§ Debate on the Amendment moved by the Marquess of Lansdowne to the Motion that the Bill be now read 2a, viz., to leave out all the words after ("That") for the purpose of inserting the following Resolution, viz., ("This House declines to proceed with the consideration of the Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the country") resumed (according to Order).
§ EARL LOREBURN
My Lords, I am not at all sure that I can do any good by taking part in this debate, because I am afraid that the doom of this Bill has already been pronounced by the noble Marquess opposite—a circumstance which has often before discouraged me in rising to address the House. But as I have for a long time been a very strong advocate of the extension of Home Rule, not only to Ireland, but to all parts of the United Kingdom, and as I think that the situation in which this country finds itself at the present time is serious, I am afraid I might hereafter have occasion to reproach myself if I did not, at all events, contribute what little I can towards the solution of this difficulty. When Mr. Gladstone first brought forward his Bill in 1886 he relied mainly upon the necessity of doing justice to Ireland. That necessity still remains, and no one feels it more keenly than I do. But since that time it has become apparent that what was needed for Ireland—a pleasure of Home Rule or devolution, or whatever you prefer to call it—is needed also, not less and perhaps even snore, for the United Kingdom as a whole.
I will not dwell upon the arguments that have been so often used: they are 966 now threadbare. Our own legislative machinery in this country has really broken down for effective purposes. The House of Commons is so congested—but that is a common-place. Many vital and intricate measures are urgently needed for the welfare of the country—housing, land, education, Poor-law rating—I need not enumerate them. Minor Bills are mainly neglected and great Pills are stamped. It is not merely that, but the House of Commons is and always has been the pivot upon the support of which the Government of the day depends. When there are many important issues together before the House of Commons the temptation to Members of Parliament to sacrifice their own opinions as to what is really best for the country is very difficult to withstand. Some are tempted to support foreign policy because they approve of domestic policy; others, of course, support domestic measures because they do not want to interfere with foreign policy; some support one Bill because they are looking forward to another Bill. All this tends to sap the independence and judgment of the Members of the House of Commons and to turn Members of Parliament largely into ciphers, dependent on the will of Ministers themselves. I do not speak with reference to the present situation or the present Government more than in regard to any other Government, past or future; and those who have been as I have for so long familiar with the House of Commons will recognise that the statement is true. All this will gradually lead us to a state of things when divisions in the House of Commons will not represent the real opinion of the House of Commons itself, but merely an anxiety to keep Ministers in power. It is an unnatural and an artificial state of things in a self-governing community, and it leads to the evils of log-rolling. There is great danger that the Cabinet also will become congested with its work, since it has to supervise the administration of the three kingdoms as well as to hold the responsibility for the entire British Empire, and particularly will the grasp of the great spending Departments elude the vigilance of overwrought Ministers. It is not immaterial to remember that among the principal spending Departments now the Treasury will have to be numbered.
The only remedy for this state of things, in my opinion—an opinion which I have 967 held for a quarter of a century—is that we should separate the business which is common to the whole United Kingdom from the business which is common to the different parts of the United Kingdom, and to remit local business, both of legislation and administration, to those portions of the United Kingdom which, from geographical and historical considerations, are naturally adapted for this treatment. There are few reflecting people at the present time who doubt that this will come; there are few who dispute in conversation that this ought to come. It is not a question of whether, but of when and how the step will be taken, because it is quite impossible to proceed as we are now with a fatigued and exhausted Parliament, and with unworkmanlike business as the result of it. I do not wish to strain in the least even the language, still less the allusions, of the noble Marquess in his speech of yesterday. I will only say that when I listened to the noble Marquess I thought that he himself was not only sensible of the truth of the general consideration to which I have been adverting, but that he was not unprepared to take a step in devolution such as I have indicated.
This Bill is, in my view, a first step toward that final consummation. Ireland is undoubtedly the first and also the most difficult of all the problems to embrace in any general scheme—difficult from financial reasons, and still more difficult from historical considerations; but most of the difficulties which confronted those who were the pioneers in this work, and to whose memory honour ought always to be rendered, have disappeared. When Mr. Gladstone first brought forward his proposals there was crime rife in Ireland in a distressing degree. Juries would not convict, and the condition of the country was one of uproar. Many of your Lordships do not recollect that time, but I recollect it, and some of the noble Lords who sit on the Front Bench opposite recollect it also full well. But, my Lords, crime has ceased. I do not mean that the country is wholly crimeless. I mean that in comparison with England, which, happily, is one of the most crimeless countries almost in the world, Ireland will bear a very fair comparison. After that there was a very serious difficulty—indeed, concurrently with it—the agrarian difficulty. My sympathy and the sympathy of everybody who knows the history of that country must largely be with 968 the owners of land who suffered so bitterly and so long, but I am glad to say that that question has also almost entirely disappeared. Remember the method of its disappearance. It has disappeared through the concurrence and the combined action of both Parties in the State. Lord Ash-bourne was the first who made the vital proposal—I grieve to think that he no longer is with us—and Mr. Wyndham also, who, unhappily, is lost to his country; but they were supported, and other measures, not particularly liked at the time, I grant, by noble Lords and hon. Members of the House of Commons of Conservative opinion, were concurred in, and a structure was built up at enormous cost. At the cost practically of a gift of£30,000,000 or£35,000,000 to the landowning classes in Ireland a system was built up which has already gone far to put an end to agrarian discontent in that country and promises to be the foundation for a happy future.
The only remaining difficulty is the difficulty of the Protestants of Ulster. I desire to ask your Lordships' candid consideration to what are the rights of Ulster. They are the same as the rights of all other parts of the United Kingdom. They are entitled to be fully assured that, they will be free from religious oppression, that they will not be subject to unfair taxation or unfair treatment, that the administration shall not be harshly or unfairly applied against them. Those things they are entitled to ask as of right and not of favour. But I will ask your Lordships whether they are entitled to say, We, who are 1–45th of the population of the United Kingdom, will not even discuss with you proposals under which we and our fellow-countrymen shall be placed under Home Rule. Are they entitled to say, We condemn you, the people of England and Scotland, to continued Parliamentary helplessness, to raw and hurried legislation, to the inevitable waste of time and money under which you have been suffering for so many years, to a continuance of your social evils unreformed, to a prolonged endurance of the hostility of Irishmen amongst the English-speaking communities in the United States of America and in the Dominions of the Crown. Are they entitled to say; We know your difficulties, but we will not tell you what we will do to assist you, because we will do nothing; we will not have Home 969 Rule in any shape, or in any form, or under any circumstances; we will not have it for ourselves if we am to be separately treated from the rest of Ireland, we will not allow it for the rest of Ireland if it is to be separately treated from us, and we will not listen to it or tolerate it for the whole of Ireland united. Is it right that they should threaten us with mutiny in the Army, with a refusal to pay taxes, with a provisional Government, and with civil war, not only in Ireland, but also in England and in Scotland?
I have put in nothing which has not been advanced by men whom personally I like, but whose political attitude is, I think, very unwise. Are your Lordships prepared to say that those are among the rights which you claim for Ulster or for any part of Ulster? How far claims of this kind and language of this kind have been encouraged by prominent members of the Conservative Party, I would prefer myself not to say. Your Lordships know what has been said, and by whom. Your Lordships are fair-minded men, and can judge whether that is a right attitude for public men to take up or to endorse. A very heavy responsibility rests upon those who encourage language and conduct of that kind, because the threats which are the threats of Ulster to day may become the threats of other parts of Ireland to-morrow; they may become the threats of industrial communities in a state of disturbance. Lessons of that kind are quickly learnt and are not very readily forgotten. In these circumstances it is that when this Bill is brought forward by His Majesty's Ministers the noble Marquess asks in effect for a Dissolution of Parliament, and professes himself confident of the result. I will not enter upon the region of prophecy, because it is notoriously very unsafe ground.
But the noble Marquess asks for a General Election or a referendum. I prefer the former. If either of them, is to come, do not at all events let us plunge into the abyss of referendum. I think a General Election may come, but it is premature to ask for it now, and I will tell your Lordships why I think so. This question lilts been 30 years before the country; the necessity is admitted, is practically admitted, by nearly all reasonable men. A measure was proposed in 1886. It was resisted, and the alternative suggestion was 20 years of 970 resolute government. My Lords, 20 years of resolute government, I think, passed. More than 20 years have passed since that time, but the claim for Home Rule is as loud as ever. ["No ! no !"] Yes, I say, the claim is as loud as ever. I have not learnt to look for the opinion of the people outside their representatives; it is a dangerous lesson for any statesman to learn. I say that the necessity is greater than ever. Then in 1893 another effort was made of a different kind, a fresh variety, and the answer was that you would "kill Home Rule with kindness." These old familiar phrases come up readily to the memory. I will not question your kindness in intention; I do not say it was unwise; on the contrary, I think it was wise. It was very expensive, but it has not killed Home Rule.
And now a third effort is made in this year. Our opponents, as before, say, No, we resist it; nothing shall reconcile us to it. But you do not in the least degree, even by hint, suggest what alternative method you propose to meet the admitted difficulty. That is the situation under which the noble Marquess asks for a General Election. If you get a General Election—I do not know whether you will or not—and you should lose it, may I ask, Are we to understand that the noble Marquess would then support this Bill? I do not receive any answer. It seems to me a very strange thing to ask for a Dissolution unless you are prepared to be bound by the result; and it would be a very strange thing, I must also add, if the noble Marquess said he was going to be bound by the result when he holds the opinion about the Bill which he has so eloquently expressed to your Lordships. Does not that suggest to him that lie is in a somewhat false position in asking for a General Election? But supposing you were to win the General Election, I, for one, would be heartily sorry for you then, because you would be confronted with exactly the same difficulties that face the Government at this moment. You would be obliged to come forward with proposals to relieve the House of Commons from the congestion of business which is throttling its utility, and you would have against you in Ireland, not one-half of a Province, but three Provinces and a-half. That would be your position.
I do not know whether your Lordships have allowed your imagination to forecast 971 what would be in point of fact the actual position of the noble Marquess and his friends if they found themselves in that situation. No, my Lords, the time may come for a General Election, but if it came now, whatever alternative you take, whether you win it or whether you lose it, the country would be the sufferer. Let the noble Marquess first say what is the remedy that he proposes for the admitted difficulty in which we all stand. When he has said that, let it be seen whether it is possible, by concession, by consultation, and, above all, by real goodwill, thinking of the interests of the country alone, whether those difficulties can be composed and an adequate settlement, with the consent of all parties in Leland as well as here, reached. If that cannot be done, if we have so far lost what our fathers possessed, the faculty of dealing with great affairs of State and of solving difficulties which have proved insoluble in many other countries—then will be the time to go before the country and say, "Here is what we propose; here is what is proposed by our opponents; judge you, the people of this country, between us." That would be the time to ask for a General Election, but not when only one proposal, which you think odious and impossible, is put forward before the country, and when we are confronted with the dilemma that if the Government win the election they will be passing into law a Bill which you consider impossible and certain to lead to trouble, while if you win it the result will be that no difficulties will have disappeared but you will have to do the same thing then which I think you ought to do now—namely, contribute the best that you can according to your abilities and according to your love of your country towards the settlement of a great emergency. That is my view, which I venture to submit for the consideration of your Lordships. The truth is that we are at this time in the midst of a great national crisis, which we should be foolish to shut our eyes to.
§ EARL LOREBURN
Who created it? History, mainly, has created it. Any who know what the history of Ireland is are not surprised at some of the developments which have taken place of late. I say we have a great national crisis to deal 972 with, which is the result of many generations of mistaken government in Ireland; and the Constitution of this country is also in need of reform—the constitution of the House of Commons as well as that of the House of Lords. A comprehensive settlement by consent is required, if it is possible. I think I know what a great Conservative statesman would say at this juncture if he was speaking in the Palace of Truth and had shaken himself free from that which afflicts a good many of us, the caucus and the wire-pullers. I think he would say, This subject has been long enough, has been too long, treated as the battle ground of political parties; you have gained glorious victories upon this ground, but the quarry is nearly exhausted, and it is time that the interests of the country should be considered. He would say, The United Kingdom is an aggregation of several nations, fairly homogeneous in race, but not homogeneous in history; it contains millions of men of many creeds—and a difference of creed has been hitherto one of the most fruitful sources of human discord—and I do not like the recrudescence of religious bigotry and will do nothing to encourage it.
I believe also that a Conservative statesman would recognise that there is a great deal of restlessness and impatience at certain intolerable conditions of life and industry in this country which might be cured. He would recognise that lawlessness will only aggravate it, and that the example of lawlessness is contagious. I do not think that any great statesman, either upon the Conservative or upon any other side, likes threats of violence and anarchy, or the veiled support of them, by men of influence, however well-intentioned they may be; and I believe that the true course, the course which a great statesman would take—and I acknowledge that the noble Marquess answers that description would be to say this, I will tell you, not merely what you ought not to do, but what I think you ought to do in order to appease animosities in Ireland, in order to enable our own people to settle their constitutional difficulties and to face the internal embarrassments with which they are confronted. I think it is not creditable to a great nation like ourselves, renowned for practical statesmanship, that we should sit like fatalists awaiting some inevitable destiny, and not make a common effort to see if we could not avert it.
973 I think, if I may venture to say so, that your Lordships are making a great mistake in giving up this opportunity—an excellent opportunity—of discussing, without committing yourselves in the least to any acceptance of this Bill, the different questions that arise upon it, pointing out the Weak points, as you see them, in the Bill and discussing each particular, because it is only by the discussion of particulars that you can arrive at the general result. But your Lordships have evidently come to a decision, and it is useless for me to make entreaty where I know it will meet with no response. But there still remain six months before this Bill can be brought in again. If that time is spent, not in inflaming difficulties, but in trying to assuage them, in an effort to see whether it is not possible, after all, for a general assent to be given to some statesmanlike scheme, it is my own belief that you would find the difficulties less than you imagine. I have faith that some agreement could be attained to with the consent of all parties in Ireland as well as in this country, without which, indeed, it would be of comparatively little value. What bars the road to conciliation is not the perversity of the Government; it is the impenetrable silence of the noble Marquess and his friends on this vital occasion. And I hope that your Lordships, with all the influence that you possess, will endeavour to persuade those who represent Conservative traditions in this country to contribute their wisdom during the next six months. If you undertake and succeed in the task, then, however you may resent the tumultuous controversies of recent times, however much you may regret them, you will be able, at least, to cherish one recollection—that you have conferred a priceless benefit upon England in the hour of danger.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, I am sure there is no member of your Lordships' House on either side who has not listened to the speech of the noble and learned Earl with feelings of great interest, because from the earliest days when Home Rule was introduced into the House of Commons he has been an ardent Home Ruler—very different from some of his colleagues in the Cabinet. Therefore as a consistent Home Ruler we are bound to listen with respect to what he says. But when he talked about the manner in which this measure had been carried through the 974 House of Commons, when he alluded to the fact that it was done by log-rolling, I fully anticipated that he was going to make the speech that I myself was going to make. I venture to say that never before in the annals of your Lordships' House has a measure so important, so all important, as this Home Rule Bill been sent up to this House within six months after it had been rejected by your Lordships. It cannot be denied that each stage of the Bill, whether it has been in the House of Commons or whether it has been in your Lordships' House, has been more or less of a farce. We knew full well when it came up to your Lordships' House in January last that not even one-sixth of the Bill had been discussed, and we know now that coming up as it has a second time to this House from the other place it is sent up absolutely and entirely undiscussed. I ask noble Lords opposite whether they can recall any measure of this importance that has been so treated, so absolutely ignored by the House of Commons.
