HC Deb 06 February 1893 vol 8 cc559-650

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [31st January], "That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as followeth:— Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain -and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the Most Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Lambert.)

And which Amendment was— At the end of the Question to add the words, "And humbly ventures to express the hope that the Commissioner, who has been sent by Your Majesty to Uganda, will effect the evacuation of that country by the British East Africa Company, without any increase in Your Majesty's Imperial responsibilities."—(Mr. Labouchere..)

Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."

Debate resumed.

*SIR J. H. KENNAWAY (Devon, Honiton)

said, he thought it well, now that the Instructions to Sir Gerald Portal had been ascertained, to turn their attention towards the general question of Uganda, and the points raised by the hon. Member for Northampton. They must, he was sure, all sympathise with the hon. Member who, having devoted his whole attention to placing the Government in power, now found the Government supporting the policy of Lord Salisbury. It was not to be wondered at that he felt himself left in the lurch. For an hour and a-half last Friday he endeavoured to put forward his "anti-Jingo" policy, as he called it, but the wheels of his chariot rolled more heavily than usual, because he knew well that the feelings of this country and of this House were against him. He took them through the history of Uganda, and he went back to very ancient history indeed—namely, to the history of Abraham. In regard to the latter, he got very much out of his depth, and it was to be hoped his facts as to Uganda were more correct. The hon. Member's indictment of the Company was like flogging a dead horse, for the Company would very shortly be out of Uganda. But when it was judged by posterity, it would be said that it had acted on broad lines of policy, and very beneficially as regards the abolition of slavery. He would specially point to the Proclamation of 1890, in which the Company said that all tribes in the interior, who had placed themselves by Treaty under the protection of the Company, were to be a free people and incapable of being held in slavery. They would also see, on reference to the Papers presented to this House, that in the Treaty with King Mwanga of March, 1892, the importation and exportation of slaves was prohibited.

He now came to the question with which he was more especially connected, and which has been raised in this Debate both by the Mover of this Amendment and by the right hon. Gentleman, in regard to the line taken by the Church Missionary Society, which he had the honour to represent. Exception was taken to the action of the Church Missionary Society in bringing the Uganda question as it did before the Foreign Minister and before the country in October last, and it was said that the Society sought to explain to the Liberal Party their duty; and the right hon. Gentleman said the Society made unsuitable and unwise observations in regard to the external policy of this country. This question as to missionaries had been of late so much concerned with the foreign policy of this country that he would ask the indulgence of the House for a few moments in regard to it. It was not his place there, nor would it be suitable, to indicate the importance of missionary work. There had been a great change in fire feeling of the country in regard to this matter. The missionaries were regarded as very dangerous individuals at one time, and were kept out of our Indian dominions for a time. But there had been a great change in recent years, and this century had been called the century of missions. What was theft condition when they went abroad in regard to the Government? It was clear that when they were pursuing their operations, whether in. India or the Colonies, they had the same right to protection as all other British subjects. When they went outside the Queen's dominions they did so clearly at their own hazard; they could not then expect troops to guard them or expeditions to extricate them. This had been clearly laid down by Bishop Tucker and Bishop Smythies. Whenever the Church Missionary Society had approached the Government before now, it had been on the ground that certain Treaty rights had been infringed, whereby the rights or liberty of missionaries or their converts had been interfered with, and, therefore, there was a clear right to call for the interposition of the Government. But in the present case there were circumstances which made the case a very special one, and which, therefore, had justified some departure front the usual practice. He would like to point out what the history of the question was. Fifteen years ago their missionaries, entered Uganda, carrying their lives in their hands, neither looking for nor expecting any protection. They lived there for 13 years tolerated under the government of the century, such as it was. They carried on their work; they made converts; many of them laid down their lives either by pestilence or sword; and many of their converts suffered cruel tortures and death rather than abandon the religion they had embraced. But two years ago the situation was entirely changed, first by the Anglo-German Agreement and then by the advent of the British East Africa Company. They found the country divided into various factions—French, English, and Mahomedans—each fighting for their own hand, and the result was that the British Resident had to interfere, and the old system was swept away, as it was no longer possible for the Protestant missionaries to maintain the impartial attitude they had held before. They naturally supported the British Resident, and by doing so incurred the hatred of the other parties in the State. Within a very short time it was announced that the British East Africa Company were no, longer able to maintain their occupation of the country, and it was seen at once that the withdrawal of the controlling power would mean anarchy and bloodshed and a recrudescence of slavery. In October, 1891, it was represented that for a sum of £40,000 the Company would maintain, their occupation for another year, giving time possibly for some other arrangement to be made. Of that £40,000, the sum of £16,000 was contributed in a very short time by the friends of the, Church Missionary Society, the remainder being subscribed privately by friends of the Company, thus ensuring another year's continued occupation. That brought them to the autumn of 1892. For two or three months in that year, which constituted a critical period la the history of Uganda, they had been engaged in the delights of a contested election; and after that was over the excited politicians were more or less exhausted, and the matter was allowed to slide on. The question of evacuation became more pressing, and in September last the Church Missionary Society, having exceptional knowledge of the state of things in Uganda and a strong feeling of the responsibility incurred by the Government, ventured to approach Lord Rosebery and warned him that anarchy would follow the withdrawal. A Memorial was drawn up, and presented in these terms:— The responsibility of withdrawing British power from Uganda at the present moment appears to us to be most serious, and we would further point out to your Lordship that the perils to Uganda itself will not by any means be the only evils resulting from such an act. We do not refer to political consequences. These considerations will naturally occur to your Lordship. But we would point out that such a withdrawal will almost certainly prove a disaster extending over the whole sphere of British influence in East Africa, and gravely 'affecting the efforts now being made for the evangelisation and civilisation of the various tribes within tied influence; and that it would give a substantial encouragement to the Slave Trade, which Great Britain from her old traditions, her past efforts, and especially as the Convener of the Brussels Conference, is bound to do everything in her power to arrest. The Foreign Minister received the deputation most courteously. He did not take any exception to their action as reflecting on the Liberal Party or as telling them what they ought to do, or laying down the external policy of the country. In fact, his question was why the deputation had been so long in coming to him. The Committee felt it their duty to lay down their views in regard to the position of the Society in regard to this matter, and he would just read to the House a Minute of the General Committee of the Church Missionary Society, dated October 11th, 1892:— At the present grave crisis in the history of Uganda the Committee of the Church Missionary Society feel that a special responsibility devolves upon them to communicate to the British public their sense of the grave wrong which will he inflicted upon the people of Uganda if this determination to withdraw the protection in winch they had been led to trust be carried into effect. How that protection should be secured is a political question, and one of the fundamental principles of the Society is that the Committee and missionaries must keep clear of politics. They therefore make no suggestion on this point; but are firmly convinced that where the claims of duty are paramount some method of meeting those claims can be devised. Nor do they attempt to indicate whether the moral responsibility rests on the Company, which under Royal Charter has assumed Imperial responsibilities, or on the Government, under whose Charter that Company acts. But they cannot forget that in the exercise of the powers thus granted the Imperial British East Africa Company has persuaded the people of Uganda to place themselves under British protection. They therefore insist that a grave responsibility lies on the nation itself; and they urge that a duty rests upon every citizen to secure, as much as in him lies, that by some means or other the national responsibilities shall be fulfilled. Having laid their case before the Foreign Minister, they placed the fact that theirs was a strictly non-political Society on the records of this Minute, and abstained from anything like political agitation, which they felt was entirely outside their province, leaving the matter to be taken up by the people of this country. Soon after that the Anti-Slavery Society approached Lord Rosebery and urged upon him the same considerations, but rather from their own point of view. In answer to their representations, Lord Rosebery made a statement which he was sure had re-echoed throughout the length and breadth of the country in regard to their (the Government's) past relations to the Slave Trade, and their present determination to carry on their old policy. The Foreign Minister said— This country will stand when all else has passed away, not by her fleets or armies, or her commerce—other nations have these—but by the heroic self-denying exertions she has put forward to crush the iniquities of the Slave Trade. My belief is that, having put our bands to the plough, we shall not be able, if we were willing, to look back. The result of this deputation and the Cabinet Councils that followed were, first, the letter to the Company instructing them to remain on for three months, and then, towards the latter part of November, the Instruction to Sir Gerald Portal to go on this Mission of Inquiry with an armed force to support him. The object of the Society had been attained; judgment had been arrested pending the decision of the country in regard to this matter, and they were content so to leave it. He now came to the main question, as to what was to be the duty of the country and of the Government in regard to Uganda? The Mover of the Amendment wished evacuation to be effected without any increase of the responsibilities of this country. They, on the contrary, asked the Government not to effect evacuation, because in that way the responsibilities of the country would be far greater than they were now. They said that the responsibilities on this country would be far greater than the responsibility of remaining there. But the question was, what were to be the grounds of the retention of Uganda? It was a question not of going up the country for the first tune and occupying it, but a question or coming away after so cruelly committing themselves there. It was quite a matter for argument whether they should have gone there at all, or allowed themselves to be affected by the race that was taking place for spheres of influence three years ago, though he thought there Was very much to be said for what they did there. As was pointed out by Lord Rosebery, it was a question of markets and of finding channels for our trade and commerce which were not barred against us. They had incurred a responsibility to the king and people of Uganda. They owed a responsibility to the missionaries whose position was compromised, and to other nations whom they persuaded to join the Brussels Conference. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime -Minister, in his speech last year, spoke of our presence as not being desired by the people of the country, but the information he received since that time had, he hoped, modified that opinion. The King, himself heard with regret that Captain Lugard was going, and he sent a message, which reached the Captain in Egypt, containing a letter for him to take to the Queen. That letter was dated from Buganda, the 17th June last, and it read— To my friend, the Queen, our great Sovereign. I and all my Chiefs send you many greetings. I write this letter to thank you. Thank you exceedingly for sending the representatives of the Company in order to set my country to rights. When they reached Buganda at first I did not like them; I did not think that they could set the country to rights. After we had fought, Captain Lugard wrote me a letter and invited me, and restored me to my Kingdom: then he went and invited the Mahomedans as well, with whom I had been at war, and brought them back and gave them a part of the country. But now my country is at peace; the agents of the Company have arranged it excellently. Now I earnestly beseech you to help me; do not recall the Company from my country. I and my Chiefs are under the English flag, as the people or India are under your flag; we desire very very much that the English should arrange this country; should you recall these agents of the Company, my friend, my country is sure to be ruined; war is sure to come. Captain Lugard has now brought to terms these three religions; he has returned to England; he will inform you of the state of affairs in Buganda. But I want you to send this same Captain Lugard back again to Buganda that he may finish his work of arranging the country, for he is a man of very great ability, and all the Waganda like him very much; he is gentle; his judgments are just and true, and so I want you to send him back to Buganda. So, our friend, persevere in helping us, for we are your people. May God give you blessing and long life! I, Mwanga, King of Buganda and my Great Chiefs. That showed the attitude of the King at the present time. It had been asserted that the Roman Catholics were very anxious to get rid of the Company, but he had a leading article from The Tablet of last December, in which it was stated that the abandonment of Uganda by the British was looked at as a crowning disaster by the Christian population of both sections in the country, and Captain Lugard, in a recent letter to The Times, said "the French priests are loud in their appeal that we should remain in the country." The Chiefs also begged of Captain Lugard to remain in the country. It was clear, therefore, that the presence of the British was desired in that country. As to the Slave Trade, he had already quoted what Lord Rosebery had said on that subject. We looked back, as a nation, with the greatest pride to what we had accomplished in the way of putting a stop to the Slave Trade. Uganda had been a great centre of the Slave Trade with its attendant evils. Again, those who were competent to speak on the subject, said that if we were to evacuate Uganda now, massacre and war would ensue, and vast numbers would be sold into slavery. He asked, was Great Britain to be content with capturing a few slaves here and there at an expenditure of £100,000, or £200,000 a year in slave cruisers, or should she not rather pay a small portion of that sum to effectively administer the country and so stamp out the evil at its source? As the conveners of the Brussels Conference they were pledged to go forward in this matter, and the country would glady support the Government in so doing, whilst it would call them to account if the great resources and power of Great Britain were not used for this purpose, and a deadly blow thus struck at the Slave Trade. As to the question what Uganda was worth to us commercially, there was not much trade at present, but it was a country of great possibilities. They wanted new markets in Uganda, and Captain Lugard told them that if the country was occupied and settled, a large trade would result, and Mr. Stanley took the same view. There was already a demand for imported goods. There were hundreds of millions of acres capable of producing cotton, rice, coffee, gum, &c., and they had evidence of the increase in trade in South Africa under a settled Government. They had not yet seen the Report of the expedition for the survey of the railway. The question of the cost was, he believed, greatly exaggerated, and other difficulties urged against the retention of the country would be found to be greatly over-estimated. For instance, the difficulties in the way of making the railway, because of the alleged hostility of the tribes, would be found altogether to disappear. At the same time, it would have to be considered whether the country was ripe for this or whether the suggestion of Mr. Mackay for the construction of rough tramways to the great lakes and centres of population might not be a wiser step to take than to build a railway. They had clear ground for asking the Government to resist this Amendment and to recognise the existence in the country of a strong feeling that Uganda wanted their protection and should not be abandoned. They had a warning in the Soudan, where they allowed barbarism to triumph and re-establish itself over a country, the Government of which we had practically assumed. He hoped that a parallel to that would not be found in Uganda, whence they hoped to strike a deadly blow at the Slave Trade, and gradually deliver a message of peace and freedom to a large part of Central Africa.

*MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)

said, while he was aware of the ability and zeal with which the missionaries did their work, he was of opinion that the missionary question had nothing to do with the situation in Uganda. Were they to lay down the principle that they should send their troops to support missionaries in every country? Would Germany or France or Switzerland adopt such a policy? Let them send missionaries to the East End of London, where they were more required than in Africa—or let them send them to Ireland. Tim missionaries, he thought, got on much better without the troops. He was aware that the missionaries were being placed in the front at meetings ill this country—they were the only respectable thing they had to place in the front—and there was some feeling in this country in regard to assisting Missions and missionaries, but to hear the Tory Party going against slavery reminded him of Satan reproving sin or of the pot calling the kettle black. Not only had the Tory Party been in favour of slavery everywhere, but in favour of keeping every class except their own in this country in slavery. The democracy, fortunately, had now driven them away from that idea. He was astonished to find the Tory Party going against slavery. It was only as short time back as 1864 that they were in favour of founding in America an Empire whose corner-stone was to be slavery. Captain Lugard did not claim that he represented this country in Africa. The fact was, he was lent to the Company, was paid by the Company, and had nothing to do with the government of this country, and he (Mr. Morton) challenged anybody to prove otherwise. It was objectionable that we should allow these captains and colonels who were working for certain companies to go out and use their titles as conferring upon them authority to act for the country. The use of the titles was calculated to make people believe that they were acting for the British Government; and it would be a much better policy if in the future officers acting for company-mongers should not use their titles. Now one or two words about the Amendment as brought forward by his hon. Friend the Member for Northampton. He admired his courage in bringing-it forward, seeing that he was a friend and supporter of the Party now in power. He said that as a Radical, and he declared that he was glad the Member for Northampton had brought the Amendment forward. The right hon. Gentleman the Premier had said that this was not an appropriate time to bring it forward. He desired most respectfully to differ altogether from the right hon. Gentleman. This appeared to him a most appropriate time to bring it forward. If he brought it forward five or six months hence when the Government were committed, that would not be a proper time fur doing so, because it might then be said that it was too late. It was the duty of those who objected to the retention of Uganda to bring the matter before the Government and before this House on the first opportunity. The hon. Gentleman had therefore only done his duty in bringing forward this matter before the Government and the House now. He agreed with him in not taking a Division on this occasion but if he were to go to a Division, he (Mr. Morton) should have pleasure in voting with him; and if he raised the question of expense on the Estimates, he would vote with him; and he felt bound to say that if the Member for Northampton did not raise the question on the Estimates, he (Mr. Morton) would, and he would, of course, take a vote upon it. His reason was that they as Radicals, representing the Radicals who were the majority of the people of this country, ought to let the Government know their opinion on the question of Uganda. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had said he had most friendly intentions towards the Government, but he wanted to know what was to be done in the interval between the time the Company would leave Uganda on the 31st of March and the time the Government would decide what to do? That was all very well; but he (Mr. Morton) would like to know why he did not raise the same question last year when they were considering the Railway Survey Vote? Not only was it known at that time that the Company must leave the country—the then Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs shakes his head—but the then Government told them that the reason they proposed the grant of £20,000 at all was that the Company had no money— he remembered the circumstances well, and knew that the position was as he stated. He would like to know if the the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham made any inquiries of the then Tory Government, and if his inquiries were not now directed to doing the present Government as much harm as possible? He said the policy advocated by the other side was most objectionable. The Africans had as much right to come here and take our country as we lad to take theirs. We were told last year that the policy was not to build a railway, but to make a survey and get information. They were now told that the Company was going to leave Uganda on March 31st., but they retained the Port of Mombasa; they retained some rights along the coast from Zanzibar beyond Mombasa—some ten miles inland; and the idea seemed to be that we were to take possession of the country, and that the Company would be allowed to tax everything coining in under a prior Treaty that they had with the Sultan of Zanzibar. It was said we might have to buy out the Company—a transaction which would involve an outlay estimated at from £600,000 to £3,000,000. Therefore, the object of the Company was to get a large sum of money out of the people of this country. They were told the other night by the Member for West Birmingham that the Government were drifting. He was hound to say he thought they were drifting—this policy was one of drifting. If the House rose, and if they had Jingoes in the Cabinet, as he feared there were, they would continue drifting. The Premier criticised the Member for Northampton because he did not object to the inquiry in this matter, but only to the appointment of Sir Gerald Portal. The Member for Northampton did not object to inquiry because it was too late to do so; but, practically, he objected to everything that had been done—everything, whether in the shape of making inquiries or of taking possession of the country, everything that was done without getting the previous consent of the House of Commons, which was a very good policy and the policy the Government would be compelled to take some day, so that a majority of the House might decide the question before the doing of any-thing at all. They wanted to discuss all Treaties before they were made. He thought he remembered that that used to be advocated in Midlothian. They knew but little about the railway, but it was calculated that, as far as it might be necessary to make it at the present time, it would cost £3,000,000. That estimate was not made by any railway contractor or engineer, and he therefore estimated that they would require about double the amount, say £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, to make a railway over this 700 miles of country. As far as he could find out, Uganda was worth little or nothing for emigration. Captain Lugard practically said it was of no use for colonisation purposes. If it eon Id be used as Australasia and America had been, we might do well to find an outlet there for our surplus population, especially as that population would create a trade of their own. He would like to remind the Government that although one Missionary Society and a few of the Anti-Slavery Party were supporting this policy of annexation, not a single Liberal or Radical Society in the country had passed a resolution in favour of the retention of Uganda. The City of London Liberal Association had held a meeting on the subject, but could not carry a vote, and that was the only Liberal Association that had attempted to pass any resolution on the mutter, and as an amendment had been carried against the vote, he might say that that Association was against this policy. The Liberals, therefore, were against the policy to which he referred. The Radical Party had placed the present Government in power, and it was to them the Government must look for their support. The Radical Party objected to the Jingo policy altogether. They objected to the expenditure of money in such a cause. If they had got any money to spare, or any missionaries to spare, send them to the East End of London. They were more badly-needed there than in Africa, and they were likely to do more good in that quarter. If they had any money to spare it was wanted here at home. They had already more responsibility in connection with foreign affairs than they could properly attend to. Money, as he said, was wanted at home. It was wanted in the agricultural interest—it was wanted at a low rate of interest, and the agriculturists would be glad to get it. If they wanted to spend money on railways, let them spend it in this country. If the Government gave way to the Jingoes—of whom, as he had said, he found there were a few in the Cabinet—they would have nothing to do with it. In that case it would not be backed by the Radical Party. They wanted the Government to apply their energies to carrying on a better system of government in this country—and especially in Ireland—and so enable the people to live better and happier than they did at the present time. He could not vote for the Amendment, as it was not going to be pressed; but he would vote in that direction whenever he had an opportunity.

*MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)

said: On Friday night the hon. Member who opened this Debate made a bitter, and, as I shall endeavour to show, a most unjust attack, upon the East Africa Company, of which, most unfortunately for its own interests I admit, I happen to be the only representative in this House. I will ask the indulgence of the House to enable me to reply to these attacks, and also to make some remarks upon the general situation. First, however, I hope the hon. Member will allow me to congratulate him upon haying found the early opportunity afforded by his Amendment on this question of driving in the wedge between two sections at least of his Party—the "petty parochial" section to which he boasts of belonging, and that portion, which I trust is a large one, who have some regard for the realisation and fulfilment by this country of its Imperial obligations. On Friday night we listened to a very full exposition of the views of the "petty parochial" school. I think it well that we should hear something of the other section of the Party, which is led by Lord Rosebery. I will confine myself to the question at issue, and will quote the words of Lord Rosebery, speaking of Uganda in some of the aspects which the hon. Member for Northampton had in view. Lord Rosebery said— We, that is I, view it (Uganda District) as a country of great possibilities, as the key perhaps of Central Africa, as commanding the Nile Basin, as a field recently of heroic enterprise, as a land that has been watered by the blood of our saints and martyrs, and I for one, as a Scotchman, can never be indifferent to a land which witnessed the heroic exploits of Alexander Mackay, that Christian Bayard, whose reputation will always be dear, not only in his own immediate northern country, but throughout the Empire at large. Now, Sir, we have the hon. Member for Northampton and we have Lord Rosebery on this question. What we want to know, and what we ask, at this juncture, for the sake of great interests which we believe to be at stake, which of the two is the Gladstonian? With regard to Sir Gerald Portal's Instruction I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, which, it is quite true, was hypothetical in form, but which contained the germ of the whole position, and indicated the scope and character of the danger which the people in Uganda are liable to. The plain answer to that question, whether Sit Gerald Portal wad empowered to defend the country by force of arms against external and internal dangers, would tend to allay the great anxiety that is now felt in many quarters, and would give the House an exact definition of his powers in respect to it. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was not able to form a judgment, as to circumstances which had not arisen. I did not ask for that. I asked that Sir Gerald Portal's powers were, whether he has sufficient powers to meet such a case? The hon. Member for Northampton has attacked the Company on the ground of certain incidents with which its name has been connected; with one which occurred in the centre of Africa, at a distance, so far as communication is concerned, of many months from headquarters, and amidst, circumstances which, of course, could not be known to the Directors, which even the agent connected with those incidents could not foresee. In order to describe those and other circumstances so as to fit in with his own view, the hon. Member had made unfairly-chosen extracts, and has suppressed essential facts bearing on the arguments he has laid before the House—facts which, as he is both industrious and watchful, and has evidently devoted much tune to the subject, I cannot believe were unknown to him. The hon. Member says that our general policy has been one of land-hunger; or, I think his expression was, that we were "afflicted with that disease." Before dealing with the connection which the hon. Member has assumed between this so-called policy of ours and Uganda, I should like to say a word on the subject generally, as it is connected with Treaty-making, and particularly as the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister stated that one object of Sir Gerald Portal's Mission was to inquire into the way we had exercised our Treaty-making powers. Sir, at the time of what I may call the scramble for East Africa amongst the European Powers, this Company, by its existence—in the earlier days by the fact that it was in embryo and ready to take a footing in these territories, and subsequently by the fact that it was there—afforded a justification for the claims of England to a share of that country, which the respective Governments of that time gladly welcomed. It is more true to say that Her Majesty's Government used the Company as an instrument for the delimitation of boundaries than that we drew the Government on to larger and wider responsibilities. The policy of Treaty-making, followed up by effective occupation, has been undertaken by the Company, with the continued knowledge and sanction of the Government, and every Treaty we have made has been submitted to the Foreign Office. It has been a political policy, and in that aspect it belongs not only to the Company, but to the British Government. It has been what I may call the substantive part as distinguished from the Diplomatic part of negotiations which aimed at the acquisition of a portion of East Africa for England. I am aware that the hon. Gentleman does not approve of this policy of acquisition; but there are a vast number of people in this country who do approve of it. Lord Granville, Lord Rosebery, Lord Salisbury approved of it. And the part we have played in it has given enormous assistance to those Foreign Ministers in carrying out that policy. It is in that light we claim that we have acted largely in the national interest. We played our part in securing that the British flag should remain on the East Coast of Africa; that instead of having no port from Aden to Natal, the finest harbours on that, coast should form a rendezvous for the British Fleet that the old-established trade of thousands of our Indian fellow-subjects settled there should he saved from passing under the control of a foreign Power; that at a moment when an iron band of Prohibition Duties was drawn around Africa by every other Power, we opened a free highway into that country for the products of English manufacture. When we were hemmed in on both sides, North and South, by Ger- many, our position between justified the claim of the Government that Germane should confine itself to the South and leave the North to us; and in this connection I may say that so far from our evincing "land-hunger" while the Sultan of Zanzibar conceded to us the whole of the northern ports up to Warshek, we were content with the boundary of the Juba River and Kismayu, giving up 400 miles of what had been conceded to us to Italy. When the doctrine of the Hinterland was accepted, the fact that the Company de facto formed a base upon the coast substantiated England's claim to this very country of Uganda. I am speaking of it in its widest sense, as including the Great Lake, the key of the Nile Basin, the heart of the trade of Central Africa, and the link in the chain of communication from the Cape to Alexandria, for over the strip between Victoria Nyanza and Tanganyika, which does not belong to us, free communication of every kind is secured by the General Act of the Berlin Conference and by the Treaty between Great Britain and Germany. The acquisition of the whole of these territories for England opened the way to the head waters of the Nile and to the Equatorial Provinces which belonged to Egypt. This was the road to the Equatorial Provinces which General Gordon always advocated as the best, and as best for the effective development of those regions. But, Sir, these are all parts of a political or national policy; and whatever we have gained ourselves—whicb, pecuniarily speaking, is as yet nothing—it is impossible to deny that time larger portion of our capital has gone in helping to secure these national interests, as represented by a territory nearly equal in area to British India. The hon. Gentleman has twitted us with the word "philanthropy." Let me state here that all we claim is that in our relations with those unhappy peoples we have conducted our enterprise with a due regard to that love of peace, conciliation, freedom, and humanity which this country would desire to see in all dealings with native or savage tribes; and that we have done our -utmost to carry out that great policy of Anti-Slavery, in the prosecution of which England has sacrificed so much money and so many noble lives. Sir, when we took possession of the territory on the coast it was a moment when discontent, disorder, rebellion, and bloodshed were rife amongst our German neighbours. The cry of "death to the white man" was rising along the coast. Here, next door, separated only by an imaginary-line, our Commissioner, Mr. Mackenzie, took possession, and by tact, conciliation, and justice, established the most friendly relations with the native tribes—relations which, in the districts at any rate, where things are more under the direct control of the Company, have never since been disturbed. And, Sir, with regard to slavery. The hon. Gentleman said that we used slave-labour in our caravans, and he said that "nothing but slave labour existed there." This latter is not the case; hundreds of free men come to our caravans. The caravans are made up mostly from Zanzibar-porters. Slavery does exist in Zanzibar by law; we have no power to stop it. What is our course—the only course open to us to secure the freedom of these slaves who come from outside our territories? We pay the men and not the master.


The men have to pay the money to their masters.


Certainly not; we pay the man and not the master; but we have a fixed arrangement that the slave shall be entitled to purchase his freedom at a fixed and comparatively small sum, out of the wages he receives from us. It is a humane and practical provision, and the only one possible for us to make. With regard to slavery amongst the tribes under our control, the Company has provided for carrying out this Anti-Slavery policy by its Proclamation of May 1, 1890. Which was assented to by all the Arabs and others concerned. It declares that— All the tribes of the Interior (beyond the 10 mile limit of Zanzibar territory), who had placed themselves by Treaty under the protection of the Company, to be free people, and incapable of being held in servitude. After the date of the Proclamation any members of those tribes found in slavery were to he liberated without compensation to their masters.


Have the people of Uganda assented to this?


I can show the hon. Gentleman a passage to the effect that owing to our Proclamation, and the country having come under it, a considerable number of slaves had been liberated. It is obvious that when we retire to the coast, if some sort of British control is not upheld in Uganda, creating a chain of influence between that country and the Company's immediate territories, the power of restricting the Slave Trade over a great portion of the intermediate tribes will cease. But, Sir, there is another fact, and I think the House will listen to these facts, not only because the hon. Gentleman attacked us on this point, but because this is a subject which touches the heart of a large area of feeling in this Country. We have by special efforts in the past three years freed 2,634 slaves. The Government towards the liberation of these 2,634 slaves gave us a contribution of £800. That was what they cost this country. Now on this point I would call the attention of the House to certain remarkable figures. On the 4th April, 1886, the then Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs estimated the cost of maintaining slave cruisers at from £150,000 to £200,000 per annum. The average of slaves released by means of these cruisers has been, at the outside, £150 a year, or in three years £450. In the last three years we have freed 2,364 slaves, at a cost to the Government of £800. It must be remembered also that the Government pays the Missionary Societies on each slave freed by the cruisers £5 a head, for placing him out after he is freed. On these 2,000 odd slaves this would have meant over £13,000. I will not stop to calculate the exact amount which the freeing of this number of slaves would have cost the Government if it had been effected by their method of cruisers—the only method by which the traditional Anti-Slavery policy of this country was being carried out in East Africa up to the time of our going there—but it would have been considerably over £2,000,000. Do not these facts point to the advantage that the cause of the abolition of slavery has already received from our occupation, and do they not show what an enormous further service can be rendered to that cause by extending British influence on land, not by us necessarily, and not in any way to our advantage, but on the lines on which we have worked. And now, Sir, to return to some of the specific accusations or the hon. Gentleman and the charge I felt bound to make against him of suppressing important facts. His references to the Prospectus and the financial honor and credit of the Company—I think he called it a Bottomley Company!—are almost too contemptible for reply; and I suppose that he meant it as one of those elegant jokes which he is in the habit of perpetrating. But if these remarks were made seriously, I would remind the I Louse that early last Session he addressed a long question to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, based upon some vague imputation of this kind; and that, in reply, the Secretary of the Company addressed a letter to the public Press giving the fullest details with regard to every point which placed the Company, from the point of view from which the hon. Gentleman has attacked it, above criticism. I would refer the House to the letter, which is dated 2nd March, 1892, and will be found in the public Press. Now, Sir, the hon. Gentleman leads the House to suppose that we went into Uganda under the influence of land hunger, and certainly that it was al. along our design to occupy and retain that country. He mikes no mention of the fact, which I think must have been perfectly well known to him, that when Mr. Jackson, in the natural course of exploration, found himself not very far from Uganda, he was there with definite and express instructions not to go into that country. It is true the hon. Gentleman mentioned that we went thereat the invitation of King Mwanga. But he only mentioned this in order to refute an assumption which he implies we have set up, that we went there out of pure patriotism, because he adds that the King's proposal was a purely commercial one. What he does not state, and what also, I assume, was known to him, is that Mr. Jackson went into that country not only at the solicitation of the king, but also at the urgent entreaty of both Christian sections. What he does not state is that at that moment the Mahommedans were on the point of conquering that country, which would certainly have led to the massacre of missionaries, great bloodshed, and its peaceful inhabitants being carried off as slaves, if Mr. Jackson had not gone in. But I want the House to bear in mind the fact that we had given definite instructions to our agent not to go into Uganda. I do not wish in the slightest degree, on behalf of the Company, to shirk any responsibility, and I think under the circumstances we have no reason to blame Mr. Jackson in the matter. Well, Sir, then came Captain Lugard, and the fighting, and the first Treaty. Now, Why was Captain Lugard sent to Uganda? I am not here to blink the facts. Commercially, we had no desire to go to Uganda. We felt that the enterprise was too costly to justify us in doing so. But the position had materially altered. I have mentioned the political considerations under the pressure of which we have so often had to act. At that moment the doctrine of the Hinterland had not been accepted. Paper titles did not hold without effective occupation. Dr. Carl Peters, an unacknowledged German Agent, and a stormy petrel of those times, under the pretence of rescuing who was already on his way to the coast in the charge of Mr. Stanley, was making his way up the Tana River, pulling down and burning British flags, and forming a chain of posts behind the British territory, with the object of taking possession of Uganda. Public feeling in this country almost denounced us for our inactivity. Was Uganda to be left to other nations or to perpetual slavery? Were the Missionaries to be sacrificed? "Certainly not," we said, and we echoed the voice of Great Britain. And we sent Captain Lugard. Now, with regard to Captain Lugar"' I should like to say a word. It is perfectly natural the hon. Member should do his best to deride and contemn any enterprise which has for its object the extension of British influence; but I do not understand the spirit in which he seeks to raise prejudice against an Englishman, situated as Captain Lugard was, in a distant and unexplored country, at first With a very small force, far front any possibility of reinforcement or succour, facing a multitude of dangers and resolutely carrying out a policy which he believed to be best for the interests of peace and good government. Has the hon. Member really read what Captain Lugard did; how he found the two parties on the verge of war; how time after time, when their forces were drawn up opposite to each other he, acting With extraordinary tact and judgment, prevented hostilities and held the balance between them with evenhanded justice and great administrative skill. How eventually he left them in a state of peace and proceeded on his expedition against Kabrega who, with his slave-dealing Mahommedans, was hanging like a vulture over this country. How he routed and scattered these into Unyoro, where they have since remained. How then, making for Lake Albert Edward, he built a line of forts between die two lakes, leaving them in charge of a brave subaltern, Mr. Fenwick de Winton, a young man of singular promise and devotion to duty, who recently died at his post. How, to proceed, Captain. Lugard thus secured the safety and protection of the intermediate countries against Kabrega; how he freed from his control the great salt lake for the benefit of the tribes around it; how he explored and settled all those districts; how he gained the allegiance of Selim Bey and his troops; and how eventually he left those countries and their inhabitants secured against their common enemy, and rejoicing in the unfamiliar experience of freedom and prosperity. To my mind it was a noble exhibition of bravery, self-reliance, and good judgment. It is not the first instance of an Englishman doing his duty amidst great dangers and difficulties in a wild and unknown country; and Friday night was not the first occasion on which a petty parochial view has been taken of the exploit. Well, Sir, after a year's absence, Captain Lugard returned to Uganda on December 31st, 1891. Then followed the fighting which his former efforts had averted, and of which we have heard so much recently. Of course, the hon. Gentleman omits the real reason for Captain Lugard's resolute attitude. He found the two Christian parties on the point of going to war; he knew that if he left them to fight it out amongst themselves one party would have been conquered and have left the country, and that the remaining party would have been too weak to withstand conquest by the Mahommedan slave-drivers; he therefore gave these two opposing forces fair warning that he would open fire upon the first of them that broke the peace. The Warrenza, as they are called, became the aggressors, and Captain Lugard kept his word and fought them. The Wafrenza carried off the King. Captain Lugard's chief object was to free the king, and to uphold his authority. He had no desire to take the King's authority into the hands of the Company. But, Sir, what was the result of all this? The state of things now existing in Uganda, where the three parties are living side by side in "blood brother-hood" under their lawful Sovereign, is the best indication of Captain Lugard's policy. Did we hear a word about this from the hon. Member when he was dealing with Captain Lugard? And now, Sir, with regard to the Treaty or which the hon. Member made so much. I think that anyone would have thought that that Treaty—obtained, I admit, under exceptional circumstances, but circumstances of Which we should have been better able to judge if we had been placed in Captain Lugard's position—anyone would have thought that that was the Treaty under which our present relations with Uganda, were maintained. Even this first Treaty was no "sale of the country" by the King. As a matter of fact, it was very quickly superseded by the second Treaty, which was perfectly free Treaty. I think he said it was not signed by the King. It is signed by the King, and voluntarily and freely signed by hint. But generally, on this aspect which the hon. Member gave of King Mwanga as an unfortunate savage coerced by the Company, why did not the hon. Member say anything about the letters from the King to Her Majesty the Queen, and to the Directors of the Company which had been read by the hon. Gentleman who spoke on behalf of the missionaries. Well, Sir, to go on with what happened in Uganda, I have said that the Company had no original intention of occupying Uganda. Six months after Captain Lugard had arrived in that country, when peace and order were restored, we gave notice that we intended to evacuate on the 31st December, 1891. The House is familiar with the fact that we only prolonged our stay there at the special intervention of the Church Missionary Society, and on their providing the funds. We prolonged our stay by a year, and we were to have left on the 31st of last December. But the hon. Member says that "three months more were given the Company to evacuate it." Were these three months more given to the Company to evacuate, or did the Company prolong its stay for three months for the convenience of Her Majesty's Government, and in order to postpone a decision which it was rumoured occupied a great deal of time in the Cabinet, and which was not taken until a very late date? Now, Sir, I come to another point. We heard a great deal from the hon. Member as to the worthlessness of Uganda. And his remarks were based upon a Report of Captain Lugard, from which he read extracts. I say a Report advisedly. It was the first Report of Captain Lugard. In referring to this Report—which was the full one, which was a private Report to the Directors of the Company, was not written with any idea of being for publication—the hon. Gentleman stated triumphantly that "fortunately" the present Chancellor of the Exchequer "got hold" of this Report. Why did he not say that this full Report Was handed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by a Director of the Company.


