§ Debate on the Amendment to the Motion that the Bill be now read 2a, viz., to leave out ("now") and add at the end of the Motion ("this day three months") resumed (according to Order).
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
My Lords, no one can possibly over-rate or over state the importance of this Bill, both for its own sake and its construction. The noble Marquess, in his introduction of the Bill, presented his views in a very interesting way, and some topics of a rather novel character in a curious way. He made a point of the alleged fact that the great mass of Irish legislation to be found on the Statute Book is separate legislation; that there is one mass of legislation which is conversant with Great Britain, and another and separate mass of legislation which is conversant with Ireland, so that really if a change were made by setting up another Parliament to take charge of Irish legislation it would not be a very big change after all. That, however, is an extremely misleading way of putting the case, and the argument is not founded on fact. Of course, the Statute Book contains a vast number of Statutes common to the whole Empire, but some Statutes are only conversant with England, some are only conversant with Scotland, and some are only conversant with Ireland. Let me point out, however, that a great mass of the Statutes that are said to be separate for Ireland are Statutes which follow English Statutes with only a variation of methods to suit the conditions of the country with which they deal. Practically they accomplish the same objects as similar Statutes in England, and they cannot be called separate legislation. Those which are different Statutes peculiar to Ireland are Statutes dealing with special objects and introduced specially in reference to Ireland.
722 I need not tell your Lordships that I have the honour of being an Irishman myself, and I am fairly well acquainted with the position in Ireland as well as the position in both Houses of Parliament for the last thirty years. I am always interested, but not always surprised at the things I hear about Ireland. It seems to be thought that one can say almost anything about Ireland and trust it to pass muster on the ground that the Trish are a novel, a curious, and a very interesting people. But to call us a Crown Colony, to say that we are governed like a Crown Colony, and that that damning fact is masked by the presence of the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the Cabinet of the Imperial Government and by 100 'Members at Westminster—a tolerably big mask, I think—struck me as extraordinary and unreal. I am content, however, to leave it there. But the noble Marquess said that the Government of Ireland was carried on by an arbitrary Government from outside. Again, that struck me as a curious way of putting it. It was as if the Irish—a particularly gifted race, with many attractive qualities, able to understand most things, and, when they like, able to be deceived as little as any people in the world—are a silent people, given to taciturnity on occasions, and that they are a people who would submit, in or out of Parliament, to be governed without much protest by an arbitrary Government from outside. If any one but a man of the very high character of the noble Marquess said that, I can tell your Lordships that I would deal with it in a short and not a complimentary way.
Then the noble Marquess went on to say that the needs of Ireland were estimated by a large British majority, uninformed and uninterested. What on earth the large British majority have done to have their character taken away in that manner baffles my comprehension. I had the honour of occupying a seat in the House of Commons for some years, and I have kept myself pretty well informed of what has gone on there since. Knowing what I do I am bound to say that the suggestion that Irish affairs are not attended to in the House of Commons, that the Irish Members do not get ample audience, and that the Irish are a people who would stand being silenced can only be met in one way—that is, by stolid incredulity. The noble Viscount opposite, Lord Morley, 723 was a distinguished Member of the House of Commons, as he is of your Lordships' House. He knows everything about this question, and he must recognise, as I do, the enormous mass of legislation which has been passed through both Houses of Parliament in the last quarter of a century in reference to Ireland. That legislation has been immense. Enormous remedial Acts have been passed; millions have been poured out for the benefit of Ireland. All that has been done by the Union Parliament with the aid, the sympathy, and the encouragement of Ireland. The suggestion that an uninformed and uninterested English majority is exercising an arbitrary power in passing these measures is impossible. I will not attempt to deal with such a statement further than by repeating it and handing it over to the mercy of those who have heard it.
The idea of suggesting that the Irish Members are men who would be walked on, and that they would not get a hearing when they needed it, strikes one as being entirely unfounded. Ireland has had a varied history, illuminated occasionally by flashes of silence—I am dealing with the last quarter of a century—but she has never held her tongue when she thought that wrong was being done to her. The idea of telling one that Trish Members do not get ample audience and that English Members are not thoroughly informed as to what is going on—well, it is an idea that certainly does not err upon the side of over accuracy. Mr. Redmond has been filling the rôle of a gracious and benevolent dictator for some time past. During many years he has played a great part in the history of Ireland and of the House of Commons. The idea of suggesting that he has not been able to look after the interests of Ireland, again such an idea is not worthy to be pressed in serious argument.
In the course of his speech the noble Marquess said that he supposed there would not be much objection to Private Bill legislation being dealt with otherwise than it is at the present time. In that matter I agree with him, and I may say at once that I think it is a change which might well be considered with advantage to all concerned. But the noble Marquess went on to say, as if it were merely putting a little coping stone on a moderate sized 724 wall, that the one remaining element of the fabric—namely, a representative body—should also be restored. That was like putting a full stop to a long sentence. The noble Marquess ignores entirely the history of this question and of the present time. You must look at the Bill in the full extent of its magnitude. You must realise its stupendous character. It is an immense Bill, which will work an enormous constitutional revolution. The Bill mutilates the Imperial Parliament; it destroys the central Administration of the Empire; it divides the Treasury in a most amazing way in its functions and its powers; it interferes with the integrity of the Customs, and entirely breaks up the unity of the whole postal system. I will not go into all the changes involved by the Bill. Those I have mentioned to your Lordships are amply sufficient to show that it is a Bill which tears the whole Constitution to pieces in respect of salient and most important points. Whether it reconstructs the fragments in a satisfactory way is quite another question.
Before these vast changes can be entertained or be made effective by law, the question arises, Why should this be done? What is the pressing, urgent need? Where is the occasion for not leaving things to go on in a way that is most prosperous? What is the advantage of upsetting the present condition of affairs when there is peace in Ireland, when wealth is rapidly increasing, and when all the ameliorative legislation which has been passed by the Imperial Parliament is pursuing its beneficent course? Why is this time selected for urging forward this stupendous Bill and for interfering with—I use the mildest word I can—the Union. I am aware, of course, that the Government may not be exactly the people who can give a complete answer to that question. But we know the reason why. In this matter can we not learn something from the history of all other civilised peoples in the world? Can you point to any other civilised nation which is doing what is sought to be done by this Bill? Take Europe. Why, the struggles of all great Empires and peoples is to try to bind every section of the country in a union under which they can all assemble to pursue common objects and purposes. I have observed that persistent reference is made to Canada and to South Africa. 725 I accept the reference. What do those countries show? That what they most value and seek is the accomplishment of a union such as His Majesty's Government in this old Empire of ours are deliberately trying to break up. Surely the teaching of the Dominions is entitled to most respectful consideration. We have been fortunate enough in this debate to have had the pleasure of listening to speeches from Earl Grey and the Earl of Selborne, who were able to give valuable testimony about Canada and South Africa. There is not one of your Lordships who can have heard those speeches without intense interest, because of the knowledge they displayed and the manner in which the subject was treated. I do not say that we would agree with everything said, but their arguments from first to last were entitled to the fullest consideration. What did they show? That the struggle of these vast Dominions of the Empire had been to work out a plan of union and give effect to it.
Take the Bill itself. I do not propose to go in detail through every portion of it, nor yet to confine myself to any special part of it. Take this vast change and apply it to your knowledge of Ireland and what your friends tell you about Ireland. Can anyone say they believe that it is generally needed, or that it is generally desired? Ulster, as every one knows, is resolutely and fiercely opposed to it. The noble Earl on the Government Bench who spoke last night endeavoured to belittle the question of Ulster. Well, the time has passed for belittling Ulster. The fact is, Ulster is in grim earnest, and, no matter what people may say who are a long way from it, Ulster cannot be ignored and forgotten. Take the other Provinces. Though the bulk of the people are in favour of the Bill with various degrees of liking, I would be very sorry to be loved by every one I value in the same way that the people in those three Provinces look on this Bill. There is no enthusiasm for it. There may be a kind of approval in many places, but I am positive that there is a vast amount of hesitation and indifference about it in an enormous number of places. I have noble friends who live not in Ulster but in other parts of Ireland and are very competent to speak on the subject. They have nearly all said that if you get the Irish people together in a crowd there is a kind of feeling that they like to shout with the largest number. That is a very human feeling, but my friends say that if you were 726 to break up the crowd into its component parts and ask the men in detail what. they think, when there is nobody to report what they say, it would be God help the judgment many of them would pass on the Bill.
No; the Bill may have to be submitted to and even cheered on some occasions, but it is not liked. It is a new departure, and the people are full of doubt about it, even of mistrust. The Government came before us more or less in the character of prophets. I respect prophets, but one's interest in them varies, and I am afraid on the question of home Rule the Government are more or less false prophets. I do not blame them for that; they cannot be better than they have been made. Mr. Gladstone was a man of genius and of magnificent courage all his life, when he was young and when he was old. He brought in, with all the full weight of his genius behind it, the Bill of 1886. Yet that Bill was impossible, was unworkable, and would have surely led to bankruptcy. Then came the much altered Bill of 1893, with absolutely fresh financial provisions which were vastly changed in Committee, but I believe if it had passed it would, putting the matter in the mildest way, have done no good to Ireland. It was finally rejected by the House of Lords with the full approval of the country. If it had passed there would have been no Land Purchase Act of 1903, and the position of affairs in Ireland have been very much damaged.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
The noble and learned Lord will remember that there was a Land Bill tacked on to the Home Rule Bill of 1886.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
That I remember—a Bill which Mr. Gladstone would not allow to be read or referred to in the House of Commons. Mr. Chamberlain, in the middle of a powerful speech in which he tore to pieces the Home Rule Bill, said that Bill did not stand alone because it was linked to another Bill. The right hon. gentleman then said that he proposed to deal with that other Bill. I remember well, when Mr. Chamberlain said that, the matchless alacrity with which Mr. Gladstone rose and how he astounded the House by saying that the permission he had received from the Sovereign to state what occurred did not extend to the Land Bill. I had the good fortune to be present on that occasion. It was one of those incidents which can never fade from memory.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
Well, I will not pursue the topic, but will be satisfied with the incident I have recorded. I must confess that I like simple Bills which one can understand, and it is not a labour of love to go through this Bill. It is complicated, involved, confused, and difficult to understand, and it is founded on one cardinal fallacy—that Ireland is a nation of one people. We have been asked ad nauseam, "Why not give Ireland and the Irish people this measure which they are all seeking?" If there is one thing which is plain, it is that there are two Irelands, differing as widely from one another as any people can be who are separated by the most obvious divisions. Lord Killanin said last night that people might talk of there not being two races, but he was perfectly confident there was not one, and that was, I think, a neat way of putting it. But I stand for two, and I know the representatives of the two people. I say, therefore, that it is quite idle to treat Ireland as if it were one nation and its inhabitants were bound together in unity. There are the people of Ulster and many outside Ulster who agree with the Ulster view. Earl Beauchamp referred last night to a small population in a small part of Ulster, whereas there are admittedly over 1,000,000 people who share the views expressed in Ulster. If you take it that the rest of Ireland approve of some principle of Home Rule, you cannot put it higher than that. From the vague statements made by some Ministers it was impossible, before this measure was introduced, that people should know or dream what it would be like. We may take it that they knew there was to be some kind of Home Rule proposal, and that commended itself to those parts of Ireland outside Ulster in a kind of tepid way.
What is the argument of the Government? It is that a persistent demand to let Ireland govern herself exists, and must be recognised, and that the opposition of no minority should prevail against it. That is the Government's argument. Surely it ignores the reality of things, the plain facts. It is not a question of a majority or a minority in a contested election. It is 728 a question of the inhabitants of Ireland, who are not a united people, who are not one Irish race, but at least two races. Let me remind you also that this difference is not one of to-day or yesterday, but is a matter of centuries. It is one of the commonplaces of Irish history. Ireland may be called and treated as a unit, if you like to call it so, only during the Union. The minute the Union is removed, or is sapped or weakened, it brings into relief the fact that the inhabitants of Ireland cannot be treated as one. You must look at the facts of the case, and the facts are as I say. Earl Grey, in his interesting speech, made a reference, which struck me very much, to the position of Ontario if sought to be united to Quebec, when dealing with the Ulster question. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack dealt with Earl Grey's speech in an interesting way, but he only answered the points that had no particular reference to this Bill, and he passed by entirely the allusion to Ontario and Quebec, though I think it was a matter which was entitled to much consideration. I sympathise, however, with the noble and learned Viscount in his wisdom in passing it by.
I spoke just now of sapping the Union. This Bill does more than that. It reverses the order of things in Grattan's Parliament, which was composed of Protestants and English. What this Bill proposes is to substitute for Grattan's Parliament a Catholic and a Nationalist Parliament. What I have to say to your Lordships is that if the Parliament of 1782 was wrong, this cannot be right. You objected to the Parliament of 1782—I do not say you wrongly objected to it—on the ground that it was Protestant and English. But does that entitle you to put in its place, when you restore a Parliament to Ireland, a Parliament essentially Catholic and Nationalist? This fact is ignored in the Bill, and yet we are told to trust the Irish people as if they were one race. Why, the last thing in the world the Bill does is to trust the Irish. It shows distrust in every line. It looks as if the Government believes that the Irish could not be trusted with their own money, but would rob with one hand what they got with the other. There is, I say, distrust and disbelief from beginning to end. The Government tell us the Bill has not been discussed on its merits. Lord Ashby St. Ledgers said that we had been discussing the details and 729 allowing the principle to go by the board. That is not so, and I repudiate the statement in the most emphatic manner. It is true that some noble Lords have raised the question of federalism, but nearly all who have spoken have declined to accept the principle of the Bill, beside arguing, as they are entitled to do, against its details. In Ireland we have had a varied history, as everybody knows, or at least ought to know after all they have heard. We have had a dependent Parliament, an independent Parliament, and we have the Union, and now this mongrel Bill mangles all the ideas on which those great constitutional authorities were based and creates a Parliament which cannot collect its own taxes, although it has its own Executive, its own Post Office, and the right to dabble in its own Customs. They have taken the Union principle with forty-two Members who are to continue to sit at Westminster, and whom I may describe as forty-two free lances. They will be open to argument, and it may possibly be that they will be open for an engagement. It is hard to find a clause in the Bill which gives you pleasure, but I confess that I take positive pleasure as an Irishman in reading Clause 26. If a prize were offered for the most complicated, most unworkable, and most unintelligible clause in the Bill I would fearlessly choose Clause 26 and would expect to get the prize on the spot. At first when it was presented it was absolute chaos, but then some men of sense got at the Government and said, "This will never do at all; it will not pass muster; you must get an Order in Council, and then you can always say, if there is a hole in the clause, the Order in Council will set it right." It will not. The Order in Council is an English Order in Council, and it is to deal with an Irish clause. It is to say only how these people who are to be brought over here in connection with the revision of the financial scheme are to be selected. Mr. Gladstone, when dealing with a similar matter, used the celebrated expression that the wit of man could not deal with a clause that had in it the in-and-out business. Yet under this clause these poor unfortunate Irish delegates are to come over to Westminster and hang about the doorway waiting to be admitted. Who, I should like to know, is to tell them when to come in and when to go out? Who is to say when the revision question is on and when it is off? The whole position is perfectly impossible.
730 I do not propose to say much about finance to-night, because to do so after the great speech by my noble friend Viscount St. Aldwyn on this branch of the Bill would be unbecoming of me. He went into the subject in a manner which was entitled to the highest respect and consideration. I always hear Lord Welby, with his superb belief in the Party to which he belongs combined with his knowledge of the Treasury, with respect and interest because I know he is not going to give way an inch. Others might be swayed by argument which would convert most men, but he knows better. Lord Welby admitted that the finance of the Bill appeared to be complicated—it was not much of an admission—but then he boldly said that on consideration it would be found to be less so. That may be. I do not intend to give it that consideration. I am satisfied to believe that it is as bad as Lord St. Aldwyn has described. The extraordinary thing is that considering the very able men who are dealing with this Bill—I must get over my habit of praising the Government—you find dual power in legislation all through the Bill causing the most extraordinary complexity. The result is that it is very hard to understand. The Imperial Parliament may tax and the Irish Parliament may tax, too, and there must be constant friction. Lord St. Aldwyn spoke of the two Chancellors of the Exchequer—the English and the Irish. Mr. Lloyd George, of course, has a name which is tolerably familiar in this country, and I would like to hear him in conversation with an intelligent Celt who is doing business for Ireland. I have a respect for the adroitness of Mr. Lloyd George, but I have a profound respect also for my own countrymen, and it is impossible to say who would come out best. I have a strong idea that the Irishman would put his comether, his soft sawder, upon Mr. Lloyd George as much as he was capable of doing, and what would be the result no human being can tell. I do not propose to discuss the question of the Post Office, but I suppose the system proposed in the Bill will work in some kind of way. I do not propose either to discuss the Customs, though that is a very entertaining subject. It will at least be admitted that there is duality in the Customs and duality in the Post Office.
Then let me take land purchase—an immense question. That is reserved, and 731 that being the case why is land administration handed over to the Irish Government? Most people would think that wherever land purchase went, land administration should go also, as they are so closely interwoven. The Irish Parliament will nominally have nothing to do with the price to be fixed for land purchase, but the land administration may so cut down the rents as to affect prices enormously. It is obvious that these matters require great consideration, and I am afraid they have not been as fully considered as they deserve. After what has been said of the Exchequer Board by my noble friend, Viscount St. Aldwyn, I do not feel justified in going into that matter. But I should like to point out that it is to be composed of two Irish Treasury clerks and two English Treasury clerks, with a neutral Chairman—God help him ! I do not envy the position of that Chairman in some circumstances with the quorum of three. Supposing he was present with only the two Irish Treasury men. It is conceivable that he might find himself, no matter how neutral he was, in a minority. Then he would have to announce to his Treasury that he had been beaten after argument. It might be, on the other hand, that the two English Treasury men would be in the majority, and then I suppose something else would happen.
Now I should like to ask what kind of a Viceroy you are going to have. That is a most interesting subject, and has attracted a great deal of attention. I am told that the Office is to be like that of a Colonial Governor with a tenure as durable. Many extraordinary circumstances may arise in connection with the action that he will be called upon to take under this Bill. When is he to be swayed by the Irish Ministry and when by the English Ministry? Suppose a measure is submitted to him which he thinks is wrong, and he refers it to England. He is told, in reply, that it should not be allowed to pass, or should be postponed. Supposing then he tells this to his Ministers in Ireland, and the Chief Minister says, "This won't do. We believe we are right; we are sure you are wrong. We won't stay on but will go, and there is no one to succeed us." What is the poor Viceroy to do? What is the poor English Government to do? The Viceroy has announced that the Bill is a bad Bill, and has been told that he must not pass it. Then he is informed by the 732 Irish Government in the politest way—and, remember, the Irish are nothing if not polite—that that will not do, that the people outside will not have it, and that the Irish Ministers could not face the music. They would say to the Viceroy, "You really must reconsider the question," and the poor Viceroy would have to reconsider it in the light of the views of the people "outside." What is really going to happen in such circumstances as these I do not know. I merely mention it as an interesting conundrum.
Then, again, supposing that there a tremendous question of law and order, what would be the position of the Viceroy? The noble Marquess knows that under the Letters Patent of a Lord Lieutenant he has the power of giving orders and directions to the Commander of the Forces. He has also the power of declaring Martial Law. Supposing he is asked to give directions to the Commander of the Forces and to proclaim Martial Law, and he says, "This is too strong an order for me. I think the circumstances do not justify it." What is he to do if his Irish Ministers do not agree? It is because of these things that I say the Viceroy must be a complex many-sided man. He will always be torn in two or more by contending feelings, and I really wonder what kind of man he will have to be. He must, according to the traditions of the office, be a man of means. He must have good manners, and he should have good address. He must be accessible, although reserved, and if he is wise he will be occasionally blind, he will be sometimes deaf, and very frequently dumb. In fact, thinking of historical analogies I have made up my mind that he would want the meekness of Moses, the firmness of Cromwell, the shrewdness of Macchiavelli, and the diplomacy of Talleyrand. I hear that the Government have a man in their eye for the place. I think it would be kind not to tell him too suddenly of the good fortune which is in store for him, because "where ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise."
