§ Order read, for resuming proceedings upon going into Committee.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER (LORD MAYOR)
, who had an Amendment on the Paper, to the effect "That this House will, upon this day six months, resolve itself into the said Committee," said, he did not intend persevering with the Notice of Motion standing in his name; but he desired in the most emphatic manner to enter his protest against the measure. After referring to some of the anomalies that would be created by the Bill, if it passed—such, for instance, as that of a freeholder of the Borough of Hackney continuing to give his vote for the County of Middlesex—he maintained that in dealing with this question the House ought to have a complete measure before it. It ought not to be a piecemeal Reform, and he objected to this measure on the ground that it was a "bit by bit" Reform. It dealt very partially with one branch of the subject only, and it did not attempt to grapple with those anomalies which had been pointed out by his noble Friend the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners). The anomalies complained of would be very much increased by this Bill. The House was told by the Prime Minister that he proposed early next Session to bring forward the complement of the Bill. He had said that the Bill which would be brought in would repress all those anomalies in their representation, and that it would make the measure a complete one. He (Mr. R. N. Fowler) could not, however, understand why the precedents of 1832 and 1867 were not followed in dealing with this Bill. Why had the House not a complete measure before it? The right hon. Gentleman promised the complementary measure next February; but what security had the House that the right hon. Gentleman might be able to fulfil his pledge? A variety of causes might occur between this time and next February to prevent its fulfilment. There were certain contingencies attached to life itself of which they 1066 did not wish to think; there were foreign complications and numberless other events. They knew that the Prime Minister, very much to their regret, had been absent from the House recently owing to ill-health; and he might not be able, when the occasion arrived, to be present in the House to carry the Bill. It was on grounds such as these, therefore, that he wished to enter his protest against the bringing in of a partial Bill, and one which dealt with only one branch of the question. In addition to the reasons he had given, he ventured to take exception to the time at which the Bill had been brought forward. He greatly feared that if the Bill passed into law the Government would take advantage of that circumstance, and of the strength which it might give them in certain counties to dissolve Parliament. The country would then be appealed to on the present Bill, and without an opportunity having been given to consider the whole measure. Having regard to the present borough representation, and to the fact that several county seats might be gained under the new Bill, it was clear that it would be to the advantage of the Liberal Party to go to the country at an early date on this question. This seemed to be a dodge of the Birmingham caucus. If such a course were pursued, it would be unworthy of a great Government like the present. He regretted not to see the Secretary of the Board of Trade (Mr. Holms) in his place. His hon. Friend, some years ago, published an article in which he recommended that five years, instead of seven, should he the duration of Parliament. In this connection he (Mr. R. N. Fowler) wished to point out that, shortly after those views were propounded, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government came into Office, and he selected the hon. Gentleman, and made him a Member of the Government. He thought, therefore, he would not be far wrong were he to assume that the views of the hon. Member for Hackney were not altogether disagreeable to the Prime Minister. The present Parliament had now existed for more than four years, and were the views of his hon. Friend to be carried out they would naturally look for a Dissolution at the close of the present Session. He maintained, therefore, that this was not only an attempt to force the Bill through a moribund 1067 Parliament, but an attempt to foist the Bill on the country without allowing it to judge of the question. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade evinced some curiosity about a speech which Lord Salisbury delivered when, on a recent occasion, he dined at the Mansion House. What Lord Salisbury said on that occasion was said in private, and he should be guilty of a breach of trust were he to tell the House what was then said by the noble Marquess. He had, however, no objection to tell the right hon. Gentleman what he himself said on that occasion. It was that it seemed to him that Her Majesty's Government, in bringing in this Bill, had taken for their motto—Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.That was the motto of the Government in regard to this Bill, and he pressed earnestly upon the noble Marquess to use his influence with that Assembly, of which he was a distinguished ornament, to give the country an opportunity of judging of this Bill. He knew that course was not popular with hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. Member for Leeds, in a speech to his constituents, announced that the Government would not dissolve until they had passed all their measures. Considering the large number of measures of which Notice had been given, he considered the statement a somewhat extraordinary one. It certainly seemed to him that in a great change of this kind—the greatest change in our Constitution, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that had taken place since the Revolution of 1688—the country ought to be consulted. One of the leading Members of the Government had told the House that the passing of this measure would amount to a revolution. (He Mr. R. N. Fowler) certainly thought that in such a case they were not asking too much that the country should be consulted. Hon. Members opposite said the country was with them in this matter. If that were so, why should they fear to face the country? Members on the Opposition side of the House were greatly desirous that an appeal should be made to the country. But hon. Gentlemen opposite, who persisted in saying they were sure of the verdict, yet shrunk from the opportunity of inviting it. Now, he would ask the House and the country to judge which Party had confidence in the country—those who earnestly sought 1068 an appeal to its decision, or those who shrank from it? He would remind the House that both the preceding great measures of reform had been brought in early in the existence of the Parliament of the time. In the case of the Bill of 1831, Parliament had only met in the preceding year, while as to the Bill of 1867, the question of Reform had been brought up shortly after a Dissolution. The Parliament was elected in 1865, and in the following Session of 1866, the right hon. Gentleman opposite had brought in his Bill. Therefore, the country had had the question of Reform before it on both occasions. The present Bill, on the contrary, had been, brought in at the close of a Parliament. It was true that they had been told by the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) that it was the best Parliament that ever met at Westminster; but he doubted whether the opinion of the more experienced Members of the House would be similar. He hoped that before this great change was made they would be given the opportunity of knowing what was the opinion of the country. They would recollect that in 1868 the right hon. Gentleman opposite had brought in a suspensory Bill relating to the Irish Church which, after passing that House, had been rejected in the other House. The country had then been appealed to, and had decided in favour of the right hon. Gentleman, upon which the other House had given way. Similarly, he thought that if the country proved to be in favour of this Bill the other House should give way. He maintained that this measure ought not to be forced through the House when the country had not been consulted upon it. He thought that everyone must admit that at the last Dissolution this measure had not been a very prominent one before the constituencies. They had had the right hon. Gentleman opposite impeaching the policy of Lord Beaconsfield in Afghanistan, at the Cape, and everywhere; but there had been no question of a redistribution of that House. At that time they had not been aware what the Government might be; some people had thought that the noble Marquess, who was then Leader of the Opposition, would be at the head of the Government, and the Liberal Party had received a large amount of votes from those who thought that the noble Marquess was a 1069 man of great moderation. He objected to this Bill being rushed through a Parliament in its fifth year, without an appeal to the country, and he wished to make his humble protest against the course which had been pursued. He had placed his Motion on the Paper in order to have the opportunity of addressing a few words to the House on the subject, and, having gained that object, he did not propose to press it; he wished, however, to express his view that this measure ought not to be passed without an appeal to the country. Both sides had expressed their confidence in the result; then let it be tried. On that side of the House they looked with confidence to the result of that appeal; they thought that the country would stand by them. On the other hand, if hon. Gentlemen opposite were right in their views as to the opinion of the country they had nothing to dread, and if they did succeed, he hoped that those on his own side of the House would abide by the decision of the House, in the spirit of the illustrious Sir Robert Peel, who concluded one of his great speeches in 1832, in these memorable words—If, Sir, the people of England, after meditating on these things, on the condition of foreign States, on the signs and indications at home of the probable consequences of this measure of Reform, still insist on its completion, their deliberate resolve will, no doubt, ultimately prevail. I shall bow to their judgment with the utmost respect; but my own opinions will remain unchanged. To all the penalties of maintaining these opinions—the withdrawal of public favour, the loss of public confidence, the incapacity for public service—I can and must submit. The people have the power, as they have the right, to inflict them; but they have neither the power nor the right to inflict that heavier penalty of involving me in their own responsibility, by making me the instrument for the accomplishing of an act by which we, the life-renters of those institutions which have made our country the freest, the happiest, and the most powerful nation of the universe, are to cut off from those who shall succeed us the inheritance of that which we ourselves enjoyed.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
, who had the following Amendment on the Paper:—That this House considers that to largely increase the electoral privileges of the Irish people, at a time when vast numbers of the population are bitterly opposed to the English connection; when the object of their leaders and representatives in Parliament, openly avowed, is to sever that connection, and establish the National Independence of Ireland; and when the Government dare not even trust them 1070 with the full enjoyment of their ordinary civil rights, is inexpedient and dangerous to the welfare of the State, and cannot fail, with the present proportion and distribution of seats, to give strength and encouragement, in the prosecution of their aims, to the Separatist Party in Ireland.said, he held that the objections which had been made with reference to the action of the Bill upon Ireland were most serious, and, indeed, unanswerable. It was most necessary, now, that discussion should be raised upon that question. The senior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) had delivered a most powerful and effective speech on that point during the debate on the second reading, and not one single Member of Her Majesty's Government had even attempted to meet him in reply as far as he could see. That mode of proceeding, he had observed, was by no means uncommon with Her Majesty's Government; on the contrary, it seemed to be their invariable practice, whenever they were confronted with a more than usually awkward question, to do their utmost not to meet, but to shirk and evade it. This Bill was entitled "A measure to amend the laws relating to the representation of the people in Parliament;" but, for his own part, he would describe it very differently. So far as Ireland was concerned, it was simply a measure to facilitate the repeal of the Union, and to promote and encourage the separation of Ireland from England. He had not one single word of complaint to make against the course taken by the Irish National Party in the House upon the second reading, or the largely-added majority which they brought to a Division on that occasion. Naturally enough, the Irish National Party welcomed that Bill with open arms, because they observed and recognized quite clearly what its inevitable effects must be in Ireland. They were quite shrewd enough to see how large a step it had brought, or would bring them, nearer to the goal which they had in view. That goal was nothing less than the establishment of the national independence of their country. They had from the first never concealed it. He might deplore their objects, as well as the means by which they had sometimes sought to attain them; but he could not refuse to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and his Friends full credit for the candour 1071 and consistency with which they had always avowed those objects from the first; and, in that respect, he was bound to say their conduct contrasted very favourably with the conduct of some right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. He maintained that to the Irish Party this Bill was welcome because they saw in it an effective instrument to assist them in carrying out their schemes; but to Her Majesty's Government, on the other hand, this Bill—with all the stimulus and encouragement of an added force which it must give to the cause of separation—was the price which they were willing to pay for the support of the Irish vote at the approaching General Election. He thought the Government were wise in their generation, for they might depend upon this, that they would require every single vote they could command when the appeal was made from this Parliament, which they were seeking to betray, to a country which distrusted them, and, he believed, was thoroughly disgusted both with them and their proceedings. The Government had stated, with the utmost frankness from the first, that the inclusion of Ireland in the Bill was a vital and fundamental portion of their scheme. He (Mr. Chaplin) wished to speak, with equal frankness. If that was true, if that was the final position of the Government, if it was really impossible for the settlement of this question that the three countries should be separated, all this afforded, to his mind, an unanswerable argument in favour of postponing the question altogether until Ireland had become less disturbed, less hostile to this country, and more reconciled to the connection. Could anyone get up and say that Ireland was in that position of contentment, and tranquillity, and freedom from violent agitation, which all agreed was a most desirable, and many thought was an absolutely necessary, condition for the introduction of an organic change in the constitution of a country? The President of the Board of Trade during the Recess had used the argument that Ireland was never likely to be contented as long as they withheld that great act of justice, as it was called, from her. How long was it since Members of the Government had made that discovery? He would tell them. It was made by the President of the Board of Trade about two or three 1072 months before the assembling of Parliament, just after the Conference at Leeds had decided, so far as it was able to decide, that there should be some measure of Reform introduced in the present Session, and that, taking all things together, it was less dangerous to the interests of the Liberal Party, as a whole, that that measure should be extended to Ireland than that it should be withheld from that country. Now, they had not a shadow of ground for pretending either that the want of such a measure was the cause of disturbance and disaffection in Ireland, and that its adoption would be a remedy for those evils in future, or that it would be gratefully received by any portion of the Irish people, except in so far as it was likely to strengthen the cause of separation. Over and over again since he had been a Member of that House hon. Gentlemen opposite had come forward and said—"Oh, here is this great measure of justice to Ireland; it is imperatively necessary for the peace and tranquillity of that country; only pass this measure and all we be well." Even now his memory distinctly recalled the accents of the Prime Minister as to the "Upas tree"—the Established Church—which they used to be told was the bane, the misfortune, and the curse of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman asked them only to give him liberty to cut it down, and they would then see what they would see and have something approaching the Millennium in Ireland. Since then the right hon. Gentleman had had great majorities behind him, and had been able to do almost anything that he pleased in regard to that country. The Upas tree had been destroyed root and branch; but, unfortunately, instead of having the Millennium, they were on the virge of civil war in Ireland. That was not his own assertion, but the assertion of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, who stated not long ago, at a public meeting, that it was only the presence of the Queen's troops in Ireland which prevented an actual outbreak in that country. The Government had been warned again and again from the Opposition side of the House of what would be the inevitable results of the pernicious policy which they had been so long pursuing. Many of the measures of the