§ ADJOURNED DEBATE. [SECOND NIGHT.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [7th February].—[See page 133.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.144
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, I wish to explain to the House, and I wish especially to explain to the Mover and Seconder of the Address, the motives which led me, at a comparatively early hour last night, to move the adjournment of the debate. I hope the hon. Gentlemen the Mover and Seconder did not consider that by doing so I was showing any want of respect to them. I can assure them that it would have been a great pleasure and satisfaction to me to have risen at once after they had concluded their speeches, and to express to them what I am sure was the sense of the House as to the ability which marked their addresses. Indeed, with regard to the hon. Mover (Mr. Marjoribanks), I may say that his speech was one of an unusually valuable and communicative character, for he gave us several pieces of interesting—I do not know that I may say altogether satisfactory—information with regard to the points which were not so fully developed in the Speech from the Throne. But I felt that, although my own observations would not have been of a very lengthy character, and would not have delayed the House beyond a reasonable hour—what was much more important for us all was, that the speech which, no doubt, would have been addressed to the House after I sat down, either by the Prime Minister or by some Representative of the Government, who would have been able authoritatively to communicate to the House information upon matters which it is most important we should be fully informed upon—I was anxious that those explanations should be made at a time and in a manner when they could be calmly and fully made and considered. It is not my intention to enter at any great length into the various topics in the Queen's Speech. I need not say that with regard to the first announcement made, I, with every Member of this House, and I am convinced every citizen of this country, share in the feeling of satisfaction at the announcement made by Her Majesty that an addition is to be made to the domestic happiness of that Royal Family which has done so much to guide and to adorn the country. Personally, we have a feeling towards His Royal Highness the Duke of Albany not inferior to that which we entertain with regard to the other illustrious Members of the Royal Family. He has n ever 145 been slow to show himself in public, and to take a leading part in good and useful works, and the evidence of his disposition to make himself a valuable member of English society is such as to have conciliated the goodwill of all classes towards him. We rejoice to think that by the contract of a marriage—which I believe to be one of affection and regard—he is adding to the happiness of himself, of his family, his Sovereign, and his country. Now, Sir, turning to the other parts in the Royal Speech, I do not think it necessary to enter at any great length into most of the paragraphs. With regard to our foreign relations, I am glad to hear they are in such a state as to afford the Government an opportunity of using the expressions which they have done, and of promising us the good fortune which they hold out in every respect. There are, however, several matters upon which, no doubt, it is premature yet to express any very decided opinion. Much of the policy which has been adopted with regard to the Eastern Question, and I may say, also, with regard to India, is still open to future consideration, and we may still have to see how those things which have been done will work in the final settlement of Imperial affairs. I do not desire in any way to anticipate matters, which will soon enough be developed in the course of the natural progress of events. But, with regard to one of those matters, I think it necessary to say a few words. I refer, of course, to the paragraph which relates to the affairs of Egypt, and I feel myself more bound to say one or two words upon that subject, because there is no doubt that the affairs of Egypt and the present state of our relations with that country are matters which deeply interested the preceding Government, and in the arrangement of which we, no doubt, took a large share and were interested in a special and peculiar manner. Lot me point out to the Mover of the Address, however, that he was in error when he spoke of these arrangements having been made by Lord Salisbury. Lord Salisbury was a Member of the late Cabinet, and, of course, he was aware of, and was a party to, all that was done during the period of the tenure of Office of that Cabinet; but the more important steps—the steps which originated our relations with Egypt—were taken before Lord Salis- 146 bury had any peculiar connection with the Foreign Office—they were taken at a time when Lord Derby was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Although I do not desire to make any distinction between the action of the Government of Lord Beaconsfield during one period of its existence and another, yet it struck me that in the observations of the hon. Gentleman—and this I have seen elsewhere—there seems to be a desire to fix upon Lord Salisbury some peculiar and personal responsibility. Now, I feel a great delicacy in speaking at all upon matters which are at this moment in progress, and upon which it may be, and probably is, the duty of us all to be extremely reticent; but I think it right and reasonable that I should recall very briefly to the recollection of the House what passed in former days, and the mode in which the late Government dealt with the question of Egyptian policy. We felt two things. First, we felt we had to consider the important interests of Great Britain and the separate interests of the United Kingdom in regard to the position of Egypt; and, secondly, we felt we had to consider the general interests of Europe in the maintenance of a satisfactory state of things in that important country. For ourselves, we had special interests, which everyone will recognize, in the maintenance of peace, order, and prosperity in that country, which lies upon the direct road to our possessions in the East. We saw with regret, and not without alarm and uneasiness, that matters were not proceeding in that country in at all a satisfactory manner—that there was great misgovernment; that there was great oppression of the people, and great financial embarrassments; and that, therefore, there was reason to fear that matters might go from bad to worse, and that complications might arise which might seriously affect the position of the Khedive and the Government of Egypt. We were anxious, so far as lay in our power, to avert that calamity, and from an early date—indeed, from the very time when we decided upon the purchase of the shares in the Suez Canal—we were anxious, without interfering with the autonomy or the national government of that country in any degree that could possibly be avoided—we were anxious, by advice, by counsel, and by the exer- 147 cise of reasonable and moral influence to induce the Khedive to put his finances into a better state. By the assistance of a late right hon. Member of this House, who was highly honoured and respected—I mean the late Mr. Cave—we ascertained much that was wrong in the financial system of that country; and advice was given to the late Khedive which, if fairly and properly acted upon, would have materially assisted in placing his finances on a proper footing, and, at the same time, in greatly relieving the pressure on the population of Egypt. For it must always be borne in mind that what we advised, and what all good counsellors would have advised, were measures that would prevent waste, while, at the same time, developing the resources of the country, and greatly relieving the oppression of the unfortunate taxpayers of Egypt. It was very far from our intention and from the character of our action at any time to do that which is sometimes recklessly and thoughtlessly said of us—namely, to put pressure upon the fellaheen, the lower order of the people of Egypt, for the sake of the foreign bondholders. Our advice. was given, but it was not accepted. Apparently it was accepted in terms, but it was not accepted in spirit. From time to time it became necessary for us to take further steps, with the relation of which I will not trouble the House. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschon) is in the House. [Mr. E. N. FOWLER: He is in Berlin.] I should be glad if he had been here, and I have no doubt he will be here when the time comes for the serious discussion of this question. I was going to point out that the establishment of all these relations was due as much, or more, to the action of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon as of anybody else. The right hon. Gentleman went out upon a mission, not, it is true, of a Governmental character—though it was well known he was cordially supported by the Government so far as they could properly do it—which was undertaken for the purpose of assisting the Khedive in putting his finances upon a proper basis. I know that I may claim from the Government the recognition of the good work that has been done by means of the steps that have been taken. It 148 is perfectly well known to them, and I think they have publicly acknowledged it, that changes have been made in the financial system, and still more in the administration of the financial system of Egypt, which have been greatly to the benefit of the country and of all classes of the population. Well, that has been the state of things; but in the administration of the affairs of Egypt we have had to deal with considerable difficulties. Those who have had the administration of the affairs of Egypt have had to contend with the prejudices, the interests, and the feelings which were to be expected in a country in which there had been so much misgovernment, so much corruption, and in which there were so many private interests to fight against. From time to time there were serious difficulties with which we felt it our duty to grapple, and upon this ground—that if you allow matters to drift in that country, they may drift into a most serious position. We always endeavoured to recognize and maintain the true and rightful position of this country in the administration of Egypt; and while we recognized and respected the rights and the position the Khedive held under the international arrangement that was made, we never forgot that the Sultan was the Suzerain of the country, and the greatest advantage has accrued from the important action taken by the Sultan at the suggestion of the Western Powers at various times. Sir, I do not now wish to go into the condition of the affairs of Egypt at the present time. We see that there are difficulties, and we have had reason from time to time to fear that those difficulties might culminate in a crisis that might prove extremely disadvantageous; but we do not ask the Government to tell us anything which they may think it is improper or undesirable that they should disclose at the present moment. But we do hope that so soon as it is in their power they will give us some explanation of what has passed; tell us what they have done, as far as they can, the principles upon which they have acted, and the course which they expect affairs to take. What I hope and presume is, that the Papers which have already become, I may say, publici juris will be laid upon the Table of the House. I mean the despatch of Lord Granville and the other Papers which, I think, 149 have been communicated to Parliament. I will now leave that part of the Address with the earnest exhortation to the Government not to allow these matters to drift, for in that lies the real danger. It is often difficult to take a line in regard to which from time to time there may not be occasions when we must wait to see what is coming on; but I feel that it is essentially necessary that we should press upon this Government, as much as upon any Government that has ever existed, the necessity of avoiding the danger of drifting, for it does seem to me that in more than one of the great lines of their policy they are in danger of falling into the evil of drifting. Well, Sir, I pass on to another point in the Address in reply to the Royal Speech. Her Majesty refers to her communications with France on the subject of the New Commercial Treaty, and is good enough to inform us that these communications have not been concluded. It has been said, with regard to them, by a friend of mine—"Perhaps they never will be concluded." With regard to these communications, I would impress upon the Government the same point—I hope we are not drifting in this matter. I do not quite understand what we are really about in regard to those communications. The present Government had not been in Office a month before they came forward and produced a new Budget, upon the ground mainly of the necessity of making provision for possible alterations in the Tariff as regarded the wine duties that would arise from making a New Commercial Treaty with France. They carried out their proposal and got 1d. placed on the Income Tax, chiefly on account of the urgency of the matter of the Commercial Treaty with France. I hope the effect of these communications may not be to add other pennies to the Income Tax. We should like to know whether there is really any prospect of a satisfactory Treaty being entered into. There is no doubt that the Commercial Treaty of 1860 was entered into with expectations and hopes which were very confidently put forward by men of very great ability and standing in this House, in this country, and elsewhere. At that time, I remember, there were some of us who were not very cordially in favour of that Treaty; but we accepted it, and, indeed, 150 we were obliged to accept it, very much on the faith of the promises that had been held out—namely, that if England and France would agree upon the Commercial Treaty which Mr. Cobden had concluded, there could be no doubt that that would be the beginning of a very much better state of commercial relations between this country and other countries—an expectation which we have not seen realized to the full extent we were led to believe. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, what I mean to say is that at the time the Treaty of 1860 was under discussion, it was pointed out very forcibly by the framers and promoters of that Treaty that, although other nations did not respond as rapidly to our Free Trade policy as had been at first expected, yet that if we could come to a satisfactory arrangement with France, and make a distinct step forward in the direction of Free Trade between England and France, the lead made by these two countries would be such as would carry other nations in the same direction; that we should undoubtedly find that from that time matters would proceed much more satisfactorily, and that we should have that universal prosperity which all good Freetraders desire to see. I shall be surprised to hear it asserted in any quarter that our adoption of the principle of Free Trade has not been disappointing to Freetraders as regards its effect upon other nations. I am not now disputing the propriety of making arrangements of a commercial character with France or with any other country; but I think we ought to know how far is to be carried on the policy which we are pursuing, which we were led to pursue in 1860, and which, as we were told at the time and have been reminded since, by some of the strictest school of economists, was not quite in accordance with the strict doctrine of political economy. We are also anxious to know what are the reasonable prospects held out to us to induce us to enter upon a further renewal of a Commercial Treaty with that country. We are, of course, glad to hear, and I must be allowed to express my gratification, that the trade of the country is improving. We have been long under great depression, and I am afraid that, although we have some improvement, the depression, is yet far from having gone; but still we hope 151 that the turn is taken, and that we may see an improvement which will be a full and progressive one. I sincerely hope also that there are better prospects for the classes immediately connected with agriculture. Whether owing entirely to a succession of rainy seasons or to other causes, the agricultural interests of the country have of late years been suffering very severe depression. The effect of that depression has necessarily told to no inconsiderable extent upon the other classes of the country. They are so intimately bound up together, that you cannot separate the interests of the two. We hope that the improvement in the one may re-act and induce improvement in the other, just as depression in the one re-acted and produced depression in the other. But I also think the time is one at which it is desirable we should consider as far as we can whether there is anything that we can do to improve the condition of either our commercial, manufacturing, or agricultural interests, with duo consideration to the interests of all classes, and not in pursuit of the separate interest of a single class. I am not at all afraid that inquiries made in that direction and in a proper spirit would be either mischievous or useless. I believe they would be extremely useful, especially if more distinctly directed to the endeavour to alleviate burdens and remove restrictions and shackles, than to any attempt of a different kind in the direction some persons seem to look upon as a more ready and rapid means of relief, but which view I am not able myself to share. We are told by Her Majesty that the public Revenue unfortunately has not at present begun to respond so rapidly as is desirable to the general improvement that has taken place in trade. In due time, no doubt, the re-action upon the public Revenue will come, and balance the improvement which has already taken place in the expenditure. All these are matters into which it is premature at present to enter. At this time of year a great many rumours are always going about, and a great many curious speculations indulged in on the faith of the weekly returns which are not always properly understood; but I am sorry to gather from the Mover of the Address that though the Revenue has not improved, the expenditure has improved; and the result, 152 he said, is that we shall have a very small surplus. I am glad, for my part, that we shall have any surplus at all. I now come to the portion of the Queen's Speech that is by far the most serious with which we have to deal, and one upon which I hope we shall receive further information from the Government. I mean, of course, the condition of Ireland. I am bound to say that when I read this paragraph, and when I listened to the accents of the hon. Member the Mover of the Address, I could not but feel that they were conceived in the spirit of that character in one of the French romances, who looked upon everything as being for the best in the best of all possible worlds. We have had, I will not say a rose-coloured picture, because it is impossible for anyone, however optimist he may be, to draw a really cheerful picture of the present condition of Ireland; but it does seem to me that there has been an attempt—I will not say an improper or illegitimate attempt—to put the best colour that could be put upon the state of things in that country. For my part, I do not think the matter is one which can be dismissed by a few jaunty expressions of a general character. We may be ready to say—"Oh, matters are going on well; they are improving, and are not so bad as they were last year," and so forth; but I do not think the House or the country will be content if they are left merely with such a general statement as that. We are told that the condition of Ireland at this time, as compared with that which Her Majesty described at the beginning of last year, exhibits signs of improvement, and then we are told that the intimidation shows, upon the whole, a diminished force. I am glad to hear these facts as far as they go, and no doubt they may be justified by statements from particular parts of the country, and possibly by the figures which may be brought forward as to the number of outrages which have occurred in this or that month. I am afraid these figures are not so thoroughly satisfactory as we could wish, though they may bear out the general statement made in the Queen's Speech. But, then, what did we expect? To compare the state of Ireland, with what? Not with the statement made in Her Majesty's Gracious Speech delivered from the Throne on the first occasion of the pre- 153 sent Government taking Office. If they had come forward and said—"We desire to call your attention to the excellent results of the policy which we have pursued in Ireland," and pointed out what it was when they became responsible and what it is now, that would be a different thing, and would be more gratifying to us, because it would show that we had a Government who were, on the whole, conscious and alive to the condition of affairs in that country, and capable of so administering them as to bring about an improvement. But all they can tell us in this paragraph is that matters are now somewhat better than they were at the worst time of the period during which they have been administering the affairs of that country. But we are told—and it is a most curious characteristic of the optimist Mover of the Address—that we must look upon this as much more satisfactory than at first it appears. He says that the outrages are fewer now than they were 12 months ago. That, he says, is very satisfactory, because 12 months ago nobody was pressing for rent, everybody was thoroughly disheartened, and the Government, moreover, were about to propose some great measures of a remedial character, and therefore there was not so much temptation to outrages at that time, because everybody was in expectation of something good coming. Now that remedial measures have been passed, he says—"You have got all you can get out of the Government; all that was expected has been given, and therefore the greater inducement for outrages."
