§ 2. £12,377, to complete the sum for Registrar General's Office, Ireland.
§ 3. £10,436, to complete the sum for Valuation and Boundary Survey, Ireland.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £10,108, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1903, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices of the Chief Secretary in Dublin and London, and of the Inspectors of Lunatic Asylums."
§ (9.0.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL,
in resuming his speech, said that when interrupted by the Adjournment he had commenced to draw attention to the administration of affairs by the Government in the West of Ireland. His own view was that the situation in the West of Ireland was the main problem which the Government had to face. He thought it was full of danger; he was certain it was full of injustice, and he was quite clear in his own mind that the Government were largely responsible for it. Now, for the last nine years the Government had been pursuing a policy, through the Congested 1093 Districts Board, of which everybody in this House who followed it must approve. That Board was formed in 1891 and. it had done much to ameliorate the condition of the peasantry in the West of Ireland. Of late years it had devoted the principal part of its attention to the purchase of land, to the creation of a peasant proprietary, and what he might call the dressing of farms and their enlargement. He had not a word but that of praise and admiration for the action of the Board and of the Chief Secretary as its Chairman, but they quite recently had pursued a policy which had resulted in three things— First of all, the suspension of the Constitution over a great area in Ireland; second, the eviction of tenants, who, notwithstanding what the right hon. Member for South Antrim had said, he maintained, were utterly unable to pay the rents and the costs which had been heaped upon them; and, third, the formation of a Land Trust, which apparently was going to begin a war in Ireland of which no one could see the end. That was a very serious state of affairs. He would put the case historically. The Dillon estate which had been purchased consisted of 90,000 acres, it was to a large extent poor land, reclaimed bog. There were, both on the Dillon and the De Freyne estates, grass lauds which must be differentiated from those held by the people. In times past there never was an occasion of want or famine but the pinch was first felt on the Dillon estate, because the people were poor, lived from hand to mouth, and the first pressure brought them to the verge of starvation. Well, that estate was purchased, and he maintained that under all the circumstances that particular purchase was a grievous mistake in policy on the part of the Government. In the first place, it exhausted the whole of the money at the disposal of the Congested Districts Board, for they expended on it something like £300,000. In the second place, in doing so the Board set up an object lesson which had disturbed the whole province of Connaught ever since. It was no answer to him that there was a town land, as the Member for South Antrim had said, in the middle of 1094 that country which had been bought many years ago. In his opinion the purchase of a small town land by the Government, and its re-sale to the tenants, was one thing and the purchase of a whole country-side of 90,000 acres, with 4,200 tenants, was quite a different thing, because it set up an object lesson which could not be mistaken. They had reduced the rents on that estate by 6s. 8d. in the £, and the Government surely could not have expected that a thing like that would produce no excitement. Another thing they had done was to wipe out thousands of arrears—he had heard it stated in the district that it amounted to £20,000— in order to give the people a fair start, and they were now spending large sums in drainage works, and in the repair of houses. Just imagine 4,200 tenants getting their rents reduced by 33 per cent., getting their arrears wiped out, getting their houses repaired and their land drained by this beneficent Government, and then imagine the feelings of the tenants on the neighbouring estates who had got nothing of the kind.
He had been accused by the Chief Secretary that night of palliating the disorder that had occurred in that district; he charged the right hon. Gentleman with having created it. He would put the matter clearly. It was impossible for any body of men sitting in a room in Rutland Square, Dublin, to come to the conclusion that action of that kind would not produce difficulties on the estates round the Dillon Estate. As a matter of course, the whole district was at once roused. What followed? A combination was formed. What for? To pay no rent? Nothing of the kind. The combination was formed to ask from Lord De Freyne the same terms which the Dillon tenants had received from the Government. That was the first request, and it was refused: Lord De Freyne, like the Chief Secretary with the Ulster tenants, even refused to see them when they wished to interview him. Things went from bad to worse, and led to what he thought was a breach of the law, because he had written over and over again that it was an offence for a man to stand on any platform and 1095 advise a tenant not to pay his rent. Let him here point out a curious omission in the brilliant defence of the Chief Secretary. The Constitution was suspended, but who signed the Proclamation suspending it? The Chief Secretary had not a word to say about that. It was signed by Mr. Smith-Barry and Lord Clonbrock, the two men who only a week before had become the leading members of the landlords' conspiracy against the people. They were Members of the Privy Council, and attended the meeting of the Privy Council, but Privy Councillors only attended the meeting of the Privy Council when they were invited. They therefore must have been invited by the Government to attend the Privy Council in order to sign the Proclamation. The Chief Secretary had whirlwinds of abuse for hon. Members opposite, and for himself, but the right hon. Gentleman had not one word to say in defence of an atrocity like that. The Constitution was suspended, men were sent to gaol, and everything went topsy-turvy. He saw the right hon. the Member for Montrose in his place. That right hon. Gentleman would remember that when he was Chief Secretary for Ireland he had to supply the forces of the Crown for evictions in this district. Who assailed him at that time, who described the condition of the tenants, who begged him to stay his hand? His right hon. friend would admit that he was foremost, ten years ago, in pointing out the condition of these poor people, and although he had written columns in the London Times, at the request of other people, the right hon. Gentleman had never accused him then, and would not do it now, of palliating disorder. It was only men who had no defence for themselves, it was only men who had sold themselves body and soul to the Irish landlords, it was only men who had gone over bag and baggage to the evictors, who dared to bring such charges against those who were as loyal and as law-abiding as themselves.