There is one matter I feel bound to mention, though I feel ashamed of having spoken so long. What about the safeguards? They are always trotted out and paraded before us by supporters of the Government, but what are they in the Bill. You would think that everybody in Ireland was to be in a straight waistcoat 733 after this Bill passes. The fact of the matter is that the safeguards are not really worth the paper on which they are written. Mr. Redmond said that if the Irish Parliament abused its statutory powers, we should only have to stretch out our arm, and, if they insisted on wrong doing, we could set them right. This deceives no intelligent man. There is no one so good at being deceived as the man who will not see; but men who keep their eyes open will not for a moment he taken in by that kind of talk. What is the use of stretching out your arm if there is no one within reach? What is the good of telling the Irish Ministry which you have called into existence that it must mind itself, and must not persist in a course of wrong doing? The Lord Chancellor, for whose views I personally have an infinite respect, said, when I ventured in one slight interruption to ask him how you could interfere with the Irish Executive, there was some early clause in the Bill and any one who could read could understand it. I can understand the clause, but I cannot understand for the life of me what good it would do to any human being. I take it that if the Government in Dublin are doing something which is objectionable or permitting it to be done by others, and the Prime Minister of the day in England sends word "This won't do; you must change it," the answer of the Irish Ministry would be straight and to the purpose. It would be, "My dear fellow, it is awfully good of you to tell me, but will you mind your own business." Mr. Asquith said "Name your safeguards, and I will put them all in." But he did not. Ulster, I admit, made a big request. They said, "Leave us out of the Bill; leave us alone; we want to stay with you." But other safeguards were suggested and in vain. In the Constitution of the United States of America there is a provision which says that no law should be permitted whereby any person should be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law in accordance with settled principles and precedents, or could be denied the equal protection of the law. The point about that is that it looks like commonsense. Mr. Gladstone, when it was brought to his Bill in 1893, put it in the Bill; but when it was presented to Mr. Asquith in the House of Commons it was refused. I cannot understand why that clause was not accepted, because it is a matter of sense and a matter of fairness. It may 734 be that Mr. Redmond had some other views in reference to it. I do not know.
The question of Ulster is an immense question. Any one who heard the speech of the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York on that subject must have been profoundly stirred by the ability and the sincerity which he displayed. He was friendly to many ideas in the Bill—that is to say, he was a friendly critic—but his point with regard to Ulster was that at first he had been against the Ulster view, and was not impressed by its reality; but he had since been impressed by the grim earnestness of these men, and he felt that it was a question that could only be dealt with after an appeal to the nation. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack dealt with the question with peculiar dignity and reticence, and said that he hoped that the opposition of Ulster would die out. Every one hopes for everything in this world; but what is the good of answering people who are in grim earnest and who have shown their resolution for years past, by the hopes and expectations of those who are living comfortably over here without a particle of danger to face? It is a question full of gravity, and people ought not to belittle it. Earl Beauchamp said it was not the whole of Ulster that was concerned. We know that, but when we refer to Ulster we mean mainly the four counties in the North-East of Ireland, and that Ulster contains the great city of Belfast with its splendid enterprise, magnificent trade, and enormous resources. It is there that this question is being so severely felt. The question affects over a million people, and it is only for the sake of convenience that it is called an Ulster question.
How is this question to be faced? I am not an Ulsterman, but I know a great many Ulster people and I respect them. They are firm, resolute, determined, courageous men who when they say a thing mean it, and, if they mean a thing, do it. This is a great question that you cannot leave alone; and what I ask is this, Why are they when they are willing to stay in the country, when they have been devoted servants of the Empire, when they have worked for you, when they have fought for you—why are they to be driven out from your protection like this? These are the plain facts of the case. The noble Marquess opposite said it was not so hopeless as it looked. Well, there is not much 735 encouragement in those words. It is the barest comfort that can be suggested to any one. Mr. Bonar Law, in his speech on the Third Reading of the Bill, used words short and simple to Mr. Birrell. He asked the Chief Secretary, Could he say upon his honour that he believed that Home Rule could be imposed on Ulster without bloodshed? No answer was given. No Minister, no man of any position who respects his character or knows that his words carry weight, has faced that question. These men are in grim and resolute earnest. They are not mere babblers or talkers. Many of them are men of your own flesh and blood, and are of your own race. It is not a game of "bluff." They have fought your battles, they have struggled for your fame, they have honoured your reputation—what are you going to do to them if they persist in deadly earnest in the determination that they will not yield? No Minister has answered that question.
I would like, before closing, to read a few words from John Bright. The Lord President, of course, knew him intimately as a colleague and a friend in a way I cannot presume to speak of, but I had the honour of sitting in the House of Commons with him and of having some acquaintance with him. Every one who knew the way he was bound to his colleagues and to Mr. Gladstone will realise how earnestly and with what tenacious affection he would cling to them. Yet these are the words he used in 1886 in connection with Mr. Glad-stone's Home Rule Bill—I cannot consent to a measure which is so offensive to the whole Protestant population of Ireland and to the whole sentiments of the Protestants of Ulster. So far as its loyal and Protestant people are concerned, I cannot agree to exclude them from the protection of the Imperial Parliament.Those are grave words, and they announce a conclusion come to most reluctantly by Mr. Bright when he separated himself from Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues whom he loved to honour. Are the Government prepared to take the tremendous risks involved in imposing on Ulster a Bill which drives them from the protection of the laws, under which you and they have been born and bred? It is impossible to think of a graver or a more serious responsibility. If you refuse to appeal to the nation for guidance in this hour of difficulty and stress you cannot 736 say that you have not been warned. The warning has been given you in the gravest, the most earnest, and the most impressive way. Yours is the sole responsibility for the decision which you take. The Government alone are responsible, and no one can lighten the weight of their immense responsibility.
My Lords, in intervening in this debate immediately following the noble and learned Lord who has just addressed us, I am aware that I am succeeding a statesman who may be called one of the veteran leaders in the opposition to the cause of Home Rule. He has addressed to your Lordships a speech, as is always the case with him, both eloquent and humorous, and from his point of view extremely convincing. If I now venture to intervene at this moment it is because in a much more modest capacity I have been, perhaps almost as long as he has, a supporter of the opposite principle—the principle of Home Rule for Ireland. I first stood as a Parliamentary candidate in 1880, and I advocated it then. I was afterwards a humble follower of Mr. Gladstone during the great controversies of 1886 and 1893. If I venture to recall these personal reminiscences it is in order to emphasise that I am not a latter day convert to the principle of Home Rule, and that I remain as faithful to it to-day as I have been in the past.
Having made that declaration I desire to speak from the somewhat detached standpoint of an unofficial and independent Liberal. That position enables me to deal with the matter in a somewhat broader spirit that can be exhibited by those who are called upon to specially advocate a cause. I would first of all recognise that we are now discussing this question in a very different atmosphere from that which prevailed during the controversies of 1886 and 1893. At that time the most violent passions were excited, the greatest rancour existed, and all sorts of expressions were used which, happily, have been entirely absent from our discussions on this occasion. The truth is that twenty-five years have brought about a great change in the public temper. A new generation has come into existence, for whom Home Rule has no longer the terrors that it inspired in the past, who have seen its operation in different forms in other lands, and have witnessed the blessings 737 it has conferred. At the same time we have to remember that profound changes have been introduced into Ireland itself, largely, almost wholly, due to the efforts of the Party opposite, to whom I wish to give the utmost credit in this matter, by the passage of Mr. Wyndham's Land Purchase Act. That Act has, I hope, given a fair prospect of a complete settlement of the agricultural discontent which was one of the most potent causes of the inflamed public feeling when last this question of Home Rule was under review. That great measure of land purchase is still but half completed, and I am sure I can express the hope that the Government will do all in their power to further the operation of Mr. Wyndham's Act to its full completion.
During the course of this debate I have been struck not only with the different atmosphere, but also by the tone of several speeches which have been made. I do not allude only to the speech of Lord Dunraven, who has long been the foremost advocate of the policy of conciliation in Ireland. I would refer also to the speech based on different lines, but equally remarkable, of Earl Grey, in which he advocated the federal system. I was surprised to hear him affirm the entire antagonism which he supposed exists between nationalism and federalism. I agree entirely with the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack that there is nothing in the measure which conflicts at all with the extension of federal principles to other parts of Great Britain. An admirable speech was made last night by Lord Killanin, who, although he takes up a position quite opposed to the principle of Home Rule, spoke in a sympathetic way of the majority of his fellow citizens in Ireland, which was and is very hopeful. We had a further speech from another noble Lord who comes from Ireland, Lord Oranmore and Browne, who lives most of the year amongst his fellow-countrymen. His speech also, though he resists the measure, was, I thought, encouraging by reason of its tone and temper. If that is the case I really think the time has come when an appeal may be made to what I may call moderate opinion in this matter in order to endeavour to arrive at some sort of conciliatory process which will bring both Parties together in order to try to thrash out a measure of devolution of Irish affairs which shall be satisfactory to all parties in the State.
738 I observe that the principal objections that have been taken to this Bill on the other side are, in the first place, that Ireland no longer wants Rome Rule. On what is that statement based? I heard a noble Lord on the opposite side say that from personal observation he was quite sure that the cause of home Rule was weakening in Ireland. I turn to "Dod's Parliamentary Companion" and find that the particular district in which the noble Lord resides is represented by a Nationalist Member, and there never has been the smallest prospect of a Unionist candidate commanding the popular vote in that particular district. Surely that in itself, and also the fact with which we are all familiar, that the number of Irish Members pledged to Home Rule has never diminished but has always remained a constant quantity in spite of all that has been done in the direction of the killing by kindness policy in Ireland—surely that is significant enough as showing us that the demand for Home Rule in Ireland is deep-seated in the minds of the people. It may be a sentiment, but sentiment rules the world very largely and is not a thing that can ever be ignored. All I will therefore say is, there is positively no proof whatever that Home Rule has diminished in favour with the people of Ireland. The second objection which has been taken is that the Government have no mandate. I am afraid I am unable to assent to that proposition. There could be no elector at the last General Election who was not perfectly conscious that the first measure which would be introduced under the Parliament Act when it became law would be a measure of Home Rule for Ireland. Therefore so far as a mandate is concerned I say it not only existed, but that the last General Election was almost a direct mandate to the Government to introduce a measure of this character.
The third point upon which emphasis has been laid is with regard to the time given to the discussion of this measure in the House of Commons. I am bound to say there may be some ground for criticism, but not as to the amount of time. Fifty-nine days were given, as I understand, to the discussion of the Bill at its various stages. But it cannot be denied that under the unfortunate exigencies of the Parliament Act the Government have endeavoured to rush through Parliament three portentous measures in a time wholly 739 insufficient for the purpose. They may tell us that they were driven to do it by the circumstances of the case, but it is an unquestioned fact that certain portions of this Bill were never discussed in the House of Commons. More than that, I fear we must all admit—and it is a fault and responsibility which falls on both sides in this matter—that the new rules of the House of Commons with regard to time limit, to the "kangaroo" system, and also to the guillotine have so hampered free discussion and rendered it so difficult that it has in many cases, I know, made Members who would otherwise have taken an active part in the business of the House of Commons refrain altogether from so doing. I have heard it stated by friends of mine who do not happen to be officially associated with Party, that a kind of paralysis is creeping over the House of Commons. If that is so, it is a sad portent for the future. I hope it may not be correct. We cannot afford in a country like ours to let it be supposed for one moment that free debate or free discussion has been stilled or suppressed. It is all important that measures of this kind should receive that full examination which undoubtedly they require. Those seem to me three or four points upon which the Opposition mainly rest their case.
I come now to an examination of the Bill itself. As I have said, I have been familiar in the course of my political life with three different Home Rule Bills. Each one of those Bills was declared by its author to be a perfect measure which it was absolutely essential to be carried in that exact form in order to give contentment to Ireland. Every one of those measures proceeded on a different principle. The first one, the one of 1886, we all know was proposed on the principle of the establishment of an Irish Parliament and the reservation of certain subjects for treatment by the Imperial Parliament. In the present Bill we have another principle, that of devolution, which I believe to be the right one; but no one can say that Liberal opinion has been very constant on this essential matter. Also with regard to the retention of Irish Members, the first Bill—and my friend the noble Viscount below me (Lord Morley) was, I remember, its most eager advocate at that time—excluded altogether the Irish Members. The second one introduced them on what is called the "in and out" principle. The truth is, there has been a good deal of in and out amongst the leaders of the 740 Liberal Party on all matters affecting Home Rule. The third Bill, this Bill, introduces Irish Members of a limited number for all purposes. I do not argue whether one or other is correct, but what I do say is that the ipse dixit of a Cabinet, their asseveration, supported it is true by well disciplined followers, that this is the only possible measure which can give contentment to Ireland, is hardly justified in the light of experience. I give the greatest possible credit to the Government for introducing what I believe I am sure they think is a well-considered measure. But what I contend, and what I think I have a right to assert, is that it ought to be capable of further consideration.
Then we come to the finance of the Bill. The financial clauses are, as we know, very largely the work of one very capable gentleman, the Postmaster-General. I have no doubt that the Postmaster-General is a financier of great gifts; but no one could have listened to the speech of Lord St. Aldwyn the other night without feeling considerable doubt as to whether, on the whole, the financial provisions of the Bill did not require re-consideration. That being so, what I contend is this, not that this Bill is not a good Bill—because I am going to vote for it with all my heart—but that it is a Bill capable of improvement, that it is a Bill that ought to be freely considered, and that it is a Bill which I daresay in the course of time may be moulded into a shape which will receive the assent of both Parties. That is the hope which I desire to express at the present time. It seems to me that great responsibility now rests upon both Parties in the State. It may be all very well for the Unionist Party to say, "We will defeat this Bill and throw it out on Second Reading." But it will reappear in a very few months. Are you going to repeat the same operation time after time without giving it further consideration? What are your hopes and aspirations in the matter? You have thought for twenty-five years that Home Rule was going to die. It is still there. Are you looking for some sudden interposition of Providence, some earthquake, which is going to sweep the Government from power? Are you simply waiting for a chapter of accidents, hoping that something is going to turn up?
It does seem to me that the Unionist Leaders ought to be able to indicate in the 741 course of this debate, or at all events to take into immediate contemplation, the question of an alternative policy, in the direction of Home Rule, of course, but which would enable the Leaders of both Parties to meet together and thrash out something which will give contentment to both sides. That is the responsibility which I believe now rests upon the Conservative Party, and a no less serious responsibility rests upon the Government. The Government ought, as it appears to me, to leave wide open the door for conciliatory overtures of all kinds. They ought to be perfectly precise in saying that, although they have obtained the substance by the passage of this Bill through the House of Commons, and though they have got the Parliament Act as a reminder of the powers which they can use, they are still open to every friendly overture for the purpose of bringing about a settlement by consent. It would be a gross mistake if the Government in obedience to a somewhat too eager section of their supporters, were to hold the Parliament Act as a sword of Damocles over the head of the Conservative Party. Nothing will be obtained by threats. I should despise the Unionist Party if they submitted to threats; but I think and believe that if a different attitude were adopted, if both sides were to bring their best minds to consider this question in all its bearings, some via media would be found which would be satisfactory to all the Parties in the State. I know I shall be told that any suggested settlement also involves the serious question of Ulster. I am not going to say one single word to depreciate the resistance of Ulster. I respect the men of Ulster; I believe them to be most sincere and do not for a moment accuse them of "bluffing"; but what I say is that if the Unionist Party would only show sympathy for some measure of devolution the men of Ulster would soon fall into line. The men of Ulster have no desire to be left out of any scheme for the Government of Ireland. With them is most of the wealth and the industries and the business capacity of Ireland, and if the Government of Ireland were of a kind acceptable to them the men of Ulster would necessarily take a leading part in it, and it is right that they should so do. The choice, in short, is between a settlement with the consent of both Parties and generally acceptable, and the imposition, perhaps by force, of a plan, in its present form, repugnant to nearly half the people of these islands.
742 I have ventured to make this appeal for conciliation on two grounds. I make it, I hope, not in too sanguine a spirit when I remind noble Lords opposite that some of them are interested in far-reaching schemes of Imperial federation. I cannot follow most of them in the various schemes which, in my judgment, are based upon fallacious fiscal systems; but in their general purport and aim I generally concur. I remind them also of the fact that in every Colony of the Empire there is an Irish element, in some of them in great numbers, who will ever be hostile to any scheme of Imperial federation so long as this Irish question remains unsettled. But I approach this question from an even broader standpoint. As an ardent advocate of the cause of universal peace I have long looked forward to the day when the people of the United States of America and Great Britain might be able to come together in such bonds of intimate fellowship that all good work of progress and civilisation might be due to their common effort, but as long as you have a hostile Irish element in the United States of America so long will that remain a dream and not a fact. Give to Ireland contentment by a proper scheme of Home Rule and you will not only satisfy the people of that land itself, but you will bring into sympathy with our race all over the world the millions of Irishmen who are at present unfortunately estranged.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just addressed us in a speech of equal ability and candour—because there is no one more candid than the old Liberal Member of the House of Commons who comes up to the freer atmosphere of your Lordships' House—has more than once told us that there is a great difference between the circumstances and atmosphere in which this Bill is being discussed now and the previous occasions in 1886 and 1893. Like the noble Lord I remember both those occasions, and I sat in the House of Commons during the passage of the second Home Rule Bill. I remember the feelings that were excited and the prodigious interest with which the public followed every stage of the drama. That was due to special causes. Partly to the novelty of the experiment, partly to the towering personality of Mr. Gladstone, which excited in almost equal measure veneration and hostility, partly to the lieutenants who left his side in the struggle and some of whom 743 were cast in a scarcely inferior mould to himself; but it was also due to a cause which the noble Lord has not mentioned The public mind was deeply stirred by the fact that Ireland itself had in recent years been convulsed with crime, that the weapons with which many of the agitators fought were stained with blood, and even the leaders were supposed to be not free from suspicion. That was the main cause, I think, of the high and intense state of feeling which prevailed at that time. The noble Lord is quite right in saying that the circumstances are different now. Few if any of those conditions now prevail. The subject is almost threadbare; every argument is stale and hardly admits of reiteration. Ireland is fortunately not only free from crime but is on a steadily advancing plane of prosperity.
Noble Lords opposite who look at this condition of affairs derive, from this relative quiet in regard to Home Rule, the conclusion that the country has changed its mind about it, and that the policy of noble Lords is looked upon with general satisfaction. They point to the great majorities by which this Bill was carried in the House of Commons and to the small part that Home Rule has played in recent Parliamentary elections. All that is true, but my diagnosis of the case is rather different from theirs. I agree with a hint thrown out in the speech of the noble Lord to whom we have just listened. I believe there is growing up a complete and dangerous paralysis of the constitutional machine in this country, and that it is the first fruits and the direct consequence of the Parliament Act. This Bill has been discussed in the House of Commons in an atmosphere of gloomy unreality, with empty benches, with good speeches often unanswered, subject to the insistent demands of the guillotine and closure, by men under the conviction that the Bill represents an executive act rather than a considered legislative product of the House of Commons, and in the last resort that it is a bargain with the Irish Party. In this House we are devoting the last of four days to the discussion of this Bill, but we know that we are impotent in the matter and are as "idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean." If that is the case with regard to the two Houses on this Bill, can your Lordships be surprised if there is a complete lack of interest and a spirit of indifference in the country? Noble Lords 744 opposite say there is no great movement against this Bill. I venture to reply that there is not a vestige of enthusiasm for it. The people are occupied with schemes for social or industrial reform, they are concerned with the improvement of their own material condition, and I really believe that in the background many have the idea that in some way or other this matter will be settled, that the Bill will not pass into law, or that there may be a General Election before it is passed into law under the Parliament Act. This listlessness which is overspreading public affairs seems to me to be a heavy price to pay for the Parliament Act. It takes all the reality and the sting out of political life, and to my mind it will be a disastrous thing if the intense interest in politics of the people of this country, their pride in the House of Commons, their trust in a Second Chamber and in the last resort the consciousness of their own power, are broken down. That has been the mainspring of the vitality and the purity of our political life, and it seems to me that until you get the Constitution into a healthy condition again and enable all its members to play their part, the country will continue to be apathetic, because they see that they are powerless and that the two Houses of Parliament are equally impotent.
The noble Lord who spoke just now made an appeal to both Parties. I wonder if members of the Liberal Party realise the enormous temptation it would be to the Unionist Party equally with them to settle the Irish question. Ministers sometimes speak as if they were the only people who had an interest in solving the Irish question. But that subject—and I can speak for the more than twenty-five years that I have been in public life—has been a more consistent incubus and source of embarrassment to my Party than it has been to noble Lords opposite. Only two years ago, in the debates on the Parliament Bill, we used frequently to hear from them of the feelings with which they regarded the solid and impregnable barrier of hostile votes that existed to their policy in this House. They used to tell us that the dice were loaded against them here. Does it not sometimes occur to them that in the eighty Nationalist Members of the House of Commons the Liberal Party have also had the advantage of loaded dice? On every matter we have had to count upon the steady opposition of this phalanx of eighty men, always 745 voting with the Liberal Party independent of their convictions, so long as Home Rule remained ungranted. Do you think that we, equally with you, would not like to clear the decks of all the troubled questions of Irish administration, finance, land, and education, which have so often taken up the time of the House of Common? Of course we would. The interests of our country as well as of our Party demand it.
