§ Debate on the Amendment moved by Viscount Midleton to the humble Address resumed (according to Order).
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
My Lords, during the years that I have had the privilege of being a member of this House I have frequently addressed your Lordships on the various topics that have occupied your attention at the moment. I have also frequently addressed your Lordships on matters connected with Ireland, and when the question of Home Rule has been the important topic in the minds of the people of England, of Scotland, and of Ireland, I have always to the best of my ability devoted my attention to it. But I have never risen to address your Lordships with a greater sense of responsibility or realisation of the importance of 149 the situation with which I propose to deal than I do at this moment, and I ask your Lordships' indulgence.
I do not propose to follow the speech of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, who so clearly propounded the views of the whole Unionist Party with regard to this most important question. I intend to-day to devote myself to that part of the question with which I myself am so closely connected— that is, the maintenance of the Union between England and Ireland, and more especially the important part which at the present moment Ulster is playing in this great and historical drama. May I for one moment venture to be a little egotistical? If there is one member of your Lordships' House who is justified in dealing with this question, it is the humble individual who now addresses you. I am hereditarily connected with the Union between England and Ireland. I am proud to think, and so are those of my family associated with me, that I am a collateral descendant of that great man who carried the Union between England and Ireland. As the years pass, and as we are growing older, no one who looks back to the history of that Act of Union can deny that the present prosperity and welfare of Ireland is due entirely to the Union and the advantages that have accrued to Ireland owing to her connection with England.
My earliest political career commenced as Unionist Member for the County Down, now some thirty-six years ago, and when I was returned to the House of Commons as Member for the County Down the one and only pledge that I gave to my constituents was that to my dying day I would stand by and maintain the Union between England and Ireland. To that pledge I adhere now; from that pledge I will never recede; and I will do my utmost to oppose any measure which may in any way sever the connection between England and Ireland. But, in addition to that, I feel that I address you to-day under feelings of even greater responsibility, for I am privileged to occupy a very prominent position in the Ulster Unionist Council, second only, if I may say so without presumption, to that of my right hon. and brilliant friend Sir Edward Carson. It is because I have just returned from the Province of Ulster; it is because I have seen for myself all that is going on, 150 and the inner working of all the arrangements there, that I think it my duty to-day to bring before your notice the crisis that may arise unless it is checked at the proper moment.
It is impossible to overrate the seriousness of the question in the Province of Ulster. It is impossible, unless you have been there, to realise the determination of people of all classes to oppose the Bill that is now before Parliament. The people of Ulster have not entered into this question without careful and very thoughtful consideration; but, having considered the question from every point of view, having regarded it from every aspect they could possibly imagine, they have come to the conclusion that it is better for them to face the crisis, with its awful and far-reaching consequences, rather than submit to be governed by a Parliament sitting under Mr. Redmond on College Green. My Lords, the determination of Ulster at the present moment cannot be denied. Ever since the great betrayal, so truly described by Mr. Balfour as the "felon's blow," the heart of Protestant Ulster has been stirred to its bottom. They recognised that there was no Second Chamber to stand between them and the opinions of the people of Great Britain; they recognised that it was necessary for them to prepare for the conflict which they thought they might have to face, and which they are prepared to face; and all classes of the community joined together in facing the crisis that might arise. Sooner than, as I have said, be placed under the heel of a Parliament sitting on College Green dominated by Mr. Redmond, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the friendly relations of Mr. Patrick Ford, the dynamitard, they would take any risk and incur any responsibility.
I know that of recent dates it has been the custom of Mr. Redmond to speak in smooth terms of the people of Ulster. The people of Ulster know Mr. Redmond and the Ancient Order of Hibernians too well. They know well that in years past the Nationalist Party never hesitated to conceal their feelings of hostility to the people of Ulster, and never concealed their hostility to all of you, the English people, when it suited their purpose to do so. But because it does not now suit them to do that they offer the most specious words and promises 151 to the people of Ulster. The people of Ulster, as I say, know them too well. They may beguile the English people; they may beguile, perhaps, even His Majesty's Ministers; but they will not beguile the people of Ulster. They remember the specious promises made when local government was passed. They were told that there was to be Protestant and Unionist representation in all parts of Ireland. Where is that representation now outside Ulster? The Ulster people have profited by that lesson, a lesson they will never forget; and they will never submit to place themselves in a similar position.
Now, this Bill, we are told, is a Bill that is to bring order and good government to Ireland. Will any man in his sane senses tell me, with the prospect before us, that this Bill is going to bring peace to Ireland? Will he tell me that it will bring good order? I shall be glad to hear an answer to that from whoever replies to me. And will this measure add to the prosperity of Ireland? Instead of bringing peace you are going to bring civil war. Instead of bringing order, in all probability you will have riots, to say the least. And instead of bringing prosperity, we know full well that the fact of a Home Rule Parliament sitting on College Green, even with the assistance of Ulster—which it will never have—must mean absolute ruin financially to Ireland as a whole.
Remember, my Lords, the conditions under which His Majesty's present Government undertook the government of Ireland. Viscount Bryce—who, as Mr. Bryce, was their first Chief Secretary—and, the year after, Mr. Birrell, both declared that Ireland had never been so peaceful, never so prosperous, during the last 600 years. And, if my memory does not fail me, I believe it was only the other day that Mr. Birrell in a speech at Bristol, I think it was, eulogised the present prosperous and happy condition of the whole of Ireland, and Ulster in particular. What, then, is the object of upsetting this prosperous and satisfactory condition of affairs? I have studied—it has been my duty to do it—for many years past the condition of Ireland, and I agree with what those two Chief Secretaries said, that Ireland has never been in a more properous position than at the present moment. There have been—and I have gone through them when I was Lord Lieutenant—dark and dreary 152 days in Ireland. I remember the days when crime and outrage stalked unchecked through Ireland because it could not be punished. But when we had the Crimes Act and had an opportunity of dealing with those miscreants who were guilty of maiming cattle, shooting at houses, and boycotting-—within three years of the passing of that Act we had not a single case of boycotting. I quote this to show that I do know Ireland and her condition in the past.
And now what do we find? We find a totally different aspect of affairs. We find a peaceful and prosperous Ireland, with, I venture to say, prospects brighter than they have ever been in the past Those dark days of outrage, of intimidation, of boycotting, are rapidly disappearing. Owing to the land legislation, which has been of so beneficial a character in enabling the occupiers to become the owners of their holdings in the greater part of Ireland, the difficulties of the land problem are steadily disappearing. We see the farmers all through Ireland at the present moment absolutely contented with their lot, developing their farms. We see the labourers working on those farms no longer living in poor cabins but in proper cottages. In fact, we see spreading over Ireland a ray of contentment and peace which Ireland has never seen in years past. Then I ask why, when you have a satisfactory and prosperous condition of affairs do you propose to alter it? Why do you bring forward a measure such as this which, as I have said before, you know must plunge Ireland into civil war and into the depth of misery and ruin? You are bringing forward a measure which is going to split Ireland into two parties. The two parties at the present moment, although not agreed, are not actively hostile. You are going to bring about a civil war between those parties?
Then, I ask, what is the reason you propose to bring about this utter revolution from the present peaceful condition of Ireland? I say with all due solemnity that it can be due only to one of two things—either to the wilful, culpable ignorance of the Government, or else to their greedy desire to stick to office. But I tell you this, Ulster realises fully the danger; and it is impossible to over-estimate the earnestness of the Protestant people in Ireland who are determined not to be 153 handed over to this Parliament on College Green. I only trust that this determination of Ulster will not be disregarded by His Majesty's Government at this most critical moment. All classes of Protestants in Ulster are joined together in the determination to oppose this Home Rule Bill. Let me tell you the different classes of people who are opposing it.
I take, first, the Church. The Covenant was signed by Archbishops, by clergy, by the Northern General Assembly, the clergy of all denominations, all working together for what they considered the best means to oppose a Bill which they knew must be absolutely injurious to Ireland. It was only last Sunday week that I attended a service in the great cathedral in Belfast. A service was being held there for one of the important regiments of Belfast. But by whom was the service attended, and who were the ministers who ministered at it? First and foremost was the Bishop of Durham; the Dean of Belfast was also there. The two lessons were read, one by a Presbyterian minister, and the other by a Methodist, showing beyond all doubt how all classes of the Protestant religion have sunk any differences on other subjects which they might hold, and are bound together by one firm determination to do what they can to oppose this measure.
Then I come to another very important section of the population of Ulster. I read a speech made by a gentleman—I wish to say nothing against him, but I do not know that he is renowned for his accuracy, and that is Mr. Alexander Ure—who, speaking at Birkenhead on September 29 said that when it came to setting up a Provisional Government he preferred the views of a business man, and he had noted that there was no great captain of industry, no great shipbuilder, trader, or banker, who had ever talked of setting up a Provisional Government. Well, I am not going to contradict Mr. Ure myself—I believe we should have our time taken up if we contradicted all his statements—but I think this is sufficient contradiction when I read out what appeared in the Belfast News Letter of November 5, 1913. There was a meeting of some 5,500 Ulster business men—they had to take the two biggest halls in Belfast to hold them—and those 5,500 were delegates representing capital to the extent of £145,000,000 in Belfast. This meeting was held on November 4 last 154 year, and the following resolution was passed—We business men of Ulster, representative of every branch of the industries and commerce of the Province, hereby declare that we do not deem it to be our duty to supply funds to be used for coercing us into submission to such legislation, and we therefore solemnly resolve to hold back payment of all taxes which we can control so long as any attempt to put into operation the provisions of the Home Rule Bill for Ireland is persevered in; and we express our cordial approval of the various measures taken for the defence of our liberties, including the organisation of the Ulster Volunteer Force.I think that is sufficient answer to Mr. Ure and any Nationalists who may say that the business men of Ulster are not heart and soul with us in our opposition to Home Rule. If you want another proof, I come to what is called the Indemnity Fund. An Indemnity Fund was started for the purpose of compensating or maintaining the wives and children of those men who might be called upon to fight for Ulster, and doing what could be done for them in the absence of the husbands. Then there was another fund called the Carson Fund, a fund for the purpose of making preparations. Preparations required money, but the money was forthcoming. It came from rich men; it came from poor men; it came from the working men; it came in pence off their weekly pay; all contributed to the Carson Fund in order to show their opposition to the Home Rule Bill.
Then I come to another very important question, the action taken by the women of Ulster. The women of Ulster have formed themselves into a very strong and powerful association; they are organised and in all parts of the Province they are doing all they can to prepare for what may be the awful consequences in the future if war takes place. Let me tell you this. I know for a fact that throughout Ulster there are many country houses—I may say my own amongst them—being placed at the disposal of these Ulster women for the purposes of hospitals if you choose to shoot us down. In the smaller towns and places where there are not these houses, halls have been taken and arrangements made; doctors have been notified; nurses have been warned; arrangements have been made for the purpose of all those appliances wanted in war—lint, couches, sheets—your Lordships know as well as I do all the horrors of war. Everything has 155 been prepared for. And what does it show? That the women of Ulster in their way are as determined as the men are to oppose Home Rule.
It was only two or three weeks ago that Sir Edward Carson made a speech in Belfast, a speech which to my mind touched the hearts of his audience more than any speech I ever heard made in my life; and in that speech he made use of some words which I trust your Lordships will allow me to quote to you as showing the determination of the women of Ulster. Sir Edward Carson said at that luncheon—I know the spirit of the women-folk of these people. I know there is an organisation in England, if we are driven by this Government to hostilities, to receive these women on the other side of the Channel. I am grateful for it. But these women will not go; they will stay with their men-folk.Then he said—Only the other day I said to a woman whose husband had been stricken down by the efforts he was making to bring his regiment into a state of efficiency, 'I am sorry that your husband's efforts should have terminated in his illness'; and she said, 'Sir Edward, if it pleases God Almighty to take him I am satisfied, and I shall be happy in the knowledge that he has gone to his Creator having done his best for the cause he believes to be right.'I read a speech the other day, delivered by one of the lady speakers of Ulster to an Ulster audience, and I was greatly struck by the concluding remark. Addressing her fellow men and women of Ulster, she said—Believe me, I would rather be the widow of an Ulster loyalist than the wife of an Ulster traitor.Well, my Lords, does not that show, if the women of Ulster in their thousands, in their tens of thousands, are as determined as this, it must be due to the feeling that is permeating through the Province of the horror of being handed over to a Home Rule Parliament?
Now I come to the most important part of the question, which I think is the factor which is making the Government pause in the reckless course they are pursuing. I come to the question of the Ulster Volunteers. There are 100,000 of these men. Recruiting has been stopped; we do not want any more; but day after day, week after week, the young, active, strong men are coming in wishing to be enrolled. Does that show they are tiring? Does 156 that show that the question of Home Rule is not every moment going more and more into their minds, and that they are realising the horror of it? But let me only allude to these 100,000 men. These men are drilled, disciplined, and determined. My noble friend the Duke of Portland alluded to them the other night in terms so eloquent and convincing that I do not think I need add anything more. But I have had the opportunity of seeing them for some time past drilling. I have seen their big drills. I saw 15,000 men last September march past Sir Edward Carson at Balmoral in Belfast; and I was told by expert military men that those men were as good as any of your Territorials. I have seen small drills of a few hundreds, and of thousands. But these drills of these men—disciplined, efficient, and determined—are taking place in every part of Ulster at the present moment. What is the great characteristic of these men? They are not one of them working for their own individual good; they have put their own individual feelings entirely on one side; their one feeling is patriotism for Ulster; and they are joined hand to hand, brother to brother, in the common cause that they will lay down their lives sooner than submit to the dictations of Mr. Redmond and a Parliament on College Green. These men are giving up their nights; they are giving up their time; they are giving up their recreation. In many of the country districts these men walk from five to six miles to be drilled at night. They have given up their football matches; they have given up their golf matches. And is it possible that His Majesty's Government cannot realise that it is the fixed and firm purpose of these men that they will die for the maintenance of the Union sooner than live to be kicked out of it?
As I said, there is no jealousy whatever. My noble friend the Duke of Portland the other day told you how he had seen them drilled. I endorse every word he said. The one question for the Ulster Volunteers is "efficiency" and "let us have the best men to lead us, and the best men in our ranks." I have myself seen the companies drill; I have seen the curate ordering his vicar about; I have seen the farmer ordering the squire; I have seen the gardener ordering his employer. Why? Because there is no question of prestige, precedence, or anything else, but "let us have the 157 best man to command us no matter who he is, and we will all serve under him." The one cry is efficiency, efficiency, efficiency; and the one statement is, "We ask nothing; we want nothing; we want no ascendancy; all we ask is to be left alone, and, with God's help, we will be left alone."
