§ [TWELFTH NIGHT.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [6th April] proposed to Question [6th April], "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."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Bench.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ *SIR H. JAMES (Bury)
In approaching the termination of this Debate, it may be useful to recall the attention of the House to the arguments with which this Bill has been on some sides supported. It is not unnatural that those who support this measure should mainly have devoted their arguments to those of a general character. It is only, with rare exceptions, that the supporters of the Government have approached the consideration of the provisions of the Bill, and I think I shall summarise those general arguments if I remind the House that they were five or six in number. Almost every Member who-has supported the measure of the Government has referred to a spirit of nationality, and has invoked that spirit on behalf of the Bill now before us. Others have thought it well to dwell at length on the wrongs of Ireland during seven centuries; again, some speakers have used general arguments in endeavouring to appeal to the analogies of other countries where what they have termed Home Rule has been carried into effect. We have heard arguments deduced from the prosperity of the time when Ireland had an independent Parliament — the Parliament of Grattan, from 1782 to 1800. Lastly, many Members have appealed to the great virtues of faith, hope, and charity. I propose to deal briefly with these various arguments. I think that those who appealed to a feeling of nationality will all be willing to recognise the labours 913 of my right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax, whose eloquence on behalf of that great principle we all admire. Many of us acknowledge the efforts he has made in support of it throughout his life; on its behalf my right hon. Friend has devoted much youthful ardour; but the real truth is, that his support of this Bill -was expressed by the words: "This Bill is a revolution, and therefore I love it." What my right hon. Friend was thinking of was a real, regular, red - flag revolution; a revolution which would approach the standard of 1848. If it did not it would have little charm for him; and so as my right hon. Friend proceeded in his speech and approached the provisions of the Bill his eloquence seemed to falter; and he said, "Here are safeguards which I much regret; they are safeguards which proceed from geographical considerations." But what do geographical considerations mean? I presume they mean proximity between the two countries which are dealing with the question of Home Rule. But proximity alone will not necessitate safeguards either for one country or the other; certainly not for the minority within the country that happens to have Home Rule. Austria-Hungary, Norway and Sweden, suffer more from geographical considerations than Great Britain and Ireland. If the hopes of certain Scottish Members were to be carried into effect, if we were to grant Home Rule to Scotland, where geographical considerations of proximity will apply more than they do to Ireland, should we need safeguards in the Bill against Scotland, and should we not be willing to entrust the Scottish people fully and completely? This question of geographical consideration affecting safeguards was an admission by my right hon. Friend that he could not enjoy himself thoroughly in seeing a revolution of the kind he wished to see carried into effect, especially when he had to admit that the friend of his youth, Mazzini, would have nothing to do with nationality in Ireland.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
May I correct the right hon. Gentleman's misapprehensions as to what it was I intended to say? Mazzini's view was against the idea of a separate and independent nationality; he never expressed an opinion, and never had an opportunity 914 of so doing, on the subject of Home Rule.
§ *SIR H. JAMES
That is exactly what I have been saying. My right hon. Friend's argument went to justify total separation, or even a Republic for Ireland. That was the spirit of nationality upon which the argument was supported, but my right hon. Friend has to admit that Mazzini was not in favour of an independent Parliament for Ireland. The wrongs of Ireland through seven centuries have been dwelt upon by many supporters of the Government; admitted that Ireland has those wrongs of misgovernment to complain of. The misgovernment of the past has affected England and Scotland, and you cannot atone for past action by now enacting an injustice to affect the present and the future. The Prime Minister spoke much of the wrongs of Ireland. What are the wrongs which he can enumerate now, and which cannot be remedied by the legislation of a democratic Parliament? He has told us of one particularly. Throughout his long life my right hon. Friend spoke of two Irishmen who had been Members of the Cabinet— the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Chichester Fortescue. May I ask my right hon. Friend why Irishmen have not been in the same Cabinet as himself? He has been four times Prime Minister of this country. He has but lately formed a Cabinet, and how is it that he cannot find Irishmen to join it? Are there no righteous men in Ireland, no supporters of my right hon. Friend's policy of 1893? Can he not find Irishmen with a stake in the country who are willing to join his Cabinet and support his policy? If that is to be a wrong of Ireland there will be nothing easier to remedy. But I am not sure that the remedy has not been effected. I have heard on good authority that the right hon. Gentleman has an Irishman in his Cabinet. He may not know it. He may not be aware that his elbow has been jogged and his policy influenced by an Irishman the principal framer of this Bill. I believe it is true that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is an Irishman. Few people may have discovered it; and that portion of Ireland of which he is a native may not have recognised it from his language. He tells the Representatives of his native 915 Province that they use bluster and vehemence, and many were not aware that the attack was made by an Ulsterman himself. When he says that his fellow-Ulstermen will prefer their own interest to that of their country, that they will prefer a lowering of rent to the opposing of Home Rule, no one would recognise that the Chancellor of the Duchy was an Ulsterman. I must confess that my right hon. Friend had an excuse for his ignorance, because if ever the Chancellor of the Duchy should think it necessary to take the field on behalf of his native country, he will probably do so in the uniform of a Scottish regiment; he would wear the kilt and the sporran; and if he chose any martial music with which to inspire his action it would be the national air of America rather than that of these Kingdoms. If this question is to be discussed thoroughly, and if we are to apply the analogies of Foreign States, not one will be found to approach to a proper understanding of this question. In some of those States Home Rule docs not exist; in none of them do the same conditions exist. But the Prime Minister has endeavoured by statistics to draw arguments in favour of Grattan's Parliament and the benefits conferred by it. The statement as to the prosperity that flowed from Grattan's Parliament was a surprise to some of us.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The statement I made in the Debate had reference strictly to the material prosperity of Ireland about the period 1795.
§ *SIR H. JAMES
I understand the statement to refer to material prosperity, but the material prosperity was derived from the influence of Grattan's Parliament, or else I think the observation would not have had force—namely, that we should revert more or less to the position occupied by Ireland under Grattan's Parliament. What did Grattan's Parliament effect? If there were any beneficent Acts passed by Grattan's Parliament they are on the Statute Book and can be referred to. I will mention on good authority with reference to Grattan's Parliament—namely, Grattan himself— what that Parliament did. Long after 1782, he said—We have got a Police Bill, we have got a Riot Act, we have got pensions without end, and we have the privilege to traffic in the sale of peerages.916 That is all Grattan could say that his Parliament had produced, and that is the kind of Parliament we are asked to approve. It is said that England behaved treacherously to Ireland in buying and paying for the Union. In one sense she did; but if she corrupted some members of Grattan's Parliament, they were members capable of being corrupted. But I do not say that the Irish people should be judged by this standard. That Parliament was Protestant, and was never representative of the Irish people. It was a Parliament in which no Roman Catholic sat; and was elected by a most limited franchise by the owners of corrupt boroughs who were willing, just as the English boroughmongers at that time were willing, to sell their representation. I must protest against its being said that Grattan's Parliament gives us any experience that we can follow. It was not only a useless but a corrupt Parliament. On the point of corruption I will quote one authority who is surely a sufficiently rebellious man to have credit with the right hon. Member for Halifax —namely, Wolfe Tone. He expressed himself in this way—I have seen the corruption of Westminster Hall, I have seen jobbery of all sorts in Colonial Legislatures, I have seen corruption in the Council of Five Hundred, but anything bordering on the infamy of College Green never entered the breast of man to conceive.I make the admission that Grattan's Parliament was not the Parliament that we shall have to deal with in the future, but never let the argument be used that Ireland will prosper in the future under the proposed Parliament as she did in the past under Grattan's Parliament. Grattan's Parliament reflected no honour upon Ireland ["Oh, oh!"], and in the same way the manner in which it was dealt with and influenced has reflected no honour upon Great Britain. We have been told of the weight we ought to attach to Faith, Hope, and Charity. I speak respectfully enough of such considerations, but whilst these qualities ought ever to influence men, you cannot found a Constitution upon them unless they come from certain and sure sources. It, is enough to say of them that the faith upon which you ought to build a Constitution shall be 917 the faith that comes from experience; that the hope upon which you shall act ought surely to be founded upon or brought within the limits of common sense; and that the charity with which yon are about to act shall be a charity at your own cost and not at the expense of others. In addition to these general propositions, the supporters of the Bill have also, from a negative point of view, combated the arguments that have been adduced by those who oppose the Bill. But the different parties in this House have joined issue upon other grave questions besides those I have referred to. The first great question that stands in the fore-front of this discussion in importance is, "To whom under this Bill are you about to confide the government of Ireland? "You are bound to ask that question, and before this Bill passes a satisfactory answer ought to be given to it. To whom, I say, under this Bill will the government of Ireland go? We can name the men easily enough. Hon. Members opposite would condemn me if I assumed that they do not represent the majority in Ireland, the majority of the electors in Ireland, and they would condemn me equally if I said that they will not represent that majority in the future. And so it must be that in years to come, for this generation at least, and perhaps for many years hence, the government of Ireland will be in the hands of those who now are the Irish majority in this House. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that this controversy now has become one of character. It is only reasonable that it should be so, for character is involved in the answer to the question I have just submitted to the House. The Prime Minister said, too, that we are cruel judges of that character; he said that we regarded hon. Members opposite as not being human. That is certainly, if I may say so to my right hon Friend, an incorrect reading of the judgment of many of us. We regard them as perfectly human; but to err is human, and it we say that we believe that hon. Members opposite will fulfil their promises and execute their throats we do not charge them with being inhuman. It is, I regret, a question to a great extent of character. I regret that it is a matter affecting the character of 918 gentlemen who now represent the majority in Ireland. I hope they will not object to my discussing in their presence the matter from both sides of view. It is not my will or wish to say anything needlessly offensive to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I assume that they will not be wanting in the courage to hoar what can be said of their political character. [Cries of "Go on!"] The right hon. Gentleman has said that he has perfect trust in the Irish Members as politicians. It is, then, surely worth while to ask what their conduct has been in the past. For some 11 or 12 years many of them were the de facto rulers in Ireland. The Land League that was formed at the end of 1878, or in the beginning of 1879, ruled Ireland, with the National League, for some 10 years. I do not wish to refer to names. I do not think I need do so. The managers and controllers of that Land League have some of them left Ireland and have absconded from justice. [Cries of "Name! "] I shall support my statement by giving names if hon. Members wish it, but hon. Members know this to be the case. Some of the managers remained. I think no Irish Members would in Ireland or in this House disclaim the action of the Land League. Many of them governed it and influenced its counsels, and are answerable for its actions. Ought we not to know, if our faith is to be based on experience, how those who governed Ireland at that time did carry on the government, as a guide to the way in which they are likely to carry on any government, in the future?
§ An hon. MEMBER: What about Pigott?
§ *SIR H. JAMES
I hope we may discuss this question without such interruption—one which does not, I think, bear particularly on the question before us. I, of course, do know something about what took place during the 10 years to which I refer. The inquiry into the de facto government of Ireland during that time was not a one-sided inquiry. There might have been misleading evidence; but we have the evidence of the Archbishop of Dublin; we have the evidence of Roman Catholic priests and curates, and also of chairmen and secretaries of the Laud League; and we have, so far as we could get them, some of the records 919 of the Land League. Some evidence, I say, may have been misleading, but it was not one-sided. But I am not content with my own judgment in the matter. I have one or two witnesses to call on that point. I regret that I do not see the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Scotland in the House. I wish to refer to him, and I hope I may now refer to him. He was Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, and was answerable for the maintenance of peace and order in Ireland. My right hon. Friend, in the course of this Debate, has given evidence of his faith in the qualities of the Irish Members which will make them good rulers in Ireland. My right hon. Friend made two speeches in this House upon the subject of Home Rule. One he made on the 7th of April, 1886, from the Bench on which I stand, and one he made in April, 1893, from the official Bench. The man who made the first speech ought never to have made the second. We were proud of him—I think this whole House was proud of my right hon. Friend when he made that speech of 1886. He told us of his ambition. He told us how he had cared for political life. He told us that, while he loved these things, he loved virtue and honour more. He spoke of a career.Who cares for a career? There is ever the career of a private citizen open to a man, and a man will not think of himself when he has his duty to do.What was the duty? It was the maintenance of law and order in Ireland. I make these quotations, not for the purpose of raking up old speeches, for I am not complaining of any man changing his opinions; but there is no reason why we should not find facts in these statements. What did the right hon. Gentleman say of the men whom he is now ready to trust with the government of Ireland?—It is not only the landlords and the red-hot Orangemen who feel apprehension, but it is everyone who has offended the Land League, or the National League, as it was afterwards called, by not taking an active part in its support; everyone who has asserted his legal right to work for whom he likes, or to take farms from whom he likes; everyone who has taken part in bringing to justice those whom the organs of the now dominant Administration and Party regard as victims and martyrs; every quiet citizen and every member of that minority which would not be a minority if both parties 920 would join in the determination that law and order should no longer be trifled with in Ireland, any more than it is trifled with in Yorkshire or Somerset.Such was his judgment of the treatment of persons in Ireland who were not in sympathy with the Land League. The right hon. Gentleman made another statement, and I am now referring to a period a little later, in July, 1886—I could quote quite a hundred passages of extraordinary violence and impropriety which were spoken by leading members of the Land League during the recent troubles—passages which prove, as I think, that they are unfitted now to be entrusted with the administration of law and order.That was the judgment of my right hon. Friend in 1886 from his official experience when he was controlling the government of Ireland. My right hon. Friend says now that seven years have altered everything, and that those whom he then judged are now different men. That plea will not avail him. He has nothing to do with seven years' experience. He spoke those words that I last read in July, 1886, and the career of the private citizen came to an end in the spring of 1887. My right hon. Friend made a discovery. I use his language again. He said—" The game of law and order is up." That meant that those who had control of the Land League had defeated the administration of law and order. And so, those men having defeated the law, the right hon. Gentleman straightway joined those men. I will only say to my right hon. Friend, much as I admire many of his qualities, that when we, amongst whom he made his career, listen to his lectures to us for consistency in adhering to our opinions on Home Rule from which we have never deviated, we sometimes wish he would devote his attention to subjects more congenial to his great abilities. I have in my memory the words that Mr. Bright used in 1886, when he made use of the quotation.Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.I do not wish, oven figuratively, to introduce the leopard into this Assembly; but I should like to say one word about our old friend the Ethiopian. If I had known an Ethiopian for a longtime, and he had become a very old friend of mine, and I knew that he was black from head to 921 foot; and if one morning he said to me, "I am quite white, and am, indeed, purity itself," I should not be inclined to accept his statement without inquiry. I should be inclined to say, "Tell mo why it was you became white, and whether that complexion is likely to stand the wear and tear of troubled times and weather." I cannot take the statement of hon. Gentlemen opposite when they say—" We are now perfectly devoted to British interests. We have been enemies all our lives of your country; we are now become devoted to your service, and we are," as my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary says, "repentant brothers." That was the effect created on the mind of the Home Secretary by the speech of the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. Davitt). The Home Secretary called it an historic speech. But we have had historic speeches before in this House. We had one in 1886, when the same words were nearly used. Then Mr. Parnell made an historic speech, and everyone believed his prophecies and statements. The Prime Minister, if I recollect rightly, then said, in effect—Now you have something on which you can rely. You have the promise of the Leader of the Irish people.Mr. Parnell promised finality; he promised acceptance to a fuller extent than is promised now, and you would scarcely find a Leader that so fully represented the Irish people as Mr. Parnell did in 1886. From that time the brotherhood between the followers of the Prime Minister and Mr. Parnell became one of intense affection. How the Liberal Party almost adored Mr. Parnell is also an historical fact. I have here an eloquent after-dinner statement by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Haddington shire (Mr. Haldane), in 1888. he said—We meet together for the first time in our history to entertain the Leader of the other wing of our allied army. We are proud of Mr. Parnell—proud of him as a Leader in that new combination, and as being for us our second man —our second most remarkable figure in the arena, of British politics.He was the second Leader of the Liberal Party. His promise had been given and relied upon under every circumstance of probability and truth. Eighteen months or so passed, and Mr. Parnell was thwarted — that was all, personally thwarted. What became of his promise 922 and his brotherhood, his love and affection for the English people? It passed away as easily as if he had never cared or thought of the English people; and he told his friends and supporters in Ireland that, notwithstanding all that he had said, England was and had ever been the bitter, cruel enemy of Ireland, and his bidding and advice to them was never to trust her. Yet he was a man you thought you could perfectly trust, and in whom you placed such confidence that you were willing to erect one Constitution by destroying another, on the mere basis of his word. I can assure hon. Members that I do not wish to enter into a personal conflict with them; but reference has been made to the speech of the hon. Member for North-East Cork. It was my lot to spend rather more than 12 months in some sort of association with that hon. Member, and although, perhaps, the hon. Member has not many pleasant recollections of that association, I can sincerely say that I do not for one moment wish to rake up any painful memories connected with his eventful life. Hut the hon. Member cannot object to my treating of his political views. He says now that he is perfectly satisfied with the settlement under the Bill; that whatever may have occurred in the past, it is the past—dead, buried, gone; and that he will now accept this safeguarded nationality as all that he can wish for. Well, I conclude the hon. Member's conversion is not of to-day. It must have come in 1886, when the hand of fraternity was first held out by the Prime Minister. But I recollect the words spoken by the hon. Member in 1888 in his examination before the Special Commission. The question was put to him—I understand you to agree with me that, respecting Labour's scheme in connection with the land, you agreed to make the Land Question in Ireland a basis to secure national independence? Answer.—I think so.Question.—Was not that the principle you yourself adopted? Answer.—That is the principle which I have always approved and tried to go upon.Question.—The Land Question a stepping-stone to national independence? Answer.— Yes, if I could, because, as I said yesterday, I believe thoroughly in complete national independence for Ireland. I wish to God I could get it to-morrow.
§ MR. DAVITT (Cork, N.E.)
I am reluctant to interrupt the right hon. 923 Gentleman, but I am sure that he would not consciously misrepresent me. As I am sure he will not quote the whole of my evidence, he will, perhaps, allow me to say that in that examination, and subsequent to the answers which the right hon. Gentleman has read out, I declared that as independence for Ireland was absolutely impossible without the consent of the people of Great Britain, I accepted the settlement proposed by the right hon. Member for Midlothian in 1886.
§ *SIR H. JAMES
If the hon. Gentleman says that was his evidence, I will, of course, at once accept his statement, and I am sure he will accept mine that I have no recollection of his saying so. His evidence is long, and I may have overlooked the words he refers to. But I should like to ask hon. Gentlemen from Ireland whether they will now go before the Irish people and tell them that they have given up all hope of independence? Will they go before the Irish people and tell them that they will never more regard the landlords as the English garrison? Will they say that this is to be the end of their final hopes, and so say in the City of Dublin or the City of Cork? This is what Mr. Parnell said in 1886, when he told us he would accept the Home Rule Bill as a final settlement; but we know now that he had told his Colleagues that it was a mere Parliamentary bid. I decline, therefore, to accept now the statement that the protestations of hon. Members are to bind the future, and that this Bill is to be a final settlement. When I heard the eloquent speech of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, I recollected another speech which came from my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, who, in the year 1887 or 1888, when the Plan of Campaign was under discussion, said to the then Front Opposition Bench—You can have nothing to do with this Plan of Campaign; there is one Commandment which forbids you to support it: 'You shall not steal.Well, Sir, that Commandment was broken by those who supported the Plan of Campaign; and then my right hon. Friend who had represented, and does represent, the Executive Government in Ireland, finding that there were political friends and allies who were 924 supporting a breach of the law, thought it necessary to show his personal sympathy by accompanying those who were charged into a Court of Justice.