One Director.


Yes, one Director; there was no need for 10 Directors to hand him 10 Reports. Well, Sir, the hon. Member quotes from this Report as to the worthlessness of Uganda. Now, the hon. Member has an observant genius. It is not likely that such a matter as dates escaped his notice. The date of that Report is the 24th December, 1890. But he only arrived in Uganda, as stated in that Report, on the 18th December. That Report, therefore, contained the results of the observations or six days. It obviously gave the first and most impression. It was absurd to look upon I it—we never looked upon it—as affording a guide to the natural or commercial advantages of Uganda. But with regard to these, the hon. Member based the whole of his argument upon this six days' Report, and never told us a word about its being a six days' Report. It is true that he said that Captain Lugard afterwards went about saving that Uganda was a land full of milk and honey; but the hon. Member stated this rather with the view of implying that Captain Lugard had, under some extraneous influences and for some ulterior purposes, changed his mind. What were the facts? The first one, at least, was known to the hon. Member, that Captain Lugard remained in those countries 18 months examining the whole district and obtaining information with regard to the dependent countries, and upon this 18 months' careful examination, as opposed to the six days after his arrival in Uganda, his subsequent opinion as to the importance of Uganda was based. And I have another fact to add in this connection. So far from being influenced in any way by the Company, in his actions in this country, Captain Lugard has been entirely dissociated from the Company. He was in officer in the Army, and he ceased to be in our service the moment he arrived in this country. We offered to pay him—I believe we did pay him—his salary up to the end or the year as a sort of bonus. He returned the portion of it dating from the day of his arrival, and went out as a free lance to impart to various circles a knowledge of what he conscientiously believed to be the real value of Uganda to this country. I will not weary the House by quotations showing the great value which he attaches to it. With regard to the connection of the Company with Uganda, I consider that it is well that it is at an end simply because the question of Uganda is too great a question to he obscured and confused by the prejudices that the hon. Gentleman and his school in these times raise around Chartered Companies, forgetting when he speaks to the "parochial" mind that Chartered Companies have been the most economic, as well as the most successful means of maintaining British interests. We went to Uganda against our first inclinations. Our agent went there against our express orders; we were drawn in at the urgent solicitation of the King and people; we were urged by public opinion; we went with the countenance and sanction of the Government; and we secured a condition of peace and contentment which is the best justification of our action. But, Sir, in doing this we found ourselves face to face with a problem which differentiated this country from any other within our sphere and marked it out as a point of great national interest to Great Britain, and the key of the position, so to speak, for the successful completion of the anti-slavery policy which England undertook so long ago, and which I do not believe she is willing now to abandon. Well, Sir, we, by our temporary occupation of Uganda, became the channel for bringing all these facts to the knowledge of the British public; we were the instruments, so to speak, of the nascent development of these great interests. But I ask, in common fairness, are we a commercial Company with a very limited capital, already largely exhausted by a generous prosecution of these interests, to be expected alone and unaided to undertake the national obligations indicated in the name of Uganda: is it quite just for the right hon. Gentleman to say we "have undertaken a great task and been obliged to recede front it"? No, Sir, we have done our part. It only remains for us to say to England, "There lies the path of national interest and national duty. It is for you to open or close it." So far as the Company is concerned, I am very glad the Mission has gone; for the right hon. Gentleman states that one of its objects is to Obtain authentic and responsible information as to the mode in which their governing powers have been exercised, and the mode in which that authority to control has been put in practice. We court, we eagerly welcome the fullest, deepest, and closest inquiry into the whole of our record, only we ask that the scope of that inquiry should be as large as the scope of our operations, and cover the period from the beginning to this moment—that it should not be confined to a single incident and an isolated locality. We ask as the claim of men who founded an English Company on a commercial basis, that it shall be inquired into whether we have not from the first to last trod our path with a due regard to the highest and best traditions of English enterprise—whether that path has not spread in the dark countries through which it runs enlarged prospects of good government and prosperity, and whether there have not issued from it to the unhappy native tribes with which we have come in contact new and unlooked-for hopes of freedom and justice.


I rise only to express a hope that, in view of the fact that this question must be again discussed on a Supplementary Estimate, the House will now allow the Debate on this particular point to close. I do not propose to follow in any detail what, has been said to-night, because I think matters of detail Call be better discussed in Committee of Supply than in a Debate on the Address. As regards the hon. Member who has just sat down, and who has made, m was perhaps Ids duty, an able and exhaustive defence of the Company to which he belongs, I think I may safely leave that part of the question in his hands. As to the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Kennaway), who opened the Debate this evening, I will only say that he gave us a history of events in Uganda from a missionary point of view, and I do not wish to dispute the accuracy of anything He said. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. A. C. Morton) made some general criticism on what has been done. Those criticisms would, I think, have been more to the point if it had been a policy of annexation which was before the House. It is not a policy of annexation, but, on the contrary, a policy of inquiry that the House has to deal with. Our object is to secure that the House shall, in due course, have full information before it, so as to enable it to form an opinion whether Uganda ought to be placed under British protection or not. I maintain that this is the only policy the Government could have pursued. A provision is included in the policy that the inquiry shall not be conducted in such a way as to prejudge the question before the House has had time to consider Sir Gerald Portal's Report. If during the interval that must elapse before his Report is made there were to be outbreaks of civil war in Uganda, if the British name, instead of continuing to have some ascendancy and prestige, came to be regarded with hatred and contempt by the natives, the question would certainly be prejudged, because it would not be in your power to establish a Protectorate without sending a large expedition. It has been in your power hitherto to decide whether the present state of things shall be continued in Uganda or not. That question can now be decided without great effort or expenditure, and when the Report of Sir Gerald Portal is before the House you will be as free as you are now to consider what the policy is to be, only you will have much more information before you. It was asked this evening whether the Government had really taken steps to secure the maintenance of the status quo in Uganda during the interval. Well, it never occurred to me until I heard it suggested in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) that Sir Gerald Portal could possibly construe his instructions as binding him as soon as Ids Report was complete to hurry away with it to the coast. That is not in Ids instructions, and I am as willing to guarantee as I am willing to guarantee anything that Sir Gerald Portal has no feeling in his own mind whatever that any intention of that sort is implied in the instructions he has received. It is for him to decide whether he himself should bring his Report or send it home and remain in charge at Uganda until it has been presented to the House. Supposing he decides to bring it home, I have only to call attention to Section 10 of the Instructions— It will be your duty to sign a Commission appointing one of the officials to act in your behalf in case of your being incapacitated.'' He would surely construe "incapacitated" in a wide enough sense to prevent Ids leaving the country without appointing some one to act for him. In Section eight of the Instructions Sir Gerald is expressly told that his mission cannot be conducted according to ordinary precedents, but that the difficulty and infrequency of communications may require a latitude beyond what is usual. His instructions are wide enough to give full freedom of action. Then we are asked, has he force enough at his command? I have only to say that Sir Gerald Portal is told in Clause three of his instructions. The Company having offered to make over to Her Majesty's Government their establishments and stores in Uganda, it will be for you to judge how far it is possible or expedient to avail yourself of the proposal. Sir Gerald Portal if he thinks it, necessary can therefore have at his command all the resources of the Company. In addition to that he takes with him 200 Zanzibaris as well as his English staff. It must be borne in mind also that he is not going as Captain Lugard went when the country is on the eve of a civil war—for civil war would have broken out had not Captain Lugard restrained it for some months. The people were bound to go to war at some time, the only thing that prevented them being that the notoriously cruel Mahommedan chief Kabrega was ready to swoop down on the two opposing forces of Protestants and Roman Catholics. Captain Lugard had first of all to sweep Kabrega back and to destroy his influence. Having done that, he had to deal with the civil war between the Protestants and Roman Catholics that was ready to break out. He left the country with the civil war at an end, the people tired of it, and having recognised the folly of it, and the Mahommedan chief completely cowed outside, because he dare not encroach upon the British sphere. I hope I have now placed the House at any rate in possession of the point of view which I think is the only one that is justifiable in view of the instructions given to Sir Gerald Portal. The Government are accused of having adopted a drifting policy. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. A. C. Morton), when he said the Government was drifting, was cheered by hon. Members opposite. For a moment I thought hon. Members opposite were in agreement with the hon. Member for Peterborough, but it turned out that, whilst the latter meant the Government were drifting into the country, gentlemen opposite meant that they were drifting out of the country. I think I have at any rate done something to show that the policy of the Government has not been one of drifting but one that was intended to secure the status quo during the interval, and to furnish us with hill information. I would ask the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who I understand, has only delivered one half of his speech, to consider before he gives us the other half, the position the Government found themselves in when they took Office. They found that the question of Uganda had not been prejudiced in any way by the Government that preceded them. If the preceding Government had an intention of evacuating the country they had not expressed any opinion as to the measures to be taken. The Company were going to evacuate certainly and absolutely at the end of last year. A certain number of people stated that the country was one with rich possibilities, a country which could grow all kinds of crops, and in which new markets could be opened. I do not wish to attach any definite importance to these statements to-night, but they were the statements made by everyone who had been near the country, and much as the House or the Government might doubt their value, there was not in our possession evidence enough to contradict them or prove that they were untrue. There was the further question of what would happen when the Company had evacuated Uganda. First of all it was said the Protestant missionaries and their followers would be massacred, that then the Roman Catholic missionaries and their followers would be massacred, and that there would be a Mahomedan régime of a barbarous kind. So far as our information goes at present, nobody has a right to say that these things would not have followed the evacuation of the country by the Company. The point of the hon. Member for Northampton is that this was no business of ours. I do not wish to discuss the question of responsibility now. That may be done later on, but at any rate Uganda was within our sphere of influence, and if we are not responsible for what goes on all over our sphere of influence we certainly have responsibility to this extent—that we keep other people out. It would not have been in the power of the Germans, living close by, to come within our sphere of influence. I do not wish to press the responsibility more than that. But here, with the evidence before us, what was the Government to do, even supposing no special responsibility rested upon us? I venture to say if the Government had allowed the Company to evacuate without taking any steps, if they had not taken any precautions, and these massacres had supervened, I doubt whether all the quotations the hon. Member for Northhampton (Mr. Labourchere) can bring to bear from Captain Lugard could protect the Government from blame.


My hon. Friend has suggested this Debate should be continued upon the Supplementary Estimates; I can promise him it will be. With that suggestion in view I would ask leave to withdraw my Amendment. If hon. Gentlemen object to that I shall not take a division, but shall say no, in order that there may be no nemine contradicente.

*MR. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith)

Before the question is put, I am anxious to say a few words, not in continuation of the Debate, but merely for the purpose of congratulating toy hon. Friend opposite upon the first speech we have had the pleasure of listening to from the hon. Gentleman in his new capacity, and congratulating the House on having him in the important position which he now holds. I think I may say on behalf of those on these Benches, and others who sit behind me, that we listened with the greatest satisfaction to the speech from the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I quite agree with inn that I do not think this a very convenient opportunity for entering at great detail into the questions connected with our evacuation or retention of Uganda, but I must point out the reason that many Gentlemen have risen and spoken from this side of the House is due to the fact that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), who introduced this matter at great length, covered a great deal of ground, and made a great many charges against a great many men about a great many things, and it was only in human nature that those who felt themselves to be attacked should take the earliest opportunity of repelling those attacks. The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Burdett-Coutts) went out of his way to defend Captain Lugard. It was unnecessary. He took the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) seriously. Now, the hon. Member for Northampton never takes himself seriously, and he might have contented himself with what the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister himself said with regard to Captain Lugard on the 3rd of March of last year, after he hail read the first Report of Captain Lugar upon which the hon. Member for Northampton had animadverted. The Prime Minister on that occasion said, "He is a frank man, a brave man, an able man, and an upright man." Sir, I think we may well leave Captain Lugard's character there. I should like to say a word with regard to the instructions which we have only seen to-day. I confess I think it regretable that they were not circulated at an earlier period. The Government must have known well that this matter attracted a great deal of public attention, and that the Papers would be asked for. If we had had these Papers to study at an earlier moment I feel certain a consider- able part of the time spent last Friday might have been saved. But when I come to look at the Instructions themselves, though on the whole they are satisfactory, yet they are not quite so firm as we should have liked to have seen them. It is true that Sir Gerald Portal, on receiving these instructions, would probably presume that no latitude was left to him as to leaving the country altogether. For instance, in the second paragraph, he is told that he has to report as expeditiously as may be on the means of dealing with the country, and that is further limited by the expression "whether through Zanzibar or otherwise." That would make it appear that the country is to he dealt with, and not left entirely alone. Then, I think, it would have been decidedly best, both for our satisfaction and that of Sir Gerald Portal, that this particular point should have been more definitely stated. On one point I should like to ask the Government a question. I observe that these instructions were not, according to the Paper, telegraphed, they seem to have been sent as a despatch on the 10th December, and therefore could not probably have reached Sir Gerald Portal until the 10th January. It appears that Sir Gerald Portal left to go up the country on 1st January. Has he, therefore, received these instructions? No doubt it would be desirable if that point could be cleared up. There is only one other matter on which I would detain the House for a moment, and that is with regard to the action and the policy of Her Majesty's late Government. It has been said that different views have been taken with regard to what the policy of Her Majesty's late Government was. It has been said the late Government had no intention whatever of remaining in Uganda. The right hon. Gentleman opposite described it graphically when he said "the Company came to Lord Salisbury and said we are going, and Lord Salisbury said very well, good-bye." It is perfectly true that there is not, except the answer which was read by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Manchester (Mr. A.J. Balfour), anything that indicates the intention of the Government retaining Uganda. But is there the slightest doubt what the tenour of the policy of the Government at that time was? I feel certain that at that time no gentlemen on the opposite side of the House would have ventured for a moment to say that it was the intention of the Government to leave Uganda. If it is said that, it is an after-thought on the part of right hon. Gentlemen on that Bench that their policy was to remain at Uganda, surely it is much more an afterthought on the part of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to say that it was the policy of the late Government to leave Uganda. Sir, the policy to which we were bound, and which I had the honour of advocating in this House, was the policy of constructing a railway with a view eventually of communicating with Uganda. I say that is evidence of the intention of the Government, but if we come to examine dates accurately, we find that it is not until the 18th of May that Her Majesty's Government were informed of the definite intention of the Company to retire from Uganda. I say it was not for Her Majesty's Government at that time, within a few weeks of a Dissolution, to propound a policy, and to come down to the House of Commons and ask for support in carrying out a policy with regard to the retention or evacuation of Uganda. What would have been the answer of right hon. Gentlemen opposite? They would have said—Here you are within a month, within six weeks, of a General Election, possibly you may not be in your places after the General Election is over, and yet you come down and ask the House of Commons, and pledge the House to a particular policy when it is possible that by the time you 'come to carry out that policy you yourselves may not be in office. I say, Sir, that right hon. Gentlemen opposite would have been the very first persons to complain if Her Majesty's Government at that time had come down to the House and had asked for any particular sum of money or any particular steps to be taken to carry out a policy which was well known to the House, and of which sufficient and full evidence had been given on many occasions.

MR. ROBERT WALLACE (Edinburgh, East)

did not intend to make more than one reference, and he should not have made that but for the speech of -the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir E. Grey). He should have been more satisfied if the Under-Secretary had been pleased to leave it where the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury left the matter. He was perfectly satisfied with the position the right hon. Gentleman left it in, but it seemed to him the Under Secretary went a great deal further. It seemed to him that if he were silent he should find himself committed to what was, as he thought it, a distinct justification of what he would call the Lugard policy in Uganda. He had not heard from any of the Front Bench, or any of those who were representatives and leaders in this matter, any decision upon the point. Their policy was a policy of inquiry, and they could not be in a position, adopting a policy of inquiry, to pronounce a judgment favourable or unfavourable, on the Lugard policy, until after they received the results of that inquiry. He did not imagine for a moment the hon. Baronet (Sir E.Grey) desired to commit others further than they desired to be committed, but that he had only spoken the utterance of his own mind, and he therefore desired to enter this brief caveat in the hope that on another opportunity they would more fully go into details that had been very scantily given on both sides in this discussion, and that the facts would be more adequately and completely disclosed.

MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

I think some one on the Ministerial Bench should answer the important question raised by the late Under Secretary (Mr. J. W. Lowther), namely, is there any evidence that the Instructions have been received?


Perhaps I may be allowed to reply to that question. It is the first time the idea has occurred to me regarding the receipt of the Instructions; if the right hon. Gentleman will give notice of a question I will be glad to reply exactly how they were sent out, and when they reached Sir Gerald Portal.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.