We know that we are discussing this Bill on this occasion from a purely academic point of view. We know full well that we have no power beyond delaying the Bill till the spring of next year. We know full well that this is virtually the last occasion, academic though it may be, upon which we shall discuss this Bill in this House, and discuss it as you may, you know it will become the law of the land over your Lordships' heads. Consequently when the Bill comes up again next year your Lordships' action to day will be rendered absolutely futile. This Bill, as we know, has been rushed through the House of Commons through all its stages so that it may become law next year under the Parliament Act. But what has been the expense at which this measure is being carried? It is being carried at the expense of ruining and wrecking our great Constitution and the degradation of our whole Parliamentary system. Why has this been done? In order that His Majesty's Government may retain the support of Mr. Redmond to enable them to pass their various measures. They have paid a price, and a very heavy price, and they have been enabled by means of the Parliament Act to carry through both Houses this Home Rule Bill, not only behind the backs, but I venture to say contrary to the will, of the people of this country.
975 The Government know well that if they dared appeal to the people of this country on the question of Home Rule for Ireland, the result would be what it was in 1886 and 1893, and it is because they dare not do this that I so cordially support the Amendment of my noble friend behind me, in which he declares that your Lordships' House will never pass this Bill without the people of this country being consulted on the question. I know it has been said that it is somewhat difficult to start any new matter or any new argument on a measure which was rejected only six months ago by your Lordships' House. I fully admit that, but I do not admit that those arguments ought not to be reintroduced, because I think as time has gone on the arguments put forward by the members of your Lordships' House for rejecting the Home Rule Bill in January last have not only been strengthened but have been very considerably reinforced. I do not know whether I shall get any answers to the questions that I put to His Majesty's Government in January last. I then drew their attention to the great prosperity which at the present moment is enjoyed in Ireland. I gave statistics and figures in proof of that assertion. I will not weary your Lordships with them now, although I could if they were challenged. I asked His Majesty's Government to state how, under their system of Home Rule, they proposed to maintain—I will not say promote or increase—the present prosperity in Ireland. I asked that question then, and I ask it now. I got no answer then; I do not know whether I shall get an answer now. I hope I shall.
But I do make this statement, that the present prosperity of Ireland is due entirely to English credit and to the money that England has advanced to Ireland, to further her prosperity—money well advanced, because the interest on that money has always been exceedingly well repaid. What has that money done for Ireland? I will quote not any member of your Lordships' House who holds the same views as I do, but I will quote the leader of the Nationalist Party, Mr. Redmond. What did Mr. Redmond say in America in the year 1910? He said—Over one-half of Ireland, the tillers of the soil are absolute owners…Within the last six years we have obtained 30,000,000 dollars from the British Exchequer to remove those wretched hovels and to erect in their places decent, sanitary, habitations for the labourers of Ireland.976 He went on to say how the general conditions of Ireland had improved most materially during the last few Years.
Then there was a speech by the Chief Secretary for Ireland made only a short time ago in which he draws attention to the enormous increase in the prosperity and the welfare of Ireland. I went with my friends the Irish Unionist Members to Leeds and quoted this statement of Mr. Redmond's at a large demonstration there, and I asked them to request Mr. Redmond (who had scurried after Sir Edward Carson like a ferret after a rabbit in the hope of undermining what he had said—a thing which he could not do) to say how he proposed to maintain the present prosperous condition of Ireland when it was deprived of English credit, and how he proposed to maintain the prosperity of Ireland if he had only Ireland's slender resources to depend upon. I have read the local papers, and my speech is fully reported in all of them, but Mr. Redmond took no notice of that challenge. He ignored it entirely, but I hope it will not be ignored to-night by the noble Viscount the President of the Council. I ask him how he proposes to maintain the present prosperity of Ireland when it is deprived of English credit and dependent only on its own resources. The statements I have quoted, both of Mr. Redmond and also of the Chief Secretary, show beyond all doubt the absolute falsity of the statement that Ireland is not progressing under the Union at the present moment. The noble and learned Earl alluded in the course of his speech to the Acts which had been passed by Lord Ashbourne and by Mr. 'Wyndham, but how could those occupiers have become the owners of their land if it had not been for money advanced owing to British credit. How, therefore, is it proposed to deal in the future with this matter if Ireland is separated from England and there is no credit upon which to advance the money?
When I addressed your Lordships on the last occasion I alluded to the great prosperity that has taken place in Ulster, and especially in Belfast, and I told your Lordships that I attributed that prosperity, as we all do in Ulster, to the Act of Union which brought Ulster into closer contact with England. Therefore it was with considerable surprise that I read a speech by the Chief Secretary, Mr. Birrell, a short time ago, in which he asked the question, 977 What is the opinion of the business men of Ulster with regard to Home Rule? I know that the Chief Secretary spends a very short period of the year in Ireland, but I thought he perhaps might have made himself acquainted with what the opinions of the business men in Belfast were on this subject. If he did not know for himself, he had only to ask his colleague the Prime Minister. For the Prime Minister received a deputation from the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, representatives of Ulster, which left him under no misapprehension as to the views upon this Bill of the business and commercial and industrial world of Belfast. What did the Chamber of Commerce of Belfast tell the Prime Minister with regard to their opinions about Home Rule? This is the report which they brought under the notice of the Prime Minister—The determined and solid opposition of practically the whole commercial community of the country and of so large a part of the population of the North of Ireland to a Home Rule Government, even if such opposition were based on ignorance and prejudice instead of on well-founded apprehension, would alone ensure its shipwreck. No Government could succeed which had to encounter the bitter hostility of the most progressive and industrial part of its people.After that statement by the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, I do not think the Chief Secretary need ask any further what is the opinion of the industrial community in that part of the Province of Ulster.
Yesterday my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition drew attention to the fact that it was often stated that if Home Rule were granted to Ireland there would be civil war in Ulster, and that if Home Rule were not granted to Ireland there would be civil war in the other three provinces. Be dealt with that question very fully, and, if I am not mistaken, the noble and learned Earl who preceded me also alluded to it. I should like to elaborate the question a little further. I do not think that anybody who knows anything with regard to Ireland will contradict me when I say that if Home Rule is granted to Ireland there will be civil war in Ulster. That you may take for granted.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I said nothing about an election. I doubt very much whether there is that enthusiasm 978 in the other three Provinces for Borne Rule that exists in the Province of Ulster in its determination to oppose it. Why should there be any reason for the three Provinces to create civil war if Home Rule is not granted to them? Every reason is against them. They have prospered under the Union. They know full well, as I said just now, that the occupying classes have obtained their holdings, thanks to the credit of the English people. They are glad to have them; they do not want any extra taxation put upon them by Mr. Redmond, who must secure money at any cost; and there are a large number of those who at the present moment have not bought their holdings—stopped through your interrupting Mr. George Wyndham's Act—although they would like to buy them, and they know full well that if Home Rule is granted the money will not be forthcoming and they will be left to shift for themselves the best way they can.
I honestly say that I do not myself frequently visit the South and West of Ireland, and therefore I have no practical experience of it, but I have met a large number of people who have travelled through the South and West of Ireland. They have gone privately through the South and West, and have found that there is no desire amongst the people there for Home Rule. If you could meet the people in those Provinces privately and secretly, they would tell you that they are perfectly happy as they are and are anxious that they should be allowed to remain as they are. Bat I know the answer that will be given. "Oh, but you have eighty Nationalist Members in the House of Commons. How do you account for that?" That is an argument that can be put forward, and it is a very practical one, and will take on; but my point is this, that if the people in the South and West of Ireland were free front this political machinery and allowed to give vent to their own opinions, you would find no desire amongst them for Home Rule. Therefore when I hear it said, "If Home Rule is not granted there will be civil war in the South and West of Ireland," I venture to disagree. But I say there will be civil war in Ulster with the most absolute certainty if Home Rule is granted.
There is another point to which I wish to allude. I am, as you know, closely 979 associated with the Province of Ulster. I am closely associated with the Union between England and Ireland. I am proud that that is so, as I am the collateral descendant of the man who upheld that Union. I often hear it stated in political circles that the whole of this action of Ulster at the present moment, though it may seem important, is only "bluff," because the same attitude was taken up in the year 1869, when the Irish Church Disestablishment Bill was carried. Let me say at once that anyone who endeavours to compare the conditions when the Irish Church Bill was carried with those that exist now is either grossly ignorant or wilfully inaccurate. When the Irish Church Bill was opposed in Ireland it was opposed by the members of the Episcopal Church, but against them were ranged all the other Protestant denominations. What do we find now? We find not only the Episcopal Church but all Nonconformist denominations ranged together in their determination to oppose Home Rule. Let me give you an instance. On the famous occasion of Ulster Day, throughout Ulster every cathedral, every church, every chapel, every school-house even, was used to carry on services in connection with the signing of the Covenant, and every one of those services was conducted by representatives of the Church of Ireland and Nonconformists, showing you that the Nonconformists and the Church of Ireland are working together at the present time in their determination to oppose Home Rule.
I hear it stated sometimes that the feeling in Ulster against Home Rule is waning. I differ from that entirely. May I give your Lordships an experience of my own? I was in Belfast on Saturday last, and I saw there the greatest demonstration that I have ever seen. And not only in Belfast was there this great demonstration, but throughout all Ulster 12th of July meetings were held in far larger numbers than they have ever been held before, showing the determination of the people to stand by the Covenant which they signed in September last. I do not know whether your Lordships are fully aware of the wording of the solemn Covenant which was signed last year. I have a copy here, but I do not think I will weary your Lordships by reading the whole of it. What I would like to read out is the meaning of the pledge given by the signing of that Covenant, which those hundreds of 980 thousands of men who attended that demonstration last Saturday committed themselves to. It was this—that being convinced that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster and Ireland, subversive of civil and religious freedom, destructive of citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire, the signatories pledged themselves to defend the cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, to use all necessary means to defeat Home Rule, and to refuse to recognise the authority of an Irish Parliament forced upon them. I know full well that that Covenant, which was signed by 237,000 men and 234,000 women, has been run down and depreciated by those who are opposed to the maintenance of the Union. They have endeavoured to make out that those who signed this important and solemn Covenant were men of extreme opinion—bigoted Orangemen. Let me read out to you who were the people that signed that Covenant. It was signed by the most responsible leaders, men to whom force was objectionable and the path of peace most desirable, including the Primate of All Ireland, representing practically the whole of the clergy and laity of his church; the Moderator of the General Assembly, representing the great Presbyterian community, who were the backbone of Ulster and whose forefathers signed another Covenant in Scotland; the Vice-President of the Methodist Conference and the ex-Secretary of the Congregational Union, representing the Irish section of those great Protestant bodies; the Provost of Trinity College, representing all that is best in the learning and culture of Ireland; the Right Hon. Thomas Andrews, the Right Hon. Thomas Sinclair, and Sir William Crawford, representing the great manufacturing and commercial elements to which Ulster owes so much of its prosperity. When you are told that this Covenant was signed by only the extremists, you will bear in mind the representative men who actually did sign it.
My Lords, may I be allowed for a moment to tell you my experience of Ulster Day in Belfast? That day was, to my mind, the most solemn day in my life, and one that I shall never forget. We all went to different, places of worship, to pray God to save our Union and to save us from this Bill. I my-self went to the Cathedral in Belfast. I saw there an 981 enormous congregation, recognising the solemnity of the pledge they were going to give, and never will I forget what was impressed on my mind when the hymn was sung "To Thee, O God, we fly"—the solemnity, the fervour, and the sincerity of that vast congregation when they joined in the refrain—O Lord, stretch forth Thy mighty hand,And guard and save our Fatherland.But what impressed in even more was the sermon delivered shortly after by the Bishop of Down. I need not eulogise the Bishop of Down. He is regarded as one of our greatest Prelates, whether from an educational or any other point, of view. He preached a sermon on that occasion which I wish I had time to read out to your Lordships. It made an impression upon me and upon all who heard it. He hail carefully weighed every word that he uttered. He knew the responsibility that devolved upon him as a Bishop. And in the course of that sermon he gave vent to this observation—There were things worse than war—worse than torture and death—and that war became possible when the foundations were shaken.Shortly after that the Bishop of Derry said in his cathedral—If they were persuaded that their freedom to worship God was at stake, must they shrink from defending it?When we have Prelates giving solemn warning of what is going to occur if the Government persist in pursuing this wild course, are we not justified in asking them to pause before they plunge Ulster into this serious condition of civil war
I can tell your Lordships that, out of the many who signed that Covenant, there are some tens of thousands of young men at the present moment who are prepared to resist to the utmost the forcing upon them of a Home Rule Parliament on College Green under Mr. Redmond and his satellites. I can tell you this, that these men have, ever since signing that Covenant, given up their recreation to drilling and perfecting themselves in all military manœuvres, and I am told by experts on whom I can rely that these men are as efficient, as well-disciplined, as well-organised, as any number of the Territorial Army in this country. What are those men drilling for? Are they drilling for anything disloyal to the King? Are they doing anything disloyal to this country? They are drilling because they are determined that they 982 will not sacrifice their birthright; they will not submit, vulgarly speaking, to be kicked out of this Empire; they are determined to oppose anything of the kind, and, if necessary, to oppose it by force of arms.