Then the question arises, Why do we not accept your proposal? The answer lies in the Bill itself. We have to ask ourselves, Would this Bill give us the sort of settlement that we have in view? Let us see what has taken place in this debate. We had only to listen to Lord St. Aldwyn to realise that the finance of the Bill is absolutely unworkable, and must result in constant friction between the two Exchequers and the two Parliaments, and that the divorce between the responsibility of expenditure and the power of taxation must be a source of demoralisation to the Irish people. Lord Grey has pointed out that the Bill is a fatal obstacle to the solution he would like to see, a federal system. Lord Selborne would prefer a unitary settlement, and as clearly he finds in the Bill a barrier to any such solution. Then on the first night of the debate we had Lord Dunraven, who is in favour of Home Rule, and who is going to vote for this Bill, but who, with a conscientiousness which I greatly admired, pointed out every weak anal bad point in it, and assured us of this—that there is no finality in the measure. In the concluding stages of the Bill in the House of Commons Mr. Redmond made a moving speech in which he said he accepted it as a final settlement; but side by side came another speech from Mr. O'Brien, who is a scarcely inferior authority and who said that he could not in any way regard it as a final acquittance. If Mr. Redmond regards this Bill as a final settlement, I wonder whether he will pledge himself not to use the forty-two Members who are to sit in the imperial Parliament, or so many of them as he will control, to exact better terms for Ireland in the future. We are precluded therefore from accepting this Bill as a final settlement. For every ill it might cure it would create a dozen other ills; for every sentiment it would gratify it would outrage another sentiment; for every right it effected it would perpetrate a score of wrongs. These are some of the positive weaknesses of this Bill, 746 Which have emerged in the course of this discussion.
But let us look at it from the other or negative point of view. Few will, I suppose, be found to contend that this Bill will give us peace in Ireland; it may even plunge us, although we hope not, into Civil war. Will it contribute to the peace of England or the security of the Empire? Will it save our money, improve our commerce, or render more stable our finance? We have the testimony of almost everybody who knows the House of Commons that it will not relieve the congestion of business in that House, for the simple reason that almost every question of importance affecting Ireland, excepting education, is a reserved service, and that we shall have at least forty-two Irish gentlemen there who, although numerically less powerful than the present contingent, will, I expect, be not less eloquent or less formidable, and who, perhaps, in a way will be more dangerous because of their almost irresponsible character and their fortuitous incursions into the proceedings of the House of Commons. Therefore the more you examine the Bill the more it seems to me is there very grave doubt whether it will reconcile any differences that now exist or have any finality of settlement in it.
There is another reason why in my opinion we cannot accept this Bill on Second Reading, and that is because of the Parliament Act. No one, I am sure, who intends to vote for the rejection of this Bill means to do so in any spirit of malice or revenge, because of the existence of the Parliament Act. There has been no trace of any such feeling in a single speech to which I have listened. We abominate that measure, and we hope to take the opportunity whenever we can of erasing it from the Statute-book. But those of us who frequent this House, even in its mutilated and truncated condition, have done our best to carry on its affairs, and there has been no sign of personal pique or mortification in our attitude towards this or any other measure that has come from the Government. But surely it is our duty with regard to this Home Rule Bill, which we hold has never been submitted to or discussed by the country, to give the people an opportunity in the two years allowed to them, fully to examine the measure before, by their silence, it becomes 747 law. Further, in reference to the Parliament Act, I venture to say that we should render ourselves in a manner privy to it if, because we can no longer force an appeal to the people, or because we believe that this Bill is going to be carried over our heads, we should compromise our own convictions and assist the passage of the Bill into law. These are the principal reasons why we cannot accept the advice given to us to agree to the Second Reading.
A good deal has been said in these debates of Ulster, and Lord Londonderry stated the case yesterday from the point of view of an Ulsterman with a sincerity and conviction that commanded the sympathetic attention of the House. But I approach the Ulster question from an entirely different joint of view. I look at it from the standpoint of an Englishman whose connection with Ireland is purely accidental, and almost incomprehensible, who is free from any of those passionate emotions that arise from race or residence, and who can really approach the matter to some extent with the detachment of an outsider. When I speak of Ulster I speak, of course, of the four counties, with a population of about 1,000,000, or nearly one-fourth of the Irish people. You cannot deny to that part of Ireland an individuality and unity entirely its own. That comes partly from race, partly from history, and no doubt it has been accentuated by religion. But for the purposes of the Home Rule Bill the two features of the Ulster community which strike us most are these—first, that by the qualities of industry and self-reliance it has built up a high degree of material prosperity which renders it, from the point of view of the Government, essential to any scheme of self-government in Ireland, but which from our point of view entitles it to special consideration in any settlement that is made. The second feature which we cannot omit to note is that its geographical concentration renders it a very compact, organised, and formidable body of men.
To what is the intensity of feeling which prevails in Ulster due? I do not think it has been fairly dealt with in this debate. The noble Marquess who opened the debate on Monday spoke, I think, rather slightingly of the religious feelings of Ulster as being founded on what he called "the massive rock of prejudice." Another 748 noble Lord, the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, made a speech of marked sincerity and power, but he was disposed to treat the feelings of Ulster as negligible. He told us that they were the growth of the last sixty years, that they were largely religious and not, in his view, permanent. The first participator in this debate who brought before the House with any commanding force the real case and position of Ulster was the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York. I am not going to discuss how far the Ulster feeling has a religious foundation. I should like to avoid that subject altogether. We all of us know that religion enters into it, and where religion enters into differences of this description it has a most disturbing effect. For I suppose history teaches us nothing more clearly than that, those rents and fissures which have a religious origin always have the most ragged edges and are the most difficult to heal.
The important thing is that we should be clear as to what are the Ulster objections to this Bill, altogether independent of religious feeling, for religion but imperfectly explains the attitude of Ulster. Her objection has a much wider foundation. I will not use any high-sounding terms about loss of the flag, or exclusion from the common heritage of Englishmen or forfeiture of allegiance, and so on. I will use only the simplest language such as the case itself demands. Ulster simply asks to be left alone. She wishes the laws under which she lives to be passed in future, as in the past, by the Imperial Parliament. She is content with what lawyers call the status quo. How do you propose to deal with her? In the first place, you propose to expel her from this partnership to which she is so much attached. It is not too strong to say that you turn her out of the Imperial Parliament. How do I prove that? Out of the forty-two Irish Members to be sent in future to the House of Commons it is calculated that not more than eight will be Ulster Members. In this House at the present time we have twenty-eight Irish representative Peers. I do not suppose when the almost forgotten promise in the Preamble to the Parliament Act is carried out and your new Second Chamber emerges from the limbo in which it has ever since reposed, that much consideration will be given to Irish representative Peers, and such Peers as come to this House from Ulster will not come 749 here specially on that account. Indeed it seems likely, when your scheme of constitutional reconstructon is complete, that there will not be more than twelve Ulster representatives in the two Houses of Parliament, and these twelve will be all that will be left to discuss the whole field of Imperial policy, Army and Navy, defence, trade, all the matters that concern Ireland as much as England. I say therefore it is a great and cruel deprivation to which you are asking Ulster to submit.
Then take the position as regards the Irish Parliament. You say you will force Ulster to enter the Irish Parliament, where she will be in a minority of, some say, one to four, or as it is more likely to be, of one to three. If I may adopt a domestic metaphor, you compel Ulster to divorce her present husband, to whom she is not unfaithful, and you force her to marry somebody else whom she cordially dislikes and with whom she does not want to live, because she happens to be rich, and because her new partner has a large and ravenous offspring to provide for. There is a sort of mediæval flavour about a marriage of that description which seems quite out of place in the freer atmosphere of the twentieth century. To this Parliament in Ireland she will pay the greater part of the taxation; she will contribute from Ulster the larger part of the revenue arising from Customs, and yet in the disposition of these revenue she will only have a voice of one in three, or one in four. The majority in this Parliament to whom you are committing her fortunes, her interests, and almost her very existence, will be persons whose interests are different from her own, whose occupations and trades are widely different from hers, who profess a religion different from hers, and who have hitherto in public controversy been disposed to treat her with a good deal of hostility and scorn. Yet you expect Ulster to accept that position not only with acquiescence but with humility and almost with gratitude.
You are asking too much of human nature. You are asking Ulstermen to submit to a sacrifice which not even their great love for their country can justify. And, further, Ulster is not to be given any compensation for what you are asking her to give up. Is there any respect in which Ulster will 750 gain or have her position improved? I challenge the noble Viscount (Lord Morley) to tell me in his reply if he can name a single matter in which Ulster will profit under this Bill. It seems to be worse even than that. I should judge rather that the whole position of Ulster will be imperilled, because after all her position stands upon credit, and her credit stands on the finance of Ireland, and we have been told by the greatest financial authority in this House that the finance of the Bill is bad, and by no mean authority in the House of Commons that it is "putrid." [A noble LORD: Who said that?] It was the expression used by Mr. Healy.
What justification is there for overriding these feelings on the part of Ulster? I have only heard two grounds advanced from the opposite side in the course of this debate. The first is the attitude of optimism, the sort of blind, unthinking optimism which hopes that everything will turn out well, the optimism which rests upon no experience and has no foundation in reason, and is really the optimism of the gambler in every sphere. But what right have you to be optimistic? What is there that leads any one to think that these two parties are going to settle down together in the peace and harmony which you seem to anticipate? I can see no ground.
Then the second justification is the well-known and immoral and cynical plea that minorities must stiffer or at any rate must yield. Not only that, but if they decline to yield their resistance will be treated as a public crime. It is truly astonishing to hear such an argument from the Party opposite. Ever since the great Civil War there has hardly been a rebellion or insurrection in any part of the world of a minority either suffering or fearing oppression which has not been encouraged by members of the Liberal Party in England. They have constituted themselves the international champions of the right of insurrection. They have made us the busybodies, and I suppose foreigners would say the political Pecksniffs, of the world. When Parliament and the Puritans rebelled against the King, when the American Colonies revolted, when the French Revolution broke out—in every case of an insurrectionary- movement in the small States of Europe, whether it was Italy, 751 or Greece, or Poland, or Hungary, or to go further afield, Armenia, or the Balkans, or the Sudan, always on the other side we have had sympathy with the minority which was rising against the majority, and we remember one case where a people were actually fighting against us, and we were told that they were persons rightly struggling to be free. Yet when Ulster proposes to do exactly the same thing, simply because it does not fit in with your policy, you accuse them of the wickedness of plunging the country into civil war.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Oh, yes. I do not say the noble Marquess, but over and over again in speeches of his Party I have heard the most fervid denunciations of the terrible responsibility that will rest not only upon Ulstermen if they engage in civil war, but also on those public men who contemplate it, or who regard it with any sympathy in their public speeches in this country.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl again, but I do not think he will find that any statement has been made by the Party on this side to the effect that if the inhabitants of Ulster were oppressed in the manner in which the peoples he describes have been oppressed in the past we should complain of their rising in rebellion.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I was not alluding to anything said by the noble Marquess or in this debate, but to language used outside. I accept for himself the disclaimer he has made. In the debate yesterday it was said, however, that it was intolerable that a small fragment of the Irish nation should be allowed to impose their will upon the whole nation. It all depends upon what the fragment is. When that fragment amounts to one-fourth of the people I think you have to reconsider your position. But is it the position of Ulster that they wish to impose a veto on the rest of the Irish people who desire self-government? Not, as I understand, for one moment. They are quite willing to leave the remainder of Ireland alone. What they say is, Govern yourselves, but do not govern us; and the gist of the whole matter is this—that the demand 752 of the Nationalists is not merely to govern themselves, but to govern another body of Irishmen who do not wish to be governed by them—and not merely to govern them, but to coerce them if they decline to be governed. Is it surprising if Ulster or those who sympathise with her do not accept this new version of the doctrine of the rights of the majority?
What then is the attitude of the Government towards this Ulster problem? I should judge from what has passed in the course of this debate that they have not made up their minds in the matter. But during the last six months there have been occasions when they seemed to realise the gravity of the case. The first of these occasions was on the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Commons, when Mr. Churchill made this remark—It is impossible for a Liberal Government or any British Government to treat cavalierly or contemptuously the sincere sentiments of a numerous and well defined community like the Protestant North of Ireland. We may think them wrong or unreasonable, but there they are.Well, my Lords, that undoubtedly showed more than a glimmering in Mr. Churchill's mind of the realities of the case; and a little later in the same speech he went on to say:—Do they claim separate treatment for themselves? Do they ask to be excepted from the scope of the Bill? Do they ask for a Parliament of their own or do they wish to remain here? We ought to know.If that was not an intimation of willingness on the part of the Government to consider some special treatment for Ulster, at any rate it was an invitation to Ulster to show its own hand. Three days later, in the same debate, Sir Edward Grey spoke thus—If Ulster defeats the solution which we propose or makes it impossible, we cannot afford to continue the present state of affairs. Some other solution will have to be found which will free this House and put the control of Irish affairs in Irish hands.Surely that, again, was an admission from a most important Member of the Government of the gravity of the position about to be created.
Then came an interval, and after this interval Mr. Churchill went to Dundee, and he made the famous speech, so often referred to, in which he adumbrated the idea of ten or twelve Parliaments for Great Britain. 753 It is true he said on that, occasion that he spoke for himself alone. I submit that it is very difficult for a Cabinet Minster, and particularly one so important, who, as a rule, shows no reluctance in speaking for other people as well as himself—it is difficult if not impossible for lain, so to speak, to segregate himself and to indulge in audible reflections upon a public platform. He may find relief in any private meditations he likes in the solitude of his own study. He may air them at meetings of his colleagues. I have no doubt he does. I sometimes think that there is nothing in the world which I should more like than to be concealed behind a screen at a Cabinet meeting of His Majesty's present advisers—more particularly on a day after a Suffrage debate in the House of Commons. However that may be, I do not think that Mr. Churchill can, when he makes a speech of this description in public, claim the protection that he was merely speaking on his own account with no responsibility, and, at it were, chewing the cud of private reflection on a public platform. At any rate, is quite clear that in that speech Mr. Churchill gave away the whole case for the proposed treatment of Ulster by the Government, because if Lancashire and Yorkshire may have Parliaments of their own, obviously you cannot deny Ulster, and if Great Britain will not be ruined by having ten or twelve Parliaments, clearly Ireland will not be ruined by having two or three. These were indications that there was something in the mind of the Government with regard to Ulster. But a little later, when the Committee stage in the House of Commons was reached —I do not know whether Mr. Churchill had been rebuked, or the Government had repented of their lapse into foresight, or, what is more, probable, Mr. Redmond had put down his foot—when the Unionist Party in the House of Commons moved two. Amendments, one excluding the four counties of which I have spoken, and a later one excluding the whole of Ulster from the purview of the Bill, both of those proposals were resisted by the Government and the Nationalist Party -and were thrown out by the House of Commons. So much for the attitude of the Government with regard to Ulster up to now.
What has happened in this debate? I have listened carefully for any indication from noble Lords opposite of the policy of the Government in regard to Ulster. They seem to cling to the idea that Ulster can be 754 satisfied with what they call safeguards. The Prime Minister offered more than once in the house of Commons to accept safeguards if they could he suggested, The noble Marquess also said the other day—We invite the consideration of any methods by which without altogether destroying the substance of the Nil, it can be mule less alarming to its most bitter opponents.He said also that the Government would be prepared to consider any such suggestions. That was language of the courtesy and consideration which we always expect and always receive from the noble Marquess; but does it amount to anything in practice? He invites us to make suggestions and amend the Bill; but it is not for us to amend the Bill. Is there any substantial amendment, if we do not throw out the Bill on the Second Reading, which we are likely to make, that would have a ghost of a chance of being accepted by the House of Commons? Are we to put ourselves once again into the humiliating position of putting Amendments into a Bill which will be contumeliously thrown back in our faces by the House of Commons? Is it not our view that there is no amendment which we could introduce that could possibly turn this Bill into one which we and Ulster would be willing to accept? Is not our position this, that the whole structure of the Bill is so faulty and unsound that no patchwork could make it better, and should we have any right to take a Bill conceived on lines that seem to us to approach the question from a Party and not a national point of view, to offer not a national but a Party solution, and try to transform it into something which as long as it retains its present structure it could never become? Therefore I venture to say it is not much good to ask us to move Amendments or to offer us guarantees and safeguards.
The minority in Ireland want neither guarantees nor safeguards; they want to be left alone. The only source from which I derive any real consolation as to what may happen in the time that lies before us is a passage from a speech which the noble Viscount (Lord Morley) made in May, 1911, when we were discussing the Parliament Bill. Speaking with special reference to Home Rule he used these words—Are we to suppose that the reiterated and deliberate arguments used in this House by very competent advocates are to count for nothing, and 755 that they will make no impression at all on the mind of the voter? No one can think anything of the kind. There will be all this blaze of public opinion, perhaps some sort of blaze may come from the country immediately concerned. To suppose that a Home Rule Bill is to go through those two years unchanged, unmodified for the purpose of the Government is really to show a curious ignorance it seems to me of the legislative conditions in this country.Those were significant words. All the premises in that utterance have been fulfilled, and it will be most interesting to hear from the noble Viscount how the remaining conditions to which he alluded are likely to be fulfilled also.
The noble Lord who preceded me suggested that this question might be settled, and could alone he settled, by the consultation and co-operation of all Parties. For our part we are content to see Ireland advance on her career of increasing prosperity with the institutions which she at present enjoys: but if consultation and co-operation are desired, surely the last way in which to effect that result is to adopt the methods embodied in this Bill. Reference has been made again and again to the precedent of South Africa. I happened to be in South Africa when the South African Constitution was being drawn up. The circumstances were even more difficult than those of framing a Constitution for Ireland, because the two parties were not only separated by great differences of race, religion, and so on, but had been actually engaged in war. You may almost say that the hands of the people who met in conference had been imbrued in each other's blood. How was it done? The four States elected their delegates and sent up their most important men. Those persons met in conference, first in Durban, next in Cape Town, and third, in Bloemfontein, the three capitals. They met without the embarrassing presence of the Press, and they discussed the matter in secret conclave. Between the sittings they met constantly, and I had the honour of meeting them and hearing them converse in private houses and elsewhere. Line by line, word by word, they went through the proposed Constitution. They did not approach the matter as antagonists; they approached it as statesmen. Not a single man had any desire to revive old sores or to score off the other party. They wanted to build up a new Constitution in which all could join for the benefit of the country. Something is to be learned from that. Further, when 756 the Constitution had been drawn up, it was submitted to the Parliaments of the various States concerned, and in the case of one State—Natal—of whose adhesion there was some doubt, it was actually sent on referendum to the people.
If you are constructing a new Constitution for a country sundered by great differences that is the method and those are the lines on which you ought to proceed. But they are not your lines. What you have done is, first of all, to conceal your Bill from the country at the last election, then to conceal it from your own followers until it came before the House of Commons, then to bring it before the House of Commons as an arrangement between yourselves and your Irish supporters, then to use the closure and guillotine to carry it through the House of Commons, then to use the impotence of this House to deprive us of any opportunity of dealing with it effectively, and then to wait two years under your Parliament Act in order to force this one-sided Party solution upon the country. That is the great difference between the South African solution and the solution which you have attempted, and that is the reason why I think the best thing which those who desire some sort of peaceful settlement in the future can do is to get this Bill out of the way.
This Bill absolutely prevents any peaceful solution or settlement by consent; and the reason why I respectfully urge your Lordships to undertake the rejection of the Bill this evening is not merely because it is a bad Bill, not merely because it has not been submitted to the country, not merely because its finance is rotten, or because there is no finality in it, not merely because it has been forced through the House of Commons in the manner I have described, not merely because it is resented and will be resisted by Ulster, but because as long as this Bill holds the field and is in existence, it cumbers the ground and blocks the way to any pacific solution of the Irish question, and until you sweep it aside, as I believe your Lordships are going to do, you will have no chance of building again the fabric of Irish unity.