The other day Mr. Joseph Devlin made this very remarkable statement. He said at Longford on February 8—Nothing could save the Union, because nobody, except a handful of dukes and earls, landlords and lawyers, and their hangers-on who had battened and grown rich on the oppression of Ireland, had a good word to say for it.A more remarkable statement than that could not possibly have been made. As I have shown you, the movement in Ulster is an entirely democratic one. It is coming up from below, and the leaders are selected because they are respected and desired by the masses of the people. What they are proud of is to think that in this democratic movement, coming up, as I have said, from the bottom, the leaders have the entire confidence of their supporters. And what has been the result? The result of that confidence has been the discipline that exists throughout all ranks of these 100,000 men, throughout the ranks of all those associated with the Ulster Unionist Council; and it is owing to that discipline and to that respect and admiration for our great leader, Sir Edward Carson, that the Government at the present moment may thank themselves there have not been riots of a most serious character.
The people of Ulster have been exercising the most enormous restraint. Any one who knows Ulster must know that since the great betrayal Ulster has been writhing under the fear of a Parliament on College Green. Everyone knows that Ulster has kept still. They have been provoked, but, thanks to the discipline which at present exists, they have overlooked and ignored that provocation. There is a very widespread feeling in Ulster—and I share it—that that provocation is countenanced by His Majesty's Government, that they would not be at all sorry to see riots taking place in Belfast, and thus have an opportunity of treating those men as rioters, and not as men who, if the Bill is passed, had taken part in the formation of a Provisional Government.
158 Now, what grounds have the Government for bringing forward this measure? I admit that perhaps some years ago they were absolutely ignorant of the condition of affairs in Ireland, and especially with regard to the condition of affairs in Ulster. They believed in the falsely-given advice of Mr. Redmond, the leader of the Nationalist Party. He assured them, as he has assured audiences, that the opposition, if there were opposition, in Ulster would be nothing but insolent bluff. Mr. Redmond has two tongues. He has one statement for England; he has another statement for Ireland. But even as lately as January 25 Mr. Redmond at Waterford, and also Mr. Devlin somewhere else, more or less insinuated that the opposition of Ulster was still bluff. Now I ask the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, Does he consider it bluff? Will he support Mr. Redmond and Mr. Devlin in those statements? No, he will not do so now, because he has learned his lesson.
What I want to ask His Majesty's Government—and I trust that whoever follows me will give an answer—is, When did they first begin to realise the determination of Ulster to oppose Home Rule? Another question I should like to be answered is this, When did the Chief Secretary first know that there were going to be disturbances in Ireland if Home Rule were passed? I quite admit that probably the man most ignorant of Ireland is the Chief Secretary himself, for the simple reason that he is never there. In fact, when he transported 5,000 troops from Dublin to Belfast to protect a Cabinet Minister sent over by himself to provoke a riot, he himself was watching a hockey match at Montaner. Well, if the Chief Secretary knew nothing about what was going on, then I say he is guilty of such culpable ignorance that he ought to be instantly dismissed. If, on the other hand, he did know what was going on—the arming of Ulster—we know you know it now because you are protecting the ports against the import of arms—if he did know it, did he tell his colleagues? If he did not tell his colleagues I think he ought to be impeached. If he did tell his colleagues, and, in spite of what was going on, those colleagues continued to throw dust in the eyes of the people of England, believing the action of Ulster was bluff, then I tell you no penalty would be bad enough for His Majesty's Ministers.
159 Now what I want to ask is this, What are you going to do with regard to these 100,000 men if your Bill becomes law? Are you going to shoot them down? I can say this, as I said at the commencement of my speech, that I was told by experts that these men were as good as any Territorials you have in England— loyal to the King, devoted to England, only longing to be allowed to remain with you. Are you going to shoot them down? At the present moment I gather from what I read in the papers that the Territorial Army is very short in this country. I think I saw that Sir Evelyn Wood—I speak subject to correction on this—had resigned the command of the City branch of the Territorial Army because they were so short. Why are you, short in your Territorial Army in this country, going to shoot down men who would help you to-morrow to protect this country against invasion? Why? Simply because you are told to do so by Mr. Redmond and by his followers. What, I ask, must be at the present moment the opinion of foreign countries with regard to us? Here we know that we are short of Territorials; here we know that we should be at our wits end if we were invaded; we know that in Ireland we have these 100,000 men, good as Territorials. They say, what most English people would say, "Instead of making these men Territorials they are going to denude England of soldiers to shoot these men down." There can be only one conclusion in the minds of foreign countries—namely, that England must be governed by a body of men who are either lunatics or criminals.
Then what is going to be the effect upon the Army? I know the courage of the Army, and I know their discipline. I am going to say no word against them. But I say, What would be the effect on the Army if you are going to tell them to shoot down men who are ready to fight with them in the future as they have fought in the past, if you will let them? May I remind you of the letter written by Lord Wolseley in 1893, when the situation was not so serious as it is now? Mr. Long quoted it in the House of Commons the other day, but I think it is worth repeating. Lord Wolseley wrote to the Duke of Cambridge—If ever our troops are brought into collision with the loyalists of Ulster and blood is shed, it 160 will shake the whole of the foundations on which our Army rests to such an extent that I feel our Army will never be the same again.If that were the case then, what will it not be now? Your Lordships have had an experience in India, under the Vice-royalty of Lord Ripon. You remember that under Lord Ripon the Ilbert Bill was passed, a Bill that was repudiated and loathed by the English population. I read an article the other day in one of the leading journals in which what took place then was graphically described, and this is what I read—The Ilbert Bill invested natives with powers on matters of life and death. Lord Ripon refused to modify it, and the English in India banded themselves together and armed themselves for a struggle.Now I come to the point which bears very much on the situation of to-day—Lord Ripon sent for the General in command of the Calcutta District and ordered him to have his troops in readiness on the day of publication of the new Act 'If there is any rioting,' said the Viceroy, 'you will not hesitate to give your men orders to shoot.' 'Your Excellency, my men shall be here, and the order to fire shall be given …' The General paused—
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I read it in the Daily Telegraph in a letter written by Mr. Perceval Landon.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I have given my authority. The statement proceeds—Then he added quietly, 'Do you believe for one moment that one Englishman will fire on another Englishman in India?' The Viceroy stood for a moment and then bowed his head before this unanswerable question.What will be the position of English soldiers in Ulster? If it was serious then, it will be more serious now; because they have not forgotten the action of the Nationalist Members in the House of 161 Commons. There was that fateful day in December some years ago when my noble friend Lord Midleton went down to the House of Commons and had to announce the sad news of the defeat of the British Army at the hands of the Boers. It was a critical moment. Dead silence reigned throughout the Chamber. Men's minds were going, owing to the losses sustained by the British Army, to the miseries of the women and children left behind here; and while they were considering this, there arose one wild exulting cry of joy at the defeat of the British Army from the very men who now hold the Government in the hollow of their hands. Are you then going to tell me that the English Army will shoot down men—very likely men who fought side by side with them in the Boer War—at the instigation of those who cheered the Boers' victories?
I read the other day an extremely able speech by the Prime Minister—he always makes able speeches—delivered at the British Peace Centenary meeting, which was congratulating England on having had 100 years of peace; and I thought to myself what must be the Prime Minister's feelings after having delivered that speech? He was congratulating us on having had 100 years of peace between English-speaking nations—England and the United States—and I could not but think that when he went home and thought over that speech he must have considered whether, if his present policy is pursued, he will not be the cause of breaking up that long and lengthy peace by plunging one English-speaking country, our kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, into as horrible a civil war as can be imagined. These were the words he used—The diplomatists went to Ghent, but the public opinion of the two great countries took the business out of their hands and said with authoritative and irresistible emphasis 'Peace must be made,' and peace was made.Now, does not the Prime Minister think that at the present moment the one desire in the public mind in this country is that peace should be made? And can peace be made if he insists upon a policy that must drag us into civil war? Does he not think that this important chapter in his career—a most important career; he has been Prime Minister for many years— would be better concluded if he could say the words, "And there was peace"?
162 I will only say, in conclusion, that I feel as strongly on the question of maintaining the Union between England and Ireland as any one of my fellow-countrymen or women in Ulster. I can speak strongly about it; I feel strongly about it; but I do not think, my Lords, on an occasion so important, so critical, as this that strong language is necessary. Vituperation would be out of place. My concluding words to-day are these. I pray to God that He may give the Prime Minister strength to secure peace. If he does so I consider that he will have done great good to the country; but if, on the other hand, he does not, to his dying day he will carry with him the haunting reflection, "Civil war has taken place in Ireland; I was solely responsible for it because I was the Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time, and I refused to take the verdict of the English people on the question."
§ EARL ROBERTS
My Lords, I have only one word to say. I was in India at the time of the Ilbert Bill, and I know the strong feeling that was roused between the British and natives on that occasion. I certainly never did hear the incident read out by the noble Marquess just now, but no doubt the Bill caused considerable racial animosity. I am glad to have this opportunity of stating that I thoroughly endorse the letter, quoted by the noble Marquess, which Lord Wolseley wrote to the Duke of Cambridge in 1893. It is to me unthinkable that the British Army could be called upon to fight against the Ulster Volunteers. To do so would be, as Lord Wolseley wrote, the ruin of the British Army.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
My Lords, before I proceed with the main subject of my remarks I wish to say that I was in Calcutta at the time when the Ilbert Bill was passed. I was acquainted with all the stages of that measure, and it ended in being an agreed measure between the representatives of the European population and the Government of India. It was in these circumstances wholly impossible that any such circumstances could occur as the noble Marquess read out.
My Lords, hardly forty-eight hours have passed since in this Chamber we listened to the gracious Speech from the Throne, in which our Sovereign expressed his great anxiety that the good will and the co-operation of men of all parties and creeds might 163 heal dissension and lay the foundations of a lasting peace. I ask any one of your Lordships whether the noble Marquess has contributed to his Sovereign's desire? I ask whether there was one sentence in the noble Marquess's speech which tended to "heal dissension" or to "lay the foundations of a lasting peace"? I have been a very short time a member of your Lordships' House, but never did I hear from the noble Marquess a speech calculated to lay the foundations of peace in Ireland. He speaks, he says, for the people of Ulster— all classes of Ulster. Now, let us understand who are the people of Ulster for whom he speaks. They are people for whom I have the highest respect. I have seen a little of them, and anything I have seen of them has confirmed the respect with which I regarded them when I went to Ulster for the first time. But if you exclude the population of Belfast from Ulster you have Protestants and Catholics almost equal in numbers, differing only by a few hundreds; and if you consider that among the Presbyterian population and the Protestant population in Ulster there is a very considerable element of Home Rulers, you will find that, excluding the population of Belfast, you have a majority of Home Rulers in Ulster at the present day.
The noble Marquess made a remark which leads me to believe that he also is of the opinion of the noble Viscount who proposed this Amendment, that local government in Ireland has been a failure, and that where Nationalists have been placed in power they have either misused their power or denied any participation in it to their Protestant fellow-countrymen. The words of the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, were—I am quoting from The Times report—They had nothing to protect them except the promises of Mr. Redmond. Mr. Redmond in 1897 promised generous treatment to the loyalists under the Local Government Bill. What has been the result? After fifteen years, in Leinster 12 Unionists are returned out of 233 for the county councils; in Munster 2 Unionists out of 227; in Connaught 1 Unionist out of 142, and there are between 3,000 and 4,000 Unionist electors in the city of Cork, who had on all the boards only 2 representatives out of 150. And in that very county, where the Unionists have no representation at all, they are at this moment paving half the rates and taxes of the whole county.Then in regard to the treatment meted out to Protestants by the Catholic controllers of those councils he went on to say this—I do not suggest that they are going to be hunted out as the Dutch or the Huguenots were; 164 but I do suggest that under a Nationalist Government all small pressure which can be exerted, and which has been exerted wherever they have had power, will be exerted to drive them out of the country; the sort of pressure which results in every case in the promotion of a Nationalist doctor or clerk to any position which a Unionist doctor or clerk might well have aspired to. Will that be the result on which you will pride yourselves in this Bill?When I listened to the noble Viscount I felt that he was labouring under a great misapprehension. I remember that when I was connected with the Government of Ireland certain inquiries [†] were made on this question, and the results were entirely different from what the noble Viscount supposed, when he was making his speech, that they were I have not had the time necessary to make all the inquiries I wanted, but I have procured certain figures which I should like to give to your Lordships with your permission. I have taken three counties from each of the provinces of Catholic Ireland and I have taken three counties from Ulster. In the County of Galway, which has a population of 192,000, the percentage of Protestants in the population is six, and the paid posts which they hold under the local government bodies is nineteen.
LORD ORANMORE AND BROWNE
Might I ask the noble Lord how many of those Protestants held office before the Local Government of Ireland Act, 1898, was passed?
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
That I cannot say. In Roscommon, with a population of 102,500, the percentage of Protestants is three, and the percentage of paid posts which they hold is sixteen. In Mayo the percentage of Protestants in the population is two, and the percentage of paid posts they hold is eleven. Going to Munster I find that the percentage of Protestants to the population in County Cork is ten, and[†] Irish official statistics give no indication as to the religion of public servants, whether employed by the State or by local bodies, just as they give no indication of the political creeds of the members composing these bodies. On these points information is only procurable by unofficial agency. The impartiality of the Irish local bodies in the distribution of patronage as between Catholic and Protestant was impugned in 1907, and to meet the imputation an unofficial inquiry was instituted, and the results were published in the Irish newspapers. They were not challenged, so far as I know; and I believe them to be substantially correct for the time to which they apply. It was from this source that I took the figures which are quoted in my speech.—MAC DONNELL.165 the percentage of paid appointments they hold is twenty-one. In Carlow the percentage of Protestants is eleven, and the percentage of paid appointments they hold is forty. In Tipperary the percentage of Protestants is six, and the percentage of paid appointments they hold is twenty-nine. Coming to Leinster, I find that in Kildare the percentage of Protestants is fifteen, and the percentage of appointments they hold is twenty-three. In Westmeath the percentage of Protestants is nine, and the percentage of appointments they hold is thirty-two. And, finally, in King's County the percentage of Protestants is eleven, and the percentage of appointments they hold is forty-eight. I put it to the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, whether on these figures he can derive any confirmation for his statement that the Catholics of Ireland are given to hunting out of their locality their Protestant neighbours?
Then when I look to the other side of the shield I find in the County of Antrim that the percentage of Catholics is twenty-six, and the percentage of public appointments they hold is eight. I find, in the. County Armagh, that the percentage of Roman Catholics is forty-five, and the percentage of appointments they hold is six. I go to Tyrone and I find the percentage of Roman Catholics in the population is fifty-five, but by some manipulation the percentage of paid posts which they hold is only ten. When a charge of intolerance is brought in your Lordships' House against Roman Catholics in the exercise of their public functions, surely some sort of official information, some sort of statistical information, should be produced in order that we might be able for ourselves to judge of the validity of the charge.
I listened to the speech of the noble Marquess with a growing feeling of humiliation, humiliation, if your Lordships will allow me to say so, because of the attitude of this House in connection with this question. When I compare the tone of the speeches in this House with the tone of the speeches delivered in another place I seem to be in an entirely different atmosphere. In another place there has been a response to the gracious Speech from the Throne; here I find a state produced by two years of constant agitation, of constant incitement; and I am told that if an attempt is made to give effect to the laws 166 passed by the Parliament of this country and assented to by the Crown civil war will be the result. Now, my Lords, I confess I am not frightened by these threats of civil war. I can as fully realise as noble Lords opposite the evils of civil war, but I am inclined to think that a spirit is getting up in this country of England which will not permit that even 100,000 men should dictate to the whole of the electors of this country, and that Constitutional Government should go to the ground because of the opposition of Ulster.