right hon. Gentleman, so far from being acts of justice, had 1073 been the most flagrant acts of injustice which it was possible to conceive, the gravest departure from all the sound principles of legislation which, up to the career of the right hon. Gentleman and his Irish policy, had been recognized in all civilized countries in the world; and they were beginning at last, as was not to be wondered at, to bear their natural fruits. When the right hon. Gentleman first embarked in his policy towards Ireland he had a golden opportunity of promoting the regeneration of that country, such as was rarely offered before to any English statesman. They could judge to some extent of the use that he had made of that opportunity by the Ireland they witnessed to-day. The chief difficulties which English Ministers and Parliaments had previously to deal with in Ireland were mainly of a social and economical character. The position of affairs there at present was unhappily far more serious; now, the difficulty was undoubtedly political; and it was to his mind one of the most terrible misfortunes of the whole Irish policy of the right hon. Gentleman that, while he had done much to render all satisfactory solution of the social problems in Ireland impossible, the political and and far more serious evils and dangers of that country were mainly, if not entirely, of his own creation. He had brought things to this condition—that while the proposal to extend the suffrage in Ireland was viewed with avowed anxiety and dismay by a great many Liberals in this country, and even by the noble Marquess, his Predecessor as the Leader of the Liberal Party, as was evident from his speeches in Lancashire, there were vast bodies of the people of England who regarded it as a positive and a grave danger to the State. Was it at all surprising, then, when they recollected how all their previous predictions as to the future of that country, and all their fair promises had been so completely falsified, if people were not disposed to place reliance on the latest specific and panacea of the Government, or to accept what they told them in regard to the extension of the suffrage in Ireland? It seemed to him that they could not possibly have selected a more unfavourable time for the experiment they now proposed to make. He constantly received a good deal of information about the present state of Ire- 1074 land from men who, he had every reason to believe were as competent to express an opinion on that question, and as well acquainted with it as any Member of the Government; and what he learned from one and all of them was that, except as far as open insurrection and disturbance could be prevented by the action of the Crimes Act, the state of Ireland at that moment was worse, more dangerous, more disloyal, and disaffected to this country than it had probably ever been before. Yet, in face of that, Ministers went down to the country and made smooth speeches, and said pleasant things, about the present condition of Ireland; and he believed that the President of the Board of Trade had recently said, to a great assembly in a northern county, that Ireland was in a far more improved state than it ever was during the last four years, and that except for the action of some troublesome Orangemen everything would be quiet and peaceful. He (Mr. Chaplin) would give a simple illustration of the real state of things by a circumstance that happened to come under his own notice. Not long ago, one of the principal land agents in the South of Ireland came over from that country to London, and called upon him on the very morning he arrived from Dublin. The land agent put into his hand a paper and said,—"Mr. Chaplin, no doubt you have been reading some of the speeches which Ministers have been making about the improved state of things in Ireland. What do you think of that?" On opening the paper, he found that it was a telegram which that gentleman had just received on his arrival in London from the chief inspector of police in Dublin, or of some other town—he forgot which—and it was to this effect—"We have received information that your life will probably be attempted while you are in London"—by an Invincible, he thought it said, or by an agent of some other association. "We have forwarded the information to the proper authorities in London; but it is absolutely impossible that you can take too great precautions." And the land agent said to him—"In the face of things happening like this, and happening every day, though probably you do not hear of them, is it not too hard on us in Ireland that Cabinet Ministers should go into the country and say that the state of Ireland is much better now than it ever 1075 has been in the past four years?" That gentleman had for many years had the charge of immense estates in the South of Ireland; and he had had the reputation of being one of the kindest and, towards his tenants, the most liberal of land agents in the country. It had been his own good fortune to spend some time at that gentleman's residence in Ireland just before the introduction of the Land Act; and he should never forget the conversation they had together on that occasion. They were speaking of the anticipated Act. His friend said—"In the county in which I live we have never had an agrarian outrage or an agrarian murder, I believe, in the memory of man. I have never had a difficulty, I have never even received a threatening letter, and I have lived in perfect friendship and amity with all I am concerned with. But," he added, "if this measure, or anything at all like it, is introduced into Parliament and carried, I would not give two years' purchase for my life if I still continue to perform my duties." Since that time he knew that that man's life had been attempted more than once—he believed several times; and such was his position that when he came to England he was met with a telegram such as he had described. Even when he went a few yards from his house to church, he was accompanied by armed policemen, he believed, on either side. He might give the House many other similar illustrations of some of the consequences which had resulted from the policy of the Prime Minister, but it was not necessary. He would content himself with appealing to the highest authority—namely, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. Would that right hon. Gentleman get up in his place that night, and state to the House, that apart from the effects of the Crimes Act, he was able to discern any real permanent or lasting improvement in the condition of Ireland? If he could, why, then, did he continue to suspend the Constitution in that country? Some gentlemen had often asked him—"Why do you desire to withhold the suffrage from Ireland? Why make a distinction between the two countries?" When that question was put to him he always replied by asking another, and he should like to ask then the Chief Secretary, or the Prime Minister, or the Secretary for War—"Is the Crimes Act 1076 in Ireland indispensable to-day, or is it not?" If it was not, then it ought at once to be repealed. If it was, the Irish people were not fitted to receive the franchise, and those who asked him why he objected to its extension to Ireland had answered themselves. He should have thought that no body of men in the world out of Bedlam would support a measure like the Coercion Act side by side with a large extension of the suffrage. The two things were absolutely incompatible. It was impossible to contend that it could conduce to the interests, or the peace or prosperity of Ireland largely, to increase her electoral privileges when the Government dared not even trust the Irish people with the full enjoyment of their ordinary civil rights. What was the chief difficulty with which the Government had to contend at the present moment? It was that the present electorate of 200,000 and the Representatives whom they sent to Parliament were banded together, for the most part, for one purpose, which was by some means or other to compass the separation of Ireland from England. That purpose was perfectly clear to all who chose to see, and it was not less clear that a large extension of the suffrage would enormously strengthen the hands of the Separatist Party in Ireland. That fact was denied by no one single Minister or statesman in the country. There was one person, however—he referred to the President of the Board of Trade—who had thrown some doubts on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken somewhere in the country word of an ominous significance. He had said that whether the effect of the ex-extension of the suffrage would be to strengthen the cause of separation or not was not the question. What the Liberals had to ask was, what was the object of a representative system, and if it were faithfully to reflect the views of the constituencies, and the country was convinced of the necessity of such a system, it ought to be made a reality and not a sham, no matter what the consequences might be. No doubt those were also the views of many Gentlemen opposite. But had they considered what such a doctrine must inevitably lead to? He would like to have asked the President of the Board of Trade if he were in his place, what course he would take if the present electorate, and still 1077 more, if the future electorate which it was proposed to establish, should return to Parliament a large majority of Representatives pledged to the cause of National independence in Ireland? Was he prepared to accede to the request for separation or not? If not, what became of his plea that the representative system should be made a reality at once? If he was, his object ought to be proclaimed, and the country had a right to know what were the views of the President of the Board of Trade on that question. He did not know whether there might, or might not, be some future Kilmainham Treaty, but if the right hon. Gentleman remained silent after the challenge which he had made, there would be no alternative except to believe that, in certain circumstances arising in the future, the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and those who shared his views were prepared to accede to the demand for the national independence of Ireland. But up to the present time there was no public man in England who would not have been prepared to utter an emphatic "No" a thousand times to any such proposition, and nobody had seen that more clearly than the noble Lord the Secretary of State for War. The noble Lord had, on various occasions, expressed his opinion on the subject of the extension of the suffrage to Ireland. Not long ago in Lancashire he had painted in vivid colours the condition of the country at the present time, and pointed out how the government of the 5,000,000 in that part of the world offered problems by the side of which the government of the remaining population of the Kingdom fell to absolute insignificance. But what conclusion did the noble Lord draw from that state of things; where was his logical consistency? It had been proved almost impossible to govern Ireland with an electorate of 200,000, and so, in order to make it three times more impossible, the noble Lord was prepared to increase the electorate to 600,000. The conduct of the noble Lord in that matter was open to grave and serious reproach, even if no harsher term might be applied. The noble Lord said not long ago, even with regard to local government in Ireland, that it would be absolute madness to grant it, unless some assurance were given by the Leaders of the Irish people 1078 that it would not be used to weaken the authority of the central Government at home. Was it not perfectly obvious that every word that the noble Lord said with regard to local government applied with ten-fold force to the extension of the suffrage? The noble Lord perceived it himself, for he went on to speak about the suffrage in the same speech. He then said—There is no franchise possessed by the English people, there is no power which is either possessed or which may hereafter be conferred upon the English people which, from any national jealousy, we will withhold from Ireland so soon as we can be persuaded that the Irish people and their Leaders have reconciled themselves to the inevitable fact that they are and must remain an integral portion of the British Empire.The natural conclusion from that statement was that, so long as the Irish people failed to fulfil that condition, the noble Lord would withhold the suffrage. But the speech of the noble Lord was soon followed by a declaration made at a banquet in Dublin by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). That declaration was full of energy and full of Irish aspirations, and expressed a determination never to rest for a moment until they had gained the objects they had in view. The hon. Member for the City of Cork said—Beyond a shadow of doubt it will be for the Irish people in England, separated, isolated as they are, and for the independent Irish Members, to determine at the next General Election whether a Tory or a Liberal Ministry shall rule England, This is a great force and a great power. This force has already gained for Ireland inclusion in the coming Franchise Bill. We have reason to be proud, hopeful, and energetic, determined that this generation shall not pass away until it has bequeathed to those who come after us the great birthright of national independence.That was the reply of the Irish Leaders to the noble Lord, and in face of that reply he asked the noble Lord how he could reconcile his previous utterances with the action he was taking on that occasion? In reply to the suggestion that the question should be postponed altogether until the condition of Ireland had changed, only two answers had been made in the course of that debate, one negative and the other affirmative. The Chief Secretary said that it would be monstrous to deprive England and Scotland of their undoubted right of which they had already been deprived for 1079 many years because of the dislike entertained towards extending the franchise in Ireland; and the Prime Minister cast aside all obligation to produce arguments for the Bill, and said that the addition of every capable citizen to the constituency must inevitably give strength to the the State. He (Mr. Chaplin) took issue with both right hon. Gentlemen upon the arguments which they had used. He denied altogether that the exercise of the suffrage, or the extension of it, was to be treated as a right. If it was to be regarded as a right, that position was inconsistent with the support of the Bill. It extended the suffrage to 2,000,000 more; but what about the rights of all the rest who were excluded? If it was a right in one case, surely it was equally a right in the other; and, therefore, the pretence that it was a right that could not be withheld was absolutely worthless. The Prime Minister was most unfortunate in his illustration of the grounds on which he supported the measure, for he alluded to America, where it was notorious that the prevalence of corruption deterred the most able and competent men from having anything to do with public life. The right hon. Gentleman said that addition to the electorate would necessarily give strength to the State; but would that be done by the increase of the electorate in Ireland? The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), in his speech at Edinburgh, pointed out that the position of Ireland was always a source of danger and anxiety, and that, in case of war or foreign complication, it would become one of absolute peril to the State. Would the condition of things be improved by the increase of the electorate in Ireland as well as England? But to come nearer home still, did the Prime Minister think that the last extension of the franchise had improved the condition of the House of Commons and made it more useful? If so, his memory ought to undeceive him on that point, for it was not so long ago that, owing to the terrible depth to which the House had fallen from its ancient traditions, the right hon. Gentleman had found it necessary to propose arbitrary rules for its government, without which he declared that the transaction of Business would be absolutely impossible. All this had arisen from the last extension of the franchise, the real 1080 effect of which we were only just beginning to perceive. He could not conceive how it was possible for the right hon. Gentleman to believe that in a further addition to the electorate there would be an accession of strength to the State. The proposal he (Mr. Chaplin) made was virtually a proposal not to exclude Ireland from the suffrage it was proposed to confer on England and Scotland, but to postpone the settlement of the question altogether, until Ireland was in a fit state to receive it. Surely hon. Members opposite, who were proud of the Irish legislation of their Chief, who sang paeans in praise of the measures passed, would be the last to suppose that the fruits of these magnificent effects of statesmanship, the halcyon days of Ireland, could be long postponed. Unless the Government was convinced that the vast majority of the Irish people were not bitterly opposed to the connection with England, that it was not the purpose of their Leaders in Parliament or the country to sever that connection and establish national independence, and that the extension of the suffrage would not largely strengthen the cause of separation between the two countries, he had made out a case for the postponement of this question. Whatever objections there might be to postponing it in England and Scotland, they would not bear comparison for a moment with the objections to extend the suffrage in Ireland at the present time. He had only to consider the course which on this occasion he should pursue. He knew perfectly well that he should have banded together against him the whole Irish Party and the whole Radical Party. Was that likely to further the ultimate object he had in view? It was not the part of a wise general, on any occasion, to court an overwhelming defeat. Believing that the full statements of the views he entertained upon this question might possibly have as much influence, and, perhaps a more favourable influence, than an overwhelming Division against him, he should not move the Amendment which stood in his name, but he should merely record his protest by saying "No !" to the Motion "That the Speaker do leave the Chair."
