories are not shared by them, and because they know that what you say will not occur, because you express a doubt upon the subject, will occur. There has always been more or less agitation in Ireland. But do you think that even if you pass this nostrum of yours that agitation will cease, and that for the future there will be no unrest in Ireland? There have been agitations in Ireland for many a long day; but what have those agitations mainly depended upon? Two potent factors, certainly, during the last 30 years, without which those agitations would be powerless. One is the aid of American sympathy, incitements, and gold. If Ireland had been left without the gold and incitements from America the agitation would have died. What is the other factor which has given life and vitality to agitation? It is the land. Every agitation that I can recollect—and long before for what I know—has striven to link itself to the land and appealing to the cupidity of the farmer; and, therefore, you find sometimes that it calls itself Fenianism, and sometimes Moonlights, and more recently the Plan of Campaign. If you get rid of the American element, if you settle the Land Question, as it can be done, to satisfy the reasonable wishes of the farmer, what then remains of the life of these agitations? Up to a recent period the traditions of the English public life were courageous and patriotic. Be the Party what it might, the Union was safe, the Constitution was safe, the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was a thing not to be touched. Crimes Acts were passed mostly under the Government of Mr. Gladstone, but never to hurt to the extent of a pin's point any law-abiding citizen. They were solely directed against those who by crime and terrorism denied to their fellow-citizens the enjoyment of the first rights of civilisation—liberty and safety. The noble Earl yesterday alluded to the fact that the law in Ireland has not been aided by public effort. I know it, and I regret it. But has not that been largely due to the remorseless power of intimidation and terrorism with which we are all familiar? The efforts of every statesman in England, without exception, have always been 244 directed to point out the benefits of the Union. And this has been going on for 86 years. Mr. Gladstone, in the year 1866, used these words—My firm belief is that the influence of Great Britain in every Irish difficulty is not an influence of domination and tyranny, but a softening and mitigating influence.I shall not use any quotations to-night for the small and puny purpose of establishing inconsistency. I use that quotation as the testimony of a statesman who has an experience of far more than a generation of public life. In 1881, in introducing the Irish Land Bill, he observed—It is said that our legislation in Ireland has failed. I admit the process to be incomplete. If I am asked how it is to be made complete, I say by patient perseverance in well-doing, and by steady adherence in the work of justice.These are hopeful words; they are the deliberate conviction of a statesman presenting a great ameliorating measure to Ireland. More recently, on May 16, 1884, Mr. Gladstone used these words of deep significance, having regard to many recent utterances—England for 50 years stood in the face of the civilised world a culprit with regard to Ireland. I say that the civilised world has entirely changed its judgment.That is a most interesting statement, as containing the belief of the view of the civilised world. That was in 1884. In two years after that all is changed; a miracle of conversion is wrought. Mr. Gladstone changed his mind in a moment, almost in the twinkling of an eye. If he had not changed his mind we should have no Bill before us, and if he changed back his mind to-morrow morning what would become of the Bill? Would there be any need of a Division on Friday, and would any of his Colleagues be sorry? The noble Earl yesterday gave us a glimpse of his mind when, in rather a halting explanation, he stated how he came to change—he said it was on account of the continuity of coercive legislation. [Earl SPENCER dissented.] I read the report of the noble Earl's speech this morning, and I heard the words last night, and if they did not mean that they meant nothing.
§ EARL SPENCER
I did not read the report of my speech this morning, but I do not think I referred to the continuity of coercive legislation, but to the want of continuity in support of the ordinary administration in Dublin.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
I do not know what that means if it does not mean that. Why should the Union now be broken? Why should the immense experiment of this Bill be tried unless it can be shown that great benefits would arise from the breaking of the Union? Where is the prospect of justice to Ireland—I mean justice to all classes in Ireland—from this Bill? Where is the prospect of peace and contentment? The very introduction of the Bill has roused passions and animosities which may be assuaged by time, but which it will take years to allay. The Bill works a revolution; it destroys the Constitution of England in the effort to set up a new Constitution for Ireland. There is an enormous difference between making a Union and breaking one. You cannot obliterate the tremendous fact that the Union has been in existence for 93 years. I am an Irishman, and I speak from what I am bound to know, and of which I am entitled to have a strong opinion about. And, speaking from the standpoint of an Irishman, I ask how many men of any sense could be found to state what the arguments are which commend themselves to a Home Ruler, and it would be found in this form—"Get rid of Irish questions; put a stop to coercion; let the Irish manage their own affairs, and let us manage ours." There is not one solitary syllable of that carried out in the Bill. So far as Irish questions are concerned, Ireland stops the way when Mr. Gladstone is in power; but how can the dullest fail to see that this Bill cannot put an end to Irish questions? It is not accepted as final; it is ostentatiously accepted as only provisional. Land, Judiciary, police, and finance are all put into a probationary period, and Mr. Gladstone says he is of opinion that during that period the business of the Irish Members would require them to be more at Westminster than in Dublin. Get rid of Irish questions indeed! Is that the hope and belief of a single one of you? We are not so easily got rid of as that, after all. What are we making 80 Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament for? Although your rôle is to make them angels, you do not think they will do nothing when they come over here—when you make them come over here—in order to goad the English Go- 246 vernment to view English questions from the Irish standpoint.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
They can meddle now, but they are not allowed to have a separate Parliament in Dublin at the same time. After this Bill is passed you will give them the exclusive management of their own affairs, and allow them to send a delegation of 80 over here to prevent you managing yours. The Irish are human beings; they are not a bit worse than English or Scotch people; indeed, I am not prepared to say they may not be better; but if you compel them to come to the Imperial Parliament and to take part in the discussion of English subjects, you must not be surprised if they consider the interests of their own country first and the interests of England second. What is the meaning of the second step in your argument, "get rid of coercion?" There is not a Crimes Bill now which has any provision of it in existence. Do you suggest that that is a reason to carry you on in this tremendous revolution. There is a Crimes Act now upon the Statute Book the provisions of which are lying dormant. The Act served its purpose well; it put down intimidation and boycotting and enabled law-abiding citizens to obey the law; it never harmed a single human being who wanted to abide by the law. But this Bill would work out a coercion of the most deadly character to the loyal minority in Ireland—a real and effectual coercion instead of the coercion now lying dormant on the Statute Book. From the way some people speak it would be thought that the Irish were a united people, with common objects, common hopes, and common interests. Must we again, even at the eleventh hour of this discussion, say that there are two Irelands? The meaning of "let the Irish manage their own affairs" is that a numerical majority, less educated, shall have sway over the more wealthy and better educated. Whose affairs are they to manage? Not their own, but the affairs of the loyal minority. And then you have the 80 Irish Members at Westminster to manage your affairs, never to forget the watchword bequeathed to them in past ages—"England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity." We are asked in this case to at- 247 tend to the words of the Irish Nationalist Leaders; but it is not easy to forget their actions and their words in the past. It is all very well to allude to the Irish Nationalist Leaders as "babes and sucklings." They are curious babes and sucklings, but we cannot forget the not very remote language which they used, harsh to the minority, to the police, and to the landlords. Is it fair to ask the minority to trust these men? I do not think it is when they cannot trust one another. I heard it said the other day—I read these words in The Irish Independent—Mr. Healy did not think much of Sexton, and Sexton thought less of him, and neither thought much of the other, but each thought highly of himself.The whole administration of Ireland is to be handed over to these men—the Magistracy, police, law, maintenance of order, protection of life and property, and every right that made free citizenship of value. The administration of all these matters is to be handed over to them without check or stint. I have heard it said—"At all events let us pass the Bill as an experiment. It can be repealed if the experiment is a failure." Is not that an appalling suggestion—that you will try an experiment under which you gamble with the lives, liberty, and property of our fellow-subjects in Ireland? I must now refer to the important question of the land. We were told not so very long ago by the Prime Minister that it was an obligation of justice and honour to settle the Land Question before any Home Rule Bill was passed. In the same way Lord Spencer gave us to understand that in his opinion it would be most treacherous not to buy out the Irish landlords before granting Home Rule. Now obligations of honour and dictates of justice do not change from day to day and from hour to hour. Meanness and treachery one day are meanness and treachery the next. A man of honour should have an honour which is not mutable as a weathercock. Under this Bill no land legislation is to be possible in the Irish Parliament for three years. What is the meaning of that reservation? I am entitled constitutionally at this Table—[pointing to the Front Ministerial Bench]—to search your consciences, and to test the reality of your honourable convictions, and as 248 men of honour you are bound to give an answer. What is the meaning of this reservation? Do the Government intend themselves to present a Bill upon this question? If they do, when do they intend to present it, and upon what lines will it be drawn? Or do they merely desire to conceal by this postponement the infamy of the transaction which they contemplate? Can it be possible that they intend to hand over the landlords to the merciless treatment of the Irish Nationalist Leaders, who have declared that the landlords are only entitled to "prairie value," and ought to be hunted until they are as scarce as foxes? In the Debate on the Third Reading of this Bill in another place Mr. Dillon denied that the landlords were entitled to regard Ireland as their country, and in alluding to the action of the National League he referred to "felonious landlords." Is it just and honourable to hand over the property of the Irish landlords to men who have used this language? It is a curious circumstance that the first judicial term of 15 years under the land legislation of the Prime Minister will expire in about three years. Can the infamous thought have passed through the minds of the Government that it would be expedient to leave the subject of judicial rents, and the appointment of the Sub-Commissioners who will fix these rents, to be dealt with by the proposed Irish Government? I should be glad to hear from some Member of the Government that that idea did not enter into their heads. What was the explanation given by the noble Earl opposite to account for the absence of legislation respecting the land? He said that the Purchase Acts passed in recent years have taken the place of the contemporaneous Land Bill of 1886. Is this not puerile to a degree? I desire to use no terms calculated to give pain, but I never heard a more lame, halting, and impertinent excuse. Why, the first Act in the Land Purchase Code was passed before 1886—when my noble Friend was Prime Minister for the first time, and it held out every inducement for the tenant to become a purchaser. But the system will be changed by this Bill. Who will buy if it be passed? Will it not obviously be better to remain a tenant than to purchase when the chances are that a man will be able 249 as a tenant to avoid all payment successfully? The treatment of the land lords by the Government is like sentencing a man to be hanged at the end of three years, and suspending him in the meantime. Everyone would say it was brutal and cruel, but the Judge would be candid. What do the Government think would be the fate of the Irish landlords? I am not sure that it would not be better for them to know their fate; but what would it be if they are handed over at the end of three years to the merciless mercy of the men who have always said they would show them none? If that is their object, it is impossible to use words strong enough to mark one's sense of the conduct of the Government. I have used words of considerable strength, and I cannot at the moment think of any stronger; therefore, I leave the matter where it is. If that is what they mean, it would be better for them to try to be men enough to confess their shame, instead of taking refuge in what my late great countryman, Bishop Magee, called the "cautious cowardice of refusing to say anything at all." It is thought that a fair trial will be secured in jury cases by the appointment of the Exchequer Judges; but the juries will be empannelled under the Jury Laws, and will be at the mercy of the Irish Government. They will return exactly what verdicts they please, whether the Exchequer Judges like it or not. As to the jurisdiction to be given to these Judges, legal minds are unable to understand it. It is a conundrum without an answer. There is to be an appeal, but is there to be an appeal on facts and law? Is there to be an appeal from the verdict of the jury? The section bristles with difficulties, and yet it was absolutely undiscussed. Then, how are the orders of the Exchequer Judges to be carried out? That is a