House Of Commons
Tuesday, 2nd May, 1876.
MINUTES.]—Select Committee—Civil Departments (Employment of Soldiers), appointed.
PUBLIC BILL— Second Reading—Tenant Right at the Expiration of Leases (Ireland)  [House counted out].
Select Committee—Report—Poolbeg Lighthouse* [105–140].
The Royal Titles Act
asked Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether on March 20th, at the time the Royal Titles Bill was in Committee, it was the intention of Her Majesty's advisers not to advise Her Majesty to take the title of Empress to be borne in this Country, but that it should be a title of a local character to be borne in India; whether the Proclamation issued under the Royal Titles Bill does so limit the use of the title of Empress that it cannot be used in this Country; and, whether the Proclamation renders it a title of a local character to be borne in India?
:Mr. Speaker, I have referred to the report of the debate to which the hon. and learned Gentleman calls attention; and I may say that the intention of Her Majesty's advisers was expressed in that debate, both by the Prime Minister and by other Members of the Government, including myself. Substantially it was stated, as is mentioned in the Question of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that it was the intention of the Government to advise that the title of Empress should not be borne in this country, but should be a title of a local character, to be borne in India. I think I myself made use of these words. But there was considerable debate, and it was explained in the course of that debate by the Prime Minister that there would be circumstances under which it would be necessary that the Queen should acknowledge herself in this country, and should allow others to acknowledge her, as Empress of India. Instances were given, and it was on this ground that the Government resisted an Amendment which was under discussion, moved by the hon. Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease). That Amendment was to this effect—
That Amendment was resisted by the Government on the ground that it would preclude the Queen, under certain necessary circumstances, from using the title of Empress in this country. It was resisted, and it was not adopted by the House. Well, Sir, it appears to me that the Proclamation exactly gives effect to the intentions so expressed by the Government. It would have been contrary to those intentions if it had not expressed them as they were expressed on that occasion in opposition to the hon. Member for South Durham, and if it had so limited the use of the title as that it could not, in any circumstances, have been used in this country."That nothing in this Act contained shall be taken to authorize the use in the United Kingdom of any style or title of Her Majesty other than those at present in use as appertaining to the Imperial Crown."
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the new Imperial Title will be used in Army Commissions?
Mr. Speaker, on the 3rd of April the hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) inquired of me whether—
I answered the hon and learned Gentleman then, that in the first place, speaking generally of what our policy was, that in the internal government of the United Kingdom the title of Empress was not to be used, but—and what I said will probably be remembered because it was the subject of a jest at the time, and not a bad one—I said, I believe, that it was to be "used externally." These were the remarks I then made, when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the City of Oxford read that bead-roll of public documents and instruments, which, in fact, included the whole of the government and administration of the United Kingdom. I have to say, in answer to the hon. Baronet, that with that catalogue before me, and under what I must consider the highest advice on the subject, I believe that, with one exception, there is not a single public instrument or document of State, including, as the catalogue did, the whole of our administrative system and government, that is not entirely and completely covered by the Royal Proclamation; and that sole exception is the commission to officers of the Army now referred to by the hon. Baronet. That was purposely omitted, because the Army serves Her Majesty in India; and to bring about such a state of affairs in which the Army in the Indian Empire did not bear the authority and commission of the Empress of India would be, every one must feel and know, most ridiculous. That is my answer to the Question of the hon. Baronet."In the event of Her Majesty being advised by Her Ministers to assume the title of Empress of India, it is intended that such title shall be employed in all public instruments and documents of State in which the full statutory style and title of the Queen is now set forth, and particularly in the case of Writs of Summons to Peers of Parliament, Writs for the Election of Members of the House of Commons; Patents for the creation of dignities of the United Kingdom, Patents for appointments to offices in the United Kingdom, such as those of Lord Chancellor, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Law Officers, and the Judges of the United Kingdom; instruments relating to the appointment of Bishops in England; Commissioners for giving the Royal Assent to Acts of Parliament; instruments relating to the summoning, prorogation, or dissolution of Parliament; documents authorizing the meeting of Convocation; Commissions to Justices of the Peace in the United Kingdom; Royal Commis- sions for inquiry and report into matters not relating to India; Patents for inventions in the United Kingdom; commissions to Officers in the Army; Charters of Incorporation or for other purposes in the United Kingdom; and other like instruments issuing under the authority of the Crown; and, if so, in what manner he proposes generally to limit the public use of the title of Empress to India and Indian affairs and to restrain its application in respect of acts of State relating to the government of the United Kingdom?"
asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether the Royal Proclamation of the 28th April requires that in future the additional Title of Empress of India must be used in Proclamations, Writs, Charters, Commissions, and other like instruments issued by the Governors or out of Supreme Courts of Colonies? The hon. and learned Member explained that he al- luded to cases in which the full title of the Queen is at present used?
In answer to the Question of the hon. and learned Gentleman I have to say that the Royal Proclamation, in my opinion, only requires the use of the addition of Empress in instruments having operation in the Colonies or out of the United Kingdom, in cases where it is necessary to make use of the full and complete titles of Her Majesty. I doubt whether it is, in strictness, necessary to employ the complete titles of Her Majesty in proclamations, charters, or commissions, if there are any issued, by the Governors of Colonies. In writs, the form of which is prescribed by charter, it may, perhaps, be necessary to employ the full titles; and in respect of instruments in which it is necessary to do this it will be for the authority issuing them to decide whether the addition of Empress can be conveniently used.
I beg to give Notice that on Thursday next I will ask the Attorney General Whether, in his opinion, Sir Bernard Burke is correct in advising the Corporation of Dublin that the proper style and title of Her Majesty to be used in their congratulatory Address includes the words Empress of India, as stated in the newspapers of this day.
Peru—Crew Of The Steamship "Talisman"—Question
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether the master and surviving mate of the "Talisman" have been yet released by the Peruvian authorities?
It will be in the recollection of the House that a few days ago I stated that the captain and mate of the Talisman had been sentenced to banishment from Peru, and I also stated that we had telegraphed to know whether they had been actually released. A few days since we heard that the prisoners had appealed against this sentence of banishment; but the mate, it appears, does not wish to appeal to the Supreme Court, while the captain seems determined to do so. Under these circumstances, Mr. St. John, Her Majesty's Minister at Lima, is trying to get the cases of the two men separated in order that the mate may not be injured by the determination of the captain. In consequence of this information I should conclude that the men have not been released.
National Teachers (Ireland) Act, 1875—Non-Contributory Unions
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, If he will state either what is the amount which it is estimated will be paid next year from the Imperial Exchequer, or the amount which has been paid last year, in salaries and results, in Schools situated within non-contributory Unions in Ireland?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has asked me two previous questions on this subject, and I fear that I have failed to make myself clear to him, whilst endeavouring to explain to him the reasons why I could not give him the information he desires. The reason is simply this—that the accounts of the Education Department presented to Parliament do not show the amounts paid to the teachers of the schools in contributory as distinguished from non-contributory Unions by way of salary separately, and that these items cannot be separated without considerable labour and expense.
Parliament—Commencement Of Public Business—Observation
said, that upon the Opposition side of the House it was generally understood yesterday that the new arrangement for commencing Public Business—namely, at a quarter-past 4 o'clock instead of half-past 4, would not come into force till Monday next. To his surprise he found on coming down to the House that the arrangement came into force that evening. Many other hon. Members had been disappointed in the same way. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister if he did not announce that the altered hour of meeting would commence on Monday?
I state distinctly that I did not say so. But I dare say the erroneous impression of the hon. Gentleman may have arisen from the original Notice given upon the subject, in which the words "next Monday" were used.
Civil Departments (Employment Of Soldiers)
Motion For A Select Committee
rose to move that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire—1st. How far it is practicable that Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who have meritoriously served their Country should be employed in such Civil Departments of the public service as they may be found fitted for; 2nd. How far it is practicable, in order to form and retain an efficient Reserve Force, for the State to become the medium of communication between private employers of labour and Soldiers of the Army Reserve and Militia Reserve who desire to obtain employment; and that the Committee be directed to report on the best means of carrying these objects into effect. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said, so far as he could form an opinion, the Motion was regarded with favour by both sides of the House. He did not claim originality for his Motion, because it had been brought before the House on former occasions, and his intention was to endeavour to solve a question that had been under consideration at various times. As he understood, the Government did not object to his Motion. He might have sat down if it were not that he wished to remove some misconceptions which prevailed in respect to the extent of the employments which might be thrown open to old soldiers, sailors, and Marines. It had been alleged that there were 120,000 such appointments; but, having gone fully into statistics, he believed that one-tenth of that number would be all that could fairly be placed at the disposal of the Army and the Navy. The matter assumed unusual importance from the difficulties of recruiting for both the Army and Navy. At the beginning of the year our Army was 3,000 below the regular establishment, and since then there had been a steady failure, month after month, in our recruiting. That was the more remarkable, inasmuch as the present was a period of great depression in the coal and iron trades, when it might be expected, as had been previously the case, that there would be a strong flow of men into the Army; and this was irrespective of what they would have to face in the course of the next 12 months, when a large body of men would pass from the Army into the Reserve, so that, unless some remedy like that which he proposed were adopted to induce men to join the ranks, the deficiency would be to the extent of 8,000 or 9,000 men, and that would go on increasing from year to year. As to the Naval Service, he did not propose to enter into details with reference to it, but he hoped to hear that some steps had been taken in connection with that Service. The falling-off in the number of recruits, which had been frequently adverted to, was not, perhaps, so ominous as the decline in their physique. Those who had seen the soldiers on drill who had recently joined the Service would bear him out in saying that nothing could be more marked than the difference between at least one-fourth of the recruits now obtained and the men we used to get 20 years ago. It was clear that no system of compulsory service would be ever tolerated in this country, and they were fast reaching the point beyond which they could not carry the inducements of bounty and pay. The War Office could only offer an indirect inducement to men to join the Army, and this inducement he could only find in the terms of his Motion. It was at one time supposed that an impetus might be given to recruiting by offering an increased number of commissions to men who rose from the ranks, and under the old purchase system men looked to promotion from the ranks; but under the present system it was no longer easy to induce men to accept commissions. Sir Charles Trevelyan, in recommending a similar measure, stated that there were about 100,000 appointments in the Civil Service, for the discharge of which the qualities required were good health, steadiness, exactness, the intelligence to understand orders and the ability to carry them out; and these were the qualities which the military system was peculiarly qualified to call forth. Field-Marshal Sir John Burgoyne stated that there were many qualities peculiar to the soldier and sailor which rendered them more eligible than others to discharge with efficiency situations in civil life, and to protect property intrusted to their charge. The annual Report of the Postmaster General for 1874, giving the result of the experience of the years 1872 and 1873, at a time when he was not in office, stated the result of the experiment made by placing a number of nominations to the places of rural postmen and messengers at the disposal of the War Office. In 103 cases the appointment was declined by the men to whom it was offered; in others they failed to pass the medical examination, the general result being that out of 220 nominations only about 40 were really admitted into the Post Office service. Upon the whole, the Postmaster General reported that the attempt had proved a signal failure. He ventured, however, to differ from this conclusion. The rural postmen and messengers received a very small pittance, and had to walk from 18 to 20 miles a day in all weathers; and a trial should be made in offering them situations in and about the suburbs of towns. The selection had not been made in the best way, and the system of appointing these men to situations in the Post Office ought not to be condemned as impracticable without a further trial. As regarded the second part of his Motion, he had no wish whatever to interfere with the ordinary economic rule of supply and demand, but to afford the men on service in the Reserve the means of keeping up their acquaintance with the habits of labour; for, strange to say, those who were brought up as soldiers were, when they obtained their discharge, helpless to the degree of children in respect to any ordinary occupation. The Secretary of State for War proposed a scheme of deferred pay for the soldiers, and this addition might work in and would combine very well with the proposal now before the House. Whether it should be carried out by a department or sub-department of the War Office, or attached to the brigade depôts, he would not decide; but at some place or other a sort of register should be kept giving the names of such soldiers as desired employment, and its character. He believed from the experience of those who had tried the system he recommended that employers would be glad to have a larger selection than they now had of men who, from their service in the Army, were entitled to receive good characters; and the country would be benefited in this among other ways—that as regarded the men of the Reserve who were so employed, it would be known where they were when they were required. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by submitting his Motion to the House, and hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would consent to the appointment of a Select Committee.
