§ THE MARQUESS OF WESTMINSTER
My Lords, I have the honour to move an Address in reply to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech which has just been read from the Throne:—and as I have not been long a Member of your Lordships' House, and have not hitherto ventured to take part in its debates, I crave that indulgence which your Lordships never refuse to any under similar circumstances. I have been sent to the front as a skirmisher by the noble Earl (Earl Granville), who commands the forces on this side the House—I presume to feel for an enemy—and as the countenance of my noble Friend the Leader of the Opposition (the Duke of Richmond) does not denote hostility to anything or anybody, I may perhaps be bold enough to count, if not upon his concurrence in all that I have to move, at all events upon his "benevolent neutrality." It is a matter of the highest gratification to your Lordships that Her Majesty should have come down to the House of Lords and have opened in Person a Session which promises to be at any rate not less eventful than those which have preceded it. The political atmosphere as well as the natural atmosphere has been, and is, very overcast and lowering. Light is as necessary to the political world as to the physical, and we are therefore glad to have been enlivened by Her Majesty's presence here to-day, hoping for a repetition of it on many future occasions. Her Majesty has announced to you — as you were before aware—that She has given Her consent to the marriage of Her illustrious daughter the Princess Louise with the Marquess of Lorne, and I am quite sure that your Lordships will heartily join your congratulations to those of the nation on this very auspicious event. Her Majesty has already given three 11 daughters to Germany; but, although it cannot be doubted that after their experience of those fair daughters of England who have become members by marriage of their most illustrious Houses, the Germans would have readily welcomed a fourth, that fourth daughter is destined for Scotland. Your Lordships, I am sure, will join with me in expressing a hope that the union of so much sterling worth and such rare accomplishments may be attended with every possible happiness—that it may be the commencement of a long career of no common usefulness, and which shall for many years be a subject of pride and affection on the part of the country.
My Lords, it must be matter for deep regret that—differing from any Speeches from the Throne which we have heard of late years—there should be in this Speech so many topics of absorbing and painful interest to occupy your attention; but before I advert to these, if you will allow me, I will touch upon a few matters which, if not so exciting as those connected with foreign affairs, are nevertheless of the highest importance to the people of this country. I may advert for a moment to a very important measure, passed last Session, of which your Lordships have had considerable experience during the Recess—I mean the Education Act. Your Lordships are already able in some degree to judge of its operations by having witnessed the great efforts that have already been made for its organization and for the building of schools. I only hope that the advocates of secular education and compulsory attendance will allow a fair period for testing the efficacy of the voluntary efforts which are now being put forth, and that they will wait until it is proved that those efforts are inadequate to meet the emergency before they press their own stronger measures. This brings me to a subject which I am happy to see has obtained a place in the Royal Speech, and which is of the utmost importance in every consideration of the well-being of the country. I allude to the sale of intoxicating liquors. It is often said—"You cannot make men sober by Act of Parliament;" but I believe that the opposite system—or what may be called free trade in drink—such as was tried in Liverpool for five years—would have the most disastrous effect, and that experience has shown that a 12 restrictive system has been productive of more or less good. I will not trouble your Lordships with elaborate statistics; but I may state that the number of persons arrested annually as drunk and disorderly amounts, it has been stated, to 1 in every 180 of the population—that the annual value of the alcoholic liquors consumed in the United Kingdom amounts to the enormous sum of £88,000,000, and that there is a house licensed for the sale of beer or spirits for every 45 males in the United Kingdom. These facts and figures are deserving of consideration, and no part of the Speech from the Throne has given me greater satisfaction than that which holds out a prospect of checking the great evil of intemperance. Your Lordships are not supposed to know anything of elections — and, perhaps, you do not—but some of you have pleasant or unpleasant reminiscences of elections in a previous state of existence. Election experiences are not usually regarded as passages in one's life to which it is very agreeable to look back, and your Lordships will certainly agree with me in thinking that elections may be made purer, cheaper, and certainly quieter. A Committee appointed in "another place" has gone fully into the subject, and has recommended certain measures as remedies for the evils complained of. Amongst these remedies is the Ballot, which at one time was one of "the Five Points of the Charter," and excited considerable agitation. It has been brought forward year after year in the House of Commons, and has been frequently defeated and sometimes successful. Public opinion, however, is now strong in its favour, and the experience of its operation in our Australian Colonies, in Italy, and in America has abundantly proved, in the opinion of the Committee, that while some objections to the system undoubtedly exist, they are more than counterbalanced by its advantages; and I hope, therefore, your Lordships may be induced to adopt it. The old objections commonly urged by Lord Palmerston and others that the suffrage was a public trust, and that those who had no vote were, therefore, entitled to know how the electors discharged that trust, has lost much of its force since the passing of the last Reform Act, by which the franchise was so much extended that the number of those excluded was im- 13 mensely reduced; while the number of those admitted to the franchise, who by reason of their poverty were open to temptation by bribes, was very greatly extended. I think that no measure introduced on this subject will be complete without provision for the closing of public-houses during the critical time of elections, for the prohibition, as I hope, of canvassing, and for the abolition of public nominations. With regard to another Bill mentioned in the Speech relating to University Tests, the object of which is to enable persons not belonging to the Church of England to become Fellows of Colleges and members of the Governing Body, public opinion has expressed itself strongly in favour of the repeal of these tests; and although the divisions in the other House during the last Session were three to one in favour of the measure proposing such repeal, that Bill was virtually defeated in this House at the instance and by the action of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury), the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, on the plea that the safeguards provided by the Bill for insuring the religious character of the Universities were inadequate. I am not aware what action was taken by the Select Committee to which the Bill was consequently referred; but the measure was practically shelved for the Session. Its re-introduction is now announced, and as the crowning point of the legislation on the question, which has already been approved by your Lordships, I trust you will adopt it as a logical sequence. In any case, I hope that the noble Marquess will endeavour to take any action in the matter he may propose at an earlier period than at the end of the Session, when there is no time for a Committee to carry out an inquiry.
My Lords, there is another point connected with our home affairs, mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, on which I desire to remark—the organization of our Army—a matter in which, as many believe, the very existence of the nation is involved. There seem to be many reasons in favour of a full consideration of the subject at the present time. The two great measures relating to Ireland and the Education Bill having been disposed of, time and opportunity happily enable us to consider this question. There is a conviction in the minds of men of all parties that our organization 14 is defective and our armaments weak as regard reserves, supply, artillery, and arsenals. The spirit of the people is all that could be desired; it is admitted that we have the best artillery in the world—that in power of production we are unrivalled—and, added, to these favourable circumstances is the fact that we have a strong Government which—I say it with all deference to the opinion of noble Lords opposite—commands such a majority both in the other House and in the country, as to be able, as I am sure they are willing, to carry any measures which would be satisfactory to the country. It is true that against these advantages are to be set the Parliamentary difficulties and jealousies which always beset the question of Army reform—that there are some hon. Members who are pledged to cut down the Estimates at whatever cost; and that there are too frequent changes in the heads of the War Office—one of the most important points. In a clever article in Macmillan for October the qualifications for a War Minister were stated to be these—that he must be a statesman, yet a soldier; an able speaker, yet intimately acquainted with the details of the Army and its requirements; that he must be firm, yet conciliatory; and, above all, that he must remain a sufficiently long time in Office to be able to carry out his plans. The article went on to speak of the difficulty of finding such a man. I believe, however, that Her Majesty's Government are strong enough to surmount all these difficulties. There seems to be a concurrence of opinion—but in saying this I wish to guard myself against being supposed to know anything of the details of the measure about to be proposed—but there seems to be a strong feeling in favour of making a real reserve of the Militia. The problem to be solved appears to be the training in time of peace of a large body of men in such a manner that, in the event of war, they would be available to fill up the ranks of the regular Army. Opinion appears likewise to be in favour of increasing our artillery and completing and properly arming our forts and arsenals. The question, in fact, is not so much a question of increased numbers as of the superior organization and efficiency of the force we already possess. In carrying out measures of this kind, some increase of expenditure will, of course, be necessary; but this the country 15 will accept with the view of averting far heavier sacrifices. It is not for me to give an opinion on compulsory service, which, however, is advocated by men of the greatest eminence in the profession; nor will I touch upon the commissariat, the equipment of the Army, the purchase system, and other matters all deserving of attention. Being, like many of your Lordships, a sort of half soldier, I am perhaps ipso facto disentitled to give any opinion on military matters; but I may be permitted, with propriety, to remark that in the Volunteers we have excellent material and a very loyal and patriotic force, armed with excellent weapons. Engaged as the greater number of our Volunteers are in business, it is unreasonable to expect any large amount of drill from them; but still I believe you might get a larger amount of drill from them than you now do; and if you do that, and give them officers who have learnt their duty by actual practice in the field, the Volunteers may be made a valuable line of defence within the country, while I am sure that their patriotism and loyalty will be equal to any call made upon them. I remember a distinguished officer telling them in Hyde Park that with only a fortnight's continuous drill he could do anything with them. I trust that on this question all party recrimination will be avoided, for it is one on which assistance, not criticism, is required.
My Lords, I will now advert for a short time to Foreign Affairs. This part of the Speech from the Throne offers a painful contrast to that of last Session, the opening paragraph of which was in these terms—The growing disposition to resort to the good offices of allies in cases of international difference, and the conciliatory spirit in which several such cases have been recently treated and determined, encourage Her Majesty's confidence in the continued maintenance of the general tranquillity.On this passage some remarks were made by the Seconder of the Address in "another plaee"—Sir Charles Dilke—which also contrast painfully with the circumstances of the present time. After referring to the instances in which tranquillity had been preserved, mainly through our own mediation, he referred to the happily increased chances of the maintenance of peace by the triumph of the principle of popular Sovereignty in France and Spain, and by the subsidence 16 of the angry feeling lately existing among the people of the United States towards this country. With many of those remarks I cordially agree; but it must be admitted that the Americans are a peculiar people, and that the recent conduct of the House of Representatives has been, to say the least, extravagant: and it must be matter of regret that so many of the best men of the United States keep aloof altogether from politics. There can, however, be no doubt that both nations desire peace and a speedy settlement of the differences which, unhappily, exist, and I hope that the disputes which have recently arisen as to the fisheries will be soon adjusted.
My Lords, as the homely proverb says, "It never rains but it pours," and your Lordships will agree with me that the position of the noble Earl below me (Earl Granville) is not a very enviable one. In the middle of all his troubles, which must have tried even his temper, Prince Gortchakoff's announcement, that the Emperor of Russia deemed himself no longer bound by the Treaty of 1856, came like a thunderclap on England and on the Foreign Office. One of the conditions of that Treaty limits the naval power of Russia in the Black Sea, both as regards vessels and arsenals on the coast. Certainly if ever a Monarch was under obligations which should be observed, this is a case in point. The spirited protest of the noble Earl will be in your Lordships' recollection. It must be remembered that at the time when the Emperor of Russia entered upon the Treaty in question, it was at the end of the war; when England and her allies were in possession of the Crimea and of the Black Sea; when Russia was exhausted; while England was able and ready to continue the war, if necessary, alone. Peace was made, moreover, without any concession of territory, and without the claim of a pecuniary indemnity. The question now raised has, at the suggestion of Count Bismarck, been referred to a Conference, and I hope to hear in good time from the noble Earl that there is still left a sense of honour, justice, and good faith on the part of those who have bound themselves by treaties. Whatever course other nations may take, I hope we shall never see the time when England is indifferent to the obligations she has undertaken. It is not possible—living, as we do, so near 17 the Continent—that we shall ever be able to carry out in its integrity a policy of non-intervention; but it is clear it behoves us to be extremely cautious as to what treaties we enter into for the future.
My Lords, I will say but few words with regard to the war and its effect upon this country. At the commencement of the noble Earl's career in the Foreign Office he had to deal with the candidature of Prince Hohenzollern for the Spanish Throne; and in this matter his efforts were crowned with success. But after the withdrawal of that candidature, the next step was the declaration of the war by France. The efforts of the noble Earl were then directed to persuade France to submit her grievances and demands to the arbitration of friendly Powers, in accordance with a principle to which France was an assenting party:—but this was refused. These efforts failing, the noble Earl endeavoured to maintain a strict neutrality, and his success in doing so has been in a great measure shown by the complaints preferred against us by both belligerents—complaints that are fully rebutted by the analogous conduct of those very Powers at times when we were engaged in war, and by international usages. If we supplied munition of war to France, we were also ready to furnish Germany with whatever she required; and the sympathy of English people for the victims of the war had been manifested by the enormous sums subscribed for the sick and wounded—the whole wealth of England has been laid under contribution for their relief—and at this very moment an almost incredible quantity of provisions are on their way to prevent the people of Paris from starving. It is a great matter of satisfaction that the independence of Belgium has been secured—that within hearing of the guns of Metz her neutrality was preserved unimpaired; and all classes of her people have expressed their gratitude in the warmest possible terms for the protection afforded her by England. The noble Earl has, moreover, been in constant communication with the other neutral Powers, with the view of localizing the war. As to mediation, it was refused first by France, and after Sedan the new Government made the famous and unfortunate declaration—"We will not give up an inch of our 18 soil or a stone of our fortresses"—a declaration which threw great obstacles in the way of mediation. M. Jules Favre had constantly pressed the noble Earl to mediate; but the latter found it impossible to do so, as Germany insisted on a cession of territory, while France would only concede a pecuniary indemnity. Failing mediation, the French Executive declared war à outrance—with what result we all know. There is now, happily, a prospect of peace; from our point of view the interests of future tranquillity will certainly not be furthered by the annexation to Germany of Alsace and Lorraine or Metz. From no point of view, indeed, is it reasonable to expect that the interests of peace can be furthered by crushing a beaten and prostrate foe, or by the annexation of provinces whose people do not and are not likely to possess any sympathies with Germany; and though we may all think that France has received a condign and not undeserved punishment, it is to be hoped that so great a conqueror as the German Emperor will show some generosity to a fallen rival. It is not for me to express any opinions on such matters; but with all these horrors so near us, it is a subject for heartfelt thanks that we have been spared the unspeakable miseries of war. We must, under God, depend on ourselves, if not for peace under all circumstances, yet to make our country perfectly safe from invasion. The noble Marquess concluded by moving the following humble Address to Her Majesty, thanking Her Majesty for Her Most Gracious Speech from the Throne:—MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,WE, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for Your Majesty's gracious Speech addressed to both Houses of Parliament.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us, that, in accordance with Your gracious promise to pay constant attention to the subject of neutral obligations, Your Majesty has maintained the rights and strictly discharged the duties of neutrality during the war unhappily prevailing between France and Germany, and which we humbly trust with Your Majesty may, under the influence of moderation and forethought in the Councils of both sides, shortly be terminated.19We rejoice to learn that the sphere of the war has not been extended beyond the two countries originally engaged.We humbly thank Tour Majesty for informing us that cherishing with care the cordiality of Your Majesty's relations with both belligerents, Tour Majesty has forborne from whatever might be construed as gratuitous or unwarranted interference between Parties, neither of whom had shown a readiness to propose terms of accommodation, such as to bear promise of acceptance by the other; and for informing us that Hour Majesty has been enabled, on more than one occasion, to contribute towards placing the Representatives of the two contending countries in confidential communication, though unfortunately until famine compelled the surrender of Paris no further result had been obtained.We humbly unite with Your Majesty in praying that the suspension in the constant accumulation, on both sides, of human suffering which has been brought about by the Armistice, now employed for the convocation of an Assembly in France, may result in a Peace, compatible, for the two great and brave nations involved, with security and honour, and likely therefore to command the approval of Europe, and to give reasonable hopes of a long duration.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that, though unable to accredit Your Majesty's Ambassador in a formal manner to the Government of Defence which had subsisted in France since the revolution of September, neither the harmony nor the efficiency of the correspondence of the two states has been at all impaired.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty's congratulations have been offered to the King of Prussia on the assumption by His Majesty of the title of Emperor of Germany, which we trust, while bearing testimony to the solidity and independence of Germany, may be found conducive to the stability of the European system.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty has endeavoured, in correspondence with other Powers of Europe, to uphold the sanctity of Treaties, and to remove any misapprehension as to the binding character of their obligations.We humbly join with Your Majesty in confidently trusting that the result of the deliberations of the Conference which it was agreed by the Powers, who had been parties to the Treaty of 1856, should meet in London, may result in upholding both the principles of public right and the general policy of the Treaty, and at the same time, by the revision of some of its conditions in 20 a fair and conciliatory spirit, exhibit a cordial co-operation among the Powers with regard to the Levant.We regret to learn that Your Majesty's earnest efforts have failed to procure the presence at the Conference of any Representative of France, which was one of the chief parties to the Treaty of 1856, and which must ever be regarded as a principal and indispensable member of the great Commonwealth of Europe.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty has entered into amicable communication with the President of the United States for the settlement of the several questions of importance which are not yet adjusted, and which materially affect the relations between the United States and the territories and people of British North America; and that in order to determine the most convenient mode of treatment for these matters, Your Majesty has suggested the appointment of a joint Commission, which, at the proposal of the President, will be authorized at the same time, and in the same manner, to resume the consideration of the American claims growing out of the circumstances of the late war, and that this arrangement will, by common consent, include all claims for compensation which have been or may be made by each Government, or by its citizens, on the other.We humbly join with Your Majesty in deploring that the inquiry which was instituted by the Government of Greece into the history of the shocking murders perpetrated during the last spring at Dilessi has not reached a termination answerable in all respects to Your Majesty's just expectations, and we humbly thank Your Majesty for assuring us, that you will not desist from Your Majesty's endeavours to secure the complete objects of the inquiry.We humbly assure Your Majesty that we learn with pleasure that the anxiety called forth by the massacre at Tien-tsin on the 21st of June last has happily been dispelled; and that it has been Your Majesty's earnest endeavour to provide for the security of Your Majesty's subjects and their trade in those remote quarters, while recognizing the Chinese Government as entitled to be dealt with, in its relations with this country, in a conciliatory and forbearing spirit.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us, that during these critical times Your Majesty's relations are, as heretofore, those of friendship and good understanding with the Sovereigns and States of the civilized world.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us, that Your Majesty has given directions for papers illustrative of the conduct of Your 21 Majesty's Government in relation to these general matters to be duly laid before us.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty has been pleased to approve of a marriage between Your Majesty's daughter Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne, and we humbly assure Your Majesty that we trust that this union may be prosperous and happy.We humbly assure Your Majesty that in considering the important lessons afforded by the present war, we shall not fail to bear in mind the special features in the position of this country, so favourable to the freedom and security of the people, and if the changes from a less to a more effective and elastic system of defensive military preparation shall be found to involve, at least for a time, an increase of various charges, we shall not grudge the cost, so long as we are satisfied that the end is important and the means judicious; and we humbly assure Your Majesty that we shall give our anxious and impartial consideration to the Bill which Your Majesty informs us will shortly be laid before us.We humbly assure Your Majesty that our best attention will be given to the general work of our domestic legislation, including the several measures which were brought before us during the last Session of Parliament, but which the time remaining at our disposal was not found sufficient to carry to a final issue.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that the inquiry made by a Committee of the Commons House respecting Secret Voting is now complete, and that a Bill will be laid before us on that subject.We humbly join with Your Majesty in trusting that the question of primary education in Scotland may this year be adjusted by the enactment of a just and effective law.We humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that the condition of Ireland with reference to agrarian crime has, in general, afforded a gratifying contrast with the state of that island in the preceding winter, although there have been painful but very partial exceptions; and we humbly concur with Your Majesty in considering that after the great measures of the two last Sessions which have so recently passed into operation, and which involve such direct and pressing claims upon the attention of all classes of the community, a period of calm is to be desired; and we humbly join with Your Majesty in thinking it wise to refrain from suggesting, at the present juncture, the discussion of any political questions likely to become the subject of new and serious controversy in that country.22We humbly assure Your Majesty that we fervently join with Your Majesty's prayers that all our designs may receive the favour and aid of the Most High.
THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I rise to second the Address moved by the noble Marquess. And in doing so I would plead that that favour and indulgence which your Lordships are accustomed to show to all who for the first time address this House, may be extended to me in even a larger measure on account of my extreme youth and inexperience. Moreover, I do not think that anyone who heard the speech of the noble Marquess can fail to appreciate the difficulty and hesitation with which I approach the discussion of questions which, he has already treated with such distinguished ability.
Before I proceed to the actual consideration of Her Majesty's gracious Speech, I would refer to one event in connection with it—that Her Majesty has deigned to be present at its delivery to-day—a circumstance which affords joy not merely to the Legislature itself, but also to the entire nation: while it is rendered the more interesting in that Her Majesty has thus in person announced to us the marriage of her daughter, the Princess Louise, with the Marquess of Lorne—an alliance dictated not by the pride of dynasty, or the traditions of State policy, but by the purest affection, and therefore additionally welcome to the English nation. My Lords, I hope and believe that the noble Marquess will prove himself worthy of this high distinction, and that he will do so in the most fitting and natural manner by treading in the steps of the noble Duke the Secretary of State for India.
Your Lordships will have heard with satisfaction that Her Majesty's Government are considering the question of the re-organization of the land forces of this country. I think I should be best consulting your Lordships' wishes by refraining from the discussion of this question—more especially after the able remarks of the noble Marquess—until the Government measure be laid before us. But I may express a hope that the British Army may by that scheme be raised to a standard of full efficiency, without interference with industrial pursuits, or undue pressure upon the national taxation.
23 Your Lordships will also have heard with gratification of the contemplated measure for the fusion of law and equity, and the establishment of a High Court of Justice. And I think that I do not speak without book when I say that the efforts of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack during the last Session in this direction met, in principle at least, with the approbation of your Lordships; so that we may hope that a settlement of this difficult and laborious question is not now remote.
My Lords, I now come to the paragraph in the Speech of paramount importance to many in this House—to none more so than myself: I mean that relating to education in Scotland. No country deserves more than Scotland that her educational efforts should be fostered by the Imperial Government, because in no country is there such an intense solicitude on the subject. The leaders of public opinion in Scotland—from Knox to Chalmers—have universally and persistently urged upon their fellow-countrymen the necessity of an adequate system of national education; and the result is, what everyone who has spent a few weeks in that country will have observed, that in every class of the community, from the highest to the lowest, there is a craving for mental improvement. Nothing is so common in Scotland as to see a peasant working with his hands for six months of the year that he may be able to spend the winter at one of the Scotch Universities; barely obtaining the necessaries of life with the pittance he had saved from his earnings in the summer. The Government Bill relates only to elementary education; but I have mentioned this to prove that it should be a labour of love to the Legislature to further education in a country where there is such a thirst for knowledge.
My Lords, I now come to a measure affecting the higher part of education—I mean the repeal of the University Tests. I think I am justified in saying that public opinion has expressed itself strongly in favour of the Government measure. I will not trouble your Lordships with the allusion—trite and time-honoured in connection with this question — of the Sibylline books. But I would say that the subject is brought into greater prominence at the present moment by the fact that, for I think the third time 24 within the last few years, the Senior Wrangler of this year is a Dissenter: that is to say, that a young man who has attained the highest intellectual distinction of his University, has now reached a door which to him, as a Dissenter, is closed, beyond which lie the honours, rewards and emoluments which would be lavished upon him were he a member of the dominant Church. To him a Christian gentleman, who has placed himself among the foremost men of his University, that University, his Alma mater—my Lords, I should rather say his injusta noverca—has said, "Thus far you may come, but no farther." My Lords, I am not a servile adherent of the Government measure. I would vote for any other which, while it secured to such men as Mr. Hartog and Mr. Hopkinson the rewards which are their due, and their services to the Universities, would, on the other hand, appease the fears of those who think that the Church of England would be endangered by the Government Bill.
Her Majesty's Speech refers—with a satisfaction which will be shared by all—to the circumstance that two questions which have for a long time been a subject of difference between this country and the United States are to be referred to a joint Commission from both countries: I mean the questions of the Canadian Fisheries and the Alabama Claims. It is, of course, the interest of certain politicians of both countries to keep these questions open and make capital out of them; but I cannot believe that two great nations, under the guidance of enlightened statesmen, kindred in blood, in language, and in political sympathy, can, in the interests of that civilization which they both have so much at heart, long remain divided by such questions as these.
My Lords, you will also rejoice, more especially in view of the ghastly drama which is being enacted on the Continent, in hearing of Her Majesty's friendly relations with all foreign Powers. We have since we last met seen great changes in Southern Europe: we have seen an ancient Monarchy accept a new dynasty, and one of the oldest Sovereignties of the world abruptly terminated: events most interesting and important at any other time, but completely dwarfed by occurrences elsewhere. And this leads me to the subject which fills all 25 our minds. My Lords, I pause on the threshold of this great subject: I feel that I owe you another apology for even venturing upon it. Towards the close of last Session a war was being commenced. A great Monarch, at the head of a mighty army, moving on the bases of impregnable fortresses, confident from its unrivalled reputation and great traditions, was moving against the King of Prussia, at the head of another army. In less than a month that army had disappeared, those fortresses were hopelessly blockaded, and that great Monarch—the man who for 10 years had swayed the destinies and kept the conscience of Europe—was a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. My Lords, I ask you if any words in any language can compass such a catastrophe: and yet this was but the beginning. While these events were occurring the course of Her Majesty's Government was plain: they had to keep four points in view. First, the preservation of our own neutrality; secondly, the neutrality of Belgian territory; thirdly, the establishment of an understanding between the neutral Powers which should limit the area of the war—not a league, which would have fettered the free action of separate Governments in their efforts to mediate: and, fourthly, the attainment of a peace, or at least of an armistice, which might allow of terms of peace being discussed. There can hardly, I think, be any difference of opinion as to the success of the Government in attaining the two first objects. Their success in the first has, as the noble Marquess pertinently remarked, been proved by the complaints that have been addressed to us by both belligerents. We gave our countenance to both nations, and received, as Christians are apt to do under the circumstances, buffets on either cheek. In the third object Her Majesty's Government were equally successful: except so far, that Russia, from the connection of her dynasty with Prussia, preferred not joining in public remonstrances against the Prussian policy, when she had more private and effectual means of urging her views. The fourth of these presented obstacles that were almost insuperable. On both sides there were exalted views, on the side of Prussia there was a sensitiveness amounting almost to repugnance at the least interference of the neutral Powers. 26 It may be said that they would rather have conceded an ell to France than an inch to the neutral Powers. I now come to another obstacle. After the disaster of Sedan the people of Paris had risen and overturned the reigning dynasty, some leading politicians had undertaken the Government, and, under the inspiration of the nation, had proclaimed, "Resistance to the death." My Lords, I know of nothing in history so grand as the manner in which, when her armies had melted away like snow before the sun, when her fortresses were beleaguered, when her Executive was either captive or fled, when all, in fact, that represented civil organization or warlike power had vanished, Paris, who for 18 years had given herself up to luxury and deified pleasure, came forward to endure bombardment and famine and death, in order to become the nucleus of the defence of France. For four months she held on, she fed her population of epicures on husks and rats, yet there was little repining and no crime. But, my Lords, heroic as the situation was, it was one of great difficulty for the neutral Powers. There was a dual Government: one a Government of eloquence in the country, the other necessarily a Government of silence in the capital. The one required instructions, the other required news. My Lords, under these circumstances neutrals could do but little. But, as far as their power went in the way of preparing the road for negotiations, of hinting to the one side the wishes that the other was too proud to express, in the way, in fact, of doing all that a neutral can do, without direct interference, Her Majesty's Government displayed zeal, tact, and judgment. And now, at last, there is an armistice—an armistice, let us hope, that will ripen into a durable peace. Meanwhile, we have seen the King of Prussia proclaimed Emperor in the Palace of Lewis the Fourteenth. The warmest good wishes of this country must go forth, to the new Confederation; the warm wish of this country will be to see this historic Empire prove that she can not merely conquer, but also use her conquests with magnanimity, and that when this disastrous war is concluded she may use her great power in the interests of peace and civilization.
But, my Lords, what shall we say of France? I believe that to those who 27 have faith, in the great destinies of that great country—and I confess that I am one of them—that faith will be not merely unshaken, but rendered more profound by the events of the present war. I believe that the time will come when France will look back to these bitter calamities with even thankfulness, as being the trial—the crucial trial—from which she emerged to a higher and purer state of liberty than she had ever previously known. She may well be thankful if they have taught her to despise the empty love of military glory, the endless desire of territorial aggrandisement, the restless anxiety for supremacy in Europe, which have so long distinguished her policy. This miserable war is due not so much to the Emperor and his advisers as to those quack orators who, for four years, preached to France that the aggrandisement of Prussia was an insult to France; that the establishment of a powerful nationality on her borders was a menace; that France should be an Empire surrounded by duchies and provinces. My Lords, I believe that we shall live to see France far greater in the councils of Europe, by her moral authority, than she ever was by her armies.
My Lords, among the numerous engines of war which have recently been discovered or re-adapted, we must all have noticed the versatile and irrepressible nature of the diplomatic circular. Every event of the war has been preceded or followed by a cloud of these missives. I believe that if Jupiter were to return to earth, and re-commence his courtship of Danae, he would woo her in a shower of diplomatic circulars. We have had circulars about the origin of the war; circulars to prove that Count Benedetti was a knave; circulars to prove that he was merely the reverse; circulars about split bullets and the Geneva cross; circulars to prove that the Treaty which guaranteed Luxemburg was a sacred obligation; circulars to prove that the Treaty of Paris is not worth the paper it is written on. My Lords, I would say a few words on the last of these—a very few words, as the subject is one of great delicacy, while a Conference is sitting to decide the question. When the circular of Prince Gortchakoff appeared, it astounded Europe. It was felt that, although the signatory Governments would, in times of peace, willingly 28 have re-considered provisions of the Treaty which were galling to a great Power like Russia, the manner of that circular, and the moment at which it was delivered, were equally inopportune. It was felt that it was not the moment to revise the Treaty of Paris when one of the chief signatory Powers was, so to speak, in extremis. Nor was it considered that the mere expression of the Emperor of Russia's wishes on the subject was the right means of attaining the object. These views were expressed by the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in a circular which, I think I may say, elicited the praise not merely of England but of the whole of Europe. But, at the suggestion of Prussia, a Conference was agreed to which should discuss the question without prejudice of any point; that Conference is now sitting, and, I believe I may add, with every prospect of arriving at a favourable result.
My Lords, I have only one word more to say, and that is to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the patience and indulgence with which you have-listened to me. I thank you the more because I believe that there is no more solemn moment in the life of an Englishman than that on which he is at first privileged to take part in the deliberations of the National Senate. To your favour and kindness, my Lords, am I indebted for lightening to me the responsibility of that moment. My Lords, in conclusion, I beg to second the Address which has just been moved by my noble Friend. [See Page 18.]
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
My Lords—In the first place, before entering upon the remarks I am about to offer to your Lordships, I wish to express my gratification at the admirable speech in which the noble Marquess moved the Address, and the conspicuous ability with which it was seconded by the noble Earl who has just sat down. It often falls to the lot of those who rise on this side of the House to make a statement of this kind; but I can assure both those noble Lords that I intend my words to be not mere empty compliment, but a distinct expression of the opinion I formed while listening to the speeches which they have delivered.
My Lords—It has been for many years the custom that your Lordships should abstain, except under very extraordinary 29 circumstances, from moving any Amendment to the Address moved in answer to the Speech from the Throne. On this occasion there are, I think, ample reasons why we should adhere to that course, and why the proceedings of your Lordships should be of a unanimous character. My first reason, and the chief one, is because we have had the happiness this day of seeing our most gracious Sovereign in sufficiently good health to take part in the public business of the country, seated on the Throne in this House while her Speech was being delivered to us. Another reason is that Her Majesty informed your Lordships in that Speech that an event of the greatest interest to herself—and if of great interest to herself, of necessity to the country at large and to your Lordships—was about to occur—namely, the marriage of the Princess Louise with the Marquess of Lorne. I am sure your Lordships, as well as the country, are deeply interested in everything which concerns the happiness and the comfort of the Queen, and all those composing her family circle:—and it is on this account mainly I rejoice to find no reasons whatever for asking your Lordships to agree to any Amendment to the Address which has just been moved. Having now briefly noticed that part of the Speech which I look upon as personal to the Sovereign, I will say a few words respecting those paragraphs of it which are more closely connected with Her Majesty's Advisers than with Her Majesty herself, and, therefore, in whatever comments I may make I must be understood to intend no disrespect towards the Crown. The first subject that is alluded to in Her Majesty's Speech is one that would naturally be prominently put forward in an Address of this kind—namely, the state of affairs on the Continent. We must all deeply regret that the dreadful war which has been waged for so long a period, and which must have the most disastrous effects upon both parties—I refer to the great desolation and the great misery that must necessarily be produced by it, both in Germany and France—has not yet come to an end. I do not think it would be wise, if it were possible, to attempt to comment on the conduct of the Government with regard to the position they have taken upon this question until all the Papers connected with it have been 30 produced which Her Majesty in her Speech has promised shall be shortly laid on the Table. I must, however, say it seems to me that some of the language of these paragraphs of the Speech from the Throne is open to observation. I will call your Lordships' attention, and the attention of the noble Earl (Earl Granville), who, I have no doubt, will answer me, to that paragraph which, states—Cherishing with care the cordiality of my relations with each belligerent, I have forborne from whatever might have been construed as gratuitous or unwarranted interference between parties.Now, I must say, judging from some speeches that have been made out of doors, the Government have a very curious idea of the meaning of "cordiality." Your Lordships all know that it is the habit of Members of Parliament during the Recess to meet their constituents—and we know that in the newspapers there is a portion sometimes assigned to the "Speeches of Members out of town." No particular importance is attached to the utterance of unofficial Members; but when a Minister of the Crown addresses his constituents his language is of great import, owing to the position he occupies. Now, among the speeches of Members who addressed their constituents in the autumn, I find one attributed to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. What does he say with reference to what Her Majesty calls "the cordiality of my relations with each belligerent?" Mr. Bruce, speaking at Paisley on the 30th of September, said—Those who asked why, if this was a war simply to repel aggression, Germany was not satisfied when that aggression was repelled, might as well ask why when a housebreaker entered a house the occupier was not contented with throwing him out of the window. The desire naturally was to take steps to prevent the housebreaker from repeating his burglarious entrance.That is to say, if it means anything, the Home Secretary likens France to a housebreaker, and says that Germany ought not to be satisfied by throwing him out of the window. So much for the opinion of the Home Secretary as to cordiality of relations. It might be said that the Home Secretary is only one Member of the Government, and spoke his own opinion only; but the right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, observed— 31When the present Government took office, it was said that its Members could not act together; but I would now say that a more united Cabinet never guided the destinies of the country.Well, in that case, and if the right hon. Gentleman was the mouthpiece of the views of the English Cabinet, and if they all regard France as a burglar who deserved to be thrown out of window, I think that the cordiality of our relations with that country was cherished by the English Government in a manner peculiarly their own, and little likely to be appreciated by the French nation. I, for one, shall very much rejoice if Her Majesty's Government should be able to prove to us and the country that they have done all in their power to act between these two great countries in a manner befitting that character of neutrality which they professed to sustain—and which the country has endorsed—in regard to the operations on the Continent. No doubt during the last few days affairs appear to have taken a more favourable turn, giving a somewhat better hope of a peaceful solution of these difficulties. We must all be anxious in the interests of the nations that the result should be peace, and that the peace should be of a lasting character; but it must not be forgotten that it will be very difficult to make any peace lasting unless there be a strong Government in France, which may be able to induce the people to agree to what must, under the circumstances of the present case, be most harassing, distressing, and annoying to their feelings.
I pass over several paragraphs till I come to one of great importance in relation to the position of this country and the despatch of Prince Gortchakoff. It is perfectly true that in the Speech there is—perhaps intentionally—no absolute mention of the despatch of Prince Gortchakoff, or of the answer that was made to it by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville); but there can be no doubt that in the paragraph to which I refer that despatch is alluded to. Her Majesty says—I have endeavoured, in correspondence with other Powers of Europe, to uphold the sanctity of Treaties, and to remove any misapprehension as to the binding character of their obligations.We all know that Prince Gortchakoff wrote a despatch of a most startling character; the noble Earl wrote an answer to it; and the country naturally 32 are very much alive to what is going on, and very anxious to know what the result will be. The whole appears to have collapsed, I may say, into a Conference. The Conference is to assemble, but we are not told how. We are told—It was agreed by the Powers, which had been parties to the Treaty of 1856, that a Conference should meet in London.Now, is that an accurate statement of fact? I rather think it is not, because the next paragraph goes on to say—I greatly regret that my earnest efforts have failed to procure the presence at the Conference of any Representative of France, which was one of the chief parties to the Treaty of 1856, and which must ever be regarded as a principal and indispensable member of the great Commonwealth of Europe.Therefore, a Conference was to be held to discuss this despatch written by Prince Gortchakoff, and the Treaty of 1856, to which France was one of the chief parties. Yet France was not present. First we are told that the Conference is agreed to by the Powers which were parties to the Treaty of 1856, and then we are told that France had nothing on earth to do with it. That is a difference in terms which I cannot reconcile. I want to know where was the necessity for hurrying on the Conference if—as I quite agree—it was absolutely necessary that France should be represented at it? Your Lordships will also examine the Papers, when they are submitted to you, with great interest to learn what steps have been taken to assure the result being binding on Russia, if the Conference comes to any decision on the subjects to be submitted to it. That is a most important point, to which we shall be better able to address ourselves when we come to consider the Papers which are to be laid on the Table. I now come to that paragraph of the Speech which relates to America, and again I find myself under the necessity of questioning the strict accuracy of the statement. About the middle of the paragraph it is stated—In order to determine the most convenient mode of treatment for these matters, I have suggested the appointment of a joint Commission.There we are told that a joint Commission is suggested, and in the next line we are told that—I have agreed to a proposal of the President, that this Commission shall be authorized at the same time, and in the same manner, to resume 33 the consideration of the American claims growing out of the circumstances of the late war.Therefore I conclude that as this suggestion has been accepted, the appointment of the Commission may be considered un fait accompli. I hope that we shall soon hear exactly what the terms are on which the Commission will be authorized to act. Are they to include all the claims that have been or may be made by one Government upon the other? If so, that would be equivalent to an inquiry into the whole of what are commonly called "the Alabama claims;" and I should like to know whether it is to be upon the bases agreed on by the late Lord Derby, and if they are different, why that difference had been made, and what circumstances have arisen to call for it? Upon all these points we require more information. The next paragraph is a rather remarkable one. It refers to the unhappy murder of Englishmen in Greece, and states that the inquiry instituted by the Greek Government has not, "unhappily, arrived at a termination answerable in all respects to My just expectations." Now, I believe the only result of that inquiry has been the incarceration of an Englishman, and that upon application being made for his release, the Greek Government replied that the law must take its course. I therefore cannot but think that, so far as that affair is concerned, the inquiry has not had any very satisfactory consequence. Her Majesty then states in her Speech—I rejoice to acquaint you that my relations are, as heretofore, those of friendship and good understanding with the Sovereigns and States of the civilized world.That is a declaration which I rejoiced to hear; but, taking a view of the state of things all around, I must think that, to say the least, that is a somewhat exaggerated statement. The next paragraph in the Royal Speech to which I shall call attention is one relating to the Revenue, and in which Her Majesty states—"The Estimates for the coming year will be promptly laid before you." Now, I wish to call attention to a very remarkable omission in this paragraph. It is rather a singular circumstance, seeing that on scarcely any former occasion—and certainly never in a Speech made during the Administration of a Cabinet whose watch-word is Retrenchment and Economy, has there been such an omis- 34 sion. I allude to the fact that there is no mention made that the Estimates have been framed with a due regard to economy. It may be that the Government are beginning to see the error of their ways, and that the doctrine of retrenchment as interpreted by them is one which can never be successfully carried out by any Government. With regard to the Civil Service, we all know how retrenchment has been carried out in that branch—the Departments were supposed to be overstocked with clerks, and they were reduced accordingly, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets credit for the great decrease of expenditure. Now, what is the opinion of the Home Minister as to the conduct of public business? He has stated in his speech—The administrative work of all the Departments had been enormously added to; the number of Ministers had not been increased, while the business of their offices had been greatly augmented, and that was a state of things which, unless some remedy was applied, would result in a position of great difficulty.If that statement were correct, why had there been all that recent casting off of clerks? The observation seems rather to imply that more clerks, and perhaps more Ministers, were necessary; and at any rate, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, a position of great difficulty may be looked for. Is that a proof of the wisdom of indiscriminate retrenchment, carried out to satisfy a cry rather than from any real necessity? The only result will be, that in the end you will have to increase the offices again by the addition of more clerks. My Lords—I next come to that very important portion of the Speech which refers to the subject of the national defences. I am not going to enter into any prophecy as to what the measures of the Government will be, or as to what would be, in my opinion, the most desirable method of proceeding; but of this I am certain, that judging from everything one hears of, and is able to gather respecting the opinion of the country, that it will not be satisfied unless the Government is prepared to deal with the subject in a comprehensive manner, so as to put the country in a position that will make it prepared for any present emergency, or for any difficulty that may arise in the future; and I am certain that any scheme that will put an end to such alternative fits between parsimony and extravagance as we have 35 lately witnessed will receive the unanimous support of the country. I read in the paper the other day a letter written by a noble Earl (Earl Russell), in which he says that "Mr. Card well's mission was to retrench." Well, that is no doubt true. The right hon. Gentleman came into Office with the avowed object of retrenchment, and one of the first things he did was to cut off 20,000 men from the Army, and I presume about £2,000,000 from the expenditure. Well, but what took place at the end of last Session? Why, Mr. Cardwell had to put on 20,000 men. I should like to ask him, if I had the opportunity, and as I have not I will ask the noble Earl opposite, whether the putting on of 20,000 men did not cost much more than the taking off of them saved; and, moreover, whether the 20,000 men so put on were not a much worse and more useless article than those who had been taken off? The 20,000 men added to the Army at the end of last Session must be raw recruits, and anyone who knows anything of matters connected with the Army must know that it will take a long time to turn them into efficient troops; and in no branch of the Army is the operation a slower or more difficult one than in that most important branch of the service, the Royal Artillery. It is true that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Westminster) spoke warmly—as he was well entitled to do—of the Volunteers. I have not one word to say against them; but I think the noble Marquess drew rather too highly coloured a picture when he said that they were all well armed. The noble Marquess's corps may be one of those that has had good arms served out to it; but that cannot be said of the whole body of the Volunteers.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
That is another thing, and I shall be as much rejoiced as my noble Friend when that is done; but at the present moment the whole body of Volunteers are not well armed, and I am certain that any measures for the purpose of rendering every portion of the Army efficient will receive the cordial support of the country. My Lords, in the paragraph relating to the national defences I was 36 very much astonished at the total omission of one most important branch of our service. From the beginning of this Royal Speech to the end, I did not hear a single word with respect to the condition of the Navy. No one will venture to say that in England's insular position—with that "silver streak" which divides her from the Continent of Europe—her Navy is not a most important branch of her defences; and it eminently merits attention at the present moment, considering the changes that recent scientific discoveries have effected. Nobody can more sincerely regret than I do the serious illness under which the First Lord of the Admiralty has been and is now suffering; but I should like to know from the noble Earl opposite, and I am sure he will tell me, who is at the present moment responsible for the administration of the Navy? because the First Lord is absent; he has been suffering from illness for a long time, and, according to report, he is likely to suffer for a considerable period. I ask, then, who is responsible for the administration of the Navy; because it must be remembered that, from the peculiar constitution of the Navy, no Secretary of State can administer its affairs, inasmuch as the Board of Admiralty is a Board constituted by warrant, and no act in connection with the Board can be performed by any but those mentioned in the warrant. I will now ask the attention of your Lordships to that part of the Royal Speech relating to the Army—The lessons of military experience afforded by the present war have," we are told, "been numerous and important. The time appears appropriate for turning such lessons to account by efforts more decisive than heretofore at practical improvement.That certainly, my Lords, is not one of the lessons which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had in his mind when he addressed a large meeting in the North of Scotland, and I should be glad to know whether Her Majesty's Government—according to the Home Secretary, one of the most united Governments which ever held Office in this country—are of one mind on this subject, or whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer is alone in his opinion as to the value and necessity of a standing army. The right hon. Gentleman, in a speech made after receiving the freedom of the burgh of Elgin, said— 37We have witnessed within the last few days the destruction of a most gallant standing army by what is not a standing army, but an armed nation; and that not altogether by the superior qualities of the men, but by the enormous preponderance of numbers which the fact of their being an armed nation gives them.And this is the lesson the right hon. Gentleman draws from these circumstances—"I think I hear in this the knell of standing armies." Do the united Cabinet agree with the right hon. Gentleman that what has occurred on the Continent is the knell of standing armies, and that the lesson we have learnt is that standing armies are of no use? I am glad to find the Speech from the Throne firmer and more energetic—it is, I think, more in accordance with the feelings of the country than the speeches made during the Recess by Members of the Cabinet. How, indeed, when the Cabinet came together, they could afterwards reconcile their differences, and together compose such a speech as this, I do not know. However, this is their arrangement—I suppose I may call it a family arrangement. I find that other Members of the Government have given expression to views similar to those enunciated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There have not been many speeches by Cabinet Ministers during the Recess. The Prime Minister has, indeed, been accused of a reticence on the subject during the Recess not usual to him—creating a wrong impression in the minds of foreign nations, that there is no such country as this to be found on the map of Europe. It is true, indeed, that the Home Secretary has dispelled that illusion by saying to his constituents in Scotland—I am not one of those who can discover in the present state of things any such immediate or pressing danger to this country as would lead us suddenly to change our system or to rush into rash resolutions. Where lies the danger to England? When France was at once a great military and naval Power there undoubtedly existed a certain amount of danger. But where is the immediate danger now? Certainly not from France. She will have enough to do for many a year to come to repair the injury she has received from this war. Then, is it from Prussia? How is Prussia to transport her army here? How is she to reinforce it and supply it? It, therefore, seems to me that, while we should wisely turn to account the experience we have gained during the last weeks, time enough is before us to do so cautiously.That, my Lords, is not the lesson drawn by the Chancellor of the Exchequer 38 that the knell of standing armies has been sounded. The right hon. Gentleman cautiously proceeds—I am of opinion that though Mr. Cardwell may be charged with proceeding slowly" (it is something that the right hon. Gentleman admits that the Minister for War has been slow) "in creating a great reserve force, he is justified by the circumstances in doing so.Well, that, again, is not the view taken by the Government in the Speech from the Throne, for the paragraph relating to the Army concludes by promising that—No time will be lost in laying before you a Bill for the better regulation of the army and the auxiliary land forces of the Crown, and I hardly need commend it to your anxious and impartial consideration.In reading over, therefore, this excessively long paragraph in this very long Speech, I am quite bewildered, for in their individual capacity the Members of this very united Cabinet say, and no doubt believe, one thing, while in their united capacity they put forward precisely opposite views. However that may be, I feel confident, my Lords, any measure which may be proposed to deal with the organization of the Army and to strengthen the national defences will receive from your Lordships patient and anxious consideration, in the hope that by adopting a really efficient measure this country may be enabled to take among the nations of the world the position it has always held, and which I trust it will continue to hold for centuries to come. I pass now to less exciting topics—I mean the various measures which Her Majesty's Government recommend us to deal with during the Session. They are not few in number, and certainly they are important in character. I should have thought, after the experience of the past Session, that the Government would not have been so generous in giving us so large a number of measures to deal with. Last year I recollect a late distinguished Member of the Cabinet expressing great doubt of their being able to carry the measures then proposed, and likening one of his Colleagues to a man who tries to drive six omnibuses abreast through Temple Bar. The undertaking of the Government accordingly proved to be impossible, for out of, I think, 13 measures proposed by them I doubt whether more than three passed this House—including the Irish Coercion Bill, which was 39 an extra measure, not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. I will not follow the noble Marquess who moved the Address (the Marquess of Westminster) in all his remarks upon these questions; but I am bound to notice one or two. The noble Marquess wondered why my noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) did not move for a Committee on the University Tests Bill earlier in the Session. Why, because the Bill did not come up to us earlier in the Session. We were told that we ought to take the Bill on trust. My noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) thought differently, and as soon as he had an opportunity he moved for a Committee of Inquiry. As to the Ballot, or secret voting, I hope your Lordships may not have the opportunity of discussing such a measure, and I certainly shall not anticipate the discussion now. But with regard to Lord Palmerston's argument, that in voting an elector exercises a trust, I may point out that we have a population of 30,000,000, while the constituency is not above 2,000,000, so that the same argument still applies, notwithstanding the increased number of voters. I trust this will be remembered when we come to discuss the measure—if we ever do discuss it. The last paragraph in the Speech—one of great interest—relates to Ireland. When the Government took Office their watch-word was Retrenchment, and they were also going to pacify Ireland, assuming that they were the only body of Gentlemen who could pacify Ireland and make the people orderly and happy. They were to pass Bills dealing with the Church, with the land, and with the education of the people of Ireland. Well, no doubt they have disestablished and disendowed the Irish Church—I may almost say they have destroyed it—and last year they passed a Land Bill which has since been described by one of their own supporters as an Act transferring 70 millions of property from the pockets of the landlords, to whom it really belonged, into the pockets of the tenantry, to whom it never had belonged. I ask, has their policy with regard to Ireland realized the expectations held out to us? The Education Bill remains; but there is to be a lull in Irish legislation, and meanwhile we are told the country is in a satisfactory state. Now, I say that, notwithstanding all our legislation, Ireland 40 is not in a satisfactory state; and on that point I can quote the opinion of a high authority—the Lord Lieutenant himself. While paying a visit to a noble Relative of mine opposite, the Lord Lieutenant was met in Mullingar by a body of gentlemen, who presented a highly complimentary address, expecting, no doubt, to receive a correspondingly cordial reception. But the Lord Lieutenant, on the contrary, told them exactly his opinion of the state of that part of the country. He said—I need not refer to the successful endeavours of Her Majesty's Government to carry out remedial measures for the benefit of Ireland; but I am bound to make some remarks, which I do with very great pain, on the state of this part of the country. While the whole of the country is realizing the benefits of a plentiful harvest and unusual material prosperity, and while good order and freedom from crime prevail generally throughout Ireland, this county, and a small district adjoining it, has been an unfortunate exception to the general rule. Within a very few weeks two most wanton murders have taken place, and other outrages have been committed which show that a barbarous and lawless spirit is still existing among some portion, at all events, of your population. Circumstances connected with these atrocious deeds clearly prove that they are not acts of personal revenge against the victim, but are the work of an organized and secret society.And he goes on to say that if there was not an improvement on this state of things, other and more stringent measures will be adopted with respect to Ireland. Now, my Lords, I should like to know what those measures are, or whether any such measures are about to be introduced by Her Majesty's Government. It seems, I may add, to be entirely forgotten in the Speech from the Throne, which, as I have said, is in the main contradicted by what fell from the Lord Lieutenant, that we are now ruling Ireland under one of the most stringent Coercion Acts which have ever been passed into law. It would, therefore, be very extraordinary if that country were not in a more peaceable condition than she was at the commencement of last Session—though I believe the statement which was made by the Lord Lieutenant to the deputation to which I have referred was most inaccurate. Have not, for instance, threatening letters been constantly sent to those who were engaged in carrying out the law under the provisions of the Act of Parliament? But there is another point to which I wish briefly to advert. We are told that the Education Bill for Ireland is to be post- 41 poned because that country stands in need of a lull after the violent agitation of the last two years. Now, I must say that the Government have, in my opinion, exercised in that respect a very wise discretion. But what are the measures that are to come after the lull? I think we can gather somewhat of the nature of those measures from a speech made the other day by one Member of the Government. Mr. Monsell, the new Postmaster General, in addressing his constituents at Rathkeale, in the county of Limerick, not very long ago, after having met with what seems to have been a very enthusiastic reception, stated that—The education question was simply an Irish question, and that no greater injustice could be inflicted on the Irish people than to force on them English and Scotch ideas respecting the way of educating their children.Now, it is, I think, unnecessary to enter into any details to show what the views are which are entertained in Ireland upon this question. We are all aware that a very eminent Prelate, Cardinal Cullen, holds particular views on the subject, and coupling those views with the statement of the Postmaster General, we may form some notion as to the system of primary education which they would like to see adopted, seeing that, in their opinion, it should be in accordance with Irish ideas. But Mr. Monsell went on to speak on other topics. We all know that the Irish Church was disestablished and disendowed, if not almost entirely destroyed, by recent legislation, and that a Land Bill was passed for Ireland which, even in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, was about as revolutionary a measure as has received the assent of Parliament for many years, and which we all thought would be a settlement of the question, at all events, for a long time to come. Mr. Monsell, however, intimated, while speaking in the highest terms of the Land Bill, "that it was the intention of the Government to supplement it by another measure in the course of a couple of years." Now, I must express a hope that Mr. Monsell was inaccurate in making that statement, although holding, as he does, a high position in the Government, I do not suppose that he would venture to make it unless on what he deemed to be sufficient grounds. I trust, however, that the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) will be able to-night to assure 42 us that the statement is not quite in accordance with the intended policy of the Government, and that we are not to have another Land Bill in the course of two years' time. There is another subject connected with Ireland to which I wish to call your Lordships' attention. I have no doubt that a great many of your Lordships as well as myself have read with feelings of the greatest astonishment the decision which was lately arrived at with respect to the release of the Fenian prisoners, a great number of whom had been convicted by a jury of their countrymen, if not of treason itself, at all events of the crime of treason-felony, and some of whom had, if I mistake not, capital sentences passed upon them, although Her Majesty was graciously pleased to commute those sentences into transportation for life. One, if not more, of those, indeed, who were pardoned, was in reality something more than a political offender, inasmuch as he was implicated in the Clerkenwell explosion, or in the attack on the policemen at Manchester. But here, at all events, we have men who have been found guilty of treason-felony, and some of whom had capital sentences passed upon them, who have obtained their pardon, after having been imprisoned for about three years, on the condition that they gave their words not to come back to England or Ireland, and that is the mode in which the offence of treason-felony is dealt with by Her Majesty's Government. Why, my Lords, such, a mode of proceeding seems to me to be nothing more nor less than holding out a premium to those who violate the laws of their country. And what is the result of this indulgence to the Fenian convicts? Why, the very next week one of the most important constituencies in Ireland returned to the British Parliament Mr. Martin, who is one of the strongest advocates for the repeal of the Union. The Government, however, were not satisfied with releasing the Fenians, and I would beg your Lordships' attention to what I am about to say, because the statement is so extraordinary that one can scarcely believe it to be true. That statement is that the Government, when those Fenians were released from prison, sent them out to America in one of the first-class steamers which ply between the two countries, and that each prisoner, in addition to a £5 note, received a suit of clothes. I fear, my Lords, a great many men who 43 happen to be convicted of minor offences in this country, and who, having been imprisoned perhaps for robbing a hen roost, are obliged to beg their way from the place of their imprisonment to their homes, will think they have some cause for complaint under these circumstances, and why persons convicted of treason-felony should be treated better than such persons as those to whom I have just referred surpasses, I confess, my comprehension. Such a course of policy can, I fear, only lead to the commission of renewed political offences. I have, I am afraid, too long occupied the time of your Lordships in touching on the various topics mentioned in the Speech from the Throne; and while I wish especially to guard myself from being supposed to approve in any way what the Government may have done, or may be about to do, I hope my noble Friend opposite will believe me when I say I sincerely and cordially concur in the adoption of the Address. I may add that I trust the deliberations of the present Session may be such as to convince the world that, however much we may differ on questions of domestic policy, we are all prepared to unite in supporting any measures and submitting to any sacrifices calculated to promote the dignity and to ensure the safety of our common country.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I shall not trespass on the time of your Lordships more than a very few minutes. After the speech which has just been made by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) it would be very ungracious on my part not to acquiesce in the course advocated by my noble Friend at the beginning and end of his address—that we should not now enter into any angry debate, or any serious discussion of the more important topics mentioned in the gracious Speech from the Throne. But before touching on any question whatsoever, I wish to be allowed to repeat what the noble Duke has said as to the unusual excellence of the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the Address. I thank them on behalf of the Government, and I trust they will permit me to compliment them on the admirable manner in which they have discharged their duties on this occasion. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) has complained much of the speeches which have been made by Mr. Bruce and some other Members of the Cabinet, 44 and of those not made by Mr. Gladstone. Now, in replying to the remarks which have fallen from my noble Friend on that point, I must observe that I have been very busily engaged, and that I have not, therefore, been able to pay so much attention as perhaps I ought to have done to the speeches which have been delivered in different parts of the country during the Recess. But as to the speech of my right hon. Friend Mr. Bruce, I am perfectly sure that he never intended to express any feeling of exultation over the misfortunes of France:—if it were so, I, for one, cannot concur in that sentiment. I have been in a peculiar way, perhaps more so than any of your Lordships, connected with both France and Germany. I have close ties with both countries, and I have in both many intimate friends and connections. I have the greatest possible respect for the character of the Germans, and I shall never forget the kindness with which my family have for two generations been treated in France. Under such circumstances, your Lordships may easily conceive my personal feelings have been excited by the different phases the war has assumed in different manners; but once having been thought worthy to occupy the important Office I now hold in Her Majesty's Government, I have considered that in my dealing with both countries every personal feeling was to be absolutely put aside, and I have considered that my strict—and my only duty—was, with the assistance of my Colleagues, to carry out what we believed to be the wishes of the country in a fair and impartial, and I will add a cordial, neutrality, even though—as might naturally be expected — that neutrality might be deeply resented by both sides. I will now answer some of the questions put to me by the noble Duke. First of all, my noble Friend spoke of the Conference with respect to the Black Sea question, and seemed to complain that there was a want of explanation on the subject in the Speech from the Throne, and to be unable to understand how we got into the Conference with the consent of the co-signataries of the Treaty of 1856. The noble Duke alluded to the circular of Prince Gortchakoff, and my answer to it, and the official correspondence that ensued. While that correspondence was in progress a proposal was made by Prussia that the 45 matter should be referred to a Conference, in order to arrive, if possible, at a peaceable solution of the question. My Lords, we thought it our duty, in conjunction with all our other Allies, to accept that Conference. We did not, however, accept it in the terms in which it was proposed—we could not consent that the Conference should be held at St. Petersburg:—but we did admit that it should be entered into provided it was done absolutely without any foregone conclusion; and the place of meeting was to be—not at our request, or by our selection, the selection was made by the whole of Europe — at London, as the most convenient to all. The noble Duke surprise that all the Powers should have acquiesced in the Conference, and yet that France should not be represented at it. It was perfectly open to France to say—"This is not the time for such a Conference: I will have nothing to do with it, and will not be present at it." But, as a matter of fact, she did not hold such language. She held with England that the Conference was a good thing in itself, and that it would be an advantage for France to be represented at it. But when the time came for sending over a representative difficulties arose, and on that account we postponed the meeting of the Conference week after week in order that the difficulty might, if possible, be overcome. France had a perfect right to select one for her representative who should be best adapted to state her views; but she did not, as the other Powers had done, select her representatives in London. M. Favre, the highest representative of the French Government, himself proposed to come; but up to this day—and I can perfectly understand the honourable reasons which have actuated his conduct—he has never been able to attend the Conference or to name a substitute. Now, the acquiescence of France in the Conference having been given, and the Conference having been summoned to settle in a peaceful way the question which had arisen with regard to the Black Sea, Turkey, the party most interested, though very desirous to have a French representative present, preferred, whatever might happen, that there should be no delay in proceeding with its deliberations; and as the Plenipotentiaries of all the other Powers—whether more friendly 46 to Russia, to Germany, or to France—were ready to enter into friendly and amicable discussion, we were of opinion that, with the exception of giving some delay, it would be absolutely impossible that England alone should refuse to join in a Conference which had been summoned by unanimous consent. Accordingly we met. I cannot explain to you what has passed in the Conference, or what is likely to result from it, as it is not yet finished; but I think it is no indiscretion on my part to say that any arrangements we come to will be merely indications of what, in hope of the adhesion of France, we are prepared to embody in a Treaty to be signed some time after the conclusion of peace. I should like to add one word more. On the first day that we came into the Conference, we passed such resolutions with regard to the public law of Europe as placed me on a friendly footing with every Plenipotentiary present, and cleared the way for the consideration of such arrangements as might be best made by the Conference. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) also asked for some details, which it will not be improper for me to give, with respect to the difficult questions which exist between this country and the United States. Our proposal was simply this—that a joint Commission should be appointed by the two countries not to settle, but to consider the mode in which the different questions in dispute between the Dominion and the United States should be best placed in a way of settlement. The rejoinder to that proposal from the United States was that those claims also which are commonly, though, indeed, incorrectly, called "the Alabama claims"—claims which arose out of the great American War—should be referred to that Commission. We stipulated that in that case all the claims of British subjects should be so referred; and by common consent, in a spirit of mutual respect and friendly feeling, both claims being so referred, we had great pleasure in adopting the arrangement as compatible with the honour of both countries and the respect due from each to the other. We originally proposed that the Commission should consist of three members appointed by each country; but it being the desire of the President of the United States that there should be on each side five members, so as to represent all the 47 different shades of opinion in that country, we concurred in that view. It may not be out of place to mention the members appointed on our side. They are my noble Colleague the Earl de Grey and Ripon, the Lord President of the Council, who, although he was only requested to take the post on Monday last, will leave Liverpool the day after tomorrow. He will be accompanied from this country by only one other Commissioner, a gentleman of great erudition on questions of International Law—Mr. Montague Bernard. They will be met in the United States by our other Commissioners, who will be our excellent diplomatic representative at Washington, Sir Edward Thornton, Sir John Macdonald, the Prime Minister of Canada, and, as we hope, Sir John Rose, whose knowledge of Canada and of the United States will make him a valuable member of the Commission. I am sure the noble Duke opposite will appreciate the value of his services. The Secretary will be a gentleman whose services in the same capacity to the Neutrality Laws Commission were found to be most useful—Lord Tenterden. As far as we at present know, the Commissioners of the United States will be Mr. Fish, Secretary of State, General Schenck, their lately-appointed Minister to this country, ex-Judge Neilson, Mr. Williams, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and a gentleman who has lately been Attorney General in the United States. I can only express a hope that when your Lordships see the instructions drawn up for the guidance of our Commissioners, which it is impossible for us now to produce, you will say that, while framed in a friendly spirit, they contain nothing in the least derogatory from the honour of this country. My noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond) alluded to an unfortunate vote taken in Congress the other day. I regret it. I think it is just one of those things that will probably be regretted in America itself by all who are most qualified to form an opinion. It seems to me, however, that we should not allow a vote of that kind to interfere with any negotiations for the settlement of the claims in question. Certainly this country would be a loser if we were once to admit the principle that international arrangements might be interfered with by foolish speeches made, or reckless votes now 48 and then passed in the Legislature of either country. I do not know that there is any other question of importance with reference to Foreign Affairs to which I need allude. We shall lay on the Table all the Papers—some of them of the greatest interest and importance—and I have no doubt they will be considered and discussed in a fair spirit, and with that absolute freedom from party feelings which marks the debates on foreign affairs in this House. The noble Duke talked of the Army, and said he would not anticipate the measures which the Government were about to bring forward on the subject; but then he made one or two criticisms which were not quite correct. He complained that Mr. Cardwell, at the beginning of last year, disbanded 20,000 men merely to call them back again to the Army in the autumn.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
I beg your pardon. I said that, as a matter of economy, it was more costly to disband 20,000 efficient troops, and then to enlist 20,000 recruits, than to keep the troops you had. I wanted to show that the economical plans of the Government would not prove so economical in the end.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I hope the noble Duke will pay attention to the economical question, because, although it has not found a place in the Royal Speech to-day, Her Majesty's Government have not the slightest intention to ignore it; and though we think the augmentation of the Army will necessarily increase the Estimates, we hope, having regard to the increased number of men to be enlisted into the service, to effect economy by having regard to greater efficiency. When the noble Duke speaks of this reduction of men as a question of mere economy, I really can hardly understand his reasoning. We have brought a very large number of men into this country. Reductions were made, it is true, in the earlier part of the year; but afterwards a state of things arose as different as can be possibly imagined from what had so long existed. Europe was perfectly at peace when these reductions were made, and when this great war broke out we thought it necessary, not to an enormous extent, but to a certain degree, to add to the force of the Army in England. The noble Duke said we lost good men 49 and supplied their places with less efficient ones; but I believe the reverse is actually the case, and that out of the 20,000 got rid of in the first instance many were entirely worn out, some had come from India, and others were bad characters—for, of course, every regiment got rid of their worst men and those whom it was most desirable to part with. By this time I hope the recruits who have been taken are equal, if not superior, to those whose places they fill up. Then the noble Duke made an attack upon us because the Volunteers are not well armed. To this I reply that they will be well armed with Snider rifles, of which 100,000—sufficient for two-thirds of the Volunteers—have been already furnished, and the rest will be furnished very shortly. With regard to the Admiralty, I think the noble Duke asked me who was responsible for the affairs of the Department during the absence of the First Lord. In reply to that I have to say that all the Estimates were prepared by Mr. Childers. Everything has been settled in the usual way, and the affairs of the Admiralty are conducted exactly in the same manner at this moment as they were on former occasions, when, for the sake of a holiday, or in consequence of temporary indisposition, the First Lord has been away. The next question was with regard to Ireland; and the noble Duke tried to diminish any feelings of satisfaction which we derive from the belief that certain remedial measures may have contributed to the general contentment of Ireland—although, no doubt, most painful exceptions exist in a very small part of Ireland—principally in Westmeath. As to what the noble Duke said of the recent release of the Fenian prisoners, I may remark that in no country have political offenders been looked upon exactly in the same light as habitual criminals; and there is another point to be considered — you must take into account the effect which severity of punishment always has in exciting sympathy for political offenders on the part of large masses of the community. As to the matters of detail referred to by the noble Duke, I am not acquainted with them. These persons, it should be remembered, had been four years in confinement, and if they were supplied with clothes that surely was not unreasonable. I may mention, too, that in all our well-regu- 50 lated gaols the prisoners have the means of amassing a certain sum of money by their labour in the prison, and, consequently, they get a small sum to draw on their release. The noble Duke, in adverting to the different Bills mentioned in the Queen's Speech, very properly refrained from discussing them at any length, as they cannot be discussed in a satisfactory manner until your Lordships are acquainted with their provisions. I repeat, I think the noble Duke exercised sound judgment in abstaining from angry discussions on the first day of the Session, and I am much gratified at the graceful compliment he paid to Her Majesty, whom we were all so glad to see among us again — though, of course, I am aware of his warning, that we must not reckon on any lengthened armistice with regard to what we have done or are going to do in the present Session.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
said, that one of the most important topics which could engage the attention of Parliament was the condition of the Navy. It was only by her Navy that this country could be defended, and it was of the utmost importance that the Navy should be maintained in a state of thorough efficiency. We ought to have a perfect service for the transport of troops on any sudden emergency, and especial care should be taken that all our coal depôts should be well defended, for coals formed the strength of modern navies. These were important subjects, which demanded the most careful consideration at the hands of their Lordships and of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Address agreed to, nemine dissentiente, and ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.