My Lords, I must say, although many speeches in this debate have been encouraging, that the speech we have just heard augurs ill for any future harmonious settlement of this question. 757 The noble Earl who has just spoken seems to me to speak as if Ulster was Ireland or something more than Ireland, as if she was the dominant factor between II eland and the United Kingdom in settling the lines on which this question was to be decided. At the end of his speech he said, "No Bill that you bring in will satisfy us or will satisfy Ulster." Whatever the claims of Ulster may be, it is absurd to say that four counties with a preponderance of Protestants are to have the last word in the settlement of a great question such as this. The noble Earl rather confined himself to statements than to considered and serious arguments. He said, "You have accused us of playing with loaded dice by our preponderance in the House of Lords; but are you not playing with loaded dice by having eighty Nationalist Members in the House of Commons?" To talk of the elected representatives of the people, because they do not agree with your views, as loaded dice, seems to me a most absurd and, I would go so far as to say, an immoral attitude to take up towards constitutionally elected representatives. I won d ask the noble Earl whether his Party had the slightest scruple or hesitation in using those loaded dice when they were passing the Education Act of 1902. I am afraid the noble Earl is a gambler who, when the dice are in his favour, looks upon them as honest, but when they go against him considers them loaded.
I shall not delay the House by going into all the points the noble Earl made, but there are a few points I should like to touch upon, especially in regard to the way he handled the question of Ulster. We agree that Ulster does not mean Ireland; it means about one million people in four counties, of whom two-thirds, or possibly three-fourths are Protestants. The noble Earl said, "What an outrage it is that you should disregard Ulster's feelings and demands in settling the question of Ireland." Is he so sensitive with regard to Ulster because Ulster has threatened to fight and has held out threats of lawlessness, or is it because he feels that the great majority of the country as a whole ought not to override strong local convictions and sentiments in a part of it? I should be very glad to hear the noble Earl, when we come to the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, handling Wales as he proposes to handle Ulster. That will be a test of his sincerity, as Wales affords another example of a great section of the people of 758 this country not wishing to be included in the general legislation and policy of the country. The noble Earl spoke of Ulster as married to a husband whom she loved, and as being divorced from him in order to be married to a new husband whom she hated. But it seems to me, looking at the history of Ireland, that Ulster was a part of Ireland long before Ireland was incorporated in the United Kingdom, and when I look at the history of Irish life and Irish public spirit and national activity, I find they were greatest at the time of the United Irishmen and Grattan's Parliament. Ulster was then the headquarters of Irish Nationalism, and rejected and resented the idea of being under the complete domination of England. I have not looked it up lately, but my impression is that when the Act of Union was being passed Ulster was not one whit behind the rest of the independent sentiment of Ireland in resenting the Union; in fact, we know the Union was passed with the acquiescence of the Catholics bat against the voice of Protestantism which had dominated Ireland so far.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Ashbourne, said that it was very difficult to compare the attitude of Ulster toward Grattan's Parliament, because that was a Protestant Parliament whereas this will be a National Parliament. Are we going to say, because it ill be a National Parliament, that the people of Ulster are not going to take any part in it? It seems to me, if you are going to have a national Parliament, that the people of Ulster, from their past history and ascendancy, would be essentially in the forefront. The noble Earl also showed a lamentable lack of acquaintance with history when he said that Liberals had been the friends of rebellion throughout the world and yet, now that Ulster, as he says, is about to rebel, Liberals show an inclination to coerce it. Sympathy with rebellions and insurrections, very often justly provoked by misgovernment, has no doubt been expressed by Liberals in the past. I would remind the noble Earl that the reason is that Liberals have a hatred of oppression, while Tories have, in the past at any rate, displayed sympathy with arbitrary modes of government. That is the reason why Tories have not been in sympathy so often with uprisings of nations as Liberals have; but, given a rebellion on Tory lines, I have never seen any hesitation on the part of Tories to withhold their support from it.
759 When the Carlists were desolating Spain they were largely helped by English Tories; and at the time of the war between the Northern and the Southern States of America with regard to slavery, the Tories not only aided and abetted the Southern States in their desire to retain slavery but encouraged them so far as to countenance the equipment of vessels like the "Alabama," which brought down strong resentment against us at the time, and the whole thing ended in our miserable capitulation. You must examine the cause which produces the rebellion. When the rebellion has been against oppression and misgovernment, it has in the past received the sympathies of all Liberals; but when it has been in favour of arbitrary methods of government, the Tories have been anxious to show their sympathy. That is really the truth of the historical attitude of the two Parties towards rebellions. The noble Earl spoke of two Amendments which were moved in the House of Commons with reference to Ulster, one as to the four counties and the other as to the whole of Ulster. I have not looked up the divisions, but my impression is that in one case the Amendment was supported by the Conservative Party, and in the other case Sir Edward Carson said they would support the Amendment not because they believed in it but because it would embarrass the Government.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
On behalf of Sir Edward Carson I really must repudiate that, because I happened, only two days ago, to be reading his speech on that occasion. He moved the Amendment himself, and he deliberately repudiated the misinterpretation of which the noble Lord has been guilty.
I have not looked it up, and if that was not the attitude taken up by Sir Edward Carson I withdraw my remark; but, although it will be of no use for the purposes of this debate, I shall verify the facts afterwards. I have touched on the main points of the noble Earl's speech. He seemed to say the Bill was incapable of amendment, and he quoted a passage from the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, saying that it was not probable, with the acute debating power and the great ability that existed in this House, that a Bill could go for two years without being materially amended so as to satisfy the final opinion of calm men in the country. 760 If your Lordships would go into Committee on this Bill you might be able to produce Amendments which would appeal to the judgment of calm and fair-minded men in the country; but if you reject the Bill on Second Reading you deliberately prevent any such course from taking place. As your Lordships know, under the operation of the Parliament Act by refusing to discuss the Bill except on the broad question of Second Reading you shut out any reasonable scheme of Amendment which the Government could consider.
I must say that the general tone of this debate seems to me to indicate a marked change in the attitude of the House and in the attitude of what I may call public opinion on this question of Home Rule. It seems to me that there is a general recognition that the relations of the Imperial Parliament at Westminster to Irish affairs need re-adjustment and must undergo a very material modification in the direction of some wide measure of self-government for Ireland, not of a mere parish council or county council character, but giving a substantial voice in, and control of, their own affairs in Ireland to a body responsible to an elected Irish Assembly. The speech of the noble Viscount who resumed the debate on Tuesday night was one of the most stubborn in opposition to any change of any speech we have heard in the House on this Bill. Yet even he, I think, admitted that some steps might be taken in the direction of the creation of provincial local boards with some limited power of legislation in local affairs. He did not go very far, but he indicated that that might be a basis of further discussion.
In my opinion the time has come to recognise the necessity for some special legislation which shall treat Ireland, not on the principle of a symmetrical and consistent scheme of devolution such as may be applicable to other parts of the United Kingdom, but by legislation which shall recognise as historical facts the separate nationality of Ireland and the substantial differences of feeling and sentiment which have prevented the fusion of Ireland with a unified system of administration. It is the necessary policy and duty of statesmen, not simply to propose abstract legislation according to what they consider the best solution of some question, but to consider the facts 761 which surround a particular set of circumstances. That in the case of Ireland points to the absolute necessity of recognising what I may call the national dement in this matter. I think, further, that statesmen ought to be prepared to recognise the persistent demands of any large section of the community so long as those persistent demands are compatible with the safety and the important vital interests of the country as a whole. You have done that in many other cases. You have legislated for Wales; you granted them Sunday closing. You have legislated in various ways for different parts of the country, recognising that you cannot enforce what you think theoretically the best for the whole country in a part of the country which has diametrically divergent views; and, of course, you are entitled to refuse anything that strikes at the welfare and security of the country as a whole.
The noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, who spoke on Tuesday, pointed out, I think with great truth, the material progress of Ireland during the last thirty years—he might have said during the last fifty years. If material progress determined the character and the aspirations and policy of a nation, there might be a great, deal to be said for Ireland abandoning her demand for home Rule and remaining allied to her richer neighbour; but the more we have brought Irish representation to be a real reflection of the will of the Irish people, the more has her demand for self-government been emphasised. The Irish have sacrificed many things to the discipline and coercion which were necessary to give force and effect to their policy. I cannot help thinking that when the need for this strict discipline is removed by the satisfaction of their demand, their local political life will become freer and more varied, and they will gradually welcome as participators in the work of continuing Irish progress those, elements of the population which they are now forced to ostracise, and which, nevertheless, might be a valuable element in the administration, of Irish local life and government.
The noble Viscount also complained that Ireland would be worse off by the acceptance of this Bill. It may be so; but of course this Bill will be a year and a-half before it becomes law. He said he welcomed the Parliament Act because it gave time for 762 discussion. If the noble Viscount can persuade the Irish people and their representatives that this Bill is disadvantageous to them, no doubt, as the Bill is promoted to meet a demand from Ireland, it will not be found necessary to go on with the Bill, because, after all, this Bill concerns Ireland more than England. As many noble Lords may know, I have never been a Home Ruler. I believe in the unity and central Government of this country, and I said when I spoke on the Address last year and repeat now that I would not support any Bill which did not give ample securities for the direct and effective supremacy, not only of the Parliament of this country, but the general Executive of this country. I am perfectly satisfied that this Bill is as strong as it is possible to make it for the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament and of the Executive responsible to that Parliament. The Bill, I adroit, does not give all the securities it ought to give to individuals and for unpopular minorities in Ireland, but that is a matter which I have no doubt could be amended in Committee, and if your Lordships went into Committee those Amend= molts would certainly be carried by overwhelming majorities and I cannot help thinking they would be accepted elsewhere. The noble Earl quoted from the Bill of 1893 and from the American Constitution a clause about liberty and property. If that clause were put in by this House it would be an opportunity to test the good faith of the Government whether they were willing to give those securities to individuals which they have reserved to the State. There is, of course, power in the Bill for an individual who thinks he is wronged by an administrative act to take it to the Law Courts and to the Privy Council, but that is expensive and would hardly be practicable in the case of many individuals unless there was some collective body to protect individual rights. These are matters which could be strengthened by an Amendment, but that is not a question for us on Second Reading.
The question on Second Reading is, Are we prepared at this moment to face the necessity of accepting the principle of some large measure of devolution and self-government for Ireland? That, I apprehend, is the principle we are voting upon on the Second Reading. Does any one think that the demand for Home Rule is diminishing? You have been reminded of the continuous majorities of Home Rule 763 Members in Ireland, nobody daring to put up a candidate in opposition to them; and the Irish people have submitted to almost military discipline from their Members of Parliament which in their opinion was necessary to secure the coercion and the force wanted to give strength to their national demand. I cannot help hoping that we have by this Bill satisfied this national demand however much you may say this Bill does not satisfy it, because for the moment the Irish representatives say they are satisfied. While I agree that you cannot put any limit upon the aspirations and future demands of a nation, still you have this assurance of the Irish Members that under this Bill, if it becomes law, they will settle down to develop their own affairs in the best way they can, and when that is done I feel very hopeful that those large sections of the community which are at present unpopular with the large majority of the people of Ireland will be welcomed back to take their part in the administration and the local government of Ireland. That, I think and hope, will probably come about.
The details of this Bill have been subjected to strict scrutiny. Many well-founded objections have been made, and there has been a great deal of criticism, much of which is very true and forcible. The noble Duke who moved the rejection of the Bill dealt far more with Committee points than with principle. The noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, dealt almost entirely with the finance of the Bill. I shall not attempt to go into the question of finance. I have neither the time nor the special knowledge, and it would be improper for me to attempt to do so; but I listened with great interest to the observations of Lord Welby last night, which seemed to me to carry great weight, although, perhaps, they did not reach the ears of noble Lords on the other side of the House. I quite agree with Lord Curzon when he said that he hardly expected the House of Commons would accept substantial Amendments. They may not. But is it not very important that you should be prepared to set forth some counter proposals? You cannot imagine at this day that you are going on with a perpetual non possumus. You ought to show what you are prepared to concede if you are not prepared to concede Home Rule. There will, no doubt, be further by-elections, and your remedy is to appeal to the sense of the country at those by- 764 elections. You say you would like to appeal to the sense of the country Well those local elections afford you something in the nature of an appeal, and you may be quite sure, if eight or ten by-elections took place and you vent down to those constituencies and set forth what would be a fair and reasonable scheme in your opinion of local devolution and self-government, you would in that way very easily attain your desire of getting the sense of the country on this measure. You have already had these opportunities, but you have not taken advantage of this alleged hostility to Home Rule to press that point on the electors at the by-elections that have taken place up to the present. All the Party managers and candidates have tried to present to the people what they think most popular and acceptable. For a time there was an attempt to present Tariff Reform. That did not seem to be very acceptable, so they then took up the Insurance Act and the grievance of the doctors; but there was a scrupulous abstinence from the question of Home Rule.
You say there is no enthusiasm in the country for Home Rule. I quite agree. I believe the country is sink of the whole thing. This question has been going on for the last twenty-seven years, and your Lordships must remember that we are not dealing now with a period when Ireland is affected by crime and conspiracy but with a period in which the improved conditions of Ireland have had their influence, and when Ireland is working as a whole on constitutional lines, although there may be occasional ebullitions indicating the old spirit. Ireland is certainly much wealthier than she was, and most people believe that the tendency is for a still better state of things in the future. Therefore I suggest that your Lordships should give this Bill a Second Reading with a view to placing your own case, by way of Amendments, before the country. If you do not choose to do that, then you must take the responsibility of this Bill coming up again to you in the same shape and at a time when it will be less easy to amend it. Next year you will be within about six months of the final decision. Next year you may, perhaps, be willing to offer some terms of compromise in Committee; but next year the Government will be much stiffer in looking at your proposed compromise, and six months later there will be no possibility of compromise at all and you will have to take the Bill as it 765 stands, You say you are powerless to enforce the rejection of the Bill. I agree, and I think it is a very good thing that you are. But you still have the advantage of being able to amend the Bill, and the Amendments which you carried would represent the responsibility and thoughtful conclusions of the whole Party.
The most rev. Prelate who opposed the Bill said that if the Government promised to appeal to the country he would support the principle of the Bill, and he said that he had always been in favour of a large recognition of the claims of Ireland to some method of self-government. Then the noble Earl, Lord Grey, who has brought back such profitable experience and enlightenment from the Dominion of Canada, and many other noble Lords recognise the need for some form of self-government; and if a majority of this House refuse to recognise this principle I can only say that it seems to me to indicate a state of judicial blindness such as we are told the gods impose on those whom they have doomed to destruction. Can you doubt that there will always be a large majority of Irish representatives in favour of Home Rule? Assume you cut down the Irish representation to the numerical proportion their population entitles them to, that would still give you sixty-six, of whom I have no doubt at least fifty would be Nationalists, and that would be a heavy and an effective body in the House of Commons. But you have constituencies in the North of. England and in Scotland where the Irish population is a large element and determines the political conclusions of those districts. Those forces, from the operations of political expediency, have determined that Home Rile shall be incorporated as part of Liberal policy, and we have seen that occasionally Home Rule has been on the verge of being incorporated in some form or another within Conservative policy.
You have no security whatever that you can put this question aside. Suppose you contemplate some state of things which would give you a long period of political ascendancy, what is the price you would pay for it? You would have the Parliamentary machine, but you would have it with the same condition of things existing as exists at present with respect to the Irish Members. When you were in power you bribed them every three years or so 766 with various concessions. You lived from hand to mouth with them for a time, and then they went back once more into dogged opposition. That affects the Parliamentary machine much more than closures or guillotines or anything of that sort, because you have the permanent dislocation and the continual deadweight of a dogged opposition which does not care a rap for your affairs and which is ready to take advantage of any crisis to upset British policy in order to enforce Irish claims. I think after all these years, quite apart from the Parliament Act, you are bound to deal with this question, and of course the Parliament Act makes it more imperative still.
I should like to say a word or two before I sit down upon one or two points which were made especially by the noble Earl, Lord Grey. I have tried, as far as I could, to deal with the Second Reading aspect of this question and not to deal with the details. The noble Earl indicated a wish for a federal solution, and therefore objected to this Bill as not leading up to a federal solution. May I point out that a federal settlement in the first place implies a written Constitution, a limitation of the powers of the central Government, the creation of a Law Court above the central Parliament which will consider whether its Statutes are or are not ultra vireo. I should object very strongly to limiting the power of the Imperial Parliament and the fundamental Constitution of this country, which gives us one Parliament supreme for the whole country. Finally, I think history shows us that a federation cannot work well when there is great disparity between the various States, and especially when one State is more powerful than all the other States put together. The history of Holland and other countries shows that. I quite agree, if you come to federation in this country, you could not make up the federation with four units, and you would have to cut up England also into several large subdivisions for local self-government. That is contemplating a vast change which the country has never thought out, and a change which I think would be mischievous and out of the sphere of practical politics. Another thing I think history shows is—you do not create a federation by breaking up a unified Government. Federation in history has been the drawing together of a more or less number of States for central purposes which were previously more or 767 less independent. The way to relieve an overweighted central Government is not by federation but by devolution, and devolution is to my mind he proper way to relieve any overweight in the Imperial Parliament. I quite agree, therefore, with people who have said that this Bill is no help to federation but is an obstacle to it. The Bill is not constructed on federal lines, and if we are ever to come to federation the first thing we should have to do would be to repeal this Home Rule Bill which is now before us.
In dealing with Ireland we must recognise that legal incorporation has never been accompanied by organic assimilation, and it is this element, this persistent element of Irish nationality, which compels us to treat Ireland in a special way. There are facts in reference to Ireland which cannot be ignored but which need not be proclaimed and recapitulated. As the French say, it is not every truth that is of advantage to be told; and we can only hope that time and wise dealing may overlay the old strata with a new deposit of better feeling and conditions. I should be very sorry to prophecy a millennium from the policy which I am now supporting; but, as Shelley said, "Revenge and wrong bring forth their kind, the foul cubs like their parents are." Though the way is not clear and though the future may not indicate more than possibilities, perhaps probabilities, in no case certainties, of success, yet I am confident that to-day the only road to a healthy settlement and to reconciliation is in the direction, though not necessarily on the exact path, that the Bill before your Lordships indicates.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, I will relieve your Lordships from any anxiety that I am going through the somewhat discoursive oration to which we have just listened. I am not sure that what the noble Lord has said would not be applicable to almost any Bill that you could imagine, whether it had reference to the question now before the House or not. At all events, I am not going to protract the proceedings. I am only going to urge one point. I had, it is true, intended to go further into the matter, but it appears to me in the present aspect of the House that it is desirable I should confine myself to the one point which seems to me to arise here, and that is that this Bill as it is presented to us is a gross breach of faith. I think we have 768 no jurisdiction to enter into such a question as this after the pledge that was given to us, I will not say by any one particular member of the Government, but by the Government generally. Sometimes there is great difficulty in ascertaining what the pledge is, but fortunately, although I think most irregularly according to the practice of the House, we have the pledge in the Preamble of the Parliament Act, which recites—Whereas it is intented to substitute for the House of Lords as it at present exists a Second Chamber constituted on a popular instead of a hereditary basis but such substitution cannot be immediately brought into operation, and whereas provision will require hereafter to be made by Parliament in a measure effecting such substitution for limiting and confining the powers of the new Second Chamber it is expedient to make such provision as in this Act appears for restricting the existing powers of the House of Lords.Two things arise from that Preamble in the Parliament Act. In the first place, it assumes that the Constitution of the country is not in the condition in which it is to be according to the provisions of the Act. Did any one imagine who voted for that Act that opportunity would be taken when the Constitution is slumbering, and before His Majesty's Government have made up their minds what is to be our Constitution, of introducing a Bill of this enormous importance proposing to tear up an arrangement—I will call it no more than that—which has lasted 100 years, affecting a great number of interests and raising questions which of course are the most important that can be raised for the government of mankind. You are bringing that Bill in at a time when the whole of our proceedings here are a farce. I feel great difficulty in getting up any excitement upon the subject. For what is it we are doing? We are pretending to debate; we are pretending to be making laws for this country. But in reality we are doing nothing of the sort. We are in the same position as the most ordinary debating society. We can express our views, and we certainly shall without the least doubt throw out this Bill, as we are entitled to do. But what then? We are as if we were discussing the question of an adjournment and of bringing out the merits of the proposed question that is to be adjourned, but with this difference, that when we have given our judgment on the subject nothing will follow from it. I confess I feel humiliated to be discussing a question 769 as if I were endeavouring to convince my fellow-men about something when everybody knows that we are not able to effect anything by anything we may say or do. We can neither convince our fellow-men nor act upon what we ourselves are endeavouring to determine, because the Parliament Act tells us our powers are extracted. It is true that at seine time or another we are to have some of them restored, but they are not restored at present; and we are merely called upon for a barren expression of opinion which can have no operation whatever.