How has this position of Ulster arisen? I cast my mind back a century and a quarter, and I find an entirely different state of things. I find then the growth of another body of Irish Volunteers, patriotic men, volunteers who banded themselves together, not for the oppression of their countrymen, not for the promotion of any selfish interests, but for the assertion of their rights under the Constitution of England. I find that body, when first created, composed entirely of Protestants; but such is the effect of liberty that they, of their own accord, granted toleration to their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects, even admitting them to the ranks of the volunteers. It was only in 1795 that on the withdrawal of the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Fitzwilliam, a different state of things occurred. I need not go into the history of this change; but it is interesting to know the reasons which led to this bitterness which has now lasted for over 100 years. I find in the pages of Lecky, your great Unionist historian, the following passage—On the accession of Lord Camden, in 1795, to the Viceroyalty a great and most pernicious change took place. The English Cabinet had determined to resist the emancipation of the Catholics, contrary to the dominant sentiment of the Irish Protestants, and it therefore directed its Irish representatives to endeavour to kindle an anti-Catholic feeling in Ireland and exert its enormous influence to organise an Irish party of resistance.Then, some pages further, comes this most significant remark—The year 1795 is very memorable in Irish history as the year of the formation of the Orange Society and the beginning of the most serious disturbances in the County of Armagh.To-day we find the tables changed. We no longer find an English Government seeking to create bitterness and hostility in Ireland. We find a Government endeavouring to remove the causes of discontent which have so long affected Ireland, 167 to introduce peace and happiness into the country. But, on the other hand, we find their efforts checked by men whose conscientious convictions I do not question, but who exhibit—they will pardon me if on this occasion I say so—a spirit of bitter sectarian animosity. I find coming from them no proposal as to how this difficulty should be settled. They say that up till a few years ago—up till 1907—peace and prosperity prevailed in the land, and that it was all due to Unionist administration. I know better. I know that Unionist administration was on the high road to coercion when, under a great statesman, the late Mr. Wyndham, a turn for better things was taken. Then came the Land Purchase Act, that followed a proposal which would not have been successful. Then came a period of liberal administration—administration of Ireland according to Irish ideas. It was through the continuance of that system, with one small setback —to which I will not now allude—that it was possible for the Chief Secretary of the Liberal Government to say that Ireland was more peaceful than it had been for 600 years. And so it was. But it was not your spirit, my Lords, which introduced peace; it was the Liberal spirit which then pervaded the government of Ireland.
I listened to a speech from the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, yesterday, in which he referred in disparaging terms to a proposal which was made, and which your Lordships have all seen, by Sir Horace Plunkett. I desire to associate myself with Sir Horace Plunkett in that proposal, although there are certain portions of it with which I should not entirely agree. If Irishmen were left alone—I do not exclude the volunteers of Ulster from the Irishmen I have in mind; I claim them as Irishmen— if they were left alone and not hounded on to attack their Catholic fellow-countrymen, and if we were allowed fifteen years of peace, I believe the Irish question would be solved—solved by the good sense and by the kindliness which permeates all grades and classes of Irishmen if they are only left alone. I end as I began. I am sorry that this great Assembly should not have responded in other terms to the gracious message from the Throne.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, my only object in speaking is to express my profound and unalterable conviction that any departure from the principle under- 168 lying the Amendment which we are discussing would in the end be more disastrous to the peace, good order, and good government of this country than civil war in Ireland. The principle is that no grave change in the Constitution should be made without the express consent of the people, and I hold that no politicians or groups of politicians have any right to carry into effect any so-called compromise on the Home Rule question until the nation has declared in favour of such compromise.
Let us not forget that a compromise, whatever it might be, must be something far more than a mere change of details in the Bill; it must be a great alteration in the Constitution. The Radicals, from their own point of view, have undertaken to pass the Home Rule Bill as it stands; they have not asked the people whether they will have any other form of Bill. Unionists, on the other hand, have been pledged for a generation past to maintain the Union, and they cannot without breach of faith agree to anything which would impair the Union, unless and until they have told the people that they have given up the principles of Unionism. Both Nationalists and Unionists in Ireland are similarly pledged. It follows, therefore, that if the leaders of these several parties were to carry out any new arrangement before it had been submitted to the people at a General Election, it would be an outrage against constitutional government, the very negation of democracy, and a dangerous usurpation by politicians of sovereign power. By all means discuss your compromise, if you have one, but let it be discussed openly so that we may all know what it is, and only on the distinct understanding that as soon as you have agreed among yourselves there will be a General Election in order that it may be submitted to the people. And, above all, let it be discussed without delay in order that the grave anxiety of His Majesty and His Majesty's subjects may be speedily allayed. It would be waste of time to discuss the matter at all unless it be first agreed that no arrangement will be carried out until it has been submitted to the nation.
There is not a single member of this House who would deny that in all great affairs the will of the nation must prevail. But there is not a single member of this 169 House who knows, or can possibly know, what is the will of the nation at the present time in regard to the question of unprecedented gravity with which we are confronted. Surely, then, it is the duty of those who are entrusted with the management of national affairs to ascertain at this critical juncture whether or not they are truly acting in accordance with the nation's will. There is only one way of obtaining that assurance, unless recourse is had to a new method in the shape of a referendum, and that is by means of a General Election. For my own part I cannot understand the attitude of mind of Ministers who refuse to take that course, assuming always that they are sincere in their professions of desiring to act in a constitutional manner, and that they are not so lost to all sense of duty and patriotism as to be ready to sacrifice the welfare of the country to their own personal and temporary advantage.
The Government say that they have a mandate to establish Home Rule in Ireland and we utterly deny that claim. But granting, merely for the sake of argument, that there was a mandate, surely there is nobody who will deny that new circumstances have arisen, circumstances which justify a presumption that the people might wish to reconsider the matter. What right have you who sit on those Benches to say that the people of this country may not and shall not change their minds? Who are you but their servants? What right have you to proclaim yourselves their masters? There are no circumstances in life in which those who have received commands or instructions from higher authority which they cannot carry out without unexpected disaster, are not bound by every rule of honour and conscience to ask for fresh instructions. Is the captain of a ship to go full speed ahead when icebergs have drifted across the course assigned to him? Are the agents of a business concern to persist in carrying out instructions which prove unexpectedly to be full of risk and loss? Even if the people did give you a mandate for Home Rule they did not know that you could not carry it out without bringing about civil war, that most hideous of all calamities. Do you suppose that they wish you to persist even at the risk of bloody fratricidal strife? Unlimited, indeed, must be your arrogance and self-confidence if you think that the people of this country would rather have bloodshed than lose your services.
170 If you go to the people and they instruct you to go on, you will have lost nothing. On the contrary, you will have gained the assurance that you are not exceeding your duty. But if, on the other hand, the nation prefers to pause and perhaps try some other method of dealing with Ireland, you will still have gained something which ought to be even more precious to you. You will have been relieved of the most awful responsibility which has ever fallen upon a Government in this country. You are deterred, so you say, from taking the course which seems so obvious to all who have not the minds of Parliamentarians by your promise to Mr. Redmond. The people have a right to know the exact terms of that promise. Was it unconditional, or did it contemplate the possible resistance of the people of Ulster? You have also to explain how at one time you declared repeatedly that there was no bargain with the Nationalist Party, and to prove, if you can, that you were speaking the truth both then and now. But if you have since made a bargain which you can only redeem with the blood of your fellow-countrymen shed in fratricidal war, then you stand condemned as worse than incompetent, as false to your trust, as reckless revolutionists, and as ruthless usurpers of power. No wonder, if that is the case, that you fear the day of reckoning and will do anything to postpone it. Possibly you are merely delaying to obtain a fresh mandate, for this talk about "compromise" without any definite proposal cannot have any other object than that of delay. There is no imaginable compromise which could be carried out without a new mandate from the nation, and that mandate can only be obtained by means of a General Election.
No scheme for the exclusion of Ulster has been before the people, and no scheme of Federation has even be devised. If, therefore, democratic government is to continue, if that which remains of the British Constitution is to be preserved, these schemes for the partition of Ireland or for the institution of six or seven Parliaments in the British Isles must be submitted to the electorate before they are promoted in Parliament. I confess that it baffles the comprehension of any one who is not of the enlightened caste of Front Bench politicians to understand what compromise is possible without the express consent of the nation. My Lords, 171 it is our plain and obvious duty to inform His Majesty that in our opinion the grave and unprecedented situation demands unusual measures, measures for which the Constitution, seriously damaged though it is, still provides. That is our duty, not only towards the King, but also towards the people. It is our duty, because we shall thus be upholding the Prerogatives of the Crown and defending the liberties of the people. The Prerogatives of the Crown, which exist as safeguards for the rights and liberties of the people, have been insidiously assailed by Ministers pledged to serve the King faithfully; and serious encroachments have been made on the rights and liberties of the people by Ministers who profess to be acting in the name of democracy.
Although there are many who, ignorant of the past and reckless of the future, rejoice in the humiliation and impending destruction of this House, there are more who, to whatever Party they belong and whatever they may outwardly declare, still look to us to place some check upon the fevered ambitions of professional politicians. The extreme and revolutionary temper of the House of Commons during the past six years cannot possibly have been a true reflection of the mood of the people. Let us show that we can still respond more truly to the spirit of the nation, and that even though our strength is gone and our days are numbered we are determined to the last to uphold the rights of the King and the rights of the people.
§ THE DUKE OF BEDFORD
My Lords, Home Rule has now reached a stage when we need no longer ask whether the question was or was not before the country at the last General Election. It is certain that the Home Rule Bill was not then before the constituencies, for the best of all reasons—it was not in existence. After the General Election was over, it was produced. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack told us that it was the custom for the Government to announce the principle of a Bill, but that was not the custom for the constituencies to discuss the details of a Bill. It used to be the custom for the representatives of the people in Parliament to discuss and determine the details of the laws by which we are governed. That is so no longer. Five-sixths of the Home Rule Bill have 172 never been discussed by the representatives of the people in Parliament. They have been passed by order of the Government under the "closure." Our Constitution being in suspense, the Government has determined to carry into law grave changes in the existing relations between the component parts of the United Kingdom without first submitting them to the judgment of the constituencies. The result of this new departure in statesmanship is that we are confronted, not by the remote possibility, but by the extreme probability of civil war. It seems incredible that such should be the case in our present state of civilisation, but it is the situation with which we have to deal.
We have often heard of the mandates given by the country to the Government to do this, that, and the other. Now this is certain. The country never gave a mandate to the Government in 1910 to carry on a civil war in Ulster in 1914. The Prime Minister, in the course of his own election, was asked the question—Will you use British troops to coerce the minority in Ulster?The right hon. gentleman gave this answer—That is a contingency of which there is no likelihood.That was in 1910. In 1913 at Leeds, at the annual meeting of the National Liberal Federation, the Prime Minister told us that—He and his supporters were not going to be frightened or arrested or deflected in the pursuit of that which they believed to be right and politic by the menace of civil war.What we have to do now is to use all means in our power to prevent this menace of civil war becoming, as it may at any moment, a reality.
There is a wide difference between the employment of troops in aid of the civil power, instances of which have frequently occurred in our time, and civil war, which, thank Heaven ! none of us has ever seen. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn, in his famous letter on the Irish question which appeared in The Times newspaper last September, wrote—No good purpose, however, can be served by ignoring the certainty that the passage of this Bill will be followed by serious rioting in the North of Ireland. It is an extravagance to speak of civil war.173 And in another passage referring to the anticipated resistance of Ulster, the noble and learned Earl wrote as follows—Still, however confident we may feel that the affair would be one of street fighting, quite within the power of the Constabulary with or without troops to quell in a short time, it would none the less be a grave calamity.That was written nearly six months ago. Is it an extravagance now to talk of civil war? Is the Government still confident that the resistance of Ulster will be limited to street fighting easily quelled by the Constabulary with or without troops?
I am in no way connected with Ireland. I am not and never have been in the confidence of the Ulster leaders. The only facts which I know are matters of common knowledge, and, I believe, are not disputed. We know that half a million of men and women have signed the Ulster Covenant, and we know the meaning of that Covenant. We also know the character of the Ulster people—that they are a God-fearing people, who would not take a solemn oath in vain, and that they are a hard, stubborn, and tenacious race. You cannot bend them as you would the willow. We know, further, that Ulster has guaranteed a fund of a million of money subscribed locally. This is significant, because the Irish Nationalist funds are drawn largely from abroad. I believe it is right to say that their organisation could not maintain itself without money from over the water. If a man will not subscribe eighteenpence or a couple of shillings to a political organisation in his own neighbourhood, which he is assured will give him every possible blessing and make his country a nation once again, he is not likely to run the risk of laying down his life for that cause, as the men of Ulster are ready to do for their cause.
Lastly, we know that Ulster has a force of upwards of 100,000 men, trained, armed, and organised, under a very capable staff of officers. We have had evidence of their capacity. Last April there was a great demonstration in Belfast, and from all the accounts which appeared in the Press the arrangements by which far more than 100,000 men were got on and off the ground would have reflected the greatest credit on the staff of any army. Now is it likely that Ulster in her present temper, with an organised force of 100,000 men and a million of money, is going to content herself with street fighting of a kind which could 174 be easily quelled by the Constabulary with or without the assistance of troops? Of course not; you cannot expect it. When the conflict comes, it will be the collision of large disciplined bodies of men in the field —in short, a campaign, but a campaign of civil war. I presume the Government have carefully considered the nature of the impending collision between their forces and those of Ulster and the probable course which events will take, and the result for all concerned. I recognise the fact that the Government, if only they could bring the full weight of their power into play, could crush the resistance of Ulster like a cocoanut cracked under a steam hammer. But they are in the peculiarly perplexing position of not being able to get up a sufficient head of steam to drive their hammer without at the same time driving themselves out of office. Their instrument of coercion and suppression is the Army.
There is no secret about the numbers of our Regular Army serving at home. All that information is given in the Army Annual Return. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, when Secretary of State for War, initiated the reduction of the Regular Army, and with such success that we shall not have 100,000 men and boys serving at home with the Colours this spring. This number will be mostly boys, because all the older lads will have gone abroad as drafts during the trooping season, which is just now coming to an end. Obviously whatever recruits may have been obtained in place of the drafts sent abroad will be useless for playing any part in the tragedy of Ulster. Ulster has one great advantage over the Government in the disposition of her forces. She has 100,000 men, every one of whom is in Ulster. The Government has 100,000 men and boys, but scattered all over the United Kingdom, and they must remain so dispersed. They cannot concentrate every man in the Army in the North of Ireland. The Government, having provided for home defence and for the necessary garrisons in Great Britain and Ireland in places other than Ulster, and after allowing for the inevitable causes of wastage, will not have a combatant force available for the coercion of Ulster of more than 10,000 men. I am quite ready to prove that in detail from official returns if challenged.