*MR. WHARTON (Yorks, W.R., Ripon)

said, that in rising to propose the Amendment standing in his name he could not help being reminded at the moment that he was rising from a seat which until lately was occupied by another, and that the House had suffered a great loss in the death, within the last few days, of a gentleman who was one of the most true and loyal hearted of Englishmen. He doubted not the name of Sir Walter Barttelot would be remembered as that of a model Member of Parliament and a true-hearted Englishman, who in his capacity served his Queen and country to the best of his ability. He was grateful to the House for allowing him to say these few words with regard to him who had gone from amongst them. His excuse for moving the Amendment must be that he felt, on reading the words of the Queen's Speech, the most important question of the present day, the depression in agriculture, had not been treated in the way that those interested in the laud of England hoped that it would have been treated. The words in the Gracious Speech were— I have observed with concern a wide prevalence of agricultural distress in many parts of the country. It is be hoped that, among the causes of the present depression, some may be temporary in their nature. He (Mr. Wharton) certainly hoped that might be the case, but he failed to understand where there was ground for such a hope at the present time. That the existence of the depression was a real existence he thought there could be no doubt whatever, and the cause for the depression was not far to seek and was to be found in the simple sentence—a great fall in prices. A fall in prices must be followed by a depression, whatever the industry was. With regard to the cause of the fall of prices in agriculture there might be many opinions; but, to his thinking, the principal cause of this great fall in prices was the present low freightage from other countries. Not many years ago they were told it was almost impossible that English agricultural products could be undersold, because the cost of freight would be so great from other distant countries to England; that it would be so much put on to the price of agricultural products; that it would not be worth while bringing them over. But lately there had been such an enormous improvement in steamships, such improvements in the machinery, so much lessening of the cost of working of ships, that these, amongst other things, had lowered the prices of agricultural products from India, Canada, and Australia to England, and that had caused a great depression in the prices in England. He was not for a moment going to deny it was of great advantage to the consumer if he could have the article he consumed at a cheap rate, but his argument at this moment was that there was a great fall in prices caused, amongst other things, by the causes he had already mentioned. The other night he listened to the very able speech of the Mover of the Address, a gentleman largely interested in agriculture, and bad hoped he should have heard from him some suggestions as to the alteration of the present state of things, but he was sorry to say that from the beginning to, the end of that able speech he did not hear anything that he thought, would bring comfort to the mind of the distressed agriculturist. When the hon. Member told them that in that part of England with which he was connected at the present time there was great competition for farms, he could only say that he fancied that was rather a rare part of England, because from his own experience and from all he had heard and read there was much greater difficulty in getting a farm taken than finding a large crowd of farmers coming to compete for farms. No doubt there were several farmers in England who had left other farms which they were unable to profitably work, and who would be only too glad to take up others which they could work to profit. Farms from their vicinity to large towns might reasonably be expected to bear a profit, which other farms not so favourably situated had not been able to realise. He was not going to deny, there might be such farms, but he believed it to be an exceeding rare state of things. There was one matter in regard to this fall of prices that it was most important for Englishmen to consider, namely, whether by the cessation of the growing of corn—which he was sorry to say was rapidly spreading—they were not going to set up a state of things that would result in very serious difficulties in regard to the population of the towns. They were told that arable land demanded three men to one for the same quantity of grass land. He would ask the House to consider whether they ought not to, try to stop, in some way or other, a state of things which would inevitably lead to, an enormous increase in the number of unemployed. If they were going to deplete the agricultural area by something like two-thirds of its population—as they would do by the stoppage of the growing of corn—what was to become of the population? If they were not going to deprive England of what had hitherto been its backbone—and he hoped and trusted it might be its backbone in the future—they must adopt some measure to put a stop to that which was doing away with the agricultural population of England. At taller matter which was important to consider was, that as surely as day followed night and night followed day the fall in prices would lead to a fall in wages. This was a most important matter for those Members in the House who in the past, and who would in the future, have to rely on the vote of the agricultural labourer, and if the labourer saw his wages gradually dropping he would turn and ask those who had in the past told him they were his friends, and ask how it was that instead of being benefited he was becoming slowly but surely a poorer man. These were reasons why the Government should take immediate steps to do their best to remedy this state of things. They knew that the depression in agriculture was not only extending to the arable cultivation. A few years ago, when there was a great fall in the prices of corn, especially wheat, the grazing farmers were still earning a fair profit out of their land, but last year the grazing farmers had suffered as severely, if not more severely, than the cultivators of corn and other grain. It appeared to him that remedies were necessary, remedies to be obtained as speedily as possible. Not many weeks ago he was in Ireland, and there he heard that the state of things with regard to grazing farms was as bad as in England; that the prices which the small farmers in Ireland were able to obtain were ruinous, almost prohibitive for them to continue their farms. Both in regard to arable and grass laud farming it seemed to him necessary that steps should be taken to remedy the present condition of things. With regard to the remedies, in the Gracious, Speech from the Throne he did not find there was any remedy suggested, but they had been told there was a proposal to be made to the House that a Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into this state of things; to in- quire and be supposed to report to the Government with a view to some remedial measures being taken. He had been some few years in this House and a Select Committee had always appeared to him to be a means adopted for putting a thing off. They had at the present time in Parliament a Minister of the Board of Agriculture, and he was glad to be able to say that, so far as he knew, the farmers of England had good cause to be satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman who filled the position, and they felt he was a worthy successor to his predecessor who did such good work for them during Ids tenure of office. To his (Mr. Wharton's) thinking the Government had in that Board a set of Inspectors and officials who were far in ore capable than any Committee of the House could be to inquire into the matter as they had all the official information which was so absolutely necessary when dealing with a matter of this kind. He believed the Board of Agriculture was far more capable of advising the Government than any Select Committee, however carefully selected could be. His object was that the Government should have something they could adopt for a remedy. The Government admitted they wanted advice on the subject, and he said they had their advisers and should appeal to them. Let them take advice from the Minister of Agriculture and act upon it promptly. He might, be asked what direction the action of the Government should take. In the Amendment which he laid before the House he suggested that there should be a re-adjustment of local burdens. Country residents felt a deep debt of gratitude to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the late Government. He had lightened the burdens of agriculturists to a very great extent, and they sincerely trusted that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer would follow the example set him in that respect. A friend of his who had a farm on the South Coast of England—and who farmed more for pleasure than for profit—told him that the local burdens on his farm amounted to £250 a year, and that he did not make that sum out of the farm. He therefore wanted to know where was the profit to come from winch was to pay the rent of the landlord, or the wages of the agricul- tural labourers? If that were the state of things generally existing—and he did not doubt that it was—then it must be apparent to everybody that some remedy, and an immediate remedy, was absolutely necessary. Speakers on platforms outside the House said over and over again that the remedy for this state of things was a reduction of the rent. He asked these gentlemen how they proposed to remedy the state of things that existed in the comity of Essex. In that county, no less than 6,000 acres of land, which was some of the finest wheat-producing land in England, were now lying in a state of desolation. In what possible way could a reduction of rent give relief to that district? And he was afraid that that was not an isolated instance of land going hack to its prairie state for want of cultivation. He looked upon this as a national loss, for this land, now lying absolutely idle, produced some years ago thousands of pounds a year which went to the benefit of the English nation. He might be asked what local burdens would he reduce in order to give some relief to agriculturists. The sanitary rate, for instance, was inequitably laid on the land. He knew more than one instance in the county of Durham where there were coal-pits owned by companies who did not live in the district, but who took the profits out of the coal of the district; who laid down machinery, built large rows of houses for the pit-men. But who paid the rates for the sanitation of these houses and pits? The unfortunate farmers who lived round the pits, but who had not one pennyworth of profit out of the pits. That was a state of things which to his mind was intolerable. It was not alone in the county to which he referred, but throughout England, that the imposition of the sanitary rate was inequitable and uneven. Some few years ago agriculturists were relieved of half the police rate by the Imperial Exchequer. He did not see why the other half of that rate should not be also taken off their shoulders. In his opinion the police of the county should be paid out of Imperial funds, and not out of local funds. The whole country was gaining by the present low prices of food, and surely the country should do something to relieve the burdens of agriculturists who were suffering through these low prices. This question equally interested every class connected with the land. It interested the landlord, the tenant and the agricultural labourer. He knew it was often said, especially by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) in his paper, "put fresh burdens on the landlords." Why, the landlords in their present position were relatively far worse off than the agricultural labourers. In the County of Norfolk there were only 13 country gentlemen, as they were commonly styled, who were able to live in their own houses. That seemed to him to be a matter for serious consideration, and it should show that when the hon. Member for Northampton suggested the laying of fresh burdens on the landlords, he was proposing the putting of the saddle on the wrong horse. He thought it was the bounden duty of the Government to put a stop tot he fraudulent sale of foreign food as English food. It could be done by the Government in a few days by something like the extension of the Merchandise Marks Act to foreign food. The right hon. Member for the Dartford Division of Kent (Sir William Hart-Dyke) had got a place for a Bill by which he proposed penalties for the fraudulent sale of fruit. But he should like to see a Bill for preventing the fraudulent sale of foreign meat and foreign cheese for English meat and cheese. Some hon. Members might say that that was impossible. He thought it could be done by a Bill providing that every man dealing in a wholesale way in foreign carcases should be bound to keep an account of his receipts and expenditure, and be bound to submit these accounts to an Inspector appointed by the Board of Agriculture or by the County Councils; and furthermore that those who sold these articles by retail in shops should be bound to clearly distinguish home and foreign supplies. These provisions would in no way affect the honest dealers, while they would tend to compel the dishonest dealer to act honestly. Then he wished to see further restrictions to prevent the importation of cattle disease amongst our flocks and herds. He wanted to have the cattle and sheep slaughtered at the port of debarkation, and the fullest compensation paid to those who had their cattle and sheep slaughtered for the safety of their neighbours' flocks and herds. He entreated the Government to deal promptly with these matters. The Government had excellent advisers in their own Minister of Agriculture and in the officials who acted with him, and under those circumstances it would be only the folly of procrastination to refer the question to a Select Committee. He could assure the Government that unless something was done, and done quickly, to relieve the wide-spread depression in agriculture a feeling of great disappointment would arise amongst the agricultural population of the North with which he was acquainted, which would develope into a feeling of wrath against the Government that they would find it difficult to withstand. He begged to move his Amendment.

MR. A. F. JEFFREYS (Hants,) Basingstoke

seconded the Amendment. He said he should have thought that everybody, not only in the House, but every resident of towns and cities, as well as of country districts, knew that the agricultural depression of the last few years was the greatest the country ever had experienced. They had had for some time past many bad years, but last year there was a climax, for the hay crop failed, the prices of sheep and cattle were lower than they had been for years, and the price of wheat went down to a degree it never reached before in the history of the country. How did the Government propose to give relief to those affected by this unprecedented depression in agriculture? They promised an inquiry, as if an inquiry could do any good when it was patent to everybody that the depression was as severe as it could possibly be. It had been said that the low prices of agricultural produce was due to the excess of home production. But that could not be the cause of the low price of wheat, because the production of wheat had been getting lower and lower every year. During the past ten years the production of wheat had decreased by half a million acres. It was still going down, and possibly the country would have to face a state of things in which the growing of wheat would be given up altogether. During the same ten years the population had increased by no less than 3,000,000, so that we had a large increase of the population with a large decrease of the acreage devoted to raising food for that population. It was most important for the country to realise that they imported most of their food. They only produced 7,000,000 quarters of wheat in the country, while they imported 20,000,000 quarters, and he considered it a lamentable thing that the home trade in wheat should have gone down so much that they were compelled to depend almost entirely on foreign countries for that commodity. If agriculturists got some relief from their local burdens, possibly their great industry would revive again and they would be able not only to provide food for the country but give employment to the vast number of labourers who lived by the land. He did not at all agree with the Mover of the Address (Mr. George Lambert) when he said that in many parts of England the rents were altogether too high. He knew that in his own county rents had gone down 50 per cent., and he should say that throughout the whole country, taking arable and grazing laud together, the reduction in rents amounted to 40 per cent. He would ask the house to reflect on what other countries had done for agriculture. Agriculture was in a state of decline throughout the world, but other countries had recognised the fact that agriculture was their greatest industry, so some of them gave protection to home produce, and others went so far as to give bounties to those who produced the food of the country. He could not ask the House to do that—he knew the benefit of cheap food—but he asked them to relieve the agriculturists from some of their local taxation. Take the land tax for instance. A good deal of that tax had been redeemed, but at presort it brought in £1,050,000 to the Imperial Exchequer. He did not ask that the tax should be remitted altogether, but he did ask that it should be given to the County Councils for the reduction of the rates of the counties in which it was levied, and in doing that the Government would be only following to some extent the precedent given them by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the late Government. He hoped they would be able to induce the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to give them this laud tax also for the relief of local burdens, and he was sure that unless something of the kind was done the land would continue to go out of cultivation, and the number of labourers thrown out of employment would increase year after year. The farmers could not afford in many instances to work the land properly. They were obliged by their poverty to starve the land, and he greatly feared agriculture would go from bad to worse unless something was done by the Government to relieve the depression.

Amendment proposed, At the end of the Question to add the words "but this House humbly expresses its regret that no measures are announced by Your Majesty for the present relief of those who are affected by the existing wide-spread depression in Agriculture, either by means of readjustment of local burdens or otherwise."—(Mr. Wharton.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."

MR. R. L. EVERTT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)