My Lords, I will follow the example of the noble and learned Earl who has just spoken and limit my remarks to the fewest possible. This Bill which has been brought before us is of such an outrageous character, so fatal to the unity of this country, so unauthorised by the British electorate that I think it needs no words of mine to urge your Lordships to throw it out. By this Bill one-quarter of the population of Ireland consisting of those who are most loyal and true to the King and Constitution are to be handed over to, I venture to say, the avowed enemies of this country. What was the message that Mr. Redmond, who is supposed to voice the views of the Nationalists of Ireland, sent to this country a little while ago. He told us that they hated England as much as ever their forefathers did. Judging by the utterances of the Nationalists and in the Nationalist Press, Mr. Redmond voices very fairly their views. It is to such people as these that you are going, if you pass this Bill, to hand over the lives, the liberties, and the safe-keeping of the honour of the most loyal part of Ireland.
Why have Mr. Redmond and the Nationalists forced the Prime Minister to bring this Bill forward? It is because they wish to exercise unfettered control over a country and its finances, of which in the past their Party has always been the bane. We have heard it remarked that devolution might be a solution of this problem. For those whom I venture very humbly to represent in Ireland I wish to make it clear, as far as I understand their views, and they are certainly my own, that devolution is not a solution of this problem and we absolutely decline to recognise it as such. What we have been asking for has been much more ably set 770 forth by other speakers to-night and on other days during this debate. It is simply this. For heaven's sake leave us alone, leave us in the Constitution of this country as we are at present, and leave us to pursue our way in peace. Does this Bill satisfy the Nationalists themselves? I am sure it cannot. If I were a Nationalist I would throw it back in the face of the Government with all the force of which I was capable. It is a fraud, a sham, a snare, and a delusion. Does it satisfy Ulster? Ask any one from Ulster whether he thinks the Home Rule Bill of the Government would satisfy Ulster. It is a snare and a delusion to both sides.
As regards the safeguards, Ulster will have none of them. The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, made that perfectly clear to you last night. I venture to say there is only one solution of this problem from the point of view of Ulster, and that is to be left alone. What Governments of the future may or may not think has nothing to do with me. I speak as one of the rank and file to-night, but I am speaking as one of the members of those organisations in Ireland with which I have the honour to be connected. In conclusion I have, only one word to say, and that is that the people of Ulster have warned this Government solemnly, righteously, and carefully what the result will be if they try and force Home Rule upon them. They will offer it the most uncompromising resistance, and I am perfectly certain that if the Government persist in forcing Home Rule upon Ireland the consequences must be on their own heads.
§ LORD BARRYMORE
My Lords, if I thought that this Bill was going to bring happiness and prosperity to Ireland without bringing danger and damage to this great United Kingdom and to the Empire, of which we are all so proud to think we are citizens, I would gladly vote for the Second Reading. But to my mind this Bill will disturb everything and settle nothing. It will not relieve, or only to a very slight extent, the congestion in the House of Commons. It will not get rid of the Irish Members from the House of Commons. In fact, it will only bring about a worse state of confusion, unrest, and difficulty between the two countries than exists at the present moment. Will this Bill content Ireland? The granting of a separate Irish Parliament is no new 771 experiment. As your Lordships who know Irish history are perfectly aware, there have been Parliaments in Ireland before, and what has happened to them? There was the dependent Parliament which existed before 1782, and certainly Ireland did not prosper under that Parliament. There were perpetual troubles and bickerings and rebellions of all kinds, until at length when England was in a weak position, being engaged in great wars abroad, the Independent Parliament of Grattan was wrenched from the Parliament here at Westminster. That is the history of the last dependent Parliament. What will happen to this new dependent Parliament that it is proposed to create under this Bill? Its fate will probably be the same as that of its predecessor, or probably still more the fate of the Independent Parliament of Grattan when, after seventeen years of existence, the Exchequer was nearly bankrupt, the Empire was in serious danger, and it became absolutely necessary in the interests of Ireland and of the Kingdom to which it belonged to enact the Union.
I do not want to consider this question from the Imperial point of view, great and important as that is. That is a question which has been dealt with by abler and more qualified members of your Lordships' House than myself. Nor will I consider it from the point of view of the United Kingdom, important as that also is. Neither will I consider it from the point of view of Ulster, because my Ulster friends have spoken very strongly on that subject and they know the Province far better than I do. I live in the South of I he country, in the County of Cork, and I will only speak of my own feelings as one who lives in that part of the country and give you my opinion as to the probable effects of this Bill upon the great southern portion of Ireland which I know best. We are not in the same position as our friends in Ulster. Our friends in Ulster say they will not have Home Rule. We in the South cannot say we will not have Home Rule, because we are in a considerable minority, and if Home Rule is forced upon us we shall have to bow under it and get on as best we can. But we Unionists in the South dislike Home Rule just as much as do our friends in U1ster, and we probably fear it more because we have not the power which they have to assert themselves and maintain their 772 position in the face of a Home Rule Nationalist Parliament. We have done all that we can. We have held meetings throughout the South. Every county in the three Southern Provinces has held meetings protesting against Home Rule. In the city of Cork we held two meetings, one in the largest room in Cork, containing from 1,200 to 1,300 people crammed to overflowing, and we had to hold an overflow meeting of from 500 to 600 people on the other side of the street. In addition to those meetings, young men engaged in business as clerks who were unable to come in the afternoon to our first meeting held a meeting for themselves and filled the hall, something like 1,200 of them, to protest against this Bill.
Nobody, of course, denies that there have been Irish grievances. There have been grievances connected with the land and connected with the industries of the country, which are starting to be flourishing but which alone exist in any large degree of prosperity in the North of Ireland. But such grievances as there have been the Irish Parliaments have entirely failed to grapple with. The country under these Irish Parliaments that are so fondly spoken of by the Irish Nationalists at the present moment was in a deplorable state, and the Irish Parliaments were the most hopeless of failures so far as the prosperity and the condition of the people of Ireland are concerned. There were perpetual rebellions and disturbances and coercion. Under the Parliament of Grattan, which lasted only seventeen years, there were something like fifty Coercion Acts. What Ireland has suffered from all through her history has been a want of continuity of policy and a want of security. The history of Ireland has always been composed of questions of confiscation, restoration, and reconfiscation. There has been no security or peace, and no man knew whether the property he owned or the industry in which he was engaged one day was going to be taken away from him the next. I am afraid we are suffering at the present moment to some extent, fortunately only sporadically, from demands for restoration or reconfiscation in the case of evicted tenants, under which people come back from over the water and do all they can to disturb and annoy peaceful citizens who have been working on their farms in peace for twenty or thirty years.
773 The feeling of Nationalism, of course, is very strong in Ireland. We all appreciate that, but there is no reason why because we have that strong national feeling a separate and independent Parliament should be demanded. That is not the real reason why it is demanded. The real reason is that those who demand it imagine that they are going to get a greater state of prosperity under it than they have under the existing state of things. As I have said, these Irish Parliaments entirely failed to create prosperity. It is true that for a short period the merchant classes were better off, perhaps, than they are at the present moment, and the upper classes and the land-owning classes were certainly better off; but there was never any moment in the whole of Ireland's history when the country as a whole was as prosperous and when the people from top to bottom were as prosperous and happy and contented as they are at the, present day. You have only to go through Ireland to see the difference on the face of the country, the different appearance of the farm houses and the labourers' cottages, and the way in which the men are clad and their houses are kept and the wages they are getting. These have all grown out of the policy of the Unionist Party and Government, and have been only possible under the Union. The land question is in process of being settled under the Land Purchase Act and similar legislation, and Ireland is more prosperous to-day than ever in its history.
Yet it is suggested by this Fill to tear up and destroy a system which is working so admirably. In my opinion it would be perfectly wicked and criminal to do that. All that Ireland wants now is money and credit, and it seems to me that under the financial provisions of this Bill both money and credit will be lamentably short; and I fail to see how it is possible for Ireland to continue to prosper as she has done during the last twenty-five years if she is to get into a semi-bankrupt condition as she will very shortly do under this Bill. A great deal has been said about the dangers to Protestants under an Irish Parliament. As far as the South is concerned it is perfectly true that Unionist Protestants have been absolutely ostracised since the passing of the Local Government Act. We have no chance of getting on to any board of any sort or kind. I think 774 that is more due to our politics than our religion, and I myself am not so much afraid of Protestants as such being trampled upon in the South as are many of my friends in Ireland.
I may be asked why it is, if what I say is correct, that the mass of people in Ireland still continue to vote for Home Rule. There are a good many reasons why. Most of the thinking people would very much like to give up their. Home Rule views, but people do not anywhere, especially in Ireland, like to change their opinions particularly if to do so would be unpopular. Irishmen dislike unpopularity. They have good reason to know that it does not do to be unpopular in Ireland, because very unpleasant things are apt to follow thereupon. Of course, there are a good many intelligent Home Rulers throughout the country who really are anxious to have Home Rule. There are enthusiastic patriots, men whose hearts are better than their heads, and there are nun who are politicians "on the make," a very large and dangerous class, and besides those there is the class who are simply out for plunder. The two last-named classes mingle very much together. They hope that under Home Rule they will get something which they have not got, even though that something may belong to somebody else. But I maintain that the peaceful, law-abiding, and thoughtful men throughout the country both dislike and fear Home Rule. There are thousands of men from one end of the country to the other who, if they were to talk to -me or to any of your Lordships individually, would tell us that they do not like Home Rule and that they fear the consequences, but although they speak to you and me in that way they still declare openly that they are Home Rulers anti will probably vote for Home Rule because it would be dangerous to do otherwise. But at the bottom of their hearts they are praying that your Lordships, if you have the power, will destroy this Bill, or that something or other may intervene so that it may never become law.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I do not propose to detain your Lordships more than a few moments. I believe there is one point of view, however, that has not received very much attention in this debate, and that is the extraordinary position of. Radical Peers 775 with regard to the passing of this Bill and the vote they are going to give upon it to-night. I was very glad to hear my noble friend who has just sat down call attention to that frame of mind in passing. I suppose in the whole career of the House of Lords there has never been a debate in which a more hollow simulacrum of statesmanship has been displayed by noble Lords opposite—I am not referring to the speeches; I am referring to the effective character of the debate—than in the proceedings which the country has witnessed during the last few days. It is very sad indeed. Statesmanlike, lofty, and patriotic as the speeches against this Bill have been, there is no effective force behind them of any sort at all. That is bad enough. But what is the position of noble Lords opposite? I suppose there is nobody who is hoping more heartily than they are that this Bill will he rejected by the House of Lords this evening. Their devotion to Home Rule is so shallow that they, more than anybody, must hope in their hearts that the Bill will be rejected.
What would the position of noble Lords opposite be if the Bill were to get through? Would it fit in with the career of their Party if they were to plunge Ulster into Civil war? Hollow and ineffective and inoperative as the vote will be that will be given from this side of the House, it is nothing compared with the shallow—I should like to use much stronger language if I were permitted—vote which will be given by noble Lords opposite. I do not suppose one of them will go into the Lobby without hoping most heartily in his heart of hearts at the moment he is giving it that his vote will have a different result. I am not going over the old ground of the "die-hard" movement, but I should like to know what the position of the House of Lords and of noble Lords opposite would be if they had got their own way and had created a sufficient number of Peers, as they threatened to do, to pass the Parliament Act. No doubt part of the bargain would have been that those newly-created Peers should vote for Home Rule. The Government Benches would have been packed with 500 Peers instead of being practically deserted, as they have been in the course of this debate, but the new Peers would have been in a curious position. They would either have had to desert their friends the Government, who had given them their Peerages, or 776 else they would have been in the position of voting for a Bill which would have had the effect of immediately plunging Ireland into Civil war and bringing the Government to a very speedy termination.
I do not want to go over old ground about the Home Rule question. The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, very truly said, in the forcible and eloquent speech to which we listened with so much satisfaction, that the arguments for and against Home Rule were getting rather threadbare. He devoted a great part of his remarks to Ulster. I have had the honour of going over to Ulster and finding out for myself whether or not the attitude of Ulster was genuine. I do not know, and I have not been able to discover from the speeches that have been delivered by noble Lords opposite, whether they really believe in the genuineness of the feelings of Ulstermen. They would believe in them if they had been over to Ulster. People do not walk nine or ten miles or more from the fields into the villages after a long day's harvest work carrying their children in their arms and then meet in the market place and sing hymns and pray and demonstrate in the unmistakable manner in which I have seen these people perform these offices unless they were really in earnest. There is not the slightest doubt about the genuineness of the feeling of Ulster, and I am thankful for it. I cannot speak of the deep-seated feeling of Ulster with the same authority and eloquence as did my noble friend Lord Londonderry, but having attended what has been called the Ulster Demonstration I have not the least doubt about the earnestness of the men of Ulster, and, as I say, I am thankful for it. You have found yourselves up against a thing that no promises of Peerages or of presents of money can possibly dissipate or do away with.
I did not have the opportunity of listening to the speech which the noble Lord, Lord Ashby St. Ledgers, delivered last night, but I gather that his contention was that noble Lords on this side of the House had dealt with the details of the Bill rather than with the principle of granting Home Rule to Ireland. In listening to some of the speeches against this Bill I have been rather struck with the over elaboration of arguments in favour of what is called settling the Irish question, but I would tell Lord Ashby St. Ledgers that as 777 far as I am concerned in my humble capacity it is not the details of this Bill that prompt me to vote against it and do everything in my power to resist it, and to go over to Ulster and fight by the side of the Ulstermen supposing it ever becomes law. it is not my objection to the details; it is my objection to the whole principle of separation in any shape or form. And I say, although public apathy may be made a certain amount of point of in a debate of this kind, there are thousands of thinking people in this country who object on principle to Home Rule for Ireland in any shape or form. This is not a peroration; it is the truth. They believe it will be absolutely fatal to the Empire, to the prosperity of Ireland, and to the safety of the United Kingdom.
There are thousands of the thinking portion of our fellow-countrymen on this side of the water who are not going to have Home Rule in any shape, or any substitute for it, whether it is devolution or federation or any other name you like to call it, either for Ireland or for any other part of the United Kingdom from whatever side it is proposed. There is a strong body of opinion outside this House who view all this talk about federation with a considerable amount of distrust, no matter from what quarter of the House it comes, who will object to anything of the kind, and who are determined that the proper body to govern the United Kingdom is the King, the Lords, and the Commons seated at Westminster. I f yon want to relieve the congestion of the Imperial Parliament it is pretty obvious that the best way to do it is to give the country a rest from the harassing legislation which has distinguished this Parliament, and I sincerely trust that if and when the time comes when noble Lords sitting on the Front Opposition Bench are again responsible for the government of the country the first thing they will do will be to restore' the ancient Government of the land in its effective form, and, having got the machine, give it as little to do as possible.
§ [The sitting was suspended at seven o'clock and resumed at a quarter past nine.]
THE DUKE OF MANCHESTER
My Lords, I wish to make one or two remarks upon this Bill without going over the ground which has been so much better covered by others. Ever since my boy- 778 hood I have grown up with, and lived with, and shared the sentiments and the feelings and the fears of, my fellow-countrymen in Ulster. I feel, therefore, that as an Ulsterman I have some little right to speak about the sentiments and aspirations of Ulster. I have a vivid recollection of the first Home Rule Bill of 1886 introduced by Mr. Gladstone, and I have a keener recollection of the second Home Rule Bill; and I know the dreadful feeling of fear and apprehension that went through our whole community when the other House passed the Home Rule Bills on those occasions. I also remember and sympathised with the tremendous wave of joy and relief that passed over Ulster when your Lordships' House referred the of 1893 to the verdict of the people of England, who answered in no uncertain manner. Before that happy event took place, on each occasion I saw the stern and sad preparations that were made to resist the tyranny which we knew would ensue if the verdict had been otherwise and the Home Rule Bill had passed.
Then came a long period of Unionist government, and we watched with satisfaction the dying clown of old animosities. We felt a growing sense of security, and we felt that the long period of internal struggle and internal feud had finished, as we hoped, for all time. Things between the opposing parties got better and 'better, and finally, in 1903, came the Act which has been alluded to so often in the course of this debate—Air. Wyndham's Land Purchase Act, which, as your Lordships know, has absolutely changed the face of Ireland. That good work was going on, and feelings had all died clown when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman came into power, and in 1906 I as an Ulsterman had hardly any or no alarm at all as to the prospects of the future. The Government had an enormous majority, a majority which enabled them to disregard the bludgeon of the Irish Party, and, as I say, I felt no alarm at all. I thought the whole question had died a natural and pleasant death.
But with the advent of the present Government things took on a very different complexion. All our fears were again aroused. The Nationalist Party got into a position where they were able to hold the balance of power. The Land Purchase Act, I will not say was allowed to die, but it broke down for the time being, with the 779 natural result that those who had not already benefited by it were discontented; and, finally, the People's Party ensured that the people should not be allowed to give their opinion on this subject of home Rule. The House of Commons became by the Parliament Act, or in consequence of it, an automatic voting machine. The Government pushed forward £400 a year, and the figure moved according to directions. Then indeed Ulster became restive. Then indeed threats were uttered, though possibly if the threats had not been uttered it would have been better. It would, perhaps, have been better to resist without saying anything about it. But be that as it may, threats have been uttered, and it was because Ulstermen knew that inevitably they would be called upon, if this Bill did pass, to act, and because they saw apathy in the country which might possibly allow a Bill of this sort to pass, and because, they knew if it did pass they would be called upon, not to utter threats, which possibly might have averted the calamity, but to do actions to avert that calamity which everybody on either side must have been put on their metal to avert, that things turned out as they did.
We signed our Covenant and, my Lords, it was a solemn thing. We called it the Solemn Covenant, and it is a solemn Covenant to us. We have been met with jeers from the other side; we have been met with jests about dummy rifles, and jests of every sort. I maintain that they were unworthy gibes. Your Lordships on the other side may differ from us, but you have no right to jeer at the heartfelt sentiments of a law-abiding and industrious community. Furthermore, I feel, apart from any individual right which may possibly have some weight, that it is injudicious to do so. The whole of Ulster cannot be expected to take up the cause and pursue it with the calm deliberate reasoning of your Lordships' House. Moreover, jeers are liable to arouse passions which otherwise might not have been excited. I am sure all your Lordships have been greatly impressed with the speeches on the subject of federation which we have heard. I confess that I have been greatly impressed with those speeches. But, my Lords, as was said in language that I could not possibly hope to imitate, this Bill has absolutely nothing to do with federation, and I personally feel, as Lord St. Aldwyn and Lord Curzon said, that it is a positive bar to federation. That may be, 780 and I hope it will be—and I speak as an Ulsterman—the eventual solution of this terrible and vexed question which divides Ireland, which divides the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and which, as many people have said, in a sense divides the Empire. I hope that some measure of federation—I do not know how it is to he brought about; I leave that to my superiors and my betters—may be found to be a possible solution of this question. I might gladly for that reason alone vote for the Bill—that is, if it were a measure which led towards federation or which might be said to lead towards federation. But I should still vote against this Bill, because I should be extremely suspicious. To begin with, I should vote against it because it does not give Ulster a separate status from the rest of Ireland. I believe that every possible interest of what we call Ulster is absolutely separate and distinct from the interests of the balance of Ireland. In addition, I should be extremely suspicious of a measure which, taking in Ulster and the rest of Ireland as well, took this particular vexed question as the first step towards federation. If I might be pardoned for using an American slang expression, I would say if you want to try this experiment on the dog, Ulster does not want to be the dog.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
My Lords, the noble Marquess opposite, we understand, does not intend to produce a foeman worthy of the noble Duke's steel, and I have, therefore, to follow him in this debate, although I am certainly not going to contest any part of his argument, with which I very cordially agree. All that I can do in the circumstances is to make one or two observations upon points which have arisen during the course of this long and interesting discussion. And may I begin by saying two or three words upon a complaint which has been made by more than one of the speakers on the opposite Benches, and which was made early in the debate, I think, by the noble Earl who holds a watching brief for the Irish Office, and repeated before dinner this evening by Lord Sheffield, that complaint being that many of us in dealing with this subject had directed our arguments rather to points of detail, and had avoided what Lord Ashby St. Ledgers described as anything like a frontal attack on the Bill. I must say that to my mind that is rather a surprising complaint. I should have thought that the speech 781 delivered this evening by my noble friend Lord Curzon, and the speeches of my other noble friends behind me had been sufficiently frontal to gratify the fiercest fire-eater on the Benches opposite.
We have to remember, and it is perhaps worth calling the attention of noble Lords opposite to it, that there are two propositions which we expect them to establish. In the first place, they have to convince your Lordships that a Home Rule Bill is necessary at all, and, in the second place, they have to show that this Bill is capable of fulfilling the objects which it is designed to accomplish. If we are able to show, as I think we have been able to show, that this Bill is a thoroughly ill-considered and unworkable Bill, that it is bound to fail to accomplish the objects which its framers had in view, then, to my mind, we have gone quite as far in the direction of demolishing the proposals of His Majesty's Government as if we had confined ourselves merely to arguments upon the abstract merits of Home Rule. But am quite prepared to say two or three words upon those merits also.