§ SIR H. JAMES
My right hon. Friend then gave his support to those who were criminally charged in connection with the Plan of Campaign, and walked arm in arm with one of the principal actors, who was afterwards convicted.
MR. J. MORLEY
I beg the right hon. and learned Gentleman's pardon. I never walked arm in arm with any of them.
§ *SIR H. JAMES
The right hon. Gentleman, at all events, was in sympathy with those who were convicted—he is now giving his support to those who were convicted of a breach of the law, and he is eloquent in suggesting that there is to be forget fulness of all these things, and that we are now to suppose that all these breaches of the law were rightly done. I will now proceed, Sir, to touch upon another point of perhaps more importance, and that is the Bill itself. We approach this Bill, I have no doubt, from many different points of view. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has dealt with this question in a manner which, although very interesting, is so academic that I do not propose to follow him in detail. He says there is no repeal of the Union attempted by this Bill; but my view is that we shall repeal the Union if we pass it, because the third article of the Union, that there shall be but one Parliament, will be abrogated. If we have two Parliaments; if we prevent this one Parliament, substantially and not technically, from legislating on every subject connected with Ireland, the only remaining link of the Union is gone, and it must end in au entire repeal of the Union. Let me now come to the provisions of the Bill, and see what the measure really means. It is said that the supremacy of Parliament is sufficiently recognised because words referring to it are found in the Preamble. Yes; there are words in the Preamble recognising the supremacy of Imperial Parliament—recognising it as the writing upon a man's tombstone recognises his life. The 925 epitaph of the supremacy of this Parliament is contained in this Preamble. What is the meaning of saying that the supremacy of Parliament is maintained, and, at the same time, making declarations from the Government Bench that it is never, in fact, to be carried into effect, and that the Irish Members need have no fear that this supremacy will be enforced? Why, Sir, it is a mockery of the supremacy of Parliament to insert in the Preamble words which, if read according to legal interpretation, enact nothing, and which can only be availed of if doubt arises as to what is meant by the clauses of the Bill. Sir, I recognise what was said by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I recognise the words of the 33rd section of the Bill, and I recognise, too, that he is willing to put in a clause expressly maintaining the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament as it was maintained in the Bill of 1886. What is the use of all these promises when the hon. Member for Waterford claims in an article he has written that there shall be a clause inserted in the Bill declaring that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament shall never be exercised, and when the Home Secretary says that practically it will not be enforced. And now, passing from the Preamble, I pass to the provisions of the Bill. There have been two speeches in the course of this Debate which have been very different from the others, and which appear to me to deserve great attention. One is the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Haddingtonshire, and the other that of the Home Secretary. My hon. and learned Friend, knowing the difficulties that are likely to be found in the Constitution laid down by the lines of this Bill, says—The Bill is very well as far as it goes; but you are bound to read within its lines that elasticity which belongs to every Parliament. The Common Law of Parliament is to be introduced in reading this Bill.Now, is it to be said that a subordinate Legislature is to possess powers equal to those of an Imperial Parliament? A word of protest is necessary in this Constituent Assembly, now asked to grant to a subordinate Legislature statutory powers, against it being said that this elasticity is to be exercised by those to whom we grant this Legislature ac- 926 cording to their will, and according to their view of what is the Common Law of Parliament. Words must he put in to contradict that doctrine. If powers are to be delegated to Ireland, they must be delegated in express terms, so that no man can misread them. There can be no delegation of elastic powers to be exercised according to the will of those to whom subordinate powers are given.
§ MR. HALDANE
I did not intend to suggest for a moment that the Bill should give any unwritten powers which would impugn or interfere with or modify the written provisions of the Bill itself. I only said that, in addition to the written powers, there would be here, as in the case of the Colonies and every separate Constitution which has ever been created in accordance with the laws of this land, unwritten as well as written provisions.
§ *SIR H. JAMES
Just so, not to alter or to modify, but to add to. I do not wish to anticipate discussion in Committee, but all I can say here is that we must see if we cannot provide that in delegating to the statutory Parliament these powers that Parliament shall not have authority to add to the delegated powers, but shall be controlled absolutely by the Bill. I now come to deal with one other doctrine of my hon. and learned Friend, and that is the effect of the Executive system under this Bill. My right hon. Friend said the Executive of Ireland would, under the Bill, owe a duty to the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and also to the Parliament of Ireland. I wish to know whether the Members who represent Irish constituencies accept that view? Who is to appoint this Executive; who is to pay them, and to have the power of dismissing them? I understand that it is the claim of the Irish Members that all this shall rest with the Irish Parliament. Well, Sir, what is the duty, unless it be a duty of most imperfect obligation, that the Irish Executive will owe to the Imperial Parliament? How are we to enforce that duty? and, I ask, would the Irish Parliament allow that there should be two Executive powers existing in Ireland, and that the servants whom they are to employ and pay, and for whose conduct they are to be answerable, are to be responsible to us in the Imperial Parliament? As I have touched this sub- 927 ject of the Executive, I would venture to call the attention of those who sit on the Government Bench to the position in which they have left this Executive— and I am certain that all that has been written here has been well considered. I am asking the Irish Members to say whether they are satisfied with what is in. the Bill. In the Bill of 1886 the position of the Executive was defined. It was enacted in that Bill that the government of Ireland should be carried on by the Lord Lieutenant on behalf of Her Majesty, with the aid of such officers as he might appoint. But are the Irish Members aware that under this Bill no Irish Executive need exist for one single moment? By this Bill—and I am now asking for inquiry, for I am not in a position to express au opinion upon the wisdom of it—The Executive power in Ireland shall continue vested in Her Majesty the Queen, and the Lord Lieutenant, on behalf of Her Majesty, shall exercise any prerogatives or other Executive power of the Queen the exercise of which may be delegated to him by Her Majesty.May I call the attention of Irish Members to the position? This is not au Irish Executive. This is a delegation from time to time by the Queen guided by Her Imperial Executive. I agree with the construction of the Chief Secretary that in this clause, when Her Majesty is spoken of, you must regard Her as being guided by Her Imperial Executive. What, then, is this delegation of powers by Her Majesty to the Lord Lieutenant? It is a delegation which can be altered from time to time, which will expire every six years, and which can be altered during every six years according to circumstances. Suppose, before the appointed day, there should be a change of Government and the opponents of this Bill should come into Office. According to the language of the Bill of 1886, the Queen was invited to delegate no powers to the Lord Lieutenant, but under this Bill you might, in delegating the powers of the Lord Lieutenant, restrict them to those prevailing at the time of Grattan's Parliament. I therefore ask, are the Irish Members satisfied with this condition of things which I have described? We have heard in the speeches of the Home Secretary and of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Haddingtonshire of the impossibility of giving an independent 928 Parliament without an Executive. But now you have it that the Irish Parliament need to have no Executive of their own, or they have one which is to be altered and changed from time to time according to the fluctuations of Party fortunes in this country. At any moment the Irish Executive may be undone and removed. This may be intended or not, but, at any rate, the point must be settled. I am expressing no opinion upon the wisdom of the provision, but I think the matter cannot be left in doubt. In this matter the ideal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) cannot be satisfied by withholding from the Irish Members au Executive of their own. Does he think that Ireland would be likely to regard this as a final measure? Is this a state of things that would have been tolerated for a moment by Mazzini? Yes, this is the Revolution which the right hon. Gentleman so dearly loves, and it was on behalf of this Revolution that he grew so eloquent. See what further is proposed to be enacted. It is proposed thatthere shall be an Executive Committee of the Privy Council of Ireland to aid and advise the Government of Ireland, being of such numbers and comprising persons holding such offices as Her Majesty may think fit.Now, not only do we have it that from time to time the powers given to the Lord Lieutenant may be changed, altered, or done away with and entirely removed, and also that the persons who are to guide him in the exercise of those powers may be altered or removed by a change of Government. You may have this state of things; at one time the Executive power exercised by the Imperial Homo Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers, and a few months afterwards an Executive appointed by the Lord Lieutenant; and then, again, another Executive sitting on the Benches in this House. It may be right from our point of view that there should be a British Executive and not an Irish Executive; but certainty on this point is bettor than fluctuation. We are to have an "independent" Government given to Ireland which may be recalled, not by Statute, but at the will of a Minister, perhaps hostile, from the point of view of hon. Members opposite, to the best interests of Ireland. This Bill, Sir, will have to be discussed line by line and 929 word by word, so that we can bring home to the minds of men the full responsibility they are incurring when they are taking one Constitution to pieces and endeavouring to establish another. I could consume much time in this House —which I am not about to do—in calling attention to matters as pregnant of importance as this matter I have now ventured to call the attention of the House to. I make no apology for pressing this home on the attention of hon. Members. They will have to settle whether what I have described represents to their minds an independent Irish Parliament. I need not say how bitter will be the struggles within these walls if an Irish Parliament is established, if the will of a British Minister is to prevail and the existence of an Irish Executive is to depend upon votes in this House. The importance of this subject of the Executive no one, of course, can overrate. I believe it is of more importance than the Legislature itself; for in respect to the Legislature its Acts can be, I admit, theoretically corrected. I regard the supremacy of Parliament, as I have said, as somewhat of a mockery, but still theoretically it exists. You also have the veto, which is only half a remedy, because it can only correct sins of commission, and can never supply sins of omission. But the errors of the Executive can never be controlled and remedied. The Executive represents the character and conduct of a nation. It represents the interests abroad of an Imperial Government, and it can either create or prevent conflicts with foreign nations. But when I look at what is contemplated for the Irish Executive, I ask, where and how can the supremacy of Parliament ever be maintained? The answer is a strange one to come from a Liberal Government and its supporters. It is said—"Why are you afraid? You can always enforce your decrees by the military power." I had learnt, I thought, some principles of the Liberal Party in relation to a standing Army; jealous of any interference of the military power with the civil; at Election times confining the soldiers to barracks, so that they should never interfere with the voting of the constituency; and at Assize times keeping them from showing themselves, lest it should be supposed their presence interfered with the administration of 930 justice. Now we have it from a Liberal Government that it is their avowed intention to carry on the Executive as far as they can by means of the military power in Ireland. We had a remarkable spokesman on their behalf. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, great as he is as a lawyer, appeared to me in an entirely new capacity. He dropped fragments of the Constitution upon the box before which he stood. He appeared to think it was good citizenship to call in armed men to carry on the Government of Ireland, and my hon. and learned Friend grew so eloquent that I began to doubt whether Lucan's description of a Roman General would not apply to him—Prœtulit arma togœ, sed pacem armatus amavit—my hon. and learned Friend seemed so much to prefer the sound of arms to the gown he has worn with so much advantage and distinction for so many years. But what struck me as specially strange was to see the Representative of a Liberal Government asserting that the best means of carrying out the decrees of our Civil Authority was by always referring to the military power. And this is said to be a measure of peace! If so, it is an armed peace. It might be said—"You now employ the military in Ireland at times." It is true there have been occasions when you have employed the military forces to execute civil decrees, but the distinction between what has happened and what is proposed under this Bill is this: that in past times and at present the military act in conjunction with the civil power and at the request of the civil power and at the request of the Executive. Whenever the military is employed some representative of the Civil Authority must be on the side of the soldier. If the Riot Act is to be called into effect, the Magistrate reads the Act, and no soldier acts until the Civil Authority, protecting, as it were, the citizens, has been displayed. In the future you will call out the military against the Executive Government and against the civil power. That, Mr. Speaker, is civil war. It means a condition of things that you never ought by legislation to bring into existence. Deplorable circumstances may cause such a state of things to exist within a well-ordered country; but you never by contemplation, until this Bill was proposed, could have desired that there should be a 931 creation of such a power. And, Sir, if there were anyone in this House who proposed it, 110 true Liberal ought to look upon the proposition without the deepest and sincerest regret. This will he the only power in Ireland by which the laws of England and of this Parliament can be enforced. There is not one of us, doing our duty here as Representatives of the people, who would not shrink from ever passing a law affecting Ireland, even if we knew it was required by the default of the Irish Parliament, and that default was supported by the Irish Executive, because we would have no power to defeat the errors of the Irish Parliament and the defaults of the Irish Executive, except by force of arms. Every Statute we passed would mean an order to the military to take possession of Ireland to carry out your views! That is no supremacy of Parliament; it is the disgrace of Parliament. One practical word may I have with the Secretary of State for War? Have the War Office considered what is to be the state of affairs in Ireland? At the present moment the General Commanding-in-Chief in this country gives directions to so many troops to go to Ireland. He then has practically discharged his duty. There is a General in command of the Forces in Ireland; and if troops are required the Irish Government appeal to him for assistance, and it is, under due restrictions—which, are, I believe, now well-known—granted. But I ask, what is the War Office about to do? If we in this Imperial Parliament desire that the supremacy shall be maintained by the action of the troops, and if that is, as it ever must be, not in support of but against the action of the Irish Government, who is to give the order to these troops? Is the Commander-in-Chief in England to say to the Colonel of a regiment at Cork—"You are now to obey my orders; do not listen to the General in Dublin"—because he is in communication with the Irish Government, against whom we are acting— "do you order out your regiment, and use it, and see that as against the action of the Sheriff and against every Executive officer your military power is carried into effect." If that is done you have civil war—no more and no less. If you are fighting against the Executive Government of a country with 932 the troops stationed in that country, is it not certain that the troops we should send to support the supremacy of the Parliament of the United Kingdom will be called foreign troops fighting against the liberties of the country? This would be not only a mockery in our hands and a disgrace to Parliament; it would be a humiliation to this country? This country, which has boasted of its freedom and of the freedom of every citizen, ought not to erect and bring into existence a Constitution that can be maintained by the military power, and by the military power alone. I will press this view a little further. We are told—"Oh, you need not care; there are some unfortunate gentlemen—two Exchequer Judges—who exist under this Act will represent England and the majesty of Parliament." If I speak of these Judges it will be in terms of sincere pity. The sufferings which the learned gentlemen will undergo would require a new circle of the Inferno to be created properly to depict their condition. They will be appointed to represent England under conditions which the Prime Minister has often described. He has told us over and over again that the law which this Parliament enacts when it is the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and Ireland is represented in it, is a foreign law to the Irish citizen. What will that law be when, instead of being passed by a Parliament in which Ireland is represented, it is passed as against the Irish Parliament? It is passed by a Parliament which is then exercising its own supremacy to correct the errors and deficiencies of that Irish Assembly. Will that not be an intensified foreign law? Will it not be still more hateful than laws passed by this Parliament with the aid of hon. Members from Ireland opposite? But, Sir, the law is now administered by Irishmen and by Irish Judges? This new intensified foreign law is to be administered by two English selected Judges, and, Sir, I cannot conceive how the ingenuity of man could have devised a scheme more calculated to bring law into contempt than the scheme which is presented here. The strength of the law depends on the respect in which it is held. [Cheers.] I gather from those cheers that if, to correct the errors and deficiencies of the Irish Legislature, the British Parliament 933 shall pass a law which will he administered by these Judges, there is not one of the hon. Members opposite who will not deride it and set it at defiance, and who will not say—"How are these Judges to enforce it?" For one moment let me call the attention of the House to what these Judges are to do. These Judges are to try Revenue cases, and to these English Judges you also give, strangely enough, the power to try every Election Petition. I wonder with what respect those trials will take place if Irishmen are told that British Judges are always to try them. I wonder what would have been said of the trial of the Meath Petitions if they had been tried under such circumstances. Besides hearing Revenue cases and Election Petitions, the Exchequer Judges are to try all matters which touch any matter not within the powers of the Irish Legislature or which touch any matter affected by a law which the Irish Legislature has not power to repeal or alter. What are those powers and what are those laws? If the House will refer to Section 33 of the Bill, it will be seen that if ever this House should pass a Statute in the future, the Irish Legislature could never repeal or alter it. So that whatever subject this Parliament, in the exercise of its supremacy, chooses to deal with, if once this British Parliament shall pass that law, the Irish Judges are to have no power to deal with any such subject, and English Judges alone are to have jurisdiction to try all matters arising there under. That is the effect of the clause. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No.] That is what I respectfully submit to t the House and the Government is the effect of this clause according to its wording. Thus the result will be that those who have been striving to drive the English garrison out of Ireland and to prevent a foreign law being administered in a foreign garb will in the future be rendering as permanent and as emphatic the distinction for the future between English and Irish law, between English and Irish administration, and you are going to create these two English Judges to administer a foreign law which is considered to be compatible with the independence which Ireland is to be permitted to have. There is subject, after subject I could deal with in a similar way, 934 but I am well aware that I ought to distinguish between topics that ought to be dealt with in a Second Reading Debate and one that ought to be left for discussion in Committee. But there is one section in this Bill which I cannot refrain from referring to—namely, Section 9—which deals with the position of Members in this House. I refer to it especially because I am pretty certain that this subject is one which never yet has received consideration in the country, however much it may have been discussed in Parliament. We have over and over again in this Debate been told that the mandate of the country has been given in favour of Home Rule. There never has been any mandate given by the country to destroy the efficiency of this great Body. And I say that if the Government and their Representatives had stood before their constituents and told them that either of the alternatives which the Home Secretary says must exist as vital to the Bill would form part of the measure there never would have been a mandate in favour of Home Rule. The alternatives are the in-and-out system, and that the Irish Members should have an entire interest in our proceedings and continue to take complete part in all of them. That is, I think from the statement of the Home Secretary, the direction in which the Government are drifting. I venture now to say that if the constituencies had been told before the General Election that. 103 or 80 Irish Members are to take part in our affairs, whilst we are to take no part in the government of Ireland, my right hon. Friends on that (the Treasury) Bench would not be occupying seats there at this moment. I am relieved from entering on the present occasion into any argumentative assertion of the impossibility of the in-and-out system. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, on the First Reading, made a speech which was as worthy of our Parliamentary life as any speech that I ever listened to. I fancy that there are some hon. Members around me who are not in agreement with me, but who will admit, as they passed from the House after listening to my right hon. Friend saying that his speech requires answering, and must be answered. From that hour to this no man has answered that speech. No hon. Member of the 935 House has made any serious attempt to answer it. [IRISH MEMBERS: Blake.] The hon. Member for South Donegal says that he has answered it. There are those who think otherwise.