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I said that, as regarded the outrages, the state of the country in January, 1882, was different from the state of the country in January, 1881, inasmuch as then nobody was paying rent, and nobody was pressing for rent, whereas now everybody was pressing for rent, and by the help of the Government rent was being generally paid, and that, consequently, the inducements to outrage were greater at the present time than at the former time, because people were being forced to pay rent.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I am aware that the hon. Gentleman used that argument; but I do not think he will say I am wrong when J state that 154 he also referred to the fact that in January, 1881, the Irish were looking forward to legislation on the part of the Government, that now legislation has been passed, and that, therefore, they have not the same thing to look forward to again. But, for my own part, I will take the opposite view of the matter. I say you cannot compare figures simply one with another without taking into consideration the important fact that your remedial legislation has been tried. And not only that, when we are told how many outrages there are as compared with a former period, how many police there are, and what powers the Government have of repression, I would like to ask what was the state of things in 1881? In 1881 you had not 400 or 500 prisoners, you had not the power of arrest, and you had not so large a force. I do not know precisely what that force is at present; but, undoubtedly, your means of coping with and keeping down outrages are much greater now than they were at that time. Therefore, if they are not sensibly diminished, if they are almost as bad as they were before, the mere reckoning up of numbers is comparatively a small source of comfort. It would be still more a source of comfort if we felt that the Government wore on the right track, and were persevering in a manner which would effectually put down outrages. It is on that point we require fuller information than we have yet received. No doubt, the Government are themselves anxious to give us a full account of the state of the country as it is now. In the last Session we gave them very great powers. They were given with an ungrudging hand by a majority of the House, and on the faith of the representations made to us that that condition of affairs was urgent, and that it was absolutely necessary those powers should be confided to the Government of Ireland. Not without regret, but with a firm faith in the necessity of the case, we accepted the statements of the Government, and we gave the powers for which they asked. We are told—and by Cabinet Ministers, too—that coercion is with Tories a principle and policy, and with Liberals only a hateful incident. I observe that Members of the Government, and other supporters of the liberal Party, whenever they feel a little oppressed as to the effects of their own actions, naturally 155 resort to the ingenious artifice of throwing all the blame upon their opponents. I am not going into the question of how many Coercion Acts were passed by the Liberal, and how many by the Conservative or Tory Governments, though I think the balance would rather astonish the Liberal Party. But what I would say is, that coercion, if we have to resort to it at all, ought to be resorted to as a policy, and not as a hateful incident—that is to say, it should be applied on the principles of making coercion both as effectual and as brief as possible. It is my belief that, if you had applied coercion upon principle and upon a system of policy, it would have been much less a hateful incident than it has proved to be. You have allowed matters to drift a great deal too long. On the faith of your assurance that these powers were absolutely necessary we gave them at once, suspending the Rules of the House, and supporting urgency. But when you got those powers, what use did you make of them? You made no use of them for some time. Certainly we have had the explanation from a Cabinet Minister—"He hoped that the warning would have been sufficient." Now, it is that warning and hoping which constitute the danger. Using strong language, holding out threats, and not acting upon them, is a most dangerous policy, and leads to a great many difficulties, just as firing over the heads of a crowd sometimes leads to painful incidents. We want to know what have really been the proceedings of the Government with regard to the condition of the country, and also what you have to tell us with regard to the working of your new Act, because that is a matter which is causing a great deal of interest and uneasiness in this country. When the Act was passed we know everybody admitted—the strict political economists admitted—that it was contrary to the sound, true principles of economy that a Court should be employed to interfere between landlord and tenant in settlement of rent. But we were told that considerations of a higher character must supersede and overrule considerations of economy, and arguments were adduced to show that the mere adoption of the economical clause, and allowing freedom of contract to prevail, would never bring about a satisfactory state of things in Ireland. You represented to us that the effect of 156 the Act would probably not be offensive, that, to a great extent, rents would not be affected, and that where moderate rents had existed for a long time there would be no material interference. Whether the operation of the Act has been good or not I will not say; but I certainly say it has been unexpected. The operation of the Courts has been something different from what we believed when we passed the Act, and we want to know whether the Government themselves were prepared for the result that followed or not? If they were prepared for it, did they fail to communicate the fact to Parliament and were thus guilty of a breach of faith; or were they deficient in information? That is a matter with an alternative as to which we should be glad to know on which side they like to stand. But we ought, I think, to consider the working of the Act from more points of view than one. I do not wish to consider it simply from the landlords' point of view, but we ought to consider it from the point of view of what is best for the country as a whole. The interests of the landlords ought to be regarded like the interests of other classes. If not, why not? I presume they are not entirely to be set aside and driven out of the country. Can you give us any light on this matter—will the Government give us any assurance upon that point, and have they anything in their possession calculated to show that that will not sooner or later take place, and that justice will be awarded to the landlords, of whom many have been doing their duty for years and years? These landlords have had every reason to suppose they were performing a service to the country by the manner in which they managed their estates; and now they find themselves very summarily set aside and deprived, nominally and legally, of a large portion of their incomes, and virtually, so far as we can see, of the whole. If the Commissioners, proceeding simply upon economical principles, have been taking carefully into account all the circumstances of each holding, and have been making deductions accordingly, that is one thing; but from what we hear I am afraid they have been proceeding in a much more rapid manner, and have been proceeding upon principles not apprehended or sanctioned by Parliament, and that they seem to have 157 taken it for granted that, as a rule, they were to reduce every rent which came before them for adjudication. I see the hon. and learned Gentleman the newly-elected Solicitor General for Ireland in his place, and I congratulate the House upon the acquisition of a Gentleman who, from all accounts, we shall find a most valuable Member of our body. But the hon. and learned Gentleman will be expected to tell us what is the exact meaning of some of the language which he used, and for which, as he is a Member of the Government, we must hold the Government also responsible. It was language to this effect—that the Commissioners were acting in a most liberal manner towards their country, and if the constituency and the tenant farmers whom he was addressing desired to have their rents lowered they must support the Government which had appointed such excellent Commissioners. I hope we shall have an explanation of what was said and done on that occasion; but certainly the impression given was that the Commissioners were really adopting the grand principle, Nemo ex hoc numero mihi non donatus abibit. If the Act has been worked on the principle and with the desire of obtaining political results, rather than economical results, we ought to know it, and we ought to have a proper opportunity of expressing our opinion upon it. To many persons it seems that the Government are running the Land Court against the Land League. The Government have met the inducement of "no rent" with the principle of low rent, or seem to be doing so, and that, of course, with the great advantage of its being secured by a legal assignment. If that is so, how will the Government justify the proceeding which they have been adopting? What is the result of all this? It is not enough to tell us that the result is the reduction of a very small proportion in the outrages committed. Have you in any way got at the real root of the evil? Have you really stopped the mischief which was going on? You have got a large number of the Leaders actually in prison; you have the threat of immediate arrest hanging over all the others; and yet, with all these advantages, you are only able to produce comparatively small results. But you cannot expect always to rule Ireland upon principles and under con- 158 ditions such as these, with a large number of men in prison, and with the exceptional powers you now wield. How do we stand with regard to the improvements of the country and the improvements of the feeling of the country? What are our prospects when we go back to the ordinary state of the law? That is the point on which we really want information, and it is a matter of most serious consequence, because anything that goes wrong in Ireland is not like a difficulty in Basutoland or any similar place; but it is a disease in the heart of your system, a disease which affects the whole of this country and the whole of the Empire, and it is impossible to say to what mischief the evil may lead. I hope and trust that the Government have their minds and attention fixed on this matter, and that they will be able to tell us something as to their prospects—whether they intend to take any measures, or whether they think it sufficient that we should leave their policy to go on and work itself out in the way it is doing. I do not believe that the tenants themselves are benefited in many eases, or will ultimately or permanently be benefited. Look at the terrorism which prevails, not amongst the landlords only and their process servers and the administrators of the law, but amongst the honest tenant farmers themselves, who are desirous of fulfilling their obligations to pay their rent. This is one of the most serious features of the case. It is not merely that some of those persons against whom you are directing your precautions come forward and commit outrages against the landlords and administrators of the law; but it is that they are terrorizing the whole class of the peasantry, and if there are fewer outrages in some places it is because terrorism has done its work. You have all heard the old story of the Spanish general, who, after a very stormy career, during which he had executed a considerable number of persons, was asked when he came to die if he forgave all his enemies, and replied that he had no enemies to forgive, because he had shot them all. And so it may be in connection with this terrorism. There may be comparatively few outrages committed, because everyone has been brought under the influence of the Land League, and there is no need for outrages. Well, we want 159 information with regard to these matters, and we also want to know whether you are proceeding towards anything like a permanent alteration in the condition of the Irish social system, because a great deal has been held out to us from time to time, and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright) has been most emphatic in telling us that if you are to have a satisfactory state of things in Ireland, you must alter the condition of land tenure by introducing a peasant proprietary—you must bring about a state of things in which the evils of landlordism will be mitigated and removed. I want to know whether you are doing anything towards bringing that about; is anything being done with regard to the Purchase Clauses of the Act? Is anything being done with regard to the acquisition of land? I have observed in regard to this matter that there is a very curious publication, as to which I should like to know if there is anything in it—a paper which seems to have been published by something like official authority, and which, at the same time, appeals to the people to take advantage of the benefits which are offered to them, and which says that if they do not do so, then Parnell and Dillon and Sexton have suffered in vain. It purports to be printed at the Queen's Printing Office, and communications are to be made to the Secretary of the Irish Land Commission. I do not say that it may not be an admirable production; but we ought to have more information with regard to it. There is another point on which I should like to ask a question. With regard to the clause which is known as Healy's Clause, I do not suppose the Government have anything to tell us, because I imagine the cases under it are still the subject of appeal. It is obvious that the clause is one of the highest importance, and until we know what construction is put upon it, we shall be glad to be informed whether the Government intend to take any steps with regard to it, or to pass any explanatory measure to show what is the real meaning of that clause. I am afraid if nothing is done, and no particular construction is put upon it by authority, it may lead to very great and very serious inconvenience. But there is one other question I wish to ask, and it is this. We are told that there is an 160 enormous block of business in the Land Court. It appears there is a very large number of persons—we are told 13,000—who have made application to the Court. What is the position of these persons during the time which must elapse before their applications can be heard? It may take many years before a man may obtain a decision in his case, and what is to be his position in the meantime? And what prospect is there of rents being paid, and matters going on pleasantly between landlord and tenant? I want to have such explanations as will satisfy us upon points of this character. We feel that a very great experiment was instituted last year, and that it is still going on. We do not desire to interfere with the progress of that experiment, if it is found that it is really working satisfactorily; but, as far as the information reaches us, it does not appear to be producing anything like the effect expected. I must apologize to the House for having detained it so long; but I feel that this is an occasion on which it is essential that we should ask for information from the Government. I hope that in nothing I have said I have shown any spirit of factiousness, or any wish to embarrass the Government in either domestic or foreign matters; but I think it is due to Parliament that we should have a full and satisfactory explanation upon all these subjects submitted to us.
