§ MR. W. PORTMAN
Sir, I rise to move that an humble and dutiful Address be presented to Her Majesty, in answer to the most gracious Speech which we have just heard read; and although when requested by the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government to undertake the task I much wished that it had fallen to the lot of some other hon. Member of this House, whose greater command of language and experience in addressing you would have enabled him to express the feeling of this House more eloquently and more adequately than I can hope to do, yet I felt that it was intended to pay, through me, a compliment to the constituency which I have the honour to represent, and therefore I shall endeavour briefly to call the attention of the House to the principal topics in Her Majesty's Speech. It is probable there are many hon. Members now present who attended the meeting of Parliament in 1840, and may have heard the hon. Member who then moved the Address offer to Her Majesty the congratulations of the House and of the country on Her then approaching marriage with Prince Albert. The hon. Member expressed the most confident expectation that from the union then about to take place the most complete happiness would result, not only to Her Majesty, but to the nation over which She reigned. We have all seen how fully that expectation has been realized. But it is now, alas ! my painful task to refer to the termination of an illustrious career, and to notice some leading features in the character of the Prince whom it has pleased God to remove from amongst us, in the prime of life, and while actively engaged in promoting every measure which could tend to the mental advancement or physical comfort of the great mass of our fellow-countrymen. Sir, the task which I have undertaken is at once easy and difficult—easy, because I feel assured that all who now hear me will concur with me in expressing the highest admiration of the deceased Prince in all the 51 domestic relations of life; and it is, at the same time, a difficult task, because I feel how impossible it is for me to do full justice to my subject, or to say anything which has not been more aptly said elsewhere on many public occasions by those whose personal acquaintance and intercourse with the deceased Prince, on matters of public and private interest, enabled them to obtain a deeper insight into his talents and high moral character. Placed at a very early age in a most exalted position, from that moment this illustrious Prince devoted himself to the study how best he could perform the duties of that position, From the first moment that he came amongst us he evinced an ardent desire to make himself acquainted with the history, feelings, and principles of the English people; endowed with intellectual powers of no common order, but debarred from exercising them in political affairs, in which he would, otherwise, no doubt have distinguished himself, he devoted the energies of his mind to promoting the welfare of the nation by giving encouragement to every charitable institution, to the arts and sciences, and to every well-considered scheme for promoting the physical comfort and moral elevation of the people, more especially of the poorer classes of this country. I think, Sir, that the domestic happiness of the Court of England has, exercised a most beneficial influence on the whole private life of the country, and has doubtless contributed much to raise this country and Her Majesty's Court to a high pitch in the estimation of all foreign nations. I am sure we can all bear witness to the deep grief and sorrow which was felt by all Her Majesty's subjects upon the receipt of the intelligence of the death of His Royal Highness; and it is to be especially remarked, that among the humblest classes of society the first thought was for the Queen, and the first inquiry was how she bore the overwhelming shock of her great calamity.
Turning to less melancholy subjects, the House must receive with much gratification the assurance that Her Majesty's relations with all European powers continue to be satisfactory, and that Her Majesty trusts that there is no reason to apprehend any disturbance of the peace of Europe. But—A question of great importance and which might have led to very serious consequences, arose between Her Majesty and the Government of the United States of America;52 and, Sir, I think that the pacific solution of that question is mainly due to the prompt and vigorous measures adopted by Her Majesty's Government. The act of Commodore Wilkes was one which no nation having the power to resent it could possibly allow to pass unnoticed. It was a breach of international law and a direct insult to the British flag; and I am not afraid of hearing any dissentient voices when I say that the course taken by Her Majesty's Government was the one which was best calculated to maintain peace, and at the same time to assert the dignity of this country in a manner worthy of the trust which was reposed in them by the nation. The despatch which was sent by our Government to that of the North American States was courteous although firm in its tone, and was free from any menacing expressions or any language which might have been calculated to wound the feelings or excite the passions of a nation kindred to ourselves and already struggling with the horrors and the difficulties of a civil war. The tone of that despatch gave to the Government of the Northern States of America an opportunity of disavowing the act which had been committed by an officer of their navy, and at the same time to make full and ample reparation for it; and we have great cause for thankfulness that the course marked out, as it so clearly was, by justice, by sound policy, and by common sense was followed by the Government of a country so different from our own, and in which there must always be more or less danger that the violence of popular clamour should overbear the counsels of wise and moderate men who are better capable of judging what line of conduct is most honourable towards other Powers and most conducive to the welfare of their own nation. Without wishing to say anything irritating or invidious, I may, perhaps, be permitted to draw a comparison between the attitude of the people of this country on this occasion and that of the people of North America. If we are to believe the reports which were published by the press of that country, there existed among the people of the United States a violence of feeling and a readiness to push matters to extremity from which we were happily free. The people of this country were in the first instance anxious to ascertain the rights of the case, and when that point was placed beyond all doubt, not only by the opinion of our own legal authorities, but by the 53 concurrent opinions of all the other great powers of Europe, they evinced their determination to seek reparation for the injury which had been done them, and, if necessary, to enforce that reparation by an appeal to arms. We were happily spared the misfortune of a war with men of our race; but, although saddened by the prospect of such a contest, this country was determined, if necessary, to carry it on until due and ample reparation had been obtained for the offence which had been committed; and I am sure that all that has been done in this matter by Her Majesty's Government has received the full approval of the large majority of the people of England; and I am happy to find that what has been done has left our friendly relations with the United States unimpaired. On the other hand, this occurrence has produced some most gratifying results, the principal of which is the display of loyalty and patriotic spirit on the part of Her Majesty's subjects in British North America, The people of that part of Her Majesty's dominions have shown that they can appreciate the wise and liberal form of government under which they live, and under which they enjoy to the fullest extent their civil and religious liberty. The prompt assistance, too, which was sent out from this country by the despatch both of military and naval forces, and of officers who were competent to assist and direct the efforts of local patriotism, has had the best possible effect, and has encouraged the Canadians to redouble their exertions, and to resist any attempts at annexation or invasion, of which at one time there appeared to be such imminent danger. At the same time the prompt-ness with which the reinforcements were despatched has prevented the conception of any idea by the people of Canada that the mother country is careless of preserving the attachment of her most important colonies. We have also received from out-ally the Emperor of the French a most important proof of his friendship in the readiness with which he expressed his opinion in favour of this country; and I can have no doubt that the prompt and unhesitating expression of that opinion went far to produce the pacific solution of this most important question. We have hitherto maintained the strictest neutrality with reference to the painful struggle between the Northern and Southern States of America. We have maintained that neutrality at the expense of much suffering and distress 54 among thousands of our manufacturing population; but I trust that it may be in the power of Her Majesty's Ministers to continue that neutrality. I believe that the exigencies of the case will only offer fresh impulses to British commercial enterprise, and will be the means of opening new fields from whence we may derive our supplies of cotton, and thus of making our manufacturers comparatively independent of the supplies which they had hitherto drawn from the Southern States of America. Another thing upon which I may congratulate the House, and more especially hon. Members opposite, is the success of the scheme for the organization of our Naval Reserve. By that means we have been enabled to send forth a powerful naval force, and we know that if another similar emergency should occur, we have at our command the voluntary services of a body of skilled sailors, who are ready to assist us in battling for and in maintaining the supremacy of this country at