§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [10th May], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ And which Amendment was, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(The Marquess of Hartington.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS (Lancashire, S.W., Newton)
said, notwithstanding all that has fallen from the Prime Minister on the subject, I thoroughly agree with words that fell from the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) to the effect that this Bill for establishing for the first time a Legislative and Administrative Body in Ireland is the gravest and most startling fact of political life, and that it is a totally new departure. I am here to contend that it is a departure on the wrong road, and that though it may be for the government of Ireland, it will 1166 not produce good government in Ireland. I think I can show from the provisions of the Bill that Her Majesty's Government greatly distrust the Body which they propose to create. There are several clauses which the Prime Minister stated on introducing the Bill were intended for the protection of the minority; and he gave as his reason for inserting them that the political history of Ireland had been peculiar for a long time. He said there had been one long train of internal controversies, and therefore he was bound in that state of things not to leave the minority to stand up for themselves, as would ordinarily be the case in other places. These provisions were, therefore, introduced for the purpose of their protection. I take it that two essential features of good government may be taken to be these—first of all the security of property, and next the impartial administration of justice; and to these I may add a third, mentioned the other night by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham)—namely, the greatest freedom of action compatible with the safety of the State to every individual in the Kingdom. It is with regard to these three essential points of good government that the Prime Minister has attempted to introduce clauses to provide for the safety of the minority. When the provisions are examined with care they will show that very great distrust existed in the minds of the Prime Minister and of his Colleagues as to the way the new Parliament would act if it were left alone on certain subjects. The first of these provisions, for which protection for the minority is introduced, is the question of the land. The second provision relates to those who have been concerned in the administration of justice—Judges and the Civil servants of the Crown. The third refers to the position of the Protestant minority and questions affecting education and religion. I will confine myself to two of those subjects, which are sufficient to illustrate what I have to say. The hon. Member for Sheffield who closed the debate on Thursday (Mr. Bernard Coleridge) stated that, in his opinion, the question of the land required an independent Legislature to be established in Ireland. The question of the land requires very serious consideration. I do not propose to enter upon an examination of the provisions 1167 of that Bill, because I should be out of Order in doing so. It is sufficient for me to say that that Bill is lying upon the Table of the House at the present moment, and that it proposes to take the land from the Irish landlords and to compel this country to make an advance of £50,000,000 to the State. That fact is sufficient to show that the Prime Minister and his Colleagues are not willing, in the interests of the landowners of Ireland, to leave them to the tender mercies of the new Legislative Body which they are about to create. The Prime Minister himself has said that it would be an ill-intended kindness or an ill-shaped kindness that would allow the new Legislative Body to deal with the land at first. The action of the Government in this matter, therefore, is the strongest argument that the creation of this new Legislative Body will be not for the good government of Ireland. Then I come to the second provision referring to those who are connected with the administration of justice in Ireland and to Civil servants. What is it you propose to do with the Judges in Ireland? You propose to protect them by stating that, if they choose, they may retire on pensions at once on their full salaries, or they might accept the retiring salary which they would receive if they had served their full term of Office. And why is that done? It is done because the Government are apprehensive that in consequence of something they may have done they may suffer at the hands of the new Body which they are going to create. But you have done more. You have stated that the Judges in Ireland, although you are going to create this new Legislative and Administrative Body, are still to retain that which they have at present—namely, the security which the Imperial Parliament gives them that they cannot be dismissed from their Office without the consent of the Houses of Lords and Commons. Why is this? What have the Irish Judges done that they need this protection? They have done that which the English Judges have done. No one will accuse them of having administered anything but the most impartial justice. We do not know whether the administration of the law is to be carried on in the future as in the past; but it is quite clear from this division of the Bill that you dare not trust the Irish 1168 Judges to the tender mercies of the new Irish Legislative Body, and thus you surround them with the protection you propose. What is the reason which the Prime Minister himself alleges for taking this course? He told the House, in introducing this Bill, that the Irish Judges had come into uneasy relations with the popular influences in the country, which are about to become the predominant influences of the country. The Judges, therefore, for the righteous judgments they have given, and because they acted in what the Prime Minister's own words he termed "the service of the State," must, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, be protected from the vengeance which may be poured upon them by the predominant popular influences which they may have offended. How are the new Judges to administer the law? In the first place, it will be necessary for them so to administer the law that they will not come into conflict with popular influences, otherwise they will come into uneasy relations with the predominant power in the land. There is, however, no test like the money test, after all, to see whether you can trust these people. Some of the new Irish Judges are to be in a different position from the others. The moment you come to touch the British taxpayers you are obliged to surround them with safeguards. The fiscal relations between Great Britain and Ireland are so enormous that it becomes absolutely necessary that the Imperial Parliament should retain some hold over the Irish Exchequer. Why do you suppose we are to maintain some hold upon these Judges? Do you suppose they will not give the best judgment in their power? You are bound to trust them, but, according to your own statement, you will not do that, because it is supposed that the Irish Judges will not give just decisions in matters relating to the fiscal arrangements between the two countries, because they will be too much under the control of the predominant influences; and, therefore, it is proposed that the new Irish Exchequer Judges shall be appointed in the future, not like the other Irish Judges, but by the Lord Lieutenant in conjunction with the Lord Chancellor, not of Ireland, but of Great Britain, and that they shall be dismissed from their Office, not like their brother Judges, by an Address of the Irish 1169 Legislative Assembly, but by an Address of the Houses of Lords and Commons of the Imperial Government. Therefore, in the future there will be two sets of Irish Judges, sitting side by side in the Civil and Criminal Courts, one of which will be protected by the Imperial Parliament, and the other left to the tender mercies of the newly-created Legislative Assembly. It is quite certain that the Judges who are not protected by the Imperial Parliament will have uneasy relations with the Irish Parliament. These safeguards framed on behalf of one set of the Judges show an absolute distrust by the Government of the action of their new Legislative Body. Besides the landlords and the Judges there are many other persons who have been engaged in the administration of justice in Ireland, who will be left without any protection whatever. There are those, for instance, who have done their duty like men—the jurors, who are much more likely to suffer for their actions than even the Judges themselves. If the Government have this distrust in their newly-created Legislative Assembly, why do they propose to hand over to their tender mercies the 1,400,000 loyal citizens of the North of Ireland, without affording those citizens any such protection whatever? I maintain that those loyal citizens are entitled to the protection of the Imperial Parliament. Do you fancy that because you pass this Act national controversy will cease in Ireland, and that Ireland will no longer consist, as it does now, of two nations, two religions, and two races, with whom you will have to deal? In these circumstances, I maintain that the Imperial Parliament has no right to forsake its duties, and to hand over the protection of these persons to any Body that may be created in Dublin. I should like, while I am upon this question of handing over our Imperial duties to a Parliament in Dublin, to make a quotation from a speech made no later than last November by a right hon. Gentleman who knows thoroughly all about Ireland, and who has himself been Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman). The right hon. Gentleman said—We desire to extend to Irishmen the full benefit of any system of local government which we enjoy ourselves, and to give them the control of their own affairs the same as we have ourselves. 1170 But when we come to the question of giving them a separate Parliament and a separate Government, then I confess I see great difficulty, and I do not think that this is likely to be conceded to them by any Government, either Whig or Tory, because it would not be consistent with the maintenance of the Empire or our duty to the Crown.
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN)&c.) (Stirling,
I am afraid I must repeat what I said the other night when the same sentence was quoted by one of the right hon. Gentleman's Colleagues, and, lest it should be quoted by others, I may repeat it now. It is this—I have read the whole of the speech, which I presume they have never seen, and although I quite admit that the words quoted are stronger than I should like now to endorse, and I quite admit that this individual sentence was an indiscreet expression, yet, if the right hon. Gentleman will read the whole of my speech, he will find that it is not inconsistent in its gist and tone with the attitude that I have now adopted.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
I may tell the right hon. Gentleman that I have read his speech, and it appears to me that the words which I have read gather up the whole of its meaning. As to this being an indiscreet expression, I take it it was the individual expression of the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman at that time, before his opinions became somewhat corrupted by his present associations. Now, Sir, I pass to another point. I maintain that this is a bad Bill, because there is no element of finality about it. The Prime Minister stated the other day that if any Bill was to be good it must be one which promised a real settlement of the Irish Question. The right hon. Gentleman also said that the necessity for the Bill arose from the fact that there was a Radical sentiment in Ireland not in sympathy with the law. My belief is that quite independently of the landlords there are a large number of Roman Catholics in Ireland who would be glad to see the law enforced. I entirely deny the truth of the assertion that there is a Radical sentiment in the people against the law. Of course, if you go for Irish opinions to the agitators and the Irish-Americans, and to the opinions expressed, I am sorry to say, by some hon. Members below the Gangway, I agree with the Prime Minister, such a statement of Irish senti- 1171 ment would be fair enough. If these are the persons from whom you are to take Irish opinions, then the people of Ireland are not only not in sympathy with the law, but there is a Radical sentiment in Ireland which is not in sympathy with Great Britain. The aspirations of those persons are practically for separation, and it is not likely that those persons will be satisfied by any of the limitations laid down in the Bill or by the restrictions with which the Bill is hemmed in. These restrictions and safeguards will be only fresh points for agitation, and no finality can be expected from the Bill. If the House will allow me, I will quote a few words from a speech made by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) at Castlebar recently. What were they but words of intimidation—that Ireland was not to be under foreign or any other control? [Cries of "No, no!"] I am quoting the words of the hon. Gentleman. The last words will explain what I mean; they are his words, not mine—namely,That the Irish had a right to guide their course throughout the nations of the earth not subject to any control.And I say their aspirations are not satisfied by this Bill, and that those aspirations cannot be satisfied by this Bill. Leaving the hon. Member for Cork, I will come to the more accurate but equally significant language of the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), who has written The History of our own Times, and who has used words quite as strong if not spoken in such strong language. A discussion was taking place as to what question in Irish politics required to be settled first and what questions afterwards. The hon. Member then observed that the first question was the national government of Ireland, not local self-government—that was the way he put it—that was the question above all others which should be first; and he said that if you settled that by the Act then every other question would soon settle itself. With those warnings before us, can anyone for a moment suppose that this Bill will be a final settlement? The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) said that the Irish people would accept this Bill if certain modifications were introduced into it, those being the same which were shadowed 1172 forth by the hon. Member for Cork. One of the points which the hon. Member for Cork had stated in his opinion required modification was the fiscal question—the taking of Customs and Excise out of the hands of Irish Authorities; and yet that was one of the matters which the Prime Minister had declared to be a vital principle of the Bill. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Not a vital principle.] All I can say is, that the Prime Minister put that as a vital principle of the Bill, for I took the words down at the time they were spoken. It is very hard indeed to find out what the vital principles of the Bill are. The Prime Minister, at all events, is reported as having put that as a vital principle of the Bill, and whether he has changed his mind or not since I cannot say, because it is difficult to follow the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. It was put forward by the Prime Minister that there should be fiscal union between Great Britain and Ireland, and the Customs and Excise were to be retained in the hands of this Parliament and not handed over to Ireland. But one of the first modifications pointed out by the hon. Member for Cork as being necessary was the question of the Customs and Excise, and, following that, the contribution that they were to pay to the National Exchequer. Even if the Irish Members were able to give assurances now as to the acceptance of this Bill by the Irish people, I doubt very much their power to secure its acceptance by the Irish people. They are only here as instruments in order to get what they can, and when they go back to Ireland they will be pressed on and on as the leaders of other revolutions have invariably been, and we shall find a short time after that the moment this Bill passes—though, in all truth and honesty, I hope it never will pass—we shall find it used as a vantage ground from which further demands will be made, and if the Prime Minister is in Office as a means of extorting further concessions. Can anything be more calculated than the Prime Minister's speech the other night to stir up fresh agitation against the Union? He made some very strong observations denouncing the way in which the Union was brought about. I am not going to defend the way in which the Union was brought about. It is no duty of mine to defend the means by 1173 which that Union was effected and brought about. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] The Prime Minister cheers that; but let me tell him that if the Union was brought about by bribery, he himself has now offered a considerably larger bribe—that of £50,000,000—to get this Bill through; and it is not the first time the right hon. Gentleman has offered a bribe to this country, and it will not be the first time that the bribe has been refused. Some time ago he offered to bribe the country by taking off the Income Tax; but the country rejected the bribe, or I do not know what position we should have been in now if it had been accepted. In his speech the Prime Minister not only denounced the way in which the Union was brought about, but he used words which certainly offer a justification and an encouragement to further agitation. He used these very remarkable words. He said—"It is not my duty at present to advocate the disturbance of the Union." [Mr. GLADSTONE: I never said any such thing.] I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he used those words, and I have the report in my hands. I will show them to the right hon. Gentleman. He said—You call this repeal of the Union; you must allow us at least to have an opinion on that subject. For my part I am not prepared at this moment to say that subject should be reopened.The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, very clearly used those words, and he cannot say that in stating he was not prepared at the present moment to reopen the question of the repeal of the Union he was only referring to modifications, because he afterwards spoke of modifications in his address. I say, Sir, that those words throw out hopes to the Irish people that if they press strongly enough they can obtain repeal of the Union. But the question of separation is one which we can never allow to be entertained in this country. The interests of the two countries are so interwoven, and the national exigencies are so great, that we cannot allow them to be separated, and must always resist the demand to repeal the Union. That is the whole point of the Bill. The geographical situation of Ireland and the manner in which the two countries are joined in community of interest are stronger arguments for maintaining the 1174 Union than the 86 Irish Members, the Legislative Body it is proposed to create, or even the weakness of the Prime Minister, are arguments for repealing it. What we contend for is the supremacy and the Sovereignty of the Imperial Parliament. Why we want to retain the Irish Members within the walls of this House is that because without them we shall cease to be an Imperial Parliament. It would be the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain, but it would not be the Imperial Parliament of the three United Kingdoms. Some confusion has arisen from talking about the unity of the Empire; what we want is to maintain the unity of the Three Kingdoms, and thus secure the freedom of the Empire, and if we once let Ireland go these objects are destroyed. You may devise any scheme you like for the purpose of bringing the Irish Members here, but it will make no difference. The Prime Minister himself has stated that it passed the wit of man to devise a scheme for keeping Members from Ireland in this House for Imperial and not for local purposes. The Prime Minister made several propositions for bringing the Irish Members here for the purpose of discussing Imperial affairs; but does he see the difficulties that must necessarily arise? The Government, having thought the matter over a long time, has put forward the four propositions made by the Prime Minister, which only make the matter worse. The truth is that the Bill makes the Legislature in Dublin into a Parliament co-ordinate with our own. The 103 Members are to come over from Ireland when summoned here for certain purposes; but their mode of election, the franchise and everything else, is left to the Irish Parliament; and, therefore, instead of representing the opinions of the Irish people, they will really be delegates of the Irish Legislative Body. They would not be here to express their free opinions as we do, but they would come here for one particular purpose. Are our proceedings to be delayed till they come, and when they come who is to decide whether the question to be discussed is an Imperial question or not? If we should have a Prime Minister and a Government carrying on to the satisfaction of the people of England and Scotland all these domestic and foreign affairs the Irish Mem- 1175 bers might come over at any moment, and by some vote might put that Ministry in a very large minority. What is to happen in such an event? Are the Ministry of this country, possessing the confidence of the English and Scotch peoples, to be turned out because the Irish Members have come over and defeated them on some particular question? So in questions of taxation. The Irish Members might carry some Resolution that they would not contribute to our extra Customs and Excise. Yet this vital question of the unity of the Empire would be in danger. But it is idle to discuss all these propositions, because if any plan could be devised by which the Irish Members might come over for an express purpose that is not what they desire. What we say is that the power of this Parliament should be supreme, and if the Irish Members are taken away from it this Parliament cannot be supreme. The Irish Members here justly boast that Ireland is an ancient and a proud nation, and thought that their wishes may be fairly met by this House. The Scottish people have presented to-day a Petition signed by 100,000 inhabitants to show what they think of this matter. The Scotch are as ancient and as proud a nation as the Irish, and they have had their differences with this country; but the Scottish nation and our own are so closely woven together, and their interests are so much the same, that the Scottish people are determined to maintain the Union. But the Scottish people have not lost their individuality of temperament or their individuality of character, nor have they in many cases departed entirely from their customs and their laws. But the Irish, although an ancient and a proud nation, are a warm-hearted and a generous people; and I believe that by a fair but generous administration of the law, and by showing to them that we are willing to consider any just grievance which they have—[An hon. MEMBER: Just now]—yes; and for years and years, the time will come when they will, like the Scotch, see it to be their interest to be united with us as they are at the present moment, and that the Parliament should be the free and supreme arbiter and the supreme protector of the liberties of every subject of the Queen within the Three Kingdoms. We have had quoted by the Prime Minister 1176 Resolutions passed in foreign parts, which may, perhaps, tickle the vanity of the Prime Minister himself; but we are not accustomed to consult those Powers when we regulate our own affairs. There are, I do not doubt, a vast number of Irish in America who are willing to tell us that it is our duty to do this, that, and the other, and that if we do not we must take the consequences. But we will not alter our laws at their dictation. I am sorry we have been told, in the course of these debates, that if this measure does not pass we shall have fresh outrage, fresh disaster in that House, and great difficulties to deal with; but we are not accustomed to alter our laws either because there has been an explosion at Clerkenwell, or because we are, afraid that outrages may follow. This is the supreme Parliament. It is strong, and because it is strong it will never abuse that strength. This supreme Parliament knows how to be just and how to be generous; but strong and powerful as this Parliament is, there is one thing which it cannot afford to do, and that is to be afraid.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. STANSFELD) (Halifax)