What are these men prepared to do? They are well drilled and are efficient. I am told on good authority that if His Majesty's Government will inform them that they need have no longer any fear of Home Rule they will, if they are asked, gladly join your Territorial Army in this country and give themselves, their time, and their services to serving their King and their country to the best of their ability. Your Territorial Army is very short in numbers. Are you going to ignore this offer from these loyal men who could be of use to you, and who are only too anxious to serve you if you will only assist them and stand by them in their hour of peril? What I want to ask His Majesty's Government is this, What are you going to do for these men if you refuse their offer to join your Territorial Army?— because it virtually comes to the same thing. Are you going to order the English troops to shoot down these men, who are only fighting to maintain the position that they occupy at the present moment, who are only fighting to remain under you and your Constitution, who are devoted to you, ready to serve you—are you going to order them to be shot down at the dictates of Mr. Redmond and his satellites, men who in the House of Commons cheered the Boer victories and the reverses of the British troops in South Africa, and who rewarded Major Lynch by finding him a seat in Galway because he had fought against us in the South African War? Are you going to shoot them down at the dictates of these men? I read a paragraph in the Nation on Sunday last in which it said that the Chief Secretary for Ireland had given a hint that the English troops would not shoot down these loyal men, and it was said there also that the Prince Minister had given an affirmative. I looked at The Times, and I saw that the affirmative meant only a nod. I want a categorical answer. Are you going to order the English troops, at the dictates of Mr. Redmond, to shoot down these loyal men because they only wish to remain part and parcel of the British Empire? I put that question to the noble Marquess, and I should like to 983 have an answer "Yes" or "No." Do you endorse the Prime Minister? Are you going to shoot down these men? I want a categorical answer to that straight question.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I think that the noble Marquess would be wiser to wait for a categorical reply from my noble friend, Lord Morley.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Then, if you do not order the troops to shoot down the people of Ulster what are you going to do with Ulster? Let me have an answer to that.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
My Lords, I think it will generally be admitted that this debate would have been deprived of much of its usefulness, and indeed its reality, if the course suggested by the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition had been rigidly adhered to. We should have been deprived of the eloquent and stirring speech which the noble Marquess who has just sat down has delivered to the House. After all, the Amendment of the noble Marquess is in fact an evasion of the real issue that divides the two sides of the House on this question. We are not going to consider or discuss the merits of the Home Rule Bill, but are to be led into a sort of constitutional problem as to the desirability or not of applying a referendum or a General Election to questions such as this. The noble Marquess declines to engage in a pitched battle on this subject, although, with a sort of 984 confidence which reminds one of the telegrams which came from the seat of war in the Balkans, he describes the last engagement which took place in this House in January as a very one-sided affair. If we are not to have a Second Reading of this Bill still less are we to have a Committee stage. The noble Marquess said that to have a Committee stage would be a serious loss of self-respect, although he admitted that it is the Committee stage which is the real ordeal, and the proper ordeal, to which every measure should be submitted. I have a shrewd suspicion that the description does not wholly account for the noble Marquess's reluctance to enter into the Committee stage of this Bill. I cannot help thinking that he is rather afraid of dividing his supporters and of suffering defeat in detail if we go to Committee stage, because I noticed that his supporters last night were of very different opinions with regard to the important parts of the measure. For instance, the Earl of Mayo stated in the House that he did not want any Irish representatives at Westminster, whereas Earl Grey said that he would like to have 103 at least.
THE EARL OF MAYO
I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I did not say anything of the sort. I said that the Government had not the moral courage to get rid of the Irish Members at Westminster.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I very much regret if I have misrepresented the noble Earl. All I can say is that that is what the noble Earl, Lord Grey, thought he said. We in this House suffer very much from the lack of an official report of our proceedings published on the morning after the debate, and one has to rely on the necessarily somewhat scanty report which appears in The Times and other newspapers. But whether that be true or not, Lord Willoughby de Broke carried his truculence, as it seemed to me, to the extent of telling his leader—for I imagine he is his leader—the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition that he and those who acted with him would under no circumstances accept the domination of the Carlton Club.
It is to be regretted that we are not to have a Second Reading or Committee stage of this Bill, because if it be true that the Suggestion Stage in the House of 985 Commons is as farcical as it has been described by noble Lords opposite, that does not apply to this House. There is nothing in the Parliament Act to prevent this House making Amendments and sending the Bill back to the other House; nor does the Act prevent those Amendments being incorporated in the Bill in the other House. It seems to me that we should have done well, in the cause so eloquently advocated by my noble friend Lord Loreburn and others, if we had taken into more serious consideration the possibility of an agreement on this subject. For instance, there was a proposal made by Mr. John Redmond—I remember hearing it made—with regard to additional representation for the Province of Ulster. It seems to me that that was an attempt to bridge the difficulty which exists, and to offer to Lister, if necessary, still greater guarantees of safety and of security and of being able to influence the national councils.
Then, my Lords, I would very much have liked to come to closer quarters with the noble Earl, Lord Grey, on the question of Federalism. I should like to know what are the obstacles in this Bill which in his opinion exist to the carrying out of a general scheme of Federalism, and I should like to have heard in greater detail what his proposals would be. We had two instances last night of ex-Colonial Governors' pride in the institutions over which they had the good fortune to preside with success. It is true, of course, that the institutions differ considerably in Canada and Australia, but both noble Lords seemed to think that they formed a basis on which an advance could be made. But if I may say so with respect to my noble friend Lord Chelmsford, I think it is possible to push the Colonial analogy too far, for what may be applicable and valuable in a system of Colonial institutions is not necessarily the pattern upon which we ought to frame ours here. It must be obvious that the complexity of the problem is far greater in this country than that which exists in the Colonies. It is a matter of surprise to me that there is on the part of these ex-Colonial Governors, proud as they are of the institutions with which they have been in contact, so little confidence in the author of those very institutions to frame for itself such a scheme of Federalism as is adapted to its own needs.
986 I should like to have said a word on the subject of finance, because, after all, that forms one of the most important subjects of the Home Rule Bill. I think it is a matter which has been much misunderstood and only partially studied. In my opinion the speech of the noble Viscount Lord St. Aldwyn is largely responsible for the hostility which has been exhibited to our financial proposals. He came down to your. Lordships' House last January and made one of those extremely able and cogent speeches to which we are accustomed from him, and he attacked the whole finance of the measure. So much so that subsequent speakers, amongst whom was Lord Curzon, said you had only to listen to that speech to realise that the finance of the Bill was absolutely unworkable. I am not going to weary your Lordships by going into any financial exposition of the principles of this Bill, but I would like to say that I think Lord St. Aldwvn's speech left a somewhat unfair impression on the House as to the character of our financial proposals. He has not been in his place since he made that speech, but were he here I should invite him to re-consider several of the statements he then made, because I think, if not positively inaccurate, they were misleading. But there is one to which I will refer, which I think is a fair instance of the sort of point against the Bill that Lord St. Aldwyn made, and one as to which he must have been guilty of a slip, because the statement, as far as I could verify it, is absolutely inaccurate. He was speaking of the possibility of Irishmen being guilty of rather sharp practice when it came to taking over the reserved services. He said—As time goes on and the period arrives for the consideration by the Irish Government of the question whether it will exercise its option of taking over the reserved services or not, the Irish Government will be quite clever enough to exercise that option at the precise moment when the reserved services have reached their highest amount and are on the point of beginning to decline.That is one of the points he made against the finance. But when he said that, he entirely overlooked Clause 17, subsection (6), where it is definitely laid down that when the Joint Exchequer Board have to consider the equivalent value of the service to be transferred to the Irish Government, they are to be guided by this consideration—In determining that equivalent, regard shall be had to the prospect of any increase or advance 987 in the cost of that service which may be expected to arise from causes not being matters of administration.I think it will be clear to the House, as it is to me, that in that particular, at any rate, the noble Viscount entirely misled your Lordships as to the character of our financial proposals; but as he is not here I will not pursue that point further.
I return to the noble Marquess's Amendment. The noble Marquess informed us that since we last discussed this matter he had discovered the value of the Parliament Act in enabling this House to delay legislation. I congratulate him on the very astute use lie has made of that discovery. He is not content with taking advantage of the legitimate privileges which the Opposition enjoy in this house in delaying legislation, but he is concerned to deck it in a popular garb. He comes down to this House and demands that we should refer the Bill to the country either by General Election or by referendum. It seems to me that that demand is quite irreconcilable with the declaration he made yesterday with regard to the support which he is prepared to give Ulster in the event of Ulster resorting to armed force. It is quite true that he qualified that to the extent of saying that it was only "in the present circumstances"—those were his qualifying words. I remember catching the emphasis which he laid upon them. But, my Lords, his declaration with regard to what the Unionist Party will do in the event of Ulster offering opposition cannot be taken alone. There are other declarations made by other prominent members of the Unionist Party; and I suggest that as far as their effect is to be estimated those declarations must be pooled. It is the cumulative effect of the declarations made by the responsible heads of the Party opposite to which we have to direct our attention. I am not going in this connection to lay any particular stress on the observations made by Lord Willoughby de Broke, and his party of die-hards whom he represented as living over a gunmaker's shop in Ryder-street and organising resistance.
But what I do pay attention to is the declaration made by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, only last Saturday at Craigavon. There we find no such qualifying words as "in the present circumstances." I have read the resolution care- 988 fully, and I see no such qualification. They say—We resolve that it is our bounden duty and that of every loyalist to make and complete all preparations necessary for resisting by force and every other method the decrees or other executive acts of, or on behalf of, any Nationalist Parliament that may be established.Indeed, it is hardly necessary to quote that to your Lordships, for only just now the noble Marquess declared that if this Bill passes there is certain to be civil war in Ireland; and when the Lord President of the Council asked him whether that was contingent upon whether there had been an election or not, I understood him to evade that question and adhere to his point that there would, in any circumstance, be civil war if this Bill became law. In those circumstances I think we are justified in saying that, whatever may be the value and whatever may be the moderation of the noble Marquess's intentions, there is no guarantee that if we gave way and were to go to the country we should have any grounds for thinking if we won the election, that the Party opposite would support us, not only in carrying the Bill but in putting it into effective force.
The noble Marquess has made a challenge. He has challenged us to go to the country. I would like to ask him a question. I presume I am right in thinking that the policy of Tariff Reform still remains a main plank, or one of the main planks, in the policy of the Party opposite. What I would like to know is this. Supposing the noble Marquess and his Party are returned to power as the result of the next election and they introduce their Tariff Reform policy, and supposing those connected with the Lancashire cotton industry, who are credited with being opposed to the Tariff Reform policy, and who, after all, comprise the premier industry of this country—a great, powerful, industrial community—were to say they declined to be bound by the Tariff Reform policy of the noble Marquess and his friends, would the noble Marquess then think it his duty to submit that question to the country in the shape of a referendum? I dare say I shall not get an answer to that; but, personally, I hope he would not do anything of the kind. I view with considerable alarm and misgiving the growth of this pernicious doctrine of referendum. I do not say there are no cases in which it may work usefully; but, speaking generally, I regard it to be destructive of the responsibility both 989 of Parliament and, what is more important, of the electors themselves.
To turn for a moment to the question of Ulster. The noble Marquess, in his speech yesterday, made a long quotation about the Bill being a decrepit compromise. He said that the quotation came from the organ of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and he said that it was upon that sort of statement that the apprehensions of Ulster were founded. I have been authorised by the President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians to give the most categorical denial to the fact that that statement or anything of the kind ever appeared in the organ of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which is the Hibernian Journal. I think it only right that I should state that to the noble Marquess, because there is no doubt that he laid very great stress upon this quotation. He told us that those were the sort of things that made Ulstermen apprehensive as to what might be their fate if Home Rule were passed; and, as I say, I have the authority of the President to say that no such statement ever appeared in any organ belonging to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. We know at last what is to happen with regard to Ulster. We have long waited, but on Saturday last Sir Edward Carson told us that there was going to be a Provisional Government set up. Sir Edward Carson admits that it will be difficult, but he says they mean to do it. Then the noble Marquess asks, If a Provisional Government is set up, what will you do? The noble Marquess is confident that whatever happens no force is to be employed; there are to be no bayonets.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I did not express that as my anticipation. I said that I understood a statement to that effect to have been made in the other House of Parliament.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
Sir Edward Carson in his speech made that statement. However, I think that is the view that is entertained; but it is not a very important point, and I will not press it. Though the Government of this country, whether it be ourselves or yourselves, would be extremely reluctant to employ force on occasions of this kind, yet no Government can preclude themselves from carrying out the most elementary duties of government, and it might be conceivably necessary to use force for the purpose of carrying on the civil government of the country.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
May I ask the noble Lord if that is the answer to the question which I put to the Leader of the House as to whether you are going to use force against Ulster? Is that the answer, that the Government are going to use force against Ulster? Perhaps you are replying for Lord Crewe.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
No; I certainly should not do that for a moment. I am not concerned to answer all the noble Marquess's questions. I tried to do so in January but with very little success, and now I am merely trying to develop my argument irrespective of the question which the noble Marquess asked and which no doubt will be answered in due time. The noble Marquess said, What are you going to do? I will tell him what we will not do. We will not play into the hands of the Orange organisers. I dare say the Orange organisers in the four counties of Ulster would welcome a collision between the civil population and the troops, and that they would hope to gain from it public sympathy in this country. It seems to me that the Orangemen are behaving in this connection much as the militant suffragists behave. The militant suffragists at one time rather thought that once they got roughly handled by the Police public sympathy would be excited and the public would say "Give them the vote." As a matter of fact, public opinion did not take that course at all. The public did not say "Give them the vote," but rather "Give them something else." I wonder whether the enthusiasm which was exhibited at the meetings to which the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, alluded, and the enthusiasm at Craigavon, will survive the real hardships of a self-inflicted boycott. Because that is the meaning of a Provisional Government. It involves, as I think, financial business, and legal, and for all I know, postal isolation.
My Lords, is not the situation just a trifle melodramatic? Those who propose to adopt this unconstitutional, this extra-constitutional, action ought at any rate to be able to say that there is no other way of achieving their object. But in this case is that so? Is there no other way in which the Orangemen of Ulster can achieve their purpose and the Conservative Party, who support them, achieve theirs? Lord Lansdowne, speak- 991 ing yesterday, estimated that the Irish Parliament must be set up not later than May of 1915. Did it not occur to him that it is almost certain that a General Election will take place before that date? I do not know whether the noble Marquess remembers a letter written on August 15 of last year by the First Lord of the Admiralty to a gentleman called Sir George Ritchie, the president of his association, and written, I understand, for the Government, in which he used these words—If the Orangemen are as right as we hold them wrong in all the evils they apprehend from an Irish Parliament, it is certain that before they are actually affected there must be another General Election.That statement has never been contradicted. I understand it was made, as I say, with a full sense of responsibility; and further, if your Lordships are not satisfied with that observation, I suggest to you what I ventured to suggest last year—that it is open to you to amend Clause 49, which deals with the appointed day, in such a sense as will make it certain that an election will take place before the Act comes into operation and before any interest in Ulster can be affected by an Irish Executive. That, I think, would have been, if I may venture to suggest it, the more ingenuous course for the noble Marquess to adopt. Because he knows that in tempting us into what is always the morass of difficulties of a General Election we run the risk of being beaten on questions not even remotely connected with the question of Home Rule, and in the confusion of issue the Party to which the noble Marquess belongs may gain an advantage to which they are not entitled.