Now, as to the position of the tenants. The right hon. Member for South Antrim charged the tenants' solicitor with creating the trouble, and being responsible for the whole 1096 thing. Fortunately, his hon. friends the Members for North-West Lanark, for Oldham, for Dewsbury, and for Orkney, had just come back from a visit to the De Freyne estate, and he hoped they would have an opportunity of stating what they thought of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for South Antrim dealt with the question of heaping up the costs on the poor tenants, and said that it was the lawyers that were responsible for that. But might he ask, in all humility, why Lord De Freyne had gone to the Superior Courts at all? In 1887 he remembered that he was humbugged into assenting to what was called the "eviction made easy Clause," by which it was only necessary for the landlord, instead of going to the Superior Courts, to serve a registered letter on the tenant who was a defaulter in his rent, in order to determine his tenancy. Six months after the service of the registered letter, if the arrears of rent had not been redeemed, Lord De Freyne could have got an order from the nearest petty sessions court to put the tenant out of his farm. That was the law. Lord De Freyne could have taken that course at a trifling cost, but instead he went to the Superior Courts., and heaped up costs to the amount of £40 on each tenant—an amount which it was impossible for the tenants to pay. So much for the costs; he would now come to the right hon. Gentleman's statement in regard to rent. He confessed candidly that, along with his hon. friends who accompanied him, he had some difficulty in getting at the facts of the rent. He was quite aware of the possibility of being misled by Irish peasants in regard to the acreage of their holdings, and the rent they were asked to pay. They might be talking about statute acres while the peasants might be talking about Irish acres. His hon. friends opposite would remember that he advised them to go to the agent on the De Freyne estates and get him to tell his side of the story as to the amount of the rents. He himself did not propose to go with them to the agent, for the very good reason that he would have acted upon him like a red rag to a bull, and they would have got no information whatever. But these two stalwart Imperialists. 1097 followers of Lord Rosobery, and therefore having none of the character of the hon. Member for South Tyrone, as described by the Chief Secretary — whose opinion the hon. Member for South Tyrone did not care a rap for—surely ought to have been afforded the information. Lord De Freyne's agent told the hon. Gentlemen that he was prohibited from giving any information about the estate, and referred them to Lord De Freyne. The right hon. Member for South Antrim got his information from the rent office.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he stood corrected. But the right hon. Gentleman in his figures had included not only the arable land of the holdings, but the acres of heather-land adjoining.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said that it was all very well to give the average rent per acre of farms, but in these holdings hundreds of acres were such that a spade could not be put into the ground.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
denied that he included commonage in his average. He gave the average rent, and added that the occupier had the free right of grazing over a commonage of six acres. He saw the common, and there was no heather on it at all.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said he had seen the land himself, and he had asked man after man there how the rent was paid. He found out that they depended for assistance upon their children in America, and upon English labour. One told him that his daughter had already sent him £20 that year. That was where the money came from. The Chief Secretary had suspended the Constitution in Roscommon in order that Lord de Freyne should be able to seize American money orders for his rent. The Irish Government ought not, in the circumstances, 1098 to have made this tremendous experiment on the Dillon estate. It would have been much safer for them to have gone on with the purchase of small areas and to have left this huge piece of land until something like a final settlement of the Irish land question had been arrived at. By making this experiment they had set up an object lesson which would stand in spite of anything the Chief Secretary might do. The Attorney General had said that the action of the tenants was perfectly natural.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKTNSON,) Londonderry, N.
I said it was a perfectly natural outcome of the teaching they had received.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
suggested that that was a new and revised edition of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. The tenants took up their present attitude long before hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared on the scene. They were on the very brink of starvation; the failure of the potato crop meant ruin, and they were dependent on help from America; and, instead of being helped by the Government, battalions of constabulary were sent down. He wanted to make his position clear. He was against all reform by law breaking, and never had a fouler and more untrue charge been made against any man than that preferred against him by the Chief Secretary. He had always maintained that the Irish Members in that House were strong enough to compel justice. The right hon. Gentleman had been two years in Dublin Castle, and he never remembered two years in which less work was done for the country. Never since the days of the Chief Secretaryship of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Thanet Division had there been a man at Dublin Castle more defiant of Irish opinion, more careless of official work, than the present Chief Secretary, and no man had ever messed or bungled things as the right hon. Gentleman had done. In the case of Poor Law appointments, the right hon. Gentleman had been 1099 pressed to appoint a lady as inspector of boarded-out children in Ireland, the majority of whom were Roman Catholics; but, instead of appointing a properly-qualified Roman Catholic lady, he had appointed a Protestant lady, who was a distinguished graduate of the Royal University. What had the Boards of Guardians done? They had shut the door against this lady and refused to give her any information. The Chief Secretary should have looked out for a motherly woman who had children of her own, or he should have appointed a Protestant and a Catholic Inspector. The post was not one for which a graduate-of a University was required. There was, next, the case of the Marlborough Street Training College, the pupils of which were lodged in what were practically tenement houses close by a street occupied by disorderly women, where the young men were exposed to danger. It was a locality of the worst description. But it was, no doubt, thought good enough for Presbyterian and Methodist students. Even the Ulster Unionist Members made representations to the right hon. Gentleman, but what did he care for them? They would come to heel as usual tonight, or any other night. But nothing would be done. The right hon. Gentleman had been two years in Dublin. What had he done? Nothing. The late Chief Secretary had blundered through a Land Bill, passed a revolutionary Local Government Bill, and established the Industrial Board, over which Mr. Horace Plunkett presided, but he was recalled to fill an easier post, and the present Chief Secretary was appointed—what to do? To mark time. He could deliver beautiful speeches; but if beautiful speeches could avail, Ireland would be a Heaven upon earth, and the salvation of Ireland would have been achieved centuries ago. It was like bringing coals to Newcastle for the right hon. Gentleman to take his beautiful speeches to Ireland, where they were all born orators. And yet the Chief Secretary, in order to have a shot at hon. Gentlemen opposite, actually quoted from a newspaper which his own Government had suppressed. But they had seen a remarkable sight at the Table when the right hon. Gentleman quoted from the United Irishman, a paper, which, if he was not mistaken 1100 had been suppressed by the Government; and, going from bad to worse, he quoted from a paper edited by Mr. Hastings. He had known that gentleman for thirty years, and he said it was simply absurd to bring quotations from a man of his stamp, even to condemn an opponent. These were the straits to which the Irish Government were reduced. Who else could they quote? Even "the faithful few" from Ulster had been protesting, and declaring that unless the right hon. Gentleman did something for them they could not support his policy.