momentous question, but it was absolutely undiscussed in the other House of Parliament. It may be said that, like other orders, they are to be carried out by the Sheriff. I am speaking in the presence of my noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack, the Lord Chancellor, who must endeavour to clear up some of these legal difficulties. It is said that the Sheriff must execute the orders of the Exchequer Judges, but the Irish Government might not compel him to obey the orders of the Judges, and 250 there is no provision in the Bill for the punishment of the Sheriff if he disobeys their orders. It is a grotesque machinery not worth the paper it is written on. If there should be a brawl, and life is lost, the Sheriff and his assistants would be tried before a common jury empannelled under the then laws of Ireland; and I am not at all sure that it would be very easy to get them acquitted. Sir Charles Russell said that the Exchequer Judges would have at their backs the Imperial power. That is a very fine phrase, but what does it mean? The Imperial power will not have a single policeman or Magistrate at its back, so that this is merely a phrase of the Attorney General's. It might be said that it refers to the Army, that there is the Army to fall back upon; but the Army could not act in the matter, because the very second the Imperial Government directed the Army to interfere in any struggle, such interference would not be administration of the law, but civil war. The Executive impotence of the Exchequer Judges must expose them to contempt. If their orders are unpopular they will not be executed; but if Executed, it will be at the risk of riot, bloodshed, and civil war. It is an endeavour to set up an imperium in imperio, but your imperium will have neither power, nor resources, nor credit. Your Bill treats Ireland as a suspected Province, whose justice is doubted and whose honesty is questioned. You trust Ireland with everything except the till; but in order not to hurt their feelings you order the money to be placed in the chest and give them the key. It is nothing but a medley of distrust, unbelief, and credulity. You entrust the Irish Executive with enormous powers, and then endeavour to balance them by things called "safeguards." No one believes in them, not a single human being outside a lunatic asylum. The Irish Nationalist Leaders play their part well. They listen to the description of those safeguards with an air of reluctant resignation. I can only say that, for myself, I regard those safeguards as absolutely illusory, ineffective, and unworkable. The Second Chamber proposal I pass by. It is too ludicrous to be taken seriously. I have a great respect for Second Chambers that are intended to perform real functions as to stability or caution to 251 legislation; but the Second Chamber under this Bill is not the real thing at all. With regard to the veto, Lord Spencer spoke as if he had some belief in it, and that makes me think that he has not rightly grasped the meaning of some sections of the Bill. Under ordinary circumstances the veto is to be exercised under the advice of the Irish Cabinet. Surely it is nonsense to expect them to advise the Lord Lieutenant to veto their own Bills. Then where is the protection of the veto? It is said that the English Cabinet may give special directions, but who is to invoke the intervention of the English Cabinet? Is the Lord Lieutenant to do so? Is there to be an Imperial Minister who is to watch the Irish Legislature? The Lord Lieutenant of the future will be a strange creature, fearfully and wonderfully made. He may disagree with a Bill when it is submitted to him; he may believe that it is fraught with peril and gross oppression to the minority; he may get no directions from England. What, then, is he to do? He may ask for special directions. He may get back a definite reply; but has he any discretion to act on his own clear judgment? Mr. Morley says that sometimes he may act on English advice, sometimes on Irish advice, and sometimes on his own judgment; but would he not be bound to assent to a Bill presented by his Irish Ministers in the absence of any special directions from the English Cabinet? That is a clear Constitutional question that I am entitled to ask, and it must be answered before this Debate closes. The Lord Lieutenant would be sometimes Imperial, sometimes Irish, sometimes hung up between heaven and earth, like "Mahomet's coffin." He may be in a paroxysm of doubt, yet, like a Colonial Governor, he cannot reserve the question for consideration. It may be that the Bill before him threatens the grossest oppression to the minority, yet he has not the power to veto it. At every step it turns out that the veto is a sham. It is not a real protection, and my opinion is that it is not intended to be a real protection. The Lord Lieutenant of the future—I do not know whether any noble Lord is in training for the office yet, but I advise his friends to keep a very close eye upon his sanity—will sometimes be as pliant as indiarubber, 252 sometimes as hard as adamant, and sometimes composed of something that it is impossible to baptize with any name at all. Then it is said that the Imperial Parliament is a safeguard. What is the meaning of that? The supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is now the greatest safeguard to every subject of the Queen in the United Kingdom, because it means its action. The supremacy of the Imperial Parliament of the future will have no power of action whatever. Parliament may pass Resolutions against Irish administration; it may pass concurrent legislation. How can it carry out Resolutions or legislation? The Irish Executive could not be relied on in these cases, because it would be against the Irish Executive that the action of the Imperial Parliament would be directed-If an Imperial Executive is set up, what is your position? You will have in this poor Ireland two hostile Executives, and that is your message of peace. If a row or a breach of the peace arose—and these things have occurred in Ireland before—the Members of the English Executive would be promptly arrested by the Irish police and subjected to that due process of law of which we have heard a great deal. Again, you will find in every season of difficulty, doubt, and trouble, the 80 Irish Members will always crop up. How is the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament to be asserted in the face of the shifting ballast of 80 Irish Members ready to vote against any assertion of supremacy, against any effort to do justice to the minority? It is said the loyal minority will be represented among these 80 Members, and that they could make their wants known in the Imperial Parliament. But the Schedule is a gerrymandered Schedule. I do not accuse Mr. Morley, a man of honour, of desiring to do anything of the kind, but he is the victim of some less scrupulous statistician than the noble Lord opposite. Dublin University, the great seat of learning with which I am proud to be identified, and proud to remember that I represented it for many years in the other House of Parliament, is to be disfranchised, and this in a country with thousands of illiterates. The only constituency, every man of whom can read and write, is to be deprived of its representation, and the 253 Protestants of Connaught, Munster, and the greater part of Leinster are to lose the only voice they have for asserting their grievances in the Imperial Parliament. The doom of the loyal minority is hard. Is it not an inconceivable meanness to stifle the voices by which they could make their sufferings heard? Mr. Morley said there was a principle involved in his figures, that principle being that one Member should be given for every 75,000 of the population, and a second Member for any excess over the 75,000. Thus Meath, a Nationalist county with a population of 76,000, is to have two Members; while Fermanagh, a mixed county, with a population of 74,000, is to have only one. Leitrim, with 78,000 inhabitants, is to have two Members; while Armagh, with a population of 143,000, is only to have two Members. Kerry, with 179,000, is to have three Members; while Antrim, with 174,000, is to have only two Members. If that is not gerrymandering—I do not say it is—it is the most miraculous coincidence that ever was known in the history of figures. In Ireland the Bill will work chaos; it will tend to civil war; it will lead to bankruptcy; it will give the Loyalists less protection than was afforded in America, after the Civil War, to the negroes. A supporter of the Gladstonian Party, though not of the Bill, has declared that "his revered chief" wishes to carry any sort of Bill in any sort of way. The Bill now awaits judgment at your Lordships' hands. It is false in its principles; it is dangerous in its policy. There is surrender in every line; there is betrayal in every sentence. It sends to Ireland not peace, but a sword. It preaches not the assuaging of passions, but the rousing into fever-heat of old and sad animosities. While that is the wretched message that is sent to Ireland, I put this point to your Lordships. There is not one single solitary advantage that will accrue to England under this Bill. The Bill has passed the House of Commons. I do not discuss the question how many Members voted for it, thanking God there was a House of Lords; how many Members voted for it, thanking God it was not going to become law by the mechanism of their votes. The whole nation has its eyes turned to the House of Lords, watchful and expectant as to our action. But we 254 act more or less with the certainty that the nation is behind us. Each day feeling deepens and broadens, in spite of tremendous pressure. In the House of Commons votes diminish, and not one single vote was gained in the whole of these months of fighting. The tide of opposition is rising, the tide of support is going out. The Bill cannot pass. I believe that the people of Great Britain, now that their intelligence is awakened and their conscience aroused, never will allow a Bill of this kind to discredit the Statute Book of Great Britain. Animated by the conviction that our action will be ratified by the country, let us reject this pernicious Bill, in justice to Great Britain and in mercy to Ireland.
§ LORD CASTLETOWN
said, that he occupied in the House a twofold position. Every hope and interest he possessed was centred in Ireland, his native country; and yet he had a seat in their Lordships' House as a Peer of the United Kingdom. It was proposed by the Bill to confer on Ireland a Legislature subordinate to the Imperial Parliament, but by means of paper safeguards. What must be the first impulse of every Irishman, if he loved his country and was anxious for freedom and independence and for the national life of his country, would they not naturally ask that their power of legislation might be increased for the purpose of giving it to them; but to attempt to enlarge the powers conferred by this Bill, to break through the paper fetters which the Government in their fatuity had created, and to force by slow but sure degrees the Imperial Parliament to give the subordinate Legislature greater and more extensive powers, until an absolutely free Parliament for Ireland, with 80 Irish Members in the British Parliament, was created? Mr. Redmond, speaking for the active and increasing Parnellite section of the so-called Nationalists, distinctly stated that the word "provisional" was written in red ink on every page of the Bill. He was as good an Irishman as Mr. Redmond, and he would say openly that if such a pitiable measure as this were forced on this country it would be the duty of every Irishman to force the Imperial Government to make the Legislature an effective one; it would be the duty of the minority as well as of the majority in Ireland to make the law- 255 creating machinery of their country equal to the task imposed upon it. If this were not done the position of Ireland and of every Irishman would he simply unbearable. Speaking solely as an Irishman, proud and jealous of his country and nationality, he would boldly declare that he would rather see Ireland separated for ever from this Empire, see her trying to stand alone among the nations of the world, see her even fail and fall in that effort, than see her subjected to the malignant growths which this measure must engender in her political system. If the Bill were provisional it meant that years of discord must intervene, not only between the Irish and British Legislatures, but between the priestly factions on one side and the Fenian factions on the other; and during these conflicts the minority—the men of Ulster and the scattered communities in the other parts of Ireland—would be permitted to work out the salvation of their country by physical force under the advice of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. The outlook for Ireland would be deplorable. The one thing she needed was peace and rest from agitation, and they were abolished for generations by this measure. Capital, which was returning, would fly from a country harassed by every political feud, and which might at any moment become the prey of a foreign foe. As to the financial provisions, there were three salient points with which he would deal. The first was Clause 12, Sub-section 2. By this provision taxation in Ireland would be doubled. The Irish people would have to pay for the maintenance of the Legislature, and for the 80 Members in London. Did Irishmen realise this? Every Irishman would indirectly suffer, and as, no doubt, the first Chancellor of the Exchequer of Ireland would step up from the Board of The Freeman's Journal, his fellow-countrymen must look forward to expensive times. The second point was Clause 13, Sub-section 2. This sub-section directed the Controller General to certify any amount due from the Irish Exchequer to the English Exchequer and the Treasury to send an order to the Lord Lieutenant for the collection of the amount. How was he to collect it? One thing was absolutely patent. If this extraordinary clause became law it would start the same danger; would 256 initiate the same agitation that ended in the separation of the States of America from Great Britain. The 3rd sub-section, which would deeply affect all classes of Irishmen, was Clause 16, Sub-section 3. That meant for Ireland the extinction of her credit; it meant the loss to all classes of every possibility of ameliorating their position by improvements; it meant the withdrawal of the Imperial credit, and to a poor country like Ireland that meant absolute bankruptcy; it meant the impossibility of effecting any improvement except at a usurious rate of interest. Yet the men who called themselves Irishmen, who called themselves Nationalists, who called themselves Representatives of the Irish people, had the brazen audacity to accept this Bill with clauses in it such as these, which must mean ruin, civil discord, and hopeless bankruptcy to their native land. From the Imperial standpoint, the ground of opposition to this measure was even stronger than from the Irish aspect. The issues involved were greater, the aspect wider, and the dangers even more patent. The Government