in seconding the Motion, said, he endorsed every remark made by his hon. and gallant Friend. The measure which he had advocated was not a new idea. Twelve years ago it was first originated by Captain Edward Walter, who might be truly called the old soldier's friend, when he established the Corps of Commissionaires. The subject had afterwards been brought before the House by the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir Charles Russell) and again by his noble Friend the Member for Haddingtonshire, and discussed at a meeting held at the United Service Institution, over which Lord Derby presided. The objection that had been urged on one occasion by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) was that to establish the system would be to establish a monopoly. But it could hardly be said to be a monopoly, considering that the Army and Navy were open to every man in the Kingdom. Since the adoption of short service it had become a great object to recruit for the Army men of not less than 20 or 21 years of age, instead of mere boys; but by the time that age was reached Englishmen had adopted a trade or calling of some kind, and, however anxious they might be to join the Army, they would not do so without some further inducement than was at present held out. If the system of making service and good conduct in the Army a stepping-stone to minor employment in the Civil Service were more general, that inducement would be afforded, and desertion would be far less prevalent in our regiments. He was surprised to learn that when messengers employed in the War Office and Horse Guards were superannuated their pensions were deducted from their superannuation allowances, which he considered to be most unjust to men who had served their country in the Army. He should like to see a Return showing how many men were employed, say, at the Horse Guards in minor capacities who had been servants of influential persons and were never old soldiers at all. The hon. and gallant Member quoted the opinions of Sir Charles Trevelyan and other persons of authority in favour of conferring civil employments on deserving and intelligent soldiers. He regretted, however, to say that there was a great jealousy in the civil departments as to the employment of soldiers—not on the part of the Heads of the Departments, but of the minor officials; and he believed that, except under the pressure of a strong Report from a Committee of the House, the understrappers in those offices would never give any employment when they could possibly avoid it to military men. The question was an important one, not alone for the sake of the soldier, but also for the sake of the Service, and he hoped, therefore, that all hon. Members who took an interest in the Army would support the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire,—
"1st. How far it is practicable that Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who have meritoriously served their Country should be employed in such Civil Departments of the public service as they may be found fitted for;
"2nd. How far it is practicable, in order to form and retain an efficient Reserve Force, for the State to become the medium of communication between private employers of labour and Soldiers of the Army Reserve and Militia Reserve who desire to obtain employment:
"And that the Committee be directed to report on the best means of carrying these objects into effect."—(Sir Henry Havelock.)
said, that in bringing forward the Army Estimates this year the subject before the House naturally attracted his attention. It was one which for many years had been before the country, and he thought the time had come when an impartial inquiry into it would be very beneficial alike to the Army and to the country. The fact was there was a great deal of misconception on both sides. There was misconception on the part of the country, probably, as to the demands of the Army; and there was certainly great misconception, in his opinion, as to the amount of places which could be put at the disposal of the Army. These were subjects, however, which it would be very wise to inquire into. He would not go into the experiment to which the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Havelock) had referred, because probably at the time it was made there existed some exceptional circumstances—he alluded to the Post Office, where the experiment as to the employment of soldiers was not altogether successful. It was clear that the posts of letter carriers in the rural districts were not of the most desirable kind; but it was a mistake to suppose that the work of letter carriers in the metropolis was either the most easy or pleasant to be obtained. Some experiments had been tried in order to provide employment for discharged soldiers as temporary writers in the Civil Service; but these experiments had not been attended with the success that could have been desired. As the result of inquiries he had made, he had found that while only one in six of the ex-soldier applicants for these posts was qualified for the duties attached to them, there was really no pressure of qualified applicants. It seemed that the appointments to which soldiers would look forward, and very naturally so, were messenger ships, for which they might be singularly qualified by their habits of obedience, punctuality, and discipline. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland in thinking that all possible inducements should be offered to men to become soldiers, and also to conduct themselves properly while in the Army. Some such inducements existed at present; but he did not think they were thoroughly understood or appreciated in the country. He should be glad if something could be done to give greater prominence to the matter, in order that the deficiency at present existing as regarded recruiting might be made good. With regard to the second part of the Notice, he would remind the House that it only appeared on the Paper that morning, that it referred to a subject which had not been, much before the country, and that it dealt with a very broad question. The question of employing discharged soldiers in the different Departments of the Government was one thing; but it was an entirely different matter for the State to interfere in order to supply private employers with workmen. The two questions had, in his opinion, to be kept entirely apart, and he would therefore suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had brought the Motion forward that he should confine himself to so much of his Motionas involved the employment of discharged soldiers in different branches of the Civil Service. If this were done he would give a ready assent to the appointment of the Committee that was asked for. At the present moment the establishment of brigade depôts was not sufficiently advanced for any useful inquiry to be made as to the possibilities they would afford of employing men who had been in the Army. When the Reserve Force had attained a number of 80,000 or 90,000 men it would be putting an impossible tax upon the different Departments of the Civil Service to find employment for all the men who, having left the Army, wished to find opportunities of utilizing their time in civil life. But if such men wished to take service with private employers, such employers had ample facilities for ascertaining the characters of the men who might apply to them, and, on the whole, he thought discharged soldiers would never fail to find good employment if physically fitted for it. The first part of the proposed inquiry would be ample for the present Session; and a Motion which involved the character of the supply of labour throughout the country should not be adopted without much longer notice than that upon which this had been brought forward, so that the country might have sufficient time to consider it.
rejoiced that the right hon. Gentleman had consented to the appointment of the Committee. In so doing he had adopted a wise course, and one likely to redound to the advantage alike of the Army and of the public service. There were many men of the Army and Navy who were admirably qualified for employment in the Departments of the Service; though he feared that there would be great objection to admitting them into the Civil Service, however well qualified they might be. There were also many situations in the Army and Navy which might, with great advantage, be opened out for soldiers to fill. The duties of the Ordnance, and of the Commissariat might be carried on by employing soldiers in the rank of warrant officers. In India these openings had been given not only with advantage to the public service, but were beneficial to the soldier. It was owing to these great openings that recruiting for service in India was so successful. When other branches of the Army failed to obtain recruits, India could always procure men. There were many men in the Army and Navy peculiarly well fitted for the duties connected with Stores. The Navy could also supply from their existing grades of Warrant officers excellent men for the care and management of the Naval Stores. These and other duties he considered would require a large number of Warrant officers. He hoped that the Government would allow the Order of Reference to be as extensive as possible, and that the result might be that greater inducements would be held out to men to enter the Army and the Navy.
said, there was nothing truer than that one man reaped where another sowed. This question of the civil employment of soldiers had been first brought forward in Parliament by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster (Sir Charles Russell.) Subsequently he (Lord Elcho) had done so at the request of a meeting upon the subject held at the United Service Institution over which Lord Derby had presided. Last year the gallant General the Member for Brighton took charge of the question; and now the hon. and gallant Member had come forward, with that gallantry and readiness to seize an opportunity which had gained him so much distinction in the Field, put in his sickle, and reaped the crop which was now ripe. He was glad that his right hon. Friend had assented to the Motion, as it was likely to produce the settlement of a question that had been agitated in Parliament for many years. At the present moment there was an absolute necessity for something being done in order to supply a grave existing deficiency in the matter of recruiting. This year his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War had been compelled to ask the House to grant deferred pay and other inducements to men to enter the Army; and if inducement could be afforded in the form of prospective employment in the Civil Service, he thought it would offer a more economical and equally efficient means of supplying the want. His own idea was that young and not old soldiers should be employed in this particular way. This could be readily effected by allowing comparatively young men to leave the Army for the Civil Service on passing such examinations as might be framed for the purpose. The system of employing soldiers who had served their time in civil departments had prevailed extensively in France during the reign of the late Emperor, and in this country it might be adopted very largely with advantage. It might be advisable that only soldiers who had served their time should be employed in the Metropolitan Police, for which service they were eminently qualified, both by their habits of discipline and their moral qualities. With regard to the employment of soldiers by private persons, Sir Joseph Whitworth had calculated that the value of the services of disciplined men, trained to obedience and to combined action, were on the average worth 3s. a week more than those of ordinary persons. Under these circumstances, he thought that another year the question of the employment of soldiers by private persons might well be worth the attention of the Government. The advantage to employers would be very great, inasmuch, as he had grounds for believing that the number of able-bodied men required for the service of the railways alone amounted to more than 200,000. He should be glad to see non-commissioned officers, and even officers, employed in the higher administrative departments, both civil and military; and in support of his view begged to refer to a paper he held in his hand, which had been very carefully drawn up, and by which it appeared that there was employment in the administrative departments of the Army alone for 140 officers and 1,080 non-commissioned officers, and that their employment would result in an annual saving to the country of £154,000. A similar course might, with equal advantage, be adopted with regard to the Navy. If the views of the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Sunderland were adopted, great inducements would be held out to the population to pass through the Army.
said, he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman had assented to the appointment of the Committee. He doubted if the country would like all the Departments to be filled by military men; but a great advantage would result to the men in their being able to get into private employment on the ground that they were of good character and were capable men. He hoped the Order of Reference would not be narrowed too much, and that the Committee might be able to inquire into the question of the employment of soldiers in the railway service. The manager of one of the largest railways in the country had recently informed him that he would be glad to have a number of the reserved men in the service of the company.
in reply to a suggestion that had been made in the course of this discussion, that there was a feeling of jealousy against the employment of soldiers in the public departments, stated that last year, when he held the office of Judge Advocate, the situation of messenger became vacant, and as there had been frequent expressions of opinion in the House and elsewhere in favour of appointing soldiers to such situations, he thought, as the department was to some extent a military department, that this was a good opportunity for trying the experiment. He had accordingly asked Captain Walter to recommend some military pensioner for the post, and the person sent to him by that gallant gentleman satisfied the requirements of the Civil Service Commissioners in every respect. He was a pensioned non-commissioned officer of the Artillery. It, however, unfortunately turned out that he was two or three months too old to be appointed, according to the existing regulations of the service. He (Mr. Cave) did not like to give up the point, as the applicant was active and energetic, and a younger man for his years than most of the old servants usually appointed to these places. So far from any jealousy against the employment of soldiers being entertained, the Civil Service Commissioners and the Treasury entirely shared his views on the subject, and after a short correspondence had passed, an alteration was made in the rules, and this gave men who had been in the military or naval service of the country an advantage of two or four years—he was not sure which—in point of age over civilians in relation to appointments. After that alteration was made the man was appointed. He (Mr. Cave) had made inquiry, and believed he gave great satisfaction. He might say that he had himself employed a pensioner from the Sappers to overlook a large village on his own estate in the country, who managed the organization of the village, and superintended the repairs of cottages and matters of that kind in the most efficient manner. He said this, as allusion had been made to private employment. But his object in rising was to show that so far from any obstruction being offered to soldiers obtaining employment in the Civil Service, a soldier had great advantage over a civilian in applying for such appointments.
also expressed his satisfaction at the appointment of the Committee. He had no wish to detract from the merits of the police; but he had been given to understand that since the preservation of order in Kensington Gardens had been taken from old soldiers and placed in the hands of the police, great complaints were made by the inhabitants of Kensington and Bays water of the Gardens being inundated by day and night with tramps and beggars, and of the scenes that took place there. It was highly desirable that the gates should be again placed in the custody of old soldiers, who, from knowing the faces of the people who frequented them, and with the aid of a rattan, were able to keep them clear of the company he had referred to. He considered the non-commissioned officers of the Army one of the most valuable classes of men in the country.
said, it was highly undesirable that old soldiers with the aid of a rattan should be employed to keep the Parks clear of persons with whose faces they were familiar, but that it should be done consistently with good order and good behaviour.
was willing, in deference to the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, to withdraw the second part of his Motion; but he trusted that the Committee to be appointed would make inquiries from certain employers of labour with reference to this subject.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Select Committee appointed, "to inquire how far it is practicable that Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines who have meritoriously served their Country should be employed in such Civil Departments of the public service as they may be found fitted for."—(Sir Henry Havelock.)