The right hon. Gentleman had now gone over bag and baggage to the landlords, and it was worth while examining what that really meant for Ireland. At one time Lord Londonderry could control three or four seats on the land question in the county of Down, but he could not control one seat now. He remembered the time when the Hamiltons were supreme in Tyrone, but they could not control a single seat there now. The right hon. Gentleman had sold himself and his Government to a beaten party. He charged the Ulster tenants with sordid motives. What title had he to speak of sordid motives? [A Nationalist Member: "He is a paid patriot."] It was said that this was the result of agitation. There were the agitators on the Benches opposite. Not one of them could be bought; if they could have been, they would have been bought wholesale long ago. Who were those who talked about agitators? Some of the men who had raised that cry in the House had agitated themselves to the bench in the Four Courts, and those who were not there were moving heaven and earth to get there. An agitator got very little in Ireland but broken bones, and the man who denounced the agitator generally agitated himself into a fat situation as soon as he could.
The right hon. Gentleman had talked about him as the leader of a small party in that House. He was nothing of the kind. He found trouble enough in leading himself. He had the fate of Irish leaders in all ages before his eyes, and he was not going to undertake the job. He did not object to the right hon. Gentleman's sneers, and he might sneer away. This House might cheer him, 1101 but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that the tenant farmers would take notice of them. He had not stood out on this Land question because he could gain anything by doing so. Had his action brought him any reward? Had it saved him trouble? It had brought him oceans of trouble. In taking up his position of isolation, in ploughing his lonely furrow, he had no object except to do what one man could to wreck the system that had cursed Ireland for centuries. They talked about sordid motives. What about the class who forcibly captured the holdings of these tenants, evicted them by thousands, and drove them to take refuge in the slums of New York? The representatives of that class had the hardihood to stand up in the House and accuse them of sordid motives. The right hon. Gentleman, in attacking him, had publicly directed the attention of his Catholic constituents to his votes on the Education Bill. Was that fair fighting? As a matter of fact, he himself told his constituents at Whitsuntide that the Government had apparently committed themselves to a protectionist policy, that they had apparently committed themselves to the endowment of religion by means of education in England, and that they had undoubtedly committed themselves to the abolition of Mr. Gladstone's Land Act of 1881; and that he was resolved to oppose all three. His constituents passed a resolution approving his determination, and he had carried out that resolution. As to the views of Orangemen on the Education Bill, he reminded the Committee that the hon. Member for North Down had regularly voted against it. And yet the right hon. Gentleman thought to intimidate him by appealing to his Catholic constituents on the education question! He had acted openly and above board, and he would go through with it and take his chance at the general election, when some of the right hon. Gentleman's friends would have to take theirs. He believed the right hon. Gentleman had that night finally thrown away the scabbard, and had drawn the sword on the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of impossible theories. But 1102 Ulster was practically unanimous on this question of land purchase; and did the right hon. Gentleman think he was going to get rid of that force by calling the thing impossible? What did they care about his impossibles? Was it not a fact that these impossibles rung down the centuries—
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
asked if that was the right hon. Gentleman's only objection. They spent 200 millions upon the Ultlanders of South Africa. Could they not give a loan to the Irish tenant to end this long chapter of misery and woe, and to bring peace to this Parliament and to this country; or was this thing to go on for ever and a day? Ever since 1886, when he entered into active political life, he had felt keenly this Irish difficulty. He never had any objection to Home Rule in the abstract, and he had stated over and over again that his objection to Home Rule was the Home Rulers. That being so, what was his objection now? He thanked the Committee for the courtesy they had shown him. Why did he stand today isolated and alone in the Irish representation? He saw a chance in Ulster, and in other parts of Ireland, of bringing together the Irish people, of trying to create a homogeneous people for once, and of trying to get them to agree upon things on which they could agree, and to differ only where they must differ. A man in Irish polities who chose to stand out from his party and to forego nearly all the friends that he had—he did not speak of the pecuniary loss—with the object of trying to unite the Irish people, to teach them that they had a common country worth living for, and interests worth fighting for—the Chief Secretary was not entitled to hold up such a man as an apologist for disorder. Nothing entitled the right hon. Gentleman to speak in that way of him, and he would like him to know that his words would be remembered in Ulster for many along day to come. He had emptied his whole soul on this question, and he said emphatically that from the day that the Member for Thanet burlesqued in Dublin Castle as Chief 1103 Secretary, since the day that Lord Beaconsfield performed that melancholy joke on the Irish nation, there never had been a man inside the Castle more defiant of Irish opinion, more careless of official work, or who had messed and bungled things as the present Chief Secretary had done.
§ (10.15.), MR. CATHCART WASON (Orkney and Shetland)
said he would not speak on the important question before the Committee were it not that he himself had been a cultivator of the soil, and had an intimate knowledge of all that concerned land. Further, as it had fallen to his lot to represent a constituency the circumstances of which were similar to those on the De Freyne estate, he had thought it his duty to visit that estate, and to see the condition of affairs there for himself. An Eastern potentate the other day was credited with stating that- London was a very nice place, but that he would be glad to get back to civilisation again. Having visited the De Freyne estate, he appreciated the force of that remark. They had heard a good deal about Imperial unity, and how the British Empire was welded into one great harmonious whole. But the De Freyne estate was the black spot in the Empire, and the Empire should be measured by it. Everyone seemed to talk about the landlords and the tenants, but not a word was said about the State. There were, however, to be considered not only the interests of the landlords, and the interests of the tenant labourers, but also the interests of the State. On the De Freyne estate, it was not too much to say that the tenant labourer had done everything, and had created something out of absolutely nothing. He had reclaimed his patch of land, grown his few potatoes and his oats, and now he saw himself about to be despoiled, and that by the worst process of all—the law of the land. Many hon. Members, and certainly a number of people outside the House, when they thought of the tenant labourer in Ireland, compared him with that much more important personage, the English farmer, who drove to market in a smart equipage, and whose wife, and children lived in comfort, if not 1104 in luxury. The English farmer went into a farm where everything was built for him, and all he had to do was to devote himself to the cultivation of the soil. When he left, he had nothing to complain of, because he could take away his capital. Compare him with the poor tenant labourer on the De Freyne estate, and on many other estates in Ireland. He had to build his own cabin, reclaim his land, and he did that in the blackest and dreariest months of the year, because in summer he was away in England or Scotland, leaving his wife and children to struggle on as best they could at home. He inquired how these poor people managed to make any money at all; and they told him it was by selling a few eggs at 6d. a dozen, occasionally selling a chicken, fattening a pig, or rearing a calf at the cost of the children's health. He could not understand how it was that a calf was worth half as much again on that estate than it would be worth in Scotland; but it was explained to him that the very best milk was given to the calf, and that only skim milk was given to the children. At the present season of the year, there was scarcely a man left on the estate. They were away working in the fields in England and Scotland; and when they returned they would probably find themselves turned out into the world without a shilling. What wonder was it that the iron of despair had entered into their souls? That was the position of the poor chaps on the De Freyne estate. He had always discounted, to a very great extent, expressions of Irish disloyalty. He had seen too much of the loyal Irishmen abroad not to take those expressions for what they were worth, and as natural ebullitions of temper on the part of men representing these poor tenant labourers.
The question of compulsory purchase had been raised, he thought, in a very extravagant manner, by the hon. Member for South Tyrone, but in an absolutely ridiculous manner by the Chief Secretary. No one with his senses about him would ever propose for a moment that the whole interest of the landlords in Ireland should be turned over to the tenants, and that millions should be expended on that transformation in two or three years. But hon. Members were entitled 1105 to demand that a system of compulsory purchase should be established, and that the right hon. Gentleman should take power, through the Congested Districts Board, or through the County Councils, to acquire land whenever he thought it right to acquire it. That, and that alone, would solve the great question of the land. It was no new doctrine. Compulsory purchase was in active operation in New Zealand, and, he believed, in other parts of Australasia. There the Government said to the large landowners: "We do not want to confiscate your land; we will pay you the market value; but you must make way for others who want to cultivate the land." We were a nation of shopkeepers, and we would not be making a bad deal for ourselves if we succeeded in turning the poor peasants in Ireland into loyal British subjects. If we did that, it would be a greater conquest than that achieved by the war which had now happily terminated in South Africa. This was not a local question; it was not an English, or even an Irish, question; it was an Imperial question. Wherever one travelled abroad, from the Yukon River down to the plains of Australia, the same complaint was to be found as to treatment of the Irish tenants by the Irish landlords and the British Government. He had a small album of photographs taken on the De Freyne estate, and hon. Members would be surprised at many of the pictures. They would see the hon. Member for South Tipperary, for instance, followed by two policemen, one on each side. Why, his hon. friend, the Member for the Northern Burghs went to his constituents only a month or two ago, and directed the people to break the law and defy the Government.
§ MR. BIGNOLD (Wick Burghs)
said, as a personal explanation, he must not be taken as having done more than suggest that a test case should be made for the Woods and Forests Department.
§ MR. CATHCART WASON
said he would not pursue that point further. It 1106 was perfectly impossible for him to understand the policy of the Government with regard to land purchase. Where there were disorder and disaffection, they refused to purchase, but where there was no disorder they purchased. That was an incomprehensible attitude to him. But the worst charge was that legal costs had been piled up against the tenants on the De Freyne estate. If that were true, it was simply monstrous. In Scotland the Crofters Commission settled all questions arising between landlords and tenants, and why-should not a similar system be adopted on such estates as the De Freyne estate? It was perfectly true, as the hon. Member for South Tyrone said, that the Government themselves were very instrumental in bringing about the present state of affairs on the De Freyne estate by the purchase of the Dillon estate. He thought the Government did a noble work in purchasing the Dillon estate; and if any hon. Member could only see the difference between the people on these two adjoining estates, he would be surprised. The people on the Dillon estate saw a busy, bustling agent looking after them, not to see how much rent he could get out of them, but to see how he could possibly improve their position. Beautiful farm houses of stone were being built, while the De Freyne tenants had still to live in their damp thatched cabins; stables were being built on the Dillon estate, while the cows on the De Freyne estate were still being kept with the children. It was only human nature that the De Freyne tenants should want the same advantages. It was alleged that the United Irish League had other objects besides benefiting the tenants; and that its ultimate object was separation and a National Parliament in Ireland. If that were the ulterior object of the League, then the men who shut their eyes to the state of affairs which he had described, and who wilfully blinded themselves to the facts, were the best friends of the United Irish League.
§ (10.36.) MR. TOMKINSON (Cheshire, Crewe)
said that the question what was the Irish Question had been asked in this House, and out of it, for more than 100 years without ever receiving, he believed, agenerally accepted reply. Nearly sixty years 1107 ago, an hon. Member said he wanted someone to tell him what the Irish Question was. Some said it was a political question, others a religious question; and the hon. Member then went on to describe the state of Ireland as it then was, with the shadow of the great famine looming in the near future. He said that Ireland had a starving population, an alien Church, an absentee aristocracy, and the weakest executive in the world. He asked what was the remedy for such a state of things, and they would say that the remedy was revolution, but Ireland was prevented from attempting that by being tied to a stronger country. If, continued the hon. Member, revolution was the remedy, England was responsible, and the duty of English statesmen was to accomplish by constitutional means, what otherwise would be left to revolution. The hon. Member who uttered these sentiments was Mr. Disraeli. He was challenged years afterwards as to whether he adhered to that statement, and he replied that, although he spoke with a freedom from responsibility, yet, nevertheless, the sentiments he expressed were true. Since then the alien State Church had been disestablished, and. speaking generally, the population could not be said to be overcrowded, inasmuch as it had been reduced by the most awful devastation by one-half. There was, however, along the fringe of the Atlantic seaboard districts where the inhabitants maintained a precarious existence, eked out by money earned in the English harvest fields and by domestic service in New York. The richest of the landlords resided in another country; the best of the Irish produce was exported to pay rent; and the Irish executive was still the weakest in the world, because it proceeded from force and not from the good will of the people. What was the Irish Question? was still being asked; and it was being answered according to the experience, the prejudice, or the ignorance of the person making the reply. He recently met two authorities on the Irish Question. One, with that assurance of certainty which appeared to be the appanage of all Englishmen said, "If you knew Ireland as well as I do, you would know she would be perfectly content were it not for these confounded agitators." 1108 That included every Irish Member on that side of the House, and the hon. Member for South Tyrone on the other. The other authority, with equal certainty, said that the Irish did not care a jot for Home Rule or self-government. When he pointed out that five sixths of her representatives demanded that reform in the Constitution, he replied that that was due to priestly dictation; and when he was reminded that the leader of every great Irish movement, with a single exception of O'Connell, was a Protestant, he appeared to be struck, but was not altogether convinced of his error. He then proceeded to advance the astounding theory that Ireland was still overcrowded, and that her population should be still further reduced. If the average Englishman were asked today what was the Irish question he would reply something after this fashion: "The Irish are a discontented, turbulent people. It is impossible to govern them according to ordinary methods; they have to be governed by force; and I would put the leaders and the agitators under lock and key." That was a very easy and convenient method of solving an awkward problem, and shifting responsibility from the shoulders of the Government on to the shoulders of its victims. It was what John Stuart Mill called the "vulgar" method. No one had written more forcibly or more convincingly on that subject than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin. He would refer to only one other authority, who would commend himself very largely to hon. Gentlemen opposite. One of the most distinguished men who ever sat on the Conservative side of the House, in discussing the Irish Question forty years ago, asked why it was that a country with such a fertile soil, so favourable a climate, and other advantages, lagged so much behind England in the race for wealth. It could not be attributed to Celtic blood; the experience of certain parts of France proved that. It was not because of the peculiarity of the Catholic religion; because in Belgium there was a people singularly industrious and prosperous, who yet were distinguished for their adherence to the Catholic faith. It could not be because the Irish people listened to agitators; because in America the same thing happened, but it could not be said 1109 that the American people were unsuccessful. There was only one thing, said this authority, peculiar to Ireland, and that was the Government of England. That authority was Lord Robert Cecil, now Marquess of Salisbury, four times Prime Minister of England. The Chief Secretary had every quality of eloquence, genius, and sympathy; it was only because the situation was an impossible one that he failed in bringing it to a successful issue. The present was not the time to discuss the question of Homo Rule, but it was a most extraordinary thing that the one policy which had never failed to allay discontent, avert separation, and elicit loyalty and goodwill, was the one and only policy that we persistently refused to apply to Ireland. One of the great difficulties had been the Land question, but he was convinced that we had now gone so far along the one road that there was no possible halting-place, and that there must be an entire transfer from the landowners to occupying owners; but whenever that transfer took place there ought to be the fullest and most generous measure of justice dealt out to the Irish landlords. All would agree that the debate had been a most painful one. It was terrible to think that such a state of things as that disclosed by the Sheridan case could possibly exist. It would be unjust to bring an indictment against the police on that one case, but it was impossible to believe that that could be the only case, and that there might not have been others which, although less in degree, were nevertheless of a serious nature.
§ (10.50.) COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said the saying that times changed and we changed with them might apply to other countries, but it certainly was not true of Ireland. This debate was repeated year after year, and a useful debate it was, as it gave to Irishmen on both sides of the House the opportunity annually of attacking the policy of the Government. The object of hon. Members opposite in such a debate ought, he maintained, to be to show that the government of Ireland in the past had been unsuccessful. In his opinion it would have been better for the Nationalist Members, from their point of view, to have concentrated the attention of the House and the country 1110 upon the misery and poverty and the want of progress in Ireland which they alleged. But, instead of that, they had fixed the gaze of the country upon a man named Sheridan. Sheridan unquestionably was a scoundrel, who deserved to be hanged, and he was only sorry he had not been; but the fact that Sheridan existed was not a sufficient ground for impugning the government of Ireland by England. No attempt had been made to show that the condition of Ireland was a proof of want of success on the part of the House in governing that country. Instead of taking the whole of Ireland, one particular part—tho De Freyne estate—had been taken, and it bad been urged that the condition of the tenants on that estate was intolerable. The hon. Member for South Tyrone had suddenly fallen in love with the Members for Cork and Mayo. That, of course, was a matter of taste. But he was surprised to read a speech of the hon. Member in which he declared that the opinion he had formerly entertained of the Nationalist Members was entirely wrong, and that the years he had spent in attacking them would have been better employed in slanging the landlords. So sudden and grave a change of view rather shook his faith in the solidity of the political opinions of the hon. Member for South Tyrone. Hon. Members had sought to fasten the eyes of the Committee and the country upon the De Freyne estate. The question which the Committee had to ask itself was whether the present condition of that estate would have existed if the tenants had been left alone. It was hard for English, Scottish, or Welsh Members to realise the condition of affairs on that estate. From some observations which had been made, it might be imagined that tenants were ground down, tyrannised over, and robbed by their landlords. But no Irish landlord, however drastic or avaricious, had the power of raising rent 1s. a year; the rent was fixed by a tribunal appointed by the State. The original rents all over the country had been reduced by that tribunal to the extent probably of 35 per cent., so that it was absurd to call it the "landlords' friend." The tenants on the De Freyne estate might be very poor, but their condition was probably a more desirable one than that of the inhabitants of crowded lodgings in the East-end of 1111 London. There was clear proof that the De Freyne tenants had been chosen by a political party for political purposes. In order to carry out their objects this party were obliged to enlist the sympathy of the British people. In order to enlist the, sympathy of the British people there must be martyrs — someone suffering for the cause of Ireland's freedom and prosperity. In former times the Nationalist Members supplied the martyrs, and at one time they were nearly all in gaol. But since then they had apparently become tired of making martyrs of themselves, and so martyrs were made by choosing an estate whose landlord was too weak and impecunious to fight his battle with success, and the tenants were induced by the leaders of the Nationalist party to relinquish their farms, to go on the roadside, and become evicted tenants. That this was a spontaneous action on the part of the De Freyne tenants he absolutely denied. He quoted the instance of a tenant, who was the rural postmaster, asking a conference to allow him to pay his rent, because, if evicted, he would lose £1,500. This conference was presided over by the Vice-Chairman of the Roscommon County Council, and it decided that this tenant's case was common with the others, and that he should accept the consequences of paying rent. Everyone knew what that meant, for there was no crime at all comparable in Ireland to that of paying rent. The consequences would have been that this man would be boycotted and probably ruined. Of course this unfortunate man gave in. Then there was the case of a Dr. M'Dermott, who paid his rent, the conference being asked to declare that his dispensary appointments were vacant.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said he did not know that that was the case, but at any rate he thought it was as true as any contradiction which the hon. Member might offer. At any rate he gave the extract from the newspaper, where it was stated that advertisements would be 1112 issued for another medical officer in Dr. M'Dermott's place. Therefore the United Irish League claimed the right to discharge and appoint officers under the County Council on political grounds. There were many other cases of a similar kind, where the United Irish League not only claimed the right to decide payment of rent, but also the appointment of men to various offices under the County Council. Take the case of this man he had mentioned, who was practically fined £1,500. What would happen to him? He would probably drift down in the social scale, and at last he might find refuse in this House as a Member of Parliament. He should like to hear from English and Scottish Members who ran over on tour to Ireland some definite statement on the question, whether Ireland, as a whole, was progressing, standing still, or going back. Taking the test of the deposits in the joint-stock banks, he found that in 1881 the deposits amounted to £31,161,000, and in 1901 to £41,568,000, while the deposits in the savings banks had increased during the the same period from £3,765,000 to £10,500,000.