I have not yet realized the full effect of the closing statement of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Chaplin), which is, I may say, 1081 one of the most remarkable that I have ever heard in this House. The hon. Gentleman has compared himself to a wise general who has, on this occasion, undertaken to march at the head of the Party opposite in support of an Amendment; but who, at the last moment, has remembered that prudence is the better part of valour, and has announced to us that, after all, he does not mean to fight. But the hon. Gentleman, although he is most pacific in his acts, is undoubtedly very warlike in his words, and in his use of big ones. Of them I have rarely heard any hon. Gentleman favour this House with a more abundant supply. There are parts of what the hon. Gentleman has said which I must say I hope will receive very specific notice from those Irish Members to whom he has so pointedly alluded. The hon. Gentleman has put upon the Paper allegations, that vast numbers of the Irish people are bitterly opposed to the English connection, and that the avowed objects of their Leaders and Representatives is to sever that connection, and to establish a national and independent Ireland. Well, Sir, undoubtedly the majority of the Representatives of Ireland sitting in this House, would not consent to, or admit, the truth of either of those allegations. The majority of the Irish Members were returned at the General Election to support what is termed Home Rule; but there are many—I am not able to say how many—of those who support what they term Home Rule who have, at all times, indignantly repudiated the doctrine that Home Rule is equivalent to severance of the English connection. ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad to hear those cheers. I was going to say that the hon. Gentleman near me, the Member for County Cork (Mr. Shaw), at the time when he was actively engaged in representing the feelings and opinions of the great body of the Irish Members in this House, made a speech which, I am certain, conveyed to the minds of those who heard it the firmest conviction that, while he was a supporter of Home Rule, he was the friend, and not the enemy, of the English connection. I believed then, and I believe still, that there are many, even of those who are considered the extreme Irish Party, that share that sentiment of my hon. Friend. It is for them, however, to make plain the position they hold. I 1082 am not at all sorry that they have been challenged by the hon. Gentleman, in the Motion which is printed on the Papers of the House, and which, I hope, and for my own part believe, to be a libel upon those vast numbers of the Irish people to whom it refers; but it is for them, I admit, to explain, defend, and vindicate themselves as they may think proper. I say so much, because, undoubtedly, it is needless for me to deal with a Motion which has vanished into thin air. I did suppose, when I heard and listened to the hon. Gentleman throughout his speech, speaking of his proposals, that he was really going to propose them. But I find that these are proposals the essence of which is that they are not to be proposed; because the hon. Gentleman thinks that, upon the whole, he may trust to the influence of the oration which he has given to produce, if not the outright conversion, at least, a fundamental change in the attitude of men's minds' in and out of the House, the effect of which might have been marred if a Division had taken place. I only say this upon the withdrawal of the hon. Gentleman's Motion. He says that he withdraws it, because he would have had against him the whole Irish Party and the whole Radical Party. I believe he had other reasons for withdrawing it, besides his apprehension of those two Parties; and, that, among the reasons for withdrawing it, was the advice he received from the most prudent, and perhaps the most experienced and influential of those who sit on his own side. I was going to have asked the hon. Gentleman, what I need not ask now, what we are really discussing? Referring to his speech, which is the only thing we have to discuss, I shall only think it necessary to say a very few words. The hon. Gentleman accuses the Government of having brought in a Bill for the enlargement of the franchise in Ireland, and bringing it to a footing of equality with England and Scotland, at the price of the Irish vote at the coming Election. Is that a fair accusation? Is this the first time on which we have endeavoured to enlarge the Irish constituencies? Have we not again and again, during past years, and without the slightest idea or prospect of the Irish vote—have we not again and again supported the Irish Members in their endeavours to 1083 obtain an extension of the franchise to Ireland as regards equality? For be it remembered that, at this moment, Ireland does not possess that equality. Neither in the counties nor in the towns of Ireland is the Irish constituency to be compared, I do not say in numbers, but as to their legislative basis, with the constituency long granted to England and Scotland. I understand the speech of the lion. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman modestly described the gist of his own opinions, when he said his Party wanted to postpone altogether the question we are now debating; but, Sir, they go a great deal further than that, and the hon. Gentleman is entitled to much greater praise for verbal than for rhetorical courage; because the hon. Gentleman, towards the close of his speech, entered upon an indignant denunciation of the existing franchise in England and Scotland, stating it was only now that gradually we were beginning to develop and find out the mischievous effects of the franchise; and, in that view, though modesty prevented the hon. Gentleman from even printing the Motion, and withdrawing it upon the subject, yet he should have brought forward one for the repeal of the Act of 1867, for nothing less than that is the true outcome of the speech which he delivered, and from which he expects that such great political results will arise. Now, Sir, with respect to this Bill, as to which we are charged with having sought the Irish vote, I refer to our conduct during the past 10 years upon every occasion when the subject of the Irish franchise has been mooted in this House. With respect to the Bill, let me consider a little the objections taken by the hon. Gentleman against it. The hon. Gentleman says that Ireland is in a dreadful state, and that he will challenge any Minister to declare that its condition has improved, except through the operation of coercive measures.
Undoubtedly. That leaves a refuge to the hon. Gentleman; because if I say or allege actual improvement, he may say it is not permanent or lasting. He calls the future to his aid when the present does not sufficiently bear him out, or answer his purpose. The fact of an improvement 1084 in the state of Ireland I should have thought, if that word "improvement" be rightly understood, is an undeniable fact. I do not deny that, in certain respects, it may be urged that the state of Ireland has not improved—that is to say, that the Parliamentary controversy between a large body of the Irish Members, who may in another Parliament become the majority of those Members, the majority of the rest of this House, is not yet solved—not, perhaps, yet even mitigated. I do not underrate the importance of that Parliamentary controversy. It may cause great inconvenience and great uneasiness. My share in it is nearly at an end, and it will last, probably, longer than the short residue of my political life. But what will be the upshot of it? Debating here, voting, cross voting, the disturbance possibly of a Ministry, and the Dissolution possibly of a Parliament? All these things may arise from the political controversy between the Irish Members and a certain section, especially if they be raised to a considerable majority, or a majority at all, of the Irish Representatives for the rest of Ireland. But what then? Does that imply that Ireland is lost, or that its state is less happy than before? When I speak of the improved condition of the country, I mean the improvement in the lives and conditions of the human beings who inhabit it. [Mr. ONSLOW: Loyalty!] That is what I understand by the improvement of the country. I speak of their lives and conditions. That constitutes the improvement of a country. Their political temper is another matter—a very important one—not one which I will take into view now, but I will presently refer to it. I affirm that great as the improvement in the condition of the people of Ireland now is, as respects personal and domestic happiness, as respects the hearths and homes, the very essence of human life, their condition as compared with the condition of their forefathers for many generations is vastly superior. If I may take the external evidence of that improvement, I do not deny that there is yet much to be desired; but hon. Gentlemen should know that the outrages perpetrated in Ireland are trifling in number compared with those that have unfortunately characterized former years. I believe I would be correct in saying not only that 1085 they have enormously diminished since-the crisis of the great social struggle three years ago, but that they are less than half what they were at the time the present Government took office. The hon. Gentleman, says—"Do not extend the political franchise to Ireland at a time when you have got an Act on the Statute Book in derogation of the civil rights and liberties of the people." The doctrine of the hon. Gentleman reaches a long way. If you are to withhold all extension of political franchise from Ireland, while there are exceptional laws abridging civil liberty, unfortunately you never would have given any political franchise to Ireland at all, for there has hardly been a period when Borne exceptional law or other of that character has not been in existence. I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite, I will not echo the doctrine of the hon. Gentleman; for I am sure I am correct in saying that, in 1868, when the political franchises of Ireland were extended, exceptional laws still existed, and I am not sure that the Habeas Corpus Act was not suspended in Ireland at that time. The hon. Gentleman refers to the case of gentlemen who are in personal fear in Ireland—personal fear and danger of their lives. It is not difficult under the thin disguise of the hon. Gentleman's description to imagine whose life had been threatened by some of those whom the hon. Gentleman calls "Invincibles." Does the hon. Gentleman really believe that these Invincibles are a fair specimen of the people of Ireland, or that the people of Ireland generally are in sympathy with their attempts? I believe, for my part, no such thing. I believe they are the greatest enemies of the people of Ireland. I believe the people of Ireland will more and more come to recognize them as their greatest enemies. I am sure there is but one course which can tend to identify the people of Ireland with these wicked men, and that is, that we should pursue a course ungenerous and unjust towards the people. The hon. Gentleman referred to America. I am always sorry when I hear severe imputations cast upon the institutions of America by hon. Members speaking in this House. We should not relish it, if the practice were applied to ourselves; and I question the taste as well as the justice of it, except with very great care and much 1086 reserve. I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the United States have not had the same experience in legislative matters as we have had. I quoted the case of America for a purpose which I think was unimpeachable. It was to show how, in America, with a vast constituency, an enormous vigour and vitality had been developed by the Constitution of the country in the struggle of 1861 to 1865—a struggle, I believe, such as never fell to the lot of any other people in modern history. It was for the vigour and vitality given to the Constitution, for the strength, the tenacity, and the persistency which the people assumed over the working of the Constitution, for their devoted self-sacrifice, for their patriotism, which seemed to burn brighter and brighter in proportion as difficulties grew more and more embarrassing—it was for this purpose I quoted the American Constitution in my speech in introducing the Bill. I do not think the argument was misapplied, as it tends to show that a wide suffrage has a great effect in giving the Constitution a hold upon the minds and hearts of the people, and disposing the people to make the most manful and devoted efforts on its behalf. The hon. Member says the Americans are rather disadvantageously situated in point of purity. How long has it taken us to attain a decent standard of purity? I am not even sure that we have attained it yet. I am not quite certain that American elections would not one by one compare pretty favourably, even at the present day, with English elections. But America has a young Constitution compared with ours. She has for 100 years presented the picture of an independent and growing nation. She has undoubtedly, under very great temptations, shown from time to time weak points in the conduct of her public men and her local politicians, not all over the country, but in some particular localities. But we, at any rate, have passed through that phase, and if we have now emerged from it: for I am not certain that we have, in all respects, emerged from it. But, at any rate, it has taken us 200 years to get through, or to make any serious progress in getting rid of the political corruption. When America has as yet had experience of but half the time, I think really we might restrain the censorious tongue, and be a little more considerate in dealing with 1087 America under this chapter. The hon. Gentleman says he sees danger to the State in the extension of the franchise—[Mr. CHAPLIN: To Ireland.] No; the