§ Debate on the Amendment of the Duke of NORTHUMBERLAND to the Motion of the Viscount MORLEY of BLACKBURN for an humble Address—namely, at the end of the first paragraph to leave out all the words after "Parliament" and insert "But we humbly represent to Your Majesty that this House regrets that the settlement of the Government of Ireland indicated in the gracious Speech from the Throne would involve the surrender of the rights of the Crown in Ireland, give power to establish an independent Irish Army and Navy, would require further sacrifices from Ulster, and would not safeguard the rights of the loyalist population in Southern Ireland"—
§ resumed (according to Order).
THE EARL OF DESART
My Lords, I propose to detain your Lordships but a very short time, because I think everybody in the House is anxious to get to the period when we shall hear from the Lord Chancellor the explanations and answers which have been sought by many speakers in the course of this long debate. But if I intrude for a few moments, I think I have the excuse that I belong to a body of men who have their interests, their very homes, and everything they have more at stake, perhaps' than any who have spoken, or will speak, in this House.
In the course of the debate, by one speaker or another, almost every aspect of what I must call this tremendous experiment has been discussed and criticised. There is very little doubt, whatever his final conclusion may be as to the course he should adopt when we have to go into the lobby, every one feels alarmed at the character of the Articles of Agreement which are before us, and a good deal of dismay at the proposition which is suggested as to the impotence of Parliament to modify or amend those Articles in any degree. On this point I hope we may derive some consolation when the Lord Chancellor comes to reply, and I will say 136 no more about it except this. Having regard to the fact that there are so many matters of importance to which there is no reference in the Articles, such as the protection of minorities in the south, Land Acts, appointments of Judges, and other things that I need not refer to, at least some hope may be held out that when the time comes to discuss the ratification of this Agreement, and to consider how the future Constitution of Ireland is to be drawn up and framed, there may be opportunities of urging the views that many of us hold as to what should be inserted for these and other purposes in the Constitution.
While I think there is no difference of opinion as to the anxiety, the alarm, and the dismay, there is a wide difference as to the policy which should be pursued in dealing with the Resolution and the Amendment that are now before this House. The actual situation is one that has led, and has naturally led, to very bitter criticism by the representatives of Ulster and by the mover of the Amendment which is before the House. My noble friend Lord Carson made a speech of exceeding bitterness on which I do not presume to make, and should feel great trepidation in making, any lengthy comment. It was a very powerful speech, as his speeches always are, a bitter and concentrated attack on the policy of the Government both in the past and in the present. Whether one can altogether accept every criticism he made as just or not, I am sure the House must have felt in listening to him his intense earnestness and intense feeling of loyalty to Ulster and this country, and the profound conviction which actuated his every word. We who have worked with him know his characteristics. But when I have said that, I cannot help expressing a little regret that there was so much acerbity in the speech. I do not say it was not natural and it may well be justified, but I think that for the purpose of a discussion of great difficulty and delicacy, in which complicated interests are involved, we should get as clear of strong personal attacks as is possible in the circumstances. More than that I will not presume to say. We know the noble and learned Lord's good faith and earnestness, and realise that he was actuated by a belief that what he said should have been said. I say no more.
The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, also spoke strongly and, if he will allow me 137 to say so, made, I think, a speech in which there were many utterances showing a great breadth of view and a high character of statesmanship. I was not surprised at that, because I had the honour of serving with the noble Marquess on the Irish Convention, during which there was a time when we had high hopes that the result would be an agreement which would have led to what might have been a settlement of the Irish question on very different lines from those on which it can now be dealt with. His speeches at the beginning of that Convention were full of encouragement, and it was with deep regret, at a later stage, that we found an agreement between such of us of the Southern Unionists who were there and the Constitutional Nationalists and Ulster became impracticable. We know the result of that Convention.
Knowing the views of the noble Marquess, I was not surprised at what he said in one passage of his speech. It gave me, if not much hope for the present, at least encouragement for the future. He said—We have never expressed a determination to remain outside for all time. I can assure you that recent events have not stimulated those whom I represent to show any alacrity or any desire to enter a Parliament in Dublin. We have deliberately asked you to give us time to consider whether, after witnessing the establishment of a just and efficient administration in the south and west of Ireland, we may feel willing to co-operate. Speaking for myself, I do not hesitate to say that an efficient administration in the south and west of Ireland would go far to remove my objections to the establishment of a single Parliament for the whole of Ireland.I welcome that statement; to those who think with me it is an encouragement and an inducement if we can, how we can, and so far as we can, to do what is possible to produce a stable and efficient administration in the south of Ireland. The path will be steep and hard to climb, but at least—and this governs much of the conclusions I have come to on the immediate point—we must try to take it.
The noble Duke who moved the Amendment now More the House expressed a view with which one cannot but feel sympathy and which represents a considerable body of opinion in this country. I do not agree with much that he said, but I do not at this stage propose to deal with it in any detail. I understand him, but I am afraid I part company with hint; and I will say why. With all respect to these three speakers, I do not think that 138 the course they must be assumed to recommend could lead to anything but chaos and despair in Ireland. We all recognise the difficulties of the position in Ulster; but it seems to me that it is rather too strong language to describe the recent sequence of events as a betrayal or coercion of Ulster. A great many of the difficulties are necessarily inherent in the position in which Ulster has placed itself. You cannot exactly put on equal terms a population of about a million and a-quarter people, in a very small area (with a large minority at issue with the majority therein) and the overwhelming opinion of twenty-six counties, be that opinion right or wrong. The position itself makes impossible any proposal for the south and west of Ireland which cannot fail in some respects to prejudice or affect the position of the northeastern counties. What is described as betrayal or coercion is largely the result of that, and is practically unavoidable.
Ulster has rights. I fully recognise it has a promise which must be kept both in the letter and spirit, and I should deprecate any departure from that principle. But, after all, the Ulster people have absolute control, if they wish to have it, of their own local affairs. They have the choice so to remain. They have the choice to be again incorporated with Great Britain, or to enter into the larger powers that are proposed to be conferred on the south and west. They can do r hat, and they will be safe in doing it. If you are to use the word "betrayal"—I do not propose to use it—it would be much stronger if used in the ease of the loyalists of the south. In the event of Ulster coming in there are provisions for the protection of their minority, but in the provisions under which we must conic in there is, none for the protection of the minority in the south.
I have always, ever since I had anything to do with Parliamentary life, and before, been an opponent of partition. I was one out of, I think, twelve people who went into the lobby against the Amending Bill of 1919, and I have never varied in that opinion. While the problem of Ireland has long been and, I hope, is no longer—though it may be—almost insoluble, I believe that with partition it is absolutely insoluble. I will tell you why in a moment. I am convinced that, more than any one thing, it is the desire of the south, the thing they care for more than any other, 139 that Ireland should be whole and united, and at an earlier stage—things have gone too far now—I believed that what is called a beau geste, a very little from Ulster, would have produced a remarkable result in the south of Ireland, and that we should some time ago have attained to a better settlement than any that can possibly be hoped for now. I have always thought, for what it was worth, that if you had given Ulster this complete power over its local affairs, had given the south complete power over its own local affairs, and had established a Parliament which might meet once a year alternately in Belfast and Dublin to deal with what were obviously all-Ireland questions that would have to be dealt with whatever system were adopted, then a year, certainly two years ago, the south would have been brought into agreement in a very different frame of mind from its present one.
As has been said, however, it is no use going back in the past; still less should I wish to do so at the present stage of this debate. Having listened to speeches that have been made not only in this debate but on previous occasions, condemning a settlement with those who appear at present to govern and represent Sinn Fein, I ask myself what would happen if what must be the policy suggested by this Amendment were now adopted, a policy which must mean the abandonment of this scheme. What is your policy after that? Is there any but one ever suggested, the policy of the conquest of Ireland, with its attendant hatred and bloodshed? You could succeed, if you put your back into it. But then, when you had succeeded, when you had for the moment quieted Ireland, put it under Martial Law and military rule, could you keep it there? How long could you keep it there, with the Liberal Party or the Radical Party here, with the opinion of the Colonies, of the United States and other foreign countries to be reckoned with? You could not go on with that, and you would reach a point when you would again begin negotiations under even worse conditions than you have now. You would have an added crop of hatred, there Would have been more bloodshed, and I think you would then—how far this may be short of it would be arguable—you would then head straight for a more complete independence than at the present time.
When, therefore, we have to decide what we are to do, no one can suppose that it is 140 anything but distasteful and rather terrible for us to come under a scheme creating a far greater measure of separation than was ever contemplated in the past. I should like, and I am sure many of us would like, to say a great deal about that. But it would only add to the bitterness, and I want to assuage bitterness, if it may be assuaged. That, I think, is the object of all of those with whom I work. The thing is very nearly desperate. I will say just this. There has been, since 1914, chance after chance, as I believe, of settling this question on very reasonable terms, terms as different from these as water is from wine, and they have been lost. I should think those chances still endured up to July of last year, when it will be remembered that many bodies, calling themselves, I think, Moderates and Dominion Leaguers, and one thing and another, approached the Government and said, "Will you not make some effort now?" The answer was always the same: "Can you deliver the goods?" That was absolutely stopping the thing. Nobody could deliver goods in Ireland. Can the present people deliver the goods? We do not know if they can. That was an answer that was merely crushing, and the Government might just as well have said, "No, we will not." Anyway, they did not.
Then comes the horrible winter of 1920–21, through which we have lately passed, with its loss of life, property destroyed, anxiety, suffering and tension—and, believe me, the tension of those who lived in Ireland was very great. We who lived in the south of Ireland did not know from day to day what would happen. With our friends unprotected, and unable to protect ourselves, we went through a whole winter, and if the Government bad had any idea that they were going to do not this but anything short of this, I believe all that crop of hatred, all that tremendous suffering might never have arisen. On that I do speak strongly about the Government.
But allowing for all this, how do we find ourselves to-day? On one side, a military policy which is, to my mind, nothing but a blind alley: on the other side, a chance. I am not going to throw away that chance if I can help it, and I differ from some of my own friends in being perhaps a little more sanguine than they are that we shall build up something of a stable State in Ireland in time. As regards ourselves, I should like to refer to a passage in Lord Bryce's speech yesterday, in which he said— 141There is far more friendly and neighbourly good feeling between Catholics and Protestants all over the south and centre of Ireland than your Lordships may be apt to believe from many statements that reach us from the newspapers.I can only speak for the country I know, but my own opinion is that that statement is very largely true.
I myself, through all these troublous times, have met with nothing but courtesy and consideration, and have been exceptionally fortunate. I know I must not put that too high, but I am quite sure there is a very large element of people who not only feel good will to what I may call the gentry in the south of Ireland, but are beginning more and more to feel—particularly those who have any stake in the country, farmers and traders—that they must have that class in the country to work with them, and for that reason will be disposed to treat them fairly. How far they will come into the open and do it, and how far they will have the power to do it, is, of course, on the knees of the gods.
Feeling all this, after, I confess, much heart-searching and thought, I have come to the conclusion that both as a loyal subject of His Majesty, and as one whose interests and heart are in Ireland, I must vote with the Government on this issue. I am not happy. Who is? I am only fairly hopeful. Who can be more than that? But I think—God alone knows if one is right or wrong—that it is my plain duty, as an Irishman in the south of Ireland, to take this course. I believe that Mr. Griffith is in earnest in what he says. Whether he w11 have power to carry out what he desires is, of course, one among the many gambles involved in this great experiment; but I have conic to the conclusion that we must try to work what seems to me the only possible chance for Ireland in the actual situation, and do our best. That we will do, and I am not at all without hope. I know well the extent of the extremists' power in Ireland, but I think it is exaggerated as regards the rural districts. Of the towns I cannot speak. I do know, however, that at the present time the Transport Union in many parts of Ireland is being very strongly and successfully opposed by the leaders of Shin Fein.
I concur in everything that Lord Midleton said on the question of armed forces in Ireland. I can never understand the 142 origin of that, and I find it very difficult to believe that the demand for armed forces came from the south of Ireland. I have seen no trace of any such desire, and it means an enormous financial burden on what must be a struggling Government. There will be forces on each side of the border, and what on earth they will be there for, except to look at one another, I cannot imagine. I hope that the Lord Chancellor, when he speaks, will be able to explain what was the genesis of this, because it was perfectly understood that there would not be armed forces, and I confess that when I first saw the terms that particular passage was a thunderbolt to me.
However, I must say, though sadly, that, with all the risks, I feel we must accept there terms, and do what we can to avert danger, and to create a state stable and sane, so that, adopting Lord Londonderry's words, we may give that confidence to Ulster which will one day make it a State united by ties of affection, of trade and commerce not only with Great Britain but also with the rest of Ireland. If that could be done, and were done now, it would add much to my hope of a successful result of this experiment. May I say this about Ulster? I have not been in the past always in agreement with her policy. I do not wish to say one word of acerbity, but only this: that they may sometimes think of us Southern Unionists struggling in the sea. In the old days, before 1914, we worked as one body. Now we are all in difficulties. Let them think of us, and if they can, how they can, and when they can, come down and help us as one State. I do not ask anything at once, but that they will have that, among other things, in their minds as a reason for trying to create a united Ireland.
I intervened to trouble your Lordships because I thought that, belonging to a body who have taken a rather active part in seeking agreement at an earlier stage, I was entitled to give sonic explanation of my reasons for giving the vote which I propose to give. Having done that. I need trouble your Lordships no longer, but before I sit down I hope that the Lord Chancellor, who has been asked a great many questions, will allow me to add to his burden. I wish to ask him a question as to Clause 17 of the Articles of Agreement, providing for the creation of a Provisional Government to carry on for the time. I have been puzzled a good deal as to how such a Government, 143 unless created under the Act of 1920, could have any legal force behind it.
The noble Marquess the Leader of the House made some observations about it, but he did not, I confess, altogether clear away my difficulties. What he said was this:—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.I do not understand why an Act of Indemnity should be required if it is a Government armed with complete legal powers. An Act of Indemnity is required only when somebody does something which is beyond his powers. I could understand if the Provisional Government were to be set up under Section 74 of the Act, but I do not, I confess, quite understand how you can set up a legal Government except by Statute. Having said that, I do not think I need trouble your Lordships any further.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, only the very strongest convictions would have induced me, as a very junior member of the House, to intervene in this very important debate—perhaps one of the most important that has ever occurred within the walls of this Chamber. I sincerely wish that I could join in the general chorus of praise which has been raised by those who support the Government, but this peace settlement came to me as a most complete surprise, because it flagrantly violated many of the pledges of the Prime Minister, some of them quite recent. So far as I can see the directors of the Red Army have obtained almost everything they demanded, except a Republic, and they have been placed in a position to declare a Republic whenever they happen to see fit.
I believed that the Oath of Allegiance to the King was a matter on which there could have been no surrender—that no surrender was even thinkable upon such a point. Instead we have a very ingenious formula, in which the rebel leaders promise only that they will be faithful to His Majesty so long as they belong to the British Com- 144 monwealth of Nations. It appears that the term "Empire" could not be used. Germany alone appears to remain an Empire after the war. Have we really come to be ashamed of the old title of the greatest and most beneficent achievement that our race has ever accomplished?
I thought that adequate naval and military safeguards would be insisted upon. That has been definitely promised to us, but it is quite inconceivable that the war staffs at the Admiralty and the War Office could have approved the terms of this Treaty. The noble Marquess who leads the House said that the Admiralty had approved. I wish he could have read out their Minute or Memorandum of assent and could have told us the names of the officials who signed it. He did not mention the War Office, and I am perfectly certain that the Chief of the Imperial General Staff would never assent to the terms of this Treaty.
We shall not, in future, be able to control the great harbours of the Irish Free State. What is the use of retaining care and maintenance parties at Queenstown and elsewhere which could be overpowered at any moment? Are we going to maintain the guns and ammunition at these places? And what is Belfast Lough doing in this schedule, and at this particular stage? Article 6 implies that in the near future the Free State will undertake its own "coastal defence." But the coastal defence of an island depends upon a Navy based upon secure ports, on which it can count for obtaining supplies of all kinds. The terms of Article 6 imply that the defence by sea of all Ireland will be abandoned by the Royal Navy when what is called "an arrangement" is completed. There is really no doubt on this point. This is the Article:—Until an arrangement has been made between the British and Irish Governments whereby the Irish Free State undertakes her own coastal defence, the defence by sea of Great Britain and Ireland shall be undertaken by His Majesty's Imperial Forces.That must mean that when this arrangement has been concluded the defence by sea of Ireland by His Majesty's Navy will henceforth cease.
Will the Trish Free State be allowed to fly the Sinn Fein flag and have its own Navy to fill the Irish Channel with submarines if it chooses? Only the other day the signatories of this Treaty were engaged in destroying lighthouses—perhaps one of the basest acts which they have com- 145 mitted. But now they are to be in charge of all the lighthouses, and they can imperil the sailors of all nations whenever they like. I will not labour this point of defence, and. I will only add, as an old student of these affairs, that I am firmly convinced that the maritime interests of this country and of the Empire will in the near future be imperilled under the terms of this Treaty.
There is very much that is left quite vague in this stupendous surrender, are the historic regiments of Southern Ireland, with their long record of world service, to be disbanded and broken up? I see in the Treaty no valid guarantee for the adequate compensation of the splendidly loyal Royal Irish Constabulary who have suffered terribly from cowardly assassinations. Pour hundred and twenty of these gallant men have been killed, and 720 of them have been wounded. And then I see no valid guarantee for the lives and property of the tens of thousands of Southern Irish loyalists whose lives have been made a hell in late months by the high contracting Parties to this extraordinary Treaty.