The speech of the right hon. Gentleman divides itself into two parts. In the first place, he dealt with certain portions of the subject which will be more properly dealt with after we have passed the second reading and got into Committee on the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman spoke first of the provisions with regard to the question of the land. It was, he said, a matter of observation that the provisions of the Government in this respect were evidences of mistrust. But I would say that, as far as we are concerned, they are not evidences of anything more than the reasonable mistrust which Irishmen themselves might also entertain. They are no evidences whatever of an amount of distrust which would render it improper or hopeless to introduce the principle of self-government into the Irish nation. We all know that not only within our time, but far beyond and behind our time, the land has been the critical question in Ireland. We know the feuds which have obtained between the land-owning and the land-occupying classes in Ireland, and it is no unfair reflection upon the Irish people, and upon a Legislative Body representing 1177 that Irish people, to say that it would be better and fairer for them as well as for the land-owning class that we in this Imperial Parliament, together with the Irish Representatives, should first settle that question and get it out of the way. Then the right hon. Gentleman spoke about our distrust because of the precautions taken with regard to the Irish Judges who had made themselves unpopular in the country. Well, we do not, any more than the right hon. Gentleman, ignore the recent facts of history. We know that many of these men made themselves unpopular; we know that some of these men were supposed to be in danger of their lives. We do not class every Irishman, or every Irishman of the same Party, within the same category—as the right hon. Gentleman almost seemed disposed to do—as persons guilty of offences of violence or intimidation. But we think it is only fair to all parties concerned that we should take these precautions, even though they may be considered excessive precautions, and it is not a fair argument, and it is not an argument of weight, that the House of Commons ought to reject this great measure on the second reading because of these supposed evidences of distrust. The right hon. Gentleman opened his speech in that way, and he went on to what I may call a large and general principle, and I am prepared to say that in that part of his speech he made many statements which have my agreement, and some which have my sympathy. The right hon. Gentleman was, to my mind, a favourable exception to some of those who have made speeches of late, in the tribute which he paid to the personal character of the Irish people and of the Representatives of Ireland. And I agree with him in perhaps the strongest proposition which is the basis of all his policy and his objection to the Government measure. I agree with him that, if this Bill cannot be treated and believed in as a final measure, it is a Bill not to be approved by the House of Commons. The Irish Representatives who sit below the Gangway tell us they will accept it in that spirit, and I have the weakness to believe in those Irish Representatives. But I believe in something else and something more. I believe in those general conditions which will of themselves make this a final settlement, and 1178 I believe in the national aspirations of the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the Leaders of the Irish Nationalists, like the leaders of other revolutions, will be compelled to go further. We had this argument from the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) the other night, and he brought to bear the old saying that the revolution devours her children. The noble Lord forgot that the revolutions of which that used to be said were violent and bloody revolutions—revolutions suddenly bursting forth in some moment of popular frenzy consequent upon a long and cruel repression, and in which the people's will and the people's vengeance found no limit. But in this case we are not dealing with the question of a revolution, even of a peaceful revolution. We are propounding and we hope to succeed in passing a measure of peaceful reform. You may say, and you may logically argue, as the right hon. Gentleman has done, that this measure will not be final, and will not satisfy the Irish people; but you cannot logically argue that this measure of peaceful reform, whether wise or unwise, is to be classed in the category of sanguine revolutions, and that it must bring calamities in its train. I confess it is not easy at this moment to regard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, with its moderate tone, as representing or indicating the new point of departure taken by the Leader of his Party. I read to-day with nothing short of amazement a speech delivered by the Leader of the Tory Party, rivalling and excelling in calculated recklessness any speech ever uttered by either Nationalist or Orangeman. [Cries of "Oh!"] I hope to prove this before I have done, for I have taken notes on that subject which I will read to the House. The noble Lord insulted the Irish people by saying that they were not a nation. I know no deeper insult to a people inhabiting a country than by words, or sneers, or jeers to deny their nationality. Well, the noble Lord said—"They are not a nation; they are two nations." Is it possible that a man of common sense can utter such words? Two nations! There is only one nation, forming the great mass and majority of the Irish people. There is a small minority of another faith, towards whom we have obligations, because we placed 1179 them there, and who have rights which we are bound to protect and to defend, But this minority practically exists only in a part of the Province of Ulster, and whatever may be their merits, their character, and their vigour, they are undoubtedly too few to be called in any sensible meaning of the expression a nation of themselves. Then the noble Lord went a little further. He said he could not confide in the Irish people. He did not state which of the two Irish peoples he could not confide in. I do not suppose that he confides in either, because they are a good deal mixed, and there are a good many Celts in Ulster. The noble Lord thinks that the Teutonic race can alone be trusted; and the Irish people, in his view, ought to be put into the same category, though not necessarily at the bottom of the scale, with Hottentots and Orientals. The noble Lord then used an expression rather too conversational for so serious an accusation. He said—"That Irish Members of Parliament will swear anything you like." I heard it said the other night, on a Bench below the Gangway, that the Irish promises must be met with disbelief, and I regretted that statement; but the Leader of the Tory Party goes further, and says that he will not believe them on their oath. [Cries of "Question!"] That is, and will be, the Question. The Leader of the Tory Party sounded his battle cry on Saturday. He has made his appeal to the country—an appeal which it is his policy to precipitate. I thank him from a Party point of view for the nature of that appeal, for whatever may be thought and felt on that side of the House, whatever may have been thought or felt among some hon. Members on this side, I am convinced that when this appeal is carried by the Press throughout the length and breadth of the land it will rouse a spirit of indignation, a spirit of determination and of union among the Liberal ranks which will leave us little to fear for the future. Hon. Members opposite believe that the cleavage of the Liberal Party is an accomplished fact, and the Leader of the Tory Party thinks that the time has come when he may safely snap his fingers at the Liberal Party. He seeks to rouse the fighting spirit of his own Party, saying—"We will accept their assistance, but not trust in it; we will trust in our own right arm alone." [Opposition 1180 cheers.] I am glad that that sentiment is cheered, because the way in which it is received may a little open the eyes of some of our own Friends. Then the Leader of the Tory Party did us another service, greater still; he propounded a policy, one for which we have sought, and begged, and prayed for months past on the part of our critics and opponents. And what is that policy? It is this—that Parliament should enable the Government to govern Ireland resolutely—and we know and you know what "resolutely" means—for a period of 20 years—20 years of continuous Conservative Government and coercion and oppression. Then, when that shall have been accomplished, what will be the grand prize coming within our vision? Why this—"that the Irish will then be fit"—for what? For self-government, for autonomy? Nothing of the kind—"for such measure of local government as we may choose to give them." But the benefits which the noble Lord showered upon us are not yet exhausted. There is one more to come. He has a practical policy in substitution for the Land Purchase Bill. He does not want to buy out the landlords; he does not want to save their property for them; he wants to spend the money on the emigration of 1,000,000 of the depleted Irish population. [Opposition cheers.] Whatever the noble Lord's Party may think of that policy—and in spite of their cheers I do not think they are at all delighted with it—we, at least, have no occasion to find fault with it. I say that the noble Lord has by his speech rendered the greatest service to the Liberal cause, that he has done more for the unity and success of that Party than even my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone). Now, Sir, if I do not weary the patience of the House, I will proceed to deal, in plain and simple language, with the principle, the policy, and the tendency of this Bill. I want to address myself specially to the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) and the right hon. Gentlemen who have gone from us; and I hope, now that they know that 20 years of coercion is the alternative to our policy, that they will extend to my argument a favourable consideration. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) that we have two things to deal with at 1181 the stage of second reading—first, the principle of the Bill; and then its method and tendency. The principle, Sir, is autonomy, and I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham is an enthusiastic supporter of the principle of autonomy. His objection is simply to the method of the Bill and to the tendency consequent upon the method. I will endeavour to answer my right hon. Friend later on. I wish first to say a few words with reference to the able and dignified speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James). I propose to tell him my interpretation of the Bill, and to ask him whether he will not reconsider some of his apprehensions. My right hon. and learned Friend seems to have come to the conclusion that the Bill as it stands would destroy the unity of the Kingdom and the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. I venture to deny the accuracy of that conclusion entirely. What does the Bill do? It delegates from the Imperial Sovereign Parliament a certain limited portion of its legislative powers to the Irish Legislative Body to be created. But it preserves the right and power and points out the method of reconsidering at any moment that delegation. Now, it is impossible to argue that this is a loss of the Sovereignty of this Parliament. In case of any measure being passed by the Irish Legislative Body which might go beyond the limits imposed by this Bill the measure of my right hon. Friend, following the well-known example of the United States in their Supreme Court, sets up the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to interpret and decide upon the Constitutionality of those Acts, and whether they are or are not within the powers conferred by this Bill. Well, is it not evident that you do not abrogate or cast away beyond recall the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, but simply suspend the exercise of its Sovereignty—of a portion of its Sovereignty. I am making a statement of the legal and Constitutional operation of this Bill, and if anyone is to answer me, I hope it may be someone who has some knowledge of the law. I do not expect that any Member of the Legal Profession will say that I have made an inaccurate statement. The Imperial Parliament will remain 1182 supreme and sovereign, even after the Irish Members have left, and they know it will. In case it desires to reconsider that delegation of powers, or even to recall it, it has ample power to do so, and to reconstitute the delegated authority by resummoning the Irish Members, and you will find your own Imperial Parliament which meets here to-night reconstituted to consider without prejudice and without being hampered in its decision the whole question de novo. [Opposition laughter.] We are accustomed to hear laughter from the Benches opposite. It is not particularly courteous. But even that is not all. It is not so easy to destroy the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. If this Bill passes you will not even destroy the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament with respect to the Act itself. You can repeal it the next day, and that is known to the Irish Members. My right hon. and learned Friend (Sir Henry James) shakes his head. He will not deny that this Imperial Parliament is now sovereign and supreme, and that the only power we take from it is the power while this Bill lasts as an Act, if it passes into an Act, which it delegates to the Irish Assembly. If the Act is repealed the delegation ceases. Of course, I admit that no such step would ever be taken by the Imperial Parliament, because by the 39th clause we enter into what is called a Parliamentary compact, an arrangement of honour, not to exercise our sovereign power except by a certain method which is pointed out in the clause. It only comes to this—that you suspend the exercise of a limited portion of the Sovereignty for reasons of policy which you will have approved if you pass this measure, and that having done that you cannot immediately legislate day by day upon questions of Irish concern. But what you can do, if you think it worth while and necessary, is to reconstitute the Imperial Parliament in order to reconsider the delegation which you conferred. I have stated what undoubtedly is the belief of the Government as to the interpretation of the Bill; and I can only say that if my right hon. and learned Friend in Committee shall be able to show us that there is any legal flaw in the drafting of the measure, and that it does not carry out precisely that which I have said, the Government will be perfectly ready to amend the 1183 clause. I am glad now to see my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), and I shall be surprised if I fail to mate some impression upon him with regard to one of his views upon this question. My right hon. Friend has said that his objection to the method and tendency of the Bill is that it proceeds upon the lines of Colonial independence, instead of proceeding, as it ought in his opinion to have done, upon the lines of federation. Well, Sir, I entirely deny the accuracy of that view. I say that this Bill does not go upon the lines of Colonial independence or upon the lines of federation. It proceeds precisely to the point of the parting of the ways; and when it comes to the parting of the ways it absolutely bars the way to Colonial independence and leaves open the way to federation. They cannot go beyond this delegation, which is nothing like Colonial independence or independence of any kind, but is a very limited delegation of powers to the soil of Ireland alone; and the way is barred to any further modification of the Bill, or to any enlargement of its powers, unless you resummon the Imperial Parliament in the full possession and plentitude of its powers and of its numbers. I want to know, therefore, how this measure can be said to be on the lines of Colonial independence? The Bill, however, does not bar the way to federation, which is a favourite scheme of my right hon. Friend. It actually leaves the door open to federation. We have heard from many hon. Members below the Gangway opposite that, though what they desire is to get home and set to work upon the arrears of legislation and of government, still they are open to accept that, and not unwilling at some time to resume their place in this Imperial Assembly. Well, how does it open the way? Suppose this Bill passes, can anything prevent the British Parliament, which will be left, from applying the federal principle to legislation upon the affairs of England, Scotland, and Wales? My right hon. Friend cannot argue that the Irish Legislative Body could impede our action in that respect. If it should occur to him to put his scheme into form, and if he should succeed in carrying Parliament and the country with him, there would be no possible difficulty from a legislative point of view. On the contrary, he 1184 would simply find part of his work was done already, and that there was a Legislative Body established in Dublin very similar to the Bodies which he would seek to establish in the other countries under different names. But my right hon. Friend has said that he finds it difficult to be satisfied unless that principle of federation is incorporated into the measure itself, and is carried out at the present time. Well, then, I do not agree with him, for more reasons than one. First of all, I am of opinion that it is better that the Irish Members should be absent from the Imperial Parliament for a period. I think they will find quite enough to do at home; I think we should find enough to do at home; and if they and we are to come together again it will be done more hopefully, and my right hon. Friend himself will have a better chance of carrying his federation scheme, if it is postponed until after the construction of a Legislative Body for Ireland. We have heard that this measure has been sprung and come as a surprise upon the country. There is no doubt that a great many minds have been taken by surprise, and a great many more have not been able to travel quite at the pace of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. There is nothing we dislike more than being driven beyond our pace. But if that has been a surprise, and has made a difficulty to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, how much greater would have been the difficulty and surprise if we had added to this Bill a scheme of federation? I agree with him that there is no fear of separation; I agree with him that there is no fear because of the geographical position of Ireland; but it is precisely because I hold separation to be impossible, to be even inconceivable, to be the dream of dreamers who are not the Irish Nationalists, but the Tory Party, and, unfortunately, some of our Friends on this side of the House—it is for this reason that I say you may, with the utmost confidence and safety, extend these rights and privileges and advantages of self-government to the Irish people, and hope for a truer, because a moral, Union with this country. Why, the fact that Ireland is in favour of autonomy is hopeful. If you look to the facts of her insular position and her history—the long history of conquest, of oppression, 1185 of misery, and neglect—if you look to the conflict of races, and, further, if you look to the poverty of her population, to her weakness compared with our strength, I say that the dream of separation is a fantastic dream. I say there is only one condition under which the Irish Representatives could indulge in that dream, and that is the condition of lunacy. There is only one condition under which Ireland could accomplish separation, and that would be if Ireland were loosed from her moorings, and drifted 1,000 miles away into the broad Atlantic. I think we can look at the question without fear from that point of view. Perhaps I may be permitted to say a few words as to my personal connection with the Government of the right hon. Gentleman. I am only a recent addition to the Government, and I can almost speak as if I still sat below the Gangway. I looked at this matter from the point of view of our duties—a threefold point of view. First of all, I regarded it as a duty to satisfy the national sentiments and aspirations of the Irish people, and to consolidate the unity of the Realm; and I set my position no less high with regard to the latter than to the former. I admit also that we have a duty to the landlords of Ireland. It is no evidence of any undue distrust of the Irish people to say that it is better that the first question on which they would have to embark should not be the vexed one of the relations of the landlord and tenant. And then we have a duty to the Protestant community of Ireland; I cannot call it a nation. I cannot agree with Lord Salisbury in the use of that phrase; and I regard it as about the most weighty and condemnatory testimony that could be borne against us, that our former rule of Ireland has led now at this moment to the existence of a portion of the Irish people so divided from the rest, so hostile, so unsympathetic, so unbelieving, that no spark of Irish patriotism, as it would appear, is kindled in their breasts by the prospect of being enabled, under this system of autonomy, to contribute directly to the prosperity and progress of their country. Well, Sir, although I regret their action and their attitude in this way, it does not in the slightest degree reduce our responsibility or duty to see that justice is done to them. When that, as I hold with other persons, is 1186 their condition of mind—which I lament and deplore—and while I regard it as the result of our past misgovernment, I say we are bound to consider it. But I hope that they, or some of them, have not yet said their last word. I hope there may yet be some evidence from them of satisfaction at the prospect of the people of Ireland becoming a united people, and that they may yet take their place in the future of Ireland; but in the meantime we are bound to accept the responsibility of dealing with their objections and their fears. It is impossible for us beforehand to anticipate what they may say, or suggest, or propose. We do not share their fears. That is a subject on which men may well differ, for that is a part of the great conception of this measure. We believe that the time ought to come and be near at hand when all Irishmen, Catholic and Protestant, in every Province, may live and work in harmony together. And now I come to the last question—the last subject on which I shall venture to trespass on the time of the House. Our first proposition is that all contrary policies are disastrous and complete failures. I admire the courage of men who, after what has happened with Coercion Acts—I am amazed at the courage, if I can call it courage, of any body of men, in these days, who can with a light heart embark upon a policy of another 20 years of consistent and persistent coercion and repression—I am amazed at them when they look forward in the fond, but, as I think, foolish belief that at the end of that time, during which they have continued that policy, they would have reconciled the Irish people to the acceptance of any measure, not of autonomy, but of local government, that they may choose to confer upon them. We offer this Bill; we say it is necessary to satisfy Ireland, and why? The conditions of Ireland and of her history have produced in the minds of her sons an intense patriotism. It may be a narrow and an antagonistic patriotism, but the feeling is based on her geographical position and her past history. The result of her sufferings and our misgovernment in the past has been the expatriation of millions of Irishmen. That expatriation has created another and a larger, a freer, a richer, and a more powerful Ireland beyond the Atlantic; and the new fact that you have to deal 1187 with now—and it would be foolish if you were to ignore it—is that you have not merely a poor Ireland of 4,000,000 or 5,000,000, many of them half-starving, with no chance or prospect against the enormously preponderating powers of this country, to deal with, but an Ireland two or three times that number in the United States. Well, it is impossible that that fact should not have its effect. It has produced its effect on the Irish mind. It has inspired them with new hopes, with new determination, and with a consciousness of which they were never capable before, that their demands cannot be for ever refused. How, then, are we to meet that as sensible men? Why, we must satisfy, if we can, that Nationalist aspiration. That aspiration which we call patriotism is implanted in our breasts for no poor purpose. It is providentially there. It cannot be destroyed without danger to the State that attempts to destroy it. Why, there are very few of us whose youth carries us back beyond the Revolutions of 1848 who do not recollect the lessons then taught. I have often spoken freely on this subject of nationality. [Opposition cheers.] Yes; and I believe in nationality. I say that nationality is individuality, and it demands to be respected. But the United Kingdom is a group of these Nationalities, living as individual members of one family. You must live in harmony as one family; but you must give and take. You must respect each other. You must not have an absolute and Draconian Code; and the very same principle founded upon the characteristics of human nature applies as well to the government of nations as to the government of families. We are told that if this Bill passes we shall hand over the government of Ireland to American-Irish. Well, let them look at opinion in America. I do not ask you to look at the opinion of the Irish-Americans. Look at the opinion of native Americans. Why, the enormous mass of American opinion is in favour of this Bill; and the conviction is that it will satisfy the desires for national existence of the Irish people. We are told that by this measure you will put Irish government in the hands of the American-Irish. I hold, on the contrary, that the effect will be precisely the reverse. This is a Home Rule measure, and the first effect of Home Rule, 1188 the first manifestation of it upon the enactment of this Bill, would be a resolve on the part of the Irish people that the affairs of their country should be governed by Irishmen, resident in their native land, and not by those living some thousand miles away. I have spoken of the impossibility of separation, and I have said that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I am almost bound to make one reservation. If it were possible to conceive so serious a danger, it seems to me that if a policy of refusal of all concession for 20 years, with coercion in the meantime, were to be adopted and applied to this unfortunate country, it it not impossible that before the end of 20 years, in some moment of England's sudden and unexpected danger and weakness, an enemy might be found at her side. [Home Rule cheers and ironical laughter.] Yes, I repeat it; obstinate injustice and oppression will make an enemy in time of any people. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been accused of basing his policy on the words of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). My right hon. Friend is too experienced a man to base a great policy like this—["Oh!"]—whether right or wrong, it is a great policy—upon the word of any man or of any party or section of men. For men and Parties may be transformed and pass away. Such a policy can only be rightly or safely based on the consideration of permanent conditions which seem to justify and point it out as the only sound solution of the problem. It is our conviction that those permanent conditions, with regard to the Irish people in Ireland, point to Home Rule. They point to it as necessary to satisfy the Irish mind, to benefit the Irish people, and they point to it as safely grantable consistently with the unity of this Realm. But though my right hon. Friend would be wrong in basing his measure on the word of any man or of any number of men, it is permissible, I think, to note the change of tone which has come over so many Members of the Irish Nationalist Party. [Ironical laughter from the Opposition Benches.] The Leader of the Tory Party says they will swear anything; and, therefore, I do not expect his followers to be in the slightest degree convinced or affected by the argument I am now advancing. But I ask this—Is there a man in this House, 1189 on either side, who can have listened to such speeches as those of the hon. Members for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), South Londonderry (Mr. T. M. Healy), Wexford (Mr. J. Redmond), and South Tyrone (Mr. W. O'Brien), without believing in their sincerity? We knew before of the power and the eloquence—and they have shown remarkable power and eloquence—of the Members of the Irish Nationalist Party in this House; but we all recognize—even the noble Lord the Member for West Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) recognized the other night—the changed tone and the changed voice. There was in their speeches the evidence of moved hearts. There was evidence of a new born hope, of a new promise, and a greater faith; and I see the cause, and this House sees the cause, and the country will see the cause. The cause is the message of peace on the lips and the olive branch in the hand of my right hon. Friend. Of all his great life, of all the work of his great career, I believe that in some future day this will be his highest praise. I believe that, whatever happens, he will have done all that man could do towards the reconciliation of the Irish and the English races. For myself, I believe in nationality, and I believe in Irish nationality. I believe that its recognition is possible, and easy within the limits of the union of this Realm. I believe when we have recognized and accepted it, we shall leave of it nothing that is not beneficent and safe. I believe of it that it can and will, and that only it can and will, bring about a lasting and a moral union between Great Britain and the people of Ireland.