And, on May 15, Committee nominated as follows:—Viscount HINCHINGBROOK, Lord EUSTACE CECIL, General SHUTE, Mr. GERARD NOEL, Mr. JAMES CORRY, LORD ELCHO, Captain PRICE, Mr. JOHN TALBOT, Sir CHARLES RUSSELL, Sir HENRT HOLLAND, Mr. CHILDERS, Mr. CAMP- BELL-BANNERMAN, Mr. ERRINGTON, Mr. HANBYRY-TRACY, Colonel MURE, Mr. JOHN HOLMS, Sir GEORGE BALFOUR, Mr. LAING, and Sir HENRY HAVELLOCK:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records; Five to be the quorum.
And, on May 16, Sir JOHN Hay, Major O'GORMAN added.
rose to call the attention of the House to the present position of the British Possessions on the Gambia, with a view to place them on a permanently satisfactory footing, and also, in the interests of commerce, to open up communications by that great navigable river with the interior of Africa. His object in bringing this subject forward was to endeavour to elicit from Her Majesty's Government some declaration as to their policy with regard to the future of these settlements. He reminded the House that at an early period of last Session the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs stated in "another place" that it was desirable to concede the Gambia to France, in exchange for some small settlements on the Gold Coast. The negotiations then going on had, he (Mr. Alderman M'Arthur) was glad to say, since fallen through, for what reasons it was not necessary for him now to inquire. Nor need he take up the time of the House in bringing forward arguments against the cession of the Gambia. He had only to express his regret that the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, who had conducted the business of his Department with such marked ability and general satisfaction, should have sanctioned, even for a moment, a project that was unjust to the colony, directly in opposition to the traditions of his Party, and unpopular with the country at large. He trusted that no Government would again attempt to hand over to a foreign Power some 14,000 of Her Majesty's subjects without asking their consent, and that they would not surrender for imaginary advantages one of the noblest rivers on the western coast of Africa. It was due to those British subjects who had been engaged in trade on the Gambia that they should be kept no longer in suspense; but that Her Majesty's Government should give such an assurance with regard to the future as might inspire confidence, give security to property, and lead to the further development of the trade of the colony. The House would bear in mind that the settlements on the Gambia had existed in their present form for more than half a century, that a considerable number of Native merchants, traders, and shopkeepers had been brought up under English rule, and also, that of the 14,190 inhabitants a considerable proportion had been educated in the mission schools, speaking the English language, and claiming the privileges of British, subjects. As to the Gambia, it must be evident to any one who studied the map of the country that it possessed advantages over almost every other place in Western Africa for bringing within the reach of British civilization and British influence a large and fertile country. The Gambia might fairly be classed with the Niger and the Senegal in giving direct and easy access into the interior. It possessed a magnificent harbour; it was navigable for nearly 400 miles; it was the great water highway to Northern Africa, and the direct route to Futu, Segou, Timbuctoo, and other large towns; and, what was of great importance, within 11 days'sail of Liverpool. For years past the intention had been avowed again and again of handing the Gambia over to France, although the proposal was contrary to the wish of the whole population. Such a declaration of policy was calculated to injure trade and retard its progress, and to a certain extent discourage all attempts at improvement. Strange to say, however, in the face of these obstacles, trade had neither been injured nor its progress retarded, for the exports and imports had increased, and, if fair play were given, would continue to increase. The ground nut trade formed one of the principal trades of the colony. In 1837, the total export was 87 tons; the annual average now was 15,000 tons. In 1874 it rose to 20,000 tons, which, taken at £11 per ton, gave a trade of £220,000 a-year in one product alone. The average value of imports since 1850 had been £120,000, and of exports £160,000. In 1869 there were employed in the Gambia trade 188 vessels, with an aggregate of 46,396 tons; and in 1870, 55,046 tons, or 171 vessels. The revenue in 1867 amounted to £22,000; in 1870, to £17,100. But how was this revenue appropriated? The House would be surprised to learn that £12,000 was spent on salaries and pensions alone; in fact, 75 per cent of the revenue raised in the colony was paid to servants of the Crown, in whose appointments the taxpayers had no voice whatever. Nor had these officials any interest in the colony beyond drawing their salaries and pensions. Had part of this money been spent in developing the trade of the interior, or in promoting sanitary improvements in the colony, a much better state of things would have been the result. Instead of that a miserable, cheese-paring policy was adopted at the time. Would it be believed by the House that when, a few years ago, a request was made to allow one of Her Majesty's gunboats to proceed up the river for three days, in order to show the Natives that the colony was under the protection of the British flag, such request was actually refused, unless the Settlements would undertake to pay for the coal consumed on the trip, while at the very same time no less a sum than £4,125 was being spent out of the local revenue for further enlarging and embellishing the Governor's house—already one of the first official residences on the coast? It should also be borne in mind that the colony at present did not cost the British Government one shilling. The troops had been withdrawn, and the Settlements left without any protective Force. Situated as these Settlements were in the vicinity of warlike and perhaps hostile tribes, such a proceeding on the part of the Government was, he contended wholly unjustifiable. The colonists were quite willing to pay for such a Force, if they were allowed requisite control over the management of their finances. One of Her Majesty's ships should also occasionally call at Bathurst, a station which, the colonists complained, a man-of-war had not visited for many years. He was aware that one of the arguments employed against the colony was its unhealthy condition; but it had been proved that it was not more unhealthy than other parts of the coast. Colonel Ord stated in his Report that for a sum of £7,000 a thousand acres of the swamp at Bathurst could be drained, and the locality made healthy. Governor M'Donellin 1851, referred to a tract of land near Cape St. Mary, within eight miles of Bathurst, varying in its elevation above the sea from 50 feet to 90 feet, which enjoyed a more salubrious climate and a cooler average temperature throughout the year than most places in the West Indies. Governor O'Connor, in reference to that place, remarked—
This place appeared to possess suitable conditions for a sanitarium. Considerable efforts had been made to promote education and to introduce Christian instruction, among the Native population. For many years—as far back as 1821—the Wesleyan Missionary Society had occupied this post as most favourable for the introduction of Christianity among the tribes in the interior. One of the secretaries of that society, the Rev. W. B. Boyce, had stated, in a deputation to Lord Carnarvon, that the society had already expended about £100,000 on missions and schools. They had seven chapels and other places of worship, attended by congregations numbering upwards of 6,000 persons; they had seven day schools in active operation; religious instruction was given in the English language, while a number of Native agents preached in the African tongue; a grammar of the Mandingo language had been published; and the new Testament had been translated into the same language. A high-class school had lately been established, and 15 of the most promising youths were receiving an education which would fit them for any post of usefulness that might be open to them. Numerous applications for admission had been refused, as at present there was not accommodation for a larger number. For more than 250 years the British flag had been associated with some kind of political or commercial influence on the Gambia; but what use had we made of our influence to promote civilization in that region of Africa? The enterprize of a few merchants had created trade, and the zeal of our missionaries had converted a few thousand Natives to Christianity; but as a Government we had done almost nothing. If protection were given to our merchants, the commerce of the river, there was every reason to believe, would increase out of all proportion to the cost of such protection. The French were wise in their day and generation; they wanted the Gambia, because they knew that in their hands it would become valuable. He was anxious that we should adopt the same policy; and, therefore, he hoped that Her Majesty's Government would not look coldly upon projects for the extension of our trade, but would rather regard the trader as an ally in the great work of civilizing Africa. He spoke with the utmost confidence on this subject, because he did not hesitate to say that the influence of our legitimate commerce on the Gambia had been very beneficial. Our territory was a small one, but it was all under cultivation. We had redeemed a population there from savagery; we had won over thousands of Africans to habits of peaceful industry; we had repressed the slave trade, and had exercised a salutary influence over many of the warlike tribes adjoining the Settlements. Therefore, he confidently appealed to the House whether, now that we had decided to retain the Gambia, it was not our duty to open up that great river to legitimate commerce. In order to accomplish this, an exploration of the river, as well as of the upper waters of the Niger should be made; for only a few days' march separated these two great natural highways into the interior of Africa, and if the whole country which could thus be brought into direct relations with the Gambia were opened up, we might obtain by that means hundreds of thousands of new customers. It was of great importance to secure the trade of the Upper Niger, for this would assuredly fall into the hands of the first comer. There was a direct caravan route from Segou to Salagha, north of Coomassie, which had lately been visited by Dr. Gouldsworthy, who had just arrived in Liverpool, and had, it was stated, made arrangements for opening trade with Salagha. Arabic was largely understood in the Niger country, and therefore that language at once afforded a medium for intercourse with the Natives. It was also of great importance during the trade season that an armed steamer should be on the river, especially in that part of it above M'Carthy's Island. Since the withdrawal of the troops in 1870 the trade of the upper part of the river had diminished, and much of what used to find its way down the Gambia now went to the Senegal, particularly the trade in ivory, gold dust, hides, and bees' wax. In regard to opening up our relations with the interior, it had been suggested, instead of employing Englishmen or British Native subjects as Consuls in the principal towns of the interior, that the chief or head man in each of the principal towns on the road between the Gambia and the Niger should be nominated as British Agent, with a small annual subsidy of from £10 to £15, according to the importance of the town, and at Segou from £20 to £25. These Agents should be furnished with an English Union Jack and with some insignia of office, and in return they should be expected to facilitate trade and the passage of travellers through their towns and territories, providing lodging and carriage, and also messengers for the transit of letters. At Bathurst there should be an officer, who might be styled Inspector of Native Agencies, who should act as the medium of all communications between the Chiefs and the Colonial Government. By thus enlisting Natives themselves on our side in the interests of trade and order, we should be conferring both moral and material benefits, without arousing any of the jealousies engendered by the appointment of White men as Consuls; and in the course of time the Native races would be more ready and willing to pass under our direct influence. Doubtless some difficulties would arise in carrying out this scheme at first; but none which ready resource and intelligence could not meet. The plan thus sketched was one which France—he had good authority for making the statement—had intended to adopt, in order to open up the trade of the interior. The Rev. Mr. Adcock, who had lately arrived from the Gambia, a short time before leaving sailed up the river as far as Yarbutenda, on the direct route to Timbuctoo, and near where Mungo Park started for the interior. In a letter addressed to the Wesleyan Missionary Society, Mr. Adcock remarked—"The climate is good and salubrious, the country freee from swamps and clear of jungle, the soil fertile, and the cape, elevated some 70 feet above the level of the sea, lies open to the full fresh breezes of the Atlantic Ocean."
Mr. Adcock further said—"This is the largest trading emporium in the river, and also the most distant, being about 480 miles from the Atlantic. The river here is about 200 yards wide, and for some distance above and below is of an average depth of four fathoms, thus allowing vessels drawing 10 feet of water to visit it with safety."