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) has entered largely, and it was perfectly justifiable that he should on this occasion enter largely, into several points set forth in the Speech delivered from the Throne; and I think, considering the deeply interesting nature of the questions which he has raised, it is well that I should at once, and, indeed, as is comformable to the usual practice on this occasion, follow him in the discussion. I will only say, Sir, parenthetically, at the outset of my speech, that with respect to the particular inquiries which he has put at the close of his speech on various matters relating to portions of the Land Act and to its operation, I shall leave those questions to be dealt with by my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. W. E. Forster), with the exception of one which, I think, demands the earliest possible notice, and that is the extraordinary publication to 161 which the right hon. Gentleman has justly referred as containing matter of the strangest kind in respect to the operations of the Land League in conjunction with the provisions of the Land Act—matter which, undoubtedly, he may well be surprised at finding given to the world under anything that has in the slightest degree the character of judicial sanction. In my opinion, the right hon. Gentleman has taken a right course in asking for an explanation respecting it. Sir, I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me, that we have taken the right course, when I inform him that, immediately upon becoming acquainted with that singular publication, we were convinced that some great error must have led to a miscarriage of justice of so remarkable a kind; and we thought it our duty, in the first instance, before venturing upon any statement of details, to address the Commission, and request from them a full and authentic account of the manner in which the incident had come about. Very shortly, therefore, I hope we shall be able to give to the House an explanation, which it is fully entitled to demand, as to how the matter stands. Of course I need not say that the Executive Government—as, indeed, is apparent on the face of it—the Executive Government had no acquaintance whatever with the subject, and became apprised of it at the same time as the right hon. Gentleman himself, probably, and at the same time as the rest of the public at large. Sir, before proceeding to notice the comments of the right hon. Gentleman, I wish to express my great obligation, on the part of myself and my Colleagues, to my hon. Friends the Mover and Seconder of the Address, for the excellent manner, and the very able manner, in which they discharged the duties which they had kindly undertaken. Both of them, I hope, are destined, during many years, to make most valuable additions to the deliberations and the legislative power of this Assembly. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has noticed, in terms such as we should have expected, the announcement of the approaching Royal marriage. It is a subject upon which it is the less necessary for me to dwell, because, of course, I need not say that we have advised the terms in which it is referred to in the Speech; but it is undoubtedly a matter 162 of great and lively satisfaction to consider how differently these Royal connections in marriage are dealt with now from what had happened in former times. We have not seen, under the happy reign of Her Majesty, the personal feelings, affections, and. destinies of Members of the Royal Family dealt with merely as hard matters of political or dynastic concern. Unions founded upon conformity of character, and upon solid prospects of real happiness, have been formed from time to time; the expectations with which they were formed have been realized; and I believe that in the instance that is now before us we have the firmest reason to expect the very same results which have attended the previous marriages of the Royal Family will again be accomplished, and presented to the country. Now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has not unnaturally been led to comment upon the very important subject which is touched in the paragraph relating to Egypt. I will therefore pass over the announcement that has been made from the Throne with regard to the thus far satisfactory accomplishment of the arrangement, to which the Sovereign consented, in respect to the cession of Thessaly to the Kingdom of Greece. We must not count in any of these matters too confidently upon the future, but the past has been of a character to give great satisfaction to Her Majesty's Government. They have had in view, not the execution of Treaty provisions simply—because it was a matter of great doubt and difficulty from the peculiar language adopted in the Treaty of Berlin, and a matter much contested among competent persons, what was the true construction to be placed upon it. The result which has been attained is a result in all respects happy, and one which, I believe, has given very general and very lively satisfaction to the nation at large. We approach a much more difficult question in regard to the case of Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman made remarks, characterized mainly by, in the first place, a lengthened defensive detail of the proceedings of the late Government, with regard to which they certainly are open to the observation, or to the inquiry, quis vituperavit? No one had assailed them, and there appeared to be a kind of jealous apprehension—I will not say a sense of being vulnerable, for that 163 I do not assert—on the part of the right hon. Gentleman in giving us what, however, was a very interesting narrative in detail. The right hon. Gentleman abstained from adverse comment on the proceedings of the present Government; but he expressed great apprehension—and seemed to think he had ground for apprehension—that we might pass into what he would term a drifting policy. He appears to think there are grounds for that apprehension. But, Sir, I have become acquainted with opinions recently expressed by the Nobleman with whom the right hon. Gentleman is in the most intimate communication—I mean Lord Salisbury—and in endeavouring to make myself acquainted with those opinions, I find them to be precisely the opposite of those of the right hon. Gentleman opposite; for instead of finding ground to suppose that we were passing into a drifting policy, he found very great ground of fear that we have shown a disposition to an undue interference in the affairs of Egypt, and to something like a promise of armed intervention. At any rate, for the purpose of the present debate, I will leave these two apprehensions, each in one of the scales of the balance, and assume that, for the present, at all events, they will serve tolerably well to neutralize one another. In regard to the conduct of the late Government with regard to Egypt, I have never pronounced an adverse or, indeed, any description of formal opinion. I think, on the whole, and as far as I am able to judge, the account given by the right hon. Gentleman is not an unfair or unwarranted account. Undoubtedly, as I must presently observe, there were very great disadvantages and risks attending the course that they pursued. But, upon the other hand, there were strong reasons for that course. International interference, even in the affairs of Egypt, as to financial and other personal claims, had already been established and recognized by the institution of Courts of Justice for a long period of time; and therefore those who may be led to think that it was unwise to interfere for the purpose, or with the effect, of securing the interests of bondholders, ought to bear in mind that already special provisions were made in Egypt for referring these affairs in various cases to the cognizance of Courts, which Courts were not purely Egyptian. 164 There was, therefore, in the first instance, great juridical grounds which might go far to warrant what was done. I must also go so far as to state that I think the right hon. Gentleman is justified when he states that good has been done in Egypt by the interference; not only public and political good, in the restoration of credit, and in the substitution of orderly for disorderly administration of finance, but in that important matter to which he referred—the improved administration of the country, as regards the condition of the people. There is no doubt that the situation of Egypt some years ago, as regards the sufferings of the peasantry—those who are commonly called the Fellaheen—was a deplorable situation. It did not appear to be irremediable in itself, but it does not appear certain that any early remedy would have been applied without the intervention of a foreign influence. Therefore, from both causes, we were reluctant, without any imperative or paramount reason, to disturb what we found existing on our accession to Office; and likewise because we recognized strong practical reasons for believing that the scheme, if it would work at all, would work for the good, we adopted that scheme in a spirit of frankness and of heartiness, and endeavoured to administer it for the best. I make no complaint of the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman has referred to it at present. He says at once that it is a matter that will hardly bear discussion. Indeed, Sir, I regret that we have found it our duty to present two Papers to Parliament that are already in the knowledge of the public, and I regret it only because that information is incomplete, and it must remain incomplete until we have reached a certain point in the history of this matter. But the difficulty in which we are placed, and which aggravates, if I may say so, this particular case almost more than any other political situation that I can recollect, is the extreme complexity of the arrangements. The arrangements are of a nature which bring into the field such a number of parties, all of whom have to be considered, all of whom have their separate points of views, all of whom have certain rights that require the most delicate consideration as to what, at each point of our advance, is to be done. In the first place, it is meet, 165 I think, to refer to the joint dual action of England and France. A joint dual action of that kind can only be maintained by frank communication; and, in the second place, by a cordial spirit and desire between the two countries to unite in every conclusion that is essential. The character of that dual action has undoubtedly been rendered more difficult by the certain fact that during the few months in which the Egyptian Question has been a living, if not a burning, question, two changes of Administration have taken place in France, and have, to a certain extent, impeded the usual free administration or political action of the country. Well, there is, in the first place, the dual action of England and France. There are then to be considered the interests and disposition of the other four Powers of Europe, who do not consider themselves excluded from all title to give a voice in what organically concerns Egyptian arrangements. I believe they have no desire in any way to be mixed up in what I may call the executive part of those arrangements, but in what concerns essentially the position of Egypt as a Province of the Ottoman Empire related to the Sultan in a certain defined and distinct manner. Of course, those Powers consider themselves to stand upon a footing which fairly entitles them to have a share in any proceedings that may be taken, and I am bound to say, Sir, that we do not regard the separate action which has lately been taken by these Powers in presenting a Note to the Sultan on the subject of Egyptian affairs as a proceeding which was in any way beyond their just rights, or which ought to import, or which, so far as we know, is likely to import, any difficulty of principle into the determination of tins rather complicated business. On the contrary, as far as we know, the intentions of those Powers are completely conformable to the declaration made by Lord Granville in the despatch to Sir Edward Mallet, dated I think, the 4th November last. I was only wishing to put before the House the great number of parties who are involved in this proceeding, each with its distinct point of view. There are England and France, each, of course, with its own national point of view, in dual action; there are the four Powers of Europe; there is the Sultan, necessarily jealous for the maintenance of his rights in regard to this 166 portion of his Empire; then there is the Khedive, who has a position well fixed for himself; and then, aside and abreast of all of those, there is a military action brought into the field; and, again, below and beyond—in one sense below, but in another sense above—there is what has the character, to some extent, of a national action, and of a desire, apparently, representing some amount of real opinion and of real political life in Egypt, testifying that the people of that country have a desire to have a share in the government of their own political affairs. Now, Sir, we wish to be understood the principles upon which we have proceeded, and they are set forth in the terms that have been advised to be used from the Throne. We wish to maintain the pre-eminence of the Firmans of the Sultan, which regulate the relations between Egypt and Constantinople. We wish to maintain the various international engagements having the direct sanction of the Powers, and also the international engagements under which England and France are vested with certain functions in Egypt; and, finally, we wish to favour the good government of the country—not only the good government of the country as to the end which all Governments have in view; but, in as far as prudence will permit, the good government to be attained by means of the development of its public institutions. It seems impossible almost to regard, without a considerable amount, I think, of interest and of sympathy, this effort which appears to be made—though there may be many illegitimate elements mixed up with it—an effort which appears to be made, for the very first time, as I think, in a Mohamedan country, on the part of the people to partake in the enjoyment of those political advantages which have been so largely realized in other countries, through the influence of popular opinion on the Government, and which are being realized in an increasing degree in so many portions of either the actual, or what was recently, the Turkish Empire. But the right hon. Gentleman has himself illustrated the dangers—I am sure without any ill-intention—he has illustrated the dangers with which we handle these subjects. He says that the late Government was most anxious in all its proceedings to maintain the Suzerainty of the Sultan. Well, Sir, the right hon. 167 Gentleman does not appear to be aware that it is impossible to give more mortal offence to the Sultan of Turkey, than to describe him as the Suzerain of Egypt. [Sir STAFFORD NORTHCOTE: I made a slip of the word.] I beg pardon. It shows how dangerous slips of the word are. It shows that the matter is a serious one, because it so happens that quite recently that phrase has been employed by another agency, and has been employed with the effect of rousing the jealousy and alarming the indignation of the Sultan, who claims to be—aye, and who is admitted by us to be, and according to juridical principles is—not the Suzerain, but the Sovereign of Egypt—the Sovereign, subject, undoubtedly, to certain conditions and stipulations as are the Sovereigns of many other countries, including our own beloved Sovereign—but still the Sovereign, and not the Suzerain, of that country. So much for the subject to which the right hon. Gentleman adverted at some length. The right hon. Gentleman, having adverted to the subject at some length, asked for information upon the question of the Treaty with France; but I do not know that we can make any great additions to the information contained in the Speech from the Throne, that is to the effect that Her Majesty desires to conclude a Treaty favourable to extended intercourse between the two nations. That, of course, implies—it does not require to be made the subject of a formal statement—that Her Majesty cannot entertain the idea of concluding a Treaty unless it be favourable to extended intercourse between the two nations. Were it the case that England had, in a Treaty of this kind, interests—I mean class interests—to protect of this and that trade, and to consider the amount of competition which it could or could not bear, then, indeed, there might be very jealous apprehensions of the proceedings of this Government. But, Sir, we have nothing of the kind. We have no stipulation and no conditions of any kind for the protection of anybody connected with any particular trade to make, because we have long ago learned, through a painful experience of a ruinous and disastrous policy, that such protection is the greatest injury that we can inflict upon the bodies whose interests it professes to serve, and, therefore, our position is really not that of those who are 168 endeavouring to weigh concessions on one side against concessions on the other; but it is of those who are desirous to ascertain, and who, I hope, may truly ascertain, whether it enters into the views of the actual Government of France—and here again, of course, we have have had much difficulty to contend with on account of political changes in that country—whether it is within the views of the actual Government of France to conclude with us a Treaty such as shall correspond with the declaration in the present and likewise of the last Speech from the Throne as shall be favourable to the extended intercourse between the two nations. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has thought it necessary to go back upon the previous history of this matter, as if we had begun in 1880 the business of negotiating with France about a Commercial Treaty, and allowed these negotiations almost hopelessly, or at all events tediously, to drag on for a couple of years, and even now we are not in a position to announce a positive result. But if the right hon. Gentleman goes back to 1880, I must go back a little further. Before 1880 there was a Government in Office, which, as we know, was the model of all that is good, and that Government had the advantage of being in Office six or seven years, and during all these years these negotiations with France on the subject of a Commercial Treaty had been continually revived. Even in 1877, the very concessions of the wine duty, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred in terms of such disparagement, were concessions of which the late Government expressed itself very favourably. No doubt, one of the disadvantages of these Commercial Treaties is that, owing to the way in which they are looked at in many countries of the world, there is a tendency to these great and wearisome prolongations. But the question with us has been a simple one all along. It is whether we shall or shall not throw overboard the whole affair? Well, that is a very serious matter, on many grounds; and we have not felt that we would be warranted, in any juncture that has yet arrived, in coming to that conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman referred, in terms which I think might have been spared, to former proceedings; and, if I am right, his speech con- 169 veyed the idea that, two years ago, the House of Commons consented, at the instance of the Government, to add a penny to the income tax, in order to enable the Government to make a reduction of the wine duties. The right hon. Gentleman knows that that statement—if it be a statement, and it certainly seemed to me to have the effect of it—is a most misleading statement. The penny on the income tax was to produce for the financial year £1,400,000 or £1,500,000; the cost of the reduction of the wine duties proposed in 1880, when M. Leon Say was Ambassador here—who gave us reason to anticipate prospects which were afterwards defeated by some alteration of view on the other side of the water—was between £200,000 and £300,000. Perhaps it is right that I should remind the right hon. Gentleman, as the House ought not to be misled, that in the proportion of 5 to 1—that is to say, mainly and substantially—the penny was asked and given, not in order to produce a reduction of the wine duties, costing £250,000, but in order to effect that great change of the repeal of the malt tax, which for 40 years had been incessantly preached from the opposite side. Stop! No, Sir; I have made a mistake; not incessantly preached; rarely, almost never, preached when the Tory Government was in Office; but which, when a Liberal Government was in Office, was incessantly preached as the salvation of the agricultural interest. But since it has been effected by the present Government, it has been discouraged, and even discountenanced, by the opposite Party. Not by all; many hon. Gentlemen have stuck to their text; but by many hon. Gentlemen opposite, and among them the right hon. Gentleman himself, it has been referred to as a matter of no value or influence at all. "Well," says the right hon. Gentleman, "we accepted the Treaty of 1860, because you promised us that universal Free Trade would be the result. Did he accept the Treaty of 1860? Of