had always set before themselves certain points which they said were contained in the four corners of the Bill. The first was the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Was that maintained? Every man knew that with 80 Irish Members in the Imperial House acting under orders from Dublin the Imperial supremacy was moonshine and a farce. Clause 10 extinguished the supremacy of Great Britain, while it extended the tyranny of the Land Leaguers of Ireland over the United Kingdom. On this point none of the arguments of the Government could have any weight so long as the representation of Ireland was as at present, and as long as 80 Members, or rather items, were brought from Ireland representing, not the opinions of Irishmen, but the dicta of so many ecclesiastics. The first point contained in the Bill was the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Now was that maintained? With 80 Irish Members in the House of Commons acting under orders from Dublin everybody knew that Imperial supremacy must be the merest moonshine and a farce. The supremacy of Great Britain was extinguished by Clause 10, which extended the tyranny of the Land League over the United 257 Kingdom. The arguments of the Government with reference to supremacy must be absolutely without weight so long as 80 Irish Members were brought from Ireland to represent not the opinions of Irishmen, but the dicta of the Roman Catholic Bishops, of Fenians, or of the Clan-na-Gael. It had been stated that the Irish Members represented the opinions of Irishmen, but he knew the country well, and knew how they were elected. In the constituency where he lived the right man apparently could not be found, and a gentleman from Cork was nominated by the Federation. That gentleman was elected, but out of a large constituency nearly one-half abstained from voting. Still, he was elected simply by the orders of a certain clique. Imperial supremacy was, he maintained, impossible. Followers of the Government seemed to think that elections in Ireland were like elections in England. In the large towns or in the North that might be the case, but in the rural constituencies everyone who lived in Ireland knew that candidates were nominated by one or other of the Nationalist Parties, and those who dared not vote against them and would not vote for them abstained. The result was that a certain item was elected as a Representative, not expressing the opinion of the electorate, not expressing the wishes of the people, but simply as the nominee of the dominant faction in that district, a faction not dominant owing to votes, but simply from power of combination, or through clerical influence. Imperial supremacy could not exist when those items, whether in Ireland or in the House of Commons, were so elected. Mob supremacy or clerical supremacy might result according to the particular turn of the wheel in Ireland, but to say that an absolutely clear representation of the Irish people existed at the present time in Parliament was absurd. Then what would be the result of either mob or clerical supremacy dictating terms to the Imperial Parliament? The result must be either surrender to that supremacy, or else it must be fought against—whether the result were mob supremacy or priestly supremacy, the Imperial Parliament would have either to surrender or to fight. In the first case, as he had said, that meant Ireland becoming a separate country; in the second it meant civil war and bloodshed 258 for the preservation of the Union. Were their Lordships, who were now the sole guardians of the rights and liberties of the British people, for the other House was nothing but the playground of Mr. Gladstone, willing to surrender the liberties gained through generations of conflict, bloodshed, and patience? Would they surrender everything to the tender mercies of 80 men, the political merchants of the present day, who were selling their wares to the highest bidder? That was practically what it amounted to. Were they going to hand over the freedom of Parliaments, the Constitution of this Empire built up by the wisdom, the care, and the forethought of their ancestors to be the playthings of the illiterate voters of Kerry and Clare, or—which would be still more serious for Ireland—or to be subject to the dictates of the American-Irish Fenians? Then they were always being told that the Bill preserved the equality of the Three Kingdoms; but the very essence of this Bill was the domination of the Land League in Ireland over everything and the tyranny of the Land League and Clericalism combined over England and Scotland. Then, on the point of equitable repartition of the Imperial charges, he denied that that was carried out by the Bill. Ireland, the poorer country, was to go to the wall, while England must make up any deficiency on the part of Ireland. The promoters of the Bill claimed for it that it was to be "a real and continuous settlement." They did not dare to use the word finality. If that were so anything that would make a real and continuous settlement of the Irish Question would be of vital importance, and every citizen of the Empire would hail it with joy. So far however from its being a real and continuous settlement, having looked through every line of the Bill and read most of the speeches on it he could say honestly and conscientiously that he had never seen any plan more capable of producing, and more certain to produce, "a real and continuous" conflict between Great Britain and Ireland. Every line of the Bill bristled with conflict; every clause in it dislocated the constitutional fabric framed by our forefathers; and, in short, the Bill was the torch of civil war. No supremacy for the Imperial Parliament, no protection to the vast British majority 259 who were opposed to its proposals was afforded by the Bill; and, worse than all, there was no finality, not even a real or continuous settlement. Not one meeting had been held in favour of the Bill in the rural districts of Ireland. The agitators dared not hold one, and scarcely one Petition had come from Ireland in favour of it. In the South of Ireland nearly every man was praying that the Bill would never become law, if he dared to tell the truth. That House was threatened with all pains and penalties if their Lordships threw out this mischievous measure, but they never had less cause for fear. He would gladly see reforms in the constitution of that House, or any plan which could be suggested to strengthen the position of the Second Chamber in the eyes of the Empire. But, as he had said, they had in this case no cause for fear. They stood on solid ground, and had simply to do their duty. The course the Government had adopted in the other House had proved the necessity of their existence as a Second Chamber, and the country would recognise that that House had done its duty by giving time for thought and for discussion of a measure which had never been discussed. If, after an appeal to the electorate, this plan was desired, he, as an Irishman and citizen of the Empire, would say, if it was the wish of Great Britain that the Union should be broken, then let Ireland go free and unshackled to her destiny, not tortured and bound by such a puny and miserable measure as this. If, on the other hand, the verdict should be for the Union, their Lordships would have proved not only the honour and honesty and wisdom of their vote, but would have earned the gratitude of all future ages by proving that the Union of Ireland and England, like the Union of Scotland and England, could, after years of patience and mutual self-sacrifice, be made not only what the Government called a Union of hearts, but what was grander, nobler, and more lasting, the Union of three peoples under general laws in one United Kingdom.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
said, he ventured to ask their Lordships to allow him to deal with one or two of the issues raised by the question before the House, and he could assure their Lordships that he approached the subject with a full consciousness of the 260 difficulty of treating it adequately under the circumstances. In the position in which they were called upon to discuss that Bill, it was difficult for a speaker to feel otherwise than somewhat hampered in regard to any arguments he might desire to adduce, for he could not help feeling that such arguments must be invested with a certain air of unreality, as being directed either in favour of or against a proposal which, to use a phrase not unfamiliar to some of their Lordships, was not really meant. Everybody was perfectly aware, by this time, that this Bill was not intended to stand by itself on its merits; but that its production and the efforts made to carry it as far as their Lordships were due to the imperious necessity of doing something towards redeeming, in a fashion, some of those wild and vague promises that were sown broadcast during the General Election campaign, as well as to the nature of the majority which the Government commanded in the House of Commons, and that it was, as it were, the avant courier, and part and parcel of a general policy, of which that House, and through it the Constitution of this Kingdom, was the ultimate object of attack. It required no great effort to predict the fate of the Bill in that House, and they had the strongest indications, coming from an influential and at all events an outspoken quarter, that in its fall it would drag with it a very important item of the general policy of which it was a component part. Even in the opinion of the most advanced Radicals and thoroughgoing Home Rulers, the consummation so devoutly to be wished could, it appeared, be bought at too high a figure, and it was no part of the bargain that, while Ireland was to be free to manage her own affairs, she was also to have full and absolute control over those of Great Britain. And so, in spite of Party discipline, in the face of the extreme undesirability of exposing any rift within the lute, or of weakening in any degree that appearance of mechanical unanimity which had been so conspicuous of late, Dr. Wallace, of Edinburgh, had summed up for them his view of the situation. He had spoken very clearly—He has not observed that the country has welcomed the 'Irish Occupation' with any great signs of enthusiasm or cordiality.261 And he finally tells us that—The Government having marred their measure, his chief regret, when the House of Lords should throw the Bill out, would be that an opportunity would have been lost of aiming a great blow at the hostile power of the hereditary Chamber.He hardly thought their Lordships would require any stronger admission, coming as it did from a strong supporter of the Government and a fervent and enthusiastic Home Ruler, of the nature of the view that would be taken by the country of their Lordships' action with regard to that Bill, and it was surely a fair and just interpretation of Dr. Wallace's words to look upon them as a confession—an unwilling confession on his part, it might be—that their Lordships were expected, nay required, in the discharge of their great public functions, to put a period to this futile attempt to secure so-called "Better Government for Ireland." There was at least one thing for which they could give credit to noble Lords opposite who supported that Bill. They, at all events, were not the authors or producers of a policy of Home Rule as a serious factor in politics. They had shown a marvellous adaptability—what he might perhaps be allowed to call a silent adaptability—to the tenets of their new creed, for he had never heard or read any deliverance from a public platform or elsewhere in which any noble Lord opposite had ventured to cope with or defend any of the details of that Bill. The Bill had been cut to pieces in argument, and yet noble Lords followed the lead blindly. He dared say some of their Lordships, in the course of their travels, had found themselves in the City of Chicago, and had visited there the great establishment of Mr. Armour. Such noble Lords would have observed, with astonishment, the herds that had accumulated from the great Western prairies standing there dazed by their unaccustomed surroundings and the novelty of their position. These herds were met at the entrance by an aged and astute creature after their own kind, who, having gained their confidence, guided them on their way, and lured them to destruction, while the leader preserved his life, and continued to perform the functions of his office for the benefit of subsequent followers, one would have thought rather to the deterioration of his reputation. 262 Their Lordships would appreciate the analogy, and he would ask them to read, for Western plains, the cold shade of Opposition, for the novelty of the position, the disappointed hopes of the last General Election. He did not envy noble Lords the position, but it might be worse. Theories might be impossible for two reasons; one, because they were impracticable, the other, because no patriotic or right-minded man could adopt them—and he did not wish to be taken, in what he was about to say, as attempting to lay down any practicable or possible theory as regards their Lordships. They had had lately some remarkable experience of the effects of the doctrine of "Party before all." Speeches had been delivered in Parliament which hardly corresponded with the accompanying votes. Declarations had been made in the country which pointed to a Lobby other than that into which their authors had ultimately drifted. They had witnessed numerous instances of that capacity for sudden and complete conversion of which the Secretary for Scotland was perhaps the most brilliant and shining example. Their Lordships' House would certainly not set aside Imperial considerations for a mere Party advantage; but if such a thing were possible, if they in that House were to accept that Bill as it stood, he should like to know what would be the feelings of noble Lords opposite? What would be the feelings and the position of the Government when confronted with the universal chaos which the passing into law of the measure would inevitably bring in its train? How long would the Government last under those circumstances, and what would the action of those Representatives of the people be like who had depended upon their Lordships' House to take the course they had not the pluck and the moral courage to take themselves? It would really be a most interesting condition of things, but there was no possibility of their Lordships permitting it to come within the range of practical politics. No, the authorship of Home Rule as a policy was not vested in noble Lords opposite. It was private property. It was the exclusive copyright of the Prime Minister. The grounds for it were declared by him in 1886, and no one had recalled them more forcibly than the late 263 Solicitor General in his able speech on the 14th February last. To sum them up in two words, they were the failure of coercion and the inseparable connection of the question of the land with that of Irish government. Now, into that latter question he did not desire to go. A noble Friend of his (the Marquess of Waterford), who was undoubtedly the greatest authority in their Lordships' House