sea. I find next in the Speech we have heard read, that—The wrongs committed by various parties and by successive Governments in Mexico upon foreigners resident within the Mexican territory, and for which no satisfactory redress could he obtained, have led to the conclusion of a convention between Her Majesty, the Emperor of the French, and the Queen of Spain, for the purpose of regulating a combined operation on the coast of Mexico, with a view to obtain that redress which has hitherto been withheld.Sir, I believe that in joining France and Spain in the expedition to Mexico Her Majesty's Government have no intention to do more than obtain the redress which is our due. They have no desire to interfere with the internal affairs of Mexico, or to seek any territorial aggrandisement; and when the object of the expedition has been attained, the Mexicans will be left to settle their form of Government as they please. It is also a matter for congratulation that an improvement had taken place in the relations between Her Majesty's Government and that of the Emperor of China. I trust that a more enlightened era is dawning upon the Chinese empire; that the fears of intercourse with other nations and of the evils which might possibly result therefrom may by degrees diminish; that instances of duplicity, of insult, and of the infraction of rights which have been insured to us by treaty will become less and less frequent; that the trade of this country with China will be placed on a more satisfactory footing; and that we shall no more be compelled, 55 as we have hitherto been, to use force to obtain the rights which hare been secured to us by former treaties. Her Majesty then informs us that a convention has been concluded with the Sultan of Morocco, by which the Sultan has been enabled to raise the amount necessary for the fulfilment of certain treaty engagements which he had contracted towards Spain, and Her Majesty also informs us that She has directed to be laid before the House the Estimates for the ensuing year, which Her Majesty tells us have been framed "with a due regard to prudent economy and to the efficiency of the public service." The House, I am sure, will be of opinion that it is not only the duty but the policy of every Government to make all practical reductions in the expenditure of the country, but at the same time only to make them as far as might be consistent with the maintenance of the perfect efficiency of our establishments. The people of England give freely towards the support of those establishments, and they expect that the money which they so freely contribute will be laid out to the greatest possible advantage, and with the least extravagance and unnecessary expenditure; and the opinion is also very prevalent in this country that those means of taxation which are the most easily resorted to, and which in time of difficulty and distress are most elastic, should be handled as lightly as possible when no such difficulties exist. The House is next informed by Her Majesty's command, that measures for the improvement of the law will be laid before us, and among these a Bill for rendering the title to land more simple and its transfer more easy. I believe the House would bear me out in the assertion that no greater boon could possibly be bestowed on the landed interest of the country than such a measure; and not only to existing landed proprietors, but to those who wish to become so; for it is well known that the expenses at present attendant on the sale and transfer of land are so heavy as in many instances to become almost prohibitory. Other measures of public usefulness relating to Great Britain and Ireland, we are informed, will be submitted to the consideration of Parliament. Her Majesty then alludes with regret to the fact "that in some parts of the kingdom, and in certain branches of industry, temporary causes have produced considerable pressure and privation; but Her Majesty had reason to believe that the 56 general condition of the country is sound and satisfactory." Representing as I do strictly an agricultural constituency, I may say oh their part that the late harvest, though small in quantity as compared with former years, was of such excellent quality that the agricultural interest may now be said to be in a prosperous and flourishing condition. In moving this Address it is my duty to ask the House to depart from its usual course, and to agree to a special paragraph of condolence with Her Majesty in the afflicting dispensation of Providence with which She has been visited. Her Majesty has always so identified herself—if I may use the expression—with the domestic life of this country, that her sorrow has inconsequence been more deeply and more sincerely appreciated, and that the pity which is felt for her among all classes of her subjects is not so much that which would be deemed right and proper towards a Queen, as heartfelt sympathy with the widowed mother. On the part of the House of Commons and of the people whom it represents, I may be permitted, in moving this special paragraph, respectfully to assure Her Majesty that in this course we are not merely fulfilling a conventional form of duty, but we are endeavouring to express the heartfelt sympathy felt for her by all classes of her subjects, and to give an additional proof, if proof were needed, that her throne is founded on—humanly speaking—that best and surest foundation, the hearts and affection of a free, a loyal, and a devoted people. The hon. Member concluded by moving,—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to thank Her Majesty for the most gracious Speech delivered by Her Command to both Houses of Parliament:To take this first opportunity of offering to Her Majesty our sincere Condolence on the afflicting dispensation of Providence with which Her Majesty and this Nation have been visited in the death of His Royal Highness the Prince Consort:To assure Her Majesty of our heartfelt participation in the universal feeling of sympathy with Her Majesty under this calamitous bereavement, and in the deep sense entertained by all classes of Her Majesty's Subjects of the irreparable loss which the Country has sustained in a Prince whose tender attachment to Her Majesty, whose eminent virtues, and whose high attainments, unceasingly devoted to the interests of this 57 ountry, won for him general love and admiration, and will cause his name to be held in grateful and affectionate remembrance:To assure Her Majesty that it is our earnest prayer that Her Majesty's health, in which Her faithful People take so lively an interest, will not be impaired by overwhelming grief, and that this Kingdom will long continue to enjoy the blessings of a reign with which its happiness and welfare are so intimately associated:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her relations with all European Powers continue to be friendly and satisfactory, and to assure Her Majesty that, with Her, we trust that there is no reason to apprehend any disturbance of the peace of Europe:To express to Her Majesty the deep gratification with which we learn that a question of great importance, and which might have led to very serious consequences, arising from the seizure and forcible removal of four Passengers from on board a British Mail Packet by the Commander of a ship of war of the United States, has been satisfactorily settled by the restoration of the Passengers to British protection, and by the disavowal by the United States' Government of the act of violence committed by their Naval Officer; and that the friendly relations between Her Majesty and the President of the United States have therefore remained unimpaired:To assure Her Majesty that we have heard with much satisfaction of the loyalty and patriotic spirit manifested on this occasion by Her North American Subjects:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for commanding that the Convention between Her Majesty, the Emperor of the French, and the Queen of Spain, for the purpose of regulating a combined operation on the Coast of Mexico, with a view to obtain that redress which has hitherto been withheld for the wrongs committed by various parties and successive Governments in Mexico, upon foreigners resident in the Mexican territory, should he laid before us:To express our satisfaction that the improvement which has taken place in the relations between Her Majesty's Government and that of the Emperor of China, and the good faith with which the Chinese Government have continued to fulfil the engagements of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, have enabled Her Majesty to withdraw Her Troops from the city of Canton, and to reduce the amount of Her force on the coast and in the seas of China:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that 58 a Convention has been concluded with the Sultan of Morocco, by means of which the Sultan has been enabled to raise the amount necessary for the fulfilment of certain Treaty engagements with Spain, and thus to avoid the risk of a renewal of hostilities with that Power; and for commanding that Convention, and Papers connected with it, to be said before us:To thank Her Majesty for having directed the Estimates for the ensuing year to be laid before us:To assure Her Majesty that we will give our most serious attention to the measures for the improvement of the haw, especially as concerns the Title and Transfer of hand, as well as to other measures of public usefulness which may be submitted for our consideration:To convey to Her Majesty the assurance that we participate in Her regret that in some parts of the United Kingdom, and in certain branches of industry, temporary causes should have produced considerable pressure and privation; but at the same time, to express to Her Majesty the gratification with which we learn that Her Majesty has reason to believe that the general condition of the Country is sound and satisfactory:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that, in common with Her Majesty, we fervently pray that the blessing of Almighty God may attend our Deliberations, and may guide them to the promotion of the welfare and happiness of Her People.
