§ MR. HART DYKE
Sir, in rising to move that an Address be presented to Her Majesty in answer to Her most gracious Speech, I trust I shall not ask in vain for the kind forbearance and consideration which are ever accorded to one who addresses the House for the first time. If I touch but lightly upon the various topics mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, I would ask the House to believe that it is not because I underrate their importance, but simply because I feel some diffidence in addressing myself to subjects in reference to which the vast majority of hon. Members have had longer experience, and upon which they would therefore be better qualified to speak.
Her Majesty has graciously signified Her regret that the necessity has arisen for assembling Parliament at this somewhat unusual season; and the primary cause of Parliament having been thus assembled is—as might be expected—referred to in the first paragraph of Her Majesty's Speech. I need scarcely remind the House that Her Majesty's Government having deemed it expedient to send a force into Abyssinia for the purpose of liberating our countrymen who are in captivity there, the necessity must necessarily arise for our voting supplies in order to defray the cost of that expedition. The circumstances connected with the sad events that have occurred in Abyssinia, at least so far as the earlier part of them are concerned, are already 52 pretty well known to this House and to a large majority of the English people who have taken an interest in the subject. It is well known that when Lord Palmerston was Prime Minister a mission was sent to Abyssinia. It would, perhaps, be wasting the time of the House to go through the whole of the events that have occurred from that time down to the present moment—it will be sufficient to recall the fact that this difficult Abyssinian question has been several times brought before both Houses of the Legislature. As early as February, 1866, a noble Lord in the other House (Lord Chelmsford), put a Question to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on this subject; and no later than last Session a debate occurred on this subject when the question was brought prominently forward by the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Henry Seymour). I trust that at the outset of a war which may cost the country a large sum of money, it will be felt that it will not only be advantageous to the Government, but satisfactory to the House and those out of doors who take an interest in the subject, that the fullest investigation should take place, both as to the causes which have led to the prospect of this unhappy war, and also as to the means which the Government have adopted with the view of bringing it to a successful issue. In studying the Papers furnished to the House last Session, it will appear that various measures were adopted with a view of persuading, as it were, the somewhat eccentric King Theodore to deliver up the captives. On the 29th January, 1866, through the intervention of Mr. Rassam, who was commissioned by this country to endeavour to procure the release of the prisoners, we find that they were actually liberated. And this reminds me of a point which has been urged—namely, that the difficulties' which have arisen in Abyssinia have been occasioned by offence given at different times to King Theodore. The prisoners, as I have said, were actually liberated, and a reconciliation took place between them and the King on the 29th January, 1866; but shortly after which it appears that, without any ostensible reason or provocation, King Theodore, after bidding them adieu, saw fit to send after them and take them once more into captivity, and they were sent to Magdala and put in chains on the 6th July, 1866. The next event which I have to notice is the autograph letter sent by Her Ma- 53 jesty to King Theodore, stating in the kindest manner the anxiety felt by herself and the people of this country for the liberation of the captives, and at the same time expressing no ill-will towards King Theodore so long as the prisoners were liberated. At the same time, presents were sent to King Theodore by Mr. Flad, a missionary, and subsequently Colonel Merewether was sent out, in compliance with the King's wish, with certain artizans, who were placed at his Majesty's disposal. I now come to the letter written by the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, to which I will call particular attention. Surprise has been expressed that, inasmuch as the difficulties surrounding this Abyssinian question were well known last Session, prompt measures were not taken while Parliament was yet sitting. That would have been the case; but I should state that the letter to which I have referred was addressed to King Theodore, informing him that unless the British authorities at Massowah were made acquainted within three months of the time the letter was despatched to the King with the fact that the captives were released, the King would be held responsible for the consequences, and the answer to that letter only arrived three days before Parliament was dismissed from its labours at the close of last Session, and therefore it would have been clearly impossible for the Government to have taken any action in the matter so far as Parliament was concerned. Her Majesty and the Government have been animated solely by an honest desire to secure the release of the captives in Abyssinia, and not by any wish for territorial aggrandizement or by any ulterior motives. If any hon. Member will search history through, he will find that there are few instances in which indignities inflicted on a country have been borne with greater moderation and patience, or where more humane and moderate means have been resorted to for the purpose of effecting an object such as we have now in view. I need not tell the House that in the expedition already upon its way the Government look for no increase of territory, nor to obtain any special advantage on the coast of Abyssinia. I feel—and I am sure many in the country will agree with me—that there is something which we have always held dearer than ambition, and that is our national honour. Acquainted as the House is with the geo- 54 graphical position of Abyssinia, it would be useless for me to attempt to disguise the fact that an expedition to such a country is fraught with many difficulties, and must be costly as regards money, and it may also be as regards life. If we can suppose an instance in which we have received indignities equal to those we have received in the present case, the country being easier of access and with fewer difficulties of transport and climate than Abyssinia, I think there are few persons who would hesitate as to what course we ought to pursue; and I trust that the country will not be deterred from upholding its dignity and liberating the captives by the special difficulties which Abyssinia presents. If during the debate that will arise on this subject it can be shown—as I believe it will—that every legitimate means which diplomacy has at its command have been adopted for the purpose of effecting the liberation of the captives, I believe the conclusion at which the Government have arrived to send out an expedition will be acquiesced in and endorsed by the majority of the people of this country. As a young and a humble Member of this House I trust the day will be far distant when Parliament will hesitate to vindicate and protect the representatives of this country when they are subjected to indignities and ill-treatment in a foreign land.
Sir, the events which have recently occurred in Italy, and the complications to which they are likely to lead, have given rise to much anxiety in many minds; and that anxiety must be mingled with regret when we consider the present state of that country, requiring as it does, above all things, peace and order for its permanent consolidation, that violent persons should have proceeded to harass and disturb it, and have thus tended, by their own precipitancy, to defer to an indefinite period the result they have been desirous of bringing about. Our ally, the Emperor of the French, has been placed in a position of no ordinary difficulty with regard to this question; but I trust the confident hope expressed by Her Majesty in Her gracious Speech, founded on the enlightened wisdom and moderation of that monarch, may be speedily fulfilled. When we remember how many anxious questions connected with foreign affairs are at present before the political world, it must have been a matter of general gratification to all who heard, in the recent 55 reception, of our new representative in Paris, the cordial sentiments expressed by the Emperor, affording, as they do, a clear indication of a continuance of that policy of peace and goodwill towards England which he has not only invariably expressed, but which he has conscientiously endeavoured to carry out as long as he has sat upon the throne.
Sir, the miserable attempts of certain misguided men among our countrymen and others are referred to in Her Majesty's Speech. It is with, feelings of pain and regret that all who love the cause of order in this country, and all who wish to see a brighter future dawn upon the sister country, have observed what has lately taken place in Ireland on the part of violent and unprincipled men, our countrymen and others, who have so far disturbed the existing order of things that trade has been, paralysed, agricultural operations have been almost suspended, and many manifest advantages to the progress of prosperity which might have been opened up in that country have been for the present sacrificed. I cannot help offering my meed of praise to the authorities in Ireland and elsewhere for the firm and temperate manner in which they have met the emergency. There have also been certain cases of outrage which have occurred in the streets of London—miserable attempts by a few men armed with revolvers to upset the law. I trust that by a wise administration of the law, and by the good feeling and forbearance that are being shown, we shall soon hear that there is an end to this unhappy state of things.
No doubt the Government will supplement the recent Act for the representation of the people of England by other measures affecting the representation of the people of Scotland and Ireland. In introducing those measures Her Majesty's Government will be able to bring to bear on the subject the consideration they must have given to it during the recess. The anxious consideration given to the question of the franchise last Session will prevent that subject giving us as much trouble in dealing with the new Bills as would otherwise have been the case. With regard to the latter part of the Bills—the distribution clauses—there will doubtless be some difficulty; but I trust that the same policy of forbearance and goodwill as was adopted last Session will characterize our future debates on the Reform 56 question, and will facilitate its settlement. Many hard things have been said in reference to the measure of last Session. When we consider the amount of legislation yet to be got through with regard to Parliamentary Reform, I think we had better pass over anything like recrimination respecting the past, and set to work honestly to make complete the partial settlement we have arrived at. Representing a constituency (West Kent) which has certainly as important and varied interests as any, I may say that a feeling of thankfulness and satisfaction pervades all classes that a question about which so much has been promised and so little performed, and which has become a stumbling block to every kind of legislation, has been so far settled. The Commissioners appointed to consider the boundaries of the new boroughs have, I am informed, bestowed much time and attention to their duties; and when their Report is laid on the table, considering the amount of pains they have taken to collect information and the impartiality they have displayed, I have no doubt this important feature of the Reform Act will speedily become the law of the land. Her Majesty's Speech promises the introduction of measures for the suppression of bribery. This is unfortunately a thing which has become so engrafted on our political system that it will be difficult to deal with it. Like a long-seated disease, which has spread through every nerve and every sinew, bribery will be difficult of eradication; but I understand that legislation on this subject will proceed on the basis of the Bill mentioned in this House last year, and that it is proposed that instead of Election Committees sitting in London, competent Judges will be sent to the constituencies involved to make the inquiries on the spot. I believe that such a course will facilitate the administration of the law, for there is no doubt that the heavy expenses of inquiries in London prevents prosecutions for bribery. One great difficulty to be dealt with is that of definition, as it is more difficult in cases of bribery than it is in criminal matters to define the exact point at which it might be said the Rubicon is crossed, and a man, instead of conscientiously canvassing for a vote, is endeavouring to use corrupt influence.