on the subject, would deal with it far more ably than he could. He only desired to say this, that if to deal with the land was an obligation of honour in 1886, it was equally an obligation of honour now. Nothing had happened to make it otherwise; and though Mr. Gladstone now contended that the rejection of the Bill of 1886 put an end to the obligation, every word he said on the subject when introducing that Bill directly contradicted the assumption. And now they were told, if his recollection served him, by the Prime Minister, that the Bill of 1886 was not brought in to pass. If that were so, where was the use of talking of the obligation ending under those circumstances? It was as strong and as binding now as ever it was, yet it was so far ignored on the night of the introduction of the Bill that Sir Edward Clarke had to ask what had become of it. And then there was the cuckoo cry of coercion. Surely that argument was dead and buried. It died with the administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, and it was dead still, unless revived, not against the criminal, but against the loyal and law-abiding portion of the Irish community. And they had heard a great deal about a mandate. The Prime Minister laid stress on it on the Third Reading in the House of Commons. Any careful student of the General Election Campaign must have been struck with one remarkable circumstance, and that was the varying and various degrees of importance with which the Home Rule cry was invested in different localities. In some it came in for no observation at all; in others it was in the forefront of the battle; in others it was accorded some slight and cursory mention; and in all it was sandwiched up between other considerations and it was called from the Newcastle Programme. The policy of disintegration was hardly before the country 264 at all, and in whatever form it was presented it was certainly not in the form or in the spirit of that Bill. Whatever verdict the constituencies pronounced upon, Home Rule was given upon an abstract proposition, hemmed in, as it was foreshadowed, by every sort of safeguard and proviso. And if there was one point more firmly insisted upon than another in election addresses it was that the functions of the Irish Parliament should be confined strictly to local matters, and that the supremacy of the English Parliament was to be complete. But the General Election passed, and the position changed. The Government did not find themselves to be free agents in the matter, so the Party Whip was applied, and every safeguard and proviso by which the adhesion of the English electorate to Home Rule was to be secured have successively gone by the Board. But the doctrine of the mandate had got its quietus from a far more authoritative source than any argument of his could furnish. It was practically repudiated by both sections of the Irish Party. On the one hand, they had Mr. John Redmond, who on the 15th of September last stated that—By withholding the details of the Home Rule Bill Mr. Gladstone was only mystifying the people of England.While a few days before, on the 24th of August, they found it proclaimed by Mr. Dillon that—Had we been silly and wicked enough to make these foolish and ridiculous demands upon Mr. Gladstone before the Election took place, the verdict of England would probably be given, not for Home Rule, but against it.That utterance of Mr. Dillon disposed effectually of the doctrine of a mandate to Parliament in the case of that Bill, and even if such a mandate ever existed, it could hardly be taken to contain a direction to Parliament to enact that the Irish Nationalist Party should be enabled to run a Parliament of their own in Dublin at the cost of the British taxpayer, to the tune of something over a million and a half a year. But did that Bill fulfil, in any single particular, any single one of the conditions upon which the country was asked to grant a mandate for Home Rule? What were those conditions? There was the absolute supremacy of the British Parliament. That was gone. There was the protection of the minority. 265 That was absolutely; gone. And thirdly, there was the freedom of Parliament, the most potent argument, the most alluring bribe ever offered to the constituencies. Would any noble Lord opposite tell them where that was now? Or when under the proposed arrangement they might expect to see it realised? In six years? Not in 60. Governments came and went, opinions changed according to the pressure they were subjected to from without, and there was a wonderful power to enforce conviction to be found in a state of chaos. But all these conditions and the effect of their settlement could be summed up in one word—finality; and he was willing to admit to their Lordships that if there was any sound and valid consideration to be advanced in favour of Home Rule it was this: In dealing with the Irish Question in its many phases, the cry of finality had always been with them. It had proved a most convincing, indeed an irresistible, argument. It opened up a vista of a Parliamentary millennium in Westminster, which was calculated to lead even the strongest and most patriotic instincts astray. It began in 1886, it was reiterated in 1870, it permeated all their debates in 1882; and yet it was every day more like a Will-o'-the-Wisp, which, in spite of all their efforts, was ever evading them at every floundering step they took in its vain and profitless pursuit. It would probably strike the House, looking at the matter as it did from a common-sense point of view, that the only chance of realising finality on questions such as that was by an arrangement in regard to which the various parties to the concession intended to secure it were practically in agreement. Well, the House had had ample opportunities of forming a judgment as to the harmony which prevailed in the Irish Party. He would recall one or two latter-day instances. It was not many days ago that Mr. Healy and Mr. Dillon made entirely contradictory declarations on the important question of the retention of the Irish Members. Their Lordships had not forgotten those edifying scenes in The Freeman's Journal office, alluded to by his noble Friend who spoke last, where the future Irish Chancellors of the Exchequer were seen struggling over the remains of a once prosperous business, in mutual recrimination 266 and abuse. The record of those men was before their Lordships, and he should be very much surprised if any Member of this House had the courage to rise in his place and seriously undertake their defence. They were the men who, upon their own confession, bought and paid for the influence of the Irish priesthood, and who unscrupulously used that influence for the coercion and intimidation of voters, as was known from the disclosures of the Meath Election Petitions. They were the men who held one language at their hillside meetings in Ireland and another in the House of Commons and in English constituencies. They were the men who had been condemned by the highest judicial authority as members of an illegal conspiracy and as inciters to crime and the breaking of contracts; and it was to them that the Government proposed to hand over Ireland and her government, body and soul. And they would persuade the Opposition as well that their conversion from the doctrines of murder, of outrage, and of intimidation was as sudden and as sincere and as whole-hearted as the Government's own to the principles of Home Rule. The Government belonged to these people, they existed by their favour, they were at their mercy, and the result of this wasted Session was that, so far, they had acquired by this Bill the power to carry out every threat and to realise every item of revenge with which they had in the past menaced those who did not agree with them. But the country had, at all events, received a significant warning. The Bill and its history afforded a practical object-lesson of the enormous power for extortion which an illegal combination was able to bring to bear upon a weak Government. It should teach political Parties not to venture to treat Ireland again as she had been treated in the past, as the battlefield of English Parties, so that when the shadow of this curse which it was attempted to force upon Ireland should have been removed by the action of their Lordships' House, opportunity might be given to her to realise that prosperity of which she had shown herself to be capable under a firm and just administration of the law, and by the removal of every grievance of which she could fairly and rightly complain.
THE EARL OF MAYO
said, that living among the loyal minority of the South and West of Ireland, he denied that the interests of those who lived in that part of Ireland, the Ireland of ancient learning, were safeguarded by the Bill. He did not speak for himself alone, but for the thousands of the South and West of Ireland; for those who were afraid to express themselves in public by reason of the intimidation which it was well known existed in the country. Their cry was that this was the most treacherous of all the Bills that had ever been introduced during the sad history of that country. It was impossible for him to enter into all the details of the Bill, but he would say that no minority could be protected under such a Bill, when the men placed in power by it were the very men who, from the beginning of their career, had sought to harass that minority, and to thwart its interests in every possible way. The capital, interest, and learning of the country, as represented by the minority, had all declared their dread of the future under this measure; and those who had no capital, no stake in the country, whose interest was political agitation, and whose learning was mere self-interest and intrigue, were the men to whom Mr. Gladstone was going to hand over the Government of the country. The principle involved could be easily described in a few short words. The Government was to be handed over to two Legislative Chambers which were to be supported by a large standing army. Did anyone who lived in Ireland imagine for an instant that that army was to be kept to fight against England's foes? There was not a fort around their coasts which could be defended with any safety. The noble Earl who brought in the Bill very truly said that while he was in Ireland for several years under the most difficult circumstances he had to administer the law entrusted to him by Parliament, and he had done so honestly and fearlessly. The noble Earl was one of the best Viceroys that Ireland ever had; no Viceroy ever administered the law so well. Many a time the noble Earl carried his life in his hand; and if he were appointed Viceroy again, and came without the Home Rule Bill, they should welcome him and be pleased to see him. He lived in Ireland among Roman Catholics. His tenants 268 were Roman Catholics, as were also all his labourers and a great many of his servants, and he could assure their Lordships there really was not one of them who cared one brass penny for this Bill. The loyal Roman Catholics of Ireland had spoken, and the noble Duke, the head of the great Roman Catholic families of England, who addressed their Lordships yesterday, clearly expressed their sentiments. The noble Earl who introduced the Bill said that the present did not initiate any political movement. They were not so foolish; they waited to see if the movement was a success, and if it was, they guided the people in the way they should go; they moulded the people's wishes, took them to the polls, and made them vote as they wished. The noble Earl went on to say that if the current was strong the Bishops and priests swam; with it. They did not swim with it. They watched the current and dug dykes and directed it, and with it irrigated the political soil of Ireland, if it suited their purpose to do so. The peasantry grew up and flourished under that irrigation, and were influenced in every possible way by the priesthood. He had no desire to cast aspersions on the Irish priesthood. They were the guides, philosophers, and friends of the Irish peasantry for better or for worse, and were well known to be a strong political power in that country. Supposing Mr. Gladstone were to people an island in the Atlantic, and give this Bill to those people, he wondered what the condition of that island would be within a short time. Why, in 18 months, they would be "fighting like devils for conciliation, and hating each other for the love of God." He thanked the House for listening to the reasons why he was there to record his vote against the measure.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, when yesterday I listened to the speech of considerable length of the noble Earl who introduced this measure, I could not prevent the thought entering into my mind as to what would have been his answer had anybody of a singularly courageous temperament ventured in 1885, when the noble Earl last had practical experience of Ireland, and since when I believe he has never set foot on the shores of that country— 269 had anybody ventured to prognosticate that within little more than eight years from that date the noble Earl would have been introducing to your Lordships a measure of Home Rule for Ireland. Anyone who ventured upon such a prediction would, I believe, have been contradicted in language of a forcible kind. The gist of the noble Earl's observations would probably have been—"I am a strong Unionist, for I am firmly convinced that the Union is absolutely essential to the welfare and prosperity of Ireland, and I am the last person to propose to hand over the loyal, honest, industrious, law-abiding inhabitants of Ireland who supported me in the time of trouble to a body of men whom the Government to which I belonged did not hesitate to imprison without any sort of trial, and whom I did not hesitate to prosecute for doing their utmost to stop the administration of the law." I listened with considerable interest and attention to the speech of the noble Earl in introducing this measure, and I am sorry to say that I heard from him no argument of any sort or kind to prove that Home Rule would be beneficial to Ireland. His whole argument was belief in the future, of which he knows nothing, and absolute forgetfulness of the past, of which he knows much. The noble Earl proved up to the hilt that, if a body of political agitators were only sufficiently persevering in carrying out their lawless principles, there was nothing which they might not hope for at the hands of the Prime Minister supported by a Government of a docile character. There was one astounding point in the speech of the noble Earl. He said that the reason of his conversion to Home Rule was that in 1885 the Conservatives had joined the Home Rule Party. [Earl SPENCER: No.] He certainly accused the Conservative Party of coming to an accommodation with the Home Rulers. Now, I deny that in toto.
§ EARL SPENCER
I said that one of the facts which made an impression upon my mind in 1885 was that at the time when the Conservatives were in a minority in another place they were willing to come into Office on the Irish vote with all its responsibilities, in addition to the votes of their own Party.