§ MR. WESTERN WOOD
, in rising to second the motion of the hon. Member for Dorsetshire for an Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech, said he was aware of the proverbial forbearance and indulgence extended to every Member on the first occasion of his venturing to address that House; and while none could be so acutely sensible as himself how much he stood in need of their exercise, he felt that he should less deserve them if he ventured upon any lengthened appeal to the consideration of hon. Members, and he should, therefore, proceed at once to discharge in the best manner he could the responsibility devolving upon him. The touching allusion in Her Majesty's Speech to the irreparable loss which Her Majesty and the country had sustained, doubtless, came home to the hearts of all, and the House of Commons desired in common with every individual in the country, to express their sincere sympathy and condolence with Her Majesty in her 59 overwhelming bereavement. In so doing, he ventured for himself to say, that the veneration, respect, and high estimation in which the Royal Consort was held, would long endear his memory to all classes of Her Majesty's subjects. Such respect and such veneration had never, he believed, been more universally or unequivocally expressed—or, he would add, more worthily deserved. A demonstration of feeling was in progress, which, he trusted, would not only result in handing down to posterity the record of the high qualities and inestimable virtues of the late Prince Consort, but would also erect in some shape of practical utility a more imperishable memorial both of his deserts and of their appreciation—a memorial such as he would have been delighted, if living, to have had his name associated with, and through which, being dead, he might yet speak to Englishmen for ever. Her Majesty had been long and mercifully preserved from almost every cloud of sorrow; but lately it had pleased God within a few months to visit Her Majesty with a twofold affliction, leaving her motherless and a widow. While they could not sufficiently admire the submission with which Her Majesty had bowed to the will of Providence they must also the more feel how deeply she was entitled to their sympathy and commiseration. His hon. Friend the Mover of the Address had adverted at such length and with so much feeling to this topic in Her Majesty's Speech that he might be deemed tedious if he were to say more on so painful a subject. There were other portions of the Royal Speech to which, perhaps, as the representative of a great commercial community, he might be expected to apply himself, and on these he would venture to make a few observations. They must all rejoice unfeignedly at the announcement that Her Majesty continued in friendly relations with the other great European Powers. That the people of this country believed such to be the case, was shown by the high prices which the funds were maintaining. In a commercial country there was no better indication of public confidence, and the price of public securities in England might be favourably contrasted with the rates at which those of other nations were at present quoted. With regard to the next paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech, the threatened rupture with the United States had caused greater excitement in this country than anything which had occurred since the Crimean war. He was very desirous that no observation 60 should escape his lips which should be calculated to excite the susceptibilities, or, perhaps, he might say, the irritabilities of our friends on the other side of the Atlantic. He was very unwilling, in the present state of feeling, to give rise to the supposition, however groundless, that in his speech on this occasion his statements were made on any authority but his own. He would, therefore, content himself with saying that, as all were aware, an insult on our flag having been committed, redress was demanded, and that redress had been conceded. He would not stop to inquire whether the manner in which it had been conceded was as prompt as was due to this country, and, he would add, as was consistent with the character and dignity of the United States. Be that as it might, the Government of this country had every reason to be satisfied, for their claim had been admitted by the Power against whom it was made, and we had obtained the concurrence of every great Power of Europe, both as to the justice of the claim we had put forward and in the temperate manner in which we had enforced it. He turned from the conduct of the American Government to the conduct of our own, and he was quite sure he would have the unanimous concurrence of that House—certainly, if not of that House of the whole country—when he said that the conduct of the British Government, in reference to the affair of the capture, was entitled to the approbation of the British nation. The action of the Administration had been characterized by promptness and energy, and at the same time by a moderation which left nothing to be desired. While on the one side they might commend the marked moderation of the tone of the official demands, they must, on the other, be delighted at the energy and confidence with which measures were adopted to enforce these demands, if the American Government should refuse to comply with them. He should imagine that on no former occasion had the great Power of this country been so rapidly and efficiently developed. They had lately from the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty a vivid description of not only what was done, but also of what more would have been done if it had become necessary. He should not attempt by any touches of his own to spoil the picture which the noble Lord had drawn of the strength of our resources; but he believed that at no former period in our history had so formidable a fleet 61 been brought forward in so short a space of time. Great credit was due to the chiefs and the executive both of the army and the navy for the way in which they had met the exigencies of this case. The hour of difficulty had also proved the inestimable value of the Naval Reserve—its efficiency had been shown, and the wisdom of its establishment justified. The mercantile marine officers and men vying with each other, had plainly shown how glorious a resource this would be in time of need, and it was one upon which confident reliance could always be placed. He could not, while upon this subject of the late American difficulty, but compliment the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary for the moderation and the tone of his demands upon the Federal Government, and the noble Leader of Her Majesty's Government for the promptness with which he had taken every measure that was required to bring the dispute to a satisfactory settlement. He could not omit either to notice the conduct of the officers and men, both of the army and navy for the readiness which they had shown for the service of their country, and he felt that, with such gallant defenders abroad, and our host of Volunteers at home, they might well rest satisfied with the security of this country. The threatened rupture with America had, moreover, given Her Majesty's subjects in Canada an opportunity of displaying their loyalty and patriotism; and they had availed themselves of it in a manner which was most gratifying to the Sovereign and to the people of England. Some slight doubts had been thrown on that loyalty; and while he would not go the length of saying that it was worth having the difference in order that the loyalty of Canada might have been displayed, he certainly thought that the occurrence on board the Trent had been of value by reason of its effects on that country. There was now being organized a force in Canada which in all probability, with a slight assistance from this country, would be sufficient for the future protection of that colony from any attack that might be made upon her. With reference to the next paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech—that relating to our intervention in Mexico—he would express his opinion that there could be no question of the unanimous approbation by Parliament of the measures which Her Majesty's Government had taken in that respect. The long-continued state of anarchy and 62 disorder which had reigned in Mexico, the continual spoliation of the property of foreign residents, and the atrocious and bloody murders committed, had long called for interference; and if any fault could be found with the Government, it was for too long forbearance rather than on account of its present attitude, The terms of the convention, as he understood, went further than the hon. Gentleman who moved the Address had described; for, if he was not mistaken, it guarded specially against any interference with the internal government of Mexico, and the people of Mexico were to be left entirely free and unfettered to choose their own constitution. The only object of the expedition was, to seek redress for the wrongs committed, to secure the restitution of property taken, to require the punishment of the guilty, and to insure for the future liberty and freedom to foreigners resident in that country. Some of the inhabitants of Mexico had expressed their opinion that a monarchial form of Goverment would be the one best calculated to achieve the regeneration of the country; and a personage had also been pointed out who perhaps, under all the circumstances, would be the best selection as a Sovereign for Mexico; but as it was rumoured that he had been advised that he could not enter the country without an army of 20,000 men, and funds to the amount of £4,000,000, the proposed plan did not seem very likely to be speedily carried into effect. Referring to the paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech which alluded to our relations with China, he would observe that though the Regent of that country had come into power by means that might not be agreeable to noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen in that House, yet there was good reason to think that he would carry out the stipulations of the treaty with this country in a manner that would lead to increased trade with an empire of such great size and enormous population. The next passage of the Speech referred to the Convention entered into with the Sultan of Morocco, and he did not doubt that the measures taken by Her Majesty's Government would meet with the approval of the House. The public estimation of the loan to that country guaranteed by Her Majesty's Government had been sufficiently shown by the monetary world, which had offered five millions when only £500,000 had been required; and a further proof of the same fact was to be found in the very high premium which the loan bore in this 63 country. The present Emperor of Morocco, he was informed, was a very enlightened and excellent man, and they might look forward with perfect confidence to his faithfully observing the stipulations of the treaty. Her Majesty's Government were not a party to the loan, but they had undertaken the collection of certain of the revenues of Morocco as security for the payment of the interest and the ultimate redemption of the principal. In regard to the Estimates for the year, and the appeal which Her Majesty had never yet made in vain to the patriotism of the country, he entertained no doubt that the House of Commons would liberally provide all that the public exigencies required. His opinion was that a wise liberality was in the end very often found to be a prudent economy. His hon. Friend had referred with great satisfaction to the introduction of a measure for simplifying the titles to land and facilitating its transfer. He had no doubt that representing an agricultural constituency, as his hon. Friend did, that portion of the Royal Speech must appear to his hon. Friend eminently a subject of congratulation:—it would be a subject of congratulation in other quarters as well. The simplification of the transfer of land, was not a subject of importance to the agricultural interest alone, for there had been so large a development of building societies of late that an increased facility of transferring land had become a matter of great interest and importance to the people at large. Far be it for him to say that landed proprietors ever required advances of money on their estates, yet it was highly desirable that greater facilities should be given to them for obtaining loans, and that such securities should be placed on the same footing as every other description of property. There was only one other point of the Speech to which he need refer. The House must sympathize deeply with the regret expressed by Her Majesty at the distress existing in some portions of the kingdom and in some branches of trade. No doubt that distress existed to a considerable extent, but there was some consolation in feeling that it was not of the same urgent character as on many former occasions, and that up to the present time local relief had been sufficient for its requirements. He could not pass from this subject without paying a deserved compliment to the working classes, whose conduct under their difficulties had been most admirable. He attributed this in a great measure to the 64 diffusion of general knowledge, which had enabled them to form a correct judgment upon the causes from which their difficulties had sprung, and to appreciate the impossibility of their immediate removal. This knowledge had strengthened their patience in the presence of the evils pressing upon them. That the Legislature might be enabled to remove this pressure in the most natural way, must be the sincere desire of all parties; but the working classes must be well aware that the whole of that distress had not arisen solely from the supply of the raw material having been cut off, but also partly from the over-production of manufactures, which had, in fact, inflicted a plethora of goods upon every part of the world. He had trespassed longer upon the patience of the House than he had intended, and he could not better conclude than by joining in the prayer expressed by Her Majesty at the conclusion of the Royal Speech, that the blessing of Almighty God might attend their deliberations and guide them to the promotion of the welfare and happiness of her people. He would extend that prayer on his own part by praying that God would be pleased to shower down His best blessings on Her Majesty herself. With many thanks for the patience with which the House had heard him, he had now the honour to second the Motion for the adoption of the Address.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That, &c.[See p. 56.]