§ *SIR H. JAMES
A somewhat more authoritative answer ought to have been made. The Chief Secretary had to answer it. But how did he answer it? He said—The right hon. Member for West Birmingham and other speakers have gone through the anomalies which will arise if Irish Members are retained at Westminster under the plan proposed by the Bill. These anomalies are perfectly obvious; it requires no ingenuity, no skill, no ability, to trace them all out and expose them. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister exposed them sufficiently the first night.That is the reply of the Government; and, speaking seriously, no other Member of the House has attempted to make any other answer to the speech of my right hon. Friend. we need not, at times, be frightened by anomalies. There are anomalies in our Constitution which have grown up with it, and which in their growth have become identified with the Constitution itself, and they have produced such little effect that we seldom notice them. But to create by Statute a new sharp anomaly, which is to take away the possibility of carrying on this House, to admit it, to be proud of it, and to declare that it is your wish, because you are carrying a measure of Home Rule, is a blow to Parliamentary life for which no example can be found in our history. Without assuming a tone that would ill become mo, I would say with great deference that this Institution to which our country owes so much, and which is recognised as the mother of Parliaments, deserves better treatment than to receive this blow at the hands of her most distinguished son. The Prime Minister, when the Bill was read a first time, said in his speech—admitted, I think—that the Irish Members would have a real and practical power of dealing with every British measure. Because he said— 936The Irish Members are not excluded from voting on a Motion incidental to a Bill confined to Great Britain. It appears to me that there ought to be some way that on a Bill or Motion exclusively relating to Great Britain there should be a power raising a question whether such Bill or Motion ought to be extended to Ireland.So that an Irish Member will be at liberty to move that a Bill may be extended to Ireland, and a British Government may be turned out of Office upon such a Motion; or when a Bill is introduced affecting only Great Britain, an Amendment may be introduced that no such Bill is satisfactory unless it be extended to Ireland. Thus we shall be powerless to carry on under the proposed system any business, even exclusively relating to Great Britain, apart from the intervention of the Irish Members. The Home Secretary recognised that great fact, and he had to admit that we are now to grant an independent Parliament to Ireland, and at the same time may have to give the Irish Members full and complete power to interfere in the legislation of this country. Such a matter as this cannot be dealt with in an offhand way by saying that it is only a Committee subject. It goes to the root of our Constitution, to the very foundation of our Parliament, and so we oppose it. We say that it is impossible that the responsibility can now be cast upon us of altering the Constitution of Parliament without allowing the constituencies of this country a chance of saying "Yes" or "No" as to whether this great blow shall be struck against a Parliament, which is their Parliament. We were told that they had a mandate from the country; we were told the constituencies knew the subjects upon which they were to vote. Did the Government ever tell the constituencies the manner in which Parliament was to be dealt with? Many of us relied upon the power of the Prime Minister to fashion legislation so as to overcome difficulties to a great and extraordinary extent. When he told us it was impossible to distinguish between Imperial and local affairs we accepted that. Then, when he said there were many ways in which that could be accomplished, we believed that with his great powers he would devise a workable plan, which would do justice to both countries and no injury to Parliament. We looked forward to the explanations 937 he would give of the method of dealing with this difficult subject, and we had full cause to believe that something workable would be produced. I have here a speech by Lord Rosebery, which is too long for me to read from, in which he positively derides and holds up to contempt the "in and out" plan, and equally condemns the plan of retaining the Irish Members altogether. When the noble Lord was in the Cabinet, we supposed his great and just power would prevent the reiteration here of arguments in support of a system which no one, I presume, can say is other than an unworkable system. But our hopes, which were the hopes and trust of the constituencies, have been all shattered and destroyed and the old unworkable plan, which Mr. Bright in 1886 described as an "intermittent Irish fever," is now reproduced, with the admission of the Chief Secretary that it is an anomaly which he cannot explain, which he cannot even find an apology for, and which we are asked to accept because the Government have promised Home Rule to their supporters and are willing to pay any price, even the greatness of Parliament, to obtain a Parliamentary success and fulfil their promises. I have no right to trespass further on the indulgence of the House, but I hope I may make reference to one personal matter. Many speakers and writers have quoted words which I used in 1886 in a speech in which I condemned allusions, however remote, to the prospect of civil war, and counselled that the defence of all that good men held dear should and could be maintained by Constitutional means. Happily for myself I enjoyed a long and intimate association, both political and personal, with Mr. John Bright, and it was impossible to share his views without having a detestation and horror of anything that could lead to war, and especially to civil war: and, under the influence of that feeling, I did express condemnation of anything that for one moment could foster the idea. I am not about to retract the words I used; I do not think it necessary to explain them: I do not I think it even necessary to say that my declaration at that time had been strictly confined to the circumstances then existing. But, Sir, I have something to add 938 to those words. As Edmund Burke said—"Rebellious are never encouraged; they are always provoked." If I may presume to give those words any application, it would be by way of warning to those who, whilst they do not encourage rebellion, may possibly provoke it. I would say to those who have produced this Bill, and who are insisting upon enforcing its provisions upon unwilling men, who are being cast adrift —Consider whether you are doing nothing to provoke rebellion. I ask you who, at one time, say the claims of these men deserve consideration and who now tell them that the words of their Representatives are vehement bluster, that they who tell them are venal, almost corrupt, and consider their own interests rather than the interests of their county—are you doing nothing to provoke rebellion? I venture, with great respect, to say that when the complaints of loyal men are not heard— [An hon. MEMBER: Loyal!]—when men who have committed no crimes have asked for a hearing to state their grievances, and you turn away from them —are you doing nothing to promote a rebellion? Will you not recognise the extent to which human nature will carry men in their actions? If you tell these men from day to day that they are cowards, that they are mere boasters, that they dare not do what they say they will do, and this is the only reply you give them, you are treating them in a manner which would cause a very cur to turn upon you. Having said what I did in 1886, I adhere to it. I say now to-day to the Government, that if, after this provocation, civil war shall occur, the responsibility for every drop of blood that shall be shed will fall more upon you as well as upon the men who have shed it, and you will be blamed more than they for the civil war you can avert and will not. The hon. Member for North-East Cork, whilst he professed great devotion to his country, and great loyalty in his allegiance to it, said that England was beaten when she had to give up her penal laws, when tithes were abolished, when the Church was disestablished, when landlordism was attacked and vitally injured. But in these measures there was no defeat to the Liberal Party; they were victories for that Party; vic- 939 tories for England. If this Bill passes, the hon. Member may triumph, for we shall be defeated, and defeated for the first time. But we, Sir, who attempt to avert that defeat by every Constitutional means, shall have the consolation that it is against our will, against the best of our power, that this defeat will be sustained, and, above all, we shall know that we never should have been defeated if we had not been betrayed.
§ SIR E. HARLAND (Belfast, N.)
said, that after the powerful speeches which had been delivered on both sides of the House against the financial and legal aspects of the Bill, he would not go over the same ground, but would venture to address a few remarks on the subject now occupying the attention of the House from a different standpoint. The financial aspect of the Bill had been thoroughly discussed, and the Chief Secretary and the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton) had made the best case they could; but their replies had been very feeble. He thought they failed to deal with the criticisms which had been advanced; but he would rather now view the question from the industrial and commercial point of view. He had lived for a very long period in Ireland, and had been privileged to take, perhaps, a leading part in the enterprise and industries of Ireland. He would commence by saying distinctly that he did not see the slightest use for such a Bill. That might be considered a very bold statement, but he made it from the experience of 36 years of active life in Ulster. During that time he had seen most marvellous progress in that Province, and particularly in the City of Belfast, under the very law it was now sought to completely subvert. He did not hesitate to say that if the rest of Ireland under existing laws were to use the same intelligence, industry, and application in their business there was nothing to prevent the rest of Ireland from being quite as prosperous as Ulster. Before they made any changes in the existing laws they should examine carefully what it was for which those present laws were to be blamed. He emphatically declared that Ireland was to-day as prosperous as either England or Scotland. He did not think anyone could give him any real proof that Ireland was behind either England or Scotland 940 in agriculture or manufactures. Take agriculture. No doubt what Ireland suffered under in respect to agriculture she suffered for precisely the same reasons as the agriculturists of England or Scotland. And the Laud Legislation which had been given to Ireland in the last few years had positively placed the Irish farmer in a much better position than the farmers in either England or Scotland, and therefore it was only a matter of giving, and they might continue to give until the only thing which would be left to be given was the fee-simple of the Irish land. Since it had been found in Great Britain that wheat could not be grown at a profit, the result had been that from the peculiar climate and soil in Ireland the Irish farmer was better off between green crops and cattle than the English and Scotch farmer; so that under the head of agriculture Ireland had nothing whatever to complain of. He believed if an Irish Parliament were set up one of the very first things it would do would be to place the Irish tenants still further in an undue position of advantage as against the owners of property there. The Members of such a Parliament would certainly feel themselves called upon by the promises already given to their constituencies to pursue the Land Question until the farmers had finally become possessed—it might be by law or it might be through the continued non-payment of rent—of all the landlords' property. If hon. Members, even on the opposite side of the House, really found such were the tactics of the Nationalist Party, he was sure many of them would hesitate to vote for, even if they did not positively oppose, the passage of this Bill. Besides dealing with the Land Question in a manner which would be possibly revolutionary, the Irish Parliament which would be sot up would probably deal with duties and other points of law which might very seriously and prejudicially affect the manufacturing interests of the country. Already hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway sneered at the very idea of landlordism; but let them take care. By the laws which had been recently enacted, tenants were enabled to become possessed of their holdings, so that before many years had passed some tenants would become tenants also of holdings adjoining their 941 own; and it was quite possible, therefore, in this way that another crop of landlords would spring up, very probably of a different class, and not so leniently and generously disposed as the landlords whom it was now sought to hunt out of the country. he was speaking without the slightest prejudice, for he was neither a tenant nor a landlord in Ireland; but he had lived in the country many years, and had become personally acquainted with almost every part of Ireland. On the occasion of the introduction of the Bill the Prime Minister laid great stress upon history, and gave several instances of what he had called analogies for this Bill. He (Sir E. Harland) held that there was no analogous case to be found in the whole of history, and there was nothing in the world to compare to the spectacle of two little islands—a mere handful of earth as it were—being practically the mistress of the world. From a glance at the map and the insignificant size of our country, one was utterly unable to conceive the enormous power which had been built up by years of battle, and toil, and perseverance, no doubt greatly assisted by the mineral wealth of which the country early found herself possessed in the shape of coal and iron, and but for which, he was afraid, they would be an insignificant part of the globe. But they had made excellent use of the natural means, and by force of character the inhabitants of these Islands had worked themselves up until they occupied a most marvellous position in the civilised world. He therefore considered they need not look to history to give them any indication of similar instances. The civilised world would laugh and scoff at them if they were violently to cast off from their side the Sister Island. What would it become? If there was a European war; if they were engaged in a war with Russia or France, or, worse still, if they were engaged in a war with the United States, where there were so many of Ireland's sons settled, they would find that the Irish Parliament would set its wits to work, and before long Ireland would become the base of operations of their enemies against them. The splendid ports of Ireland would become the ports at which the enemies of England would call. There was not much coal in Ireland, it was true; but there was quite 942 enough in Ireland, if properly worked and collected together, to coal the ships of the enemies' fleets. He considered that it would be better to treat Ireland, if possible, oven in a more reasonable, fair, and generous way than hitherto; but under no circumstances ought they to grant to Ireland any legislative power, and, above all, they ought not to grant a Legislature which would make its own laws. He did not hesitate to say that if they were to grant to Ireland power to make her own laws it would disturb the balance of commerce and industry of all kinds, and practically produce anarchy. Let them take Belfast, which was undoubtedly the most thriving city. There were 80,000 at the present time employed in Belfast and the immediate neighbourhood in the various industries, banks, railways, shipbuilding, and distilleries. in addition, 34 per cent. of all the imports into Ireland were imported through the Port of Belfast. In the linen trade alone, which was the staple trade, there were £2,685,000 spent in wages. There were other industries as well, and they might say that £4,000,000 a year were spent in the neighbourhood of Belfast in wages alone. he knew one firm which spent £500,000 in wages, and there were three firms there in three distinct branches of business each of which was the largest of its kind in the world. That was a marvellous position of affairs, and yet they were told that all this would not be considered. The Prime Minister, when introducing the Bill, dwelt upon the coercion of the late Government; but he was perfectly satisfied that the Coercive Laws of the late Government were the saving of the congested and disaffected parts of Ireland. The Coercive Laws were also made applicable to Ulster. But they never knew about it, because Ulster never desired to do other than justice between man and man. If a farmer took a farm, he paid his rent in Ulster, and he did not know any case there of five or six years' arrears. Taken as a whole, they had paid their rents as well as any farmers either in England or Scotland. Indeed, they knew that there were many farms in England vacant; but there was not such a thing as a vacant farm in Ulster from one end to the other. Unfortunately, one of the chief defects was the smallness of the farms. That resulted many years ago, 943 partly from legislation and partly from the desire of the family to remain on the soil and to cut up farms of 10 acres into half that extent. They might go miles through Ireland without seeing a plough or any other agricultural instrument. That was due to the bog of the country, which was, nevertheless, first-class soil for crops. But there were other parts of the country where a horse and plough could venture upon, but where those labour-saving instruments were not applied. If they had Englishmen or Scotchmen tilling those farms, they would be perfectly astonished at the difference which would soon present itself over the country. He might venture to mention that the Belfast collections to the Exchequer of Great Britain was 38 per cent. of the total contribution of Ireland, Ulster, therefore, was not to be ignored, or looked upon as of little consequence, in the settlement of this Home Rule policy. The hon. Member for Suffolk, who had given them a very graphic account of his visit to Ireland, but who now admitted that he did not visit the North East part of Ulster, had positively told them it was a country of slaves. The only slaves there were those men who voluntarily put their necks under the heels of the priests. He knew of no law which would interfere with his business, or with the business of any of those merchants and manufacturers who waited upon the Prime Minister the other day, but to whom, he was sorry to say, the right hon. Gentleman in a great measure turned a deaf ear. When the Prime Minister was framing his Bill, if he had a real desire to inform himself as to the condition of Ireland— for he supposed there was no man in that House, who had seen less of Ireland than the right hon. Gentleman—if he had taken that opportunity of conferring with the representatives of Ulster industries, he would have learned not only why Ulster had prospered, but why the other three Provinces had not prospered. It was pitiable to see the right hon. Gentleman and his Party in the humiliating position of presenting to the House the most uncalled-for, the most wanton, and the most revolutionary piece of legislation which had ever been offered to that House for its acceptance. If the right hon. Gentleman had had an earnest desire for the welfare of Ireland, he would have 944 consulted some of the leading Ulstermen, as well as their Nationalists friends, when he was framing his Bill. How was it that he had consulted that portion of the Island which had shown itself less able to manage its own affairs instead of consulting the other part, which had given the strongest proof of its ability to conduct their own affairs? The men composing the deputations from the Dublin and Belfast Chambers of Commerce who were ready to wait upon the Lord Lieutenant, but who were refused an interview, were more representative of the real interests of Ireland than the whole of the 80 Members from Ireland below the Gangway; and he would undertake to say that the Members representing Ulster had more stake in the country than they; he would further undertake to say that two of the Ulster Members paid more in wages in Ireland than the whole 80 Members together. In fact, the 80 Members below the Gangway represented nothing of the capabilities for good or capabilities for improvement in Ireland. They constantly heard that Ireland could do nothing without legislation. Legislation could do nothing for Ireland at the present time. Let them keep the legislation they had, and with the greatest firmness maintain it. Sometimes the late Government, in their kindness, were disposed to be somewhat weak in that respect; but generally there was a firmness on the part of the late Government in carrying out the law which proved to be the real safety of Ireland. They wanted no fresh legislation whatever. Ireland was not even fit for the introduction of County Councils. The active men in the County Councils of Ireland were drawn very much from what he would call the lower middle class. In Ireland there was no middle class. There were two classes: the large landed proprietors, the manufacturers— few, but generally large— and then there was the peasantry. The peasantry were certainly not yet fit to undertake the work of County Councils; and the landlords, or those who occupied an independent position, had become so disgusted and disheartened—and naturally so—with the treatment they had received from legislation and from their tenants, that they were not disposed to spend much time on such bodies as. County Councils. 945 Therefore the middle class in England, who took such a valuable part in local legislation, did not exist in Ireland, and would not for many years, until the tenantry and fanners had gradually improved their position, and until the various industries of the country had been still further extended. Ireland was about 50 years behind England. She had not been particularly active in industries until the present generation, for laws operated unjustly against some of her industries. But all that had passed. The industries during the last 50 years had totally changed, not by reason of any unjust legislation, but purely on account of change of circumstances and trades. There was a time when Belfast mills were all cotton mills; now there was only one, and all the rest were linen. Leeds was formerly the great centre of the linen trade, but now there was not a linen mill in Leeds, and so on. He was sure the Nationalists would be very glad indeed to see industries established throughout Ireland; but there was no encouragement for those industries. Many overtures had been made to Ulster-men to establish industries in other parts of the country; but they had always found on inquiry that there were so many difficulties and obstacles in the way of obtaining free labour, as well as the religious difficulties, that it would be extremely dangerous for those industries to be placed on new ground. In addition to that, Irishmen had a great deal to learn yet with reference to industry. If intelligence, enterprise, and perseverance were brought to bear, and people did not bother themselves about politics, industries would flourish throughout Ireland. If those qualities were brought to bear upon that magnificent river at Galway, where there were thousands of horse-power running every day into the sea without turning a wheel, that town might be made as wealthy and prosperous as any. Let them take also Cork, Queenstown, and Waterford, and particularly Dublin. He knew no town where the industry of shipbuilding might be more prosperously carried on than the City of Dublin. There was no geographical or physical difficulty in the way of Ireland becoming a fairly prosperous manufacturing country, so far as the 946 manufacture of light goods was concerned. He would not say that towns at a distance like Galway or Sligo should start ironworks; but in the matter of thread or the manufacture of light goods, respecting which the carriage would be extremely small, distance would be, practically speaking, annihilated. What Ireland wanted was the introduction of another class of men into it. It needed the introduction of all sorts of enterprises from Great Britain into districts where the money spent in wages would be valuable to the surrounding agriculturists. But there was a difficulty that would have to be overcome if Ireland was to be made industrially prosperous. Their friends below the Gangway must remember that religion, as everything else, would have to conform, as to its specific rules and regulations, to the changed circumstances and conditions of men and of trade. He would, therefore, ask them to seriously advise the rulers of the Roman Catholic Church that, whenever any new industry was sought to be introduced into the Roman Catholic districts of Ireland, they should not allow religious observances to interfere with the operatives, as had been the case in the past. It was utterly impossible for any works where the steam-engine or water-wheel had to perform an important part to be properly conducted unless the whole of the reasonable time of the workers was given to their operations. He felt that if only the politicians would leave Ireland alone she had a great future before her. He had no hesitation in saying that the rest of Ireland could be made to smile with contentment and happiness, as happy in its wealth and as free as Ulster, if only those who sought to subvert her laws and preferred to gain advantages by Acts of Parliament— in other words, who sought to live by their wits more than by their hands—would leave her alone. It was the peculiar characteristic of an Irishman to be so ready-witted as. to almost persuade a heap of stones on the road, by talking to them, to place themselves in his cart, rather than take up a short-handled spade or shovel. He was a true friend of Ireland, and as a practical man he felt bound to say at this crisis that it was monstrous to suppose that the country could be rapidly and completely reformed by a change in her 947 laws, and especially by such a subversive measure as the present Bill. The effect would simply be an utter failure. Ulster had built up this enormous commercial power and wealth; she was perfectly contented with the laws which now governed Ireland; and he considered that Ulster was perfectly right in emphatically declaring that she would not allow herself to be severed from the British Empire by 80 Nationalist Members who were in that House. The people of Ulster felt that, if Great Britain were so blind to her own interest as to pass this Bill, which would sooner or later result in anarchy in Ireland, to be followed by reconquest, she could not expect the Ulstermen to settle down contentedly, for they would not do so. They had made up their minds; they were not going to attack, and it would not be a matter of physical force with them until they were attacked. They would act, not on the offensive, but on the defensive. Ulster paid £3,600,000 into the English Exchequer, and, if they chose to prevent it, not 1d. of that sum would find its way there. So far as Ulster was concerned, the Unionists held the purse-strings, and they would continue to hold them very tightly indeed. Ulster would not consent, unless it was by the decision of Great Britain, to be cast off from all connection with this Empire. There was no other portion of Her Majesty's Dominions as industrious and as prosperous, which had given less trouble, or sent fewer Bills to be passed, than the Province of Ulster. As to Local Bills, he did not hesitate to say that the people of Belfast would prefer that their Private Bill Legislation should be promoted at Westminster rather than in Dublin, because the additional cost would be hardly worth considering, and because they would have at Westminster a perfectly impartial tribunal. If the House should be so unwise as to pass the Bill, he was sure that, thanks to our Constitution and to the better wisdom that would be brought to bear upon the consideration of the Bill in another House, that House would do its duty, and prove itself more a friend of the Empire, and of Great Britain, by rejecting the Bill.
