§ MR. E. STAFFORD HOWARD (who wore the dress of a Deputy Lieutenant)
said: Mr. Speaker—Sir, I do not suppose that it has often happened that Her Ma- 60 jesty's Most Gracious Speech from the Throne at the commencement of a Session has been so limited in extent, and at the same time has dealt with such important and great questions, as is the case on the present occasion. There may be, however, some hon. Members who are disposed to doubt the necessity for so early an assembling of Parliament as set out in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech; but I do not think they will regret the opportunity which is now offered them of discussing the condition of affairs in Egypt and in South Africa, and the policy of Her Majesty's Government in relation to them.
I think it will be observed with satisfaction that Her Majesty is able to state that her relations with all Foreign Powers continue to be amicable; because, not so very long ago, a portion of the foreign Press attempted to show that those relations were likely to be disturbed in consequence of what had occurred in relation to the failure of the Conference upon Egyptian affairs. I think we ought not to attach too much importance to such statements as these; but, at all events, the country will welcome the assurance contained in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech.
Sir, the question of Egypt is one which has occupied a great deal of time and attention in this House, and the Mission of General Gordon has excited the sympathy and interest of everyone in this country; I think, however, that by the debates which took place in this House last Session it was made abundantly clear that there were many persons who were more than uneasy at the delay on the part of Her Majesty's Government in sending relief to that gallant officer. The necessity seemed beyond doubt, and, therefore, I believe that everyone will approve the steps which Her Majesty's Government have taken, whilst the progress of the Expedition is being watched with the intense interest which the circumstances naturally excite. I think, Sir, also, that the terms in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech which refer to the services rendered by General Gordon in his perilous Expedition are such as will command the assent of all. The exceptional difficulty and danger of the task he was called upon to perform, the remarkable character of the man himself, the wonderful energy displayed by 61 him in maintaining in safety himself and everyone with him in their isolated situation at Khartoum, cut off from all communication with his friends, surrounded by treacherous enemies—all these circumstances combine to make him and his companions the central figures in the thoughts of all who take an interest in what is occurring abroad, and a pride in the gallant deeds of their countrymen. I wish it were in my power to say anything to the House as to the painful uncertainty which surrounds the position of the gallant Colonel Stewart. So far as can be found out, all the fresh information that has been received does not go far to encourage our hopes; but the fact that Lord Wolseley has been sent out to command the Expedition, and that Her Majesty's Government have to ask for additional supplies, show that they mean to spare no effort which may be necessary to open up the route to Khartoum, and to enable General Gordon and those whom he has been helping to defend themselves to return in safety. Whatever may be the opinion of hon. Members as to the policy adopted by Her Majesty's Government in relation to the Soudan, I think everyone must agree that, so far as this Expedition is concerned, they are only fulfilling a duty to General Gordon, whose perilous position has been due to no fanciful policy of his own, but to the necessities of the problem which he was sent out to solve. It will be found, I feel confident, that when he is able to make those communications which before long we hope he will be able to make, although his action on some occasions may have caused us surprise, and caused the Government surprise, it will be found that during the whole time he has been loyally endeavouring to carry out the instructions given to him in circumstances of unexampled difficulty.
Sir, I think, with regard to Egypt Proper, the difficulties of the position in which we are placed are, undoubtedly, numerous; but I believe, also, it will be found that, so far as the reforms which we have been attempting to inaugurate are concerned, a steady progress has been made. As to the present position of the finances of Egypt, Her Majesty's Government have naturally supported the Government of the Khedive in taking 62 the steps which were forced upon him, owing to the failure of the Conference upon Egyptian affairs, to solve the difficulty; but I think we may expect that the Government of the Khedive will be able shortly to resume its proper financial position, and that the House and the country will endorse the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The task which has fallen to us in Egypt is not one that is likely to be accomplished in a moment; but I think if we can succeed in time in establishing order and good government in that country, and if in so doing we can establish among the people feelings of respect for us and a recognition of our good - will towards them—I think, if we can do this, there will be some compensation for all the money we have spent and all the infinite trouble we have been exposed to in our endeavour to accomplish that task.
Now, Sir, it is necessary for me to say a few words on the subject of South Africa. The situation of affairs there is, I regret to say, far from satisfactory; but, at the same time, we must admit that this is a description which I am afraid cannot be said to be an unusual one. I shall not attempt now to enter into the details of what has taken place there, or to fix the responsibility for them upon any particular policy past or present, because I have no doubt that the subject will be fully discussed in this House by those who are much more able than I am to do so, and because to speak of a question of this kind in the spirit of any Party can lead to no good. But I think I may say truly that however easy it is to be wise after events, and to say "You should have done this," or "You ought to have done that," there is no part of the globe in which the British Government have to act where the conditions that have to be dealt with are so complicated, so shifting, and so contradictory as they seem to be in South Africa. The late Government made a very vigorous attempt to unite the conflicting elements in South Africa; the premature attempt at Confederation, however, failed, and I think I may say that the last state of affairs there has been worse than the first. The present Government, on acceding to Office, found themselves involved in difficulties with the Transvaal Government, and those difficulties have continued ever since. Twice have Her 63 Majesty's Government attempted to establish a modus vivendi with the Boer Government and people, and twice have the Boers broken the Convention made with them, before, so to speak, the ink was dry; and so people are beginning to ask themselves, not unnaturally, what is the use of making agreements with a Government which seems either unwilling or unable to carry them out when made? Would it not be much better for us to make up our minds as to what we ought to insist upon, and then insist upon its being done? One of the great difficulties which has beset every Government in South Africa has been the undoubted fact that the majority of the Boer population in the Cape Colony has sympathized with their fellow-countrymen in the Transvaal; but there was, I believe, a hope entertained a short time ago that public opinion in the Cape Colony was ready vigorously to support the re-assertion of the Convention which has been broken, and I believe, Sir, that the inhabitants of the Colony are now ready to re-assert that Convention. I hope they will be successful, and that, having done so without the shedding of blood, we shall be able to congratulate ourselves that the question has been settled without another South African War; if not, I do not see that there is any alternative to the pushing forward of those preparations which Her Majesty's Government are already making, which will insure the faithful performance of the Convention, and the security of the Natives to whom we have pledged our word. Sir, I think the lesson which this country ought to learn from these events is that if peace is ever to reign in South Africa, if respect for the British name is to continue there, and if South Africa is to remain an integral portion of Her Majesty's Dominions, we shall have to deal with the matters arising there with a firm and steady hand. There is no more precious trust committed to the care of the Government of this country by the people from whom they derive their power than the national reputation for good faith—there is nothing which they should more vigilantly guard; and while the people of this country are anxious that the Government should avoid all engagements, the difficulties in the execution of which might involve us in embarrass- 64 ment and complication, they will always be found willing to support them in rigidly fulfilling those to which they have pledged their word.
Now, Sir, turning from these important topics, I come to that great question which is the cause of our meeting here to-day. I do not think it is necessary for me to further refer to the circumstances which have called us together; but I may take this opportunity of expressing my most earnest hope that, having been summoned to discuss this question in Parliament, we shall address ourselves to the task of overcoming—not of aggravating — the difficulties of the position. I believe sincerely that it would be both a discredit to the good sense and reputation of the people, and a misfortune to the country at large, if this question be not settled without further agitation. Those who have watched the proceedings at the many meetings held throughout the country will have seen that there has been a tendency on the part of the speakers to deliver their addresses with increased warmth of expression, and on the part of the audiences an inclination to do something more than listen. So that, if there were no other reason for the assembling of Parliament, I think there are many who will agree with me that it is high time to change the scene of the controversy from the platforms of the country to the floor of this House, where, Sir, under your strict supervision, we may hope that our discussions will be conducted with somewhat less excitement, and with a greater desire to arrive at a settlement of this question, than the stimulating atmosphere of public meetings seems generally to promote. Now, in speaking on this question, I wish, as far as possible, to do so without Party feeling, and to approach it with the honest desire of seeing a measure pass which, I believe, will be for the benefit of the people; and I think I am only stating a fact when I say that every Member on this side of the House, except the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), came here pledged to support this measure, the natural, unavoidable, and desirable complement to the Act of 1867. From that pledge, Sir, we cannot and will not recede, and we shall fail in our duty to those who returned us to this House if we deliberately adopt any course that would place the fate of that measure in 65 the hands of those who are not responsible for it. In every other respect I believe we are most anxious to meet the views of our opponents, and as, with, I believe, the exception of the right hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther), we are all agreed upon the principle of the measure, there seems to be no reason why, if good sense is to prevail, we should not arrive at a settlement of this question. But, Sir, there is one thing which I admit must be first got out of the way, for it has tended greatly to aggravate the agitation which has taken place throughout the country. It will have been observed that in this agitation there are two sections, which seem to be each actuated by an ulterior motive, and not only that, but in whose minds that ulterior motive is the paramount idea—the one section desires to destroy, the other section desires to re-assert, to revivify, if I may say so, the powers of the Upper House of Parliament. Now, I ask this question—Are these ulterior motives to prevent the passing of this great measure for the better representation of the people, on the passing of which all reasonable men have set their minds? Surely both the sections to whom I have referred have reason to be satisfied with the advance that has been made. Those on the other side of the House would do well to be satisfied, I think, with the thousands who have flocked to their standard for one reason or another, and rest for a time with the comfortable assurance to be drawn from that fact before they put the question to any ruder test; while hon. Members on this side must surely be satisfied with the fact that they have brought this great question within the region of practical politics. If they will but remain quiet, and allow their opponents to cherish a little more the delusion under which they labour, it will not be long before they receive a challenge on the longed-for issue. Let each of these sections, then, give thanks for what it has received, and let us proceed to a practical consideration of the work which is immediately before us; and I repeat that it is my conviction that if these ulterior motives can be got rid of there is no reason why we should not come to a settlement. The only condition which Her Majesty's Government lay down is that the Repre- 66 sentation of the People Bill and the Redistribution of Seats Bill shall not be made dependent the one upon the other; and I say, without fear, that if Her Majesty's Government were to consent to such a condition they would have betrayed the confidence reposed in them, and would be inviting Parliament to a deliberate waste of time; because it must be patent to everyone who has observed the difficulty of passing any Bill through Parliament that were the Franchise Bill made dependent on the Redistribution Bill the interest in the details of the latter would become so enormous, and the temptation to criticize at length and move Amendments to them, always great, would be so increased, that the discussions would become almost interminable, with the result that there would not be the slightest chance of either of the Bills for the representation of the people passing into law during the present Parliament. If the Government consented to such a course they would be deliberately sacrificing the Bill to which they are pledged, and inviting Parliament to waste its time. Everyone must admit that such would be the case. ["No, no!"] That is our view, although hon. Members opposite do not look upon it in the same light; and therefore we consider that Her Majesty's Government cannot be too strict with regard to the terms laid down. But, on the other hand, it seems to me that hon. Members opposite are possessed with a great suspicion that Her Majesty's Government have two Redistribution Bills in their minds, and that the character of the Bill which they will eventually introduce depends entirely upon whether the Franchise Bill is made dependent on the Redistribution Bill or not. If the Government can pass the Franchise Bill apart from redistribution, they appear to think that so great will be the power they will obtain and the leverage they will get, and so unscrupulous the use they will make of them, that they will produce a Bill which will annihilate the Conservative Party. If, on the other hand, the passing of one Bill is made dependent on the other, they seem to suppose that the Government will be obliged to produce a Bill which will save the Conservative Party from the extinction which they fear. Now, Sir, I want to show how unreasonable these suspicions are. In 67 the first place, the Franchise Bill, if taken as evidence of the frame of mind of the Government, goes to show that there is no desire to be unfair to the Conservative Party. What temptation is there for us to pass an unfair Bill? I say, Sir, that the temptation lies entirely in the opposite direction. We have the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Sir Charles W. Dilke) that it is impossible to produce any scheme of redistribution not obviously unfair, which will not be Liberal in its operation. ["No, no!"] Well, Sir, that is our opinion, and, that being so, I repeat that, so far from there being any temptation on our part to do that which is unjust, so strong is our position that the temptation lies all in the other direction. For the sake of getting the Bill, we can afford not only to be just, but generous. I am sure the Government have every disposition to meet the views of their opponents, whether it be in securing that the agricultural interest shall not be swamped by the urban, or by giving any other reasonable pledge that may be asked for. But it is said that the Government have no intention of carrying out its pledges. Well, Sir, I reply that that is an unworthy suspicion. I believe that there are enough honest men in this House to see that the Government does fulfil its pledges, and the fact that there are 180 Members of this House who have pledged themselves to the principle of proportional representation is a strong guarantee that nothing unfair will be done in any Redistribution Bill that passes this House. Whether any practical scheme can be formed which will give effect to their views and be acceptable to the country is a matter of doubt; but there is one thing which is not a matter of doubt, and it is that in subscribing to that principle each and all of those 180 Members are bound to oppose any proposition which is designedly calculated to give an unfair advantage or preponderance to any Party or interest. Those hon. Members make a formidable Party, and to my mind constitute a very powerful guarantee that any unfairness in a Bill of this kind will be corrected, and that any attempt to alter what is fair will be successfully resisted. Then, again, there are on this side of the House a large number of Liberal county Members whose natural tendency will 68 be to assert the claims of the country to as full a representation as the towns, and to prevent the swamping of agricultural interests by a great infusion of purely urban population. As to the independence of these hon. Members, the Government has, on more than one occasion I believe, discovered that they were not always on their side. Taking all these things together, I feel most strongly that there are, in the present state of this controversy, elements of agreement which ought to prevail. The Government, I am sure, short of yielding the vital point for which they are contending, will go far in the direction of conciliation, and I need hardly add my conviction that they ought to be met in the same spirit; we ought to desire to see the settlement of this question for its own sake, apart from the consideration of the consequences that will result, if it be not settled, grave as they are. Public opinion witnesses to the fact that there are hundreds and thousands of our fellow-countrymen—men and women—who, in spite of our boasted prosperity, civilization, humanity, and religion, are living in a state of degradation and wretchedness, which we know we ought to be ashamed of, and which is not only a disgrace, but a source of danger to the country. And, Sir, while I do not, for a moment, wish to exaggerate the powers of legislation as being greater than those of religion, or of moral or social reform, yet it is through Parliament that the wants of the people find a voice, and through Parliament that their grievances are discussed, and the proper remedies, be they social or be they legislative, are brought before the attention of the public. The disgrace of our great towns is the miserable accommodation for the poor—the hovels in which thousands of our fellow-countrymen are living. The curse of the country is the degradation and wretchedness caused by drink, aggravated, in a great degree, by the system of licensing. None but those who have taken an active interest in matters of this kind know what the feelings of the people with regard to them are. Give these people votes, and we shall find that these questions, and many others like them, will no longer be neglected or tinkered at by a half-attentive Parliament. Whatever can be done by legislation to promote a better state of things will be done, and what- 69 ever cannot be done by legislation will be pressed on and stimulated by a widened and strengthened public opinion, and so the position of the country will be strengthened, as nothing else will strengthen it, by the greater happiness, welfare, and contentment of the people.