I should like to ask one or two simple questions of the Government, although I 175 do not expect to get any answers. Sir Edward Grey has told us that the Government mean to meet violence with violence. Well, when that happens please remember that you have a garrison, and a very small one, in Belfast—a Brigade of Infantry. What is to happen to that garrison? If you leave it alone and unsupported it must surrender, which will be disastrous. If you withdraw it, it will be a confession of weakness. Besides, you will leave Belfast in possession of the men of Ulster. Are you going to reinforce the garrison by sending a wholly insufficient number of troops to its assistance? I say insufficient, because it is manifest that you have not got a sufficient number to send. You cannot hope to overawe the people of Ulster unless you send at least four Divisions mobilised at war strength. But you dare not mobilise the Army. Again, if you send any troops into Ulster, it is a hostile act; because the only reason for sending them there is to take offensive action against the men of Ulster. If you send troops into Ulster, it is simply throwing the lighted match into the powder barrel, and you will have an explosion which will shake not only Ulster but the whole Empire. The Government must be well aware that they cannot hope to crush Ulster without first proclaiming a state of imminent national danger and calling out the Regular Reserve, which necessitates the embodiment of the Territorial Army. Incidentally that will mean the certain end of the Territorial Army and possibly the end of the Government also.
As an Englishman, I should like to ask the Government whether England, the predominant partner in the Union, is to have no say as to the employment of the Army in Ulster. England finds the biggest part of the money, and provides by far the greatest number of men for both the Army and the Navy. The official returns show that she finds four times the number of serving soldiers for the Army as are found by Ireland, Wales, and Scotland put together. As regards the Navy, last year she found ten times as many recruits as the rest of the United Kingdom. The Army is a national institution, maintained by the nation for national defence and national safety. It does not exist to carry out the particular policy of any political Party. If you take the present representation of England in the House of Commons, you will find that, taken by herself, she has a 176 majority of 33 over all other parties combined against the employment of the Army in a civil war. I do not believe that there is any Party in the country who wish to see the people of Ulster and the officers and men of the Regular Army killed—except, perhaps, the Irish Nationalist Party, who happen for the moment to control English politics. If the Government can loan the British Army to the Irish Nationalist Party to carry out their policy in Ireland irrespective of English opinion, then we in England must stop talking about being the predominant partner and recognise the fact that we are no longer a free people.
I belong to the British League for the Support of Ulster and the Union. The members of that League have promised to stand by Ulster in her resistance at all costs, provided that the Home Rule Bill is passed into law without the opinion of the country having first been taken at a General Election. The Government has no right, in my opinion, to drive the people of Ulster out of the Union, and still less right, having driven them out, to hand them over to the Irish Nationalist Party. If the Government deprive the people of Ulster of their rights as citizens of the United Kingdom, they no longer owe any allegiance to the Government, and are justified in the extreme course which they have been compelled to take for the preservation of their freedom. In these circumstances I feel it my duty to stand by Ulster, come what may, until the constituencies have recorded their opinion at a General Election. Having appealed to the country, I should, of course, abide by their decision, whatever it may be.
My Lords, I should not have attempted to take part in this debate, wishing to leave the consideration of this great question to others more competent to deal with it, had it not-been for the manner in which a solution, founded on the possible exclusion of Ulster, has been alluded to both here and elsewhere. I wish to enter a protest against such a solution. I know it has been coupled with the condition that adequate protection should be given to the handfuls of Unionists in other parts of Ireland, but I should like the House to consider this. If the proposed provisions are adequate for the protection of the Unionists in the West and South of Ireland, they are equally sufficient for the protection of Unionists in the North. Why, then, should a 177 distinction be made? But if, on the other hand, they are insufficient for the protection of the Unionists in the North, much more are they insufficient for the protection of the Unionists in the South and West, who, from their scattered and isolated position, are subjected to greater danger than are their fellow-subjects in the North.
I further object most strongly to the idea of the exclusion of Ulster as that at once gives a sanction to the principle of Home Rule and the establishment of a Parliament in Ireland and presupposes an Executive responsible to it. That, the Unionist Party have pledged themselves to resist to the uttermost, and I cannot conceive how any modification of that can possibly be accepted by them, certainly before a General Election. I am as sensible as any one of the extreme gravity of the circumstances, and of the danger to which my own country, this country, and the whole Empire is at present subjected; but I do trust that it will be remembered that we, the scattered Unionists in the South and West, have ever been loyal to the Crown and faithful to the connection between the two countries, and that we shall not be left exposed to the dangers which threaten us.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, in the very few words which I shall venture, with great diffidence, to address to your Lordships, I shall carefully abstain from anything that can be called a debating point. I wish to deal only with the bed-rock facts of the present dangerous situation as they present themselves to one who has never taken any part in politics, but, who has endeavoured to bring understanding to bear upon all great national problems. What are the fundamental and inexorable facts in the present dangerous situation? The first fact is this, that Ulster will not voluntarily accept the Home Rule Bill as it stands. We must and do all agree and accept that fact. But the second fact is that we cannot use force to coerce Ulster. I do not mean that, physically, it is impossible, though, as the noble Duke has said, it is not physically easy. But the moral law is stronger than the physical law; and we all know in our hearts that we cannot coerce Ulster by military force. As the noble and gallant Earl has said, that is unthinkable; and if Home Rule were established under the auspices of martial law the only result 178 would be a train of evils too appalling for us to contemplate.
But if we accept those two facts, as I hold we must, does it not follow, as the night the day, that the present Bill in its present form is already dead? Yesterday I noted that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack used these most significant words—I am inclined to go far from the terms of the present Bill. To secure a settlement I am willing to concede much.What, my Lords, can those words mean but that, in the view of His Majesty's Ministers, the Bill as it stands in its present shape is already dead? The noble Viscount the Lord President and the Lord Chancellor bade us view Ireland as a whole. That is good advice; but if you look at Ireland as a whole, what do you see? The people of Ireland, like the people of India, by reason of deep cleavages produced by sentiment, by racial characteristics, and, most important of all, by religion, are not at the present time fit for national government in the form which the present Bill proposes. Is it really too much to say that national government in that form is, like coercion by troops of the Ulstermen, unthinkable? It may be possible in years to come, and I hope that it will be possible, that both in India and in Ireland some form of national government may come. But that time, my Lords, is not yet.
To me the initial mistake seems to have been to imagine that by a heterogeneous aggregation of votes you can over-ride the passionate claims of a powerful and determined minority—claims, not to obtain anything you do not want to give them, but simply to be left alone. In the eloquent and persuasive writings of the noble Viscount, who has been my teacher in much, I do not find this dangerous doctrine laid down. And whatever you might call the form of government which this Bill would set up, it would be a government which would be created, in the first place, because of the gross disproportion of the representation of Ireland in the House of Commons; and, secondly, it would be a government which would depend for existence on the money of taxpayers over the Channel who would not be represented upon it in any way. Now, whatever you might call such a government, you could not call it a democracy, because it violates every 179 principle of democracy as democracy has been expounded by the noble Viscount.
What can be done to give peace and hope for the future? For myself I can only see three possible courses. The first is to amend the Bill so as to bring it into a true federal shape, remembering that while you can give powers in such cases as this you can never take them away, and, having amended the Bill to bring it into federal form, such form as might be given to Wales, England, or Scotland at some distant time, then make provision that Ulster should take part if and when she consents. I advocated that some time ago and I see the difficulties to which the noble Marquess has referred, but this course does seem to find some favour on both sides of your Lordships' House. The second course would be to drop the Bill as it stands and proceed to make, with the help of both Parties, administrative changes calculated to give better government of Ireland. In the administration of Ireland there is much to be desired; but in any change redistribution of seats would be the necessary first step, because the present system is palpably and intolerably unjust. That course offers many advantages, but I do not think it is as likely to meet with general acceptance as, perhaps, the first might.
The third course is to revive the Council Bill of 1907, which died a natural death— I do not know why. The principle of that Bill is explained in the Primrose Report of 1912 in these words—It contemplated no change in the political relations of Great Britain and Ireland, nor any radical change in their financial relations. It was merely a measure by which, while the political and financial partnership between the two countries would remain unimpaired, administration in Ireland would be to some extent decentralised, and its conduct entrusted in a larger degree than before to local agency.In other words, it was a real measure of Devolution. That Bill gave to the Council, subject to some supervision by the Lord Lieutenant, control over eight important departments of State; and that Bill, if accepted, might have been gradually and safely extended in scope. That course seems to me to have some great advantages, but I doubt now whether it would find acceptance by either Party in Ireland.
I can see no other course than the three to which I have briefly referred. But I 180 cannot believe there is any real urgency, in the present prosperous and progressive conditions of Ireland, which have been so eloquently described by the Irish Secretary. Nor can I believe that by any single Bill, however carefully drawn, you can finally and for ever settle the Irish question. Time may bring healing on its wings; time may soothe the animosities which too much wild talking on both sides has aroused; time may smooth the way for orderly and accepted self-government in Ireland. But, my Lords, it is only by Devolution, helped and inspired by both Parties in the State, that we can hope to lay broad and deep the foundations of that happy and lasting settlement which is the earnest desire, in the words of His Majesty's gracious Speech, of all Parties and all creeds to bring about.
My Lords, Lord MacDonnell, when he was speaking just now, made a great point that there was a majority in favour of the Home Rule Bill in Ulster by claiming a large proportion of the Ulster population as Home Rulers. That is a statement which I certainly deny. I challenge him to produce any proofs of his assumption. But although he was so eager to claim all the Protestant Home Rulers in Ulster, he said not one word about all the many Roman Catholics who are violent Unionists, and, not only those, but the many Roman Catholics who are absolutely in sympathy with us in secret. That calls to mind a statement made by a district councillor, I think it was in Mullingar. He said—There is not a single Roman Catholic with £100 in his pocket who is not a Unionist at heart.And then Lord MacDonnell went on to find fault with the contention of the noble Viscount who moved the Amendment, that no Protestant had been able to obtain any post since the passing of the Local Government Act, and he tried to disprove that contention by quoting a long list of figures of officials who had received their posts before the passing of the Local Government Act and had never been appointed by the present Nationalists at all. I would support the contention of the noble Viscount by adding that at Claremorris there appeared a large poster in connection with a vacancy in the gift of the board of guardians, and that poster said that no candidate need apply "unless he was recommended by the parish priest."
181 Now, there is one thing which is quite obvious from the gracious Speech from the Throne, and that is the complete change of tone that has come over the Government since the question of Home Rule was last debated by your Lordships. At that time the Government still believed their master when he told them that there was no opposition to Home Rule outside Ulster, and that the opposition to Home Rule in Ulster was confined to a handful of Orange bigots. I have no doubt that they believed him; at any rate, they affected to believe him, for when our opposition was manifest and we pronounced to the whole world that we would never submit to a Parliament in Dublin our protests were dismissed as of no account, our opposition was ridiculed, and we were told that we were bluffing, and that we had no more religion than billiard balls. There seems now to be a complete change. The Government have found out that, in addition to having to "toe the line," they have been tricked by their master all along when he persuaded them that there was no opposition to Home Rule in Ireland; and they have found out for themselves that there is a very real and determined opposition, not only in Ulster, but throughout the whole of the rest of Ireland. They now know that this "better government for Ireland" Bill, which is to bring "peace and content," is received with armed hostility by one community; it is looked upon with hatred and fear by all Unionists throughout the West and South; it is described as "rotten and putrid" by one section presided over by Mr. O'Brien; it is received with suspicion and doubt by many of the Nationalists themselves; and it is described as "totally insufficient" to satisfy the aspirations of the "Ireland-a-Nation" party.
This Bill, for which there was a mandate from the people and which was so perfect and so imperative that it was absolutely necessary to smash the Constitution in order to get it, is now admitted to be imperfect and to need amendment. Consequently the air is full of compromise, and the Government appear to be ready to grant anything except the one thing that we ask for—namely, the maintenance of our birthright, our free right of citizenship in the United Kingdom and our full share in the councils of a Parliament of a United Kingdom. I see that Mr. Devlin still adheres to his statement that our action 182 is "bluff," but I notice that he describes it as the "most costly bluff ever attempted." Well, as far as the expense is concerned it goes to prove, at all events, that Ulster-men are prepared to pay for their principles. It is very different with the Nationalists, who were rebuked by Mr. Redmond himself in these words—I do not think it is a creditable thing to the people of Ireland that they are able to find money for their games, sports, and everything else except for the support of the Nationalist Party.Mr. Devlin has also made his contribution to the compromise question. It was this—Let Sir Edward Carson come forward and accept Home Rule and then formulate his demands in the way of guarantees and safeguards.When I read that I really could not help thinking that Mr. Devlin was back in the nursery at his mother's knee learning the proverb, "Won't you come into my parlour? said the spider to the fly." At any rate, no sane man can believe that that was ever meant to be a serious contribution to the settlement of the question. Now, why are all these offers being suggested? Are they really meant to be put forward as a settlement of the question? If so, why are they not formulated and put down in black and white? As long as the Government keep them back, so long will I believe that they are nothing more or less than a trick to try and get the Unionist Party to accept the principle of Home Rule by compromising, or to gull and mislead the British electors.
Whatever change there may be in the attitude of the Government, this, at all events, is certain, that there is no change whatever in the opposition of Ulster. We stand to-day exactly where we stood on the 28th of September, 1912, when we bound ourselves together in solemn covenant never to submit to a Home Rule Parliament in Dublin. That decision is unaltered, and it is unalterable. It is a solemn Covenant that no one will dare to break; any man who broke that Covenant would be handed down to posterity as a traitor and his body burnt in effigy on the walls of Derry. But if Mr. Redmond has been able to fool the Government into a belief that they can settle the Irish question, the men who signed that Covenant are not to be so fooled; neither are they to be bought. The Government have had a 183 little experience of their own now as to the value of Mr. Redmond's opinions, so perhaps they will extend to us a little sympathy when we refuse to believe his protestations for the future. We remember that he said, "Don't trust Asquith; trust me." Well, we certainly agree with the first part of the remark. We decline to trust a man who has juggled with the Constitution in order to drive us out of it, and we decline to trust a Party which has one form of justice for one section of its supporters and another for another.
The other day the Daily News and Leader, in an article on the South African Parliament, expressed the view that the proposition that a majority of electors is a sufficient authority for abolishing by a mere act of force any legal right or liberty possessed by the minority, is one of the most dangerous ever put forward in a State. The article proceeded—No citizen can be called upon to respect the law when it lies at the mercy, the caprice, the passion or the interest of the momentarily stronger.That is one view. Now we come to the Daily Chronicle on "Ulster and Home Rule." This newspaper said—Lord Esher puts a plain question to us in a letter which appears in our issue to-day. He wants to know, if Ulster were to take up arms to resist Home Rule, would we advise the Government to use force to suppress them Our answer is, if the minority of Ulster resist by force of arms an Act of Parliament then this resistance must be put down. Force must be met by force.So it appears that when the Labour Party becomes aggressive the Radical view is that minorities must be protected; but when the Ulster Party becomes aggressive their view is that minorities must suffer.