§ EARL SPENCER
Does the noble Marquess dispute that the Conservatives were in a minority in the House of Commons?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I dispute that we had any desire to come into Office. We were forced to come into Office by the action of the Liberal Party.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I maintain that the noble Earl had no right whatever to accuse the Conservative Party of having intrigued with the Home Rule Party, and I defy him to quote any speech of any Member of the Party to which I belong which would bear him out in that statement. I am not going to quote the opinions of noble Lords opposite who were Members of Mr. Gladstone's Government in 1880, and who are Members of his Government at present, but this I will say: there was hardly a Member of the Government of 1880 who did not denounce the principle of Home Rule, and denounce their present supporters among the National Party in terms of greater violence than were used by any Member of the Party to which I belong. But there is one quotation which I will give from a speech of the Prime Minister himself which, to my mind, embodies in itself every obstacle and impediment to the measure introduced by the noble Earl. Mr. Gladstone said in. 1881—Can any sensible man, any rational man, suppose we are going to disintegrate the great capital institutions of this country for the, purpose of making ourselves ridiculous in the sight of all mankind, and crippling any power we possess for bestowing benefits by legislation on the country to which we belong?Why has Mr. Gladstone, and why have the other Members of the Government, changed those opinions? The noble Earl in January, 1886, was not a Home Ruler, for he made a speech in your Lordships' House in which he denounced the Government for not bringing in a Coercion Bill. But we are not in a position to know why he changed his opinions. The noble Earl made use of the only argument that can be put forward in support of Home Rule. He thought it a valid argument, but it is only plausible. It is the argument that 271 the majority of the Irish Members demand Home Rule. But the Unionist Party in Ireland is grossly under-represented. If they had had their fair share they would have at least one-third of the representation. The 80 Irish Members who maintain Mr. Gladstone's majority are mostly returned by the votes of the least educated men, influenced by clerical intimidation. In my opinion, and in the opinion of almost every unprejudiced mind, the arguments against Home Rule are innumerable and overwhelming. From the Irish standpoint alone, your Lordships are justified in refusing to pass this Bill. From the Imperial point of view, as possessing property in Ireland and in England, I object to this measure because, in the event of Home Rule being granted, you would find a hostile Ireland with 60 miles of your shores. What would be the effect on India, on your Colonies, and on Foreign Powers if they were to see a surrender of this kind granted to a parcel of agitators, simply because they put forth demands that the Government dare not oppose? There is no finality whatever in this measure. Everyone who knows Ireland is aware that this Bill is looked upon only as a stepping-stone to separation. How can the noble Earl say that this is a final measure?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Then the noble Earl agrees that separation is the result. Some of his supporters, amongst them Mr. W. O'Brien, have declared their determination not to accept any measure that does not give Ireland entire repeal. Mr. William O'Brien, M.P., at Ballaghadereen on December 6, 1891, said;—Whatever the future may bring, of one thing you may rest assured—that the Irish Party will never barter their independence as the ambassadors of an Irish nation, and that they will never accept any national settlement, any Home Rule settlement, that will not draw the last fangs of landlordism, and that will not leave this old Irish race of our's masters, and the landowners within the four seas of Holy Ireland.On another occasion Mr. O'Brien said—I take it that we are all united in demanding that the Irish Parliament, while it acts within its own province, shall be as free from Imperial meddling as the Parliaments of Australia or Canada. That is to Bay, practically speaking, as free as air.272 After that I do not think I have gone too far in saying that the Irish nation regard this measure merely as a stepping-stone to separation. Then, from the purely British point of view there are many objections to this Bill. What, for instance, would be the effect of the presence in the House of Commons of 80 free lances prepared to sell their votes to whoever may be the highest bidder in order to oust the Government of the day? What have you to say to the increased taxation upon the British people, estimated at £500,000, and what will be our position in the event of a war? I now wish to put before your Lordships the objections to this measure from an Irish point of view. In the first place, the measure is not necessary. I am borne out in that statement by the representatives of commerce, education, capital, and certain branches of labour, by the Protestants of Ireland, by almost all the Nonconformists, and by tens of thousands of Roman Catholics. The interests of all these men are centred in Ireland, and they, therefore, would not go out of their way to oppose a measure like this unless they believed that it would bring ruin and misery to their country; and they will tell you that Home Rule means not only moral but material ruin. They will tell you that they distrust the present Leaders of the Irish Party. They believe that no truer words were ever written than those written by Mr. John Bright in his letter to Mr. Gladstone—You deem them to be patriots. I hold them to be not patriots, but conspirators against the Crown and the Government of the United Kingdom.Mr. Bright, like sensible men to-day, judged these men by their past, and not by their statements as to their future policy. The noble Earl opposite (Lord Spencer) bases his belief on the unknown future; we base ours on the known past. We do not choose to expunge from our minds the record of these men in the noble Earl's facile fashion. We know them as the originators and promoters of the Plan of Campaign, which was declared illegal by the Judges of the land, and immoral by the Pope of Rome. We know them as the advocates of boycotting and intimidation, and we have not forgotten words like these, which were used by Mr. Dillon— 273When we come out of the struggle we will remember who were the people's friends, and who were the people's enemies; and we will deal out our rewards to the one, and our punishments to the other.We remember also that Mr. Dillon said that a man who stood aside in the struggle against landlordism, British rule and coercion, was a dastard and a coward, and that he and his children would be remembered in the days near at hand, when Ireland would be a free nation. Surely we are justified in refusing to have men who have spoken in this way put in authority over us. We did not hear much from the noble Earl about the future financial position of Ireland. My opinion is that the men who showed their financial capacity by their disastrous venture at New Tipperary, and by almost ruining The Freeman's Journal, are not likely to manage successfully the financial business of their country. Then we cannot forget the Report of the Special Commission of Judges, who found that these men had been guilty of a criminal conspiracy to coerce, intimidate, and drive out the English garrison, of seeking the total separation of Ireland from England, of inviting and accepting the co-operation of dynamitards like Patrick Ford, and of disseminating The Irish World, which preached the burning of English cities, and the murder of English subjects. Yet these are the people to whose tender mercies the Government propose to hand over the peaceful and law-abiding population of Ireland. Speaking in 1881, Mr. Gladstone said—For nearly the first time in the history of Christendom a small body of men have arisen who are not ashamed to preach in Ireland the doctrine of public plunder.And Sir William Harcourt once said—We have heard the doctrine of the Land League expounded by the man (Mr. Dillon) who is an authority to explain it, and to-morrow every subject of the Queen will know that the doctrine so expounded is the doctrine of treason and assassination.… To-morrow the civilised world will pronounce its judgment on this vile conspiracy.… The land League is an association which depends upon the support of the Fenian conspiracy.The noble Earl himself, who when he was in Ireland and knew these men, before he allowed himself to truckle to this body of agitators, did not hesitate to say of them that they were dastardly— 274But they will not terrify the English nation;"—they have terrified the present Government—the Government will face their enemies with a determination not to give in, and they will not give up one point or one idea they consider it necessary to maintain—"—
§ EARL SPENCER
I believe the noble Marquess is quoting from a speech of mine at Belfast? I was then referring to the dynamiters and assassins which unfortunately had made their appearance in Ireland at that time.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Yes; and I have quoted passages to show that these Leaders were associated with the dynamiters.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
Did the finding of the Commission associate the Irish Leaders with the dynamiters?
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Certainly. There is this passage—Inviting and accepting the co-operation of dynamitards like Patrick Ford and disseminating The Irish World, which preached burning of English cities and murder of English subjects.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I asked whether there was any finding that they were dynamiters, and the noble Marquess produces a passage of which I am perfectly well aware, but it is not the point.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I quoted these statements to your Lordships to show the class of men to whom the Government propose to hand over the government of Ireland. We distrust them; you did distrust them. You know them now, but you do not dare to say you distrust them. We believe implicitly that the Ethiopian cannot change his skin nor the leopard his spots. The noble Earl in his speech last night seemed to imply that there might be a different class of persons in the Home Rule Parliament; but I wish to ask him on what grounds he made that statement? Why are the present Leaders to be dislodged and to make place for others? Do you think that this body of agitators, who have challenged the law and undergone imprisonment, are going to put their interests on one side when the goal is reached and to retire into seclusion? I cannot believe that the inducement to enter the English Parliament was so 275 great, that the gates of the gaol were only a prelude to a seat there, or that these men will take a back seat and never appear again when Home Rule is granted. The noble Earl knows full well that if Home Rule is granted these men, who have maintained their system of intimidation and crime, will occupy the foremost place in the new Parliament. Now, my Lords, I have dealt, I think, with the moral objections to the proposals of the Government. I go on now to what is, perhaps, more important, and what may be described as the material objections. I say that even if the Leaders of the National Party were of an absolutely unimpeachable character the material objections would be as strong as ever. It is hardly necessary for me to explain to your Lordships that on account of the close and intimate connection of Ireland with Great Britain she enjoys enormous advantages. England is the richest and most important country in the world, and consequently by the fact of being connected with her Ireland enjoys advantages from the Imperial Government. There is enjoyed by the citizens of this country a freedom such as is hardly known in any other part of the world. Ireland knows that were any grievance to arise she may count on its being speedily and justly redressed; but the main advantage that Ireland enjoys from her connection with a great and rich country is the power she has possessed up till now of borrowing money at a cheap rate of interest for the purpose of benefiting all classes of the community. There is not a class that has not been benefited in this way. Ireland, as you know, is a poor country. She has no mineral resources. I noticed that a noble Lord opposite in his speech to-day made out that Ireland was an El Dorado, but I say that Ireland has not the advantages you might expect her to have. She possesses no mineral wealth. She does not possess those great means of industry which this country possesses, and consequently her credit must be small when she wishes to obtain money for the purposes of developing her resources. In the last 60 years nearly £40,000,000 had been advanced to Ireland on the credit of England for the purposes of railways, harbours, and docks, the houses of the labourers and artisans, the public health, lunatic asylums, river drainage and navigation, the improvement of land, 276 seed supplies, and the relief of distress. Almost every class of the community has benefited by that money. But these advances must necessarily cease if Home Rule is granted. These resources which I have just touched must remain undeveloped; the benefits which we have begun must necessarily remain uncompleted. For who will advance money to Ireland under a Home Rule Government? Will any noble Lord opposite, or will any English capitalist, and is it likely in these circumstances that the British taxpayer will allow the English Government to advance money? Certainly not. Because there is no security. Capitalists, taxpayers, and your Lordships yourselves will consider the character of the men to whom you are to advance the money, and I do not think you will find anyone who will advance money to a Government manipulated by men who have preached and insisted on the doctrine of the repudiation of debt, and who have carried out that doctrine with a vengeance. What is to be the result in Ireland if no money is advanced? There must be either bankruptcy or an increase of taxation. Can it be wondered at that anybody with anything to lose in Ireland regards the measure with alarm? The fault of this is to be found in the fact that a great withdrawal of capital has taken place in Ireland. I find that there was a decrease of £16,000 in the deposits in the Post Office savings banks in June, 1993, as compared with June, 1892, and a decrease of £160,000 in June last, as compared with December, 1892. Government funds had decreased in June, 1893, by £759,000 as compared with June, 1892. I have said that capitalists have been betrayed by the present Government, whom they looked upon as staunch supporters of the Union under which they invested their capital. But there are many other classes which you have betrayed. You have betrayed the landlords of Ireland, the men whom the noble Lord opposite said it would be mean and treacherous to abandon. You have betrayed the Protestants of Ireland, many of whom were supporters of Mr. Gladstone up to 1886; you have betrayed Trinity College, you have betrayed the police, and you have betrayed the Civil servants. I do not propose to enter at any length into those cases. But I would draw your Lordships' attention to the 277 matter of the Civil servants, who have been praised by every Chief Secretary as having discharged their duty in an admirable, able, and efficient manner. They are at the present moment in a most desperate condition. If they retire now they receive a pension so small and so miserable that they could not exist upon it. In many cases they have sacrificed posts of a lucrative but a temporary character to obtain these permanent posts. If they retain their posts, at the end of five years they will be at the mercy of Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Dillon, who have not hesitated to declare how they will treat them. Yet we are told that there is ample security. What is the security? The Irish Legislative Council. That part of the Legislature was never discussed in the House of Commons, because the Government dare not let it be known who the people are who elect that Council. They are men possessing land of a rateable value of £20; and those who know Ireland know what that represents. Under the O'Hagan Jury Act of 1861 the same qualification was established for the common jury. But these men were found so liable to intimidation that trial by them was a perfect farce, and they were abolished by the noble Earl opposite himself. Then the qualification was raised to £30, and in 1876 it was raised by the Government of Lord Beaconsfield to £40; and even then it was found that the men were so open to intimidation that the Clare Assizes had actually to be abandoned. But these £40 men are too good, and the Government return to the £20 qualification, which they themselves abolished. I am glad that the Lord Lieutenant is present to-night, because I have come across a speech of his which requires some explanation. Speaking at Devizes in 1892 the noble Lord said—He would like to ask the Tories exactly what it was the Protestants of Ulster were afraid of. The demand for information was not an impertinent one, for, if it could be shown that there was any serious risk of persecution, he would not support any Home Rule scheme that did not promise every possible safeguard.That speech was made on the 1st of April. I ask the noble Lord whether he adheres to that statement, and whether he thinks the £20 qualification is a sufficient safeguard for the minority? I now come to the main objection to the 278 Bill—an obstacle of an overwhelming and insuperable character—the attitude of the Ulster Protestants. I would first answer a question put by the noble Earl yesterday—Have the Ulster people a right to oppose what Parliament decides? I ask him in reply—"Has Parliament any right to force down the throat of Ulster a measure which not only they detest, but which the majority of the people of Great Britain detest also?" I ask him further, if he is so determined that Ulster should obey Parliament, why the Government does not at once go to the country and ask the people if they support the measure and are willing to coerce Ulster? The Government dare not; but the country is beginning to understand this measure; and it will declare with no uncertain voice that Ulster shall not submit herself to this tyranny. That Ulster objects to this measure no man will deny. But let me say solemnly and deliberately that, though Ulster will accept the edict of the Imperial Parliament, be it led by the present Prime Minister or by the ex-Prime Minister, cheerfully and willingly in the future as she has done in the past, she will not submit for one moment to place her neck beneath the yoke of Mr. Dillon and Mr. O'Brien and consent to obey the dictates of the National League. Mr. Dillon has said—"We have managed the South, and we will manage the North." But Ulster will not be managed. Ulster has never bragged or blustered. [Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] When?