Sir, I must conclude the observations I have bad the honour to make on this occasion by asking pardon of the House for having trespassed on its time, and by thanking hon. Members for the kind attention with which those observations have been received. If I have deviated at all from the general lines of usage on these occasions, I must plead, as my excuse, the strong interest which I take in the great measure to be brought before us, and my anxious desire that it will be passed into law during the present Session. Sir, I beg to move—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey the thanks of this House for the Most Gracious Speech delivered by Her Command to both Houses of Parliament:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty continues to maintain relations of amity with all Foreign Powers:To assure Her Majesty that we learn with satisfaction that, although the information received from the Soudan includes painful uncertainties, yet the energy, courage, and resource conspicuously displayed by General Gordon in the successful defence of Khartoum deserve Her Majesty's warm recognition:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the advance of Her Majesty's Troops to Dongola has for its object the rescue and security of that gallant officer, and of those who have so faithfully co-operated with him:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that in Egypt itself Her Majesty is using Her best endeavours to promote further improvement; and that Her Majesty has given Her support to the Egyptian Government in the difficult financial position in which it has been left through the failure of the recent Conference:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we learn with regret that circumstances have occurred on the South-western frontier of the Transvaal which demand Her Majesty's vigilant attention; and humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that, in conjunction with the Government of the Cape Colony, Her Majesty is engaged in considering the means which may be required to secure the faithful observance of the Convention of the present year:70To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the operations in the Soudan will render it necessary to ask from us a further pecuniary provision:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Bill for the extension of the Parliamentary Franchise will at once be introduced:Humbly to assure Her Majesty that our most careful consideration shall be given to any measure which may be submitted to us, and that we earnestly trust that the blessing of Almighty God may attend upon our labours.
§ MR. SUMMERS (who wore a Court dress)
said: Sir, in rising to second the Address in answer to Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech; it will hardly be necessary for me to bespeak the kind consideration and indulgence of the House. That consideration and that indulgence have always been extended to an hon. Member placed in the trying position in which I now find myself; and they will not, I am sure, be withheld from one who, though he may have no other claim upon the attention of hon. Members, has this, at least, to urge in his own behalf—that during the four and a-half years that he has enjoyed the honour of a seat in this Assembly, he has not unduly obtruded himself upon the notice of the House, or wasted any considerable portion of its precious and invaluable time.
Mr. Speaker, the House will doubtless have learned, with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction, from one of the opening sentences of Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, that her relations with all Foreign Powers are of a friendly and harmonious description. By a statement of this character, it is not, I imagine, intended to convey the impression that, since Parliament rose in August last, there has not been so much as a ripple upon the smooth surface of European politics. In dealing with a difficult and complicated question like that of Egypt, and a question, be it remembered, in respect of which each of the Great Powers of Europe has a recognized status and locus standi—it is impossible at all times, and under all circumstances, to avoid the occurrence and recurrence of a certain amount of friction, and, it may be, even of conflict. What we have to congratulate ourselves upon is that, up to the present time, at all events, that friction and conflict have been kept within reasonable limits, and have not assumed 71 any serious or alarming proportions. The various Powers of Europe, and more especially the neighbouring Government of France, though they may have differed from us at particular junctures, on particular points of policy, have felt bound to admit the disinterestedness of the aims, and the purity of the motives, by which Her Majesty's Ministers have been actuated. Nor is it, Sir, in any way surprising that differences of opinion should have existed amongst the European Powers. It would, indeed, be the merest affectation to deny that serious differences of opinion exist even within the walls of this House; and there are probably few men of candid and impartial mind amongst us who, looking back upon the connection of this country with Egyptian affairs for the last six or eight years, would not be prepared to make the admission that grave errors of judgment and of policy have been committed by one or other, or possibly by both, of the great Parties in the State. To hon. Gentlemen who may be disposed to condemn without mercy the action of the present Advisers of the Crown with respect to Egypt, I will simply say that it will not be possible for us to pass a final judgment upon their proceedings until we know the end as well as the beginning of their policy. Three years ago I remember to have heard the Prime Minister, when addressing the working men of Leeds, tell them that in all that he and his Colleagues would do in Egypt, they would proceed not for dynastic purposes, not for selfish views, not by any endeavour to make the interests of the English people paramount in the Government of Egypt as compared with the interests of the Egyptian people, but that their great aim and object would be to secure those ends which were for the benefit of Egypt herself. I make bold, Sir, to express my firm conviction that it is precisely in proportion as Her Majesty's Ministers rise "to the height of this great argument," or fall short of it, that they will be applauded or condemned by posterity. Shall I be regarded as a man of too sanguine and confiding a temperament if I venture, at the same time, to see in the reforms that have been already accomplished, and in the Mission of Lord Northbrook, with all that that Mission of necessity involves, sufficient and conclusive evidence that 72 Her Majesty's Ministers are redeeming the solemn pledges under which they lie, and are furnishing the world with proof which cannot be shaken that they have really and sincerely at heart the interests and the welfare of the Egyptian people?
My hon. Friend the Mover of the Address (Mr. Stafford Howard) has dealt so fully and exhaustively with matters relating to the Soudan and South Africa, that it will not be necessary for me to trouble the House with any further observations upon foreign affairs. Indeed, Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, on the present occasion, may be said to reflect very faithfully the mind and feeling of the country, in that it gives especial prominence to one particular topic, and that a question of domestic concern. In my humble judgment, Mr. Speaker, it is matter rather for rejoicing than regret that the great question of Reform, for the moment, at all events, has, like Aaron's rod, swallowed up all other political questions whatsoever. Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, no less than hon. Gentlemen opposite, are doubtless filled with the swellings of a just and lawful pride when they reflect upon the wonderful achievements of the men of our race who have gone forth from our shores to plant the British language, British liberties, and British laws in the uttermost parts of the earth. We, on this side of the House, no less than hon. Gentlemen on that, regard the government of the teeming millions of our vast Indian Dependency as, perhaps, the greatest trust ever imposed by Providence upon a powerful and high-spirited people. We likewise recognize, to the fullest possible extent, that Great Britain has duties to discharge, and interests to protect, in almost every quarter of the globe. But whilst we entertain these views, we are, at the same time, most firmly convinced that those are not amongst the least wise of our statesmen and public men who have not scrupled to express the opinion that, after all, it is here in England that the real strength and power and greatness of the Empire lie. How, then, could our Parliaments, how could our statesmen be more wisely or more profitably employed than by seeking to extend the limits of human freedom on English, on Scottish, and on Irish soil? Mr. Speaker, it will not, I 73 am sure, be necessary for me, at this time of day, to argue out the Franchise Question upon its merits. By almost universal confession and acknowledgment, the Franchise Bill, which was introduced by Her Majesty's Ministers, and carried through this House by enormous majorities in the last Session of Parliament, was a just, a moderate, and a reasonable measure. It might even be described, without the smallest exaggeration, as an essentially Conservative measure. It left the freemen undisturbed in the counties. It introduced no new principle into the Constitution. It simply sought to extend to householders in the counties those political rights and privileges which, by the Act of 1867, had been conferred upon householders in the boroughs. The remarkable thing, Mr. Speaker, is in reality this—that in the last quarter of the 19th century we should be still discussing the question whether one-half of the nation is any longer to remain in a condition of political dependence and political servitude. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Trevelyan), whom we are all delighted to find filling, at last, his proper place in a Liberal Cabinet, told us, long ago, if the English agricultural labourer had been born a negro in the United States of America, he would have acquired the suffrage as soon as he had attained his majority; if he had been a peasant of Switzerland, or of France, he would have been in the possession of the franchise for a generation; and if, instead of being an Old Englander, he had been a New Englander, he and his forefathers before him would have enjoyed all the rights and privileges of citizenship for a couple of centuries. The Bill introduced by the Government being then as just, as moderate, and as reasonable as I have described, I proceed to ask the question, What was the reception it met with at the hands of the two great branches of the Legislature? As all the world knows, it met with great and growing favour in this House. If it had simply depended upon the action of the Representative Chamber, the Franchise Bill would, at this moment, have been an Act. Upon the second reading—when we affirm the principle of a measure—it was carried by a majority of 130; and when we went into Committee the majority 74 for the Government assumed still more formidable proportions. The just, wise, and statesmanlike proposal of the Government that Ireland should be included within the scope of the measure was carried, not merely by a majority of 130, but by a majority of 195. And when, Sir, we came to the third reading of the Bill, the opposition entirely collapsed, so that it stands recorded on the Journals of this House that the third reading of the Representation of the People Bill was carried nemine contradicente. It is no exaggeration, therefore, but the plain and simple truth, to say that the Franchise Bill went from this House to "another place" with the practically unanimous assent of the Representatives of the people. What happened when it reached that "other place?" I am well aware, Mr. Speaker, that I must be careful in the language that I use. I observe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) has his eye upon me, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I have not the faintest desire in the world to excite his indignation, or to disturb the serenity and equanimity of his temper. I shall not, therefore, say that noble Lords in "another place" rejected the Franchise Bill. I shall not even avail myself of the homely vernacular of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther), and say that they "chucked it out." I shall content myself with the assertion to which no exception can, I trust, be taken, and shall say that their Lordships simply refused to allow the Bill to pass. That is the reason, Sir, and that is the only reason, so far as I am able to discover, why Her Majesty, acting on the advice of her Ministers, has summoned us together, after a Recess unusually short, for this extraordinary Session of Parliament. What is to be the issue of our labours? The Franchise Bill, we may reasonably anticipate, will once more be carried by large majorities in the Representative Chamber, and will once more be presented for consideration to their Lordships' House. What is to be its fate? That is the question of all-absorbing interest to us at the present time. We are sometimes told by men of high character and position in the country that it is altogether inconceivable that their Lordships should 75 be so wanting in respect and consistency as to allow a measure to pass in November to which they refused their assent in July. I trust, Sir, that such a consummation it is not so inconceivable as some would have us believe. Since July last, many things have happened that might well furnish to the most careless and casual observers ample material for reflection. The ancient right of public meeting has been largely availed of throughout the length and breadth of the land. We have had from week to week, and from day to day, meetings of every conceivable kind and description, ranging from the magnificent demonstrations in the streets of London and of Glasgow to that now historic gathering in the back parlour of a Welsh public-house, which was so select that we are told it consisted only of a chairman, a paid secretary, and a very little boy, but was, at the same time, so influential that we have likewise been told, on no mean authority, that it spoke the voice of Wales. Mr. Speaker, it has been my privilege, during the Parliamentary Recess, to attend many large and important gatherings of my fellow-countrymen in various parts of Great Britain; and if the House will bear with me for a few moments longer, I should like to state very briefly, but, at the same time, with perfect frankness, what has been the impression produced upon my mind by what I have actually seen. Of the last and, in some respects, the most marvellous of the celebrated Mid Lothian campaigns, of which I was an interested spectator, I would simply say that, apart altogether from the particular opinions expressed by the Prime Minister at Edinburgh and elsewhere, it must have been matter for general congratulation to find that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was in full possession of all his old vigour, and of all those powers of stirring and matchless eloquence with which he has so often charmed the minds and captivated the affections of the British people. And not, Mr. Speaker, of the British people alone, for that gifted and high-souled Irish patriot, who has recently passed away from amongst us, would have been the first to admit that the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded, in a way in which no British Minister ever did before him, in winning for himself 76 a place in the hearts of the Irish people also. But, Mr. Speaker, it is not of the Mid Lothian campaign that it is my main intention to speak; I wish, in a few brief sentences, to state to the House what I believe to be the prevailing opinion and sentiment of the vast majority of the electors and non-electors of the United Kingdom on the topics which have so largely engrossed their attention of late. In the first place, then, I believe the people of this country are really in earnest in their desire for the passage of the Franchise Bill with the utmost possible despatch. After the agitation which we have witnessed during the last few months, no hon. Gentleman or noble Lord who has the smallest regard for his own reputation will have the hardihood to get up in his place and tell us that the British people are supine or indifferent on the subject of the extension of household suffrage to the counties. It is true that hitherto they have, speaking broadly and generally, been extremely moderate and good-humoured in their conduct of the agitation in which they have taken part in such vast numbers and with so much public spirit. Nor is the reason far to seek. They believed that there was in power a Government that was fighting their battle for them; and they were so confident of the justice of their cause, that they knew there could be but one issue to the conflict. They believed, I say, in the sincerity and earnestness of Her Majesty's Ministers on the subject of Reform; but it was not, I regret to say, by any means so easy to persuade them that the new-born zeal of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite for the extension of the suffrage was above suspicion. I shall be told that many of them are poor, misguided Radicals, who could not be expected to take an impartial view of the actions of right hon. Gentleman opposite. Possibly that may be so. Right hon. Gentlemen, however, have it in their power to undeceive these misguided men by making their actions correspond with their words. Let them vote for the second reading of the Franchise Bill, the principle of which they profess to approve, and they will not only thereby earn for themselves the gratitude of the 2,000,000 of men who must shortly be enfranchised, but they will, at the same time, show themselves to be, in reality as well as in name, the protectors and guardians of the Constitution. 77 I know not, Mr. Speaker, what may be the effect of my appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite. It may be that it will fall upon deafened ears; but this I do know—that I can appeal with confidence to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House to strengthen the hands of Her Majesty's Ministers, and thereby enable them to raise this Parliament to an elevation to which it has not yet attained, and to make it memorable in the annals of our history as the Parliament which did a tardy act of justice by granting to 2,000,000 of our fellow - countrymen, householders inhabiting the counties, those elementary rights and privileges of citizenship of which they had been too long deprived. I thank the House for the kindness and patience with which they have listened to my remarks, and I beg to second the Motion of my hon. Friend.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, &c."—[See page 69.]