Well, my Lords, we decline to be made to suffer, and we are perfectly prepared to sell our rights in a determined resistance if it is attempted. We deny, although we may be in a minority in Ireland, that we are in a minority in the United Kingdom; and we demand that the majority in the United Kingdom shall be allowed to say whether or not we shall so suffer. If we do not "trust Asquith," we certainly do not trust Redmond, for he has told us that he prefers rags and poverty under "Ireland-a-Nation" to peace and prosperity under the Union. And, after all, my Lords, what has he or his Party done for the material welfare of Ireland? Is it not perfectly obvious that if they had 184 had the material prosperity of Ireland at heart they could have used the enormous power which they have wielded in the present Parliament to wring from the Government any necessary reforms Ireland could possibly want, including the one reform which every one in Ireland admits—the completion of land purchase? Instead of that, what have they done? They have killed land purchase; they have passed a Budget which every one in Ireland hated, and an Insurance Act which every one disliked—and all to satisfy the sentiment of "Ireland-a-Nation."
And now it is desired to place the wealth, prosperity, and industry of Ulster at the mercy of these men. Under the Union the people of Ulster have thrived and prospered, in spite of the fact that they have not had the same natural advantages as the people under whom it is now proposed to place them, such as soil, climate, or natural harbours. Those industries and factories have been built up entirely by the industry and the hard work of the people themselves. What industries have been built up by the hard work of the Nationalists in the South? Cardinal Logue says—If our young people would work as hard at home as they are forced to work in America they would earn as much wages and be more comfortable here at home.But if you really want to get at the business capacity of the North and the business capacity of the South, the best way is to compare the various rates and the way in which they run their corporations. The noble Viscount who moved the Amendment has already told us something of this. But I should like to add to what he has said, that while the rates in Ballymena and Coleraine are only 5s. 8d. and 5s. 5d., in Sligo last year £5,000 of the year's rates were in arrears, and nineteen members of the corporation owed on an average £14 each of the arrears. Also, I should like to direct your attention to Limerick, where, although the inmates of the workhouse have decreased in number by 270, the cost of maintenance has increased by £7,000 a year; and the vice-chairman of the guardians himself stated that, upon inquiry, he found that the increase was due to the increases of salaries. My Lords, that is why Home Rule is wanted. These people think that under Home Rule they are going to get any jobs that are going and that are paid for well. 185 And we are now told that all our industries, our wealth, and our business capacities, which no one denies, are to be handed over to and controlled by men who cannot even run a third-rate town without jobbery and extravagance. We decline to acquiesce in the setting up of a Government which is to be composed of men whose secret political organisations were guilty of the worst forms of cruelty, of crime, of terrorism, and even of murder.
What evidence has been produced to, lead us to suppose that these men will suddenly, when they have the whole power in their own hands, grow meek and mild as milkwater? Do they themselves contemplate any change? I read in an article the other day that a prominent Home Ruler, when he was congratulated on the certainty of obtaining office in the first Irish Ministry, said "Oh, I am in no hurry; I shall wait for the second. You see the whole of the first will be assassinated." I cannot vouch for the veracity of that, but I do not think that it is as unreasonable an assertion as might be thought to any one who has studied the long list of crimes and the remarks of the Judges at the Assizes in Galway and the West of Ireland. If we refuse to submit to this yoke—and we certainly shall—we are to be threatened with the Imperial troops. This Bill for the "better government of Ireland" was going to settle everything. It was going to bring peace. Why, it cannot come into being except at the point of the British bayonet. Those British soldiers with whom many of us in Ulster fought shoulder to shoulder in South Africa are now, at the dictation of those who fought against them and by whom they have always been derided, to be sent over to Ulster to shoot down their own brothers in arms, and for no other reason than this, that we desire to remain loyal to the Crown, to the United Kingdom, and to the British Empire.
Here, as regards this shooting down, is the whole consummation of the aspirations of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. They will say, "At last we have triumphed over our enemies. We have forced the Englishmen, whom we hate, to use their own soldiers, whom we loath, to shoot down their own loyal garrison in Ulster, whom we could neither buy nor overcome." Such, my Lords, is the living ambition of this secret society, the Ancient Order of 186 Hibernians; and it seems that the Government prefer to fulfil that ambition for them rather than have the courage to face the music and allow the people of this country to say whether or not one of the most prosperous and most industrious communities are to be turned out from their midst. Because the Government are afraid of a General Election we are asked, What on earth could a General Election do? There is one thing that I hope it would do. I hope it would decide once and for all that the Imperial Parliament is to rule a United Kingdom, and not, as is now the case, the Imperial Parliament to be ruled by Mr. Redmond and the Nationalist Party. I could not help being amused when the noble Viscount stated his fear that the Government might after a General Election come back and find themselves still faced with the Ulster question. If the Government, with the force of the country at their back, are afraid of facing the Ulster question, I wonder what must be their feelings now.
As far as compromise is concerned, our position in Ulster is perfectly clear. We state now—we have always stated—that we are prepared to resort to arms rather than submit to a Dublin Parliament. That being so, there are only three courses which can possibly be open to the Government—first, to attempt to put us down by force; second, to exclude us out of the Bill; third, to appeal to the people. Which of these three courses they will adopt it is impossible for us in Ulster to foresee. Personally I believe the last is the only one which has any chance whatever of obtaining a permanent settlement of the question; and, my Lords, it can be the only one which can commend itself to the Unionist Party. If the many speeches which I have heard from these Benches during this debate mean anything they prove conclusively this, that if there is no mandate for Home Rule, neither is there any mandate for any tampering whatsoever with the legislative Union. And if there is no mandate to coerce Ulster, neither is there a mandate to hand over 300,000 of our Loyalists in the South and West to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. I do not believe that any one will be led away by the plea that if you do not surrender your principles and compromise you will be guilty of civil war. If civil war breaks out and blood is shed, the responsibility will rest, not upon those 187 who are now demanding an appeal to the country, but upon those who, rather than risk a year of office, are prepared to use the Imperial troops to stifle the appeal of a great industrious and loyal population to the democracy of the United Kingdom to save them from being sold into slavery.
My Lords, I venture to trespass on your time for but a very few minutes, as this debate is drawing to a close. I must say that some of the speeches to which we have listened, especially the last one, must be most depressing to all who had hoped that the weighty words which the Government advised the King to address to the country would have led to the subject being treated in quite a different way. We all of us, I suppose, feel that we are at a very momentous period in the political situation; and without recrimination, without saying that the willingness of the Government to meet the other side half way must be taken as a plea of guilty and an admission that the original legislation was carelessly or badly drawn—setting aside those recriminations, we ought to try not to inflame but to allay animosity. The speech to which we have just listened did not appear to me to be the impulsive utterances of an excited speaker, because the full notes from which it was made showed that some of the remarks were studied and prepared. I do not know whether the noble Lord thinks that he helps this debate by referring to Mr. Redmond as master of the Government, or to the Government as being prepared to plunge Ulster into civil war for the sake of another year of office. Such remarks, if I may venture to say so, are vulgar and unsuitable to the gravity of the situation.
But I would rather pass away from the unhappy tone that several speakers have introduced into this debate. I know, from private conversation, that many of your Lordships see the gravity of the situation, and that many of you would give much to see the way, without loss of honour, to a lasting settlement of this question. But neither the Amendment before the House nor the speeches made in support of it conduce to that most desirable object. Noble Lords opposite are not asked at this moment—I think he would be a very unreasonable person who would ask them—to sacrifice their own convictions and to say that they think Home Rule a good 188 thing. I have a great deal of sympathy with many noble Lords. I regret very much that we were plunged into this course of disintegrating the United Kingdom. But it is no use talking of what we would have liked the state of political affairs to be if things had remained unchanged. It is useless to ignore what has happened since 1886 and what has taken place during the administration of the various Governments which have followed one another since, and it is useless to ignore the apathy and indifference which has come over a large number of the electorate in reference to the question of the maintenance unimpaired of the Union, which was such a powerful force at the election of 1886.
What we have to do now is not to say what we would like if we had a free hand. We have to show, assuming the legislation of the Government to be mischievous on the whole and not conducive to the welfare of the country, what is the minimum of damage with which we can get out of the question. Noble Lords opposite are not in a position to treat this question as if they were masters of the situation. They know quite well that they are not masters of the situation. If an election took place and Parties were fairly evenly divided, they would not be masters of the situation. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said that the reason this question does not come very prominently forward at elections is that the mass of the electors have made up their minds about it—I do not say with any great enthusiasm. There is a section, no doubt, who are enthusiastic; there is a smaller section in this country who are bitterly hostile; and there is a much larger section who are bored to death with the whole matter and wish to see it settled. We all agree that the situation is very strained and that everything ought to be done that possibly can be done to secure, if possible, the good will of all the people of Ireland—if not the good will, the acquiescence of all the people of Ireland, and, if not the acquiescence, some measure which would enable those who have neither good will nor acquiescence an opportunity of standing aside for the time and seeing the experiment tried.
I agree very heartily with what Lord Clonbrock said, that every person in Ireland who is a law-abiding citizen is entitled to the fullest measure of protection by the 189 law, whether he lives in Ulster or out of Ulster; but it is not by bundling out four or five Protestant counties from the new Government that you can do justice to these citizens who are scattered throughout the rest of the country. I do not feel that this is the time to go into questions of detail as to how this tangled puzzle of Home Rule should be solved. I should be very sorry to go into the question of Federation, or, as the Lord Chancellor much better put it, Devolution. These questions are much too large to be tacked on to the solution of this matter. This question has not arisen—and here I am sorry I do not agree with the noble and learned Earl, Lord Loreburn—out of the overweighting of Parliament. It has arisen out of the national sentiment and feelings of the mass of the people of Ireland, and that is why this question is one of urgency. If we are to throw the Constitution into the melting pot, it would have been far more satisfactory if we could have had a carefully constituted Commission to consider what should be matters of devolution and what matters should be retained by the Imperial Parliament. All that would have been very good if we had come to the subject with a free hand. But we know quite well that Parliament and the Government of this country do not come to the question of Irish Home Rule as perfectly free agents. I do not mean because they are bound by an Irish dictator who controls seventy or eighty votes, but because you have now reached in regard to the Irish question an impasse. You have to look at this question as statesmen, as moderate and fair-minded men, and not consider what is the thing which, if you had a free hand, you would regard as the best thing to do, but what in this grave crisis it is possible for you to do. I hope, with the responsibility that must characterise the Front Bench opposite, that we shall have some more sober and thoughtful and helpful utterances than we have had hitherto in this debate.
§ THE EARL OF LEITRIM
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down mentioned that this question was one of urgency arising from the sentiments of the Irish Nationalists in Ireland. I will ask him one question. Why was it, in that case, that His Majesty's Government did not bring this measure forward when they had a very large majority in the other House free of all hindrance by the large 190 Irish Nationalist Party? In 1906 they came in with a large majority of 300, and it was not until they lost some part of that majority that they took up this question. Therefore I do not think the noble Lord can quite well say that it is a question of urgency, except this— it is a question of urgency in so far as it is important to Cabinet Ministers on the Front Bench opposite, for it cannot be denied that Mr. Redmond is holding the line on which they have got their toes.
There has been a very distinct change in the last six months in the speeches of Ministers, and the comparison of the speeches of Ministers in both Houses is very interesting. I think Ministers in the other House are rather more generous to the Opposition than are the Ministers in this House. For example, on the first evening Lord Morley tried to show that there was a great advance on the part of the Unionist Party in their view of this question. On the other hand, in the other House the Prime Minister acknowledged that to advocate the exclusion of Ulster on the part of the Unionist Party was not showing that they were weakening at all on the Union, but was merely showing that they had a hearty desire to save the country from the worst evil of civil war. The noble Viscount, Lord Morley, said that he had very great experience, together with the noble Marquess who leads this House, of the temper of Ulster Unionists. May I then ask why is it with this knowledge he could not impress it upon his colleagues in the Cabinet and thus prevent bringing the country to the state of civil war?
Where have the Unionist Party changed in their position? We stand where we stood before on this question of Ulster. Ulster is determined to resist and has made resistance good in the eyes of the electors of this country. The Government have no right to coerce Ulster, and they know it. We know that they know it, because they have allowed this large organisation of the Ulster Volunteer Force, of which we are very proud in Ulster, to continue without the least sign of any effort to reduce its numbers or to keep it within certain limits. In the exclusion of Ulster we only desire to save the country from civil war, and I was glad to see that Mr. Bonar Law last evening in the other House disclaimed any responsibility whatever for the consequences of that exclusion. The exclusion of Ulster does not please anybody, 191 and cannot be a settlement of this question. In making our claim for a General Election we do so because it is clear that there can be no justice without an election, especially for those Unionists in the South and West of Ireland. Even if the two great Parties in the State came to an agreement on this question, the Unionists in the South and West of Ireland, some 300,000 men, would feel aggrieved; they would feel that if this question had been placed before the country the electors, like they have done before, would have refused to allow Home Rule to be put into force. But, my Lords, His Majesty's Ministers will have it that in asking for a General Election the desire of the Unionist Party is only to wreck the Parliament Act. Mr. Bonar Law, in another place, dealt with that in a very able manner. I think the shoe is on the other foot on this occasion. The real truth is that His Majesty's Ministers are betwixt appealing to the people—which means humiliation to them, and the acknowledgment that the last two years work amounts to absolute failure— or, on the other hand, coercing Ulster, for which they have no mandate.
In a speech last night the noble Earl the First Commissioner of Works said that in the event of the Government going to the country this year—he was good enough to say this year—it would mean that, supposing they came back, they would have to go through the usual practice under the Parliament Act and would not be able to get their Bill for three years. But it was open under the Parliament Act for His Majesty's Government to go to the country at any time, and if they had come back they would have found the Home Rule Bill still alive, and it would not have lost its position. They could have passed it in a single session—this session. Now that is no longer the case. On the other hand, if they accept the offer made to them by the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition, and offered again yesterday by Mr. Bonar Law in another place, of a referendum on the question of Home Rule, they would still be able to come back, and provided that they could keep their coalition together, which would be very doubtful, in that case they would still be able to pass their several measures. Therefore the claim of the noble Earl is not quite correct, that they would have to go through the troublesome time of two more years under the Parliament Act.
192 One word about the organisation in Ulster. I think it is a pity that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack could not go over and see for himself that organisation, which may be called in every sense territorial. I am sure it would please him to see the keenness of these men in walking four, five, and sometimes six miles on wet and stormy evenings to a drill hall which is not very good. Sometimes I have known them go to a barn where there was very little room in which to make their military movements, probably with a threshing machine getting in the way. But these men continue to meet twice and three times a week and to pay large sums for their instruction. I know one particular drill sergeant of forty men who would gladly pay 10s. a week themselves for a man to visit them two nights a week. We have a number of old soldiers going about teaching these men. If the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack would come over—we could provide him with an Ulster name which would be acceptable; it would be necessary, no doubt, for him to come incognito—I feel sure it would gladden his heart, setting aside the question of Home Rule, to see the keenness of our Ulster Volunteers.