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
I shall apply the words to the speech of the noble and learned Lord this evening.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Ulster has never bragged. I say that we have never boasted nor blustered in Ulster, but we know our position, and we will not recede a jot from it. We know well what Ulster is. Previous to the Union Ulster was the poorest of the four Provinces. She had none of the advantages of the other three Provinces. She had not the grazing pastures of Connaught or of Munster, nor the great harbours of Cork; but what is the position she occupies now? Agriculturally speaking, she is the garden of 279 Ireland, and from the commercial point of view her chief cities rank as high as some of the large cities of England and Scotland. It was, therefore, proposed that the people of Ulster, with all the fruits of their energy and industry, should be handed over to a body of men whom she hated and who hated her. In order to prove the value of land in Ulster by the price of the tenant-right in that Province, I may state that in 1892, on the Somerset estate, in Antrim, the tenant right of a farm was sold for 24¾ years' purchase; on January 3, 1893, a farm in County Down was sold for 27 years' purchase, and on April 12, in County Tyrone, one was sold for 77 years' purchase. I come now to the City of Belfast, and wish to show your Lordships the enormous strides which have been made there since the Union. The population of Belfast in 1800 was under 19,000; now it is 275,000. The number of inhabited houses was about 3,000; now they number 60,000. The number of ships entering the harbour in 1800 was 777; now the number is 8,304, and the tonnage amounted to 55,268 tons, as against 2,053,637 tons in 1893. The income of the harbour was £2,748; at present it is £129,864. The Customs Revenue in 1784 was £101,376; in 1893 it was £2,376,511. Another great industry was the linen trade. In 1850 the number of persons employed in the linen trade was 21,121; in 1890 the number was 64,000, while on bleaching greens and in other processes connected with the finishing of linens there were 50,000 persons, making in all a total of 114,000. The annual value of the linen trade is estimated at £1,200,000 per annum. Though Ulster has been guilty of no bluster, she has this enormous stake in the country, and she is not going to give it up without a struggle. She is taking precautions to guard herself in the future, and there have been enrolled under the Ulster Defence Union 170,000 men. These men have elected 600 delegates to represent them in a great Convention at Belfast in October, and I have no doubt that at the meeting of these delegates a resolution will be passed absolutely declining to submit to any edicts that may emanate from Mr. Dillon or Mr. O'Brien if an Irish Parliament is established on College Green. There had been no less a sum than £250,000 280 advanced in connection with this Body. And let me tell your Lordships that that sum, of money, large as it is, does not consist entirely of the thousands of the rich, but to a large extent is composed of the pennies of the poor. I maintain that that shows the determination of the people of Ulster to resist to the utmost any attempt that may be made to set up a Department on College Green. I wish that any of your Lordships who are ignorant of Ireland could visit Ulster; you would then see what the determination of the people is. I trust implicitly to the people of England; I know they will not desert us. I ask your Lordships to remember that on Friday you have to decide whether you will assent to the disintegration of the Empire. I ask you for a moment to consider the measure moved by the noble Earl and the rejection moved by the noble Duke. In favour of the measure is the Prime Minister of England, who has proved to have sold himself body and soul to the Nationalist Party. And behind him stand his Colleagues, who have been unable to resist the moral influence of the Prime Minister to carry this measure through the House of Commons. It is common talk that supporters of the Government would not have voted for this measure if they had not believed that this House would throw it out. You are asked to pass the Bill by the Nationalists, who have supported boycotting, the Plan of Campaign, intimidation, crime, and cruelty. You are asked to reject it by the majority of the people of England and of Great Britain, and by those who represent the wealth, industry, and intelligence of Ireland. Can you hesitate for one moment? I make no appeal to noble Lords opposite who, whatever their convictions may be, are tied body and soul to their Party. I appeal to all the rest of your Lordships, and I will ask you to remember that the eyes of every member of every nation of the civilised world are upon you. Your enemies are hoping, and your friends fearing, that in a moment of temporary aberration you will carry a measure that will ruin Ireland. In conclusion, I will suggest the spirit in which, your votes should be given by quoting words once used by the noble Marquess, the Leader of the Opposition, who said—I have no fear of the conduct of the House of Lords in this respect. I am quite sure, whatever 281 judgment may be passed on us, whatever predictions may be made, be your term of existence long or short, you will never consent to act except as a free, independent House of the Legislature, and that you will consider any other more timid or subservient course as at once unworthy of your traditions, unworthy of your honour, and, most of all, unworthy of the nation you serve.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
observed that the Bill before the House was the biggest Bill which had ever been submitted to Parliament. It was the biggest in the Constitutional changes which it proposed, and in the possible consequences which it might hereafter entail, and it was for the Government which proposed a Bill of that character to justify the measure to the House. It was for them to show that this measure, which admittedly went far beyond anything that they had ever proposed before, was required, and that there was every chance of its working successfully, and, above all, that it was just to the minority of Ireland. Yet every speech delivered on the Government side seemed to him carefully to avoid the provisions of the Bill altogether. It was a strange thing that not one single word had been heard from the Government of justification with regard to the constitution of the two Houses of the new Legislature, although in the opinion of many persons it was on the constitution of the Legislature that the working of the measure and the future of Ireland must necessarily depend. He was surprised to find his noble Friend Lord Brassey a Member of Her Majesty's Government, because, as far as he could make out, he agreed with nothing in the Bill except the general principles of Home Rule, and he proposed a variety of Amendments not one of which had the slightest chance of being accepted by the Government. In the first place, he knocked down the number of Irish Members at Westminster from 80 to 35, and he had other schemes of his own, one of which was that a Commission should be appointed on the Irish Land Question. His noble Friend Lord Ribblesdale made an able and interesting speech; the only fault he had to find with it was that it had nothing to do with the Bill. His noble Friend said he had, like the rest of the Liberal Unionists, hardened his heart and resisted Home Rule. He asked for a sign, and that sign was given 282 by the Election of 1892. He was surprised his noble Friend said that, because he remembered having had the honour of being on a Unionist platform with him, and he did not remember the date at which his noble Friend left the Party, but it was long before the Election of 1892, which appeared to have exercised so converting and potent an influence upon him. Lastly, they had had the speech of Lord Playfair, who said that the Duke of Argyll made a long speech not connected with the Bill. But it was not the duty of the noble Duke to defend the Bill. Lord Playfair made a long and able speech, in the course of which he added and subtracted and proved to his own satisfaction that this Bill was supported by the majority in England, Scotland, and Ireland, but he never addressed himself to a single clause of the measure. He would not follow his noble Friend into all his additions and subtractions, but he would say that this Bill had been carried in another place solely by Irish votes, owing to the fact that Ireland was greatly over-represented in the Imperial Parliament. Had noble Lords who had brought forward this measure thoroughly considered the problem they had laid before the House? Was this Bill to be limited to Ireland, for, if not, it ceased to be Home Rule and became Federation. If they extended local Parliaments hereafter to Scotland and England then there would be a sort of triarchy with an Imperial Parliament to control it. He asked the other day whether the Government intended to give a Parliament to Scotland, and he was told that nothing of the kind was desired, and that the Government had not taken any thought with regard to it. That was an easy way of conducting the Government of the country. After bringing in an important measure, which dealt with the Constitution of Ireland and struck at the roots of the Imperial Parliament, they had not a conception how far they were going to persevere in this policy—indeed they had not a policy at all. He would now turn shortly to the details of the Bill. There was, in the first place, the great question of the land, which was the most important question of all. The noble Earl who moved the Second Reading recanted his opinions as to the necessity of dealing with the Land Question at 283 the same time as the question of the Parliament. He remembered that his noble Friend did not speak in any great praise of the Ashbourne Acts; on the contrary, he predicted that they would fail. And he on that question said in 1889, the year of the first Ashbourne Act, that it had failed, and he would like to ask his noble Friend had those Acts anything to do with his conversion? It looked to him as though his noble Friend was looking for a way to escape from those extremely strong opinions that he had uttered at other times, and he fell back upon this the last straw. Whether his reputation would suffer or not he (Lord Camperdown) could not say; but if he did consider those reasons were sufficient to warrant his changing his opinions, did he look upon them as good now? He must do or else it was difficult to suppose his noble Friend would hand over the Irish landlords to the tender mercies of an Irish Parliament. If in that case his noble Friend felt any doubt as to what was likely to happen, let him turn to the utterances of the Nationalists. The Leader of the Anti-Parnellite Party had, at the Irish Nationalist Convention, made it clear what the landlords might expect from the Irish Legislature at the end of three years. There was no way for the Irish landlord to get out of his position except by sale to his tenants and no other person, for no person would buy. He thought that that condition of things would induce the landlords to be reasonable and possibly liberal; moreover, it was extremely probable that the prospect before them at the end of three years would induce the landlords to sell as soon as possible. He would have very much liked to hear something from the Government with regard to the constitution of the Assembly which was to be represented by the present constituencies. Those constituencies most unfairly represented the real opinion of Ireland; and when they were establishing a new Legislature, it was absolutely intolerable and unfair that they should accept and perpetuate a state of things which gave undue representation to the decaying towns and the small constituencies of the South at the expense of the loyal population of the North. If due consideration was to be given to population six years hence, why was it not to be given now? Why had the boundaries of the 284 constituencies not been marked by Boundary Commissioners? Why were Newry, Kilkenny, and Galway, with a population of 44,000, to have three seats, while County Down, with 35,000 electors, was to have only the same number, and while Belfast, with 38,000 electors, was to have only four Members? Why was Dublin University to be entirely disfranchised? The Prime Minister said there was no disfranchisement; but if they examined the Schedule there was. He believed one of the reasons was that it had consistently returned Members who were not in community of feeling with the present Prime Minister. Under the Second Schedule there would in every case be a gain to the Nationalists and a loss to the Loyalists. It was quite impossible to make it a complete system. As to the financial scheme, which had undergone such frequent alteration, they had been told by Lord Spencer that the bargain was a good one for his country; but, as to that, he had never made any attempt to prove it, and until more effective arguments than had yet been adduced were brought forward to prove this, he should doubt whether the noble Earl's view was correct. As things stood, Great Britain was to bear a cost of collection in connection with the Revenue amounting to £200,000, and was to pay an allowance of £500,000 a year to Ireland for an unlimited period. The most significant thing with regard to this financial scheme was that all Irishmen were agreed as to its being ungenerous. They apparently thought that it was the duty, nay, the privilege, of this country not only to provide Ireland with a Parliament, but also to provide that Parliament with a surplus. In providing this surplus the Prime Minister had acted very much in the same way as he (the noble Lord) had acted when at Eton, and which, he dared say, many of them had with regard to a sum in arithmetic. They turned to the end of the book and looked at the answer, and, having got the answer, they then ingeniously devised some scheme by which they arrived at the necessary figure. There might be a surplus, but it could not be proved in any way. With respect to the subject of the Irish Members, it struck him as strange that the Government should not have discovered that the plan of partial retention was unworkable until after 285 they had incorporated it in the Bill and brought it before Parliament. The noble Duke below him had said it was impossible to exclude the Irish Members, because if they did, they taxed them without giving them a representation. The Unionist Party believed that there would be much intrigue as a consequence of the plan finally adopted by the Government. The Prime Minister, on February 13, in introducing the Bill, said—If some large question of controversy entirely British, but still deep and vital, were severing the two great Parties in this House, and the Members of those Parties knew that whichever could bring forward the 80 Irish Representatives, or a large contingent of them, would carry the day, I am afraid of this possible opening of the door to wholesale and dangerous political intrigue. I dread a state of things through which there may be an opening to intrigue, with the result that British questions may be decided on Irish motives.…. I confess that I and my colleagues have not been able to face such a contingency as this.Yet on July 13, under pressure of political necessity, the Prime Minister found himself well able to face the contingency, and what was now wanted was some adequate reason which led him to adopt that which he had previously declared would be entirely wrong. The most important speech delivered from the Irish Benches on this Bill was that of Mr. Redmond on the Third Reading, in which he said that the word "provisional" was written on every line of the Bill, and that no one would dare to say that it would be accepted as a final settlement. What would be the result. In three years from this time there would be a great land struggle in Ireland. He thought that in their dealings with Ulster they were taking upon themselves a great and grave responsibility. In six years there would be a great financial struggle, and a financial struggle in the House of Commons. The 80 Irish Members would be always en evidence, because whenever it came to Irish interests they would always be found fighting together. How could their Lordships pass the Bill upon the case, or, rather, no case, presented by the Government? The Government were in exactly the same position as promoters of a bogus Bill before a private Committee. The Bill ought to be rejected, because they had nothing to say 286 in defence of its provisions. In the words of the noble Duke who spoke that night, their Lordships could not but know well the deception practised by the Prime Minister on the country and on the House of Commons. He could not forget an answer given by the Prime Minister to Mr. Chamberlain. The Prime Minister promised over and over again to bring forward the 9th clause, but at the last moment he rose and proposed the omission of that provision. When the Prime Minister was asked by Mr. Chamberlain whether he did not give that undertaking, he replied—"I knew the object of your question, and I was determined to defeat your purpose." That was an extraordinary proceeding. Was that the sort of action the Prime Minister ought to take in the House of Commons? He called their attention to the changes that had been made in this Bill in the present Session. They had got a new clause which had not been half debated, and which had been closured and passed, and they had not had a word of explanation as to that, and the Bill must fall by its own weight, they being unable to make any case in its favour. Was the House of Lords bound to accept every Bill of every kind that obtained a scratch majority in the House of Commons? If so, what was the use of their Lordships' Chamber at all? They had only one course to take in duty to the country—they must reject the Bill. He had no fear of the judgment of the people. He thought he could persuade them that there was no reason why an Irishman should have three votes while an Englishman or a Scotchman had only one, and why an Irish Parliament was to be set up and paid for by increasing the burdens of the English and Scotch taxpayers. He had no fear that when the Bill was fully explained to the electors they would declare that it was wrong to pass a measure which committed the decision of British affairs to a band of irresponsible Members.