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Mr. Speaker—Sir, it is usual for anyone who addresses the House after the Mover and Seconder of the Address to express on the part of the House a sense of the skill and ability with which those Gentlemen usually discharge their duties; and I am sure I may say with regard to both the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken to-day that we feel and recognize and congratulate them upon their great eloquence and great power of speaking. The hon. Member the Mover has, I think, gone far beyond that, and merits our acknowledgment of the great dignity and good taste with which he has spoken on several very important subjects. I am afraid I cannot altogether speak of the Seconder in the same tone that I should of the Mover, for I think there have been some parts in the latter portion of his address which do not seem to me to be extremely well calculated to promote that which the hon. Mover has so well expressed when he spoke of his desire to overcome, and not to aggravate, the difficulties of the situation in which he said we are placed. It seems to me there were many parts of the speech of the hon. Member for Stalybridge (Mr. Summers) which are not calculated to assist the discussion of the Franchise Bill when it may come before us; but I would ask the permission of the House to abstain 78 as far as possible from now entering into the discussion of that question, as it is a matter which must be brought before us very shortly, and is a matter which ought to be very carefully and very candidly considered. I own I was disposed to derive from the language of the Gracious Speech which Her Majesty the Queen has addressed to us some consolation, and to think that it showed an inclination on the part of Her Majesty's Government to take a broader view of the question of the representation of the people than was taken in the Speech from the Throne of last Session. I was pleased to observe that the Speech on the part of Her Majesty began by saying that she had brought us togetherIn order that we may be enabled at once to give further consideration to the great subject of the representation of the people in Parliament.Now, I could not but contrast that with the language used by Her Majesty last February, when, at the commencement of last Session, she spoke of the measure which was to be presented to us as oneWhich will have for its principal object the enlargement of the Occupation Franchise in Parliamentary Elections.That was the minor portion only of the whole subject of Parliamentary Reform, and it was because the Government proposed to deal only with a portion of that great subject that so much difficulty arose. I saw with pleasure that Her Majesty had been advised on this occasion to take a wider and broader view, and to speak of the whole of the great subject of the representation of the people in Parliament; and I feel well assured that if Her Majesty's Ministers are prepared to make proposals to us which are adequately represented by that language, such proposals will receive candid consideration on the part of all hon. Members of the House alike. But it must not be understood that we can in any way depart from the view we have taken in this House and out of the House, that it is essential that this great question should be considered as a whole. I believe that there is a very large and general feeling throughout the country of a desire, as has been said by the Mover and Seconder of the Address, that the franchise should be extended. There is no question of that, and that accounts for the very many and very large attendances that have taken place at meet- 79 ings held during the Recess on the subject. But that is not the point at issue. It is a question of how we are to bring about that extension of the franchise in a manner consistent with the maintenance of a proper system of Parliamentary representation. We maintain that this is so large and important — so vitally important—a question that the two parts must not be separated in our minds, but must be considered together, and that we must act with reference to the whole subject, and not merely only to a part of it. Therefore, the meetings in the country that have been referred to have been extremely significant, on the side of those whom we have had the honour of meeting, because those have been meetings of persons who were perfectly ready and anxious for the extension of the franchise, and yet who were ready to listen to the arguments and consider the grounds and reasons by which we showed that the two parts of the question ought not to be dissevered. I said I would not attempt at this time to go fully into this matter. I am anxious to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and from the Government what are the proposals with which they now meet Parliament, and what course they propose to take. I can only say, on my own part, and on the part of those who sit on this side of the House, that I earnestly trust that the Government will take such a course as will enable us, consistently with the views we have not harshly but deliberately formed, to co-operate with them in this great measure. Now, Sir, we have been called together for the purpose of dealing with this question; but there are portions of the Queen's Speech which seem to show that even if there had not existed that reason for calling us together, still Parliament would probably have been asked to meet. There is no doubt that very great importance attaches to the other subjects which are brought forward in the Speech, such as to make us rejoice that we have the opportunity of meeting the Government and obtaining authentic information as to these matters. I am glad to believe that we shall receive full information with regard to those subjects; but I do not observe that anything is said as to the presentation of Papers relating to the Egyptian Question. It may be a mere accidental 80 slip; but I understand that Papers are to be presented to us in regard to the Transvaal, and nothing is said as to Papers with reference to Egypt. I think that is a very extraordinary omission, for Egypt is a question which is assuming, year by year and month by month, more and more important proportions, and is developing greater difficulties. The Speech informs us that the information received from the Soudan includes "painful uncertainties." The phrase, I am bound to say, I think is original. I do not think that I have ever seen it in any Speech from the Throne before, and I do not exactly know what is its precise meaning. But, undoubtedly, there are most "painful uncertainties," and there have been for some time; and it is with a feeling of serious and deep disappointment that we come together and find that all that Her Majesty's Government is able to tell us is that there are "painful uncertainties" connected with the position of affairs in the Soudan. I was deeply grieved to hear—for I suppose the hon. Member spoke with some official information—the Mover of the Address say that the intelligence with regard to Colonel Stewart is not such as to lead us to form any very hopeful opinions as to his safety. I had hoped that we might find that the Government had some reassuring information, for this is a subject upon which the heart of England is deeply touched. We are anxious indeed to know what is the fate of that gallant man, and whether everything has been done that could have been done to avert the danger. We cannot help feeling that his position, like that of General Gordon, is one that not only calls for our admiration and for recognition on the part of Her Majesty and the Government, but it also requires that we should be assured that everything has been done that could have been done to secure the safety of those distinguished and gallant men. And I am bound to say that, as at present advised, it does not appear to me that the course taken by the Government has been such as to provide for that necessity. I cannot help remarking the way in which the statements in regard to General Gordon and his Mission have gradually developed themselves in the communications that have been made to us. I would ask the attention of the House for one 81 moment to these extracts from the official communications made to us. In the Queen's Speech of the 5th of February we were told that Her Majesty had offered the Egyptian Government such counsels as were required by a prudent regard to the amount of its financial resources, and to the social condition of the country—I have also despatched Major-General Gordon to report on the best means of giving effect to the resolution of the Khedive to withdraw from the Interior of the Soudan.Have we ever received any Report that answers to this description? I doubt very much indeed whether the Report he did give at all answers to that description. At all events, General Gordon went to the Soudan, as he afterwards tells us, with the full expectation that he was to be supported by the Government. He went out to a position of very great peril and very great responsibility; and from the communications with which we have been favoured by him up to the time when communications were practically broken off, it appears that he had found, by degrees and step by step, that he was not to receive that support upon which he had calculated, and upon which he had founded his hopes and his plans for conducting the operations that he undertook. However, time went on, and late in last Session, on the 5th of August, Her Majesty's Government came down to the House and proposed a Supplementary Vote, not exceeding £300,000, to enable Her Majesty to undertake operations for the relief of General Gordon, and to make certain preparations in respect thereof if they should become necessary. We are not told what has occurred since, but are now informed that the energy, courage, and resource conspicuously displayed by General Gordon in the successful defence of Khartoum deserve Her Majesty's warm recognition. We had heard nothing of the successful defence of Khartoum up to this point, and it occurs to me to ask what is the intention of the Government with regard to Khartoum. What is it that General Gordon is doing there which deserves Her Majesty's recognition, and yet which is consistent with the communications which were made before he went out, when it was understood that Khartoum was to be abandoned? We want to know what is the real state of the 82 case; and I presume, at all events, that when application is made to us for money we shall obtain full information on the subject. But I think it would be desirable if earlier than that we could receive from the Government some intelligible statement of what the exact position of General Gordon and of our forces respectively are in Egypt. What is the plan that they have in view, and what is the intention with which that plan is framed? Then with regard to another matter connected with Egypt. I find that on the 14th of August, at the close of the Session, Her Majesty made reference to the failure of the Conference upon the finances of Egypt, and proceeded to say—I shall continue to fulfil with fidelity the duties which grow out of the presence of my troops in the valley of the Nile; and I trust that the special mission, which I have determined upon sending to that country, may materially aid me in considering what counsels to tender to the Egyptian Government, and what steps to adopt in connection with that country.Are we to receive any communication as to what the effect of this special Mission has been? Are we to be told what Lord Northbrook advised? Are we to have Papers laid before us? We know that in the course of last Session a Conference was summoned, and that Her Majesty's Government was represented at that Conference, and we know that that Conference failed in its result. We know also that there were in connection with that Conference very important proposals made and very important communications between Her Majesty's Government and that of France. But we do not know what has happened since—we do not know at all in what position matters stand. We were told that they were urgent then, and they cannot be less urgent now, unless something has happened of which we have no idea, and it is very important that we should be told at the very earliest moment what is the position of the Government in regard to Egyptian affairs, and when information is to be given to us on the subject. I have no doubt the Government will give an early day for bringing this matter before us in a Constitutional and proper manner when they ask for the Vote in Supply. But we must not be content with merely having a discussion upon the Vote in Supply for the military operations. We ought to have an opportunity of considering the informa- 83 tion which no doubt will be presented to us in regard to the Egyptian policy generally, and the policy which cannot be discussed upon a mere question of Supply. I hope, therefore, that the Government will find time to enable the House to discuss that policy fairly and fully. There is another matter mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech, and upon which there is very great and very natural anxiety—I mean the condition of affairs in South Africa. The hon. Member for East Cumberland (Mr. S. Howard), in his speech, gave us some information—I do not know whether it is to be regarded as official—that preparations are already being made for military operations in the Transvaal. I think we ought to be told whether that is so, and we ought to have full information on that subject. But I observe it is stated in Her Majesty's Speech that Papers are to be presented on that subject; and therefore I do not think it necessary for me now to go further into the question, or to refer to it more, than to make a note of it as one which it will be our duty to further consider on another occasion. One other point there is which I must notice, because it is not included in the Speech. I think that if the information that we have received in the public journals is correct, it is a matter of great interest, on which we naturally expect some information. We are informed that the Government have agreed to join, with the other Powers, a Conference on the subject of the Congo and of West Africa. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] I see the right hon. Gentleman appears to dissent from that. I can only say that the statement is made and published; and if not true, it is well that attention should be called to the subject, because the matter is one of considerable importance, and of great interest to the commercial community of this country, and in regard to the civilization of Western Africa, as well as, indeed, of very great interest generally to all those who are anxious for the promotion and extension of civilization generally; and I hope the right hon. Gentleman may be in a position to give the House some information as to the position of affairs in that part of the world.