Every word of that statement the hon. Member endorsed, and he heartily rejoiced that the project had been abandoned. In conclusion, the hon. Member laid stress on the thoroughly practical character of the object he had in view. The British nation was always eager to recognize and to admire the self-sacrificing labours of men like Livingstone and Speke, Burton, and Cameron; but it was to be remembered that these explorers had toiled for the future rather than for the present, and, so far as he could judge, generations might elapse before British enterprize could hope to spread over the territories they had discovered. But in the Gambia we possessed one of the greatest rivers in Africa, and with its aid we could gain ready access to the interior of the country. We owed a heavy debt to the African Continent, which it would not be easy for us to wipe off; but that debt could best be discharged by the course of policy which he recommended. If the Government were thus to protect and extend the commerce of the Gambia, they would by that policy, assist Great Britain to maintain her industrial supremacy, and at the same time further the great cause of peace, civilization, and Christianity. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution."The Gambia is, indeed, a wonderful river, and would become a mine of incalculable wealth if its ample resources were fully developed. Wax, gold, ivory, and hides are as plentiful as as ever they were when they ranked among the staple exports of the country. The castor-oil plant grows in forests almost without cultivation, while I have several times seen indigo pulled up in the streets of M'Carthy's Island as a common weed. Should the French succeed in effecting the change they seek they will soon make it their richest colony, and we shall wake up too late to mourn our loss. The French offer us Grand Bassam and Assinnee—places where they hoist no flag and pay no official. As for the other two places—Benti, in the Mellacourie, and Sejour, on the Cazamance River—I have visited both, and the two together are not worth our mission ground and property at St. Mary's. But, apart from all these considerations, we have no right to give up the Gambia. We colonized it as a matter of pure philanthropy, in order to put down the Slave Trade. Thousands of human beings were rescued. We have no right to hand them over to a people whose government and religion are alike distasteful to them."
in seconding the Motion, said, that he had been up the Gambia several years ago in command of one of Her Majesty's frigates; and at that time was in favour of an exchange of territory with France. That opinion, which was based chiefly upon military considerations he had since had reason to alter. The Settlement had a low situation, and at the time he was there some dreadful outbreaks of cholera took place. The harbour was certainly a very good one. When he was there the Governor asked him to recommend that larger guns should be put in the fort, so as to increase its importance; but he declined to make such recommendation, because, if it had been acted upon, we should have had the French down upon us at once; and he believed it was because we had done nothing of the kind that we had been left in peace and quietness. Whatever drainage might do, it could not get rid of the fact that the place was so low. A peculiar feature of the trade was that it was carried on in English bottoms at a French port, and almost all the produce of the place went to Marseilles and very little to Liverpool. The fact that he had taken a 35-gun frigate up the Gambia showed that it was a magnificent river; and, as we had it, we ought to maintain it, and to do everything in our power to improve the condition of the Settlement. He was sure that in time to come it would be a prosperous colony, and a very advantageous one to this country.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That it is expedient that the British possessions on the Gambia be placed on a satisfactory footing, and that, in the interests of commerce, communication be opened up by that river with the interior of Africa."—(Mr. Alderman M'Arthur.)
said, he would not follow the hon. Member (Mr. M'Arthur) through the negotiations which were in progress for some years between the English and the French Governments, with regard to the exchange of possessions on the West Coast of Africa, and which, the House was aware had been definitively abandoned. The hon. Member was not quite accurate in identifying the present Government with those negotiations, for they were in progress, under successive Governments, for several years. For himself, he did not disguise his opinion that an exchange would have been advantageous; but it was not found possible to make the arrangements that were contemplated, and the project had now been abandoned. The hon. Gentleman's history of the Settlement on the Gambia was, in many respects, quite accurate; but he had been betrayed on some points into a little over colouring, especially when he spoke of the Settlement as a healthy one, although it might be so as compared with some other settlements. Statistics showed that, from time to time, epidemics had swept over the colony, including yellow fever and cholera, so much so that during eight years from 1859 to 1866, the number of deaths had exceeded that of births by upwards of 1,200. The Administrator stated that the rains were fatal to Europeans, and cold weather was fatal to the Africans. That was hardly a satisfactory state of affairs. The hon. Member alleged that the sanitary state of the town was owing to the want of proper precautions on the part of the authorities. That led him (Mr. Lowther) to the state of the revenue. The hon. Gentleman said, that three-fourths of the gross revenues of the colony were spent in salaries and remuneration to the various public officers. In all our colonies of this description, however, the principal item of expenditure must be the payment of the public servants. It was impossible to carry on the Government without proper officers; but in the Gambia Settlements the salaries were by no means high, and some re-adjustment of the present system would be necessary. The hon. Member said that a cheeseparing system had been in vogue for the last five or six years. He would not deny it. For many years past a cheeseparing system had prevailed in cutting down the necessary expenses without which it was impossible to carry on the Government of these Settlements. He trusted that the hon. Member and his Friends would assist the present Government in putting an end to this system. With regard to the scheme for draining a large swamp in the neighbourhood of Bathurst, at a cost of £4,500, the reason why it was not carried out was because in the interests of trade the presence of a vessel of war was necessary, and the expenditure of draining the swamp was diverted to another purpose. How did the hon. Member propose to supplement the revenue, which had for several years been considerably below the expenditure? In 1873 the revenue of the Settlement was £19,000, while the expenditure was over £24,000,leaving a deficit of £4,700. In 1874 there was a deficit of £3,000. In other years there had been a surplus, but it had been exhausted by these deficits. He was afraid that the only remedy was a grant from the Imperial Exchequer, which the Government would not willingly recommend if any other resource could be devised. It would be the duty of the Government to consider the question, and, if no other remedy could be found, to recommend Parliament to make a grant to the colony. The duties upon the goods imported into the colony had been considerably augmented of late years, and no further income, as it seemed, could be derived from that source. The hon. Member said that trade on the Gambia had not been sufficiently studied by the Home Government; but he did not indicate any specific measure by which it could be improved. It was at first sight not a little remarkable that the enterprize of the trading community had made so few attempts during the last 250 years to open up the trade with Timbuctoo and the interior. The reason was that the state of the district had not been such as to encourage the most hardy and enterprizing merchants to penetrate into the interior. The river was navigable for 500 miles, but it ran through a mountainous, swampy, and unhealthy district. The Native tribes were usually at war with each other, and in order to open up a trade with the interior a temporary footing must first be obtained by means of an armed force. The hon. Member might rest assured that the whole subject of the colony was under the consideration of the Government. As it was now determined to retain the colony, it would be the duty of Her Majesty's Government to consider whether its resources could not be materially improved, and, if it were necessary to ask for a grant for that purpose from the Imperial Parliament, he trusted that the hon. Member would render them all the assistance in his power. In the mean while, the interests of the colony would receive all the attention which the Government could bestow upon the subject.
in reply, said, that the colony would very much improve if the cession to France were, as the House had been told, definitely abandoned. In future it would, he hoped, be allowed to develop its resources, and in that ease it would not fail to become a prosperous colony.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Law And Justice—Case Of Mr Wilberforce—Resolution
in rising to call attention to two trials in the Westminster County Court on the 27th day of January last, before a jury, when verdicts for £15 5s. damages for two assaults upon boys were given against a Justice of the Peace for the county of Sussex; and to move—
said, that the case lay in a nutshell. The facts were not practically in dispute, and the question was whether Mr. Wilberforce had or had not shown an utter want of that tact, good sense, discretion, and sense of justice, tempered with mercy, which should distinguish a Judge. It was true that Mr. Wilberforce belonged to the unpaid magistracy; but the qualities which were necessary in a Judge were equally indispensable in our magistrates. Having to deal with the Game Laws, in which they had a personal interest, and in which they united the characters of prosecutors, judges, and executioners in their own persons it was desirable that their conduct should be above suspicion. Appeals had been made to him by several hon. Members not to pursue this matter further, partly because of the great name which Mr. Wilberforce bore and partly because he had suffered severely owing to this matter. All this would have weighed with him except for a consideration of the sole issue which was involved in the matter now—namely, whether Mr. Wilberforce was fit to occupy the position and exercise the functions of a Judge. Though he were descended from a thousand philanthropists, if his personal qualities disabled him from filling that position, he ought not to be allowed to remain there. He had to state that the working classes and the agricultural labourers of the country owed a debt of gratitude to the Lord Chancellor for his conduct in this case. The noble and learned Lord had made it known from the highest legal position in the country that the humblest peasant in the land was not to be ill-treated without calling forth a stern rebuke and reprobation from the Lord Chancellor of England. He ventured to think that if the noble and learned Lord had regarded the case from another point of view—namely, the fitness of Mr. Wilberforce to be a Judge—he would have added to his condemnation the removal of that gentleman from the Bench. The Lord Chancellor, however, had not all the facts before him. He (Mr. Taylor) had taken great pains to ascertain the entire facts, not only from the depositions, but from the personal inquiries of a gentleman in whose honour and discretion he could rely, and who had seen the lads and their father and mother, and taken down their statements. The story was simply this. Mr. Wilberforce's gamekeeper found the two lads, who were 17 and 14 years of age, digging out a rabbit's nest in a hedge. Meeting the father, Mr. Wilberforce said the case was too frivolous to send to a Court, and he suggested that the lads should be sent up to him next morning to have a good talking to and perhaps a stroke or two. The boys went up next morning, when Mr. Wilberforce took them into a stable and beat them with terrible severity, until, in fact, they were covered with blood. He was, in fact, judge, jury, and executioner, and administered a punishment of his own volition, which, as a magistrate, he could not have ordered. This case had given rise to a song—"That, in the opinion of this House, it is not desirable that Reginald Garton Wilberforce, esquire, should continue on the Bench of Magistrates,"
dedicated to Mr. Wilberforce, J.P., by the author of"Let me flog him for his father"—
Mr. Wilberforce, in his statement, said that the father of the lads asked him to punish them, placing him thereby in loco parentis. That was certainly improbable, and, for his part, he did not believe it to be true; for the father said that the state of the boys made his blood run cold, and that if he had any one to help him he would go to law for redress. The Agricultural Labourers' Union did take the matter up, and Mr. Wilberforce was tried before a London jury, who, to their honour, fined him £15 for the offence. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had read to the House a statement of the case which he received from the County Court Judge and forwarded to the Lord Chancellor. He would not challenge that statement, but would content himself with saying that it took every assertion of the defendant as proved truth, and appeared to disregard the evidence to the contrary effect, given on the part of the prosecution. The Judge seemed, too, to doubt the severity of the punishment inflicted on the boys. This was remarkable in view of the fact, as proved, that scarcely any of the skin on the lower part of each boy's back remained unbroken, and that the marks of the punishment were visible fully two months after the floggings were inflicted. Two widely dissimilar views might be taken of the case. On the one hand, it might be held by game-preserving squires that the boys were rightly served; on the other, the transaction was regarded as affording a grave and serious illustration of the way in which justice might be, and occasionally was, administered by the justices in this country upon poor and defenceless peasants. It would not be encouraging to fugitive slaves to take refuge under our flag when they learned that boys could be beaten in this country in that way for hunting a rabbit. He did not believe that in any other civilized country in the world could such an outrage be committed in the name of justice. Nor did he believe that in England it would be possible to commit an outrage of the kind upon any other than a member of the peasant class, which had no representation in the body which made and controlled the administration of the country's laws. How many men in that House had high-spirited lads who would not think much of hunting a rabbit, or robbing an orchard, or even stealing a bird's nest; but he would not give much for the skin of a magistrate who dared to treat one of their boys as these lads had been treated. The other day a schoolmaster was sentenced to five years' penal servitude for beating a boy. It was quite true that one of the blows hit the boy in the eye and deprived him of sight, but the schoolmaster was to a certain extent in his right, whereas Mr. Wilberforce was altogether out of his right. When the case came to the knowledge of the country it created a very unpleasant feeling—a feeling intensified by the fact that it was only discovered by mere accident a month after the events had occurred. The feeling, so intensified, was increased by the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary when the matter was brought before the House. The right hon. Gentleman had no word of reprobation for the conduct of Mr. Wilberforce, who, in his opinion, had only committed an error of judgment. It was with surprise that the country heard such terms applied to a flogging which had caused the blood of two peasant boys to flow down their backs. In addition to using the words to which he had referred, the right hon. Gentleman took upon himself the functions of an advocate, when he said he was empowered to express the regret of Mr. Wilberforce at what had occurred—expressions of regret which were altogether absent from the subsequent correspondence in which Mr. Wilberforce took part. It was clear that the right hon. Gentleman held one of two opinions. He either thought the course taken by Mr. Wilberforce was the ordinary and habitual act of a county magistrate, or he thought the unpaid magistracy of the country had a sort of vested interest in the seats on the Bench, from which they could only be removed in cases of gross and flagrant illegality. The right hon. Gentleman had two voices—one an official and the other a private voice. In his official capacity, he defended every act of injustice committed by magistrates and brought before Parliament; in his private capacity he would be the last man to commit the acts which he defended. The right hon. Gentleman said that this act of Mr. Wilberforce was not done in his official capacity, but the Lord Chancellor held a different view. These lads were not of age, and they were not able at the bidding of Mr. Wilberforce to contract themselves out of the law. He had never uttered such a slander as to say that this was an average instance of the way in which justice was administered by unpaid magistrates, though his own opinion was in favour of a stipendiary magistracy. The Lord Chancellor condemned the conduct of Mr. Wilberforce and conveyed a grave censure, and it was a great pity that the friends of Mr. Wilberforce did not advise him to retire from the Bench, for it was clear that in future his judgments could not be regarded as either impartial or just. Had Mr. Wilberforce's conduct down to the time of this occurrence been perfectly pure and impartial, it was necessary for the due administration of justice that the so-called justice he meted out should be believed in by the community which had to submit to it. The Lord Chancellor in giving his reasons for not removing Mr. Wilberforce from the Bench stated that the injured lads had received substantial compensation for the pain they had suffered. That fact, however it might be an atonement for the past, could not in any way affect Mr. Wilberforce's fitness to be a Judge. The Lord Chancellor had also referred to the deep regret that Mr. Wilberforce had expressed for the course he had taken; but he was in a position to show that this gentleman, after having in cold blood severely and brutally flogged these poor lads, had persecuted both them and their father by using his great influence in the district to prevent them from obtaining work, and thus to drive them from the neighbourhood. He would read, in corroboration of his statement, a letter from the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the National Agricultural Labourers' Union, and he would, in conclusion, warn the House against their allowing it to be supposed that not only was there, in some cases avoidably and in others, unavoidably, one law for the rich and another for the poor, but that even where such inequality in the law was avoidable, it was right in their opinion that it should exist. Had this outrage been committed upon any squire's or tradesman's son, or upon the son of any man who possessed a vote, the perpetrator of it would not have been allowed to remain upon the Bench for a single month. Under these circumstances he appealed to the House and to the country Gentlemen to show by their vote that they repudiated such conduct as that of Mr. Wilberforce as altogether exceptional, and as not being in accordance with the standard of justice which was recognized throughout the country. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution."Let me Kiss him for his mother."