We have heard a good deal as to the amount of public demand for the Bill of His Majesty's Government. We have been told that it has been persistently supported by a large body of Parliamentary opinion on the opposite side. I have:—to time this evening to discuss that part of the question in detail. I will only say this, that it does seem to me to be established beyond dispute that the support given to Home Rule by noble Lords opposite and their friends has been anything but consistent support. It has been fitful and intermittent support, and it is a matter of common knowledge that they allowed their Home Rule policy to be placed in the background of their public professions, and that it only resumed the prominence which it now possesses at a particular and easily discernible moment —when the course of the elections made it perfectly clear that His Majesty's Government were not going to obtain a measure of support sufficient to render them independent of the Irish vote.
Now, my Lords, one word with regard to the Irish demand for this Bill. Let me remind your Lordships that, although we may desire to give all due consideration to the weight of public opinion in Ireland, this Bill is not a Bill which deals with Ireland 782 only. It affects the United Kingdom; it affects the Empire. We cannot, therefore, allow that Irish opinion, even if it could be assumed that Irish opinion was unanimous, is entitled to prevail without question. Now we ought not to forget that during the last two generations the Irish fraction of the United Kingdom has become steadily smaller and smaller. A hundred years ago the population of Ireland was one-third of that of the United Kingdom; twenty-live years ago it had fallen to one-sixth; now it is only one-tenth. In other words, the predominant partner, if I may borrow Lord Rosebery's phrase, is acquiring; greater and greater predominance with every year that passes.
Then we are also entitled to call to mind that Irish opinion is not solid opinion. There is the Ulster fraction, of which my noble friend behind me spoke with such force this evening. I do not think any one will be found courageous enough to say in this House that the Ulster fraction of Irish opinion is a negligible quantity in the calculation. The noble Marquess opposite spoke the other evening of what he called the aloofness of Ulster—rather a singular phrase, I thought. If he means by aloofness that Ulster has pretty clearly indicated that. she wishes you to keep your bands off her, I think aloofness is, perhaps, not a bad way of expressing that idea. The attitude of Ulster may be summed up in half a dozen words. Ulster believes that this Bill will be fatal to her best interests; she has absolutely no confidence in the safeguards which you have inserted in it; she has twice seen Home Rule fairly beaten in the open field; she bitterly resents that upon the third occasion a Home Rule Bill should be forced through Parliament under the shelter of the. Parliament Act; and she refuses to believe that you are going to coerce her into submission to a yoke which is hateful to her.
One word more about the Irish backing of this Bill. I doubt extremely whether we have a right to take it at its face value. Who are the politicians who are leading this movement? There is, I admit, a small group of extremely able, extremely industrious, extremely versatile individuals who have made this subject their own, and whose names are widely familiar. But with the exception of that little handful, the survivors of Mr. Parnell's lieutenants, the rest of these gentlemen are, so far as I am 783 aware, persons who have not made for themselves any mark in public life by their knowledge of public affairs or by their acquaintance with the great constitutional and political questions which are raised by this Bill. I find amongst them a contingent of lawyers, not, I believe—with perhaps the exceptions to which I have referred—of any great eminence in their profession; there are a number of gentlemen upon the staff of the Nationalist journals, not, I believe, of any great eminence in the world of journalism; and there are farmers, worthy people, no doubt, but not, so far as I am aware, entitled to speak with the authority of experts upon questions affecting Irish agriculture. And, my Lords, let us not forget that these gentlemen have been in most cases imposed upon the constituencies which they represent by external authority, and that they are deeply divided among themselves. I may also add that so far as their recorded opinions are known, most of them seem to have lased their support of Home Rule on their desire to have a settlement of the question on national lines—that is, on lines widely different from the lines on which this Bill is conceived.
Then as to the body of electors who lie behind these Parliamentary representatives. The large majority of them—I do not think the noble Viscount opposite will contradict me—are peasants, and I venture to think that the Irish peasant is not a very good judge of the kind of political issues which this Bill raises, and certainly when it comes to matters affecting the rest of the United Kingdom we may well hesitate before we allow the Irish peasant to have a determining voice with regard to them. These voters have been profoundly misled as to the effects which home Rule is likely to have on their country. They have been led to believe—it is a matter of notoriety—that this Bill is going to bring them a new era of affluence and prosperity. They have been told that we have intercepted the national wealth of Ireland, and that the passage of this Bill will enable it to flow once more into its proper channels. A useful antidote to that particular kind of misrepresentation was, I think, administered by the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack when he addressed the House on the Bill the other evening. He made a rather remarkable statement. He told us, assuming almost the manner of a physician prescribing for a patient, that what was really the matter 784 with the Irish peasant was that the poor fellow had had too large a share of good things for some time past; that if we went on as we were going on now we should find him getting pampered, that the English standard was altogether too high for him and that we must teach him to live according to the Irish standard. I think that will be a rather rude awakening from the golden dream of this Bill. I fear that the noble and learned Viscount's words must have sounded unpleasantly to my noble friend Lord MacDonnell, whom I see on the other side of the House. Lord MacDonnell has written some extremely interesting and instructive letters to the Press upon this subject. I happened to look at one of them the other day. The burden of his song was that the simple life would not do for Ireland at all. He wants to go on having the country pampered; he has no idea of going back to the Irish standard. On the contrary he protests against the establishment of a standard of living and administration lower than that in England. And what is the moral which he draws? He says if you do adopt a lower standard they will become a discontented people. And that is what will happen if the prescription of the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack is adopted in this case.
There is another reason for which I am inclined to discount a little the Irish verdict upon Home Rule. Ireland has been passing through a great agrarian revolution. It is a revolution which is not yet over. It has had several chapters. Ireland has had a melancholy chapter of famine and depopulation, a chapter which tells of a fall in population from eight millions to four millions. Then there has been another chapter, in its way not less melancholy—the chapter of crime, conspiracy, and disorder. We are now in the midst of a new and brighter chapter—the chapter concerned with the great policy of land purchase, the policy initiated by John Bright, carried through its earlier stages by my noble and learned friend Lord Ashbourne, and carried further forward still, and with great success, by the Government of Mr. Balfour at the time when Mr. George Wyndham was Chief Secretary for Ireland. My Lords, the concluding passages of that chapter have still to be written. I do not know whether you will write them, or whether we shall, but that they will be 785 written I, personally, have no doubt whatever. The point upon which I wish to insist is this, that Irish society and Irish public opinion are not likely to adjust themselves to the new order of things which has arisen until the great process of converting the occupiers of the soil of Ireland into its owners has been carried through to a successful conclusion.
Let us not forget that to the Irish peasant political life really begins and ends with the land. The thing is beyond dispute. To begin with, let us remember that Home Rule as a policy was entirely abortive until it became connected with the agrarian movement. The noble Marquess looks incredulous, but he may, perhaps, remember the very scanty success which attended Mr. Butt's Home Rule compared with the conspicuous success which attended Mr. Parnell's Home Rule from the moment that he associated the Home Rule movement with the land question. Every one who really knows what is going on in Ireland at this time is aware that wherever the land question has been satisfactorily settled by means of purchase there the Home Rule movement has lost the greater part of its intensity. "The whole face of the land is changing, and the spirit of the people with it." Those are Mr. John Dillon's words, and they are absolutely true. But there is a better witness still. Mr. Birrell has made a discovery which he had the courage to announce the other day in the House of Commons. He told his hearers that to his mind the completion of land purchase was even more important than Home Rule. It is not every Chief Secretary who learns a salutary lesson so thoroughly, or who has the courage to admit that he has learnt it. I think Mr. Birrell is absolutely correct, and I would venture to go so far as to say this, that if you could offer an average Irish peasant the choice by a secret vote between Home Rule and a reduction of the rent charge which he pays either to the State or to the landlord—a reduction of, say 10 or 20 per cent.—he would unhesitatingly take the cash and let Home Rule go. Both sides are committed to the completion of the policy of land purchase, and I would, if I were a Home Ruler—which I am not—be very much inclined to say to my Home Rule friends, After all, you have waited for the best part of a generation for Home Rule and no harm has come to the country; on the contrary, you have made a progress of 786 phenomenal rapidity—a progress not equalled by any other part of the community; wait a little longer until land purchase has been completed, and, in the meanwhile, in God's name leave the Union alone.
I turn for a moment to the Bill on the Table. I believe it to be a disastrous Bill, a disastrous bargain for all concerned. Ulster, at any rate, gets nothing out of it. My noble friend challenged the noble Marquess to tell him whether there was any single point in which Ulster would derive any advantage from this Bill. We know perfectly well that she derives a great many disadvantages, but she gets no compensation. What does the rest of Ireland get? It gets all the paraphernalia and trappings of self-government—Houses of Parliament, officials galore, public departments, but all these things under conditions which I venture to say no self-respecting community would accept, and which give the country the choice between that simple life which Lord MacDonnell so much deprecates and additional taxation, and preclude absolutely all possibility of a final settlement. It struck me as remarkable that Lord Ashby St. Ledgers in the course of his speech went out of his way to tell us that this was not to be regarded as the final settlement, but as a provisional arrangement pending the establishment of some general scheme of devolution which has not yet seen the light.
Then, my Lords, what does the rest of the United Kingdom gain under this Bill? We are told that this Bill is the precursor of some great measure of federation under which the Imperial Parliament is to be relieved of a great part of its duties, under which the affairs of the United Kingdom are to be better managed, and under which the British Empire is to be consolidated. If we are to believe the Prime Minister some scheme of this kind has been maturing in his brain for the last twenty-five years. Bas it made any advance? Have we ever seen even the outline of it? Will this Bill bring us one inch nearer to the federation either of the United Kingdom or of the British Empire? This Bill, from whichever point of view you regard it, is a misfit. It will not fit into any scheme of federation for this country; it will not fit into any scheme of federation for the British Empire. With regard to Imperial federation, have you during these twenty-five years taken any steps to ascertain whether any arrange- 787 ment upon this basis would be agreeable to the great Dominions? I will undertake to say that they would laugh at a proposal basing a scheme of Imperial federation upon the outline of this Bill. As for the federation of the United Kingdom, have we got beyond the nebulous effusion of the First Lord of the Admiralty, the memorable proposal that the United Kingdom should be carved up into what he called, I think, great self-governing areas, each of them, I suppose, with its own Parliament, each of them with its own Executive, each of them with its own Chancellor of the Exchequer?
The noble Marquess was evidently aware that that was a vulnerable point, and he endeavoured to guard it. How did he guard it? He told your Lordships that it was not necessary for the purposes of the federation of the United Kingdom to hammer out a slavish copy of this particular Bill. No, my Lords, perhaps not, but as my noble friend Lord Selborne well reminded him the other evening, you cannot in any scheme of federation have conditions, particularly with regard to essential matters, wholly devoid of anything like principle or consistency. I remember noticing a speech delivered by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs which seems to me to reveal with absolute sincerity the true position of this nebulous project of federation. Sir Edward Grey said that in spite of anomalies this Home Role proposal might precipitate further arrangements which it may not be difficult to make. The obscure processes by which this precipitation is to be effected I must say fairly baffle my limited understanding. The fact is that so far as this Bill is concerned, the Colonial analogy, whether you speak of Dominion federation or provincial federation, is absolutely worthless. The Dominions do not claim the right to be represented here or to send Members to meddle with our domestic affairs, the right which you are conceding to Ireland. On the other hand, they do claim complete fiscal independence, the right which you are refusing to Ireland. And finally is there not this fundamental difference between the two cases? Owing to geographical reasons Ireland is indispensable to us; we must keep her, and we mean to keep her. Is it not true that if one of the great Colonies came to us and intimated that she desired to sever her connection with us we should, no doubt with great sorrow, and after having exhausted all the 788 arts of persuasion, be obliged to yield our consent? If a similar proposal were made to us on the part of Ireland we should, I hope, intimate frankly and firmly that, while we had a battalion left, or a battery of artillery, or a gunboat, we would not tolerate anything of the kind.
One word about provincial Home Rule. I listened with great attention to the speech delivered by my noble friend Earl Grey the other evening. He is frankly opposed to this Bill; on the other hand, his suggestion is that we might adopt in the case of Ireland something like what we usually speak of as Canadian provincial Home Rule. I think the way in which he put it was, "Why not have an Ontario in Ulster, and a Quebec in the South and West of Ireland?" I have so much admiration for the interest which my noble friend takes in these great questions, and for the courage with which he attacks them, that I can assure him of my readiness to consider with a perfectly open mind any suggestion proceeding from him upon a matter of this kind, but surely it must have occurred to him that there are differences, and differences of the most fundamental nature, between the Irish situation and the Canadian situation. There are geographical differences. Look at the map. In the one case you have the United Kingdom, two compact little islands with altogether an area of 121,000 square miles; in the other case you have a vast and loosely-knit continent reaching from ocean to ocean and extending over nearly four million square miles, or, to be exact, 3,730,000 square miles.
Then there are political differences. Some of these were touched upon, I thought with considerable effect, by the noble and learned Viscount the other evening. But what, to my mind, weighs most of all is this, that the historical conditions are entirely different. The history of federation in all the great Dominions has been in the main the same. It has been a centripetal movement, a drawing together into one organised community of a number of smaller independent units. My noble friend Lord Selborne gave an interesting account of the growth of federation in South Africa. Let me remind your Lordships and my noble friend of that which happened in Canada. All that I will do is to read to your Lordships three or four lines from the famous British North 789 America Act under which the federation of Canada was brought about. They run thus—Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have expressed their desire to be federally united into one Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland…it shall he lawful for the Queen to declare by Proclamation that these Provinces shall form and be one Dominion under the name of Canada, and on and after that day these three Provinces shall form and be one Dominion under that name accordingly.My Lords, that was a marriage; what you are proposing is a divorce. In that case you were dealing with really three or rather four Provinces, each with its own Government, each with its own financial system. This is a breaking-up of the United Kingdom until now governed by one Administration and under the same financial system into a group of Provinces. All that I will add upon that subject is this, that if this question is ever to be faced something more is necessary than the mere suggestion that the system which has been tried and which has succeeded so well in Canada should also be applied to these Islands. Therefore, my Lords, I think we should look at this Bill upon its own merits and without reference to the alleged Colonial analogies.
There are two or three propositions which I think have been established by this discussion. In the first place, it seems to me beyond doubt that if this Bill were to become law and this country were ever to find itself in serious international trouble, Ireland under this Bill would be a menace to the safety of the Empire and to the stability of the Government of this country. I say nothing of tae- possibility of the refusal to pay taxes or to meet the various obligations due to this country. But I should like to put to the noble Viscount an imaginary situation. Let us assume that at such a time as I have suggested we had at Westminster a Unionist Government with a small majority. In that Parliament here there would be this little phalanx of Nationalist Members waiting their opportunity.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Not all Nationalists, but the large majority of them. In Dublin you certainly would have the Nationalist Party in power, free under this Bill, for example, to carry any resolution that they might please in the Irish Parliament; you would have a 790 Nationalist Executive; and the railways, the Post Office, the telegraphs, and, a few years hence, the Royal Irish Constabulary would be in the hands of that Executive. Now I am under the impression that one of the contingencies which the military authorities—my noble and gallant friend on the Cross Benches will correct me if I am wrong—have at various times had in their contemplation has been the possibility of a hostile raid on the Irish coast. With what hope of efficiency would the Government here set out to deal with an emergency of such a kind under the conditions which I have endeavoured to describe? If the noble Viscount tells me that any of these things are inconceivable, I shall be obliged to him if when he follows me he will tell me which of the conditions that I have assumed are in his opinion so wildly improbable as to deserve being dismissed and put altogether on one side. Until I am convinced to the contrary I shall venture to hold that these are risks which we ought not to run, and that it would be a betrayal of our trust to run them.
But, my Lords, even in times of peace I venture to maintain that if this Bill were to become law it would be a disturbing influence upon our public life, both here and in Ireland. The great attraction to many people e this Home Rule policy is that hopes are held out to us that it will give us relief from some of the cares and anxieties which at present attend our public life. I contend, on the contrary, that every clause in this Bill spells the possibility of friction. In Ulster under this Bill you will have a new Home Rule difficulty, probably more acute and more dangerous than any Home Rule difficulty of which you are aware at the present moment. Under this Bill you would have the absurdity, so it seems to me, of two Executives acting side by side in one and the same country. Under this Bill you would have at Westminster that little phalanx of Nationalist Members whose rôle is marked out for them as plainly as anything can be. They will be few in number, but they will possess infinite potentialities for mischief. They are not numerous enough to protect Irish interests at Westminster if they confine their activities to Irish interests alone. Their only chance is to demonstrate by their actions that they have to be reckoned with. The only chance for them will be to show that they can make themselves 791 felt in connection with our domestic affairs, that at any critical moment their weight can be thrown into the scale in such a manner as to determine the issue one way or the other, and in that way they will secure a vantage ground in our Parliament which they will not be slow to use whenever the occasion requires it. My Lords, all this is not prophecy. The thing has happened, and has been happening under our eyes during the last few months in this very Parliament, and I am not one of those who believe that the art of log-rolling is likely to become a lost art.
My Lords, there are other reasons which I need only touch upon in passing. What of the persecution of minorities and of obnoxious individuals? I noticed that Lord Sheffield, in the interesting speech which he delivered this evening in support of the Bill, admitted frankly that upon that point the safeguards were not sufficient, and that further safeguards were needed. If that spirit of fair play which we are told to expect in the future is really so abundant in Ireland, why is it that there are areas in which it is impossible to expect any jury to find a verdict in accordance with the facts if the case is one in which Party issues are involved? Why is it that all over the South and West of Ireland, as Mr. T. W. Russell said the other day, Protestants are being squeezed out? Why is it that, as my noble friend Lord Midleton told your Lordships the other evening, the county councils, in spite of all the smooth words which were spoken at the time when the Irish Local Government Bill was passed, have been slowly but surely cleared of every one but Nationalists? My Lords, can we be surprised if Ulster is uneasy? Can we be surprised if very little credence is attached to the reassuring words which flow so readily from the lips of the apologists of Home Rule whenever these possibilities are mentioned?
One question as to the safeguards. Remember who the men are upon whom these safeguards are to be imposed. They are the men who have announced that they mean to dethrone once for all the English Government of their country, the very Government whose supremacy is recognised in this Bill by these carefully drawn clauses. Attention has already been called to the fact that at one point the safeguards are singularly incomplete. Why is it that you have omitted from this Bill the admirable words which you 792 inserted in your own Bill of 1893, and which found a place in the Constitution of the United States of America? The noble Viscount knows the words I mean—the words which prohibit the Irish Parliament from depriving a person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or whereby private property may not be taken without just compensation. Perhaps the noble Viscount will tell us why those words, inserted in the Bill of 1893, have been refused—because they were proposed —in connection with this Bill.
Then there is the veto of the Lord Lieutenant. I own that I cannot make up my mind whether the part which the Lord Lieutenant will play in this drama is intended to be a comic or a tragic one. The noble Marquess told us that the Bill would relieve the Lord Lieutenant of his dual position. I suppose it is true that the Lord Lieutenant has a dual position to this extent, that he is the representative of the Crown in Dublin, and that he is also the head of the Irish Government and takes part in the administration of Irish affairs. But this Bill is going to create a duality infinitely more flagrant and infinitely more dangerous than the duality of which you are going to get rid. The Lord Lieutenant is an Imperial officer responsible for the safety of the country. He has under him the Irish Constabulary and the troops, and in that respect he is, no doubt, under His Majesty's Government at Westminster. But then he is also, as the head of the Irish Executive, advised by Nationalist Ministers. My noble friend Lord Midleton asked a very clear cut question upon that point the other evening. The question he asked was, Whose servant is the Lord Lieutenant really? Is he the servant of the Government here, or the servant of the Irish Executive in Dublin? I think my noble friend Lord Ashbourne asked the same question, or a question very like it. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack threw some light on the subject. He interrupted my noble friend Lord Midleton, and told him that the Lord Lieutenant would receive general instructions—I presume the instructions under which his powers would be delegated to him under the Act —and that he would receive afterwards special instructions—further instructions, I presume—as to what is to be intimated from the Imperial Government "on appropriate occasions." I confess I should like 793 the noble Viscount opposite to explain that rather cryptic utterance to us. What happens? The Lord Lieutenant receives these supplementary instructions directing him to deal in a particular manner with a particular emergency on an appropriate occasion. But then supposing the Lord Lieutenant deals with it in a manner which is not altogether to the taste of the Irish Executive. The Irish Executive thereupon resign. That means that the whole machinery of the Government of Ireland is brought to an abrupt standstill. And this is the Bill which we are told is to be the means of saving us from friction and enabling everybody to live on quiet and easy terms with his neighbour !