Sir, there has been a perfect calmness of tone pervading the speech of the right hon. 84 Gentleman, which I shall endeavour to imitate. It appears to me that it is wise that we should keep as nearly as we can to the ancient custom of Parliament in regard to discussions on the Address. Polemical discussion cannot possibly lead on this occasion to any result; and the premature entrance into it has no other effect, I think, than that of rendering it more difficult to deal with the practical issues when the proper time for them arrives. I therefore thank the right hon. Gentleman, and I will endeavour to follow the good example he has set. The right hon. Gentleman began his speech with a just and grateful compliment to my hon. Friends the Mover and the Seconder of the Address for the ability with which they discharged their difficult task. In that compliment I entirely concur; and the only difference from the right hon. Gentleman that I should make is this—that he thought it necessary to draw a distinction between the Mover and the Seconder, which distinction I am not disposed to draw at all. I perfectly admit that the right hon. Gentleman has the entire right to express his own opinion upon matters that were said by either of those Gentlemen; but he will agree with me that, on the occasion of moving and seconding the Address, there is invariably allowed to the two Gentlemen who perform that Office, by the kindness and the indulgence of the House, a certain degree of licence, a certain degree of latitude—I will not say licence—and the sentiments they utter are by no means to be taken as adopted by the House simply because the House concurs in the Motion which they make. With that observation I think the House will not be of opinion that that liberty was exceeded on the present occasion; and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, both my hon. Friends showed themselves to be possessed of a power of speech well entitling them, when they think fit, to take part in the debates and discussions of the House. In referring to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman I will notice first, because I can very briefly dispose of it, the reference to the subject of the Congo—a Conference which goes beyond the subject of the Congo—and I rather think the expression, though I am not quite sure, is that the subject of it embraces Western Africa in general. I am not quite sure of 85 the phrase; but in substance I believe I am correct. It was impossible for us to advise any reference to that subject in the Speech of Her Majesty, because it had not reached such a stage of ripeness as would have enabled us to make a positive communication to the House. It was felt by Her Majesty's Government to be necessary to obtain certain preliminary information, and that preliminary information was only obtained in such time as to enable the acceptance of the proposal for a Conference to go from this country so lately as yesterday, from which the right hon. Gentleman will perceive that we were not in a position to make a communication to the House through the medium of the Speech. I believe we shall be able to lay information on the subject before the House very shortly, and I think the House will find that the subject opens hopeful and not unpleasant prospects to the country, so far as we are able to estimate what may probably be the attitude of the Powers on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman has referred with a just reserve to the subject of South Africa. My hon. Friend the Mover of the Address aimed, I think, at depicting what he deemed to be a just position on this subject—namely, that we ought to make up our own minds as to that which we deem to be necessary, either for the honour or for the just interests of the country; and, having made up our minds, to adhere firmly to the intention so formed. That is, I believe, a perfectly accurate description of the present position. In framing the Convention of 1884, we certainly endeavoured to proceed on the lines of moderation; but that was with the view that, having proceeded on those lines, the stipulations contained in that Convention must be respected, and it would be our duty both ourselves to adhere to them, and likewise to expect, and if necessary require, that they should be adhered to by others. That is the direction in which it will be our duty to move. We shall move in that direction, and I think, as far as we are able to judge, in entire concurrence and harmony with the Government of Cape Colony; and I must say, although recent events have been in certain respects painful, yet I will not assume that they have yet received their final colour, even as far as the Transvaal is concerned, while I think we may contemplate with 86 great satisfaction this important fact—that, perhaps for the first occasion in the recent history of South African controversy, there is a general sentiment in the population as to the course of policy that ought to be pursued, and the old distinction of Dutch feeling and Anglican feeling, so far as our information yet goes, is no longer in existence. I am not speaking of the population of the Cape Colony. I must not speak as if we were in possession of final and complete information. The House will recollect that these matters are transmitted by telegraph, which, although it has the advantage in giving us information at an extremely early date, yet necessarily limits its character as compared with that given by the old method. But, so far as our knowledge goes, I think I am justified in the statement I have made to the House. With regard to the subject of Egypt, the right hon. Gentleman observed that we had promised information in the shape of Papers as far as South Africa is concerned; but that we had made no similar promise with regard to Egypt. The reason is a very simple one. In the case of South Africa, Papers are laid on the Table from time to time; but in the case of Egypt there has been an almost constant and scarcely intermittent flow; and although it is perfectly true that there is no reference to the subject of Papers in the Speech, yet Papers have actually been laid before the House by my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Those Papers, I believe, will come down to the end of September, and will include general information with respect to Egypt, excepting those matters in connection with finance which are specially embraced in the function of Lord Northbrook, and particularly, I will say, they will give to the House the latest information which we have obtained from General Gordon. The right hon. Gentleman observed that we have been silent for a long period respecting General Gordon. It is quite true, and the reason why we were silent was a very good reason—a reason applicable to the conduct both of Governments and individuals with great advantage; and it is, they should be silent when they have nothing to say. The extraordinary difficulties which General Gordon has had to cope with have had the effect of keeping Her Majesty's Government and the 87 country in almost entire ignorance, not so much of his position, but of his views. We have had from other parts incidentally, casually, but still in no inconsiderable quantity taken together, indications as to his actual position, so far as security is concerned; but with respect to his views, I may say that until the arrival of telegrams perfectly recent we have no means of pronouncing upon them. In these circumstances, the course we have taken is, that never has a disparaging or questioning word passed from the mouth, so far as I know, of any Member of Her Majesty's Government. I did think it unfortunate when the right hon. Gentleman himself, at a very early period of the last Session, thought it necessary to say that the Mission of General Gordon had failed. I protested against that declaration at the time, because I felt this—that the Mission of General Gordon must not be considered merely with reference to what it achieved; but also with reference to what it prevented. We must remember the tremendous dangers affecting the whole of Egypt, possibly affecting countries beyond Egypt, which the great catastrophe which happened to the army of General Hicks in November last appeared to threaten. The whole of these dangers have been arrested, and the evil has been kept within local limits through the action of General Gordon; and even if this result had been the only result, it was one of the greatest importance with reference to the welfare of Egypt, and with reference to the state of the Eastern portion of the world. I will only, on the present occasion, refer very briefly to one or two matters mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman says that within a short time after the Mission of General Gordon took place he found he was not to be supported. Now, the right hon. Gentleman wall recollect—I do not remember the precise date, I think the 8th of April, but I am not quite sure—a telegram was received from General Gordon, in which he expressed his warm thanks for the support he had received. I think it was earlier than the 8th of April—["No, no!"]—at any rate, on a certain day he expressed his warm thanks for that support. What happened? Almost immediately afterwards General Gordon thought it necessary to centre his policy, and found his 88 policy upon the Mission of Zebehr Pasha. With regard to that Mission, that was undoubtedly a great and sudden change of opinion on the part of General Gordon, because very shortly before he had deprecated in the strongest manner the Mission of Zebehr Pasha. Whether Her Majesty's Government were right or wrong in declining to send Zebehr Pasha, they were perfectly aware that it was fraught with great embarrassment to General Gordon, and great difficulty was introduced into their relations with General Gordon. But I may remind the House, in the first place, of the state of opinion which prevailed here with respect to the Mission of Zebehr Pasha—such a state of opinion that I very much doubt whether at that time one-tenth part of this House would have been ready to support or tolerate that Mission. Secondly, I must observe this—it is a most important point—when, unhappily, it came about that immediately after we were obliged to make that abrupt refusal, there came the interruption of the telegraph, and the impossibility of communicating with him and putting him in possession of our ideas, or receiving his ideas; and therefore there was much doubt, much embarrassment, and a state of opinion which I think it may be said that those who differed from us were not slow to profit by, and to lay numerous charges against Her Majesty's Government. However, Sir, that, happily, has passed by, and we are enabled to state what we think with respect to the astonishing gallantry and resource displayed by General Gordon. The House does not commit itself, on the occasion of an Address of this kind, to a single sentiment that is contained in the Speech, and I think it is well that the House should not deviate from that form of proceeding, because the precedent might be dangerous; but I am quite sure that among those who hear me there are many who would very gladly concur in the sentiment of the Speech with regard to General Gordon if the form of our proceedings permitted of such a course, and that the House, as well as Her Majesty, is of opinion that the energy, courage, and resources so conspicuously displayed by him deserve warm acknowledgment. It is asked what we mean by "painful uncertainties." We might, perhaps, if we had not been afraid in a 89 case so difficult of placing too cheerful a colour upon intelligence—we might have advised that the Speech from the Throne should say that the general tone and tendency of the recent intelligence from the Soudan was satisfactory. I think, at any rate, it is not going too far for a Minister to express that opinion in the Speech, of course with the reserve that must necessarily attach to any opinion founded on information so imperfect as is ours, and amidst so many uncertainties as attach to a set of circumstances in a country at that distance and existing under these peculiar conditions. But the right hon. Gentleman asked, and was entitled to ask—"What do you mean by commending General Gordon for the defence of Khartoum? And is your policy with regard to Khartoum what it was?" Certainly it is. There has been no change in the policy of the Government in respect to Khartoum. If there had been such a change it would have been the prime duty of the Government to have made it known to the House of Commons. But what we understand, and believe to be the case, from the information before us, is that the defence of Khartoum was concluded by General Gordon to be a matter of absolute necessity, not for his own safety only, but likewise for the safety of those to whom he was committed, and who had committed themselves to him in regard to carrying forward the operations that were necessary to hold off the assailants that surrounded him. That, Sir, is the reason why the words "defence of Khartoum" are introduced into the Speech, and not because we consider there ought to be a retrocession from the policy previously announced. The right hon. Gentleman will now quite understand that "painful uncertainties" refer merely to the grave and serious doubts which I am afraid I must say still hang over the fate of Colonel Stewart. That is a subject on which there will be, as the right hon. Gentleman said, an universal feeling of anxiety and sympathy; and he will, I think, feel that it was a not very unnatural impression on our part that, under all the circumstances, and with the remarkable manner in which Colonel Stewart has participated in these gallant and heroic proceedings, there should be that mention of him in the Speech from the Throne. I do not think there is reason 90 why we should abandon hope, though the apprehensions are certainly grave. All that we know about Colonel Stewart is laid actually on the Table, and will, I trust, be in the hands of Members in the course of a few days. Of course, with regard to the question of supporting General Gordon, the right hon. Gentleman knows that we have been limited by those peculiar conditions of climate attaching to a country like Egypt, and especially of the use of the River Nile as a means of military operations. It has not been a voluntary or capricious delay on our part; but we have felt that it would be improper to expose a mass of British soldiers, in defiance of all reasonable calculations of prudence, even for such an important object as conveying aid to General Gordon. It was our duty to ascertain, as far as we could, what the condition of General Gordon was; and it was our duty, in considering how aid could be supplied to him, to take into view the best means—even, under the most favourable circumstances, means of extreme difficulty—of bringing the Forces of Her Majesty to the point at which their presence would be useful. The right hon. Gentleman also wished to know what information and when information would be given with respect to the subject of Lord Northbrook's Mission. The present position of that matter is as nearly as possible this—We are under the belief that Lord Northbrook will quit Alexandria to-morrow, and that the space of about a week would bring him back, I hope, safe and sound, to this country. I need not say that it was his duty to avail himself of the whole time of his stay in Egypt—during which he really displayed an activity that we have viewed with pleasure, but with some surprise at the amount of fatigue he was able to undergo—it was his duty to avail himself of the whole of that time before endeavouring to bring into shape the important recommendations that he may have to make. No doubt, shortly after he returns he will have those recommendations in form. It will be the duty of the Government, and, in point of fact, the policy of the Government indicates that the Government recognize the necessity of giving to these recommendations their immediate consideration; and the result of that consideration, and 91 the steps they may think fit to take in prosecution of it, will be made the subject of the earliest practicable communication to Parliament. I pass, then, to another question — the great subject that has attracted the heart and mind of the country, especially within the last two months—I mean the representation of the people. The right hon. Gentleman criticized the expressions of my hon. Friend the Seconder of the Address in his able speech; but I think there was an omission in his critical notice which he will forgive me if I supply. He cannot, I think, have failed to observe that while my hon. Friend—both my hon. Friends—delivered their own opinions conscientiously and clearly in respect to the duty of the Government, and the duty of the House to follow a certain course of policy, they both of them, in the strictest manner—and certainly the Seconder no less than the Mover of the Address—abstained from anything that could by possibility be construed as a menace to the House of Lords. Now, considering that the subject of menace to the House of Lords has been long the greatest and most favourite topic of complaint, I think I am right in taking note of, and recording, that undeniable feature of the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Address. Now, what am I to say of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite upon this subject? He was pleased to take notice of what he thought an improvement in the tone of the Speech from the Throne. He said that—"The Speech from the Throne in February directed our attention particularly to the Franchise Bill; while the Speech from the Throne at present directs our attention to the subject of the representation of the people, which may include a Bill for the redistribution of seats, or any other portion of the great question of Parliamentary Reform." The doubt, the friendly doubt, that has arisen in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, is to know whether we intend to depart from the course we took in the last Session of Parliament. Now, Sir, as far as that doubt is concerned—and a certain degree of pain generally accompanies the existence of doubt on an important subject—I can relieve the mind of the right hon. Gentleman, and, in fact, I believe I had relieved it by the Notice I have given to-night that to- 92 morrow it will be my duty to move for leave of the House to bring in a Bill for amending the Representation of the People, which is precisely the same title that was given to the Franchise Bill last Session. I observe the technical words. If I had given it more briefly it would have been a Notice to ask leave for to-morrow to introduce the Franchise Bill. The House will, I hope, make no difficulty in giving leave for its introduction. It will then have the Bill in its hands, and then, no doubt, it will be perfectly legitimate for any Gentleman who thinks it his duty to make observations, with whatever scope and breadth he may think fit, on the subject of that Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman used some conciliatory words, of which, I am afraid, I must test the value. Nothing could be more gentle than the tone of the right hon. Gentleman; and I trust it will be felt, even by the younger Members of this House, who have not yet had as much experience as some of us have had of what may be called Parliamentary vicissitudes, and the real difficulties of carrying on public affairs. I trust it may be felt that the difficulties in which we stand involve grave, serious, and solemn responsibilities; and that, whatever opinions we may entertain, and whatever conclusions we may feel ourselves compelled to abide by, the maintenance of that gentleness and quietness of tone, of which the right hon. Gentleman has set us a good example to-night, is a duty incumbent on all hon. Members of this House. Now, Sir, what is, after all, the contention of the right hon. Gentleman? He says there are two parts of this subject. He thinks that the effort of Parliament ought to be how to bring about a proper system of representation; and that this cannot be done unless the two parts of the subject—extension of the franchise and the redistribution of seats—are combined together; they must be considered together; they must be treated as one subject; and he earnestly trusts that Her Majesty's Government will consent to treat them as one subject. What is the meaning of these words? In one sense, and that a most substantial sense, it has always been our desire to treat them as one subject; and here I ought to refer to a particular observation of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the phraseology of the Speech. 