What has been the reason for the entirely changed atmosphere that we have seen in both Houses of Parliament? It is solely due to those gallant men of the Ulster Volunteer Force. All credit is due to them for their arduous work and their sacrifice of time and money, and, above all, for what they have suffered in opposition from the other side. I could tell numbers of stories of how they have practised self-restraint on many occasions. One in particular. A man on a bicycle was met by six Nationalists across the road. They demanded where he was going. He said he would tell them when they had let him by. He took out his revolver and they let him by, but he noticed that they followed him. Therefore he put down his bicycle and sat on the bank playing with his revolver. He waited with patience. Eventually the men dispersed. They dared not face him. I could tell of other cases of a worse kind, where bottles and stones have been thrown at these men going home after drill. I think the appeal of these men will still continue to make itself heard, and I do not believe that the Government can possibly refuse in all justice to go to the country on this important subject.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, we are drawing near to the close of a discussion that has presented several remarkable features. It has been remarkable in its inception and in the form of the Amendment upon which we are about to vote. That has been a step not indeed without precedent, but a very exceptional step, although a step, as we hold, rendered necessary in order to call the attention of this House and of the country to the extreme gravity of the circumstances in which we are placed. The debate has also been remarkable in the large number of Front Bench speeches to which we have been privileged to listen. It has indeed been rather an unusual experience for us in this House to have such a plethora of Ministerial exposition. We have had speeches from Lord Morley, Lord Beauchamp, the Lord Chancellor, and Lord Loreburn, who, although not now on the Front Bench, was only recently there and who was one of the principal framers of the Home Rule Bill. Further, I believe that I shall have the honour to be followed by the noble Marquess the Leader of the House.
But if we have had a remarkable number of Front Bench speeches there has been a remarkable paucity of Back Bench speeches. The speech of Lord Sheffield, couched, if I may say so, in a very reasonable spirit, was a pleasant oasis in a desert of silence on the other side of the House. With the exception of the two noble Lords who moved and seconded the Address in complimentary terms of great excellence, there have been only two other noble Lords on that side—Lord Charnwood and Lord MacDonnell—who have risen to address the House. I do not know what this silence means; but certainly it does not seem to indicate any very enthusiastic acceptance of this measure. I expect it is rather the silence of troubled minds and anxious hearts, the silence of a real and sombre apprehension as to the future that lies before us.
What have we gained, if we have gained anything, by this debate? Are we any more advanced than we were when we began? In answering this question we ought to consider the speeches made almost simultaneously in the House of Commons. What we want to get at is, what is in the minds of Ministers; and if the speeches in this House, which have not erred on 194 the side of clearness, can be supplemented or elucidated by those delivered in the House of Commons, it is our duty to study them. Comparing the speeches of Ministers in the two Houses, we note a perceptible advance towards the understanding of this question, if not towards a solution of it. I will explain what I mean. In the first place, we have a recognition, frank, universal, and unqualified, of the gravity of the crisis by which we are confronted. No attempt whatever has been made to belittle it in your Lordships' House. Indeed, Ministers have assured us—notably the Lord Chancellor—that they have recognised it all along, although, if that be so, my recollection of their earlier speeches in many cases would lead me to think that their language has been a very imperfect reflex of their opinions. However, I do not wish to press that point. It is enough for us that we have no longer any talk of bluff, bluster, or bravado—that the Provisional Government which only a year ago was treated from that Bench as a childish and foolish fantasy is now only spoken of with respect, and that we have no more gibes at the expense of the wooden guns, and so forth. I think this is a substantial advance. There is a common recognition now in every quarter of the House that Ulster is serious, is sincere, that she has raised a force which, in point of equipment and organisation, is comparable with a Regular Army, and that she is resolved to use her strength for the defence of what she regards as her liberties and her rights. We might say, How often have we not pointed this out ourselves in the past? But I will not take that line. I will merely say that we are grateful for the universal recognition now.
Then we have gained another valuable admission from His Majesty's Government —the admission, I mean, that the responsibility for the next step rests with them. We are no longer told, as we used to be, that the duty of submitting a scheme rests with us. The Government have now accepted it, and they propose to act, and to act presently, upon that sense of responsibility. There is yet a further admission that we have won, and that is the admission that the Home Rule Bill in its present form cannot be placed on the Statute Book. Whatever form the suggestions or proposals that are foreshadowed may take one thing is quite clear—they must involve a con- 195 siderable remoulding, if not an entire reconstruction of the Bill. Of coarse, the Prime Minister in the House of Commons in making this admission accompanied it by a claim that he must not be taken to admit that the Home Rule Bill is in any way defective. On the contrary, he said that he still regarded it as a sound and statesmanlike and workable measure. We need not quarrel with this innocent and flattering illusion. As we all know, it is part of the business of the skilful combatant to cover up his retreat. The point for us rather is that the sacrosanct character of the Bill, of which we used to hear so much—the fact that it was going to be forced into law without the change of a line or a comma—has now disappeared; that it is admitted that the Bill, instead of bringing peace to Ireland—the claim that used to be made for it up to only a few months, almost a few weeks, ago—really carries with it a sword; and that it must be substantially altered if it is to have any prospect of success.
From this fallibility of the Bill I venture to suggest that there flows another and a much more important consequence, which really is not the least of the results of these debates. If this Bill is so imperfect as to be unworkable, then, my Lords, the case for coercing Ulster, if she declines to accept the Bill, is gone. I own I never much believed in the brave words that were used by Sir Edward Grey and others as to the use of the forces of the Crown in certain contingencies to coerce Ulster; still less did I attach any importance to the threats of persons like Mr. T. W. Russell that the Government were going to treat Ulstermen as if they were moonlighters and to enforce the Crimes Act in Ulster, or the threats that there would be a blockade at the ports of Ulster or that martial law might be proclaimed in those parts of Ireland. As I say, I never attached much importance to those threats myself—not, I must say, because I believed Ministers to be incapable of the action, because, as we all know, distracted men are often guilty of the most violent deeds; but because I have always felt that they have much too shrewd a regard for their own existence to take any steps that would be almost certain to bring it to an abrupt and inglorious conclusion. But whether there was ever any likelihood of the Government's using force or not, I venture to say that that likelihood has now dis- 196 appeared, and that from the moment that Ministers conceded that the demand of Ulster must be met, the chance of coercing or punishing Ulster, if she declined to forego it, disappeared.
We have had also another admission in the course of these debates, and that is the admission from the Prime Minister, in his impressive speech in the House of Commons, that the only chance for the future good government of Ireland lies, not merely in the avoidance of the outbreak of civil war, but in starting the new system of government in Ireland, whatever it may be, in what he called an atmosphere that would give it a chance of working happily. I thought I traced some faint recognition of this spirit in the otherwise uncompromising speech of Mr. Redmond last night. I have never been able myself to understand why Mr. Redmond, whose love for his country I do not desire to impugn, has always adopted such a singularly unbending attitude towards Ulster, and more particularly towards the possible exclusion of Ulster—why he has repeatedly talked about going full steam ahead, and, if the safeguards which he is willing to yield are not accepted, about insisting upon the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill. If that is the line taken by him it seems to me that the whole chance of his ever getting Ulster with the consent of Ulster disappears, not only now, but in the future, and that, even if he were in the chapter of accidents to secure Home Rule in some form or another, he would really only get the rind without the fruit. I hope, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will bear in mind this doctrine of atmosphere which has been laid down by their chief, and that, whatever proposals they may shortly place before us, these proposals will satisfy the two essential conditions at this moment—the first, that they avoid civil war; the second, that they create this spirit and atmosphere to which I refer and without which any success for their policy or any policy in Ireland is not to be dreamed of.
I go on to ask, How, if at all, far have the proposals that have been made or indicated in this debate satisfied those conditions? May I first deal with the proposals which have been made on this side of the House? Our remedy, so far as we are entitled to suggest one, is a General Election. When we say a General Election 197 I take it that the greater may be held to include the less, and if His Majesty's Government had at any time during the past six months seen their way—or should in the near future see their way—to refer this Bill to a special vote of the people, putting to the people (assuming the Bill with their new proposals attached to it to have left the House of Commons and come up to this House) the question—"Are you or are you not in favour of this Bill?"—I entertain no doubt that that is a proposal that we should have accepted and that we should still, if it were proffered, accept. I am not an advocate of at all a wide and unrestricted use of the referendum in this country. On the contrary, I think if it ever is adopted as part of our constitutional machinery, it will have to have a very circumscribed operation. But in a case like this, where the issue is so clear, where it is so easily capable of being isolated and detached from all other issues, where the point is one of such capital importance, where, after all, there is— everybody must admit—legitimate doubt as to whether the people do or do not favour this scheme—I think that in such an instance a very strong case for the referendum might have been set up. But I understand that you unhesitatingly reject a referendum, and you also scoff at the idea of a General Election.
In his speech yesterday Lord Loreburn said that he did not understand why we should press for a General Election, because in the first place he regarded it as an unreasonable demand, and, in the second place, he did not see how it could offer any solution; on the contrary, instead of offering a solution it would postpone it. I do not, if I may say so with respect, quite follow that reasoning. Supposing you won, supposing the Lord Chancellor was right when he said that the electors have fully made up their minds, and that they are quite satisfied with the Government and with the Bill, then in that case I cannot see why the General Election should not give you precisely the solution that you desire. You have the assurance of the Unionist leaders that if the result of such an election were in favour of your cause they would abide by the result. You have further the assurance that they would be precluded from continuing their active support of Ulster. And therefore you would get your Home Rule Bill intact—perhaps the last thing in the world that 198 you would like at this moment—and there would be only left the hostility of Ulster— a hostility which must be powerfully affected, which must, indeed, be seriously diminished by the consciousness that the voice of England had pronounced, on the hypothesis that I am discussing, against them, and that they were deprived of the support of the official Unionist Party in the future. I should have thought myself that such a solution would have satisfied your most extreme aspirations.
The noble Viscount opposite took another line about our demand for a General Election. He looked upon it as an attempt on our part, by a covert attack, to upset the Parliament Act, and to wipe out the proceedings of the past three years. I do not suppose anyone on this side of the House is very much enamoured of the Parliament Act, and I doubt if noble Lords on that side care for it much more, at any rate a good many of them. The more we see of the Parliament Act the more unconstitutional and intolerable does it become, the more insidious and pernicious in its effect, not merely on this House, but on the House of Commons and on the whole tone and spirit of public life in this country, and the more certain, I take it, does it become that the Parliament Act in its present form cannot retain a permanent place in our governing system. But to suppose that we are engaged by a side wind over this issue of Home Rule in a plot to get rid of the Parliament Act is really to imagine us much more stupid than the noble Viscount has any right to suppose, and it is quite inconsistent with the fact, which I think he forgot in making this remark two days ago, that we were equally pressing for a General Election all through last year, and that if a General Election had been conceded at any time last year or up to the opening of Parliament he would have retained the full protection of the Parliament Act and would have been able to pass his Bill without the alteration of a comma or a line.
May I suggest to the noble Viscount, who is a great student of human nature, that the simplest explanations of the phenomena of human thought and action are often the most true. We plead for a General Election on two very plain and easily intelligible grounds. The first is that we entertain a very sincere doubt as to whether this Bill has the 199 support of a majority of the electorate of the United Kingdom. Whether they did or did not accept the principle in 1910— I think there are grave doubts as to that— we cannot believe that there was a single man voting in 1910 who had the slightest idea what this Bill was going to be—indeed he could not have, because at that date you had no idea yourselves—still less that there was a single man who had the dimmest notion that the yoke of it was going to be laid on the unwilling shoulders of something like 1,000,000 of their fellow-countrymen in Ireland at the cost of civil war. We may, of course, be mistaken. It may be that the electors may have foreseen all these eventualities four years ago. If they did they must be much more intelligent than many of us suppose. It may be that they will be willing to accept the consequences of these eventualities. All that is possible, but what we ask is that the question should be put to the simple test of a reference to them.
The second reason for which we ask for a General Election is that a General Election is obviously the shortest, the promptest, and the most efficacious method of escaping the horrors of civil war. If we were to win there would be no civil war, because Ulster would have won the day. If there were a dead heat there would be no civil war, because both Parties would be compelled to settle down together and thresh out some solution of the Irish question. Supposing you won, the chances of civil strife would be enormously diminished by the factors that I mentioned just now, and in the case of Ulster, conscious that England had pronounced against her and deprived of the support of the Unionist Party, might almost be regarded as of secondary importance. These, therefore, are the two reasons why we press for a General Election. We do not, of course, ask for it to-day or to-morrow. We want to know what is the final shape of the proposals which His Majesty's Government are going to bring forward. What we ask is that the Bill in the final shape in which it leaves the House of Commons shall be placed before the electors before it receives the assent of the King. It is by the result of an appeal to the country in those circumstances that we are content to abide.
May I say one word with reference to an argument that has played a great part in 200 this discussion and has been used by every speaker, I think, from the Front Bench opposite—the argument as to the difficulty that it is alleged we shall experience in dealing with the Nationalist majority in Ireland supposing that they lose Home Rule in the hour of their triumph. Lord Loreburn and Lord Haldane both used the same argument in speaking of the "cup being dashed from the lips" of the Nationalists in Ireland at the moment they were about to quaff it. Metaphors are very dangerous things in political as well as in other controversies, and I venture to say there is a good deal of exaggeration in the use of the image in this case. In the first place, as some one has pointed out, this cup, or some similar cup, was dashed from the lips of Ireland in 1886 and in 1893 without, so far as I remember, producing any very disastrous or terrible consequences. In the second place, on the various occasions on which the cup has been offered it has contained a different beverage. The present cup-holders have been so indifferent about it on previous occasions that in 1906 they substituted an entirely novel and greatly-diluted brew, and finally they are now contemplating a substantial change in the nature of the ingredients. Therefore I am not so much impressed, even although the metaphor came from two Lords Chancellor, with this image of the cup, and I am not so frightened of the awful consequences of its contents being spilled to the ground. Even if I am wrong I should like to say this for the Party behind me, that we should not in the least quail at the prospect placed before us. We might be confronted with anxious and troublous and even stormy times in Ireland. I think that is very likely true, but I do not think the difficulties would be found insuperable, and at any rate with a brave heart we should endeavour to meet them.
Further, I should like to point out the illogical position of those who use this argument. The whole case of His Majesty's Government is, I understand, this, that Ulster ought to submit because of an alleged decision of the electors in 1910. That, of course, is the old doctrine of vae victis, the spoils to the conquerors and the beaten minority to the wall. But, on the hypothesis I am now discussing, if a General Election results in a victory for the Unionists, this duty of obedience to the verdict of the electors is to be entirely forgotten. 201 The old Adam of rebellion against constituted authority, which lurks somewhere in every Radical bosom, and renders them such uneasy custodians of law and order, reappears, and, as we gather, the rest of Ireland—the three-fourths—are to be encouraged and justified in doing precisely the same thing with infinitely less provocation as that which they condemn Ulster for doing now. That is an entirely illogical position to take up.