hon. Gentleman, as I understood him, was general. He said—" I will not admit that raising the constituency is a means of strengthening the Constitution of the country." He seems to think that, with a sufficiently narrow franchise, the Government is pretty safe, But he follows up that opinion by the censure he has passed upon the Act of 1867, and the last great extension of the franchise. Sir, narrowing the franchise is not a protection against rebellion or revolution. There is a Republic in France, resting upon a franchise of the very broadest basis; and that Republic, so far as we can see, does not exhibit any sign of gross weakness or debasement. We are very fond of referring to bye-elections in this country. You see bye-elections take place in France. Do those bye-elections indicate that the people of France have changed their minds, and are ready to bring about a great change in their institutions? But they have now this enormously-extended franchise. What sort of franchise had they under the Bourbons, and under Louis Philippe? If I remember right, the constituency was 80,000 under the Bourbons, and under Louis Philippe 150,000 or 200,000; and yet, as sure as 15 or 20 years passed, revolution came, though the franchise was limited in a manner to content the heart even of the hon. Gentleman. Do they show any great desire to go back to the former state of things? If, unhappily, a people are not attached to their institutions, then, whether the franchise be wide or narrow, that discontent and that want of attachment will make themselves fatally shown; but where a people are attached to their institutions, where every man in the country glories in belonging to that country, where the law stands in general respect and harmony with the views of the enormous majority of the people—where the desire of the people, upon the whole, is to improve, but yet, while improving, to preserve and to hand down in substance to their posterity that which they have received from their forefathers—there is a case which, happily, in the main corresponds with our case, and there it is, that to broaden the constituency is to strengthen the 1088 Constitution. With respect to Ireland, the real question first is—is this, in our view, a United Kingdom? If it is a United Kingdom, is the hon. Gentleman in his right, if he gets and demands from us that Ireland shall remain as she now is, with a franchise grossly unequal, with a franchise extremely limited as compared with the franchise enjoyed in England and Scotland? And I want to know on what principle—if, as I suppose, the hon. Member defends the Union with Ireland—on what principle is it possible to defend it, except upon the principle that the aim of that Act is to introduce Ireland to the enjoyment of equal rights with those of England and Scotland? It is impossible to maintain the Act of Union or any form of connection between the countries upon the principles of the hon. Gentleman. For the Irish people will not submit, and I must say—I am speaking, of course, of constitutional submission and constitutional resistance—but, speaking within these limits, I not only say that they will not submit, but I say that I rejoice they will not submit, to the inequality which the hon. Gentleman desires to inflict upon them, and, as I may say, as respects the franchise, to perpetuate in the form in which it now exists. There is one objection which I feel to speeches like the speech of the hon. Gentleman on which I will yet say a single word. I am vexed at the amount of compliment that the hon. Gentleman pays to Irish Members of what we call extreme opinions—I do not mean by these compliments the great value that he sets upon getting their votes in the same Lobby with himself, but the compliment which is essentially involved in his whole strain of argument. He appears to think that Irish voters' Representatives meeting English and Scottish voters' Representatives upon a footing of equality, and with the principles of justice, alike acknowledged and applied on either side, are not only formidable, but are absolutely irresistible. He seems to think he will terrify us out of our seven senses by alluding to the state of things which will arise under the Bill, as to which he says there is to be a very large majority of Irish Members following the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). [An hon. MEMBER: Do you not think it will be 1089 so?] Yes; but I think I am entitled to put this question to the hon. Gentleman—Does he not also think there would be a large majority of Members returned in the same sense if he succeeded in maintaining the present system? The question between Great Britain and Ireland does not depend upon the comparatively paltry difference between 70 Members, or 80 Members, or 90 Members in a particular Parliament. It depends upon one thing more than any other, and that is the avoidance of injustice. Why are we to be told that 400,000 persons, added to the constituency in Ireland, are to carry all before them, and to prevent us from exercising in this, or a future Parliament, an independent 'judgment on the connection of the two countries? Why are we to be told this, when we bear in mind that if there are 5,000,000 in Ireland there are 30,000,000 people in Great Britain; and if there are 500,000 or 400,000 persons going to be added to the Irish constituency, there are 1,500,000 persons going to be added to the already vast English and Scottish constituencies? Why, then, should we be afraid to look in the face the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork and all his coadjutors? I know but one thing which can inspire craven fear in our minds, or which can for a moment weaken the position of England, or derogate from the power of the Imperial Parliament to govern this great country—England, Scotland, and Ireland—and all the Empire according to law and the Constitution. I know but one thing that can weaken it, and that is, if the hon. Member for the City of Cork is able to rise in his place, and say that we are attempting to inflict upon Ireland the brand of social and political inequality, and to make the Act of Union, which professes to be an Act of equality and justice, an Act, on the contrary, under cover of which we are to maintain a state of laws which denies to Ireland the rights which we grant to the rest of the Kingdom. That, I frankly own, is my view, and I believe it is the view of the majority of this House, and of the people of this country as well. I do wish the hon. Gentleman and those who think with him would do a little more justice, if not to themselves, at least to their country. If, for argument's sake, I am to regard this as a great controversy between the two Islands, I say to 1090 those who profess to represent the population on this side of the water, surely we are strong enough in numbers, in wealth, and in ancient tradition. That being so, there is but one other item that matters a feather weight in the case—let us be as strong in right as we are in population, wealth, and historic traditions, and we shall have abundant force to settle our accounts in whatever may be founded on justice, or can fairly be demanded for the people of Ireland, with their Representatives. I make no complaint of the lion. Member's raising this question. It is a perfectly fair question to be debated, and it may be said to have attracted only a limited attention in the course of the previous debates. But I must say that while I am sorry for many of the opinions which have been expressed by the hon. Gentleman. I rejoice that he has not seen fit to ask the House to assent to the terms of his Motion. It shows, after all, that we are making some advance in political knowledge and experience; and that, even if extravagant opinions can be vented in a speech, there is too much modesty, too much prudence and wisdom on the part of the speaker, to ask the House of Commons to inscribe them on its records.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) throughout the whole of his speech had treated the franchise as a right. He (Mr. Newdegate) remembered hearing the right hon. Gentleman defend it as a trust. He remembered the right hon. Gentleman as a Colleague of Lord Palmerston, who held to the last that it was a fundamental maxim of the Constitution that the franchise was conferred as a trust; and that it was essential that men, or rather classes, should be recognized as trustworthy citizens, before they were permitted to possess any share of political power. The right hon. Gentleman held up the example of the Republic of the United States to guide them who were anxious to preserve Constitutional Monarchy. The right hon. Gentleman cited the success of manhood suffrage in carrying the great Republic through the Civil War, but said nothing of its effects in preventing civil war, or of the success of the Constitution of this country, which had preserved its internal peace for nearly 200 years. The right hon. Gentleman must have gratified 1091 the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who was an avowed Democrat, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. He (Mr. Newdegate) hoped he was not violating any confidence when he said that the first time he met the President of the Board of Trade, immediately after his election as Mayor of Birmingham, that right hon. Gentleman told him, within five minutes after being introduced to him in the presence of the assembled Volunteer officers of Birmingham, that he was a Republican. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was based upon Democratic principles. He (Mr. Newdegate) regretted that the late Lord Beaconsfield should have entered into competition with the right hon. Gentleman, in seeking the applause of Democracy, when he passed the Act of 1867. But there was a great reservation in that Act. The household and lodger franchise was not, by that Act, extended to the counties, which contain the majority of the people, especially in Great Britain. Now, however, the Prime Minister proposed to extend that franchise to the counties. What did the action of the late Lord Beaconsfield and of the right hon. Gentleman amount to, if not to mere competition for the favour of Democracy? He remembered the Prime Minister when he was a very different politician. The right hon. Gentleman, in an article written some years ago, in answer to a very able article by Mr. Lowe, now Lord Sherbrooke, eulogized the character and conduct of the House of Commons as it existed between 1832, when the first Reform Bill was passed, and 1852. After 1852, there was, according to the right hon. Gentleman, a deterioration. He (Mr. Newdegate) would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any improvement had taken place since 1867? In defiance of the warning of Lord Russell, the right hon. Gentleman was about to introduce that uniformity of suffrage which, according to his late Colleague, must create a mass of discontent among all those who were excluded. We were now on our way to the manhood suffrage of the United States. The right hon. Gentleman eulogized manhood suffrage, because it had carried the United States through a great civil war. The right hon. Gentleman forgot to notice the fact that, 1092 with our existing institutions, we had hitherto avoided civil war. Members sitting on his (Mr. Newdegate's) side of the House had rightly endeavoured to obtain from the Government some information about the intended redistribution of seats. If the Government were going to act on the principle of equality, the county population would demand a more adequate share of representation than it possessed at present. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear !] If such a change of the principle of equality was to be observed, it would involve a revolution. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!] The right hon. Gentleman objected to his using the term revolution. Perhaps, when he next addressed the House, he might coin some new word to convey his meaning. The system that would then exist would approach very nearly to that of equal electoral districts, and would be another step in the direction of Democracy. Let the House remember that they were dealing with the majority of the English people. The population of the counties in England and Wales numbered 13,688,902, the county Members were 187, the borough population numbered 12,285,537, while the borough Members were 297. Why should the county population submit to this gross inequality of representation? He would warn the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), who was the present Leader of what was the Conservative Party, that they had had one great success, thanks to his hon. Neighbours from Ireland. When an attempt was made to introduce Atheism into the House, they acted on a specific principle for a specific object; then the Party was recognized again as Conservative of a great principle, and they succeeded. He (Mr. Newdegate) was the senior ex-organizer of the Constitutional Party in the House; and he warned the right hon. Baronet that the Liberal Party, from their very name, bespoke universal relaxation. The name of Liberal was derived from the Latin verb libero, and meant quod liberat, that which loosens. It would be an inconsistent and absurd attempt on the part of the defenders of the Constitution, if they tried to compete in Democratic concessions with the Liberal Party. He knew enough of Englishmen to believe that those were to be found who were not ashamed of 1093 the liberty which their un enfranchised fathers enjoyed when the franchise was limited, before 1832. Unless Conservatives were found who would maintain the principles of the Constitution against Democratic assaults such as were now being made, the present Conservative Party would lapse; and then, perhaps, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) would have to make another whirl about and resume the character in which he (Mr. Newdegate) first knew him, that of a genuine Conservative.
