« PreviousContinue »
has happened in Ireland. It seems to be supposed that the Liberal party within the walls of the House of Commons has been busy all this time since 1886 in endeavouring to persuade the House of Commons to adopt Home Rule. It is nothing of the kind. We have not preached the doctrine of Home Rule directly or perseveringly in the House of Commons, and why, gentlemen? You might just as well go and preach to the waves which wash upon your cliffs as preach to the majority in the present House of Commons. We have kept our breath for other purposes; we have steadily resisted in the House of Commons any attempt to coerce Ireland in all its forms."
After referring to the action of his party relating to the oneman-one-vote, to taxation as between realty and personalty, to the taxation of ground-rents, to the Religious Disabilities Bill, to disestablishment of the Church in Wales, and to altering the law of conspiracy, Mr. Gladstone said it was not a contemptible record of six or seven weeks' proceedings, and it showed, he argued, that they had plenty to do.
This speech satisfied very few even among Mr. Gladstone's supporters. It gave no clue to them of the line they were to follow in recommending Home Rule to their constituents; it afforded no fresh starting-point of defence, and, as the result showed, its most aggressive criticism of his opponents' work had to be abandoned after a brief newspaper controversy.
It was not likely that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would allow the charge of having foisted a "pretended" surplus upon the House of Commons to pass unchallenged, and still less the assertion that one-third of it, 1,200,000l., was to be invested "in the fancy scheme of buying up the licenses of publichouses." Mr. Goschen pointed out that the sum to be so set apart was 450,000l., which had been provided out of a special tax on the liquor trade, a point on which Mr. Gladstone was carefully silent. On the other charge, that the Government had intentionally and criminally concealed the amount of naval and military expenditure which it was proposed to incur in the current year, Mr. Goschen had simply regarded this as a "mare's nest of Mr. Shaw-Lefevre's; " but when it was endorsed by the authority of Mr. Gladstone, he searched in vain the Treasury records to find the base of such a charge. To this, Mr. Gladstone, in a very wary letter, replied that, if the plan adopted by himself in 1868 with regard to barrack expenditure was to be regarded as a precedent for the course pursued with the shipbuilding programme of the present Government, he denied the analogy: for barracks were built on permanent principles, whilst in shipbuilding the fashion was always shifting. With regard to the concealment of expenditure, Mr. Gladstone admitted that, if all the amounts of Mr. Lefevre's return were included in the annual sheet, his charge would fall to the ground; but he went on to argue as if that were not the case, and continued to do so through a second
letter without apparently having taken the precaution to look at the finance accounts of the years 1889-90, and the statutory balance sheet, in which all the amounts advanced under the Imperial Defence Act were shown, and included in the Exchequer issues of the year. Notwithstanding this clear vindication of the proceedings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Gladstone made no effort to withdraw the statements made in his Hastings speech.
Mr. Gladstone and Sir F. Milner-Death of Lord Granville-Recess Speeches -Sir Henry James in Ulster-Mr. Chamberlain at Portsmouth-The Labour Commission-The Indian Opium Traffic-The Clitheroe Case-Parish Councils -Intoxicating Liquors (Ireland) Bill-Mr. Davitt and the Labour Commission-Portugal and the Pungwé River-The Newfoundland Fisheries Bill -Delegates at the House of Lords-The Budget-Free Education-Public Opinion on the Subject-Mr. Chamberlain's Views on it-Sir W. Harcourt on Home Rule Annual Meeting of Primrose League-Important Speech by Lord Salisbury-A Cluster of Bye-Elections-Manifesto from Mr. Gladstone -The Irish Land Purchase Bill in Committee-Manipur-A Copyright Bill-A Local Option Debate-Leasehold Enfranchisement-The Resignation of Members-Captain Verney-Mr. Goschen on £1 Notes-Sir W. Harcourt in Devonshire Mr. Chamberlain on National Pensions for Old Age-Mr. W. H. Smith re-elected.