§ MR. F. B. MILDMAY (Devon, Totnes)
said, that the efforts of the late 948 Government had been directed to defeating the object of the Nationalist Members, which was to make the government of Ireland useless and impossible. The late Government Supported law and order, although attempts had been constantly made to thwart their intentions by the Liberal Party who were in Opposition. He had no confidence in the statement that there was a demand for Home Rule even in Ireland itself. He believed that many of those who in England had voted for the Bill did so with the object of getting rid of the difficulties and delays caused by the Irish Question. If Home Rule had been presented to the constituencies at the General Election, in its present vague and ambiguous terms, it would have been Scouted from one end of the country to the other. The belief that the Bill would establish a complete and final settlement was particularly fallacious, and he maintained that Irish Members would use every effort to obtain further concessions. Hon. Members would recollect that it was only by assuming an attitude of constant hostility to every policy produced that the Irish Party reduced what was once the Liberal Party to complete subjection, and drove them into a policy of despair. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen now in power had given way to these tactics in the past, what would be their attitude in the future? Would Gladstonians show themselves as fusible in the future as they had in the past? They were asked to approach this question in a spirit of trust. When that proposition was made to them, he could not forget the lesson which the Prime Minister gave them in 1885. As to the Bill, an examination showed them that in the clauses in which it differed from the Bill of 1886, it was so ridiculous that the possibility of its passing through Committee could hardly be contemplated. They proposed to provide for the independence of Ireland by setting up a new independent Parliament in Dublin, and bringing the Irish Members over here to manage Imperial affairs. The Prime Minister had said that the retention or non-retention was a mere organic detail. One might as well say that the lungs were an organic detail of the human body; but they all knew that the question of the non-retention of the Irish Members was the crux of the whole Bill. He objected to vote for the principle of 949 the Bill, because it attempted the impossibility of an independent Parliament in Dublin, and yet preserved the Irish representation in the Imperial Parliament here. What control would the Imperial Parliament have over the Parliament in Dublin? They were told that it was the power of the Crown. That power was very difficult to exercise, and they had been told by some Irish Members that the veto would only be recognised so long as it was not exercised, and that if it was exercised their power would be felt in the Imperial Parliament. If the Imperial Parliament retained no power of enforcing laws which they might pass for Ireland, because they handed over every power to the Irish Members to enforce that which alone was agreeable to them —what was the protection for the loyal minority of Ireland? He believed that the loyal minority in Ulster was a strong and determined body able to protect itself; but he spoke of those who were scattered about in isolated places in different parts of Ireland. They would be guilty of the most dangerous proceedings if they handed over these Loyalists to men whom they all knew would crush them if they had the opportunity. Ireland consisted of two nations, and England was responsible for the present state of affairs. They would be false to that responsibility if they said they were sick of their duties in Ireland and left her to herself. The Liberal Unionists had been the recipients of a great deal of abuse for taking up the position upon this matter which they had occupied since 1886. An hon. Member opposite —an Irish Member sitting for an English constituency—characterised them in the hysterical language of the new journalism as "lost souls sitting here, our faces distorted with evil intentions." If that were so, all he could say was that the loss of his soul, the distortion of his features, was entirely due to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He would not wish to trouble the House with a personal reminiscence; but he might say, in passing, the right hon. Gentleman was the first Cabinet Minister that he ever heard on a political platform. He came down to help them in the West of England during the Election of 1886, and addressed a great meeting at Plymouth. At that meeting he (Mr. Mildmay) sat literally at his feet, as chairs ran short 950 on the platform, and he drank in his every word. The right hon. Gentleman said—Since the declaration of Mr. Parnell, there can be no doubt what is the policy of Mr. Parnell; there can be no doubt what is the policy he and his Party have adopted; it is a policy of absolute separation of the two countries.Now, how had that declaration been met? Two speakers eminently entitled to represent the Liberal Party—Lord Hartington and Mr. Chamberlain—had spoken, and spoken in a manner worthy of their positions, and worthy of the Party they represented. "These were the men," said the right hon. Gentleman in effect, "for you to take as an example," and then the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to "go for" the Irish Members; and when he (Mr. Mildmay) said it was in what he might call, he hoped without offence, the right hon. Gentleman's juiciest days, they would know what sort of language it was. In fact, so filled was he (Mr. Mildmay) with admiration for the strength and fertility of his epithets, and the magnificence of his righteous anger, that he subsequently did his little best to reproduce that righteous anger and those epithets on every platform throughout his constituency; and to his successful reproduction of the right hon. Gentleman's periods was due the fact that his constituency remained loyal to the Union in 1886 and 1892 by the highest majority in Devon or Cornwall. It was the right hon. Gentleman who first led him, then a young and innocent politician, into the infamous and tortuous paths of Unionism; and when he had lured him into those mazy depths, like the wicked uncle in the story book, he abandoned him without a word of warning. He could only hope the right hon. Gentleman's conscience pricked him when he contemplated the result of his avuncular wickedness. No doubt the Bill would pass its Second Reading, but when it was in Committee its absurdities must become fatal to its progress. When it came again before the country, the verdict would be unclouded by any other issue, and in that case the constituencies would reject the Bill by such an overwhelming majority as would deter a statesman—however great he might be— in the future from tampering with the subject.
§ *MR. LITTLE (Whitehaven)
said, they had had one or two speeches of considerable interest from hon. Members on the opposite side. They had had, for example, a speech from the hon. Member for North Belfast (Sir E. J. Harland), who had told them that Ireland was 50 years behind England. That was a remarkable state of things, considering that for 93 years Ireland had enjoyed the so-called advantages of British rule, and that her statesmen had done all they could to make Ireland contented, prosperous, and happy, and to lift her in the ranks of the nations of the world. Another remark the hon. Member made was that Ireland was not fit for County Councils. Well, but the hon. Member supported a Party that only last year brought in a Bill to grant County Councils to Ireland, and he voted for that Bill. The hon. Member for East Down (Mr. Rentoul) told them the other night that Irish Protestants were "the least honest" of the supporters of Home Rule. What would he think of the hon. Member for North Belfast saying be was not now in favour of County Councils? How many of those gentlemen were honest in their vote for County Councils last year? He (Mr. Little) was in favour of Home Rule, because he had spent a large part of his life in Ireland, and had heard both sides. He was there as an Irish Protestant, coming not from Ulster, but from Leinster, which was the premier Province of Ireland, being first in wealth, in education, and in refinement. It had as good a right as Ulster had to be heard in this controversy. He was in favour of Home Rule, because he had spent a large part of his life in Ireland, and had heard both sides of the question. When he left Ireland and when he was a Cambridge undergraduate he came to the conclusion that the only way of bringing the Irish people to love the law was to give them back the Parliament which had been stolen from them. It was said that the Protestant minority was wealthier, better educated, and more industrious than any other section of the Irish community. But did that give them a better right to make the laws which should govern the whole community? He had utterly failed to understand the position of Ulster, because it 952 was stated differently every day. What did Ulstermen want?
§ MR. LITTLE
said, they had a perfect right to claim to be themselves let alone, and he would support an Amendment having that effect; but one small corner of Ireland had no right to deny to the rest of Ireland the domestic Parliament it desired. He did not despise the threats which had been put forward. If the Bill meant civil war in Ireland, then it ought not to be passed in its entirety. To prevent civil war the four or six Unionist counties of Ulster ought to be separated from the rest of Ireland. But he thought the threats exuberant. There was a strong feeling among Liberals in favour of Home Rule before the question was taken up by the Leaders of the Party; and when the Prime Minister introduced his last Coercion Bill, he (Mr. Little) spoke against that measure in the Management Committee of the Liverpool Liberal Association, and the resolution in its favour was withdrawn. That showed that the Party were really in advance of their Leader in 1885, and that the policy of Home Rule was not due to the alleged sudden conversion of the Prime Minister. What was the position now? A Bill had been introduced in which a large concession had been made to the demands of the Liberal Unionists. Those hon. Gentlemen separated from the Liberal Party in 1886 because the Irish Members were to be excluded. Now the right hon. Member for Bury (Sir H. James) told the House that the Unionists would not have the Irish Members in the House for all purposes; that they would not have them excluded; and that they would not have the in-and-out system of the present Bill. Their position, then, was that no method of dealing with the Irish Members would satisfy them. Was that reasonable? In all parties the idea was growing that sooner or later Imperial Federation must be considered, and that Representatives of the distant Colonies must be brought into the Imperial Parliament. They could not be brought in for domestic affairs; and therefore there must be some system of in-and-out representation. Consequently, every Imperial Federationist should consider whether, by voting against the scheme in the Bill for the retention of 953 the Irish Members, he was not voting against the only principle by which the Empire could be federated. With regard to the question of the domestic Parliament, he was bound to say that he was not in absolute agreement with the Bill. ["Oh!"] He doubted whether it was wise to have two Chambers. One Chamber would be less expensive, and would necessitate only one Register; and there would be no likelihood of those disputes arising between the two Chambers, which occurred even in this happy country. He was very doubtful, too, whether the Legislative Assembly would give a fair representation to the people. There ought to be some endeavour to devise a proper system of proportional representation. If there was to be a strong Government in Ireland, it must fairly represent all sections of society and all shades of opinion. He believed such a Parliament would command much greater respect from the people of Ire-land than this Parliament of two Houses which was put before the House. He had some fear that under the system now proposed the Protestants of the South of Ireland would not be adequately represented, and that the Ulster Protestants would be over-represented.
§ MR. LITTLE
said, his point was that if they had over-representation of the Protestants in one part of the country, it did not make up for other Provinces in which Protestants might have no representation at all. He would suggest to the House when that question was being considered that there should be some endeavour made to devise means for a proper system of representation—of proportional representation for the whole of Ireland, so that every section should be represented. What was it that frightened Ulster Protestants with regard to Home Rule? It was the centralised power of the Catholic Church. That Church was a most important factor in Irish life, and the Church as a body was on the side of justice and morality, and would be more so, he believed, in the future. But if they had a system of proportional representation, as he suggested, they would avoid all dangers and end all apprehensions, and he thought they would do much to develop the Conservatism of the Church. He would point 954 to the change that had taken place in the attitude of the Land League Leaders, from which he took it that they would be reconciled to the system of representation which he indicated. Still, he believed that any system of Home Rule would be better than the present state of affairs in Ireland; and if he could not get what he considered to be the best form, he was not going to wreck his chance of getting a second best. He believed they, as a Parliament, wore engaged in the most important and beneficent work of the century. No Irish Protestant could be satisfied with the present condition of Protestantism in Ireland. The minority in the South were treated with kindliness, and were as safe in respect to their lives and property as in many parts of England.
§ An hon. MEMBER: They are not Unionists.
§ MR. LITTLE
said, three-fourths of his relatives were Unionists, and they were living among Catholics and were treated just as he had described. He had never heard from one of them any other account of their treatment by their neighbours. Had they the same kindly feeling exhibited towards the minority in the North of Ireland? He was sorry to say that was not his experience. It was said that the races in the North were different. There was some little truth in that; but Leinster and Minister had been settled over and over again by Englishmen, and a great authority had stated that the men of Tipperary had as much Anglo-Saxon blood in them as the men of Lancashire. He would appeal to hon. Members in that House not to fight against men of their own blood in their fight for liberty.
§ MR. WILLIAM H. FISHER (Fulham)
said, the arguments which had been hitherto given to the criticisms of opponents of the Bill had constituted no answer to any one of them. The hon. Member who had just sat down had used the extraordinary argument that anyone who thought it would become necessary to federate the Empire in time to come must in consistency vote for that Bill. He would like hon. Gentlemen opposite to point out how this Bill could afford the basis of any Federal system. He would ask hon. Gentlemen from Wales and Scotland how a measure which excluded from the scope of the Irish Parliament 955 the important questions of education and the establishment of the Church could form a basis of a Federal system for them. Such a settlement would be a hideous monstrosity. What would they think of a Parliament in England which was precluded from dealing with Local Government, or a Parliament in Wales which could not deal with Church Disestablishment? He would like to ask were they to have a Parliament in Ireland, another in Wales, another in Scotland, and to keep up two Chambers in Westminster as well? If they were, they would have some five Parliaments altogether for these little Islands! Well, then, there were the important questions arising out of the financial clauses— the treatment of the Customs and Constabulary. Any such Federal system under the Bill would be a hideous mockery. Those who thought that in years to come the normal development, as it was called by the Home Secretary, of this question might result in a Federal system for England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, would see that by accepting any such measure as this they would actually be placing themselves in great difficulty with regard to the creation of such a Federal system: because it would be necessary, before a Federal system could come into operation, that there should be taken away from Ireland that which was being given to her under the Bill. In reply to the complaint that the arguments of the Opposition had not been answered, it had been said that no answers had been given because the Government did not believe in the prophecies uttered by the Opposition. He admitted that, whilst directing their criticism to the disastrous effects which this Bill would have upon Ireland, Unionists had more or less been compelled to put forward arguments which were mainly of the nature of prophecy. Their prophecies, however, had been met, not with silence, but with counter-prophecies. Unionists had prophesied that under this Bill Ireland would be reduced to a pandemonium, whilst Ministerial speakers had declared that the country would become d paradise. Which were the true and which were the false prophets was a question which he believed would never be decided, because he did not think the people of this country would permit the experiment proposed in the Bill to be carried out. Right 956 hon. Gentlemen opposite charged the Unionists with betraying a want of confidence and trust in the people of Ireland. He would be more inclined to give weight to the utterances of those right hon. Gentlemen if, when they said they trusted the Irish people entirely, they risked something more valuable than their own credit as prophets. They were very much in the position of Company Directors who had not been altogether uninterested in the promotion of a Company, but who, whilst recommending it to the public, did not intend to pay for a single share in the concern. Whilst they risked nothing themselves, they insisted that the citizens of Ireland should embark their all in a company, the first directors of which would be the Nationalist Members. What had been the action of the men who were, under this Bill, to be placed in a position of responsibility? He did not know one single tiling they had ever touched of which they had made a success, or which, if it was successful, they had not brought to the very verge of bankruptcy. He admitted their great eloquence and their many other most estimable qualities; but he could not see that they had any great aptitude for constructive legislation, or that they had shown any particular ability with reference to social legislation, more especially in connection with the congested districts. The extreme opposition which was shown to the Light Railways Bill of his right hon. Friend (Mr. A. J. Balfour)—a measure which was likely to do more good for Ireland than all the measures ever brought forward by the Nationalist Members themselves—was surprising. It was not at all wonderful, under the circumstances, that the industrious citizens of Ireland regarded this Bill as one for multiplying New Tipperaries. There was one important point which did not admit of being answered by mere counter-prophecy. It consisted of positive proof that if this measure were passed it would bring confusion to all parts of the British Constitution, such as would absolutely destroy the Constitutional system under which Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen, had lived and thrived for a number of years. The question of dealing with the representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament was insoluble. In 1886 the 957 Prime Minister proposed the total exclusion of the Irish from the Imperial House of Commons. It was a very singular thing, but when he did so he proposed a clause by which it would be possible to raise money in Ireland to provide for war. The right hon. Gentleman had now shifted his ground, and proposed to have Ireland represented in the Imperial Parliament for Imperial purposes. There was, however, no proposal in the Bill under which money could be raised in Ireland in case of war, although war would involve the defence of Ireland's shores and hearths and homes just as much as it would involve the defence of the shores and hearths and homes of England. The Prime Minister had, however, discovered that the Opposition would have a good deal to say on political platforms on this point, and that the British people were not likely to understand why Irishmen should not contribute to a foreign war just as much as Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Welshmen. So the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech on the Second Reading—I will contemplate the emergency of war. I admit on this subject I offered no detailed explanation, but I conveyed a pledge to the House when I stated in introducing the Bill that we had in view a proposal by means of which it would be perfectly possible, going beyond the subjects of Customs and Excise, to direct taxation, and especially the Income Tax, upon which we mainly rely, so far as direct taxation is concerned in the event of war—it would be perfectly possible so to frame a Bill that Ireland should be made contributory in such a way that the Irish Exchequer should be charged with payment of a sum in fair proportion to the amount levied on Great Britain.The House had heard nothing more about that clause, and there had been no acceptance of such a clause by the Representatives of Ireland. Under the Bill as it stood Irishmen were to vote on all Imperial questions, but not on British questions; but the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Sexton) said yesterday that the Irish Members would not be satisfied with 80 Members, but must have the full 108 Members in the Imperial Parliament. What a splendid lever it would give, what a splendid prospect it would open out of finality, of a real and abiding settlement of the question, if 103 Gentlemen were to have it in their power to make bargains with the Prime Minister as to the price to be paid for their support. This opened up a very curious and novel 958 point. The Prime Minister, in his speech on the Second Reading, said—With regard to what is called the in-and-out question, all the anticipations of the great practical inconvenience from that plan depend on the assumption that those 80 Irish Members will constantly attend in the House of Commons. I must say that is not my anticipation. Those 80 Members will be found here on proper occasions, and those occasions will be found somewhat rare. Many of those Gentlemen will, I hope, be the same men as will be chosen by the Irish people to represent them in their own domestic Legislature; and as their domestic legislation must be, for the present, by far the most important subject to them, I believe Dublin will, at any rate, for some time be the preferred scene of action, and that neither for convenience nor inconvenience shall we have 80 Gentlemen sometimes sitting opposite and sometimes in the Lobby of the House.Under the arrangement contemplated, the Irish Member of the Imperial Parliament would be a sort of Siamese twin —he would be able to vote hero for all matters excluded under Section 3, and to vote in Dublin for all matters not so excluded, and he would be constantly perambulating the Lobbies of the House at College Green and the House at St. Stephen's. He would be elected to serve for five years in Ireland and for seven years in England, so that after death, so to speak, in Ireland he would be taking part in legislation in the Imperial Parliament. He would go on sitting at Westminster very likely as a paid Representative. With regard to the question of payment of Members, they had here an illustration of the difficulties which would arise through Irish Members being able to vote in some matters and not upon others. The Irish Members would be entitled to vote upon such a question. If the question should be dealt with in the present Parliament there would be a majority of British Members against the system of payment; but the Irish Members would be brought in to vote, the British Members would be out-voted, and they would be compelled to receive payment all round simply because the Irish Members insisted upon receiving remuneration for the duties they performed in the Imperial Parliament. As a matter of fact, the scheme was full of insolvable problems, and the only solution they had before them was the pious prayer of the Prime Minister that the House would come to a sound decision. He (Mr. Fisher) would venture upon a prophecy, although he knew prophecies were very 959 distasteful to the Home Secretary. Instead of salvitur ambulando it should be said of this Government ambulabit solvendo. When the Bill came before the country, and the country realised the ruin and havoc it would make of our splendid Constitution, he believed it would force the Prime Minister, imperious as he was, to abandon his scheme, and to leave intact a system of Government under which all parts of the United Kingdom had prospered.