I venture to tell His Majesty's Government that these elaborate safeguards with which you have filled this Bill are of no greater value than the old-fashioned notice boards that you sometimes see in the country bearing a legend to the effect that, "Trespassers will be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law." The notice board is not of much use unless you have somebody to apprehend the trespasser, unless you have a Court before whom you can try him, and unless you have the means of enforcing the decision of that Court. And in this case, remember, it is the Irish Executive itself which is likely to be the principal trespasser. Everything depends upon the Irish Executive. Are you quite sure that you can trust it? I do not think Ireland has ever had an Executive of her own—I think she once had one for a time, when the country happened to be in rebellion. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack endeavoured to reassure us. He said, "Oh, do not be anxious about the Executive; it is a Statutory authority, and it cannot go beyond the provisions laid down for it in the Statute." Won't it? The powers laid down for it in the Statute are extremely wide. They are co-extensive with the sphere of Irish legislation. They include such matters as local government, public works, post offices, agriculture, education, law and justice; and on the top of all that there is a general power of making laws for "the peace, order, and good government of Ireland." I venture to say that an Irish Executive armed with powers of that kind will be conscious of its strength and will show you that it means to use it and I do not believe that in using it it will allow itself 794 to be trammelled by any of the supplementary instructions which the noble and learned Viscount seems to think can be showered upon it from time to time with the object of moderating its activities.
One more safeguard—the Senate. We note with gloomy satisfaction that a Second Chamber is a necessary ingredient even in the Irish Constitution, but the proposals of His Majesty's Government with regard to the Irish Senate show pretty clearly how their mind is moving with regard to the question of Second Chambers. In the Bill of 1886 the Senate stood at half the strength of the House of Commons; in the Bill of 1893 both Houses were smaller, but the proportion of half and half was still maintained; in this Bill the Senate will only number a quarter of the other House, the popular House. Then the term of office of the Senate, which was ten years in the Bill of 1886, fell to eight years in 1893, and it has fallen again to five years in the Bill upon the Table. I remember that when some of us tried our hands at a little Bill for the reconstruction of the House of Lords we had a clause, as this Hill has a clause, providing for joint sittings of both Houses. I was severely taken to task, I think by the noble Viscount, because he thought that my senatorial contingent was rather too numerous for his purposes. I think on this occasion we may turn the tables on the noble Viscount and ask him whether he really thinks that this exiguous band of legislators would stand much chance of making an impression upon the much more numerous members of the popular House. But my Lords, after all it does not matter very much, for I see that Mr. Healy, who is a shrewd judge of these matters, has announced that "the man who chooses to stand for the Senate is a lunatic." "Send as many as you like."
I do not intend to delay your Lordships with many observations upon the question of the finance of the Bill. That has been dealt with by my noble friend Lord St. Aldwyn, and up to the present no attempt has been made to reply to his criticisms. But this we may say, that the finance of the Bill pleases no one. Ireland—again I am obliged to quote Lord MacDonnell— will emerge from this arrangement "maimed and impoverished." Mr. Healy stigmatised the finance of the Bill by an inelegant adjective, which I think my noble friend Lord Curzon quoted; 795 he said it was "putrid." The Association of the Irish Chambers of Commerce formally demand that Ireland should be allowed to collect and to spend the revenue of Ireland. But there is another protest which I think is deserving of some attention. A wail is apparently going up from the Public Departments in Ireland which object altogether to being put on an allowance calculated upon the basis of the expenditure of the year in which this Bill becomes law. They do not see the simple life at all. I wonder whether your Lordships observed a very weighty communication from the Commissioners of National Education upon this subject. They point out that elementary education in Ireland has been to a great extent starved for a long time past. They want more schools; they want more highly paid schoolmasters; they want more inspection; they want better buildings—they want all these things, and they point out with unanswerable force that if the expenditure is stereotyped at the rate of the year in which this Bill becomes law Ireland will be faced with large additional taxation or with the starvation of one of the most useful of its Public Departments.
From the British point of view the financial proposals of the Bill are not very attractive. Ireland is much wealthier than she was in 1886 or in 1893. In spite of all that, the terms of this Bill are much less favourable to us than the terms of the older Bills. The older Bills both required a contribution from the Irish Government, and neither of them, if I remember aright, proposed an initial charge upon the British taxpayer. This Bill saddles us with a deficit of £1,500,000, with an annual bonus of £500,000, and with schemes of land purchase and old-age pensions conceived upon a very generous scale, a scale which certainly would not have obtained if these things had been done after and not before Home Rule had been granted to Ireland. We have never cavilled at this liberal, nay, this lavish expenditure upon useful Irish projects so long as Ireland remained with us inside the Union, but when we find it is proposed to allow her to set up on her own account and to have her own Customs, her own Post Office, her own Parliament, her own Executive, then I think we have a right to look a little more closely at the bargain and to ask whether it is in all respects a fair one to the people of this country. But, my Lords, quite 796 apart from the purely financial aspects of the arrangement, I suggest again that here in these financial clauses you have the raw material of endless friction and trouble. We are to collect the Irish Revenue and to pay Ireland an allowance which she can alter and can spend without our control; we can impose new taxation on her and she can impose new taxes upon us. Is this a solid foundation for a federal arrangement between the two countries? No self-respecting Government, whether framed upon National or Provincial lines, would assent to it.
But there is an even weightier bit of cricitism about which I must say one word. Before this Bill was put into shape His Majesty's Government appointed an expert Committee to advise them upon the whole question of its finance. That Committee took a great deal of expert evidence. The evidence has never been published. I do not know why it has been withheld. The report of that Committee, Sir Henry Primrose's Committee, contains some extremely remarkable statements. Roughly speaking, their conclusion was, in the first place, that the financial settlement ought above all to be a final settlement; and they said that the only foundation for such a settlement was to confer on the Irish Government "full powers for the raising of revenue as well as for expenditure in Ireland." They added—and mark these words—No other arrangement offers promise of a harmonious or convenient settlement.Then in a series of remarkable paragraphs they proceed to enumerate the advantages which in their view would follow from the kind of settlement which they would recommend. I suggest to your Lordships that it is fair to argue that if these concessions are withheld, if these advantages are not to be reaped, it follows that the new arrangement, the arrangement which has been framed in defiance of the suggestion of the Committee, will have the very faults which the Committee desired to avoid. If therefore the Primrose Committee is to be believed the financial provisions of the Bill upon the Table will be out of accord with this general policy; there will remain points of financial contact which will engender friction between the two countries and stand in the way of harmonious relations; there can be no finality; the extravagance and waste that result from too close an assimilation of the scale of expenditure in Ireland to that of 797 Great Britain will be perpetuated; and, finally, there will be in every branch of Government service a division of responsibility and a conflict of authority. What an indictment when one considers that it has been drawn up by the very Committee of financial experts whom His Majesty's Government appointed to show them the way in which they should deal with these matters !
My Lords, we have stated our case against this Bill. I submit to your Lordships that it remains unshaken by anything that has been said on the other side of the House. I do not want to suggest that the arguments are all on one side, but I do want to suggest that we have said enough to show cause why this Bill should not be forced upon the country under the machinery of the Parliament Act. I am not going at this hour of the evening to argue the question whether you have a mandate for this Bill or not. So far as I can make out, if you have a mandate it rests principally upon a speech which I delivered at Portsmouth during the election of 1910. But assuming that that oration had the weight which you are inclined to give it, I ask, Have you a mandate for this particular Bill, and, above all, have you got a mandate to pass this or any Bill through Parliament at a moment when, according to your own admission, neither House of Parliament is so constituted as to entitle it to deal with any question of really first-rate constitutional importance? I say neither House is so constituted. The House of Commons, acording to your own showing, is imperfectly constituted. You were a few hours ago going to add, I think, 2,500,000 voters to those who already enjoy the franchise. You were going to change the law as to registration, and you discovered at the eleventh hour—or was it the thirteenth hour—that the question of redistribution had to be considered as well as the question of reform. I say nothing of your readiness, if you were sufficiently pressed, to add anything between 6,000,000 and 12,000,000 women to the list of those entitled to vote. And what of this House? What of the House of Lords? You are going to give a new House of Lords to Ireland. What about our new House of Lords—the House of Lords which you have admitted you are bound by a debt of honour to provide us with. Where is our House of Lords? What right then have you, at a moment when one House of Parliament does not represent the people of this 798 country and when the other House of Parliament is not only imperfectly constituted but powerless—what right have you at such a moment to force a Bill like this through Parliament? There is only one word for it—it is a constitutional outrage, and I doubt whether one more scandalous or unpardonable has ever been committed. Some noble Lords opposite have been good enough to suggest that we should pass the Second Reading of this Bill in order to discuss it in Committee and insert Amendments in it, and the noble Marquess spoke some fair words to us at the opening of this debate upon that point. My answer is that no Amendments that we can conceive would convert this Bill into a Bill to which we could as free agents accord a place upon the Statute Book. We have had some experience of attempting to amend Government Bills. Have your Lordships forgotten what happened in the case of the Parliament Bill in 1911? We were encouraged to put Amendments into the Bill, and we did so. How many of them came back? None. They were thrown back in our faces. My Lords, the Parliament Act is now the law of the land. Our duty is plainly indicated by the provisions of that measure, and I feel sure that your Lordships will not shrink from performing it.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY)
My Lords, I am sure I am only saying what all your Lordships will echo when I express our pleasure at seeing the noble Marquess back again in this place and able to deal with complete power with the topics before him. If Lord St. Aldwyn, who succeeded me in the office of Irish Secretary a great many years ago, had been in his place to-night I would have asked him whether either of us would have credited a prophet who had told us that in twenty-seven years from that date we should be, he and I, discussing a Home Rule Bill which had passed the House of Commons by a majority of 110. The noble Marquess has dwelt with considerable strength upon the nature of the Irish demand, but I confess I do not think he was very generous when he questioned the Irish backing. He spoke of the Irish contingent, as he called them, in language which I think was not quite as generous as he usually uses. He says some of them are journalists, some are lawyers, others are I do not know what, but people pursuing all kinds of low class callings.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
All I can tell your Lordships is that it was my fortune for a good many years to be brought into close and constant contact with the Irish contingent as it is called, and I have never known men whose public spirit and unselfishness I would more willingly recognise. As for emoluments, I hear sometimes ungenerous words used on that side. I wonder what the Irish contingent have got compared with the vast plunder that was got in old days for generation after generation by noble Lords who criticise them now with some severity! Then we are told that they are deeply divided. Well, they are not the only people who are deeply divided.
There is an immense difference in regard to the temper in which this debate has been conducted in this House, and that, I am told, was the case in another place. There is a great difference between the temper shown now and that shown when the Bill of 1886 was discussed and when the Bill of 1893 was before the two Houses. What is the difference, and to what is it due? There has been no talk about thugs and bandits; there has been none of the ferocity which was then displayed. The change of temper is due, I take it, to the Land Acts. Noble Lords are very free in assuming that land policy began in the year 1903. On the contrary, the land policy which Mr. Wyndham carried well and beneficently forward in 1903 would have been perfectly impossible if you had not had the two Acts of 1870 and 1881, which made purchase a feasible operation. There is no question about that. Then there is the advance in local government. That has been a very great advance, and is entirely due to noble Lords opposite. It has worked excellently on the whole. Among other tests of the business qualities of the Irish is that where they are put on their own reponsibility the rates have gone down. One or two points may be remarked upon, and they have been remarked upon in this discussion, but they may easily pass. That Act has worked well. Then there is the Agricultural Department. I hope your Lordships will let me say a single word, not merely on a point of affectionate memory but of historic truth—namely, that it was Mr. Gladstone who came forward—the most 800 powerful man then in English public life—and used all the resources of his noble and capacious nature to bring home to his fellow-countrymen a recognition of the existence of a true and genuine national spirit in Ireland, and the fact that of that genuine national spirit there might be good use made both for England and for Ireland. If I may add one more sentence upon that point, I would say we went through dark and dismal days when the prospect of the Home Rule policy succeeding was not very hopeful; but many of us, men who have since risen to a position of recognised importance in the State, console ourselves and find compensation in the fact that those two Home Rule Bills have done much to create that change in international sentiment both on the part of Ireland and on the part of England and Scotland, and that was due to Mr. Gladstone's heroic efforts.
I do not at this hour propose to deal with all the points that the noble Marquess has made. Several of them were perfectly germane and well worthy of an answer, and on the point of finance we consider—certainly I do—that they were well answered by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack. But if anybody thinks that a great scheme of finance involving double relations between the two countries can be settled in such a way that no critic can find any fault with it, I think he must be a very sanguine person. The noble Marquess said the Irish backing was a little handful. We have had many noble Lords from Ireland here, and they have not said that; though Lord Ashbourne, who was formerly Lord Chancellor for Ireland, did say that Home Rule is not demanded by the democracy in Ireland. Then we were told by the noble Marquess and by others that if you talked to a single individual Irishman in the South and West of Ireland he would say that he did not care about Home Rule, but he would beg you not to mention it, and you must be very sure not to use language of that kind to anything like a crowd. What does that show? Surely it shows that the atmosphere of public opinion is a Home Rule atmosphere. I will not follow the noble Marquess into his conflict with my noble friend Lord Grey upon Canada and federation. For my own part, I feel the full force of the noble Marquess's reply to Lord Grey, and if there were a Division to-night upon that point I am not at all sure, 801 though federation seems to have sprung up like a mushroom in the minds of many noble Lords simply as a way of avoiding meeting the circumstances of this Bill, that I should not have gone with the noble Marquess. But I will say nothing further on that now.
As to the noble Marquess's talk of the apathy of the Irish on the subject of Home Rule, I am told—I hope noble Lords will not scoff at this—that the contributions to the Home Rule funds within Ireland, not from across the Atlantic, were larger by about £2,000 than during any year since 1879. It amazes me that it should be necessary to submit that this demand for Home Rule, wise or unwise, and whatever fortune you may think it destined to, is not a mere artificial affair. That idea amazes me, considering how many of your Lordships must be well acquainted with the real conditions of Ireland. The noble Marquess spoke of the tremendous peril in which we should be put if this Bill were passed in case we were at war. Ireland, the noble Marquess said, might menace us and become practically a confederate with our enemies. What is this community which might at such a moment join your enemies? It is a community to which the very central element in the noble Marquess's own policy is to give them about £200,000,000, credit or cash, of your money. If I thought they were likely to join our enemy, I would not lend them £200,000,000 of money. Does the noble Marquess mean —and it would imply it—that if we were at war we should have to hold Ireland as hostile country? Those are points which I think the noble Marquess will find it rather difficult to answer. Then he asked about the omission from the present Bill of the clause in the Bill of 1893 about due process of law and so forth. He asks, "Why do you omit that? It is in the United States Constitution; it was in your own Bill of 1893. Why have you left it out now?" Really, is it upon a point of that kind that you are going to throw this Bill out? If there ever was a Committee point, that is one. That was a matter raised in one of those famous conferences of which we hear so much. I wish we might hear more, and of a more fruitful kind, of those Conferences, and if this were raised there would be no kind of objection to it.
I want to ask your Lordships' attention to this point bearing directly upon the 802 centre and substance of the noble Marquess's speech. This House is rich in men who have seen countries and been responsible for governing countries far away from ourselves here, and to the men who have been observers of the conditions of government in other lands than our own I want to put this question, and I press it upon all your Lordships who are willing to listen. It is not an academic question, but one which goes to the foundation of this Bill, and I press it upon your Lordships. Can any noble Lord in this House tell me a case of a statesman or a body of statesmen trying to found a stable government upon a severance and divorce between land ownership and direct political power? I do not believe any such case can be found, and it would not be natural that such a divorce could subsist in any community. I submit that this is worthy of deep consideration. It will not affect the vote to-night, I dare say, but it may affect the thoughts of your Lordships and of the public. In any community I have ever I heard of predominant agricultural political influence has gone with the transfer of land. I will not go into the various historic cases. In Ireland the government was carried on by the great landlord class. By their own act and assent the landlords are going more or less. Who, then, will be left to possess political power? It is easy to see. There are the new owners of land, whom the noble Marquess like all of us desires to see multiplied and who are by far the largest element in the population of Ireland; a much smaller but highly important industrial class in a certain area; and then there are the officials. Who can doubt that the transfer of political power to the new propertied class is an inevitable certainty in a democratic system such as that of which we boast? Mr. Lecky—I hope the House will not grudge half a moment to the consideration of this point, which involves the ideal which lies beyond this particular Bill—said:Our object is, or should be, to create by a wide diffusion and rearrangement of landed property a new social type on a new conservative basis.That consideration leads, of course, directly to Home little in some form or other, and I take it that my noble friend Earl Grey the other night was thinking of this when he said, dwelling upon the conservative character of the new possessors if they come 803 now into possession of political power in Ireland—The fighting position taken up by Lord Lansdowne and the other Unionist leaders was to him absolutely incomprehensible, for it compels their natural allies to fire into the backs of their own troops. To continue for a day longer than was absolutely necessary in their present hopeless position appeared, from the Party point of view, to be crass stupidity.I commend that to noble Lords opposite. It exposes the fundamental weakness of the action that your Lordships are going to take to-night. The noble Marquess has been unfortunately absent, and I think has not gathered from any information the extraordinary expression of opinion and leaning that has been exhibited in the House during his absence.
We have been told that there is no finality in the Bill. That has been made a very strong point. Do any of you dream that there is finality in the rejection of the Bill? If you win some day or another under the Orange flag, which I grieve to think is being reared, do you think there will be an end of "the wearing of the green"? There were great gatherings in Belfast, of the importance of which I do not wish to say a single disparaging word—I know it well. But other gatherings just as great, just as earnest, and quite as enthusiastic took place shortly afterwards in Dublin when the Prime Minister went there. I was asked last night by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, what we were going to do with Ulster? He put it with great emphasis. I have not the least wish to shirk it, as I will presently show, but I do not believe that it is a very wise question. If it is, then I will put to noble Lords opposite a question perhaps not less unwise than the question "What are we going to do with Ulster?"—namely, "What are you going to do with Leinster, Munster, and Connaught?"
This I desire to impress on the attention of the noble Marquess. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons, I think on the Third Reading of the Bill, made a remarkable deliverance. He was discussing some speech of Mr. William O'Brien's, and he said—There is a great problem in Ireland. I admit there is a problem, and if it were possible to solve it on lines of consent, nobody would be more pleased than I.804 Your Lordships may turn this Bill out to-night if you please, but the problem, in the opinion of the noble Marquess's own colleagues, remains. Some remarkable deliverances have been made in this House during the debate on this Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Grey, said that it is admittedly necessary to settle the Irish difficulty, and in the case of our Home Rule Bill of 1886 Mr. Chamberlain suggested the very idea which the noble Earl is now putting forward. Then let us take the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, who made a powerful speech on Tuesday. What did he say? He pointed to the remedial work of the last twenty-five years, and said we should go on extending local government, promoting education, and settling land. Yes; but I was amazed when I heard the noble Viscount content himself with that, because that is the very path we have been treading for the last twenty-five years. But where are we? We are still face to face, as the noble Marquess's own colleague says, with a great problem. I cannot imagine a more extraordinary anti-climax to twenty-five years of observation than to say we had better go on just as we are doing.
Then we had the speech of the most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of York, who made perhaps one of the most interesting and serious contributions to our debate. The most rev. Prelate said—Few can deny that there is a real and an urgent Irish problem. Some recognition—I commend this observation—must be found for the persistent and sustained desire of the Trish people to have some liberty to manage their affairs in their own way.The most rev. Prelate went on—I agree that some measure of Home Rule is necessary, not only to meet the needs of Ireland but to meet the needs of the Imperial Parliament.The most rev. Prelate will, I am sure, believe that I would not use an accent of levity about him; but is it not apparent that he has reached that stage which those of us who are accustomed to political controversies recognise as the stage when serious men realise that things as they are cannot be defended? I do not believe that I am at all overstating the most rev. Prelate's view. Things as they are cannot be defended. I am afraid the most rev. Prelate was rather captured by the sugges- 805 tion, one of mushroom growth, to apply the federal system to Ireland. The federal system, may I venture to point out to the most rev. Prelate, cannot be constructed and settled in a day. Meanwhile what is to happen to Ireland? The most rev. Prelate told us that he would be satisfied if there was a General Election which would show whether the country did or did not wish that we should run the risk about Ulster. How can you go to the constituencies of the country with, "Will you or will you not have Home Rule?" You cannot put a bald plebiscite question of that kind, and I am not sure that Lord Balfour of Burleigh is persuaded that the referendum would work in such a case. What is the question going to be that you put to the country? "Are you for Home Rule?"