The position of the Irish tenantry was unquestionably far in advance of what it ever was in former times. What was the opinion of this agitation on the De Freyne estate held by one of the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church? The Bishop of Elphin, in a published letter, lamented that "strangers and paid organisers should be sent into that district, involving the unfortunate tenant farmers in so much difficulty and costs," and "protested against those strolling organisers who were only thinking of the salaries they could extract from their dupes, and not in the interests of the people." The Bishop added that he had learned from one of his priests, who had seen the hotel bill of one of these paid organisers for a month, and it amounted to £50. That was the calm deliberate opinion of a Roman Catholic Bishop in Ireland as to this agitation. Not only had an attack been made upon the Government during this debate, but strong expressions had been used with regard to religious differences which existed in Ireland, and which it was alleged made the government of that country so 1113 difficult. Naturally the Orange organisation felt itself very hardly used by the Chief Secretary for Ireland when such a meeting as that which it was proposed to hold at Rostrevor was prohibited. It was impossible to ignore in these matters the condition of public opinion in Ireland, which was not divided by political lines of demarcation, because the lines which divided the Irish people was something far wider and deeper than any of those political liberties which existed in this country. On the one hand, they had a minority in Ireland and it was represented practically by the great Orange organisation. This was not understood on this side of the water, and here people asked what was the use of having an Orange organisation simply to perpetuate the memory of things which occurred 250 years ago. That was not the object of this organisation. He had been an Orangeman for many years and had attended many meetings, but he had never heard on Orange platforms anything said of an insulting character to a religion of their opponents. The great majority of Orangemen were well disposed towards their fellow countrymen, and they had no desire to insult their religion.
The Orange organisation had two objects. He wished to state first of all that it was not a secret society. One of its objects was to uphold the Protestant faith, and the other to maintain the supremacy of the British Crown. In Ireland they never heard the word "Imperial" mentioned and did not know what it meant until an attempt was made to break the bonds which connected Ireland with this country. Then they realised that the word meant something for Orangemen who had one great object in view, and it was not simply a selfish object for they had a far higher aim, namely to maintain the unity of the British Empire. Therefore when the Government prohibited a meeting such as that which was proposed to be held at Rostrevor, Orangemen looked upon it as very harsh treatment. Meetings were held in all parts of Ireland by hon. Gentlemen opposite at which sentiments were uttered which, he believed, were hateful to the great majority 1114 of the British people. The hon. Gentlemen opposite professed openly to be not the political opponents of the Government but the undying enemies of the British Empire. If the Nationalist Party had consulted him as to the line of policy which would be ruinous to their cause, he could not have advised them to follow a better course for that purpose than that which they had pursued themselves. Let them think what a strain they must have put on the political digestion and conscience of their Radical friends above the gangway. They had had two opportunities. When the Local Government Act was passed they had an opportunity of showing that they meant what they said when they promised, on the introduction of Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill, that they would treat the minority with justice and fairness. But instead of that they turned out and refused to elect a single Unionist in all Ireland where they could prevent it. That was the sort of treatment the opponents of these gentlemen would receive in a Home Rule Parliament. They had another opportunity in the war. From the moment war was declared, they took the side of our opponents, rejoiced in their victories, gloried in their triumphs, and their branches in Ireland used all their influence to prevent a single Irishman enlisting in the British Army. One thing they could not do; they could not prevent Irish soldiers in South Africa writing on the roll of fame a name which would never be forgotten. In dealing with the Orangemen the Government should remember these two qualities. They were loyal to the Crown. They desired to preserve the Union with Great Britain and at their meetings no disloyal sentiment was ever uttered; and when a 1115 meeting was proposed in the great county of Down, a loyal organisation had a right, as any one in this country would have the right, to go to any seaside place, to go to Rostrevor and proclaim even in the ears of a National majority, loyalty to the Crown and to the laws on which the prosperity of Ireland depended. He deeply regretted that his right hon. friend had felt it necessary to proclaim that meeting; and he thought the result of the debate would be that the House, in dispassionately considering, and the country in considering the case made against the Government, and by which hon. Members opposite hoped to prove the incapacity of Parliament to bring about the peace and prosperity of Ireland, would feel that that case had fallen to the ground. The verdict of the House and the country would be that under the authority and power of the British Parliament the prosperity of Ireland would be finally assured.