what kind of acceptance does he speak? After the Treaty had been accepted by Parliament, no doubt he rendered it obedience, and in that sense I render obedience to a great many things done by the late Government, for which I am not disposed to be in the slightest degree responsible, and for which I cannot 170 claim acceptance as a merit. So far as it is concerned, when the Treaty was in question, when it was a question whether the Treaty should take effect or not, all my recollection is of that Bench as bristling with opposition to the Treaty; and it is that opposition, and not acceptance, which is recorded upon my memory. The right hon. Gentleman says we promised universal Free Trade. I am not quite sure how far this promise went. We certainly did promise, or gave our own opinions, that the Treaty would be of immense commercial advantage—first of all, by substituting an immense intercourse with France for what had previously been a most stinted intercourse; and, secondly, by producing a great moral effect upon the mind and temper of other countries, which would lead to legislation proceeding in the direction of Free Trade. Sir, it is a question in amount and degree; and I admit there has been of late years what may be called a Protectionist reaction in other countries. I cannot much wonder at it, when I see that it exists in this country, when I saw last night that there was then sitting within two of the right hon. Gentleman, a distinguished Gentleman (Mr. Lowther), who had attained his seat in this House by promising the farmers to restore a 5s. duty on corn. I feel bound, Sir, to be a little indulgent towards the weakness of other countries in that direction, when I see that this revival of the most perfectly exploded, ruinous, and mischievous errors has found its way not only into a great political Party, but among the Leaders of that Party Even when these doctrines are disclaimed by the Leader himself, they are disclaimed in faint or doubtful language, as much as to say—"I won't commit myself to a 5s. duty upon corn, but I will share the sympathy and satisfaction which will be exhibited or felt by some when they find a Parliamentary seat rescued from the opposite Party by the efficacy of a promise of that kind." I will not trouble the House any more upon the Treaty of 1860, except to say that, notwithstanding this Protectionist re-action of late years, the effect which perhaps some of us expected in too large a measure was produced in a very considerable measure, and that the undoubted consequence of the French Treaty of 1860 was to produce a much more favourable state of 171 European Tariffs than had formerly existed, the traces of which, even now, have by no means disappeared. Now I pass on to the subject of Ireland, and the right hon. Gentleman here first of all charges us with being optimists, and then he goes on to say that it will not do to say that things are improving, that they are on the whole satisfactory, and to indulge in vague generalities of that kind. With regard to this I must observe that it is not the language which we have used; that it is broadly distinguished from our language; that the language which we advised to be delivered from the Throne is deliberate and measured language—language which we are prepared to maintain and make good in every particular. The right hon. Gentleman is sorry that, instead of making our comparison with the Royal Speech of 12 months ago, we did not make our comparison with the Royal Speech of May, 1880. Well, I think, Sir, from the aspect of affairs, it is very likely that we shall have to go back freely and largely into an examination of what occurred before May, 1880. The right hon. Gentleman says that he finds that Liberals are apt to defend themselves by recriminating upon other people; but the right hon. Gentleman's observation of human nature appears to have conveyed to his mind that that is a practice confined to Liberals. My experience has been very different. It appears to me to be a practice more widely spread than the right hon. Gentleman is aware; and I am afraid, though I have no doubt he discharges the duties of Leadership with great diligence and efficiency, if he is not aware of the practice, he must deny himself the pleasure of reading the speeches of most of his Friends. I do not think, however, this is the time to enter into details upon that question. I will only say this, that what the Speech of 1880 contained was an announcement that Her Majesty thought herself justified in relying upon the good sense and loyalty of the people of Ireland, together with a firm execution of the powers of the existing law. That was the announcement then made, but it was made in view of the alternative—the only alternative presented to us. The only alternative presented to us was, not the question of continuing; it was the question of reviving coercive or restrictive legislation, and the persons responsible 172 for leaving to us only that alternative were the previous Advisers of the Crown, who had advised the Dissolution of the Parliament of 1880 in such time that the 20th May was the very first day upon which the new Parliament could meet for the dispatch of Business, whereas the only special Acts that existed for repression in Ireland, the only substantial Acts of repression, were Acts about to expire early in June. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: The 31st of May.] The 31st of May. It is well to be accurate; but I did not want to err on the wrong side. Of course, I need not say that we, who had the experience of three months last year in endeavouring to obtain an Act for the Protection of Life and Property, and had, unfortunately, an infinitely stronger case in its favour, knew perfectly well what that meant. It was that it would be extremely difficult to bring it home to the mind of Parliament and the country; and even if we had made the proposal, and succeeded with it, I am by no means sure it would have been supported from the Benches opposite. The result would have been the consuming of the Session in a most painful, injurious, and, in all the circumstances, unnecessary and unwarranted altercation. I will not, however, follow the recriminating practice to which Liberals are addicted, but I will go to the matters touched upon by the right hon. Gentleman in respect to the Land Act. I will endeavour to open up the matters with respect to the Land Act, which may be said to touch the question of principle. The right hon. Gentleman has fairly and clearly divided his observations into a comment upon the conduct of the Government and the Land Act itself. In opposition to what he has said as to the conduct of the Government, I mean in regard to the language advised to be used, which he thinks to be on the one hand composed of generalities, and on the other not to be warranted by facts, we maintain that it is not generalities, and that it is strictly warranted by facts. There will be probably abundant opportunity after the Notice given of dealing with this matter in detail; but what the country cares more about is the question of the Land Act itself—the state of things which the Land Act found when it came into operation, and the effect which it has had. I may say that it is utterly im- 173 posible for the right hon. Gentleman to suppose that we can speak of the Land Act as a measure of which there has been anything approaching to a full experience. Every diligence was used, and not a day, lost, in making preparation for the great duties to be undertaken, yet the Land Act could not be brought into operation before the month of October, and has now been in operation only for between three and four months. I may perhaps go so far as to say this. Even during last Session I ventured to point out to the House that, however anxious we might be to promote and favour the transfer of estates, with the view of their being possessed by the tenantry, where both parties were willing, yet that it was not possible for us to expect that any considerable operations of that kind could take place during the first period of the operation of the Act. They have hardly begun. There are applications upon the subject; but it is evident, I think, until more fixed ideas prevail on the subject of rent, the very basis on which these transactions are to be effected will be apprehended with a certain amount of uncertainty, and parties will be disposed to wait until they have more secure data to proceed upon. Undoubtedly, I make this concession to the right hon. Gentleman, that the state of things in Ireland with which we are now making comparison was much worse than the state of things which prevailed in May, 1880, and the state of things in 1880 was much worse than I, for one, had been previously aware of. On that I will not enter, but I will start from January, 1881. The right hon. Gentleman fairly says we must look at the Act partly in its effect upon the landlords, but mainly in its effect upon the country. As to its effects on the landlords, the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to know whether the proceedings of the Land Courts are not open to a serious extent to question and imputation. With respect to these proceedings, a Gentleman, of whom I ever wish to speak with the greatest respect—namely, Mr. Kavanagh, and a Nobleman who holds a prominent position in the Party opposite, have rushed rapidly to the conclusion, after the Act had come into operation, that the Commissioners, who were appointed to a judicial office, had received instructions from Her Majesty's Go- 174 vernment as to the manner in which they were to proceed in the execution of that office. I really should have hoped that the absolute incredibility of such a statement would have secured men like these from being misled by so ridiculous a delusion. Enough, I should have thought, is known of the Commissioners—and especially in the case of such a man as Mr. Vernon, in the opinion of those who know him—to have suggested that, even if the Government had been capable of an offence which, I am inclined to think, would have deserved impeachment, it could not have taken effect, because such an attempt would have been spurned with indignation by those whose names had passed through the ordeal of this House and had received the sanction of Parliament. In the appointment of Sub-Commissioners—the men who were to carry the Act into effect—the Government have sought strictly for the most competent, the best informed, and the most impartial men. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Do you mean the Sub-Commissioners?] Yes, because these are the appointments for which we are responsible. Parliament, to a certain extent, shares the responsibility of the other appointments, but for the Sub-Commissioners we are strictly and properly responsible; and we have seen no reason, so far as we can appreciate their proceedings, to change our favourable opinion of the character and competence of these gentleman. So much for the Commissioners, of whom I will not presume to say—nay, it is hardly possible to believe—that in every instance of so many hundreds, now approaching to thousands, of cases that have come before them, the decisions should have been regarded with absolute infallibility; but of whom I say with confidence I believe their decisions have been in the strictest sense judicial, that they have not been prompted by preconception or political bias, that they were uninfluenced and, acting as Judges, it would be impossible to overstate the offence if we had been guilty, or if they had allowed any other than judicial motives to weigh upon their minds. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think, although he has not said it, that Her Majesty's Government have prompted the Commissioners to do a great deal of mischief. He has fastened upon my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor 175 General for Ireland (Mr. Porter). He says that my hon. and learned Friend promised this and that to the constituents whom he so worthily represents. The right hon. Gentleman did not quote any words; he gave his own construction and his own colour to the matter, and he put words into the mouth of my hon. and learned Friend. While I felt I should not be guilty of the ill task of taking his defence out of his own hands, I thought it well to ask him whether he admitted the accuracy of the description, and I need hardly say that he denied the accuracy of the description from one end to the other. But we have heard it before. What was the imputation? That there should be, in his opinion, a general lowering of rents in Ireland.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
What I said was, that the hon. and learned Gentleman argued that if this Government were retained, they would continue to appoint good Sub-Commissioners; and then I said it is clear the Sub-Commissioners went upon the principle, as I have already said., of nemo ex hoc numero mihi non donatus abihit.
Then it is an attack on the Sub-Commissioners; and I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman now apparently intends us to understand that, in his opinion, the Sub Commissioners had begun a general survey of the applicants in the Court, and had determined the reward in different proportions, but that all should get some. The right hon. Gentleman thinks the Sub-Commissioners had determined—like the labourers in the vineyard who were rewarded in different proportions, but who all got something—to give something to everybody. It appears to me that is a very heavy charge; and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to maintain and justify it against judicial persons, with respect to whom all I can say is, that nothing they have done appears to us to warrant it. On the whole, it is a charge against my hon. and learned Friend that he encouraged the people of Ireland to expect from the operation of this Act considerable reductions of rent. In the first place, I think, when the right hon. Gentleman talks of the utter ruin of many of the landlords, he assumes that the effect of these Courts is to be a great reduction of rent all over Ireland. 176 He is entirely premature in that judgment. It is absolutely impossible for anyone to tell from the handful of cases—because they are a handful in reference to the whole—already disposed of, whether the 23 per cent, which has been the average reduction thus far, will apply in all cases, for there are already great variations, including many cases of no change at all, and some cases of an increase of rent. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Half-a-crown.] I tell the noble Lord who interrupts me that he tells the House what is totally inaccurate. I do think that information conveyed in the middle of a speech, to be acceptable, should be accurate. My hon. and learned Friend was a candidate for a constituency, and he is severely censured for what he said. My hon. and learned Friend, I believe, strictly confined himself within the terms of the Act, and whatever he said, whatever he anticipated as to the effect upon rents, was the effect of the provisions of the Act. But there was another candidate in that constituency. There was a gentleman named Wilson, who, I believe, has the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman, who appeared as the supporter of the right hon. Gentleman, who was supported by the Party of the right hon. Gentleman, who represented the Constitution, the Church, the Land, and I know not what else, and he supported the great principles of Security and Conservatism, which it is well known are so stoutly professed on the other side of the House. His opinions, therefore, upon the Land Act are doubtless perfectly safe and sound opinions; and what were they? Why this gentleman, the friend of the right hon. Gentleman opposite to me (Sir Stafford Northcote), told the constituency whose votes he was soliciting what they were to expect to this effect—that the Land Act was a very good measure, but it had only one fault, and that was it did not go far enough, and the respect in which it did not go far enough was that it did not authorize interference simpliciter, and out and out, with the rents fixed under existing leases. Am I responsible for the opinions of my hon. Friend the learned Solicitor General? I think the right hon. Gentleman has some responsibility—["No, no!"]—for the opinions of Mr. Wilson. ["No, no!"] Yes; he was a Party—["No!"]—was he the representative 177 of their Party, or was he not? Was he supported by your Party? Had he been returned by the constituency, would not his return have been vaunted in every Conservative newspaper in the country as a triumphant sign of that re-action which they assert is taking place. Well, Sir, with these personal matters which have been introduced I have now done. My hon. and learned Friend will defend himself; but I think we will see what sort of allegiance is professed on the other side to principles in certain circumstances, and how easily all the inconveniences of an elevated creed are got rid of in the critical moment when you come to solicit the suffrages of a constituency. As I have said, Sir, I will not undertake to say what may be the prospective effect of these reductions of rents, and still less will I undertake to give assurances upon this subject. It has now become a current phrase on the other side of the House that assurances were made by Ministers that there should be no serious reductions of rents. We had no power to give such assurances, and never gave them. ["Oh, oh!"] We gave our opinions, and more than an opinion we could not give. No doubt, these opinions can be quoted in detail, as it is perfectly right they should. When they are so quoted, I shall be perfectly ready to deal with them; but for the present I simply say that, in my opinion, while the positive action of the Land Courts up to this time is greatly exaggerated, no man can judge from the character of the decisions given what will be the average effect upon the rental of Ireland, because the presumption evidently is that the cases first and most promptly brought under the consideration of the Courts would be amongst the strongest cases, and would represent the worst and not the better class of rents in Ireland. But, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman says—and says truly—that the main matter to be considered in relation to the Land Act is the effect it produces upon the country. He does not seem to be aware that any effect at all has been produced. Short as the time is since the Act has been in operation, we affirm that effects of the greatest consequence have been produced. There is no doubt that in one one sense the Land Act tended to accelerate a crisis in Ireland. It brought to a crisis the affairs of the Party connected with the Land 178 League. It made it almost a necessity for that Party either to advance or to recede. For every friend of Ireland professing popular principles or Conservative principles, I need not say it seems to me it was the absolute duty of such persons, on such an occasion, to recede and to favour the full and extended trial of the measure which had been obtained at such a cost of labour, and which promised so much to the people of Ireland. I admit the one course or the other they had to take. And what course did they take? They chose the desperate course; they chose to unfurl the flag against all property—["No, no!"]—against all rent. [Mr. BIGGAR: Detail!] Very well, if you want detail, I will give the hon. Member for Cavan one detail. It was announced that the actual rental of Ireland was £17,000,000, and I think they declared that the just rent of Ireland would be between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000. That is what I call unfurling the flag against all rent. You can take up, if you like, the £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 which you propose to reserve. It was even attempted to found, and to carry into effect, that universal conspiracy against rent with respect to which the Duke of Wellington said, in 1828, that, if once it came about, the cause of government in Ireland was hopeless. Those were the circumstances in which we stood at the beginning of October. Those were the circumstances in which I made an appeal to all men and to all Parties for support. But what support did I get from the Party of the right hon. Gentleman opposite? The support I got was that my doctrines, after all, were the doctrines of Mr. Parnell. My doctrines, Sir, were the doctrines of an Act of Parliament, and no man has ever shown that I have preached any doctrine in advance of the provisions of that Act. They were the doctrines of an Act of Parliament passed by this House, passed by the other House, passed by the vast majority in the other House which Lord Salisbury has at his command; and it is under those circumstances that when, in a case almost unexampled, I called upon all Parties to support the law and the Executive Government, the only support that Lord Salisbury had to give us is to say that our doctrines are substantially the same as those of Mr. Parnell. I am bound to say I might go further. I 179 might go a little below the region of Lord Salisbury, and refer to another Gentleman of apparently great position in the Party opposite, who said that there could be no doubt whatever that Mr. Parnell was the true representative of the sentiment of the Irish people. [Irish MEMBERS: So he is.] You say so, and you say so with perfect consistency; but I am speaking of this as an answer made by a high Member of the Conservative Party to an appeal from the Executive Government for support in order to enforce the law, and to maintain order in the country. Well, Sir, that conspiracy against rent, which I have thus described, was formally initiated. I will not attempt, on this occasion, to support my statement by quotations; but I have given one reference to language that is well known. Our position is that a crisis of the very gravest nature—a national and Imperial crisis—was produced in the beginning of October last by the, I think, fatal and ruinous line of conduct chosen by some Members who think themselves preeminently representative of the Irish people, and that under that crisis we determined to do everything that it lay in us to do, and to call upon all good citizens to help us. I am bound to say that in Ireland there was no hesitation about giving that support to the law and the government of the country. It is a pleasure to me to say that. We have had nothing there, so far as I know, to complain of, except, indeed, there was one very peculiar case that happened, and on which I will not enter now, because I am persuaded that it must have been the result of some strange accident and miscarriage. Well, Sir, that conspiracy was confronted, and how was it confronted? It was confronted by a double action. The right hon. Gentleman complains that when the Protection of Life and Property Act was passed we did not put enough people into prison. He thinks we ought to have proceeded wholesale, and put there at once a great lot of them. He seems to forget that by the Act we were placed under the most solemn obligation to take each case upon an examination of all the facts, conducted, indeed, in private, but yet under the eye of God and man, judicial—["No, no!"]