There is one possible consequence of refusing a General Election now which the noble Viscount omitted to take into account. If there was a General Election now the matter would be settled one way or the other before it becomes more acute than it now is. But if what I understand to be your plan—namely, a General Election after the Bill has been passed into law and the King's name is upon it, but before it comes into operation—is carried out, then, in certain circumstances, you would be guilty of the very greatest of crimes; for, supposing the election turned against you and gave a majority to us, you would be shown to have used the Parliament Act in order to force upon this country a measure which in the contingency that I am discussing they would have disowned, which all along they would have disapproved, and which they would have taken the first opportunity of repudiating; and you would leave to us the odious task of repealing your Bill, with all the trail of misery and tumult and disorder which that must entail. You may be willing to run that risk, but you have no right to put us in that position. If things turn out—and it is not inconceivable—in the way I speak of, you would be found guilty of almost the greatest crime—I do not think a smaller word ought to be used—which a Government has ever perpetrated in this country, and it would be small consolation to Ulster and to Ireland to know that your countrymen would never forgive that crime, and that you would be debarred from office, as I believe you would be, for at least a generation.
I hope, therefore, I have shown that in advocating a General Election we are not doing an unreasonable thing. And I would add that I think noble Lords opposite, even from their own point of view, are not very well advised to reject this idea of an election with so much scorn, because there are some of us—I am one of them—who think that it will be the result 202 to which before many months have passed they will be driven.
I have spoken about our proposals. May I say a word or two about what we know of yours? I allow that not much enlightenment is to be derived on this matter from the speeches which we have heard in this House. The noble Viscount told us that the Government would submit their proposals or suggestions with no avoidable delay. Is there any reason for delay at all? If Ministers have made up their minds, why cannot they make a clean breast of it and take Parliament into their confidence? The noble Viscount did not give us the slightest clue as to what the nature of these suggestions may be. In these circumstances, one turns naturally to the speech of the Prime Minister in the other House of Parliament. The Prime Minister has generally been regarded as the possessor of powers of lucid exposition, which we have often applauded and admired, but I am bound to say that in recent times he has become almost as cryptic and obscure as a Greek oracle. You will remember that the priestess at Delphi, like the Prime Minister, always delivered her oracles in irreproachable literary form. It was in fact generally understood that there was a poet kept to touch them up and turn them into Greek hexameters. Like the Prime Minister, also, the oracle at Delphi was usually couched in terms capable of being interpreted in two different ways. There was the famous case we all remember of Crœsus, who consulted the oracle before he decided to invade the kingdom of Persia, and who was told by the oracle that if he crossed the Halys, the boundary river of his country, he would destroy a great kingdom. I do not know whether I dare quote Greek, but I will try it—
Well, Crœsus did cross the frontier and he did destroy a great kingdom, but it was his own—an omen which I think might be commended to the Government in the present case.
It was with almost equal obscurity that the Prime Minister in his speech seemed to contemplate the exclusion of Ulster from the Bill. There were certain passages in his speech which seemed to be incapable of any other interpretation, and I notice that Sir Edward Carson so interpreted them in his remarkable speech last night. But, 203 differing apparently from the Prime Minister, the Lord Chancellor seemed to have quite another idea in view. He seemed to contemplate a situation in which the Ulster party would still contribute members of Parliament to Dublin, and he talked about safeguards, to which, with a wide measure of political autonomy, he and his colleagues were apparently willing to consent. I say regretfully but deliberately, that whatever proposals you may submit for what I will call the constructive independence of Ulster, whatever safeguards you may invent, however many vetos or boards you may set up, however plausible and symmetrical you may make your plans for a new scheme of Government in Ireland on paper, I believe, so long as they involve, if they do, the incorporation of the Unionists of Ulster in the scheme of a Parliament at Dublin, they will be vain and futile. I believe it will be wasted breath and wasted paper. The time has gone by when such expedients can be put forward with any chance of acceptance.
The Lord Chancellor asked us last night to advance towards him by the acceptance of some common principle, but he did not explain what the principle was. I rather agree with Lord Sheffield that the time is not one in which either Party can be wisely or safely asked to accept the principles of the other Party. The only principle which we have both in common at this moment—at any rate the first principle— is the duty of trying to prevent strife and to maintain peace in Ireland. Before the Lord Chancellor asks us to accept his principles it would surely be more pertinent to ascertain how far his principles are accepted by the electors of this country.
I spoke just now of exclusion. It would be idle to contend that the idea of the total exclusion of Ulster has not been not merely considered, but favourably considered, by members of the Party opposite, and even by prominent members of the Government. I recall the speeches of Sir Edward Grey and of Mr. Churchill on the Second Reading debate in 1912, the speech of Mr. Churchill at Dundee in the autumn of that year, which has been called the heptarchy speech, the speech by him at the same place last autumn, the speeches of Mr. Asquith at Ladybank, and again in the House of Commons the other day, which make it perfectly certain 204 that exclusion as a policy has been favourably considered even by members of the Government. Therefore for them to treat the thing as absurd hardly tallies with the facts of the case. Moreover, apart from policy, however difficult and complicated it may be, exclusion in itself is not impracticable. It could be done if it had to be done. It may even have to be done.
Upon this question of exclusion the attitude of our friends on this side of the House is quite clear. It was well expressed by Lord Leitrim. Our Party regard exclusion with no enthusiasm whatsoever. Many of our friends in this House, in the country, and in Ulster are entirely opposed to it. We cannot think that it is a desirable thing in itself; but always coming back to the governing consideration of the whole of this case—namely, the imminence of civil war in Ireland—sooner than have the Home Rule Bill passed in its present form or have war as a consequence of persisting in it, we should be bound to consider exclusion if you put it forward as your suggestion, and I venture to say that you are bound to consider it. But the question of exclusion, if it be thus brought forward, is not a matter for bargaining and trafficking between the two Parties in Parliament; and if exclusion is to be considered—if you favour it—it must not be the nominal and, as I call it, the constructive exclusion to which I referred, but it must surely be total exclusion for Ulster from the operation of the Bill.
There is only one other plea which I ask to be allowed in all seriousness to submit to the Government. A great crisis and a great danger lies before us. It is urgent, it is imminent. It may be attended with disastrous consequence which would react upon our country and our race for many long generations to come. Whatever solution you in your wisdom put forward, may I venture to hope that you will get away from the region of tactics? When two forces are on the verge of civil war it is no good to conduct manœuvres on the battlefield. Depend upon it, if your side—or if either side, because I am quite willing that my argument should apply to both— if either side merely treats this matter as a question of Party finesse, with a view to how much advantage they are to extract from it on the platform or at the polls, the solution put forward will be doomed to failure, and the Party which puts it 205 forward will suffer. It would suffer because it would presently be confronted with a new crisis more acute and dangerous than that which it might have momentarily escaped, and sooner or later it would have to face the anger of a duped and infuriated people. I pray, therefore, that His Majesty's Government may remember that the sands are running out, and that whatever may be thought of them at any other time, this is not the occasion for federal solutions or paper safeguards or for ingenious adaptations of possible forms of Home Rule within Home Rule. If you reject our policy, as you do—the simple policy of an appeal to the people—let us have your own; but in framing it and putting it before the country, see that it satisfies the primary and essential condition of the case—namely, that if it is to be fruitful in result its first consequence shall be to save the country from the unspeakable calamities of civil war.
THE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, in trying to sum up briefly the general effect produced by such a debate as this, a debate which will conclude with a Division of, of course, a foregone character, and a Division which will not immediately affect opinion outside, it is even more important, I think, to consider the tone and. temper of the more important speeches that have been made than to discuss their actual content. I ought to say a word on the complaint which the noble Earl made that not many noble Lords on our Back Benches have taken part in this discussion. Only three, I think he said, had made a contribution to the debate. But I must remind the noble Earl, and although the reminder is not necessary to him it may not be unnecessary to the House, that this is not the Second Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill. This is a debate on an Amendment touching the single question as to whether we ought to advise His Majesty to dissolve Parliament before proceeding any further. Consequently I venture to think that the contributions which have been made from our side of the House are, both in number and substance, adequate to the occasion.
Of the speeches made on the Benches opposite my noble friend behind me, the Lord President, had some reason, as he thought, to complain of the tone of the 206 noble Viscount who moved the Amendment, as not offering a real response to the desire expressed in His Majesty's Speech; and he also made it a matter of some complaint, with which I confess I agree, that Lord Midleton's speech was one which in many of its parts might more naturally have been made some thirty years ago than to-day. The noble Viscount talked about the feelings of Irish-America and of the dangers of a Fenian conspiracy if Home Rule were granted. That is, I think I may venture to say, rather belated talk. So far as I have any knowledge of the subject, those who have any dream to-day of the existence of an Irish Republic are scarcely more to be considered than the other body of gentlemen who desire to institute the succession of the Jacobite line in this country. As for the speech of the noble Marquess the Leader of the Opposition, who spoke, of course, with the gravity which he always brings to bear on a great occasion, the main point on which he dealt, and the main point of practical interest in his speech, was his almost unreserved acceptance on behalf of the Party over which he presides of the complete exclusion of Ulster from the purview of the Government of Ireland Bill.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE
I certainly gave nothing like an unreserved acceptance of the principle of excluding Ulster.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I did not mean to accuse the noble Marquess of regarding the scheme as one which he favoured from the point of view of policy, but I did understand him to say that he would take it, not, of course, with agreement, but with some kind of acquiescence as a possible solution of the question. I hope I am not putting it too high. Then the other noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, spoke in terms which we on this side of the House recognised as studiously moderate. It was possible to see that the noble Marquess was exercising much self-restraint in the terms in which he spoke of the situation, and it was only in one or two casual phrases, as I thought, that he departed from that rule which he had laid down. But the speech of the noble Marquess was a speech pure and simple against Home Rule. He never, I think, once alluded to the possible exclusion of Ulster from the purview of the 207 Bill, and it was only in the very last sentence, half a dozen words just as he sat down, that he alluded to a General Election as a solution of the question. His speech was a speech simply directed against Home Rule.
Then the noble Earl who has just sat down devoted his speech, as I should have expected, almost entirely to the Amendment before the House. At first I confess, I could not regard the tone which he adopted as very hopeful. He seemed to me to be taking a somewhat stiff and intransigent tone with regard to the whole subject. But as the noble Earl proceeded, and when he spoke of the appeal made elsewhere for a calmer atmosphere in the discussion of the subject, I confess I liked his tone far better; and when before he sat down he made a concluding appeal for the large treatment of the question and the broad view, that is an appeal to which I, and I am sure also my noble friends behind me, would desire most cheerfully and most fully to respond. One argument used by the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, was that we were committing an impropriety in bringing forward this subject at all before the question of the reform of your Lordships' House had been considered. That argument is not highly relevant to the Motion before the House, for obvious reasons. I need not dwell upon this; but it does seem to me to assume, what I think is a somewhat large assumption, that a reformed House of Lords would necessarily have taken the line which your Lordships desire to take, of what you call referring the Bill to the people—that is to say, of throwing it out. It seems to me rather hasty to assume that the reformed House of Lords, however constituted, is necessarily likely to act in any respect as the great majority of your Lordships choose to act on this occasion.
We have been told that a new situation has been produced by the declaration of the Prime Minister that he was prepared shortly to bring forward suggestions for some amendment of the Bill. Of course, we have been told—we expected to be told —that this proves how bad we think the Bill in that we are coming forward with proposals of our own to alter its character. I ought at this point to deal with the question which was put to me by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry. "When did the Government know," the noble Marquess asked, "that Ulster would 208 resist?" and in answering that question I can also deal with the point which the noble Earl raised as to the probability of trouble in the South and West of Ireland if noble Lords opposite were in power and the Home Rule Bill had been rejected. My noble friend behind me answered that question to a great extent. He reminded the House that in 1886 he was Chief Secretary for Ireland when the riots in Belfast and elsewhere in the North of Ireland took place. I was not connected with the Irish Government then, but in 1893 I was, and I know, like my noble friend, what precautions we took to ensure the maintenance of order after the rejection of the second Home Rule Bill.
When the noble Earl, Lord Curzon, speaks rather lightly of the cup being dashed from the lips of the Nationalists I think he forgets two things. He forgets, in the first place, that what happened in 1886 was no light matter. Some twenty people were known to have been killed during the riots that took place steadily and continuously, though at intervals, between June and October in that year, and 300 or 400 people at least were seriously hurt. Many people were killed by rifle shots and by methods which, if you desire so to call them, you can describe as methods of civil war. A Catholic chapel was burnt down by a Protestant mob, and lives were lost. A Catholic mob made a raid on a prison and tried to rescue prisoners, and more lives were lost. Those were not light matters. Also, I think, the noble Earl is bound to remember that the kind of disappointment which would be felt in those parts of Ireland in which Nationalists predominate would be, if Home Rule were to be lost now, entirely different in kind from anything that was felt either in 1886 or in 1893. I desire to make no ominous prophecy, but I cannot help thinking that the noble Earl has spoken somewhat too lightly of those possibilities. As I have said, we have been taunted with the expression of the intention to bring forward proposals on the subject. I think that there is real force in pointing to the fears of Ulster as placing a responsibility upon us to meet those fears if we can, and it is worth noticing that on this point Mr. Bonar Law, in his speech in another place, accepted, on behalf of the Party opposite, his share of the responsibility which rests upon all serious people in a predicament of this kind.
209 Whether those fears on the part of Ulster are justified is not really quite the point. The argument, as was pointed out in another place, is a dangerous one to use, for you cannot always be prepared to meet fears which you do not believe to be in themselves justified, but in this case we are prepared to do so. If there is an alarm of fire in a crowded playhouse or other assembly, it may not very much matter for the results whether the building is really on fire or not, and on those lines we desire to meet the fears of Ulster, assuming the Home Rule Bill were carried in precisely its present form. It is our duty, as we think, to miss no possible opportunity of reaching a peaceful solution. But I do desire to say this, that on my honour and conscience I do not believe that if this Bill were passed precisely as it stands any class of persons, either in Ulster or out of Ulster, would stand in peril either to their conscience, their person, or their purse. At the same time I do not deny, as I have already said, that changes in the Bill may properly be made. If I did not believe what I have just said—and I am sure I can say the same for every one of my colleagues either here or in the other House—if I did not believe what I have said, although all my colleagues did, I would not stay a day a member of His Majesty's Government if I believed we were imperiling any class of persons in Ireland.