THE MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW
My Lords, I have to ask your Lordships to extend to me the kindly indulgence which you usually extend to those who for the first time address the House. I am painfully conscious that it is not an altogether pleasant moment for me, and I am also conscious that I may inflict myself upon your Lordships somewhat to your detriment. Although I had meant to confine myself to speaking to the Amendment of the noble Marquess who leads this side of the House, I feel that I should like to try for a very few moments to meet some of the points which have been made by the noble Lord who has just sat down. The noble Lord complained of evasion. If my memory serves me aright, the lack of what 992 I believe was called a frontal attack was also complained of when this Bill was last before the House in January of this year. But the noble Lord seemed to regard the attack delivered upon this Bill by the noble Viscount, Lord St. Aldwyn, as worthy of Ids close attention; and I venture to think that if the point which he attempted to make against the noble Viscount's criticism of the financial provisions of this Bill was the strongest he could find, then the absence of Lord St. Aldwyn from this House has not weakened his case in any way.
The noble Lord also told us that he was surprised that those who had witnessed the Federal system at work in His Majesty's Dominions beyond the seas could see their way to criticise this Bill. I ask the noble Lord whether he supposes that if New South Wales had opposed the suggestions for the forming of a Commonwealth, that Commonwealth would ever have been consummated. The noble Lord complains that, amongst the many difficulties which his Party have to face they have to face the difficulty of discovering exactly what the collective discourses of the leaders of the Party to which I belong mean. I am sure we sympathise with him, because we find considerable difficulty in gathering, from such varied sources as the noble Marquess who leads the House and Mr. Redmond, the true situation which surrounds this Bill. The noble Lord knows, and I know, that the difficulties which lie before the Government at the moment are the difficulties which Ulster is putting in their way, and those are practically the only difficulties. Noble Lords themselves in January were not concerned with proving the marvellous excellence of their Bill. I think they went so far as to say that the Bill itself was a provisional and a tentative one. My own humble opinion is that they were less careful to bring in a Bill which they themselves believed to be perfect because they knew then that it could never conic into law. Passing through under the Parliament Act may be the same as coming into law in theory; but that does not mean that the Bill has the support of the community, and without the support of the community no Bill has really come into law.
It has been said that under the Parliament Act a certain amount of apathy has crept into the public life of this country. 993 I suppose it is impossible to keep up the pitch of enthusiasm over the long and wearying months which must elapse while the Bill is passing from stage to stage. I can only speak with a knowledge of a very small part of my own country, Scotland., but it is a knowledge which I have collected from close work in the constituency in which I live; and if noble Lords opposite think that I have misread the signs in the sky they can refer what I am about to say to their distinguished and versatile colleague the Lord Advocate for Scotland. I confess it has been a surprise to me, but it is so, that in the constituency of West Lothian we have never made so much headway as we have since this Home Rule controversy came to the fore. We pressed it everywhere, and I myself have taken the chair at meetings in districts where I do not think a Tory, much less a Tory Lord, would have dared to show his nose six or seven years ago. You are profoundly mistaken if you suppose that the country is apathetic about this point. Why is it that we are doing so successfully? I speak only for a very small district. I have no general knowledge, but I know that we, in particular, are doing very successfully in this particular direction. It is because we have managed to convince our fellow-countymen that you propose to do what is a monstrous injustice to Ireland.
There are two other reasons which I think—it is only my personal opinion—are affecting the electorate in my part of the world. There is profound irritation, so I think, at the notion that the Party opposite will have left, if their Bill comes into active operation, a large body of Irish representatives at Westminster. Some people were inclined to support the Bill, not because they thought it was good for Ireland, but because they were profoundly wearied with the interruption of public business at Westminster. We are a slow-thinking race, perhaps you will say, in Scotland, but we are perfectly well able to see, so far as the prevention of logrolling and so forth is concerned, which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, mentioned, that forty Members require a good deal more log-rolling than even eighty. The jobbery—to use a word which is perhaps rather wide—[No!]—well, I will use the word—the jobbery which would go on to keep forty Members in a good temper would have to be considerable. It 994 has been very hard work to keep eighty in a good temper, and noble Lords opposite can guess for themselves the trouble they will have with forty.
Another thing which Scotsmen are profoundly annoyed about is this. The county in which I live has been for some time of an unmistakable Radical tendency. The people there do not like the hereditary system under which noble Lords come to this House with power to sit and vote, with no other mandate except that of the hereditary system. Noble Lords opposite, as well as noble Lords on this side of the House, are well aware how unpopular this House is in Scotland, and the people round about me are pained and surprised to a degree that the Government should not have seen their way to reconstitute this House long ago. They are beginning to see that they will have to look for a democratic Second Chamber to the Tory Party. It has taken them some time to believe their eves, but they are coming to see the truth at last; and I, for one, rejoice—and holding the principles that they do I am quite sure noble Lords opposite rejoice also—that the time will soon arrive when those who wish to hold a seat in this House will have to seek the confidence of a constituency.
I have already too long detained your Lordships, but I do not think that I can put the last words I have to say better than as coming from the same source. The people of Scotland, so far as those whom I know are concerned, feel that this Bill, if it comes into law without assuaging one single difficulty that exists at present, is calculated to infuriate beyond measure the people of Ulster; they feel that it does not tend to mitigate for one moment the difficulties of the present situation; and they are convinced that if you pass this Bill into law you will bring a state of desolation and ruin upon Ireland and shame unspeakable upon our race and our age.
My Lords, if I venture for a few moments to occupy the attention of your Lordships' House I should desire in the first place to welcome, as I do most cordially, the intervention of the noble Marquess who has just sat down in the debates of your Lordships' Douse. Many of us will remember with affection his father, and we are glad to see the 995 same qualities which he possessed displayed by his son. If I am permitted in the short compass which is naturally allotted to me in which to make some observations, I desire to do so cordially in the spirit of my noble friend Lord Loreburn, whose lofty appeal to what I may call the larger mind of the country and the broader sympathies of your Lordships' House has, I hope, not fallen entirely upon deaf ears. But I am bound to say that when I, with infinitely less authority, ventured last year to make an appeal in a similar spirit I did so with some hope—not very sanguine, perhaps—that in various quarters a spirit of conciliation and compromise would exist which might lead to a settlement of this almost hereditary difficulty.
We cannot but recognise, however, that the atmosphere, both in this House and outside of it, has not changed for the better in the last year. On the contrary, partisanship has got the upper hand. I am not going to measure the responsibility for that, and to say that it is solely in consequence of the campaign skilfully and arduously conducted by the leaders of Unionist opinion in Ireland. I am willing to admit that the provisions of the Parliament Act, with some of which I personally am not entirely in accord, have shut the door upon discussion, and have not enabled those changes and those suggestions to be made which His Majesty's Government declare they would listen to with favour. It cannot be denied that during the passing of this Bill lately through the House of Commons the attitude of the Government hardly encouraged any proposition to be made in the way of enabling a common platform to be found upon which compromise might have conceivably been evolved. On the contrary, the Second Reading debate was about the only full discussion that took place; and while I am in full accord with my noble friend Lord Loreburn in his demand that some approach should be made from the other side in order to enable Liberal opinion to meet them halfway upon the subject, I think that the first suggestions should come from the People's house, the House of Commons, and not from the House of Lords. The opportunity for those suggestions is not given so fully under the provisions of the Parliament Act as I think ought to have been done, and I am afraid the only prospect that we can look forward to to-day is to some movement outside 996 Parliament, some movement amongst people of moderate opinion who feel that this Irish question must not for all time block the way to progress and hamper the work of Parliament.
I do not suppose there is any one on the Benches opposite who can for a moment imagine that by simply refusing to pass this Bill you are going to settle the Irish question. It is a sort of perennial plant which unfortunately is to be found constantly reasserting its vigour and continuously interfering with and obstructing the legislative machine; and I would invite the Unionist Party to consider whether it would not be possible to make propositions on two or three points which amongst moderate men are really the only dividing ones in this great question—with regard to finance, with regard to the position of the three North-east Provinces of Ulster—and whether on the lines of the plan of Lord MacDonnell, who knows as much about the administration of Ireland as anybody in this House, it would not be possible to give administrative freedom to a certain extent to the three Northern Counties, which represent in a large measure the objections of Irish Unionist opinion to this Bill.
In the ranks of the Irish Party there is not to be found complete agreement and satisfaction with regard to this Bill on the score of finance. I have followed with great care the discussions which have taken place in the various Irish newspapers upon this question; and I may go a step further and say that recently during a visit to America I took pains to acquaint myself with the sentiment of the Irish element in America—a very important element, too—and I found on that particular topic that they were far from satisfied with the provisions of this Bill. And even in the Irish Nationalist Party itself there is very grave apprehension as to the financial future of Ireland under the Bill which is now before you. Consequently I say on that point, and also with regard to the future government of Ulster, it is possible, in my judgment, to arrive at some method of concilation by which a compromise might be arranged. This would be a matter for satisfaction to all Parties, and would enable Home Rule and the difficulties which surround that subject to be removed from our Parliamentary discussions.
997 I would now like to address myself for one moment to the Amendment which has been moved by the noble Marquess in that temperate and admirable manner in which be always performs the duties of the leadership of the Party opposite. The noble Marquess, as it seems to me, in appealing for the Dissolution of Parliament forgets that he is on very very slender ice indeed. I have only to recall the speech just delivered by the noble Marquess opposite, in which lie called attention to the fact that if there is one direction more than another in regard to which this House is weak in the popular estimation it is because of its hereditary and unreformed character. Yet in the name of a House, hereditary and unreformed, you are going to demand the Dissolution of Parliament!If there is one thing which the people of this country would resent, in my judgment, more than they did the case of the Budget it would be the demand by an unreformed House of Lords for a Dissolution on the Home Rule Bill. At the time of the Budget the people said by their verdict that that was a demand quite outside your functions and yet here you are again repeating it to-day. Whether it be a Dissolution or a referendum, the same argument applies proceeding from such a source.
So far as the referendum is concerned, I entirely assent to the general principle of the referendum. I believe it was a profound mistake on the part of the Government not to have introduced it in some form or another into the provisions of the Parliament Act, and I think the day is not far distant, when the reform of this House is undertaken, as I dare say it will be, by the Party opposite, when my friends will sincerely regret that a form of referendum which would give them some security was not inserted in the Parliament Act. Although I should not be able under any circumstances to agree with such a proposition as is set forth in the Amendment proceeding from the House of Lords, I think the Government must remember that the day is very shortly coining when the possibility of an appeal to the people will have to be seriously entertained. When this Bill has passed through all its stages and is on the point of becoming law, the Executive of this country will have to ask themselves this question, Have we got behind us the moral sanction of the people of this country? Unless they have that, are they 998 really entitled to place upon the Statute Book a measure which is undoubtedly of a most vital character affecting the whole Constitution? Are they entitled to place such a measure upon the Statute Book without an absolute assurance on the part of the country of their support?
I venture to say that in order to obtain such an assurance from the country, there are only two courses open to the Administration. You cannot rely upon articles in newspapers. We all know how those are edited and produced. You can rely even less upon the effect of public meetings. We all of us have taken part in public meetings, and know how easily they are adjusted to our view. You can only rely on one test—I admit it is au incomplete one—the test of by-elections, and by-elections have incontestably gone of late against the Government. It may be said, and I know it is said, "Oh, but the result of such and such a by-election was not due to Home Rule; it was because the Tory candidate was a particularly popular man." Or it will be said, and generally is said, I believe, in this connection, "It was entirely due to the Insurance Act." Another excuse given—it is the more modern one—is that it was due to the revelations of the Marconi incident. It will always be put down to anything else but Home Rule. Consequently I admit that the test of by-elections is not altogether a satisfactory one, but it is the only one which is open to an Administration; and I say that the greatest possible responsibility will weigh upon the Executive of this country in May next year when they have to consider the prospect of this Bill becoming law in the teeth of the opposition—I do not wish either to exaggerate or depreciate it, but it is undoubtedly a formidable opposition—of Ulster, and in the teeth of the fact that there you have a large body of men who, to my great regret, have already declared their intention of resisting by force the passage of this Bill into law.
I ask this House, and my friends on this side in particular, to make every effort in the next six months to bring about some settlement, if possible. Do not let us wait until next May arrives with the dire prospect before us of conflict on whichever side you look. I would 999 also say to the Unionist Party, If a compromise is not arrived at you will have this fatal legacy of Home Rule cast on your shoulders in time to come, and you will have to deal with a problem which has proved so far insoluble and which I fear will be no more easy for you to effectively deal with than it has been for the Liberal Party. My belief is that a satisfactory system of Home Rule can only be obtained by mutual consent and by give and take between all Parties. It is only, I believe, by a proposal for Home Rule so established that you will obtain complete tranquility in Ireland, and it is on these grounds that I venture once more to make this appeal to your Lordships' House.
My Lords, one point has been made in this debate to which I desire to call your Lordships' attention. It is the statement made by the noble Marquess who leads the House that the only opposition to Home Rule in Ulster is due to hatred of the Roman Catholic Church. He led your Lordships to believe that the men of Ulster had no principles and were only sentimental bigots. I protest against this statement of the case. If the noble Marquess had said that one of the chief reasons why Ulstermen oppose Home Rule is the mistrust which they have of the Roman Catholic Church, then perhaps I might have agreed with him. The noble Marquess went on to say—One of the most remarkable features in our national character is the intense Protestantism of these three portions of the United Kingdom and, I do not hesitate to say, the mistrust which the average citizen in this country feels of the Roman Catholic Church.If there is mistrust in this country of the Roman Catholic Church, how much more so should there be mistrust of that Church in Ireland, where the Protestants are in such a great minority. In Ireland the Roman Catholic Church is a very powerful one, and it has used that power to interfere with and to try to control purely lay and secular affairs, and from time to time it has even tried to interfere with the civil and religious rights of Protestants. Therefore, my Lords, I maintain that it is very natural that the Protestants should object to a Parliament which would be, at any rate for a time, under the control of the Roman Catholic Church.