seconded the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, in the opinion of this House, it is not desirable that Reginald Garton Wilberforce, esquire, should continue on the Bench of Magistrates."—(Mr. P. A. Taylor.)
said, he deeply regretted that it should be necessary for him to state in that House again the facts of a case which had been already deliberately decided by the highest judicial authority in the land, and that the hon. Member opposite had thought it his duty to make to the House a statement which must necessarily be an ex parte one. When the hon. Member first rose, he stated that he was merely going calmly and dispassionately to lay the facts of the case before the House; but he would appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House to say whether the hon. Member had not imported into his statement the feeling and animosity which he invariably exhibited against certain classes in this country? Had the hon. Member taken the trouble to go impartially into the real facts of this case, he would have found ample reason for not again bringing it under the consideration of the House; but he could not resist the temptation of bringing forward a charge against a magistrate. It was against such persons alone that the indignation of the hon. Member was ever raised, because however aggravated and however brutal might be the assault, if it were committed by those who occupied a lower position in life no notice of it was ever taken by the hon. Member. He must at once take exception—and in this he should be supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—to the statement of the hon. Member that had this case been brought before the magistrates of the district, justice would not have been done with regard to it. [Mr. P. A. Taylor denied that he had made the statement the hon. and gallant Baronet attributed to him.] He (Sir Walter Barttelot) having carefully taken down the hon. Member's words, was exceedingly glad to hear that he retracted them. If there was one thing that the House of Commons liked and that Englishmen liked, it was fair play, and he would appeal to the House whether the hon. Member had allowed Mr. Wilberforce fair play; and if there was another thing which the House and that Englishmen disliked it was to see a man kicked when he was down, and he would again appeal to the House whether the hon. Member had not kicked Mr. Wilberforce over and over again, although he had been absolutely unable to prove anything against him. The hon. Member had contented himself with reading extracts from reports of the trial; but he (Sir Walter Barttelot) should be able to show the House beyond dispute that no cruelty whatever had been used by Mr. Wilberforce towards these boys. All that he had done was to administer to the lads a flogging such as Eton boys received; and, in fact, a sensational case had been got up out of the flimsiest materials. The full particulars of the case were these. On the 1st of March, 1875, these boys committed the offence in question, and their father, being sent for, was requested by Mr. Wilberforce to punish them. He replied that he could not flog them himself in consequence of his hand being injured, and he requested Mr. Wilberforce to punish them for him. Mr. Wilberforce, who throughout was actuated by a kindly feeling, and who did not wish to send the boys before a bench of magistrates—not that on which he himself sat, as had been stated—at first declined to punish the boys, but at the father's request he at length undertook to do so. The boys came up the next day and received an ordinary flogging. To show how little they suffered from the punishment they had received, he might state that on the very afternoon that they were flogged they walked up the South Down, a very steep hill, and picked up wood all the afternoon; that the next day they did the same thing, and that the third day they walked to Petworth, a distance of 11 miles, there and back, which they could not possibly have done had they been treated with the brutality alleged by the hon. Member. The chief evidence that the hon. Member adduced as to the condition of the boys was the statement of the father, a man named Ayling, whom he unhesitatingly asserted to be a man of bad character. Against the statement of Ayling, the father, and the boys, must be placed that of the aunt, who declared that she had seen the lads shortly after their punishment, and that their backs were only a little red. A great number of other people also saw the boys and gave similar testimony as to the slightness of the punishment. If these boys had been treated so brutally as was alleged, were there not people enough who would have said—"This is a most brutal case; let us get a summons against Mr. Wilberforce?" Nothing, however, was done until June or July, when Messrs. Shaen, Roscoe, and Massey, the solicitors to the Agricultural Labourers' Association, sent a letter to Mr. Wilberforce, saying—
and adding that in default an action would be commenced against him. Mr. Wilberforce having taken no notice of that letter, nothing more was heard of the matter until, in January last, an action was brought against him in the Westminster County Court. The hon. Member for Leicester had no right to abuse the learned Judge who tried the case, for he had all the facts before him, and was in a much better position to judge of them than was the hon. Member. The latter part of the learned Judge's letter was not open to the censure he had passed upon it. If Mr. Wilberforce had allowed any one to defend him but himself he certainly would have got off. Mr. Wilberforce was fined £10 for the assault on the elder boy, and £5 for the assault on the younger. But why only £5 in the latter case? Mr. Wilberforce moved for a new trial; the new trial was granted, but they compromised matters when the case of the second boy came on, on condition that no criminal proceedings should be taken against any of the witnesses. What did that show? That their testimony could not be credited. More than that, the world outside would judge that Mr. Wilberforce, when the case was tried at Westminster, had not committed the gross and evident assault described by the hon. Member for Leicester. What happened after this? The hon. Gentleman asked a Question in that House. They all knew what asking a Question in that House meant. The hon. Gentleman might, perhaps, have one of those iron hearts that felt nothing—he put the Question, and the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary answered it. He did more. He referred the whole case to the Lord Chancellor; and the Lord Chancellor had written a letter on the subject, for which the hon. Member said he would be for ever grateful. If he was grateful for that letter, why did he bring this case forward now? If the Lord Chancellor, having given his eminently legal mind to the subject, had written a letter upon it, the hon. Member might rest assured no opinion of his would be worth anything as against that of the noble and learned Lord. It amounted almost to persecution that a man, after having been arraigned in this way, should have the present Notice kept upon the Paper by being put off from time to time, instead of having been brought forward as early as possible. Did he think that nobody had any feeling but himself?"We are instructed to inquire whether you are prepared to express regret at your conduct on that occasion, and to pay some reasonable compensation to the boys for the injuries injuries inflicted on them,"
explained that he had never postponed the matter, except from inability to bring it on on account of the state of Business.
The hon. Gentleman had not brought it on, because he feared that he should not get a long hearing late at night; but, still, such a Notice should not have been kept upon the Paper one hour longer than was necessary. He would go one step further. The hon. Member said Mr. Wilberforce was not worthy to sit on the Bench when he could act in this way as a Judge. But Mr. Wilberforce was not acting in a judicial capacity. He asked the father of the boys to punish them; he never proposed to send them to gaol—he did not say—"Will you go to gaol or shall I flog you?" He said nothing of that kind. He asked the father to flog them, and the father gave his consent to his flogging them. He was in no way acting as a Judge in the matter. He now came to another point. The hon. Member for Leicester said Mr. Wilberforce gave the man immediate notice to leave his house. What were the facts? The house in which Ayling lived was for sale in June. No doubt the agent the hon. Member sent down had seen the house—it was a wretched place. Mr. Wilberforce, having bought it, was naturally anxious to put it in repair, and he gave the man notice. No action was then pending. The clergyman of the parish called on Mr. Wilberforce and said the grandmother of these boys was bedridden and would not hear of being sent to the Union workhouse; whereupon the notice was withdrawn, with permission for the old woman to remain there as long as she lived. She died in December. Notice was not given till March. But the family never paid rent, and they absolutely refused to go out, being backed by the Agricultural Labourers' Union. The man never worked for Mr. Wilberforce, but both Mr. Wilberforce and the late Bishop had allowed him to go into their covers and cut brier stems, which he sold to gardeners in the neighbourhood. That was what the hon. Member called persecuting this man. Mr. Wilberforce never said one word to prevent him getting employment. A deputation from the Labourers' Union went to Petworth and tried to vilify the memory of the late lamented Bishop Wilberforce. They also visited Graffham, but that visit ended in nine times nine cheers for the squire. He did not say that Mr. Wilberforce was not to blame in the first instance. He committed a great error—he might say a grave error of judgment—but it had been more than punished by what he had since undergone; and, looking to the character of that Assembly he could not doubt, whatever their politics might be, they would fairly, dispassionately, and honourably acquit a man when they believed him to be innocent.
said, that the issue now before the House was a very simple one—namely, whether Mr. Wilberforce after what had appeared in relation to this case, should be permitted to retain his seat on the Bench. Every hon. Member who had read the Papers relating to the case would be at no loss to understand the warmth displayed by the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor). He thought the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) would to-morrow be sorry for having brought so serious a charge as he had done against Ayling—he said he was a man of bad character. This, too, was said of an absent man, who could not defend himself. He would not follow such an example. The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex said that a great deal had been made out of a little; but the hon. and gallant Member could not do away with the fact that the Lord Chancellor, in the exercise of his functions, had passed on Mr. Wilberforce one of the gravest censures he could pass on a magistrate without removing him from the Bench. The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex had doubted this piece of evidence, and doubted that, and had tried to make out that the boys had not been so seriously punished after all. But all that was retrying the case after it had been adjudicated upon by the Lord Chancellor, or it was contending that the Home Secretary had not accurately furnished him with the facts on which the Motion was founded. He should confine himself to the Lord Chancellor's letter to Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Wilberforce's reply to his Lordship, and his Lordship's reply to Mr. Wilberforce's letter; and he said that from those documents a very strong case could be made out in support of the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester. The Home Secretary, as a part of his duty in the matter, laid the whole statement of the facts before the Lord Chancellor; at least, they must assume that he did so, and it was not alleged that he had failed in that duty. The result of the Lord Chancellor's deliberations on the case was such that it was really useless for the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex to endeavour to excuse Mr. Wilberforce's conduct. The Lord Chancellor said he had read the case with great surprise and with great regret, and he said to Mr. Wilberforce—
"You had the right, if you thought the case deserving such serious treatment, of sending the boys before the Bench of Magistrates, but you had no right to use the threat of sending them before the Bench as the means of inducing them to submit to personal chastisement, and it was, above all, unseemly that you, the complainant against them, should hold yourself out to the neighbourhood as combining the position of complainant with the influence of a member of the County Bench of Magistrates, and with the office of inflicting punishment which was to be the alternative of a sentence of the Court.
"The Lord Chancellor is willing to believe that you were misled into thinking that the father had the right to delegate to you the power of administering a chastisement which he might himself have properly inflicted; and he observes that you have, through the Home Secretary, expressed your deep regret for what has occurred, and that a substantial compensation has been made in the action already referred to.