As the rebel Government was constituted by the forces of terror, and as it could not, or did not, or would not keep the truce, which His Majesty's Government did not take tin trouble to get signed, why should they be expected religiously to observe all the terms of this very nebulous Treaty? Is it to be supposed that, by setting up a Free State, these men, who are now placed in a position of quite uncontrolled power, will change either their natures or their aims? If His Majesty's Government had been able to negotiate with the freely-elected representatives of the Irish people we might know where we stand, but we have not the least idea what the real public opinion of Ireland wants. We only know that they must long for peace after the, outrages to which they have been submitted, and any people in such conditions, living under a reign of terror, would naturally grasp at any straw. And therefore their acquiescence in this Treaty, if that acquiescence exists, really means practically nothing. I submit that we have no right to determine the fate of the Irish people without first knowing their wishes.
The whole case of Ulster has been dealt with in the powerful speeches we have listened to from the Ulster representatives in this House. I will only say this—that the pledges given to loyal Ulstermen have not been kept., and that they have been 146 placed in a position which at once becomes extraordinarily difficult, and in the near future may become absolutely impossible.
The noble Marquess who leads the House laid great stress upon the effects of this Treaty as securing permanently good relations with the United States. I am sure that every member of this House would be willing to sacrifice much if that happy result could be obtained, but. I regret to be quite unable to accept the rosy picture which the noble Marquess held out to us. All the various forces which have been directed in the past to creating hostility and distrust of us will remain, even if our alleged barbarity to the Irish people can no longer be turned into political capital. That distrust has its basis far deeper than the question of Ireland. I trace it to the false histories which are taught to American boys and girls in their schools. As your Lordships may know, efforts are now being made to change those histories, and to bring them into some correspondence with the actual facts, but strong Opposition to this change has been manifested.
Can anyone believe that the. Hearst Press, which is very powerful, and which is irreconcilably anti-British, will change its tone because of this Treaty coming into existence? This is what Mr. Hearst said only the other day:—The heroism of the Irish people, soldier and civilian alike, has won for them a complete victory over British brutality.Then he went on to speak of "the freedom and independence which the glorious arms of Ireland have wrested from the mailed fist of the English Government." That attitude of contempt is largely due to the surrender which is embodied in this Treaty. All thoughtful Americans whom I have ever met have always said: "Why do you not give Ireland State rights, and give them no more?" None of them ever contemplated the possibility of setting up a Dominion in Southern Ireland, and, if such a demand were put forward by any American State, it would be met and opposed by the whole of the forces of the Union.
It is sometimes forgotten that America has ceased to be an Anglo-Saxon nation, and that it is not now even completely English-speaking. More than sixty years ago America reached a great crisis in her national life. A most fateful decision had to be taken, and the choice was one 147 of peculiar difficulty. Among the leaders of the revolting States were men of the very highest character, who believed firmly and whole-heartedly in the justice of their cause; they had behind them the unanimous opinion and support of the people they represented, and they were absolutely incapable of descending to crime. The momentous decision then taken was due to one great man, who had a simple code of honour and a clear discrimination between right and wrong, which it seems to me as if we were in danger of losing. He believed that the whole future of his country was then at stake, and he did not shrink from a long and cruel civil war, the very idea of which was hateful to him.
We have reached a somewhat similar crisis in the life of our. Empire, and we have decided, or we are deciding, to surrender to a small body of men who are nut even all of Irish birth, and who for months waged a campaign of murder and robbery, accompanied and interspersed by atrocities which it would be impossible to describe in this House. But for President Lincoln, America could not have been what she is to-day. Are we sure that our Empire, as we know it now, can continue to exist when it has been dangerously weakened at its very heart? Behind the President of the Irish Republic, as the noble Duke said, are all the forces which are being used to wreck our Empire. It was Marx, the German who has become the apostle of the revolutionary section of Labour in this country, who pointed out in the last century that Britain could be destroyed through Ireland, and that is what is intended. The Delegates with whom we negotiated were in close communication with the Communists in Russia and had drafted a Treaty with the vilest Government that the world has ever known. Is the Irish Free State to be free to have foreign relations and ambassadors abroad, such as the Cabinet of Mr. de Valera has maintained hitherto? If so, and if it chooses to complete that Bolshevik Treaty, how can we stop it?
The President of the Irish Republic has already repudiated the Treaty which part of his Cabinet signed after being in the closest communication with him throughout the negotiations, which means, as the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, said, that you will start with a Republican minority in the Free State which might at 148 any time become a majority with foreign and communistic assistance. Only yesterday Dublin was placarded with Communist announcements of the very worst type. As regards finance, this Treaty is naturally vague. That, of course, could not be helped, but it must be remembered that further long and acrimonious negotiations must take place, and that they must end in further surrenders; because you could not jeopardise this peace for the sake of a paltry £20,000,000 or £30,000,000. All that is certain is that the burden on the taxpayers of this country will be increased.
While I believe the effects of this Treaty will imperil in certain directions the future of our Empire, I think that the moral results may be even more disastrous. We proclaim to the world that crime, if it is only carried far enough and carried on by means of a Red Terror, can count upon success. That has been already duly noted in India, in Egypt, and wherever, either inside or outside, organised forces, directed against this Empire exist. The Bishop of Down, speaking for the loyal Protestants of Ulster, said this:There arise time and again in our minds feelings of burning resentment against the unspeakable indignity that has been inflicted upon the Empire we love.I am sorry that there is no sympathy from the episcopal benches for that burning resentment expressed by the Bishop of Down. The reason of that doubtless is that right rev. Prelates do not realise as perfectly as does the Bishop of Down the enormities perpetrated by the Republican Army—perpetrated in defiance of all law, human and divine, and with atrocities which, as the noble Duke said yesterday, we had been accustomed to associate only With the wild tribes of the Indian-frontier.
We all crave for peace, but peace has never yet been, and never will be, obtained by the victory of crime. As Lord Carson said on Wednesday, the Unionist Party is dead, and it must now reappear under some other title. But the verdict of history will be that the Unionist Party died in the plenitude of its power, when it had a large majority in both Houses, because it failed to save the Union. For the reasons which I have tried to compress as much as possible, I strongly support the Amendment moved by the noble Duke, not one word of which is in my opinion capable of contradiction. All 149 our protests may now be perfectly futile but. I earnestly hope that many members of your Lordships' House, which is about to be revolutionised itself, will wish to record by their votes the grave misgivings which most of them must feel.
My Lords, it was with very great regret that I heard from the Earl of Donoughmore last night, and from the Earl of Desart this morning, that they and the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, were going to vote for the Government to ratify the Treaty which is to betray their fellow loyalists in the south and west of Ireland. They gave as their reason for doing, so that there is a chance that it might produce peace. How long are we going to tread this path of surrender and betrayal, seeking a peace which we cannot find? must take this opportunity of protesting, on behalf of the large majority of the loyalists in the south and west, that although the noble Earl, Lord Nidleton, speaks, and rightly and justly so, with such great weight and force to your Lordships' House, he cannot claim to represent the views of the vast majority of the loyalists in the south and west of Ireland.
The noble Earl, Lord Midleton, resigned from the Irish Unionist Alliance after they had refused, by an overwhelming majority, to endorse his policy, which in their opinion meant the surrender of their cause, in the Irish Convention. The Irish Unionist Alliance is a properly constituted democratic body, and represents the rank and file of the loyalists in the twenty-six counties in the south of Ireland. It. is as their Chairman that I rise to-day to support the Amendment of the noble Duke, and it is on behalf of those loyalists throughout the twenty-six counties, who are being so shamefully betrayed and so utterly and hopelessly abandoned by the Government of the country to whom they had every right to look for protection, that I make this protest. Is it any wonder that we look with feelings of disgust on the atmosphere of joy which has been created by Government servants and by a subservient Press at the idea of the so-called peace which it is believed that the Government proposals will bring about.
I could not help recalling the utterance of a great Prime Minister of this country in another great crisis of our British history:—They are ringing their bells now; they will be wringing their hands soon.150 Many of your fellow-countrymen in Ireland have been wringing their hands in agony for a long time past, and are now in an agony of apprehension as to the nature of this peace, and as to what the creation of an Irish Free State is going to bring them. The noble Earl, Lord Donoughmore, last night found great fault with the speech delivered by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, for he said it suggested that every one in the south of Ireland was an assassin. Every one in the south of Ireland is not an assassin, but they are governed by assassins, and it is to the government of those assassins that you are now trying to ham! the loyalists over.
How easy it is, or seems to be, to conjure up the smiling faces, depicted in all our Press, apparently delirious with joy at having signed away a portion of the British Empire to its sworn foes. But one looks in vain in the same Press for any trace of tears shed over the graves of those who have laid down their lives for their loyalty to their King and the Empire. Men who have been through the great war were sacrificed by an ungrateful country—no, I will not say country, but by an ungrateful Government—as victims to the explosive bullets of victorious gunmen, and they have been sacrificed in vain, for the cause for which they fought and died has been abandoned.
Reference has already been made to a letter written by a bereaved mother which was quoted by Lord Carson, and again by the noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry. I will not quote it again, but that letter was an exceedingly bitter cry. It was, however, only one of many. There are hundreds of others uttering the same bitter cry. But I have a special interest in this mother's cry. I knew that gallant officer. I knew him well. We were brothers in arms. His was the battalion that I relieved with mine the night before the great German attack on March 21. His was the last hand I shook before I was taken away into captivity in Germany. Now he and so many others lie dead and unavenged, and we who remain, who fought. for our King and Empire, for the cause of freedom and liberty—we are to be handed over to a Free State without any defence, without any protection except a verbal assurance from Mr. Arthur Griffith which, however well-intentioned, however honest and earnest it may be, is worth nothing unless he is able to maintain the power to give effect to it.
151 Why have we been abandoned? Not because of the defeat of British arms. I say it is an insult to British arms even to suggest that they could not long ago have established their supremacy if they had not been interfered with. No, I say again, it is not on account of their defeat, but on account of the cowardice of the British Government. We hear a great deal said outside your Lordships' House, in the Press and elsewhere, about Ulster. Ulster has met with great sympathy. But it has speakers of its own. But we hear little or nothing about those outside Ulster who have been betrayed. It is a great joy, apparently, that the enemies of the Empire have condescended to take an Oath of Allegiance to a Free State instead of to their King, but we hear not one sigh for those hundreds of thousands who throughout have been loyal to their King and have now to take an Oath of Allegiance to a Free State and give up their Oath of Allegiance to their King. There is no thought or provision for their safety or welfare, or for the protection of their property which stands forfeit this day to the members of the Republican Army as a reward for their services in bringing the British Government to its knees.
I ask the Government, what is to be done for those loyalists who have lost their all, whose houses have been burned, homes wrecked, and their lives ruined? I ask for-an answer as to what is to be clone for them. What is going to be done in regard to the decrees of His Majesty's Courts for payment for those properties? Are those decrees going to be honoured, and are they going to be honoured in full? I say it is through the British Government—or through their absolute lapse of government—that these men's and women's homes have now been ruined, and it is up to the British Government to give them full recompense for everything that they have suffered.
Why are we discussing this cowardly betrayal at this moment? Is this House really going to assent to what I believe nearly every member must feel in his heart is one of the most painful and humiliating acts in our British history? And, if so, are you going to assent before, and not after, a General Election? Apparently, it is in the minds of the Government that should their capitulation not be accepted by the Dail Eireann (which up to now they would have us believe repre- 152 sents the people in Ireland) the Sinn Feiners are going to be given another chance of completing our humiliation by an appeal to the electorate of that country. But what about the electors of your own country? Are they going to be given no voice and no say as to the cowardly betrayal that has been perpetrated in their name?
Are the Cabinet so sure of their own infallibility that they can settle after a twelve hours' sitting in the middle of the night what has baffled our statesmen for hundreds of years? Do they really think that a simple, if ungrammatical, formula for showing when an oath is not an oath is really going to represent for this country all the responsibility of governing a turbulent and hostile portion of the British Empire? We are told that the Free. State is to be modelled on the Canadian Dominion. If so, why not the Oath also? I can think of only one reason, and that is to make secession more easy. Without being asked the electors of this country are being pledged to trust in men who have dared every crime to bring about a desired end. But mark this, that has not yet been achieved, and now that the first delirious rush of joy is over at the news of an Irish peace, people are beginning to wonder what it all means.
The cold facts are beginning to crop up. The rebel party in Ireland is not united. The sentimental grievances of hundreds of years ago and the hatred of the British Empire are beginning to make themselves felt, and if the terms of this Treaty are accepted by the majority of the members of Dail Eireann it will only be by being able to persuade them that it will ultimately lead to the goal they have at heart, of an Irish Republic. We have evidence of this. First of all, there is the evidence of Mr. Art O'Brien, who represents Sinn Fein in this country, and he says that—The document which has been signed by our five compatriots, is but another milestone on the long road of struggle to Irish freedom. … The time for rejoicing and thanksgiving will come when Ireland again enters the circle of sovereign and independent nations.We have also the evidence of Mr. Michael Collins himself in an interview with the Manchester Guardian. He said that the—invitation to the Irish representatives to consider how association with the nations of the British Commonwealth can best be reconciled with Irish national aspirations makes it necessary to consider how far the members of the group 153 have attained to independent nationality and what further steps should be taken to declare and secure such a standard of independence. … It is essential that the present de facto position on should be recognised de jure.We have also the evidence of the Workers' Republic, which is the organ representing the Irish Communist Party. It says—We stand with all our resources at the disposal of ally movement, whether at the moment led by capitalists, by bourgeois democrats or by labourites, which attempts to destroy or injure British Imperialism in Ireland or elsewhere.Then, from America we have the exponents of the extreme party like Judge Cohalan and Mr. Lynch, who say that they denounce the term "Irish Free State" as an insult to those who died fighting for an Irish Republic.
But the most important evidence of all comes from the organ of Sinn Fein. It says:—The Oath is objectionable. It is the real crux. It is objectionable only because it implies association with the British Empire. In itself it is harmless, and as its primary allegiance is to the Irish Free State it is as weak an Oath as could be devised. But it was obvious from the beginning of the negotiations that the Oath of Allegiance, or association, would be the end of it; and this is an Oath of Association far more than it is an Oath of Allegiance. This Treaty will not settle the Irish question. Bier destiny is to be an independent nation, not a member associated or otherwise with any Empire. The Irish Republican Brotherhood, which has been the political sheet anchor of Ireland since Stephens founded it more than sixty years ago, will go on.With this evidence before us what right have we to be deluded by the Government into thinking that this surrender, this cowardly betrayal, is going to bring peace to Ireland? How can this be called a settlement? How can this be expected to be a settlement when it contains the one principle which every one in Ireland has united in opposing, and no one more boldly or more earnestly than Lord Midleton—that is partition of Ireland. I do not for one moment believe that the Irish representatives who signed the Treaty would ever have accepted this unless there was some dark and ulterior motive behind it unless they were assured that in sonic way Ulster was to be coerced under their domination.
If that be so they have totally misjudged the spirit of the Ulster people. Any attempt to carry out such a scheme would inevitably lead not to peace but to civil war. The Ulster people would fight 154 not in the dark, not behind hedges, not with the weapon of the assassin, but in the open. If it came to this i wonder where the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would be found? Would he be found once more galloping over the plains of Ulster defying arrest? It would be a bold man who would, prophesy where he would be found, such an apt pupil of the Prime Minister has he become. Such an unrivalled acrobat has he become that his lightning gyrations and backward somersaults are so rapid that it is impossible even for a normal political eye to follow his movements in the air, and no one could foretell whether he would ultimately land on the stormy plains of Ulster, or on the Sinn Fein saddle as canterer to Michael Collins, or on the more comfortable and secure folds of the Woolsack, from which he so ably presides over your Lordships' House.
This settlement can bring no peace to Ireland or to this country. It is but a repetition of history—the desertion of Gordon at Khartoum and the betrayal of loyal British subjects after Majuba Hill—acts of cowardice, not by the people but by the Government of the day; acts which had to be rectified by the people, just as this will have to be rectified by the people. But at what a cost ! Before you allow history to repeat itself be sure you have the people behind you. We know in Ireland that behind political Sinn Fein stands the revolutionary party prepared to bide their time, in their own words, "to smash the British Empire to smithereens."
We have some light as to how Unionist leaders of the Coalition regard what they are doing. Sir Robert Horne, the other day, said he could not believe that Ireland would ever be better governed than it would have been under the Union, but they, had to take account of the circumstance that many people preferred to be badly governed by themselves to being well-governed by somebody else. If that is the policy of our leading statesmen then I say it is the end of the British Empire. Our Empire was built up, and it became great and famous, entirely because we have been able to govern people who could not govern themselves, and when we did govern them we received the gratitude of all the people for the blessings bestowed.
Now, according to the doctrine of a Conservative leader, we are to abandon the Empire. If India wants to govern itself 155 badly, we must let it. If Egypt wants to govern itself badly, we must let it; and so on. I ask: Is it not time to call a halt to this mad policy, to give our people breathing space to consider what it means, and let them pronounce whether the Empire is to go on or no? I appeal on behalf of those loyalists in Ireland, those who are not in a position to leave the country as sonic are, those who have no other means but their professions or the lands they occupy, those who have suffered so much and are suffering so much for their loyalty, that before finally betraying them you will at least give them that chance which it is in your Lordships' power to give—namely, a final appeal to this country.