§ *CAPTAIN SINCLAIR (Dumbartonshire)
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down had made a great point of the difficulty under which Irish Members would find themselves in being Members at the same time of two Legislatures, and had assumed that the two Legislatures would be dealing at one and the same time with identical topics. Anyone who studied the Bill must see clearly that the Irish Members would not be called upon to deal with precisely the same subjects in the Irish as in the Imperial Parliament; and it seemed to him idle to assume that gentlemen who were elected to represent Ireland could not, at one and the same time, be Members of both Assemblies. At the present time Members of the House of Commons were also Members of the London County Council, although the work either of the House of Commons or of the County Council was perfectly sufficient to tax the energies and employ the full powers of any man. It had been said that during the late General Election Home Rule was not the particular issue submitted to the electors. [Opposition cries of "Hear, hear!"] His experience differed entirely from that of hon. Gentlemen. Never was anything more clear than that the Election was fought upon that particular issue of Home Rule. He knew that the support given to the policy by the country was based upon facts and upon experience; and he felt sure that as long as the people of England had Local Government and Municipal Government, and as long as they entertained respect for those systems, they would turn in the direction of a measure of Home Rule for Ireland. It was a motive which impelled Parties to compete in the discussion of the question in order to find a solution. It had been the object of hon. Members, 960 opposite to belittle the importance of the question of Home Rule. But he had a strong conviction that if hon. Gentlemen entertained the notion that they, as a Party, could avoid dealing with this question they were "walking in a vain show." With regard to this question, both of the great Parties into which the country was said to be divided were more or less in an attitude of opportunism. No Party could assume Office, either now or in future, without placing the Irish Question in the forefront and endeavouring to settle it. Gentlemen opposite, therefore, would narrow the scheme of this Bill to a scheme of Local Government for Ireland concentrated round particular points. He did not think that was a candid position to take up, nor was it one which justified so great, so violent, and so exaggerated an opposition to this measure. He was not going to enter into detail as to the criticisms that had been offered of the provisions of the Bill and the various effects upon the Constitution if this Parliament were set up. The arguments of the opponents of the Bill, confined to one or two points, were arguments arguments against all Constitutional Government whatever; and if those arguments held good the sooner they gave up the idea of governing by Parliamentary institutions the better. The hon. Baronet the Member for Belfast (Sir E. J. Harland), to whom he had listened with great respect, told the House that Ireland was in as good a position as the Sister Island, and he had no fault to find with the industry, the agriculture, or the national life of Ireland. He did not know whether the hon. Baronet was aware of the number of cultivable acres of land which were lying waste in Ireland, of the number of empty manor houses and cottages, and of the steady flow of emigration. It should be borne in mind that this emigration did not mean that children and the aged were leaving the shores of Ire-land, but those who were best able to carry the burden of national life. All who had the interest of Ireland at heart were grateful to the hon. Member for Belfast and men like him, who by going to Ireland had given it a hope of an industrial future. But why did the hon. Member go to Belfast and set up his manufacture there? Because he found 961 there, in the first place, an abundance of cheap labour, and, in the second place, a harbour which was the nearest to the great coalfields of Scotland and England. It was to the hon. Member and to men like him that all Irishmen looked for the future industrial development of Ireland. There were three great influences which were likely to mould the future of that country— first of all, the influence of Belfast radiating as a centre of industrial energy and discipline; secondly, a population largely interested in agriculture; and, thirdly, the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. He did not know whether they understood the influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland, which was a permanent influence and could be used for great good. It was hopeless for either Party in that, House to think of ruling Ireland by means of a governing class. That, might have been possible a generation or two ago; but the work of this Parliament since the Union had been— by the Emancipation of the Roman Catholics, by tithe legislation, by the Disestablishment of the Irish Church— to take away, one by one, from the Party of ascendency the very foundations and props of their power; and the only resource they were justified in adopting, according to the experience derived from every other part of the Queen's Dominions, was to throw themselves on the good sense of the Irish people, and to believe that they were animated by the same motives as the inhabitants of any other portion of the Empire. They should recognise that not only was it human to err, but it was divine to forgive.
§ MR. HENRY J. C. CUST (Lincolnshire, Stamford)
said, the hon. Member had stilted some views which might carry weight with the House. He (Mr. Cust) was not aware that the Unionist Party had ever thought of maintaining or re-establishing in Ireland any sort of governing class, and the only reason why they did not throw themselves upon the generous instincts of the Irish people was because experience of the past had taught that that instinct would always be more generous to the national feeling of Ireland than to the welfare of England and the Empire. The Unionist Party had not obtained a satisfactory answer to any of the points which they had put forward. 962 Just as children took more interest and pleasure in the collapse of a house of cards than in its construction, Ministers seemed to be in a like mood as regarded the Bill and the scheme contained in it. Ministers, no doubt, had a majority, and it was their desire, he supposed, to use that majority not caring about principles, but using it simply as long as they had it. He would claim the indulgence of the House for venturing upon the consideration of two or three points which he considered worthy of criticism. In the first place there was the question of Imperial supremacy. The Home Secretary looked upon the Preamble as an amply sufficient bulwark for Imperial supremacy. He said he would not be a party to the Bill if he were not sure of that, and he told them that Lord Coke was his authority for looking upon the Preamble as he did. But Lord Coke never did say, as the right hon. Gentleman alleged, that the keynote of a Statute was to be found in the Preamble; what he did say was that the Preamble was a key to find out the meaning and to open the understanding of the Bill. The Preambles, moreover, which Lord Coke spoke about were very different from that of the present Bill. They were, as a rule, recitals and rehearsals of the evils and grievances which the Bill was intended to remedy. For instance, supposing it were set forth that the Government, depending entirely on Irish votes, were resolved to stick in office; at all hazards, and ready to buy votes at any price, then, no doubt, the Preamble would be an excellent key to open the understanding of the Bill. But in the present Preamble they had only a bald statement of expediency, while under the present Parliamentary system a Preamble was made subordinate to instead of governing the clauses. The Prime Minister and his Colleagues would further find that Lord Coke, referring to Preambles, said—This is only in the Preamble, and therefore, does not increase or diminish the value of the Statute.Surely, therefore, it was not enough to say that the Preamble would protect Imperial supremacy? Then they were told of a Declaratory Clause, if the Preamble did not suffice. But it was exactly the same with a Declaratory Clause; if the main tendency of the 963 clauses was to upset the Imperial supremacy they might declare till they were black in the face, and the declaration would be of no value whatever. They might declare their supremacy, but they could not make it effective so long as they had no power. The 33rd clause of the Bill was taken almost verbatim from the Colonial Laws Act of 1835, which applied to the Colonies. But what about the power to enforce? Only the other day a Colony had disputed the right of the Imperial Authorities. Was there any reason why they should not, in the same way, be in frequent conflict with the Irish Legislature? It was in the supposed amenability of the Irish Parliament the Home Secretary found his second safeguard; but it was impossible for them to forget the declarations of the Irish Members, especially at the time of the Parnellite break-up. He did not wish to give personal offence by quotations; he could say that he looked upon the Irish Members individually as brothers, and was on excellent terms with many of thorn; but he was dealing with them as public men and politicians, and he said they could not forget that the claim advanced in Ireland by the Irish Party was identical with Separation. He honestly believed that hon. Members on the opposite side had no satisfactory assurance as to what would be the course of policy in Ireland by their Irish Colleagues should they have the power of shaping the policy of Ireland, and that they would vote for the Second Reading merely in the extremely comfortable assurance that the Bill would find a speedy and desirable decease in another place. Many of those hon. Members were now more glad than they had ever been before that they had a House of Lords. Neither by a Preamble, nor by a Declaratory Clause, nor by a large and cheerful trust in the Representatives of Ireland, could Imperial supremacy be maintained, whilst there were in the clauses of the Bill no other safeguards for that supremacy of Parliament, and whilst it was vitally impaired by a great number of the clauses. Turning to the more general aspect of the question, he would ask—What was the whole motive of the Bill? In 1886 they were told Home Rule was necessary to save the cause of social order, because Ireland was ungovernable without coer- 964 cion; and as coercion was likely to lose votes to the Liberal Party, and endanger the interests of civilisation with which the Liberal Party was identical, Home Rule must be conceded. But Homo Rule was not conceded, and for six years Ireland had proved to be a perfectly governable country. [A Nationalist MEMBER: By coercion.] Yes, by legitimate coercion, which did not prejudice a single honest and law-abiding citizen in Ireland, and which, if it were enforced in England, would not affect the daily life or the daily doings of a single honest Englishman. The motive of social order was, therefore, dead and gone. The last resort was that the Bill was part of a far-reaching scheme of Federalism. For that there was a great deal to be said. He had been amazed that more arguments in support of the Bill had not been drawn from the necessity for Federation. Hon. Members opposite might have said with a good show of reason that the Empire had got too large and too unwieldy, and that it would fall by its own weight, if it were not decentralised; that Ireland wanted a Federal system of government, and that, therefore, they might begin with Ireland. That would have been a perfectly sound and legitimate theory; and if Federation were universally desired, and if a practical scheme were before the House, the theory would have made him a Home Ruler. In such a case he should take small account of individual hardships on the Constabulary or Civil Servants, on small minorities, or landlords, or any individuals, because in such a case they would sacrifice a limited number of individuals in a great transaction which would confer strength, prosperity, and permanence upon the British Empire. In that case he did not imagine the Unionist Party would offer a merely negative opposition. But there was no demand for such a policy in the Colonies; and the Prime Minister had admitted that, even if they demanded it, it would be an impossible dream for the present generation. In Scotland there was a faint, and in Wales a fainter, call for National Home Rule; and Ireland wanted, not Federation, but Nationalism, or the independence of a separate nation. The hon. Member for North-East Cork said he had withdrawn the claim to make Ireland an independent nation, because 965 he deemed that aim impossible of attainment. But that Bill would make it possible. They would re-convert such gentlemen as the hon. Member for North-East Cork, who had laid aside the idea of separation, for by giving this weapon into their hands they would make them again believe that the independence of Ireland was possible. What Ireland sought was a separate and independent nationality, and this Bill would help her towards that goal. Hon. Members opposite might riggle and modify and qualify as they liked; but they could not get away from that sort of fact. The hon. Member for Waterford claimed that Ireland was an historical and separate nation, and said that though the government of Ireland by England might become the first and best in the world, Ireland would still claim the exclusive right to legislate for her people. If the Irish Parliament would have the "exclusive right" which he claimed for it, what would become of the Imperial supremacy?
§ MR. J. REDMOND (Waterford)
I said that that was what we claimed as a right; but the hon. Gentleman will remember I said that whilst that was the full demand we wore entitled to make, we were willing to accept this Bill as a compromise and to accept it in good faith.
said, he was glad to have such an assurance from the hon. Member that the Bill of the Government was so extremely satisfactory to Irish Nationalists. Still, in United Ireland—a journal with which the hon. Gentleman had some connection—of the loth of April, there was an article stating that in a few years Ireland would be a self-governing State holding diplomatic relations with European Powers. What that claim would lead to they could see pretty accurately in what was going on in Sweden and Norway, where a demand for separate diplomatic relations had brought the two countries to the verge of war. The Bill was a monstrous failure. It would share the fate of all cowardly compromises. It, sought to please everyone and it pleased no one; it gave too much and too little: it bribed and it plundered; it combined tyranny with anarchy; and, except two Ministers, he did not believe any Member gave it a whole-hearted support. The Irish 966 Members must be retained in the Imperial Parliament. The Home Secretary said that the retention of the Irish Members would be a safeguard for the supremacy of the Empire, but the right lion. Gentleman said nothing as to the shape that retention would take, merely remarking that it was a matter for readjustment. It might be a, matter for readjustment, but on that readjustment would depend the fate of two countries and one great Empire. But the Home Secretary's plans of readjustment were impossible, because the retention of the Irish Members was absolutely necessary in any readjustment, and that retention was absolutely impossible under the Bill. The Bill was, therefore, a radically impossible scheme. He was sensible of the obvious presumption of so young a Member as himself venturing even to hint at a possible alternative scheme; but he wished before the Debate closed that there should be a reminder that the Unionist Party was not merely negative and coercive in regard to Ireland, but that it was also ready to be liberal and constructive, provided only that that liberality and construction did not bring more of disaster and ruin to the corporate body of the British Empire than they brought contentment to one small portion of it. The Irish Local Government Bill of last year was well within the memory of the House. Nor did they forget the studiously melodramatic reception given to it. It came on the eve of a General Election. It was not a perfect Bill, and neither time nor goodwill was given to it. Every hon. Member in the House believed in the general theory of decentralisation and in the necessity of getting rid of the Irish question as generously and as quickly as might be. Every Unionist Member of the House, or a very large proportion of the Party, were willing to grant Ireland a large scheme of local self-government, and nine-tenths of the Gladstonians did not believe one twopenny bit in the present Home Rule Bill. His idea would be to find some Party which would settle the question, not by internal wranglings, but by trying to arrive at the measure of self-government which they could afford to give to Ireland. They were willing to give local self-government to Ireland, but they were not willing to give nationalism. The London County Council dealt with 967 interests more complex than any to be found in Ireland. Would it not be possible to give Ireland a scheme somewhat like that—call it a Parliament, or Homo Rule, or what they like? They had all heard of the two extremes of Home Rule—the Gas and Water Home Rule and the Fenian Home Rule. His suggestion would not be a compromise for Home Rule, but it would be a common-sense Home Rule. He admitted that under his scheme direct legislative power would not be given to the Irish body. The Irish Members would form a Grand Committee of the House, and whatever legislation they agreed on would be submitted to the House, and accepted by the House. That scheme might not satisfy the national sentiment in Ireland; but what right had the people of Ireland to higher power or authority than was possessed by the citizens of London? Under such a scheme Ireland would, in the important matter of finance, be more favourably circumstanced than under a separate Parliament, for she would have the power of borrowing money, and would share in the credit of the National Exchequer. He would retain all the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament just as the London Members were retained; but he would place English, Irish, and Scotch Members on an absolute equality by putting a stop to the present over-representation of Ireland. If the Irish Members wanted equality they must give as well as take, and he would introduce, concurrently with his Home Rule Bill, a Bill for the re-distribution of seats, which would give Ireland its proper proportional representation. How would such a scheme affect Ulster? Ulster could not complain of any danger to life, or property, or religion so long as the Ulster Members sat in the House, and so long as every action of the Irish Members under his scheme should be endorsed by the House of Commons. He fully believed that the Ulster Members could make their voice and their grievances heard in the House, and he felt sure their position and energy would ensure them a growing representation amongst the Irish people. Undoubtedly there were many hon. Members on both sides of the House who would welcome a measure that would get the Irish Question settled. The Parties in this House 968 were playing for a great stake. If the Government were wrong and the Opposition were right, the Government would do a deal to ensure the break-up of the British Empire. That sounded like cant and hackneyed terms: but if the Government were wrong, they were doing a great deal to upset the British Empire. In no other country in the world could the Prime Minister have introduced such a Bill in the way in which the right hon. Gentleman had introduced this. Unless the Bill be inspiration—of which it certainly carried few outward or inward signs or traces—it was nothing short of high treason—[Cries of "Withdraw!"] He did not mind withdrawing the word "high," but it was treason against the democracy, which was a far greater and more dangerous crime than treason against the King, because they were the chosen representatives of the democracy. By this Bill, as it stood, and especially the 9th clause, they were going to rob England, not only of her birthright and inheritance, but rob her of her independence and her Empire, and if need be, of her very existence. [Laughter.] It was easy to laugh, they wore so optimist, they were so cheerful, they had a stubborn indifference to what might he, merely because they believed that what they wanted to happen must happen; and the worst of it all was that half of them— he excepted the Treasury Bench—did not believe in this Bill themselves. They could not believe that if, as they were always telling them, there were 600 years of wrong and injustice to be redeemed—they could not believe that all this long quarrel would be redeemed by an Act that was not given by the English nation, but was extorted and forced out of the English nation against her judgment and her will. He trusted they could appeal to the 80 greater years of the Prime Minister's life against the heresies of the last six.
§ [MR. STOCK (Liverpool, Walton)
Owing to the constant interruptions, cries of "Divide!" and "Agreed!" and the general impatience of the House to hear Mr. A. J. Balfour, the hon. Member's remarks failed to reach the Reporter's Gallery.]