§ MR. KING (Hull, Central)
said, that if he objected to the Bill it was not from any rooted hostility to a local autonomy for Ireland. He would not yield to the temptation to follow the right hon. Gentleman into the mingled menace and cajolery which pervaded his speech; but even granting that Home Rule in some form were desirable it would not be possible to invent a more mischievous scheme of Home Rule than that proposed by the Bill. He preferred to deal with the problem before the House in the cool light of Constitutional reason. In addresses to his constituents he had stated that, providing the integrity and the unity of the Empire were preserved, he was in favour of granting 1190 a large measure of local government to Ireland; but he contended that this Bill did not fulfil the conditions which it was vital in the interests of England and Ireland to uphold. It weakened the supremacy of Parliament and impaired the authority and prerogatives of the Crown, without which the supremacy of Parliament and the Imperial Unity could not be maintained. The wording of the earlier clauses of the Bill obviously granted to the Irish Parliament all the powers which were not specially reserved to the Imperial Parliament. This was a matter which radically affected the relations which ought to exist between a supreme Parliament and a subordinate Legislature. Ireland was treated as if she were a separate Sovereign State which conceded to Great Britain certain of her Sovereign powers for the sake of establishing a Union. This was as anomalous as it would be if the Bank of England in establishing an agency in Liverpool began by investing the agency with all the powers of the parent institution and then reserved certain rights to itself. The Bill ought to have started by asserting the supreme authority of the superior Parliament in all matters determinate and indeterminate, and it ought to have excepted out of that supreme authority whatever powers it might be deemed advisable to grant to the lesser Body. The Bill adopted a peculiar and suspicious way of beginning to establish the relations that were to subsist between Great Britain and Ireland. This was not a question of words, but it was one of fundamental principle. The Bill created a new situation, the design of which had been elaborated in some political workshop, and had been kept as close as if the inventor feared that someone would get hold of his idea before he could obtain a provisional specification. It was the first time a statesman had shut himself up in this way to play the part of a political Edison constructing in a workshop, the avenues to which were guarded, a novel system of Constitutional machinery. The result would not be one to encourage any statesman to repeat the experiment. The Bill proposed a written Constitution, and, therefore, every word and term of it became a matter of vital importance. If a dispute should arise as to the relative jurisdiction of the two Parliaments, the Judicial 1191 Committee would be bound to decide upon the words of the Statute. It would be pointed out by learned counsel that the Act began by conferring unlimited power and Sovereignty upon the Irish Legislature, and then reserving certain large powers to the Imperial Government. The result would be to give the Irish Parliament an immense advantage in any opposition to the authority of the Imperial Parliament. The relations which existed between Great Britain and Canada in Lord Durham's time were not similar to those which now existed between Great Britain and Ireland. Canada was not represented in or taxed by the Imperial Parliament; there was no Legislative Union; there was no reciprocal interchange of political opinions and emotions. But there was a Legislative Union between Upper and Lower Canada, notwithstanding the differences of race, creed, and local interests. Then came a Parliamentary deadlock, and federation was proposed. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had Legislatures of their own; and there were also Prince Edward's Island and Newfoundland. The project was to dissolve the Legislative Union between Upper and Lower Canada, and, preserving to each a certain measure of autonomy, to federate them under a supreme Government and to allow the other Colonies to come in on the same terms. At the time the Dominion Act was under discussion Sir John Macdonald said the United States had commenced at the wrong end by declaring State Sovereignty and reserving federal powers—the mistake which this Bill proposed to commit—and the Canadian statesmen adopted a different plan, strengthening the general Parliament, giving it all great subjects of legislation, and expressly declaring that all matters of a general character which were not reserved should be conferred on the general Government and Legislature. Thus the Dominion avoided the weakness of the United States and all conflict as to jurisdiction and authority. This showed the importance of reversing the process passed by the present Bill and of maintaining the supreme authority of the Imperial Parliament. Indeed, this was once the view of the Prime Minister himself, as expressed in a speech he made at Dalkeith in 1879. The fatal error ran through the whole Bill. It would seem that the right hon. Gentleman 1192 began by acknowledging the independence of Ireland. Matters which in the Dominion were reserved for the Central Authority in virtue of its supremacy were granted to Ireland. In Canada the Criminal Law was reserved to the Central Authority, and the Dominion thus avoided one of the defects of the Constitution of the United States—a defect which this Bill proposed to repeat in the case of Ireland. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) told the House the other night that the only attempt in the Bill to preserve the supremacy of Parliament was to be found in the 37th clause. He submitted, however, that no one could read that clause with care without coming to the conclusion that it was a blind and that it expressed nothing. No one who sincerely desired the welfare and happiness of these Realms could share the guilt of passing an Act which directly attacked the supremacy of Parliament and the integrity of the United Kingdom. While he was perfectly willing to take part in granting a generous measure of local government to Ireland, he had no hesitation whatever in voting for the rejection of this Bill.
§ MR. THOROLD ROGERS (Southwark, Bermondsey)
said, that the House had naturally heard during the course of this debate a great deal of biography, a great deal of apology, and a great deal of prophecy from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who were in the Government or who had held Office. It was true that statements on this subject had not been given to the House very plentifully from the Front Ministerial Bench. They were like the dumb parrot of the story, they thought the more. For himself, after studying the history of the question, he had come to the conclusion that the greatest blunder that Pitt ever made was the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. He had no hesitation in saying that when prophecies were plentiful and right he very much preferred fulfilled to unfulfilled prophecies. Anybody could predict; but when the test of subsequent experience proved that the prediction was entirely fortified by facts, he was bound to say that he attached great weight to the judgments which eminent men in past times had made upon this subject. He did not think that the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for Mayo made out as 1193 fully as it should have done the real services which the so-called Grattan Parliament effected, or that the Prime Minister had given it complete credit for its work. In the year 1781 the Irish Parliament began to repeal the atrocious Criminal Law which was enacted against the consciences of our Catholic fellow-countrymen, and he might fairly say that in matters of religious toleration the Irish Parliament was 60 or 70 years ahead of the English Parliament. Then, again, at the time of the French War the Irish Parliament strove to secure for the Irish people all the benefits which the English Parliament endeavoured to secure for the English people. When the war broke out with France fresh supplies of money were granted by the Irish nation in order to assist this country. The Irish Parliament levied indirect taxation extensively on the people, and to such an extent as to almost justify Lord Clare's observation that Ireland was almost in a state of bankruptcy. No doubt, a very terrible revolution broke out in 1798; but the origin of it was known to every student of history. Everyone knew how the movement of the United Irishmen began, how it developed, and how the Irish Parliament, with the assistance of the English Parliament, put down this revolt in circumstances which shocked all those who read the facts. But with regard to the Irish insurrection, the British Parliament gave its formal thanks to the Irish Parliament for its loyalty and its activity. The ostensible reason why the Union was effected was owing to the Constitutional mistake made by the Irish Parliament on the question of the Regency. It should be borne in mind, however, that the Irish Parliament not only received the warm congratulation of Fox and the Whigs, but the gratitude and the thanks of the Prince of Wales. On this question he should like to call the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the words of a statesman who was fast becoming a myth, and who was being converted by his so-called adherents from a sensible statesman into a sentimental and a silly one—Irish policy is Irish history; and I have no faith in any statesman who attempts to remedy the evils of Ireland who is either ignorant of the past, or who will not take lessons from it.That is a passage from a speech of Mr. 1194 Disraeli delivered in 1868, and the observation was as wise as it was instructive. The hon. Member proceeded to show that the propositions of the Government with regard to the Irish Union were rejected in 1799; that the number of placemen, nominees, and owners of pocket boroughs in the Irish Parliament numbered 168—a number sufficient to carry the second reading of the present measure; that every Irishman of note who voted in favour of the Union was turned out of Office, among them being the Grandfather of the hon. Member for Cork; and that £1,400,000 was placed by the English Exchequer on the Irish Public Debt in order to compensate the owners of rotten pocket boroughs. Assuredly it was a time for people who called themselves statesmen to give up wrangling about the details of the measure of satisfaction to Ireland and to affirm its principle, so that the intolerable reproach of the English people might be taken away. Sheridan said that a Union effected by fraud, intrigue, corruption, and intimidation would ultimately endanger the connection between the two countries. Mr. Grey, afterwards Lord Grey, whose opinions, unhappily, were not hereditary in his family, said that the tendency of the measure would be to disunite, that it would create discontent, distrust, jealousy, and suspicion; if they persisted in it resentment would follow; and though they might be able to obtain the seeming consent of the Parliament of Ireland, the people of that country would wait for an opportunity of recovering the rights which had been taken away. Having referred to Mr. Tierney, Mr. Hobhouse, Mr. Pulteney, and others as opponents of the measure, the hon. Gentleman said that he admired the general candour and disinterestedness of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale; and there was nothing which had fallen from the noble Marquess on this subject to which any taint of self-seeking could be attached. But he might mention that among the opponents of the Union he found the name of the noble Marquess's Grandfather, and there was no name among the Whigs of the time which stood out with greater lustre than that of Lord George Cavendish, the first Lord Burlington, and the Grandfather of the noble Marquess. He admitted the candour and intelligence of the noble Marquess the 1195 Member for Rossendale; but he could not admit that they were greater than the candour and foresight of the noble Marquess's Grandfather. General Fitz-patrick said that he knew nothing in the conduct of the French more atrocious as a breach of faith than would be the conduct of the House if they passed that measure. He would now quote a word or two from a speech of a not very wise man—Mr. Speaker Addington. He spoke in favour of the Union; and the motive which he gave for supporting it was that the large majority of the Irish people were Catholics, and that four-fifths of the property of the country were in the hands of Protestants. But he was not willing to admit that an unjust and usurped right became sanctified by the lapse of 150 or 170 years. Mr. Hobhouse said that the Union scheme would be the destruction of the rights of the Irish people, and that it would meet with the opposition of all parties except such as wished for a separation between the two countries. He thought Mr. Hobhouse had spoken in the spirit of prophecy. Those who read Irish history at the time knew what were the opinions of that man who bore the honoured name of Plunket. The fact was that all lawyers of eminence in Ireland boldly denied the competence of the Irish Parliament to pass the Union. The hon. Member also quoted the opinions expressed by Lord Fitzwilliam, Lord Lansdowne, and other Whig Peers on the subject of the Union between England and Ireland at the time it was proposed, and then went on to remark that it was effected, although 29 counties petitioned against it, 707,000 persons signing the Petitions against it, while only 3,000 persons petitioned for it. The language contained in the protests of the Irish Lords against the Union, he observed, were extremely significant of the popular opinion on the question at the time. The present Government, however, had now determined to do what they could to satisfy the aspirations of the vast majority of the Irish people, and to heal the divisions which had weakened the two countries for so many years. The criticism of this Bill had been approached in many ways. Sometimes they were told it was a disruption of the Union, and sometimes that it was a wonder that Irishmen would accept anything so small and so pitiful. The 1196 two statements could not be consistent. He admitted that to cut the new Irish Parliament off, as that Bill would do, from 20 topics of discussion which were among the highest questions which a Parliament could debate, did strike him as something strange and he might say shocking. Many of the subjects from which the Irish were to be excluded were matters that were discussed in that House; for, although some of them might be called "functions of the Crown," they all knew that that was but a decent euphemism for the advice and perhaps the control of Parliament. He could, however, imagine the Irish Members now saying that, after much importunity and after long years of ill-feeling, they hoped they had at last induced an English Parliament to acquiesce in putting upon them the duty of healing the wounds of their distracted country. They had claimed their right in the ear of Europe and amid the sympathies of the civilized world. Every foreign nation had flung its taunt at the English people that they had a disaffected Ireland. The problem before the Irish Parliament would, no doubt, be one of no common difficulty, and its solution would require infinite skill and infinite tact and temper; and they should be glad, therefore, to have the business put before them narrowed instead of enlarged, to have the topics of disagreement few instead of many, and to be left, at least for a long time to come, to devote their entire attention to setting in order the domestic affairs of their own country; but they might say—"If we are the idiots and knaves which some people calmly call us, we shall bring down on ourselves the scorn of those who have proffered us their sympathy. We can afford to disregard alike the sneers of the uninformed and the paltry malice of faction; we are bound to solve the problem put before us, and with God's help we will; but do not put upon unskilled and untrained legislators more than our strength will enable us to bear." He believed that a more scandalous and unfounded calumny could not be uttered than the attempt to predict the action of the future Irish Parliament from the speeches of Irish politicians. Men said things when they were striving to gain a result which were very far from their hearts, perhaps, at all times, but certainly out of their heads 1197 when responsibilities were put upon them. If he could judge from the action of the last Irish Parliament between 1782 and 1800, the Irish people would rise to their responsibilities, would interpret their duty honestly, and would refuse to be misled, because hard words were used against them, into doing hard deeds against any of their fellow-countrymen. Objection had been taken to the proposed exclusion of the Irish Members from the English Parliament. For his own part, he confessed he would like to see them there. They had contrived by their importunity to obtain some justice for Irish tenants; and, though he did not wish to see judicial rents established in England, he would like to have the Irish Members to help with their importunity in revising rents in England. He had latterly seen that an eminent statesman—he did not use the word in a complimentary sense, for a statesman was a person who had the privilege of being converted as often as he pleased, while a politician was bound to stand by his opinions—an eminent statesman had said that this Bill would leave the Ulster people divided from Ireland. That opinion was supremely silly and supremely wicked. The hon. Member for Mayo did well to call attention to the fact that the Ulsterman was as proud of the name of Irishman as one who hailed from Connaught or Munster. He had also seen—what he had hoped would never be the utterance of a man calling himself a Liberal, let alone a Radical—he had seen an attempt to revive religious differences, to dig up anew that hideous and hateful corpse which all thought was dead and buried. He did not expect that a person whom he might have looked up to as a leader of men would have condescended in this struggle to have revived what he thought was so long scouted by all men of liberal opinion that it would be only remembered as a hateful memory. He knew the differences between Christianity and some forms of religions—how the first had served to unite people, and was exercising day by day a more vigorous control over the lives and consciences of men, and how the latter had become deservedly obsolete. He did not know what the fate of this measure might be. He was quite certain that the principle contained in this measure was not only 1198 vital, but could not be put down. He did not know whether it might fall to the Prime Minister's lot to bring about this healing measure between two historical nations. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman had incurred the censure which he remembered to have read in a mediæval writer—Qui œstimat se plus aliis nosse, putat se plus aliis posse. Whether the right hon. Gentleman had measured his strength in the struggle, he did not know. It might be that Providence might deny to him the function of completing this great and healing work; but this he was prepared to say—that with this message of justice, of wisdom, of peace, and of true union, the right hon. Gentleman's name would inevitably be identified. His arguments would inevitably be repeated, and though the conversion of the hostility to the measure might be slow, yet it would be sure; and he was convinced that before very long it would be seen as clearly by those who resisted it as by those who adopted and endorsed it that the only solution of the Irish difficulty was to hand over to the Irish people, under proper safeguards—and he was convinced that the safeguards in the measure proposed by the right hon. Gentleman were entirely sufficient—that management of their own affairs which, if given to them in a frank and trustful spirit, would do more to revive their affection for the English people and secure their loyalty to the British Constitution than any Act which coldly repelled their aspirations and tended to put a check on their reasonable demands.