—judicial, and upon honour to examine in every case, and to convince ourselves that 180 in each and all these cases he was reasonably suspected of having been within the purview of the Act. Against that we are reproached that we did not at once proceed to cast a considerable, or large and telling, number of people into prison. We have proceeded upon the Act to the very best of our judgment in every case, and in every case with that full examination to which we, and especially my right hon. Friend, were solemnly bound. It is by the double action of the Land Act and the Life and Property Protection Act that we have been enabled to confront this powerful crisis. No effort was ever made before in the history of Ireland to stop the payment of rent. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Cavan led me just now to make an admission to him, which I am going, not to alter in its terms, but to complete by an important further statement. It is true, there had been a reservation of between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 a-year which were to be left out of the £17,000,000; but it is also true that very shortly afterwards came out what was called the "no rent" manifesto. That was an attempt to bring about the very contingency which the Duke of Wellington at one time had foreseen as possible, and which, he intimated, would put an end to the resources of government in Ireland, and produce a state of things that could not be coped with. Coped with it might be by invasion. You might again conquer Ireland. Is that what is desired? No, Sir; we were determined to proceed in the exercise simply of powers granted to us by the law; and in enforcing that very law every day of the life of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) has been marked, not only by so many other efforts, but by this effort above all, that the law should be enforced, with every measure to make it efficacious, but with every precaution for the prevention of bloodshed in the Island. And among the titles which he has earned and established to the gratitude of his country, which may not now be fully acknowledged, but which will in future days be known and recognized from one end of the land to the other, there will be this pre-eminent, perhaps, above all, that when he was a Minister and in Office, he did not forget the philanthropy of his early life, but strove, as he had striven in the field and in the hovel as a private 181 individual 40 years ago, to save the lives of the people of Ireland from famine; and so even now, in the days of bewilderment, and the error of many under the influence of false and mischievous guides, has striven—aye, and has secured this greatconsummation—thateven the enforcement of the law should be in almost every instance obtained without the shedding of a drop of blood. I must not anticipate it; therefore, I do not speak of the future; but thus far there is every indication that this great conspiracy which, had it succeeded, would have, indeed, brought society to the very last of its resources, has been, not only confronted, but beaten. The payment of rent in Ireland is now going on very extensively, and is never met by violent resistance. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER: Hear, hear! and "Oh, oh!"] I think I am correct in saying that the demand for payment of rent is never met by violent resistance. I am now speaking, not of the future, but of a present fact; and as we recorded last year, with shame and with sorrow, the state of things that then existed, so we are entitled at the present time to record the improvement in the condition of Ireland that has since been brought about. But if it be true that such a conspiracy has been confronted, and its strength has in great part been broken, I say that is a matter so great and so solid in itself that it cannot be broken down by any cavilling criticism, nor can it be long withheld from becoming visible and sensible to the nation at large by its own intrinsic greatness. We think, Sir, that that is the case, not only because of the manner in which armed resistance to the levy of rent has been suppressed—there are two other features. We affirm that the circle of intimidation has been narrowed. As to its character, I cannot say that it has improved. I fully believe that the Land Act has driven the Party to whom I have referred to desperation; and in speaking of their subsequent proceedings, I mean not only what they have done and what they have said, but what they have favoured by their silence. They have encouraged by their connivance in this way proceedings which have assumed even a darker character than that of those to which I have already referred. It was deplorable enough that the agents of the law and the representatives of property should be insecure, and should be 182 subject to actual danger to life and limb in the simple assertion of their legal rights, and in the performance of their official duties; but what I say was worse still, and what was baser still, was this, that the tenant, the occupier of land in Ireland, should be subjected to outrage, to the invasion of his house, to the mutilation of his person—nay, even to the loss of his life—because he fulfilled, not only his legal duties, but his legal obligations, and paid the rent that he had promised to pay. That is the character of the recent intimidation. It is against that intimidation that we made, and are still making, war, and I shall be curious to hear, when the Amendment is moved, and when the speeches upon that Amendment are bestowed largely upon this House, what is thought by the speakers of that description of intimidation, and what they have to say in its favour. Besides the withdrawal of open resistance to the payment of rent, and besides the contraction of the circle of intimidation, I am, moreover, happy to say that, in some degree at least, the judicial system of the country has revived. I look upon that as a circumstance most hopeful at the present vital moment. Here, again, I will not presume to prophecy; but I point to the day, now 13 months ago, when we were obliged to press it upon the attention of Parliament, that the judicial system of the country—of course, not through the action of Judges, but through the action of juries—was dead. Now, however, it is alive. Verdicts have been obtained against those criminals, those malefactors—have been obtained from juries acting, perhaps, under personal fear on the part of those who gave verdicts, perhaps under the knowledge that they would not receive much protection from some organs of opinion in Ireland from which they might justly have expected it. As a matter of fact, the judicial system has revived, and the respect for law, which, I rejoice to say, in general is fast becoming characteristic of Ireland, is now, happily, beginning to extend to agrarian cases. These, at all events, are not vague general assertions; they are plain and positive, though limited and guarded, statements. These are the statements upon which we stand when we allege that there is, upon the whole, the sign, the unmistakable sign, of improvement in Ireland, and we 183 affirm that the agency by which we have been able to effect that improvement is a double agency—the agency, not remedial, but repressive, which, unfortunately, could cure nothing, but which, at any rate, cleared the field, and kept it open for the application of the cure; and the agency of the Land Act, which, as we know, and firmly believe, has laid a great hold upon the mind of the people of Ireland, and has defied the worst efforts that could be used against it. I will not say that it reduced it to a nullity, but it has contracted their power, and done what I hope is vitally essential to prevent the accomplishment of mischievous designs. This Act, which we admit to have been exceptional, which we admit to have been only war-wanted by the gravity of the circumstances of the ease, but with regard to which we very confidently assert that in these very early days—in this very commencement of its life—it has proved itself in some way to be an infant Hercules, that could strangle the serpent that endeavoured to grapple with its life and to extinguish it; that its action, though it be full of difficulty, and I admit it, though some of its provisions be open to criticism, and I admit it, yet is full of hope and promise, and I trust will be full of blessing for the people of Ireland.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, that, after the eloquent and impressive speech to which he had just listened with interest and admiration, he felt great diffidence in intruding himself upon the time and attention of the House; but, as there were many contentions in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which he could not agree with, and in the absence of any announcement by the Government as to what steps they would take in support of the few and insufficient measures already adopted to enforce obedience to the law in Ireland, he felt bound to interpose for a little between the House and its consideration of the Gracious Speech from the Throne. If they were to judge from one or more paragraphs in the Speech, they would be led to infer that perseverance in the course which was being adopted would probably be productive of the best results, and that the state of Ireland had improved. But he believed that that course would only be productive of eternal anarchy and confusion. The state of things in Ireland 184 now was infinitely worse than at the close of last Session, six months ago, when the House was led to believe that the remedial measure which the Government induced Parliament to pass would be a panacea for all the imaginary grievances of that country. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Government had asked for an explanation from the Commissioners of the document which had appeared in the public papers, and which had been commented upon in "another place;" but the House had not yet heard a word from the Government upon the subject. Next, the right hon. Gentleman had told the House that when the Government came into Office in 1880 there was no time to re-enact the Peace Preservation Act which was about to expire; but the right hon. Gentleman forgot that in 1871 the Westmeath Act was passed in three weeks. The right hon. Gentleman had also told them that they had had no fair experience yet of the full working of the Land Act, as many of the cases would be brought before the Court of Appeal; and he added that the cases heard were only a fraction of the whole which had been brought before the Commissioners. The cases, as far as their information went, numbered 1,164 up to the 1st of the present month, comprising a rental of about £32,000, on which a reduction had been made of £7,550, or rather over 23 per cent of the whole amount. The Prime Minister next referred to the increase of rent which had taken place in the same time, but did not mention the percentage, because, probably, there was no fractional sum which would accurately represent it—the total sum being £31 6s. 2d. The Prime Minister took exception to an opinion expressed by the right hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote) to the effect that the powers intrusted to the Government at the commencement of last Session had not been firmly and sufficiently enforced, and he inferred that the right hon. Baronet meant that they had not made a sufficient number of arrests. He felt certain that that was not the interpretation which the right hon. Baronet intended to be put upon his words, and that what he really meant was that the leaders, and not the rank and file, of the party should have been incarcerated. It had always been a complaint against the Government that they had taken up the 185 small fry instead of going to the root of the evil. The Prime Minister further went on to point out, as a sign of the improvement of the times, that payment of rent was not now resisted by force; but if not resisted in the sense which he meant, was not passive resistance and the murder of bailiffs and of men who had paid their rent a sufficient indication that the spirit of terrorism and lawlessness had not passed away? On one estate within the past month two men had had the honesty and temerity to pay their rent. One of these men was shot at his own fireside, and the other was roasted at his own fire.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
said, he went by the statements which had been made in the public Press. He was very glad, however, to hear that the state of that part of the country was not so bad as it had been thought to be.
§ MR. TOTTENHAM
remarked, that where attempts had been made to serve processes personally the men employed to effect service had been murdered. The substitution of service by posting was now common in nearly the half of Ireland. The Prime Minister went on to say that the cases already heard by the Sub-Commissioners were among the worst in Ireland, and led the House to infer that selections from the list had been made by the Chief Commissioners; whereas, in point of fact, the Chief Commissioners distinctly stated that they took the cases in the order in which they stood on the list. It had been said in "another place" that none of the great estates had yet been interfered with; but he could name five Peers, from personal knowledge and recollection on the moment, none of whom had ever been said to come within the class of bad or indifferent landlords, and in every one of whose cases reductions of rent had been made. He asserted that the state of Ireland was now many degrees behind what it was at the close of last Session. It was deeply to be deplored that not only had the expectations of the Government been totally contradicted and falsified, but that the present state of crime and outrage had been steadily on the increase from the date of the speeding of the so-called 186 "message of peace." In the six month s ending on the 31st of December last the number of outrages was 2,597. This was the largest number of outrages that had been committed in any six consecutive months within the past three years. The total number for the six months immediately preceding the last meeting of Parliament was 2,069, or 528 less. It was a peculiarity of the Liberal Administration in Ireland that the advent of the Liberals to power had of late years been invariably accompanied by a corresponding increase of agrarian outrages. At the close of 1868, when they came into Office, they found the year ending with a total of 160 agrarian outrages; but in 1869 and 1870 they rose respectively to 767 and 1,329, when they were obliged to bring in and pass the Westmeath Act in 1871. In like manner, they found the year 1879 closing with a total of 863; but the following year they had increased it to 2,590; and in the year just gone by it had reached the frightful total of 4,310. With these figures staring him in the face, and with step by step, and month by month, a steadily-increasing Return, the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) met his constituents at Birmingham on the 3rd of January, and informed them, with some complacency, that under the benign auspices of his Government, crime was decreasing. And how did he arrive at such a calculation? By taking the highest month of the previous year and comparing with it the corresponding month of the following, he argued, because it was less in the latter than in the former month, that the numbers were decreasing; whereas he knew well, or ought to have known if he had taken the trouble to verify his facts, that the converse was the case, and that from July to December, beginning with 259 in July, they had gone up to 367, 387, 490, 520, till they had reached 574 in December. This state of a portion of the United Kingdom had been brought about by the illicit intercourse of authority with conspiracy, and the offspring of this unhallowed union had been repudiated by its putative father and flung back into the bosom which fostered the viper, which was now stinging hidden and unseen. The President of the Board of Trade, whose pen, like his speech, appeared sometimes to run riot, boldly 187 threw off the mask and let the cat out of the bag in the columns of The Times, when he admitted that the objects of the Land League and the Government were identical, and that the Government had pledged themselves to effect the same objects, if they could. Was England prepared to hear one of her responsible Ministers boldly and openly announce that the Government of which he was a Member approved the objects of an association of which he and his Colleagues had brought the leaders to trial? Yet this was done, and that Minister unblushingly admitted that that unlawful conspiracy, which he and his Friends had prosecuted, had the same objects as the Government of which he was a Member; and he was not ashamed to confess to such an unholy alliance. It did not occur to him, till it was brought to his recollection by one of his late Colleagues, the Duke of Argyll, that he had been a Member of the same Government which 12 months before had brought the leaders of this association to trial for being members of an unlawful conspiracy; and he affected to doubt whether the Land League could have been legally suppressed till it had done something more. Something more than what? More than being an unlawful conspiracy. This was not enough, and this was the best excuse that could be made for rounding on the friends who had served them but too well and too efficiently, and for the dissolution of the unseemly partnership. Such reckless statements and assertions might be excusable coming from an outsider, imperfectly acquainted with the facts, and without official sources of information; but they ill became a responsible Minister of the Crown. Not till the common object of both bodies had been effected was it deemed advisable to break up the band of late assistants, who now, emboldened by success and the taste of blood, had thrown off the mask and announced that all or none was their game, and that the extirpation of the landowner, the land for the people, Communism, and separation from England, was their goal; the very programme which, over and over again, Ministers had been warned was the real object of the party of disorder, warned by those most competent to judge and to offer advice, but whose warnings and opinions were contemptuously thrust 188 aside. He now came to what he would willingly forget—that the Prime Minister of England should accuse those on whom he had brought ruin of sluggishness, helplessness, and inactivity in the cause of law and order, and that he should taunt them with being refugees, and with their power being gone. With their protestations disregarded, their property confiscated, their demands for the proper enforcement of the law by the Executive unheeded, an illegal association rampant and dominant over the Executive on every side, seditious and treasonable meetings permitted in every district, and themselves told by the Executive that if they dared oppose force to force, and attempt to combine in their own armed defence, they should at once bring themselves within the law, they whose blood was boiling to see the Government folding its hands and trembling at the storm of angry passions it had let loose—it was under such circumstances as these that the Prime Minister permitted himself to taunt the very men he had done his utmost to ruin and degrade, and to utter a sentiment