LORD MONTEAGLE OF BRANDON
My Lords, I had not intended to intrude in this debate, and I will not delay the House for more than two or three minutes, but there is one voice that has hardly been heard at all, and that is the voice of such as I pronounce myself to be, the Dominionist. I ventured some eighteen months ago, greatly daring, to introduce a Bill into your Lordships' House very much on the lines of the Agreement that is now under consideration. Having had my chance on that occasion of stating my case, I am not going to attempt to re-argue the matter now, and in following the noble Lord who has just spoken with such energy and conviction, I will only say that his speech will take a great deal of answering, and more time than I can venture to claim from your Lordships on this occasion. I will not, therefore, attempt to answer the arguments of the noble Lord.
I have only two or three propositions to put forward. I ventured to mention having introduced a Bill last year into your Lordships' House, but I need not say that I am not claiming any patent rights in the solution that is now being proposed. I am not putting forward any claim on my own behalf, and if I were making any claim it would rather be for my friend, Sir Horace Plunkett, who, I think it. must be admitted on all hands, has done great spade-work in the last two years in preparing and educating the public in the conditions of Dominion Home Rule. We have heard in the course of this debate many somewhat reluctant converts to the principles laid down in this Agreement, and I only want to call your Lordships' attention to the surely significant fact that while we have heard converts 156 in this House, and seen converts outside, there has not been much allusion to the very remarkable conversions that have taken place on the other side of St. George's Channel.
Surely it is not without significance that a man with the record of Mr. Michael Collins—and I believe even the noble Lord who has just spoken and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, would not question the sincerity and conviction of Mr. Michael Collins—should be a convert to this principle, and that he should be willing to take the Oath that has been laid down. A great deal has been said about that Oath and its terms. The noble Lord who has just spoken said that he could not help regarding it as an attempt to make secession more easy. I feel with the most intense conviction that the framers of the Oath on either side have had no such idea in their minds. I am perfectly certain that they had the intention of making secession less easy, and of preparing the way for what I believe may come—not perhaps in the course of a few years but at any rate, if this settlement is adopted, within the next generation—the growth of that desire for closer union with this country which it has always been my earnest desire to encourage and support.
§ LORD MORRIS
My Lords, at this late hour in the debate it is not easy to contribute any additional argument in favour of the Treaty that we have been considering. Those who have had the responsibility of conducting the debate in its favour, especially those on the Government side, have placed the matter fairly and convincingly before the House, and I am only anxious now to place on record a few words with which I shall, with your Lordships' permission, occupy the House for a few moments.
I have listened with very great care and attention to all that has been said in this debate. I have attended all the sittings, and I have afterwards very carefully studied the OFFICIAL REPORT. I have been able to hear nothing and see nothing that in any way alters my conviction that no better settlement of the Irish question could be made than the Treaty that has now been entered into, and I congratulate the Government and the leaders of the Government, particularly the PrimeMinister, the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Chamberlain, who have taken such risks, upon being strong enough to lead in this matter and 157 not to content themselves with being led or with following. They have endeavoured to approximate to the idea of the great Burke, who laid down what the real principle of a legislator should be, not merely to follow at the heels of others but rather to educate. Too many legislators in our day forget that a part of their duty is to point out the way to those who have not had the opportunity of studying history and studying the evidence.
A man is not returned or appointed to Parliament as a mere member for this town or that town, or this Party or that, but as a representative in Parliament and a representative of the people, and he should not be afraid to tell the people the Way to arrive at correct conclusions. That is what the Government has done in this case, and speaking here to-day without any Party leanings whatever—because, after all, I may be regarded to some extent as an outsider, having lived all my life in a Dominion, and I cannot claim the intimate acquaintance with these matters as others who have preceded me in this debate—I say, however, as one who, while having lived here only for the last three or four years, has followed this Irish question for the last forty or fifty years, that no better arrangement, no better settlement, no surer road to permanent peace could be travelled than by the adoption of the Treaty that has now been entered into.
I support it for two reasons. I support it because it gives to Ireland Dominion Home Rule; it gives to Ireland what she has for years been looking for. Secondly, it in no ways derogates from the authority of the Crown or from the British connection. The speaker before the last told you that Ireland was given, under the Treaty, Dominion Home Rule. That is the Home Rule which is enjoyed by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Newfoundland. Have the people that live in those Dominions shown themselves capable and qualified to govern themselves? It seems to me that some people prefer to be governed rather than to govern. Then the sooner we get, away from that idea the better. The sooner we allow every part of the Empire, every part of the Free States that constitute the Commonwealth of Nations known as the British Empire, to have entire control over their own affairs, the sooner shall we remove all the unfortunate grievances and trouble from which we now suffer.
158 There was only one strong Party speech made against the Treaty, and it was made by Lord Carson. Of course one can sympathise with him, because he has been on the other side pretty well all his life, and although he has now been exalted to the Bench, naturally he cannot easily divest his mind of the convictions that years have formed. But I want to say one word in relation to his speech in the nature of criticism, and it is this. I am sorry he is not here, because I do not care to say anything about any one when he is absent, and I judge his speech by this one statement. He was referring to the beautiful way, in which he said this whole matter had been staged by the Government. He told you how each person had a newspaper allocated to him, an I then he went on to say—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.There I join issue with him and I say that the statement is unworthy of any man who is a member of this House, because it is a gross reflection on every Prime Minister in our over seas Dominions. It is a reflection on Massey, on Hughes, on Smuts and Meighen, and on the Prime Minister of the smallest, and oldest of our Dominions; and I challenge him here to-day to name the men to whom these cables were sent.
I want to remind him that when we were told, four years ago in this very Chamber, that this country was at war with Germany, no prepaid message was needed to be sent to the Prime Ministers of the Dominions to induce them to come in and loyally respond to the call of the Mother Country. This may do for Old Bailey practice, but it is not good enough for the intelligence of this House, and if the facts stated in the speech of the noble and learned Lord—the historical aspects—are no more true than is this unfortunate reference to the Dominion Prime Ministers, I need say no more on the matter, beyond saving that it is not going to end here. The heads of the Dominions will resent it. The people who live in these free nations will resent it, and they will wonder how a man, Who has now left public life and is living in the serene and quiet atmosphere of the Judicial Bench, can feel called upon, as a British Judge, to reflect upon the character of the men who live across the seas in the Dominions.
159 I may tell you that this is not the method pursued by such men as Smuts or Hughes or Massey or Meighen, or Squires. They do not respond to prepaid messages from any British Prime Minister, and if you want to break up the British Empire the way to do it is by such an illustration of bad taste. You will not do it by asking the King to assent to this Treaty or by asking Parliament to ratify it. If you want to smash up the British Empire let them know that this is the class of legislator that we have over here, who can go out of his way wantonly to insult his fellow subjects in the Dominions. I hope I have not unduly pressed this point, but I mention it to show that "from one you can learn all," and if every part of the noble and learned Lord's speech is as valuable as the passage I have quoted we can afford to lay it aside.
Too much attention has been paid to the immediate facts in relation to the Irish case. You have to go back hundreds of years, and no doubt the framers of this measure on behalf of the Government have followed this course. Reference was made by Lord Carson to what happened in the war. He described with great pathos how the Ulster soldiers and officers fought—and I recall it now with gratitude to them as well as the men who fought from the South—and he told us a pathetic story that when the Ulstermen were fighting in the trenches for this country the south were murdering our men in Dublin. That was more than answered by a speaker yesterday afternoon, and there is no necessity to go over that again. But I would remind him that there were others fighting in the trenches and maimed in the trenches and remained in the trenches. It is that kind of argument which has got us into the trouble which we are now in, and if this House forty years ago, when Gladstone brought in his limited, simple Home Rule Bill, had taken it up and risen to the occasion, we would have had none of the troubles that we have to-day. The chances are that the European war, which has had such terrible results, might never have taken place, because we would have been a united Empire, and we do not know now how far division in our ranks may have influenced the Kaiser and his associates.
I support this Address in its entirety. I would not do it—I would register a thousand votes against it—if I did not believe that this Treaty means justice—long 160 deferred justice to Ireland and the best interests of the British Empire. All my life I have been working and fighting for the Empire, and so have all those who live in the Dominions, and to-day you have a chorus not only from the Dominions but from the whole world, in support of this Treaty. Why? Because there has been an international jury sitting, and the world has said: "You are right." The world has assessed this claim of Ireland long ago, and has made up its mind that Ireland has a just grievance, and the world now says to this country: "You have done what is right; you have been strong enough to do it." That is the most potent argument in favour of the Treaty. And I make bold to say that time will reveal in a thousand ways that we are taking no risks, that we are doing what is right and that Ireland will prove to be one of the most loyal portions of the Empire.
§ LORD SUMNER
My Lords, I understand it is for the convenience of Ministers' arrangements that this debate should continue, even although, owing to circumstances over which so many noble Lords have no control, it is necessary that the benches should be less fully occupied for the next half hour than anyone addressing the House from this box could have wished to be the case. And, as the last thing in the world that I should desire would be to put upon the Lord Chancellor, who will carry the burden of Atlas in closing this debate, any manner of inconvenience by suggesting that there should be a postponement of the time when his entry into the discussion will take place, I respectfully offer myself as a sacrifice to the luncheon half hour, which must be filled by somebody, and may as well be filled by an unimportant member of the House like myself.
It does not matter, for this reason. I do not suppose any of us imagines that in this debate the result will be affected by the reasoning or the denunciation that may fall from those who are opposed to the Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Morley of Blackburn. This is a discussion in which, I feel, minds have been made up already, not upon debates that have taken place here, but upon disappointed hopes or inflamed anticipations, upon despair of doing any better in Ireland on the one side, and despair on the part of Ministers, on the other of carrying on the duties of Government in the way in which a few 161 months ago they told us they ought to be carried on. But it is necessary to liberate one's own soul sometimes, and therefore. I will detain- — I cannot hope to entertain—your Lordships by endeavouring to explain the reasons why I, for one, feel bound to agree with the noble Duke (the Duke of Northumberland), and to vote against the Motion as it was proposed by the noble Viscount, Lord Morley.
May I just refer to the course which the debate has hitherto taken? It is a course to which we are not at all unaccustomed in this House. It is this. After the first two speeches and, passing over for the moment the noble Marquess, Lord Crewe, we have had one speech, and one speech only, from Ministers in defence of their policy. Now, as to the first two speeches, of course, they were extremely interesting, and we were glad to hear them, but they, were both of them swan-songs, and when those noble Lords had sung their Nune Dimittis, and had explained themselves by many references to a past that is now becoming distant, though some of us still remember the early Home Rule days, and by many explanations to us that Ireland was now going to get more than they had ever dreamt of, still less hoped for, they left the proposal, not unnaturally, to be defended by the noble Marquess who leads the House. Then the noble Marquess defended, I will not say the policy of it, but the change of policy of it, and I think it must have been the judgment of the very large audience who were so deeply impressed by the speech of my noble and learned friend, Lord Carson, that as far as statesmanship was concerned, the noble Marquess's argument at any rate was torn to rags and, as far as political credit is concerned, he and his colleagues were left bankrupt.
Then there followed a long series of most interesting addresses from every point of view, sometimes resulting in a declaration that the speaker was going to vote for the Motion, sometimes resulting in a declaration that the speaker was going to vote against it. They agreed in this remarkable characteristic, that the proposal filled them with uneasiness, with alarm, or with despair, and not one of them was prepared to say that he viewed it with unmingled satisfaction, or was prepared to build upon it any solid fabric of future confidence. I ought to make one exception—the speech 162 of the noble Lord who preceded me, who, in resounding tones, made an onslaught upon my noble and learned friend which he can answer for himself if he thinks fit, but which, at any rate, as far as I could gather, gave us no sound reason for believing that, from the point of view of the great Dominions overseas, this proposal rests upon anything except a mirage of rosy hopes.
There is one thing that I have noticed during this debate, as I have noticed in so many. We get no assistance from the noble Lords who sit assiduously on that front bench opposite, who pay us the courtesy of attending to our speeches, who faithfully discharge their duty to remain in the House and supervise the management of its business, but who, as little on this occasion as oh many others, ever seem to venture to support by speeches the policy of the Administration to which they belong. What is the reason of this? We have had at different times during the debate not only the noble Earl who is present now (Lord Crawford) but the noble Viscount (Lord Peel) who a few moments ago was by his side, and others, each qualified to speak for His Majesty's Government; but although, one after another, noble Lords at this box or in their places rise to explain the shortcomings of this proposal, nobody rises to support it; all is left to the Lord Chancellor, whose numerous other avocations make it impossible for him to be always present, even to hear what the objections are. Can it be that they cannot trust themselves to defend the policy of His Majesty's Government in this matter, or can it bet hat their colleagues cannot trust them to do so?
Is it the case that nobody really does understand how this agreement came about except the Lord Chancellor? Is it that none but he can make a reply to the posers that have been put to him? Is it that none but he can safely be allowed to explain the delicate but nimble process by which the stern, unrelenting enforcement of the law, which was the policy of the Government a few months ago, was suddenly, almost with the rapidity of a pirouette, converted into a policy of appeasement which can find no satisfactory outcome except in an Agreement which has filled every speaker without exception, with amazement at the distance to which the Government, has felt it right to go? I wish to express my personal disappoint- 163 ment not to have had the advantage of hearing the views, the arguments, and the convictions upon this subject from each and every one of the noble Lords who represent the Government on the front bench, and who, I am sure, could have added very greatly to our debates, though possibly they could not have added very much strength to the Government arguments.
This Agreement makes its appeal to us in a variety of ways. Many of the speeches, and very moving speeches, have come from those who in one part of Ireland or the other know, or believe they know, their own end of the island, and claim to have some information at any rate as to the views of the inhabitants of the other end. Irishmen do not often agree with one another in matters of policy, but I notice that they all agree in this—and I think the noble Earl, Lord Donoughmore, last night afforded the last instance in stating it—that when an Englishman begins to explain what he thinks about Ireland they all agree in saying: "Oh, but you do not understand Ireland." I wish to start by making a confession that I do not, and although I have watched Home Rule politics ever since Home Rule first was, and thought until last year that I never could have brought myself to vote for any Home Rule measure, I have always found that the task of satisfying Irish aspirations, of appeasing Irish animosities, and of reducing Irishmen to the humdrum paths of peace and order and contentment, with one another as well as with us, year after year, is one that has always passed man's understanding and, I think, exceeds human hopes.
Therefore, I do not propose to detain your Lordships with a discussion of the way in which this Agreement will operate, harshly in every case, upon those inhabitants of Ireland who do not stand behind the negotiators who attached, their signatures to it in a language which none of us understands. I am content to look at it from the point of view of an Englishman and a lawyer. Let those who are Party men judge whether the Government was justified or not in a sudden and complete reversal of its course. Even the noble Viscount, Lord Bryce, who would not hurt a fly, especially in this connection, was compelled to say that it was a rather sharp curve, and I noticed that, though he veiled it in a foreign tongue, the term he selected for it was voile face, which involves not 164 even a curve but an absolute right about face—a right about face not, I am afraid, from mental conviction, but accepted at the hands of those who must be obeyed.
It is for politicians to decide what effect this example will have upon our public life in the future. Let us remember that for the next generation or more the leaders of either Party, in whatever form and under whatever name they survive, whether they are called Unionists or Liberals or not—the leaders of either Party will be found among those who now occupy positions, greater or less, in the present Coalition Government, and it will be said of every one of them that in the year 1921 they were parties to a political manœuvre, which no one will pretend has strengthened the confidence of the public in politicians and which, as far as they themselves are concerned, must always be an indication of the limited extent to which the uninstructed but observant public can repose its confidence in them.
Considering the matter, if I may, as a lawyer, there is nothing so repulsive to a person of my turn of thought as to reflect that avowed, undisguised, undoubted crimes, attended by many circumstances of savagery and horror, have been committed by men who are known, whose participation in them is known, and who would long since have gone to the gallows if witnesses had not been terrorised so that the evidence to convict them in the ordinary way could not be obtained, and to think that, owing to the circumstances in which His Majesty's Government found itself, there is to be no step taken to bring these men to justice.
To think that for many months, if not years, there has been this succession of crimes which nobody denies, which nobody really defends, and which are to go unavenged, while those who organised them and those who participated in them are to receive their rewards, great and small, and to think that those who took human life for the sake of 10s. a day, that those who took human life on the promise of other people's acres, and those who arranged for the taking of human life in order that they might become Ministers in a Dominion or an independent State, are to receive not their deserts but their rewards and are now to be spoken of in terms at least of restraint and respect, is a thing that offends, believe me, the conscience of any lawyer. You may 165 doubt whether a lawyer has a conscience, and I am not sure that there is not some ground, perhaps, for thinking so. But to anyone who looks, from the point of view of a lawyer, at the interest and the security of civilisation in the country that he loves, I say it is a most repulsive fact to which to have to reconcile himself.
The other point I would like to make is one that has been dwelt on by the noble Viscount who is sitting Speaker (Viscount Finlay). I would like to enlarge upon it for a brief moment; it is the constitutional point. Does anybody seriously contend that the way in which this matter has come about, and the way in which it has been presented to Parliament at last, is anything but a breach in every constitutional usage that we have known as long as we have read Parliamentary history? It is not so wide as a church door, but it will serve. I doubt very much whether the authority of the Legislature will recover the shock which this treatment undoubtedly inflicts upon it. Let me explain why. The relations of one part of Majesty's United Kingdom with another are not. whatever else they are, relations between a foreign State and this country. They are not relations between a self-governing Dominion and this country. Constitutionally, since 1800, Ireland has been as much an integral part of the United Kingdom until last year, as Wales or the Isle of Wight, and, therefore, those relations are not such as can be left to the Executive, to determine in conclave with foreign representatives and then to present to Parliament, either with a statement that this is what has been arranged or for the passing of the legislation required to give effect to it.