And then the noble Earl asked, as some others have asked, If you have any proposals why cannot you produce them now? The answer to that is a simple one, although it will probably not satisfy noble Lords opposite. It is that we believe that the best chance of arriving at a satisfactory solution through those proposals would not exist if we were to place them on the Table now before all the financial business in another place has to be discussed. Whether we are right or wrong time alone can show. In one sense time can never show, but that is our belief; and it being our belief we are bound to act upon it. The demand of the Amendment is for a General Election. In the autumn, speaking somewhere—I forget where—I said that I confessed I could not see what precise difference in the situation would be created by a General Election, and it happened that Mr. Bonar Law was speaking somewhere not long afterwards and he alluded to the remark which I had made 210 and invited me to use my intelligence in framing a reply to the question. I have tried, both at the time and during these debates that have been going on, to use my intelligence, such as it is, and I confess that I still find myself in a difficulty as to the precise benefits that would be conferred, I do not mean on ourselves, but on the situation generally by the holding of a General Election. My difficulty is founded largely upon the double presentation of the argument about Ulster which I have heard, not merely in this debate, but which has been freely coming from the Party opposite. One presentation is that this is a great Constitutional change of an intricate and elaborate kind which ought to be examined in detail by the country before it becomes law. Well, that is a plausible argument, although I do not think that researches in history or searches for precedents would afford much aid to those who use it. From the time of the Act of Union itself onwards you will not find that measures involving important changes have been studied by the country before they have come before Parliament.
The other argument which is used is entirely of a different kind. We are told that Ulster is going to be handed over to gangs of moonlighters and to an ecclesiastical domination only comparable to that which we read of in Spain in the sixteenth century, and a great number of simple-minded, not very highly educated, and deeply prejudiced people are encouraged to take this view. They believe that their freedom, their faith, and their fatherland are all going to be placed in peril by a Home Rule Bill. And then you offer those people a General Election or a referendum. You might just as well, it seems to me, have offered a referendum to the clansmen who followed Prince Charles Edward to Culloden. It is only every now and then, and at very long intervals, that I find myself in agreement with anything said by Lord Willoughby de Broke, but I entirely agree with him when he said that an election will not make right a wrong. If this is really an outrage on humanity and a crime against God and man, you will not make it any better by having a General Election or a referendum to sanctify it; and it is really the double presentation of that argument which for one thing places me and my friends in great difficulty as to this question of a General Election. If these states 211 ments about Ulster are at all well founded, the people who really matter will not be helped by a General Election. The noble Earl said just now, and I really think he must have said it without reflection, that after a General Election the people of Ulster would become of secondary importance.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
What I said was that when a General Election had pronounced, if it did, in favour of the Party opposite and Ulster was deprived of the support of the Unionist Party, the risk of civil strife would be reduced to secondary importance.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I think the noble Earl is somewhat sanguine, supposing he agrees that the innermost faith of Ulster is involved in this, in thinking that the mere fact that he and his friends acquiesce in the obtaining of a majority in this country and in Scotland by the voters and by the Ministers who are in favour of Home Rule, will be regarded as satisfactory to Ulster. It is only fair to point out that we have not had from any of those who are entitled to speak for the people of Ulster any asseveration that they share the view of the noble Earl.
This brings me to another point on which the noble Earl also spoke. The day before yesterday the noble Duke, the Duke of Portland, made a speech in which he described his recent experiences in the North of Ireland, and he used a phrase in the course of that speech which was even more pregnant, I think, than the noble Duke himself entirely realised. He begged us not to regard Ulster as a pawn in a paltry Party game. The noble Duke was evidently deeply stirred by his experiences in Ulster, and he desired, I have no doubt, in saying that to plead with the Government to leave Ulster altogether alone. But, as I say, the remark was in some respects even a more pregnant one than he imagined, and what fell from the noble Earl I think shows it. If the present situation is to be regarded as a game of chess, it cannot, I think, be argued that Ulster is a piece which is of any service to us from a Party point of view, or can play in the game any part that helps us. But there is a temptation, a very strong temptation I venture to think, to the Opposition, a temptation which the noble Earl tried to explain away, to regard 212 Ulster and the fears of Ulster from their point of view in a Party game. That temptation, as I firmly believe, has been entirely resisted by the leaders of the Party opposite. Anybody who read the speech of Sir Edward Carson in another place yesterday, or, indeed, anybody who knows at all what the sequence of events has been during the last few months, will say that the leaders of the Party opposite have in no way succumbed to that temptation; but there is, I think, a very real temptation to use Ulster as a pawn on the side of the Party opposite, one of those pawns which goes on and becomes a queen and ultimately sweeps away the adversary's pieces and lets you win the game. That pawn means a General Election, the hope being that it might bring Party gains to the Party opposite, gains even beyond the dreams of political avarice.
The noble Earl scorned the idea of an intrigue to defeat the Parliament Act. I do not think there is any necessity to speak of an intrigue, but it is an undoubted fact that a General Election would defeat the Parliament Act, certainly as regards its operation upon measures now before Parliament, and it might not be too much to say, defeat it altogether Further than that, a General Election, if you were lucky enough to get a majority at it, would give noble Lords opposite and their Party the reform of this House, creating a body which I think it is not unreasonable to state, although its composition would be greatly altered, would be at any rate permanently Conservative in its general character. Therefore it cannot be disputed, I think, that from the purely Party point of view a General Election taken now, so far as its chances and possibilities are concerned, offers an infinitely more attractive kind of gamble to noble Lords opposite than it does to us. But then the noble Earl said, "But if you had taken your General Election some months ago before Parliament reassembled you would have got the full benefit of the Parliament Act; if you could have got a majority your Bills would have been alive and you could have gone on and started a new lease of life." These matters are not entirely in the hands of those who sit on the two Front Benches in this House and in another place. The demand for a Dissolution, if it was to come, must have come from the Party who do us the honour to regard us as their leaders. To suppose 213 that a set of Ministers could go to His Majesty and ask that Parliament should be dissolved against the practically universal desire, as I believe it would have been, of their followers is, I think, hardly to be thought of from any point of view. I can make noble Lords opposite a present of the assertion that if we had asked for a Dissolution in such circumstances as those, they would in all probability have won the day, not because the country was adverse to Home Rule, but because those who ordinarily support us in the country would have declined to walk across the street to support people who showed such infirmity of purpose, such poltroonery of character, and, I venture to think, such imbecility of intellect. That is the only answer I can give to the noble Earl's contention that we ought two or three months ago to have asked His Majesty's leave for a dissolution of Parliament.
I must say a word about the possibilities connected with the exclusion of Ulster. I do not want to argue the various points pro and con which have been mentioned in the course of the extremely interesting discussion that we have had, but nobody who has listened to the debate could fail to have been struck by the strong expressions of views from many members of the Unionist Party in opposition to the exclusion of Ulster, and it is hardly enough to say that many noble Lords do not like the exclusion of Ulster but would sooner have it than the inclusion of Ulster. One seems almost entitled from this side of the House to say that some other noble Lords seem to regard the exclusion of Ulster with Home Rule as almost a worse state of things than Home Rule applying to the whole of Ireland. Although, therefore, as I say, I do not wish to argue all the points connected with the subject, there is one which one cannot help bearing in mind—that the measure of approval which is attached to the exclusion of Ulster is not so much the comfort which it would bring to Ulster as the annoyance which it would inflict on the Nationalist Members of Parliament. That has been frankly, and some may think too candidly, admitted by noble Lords—that the charm of the exclusion of Ulster is that it is a death-blow to Home Rule. That may or may not be the case, but it is hardly the tone, noble Lords will agree, in which to commend it to those who are in charge of a Home Rule measure. That, of 214 course, would mean that the Parliamentary minority and the minority in the country was claiming a right to defeat Home Rule in this particular way.
I think it is fair also to point out that there are two minorities in Ulster itself. There is the Roman Catholic minority in Ulster, even in the selected and concentrated form of Ulster which is often understood by the term. There is there a Catholic minority, but there is also another minority of quiet persons, many of them Protestants, some, I dare say, Roman Catholics with a leaning towards Unionism, who, although they have no wish for Home Rule and would be glad to see it left alone, yet do not belong to what may be called the fighting element, of which we have heard so much during the last two or three days. That quiet minority—and perhaps added to the Roman Catholic minority it may not produce so very small a minority altogether—has not been greatly heard of, but in considering the exclusion of Ulster it is a fact which has to be borne in mind, more particularly when you are asking yourselves how the exclusion of Ulster would be regarded by the Roman Catholic majority in other parts of Ireland. That, I am certain, is a point which noble Lords opposite will not miss.
What I would beg noble Lords opposite to do on this question of the exclusion of Ulster is to consider carefully—we shall all have to consider—before you decide that the dismemberment of Ireland in this way—because it is a complete dismemberment of Ireland to attempt to exclude Ulster—is the only alternative to fighting. The country will have to consider what is the utmost limit of concession and agreement to which the majority can go, and the country must then ask whether the line beyond that concession can be so sharply drawn that a clear-cut distinction exists between a solution which will be, if not welcomed, at any rate calmly acquiesced in on the one side and civil war and bloodshed on the other.
§ THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, I beg to move that leave be given to Lord Cottesloe to vote in the House.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.215
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The Motion is, That the following humble Address be presented to His Majesty to offer the humble thanks of this House for His Majesty's gracious Speech addressed to both Houses of Parliament—namely, "Most Gracious Sovereign,—We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which your Majesty has addressed
§ to both Houses of Parliament." To that an Amendment has been moved, to add at the end of the Motion, "But humbly represent that it would be disastrous to proceed further with the Government of Ireland Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the people." The Question is that these words be added to the Motion.
§ On Question?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 243; Not-contents, 55.217
|Norfolk, D. (E. Marshal.)||Lauderdale, E.||Aldenham, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Leicester, E.||Alington, L.|
|Beaufort, D.||Lichfield, E.||Allerton, L.|
|Devonshire, D. [Teller.]||Lindsey, E.||Ampthill, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Londesborough, E.||Armstrong, L.|
|Portland, D.||Malmesbury, E.||Ashcombe, L.|
|Richmond and Gordon, D.||Manvers, E.||Atkinson, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Morley, E.||Balfour, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Morton, E.||Barnard, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Northbrook, E.||Barrymore, L.|
|Northesk, E.||Basing, L.|
|Abercorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Onslow, E.||Belhaven and Stenton, L.|
|Ailesbury, M.||Orford, E.||Belper, L.|
|Ailsa, M.||Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Berwick, L.|
|Bath, M.||Plymouth, E.||Biddulph, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Portsmouth, E.||Blythswood, L.|
|Camden, M.||Powis, E.||Bolton, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Roberts, E.||Botreaux L. (E. Loudoun.)|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Rothes, E.||Bowes, L. (E. Strathmore and Kinghorn.)|
|Exeter, M.||Sandwich, E.|
|Lansdowne M.||Scarbrough, E.||Brancepeth, L. (V. Boyne.)|
|Salisbury, M.||Selborne, E.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)|
|Winchester, M.||Shaftesbury, E.||Calthorpe, L.|
|Zetland, M.||Shrewsbury, E.||Cheylesmore, L.|
|Abingdon, E.||Stanhope, E.||Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Albemarle, E.||Stradbroke, E.|
|Amherst, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)|
|Aylesford, E.||Verulam, E.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Waldegrave, E.||Cloncurry, L.|
|Cadogan, E.||Westmeath, E.||Colchester, L.|
|Cairns, E.||Wharncliffe, E.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Camperdown, E.||Wicklow, E.||Crawshaw, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Bangor, V.||Dawnay, L. (V. Downe.)|
|Coventry, E.||Chilston, V.||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.|
|Cromer, E.||Churchill, V. [Teller.]||De Mauley, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, E.||Colville of Culross, V.||De Saumarez, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Esher, V.||Desborough, L.|
|Darnley, E.||Falkland, V.||Desart, L. (E. Desart.)|
|Dartrey, E.||Falmouth, V.||Digby, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Hambleden, V.||Dinevor, L.|
|Derby, E.||Hampden, V.||Dunleath, L.|
|Devon, E.||Hardinge, V.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)|
|Drogheda, E.||Hill, V.||Ellenborough, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Elphinstone, L.|
|Essex, E.||Erskine, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Iveagh, V.||Estcourt, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Peel, V.||Farnham, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||St. Aldwyn, V.||Farquhar, L.|
|Halsbury, E.||Fermanagh L. (E. Erne)|
|Harewood, E.||Bangor, L. Bp.||Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)|
|Harrowby, E.||Gloucester, L. Bp||Forester, L.|
|Howe, E.||Peterborough, L. Bp.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick)|
|Huntingdon, E.||St. David's, L. Bp.||Grenfell, L.|
|Innes, E. (D. Roxburghe.)||Aberdare, L.||Greville, L.|
|Kilmorey, E.||Abinger, L.||Grinstead, L. (E. Enniskillen.)|
|Lanesborough, E.||Addington, L.||Gwydir, L.|
|Harlech, L.||Monck Bretton, L.||Savile, L.|
|Harris, L.||Monkswell, L.||Seaton, L.|
|Hastings, L.||Monson, L.||Sherborne, L.|
|Hatherton, L.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)||Shute, L. (V. Harrington.)|
|Heneage, L.||Mostyn, L.||Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Hindlip, L.||Newlands, L.||Sinclair, L.|
|Hothfield, L.||Newton, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Hylton, L.||O'Hagan, L.||Somerton, L (E. Normanton.)|
|Inchiquin, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)||Southampton, L.|
|Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare.)||Oranmore and Browne, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Kenyon, L.||Parmoor, L.|
|Killanin, L.||Penrhyn, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Kilmaine, L.||Playfair, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll.)||Plunket, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Kinross, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Langford, L.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)||Tennyson, L.|
|Leigh, L.||Rathdonnell, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Leith of Fyvie, L.||Rathmore, L.||Torphichen, L.|
|Lilford, L.||Redesdale, L.||Tredegar, L.|
|Llangattock, L.||Revelstoke, L.||Trevor, L.|
|Lovell and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)||Ritchie of Dundee, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Rothschild, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford)|
|Massy, L.||Sackville, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)||St. Audries, L.||Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.)|
|Merthyr, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Methuen, L.||Sanderson, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)||Sandys, L.||Zouche of Haryngworth, L.|
|Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Blyth, L.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Morley of Blackburn, V. (L. President.)||Butler, L. (E. Carrick.)||Marchamley, L.|
|Channing of Wellingborough, L.||Moulton, L.|
|Crewe, M. (L. Privy Seal.)||Charnwood, L.||Murray, L.|
|Colebrooke, L. [Teller.]||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M.||Coleridge, L.||Pirrie, L.|
|Courtney of Penwith, L.||Pontypridd, L.|
|Chesterfield, E. (L. Steward.)||Cowdray, L.||Reay, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Devonport, L.||Ribblesdale, L.|
|Craven, E. [Teller.]||Emmott, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Granville, E.||Eversley, L.||St. Davids, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Farrer, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Loreburn, E.||Glenconner, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Southwark, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Grimthorpe, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Bryce, V.||Haversham, L.||Strachie, L.|
|Hemphill, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Aberconway, L.||Hollenden, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Inchcape, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Ashby St. Ledgers, L.||Lucas, L.||Welby, L.|
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative accordingly.
§ And the Address agreed to as follows: "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament, but humbly represent that it would be disastrous to proceed further with the Government of Ireland Bill until it has been submitted to the judgment of the People":
§ The said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.