1000 It is the ambition of the men of Ulster to live at peace and contentment with their Roman Catholic neighbours and friends, and that both the Roman Catholics and the Protestants alike may enjoy to the full their civil and religious liberties. We maintain that we can only do this so long as we are both governed by an impartial Imperial Parliament, a Parliament which is bound to uphold the civil and religious liberties of all denominations. So far, then, it may be correct to say that one of the reasons of Ulster's opposition to Home Rule is mistrust of the Roman Catholic Church. But is it to be said that that is the only reason? Is it nothing to the men of Ulster that they are bound to this United Kingdom by ties of kin and of blood? Is it nothing to the men of Ulster that they were planted there by your forefathers to uphold the honour of England and civil and religious liberties in Ireland? Is it nothing to the men of Ulster that they have thrived and have built great cities and become rich under the Union and with the help of Imperial credit? Is it nothing to Ulster that she has fought beside the armies of the Empire, and that she is now to be handed over to those that have fought against the Empire? Is it nothing to Ulster that she prefers prosperity to the bankruptcy which she is promised under the Government of Ireland Bill? I ask, Is it a fair statement of the case to say that Ulster's opposition to Home Rule is only sentimental bigotry? The noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, tried to throw doubt upon the loyalty of the Unionist Party to His Majesty. Speaking for Ulster, at all events, I will only say this, that if the noble Earl had been on any platform in Ulster last Saturday and had tried to say one word of disrespect of His Majesty he would have been totally unrecognisable in less than thirty seconds.
The noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, emphasised with great persistency that there was as much demand for Home Rule now as ever. If there is, I ask where were the demonstrations of joy in Ireland when the Home Rule Bill passed the House Of Commons? And more to the point still, where were those demonstrations of anger that one would have expected when this House refused to pass it on the last occasion? The truth about this matter comes to us in a flash. 1001 It comes to us, not from any Unionist speaker, but from a Nationalist district councillor, who, when he was trying to support the claims to the vice-chairmanship of that body of a man whose only crime was that he had attended a Unionist meeting, said—There is scarcely a Roman Catholic in Ireland with£100 in his pocket who is not a Unionist at heart. It is the moneyed man who is the Unionist, and it is only the man of straw who is a Nationalist.That remark was made by a Nationalist. We loyalists in Ireland welcome heartily the Amendment which the noble Marquess who leads this side of the House has moved; for we at all events realise that the time for discussing the details of this Bill is past, and we are far too busy making preparations for the future.
As far as your Lordships' House is concerned. I venture to think that to ask your Lordships to discuss a Bill the principles of which you have already entirely and emphatically repudiated is very near becoming an insult; in fact, I may say it is almost the insult which follows the injury of the Parliament Act. At all events, I think that it is idle to discuss a Bill which sets up a Parliament in Dublin with an Executive responsible to it, as the loyalists in Ulster have repeatedly, clearly, and emphatically informed both the Government and the electors of the United Kingdom that they will at no time and under no circumstances submit to a Government of this nature, or, I may add, to any form of Government which deprives them of the right of being governed by the Imperial Parliament itself. We have further repeatedly and emphatically declared that we will meet any attempt which may be made to govern us by an Executive responsible to an Irish Parliament by armed resistance. And, my Lords, in this firm determination we have the support of thousands of people in England, in Scotland, and in Wales, who have promised us their active assistance, to say, nothing of the large support we are receiving from the Colonies all over the Empire; and I hope that there may be many who are seated on this side of your Lordships' House who will be found ready and willing to come over and assist us. We in Ulster owe a deep debt of gratitude to the noble Lord who spoke so strongly on our behalf 1002 yesterday, and who is chairman of the British League for the Support of Ulster. This determination can mean only one of two things—either the repeal of the Home Rule Bill as soon as it is placed on the Statute-book, or else the employment of Imperial troops to shoot down that armed resistance; and that such a state of affairs as that could be brought about by any Government without first consulting the will of the people is, to my mind, absolutely unthinkable.
The Government have been asked repeatedly, and I hope we shall get an answer to the question, What are you going to do? The country has a right to a plain statement, and it is due to the Government's own supporters who are voting for this Bill that they should get a plain statement with regard to this matter. I ails quite certain in my own mind of what the Government would like to do. They would like to continue with a policy of drift. They would like to be able to pay their debts to Mr. Redmond and place this Bill on the Statute Book, but not to have to enforce it themselves. They would like to remain in power as long as they possibly can, and then go to the country with the secret hope that another Government might come in and clear up the muddle which they have created. I say that any Ministry which could countenance such a policy as this would deserve nothing short of impeachment, and at any rate the declaration of Sir Edward Carson on Saturday must have given the Government a rude awakening, for if this Bill is placed on the Statute Book they now know that Ulster will have to be reckoned with at once. A great deal has been made of the four counties in Ulster. Mr. Redmond said that four counties must not dictate to twenty-eight. No, my Lords, four counties may not dictate to twenty-eight, but it appears that Mr. Redmond can dictate to a British Ministry to break up the Constitution and drive the loyal Protestant population out of a Protestant kingdom and hand them over to a Roman Catholic Parliament. It is no question of four counties dictating to twenty-eight. It is a question of over a quarter of the population of Ireland claiming a right, and we do claim the right, to remain as we are—an integral part of the British Empire. That, my Lords, is all that Ulster asks, and I repeat again that nothing but the employment of Imperial troops will ever drive us out.
§ THE EARL OF CARRICK
My Lords, in rising to take part in this debate I do so with a great deal of diffidence, firstly because it is the first time I have had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House, and, secondly, because the subject we are debating is of such magnitude that it is difficult to compress in the short space of time available what one would like to say about it. I have had the honour for twelve years past of being a public servant in the Department of Agriculture for Ireland, which appointment, I am sorry to say, I have had to resign owing to other reasons, but I am glad to be able to retain a certain connection with that Department in a purely advisory capacity. During those twelve years I have had an opportunity of seeing what has been done for the betterment of the country.
The noble Marquess who moved the Amendment quoted a speech by Mr. Birrell, in which he spoke of the prosperity of the country, and particularly stating that Ireland at the present day was more prosperous than any other part of His Majesty's Dominions. With that I can quite agree from what I have seen of the country myself. But there are reasons for that prosperity. The reasons are various. We have had during the past twelve or fifteen years various Acts of Parliament which have granted to Ireland a better form of local government and better education in every respect; the Department of Agriculture has been instituted, and the Land Purchase Act has been established; added to this, we have had a voluntary movement in the country—the Agricultural Organisation Society, founded by Sir Horace Plunket. All these things have tended towards the betterment of the country in every possible respect, but during the past three or four years those new Departments are finding that they are coming to a standstill. The noble Marquess said, "Leave well alone." If we stay as we are, I fear we shall stagnate, because every new Department which is created finds, after a short time of working, that it is absolutely essential that certain legislation, it may be small or great, is necessary for it to carry out its beneficial work. I should like to give an instance of this in connection with the Agricultural Department. In 1909 I was a member of a Committee which sat to go into the question of the Irish butter trade in relation to its standing in British 1004 markets. The Report of that Committee was presented at a very early date and recommended legislation. Where is that legislation? There is no Act of Parliament on the Statute Book as recommended by that Committee. True, a Bill has passed through this House and has been lying on the Table of the House of Commons now for over two years; but the effect of that Bill not having passed through Parliament has resulted—I am quite certain of my figures—in a loss to the Irish dairy farmers of three-quarters of a million sterling. Such Bills as those may be small in their way, but they mean a great deal to the farmers of Ireland.
A further point with regard to some form of Legislative Assembly being necessary in Ireland. I can give an illustration. When the Dublin Corporation wished to extend their boundaries they were compelled to go to enormous expense in bringing witnesses over here to both Houses of Parliament, and in bringing over their own solicitors and their own barristers, and employing solicitors and barristers over here as well. All that enormous expense could have been saved had there been an Assembly in Dublin to deal with such a matter. Assuming for one moment that devolution on a system outlined by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (Earl Grey) was established for this country, I should like to ask the Peers from Ulster this question. When we have a Parliament or a Legislative Assembly in Ireland, in Scotland, in England, and in Wales, to which Parliament will Ulster adhere? Another point which has been frequently made in speeches up and down the country is that Ireland is not fit for Home Rule. I think that every Peer from Ireland who is here will agree with me that that is an insult to the country. Why should Ireland not be fit for Home Rule? If we are not fit to govern ourselves, surely we are not fit to send representatives to any Parliament.
Another point of which we hear much is that the representatives of the Irish Party in the House of Commons, the moment they get Home Rule, are going to deliver Ulster into the hands of "carrion crows," to be demolished and driven out of the country. Surely the first object of the powers that be when that new Parliament is established will be to make a success of Home Rule. They have heard for so many years that 1005 Home Rule is bound to be a failure that it must be their one aim and object, whoever may be in power, to make as complete a success of Home Rule as possible. We have often heard, again, that Ireland is disloyal; we heard it last night. I was present in Dublin on the occasions when Her late Majesty Queen Victoria, and his late Majesty King Edward, and our present Sovereign, made their entries into Dublin, and I defy any portion of the United Kingdom or our Colonies to give them a reception equal to that which they obtained there. I was sorry to hear the word "disloval" from the noble Marquess last night, because nobody knows better than he does the marvellous display of loyalty shown by the Irish troops in South Africa during the Boer War, for which the late Queen created the Irish Guards as a memento of the wonderful display made by the Irish troops.
I think that Ireland is frequently treated far too seriously in some respects, and not seriously enough in others. I should like to give a small instance of the feelings which exist among the people of Ireland to illustrate how frequently we are taken too seriously in many of the matters which are discussed in this country, such as boycotting, etc. During the South African War certain members of a Militia regiment had attended a meeting in the South of Ireland before proceeding to their troopship which was to carry them to the scat of war. At the meeting a resolution had been passed in favour of the President of the South African Republic at that time, and the men were returning to barracks. During their journey back one of them remarked to the other that he had not seen a fellow comrade of the same regiment present at the meeting. "Never mind," said the other man, "We did not see Dooley there. But we will go out and fight the Boers, and when we come back we will boycott Dooley."
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, I am sure I am speaking the sentiments of every one of your Lordships in saying how glad we were to hear again the voice of Lord Loreburn in our debates. We entertain a very friendly and admiring recollection of the noble and learned Earl when he occupied the Woolsack, and although he did not address us this evening with all the awe-inspiring panoply of that high office, we rejoiced to find his voice 1006 just as impressive and effective as it was when from that quarter of the House he used to preach to us poor erring mortals on this side of the House of righteousness and temperance and judgment to come.
My Lords, the noble and learned Earl, in the opening part of his speech, dealt with power and effect with the evils of the present political situation in this country. He gave what I think we shall all agree to have been an acute and profound diagnosis of some, at any rate, of the ills of the body politic. On this side of the House there is no disposition to disagree with what he said; I only hope that his remarks in that context will be interpreted as no doubt he meant them to be interpreted by his late colleagues on the opposite Bench. The noble and learned Earl then went on to give a profession of his own political faith. There does not exist a man in this House who would be rash enough to dispute the sincerity of that utterance. Thirdly, the noble Earl dealt with the case of Ulster. And, lastly, he concluded with an appeal—an impressive and even a moving appeal—to all parts of your Lordships' House, and notably to those who sit on these Benches. My Lords, it is with the two latter parts of the noble Earl's speech that I will ask your permission to deal.
When I heard the noble and learned Earl talking about Ulster this evening I own I wondered why it was that the weight of authority and depth of emotion which were shown in the concluding passages of his speech should not be directed to understanding, if not to championing, the cause of Ulster, rather than to misrepresenting, and even to flouting it in your Lordships' House. I could not help thinking, if Ulster had been in the Balkan Peninsula, or in Armenia, how powerful an advocate we should have found in the noble and learned Earl of those persons who, after all, wish for little more than to retain their national unity, who desire to protect their civil and religious freedom, and who refuse, as many of those communities whom the noble Earl has championed have also refused, to accept a yoke that they mistrust and abhor. But, my Lords, in this case geography is stronger than sentiment with the noble Earl—I think I may even invert the common statement and say that water is thicker than blood. And because the Ulstermen 1007 happen to be only on the other side of the St. George's Channel instead of in the basin of the Mediterranean, and because the enemy they have to fear is not the Old Turk but the Ancient Hibernian, the streams of sympathy of the noble and learned Earl are entirely dried up.
I have been very much struck in the debates in both Houses of Parliament with the apparent inability of members of the opposite Party to understand the case of Ulster. The only Minister who seems to me to have shown any sense of the reality of the position is the Irish Secretary, Mr. Birrell, and in his delightful speeches there is always an element of jest which rather diminishes the gravity of his admissions. Let me take the noble Marquess the Leader of the House. When we were discussing the Bill in January last the noble Marquess spoke of the Ulster case as resting on the massive rock of religious prejudice. And last night he went even a little further than that in saying that the only principle by which the Ulstermen were animated was hatred of the Roman Catholic Church. With all respect I think that was a very regrettable observation and a very unjust aspersion to cast upon many of those who reside in Ulster. I do not deny for a moment that the fear of religious intolerance, the dread of religious persecution, may enter into their feelings. I dare say that is the case; and if it be so perhaps their apprehensions are not unjustified by much that has taken place in the past and even by a good deal that is taking place now. But when the noble Marquess went on to say that he could conceive of no principle behind the attitude of Ulster, was he not going rather too far? My Lords, what is principle? A principle may be a profound and passionate conviction as distinguished from motives of mere expediency, or a principle may be a fundamental consideration or group of considerations which are based, or believed by those who entertain them to be based, on elementary truth. Whichever interpretation you adopt, surely you cannot deny that the Ulster case rests upon a principle eminently intelligible and unmistakable.
What is it that Ulstermen are standing for? The noble and learned Earl in his picture of Ulster, would have us believe that they are unseemly and unruly and unreasonable men. Surely that is not the case. They are refusing, so far as lies in their power, to be deprived of that par- 1008 titular aspect of British citizenship which consists in being under the direct control of the Imperial Parliament. They ask to be allowed to maintain their civil and religious liberties. I do not believe that they want to interfere with the rest of Ireland. The noble and learned Earl seemed to imply that they did. So far as I know, they are willing that the south and west and the centre of Ireland should have their own system of self-government if they desire it—that they should govern themselves in their own way. What they do ask is that the rest of Ireland should not be allowed to govern them; that they should be left as they are. The form of Government which they desire to retain is that under which they have prospered and waxed strong; and, my Lords, surely that appeal is one to which it is hard for us to turn a deaf ear, considering that it is the form of government which we ourselves enjoy.