That was the decision of the Lord Chancellor, and if he found that Mr. Wilberforce had admitted his error and expressed regret for it he should not be speaking now. But he did not find one word of regret from beginning to end of the correspondence. So far from that, Mr. Wilberforce entered into a defence of his conduct; and on the 3rd of March the Lord Chancellor again wrote him, stating that he had read his letter, in which he defended his conduct, and that, having done so, he saw no reason for altering the decision to which he had already come. He (Mr. Fawcett) said then that the regret which the Lord Chancellor supposed he had expressed, and which was the reason of his not removing him from the Bench, not having been expressed by Mr. Wilberforce, and there being no admission whatever of an error of judgment on his part, they had no alternative but to declare that he ought not to be allowed to remain upon the Bench. For those reasons he should support the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester."These considerations induce the Lord Chancellor to think, after much hesitation, that he will be justified in not removing, in the present instance, your name from the Commission of the Peace, but he feels it his duty to record, and to communicate to you, his grave censure of what has taken place."
said, he very much regretted the manner in which the hon. Member for Leicester had brought the Motion forward, as he had mixed up with the question really at issue matters very much calculated to set one class against another, whereas, if he had confined himself to the simple facts of the case, leaving the House to draw its own conclusions from them, it was very possible he might have found a majority to support his views. The outcry against the unpaid magistracy was, he thought, a circumstance very much to be regretted, because their decisions would in general contrast not unfavourably with those of stipendiaries, and to appoint stipendiaries everywhere would throw a considerable charge on the public revenue. Having heard both sides of the case, he was bound to say he thought Mr. Wilberforce had acted in a very unseemly and injudicious manner, and he was under the strong impression that a person who could be guilty of such injudicious conduct was not fit to remain in the Commission of the Peace. No doubt, when flogging the boys he was not acting as a magistrate; but because he was a magistrate he should have been more careful how he acted. Even if the father had asked him to chastise his sons, he should have said that it was no business of his to flog the boys. He felt, under these circumstances, that Mr. Wilberforce ought not to remain on the Bench; and it was, therefore, his duty, however reluctantly, to give his vote in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester.
said, he had no fault to find with the temperate speech of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), and he wished he could say the same of the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor). He was not there to defend Mr. Wilberforce's conduct. He never had done so, and he did not mean to do so then; but, with regard to the general body of magistrates, he did not believe that there were a set of men who discharged their duties so well or more honestly than they did, with a sincere desire to do justice; and. he did not believe—and he hoped he never should believe—that by defending the general body of the magistrates, he was attempting to screen an individual in any particular case. He would appeal to the House whether he had not on more than one occasion since he had been in office expressed his strong displeasure at certain acts done by magistrates in individual cases when brought under his notice, nor would he ever hesitate to do so. He first heard of this case a few days before a Question was put upon the Paper; but it appeared that it had been known much longer to the Agricultural Labourers' Union, who ought to have communicated the facts and made their complaint to the Secretary of State immediately they were in a position to do so. If they had been in earnest and believed they had truth and justice on their side they would have made the complaint immediately the facts came to their knowledge. He had heard that night for the first time of the attorney's letter read by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot).When the Notice of the Question in February last was placed upon the Paper he had to consider to whom it was best to apply for information, and he applied to the Judge of the Westminster County Court as the most independent witness for that purpose. That learned Judge was a very learned, right-minded, and straightforward person, notwithstanding the language that had been used towards him by the hon. Member for Leicester for the letter he had written, and he must say that he could not conceive any motive that learned gentleman could have for in any way misstating the facts. He also wrote to Mr. Wilberforce enclosing him a copy of the Question, his answer to which had been placed upon the Table. It was true that that letter did not in terms express any regret; but when the Question was put to him (Mr. Cross), he stated publicly that he was authorized by Mr. Wilberforce to express his deep regret for what had taken place. That gentleman called upon him about half-an-hour before the meeting of the House, and after hearing his statement he (Mr. Cross) gave him his views on the matter in a way that he was not likely to forget for some time to come, and it was then that Mr. Wilberforce expressed his regret, and gave him authority to state them to the House. The letter was immediately forwarded to the Lord Chancellor, and everything that he (Mr. Cross) knew about the matter; and he would, remind the House that Mr. Wilberforce had received in the first instance a severe rebuke from the Secretary of State and also a letter from the Lord Chancellor, which he ventured to say no gentleman in that House would like to receive. He could hardly understand a letter stronger short of dismissal than that written to him by the Lord Chancellor. Neither of them for a moment thought of defending Mr. Wilberforce's conduct in any shape or form; but they considered after that rebuke it was not absolutely necessary to go to the extreme length of removing him from the Commission of the Peace. He very much regretted the letter that was written by Mr. Wilberforce to the Lord Chancellor; but in it, although he did not express his regret for what had happened, he stated—"I have written this letter not to defend what I admit to be an error of judgment." Inquiries had been instituted as to whether any charge had been brought against him before or since; the result was that there had been no other charge against him. Therefore he did not think it necessary to trouble the Lord Chancellor further in the matter. Under the circumstances he hoped the House would be of opinion that the Lord Chancellor, acting in his judicial capacity, had exercised a wise and sound discretion in giving to Mr. Wilberforce a severe and well-deserved rebuke, and that having done so he was not bound to go further. He hoped the House would reject the Motion, and that this inquiry and discussion would act as a warning, not only to Mr. Wilberforce, but to every other magistrate.
said, he would not imitate the language of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor) in what he had to say on this Motion. This was not only a grave charge against Mr. Wilberforce, but, if the Motion was carried, it would be a Vote of Censure on the Lord Chancellor, who had twice considered the subject, and if he had erred he had erred in too severely censuring Mr. Wilberforce, who had acted very unwisely in what he had done. It was a very common practice for parents to allow their children, when brought before magistrates charged with an offence, to be flogged rather than that they should be sent to prison. He was surprised that the hon. Member for Leicester, who appeared to be an eminent member of the Society for the Protection of Human Beings from Cruelty, should continue to torture a man who had received the severest reprimand which a gentleman could possibly receive from high officials. It appeared to him that the boys had not half the flogging which he had in his early days; and he believed he should never have sat in the House of Commons unless he had been so well flogged as a lad. The House would bear in mind that this case occurred in March, 1875, and he was sorry to find that the hon. Member for Leicester had, by means which he would not describe in this place, but which he would out of the House designate as "claptrap," got up a case that it might appear to-morrow in the Leicester papers; and he was sorry that the hon. Gentleman had used un-Parliamentary language towards a Home Secretary for whom hon. Members on both sides of the House entertained the greatest respect. He would advise the hon. Member in future to take counsel from the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) and bring forward his Motions in more temperate language. A more paltry, trumpery case had never been brought into the House of Commons since he had sat there, and the punishment awarded to Mr. Wilberforce had been enough, and more than enough.
said, he should vote against the Motion. Mr. Wilberforce had been already sufficiently punished. He had had to pay damages, and he had been gibbetted in the Press and in that House.
in reply, denied that he had used violent language against the unpaid magistracy, for he believed that the conduct of which he had complained was utterly repugnant to the feelings of the unpaid magistracy. Neither was it his intention to use any disrespectful or un-Parliamentary language towards the Home Secretary; and, if any such language had escaped him, he begged to apologize for it.
The House divided:—Ayes 19; Noes 100: Majority 81.
Privy Council (Oaths Taken By Members &C)—Mr, Lowe's Speech At Retford
Address For Returns
in rising to to move an Address for—
said that, under ordinary circumstances, he should have been content to see whether these Returns would not have been granted without opposition; but the circumstances were of an extraordinary character, and he thought he should be able to prove to the House that he was justified in moving especially for that portion of the Returns which would give the dates at which certain right hon. Members, still Members of the House, and also certain distinguished persons formerly Members of it, were sworn in as Members of the Privy Council. There was, he was sorry to say, the strongest reason to believe that, solemn as the Privy Councillor's oath was understood to be, it was not always respected. If, for instance, certain statements correctly represented as having been made by a right hon. and distinguished Member of that House had been really made, it would be seen that the confidence which was reposed in persons occupying the honourable position of a Privy Councillor was sometimes violated. It would be in the recollection of the House that he had a few days back given Notice that he intended to put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London, which, however, he was informed by the Speaker it would be irregular to put, and he thereupon stated it to be his intention to call attention to the subject on a Motion which the hon. Member for Hackney(Mr. Fawcett) had announced it to be his intention to bring forward. The Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney had, however, never come on, and the result was that he had been deprived of the opportunity of putting the Question which, he submitted to the House, related to a matter of grave public importance. The Question was as follows—"Returns of the form of the oath or oaths taken by persona sworn Members of the Privy Council; and, showing the respective dates when the following persons were sworn in as Members of the Privy Council:—The late Edward Geoffrey Smith-Stanley Earl Derby, the late Viscount Palmerston, the Right honourable John Earl Russell, the Right honourable Member for Bucks, the Right honourable Member for Greenwich, and the Right honourable Member for the University of London,
That being the Question of which he had given Notice, and being unwilling to assume that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) had uttered the words attributed to him without giving the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity to deny this before taking any further steps in that House on the subject, he, as a Gentleman and fellow Member, addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the following communication:—"To ask the right hon. Member for the University of London whether he is correctly reported in The Daily Telegraph of the 19th of April to have spoken at a Liberal banquet at East Retford with reference to the Royal Titles Bill as follows:—'I strongly suspect that this is not now brought forward for the first time. I violate no confidence, because I have received none; but I am under a conviction that at least two previous Ministers have entirely refused to have anything to do with such a change. More pliant person have now been found, and I have no doubt the thing will be done. And, if so, whether he will state further to the House to which Ministers of the Crown he referred in such speech; and whether the information upon which he made such statement was communicated to him by any one holding the position of a Privy Councillor.
"28, Hamilton Terrace, N.W.,
"28th April, 1876.
"Sir,—You will, no doubt, have seen in the public journals this morning the terms of a Question on a public matter of grave importance, which I gave Notice of putting to you when Mr. Fawcett's Motion on the Royal Titles Bill in the Order Book of the House fixed for this day came on for discussion. That Motion having now been withdrawn, and the Speaker having ruled that the Question cannot be put in the ordinary way, I take the liberty of requesting your attention to the words imputed to you, as quoted in my Question, and to be informed whether the report of your speech in The Daily Telegraph to that extent is correct or not?—Your obedient servant,
"C. E. Lewis.
To that letter the right hon. Gentleman replied—"The Right Hon. R. Lowe, M.P,"
"34, Lowndes Square, S.W.,
April 29, 1876.
"Sir,—My recent speech at Retford contained nothing relating to you, and I therefore owe you no explanation of anything in it. You will not, I hope, therefore, think me discourteous if I refuse to answer your question."—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
He might, perhaps, here be allowed to observe that he had not asked for any explanation, and all he wished was to ascertain whether the statement to which he referred had been correctly attributed to the right hon. Gentleman. In reply to that letter of the right hon. Gentleman he wrote as follows:— "28, Hamilton Terrace, N.W."ROBERT LOWE."
"May 1, 1876.
"Sir,—In acknowledging the receipt of your note of the 29th ult., I would remark that you appear to have mistaken the character of my request, and not to have appreciated my motive in making it. So far from assuming that you owed me personally any explanation of your speech at Retford, I have, as it must be perfectly obvious to you, treated the matter as a public one only, and, as a Member of the House of Commons, I have sought to put the Question publicly to you. Failing in that endeavour, I then thought it only fair to you, before I took any further step, to give you an opportunity of denying the words attributed to you if they have been incorrectly reported.
"In exercise of your undoubted right, you have declined to say whether they are correct or not. I have, now, therefore, as a matter of fairness and courtesy, to give you notice, that on a Motion for certain Returns connected with the oaths of Privy Councillors which I propose to make on Tuesday next, I shall draw attention to your speech at Retford, and thus give you an opportunity, in the face of the House and of the public, to contradict or explain the extraordinary statements attributed to you in the public papers.
"In the meantime, owing to the course you have taken, I think I may fairly assume, primâ facie, that the reports are substantially correct.—I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
"C. E. LEWIS.
Well, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), who has communicated to me that he was unfortunately unable to be in his place in the House to-night, thought the subject to which those communications related of such importance that he became a voluntary witness in the matter, for he addressed the following letter to the Press, which has appeared in all the newspapers within the last few days:—"The Right Hon. R. Lowe, M.P."