In calling this document a Treaty or, to be more strict, in calling it Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, not merely is every constitutional usage violated—that may be a small thing—but a deliberate attempt has been made to convey, as far as the negotiators dared, that Ireland was what the Sinn Feiners have claimed that Ireland always has been, an independent and separate country which has never bowed the neck to any admitted and voluntary allegiance to the British Crown. Now one asks oneself: Why was this done? Why is this called a Treaty? Why is it negotiated as if it was a Treaty? I can conceive of two reasons and two only. One reason is that it was hoped that it would appease 166 the negotiators, Mr. Griffith and Mr. Collins and the rest. The other is that it was foreseen that it would be a very convenient way of introducing it into the Legislature when it had to be introduced at long last, and would save the Government a world of trouble.
Every Home Rule Bill has been announced long beforehand—introduced as a Bill, discussed line by line, and week after week, in the House of Commons and in your Lordships' House, and, with whatever ultimate result, it has been hammered out in the ordinary way of legislation. Nobody questions for an instant that that is the regular way in which this matter should have been dealt with and to suggest that by the device of calling the ultimate instrument a Treaty you could relieve yourself from the obligation to consult Parliament at every step, and to take Parliament into the confidence of the Government at every turn, and to submit to the decision of Parliament every word, is a doctrine that I am satisfied can find no sound justification in any constitutional authority of any kind.
If this was done to appease the Sinn Fein negotiators were they really taken in or were they not? If the fact of negotiating articles of agreement for a Treaty, afterwards to be submitted, if you please, to Parliament for its approval, or, as your Lordships are asked by the Motion today, for "confirmation and ratification"—if that was done with the idea of persuading these emissaries that they were being recognised as an independent country, they are now, or they are going to be, sadly disappointed, and so are their followers behind them. Does that hold out very much hope of a loyal and single-hearted execution of the new form of government within the British Empire?
If, on the other hand, they were not being deceived or deceiving themselves, if they knew quite well that a Treaty was exactly what this instrument is not, and that their relation to the negotiators on the Ministerial side was not that of plenipotentiaries at all but of politicians who were endeavouring to arrange with the Government the terms of a Bill which the Government would thereafter undertake to introduce into Parliament—if they understood that, then what are we to think of men who cannot resist the temptation to playacting on a point of such a serious character as this?
167 Again, we can see for ourselves that the greatest importance attached to the unity of Ireland and that partition—the policy which has been apparently repulsive to numbers of the noble Lords who have already spoken ever since it was first mentioned—was by all means to be avoided, in spite of the fact that only last year the Legislature had enacted partition. The result of that, as we find it on the face of the Agreement, is that, first of all, Ireland is to be united in the Irish Free State, and then again, without anything having been done upon that, may be disunited if Ulster decides, as she has announced that she will decide, not to come into the arrangement. Who is going to be satisfied on the Irish side with a mere piece of camouflage like that?
Again—I do not understand the Irish—we are told that there, is sonic mystical unity which they cannot bear to see violated, and that the partition of the six counties from the twenty-six is rending the seamless garment, and so forth. It may be so. They are a strange people. Far be it from me to deride their faiths, if they have those faiths, but can anybody suppose that serious politicians attach any importance whatever to that kind of thing when, on the whole face of the document, it is quite plain that Ireland is going to be separated, as it was by the Act of last year? And if they are disappointed when the truth dawns upon them, what guarantee have we that this policy will succeed? Or if it is their people who are the dupes and not the negotiators, what right have we to hive confidence in the successful administration of negotiators who are capable of thus endeavouring to disguise realities from those whom they represent?
The third thing is the Oath, as to which a good deal has been said that I will not take upon myself to repeat; but when you find, without precedent so far as I know, a dual obligation expressed in an Oath, one which gives first an allegiance to the Irish Free State, and another which does not say allegiance but only says faithfulness to His Majesty—and faithfulness to his Majesty not in virtue (If allegiance but only by a complicated phrase, which looks well on paper but bears as much or as little meaning in its three lines as your conscience likes to put upon it—what is to happen if a person who has taken this oath should think that, there was a conflict between the two 168 parts of it? What is to happen if the people who take this Oath, having already sworn allegiance to the Irish Republic sonic time ago, discover that there is a conflict between the allegiance to the Irish Free State and faithfulness to His Majesty, "in virtue" and so forth? Can they be accused of violating their Oaths if they prefer the Irish Free State to the rest of the Empire?
And if that is not contemplated, why was this curious instrument concocted except, once more, for the purpose of—I will not say ensnaring the Irish plenipotentiaries for I think it is extremely likely it was His Majesty's Ministers who were ensnared—but of arriving at some common form of words which both parties might accept largely because it means so little, largely because it can be interpreted by either side in the way that suits its interest or its conscience when the time for decision comes It is upon this sort of instrument that we are asked to build a structure of confidence and hope. It is to this sort of instrument that Parliament is asked to give its wholehearted and complete acceptance.
So far as I recollect there has never been a General Election at which, upon the Home Rule issue being put straight to the constituencies of Great Britain, the constituencies of Great Britain gave a clear and definite majority in favour of Home Rule. In this case, with no mandate, with no consultation of the people beforehand; on the contrary, with a course of policy steadily pursued that negatives anything of the kind; by way of discussions with the representatives of a part of Ireland, the Government proposes to create, and in fact does create, a Home Rule system that would have staggered Mr. Gladstone, and far exceeds the hopes of Mr. Redmond or any other great Home Ruler. The Home Rule question is settled not directly by Parliament in Parliament, but at No. 10, Downing Street, by Ministers who then present a fait accompli to Parliament and say: "There it is, in the lump, take it or leave it; dishonour the pledge we have given in-your name, dishonour our signatures to this document and take the responsibility; or approve, ratify and confirm this, and then in February we will tell you what the details are." My Lords, you will come then to the task of working out the details fettered within the limits of this document.
169 My noble and learned friend, Lord Buckmaster, said yesterday that all we are asked to do is to pass a Resolution and so it does not matter very much. Others have indicated the view that when this has been passed and when the Bill has been prepared there will be nothing for us to do but to pass it. "Ours not to reason why." We are just to pass it. There I think a middle course between the two. I agree that this is only a Resolution, and in February Parliament may resolve on something different. What would be said if we did?
It is true this instrument leaves a good deal to the imagination and still more to the draftsman, but within the permissible limits of its vagueness I suppose we shall be allowed to discuss and vote, and pass or not, the detailed clauses of the Bill. At the some time, where the prescriptions of this document are clear, can Parliament, having ratified a thing in December, honour ably reject it in February? I should think nut. At any rate, it does not occur to me that one would relish the task of inviting either House to take such a course. There is a great deal that is left to be settled by Parliament when the matter conies up. I should like to have had the opinion of the Lord Chancellor on my points, but it is my own fault that I did not seize the opportunity of conveying them to him at a moment when they would have received his attention. I offer them to those who take his place at the moment.
It is worth while bearing in mind Article 8 of the Agreement. Them is an expression used which is either deliberate and, therefore, a vicious ambiguity, or is a provision which will startle Ulster, if my reading of it is correct. It gays:If the Government of the Irish Free State establishes and maintains a military defence force, the establishments thereof shall not exceed in size such proportion of the military establish ments maintained in Great Britain as that which the population of Ireland bears to the population of Great Britain,You will notice that it is not the population of the twenty-six counties. It is not the population of Ireland minus the six counties. It is not the population of the Irish Free State. It is the population of Ireland, and I do not see what Ireland means except the whole of that country which is geographically united and called Ireland. Speaking as a matter of interpretation—it is not for me to dogmatise—I think it will be contended, and with a great deal of 170 force, when the twenty-six counties conic to raise their Army that they will be entitled to such numbers as the total population of Ireland bears to the total population of Great Britain, and that they may count in for the purpose of their numbers the population of Ulster. They will have the control and the expense of maintaining the bloated forces which may be raised. That interpretation may be wrong. If it is wrong, it is because at the meeting in the "wee slim' hours," when this document was finally settled, the negotiators did not dare to be frank with each other or were in too great a hurry to think of it. If it is right, I think it is a point the Government should consider in Parliament. Whether Dail Eireann will stand it is a different matter.
Then there is Article 5 which says:The Irish Free State shall assume liability for the service of the Public Debt of the United. Kingdom as existing at the date hereof and towards the payment of war pensions as existing at that date in such proportion as may be fair and equitable, having regard to any just. claims on the part of Ireland by way of set or counterclaim, the amount of such sums twin, determined in default of agreement by the arbitration of one or more independent persons being citizens of the British Empire.This must run into millions and millions. Who is to make the agreement? Is Parliament to have any word in the matter, or is this agreement to be arrived at between the negotiators from Dail Eireann and Members of the Ministry? And are they to come to an agreement without being obliged to come to Parliament at all because they can plead the authority of this document and the confirmation of the Legislature? Is it the intention that they should have authority to make this agreement? And who is to appoint the independent arbitrator? And how many are there to be? If you appoint enough arbitrators you may be able to forecast the result of the arbitration. Is Parliament to have a voice in it? And what is the meaning of "having regard to any just claims on the part of Ireland by way of set off or counterclaim"?
I know to what it is directed, though what it means I do not know. Set-off and counterclaim are legal terms and do not apply to cases where there is no debt, no damages, and no breach of contract. It. refers to the old grievance, raised in Ireland over and over again, that owing to the relations between the English and Irish Exchequers Ireland has been over-taxed, 171 and they have contended, with enormous figures, that not only was far too much money taken out of their pockets but that it should be repaid by Great Britain, and repaid with interest running over two or three generations. If you have calculations like that arising before a sufficiently complaisant arbitrator I think "a fair and equitable contribution" towards liabilities for public services will vanish like snow in the sun. However fair the initial figure may be, if you have this liberal counterclaim it may be wiped out altogether and Ireland will slip from under the burden of the National Debt.
Are all these things to be dealt with in the Bill? In that case we are free to deal with them. Or is it intended they shall be kept in the hands of the Government? In that case I want to know what has become of the authority of the Legislature at all. I do not want to press constitutional forms unduly, but constitutional forms have grown up by tradition and practice, not for the mere purpose of bowing to the Chair when you come out of the House but for the protection of the liberty of Parliament., to secure its independence and freedom of discussion, and to secure that the Legislature shall have authority over the Executive and not the Executive authority over the Legislature. If you practically clear out the old constitutional forms and start upon a new course, the result will be that any matter may be arranged by the Government and presented to Parliament not in the form of a Bill but in the form of an omnibus Resolution to be taken or left, to be discussed as long as you like, but to be taken or left, upon penalty of tinning out the Government., and then to be carried out obediently, in so far as legislation is necessary, in a subsequent session.
In 1911, rightly or wrongly, the power of this House as a coordinate member of the Legislature was broken, and we have never recovered from it. Any one who had much wisdom, I should think, would have supposed that when the other branch of the Legislature had secured, as it appeared, almost supreme power, it, would never consent to resign it, but I do not think anybody foresaw the swift Nemesis that was going to overtake that other branch of the Legislature, so that now, within ten years, neither House in the Legislature has much power against the Executive of the day, supported by a unanimous and managed Press.
172 When history comes to be written, the story from 1906 to 1921 will not be merely the story with which we have been familiar; it will be the story of the process by which, step by step and little by little, the Imperial Ministry, relying upon direct action, upon the Press, or upon skilful and adroit management, displaced the Legislature from its place and transferred it from the position of master into the position of a more or less humble servant. I therefore regard with great dread this invasion of what I look upon as important constitutional principles. I am quite prepared to suppose that if some faint echo of what I have said were to reach the Lord Chancellor before he comes to reply, the whole thing would be brushed aside as a chimera or as pedantry. Believe me, to those who have thought over this matter, not from the point of view of Ministers who desire a pliable and manageable instrument, but of those who think that the Parliament of the United Kingdom is and should remain the supreme authority in the State, I am quite sure that all these things will assume grave and serious proportions.
Time is getting on, and those who have a real claim to your Lordships' attention will soon be ready to make it. Therefore, I shall not attempt to carry my observations much further. It has been a most pathetic thing to listen to this discussion. The oracles are mute among the supporters of the Ministry, but the noble Lords from Ireland come each telling his own tale in terms of passion, passion which I think is more than pardonable, in terms of grief, grief which might have been deeper than it has actually been, saying: "For God's sake give us peace ! We are willing to work for peace. We have been through a terrible time. Give us peace !"
Last night Lord Donoughmore stood at this box and told us in moving terms of the charms of his home, from which he tears himself with so much reluctance to discharge his important duties in your Lordships' House—his home that is a long, long way from here in Tipperary—and he said, I think, "It is the home that I love; I think of my neighbours, I intend to live among them, and I hope to do my duty to them," and he made a moving appeal from that point of view. I hope it will be no impertinence if I say that he is what in the language of the United States is described as a supreme "sob-artist," 173 because I think these appeals to the beautiful homes of Southern Ireland are singularly beside the point. Of course the happy men who live in those happy spots naturally regard them with affection, as one does one's small, humble home in. London, but does anything in this discussion turn upon the tender associations of the green valleys of Southern Ireland?
Again, noble Lords from Ulster have dwelt with wrath and indignation upon violated pledges, and I do not wonder at their indignation, but it seems to me that we have to look forward and not back, and—it, is the one thing in which I was able to agree with the most rev. Primate yesterday—recrimination is of little use now. It is no good telling us that six months ago something might have been done, or saying, "If you had listened to us twelve months ago," or declaring that if something had happened in the past which did not happen, or if Mr. Gladstone had not happened to be in the particular position in which he was in 1886, or if the Maamtrasna debate had not been conducted in the way it was conducted in 1885, this negotiation would not have happened—none of these things matter now. The one thing that matters is—What is the chance of peace?
The United States have to be drawn upon for a vocabulary in which to express this important point. Who can deliver the goods At this very moment there is a keenly contested struggle going on in Dublin—or is it all play-acting over again? —to determine whether the people who signed this Agreement can deliver the goods, or whether they cannot, and we are expected to approve this instrument, which the other side is still engaged in discussing, or not even discussing it, because apparently they are discussing whether the negotiators who came over here did or did not exactly carry out the instructions that they received. That does not seem a very hopeful omen for their being able to deliver the goods.
What is the foundation for these parties being selected as the parties most likely to be able to do so? Their prowess with the revolver—is that it? I do not quite know what the Government's case is—but we are told by some that the Government could, if they would, use such force as would suppress this rebellion completely. We are told by others who may be quite right that there are no men, no money, and no backing with which to do it. Which are we to believe? I thought the Government had 174 no case unless they began by establishing that they could not have pursued the alternative of repressing the outrages and restoring law and order by force, and therefore that there was nothing left for them but to settle, and to settle on any terms. At the same time other speakers contend that if only we made up our mind to do it, even Great Britain could assert her power sufficiently to restore order in the neighbour island. Whatever we believe, what is there upon which we can build any secure hope or foundation for believing that these men can bring us peace?
I do not think there is very much likelihood of Southern Ireland securing its independence. The only instance that I happen to be able to recall of an independent State existing in part of a entail island is the rather unattractive one of San Domingo, where there are two independent Republics in one comparatively small island. Nobody I think would suppose that that illustration presents any attractions to any other community. But what guarantee have we that these men will be able to maintain that orderly government which it is expected or hoped that we may get from them? I can only discover—for the Government has never taken us into its confidence—a slight amount of information from what has been said by Ministers themselves, and it appears to rest upon the sympathetic accord which was established between Mr. Arthur Griffith and time Prime Minister, and upon the very favourable impression Mr. Collins made upon the Lord Chancellor.
It is the duty of statesmen to be judges of character, and to penetrate the secrets of all hearts; it is the duty of statesmen to take risks and to measure their policy by what they anticipate to be the needs of the immediate future; but I must say that to rest our relations with Ireland upon the very favourable impression which Mr. Collins made upon the Lord Chancellor is singularly like building upon the sand. It seems to me to be hardly any wiser than to rest our military preparations in 1912 upon the very favourable impression which the German Emperor made upon Lord Haldane. I do not think it is statesmanship of which any Ministers should be proud, that they have been brought to such a pass that they had to meet persons, whom I will not further qualify, in private conclave—where nothing for weeks and weeks was committed to paper and signed, 175 where we were not informed of anything whatever—and ultimately to come forward and say there is this document, and the good faith and signatures of these plenipotentiaries, if they were plenipotentiaries, is pledged to it., and upon that the future of Ireland and the British Empire is to rest.
This has been called by some speakers an experiment, and by others a gamble. It is a gamble, but it is not an experiment. An experiment, of course, very often fails, and we must be prepared for the failure of this. But if one experiment fails you can make another, and it is the whole object of experiment by trial and error to discover the right way to safety and success. There is no going back here. Do not let any noble Lord deceive himself into the idea that this is an experiment. It is the same interesting experiment—interesting in t he eyes of some people—which has been made in Soviet Russia. It is one of those experiments which destroys the work of the past and cannot be undone by the work of the future. Do you think that an Act of Parliament establishing a Dominion can be recalled, and that Dominion status once given can be cancelled, even by the Imperial Parliament which passed the measure? It cannot be done without provoking trio indignation of every other of our Dominions, who are justly proud of their Dominion status.
You can treat Home Rule Bills in that way. The great Home Rule Bill of 1914 has never been worked. The Home Rule Bill of last year has never been worked. It was with the utmost difficulty that Northern Ireland had services transferred to it late in this year, and if pressure or other causes were to induce Ulster to enter into this scheme, the Act of 1920 Would pass away. But this experiment cannot be undone. When once Dominion status is given it is given for good or for evil, and we have to see what use they will make of it. No one would be more delighted than I if the experiment were a success. Perhaps it may be so, but what is the good of prophesying on the part of us English who do not understand Ireland? Perhaps it may be, and then what a triumph for Ministers. That is the gamble aspect of it. But ought we to be asked to desert the comparatively safe and tried path of constitutional procedure, and to embark upon this new course, for the sake of a gamble, however brilliant, for the sake of the extrication of the 176 Ministry from a difficulty, however profound, for the sake of the realisation of hopes, however rosy, which rest, I fear, upon nothing but the soft hearts and heads the reverse of hard, of those who entertain them.