said he had the disadvantage of being one of the few members of the House who endeavoured to earn their livelihood by the pursuit of farming, and he could assure the House that what had been said about the great depression in agriculture had not been in the slightest degree exaggerated. The Eastern Counties, from which he came, felt the depression in its neatest form. It was indeed lamentable to see the sad state into which our oldest industry had fallen there. Only on Saturday he read in the East Anglian Daily Times the letter of a Commissioner sent by that paper to inquire into the state of agriculture in the county of Suffolk. Writing of one parish with which he—the Commissioner—had been acquainted personally 14 years before, he said that some of the farms had had five tenants in succession since 1879, all of whom had been broken, and there was not a single instance throughout that district of 14 parishes (it was near Lowestoft) of a farm being now in the possession of the family which occupied it 14 years ago. He read in the same paper an account of the sad suicide of a farmer, and he was sorry to say that suicide was now becoming a very common form of death in the Eastern Counties amongst occupiers of land owing to the great depression in agriculture. The change for the worse which had come over agriculture was almost incredible. Many in that House could remember, as he could, the time when agriculture was one of the most flourishing industries in the country. Large fortunes, it was true, were never made by farmers as they were in trade, but during the time of which he spoke all farmers who gave reasonable attention to their business could at least make both ends meet and put by a little for their families. For years and years during the earlier time of his recollection, the bankrupty of a farmer was a thing almost unknown. But for the last 15 years that industry had been steadily declining, and now many fanners, honest, industrious, careful men, had been reduced to beggary, and not a few of them, broken hearted by their troubles, had taken their own lives as being the readiest means of escape from their misfortunes. He was, therefore, glad that the Government had mentioned the agricultural depression in the Queen's Speech, because sympathy was very sweet to people in trouble, though they of course would be glad of more substantial aid. He was fully convinced that the depression from which agriculturists suffered might be prevented, and that it was entirely and easily within the power of the Government, if they were so minded, to lift the dreadful cloud which now hangs over the agricultural districts of the country. To cure a disease we must understand it. He was sure that the relief of the present depression was not to be found in altering the law of tenure as between tenant and landowner, nor in dividing the rate between owners and occupiers, nor was it to be found in giving the tenant additional security in his farm. The County Liberal Members had drawn up a long list of measures, a list nearly as long as his arm, dealing with agricultural law, which they would like to see passed. He would be glad to help them to pass those measures. But he as a yeoman farmer was already in possession of all those advantages which some of his hon. Friends proposed to give to tenants by legislation. He was sorry to say, however, that as a farmer he was bankrupt. The proposed reforms would not more than touch the great depression under which they were suffering, neither was the cure to be found in lowering rents. They must, indeed, continue to come down. But rents were somebody's income, and the fall of rents was part of the prevailing distress—a very painful part—but by no means its cure. The hon. Gen- tleman who moved the Amendment was quite right when he said that the real cause of their distress was the fall in prices. There could be no doubt that that and that alone was the cause of the strange alteration in their condition. What they wanted to understand was what was the cause of that fall in prices, and he had satisfied himself that what they were suffering from was the reappearance of an old disease, a disease with which their fathers in their youth, and their grandfathers, were very familiar. They would find the name of it again and again in the agricultural literature of the first half of this century. The disease, which often raged then, was called contraction of the currency. Doctors liked to give grand names to diseases, the English of this name was—scarcity of money, a famine of money. The symptoms of the disease, too, were described in many books of the period. Among the descriptions he had met with of those symptoms was one which came from the merchants and bankers of London, and was presented to this House as a Petition in May, 1819, as follows:— Your petitioners have reason to apprehend that measures are in contemplation with reference to the resumption of cash payments by the Bank of England, which, in the humble opinion of your petitioners, will tend to a forced precipitate, and highly injurious contraction of the currency of the country. That the consequences of such a contraction will be, as your petitioners humbly conceive, to add to the burden of the Public Debt, greatly to increase the pressure of the taxes, to lower the value of all landed and commercial property, seriously to affect and embarrass both public and private credit, to embarrass and reduce all the operations of agriculture, manufacture, and commerce, and to throw out of employment, as in 1816, a great proportion of the industrious and labouring classes of the community. The symptoms of the disease were five in number. First, a general fall in prices necessarily followed; secondly, by a loss of profit on the part of those who were engaged in industry. That, again, thirdly, led to a reduction of wages; and, besides, fourthly, to a lessening of employment, an even more serious evil to working men than reduction of wages. Lastly, there was a serious and most unjust interference with contracts, and a cruel addition to the burden of debts. Every man with a mortgage or other charge on his estate, every leaseholder, too, found the interest on his mortgage or the rent he had contracted to pay, a. much heavier and more serious matter to him than before. What he paid with ease before became to him now a ruinous charge, and he found, through no fault whatever of his own, himself landed in bankruptcy. He had been studying with much interest lately the agricultural history of the present century. It was full of meaning to anyone who would calmly and patiently consider its teachings. It spoke with a voice clear and emphatic. The student of the agricultural history of this century would find that outside of the natural causes of good and bad seasons affecting agricultural prosperity or adversity, two other great factors had played an important part—those were Corn Laws and Currency Laws. The first of these he would find comparatively weak and impotent, the second all-powerful, and, indeed, almost almighty. He would expect, probably, with modern notions in Ids head, that when he came to the time early in the century when the Corn Laws were imposed, namely, to 1815, that the imposition of those Corn Laws was followed by a great rise in prices but he would find, to his astonishment and amazement, that no such result followed, but that instead, after the imposition of the Corn Laws, taking an average of a few years, prices were actually lower and considerably lower, instead of being-higher. The Corn Laws entirely failed to bring about the object which their promoters had in view when they imposed them. The student would find that the first Corn Law of 1815 aimed at keeping the price of wheat at 80s. a quarter, but that under it the price of wheat in 1822 fell to 44s.; and that all the time the law of 1815 and the still stronger law of 1822 lasted, the average price was lower, gruel lower, than before the Corn Laws were imposed at, all. The next Corn Law, passed in 1828, aimed at keeping the price at 64s. a quarter, and again missed its mark; the last aimed at keeping, it at 56s. a quarter, and also failed to accomplish its purpose. Then they came to the time when the Corn Laws were repealed, namely, to 1846; and to the astonishment of the generation of farmers who were cultivating the land at the time, and of the land-owning classes, and who looked forward with great apprehension to the effect of the repeal of the Corn Laws; instead of that repeal being followed by agricultural ruin, it was followed by the longest and most continuous period of agricultural prosperity that this century had ever known. Prices fell after repeal for a few years, and there was some agricultural suffering in consequence, but they soon lifted again, and with the rise began a prosperity which continued unbroken for fully a quarter of a century. That showed them that the factor of the Corn Laws did not play the part that might have been expected in producing agricultural prosperity; and he would commend that fact to the hon. Gentleman opposite, who looked now to the imposition of a duty for a return to agricultural prosperity. The duties imposed by the past Corn Laws were no beggarly 5s. a quarter duties. They were very high duties indeed, or else absolute prohibition, yet they absolutely failed to give continuous prosperity to agriculture. The period of the Corn Laws was a time in which there was very great distress and very cruel suffering in agriculture, and, on the whole, the 30 years that followed the repeal of the Corn Laws were a great deal inure prosperous than the 31 years during which the Corn Laws lasted. Now they came to the other of those two great factors of which he had spoken—namely, the Currency Laws, i.e., laws affecting the quantity of money in circulation; and here, he might say, the honest, impartial student would find was the real key to the agricultural position of the century. When there was an abundant supply of money, agriculture flourished; when that supply was cut off, then distress set in. In 1797 the Bank of England suspended cash payments till the conclusion of the war, and the ordinary money in circulation while the war lasted consisted of £1 and £2 notes, which notes were inconvertible, and it was the abundant supply of these inconvertible notes, poured out between 1797 and 1815, which led to the high prices and to the great prosperity both of agriculture and manufacture and commerce during that period. It was popularly supposed that it was war which caused those high prices. But, as a matter of fact, at that time England was an exporting rather than an importing country. We gave bounties at that time to encourage the growth of wheat for exportation. In the 18th century war in Europe lowered instead of raised English prices. It was the abundance of money from 1797 to 1815 that caused the range of prices over that period to be so high. Then they came to 1816. That was a year of dreadful distress in the country, and why was that? It was a very wet harvest that year, but that was not the cause of the distress. It was a fall in 'wives that caused it. What caused the fall? Why, under the arrangement by which the inconvertible notes had been in circulation during the wars, it was stipulated that at the conclusion of peace, alter the lapse of so many moth they wore to be called in, or made convertible on demand into hard cash, and it was the apprehension of these notes being called in that led to the fall and the distress. In 1817 the Government postponed for two years the return to cash payments. Immediately they had done that, and immediately bankers were so allowed again to pour out the paper money, without fear of its being, immediately called in, prices rose again, and the dreadful depression of 1816 was succeeded by two years of great prosperity. Then they came to 1819, when the measure was passed for the return to cash payments, and when it was ordered that they should be resumed, he thought in the beginning of 1820 or 1821, and the small notes were to come in in 1823. Then began an era of distress frightful to read of. The lowest depth of the distress to the agricultural classes was reached ill 1822. The country generally was plunged into wholesale bankruptcy. It was said that something like half the farmers told traders in the United Kingdom were ruined in the years 1819, 1820, 1821, and 1822. It was in 1819 that the Peterloo massacre took place. The whole country was in grievous and lamentable trouble mused—mark, not by a rise, but Ly a fall in prices. Everybody's industry was becoming, unprofitable to him. Employers being ruined, men stood about in their thousands unemployed; it was the fall in prices caused by the great contraction in the supply of money and credit that all produced the appalling misery. So great had the distress become in 1822 that in 1823 Her Majesty's Government gave the small notes 10 years more of life before they finally were to come in, and immediately they did that things lifted again, and a better state of things was brought about in the country. He would step on to 1829. The Parliament anticipated the 10 years which ill 1823 they had given the notes further to run, and, frightened by a great failure of banks which occurred in 1825, they agreed in 1826 that no more stamps should be issued for small notes, and that the notes which were circulating should cease to run when 1829 came. In that year they had all the same trouble over again—another fall in prices, and the country groaning from end to end with misery, misery which continued through many weary suffering years. In 1833 there was another inquiry into agricultural distress; there loot been one in 1820 to 1821 and 1822, and that distress was shown in both cases to have had its origin in the lower scale of prices winch prevailed, which lower scale was due, as we have seen, to contraction in the supply of money. He could quote, if he was not afraid of trespassing unduly on the patience of the House, the words of statesman after statesman living in those times, such as Sir James Graham, Earl Stanhope, Mr. Attwood, the then Member for Birmingham, Lord John Russell, &c., to the effect that it was the change in the Money Laws which had caused the fall and the consequent distress. The only other legislation affecting money which he would mention was the Bill of Sir Robert Peel, passed in 1844, called the Bank Restriction Act, an Act which still further limited the issue of notes. That did not cause a contraction anything like so large as those passed in the earlier part of the century; but it was a measure in the same direction, and the country was full of difficulty and sorrow then. That was the time when the Chartists were in activity, and when the country was very much disturbed through the bitter sufferings which the people endured. All the way through, practically, from 1819 to the great gold discoveries which began in 1849, there was more or less of misery in this country both in agriculture and manufactures—misery often dreadful to read of. Coining to the gold discoveries, we begin a new era. As the earth yielded lip the new-found treasure, as the money came pouring in from Australia and California, there began to he a new life infused into the industries of the country, alike in agriculture and in commerce; and in the whole history of mankind, so far as he knew, there was no parallel to the prosperity that was then enjoyed by the civilised nations of the earth, say from 1853 to 1873. The cause of that extraordinary and marvellous progress was the pouring out of this abundant supply of new money. Yet notwithstanding this clear teaching of history as to the blessings which abundant money brought, and the evils which limiting the supply of it brought, he had reason to fear that there were Gentlemen and even right hon. Gentlemen in that House sitting not far from him who did not believe in the contraction of the supply of money being an evil, and the increase in its abundance being a good. Doubtless they would have prevented these gold discoveries if they could. Thank God that had not been in their power. He begged the House to mark that the gold discoveries did not bring cheapness, which now-a-days was supposed to be the chief of all blessings. Prices lifted when the new gold was poured out, and it was the increase of prices, not the fall of prices, that made all that prosperity. He repeated, that the fact that abundance of money was a benefit, and contraction of its supply an evil, was a truth written upon the pages of the history of this century as with a beam of light. Then they came to the last period in the monetary history of this century, that which began in 1873. Then began a movement which was not new in kind, but new in the form which it took. It was paper money, which had been the object of attack before. It was sought now to dispense with the use of one of the two precious metals. Allured by the idea that the gold standard in England had something to do with her previous prosperity, German statesmen after the war, and when they had a number of separate States, with separate coinages, to weld into one Empire, determined that they would have a new currency, and a new standard, and that that new currency and standard should be gold. That step having been taken by Germany, a step was taken in the United States which stood alone in the history of monetary legislation. A fraud was committed, probably bought amid paid for by capitalists' money—he had read that the fraud was engineered from London. A few words were omitted out of one clause of a Statute that was going through the Houses of Parliament in America—the words "silver dollar"—so that when that Act was passed it was no longer legal to coin silver dollars, and another clause was interpolated in another Act passed the next year, which limited the legal tender of silver, as in England, to £2. The United States was on paper money at the time, cash payments not having then been resumed after her Civil War. The President did not know that these things were in the Statutes when he signed them. This enormous change in the law as to money was not discussed in the Houses of Parliament in America; it was not known to the Houses of Parliament that enormous changes were being made, and one could not escape from the conclusion that there was a hand behind somewhere—that there was money found by somebody to bribe somebody to get this thing done for a purpose, and what that purpose was soon became apparent. For France, frightened at the action of Germany, and not being friendly disposed to her after the war, and learning what had been done in the United States against silver, began to modify the conditions under which she received silver into her Mints in such a way as Ito disparage silver as compared with gold. Then, in a few years she closed her Mints against the white metal, and thus broke the bond which had hitherto kept silver and gold in marriage union. It was the most disastrous and memorable divorce recorded in the whole history of mankind. From this time, nation after nation Megan to bar the use of one of the two precious metals to its subjects, and to confine the full free use to the other, thus putting a much greater strain upon that one. The natural effect was that as the area over which the use of gold alone was allowed full use extended the value of gold was forced up, to the great enrichment of its owners, and prices measured by gold were correspondingly forced down. To his mind, this action against silver, seeing that every step in it had been taken by legislation, could only accurately be described as the protection of gold. How could they protect an article better than by restricting by law the free competition of that which had been accustomed to compete with it? He had been very much struck by a remark he read a year or two since, which fell from the lips of his honoured Leader on this matter. He was an ardent admirer of his right hon. Friend; no one had worked harder to bring him into power, no one followed his political lead with more hearty willingness, but in this case he had felt that his great Leader was entirely in the wrong. Speaking of bimetallism, the right hon. Gentleman said that "it was protection in disguise." He thought the right hon. Gentleman had been a little blinded in his judgment by the fact that the late, the first, and very competent Minister of Agriculture, who had discharged so well the duties of his office, and who was an advocate of protection, had been advocating bimetallism. To describe it as "protection" was as grotesque and false a description as was possible. It was, indeed, the direct opposite of the truth. What bi-metal lists wanted was to break down the monopoly of gold; to have Mints as free as ports; to treat both metals exactly alike, coining both freely at the Mints, not giving one legislative preference in any way over the other. It was against the protection of gold that they protested, a protection which, as its area, had extended from nation to nation during the last 20 years, had spread ruin amongst, the great industries of all gold standard countries. Farmers to-day in all gold standard countries were the victims of protection, not of Free Trade, of the protection of gold, the commodity for which they exchange all their products, and with which alone they could pay their way. His right hon. Friend's gross misdescription of our desire for free coinage reminded him of the old fable of the wolf; old the lamb. It was the farmer who had reason to cry out against the protection which was ruining him. This modern cruel contraction of money and the unnatural forcing up of the value of gold had been the means of inflicting enormous injury and privation and most bitter suffering on large numbers of perfectly innocent people in different parts of the world. He earnestly hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would yet be able, before he finished his great career, to crown it with the noble work of placing the currency of this country on a sound and broad foundation; so removing the evils which now existed as between the money of India and the money of England, by making both of their monies one, and insuring that whatever of gold and silver might be stored up in the earth, men should be allowed free access to it, to coin it into money, to put it into their pockets, and to circulate it through all the channels of industry and trade with happy effect. It was his firm belief that if the right hon. Gentleman would do this, the deplorable depression now resting upon many of our great industries, both here and in our colonies, would immediately begin to lift, and happy prosperity would take its place.

*MR. A. M. BROOKFIELD (Sussex, Rye)

said he rose for the purpose of supporting the Amendment of his hon. Friend, and he would like, before touching upon the question which it raised, to take that Opportunity, as a Sussex Member, of returning thanks to the Member who in the previous part of the Debate had spoken so kindly of the late Sir Walter Barttelot. He for his part, could say that he should always miss the late Baronet's ripe judgment and experience, and should always be proud to follow his example in all that concerned the public life and traditions of that House. He fully shared the regret which had been expressed at the absence from Her Majesty's Gracious Speech of any proposal of definite measures for dealing with the present lamentable condition of the agricultural industry. One point, however, bad been gained, and that was the evident willingness of all parties in the country, including Her Majesty's Government, to admit that they were in the presence of a serious crisis, although some might be uncertain as to the measures to be adopted to cope with it. He thought most moderate men would agree that it was extremely desirable to avoid on that occasion any argument that might make the existing. situation more bitter as regards relations between landlord and tenant, or between tenant and labourer. If they were once to compare who was most entitled to sympathy, or who was most entitled to immediate legislation, they would find beyond dispute that the tenant farmer, the occupier, had suffered a great deal more heavily than either the owner or tiller of the soil. Of late in these agricultural debates each class had been represented. He was glad to notice the hon. Member for the North West Division of Norfolk in his place, and he was glad to hear two speeches from hon. Members who had been returned to the House as tenant farmers, but there was no striking similarity between those two speeches, except in one important particular, which he would mention presently. The hon. Member for the South Molton Division of Devonshire was, he believed, intended as a representative of the tenant farmers, but he judged from his speech either that he had suffered less than other tenant farmers, or else that, from some very powerful considerations, he refrained from stating the full extent and cause of his misfortunes. He very much preferred listening to the able and practical speech of the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division of Suffolk. The Member for South Molton could hardly be serious in some of his arguments, especially when he spoke of vexatious disturbance in tenancy or tenure as one of the causes of depression and as one of the disturbing elements. The hon. Gentleman might have answered him very practically by pointing to a certain tract of land in his own county. A correspondent of the Standard had investigated the circumstance in that county, and amongst other things he showed in a communication published in December last, that along the coach road from Newmarket to Tedford, in a drive of twenty miles, one could not see a single acre of land that was tenanted. It was from no want of fixity of tenure that these lands were not tenanted; and when they had these waste lands on the one hand, large numbers of unemployed on the other, he did not think it should be beyond the power of statesmanship to bring one to bear upon the other. The hon. Member for South Molton also spoke of exorbitant rents, but the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division sufficiently disposed of that argument, by saying that he did not, pay rent at all, because he owned his own land; and he would point out to the hon. Gentleman that plenty of land was to be got for nothing, except the obligation of paying some small charges upon it. He thought the Mover of the Address Lind mentioned two causes of the present depression with which the whole House was disposed to agree—one was the incidence of local taxation and the other was the exorbitance of railway rates. On both these points he hoped the hon. Member would use his influence with the Government and assist Members on the Opposition side to press these matters and secure speedy legislation. The railway rates legislation of the late Government had had, unquestionably, just the result it was not intended to have, and he trusted the railway companies would agree to make further legislation unnecessary, and that hon. Gentlemen opposite would join in trying to obtain a more rational state of things. The point that induced him to address the House at all on this Amendment was that the Mover of the Address avoided most studiously the essential element in the agricultural situation. He asked whether it was fair to engage in what was called all exhaustive discussion of the situation without taking into account the Very first element that affected it—that of foreign competition. They might hold different opinions as to how they should deal with it, and they might hold different ideas as to the expediency of expressing the opinions that they did hold, but to say nothing on the subject of foreign competition seemed to him not only illogical but disingenuous as well. The Member for South Molton said the foreigner enjoyed advantages over the producer at, home in respect to land-tenure and railway rates, but he did not venture to follow up the subject any further. He had, however, referred to those who had made "fallacious promises" with regard to Protection. If hon. Members opposite put into their mouths the word "Protection," which not half a dozen on this side of the House had ever used, and if then Protection was explained as synonymous with dear bread, and if it was further explained that it was because it was synonymous with dear bread he and his colleagues wanted to impose it, it was certainly not difficult to prove in that case that they were the enemies of the people. They asked, however, to be allowed to tell their own story in this matter. They on their side had taken an interest—a painful interest—in the present condition of agriculture, and they had come to the conclusion that 85 per cent.—or, perhaps, 90 per cent.—of the farmers of the country had come to; the same conclusion at which the Agricultural Conference—the largest and most representative body to which he could refer—had come to, that the main and chief cause of the existing trouble was the unrestricted importation of untaxed, nitrated labour-competing foreign products. And, having arrived at this conclusion, they had inquired into the system of taxation, to see whether it really was too sacred a thing to be capable of any improvement. He would like hon. Gentlemen to rise and tell them that system was perfect. The revenues of this country were raised by the imposition of duties On the breakfast and dinner tables, and on the beer and tobacco of the poorest classes—the working men. He took the case of beer, and it was not the least important. It could scarcely be denied that the agricultural classes—the farmers, labourers, hot the barley-growers and hop-growers more particularly—would derive very much more benefit from a different arrangement of the Beer Tax. The present Excise Duty on beer had the effect of making that beer bad, and it gave no encouragement whatever to the barley or hop industries. With a tax on foreign barley and hops they would not have to complain of 20 miles or waste tracts. On the contrary, they would be cultivated and worked by remunerative tillage, and many thousands of persons would find employment —men, women, and children. They only asked that when they advocated any moderate or temperate reforms of this character they should not be misrepresented. They were fortunately discussing the question now in an Assembly where argument and assertion could be contradicted it deemed necessary, and he hoped any hon. Gentleman who could contradict his arguments or assertions would not hesitate to do so. He was of opinion that the poor people in the districts where depression existed and where land was going to waste, sympathised with his arguments, and did not look upon his friends as enemies because they ventured to point out what they saw for themselves. It had been said they wanted to place a fixed duty on wheat, but neither the Agricultural Union nor any Members with whom he was personally acquainted advocated a fixed duty at all. They had, however, advocated, as Sir Robert Peel had done, a sliding scale. If the Minister for Agriculture was in a position to prove that the imposition of a duty on cereals must effect a rising in the price of bread, he should be able to prove that when the price of wheat was ruinously low, the price of bread became advantageously cheap. If wheat was cheap, so should be the price of bread. Instead of being so, it was dearer than it had been for a considerable length of time. But he would emphasise before the House that the enhancement of the price of wheat need not mean the enhancement of the price of bread. The price of bread at present corresponded with what it should be if the price of wheat was 40s. per quarter, and he believed the farmers of the country would see a remunerative investment for their capital, if wheat stood at that figure. In the speech from the Throne, a Parliamentary inquiry had been promised into the whole subject of agricultural depression. He could only say that he should view such an inquiry with suspicion, and with more particular suspicion, if it excluded from his purview a review of our fiscal system which he believed to be at the bottom of the present trouble. He should look with less anxiety to the inquiry that was to be held and to the whole policy Her Majesty's Government would pursue towards agriculture if they had not selected this unfortunate moment to degrade the Minister of Agriculture from the place he formerly occupied in the Cabinet. He could not altogether join in all the commendations which had been heaped upon the present occupant of that post, and he only hoped that the right hon. Gentleman hereafter would earn the reputation which, up to the present, he had done nothing to deserve. He (Mr. Brookfield) would vote for the Amendment to show his dissatisfaction at the announcement made in the Speech from the Thorne, and as a protest against the attitude of the Government in promising legislation upon various subjects in which the people of England took no interest whatever, while only vaguely hinting at an inquiry into a matter which vitally concerned the whole of the United Kingdom.

*DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

said the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment had made as strong an attack as his amiable nature would permit on the policy on Her Majesty's Government, and had suggested remedies which would doubtless come under the careful consideration of the Commission that he (Dr. Farquharson) was glad to hear that this Government had decided to appoint. He would follow the example of the hon. Gentleman, and refrain from entering into the question of local burdens, for that was a question that affected the English farmer more than the Scotch, they, in the North, having already reached that "consummation devoutly to be wished," in which the taxation was paid half by the owner and half by the occupier. It was said by the Mover of the Address that rents were still being forced up by the competition which was going on for land. He (Dr. Farquharson) could back up that statement to a certain extent, and he had no doubt the contradiction given by the right hon. Gentleman the late Leader of the House (Mr. A. J. Balfour) was due to the fact that he lived in a county of large farms where competition had ceased. In his (Dr. Farquharson's) part of the county, when a small farm with a modest rent was put into the marker there was fierce competition for it, the result being undue inflation of rent, which the incoming tenant frequently found himself unable to pay. He was glad the hon. Member who moved the Amendment, had not said anything about Protection. He had been expecting to see, peeping through the fleece of this conservation, the wolf's tail of Protection. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had hinted at it, and would like to call it by some other name. He (Dr. Farquharson) preferred to call it by its proper name, and the farmers of the North were determined that at all events they would have nothing to do with Protection. They had entirely repudiated it as a heresy which was now dead—a heresy as dead as Queen Anne, or as a door nail, or as any other method of expressing physical extinction, and he was sorry to say that his weak intellect was unable to follow the hon. Gentleman into the thorny jungles of that difficult question, bimetalism. His own people did not care much about it. They appreciated gold and did not depreciate silver. They were glad enough to get either in these hard times. He was certain of this—they did not understand what the question really meant, and they had an idea that after all there was something in the nature of protection lurking round it. The Debate on the Queen's Speech would have been depressing to agricultural Members if it had not been for the statement of the Mover of the Address which had given them some hope and inspired them with some confidence. They were told that they were to have a Committee or Commission of some kind to inquire into the present condition of agriculture, and he (Dr. Farquharson) had only risen to "heckle" the Minister for Agriculture on the matter. Was the Committee to be of an ambulatory or stationary kind? Was it to go round the country taking evidence, and, above all, was Scotland to he included within the scope of the inquiry. He was sure that all who represented agricultural constituencies would have preferred to hear from the Government some definite indication that some Bill would have been brought forward for the relief of the agricultural distress, but at the same time it was generally dangerous to treat symptoms without having a full knowledge of the causes which were at the bottom of the disease. He believed this was a sincere and conscientious, and he hoped it would be a successful, attempt to probe deeply—it was necessary to cut to the root—and find out in a practical manner what were the causes of agricultural distress. They should avoid quack remedies. They should endeavour to bring about some sound and searching legislation which would do all that legislation could do to meet the present very critical condition of affairs in the country. One of his principal objects in rising had been to express his complete faith in the intentions of the Government on this important question. He believed that this inquiry was not to be what medical men would call an anæsthetic for benumbing popular clamour and stilling popular cries, but was to be a sincere and conscientious and successful attempt to find out what the causes of this agricultural depression were, and to suggest some practical remedy. He hoped the inquiry would be carried out at once, I hat it would be a rapid inquiry, and would report rapidly. So far as his constituents were concerned the minimum they would accept would be an exhaustive inquiry into the failure of the Agricultural Holdings Act, and the suggestion of some remedy, particularly for Scotland; the suggestion of a means of retaining the rural population on the land; a proposal for conferring some kind of compulsory power of purchase; an extension of the Crofters' Act; the establishment of some tribunal like the Land Court, by which rents could be fixed and considered, and readjusted from time to time, and by means of which disputes between landlords and tenants could be satisfactorily arranged, and along with that the small farmers wanted some kind of practical fixity of tenure, which would place them in the position in which the crofters had been placed by the excellent legislation of the Crofters' Act. He had faith in the good intentions of the Government, and he would conclude by saying that they would justify that faith by hurrying forward the inquiry and by initiating legislation of a character clear, far-reaching, comprehensive, and drastic.

MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)

said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down when he said that fixity of tenure would relieve depression in agriculture, found himself in direct contradiction with the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division of Suffolk (Mr. Everett) who had told them that he himself, although he enjoyed that advantage, had felt all the troubles which were now pressing on the agricultural community. The hon. Member who last spoke seemed to think that the suggestion of an alteration in the currency laws was, suitable matter for comical or quasi-comical treatment. With that view he (Mr. Gibbs) could not agree, as the subject appeared to him one of the most important which could possibly secure the attention of the House. He was much more in agreement with the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division. He agreed with the hon. Member in the sceptical tone he adopted in regard to fixity of tenure, and he agreed with him as to the fall in prices being the main and important cause of agricultural troubles. It needed no argument to show that when there was continuous fall in prices there must be a serious and dangerous condition of affairs amongst those people who were engaged in producing commodities which were falling in value. If it were true that cheapness, of prices were by itself and in all cases an advantage to the community, he could only say that the discoveries of gold in Melbourne to which the Member for the Woodbridge Division referred would have been one of the greatest curses and calamities that ever fell on this country—equal to any war or any famine. Was there any hon. or right hon. Gentleman who was so attached to low prices as to stand up and say that these Australian discoveries were such a curse to this country? Every one knew that they had been a benefit to us. If prices were to alter at all, rising prices meant prosperity to the country, and falling prices misfortune. It was because he desired stability of price and because he believed that it could be obtained by an alteration in the Currency Laws, that he would urge upon the Government the propriety of a sympathetic consideration to any remedy which it could be shown would give permanent relief to the trade of the country. Before he asked the House to consider that bimettalism would furnish such relief, he would show how agriculture had suffered under our monometallic system, and how it would have suffered less or not suffered at all under a. bimetallic; system. Every one admitted that there had been depreciation of the prices of the staple commodities of this country, but, curiously enough, there were some who did not admit that there had been a corresponding appreciation of gold. But the two propositions were the same, merely stated in different terms. When a man went into a baker's shop to buy a quartern loaf for 4d., the baker bought 4d. for the quartern loaf. Now, in so far as the appreciation of gold had arisen from the arbitrary action of Governments who had deposed silver iron its use in the currency, and had taken up gold, so far would bimetallism have protected us from all the disadvantages which had arisen to trade and commerce owing to the depreciation of prices. So far as appreciation of gold had arisen front natural causes—that was from the overproduction of commodities—bimetallism would have lessened the evil, because it would have given a larger volume of currency on which the depreciation on prices of commodities would have had to work. And there he was so thoroughly in agreement with the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division when he urged that the contraction of our currency was the great evil of the situation. Cheapness was an advantage, no doubt, when it arose from abundance of commodities being produced, but it was an evil when it arose from contraction of the currency. He would like to show how more directly agriculture had suffered through our monometallic system than any other branch of industry. Take the case of India. The Royal Commission in 1888 unanimously reported that the purchasing price of the rupee had not fallen in India from 1873 to 1888. During that period the price of wheat in England had fallen very heavily indeed. Now, he would ask hon. Members to observe—and he did so in reference to the suggestion that they were Protectionists in disguise—whether it was not really the monometallists who were protecting the Indian producer in this matter as against our own farmers. If they admitted the truth of what the Royal Commission said, that the purchasing price of the rupee had not fallen, they must sec that the Indian farmer could produce and send to market his wheat at the same price as he could before; but owing to the fall in the price of silver as expressed in gold, which during that period had been, roughly speaking, 30 per cent., he was able to accept the price of 26s. or 27s., and get as many rupees, and, therefore, as many advantages, in his own country as he could by selling wheat so many years ago for 40s. Compare that with the position of the roughest farmer, and they would see that his cost of production had been in no way lessened, but had remained practically the same, and that the fall in price front 40s. to 27s. had meant the difference to him between prosperity and ruin, and, in regard to many estates which had been referred to on both sides of the House, between cultivation and neglect. When it was considered that this condition of things was due to the monometallic system, purely and entirely, it would be seen that, far from being Protectionists, bimetallists were merely asking for a fair field and no favour for the English agriculturist as compared with foreign producers. He would appeal to those hon. Members who especially represented the labour interests in the House to support the bimetallists. Everybody who was engaged in trade—as he was himself—desired this change. They believed it would promote the prosperity of trade, and in that prosperity the wage-earning class were as much concerned as anyone else. Again, Ireland which was almost entirely an agricultural country, was as much concerned in the matter as anyone could possibly be. Some people had denied that the landlords had suffered from this monometallic system. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Sir John Lubbock) had urged that rents had not fallen so much its to correspond with the rise in the purchasing power of gold. Because he calculated that rents had fallen 20 per cent., and gold had been appreciated 30 per cent., the hon. Baronet asked them to believe that the landlord was 10 per cent. better off now than he was before. Before the House accepted such a view as that let them consider what the rent consisted of. The rent was a gross payment, and included all those things which hail been referred to, which had not been lightened in any degree during late years, so that it might well be that if rents had fallen 20 per cent. they had fallen by an amount equal to the whole of the margin on which the landlord had to live. In this matter of the Currency Laws, he was merely asking the Government to go back to the state of things which existed in 1873. He was aware that up to that period England was not a bimetallist country, but site enjoyed the benefit of it. Some time ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer warned them against entering into partnership with other nations with regard to our trade or finance or prosperity. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman's judgment in the matter, he (Mr. Gibbs) submitted to the House that it was impossible for us to avoid partnership wit It other nations in regard to our trade or finance or prosperity. However desirable in foreign affairs the policy of isolation may be, it was absolutely impossible in commercial mutters; and in illustration of that remark he would remind the House that within a very few weeks of the right hon. Gentleman making that remark another right hon. Gentleman, who was not a Member of the House, had to go cap in hand to the Bank of France to obtain a very large loan of gold from them. He did not say that the system must be a bad one which compelled such a course as that to be taken, but he maintained that it showed conclusively that we were hound down with other nations in commerce, and that no country could alter its currency without its having an influence on England for good or ill. It was on that account that he would urge on Her Majesty's Government the consideration of this question. When another occasion arose, such as the Bimetallic Conference at Brussels, he would ask them to show a more sympathetic attitude to foreign nations in this matter, and not to say, as they seemed to have said recently, "You do what you like, and we will do what we like." Let them endeavour to arrive at a common accord with them, which would give to the civilised world who trailed together a common measure of value. As a merchant who trailed with silver-using countries, he assured the House that there could be no greater benefit conferred on the commerce of this country than the removing from it of an unnecessary element of gambling—and, God knows, in commerce there was quite enough of that without creating it artificially! Let them so arrange matters that merchants would be able to calculate accurately what the value of the material was that they would be paid in without being obliged to have recourse to the old-fashioned, anxious, and very disadvantageous system of barter under which we laboured with India, South America, and many other countries at the present time.

*MR. HENRY HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)

said, he had no desire to follow the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down into the intricacies of the bimetallic question, in the first place because he preferred to leave the matter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other financial authorities; and, secondly, because he thought there was a certain amount of inconvenience in introducing a subject like this in a Debate on agricultural depression. As a Representative of a large agricultural constituency, he wished to give his cordial support to the hon. Gentleman who had moved the Amendment. He felt that the agricultural interest in its present depression was entitled to expect from Her Majesty's Government more than a cheap expression of sympathy, and the promise of an inquiry which must be dilatory, and which, in all probability, would be long. The agriculturists asked for present relief, and they were promised in return a Select Committee. What was this Select Committee to inquire into? Into the facts of agricultural depression? Surely these were sufficiently well-known already? Surely it did not require a Select Committee to inform the Government that in many parts of the country farmers were being ruined, land was going out of cultivation, landlords had to leave their homes, or, at the best, were receiving what was practically no rent for their land, but only a small interest in the capital they had invested on the buildings they had erected, and the improvements they had made, and that the agricultural labourer was losing a large amount of scope for employment, and was drifting into the big towns, and thereby giving rise to great national evils. These facts, he should have thought, were patent to all. Was the Select Committee to inquire into the causes of the depression? Surely the causes were well enough known by this time. The agricultural depression, they knew, was mainly due to the vast increase in foreign importations and low prices resulting therefrom, to the bad seasons experienced of late—to the impoverishment of the farmer produced by these causes, and the restriction of his credit, which had naturally followed. There was another cause that prejudiced agriculture in many parts of the country to which no attention had been called to-night, and that was the uncertainty under which many of them laboured as to the future legislation that was to affect the land and the amount of taxation that was to be imposed upon it. He contended that agriculturists had great reason for appre- hension on this subject. One proof of that was that less than two years ago in this House a Motion was brought forward by one of the hon. Members for Glasgow in favour of a larger proportion of taxation being thrown on the land, and for that Motion voted no less than 15 Members of the present Government, and no less than seven Members of the present Cabinet. In addition to this, they saw many of the supporters of the Government going about the country promising a new Land Tax of 4s. in the £1, a change in the Death Duties, a free breakfast table, and a general increase of rates, under the impression, apparently, that all the new resources required for these changes were to be drawn from the land. Under these circumstances, he thought that anybody concerned in the future prospects of the land had the gravest cause for apprehension. It was a little inconsistent in some of these hon. Gentlemen to advocate measures for restoring the yeomen to the soil and for inducing the labourers and others to buy or rent small holdings when they were threatening the land which they held out to these people as such a desirable acquisition with increased burdens. It would not be possible to check the constant migration which was going on in the towns, or to make the Acts for multiplying small holdings successful until all parties in the State recognised the fact that to make land more prosperous the burdens on it must be decreased rather than increased. All three classes interested in the soil were also interested in keeping the burdens on it as moderate as possible. The farmers paid the rates in the first instance, but shared the ultimate burden of them both with their landlords and their labourers. There was a curious confusion of ideas which seemed to prevail in some quarters as to whether the labourers paid their share of the rates or not. When it was a question of the franchise, it was said that the labourers ought to have a vote because they paid rates, just as any other class—that they paid them in the rents of their houses if in no other way. But when it was a question of relief of the rates, then it was said that the whole of the relief given to the land would go into the pockets of the landlords. Both these theories could not be true. He believed that the truth was to be found in this—that the labourers were benefitted by the relief of the rates, not so much because they paid less rent for their cottages, but because the higher the rates, so much the less was the fund out of which their wages were paid. Agriculturists had special claims for relief on account of the losses imposed on them by the present fiscal system. He was not in favour of Protection or Fair Trade or of any fundamental alteration in the tariff. Protection no doubt would be a delightful thing for every interest if it could only keep it all to itself; but unfortunately that was not the sort of Protection that was ever likely to prevail in this country. And he could not help recognising that, from the point of view of the general prosperity of the whole people of these crowded islands, we could never hark back to any tax on food, whatever material relief it might give to the agricultural interest for a time. It was because the demand for Protection was virtually abandoned that agriculture had such a strong claim for relief from excessive burdens. No doubt in the last few years the land had, thanks to the last Government, obtained considerable relief, but a very large proportion of the £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 which had been given in relief of local burdens had gone to the populations of the towns, and very heavy additional burdens were now imposed on the counties. He believed that the main roads, which were now maintained by County Councils, but which used to be paid for by turnpike tolls, cost about £1,500,000 per year. The increasing expense of maintaining lunatic asylums was also borne by the county ratepayers. The expenditure for maintenance of lunatics alone hail increased by £500,000 during the last 50 years, and large increases had also taken place in tine expenditure on police pay and pensions. Under the Weights and Measures Acts, also, additional burdens had been thrown on the county rates, and various sanitary expenses had also increased. He was a great believer in better sanitary measures and educational reforms in country districts, but he saw very great difficulties in advancing such reforms if the main burden of the new expenditure was to fall on agricultural land. Certain portions of the sanitary rates were very fairly levied with a three-fourths exemption for agricultural land. This was a principle which might be very well at once extended to all sanitary expenditure as well as to much of the educational expenditure of the country. It was not fair, in days when land no longer represented the chief source of the wealth of the country, to treat it as it was treated in olden days, and levy the principal portion of the taxes upon it. He would remind hon. Members who were anxious to keep the hereditary burdens on the land that the hereditary wealth and influence which in past times had made landowners and large farmers more ready to bear such burdens were now fast disappearing, while the burdens themselves remained. Was it to discover new remedies that the Government now proposed an inquiry into the condition of agriculture? Inasmuch as a very laborious and comprehensive inquiry dealing with the whole field of agriculture was completed by a Royal Commission only 10 years ago, he doubted whether a Commission or Committee could throw very much more light on the condition of agriculture at the present day. The general character of the situation remained the same, and he could not believe a new inquiry was likely to disclose many more satisfactory remedies than were devised by the last Commission. Nor did he think that a Select Committee of the House was likely to produce much better results on the currency question than had followed from the labours of the Commission which had already sat on the subject, and from those of the International Conference at Brussels. The Government had had the advantage of studying the remedies suggested during the discussions which took place recently at St. James's Hall. Nearly every remedy that could be suggested was brought forward during that Conference. One of the remedies about which the agriculturists were almost unanimous was the relief of local burdens. Allot her was effective compensation for agricultural improvements, and others were division of rates, safeguards against fraud and adulteration, and the taking of steps against the spread of contagious disease. He himself would add two suggestions. The first was, that a little more should be done for the improvement of agricultural education. He believed that by the introduction of a measure enabling County Councils to deal more effectively with the class of schools to which farmers' sons and the sons of superior labourers ought to go, great benefits might be conferred on future generations of agriculturists. The Board of Agriculture might do a little more to promote the establishment of good agricultural colleges for young farmers in different parts of the country, and of experimental stations, such as there were in America. He thought, also, that there should be some alteration in the assessment law, so as to prevent the improvement of the soil being discouraged by being subjected from the first to the whole burden of the increased rates. Such alterations of the law might very well be introduced by the Government on their own responsibility without the delay of an inquiry. They would then show a genuine and fruitful sympathy with the agricultural community at the present time. He was afraid, however, that this Government had their hands too fall of great constitutional measures to care to devote much time or labour to the improvement of the condition of a depressed industry, which, though sunk from its former high estate, was still the greatest national industry of the country.

MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

No one who is conversant with the present agricultural situation, or who has watched the course of the Debate, can be surprised that my hon. Friend (Mr. Wharton) has found it necessary to move an Amendment. Indeed, it seems to me that whatever we might have thought when we first became acquainted with the terms of the Gracious Speech from the Throne, the course of the Debate left my hon. Friend no alternative but to do as he has done. For weeks and weeks we have heard of little or nothing except the complaints and sufferings of agriculturists in all parts of the kingdom. Both the London and country Press has been teeming with their grievances and with descriptions of their sufferings for months past. Great meetings have been held in all parts of the country, culminating in the great Conference held in St. James's Hall on the 7th and 8th December last. That Conference, at which, to my own knowledge, one Member of the Cabinet was present, was attended by 2,000 agriculturists, nearly all of whom were delegates from some 250 Agricultural Societies in various parts of the country. There were numerous similar gatherings all over England, from Plymouth in the West to York and Lincoln in the North, and at all these meetings testimony was borne to the magnitude of the disaster which is apparently overwhelming agriculture, and to the fact that that great industry is in danger not only of injury but of destruction. It is not to be wondered at, under these circumstances, that many have been waiting for the meeting of Parliament with feelings of anxiety and lively expectation. When it became known that the Queen's Speech contained a deeply sympathetic paragraph on the subject, those feelings were raised to the highest pitch of interest, and I confess that I myself began to be influenced by sentiments of unwonted charity towards Her Majesty's Government. The Mover of the Address referred to the subject in his able speech and, although he said many lungs with which I did not agree, his speech increased my anxiety to know what the Government had in their minds. He was followed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who pointedly challenged the Prime Minister to explain what the Government had in their minds, and what they intended to convey by the paragraph in the Speech. But although the Prime Minister dealt in his reply with a variety of subjects, and although he was followed by two other Cabinet Ministers at least, not a sentence, not a word, not even a syllable, has been used On behalf of the Government in which even distant allusion has been made to a subject which occupies so prominent a place in the Speech from the Throne, and which at the present time engrosses the minds of agriculturists throughout the country. I wish to speak with great respect of the Prime Minister and the Government, but I do think that, under all the circumstances, this is a most unfortunate and regrettable state of things. It is a condition of affairs which is certainly calculated not to allay but rather to add to the despair and discouragement of the farmers, even if it does not arouse in their minds feelings of bitter resentment. This being the case, I do not hesitate to say that, in order that we might have a great Debate on the subject, it was imperative that some one representing the agricultural party should move an Amendment. While the Prime Minister thought so little of agricultural depression that he was unable even to devote a single sentence to it, the right hon. Gentleman did speak of one question bearing upon agriculture—a question which out of Wales hardly excites any general attention. He said it was the intention of the Government, proceeding partly from recollection of Debates in this House during last Session, and in no small part from what has taken place in Wales during the Recess, to issue a Royal Commission for the purpose of examining into the land question in Wales. I suppose it will be news to many people to hear that there is any land question in Wales at all, as distinct from the land question in England. Everyone will recollect what took place in the Recess, because it became the subject of a somewhat animated correspondence between the Prime Minister and the Welsh landlords. The Prime Minister went down to Wales, and at a meeting which he attended with the hon. Member for Merionethshire (Mr. T. E. Ellis) made charges against the Welsh landlords, based upon figures with regard to which, though repeatedly challenged, he has never yet been able to produce. That is all that occurred in the Recess, and there is nothing in these occurrences to warrant the appointment of a Royal Commission. Then as to last Session. What occurred last Session? I know of nothing except the speech of the hon. Member for Merionethshire during the Debate on this question, and I may say, in passing, that the hon. Member for Merionethshire was shown to have been guilty in the course of that speech of very considerable inaccuracies. I remember the speech very well, because it fell to me to reply for the late Government. After the Debate was over, we took into consideration whether it was necessary or desirable to appoint an Inquiry or Commission of that character. But, after obtaining all the information which it was in my power to get, and after considering the whole subject, I was obliged to come to the conclusion that there was absolutely nothing in the speech of the hon. Member, or in the circumstances of the country at that time, to warrant the Government in appointing a great Commission of that nature, and I doubt whether there is anything to warrant it now. As far as the Welsh landlords are concerned, they will, no doubt, make no objection to the appointment of this Commission, always providing that it is a fair Commission. And after the crushing exposure of a certain other Commission in the admirable speech from the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Carson), to which we listened, I am sure, on both sides of the House with satisfaction—with great admiration, at all events, if not with great satisfaction—I think we may anticipate that any further Commissions of the present Government will perhaps be appointed with some little regard to justice between the two parties interested. If that be so, the Welsh landlords, so far from being opposed to it, will welcome the opportunity of exposing many of the slanderous attacks and charges which have been made against them during recent years. With the permission of the House, I will now refer to the paragraph in the Gracious Speech from the Throne referring to the agricultural depression, and in the absence of any information whatever on that point from any Member of the Government I am obliged to look to the speech of the Mover of the Address in order to ascertain the intentions of the Government. I gather from the hon. Member that a Committee of some kind is to be appointed—following, as he says, the precedent of Lord John Russell in 1836—to inquire into the grievances under which agriculturists are suffering. I cannot help thinking that that is a very unfortunate precedent for the Government to adopt. What was the outcome of the labours of the Committees appointed in 1836?—for there were two of them, one sitting in the House of Commons and the other in the House of Lords, on precisely the same subject. Both took a vast amount of evidence, but, so far as I am able to, ascertain, neither of these Committees made any kind of Report, or any kind of recommendation whatever. I can find nothing from the Committee of the House of Commons; and here is all the Committee of the Lords say— The Committee have met in pursuance of your Lordships' order, and have examined a great number of witnesses and collected a great many important documents relating to the extent and the causes of agricultural depression, but they have not agreed on any Report of such evidence to be submitted to your Lordships. That, Sir, is the contribution, and the sole contribution, so far as I am able to ascertain, which the Government has to offer towards the solution of this terrible question of agricultural depression. I think I am justified, therefore, in calling this a most ill-omened precedent for the Government to have selected. I venture to think that the hon. Gentleman behind me, the Member for upon (Mr. Wharton), was perfectly right when be stated to the House that what agriculturists desire is some prospect of permanent remedy, and some present relief, from the evils under which they are suffering. Why, Sir, it is not many years ago since a Commission appointed to inquire into this subject sat under the presidency of the Duke of Richmond for three years. There are piles of Blue Books in the House at this moment containing an enormous amount of information upon every subject under the sun connected with agriculture and agricultural depression, and I do not believe that one Member out of 50 has ever looked into that information. What, then, I ask, can be the purpose or the good of appointing another Inquiry, when so little advantage has been taken of the last? The causes of agricultural depression are well known. They have been placed beyond the possibility of doubt. The 2,000 delegates from all parts of the country who attended the recent meeting at St. James's Hall declared that the depression was mainly due to the fall in the prices of farm produce of almost every description. If hon. Members will take the trouble to refer to the official report of these proceedings they will find it stated that practically the whole of this vast assembly voted for that resolution, and in order to make quite sure what the feeling of the conference was, the motion was put to the contrary, and in that great crowded assembly there were only five hands held up against it [Ministerial laughter.] What I have said on this point, which seems to have caused so much amusement to hon. Gentlemen opposite, was thoroughly endorsed by the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division of Suffolk (Mr. Everett), in the able speech which he made to-night. But the cause to which the vast conference in St. James's Hall ascribed the agricultural depression was precisely the one part of the question to which the Mover of the Address had not one single word to say. The hon. Gentleman drifted on to a great number of matters, some of which I admit were interesting, but all of them of comparatively minor importance, and in regard to some of which I venture to say he was very inaccurate and exceedingly ill-informed. The hon. Member said that the foreign produce was successful, because he was hampered by no restrictive covenance, and that all the capital he makes goes into his own pockets. Of course it does, and for this very simple reason. In England the owner of the soil, as a rule, finds three-fourths of the capital, and the occupier one-fourth, for the purpose of production. On the contrary, abroad the occupier generally finds all the capital, and in nine cases out of ten he was the owner of the land. [Ministerial cheers.] I am delighted to hear those cheers, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite would legislate to enable a far greater number of occupiers to become owners of their farms, there is no one who would be better pleased to help them than myself. There is one point on which I am thoroughly in accord with the Mover of the Address, and that is what he said on the subject of railway rates. I cannot doubt that on that point the outburst of feeling which the action of the railway companies has called forth will be effective in procuring the complete reversal of their policy. But when the hon. Member goes on to say that the British farmer is hampered by the knowledge that he may be vexatiously expelled from his holding without compensation, and that farmers were paying exorbitant rents because of the keen competition for farms, I am really obliged to ask where on earth has the hon. Member got his information? Does he seriously mean to tell the House of Commons that these matters are matters of general practice at the present time? If he does, I can only say that his knowledge is absolutely contradicted—in the first place, by the facts which are sufficiently notorious already as to the enormous fall which has occurred in rents; and, secondly, by the existing laws, which provide that compensation should be awarded for improvements in all eases where there is no proper and equivalent agreement between the landlord and the tenant to the contrary. Then, again, so small is the demand for tenancies by farmers at the present time, as compared with the demand by landlords for tenants, that there was never a time within the past 40 years when tenants desiring to take farms occupied a more complete ground of vantage to make good bargains for themselves. I challenge contradiction of these facts from anyone conversant with the present state of agriculture. There may be a few exceptional cases in some parts of the country, but surely the hon. Member could not generalise front these in the House of Commons. I do not wish it to be supposed for a moment that in anything I have said I am opposed to the alteration of the laws of land tenure, if it can be shown that the alterations are necessary, just, and desirable. On the contrary, I am perfectly willing, considering that it can be shown that the present law is defective; and my sole object in replying to the hon. Member's remarks is that, in the first place, I believe he is ill-informed on the subject; and, secondly, because he seems to indicate that it was in this direction that the remedy for the agricultural depression is to be found—a supposition which I believe to be entirely foreign and wholly erroneous. There are two other matters of interest to the agricultural community to which I desire to refer. I am strongly of opinion that the law which requires the slaughter of all foreign animals at the port of debarkation should in future be carried out in its integrity, and that the exceptions which are now made—or which up to a short time ago were made—in favour of animals coming front certain countries should no longer be permitted. Hitherto the importation of Canadian cattle had been permitted free, that is to say, they have been allowed to laud and go into the interior of the country; but, unfortunately, Canadian cattle have been recently instrumental in bringing back pneumonia into Scotland, and I venture —if it is not presumption on my part—to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture on the prompt and effective action he has taken in this matter. But there is another side of the question. I think it is only reasonable that we should look into the cost which that importation of Canadian cattle has been to us. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, in reply to a question to-day, stated that only four Canadian diseased animals were admitted into the country; he resented the slaughter of 1,300 head of cattle, and the payment as compensation of £18,000 to the owners. Under these circumstances, I do not think I am pressing, the Government too much when I say that the risk of loss we are running is too great, and that in future we should incur no risk whatever. I am aware, of course, that the United States and Canada will raise objections to any proposals of this kind. There will be also objections on the part of a very limited section of agriculturists in the North, but they need have no ground for alarm, because store cattle were never so plentiful and cheap, especially in Ireland, than they are at the present time. Besides, these cattle producers are, comparatively speaking, a mere fraction of the agricultural community, and it is not too much to ask that their interest should give way to the general good. Again, Sir, I venture to think the time has come when the Government must take in hand the question of dealing with the contagious disease in this country known as swine fever. The President of the Board of Agriculture stated to day that the Government were bound to appoint a Departmental Inquiry on this subject. The whole policy of the Government appears to me to be a policy of inquiry. Just before this Debate began an hon. Member, speaking on the back Benches opposite, said that the policy of the Government in regard to Uganda would be a policy of inquiry. It now appears that the policy of the Government with regard to swine fever is to be a policy of inquiry. Their policy with regard to agricultural depression is to be a policy of inquiry, and I do not know how many policies of inquiry we shall be required to comment on before the Government have unfolded all their plans. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture what are the specific points on which the information cannot be obtained within his own Department? My experience has shown that this Central Authority, if armed with sufficient funds and power, can undoubtedly deal successfully with the contagious diseases of animals in this country. I may say that the late Government were pledged by me to deal with this question; and it would have been dealt with but for the unfortunate outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the country, which rendered it impossible for me to deal with these two questions at the same tune. But now we are happily free from that disease, and I venture to say that there never was a moment when this task could be undertaken more economically and more efficiently than it could be at the present time by the Agricultural Department. I therefore trust that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture will put pressure on the Government to enable him to undertake this task. There is one point on which I think all agriculturists are agreed, and that is that further relief should be granted from local taxation. The case is most urgent. Information was given to me the other day from a part of the County of Lincolnshire which shows how serious the agricultural depression in that part of England has become, and which I should like to quote for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, hi the hope that it may induce him to take a more favourable view or our demand this question than he might otherwise he inclined to do. A report in a local paper states that the other day at Petty Sessions 17 summonses were returned against farmers for the non-payment of local rater; that the liability was in every instance admitted, but the depression in agriculture was pleaded as the cause why the rates could not be paid. If that is true, it is evident that the depression has reached a very serious stage, and I hope, therefore, that the Government will remember that the ease is urgent and that remedy must be prompt. There is one more question that is causing great anxiety to a number of agriculturists at the present time, and on which I should like some information from the Government. That is with regard to the bounties upon dairy produce sent to this country now being given by the Victorian Government, amounting to 3d. upon the pound of butter. Can the Government give us any information as to the possible or probable development of this trade in the future under the cir- cumstances? It is a matter of very considerable importance, because a great many agriculturists, to my knowledge, in various parts of the country have given up wheat growing because of the small returns on that crop, and have been induced to turn their attention to the making of butter instead. But if this trade in butter from Victoria develops, I am afraid dairy farmers will be destined to the same fate which has overtaken the unfortunate wheat growers of the country. As to agricultural depression, until some measure can be devised to stay the constant fall in prices there is neither hope nor prospect of any permanent improvement in the situation. What is to he done? I do not ask nor even suggest to the Government the expedient of Protection. I know it is beyond die power of this Government or any other Government to do anything of that kind—at all events, for the present—and even if it were possible, I doubt very much whether it would have anything like the effect some people suppose. however, suggest, for the consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether it might not be possible to take off part of the duty now imposed upon beer and raise an equivalent duty upon foreign barley. I am aware there are objections to that proposal. First, the imported barley is not all used for beer, a considerable portion being used for the food of animals; secondly, I am not aware how it might be received by the brewers; and, thirdly, it would help only a section of the agricultural community; but I suggest it as a proposal which, in the terrible depression of agriculture, might Ire worthy of consideration just now by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman is so intimately connected with the hind by tradition and every tie of kindred and feeling that in his heart he must feel a sincere sympathy for the depression under which agriculturists are suffering—


Hear, hear!


And whether the right hon. Gentleman is able to adopt the, suggestion or not, I hope he will give it his serious consideration. I am sorry that the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division of Suffolk had to speak in such a thin House. The hon. Member gave an able and comprehensive summary of the history of agriculture, and showed how depression was brought about by ea uses related to the currency; how agriculture prospered after the great gold discoveries of 1849 until 1873; and how it came to its present condition. In the opinion of a great and increasing number of people we are at the present time, and have been for some considerable period, in the presence of the phenomenon known to economists as "the appreciation of gold." Gold is the standard of value, and for some years this standard of value has been steadily appreciating. In other words, there has been a continuous fall in prices due to that specific cause; amid under existing conditions that fall must be expected to continue. I would not venture to put forward such a theory on my own authority alone, because it is an exceedingly abstruse question; but among those who entertain and profess the same view are leading statesmen both of this and foreign countries, I he ablest scientists, the most experienced statisticians, and, with one single exception, every one of the professors engaged in teaching political economy in this country. If they are right there is at mice a reason to account for the widespread and general depression prevailing not only in England, but in a vast number of other countries. The first person I remember to have attributed the fall of prices to the appreciation of gold was Lord Beaconsfield. In one of the last speeches he ever made in the House of Lords he said— Gold is every day appreciating in value, and as it appreciates in value the lower become prices. This, then, I think, is the third cause of agricultural depression. Lord Beaconsfield was at one time the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I will now quote another Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Northcote, who was Chairman of the great Commission which was appointed in 1875 to inquire into the depression in trade and agriculture. The Report of that Commission was signed by the Chairman and 19 of his colleagues, and contained the following passage:— We expressed in our third Report the opinion that this fall in prices, so far as it has been caused by an appreciation of the standard of value, was deserving of the most serious inquiry.…We desire to give it a leading place in the enumeration of the influences which have tended to produce the present depression. A third Cancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Gentleman who held that office in the last Government (Mr. Goschen), said in a Debate in 1883 that the fall of prices was due to a "a considerable appreciation in the value of gold." As far as I remember, my right hon. Friend was the first person in the House of Commons, in the Debate on the agricultural depression in 1883, to attribute part of the depression to that cause. I well recollect the speech, because it devolved upon me to follow hire; and the subject being totally new to me, I knew nothing about it, but I have long ago come to the conclusion that my right hon. Friend was perfectly and absolutely right. Finally, I will quote Mr. Giffen, whose authority will be recognised on both sides of the House. In a paper read before the Statistical Society in 1888 Mr. Giffen said— The fall of prices in such a general way as to amount to what is known to be the rise in the purchasing power of gold is generally, I might almost say universally, admitted. Again— Measured by any group or groups of commodities usually taken for such a purpose, gold is undoubtedly possessed of more purchasing power than it was 15 or 20 years ago, and this power has continued for a long enough period to allow for all minor oscillations. And again— We can say positively that the recent change from a high to a low level of prices is due to a change in money of the nature or in the direction of absolute contraction. I have dwelt on this point at much length, because, if the opinions expressed by all these different great authorities are true, we have at once the real secret of the depression, the real cause of the fall of prices which everyone agrees is the cause of the agricultural depression at the present time. What is wanted is some relief from the extraordinary pressure brought to bear on gold since the great monetary changes and the closing of the Mints of America and of European countries to the free coinage of silver in 1873 and 1874. It is not only the agricultural interest which requires this; the great textile industries in the North of England have for years been partially paralysed by the same cause, while the pressure of our financial relations with India—no one knows better than the Chancellor of the Exchequer—has become almost intolerable in the extreme. All these consequences, and there are many others, have been produced by, and have followed, those great monetary changes and the consequent appreciation of gold. The same causes have produced great disasters and stupendous changes in the history of nations and of Empires in the past, and will be followed, unless met in time, by similar results in the future. Surely it is no exaggeration to say that never did a more important question call for the serious attention of English statesmen, and the solution of it now rests, to all intents and purposes, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Fortunately, if the right hon. Gentleman elects to use it, he has an admirable instrument ready to his hand, for whatever may now be thought in England of the proceedings of the Conference at Brussels, the time will come when it will be known that the foreign nations represented at that Conference were for the most part immensely impressed by the gravity of the situation; and if their deliberations come to anything, I believe the day will come when it will be known that this was due to the attitude of England and the Delegates who represented the English Government. That Conference will meet again in May; but, as there is a Notice of Motion on the Paper dealing with the matter, I will say nothing further on the subject to-night. I desire to conclude with a very sincere apology to the House for having detained it so long. I can only repeat my absolute conviction that it is the extraordinary pressure placed on gold in recent years which lies at the root of all our disasters and troubles at the present time. Whether the evil should be met by bimetallism or by minor means is a question which should be seriously considered; and if this one great cause of our trouble were mitigated or removed, as the case might be, by the influence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government of England, I, for one, see no reason why, after all, the good old cause of English agriculture should not look forward yet to days of comparative prosperity, and why that great industry should not continue again to flourish as I hope and pray it may for many generations yet to come.