§ SIR JAMES CORRY (Armagh, Mid)
said, that, being so intimately connected as he was with the North of Ireland, he could not content himself with giving a silent vote on this question. His election in Ireland was fought after the appearance of what was known as the unauthorized version of the Prime Minister's views. Not only those whose general political views coincided with his own, but very many Liberals in addition, gave him their support; and as the question of Home Rule was the paramount one at the election he thought he might not unjustly claim to be heard upon the subject. He must say he was much amazed at the way in which the question was regarded by 1199 some English and Scotch Members and by their constituencies, because he felt convinced, and he had never disguised his opinion on the subject, that Home Rule meant nothing more nor less than Repeal. He had always endeavoured to bring this view of the question home to the minds of his Liberal friends in the North of Ireland; but they refused to believe that any responsible Government, much less a Government presided over by the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister, in whom they reposed such great confidence, would ever propose a measure for the Repeal of the Union. They had, however, been deceived, and his (Sir James Corry's) co-religionists, the Presbyterians of Ulster, who had zealously supported the right hon. Gentleman in times past, had recently informed him that they were determined to oppose in every possible way such a measure as he had now brought before the House of Commons, because they felt that there would be no security for the Loyal minority in Ireland if they came under the control of a Nationalist Parliament sitting at Dublin. They were now told by hon. Members below the Gangway, on his side of the House, that all this was a mistake and a false alarm, and that they had no desire to deal unfairly to the Loyal minority in the North of Ireland, and that as fellow-countrymen the minority ought to trust them. Well, he preferred to base his judgment upon experience and upon history rather than upon any promises or assurances whatever. Promises had been made and assurances had been given in former times, and had been broken. He was as satisfied as he possibly could be that whatever hon. Members below the Gangway might now say, they would not, in a short time, be in a position to keep their promises, even if they wished to do so, because they would be driven out by a force which they could not resist. The Government had introduced into this Bill some extraordinary provisions, which he should have thought it would have been beyond the wit of man to devise. For instance, the bringing together of two Orders in the same House was an extraordinary provision, and he was certain it was a wholly delusory one and incapable of satisfactory realization, so far as it was intended to afford any protection to the Loyal minority. He had 1200 gone into the matter carefully, and he had satisfied himself that the majority of the first Order who would be returned to the House would be of exactly the same class as the Members of the second Order—at least it was perfectly safe to say that more than half of the first Order would be the same class as the second. Therefore, the Northern minority had not much reason to be thankful to the Government for this supposed arrangement for their protection. His hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) spoke the other night of the material progress which Ireland had made since the Union. He (Sir James Corry) would not repeat what the hon. Member had so well said. Knowing a great deal of the commercial relations and interests of Ireland, he had no hesitation in saying that if this measure were passed it would prove a great blow to the commercial prosperity of that country. Personally, he had been intimately connected with the commerce of Belfast and of the North of Ireland for the last 40 years. He had been always proud to call himself an Irishman, and pleased to have the ships of his firm registered as sailing from the port of Belfast, so that the port might become known all over the world. One reason for his pride in doing this was the connection with Great Britain. But he was bound to say if this Home Rule Bill should pass he would as soon think of commencing a commercial enterprize in the deserts of the Soudan as in any part of Ireland. He had been told that 85 Nationalist Members had been returned from Ireland to the present Parliament; but he should like to ask what any single one of them, or what all of them put together, had ever done to promote the commercial prosperity of Ireland? They had, it was true, been very careful to protect their own interests and keep up the disturbing elements of agitation; but if any one of them had ever done anything to promote the material interests of the country, he (Sir James Corry) had failed to find it out. They had had in Ireland, as in England and other countries, commercial and agricultural depression; but if they had been left alone he believed they would have emerged from the crisis as well as their neighbours. However, he feared that he could now no longer make such a boast, 1201 for now every industry was paralyzed by the proposals in this Bill, which had filled the commercial classes with alarm. Anyone looking at the Stock Exchange quotations—the very large fall that had taken place in Irish Stock—and comparing the quotations now with what they were some time ago, could obtain for himself some idea of the injury already done to Ireland by the mere proposal of this measure; and he would leave them to imagine what would be the result of its being passed. They were told now that if this Bill passed, and when an Irish Parliament sat in Dublin, trade, commerce, and industries would spring up to an extraordinary extent, because before the Union prosperity existed in Ireland, and hon. Members below the Gangway pointed to the result of establishing an Irish Parliament in 1782. He had looked carefully into the matter, and he had failed to find any indication of that great prosperity. Well, it was true that for a short time after the establishment of that Parliament there was great prosperity in Ireland, because of the idea which laid hold of the mind of men that everything must of necessity be prosperous; but that state of things soon came to an end. He spoke as one who knew the country intimately, and who had taken a great pride in promoting in every possible way its commercial prosperity, and he said, without fear of contradiction, that the North of Ireland deserved some recompense from the English Government for what she had done in developing industry and commerce in that portion of Ireland. They had certainly made the most of the resources at their command; but they were now told that they must not consider the prosperity of Belfast as any indication at all of the prosperity of the country. All he could say was that the only part of Ireland where commercial enterprize had been extended as it had been was at Belfast; and he was satisfied, if they had been let alone, and the country had not been disturbed by agitation for Home Rule, and other agitations of that kind had not been so prevalent for the last 86 years, the country altogether, and especially the North of Ireland, would have been much more prosperous than at the present time. He remembered on one occasion some years ago, after a division in the House, 1202 saying to Mr. Butt—"No man knows better than you that this craze of yours is all moonshine." And Mr. Butt replied—"I admit that if all Ireland were as prosperous as you are in the North of Ireland, the demand for Home Rule would have no significance whatever." That was the ground which he (Sir James Corry) took up. No doubt existed in his mind that, if this measure were carried to a successful issue, as he was satisfied it would not be, it would be ruinous to the best interests of Ireland. He was by no means an exponent of extreme opinions, nor had he ever seen his way to join the Orange Society, and many of his Friends told him he was weak-kneed upon such subjects; but he felt that he had the best interests of the country at heart, and he was surprised, therefore, to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) state that there was no patriotism in the breasts of the Protestant minority in the North of Ireland, or they would not oppose such a measure as this for the benefit of their country. All he could say, knowing his fellow-countrymen in the North, was that if patriotism was extinct in their breasts he knew not where to find it. The hon. Member for West Clare (Mr. Jordan) had presented himself to the House as an Ulster Protestant Nationalist; but he would venture to say that for every Ulster Protestant Nationalist that could be found there were at least 10 Roman Catholics adverse to Home Rule. Over and over again in that House they had been told that they were aliens, and had no right to call themselves Irishmen; and he was afraid that if an Irish Government were set up in Dublin the people of the North would be looked upon as aliens, and would be likely to have a rough time of it. Still, that, he was happy to think, was not likely to be the case, for the men of Ulster were pretty strong-headed, and, in any case, if the worst came to the worst, they knew pretty well in Ulster how to take care of themselves. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen), in the course of a speech he had delivered on this question, referred to the remarks made in a Nationalist newspaper published in Belfast in reference to the linen trade. At the time the article was published he (Sir James Corry) had 1203 his attention called to it, and he said then, what he would repeat now, that he was perfectly satisfied that that was the encouragement they might expect for their manufactures and industries in Ulster if a Nationalist Parliament were established. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) said he did not look upon the religious question as of any importance whatever. Well, he (Sir James Corry) looked upon the religious question with a great deal of concern indeed; and he felt satisfied that there would be a very serious state of affairs, indeed, if such a measure as this passed, and if the Nationalist Party got the upper hand in Ireland. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon), who spoke the other night, and for whose honesty of purpose and straightforwardness he (Sir James Corry) had always entertained the highest admiration, had told them not to believe that the Irish Nationalists would be so foolish as to interfere with Irish industry. But he (Sir James Corry), speaking as a commercial man, did not agree with the hon. Member; but, anyhow, he preferred to be let alone; they had a good position now from their connection with England, and he could say with perfect confidence that all the Members of the Liberal Party in Ulster were just as much opposed to the passage of the Bill as those calling themselves Conservatives or Tories. Then, there was the financial aspect of the question, with which he would not detain the House. But he had seen enough in the newspapers with regard to it which entitled him to say that if it were brought into practice it would not hold water. He would leave the financial aspect of the question to some more competent person to deal with. A great deal had been said the other night about the extinction of the cotton industry in Ireland. In explanation of this, he might say that about the time when the power loom superseded hand spinning it was found more profitable to spin flax than cotton in the North of Ireland, and for that reason it had taken root there, while the cotton industry had died out. As a Member of the Commission on the Depression of Trade he had heard evidence adduced which showed that special manufactures took hold of a place, and that sometimes, owing to local conditions, a 1204 change occurred and one industry superseded others. He might instance shipbuilding on the Thames, which had almost disappeared and gone to other places, and he was glad to know that Belfast had got a share of it. He remembered very well the time shipbuilding began at Belfast—at the same time the industry was started at Dublin. At Belfast it succeeded, but at Dublin it decayed. He would not now state what were the reasons which he thought accounted for the difference of success in the two ports; but if he were a witness and under cross-examination, he considered that he could give very good reasons for the falling off in the shipbuilding trade at Dublin. As a member of the Protestant and Loyal minority of Ulster—as he was happy to say they were called—he was glad to state he was against this measure of Home Rule. He knew that all Protestants in the North of Ireland, without exception, were against the Bill. So far as local government was concerned, he was perfectly willing to grant the same measure to Ireland as he would to England and Scotland, but no more and no less, because he believed that anything else would prove disastrous to the country. They had been told that if Home Rule were not granted, they might look out for something very bad in Ireland. Well, the Loyal minority were prepared for that, and he had no fear that some way would be found to meet and overwhelm those who indulged in those threats. They paid as much attention to such threats as they deserved; and, no matter what might happen, he should feel it his duty to do all that in him lay to have the measure rejected.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)
said, he rose with great regret to say a few words, because he felt compelled to record his vote against this Bill. He and his Friends were returned at the last Election on what they believed to be the authorized Liberal programme put before the country by the Prime Minister, and they looked forward with much pleasure to supporting him as loyally in that House as they did during the elections. But, unfortunately, they had been forced into a temporary opposition by what he must call the political coup d'élat of the last two or three months. He wished to point out that sympathy with the extension of local 1205 self-government through all parts of the United Kingdom was perfectly consistent with determined hostility to this Bill. Local self-government and autonomy were vague and misleading terms if they were not defined; and he could not vote for the second reading of this Bill merely as affirming such principles in the abstract. They had been warned by the Prime Minister not to hesitate about the adoption of the principle of representative institutions. Liberals like himself had fully adopted that principle; but they could not agree to its application to Ireland in the mode proposed by the present Bill. They were willing to govern Ireland to some extent according to Irish ideas; but they were not willing to give up the whole government of Ireland to the majority of the Irish people. He believed that this Imperial Parliament had full power and also the will to do justice to the people of Ireland if Irishmen would come there and say frankly what they desired; but he would not give to the Nationalist majority control over the lives, liberties, and property of all the Queen's subjects in Ireland. The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), speaking at Edinburgh, had described the cardinal principle of the Bill as being—The creation of a Central Body in Dublin, which should have legislative as well as administrative powers, and which should appoint the Irish Executive, which should be responsible to it.There was the greatest difference between affirming such a principle as that and extending to Ireland any form of what had hitherto been known as local government—as developed, for instance, in the great municipalities of England and Scotland. The Bill, to his mind, was more akin to dismemberment than to local self-government. There were two Liberal policies before the country now. There was the plan of the Government, which, as they were told, was to follow "the strictly analogous precedent" of Canada, and to transform Ireland into a sort of self-governing Colony. And there was, on the other hand, the plan laid down at Belfast, and reaffirmed since by the noble Lord the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), for the gradual extension of local government to Ireland, so as to lay a 1206 firm foundation for the future reconstruction of the Irish Government. The Prime Minister had told the House that social order in Ireland was undermined, and yet he was proposing to erect on this quaking bog of social discontent the elaborate superstructure of a brand-new Constitution. The noble Lord preferred, like a prudent architect, first to make sure of his foundations, and then to build gradually but surely up to the coping-stone. Could there be a doubt that those Liberals who really believed in the advantages of local self-government, and wished to secure its permanence and stability, ought to prefer the plan of the noble Lord—the house founded upon the rock, rather than that founded upon the sand? They were told, however, that there was a fatal objection to the gradual reconstruction of the Irish Government—namely, that it would fail to conciliate the national sentiment of hon. Members from Ireland. It was urged that we ought to effect this grand reconciliation between the English and the Irish peoples by recognizing once for all the separate nationality of Ireland. That was the real principle which they were asked to affirm in voting for the second reading of this Bill. It was said that the Irish people were a separate and a misgoverned nation, and must have a Parliament of their own because they could not get justice from the Imperial Parliament. That principle, if admitted, would carry us far beyond the lines of the present Bill. If Ireland were to be recognized once for all as a separate nation, we could not limit her action by the restrictions which the Bill would impose. In that case, the Irish nation must have the absolute control of its national affairs. What nation was there worthy of the name which had not power to give State aid to the religion of the majority, or to establish a system of denominational education, or which submitted to pay a tribute of more than half its Revenues to another nation? If Irish national sentiment was not to prevail, then this Bill went too far; but if it was to prevail, then this Bill did not go far enough, and could not be a final settlement. There was no difficulty in meeting this demand for a separate nationality from a Liberal point of view. Why should the Liberals, who had striven for 20 years past to 1207 remove the just grievances of Ireland, admit that the Irish were an oppressed and a misgoverned nationality? Why should they not continue to act as they had acted before, and to concede all claims for justice, while refusing to go further, and to concede all that the Representatives of Ireland chose to ask, whether those demands were, in the opinion of English Members, just or unjust? He would remind the House of what the Prime Minister said at Aberdeen in 1871, when speaking of Ireland, that there was a higher law to govern the actions of Parliaments and politicians than the law of conciliation, good as that law might be. The higher and paramount law was the law of justice, and that law ought to guide them now. Let them do full justice to Irish demands; but let them not, yielding to a mistaken sense of generosity, loose the bonds of the United Kingdom, and take a first, but, as he feared, an irrevocable step towards the separation of Ireland and Great Britain.
§ MR. YEO (Glamorgan, Gower)
said, he was glad to say that no part of the United Kingdom had spoken more emphatically or with a greater degree of unanimity in favour of the measure of the Prime Minister than the constituencies of Wales. The people of Wales had a growing conviction that if they were to cure the ill-feeling which had so long existed in Ireland and replace it by real unity between Ireland and this country it could only be done by some large and wise concession, and that recourse to coercion was utterly hopeless. Even in those Welsh constituencies where the Members themselves were opposed to the Bill there had been no equivocal voice, but a clear and an unmistakable expression of utter dissatisfaction at the attitude which those Members had assumed. Without hesitation he asserted that Wales was in sympathy with Ireland on this question, and that the confidence of Wales in the Prime Minister had only been intensified by the desertions of his former followers. For his own part, he looked favourably upon the main provisions of this Bill. He believed Home Rule to be a good thing in itself, and he regarded the Bill not only as an act of justice to Ireland, but as a promise of Home Rule for Wales, for Scotland, and the rest of the United Kingdom. The House of Commons was now over- 1208 weighted by its duties, and some great measure of decentralization was necessary to allow it to carry out those duties. Another reason for which he approved of Home Rule was that it was, in his opinion, the only road to the goal which he himself and many other Members of that House desired to see reached—namely, Imperial federation. Each country was better able to manage its own affairs than was the Imperial Parliament to manage them for it. They were told that gratitude did not exist in the Irish character, that the Irish were unfit for self-government; but he was not willing to accept the statement that Ireland was the only one country in Europe where the Catholic and the Protestant populations could not be trusted to live peaceably together. But looking forward to Home Rule for Wales and Scotland, he desired from his heart that they should retain the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament, because he knew that the people of Wales would never accept the degradation of exclusion from taking their part in the Imperial Government; and he could not believe that the Irish Members, whatever their present ideas might be, would long be content to occupy what he could not but regard as a somewhat degraded position. He could not, and would not, believe that the Irish Members would voluntarily declare that they desired to be excluded from the consideration of Imperial affairs; if it were so, he would look upon it as an evil sign that they had a concealed desire for separation. The difficulty had been mentioned of defining what were Imperial affairs. In his opinion, the definition of the subjects excluded from the cognizance of the Irish Parliament would be a definition of the subjects which the Irish Members should consider in that House. With regard to the desire which might exist of excluding the Irish Members from taking part in their discussions on account of obstruction, he thought that Rules of Procedure might easily be framed by which any obstruction might be prevented. The difficulty of a fluctuating majority had been spoken of as a serious objection to the scheme. He admitted the reality of the objection; but what he desired to see, and what he believed would follow from the measure now under discussion, if passed, was that a British statutory subordinate Par- 1209 liament, consisting of English, Scottish, and Welsh Members, should be created to consider domestic affairs, and from the consideration of which the same affairs should be withdrawn as were withdrawn from that of the Irish Parliament. It would not necessarily follow that the Prime Minister in the one Parliament would be Prime Minister in the other, although in all probability a powerful statesman would become Minister in both. That would be a great step in the direction of federation, and might lead to negotiations with the Colonies and a further development of the principle. In conclusion, he would say that, while he should be glad to retain the Irish Members at Westminster, he had no sympathy with those who were attempting to extort from the Prime Minister any further declaration on the subject. By his vote he desired only to assert the principle of Home Rule, and to reserve for himself absolute freedom of action with regard to the ulterior question of the retention or exclusion of the Irish Members from that House.