I have been trained to look at evidence, to have a preference for what is in existence, and to think that the burden of proof must be borne by those who suggest any change. I have been trained to think that it is better to do the best we can with the evils we know and with the means at our disposal, rather than to embark upon novelties, especially when those novelties are irrevocable, and when we are playing with the lives and fortunes not merely of Irishmen, north and south, but of the people of Great Britain and of the whole British Empire. I believe, as other speakers have said, that this is a great danger to the British Empire, but I will not pursue the subject, because after all there may be no more war, or human nature may change, which is the least probable thing of all. It may be that our children may see the issue of this thing, and that it may not be, so bad as we fear, but speaking as One who has felt it his duty to make up his mind how he shall vote upon this Question, and who has felt it his duty to give the reasons for his vote, I say that I have felt., after much tribulation, that it is my duty not merely to oppose the Motion in the form in which it stands, but to support the Amendment of the noble Duke, the reasoning of which I believe to be irrefutable.
VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I would not trouble you this afternoon with a speech had it not been for the fact that I, as an Ulsterman. I cannot allow some remarks made by Lord Donoughmore to pass by without comment. Yesterday the noble Earl quoted my noble and learned friend, Lord Carson, as saying that the Oath of Allegiance meant nothing. I gather from the noble Earl's speech that he left it to be inferred that this Oath of Allegiance was the same Oath as every member of this House takes. We all know that the Oath of Allegiance to which my noble and learned friend, Lord Carson, referred was the Oath of Allegiance found in this Treaty. The noble Earl asked why it was that the Sinn Fein members in another place had refused to take the Oath of Allegiance in that House, and he very properly gave the 177 reason that they refused to take it in another place because it does moan something.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that these same Sinn Few members who refuse to take the Oath of Allegiance over here for the reason that it means something, are perfectly willing to take the form of Oath prescribed in this Treaty for reason given to the House at the opening of this debate namely, that to them it means nothing. There is another significant thing about this Oath; I do not know that anyone in this debate has drawn attention to it. The words which would consecrate that allegiance, the binding words, which are "So help me God," are not found in this precious Oath. They are words of special significance to all Irishmen.
Mention has been made in this debate of the boycott, and I cannot help reminding the noble Earl, Lord Donoughmore, whom I regret not to see in his place, that for us in Ulster there is Lo difference between the United Kingdom and Ulster. The United Kingdom, so far as we are concerned, comprises, Ulster, and what touches us toneches her. We cannot agree with the noble Earl, who seems in his speeches to find the boycott more excusable because it has ceased to extend to English goods, and is now confined to goods from Ulster; from any point of view it is not less of a crime for that reason. Does he find a thief kiss criminal because he has only stolen the goods which belong to other persons, and not from the noble Earl himself?
What I felt perhaps more than anything else in the noble Earl's speech was his reference to Ulster and the war. He seemed to accuse us in Ulster of forgetting what the south and west of Ireland had done during the war. He left on my mind the impression that Ulstermen claimed that only they had served and died for the Empire. God forbid that any one of us should forget a single one of those Irishmen who fought and died for us. We in Ulster do not forget those who came from the south and west of Ireland; they were men as good and true as any men in the Empire. We honour every Irishman, from whatever part of Ireland he comes, who fought for the Empire; but, as we in Ireland at any rate know full well, the soldiers from the south and west of Ireland who fought for us came not from the ranks of Sinn Fein, and Sinn Fein unfortunately speaks for 178 the south and west of Ireland. I should like to ask any noble Lord who comes from the south of Ireland Whether to-day any man who fought for the Empire dare whisper it down there, dare wear his ribbons and medals, dare speak of his service to the Empire if he is seeking employment. No; while we in Ulster remember with gratitude and pride all those Irishmen who fought for the Empire, Sinn Fein calls them traitors.
Much has been said in the speeches that I have listened to suggesting that this Treaty may be a means of bringing peace to Ireland. Every sane man throughout the length and breadth of Ireland desires peace—the peace that has been passionately longed for during more years than I like to recall. I am convinced that, unless the loyalists and the men of moderate views from the south and west of Ireland can make their voices heard in the near future there can be no hope. We are apt to forget, over here at any rate, that for the past year or more the voice of the men of moderate opinion in Ireland has been inarticulate; it has been rendered inarticulate by a gang of revolutionaries who, by employing methods of terrorism unparalleled in the history of my country, have stifled all opinion except their own.
If the loyalists and men of moderate opinion in the south and west of Ireland can form a Government and can maintain it against these extremists all nay yet be well. But if, on the other hand, this gang of revolutionaries is still,to hold the field and sway the destinies of the Irish Free State, peace for Ireland will be banished to a dim and far-distant future. This Treaty, in plain language, comes to this. It is a question of whether men of moderate views in the Irish Free State will prevail or the extremists. That is the big gamble that the Government have taken, and no one can say how that gamble is going to turn out.
It may seem a small matter but we do not know what flag the Irish Free State is going to fly. We certainly know that the Union Jack is not going to fly over it. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has been asked many questions in the course of this debate, and I should like to ask him if he can tell us what flag is going to fly over the Irish Free State. We in Ulster stand for the British Empire over there. To us it is a grand reality, in which we take a pride. We have borne its burdens 179 ungrudgingly; we have stood shoulder to shoulder with You in your hour of peril. We have helped, along with the loyalists of the south and west of Ireland, to make the Empire, and I trust we are helping it now. The Treaty, though it may not coerce us in words, is endeavouring to coerce us in fact; that cannot be denied. We who of old helped to save the liberties of the British people on the Boyne now ask you not to force us out at the bidding of these terrorists, but to deal with us as fairly, as straightly, as honestly as all history proves we have dealt with you.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I understand that there is still a little time to fill up before the leaders are prepared to take part in the debate, and, if no one else wishes, I will do so. I think it may not be out of place that a few words should be said from the point of view of the ordinary Englishman, more particularly because this Irish question is far more a question for the British Empire than it is an Irish question. That is a point of view which is too often lost sight of. In your Lordships' House it is too much our custom, if I may say so with all respect, to leave so-called Irish debates to the Peers of Ireland—to leave the matter entirely to them. I have always thought, and I think so more than ever to-clay, that the ordinary Englishman ought to say what he thinks about these questions.
There is another reason why a few words from the point of the view of the man in the street, which is all that I pretend to be, should be spoken. This House at its best has always been a mirror of national opinion; not of national opinion in its transient moods or at times when gusts of passion have swayed the populace, but in its more considered and sober judgments. And this debate would not be a true reflection of public opinion as it exists to-day upon the question we are discussing unless something were said from the point of view of that large class of our fellow-citizens who can conveniently be denominated "the man in the street." I think I may say something from that point of view as it so happens that, in one way or another, I meet all classes and conditions of men.
What I want to say, and I think it is to the point, is that nowhere have I found any signs of that exuberant jubilation of which the noble Marquess the Leader of 180 the House told us, which the newspaper Press has endeavoured to engineer and has incorrectly represented to the rest of the world as existing in tins country. The noble Marquess used language to this effect. He said that when the announcement of a settlement was made there was heartfelt rejoicing in every home. Unfortunately, I have not got his actual words before me and perhaps I may be corrected if I am not giving the effect of them, but he said that in every home there was rejoicing, and that in every church sonic grateful allusion was made to the subject. The noble Marquess has been most cruelly misinformed, so far as my knowledge goes, and if he really thinks that there was this general rejoicing he has been living in a fool's paradise.
This House has been a true reflection of national opinion in this matter, because no single speaker, unless it was the noble Lord who spoke from the cross-benches a short time ago in a very exuberant manner, has struck a note of jubilation, or of confidence, or of pride in the achievement of the Government. Almost every one who has spoken has said directly, or has given it clearly to be understood, that he is not thoroughly satisfied with this settlement. There are many who think that it is the only way out of a difficult situation. But I venture to say that there are no two opinions in this House that it is not the kind of thing we would like to have had if we could possibly have helped it. That is the view of the man in the street. One and all, so far as I have been able to judge, have very grave doubts as to whether this settlement is a settlement at all.
A very large number—and of this I can give your Lordships most positive assurance—feel a very real sense of shame and humiliation at the failure of the Government to govern and of British statesmanship to avoid a situation like that which has arisen. They think—they cannot help thinking, and as they think it they have a right to say it—that this is a surrender to those who have been denounced, and justly and truly denounced, as rebels to this country, and have been described not incorrectly as a murder gang. That is the kind of thing which does not appeal to most Englishmen and they do not think it right. There are very many of our fellow countrymen, and I count myself among them, who hold the view that some things are right and some things are wrong, and that to do wrong in order to gain an 181 advantage is a thing that can never succeed or be counted to the credit or the advantage of this country.
What puzzles the man in the street and fills him with a sense of utter bewilderment is that those same statesmen who recently denounced the Sinn Feiners as rebels to this country, now call them men of honour. A great many people are certainly feeling a sense of relief on account of the assurances they have had that the chances of bloodshed and civil war are at an end. But there are a great many, possibly more, who are not at all convinced that that is the ease. On what is the notion based or founded that the settlement is going to bring us race? I understand that one of the principal justifications for entering into a parley with the rebels was the assumption that His Majesty the King's speech at Belfast Lad produced a new state of feeling and it disposition towards reconciliation in Ireland. The facts stare one in the face. His Majesty's speech was delivered on June 23, and in the eighteen days that followed there were more murders, cruel, callous, cold-blooded murders of constabulary and British soldiers than there had been before. The actual facts are that in that space of time there were 124 murders or attempted murders. That does not look as if there had been any change of feeling on which we cold count for future reconciliation.
We are told again and again, as though it was something axiomatic, some fundamental truth, having the force and effect of Holy Writ, that force is no remedy. I venture to disagree with that. In the whole history of the world, in every age, and in every nation the only remedy for rebellion has been force. You cannot give me one single instance of a rebellion which has been put down in any other way than by force, and those who say that if you apply force the trouble and the bitterness remain are totally unacquainted with the ordinary facts of history not only in our own country, but in every country in the world.
I share the opinion of those who hold, rightly or wrongly, that this has been a shameful and an unnecessary surrender, a betrayal of friends in order to propitiate those who are our enemies and who always will be our enemies. It is not only that, but a treasonable violation both of the rights of the Crown and of the rights and liberties of the people of this country and, 182 as such, a fatal injury to the British Empire. Those are my opinions. I wish I had not got to hold them. It is unpleasant to have to express them in your Lordships' House, but that is what I feel, and my conscience will not enable me to say anything less.
The noble Marquess the Leader of the House has claimed that we have got peace with honour, and he suggested that we might have feelings of pride akin to those which were felt in Parliament and by, the citizens of this country when Lord Salisbury and Lord Beaconsfield returned from the Congress in Berlin. That was not a very appropriate analogy, and I ask your Lordships: Where is the peace; where is the honour? With the best will in the world, I can see no prospect of the one and no retrospect of the other, What are the facts? Instead of maintaining law and order, which is the first duty of every Government, we are turning Ireland into two hostile camps, into two armed rivals. What has been done in fact by all this parleying and negotiating? We have encouraged and enabled one side to organise themselves more effectively, and we are going to compel the others, who are not yet armed, to arm themselves in sell-defence. And with all that, we are going to withdraw the protection of the forces of the Crown. I do not see, in these circumstances, what reasonable grounds anyone bas for assuming that peace is established.
Again, what good has been done? What cause have we for satisfaction? Rebel Ireland is not satisfied; they say they are not satisfied. Loyal Ireland is dissatisfied; they have said so, and no one doubts it. The Coalition Press even have been unable to disguise or to misrepresent the fact that nobody in Ireland is satisfied. And is England satisfied? How can England be satisfied with that which is by general admission a surrender to violence, that which cannot possibly be described as anything other than a commencement of the disintegration of the Empire, that which undeniably is going to lose us friends, and that for which, on the top of all, we are going to have to pay a heavy tribute? I ask again: Who is satisfied? The only people who are satisfied, so far as I can see, are the enemies of England, the enemies within these isles and the enemies outside.
I am not forgetting that we have had congratulatory telegrams from the Dominions, but those are civilities which can be very reasonably compared to the 183 civilities in ordinary private life among individuals. If you announce to your friends that you have arranged a marriage for your daughter they naturally write at once to congratulate you. They may not perhaps know that the man to whom she is unhappily engaged is a blackguard and a scoundrel. Perhaps you do not know it yourself. But it is the way of the world that whenever you have arranged something which is regarded as an occasion for congratulation, everybody naturally congratulates you.
There is one other point with which I want to deal. We are asked to let bygones be bygones, and to forgive and forget. I venture to assert that that is a doctrine which, though beautiful in itself, cannot be applied to treason, to murder, and to rebellion. It is not even in accordance with the Christian faith, and I say, with all respect for the most rev. Primate, that the essential of forgiveness in accordance with the Christian faith is that it should be preceded by repentance, and that where there is no true repentance there is no occasion whatever for forgiveness. After all, if you are going to apply this doctrine of turning the other cheek—mea culpa and peccavi and all that kind of thing—you would justify the condonation of any crime or any sin both in public and in private life. You will do that if the moment a thing is over you say: "That is a bygone; do not entertain any ill feeling about it." But it is not in human nature to do it. You cannot expect those who have suffered so cruelly from all this wanton wrecking and barbarity to forget or forgive.
You are asking Ulster to become Sinn Fein. Is it reasonable to ask it, or to expect it to do so? You who are Conservatives, I ask, even though there was no question of your being terrorised by the bomb and the revolver, would you consent to put yourselves for the rest of your lives under the domination of your political opponents, the Liberals? You, who are Liberals, I ask, would you agree to any arrangement which would perpetuate Conservative government? Yet you expect it here, because the only condition on which the settlement can succeed is that Ulster should become Sinn Fein. You expect the men of Ulster to submit to those who have not merely been political opponents in absolute disagreement with them, but who have treated them in a manner which no words can describe.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend who has just sat down for having limited his very interesting speech in order to meet to some extent my own convenience. It is a compliment which has been paid to me, and one which, I most submissively assure your Lordships, I do not deserve. I was anxious, however, to say a few words to your Lordships upon this very critical occasion before you go to a Division. I think that the Houses of Parliament have, if I may say so, some reason to complain of the precipitation with which the concluding phases of this difficult crisis have been hurried through by His Majesty's Government.
Somehow or other His Majesty's Government never seem to me to take Parliament really into their confidence. We always see an element of tactics, of management, a desire, if possible, to surprise Parliament into decisions from which, upon more careful consideration and with longer opportunity, they might shrink. These decisions of the Government have been taken very rapidly. When the noble and learned Viscount upon the Woolsack was speaking at Birmingham he evidently did not expect that your Lordships would be called together before Christmas in order to pronounce an opinion upon this issue of supreme importance. And even in the present debate the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, with unwonted diffidence, said that he was not in a position to explain and defend the Agreement in all its particulars. That was a function reserved for the noble and learned Viscount upon the Wolosack. The House, therefore, is put in this position that, with hardly any time for the consideration of the Agreement before it was adopted, we have been called upon to discuss for two and a half days the actual Agreement without having in our possession the full explanations which the Government and the Government alone are able to give. The noble Marquess himself is not in his place. I am informed that there is good reason for my noble friend's absence, and I apologise for having even commented upon it. I am satisfied that the noble and learned Viscount upon the 'Woolsack, who is a host in himself, is ready to inform your Lordships.
Speaking for myself, and I think speaking also for all your Lordships who had the privilege of hearing him, we were all much impressed in the course of this debate by 185 the speech delivered by my noble friend, Lord Donoughmore. Lord Donoughmore has a great Parliamentary experience, a cool judgment, and a statesmanlike attitude in approaching subjects, which always command confidence, and, if I may make a confession, I will say that I am never quite comfortable when I do not agree with my noble friend. What did Lord Donoughmore tell us? He did not say he was satisfied with the Agreement, much less did he say he was satisfied with the policy of His Majesty's Government, but he said, in effect, that we must make the best of it; that there were elements in Ireland which gave lain encouragement; that we must do what we can, accept facts as we find them and try and work the Agreement and the new system which the Government ant inaugurating. But there was at the end of his speech one phrase which struck me. The noble Earl, in effect, said that we have no notion, no idea, of the actual severity of the reign of terror under which people have been living in Ireland. That, I believe, is perfectly true, but I could net help remembering that it was to the authors of this reign of terror that it is now proposed to hand over the destinies of Ireland.
I want to be quite frank with your Lordships. This is not an occasion for make-believe. If it were to the mass of the Irish people I do not pretend that I should be wholly satisfied, but it would be infinitely better than the proposal to hand Ireland over to those who control Ireland now and will continue to control Ireland. They are the authors of outrage, assassination, murder and rebellion, and to them it is proposed under this Agreement that the destinies of Ireland should be handed. That appeared to me a very serious admission by my noble friend.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
The noble Marquess will excuse me. He has stated my opinion quite correctly, but he does not pretend that I went so far as to differentiate in any way between the leaders, or that I am satisfied that Ireland should be handed over to the present leaders. I assume that the whole people of Ireland will be concerned with the working of this Agreement, and not the leaders only.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I hope my noble friend is correct, and it is 186 in that spirit I want to address your Lordships to-day. I have been a staunch fighter for the Union, but I know that the cause of the Union is lost. We are defeated, and we must accept the fact. There is no statesmanship in struggling against accomplished facts. Home Rule has come to Ireland, and has come to stay. In so far as we must make the best of it my noble friend is perfectly right. We must do our best, in conjunction with the Government, in trying to produce from the present lamentable and deplorable state of things some kind of good government in Ireland. I do not want to go into recriminations of the past. I have done something in that line on previous occasions, but this is not the occasion for that. My only serious criticism of the speech of Lord Donoughmore, as it is of the speech of the most rev. Primate, is that front their speeches you would not have realised how deeply they disapprove of the policy of the Government which has led up to the present state of things, and which, I am certain, is the ease with both of them.