The next question referred to in Her Majesty's Speech was that of Education, and it is one there is great difficulty in dealing with; but I believe, when we consider the 57 enormous mass of evidence taken by Committees and Commissions which the House now has before it on this subject, we may express a hope that the question will soon receive a satisfactory solution. Nor do I think there is any question more urgent at the present moment. It only requires you to look at the calendar at any assizes, and to notice the large proportion of prisoners who are returned as unable to read and write, or who at best are able to read and write imperfectly, to perceive how shortsighted a policy it has been not to deal with the subject long ago. AS a mere matter of pounds, shillings, and pence—as a mere matter of saving the county rate—it must be a prudent thing to give the lower population at starting on their walk in life some chance of learning those things which are likely to make them better and happier members of the community.
Last year a Motion was brought forward having reference to the better management of the Mercantile Marine; and I am glad to see that Her Majesty's Government intend to legislate on a subject which is so nearly connected with the very bone and sinew of our commerce.
It is a matter of congratulation that we no longer receive those gloomy returns relating to the cattle plague which used to come to us once a fortnight; and I am glad to hear that a Bill is shortly to be introduced on this subject. I believe that sad experience of this disease has established the fact that its ravages are chiefly to be traced to the ports where cattle are disembarked from the Continent, and that one great centre for spreading the contagion has been the Metropolitan Cattle Market. It is satisfactory, therefore, to learn that a proposition is about to be made for the institution of a separate market for cattle imported from abroad, which are to be slaughtered within a confined area and in separate slaughter-houses. Under present legislation it is provided that cattle landing at any of the out-ports shall be slaughtered within a confined area in each port. Under the Metropolitan Traffic Act, a provision will come in force in 1874, prohibiting slaughter-houses from being erected within a certain distance of dwelling-houses; and while we consider how large the number of cattle slaughtered in London, and how calculated the trade in hides and other things of the kind is to spread disease, I have no doubt this enactment will prove a great and salutary boon.
I have now—very inefficiently I fear— 58 gone through the chief topics mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech. The House must be aware that we are met on the present occasion to consider matters more especially connected with foreign affairs; but there are many questions affecting the amelioration of the law of this country, with which, though they are not touched upon in Her Majesty's Speech, the Government will at least attempt to grapple with before the Session closes. This has been called "a moribund Parliament;" but I am sanguine that though it may be drawing to its close, it will retain its vigour to the end, and will transmit to its successors an honoured name. Thanking the House for the attention it has paid to me, I will conclude by expressing my earnest hope and confidence that we may so legislate in this last Session of Parliament as to preserve those institutions which are, I believe, dear to all classes of the community, to uphold the interests of this country abroad, and insure that prosperity at home with which, under the blessing of Providence, we have been so largely endowed. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey the Thanks of this House for Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for the gracious expression of Her Majesty's regret that She has found it necessary to call for our attendance at an unusual, and, as Her Majesty is pleased to say, probably an inconvenient season:To express the regret with which we learn that the Sovereign of Abyssinia, in violation of all International Law, continues to hold in captivity several of Her Majesty's Subjects, some of whom have been specially accredited to him by Her Majesty, and that the persistent disregard by that Sovereign of friendly representations has left Her Majesty no alternative but that of making a peremptory demand for the liberation of Her Subjects, and of supporting it by an adequate Force:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that She has directed an Expedition to be sent for that purpose alone, and that She confidently relies upon the support and co-operation of Her Parliament in Her Majesty's endeavours at once to relieve our Countrymen from an unjust imprisonment, and to vindicate the honour of Her Crown:To thank Her Majesty for directing Papers on this subject to be forthwith laid before us:59Humbly to express the gratification with which we learn that Her Majesty's relations with Foreign Powers are friendly, and that Her Majesty sees no reason to apprehend the disturbance of the general Peace of Europe:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that, in consequence of the invasion of the Papal States by a band of Italian Volunteers without authority from their own Sovereign, His Majesty the Emperor of the French felt himself called upon to despatch an Expedition for the protection of the Sovereign Pontiff and his dominions:To express our concurrence with Her Majesty in the hope that, as the object of the Emperor has been accomplished, and as the defeat and dispersion of the Volunteer Force has relieved the Papal Territory from the danger of external invasion, his Imperial Majesty will find himself enabled, by an early withdrawal of his Troops, to remove any possible ground of misunderstanding between His Majesty's Government and that of the King of Italy:To assure Her Majesty of the deep regret with which we learn that the Treasonable Conspiracy commonly known as Fenianism, baffled and repressed in Ireland, has assumed in England the form of organized violence and assassination:To convey to Her Majesty our participation in the opinion which She expresses that such outrages as have been committed require to be rigorously put down, and to express our confidence that Her Majesty may rightly rely, for their effectual suppression, upon the firm Administration of the Law, and the loyalty of the great mass of Her Subjects:To thank Her Majesty for having directed the Estimates for the ensuing year to be laid before us in due course, and for informing us that they will be framed with a view to economy, and to the necessary requirements of the Public Service:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that, as a necessary sequel to the Legislation of the last Session, Bills will be laid before us for amending the Representation of the People in Scotland and Ireland:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that She has reason to believe that the Commissioners appointed to inquire into and report upon the Boundaries of existing Boroughs, as well as of the proposed Divisions of Counties and newly enfranchised Boroughs, have made considerable progress in their inquiries, and that no time will be lost, after the receipt of their Report, in laying before us their recommendations:60Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that a Bill will be presented to us for the more effectual suppression of Bribery and Corruption at Elections, and that the Public Schools Bill, which has been already more than once submitted to Parliament, will again be laid before us.To express our hearty concurrence in the opinion expressed by Her Majesty, that the Education of the people is a question that requires the most serious attention of Parliament, and humbly to assure Her Majesty that She may rely upon our approaching the subject with a full appreciation of its vital importance and acknowledged difficulty:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that measures will be submitted to us, during the present Session, for amending and consolidating various Acts relating to the Mercantile Marine; and to concur with Her Majesty in opinion that the exemption which the Country has now for some time enjoyed from the Cattle Plague affords a favourable opportunity for considering such permanent Enactments as may relieve the Home Trade from vexatious restrictions, and facilitate the introduction, under due regulation, of Foreign Cattle for Home Consumption:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Measures for the amendment of the Law, which have been deferred under the pressure of more urgent business, will be submitted to us; and that other questions, apparently calling for Legislative action, have been referred to Commissioners, whose Reports will be laid before us as soon as they may be received:Humbly to assure Her Majesty, that in common with Her Majesty, we earnestly pray that all our deliberations may be so guided as to conduce to the general contentment and happiness of Her People.