§ VISCOUNT CROSS
I wish to address to your Lordships a few words on the question of finance in connection with the Bill. I am quite aware that the propositions contained in this Bill and the principles on which it is founded are so radically unsound that it will be quite impossible for this Government or for any Government to present a good Bill 287 to your Lordships on the subject. But there is one matter which I think, at all events, we are entitled to have from any Government which presents a Bill of this kind—namely, that it contains in its pages the deliberate convictions of the Government themselves, and also the deliberate convictions of the House of Commons. I maintain as strongly as possible that this Bill does not contain the deliberate convictions of Her Majesty's Government. We had in 1886 a speech from the Prime Minister when he first introduced this subject to Parliament. He then said, after he had given all the consideration to it he could before he brought the subject forward, there were two initiatory propositions and principal parts of the Bill. What are they? The first was that the Irish representation at Westminster should cease; the second was that the fiscal unity of the Empire should be absolutely maintained. These were the vital principles. They are not found in this Bill. There was a third proposition which he made at the same time, and on which, at that moment, he laid equal stress, and that was that in order to be a good plan it must be a real settlement for the Irish Question. That is not found in this Bill. One more quotation from the Prime Minister. He said—It is perfectly clear that if Ireland is to have a domestic Legislature, the Irish Peers and Irish Representatives cannot come here to have control over English and Scotch affairs. That I understand to be admitted.But that is not found in the Bill. We do not yet know what are the deliberate opinions of the Government as to whether the Irish Representatives ought to be or ought not to be here. We have had three plans. First the Irish Members are to be out; next they are to be in and out; and now they are to be in. Which plan represents the deliberate conviction of Her Majesty's Government? That I think we are entitled to know. What did Lord Spencer say on this very in-and-out plan yesterday? He said it was perfectly impossible as a practical measure.How was it possible to have a Government supported at one time by one body of men and at another time by another body of men?If that was the conviction of the Government, as it was of Lord Spencer, why was that plan laid before Parliament? 288 Then as to fiscal unity, as to the contribution of Ireland, we should like to know the deliberate conviction of the Government on that point. We have had three plans submitted. We have had the tribute, or lump sum; we have had the allocation of the Customs, and now we have the quota. We should like to know why these three plans have been presented so rapidly the one after the other? We do not want to hear about the best and easiest means the Government could find for passing the Bill through Parliament, but we want to hear the deliberate convictions of the Government. These clauses are not the expression of the deliberate opinion of the House of Commons, because the House of Commons has not been allowed to discuss this question of finance. Your Lordships seldom interfere with financial questions; but never before in my long Parliamentary experience have I heard of a Bill dealing with financial matters which was sent up to the House of Lords without having been deliberated on by the House of Commons. The Speaker of the House of Commons comes from time to time to the Bar of the House and asks for recognition of his privileges, among which are freedom of debate and freedom of speech, and Her Majesty has always readily granted the privilege; but what Her Imperial Majesty always grants this imperious Minister has refused. I might say a few words about the three different policies of finance. First of all, the proposition of 1886 was that the Irish people should pay a lamp sum; why was that plan not reproduced in 1893? It had been very strongly pressed on the House of Commons by the Prime Minister, and the only reason the right hon. Gentleman gave for dismissing it was that theMethod of providing by a lump sum we thought naturally disappeared with the adoption of the new plan as to the retention of the Irish Members.I do not see the connection. I am glad, however, that plan has been produced. In that plan the contribution by the Irish Government towards the cost of police was to continue at £1,000,000, and the savings made by the Irish Government were not to go into their pockets, but into the Imperial Exchequer. Another question of importance was the collection of the Revenue, and 289 according to the plan of the Government the cost of collection was without dispute put on the Irish Exchequer, and not upon the English Exchequer. We need not discuss that second plan, because it was based on estimates in which upon discussion we found a mistake had been made of £350,000. The third plan is that of this Bill; it is said that Ireland should pay something like what she does now. There are great objections to that plan; they were stated by the Prime Minister himself; and they seem to me to be insuperable. He said there was no difficulty as to the Excise, but there was great difficulty as to the Customs in distinguishing between the respective consumptions of Ireland and of Great Britain. No answer has been given to that question. You do not mean to say that within the last three months the Customs have found some way out of the difficulty which they could not see before. The second difficulty of the Prime Minister, which appears to be equally insuperable, is that Irish finance would be exposed to inconvenient shocks from changes made in the English Budget for Imperial reasons. Let us follow that out. If the Sugar Duties had not been repealed you would have seen the effect of it immediately. There is a great cry amongst a certain class of people, and I think a reasonable one, that we should have a free breakfast table. Let us say the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the future, wishing to get a little popularity, acceded to this cry of the free breakfast table. Then there would have to be extra taxation to meet the difference lost in that way, and then the Irish Exchequer would lose £502,000 a year, and in that case what would become of the Irish surplus? Let me take a natural corollary from the objection stated by the Prime Minister. We all know the finance of each year varies in two respects—either the Revenue increases or the Expenditure increases, or both may happen—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has to meet the difficulty by revising his Budget. But he cannot do it. He is tied down by the bargain with the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, and if he touches one of the taxes he interferes with the surplus to be given to the Irish Government. There is the duty on dried fruits, about which there is some considerable clamour. 290 As far as Ireland is concerned, that comes to £40,000 a year. There is a question which we may be forced into by foreign complications—the Wine Duties. Ireland's share of the Wine Duties is £104,000 a year, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer of England would be bound to send over to Ireland and say—"I am bound to alter this financial arrangement of mine; I must consult you before I can do it; otherwise I shall not be fulfilling the bargain with Ireland." The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day, in reply to this objection, said he had now a Local Budget and an Imperial Budget to arrange, and that it would be no more difficult to deal with this new system than with the old. What an absurd answer for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make! The contribution which he makes to local expenditure is entirely in his own hands; he can do exactly as he likes; he has nobody to consult. But with an Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer he cannot put his finger on a tax, direct or indirect. Whichever he touches, he touches the surplus which you have given to the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Irish Chancellor says—"No; there is a treaty; you are depriving me, and have no right to touch these things without my consent." Let me take the third objection. "We should," says the Prime Minister, "under this system give to Imperial officers a meddling and intervening power in relation to Irish fiscal affairs." What is the answer to that? That you have given the power to these 80 Irish Members of meddling and interfering in English affairs. Do you suppose the Chancellor of the Exchequer will stir one foot or hand in anything which might affect the surplus without the strong intervention of these 80 Irish Members who will be there as Delegates? I should like to consider the result of this particular bargain. The first question that arises is, What does Ireland contribute at present to the general expenses of the country? The general Revenue, according to the Returns placed in our hands, in 1892–3 is £96,000,000. The Irish contribution is £7,600,000, but, deducting the amount expended by the United Kingdom on Ireland, the balance left for the Imperial Exchequer is £2,103,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken an average of three 291 years, and he says that £2,100,000 may be taken as the sum to be contributed by Ireland for Imperial purposes. That is what she does pay, but what ought she to pay? The Prime Minister said that the best test is the amount paid on the Death Duties. ID 1886 he laid down that 1–15th was the proportion which Ireland ought to pay. I believe that the Death Duties have been somewhat considerably reduced since that time. Therefore I am willing to adopt the contention of the Government and say that l–18th would represent the proportion which Ireland ought to pay in 1893 according to the Death Duties. Now take the total for the whole of the Three Kingdoms, and it is admitted on all hands that the amount required is £60,576,000. One-eighteenth of that will come out at £3,350,000, and that is the sum which, according to the Prime Minister, Ireland ought to pay towards Imperial Expenditure; but what would she pay under the Bill? The average contributed by Ireland in the last three years has been £2,262,000. You are going to make them a present of one-third of the cost of the police, or £486,000, which reduces her contribution to Imperial Expenditure to £1,776,000. A further amount of £224,000 has to be deducted as the cost of collection, so that Ireland will really have to pay £1,552,000, which is not l–18th, nor l–15th, but l–40th. That is a question which ought to be discussed before the constituencies. Then they turn round and say that the cost of the police ought to be an Imperial charge. The result is that the British taxpayers will have to pay £700,000 a year, at least, for the bargain which the Government have made. Do you think that the people of this country had any notion that they would be called upon to pay this sum? The arrangement for the collection of taxes, involving an annual expenditure of more than £200,000, had no place in the scheme of 1886, and the proposals respecting the police are totally different from those made then. This is the price which the Government propose that we should pay, and for what? In order that they may buy 80 Irish votes. Your masters will not be contented with anything less. The dish had to be flavoured to suit the palates of those who were to enjoy it, and they said somehow or other we must have 292 £500,000. All these accounts are cooked in order that this sum may be arrived at. I do not believe that the people yet understand this. We were told that when this Home Rule measure was passed the English Parliament would be relieved of all Irish business. But what are the facts? We have to pay £700,000, and 80 Members from Ireland are to be present in the House of Commons. Do you think those Irish Members will let you rest? No; if you set up these tyrants they will tyrannise over you. The English people had, at all events, reason to believe in 1886 that under the scheme then proposed they would get rid of the Irish Members and of the Irish Question. If the Government wish to know the opinion of the English people upon these points, let them put on the Estimates a Vote of £700,000 for the cost of the Home Rule Bill; or let them bring in a Bill to place this amount on the Consolidated Fund. Their proposals would then be made short work of in the House of Commons and the country, and you will dispose of this Home Rule Bill for once and for ever.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (The Marquess of RIPON)
I hope your Lordships will allow me, even at this late hour, to make some observations on the course of this Debate. I would beg at once to point out that only one supporter of this Bill has had an opportunity of speaking tonight. Of course, in the present circumstances of the House, there are many more Members who are opposed to the Bill than support it; but I think there ought to be some limit to the exercise of the power of your overwhelming majority, and that you ought to allow a larger amount of time to the minority than you have done to-night. We had at the outset of the Debate this evening, in the eloquent speech from the Duke of Argyll, a long treatise on Irish history from the point of view he takes of the subject. I will not follow my noble Friend upon that point, but will content myself by saying that in respect to Irish history, and especially the Union, I would rather take as an authority the history of Mr. Lecky than I would the history of the Duke of Argyll. Before I proceed to speak of the provisions of the Bill, I am impelled to notice the course of this Debate in one 293 respect. Noble Lords who oppose the Government seem perfectly unable to imagine that we could have had any good or honourable motive for adopting the policy of this Bill. I am quite sure that this must arise from your not having followed the arguments that have been deduced in favour of this measure. I think that already there have been given to you in the course of these two nights, by the few persons supporting the Bill who have been allowed to address you, some reasons of no small weight, quite apart from those charges of desiring to buy the support of the Irish Members that form the stock and staple of the speeches of our opponents. My noble Friend Lord Spencer, in opening this discussion, laid before you many instances of the fatal tendency of English remedial legislation in Ireland to be always too late, and my noble Friend Lord Playfair, in his able speech, spoke about the commercial condition of Ireland during the years it has been governed under the present system. But still your Lordships think that these reasons cannot have weight with honest men, and that there is some concealed and improper object in the policy which we are pursuing. We held at the Election of 1886, and our assertion has since been proved up to the hilt, that there are but two methods of governing Ireland; we said that there was no choice except between conciliation and coercion. We believed that the policy of coercion pursued for 87 years through 87 Coercion Acts had been proved to have failed for the purpose for which Government is established in free countries. What were the last experiences of coercion at the time of the Election of 1886? They were the Coercion Acts administered by Mr. Forster and Lord Spencer. With respect to Mr. Forster's Act, it is now admitted on all hands that it was a failure. I had nothing to do with that Act, because I was not in this country at the time. The Act which followed and which was