§ MR. R. POWER
said, he should not attempt to follow the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) through the rather wide discussion which he had raised; but he could not help expressing the feelings of gratitude and pleasure with which he (Mr. R. Power) had listened to the statement made by the Prime Minister. During the whole of the time he had been in the House, he did not think he had ever read a more extraordinary, or more extravagant, Amendment than that in the name of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and its extravagance was only equalled by the extravagance of the language in which it was introduced. He could not congratulate the Tory Party upon their tactics on this occasion. They reminded him of the tactics of the Egyptian Army, when those in the rear cried "forward," and those in the front cried "back." Really, the Tory Party, in their opposition to the Bill, sought, by every means in their power, to dwindle down and whittle away the benefits which it would confer on the people of the Three Kingdoms; and though they were disgracefully beaten in their efforts on the second reading by a majority of 130, yet it ought not to be forgotten that in their future opposition to the measure they would have to contend with far smaller majorities; for he had no doubt, in their tactics and dilatory Motions, they would be ably assisted and cheered on by such Liberals as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen) and the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Albert Grey). It was now over 80 years since the Irish Members first came to that House to ask for their country the same rights and privileges which the people of England and Scotland possessed; and although they only asked for an equalization of the law, for 1094 a measure that in no way was revolutionary or novel, yet the Irish Members had, up to the present moment, found it impossible to get for their countrymen the same electoral privileges and rights which Englishmen and Scotchmen possessed. It was a sad, if not disgraceful, condemnation of the English rule in Ireland to find that after 80 years of so-called Union there were so many gross inequalities remaining between the two countries; and that, when they had brought forward Reform Bills and measures for the improvement of their municipal institutions, they had always carefully excluded Ireland from the provisions of those measures. When the late Mr. Butt first formed a Party in that House, his great idea was that, by united action, the Irish Members could compel Parliament to accede to their just and legitimate demands; and for many Sessions no man laboured harder or pleaded more eloquently in any cause, yet he (Mr. R. Power) regretted to say Mr. Butt passed away without having accomplished any of the reforms for which he so eloquently pleaded; and it was not till his hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) took up a firmer attitude that English statesmen at last listened to the demands of Irish Members. The question now before the House—Or rather the question which would be before the House if the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire had the courage to stick to his Amendment was—Are you going to give the same rights and privileges to the people of Ireland, which you are prepared to give to the people of England? Are you going to say to the Irish people—"We do not intend to give give you those rights?" You must pay our taxes, fight our battles, obey our laws, and support our institutions; but we shall not give you those rights and privileges, because you are our inferiors in intellectual and moral qualities. The principle which he believed underlay this Bill was, that they could only exclude from the franchise those who were unfitted to exercise it through want, either of intelligence or integrity; and he maintained that the Irishman was at least equal to the Englishman in either of these two qualities. Let them, for one moment, glance at the gross inequalities which existed between the two countries on this question of the franchise. He should 1095 not weary the House with many figures, "because he was aware the House disliked figures almost as much as he did himself. He should only take the five principal towns of Ireland. Dublin had a population of 267,717, and the franchise was enjoyed by only 12,310; whereas Leeds, with a population of 259,000, had 49,300 electors. Belfast had a population of 174,413, and yet only 19,633 electors; while Aberdeen, with a population of 88,125, had 13,738 electors. Cork had a population of 100,518, and yet it had only 4,445 electors; whereas Greenock, with half the population, had 7,614 electors. Lastly, Waterford, which had a population of 29,918, had only 1,414 electors; whereas Grimsby, with a population of 3,000 less, had actually 5,205 electors. He could give further examples of inequality; but, surely, if figures could prove anything, those figures must conclusively prove to an impartial mind the gross unfairness and injustice of the inequalities which existed. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire said reducing of the franchise was a dangerous and revolutionary measure, particularly as regarded Ireland. Well, that argument he (Mr. R. Power) had heard applied to almost every measure, however great or small, which had ever been introduced in that House, and it was always applied to Reform Bills. It was applied to the Reform Bill of 1832, and yet that Bill did not produce a revolution. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire might think Irishmen were not fit to exercise equal privileges with his own countrymen, and might believe them to be inferior in intellect and integrity or moral qualities; but the hon. Member might depend upon it that, the more England refused to them the demands of fairness and justice, the more irresistible and stronger would they make the claim of Irishmen for the legislative independence of their country. There was no danger in allowing the Irishman to exercise his vote; but there was real danger in shutting Irishmen out from the benefits and privileges of free representative institutions. They might depend upon it that the greater the rights enjoyed by Irishmen under the rule of the Constitution, the more would the Constitution be respected; and they would improve the social and moral condition of the Irish people, by giving them an interest in, 1096 and control over, the affairs of their own country. Conservatives, of course, called this measure revolutionary; and he (Mr. R. Power) was surprised that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire did not say something in his very discursive speech about the Pope. There were very few of the hon. Gentleman's long orations in which he did not bring up the name of that Potentate. Several hon. Members feared the influence of the Catholic clergy under the Bill. They tried to conjure up the nightmare of Catholic ascendency; but he (Mr. R. Power) would ask the House to allow him to read to them a passage from a speech that was delivered a few years ago by a Gentleman who represented in that House, not only the Irish Protestant Party, but also the Irish Orange Party. Mr. W. Johnston, the Member for Belfast, speaking on the question of the franchise, said—The Protestant population of Ireland had no fear of their fellow-countrymen in other parts of Ireland, and they asked for equal and fair justice for all portions of the Kingdom, and, therefore, he supported the measure cordially.He (Mr. Power) hoped his hon. Friend the present Member for Belfast would, upon this occasion, express some amount of liberality, and support the Bill before the House. There was more evil in excluding Ireland from the provisions of this Bill than at first might be apparent to many hon. Members. He did not conceal the fact that, among a certain portion of his countrymen, a feeling of the utter hopelessness of gaining anything from that Parliament was becoming stronger every day. If Parliament denied to Irishmen this extension of the franchise, it would declare that they were not the equals of Englishmen; and he would ask, if Irishmen were not their equals, why should they be there at all? Englishmen, he knew, were very fond of calling Ireland the Sister Country; but, to his mind, they treated it far more like a step-daughter than a sister. They had reduced the condition of political affairs to this—that they must either give the franchise to the Irish people, or govern that country by force of arms; and if they had to do that, they would find it a very expensive and very unpleasant undertaking. Depend upon it, if the people of Ireland were driven into illegal excesses, it would be because Parliament denied them equal privileges; and 1097 when the hon. Member for North Warwickshire spoke about all the horrors and evils that would ensue if the franchise were extended to the Irish labourer, he forgot the best safeguard against all those evils would be the very granting-of the franchise to those people. The hon. Member seemed to forget that it was the curtailment of rights and privileges which, in every country and every age, had driven men into excesses and rebellion. He was no true friend of either England or Ireland, who, in that House, had not the courage to speak the opinions which he believed actuated his countrymen at home; and he (Mr. R. Power) would ask the House what answer were Irish Members to make to their countrymen in Ireland and abroad, when these asked them how it was that it took over 30 years to gain from the English Parliament a measure of simple justice, and when they sneered at them for going into an Assembly that had branded their countrymen with a mark of inferiority? These men who so sneered at them entertained more extravagant opinions than they (the Irish Members) did, and had little or no belief in Constitutional agitation; and the House of Commons, if it excluded Ireland from the Bill, would be the best friends of unconstitutional agitation in Ireland. Aye, the men of whom he spoke would welcome their action. They were watching many movements of that House, in the hope that England might refuse to give to Ireland the privileges they themselves possessed. It looked very like, indeed, as if some parties in that House wished always to have an Irish difficulty; but they ought to take care lest the Irish difficulty might some day become an Irish impossibility. The Conservative opponents of the Bill had two logical reasons, from their point of view, for opposing it. First of all, the Tory Party feared the people; and, secondly, they knew that the Bill must be followed by a Redistribution Bill, and that the Redistribution Bill must destroy many of the small boroughs in England, over which the Conservatives had so much influence. In some respects the loss of these boroughs would be a loss to that House; and he (Mr. R. Power) feared, as a result, that they might lose some of their most distinguished men. The hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) would no longer 1098 be there to whisper to them the secrets of every European Cabinet; and even his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) might also go away, without having accomplished the dream of his youth—the abolition of patent medicines. He was sorry to say that it was even possible they might lose the presence of his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands); and, thereby, no longer witness that interesting and consistent spectacle of an hon. Member vehemently denouncing the Government, and the next minute supporting them by his vote. Speaking seriously, he believed that if the Bill were passed they would strengthen the Constitution of England; they would bring into that House the true Representatives of the Irish people; and it would then be for them to declare, in an unmistakable way, the amount of self-government which they were prepared to give the Irish people in the affairs of their own country.
§ MR. T. D. SULLIVAN
said, he did not think the speech of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) required any answer from the Irish Benches, especially as it had been so effectively replied to by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister; but, as the right hon. Gentleman said he thought a duty lay upon the Irish Members to make some remarks upon the subject, he (Mr. Sullivan) would just submit a few considerations on the Motion to the judgment of the House, He did not, however, consider the occasion called for much exertion on his part, seeing that the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire had not the courage to face a Division. The case against Ireland was so bad, that he dared not submit it even to an English House of Commons, and his arguments were utterly without basis or foundation. The hon. Member said that, inasmuch as the condition of Ireland at present was unsatisfactory, it should be allowed to remain so, except in so far as it could be made very much worse than it was at present. The hon. Member further urged that the Irish people were not well contented with English rule, and that additional power ought not to be put into their hands. But if the Irish people to-day were disaffected, how had that state of things been brought about? Was it not by the denial of justice, by 1099 the withdrawing of the rights of the people, by the denial to them of those privileges freely accorded to the people of England? It was those things that had made the Irish people discontented and disaffected; and the hon. Member thought he would improve that state of things by an act of flagrant injustice. He thought it was most extraordinary that such a proposal should be advanced with an idea of its being accepted by any human being possessed of reasoning faculties, or any assembly of intelligent men in that or any other part of the world. It was like telling a captive that he would have no relief from his chains, which were to be allowed to eat into his flesh until he did not care to be released. It was like telling a hungry man that he would have no bread until he did not crave for it. This was just a parallel case with that which had been raised by the hon. Member who had addressed the House a short time before (Mr. Brodrick). Well, he would tell the hon. Member, or any other hon. Member who was disposed to take the same view of the case, if they were to wait until Ireland grew content with injustice and with English rule as it now existed, they would wait for ever. The people of Ireland would never grow contented with slavery, and would never be satisfied with injustice. They would always continue to strive to the best of their ability, in order to gain that freedom which was the right of the nation. He was proud to know that the Irish people were not content with the slavery which had been inflicted upon them by a more powerful nation; and he said it was to their honour and glory that they continued to fight against this state of things and insisted upon their rights. Though they had been defeated upon every field, yet they had never surrendered, and they were determined still to keep their flag flying; and their hearts to-day remained unconquered, and would remain unconquerable. They had had a very touching picture drawn by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire of the fear and terror in which an Irish land agent had lately found himself. He was once a happy man; but now it seemed that he had got some threatening letters, and his life was in danger. Now, because that gentleman had felt those terrors for his safety, the House of Commons was, forsooth, to refuse an 1100 act of justice to the Irish people. The story which had been given of the agent was a one-sided story. There was a very important side of it which had not been presented by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire. In the days when that agent was happy and contented, was there happiness in the homes of the humble people over whom he held sway? All he (Mr. T. D. Sullivan) could say was, that in those halcyon days, when this agent was comfortable, there was fear and trembling1 amongst the poor people whom he ruled over. He would also say, for the peace of mind of that worthy land agent, that there was now some security for the honest toilers in Ireland, and greater peace and security amongst the people, than there had been in those days when the land agent was happy, and the people were terrified and miserable. They were told that to extend the franchise to Ireland would be to strengthen the hands of the Separatist Party in Ireland. Well, how would it be if the franchise was not extended to Ireland? He would ask the hon. Gentleman to answer that question. If there was danger that the extension of the franchise would strengthen the hands of the Separatist Party in Ireland, there was ten times more danger that the refusal of it would strengthen their hands—it would not only strengthen their hands, but give them an unanswerable case. There wag no man in Ireland, of extreme or moderate views, who did not perfectly understand and believe that no better stroke of business could be done to strengthen the hands of the Separatist Party in Ireland than to inflict upon that country this insult and injustice. No better means could be chosen for the accomplishment of that end than the measure proposed by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire. The hon. Member asked, were the Irish Party in the House of Commons such a comfort to the Government that they should consent to increase their numbers and bring them a large reinforcement of strength If the present Irish representation was not at peace with the House of Commons, he (Mr. T. D. Sullivan) said that it ought not to be, and he hoped it never would be, as long as Ireland was suffering wrong. If the Irish Members were such a trouble to the House, did the hon. Member think that the political situation would be im- 1101 proved by turning them out of the House of Commons, and refusing to the Irish people any representation at all? If the argument was worth anything, it went to that extent. He (Mr. T. D. Sullivan) would ask, who believed that the peace and happiness of the people would be advanced by denying them their representation; and who believed that the Separatist Party would not find it to their advantage that there should be such a state of things? He said that the result of such a measure would be, even from an English point of view, most fatal, as it would aggravate all the evils which at present existed and produce greater troubles. No more foolish and insensate step could be taken. They would hear a good deal, no doubt, as the debate went on, about what was called the "loyal minority" in Ireland. The House of Commons would be asked, were they going to abandon those who had remained true and stood by them for so many years? Why, what, he would ask, was going to happen to the loyal minority in Ireland? What were they afraid of? What were they going to do with them? Were they going to put them into some dark corner and slaughter them; or what else was going to happen? Had they not a majority in that House, and another in the House of Lords? He really could not see what was in such arguments. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire evidently did not think that there was much in his arguments himself; for after all his inflammatory language on the subject he did not dare to press his Motion to a Division. He believed that in that, as in all other matters of English rule, England must be prepared to grant full justice to Ireland; for so long as she declined to do so, so long would Separatists, Extremists, and Invincibles be found in Ireland in the future as they had been in the past. No evil result could possibly arise from doing justice to Ireland; but any measure, such as had been proposed, which would be the very negation of justice and fair play, could not fail to bring about a bad condition of things. Separation had been talked about. He maintained the claim of the Irish people to that measure of independence which they had formerly enjoyed, with such modifications as recent experience had shown to be advisable. The people de- 1102 manded the restoration of the Constitution, for the maintenance of which Henry Grattan had fought, and which had been taken away from the Irish people by means the most nefarious and infamous. The longer the measure of justice was denied, the more firmly resolved would the people become to obtain their rights, and the more extreme would become their demands. This Irish National question might have been settled at the time of O'Connell; it might have been settled later still under Isaac Butt; or it might have been settled through the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) before now. He hoped the House of Commons would not be misled into yielding to the representations which had been made to them, to deny to Ireland her claim to be placed, in the matter of the franchise, upon an equality with England and Scotland.