Sir, in rising to second the Address which has been so ably moved by my hon. Friend, I feel painfully conscious of my own inability to undertake the task; but I know full well that I can rely on the indulgence of the House of Commons, which is always granted to young Members on similar occasions. My hon. Friend has so fully and ably gone into the early causes of the Abyssinian war, that it is unnecessary for me to dilate upon it; but there is one thing he said that I think ought to be enforced on the Government and the country, and that is that it was impossible for the Government before the close of the last Session to give an ample or full explanation of heir policy; because in the despatch 61 written by the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office to King Theodore, three months were given him for the release of the captives. Those three months did not expire until the 17th August, and as Parliament was prorogued on the 21st August, it was impossible—no answer having been received—to give further information to the House. A final summons was sent by the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs on the 9th September, demanding the release of the captives, and we may still hope that the Abyssinian expedition may not become an Abyssinian war. The Government have had two courses before them. One was conciliation, the other was force. I think all will allow that conciliation has been stretched to its utmost limits, and that after three long years of conciliation and prolonged negotiation, during which time our captive countrymen have been kept languishing in chains and suffering every indignity at the caprice of a barbarian monarch, Her Majesty's Government were fully justified in sending out an armed force with an imperative demand for the immediate release of the captives. Should the Emperor of Abyssinia be so ill-advised as to brave the power of England, and so render obligatory an appeal to arms, I think no one will say that force has been appealed to before every form of conciliation and persuasion had been exhausted. I believe that no Government ever sent forth an expedition with greater reluctance, or under a greater sense of responsibility. This is not the time to vindicate the policy of Her Majesty's Government; but I believe that none was ever sent forth better provided. I may be permitted to allude to one or two of the objections I have heard urged against this expedition. Expense is the first of these, and to those who made it I will say—Are lives of captive countrymen and women of less value than gold? Can a saving of expense recompense England's honour outraged by the detention in chains of Her Majesty's Consul and an Envoy accredited by Majesty itself? The second objection is that the lives of those we seek to save might be placed in greater peril by the means taken to release them. Be this as it may, the captives can hardly be worse than they are now, dying, as it were, by inches in their chains, and in hourly, in momentary danger of their lives. Their own earnest desire was to hear of some effort being made to force King Theodore 62 to release them. I hold in my hand some extracts from a letter which have been received from Abyssinia, and only that it is not customary to read extracts on an occasion like the present, I could show that the prisoners themselves implore us to send out a force to release them, and that if not speedily sent they fear it will be too late. The letter to which I refer contains also an account of the indignities to which the prisoners have been subjected; it tells how their swords had been taken from them, and how they had been thrown down before the Abyssinian Monarch. I will say no more on the policy of the expedition; but I hope the House will bear with me while I enter a little into military details. No Government can insure success in any expedition, but they can do all in their power to deserve it; and I can confidently state that no expedition ever started to uphold Old England's honour better prepared by a provident and far-seeing Government. The preparations for an army to invade a country so little known as Abyssinia are necessarily of a complicated and an expensive character; but it will be found that while efficiency has been mainly sought as the truest economy, extravagance and waste have been carefully guarded against. I feel sure the House will approve the selection made of Sir Robert Napier as Commander-in-Chief, whose past services eminently qualify him for that important command. I may be allowed to mention some of the services of this distinguished officer, whose deeds add lustre to the soldier's name he bears. Sir Robert Napier began his career in 1845. He was in the Sutlej campaign; he was at Goojerat; he was at both sieges of Lucknow; he has held important posts in various expeditions; and was second in command in the expedition to China. Her Majesty's Government having found a good soldier qualified to command, appointed him; and then they did the next best thing—they trusted him—and accordingly they had invested him with full power, political as well as military—thus avoiding delays incident to a division of authority and responsibility. The force under Sir Robert's command consists of 12,000 fighting men, efficiently armed, and fully equipped for any duty they may be called upon to undertake. The Papers laid before the House will show how carefully and anxiously Government has made provision for all possible contingencies, by providing an 63 efficient transport and an ample commissariat, combined with arrangements for the health of the troops. To carry out this latter object, three steamers have been despatched as hospital ships, with full medical attendance and every necessary appliance for the sick. It may possibly be urged by some that the expedition is on an unnecessary large scale; to this I reply that these ample preparations afford the best hope of bringing King Theodore to reason without an actual collision, and if hostilities should unfortunately be necessary, they will tend to shorten their duration. A smaller and less perfectly equipped force might be detained in Abyssinia waiting for reinforcements, and its protracted detention would tend to give rise to complications which it would be most desirable to avoid. I have not adverted to India as the basis of operations, believing it will be admitted the Government have acted wisely in selecting it as the one best adapted for the purpose. As to the Indian army being employed by the Government, these troops have well upheld the honour of our flag in Persia and in China and Japan, as well as in many well-fought fields in Hindostan, and I have no doubt will do as well in Abyssinia; and the selection of soldiers whose habits and whose constitutions were best adapted for service in Africa will meet the approval of the House and country.
The question of our foreign relations is one of the most paramount importance at the present time, and, after the many menacing clouds which have recently hung over the political horizon, and the wars and rumours of wars which have reached our ears, and the various alarms which have for some months pervaded the public mind, the assurance contained in Her Majesty's Speech, that our relations with all foreign Powers are of the most friendly description, and that She sees no reason to apprehend any disturbance of the public peace, will be received not only by the House, but by the country, with feelings of the liveliest satisfaction. If even the rumour of a misunderstanding between European Monarchs, flashed through the telegraph, made the pulse of credit and of commerce vibrate to its centre, how much greater would have been the disturbance of England's commercial interests had war really broken out in Europe. We must all deplore, with Her Majesty, that the peace of Italy has been disturbed; and now we must hope that the bands of volunteers 64 having returned to their homes and peaceful avocations, the Emperor Napoleon will be able to remove his troops not only from Rome but from Italy, and that all cause of discord being thus removed, peace may be restored to Italy.
The House might well deplore with Her Majesty that the treasonable conspiracy called Fenianism, baffled in Ireland by the vigour of the Executive, the good sense of the mass of the people, and the fair administration of justice by Irish juries, should have assumed the form in England of assassination and organized violence. All classes of Her Majesty's subjects will loyally rally round the Throne and the institutions of their country, and, while reprobating those wicked attempts to disturb the public peace, will uphold those whose sad duty it may be to vindicate public justice.
In the last Session important changes in the representation of England were introduced by Government, and after careful consideration by Parliament became the law of the land. Whatever differences of opinion there may have been on this long-vexed question, all are agreed that the measure passed was beneficial, and that these changes have removed considerable discontent from some classes of the people. The country has on many occasions expressed their approval of last Session's work, and this approval will encourage Parliament to approach the question of the Irish and Scotch Reform Bills with the same forbearing spirit and the same candid temper as characterized the proceedings of last Session. I am sure that the judicious concessions granted to our working classes in England will be freely extended to those in Scotland and in Ireland, and when our task shall have been concluded we shall look back with pride and heartfelt satisfaction at having passed measures which I hope will conduce to the public good by uniting all classes of our fellow-subjects in the government of the country. It appears from the Speech that our attention will be called to Bills for the prevention of bribery and corruption. I trust that whatever measure may be passed will tend to remove the plague spot of corruption which is a serious blot on our electoral system, as well as on the character of the House of Commons. The consolidation and revision of the various Acts connected with our Mercantile Marine will be a great boon to our shipowners, masters, and seamen. At present great 65 confusion exists, owing to the fact that there are seven or eight Acts upon the subject, containing some 700 sections, which have to be consulted, and it is difficult for those not learned in the law to find what is applicable to any particular question. I hope the promised reform will make these Acts more intelligible. It is gratifying to learn that the railways, which in the height of panic last year were all eagerly demanding the aid of Government legislation, are now doing the work of reform themselves; and there is good reason to hope that, with greater economy, a better system of accounts, and a determination among all classes of shareholders to forego present dividends unless fairly earned, our great railway system may before long regain in the public estimation that high state of credit from which it ought never, with average good management, to have fallen. Now that the fearful and mysterious disease, the cattle plague, has left this land, we may be enabled to legislate on the subject in a manner which will remove restrictions on home trade; and, while relieving our farmers from all just apprehension as to a fresh importation from abroad of this dread disease, may at the same time encourage that trade which is the only means of insuring a cheap supply of meat for the public. I fear I have too long trespassed on the time of the House, to whom my best thanks are due for the kind attention they have been pleased to grant me, and I have only to express my hope that the Address I have the honour of seconding may meet with unanimous approval.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That," &c.—[See Page 58.]