that did his heart little honour, as it was totally without foundation in fact, and was a gratuitous and wanton insult. Two days afterwards the ''resources of civilization" came into play, and the Government awoke from its lethargy for a little spurt. Too late, too late. This had been the curse which had beset every step they had taken; they had shut their door when the steed was gone; they had unchained the spirit which they could not allay. Every step taken had been suggested as absolutely necessary many months before it was done, and before the Government could make up their minds that they did not know better than everybody else. And what had been the result of their policy? Had not everything of which notice and warning had been given from that (the Opposition) side of the House come to pass? Had they been false prophets? Who had been the birds of ill-omen? The Government had stirred up a depth of bitter passions and class hatred which might not be allayed for generations. They had turned once fast friends into bitter foes. They had, by their acts and by their utterances, taught the Irish tenant to look upon his landlord as his natural enemy. They had flooded the 189 whole country with litigation, as they were warned would be the case. They had permitted to grow up and ripen a foul and hideous conspiracy, which had poisoned the very breath of life in the land, and which the law, as administered by them, was powerless to cope with; and they had broughtruin, desolation, and misery on thousands of once happy homes. They had permitted the country not only to come within, but to remain within, a measurable distance of civil war. This had been the result of their policy of pandering to agitation—a policy fraught with disaster to the country, with ruin to the loyal classes, and which had earned the contempt of the civilized world. This was the outcome of their message of peace; and their great measure of confiscation and legalized public plunder had been flung back to them by their late allies with contempt and scorn—a measure which had excited the wonder of the world that England, the recognized home of freedom and of justice, should have stooped to effect the ruin of one class by transferring their property to another at the bidding of agitation and outrage—a measure which, when being introduced by the Prime Minister, he said would be carried out on principles of justice and equity. He said—Justice is to be our guide … walking in that path we cannot err. Guided by that light—that Divine light—we are safe.It was distinctly stated by the Government that injury or confiscation was not intended or anticipated, and that it was not necessary for Parliament to provide compensation; but, at the same time, the Prime Minister stated that—If those classes, either or both of them, have a just claim for compensation in consequence of the manner in which their interests will be affected by the Bill, we are bound, as a Parliament, to give them compensation.More one-sided justice and legalized public plunder had. never been administered under the shadow of legislation, and the principles applied had been a gross violation of the spirit of the Act, and a deliberate misinterpretation of the intention of Parliament. The Act was being administered upon principles of "live and thrive," a new doctrine, taken from the tenants' point of view by the Chief Commissioner. Parliament would hear with some astonishment the impar- 190 tial and judicial sentiments uttered by the chief legal Commissioner on the first day of opening the Court. He said that the Act was to be interpreted in favour of the tenant on the principle of "live and thrive." Did he say one word in his Charge of any benefit that was likely to accrue to the landlord! He had since endeavoured to show that the doctrine of "live and thrive" and the old-established maxim of "live and let live," were identical; but to attempt to say that the two terms were synonymous, appeared to his unjudicial mind to be a palpable absurdity. The words were capable of no other construction than that the tenant, and he alone, should live and thrive, no matter what happened to the owner of the land. How could they, by any possibility, be twisted into bearing the same meaning as the other axiom, which the majority of landlords had always recognized, and which clearly stated the principle that the landlord should think, not only of his own welfare, but deal with the tenant so as to give him also the means of living. The next subject of complaint was that the Act was being administered upon the basis of a valuation, not only condemned by successive Royal Commissions, but discarded by the Prime Minister himself as not of any value or guide, and, notwithstanding, thrust ostentatiously forward as the apparent basis of all operations under the Act. It had been publicly announced by some of the Sub-Commissioners that the capacity of the tenant, and not the capacity of the land, was to be the measure of its value; and that they did not care a straw for evidence of scientific or professional witnesses; with a host of other similar frivolous utterances too numerous to discuss now, but which would be brought forward at the proper time. As an example of the mode in which justice was being administered, he must here draw the earnest consideration of the House to what he ventured to say was about the most extraordinary document that ever emanated from a Court of Justice under the seal and authority of the officer of the Court. It was headed—How to become the owner of your farm; Why Irish Landlords should Sell and Irish Tenants should Purchase; and How they can do it under the Land Act of 1881. There were an extraordinary succession of passages on the second page. For example— 191Does the Irish tenant doubt that it would be for his advantage that he should be enabled to purchase the fee-simple of his holding, and thus become the absolute proprietor instead of the mere hirer of the land which he tills, and of the home with which all the recollections of his life are associated? If he doubts it, then he doubts the doctrine which Davitt unfolded at Irishtown, and for the teaching of which that far-seeing man founded the Irish National Land League, the most widespread, the most powerful, and in its effects, we believe, the most enduring organization of our time; if he doubts it, then have Parnell and Dillon and Davitt laboured and suffered in vain. But, in truth, there is not, we believe, in Ireland a single tenant who doubts it.And again—It is impossible to suppose that men to whom the arguments of the Land League leaders are familiar as household words should have failed to grasp the principle which the Land League was founded to teach—the principle, namely, that Irish tenants should strive, and strive until they were put in a position to purchase out-and-out their holdings, so that they should be owners and free men, instead of being tenants and slaves.Here was another passage—The desirability of the change will be cordially admitted by every Irish tenant, the desirability not alone from the point of view of his own comfort and prosperity and freedom, but also because, in effecting the change, he will give proof of his loyalty to the principles of the organization by which the means of bringing about the change have been won.The document from which he had made these extracts bore the following paragraph at the end:—It is requested that all communications to the Land Commissioners shall be in writing, addressed to the Secretary Irish Land Commission, 24, Upper Merrion Street, Dublin. Dublin: Printed by Alex. Thorn and Co., 87, 88, and 89, Abbey Street, the Queen's Printing Office for Her Majesty's Stationery Office.They had evidence that the pamphlet was produced under the authority of the Commission, and he was able to tell the House that it was actually put in circulation and distributed by the officer of the Court of at least two of the Sub-Commissions. It had been stated in "another place" that only a few copies of the pamphlet were issued, and that it was stopped in the Press. But what became of that statement when they found that it was dated in November last, and that 2,000 copies were ordered in January and were being distributed by the Sub-Commissions last month? If that was not a complete and full justification of his charge of the alliance of 192 authority and conspiracy, he failed to see what clearer proof could be adduced. And as there was many a true word said in jest, he thought the words of the Registrar on the first day of opening the Land Court, when he said by mistake—"I now declare this Court of the Land League open," could not be more clearly exemplified. This was an Act which Parliament was given to understand would be administered by men of proved capacity and experience, and capable of exercising impartially judicial functions. But what were the class of appointments made by the Government, and who were the "eminent persons" they had appointed? They were men from every class but those they should have been appointed from. Notwithstanding the observations which the Prime Minister had recently made as to their character and competency, he (Mr. Tottenham) asserted that they were men whose particular qualifications were the possession of extreme political views, hostile to the interests of landlords. They were briefless barristers, men without the qualifications that would have entitled them to the appointment of a County Court Judge, whose jurisdiction extended over sums far lower than the jurisdiction these men had been intrusted with. They had been selected from solicitors of small practice, men whom the payment of £1,000 for one year had induced to throw their private practice to the winds in order to follow this new pursuit. They had been selected from chemists' assistants, small tenant farmers, small shopkeepers, drapers, corn and timber merchants; and actually there had been tenants sitting in judgment upon their own landlords. He knew that one Sub-Commissioner was a member of an election committee for securing the return of a Member of the Executive Government. He would not enter in more detail into these cases, as the whole subject would very shortly be brought before Parliament, and the details of these appointments would be subjected to a searching investigation. He would only say that he could not imagine a greater parody on justice and the administration of the law than a quasi- judicial body such as this, composed of the most heterogeneous elements that were ever dug out of obscurity and pitchforked into notoriety. He must refer to a meeting of an extraordinary and excep- 193 tional character which lately took place in Dublin. It was composed of nearly 3,000 landowners. Every shade of politics and every creed were represented at that meeting. They unanimously cried out against the confiscation of which they had been made the victims, and they took the very unusual and exceptional course of adopting a Petition to Her Majesty praying for relief from the injustice which had been inflicted on them. Such unanimity, he supposed, never before existed in an assembly of Irishmen. The only difference which was exhibited related to the amount of powder which was requisite for the charge. Was such an appeal as that to have no weight with English statesmen? Was the cry for justice to be unheeded because it came from the traduced and insulted landowner? Was equal justice not his birthright with the rest of his fellow-subjects? And was devotion to Crown and country to be rewarded with deprivation and ruin? There were men in the House from whose conscience the Irish Land Act was extorted by special pleading, by plausible and specious arguments which were put forward in its defence. He asked them now to say whether a single prediction of the opponents of the measure had not been verified? He asked them to undo, so far as in them lay, the mischief which they had assisted to bring about, and to decline to support a policy which allied itself with an agitation the object of which was to extort an Act without parallel in the history of the country. That Act was wrung from the conscience of Parliament by special pleading and by throwing dust in the eyes of its supporters. He believed the time was fast approaching when the English people would awake from the infatuation which had induced them to allow the Prime Minister and Parliament to pass an Act which was not only injurious to the welfare of Ireland, but injurious to their own reputation.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
, in moving, as an Amendment, the insertion of the following words:—And humbly to assure Her Majesty that, in the opinion of this House, the only efficacious remedy for the deplorable condition of Ireland is a readjustment of the political relation established between Great Britain and Ireland by the Act of Legislative Union of 1800,said: I feel I owe an explanation to the 194 House of the motives which impel mo, at this time and in the manner indicated by my Notice, to invite its attention to a subject of such transcendent magnitude as the political relation established between Great Britain and Ireland by the Act of Union of 1800. I know with what impatience any allusion to the subject is received in this country, and how difficult it is to treat it, even in the most delicate way, without leaving oneself open to misconstruction. Unstained are the laurels that rest on Grattan's grave; and I deem it right that in this, the centenary of his great achievement, and in this House to a seat of honour, in which he was conducted by Charles James Fox, the fact should be proclaimed that his every prediction in regard of the consequences of the Legislative Union has been verified, and that Ireland is as we behold her now because of the violation, in 1800, of the final adjustment arrived at by Parliament, 18 years before, in conformity with the command of the King. An eminent personage in this country, a Nobleman to whom no Irishman can refer save in terms of the utmost respect, has recently declared that to uphold the Union England would shed her blood. Such a declaration having been authoritatively made, it is reasonable, it is necessary, to inquire how and when this Imperial Parliament came to be the Legislature not alone of England, but of Ireland, and what the phrase "Repeal of the Union" truly implies. It is not my intention to trespass on the attention of the House at much length, nor to enter on this occasion into an elaborate argument; but if the indulgence I ask be extended to me, I hope, at all events, to be able to convince hon. Members, whatever views they may entertain on the subject of the Union, that Ireland, if she should be so minded, has a perfect right—a perfectly legal and Constitutional right—to demand its repeal or modification. The question in issue between Great Britain and Ireland 100 years ago was not the right of Ireland to a separate Parliament, but her right to possess a free, unfettered, and independent Parliament. The institution of Parliament, in one form or another, had existed for 600 years; and down to the time of Henry VII. the Irish Parliament, such as it was, passed laws for Ireland, with a negative power vested in the Crown. By the law of Poyning, 195 passed in the 10th year of that reign, the course of legislation was reversed, and the original and efficient powers of legislation were essentially vested in the Crown, while the Parliament was left merely a negative voice on the ordinances of the Prince. A revolution in the circumstances of Europe had substituted trade for chivalry, and commercial enter-prize for feudal violence; and the England of George I. deemed that a Legislative Body in Ireland, possessing even a negative voice on Imperial regulations of Irish trade, might be an obstacle in her path to the attainment of commercial supremacy. Hence the Act, the 6 Geo. I., which, declared that the King and Parliament of Great Britain had, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to make laws to bind the people of Ireland. Thus in 1720 was revived the discussion of the momentous question—Does England rule Ireland by conquest, or is Ireland self-ruled by compact under the British Crown? After a struggle of half-a-century the arguments of Swift, Molyneux, Lucas, and Viscount Molesworth prevailed—their doctrines were universally accepted—and the whole arrangement of 1782 is based upon the dogma that no power on earth has a right to make laws to bind Ireland except the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland. The first portion of that arrangement had reference exclusively to the trade and commerce of Ireland. At the opening of the Session of 1779 of the Irish Parliament, Mr. Hussey Burgh moved as an addition to Grattan's Amendment to the Address a substantive Resolution in these terms—That we beg to represent to His Majesty that it is not by temporary expedients, but by a free trade alone, that this nation is now to be saved from impending ruin.The Amendment, as thus improved, was carried unanimously. Abroad it was the hour of England's difficulty, and Ireland presented, for the first time, the aspect of a united nation. A Minister, conscious of his responsibilities, had no option but to yield to the just demands of the Irish nation; and accordingly in December, 1779, Lord North introduced in the British Parliament three propositions—1st. For the repeal of those laws which prohibited the export of Irish woollen goods and wool flocks to any part of Europe. 2nd. For the repeal of so much of the Act 196 19 Geo. II., as forbade import of glass into Ireland save of British manufacture, and also forbade the export of glass from Ireland. 3rd. That Ireland should have freedom of trade with the English settlements in America, the West Indies, and Africa. In the same month, Mr. Foster, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, moved two Resolutions in that Assembly—1st. That the export of the manufactures of this country would tend to relieve distress. 2nd. That great commercial benefits would flow from the permission to trade with the American, Indian, and African settlements.The propositions of Lord North and the Resolutions of Mr. Foster were the basis of the Bill which, in 1780, gave Ireland Free Trade. The question in dispute at that period was not one of tariffs, of high duties or low, it was one of far higher import, and involved the exercise, on the part of the Irish nation, of her natural right of trading directly with foreign countries. The right of any one nation to exchange the products of its capital and industry for the products of the capital and industry of any other nation willing to trade with it is a simple natural right which no Parliament could have the right either to abrogate or confer. By a system, however, of barbarous and unnatural legislation, the exercise of this natural right had been prohibited to Ireland for a period of 100 years. It was not, therefore, for the mere assertion of a principle, however true, or for the vindication of an abstract right, however sacred, that Grattan's eloquence flashed in the Senate, and the Volunteers stood to arms in College Green. Ireland, conscious of her capacities, knew that, being permitted the exercise of her natural right of trade, she possessed within herself the means not merely of relieving her distress and warding off impending ruin, but of maintaining an extended and prosperous foreign commerce. Not for a barren right, then, but for profitable possession, did Ireland commit life and fortune in the struggle for Free Trade. Yes; despite the 9 Will. III., which destroyed her woollen manufactures; despite the 10 Anne. by which Irish linens were practically excluded from the English market, as they had before been excluded from the Colonial markets; despite the 23 Geo. II., by which were imposed 197 duties amounting to a prohibition on the export of sail-cloth made of Irish hemp; despite the 7 Geo. I., enacting penalties on the wearing in Great Britain of any article of Irish cotton manufacture; despite the 9 Anne, prohibiting the importation into Ireland of hops from any other place but Great Britain; despite the embargo by which Ireland was prohibited from sending her provisions anywhere but into England—despite a course of legislation the most artful and the most iniquitous that sordid avarice could devise to ruin and enslave a people, Ireland possessed even then, in 1780, two years before an independent Parliament spread its wings over those young manufactures, which grew up like so many children beneath their shelter—Ireland, I say, possessed even then, in 1780, all the materials for the support of a direct trade with every commercial nation on the globe. Who at the present day will attempt to justify the enactments I have enumerated, and who will withhold the tribute of his admiration from the men who, in 1780, vindicated the principles of commercial freedom? Grattan knew that his work was incomplete, that there was no security for its permanence, until he had placed Free Trade won under the ægis of a free Constitution. From the consideration of these iniquitous laws the inquiry naturally extended into the right and title by which their makers assumed to bind and to loose Ireland. By what right did the English Privy Council make or alter the drafts of Irish Bills? By what right did the Parliament of Great Britain interfere with the legislation of the Parliament of Ireland? These were questions of mighty moment, which only brave men dared approach, and only wise and virtuous men could rightly adjust. The conviction grew that in Irish union lay the only hope of salvation. Happily, the legitimate leaders of the land—the men of title and estate—were not behind the people. No agrarianism interposed to separate class from class, tenant from landlord, labourer from tenant. Then, as now, the cultivator was attached to the soil he cultivated; but his attachment to that bit of soil did not weaken or obliterate his nobler attachment to country. The Catholic in fetters embraced the Protestant in arms, and dismissed his own emancipation to be a sharer in the glory 198 of an emancipated country. Thus the wondrous spectacle was presented of the National Advocate of Ireland—and a greater no nation since or before Demosthenes ever had—being sustained not alone by all the moral and intellectual, but all the material forces of his nation. On the 9th of April, 1782, Mr. Fox communicated to the British House of Commons this Message from the King—His Majesty being concerned to find that discontents and jealousies are prevailing among his loyal subjects in Ireland, upon matters of great weight and importance, earnestly recommends to this House, to take the same into their most serious consideration, in order to such a final adjustment as may give a mutual satisfaction to both kingdoms."