§ COLONEL E. HUGHES (Woolwich)
As one of the new Members, I desire to make a few observations on this important question of Home Rule. I believe the Irish living in England do not desire separation; but many of the Irish living in Ireland, except Ulster, have been taught by agitators to believe in separation. At the last Election, after the Irish voters in my constituency of Woolwich—some 220—had promised me their votes, the order came down from the Irish Nationalists that I was to be supported. A notice was posted outside the Catholic church to that effect. I at once held a meeting of the Irish voters, and the question of separation was proposed as an amendment to my promise of equal laws; the separation was only supported by two votes. I am, therefore, as the Representative of our Irish fellow-countrymen in my constituency, pledged to vote for the Union of the two countries. But what has happened lately? Why, the hon. Members for North Leitrim and North Mayo, on the 31st of March last, held a meeting at Woolwich, and the Chairman, a Mr. Bell, opened by saying that—The Irish meant never to cease agitating until they were a seperate nation.The hon. Member for North Leitrim 1210 (Mr. Conway) did not object to this opening speech; but proceeded to say that one Irish Member was worth two Tories, and the "Irish chaps" could turn the balance of Parties just as it might answer their interests best. The hon. Member for North Mayo (Mr. Crilly) did not object to the opening speech either; but, on the contrary, is reported to have said—They would not cease to agitate till Ireland was a free nation.In April there was a meeting in Greenwich, when the Rev. Father Ryan said—They might depend that the time of Ireland's freedom had come, when a British Prime Minister brought in a Bill for the Repeal of the Union.This is the opinion of one of the constituents of the former Member for Greenwich—the Prime Minister. The hon. Members for Mid Tipperary (Mr. Mayne) and South Donegal (Mr. Kelly) attended this meeting at Greenwich, and did not object to this statement in their presence. These four Members at the two meetings I have referred to went as delegates from the Irish National League only a few weeks ago, and I am bound to come to the conclusion that they do approve and desire the Repeal of the Union. This policy of separation has been tried elsewhere, notably in the case of Italy and Sicily, and has resulted in the two being one country. At one time it was proposed that Sicily and Naples should be incorporated in one common Parliament. Sicilians would not consent. Lord Palmerston advocated the incorporation as being most suitable to the actual state of Europe. He said—Sicily, although a fine Island, full of natural resources and inhabited by a highly-gifted people, is nevertheless not large enough to be, in the present state of the world, a really independent country; and were it entirely separated from Naples, it would soon run the risk of becoming an object of contest for foreign influence, and of sinking at last into the condition of satellite to some of the more powerful States of Europe.These words seem to be singularly appropriate to the present case; you have only to substitute Ireland for Sicily, and you have an opinion to which we would all pay great deference. The great evil I notice in this controversy is that plain words are not used. The pro- 1211 posal before the House is called "a modification of the Union," and not separation. Might I ask the hon. and learned Attorney General whether he would introduce this misuse of terms into legal procedure? For instance, after a decree for judicial separation, the fiscal unity is preserved by the payment of alimony, nor can any alliances be formed by the separated parties; will he in future call this a petition for "the modification of the Union," and not, as now, for judicial separation? The plan before us is said to be without a rival; well, so far as it tends to a repeal of the Union, I hope it may always remain so. The argument in its favour by its proposer seems to be that he has tried everything—cordials and astringents—and still the patient does not recover. I say the obvious inference is, change the doctor; and in support of this view I fearlessly state that when Conservatives have been in Office the population of Ireland has increased, and when Liberals have been in Office the population has diminished. A diagnosis of the disease shows first poverty, then naturally discontent, afterwards foreign paid agitation, and, finally, revolution—the cause is poverty. Industrial employment for the people is the first element of national contentment. I would sooner spend £50,000,000 in providing employment than in merely changing landlords; and those supporters of this Bill who have started factories abroad, to get the advantage of cheap labour and compete with their own countrymen, would have done better as politicians had they spent that money in Ireland. The remedy proposed will have the effect not only of preventing capital being invested in Ireland, but that which is there now will be withdrawn on the first opportunity, and so the poverty will increase. Shifting the responsibility for the future on to the Irish Parliament, or, in other words, on to the Irish National League, will not lessen poverty, for that League cannot support itself without voluntary and involuntary contributions. If the members of the League had proposed legislation themselves, if they had asked for equal laws and been refused by this Parliament, then they would have some case against us. I am ready, as I have said, to vote for equal laws; and I believe those can be better framed with the assistance of the experienced Members 1212 of this House than by a new House composed of those Members only who have had but little experience in constructive legislation. Why should not Irishmen in Ireland be as happy as Irishmen in England? If the laws were the same it could only be a question of "industrial employment." I am glad to believe that the solution of this question rests with the independent Members of this House. I know that an independent Member is described as one not to be depended upon; that is so in the sense that we will not follow blindly the lead of anyone, but will exercise our own judgment. What else are we sent here for? I understood the hon. and junior Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) to say, the other day, that he would follow the Prime Minister as far as he could see, and further, if he thought the Prime Minister could see. That is to say, when it had become dark to him he would still follow. This is not independence; it is blind adulation. The Conservatives might have been in Office now if they had not offended the Irish Party by an early declaration that they meant to have the law obeyed. We did not ally ourselves with the Irish Party. The prophecy of the late Attorney General, the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), did not come true. This is what the right hon. and learned Member said at Leicester during the Election—The Tories were allying themselves with those whose open and avowed object was the dismemberment of the country. The Tory Party were now brought to the humiliation of retaining their position by an alliance with those whom a few months ago they were denouncing as rebels; they had a temporary triumph; but a day of reckoning would assuredly come. The judgment that ever was passed upon political crime would surely be recorded, and the sentence that followed that judgment would have to be borne before long. If they saw the Conservative Party in power they could only be in Office by hope of the numerical strength of the Irish Party. Mr. Parnell would demand his price. If the Leaders of the Conservative Party were willing to pay the price of his support there would be men in the ranks of the Conservative Party who would rebel against further degradation and humiliation; public opinion would express itself against it.These observations intended for the Conservative Party now exactly fit the Liberal Party; and I am very glad to know that the secessions foretold will be found as much on one side of the House as the other, when any proposal is made 1213 that is dangerous to the Empire. This most unnatural coalition that now exists between the Prime Minister and the Irish Party must be met by the coalition of Liberal Constitutionalists with Conservatives. If they had come over earlier and helped us the present difficulty might have been avoided; but better late than never. It is not a time to care which noble Marquess is Prime Minister, so that we get the Parliamentary coach out of the rut and put the driving into firmer hands. A great deal has been said about the eternal principles of truth and justice. I always understood that one of those principles was to do unto others as he would wish to be done unto. Is it right, therefore, because we do not want to sit with Irish Members in this House, to ask the Ulster Members to do so in a separate Parliament? Is it right, when we dissolve a partnership to get rid of a bad partner, that we should compel one of our good partners—Ulster—to join the expelled one in the new business? And to enforce this new interpretation of right and justice to make war upon Ulster to compel them to leave us and join the new firm—would such a war be coercion or not? Would such a war be popular? I ask the apostles of truth and justice on what principles they refuse to acknowledge the vested interest of Ulster in the partnership of the United Kingdom, and deny them any future part in the goodwill of a business which they have assisted to create? I speak to commercial men—was ever such a monstrous proposal heard of in the name of justice? When the Transvaal was declared British territory, our traders followed the flag, and in the disgraceful abandonment that afterwards ensued they lost thousands of pounds by trusting to the words of British statesmen—the vindication of the Queen's authority was interpreted to mean a relinquishment of that authority. So in Ulster, capital has been invested on the faith of the Union. Who is to assess the loss that must arise if this Bill passes? Nay, by the mere introduction of this Bill losses are already incurred and capital is shifting. When this nation begins to forget its commercial responsibilities, we may expect to end by repudiating the National Debt. The Earl of Dalhousie, at Liverpool, in supporting a separate Parliament, said— 1214We must not begin by cutting off the richest and most orderly Province from the rest of the country.If it be bad for the poor and disorderly part of Ireland to lose so good a neighbour as Ulster, it must be still worse to lose so good a neighbour as England. Noble Lords and hon. Members do not follow their own arguments to their inevitable conclusions. The steadying influence of Ulster is not equal to the steadying influence of Ulster and Great Britain combined; and yet I am called upon to abandon my common sense, and believe in truth and justice as expounded by the present Prime Minister. As long ago as 1797, Edmund Burke wrote these words, which are as true now as when they were written. He said—The closest connection between Great Britain and Ireland is essential to the well being—I had almost said to the very being—of the two Kingdoms. I think, indeed, that Great Britain would be ruined by the separation of Ireland; but as there are degrees of ruin it would fall most heavily upon Ireland. By sueh a separation Ireland would be the most completely undone country in the world; the most wretched, the most distracted, and, in the end, the most desolate part of the habitable globe. Little do many people in Ireland consider how much of its prosperity has been owing to, and still depends upon, its intimate connection with this Kingdom.The Prime Minister, in introducing the Bill, spoke of foreign garb, and that there was necessarily some antipathy between the Irish and English; but in the Manifesto he said—"Deal with the matter as a matter between brothers." I do not understand being foreigners and brothers; if the latter, why not under the same laws and in the same House? I can quite understand a certain class in this country, on financial grounds, objecting to these Bills, because it is that class which would have to bear any loss that might arise, and they are justified in their opposition. The guarantees for securing the due payment of the subsidy to England seem to me to imply distrust—in short, we cannot trust our money to the new Irish Parliament; but it is proposed to trust it with that which is far more precious—namely, the liberties, property, and even lives of every man, woman, and child in Ireland. With regard to the new Land Bill, how many have we had, all of which were passed on a promise of finality? First, the Land Act, which was to be final; then, in two years, the Land Purchase Act, which was 1215 to be more final; and now another Land Bill, which is to be most final. Some of the present landowners are resident and others non-resident, the latter portion are condemned as absentees, and yet it is proposed to buy them all out, and make one large absentee landlord, who in a foreign garb will collect his rent or interest—the step from a "No Rent" Manifesto to a "No Interest" Manifesto is easy. I would rather expend the £50,000,000 in planting manufacturing industries among the Irish; for variety of employments has the advantage that depression in one trade may be alleviated by prosperity in another; but the great point, and the first point, so often insisted upon, is the restoration of law and order, which will never be effectually done until the Irish Question ceases to be the battle ground of political Parties, and the best men on both sides combine to rule—this is now the immediate question before us. I care not for details any more than the Prime Minister, whether the future measure shall be extension of local government only, or a larger scheme for federation, which appeals to our imagination. The sentiment of the Kingdom, which is self-preservation, will not permit this retrograde step of disintegration; and if there be any doubt about it the constituencies must be consulted, and the folly be first sanctioned by those who will have to suffer for it. The people of the United Kingdom are justly proud of our Imperial position; we can govern scattered all over the world 305,000,000. Are we to confess "except in Ireland?" No! Let us all face the difficulty with resolution. It is only cowards who resort to political suicide. I have viewed that beautiful statue erected to Germania on the Niederwald. I rejoice in the unity of Italy, the result of a patriotic desire; and I cannot and will not believe that this British House of Commons will prove false to its traditions, or fail to uphold the dignity and integrity of the Empire.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. BRYCE) (Aberdeen, S.)
Sir, there is one point, at any rate, in which I can join with the hon. Member who has just sat down, and that is in the desire he has expressed that the constituencies should be consulted upon this subject. I can assure him there will be no unwillingness 1216 on the part of Her Majesty's Government to take the opinion of the constituencies. Before I address myself to the Constitutional questions which were brought before the House on Thursday night, I desire to say one word upon the speech which fell from the hon. Member for the Gower Division of Glamorganshire (Mr. Yeo), in which he avowed his intention of voting for the second reading of the Bill on the ground that he looked upon the creation of a separate Legislature for Ireland as the cardinal principle of the Bill, and intimated also that he would not consider himself bound by that vote as to the arrangements he might support in Committee with regard to the functions to be discharged here by the Irish Members after the passing of the Bill. I recommend that practical and sensible view to the consideration of the House. That is what we consider to be the principle of the Bill. It is a Bill for establishing a Legislature in and for Ireland, and the question as to the amount of participation in Imperial concerns, which the Irish Members should subsequently take, is a question of detail. It is very largely a question of what I may call machinery, which the House cannot profitably discuss at the present stage. And now I will venture to say a few words upon those Constitutional aspects of this matter which were brought before it on Thursday by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) in a speech which, I think, was marked by all that refinement of sentiment and fairness of view which so eminently characterize the words of my right hon. and learned Friend. He discussed the question with great minuteness, but not with more minuteness than its importance demands. I hope the House will pardon me if I am obliged, in following my right hon. and learned Friend, to enter into a somewhat technical argument, for the House will unquestionably feel that this Constitutional question is a very important one. Nothing can be more important than that in passing a measure like this we should base it on firm legal grounds, and that we should clearly understand what relation the law we are asked to pass is to bear to the political action that is to go on under it. I do not think anything better deserves the attention of the House, and I hope the House will suffer 1217 me to deal somewhat minutely with it. My right hon. and learned Friend laid down three propositions. The first was that by this Bill the unity of the Empire would be destroyed; the second, that the Imperial Parliament would not be able, henceforth, to legislate for Ireland; and the third, that the Sovereignty of the Imperial Parliament would disappear. My right hon. and learned Friend said that the unity of the Empire was created by the union of Parliament. What, was there no unity of the British Empire before 1800? Were we not one Empire during that century of glory which ended in 1800, when the foundations of our Indian and Colonial Dominion were laid, when so many wars were waged by British soldiers and sailors? Or how can it be said that there will be less unity of the Empire under the Bill than there was between 1782 and 1800, when there were two Crowns, two Armies, and two Mutiny Acts? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.): Two Crowns?] Yes; two Crowns, I say. The Parliament of Ireland claimed the right of disposing of the Regency in a way different from the Parliament of England; and, therefore, even as regards that vital matter of the Crown, there was not the same unity between 1782 and 1800 as will exist under this Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend said the union of the Crown in the same person did not make a United Kingdom, and he cited the case of Hanover; but he forgot that when our Sovereigns were Electors of Hanover they were Members of the Holy Roman Empire, and after that Empire had vanished, became, in 1815, Members of the Germanic Confederation. When he says that that which makes unity of laws is the unity of the law-making power, does he remember that in a country which has long been united, and which in every decade of its existence tends to become more and more united—I mean the United States of North America—there are 38 separate Legislatures which enjoy within their proper sphere supreme legislative power? These Legislatures are entirely uncontrolled by the Federal Congress on certain subjects—subjects of wide compass and great consequence. Not only in the different States are the laws different, but the spirit in which these State laws are administered 1218 is different. The noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) said, on the first night of the debate, that he looked upon it as a most important thing that an Englishman should find himself at home if he travelled to Ireland; but that he could not do that if the laws of Ireland were to be not only different in themselves, but also administered by a different Executive, and in a different spirit. This is exactly what happens in the United States. If a citizen travels from Massachusetts or Pennsylvania to Arkansas or Texas, he will find that the laws are different; that the Executive authority is different and independent; and that the laws are administered in a very different and sometimes unfortunate manner; but that does not prevent citizens of the United States who travel out of one State into another from feeling themselves everywhere at home. The second argument of my right hon. and learned Friend was that under the Bill the Imperial Parliament would not be able to legislate for Ireland. He cannot mean that it will not be able to do so for Imperial purposes, because that power is expressly reserved by the Bill. But, he says, can it legislate for other purposes? He says—"Perhaps it can, as a matter of abstract right." But what difference is there between an abstract right and any other kind of right? None whatever. There, indeed, is a difference between two kinds of rights—rights which you put in constant exercise, and rights which you suffer to lie dormant. We have the right in this Parliament to legislate for Ireland, and we shall continue to have it when the Bill becomes an Act. We shall retain, as a matter of pure right, the power to legislate for Ireland for all purposes whatever, for the simple reason that we cannot divest ourselves of it. There is no principle more universally admitted by Constitutional jurists than the absolute omnipotence of Parliament. This omnipotence exists because there is nothing beyond Parliament or behind Parliament. We are sitting here as the nation, the whole nation; we are not delegates entrusted, like the American Congress, with specified and limited powers; we represent the whole British nation, which has committed to us the plenitude of its authority, and has provided no method of national action except through our 1219 votes. And we have, therefore, full power to legislate for every purpose. We are not checked or restrained, as is the Congress of the United States, or any other Body existing under a written Constitution, because the whole force and power reside in us to be exercised within these walls. The Irish Members, I am sure, know perfectly that this is so. It is not a question of their asking us whether we will agree to divest ourselves of this power, because we cannot do so. There is one limitation, and one only, upon our omnipotence, and that is that we cannot bind our successors. If we pass a Statute purporting to extinguish our right to legislate on any given subject, or over any given district, it may be repudiated and repealed by any following Parliament—aye, even by this present Parliament on any later day. What then, I may be asked, is the position in which we are to be placed after the concessions proposed in this Bill? It will be this. While the ultimate right to legislate will reside in, and for all English, Scottish, and Imperial purposes will be exercised by, the Imperial Parliament, we shall have conceded to the Irish Legislature the right to legislate on subjects upon which we do not intend to exercise the right of legislating ourselves. This is exactly what we have done with our Colonies. We have yielded to them self-governing powers; the Colonies exercise those powers; and we rarely interfere with the exercise of those powers by them. But it has been pointed out that in the Colonial Acts we had expressly reserved all legislative power to the Imperial Parliament. If my right hon. and learned Friend were here, I could show him that the reservation he seemed to refer to in the Act of 1865 had a purpose and meaning different from that which he imagines. In the Act of 1867, which created the Dominion Legislature of Canada, there is no express reservation of the legislative power of the Imperial Parliament, yet since then the Imperial Parliament has legislated for Canada by passing Merchant Shipping Acts, a Copyright Act, and other measures which are now in force in the Dominion. This, I think, disposes of the second objection of my right hon. and learned Friend. His question was—"Does the Imperial Parliament retain its power of legislating?" I say, as a matter of strict 1220 law, it does, but subject to the moral obligation of not exercising its right save in case of necessity. My right hon. and learned Friend did me the honour to refer to an expression I had once used in speaking elsewhere of our Constitution, when I said it was flexible, and not, like the Constitution of the United States, rigid; and he asks—"Will you destroy the flexibility of our Constitution?" I answer, "No; it will remain flexible as before." But I may be asked—"What is the effect of Clause 39? That clause says this Act shall be altered only with the presence of Irish Members; if it does not preclude Parliament from dealing in their absence with certain subjects, what is the use of putting it in the Bill?" It was stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) that this clause is in the nature of a Parliamentary compact; and I venture to use that term in order to explain a little more fully what I believe was in the mind of my right hon. Friend. We mean by a Parliamentary contract an engagement made by a Statute which, although it cannot legally bind a succeeding Parliament, or even the existing Parliament, nevertheless has the effect of imposing a moral obligation upon Parliament not to act contrary to this Statute. Such engagements are constantly made by Parliament. When powers are granted to Railway Companies and Municipalities, a species of Parliamentary contract is entered into with them; and those who lend money to the Municipality, or take shares in the Company, do so on the faith of the engagement made by the Act which constitutes the Body. This is exactly what will be done under Clause 39. Under that clause we shall have given an undertaking that when we wish to alter this Act, or in any way to vary the position which the Irish Legislature and Ireland will hold towards us under it, we will summon back the Irish Members in order to take counsel together upon the subject. Even if that clause did not stand in the Bill, we should be bound in honour and good faith to do something of the kind; and all the clause does is to put, in a clear and definite form, what the obligation will be. This contract, like most contracts, is a two-sided engagement. On our side it binds us not to repeal this 1221 Statute, or to alter it, or to do anything inconsistent with it, so as to prejudice the position of Ireland without summoning the Irish Members; and, on the other hand, it binds the Irish Parliament, on its part, to observe in good faith the Statute in spirit as well as in letter, to act fairly under it, not to abuse or pervert the powers which it gives. While Ireland, through her Parliament, observes this contract, we shall be bound to observe our part of it; and so long as Ireland is faithful to the intentions of the Act in that way, so long will it be our duty, if we desire to modify the Act, to summon the Irish Members here. But if the Irish Parliament should violate the spirit and meaning of the Act, we, on our side, shall be released from our obligation; and then that which is in any case a legal right on our side would become also a moral right, because a breach of the contract on their side would entitle us to use our full legal rights. Now, the imposition of such a moral obligation as this is not a change which will alter the general character of the Constitution. It will leave the sovereignty of Parliament and the consequent flexibility of the Constitution as they were before, since means are provided whereby we can repeal the Act and regain any freedom which it may be supposed we are now morally, though not legally, parting with. Coming now to what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) has said about the functions of the Courts under this Bill, I desire to call attention to the matter, because I am afraid that hon. Members may be misled by the reference which he has made to the position of the Privy Council as compared with that of the Supreme Court of the United States. Now, in the United States Congress cannot deal with the decisions of the Supreme Court, because those decisions are delivered as interpretations of the written Constitution, the instrument which creates Congress, and which is the supreme law of the land everywhere. The Supreme Court is out of the reach of Congress, not because it is a Law Court, but because it is the authorized interpreter, or, as one may say, the living voice of a document superior in authority to the will of Congress. But in this country Parliament is above the Privy Council, because we have no 1222 written Constitution, and all the Courts are bound to obey the will of Parliament. Therefore, we shall not tie our hands, as the hands of Congress are tied. Under this Act Parliament will still be above the House of Lords, above the Privy Council, above all the Courts of Law anywhere within the Queen's Dominions. No conflict can therefore arise between the decisions of the English and the Irish Judges. There can be no conflict, because the Bill provides that in every case there shall be an appeal to a final Court of Appeal, and the decision of that Court will govern the action of every subordinate Court, whether Irish or English. In cases where the construction of this Act is in question the appeal lies to the Privy Council; in ordinary cases it lies to the House of Lords; but in any case it will be final; therefore there can by no possibility be two sets of Courts continuing to give contradictory decisions. I admit that the system under this Bill is complicated. It cannot be otherwise, for the complication is in the facts with which we have to deal; but consider how complicated the British Constitution itself is. We have superadded to the complications of our Constitutional Common Law and Constitutional Statutes a number of understandings and conventions which are so various and so vague and so delicate that an intelligent stranger reading and studying them in our law books would pronounce the whole system incapable of working. Sir W. Anson, in his recently-published excellent treatise on the English Constitution, says—If our Constitution were stripped bare of convention and displayed in its legal nakedness, it would be found not only unrecognizable, but unworkable.That is perfectly true, and the Constitution becomes workable only by those conventions and understandings which are superadded to its letter. We are not the only country which is in the position of having to conduct its government by intricate devices. In one way or other this problem of reconciling unity of government with local autonomy and national diversities has confronted nearly all the States of modern Europe. Some countries have tried and have succeeded, as in the case of Austria-Hungary and the new Germanic Empire. I do not deny that difficulties are found in working the dual system in the 1223 Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. But how infinitely better is the political condition of all its parts; how much more stable its fabric than in the days before 1867, when the rights of Hungary were ignored and the semblance of unity maintained by the disciples of Metternich. The relations of the Imperial Germanic Legislature to the large States which form part of that Empire, and which, I believe, has not been referred to in these debates, well deserve study. Bavaria is a State with a population about equal to that of Ireland, and it is a State in many respects, not only as regards religion, but in the character and habits of its people, very unlike the great North German State whose influence is paramount in the Germanic Body. Yet it has been found possible, since 1870, for Bavaria to work harmoniously with Prussia. I will give another instance, which is rather a curious one. It is an instance on a small scale, because the population of the Island is small; but it relates to a country which ought to be interesting to us, not only from the ties of blood which unite us to its people, but from the splendour, unrivalled in the modern world, of its early literature—I mean the case of Iceland. [Cries of "Oh!" from the Opposition.] Hon. Members opposite seem curiously anxious to have no information upon this subject. I suppose they would rather I should tread again the weary round of hackneyed arguments which we have listened to from those Benches, than that I should endeavour to throw light upon the subject by means of some new illustration. For 30 years the people of Iceland—a poor and scattered, though a high-spirited people—sustained a struggle against the power of the Danish Monarchy. They demanded legislative independence; they protested against being governed by and from Denmark; and when Denmark offered them a voice and a seat in her Diet they refused it, because they would be in a minority there, and because that Body, as they said, cared nothing and knew nothing about their concerns. In 1874 the Danish Government at last yielded, and conceded what may be called legislative independence to the Icelandic Parliament. Ever since then things have gone on with comparative smoothness and harmony. The Icelanders are not yet contented, because 1224 they desire that the seat of administration, which the Danes keep at Copenhagen, should be transferred to the capital of Iceland. They have, therefore, only got half the Home Rule they demanded, and one-half of the Home Rule we propose to give to Ireland by this Bill.