§ MR. DISRAELI
—Sir, the intimation conveyed in the Speech of the Lords Commissioners, both with respect to our foreign relations and our domestic condition, must, I feel, be satisfactory to the House. Although no one can be blind to the fact that the general condition of affairs is one pregnant with anxiety—but I hope not apprehension—yet, under the favour of Divine Providence, and with the exercise of vigilance and moderation in our Councils, let us trust that these perils and trials may be averted or surmounted. Since the House was prorogued the march of events in North America has been momentous. Nothing, however, has occurred so far which has for a moment shaken my conviction of the wisdom of the policy which was adopted originally by Her Majesty's Government—the policy of neutrality; and I feel bound to take this, the earliest opportunity, of expressing my belief that that policy on the part of Her Majesty's Government was sincerely adopted and had been sincerely practised. Very recently, 65 indeed, an event occurred which for a moment seemed to endanger the practice of that policy. The conduct of the Government with respect to the matter of the Trent was the conduct which I trust that any men responsible for the government of this country would have followed. But that it was followed with firmness and moderation I freely and cheerfully admit. On the other hand, I am bound to say that the reparation that was offered to us appears to me to have been influenced by sentiments as worthy. I, Sir, am not prepared to peer and pry into any possible motives unknown to us that may influence the conduct of public men. When I consider the great difficulties which the statesmen of North America have to encounter, when I consider what I may call the awful emergency which they have been summoned suddenly to meet, and which, without giving any opinion upon the cause of these transactions, I would venture to say they have met manfully and courageously, I think it becomes England, in dealing with the Government of the United States, to extend to all which they say at least a generous interpretation, and to their acts a liberal construction. Sir, fairly and frankly expressing my own feelings upon these points, at the same time I think we have a right to expect from the Government of the United States that they should take no perverse view of the conduct of the Government of this country. In an in stance of intestine dissension a neutral Power must contemplate a term to such disorders, but whether that term should be accomplished by vindicating the authority of the legitimate Government, or by recognising the existence of the insurrectionary power, is an event which time and circumstances alone can settle, but which is a result which never can be absent from the observation and consideration of responsible Ministers. Sir, there is something in these matters stronger than the law of nations—the instinct of the human heart, which recoils from hopeless and tin necessary ravage.
All that the Government of the United States has a right to expect, and what I trust no Government that may exist in this country would ever refuse them, is that no steps should be taken—if steps should be necessary—in a precipitate spirit. A precipitate step may turn out to be a premature one, and we owe the utmost and the deepest deliberation on such matters not only to the feelings of an 66 ally—which ought to be considered—but we owe it to the interests of this country itself. And when. Sir, I see in this paper before mo the reference that is made to another country in North America, and when I find that an interference is about to take place in that country which, from certain authentic statements that are prevalent, may even aim at its political independence. I say, remembering that this country was the first that acknowledged the independence of that insurrectionary State, it becomes us well to consider what steps we should take in future in similar matters. But, Sir, in saying so much, and without giving any opinion upon the present condition of the Southern States, or upon the character of that blockade of their ports which so much occupies public attention at this moment—because I think to-night it would be most inappropriate and inconvenient to enter into any controversial discussion—I think that this country has a right to expect that the most ample and authentic information in the possession of the Government with respect to the blockade of the Southern ports should be said upon the table of the House. I presume that from the commanders of our squadrons and other official sources on the spot the Government are in possession of very ample materials on which the ultimate judgment of this House and of the country may depend. That nformation—without intimating the slightest opinion upon the merits of the case on the present occasion—I think we have a right to expect to be given.
Now, Sir, there is another matter connected with North America, to which I have for a moment alluded, which, I confess, is one that fills me with some apprehension. As I understand that papers are to be laid upon the table, it would be highly inconvenient and quite unnecessary to enter now into any discussion as to the merits of the policy adopted by the Government with respect to Mexico; but I do not wish this opportunity to be lost—nay, I feel it my duty to take this occasion to impress upon the House and the country that this is a question which deserves our most anxious attention. And, Sir, I do this for two reasons. In the first place, I cannot forget that England was the first country that recognised the independence of Mexico—an event connected with a memorable policy and a memorable man. The occasion must be one of the most grave which could bring about the necessity that Eng- 67 land should strike at that political independence which itself created. But there is a second reason which, makes me view this announcement with apprehension, and which makes me anxious that, even on this early occasion, the House should give its attention to this important subject. So far as we can form an opinion from those statements which are held to be authentic, and which meet the public eye by the convenient communication of favoured journals, the very grounds upon which this interference in Mexico is taking place have changed in the course of a very brief time. First of all we heard that the object of the expedition was to obtain redress for British subjects who had been the victims of extortion and confiscation; but now it is generally rumoured that the object is much higher—that not merely is it to obtain redress for injury to British subjects, but that the object and effect of this alliance may be to introduce into North America new principles of Government, and absolutely even to establish dynasties. I will offer no opinion to-night on the conduct of the Government in this matter. It is impossible, until we are perfectly familiar with all that has taken place, that we can come to a satisfactory conclusion. But I think that the state of affairs is such as to justify on our part great anxiety, and may even lead to considerable embarrassment.
But, Sir, there is another piece of information which follows the announcement of the convention with France and Spain in regard to Mexico, which though certainly of not so important a character, ought not to pass without remark, and that is the convention with the Sultan of Morocco. Now, Sir, it is very difficult to collect from this announcement the exact nature of this convention; but I presume I am not in error in the interpretation I place upon it, when I say, that though not a formal guarantee of interest by this country to those who have lent money to the Emperor of Morocco, it is in fact a virtual guarantee. Now, Sir, treaties of guarantee to those who lend money to foreign Powers should always be treated by this House with great distrust. I do not mean to say that there may not be circumstances of so grave a character that the political considerations may not absorb those principles of finance which generally prevail in this House. I do not mean to say that there are no circumstances in which such conventions have not been sanctioned by the House, though even within a few years the 68 House has sanctioned only by a very narrow majority the engagements of the Crown in this respect. But if there is to be a guarantee, I should much prefer a direct to a mere virtual guarantee. In the case of a direct and absolute guarantee this House necessarily exercises a control over the transaction. The matter must be brought before this House before such an engagement on the part of the Crown can be accomplished. But in the case of a virtual guarantee like the present, where the Crown has not formally guaranteed the interest of the creditor, but has placed itself in a position which makes it the holder of the resources to which the creditor is entitled, in that case the House of Commons exercises no control whatever. The obvious answer to any objection is that there is no guarantee, and why, then, should the House exercise a control? But I put this case to the House—suppose the interest is not paid on the Morocco loan, do not you think the House of Commons will hear of it? Do not you think the hon. Member for the City (Mr. W. Wood) who has described with so much unction the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the loan, would then come down to the House and say, on the part of his constituents, that they would not have accepted the engagement if there had not been a moral conviction that the honour and credit of the Government of England were concerned. Then there would be associations organized to obtain justice. People in the country who lent their money on the faith of a convention now publicly referred to in the Speech of the Royal Commissioners would complain that they had been misled by the interference of the Crown. They will say that they have a moral claim on the liberality of the country; and I put it to the House whether under these circumstances a Chancellor of the Exchequer may not consider himself fortunate if he can defeat such a movement. Therefore, I say, so far as the character of the transaction is concerned, if political circumstances have been of so grave a character that all financial considerations must yield to them, it would have been better to have had an absolute legal and formal guarantee than to have involved the Crown and the country in a transaction which, I cannot help thinking, if adverse circumstances prevent dividends forthcoming at the necessary time, will involve the Government of this country in considerable difficulty, accompanied, probably, by considerable loss.