THE echoes of Mr. Gladstone's speech at Hastings were heard in the short Easter recess. Mr. Goschen had challenged the accuracy of that speech in a matter of figures, but Sir Frederick Milner deemed it necessary to challenge Mr. Gladstone's statements in another direction. Speaking of Mr. Parnell's recently published manifesto to the Irish-Americans, Mr. Gladstone had said: "He apparently forgot to inform the Irish in America, whom he was addressing, that he had now the support of the Tory press and most of the Tories in England. Undoubtedly he ought to have set forth that among his resources when he was taking an inventory." Sir Frederick Milner complained that this was a very serious charge and a libel against the Tory party. He asked Mr. Gladstone to-"Condescend to particulars, so that we may have the same opportunity as Mr. Goschen had of proving your inaccuracy; and I think it would not be unreasonable if I were to ask you to couple the name of some individual member of the party with so grave an accusation, in order that he may have the same opportunity as the law provided for Colonel Dopping, of either compelling you to substantiate or unreservedly to withdraw your charge." To this Mr. Gladstone replied-"I was ready and glad to answer the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the accuracy of a figure, but I at once decline to enter into a correspondence with you upon my statement that, so far as I have seen, the majority of the Tory party have supported Mr. Parnell in his Irish quarrel.
I do not speak of the majority of the party absolutely, but of the declarations which have come before me, including statements from individuals in high position, and this statement I shall be prepared to support upon every proper opportunity." Sir Frederick Milner responded with an emphatic repudiation, and declared that the leaders of the Tory party had refused to have any lot or fellowship with Mr. Parnell in the face of the election of 1885, and they refused it as firmly now. "They look on"-wrote Sir Frederick-"with feelings of curiosity, of amusement, and of relief at the war of recrimination and venomous abuse which is being waged between the once fond friends, and at the two rows of empty benches from which no patriot ever rises now to make the progress of legislation in the Parliament of Great Britain impossible.'
The death of Lord Granville, on the Tuesday in Easter week (March 31) cast a gloom over the recess. Referring to the deceased statesman in a leading article, the Times said of him :"He was not a great orator; he never broke out in the brilliant perorations which sway the feelings and confuse the judgment. But he showed a power of lucid arrangement, with a command of hard-headed argument. His imperturbable good humour never failed him, even when his temper must have been sorely tried; and, though his weapons were neither sarcasm nor invective, yet he taught his opponents that on occasion he could be a dangerous enemy. A quick thrust, and the sparkling rapier wound pierced to the very marrow, if it left nothing behind it to rankle in the wound. Often he showed that strong practical sense which was a conspicuous feature of his intellect."
The recess speeches were numerous and important, especially in view of the few days over which they extended. Sir Henry James paid a long promised visit to Ulster, where he addressed two large meetings. Mr. Chamberlain in the West of England, and the Home Secretary at Birmingham, made effective attacks upon the policy of Home Rule, while Mr. Henry Fowler, in a speech at Wolverhampton, criticised the Government finance in anticipation of the Budget. Speaking at Belfast (April 1), Sir Henry James said that the occurrences of the last five months had removed Home Rule further away, but had not disposed of it, and whether it was further from them or nearer to them, if ever under present circumstances and under a new development Home Rule should come into existence, it would do so in a form far more aggravated than was anticipated, and be a greater disaster than it probably would have been if carried some years ago. In the first place, it was now known very distinctly, on the statement of Sir William Harcourt, confirmed by Mr. Gladstone, that no measure of Home Rule would ever be proposed by the present Liberal party unless it should be acceptable to the Irish people. But whose was the duty of
determining to what extent the wishes of what were called the Irish people were to be complied with? Upon whom was this bill to be drawn? There were in Ireland three sets of people. First, the Loyalists, the inhabitants of Northern Ireland, and the scattered Loyalists throughout the country. If the bill were to be drawn on this class, what would be the result? It would be drawn upon them for acceptance; it would be protested by them for non-acceptance. They did not wish to gain any benefit from it, and they were not at all likely to honour such a bill whenever it was presented to them. But there was another great party in Ireland who had to be considered the earnest, vigorous "hill-side men who were now supporting Mr. Parnell. Did Sir W. Harcourt suggest that this bill should be drawn upon Mr. Parnell, and be presented to him for acceptance on behalf of the Irish people? The Liberal party once before had promises, and drew a bill upon Mr. Parnell's statement of his faith and his principles, and there was no likelihood of their repeating the experiment. But one very prominent idea still existed in the minds of the great majority of the people of these islands that while they would afford every freedom and equality to their fellow-men in the judgment which sprang from their hearts and souls, yet to every country, and above all to their own country, it had been and would be injurious to have a political party formed out of a clerical element possessing great influence. The fact of the Irish Bishops supporting or opposing Mr. Parnell would probably dispose of Mr. Parnell's fate.