An ex-Prime Minister would never have condescended to write to the public Press on the subject unless he had found that there was great anxiety respecting it, and he regarded the denial of the right hon. Gentleman as a proof that he considered the rumour so widely circulated ought to be publicly contradicted. He asked the House to consider the character of the statement attributed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London. His statement was that, according to his conviction, upon some evidence which he would no doubt give to the House—for it was impossible that he could have made such a statement without any evidence whatever—two Prime Ministers had entirely refused to have anything to do with a change in the title of the Queen, but that more pliant persons had been found, and that he had no doubt the thing would now be done. He (Mr. Lewis) was sure the House would feel that he was entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London who were the Ministers to whom that request was made. The matter did not, however, end there. The Times, which had given a report of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman on the 19th of April, published a supplemental report on the following day, and in this report a most extraordinary statement appeared. The right hon. Gentleman was reported to have said—"It was rumoured some little time back that Her Majesty had been pleased to suggest to two late Prime Ministers the proposal which has now been embodied in the Royal Titles Bill. To the best of my belief, I was not named as one of them; and, for reasons which seem to me important, I thought it better to take no notice of an unauthenticated report, which might at once die away. Further attention has, however, been given to the matter within the last few days; and, although I deem that the merits of the question cannot in the smallest degree depend upon the truth or untruth of any such allegation, I think it my duty to state, so far as I am myself concerned, that neither this nor any other suggestion was mentioned by me to Her Majesty during the time when I had the honour to be in her service."
What was there involved in the statement but that Her Majesty had asked somebody to do something involving serious damage to her Crown and dignity? What was it but a charge that the right hon. Gentleman who was now Prime Minister had not the courage which previous Prime Ministers had—that he had not the straightforwardness and manliness to tell an exalted Personage that he would not submit to do anything which would be injurious to her Crown and dignity? Now, was it possible that this statement of the right hon. Gentleman could be true, without there having been a gross breach by two persons at least of the Privy Councillors' oaths? He wanted to know authoritatively the form of that oath, but he had some idea of its contents, and he should ask the House to assume that the oath contained these clauses: a Privy Councillor was sworn to advise according to his best discretion for the Queen's honour and the public good, to keep the Queen's counsels secret, to avoid corruption, to help and strengthen what should be resolved, to withstand demands to the contrary, and to do all that a true Councillor should for his Sovereign. If the right hon. Gentleman had spoken the words which were attributed to him—and he had taken care not to deny or explain them—what had he done? He had stated that two previous Ministers of the Crown had broken the secrecy to which they were bound by the solemn oath laid on them. How was it possible that such a request could be made known to any third person except by her who made it or by those to whom it was made? Was it to be supposed that the exalted Personage who was the object of the right hon. Gentleman's attack had communicated the secret which he said was made known? What was the result? That two of the right hon. Gentleman's Colleagues, or two of the persons who had filled the office of Prime Minister, had broken the secrecy to which they were sworn. It would be in the recollection of the House that when the Government of India was changed in 1858, the late distinguished Nobleman (Lord Derby) was Prime Minister. He would leave it to any one who knew that Nobleman and his character for integrity and honour to say whether he was likely to be one of the two persons who had broken the Queen's council. The next person who would be named was the noble Lord (Earl Russell), who was the Nestor of the other House, and who was once a distinguished Leader of the Liberal Party. Were they to be told that he was the person who had broken the secrecy of the Privy Councillor's oath? He did not believe it. The next person to whom this imputation would apply was the late Lord Palmerston, who had been beloved by all parties. Was he the person who would break the secrecy of his Sovereign? Was the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), the Minister who once resisted and was so pliant now? It was not necessary to discuss it. There was one other Minister left—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who thought the rumour or suggestion came so near to his door that he condescended to the platform of the public Press in order to contradict the statement. They all knew what remarks were made in private, and that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) and the late Lord Palmerston were stated to be the persons referred to. Well, one had denied it, and the other was dead and could not tell the true story. This was not a mere after-dinner speech. The right hon. Gentleman had received a retainer to make a great oratorical display; but whether his precise object had been to abash and throw cold water on his Party, or to inspirit them to future success, he (Mr. Lewis) had never been able to discover. At one moment he seemed to be a Liberal Cassandra wishful to destroy the hopes of the young Members of his Party of ever returning to the Elysian region of the Treasury Bench. At another time he seemed overcome with a spirit of personal bitterness, and he not only displayed that feeling, but admitted he was possessed of it; but there was too much of the prepared character about it to suppose that it was an after-dinner oration delivered by a gentleman who did not know what he was about. It was a deliberate political attack by an ex-Minister on his opponents; and they were entitled to ask him, as an ex-Minister of State, and as an ex-Privy Councillor, on what authority he had made the statements which he (Mr. Lewis) had read. He could not suppose the object of the right hon. Gentleman was to degrade his Sovereign—they knew he had no objection to degrade the Conservative Party; but the right hon. Gentleman not only intended to insult the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, but he insulted all of them. ["Order!"]"It is not merely that pressure has been put on Members of Parliament—more than political pressure—but the whole matter has been carried out in such a way as to cause in my mind the most painful apprehensions that it is only the beginning of much evil, which might by the least effort of manliness and straightforward- ness have been averted, if the Minister of the Grown had had the courage to tell Her Majesty he would not, any more than his predecessors, lend himself to such a course, which he believed in his conscience to be injurious to her Crown and dignity."
I must remind the hon. Member that he must not attribute an intention on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to insult Members of this House.
said, he did not mean to say that the right hon. Gentleman intended to insult Members of that House; but, whether intended or not, what he said was an insult or affront. He would read the words of the right hon. Gentleman. He said—
If he did not intend to insult them he (Mr. Lewis) asked what was the effect of that language? The Bill was passed in that House by a majority of 105; passed not by the Members on that side only, but by the assistance of many Members of high standing on the Opposition side of the House; and they were asked to believe that, though it was carried by their votes, it was carried without the assent of their minds. Was it too much to say that the effect of such a charge was to insult a body of Members who had just as much right to express their views and give their vote as the right hon. Gentleman himself? He was not an out-and-out supporter of the Government; but he solemnly declared that he never gave a vote in that House more in accord with his convictions or with more thorough satisfaction and more thorough desire to see the measure carried into effect. It was a common practice for Gentlemen opposite, when they were out-voted, to say to Gentlemen on this side—"If you had voted as you speak in the Lobby the result would have been different." That might be the way in which they voted when in office; but hon. Members on his side of the House were not so pliant. All he would ask of hon. Members opposite was to believe that hon. Members on his side of the side of the House were as conscientious and desirous to vote according to their views as themselves. He did not intend to detain the House any longer on the subject. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give the information desired. In thinking of the right hon. Gentleman's remarkable speech he was irresistibly reminded of the line—"This Bill was passed against the unanimous opinion of both Houses of Parliament; and it was passed under a pressure on Members of Parliament of more than political pressure."
He did not know about "Impiger," but the last three words seemed exactly to describe the frame of mind in which the right hon. Gentleman set to work not only to abuse the much-abused Titles Bill and its authors, but also the most exalted Personage in the country."Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer."
I rise to order. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that the right hon. Gentleman set to work to abuse the most exalted personage in the country. I ask whether that is in Order?
The expression that the hon. and learned Member made use of is certainly out of Order. Many of his observations have been irrelevant to the subject now before the House. In so far as the observations of the right hon. Gentleman were pertinent to the Motion now before the House, the hon. and learned Member was no doubt entitled to refer to them, but many of the observations which he made had nothing to do with it.
said, he thought he had shown sufficient ground for bringing the subject before the House. He believed hon. Members would agree with him in thinking that Gentlemen occupying the position of Privy Councillors should not either cast aspersions without justification upon those who filled high and distinguished offices or bring against individuals charges which were merely founded on idle rumours.
seconded the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Returns of the form of the Oath or Oaths taken by persons sworn Members of the Privy Council:
"And, showing the respective dates when the following persons were sworn in as Members of the Privy Council:—The late Edward Geoffrey Smith-Stanley Earl of Derby, the late Viscount Palmerston, the Right honourable John Earl Russell, the Right honourable Member for Bucks, the Right honourable Member for Greenwich, and the Right honourable Member for the University of London."—(Mr. Charles Lewis.)
The hon. and learned Member for Londonderry has got that which it is not every man can boast that he has—that is a "vocation in life." His vocation is that of interrogation. Like Hob Roy, however, the hon. and learned Member may be said to live too late. He ought to have lived in the glorious times when interrogation was seconded by certain physical appliances which made it very difficult to refuse to answer anything that might be asked. There is a mixture of questioning, and threatening, and preaching in the hon. and learned Member's speech which irresistibly takes my mind back to the glorious days of the Inquisition, and makes me feel how dreadful it would be if I had the hon. and learned Member to cross-examine me with a lever in his hand ready to crush my bones if I did not answer his questions. But the feeling is accompanied by one of great relief that the hon. and learned Gentleman, although I am persuaded that he would if he could enforce what he wishes, does not possess that power; and that after all it depends upon me whether I will answer him or not. In his zeal he has overlooked the fact that the oath of Privy Councillors, which he asks the House to order, is now part of an Act of Parliament, which anybody can turn up for himself; and in also asking that certain names of Privy Councillors, with the time at which they were sworn, shall be produced, he asks for that with which any almanack can supply him. If I had been guilty of a breach of the Privileges of this House nothing could be more proper than for an hon. Gentleman to call attention to the matter, or if I did anything in this House which an hon. Gentleman felt as offensive to himself, nothing would be more proper than that he should at the time draw attention to it, but that is not what the hon. and learned Gentleman does. If hon. Members follow his leadership—which I trust they will not—they will find themselves in this embarrassing position, that whenever there is a convivial or political meeting in the country, whether attended by a Member of Parliament or not, at which certain things are said which may not be altogether to any hon. and learned Member's liking they will be obliged to take notice of it, for it is to be observed, I am not called, upon for explanations either as a Member of Parliament or a Privy Councillor, but simply as a spouter. The hon. and learned Member certainly presents his case in a ludicrous aspect; but there is a serious side to it. Is the House of Commons prepared to take up the line of business which the hon. and learned Gentlemen has marked out? We all of us attend a great many political and other meetings in the country, and there are a great many which we do not attend, where the language used is perhaps not always strictly conventional, and where I confess I should not like to see it so. Is the House of Commons prepared to lay down a rule that it is competent for any Member to come here, with a newspaper report in his hand, and say, Mr. So-and-So—who may be an honest burgess or a Member of Parliament—has used such and such language? And then, although the privileges of the House have not been invaded, whatever opinions may have been expressed in a coarse and vernacular manner, this hon. Gentleman is to deliver a curious oration, and then, to bring himself in Order, is to move for something which can be got out of an Act of Parliament or an old almanack. Is that a course which the House of Commons is prepared to sanction? Is the House, the representative of freedom of discussion in this country, going to undertake a kind of general censorship and punish freedom of speech exercised by orators in the country? What it is really asked to do is to constitute itself a tribunal of eloquence or good taste with respect to what people may choose to say in the country. I say that nothing can be more opposed to the dignity of this House or contrary to the purposes for which we are sent here, or likely to engage us in most unseemly quarrels in which we are certain to get the worst. Because if the House of Commons indulges itself in lecturing and abusing persons who make speeches in the country, it must expect that those persons will indulge themselves in lecturing and abusing the House of Commons; and so by these attacks made upon provincial meetings you will be laying the foundation for endless questions of Breach of Privilege in which you are sure to come by the worst. I therefore hold it to be the duty of every man who loves freedom, of discussion, and who wishes to keep up as high as he possibly can the character of the House of Commons, to set his face against that which the hon. and learned Gentleman proposes to do, and in pursuance of that resolution I shall answer none of the hon. and learned Gentleman's questions. He has already answered every one of them himself in a tone as offensive to me probably as he could easily have devised. I shall leave him to be content with his own answers and his own questions, resembling in that respect the mother of Sissera, who put questions to herself and answered them. I certainly will not imitate the example of such wise ladies. I entirely deny any right on the part of a Member of this House to call me to account for anything I may say at meetings in the country, unless I infringe the privileges of this House or make a personal attack upon an hon. Member. We can discuss these political topics among ourselves here upon Motions regularly and properly brought forward, and not upon sham Motions like this. Let us adhere to that practice, and not drag down the House of Commons and bring it into collision with every assembly in the country which may happen to hold language or express opinions which are contrary to the wishes or feelings of the majority of the House of Commons for the time being.