There is nothing, Mr. Speaker, in either of the addresses which have been delivered by the Mover and Seconder of the Address which would at all tempt me to depart, or excuse me in departing, from the general and prudent rule that excludes controverted matters, as far as possible, from the annual debate on the Address. I have every disposition to conform to that rule, and I am bound to say that I think there are special reasons for adhering to it strictly on the present occasion in domestic circumstances, to which I need not more pointedly refer, immediately affecting the Leader of this House, and with respect to which I will merely take the opportunity of assuring him that he carries with him universal 66 sympathy. I admit that it had been my intention—and I only mention it because I think this was the proper occasion for such a proceeding—to ask of the right hon. Gentleman, and of his Colleagues, some explanation with regard to a declaration which was made during the Recess; but, under the circumstances to which I have adverted, I cannot think of introducing at this moment any topic of the kind. Sir, the Speech of Her Majesty contains little, if anything, of which we have reason to complain. As to the great subject—that of the expedition to Abyssinia—I cordially join with the hon. Gentleman who said that we may still cling to the hope that the Abyssinian expedition may not prove to be the Abyssinian war. It is a natural thing with regard to any war, still more with regard to a war so peculiar in its character, and one as to which it is so difficult to see any definite issue, to cherish as long as we can the faintest hope. I think it is quite evident that we could not make progress to-night, and we should probably only prejudice the future discussion of the question, were the Government to endeavour to obtain at this moment the sanction of the House, direct or indirect, for any proceedings connected with the Abyssinian expedition. Our business to-night is to acknowledge in the most respectful manner the receipt, as it were, of Her Majesty's gracious communication touching the Abyssinian war, and then to await an occasion—no doubt an early one—on which some responsible Minister of the Crown will detail to us what the proceedings of the Government have been, and by what considerations they have been guided. Up to the present time, I apprehend, all action in regard to this question has been the action of the Executive. For the House, it is a res integra. In speaking of the Executive, I do not speak exclusively of those who now possess power, nor of the shares in which the responsibility may be divided between the present and the past Government; I merely mean that the House is not committed by anything to anything. It will be its duty, therefore, to exercise a free judgment upon all that has been done. No doubt that free judgment ought to be a considerate judgment; for I fully admit that a more difficult question has rarely been submitted to a Government than the course which was incumbent upon them to take with respect to this matter. We shall expect of them, however, a full and 67 frank explanation, and not an explanation merely of the merits of the case as between themselves and the Emperor of Abyssinia. That I take to be the simplest part of the question; for, as has been well said by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Address, and whom, on this his first occasion of addressing us, I sincerely congratulate upon his most intelligent and judicious speech, no doubt can be raised to the existence in the amplest form of what is called a casus belli between us and the Sovereign of Abyssinia. The questions upon which it will be interesting to us to be informed, and upon which the House will have to pass its judgment, are of an order quite distinct from that primary consideration. The great difficulty in the case is to show that the object which we seek is an attainable object—to show that it is practicable to carry on a war with, an enemy of whom we may be tempted to entertain the apprehension that he will not fight, but run—and to show by any reasonable calculation how such a war is to be brought to an issue. Upon these questions Her Majesty's Government have means of judging which we have not. I by no means wish at this moment to express any want of confidence in the prudence or fairness or pacific character of their intentions; but I think it right to point to these matters as subjects upon which the country will fairly expect to receive full information. I hope also—it is a point which I have no doubt will not have escaped the attention of Her Majesty's Government—they will be able to show in what relation their proceedings stand to an enactment which passed through the Legislature in the year 1858, in the shape of a clause in the East India Government Act. According to that clause—I do not profess at this moment to quote the exact words—but according to that clause it was made incumbent upon the Executive to seek beforehand the consent of Parliament for military operations conducted by the Indian force beyond the Indian frontier, except they grew out of an invasion of the country, or out of sudden and unforeseen exigencies. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE intimated dissent.] I judge from the gesture of the Secretary of State for India that he questions the correctness of my reference to the clause; I would say, therefore, the approval of Parliament, not for the military operations—which is, of course, not possible—but for the purpose for which the operations are carried on. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE 68 again intimated dissent.] If I am wrong I can be easily corrected.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon for interrupting him; but as the point is one of importance, and as some misapprehension prevails respecting it, I had better correct him at once. The clause as originally introduced—and it was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman himself—was to the effect which he has stated, that it should not be lawful to use the Indian forces for such purposes without the previous consent of Parliament; but in going through the House it was altered, and as it now stands it provides that it shall not be lawful to apply the revenues of India to the carrying on any military operations beyond the frontier without the previous consent of Parliament.
My impression of the clause was different; but the right hon. Gentleman's explanation will make it the more easy to show—which the Government are no doubt ready to do—the conformity of their proceedings with the exact provisions of that Act of Parliament. There are two points on which I confess I entertained very great anxiety. One of them was as to the view of the Government with regard to the limit to be placed upon the purposes of this expedition. We are now going into Abyssinia, and the question which the country, I think, will regard with, perhaps, the greatest interest of all is the question, When shall we come out of Abyssinia? Now, as to that question, I am bound to say that nothing can be more intelligible and nothing more satisfactory than the declaration contained in Her Majesty's gracious Speech, that the expedition She has directed to be sent to that country is to be sent for one purpose alone. I do not in the slightest degree understand those words as precluding Her Majesty's Government, in the exercise of their discretion, from availing themselves of the temporary opening which these unhappy circumstances may afford for purposes useful to science, to peace, and to civilization; but I do understand these words as carrying a complete disavowal on their part of all intention and of all desire to make this expedition subservient or instrumental in any degree either to purposes of territorial aggrandizement—which they would hardly dream of—or to the contraction, in whatever form, of new political responsibilities. I think that, difficult, doubtful, and dark, as necessarily 69 are many of the circumstances of politics, one thing there is beyond all doubt and question, and it is that the people of this country are at this moment fully charged, and, perhaps, overcharged, with responsibilities of Empire from which they cannot in honour escape, but to which it would be folly and guilt gratuitously to add. I hope also that another important subject, strictly germane to this Abyssinian question, and an essential part of it, will be dealt with in a manner creditable to the House. The rumour is that a large sum will be asked for; there is also a rumour that a limited portion of that sum may be charged on the revenues of India. The matter is one upon which it is quite unnecessary for me to give an opinion this evening; but I cannot help expressing my hone that if we are to be asked—as we must be asked—to incur a heavy expenditure, the Government in their plans and provisions for meeting this expenditure will confide in the courage and prudence of Parliament and the country, and will not propose to make that charge an addition to the debt of the country by saddling it upon future years. I do not ask them for any declaration whatever; but I wish to assure them, on my part, that in case they act upon the principle, the wisdom of which I think has been acknowledged of late years, that we should endeavour as far as possible to meet the whole wants and expenditure of the day out of the means and resources that the day provides, these proposals will receive from us, I think, a fair consideration in no hostile spirit. Of course, I cannot compromise freedom of judgment on my own part or on the part of others as to the particular means of carrying out the object; but with regard to the principle, I have thought it right to say thus much. I pass over the general expression in Her Majesty's Speech with regard to our relations with foreign Powers, and I come to a matter of concern to England. Considering the immense importance of the Italian question to European civilization as a whole, and considering that the Italian Kingdom has now become an essential part of our present European civilization, I think Her Majesty's Government could not avoid advising Her Majesty to take some notice of recent painful circumstances—painful circumstances I cannot but call them. I confess that with the defective and partial information that I possess, which I hope may be enlarged by 70 future disclosures, I am not able to regard with entire satisfaction any portion of what has taken place; but I do not think there is any just cause to complain of the manner in which Her Majesty has been advised to refer to this subject, nor do I think that the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) or the Government could have acted more prudently than in recommending the Crown to intimate in the friendly manner in which it has been couched the desire which Her Majesty has uttered. I make, therefore, no complaint whatever of the reference in the Speech or the Address to the Italian question. With respect to "the treasonable conspiracy commonly known as Fenianism," at a moment like the present, when the Executive Government has to discharge, on its own responsibility, an important function, I think I shall best perform my duty by refraining from any general expression of opinion as to the precise character of that deplorable movement and the way in which it ought to be met. I observe we are told that that conspiracy "has assumed in England the form of organized violence and assassination," and I cannot doubt that in advising the Crown to use those terms Her Majesty's Government are in possession of knowledge by which they think them to be strictly and absolutely justified. But as respects the more general purpose of the sentence, I am sure the Queen is well sustained in the expectation She entertains that in the firm and discreet administration of the law She will at all times be supported by the great mass of her subjects, and especially by her subjects as they are represented in this House. I am glad, Sir, to perceive that Bills are to be laid before us for amending the representation of the people in Scotland and in Ireland; and I cordially join in the expressions of the Mover and the Seconder, that we should address ourselves to the consideration of these Bills with a feeling of the public duty incumbent upon us, and likewise with a conviction that our own honour and credit are in a peculiar manner involved in bringing to a shape of completeness and to an issue satisfactory all those portions of the question of Parliamentary Reform which still remain undisposed of. But as the name of Ireland occurs in connection with this subject of Parliamentary Reform, I shall venture upon two remarks. I do not presume to impute blame to the Government for refraining from submitting to Parliament—especially at the particular 71 moment when Parliament this year is called together—a declaration of its intentions upon a question so beset with difficulties as the question of land tenure in Ireland; but, considering the magnitude of the Irish question at all times, and its immense and growing magnitude at this time, and how largely this question is affected by matters relating to the tenure of land in Ireland, I am very sorry that Her Majesty's Government have not felt themselves able to assure us that they mean to renew their efforts for the Parliamentary settlement of this long-vexed question. I believe that a Parliamentary settlement of this question is required; and although there were provisions in the Bill of last Session to which it was impossible, I think, for this House to assent, yet, on the other hand, it involved some principles of great value to which I trust Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to adhere. The other word I have to say refers to a matter upon which I am rather desirous of obtaining some information—namely, the Established Church of Ireland. I find that the Commission of Inquiry which has been issued by Her Majesty has not yet been laid upon the table of this House. If it had been, I should have taken pains to acquaint myself with its terms, so as, if possible, to avoid any necessity for a Motion upon the subject. But I have heard it reported that the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the Established Church are not to be Commissioners for the simple collection and presentation of facts—a work doubtless of great utility—but that their instructions will give them authority to propose plans for dealing with the Established Church of Ireland. I mention that rumour in the hope that it is an untrue rumour. I own it appears to me that it would be an error to refer to a Commission the preparation of plans for dealing with a national question of that order; and in the circumstances with which that question is surrounded, I do not think this House could consent to consider as exempted from its own jurisdiction the question of the Church in Ireland during the period that such a Commission might very fairly claim to spend in the deep deliberations that preparation of these plans would involve. A Commission for the examination and collection of facts, I have no doubt, will be useful; but, if their instructions go beyond the examination and collection of facts, I wish 72 to state respectfully for my own part that I do think this House, if it should see fit to take measures with respect to the Established Church in Ireland, would be bound to refrain from doing so, because the very unusual course has been taken of referring to a Commission a question of such vast national and political importance. I therefore trust that the rumour I have heard is untrue, and that the Commission is one appointed only for the purpose of bringing into public view the facts of the case in a clearer light than we see them now, and that the mode of dealing with the Established Church will be reserved entirely for the discretion of Parliament. Sir, the other portions of the Speech are necessarily somewhat vague. I do not think there is any reason why we should find fault with them upon that ground. It is never wise in the Queen's Speech to be too definite and detailed in the character of the pledges given, because impediments to legislation may arise from the most legitimate causes, and yet much disappointment may be caused by the failure of promises too freely made. Naturally, a Parliament that meets in November cannot expect the same amount of light as to the intentions of the Government as a Parliament that meets in February. I have therefore only to say that, assuming, as I do assume, the Address to be framed in such a manner as to leave entirely uncommitted the judgment of the House on the important question which is the immediate cause of our being summoned here, I am glad that I can concur in the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite for a loyal Address in accordance with the Speech from the Throne.