In another respect it seems to me that Ulster is standing upon a principle which your Lordships cannot fail to acknowledge, for it is the principle which the Government themselves have made the basis of this Bill. What is the principle of this Bill? Is it not surely that the voice of the local majority shall prevail? Surely the whole of your case is that what the south and west and centre of Ireland demand by the voice of their representatives, by the votes of their electors expressed over a series of years, we are bound to concede. On exactly the same grounds the inhabitants of the four counties in the north-east corner of Ireland ask that their local majority should be considered too. The analogy is really very very close. Their feelings about the matter are equally strong; they have been consistently entertained over an equal length of time; they are similarly expressed by their own votes and by their Members in the House of Commons. And when the noble and learned Earl seems to think that there is nothing in the case of Ulster that severs it from the rest of Ireland, that the smaller unit ought to be content to be submerged in the larger and accept contentedly whatever is given to the latter—I hope I do not misinterpret him; that is an argument with which we are very familiar—is it not fair to point out in reply that the conditions are entirely different? In Ulster there is separateness of race, of religion, of material condition, of industrial occupations, and of experience and traditions. In fact, there are in Ulster 1009 all those features which, if they were found to exist, as they are found to exist, in other parts of the Empire or in other parts of the world, are always accepted, and by none more than by noble Lords opposite, as entitling the community which presents them to especial consideration and respect. If I may turn again for a moment to the European analogy, Why do noble Lords and hon. Members on the Liberal side wish to give back Crete to Greece, to carve out a new State in Albania, to divide Macedonia into a number of provinces—except for the very reason that justifies Ulster in demanding separate treatment in the present instance?
But when the Government are confronted with the case of Ulster they give no reply. The noble and learned Earl spoke in one part of his speech about the impenetrable silence that was being observed on this side of the House. Perhaps later on I may just lift the fringe of the curtain of which he complains, but if it is a question of impenetrable silence surely that silence is to be found on the Government side. To the appeals, the demands, of Ulster in this debate there has been given not a word of sympathy, not a word of encouragement, and, I might almost say, not a word of understanding. Indeed, I think it is rather more than that. I remember that on a previous occasion the noble and learned Viscount who at present sits on the Woolsack rather derided the sentiments on the part of Ulster, because, he said, they could not be permanent. And last night we had the noble Marquess the Leader of the House chaffing Sir Edward Carson and the. Provisional Government which it is threatened will be set up in Ulster on the ground that there will be no taxes to collect. I venture to say, however, that the seriousness of the situation consists not in the depth of perversity or the degree of misunderstanding on the part of His Majesty's Government. They may be serious enough. All Governments are from time to time stupid and blind and deaf, and experience shows that the older they get in their career the stupider they become. We could not have a better illustration than this debate. But the serious thing is not the attitude of His Majesty's Government, but the consequences which that attitude must entail. I observe that on this point the noble and learned Earl had not a word to say.
1010 Let me attempt to forecast what those consequences will be. Supposing that His Majesty's Government refuse to grant a General Election, not now hut at any time before this Bill becomes law under the Parliament Act. Supposing they persist in their present attitude, and that the Bill, after a third repetition of the tragical farce through which we are now going, comes into law some time in the course of next summer. There was one suggestion made by a noble Lord opposite on this point which I must be allowed to notice—I refer to Lord Ashby St. Ledgers. I did not myself hear the remark, but it has been quoted to me as having been made when I was for a moment outside the House. The noble Lord, speaking no doubt with some authority, seemed to contemplate an arrangement under which a General Election should not take place before the Bill is passed into law, but after; that after the assent of the King has been obtained the effective operation of the Bill might be postponed—I believe he suggested the postponement of the appointed day so that the election might take place before the Irish Parliament is set up. I hope nobody will be deluded for one moment into thinking that that is the sort of General Election for which we plead. We want a General Election before the Royal Assent is given either to confirm your judgment if you are right, or to prevent a ghastly mistake if you are wrong. A General Election after the Royal Assent had been given would be a very different, a very futile, nay, I will go further and say a very dangerous, thing. If it were to ratify your judgment the result to yourselves would be the same; but if, on the other hand, it were to repudiate your policy you would then be found guilty of one of the greatest crimes ever committed in history, and upon us on this side of the House would be thrown the intolerable burden of repealing your Act and of clearing up the abominable mess which you had made. I hope no one of your Lordships will imagine for a moment that that is the sort of election we want, or, so far as we have a voice in the matter, that we would take.
The noble Marquess said last night—it was part of his argument for disparaging the gravity of the situation—that it takes two parties to make civil war. He seems to contemplate that if the Government do nothing, nothing will happen. But supposing Ulster carries out its programme 1011 which was foreshadowed in Belfast by Sir Edward Carson a few days ago; supposing they set up tins Provisional Government and usurp executive authority in Ireland—I am not saying whether they would be right or wrong in doing it, I say supposing they do it—whether they collect taxes or not, supposing they snap their fingers at the Parliament you are going to create in Dublin, if it is set up, and supposing, as a noble Lord said just now, aid in money and men pours into Ireland from other parts of the United Kingdom and I dare say of the Empire—then I ask, in all humility and seriousness, What are you who are in office going to do?
We have been asked to-night to state our policy. What is your policy? We are in opposition. What are you going to do when this situation arises? You cannot afford to sit still; you will never solve a situation like that by mere masterly inactivity. Sooner or later you will be compelled to take action, however much you may dislike it, and when that day comes and the inevitable collision takes place, whether it be on a more violent or on a less violent occasion, do you think that public opinion will support you then? No, my Lords, I believe it would not. I believe that the people of this country will be very 10th to condemn those whose only disloyalty it will be to have been excessive in their loyalty to the King. I do not think that the people of this country will call those "rebels" whose only form of rebellion it is to insist on remaining under the Imperial Parliament under which we all live. And depend upon it when the first blow is struck—and my argument is that it will be struck—when the first blow is struck you will kindle a flame that will rush through the country like a forest fire and will not stop until you have been consumed. Here again may I, in passing, allude for a moment to something that fell from Lord Ashby St. Ledgers in the course of his remarks just now. I am told that he took exception to our statement that we had been told British bayonets would not be used to put down Ulster, and said that His Majesty's Government would certainly be prepared to take whatever measures might be necessary to enforce the law.
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I said that no Government could divest itself of the necessity of carrying on civil government.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Not only did the noble Lord make a statement of the intentions of His Majesty's Government, but he impugned what was said on this side of the House. The authority for what was said here was Mr. Birrell himself. I have the extract from the speech delivered by Mr. Birrell—
§ LORD ASHBY ST. LEDGERS
I beg the noble Earl's pardon, but he was not in the House when I spoke. I did not impugn what was said on the other side of the House. I said the noble Marquess was confident that force would not be used, and I made no comment on that.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I think it is very desirable that the point should be made clear. I have not the slightest desire to misrepresent the noble Lord, but it is of extreme importance that we should be clear on the point. I am discussing what measures His Majesty's Government will take as a last resort in Ulster, and I feel compelled to quote the words of Mr. Birrell in a speech he made at Warrington on February 13 last. He said—As for shooting them down, who intends to shoot them down? They say, 'If the soldiers of the King go marching through Belfast mowing them down with their horrible artillery, is that to be done to the Protestants of Belfast?' The answer is, 'No; we have no intention of doing that.'When this significant pledge was quoted in the House of Commons, Mr. Campbell put this question—I ask the Prime Minister does he agree with and assent to those propositions?and the Prime Minister is reported in Hansard as indicating assent. It is very important to bear in mind that this assurance about the use, or rather the non-use, of British bayonets in Ulster is given to us with the authority of the Irish Secretary, ratified by the assent of the Prime Minister.
1013 If these are the dangers that lie before us, then we point out to you that the whole, or at any rate the greater part, of them you can escape by means either of a General Election or a referendum, before the catastrophe can happen. I know the objection that will be made to that. You will say that Ulster will not accept the verdict. Perhaps that may be so; Ulster is the mistress of her own conduct. I express no opinion upon the point; I have no influence in the matter. But, my Lords, the difference will be this. If you are driven to coerce Ulster without a General Election you will have to contend with public opinion, which may ultimately be so overwhelming that it will drive you from power. If, on the other hand, you have a General Election, not necessarily now but at any time before this Bill passes into law under the Parliament Act, you will, if you win, deprive Ulster of the moral support of the Unionist Party; you will have public opinion behind you; you will be able to say that your policy is that of the United Kingdom, and although your task in Ireland will not be easy—I dare say it will be very difficult—it will be ten thousand times easier than it will be if you persist in your present tactics. On more than one occasion I remember having heard the noble Viscount who is sitting opposite me, and who is going to follow me, say that the greatest need in Eastern polities is imagination. I agree with him. But imagination is no question of longitude. Imagination is just as much wanted or rather is more wanted at the present moment in Western politics than in Eastern. We want a little imagination applied by the Government to the case of Ulster, and if the noble Viscount could assemble his colleagues and give them a little homily on the virtues of imagination in Irish politics he might acid one more to his many services to his country and to his Party, by saving the former from disaster and the latter from an atrocious crime.
The noble Earl, Lord Loreburn, interposed a question which I think it only respectful to him and the House to attempt to answer. He asked the very pertinent question whether, in the event of a General Election, we would abide by the result. I think he must have failed to hear what fell from the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, last evening. The noble Marquess said that if a General Election is given us he was prepared to abide—and, of course, he was speaking for the Party— 1014 he was prepared to abide by the result and govern himself accordingly. But the noble Earl went a little beyond that and asked us to say whether, in such a contingency, we would be prepared—I think these were his words—"to support" this Bill. It is perhaps rather too much to ask us to support a Bill on which we hold the views we are expressing in this House. That is going beyond what I think any man in this House has a right to ask or expect. But my noble friend behind me does authorise me to say that in such a contingency as I am describing—and in the event of the result of the General Election being to indicate substantial approval of the measure of His Majesty's Government, he will be prepared to advise your Lordships to go into Committee on the Bill and endeavour to remove some of the blemishes and undesirable features by which it is characterised, and to ask all parties in the House to join in the endeavour to shape it into a more passable and palatable measure. That, I hope, is an answer to the question which was asked by the noble Earl.
Now one word about the case which we put before the House. Yesterday the noble Marquess, in a speech of characteristic moderation, stated the case for a General Election before this Bill is passed into law. Again let me say that he was not pleading for a General Election here and now; he was pleading for a General Election at any moment between now and next summer. It is not possible for any one to argue that that was an arrogant or unconstitutional claim. I think the noble Marquess himself said that he advocated it as a democratic appeal, and undoubtedly there can be nothing much more democratic than a wish to consult, and defer to, the will of the people. Moreover, my Lords, it is open to me to point out that it would be a carrying out of the traditional conception of its duties by your Lordships' House. In all the storms and controversies of the past few years I have never heard any one, not the most extreme advocate of the privileges of your Lordships' House, claim that it was any part of your duty at any stage to defy the will of the people. We may not always have interpreted it successfully, although I am bound to say there have been occasions when we have read it a good deal more successfully than have noble Lords opposite. Sometimes also we have been 1015 the means of securing the expression of that will. But never on any occasion that I can recollect, when once expressed, has your Lordships' House refused to defer to it. We ask that there should be a reference to the people now or within the next nine months, not, as Lord Beauchamp appeared to think, as a protest against the Parliament Act—although our feelings about that piece of legislation remain entirely unchanged—but because we sincerely believe that there is a genuine and legitimate doubt, widely entertained by others than ourselves, as to whether this particular Bill is approved by the electors of the country.
I am not going at this period of the debate to raise again the old and stale question of your mandate at the last General Election. I do not propose to immerse myself in the muddy waters of that barren controversy. But, whatever your mandate was, whether the people did or did not believe when they returned you to power that the introduction of a Home Rule Bill was going to be the immediate sequel, the necessary consequence, of the Parliament Act—about two points there can be not the slightest doubt. In the first place, the people did not know what was to be the character of the Bill to be introduced, because you did not know it yourselves; and, secondly, they had not the slightest idea that His Majesty's Government might be driven within the space of two or three years to coerce Ulster by force of arms. Whatever the nature of the mandate you had, you certainly had no mandate for civil war. Had it been known, or even dreamt, that such would be the consequence, the result of the last General Election might have been very different indeed.
Even now, can you point to any ray of enthusiasm for your policy? I welcome very much the candid utterances of the noble Lord, Lord Weardale, on the subject of recent by-elections. He seems to be a most careful and, if I may say so, a most accurate student of these phenomena in contemporary politics, and I am surprised he did not correct a shocking lapse made by Lord Beauchamp in his remarks last night. The noble Earl gave us the figures of the various by-elections since the Home Rule Bill was introduced into the House of Commons in June last year. He said that the Liberal votes cast totalled 1016 120,000 to 105,000 Unionist votes, and from that he drew conclusions most encouraging to himself. My Lords, it is a pity the noble Earl did not pursue his researches a little further back and contrast those figures with the figures in the same constituencies at the last General Election. He would have found that on that occasion the Liberal votes were 123,000 and the Unionist votes 93,000. So that since the introduction of the Home Rule Bill the Liberals have lost nearly 3,000, whilst the Unionists have gained 12,000 votes—a Unionist gain of 13 per cent. and a Radical loss of 2 per cent. That does not perhaps afford ground for any extravagant degree of enthusiasm. The utmost that noble Lords opposite can say for their policy is that in the country it is regarded with general apathy. But apathy is more commonly regarded as a mark of indifference or ignorance than of active affection.
It is quite true that the country is apathetic; it is apathetic about a good many more things than Home Rule. It is apathetic about the whole position of Parliament; it is apathetic about the condition of the House of Commons; and it is profoundly apathetic about the present occupants of the Ministerial Bench. This apathy affects the whole of our politics. It is eating the heart out of our public life. The question I would ask is, Would that apathy survive the firing of the first bullet in Ireland? I think it would be replaced by something very different. It is precisely because we want to avoid the dangerous excitement that might succeed this apathy in the event of such a contingency, because we want to enlighten ourselves upon the real state of the public mind, because we want to prevent the disaster of civil war, and not because we want to enter a belated protest against the Parliament Act, that we plead for this General Election of which I have spoken.