§ MR. BRYCE
About 1,100; I will make the noble Lord a present of another 100 miles. The distance makes no substantial difference to my argument. It was just as easy for the Danes to say that they knew much better what was good for the Icelanders than the Icelanders did themselves, as for us to say that to Ireland; and it was more obvious—it was even more natural—for them to insist that Home Rule meant separation, than for them to say that Iceland was a poverty-stricken country and could not prosper unless under the wing of Denmark. I wish to read to the House a few lines which I have just received from an eminent Icelander, to whom I had written for the latest information on this subject. He says—The relations between the two countries are now incomparably more peaceful than they were before 1874, owing to the recognition by the Constitution of the Icelanders as a people capable of taking care of themselves; owing to the quieting effect that reliance on recognized national rights engenders; owing to the attention of the people having been diverted from an agitation which left them idle to cultivate the arts of hatred to the multifarious element that constitute the development of internal resources and national progress. A return to the bitter disaffection prevailing previous to 1874 or anything like it is now an impossibility.But, Sir, there is another class of instances furnished us by modern Europe where nations have had this problem presented to them, and where they have shrunk from grappling fairly with it. When confronted by disaffection due to unsatisfied national sentiment, they have refused to recognize and give legitimate scope to that sentiment. What has been the consequence? Do hon. Members recollect that for some years before 1830 there was a constant struggle going on between Holland and Belgium? The Belgians demanded some recognition of 1225 their nationality, some separate institutions for Belgium; the Dutch, in their national pride, refused. In 1830 the Parisian Revolution fanned the embers into flame. The Belgians rose; Holland remained obstinate; and at last, because she had refused moderate concessions, she lost Belgium altogether. The same is the moral of the relations between Denmark and the Duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. During many years the German population of these Duchies continued to plead for a due recognition of their differences from the rest of the Danish Monarchy; but the Danes said—"No; we are and will be one nation; we will make no exception in your favour. You are Danish subjects; Danes you shall be." The Danish language was taught in all the schools of Schleswig, and every spark of German nationality was to be trodden out. What was the consequence? The discontent of Schleswig and Holstein found sympathy in Germany, and the Germanic Powers came in. You will say that there is no great Power to interfere between us and Ireland. That is quite true. It is not always in the same way that these problems are solved. But they find their solution nevertheless, and it is one which punishes the pride and obstinacy of a dominant race. Schleswig and Holstein kept up their discontent so long, that at last the hour arrived for which they had been waiting, and Denmark saw herself deprived of those Provinces which a policy of moderate conciliation would have enabled her to retain. We have also the case of Russia and Poland and Finland. Russia allowed Finland autonomy; and it is at this day a peaceable, prosperous, and contented Province of the Czar's Dominions, inspiring him with no fear of conspiracies or revolts, although the frontier of Finland comes almost to the gates of St. Petersburg. Russia refused to deal in the same spirit with Poland, and what were the consequences? She has, indeed, or she seems to have, crushed Poland; but I ask hon. Members whether they desire to see this country imitate the methods by which Poland has been crushed? This force of nationality is a great force in human affairs. The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Edward Clarke) spoke on Thursday night with some contempt of the feeling of nationality. 1226 I do not say that it is always a good thing. It is one of those sentiments which, though primarily and usually good, because it binds men together by a common devotion to a fine idea, may also become a destroying power and the instrument of evil. It works for good or ill, just as you choose to treat it. But it is a force which Governments ignore at their peril. I submit that the wise and prudent course for statesmen to take is by giving such recognition as they can to the principle of nationality to make it what it ought to be, a fertilizing stream, and not a devastating torrent—a means of fostering and ennobling national life, and not a source of disaffection and hatred. Sir, I am surprised at some of the speeches on this side as regards the motives for bringing in this Bill. There was a speech made by the hon. and learned Member for Somerset (Mr. Hobhouse), in which he asked why we could not do for Ireland in this House everything we thought she needed? My hon. and learned Friend did not sit in the last Parliament. If he had done so, I think that, with his fair mind, he would not have asked such a question. What did we see in the last Parliament? There was much Irish legislation; there was, indeed, very little else than Irish legislation; but it was almost always opposed by the Irish Nationalist Members; and we on this side of the House, who promoted it, never had the satisfaction of feeling that it was the kind of legislation which the Irish people wanted. We complained of the behaviour of those Members; but we came at last to feel that they were justified in declaring that this House is not a fit place wherein to legislate for Ireland. We are accused of putting forward this Bill as a counsel of despair. Sir, I do not support it as a counsel of despair; I do not support it as the only alternative to a long course of coercion, although I believe such coercion to be the only alternative policy; but I support it because I believe it to be a good thing in itself. I believe that Ireland will be better legislated for in a Legislature in Dublin by its own Members, because that Legislature will be in sympathy with the feelings and will understand the needs of its fellow-citizens. We, in this Parliament—English and Scotch Members—are ignorant of the wants of the Irish 1227 people. We vote at the sound of the division bell, as the Party Whips tell us. ["Oh!"] That has certainly been the rule of hon. Members opposite, even more than of Members on this side; and what does the Government do? The Government is guided by its Chief Secretary, and the Chief Secretary is guided by the permanent officials at Dublin Castle, so that to talk of Ireland having any real self-government is altogether idle, because Ireland is governed in and through this House, in which Irish Members are in a small, and usually, also, an unpopular minority. Now that so many of us are being reproached with recent conversions on this subject, I should like to read to the House a few sentences of an article which I wrote three years ago, in order to show that I, at any rate, have not changed my opinion on this point. This is what I wrote—Acts are passed for Ireland, administrative policies are adopted in Ireland, and defended by the Government on the floor of the House of Commons, which those who know Ireland know to be mistakes, sure to end in failure. If they related to English affairs, English Members would be interested; one could talk to them in private; one could appeal to them in debate; the newspapers would be used: public opinion would check an erring Ministry. But where the mistake relates to Ireland this cannot be done. Since they do not understand Ireland the English and Scotch majority deliver their votes into the hands of the Government, the Government delivers itself into the hands of the Chief Secretary; and even if an English Member here and there is found who, knowing something of Ireland, can protest against the blunders he sees a Chief Secretary committing, he protests in vain, for he finds no more support in English public opinion or in the Press than he does from his uninformed brother Members.It is idle to think of legislating satisfactorily for Ireland in a House in which the Irish Members constitute a small minority out of sympathy with the majority—a House chiefly composed of Members who have never been in Ireland, and have no direct personal knowledge of Irish conditions and Irish sentiment—a House whose acts and votes are checked and nullified by another and an irresponsible House, in which there is not a single Representative of Irish national feeling. The thing most necessary to us in this matter at this juncture is to look facts fairly and fully in the face. I have felt this strongly in reading the powerful speeches 1228 delivered during the Easter Recess of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen), whom I am sorry not to see in his place. He seems to me to speak like a man who does not see—who, at any rate, does not realize—the dominant facts of the situation. Those who desire a strong, repressive Government for Ireland talk as if, in order to succeed in ruling and pacifying Ireland, England and Scotland need only to put their foot down; and we have had this very day in the newspapers a vigorous and trenchant expression of that view from the Leader of the Tory Party. He says what Ireland wants is a Government that will governConsistently and resolutely for 20 years—a Government that does not flinch, that does not vary—a Government that she cannot hope to beat down by agitations at Westminster—a Government that does not alter in its resolutions or its temperature by the Party changes which take place at Westminster.That is a very happy description of the kind of Government we need from the Head of the late Government, which did not renew the Coercion Act just before the General Election, which courted the favour of the Nationalist Party during the Election, and which proposed to suppress the National League after the General Election, when it saw itself on the point of inevitable defeat. Sir, if we look for a Government that will be resolute for 20 years we are hardly likely to find it in that quarter. Now, I admit that England and Scotland can govern Ireland in that way. We in Great Britain are 30,000,000 of people; we have got the men; we have got the ships and the arms; and we have got the money too; and if Great Britain chooses to put her foot down, she can crush Ireland under an iron heel. But let me ask this question—Is this what the British people wish or mean to do? If our Government were a despotism, Sir, or such an oligarchy as ruled before the Reform Act of 1832, I could understand my right hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen) or the Marquess of Salisbury making this proposition. But what are we? We are a democracy, Sir—a modern democracy. A modern democracy is fitted neither by its methods of government nor by its sentiments for a policy of that sort. A democracy would not consent to, and, if it had consented, would never persist in such a policy. A democracy has a short memory; and 1229 although it might, in a moment of exasperation, pass severe laws, it would soon forget the occasion of those laws and repeal them. A democracy loves equality, and it could not bear to think, as it would be apt to think, that in ruling by stern laws it was oppressing the masses of the people in the interest of a landlord class. A democracy has a tender conscience, and a dislike—perhaps too strong a dislike—of severe methods; it would be pained by the fear that it was doing in justice and sanctioning harshness. A democracy loves freedom, and it would refuse to put into the hands of a Government such as the Marquess of Salisbury contemplates that suspension of the Irish representation, that subjection of Ireland to arbitrary rule, which would be necessary for his purpose. I am not arguing now whether in all this democracy may be right or wrong, or whether we have done foolishly or wisely in making our Government a democracy. With such questions I am not concerned, for what I ask the House is to realize the present facts and their consequences. I say that we are a democracy, and that we must, therefore, govern on democratic principles. I may be asked—"Is it possible, then, for democracies to govern? Are you not admitting that they cannot?" I answer that it is possible for a democracy to govern, but only on democratic principles. This is a point which is convincingly illustrated by the example of the United States. I have noticed that throughout this debate hon. Members have been appealing to the Civil War in America, and the conduct of the Northern States in that supreme crisis, as a reason and precedent for our keeping down Ireland. The argument, when once the facts have been duly mastered, points the other way. A part of the United States rebelled on behalf of one of the worst of causes in which men ever took up arms. The North, animated by a strong sentiment of nationality, and by a hatred of slavery, determined to put that rebellion down, and did put it down. So we, if Ireland were to secede, would determine to keep her attached to this Island, and by force of arms we should succeed. But it is not in war that the chief difficulty lies—it is in governing afterwards. What did the United States do when the Civil War came to an end? First of all, they tried the experiment of governing 1230 the Southern States by military occupation, and they found that that system broke down, because it was impossible to keep the people in subjection and the country tranquil by military force alone. Then they tried to govern it by the disfranchisement of all who took part in the war against the Union; and they handed over the Government to the negroes and a number of Northern adventurers, and that system broke down. Outrages, perpetrated upon the negroes or on the Northern men who had come down into the Carolinas and Tennessee, became frequent, and could not be cheeked by the Civil Authorities. The condition of things in the South during those years was a scandal to the country. Then at last, with the strong practical sense which becomes a free people, and which especially distinguishes the people of America, they came back to their original principles. They set up the Southern States as self-governing communities on the old lines; they restored the suffrage to all citizens, declaring those who had taken part in the war to be exempt from further consequences; and then the outrages came to an end, and those disorderly Southern communities became speedily prosperous and law-abiding. The example of the United States is the strongest possible case you could have to show that a democratic system must be true to itself, and that only so can it succeed. I have endeavoured, in this argument, to address myself to those hon. Gentlemen who follow the lead of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) in denying the need for an Irish Legislature. But there is another group of Members who are also very doubtful as to the support they will give to this Bill. They say they wish to go with us, but that there is one respect in which they desire alterations in the present scheme. They are anxious to retain the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament. I believe that the Government have repeatedly stated that they look on the whole question of the presence of Irish Members in this House for Imperial purposes as a question open for unprejudiced consideration in Committee. Do my hon. Friends desire anything further? Do they wish the Irish Members to remain here for all purposes? Do they mean that these Members shall vote upon 1231 English and Scotch Bills not affecting their own constituents—Bills as to which they have neither interest nor responsibility? Do they also wish every question that has been fought out in the Irish Parliament to be fought again over here? Such a scheme would be so contrary to the principle and purpose of this Bill, that I can only suppose that my hon. Friends mean that Irish Members should vote on none but Imperial questions. If that be so, they will make a great mistake if they oppose this Bill, which does not conclude this question, and which, as has been intimated by the First Lord of the Treasury, is susceptible of Amendments such as they desire. As to the cases of Scotland and Wales, these are cases which are not now before us. I do not believe that there exists in Scotland any demand for a separate Legislature. If ever such a demand is made by the Scottish people with anything resembling the volume of demand now made by Ireland, it will be time enough for us to consider it; and when it is considered it will be dealt with upon its own merits. No one who knows the Scottish people will doubt that they will obtain whatever they seek. But I venture to ask hon. Members below the Gangway whether they have realized the effect of the decision they will give if they vote against this Bill? We are exposed here to what I may call a triple fire. Besides the fire that comes from the Benches opposite, and that we receive from some of those who sit behind us—the noble Marquess and those who act with him—we have had, if not a volley, yet some dropping shots—I hope they will be nothing more than dropping shots—from below the Gangway. I ask those hon. Members to consider what the result will be if they join the noble Marquess and the Tory Party in throwing out the Bill? We know what the Tory policy is. It is force. It is repression, prolonged and stern repression. What did the Marquess of Salisbury tell his followers on Saturday night? "Remember," he said to them, "that you are the most powerful Party." Yes, Sir; they are numerically the most powerful of the Parties opposed to this Bill; and if this Bill should be rejected, and the reins of Government should unhappily pass to them, it is their policy that will and must prevail. Do hon. Members below the Gangway who 1232 quarrel with this Bill on some of its minor details—do they reflect that the consequence of their vote will be to throw power into the hands of the Tory Party, and open up for Ireland another era of coercion for the two peoples, another era of exasperation and hatred? I do not wish to use a single word of reproach to hon. Members below the Gangway. I know perfectly well that most of them—nearly all of them—are acting from high and pure motives. I believe that many of them are acting in a way that is painful to themselves, and in a spirit, I may say, of self-sacrifice. But I do ask them to consider seriously whether they are not playing the game of their opponents; whether they are not being made a cat's-paw of; whether they are not throwing away, if they vote against this Bill, out of dislike to some of its details, and in the hope, apparently, of what they call a federal scheme—which they will not get from the Party opposite—whether they are not throwing away the best chance offered us in this century of healing the secular strife between the two countries? The opinion of the whole Irish race throughout the world has welcomed this Bill—has expressed its gratitude for it. [Laughter from the Opposition.] I am glad of that scornful laugh. It shows the sentiments which hon. Members opposite entertain. It shows how low is their view of human nature, as well as of Irish human nature, when they cannot feel the worth of such a welcome. We, I hope, do feel both touched and encouraged by the reception which the Irish race throughout the world has given to this Bill. [An hon. MEMBER: What about Ulster?] I ask hon. Members whether, in view of that reception, and with the hope which this measure holds out, they are ready again to launch us on that angry sea of perplexities on which we have been tossed since 1801? Sir, the pride and the fears of a certain section of Liberal Members, and what I venture to call the shortsightedness of another section of Liberal Members, may endanger this Bill; but we shall feel, whatever happens, great comfort and satisfaction in the thought that the relations of the Liberal Party, and I will say, also, of the English people, to the Irish people are now different from what they have ever been before since the Act of Union. It was painful to many of us in the last Parlia- 1233 ment to have so often to vote against the Irish. Members when we knew that, although we might think them misguided, they were acting for what they held to be the interests of their country, and in obedience to its will. I hope that all that is at an end, and that the Irish people will know, henceforth, that they have friends and helpers in England. Sir, the democracy of England—the new-born democracy of England—is prepared to do what is right by the Irish people; and I trust that the knowledge of its purpose and its sympathy will enable the Irish people to await in a calm and law-abiding spirit the fulfilment of their wishes—wishes whose justice we have now, at last, admitted, and for which, in this House and out of this House, on every platform in Great Britain, we shall not cease to do battle.