"We stand face to face with this fact," Sir Henry James went on to say, "that the Roman Catholic Clergy have entered into this political contest, not for the sake of morals, and not for the sake of purity of conduct. They stood by too long and acted too late to be able to say now that it was morality which prompted them. When the patriots, as they are called, who met on Nov. 20, three days after the conclusion of the proceedings in the Divorce Court, uproariously cheered their leader, Mr. Parnell, these Bishops and leaders of the Clergy were mute in their respective dioceses. When these patriots met again on Nov. 25, and elected Mr. Parnell as their Parliamentary leader, not one voice was heard from these Bishops and leaders of the Clergy to complain of the choice. But when Mr. Gladstone spoke-moved, as we are told, by the necessity of his party-then at length there came forth the edict and the declaration that stated, as the concluding reason for its being issued, that, if the Bishops did not take Mr. Gladstone's course, there would be a certain defeat at the next General Election." After combating the possible objection that he was taking a narrow-minded view, Sir Henry proceeded:-" Whatever might be said of so dealing with, and so speaking of, any members of any Church, I say, as one who has no hostility to the Roman Catholic Church, that the time
has come, not only for the Protestants of Ireland, but for the people of England and Scotland to look to this matter. If such an occurrence were to take place in England—I can speak of that country-it would not be tolerated for one moment. Do you think we should tolerate the members of the Church of England establishing a clerical party, acting as a power of their own? Would the Nonconformists of England wish to see a clerical party formed out of their own ranks? I only know this, that if such a thing occurred, at any rate there is one party in England—I mean the Liberal party-who would tell the electors of that country that every foreign land that had endured the existence and influence of a clerical party had suffered in its freedom and suffered in its progress. They would tell of liberties that had been lost and progress that had been delayed, and they would protest against such an influence being used, however harmless it might be." Sir Henry went on to refer to Mr. Gladstone's statement at Hastings, that there was one thing the Liberal party would never do-they would never give the government of Ireland into the hands of Mr. Parnell. Mr. Gladstone, however, also thought it right to say that the English Liberal party had nothing to do with the choosing of the leader of the Irish people. But if Home Rule were to be granted, how would the English Liberal party be able to prevent the government of Ireland from passing into the hands of Mr. Parnell? The influence of Mr. Gladstone would be gone; the influence of the Liberal party would be gone. Now was the time, perhaps the only time, that they would be able to avert the consequences that Home Rule would bring upon them. When the statesman, on whom the responsibility of enacting Home Rule should be cast, sat down to count the benefits that might attend or the disasters that might follow Home Rule, he would be worse than blind if he did not look on either hand, and did not take heed that, if Home Rule were imposed, and the consequences to the minority followed which had been traced out, the time might come when loyal men, finding no means of protection within the Constitution, would be driven in desperation to take their path outside it to endeavour to avert those consequences.
Two days later (April 3) Sir Henry James addressed a great meeting at Londonderry, and dealt especially with the bearing of the Home Rule question on Ulster. He declared that the union between Great Britain and Ireland ought to be fully maintained, but, if it were upset, the people of Ulster ought, at all events, to be allowed to act for themselves, and to fashion their own course. It was bad enough to desert loyal and true allies, but it was worse it was cowardly-to first weaken them by disestablishing their Church and giving a preponderance of political power to their opponents, and then to desert them. Worst of all was it to drive such allies at the point of the bayonet into the camp of their enemies such conduct could only be termed "infamous." In