I think I have made clear our position in regard to what the noble Earl said on the question of a General Election. He used very forcible reasons for indicating that a General Election could not fairly be asked, and would not be likely to be given, now. I agree with him. But I hope I do not strain his remarks unduly far, or misinterpret what was in his mind, if I deduce both from his words and his manner the conclusion that in his opinion a General Election is not an unreasonable 1017 thing to ask, and is a thing which we may, perhaps, not unfairly expect to see. I believe myself that a General Election will come, because, for the reasons I have given, it cannot permanently be refused. You may refuse, of course, to consider it now. I do not suppose any of us imagine that the noble Viscount who will follow me will indicate the smallest sympathy with the proposal I am putting forward in so far as it relates to the present position of affairs. But, my Lords, circumstances change. The situation is developing every day; the position will become more acute, and it may very well be that between now and next May you may take a very different view. When you realise that by a General Election before this Bill comes into law, if it is favourable to you, you will escape the awful odium of the risk of civil war and of coercing Ulster with the opinion of half the country against you, while if it is unfavourable to you you will escape the consequences of a most appalling blunder, then I think it not unlikely that the still small voice of reason will be heard in louder accents than we at present hear it, and that you may give a different reply. I confess I hope it may be so.
If what we all have in view—and there is no man in your Lordships' House who can fail to be struck by a certain similarity of tenor in most of the speeches on both sides of the House—if what we want is a contented and pacified Ireland, an Ireland continuing to move along the road of industrial and material progress on which during the last few years she has gone so far, then surely we must all deplore any course, whether it be dictated by false amour proper or by political expediency, that would light again in that country the baleful fires of religious animosity or secular strife. You say—and we believe what you say—that you are doing your best to allay one set of political animosities. Our point is that in trying to do that you are kindling another set of animosities fiercer and more alarming. You are always appealing in your speeches to the sense of fellow-feeling, of common patriotism, and national pride which exists amongst Irishmen in all parts of the world, and you look to that feeling to bring Irishmen of all classes together after the strife. May I venture to say it would have been better if you had appealed to that feeling and invited that co-operation at a rather earlier stage. You have made the fatal mistake of beginning at 1018 the wrong end. Your Bill is not a national settlement in the sense that it would remove the sores of an entire nation; its incurable fault, which vitiates it, is that it is a political settlement to satisfy the views and confirm the ascendancy of one political Party.
The noble and learned Earl, in a part of his speech which I confess I did not very clearly follow, seemed to think that the next move—even the present move—lies with us. He indicated the necessity of a comprehensive scheme of devolution for all parts of the United Kingdom. He further suggested that it was our business at this moment to produce an alternative scheme for Ireland, between which and the Government scheme the country ought to be asked to choose. I am loth to accuse the noble and learned Earl of any obscurity of thought, but does he really mean that it is the duty of the Opposition to formulate at this juncture a comprehensive scheme of devolution for the whole of the British Isles when his Majesty's Government, with all their convictions and opportunities, have failed to approach the fringe of such a scheme? And does he further think it is our duty, on the narrower field of Irish politics, to excogitate and find some new scheme of our own for dealing with the Irish difficulty? Have we not been told over and over again in this controversy that the Irish Bill holds the field? So it does; and while that is so it is not for us in opposition to set up a rival scheme. I do not know that we have any very warm encouragement in that direction in the experience of the Conference two years ago. I was not a member of that Conference, and I do not know what passed within those closed doors; but I doubt very much whether any great steps were taken to meet us on the part of noble Lords opposite. Whether that was so or not, we all remember that the moment the Conference doors were closed a General Election was sprung upon the country and the Conference was used in every way to our detriment. I say so in language of profound regret, but I believe it to be a statement of fact. Therefore, my Lords, I doubt if the present moment is a very favourable one for the production of new schemes by those who sit in this quaiter of the House.
But of one thing I am certain from the character of the speeches to which we have 1019 listened in this debate, and that is that if the Irish question is to be solved—and I agree that it must be solved—it can only be by the consent, not of two, or three, but of all sections of the Irish community. You may ignore or flout Ulster now, you may coerce her later on, but not until a Party arises in England that strives to persuade, and succeeds in persuading, Ulster will you settle the Irish question. And lastly, my Lords, I should like to say—and this is a point that has been strangely ignored in this discussion—that no solution can or ought to succeed that has not behind it the support of the democracy, not merely of Scotland and Wales, but of England also. You may scoff at the predominant partner if you please, but the predominant partner has a great voice in the matter and is entitled to be heard in the proposed severance. It is not, however, for a reference to the predominant partner alone, but to the whole country, that we appeal, and although His Majesty's Government may turn a deaf ear to that appeal to-day, I venture to think that in the interests of Ireland, in the interests of peace, and in the interests of your own existence, you will ultimately be obliged to concede it.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (VISCOUNT MORLEY)
My Lords, even when I most differ from the noble Earl opposite I never hear him speak without interest and pleasure. He is certainly one of the most experienced on foreign difficulties and foreign regions, and undoubtedly one of the two or three most accomplished men your Lordships' House possesses. But that be is aware of the peculiarities of Irish conditions I do not for a moment see any reason to think. An analogy between Ireland and the Balkan Peninsula, or between Crete and Ireland, is really one of the most chimerical analogies that I can imagine any statesman inventing. There is not a single point of resemblance between Ulster and Crete, Servia, Macedonia, and so forth. If the noble Earl were well acquainted with all the peculiarities of Ireland, including Ulster, he would have taken a rather different line in some respects from what he has done to-night.
I am sure I should do what the House desires if I address myself, as the noble Earl did, first of all, if not mainly, to Ulster. Nobody in the House has better reason than 1020 myself for knowing the difficulties and complexities of Ulster, because when I was first Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1886, within a few months of my holding that office, I discovered the seriousness of feeling, if it were hostile, in Ulster. The noble Earl talks of bullets; there were bullets, I am afraid, in 1886, Therefore I have never during the whole of this controversy, for the last 25 years, said a word indicating that I regarded the stiff opposition of Ulster to Home Rule as anything like mere "bluff." I have never thought so. The noble Earl says, You need imagination in order to grasp the difficulties of Home Rule and the case of Ulster. Well, I for one, at all events, am not wanting in the power of imaginative grasp of all the sentiments of Scottish Presbyterians and others who are the active political spirits of Ulster. But looking at it as seriously as you please—and you cannot look at it too seriously—are you to allow the difficulties of a settlement that shall include Ulster to override the whole question of our policy in respect of Ireland? It seems to me that that is thorough disproportion, and to take that line now and to look at Ulster as the single deciding element in the whole of this great controversy is a fatal and narrow mistake.
The speech of the noble Earl so far as Ulster goes, if I understood him rightly, pointed in the direction of separate treatment for Ulster. Several of his propositions and some of his language pointed in that direction. There are many arguments against separate treatment, but there is one which stands out. Sir Edward Carson has said more than once and his allies say constantly that their friends in Ulster would not accept separate treatment; that they would not abandon and desert their friends, the Protestant minority in the South of Ireland. Then there are other difficulties. I am rather surprised that the noble Lord (Lord MacDonnell), who has had so much experience in Irish administration, does not see the difficulty of carrying on a separate administration in the North of Ireland, together with an Irish Parliament and an English Parliament. I cannot imagine anything more absolutely impossible. I submit that nobody who was well acquainted with Irish administration would on any account admit that you could work Ireland administratively if you had a separate body, such as the noble Lord described last night, in Ulster, and an Irish Parliament sitting in Dublin.
1021 The air is thick with proposals for reconciling Ulster. There is no end to the ingenious devices which well-meaning people invent in order to get round the Ulster difficulty. There is only one defect about all these ingenious devices, and that is that they are all passionately resisted both by one Party and the other. I do not believe there is a single one of these devices which I read about in the newspapers and hear about in conversation which both the Unionists in Ulster and the Nationalists elsewhere would for a moment accept. Therefore, my Lords, it really is not worth while to avoid facing the trouble that you have to face if you are going to deal with the problem at all. Of course, if you say there is no necessity for any dealing with Ireland you need not face it, but you do not say that. The most rev. Prelate in the debate on the Bill earlier in the year admitted in very emphatic language that there was an Irish problem. Mr. Bonar Law has said so more than once in language equally plain and equally emphatic. I am not sure that the noble Marquess himself has not occasionally come over to the same position, but Mr. Balfour certainly has. But you do not make a single suggestion, for which the late Lord Chancellor reproached you, and you have not any step in your mind or in your own imagination towards meeting the problem the existence of which you all admit. I am not blaming you for that, for not bringing forward proposals. I do not think I quite follow my noble and learned friend in saying that it is your business to make proposals. But in criticising the proposals of those who are bolder than you are, do remember that you have to deal with Ireland as a whole; you cannot for a moment think that you could withdraw Ulster from the general orbit of Irish Government.
The noble Earl, talking about the spirit of the country, said there is no enthusiasm for our Home Rule Bill. The noble Earl is well acquainted with history. I wonder if there was any enthusiasm for the Bill for Catholic emancipation which the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel brought in? Just as you have opposed Home Rule for now 25 years, so the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel opposed Catholic emancipation. Then they found they could not govern Ireland, and they came round without any enthusiasm being shown by the people of the country. I do not say that is the case now, but even if it were the case past history 1022 shows the fallacy of that point. But as to the separate treatment of Ulster, I remember very well that in the early days Mr. Parnell said to me a hundred times—I cannot do it. If you succeed in getting Parliament to give an Irish legislative body I could not carry it on if the Northerners were not a part of that body.And I should suppose that the Nationalists of to-day would use the same language and hold the same views. The whole idea of a national governing body would disappear if you had this notion of separate treatment. Mr. Parnell used to say this—If you will give us a real and united Irish legislative body, there is only one thing you ought to do. In your own interests and in the interests of Ireland you ought to make us into a Crown colony.The other day Mr. Balfour said there were four alternative policies. One was local councils; the second was this Bill, which he regarded as the worst possible; the third was separation; the fourth—I am sorry I have forgotten the fourth point. We banish—everybody banishes—separation. As to local government, I remember very well that Lord Salisbury at one time, before Mr. Gladstone adopted Home Rule as the policy of his Party, was in favour of a central authority as against local authorities, because a central authority would be more variously representative of Irish interests and would have more power. But we need not discuss that to-night.
You are going to dismiss this Bill, less, perhaps, from well-considered objections to Home Rule as a policy than to a desire, on which I make no remark, to discredit the Parliament Act. That was quite evident from the language of the noble Marquess last night, and it has been noted in every speech since except those speeches which have turned entirely upon Ulster. I have said that the noble Earl stated that there is no enthusiasm in England for Home Rule, and the noble Marquess said last night that while Ulster is bitterly opposed to Home Rule the rest of Ireland is indifferent. Well, the noble Marquess is surrounded in Ireland, which he knows well, by small Catholic farmers, who are, I am sure, good friends with him; but I feel very confident that this observation of his shows him to be remote from the inner feelings of the peasantry who surround him in the county of Kerry, and the same would be true of the other counties in the South of Ireland.
1023 I would like to put this case. Suppose that the English people chose, either by a referendum or without a referendum, to abandon Home Rule once for all. Suppose you had an election of one kind or another and it was clear that England, or, if you like, Great Britain, had discarded Home Rule once for all, and that it was a lost cause. I do not believe that the noble Marquess or any other reasonable and observant member of the landlord party in Ireland thinks you could carry on. Suppose it were true that the people in the South of Ireland are comparatively indifferent to Home Rule, the point blank refusal of it is the very thing that would quicken the present Home Rule feeling into a much angrier life than we have ever seen in our generation. I do not believe any one would deny that. You would then have to turn Ireland, as Mr. Parnell wanted, into a Crown colony; and if you think that either House of Parliament, under any House of Commons majority, would sanction anything like Crown colony Government in Ireland, I think you are profoundly miscalculating. The noble Marquess seemed to think that Ireland is not moving toward self-government. This, I venture to remark, is his second mistake. His first mistake, if he will allow me to say so, is in supposing that the South of Ireland is indifferent; and his second mistake is in supposing that Ireland as a whole is moving away in all sorts of forms, outside of Parliamentary forces, from the ideas, principles, and aspirations of self-government. I may note this, in passing, that you would find the difficulties of Irish government so great that you would have a considerable addition to make to what is called in the Bill the Transferred Sum.
I go back to Ulster for a moment. We have been asked, first by Lord Londonderry to-night, and now I think by the noble Earl, what we would do in the case of violent disorder in Ireland. When it is said, Would you shoot? what do you mean by that? What would you do in the case of violent disorder?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
No; the noble Marquess's question was really, if he will pardon me for saying it, an extraordinary question. It was this, If Mr. Redmond were to ask you to shoot, would you shoot? I think that is a fair way of representing the question.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
Not at all. What I asked was this. If Mr. Redmond dictated to the Government to order English troops to shoot on the loyalists in Ireland, would they do it?
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Now, my Lords, I am going to be perfectly straightforward in this matter, and very brief. I do not believe that ever before when Governments and Legislative Chambers were passing a very difficult question of Constitution framing, have they been asked what they would do in the case of a purely hypothetical contingency. Surely noble Lords must see that it would be ridiculous. What power Mr. Redmond may have—whether Mr. Redmond would have any power at all, what the particular case calling for armed intervention might be—all those are hypothetical contingencies.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I apologise for again interrupting. The reason I raised the question was that Mr. Birrell gave, according to the Nation, a hint that the English troops would not shoot on the loyalists, and Mr. Asquith affirmed that only by a nod. I say that a nod is not good enough for us; we want to have something stated in black and white.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Whatever reasons prompted the noble Marquess's question, I for one would refuse to say what I would do in what, by the hypothesis, might be an extremely delicate, critical and dangerous crisis—that is assumed from the terms in which the question is put. I cannot suppose, whoever may be the governors of Great Britain at that date, that they would hesitate to do all that public and national duty imposed upon them in the maintenance of order. I am afraid the question was put simply with the object of making a convenient political point—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I object to that entirely. I am not asking it with the object of making a convenient 1025 political point. I want to know whether the Government endorse Mr. Asquith's nod in affirming the statement of Mr. Birrell that the English troops would not fire on the loyalists of Ireland.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Really! I am asked across the Table to say how I interpret Mr. Asquith's nod. I did not see it; I was not in the House of Commons; I do not know what he meant by it.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
How can I explain a nod? I do not want to say anything that is disagreeable or offensive to the noble Marquess, but he and other noble Lords are constantly putting this question because they think it politically a good point. I for one should not be at all afraid of meeting them on any platform—if I went on to platforms—and I should say, "I will not answer."