THE CHANCELIOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I beg to thank the House for the sympathy it has shown me. I am much touched by the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) has alluded to my domestic affliction, and by the way in which the House has received his allusion to that subject. The right hon. Gentleman has made a speech, of which I think every one must recognise the fairness and wisdom. I agree with him in thinking that the Address was moved by my hon. Friend (Mr. Hart Dyke) in a manner which engaged the attention and interest of the House, and certainly it was seconded by my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Hogg) in a speech which every one will acknowledge to be one of ability. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly correct 73 in his assumption that on the part of the Government we do not for a moment suppose that the House will be at all pledged by agreeing to this Motion to our Abyssinian policy. The House will consider the whole subject when it is brought before them—as it will be brought before them in a legitimate manner in a very short time—as if the matter were then introduced to their notice for the first time. It will not for a moment be understood by the Government that, because there may have been in this and the other House of Parliament one or two discussions on Abyssinian affairs, or because hon. Gentlemen may have expressed opinions on the subject, the House is thereby at all pledged or precluded from deciding on the question after full and free discussion. The Government will at the proper time be prepared to vindicate their policy and the course which they recommend Parliament to adopt. Indeed, it is most expedient in a question of this kind—especially where we have to deal with a remote country, and where our calculations must be based on circumstances involving great difficulty of detail—it is most expedient that no decision should be come to by Parliament until there has been such a discussion. We are quite prepared for it; and we have every confidence that in all we have done we shall obtain the concurrence of this House. The right hon. Gentleman has treated the matter so fairly in his observations this evening, that I think we may assume that we shall go into it without treating it as at all a party question. With regard to the other recommendation which the right hon. Gentleman has made as to the manner in which we should carry on the war, if war should be inevitable, I hardly think it would be convenient to enter into that question now. The time is near when it will be my duty, or that of some other Minister, to place the whole matter before the House; and, considering that some of the papers relating to Abyssinia have only been laid on the table this evening, I think it would be premature to enter on a discussion of it now. I assume that Gentlemen on both sides will be anxious to make themselves masters of the information placed before them, and placed before them with probably as little reserve as has ever been used in respect of any public documents, previous to entering on a discussion of the Abyssinian question. Sir, I will not touch on other questions connected with foreign 74 affairs to which the right hon. Gentleman has alluded. It must be satisfactory to the House to hear from the Throne the assurance that friendly relations exist between Her Majesty and the other Powers to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. We all must deplore what has occurred in Italy; but I think this is not a convenient occasion to enter—if, indeed, it should be necessary to do so—on the cause of that unhappy disturbance. I believe that the spirit in which Her Majesty has addressed us on that subject will be approved and re-echoed by the House. I hope the House will, in their Answer to Her Majesty's gracious Speech, concur in the wish that within a short time the presence of foreign troops in Italy will cease. With respect to the very important questions connected with Ireland to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, it must not be assumed that when the House meets in February it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to deal with many subjects not particularly referred to in the Speech from the Throne. With regard to the Irish land question, I do not think that any of the Governments with which I have been connected can be accused of having passed it over. Although our efforts to bring that question to a solution may not have been fortunate, I think no one will deny that great pains have been taken by us to effect that object, and the right hon. Gentleman has been just in remembering that last year, though the time of the Government and the House was greatly occupied with other weighty matters, no contemptible effort was made on our part to deal with the Irish land difficulty. The House, therefore, must not infer that, because the subject is not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, Her Majesty's Government have given up the solution of the question in despair. On the contrary, if they have an opportunity, I think I may say a Bill on the subject will be brought in during the present Parliament. With respect to the question of the Irish Church, I think that in his allusions to the Commission the right hon. Gentleman gave too wide an interpretation to some of the expressions in the document appointing the Commission. However, as I believe a copy of that document will be placed on the table tomorrow, it is unnecessary to say more on the point at present. The right hon. Gentleman has given prudent counsel to Ministers and to the House as to the vague 75 terms on which, on the whole, it is necessary to frame a Speech from the Throne; and therefore I will not defend a paragraph which has not been attacked. I may however, say thus much—that the passage referring to Education is not a rhetorical flourish. Her Majesty's Government have given their most earnest attention to the subject; but at the time when Parliament has now been called together, we should not feel justified in referring more specifically to our efforts and intentions in that direction. I again beg to thank the House for their great kindness.
§ MR. HORSMAN
I rise to ask an explanation of the Government respecting a rather important matter which was lightly touched upon by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire, but upon which I look to the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to give us fuller information. The paragraph of the Royal Speech referring to Italy is the longest one in it; but, at the same time, it conveys the least amount of information. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire has assisted in the composition of so many Queen's Speeches, that he shows great indulgence for vagueness in the present one; but this paragraph is so constructed that it tells us nothing that we did not know before. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the events in Italy are of a very painful character, and I hope the House is not prepared to deal out one measure of justice to those who raised the insurrection and another to those who put it down. I must say that I cannot approve the conduct of either party in this affair. I regret the movement of Garibaldi; but I protest, also, against the movement made on the part of France. When we are told that the action taken by France has secured the Papal territory against foreign aggression, I must say that I think the most objectionable, unjustifiable, and injurious invasion of the Papal territory is that which has been made by France. The Speech from the Throne seems to treat the Italian question as if it were exclusively a question between France and Italy, and one to be viewed solely in reference to the Convention between those two Powers. If that were so, we should express surprise that the subject was introduced in the Royal Speech at all, because it would be one in which England had no interest. But we have received to-day the report of another Royal Speech delivered to another Legisla- 76 tive Assembly yesterday, and in it we find a larger and more statesmanlike view of this matter. The Emperor of the French tells his Chambers—The relations of Italy to the Holy See interest the whole of Europe, and we have proposed to the Powers to settle these relations at a Conference, and thus to prevent new complications.Now, to that statement I wish to draw the attention of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley). England is among the Powers which have been invited to this Conference. May I expect the noble Lord to give us some information as to the character of the invitation, and as to the character of the answer to it? I rejoice to hear that the Emperor has invited England and the other Powers to go into this Conference. I rejoice at it for two reasons—first, I rejoice at it because it shows that the Emperor is not satisfied with the present position of things in Italy, and therefore desires a change; secondly, I rejoice at it because I am satisfied from its terms the Emperor wishes that change to be in the direction of completing the union of Italy. If those be his views in proposing a Conference, there ought to be no difficulty as to what answer England should return to the invitation. It is not necessary that the noble Lord should, in the first instance, give an answer either in the negative or the affirmative; nor is it necessary, as some imagine, that a basis of negotiation should be agreed upon beforehand; but I think it is the duty of an English Minister to take care that the Conference is not a mere idle ceremony, and that in his answer he should communicate to the Emperor of the French that as the representative of England it will be his business to draw the attention of the Powers to three important points, and to ask for a decision respecting them. These points are—first, as to the nationality of Italy; secondly, as to its liability to French intervention; and thirdly, as to the manner in which the revolutionary spirit is fomented by the recent proceedings in Italy. It is impossible for any one who looks at the state of Italy not to see that its unsettled condition is a standing menace to the peace of Europe. Indeed, it is not a month since every Bourse in Europe was agitated by the belief that we were on the very verge of a religious war—Italy and Prussia on the one side allied on behalf of nationalities, against France united with Spain and Austria upholding the principles of the Holy Alliance. We have escaped that war 77 —no one knows how narrowly or for how short a time—but it is evident that the danger may recur at any moment, and it is not for the interests of England nor of Europe that such a state of unsettlement shall continue. Look at the state of things in Italy. There are two Sovereigns, the Pope and the King of Italy, regarding each other with intense hostility, and each in an aggressive attitude. The Pope will not recognise the King of Italy, he ignores his acts and fulminates periodical censures against his Government, and so far as the Pope's efforts can bring about that result, the King of Italy sits on an uneasy throne, with subjects of doubtful allegiance. On the other hand, the King of Italy abjures the temporal Power of the Pope. He insists, in the name of Italy, that a dependent Power is no Power; that a protected Power is not a Power; and that a Power which has no national recognition and no willing obedience, and which commits its safety and