§ MR. J. R. YORKE
remarked that the impalpable, shadowy grievances of the Irish people appeared to increase rather than diminish with every attempt that was made to meet them. Hon. Members representing Irish constituencies had told them that night that the extension of the franchise in that country was the one thing needful to make Irishmen content. ["No !"] There were two points of view from which this matter could be looked at—that of the public interest, and that of Party advantage. The public disadvantage that must result from the extension of the franchise in Ireland was palpable enough; and if Her Majesty's Government did not perceive it, it was not because some of their Colleagues were not fully aware of the character of the individuals whose hands the extension of the franchise in Ireland would strengthen. In a speech that he had delivered at Glasgow in October, 1881, the Home Secretary had said that the object of the Irish Party was not to benefit the Irish tenants, but to bring about a political revolution; and that the land agitation was fomented with the intention of breaking up the Empire, and of overthrowing the established Government of the United Kingdom; that the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) demanded not the fixing of a fair rent, but no rent at all, and that he sought to get rid of the landlords with the object of getting rid of the 1103 English Government. The Prime Minister had been equally definite in his description of the objects of the Leaders of the Irish Party. In announcing the arrest of the hon. Member for the City of Cork in October, 1881, the right hon. Gentleman had said that that object was to get rid of law, order, and the rights of property. These were the objects of the men whose hands the present proposal of the Government was calculated to strengthen. To introduce a large body of such men into that House would be merely to introduce traitors to the Constitution—that was to say, men whose avowed objects were hostile to the interests of the Empire. If they strengthened the position of Members who were actuated by such motives as were avowed by the Irish Party, they would fall into the condition of some foreign countries that had had to change their Governments three times a-year. It was idle to suppose that they would avoid that danger if the Irish Party of disaffection held the balance, and could control events, when they admitted that they did not consider the safety of the Empire their first object, and that they came here to promote their own purposes. It was necessary to revert to these things when they were ignored in rhetorical appeals from the Treasury Bench for justice to Ireland. Was it not a superficial view of the matter to say that they were doing justice to Ireland by giving it an equal franchise, when they held back the enjoyment of the ordinary privileges of social life? If a man could not be trusted to walk about with a stick, it seemed a strange thing to present him with a pistol. It was difficult to understand the infatuation which promoted legislation of this kind in the present condition of Ireland. It was wrong from a public point of view; but from a Party point of view it was easy of explanation. Indeed, it appeared that the conditions of the Kilmainham contract were being carried out. In that concluding paragraph which was read to the House at the instance of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) it was said that the accomplishment of the programme that had been sketched would be regarded as a practical settlement of the Land Question; would enable the Irish Members to co-operate cordially with the Liberal Party in forwarding Liberal principles; 1104 and would justify the Government in dispensing with coercion. The Members for Ireland were now co-operating with the Government in forwarding Liberal principles, and they would expect next year that coercive legislation should not be renewed. The Prime Minister had made a further bid for Irish support by promising Ireland more than its proportional share of Representatives; but he would probably find it impossible to carry a Redistribution Bill based on this injustice. When the Irish Members had been used to get the chestnuts out of the fire they would be thrown over; and, not for the first time, they would have been used to carry measures profitable to the Liberal Party, but disastrous to the best interests of Ireland.
§ MR. SALT
said, he desired to consider the matter from a political point of view, using that word in the sense of what was best for the country, apart from personal or Party considerations. The change proposed was one of the greatest importance to the householder, and it became necessary to consider what was his position. It had been laid down by an authority no less eminent than Lord John Russell that the householder had in himself a right to the franchise; but that claim could not be too strongly repudiated. Because a man was a householder he had no right ipso facto to a vote—he had a right to good government, to freedom of speech, action, and thought. These were the things to which every man, woman, and child had an inherent right; but not to the franchise. The rule they should lay down in determining where to bestow it was in what way they could get the best House of Commons; for they must not forget that the House of Commons so created was not a Body dealing with the administration of a few Islands in the North Sea merely, but of a great Empire. He would make a large admission in regard to the householder; he had no objection to the householder in the country—he was as good as the householder in the town; but in admitting him largely to the franchise many considerations must be kept in view. He quite concurred in a remark which fell from an hon. Member in the early part of the evening as to the advantage of a wide basis of representation, so long as that basis was arranged 1105 on fair and intelligent grounds; but when it was said that the effect of placing the representation of the people on a wide basis had been to create a character in the people and a force which would not have existed otherwise, he could not help recalling the circumstances of their past history. A House of Commons elected by very narrow constituencies had carried on the Business of the country in times of great emergency. The country never was in greater danger than between the years 1790 and 1815, when foreign wars were being waged and great interests were at stake at home. Any large enfranchisement of the people, he maintained, must be subject to certain rules, acknowledged by all who had turned their attention to the subject; and though he could not go into those points in detail, it was fair to indicate what he thought they were, inasmuch as they guided him to the opinion at which he had arrived. The first was that of population. Another would be intelligence. Property was another element, and by property he did not merely moan large fortunes, but any property—it might be a cottage which a man desired to preserve and cherish. Locality and the peculiar interests of localities ought to be considered, and also variety in their representation. In addition to all these, there was a time for a Reform Bill. Opportunity was another point to be considered. He was not going to deal with the objection that the Bill was not a complete measure; it had been presented to the House as a complete measure on the highest authority—that of the Government, who were responsible for what it did and what it was. His objection to it was that on carefully examining it, not on Party or personal grounds, not for the purpose of present emergency, he believed it to violate nearly every axiom of representation of the people that had been laid down by our best statesmen. Coming to the question of its application to Ireland, he would like to speak of that country in the most kind and gentle way; but he wished to consider what a statesman would do as a matter of political and philosophical justice. He was willing to admit that Ireland had had many difficulties, and that those difficulties ought to be met with the utmost fairness and justice; in fact, he 1106 Would go further, and say that they should be met with great consideration and generosity. What was the condition of Ireland? They had been told early in 1880 that Ireland was in a state of unusual quiet and total absence of crime; then had come a most deplorable state of things in that country; and two years afterwards they had been told, on the highest authority, that, so far from the country being in a state of comfort and content, the worst elements were then predominant and the best elements were suppressed. Great discontent was felt in the country; but he would ask the House whether the dissatisfaction of the Irish people, as expressed in Irish newspapers, was one which was to be remedied by an extension of the franchise? There was a phrase which had been uttered by a statesman of great eminence, which had given rise to a great deal of political discussion and animosity—namely, that "force is no remedy." Of that phrase he took a very different view from that held by an immense number of people in this country. He thought that there were two interpretations of the saying; and unfortunately it was the worst one which had got about the country at large—that there was no use in applying force to produce order, because it was ineffectual. In that sense the words were mischievous; but there was another sense in which they might be understood—namely, that force was no remedy for the grievances which had caused the discontent. They might have to use force to procure order; but it was not a remedy without looking further. Taking that best view of the words, he had not been able to see in the whole course of Irish trouble anything that could lead to the conclusion that the extension of the franchise in that country would be a remedy. Forty or 50 years before, in talking to an Irish friend who knew the country well, he had remarked that he could not see any solution of the difficulties which existed in Ireland, and the reply had been—"Leave us alone; give us rest." He believed now that the real solution of the difficulties of the country was to be found in rest and quietness; let them do what was just and right; but, above all, give the country rest. Let them do what they could to remove grievances and difficulties, and make improvements as fast 1107 as they could; but they should never take a single step without knowing that it would lead to greater contentment and peace.
§ MR. FINCH-HATTON
said, that the right lion. Gentleman the Prime Minister had, in a debate previous to the Easter Recess, charged the Opposition that they were simply putting in force all the arts of Obstruction against the progress of the Bill before the House. He (Mr. Finch-Hatton) resented such a calumnious charge, and must be allowed to express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman would feel it but right to withdraw it as being wholly untenable. Turning to the Motion of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), he observed that probably in many minds throughout the country the interest of the whole subject of the franchise chiefly centred round the question of whether or not it was expedient to extend the franchise to Ireland; and the attitude of the Opposition in regard to the extension of the suffrage in Ireland must be carefully distinguished from their attitude in regard to its extension in other parts of the United Kingdom. They might have their doubts whether the large number of persons in England and Scotland which it was now proposed to enfranchise were sufficiently qualified to exercise that trust with due advantage to the State, and yet they might believe that those new voters were loyal subjects of the Queen, who would carry out their duties faithfully according to their lights. But the facts prevented their having such security as to the great mass of the electors whom it was sought to enfranchise in Ireland; and, moreover, they were met at the outset by this lion in their path—that the Prime Minister had not apparently withdrawn from the original statement which he had made to the House—namely, that he did not intend, or that he thought it unadvisable, to reduce the number of Representatives sent to that House from Ireland. He wished to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman still adhered to that statement; or whether he was prepared to modify it so far as to say that he would only give to Ireland such a number of Representatives as should seem fair, taking into consideration her population and her taxation; because when that subject was discussed before the Prime Minister, in answering the remarks of the 1108 right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) repudiated any idea of having made that declaration as a bid for the Irish vote, observing that the Opposition usually derived more support than the Ministry did from Irish Members. But when both sides of the House had their field day, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite bagged 130 more than his opponents, the Irish game was not discovered in the bag of the Opposition, and they were induced to look with some suspicion into the bag of the right hon. Gentleman, when the first 30 birds found there were Irish. Again, he wished to know whether the Prime Minister had abandoned his centrifugal theory with respect to Parliamentary representation? Although the right hon. Gentleman had maintained that places which were far off were entitled to greater representation, because of the difficulties of communication between the constituencies and their Members, it was a remarkable fact that the Division List of the House showed that the Members from Scotland put in an attendance at a larger number of Divisions than the Members from any other part of the United Kingdom. With respect to the number of Representatives from Ireland, the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) had urged them to maintain the provisions of the Act of Union, and that, too, by the extraordinary expedient of passing a Bill the admitted result of which would be to introduce 60 more Members pledged to the repeal of the Union. Mr. Pitt said that if the different parts of the Kingdom were united in interests and convictions, it mattered little whether the number of Representatives from one part was smaller or greater. But was Ireland in that condition? Was she united to us in interests and convictions? The Coercion Act threw a heavy onus probandi upon the Government. If Ireland was unfit to be intrusted with the exercise of the ordinary rights of citizenship, how could she be said to be ripe for the most responsible privileges of citizenship? The hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) had said that the sooner the fact was recognized that there was a state of civil war between the English and the Irish people the better it would be for both. The Chief Secretary, at Galashiels, stated that nothing but the Queen's Govern- 1109 ment—by which the right hon. Gentleman must have meant the Prevention of Crime Act—stood between Ireland and civil war.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
explained that he was then referring to the disturbances between the Orangemen and the Nationalists, which were quieted by the ordinary powers of the law.