I come then at once to the issue before your Lordships. The issue is the Address moved by the noble Viscount and the Amendment to it moved by the noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland. The Amendment takes a double fount, and I ask your Lordships' special attention to this point. The Address proposes that your Lordships should agree to say that we are ready to confirm and ratify these Articles—tremendously strong language— that we are willing now, without seeing the Bill, without any full explanation of them, to confirm and ratify these Articles. I am not a great Parliamentary historian, but I should think it is almost unprecedented that such an issue should be submitted to the House. The Amendment proposes to do two things. In the first place it proposes to strike out those words which ask your Lordships to confirm and ratify these Articles, and in the second place to insert other words in their place condemning the tenor and contents of the Articles. They are two distinct things, and in my judgment the striking out of the words of ratification is much the more important of the two. That is the real issue before your Lordships.
Let us consider for a moment what it is we are asked to ratify. The conditions which have been laid down repeatedly in your Lordships' House and elsewhere, 187 which the Government and all Parties consider essential to be determined, are five in number. There is the question of the Debt. Of that I say nothing. There is an arrangement for a sharing of the Debt in the Articles which is rather obscure. Then there is the question of Imperial security. All these questions were dealt with at a meeting which took place at Liverpool not long ago and at which a Cabinet Minister was present. He made a speech, which I will not quote, which dealt with all these topics, and upon the strength of it a great Resolution was passed by the assembly at Liverpool, and a very important decision reached. In the third place, it dealt with the safeguards of loyalists; in the fourth place, with the supremacy of the Crown; and lastly, with no compulsion of Ulster.
Consider the question of Imperial security. I shall be very brief; I do not want to dwell upon it because I do not believe it is possible under any system of Home Rule really to ensure full Imperial security. That is why I was a Unionist; I do not think it is possible to do it. Whatever conditions you made, it would always be possible for the Irish Government to violate them, and there does not appear to be any competent method of controlling them. It is one thing to be convinced that it is not possible absolutely to achieve Imperial security in respect of Ireland, but it is another thing to leave the door wide open to Imperial insecurity; and that is what the Articles do. It would be perfectly possible, as I understand—and, indeed, it is permitted under the Articles—for the Irish Free State not only to have troops but to have artillery of the most modern kind, to have the biggest guns which are made, to have submarines—there is a certain rather dubitative clause about imperial defence, but that appears to be only temporary—to have mines, to have poison gas, to have, in fact, all the modern appliances of warfare.
These are permitted under the Agreement which you are asked this evening to say that you are ready to ratify. Is it not quite clear that the only security in respect of this upon which you can rely, if the Agreement is to pass in its present form, is the good will of the new Irish Government? That, no doubt, is what the Government do rely upon. I do not imagine for a moment that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will 188 question that. They rely upon a sort of union of hearts, according to the old phrase, which is to arise out of this Agreement.
Take the next case, the case of the loyalists. I do not want to labour the point, because I agree with my noble friend the Duke of Northumberland that under Home Rule, or under almost any form of it, it will be impossible to protect the loyalists. That is another reason why I was always a Unionist. Nevertheless, it does come as a shock to all of us that there is no provision in the Agreement protecting the loyalists. There is something about the protection of denominational religion, but nothing to protect the loyalists. Is not that an astonishing thing? Why was there not an Article inserted that the Irish Free State would engage that no man should be injured in person or property on account of his political opinions, past or present? Why was that not put in? It is part of the case of the Government that the Irish negotiators are honest men. We have that on the authority of the Leader of the House of Commons. Why did they not go to those honourable colleagues of theirs and ask them to bind themselves in this Agreement to protect the loyalists properly, and not to punish them in any way for their ancient loyalty? But not a word is said for the loyalists.
I think it was my noble friend Lord Farnham who, a little earlier to-day, made the point that there is no provision for the payment of compensation which is due to the persons who have been victims of the rebellion in Ireland. What is going to be done about that, about the people whose houses have been burned, whose property has been destroyed, and who have every right to compensation? Who is going to compensate them? Why should not these honourable negotiators have bound themselves to see that this compensation is paid? Why did not His Majesty's Government, who are particularly bound to have regard to them—because these people suffered in fighting for the Government; it was for their sake that they suffered; it was for their sake for those who sit there, for the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and for the country whom they represent that they lost their property, that their houses were burned, that their cattle were destroyed—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
—and no provision whatever is made for them in the Articles of Agreement. Surely that is a shame. Surely we cannot think of that without a feeling of mortification, that we as Englishmen, represented by the Government—for they are our Government; it is the people of England who have put them there—have done nothing for these loyalists. They are Left absolutely in the lurch, so far as this Agreement is concerned. No doubt my noble friend Lord Midleton has got an assurance from a Mr. Griffith. I do not know what the loyalists would have Clone without Lord Midleton. This is the last thing that they can hang on to, but it is not the same as having it in the Agreement. That your Lordships should be asked to confirm and ratify an Agreement with such an injustice standing on the face of it is surely asking too much, even from a subservient-Parliament and from the House of Lords, whose very existence is threatened at the present moment.
I turn to the supremacy of the Crown. It is said that it is protected by an Oath of Allegiance. The Leader of the House, speaking the day before yesterday, said that these Irishmen will "own allegiance to the same King." Where does he find it in the Agreement? It is not in the Agreement. The Oath does not bind them in any sense to allegiance to the King. The allegiance in that Oath is to the Irish Free State. It is a most remarkable Oath. I do not know whether all of your Lordships beard the speech that was made by the noble and learned lord, Viscount Finlay, yesterday, in which he analysed the Oath, and showed that a good deal of it was unmeaning, and that of the rest of it the singular circumstance was that it differed absolutely from the Oath which is taken by the subjects of His Majesty in every other part of the Empire. I have a list here—I can assure your Lordships I am not going to read it—of the Oaths of Allegiance of the various Dominions—the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Union of South Africa. In every one the words are repeated, and they are approximately the words which every one of your Lordships has repeated at this Table—…be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty.Those words are not in the Irish Oath and the noble and learned Viscount yesterday asked why they were not in the Irish Oath.
190 It is impossible to escape from the significance of that. We know that this 0matter was very much in doubt in the negotiations in Downing Street. There is very little we do know; very little has been allowed to leak out; the whole thing has been done behind the backs of the British public; but we know that the Oath of Allegiance was a difficulty, and that the Government actually agreed that it should be suspended. That is to say, they allowed the Irish negotiators to suspend their adherence to the Oath of Allegiance while the negotiations were going on.
There are two limbs to the Oath of Allegiance in the Articles. The first is that of true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of I he Irish Free State, and the second of faithfulness to the King. What I want to know is this. Supposing, at a critical juncture of imperial history, the Irish leaders should consider that those two branches of the Oath were in conflict—that could never arise in the case of us or of the Dominions, because we simply bear true allegiance to His. Majesty—but supposing the Irish leaders thought that the two were in conflict, which is to prevail? I do not think we can doubt which is to prevail.
I ask another question. What is to become of the Oath of Allegiance to the Irish Republic? Everyone of the members of Dail Eireann has taken an oath of allegiance to the Irish Republic. Is that to be repealed? Did the noble and learned Viscount and his colleagues, who negotiated on behalf of the Government, stipulate that it be solemnly clone away with? Here it is:—I…do solemnly swear that I do not or shall not yield voluntary support to any pretended Government authority or power outside Ireland, hostile or inimical thereto, and I do further swear to the best of my ability I will support and defend the Government of Dail Eireann against all enemies, foreign or domestic, and I will true allegiance to the same"—and then, finally which is significantly absent from the Oath in the Articles, there is this—I take this obligation freely and without any mental reservation, or purpose of evasion.It appears to be thought very important in Ireland that you should not only take an oath but swear that you do not mean to evade it. It is absent altogether from the Oath of Allegiance in the Articles.
191 I want to know about this Oath of Allegiance. What do the Irish leaders think about it? We do not know. We wait day after day. We hear there are discussions going on in Dail Eireann, secret discussions like the discussions in Downing Street, and the British people, of course, are not told. Perhaps at this moment Mr. de Valera is putting to Mr. Collins this question: "What precisely do you understand is the force of the Oath of Allegiance?" What I want, to know is what will the answer of Mr. Collins be, and that of his negotiators. Are they going to say: "Of course, it is an Oath but we look upon our allegiance to Ireland as coming in front of our faithfulness to the King, and you may make yourselves quite easy about that." Some of your Lordships may think I am over-suspicious, but we are asked to ratify this Agreement without knowing. Why should we not know first? Why should your Lordships be hustled in a few days into pledging yourselves to ratify what you do not understand and have no means of understanding?
Surely that cannot be designed, because I know that there is a doubt as to what the exact effect of the vote we are going to take will have. People may say that Parliament may do what it likes when it has a Bill before it. Technically that is quite true, and those who vote against the Treaty to-night will be free, but those of your Lordships who vote in the majority, if it is to be a majority—I hope it will be a minority—do you not think that you will be called upon hereafter to make good that vote? People will say: "It is no good coming at this time of day to question the Oath of Allegiance. You have ratified it. It is true that you did not understand it, but you ratified it without understanding it." I am quite sure that that cannot be asked of your Lordships. Even the most moderate man in the House can hardly be asked to do such a thing as that.
Then I turn to Ulster. We have been taught a great many things about Ulster. It is no good, this new-found faith of the Government as to the facility with which Ulster can be merged in the rest of Ireland. All their old records are against them. I do not want to recriminate, but it was the Lord Chancellor himself who told us, last August, of the unbridgeable gulf which lies between the North-east of Ireland and the remainder of the Island. We heard a great speech about Ulster—I suppose one of the greatest speeches ever delivered within the 192 walls of Parliament—by my noble and learned friend, Lord Carson. As he spoke, and as I looked upon the faces of the Government who were listening to him, I could not help being reminded of a famous scene in the "Merchant of Venice."
Your Lordships will remember that Shylock, who was a good hand at a hard bargain with those he had to deal with, although he was not a Welshman, thought that a certain lawyer who came to the Court was going to contend in his favour, and when the lawyer began he hailed him as his saviour. I do not know whether my noble and learned friend will allow me to compare him to that lawyer. He is not so young, and perhaps he will allow me to say that in the matter of sex he is not quite so fair, but in other respects the parallel is sufficient, and when the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill was going through Parliament my noble and learned friend was hailed as the saviour of the Government. He was not then in your Lordships' House, but a breach of the Orders of the House was permitted, and the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack read a message from Sir Edward Carson, and appealed to his authority. He was in favour of the Bill, and the noble Marquess welcomed this quotation. Hare was the Leader of the Ulster Party in favour of the Home Rule Bill. A Daniel come to judgment ! said the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, in effect.
But then they had forgotten. My noble and learned friend had made certain conditions, and those conditions had been violated, and the assurances which, on his behalf, were made to the House of Lords and which induced your Lordships—largely induced you—to pass a Second Reading have turned out not to be well-founded.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Was there ever anything more dramatic than the speech of my noble and learned friend two nights ago? Those assurances, which he told us he got repeatedly from the Government, that the terms to Ulster were a permanent settlement, and upon the face of which assurances your Lordships' House passed the Home Rule Bill into law — and I dare say the other House of Parliament: I know nothing about them—within 193 a year are torn up, and we are asked to violate the conditions upon which Ulster assented to the Bill, and upon which your Lordships assented to the Bill.
Please observe, I am not for the moment entering into the merits of the case as to whether those were reasonable conditions or not. For the moment I do not say anything about it; but if what my noble friend told your Lordships' House two nights ago be accurate, that there was a repeated pledge that the conditions given to Ulster were given as a permanent settlement—aad, of course, it is accurate—that your Lordships should be asked to-day to ratify without fort her consideration, an Agreement which violates that pledge—well, how can we be asked to do such a thing? I have no doubt the noble and learned Viscount when he rises to reply will say that the pledge has not been violated. I do not know how he will get over the Boundary Commission; I do not know how he possibly can. If it were just a gentle readjustment of frontiers, a few acres here and there, no doubt that would come within a reasonable elasticity of interpretation. But I am afraid I cannot read the Articles like that, nor can I read the noble and learned Viscount's speech at Birmingham like that.
And, apart from this question of boundaries, there is an obvious pressure upon Ulster on behalf of the Government to come into the all-Inland Parliament. There is military pressure, and fiscal pressure is indicated. At the meeting at Liverpool, when a large body of important Conservatives and Unionists were induced to support the Government resolution, my noble friend, Lord Derby, made the last and, in ninny ways, the most important speech of the afternoon. Lord Derby is not a member of the Government—I congratulate him on the fact—but he was supporting them on that occasion, and it was largely because of his speech that the resolution was agreed to. This is what he said:That is the feeling in which I would ask you to support the amendment.The Amendment was the Government's Amendment:It contains three things which we all insist should be maintained—allegiance to the Crown, the safety of the Empire, and no compulsion—That is, compulsion of Ulster. Then he said:I agree that moral compulsion of Ulster is nearly as bad as any other.194 I do not think my noble friend Lord Derby is in his place this afternoon, but if he were here I am sure he would be the first to say that he would not countenance anything like moral compulsion of Ulster.
Yet we have it from my noble and learned friend, and it is indeed evident, that under the provisions of the Articles it will be possible for the Irish Free State to put tremendous fiscal pressure upon Ulster to join the all-Ireland Parliament. They will be able to use a prohibitive tariff against Ulster, for there will be a line of Custom houses across. What; reply can Ulster make? That is what my noble mid learned friend asks. What reply can she make to the threats of armed force? Why, they would have to rely upon the Government to defend them; nothing else. Is it really suggested, after the history of the -last few months, that His Majesty's Government—His Majesty's present Government, I mean—because if there were another Government (I wish there were) it; would be different—but is it really suggested that His Majesty's present Government would really use their fiscal and military power to protect Ulster? Why, it is unbelievable after the history of the last few months.
But let the Government make it certain. I will not say, let them assure us, for, though I do not want to be as all offensive, your Lordships will understand that, after what has passed, we cannot absolutely rely upon the assurances of the Government. I do not impugn their honour for a second, but circumstances are too strong, and we know that they cannot make good their assurances. But they could pledge Parliament, by Resolution of both Houses, that they would resist, with the full power of Great Britain, anything like military or fiscal aggression by the Irish Parliament. That would be something. None of these things is in the Agreement; we have received no such assurance; we have got no such protection. And yet—I again remind your Lordships—in spite of that you are asked to-day to say you are ready to ratify these provisions.
I have not always agreed with Ulster—I do not want to pretend that I always agree with her. But, surely, after you have advised His Majesty to go to Belfast in order to inaugurate the independence of Ulster from the rest of Ireland, when you consider that Ulster is the only certainly loyal Province in Ireland, surely 195 to estrange Ulster is really the limit of political ineptitude. I cannot find words to describe how profound I think is the mismanagement which is estranging the loyalty of the only loyal part of Ireland as the result of your policy.
I come back to the Motion and the Amendment. As I reminded your Lordship at the beginning of my observations, two Questions are going to be put from the Woolsack. There is, first, the Question that the words pledging your Lordships now to ratify this Agreement shall be stuck out; and then there is the Motion inserting other words in their place. I am prepared to follow my noble friend the noble Duke in both those Divisions, if there be two divisions. But this is what I would say, and say with all solemnity to your Lordships. With every desire to find a way out of these difficulties in Ireland, with every conviction that the Union is gone and that we must accept Home Rule, it is not necessary to-day, before we know what this Agreement actually imports, and before-we have seen the terms of the Bill which will carry it into effect, that we should pledge ourselves. Therefore, if any noble Lord has any doubt as to words which the noble Duke proposes to insert, which he may very well have, he may say: "I do not want to agree to propositions condemning the Agreement," which would be a very reasonable frame of mind, though I do not myself adopt it; he may vote against the insertion of the proposed words, but do not let him vote against the striking out of the ratification.
That is what I want to impress upon your Lordships. I have listened to most of this debate, and I have hardly heard a single man who is enthusiastic for this Agreement, not excepting my noble friends the representatives of the Liberal Party. And the loyalists of the south—the noble Earls, Lord Midleton, Lord Desart and Lord Donoughmore—obviously hate the Agreement in itself, although they think that you must make the best of it. Then I beg your Lordships, and these are my last words, to reserve full liberty of action by striking out the words which pledge us to ratify this Treaty. Let us be content, as is the usual practice in your Lordships' House, to thank the King for His most gracious Speech, and let us leave it at that. Even if you do not follow the noble Duke by inserting the other words, you will at 196 any rate have done this. By striking out the words of ratification you will be reserving to yourselves full liberty of action, liberty of action on the part of the ancient House of Lords to do its duty by the country and, if possible, to save Ireland.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT BIRKENHEAD)
My Lords, my first task should be to apologise to your Lordships for having absented myself for more than an hour in the middle of the day from my place upon the Woolsack. I had understood it was the proposal of your Lordships to adjourn for the luncheon interval, and I, therefore, thought myself at liberty to keep an old-standing engagement. My apologies are particularly due to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Sumner, whose speech, for the reason indicated, I was so unfortunate as to miss.