dignity to the keeping of foreign mercenaries is not a Power, but a fiction and an intrusion, against which he will wage ceaseless war till the unity and independence of Italy are crowned by the possession of Rome. In saying this, I express no opinion as to the rival claims of the contending Powers; I am only describing the situation. If it were merely an Italian question the Italians would settle it for themselves easily enough; but the Catholic Powers have regarded it as a religious question, and France, as one of them, has charged herself with the protection of the Pope. For fifteen years the French Emperor kept an army at Rome; but he found it a thankless office, odious, discrediting, embarrassing, expensive, and at last unsafe. He accordingly withdrew under cover of the September Convention; but that Convention, as we all see now, was, from the first, a worthless instrument, an unjust compact forced by the stronger Power on the weaker; it was soon perceived that it could not stand. Events have been too strong for it. The Garibaldian invasion brought the French Army a second time to Rome; but the defeat and dispersion of the Garibaldian Volunteers, alluded to in the Speech from the Throne, instead of leaving the Emperor of the French master of the situation, has made him more its slave than ever. For he is in this false position—bound by the Convention and by his obligations to the Catholic Powers to protect the Pope, but was bound by his antecedents, his sym- 78 pathies, and his interests to maintain friendship with Italy. But the two things are incompatible. He cannot protect the Pope without humiliating Italy; he cannot assist Italy without sacrificing the Pope. In France his position is equally embarrassing. In France, too, there are two powerful parties—the clerical party and the popular party—and both of them look up to the Emperor as their head. The Church party hail him as the eldest son of the Church; the popular party hail him as the eldest son of the Revolution. He is dependent upon both, and dare not offend either; so that he becomes entangled in a middle course of temporizing expedients. Then the position of the King of Italy is still more painful. He cannot control the wishes of his people, and it would be madness to brave the armies of France. He also has to make a choice—either to dare all and be honoured as the King of Italy, or to surrender all and be denounced as the vassal of France. He made his choice, and the result has been far more damaging to the Emperor of the French than to him. The victory of Magenta has added no laurels to the army of France; but the popular party in France is much offended—and bitter exasperation is felt in Italy—and these feelings are fraught with public danger. The Italian Monarchy is discredited and weakened, and to the same extent the republican element is strengthened in Italy; and we have signs that there are inflammable materials in France in dangerous propinquity to the revolutionary spirit in Italy. The cry of the French ouvriers, unheard for many years, has lately been ominously revived with intervention. "Down with intervention," "Long life to Garibaldi,"—that cry conveys a warning which no French ruler can dare to disregard. And it warns Europe also that there is a smouldering volcano in Italy which no one deserving of the name of statesman can fail to perceive, and which perceived, it would be folly and criminality to disregard. Under these circumstances, the Emperor of the French invites England and the other Powers to a Conference for the settlement of the Roman difficulty; but a common opinion in England is that we ought at once to answer by a point-blank refusal. But I have asked why, and have been told that it is solely the Emperor's business—that he has got himself into the difficulty, and that he must get out of it as he can. I 79 deny, however, that it is exclusively the Emperor's difficulty—I maintain that it is a European difficulty, and one which every European Power has an interest in solving. If the noble Lord has not yet decided upon the answer which he will give to that invitation, and if it be still under the consideration of the Government, it appears to me that whatever disinclination may be shown by other Powers, he might at least, as a preliminary to the Conference, propound certain questions and give a practical and determinate character to its deliberations. Such questions, for instance, as these:—Is the nationality of Italy a religious or a secular question? Ought the sovereignty of the Pope to be a spiritual or a temporal sovereignty? Shall the head of the Catholic Church enthroned at the Vatican be under the protection of a foreign or a national army? In fact, it could all be summed up in a single question—As all the smaller States in Italy have been allowed to free themselves from the trammels of the Treaty of Vienna and unite themselves under one Italian Kingdom, ought the smallest and most anomalous of all those sovereignties to be made the only exception, and the population of the Roman States coerced into allegiance by foreign arms? If the noble Lord propounds these questions for the Conference, which, as far as we are informed, is still beating about for a basis, he will, by eliciting answers to them, have performed a great service and made a great advance towards the solution of the difficulty. He would, at least, compel both Ministers and Kings to speak out and declare which of them are ready to face and terminate this difficulty by coming to a negotiation on a sincere and solid basis. I feel that it is for England and for the noble Lord not only a responsibility and a duty, but also a great opportunity—for whatever disinclination we may have to interfere in European complications, still with regard to any question where the principles of liberty and peace can be combined, it is for an English Minister to place himself, if necessary, in the van, and to shrink from no responsibility in the discharge of a great duty. This is not a question of sentiment or religion, or territorial aggrandizement or extension. It is a question of high international policy and should be determined solely by those principles of public law and public morality which are the foundation of the rights not less of nations than of individuals, and on 80 which depend at this moment, in my opinion, the well-being of Italy, the safety of France, and the peace and tranquillity of Europe.
I do not think this will be a convenient opportunity to enter into a speculative discussion as to the possible settlement which may be arrived at of the Roman question, or to criticize the course pursued by Governments other than our own. But I am quite ready to do that which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) has asked me to do—that is, to state briefly, and I hope explicitly, what is the attitude assumed by Her Majesty's Government in regard to the recent occupation of Rome by a French army, and the still more recent proposal of a Conference to settle the Roman question. As to the first point, my answer will be very simple. The occupation of Rome was not a matter on which we were called by any treaty or engagement, officially or formally, to express an opinion. On that account, and because under the circumstances of the case I felt, that however one might regret the step, intervention would probably be ineffectual. Her Majesty's Government have not attempted any formal intervention; but it became my duty, on the part of the Government, to point out to the French Government that, whatever might be the difficulties with which they were pressed, whatever necessity they might conceive themselves to be under to take this step, I could not but fear that the effect on public opinion in this country of the re-occupation of Rome would be very unfavourable. In some matters of difference which have arisen between Italy and France in the course of these transactions, the good offices of Her Majesty's Government have been solicited on behalf of the Italian Government. That assistance was frankly asked, it was cheerfully given, and it has been gratefully accepted. With regard to the proposed Conference, the House is aware that invitations to attend it have been sent to, I believe, almost all the Powers of Europe by the French Government. The reply of Her Majesty's Government was sent a day or two ago, and therefore any argument delivered now, however able it may be, comes too late to modify that reply. It would not be convenient or in accordance with custom to lay upon the table of the House any papers so long as the negotiations continue; but I have no objection to state— 81 and I think it only right I should state—what is the general substance and purport of the reply which has been given. It is, in effect, this—that we do not believe any advantage will arise or any practical result follow from the Conference; unless, in the first place, there is some definite plan proposed for consideration and discussion in the Conference; and unless, in the next place, there appears from preliminary negotiations to be no reasonable doubt that that plan will meet with the assent of the parties most interested. I own, looking at the actual state of the case—looking at the wide divergencies of opinion which prevail between Protestant and Catholic Powers upon this question—I am not very sanguine as to these conditions being realized; and I am quite satisfied of this—that to go into a Conference without some previous understanding of that kind would be merely a waste of time. A Conference is an excellent machinery for giving a formal and solemn ratification for, as it were, taking note of a decision which has been already come to; but where there is a wide and fundamental divergence, not upon questions of detail, but upon questions of principle, I own I am not sanguine enough to hope that the mere fact of bringing a certain number of Ambassadors and Ministers to meet in the same room and discuss a question will be sufficient to put an end to these divergencies. If a Conference offered a chance of agreement, I for one should greatly regret to lose it. I believe every one would be glad to remove a cause of quarrel which may at some future time lead to Continental war. At the same time, I am bound to say it is not a matter in which, as it seems to me, the British Government is primarily and directly concerned, except so far as we all feel a sympathy with the people and the kingdom of Italy, and except so far as every question interests us which concerns European civilization. We are bound to do what may be fairly expected from neighbours and friends; but I do not think that in a question of this kind, not directly touching any English interest, we ought to expose ourselves to the risk of getting involved in future complications, and thereby of increasing the number of the responsibilities which we have already undertaken.