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
Mr. Speaker, this Debate has now reached its twelfth night, a period as long as has ever before been occupied by 969 a Second Reading discussion, but I, nevertheless, cannot doubt even those who at one time had anticipated that it might be brought to a conclusion at an earlier period must have, by this time, convinced themselves that the subject we are called upon to give our vote upon to-night is of transcendent importance, and the interest and importance of the questions that came up for discussion justified at least the amount of time which this House has given to it. Sir, it is my hard fate to endeavour to-night to focus and to concentrate as far as I can the discussion as it appears to us who nit upon this side of the House, to show what are the arguments, to touch upon the arguments that have been advanced in favour of the Bill, and to show how far more numerous and far more important arguments that can be advanced against the Bill have hitherto, and up to the present moment, received no answer whatever. There is one subject which has been hinted at rather than discussed which I will dismiss in a word. It is the subject of Federation. The Home Secretary and other hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, glad probably to be able to lay the flattering unction to their souls that in passing this Bill they were only making the first step towards some great scheme of political reform, have suggested that however difficult it may be to defend the scheme on its merits, it may yet be fairly voted for by those who look forward to a time when the British Isles may be divided and cut up into a set of Federate Provinces. I said that has been hinted at rather than defended. No man has had the audacity as yet to come forward in this House—no man of position or responsibility has had the audacity to come forward in this House as yet—and say he looks forward to the time, that he desires to bring about the time, when within the narrow limits to these two Islands there are to be four Legislative Assemblies and four Executive Assemblies, and over all another Supreme Assembly and another Supreme Executive. I do not believe that any such scheme is practicable. I do not believe that this childish imitation of the American Constitution is either fitted to the needs of our people or commends itself to the judgment of our people. I believe that the mere fact that the English nation, as distinguished from the Scotch, the Welsh, or the 970 Irish nation—we make all our discussions now in the name of nations—I believe the fact that the English nation so enormously exceeds all other elements of this proposed system, both in population and in wealth, and in power, will make the idea of co-ordinating them all as equal elements in one system an absolute impossibility whenever it is tried. In the meantime I do not understand it to be proposed, though I do understand it to be hinted at, and I willingly put it aside as not relevant to our discussion, which relates to a Bill contrived as I understand it to meet Irish necessities, and undoubtedly brought on for discussion by Irish agitation and, indeed, for the matter of that, by Irish crime. It must occur to those who have been attentive auditors of this Debate that never was there a gigantic change proposed to any Assembly with so small an array of arguments in its favour. ["Oh, oh!"] I do not as yet say that the arguments are bad; I say that they are few, and that I think will be admitted. They may be classed, so far as my observation and judgment are concerned, into those which are both bad and sentimental and those which are bad simpliciter. As specimens of those which are bad simpliciter, I will take two which have borne a prominent place in all the discussions of those whose lengthy speeches in defence of this Bill have not altogether been occupied by the tu quoque argument. The first of these is the failure of coercion, and the second of these arguments is the failure of the Union. I deny that, coercion, or what is called coercion—I deny, in other words, that the exceptional criminal law which the state of the agrarian condition of Ireland has required has proved to be a failure. Agrarian crime in Ireland is, unfortunately, a disease of very ancient growth. It began before the Union, and it has lasted after the Union; and both before and after the Union it has had to be mot by the same methods. But it was worse before the Union than it has been since the Union, and the exceptional laws passed since the Union to moot it have been far milder in their character than the exceptional laws passed before the Union. Ireland has suffered for reasons too long now to be entered into from this chronic malady—a malady liable to great variations and intensity, but a malady 971 nevertheless which is not refractory to treatment and which has shown a progressive tendency to diminish in violence and I say that even the dreadful outbreak of 1880 to 1882 may be paralleled, and far more than paralleled, both before and subsequently to the Union. Although I think it would be madness to look forward to the immediate future as the period when agrarian crime will be altogether stamped out of the Irish community, I think that it is fair to say that the disease has been diminishing in virulence, and that the treatment, when it has been fairly and courageously applied, has proved to be effective, and that we may look forward to a time when no further remedy may be necessary 80 much for the failure of coercion. What about the failure of the Union? We are told that the Union has failed to produce material prosperity, and in the famous speech, so often referred to in the course of these Debates, which was made by the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. Davitt),he gave an account—as it turned out a perfectly inaccurate account—of the position of the Irish small farmers and labourers at the present time, and he pointed to it and said, "This is the fruit of the Union, by this the Union must be judged." The hon. Member was inaccurate in his statistics, but he was not inaccurate in his broad contention that at this moment there is a great deal to be desired, and a great deal that requires remedying in the small Irish farmer and the Irish labourer. No one who knows anything of Ireland can doubt that much remains to be done. But that is not the point. The point is whether the evils that I admit are due to the Union or not, and in order that we might form a judgment upon that point the hon. Member should have provided us not only with statistics —accurate or inaccurate—as to the present condition of Ireland, but should have given us some account of the condition of Ireland in the last century, before the Union was passed. I doubt not that the hon. Gentleman is a student of Irish history, as I have humbly endeavoured to be, and, if he is, he must know that the one thing upon which all Irish contemporary observers of the last century were agreed was this—that the position of the Irish tenant and labourer was one of oppression, of misery, almost of barbarism. I am not going to say who 972 was responsible—I will come to that directly—but the Irish tenant, the Irish labourer, was half clothed; he was less than half fed; he was not educated at all; and bad, undoubtedly, as is the condition of the worst parts of Ireland at the present moment, I will venture to say that no man who knows the history of Ireland will deny that its condition has improved enormously in the last century, and that the improvement in the position of Irishmen in 1890 as compared with their position in 1750 is greater than the improvement that has taken place in the position of Englishmen between the years 1750 and 1890. If that be true—and surely it is true—what use is it to quote statistics about mud hovels and lunatics? Lunatics have increased because they are now looked after; our registration of lunatics shows now a larger number, because in the century to which the hon. Member looks back as the golden age of Ireland lunatics were tied to posts or were allowed to stray unattended through the fields, and nobody counted them because nobody cared for them. I now come to two arguments which are not only bad, but which, as I said before, are sentimental and bad. The first of them is drawn from the fact, or alleged fact, that England is responsible for Ireland's woes, and that this Bill is some set-off' against the wrongs formerly inflicted upon Ireland by this country. I have not been slow to admit that in the history of Ireland England has often played a sorry part, but I do not admit that in the great tragedy extending over all those centuries England has been the villain of the piece. It is not true, and I feel disgusted at the creeping hypocrisy—when it is not ignorance—which throws upon this country, and upon this country alone, all the responsibility, or more than one half of the responsibility, for Irish ills. The Prime Minister is fond of quoting the opinion of the civilised world. The civilised world forms its opinion largely from the speeches made by English politicians, and if English politicians go about abusing England, no wonder that foreign countries, unaccustomed to our peculiar methods of political controversy, take English politicians at their word. But what is the fact? The fact is, that before the English power went to Ireland, Ireland was a collection of tribes waging constant and internecine 973 warfare, without law, without civilisation. Although the law is imperfectly obeyed, and although civilisation may be imperfectly apprehended, all the law and all the civilisation in Ireland is the work of England. The unity, the imperfect unity, which Ireland enjoys—that also is the work of England, and the Parliament which Ireland desires to have restored to her, what was that but the work of Englishmen? The mention of that Parliament brings me to the last of the arguments, of the bad and sentimental arguments, which have been adduced in favour of this Bill and which I need notice. Almost every hon. Member who has spoken from below the Gangway has claimed this Bill as—I was going to say an instalment—but, at all events, a contribution towards what they regard as their national right. But how do they define the Irish nation? The hon. Member for North Kerry, in the able speech he made last night, described a nation as consisting of those who were united by race, by creed, and by common interests.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes; they were the only marks enumerated by the hon. Member—race, creed, and common interest. Now, who are they in Ireland who demand a Parliament? What nation is this, judged by those marks? It is a nation for which I have a very high respect, but it is not a nation which ever had a Parliament. Those who had a Parliament in Ireland desired one no longer. But that section of the community, united, as the hon. Member for Kerry said, by race, by religion, and by common interest, they have never had a Parliament. If you in your madness give them a Parliament you will not be restoring an ancient privilege to which they claim a right; you will be giving them something for the first time—something which, in the whole course of their history, they have never yet enjoyed. I think it will be admitted by those who have endeavoured to follow this Debate as I have done that the greater bulk of the speeches have not been occupied in developing the arguments which I have 974 just briefly sketched, and to which I have indicated the reply. They have been occupied either in discussing the antecedents of the various politicians of eminence—they have omitted mo from their category—["No"]—I do not recollect any quotations from my speeches —or they have been occupied in attempting to answer the arguments against the Bill. And I must admit that the answers have been extraordinarily inadequate. This is a Debate remarkable for many of the speeches which have been delivered; but surely even more remarkable for the speeches which have not been delivered. Surely the number of powerful arguments —arguments which every one must admit are powerful and relevant—which has been simply passed by, either with no notice at all, or with the most perfunctory notice, has never been equalled. It would be impossible within the limits of the time at my disposal to go over all these arguments and discuss them; but what answer has ever been given to the argument which we have brought forward that by this Bill—and I am now discussing the objections from the English point of view—England loses all freedom in the treatment of its finance? If this precious measure passes, you will have two Committees of Supply and two Appropriation Bills. For anything I know to the contrary you will require to have two Chancellors of the Exchequer. But, above and beyond these difficulties, you will not be able to touch either the Customs or the Excise without altering all your relations to Ireland in a manner which may be, and probably will be, most unjust to the British taxpayer. In other words, you will not be able to touch them at all. What is the answer? The Prime Minister admits the inconvenience, but he does not explain how it is to be got over. In this and in other cases, especially in one great case to which I will allude later, it appears to be thought by the Government that, if they themselves produce an argument against their proposals, it is sufficient to absolve themselves from the trouble of replying to it. As far as I know not a single word has been dropped from the Government Bench or from the Government side of the House on what I may call the military or geographical aspect of the question. It is not unimportant, though I will not go into it now. 975 But I will say that when a responsible Government comes down to this House and proposes to establish, an independent Executive in an Island placed strategically in relation to Great Britain as Ireland is placed, and does not justify that course by showing that it cannot bear the evil fruits which most of us fear from it, that Government shows at all events a very great indifference in meeting argument with argument and discussion with discussion. But I pass from that unanswered argument. And what answer has been given to another argument which deals not with the security of the Empire, but with the pockets of the taxpayer, and which surely ought to have received a little more attention from the promoters of this Bill? I refer to the security for the British creditor. I am aware that the Chief Secretary has dealt with this question, but, not by answering it. He was good enough to say that the securities for the Land Purchase Bill were illusory securities, and that his own were much better. He appears to think that it is much better for a man to be able to present a cheque to a gentleman who will not honour it than for a man to have in his pocket the money by which his own debts if necessary may be paid. That is precisely and exactly the distinction between the securities which were established for land purchase last year, and the so-called securities proposed by this Government for the same kind of debt, and for any future one which may be contracted. But there are more important questions, I admit, than questions of mere cash. What, then, are we to say to the reply of the Government made to us when we deal with the question or the so-called supremacy of the British Parliament? That subject was fully worked out by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. It was dealt with, or rather it was touched upon only, in the most eloquent and able speech of the Home Secretary. But, though that speech was able and eloquent, it was, at all events on this point, far from conclusive. I have spent much of my public life in endeavouring to understand the legal mind, and I admit that I have but imperfectly succeeded. The Home Secretary only occasionally lapses into the legal mind; but when he had to discuss the question of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, 976 I do not think he can be exonerated from that charge. He explained, not at undue length, but at considerable length, that the Imperial Parliament would be still supreme. Legally, of course, it would be supreme; no one has doubted it. But what layman takes the slightest interest in these paper supremacies? For my part, I take no more interest in the question of whether the Imperial Parliament is on paper superior to the Irish Parliament than I do as to the order of precedence at a London dinner party. The thing is of no public interest or moment whatever. What we want to know is where the power lies. Who is going to exercise supremacy? Who is going to be the de facto ruler of Ireland? Is it to be this Parliament or that Parliament? I noticed that there is some divergence of opinion on this point. It was the business presumably of the hon. Member for Waterford to re-assure his friends in Ireland; and so he gave it as his opinion that the supremacy of this Parliament, though it existed on paper, never would be exercised. It was the business of the Home Secretary to re-assure the trembling flock behind him, and he therefore told us that the supremacy of this Parliament was a very real thing, extending to person, property, and goodness knows what; and that it had to be supported —so far did the fancy and imagination of the right hon. Gentleman carry him— by a body of Imperial officials not yet in existence, for which no provision is made in the Bill, and for which, as I understand, the Government do not mean to make any provision. I hope hon. Members opposite will recognise that if the Bill remains unamended in Committee, it will be a Bill in which the supremacy of this Assembly is an illusory supremacy, and that if they mean to retain the right the Home Secretary thinks they ought to possess, they ought to vote for Amendments which will make the supremacy a reality. But there is another question which from your point of view to me appears to be even more important than the supremacy of the British Parliament. I refer to the "in and out" clause—Clause 9. Against that clause very powerful arguments have been used by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury and by other hon. Members who have 977 spoken in this Debate, but by no Member with such effect and force as by the Prime Minister himself. What answer does the Prime Minister on the Second Reading make to the Prime Minister on the First Heading? The answer of the Prime Minister on the Second Reading is that he hopes the Irish Members will not attend. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman said something very like it. He said they would not very often attend. I qualify my statement of what he said by saying that he hoped they would not very often attend. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE dissented.] Well, he thought they would not very often attend. I am always pleased when, even after repeated efforts, I succeed in getting a quotation from the Prime Minister according to his mind. But, Sir, we want some more reassuring argument than, I will not say the hope, but the expectation, of the Prime Minister. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bury, following others, has shown conclusively that our procedure in this House will be shattered, and must be shattered, under this clause if it remains unaltered. I will only point out in addition that something more important than the procedure of this House will be shattered by that clause. What is the Constitution of this country? At the present time it is a government by Cabinet. No written Constitution embodies the reality of our Government. That reality has been the slow growth of time, the slow consequence of the political sagacity of the Anglo-Saxon race, and no greater triumph of that political sagacity exists than the creation of a government by Cabinet, responsible to the majority in this House. Yon will, and you must, shatter that Constitution if you introduce into it two majorities—an Imperial majority and a British majority; two Governments—an Imperial Government and a British Government. Take the present Cabinet, whom I see ranged before me opposite, formed into a phalanx. There is the Home Secretary, the Secretary for Scotland, the President of the Local Government Board, the right hon. Gentleman who presides over the Board of Works. I had almost said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but he has a little something to do with Irish affairs—all the gentlemen I have men- 978 tioned have nothing to do with Ireland at all. Are they going to be made dependent on an Irish majority? Under your Bill are those particular Ministers going to be dependent on an Irish majority? Most Britons would never stand it for a day, and it is clear enough that, whatever else Clause 9 will do, it will destroy government by Cabinet as government by Cabinet now exists. What will come out of the system I do not pretend to say. I do not think the Government ever reflected upon that. It may be that the power of the Crown will be greatly augmented; but of this, at all events, I am sure—that I cannot prophecy the outcome of it, though I am sure that your existing system, with all its merits, will be absolutely destroyed by this Bill as it stands. What answer has been given on the question of finality? I am sure most hon. Members beard the speech of the hon. Member for North Kerry last night, and I hope they liked the prospect he held out to them on the question of finality. His idea is that for the next three years this House will be occupied with the Irish Laud Question.
§ MR. SEXTON
What I said was that the Irish Parliament cannot be occupied with it if it is dealt with as if must be dealt with here.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, the hon. Member said this at all events, that it was a vital question and that it must be dealt with here.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Might be dealt with here, and that there must be 103 Irish Members to deal with it. I think it is no injustice to deduce from these statements that the prospect hold out is that we shall be discussing the Irish Land Question for a considerable portion of the three years, and at the end of that time another Home Rule Bill will have to be brought in to settle the exact proportion in which the Irish Members are to be represented here. What did the hon. Member say on the argument of finality brought before us by the Home Secretary? He said the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly cou- 979 tent with all the declarations on the other side on the question of finality.Surely it is true," he said, "almost to the verge of commonplace, that no arrangement you could make would be permanent or eternal.I quite agree, and no house you build can be permanent or eternal, but when you build a house you do not expect it to tumble about your ears the next month. And our objection to this scheme is that from the very nature of the case it embodies what the hon. Member for North-East Cork truly called a compromise, which, from its very nature, cannot last. If hon. Members below the Gangway had never varied the statement of their views, they would say our rights and claims are far in excess of this Bill. But they now say we have given up all our old opinions, and we are prepared to take this Bill as a compromise and do our best. I want to know what right they have to say that oven for themselves, still more what right they have to say it for Ireland, and, more than all, what chance there is of that compromise being kept. We can all consent to compromise our rights, when the rights which we give up do not touch our daily life and our deepest interests. What are the rights which the Irish Members give up? By this Bill they give up their rights to deal with religion, with education, and with trade. These are three things that touch their lives every moment, and is it not ludicrous to tell us that, holding them to be debts due by this country to an oppressed nationality, they are going to give their permanent and final consent to abandoning those attributes of nationality? In this matter we are not left to our own deductions from our knowledge of human nature. We have history to go by. It is not the first time that a subordinate Parliament has existed in Ireland. A subordinate Parliament existed—differing, it is true, in many respects, but still similar to that now proposed to this extent, in being subordinate—in 1782. Everything which then called itself Irish patriotism in those days rose up and said:—" Our rights cannot be satisfied without an inde- 980 pendent Parliament, and an independent Parliament we will have." These hon. Gentlemen, the unworthy successors of the Grattan—of the men of those days —are prepared to come forward and to barter away those rights for all time.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am trying to state your case as you yourselves would state it. These hon. Gentlemen come forward and say:—" We will barter away for all time those hereditary rights, even although those hereditary rights touch all the most important points of our National life." The only other argument to which I will allude from the English point of view is the threat— well, I will not say the threat, but the prophecy—which has been made with regard to what will happen if this Bill does not pass. The hon. Member for Kerry and the hon. Member for Water-ford and other speakers have endeavoured —and quite sincerely, I believe—to alarm this House with the prospect of the consequences which will ensue should this country refuse to ratify the present measure. What are those consequences? I suppose we shall have a renewal of crime, and that the mutilation of cattle will increase, and I suppose that a few more defenceless people will be shot in their homesteads.
§ MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)
Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that I said that? I did nothing of the sort.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am endeavouring, I admit, only to fill in the picture which the hon. Member left in such obscure outline.
§ An hon. MEMBER: Cranborne!
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Nor do I for a moment suggest that the hon. Member is going to stimulate crime. I never dreamt of it. [A cry of "Oh!"] I have the courage of my opinions, and I say that was not in my thoughts. The hon. Member was not in my mind. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, in the speech delivered on Tuesday, 981 accounted for the payment of rents by the Irish tenants this year by their desire to promote the stability of the present Government.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. J. MORLEY,) Newcastle-upon-Tyne
I took that as the argument of the right hon. Gentleman himself.
MR. A. J. B ALFOUR
Unfortunately, for reasons which the right hon. Gentleman will understand, I was not able to be here when the right hon. Gentleman made his speech, and my only source of information as to what his use of the arguments is from what has appeared in the newspapers. I leave the remarkable problem of why the Irish tenants paid their rents in a year in which, according to all Irish authorities, it was much more difficult for them to do so than usual wholly unsolved. So much for the argument from the English point of view which has been advanced. Now what is the point of view of Ireland? And in saying that I do not mean from the point of view of hon. Members for Ireland, but from the point of view of Ireland itself. The first argument from the Irish point of view which I shall touch upon is the money argument. I am not going to survey the active controversy which has been going on about 15 per cent. and 25 per cent. and all the rest of it, which will have to be threshed out thoroughly in Committee, but this, at all events, is clear—that even in the judgment of the Prime Minister the treatment of Ireland is generous, and that, by the universal consensus of every single Irish Member who has spoken, the treatment of Ireland is not only ungenerous, but will lead Ireland within a brief and very measurable interval to absolute bankruptcy. Nothing could be really more amusing than to compare the principles of the Treasury Bench on this subject with the principles of Irishmen. The Irish Secretary said—I think I have got his exact words—that "he disapproved of this system of bribes and doles and fat sops." But the Member for North Kerry does not disapprove of then.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Yes; but the point is what the hon. Member calls fair play, and his view of fair play is this—that all "the bribes and doles and fat sops" of the past should be capitalised and should be given to Ireland as a permanent grant. He is not content with that. Ireland, if fruitful in nothing else, has been fruitful in the last century in bad debts—fruitful in bad debts to the British Exchequer. There, also, the hon. Member for Kerry, in his desire for fair play, wishes to capitalise, and wishes to take into account, and desires to increase the annual stipend to Ireland by the amount of the debts which Ireland has failed to pay. He is like a tenant—I should not be thought ungenerous, perhaps, if I said an Irish tenant—who regards the fact that he has not paid his rent in the past as an adequate reason for omitting it in the future. It is quite clear, and it must be quite clear to the Government themselves, that the difficulties of arranging this account between England and Ireland are enormous. You are deliberately destroying, to the extent of throwing it into the sea, the whole of that available wealth which consists in British credit. You have got somehow to make up the deficiency. You have got to make up the further deficiency which will arise in Ireland from the withdrawal of English or British generosity from the withdrawal of "bribes, doles, and fat sops." How are you going to arrange these discordant claims? I have not the slightest conception; but I know that the British public, at all events, are not so enamoured of this Bill that they are anxious to pay heavily for the privilege of passing it, and that, if you propose to get over the difficulties by further mulcting the British taxpayer, your difficulties in the House may diminish, but your difficulties out of the House will be very largely increased. The next point I must raise is one which has hardly been touched upon in this Debate, and which I, at all events, could not reconcile it with my duty to leave undealt with, or, at all events, unalluded 983 to—I mean the position of the Civil servants and of the Constabulary. The Chief Secretary for Ireland reproached mo in his speech with having in Dublin used words about the Constabulary calculated to diminish the loyalty of that Force. If my words had any effect of that kind I regret it, but not one word that I uttered can I withdraw, nor can I express the slightest regret that I took up what I believed to be the just cause of these greatly oppressed servants. [Laughter.] I understand that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway laugh at that; but is it not evident that, whoever else may be sacrificed in the revolution which you are eudeavouring to accomplish, at all events the Civil servants will be sacrificed—at all events the Constabulary will be sacrificed—[Cries of "No! "] The terms—I am not going to discuss them in detail—but I say distinctly in my judgment the terms proposed in the Schedules are utterly inadequate to meet the justice of the case; and it is inconsistent with the elementary principles of honour that something more should not be done than is proposed in this Bill. I am aware that the Chief Secretary not only expressed the hope that the Irish would retain the present Civil Service, but that he went the length of saying they would be mad if they did not retain it. I will read him an extract which will enable him to judge of the sanity of the Irish Members from his own point of view. It is not raked up from the dust-bin. It is, on the contrary, an article in a very serious review by a very serious politician —it is an article by the Member for Cork City (Mr. W. O'Brien) in The Fortnightly. It was published as late as November, 1892, two months after the present Government came into Office. The hon. Member is discussing—" Mr. Morley's Task in Ireland," and what does he say—Mr. Morley came to Ireland with the powers of a Cromwell, but he is a Cromwell with a Royalist Army.He goes on—Why not purge the Public Service, then, of such servants?"—servants whom the Irish Members would be mad if they did not retain,Is not the work of 'clearing out the Castle the very job Mr. Morley has come to Ireland to perform? There would be no difficulty in picking out Nationalists competent to ad- 984 minister the Castle departments as uprightly and well as they have upon the whole administered the affairs of the City Corporations and Poor Law Boards.