Mr. Speaker, I hope I may be permitted to express the opinion that the message of sympathy with the sufferings of the agricultural community in the Gracious Speech from the Throne is endorsed most heartily and sincerely by every section and Party in the House. I am bound to add that I am not one of those who take what I may call the hopeless and cheerless view of the position which is fashionable in some quarters. This is not the first time by many that agricultural depression has been a subject of debate in Parliament. In the pages of Hansard you will find that over and over again Debates have taken place on the matter, that agriculturists in this House have prophesied the ruin of agriculture; but that year after year and time after time as good harvests returned and prices were raised, the question has passed from the purview of Parliament. At the same time, it is idle to deny that the very low prices of stock, following upon a harvest much below the average in many localities, has produced great depression, and that the position of agriculturists deserve every sympathy and consideration. We have been challenged by speakers this evening as to the course we feel bound to adopt with regard to this serious question, and again and again we have been told that the proper way to meet the depression is not by inquiry, but by instant legislation. I have listened with the greatest attention to the speeches made from all parts of the House in order that I might gather the meaning of hon. Gentlemen when they call for immediate legislation. What are the remedies proposed? As far as I can make out, there have been none. We have had a long discussion, but fail to find any great remedy put forward for the depression. The fact is, that agriculturists are not agreed among themselves as to the remedies which ought to be taken. If there has been any doubt on the subject, I am sure the discussion which has taken place to-night will entirely remove it. A great Agricultural Conference has been recently held in London, to which every one connected with agriculture looked for- ward with sympathetic interest. A nil what happened? That Conference did not quite agree as to the remedies. On the first day, indeed, they agreed with great unanimity that Protection is the only remedy for agricultural depression. Is that the united opinion of the Opposition? Is it the opinion of the right hon. Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire, who has just told the House that the time is not yet ripe for Protection? Then followed a subject which has taken up a good deal of the time of the House this evening—bimetallism—on which the right hon. Gentleman is a very great authority. I have been told, however, that, while the audience at the Conference in London voted with touching unanimity with regard to Protection, their interest grew less and less as the subject of bimetallism was brought forward. Whether bimetallism would be a remedy or not for the evils complained of I am not certain, and the right hon. Gentleman himself Will not contend, probably, that it is an instant remedy. The Conference at Brussels did not seem to be actuated on the question of bimetallism by the same unanimity as the Conference in London in regard to Protection; and even if it were possible to induce my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take up the subject, it must be admitted that some years must elapse before its effects could reach agriculturists. The subject of burdens on the land has also been referred to. There is a direct allusion to it in the Amendment before the House. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment seemed to think that the Government ought to proceed at once to legislate on the matter, but that is hardly time opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division, because he said in a speech at Lincoln, on the 21st January last— He thought that they ought to devote their energies to obtain a Parliamentary inquiry without delay into the whole questions of the burdens upon land, and the exact and precise proportions of taxation which ought to be borne by land and real property on the one hand, and personal property on the other hand. Now, that is exactly what the Government are offering to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division. Among other questions brought forward at the Agricultural Conference were those of land tenure and the relations between landlord and tenant. That is a subject on which I myself feel considerable sympathy, but it is one of great difficulty, and close and careful inquiry must precede legislation upon it. The fact of the matter is, that agriculturists are not agreed as to what would be the proper remedy, and it is impossible for the Government to proceed to legislation without a clear and solid basis on which to do so. It is for that reason the Government propose an exhaustive inquiry into the whole subject. There is another question referred to affecting my Department—that is, my action with regard to the prohibition of the importation of live cattle from Canada. I am sorry we are obliged to interfere with this important and increasing trade which is carried on with such advantage to all parties concerned. But interference was necessary, and I heartily trust that the existing conditions in connection with the Canadian cattle trade will soon pass away. With regard to the administration of the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts, reference had been made, both in and out of the House, to what has been called my policy and the policy of my predecessor. Now, there is no such thing as policy in this matter. There is only obedience to the law. The Minister is simply bound to prohibit the landing of live animals coming from countries of which he is not satisfied as to the sanitary conditions of animals therein. Great credit is due, in my opinion, to the authors of those Acts, and it is undoubtedly owing to their operation that it can now be said never was there a time in the history of the country when our flocks and herds were more free from disease. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has challenged me with reference to the appointment of a Committee on Swine Fever, but I should have thought that such a step would meet the approval I of most agriculturists. I would remind him that the question is a very large one; that it affects not only this Kingdom, but Ireland as well; and as legislation in the direction proposed would entail the outlay of a large stun of public money, it is obvious that an application to the Treasury could not be made for that money unless a clear and certain case for legislation on the subject could be made out. As to bimetallism, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it would be unwise to go into the question now, seeing that it is to form a separate subject of debate on another occasion. And, considering that not one speaker this night has brought forward, from a purely agricultural point of view, any distinct and particular remedy for the evils complained of, I think the House will admit that the Government have been well advised in proposing an inquiry into the whole subject, and I hope that when the Report is laid before the House, as I trust it will be at no distant date, some sufficient and solid ground will be afforded on which it will be possible to legislate in the interest of depressed agriculturists.


did not think the agriculturists would be very well satisfied with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. What was it the right hon. Gentleman told them? He told them he was going to appoint a Committee which was to inquire into the whole subject. What was the Committee to do? In the first place, it would hold several formal meetings, and then would get evidence from different parts of the country, and that would take up a very considerable time. Many of the matters deeply affecting agriculturists could be introduced in a short Bill and passed with the support of both sides of the House. For instance, a Bill could be passed for the slaughter of foreign cattle before debarkation; for a trade mark being placed upon imported meat, imported cheese, and such like commodities. A short Bill could be passed to take in these and many other matters. The right hon. Gentleman might also pass a Bill dealing with what he had just been speaking about—namely, swine fever, and it could be passed without much trouble. As to competition, foreign competition was bearing heavier upon the agriculturist than the right hon. Gentleman was aware of. The railways which took their products from distant parts of the country up to the Metropolis imposed rates that were considerably higher than those from New York to London, and that was a matter that ought to be at once rectified, and willed' could be done without very much trouble. If he might make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman, it would be that he should go to Ids Inspectors, where be would get all the information he needed. If the Board of Agriculture would employ more Inspectors, and have them report quarterly or monthly, instead of, as at present, upon specific cases, when some difficulty arose, the Government would have all the information they required, and they would save the time that must necessarily be taken up by an inquiry by a Select Committee. The right hon. Gentleman, if he alluded at all, only did so very cursorily to the burdens on land. What the agriculturists said was that the land now occupied a totally different position to what it did a few years ago; and what they asked, and what he thought they were entitled to ask, was that the right hon. Gentleman should look into the questions of taxation nail the other burdens the land hail to bear. As an example, he might instance the case of an Inspector coming into a locality to make inquiries respecting a water supply, the result of which was that the owner had to pay noire than the rent of a farm in order to supply the farm with water which had not been asked for, and which the farm did not require, and all because the district haul been proclaimed a water district. Then the land had to bear the whole cost of the asylums and other things, a cost which he could not help thinking the Government ought to pay. Another matter was that of the roads. In the country they had to bear the whole cost of the roads, and gentlemen residing in the towns could ride all over the roads and not pay a turnpike toll wherever they went. It was the same with regard to the poor, who were saddled upon the country. In America the farmer paid 6d. or 1s. an acre, which covered all, but in this country the land had to bear a charge of 33 per cent. There was a very considerable difference there; and when they considered the tremendous fall in all prices of agricultural produce, it was time the question was taken up by the Government. Though they could get all they wanted, still he thought that the voice that sounded in St. James's Hall would find an echo here as it had throughout the length and breadth of the country. There were many other points on which it would be very easy to speak in this House; but as he knew there were many gentlemen who were most anxious to speak he would not go into them, but ask the Government to give greater consideration to the subject than they anticipated they would during this Session. He would ask the Government not to put any confidence in the appointment of a Committee, but to consult their own officials and their own supporters behind them who knew something about agriculture, and they would get a vast amount of information upon which they would be able to act. As a private Member he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that if he would put his hand to the plough, as he had done in regard to pleuro-pneumonia, he would get support from that (the Opposition) side of the House.

*MR. E. STANHOPE (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)

I am only desirous of interposing in the Debate for the, purpose of asking a question, but I cannot rise to take part in it without saying how pleased we are to see the right hon. Gentleman, now the President of the Board of Agriculture (Mr. H. Gardner), occupying that position, and endeavouring, as he has endeavoured in the speech just made to the House, to express the views of the Government upon this most important subject. But the right hon. Gentleman, nevertheless, will forgive me for saying his utterances, on the subject were altogether meagre and unsatisfactory. It was not the fault of the right hon. Gentleman. I believe he stated the whole case he was able to state; the fault lies with the Government itself. I do not thick—at least, in my recollection of Parliament—there ever were such strong paragraphs about agriculture put into the Queen's Speech. We have hall many years of anxiety. Almost every Government has had, in the Queen's Speech, to say something with regard to depression in agriculture. Never in my experience were paragraphs so strong, nor was the expectation naturally excited so eager as in the present case, but on the present occasion those paragraphs have been followed by—what? Not one single reference has been made by any Minister who has hitherto taken part in the Address to the subject of agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who was primarily responsible for these paragraphs, never made one single allusion to the difficulties under which we are labouring, and all we have, as a result of these tremendous paragraphs in the Speech, is rather more than a quarter of an hour's special pleading from the right hon. Gentleman and the promise of a Committee. What sort of a Committee is it we are going to have? We have not any information whatever on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has, as far as I can judge, endeavoured to minimise as far as he could the paragraphs in the Queen's Speech. He told us we had similar depression in former times and got over it. I am glad to say we have managed to get over it, but I cannot think anyone will deny there are special features which had no parallel in former times. In former times we had a great fall, let us say in the price of wheat, but there was some reasonable hope the price of wheat would again rise, but can any man now say in this House he thinks it probable the price of wheat will again rise? No, Sir, we are face to face with the time when some of the depression of prices must be permanent, and agriculture has to face a difficulty it never had to face before. Then the right hon. Gentleman complains, forsooth, that we have not been able to suggest to him a remedy. There have been on this side of the House, and from other quarters, several remedies suggested; it is not for us to say which is the one remedy most likely to get us out of all our difficulties. I call on the Government to give some fairer hearing to the present proposal to see if, out of our collective wisdom, we cannot find not one remedy, but several remedies, that might tend to help us out of our difficulties. The right hon. Gentleman says we are not agreed as to the remedies. I suppose that is true. We naturally, every one of us, would like to suggest the particular remedy that is most likely to help us in our difficulty, but we on this side are all agreed on one or two remedies. First of all, it is absolutely necessary that burdens upon land should be reduced. There we are in this unfortunate position, that there is a difference of opinion—difference of opinion on this side of the House and upon that. We know and think that the burdens upon laud should be diminished; you think that the burdens upon land should be increased. When we had occasion in the last Parliament to discuss the matter every Member opposite voted in favour of increase in the burdens on land. I am not going to do the injustice of supposing you are going to vote now for increase of burdens; you are not going to do anything of the kind. I have proved that you want no further inquiry to establish that the present burdens are excessive and ought to be reduced; therefore, we say to ask for a Committee of Inquiry that must take several years is only a means of putting off the difficulty. It can be of no use, and we call on von to acknowledge the fact that is obvious to everybody, that the burdens upon land are burdens that require immediate and strict attention, and also ask you to tell us what it is you expect this Committee to inquire into, and what earthly good you expect to get from this inquiry now or even in the next one or two years?

MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S. E.)

said, that as a Representative of Essex agriculture, which was divided into two classes—those who were ruined and those who were going to be—he had listened with the greatest interest and respect to the speech of so excellent all expert as the Minister of Agriculture. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had quite grassed the situation. The fact was, that those who farmed the land were ekeing out a precarious existence by growing corn at 40s. a quarter and selling it at 30s. With this they were supposed to keep up picturesque cottages, pay good wages, and keep the land in cultivation. The right hon. Gentleman, in reply to the prayer of the distressed agriculturists, graciously offered them a Committee of Inquiry. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not take a hopeless view of English agriculture; but if the right hon. Gentleman would go down into the country, he would he able to ride over tracts of land going out of cultivation and the labourers going into the towns because there was no employment for them. The right hon. Gentleman could not but think that was an extremely hopeless state of things in an agricultural country. In exchange for that the right hon. Gentleman offered a Committee of Inquiry. Why could not the Minister of Agriculture or the Government give them something tangible and practicable? He failed to see what the right hon. Gentleman could hope for by offering a Committee of Inquiry. There was, for example, the question of local taxation. There was surely no reason why Essex should pay Land Tax amounting to £80,000 a year, and a wealthy, populous county like Lancashire should pay only £20,000; there was no reason why a man who had £10,000 a year and lived in a £200 a-year house should pay the same as the man who farmed his land and lived in a £100 a-year house. It was absurd that land should be taxed now as it was before the abolition of the Corn Laws. In those days it was fair they should pay an increased tax; lout when that monopoly was taken away, the burdens should have been removed from the back of the farmer. The right hon. Gentleman might try his hand in the direction of the redemption of tithe. Why could not the Government do as had been done under the Ashbourne Act in Ireland—lend the tithe-owners money at 2½ per cent. to redeem the tithe? Why should not the right hon. Gentleman bring in a Bill providing that foreign meat should be labelled as such? At present best colonial meat was labelled as English, and the worst as foreign, the consequence being that the middleman made a fortune, the English farmer lost what He ought to get, and the colonial meat got a bad name. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would turn Ids attention to these subjects.

*MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

During this Debate no word has been said by any Irish Member, though Ireland is a country almost entirely agricultural, and I doubt if there is any place that has suffered more from the depression than Ireland. I am almost astonished at the attitude of the Government in relation to agricultural depression as it affects Ireland, because I remember so well in 1886, when Ireland suffered greatly front a fall in prices, the whole Party which followed the right hon. Gen- tleman the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Gladstone) not only supported the then Member for Cork in bringing in a Tenants' Relief Bill and pressing it forward, but they have gone through the country ever since declaring the delay in dealing with the question—in dealing with the fall in prices at that time—absolutely produced the Plan of Campaign. Now, I suppose they do not fear any Plan of Campaign, and therefore they let the matter drift. Drift seems to be the general policy of the Government in most things, and they are perfectly prepared to allow this matter to drift on in Ireland, relying on the gentlemen over there for keeping the peace and preventing any violation of the law in this matter. Unquestionably, the Chief Secretary for Ireland has received a very large number of resolutions passed at public meetings, especially in the Province of Ulster, complaining of this agricultural depression. I listened to the Debate to-night and heard all sorts of remedies proposed. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for the Woodbridge Division (Mr. R. L. Everett). There is no use talking about fixity of tenure as a remedy for this depression. The Irish farmer has fixity of tenure, and as a matter of fact the Irish tenant, so far as law is concerned, is in an infinitely better position than the English, Scotch, or Welsh tenant; and yet, notwithstanding all that law has done for this tenant, he feels the agricultural depression at this moment more keenly than his brethren, either in England or Scotland. And for this reason: he is, generally speaking, poorer than either the English or Scotch farmer. It may be said that as regards Ireland Parliament has done all that Parliament can do. It has been said on behalf of the landlord party that Parliament, having fixed judicial rents, Parliament has done with it. But there is one mischief attending the judicial rent in Ireland, and that is that when agricultural depression overtakes the English and Scotch farmer, there is sympathy known for them, and very often assistance is given in substantial reductions; whereas in Ireland, where you get your fixity of tenure, the Irish landlord very naturally says "I cannot grant any reduction in the rent. At one time you and I could make our own terms; we cannot do it now." I speak of the Province of Ulster—I do not profess to speak of any other part; but so far as that Province is concerned, not only has there been a fall in the price of cattle, but they are absolutely unsaleable at any price.

It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed To-morrow.

Forward to