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he would not have trespassed on the House but for the Speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), 82 who would deprive the Holy See of its temporal power because the Emperor of the French was in a difficulty. He thought the right hon. Gentleman might relieve himself of all anxiety on that point, because the French Emperor was quite capable of dealing with the question in a manner satisfactory to himself and the great nation over which he rules. Victor Emmanuel, no doubt, was in an embarrassing position; but who was to blame? If he had carried out the September Convention, to which he put his hand, this complication would not have taken place. He had an army of 50,000 concentrated round the dominions of the Holy Father, and he could easily have stopped the invasion of them by those who were called "volunteers" in the Queen's Speech, but who deserved no other name than that of filibusters or marauders. Instead of doing so, he allowed offices to be open for recruiting the invading force, permitted subscriptions to be received for them, and allowed Italian soldiers to desert his army and join Garibaldi in an attack made in violation of all the laws of nations, and which in reality amounted to piracy. Victor Emmanuel had acted in utter bad faith on the whole matter. He thought that when the filibusters got within a certain distance of Rome, the people of the Roman States and of the city of Rome would declare themselves for the Government of Florence, and then that his troops would have had a pretence for marching in to preserve the peace, but really to take possession of the dominion of a Sovereign against whom he had no casus belli. But it was a fact that the filibusters met with no sympathy in the Roman States. There was not the slightest revolutionary movement in support of the Garibaldian attack, although the effect of it was to remove the greater part of the troops of the Holy Father from the city of Rome and to compel them to go to the frontier in order to resist the invader. It would be strange, indeed, if the subjects of the Pope manifested any sympathy with the Garibaldian movement, for they had no desire to expose themselves to conscription, heavy taxation, and the consequences of national insolvency. They preferred to remain under the mild and beneficent rule of the Holy Father. These, he maintained, were facts which could not be refuted. To argue that the Holy See was to be deprived of its temporal dominion because it had been the cause of the disturbances of Italy, 83 was very much like contending that a man ought to part with property because it was a temptation to thieves and burglars; and if the reasoning were to be acted upon, there was an end of International Law and public morality. It ought to be the business of the Conference to devise measures to prevent such violations of International Law. The right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) had quoted the assertion that the temporal power of the Holy See was supported by "foreign mercenaries." [Mr. HORSMAN dissented.] He was glad to see the right hon. Gentleman did not go so far. What was a mercenary? A mercenary was a man who let out his sword to hire for money, and who was hired to fight by any one who would pay him. But the Pope's soldiers were not mercenaries; they did not fight for the Holy Father for money—they fought for him on a religious principle, and also on the political principle that an established and ancient Government ought not to be disturbed and overturned by filibustering invaders who had no casus belli against it. The troops of the Pope were not "foreigners," because no Roman Catholic could be considered a foreigner in Rome, which was the capital of the Catholic world. They went there, not to support a foreign Sovereign, but to uphold a cause in which they as Roman Catholics were most deeply interested. His own opinion was that the Conference would come to nothing. The fact was that it had nothing to settle. The filibusters had been routed by the troops of the Holy See, assisted on one occasion by those of France. The perfidious conduct of the Government of Victor Emmanuel in helping the filibusters had been exposed to the contempt of Europe, and it was doubtful whether for some time to come such an attempt could be renewed. The Holy Father was now in full and peaceful possession of his dominions, with the full assent of his people. It was true that his troops were not wholly his own subjects, because his territory was too small to furnish a sufficient force; but it was now clear that these troops were not required to defend the Pope from his own subjects. No troops whatever were necessary for that. So far as his own subjects were concerned, the Pope might remain in safety in Rome with a single soldier. But troops were necessary to prevent the incursions of lawless marauders, encouraged by Victor Emmanuel. If the Congress impressed 84 strongly on the mind of Victor Emmanuel the necessity, for his own sake, and for the peace of Europe, of refraining from any such attempts in future, and of consolidating his own dominions, they might do a great deal of good. He believed that the people of those Italian States the Sovereigns of which had been dethroned now deeply regretted what had been done. Naples and Sicily were especially in a deplorable condition, oppressed by taxation, by unjust laws, and by the conscription; and the inhabitants saw their country, once rich and prosperous, now reduced to a miserable state of poverty and degradation. From the information he had received, he believed that the people of those States would be glad to throw off the yoke and recall their old Sovereign.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) had put a very opportune question, because he (Mr. Newdegate) shared with a very large body of his countrymen the strong feeling, that England had better have nothing to do with negotiations for the establishment of the temporal power of the Pope in the States around Rome. It was impossible to forget that in 1814 England intervened to re-establish the Papacy in possession of the Pontifical States. And what was the result? The ink was scarcely dry upon the documents effecting this purpose when the Pope re-organized an order, the primary function of which is to make war upon every Protestant State. That was the gratitude with which our intervention was received. He hoped that England would never again interfere in the establishment of a Power which, although territorially insignificant, was of vast European importance; because although the Pontifical States were narrow in their sphere, they served as a basis of operations for an agency that had disturbed, and would again disturb, the existing Governments in Europe which were not under the immediate influence of the Pope. What had occurred since 1814? If they look back to the despatches of Lord Clarendon and the declarations of Lord Palmerston in that House, they would find that the Jesuits, supported by Rome, had fomented, in 1847, the outbreak which took place in Switzerland; and in more recent times Russia had been obliged to break off her relations with the Holy See, because the Holy See had promoted the insurrection 85 in Poland. The Brief just issued was full of menaces against Russia. In the Encyclical, issued two years ago, when the temporal power of the Pope was spoken of, it did not mean the possession of those narrow States, which recent events had left him, but a power of interfering, under the pretext of religion, in the temporal affairs of every State in Europe. He agreed with the right hon. Member for Stroud, that the Emperor of the French had undertaken a grave responsibility in his recent intervention. And why? He protected a Power the mission of which was politically to disturb all the other Powers of Europe; he had intervened to maintain a State, which serves as a centre and a refuge for a political propagandism, which had proved itself adverse to the maintenance of peace and order in every State that does not acknowledge the supremacy claimed by the Papacy. The Emperor might have undertaken the task from will or from necessity; but it was a fact that the political agency to which he had referred, the active agency of the Papacy throughout Europe, was particularly strong in France. The Reports of M. Dupin and M. Persigni, which had been published some years ago, showed that the regular religious Orders were obtaining, through affiliated lay associations, an amount of property and a position in France, which threatened to overhear the power of the State. He trusted that Her Majesty's Government would adhere to the wise course that had been indicated by the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs (Lord Stanley), and that, remembering that we owed our freedom to the Protestantism, on which, our Constitution is based, England would take no part in a Conference, the result of which, according to the expectation of France, was to confirm the Papacy in the possession of its territory, whence it might assail, not only Italy, but all the Governments of Europe which were not subservient to its policy.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he rose to enter a disclaimer against the observations of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Newdegate) with reference to the conduct of the Pope in regard to Poland. He maintained, in opposition to what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman, that every Catholic in the world owed the Pope a deep debt of gratitude for the language he had used in condemnation of the Russian Government for its treatment of its Polish 86 subjects. The Poles had been despoiled of their properties, they had been hunted from their country, and were exiles throughout the world, and now that nothing was left to the remnant of the race but their religion and the right of worshipping God in the faith in which they had been brought up, the Russian Government were doing everything in their power to deprive them of that. And because the Sovereign Pontiff, who was the head of the Church to which the great mass of the Polish population belonged, presumed to lift up his voice and protest against such tyranny, the hon. Gentleman got up and denounced him. He spoke not as a Catholic merely; but he believed that every man ought to feel indignant that a great and gallant people, who had once saved Europe from the Mussulman, should be subjected to the heartless tyranny of Russia.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