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
Just so. But then I should go on to say that no such question was ever before put to responsible men framing, with tremendous difficulties, a new system of Irish Government, or any other sort of Government, as, "Will you shoot?" I am not sure that I shall have disappointed noble Lords opposite by what I have said. Perhaps they will welcome it. But what I have said I have said. The noble Earl used the same sort of argument about a referendum that the noble Marquess used last night, and I do not think in the thousands of speeches it has been my happy lot to listen to in the two Houses I ever heard a more singular and peculiar argument. The argument was this—it was to console us, to encourage us in coming forward with a referendum or Dissolution. He said, "The operation of the Parliament Act would be equally good supposing there were a referendum or an election between now and May." And the noble Marquess went on to say, "You would then have a priceless advantage; you would know for certain that you had not misread the opinion of the people of this country." What amazes me is that such a thing should conic into the mind of such an experienced public Minister as the noble Marquess. See what it is. I will ask 1026 the House to look at it. The Prime Minister, before coming to a decision upon the noble Marquess's wish, summons his Cabinet and says, "We have scorned delights and lived laborious days for months and months; we have worked hard with the draftsmen; the Cabinet has debated again and again; we have worked the House of Commons very hard. It occurred to me this morning," says the Prime Minister to his Cabinet, "that we may all the time have been misreading the opinion of the people, so I am going to ask you to agree to a Dissolution to find out whether we have been dreaming or whether we have been sensible practical men performing their business." Can the noble Marquess be serious when he talks of our being refreshed and encouraged by a Dissolution which would open our minds upon the question whether, after all, we had not been going through a huge labour from mere foolishness? I submit nothing more ludicrous has ever been said in Parliament.
You talk of our allies. I am sorry to have to do it, I would much rather not, but I must say a word about your allies. You will never govern Ireland, my Lords, under the Orange flag. I venture to say that with the utmost confidence, and I believe that sonic of your wisest Irish friends will tell you so. Why? You have thrown yourselves, only temporarily it may be, again, for a political purpose, into the arms of the Orangemen. Let me say from a pretty extensive observation of Irish doings that you would quarrel with your allies of to-day before you had been in office for an hour. When we are asked to look at Ulster and nothing else, see what the history is—I do not mean the whole history, but the history of our own immediate day. Your allies—I do not think the noble Marquess will contradict me in this—were against land purchase; they were against the Local Government Act of 1898; and I think I am not wrong in this painful statement, that they drove Mr. Wyndham from office; they quarrelled with Mr. Gerald Balfour because he made an appointment which gave them displeasure. Do you think when you come into power they will not claim their share, apart from all their legislative demands, in the victory?
Mr. Walter Long—whose early restoration to health all of us wish for—who 1027 knows about Ireland, said in the House of Commons—I know Ireland well. I have a great many relations and friends in Ireland, both Protestant and Catholic; and I believe that religious difficulties will always be settled by the general common sense of the people.He has no fear whatever of tyranny and persecution and so forth, but thinks the difficulties will be settled by general common sense. The other day there appeared in The Times a communication to which, if the Duke of Norfolk were present, I would ask his attention. As he is not present he may perhaps hear of it elsewhere. This writer, an authoritative writer in The Times, one of their own men, describes how he went into Antrim and talked to a man there, a workman. This man said—I think your Lordships will not object to my taking a minute to read this—There is no reason at all why we should not go on living and working peaceably side by side, every man believing and worshipping according to his conscience and his life. But it is all a sad, bad business. We have no quarrel with the Roman Catholic religion, but a Roman Catholic Government is a different thing. We will have none of it.He then told the story about the wall of a cottage garden close at hand on the grey stones of which, roughly written in chalk, were the words, "No Pope here." The workman said to the newspaper correspondent—That is what it is—what England said long ago and had to fight for. We have said it ever since, and we say it now; and by God! we mean it. Let them do what they will, we will have no priest-ridden Ulster. Let the word be given, and there will not be a Papist left in Antrim.It is an authoritative writer who gives that statement; and when people resist Home Rule on the ground of the intolerance of the Roman Catholics, it is worth while remembering that there is something in stories of that kind.
The few more remarks I should like to make are upon the real point of the noble Marquess's speech. The noble Marquess demands either a Dissolution or a referendum. I do not really quite understand on what grounds. Does he not see that to demand a referendum or a Dissolution because some Bill is going to pass of which your Lordships disapprove—does he not see that that referendum or Dissolution is a far heavier blow to Parliamentary authority, including the authority of this House, than anything in the Parliament 1028 Act? I am old-fashioned, and I dislike intensely the idea of our old and venerable system being transformed into an appeal to the—I do not know to whom the appeal is to be. A Dissolution will be to the voters, but you are refusing now the vote of a General Election. You are refusing the Parliament Act. The Parliament Act was passed by a General Election. There is no question of that; no one denies it; then why do you object to it? It was approved in order to enable Liberal measures to be passed. Why do you blame us for that Act? You should blame the electors. Why not blame the electors? They wanted Liberal measures, and they gave us this instrument with which to carry out their wish. A referendum, as suggested by the noble Marquess, would weaken the authority of Parliament and deprive Parliamentary government, whatever the comparative powers of the two Houses may be, of all that is best and worth having. If you deprive it of finality you deprive it of authority. I do not believe a less salutary proposal was ever made; and it cuts me to the quick that the Whig Party—if the noble Marquess still represents the Whig Party—that the Whig Party, which has done so much for Parliamentary freedom and Parliamentary authority, should now go off on those insalutary and evil lines.
One more remark, and then I will release your Lordships. As I say, you reproach us with our allies. You talk of coalition, and the word is part of the hackneyed cant of newspaper reproach. But the noble Marquess put the case of what is called coalition in, I think, a very unfair way. He said, "Home Rule is the price given to the Irish phalanx who saved you from direst distress." And he also said that the support of the phalanx, quite apart from the merits or demerits of any given measure, was really nothing better than a thinly veiled Parliamentary transaction.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
Those were not words of mine. I quoted the words used by an Irish Member, who said that the support of his Party was given to the Budget, not on account of the merits or demerits of the measure, but for other reasons.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I brought it forward as a piece of evidence in support of my case. I did not say it; he said it.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
The relations between us and our allies were said to be a thinly veiled Parliamentary transaction. Surely that is the noble Marquess's own language; it is not Mr. Devlin's. I complain of that language. With what reason can we be accused of going in for a rather thinly veiled Parliamentary transaction? Who are the men who are doing this? Who are the men who have backed up Home Rule in order to buy the Irish vote? They are the head of the Government, the Lord Chancellor, my noble friend who is a Home Rule Lord Lieutenant, myself—we have been for twenty-five years working and speaking, whenever we could, for Home Rule. What is the sense, then, of saying that we picked it up, in some way or another, as a price to pay for the Irish vote? We are doing the best we can to secure these principles and aspirations because we believe in them, and because they have been for a generation the very core of our political being; and to talk of its being an item in a Parliamentary transaction strikes me as going beyond what I should have expected from the noble Marquess.
You may mock at what I am going to say, but do you not see that this fidelity of the Irish Parliamentary Party and of the people behind them, their fidelity in voting for measures that they did not much
§ care about, coherently, steadily, patiently, always with their eyes fixed upon their own perfectly legitimate end from their point of view, shows that they are capable, when some other great object comes before them, of showing what I call the same statesmanlike spirit that they have shown in the struggle for Home Rule? And see what that comes to. My contention is that if they had a Parliament of their own their main desire would be to make it a success. They could not make it a success unless they conciliated the northerners and made it a truly representative body. I have heard Conservatives say that this fidelity does imply a statesmanlike idea which might be used effectively when they came to larger questions in their own immediate sphere. I greatly regret that the House is not going into Committee on this Bill. The difficulties would be very great, no doubt, but then the country would have known where you are and what the differences are between you and us.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
I venture respectfully to ask your Lordships' permission that Lord Cottesloe may have the privilege, on account of infirmity, of being polled in his seat.
§ Leave given to Lord Cottesloe accordingly to vote in the House.
§ On Question whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Motion?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 64; Not-contents, 302.
|Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Blyth, L.||Lyveden, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V. (L. President.)||Butler, L. (E. Carrick.)||MacDonnell, L.|
|Channing of Wellingborough, L.||Marchamley, L.|
|Crewe, M. (L. Pricy Seal.)||Charnwood, L.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Moulton, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M.||Courtney of Penwith, L.||Nunbumholme, L.|
|Cowdray, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Chesterfield, E. (L. Steuard.)||Devonport, L.||Pontypridd, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Emmott, L.||Reay, L.|
|Brassey, E.||Eversley, L.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Farrer, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Cranbrook, K.||Fitzmaurice, L.||St. Davids, L.|
|Craven, E. (Teller.)||Glantawe, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Glenconner, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Loreburn, E.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Southwark, L.|
|Russell, E.||Haversham, L.||Stanley of Alderlev, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Spencer, E.||Hemphill, L.|
|Hollenden, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Inchcape, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen.)||Islington, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)||Tenterden, L.|
|Sandhurst, L. (L. Chamberlain.)||Weardale, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Loch, L.||Welby, L.|
|Ashby St. Ledgers, L.||Lucas, L.||Whitburgh, L.|
|Canterbury, L. Abp.||Lauderdale E.||Aberdare, L.|
|York, L. Abp.||Leicester, E.||Abinger, L.|
|Lichfield, E.||Addington, L.|
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Lindsey, E.||Aldenham, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Londesborough, E.||Alington, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Lonsdale, E.||Allerton, L.|
|Devonshire, D. [Teller.]||Lovelace, E.||Ampthill, L.|
|Leeds, D.||Lucan, E.||Annaly, L.|
|Manchester, D.||Lytton, E.||Ardilaun, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Macclesfield, E.||Armstrong, L.|
|Newcastle, D.||Malmesbury, E.||Ashcombe, L.|
|Portland, D.||Mansfield, E.||Atkinson, L.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Manvers, E.||Bagot, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Mar, E.||Balfour, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Mar and Kellie, E.||Balinhard, L. (E. Southesk.)|
|Wellington, D.||Mayo, E.||Barnard, L.|
|Morley, E.||Barrymore, L.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Morton, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Abergavenny, M.||Northbrook, E.||Belper, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Northesk, E.||Berwick, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Onslow, E.||Blythswood, L.|
|Bath, M.||Orford, E.||Bolton, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Botreaux, L. (E. Loudoun.)|
|Camden, M.||Plymouth, E.||Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.)|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Portsmouth, E.|
|Exeter, M.||Powis, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)|
|Lansdowne, M.||Roberts, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)|
|Linlithgow, M.||Romney, E.||Braye, L|
|Ripon, M.||Rosslyn, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)|
|Salisbury, M.||Rothes, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.|
|Winchester, M.||Saint Germans, E.||Calthorpe, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Sandwich, E.||Camoys, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Carew, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Shrewsbury, E.||Castlemaine, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Stanhope, E.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Ancaster, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Chelmsford, L.|
|Bandon, E.||Waldegrave, E.||Cheylesmore, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Westmeath, E.||Churston, L.|
|Brownlow, E.||Wharncliffe, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanuilliam.)|
|Cadogan, E.||Wicklow, E.|
|Cairns, E.||Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)|
|Camperdown, E.||Yarborough, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Cathcart, E.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Bangor, V.||Cloncurry, L.|
|Cottenham, E.||Bridport, V.||Colchester, L.|
|Coventry, E.||Chilston, V.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Cromer, E.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||Cranworth, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, E.||Cobham, V.||Crawshaw, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Colville of Culross, V.||Dawnay, L. (V. Doune.)|
|Darnley, E.||De Vesci, V.||De Mauley, L.|
|Dartrey, E.||Elibank, V.||Deramore, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Falkland, V.||Desborough, L.|
|Derby, E.||Falmouth, V.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)|
|Devon, E.||Goschen, V.||Digby, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buceleuch and Queensberry.)||Halifax, V.||Dinevor, L.|
|Hampden, V.||Dunleath, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Hardinge, V.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)|
|Durham, E.||Hill, V.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Hood, V.||Elphinstone, L.|
|Essex, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Faber, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Farnham, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Knutsford, V.||Farquhar, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Peel, V.||Forester, L.|
|Grey, E.||Portman, V.||Glanusk, L.|
|Haddington, E.||St. Aldwyn, V.||Gormanston, L. (V. Gormanston.)|
|Halsbury, K.||St. Vincent, V.|
|Harewood, E.||Templetown, V.||Grinstead, L. (M. Enniskillen.)|
|Harrington, E.||Gwydir, L.|
|Harrowby, E.||Bangor, L. Bp.||Hare, L. (E. Listouel.)|
|Howe, E.||Bath and Wells, L. Bp.||Harlech, L.|
|Huntingdon, E.||Gloucester, L. Bp.||Harris, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||London, L. Bp.||Hastings, L.|
|Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)||Peterborough, L. Bp.||Hatherton, L.|
|Lanesborough, E.||St, Asaph, L. Bp.||Hawke, L.|
|Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)||Merthyr, L.||St. Audries, L.|
|Hindlip, L.||Middleton, L.||St. John of Bletao, L.|
|Hothfield, L.||Monck, L. (V. Monck.)||St. Levan, L.|
|Hylton, L.||Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)||Sanderson, L.|
|Inchiquin, L.||Monk Bretton, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Kenlis, L. (M.Headforl.)||Monson, L.||Savile. L.|
|Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Kenyon, L.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)||Sefton, L. (E. Sefton.)|
|Killanin, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.||Sempiil, L.|
|Kilmaine, L.||Mostyn, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Mowbray, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Kinnaird, L.||Muncaster, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)||Newlands, L.||Southampton, L.|
|Knaresborough, L.||Newton, L.||Stuart of Castle Stuart, L. (E. Moray.)|
|Lamington, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Langford, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)||Sudeley, L.|
|Latymer, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Lawrence, L.||Ormathwaite, L.||Talbot do Malahide, L.|
|Leconfield, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)||Templemore, L.|
|Leigh, L.||Penrhyn, L.||Tennyson, L.|
|Lilford, L.||Plunket, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Llangattock, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)||Torphichen, L.|
|Lovat, L.||Powerscourt, L. (V. Pouerscourt.)||Trevor, L.|
|Lovell and Holland, L. (E. Egmont)||Tweedmouth, L.|
|Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)||Vivian, L.|
|Ludlow, L.||Rathdonnell, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crauford.)|
|Lurgan, L.||Rathmore, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Manners, L.||Redesdale, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Massy, L.||Revelstoke, L.||Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.)|
|Meldrum, L (M. Huntly.)||Ritchie of Dundee, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Mersey, L.||Rothschild, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
§ Resolved in the negative accordingly, and the said Resolution agreed to.