§ MR. FINCH-HATTON
said, that in that case the Government ought to withdraw the Coercion Act, So far as Ireland was concerned, the operation of that Bill ought to be suspended either until the Government could rule Ireland without a Coercion Act, or until it could be shown that the effect of the measure would not be to transfer the balance of power to the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), or to disfranchise loyal minorities in the country, or to dismember the Empire. The people of this country, anxious as they were for the privilege of the franchise, would gladly wait if it was necessary until such time as they could obtain it without danger to the stability of the Empire.
§ MR. W. SHAW
said, that the Speaker would very soon be allowed to leave the Chair, in order that the House might go into Committee on the Bill. The general question would be settled in the House of Lords; but he ventured to prophesy that their Lordships would not throw out the Bill. He imagined that the Gentlemen in that House, aided by the advice of Gentlemen in the House of Commons of great experience and sagacity, would hardly run the risk of throwing out this Bill, and repeating what occurred on a former occasion—namely, passing in 10 minutes a Bill of a much more extensive and drastic character than this. So far as England, Scotland, and Wales were concerned, the effect of this Bill would not be unfavourable to the Conservative Party. The electors in the country districts were a slow and ignorant class of people, who did not even see a penny paper until it was two days old; and he did not know any more suitable ground for Conservative organization. In fact, he was quite sure that the Conservative organization would get an immense deal of support from these country voters in England and Wales. But the question of more immediate importance to the House was the question of Ireland. Now, he should like to know as to the 1110 Amendment put upon the Paper by the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and as to the speeches by which it had been supported, although it had not been moved, did they represent the opinion of the Conservative Party? Was the House to look upon that Amendment as embodying the views they would hold if they got into power? If so, the logical thing for them to do would be to suspend the present Constitution, in Ireland and to take away the votes of those people who had them at present. That would be the natural thing for them to do if they believed in that Amendment. There was no doubt that the addition of electors in Ireland by this Bill would be proportionally much larger than in England or Scotland, because in Ireland the present franchise was much higher than in those countries. But was that a thing which Parliament could avoid? Would it be possible for any Government to bring in a Franchise Bill, and to avoid that? He did not think it would; in fact, the thing was perfectly absurd. It was not arguable. It had often been stated in the House that a General Election under the present franchise would bring a large addition to the ranks of what was called the Active Irish Party. He believed it would. He spoke only his own opinions; but he thought it would be hardly worth while to contest constituencies in three Provinces in Ireland against those Gentlemen if they were able to get candidates to contest them. He could speak for himself; and although he very much valued a seat in the House of Commons, yet he looked upon the importance of settling the Irish question as so great that he would vacate his seat to-morrow, and give it to any Gentleman who would come into the House in order to make a Party to bring that question to an issue. This was not a question which they could let lie on from year to year. The sooner that by this Bill, or by creating a'large Party with this Bill, they brought Government face to face with the Irish question the better. The non-settlement of it was hindering the prosperity of Ireland, was demoralizing political Parties in England, and was working evil all round. Therefore, he said that if this Bill did nothing else than to bring into the House a party of 70 or 80 Gentlemen pledged to one object it would do 1111 good. The issue would be placed plainly before the House. It was said that that object had not yet been formulated. Probably it had not; but he thought the views put forward by the hon. Member for Westmeath, who was generally considered an extreme man, were views that would be generally accepted, and he did not believe there was any considerable Party in Ireland who looked to separation pure and simple as a solution of the question. He spoke from a general knowledge of the South and Midland Counties of Ireland. He knew pretty well the farmers and intelligent working-classes in these districts; and from intercourse with them his opinion was that they did not look to anything but a settlement of what was called the political controversy between the two countries. That was not a thing to frighten either England or Scotland. It was not a thing that should make Parliament deny a political right to the country, and keep it suspended for an indefinite time, thus creating a greater evil than the one they were now trying to avoid. He believed that if Lord Beaconsfield were alive the Irish would get what they wanted; and that if Mr. Pitt could have foreseen the future he would not have brought forward the Act of Union as it now stood upon the Statute Book. As the Act had worked, it had not been good for the country; and if it were left as it stood, without such modifications as were possible in the minds of political thinkers, and which might be easily worked out within the lines of the Constitution, it would be worse for England, and worse even for Ireland. Ireland was a poor country, and had, unfortunately, very little to engage the attention of her people. She wanted increased manufactures, and the sooner they could settle this question and Ireland could settle down to business the better. Then the minds of the people would be engaged, and their whole attention would not be devoted to political theories; but until the Irish question was settled there could not be a proper and legitimate connection been the two countries. He had before expressed his opinion that it would be a misfortune, and nothing but a misfortune, to separate Ireland from England. He believed it would be against the views of the great majority of the Irish people to go out, 1112 as it were, upon a sea of politics, and to have to construct a Constitution for itself upon new lines. They wanted only that the lines of the present Constitution should be modified and shaped in accordance with the wants of the country and the times in which they lived. There was nothing in this to frighten any thoughtful politician, or to make them for a moment think that the future of Ireland would be worse instead of better. The people who were proposed to be enfranchised in Ireland were not a bit worse than the people whom it was proposed to enfranchise in England. They were quite as intelligent, and were in every way as well conducted a people as could be found in England. But they would resent, indeed, the passing of a Bill of this character if a great number of their countrymen were excluded from its privileges. He looked forward to the near future with hope. He hoped there would be born an Irish Party, 70 or 80 in number, who would be able to formulate some plan, and put it before the House and the country, that should be consistent with the union of the two countries, and that peace should be brought about thereby. He himself had not the slightest doubt of it. He believed no one in Ireland really wanted revolution with a view to carrying out their purposes. Let the question as against England be once settled, and they would be able to work out with a fair purpose the political union of the two countries.
said, he should not have troubled the House on the present occasion but for the fact that he wished it to be understood that the Motion of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), on which a Division was not intended to be taken, did not represent the views of the entire Conservative Party. The Prime Minister, when he introduced the Bill, called upon Parliament to trust the people; and as far as he knew there was no feeling of distrust among Conservative Members in the body of the people—in fact, his opinion was that the opinion of the general body of the people of Great Britain was Conservative; and that, therefore, when the Bill passed, if it ever did pass, an increased power would be given to Conservative opinion. If they were prepared to trust the people of Great Britain, he saw no reason why the 1113 people of Ireland should not be trusted also. He was most reluctant to believe in the disloyalty of the Irish people; and he did not know that anything had occurred within the last few years which would justify the House in pronouncing that the mass of the Irish people were disloyal. Was it, then, for the interest of the United Kingdom that the people of Ireland should be inadequately represented in that House? Why, clearly not. Whatever were the opinions of the Irish people, it was certainly desirable they should find utterance in Parliament rather than in the formation of secret societies. He should himself have been extremely sorry if the Government, while extending a large measure of enfranchisement to Great Britain, had found it necessary, as a matter of State policy, to refuse the same measure of enfranchisement to Ireland. He hoped that the last speaker and other hon. Members would not go away with the idea that the Motion which was put down on the Paper and not moved was in any sense an adequate representation of opinion on the Conservative side of the House.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
observed, that when the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Gorst) attempted to show that the Resolution before the House did not convey the general opinion of the Conservative Party he was not cheered by the Conservative side of the House. On the contrary, he was cheered a great deal more by the supporters of Her Majesty's Government. He thought that silence on the part of the Opposition well showed that the Conservative Party were pretty nearly unanimous on that point. He had observed, too, that when the hon. and learned Member remarked that he did not believe in the disloyalty of the large portion of the Irish people, the suggestion was received with marked and significant silence by those hon. Gentlemen who represented Ireland in the House. Personally, he agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman to a considerable extent when he said he did not believe the whole of Ireland was disloyal. He had always emphatically maintained, and he declared now, that a large portion of the Irish people were loyal; and it was for this very reason that he objected to the franchise being extended to those portions of the community in Ireland who were hostile to 1114 England. Turning to the speech of the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw), he felt bound to confess that never since the days of Quintus Curtius was there such a display of self-abnegation and self-sacrifice as had been shown by the hon. Gentleman—for he had avowed himself the advocate of a measure which must infallibly terminate in his political extinction, and in the political extinction of every man who, like him, had a common sense and a common desire for the welfare of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman reminded him of another man of rather a later date, and perhaps of rather an apocryphal existence. He reminded him of Rip Van Winkle, for his speech went back to the days when he led the Home Rule Party in the House, and when the hon. Gentleman was the head of the Party to which he (Colonel King-Harman) belonged. Believing that the loyalty and common sense of the majority of the Irish people rendered them competent, to a certain extent, to manage their own affairs, the hon. Gentleman trusted to the Party, and believed in their policy until they rose up against him, and ousted him from his seat. The hon. Gentleman said he did not believe there was a large Party favourable to separation, and in that he agreed with him. He did not think that among Irishmen of capital, men of means and men of common sense, there was any desire to separate from Great Britain; but he maintained that amongst the large and ignorant class, who were misled by American agitators, and headed by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, there was an avowed determination to separate Ireland from England. He believed they would use, as their Leaders avowed they would use, every means in their power to secure that end. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), in a speech made at Cincinnati, said he would not take his coat off for the Land League——
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
He said he would not take off his coat for the Land League, if he did not intend to destroy the last vestige——
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
If he did not destroy the last vestige of union between Ireland and England. The hon. 1115 Gentleman knew he was quoting correctly. Whether they intended to carry out their threats, if they had the power to do so, and whether their dupes would assist them in doing so, he could not say; but such, at any rate, was the avowed intention of the hon. Member for the City of Cork. No doubt the hon. Gentleman would make use of any extension of power which Her Majesty's Government might in their consideration grant the Irish people to promote the disintegration of the Empire. If Her Majesty's Government believed this was the best course to adopt, of course, they must pursue it; but he must raise his voice on behalf of loyal Irishmen against extending the franchise to ignorant and misled people who, backed by an American agitation, were trying to sever Ireland from the Mother Country.
§ MR. WARTON
observed, that the debate had been conducted entirely by Conservative Members, so-called Conservative Members, and Home Rulers. Not a single Liberal Member had spoken in all that great Government majority—and why? It was because they had given their consciences and opinions entirely to the Prime Minister, and were no longer a Liberal, but a Gladstonian Party. If they took the test of population or the test of property, Ireland was not entitled to retain the present number of Members.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
I regret to see that on the Motion to go into Committee on the Bill an Amendment has been placed upon the Paper alleging that Irishmen are not entitled to the same franchise as Englishmen and Scotchmen. Till hon. Gentlemen opposite prove—and they will find it no easy task to prove—that the Irish are a degraded race, they will try in vain to persuade those in this House to vote for the degradation of Ireland. This is the first Reform Bill which has been based upon a principle of equality, and which recognizes the fact that Ireland is a distinct part of the United Kingdom. In 1832 O'Connell's demand was for equality and identification. That demand was rejected, and there arose that mighty movement for the repeal of the Union which shook the Empire. This Bill means identification, and the proposal of the hon. Member (Mr. Chaplin) implies separation. Half a century ago a noble Lord—a great English statesman 1116 —startled his hearers in "another place" by the astounding utterance that the Irish were aliens in blood, language, and religion. That utterance was immortalized by the retort which it drew from Richard Sheil in this House. What is the Amendment if it be not a repetition in another form of the Lynd-hurst declaration? [Cheers.] Well, in Ireland, if we are aliens to you, you are aliens to us. We will be your friends as your equals, as aliens your foes. Let us understand each other, and whatever the consequences may be let justice and right be done. Adopt this Bill and provide after that a Redistribution Bill, a Bill which I hope will follow so closely upon the footsteps of the present that the two shall be virtually one, and that, therefore, all classes shall be fully represented in this House. Then you will rest future legislation upon a Constitutional basis when you have declared your intention to enfranchise the people.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
The House always welcomes the views of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Smyth), and listens with pleasure to his eloquent speeches; but the question which anyone connected with Ireland naturally asks himself is, to what political Party does the hon. Member belong, or what political power in Ireland docs he represent? The hon. Gentleman has told the House that the Irish people, if enfranchised, would be the friends of this Bill. Now, I believe that no sentiment ever uttered in this House could be more repugnant to those whom the hon. Member seeks to enfranchise in the county which he now represents. Anyone who has followed Irish politics within the past few years must note and record this melancholy fact—that the more bitter and the more hostile a man's utterances are against England, and to everything English, the more popular he becomes among certain classes in Ireland. If this Bill were to pass into law, and an Election were to take place upon it, every Member on the other side of the House who now represents an Irish constituency would, as the House very well knows, be for over consigned to political oblivion. In the earlier part of the evening we had a remarkable speech from the Prime Minister; a speech worthy of the right hon. Gentleman who made it, and worthy of the occasion; but it embodied the 1117 principle that the Union between England and Ireland can only be maintained by equal laws and equal institutions. Now, that is a new policy on the part of the Prime Minister. Is the right hon. hon. Gentleman prepared to push that sentiment to its logical conclusion? During the 16 years that I have had the honour of a seat in this House, I have seen, time after time, the Prime Minister come down and ask this House to assent to exceptional legislation, as far as Ireland is concerned, on the ground of the exceptional condition of that country. Our legislation for the last 16 years, with regard to the Church, the laud, and social matters, has been exceptional for Ireland. During the last three years, so exceptional has been the land legislation of the Government, that it has touched the extreme limits of confiscation, and their repressive legislation has touched the extreme limits of coercion. Are we to understand that there are to be equal laws for England as for Ireland? Is the English Church to be disestablished because the Irish Church has been disestablished? ["Hear, hear!" from below the Gangway on the Ministerial side.] There are, no doubt, many hon. Gentlemen who wish to see it disestablished. Am I to assume, because exceptional legislation is enforced in Ireland, it will also be applied to England? The Government have suspended the whole system of trial by jury in Ireland? Are they anxious to try the same experiment in England? Silence follows my question. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to push to extreme limits, in the case of Ireland, the logical conclusion of his remarks in regard to Ireland? The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) has made a remarkable speech to-night; but he has been taunted by the Prime Minister with not having persevered with his Motion. The right hon. Gentleman should have recollected that even he himself, with his superb debating power, courage, and all his Parliamentary skill, has himself on several occasions been compelled to alter a proposal he had on the Notice Paper for many days when he found that the circumstances were not altogether favourable for its consideration. I can recollect one case when the late Government were in Office that the present Prime Minister placed four Resolutions on the 1118 Paper condemning their foreign policy. The whole Liberal Party came down—I do not know whether to support those Resolutions, but, at any rate, to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, just in the same way as the Conservative Party have come down to-night to hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire. The Prime Minister, I suppose, judging from his own experience, said that no doubt the hon. Member had accepted the advice of the older, the more respectable, and the wiser Members of his Party. Therefore, I assume that four years ago the right hon. Gentleman accepted the advice of the older, the more respectable, and the wiser Members of the Liberal Party by withdrawing his Resolution. But I do not wish to push that point. The right hon. Gentleman is quite aware, from his great Parliamentary experience, that there are many occasions on which it is not only legitimate but statesmanlike for a man, however strong his opinions may be, not to put the House to the trouble of a Division, and the present was one of those occasions. I think my hon. Friend has been well advised in the course he has taken. There is not a single Member on this side of the House, except my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), who does not believe that we are indulging in a most dangerous, if not reckless experiment, in reducing the franchise in Ireland. But there are two opinions which, to a certain extent, counter-balance and counteract each other. Some think that the condition of Ireland, making it dangerous to reduce the franchise, is a good reason for not bringing in any Franchise Bill affecting England and Scotland. But there are other persons who are of opinion that if a Franchise Bill is introduced, then that Bill ought, regardless of consequences, to be applied to Ireland. No doubt when there is this difference—a difference amongst us, so to say, on a minute detail—[A laugh.] Well, it is a minute detail. Hon. Gentlemen who interrupt me must recollect that we had a most favourable Division, which nothing can counteract on the point, and to which we attach the utmost importance, that redistribution should accompany extension of the franchise. We believe that any reduc- 1119 tion made in the franchise ought to be accompanied by a redistribution of seats. In a Redistribution Bill the disaffected parts of Ireland would have their representation materially curtailed. We have had already, as I say, a favourable Division upon that point, because in a House of Commons with a nominal majority of 150 Her Majesty's Government had actually, in the Division to which I refer, only an actual majority of 27. Therefore the nature of our objections was covered by the vote which took place a few nights ago. What seems to me to be the objection against this Franchise Bill standing by itself is that there are two exceptional concessions made to Ireland. The Prime Minister, more than once, said that this Bill is merely the development of the great legislative judgment given in 1868; but the legislative decision arrived at in 1867 and 1868 was that a £4 franchise in Ireland was to be equivalent to household suffrage in England and Scotland; and, therefore, this Bill upsets that statement on which the Prime Minister himself originally relied, and the consequence is that by establishing household franchise in Ireland you would be approaching much more nearly to manhood suffrage than in England and Scotland. The Return presented to the House of Lords fully proves the truth of my observation. Therefore, under this Bill, you are giving to that part of Her Majesty's Dominions which is the most disturbed and the most disloyal a lower franchise than to those parts of Her Majesty's Dominions which are loyal. Another exceptional piece of favouritism shown to Ireland is that there is no Redistribution Bill. I contended the other night, and I think I proved, that if a Redistribution Bill is disassociated from this Bill you will not pass a Redistribution Bill in this Parliament; and if you do not pass it in this Parliament you will not pass one affecting Ireland for many years to come. When the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) comes back to this House with a following of 90 Members he would be unworthy of the sagacity and generalship which he has hitherto shown if he allowed a Redistribution Bill to pass though the House which would curtail his following. There was one observation made by the Prime Minister which, I think, is especially worthy of notice. He said 1120 that no doubt the result of this Franchise Bill might be that it would create a Parliamentary controversy in this House in reference to Irish matters at a period when, as he intimated, owing to his age, he might not possibly be longer amongst us. Now, I think that anyone who is proud of his career and of his Parliamentary position ought to think a little of the legacy he is bequeathing to those who come after him. Therefore, I want the right hon. Gentleman to consider what would be the position of the Liberal Party, and of the House of Commons, if we have 90 Members returned from Ireland all pledged to separation? It has been intimated by the Prime Minister that the Resolution which stood in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lincolnshire was a libel upon the Irish Party. But that assertion did not elicit a single cheer. It is no libel at all. Those hon. Gentlemen know perfectly well that the one expression constantly cropping up in their speeches and Resolutions is that the House of Commons is a Foreign Assembly. What hon. Member from Ireland wishes merely to have such control over Irish local matters as they have in the United States? Does anybody suppose that any speaker in the United States would be allowed to describe the Congress of Washington as a Foreign Assembly, as the hon. Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy) has described the House of Commons? Every day the violent Party is more and more getting the upper hand in Ireland. I have not got them with me now; but if any hon. Gentleman will cote the Resolutions passed, and especially the Resolutions passed at meetings in England, attended by Irishmen, they will find that the simple repeal of the Union would not satisfy the Irish demands. Now, let us consider the condition of a subsequent House of Commons. What is the franchise but a means to an end, to give effect to the wishes of the people of Ireland? If the Nationalists of Ireland return 90 out of 100 Representatives, and demand the repeal of the Union with Ireland, will you refuse it? Can you refuse it? [Cries of "Yes !"] On what ground? You can only do it by force, and force alone. Yet force is the single instrument you repudiate. The Prime Minister says that, after all, if the worst comes to the worst, there will be 550 English and Scotch Members 1121 against 90 Irish. But will it be 550 English and Scotch Members against 90 Irish? The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) declined to believe that any large body of the Irish people were hostile to the connection with England or disloyal. I recollect at the end of last Session that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Monaghan (Mr. Healy), amid the cheers of his own Colleagues, asserted that the sooner it was understood that there was war between England and Ireland the better; and the only reason they did not give material effect to that war was that they had not the physical means of carrying it out. No doubt, if all the English and Scotch Members were to combine to deal as they ought to deal with the enemies of England and of English rule, one-half of the Irish difficulty would be solved. If English and Scotch Radicals would be true to themselves and their country, and would not enter into negotiations with those who avowed themselves to be the enemies of England and English rule, then the Irish difficulty would be easily solved. But exactly the same motives which induced right hon. Gentlemen opposite to negotiate the Kilmainhan Treaty when only 30 votes had to be gained, will induce whatever Government may sit on those Benches, when 90 votes are to be obtained, to make even still greater concessions. That is the danger, if you grant a reduction of the franchise without a redistribution of seats. Nine-tenths of the Representatives of Ireland will come back favourable to separation; and in the course of time I believe we shall find ourselves unable to refuse our consent to that demand, although, to make use of the words of the President of the Board of Trade, our consent to that demand would mean civil war in Ireland or ruin to England. My firm belief is that if we pass this Bill in its present shape, without redistribution, we shall sow seeds of evil which will ultimately cause such a rift through the whole fabric of our Empire, our trade and commerce, as neither time nor human hands will be ever able to reclose.
§ Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)1122
§ Clause 1 (Short title of Act).
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
wished to know why the Government were obstructing their own Business? The hour was comparatively early, and there were loads of time for the Committee to go on with the Bill. Nevertheless, this precious Government, which stumped the country charging the Conservative Party with a desire to obstruct Business, was absolutely stopping this important measure on which, they asserted, the whole future of the country depended. At that hour the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was acting in a most extraordinary manner in asking the Committee to report Progress. He thought if any hon. Member on that side of the House had ventured to make such a Motion, there would have been a very great outcry from the other side. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to reflect upon the dangerous course into which he was plunging. The Home Secretary, the other day at Derby, informed the country that nothing had been done in the House of Commons on account of the obstructive tactics of the Conservative Party. But what were the Government themselves doing? This was a measure to which the Government were pledged, and yet they were asking to have its consideration adjourned at that early hour. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his determination, or to assign some reason why he had been induced to take this extraordinary course.
§ In reply to an hon. MEMBER,
said, it was probable that Supply would be taken on Monday next, and that the Army Estimates would be proceeded with.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.