§ MR. A. W. HALL (Oxford)
The House has listened with great interest to the able speech of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; but it is quite evident that the hon. Gentleman feels that the battle he is fighting is a losing one. Indeed the hon. Gentleman attempted to fulfil a difficult task, which is altogether incapable of fulfilment, when he attempted to answer the arguments of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James). I will not say how far I think the hon. Gentleman has succeeded in demolishing those arguments, because it is impossible that my opinion on the subject should coincide with his own. Nor will I follow him in his researches, which took him as far as the North Pole. Those researches were interesting, but I think the remark of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) considerably demolished their relevance. The hon. Gentleman attempted to startle the House by the announcement that we are on the eve of a Dissolution. Speaking for this side of the House, I may say that we are in no degree afraid of a Dissolution; and I have no doubt the hon. Gentleman feels that, whatever alterations or concessions may be made or can be made in regard to the Bill, it is absolutely impossible that it should pass into law. I think, nevertheless, that we had a right to expect that the Prime Minister would regard the verdict of this House, when it shall have been delivered, as something approaching a final verdict. I should 1234 have thought that the Prime Minister would recollect, and no one more gladly, that the Parliament is one which has not only been in existence for a very short time, but that it is also a Parliament mainly of his own creation. It is the most democratic Parliament probably that ever sat within these walls; and yet we are now told by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that so little can it be trusted to represent the opinion of the people of the country, both educated and uneducated, that if it rejects this Bill it is to be immediately dissolved. [Irish cheers.] No doubt, the Irish Members will be glad to find any escape from the consequences of a defeat. I would submit this to the House generally, as well as to the Irish Members—that it is impossible for the Bill to pass into law. Everybody knows that it cannot; and under such circumstances it must be for the interests of everybody concerned, and particularly for the interests of Ireland, that it should be rejected by a large majority. Its rejection by a large majority will tend to clear away, at all events for a time, the wild visions which are entertained by some of the Irish people, at the instigation of the Nationalist Party, of some phantom independent Parliament which we, the English nation, will never grant, and which it is simply idle to attempt to create. Therefore, I venture to submit that the best thing the Irish Members can do is to accept the defeat which this House in its wisdom will give them—although I certainly do not expect them to do so with anything like a good grace. As far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, I think the best course for them to adopt is to accept their fall as gracefully as they can, and to endeavour by really wise and salutary laws—[An Irish MEMBER: Coercion and emigration.]—to establish the future commercial prosperity of Ireland. There cannot be the slightest possibility of a doubt that the House of Commons cannot accept this Bill. If it were to be passed the future status of the House of Commons, as has been clearly shown by the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James), would be completely revolutionized, and not only revolutionized, but it would take an entirely different form from anything this generation has ever 1235 known; because, instead of being the supreme power in the State, it would have to acknowledge the presence of a rival Parliament, which, if not co-equal and co-ordinate with itself, would eventually become co-equal and co-ordinate. I confess that I am jealous, and I hope that other hon. Members are also, of the dignity of this House; and if there are no other reasons against this Bill—and the air is full of such reasons—I should vote against it and work against it simply because it has been clearly proved, in the course of this debate, that in a substantial degree it would derogate from the dignity and the power and the honour of this House. That assertion will, of course, be questioned not only by those who support the Bill, but by the Irish Members; but if it is denied that the new Parliament proposed for Ireland is to be co-equal and co-ordinate with the Imperial Parliament, I am certainly surprised that the Irish Members should seek to resign their proud position as Members of this ancient and famous Assembly to become Members of this brand new Legislative Assembly on College Green. It is only on the hypothesis that instead of a mere debating Assembly the Parliament on College Green is to be the powerful Parliament of a separate nation that they are willing to make an exchange which on any other hypothesis would be ludicrous. It is a good gauge of what the Imperial House of Commons will lose by the Bill when Irish Members are willing to exchange their future position in it for one in the Irish Parliament. I believe that the instincts of this House and of the people out-of-doors would be altogether against any derogation of the dignity of the House of Commons, and of any shrinkage of the national horizon. Then why not follow our instincts? If we had done so the Bill would never have got beyond a first reading. It is only out of respect to the Prime Minister—a respect which would be accorded to no other living man—that the House of Commons has consented to read this Bill a first time, and thus to enter upon a path which the Chief Secretary called a path of peace; but which most people consider to be a path not of peace, but of war, which will lead us neither to security nor to glory. It has been said that we cannot govern a people except by their 1236 own consent. But by whose consent? We think it would be by the consent of the majority of the people of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) told us the other night that Ireland was a nation. Since then, however, we have heard that she consists of two nations. I do not care whether Ireland is one or two nations; at any rate, she is not a foreign nation, but an integral part of the British Empire; and the question we have to ask ourselves is, what proportion does she bear to the whole? It is admitted that in the past Ireland has been atrociously misgoverned; but surely England has done much of late years to entitle her to absolution, having freely confessed and atoned for the faults of bygone generations. We fully admit, and will go on admitting it, it will give the Irish Members pleasure that Ireland has been atrociously misgoverned in the past. One cannot read of the misgovernment of Ireland without a blush of shame at the selfishness of English traders; and there was never greater mischief done than when the Irish Parliament itself consented to become the medium whereby the woollen industry was choked and throttled in that country. Looking back upon the history of the country, one cannot be surprised at that feeling of hatred which, like some malignant demon, seems to spring up from time to time, marring and seeking to crush and stamp out all attempts on the part of this country to atone for the cruel past; but we must not run away even from the demon of hatred; it must be confronted, and we must try to live it down, and to do our best not to deserve its execration. I must also admit that of late years we have not been owning our faults with regard to Ireland. We have treated her, no doubt, too much in the spirit of Party; we have too long allowed Irish affairs to enter into our miserable Party strife and despicable Party calculation, and we are now reaping our reward. We have heard distinguished Members of this House uttering mock heroics over political opponents "stewing in Parnellite juice," and we have then seen them simmering and cooking in that very juice themselves. But now they are ready to confess that, unless the Kingdom is to be rent in twain, nonsense of that sort must be put a stop 1237 to, and that the time has come when English Gentlemen should say to one another—"Brother, brother, we are both in the wrong." A way must be found by which to deal with Ireland and Irish affairs in an Imperial and not in a Party fashion. If the Leaders on both sides are unable to devise means—and I do not deny that there may be difficulties—then we of the rank and file must try to do so, and we have the game pretty much in our own hands. I hope it is not disrespectful to say that the rank and file can do quite as well without the Leaders as the Leaders can do without the rank and file. If that is so, we cannot cast all the responsibility on the Leaders; but we must bear our full share of the blame and responsibility. We are under no temptation such as that which besets hon. and right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Front Benches to be unpatriotic. It is conceivable that a man might be willing to pursue a policy injurious to the country in order to secure the retention of place and power for himself. I do not say that that is ever knowingly done; but the motives may be mixed, and it is quite conceivable; but it is inconceivable that a man should be willing to act in that way in order to secure place and power for somebody else. Therefore, upon us must fall the blame and shame if, in future, Ireland is dealt with in the spirit of Party. If Ireland is not a foreign nation, but an integral portion of the United Kingdom, it is instructive to inquire what proportion she bears to the whole. Her population is 5,000,000, and the population of the rest of the Kingdom 31,500,000. If only the disaffected portion of Ireland be taken into consideration the proportion is 3,000,000 to 33,500,000. Does it not seem hard that 33,500,000 people should be asked to consent to the disintegration of a magnificent Empire in order to please some 3,000,000? We are prepared to give her everything she can reasonably desire, and to give her the same local self-government which we desire for ourselves; but we have a moral right to say that we cannot sanction the disintegration of the Empire, and that we must constrain Ireland for her own good. ["Oh!"] Yes; and not only for her own good, but pre-eminently for the good of our fellow-Protestants in Ulster. We must constrain you to remain 1238 within the Union, because we are bound by every tie which can bind men of honour not to desert the Protestants of Ulster. We know perfectly well that the Loyalists of Ulster look upon their subordination to a Dublin Parliament as the greatest public calamity that could befall them. So strongly do they feel this that, if all the horrors of a Civil War could be placed in one scale and their subjection to a Dublin Parliament in the other, they would declare that Civil War would be easier to bear than subjection to such a Parliament. [Ironical Home Rule cheers.] Irish Members, I notice, jeer whenever that argument is brought forward. I admit that it is not a pleasant argument to put forward; but it is an argument which hon. Members who support this Bill are, nevertheless, bound to keep in sight. No statesman can face the responsibility of driving a section of the British race to bay without qualms of conscience. Do hon. Members who jeer really think that no people can stand to their guns except themselves? I have always been ready to give Irish Members below the Gangway credit for courage and pertinacity. I should like to know whether the time will ever come when hon. Members following the lead of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) will contemplate some real self-sacrifice for the sake of their country. I am far from saying that they are incapable of it; but I have not yet seen one item of self-sacrifice on the part of any one of those hon. Members. I am far from blaming the hon. Member for the City of Cork; but he seems to be a sort of modern Danæ into whose lap the modern Irish-American Jupiter is constantly descending in showers of gold. This is one of those cases in which we have a right to use language of restraint, and to say to the Irish Nationalists that, being within the Union, they must remain within it. We have a precedent for the use of that language. What, I would ask, has this country been doing within the last few days towards Greece? Have you not been using towards her the language of restraint? We have been saying to Greece—"We will compel you to be quiet; we will compel you to disarm; we cannot allow you, a small Power and such a small minority, to provoke a war, the consequences of which you do 1239 not perceive, but which may do you damage." That firm and wise language has been used by Ministers representing both sides of the House—by the Marquess of Salisbury as well as the Earl of Rosebery—and it is backed up by the British Fleet. Is it not the language of restraint? Is it not coercion? Is it not done in the hope that it may lead to peace? If you have the right to say to a foreign nation that they should not take a course which would lead to war, why need you be so mealy-mouthed in dealing with your own people, and go hunting about North, South, East, and West, through Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Canada, and Iceland, looking for instances of divided Empire? There are a great many examples pointing the other way—examples with which the Liberal Party used to sympathize, and with which, I believe, they sympathize still. I need not quote the genius of Cavour, or the stern determination of the United States never to be rent in twain; but I may point to the policy of Prince Bismarck in Germany. Prince Bismarck found a multitude of small States under different laws and different religions; and he fused them, although not without an effort, into one harmonious whole, and he placed on the brow of the Monarch of Prussia the Imperial diadem of Germany. Does the present Chief Secretary wish that the policy of the Liberal Party should be the exact converse of this, and that his great Chief, who finds ready to his hand a magnificent Empire, instead of adding to it, should scatter it, and lay the foundation of its final overthrow? I do not believe that the Liberal Party can look with any satisfaction upon a policy such as that. We are told that we must not go too much into details. That is very strange advice from the greatest master of detail in the world, who for three magic hours kept us listening to little else than detail. If we are to cast detail aside, then the question of high policy which we have to ask ourselves is, whether we are fit, or whether we are not fit, to be an Imperial Power? What would the effect of a policy such as this be upon our Indian Empire? The school of "perish India," if it ever really existed, has itself perished; and no one, as far as I know, has wept many bitter tears in consequence. I would ask the House if we really can consider ourselves fit to hold 1240 India, or ought we to hold India, if we have so little backbone, and so little of the Imperial genius, as not to be able to say "no" to such a proposition as this—the most monstrous and extraordinary proposal ever submitted to our Imperial people. The Chief Secretary, on the first reading of the Bill, if I understood him rightly, told us that those of us who desire to retain the Irish Members are guilty of great inconsistency in not being prepared to vote for an Irish Parliament; but it seems to me that the inconsistency is the other way, and that we are consistent in rejecting the Irish Parliament, and in not wishing to allow the Irish Members to leave this House. We know that they must be somewhere, and, therefore, we wish to have them here. We know that the seat of Irish Government must be somewhere, and we prefer that it should be here, where the scales of justice can be held evenly. We do think that we ought not to trust our Irish fellow-subjects to the chivalry of an Irish Parliament. We think that we have a right to say that the lives and the liberties of the Irish Protestants shall not be subjected to the caprices of the National League under the title and powers of a newly-fashioned Irish Parliament. And, as far as we are concerned, we are determined that no innocent lives shall be subject to the cruelty of the Curtin and the Finlay cases—a cruelty which spared neither age nor sex. The fact is—and the Irish Members know it well—that at present we feel that we are not able to trust the Nationalist Leaders, and that is one of the principal reasons we have for objecting to an Irish Parliament. There are many who know the Irish people who will tell you—and I believe rightly—that if a steadfast policy is pursued now, you may gain the hearts of the Irish people themselves. They will tell you that the Irish people are getting very sick of "Boycotting," and I am not at all sure that they are not sick of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). It is believed, in many quarters, that if this Parliament will only deliver them from the awful tyranny of the National League they and their children will bless us; but if we abdicate our functions and make the League the King of Ireland the result can be nothing but ruin, or, as was so well said the other night—Red ruin and the breaking up of laws,1241 a little flaunting of regal honours by the hon. Member for the City of Cork, then Civil Law, and, finally, the reconquest of Ireland. I do not accuse the Irish Members of want of faith when they say that this Bill would really be accepted by them in good faith as a final settlement, and that their part of the bargain would be scrupulously adhered to. But what I do say is, that no Irish Member has the right or power to make any such promise or any such declaration whatever. It is absolutely impossible for any man to predict that the Irish nation will be able, even if it were willing, to fulfil her part of the bargain with regard to the payment of tribute to this country under the Bill; and, certainly, with Home Rule, and the withdrawal of capital, instead of tribute from Ireland to England, it is more likely that there would be tribute from England to Ireland, to relieve the distress that would undoubtedly prevail in that country. Suppose the tribute is not paid, and cannot be paid, and the people year by year feel the burden more and more—what would be the result? An agitation would arise against the payment of the tribute, and the hon. Member for the City of Cork would ride upon the storm when he saw which way it was going, and prescribe an Independent Republic. [A laugh.] It is very easy for the Irish Members to laugh; but the English Parliament has to think of these things; and I maintain that the hon. Member for the City of Cork would ride upon the popular wave when he saw which way it was going. I should like to say to the Irish Members, if I can do it without disrespect, that their insincere cachinnations prove nothing at all. They cannot deny that the tribute to this country will be paid only with extreme difficulty; and if it be paid only with extreme difficulty there will arise a strong party in Ireland against the payment of it at all. It is quite likely that in the Irish Parliament the present Irish Members may be the Conservative Party, confronted with a strong Radical Party opposed to the payment of the tribute. What, then, would the hon. Member for the City of Cork think it his duty to do? I repeat that he would ride upon the storm. Let me point out this to the House. The hon. Member for the City of Cork, being at the head of the de facto Government, 1242 would be entitled to belligerent rights. [Laughter.] I always notice that whenever anyone hits upon a point which tells the Irish Members laugh, as much as to say that it is too absurd for argument. For my part, I believe we must look at this matter from a serious point of view; and I maintain that if we establish a de facto Government in Ireland, that Government would by that very fact have belligerent rights. It would have the nucleus of a splendid army in the police, thousands of sympathizers in America, and the command of unlimited funds. What is the Chief Secretary going to do in such a case? No one will, I suppose, deny that Americans are a very sensitive nation; and if a Presidential Election, in which Irish votes would be of great consequence, should happen to coincide with that deplorable result, it is by no means impossible that this country may find itself engaged in a war with the United States, with a hostile country on its left flank. I think that the House is bound to consider this matter, to consider the amount of taxation in which it would probably involve this country, the vast issues of a war such as that, the injury to our trade, and that it might result in another cotton famine. One-sixth of the imports of this country are in cotton, and one-fourth of them are in textiles; and it is computed that if America were to put the smallest export duty on the cotton the sends to this country, those indussries, as far as the neutral markets of the world are concerned, would be entirely ruined. If that is the case in regard to the possibility of putting on a small export duty, what would be the consequence in the case of a war with America owing to her sympathy with the Irish Republic? These are a few of the evils, and it would be possible to give a list of immense length, which hon. Gentlemen with a light heart are willing to bring upon the nation. As to alternatives—and we have heard a great deal of talk about alternatives—I maintain that the alternative of this Bill is the alternative of war—certainly of Civil War, and, in all probability, of foreign war as well. Our alternative, at which the Irish Members scoff, is, put at its worst, only an alternative of police. It is the alternative that the law, such as it is, shall be carried out. I know I shall be met at once by the 1243 cuckoo cry—"Oh, anything in the world is better than coercion." Plague, pestilence, famine, war—anything is better than coercion. I confess that I cannot understand that line of argument. It is not because I love coercion that I cannot understand it, but because I believe you misinterpret coercion. Why is coercion right in London and wrong in Dublin? Have we not in London just been engaged in coercing a mob? What has the Home Secretary just done? He has dismissed the head of the London Police because he did not coerce sufficiently; and I would ask the Irish Members whether they think it a sin to rob a London shop, and not a sin to surround a lonely dwelling in Tipperary, to murder the men, and to mutilate the cattle? Sir, I cannot believe that this ignorant cant of a spurious Liberalism—for it is not true Liberalism, but a spurious Liberalism—can absolve any civilized community from the duty of coercing those who are murderers and bullies. I feel convinced that this Irish Thuggism can be put down by coercion if it were known that the Act would be permanent, and that it should not be put on one day in a panic and taken off the day following in exchange for Irish votes. It is an infamy to this country that Irish tenants should be compelled to crawl to their landlords by night and to pay their rent by stealth, and to implore those landlords to issue writs against them as if they had not paid their rent at all. Sir, that is an infamous and a disgraceful thing for this Parliament to submit to, and it ought not to submit to it under any circumstances. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce) has said that democracy loves equality, and he has talked about America. But I should like to ask him how has America dealt with the question of the Socialists? How very differently America seems to safeguard life and property from what we do. Only the other day the Socialists in America tried to beard the authorities, and to-day they are hiding, cringing, and crawling from the righteous wrath of that people who have decreed that they shall be stamped out. Democracy loves equality; but democracy loves order. And what is the consequence in America? Why, that in that country everyone feels safe, and the people grow all the richer for it. Everybody 1244 confesses that we are growing poorer every day, and to my mind the fault lies very much with the policy pursued by Gentlemen on the Government Bench. But, Sir, I do believe that this crowning act of folly has awakened the nation—at least I hope so; and it is a comfort to think that there are a good many whom the Caucus would call traitors sitting on the Liberal side of the House. I think it will be found that there are a good many traitors when the Dissolution comes with which we have been threatened. In my own constituency, where Liberalism is a plant of sturdy growth, and where the Liberal leaders have always been men of high character and ability, I do not know where I could put my hand upon 50 or even 20 men who are prepared to support this policy of Home Rule. Only on Thursday last I had the honour to present a Petition to this House, numerously signed, from many villages in the neighbourhood, which I confess I was surprised to receive, because I know how entirely Liberal those villages were at the last Election. I looked down the list of names with some curiosity, and I saw name after name of voters whom at the last Election I knew to be not only strong Liberals, but even violent Radicals, who seem to have been brought to bay by this extraordinary Bill. It is better that the Irish Members should know the truth, and that they should not go away with the impression that a Dissolution of Parliament will give them exactly what they want. If they cannot get it from this House they may depend upon it they will not get it from the country. There are many not only in this House, but in the country, who will be called by the Caucus traitors; and I believe that when the hour of division strikes—and a very solemn hour it will be for the destinies of the Empire—many will be found in addition to those who, to their great honour, have made immense sacrifices, who, notwithstanding all the inducements held out to them, will risk everything rather than be untrue to the cause of that Empire.