said, that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had stated that England had no direct interest in the question of French intervention in Italy. He begged, however, to differ entirely from that statement. Had England no interest in European justice, and had she no reason for protesting when acts of enormous injustice were committed? Had she no faith in the principle of non-intervention which she had preached so often to other nations? If she had, was she not called upon to protest against one of the most gross and enormous violations of the principle of non-intervention that ever occurred in the history of the world? The invasion of the Papal territory by the Emperor of the French was a gross violation of that principle. It was a mere act of political brigandage to attack the little band of gallant Volunteers under Garibaldi and try the new weapon upon them. It was a sanguinary epitaph upon the glory of the French flag to have it recorded, as had been done by the General in command, that "the Chassepot rifle had done wonders." The attempt which had just been renewed had been kept up for nearly twenty years to put down by French arms the people of the Roman States. He had nothing to do with the kingdom of Italy or with Victor Emmanuel; he spoke merely with regard to the people of the Roman States, who were kept down simply by a body of mercenaries. ["No, no!"] The hon. Baronet (Sir George Bowyer) denied that they were mercenaries, because 87 though paid for what they did, they acted con amore. But it could not be denied that they were not Roman troops or that they were gathered from all parts of Europe, and that they had been told by a French General that they were still under the French flag. The hon. Baronet spoke as though the Roman Government was a popular Government, and as though it was invaded only by a few bands from the outside. [Sir GEORGE BOWYER: Hear!] Garibaldi had invaded the Papal territory, but it was only to relieve Rome from that system of terror under which the prisons were filled, the best men exiled, and the people kept down by the force to which he had referred. ["No, no!"] Why, that they were kept down was proved by the plebescites, which had been taken in the places occupied by the Volunteers. The full force of infamy, however, on the part of France could not be realized by what had taken place this year. They must go back to 1849 to realize it. In November, 1848, the Pope fled—abdicated ["No, no!"]—at all events, he left his dominions without a Government. He left behind a Commission which declined to act, and after a time the Chambers met, appointed a Provisional Government, and declared themselves abolished. After some weeks a Constituent Assembly, chosen by universal suffrage, was summoned, a large majority of the adult male population having voted for it. Of that Constituent Assembly, consisting of 150 members, 144 met, and the vast majority voted for the abolition of the Papal power and the establishment of a Republican Government. There were only 11 that voted that such a proceeding was inopportune, and only 5 who advocated the retention of the temporal power. How was that resolution received through the rest of the Papal States? With the greatest enthusiasm. Between 250 and 300 municipalities proclaimed their absolute adhesion to the new Government. Week after week the Government continued, and it could not be said that that was not by the will of the Romans, because of the 14,000 men composing the Roman army only 10 per cent were strangers—Italians from other parts of Italy. For many weeks that Government continued to maintain peace and order, as was shown by the best testimony, our own Consul declaring that affairs were well managed and with the assent of the whole of the Roman States. So things Went on until the defeat of Novara; and 88 ultimately the Constituent Government was driven out by the French army in July. All this taken together formed a history of political tyranny and wrong which had few parallels in the history of Europe. Well, that was the oppression which free England was asked to sanction—the tyranny of a priestly Government to receive the sanction of Protestant England. France withdrew her troops only when the September Convention was concluded, and that Convention she herself violated when she permitted the enlisting of large bodies of mercenaries. Now that France had violated her own pledges and had again invaded the Papal States, there was another opportunity afforded for re-considering the whole question. There was, at any rate, an opportunity for England to protest against the abominable tyranny which had been so long exercised. He looked with the deepest sorrow upon the communication which the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had made that night. He had expected something better from the Government. He knew their position had been rendered more difficult and complicated by the miserable conduct of the Whig Government in 1849, when our sanction was given, under Lord Palmerston himself, to the invasion which then took place. To what extent we were to carry that subserviency was a matter for serious consideration. We knew that already troops were pouring into Civita Vecchia, and that arrangements were being made in Naples, possibly to secure again the disruption of Italy. If England allowed such infamous proceedings she would incur the contempt which deservedly followed the abnegation of all international duties.
§ MR. BUTLER-JOHNSTONE
thought the Roman question occupied a very subsidiary position in Her Majesty's Speech; but, as some discussion had arisen upon it, he wished to express his opinion that it was one of much greater complexity than hon. Members had represented it to be. The conflicting interests at stake were so serious and apparently irreconcilable—on one side the future and the aspirations of the great Italian people, on the other the natural desire of the Roman Catholics of Europe that their religion should secure the freest exercise by its head being an independent Sovereign—that he did not expect that any Conference that could be assembled for its consideration could bring about a settlement. As far as this country was concerned, it seemed to him premature 89 to discuss whether any action was required on our part; for he would ask what power did we possess of giving effect to our opinions? Supposing we wished to prevent the French from occupying Rome, what power, could we exercise? Were we masters of the Mediterranean, and could we hinder the despatch, of 50,000 men from Toulon to Civita Vecchia? Would it not be well for us to consider the state of our own army? Why, we had scarcely an army that could face the mercenary troops of the Pope, as they had been rather invidiously called; for many of them were persons of fortune and position, who had gone to fight for what they held dear. We could scarcely send an expeditionary force sufficient to deal with the Papal army, and it was idle therefore to talk of preventing the French from marching on Rome. Before assuming so high a tone, it behoved us to consider the state of our army and what were the forces at our disposal. The question, however, which the House had been summoned to consider was the Abyssinian Expedition rather than the Roman question. He trusted that the assembling of Parliament at this time of year would not prove more destructive to hon. Members' health than the climate of Abyssinia to our troops, and he might add a hope that hon. Members were not being educated to the custom of winter Sessions.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he regretted the terms in which the Italian Volunteers had been referred to in Her Majesty's Speech; but he cordially thanked the noble Lord (the Foreign Secretary) for his intimation to the French Ambassador that the Emperor's intervention at Rome would be attended with very great unpopularity in this country. For his own part, he believed that on no subject had the opinion of the English people been so decided and universal. The people of this country regarded the intervention of the French Emperor as a clue to the Imperial policy of the last twenty years. We had been spending millions after millions on account of French armaments, and it now appeared that the policy of the Emperor was "peace," indeed, but only as long as he had his own way, and that he hoped to gain his ends by the mere terror of his arms, without finding it necessary to resort to war. He now stood forth as the Sword of the Papacy; but though he placed so rigorous a construction on the September Convention, he acted very differently when the 90 integrity of Denmark was at stake. The Emperor having assumed to himself the protectorship of the Papacy, no one could tell where his policy would end. He had sent an expedition to Mexico to redress the wrongs of the Papacy there, and who could tell that he might not find that "the honour of France" might not compel him to espouse the cause of Papacy in Ireland? For himself, however, he did not believe our forces were so incapable of efficient action in case of emergency as had been represented by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Butler-Johnstone.) He congratulated Her Majesty's Ministers on the fact, with regard to the Speech from the Throne, that in the paragraph referring to the Fenian conspiracy the words "this treasonable conspiracy, condemned alike by all creeds and by all parties," had not been put in Her Majesty's lips, as was the case in the Queen's Speech of last Session. We had not alone to deprecate violence and assassination in connection with Fenianism; but there was an undefined sense of alarm gradually spreading over the country as to what was the nature of Fenianism—what was its extent, and what was its object. At present we had had no explanation on those points, and without asking Her Majesty's Government whether they thought the conspiracy had been originated, sustained, and encouraged by Roman Catholic interests and by the Roman Catholic people, he would ask them whether they were prepared to say that it was not the necessary result of the teaching of that body? The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) and other hon. Members had frequently brought before the House the question regarding the disloyalty, treasonable principles, and disaffection, which was the chronic teaching of certain Roman Catholic schools. That teaching, he had reason to know, was carried on by some of the heads of that Church in the confessional, although he confessed he had no positive evidence of the fact. He maintained that Fenianism was the natural result of Roman Catholic teaching. As The Times truly said the other day, "It is quite clear that Fenianism is patted on the back and encouraged by the hierarchy of Rome." He implored the Government now at the beginning of the Session to take the necessary measures. The remedy was simple. It was to make known throughout the land the true nature of the doctrines which the Roman Catholic 91 Church taught under the name of religion. "The Wrongs of Ireland," like the "Wrongs of Poland," were in reality a phrase under cover of which means were sought and found to assert continually the supremacy of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, he wished only to make a remark upon one paragraph of the Royal Speech—namely, that referring to the cattle plague in this country. It had been his good or evil fortune to press upon the Government the policy of enforcing certain measures in relation to various ports. One of those measures was the separation of the cattle markets, which he was glad to hear was to be established by a Bill to be submitted to Parliament. It was a matter of great satisfaction to all—both of those without, as well as those within that House—to hear that the cattle plague had ceased, and that the restrictions which had existed were to be taken off the home trade. It was, however, in his opinion, necessary that some provision should still be continued in regard to foreign cattle, because exactly in proportion to the liability, and means for the dissemination of the disease which the removal of internal restrictions would produce, so ought the greatest caution to be observed in order to guard against the danger of the admission of infected animals into the country. He doubted not that the Government would take warning from the past, and would introduce the necessary provisions for this purpose into their Bill, which he was much pleased to hear it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee appointed, to draw up an Address to be presented to Her Majesty upon the said Resolution:—Mr. HART DYKE, Colonel HOGG, Mr. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, Mr. Secretary GATHORNE HARDY, Lord STANLEY, Sir JOHN PAKINGTON, Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE, Mr. CORRY, Lord JOHN MANNERS, Earl of MAYO, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. STEPHEN CAVE, Mr. HUNT, and Colonel TAYLOR, or any Five of them:—To withdraw immediately:—Queen's Speech referred.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock.