§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
My Lords, I rise to move an address in reply to His Majesty's gracious Speech this morning. There is one paragraph in His Majesty's Speech in which he says that it was with heartfelt joy that he received the intelligence of this Agreement. I am sure that all, even those who do not favour the Agreement, will feel that His Majesty in using those words is declaring a feeling that is shared by enormous numbers of people in England and in Ireland—heartfelt joy! I do not envy any Englishman or Irishman who reads those words without deep feeling. They are not official. They represent the feeling in His Majesty's own mind when he makes this Speech to your Lordships. I do not think that anybody in the House will demur to the last sentence of the Address which I now venture to move in reply to His Majesty's gracious Speech, where mention is made of the reconciliation between Great Britain and Ireland, to which His Majesty's own action has materially contributed.
§ VISCOUNT MORLEY
I think we all feel that in making that declaration the King has been moved by that gift of sympathetic imagination which, along with acute observation, must be regarded not only as a graceful ornament in the Royal character but as an essential in the Head of a great and powerful State.
I understand that the other day when the King was parting company with his Privy Councillors—I hope it is not wrong in me to refer to it here—he said, in conversation with the Prime Minister, that he recalled some years ago when the cause of Home Rule happened to have received one of its many repulses, that I ventured to observe to His Majesty: "Well, Sir, do not let us be too sure that Your Majesty will not some day perhaps, sooner or later, receive Home Rule proposals from Conservative Ministers." That forecast seems to have been thought by sonic to have been a miraculous and marvellous vision. I do not think it is marvellous at all. The event has shown that it was a probable occurrence.
I understand that there may be Amendments moved to my Motion. I shall take care, in the short time which I venture to 6 address your Lordships, not to use any words of a provocative character. It has been said that this is "abject humiliation"—those two words have been used. Those who are called "Die-hards" will take that view. I have no fault to find with a "Diehard" as such. Indeed, I rather think that I myself, outside Ireland, am a humble member of the "Die-hard" persuasion. I cannot see any trace of humiliation in it. The good wishes of the whole world, almost an unparalleled phenomenon, go out to us in this movement. Let me ask a question. The alternative, the opposite, to humiliation is pride. I wonder whether anybody, any Englishman, any citizen of Great Britain, can look back upon the Government of Ireland by Great Britain as an object of pride. Surely, so far from being that, the misrule of Ireland by our country has been a catchword for an age or more. I will put it in this way. A great nation ought to have a good conscience. I submit that as a proposition. I then ask: Can anybody defend the proposition that the government of Ireland all these years has been such as the conscience, the political conscience, can approve? I think not.
Men who have lived long have one privilege among a few—that of being allowed to tell over again old stories. I am certainly not going this afternoon to take up your time in the old story of the Home Rule proposals within the last thirty years. But I would remind your Lordships that the first mention of an alteration in the system of Irish government was the suggestion made, I suppose from this very box, by the Irish Viceroy of that day—Lord Carnarvon, whom Lord Salisbury, then in his first Administration, had made Viceroy of Ireland. I earnestly commend to those who are inclined to take too short a Party view on this side or the other, the words which Lord Carnarvon, the new Irish Viceroy, then used. He said that he had been looking through the Coercion Acts and had been astonished to find that since 1847, with some very short intervals hardly worth mentioning, Ireland had lived under exceptional and Coercive legislation.
It is rather astonishing that a Viceroy should go to Ireland whom that should have astonished so much. It was a cardinal element in the records of our dealings with Ireland all that time that it was by special and coercive legislation. Then Lord Carnarvon went on to say, 7 speaking in the none of his Conservative colleagues, that he had recently been to Canada where English, Scottish and Irish citizens were in subjection to the law of the land, and that he did not despair. On the contrary, he thought he saw there an example of the system which might lead to the better settlement of Ireland. Your Lordships will observe that in the middle of July, 1885, the Irish Viceroy, speaking for his colleagues, said that he looked in the direction of the Canadian system and not the system of coercion. I suspect that speech has been long forgotten by most, but it was the beginning of an effective movement towards changing a system of which I hope we are to-day about to see the end.
What does it all mean? Let us look at the history of Ireland, the history of this chronic government by coercion. What does it mean? It was the naked government of another Kingdom by irresponsible force—irresponsible, that is to say, as regards those whom this system was to affect. Coercion Laws were passed, and were smoothly, described as being for the protection of life and property, of respect for ordinary law, and so on. All those methods proved an ugly failure. At this point I would remind your Lordships of this other fact, that the old strong system of government by exceptional laws was never carried out. Conservatives are very often fond of recalling this. When Mr. Balfour was Irish Secretary for five years—I do not wish to say a word as to the administration of those days, but do let us note this when we talk of Great Britain governing Ireland—Mr. Balfour himself, after following the ordinary practice of Coercion Laws for five years, came back, became head of a Government, and, with his Government, was immediately turned out, instead of being received with gratitude. The whole system of Government was changed and left to a Liberal successor. That is only an instance.
Then there was Lord Spencer, who was not a Conservative but a strong Liberal. Lord Spencer administered these exceptional laws with enormous success, and Ireland was superficially quiet when he left. I may say that Lord Spencer was one of the finest characters that it has ever been my good fortune to know. But what happened under Lord Spencer? He failed with a renewal of coercion, and the continuance of that system of government with which he had been so closely concerned 8 was no longer possible. He then joined Mr. Gladstone. Your Lordships will observe how things stood.
I have mentioned the name of Mr. Gladstone. I think your Lordships would not forgive me, and I should not forgive myself if, as Chief of Staff, as perhaps I was, in his Government, I were not to take this opportunity of saluting that illustrious name. Mr. Gladstone ran through many years of labour, toil awl sacrifice in order to effect a permanent change of policy. Great fault is sometimes found—in fact, it is often found—with the present Prime Minister because he has secured a Coalition. But I would remind your Lordships that after Mr. Gladstone himself had become an advocate and a champion of a new system of government in Ireland, his first view and his first action was to secure a Coalition, and he was often proud of referring to it in later days. He made a communication to Lord Salisbury, then Prime Minister, and assured him that if he felt it his duty to propose plans for improvement in Ireland, he would find from himself, Mr. Gladstone, no opposition, but on the contrary as much strong support as he could reasonably give. I hope your Lordships will remember that when all this nonsense—if I may use the word without disrespect—is talked to-day. This Coalition was Mr. Gladstone's first and prolonged idea. What would have happened if that Coalition had then taken place, it is idle to speculate. We cannot tell; and we are concerned with the present and the future, not with the past, except as more or less a guide in our future proceedings.
There was one other very important proceeding—if you like, a much more important one—the General Election of 1885. I shall not abuse the privilege of a man of long years in going too far into old stories, but do not forget the Irish General Election of the year 1885. It was one of the greatest surprises of political history. I well remember it myself, and I can imagine that there are many Irish Peers here to-day who will remember it too. It was an immense surprise. It was the first time when, by an electoral rearrangement and redistribution of seats and so forth, there was any attempt to get the real opinion of the Irish population. What happened? As I say, it was most extraordinary. Out of eighty-nine contests in Ireland, Mr. Parnell's men carried eighty-five by overwhelming majorities, some as large as 6,000.
9 I submit—and it is worthy to-day of your Lordships' consideration—that no more conclusive and effective repudiation of the government of Ireland was ever made than was made by the Election of 1885. Whether you counted votes, or seats, or forces of which perhaps my noble friend Lord Dunraven will tell us more by-and-by, not only in the south and west but even in the great landlord districts, the result was the same. The Land Acts had made no impression. The Rent Act had done no good. There was no single redeeming point that you could find on behalf of that system of government. You could find no means of testing the feeling of Ireland, and even Ulster, which had returned eight or nine Liberals, now sent them all off and would not have a single Liberal there. The Catholic voter went to the election with the Orange card, and vice versa.
Now let us see where we are. Does anybody suppose that if there was an Election on the same suffrage and distribution, the verdict would be different? I confess that from all I have heard of Ireland, and from all I knew of it when I was there officially, I cannot imagine that it would be so. Of course, it must not be forgotten that we had the enormous influence of Mr. Gladstone and his endless power of industry, given to a cause in which he had no personal interest, at that time. Let us not forget that, but just as I am for recognition of his splendid powers, I am unwilling, and I hope that, many at all events of your Lordships will be unwilling, not to do justice to the present Prime Minister, because I feel, front my own observation and knowledge of Ireland, that if the present Prime Minister had not made up his own mind upon a national policy, and then carried it on with a perseverance, courage and tenacity which are beyond all praise—I feel that by the work which he did, and his colleagues did, they saved Great Britain and Ireland from a formidable and irreparable disaster. I submit that as an Opinion Of my own, whatever it may be worth, for your Lordships' consideration.
After all, what we want is to know the result. For my own part it seems to me that the result is hopeful. I know very well that the work, in one sense, is only just beginning. I will not say only just beginning, because the effective thing is done—namely, the reconciliation of the minds of the British and Irish peoples. See what has happened. 10 In Ulster, two or three days ago, Sir James Craig, who is the leader of the Government of Northern Ireland, used these words, and they really deserve the attention of the House in the consideration of some Trish views which they may hear. He said:—I am not myself dissatisfied at the moment with the Conference, but—I am afraid we must all agree with him here, whether we like the agreement, or repudiate it—there are dark clouds and great difficulties. I believe that the first will be swept away, and that the second will be surmounted.That, as the last declaration which we have from the North of Ireland, makes us sanguine that the time will come when they will meet and work with their fellow Irishmen in the south and west of Ireland. We shall hear what Lord Dunraven has to say on that. This Agreement, and all that depends upon it, and all the measures to carry it further, in the way of good machinery, will all depend upon the continuance, both in Great Britain and in Ireland, of that same spirit that marks to-day as one of the historic, memorable and most spacious moments in our imperial history. I thank your Lordships for allowing me to move the Address.
§ Moved, That, an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as followeth—
§ "Most, Gracious Sovereign,—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ "Having taken into consideration the Articles of Agreement presented to us by Your Majesty's command, we are ready to confirm and ratify these Articles in order that the same may be established for ever by the mutual consent of the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland, and we offer to Your Majesty our humble congratulations on the near accomplishment of that work of reconciliation to which Your Majesty has so largely contributed.—(Viscount Morley.)
THE EARL OF DUNRAVEN
My Lords, in rising to second the Motion before your Lordships' House I do so with a very keen 11 consciousness of the great privilege that has been accorded to me in following the veteran statesman whose distinguished career has been so intimately connected with the cause of Ireland, both in the political aspect, the grant of self-governing power, and in respect of the liberal settlement of the once very vexed land question, and with all other matters connected with the welfare of the country. And I am conscious also of the very slender claim that I have upon that privilege afforded me. I, as a private and independent member of your Lordships' House, have done what I could, but have done very little, to further a settlement of what has been for so long, but will no longer be, the Irish question.
I could do nothing else. I was actuated primarily, no doubt, by affection for the country of my birth, by great sympathy for the people in the pathetic tragedy of their history, and by admiration of their great tenacity of purpose. But I was actuated by many other motives also. I believed that the people of Great Britain—a just and large-hearted people—were ignorant of the real causes of the perpetual discontent in Ireland, and did not understand the people on the other side of the Channel. And of later years it has seemed to me that the reconstruction of society after the great war and the peace of the world were very largely in the hands of the great Commonwealth of Nations that we call the Empire, and perhaps depended entirely upon a complete understanding on essential principles between the Empire and the great Republic across the Atlantic. And, as it seemed to me, the one obstacle that stood between those two great Powers for good, acting in unison and accord, was the discord existing between Great Britain and Ireland. I wanted to do what I could to turn that discord into harmony; and, though I have done but very little, we have now before us a measure that will surely bring it about.
Until the last few days I should have had to admit that all the great work that others have done, and the little that have done myself, had utterly failed; that the cause we advocated was a lost cause; and that failure was complete. Your Lordships may remember that just about a year ago I moved an Amendment to the Second Reading to the Bill of 1920 in this House. I do not want to allude to that except to say that after that debate I admit I left this House in complete 12 despair. I thought that the last possibility of an offer that might be accepted and might save bloodshed was gone; thought I was doomed to see Ireland suppressed by military force, wrecked and ruined in the process. For though I very well knew that military force was bound to prevail, I knew, too, that it would be after a bitter struggle, and afterwards a settlement by military force could never be a real settlement. What was I to look to in the future but to the renewal of the struggle by another generation and to all the increased bitterness and hate that had been engendered by suppression by military strength?
And now, my Lords, I find myself having the honour and the privilege of seconding a Motion for an humble Address to His Majesty thanking His Majesty for his gracious Speech from the Throne in which is announced a great act of reconciliation that will completely change the whole relations in the future between Great Britain and Ireland, will heal the feuds of centuries, and bring about an era, I believe, of true friendship, understanding and fellowship between the two peoples. It would be impossible, and it would be useless for me to try, to find words to express the gratitude I feel and the intensity of the feeling of relief. But I should not be sincere if I did not admit that my great joy is suffused also with regret. How can it be otherwise when I look back upon the last twenty years, the opportunities lost, the great mistakes made on both sides, by Governments here, by leaders of Irish opinion in Ireland; and when I think of the catalogue of calamities that might perhaps have been avoided—would surely have been avoided—had more timely action been taken?
But I do not wish to dwell upon the past. I have taken to heart the words of His Majesty in the great Speech—an epoch-making Speech, for it marked the turn of the tide in opening the Northern Parliament at Belfast, when he urged us all to forgive and forget. I wish to forgive and forget. And whatever little time may be left to me, whatever opportunities I may be afforded. I shall devote to doing the best I can to make this great instrument of reconciliation and peace fulfil all that the authors of it could possibly desire.
It is not for me to say anything about the statesmanship, the patience, the determination to win a way out somehow, of all those who were engaged in the negotiations 13 and in the Conference of which this great measure is the happy outcome. They have their reward in the consciousness of what they have accomplished, and they will have it brimming over when time reveals the consequences of the noble work they have done. I do not desire, either, to go into the Articles of the Agreement. It is an Agreement of tremendous scope, and it inaugurates a gigantic change. Without injustice to any one, without compulsion, it offers a free people all that they can possibly desire to enable them to govern themselves. It puts their destiny in their own hands. For the welfare of their country they in the future, and they alone, will be absolutely responsible. It is a tremendous responsibility, but responsibility is a great solvent and I believe that under that sense of responsibility many of the differences and prejudices that oppress us in Ireland now will gradually melt away.
There are many people, and I dare say some members of this House, who think that this great act and deed of peace goes too far. There are others, of course, though not members of this House, who think that it does not go far enough. My Lords, it does not go too far. When His Majesty's Government saw that a change of policy was necessary—requiring, as I think, great courage and an act of great magnanimity—when they determined upon a great measure of renunciation and reconciliation, they were wise to make it complete, without reservations or qualifications of any sort or kind whatever. You have to trust the Irish people. If you trust them at all it is wise to trust them all in all, and I believe it will be found that they can be trusted. The Agreement goes too far, know, for many of my friends, but to those who are afraid of this great experiment and who think it will end in disaster and ruin, I would make this appeal. I would ask thorn to be patient, to give the people of Ireland a fair chance to make good, as I believe they can and will make good, to do nothing, to say nothing, that could possibly add to the great difficulties which will have to be surmounted in any case.
I do not wish to refer to the past in any way, but I would like to say this. Whatever may be thought of acts and measures employed during the last few melancholy years, I think that any candid man living on the spot and understanding the conditions in Ireland would admit that under 14 the form of government which was set up in Dublin and which the people thought was properly constituted, those in authority and the people themselves displayed qualities of administration and of obedience to the law which augur well for the future of the Irish Free State.
Ireland will want the help of all her friends. The difficulties to be surmounted will be very great. We cannot expect a miracle, and it would be little short of a miracle for any people to take over this great responsibility without difficulty and to put the whole machinery for complete self-government into operation without friction. Ireland, therefore, will want the help of all her friends, and I rejoice to see that my friends the Southern Unionists—I suppose I am one myself but I think we shall have to be re-christened—have received assurances front the Chairman of the Irish Delegation guaranteeing the safeguarding of their interests and asking for their help and support. I am sanguine enough to think, I have faith enough in me to say, that I believe that in time, and in a little time, you will find all Irishmen front north to south and from east to west helping each other in ensuring the prosperity and welfare of what, after all, in spite of all differences and prejudices, in spite of all that is said and done, is the common country of them all.
It is thought by some that this Treaty does not go far enough. I confess that frame of mind is incomprehensible to me. I do not know what may happen in Dublin; I do not know what may be happening there while I am speaking; but of this I feel absolutely confident—that the people of Ireland will not dishonour the signatures of the plenipotentiaries that they trusted to negotiate this great Treaty for them. I cannot understand how any human being can cavil at the terms of this Treaty. No man can deny that it confers upon the Irish people all the powers and all the privileges that are necessary to give them absolute control over their own affairs and to put the whole destiny and future of the country in their hands. Absolute independence can do no more than that, and absolute independence would mean a great deal less. Absolute independence for a small nation situated as Ireland is means isolation. The isolation of a little unit limits her opportunities and prevents her real enjoyment of the solid substance of independence, of freedom, and of liberty.
15 These Articles not only give Ireland complete control of her own affairs, but offer her the position of an honoured member of a great Commonwealth of Nations—a position which endues her with a power that in no other circumstances could she possibly have gained, and which while giving her complete control of her own affairs and placing her destiny in her own hands, gives her also the opportunity, a larger opportunity, of doing her duty ill a wider sphere of life. I am very confident that the Irish people will not dream of rejecting this great message of peace which is offered to them. It has been my fortune to see two great historic episodes in history—to see the triumph of militarism when the King of Prussia was proclaimed German Emperor at Versailles in 1871 (a glorification of the great Prussian god of war) and to see that idol overturned, the rehabilitation of a despoiled and suffering nation, and the right of weak peoples to live and of men to be free secured when the Treaty of Peace was signed in the same room in the same place in 1919. Those were two great episodes in history; but I feel sure that, under heaven, this great pact, this great gift, recognition by a powerful nation of the rights of a small and feeble folk, will stand out for ever as a landmark, pointing to the realisation of that grand ideal, a world at peace. I beg to second the Motion before us.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, for a great number of years, I am sorry to say, it has been my privilege, either from this side of the Table or from the other, to follow those who have moved and seconded an Address in reply to the gracious Speech from the Throne, and it has frequently been my lot to express congratulations to those who have moved or seconded, and, further, to express the hope that after so successful a beginning they would be found taking a frequent part in the debates of your Lordships' House. To-day I am not going to commit the impertinence of congratulating either of my noble friends on their speeches, but I do desire to congratulate the noble Marquess the Leader of the House on the fortunate inspiration which prompted him to invite, as mover and seconder of the Address in reply, two noble Lords, both of whom have watched and taken part in the affairs of Ireland ever since Home Rule became a vital issue in 1885, and, indeed, for years before.
I do not desire to dwell upon my own 16 feelings on hearing my noble friend Lord Morley move the Address—he and I were associated, now nearly thirty years ago, in the government of Ireland—but I do feel that even those noble Lords in the House who have perhaps disagreed with Lord Morley on almost every political subject could not regard without emotion his presence here to-day in this capacity, he being, since Mr. Gladstone died, the foremost living English champion of the cause of self-government for Ireland. And as regards my noble friend Lord Dunraven, his position as seconding the Address is one of profound interest. He was not a follower of Mr. Gladstone. He was not, in the technical sense, for many years a Home Ruler, but he was always a liberal Irishman, looking forward to a freer form of government in that country. I believe I shall be right in saying that the precise form which this Agreement has taken does not fulfil all the aspirations of my noble friend. As he has often told us, he looked forward to a somewhat different form—a form of federal union between the different parts of the United Kingdom. But that surely makes the adhesion and support of my noble friend for the Government measure of even greater value and importance than if he had been in the ordinary sense a Home Ruler all through.
I do not wish to discuss in detail the terms of the Agreement which has been reached. There will, I conceive, be other opportunities of speaking in greater detail on some of its provisions, but I am able to express my general concurrence with its terms. More than a year ago I said from this place that to my mind any amendment that was made in the form of Irish government, if it was to be a success, must include three separate provisions—in the first place, that there should be a single Parliament for Ireland with due provision for secondary Parliaments or for any precautions that were needed to preserve the rights of the north-eastern counties of Ulster; in the second place, that there should be complete financial control of Irish finance by Ireland; and, in the third place, that there should be no representation of Ireland at Westminster. As I read the Agreement the ideal of His Majesty's Government includes all these three provisions, subject, of course, to certain possibilities regarding Ulster of which a word may be said later.
There is only one actual provision in the Agreement to which I wish to allude. 17 By Article 15 of that Agreement, if Ulster agrees to become part of Ireland instead of remaining for a number of purposes connected with Great Britain, there is a long list of subjects safeguarding the interests of Ulster, which are to become the subject of discussion between the Northern and Southern Parliaments. One would have supposed that it would have been possible to include in the Agreement some similar provisions for safeguarding the minority in the South of Ireland. I understand, and Lord Dunraven has already stated, that the Unionists of Southern Ireland have received satisfactory assurances in that regard from those who are qualified to give them on the part of the majority. But it would have seemed on the face of it—I speak without any special knowledge—as though some such provision Might well have formed an essential part of the Agreement itself.
I think it may be fairly claimed on behalf of His Majesty's Government that the Agreement, taken as a whole, is not separatist in any way in its effect. I do not want to go into the reasons which prompt me to make that assertion, but I do not think it can be complained (the term "separatist" having been so often applied to us, who in the old days advocated Home Rule), that this can be described in any sense as a Separatist Agreement. But, as has been indicated by the mover and seconder of the Address, an Agreement of this kind cannot be expected to come into operation without opposition from different quarters. It is bound to receive some opposition from those who, as Lord Morley has said, think it does not go far enough. The men who are the heirs of the Fenians of 1866 and the Invincibles of 1882 are not likely to be content with a measure of this kind. I cannot believe, however, that they are numerous, nor can I believe that other opponents on the same side can be numerous; that is to say, those who are mere doctrinaire revolutionaries and who cling to terms and forms more than they do to the essentials of such a proposal as this.
On the other hand, there will undoubtedly be some opposition from Ulster. It has often been said that we Liberals in the past, and the Nationalist members of the House of Commons with whom we generally acted, did not ever really face the Ulster difficulty when we endeavoured to promote Home Rule. I am not concerned to dispute the proof of that statement, more particularly 18 as it applies to our action in 1914. There is this, however, to be said on the other side. It must be remembered that all through Ulster set herself not merely to prevent her being placed under a Dublin Parliament but to prevent the passing of any measure of Home Rule of any kind. We never came to the point when it had to be considered what were the actual demands of Ulster if there was to be a Home Rule Parliament in Dublin. What that demand is we know now. It takes the form of a Parliament of her own; but that was never hinted at or suggested in the old days when we were pressing Home Rule measures on Parliament. In consequence of that the Ulster representatives were enabled to enlist on their side, so as to act uniformly with them, practically the whole of the Conservative Party which took up an unyielding opposition to the idea of any Home Rule of any sort.
At the same time I confess that I frankly comprehend, although I may not entirely sympathise with, the feeling of Ulstermen in view of the undoubted and complete reversal of the policy of His Majesty's Government. That cannot be disputed, and the Government must expect that a great many of their old supporters must feel towards them very much as Lord George Bentinck and his friends felt towards Sir Robert Peel in 1846. In my humble opinion the Government have done perfectly right, but they cannot complain if some of their supporters take this view. But even if they do, I venture to express the hope that as Irishmen Ulstermen will try to make the best of things and see whether it is not possible to carry out the general tennis of this Agreement in a manner which will do no harm to their real interests, to their loyalty, and to their sentiments on any civil or religious subject.
I have always felt that if it broke down, if Ulster were to refuse altogether to remain part of Ireland in view of the establishment of a Parliament in Dublin, the right course would be to attach the administration of Ulster not to England but to Scotland. It would be, I trust, a purely temporary arrangement, because in my view the force of circumstances, sooner or later, and I hope very much sooner, would bring Ulster into accord with the rest of Ireland. But if it were to break down altogether, as a pis aller that is the course which, if I had anything to do with it, I should take.
19 I apprehend the position of Ulster and I shall not be surprised, not do I think the Government can be surprised, if some hard things are said about them by those who speak for Northern Ireland. But I confess that I do not comprehend in any sense the attitude of English Tories who are prepared to believe that a renewal of civil war, which is the only alternative, would be preferable to the carrying out of this Agreement. That is an attitude of mind which I confess I am entirely unable to understand, and I should like to think that noble Lords who feel bitterly about this business will pause before they attempt to press any Amendment to the Address which, if carried—though I do not believe it would be carried—would have the effect of destroying the Agreement, and presumably of obliging His Majesty's Government to reconsider their whole position.
On the other hand, there is one question which I feel obliged to ask, because it will be asked by a great many people. Assuming this to be the right course to pursue, assuming that this Agreement can be carried out with the hope of bringing peace to Ireland, why was no attempt made to do it before? Let us see what happened. Up to last June the Government were pursuing the policy of repressing the Irish rebellion, as it was always called, and the country was encouraged to believe that until that rebellion was forcibly suppressed and order was restored there could be no question of reconsidering any of the provisions of the Government of Ireland Act. But at the beginning of June His Majesty's Government were seized with an acute attack of sanity. We all remember the gracious Speech delivered at the opening of the Northern Parliament, to which Lord Dunraven has already alluded— His Majesty's Speech, but also, of course, the speech of His Majesty's Government—in which His Majesty and the Government appealed to all Irishmen to pause and to stretch out the hand of forbearance and conciliation. Two days later the Prime Minister addressed to Mr. de Valera an invitation to confer with himself and also with Sir James Craig.
It was a most happy turn of affairs, but there was no reason that I know of for its being postponed until that particular date. There was no particular issue as between the forces of the Government and the forces of rebellion in Ireland which 20 could be said to have been then determined in a way which made conference easy. Things were going on in the deplorable way in which they had been going on for months, and, except for the general weariness which everybody was beginning to feel at what seemed to be the unending course of horrors in Ireland, there was no fact or act which made the selection of that particular moment a natural one. One cannot help feeling, therefore, that those many months of conflict, that succession of ambushes and kidnappings and homicides on the one side and of indiscriminate reprisals on the other side, that terrible tale of broken hearts and ruined homes, might, much of it, have been avoided if action had been taken sooner. I do not want to press the details of this tragedy. History is bound to ask that question. Perhaps politicians can defy history, but the question will also be put by the constituents of right hon. gentlemen and of the supporters of the Coalition, if they claim—as presumably they will after a happy issue—that the Government and its supporters, and they alone, have at last succeeded in bringing about a complete settlement of the Irish question.
The future is, as I believe, hopeful; but it must be difficult. There must be a number of most delicate matters which will be the subject of discussion and of some difference of opinion between those in Ireland who will be affected by their determination one way or the other. But I do venture to hope that the practical common sense of Irishmen, which is a quality belonging to that nation to an infinitely greater extent than is sometimes popularly supposed, will find an answer to those questions and a solution of those difficulties. I believe that it will be found possible to frame the details of government under this Agreement, and so to ensure a fair start for what, however we look at it, must be considered one of the greatest constitutional enterprises that any Government has ever undertaken.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, when I came into the House this afternoon, I found the Lord Chancellor from the Woolsack paying, with an authority which few in this House can equal, and in singularly well-chosen language, a tribute to the great Judge and the remarkable public man who has lately departed from our midst. I should not like, as Leader of the House, to 21 refrain from the privilege of endorsing, in one or two Sentences only, the tribute which he offered more particularly on behalf of the profession which he represents.
Lord Halsbury was, indeed, a notable figure in this House. Fiercely attacked in his earlier days, he became in time one of the most historic and respected personalities in the public life of the country. Possessed of al astonishing physical and intellectual vitality, his years were prolonged far beyond the ordinary span, until he appeared to reproduce the tradition and the spectacle of a patriarch of the Old Testament. Uncompromising in his opinions, fearless in the expression of them, he was nevertheless, as Lord Crewe pointed out to us, one of the most open-hearted and kindly of men. The Lord Chancellor spoke of him, I understood, or quoted sons view expressed of him, as "The last of the Tories." That would be an ill-compliment to pay to some members of your Lordships' House. There are still quarters of this House where that type lingers, but this I will say, that Lord Halsbury was, perhaps, the most powerful and moat formidable exponent of that creed. It is not for me to speak of him as a Judge, but I have always been told that his judgments were conspicuous if not merely for erudition and subtlety, at all events for perspicuity, sanity and wisdom. He will fill an honourable place in the list of those who have held the Great Seal in this country, and those of us who recall his long services here will always cherish of him an admiring recollection.
Since we last met another great Judge has passed away, also a member of your Lordships' House, to whom I will only allude in a sentence, and he is the late Lord Lindley. I never remember his speaking in this House, although he may have done so, but I think it may be said of him with truth that he symbolised to a remarkable degree the reputation and distinction of the British Bench.
I come now to the occasion of our meeting this afternoon. It has already been pointed out that it is unlike other occasions—I might almost say all other occasions—in our memory. This session, it is contemplated, will be only a few days in duration. It will probably be the shortest session of Parliament on record. It is to be marked by no legislation whatsoever. The Kings Speech is confined to five paragraphs, and it relates to a single subject only. We are invited to perform at this stage one 22 act, and then to disperse. The contrast between this, and all previous occasions, is also marked, as the noble Marquess indicated, by the difference in the duties which devolve upon him and me. Ordinarily, speaking on these occasions, we commence our speeches by conventional, but always sincere and in the majority of cases eminently well-deserved, compliments to the speakers who move and second the Address, and we conclude that portion of our remarks by expressing a hope that they will overcome their natural timidity and address your Lordships often.
No such invocation has it been necessary to address to the two eminent men to whom we have listened this afternoon. I think we may regard ourselves as fortunate to have persuaded to emerge from his retirement, still, we are glad to find, in the enjoyment of good health, one of the foremost figures of our time—a man whom all here regard with honour and those who know him with deep affection—the standard-bearer of this fight in earlier days, the colleague, as he very naturally reminded us, and the interpreter, of Mr. Gladstone, twice himself Chief Secretary for Ireland, and the earliest, the most undaunted and the most faithful apostle of Home Rule. I would fain hope, from the character of his remarks, that he has not found it uncongenial to appear here this afternoon and to address us on the consummation of what he cannot help regarding as the labours of his life. A little while ago he brought out a volume of Recollections. May I suggest that in his retirement at Wimbledon another volume, or at any rate another chapter, be added, regarding this final scene in the struggle in which he has borne so noble a part. I think it only fair, on behalf of this House, to say that we salute those also who during the last forty years have joined or followed him in the struggle, a good many of whom have passed away from our midst.
The seconder of the Address was the noble Earl who sits on my left. He has been, as we all know, a life-long friend of Ireland. He has never failed, in fair weather or in foul, and he has known both, to preach with an eloquence of which we had further illustration to-night, and with a consistency which has never wavered, the cause of Irish unity, Irish welfare and Irish freedom. In less propitious days, and among colleagues with whom he did not always agree, he never wavered in his 23 faith, and to-night I am in your Lordships' recollection when I say that his speech was charged with the same qualities—the same generosity, the same faith, and the same appeal to the better instincts of his countrymen which we have so often admired on previous occasions.
There are others whom it would be unfair to omit in our tribute of honour. I was glad to notice that the noble Viscount Lord Morley, specially mentioned the service that has been rendered by His Majesty the King. The influence of the Crown is an increasing rather than a diminishing factor in the life of England, and this, my Lords, without the smallest infringement of our liberties or the slightest strain upon the fabric of the Constitution. There are occasions when the Sovereign can perform an act, or say a word, which no subject, however influential, could attempt, and which expresses, as no subject could do, the views of the people. In this respect His Majesty has worthily borne the torch which was handed to him by his illustrious father. He has known when and how and where to make himself the interpreter of the sentiments and purpose of the nation, and assuredly never did he play this part with greater opportuneness or with surer instinct than when he delivered his moving and manly speech at Belfast to which reference has been made.
Neither would it, I think, be fair to omit—and I have so far noticed the omission—a word of recognition to those who have represented the Government and, I hope, the country also, in these negotiations. One of them sits in this House on the Woolsack—not the least in talent and resourcefulness—and no doubt later on we shall hear much more from him about the progress and details of the negotiations than I am competent to offer. But I do know of my colleagues that for weeks, and indeed months, they devoted their whole time to exploring every avenue, to sifting every suggestion, to considering every alternative, bringing to the examination of the question all the resources of Constitutional Law and practice.
Lord Morley said nothing more fair than when he remarked, as indeed all my colleagues would readily admit, that the chief credit for the result that has been obtained, whatever you may think of that result, is due to the Prime Minister. His inexhaustible patience, his extraordinary power of conciliation have been accom- 24 panied—and this I know—by a firmness at critical moments which has never blenched; and even when things were at their worst, just as I remember it so often in the war, he never failed, he never faltered, and he never despaired. Do let us pay this tribute of credit in a quarter where it is so thoroughly deserved.
Before I pass from this subject I do not think, either, that it would be fair to deny many of those tributes to those delegates who represented the Irish Party, engaged in a contest quite unfamiliar to them. I am told that they showed conspicuous ability, great sincerity, and a desire also to bring things to a happy issue. Remember that we are not the only people who have had to sacrifice some prejudices and to surrender some convictions. There has been, perhaps, a good deal of that upon both sides. Let us, therefore, in complimenting our own delegates, not be ungenerous to those of the other side.
The Agreement that has been concluded is in your possession. It is in print, and has appeared in all the newspapers. I had thought originally of putting before you at this early stage of the debate some attempt at an exposition of its clauses, but I realised that that was hardly required. In the first place, this is not a Second Reading debate upon a Bill. Then again, the terms of the Articles are stated in language so clear that he who runs may read; and, thirdly, opportunities, if they are needed, will arise later on of offering any explanation or defence that may be called for. But there are one or two smaller aspects of the case about which you may expect me to say a word in passing in order to render the course of this debate easier as it goes along.
The first point, to which I need only devote a sentence or two, is as to the selection of the title of Irish Free State—a choice which has aroused some apprehension, and met with sonic criticism in different quarters. There is nothing sinister about it. The title was chosen not merely because it gratified the Irishmen, but because it rested upon a distinct historical precedent in our own recent history. In 1848 the country that lies between the Orange and Vaal rivers in South Africa was known as the Orange River Sovereignty. In 1854 its independence was recognised, and it became the Orange Free State. In 1900, after the Boer War, the State was annexed, it 25 became a Crown Colony, and it was called the Orange River Colony. But in 1910, when that great movement took place that culminated in the Convention of South Africa, a reversion was made—and I think happily made to the old title of Orange Free State; and it may interest your Lordships to know that the motion for that reversion was made by Dr. Jameson himself, a man of wide insight and imagination, and I have always been told by those who were in Africa at the time, as indeed I happened to be myself, that no step had a greater effect in touching the hearts anti reconciling the prejudices of many of those to whom he had hitherto been opposed.
The next point about which your Lordships may not unnaturally ask for some information is as to the stages through which, in the immediate future, von will be asked to proceed. We are engaged upon the first stage to-day; that is, asking the approval of both Houses of Parliament—and the same thing is going on in Ireland—of the Agreement that has been concluded. The second stage will be that which is provided for in Article 17 of the Agreement, under Which a Provisional Government is to be set up in Ireland during the period while the Constitution of the Free State is being drafted and set in motion. This will no doubt require some discussion, and will take up a certain amount of time. Legislation will not be required for that object, though it may be that when the Constitution is set up an Act of Indemnity may be called for in order to cover any informality that may have occurred.
The first duty of this Provisional Government, when it is instituted, will be to draw up the new Constitution within the lines laid down by the Articles of Agreement. The Constitution will be limited by these boundaries; it will not fall short of them, neither can it go beyond them. Now, in drawing up that final Constitution—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Does the noble Marquess say that the Constitution will be drawn up by the Irish Provisional Government, and not by the Government here?
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Yes. The draft, at ally rate, will be drawn up by the Provisional Government that is set up. And I was 26 going on to say (because it is very pertinent to the inquiry of the noble Marquess) that we earnestly hope that all Parties in Ireland will participate in that act. Mention has more than once been made of the invitation that has been addressed by the leaders of the Irish movement to my noble friend and his colleagues. We hope that they will be represented and that they will take their part, in these discussions, and, for my own part, as regards Ulster, whatever Ulster's views may be of the main Agreement—whether she decides to come in or not to come in—I hope that she, too, may not be unwilling to consider the question of taking part in these discussions which, whether she conies in or not, must have a material effect upon her future.
§ LORD CARSON
May I ask the noble Marquess whether it is proposed to amend the 1920 Act as regards the finances of Ulster, and whether it will be left, to the Ulster Parliament to frame the Bill, or whether it will be done over here? Because the noble Marquess must know that the whole of the finance is taken away by this proposal.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON of KEDLESTON
That is not a question which I should like to answer definitely; I mean, it is a question which, if answered at all, ought to be answered with absolute precision Perhaps the noble Lord will allow that question to be answered at a later stage in this debate.
One other preliminary point I should like to deal with, and that is the point about trade, because here the House may not unnaturally or unfairly expect sonic explanation of an apparent change of view. In our original proposals in July last we stipulated that Great Britain and Ireland should be bound by an agreement not to impose protective duties or other restrictions upon the flow of transport, trade, and commerce, between the two islands. You will see in the Articles of Agreement that we have maintained this stipulation with regard to transport alone.
Under the new Articles, therefore, Ireland is completely mistress of all forms of taxation, direct and indirect; she absolutely controls her own Customs and Excise. The Irish delegates felt strongly that this power was an essential element of the self-government which they desired to attain, and inasmuch as we had originally inserted the stipulation against it more in regard 27 for Ireland than in regard for ourselves, we waived it at their request. We trust, however, that this power will not be exercised in any way likely to impair the relations between the two islands. Differential duties have been a fruitful source of irritation, injustice, and alienation in the past. At the present moment, as we know only too well, the erection of tariffs between the States that were set up in Europe by the Treaty of Versailles has unquestionably impeded their recovery from the effects of the war. We do not in the least grudge to Ireland the power to protect new industries or to make safeguards of any sort that she may think necessary for her economic development, but we are very strongly of opinion that the freest possible trade between the two islands is best, and is, indeed, essential for both.
Let me illustrate this to your Lordships by a few figures. The total trade of Great Britain was valued in 1919 at £2,538,000,000. Of this total £306,000,000, or about 12 per cent., was with Ireland. The total overseas trade of Ireland was valued in the same year at £334,000,000, and of this total £306,000,000, or about 90 per cent., was with or through Great Britain. This total, I should explain, includes transit trade through Great Britain of which the figures are unknown, but the transit trade certainly bears a moderate proportion to the whole. Out of the Irish exports in 1919, £94,000,000 were represented by farm produce, food, and drink, while over half the agricultural products of Ireland are in fact exported to Great Britain. Ireland, moreover, is dependent on this country for supplies of iron and coal.
I have quoted those figures in order to show the dominant economic position in which nature has placed Great Britain with regard to Ireland. That was the ground on which we desired to secure for Ireland free trade with this country. Our object was the interest of Ireland, and the assurance of good commercial relations with her for all time. It was not in any way prompted by jealousy of Irish development. I say this in order to make it absolutely clear that the abrogation of the free trade condition was decided at the instance of the Irish Delegates and contrary to our own desires. In practice, the liberty conceded to Ireland is not one which, owing to the conditions which I have described, it will be either possible or desirable for Ireland in her own interests to use against this country.
28 Now I pass from those particular observations to the larger issues upon which it is more natural for us to dwell in a debate of this character. A good deal has been said about this message of peace. Is it peace with honour to Ireland and to ourselves? Can our delegates truthfully stand up and make for themselves the same claim which Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury did when they came back from Berlin more than forty years ago? I will endeavour, briefly but fairly, to answer those questions. Is this peace, if it be peace, honourable to Ireland? No one, I think, will doubt that proposition. Lord Dunraven himself said that Ireland has gained more under this than the most sanguine of her supporters had ventured to believe possible. She has obtained the full status of a Dominion. She is in exactly the same position vis-à-vis ourselves as Canada, or Australia, or New Zealand. She has control of her finances, and her trade. She has all the internal attributes and prerogatives of self-government. She is the mistress of her own destinies. Her prospects are equal, and indeed superior, to those which are enjoyed by the greater part of the free States in Europe which were set up as a consequence of the recent war.
I can understand the contention that we have given too much. I am sure that we shall hear a good deal of it in the course of this debate. I will not anticipate that criticism before it is made, and I will not, therefore, attempt to give a reply. I would merely like to indulge in this general reflection. You have to measure the price you pay for a commodity not merely by the value of that commodity at the moment, but by its prospective value in the future. And here, my Lords, I at any rate venture to think that you are purchasing an article which will greatly appreciate in value as time goes on. On the whole, just as in private life we do not condemn a gift because it is munificent or an apology because it is handsome, so also in tins affair I should not like, it would not be fair, to blame our negotiators because the concessions they made were generous, or because their statesmanship was compatible with a belief in the sincerity of those whom they met and was actuated, as it was in many cases, by the highest courage.
But I pass on to a question equally, perhaps more, relevant to the majority of the members of your Lordships' House. Is this measure a measure of peace that is 29 honourable to ourselves, to Great Britain, and to the British Empire? Have we sacrificed anything that we ought to have kept? Have we retained the essentials which it was necessary to maintain? Let me state it to your Lordships as I see it. As the result of this Agreement, if it be concluded, Ireland remains within the circle of the British Empire. She becomes a member of that great Commonwealth of Free Nations to which reference has more than once been made this afternoon. Her people are our fellow-subjects in the fullest sense of the term. They own allegiance to the same King. The Sovereign will be represented in Ireland by a Governor-General appointed by the Crown in consultation, as is the case in every Dominion, with the Government of that Dominion. We retain control over her ports and harbours to a degree and in a manner which satisfy the Admiralty, who were looking after her interests. If it be, said: "You have allowed her to have military forces," I reply that at least they are limited to numbers proportionate to her population, which can scarcely conceivably be a source of danger. The Privy Council remains the final court of appeal in Ireland, and if any community or any individual in Ireland feels, for instance, that his or their rights in respect of religion or religious education, as provided for in Article 17 of the Agreement, are infringed by any laws that may be passed in future in Ireland, their remedy lies in an appeal to the Privy Council.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I do not know that it is mentioned in the provisions, but it is inherent in her status as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. There is given to her no more and no less than is conceded to them. If, however, there is any doubt about it it can easily be made clear. I suppose the full incorporation of Ireland in the Commonwealth of the British Empire could not be, if I may use a certain word on this point, better illustrated than by this, that if any foreign Power were to declare war against this country she would be declaring war against Ireland, and if in any war in the future Ireland attempted to declare her own neutrality that would be an act of secession from the Empire. I have 30 thus, I hope, in a few sentences shown that in this Agreement we have vindicated the three essential principles which have over and over again been laid down in your Lordships' House—firstly, the position and supremacy of the Crown; secondly, the security of the United Kingdom; and, thirdly, the integrity of the Empire.
But, for my own part, I look for the vindication of this Agreement not merely to its contents but to its consequence. This will, as I hope, cover the whole field of our national life both at home and abroad. For a hundred years the politics of England have been affected, coloured, and at times embittered, by the existence of an Ireland close to our shores, an Ireland which was discontented, sullen, and sometimes actively hostile. Take our own experience, the experience of those of us in all parts of this House who have been in public life something like thirty to forty years, ever since Mr. Gladstone first went over to the Home Rule cause, nearly forty years ago. This phenomenon of which I am speaking has grown into an obsession, and this menace has at times become an absolute danger. During the time that I remember, Ireland and Irish debates have consumed the time of Parliament; they have blocked British legislation; they have produced scenes of violence, passion, and even of crime, culminating in the tragical experience of the last two years. They have exercised an effect upon our life in this country which has been at one time paralysing, and at another time disruptive and destructive. In peace the Irish have seldom been a solace; they have almost always been an anxiety in war. They have declined to share our burdens. What a relief, what a crowning mercy, if we could lay this spectre at last, and if we could turn this haunted house of Ireland into an abode of happiness and of peace.
When I talk to you of the relief that may be expected, I have a peculiar right to speak, not in the least from my recollections, which are not different from those of anybody else, but from the Office which I happen to fill. There has not been a Foreign Minister in this country during the last fifty years who has not felt, and indeed often stated, that the strength of England was diminished, and her moral influence jeopardised, by the unsolved position of the Irish question. This was felt not merely in the Dominions, where the Irish have been so disturbing a factor, but most 31 of all in the United States of America, where the understanding which we so warmly desire has not only been rendered difficult, but almost impossible, by the existence of the Irish question.
As I came down here this afternoon there was put into my hands a telegram from Mr. Balfour, which said that he, on behalf of the British Government, had signed what is called the Quadruple Treaty in substitution for the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. This follows upon the Agreement as regards Naval Disarmament to which we gave our adhesion at Washington a few weeks ago. If, in the same week that these great events have taken place at Washington, we could wipe off from the slate here this Irish question, I know of no obstacle to impair the completeness of the understanding, and the closeness of the co-operation that should prevail in future between America and ourselves, and which is equally demanded by the traditions, the sentiments, and the need of these two great branches of the English-speaking race.
The noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, in the course of his speech, put to me a very direct question. He said: "If this measure is so desirable and so practicable now, why was it not done last year? Why was it not done before? Why have we had to go through all these pathetic and lamentable experiences in the past? "I think that these questions of what might have been, of what could have been done, or of what should have been done, are very futile questions. I am coming to particulars. My noble and learned friend Lord Carson smiles.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
But it is a serious question, and I am prepared to give a serious answer to it. I might, I suppose, retaliate by saying, why did not Lord Morley, or Mr. Gladstone, or Mr. Asquith give, instead of the patchy Home Rule which they offered, something more substantial and more like that which we are giving now? I might say why, when Mr. Disraeli or Lord Salisbury extended the franchise, did they not give the much wider extension which was afterwards found possible and necessary? The fact is, if you look at history, you find that it is almost invariably by slow and painful, and sometimes by bloodstained stages that great 32 events like the liberation of a country or the attainment of freedom are secured. Each stage is perhaps an unconscious contribution to the final issue, and of every great event in our history it is true that it has been brought on quite as much by the failures as by the successful efforts of the past.
Let me give a more direct reply to the question. I can imagine many forms of argument that might be developed in explanation of the success of this solution, if it be successful. I can imagine one set of persons arguing that had it not been for the war, and for the passion for peace that has been engendered by the war, it would never have taken place. I think there is a great deal of truth in that. I can imagine another set of persons arguing that had it not been for the existence of a Coalition Government it could never have taken place. I think there is a great deal of force in that. But I can also imagine a third set of persons holding the view that had it not been for what I have called the tragic experiences of the past year in Ireland, and the horror which they have bred in the minds of all men of both sides, the Irish Party would never have been persuaded to drop the claim for independence which they had put forward.
There is yet another point. I suggest to noble Lords as an indisputable proposition that you would never have got this settlement had it not been that Ulster, by the legislation which we passed here in 1920, attained a separate being of her own, with her own rights entrenched therein behind an Act of Parliament. I do not know whether Ulster is going to accept this plan.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
That remains to be seen. I am quite sure that Nationalist Ireland would never have accepted it before. Her idea up till last year has always been to intimidate and coerce Ulster into surrender. From the moment the Irish Act of last year was passed that became impossible. Ulster is in a position to defend herself, as we are told she means to do, more effectively than otherwise she could possibly have done.
I think we are justified in noting with some attention the reception with which these proposals have met. I do not say 33 that the news of this settlement was received in this country with anything comparable with the excitement that followed the declaration of the Armistice in November, 1918. The circumstances were different. In the first place, the settlement came so suddenly, and with an element of surprise in view of the news which had been circulated a little before. In the second place, people were not certain that it was still capable of being carried out. But I do truthfully say, and believe some of the speakers have said it before, that there was a silent sense of relief in all parts of the country that was positively overwhelming; that there was not a home in which satisfaction was not felt, and not a pulpit in a single church in which on the following Sunday it was not expressed. The fee ling was universal in all our minds that the great weight which has been lying upon the conscience and spirit of the nation for years was lifted, and that we could look ahead with greater confidence than we had hitherto been able to do.
And, after all, do not take the sentiment of this country only. Are we not entitled to attach sonic weight to what was said by our Dominions and by foreign countries? When this Agreement came out there was not a single Premier of a single Dominion of the British Crown who did not telegraph his congratulations, and not a single foreign Government that did not express their sense of satisfaction to His Majesty's Government. They felt, and felt truly, that England had added to her strength and glory by this act of reconciliation, and at a bound our reputation and our prestige stood higher in the world.
The reception that, this Agreement meets with in Parliament is a different matter. The present debate will show what reception it meets with from various sections of Irish opinion in the House of Lords. As regards the Southern Unionists it is not for me to anticipate what their attitude may be, but I observe this, that in reply to the conciliatory advances from one of the leaders of the Irish Delegation, who knows just as well as any man that Southern Ireland cannot subsist in the future without the experience, the services, and the patriotic aid, of men like Lord Midleton who live there—I note that in response to that invitation, couched in most conciliatory terms, an encouraging and sympathetic reply was returned by my noble 34 friend. I know that we may rely upon him to spare nothing in respect of conciliatory temper and good will that may promote a good result.
As regards Ulster she will presently state her own ease, and it is not for me to forecast what that case may be. Her most powerful spokesman now sits on the benches opposite. I understand he is going to follow me in the debate. I hope he will pardon me if I say, having known him both in a public and private capacity for many years, that I have often seen and heard him in the House of Commons, while defending with inflexible courage the interests of the community of whose cause he has been the principal champion, indulge, nevertheless, in gestures of supreme and passionate belief in the destinies of his own country, in confessing a love of Ireland no less than a love of Ulster, and confessing too, his willingness to join hands even with those who have been his rivals and his foes in the furtherance of a larger and common aim.
The noble and learned Lord has now become a judge, a member of the highest Court of this Realm. I hope that because he has become a Judge he will not become less generous, but rather that the equipoise of his judgment will be even more solidly fixed. I hope that in our debates and the solution of this matter, if I may not utter an impertinence in saying so, he will remember that he is not only an advocate but, by virtue of his judicial position, he has become in large measure an arbiter.
As for Ulster as a whole, she is assured of a sympathetic reception for her case in whatever form she chooses to place it before this House. This House has always fought the battles of Ulster with uncompromising sincerity. I remember that in the last debate in which the noble Viscount and I took part, in January, 1913, on the Second Reading of the last Home Rule Bill before it was rejected by this House, Lord Londonderry, the father of the present noble Marquess, made a powerful and passionate appeal on behalf of Ulster, and I remember the day after in my small way endorsing that appeal, and speaking on behalf of Ulster, and Ulster almost alone. We are just as keen now as we were then in our desire that Ulster, if she comes into this Agreement, shall secure all the guarantees she has a right to ask, and that if she stays out, she shall not suffer for doing so. I remember particularly the loyal and self- 35 sacrificing part which was played by Ulster and her spokesmen here in the debates on the Government of Ireland Bill of last year. I recall the self-abnegation and the magnanimity with which those spokesmen accepted an agreement, a solution which none of them really liked, but which they were prepared to carry out in the larger interests of their country.
The future of Ulster is, of course, in her own hands. Nothing that we can say can make much difference. But personally—if one is entitled to a personal opinion about the matter—I have never wavered in my belief that the ultimate destiny of Ireland, whether it be accomplished earlier or later, is to be a united country, and that the barriers of history, sentiment and religion, formidable as they are, are barriers which are not destined to be permanent, and which will ultimately yield to the compelling force of nationality. I have never made a speech in this House on Home Rule (and I have made several) in which I have not expressed that aspiration, and I have never given a vote in the Cabinet on any Home Rule matter which was not inspired by that hope. The appeasement of Ireland, the pacification of Ireland is a great thing, but the union of Ireland will be a much greater thing, and I should like, and I still hope, to live to see it.
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me, from my experience of the last few years, to put before you the larger vision of the future of Ireland in which I venture to indulge. I contemplate not merely a peaceful Ireland or a prosperous Ireland, taking advantage of her great resources; I contemplate an Ireland which shall be a willing and a valuable member of the Commonwealth of Nations that constitutes our Empire. During the last seven years, since the war began, I have realised, in a manner which I should have deemed incredible before, the strength, the dignity and the independence enjoyed by those constituent elements of our Empire. In domestic affairs they are practically independent. In Imperial affairs their Ministers attend our Councils, they are kept informed of our policy, they see all the most important papers. The day-by-day conduct of the foreign affairs of the Empire is, of course, in the hands of the Foreign Office; that is determined by conditions of geography and convenience. But from time to time those Ministers come here to review the whole field, and if any substantial change or departure is contemplated, 36 either in their relations or in Imperial affairs, it is only by the consent of the Imperial Conference, which has insensibly developed into a sort of Imperial Cabinet, that the thing can be done.
These are the conditions of peace. In war time these Ministers take their seats at the council table; they become Cabinet Ministers; they are responsible for the great decisions that regulate the conduct of the war; they help to direct the war policy of the Empire, to determine the movement of troops, the strategy of campaigns, and so forth. When war is concluded, they attend the meetings of the Supreme Council, wherever they are held; they sign the Peace Treaties; they are in a position of absolute equality with Great Britain; they are incorporated in the League of Nations—as Ireland, I hope, will shortly be, for if this Agreement be accepted she has only to ask it—and they enjoy an independent status there.
These are the advantages, as I see them, winch are open to Ireland. Will her citizens be so blind as to refuse them? Shall we be so narrow as not to offer them? If we give them, and if she takes them, there lies before her a future not merely of material prosperity, but of power and prestige of which she has never hitherto dreamed. I hope that it may be ours to realise the vision which is in our grasp, and hers to embrace the destiny that is offered to her.
§ LORD CARSON
My Lords, in venturing to address your Lordships' House for the first time I am bound to admit that the only pleasure I find in such an operation is in having to welcome here the mover of this Address, Lord Morley. I cannot but recollect that it was his speech in the House of Commons just thirty years ago which, when I first spoke there, I had to answer. I think it is befitting that he should attend here at these splendid obsequies of the Unionist Party. I think he is a very proper person to pronounce the funeral oration over all that has been said and done by that misguided Party (as we have just learnt from the noble Marquess) for the last thirty-five years, dead and buried front today, with all this engineered splendour to cover up the defeat and humiliation you have had in Ireland; dead and buried, strangled, without consultation with their followers, by the leaders and trustees who were sent into the Government to protect them.
37 The seconder of the Address is a brother Irishman. I have known him many years. His one great characteristic has always been that he never could agree with anybody on any subject, and I cannot but congratulate him that this evening he has at last found peace and understanding in the knowledge that he will now be under that perfect Government which will be evolved out of the murder gang in. Ireland. I wish him every success and every happiness in the future of his country and of his own life there.
But, after all, we must come down to the realities of the situation. I wish I had something of the eloquence of the noble Marquess in advocating his new-found faith. I wonder when it came to him. It would be worth inquiring. Was it yesterday, or was it the day before? Why, it is not very long ago that he used to tell us that black was very black, just with as great eloquence as he has assured us that it is very white. He has what they call in boys' slang "gone the whole hog." It is always the way with a man who has a newly-found faith. I believe in religion they call him a pervert, but I should be sorry to apply an epithet of that kind to so great, so eloquent, and so superior a man as the noble Marquess.
It is a curious thing. I once heard the late Duke of Devonshire. It was one of the earliest political meetings I ever attended and it was in Dublin, and he was commenting upon the then recent change of Mr. Gladstone on this very question. Having quoted some of his previous utterances, the noble Duke made this remark, which I commend, if I may most humbly, to the noble Marquess. He said:—Is it necessary that because a man turns his coat he should divest himself of every particle of his raiment?I suggest to the noble Marquess that it was not in the least necessary, because he came down here with his coat turned, that he should have tried to picture himself in such a state of absolute nudity as his speech appeared to indicate.
I read a statement in an essay in a paper a few weeks ago by that great statesman, so intimately connected with Ireland, Mr. Birrell. He said this, and I never knew it was true till I heard the noble Marquess speak this evening—It is a British characteristic, though not an amiable one, that once we are beaten we go over in a body to the successful enemy, and too often 38 abandon and cold-shoulder and snub, both in action and writing, the suffering few who adhere to our cause in evil and difficult times.I am one of the suffering few. I speak for a good many. I speak—I can hardly speak—for all those who, relying on British honour and British justice, have in giving their best to the service of the State seen them now deserted and cast aside without one single line of recollection or recognition in the whole of what you call peace terms in Ireland. The noble Marquess paid a generous and eloquent tribute to Michael Collins, the head of the murder gang, as Sir Hamar Greenwood described him only a few months ago in the House of Commons.
§ LORD CARSON
You mentioned the delegates. Perhaps you did not know he was one of them. I do not know if you were ever there, but he was. He committed many murders with his own hands—the hand that you have now so willingly grasped. But I heard nothing said of a case that I saw in the newspapers only two days ago—a letter written by a brokenhearted mother, whose son had been through the whole war and won honour and distinction for himself, and safety and security for you. The recompense he got was that when he went to see his mother in Ireland he was foully murdered, and the next night her house was burned down, and, while you and your colleagues were carrying on all these negotiations in Downing Street, without remonstrance or interference every single article that this broken-hearted woman had was being auctioned off in the light of day.
§ LORD CARSON
Yes, during the truce, and while the negotiations were going on in Downing Street, and you, the Government, are proud of the results that you have brought about. Well might Lord Crewe ask, as he did ask, why, if you are so certain of all this peace being gained by the abandonment of Ulster, did you go on for a year or two years sacrificing these precious lives, and rendering desolate households whose only crime was that they thought you were going to back them up. In that same letter I saw it stated that this young officer was murdered solely because 39 he dared to refuse to subscribe to Sinn Fein, because he thought it was dishonourable; and all the time you were plotting to throw him over and to give to Sinn Fein what you had denied to him—natnely, the honour and the glory of having beaten this terrible organisation of crime and assassination which existed in Ireland.
I would like to know where we stand at the present moment. I notice in the Resolution moved by the noble Viscount for an Address in reply to His Majesty's gracious Speech that we are asked to confirm and ratify what you are pleased to call these Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland. Was ever a House of Lords or House of Commons put into such an extraordinary position? Just see what it is. For thirty years or more the late Unionist Party has been fighting the question of modified Home Rule—as I think the noble Marquess called it, a "milk-and-watery Home Rule," or something of that kind. All of a sudden they say that that Home Rule is not good enough; you must have the real thing; the country must abandon Ireland at the very heart of the Empire to independence, with an Army, with a Navy, with separate Customs, with Ministers at foreign Courts, and delegates to the League of Nations, where they can vote against you.
And how is it presented to the country? I do not believe, in the whole of the history of our Constitution, anything approaching it has ever been attempted. It is brought out one morning cut and dried, signed, scaled, and delivered; and before making this great act of constitutional change, which is to break up the United Kingdom and, in the words of Sir Hamar Greenwood, to smash the British Empire, you are not to present this to Parliament or to the country, but you are to advise His Majesty to give his consent. I say there never was a greater outrage attempted upon constitutional liberty than this Coalition Government have attempted at the present time.
I should like to ask you this. If Mr. Gladstone or Mr. Asquith had attempted to do what you are attempting to do in this case, what would be the speech that the noble Marquess would have made in those circumstances? It would repay the noble Marquess to see what the leader of the Party in the House of Commons said in 1914, when the milk-and-watery Home Rule Bill was put upon the Statute Book. 40 Why, I was ordered to walk out of the House of Commons with indignation—which I did. And now not only am I to have no indignation at the grant of what they are pleased to call Dominion Home Rule to Ireland—and I will show you what they said about it themselves two or three months ago—but I get a long lecture from the noble Marquess which, may I say, I hope in the future he will spare me; because the man (let me speak plainly) who, in my opinion at all events, has betrayed me, has no right afterwards to lecture me.
There you get it all cut and dried, like an Act of Parliament signed by the King. I saw the other day that Mr. Asquith, with whom I never have much sympathy, and never have had, made a speech and said an unusual thing had happened, that when all this came out, of which he entirely approved—indeed, I think he claimed to be the author of it—he felt an unaccustomed moisture coming down his cheeks. I do pot wonder.
And how beautifully it has all been managed! The stage management is one of the most perfect things I ever recollect. The chorus in the papers, frantic telegrams to every Prime Minister to send back another telegram in order that we might have it published here. I know the Prime Minister so well, for I served under him. Make no mistake, I am grateful for all that he did in the war; but I know his methods. "Now I give The Times into your charge; I give the Daily News into your charge; and the Daily Chronicle into your charge; you see that they are all in a chorus tomorrow." And so they are. And do you think either we or the country are going to be taken in by this manufactured glorification of what you are pleased to call the Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland? No, we are not. We tell you, if you want to pass it, go and ask the country, but you will not dare. That is the last thing you will do, or the last thing you care about. And all this comes from the long continuance in office of a Coalition Government which was formed for entirely different objects and entirely different purposes.
One thing the noble Marquess entirely forgot to tell us was how the Government came to the conclusion that these Articles of Treaty were so much for the benefit of the country. The difficulty I have in commenting upon them at all is that, unless as a matter of mere pretence, when 41 we are seeming to be very dignified and concerned, there is not a noble Lord in this House who believes for a moment that these terms were passed upon the merits. Not at all. They were passed with a revolver pointed at your head. And you know it. You know you passed them because you were beaten. You know you passed them because Sinn Fein with its Army in Ireland has beaten you. Why do you not say so? Your Press says so, and you may as well confess it. There may be nothing dishonourable in it.
But when we are told that the reason why they had to pass these terms of Treaty, and the reason why they could not put down crime in Ireland was because they bad neither the men nor the money, nor the backing, let me say that that is an awful confession to make to the British Empire. If you tell your Empire in India, in Egypt, and all over the world that you have not got the men, the money, the pluck, the inclination, and the backing to restore law and order in a country within twenty miles of your own shore, you may as well begin to abandon the attempt to make British rule prevail throughout the Empire at all.
How did this new-born faith come into existence? I have here a speech of the noble Marquess's leader, which I have no doubt he has read over and over again out of loyalty. This speech was made on October 9 of last year. I am sorry that I shall have to inflict upon the House a certain number of quotations, because I want to show the House the unreality of the pretext put forward for these Articles of Treaty. Here is a speech made on October 9 of last year at Carnarvon by the Prime Minister, and I might mention before I read the passage, in order that you may thoroughly understand what happened, that Mr. Lloyd George, upon rising, was vociferously cheered. Now listen to it:—Mr. Gladstone went to what he considered to be the safe limit in his concessions to Ireland. There were many who thought he went too far. He went as far as he could consistent with the security of the United Kingdom and of the Empire, and consistent with supremacy in Ireland. The same applied to Mr. Asquith in 1912. But there are men, and responsible men, who would go far beyond anything Mr. Gladstone ever thought safe"—that was the noble Marquess to-night!far beyond that which Mr. Asquith himself thought safe in 1912, and I have got to deal with these appeals which have been made.42 Now mark this—Why are we asked to go further? I protest against the doctrine that you should go further and give more, not because Ireland needs it, not because it is fair to the United Kingdom, but because crime has been more successful. It is a fatal doctrine for any Government in any country (Loud cheers). Give it because it is right. Give it because it is just. Give it because it is good for Ireland and good for the United Kingdom. Give it because it brings peace and good will, but do not give it because you are bullied by assassins.And that is what you did, or are trying to do.
We have heard a great deal about delivering the goods. "Only show me somebody," said the Prime Minister, "who can deliver the goods." What goods has anyone delivered? I know of no goods that have been delivered as a consideration for these concessions, but five hundred or six hundred bleeding corpses of men who have tried to do their duty and have lost their lives in the service of their country.
Look at the document! I defy anybody to show me anything in that document but one provision, and that is that Great Britain should scuttle out of Ireland. You may talk of a Free State. You may put in window-dressing about the status of the Colonies and everything else, but from the beginning to the end of this document there is nothing you will find except that England, beaten to her knees by the gun of the assassin, says: "We are willing to scuttle out of Ireland and to leave to the tender mercies of the assassins everybody who has supported us in the past." I noticed this as I looked through these provisions, and I looked through them with anxiety. I know that since the truce was entered into and while you were parleying in Downing Street with, and making up your minds as to the sincerity of, these men, they were taking possession of the lands and properties of men in Ireland by force and without any interference upon the part of our splendid Coalition Government. What provision is there about that in this document? Not one word. You leave them in undisturbed possession. You know well that you have not even the courage to tell them that they ought to have the externals of decency in the pretence of carrying out what is supposed to be a peace charter for Ireland.
But let me not be mistaken. It may be that you have to start in a consideration of this question upon the basis that this 43 country was not strong enough to put down crime in Ireland. It may be that that is so. I do not know; I have not the means of judging. I regret it and I feel humiliated by it. But I know that we have gone through a great and terrible war, and it may be that by reason of the expense or of the slaughter that would occur either to your own men or to the people in Ireland, you were bound to abandon Unionist policy and to give up Ireland, which you had tried for so long to retain as a constituent part of the United Kingdom. It may be that that would become necessary. But I ask your Lordships, ought Unionist leaders to have been parties to that—Unionist leaders who had undertaken to defend Unionist policy? At least, they might have said what Peel said and, unfortunately, did not do: "I was elected for another purpose; I was put into office by those who were my followers for another purpose. If there is to be a change of policy it is not for me to carry it out." That, I think, would have been a more honourable position to take up in public life, but the truth of the matter is that if you go on like this, if you have men in high positions stating to-day that A. is white, and to-morrow arguing that it is certainly black, you will destroy the confidence of the democracy of this country in its rulers and in its institutions. I believe that is what has happened in this case, and it will make public life and politics stink in the nostrils of the country for the next twenty years.
When I took up this document involving independence, finance, and the granting of an Army and a Navy, I thought that I recollected a good deal that was said by the Prime Minister during the past year in the House of Commons and elsewhere about the impossibility of granting these things. Here is what he said on February 8, 1921, in very welcome surroundings no doubt, at the meeting of the executive of the Welsh National Liberals at the Central Hall, Westminster.
They must have an Irish Republic, an Irish Army, an Irish Navy. They won't get it.But you have given it. Will it be given to them by this now Party? If it will, we ought to know.
It is the most dangerous menace to the life of this country that there ever was. If they do not get it they will kill our policemen and our soldiers, not in open fighting but in hiding, in 44 houses, walking about as respectable tenant farmers, swaggering along the road until they come to their hiding place, where they find rifles ready placed for them, passing perhaps on the way the very policeman they are about to murder, as if they were innocent men. They are not open, straightforward fighters.If I had the time, and if you, my Lords, had the patience, I could trace through the utterances of this great statesman and you would find that his enthusiasm for the preservation of the status quo has cooled as the number of murders multiplied in Ireland. Later, on June 15, 1921, he said at a semi-religious ceremony, the General Assembly of the Calvinistic Methodist Church of Wales, speaking there, no doubt, as a man of peace—There can be no doubt in the mind of any reasonable man that if Ireland were given complete independence, with its own Army, and control of its own ports, and powers to enter into Treaties with foreign countries, whether they were friendly or hostile to us, that would place Britain in a position of such peril that I should hesitate to think what might befall in the event of a repetition of either the great struggle with Napoleon or the struggle with Germany.Now, however, that is all put down, cut and dried, with the King's assent, without the country having the slightest opportunity of passing a verdict upon it, and without the terms being even examined in the way that we were accustomed in the old days to examine proposals of political Parties when they were brought forward.
There are other utterances of the Prime Minister which, I think, will repay a perusal. Here is one where he tackles poor Mr. Asquith. This is what he said in a speech at Carnarvon—I put to Mr. Asquith a question in the House of Commons—I remember the scene perfectly well. I think I was rather exuberant over the way the Prime Minister dealt with Mr. Asquith, but at that time I did not know, as I know now, that I was a mere puppet in a political game. I was in earnest. I was not playing politics. I believed all this. I thought of the last thirty years, during which I was fighting with others whose friendship and comradeship I hope I will lose from tonight, because I do not value any friendship that is not founded upon confidence and trust. I was in earnest. What a fool I was. I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was Ireland, in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into power. And of all the men in 45 my experience that I think are the most loathsome it is those who will sell their friends for the purpose of conciliating their enemies, and, perhaps, still worse, the men who climb up a ladder into power of which even I may have been part of a humble rung, and then, when they have got into power, kick the ladder away without any concern for the pain, or injury, or mischief, or damage that they do to those who have helped them to gain power.
This is what the Prime Minister said in October last year—I put to Mr. Asquith a question in the House of Commons. I said you are talking about Dominion Home Rule—The noble Marquess told us to-night that that is exactly what they are giving. The Prime Minister spoke of it as if it were a ridiculous idea—You are talking about Dominion Home Rule, but the Dominions have got Armies and Navies of their own—A terrible point that against Mr. Asquith.Their ports are entirely in their control. They can shut their ports against British ships, and we know perfectly well that we could not interfere—No more than you could interfere with Ireland.I ask, would you give the same rights to Ireland? If not, it is no use talking about Dominion Home Rule.And yet every word of that the Cabinet have now agreed to, without consulting, so far as the Unionist members were concerned, the Party, and without consulting the country. They have agreed to pass into law all that. It may be right or it may be wrong, but I say, if that is the way measures are going to be allowed to be passed in this country, then set up an autocracy in Downing Street and get rid both of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons.
But that is not all. There is another quotation—Nobody wishes to manage Ireland's domestic affairs, but dangerous weapons like Armies and Navies I think we had better not trust them with. It would hurt them to grasp weapons of that kind, and for the sake of Ireland they had better not have them, As far as I am concerned, and I speak on behalf of the Government, we shall certainly resist out and out any demand for an Army or Navy to be set up in Ireland at our doors to menace the existence of the United kingdom.And you, my Lords, are expected to be the complaisant puppets of His Majesty's 46 Government, and without demur and with extreme politeness, such as we heard in all the speeches which went before mine, to take off your hats and say: "Thank God for our Prime Minister and our Foreign Secretary and all the rest of them. They have done everything which they told us would ruin the United Kingdom, and with the open minds they have, and great hearts, are prepared even to risk that for the sake of putting down assassination in Ireland."
But that is not all. Upon what issue I did you go to the country? You went to the country upon the issue setting up the Home Rule Act, which was on the Statute Book; which retained the Army and Navy here, which retained all finance here, which provided that Ireland was to have only a subordinate Parliament and which preserved the supremacy of the Crown. The noble Marquess and I used to go down to platforms together and tell the people that that Act would be absolute ruin to this country and mean the break-up of the United Kingdom and the Empire. I suppose you were humbugging all the time and had your tongue in your check. I was not. I was taking risks, right or wrong; and you were encouraging me all you knew. Many a man who is now party to all this treason and treachery has come up to me time after time in the House of Commons and elsewhere, and said, "For God's sake do not give way an inch, and we will win the next Election."
I hope you are proud of your Treaty. Let me say this, and it is the last word so far as this point is concerned. I think it is an innovation which this House ought very carefully to consider—namely, the entry into a Treaty between different parts of one Kingdom. Was such a thing ever heard of before? The next time you have a dispute in the coal fields of this down you will find suddenly coming down here, with the King's Assent to it beforehand, a Treaty between England and: the coal-owners and coal-miners of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and elsewhere.
A Treaty! On the very face of the document itself it is false. It says: "A Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland," and before you signed it you never even asked Ulster. Nor is her signature necessary. It is only to be signed in the House of Commons of Southern Ireland and by this House, and your Lordships, Who only last year set up a separate entity in the 47 six counties consisting of 1,200,000 people, disregard that as part of Ireland. But when you come to ask for contributions and taxes then you say: "Small patch as you are" (to use Mr. Asquith's phrase) "you must pay 44 per cent. of the contribution." I say the document has a lie on the face of it. And it is put there purposely. It is put there for this reason—that you wish to admit in the presence of those men, because you were afraid of them, that they were representative of the whole of Ireland. They are not, and please God they never will be.
Let me say before I sit down—I deeply apologise to the House for the time I have taken—a word about Ulster. Like everybody else, you have betrayed Ulster. The noble Marquess, in his lecture to me, hoped that I would advance opinions that Ulster should come in. This constant preaching at Ulster is nauseating. The other evening I saw with disgust that Mr. Austen Chamberlain, the son of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, having agreed to put Ulster into these terms, then said he made an appeal to the comradeship of his old friend Sir James Craig to come in and submit to the domination of Sinn Fein. I could not help thinking that it was very like, after having shot a man in the back, going over to him and patting him on the shoulder and saying: "Old man, die as quickly as you can, and do not make any noise."
Your Lordships, I have no doubt, read the papers. I hope you read more of them than I do. For the last three or six months the whole vitriolic power of the Press, inspired by No. 10, Downing Street and their able propaganda department, have been carrying on week after week and day after day a campaign of falsehood and misrepresentation against Ulster, bellowing, bullying and blustering as if Ulster cared one farthing about it. But why is all this attack made upon Ulster? What has Ulster done? I will tell you what Ulster has done. She has stuck too well to you, and you believe that because she is loyal you can kick her as you like.
In 1914 the whole Conservative Party, headed by the noble Marquess, had pledged the whole force and power of the Party and, if they got into the Government, of this country, to maintain and keep Ulster outside the modified Home Rule Bill of 1914. What has happened since to change your attitude? When the war came on 48 and you were in want of men, just at the point when you were turning Ulster (as she thought, at all events) out of the United Kingdom, I was asked to go over and try to raise a Division. I had to go to the men who were smarting under the fact that you were trying to turn them out of the heritage of citizenship to which they were loyal and devoted, and I had to say to them: "Never mind; that is merely an act of the Government and not an act of the poeple; the people are all right, and, after all, our union and the United Kingdom are all wrapped up in the success of this war." I said to them: "Go and enlist, go and bring glory to Ulster and safety to the Empire; that is your first duty." And they went, and they suffered, and they lost thousands and thousands of men, while your new-found friends were murdering your troops in the city of Dublin. Is it that which has turned you from your desire to help Ulster?
And then, in 1916, after the Rebellion, I was asked by the present Prime Minister, at the instigation of Mr. Asquith, who was then his chief, to go to Ireland and to try to induce the Ulster people to agree to the setting up of the Act of 1914 in the south and west on the condition that the Six Counties should be left out. I knew they would hate it, but I cared more about the success of the war than I did even about Ulster. I am not ashamed to say it, because I thought the one involved the other. I went over, and I had as a guarantee a letter from the present Prime Minister, which I shall always keep as a precious possession, guaranteeing me that the Six Counties would be left out, and that they never could be put back again without an Act of Parliament. Was it my action on that account which has turned you to take a different attitude towards Ulster?
Again, conscription was brought in for Ireland—in my opinion far too late, and at a very fatal moment, as I advised at the time—and Ulster was willing to be conscripted. But all your friends, your new-found friends in Ireland, went down and met together in solemn conclave with the Catholic hierarchy, and determined to send to perdition anybody that dared even to advocate and allow it. And there again they beat you. Was it that which turned you against Ulster? And in 1920, when this Government came into power and you brought in your Home Rule Bill 49 of 1920, was that your policy? Did it represent your policy, or was it a sham? Do any of your Bills ever represent your policy, or do you mean to correct them the moment the ink is dry upon His Majesty's signature? Was it your policy? All I can say, as I said in the House of Commons at the time, is that I refused absolutely to go Over and ask Ulster, which loathed and detested it, to accept a Parliament there unless I had the most solemn assurances from the Prime Minister that that was to be a settlement of the case, and a permanent one, so that Ulster might proceed, after being threatened for thirty years, to the natural development of her resources and to the progress of the great democratic community over which she presides.
I got those solemn assurances over and over again from the Prime Minister. I went there, and I lost many friends. Lord Farnham can tell you something of what I went through at the time, because he was there. I am not sure he did not very nearly fall out with me himself, only he is far too good a fellow. I went through all that, and I came back and supported it, and did what I could to support it in this House. I was not a member, but many members asked me about it, because they knew I was interested in it, and I think they believed I was sincere.
Then the Bill was passed; and you advised His Majesty to open this new Parliament, with all the paraphernalia and splendour of a new-born Parliament in the Empire. He did so, with great success, and he met with a loyalty that he himself declared had never been exceeded in any part of His Majesty's Dominions. And then what happens? The murders go cm, and you forget all your pledges. What a splendid thing a statesman's conscience is in modern times! It is becoming nearly as elastic as the conscience of the Press, and I do not know which of them I have insulted more in saying that.