This debate has been a very remarkable one. It has continued now for three days. It has ranged over the widest possible variety of subjects, and it has been contributed to by almost every section of opinion in this House. In the closing and powerful speech to which the House has just listened, the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, has recommended that a certain course should be adopted. That, of course, is the issue upon which the House is shortly to pronounce. Everyone will give his vote upon that issue according to his judgment and his conscience. But let there be no delusion as to what the Amendment means. The Amendment means that this House will have rejected, and finally rejected, the proposals to which the negotiators on but h sides have set their individual hands. The noble Lord, Lord Carson, on whose speech it will be necessary for me to say more hereafter, told us that we dare not consult the country upon these proposals. Is he quite sure that we dare not? It is sometimes unwise to utter these taunts too confidently, and the development of circumstances can easily put into a position of absurdity those who make them with so much assurance.
I said that many sections in this House had contributed to the debate. The noble Marquess, a moment ago, made himself the custodian and the trustee of the interests of the Southern Unionists. He spoke with eloquence of certain matters which are concerned with the very important topic of compensation. I am struck by this circumstance. Many Southern Unionists have taken part in this 197 debate. Several Southern Unionists took part in the debate in another place, and I believe I am right in making this claim, that not a single Southern Unionist in another place and very few in this have opposed the settlement which is now offered for the consideration of Parlialiament They have to live in that country; it is their lives which are affected by the future conditions of Ireland, and they have depicted at recurrent periods in terrible and sombre language the conditions under which those lives have been lived in the last few years.
The noble Marquess says, with perfect truth, that this is not a settlement of which anyone has spoken with enthusiasm. Who is likely to speak of it with enthusiasm? Was there ever an occasion in which there came a clash between the ancient antagonisms of history, in which there was ranged on one side all the passions of one people and all the vehemence of religious differences, and equally ranged on the other the feelings and the memories of those who were contending with them—was there ever a settlement that was made in those conditions that elicited enthusiasm from one single quarter? Who is so foolish as to look through the imperfect and fallible document to which we have set our names, in the spirit of a man who expects to rise from it with uplifted enthusiasm. It is not in this way that the great instruments of history have ever been reached. And I say plainly there is much in that instrument which I would have arranged differently had I the power; there is much in that instrument which would have assumed an entirely different form of expression if my colleagues and I had been able to impress our views upon those with whom we negotiated.
But what do your Lordships imagine that we were doing for three months? Strange as it may seem, we were negotiating. When you negotiate you exchange opinions; you balance suggestions; you consider what is vital to the one party and you weigh it against that which seems to be vital to the other. It is by this process, the only possible process, that one discovers in the end whether that which emerges after all these processes is such as, upon balance and upon the whole, is the best that is attainable in the existing and evident difficulties, and that which we should recommend, as we do to-day, not without heart searching, not without anxiety, to Parliament.
198 The noble Marquess, Lord Londonderry, in a speech which he made yesterday, and to which I listened with deep attention, spoke of utterances which I have made in the old days of this controversy. I listened to them with a very considerable degree of composure. It is unquestionably true that some of those quotations, which his industry had unearthed, were expressed in a livelier fashion than I should, in my present condition, unless I am in a condition of cerebral excitement, repeat. It may be that they owe something to the atmosphere in which they were uttered, but I say here perfectly plainly that I recede not by one iota from the position which I assumed throughout the whole of those old bitter controversies. I do not recall one act that I would undo here and now if I could, and I only recall one or two incautious expressions which I would have put in another way if I had recollected that when I was Lord Chancellor they would be quoted against me in this House.
Let the noble Marquess plainly understand that I entertain not the slightest grievance against hint. I do not particularly like the word "censured" which he used in the Senate of Northern Ireland in relation to some observations of mine which seem to me wholly unworthy of any censure at all, but I heard the speech of the noble Marquess yesterday, and I derived some encouragement from it. That he should address your Lordships in an attitude of hostility to this proposal is intelligible enough. Such an attitude was certain, having regard to the part played in history by his illustrious ancestors, and to the lessons which he breathed in childhood from his distinguished father and front his not less distinguished mother, both of whom were known to so many of us. But, in spite of that atmosphere the noble Marquess used expressions more than once which suggested to me that he had not wholly purged his mind of hope that this arrangement might work, and that he looked forward to a future in which, if it did work, Ulster could make that supreme contribution to the prosperity of Ireland as a whole, and to the fortunes of her countrymen in the South of Ireland, which she and site alone can make.
It is unquestionably true, and many speakers in this debate have pointed it out, that you cannot, within the formula of any document, supply effective safeguards. That is undoubtedly true, I made the 199 point myself repeatedly in the old Home Rule debates. The noble Marquess who spoke last said that the cause of the Union is lost. If the cause of the Union be filially lost everyone who takes that view must in some degree or another admit himself to be a Home Ruler. Any man who admits himself to be Home Ruler is in the position, most candidly admitted by the noble Marquess, that there are no safeguards that you can put on paper which supply a complete security to the population in Northern Ireland.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I distinctly understood the noble Marquess to contemplate the risk of a military invasion of Northern Ireland. I do not know why he should take exception to my observation. I am dealing with what he very plainly said. How does that matter stand? It is quite true that on paper you cannot afford security or protection to Northern Ireland. You cannot protect any community on paper. The noble Marquess says that he would not trust this Government to afford protection to Northern Ireland if she were invaded in military force by the Irish Free State. The noble Marquess is very free in his invective at the expense of the honour of a Government which contains probably the most distinguished member of his own family. I have listened in this House on many occasions when the noble Marquess freely indulged in reflections on the honour and respectability and general truthfulness of the Government.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I am sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Viscount. I expressly said that I did not reflect upon their honour, but that they found circumstances so strong that their assurances could not be relied upon, and that is historical.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Marquess does not reflect upon our honour, but he has observed that we are frequently making pledges which we do not carry out, and therefore he will not attach the slightest importance to any pledge we give now. I am very much indebted to him for the distinction he has made. My answer to this apprehension on the part of the noble Marquess that this is not an obligation on the part of any Government, is that it is an absolute and necessary obligation im- 200 posed by people of standing upon the whole people of England. Does the noble I Marquess really think, if there were an invasion by Southern Ireland of Northern Ireland after this instrument was entered into, that the people that staked everything for the protection of the territory of Belgium would allow this Government or any other Government to carry on if they did not undertake the obligation which had been imposed upon them? The obligation the noble Marquess himself recognises, and he knows perfectly well that he has no right to utter such a libel upon the integrity of the public spirit of the people of this country. I suppose it is not disputed that on grave matters the people of this country compel this, and would compel any other Government, to act in accordance with their wishes. Do not let us confuse things where confusion is neither possible nor right.
We had another contribution to our discussion, one which was made by the noble and learned lord, Lord Carson. I shall be forgiven for saying that it was a very remarkable performance. The noble and learned Lord has publicly repelled and proscribed me from a friendship which had many memories for me, and which I deeply value. The noble and learned Lord can do that—no one can prevent him—but he cannot deprive me of memories indissolubly bound up in the past, when we ran common risks and in speech and act I matched and was glad to match the risks that he ran.
In one sentence in Ids speech, and in a most wounding imputation upon my personal honour, he spoke of the supposed use which he thought I had made of this Ulster issue. It is an odd and paradoxical circumstance that when I listened to the speeches made in the course of this debate by Lord Buckmaster and other members of the Liberal Party, even to some extent by Lord Morley himself, and heard the credit which h some of these speakers assumed to themselves for their attitude on this Home Rule controversy, I began to feel myself (so true to type is our fallible human nature) drifting rapidly into the opposite camp. I will tell you the way my thoughts travelled. I said: Here are all these distinguished men praising themselves for their prescience and foresight, and saving that they, and they alone, had the wisdom twenty years ago to descry the only right road along which lay security 201 in our dealings with Ireland. I must absolutely challenge that.
Their whole policy was one which made no special reservation at all of the case of Ulster, which provided not the slightest guarantee of any kind at all to Ulster for the maintenance even in the humblest details of her own affairs, and it was one which then and there, the day that Bill became law, would have forced the population of Northern Ireland into a Parliament sitting at Dublin. I formed the clear view the I the attempt violently to impose t hat policy upon the population of Northern Ireland would necessarily mean an immediate outbreak of civil war, and haying formed that view I justify myself, oven in my present position, for every irregularity I committed, for every advice I gave, and for all the steps I took. I stood side by side with Lord Carson at grave and critical moments, and neither he nor I knew what advice would be given to His Majesty's Government by those who were then the Law Officers of the Crown.
Is that position the same as the position to-day? I have dealt with the grotesque military risk which is suggested to the population of Northern Ireland, and when I am told that there is financial pressure, that this is that moral coercion of which Lord Derby, who is fortunate enough not to be a member of His Majesty's Government, promised should never be exercised, I ask that. there should be a little more precision of thought and precision of speech in relation to this matter. Is it a form of moral coercion that if Ulster elects to remain within the British Empire she should pay the same Income Tax that you and I pay? Is that a form of coercion?
I do not know what the Income Tax in the Irish Free State will be if this arrangement is ever ultimately agreed to by anyone. I cannot give your Lordships any information about that. I do not take the sanguine view of those who hold out the prospect that the Income Tax in the Irish Free State will be 2s. or 2s. 6d. in the £, but, whatever the Income Tax may prove to be, where is the grievance of the Ulster citizen. He has the opportunity, if he wishes, not necessarily now but in the future, to use it, in one year, in two years, in five years, if and when he becomes satisfied of the sobriety of the Government of the South. What is the grievance that until he has become so satisfied he has been given the 202 one thing he has been asking for all these years, the one thing which was denied under the old arrangement, and the one thing I fought for?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I hear that with the greatest possible pleasure, and it only shows how unfortunate is the self-elected champion of the North of Ireland, Lord Salisbury—
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble and learned Viscount is hardly ever accurate in his speeches. I did not mention Income Tax, or any taxation whatever except Customs. I spoke of a preferential barrier or preferential duty.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I know perfectly well what the noble Marquess said and it is perfectly true that he did not touch on the matter of the income Tax. He confined himself to the fiscal question, but the case has been made here and elsewhere, and it has been made one of the gravest articles in the indictment against the Government.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
In this House, too, and in another place also, and we have it now explained by Lord Londonderry that there is no grievance. He has made it with the candour I should have expected front him, and we know now that no grievance upon this point is experienced by those who are representative leaders of Ulster. But where is the analogy in the circumstances of to-day as compared with the circumstances that existed when I made those speeches to which attention has been called? Lord Carson has spoken of treachery of members of the Government. He has spoken of their violation of their solemn obligations.
I could not help thinking as he spoke that he could not have considered very closely how far the noble Marquess the Leader of the House was a fitting recipient of those bitter taunts. The noble Marquess played no conspicuous part in the negotiations. He was engaged, as many of your Lordships know, for months in negotiations, not wholly dissimilar negotiations, with 203 the representatives of Egypt, and each day claimed many hours from him in attending to these duties. He was informed, as every important colleague of the Government was informed, from time to time of the progress of the negotiations, and I do not, I think, exaggerate when I say that more than once the noble Marquess indicated anxiety as to certain specific Articles, an anxiety which those of us who had to discuss the Articles and ultimately to agree to them equally shared. The noble Marquess took no other part until he examined the document as a whole, as every Peer sitting in this House is responsible here and now to examine the document as a whole; and my noble friend anticipated the responsibility which every Peer in a few minutes will exercise and indicated that he was prepared under all the circumstances and in view of the alternative to give his support to these proposals.
Then the noble Marquess, at my special request, was good enough to undertake, with all the public burdens he has to discharge, to master these proposals in sufficient detail to enable him to explain them to the House, and he did so in a speech which I will venture to call a masterpiece of compression and which was certainly uttered without a note of discourtesy or of disrespect to any member of this House. And then at its close, the noble and learned Lord is to rise and is to say of a man whose whole life has been spent in the service of the State, who has been a distinguished Viceroy in India, who laboured as a colleague with the noble and learned Lord in the War Cabinet during some of the most critical years of its existence, who has struggled for the cause of this country for all these years against a burden, known to many of your Lordships, of ill-health—such a man is to be told by the noble and learned Lord, in his first contribution to the debates of this House, that he is a traitor, who is to be repelled from the friendship and acquaintance of decent people. These are will and foolish words.
It is worth while to recall what are the circumstances under which we throw ourselves into negotiations which those who have done me the honour to study my speeches in the last two years know were as distasteful to me as they would have been distasteful to the noble Marquess to undertake. The noble Marquess (Lord Salisbury) says that we are prevented by circumstances from carrying out our pledges. In the jaundiced view of the 204 noble Marquess we are weak puppets, kicked about from one crisis to another, with instability of purpose and insecurity of conscience. We are not, indeed, supermen, Napoleons; we do not belong to the class to which the noble Marquess in that respect belongs. It is perfectly true that we have changed our minds more than once in the last three years, and, for all I know, we may, on these and other matters, change our minds again. We at any rate realise this—we who have handled the burden and responsibility of the last three years—that we live in a changed world. Our difficulties lie in attempting to convince the mediaevalists among us that the world has really undergone some very considerable modification in the last few years.
Does anybody suppose that if I, at this moment, could persuade the population of Ireland to continue the Union as that Union existed in the year 1905, I should be standing at the Woolsack to recommend these proposals, or to give my vote for them? Anybody who knows me knows that nothing would induce me to take t hat course if I considered myself, in all the circumstances that exist, a free agent. We are dealing with a moment in which alternatives, and alternatives only, count. We must do something. We cannot remain idle and apathetic. Either we or some better Government must take sonic positive action. No man makes any contribution at all to our debates who does not suggest what, in the alternative, we ought to do.
The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, says that he, too, is a Home Ruler now, and shares our turpitude to that extent, but he does not indicate what particular form of Home Rule he intends to honour with his support, or what particular body of people he thinks he will succeed in persuading of the merits of his scheme. As for the speech of the noble and learned Lord, as a constructive effort of statecraft, it would have been immature upon the lips of a hysterical school-girl. As both the noble and learned Lord and the noble Marquess have not thought it necessary to make any single suggestion for dealing with the actualities of the situation—
§ LORD CARSON
Perhaps the noble and learned Viscount would allow me to say—since he says I made no contribution—that I accepted last year, at his suggestion and at the suggestion of his colleagues, the Bill of 1920.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
And under the Act of 1920, with the single exception of the Boundaries Commission, those for whom the noble and learned Lord stands will retain everything which that Bill gave.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
That is an issue. But even the noble and learned Lord I suppose will agree that we as a Government—in the same way as lie, if he formed a Government, and as Lord Salisbury, if he formed a Government—have to consider certain courses.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
We have to consider alternative courses. What are those courses? There are two, and two only. Either we were to invite no conference, and were to attempt mare successfully to carry out our policy of coercion and repression, or we were to take the course which in fact we have adopted. The noble Duke, the Duke of Northumberland, has no doubt which course we ought to adopt. In the mind of the noble Duke every soldier is a super-min, every politician is either a rogue or a fool, and every working man is a Bolshevik, actual or potential. The noble Duke has been stalking England for the last six months—avoiding, indeed, some processes of labour by always delivering the same speech—and explaining now to a Committee in the House of Commons, now to an extremely unconvinced meeting of his own neighbours, now to another audience elsewhere, that the whole of England is about to take the earliest opportunity of turning Bolshevist and destroying our Government by the process of violent revolution.
While the noble Duke has been enriching our oratory by these alarming predictions, we have had some responsibility in this matter for the last three years. We held tile reins of power at the moment when even the police seemed to be breaking 206 in our hands, and we are able to say now, after three years of office, after emerging from the crisis of the great coal strike, that the heart of this country is true and sound, and if the noble Duke will turn his mind and—even more important—will enlist in our service an extremely fruitful and even heated imagination for constructive purposes in Ireland, believe me, he will add to his own reputation and will make a more practical contribution to the national interests.
The noble Duke has a clear opinion as to what course we ought to pursue. We ought to have carried on the war. "If only we had not interfered with the soldiers!" That is one of the sentiments in the mouth of the noble Duke. Now, my Lords, I for three years, more than any other Minister, except that Minister who at the moment was Chief Secretary for Ireland, have had responsibility for Irish affairs. For three years I have replied, and I have found it no very agreeable task, in every debate which has taken place in this House on the subject of Ireland, and I say this advisedly, and you will accept it from me because you know I believe in dealing candidly with the House, that I never remember any one single occasion on, which any soldier, in office in Ireland has asked for a single thing which he has not been given at once. Every General in command has been told, and even told by because I have had some authority in these matters—I have belonged to the Cabinet Committees which dealt with them—that he had only to ask and he would receive. We have said, "We will give you everything you want," and I have never heard the ease of one single soldier who in public, or by private representation to a Minister, if he is still holding military rank, will complain of being denied anything by the Government.
What then had we in the alternative, to which the House commits itself if it accept the Amendment of the noble Duke? What had we to decide upon? I will tell your Lordships, and in doing so will answer a question put by Lord Londonderry. We reconsidered the whole military situation. I myself made a speech in this House in which I said plainly that in my judgment the kind of war in which we were at that moment engaged was not proceeding favourably to our cause, and a close examination of the position was made. I do not, at this moment, speak of the 207 result in greater detail than this—that it was clear that if we were to carry on this struggle it would be necessary for us to make an appeal for voluntary recruits to the young men of this country, and it would be equally necessary for us to make an immense, or very large, demand upon Parliament, for credits, because this had emerged: that that war could not be carried on by the then existing methods. Quite new instruments were required upon an immensely larger scale, and there is not a single Peer living in and coining from the south of Ireland who did not know that, and who did not tell me that an effort upon an immensely increased scale was necessary if this was to be carried through.