§ (11.35.) MR. HAVILAND-BURKE (King's County, Tullamore)
said the speech the Committee had just heard contained painful reminders of the tone and temper of the speeches of fifty years ago. The right hon. and gallant Member had raised an Orange wail as to the suppression of an Orange meeting, but had no regard for the suppression of National meetings all over Ireland. The right hon. and gallant Member had appeared as a great devotee of a distinguished Catholic Bishop in Ireland at one end of his argument, and at the other end he seemed to regard the Catholic clergy of Ireland as being turbulent and disloyal to the core. He did not think that was a consistent position for an honest Orangeman to take up in 1116 this House or outside. The right hon. and gallant Member ought to take his stand one way or the other. With regard to the right hon. and gallant Member's complaint in regard to the manner in which County Council elections were conducted in Ireland by the Nationalists, it was ghastly hypocrisy for anybody on the Conservative Benches to make a point against Nationalists on that ground, when it was remembered that in nine cases out of ten in England, County Council and municipal elections were fought on the strictest party lines. They did not want to be preached to on the subject of tolerance by Unionist gentlemen who in this country made the local elections a matter of political test, or by Orangemen like the hon. and gallant Gentlemen who, in their own districts, where they were supreme, would not give so much as the post of scavenger to any Catholic or Nationalist if they could possibly avoid it. He must say that he approached a debate of this kind with something like a feeling of sheer hopelessness: If anybody were to tell him of a Home Secretary condoning and compounding a felony and assisting to escape from this country a police sergeant of Glasgow, London, or Cardiff, who had provoked outrage and committed crime, he would say that the thing was impossible. An English Home Secretary who attempted any double dealing and paltering with the law in that way would not be able to hold his office for a month. But the moment they came to deal with an Irish grievance a sort of moral colour blindness seemed to descend on the great majority of Members of this House. What was wrong in England was right in Ireland. What was black in England was white in Ireland. When the Irish Members raised the question there was a 1117 most ostentatious demonstration of indifference on the opposite side of the House. The Chief Secretary was supposed to stand for law and order in Ireland. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman what was the favourite pretence—he maintained a false pretence—for enforcing the Coercion Acts and abolishing trial by jury? It was that there was difficulty in getting the people of the countryside to supply the necessary evidence and to tell the truth. The Chief Secretary's main line in his defence was that the police force in this particular instance was so demoralised that his only chance of getting honest evidence from policemen was to give an indemnity, and to let the chief criminal go scot free. He maintained that if such a state of affairs existed in the Irish police force it should have been the duty of the right hon. Gentleman, on his honour and responsibility, to break it down, and on no account whatever to offer the stimulus of an indemnity or the stimulus of immunity to any policeman, as the price of that policeman telling the truth to his superiors. He (Mr. Haviland - Burke) was one of the defendants in the De Freyne case, and he would not go into the agrarian question which had been raised tonight. He was one of the wicked agitators of whom they had heard so much in the course of this debate. The right hon. Member for South Antrim gave away Lord de Freyne very conspicuously when he said that the people on the estate were well off. In an interview with a representative of the Morning Leader Lord de Freyne said—It was a mistake to call them Irish peasants. They are only English labourers living in Ireland because it is cheap.That was Lord de Freyne's definition of his tenantry, given to the representative of an English paper. He 1118 did not condescend to recognise them as Irish people at all. They were poor beggars of English labourers coming over to England to earn the rent which they could not make for themselves at home. What could be more absurd in the face of a statement of that kind than the contention of the right hon. Member for South Antrim as to the economic conditions on the Do Freyne state? He respectfully warned the right hon. Gentleman of the gravity of the task which he had taken up. In Ireland, as in any other place in the world, punishment lost all its sting if it brought no disgrace with it. In Ireland, to be sent to jail for addressing a meeting meant absolutely no disgrace whatever. If at the conclusion of the session he received marching orders to go and address a proclaimed meeting he would go to that meeting, and if necessary he would do his three or six months if the right hon. Gentleman liked, and he would come out feeling that he was as good a man as any hon. Member opposite, and better, he might say, than some of them. He warned the Chief Secretary that no punishment would deter him or his friends from doing their duty.
§ (11.50.) MR. LONSDALE (Armagh, Mid.)
said he desired to associate himself entirely with the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Armagh and his right hon. friend the Member for South Antrim in regard to the policy pursued by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary in proclaiming the meeting of Orangemen at Rostrevor. He did not wonder at the storm of indignation which had been aroused by this action throughout the whole of the province of Ulster. What the people wanted to know was why was that meeting 1119 at Rostrevor proclaimed whilst only a few weeks ago the Government permitted, without interference of any kind, a mass meeting of Nationalists and members of the United Irish League, held in the city of Armagh for the purpose of unveiling a memorial to a man who died fighting for the Boers. Mr. Davitt and other well-known agitators attended that meeting, and delivered inflammatory speeches brimming over with disloyalty. The whole place was turned into a pandemonium, and the police made no attempt to interfere with the meeting. Was it any wonder that the loyal men of the North were indignant at this inequality of treatment? The Chief Secretary had stated that he could not, in the face of the opposition which was threatened by the Nationalist Party, proceed with the Land Bill which was introduced early in the session. He would respectfully point out that there were other Members from Ireland besides the Nationalist Party. He would like to inform the right hon. Gentleman that there were twenty Unionist Members from Ireland who were not sent here to waste the time of Parliament pressing for legislation of an impracticable or impossible character, but to support common-sense measures that would be of genuine and practical benefit to the country Seeing that the right hon. Gentleman had practically consented to drop the controversial Clause 36, he was convinced every one of the Unionist Members was ready to give the Bill hearty support. He was unable to understand the Chief Secretary being deterred from proceeding with a bill which would do so much to facilitate occupying ownership of land simply because the Nationalist Party was opposed to it. That Party opposed legislation of every kind that did not issue 1120 from its own ranks. It was time the Unionists of Ireland, who were loyal to the Throne and the Constitution received some consideration at the hands of the Government. Speaking for the farmers of his constituency, he would say that now the Government had dropped Clause 36 they would welcome the Bill as an evidence of the intention of the Government to make some effort to settle this interminable Irish Land Question. While too much could not be expected at a time when the financial resources of the country were so severely strained, he believed that the more voluntary sale was assisted by a measure such as the Bill recently introduced, the nearer at hand would be the time when the happy despatch would be given to dual ownership by the passing of a compulsory enactment. He trusted therefore that the Chief Secretary would proceed with the Bill despite every opposition. If the Government, with its large majority, permitted all legislation to depend upon the will of the hon. Member for Waterford and his followers and refrained from pressing this measure which was just as important to Ireland as the Education Bill was to England, because it was opposed by the Nationalists, they could not expect to receive from the Unionists of Ireland that amount of support which they had consistently rendered in the past.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress; and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Dillon)— put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported to-morrow, Committee also report Progress; to sit again tomorrow.
§ Adjourned at five minutes after Twelve o'clock.