Next you enter into your parleys with the Sinn Feiners. I want to be perfectly frank about that. I do not see any reason why the Prime Minister should not enter into parleys with these gentlemen if he thought he could save bloodshed, or get such modifications of the Act of 1920 as would make a real settlement. But what happened? Without one word of warning to Ulster, without one single communica- 50 tion to the Prime Minister or Government of Ulster—which, after all, you cannot altogether despise, as you are the parents of it—that would be an unnatural thing of which I would never accuse the noble Marquess—without one word of warning there is sprung upon them this: "We have arranged with the Sinn Feiners that there is to be a Parliament for the whole of Ireland, that the six counties are to go in, and if you go in here is good news for you, because you are not to pay a 6s. Income Tax, but probably only a 1s.6d. one, and now how happy you ought to be." Ulster is not for sale. Her loyalty does not depend upon taxes. Ulster values her heritage as citizens of the United Kingdom, and neither you nor the Press, nor your friends in the south of Ireland, need try to terrorise her by the bogey of her having to pay more. At the same time, I make this observation in passing, that it does seem an extraordinary idea of British justice that because Ulster will not join the enemies of this country, and will not go under the murder gang in Dublin, therefore she must pay higher taxation. However, I merely make that observation in passing.
When Ulster refuses to accept these terms, you proceed behind her back, having promised to submit new proposals to her which you never did until they were signed—you proceed to pass the Treaty, as you call it, which is now under discussion. Even then you must outrage her sentiments by putting her, without her consent, into what they call the Free State of Ireland. Why should you do that? Do you not know perfectly well that the way she takes that is this, and I am sure she is right—that you are throwing the whole weight of the British Government into the policy of compelling her to go under the Sinn Fein Parliament in Dublin? Why else did you put her in in that way, and how have you framed your Bill if she comes out? And I promise you she will come out. I promise you that sire will come out within ten minutes of her hearing of the Kings Assent being given to a Bill putting her in.
Then, how does she stand? You have tried to make—and I charge you that you have done it wilfully and deliberately—you have tried to make her position impossible, and, what is more, I believe you have told the Sinn Fein delegates so. What have you done? You give these people 51 power to have an Army and to pay for it out of the taxes which they collect. You give them the free Customs, which enables them to bring in arms, ammunition and all the weapons of war, as they like. What do they want an Army for unless it be to invade Ulster? What do you give them the Army for? What is your plan? Is it to invade America, or the Isle of Man, or the Channel Islands? You know well that you want to strengthen her against Ulster, and that Ulster will have standing on her frontier, a difficult frontier always, a standing Army supported out of the taxes of the south and west of Ireland.
Ulster has no provision for raising an Army. That you have reserved for yourselves. Of course you may answer me: "You need have no fear, because the British Army will be at Ulster's disposal." Do you think, after what has happened, that we can trust any Government that it will be so, and, above all, that we can trust a Government who have shown by their framing of the Bill that their policy is to drive us under? No! we will have to trust our own right arm, and we will trust our own right arm. But what a message of peace to send to Ireland, to tell the south and west: "You can maintain an Army and all the accoutrements of war for the purpose, if you like, of invading Ulster and of compelling Ulster to come under you. You can commence with an Army, and also, if you like, with some naval ships." Peace! What is the good of pretence? You are crying peace when there is no peace.
But that is not all. What more have you done? You have given free Customs to the south and west, and you have retained Ulster under your own powers of taxation here. When Ulster goes out, what does that mean? At the present moment, and for some months past, a vigorous boycotting of Ulster goods, or goods that come into Ireland through Ulster, has been going on by the south and west, and not merely Ulster goods but also English goods, for I am told that you cannot buy any Ulster or any English goods anywhere in the south and west at the present moment. You have that boycotting going on, and you have trains stopped daily and the goods of loyal merchants pitched upon the ground, or into rivers, or burnt, merely as a coercive policy towards Northern Ireland; and of course without any interference—for how could you interfere after the character 52 you have given them to-night?—by the British Government.
What will it be when the Act passes? Why, you will have legitimised all this, because you will have given power to the Sinn Fein Parliament in the south and west, by prohibition or tariffs, just as they please, to prevent anything coming into Ireland through Ulster, or anything being sent from Ulster to the south and west. Therefore, I say that you have given into their hands the power of actual physical coercion, and also the power of economic coercion. Is it any wonder that Ulster has, I regret to say, begun to break away from you. You have been preaching at her day after day and beseeching her to become Sinn Fein, and what is the result? That for the first time the people are wavering towards you. I have had many letters and many communications. Perhaps you will allow me to read a passage from one. This is not from a politician; it is from an official—The feeling here—that is, Londonderry—is very bitter, and a strong feeling exists that if solid, reliable guarantees could be got, Ulster should join in with a Republican Ireland and wash its hands from all connection with such a perfidious people. In my opinion all faith of the Ulster Protestants in Englishmen's honesty or capacity has been wrecked.That is the record of your message of peace.
But I say to my Ulster friends, and I say it with all sincerity and solemnity: "Do not be led into any such false line. Stick to your old ideals of closer and closer connection with this country. The Coalition Government, after all, is not the British nation, and the British nation will certainly see you righted. Your interests lie with Great Britain. You have helped her, and you have helped her Empire, and her Empire belongs just as much to you as it does to England. Stick to it, and trust the British people." But I warn the Government of this tendency, because do not imagine that, if any such thing happens, it would be merely that you had achieved your ambition to turn the people of the North of Ireland into Sinn Feiners and assassins. Not at all. Out through the whole Empire—Canada, Australia, New Zealand—Ulstermen are strong and powerful. Toronto is an Ulster city. Do not do something which, throughout the length and breadth of our Empire, will turn Ulster against the British connection. God forbid! And do remember that when, 53 through your laws, Ulstermen were driven out of Ireland and went to America, it was thirty-six Ulstermen, smarting under a grievance, who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Loyalty is a strange thing. It is something which you cannot get by merely sitting round a table and trying to find a formula for an Oath of Allegiance which means nothing. It is something born and bred in you. I have often—I admit it—when we have been threatened because we were loyal in Ulster in times past, threatened day after day and night after night, for no crime except that we were loyal—if have often said to myself: "Well, why don't you give it up and join the others?" And I never did, because I know I could not, because I know that it is something that is born in you, inherited in you, and that is the safety of the State. But do not try us too high. Do recognise that we have tried to help you, as you have helped us, and do not, when we want to stay with you, do anything to turn us out.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, we have listened to words the gravity and sincerity of which it is impossible to measure too high. They are the words of a man who has devoted his whole public life to one cause—devoted it with an undeviating devotion which his political opponents recognise, devoted it even to the risk of breaking the law, and, as he said this evening, being ready (as I know he was) to take the consequences of his act. It is not surprising that, grave and sincere as his statement was, it should be tinged with bitterness.
Creeds pass, rites change,No altar if standeth whole.He has seen the inner sanctuary of the citadel which he attempted to defend, not captured by people like myself who were throughout his enemies, but surrendered by his friends. I have throughout the whole of my active political life struggled, not as violently but, I trust, with the same sincerity as the noble and learned Lord, to achieve the very object which he has devoted his life to preventing.
It is therefore not surprising that he and I should regard the gracious Message from the Throne with mingled feelings. But in one place our feelings met: it is in complete bewilderment at what it is that has caused this Government to introduce this measure. I myself am delighted that they have done 54 it for every cause but one. I agree with him in thinking that it may be a long time before the English people will recover from the shock which the introduction of this measure must have given to their confidence in public men. But apart from that, I rejoice more than I can say, for if this scheme can be carried through, I see in it the fulfilment of the great work to which Mr. Gladstone devoted the remaining years of his life, a work which, if it be suggested that it was prompted by political necessity—a thing I do not believe—was at least inspired by a lire and an enthusiasm which must have satisfied those who met him that they were dealing with no common and passing force.
I trust sincerely that this measure will pass and I trust that your Lordships will pass the Motion that has been moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Morley. Nor do I share the feelings that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, has expressed as to the unconstitutional nature of what you are asked to do, for, after all, this is nothing but a Resolution of this House, and the acceptance of the Speech in another place will be nothing but a Resolution passed in another place. And Resolutions, though they may indicate for the moment the opinion of the House, can have no binding effect upon its ultimate judgment.
I cannot help asking, however, once more, what is the reason—for I think we are entitled to know—why the Government, who only a few months ago denounced this very measure as rank lunacy, now think that it is the highest expression of sane and reasonable statesmanship. It is that which, I admit, causes me great uneasiness. When the noble Marquess said that after all bloodshed may in some way have tended to solve the difficulties, I thought that he was giving utterance to a very dangerous doctrine. I do not believe for a single moment that bloodshed, either now or in the future, will solve anything excepting one question, and that is which of two armed forces happens to be the better armed. It can solve no political difference; it can help in no political crisis, and if the noble Marquess really thinks that in the pain and the trouble of the past eighteen months there is to be found some justification for the Government's change of view, to my mind, so far from it affording a justification it is a complete condemnation of their whole policy.
55 If this be, as the noble Marquess asks us to believe it to be, and as the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, and, in a more humble capacity, myself, have from time to time asked people to believe it to be, when they would not listen—if it really be an act of wisdom, an act of union, an act that will heal the differences between the two nations, as I think it might, why was it not introduced in 1918 after the Armistice? Surely that was the moment beyond all other moments when we desired to heal and appease all the differences of opinion that have broken out between us.
I really do not wish to go through the sorry recital of what has happened since then, and I do not for this reason. I am sincerely anxious that this measure should pass. I do not desire that the Government should do as the noble Lord, Lord Carson, invited them to do, and take the opinion of the country, and I do not desire it for this reason. I believe, in the interests of sincere and honest government, that this coalition should end as early as possible, and I am quite convinced that if you went to the country to-morrow upon the question as to whether these terms should be accepted or not, and the issue lay as between the Government with these terms on the one hand and the people who oppose on the other, the Government would be returned once more to power by a majority even more overwhelming than that which it possesses at the present time. I should regard that, not figuratively but actually and really, as a great catastrophe, a catastrophe from which I think it might be difficult for this country to recover. Therefore, I sincerely hope that it will not be done.
I believe there is no doubt that the people here will accept these terms. I wish I were quite as certain about the people in Ireland. That Ulster would not accept them I think most people supposed. The speech of the noble and learned Lord who has just spoken has made their refusal plain. In spite of whatever disadvantages may attach to a refusal, they will use the opportunity that these terms afford them to escape from the provisions of the measure. Will the south and the west accept them, and will they accept them with that eager adherence and loyalty which alone can make their development a success? It is my hope that they will, and if I might say one word to them—a word from one who in times of very great difficulty has often 56 advocated their cause to unheeding and unlistening ears—I would beg them to use this opportunity to bury deep beyond the possibility of recovery all the bitter memories and the ancient wrongs, all the misunderstandings and the mistakes which have blotted and marred the relationship between England and Ireland for centuries past. I would beg of them to do that, and to erect upon the grave as a memorial an independent, a prosperous, and a contented people, believing that that is the best and the finest memorial that they can possibly erect to the sacrifices and the sufferings of the men who have often given their lives in support of their cause.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Marquess of Londonderry.)
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
My Lords, before the Motion is put I may, perhaps, suggest to your Lordships that as there are a great many noble Lords who wish to take part in the debate, we should commence at three o'clock to-morrow rather than at four; that we should sit after dinner, for which arrangements will be made, and that if we do not finish to-morrow we should continue our sittings upon Friday. From what I can hear, it is quite likely that the debate will last till then, because the list of speakers I have seep is so extensive that it does not seem to me that even the scheme I propose will be adequate to contain them all.
§ On Question, Motion to adjourn the debate agreed to.