Now I am asked by the representatives from Ulster: "Is it because you have not the courage and the heart to go on with this quarrel that you are surrendering?"; and Lord Dufferin said: "We would not mind so much if you told us plainly that it was because you were lacking in courage, and through cowardice, that you were giving up the struggle." I confess that I am not much impressed by this representation. Is it, indeed, to be said that this country at this moment of all other moments is suffering a military humiliation because we decide, on balance, that it is wiser to make this experiment in statecraft? Three years only have passed since we drove the mightiest military power in the world in flight from before our trenches, at a moment when our Armies were stiffening the Italian Army, sweeping the Turk from Palestine, and storming the Bulgarian heights. This country raised more millions in soldiers than there are men, women and children of all ages in Ireland. Are we then to be told that we cannot accept this Agreement because we are making ourselves parties to national change and national humiliation? Is not the truth that those who are great can afford to do great things in a great way?
I shall be asked, Are you so confident that this is a great thing? What really justifiable hope which reasonable men can accept can you bring? I try to be an honest man, and I say it plainly, that I do not tell your Lordships too confidently. I am hopeful, but I will not dogmatise about the hope, for I see too many elements in the situation, even now, that make for uncertainty. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, contributed, if he will 208 allow me to say so, from a mind which is both generous and profound, a criticism which was shallow and ungenerous. He could not make an observation upon this matter without involving us in censure, because we had not undertaken these negotiations at an earlier period. I observed, while I was making these remarks, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Carson, making common cause with the noble and learned Lord who sits in front of him, and perhaps it interested me—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Yes, I heard it. The noble and learned Lord is a practised adept at this species of retort. I do not object, but it is interesting to see these two noble and learned Lords, who take such divergent views, making common cause.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Would the noble and learned Lord desire me to give way to him? It is customary in this House for only one speaker to address the House at a time. To continue, one noble and learned Lord alleges that we are treacherous scoundrels for entering into negotiations at all, and the other is of opinion that we are incorrigible fools for not having undertaken them two years ago.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My complaint was that you did not do it in 1918, and I have heard nothing to explain it except that murder has taken place since.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble and learned Lord fixes his particular date in 1918. Any other noble Lord can, of course, take any other date. It is a perfectly safe process. Nobody can ever be certain of anything in these matters, except that there are in the minds of men moods and in the affairs of men moments. Is it then certain that we have the mood and the moment now? What is going on in Dublin now I cannot tell you. It may be that we have not even now taken the right moment. All I can say is that we must be taken to have made the best exercise of I judgment in our power.
209 I am asked whether I hold out any confident hope to your Lordships that this arrangement will succeed, and I wish upon that matter to speak very cautiously. The Irish people are a very strange, wayward, incalculable people. Nobody can ever say confidently whether they will do this or whether they will do the other thing in an unexpected contingency, but of this I am sure, that for the first time, with due and, as I think, adequate protection of the legitimate interests of Ulster, we have given a population which is overwhelmingly homogeneous an opportunity of taking its place side by side with the other communities which compose the British Empire. Now, that is an immense moment in history. They are, as was said by Mr. Churchill yesterday in another place, an ancient people, they are a people who are as entitled as anybody else to have all the respect that can be paid to that part of the country which is homogeneous and which takes a pride in its nationhood and in its history.
We believe that there is a chance that this settlement whirls We propose Will satisfy that sentiment in the minds of the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Southern Ireland. If it does, what will happen If it does, we shall see year by year the disappearance of those animosities which have poisoned our national life and weakened our national effort for several hundreds of years; if it does we shall see realised a state of things which Lord Carson himself once described in words which stirred deep emotions in the House of Commons—If the South and West would come forward to-day to me—or if there was anybody here who could say it for them—and say: 'You and I are members of the same country (I will not say nation, for Ireland never was a nation) and we each love our country; let us each do our best, starting in good temper, to govern in these Parliaments the district:, which are entrusted to them,' I would grasp his hand firmly, and I would say with all my heart: I accept it as a settlement and, what is more, as I have said before, I would look forward to a very short time elapsing before under these conditions, we would be more likely to unite in one Parliament.'I do not know whether the arrangement we propose now, and to which we have set our names, and for which we accept responsibility, and which, if it receives the support of Ireland, we shall submit to the last test which it is in our power to apply, if any development, should make such a course proper or necessary—I do not know whether that scheme will, or will not, 210 produce a tone and temper which will make it certain that. Ulster—which after all is inhabited by very sensible and very patriotic people—will say: "There is a Parliament in the South which we can cooperate with"; but I will give, very shortly, some reasons which have led me to the conclusion that that hope, though not certain, is not wildly extravagant.
Now, let me say here and now, at the expense of incurring the censures of the noble and learned Lord and others, that I have formed a clear view as to the intentions and dispositions of the men with whom for so long we negotiated. I ask nobody else to accept that view from me; one must form these impressions for oneself; one may be right or one may be wrong. But when we are told that we ought not to hate gone into a Conference at all, one very remarkable circumstance emerges. Who set us the example of discussion with these men? It was the insight and the statesmanship of Sir James Craig which first realised that no lasting peace could come about in Ireland unless there was discussion between himself and the representatives of Southern Ireland, and he went, long before we had our Conference, and had a conversation with Mr. de Valera in Dublin.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LONDONDERRY
I think I ought to draw attention to this, that the invitation came from Mr. de Valera, and not from Sir James Craig, as the noble and learned Lord seems to imply.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
To be perfectly honest, I thought it did come from Sir James Craig, but it was equally creditable to lain in either case. He realised that this old, bloody, unhappy quarrel cannot be carried on indefinitely, that some time or other there must come peace; and of those who criticise us most bitterly to-day I would ask this plain question—Is your alternative any other than this, that we shall now resume the war, that we shall take and break this people, as we can with our military strength take and break them? And, when we have done that, how shall we be any better off? Shall we be any nearer a settlement than when Lord Salisbury, if he becomes Prime Minister to-morrow, has raised the Army, has carried fire and sword into every village in Ireland, and has finally brought back a new laurel to add to 211 the military standards of the great war? When all that has been achieved shall we be any nearer an Irish settlement? There is no one listening to me now who does not know that at the conclusion of that war, with memories a thousand times more bitterly inflamed, you would then—Lord Salisbury would have to do then, what we have done now—have to enter into negotiations with these people, to define the conditions under which they and we will live our lives in these islands.
Let us give this vote, not indeed in a spirit of light and easy optimism, but nevertheless let us be bold to give it in a spirit of high hope. I am, indeed, expectant that, in one form or another, the sanction of the people of Ireland will be given to this proposal by an overwhelming majority, and that they, too, will share in the sentiments of the civilised world which the noble and learned Lord thought proper in this connection to disparage and to decry. I was particularly shocked by an observation which the noble and learned Lord made, suggesting that the telegrams of congratulation from the Prime Ministers of the self-governing Dominions had been elicited by suggestions from persons on this side, in order to stage-manage the atmosphere. The noble and learned Lord has held high office, but I will nevertheless make bold to tell him before this House that that is not the manner in which the relations are regulated between the self-governing Dominions and Ministers in this country; and I will place at the disposal of the noble and learned Lord, if he cares to satisfy himself how baseless the suggestion was, every communication that has passed since the negotiations began between each of the Prime Ministers of the self-governing Dominions and his Majesty's Ministers.
No, the expression of opinion from the Empire, in its general and spontaneous character, has exceeded any movement which we in our day have witnessed since the outbreak of war. I suppose it was suggested from No. 10, Downing Street that the Australian Parliament should stand and sing "God save the King," after the news was conveyed to them that the settlement had been reached? It is not only in the Dominions: in every country in the world in which these old islands of ours have got friends this settlement has been hailed with acclamation and with enthusiasm.
And I would invite your Lordships to vote to-night with a deep sense of responsi- 212 bility—not confidently, but still hoping that we shall see in the future an Ireland which will at last, after centuries, be reconciled with this country; an Ireland to which both the contrasted systems will make each its own splendid and individual contributions; and an Ireland which will sit when the Dominions meet at 10, Downing Street to decide, according to the evolutionary organisation of the British Empire, the supreme issues of policy which affect the fortunes of that Empire; and the Prime Minister of Ireland, an equal by the side of equals, will lift up his voice to support and give expression to the historic destinies and the rightful influence of that unhappy country.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
Might I ask the noble and learned Lord to be good enough to answer a vital question which I put yesterday, before we go to a Division? In what form will this Agreement be submitted to Parliament? Will it be submitted to Parliament in a form in which we can move Amendments to the new Constitution, or will it be submitted simply in the form of a question on which we are to say Aye or No? That is my first question. And, if I may trouble the noble and learned Viscount with a second, to whom will the Government which is to be set up in Ireland, if we pass this Agreement and if it is ratified in Dublin, be responsible—to this Government or to the Viceroy?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I should perhaps have said, but I had much else to say, that I have been asked, I think it is, 37 Questions by different noble Lords in the course of the debate, and the whole of my speech would naturally have been devoted to answering those Questions had I undertaken the task. I intended to say, but I forgot it, that if any noble Lord who desires a more precise answer than the general lines of my speech afford to any question, would be good enough to write me I would gladly make him the best answer that was in my power and, of course, in a form which he would be entitled to treat as being as public and authoritative as anything I have said in this House.
As to the noble Earl's first question, the developments will, as I understand it, be as follows. There are, of course, many details in these Articles of Agreement which will require, conformably with their general content and scope, to be supplemented. The noble Earl is as well aware 213 as I am that they do not even pretend to be the whole of the necessary details, and the process, as I assume it, will be this. If and when the representatives of Dail Eireann approve of these Articles of Agreement it will be necessary that there shall be meetings in order to deal with matters which are supplementary and must necessarily be added in order to make the document a complete one. These will be agreed upon after discussion between the negotiators, I most sincerely hope and have every reason to believe, and when that part of the subject is reached which concerns the noble Earl he and his colleagues will be most closely consulted. When that is agreed, that which has been so agreed will, of course, be presented to Parliament in the form of an agreed Treaty for the assent or dissent of Parliament. Not that you can invite Amendments to that which is so agreed. How could you? Would you permit Amendments in the Dail in the Committee stage? We must reach a conclusion; we must recommend it, and if we can justify it Parliament will accept it; if we cannot justify it Parliament may not accept it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Are we to understand, then, that the only liberty left to Parliament will be to assent to or reject the arrangement in tolo without the possibility of Amendment?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Marquess will understand nothing of the kind. That would be the advice which we shall undoubtedly give to Parliament, and when flat advice is considered and pronounced upon by Parliament the arguments in favour of that advice and those against it will be stated. Parliament, of course, can do anything. Parliament can accept the noble Duke's Amendment now. Parliament can accept an Amendment from the Earl of Midleton at a later stage. We have no power to sterilise Parliament.
With reference to the second Question pub by the noble Earl, I had intended to look into the matter last night but I have been very much engaged, and if he will allow me to discuss it with the Attorney-General, as it is a grave matter, I will send him an answer.
THE DUKE OF NORTHUMBERLAND
My Lords, as the mover of the Amendment, I should not have said anything at this stage but for one or two observations which were made by the noble and learned 214 Viscount on the Woolsack. In any case I shall not keep your Lordships more than two or three minutes. I would only point out that of the five subjects mentioned by the noble Marquess Lord Salisbury—which were Finance, Imperial Defence, the Oath of Allegiance, the position of the Southern loyalists, and Ulster—the noble and learned Viscount has only mentioned one, Ulster. He has argued that there is going to be no coercion of Ulster. But as he said in his historic speech at Birmingham the other day that he did not see how Ulster could permanently stand out of this arrangement, it is very evident that Ulster will be put in sick a position that she will have to come in whether she likes it or not. What the exact process may be does not very much matter.
He has called those of us who hold these opinions mediæval, but I would remind him that he was a mediævalist only five months ago. I would further remind him that, after all, we are only following the advice he gave on the very same day as that on which His Majesty made his speech in Belfast, when the noble and learned Viscount said that the Government had gone to the furthest limits of concession and could not go an inch further, and that unless the Sinn Fein leaders were willing to come into the scheme which the Government presented to them, the Government would know how to employ the necessary measures in order to suppress them. I must say I do not think that the noble and learned Viscount is the person who should come down to the House and reproach us now.
He also called us "armchair critics." Perhaps we are; there may be something in that criticism. It. is perfectly possible that had we been placed in the position in which the noble and learned Viscount and the Government were placed we might have acted as they have done; we might have been as weak as I think they have been. But there is one thing we should not have done. If we had told this House that we would adopt a certain course, and had then made up our minds that we could not adopt that course, had thrown over the House and adopted a totally different course only twenty-four hours afterwards, we should not have come down to this House five months later and reproached and taunted those whose only fault it was that they had not been able to discard their principles with the alacrity with which we had discarded ours.
215 The noble and learned Viscount has told us that we have offered no constructive policy. That is to some extent true. I am not concerned with a constructive policy. What I am concerned with is whether this House does or does not perform its duty. I have only asked myself two questions. One is, has the Government any moral or constitutional right—constitutional, I mean, save in the most technical sense—to ask this House to ratify this Agreement? Has it any moral
§ or constitutional right to pass this settlement at all, and if the answer is "No," then I say that this House has no moral right to do it. Why should we go down to history with this betrayal on our conscience? Why cannot we leave the issue in the hands of the people of this country?
§ On Question, whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the Address?—
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 166; Not-Contents, 47.217
|Birkenhead, V. (L. Chanceller.)||Falmouth, V.||Inchiquin, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Inverforth, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Gladstone, V.||Islington, L.|
|Marlborough, D.||Goschen, V.||Kenmare, L. (E. Kenmare)|
|Portland, D.||Haldane, V.||Kenry, L. (K. Dunraten and Mount-Earl.)|
|Sutherland, D.||Hampden, V.|
|Hood, V.||Kenyon, L.|
|Aberdeen and Temair, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Dommghmore.)||Kilmarnock, L. (E. Erroll)|
|Bath, M.||Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)|
|Bute, M.||Peel, V.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Cambridge, M.||Pirrie, V.||Leigh, L.|
|Crewe, M.||St. Davids, V.||Loch, L.|
|Curzon of Kodleston, M.||Ullswater, V.||MacDonnell, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Marchamley, L.|
|Lincolnshire, M. (L. Great Chamberlain.)||London, L. Bp.||Marshall of Chipstead, L.|
|Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Aberconway, L.||Merthyr, L.|
|Ancaster, E.||Abinger, L.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Bandon, E,||Ailwyn, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Beatty, E.||Ashton of Hyde, L.||Morris, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Askwith, L.||Muir Mackenzie, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Avebury, L.||Nunburnholme, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Beaverbrook, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Chichester, E.||Boston, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Clarendon, E.||Buekmaster, L.||Playfair, L.|
|Denbigh, E.||Cable, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Ressborough.)|
|Drogheda, E.||Carmichael, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Castlemaine, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Eldon, E,||Chalmers, L.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Granville, E.||Charnwood, L.||Revelstokc, L.|
|Hardwicke, E.||Clinton, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Kimberley, E.||Clwyd, L.||Romilly, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Cochrane of Cults, L.||Rotherham, L.|
|Lytton, E.||Colebrooke, L.||Rowallan, L.|
|Macclesfield, E.||Coleridge, L.||Russell of Liverpool, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Cottesloe, L.||St. Audries, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Crawshaw, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Morley, E.||D'Abernon, L.||Sanderson, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Dawson of Penn, L.||Save and Sele, L.|
|Onslow, K.||de Mauley, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Pembroke and Montgomery, E.||Dalziel of Kirkealdy, L.||Shaw, L.|
|Plymouth, E.||Denman, L.||Shute, L. (V. Barrington.)|
|Portsmouth, E.||Desart, (E. Desart.)||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Sandwich, E.||Dewar, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Scarbrough, E.||Dunedin, L.||Stanmore, L.[Teller.]|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Dunmore, L. (E. Dunmore.)||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Strange, E. (D. Atholl.)||Ernle, L.|
|Wharncliffe, E.||Faringdon, L.||Stratheden, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Farrer, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Fingall, L. (E. Fingall.)||Sudeley, L.|
|Farquhar, V. (L. Steward.)||Forteviot, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Allendale, V.||Glenarthur, L.||Treowen, L.|
|Bryce, V.||Greville, L.||Wavertree, L.|
|Chelmsford, V.||Harris, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Chilston, V.||Hawke, L.||Weir, L.|
|Cowdray, V.||Hemphill, L.||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss)|
|De Vesci, V.||Holm Patrick, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Devonport, V.||Hylton, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Esher, V.||Illingworth, L.||Wrenbury, L.|
|Argyll, D.||Lovelace, E.||Dunleath, L.|
|Bedford, D.||Northbrook, E.||Erskine, L.|
|Northumberland, D. [Teller.]||Stanhope, E.||Farnham, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Forester, L.|
|Abereorn, M. (D. Abercorn.)||Bangor, V.||Grinstead, L. (E. Enniskillen.)|
|Dufferin and Ava, M.||Chaplin, V.||Lawrence, L.|
|Normanby, M.||Finlay, V.||Monson, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Templetown, V.||Newton, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Northbourne, L.|
|Devon, E.||Armaghdale, L.||Oriel, L. (V. Massereene.)|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buceleuch and Queensberry.)||Atkinson, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Bellow, L.||Banfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Berwick, L.||Savile, L.|
|Grey, E.||Carson, L.||Sudley, L. (E. Arran.)|
|Lanesborough, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)||Sumner, L.|
|Lindsey, K,||Deramore, L.||Sydenham, L. [Teller.]|
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and Address ordered to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.