§ An hon. MEMBER: And The Freeman's Journal.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (reading)
—Even with a Home Rule Chief Secretary at the helm, the place is in quarantine. The Irish public have the same sort of sympathy for Mr. Morley as for a gallant surgeon who embarks in a plague-stricken hulk all alone.Those are the deliberate views written in a serious journal by a serious politician as to the methods that would be adopted by an Irish Executive when an Irish Executive comes into Office. What prospect will the Irish Government have when, with these views before him, the Chief Secretary thinks that the Schedule he has appended to the Bill is adequate compensation for the claims of that great Department of which he is the head? There are many other points upon which I ought to touch. It is not necessary for me to ask, I think, after the Debate to-night, what is the value of the safeguards with which we are told the Bill bristles. The old arguments of the American Constitution served up to the Irish Loyalists by the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. J. Bryce)—
MR, A. J. BALFOUR
Exactly, the Negro Clauses; they have, I think, received adequate treatment from previous speakers. I pass from that, and from the unanswered statement of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir H. James), and of my noble Friend the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), which, I think, deserves more attention than it has received. This, again, the Chief Secretary endeavoured to answer, but he had no effective reply to it. He said it was a mare's nest. It is quite allowable to call an argument a mare's nest if you have previously shown it to be a mare's nest, but the mere naked statement that it is a mare's nest is not an adequate method of treating a serious proposition advanced from such a quarter. My 985 noble Friend said you have constituted a special Court in Ireland which is to deal with all the questions on which an Irish Parliament cannot touch — questions some of which are satisfied and some of which are not satisfied in the Bill, and any suit connected with any of those questions you bring before the Exchequer Judges and the Privy Council. My noble Friend went on to say that some of those trials would be before a jury. Clearly there could not be a jury before the Exchequer Judges or before the Privy Council. If there was, the Exchequer Judges would totally lose the character they were intended to possess of being Judges appointed by the Imperial Government, wholly independent of anything that goes on in Ireland. What chance any British case or any Imperial case will have before an Irish Judge, if with the Irish Judge is associated an Irish jury, nobody is better able to estimate than the right hon. Gentleman himself. To that contention no answer has been given, any more than to the further contention on the part of my noble Friend that Trinity College is safeguarded under this Bill to a very small extent. The position of that great Corporation, the one bright spot in Irish history, is not merely imperilled, but rendered absolutely insecure if the Bill remain unamended. The hon. Member for Kerry and the hon. Member for Cork have described the feelings expressed in the North-East of Ireland as a mere factitious demonstration got up by the landlords.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Is there any man of more sober judgment who con-curs in that view? Is there a single man who does not know that the 1,500,000 Protestants, the larger number of whom are in Ulster, hate and loathe any violent resistance to the Bill which you desire to pass? I confess that I augur the worst for the future governors of Ireland who know so little of the country which they propose to govern. But I am aware that I can hardly pass from this subject without noticing the attacks that have been made upon me with reference to this matter. In the 986 earlier part of the Debate they were made rather by insinuation than by direct notice. Few hon. Gentlemen quoted from the speech they attacked. Others avoided mentioning it by name. Nevertheless the attack was rather vehement, and the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. E. J. C. Morton)—whose vocabulary does not, so far as my observation goes, suffer from undue poverty—was quite unable to find within his vocabulary any term sufficiently strong to describe the atrocities of which I was guilty. The only person with whom I mean to deal at the present time is the Home Secretary, who made, as I thought, a most able speech. In one of his most brilliant passages be made a vehement attack on my conduct at Belfast. He did not, however, quote the whole of my speech—I should say, he did not quote the whole passage which embodied the advice which I gave. If he had done so, perhaps he would have discovered that I had done as much as anybody else to help the Chief Secretary in a very difficult task. But I did not interrupt the Home Secretary in the interests of art. I thought he ought to be allowed to make his rhetorical point without disturbance, and as I recognise in him one of the greatest of Parliamentary artists, I was quite rewarded for my discretion. But, Sir, what was it that I actually said at Belfast? I am going to deal purely with the part that he quoted. In the first place, I said that Parliamentary majorities might be tyrannical. Is that denied? ["No!"] I said, in the second place, that Parliamentary majorities might be stupid. Is that denied? [Loud cries of "No!" and several hon. MEMBERS: The last Parliament!] All Parliaments. In the third place, I said that if the tyranny and stupidity reached a certain point, I had not come there to preach a doctrine of non-resistance, which I should not preach if the incriminated power had been a Monarch instead of a Parliament. Now, I take that to be a very good doctrine. I am quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could give me, without leaving his place, half a dozen quotations from Charles James Fox bearing out every proposition that I ventured to affirm. We are all agreed, then, that these views are 987 sound. The only question is in their application. I entirely admit that if doctrines of that kind are preached in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and to the wrong audience, very serious responsibility lies on the man who does it. Let us take the parallel so ably worked out by the Home Secretary. He said—Take the ease of the Chief Secretary going down to Cork and making this speech in the time of the late Government; he would soon have been on a plank bed.Sir, unless the right hon. Gentleman had gone down to preach some form of outrage or intimidation, he would have been in no danger of suffering imprisonment. My point is that whereas the men to whom the right hon. Gentleman would preach would have no grievance, the men to whom I spoke at Belfast would have the greatest grievance ever inflicted on civilised men if this Bill were passed. To whom would the right hon. Gentleman have preached? Sir, the Chief Secretary, if he preached to the citizens of Cork, would have been preaching to men who are given as citizens, not merely their share, but far more than their fair share, in the government of this country. He would have preached to men who, as Catholics, have a system of education more liberal than is given in almost any Catholic country in Europe; and he would have preached to men who, as tenants, live under laws such as have never been dreamt of by the tenants of any other country in the world. But to whom did I speak at Belfast? I spoke to men who knew, if from nothing else, from the speeches of hon. Members below the Gangway, that Ireland is divided, fissured, rent into two sections, and that to give Ireland a Parliamentary system would be to give one section absolute control over the other. I spoke to men who knew that a Parliamentary Government for Ireland is only possible if Ireland be associated with England, and if the Irish division be merged in the higher unity of the United Kingdom. I spoke to men who knew that all that is most educated, all that is most intelligent, and all that is most enterprising in Ire-land belongs to the minority, that would be oppressed. I spoke to men who knew that by the teaching of Irish politicians patriotism had been confounded for years 988 with plunder, and that principles had been preached by one patriot and accepted by another, which would make any civilised government absolutely impossible. I spoke to men devoted to the present Constitution of these Realms; I spoke to men who were loyal subjects of the Queen, who were anxious to obey the Imperial Parliament, and who could see no reason why they should be handed over to the protection of those who they knew would have absolute control over their destinies. Now I put it to hon. Gentlemen opposite, was it, under these circumstances, my business to preach the doctrine of non-resistance? Would you, if placed in the position of the men of the North-East of Ireland, practice the doctrine of non-resistance? I do not believe that you would. It is because I believe that, that I refuse either outside or inside this House to make myself responsible for opinions which I do not believe I should carry out in practice were I placed in the position of those to whom I spoke. Sir, I admit that those views depend, and must depend, upon the estimate formed of the character of the politicians who will control the Executive in Ireland if you pass this Bill. The Home Secretary described every effort to discover from their previous speeches the character of those men as raking or "scavenging" in the dust-bin for the garbage of old speeches. I do not wish to attach too much value or importance to old speeches. But this argument of the Home Secretary, which was repeated by others who agree with him, proves a great deal too much. If the speeches of these gentlemen in the past, reiterated month after month and year after year, mean nothing, what value do we put on their speeches now, in which they declare their adhesion to this compromise? If the gentlemen, the very able gentlemen, with whom we have to deal never speak their minds, what is the use of listening to them? I admit that the Irish race is, as the hon. Member for North Kerry said, quick-witted and hasty, and I admit they appear with great equanimity to give and receive epithets from each other ten thousand times stronger than they ever permit to be used against them by anybody else opposed to them; and I must say I look forward with the utmost commiseration and sympathy to the gentlemen who will 989 occupy a position like your own, Sir, in the Irish Parliament. But I make even a further concession. I quite agree that it would be absurd to press too hardly upon treasonable or semi-treasonable utterances made 10 or 20 years ago. I do not wish to do it. I daresay hon. Gentlemen think there can be no more loyal subject of the Queen and 110 better Governor of Ireland under Imperial auspices than the ex-Fenian, on the same principle, I suppose, that the reformed rake makes the best husband. I really do not wish to dispute that proposition. I say nothing against it. I tie no man down to the errors of his youth or the rash declarations he may have made as a boy of 20 or 25, but I think, making every allowance, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have missed the real point of our objection. They forget that the Irish politicians have been occupied in a steady and consistent propaganda of doctrines with regard to property, and doctrines with regard to land, and doctrines with regard to government which are absolutely inconsistent as I think, and as I am sure the House thinks, with any government at all. They have preached spoliation, I admit undefined. They may have been converted, as the Chief Secretary says, from "prairie value." They may think that perhaps a landlord may got one-third or even one-fourth of his rent. I do not know the fraction which they now allow. But those men—they will not deny it—have preached, and still preach, doctrines with regard to the tenure of laud, with regard to evictions, and to the taking of empty farms, to resistance to the Sheriff and the execution of writs of the Courts for rent and other matters—doctrines, in other words, connected with the agrarian question in Ireland which, if they are applied in Ireland under this Home Rule Bill, will simply mean that 1894 will see a confiscation more absolutely monstrous and unjustifiable than any of the monstrous and unjustifiable confiscations which stain the history of Ireland. Well, Sir, what answer is made to that? These facts were known, and are known, to hon. Gentlemen opposite. So well were they known to them that seven years ago almost every man whom I see on that Bench, either explicitly or by implication, stated that it was a question 990 of honour to settle the Irish Land Question when you gave Home Rule. I asked on. the First Reading, What has become of honour? I ask on the Second Reading, What has become of honour? I hope the right hon. Gentleman who replies to me in concluding this Debate will tell us how it comes about that, after all these seven years of reflection, having seen these gentlemen at work during these seven years, he is still prepared to attempt to settle the Irish Government Bill without settling the Laud Question. Why, Sir, they are converted upon many questions —so they tell us, and so I believe—but they can never be converted upon this question. This is the question which has brought them power; this is the question which has brought them place in this House; this is the doctrine by which they have succeeded in bringing Home Rule to the front; this is the question by which they mean to gain the liberties of their country; and do you mean to tell me it would be possible for these gentlemen, whatever their intention, if you gave them to-morrow an Irish Legislature, not to attempt to carry out, either by Executive or legislative means, doctrines which, without inconsistency, and without variation, they have preached to the peasantry of Ireland for the last 12 years? The thing is impossible. And yet, Sir—and this is the last remark I will make, though I think that this Bill is calculated to inflict untold injury upon all minorities in Ireland, injury upon the Constabulary and upon the Civil Service, injury upon the men of business and the men of education, injury upon the landlords and upon the tenants who disobey the rule of the Land League—yet after all it may be possible that, of all the sufferers from this Bill, those you expect most to benefit by it will be the greatest. I plead here not merely for the minority, but for the majority. It is true that claims are made for that majority which I cannot allow. It is true that many of the great names in Irish literature and history— Dovle, Swift, Goldsmith, Berkeley, Burke, and Wellington—all the great names that have administered Ireland, have belonged by race, by religion, and by class, not to those who claim to be the Irish nation and who want Home Rule, but to that minority of Irishmen 991 who repudiate Home Rule. I believe that, in the long run, the Irish race— I mean the representatives of the Celtic race—will lose more than any other class of the community. I do not wish to lose them. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but I am speaking the strict truth. I think they are a most valuable and important clement in the great nation to which we belong, and if yon pass this Bill Great Britain loses these men for sure. I do not mean that separation would necessarily ensue. I think it will, but that is not my argument. My argument is, if in the name of nationality you concede this boon to the Celtic portion of the population, it is to the Assembly you thus create that every member of that Celtic majority will look. It is round that Assembly that his affections and hopes will concentrate. It will embody all his traditions, it will be the centre of all his associations. They will look at us—the great Imperial Parliament, which ought to be the Parliament for all these Islands —as a foreign and a defeated body. They will look at us as an Assembly which only exists for the purpose of wringing from us, by means legitimate or illegitimate, concessions even greater than this Bill proposes. You will compel them for ever to drink from the bitter, narrow, and polluted streams of purely Irish history—that unhappy history—and you will forbid them practically and effectively to touch that broader stream and purer stream of national life which I should desire them to partake of, and which they will partake of if only you have patience. Recollect that when this century began, when the Union was first tried, you had as its opponents the Protestant minority. They are converted. Ninety years of Home Rule has proved to them that Ireland's happiness and salvation consists, and must consist, in union with this country. Why should not another generation see the same blessed process carried out. Nothing shall make me believe that that is impossible; nothing shall make me believe that it is beyond the power of this Assembly; but if you chose in your madness to commit this great political crime, and to make yourselves responsible for this irreparable National disaster, then, indeed, all hopes of a peaceful and united Ireland will vanish, and vanish for ever.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman, in that portion of the able speech he has just delivered, which purported to deal with the arguments upon this Bill—I mean the first portion of it—pursued a course not uncommon with gentlemen who find themselves in his position. Summing up on the part of his Party, he boldly said that the arguments upon his side were many and good, and those against him were few and bad, that the answers given by us to his arguments were weak and worthless, and the answers given by our opponents to our arguments were sound and powerful. That is a summary of the statement with which the right hon. gentleman opened his address. But, Sir, the misfortune, with a view to practical progress on this question, is that we happen to entertain upon this side of the House, with respect to his arguments and his answers, precisely the disparaging opinion which he applies to ours. I think I can sum up in four very short phrases, sufficiently expressive, what I conceive to be the staple, the bulk, the aggregate of that copious mass of matter which has been laid before us by the opponents of our Bill. The first of their powerful weapons is bold assertion; the second of their powerful weapons is persistent exaggeration; the third of their powerful weapons is constant misconstruction; and the fourth and last of their powerful weapons is copious, arbitrary, and baseless prophecy. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, it is impossible for me to go through the whole of his arguments. Still, it is only fair that I should give some examples of what I think justifies my rather disparaging description of the contentions opposed to us. I spoke of bold assertions. Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman says that we are now going to subject Ireland to a system of duplication of finance such as is unprecedented and intolerable. The father, Sir, of duplication of finance in this country is his own Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), who has introduced in his arrangements with respect to the Death Duties provisions that are open to all the objections the right 993 hon. Gentleman can possibly make to the financial proposals in our Bill. For the British Exchequer and the Irish Exchequer, read the Imperial Exchequer and the Local Exchequer, and every word I have said is exactly confirmed. I wish to turn for a moment to these financial subjects, for I want to obtain from the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has had the misfortune to fall into a gross error that has become the basis of boundless misrepresentation—I want to obtain from him that apology which he ought to have voluntarily offered. I hope to find an opportunity of going back to that subject. But, in the meantime, while I do not deny that the Union has, among other difficulties left to us, as it now stands, the inconvenient inheritance of complicated financial arrangements, which we must endeavour to unravel, yet I do not hesitate to say, if I may venture to place my own experience against that of the right hon. Gentleman, that there is nothing in those difficulties which ought for a moment to abash or terrify men who have a great object in view, and who do not intend to be impeded by secondary obstacles from the attainment of that object. I spoke of persistent exaggeration. The right hon. Gentleman has given mo in the latter part of his speech an extremely simple illustration of that second proposition. I think I heard him speak—if I misheard him, which I too often do, he will kindly correct me—in the latter part; of his speech of 1,500,000 Protestants in Ireland as the other day we heard of the 500,000 sturdy adults that marched on the flags of Belfast. We have no statistical and authentic record of the 500,000 on the flags at Belfast, whereas, happily, we have a statistical and authentic record of the Protestants of Ireland—the Protestants of Ireland whose number the right lion. Gentleman so modestly stated, with the full belief that his speech contained nothing but demonstrative and unanswerable arguments. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman did not take the trouble to refer to those official statistics which would have told him that the Protestants of Ireland were not a million and a half, but were eleven hundred and odd thousand. This is an example of what I may call constant misconstruction, and in his case if it had not been, as I am sure it is, involuntary, I should say most daring 994 misconstruction. Here I will touch on one of the most important points involved in the discussion—namely, supremacy. The right hon. Gentleman said that we have indeed provided a paper supremacy, but one that is quite worthless. We say that our supremacy is to be, for the first time in the last 90 years, a supremacy founded upon right as well as backed by power. The right hon. Gentleman says it is a supremacy perfect in the abstract, but, according to the declarations of the Irish Representatives, utterly valueless and absurd, because it is well understood that it is never to be brought into exercise, and for confirmation of that statement he referred to the remarkable speech of the hon. Member for Waterford. I am not sure whether the hon. Member heard this portion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, for if he had he could not possibly have passed it by without interruption, for, whereas the right hon. Gentleman referred to him as having made the admission that he made the supremacy entirely dependent upon the doctrine that it was never to be exercised, I myself heard the hon. Member declare, not only that it was a supremacy in its own character inalienable, but that it was likewise a supremacy that ought not to be brought into action except in the case which he believed to be improbable—and I concur with him—of the commission of some gross injustice in Ireland. That is the whole doctrine, the whole illustration given by the right hon. Gentleman, and I think that applies as a fair instance of what I have called constant misconstruction. With regard to the arbitrary, wilful, copious, baseless, prophecies by hon. Members opposite I will not detain the House with particular illustrations. My illustration is in the whole stock-in-trade of the Party opposite. The speech of the right hon. Member for Birmingham may be said to have contained almost nothing else. If I were to attempt to proceed by details the process would become very difficult or impossible, amid the overwhelming mass of my materials. My ease is not the case of hon. Gentlemen so common in this House, who begin by assuring the House their speech will be a short one. These promises of brevity, always given with perfect honesty, yet from one cause or another constantly break down. If I were to stand upon the footing analogous 995 to the character which was given by the ancients to lovers' vows which had to be attended with the privileged and chartered liberty of being broken, "Jupiter omnipotens perjuria ridet amantum," and a governor of this sublunary sphere might find similar opportunities for amusement in tracing in detail the mode in which a man who begins with a most moderate estimate of space presently passes far beyond the demands he purposed to make on you. I will say this, that I find myself compelled by the hour of the night and by many circumstances to omit many matters that I should have wished seriously to discuss. I intended to omit all reference to the land, but the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman compels me to say that in my opinion we have made ample provision for the redemption of our pledges with regard to laud. We have proposed to secure to Parliament ample time for taking whatever measures it may think imposed upon it by duty, by honour, by equity with respect to Irish land, and if we have not attempted to couple together a Home Rule Bill and a Land Bill, what is the amount of the charge against us? It is that we have refused to do that which we know would have been a suicidal act, because it would have involved the undertaking on our part of what was not only difficult, but with respect to simultaneous action totally and absolutely impossible. I will not refer further to that subject, and I will not refer to the guarantees for the minority, nor to