93 It speaks of Parliament as being brought together to consider the great subject of the representation of the people in Parliament. Well, Sir, what does that mean? Supposing we have our way—supposing that what we think the dictates of wisdom and prudence found their way to the minds of those who are concerned—supposing that, in consequence, the subject of the franchise is disposed of without difficulty—does the right hon. Gentleman suppose that we should be stickling for time on the subject of redistribution? On the contrary, there is no degree of pressure that could be applied to us to which we should not readily answer. It would have been most improper if we had advised the Crown to confine the Speech to the subject of the franchise. It would have been as good as saying that we totally excluded the hope of that reasonable accommodation which, we trust, may be obtained—so much so that we, quite as much as he, from the language of the Speech, desire to treat these two great portions—not the only portions—but these two great portions of the question of Reform as one subject, but as one subject, the parts of which are to be taken in their proper order, and are not to be so disposed and accumulated one upon the top of the other, so that the safety of the whole shall be endangered. It is but right that, without anger or warmth, I should express what I sorrowfully believe to be the true construction of the right hon. Gentleman's words. I am afraid that the true construction of his words is this—that by what he has called, and fairly called, his most "earnest trust," and with the most winning gentleness of phrase, he simply asks the majority in this House to abandon, after the experience of the last two months, the course which they took without and before the experience of the last two months. That is the request of the right hon. Gentleman. The request of the right hon. Gentleman, I am afraid, is this—"Adopt our views, pursue our methods of proceeding, recede from every declaration you have made; turn topsy-turvey all that you have said about the absolute necessity for the purpose of practically getting through the subject of separating and severing the Bill upon seats and the Bill upon franchise, and then, when you have gone through that process, 94 and undertaken to wear a white sheet, you may rely upon it that we, the minority in this House and the majority in the House of Lords, having completely conquered you, and completely discredited and dishonoured you in the face of those to whom you have made contrary professions, shall be most happy to concur with you in carrying into effect what you propose." Now, Sir, is that a hopeful state of things? Am I wrong in my construction of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman? I would wish with all my heart that some of those interruptions, some of those cries of "No, no, no!" that we occasionally hear from various quarters on the opposite side of the House, were at this moment to arrest my progress and assure me that I am wrong. But I see hon. Gentlemen, like the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) sitting perfectly satisfied with what I have said. They will forgive the musical and gentle tones of the right hon. Gentleman with which his intentions are declared for the sake of the substance contained beneath them. How does this matter really stand? I must, after what the right hon. Gentleman has said, say a few words on my view of the case, and what I think is the view of the Government. They shall be very few; but they will fulfil the pledge I gave; they will contain nothing that ought to irritate or offend, nor will they attempt to discuss the question; they will simply aim at making plain and intelligible the situation in which we stand. There has been some reference to-night, in one of the speeches, to the conduct of the people in the course of the wonderfully active and extended gatherings and discussions on this great subject. There were few, but still there were certain, exceptions to the order and mildness of conduct which have marked the whole conduct of the nation upon the subject. With regard to these exceptions, I learn, like others, through the newspapers, what has happened at Birmingham; and, again, I learnt, if possible, with even greater regret, what happened personally to Lord Salisbury. I then learnt, though it came from the other side, of the outrages that had taken place in the city of Portadown in Ireland. For my part, if I refer to this subject, I must refer to it first with a strong expression of my extreme admiration of the general conduct of the 95 people with regard to the whole matter. They have shown the greatest triumph of civilization in the capacity of the masses of the nation—sometimes greater, sometimes smaller — to meet together and to discuss questions of the deepest interest, on which the strongest difference prevailed, and yet show respect for every difference of opinion, and, above all, to maintain absolutely the laws of order. I will not do what I might be tempted to do, and will not express my regret about the language and the proceedings that might have been connected with the origin of these infractions of order; I reserve any criticism of that kind until the period when the subject can be controversially debated, which it cannot be by me to-night. I wish to record in the strongest manner my disapproval—I may say my grave condemnation—of all breaches of order in connection with this question, even under circumstances of temptation, or even incitement. The line between order and disorder is a definite line—the question of what is incitement and what is provocation is open to argument and dispute; but the line of order is a definite line, and the maintenance of it is necessary for the honour of the people. I should condemn any disorder in point of policy; and I should condemn it on principle if I did not believe it to be inexpedient. On this subject I am certain I speak the sentiments of my Colleagues as well as my own. What is the position in which we stand with regard to this great and solemn subject? We have, on the one hand, a considerable majority in the House of Lords which has not faced the plain question of affirmative or negative, but which has, by a collateral movement, arrested the progress of the Franchise Bill. We have, on the other hand, a large majority in the House of Commons, a majority so large that on the third reading it was not thought fit to challenge the delivery of the Speaker's opinion that the "Ayes" have it. I know that we had a discussion in which it appeared, on the testimony of two perfectly credible and most respectable Gentlemen, that both of them had uttered a negative; but I do not think that either of them disguises the fact that the negative was so uttered that it was not meant to reach the Chair; and negatives that do not reach the Chair—I believe I am speaking sound 96 Parliamentary Law in saying—are no negatives at all. Well, Sir, that is our view of the position of the two powers that stand face to face; and, disguise it how you may, the real question is which majority is to prevail. Our contention is, Sir, without wandering into the problems of abstract politics — our contention is that upon the facts of the case before us the majority of this House ought to prevail. Well, why ought it to prevail? What is the function of a majority? I own it appears to me to be expected by some of the Party opposite that the minority is to have the privileges of the majority. What I understand to be the right of the minority—the positive right of the minority—is the right to fair, full, and free discussion, so that none of its arguments may be kept back, but always placed fairly and fully in the view of the country. That I understand to be the right of the minority. But, Sir, upon this occasion we have at all times gone further, and, while firmly exerting the right of the majority, and determined never to recede from it—we have always admitted, and not only admitted but asserted, that that right of the majority ought to be exercised in a spirit of equity and gentleness. We have always desired to give every assurance that could be given; we began by volunteering, which was an unusual step, declarations on the subject of redistribution, which, if they were defective, were not altogether unimportant. They were, it is true, my own declarations; but in their general scope they were successively taken up by other Members of the Government—I think by two Members of the Government whom I now see sitting on the Bench—my noble Friend the Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington) and the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain)—as they were likewise in the other House of Parliament. Would it not have been a natural course, if there had been a disposition on the part of the minority to push matters forward, for them to say—"Your declarations are good as far as they go, but they do not go far enough, or they ought to go further; you ought to tell us more about what your intentions are." Is it fair or right that the minority should make upon the majority demands which that majority cannot concede without abandoning all its most solemn pledges? We are ready 97 and desirous to meet you by giving you every assurance as to the procedure upon redistribution, which can be given without fatally mixing up together two questions over which, when once mixed, we should have lost all effective power to prosecute to an issue. What is it that you ask of us? It is a surrender at discretion; it is a betrayal of the cause we have taken up. Ask us—and then the gentleness of tone which the right hon. Gentleman observed will be even more appropriate than it was to-night—what you think we can give; but to ask us to surrender at discretion, to ask us to pass under the Caudine Forks, to ask us, the majority, and the large majority of the people who are governed by representative government, to give in to the small, the comparatively small minority in this House which did not think it necessary to assert its convictions on the third reading of this Bill, because there is a majority against it in the House of Lords—do you, as reasonable men, each in your own Chamber, think that that is a demand which it is possible for us to meet? That is your contention; what is ours? Our contention is that while we ought to show all consideration for the minority, who, as yet, have given us no light at all upon the subject of in what any further consideration should be shown—that while we are willing and most desirous to show all consideration for the minority, while our desire is to press to the uttermost the subject of Reform, including the subject of redistribution of seats, to follow immediately upon the franchise, yet we cannot accede to the terms which involve the forfeiture of all our most solemn pledges, of all our deepest convictions, of all our most recent and reiterated declarations. Is our contention, after all, so very unreasonable? Does the right hon. Gentleman see no danger in the state of things that is before him? If this Bill be again—I will not say rejected—but put aside in the House of Lords, does the right hon. Gentleman think that when the controversy is resumed the question of the popular franchise, with or without redistribution of seats, will be the only question raised before the country? [An hon. MEMBER: That is a menace.] Sir, I have hoped against hope; I have laboured with all my heart, to the best of my ability, to confine this controversy within its pre- 98 sent limits. I have no doubt there are those who would not be sorry to extend it, and I must say their generosity in consenting to allow me to strive to limit it I am bound to acknowledge; but I am sorry to say that from those who stand in the position of the Leaders of the opposite Party we have heard nothing down to the present time that encourages me to believe there can be any useful result from these efforts. I shall persevere in them notwithstanding, because I am not to assume that there may not be those of different political associations from mine, Members of the Conservative Party, but who, notwithstanding, are not willing to play the rash game of staking the fate of their order and the balance of the Constitution on the opinion they have formed with regard to the severance of the franchise from redistribution. I have been moved by a double motive, and I am moved by a double motive in what I say. We have met here—for what? Not, so far as I am aware, to discuss a new Franchise Bill. I frankly own I have said all I have to say. I believe that the whole of those who sit on this side of the House, or very nearly the whole, have said all that they have to say. Of course, they have no right and no disposition to prevent those who think otherwise from reiterating their arguments if they believe that those arguments are likely to produce any useful effect; but on every ground I cherish the hope that our discussions on the Franchise Bill may not be greatly prolonged, not merely for the important purpose of saving the time of the House, though that is very important in relation to the limits of physical strength—which we so seriously press upon, and in relation to those other subjects which the right hon. Gentleman expresses his anxiety to have time to discuss; but I am afraid a prolonged discussion of the Franchise Bill by this House may not tend to the easy settlement of the question. After all, what we have to do is to make a new appeal to the judgment of the other House of the Legislature. Our opinion is that most important evidence has been brought before the other House of the Legislature within the two months which have just passed. Take it as you like for the present; we shall be ready to discuss that when the time comes. Our desire is, that the con- 99 sideration of that evidence should, as soon as possible, for the interests of all, come before the House of Lords, and that it should come not clouded and troubled by the effect of discussions, which might be angry discussions, in this House, with regard to which I am afraid the longer they are prolonged the greater will be the difficulties in settling the question. Why do we desire that this question should be settled? I desire it, I am not ashamed to say, on Conservative grounds. I desire it because I wish to secure the extension of the franchise, and afterwards of redistribution of seats, upon principles or rules, if that word is more applicable, which we have every desire to make intelligible to the House and to Gentlemen opposite. But, besides desiring that, I own I do desire that we should keep the question within its present narrow bounds. I deprecate this extension of the controversy; I do not wish it, and I will not be responsible for adding anything to it. Let Gentlemen who are desirous of combining redistribution with franchise take care lest they combine something more critical than either with them both. To the last I will not abandon the hope even of the Leaders of the Party opposite. Of the followers I cannot help entertaining some considerable hope. I tell the right hon. Gentleman that I most earnestly trust that he, while there is yet time, and those who sit around him, will join in the effort to keep this large and important question—I mean this franchise and redistribution question—apart from conjunction with other questions which he assuredly cannot wish to raise. [Opposition cries of "Why not?" and "Order!"] I own, Sir, I am taken by surprise, for I learn it is the desire of some Gentlemen sitting on the Conservative Benches to raise the question of organic change in the Constitution of the country. That is the only meaning which that energetic "Why not?" can possibly carry. I have often thought myself a great deal more Conservative than a great many of them are, and I am confirmed in that opinion by this exclamation. But it is far from my desire to enter into a conflict with anybody to-night. I have merely stated my desire, and I say that even now, at the eleventh hour and past the eleventh hour, I will not altogether allow the hope to be extinguished that 100 the right hon. Gentleman may join in delivering this question from the dangerous neighbourhood of another question which, as a Conservative statesman, he ought to be the very last man in the House to wish to see connected with it.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
The right hon. Gentleman stated that it was far from his intention to enter into a conflict with my right hon. Friend or anybody else in the course of his observations; but the last 20 minutes of his remarks contained nothing but direct attack. The right hon. Gentleman disclaimed any intention of using words of menace; but what is his idea of a menace? He warned us against the danger of a great organic change. The right hon. Gentleman also said that he would not join in any effort to produce such a change until he had exhausted every other means of dealing with the question.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
I will accept any words which the right hon. Gentleman may suggest; but that was his meaning—[Mr. GLADSTONE: No.]—and was so understood by his supporters below the Gangway. The whole of the last part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech directly menaced the House of Lords and the Opposition in the House of Commons, that if they should not do as the right hon. Gentleman wishes there will be an agitation for an organic change in the Constitution; and he gave us to understand pretty clearly that if that should be the case we need not look for much assistance from him. The right hon. Gentleman began by stating that he had most carefully abstained, during the whole of his Scotch peregrinations, from saying anything disrespectful of the House of Lords.