§ MR. W. ABRAHAM (Limerick, W.)
Sir, I do not intend at this hour of the night to weary the House by trying to follow the hon. Member who has just sat down, and who has contributed something to the humour of the moment 1245 by the peculiar flights of fancy with which he has amused the House. I desire rather to ask the indulgence of the House for a very short time while, from the personal knowledge which I possess, I refute some of the groundless charges and libels which are so constantly hurled by some of the Members of the House against my Catholic fellow-countrymen. Sir, I am an Irish Protestant Nationalist. I belong to a sect which has played no inconsiderable part in the history of the country—I allude, Sir, to the sect of Independents who, I think, may be said to have made their mark in the history of England in the past, and who have been found ever foremost in defending the cause of civil and religious liberty throughout all our struggles. It has been my privilege to join my Catholic fellow-countrymen in their march towards freedom, and I feel proud to bear testimony to the manner in which I have been treated by the Catholic majority, and also to the treatment that my Protestant fellow-countrymen have received in the South of Ireland. What have I found? I wish to draw the special attention of the House to this. The Corporation of the City of Limerick—the Catholic Corporation—time after time has returned Protestants and Conservatives as Chief Magistrates; and when this Corporation was enabled, under the Bill introduced by the late Mr. Butt, to secure the privilege of returning High Sheriffs for the city, they returned for two years consecutively, not alone a Protestant, but also a Tory and a Scotchman. I would ask hon. Members from that part of Ireland called Ulster whether they can point in the town of Belfast to any similar evidence of toleration on their part, and in a town with a population of 70,000 Catholics? I would ask how many members of the Town Council are to be found of the faith of that 70,000? Let me take my own case. I may mention that in 1881 I received some attention at the hands of the late Mr. Forster; and what did my Catholic fellow-countrymen do? They returned me as Chairman of the Limerick Board of Guardians, as against Lord Emly, an estimable Catholic Nobleman. Not alone was he an estimable Catholic Nobleman, but one who had been converted from the Protestant faith, which gave him, I 1246 need not say, a double advantage over me, and yet at the last election for this position I was returned unanimously. In the previous election there were 44 votes polled for me, of which 43 were those of Catholics: At the General Election I had still greater reason to thank my Catholic countrymen for the proud position I now hold as the Representative of the most Catholic constituency in Ireland. It has been asserted that the Conventions which selected the Nationalist candidates were influenced and worked by two or three Members of the popular Party in Dublin. Perhaps the House will be surprised to learn, with regard to my election, that I did not know that I was to be selected as a candidate until half-an-hour before the Convention was held. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) will bear me out in saying that as to the election I had no communication with him directly or indirectly. There were nine candidates nominated at the Convention, and I had the honour to be proposed by a Catholic priest. I was selected for the Western Division of the county of Limerick, and the Loyal minority, as they are pleased to term themselves, felt that I had so secured the support of my Catholic fellow-countrymen that they dared not put up a Catholic to oppose me. Having said so much in regard to the position which the Protestants in the South of Ireland occupy, I need not say how we have received the invitation to combat that has been held out. No, Sir; the Protestants of the South have received too much of the affection and esteem of their fellow-countrymen, and know too well the sympathy they enjoy amongst them, to do anything so foolish. They know that once they put themselves in line with the people of Ireland in the righteous demand for self-government they are now making, there is no position in the power of their Catholic countrymen to bestow that would not be as freely bestowed on a Protestant as on any other, and probably even more freely. I do not propose to criticize the measure now before the House. I would, however, ask whether any right-minded Englishman considers that Ireland, dissatisfied, as she must be, is not a source of weakness to England; and whether, that being so, it would not be well to let Irishmen manage their 1247 own affairs. We must judge of Governments by their results; and if after 85 years of so-called Union with England, with the richest country in Europe, Ireland is to be found to-day the most discontented, the most distracted, and the poorest country in Europe, may we not say that your scheme of government has failed? Why not, then, try the experiment that has proved so successful with Canada—why not trust Irishmen when they tell the House that they will accept this proposal as a final settlement? We do not come here with a lie in our mouths; there is no conspiracy to lie amongst us; and even if there were, does the House suppose that the Irish nation at home has entered into a conspiracy with us that the public Bodies elected by popular votes are in a conspiracy, and that the Irish nation of 10,000,000 scattered throughout America, and all over the world, has entered into a conspiracy to lie to this House. No, Sir; the Irish people are willing to accept the Bill as a final settlement. We recognize in it a desire on the part of the House to do us justice, even although it be tardy. We promise to accept this measure in the interests of the various classes of Ireland, and you may safely assume that Ireland with its powerful Religious Bodies—Protestant, Presbyterian, and Catholic—and its diversified interests presents a country as capable as any other in the world to exercise all the rights and privileges of self-government. The power of the various religious communities and sects is sufficient to prevent any one of them from being tyrannical or illiberal. I do not wish to trouble the House further; but I have felt, as an Irish Protestant, that I ought to protest against the infamous charges made against my Catholic fellow-countrymen. I can assure the House that there is no danger to the Protestant minority, and if there was the possibility of such a thing, the first men who would stand up and repudiate any action to their detriment would be my Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)
Sir, I cannot but feel that the the striking speech which was made by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. A. W. Hall) has left those who follow him very little to say. I think, however, the House will agree with me that one of 1248 the most valuable contributions which have been made to this debate was the speech of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce). It was a speech which all of us must have listened to with the deepest interest, whether we had the fortune to agree with him, or the misfortune to differ from him. There is one point, however, on which, if he will allow me, I desire to correct him. I think that he altogether misapprehends the position of those Liberals and earnest Radicals who are unable to follow the Prime Minister. The hon. Gentleman has asked the House, and especially Liberal Members—"Will you quarrel with the Bill on a question of detail?" Now, the point on which we quarrel is not a question of detail. It is a point on which we are ready to risk the whole of our political future; and sooner than vote for the second reading of the Bill we are ready, if the sacrifice be required of us, never to enter the portals of this House again. What are the objects of this measure? It is to effect a given work which is required to be done now. We believe that for the purpose it has in view the measure is a bad one; and yet we are asked to vote for the second reading. We might just as well be asked to vote for the sending out of an army to carry out some great military operation, knowing that it had no ammunition and no food. We are told that we can amend the Bill in Committee. Imagine 670 Gentlemen making a Constitution! Why does not the Prime Minister ask us to write an epic poem? In Committee we could do the one equally as well as the other. In what position does the matter stand? The only object the Government can have in bringing in such a Bill—I think the House will agree with me—is to effect a permanent settlement of this long-standing Irish Question? And, if the Bill fails altogether to effect that object, hon. Members must admit that it is not a good Bill to pass. The whole point of the controversy lies in this—do you or do you not believe that the Bill will settle the Irish Question? If you do you ought to vote for it; if you agree that it would not, you ought to vote against it. That is the whole position put in a nutshell. I will ask the House if they consider that this is a working Bill? After all the 1249 criticisms which have been showered upon it by Members upon all sides of the House, can anybody get up and say that this is really a working Bill? As the question of the inclusion, or the exclusion from, this House of the Irish Members has been dealt with already, I will not touch upon it; but I will deal with the point which has been raised with reference to the position of the Loyal minority in Ulster. I am not going to join with those who want, if possible, to see the question settled by an appeal to arms. I will not, for a moment, contemplate the possibility of the Protestant and Loyal minority having resort to un-Constitutional means. But what I wish hon. Members from Ireland to ask themselves is this—What would be the position of affairs in Ireland with regard to the minority, looking at the matter from a purely Constitutional point of view? Cannot that minority, using purely Constitutional means, absolutely stop the working of this Bill? [An hon. MEMBER: NO.] An hon. Member says "No!" That is the point which I desire to discuss, with the permission of the House. If I am wrong I hope the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) will correct me; but, speaking roughly, the minority in Ireland consists of at least one-fifth of the population, taking the minority at 1,000,000 out of a population of 5,000,000, although I believe that to be a considerable underestimate; and just as the Members from Ireland stopped the working of the machine in the last British Parliament, so the minority in the Irish Parliament would be able to bring about a deadlock. This the minority could do without resorting to un-Constitutional means. What was the position of the Irish Members in the last Parliament? Simply this—that as regards all the measures of the Executive Government—I am bringing no charge against hon. Members below the Gangway, for they could not help themselves—I am only pointing out that the position they occupied then would be occupied by the Loyal minority in the new Parliament—that as regards all the measures of the Executive Government, and as regards Bills introduced into this House, which were deliberately and determinedly directed against them, they were powerless; but as regards the ordinary Business of this House, and as regards 1250 ordinary legislation, they were able to make themselves so disagreeable—not personally—but they were able so to work upon Parties in this House, by the use of Constitutional means, as to bring legislation in this House to a standstill. [Mr. PARNELL dissented.] The hon. Member for the City of Cork shakes his head; but I should like to know where the legislative measures are which were passed in the last Parliament, and which the Liberal Party have longed for for years? Who stopped them but the hon. Member and his followers? What scheme of legislation could be made to work with one-fifth of the entire population against the Government? It is absolutely necessary to obtain the assent of a large proportion of the minority if you want the Irish Parliament to work. Personally, I would not countenance any resort to un-Constitutional means, whether by Nationalists or Loyalists; but if the minority in Ireland have recourse to them, is this House prepared to use British soldiers to put down the minority in Ireland? [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] The hon. Member who says "Yes" is consistent; but those who are not prepared to do it are taking upon themselves a responsibility they have no right to assume in forcing this measure upon Parliament. The Home Rule Members, if they will allow me to say so, have no right to blame the Loyalists for asserting their intention to resort to un-Constitutional means; because, in their own articles and speeches, the Home Rule Members have, over and over again, asserted that if Constitutional means fail, they will be justified in resorting to un-Constitutional means. What your position has been in England to the Imperial Parliament, so would be the exact position of the Loyal minority in Ireland to the Nationalist Party if the new Parliament is established. This Bill has been hurried on unduly, with less preliminary discussion than we should give to a comparatively small measure of Local Government for the English counties. What is it that you say?
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
Mr. Speaker, I wished to direct that portion of my remarks to hon. Members from Ireland, and I, therefore, inadvertently omitted 1251 to address you. The whole root of this question, so far as many of us are concerned—and I do not see why we should not be perfectly frank with hon. Members from Ireland—is, how far we can take upon ourselves the responsibility of entirely trusting them, how far we can respect their assurances, all their past acts and policy considered. Now, Sir, there has been a qualification, and a very distinct qualification, in the acceptance of this measure by the hon. Member for the City of Cork. In his speech on the first reading of this Bill the hon. Gentleman said—There are, undoubtedly, great faults and blots in the measure.…. There are several points which it will be our duty, when the measure reaches its Committee stage, to oppose very strongly, and to press for their serious modification and amendment."—(3 Hansard,  1130.)And what are those points? First of all, there is the standard which should be chosen for the contribution of Ireland to Imperial Revenue. The hon. Member for the City of Cork thought it ought to be one-twentieth instead of one-fifth-teenth. Then there is the question of giving control to England over so large a portion of the Irish Revenue, and then there is the proposal to appoint a Receiver General, which the hon. Member for the City of Cork characterized as unnecessary and absurd. ["That is the Purchase Bill."] No doubt, it is a proposal in the Land Purchase Bill; but, then, the two Bills must be taken together. I should very much like to hear from the Government whether, if the Land Purchase Bill is abandoned, the Receiver General will be abandoned also; because I do not think, judging from the speech we have just heard, that that is to be the case. Now, what does the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) say upon the point? If I recollect aright, the hon. Member said that the Irish Party had never concealed their intention with regard to any measure an English Cabinet had brought before Parliament; and he went on to Bay that the Irish Party had agreed to accept this measure with modifications. That is the whole point—with modifications. I ask the hon. Member for the City of Cork whether, if these modifications are not granted in Committee, he will try in the same manner to work the Bill as if they had been accepted?
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
What I said upon the Motion that leave be given to introduce the Bill was, that if we were fairly met in Committee on these points I believed the Bill would be accepted by the Irish people as a final settlement.
§ VISCOUNT WOLMER
Yes; but suppose the Government could not see their way to accept the modifications in Committee; suppose they did not see their way to meet the Irish Members, as the hon. Gentleman thinks, fairly, it is clear the hon. Gentleman would not be under the same obligation to try to work the Bill. I, therefore, maintain that from the very words of the hon. Member for the City of Cork we cannot be sure that this Bill will be accepted and worked by the Irish Party. But admitting that the Amendments desired were accepted, admitting that the Bill would be worked so far as the Irish Members are concerned, are we justified in entirely forgetting everything they have said during the last six years, in believing they have changed their mind or tone, or that the words which they have uttered during the last six years were not deliberately intentioned words? A great many extracts from speeches have been read during this debate. I do not propose to trouble the House with any other extracts; but I would remind the House of one phrase which is used over and over again in America and in England and Ireland, and that is that the object of the Nationalist Party is that Ireland should take her place among the nations of the earth at home and abroad. That is so, is it not? No denial comes from the Irish Members. [Mr. SEXTON: We did not say "and abroad."] The words are not mine. The hon. Member for the City of Cork has said Ireland is a nation. And so is Scotland a nation. But if Ireland wants to take her place amongst the nations of the earth, it cannot be the place she occupies now, because the place she occupies now is one of equal partnership with England and Scotland, so far as other nations are concerned. ["Nonsense!"] An hon. Member from Ireland cries "Nonsense;" but I should like that hon. Member to tell us in what way Ireland is inferior as a nation to England or Scotland, so far as other nations are concerned. He clearly cannot answer that question; and therefore, if Ireland is to take her 1253 place amongst the nations of the earth, it will be a different place to that she now occupies. What is the place the Bill gives her? An inferior place to the one she at present occupies. Whereas now she occupies, as regards other nations, a position equal to that of England or Scotland, this Bill reduces her to the condition of all our great Colonies—a condition from which those Colonies are announcing their desire to emerge. I cannot believe that a proud nation—and Ireland is a proud nation—would accept a back seat like that; therefore, unless these words were lightly spoken and had no meaning, the whole object of the Irish people in accepting this Bill is that she may, at some future time, take her place as a separate nation. I cannot see any way out of the dilemma. Either these continually-repeated and carefully-formulated words were spoken without sufficient thought, in which case why should the present assurances of the same hon. Members be heeded? or else they were spoken seriously, in which case the Irish would not be satisfied with the position she occupied under the Bill, but would use it as a stepping-stone from which to exact new concessions. Moreover, I cannot see what claim hon. Members from Ireland have to be treated differently in regard to their past than other human beings. You ask us to walk by faith, and not by sight. Did you ever walk by faith? ["Yes; always."] Always! I should think that if there was one man who walked less by faith than others it was the hon. Member for the City of Cork. Would hon. Members from Ireland be in the position they are in now if they had walked by faith as regards England, and not taken very deliberate counsel for each step they had taken? I maintain that they have no right to ask us to walk by faith towards them, when they have never thought of doing so towards us. If the past history of this country towards Ireland has been bad, surely all has not been bright and rose-coloured in the relations of Ireland towards England; and, therefore, if hon. Members from Ireland are absolutely determined to endeavour to work out the legitimate and Constitutional settlement of this great question, I maintain that they have everything to gain by delay, and nothing to lose. 1254 We have been asked to settle this question without a particle of the discussion or the time and thought that has been given to any single one of the subjects which may now be said to be within the range of practical politics. Compare the importance of this question to the importance of a Local Government Bill for England. Why, the colour of the latter pales in comparison with that of the other. This Bill for the future government of Ireland has not been under discussion as many weeks as the question of Local Government has been under discussion years. Surely, of all measures that come before this House, a measure for the making of a Constitution ought to be discussed at the greatest length and with the greatest deliberation. You may make a mistake with regard to Local Government, and what is the result? A little temporary inconvenience. But if a mistake is made in the framing of a Constitution, where does it land us? I maintain that the Government have faced the question of the protection of minorities in Ireland in exactly the same way as the framers of the American Constitution faced the question of slavery, and that the dangers of future complications and evils are at least as great in this hastily-conceived Constitution as they were in the Constitution of the United States. It is not, Sir, that we do not desire to see a settlement of this question; it is that we cannot support a measure which will not settle the question. I cannot believe otherwise than that hon. Members from Ireland do, in their hearts, feel that this question which has been started by the Prime Minister will, by the mere fact of having been brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman, go forward to a final settlement if they maintain a moderate and reasonable attitude. We are asked—What if this Bill is thrown out? That entirely depends upon hon. Members from Ireland. If they continue that reasonable and moderate line of action which they have now adopted, they will get the fullest measure of self-government which ever can be given with safety to either side. They will prove to us that they can be trusted. ["Oh, oh!"] I maintain, Sir, that men have no right to forget their past language. For six years the Irish Members have used language meaning one thing, and 1255 it is only within the last six weeks they have used language meaning another thing; we cannot forget this fact. Considering the way in which this question has been brought forward, I cannot understand why Members from Ireland, if they desire a reasonable settlement, should object to a little further delay. There are many ways in which we can help them. There are questions which I admit do not brook delay; but what I say is, do not spoil what may be a settlement of the Irish Question—always acting on the assumption that Members from Ireland mean to be reasonable and moderate—do not spoil what may be a settlement by what I may call indecent haste. ["What about evictions?"] I have no hesitation in stating my views upon the Irish evictions. There are evictions and evictions. There are evictions of men who can pay, but who will not pay, their just debts. I say that these men ought to be evicted at all hazards. But, no doubt, in the West of Ireland there have been evicted men who cannot either pay their rents at present, or pay rent at all under any circumstances. These evictions comprise one of the greatest problems which will have to be dealt with either by this Parliament or by the Irish Parliament. It is possible it would be better for this country if these men were removed elsewhere. ["No, no!"] I am speaking of the men who, it is admitted, could not make a living upon their holdings if they had no rent at all to pay. Of course, I maintain that, for the sake of the public weal of this country, and for the cause of humanity, eviction is not the best way of relieving these unfortunate men; and it is in matters such as this that an English Parliament can contribute to the solution of the Irish Question if hon. Members from Ireland desire to be reasonable and moderate. I, for one, rejoiced when I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. John Morley) say he intended to use some discretion in this matter. The present is not an ordinary state of things; it is an extraordinary state of things; and it is because the circumstances are so extraordinary and so grave, and because I cannot believe that this Bill, under any circumstances, effects a settlement of the question, that I feel it my duty to vote against the second reading.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Shaw Lefevre.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.