—[Parl. History, 22, 1264.]A similar communication was made to the Irish Parliament by the Duke of Portland, Lord Lieutenant. On the Motion for the adoption of the Address in reply Grattan moved his celebrated Amendment declaring the rights of Ireland. A single paragraph will sufficiently indicate its purport—To assure His Majesty that his subjects of Ireland are a free people. That the Crown of Ireland is an Imperial Crown inseparably annexed to the Crown of Great Britain, on which connection the interests and happiness of both nations essentially depend; but that the Kingdom of Ireland is a distinct Kingdom, with a Parliament of her own—the sole Legislature thereof. That there is no body of men competent to make laws to bind this nation except the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland; nor any other Parliament which hath any other authority or power of any sort whatever in this country, save only the Parliament of Ireland. To assure His Majesty that we humbly conceive that in this right the very essence of our liberties exists—a right which we, on the part of all the people of Ireland, do claim as their birthright, and which we cannot yield but with our lives.The amended Address was carried unanimously in both Houses of the Irish Legislature, and was subsequently approved of by both Houses of the British Legislature. The 6 Geo. I. was repealed by the British Parliament, and Poyning's Law, being an Irish Statute, was repealed by the Irish Parliament. To make assurance doubly sure, the British Parliament passed in 1783 the Declaratory Act, 23 Geo. III., c. 28, which declared and enacted that—The right claimed by the people of Ireland to be bound only by laws enacted by His Majesty and the Parliament of that Kingdom in all cases whatever, and to have all actions 199 and suits at law or in equity which may be instituted in that Kingdom decided in His Majesty's Courts, therein finally and without appeal from thence, shall be and is hereby declared to be established and ascertained for ever, and shall at no time hereafter be questioned or questionable.The final adjustment was complete. It was a Treaty, perfect in all its parts. As such it was universally regarded in Ireland as, after a slavery of centuries, she sprang exulting into the attitude of an independent nation. The conspicuous part borne by the Volunteers in this grand and stainless revolution was formally acknowledged at the time by the Parliaments of both Kingdoms. Ireland has now no Volunteers, yet was she the first to set the example of a citizen army, clothed, drilled, equipped, without the cost of a shilling to the State. They saved the Island from foreign invasion, preserved domestic peace, upheld the law, and established on the basis of Free Trade a free Constitution. When the gentry of Ireland are denounced as land thieves, robbers, tyrants, usurpers, the English garrison, even as they had been denounced within the precincts of this House, I should have expected that some member of that order, some representative, at least, of that Ulster Province, which was the cradle of the Volunteers, would have stood up and exclaimed—Hold! My grandsire wore the uniform of the Volunteers, and was an armed delegate at Dungannon. They knew their duty to their Sovereign, and were loyal; they knew their duty to their country, and were resolved to be free. In an age of intolerance, and holding a position of ascendancy, they proclaimed the doctrine of religious liberty. Say, were they an English garrison upon that day when Free Trade was won, or that still more glorious day when Grattan moved the Declaration of Eights?—That one lucid interval, snatched from the gloomAnd the madness of ages, when filled with his soul,A nation o'erleaped the dark bounds of her doom,And for one sacred instant touched Liberty's goal!I will not defend, in all respects, the use made by the Irish Parliament of its recovered liberty; but this I do assert—that during its brief but brilliant 200 career it conferred more benefits upon Ireland than any Parliament then existing conferred, in the same period, on any other country. My authority is Lord Clare, and it is conclusive. He said—No nation of the habitable globe advanced in cultivation, in commerce, in agriculture, in manufactures, with the same rapidity in the same period.Within the space of 15 years it passed four different Statutes of relief in favour of the Catholics, and I have the clearest warrant for the assertion that the Union retarded complete emancipation by fully a quarter of a century. Had Grattan adopted Flood's Reform policy, or had Flood accepted Grattan's on the Catholic Question, that Union, or any union, could never have been carried without, at least, the full and free sanction and concurrence of the Irish people. How was the Union carried? I will not shock the House by the recital. Let a Select Committee be appointed, and I undertake to establish that it was carried by force, fraud, and terror; by the fomentation of rebellion, and by the most open and profligate bribery and corruption that ever yet stained the annals of any country. Parliamentary Papers show that no less than £1,275,000 was paid as the actual purchase money for close and rotten boroughs, and that £ 1,500,000 was paid in direct bribery. The Peerage, the Episcopal Bench, and the Bench of Justice were brought into the market, and in every Department of the Public Service bribery and corruption were reduced to a regular system. Yet, singular to relate, despite all this, the Union was rejected by the Parliament of 1799, and was carried in that of 1800, chiefly by the introduction into nomination boroughs of Scotch and English officers quartered in Ireland, but unconnected by birth or property with the country. It were easy to descend with the Latin poet into the Tartarus, and, pointing the linger of scorn at this Peer, that Judge, the Bishop, the General, exclaim—Vendidit hic auro patriam, dominumque potentemImposuit: fixit leges pretio atque refixit.But the patriot of the present day will deem it a more grateful duty to contemplate the glory of that heroic band of statesmen, orators, and soldiers whom no bribe could seduce, no force intimidate, and who stood by their country to the last—faithful to her freedom, faith- 201 ful to her fall. Reverently he will approach that sad group as they press around the bier of their betrayed and murdered nation. He will hearken to the solemn judgment of Plunket—Yourselves you may extinguish, but the Parliament you cannot extinguish. It is enshrined in the hearts of the people; it is established in the sanctuary of the Constitution; it is immortal as the Island it protects. As well might the frantic maniac hope that the act which destroys his miserable body should extinguish his immortal soul. He will ponder on the prediction of Saurin—You may mate the Union binding as a law; but you cannot make it obligatory on conscience. It will be obeyed so long as England is strong; but resistance to it will be in the abstract a duty, and the exhibition of that resistance will be a mere question of prudence. In Grattan's passionate wail he will catch the archangel trumpet-note of a Judgment Day to come—Yet I do not give up the country. I see her in a swoon; but she is not dead. Though in her tomb she lies helpless and motionless, still there is on her lips a spirit of life, and on her cheek a glow of beauty—Thou art not conquer'd; Beauty's ensign yetIs crimson on thy lips, and in thy cheek,And Death's pale flag is not advanced there.I recall with grateful feeling that the Union Act was opposed in the British Parliament by Mr. (Earl) Grey, and, as might be expected, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, in the Commons; and by Earl Derby and Lords Holland and King in the Lords. Dr. Johnson's testimony stands on record against it; Byron denounced it as the "Union of the shark with his prey;" and one not inferior even to Byron in poetic imagination—Percy Byshe Shelley—visited Dublin in 1812 for the purpose of inciting the Irish people to seek its abrogation. And now, what are the consequences of this chef d'œuvre of William Pitt? Circumspice. You deprived Ireland of her own Constitution; what have you given her in return? Eighty years of Union, and 50 Acts of coercion. Eighty years of Union, and 80 years of discontent, disaffection, anarchy. The blow fell swiftest and most heavily on that class against whom the decree of extermination has gone forth. As a class, indeed, it is far from guiltless; but if sectionalism must supplant patriotism, and if extermination 202 there must be, it might be well to consider of what section can it in truth be said that its own house is not, to some extent at least, of glass. However that may be, the gentry, at all events, were cast down from the highest position men could occupy on earth. Many of them became absentees—wanderers over the face of Europe. More remained at home; but, left without public duties and responsibilities in connection with their own country, they sank gradually into the condition of mere rent receivers—fair rents or rack-rents, as the case might be—and hunters of foxes in the land they had ruled. I will not enter into the domain of statistics, for, even if they could be made to show that Ireland had materially advanced instead of retrograded under the Union, I would still ask, what could compensate a people for the loss of their liberty? A truer criterion than any which tables of export and import supply of the advance or decline of a country is the state, at different epochs, of its public life, the tone of its public opinion, and the spirit of its Press, its platform, and its pulpit. O'Connell was the champion of civil and religious liberty. For nearly half-a-century O'Connell was Ireland; and Ireland, politically, O'Connell. By his marvellous influence he compelled respect for property and life; and in all his movements he appealed for support to Irishmen of every class, creed, and persuasion. The young men who had grown up beneath his shadow relit the torch of a pure, a generous, and an ennobling nationality. When the hand of power fell upon them, they accepted as gentlemen the consequences of their words and acts; and some of them, cast as brands from the burning on distant shores, repaid the hospitalities they received by laying, strong and deep, the foundations of empire at the Antipodes and in the New World. But, remove O'Connell, and obliterate the episode of 1848, and the course of Ireland for the last 80 years has been downward, downward, with an ever-increasing velocity. Her barometer now marks a lower public life—if life it can be called, for soul is wanting there—than any yet reached through all her dismal history. The Prime Minister, in a remarkable address, reproached the well-disposed classes in Ireland with their sluggishness and apathy in the face of social disorders. The reproach 203 was only too well deserved; but what were the comments which it elicited? "You Englishmen took upon yourselves the government of our country, the making of our laws, and the administering of them, and on you now rests the responsibility." This was not very heroic language, I admit; but it was the natural language of provincialism; and no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that in the cold shade of provincialism the civic virtues wither and die. Every true Irishman gives credit to the right hon. Gentleman for his noble and generous effort to repair the wrongs of a terrible past. Yet I feel bound to tell him that I fear all his ameliorative efforts will be fruitless, unless he can nerve himself to the supreme effort of grappling with the great problem—how can Irish legislative independence be reconciled with the security of the Throne and the integrity of the Empire? It is a difficult problem, no doubt; but if it has been solved successfully in other countries, why should it be incapable of solution here? Look to Austro-Hungary. The cause of Deak was substantially the same as that of O'Connell—it was the cause of restoration simply. Deak's policy prevailed; and now the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary rules a united Empire in magnificence and power. Look to Russia, regarded in this country as the incarnation of all that is evil in despotism and most odious in autocracy. The Emperor is Prince of Finland, and is represented at Helsingfore by a Governor General or Lord Lieutenant; and no law can be made or tax levied in Finland except by the free Senate of Finland. Look to Norway and Sweden. One Crown covers both countries; but Norway has her independent Storthing, or Parliament, and every office in that country, except that of Governor General, must be held by a Norwegian subject. Look to the Colonies—England's grandest achievement. They are virtually independent countries; yet on the wings of every wind that beats upon our shores are borne the strains of the National Anthem. No; the problem were easy of solution if it were not for the difficulties continually created by Ireland herself. Is she united now for a noble object, or is she not disunited through ignoble aims to a degree never before witnessed? 204 Can her inhabitants of every order and degree be said to constitute at this moment a people? Is personal liberty respected there, even to the extent of allowing a man to pay his rent, if he chose to pay it; to ride to hounds if he has a taste for it; and to buy and sell freely in the market place? Are doctrines promulgated through newspaper and pamphlet, in speech and writing, and largely received and acted upon, which contravene the eternal law, and strike at the foundations of civil society? American money may be an aid or a hindrance to Irish liberty, according to the way it is used; but Ireland may rest assured that Irish virtue, Irish manhood, and Irish unity alone can win for the Judah of the West a place of honour yet in Israel. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment.
At the end of the Address, to add the words "And humbly to assure Her Majesty that, in the opinion of this House, the only efficacious remedy for the deplorable condition of Ireland is a readjustment of the political relation established between Great Britain and Ireland by the Act of Legislative Union of 1800."—(Mr. P. J. Smyth.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added,"
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, he wished that the eloquent speech which had just been delivered by his hon. Friend had been, in the first instance, subjected to the criticism of someone authorized to speak on behalf of the Government. They had had a very striking defence of the policy of the Government in Ireland from the Prime Minister; and, therefore, he supposed they would not be favoured with any further declaration on the part of the Government during the remainder of the day. Under the circumstances he felt it to be his duty to rise at once and endeavour to state to the House the grounds upon which he felt constrained to support the Amendment of his hon. Friend. His hon. Friend had dwelt with the strictest historical accuracy on the burning question submitted for their consideration. The Resolution drew attention to two clear and distinct points—first, the deplorable condition of Ireland, and, second, to what his hon. Friend described as the only efficacious remedy for that condition; and he would endeavour to deal with the subject in the same order. 205 But he wished to complain, in the first instance, as a friend of his country, against the impatience with which every form of Irish agitation was regarded by a large and influential section of the population of Great Britain. He knew very well that the agitation which had swept like a fierce storm over the surface of Ireland during the last two years was one which, in some of its incidents, might well give rise, not only to impatience on the part of the people of Great Britain, but to some measure of indignation. One would imagine, from reading what had been written upon this agitation in the English Press and English periodicals, that the land difficulty of Ireland was but a difficulty of yesterday, and not one that had existed for centuries. But he thought that anyone who had taken the trouble to acquaint himself with the facts of the case would acknowledge that that was not the first time in Irish history that the struggle for the land had produced national commotion, and something like the disintegration of society. From the landing of the Anglo-Normans, 700 years ago, down to that hour every generation of the Irish race had witnessed and participated in a struggle for the land. The Anglo-Norman adventurers were authorized to recoup themselves for their voluntary services out of the lands which they should be able to wrest from the native owners. Many rich and fertile districts were lost and won, and lost again in those early contests for the possession of the soil; and the district of the Pale, the camp of the English garrison, was enlarged or contracted as the victory inclined to the invaders, or those whom they sought to dispossess and subdue. Even when a change of religion in England came to embitter the struggle between the two races, the land was still the chief object of contention, and it was always held up as the prize of conquest and the reward of apostacy. Under the Penal Laws in force in the last century an apostate Catholic son was able to dispossess his father, and a younger son, by adopting the new religion, could destroy the heritable right of his eldest brother, and procure. the devolution of the estate upon himself. He need not speak of the numerous confiscations by which, according to Lord Clare's statement in the Irish Parliament in the debate on 206 the Union, the land of Ireland changed hands three times in one century. But he might point out what was often ignored by English writers and politicians—that those confiscations resulted not merely in the transference of the land from one set of proprietors to another, but in a total subversion of the old system of tenure, which was bound up with the rights of the occupying cultivators of the soil. Now, although he was of the number who refused to go with this land agitation beyond certain limits, he had never lost sight of the important historical facts underlying the question which had stirred up so great a storm; and he was fully convinced that it was but the natural and inevitable uprising against hard-hearted wrong-doing and the accumulated oppressions of centuries. Who that had read the history of popular revolutions could have any doubt as to the causes which were creating the revolution in Ireland? The condition of the masses of the Irish people under the system of landlordism was that of a people ground down, oppressed, despoiled, insulted, and scorned, till humanity could bear no more. A long succession of landlord Parliaments prior to 1870 turned a deaf ear to all the appeals for justice. The legislation of 1870, brimful of good intentions, brought no substantial relief. The disease was already too desperate for a remedy, which, if applied half a century earlier, might have removed the evil, and settled the question to which it gave rise. At length, in 1879, the shadow of another famine overspread the land; and the terrible memories of 1846 and 1847, when tens of thousands perished of hunger, inspired the nation with fear of impending calamity. In such circumstances the Land League was founded, and it arose from the social condition of Ireland as naturally as the green shamrock springs from its soil. That this revolution of landed property in Ireland had been attended with hardship and injustice to individuals, and accompanied by deeds of cruelty, no candid observer would deny; but those were some of the incidents of all revolutions, though the primary motives actuating the men who made them might be as pure as ever stirred the human heart. It was only in recent times that ameliorative measures had been passed. He had often thought of the feelings 207 which an Irish emigrant must have in passing through the streets of this great Metropolis. It had occurred to him that his felines must be very similar to those of that British Chief whom the Romans called Caractacus. who exclaimed, on seeing Rome—"I could not have believed that men living in palaces like these could envy me my poor cottage in Britain." Anyone who had studied the history of the laud and of landlordism in Ireland must confess that the agitation which was now going on in that country was inevitable. No one could deny that the previous conditions were there, and that, whatever uprising there might have been, the motive the people had was to become possessors of the soil of their own country. They had heard a great deal about the character of the Irish people. That character, so gravely compromised by some friends of Ireland, he would say, had been grossly calumniated by many of Ireland's enemies. He would not make light of the outrages that had been committed during the last two years. Many of them were a shame upon their reputation and a disgrace to humanity; but what he did protest against in the name of justice was the practice that was common in certain sections of the English Press of making a charge against the character of the whole people because of the acts of a few hired miscreants who had been the instruments of these outrages. Men who described the Irish as a set of cowards had but little recollection of the part which Irishmen had played in building up this Empire. They forgot that their courage had been tested and vindicated on a thousand battle-fields, both in the Old World and in the New. They seemed to forget that Irishmen had helped to plant the flag of England on every spot of that wide dominion subject to the Sovereignty of the British Crown, and that the heroes of their race lay buried in every field of glory with which the name of England was associated, and beside whose sleeping dust the foundations of the British Empire had been laid. Therefore, those sections of the people of Great Britain to whom he had referred should not be so complacent as to say that the condition of Ireland did not arise from her history and her circumstances, but rather from the inferior character of her race. He trusted that the injustice of that 208 opinion would become daily more manifest, and that the English people would take adequate means to acquaint themselves with the real aspirations and character of the Irish people. They were also condemned because of the violence of their political agitation. He did not deny the violence; but who had taught the lesson? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, about 18 months ago, said what he (Mr. O'Connor Power) believed had been severely censured by large numbers of people in this country, that "force is no remedy;" and that was a dictum in four words which would survive everything else uttered in this controversy, and he hoped the day would never come when he would dream of modifying in the slightest degree the sentiment contained in that dictum; but later the right hon. Gentleman had made a speech in which he enumerated certain concessions to force, and the course of his argument in that speech would lead to the conclusion that, although force was no remedy in the hands of the oppressor, it was sometimes an efficacious remedy in the hands of the oppressed. He showed how American Independence was the result of a concession to force, as also with Catholic Emancipation and the abolition of the Irish tithes, by transferring them to shoulders better able to bear them; and some people would add to those the Disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1869, and the Land Acts which had made the years 1870 and 1881 so memorable. How did they think that any amount of abuse or denunciation could blot out of the Irish mind the history of those events, and the acknowledged motives of their remedial legislation? Who, then, he asked, had been the real apostles of force to the Irish people? History answered him, "Their English rulers." He was not a believer in the doctrine of force on the part of either the Government or the people of Ireland; he was equally opposed to the intimidation of the Land League and the coercion of the Chief Secretary. The true statesman, in his (Mr. O'Connor Power's) judgment, was not he who was alternately relying upon and yielding to force, but he who, in tranquil times, when the public imagination was cool and the mind of the country was at ease, had the wisdom to hearken to the voice of the oppressed, the patience to listen to 209 the story of their wrongs, the sympathy to feel for their sufferings, and the courage to redress their grievance. But he asked the House, from the Prime Minister to the lowest Member, if such had been the motive of their legislation? No; history would bear testimony that they had not done justice to Ireland, and, consequently, they had laboured in vain to soothe the Irish people. If such had been the spirit of their government of Ireland, if such had been the method of their legislation, they would have been wise in time, they would have exercised one of the highest offices of statesmanship, which consisted in foreseeing coming difficulties, and taking adequate measures to prevent them, and their reward would have been contemporary with their exertions in the abundant gratitude of a free and contented people. He would like to ask how it was that every agitation in Ireland threatened the stability of the Imperial Union—the agitation for Catholic Emancipation, and every other agitation that had assumed appreciable dimensions? He thought the answer was given by the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. P. J. Smyth), when he said in effect that as regarded the legislative arrangements between Great Britain and Ireland the Government had always acted on the saying—"Whatever is is right, and whatever is not is wrong," and that they believed whosoever suggested any alteration was a foe to the unity of the Empire. That was an opinion the folly of which could be easily demonstrated. He spoke the sentiments of a majority of the Irish Representatives when he said that, as far as the proposals of the Irish Members were concerned, there was no question whatever of the dismemberment of the Empire. ["Oh!"] No responsible politician on either side of the Channel would undertake to say there could be any such question raised as a serious issue for discussion in this Imperial Parliament. There was no such question in any proposal which had heretofore been laid before this House with the sanction of the majority of the Irish Representatives. If we wanted to postpone the complete solution of Irish difficulties because the present hour was not propitious, then we should strengthen the hands of the coercive Administration of Dublin Castle. If our object was that 210 of true statesmanship, the permanent solution of Irish difficulties, we could attain it only by placing Irish government and legislation affecting Ireland practically in Irish hands. We should never accomplish it by successive concessions to Catholics, Presbyterians, landlords, or tenants. The Irish difficulty arose simply from the fact that the Irish people had not been permitted to exercise control over the management of their own affairs. When he invited them to place local and central government in Ireland in Irish hands, he did not expect that could be accomplished in a day; but it was their duty to recognize it as a work to be done; it was their duty to begin it and to push it on to a conclusion, which, sooner or later, would be inevitable. No doubt, with some local authorities, the representative principle was partially carried out; but the present condition of Ireland was one of the strongest arguments for a County Government Bill, which, however, was not promised for this Session. He might have formed an opinion which would not commend itself at first sight to their adoption when he said that they should not be deterred from the task of enlarging the control of the Irish people over their own affairs by the present excited and discontented state of the country. It seemed to him, nevertheless, that the existing discontent of Ireland was, in itself, the strongest argument in favour of his proposal. Surely, they did not hope to remove discontent by perpetuating its cause! And let them remember that the primal cause of discontent, although it might assume a thousand different forms, was to be found in the fact that Irishmen were deprived of the management of their own affairs. While the Government were brooding over the real or imaginary designs of the Land League, they forgot that it was their system that had made the Land League. Although the present condition of Ireland was one which gave rise to grave anxiety, he had not a particle of doubt but that the near future would see the re-establishment of tranquillity, either with coercion or without—but it would be much more probable without it—and the dawn of that national prosperity which would lead to social contentment. He believed the operation of the Land Act would be most beneficial in its cha- 211 racter. He was not insensible to the defects which, perhaps, were incident to so great a change. If he could have influenced his countrymen, he would, after the passing of that measure, have urged them to accept it with the utmost satisfaction, and to endeavour to secure the benefits it was calculated to confer upon the body of tenant farmers, if even two or three years' operation revealed defects which it required subsequent legislation to cure. He believed that Parliament could not make a greater blunder than to thicken the gloom which overhung this Irish question. He firmly believed that it was in the power of the present Parliament to settle the Irish question for all time. It had the power to place the local government of Ireland in Irish hands, to place the official administration of Ireland in Irish hands, and, finally, to place the legislation of Ireland in Irish hands; and it could do all that without withdrawing, or even modifying in the slightest degree, any guarantees which it now possessed for the maintenance of the unity and integrity of the Empire. An occasion such as this, when they were occupied in a discussion on the general policy of the Government, was not a proper one for entering into details on special questions. He would only say that in his judgment there would be no danger, but incalculable advantage, to the Empire in a great concession to the sentiment of Irish Nationality Such a concession, amounting to an act of spontaneous justice and national reparation, would blot out for ever the bitter memories of the past. It would conciliate Ireland and strengthen Great Britain. It would elevate the Imperial Parliament by eliminating from its debates a burning source of Party warfare. It would secure Irish freedom on a Constitutional basis, from which alone true loyalty could spring, and the loyalty begotten of freedom would be the strongest bulwark of a really United Kingdom. In conclusion, he trusted he might venture to express the hope that whatever might be said about Ireland in the Session upon which they had just entered, she should not be made the cruel sport of rival Parties. He cared not who on either side of the House might appeal to the evil spirit of faction in this controversy, he knew no Party but his country, and he could conceive no higher duty than 212 to work for her restoration to freedom, and no nobler ambition than to seek to promote a peaceable, honourable, and final settlement of the unhappy contest which had so long divided the people of Great Britain and Ireland.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, he wished to express his concurrence not only in the general tenour of the speeches delivered by the Mover and Seconder, but especially the speech made by the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power). He hon. Friend had complained that there was a spirit in this country too prone to accuse the Irish people of the deplorable outrages that had been committed. He knew the Irish people well, and he maintained that they were in no sense accomplices in those outrages. He would be false to his convictions if he did not say that. In his opinion, those who signed the "no rent" manifesto, individually and collectively, were morally responsible for the outrages since that manifesto had appeared. Those who signed it must have known that it had no chance of being obeyed except under terror. It had not been obeyed except in places where terror prevailed. ["No, no!"] From one end of Ireland to the other the "no rent" manifesto had been disobeyed except where that terrorism had prevailed; and if he had anything to complain of with reference to what tell from the Prime Minister, it would be that he did not sufficiently accentuate his sense of the reprobation with which the "no rent" manifesto had been received in Ireland. He had conversed with many people in Ireland, including several Roman Catholic clergymen, not one of whom defended that manifesto. It could only be defended on certain conditions; but those conditions were entirely absent. He believed that the outrages were not committed by the people without instigation, and he could instance one or two cases in which outrages had occurred after the tenant had expressed his determination to come to a settlement with his landlord, and it was well known that the Executive of the Land League were opposed to such settlements. He would tell the House what happened upon the trial of Connell. It was not known that Captain Moonlight, as he was called, was going to plead guilty; and the Queen's Counsel who had come down to defend him, with a fee of 100 guineas, 213 remained to defend two other poor prisoners. Who paid that fee? He challenged the Irish Members sitting opposite to state out of what fund that fee was paid? [An hon. MEMBER: The money of the Irish people.] He should be glad to hear where that sum came from. The hon. Member for Leitrim (Mr. Tottenham) had attacked the appointments of some of the Sub-Commissioners and the manner in which they performed their work. One of them, he said, was a chemist, and that was true; but it was also true that he was an agricultural chemist of great ability and himself a considerable cultivator of land. Another was termed a small farmer; but he was a large farmer of great experience, cultivating a considerable holding, who had served upon the Duke of Richmond's Commission. Neither was it a fact that the Sub-Commissioners performed their duties in a most perfunctory manner. A relation of his had had the opportunity of going with the Commissioners over some of his farms, and observed the careful way in which the survey was made. The cases which had come into the Courts were those in which the rents were known to be excessive; and, in addition to that, the insane land hunger, as it had been called by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), had helped to raise its price by creating a false and artificial standard. Reductions which had been made in rents by the Sub-Commissioners were justified by the circumstances of the cases, for rents had been unduly and artificially raised. He could not say the Act was perfect, because he regretted, amongst some other defects, the exclusion of leaseholders. If the bold and noble example of the Duke of Leinster—whose action was bold, because it had brought upon him a good deal of odium from his own class—in accepting the surrender of any lease from any tenant who desired to surrender it, that he might avail himself of the Act, were generally followed by the landlords, it would be most commendable. He trusted that the temporary troubles of Ireland would pass away, and that before long the country would begin to reap the benefits of the Land Act, which he regarded as a second Magna Charta.
§ MR. DAWSON
said, he was surprised that the hon. and gallant Member for Cork County (Colonel Colthurst), who 214 had just spoken, should have altogether ignored the important Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. P. J. Smyth). He thereby illustrated the truth of the proverb that out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh; and it was evident that above the question of Ireland's independence the hon. and gallant Gentleman placed the relations between landlord and tenant. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had spoken about the "no rent" manifesto. He would like to know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman had ever read that document. If he had, and would persist in stating it advocated no rent, he (Mr. Dawson) could not congratulate the hon. and gallant Gentleman on his clearness of mind. It advocated, not the absolute refusal to pay rent, but a contingent postponement of the payment of rent. Had the hon. and gallant Gentleman, in his conversations with the Irish clergymen, learned anything of theology? He (Mr. Dawson) would tell him, on the authority of every father of the Church, that it was a theological principle that the postponement of a debt—even a legal debt—upon good cause, was no breach of the moral law. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen laughed. They must be English Liberals, who had read very little, or none at all, of the early fathers, if they did not know that. [Laughter.] Well, the hon. Gentlemen opposite might continue to laugh; but laughter could not get rid of facts. He believed that under the contingency of the imprisonment of four Members the Irish people were justified in postponing the payment of rent. An hon. Member had referred to the opinion of priests. All he could say was that he had quite as pious priests and bishops on his side as the hon. Member had on his. There had been a great scene when the Chief Secretary for Ireland described the terrible envelope which he received at the Castle. Was it not very strange that the stamping of this highly imflammable envelope did not cause an explosion? Could the Post Office have had an inkling that the letter was dangerous?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
It was because the substance was wet that putting the stamp down upon it did not cause it to go off. In the Castle it was wetted still more.
§ MR. DAWSON
remarked, that so much cold water was usually thrown upon everything that reached the Castle that it was no wonder that the envelope was wet. He himself got a threatening letter the other day at the Mansion House in Dublin, with a raw head and bloody bones, and signed "Vive la Reine." He always threw such letters on the fire. They were sent, not by the Irish people, but by the violators and calumniators of Ireland, who were not within, but without, Kilmainham. He denied that there was any foundation for the assertions which had been made by Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, a Judge who used the Bench as a rostrum whence to deliver political harangues of an hour and a-half in length. That Judge himself got upon the Bench by intimidation. The fact was that many Judges and magistrates had won their way to the Bench through the elections. That was notably so in the case of Judge Fitzgerald himself, whose course of action in respect of the electors of Ennis was one of which he would be justified in using strong language. The fact was that intimidation and corrupt practices of all kinds were practised by both sides; but when practised by one, they were all comme it faut; not so if practised by the other. He would give a striking instance of the practice of "Boycotting" by the Government Party. Mr. Austin, a large trader in Dublin, a justice of the peace, and member of the Dublin Corporation, a Conservative in politics, had ventured to criticize the conduct of the Irish landlords in congregating in Dublin on behalf of a lost cause, after having so long deserted their posts and abandoned their duties. Forthwith there appeared in The Daily Express an invitation to "Boycott "Mr. Austin by name. His address was given, and then appeared a note by the editor of the paper advocating the thorough carrying out of that policy against him. Why had not proceedings been taken against the editor of The Daily Express? The fact was that the right way to place and position in Ireland was to truckle to the authorities; at one time to advocate the popular cause, and then to turn round and betray your friends. It was before 216 such tribunals that those who had struggled for the people of Ireland were brought to trial. And the evidence on which convictions were obtained was of the most flimsy description. Judge Fitzgerald had recently committed a man to penal servitude on the evidence of a dog. Yes, the principal witness was a dog, and the only evidence in corroboration was that of a man who had repeatedly been proved guilty of crime, and who had twice been drummed out of the Army. There would never be peace between England and Ireland until the legislative independence of the latter was secured. Government ought to be by the majority for the benefit of the majority, whose opinions, and even prejudices, ought to be respected; and the great majority of the Irish people desired to have a Legislative Assembly distinct from those of this country.
§ And it being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.