No; I never said anything of the kind. What I said was that all my efforts had been directed towards narrowing the field of the controversy.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
But how did the right hon. Gentleman proceed to narrow the field of the controversy? He pointed out that during the last 50 years the House of Lords had taken no step for the advancement of public liberty, or for the public interest. That is a very strong statement, and that is the special 101 mode which the right hon. Gentleman has adopted of narrowing the field of controversy between the two Houses. Why, the whole of the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman had one tendency only—namely, to bring into the disrepute and disesteem of the masses of the people the votes and position of the House of Lords; and the menaces of the right hon. Gentleman have culminated in his speech to-night. As a Member of the House of Commons, I will not shrink from any responsibility that may devolve upon me in consequence of the course which I pursue. We shall have to discuss this Bill when it comes before us. If the right hon. Gentleman can show any other reasons than those hitherto assigned with so little force and effect upon the matured judgment of the country why this question of the franchise should be altogether disconnected from that of the redistribution of seats, let him adduce them. Hitherto, however, we have heard nothing from the right hon. Gentleman but the language of menace and violence, and to such language there is only one reply—that we will not be guided by such considerations as the right hon. Gentleman has brought before us.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he thought it strange that no Member of the Government had thought it necessary to reply to the noble Lord who had last addressed the House. The statements made by the Mover of the Address had confirmed a suspicion he had long entertained, that the question of the franchise did not admit of any compromise properly so called. That hon. Member had said that under no circumstances must the two measures be made dependent upon each other, and the Prime Minister had more than endorsed that view. On the other hand, the Opposition entertained the notion that under no circumstances could the two measures be separated; and they held that an absolute guarantee ought to be given that one of the two Bills should not become law and take effect unaccompanied by the other. The Mover of the Address had told the House that if the Opposition were dissatisfied with the views on redistribution which the Government had expressed, the Government would, by grouping boroughs, or in some other way, prevent the swamping of the agricultural classes by the voters in towns. What was the value 102 of such guarantees? In his opinion they were insufficient and unsatisfactory; for the right hon. Gentleman could not guarantee that his Government would remain in Office for three months longer; indeed, if the right hon. Gentleman should meet with his deserts he would not remain Prime Minister for a fortnight. Hon. Members below the Gangway on the Ministerial side of the House wished that the Franchise Bill should pass in order that an election might be held under the new franchise with the old constituencies. That was the wish of the extreme Party in the House. [Cries of "No!"] And as that Party almost invariably got their own way, what guarantee could the right hon. Gentleman give that, with the best intentions in the world, he would be able to pass his Redistribution Bill in the teeth of the obstruction of his own Party? The right hon. Gentleman spoke in terms of condemnation of the disorders that had attended some of the franchise demonstrations. But was it possible for the right hon. Gentleman to suppose that his language that evening would not be taken as a direct incitement to greater disorders and outrages? The concluding portions of the right hon. Gentleman's speech were nothing else than a prolonged menace against the House of Lords. They might be placed in a serious, grave, and solemn position; but who was responsible for it? Why did the right hon. Gentleman place Parliament and the country in this position by adopting a method of procedure in connection with the question of Reform which no one had more strongly condemned than he had himself? [Mr. GLADSTONE: Never.] The right hon. Gentleman on one occasion characterized as base and contemptible any Government who, when introducing the question of Reform, should omit from their proposals that which was the most important part of the subject—namely, redistribution.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he had not the quotation with him, as he had not intended to speak; but he believed his statement was correct. Over and over again the leading Members of the present Government and of the Liberal Party had condemned in no measured terms the method they now proposed to 103 adopt in dealing with the question of Parliamentary Reform. From what they had heard that night in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, he was bound to suspect that the right hon. Gentleman had throughout some dark intentions on the subject, and that he had adopted this novel method of dealing with it in order to raise a cloud of controversy in the country, which would help to obscure his misdoings. In one paragraph of the Speech from the Throne they wore told that there was painful uncertainty in the information received from Egypt; but that was the character of the whole history of the present Government. Their whole proceedings since they had been in Office had been nothing but a chapter of uncertainties. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in his speech, had described the position with regard to the franchise from his view of the case, and had wound up by saying—"Which majority ought to prevail? The majority in the House of Lords or the majority in the House of Commons." In his opinion, the majority which ought to prevail in this matter was the majority which truly represented the views of the people; and when the right hon. Gentleman talked of the accumulated views which he hoped would now be considered by the House of Lords, what was the evidence of them to which he referred? Except in Scotland, where the Conservative Party had always been in an insignificant minority, as far as he had observed the demonstrations that had taken place, a very large amount of feeling had been called forth in support of the action of the House of Lords. That feeling he felt sure would be shown at the next General Election, whenever the Government dared to take an Election, and would have the effect of removing the right hon. Gentleman from a position his tenancy of which had resulted in seriously endangering the country.
§ MR. GRANTHAM
said, the derisive cheers of hon. Members opposite at the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire's (Mr. Chaplin's) inability to name the occasion on which the Prime Minister had called it base and contemptible were somewhat premature, for he (Mr. Grantham) was in a position not only to name the occasion, but to read the words he then used. It was on the 12th of April, 1866, that he said, after speaking on the importance of redistribution— 104I had not thought it necessary to say this, because it seemed to me so obvious that nothing could be more contemptible and base than the conduct of a Government which could give forth, with a view of enlisting the generous confidence of its supporters, that it would deal with the subject of Reform and would stand or fall by its propositions, and which all the while could silently exclude from the scope of their declaration all portions of that question, except only the reduction of the franchise, though among such questions we find one only second in importance to that of the franchise itself."(3 Hansard,  1144–5.)He had listened with the greatest regret to the language the right hon. Gentleman had used, for it must have been manifest to everyone who heard him that from the beginning to the end of his speech he had but one view in his mind, and that was that the majority in that House which he had led to victory last Session was to be led again by him to victory without the slightest concession being made. The right hon. Gentleman had told them that the minority had a certain right of free discussion, but nothing more, and that the majority had the absolute right to control the practical destinies of the nation. That was not the view which he had always held of the position of a minority, for a few years ago he published an article in a periodical in which he urged the right of a minority to endeavour to change itself into a majority; and he even went so far as to say that it was the right of a minority to do that by obstruction. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] The right hon. Gentleman said "No;" but that view was expressed in a public print, and the whole subject of that article was the question of obstruction. It was true, however, that at that time the right hon. Gentleman was trying to justify the obstruction of the Irish Members; but it now seemed that the right hon. Gentleman's words applied only when they were obstructing a Conservative Government, and not when the obstruction affected a Liberal Government. The position in which Parliament was placed now was a very simple one. It was similar to that of 1872, when the House of Lords differed from the majority of the House of Commons on the question of the Ballot Act, and refused to pass a Bill which they believed was a bad Bill, and one which would not benefit the country. The Radical majority of the Commons threatened the House of Lords just as much then as now, but the Lords wisely took no notice 105 of it; and what was the result? The Government, instead of giving way to temper, gave themselves up to framing a better measure; and after it had passed the House of Commons the following Session it was accepted by the House of Lords, and all true Liberals in the country joined the Conservative Party in saying—"Thank God, we have a House of Lords." It was the Constitutional right of the House of Lords to check hasty legislation. It had often in the past exercised that right to the great advantage and benefit of the country; and he failed to see why it should be now threatened, because on this particular question, which was one of procedure rather than of principle, it ventured to exercise its undoubted right. The Prime Minister had expressed his thanks to the advanced section of his followers for having allowed him to be so moderate. This was somewhat ominous as to the future course of the agitation. The Prime Minister had referred them to the remarks which he made with regard to redistribution when introducing the Franchise Bill, and said they ought to have accepted them as indicating the intentions of the Government; but they were at the time told that these merely represented the views of the Prime Minister himself, and that the subject had not been considered in the Cabinet. It was quite certain that the Conservative Party would not be satisfied with these shadowy allusions to redistribution. They would not put a rope round their own necks, as suggested by the Prime Minister, by passing the Franchise Bill without a Redistribution Bill. A great deal had been said as to the majorities by which the Bill was carried last Session. It was, however, an absolute misrepresentation of the case to state that the Franchise Bill had been carried by majorities of over 100 time after time. The great principle as to the separating redistribution and the franchise was only decided against the Opposition by about 30 votes. Did hon. Members opposite represent the country? He maintained that they did not; and, indeed, the majorities which were held up with such delight did not represent the opinions of hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves. They voted in fear and trembling of the local wirepullers. One Liberal Member had assured the House that at least 100 of his Colleagues on that side upon the clôture question were voting against their 106 conscience, whilst another, last Session, had told them that he had voted black was white long enough. The Conservative Party believed that a majority in the country was behind them in this contest. The meetings held by them would in numbers, intelligence, and influence, compare well with those on the Liberal side. ["Oh, oh!"] Look at Manchester and Liverpool then. Why were they to be led with a rope round their neck? Why were they not entitled to more liberal treatment at the hands of their Liberal opponents? All that the Tory Party asked for was that the Redistribution Bill should become law during the same Parliament as the Franchise Bill. The matter having been so thoroughly thrashed out during the Recess, and in view of the statement that the Conservative Party were prepared to accept the Franchise Bill in the form in which it left the House last Session, he thought it was too bad, after all that had taken place, of the Prime Minister to come down to the House on the first night of the Session, and throw down the gauntlet in the way he had done, refusing any concession of the slightest imporance.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY
said, that whatever inconvenience might have been entailed on many Members of the House by the summons they had received to attend in Parliament that autumn, he felt sure that the gravity of the situation and the subjects referred to in the Most Gracious Speech from the Throne had caused them to come readily together to endeavour to assist by their deliberations in the best conduct of the government of the country. The points alluded to in that Speech were of great and grave importance. They had read with the greatest anxiety the accounts of the Expedition sent out to relieve that gallant soldier, General Gordon; they had watched with some anxiety, which must be shared by his right hon. Friend opposite, the probable cost of that Expedition, and they were desirous to know what means the Government would take to defray its cost, it being one of the canons laid down by the Prime Minister that Parliament should be consulted without delay when expenses of that sort had to be incurred. There was also the question of South Africa, which appeared to be full of the gravest danger to the prestige of this country, to the safety of our fellow-countrymen there, 107 and also of those Native tribes whom we were bound in honour to protect. Moreover, the condition of our industrial population in the centres of commercial activity was such as to make them feel the deepest sympathy with the present distress; and he should have been glad to have found some of that sympathy expressed in the Speech, and perhaps some hope held out of an inquiry into the causes of the distress, or an indication that the Government were anxious to seek some measure by which it might be relieved. No less severe was the depression under which the agricultural population were labouring throughout the country. He recognized to the full the benefit which the present low prices conferred on the community in general; but that benefit was purchased at the cost of great loss to the cultivators of the soil; and he should have been glad to see that fact recognized, and the hope expressed that some means might be taken to alleviate the burdens under which the cultivator unjustly suffered. He rejoiced that all the agitation and counter-agitation which had been going on during the last two months—all the irresponsible talk on a thousand platforms—was about to cease; and he hoped that when the subject of contention was brought back to the arena where it could be properly discussed—namely, the floor of that House—the common sense of the whole people of this country would prevail, and it would be possible to find some mode by which a controversy, the prolongation of which could not but be hurtful to the best interests of the nation, though it might serve the ends of extreme Parties, might be brought to a termination. That feeling was much strengthened in his mind when he heard the speech of his right hon. Friend below him that night, in which he expressed, in all truth and honesty, his hope that the Government would take such steps as might enable the Conservative Party to co-operate with the Liberal Party in bringing about the settlement of that question. The Government had found themselves in want of a cry, and had taken up the question only after leaving it alone for four years. They had approached it from the point of view that they could not deal with the two questions of franchise and redistribution together, but could only deal with the more difficult 108 one—that of redistribution—by putting under compulsion not only the House of Commons, but also the House of Lords. That method had gone against the strong feeling of the English character. An Englishman did not object to be led; but he did not like to be dragged with a rope round his neck. This was not a question of mere procedure; it was one affecting the future government of this country. If the question of redistribution was fairly settled, great good might come from it; whereas, if it were carried out on Party lines, the government of the country would then be practically handed over to one Party or the other. With reference to the speech of the Prime Minister that evening, he regretted that the Prime Minister had chosen to regard the language of the Leader of the Opposition as an invitation to abjure everything that they had done. The Prime Minister had told them that the Bill was to go up to the House of Lords with fresh evidence of the feeling of the country, and if that evidence had not its weight, so much the worse. But, in his opinion, there was a good deal of evidence on the other side, as had been admitted somewhat tardily by the leading journal. In 1832 they heard of no counter-agitation; there were no great meetings in favour of the action of the House of Lords. While professing a great desire for a settlement, the Prime Minister had made no move in the direction of conciliation. There was now a universal acceptance of the question of the franchise, which had not been the case in March; and he thought that the Prime Minister might have given them some assurance that he was ready to recognize this. He would venture to reecho the words of the Prime Minister, and express a hope that, even at the eleventh hour, it was not too late to recognize the strength of these arguments. It was difficult really to sound the feeling of the country on the question by the meetings which had taken place in the autumn; there were vast numbers, no doubt, who were desirous of the franchise; but there were vast numbers who were apathetic on the subject. In the words of the Duke of Argyll, 2,000,000 of people were looking through the half-open doors. In considering a settlement of the question, it should be remembered that if there was high-handed action on one side it would be likely to 109 be followed by stubborn resistance on the other.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
remarked that in the Queen's Speech he saw it stated that the energy, courage, and resource displayed by General Gordon deserved warm recognition. But the Government had absolutely no information about what was going on at Khartoum, as General Gordon had sent no despatches. How could they possibly tell whether General Gordon was defending Khartoum with energy and success, or whether he was roaming about the country destroying the Soudanese? What they did know of General Gordon did not increase his confidence in him in the slightest degree. General Gordon's instructions had been to evacuate Khartoum as soon as possible. As far as they could see, he certainly was not fulfilling these instructions, for the latest despatches showed that he was urging the Soudanese to slay the Mahdi. He did not wish to say anything about General Gordon; but he could not suppose that that was really the idea taken in the country or that House of what his duties were. This wonderful General did not send to tell them of anything that was taking place; all they knew was that he had bitterly complained of Her Majesty's Government having wished him to act as they desired, and not as he thought proper. General Gordon's wish was to maintain himself in the Soudan, and to establish there some form of Government which would be supported by us. According to all they could learn now, General Gordon did not appear to be in the slightest danger at Khartoum, but was able to send ironclads to bombard the towns and villages of the Natives. And yet the Prime Minister had told them that these people were fighting for their liberty, and that the Soudan was to be absolutely and entirely independent of the Egyptian Government. What, then, was General Gordon's position? Were they supporting him or not? Were they sending Lord Wolseley to bring him back whether he would or not, or to aid him in those outrageous acts against men who, the Prime Minister said, were fighting for their independence? With regard to the paragraph in the Queen's Speech, which told them that further pecuniary provision would be required, he took a Division last Session when only £300,000 110 was asked; and when the new Vote should come before the House he would again divide on the subject. He believed that the feeling of the country with regard to Egypt was that we should clear out of it as soon as possible. He did not see why we, who had so many poor people among ourselves, should spend money either to sustain the Egyptian Government or to maintain Gordon in the Soudan. He had the greatest respect for Her Majesty's Government; but he confessed he had never been able to discover what their policy was with respect to Egypt or the Soudan. With regard to the Franchise Bill, the Lords had got another chance. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had complained of the words of menace used by the Prime Minister in the controversy. Did hon. Gentlemen know so little of the feeling in the country as not to be aware that if the Prime Minister had not done everything he possibly could to prevent the agitation going further it would have much exceeded the present demands? He could tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that there was not one of the many meetings which had been held throughout the country at which a resolution would not have been passed almost unanimously for the abolition of the House of Lords, and it was out of respect to the Prime Minister that that had not been done. The right hon. Gentleman had said that if the Bill was thrown out again by the Lords the agitation would assume a different character. That was a fact, and not a threat. He was speaking as an out-and-out Radical; and he could assure hon. Gentlemen that he sincerely trusted and prayed that the House of Lords would throw out the Bill, because he thought the time had come when they should do away with that obstructive Assembly. Thanks to the Prime Minister, the Lords had got another opportunity of reconsidering their conduct, and if they did not do so they must take the consequences, for then there would be such an agitation as would astonish Gentlemen opposite. Did those Gentlemen understand that the backbone of the Liberal Party was the Radicals, though they were not fitly represented in that House? There were some very able Radicals in the House, but there ought to be a great many more. There were Gentlemen who on the hustings pro- 111 fessed the most noble Radical principles, but when they came into the House forgot those principles altogether; the country, however, was going to take that matter in hand, and was determined that it would be represented by men who would support its opinions. Gentlemen opposite talked of organic changes; but they would be astonished at the changes which would take place in the next five years.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, he was not surprised that the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) should have been bewildered by some of the paragraphs in the Queen's Speech, because, certainly, the elaborate eulogiums poured upon General Gordon were very different from what had fallen from Her Majesty's Government on previous occasions. All they knew from General Gordon himself was that he was extremely disappointed with the conduct of Her Majesty's Government towards him. That was pointed out last Session, when such despatches proceeded from General Gordon as had never before been penned by a servant, civil or military, to his employers. But now they were told that General Gordon thanked Her Majesty's Government for the support they had given him. The Prime Minister was within his right in using that expression, because General Gordon, thinking that he was to be supported by Her Majesty's Government, did thank them for it. But from that day to this nothing could be more severe than the remarks of General Gordon on Her Majesty's Government. He was glad that even a tardy recognition had been made by Her Majesty's Government of General Gordon's services. He was not disposed to criticize in a hostile spirit that paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech, except so far as to say that they knew nothing whatever of "the energy, courage, and resource displayed by General Gordon" in his defence of Khartoum. He had no doubt that General Gordon had displayed the greatest energy, courage, and resource; but they were entirely without information on the subject, and, therefore, he looked forward to the Papers that were to be produced with a considerable amount of interest; but he very much doubted whether he should find in them any expression of thanks from General Gordon for the way in which he had 112 been supported by Her Majesty's Government. There was one remark of the Prime Minister's which required some explanation. The right hon. Gentleman said that no change of policy was to be followed with regard to Khartoum. He did not believe that it would be possible for Her Majesty's Government to carry out the policy they originally announced with regard to it. An observation fell from the right hon. Gentleman afterwards, which clearly indicated that the course originally proposed by the Government as to Khartoum and the rest of the Soudan could not be maintained, because he said that General Gordon found himself under an absolute necessity of remaining at Khartoum for the safety of those who had committed themselves to him. It would be impossible for them to desert the people who had so faithfully supported General Gordon. Such a course would be received with execration by this country; and foreign nations would regard it with contempt. If the Government desired permanent prosperity in Egypt, the peaceful condition of the Soudan was absolutely necessary. He trusted, however, that the Government had given up the idea that the Soudanese were a people straggling for their liberty. Such an idea was totally inconsistent with the position and the Mission of General Gordon. At the end of last Session they had tried to get information as to the amount of money the Government proposed to spend on the Sondan Expedition; but they had failed. Immediately, however, after Parliament separated, the Government began to spend enormous sums upon it; and he asked whether it would not have been candid if they had taken the House into their confidence, and presented it with the estimates of their intended expenditure. The outlay would be very great, and though he did not doubt its necessity, he must attribute it to the pusillanimity and vacillation of Her Majesty's Government in not having adopted ordinary precautions a year, or even eight or nine months ago, which they had been repeatedly urged to do. He noticed that the advance of the troops to Dongola was mentioned in the Queen's Speech. He could not understand on what grounds the name of that place was inserted. He must assume there was some reason for it; but if the troops were to 113 be moved there only, it was certain that they would not effect General Gordon's release. He was sure the whole House would sympathize with the remark made by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government with respect to the exertions and activity of Lord Northbrook. He (Mr. Bourke) had no doubt the noble Lord had brought to the discharge of the very onerous duties imposed upon him by the Government all that ability and resource for which he was remarkable; but the Government, of course, were responsible for all he did, and he could not help expressing some regret that his first step should have been to advise the Government to break the law of Europe in a very serious manner. The Law of Liquidation was a most solemn compact entered into about two years ago, and the Concert of Europe was maintained more decidedly in regard to the Law of Liquidation than anything else. He did not desire to make the suspension of the Sinking Fund in itself a very great affair; but it was, no doubt, a very great infraction of the Law of Liquidation. It was, in fact, a laying hold of funds by the Egyptian Government when those funds did not belong to them; and it afforded not only a bad example to Eastern nations, but a very mischievous precedent could also be deduced from it by those nations which wished to repudiate their public engagements. All the Foreign Governments had protested against this step, and they had been brought into contest not only with them, but with the Cause de la Dette and the international tribunals. This step was not merely a mischievous one; it was useless, for it only involved a matter of £300,000, and for the sake of this Her Majesty's Government advised the Egyptian Government to take a step so important, whereas it was very well known to financiers that there was a variety of ways in which these difficulties might have been avoided. As it was, the matter was left exactly as it stood before. Passing to another matter, he observed that mention was made of the West African Conference. He attached great importance to that Conference, and he believed that no more important question with regard to the future position of the commerce of this country had ever been raised. The interior of Africa opened up an unlimited 114 field for British commerce. In these days of ultra-protective doctrines, it was desirable that England should show that she was in earnest about Free Trade, and should endeavour to secure a free market to our goods, which were now being met with hostile tariffs all over the world. He confessed he was a little nervous about what was going to take place in this Conference, owing to what had already occurred with respect to the Congo. They knew that a most mischievous Treaty would have been concluded with Portugal, which would have had a most disastrous effect upon the commerce of this country, had not the hon. Member for Manchester and others brought the question prominently before the House. The question of the Congo was a very important one. The Government, therefore, ought to be on their guard at the present time, especially considering the course which Germany had taken, and they should ascertain the exact position in which the country stood. England possessed at least 10 or 12 times more interest in these African rivers than all the other nations put together; and it was extraordinary that England should not have been asked her views with regard to the Conference until the last moment. England had already been prejudiced by the agreement between France and Germany. France took good care that her own rivers were excluded from the scope of the Conference; and both agreed that tolls and taxes might be levied on the other waterways to pay for necessary works—a provision under which almost any amount of taxes and differential duties could be imposed. He thought the country would be strengthening the hands of Her Majesty's Government if they made it known that they would be content with nothing less than absolute Free Trade for the great West African rivers, because that would open the door to commerce. It had been stated that if the waters of the Congo and the Niger were free the export of Manchester goods in a limited time would increase by many millions of pounds. In that case, he did not think there was any subject of greater importance than this which the Government could consider. This country might obtain enormous benefit from the Conference if it took place upon proper principles, and if the Government main- 115 tained a firm attitude with respect to the Governments of France and Germany. It was grossly unfair for France and Germany to put the Niger and the Congo upon one footing. The Niger had been a river for British commerce for many years. This country had a gunboat there to preserve order, and a British Consul who had made Treaties for the Natives in many parts of the river. The Consul was trusted and looked up to by all the French and German houses, and disputes were settled by him in a satisfactory manner. It was, therefore, the duty of the Government, before they entered into the Conference, to put their foot down and say that the Niger should not be treated in the same way as the Congo, unless all the rivers were made perfectly free.
§ LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, the remarks of his right hon. Friend who had just sat down divided themselves into two heads—first, those relating to Egypt; and, secondly, those relating to the Western Coast of Africa. In speaking of Egypt, his right hon. Friend chiefly went over the ground with which the House became familiar during the debates of last Session. He did not propose to reply in detail to his right hon. Friend's remarks, and thus inaugurate a debate on foreign policy, as the Government had announced in the Speech from the Throne that it was their intention to ask the House for a further grant, and a proper occasion would then arise. Upon that Vote the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends would have a full opportunity of urging their views. He, however, thought that the right hon. Gentleman was hardly entitled to say that now, for the first time, Her Majesty's Government had spoken in a manner eulogistic of General Gordon, because throughout all these debates they had given to that distinguished man a firm, loyal, and unflinching support. The only attack made upon General Gordon which he had in mind was made last Session by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite at the moment when the celebrated Slave Trade Proclamation became known in this country. Without waiting for General Gordon to be heard upon the subject in his own defence, they began attacking him, because they thought they might thereby strike the Government. The right hon. Gentle- 116 man should have addressed his question with regard to military details to another Department of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to have surpassed himself on this occasion in his efforts to place a different construction on facts than that they so plainly pointed to. Everybody knew that troops had been advanced to Dongola, and that that place was the centre of military operations in the Soudan. The right hon. Gentleman wont on to refer to the Law of Liquidation; but it was clearly stated by the Prime Minister that, until Lord Northbrook's Report was in the bands of the Government, it was impossible for them to enter into a discussion of the difficult financial questions which that Report would raise. Further Papers in regard to Egypt would be in the hands of Members to-morrow morning. There would also be a Paper containing additional telegrams relating to a subject of painful interest—the doubtful fate of Colonel Stewart. Lord Granville was of opinion that the House and the country would wish to have the information before them; and, therefore, these short telegrams had been put together in a single Paper. Incidentally, there would be found information as to the recapture of Berber by the forces of General Gordon. In addition, he would lay on the Table a further general Paper relating to Egypt, which would come down to the 30th of September last. There would also be a few Papers of considerable interest of rather later date, some giving the latest information from General Gordon. He made no complaint of what the right hon. Gentleman had said about the approaching Conference; but he was struck by the tremendous flourish of trumpets about the horrors of Protection, because it was only a few days ago that Lord Salisbury delivered at Dumfries something like a defence of Protection. It might, therefore, be hoped that the zeal of the right hon. Gentleman for Free Trade would not be confined to the West Coast of Africa, but would also be available for home consumption. What the right hon. Gentleman said about the freedom of trade and navigation on the waters of Africa he accepted in toto in the name of the Government. Throughout the negotiations relating to the Congo the Government had the one object to secure such arrangements as would be most 117 conducive to the freedom of trade and navigation. The most important clause of the defunct Treaty from the English point of view was that which proclaimed the freedom of the navigation of the river, and placed it under a Commission, consisting of a Portuguese and an English Member, an arrangement which was attacked with great violence in many parts of Europe as unduly favourable to this country, to which it was said it would have handed over the trade of the river. It was no part of our object to get the trade of the river under false pretences, and the Treaty was attacked on grounds that were mutually destructive, for while it was said here to be unduly favourable to Portugal, it was attacked in France, Germany, and Portugal as unfairly favourable to this country. The right hon. Gentleman did not distinguish between navigation dues and Customs duties, which were totally different. The Portuguese would have had no power to claim navigation dues; they could have been levied only by consent of the Commission; and upon the rivers which would come within the purview of the Conference at Berlin the questions of navigation and of Customs would be treated as two separate questions. What was proposed in the first instance by Her Majesty's Government to Germany, and what had been proposed by Germany and by France to Her Majesty's Government, was that the doctrine of the Congress of Vienna of 1815 in regard to the navigation of rivers in Europe should be applied to the rivers on the West Coast of Africa. The arrangement of 1815 had nothing whatever to do with Customs duties, and applied only to navigation tolls and dues; and the two subjects were not in any way connected. A further proposal was now being made—and the question was raised for the first time—that there should be freedom of commerce in the basin of the Congo; and that proposal, which no doubt must be examined in detail, was one which must be welcome to this country as clearly favourable to British enterprize. A third proposal had been made to the Government—namely, that it should be decided what the formalities were to be which were to make valid any future occupation of unoccupied countries in Africa. It was, no doubt, desirable that that question should be settled, and that through the Con- 118 ference the opinions of the jurists of the world should be brought to bear upon the question as they had been brought to bear upon the abolition of the Slave Trade, upon privateering, and upon the question of free ships and free goods. Her Majesty's Government had no hesitation in accepting the invitation to the Conference; and he must protest in the strongest language against the statement that we had been left out in the cold. The proposals made with regard to the Congo, as he stated in announcing the withdrawal of the Treaty, had been the subject of communication with the Powers, particularly Germany, and Germany was only proposing to us what we had proposed to Germany, and what it was therefore known we were certain to accept. On the 30th of July last he stated that the Government, although giving up the ratification of the Treaty, were continuing negotiations with the Powers in the hope of keeping that portion of the Treaty which applied to the Congo the doctrines of the Treaty of Vienna; and the Session before last he stated that the freedom of the navigation of the Congo was the point to which the Government attached the greatest importance. The position of the Government in regard to the Congo Treaty had been the subject of much misrepresentation. For a long period Great Britain stood alone in preventing the operation of the claims of Portugal on the Lower Congo; but that refusal was owing to the manner in which Portugal connived at the Slave Trade. That trade having now ceased, Her Majesty's Government had proposed to recognize the claims of Portugal, conditionally on other nations also recognizing them. On their refusal, however, the Treaty fell to the ground, and Her Majesty's Government recovered their freedom of action. Earl Granville had throughout, as Mr. Stanley said the other day, over and over again shown that the Foreign Office had in view the securing of the freedom of the navigation of the Congo and the Niger. The Government would enter into the Conference with the practical understanding that the rights obtained by the Government under the Treaties which had been negotiated by Consul Hewitt should not in any way be prejudiced. He could not promise the Papers at once; but they should be produced as soon as possible. He hoped the 119 explanations he had given would be satisfactory to the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he had heard the statement of the noble Lord with great satisfaction, not unmingled with surprise, because he had inferred from the remarks of the Prime Minister that the state of the negotiations would not admit of any full account of them being laid before the House. The statement that the Government were determined to maintain freedom of commerce would be received with satisfaction by the commercial community irrespective of Party; but it was not clear why the announcement was coupled with a sarcasm directed against a recent speech of the Marquess of Salisbury. The noble Marquess did not complain of evils arising from Free Trade in England; but he complained that we had not used all the means in our power, diplomatic and fiscal, to induce other Powers to adopt a Free Trade policy. Therefore, the action of the Government on the Congo, so far from being in antagonism to the speech of the Marquess of Salisbury, was precisely in accordance with carrying out of the policy recommended in that speech; and if the Government had always been as anxious to induce foreign nations to accept Free Trade as the present Government had been to induce Germany, France, and Portugal to accept it on the Congo, British trade would not be in its present depressed condition. The Prime Minister had stated that it was the determination of the Government to see that the Convention made with the Boers was maintained. In carrying out this determination the Government would receive every assistance from Members on that side of the House. The only difficulty would be in South Africa, and that would arise largely from their previous weakness in dealing with the question. The result of the weakness displayed in 1881 would be that the Boers would never believe we were in earnest until they actually saw the gleam of our bayonets. All these difficulties might have been avoided if Her Majesty's Government had only shown common courage in the management of their South African policy. The Prime Minister's statement with regard to Egypt was somewhat remarkable. He said that the benefit arising from General Gordon's 120 Mission was that the power of the Mahdi had been so diminished or so destroyed, [Mr. GLADSTONE: No!]—that a tremendous danger which, after General Hick's defeat, had menaced, not Egypt only, but many other nations, had been averted. This was the first time they had heard anything from the Government about this tremendous danger; and it threw a curious light on the Government policy in Egypt during the last two years. If the Mahdi was such a tremendous danger after General Hicks's defeat, how was it that the Government allowed General Hicks to go into the desert with so inadequate a force that defeat was inevitable? If the Mahdi's power was such a danger to Egypt and to the world, why was General Gordon allowed to go to Khartoum absolutely unsupported by troops? If he had been supplied with a proper force Government might have accomplished all they required at the expense of a few hundred thousand pounds, and rendered unnecessary the present Expedition to Khartoum, which would probably cost £10,000,000. He had always understood from the Government that the Soudanese were people who were struggling for their liberty; but now the Government said that the chief power in the Soudan was a tremendous danger to the liberties of Egypt and to neighbouring nations. The Prime Minister told them he had not at all changed his opinion in regard to the abandonment of Khartoum; yet the opinion of every soldier was that if there were any danger menacing Egypt from the south, that danger should be met at Khartoum; and the Government now admitted that a great danger might menace, and had menaced, Egypt from the south. How, in the face of this fact, could they now venture to compel the Egyptian Government unwillingly to abandon that town? Turning next to the question of Reform, he would say that the Premier had passed a very eloquent and just eulogy on the people of this country for the moderate manner in which, on the whole, the public debates on the franchise had been conducted in every part of the country. But if the people had been peaceable and orderly in the midst of a bitter political controversy, they had been so in spite of the action of Her Majesty's Government. For the first 121 time in the history of this country they had seen the unholy and unnatural combination of a Minister of the Crown and the political agitator. For the first time they had seen a Cabinet Minister—he alluded, of course, to the President of the Board of Trade—directly inciting men to disorder and riot. The Prime Minister took great credit to himself for the fact that he had striven throughout to confine the controversy to the question of the franchise. But the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manner's) had pointed out that one of the avowed objects of the Government in not permitting the House of Lords to deal with the franchise and redistribution at once was to make the Members of that House legislate, as he said, with a rope round their necks; and so to deprive them of that freedom which was due to an independent branch of the Legislature. The Prime Minister twitted some Members on that side of the House with being indifferent to preserving the balance of the Constitution; but if the Lords were not to remain an independent branch of the Legislature that balance had already gone. To-night the Prime Minister had been studiously conciliatory in the manner, if not in the matter, of his speech. However, though they could not read the hearts of the Government, it was easy to judge their actions. There was a perfectly plain way by which the Government could show whether they were aiming at obtaining a political advantage by deliberately quarrelling with the House of Lords, or whether their real object was the passing of the Franchise Bill. Did they mean to prorogue at Christmas, or did they mean to adjourn? That was a perfectly plain question, and everything turned upon it. He presumed that if the Lords passed the Reform Bill this Session the Government would fulfil their promise to bring in a Redistribution Bill next year in the confident expectation of passing it. Therefore, it was quite clear that they thought themselves able to pass a Reform Bill and a Redistribution Bill before the end of next August. If then they chose to follow the unbroken precedents of the last 50 years, and to adjourn at Christmas instead of proroguing, so that the Parliamentary period between this time and next summer should all fall within one Session, they would be able, in the course of one Ses- 122 sion, to pass a Reform Bill and a Redistribution Bill, and to get over the whole of this controversy with the Lords, to which they professed such loud objection. Unfortunately, however, the limited scope of the Queen's Speech put it beyond a doubt that they intended to prorogue, and not to adjourn at Christmas. This was a clear indication that a majority of the Cabinet were determined to push to the uttermost the quarrel with the Lords, to make what political capital they could out of the operation, and to let the Constitution shift for itself. He regarded with the greatest regret the agitation which the Prime Minister had plainly told them he meant to initiate, supposing that the House of Lords should again postpone the Franchise Bill. He did not see that, from a purely Party point of view, the Conservatives had anything to fear; rather the contrary. The Conservative Party could hardly do otherwise than gain by the fact that the Liberal Party had committed themselves to a reconstruction of the Constitution, inasmuch as moderate men would feel that if a revolution was to be initiated because there existed a difference of opinion on a small question of procedure, the Party which initiated it was no longer worthy of its confidence. He made no complaint of the Radical section of the opposite Party. In thus playing with revolution they only acted after their kind. But he was surprised at the moderate Liberals. They were not less interested than the Conservative Party in the maintenance of the Constitution. If they permitted themselves to be dragged into this agitation, brought about at the bidding of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) and his Friends, an agitation from which they had more to fear than any other persons, and which they had more power to stop, it would be a new and startling proof that Party ties were stronger than almost any ties which could bind men. The Prime Minister's speech had deprived him of any hope which he might have entertained that this question would be settled quietly. He had deliberately told the House that nothing but an unconditional assent to the Bill on the part of the House of Lords would satisfy the Government.
, interposing, said, that the hon. Member did not correctly represent what he had said. He had 123 said that if the information possessed by hon. Gentlemen opposite about redistribution was insufficient, the proper course would have been to state wherein it was insufficient, and to ask for further information.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
apologized to the Prime Minister. In the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, information about redistribution was all that the Conservative Party wanted. If so, it was manifest that the Prime Minister did not understand the real subject of controversy. The Standard had told them all they wanted to know about redistribution. But, whether or not The Standard scheme was the actual Bill of the Government, there was no security that such a Bill would pass the House of Commons. And even if did, and the House of Lords disapproved any part of the scheme, they would be absolutely precluded from expressing their opinion, since the penalty for such an expression of opinion would be a Dissolution under the old constituencies and the new franchise. What was required was not knowledge of the redistribution scheme, but power to deal with it fairly. What function did the Government wish to assign, either to the minority in that House, or to the majority in the House of Lords, if they were not to be allowed to deal freely with a Bill so vitally affecting the destinies of the country as a Redistribution Bill? Unless that freedom was conceded a quiet settlement of the question seemed to him impossible; if it were conceded, such a settlement seemed to him to be certain.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he wished to ask a few questions relative to the Joint Commission between this country and Russia, which was now on the confines of Afghanistan, for the purpose of settling the North-West Frontier of that country. He wished to know whether the Under Secretary for India could give the House some outline of the objects of that important Mission? Some exception had been taken to the selection of Sir Peter Lumsden to serve on that Commission; but, in his opinion, the Government had exercised a wise discretion in that selection, and, on the whole, he did not think that a better man could have been chosen. The people of India took a deep interest in the question, and it was desirable that 124 the instructions given to Sir Peter Lumsden should be laid on the Table of the House. Then he should like to know what position the Representative of the Ameer held on that Commission? Was he merely to advise, or was he to have a voice in the settlement of the boundary between Afghanistan and Russian territory? Then, suppose that some definite boundary was fixed, what guarantee had the Government that the Commission would be a reality and not a sham, and that the boundary would be maintained? We furnished the Ameer with a large amount of money on condition that he let us know what his foreign policy was to be. Suppose that he had reason to fear that Russia was going to overstep that boundary, what would be our position with reference to Afghanistan or Russia? As far as the latter Power was concerned, the boundary would be fixed for strategic purposes. The Ameer would expect us to recognize that boundary wherever it might be fixed. With respect to the Viceroyalty, he did not think that any wiser selection than Lord Dufferin as the successor of Lord Ripon could have been made. Lord Dufferin would be the man to set things right in India with which Lord Ripon had dealt so unsuccessfully. He should also like to ask the Under Secretary for India whether, in the event of there being any difference between Sir Peter Lumsden and the Chief of the Russian Mission with regard to the North-Western boundary of Afghanistan, the former was to communicate with the Home Government or with that of India? He also wished to know how long this Mission was to last? He also wished to know whether, in the event of Khartoum being relieved, General Gordon, who had been appointed by the Khedive Governor General of the Soudan, and had been recognized as such by Her Majesty's Government, would be under the orders of Lord Wolseley, or whether the latter would be entirely under his orders? In the latter case, he was afraid that the cost of the Expedition would be enormously heavy.
§ MR. J. K. CROSS
remarked, that in reply to the questions of the hon. Member opposite he had to state that General Lumsden had left this country some time ago, under instructions from Her Majesty's Government to settle, in conjunction with the Russian Commissioner, the 125 North-West boundary of Afghanistan, and on the 17th of November he would arrive at Sarakhs, where he would remain until the Indian contingent, which had now reached the Helmund, and the Russian Commissioner, met him. The Indian contingent included 200 infantry, and with its followers numbered 900 men. It was quite possible that by the end of November all the parties would have met together, and would be able to proceed on their Mission. Of course, however, Her Majesty's Government could not undertake to fix the time of the arrival of the Russian Commissioner, over whom they had no control. The hon. Gentleman had asked him what would happen in the event of any dispute arising between General Lumsden and the Russian Commissioner. General Lumsden would be in communication with the Home Government, and not with that of India. All such matters, however, would be submitted to Lord Dufferin. The position of the Ameer's Representative would be that he would have no vote, and no voice in the direct fixing of the frontier line; but he would be present as the adviser and the trusted Representative of the Ameer, and would give all necessary information to the Commissioners. As far as the matter had gone at present, the contingent had been received very well indeed, and provisions and stores had been placed for them at the appointed stations, and he understood that everything that had been expected to be done by the Ameer had been done. In fact, the action of the Ameer had been thoroughly cordial, and he hoped that by the time General Lumsden reached Sarakhs there could be no doubt as to the satisfactory result of the Mission. The instructions given to General Lumsden were that he should go to Sarakhs, and there await the arrival of the Russian Commissioner and the Indian contingent, and that he should communicate with the Foreign Office on all matters that were going forward. The arrangements as to where the Commission should start from had not been actually decided upon, nor could they be until the Russian Commissioner had met General Lumsden.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
asked whether, when Lord Wolseley arrived in Khartoum, he or General Gordon was to be supreme, especially 126 as the latter held the position of Governor General of the Soudan under the appointment of the Khedive? He also wished to know whether the uncandid paragraph in the Queen's Speech declaring that Her Majesty had given her support to Egypt in financial matters was intended to indicate that support in the shape of a guarantee or of a loan would be given to that country? The act of suspending the Sinking Fund on the recommendation of Lord Northbrook was a direct violation of the Law of Liquidation, which had been sanctioned by the Concert of Europe; and he was anxious to know whether that act entailed any financial responsibility on this country? With regard to the question of Reform, it was quite clear that the Government did not attach the same importance to redistribution that the Conservative Party did, and that the Government scheme of redistribution would magnify and stereotype the glaring anomalies of representation that now existed. He wished, however, to call attention to the terrible rebuke which the Prime Minister had administered that night to his Colleague, the President of the Board of Trade. He was glad to see the President of the Board of Trade in his place. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could explain the history of those riots which he himself incited at Birmingham. He would like to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he was not in direct complicity and confidence with the acts of outrage which were perpetrated at Aston Park? The right hon. Gentleman had in no degree reprobated those acts, which were of a most outrageous character. On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman had commended them in a public address. He begged to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to that fact, because, if the Prime Minister did not condemn those acts, he was as much answerable for them as was the President of the Board of Trade himself. Hon. Members opposite had instituted a system of rioting at public meetings. At Birmingham the Caucus organized a meeting in opposition to the Conservative gathering at Aston Park, gangs of roughs being hired to interfere with the proceedings. That was exactly similar to the action which caused the Government to suspend Lord Rossmore from the Commission of the Peace, only Lord 127 Rossmore did not introduce hired ruffians. The Caucus, under the auspices of the President of the Board of Trade, issued a circular on the Saturday before the meeting was held, calling upon Liberals to assemble at the gates of Aston Park; and two Town Councillors, creatures of the Caucus and of the President of the Board of Trade, recommended the ruffians who assembled to take possession of certain planks in order to use them as battering rams against a wall. That was merely a question of burglary; but in addition to that the Caucus were also guilty of forgery, for, at their instigation, a certain number of tickets were fabricated in order that their agents might gain admittance to the Conservative meeting. The Prime Minister had that evening repudiated the deeds of the President of the Board of Trade. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman appeared not to repudiate them. Then he was responsible for them. If Conservatives could not meet without being subjected to attack by miners and others, surely that freedom of speech of which the Prime Minister professed to be so fond would no longer be enjoyed by the minority in political controversies. In conclusion, he thought they were entitled to some explanation from the President of the Board of Trade, whose conduct in this matter seemed very like that of the Anarchists or Nihilists on the Continent.