69 There are many other topics in the Speech which are not undeserving of attention, but I confess that I am not myself inclined on this night to enter into minute criticism or controversy on these matters. No person can be insensible to the fact that the House meets to-night under circumstances very much changed from those which have attended our assembling for many years. Of late years, indeed for more than twenty years past, whatever may have been our personal rivalries, and whatever our party strife, there was at least one sentiment in which we all coincided, and that was a sentiment of admiring gratitude to that Throne whose wisdom and whose goodness had so often softened the acerbities of our free public life, and had at all times so majestically represented the matured intelligence of an enlightened people. Sir, all that is changed. He is gone who was "the comfort and support" of that Throne.
It has been said that there is nothing which England so much appreciates as the fulfilment of duty. The Prince whom we have lost, not only was eminent for the fulfilment of duty, but it was the fulfilment of the highest duty under the most difficult circumstances. Prince Albert was the Consort of his Sovereign—he was the father of one who might be his Sovereign—he was the Prime Councillor of a realm the political constitution of which did not even recognise his political existence. Yet under these circumstances, so difficult and so delicate, he elevated even the Throne by the dignity and purity of his domestic life. He framed and partly accomplished a scheme of education for the heir of England which proved how completely its august projector had contemplated the office of an English King. In the affairs of State, while his serene spirit and his elevated position bore him above all the possible bias of our party life, he showed on every occasion all the resources, all the prudence, and all the sagacity of an experienced and responsible statesman.
Sir, I have presumed to touch upon three instances in which there was on the part of Prince Albert a fulfilment of duty—duty of the highest character under circumstances of the greatest difficulty I will venture to touch upon another point in his character equally distinguished by fulfilment of duty, but in which the duty was not only fulfilled, but was created, Although when he was adopted by this 70 country he was, after all, but a youth of tender years, such was the character of his mind—at once observing and contemplative—that in due season he discovered that notwithstanding all those great achievements which long centuries of internal concord and public liberty had permitted the energy and enterprise of Englishmen to achieve, there was still a great deficiency in our national character, which, if neglected, might lead to the impairing not only of our social happiness, but even of the sources of our public wealth. That was a deficiency of culture. But he was not satisfied with detecting a want; he resolved to supply it. His plans were deeply laid; they were maturely prepared; and, notwithstanding the obstacles which he inevitably encountered, I am prepared to say they wore eminently successful. What might have been his lot had his term completed that which is ordained as the average life of man, it might be presumption to predict. Perhaps, he would have impressed upon his age not only his character but his name. But this, at least, posterity must admit, that he heightened the intellectual and moral standard of this country; that he extended and expanded the sympathies of classes; and that he most beneficially and intimately adapted to the productive powers of England the inexhaustible resources of science and art.
Sir, it is sometimes deplored by those who admired and loved him, that he was thwarted occasionally in his undertakings, and that he was not duly appreciated. But these are not circumstances for regret, but for congratulation. They prove the leading and original mind which has so long and so advantageously laboured for this country. Had he not encountered these obstacles, had he not been subject to this occasional distrust and misconception, it would only have shown that he was a man of ordinary mould and temper. Those who improve must change, those who change must necessarily disturb and alarm men's prejudices. What he had to encounter was only a demonstration that he was a man superior to his age, and therefore admirably adapted for the work of progress.
There is one other point, and one only, on which I will presume for a moment to dwell, and it is not for the sake of you, Sir, or those who now hear me, or of the generation to which we belong, but it is that those who come after us may not 71 misunderstand the nature of this illustrious man. Prince Albert was not a mere patron; he was not one of those who by their gold or by their smiles reward excellence or stimulate exertion. His contributions to the cause of State were far more powerful and far more precious. He gave to it his thought, his time, his toil; he gave to it his life. On both sides and in all parts of the House I see many Gentlemen who occasionally have acted with the Prince at those Council Boards where they conferred and consulted upon the great undertakings with which he was connected. I ask them, without fear of a denial, whether he was not the leading spirit, whether his was not the mind which foresaw the difficulty, his not the resources that supplied the remedy; whether his was not the courage which sustained them under apparently overpowering difficulties; whether every one who worked with him did not feel that he was the real originator of those plans of improvement which they assisted in carrying into effect.
But what avail these words? This House to-night has been asked to condole with the Crown upon this great calamity. No easy office. To condole, in general, is the office of those who, without the pale of sorrow, still feel for the sorrowing. But in this instance the country is as heart-stricken as its Queen. Yet in the mutual sensibility of a Sovereign and a people there is something ennobling—something which elevates the spirit beyond the level of mere earthly sorrow. The counties, the cities, and the corporations of the realm—those illustrious associations of learning and science and art and skill of which he was the brightest ornament and the inspiring spirit, have bowed before the Throne. It does not become the Parliament of the country to be silent. The expression of our feelings may be late, but even in that lateness may be observed some propriety. Tonight the two Houses sanction the expression of the public sorrow, and ratify, as it were, the record of a nation's woe.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON:
Sir, I rejoice, and I think the country will rejoice, that the Address which has been so ably moved and seconded by my hon. Friends behind me will this night be unanimously adopted by the House, without any proposal which at all interferes with the general sense which the House entertains of the topics to which it relates. The right hon. Gentleman, however, who has just 72 sat down has made some observations, not to take notice of which would ill become the Members of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman has expressed his approval of the course which we took in regard to the unfortunate difference between this Government and the Government of the United States upon the affair of the Trent. I am bound to say—and I think the country and this House will agree—that the communication which was made by my noble Friend at the head of the Foreign Office was a combination of the utmost courtesy and consideration on the one hand, with firmness and decision on the other; and that, with respect to those measures which we deemed necessary to provide for any turn which that affair might possibly take, my noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty, my right hon. Friend at the head of the War Department, and my noble Friend at the head of the Colonial Office showed a promptitude, a vigour, and a judgment to which, I think, we may in a great degree ascribe the fortunate termination of the difference. We should not have been justified in anticipating, as a matter of course, a favourable termination to that question, because we knew that angry passions had been let loose in America which might he too strong for the Government and might overbear them in the course which they must have been desirous of pursuing. Therefore, the measures which we took were those which prudence prescribed, and while, on the one hand, they were equal to the occasion, I think, on the other, they cannot be deemed greater than the occasion required. The right hon. Gentleman has expressed his approval of the course which the Government has taken from the commencement of those unhappy disputes in America, in preserving strict neutrality between the contending parties. That position of strict neutrality we have, as he has very handsomely admitted, sincerely and rigidly observed, and from that position of strict neutrality it is not our intention to depart. We regret, no doubt, the calamities which that war is bringing upon the population of the United States; we lament the pressure which incidentally that war has produced upon the commercial and manufacturing interests of this country; but we do not think that that is a sufficient reason why we should depart from a course which a sense of prudence and a sense, I may say, of national honour, have imposed on us, or why we should 73 interfere in a quarrel with which originally we had nothing to do.
The right hon. Gentleman adverted in the next place to that part of the Speech which relates to the expedition to Mexico. Sir, the convention between England, France, and Spain has been laid upon the table. That convention will speak for itself, and it will show that we are not parties to any undertaking to interfere in the internal arrangements of the Mexican Government, and that we confine our operations to obtaining redress for wrongs and injuries sustained. The convention stipulates that the operations of the allies for the purpose of obtaining redress are not to be perverted into any interference with the object of dictating to the people of Mexico any particular form of Government which they may not be willing to accept. Undoubtedly reports have been spread that there are persons in Mexico who wish to convert their republican form of Government into a Monarchy. I am unable to judge how far those reports are well grounded, or how far there is any party in Mexico of sufficient strength and numbers to give effect to such wishes. But what Her Majesty's Government desire is, that there shall be established some from of Government in Mexico with which foreign nations may treat—some form of Government which will do justice to foreigners and enable commerce to be carried on with safety—some form of Government with which relations of peace and j amity may be maintained with confidence in their continuance. That is the utmost which the Government of Great Britain is desirous of obtaining, and I am sure that must be the wish of Gentlemen on both sides of the House.
With regard to the convention con eluded with the Sultan of Morocco, the right hon. Gentleman says, I believe that he would prefer a positive and direct guarantee, rendering this country liable to pay interest if the Sultan should not himself discharge it, rather than the indirect security which the convention establishes. I wish the House to pause until they see the convention. They will find that the engagement established between the Sultan and the British Government is simply this—that the Sultan agrees that certain persons shall be appointed to receive the Customs' revenues at certain ports of his territories for the purpose of discharging the interest and sinking fund of the loan; and I cannot think that there is any dan- 74 ger whatever that this country will be involved in any pecuniary responsibility arising out of that convention. Everybody who turns his attention to our relations with the Mediterranean must admit that it is a great object of British policy to maintain the independence of Morocco. There is a treaty between Spain and Morocco, by which Morocco is bound to make certain payments within certain specified periods, upon condition of which the town of Tetuan is to be evacuated. It is quite clear that it is important to avoid the contingencies which may arise if the Sultan of Morocco should be unable to fulfil those engagements. The consequence would be that Tetuan would not be evacuated, that Spain would have just cause of quarrel with Morocco, that the war might be renewed, and that disasters might befall the State of Morocco. I trust and believe that when the treaties and the papers connected with them, which are now on the table, shall have been read, the House will be disposed to think that the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government has been such as is most consistent with the interests of this country.
The last topic to which the right hon. Gentleman adverted is one, undoubtedly, upon which there cannot be a dissentient voice in this House. I do not think the light hon. Gentleman started the question—but I have heard the question started, whether it was right in Her Majesty's' Government to follow, upon this occasion, the several precedents in the later periods of the last century, or whether it was better to have a separate address as in the; ease of Prince George of Denmark. But hon. Gentlemen who look back to that precedent will see that there was no announcement by the Crown as to the death of Prince George of Denmark. It was impossible to follow that precedent on the present occasion. We, therefore, followed the precedents in the cases of the Princess Charlotte and of Queen Caroline, where there was an announcement in the Speech from the Throne, and condolence was embodied in the Address from the House. It is hardly possible for anybody to exaggerate the loss which the Queen and country have sustained in the death of his Royal Highness the Prince Consort. The right hon. Gentleman, with eloquence and feeling which I am sure must have excited the sympathy and admiration of those who; heard him, dilated upon the eminent qualities possessed by the late Prince Albert. 75 It is no exaggeration to say, that as far as the word "perfect" can he applied to human imperfection, the character of the late Prince deserved the term, because he combined qualities of the most eminent and in some respects of the most different description in a degree which was hardly ever equalled by any one in any condition of life. The talents of the Prince have been expatiated upon by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Those who had the good fortune to hold intercourse with him, and to converse with him on any subject, however serious or however trifling, could hardly fail to feel that they were in the presence of a master mind. I venture to say that no man ever came into such contact with His Royal Highness without Carrying away some new idea, or some fresh view even of matters with which he thought himself already well acquainted. The position which the Prince occupied was one of considerable difficulty—one which it required the greatest judgment and the most consummate tact to fill with that universal approbation with which his course was attended. His aim was not to take too prominent a part in political affairs, but to contribute, as far as the resources of his mind and his commanding rank enabled him, to the improvement of the nation in every branch of intellectual and industrial effort. How fully he accomplished that object everybody is well aware. His domestic life was most exemplary, and it is no exaggeration to say that the domestic life of the British Court has been of the greatest value to the interests of the country. In times of difficulty it has tended to strengthen that link which binds the people to the Throne, and has, in many ways, rendered the most important services to the nation. Such being the Prince whose loss we have to deplore, we can easily imagine what must be the grief and desolation of her from whose side he has been taken. It is becoming in the House to tender to Her Majesty its sincere and cordial condolence upon the irreparable loss which has befallen her; and when we reflect that there was hardly any hour of the day when those two minds did not consult and communicate with each other, we may conceive what must be the bereavement which our Sovereign has sustained by this lamentable event. The condition of the Sovereign is, in one respect, different under such circumstances from that of any other person in the nation. In private 76 life persons are surrounded by relations and friends, with whom they have formed habits of intimacy, and who, when a great misfortune arrives, tend to soothe and in some measure to alleviate their anguish. But the high and exalted position of the Sovereign debars her from that society in which she might find support and consolation at such a time, and now that she has been deprived of her beloved Consort by the stroke of Providence, she is left in a solitude of grief which could hardly befall any other person in the realm. I am sure that the House will feel that in agreeing to this Address, and especially to that portion of it which relates to the loss of the late Prince, Consort, it is understating those feelings which every man must cherish in his breast, and I am equally sure, that although the Address goes as far as the language of Parliament will permit, every one will regret that it is not possible, according to the forms of the House, to convey even a stronger expression of sympathy and sorrow.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that the expressed and decided opinion of the noble Lord in reference to neutrality with America would give the greatest satisfaction to the country, and he hoped the House would endorse the noble Lord's sentiments to the fullest extent. He could not help expressing his opinion that they were deeply indebted to the noble Earl at the head of the Foreign Office for the manner in which he had conducted the proceedings, for the temper which he had shown, and for the courteous way in which he had put the difficult question before the Government of the United States for their consideration. It was a most unfortunate thing that the public press on both sides of the Atlantic should act in a manner which almost showed that the conductors of it were resolved to bring two great and generous countries into collision in order that they might sell a few newspapers. The conduct of a considerable portion of the press here and in America was perfectly discreditable to the two countries which they professed to represent. He should be gratified if a law were passed which should give power to the Government to have the articles in those villanous prints burned by the common hangman. The general feeling in the United States was friendly towards England; and the reception in America, little more than twelve months ago, of the heir apparent to the throne should convince 77 them of that fact. He rejoiced, therefore, that the unfortunate differences between the two countries were at an end, and felt that the dignified and pacific course adopted by this country towards America was deserving of approbation. He felt sure that if America were left to herself the disasters which at present afflicted her would work their own cure.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, it was not his intention to disturb the feeling of unanimity that appeared to pervade the House, or touch upon any subject on which a contest could arise; but he felt it to be his duty, as the representative of an Irish constituency, and intimately connected with a large and populous city in the south of Ireland, to say a few words respecting the real condition of the country. It was stated in the address—That temporary causes have produced considerable pressure and privation, but Her Majesty has reason to believe that the general condition of the country is sound and satisfactory,If it were intended that that paragraph should refer to Ireland, he must say that the condition of Ireland was not sound, and, unfortunately, was not satisfactory. There was great distress as well as great misery at that moment in Ireland, but it seemed to be the policy of the Irish Government to ignore that distress, and to turn a deaf ear to any appeal on behalf of that misery. It was said there was no real distress in Ireland that should demand the interposition of the Government, or of Parliament; but the idea was most erroneous, and if it were persisted in on the part of the Government and of Parliament I it would tend to the most fatal results, It was very well for English gentlemen to speak of the condition of their country as sound or satisfactory. Though distress prevailed in manufacturing districts in England, that country how been blessed with a bountiful harvest; but that great, blessing, though vouchsafed to England, had been denied to Ireland. The harvest of Ireland had been a lamentable failure, and the result was an almost total paralysis of trade; there was an entire lack of employment, and the most intense misery had fallen upon the great masses of the people, both in the towns and in the rural districts. The oat crop was almost an entire failure; the wheat crop was also bad; the potato crop was never worse since the years known by the awful name of the famine years; the hay crop was almost a failure; in many districts of the 78 country it was unfit for the use of cattle, and was converted into manure. In many cities and towns in Ireland, there was an almost total want of employment, and the policy of the banks in Ireland was very far from being liberal and accommodating. The consequence was that traders were greatly embarrassed in their business, mechanics were left out of employment, and the labouring population were dependent either upon the resources of the poor law, or upon the charity of the liberal and benevolent. He was anxious to call the attention of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland (Sir Robert Peel) to the condition of that country. He believed that the right hon. Baronet was actuated by the best and kindest motives, but he was liable to go wrong, because he was a man of quick impulse, and possessed that kind of firmness which induced a man to persevere in error. Indeed, the right hon. Baronet had himself led the people of this country to believe that the condition of Ireland was not such as to require the interposition of Government and of Parliament; and no later than two nights before, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, also a most humane man, had stated, at a banquet given by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, that there was nothing in the condition of the country that required remark. He (Mr. Maguire) confessed that he was shocked when he heard those cold words from the viceregal lips, and many men around him felt a sense of shame at witnessing the indifferent manner in which the miseries of the country were treated. The advisers of the right hon. Baronet and of the Earl of Carlisle were not those who had the keenest sympathy for the wants of the Irish people, Had the right hon. Baronet gone abroad and seen things for himself, instead of making that hurried tour of 300 miles in three days, taking with him the Irish Fouché to be both his spectacles and his counsellor, it would have been much better for the honour of this country and for the interests of Ireland. No later than that day week a deputation consisting of leading inhabitants of the town of Kanturk, in the Eastern Riding of the county of Cork—a town remarkable some time ago for belonging to the richest district in that part of the country—waited on the Board of Guardians to ask for advice, and make an appeal. The rev. gentleman who headed the deputation, stated that the population of the town of Kanturk amounted 79 to 2,200 odd, and as some of the persons he addressed were members of the Kanturk Relief Committee, they must be aware of the appalling destitution that prevailed in the town. He found, he said, that considerably more than 1,000 persons were deemed by that body to be fit objects for assistance. It was also stated that masses of labourers were trying to eke out a miserable existence on one meal a day, consisting of turnips and Indian meal. He (Mr. Maguire) asserted that the condition of Kanturk was the condition of many towns in the southern counties. Great alarm was felt for what might be the condition of the people in the next few months; but he did not ask for alms from the people of England or from the Parliament of England; but he did ask for some better measures from the Government than a Fair and Markets Bill or a Poor Law Amendment Bill. He asked the Government to adopt the policy enunciated by Lord George Bentinck for recommending which his name was coupled with blessings and gratitude by the people of Ireland. He, indeed, suggested a noble plan that would have developed the resources of Ireland without burdening the resources of England. There were many railway projects in Ireland that Government might encourage, and there should be laid upon the table of the House a Bill enabling the Government to give immediate assistance to those projects which, owing to the difficulties of the present moment, would, otherwise, languish and fall to the ground. In the western portion of the county of Cork two great projects were undertaken, one of them a railway of imperial importance, and it was impossible to ask the shareholders to pay calls under the present circumstances. It was from hand to mouth with many of them, and happy was the man whose hand could feed his mouth. He asked the Government to give loans to those railways, and let the amount of such loans be the first liens on them. He told the Government that if they wished to have the affection of the Irish people, and to act humanely and in time, they ought to bring forward some liberal measure which, without exciting jealousy in England, would afford prompt and immediate assistance to the people of Ireland by giving them the means of employment, and of supporting themselves without the degradation and calamity of applying for poor-law relief. He might be told that the workhouses of 80 Ireland were not full, but this was no proof that great and general distress did not prevail, for there was so much pride, even in the humblest of the people of Ireland, that they would rather die by the wayside than accept the shame and degradation of poor-law relief. The fact, however, was that in the workhouse of Cork there were now 1,000 more inmates than there were two years ago, and that the guardians were at their wits' end to know how to meet the increasing demands upon them.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Sir, one of the allegations contained in the speech of the hon. Member who has just resumed his seat was that I, in my capacity of Chief Secretary for Ireland, have led the people of England to believe that there is no distress in the sister country. Sir, until the hon. Gentleman rose I had hoped that on this, the first night of the Session, hon. Members might have confined their remarks to the contents of Her Majesty's Speech, and not have entered into subjects such as those to which he has alluded. I must say that after listening to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman, I am, from my personal knowledge and conviction, inclined to believe that the great majority of the people of Ireland, who very well know what the real state of the case is, will be disposed to agree with me, that we must not attach more weight than they deserve to his observations. I, for one, should be inclined to state that he has gone further, and said more than the justice of the case required. When the hon. Gentleman alluded to what he called the famine in Ireland, painting and delineating most hideous suffering, and stating that the people of Cork, though starving, would not go into the workhouse, I listened to his remarks with attention, but I was amazed at the inaccuracies into which he fell. I have no doubt the hon. Gentleman spoke with a firm conviction of the truth of his statements. I should wish to be the very last man in the House who would question the honesty of purpose of the hon. Gentleman. I believe that his mind is not closed to conviction, and, were there now an opportunity, that he would accept the facts which I could adduce in complete refutation of the statements he has made. Now, I do not for one moment deny that during the last few months there has been very considerable distress in Ireland. I admit that the potato crop has failed; that it is watery, that the root itself is 81 small, and that, in fact, there is a potato blight. I will not admit to the lion. Gentleman that the oat crop has failed; apart from the potato, the crops have been tolerably satisfactory. [Mr. MAGIORE: "No, no!"] At all events, it is certain that there is a superabundance of bread-stuff's in all parts of Ireland, and I am told on competent authority that there are funds and money adequate for the purpose of purchasing food. I admit that, to a great extent, the fuel has also failed. But while I state that there has been a failure of the potato, of other food perhaps, and partially also of fuel, I cannot let pass the opportunity of paying my most willing testimony to the fact that wherever want has existed the true spirit of Christian charity has been shown by the landed proprietors, particularly in the remote districts of the West. Nothing has been more striking than the readiness with which they have come forward—striking, I mean, in comparison with former times. My hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) was one of the first to most generously throw open a portion of his property for the purpose of affording fuel to the people of Galway. I have watched and admired—and so have other Members of the Irish Government—the manner in which he landed proprietors have relieved the wants of the suffering classes; they have done so with a perseverance and liberality which is worthy of the most public acknowledgment. The hon. Gentleman has referred to statements made by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and also by myself, as tending to mislead the country, of course I cannot venture to enter into details, but we have received from almost all parts of Ireland petitions setting forth the extreme destitution of those localities; but, on the other hand, we have received in almost every case a contrary statement, declaring that the cry of famine has been exaggerated, that there are abundance of bread-stuffs for the relief of the people, and that the contrary statements made in each instance to the Government were in reality without foundation. The hon. Gentleman says the workhouses of Ireland are not full because the people will not go into them; but that in the county and city of Cork there is no room whatever in the workhouses. Now, I admit that in the city of Cork, and also in the city of Limerick, the workhouses are nearly full, and that there may be applicants whom, unfortunately, it is not possible to accommo- 82 date within the walls of those buildings. But these are the only two places in Ireland where the workhouses can be said to be in any degree filled. The extent of workhouse accommodation in Ireland would suffice for the reception of 149,000 inmates, whereas there are not at this moment in Ireland more than 59,000 or 60,000 in receipt of relief. Doubtless this is very lamentable, but compare the condition of the two countries. On the 31st of December, 1861, there were 899,000 persons in the receipt of relief, outdoor and indoor, in England; while at the same date, there were in Ireland only 59,000 receiving outdoor and indoor relief. That is to say, in Ireland, with a population amounting to not more than 5,500,000, about 1. per cent of the population was in-receipt of relief under the workhouse system, while the proportion relieved in England and Wales, where there is a population of over 20,000,000 amounted to 4½ per cent. The state of Ireland, therefore, when compared with England and Wales, is not so very serious, though it certainly may be a subject of regret. The hon. Gentleman has really over-stated his case. He says that I have endeavoured to lead people in this country to believe that famine does not exist in Ireland. On former occasions he and others raised the cry of famine.
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I did not use the word "famine"; I said great distress, misery, and destitution.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL:
I will adopt the hon. Gentleman's words. I say that on former occasions attempts were made to excite sympathy by saying that "great distress, misery, and destitution" prevailed in Ireland. Those attempts succeeded; but on this occasion the persons endeavouring to propagate that opinion have signally failed. The real truth is that the people in Ireland have not taken up the cry. They do not believe in the reports of distress which are spread abroad; and I know of my own knowledge that nothing has been more distasteful to the people of Ireland than to have—as they have had within the last few months—their alleged grievances and imaginary wants placarded and paraded over Europe. Why, the House will hardly credit it when I tell them that the begging-box has been sent round through France and America, though, as regards the result, I believe it has been very much like the victories of the Federal army, which are very much talked of, but 83 are very little seen. I never heard that the I proceeds of any collections from America had arrived in Ireland; but, let me tell hon. Gentlemen who are getting up this cry of famine in Ireland, they really do not understand that the people of Ireland in the year 1861–2 are no longer the same as they were in 1846–7. That is their great mistake. The hon. Gentleman has sneered at what he calls my tour in Ireland, "300 miles in three days." Now, that is not the truth.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, I rise to order. Does the right hon. gentleman mean to say that I stated what is not true? My statement was based on a speech made by the right hon. gentleman himself.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL:
Of course I did not mean to impute any improper motives to the hon. gentleman, but he certainly said that I had travelled 300 miles in three days.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL:
I am quite certain that the time I took in visiting the most distressed districts was more than three days. But this I will tell the hon. Gentleman—that the people of Ireland are no longer what they were. And, although they may be very poor-looking, and perhaps, badly clad, sure I am that the peasants of Ireland have independent and sensitively-organized minds, and that they are just as capable of, and suitable for, moral and social improvement as the most favoured people on the face of the earth. But there is the mistake which the hon. Gentleman makes. The people of Ireland are beginning to think for themselves; they are beginning to have that just and legitimate confidence that they ought to have in the honesty, integrity, and energy of their landlords. In those few days that I travelled through Ireland, I had an opportunity of seeing how well the great properties in that country are managed, and the efforts which are being made to advance the prosperity of Ireland. Properties such as that of the Marquess of Downshire came under my observation, that of Earl Fitzwilliam, of the Earl of Bessborough, of the Earl of Lucan—particularly of Mr. Allen Pollock, of Mr. Pike, of Viscount Palmerston, and many others, whose energy, determination, and example have, I will say, regenerated Ireland from the condition in which she was before. The hon. Gentleman alluded to the state of things existing at Kanturk. I am sorry to say that in parts of Ireland in which famine is complained of—in parts 84 of Skibbereen, of Skull, and also of the extensive Roman Catholic district of Tuam—attempts, which I will not characterize, have been made to set the people against their landlords, to make them feel that their landlords are not disposed to do their duty by them, and that they ought not to put confidence in them. Every attempt to excite the people has been made, happily without effect. The state of Ireland, as regards the paucity of offences, was never more satisfactory, and I do not suppose that in the history of the country the relations between landlord and tenant were ever more harmonious. I am happy to say that the relations now existing between landlord and tenant in Ireland are happily free from those bloodstained records of crime which have marked some portions of the past history of that country; and that is a satisfactory result to refer to, even supposing that the misery or famine to which the hon. Gentleman alludes really exists. I admit that there have been times of great visitation in Ireland. The years 1817, 1822, 1827, and 1839, were periods of great misery. Even as late as 1846 there were parts of Ireland in such distress that some wretched victim to disease was to be found in almost every cabin. But in 1861 the case was different. I recollect that in September of last year it was predicted that hundreds of lives would perish, as in 1846, but I can assert—whatever may be the state of Cork and of some parts of the west—that not a single death has. occurred since that prediction which can be attributed to absolute want of food. I will not go into the subject at any greater length, but I must say that a merciful Providence has watched over Ireland and warded off those sufferings and miseries which some people would have led us to anticipate. The spring is approaching, and with its genial influences the exigencies of the moment will, to a great extent, have passed; and we may expect that the existing state of things will have considerably improved. I speak in no cold or heartless spirit, such as that which the hon. Gentleman alludes to, when I say that, looking back at the last few months, the industrious and honest poor of Ireland will have learnt a lesson most useful to them for the future. They will have learnt a lesson of self-reliance and of confidence in those among whom they are placed which will tend to eradicate that undue dependence on extraneous aid which can only produce demoralizing and prejudicial effects.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, that he had not intended to address the House, and he should not have done so only he deemed it necessary to correct some of the statements of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary. Some of those statements were altogether novel. He (Mr. Vincent Scully) must say that he had not heard of any meeting held in Skull or Skibbereen to set the people against their landlords. He did not think that the hon. Member for Dungarvan had overstated the facts; but if he had, the Chief Secretary had equally understated them If there had been overstatements on one side as to the distress, there had been understatement on the other. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland had charged the hon. Member with travelling out of the Queen's Speech; but he (Mr. Maguire) was not open to that charge; for there was a paragraph in the Royal Speech alluding to the distress which existed in some portions of Her Majesty's dominions, though that paragraph was not supposed to refer to Ireland. There could be no doubt that there was a deficient harvest in Ireland last year. Potatoes had failed, wheat had failed, and oats were a partial failure. Fuel—turf, had also failed through the extreme wetness of the season. The right hon. Baronet said that there was a great deal of food in Ireland. There was a great deal of foreign, but not of home food there. The right hon. Baronet had also said that from no place had he got a statement of distress without receiving a counter statement. He should like to ask the right hon. Baronet whether he bad received any counter statement from Skull or Skibbereen. He might, perhaps, have received such statements from persons who had corn to sell, and who were anxious that the Government should not send any relief into their districts. He was no faminemonger, but he believed in the existence of great distress in some parts of Cork, for he had received applications from them for subscriptions, and no similar applications had been hitherto made to him during the ten years he had represented that county. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken about the begging-box being sent round; but the applications which he had heard made to the Government were for the construction of a railway, and for the speedy carrying out of public works in the Department of the Ordnance, He gave the late Chief Secretary for Ire land a good character when the right hon. Gentleman was leaving office. He stated 86 that he had every qualification for the office, but a little knowledge of the country he had been sent to govern. The present Chief Secretary possessed that deficiency in a more eminent degree, for he had had less time to obtain an acquaintance with Ireland. It was said that Cœsar venit in Galliam sumâ diligentiâ. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Feel) had not visited Ireland on the top of a diligence, but he had gone through portions of it on a low-hacked car. The right hon. Gentleman found the country a peaceable one; but he had been doing his best to get up a little disturbance. He thought Ireland rather phlegmatic, and was endeavouring to introduce a little English excitement. He regretted to be obliged to say that there was at this moment great distress in Ireland. The dairy and sheep farmers never had a better year, and their rents were never better paid, but the small tillage farmers even in the famine year were scarcely worse off. He trusted that the right lion. Baronet would keep his mind open to conviction, and that he would not feel that he was compelled in honour to prove the proposition with which he had started—namely, that there was no distress in the country; for he (Mr. Scully) believed that the statement of the right hon. Gentleman would turn out to be egregiously wrong, and that in the months of March and April, instead of the distress having diminished or disappeared altogether, it would have increased. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would apply himself to relieve that distress. He saw with pleasure the announcement in the Royal Speech of a measure for simplifying the transfer of land. If the Government could carry an honest, bonâ fide, and working measure of this kind, it would be the greatest improvement effected in Ireland during his remembrance. Such a measure had been brought in by the Government of the Earl of Derby, and in voting that Government out of office his chief reluctance had arisen from an apprehension that the incoming Government would not bring in an equally good measure of the same kind. He trusted that the Government would endeavour to do something to reduce the enormous legal expenses to which suitors in the courts of law were subject, and which caused a scandal both in England and Ireland. He had no hesitation in asserting, after some considerable experience, that nine out of ten successful suitors were losers by the legal costs of the exist- 87 ing system. A legal friend of his, who was in the habit of spending his summers in Denmark, told him that a similar evil formerly existed in that country, but it had been eradicated about twenty years ago by the, establishment, not of Courts of Arbitration, but Courts of Reconciliation. No one, he was told, could bring a person before any of the courts of Denmark without first going in private with his adversary before a judge, who heard the statements of both parties. The party was not bound to be reconciled, but until he had obtained a certificate that the dispute could not be settled he was not allowed to go to law. In this country the litigants were kept asunder, and that was the great evil. Now, the result of the system that was in force in Denmark was that, on an average, in six cases out of every seven the parties were; reconciled; and the only objection that had ever been urged against that system was that six out of, very seven of the professional gentlemen there were in comparatively unproductive positions.
§ Motion agreed to.
To draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution;—Mr. PORTMAN, Mr. WESTERN WOOD, Viscount PALMERSTON, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Sir GEORGE GREY, Sir GEORGE LEWIS, Sir CHARLES WOOD, Mr. MILNER GIBSON, Mr. CARDWELL, Mr. VILLIERS, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Sir ROBERT PEEL, The LORD ADVOCATE, Mr. PEEL, AND Mr. MASSEY, or any Five of them:—To. withdraw immediately.
§ Lords Commissioners' Speech referred.
§ House adjourned at a Quarter before Eight o'clock.