administered by Lord Spencer produced good results in respect of the diminution of crime; but my noble Friend himself has told you in the course of this Debate that, having administered that Act to the best of his ability, the result of that administration left upon his mind the conviction that a policy of that descrip- 294 tion never could produce that which I venture to say is the great end of government, the contentment of the people. But, apart from that experience of the failure of coercion, we have another important circumstance which took place in 1885, and again in 1886. In 1884 Parliament for the first time gave to the Irish people the same franchise that the people of England enjoyed. To that measure the Duke of Devonshire was a party. Why did you do that? Did you extend the franchise to the Irish people because you wanted to disregard their opinions, or did you do it in order that you might get in Parliament a better representation and a fuller expression of the feelings of the Irish people? What was the result? The supporters of the Home Rule policy were returned by an overwhelming majority both in 1885 and in 1886. The result of the reduction of the franchise was the return of overwhelming Nationalist majorities in 1885 and 1886, and that is a fact which cannot be disregarded, and is a circumstance which may reasonably lead men to think that a new policy with regard to Ireland ought to be pursued. There were also in 1885 some remarkable expressions of opinion upon the question of the state of Ireland; and the late Lord Carnarvon, in a speech in your Lordships' House, said—I have been astonished to find that ever since 1847, with some short intervals that are hardly worth mentioning, Ireland has lived under coercive legislation. No sane man can admit that this is a satisfactory or a wholesome state of things. It does seem to me that it is very desirable, if possible, that we should extricate ourselves from this miserable habit and aim at some wholesome and better solution. But more than being undesirable, I hold that such legislation is practically impossible if it is to be continuously and indefinitely re-enacted.I am bound to say that these words made a deep impression on me, and I might add that before I returned to this country from India I had come to the conclusion that I would not again, unless under very exceptional circumstances, be a party to a policy of coercion. There was another description of Irish government as it then stood, and still stands, given by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, when he was still in the service of the Crown. He described the system of government in Ireland as depending on 30,000 bayonets, and compared it to Russia's government 295 of Poland or Venice under Austria, and finally said—The time has come to reform altogether the absurd and irritating anachronism which is known as Dublin Castle.It is impossible for responsible persons to use such language without leading men to think whether such a system ought not to be stopped. It is, therefore, quite needless for the noble Marquess to seek for some sinister motive for the change of policy adopted by the Liberal Party. We took the experience of the past to heart. We took your teaching to heart. To us it seemed that a policy of conciliation was the only policy by which we could deliver Ireland from coercion, or by which we can reform the irritating anachronism of Dublin Castle. For my part, I give all honour to the late Lord Carnarvon and his Colleagues. In 1885 they set us an example. The only difference between them and us is that they have withdrawn their hands from the plough and we have gone forward.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
The ending of the miserable habit of coercion and the anachronism of Dublin Castle. Our policy is a full and complete concession to the Irish people of the management of their own affairs.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Does the noble Marquess mean to suggest that we intended to give Home Rule to the Irish people?
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
You told the public from these Benches that the system of coercion was a bad one, and that it should be abandoned; and you were on the look out for a better method of government. I do not want to carry you further than your words. But such words cannot be spoken in the Parliament of this country without making a great change in the position of any question. Our policy, then, is to give a full and free power to the Irish people to manage their own Irish affairs. That policy implies a trust in the Irish people. But your Lordships are accustomed to sneer at the notion of putting trust in the Irish people, though here, again, we have on our side the words of the late Lord Carnarvon. On July 6, 1885, Lord Carnarvon used these words— 296It may be said that this is a question of trust. No doubt it is a question of trust, but trust begets trust, and it is, after all, the only foundation upon which we can hope to build up amity and concord between the two nations.That is language which we thankfully and gladly accept. We came to the conviction that the policy of coercion could not be maintained, and that there was no choice between a policy of continued coercion and a policy of trust. That policy we have since firmly adhered to. When I speak of coercion, I do not say that noble Lords opposite have had a monopoly of coercive policy in Ireland. Doubtless the Liberal Party has had its full share in the adoption of that policy. The difference, however, is that we have learned our mistake, and have had a glimmering of the truth, and retrieved our former error. Now, I will turn for a moment, before touching on the Bill, to another argument which has been very largely introduced into this Debate. We have been told several times that Parliament has no mandate in regard to this Bill. That is the language of my noble Friend the Duke of Devonshire, and that was the language of my noble Friend Earl Cadogan. I cannot help remarking here that I am not sure that it is altogether judicious for noble Lords to talk about a mandate to represent the people of this country, because it is not impossible that some irreverent people may ask whether the Members of this House have any mandate to represent the people at all. That is not a point I want to press. What I want to say is that your doctrine of mandate is totally new to the Constitution. If ever any Parliament had a mandate to deal with any question, this Parliament has a mandate to deal with the question of Home Rule, which has been discussed throughout the country in every possible way. I have been a long time in public life, and I have never known a public measure so fully discussed. At least in Liberal speeches Home Rule has held a foremost place for six years. It is said this Bill has not been before the country, though its principles have been discussed in every shape and way. There is a new-fangled idea of a sort of referendum which is to be entrusted to your Lordships which is very rife just now. I should like to ask what has been 297 the practice in the past? I should like to ask, of the great measures which have been passed within the last 50 years, in which of them has the actual Bill been laid before the country, and in regard to which of them you have claimed this right of referendum? Take the Corn Laws. If the Parliament which repealed the Corn Laws had any mandate it was to maintain them. It certainly had no mandate to repeal them; but at the bidding of a great Minister at a great crisis it did repeal them. Then, take the Reform Bill of 1867. The noble Marquess will remember the Ten Minutes Bill. Was there any mandate given to Mr. Disraeli to pass the Ten Minutes Bill?
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
I may have applied the wrong name. But, at all events, the Bill against which the noble Marquess protested so strongly had never been submitted to the country. What happened about the Disestablishment of the Irish Church? A general Resolution was passed in the House of Commons; no Bill was prepared or was submitted to the country. A majority in favour of Disestablishment was returned at the General Election, and my noble Friend (the Duke of Devonshire), who was a Member of the Government, must remember the pains that Government took and the length of time they employed in the preparation of the details of the Bill. That Bill was passed; you did not talk about the referendum then. Your Lordships did not say that the Bill had never been before the country; but you passed it, and one of its authors was the noble Duke A few words as to our experience in this matter of giving wide self-government. After we had brought a few of our Colonies to the verge of rebellion we gave them self-government. What has been the result? The effect has been to bind them more and more closely to the Mother Country. Look at Australasia, look at the Cape, look at Canada. Canada is a complete parallel to the case of Ireland. There you have two races and creeds; there you had open rebellion. You tried coercion, and failed. You proposed self-government, and it was denounced vigorously by many 298 men in this House and in the country. They said it would produce all the evils which are prophesied with regard to the grant of Home Rule to Ireland. The prophecies failed, and the result has been to bind Canada to the Mother Country in the closest bonds. There may be a few scattered individuals in the country who still dream of annexation to the United States; but when they want to get a Leader they cannot find him in Canada, but they have to go to a distinguished member of the University of Oxford. I turn now to some points in the Bill to which allusion has been made. In the first place, we are told that the manner in which we have provided for the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament in this Bill is inadequate. Lord Playfair answered that argument, and showed that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is amply secured. No one values the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament more highly than I do, but, as a matter of fact, the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament needs no protection. The supremacy of the Imperial Parliament cannot be touched. The Parliament of to-day cannot bind the Parliament that succeeds it. The Session of Parliament of 1893 cannot bind the Session of Parliament of 1894. We asserted that supremacy in the Preamble. But it was well to accept also the proposal of Sir Henry James. A cardinal point of our policy is the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. Lord Castletown, in his speech to-night, used the expression "The supremacy of Great Britain." But what we are concerned with now is not the supremacy of Great Britain, but the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and we contend that we have protected it as much as possible. Lord Camper-down asserted that my noble Friend Lord Spencer had changed his opinion on the question of land legislation. But I should like to point out that Lord Spencer held a strong opinion in 1886 that land legislation should accompany the grant of Home Rule. But he pointed out yesterday that, in his judgment, the legislation which had taken place since 1886 with regard to the land had rendered it unnecessary to deal with that subject now, and therefore that the point upon which he had insisted in 1886 was not now a cardinal point. The noble and learned Lord (Lord Ashbourne) fell foul 299 of the Schedule and accused the Government of gerrymandering.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
The charge was made against Mr. Morley in the other House that a figure had been selected which would produce results which were unfair to the Unionists.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
That is just it. Your opponents are either knaves or fools. If you do not like to call us fools, you call us knaves. It does not matter to us, but I do not think it does you any good. Now, there is another point, in respect to which I would say a few words—that is, the position of the Members who will remain in our House of Commons. The Bill of 1886 proposed the exclusion of the Irish Members. We now propose their retention; but that is not one of the new points in the Bill, because it was known to the country long ago. You objected to the removal of the Irish Members in 1886; in 1893 you object to their retention. We are told that, in future, the British Government will be at the mercy of the Irish Members. The Irishmen are there now, and all we are proposing to do is to reduce their numbers. Before now Governments have been put in power, and kept in power, by the votes of Irish Members. We are not aggravating the situation; on the contrary, we are doing the opposite by diminishing the power of Irishmen in the House of Commons. The noble Viscount opposite spoke, as he always does, with courtesy and moderation upon the subject of the sum for the cost of collection and the contribution towards the Irish Constabulary, and he said that that was an enormous charge to impose upon the English people. But the noble Viscount forgot that both liabilities are temporary. The charge for the Constabulary will be a diminishing charge, and the charge for the collection of Revenue is limited under this Bill to six years. I doubt whether my noble Friend will find, when he goes on the stump this Autumn, that he will stir up such very great indignation among the British people by denouncing this contribution in aid of the new Irish system in its inception. I believe that the British people have made up their minds that they will give self- 300 government to Ireland fully, and I believe them to be just enough and generous enough to see that you cannot set up this new Government without making a temporary provision for its immediate needs. We have heard a great deal of strong language as to the manner in which the Closure has been applied in the House of Commons. I do not want to discuss the proceedings in that House; but when I am told that a Bill so passed through the House of Commons can never be accepted by your Lordships, I cannot help asking who taught us to take that course? It was yourselves. You passed the Crimes Act in that way, and it seems that a system which is legitimate to confiscate the constitutional rights of the Irish people is not legitimate to enlarge them. With regard to what fell from the Duke of Devonshire as to local self-government, I am as anxious as any man can be that local self-government should be extended in Ireland; but if you extend it without granting general self-government you will not satisfy the people, and you will ruin local self-government, because you will make every County Council a scene for political discussion. I might have said much on other matters, but you have left me very little time. My Lords, the result of this Debate is a foregone conclusion. Those who lead the serried ranks that we have seen earlier in the evening have told the world long ago what is to be the fate of this Bill in this House. The unwonted faces that have shown themselves on the Benches opposite tell the story of Friday night. It would be hypocrisy in me to make those appeals to your Lordships to pass this Bill which are often heard on occasions like this. You made up your minds what you would do with it before you knew what it was. And, therefore, I will content myself with saying that if on this occasion you frustrate the will of the people, and refuse the just claims of Ireland to the management of her own affairs, it will not be that will or those claims that will be in the end overthrown, but it will be rather the rash and fatal counsels which dictate the rejection of this Bill which will at last be brought to nought.
§ Further Debate adjourned till Tomorrow.