two matters for which I think myself particularly responsible. One is the state of foreign opinion. That is not the opinion of the moment, as the right hon. Gentleman scorns to say, but is a permanent, standing, recognised sentiment and conviction as displayed in the universal literature of foreign countries with respect to the great issue as a whole between England and Ireland. That is a matter on which I have an account to settle with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford (Mr. Chaplin). I must return to that matter on some future day, and then I will show in what way the right hon. Gentleman deals with history, and how in particular he has represented the opinion of the illustrious Cavour; but I pass on to a subject of the greatest importance with respect to the experience realised elsewhere, not only in foreign 996 countries, but in our own Colonies, of the effects of Home Rule, as illustrated especially by the case of Canada. Though challenged by the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir H. James), I will not now touch on the Land League; but when I do proceed to touch upon the Land League and to censure it, I must in honesty and honour make the admission that without the League the Act of 1881 would not at this moment stand on the pages of the Statute Book. And without the Act I should be glad to know what upon the estimate of the most sanguine gentleman sitting opposite would at this moment have been the condition of Ireland. I will also omit another class of subjects which, at the same time, I admit it is not easy to pass by. I mean the topics that are those not only of controversy, but almost of a personal character, especially when we come to consider the language that has been held and the doctrines that have been taught—ay! taught not only by political characters, but by sages of the law. One word only will I say, after having listened for two hours to the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir H. James). I believe he once gave umbrage to extreme opponents by speaking forth in manly language the duty of keeping the peace and submitting to lawful authority; but if he was so unhappy as in that great matter to give that particular form of offence, I congratulate him upon the completeness with which he has purged himself from it. The reason why without further apology I decline all these important subjects —[Opposition laughter.] I am complimented to find that there are a large body of gentlemen, not only of Members of Parliament, but of Members of Parliament who are opposed to me, who cannot bear to lose any of the arguments and statements I might address to the House. The reason why I pass these subjects by is that, in my opinion and conviction, important as they are, and especially important as is the argument from the experience of Home Rule all over the world among the civilised and European races, they do not raise the main issue, the issue which ought almost alone be present, at any rate principally present, in the mind of any man who is about to give a vote, not in Committee, but on the Second Reading of this Bill. 997 What, Sir, is that issue? In my opinion it is this. How is Ireland to be governed? Has that question been answered in this Debate? Has it been answered by the right hon. Gentleman, and how does it stand? I presume, Sir, we are all agreed in thinking that Ireland ought not to be governed, to use a homely phrase, from hand to month. Well, Sir, there is another proposition entirely omitted from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, which recognises the deliberate will and conviction of the governed as an essential element in the legitimate title of government. Can you hope in these days, and with the progress already made, to govern Ireland against the fixed convictions of the great mass of the nation? As to hand-to-mouth government, I take it for granted that we agree; but I think we have at least some agreement likewise upon the other and very important proposition. In 1886 our contention was—it was one of those arguments which the right lion. Gentleman regards as so trumpery and worthless —our contention was that government under the Union had failed in Ireland. It began, I think, with unmitigated oppression. Latterly, it had come to depend upon what I call a judicious mixture of coercion and concession, and it had totally failed to win the affections of the Irish people. At that time the Tory Party, represented by Lord Salisbury, virtually concurred in that view. Lord Salisbury admitted that the Government had failed. He gave his reason and suggested his remedy. The reason why it had failed was this— because our coercion and our concessions were indiscriminately mixed and not administered on fixed and permanent principles. What he said was—"Give me 20 years of firm government"—we know perfectly well that firm government was a euphemism for coercion—Give me 20 years of firm government, and you will see that the government of Ireland will become a matter perfectly practicable and easy.[Opposition cheers.] Oh, I am not going to shock hon. Gentlemen opposite by a departure from the facts, and I am very glad they recognise them as far as I have proceeded. We were agreed, then, upon those two propositions, because it was evident that Lord Salis- 998 bury, although he was willing to suppress —or call it what you will—the people of Ireland for 20 years, did not contemplate the permanent and unlimited government of Ireland against the convictions of the great mass of the people. It was something like what happened at the Information. I do not know what the views of other hon. Gentlemen may be; but my conviction is that Queen Elizabeth was a great deal too notable, too far-seeing, and too wise a woman to entertain such a notion as that of maintaining an Irish Church in the island of Ireland such as that which the Irish Church turned out to be—that is to say, the Church of an eighth or tenth part of the people. What Queen Elizabeth believed when setting up her Church was that the administrative system of that Church was so excellent that it could not fail to convert the people. In the same way Lord Salisbury had confidence in his 20 years of firm government, which I call coercion, and fully believe that that policy would bring the Irish people to a reasonable way of thinking and establish harmony. What I want to put to hon. Gentlemen opposite is this—what has become of their nostrum of 20 years' firm government? Could they have bad a better opportunity of starting it? They started it with a magnificent majority of 120 persons in this House, and had the satisfaction of having made a great rift—a great fissure, as the right hon. Gentleman calls it—in the Liberal Party. They cannot have a better opportunity again. Is there any one of them that believes, from the oldest to the youngest man amongst them, that they or their children will ever see another majority of 120 in favour of withholding from Ireland the government she desires? [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] There is one hon. Gentleman who takes that view. I will not press the argument upon him. I believe he is alone. [Opposition cries of "No!"] At any rate, Sir, this cannot be denied—that Ireland is against you, Scotland is against you, Wales is against you, and that England, which seven years ago was so enormously in your favour, has parted with two-thirds of the majority, and has raised some presumption not very favourable as to what may become of the other third. At any rate, I stand upon this fact: that seven years ago it was recognised that we had 999 come to the parting of the ways, and that we could not go on as we had done. A new chart of policy was laid down. Twenty years were demanded for its application. The application of it was begun with a strong unsparing hand, and with a vast majority behind the Government, and in six years the whole fabric was overturned. Sir, as it was then admitted to be necessary that there should be a policy for Ireland, and as six years have since elapsed, I say we are still more justified now in putting to the Opposition the question, "What is your policy for Ireland?" Do you want to start with a new 20 years? Have you the smallest prospect of it; and if you had what is your security that it would not break down again? No, Sir; this is a subject constantly avoided by gentlemen opposite. They do not venture to renew the scheme of Lord Salisbury; and when we ask them what their policy is, there is not to break the silence a voice or oven a whisper. We have a policy. We found ourselves, as we think, upon reason and upon experience in presenting it. Our policy is not of a very original character, because although it may be perfectly true that in details it cannot be said to absolutely correspond with any of the political arrangements of the world in the present day, does it follow that there is no lesson to be gained from so vast an experience of mankind in such various circumstances, that there is no real substantial analogy by which we may obtain guidance in the great matters we have before us? I believe there are, on a moderate estimate, no less than 1,400,000,000 of human faces in the world, and physiognomists and men of science tell us that no two of those faces are alike. This I am reminded of when I hear gentlemen say, when we find instance after instance in every one of which the concession of what is called Home Rule has either been a partial or a total success, that the circumstances are not alike. I answer that the faces are not alike. I must say that there has been, with one partial exception, a careful evasion of the discussion of this question. The only exception I remember was in the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain). I will not enter upon any elaborate eulogy of that speech. I will en- 1000 deavour to sum up in a few words what I desire to say of it. It was a speech which must have been dear and refreshing to a father's heart. I respect the hon. Member so much, Sir, that I will not at this time answer the partial statement made by the hon. Member, but I will observe, as to the mode of meeting our appeal to an experience which may fairly be called universal, and our challenge to produce a single case in which the concession of Local Government has failed to produce either a total or a partial success, that there has been no attempt to examine the cases or meet the arguments we bring forward. There is another point which I admit is of some importance, and which requires from me, at any rate, specific notice. Is this Bill, or is it not, accepted by Ireland, and in what sense is it accepted? The hon. Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) said, with great acuteness—What would you think of two men of business who had to make an agreement if each man drew his own form of agreement and signed it, the two forms being totally different, and they yet said they were agreed?Now, Sir, that would be a beautiful illustration if it were not the very reverse of the fact; for I say deliberately that, so far from our having signed a form of agreement which has not been accepted by the Nationalist Members for Ireland, their declarations have been such that, while I am convinced we are entirely agreed in substance, in mere terms they have even gone beyond our demands. There have been five speeches from the Irish Members which may fairly be called representative and typical speeches. One was the able and wise speech delivered last night by the hon. Member for North Kerry (Mr. Sexton). One was that of the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. Justin McCarthy), and the others were those of the hon. Member for South Longford (Mr. Blake), the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. Davitt), and the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond). Not one of those speeches fell short of what we have declared to be, in our opinion, necessary for the acceptance of this Bill. That is where we look for a durable, real, and solid statement as to the finality. 1001 We find the word "finality" was not even eschewed by the generous unreserve of the hon. Member for North Longford, who attached the character of finality to the Bill. I will not dwell upon all the cases referred to by the right hon. Gentleman opposite; it would be a trespassing unduly on the time of the House for me to do so. What said the hon. Member for Kerry last night? He said, "This is a Bill that will end the feud of ages." That is exactly what we want to do. That is what I call acceptance by the Irish Members of this Bill. It is not given to us to see so far into futurity as to pronounce dogmatically what law will stand or what will not stand, without further change or development, the pressure of time and of vicissitude. What we mean by this Bill is to close and bury a controversy of 700 years, to place Ireland on a footing of genuine political equality. Grievous and painful as have been the incidents of the past, foul and polluted as (in the language of the right hon. Gentleman) has been the stream of Irish history, the whole of this is now washed away in the waters of oblivion. We start anew upon another course. Old grudges are effaced, painful recollections are effaced, hope has taken their place, and we hope with reasonable confidence. I think I ought to refer particularly to the speech of the hon. Member for Waterford, because he is regarded with justice as representing the left wing of the Irish Party. I listened with great care, and not less pleasure, to that speech. I do not speak now of amending this or that part of the Bill in Committee, because I think that in that respect we all remain perfectly free. But I am not sure that there was a single proposition in the speech in which the hon. Member stated so powerfully and so clearly the case of Ireland to which I am unable to say aye. The hon. Member did not found the claim of Ireland only or even mainly upon grievances. As far as I understand, the claim of Ireland, as far as it rests upon grievances, may be stated very shortly in these words—first, that the work of practical Irish legislation neither has been, nor could be, under the conditions of our present political life, efficiently carried forward; and, secondly, that Ireland is laden with what must be called in a large degree an anti-National Executive. 1002 But I agree with the hon. Gentleman in this: we cannot exclude the right and the claim of a nation to exercise a voice, and, in the long run, a decisive voice— I do not say upon a question belonging to the Empire, but I do say upon the regulation of its domestic policy. I take my ground broadly upon this—that this Bill has been accepted in terms unequivocal and satisfactory by the Irish Members who have spoken, and especially by those who may be regarded as in the highest sense representative and typical men. I think that is generally admitted by those who have followed with care the speeches of the Irish Members. That brings me to what, after all, is to me perhaps the most painful part of the Debate, for I ask myself why, if experience urges us to go forward, if the sense of failure reproaches us as it does with respect to the majority in this House, and if the Bill has that acceptance from the Irish Members which absolutely fulfils the conditions that we have laid down—why, then, do you reject the measure? I grieve to say that a Bill desired by Ireland is rejected because the Representatives of Ireland are met with distrust and disbelief. There is no use concealing that from ourselves. I know that I should be met by the assertion, which I remember very well, of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. He says—I have no complaint to make against the people of Ireland. My objection is to the Representatives—the Nationalist Representatives—of Ireland.My right hon. Friend seems to think—which astonishes me in so astute a man—that he has here got hold of a tangible and a broad distinction. Is it any distinction at all? Are these hon. Gentlemen not the Representatives, then, of the vast majority of the Irish people? How came they there? Are they there by the momentary accident of a single election? Are they there owing to the fact that an election has been taken upon some other issues, and that this is a latent issue which has come up in this House, and has not been before the people of Ireland? Are they there by one single choice of the Irish people? No, Sir; during the last seven or eight years—since 1885, when the franchise was enlarged under a protection which in Ireland was even 1003 more essential than an enlargement of the franchise—you had the Election of 1885, you had the Election of 1886. You had the discussions from that time to 1892, and you had the Election of 1892. On three several occasions the Irish Members have been holding the same language in the hearing of their constituents, and three several times they have been sent back to this House that they might continue to hold it. In those circumstances, how idle it is to draw a distinction between the Representatives of Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin made an announcement which caused me great alarm. He said he observed there was great peculiarity in my mode of handling public questions, and especially Irish questions. My right hon. Friend is one of the heavy rather than one of the light guns of the Opposition. He does not speak without a good deal of reflection. Therefore, I was greatly alarmed until I found out his complaint was—that I was in the habit of looking to the Representatives of the people as the authentic organ of the people. I plead guilty to the impeachment, and I go a little further. Though there may be great philosophers, great inquirers, and great orators who think otherwise, I do not understand how any man who thinks otherwise can possibly be regarded as a loyal adherent of representative government. Ireland has accepted this plan, and Ireland, in her acceptance, and her loyal acceptance, is not only distrusted, but disbelieved. The right hon. and learned Member for Bury—than whom I do not think a kinder man exists—had to perform what appeared to be a very painful operation. He tried to impeach the political characters of the Irish Members, and the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down—although I am far from thinking that he carried distrust further than most of his followers—likewise said, "We must look to the character of these gentlemen." I am aware it may be truly said there was a time when the grievous recollections and traditions of Ireland, the dreadful sufferings and the apparently hopelessness of obtaining from Parliament any consideration for the capital desires of Ireland did sway some men off the precise line of absolute wisdom, and led some of them to use from time to time expressions which I, for one, have never 1004 thought it necessary to treat as involving moral delinquency, for which I have found ample explanation in the conditions and the circumstances under which they spoke, and which stand in most favourable comparison with the means which had been habitually employed by the overpowering might of England and by the Ascendency Party in Ireland. If you are not satisfied about the land, you have the time and opportunity in which to make a provision for the land which shall be permanent and irrevocable. I have never hoard a single objection made that has implied the slightest aversion or disaffection towards this country since the time when the door of Hope was opened wide and we adopted their cause. But there is no doubt about the fact of this distrust. I cannot conceive that it is warranted. Strong language has been used. I myself have used very strong language. I hope it will be thought that I have not wantonly or unnecessarily done so. But I have used it in order to show what this distrust and disbelief amount to. It amounts to this: that the Irish people are to be deliberately, and by this Parliament, depressed below the standard level of civilised mankind. That is the real explanation. What is our mission? We have made it our mission, and, I rejoice to think, our glorious mission, to carry freedom, so far as we are able to do so, throughout the world. We have given it, without difficulty, to the members of our own race wherever situated; and when I say without difficulty, at any rate long ago and without repentance. In giving free Institutions to our Colonies we went a long way. I want now to show how you have behaved to Ireland and how you have behaved to everybody else. In giving free Institutions to the Colonies you had to deal with the case, of one Colony the majority of the inhabitants in which were convicts, or the children of convicts. I do not desire it to be thought that I use the phrase as conveying a stigma. I only want to show what policy has been adopted. You gave them free Institutions, and those free Institutions have been continued with nothing but the happiest results. But you have not limited your benefactions to your own race. You wont to Canada, and found there a mass of Frenchmen. Responsible 1005 Government was conceded to that country, although the number of Frenchmen in it exceeded the number of Englishmen. You captured the Cape, and found there a sturdy race of Dutchmen—the most persistent and intractable of human beings. You treated these Dutchmen in the same same way. But the Irishman! You are to possess this vast Empire, spread multi-form over the world, and every portion of it inhabited by men who acknowledge your justice, and feel and enjoy your light and easy sway. But one exception is to be permanently maintained, and at your own shores you are to have an island to which you are to deny the same free Institutions. Does not this justify the statement I have made? Your opposition to the con-concession of a Parliament to Ireland is always founded on the supposition that the Irish people, if they have power put into their baud, will always use it wrongly; and you deny to them not the name of men, but the proper consequences of the acknowledgment of that name. But then, say some hon. Gentlemen, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, "Oh, no; we do not deny them to be human. They are only too human." Only too human! What is the meaning of that? In what are they too human? They are too human to have any common sense; they are too human to have any sense of justice; they are too human to have any perception of their interest, though it glared upon them like the sun at noonday. These imputations—these cruel imputations—are the grounds upon which you are refusing to Ireland what you have given in every analogous case throughout the Empire. Too human! What is it you mean? You are tampering with ideas under the vain, flimsy, transparent form of words, because you shrink from the only proposition by which the relation between your arguments and your proceedings can be rationally and justly described. I will pass on, for I have been already longer than I intended. I will only say one word more. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland made a promise to the Irish people; he said that they were aided, and were to be aided, by one of the great Parties in this country. I do not think that in the view of the Irish people that promise of 1006 my right hon. Friend will require any counter-signature. What is this Liberal Party of which my right hon. Friend has promised the aid to the Irish nation? It is a Party which has sprung from the people. Anything like full representation sprang from the first Reform Act, because before the first Reform Act the position of the Liberal Party was an insecure one. Since you gave full representation to the people, the Liberal Party has become a great power in the State. And this I can say without fear of contradiction—that since 1828, when the first of its triumphs was registered in the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, there has never been a great question to which the Liberal Party has steadily and seriously laid its hand and which it had failed to conduct to a successful issue. I will not go through the long list. It would savour too much of boasting, and I believe that the truth of what I have said is admitted. And in that case surely it is a matter deserving of some consideration. Has the Liberal Party laid its hand to this question steadily and in earnest? There never was a subject for which it suffered so severely, for which it has wrought so enthusiastically, or in which it descended so low; and in respect of which its ascent from that low point, which it did reach in 1886, has been so remarkable and so triumphant. Do you think that with these recollections in our minds, do you think that with the present facts before us, we are likely to falter or recede? Or do you think that the rule which has steadily prevailed for the last 60 years, since the Liberal Party became a recognised power in the Constitution, is now going to be broken? If you do, at least you can hardly be surprised at our having some faith in its continuance. You can hardly be surprised if I say that we believe that, as we have taken to the solution of this great Imperial question between England and Ireland: and as, on the one hand, it is not certainly the least arduous of the efforts the Liberal Party has made; so, on the other hand, it will have a place in history, aye, and that not in remote, but in early history, as not the least durable, not the least fruitful, not the least blessed among its accomplished acts.
§ Question, "That the Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 347; Noes 304.—(Division List, No. 59.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday, 4th May.