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
"Are you for the Bill which was thrown out by the House of Lords on January 30?" One of the objections made by the most rev. Prelate was that the powers of the Irish body should be defined and the residue left to the Imperial Parliament—in other words, enumeration versus exclusion. That particular point, which is one of great importance, was considered by the Cabinet in 1886 and in 1893, and I admit that I rather think the late Lord Herschell, then Lord Chancellor, would have preferred the other way. But I cannot imagine a poorer poster than to go to the country with: "Enumeration versus Exclusion." You cannot put a single issue. One man will vote because he dislikes Home Rule or the Home Rule Bill; another man will vote because he is against insurance.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
It all comes to that. If you have a referendum "Are you for this Bill or against it," the voter may say, "If I say I am against it I shall turn out the excellent Asquith Government in which I have full confidence." I am sure a great many of your Lordships must have had electioneering experience, and you know that this is not all done by disinterested and detached angels. Politics are politics. The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, Who spoke so powerfully earlier in to- 806 night's debate, paid me the compliment of reading out some observations of mine when I was in charge of the Parliament Act in its passage through this House. I do not draw back from a single word that I then said. That is one reason why I regret the line which your Lordships are going to take. I then said that you could not suppose that a Bill which had been exposed for a year, say, to the blaze of public opinion and was withered by it would go on. In spite of all the uncharitable, ungenerous, and, may I add, untrue, words that are used as to the character of the present Government and its members, you must know that if there was a great blaze of public opinion against this Bill we should be disarmed. I implied this when I spoke on the Parliament Bill, and I say it now. We have had talk in this discussion about the Union, and we are accused of dissolving the Union. Now the Union of 1800 may have been a wise or a most unwise proceeding. It may have been a fatal misreading of terrible forces, or it may have been—I am bound to say it, though I am afraid it will offend some—it may have been a bold recognition of an overwhelming political necessity. Then, wise or unwise, the Act of Union was the work of great and powerful minds. But what a bitter irony has history thrown upon the working of the Act of Union. What irony has followed Mr. Pitt's noble words. He said the only remedy for Ireland is this—An impartial Legislature standing aloof from local party connections, sufficiently removed from the influence of contending factions, to be the advocate or champion of neither.Aloof from local party influences ! Well, my Lords, the most systematic disregard of Mr. Pitt's noble ideal—used in other passages as well as in the one I have read—is known to history; and may I say without offence that it is in this House above all other organs of our governing machinery that that ideal of Mr. Pitt's has been most systematically disregarded. I am not going through the melancholy and dismal catalogue—you will find it most faithfully recorded by your own great Unionist historians—of reform after reform unhappily rejected here or protracted until its utility had gone.
There are two lines of cleavage in Ireland. One is religion and the other is land, on which the noble Marquess opposite has dwelt so well to-night. In this House 807 there was not over all those years, there is not now for that matter, one single direct representative of the great mass of workers on the soil, those men who had given its value to a great deal of the soil; and there was always a steady phalanx of men of commanding weight, influence, and authority—I have known some of them and respected them—who personally or by their alliances and family connections thought that their interests were wrapped up in the maintenance of the most unhapppy and disastrous land system which was ever to be found in any country half civilised. I hope the House will not quarrel with me for quoting a roughish thing said by O'Connell. He said—As for going to the House of Lords on land, you might as well talk to a butcher about fasting during, Lent.And there is some point in it. Lord Curzon said something about Ireland having been an incubus to his own Party. It is not to your Party only. This is what your historian, Mr. Lecky, said, and I commend it—There has scarcely been a period since the enactment of the Union in which Irish questions and Irish votes have not been made the chief weapons in party conflict.You reproach us now with being the servants of Mr. Redmond and so forth. Do you suppose that this is going to end? It has gone on and may go on, but it will be less likely to do so if we have a smaller number of Irish Members here, and if Irishmen are given Parliament government in their own country.
Last night the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, mentioned, as he was well entitled to do, the name of Lord Castlereagh. Castlereagh was one of Mr. Pitt's right-hand men. As I heard the noble Marquess refer to Lord Castlereagh I wondered what Lord Castlereagh would have said—Castlereagh, the stedfast friend of Catholic emancipation, the large-minded adherent of Mr. Pitt's Irish policy—if he could have seen Unionists in the name of Pitt's Union going to Derry boasting, with incendiary eloquence, they were busy re-writing the history of two hundred or more years ago, confronted with the old dangers and the old enemies, and they were going to have the old victory. What would Castlereagh have said to that? You tax us with dissolving the Union of Pitt and Castlereagh. What made the Union necessary was the extension of the franchise by Grattan's Parliament, 808 and I venture to say that what made Home Rule necessary and inevitable was the great extension of the franchise in 1884. An Amendment was moved by the noble Viscount opposite, Lord Midleton, excluding Ireland from the scope of this franchise, but the Amendment was rejected by a very large majority, and the Bill containing the Irish extension was carried in the House of Commons without contradiction. There was one speech made by a man of great oratorical powers of his own, and the bearer of a name famous in United Kingdom oratory, then Mr. Plunkett but now a member of your Lordships' House. He warned the House of Commons, in moving and passionate language—If you do this, if you admit to this new franchise the great body of Irish peasantry, we who have been friends together in supporting the Union will find that our day is over.In a debate of this kind it is well worth noting that momentous fact—
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
May I remind the noble Viscount that the point was that between 30 and 40 per cent, of those proposed to be enfranchised were illiterate?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
The point was raised expressly by Lord Randolph Churchill. He made some extremely amusing and caustic remarks upon his Leader, Mr. W. H. Smith. Party dissensions are not new. But that does not matter. A great step was taken, and although the Muse of History is a very capricious jade, I think it will be found when history is sufficiently removed from the turmoil of to-day that having taken that step it was idle to think that you could retrace it.
I submit this to your Lordships. I have no desire to figure as an oracle of political wisdom, but there is nothing worse in the whole range of the political system than irresponsible power. Any one who has thought at all about these things in theory or observed them in practice will cheerfully admit that. The whole administrative system of Ireland is sealed, stamped, and branded with irresponsibility from top to bottom, and my noble friend Lord Crewe did not go a bit too far when he said, speaking from his own experience, which is very much mine, that it was really Crown Colony Government masked and disguised. I will not go into the details, because your Lordships are well aware of them. The Chief Secretary, the responsible Minister 809 in Parliament, has to be most part of his time now, when sessions last from January to December, in London. How can he exercise direct supervision and control over his Departments, and how can the Departments keep themselves in touch with their Chief, or, for that matter, with opinion in Ireland? What responsibility is there for finance in the Irish Secretary? It is in the hands of the Board of Works, which is the British Treasury; and I would perfectly confidently appeal to any noble Lord from Ireland, whether he comes from Ulster or elsewhere, whether there is any sense of responsibility for Treasury money either in his own order or amongst humbler people. I confess I wish there was a little more sense of responsibility for the expenditure of public funds ever in this country. There are those who find us here somewhat slack, and lavish in expenditure, but in Ireland there is not a spark of sensibility for the British Treasury. It is a point of honour almost, if British Treasury money is going, to get as much as possible and on no account to let one single banknote or coin be given up. The result, of course, is wholly bad. Irresponsible power breeds irresponsible people.
Let me show how this bears upon the policy of those who aspire to be our successors. "We are going to develop in every way"—that is the new Unionist policy—"the resources of Ireland." In plain English you are going to continue this wasteful, inefficient, and demoralising system. Who is most likely to take the right measure of the resources of Ireland—the Treasury here or people it. Ireland? I remember in the early days of the Home Rule movement, when it was a question of what kind of legislative body should be set up, a clever, sharp-witted member of file Irish contingent said—I do not care what it is, provided it is in Ireland. The Protestant Synod would do.That is a very sound view. You want some body in Ireland feeling the whole atmosphere of Ireland around them. That is what you want, and that it is one of the aims of this Bill to provide.
I desire to say a few words, late as it is, about Ulster. When I was first Chief Secretary I had not been many months, I think many weeks, in Dublin Castle before I learned a pretty severe lesson as to the heat and passion of Belfast and the North-East of Ireland. I knew well enough before the dark shadow that history had for 810 long generations cast over the relations of Protestant and Roman Catholic in the North-East of Ireland. A fervent Northern Member of the House of Commons said the other day that the difficulty lies in the hostility between Churches. He said—If we thought for a moment that we should receive fair treatment from our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, and particularly from the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland, we should look upon the proposal for Home Rule in a very different way and from a very different point of view.That is a thoroughly straightforward and honest statement. The British Government is to be in the position of the Turk at the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem of preventing Greeks and Latins from cutting one another's throats. That is the ideal of some of these Northern gentlemen. When Prince Bismarck was having a controversy with the Roman authorities, one of His Majesty's diplomatic agents in Germany was requested to send him a full account of it, and he sent home fifty large printed pages which only got him down to Pope Gregory VII, and said he would send the next by the following mail. I am not going to inflict that method of treatment on your Lordships; but I ask your leave to make one or two remarks upon this matter.
The apprehension is that there is to be religious oppression and tyranny. But Mr. Walter Long said in the House of Commons—I know Ireland well; I have many relations and friends there, both Protestant and Roman Catholic; and I believe that religious difficulties will be settled by the common-sense of the people.Some of your Lordships will remember that in that great movement which has been referred to to-night, half agrarian and half political, which the iron hand of Mr. Parnell guided and controlled and which enabled him to sweep all the Liberal seats at the Election of 1885, at which time, by the way, he was co-operating with the Party opposite, Rome always looked upon the proceedings in Ireland with a cold and doubting eye, pretty often darkening into a frown. I do not see why there should be this fear of what is called the Church of Rome. So far as an Act of Parliament can either guide or enforce a principle so subtle and delicate as the principle of toleration and religious equality, Clauses 3 and 4 of this Bill have clinched and clamped that principle beyond the power of evasion. For my own part, however, I have faith in something surer than any clauses in a Bill. It is my con- 811 viction that faith in religious tolerance and religious freedom—not indifference, not sceptism, not disbelief—by one of those deep, silent transformations which do something to make history endurable, has worked itself not only into surface professions of men and women to-day, but into the manners, usages, and the whole habits of men's minds, and nothing will persuade me that this benignant atmosphere is not going to diffuse itself even in Ireland. Noble Lords opposite who have spoken in opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill have all, with one exception, told us of the good feeling that prevails between Protestants and Roman Catholics.
We have had in this debate not much, but some, of the usual reproaches about American money. The salient difference between the Old World and the New is that in the New World there is an absolute separation, so far as central government goes, between the spiritual and the temporal; and we may be quite sure, whatever else American influence in Ireland may amount to, its whole weight and force will be inevitably adverse to anything like sectarianism, oppression, or unfair play. The Orange sentiment is, and probably will always be, what it has been, whatever your Bill may be. If you get federation, the Orange sentiment will not be converted by the cleverest Bill that could be framed. But does anybody dream that the whole of the agriculturists of Ulster, all the sane and sensible people of Ulster, are members of the Orange lodges? They are not. The noble Marquess opposite would not suppose that they are. The enormous majority of countrymen in Ulster repudiate this dire tissue of suspicion and apprehension that is now being spread abroad by those who ought to know better, that there will be Civil war. It is all hypothesis. It is said that the new Irish Parliament will be guilty of every sort of enormity. It is mere hypothesis. On what theory of law or constitution is this hypothesis to give a minority who cherish it a title to menace the United Kingdom with Civil war if their veto is disregarded? Does anybody really hold such a pretension to be reasonable or even capable of a rational statement? The noble Earl, Lord Curzon, stated that he could not understand how it is that we, the Party who have always taken the side of people rightly struggling to be free, do not sympathise with Ulster. In all the cases 812 that he named—Italy, Greece, and so forth—there was actual oppression and hateful misgovernment. No one says there is actual oppression or hateful misgovernment in Ulster. It is all hypothesis. The noble Earl said he was surprised and shocked at the cynicism of the statement that the minority must yield.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Must suffer or must yield, I think he said. It comes to the same thing. You do not accept this attitude of the minority yielding. But your attitude was definitely stated the other day by Mr. Bonar Law. "Supposing," he was asked, "we submit to the electors this Bill as it stands and they approve of it, what will be the attitude of Ulster." Mr. Bonar Law replied—I cannot say what the attitude of Ulster will be, but I can at once say what my attitude will be. An election will make all the difference. We shall not then in any way, shape, or form encourage the resistance of Ulster.The minority must suffer again. Where is the cynicism? I have more to say, but I will not detain your Lordships longer. Laws reach but a little way. Constitute Government how you will, you cannot depend upon its working without the assent and the co-operation of those who are governed. We have every reason to believe that the difficulties and troubles will be overcome, that the Bill will be worked in good faith, that it will strengthen that sense of responsibility which is the very salt of freedom. My noble friend Lord Grey the other night left fall this sentence—In the self-governing democracies an almost universal sympathy with the Irish movement in favour of Home Rule is to be found.
§ VISCOUXT MORLEY
Your vote tonight is, and is meant to be, a vote against that movement and against all the principles that have made those self-governing democracies what they are. If you show to them and to the world that the British power of overcoming enormous racial and political difficulties is no longer available in this case, then indeed we may be open to some of the language used by Lord Curzon when he described the decline of influence and power in this country.
§ On Question, whether ("now") shall stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 69. Not-contents, 326.813
|Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Acton, L.||Hollenden, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V. (L. President.)||Airedale, L.||Inchcape, L.|
|Armitstead, L.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)|
|Crewe, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Ashby St. Ledgers, L.|
|Ashton of Hyde, L.||Loch, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M.||Blyth, L.||Lucas, L.|
|Northampton, M.||Boston, L.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Butler, L. (E. Carrick.)||Marchamley, L.|
|Chesterfield, E. (L. Steward.)||Charnwood, L.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Beauchamp, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Moulton, L.|
|Brassey, E.||Coleridge, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Craven, E. [Teller.]||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Pontypridd, L.|
|Granville, E.||Cowdray, L.||Reay, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Devonport, L.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Loreburn, E.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Rotherham, L.|
|Russell, E.||St. Davids, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Emmott, L.||Saye and sele, L.|
|Eversley, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Farrer, L.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Glantawe, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Glenconner, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Hereford, L. Bp.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Oxford, L. Bp.||Grimthorpe, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Haversham, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Sandhurst, L. (L. Chamberlain.)||Hemphill, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Aberconway, L.||Herschell, L. [Teller.]||Welby, L.|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Camperdown, E.||Macclesfield, E.|
|York, L. Abp.||Cathcart, E.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Chichester, E.||Mansfield, E.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Clarendon, E.||Mayo, E.|
|Argyll, D.||Cottenham, E.||Minto, E.|
|Beaufort, D.||Coventry, E.||Morley, E.|
|Bedford, D.||Cromer, E.||Morton, E.|
|Devonshire, D. [Teller.]||Curzon of Kedleston, E.||Munster, E.|
|Leeds, D.||Dartmouth, E.||Northbrook, E.|
|Manchester, D.||Darnley, E.||Northesk, E.|
|Marlborough, D.||Dartrey, E.||Onslow, E.|
|Newcastle, D.||Denbigh, E.||Orford, E.|
|Portland, D.||Derby, E.||Pembroke and Montgomery, E.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Devon, E.||Plymouth, E.|
|Rutland, D.||Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Portsmouth, E.|
|Somerset, D.||Powis, E.|
|Wellington, D.||Dundonald, E.||Roberts, E.|
|Durham, E.||Rosse, E.|
|Abergavenny, M.||Eldon, E.||Rothes, E.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Essex, E.||Saint Germans, E.|
|Ailsa, M.||Fitzwilliam, E.||Scarbrough, E.|
|Anglesey, M.||Fortescue, E.||Selborne, E.|
|Bath, M.||Gainsborough, E.||Shaftesbury, E.|
|Bristol, M.||Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Shrewsbury, E.|
|Camden, M.||Grey, E.||E. Stanhope, E.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Guilford, E.||Stradbroke, E.|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Haddington, E.||Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)|
|Exeter, M.||Halsbury, E.||Temple, E.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Harrington, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Ripon, M.||Harrowby, E.||Verulam, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Howe, E.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Winchester, M.||Huntingdon, E.||Westmeath, E.|
|Zetland, M.||Iddesleigh, E.||Wharncliffe, E.|
|Ilchester, E.||Wicklow, E.|
|Albemarle, E.||Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E|
|Amherst, E.||Kilmorey, E.|
|Ancaster, E.||Leicester, E.||Bridport, V.|
|Aylesford, E.||Lichfield, E.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]|
|Bandon, E.||Lindsey, E.||Colville of Culross, V.|
|Bathurst, E.||Londesborough, E.||Combermere, V.|
|Brownlow, E.||Lonsdale, E.||De Vesci, V|
|Cadogan, E.||Lovelace, E.||Falkland, V.|
|Cairns, E.||Lytton, E.||Goschen, V.|
|Halifax, V.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Mersey, L.|
|Hampden, V.||Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Merthyr, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Clinton, L.||Methuen, L.|
|Hill, V.||Clonbrock, L.||Middleton, L.|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Cloncurry, L.||Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)|
|Colchester, L.||Monck, L. (V. Monck.)|
|Iveagh, V.||Cottesloe, L.||Monckton, L. (V.Galway.)|
|Llandaff, V.||Crawshaw, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Peel, V.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)||Monkswell, L.|
|Portman, V.||De Mauley, L.||Monson, L.|
|Ridley, V.||De Ramsay, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|St. Aldwyn, V.||De Saumarez, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|St. Vincent, V.||Decies, L.||Mostyn, L.|
|Templetown, V.||Deramore, L.||Mowbray, L.|
|Bangor, L. Bp.||Desborough, L.||Muncaster, L.|
|Bath and Wells, L. Bp.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)||Napier, L.|
|Bristol, L. Bp.||Digby, L.||Newton, L.|
|Durham L. Bp.||Dinevor, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Exeter, L. Bp.||Dunalley, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Gloucester, L. Bp.||Dunleath, L.||O'Neill, L.|
|Liverpool, L. Bp.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Llandaff, L. Bp.||Ellenborough, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|London, L. Bp.||Elphinstone, L.||Ormathwaite, L.|
|Manchester, L. Bp.||Estcourt, L.||Ormonde, L.(M Ormonde.)|
|Peterborough, L. Bp.||Faber, L.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair.)|
|St. David's, L. Bp.||Farnham, L.||Penrhyn, L.|
|Southwell, L. Bp.||Farquhar, L.||Playfair, L.|
|Wakefield, L. Bp.||Forester, L.||Plunket, L.|
|Worcester, L. Bp.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Gormanston, L.(V. Gormanston.)||Powerscourt, L. (V. Powerscourt.)|
|Abinger, L.||Grenfell, L.||Ramsay, L. (E. Dalhousie.)|
|Addington, L.||Greville, L.||Rathdonnell, L.|
|Aldenham, L.||Grinstead, L. (E. Enniskillen.)||Rathmore, L.|
|Alington, L.||Gwydir, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Hampton, L.||Revelstoke, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Harlech, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Armstrong, L.||Harris, L.||Rothschild, L.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Hastings, L.||Sackville, L.|
|Ashburton, L.||Hatherton, L.||St. Audries, L.|
|Ashcombe, L.||Hawke, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Atkinson, L.||Heneage, L.||St. Levan, L.|
|Bagot, L.||Hindlip, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Balfour, L.||Holm Patrick, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Barnard, L.||Hylton, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Barrymore, L.||Inchiquin, L.||Savile, L.|
|Basing, L.||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfort.)||Seaton, L.|
|Bateman, L.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||Sefton, L. (E. Sefton.)|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Kensington, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Belper, L.||Kenyon, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Berwick, L.||Kesteven, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Biddulph, L.||Killanin, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Blythswood, L.||Kilmaine, L.|
|Bolton, L.||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)|
|Botreaux, L. (E. Loudoun.)||Kinnaird, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.)||Kinross, L.||Stuart of Castle Stuart, L. (E. Moray.)|
|Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)||Lamington, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)||Langford, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Braybrooke, L.||Lawrence, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Braye, L.||Leconfield, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Leigh, L.||Torphichen, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Lilford, L.||Trevor, L.|
|Calthorpe, L.||Lovat, L.||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Carew, L.||Ludlow, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Castlemaine, L.||Lurgan, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Cheylesmore, L.||Macnaghten, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Churston, L.||Manners, L.||Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.)|
|Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)||Massy, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative accordingly, and Bill to be read 2a this day three months.816
§ House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before One o'clock a.m. till a quarter past Five o'clock p.m.