I regret, Sir, that this Motion has been brought before the House; but I regret still more the speech by which it has been met by the right hon. Gentleman. He has given us a picture of what will occur at our usual provincial political meetings; and he has very truly said—what everyone must feel—that nothing would be more unwise, and nothing could be more unnecessary than that expressions used on these political occasions, which may offend a Party—which may be deficient in taste and even in truth—should be called in question, and subject to the criticism of the House of Commons. The dinner which the right hon. Gentleman attended, and which has given rise to this Motion, was, however, in my opinion, one to be rather distinguished from the common order of these provincial and political gatherings. However we may indulge in what is styled the rough-and-ready expression of our political opinions, whatever they may be, and whether Conservative or Liberal—however we may sometimes exceed the limits of propriety, of gentlemanlike feeling, or taste, it is not, I believe, the practice in this country to seize that occasion to make comments on the conduct of the Sovereign. And the right hon. Gentleman must have felt during the whole time while he was attempting to vindicate that freedom of speech necessary at the meetings of Englishmen, that it was not the boisterous festivity of the East Retford assembly that led to these painful inquiries, but that it was the circumstance that a politician—and a politician of a distinguished character, who had held high and responsible office—while the country was interested in the discussion of a great public question, should have taken the opportunity of making statements which were monstrous if they were true, but which if they were not true must be described by an epithet I cannot find in my vocabulary. Sir, did the right hon. Gentleman or did he not—not merely intimate, not insinuate, but I say broadly, state to the people of this country that the Royal Titles measure was introduced to the notice of Parliament by the unconstitutional and personal influence of the Sovereign? Did he or did he not take that occasion to hold up to public prejudice, and I will say public infamy, the Chief Minister, asserting, under circumstances detailed by the right hon. Gentleman with minuteness, that after that Gracious Sovereign had been balked and baffled in her appeals to previous Ministers, she had found a pliant and a servile instrument who was now ready to do her will? [Opposition cheers.] I believe I have stated the case fairly, as an hon. Gentleman opposite acknowledges by his cheers; and having done so, let us calmly examine the facts. There were two Chief Ministers to whom the Sovereign of this country had appealed to carry a measure similar to the Royal Titles Bill—a measure with that abject, at least—and who had refused to undertake an office which they believed was dangerous to the State and to the honour of the Crown. That statement, made by a Privy Councillor, and by one who had been a Cabinet Minister, naturally affected, and does affect to this moment, the opinion and feeling of the country. Was it true? If the statement were true, it ought not to have been made. That, however, is a part of the case on which I shall not pause to dwell. That must be obvious to every hon. Gentleman, and it has been touched upon sufficiently. I confine myself on the present occasion to asking, Is it true? Who were these two preceding Ministers? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) was naturally one who was immediately in the public mind, and all of us admiring, and a large portion of the country justly placing their trust and confidence in him, must have been immensely influenced by the conviction that he had given such advice to Her Majesty, and had refused his sanction to the introduction of such a measure. The Member for the University of London served in office under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, in more than one post, and posts ultimately of extreme importance, and such as naturally would entitle him to the confidence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and therefore giving an additional plausibility to any statement he made which might depend upon the degree of confidence subsisting between him and the Member for Greenwich. The Member for Greenwich took occasion, in a most precise, and I will say almost solemn, letter, at once to meet that statement. Observe, in comparison with the conduct of the Member for Greenwich, the view of the position just taken by the Member for the University of London. This is, it seems, according to him, a rude, boisterous meeting, according to the custom of rough-and-ready Englishmen, in an obscure corner—he hardly remembers the name of the place, and really forgets the name of the society which assembled. It was nothing more than what happens every day in England. We are pursuing the most insignificant of objects, and it is absurd that the House of Commons should condescend to be aware of their Existence. But that was not the feeling of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, one of the leading Members of this House, and one exercising a just and great influence on the opinions of his countrymen. The right hon. Gentleman felt it to be an occasion on which his duty required that he should at once meet it in a manner the most precise and the most solemn, and he told the country that it was false. Now about the other Ministers? There is another Minister to whom this might apply. I am myself not in the category, because I do not suppose, being so servile at the present moment, that I was much bolder on a former occasion. But we come now to the position of the late Earl of Derby, unfortunately no longer among us. I lived with him, so far as political circumstances are concerned, in as much intimacy as probably over existed between two public men. I believe I shared his confidence entirely, and it so happens that, at the period to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, when at least the circumstances to which he refers would naturally have occurred—the change of the Government in India, and the transference of India from the Company to the Crown—I was in hourly communication with Lord Derby, because at that time the new India Bill was preparing by Lord Ellen-borough. He was its author, and was believed by all England to be the man most capable of such a task, though the Bill was not successful. From technical reasons it had become necessary that the Bill should be introduced into the House of Commons instead of in the House of Lords, as was originally intended. As I was then the Leader of the House of Commons, I was naturally called upon to undertake the task, and I was with Lord Derby every day and every hour in preparing for the fulfilment of that duty. I frequently discussed with him and Lord Ellen-borough the subject whether the Crown should, under these circumstances, take a new title in India, and there were reasons of State which rendered it most expedient, on the whole, that this question should be postponed. Indeed, I was so acquainted with these affairs that I was—which is the fact—myself personally responsible for the Royal Proclamation issued at that time, and for that particular description of the Queen's titles which have been quoted more than once in our debates. I think, therefore, I am justified in saying that I express a most profound conviction—judging from my intimacy with Lord Derby, and my recollection of all the circumstances of the time—in stating that no proposition of the kind was ever made to Lord Derby. Well, there remain two other Ministers whose confidence I did not share, and respecting whom, personally, I cannot speak. There is the venerable Lord Russell, and Lord Palmerston, whom we all re- collect with, regard and honour. Now, this matter having agitated the country, and having been brought before the attention of Parliament, it is most unwise that it should be left in doubt, or that there should be any hesitation in the public mind, because otherwise these calumnies crop up again, and these reckless speeches are again in time a source of authenticity for statements which have not been authoritatively denied and destroyed. Sir, I speak with the greatest difficulty at this moment, and I can only speak with the indulgence of the House. I have the authority of Her Majesty to make a statement on her part; but, at the same time, as I have felt it my duty to place before Her Majesty the fact that it is not according to the Rules of the House that the name of the Sovereign can be introduced into debate without the permission of the House—it therefore rests with the House whether I shall go on. If the House desires it, I shall do so. [The right hon. Gentleman resumed his seat.]
As the House is aware, one of the Rules of the House is this—that the introduction of the Queen's name into debate, with a view to influence the decision of the House, would certainly be out of Order. At the same time, if the statement of the right hon. Gentleman relates to matters of fact, and is not made to influence the judgment of the House, I am not prepared to say that, with the indulgence of the House, he may not introduce Her Majesty's name into that statement.
There is hardly a question before the House, and the statement I have to make is not to influence opinion. It is merely this statement on the part of Her Majesty—that there is not the slightest foundation for the statement that was made that proposals, such as were described in the Retford speech, were ever made to any Minister at any time. Sir, the whole thing is utterly unfounded—merely that sort of calumnious gossip which, unfortunately, I suppose, must always prevail, but which one certainly did not suppose would come from the mouth of a Privy Councillor, and one of Her Majesty's late Cabinet Ministers.
said, that in the then state of the front Bench below him, he would venture to make one or two observations. He had listened with very great regret to this debate; but he had listened to no part of it with anything like the pain with which he heard the last words of the Prime Minister. Not sharing the advanced tendencies of the Party opposite, he recoiled from the exhibition they had just witnessed. He had heard with the utmost regret the name of Her Majesty introduced into that House in the course of one of that class of debates to which he believed the men with the highest tone of mind listened to with the greatest possible pain—he meant a debate based on a personal attack on a distinguished Member of that House. He did not justify the language used by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) at Retford. Imputations ought not, in his opinion, to be thrown upon the character or motives of a Minister of the Crown, and least of all upon the Prime Minister, who was the first man in the land. He desired to point out that there were one or two radical errors in the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Londonderry(Mr. C. Lewis) and of the First Minister. It seemed to have been lost sight of altogether that the right hon. Gentleman, as reported, distinctly disclaimed having violated, because he had not received any confidence whatever on this question. That being so, it at once lowered the level of his speech and statement from the character which the Prime Minister's observations had rather tended to give it. It reduced it from the level of a speech of an ex-Minister to the level of ordinary conversation or gossip. The right hon. Gentleman claimed no authority for his statement. [Cries of "Conviction."] The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, said he spoke from conviction; but he said that his conviction was based on no authoritative communication. Now, what had the Prime Minister done? He had stated that the subject of the Queen's title in reference to India had been elaborately discussed between the late Lord Derby and himself. The subject had therefore been discussed by one Prime Minister at any rate, and with a future Prime Minister, and could they not imagine such a matter getting about and readily taking a mistaken form? The Motion was based upon the erroneous assumption that such an important matter would be decided by a Prime Minister on his own authority. Surely that was a radical error. It would, beyond doubt, be brought before the Cabinet and discussed there, and might not confidential communications of that nature get further in the course of years? He could only, in conclusion, express his regret that this personal matter had been brought forward. It was one which did not tend to raise the character or promote the business of the House.
congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon the support he had received from his own side of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman supposed that he (Mr. Lewis) was disappointed or surprised by the course he had taken, he was entirely mistaken. He had never believed for a moment that the Motion, or any number of Motions, or his speech, or any number of speeches, would have induced the right hon. Gentleman to explain the statement he made at Retford. He, therefore, did not suppose that his Motion would have had the effect of removing from the public mind the impression which the right hon. Gentleman there intended to convey, or which, at all events, had been conveyed. He was quite satisfied with the discussion that had taken place, since it had proved most conclusively that the right hon. Gentleman could not, or would not, explain or deny the speech he had made; and that there was not a word of truth in the statement which had been attributed to him. It had further proved most conclusively that the right hon. Gentleman had not a word to offer in his defence for the grave speech he made, and which induced the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), his chief, to write a letter to a Sunday newspaper which circulated throughout the country, denying, upon his own authority, the imputation which had been so made. He begged leave to withdraw the Motion, being satisfied that they had ground to powder all the suggestions which had been made on the other side of the House, and throughout the country, in reference to the conduct of the Government and the Conservative Party on the Royal Titles Bill. ["Divide."]
The House divided:—Ayes 91; Noes 37: Majority 54.
Tenant Right At The Expiration Of Leases (Ireland) Bill
( Mr. Mulholland, Lord Arthur Edwin Hill-Trevor, The Marquess of Hamilton, Captain Corry, Mr. Chaine.)
Bill 84 Second Reading
Order for Second Reading read.
in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said: I will detain the House but a short time in giving an explanation of its purport. No one can be more sensible than I am of the infinite injury inflicted upon Ireland by the perpetual agitation of the question of land tenure, and I will say at the outset that this is not an attempt to re-open the Irish land question. I have no desire to interfere in any way with the settlement of that question so recently concluded, and which I hope may be considered final. I trust that in this respect the assurance given by the right hon. Gentleman, then Prime Minister, may be verified, when, in introducing the Irish Land Act in 1870, he declared" that it was his intention by that Act to close and seal up for ever that great question." Neither will I discuss in any way the principles upon which that Act was founded, nor the amount of success it has achieved. It is enough to say that it has been accepted loyally even by those who questioned the wisdom or expediency of so great an interference with the rights of free contract, and that the Bill now before the House, originating as it has done with the landlords of Ulster, is a proof, if one is needed, that they desire the Land Act should be fairly carried out—carried out not merely in the letter, but in the spirit. If there has been a complaint from those landlords, it has been this, that the section of this Act relating to their province should have been so vague and undefined. That first section virtually comprised the entire legislation with respect to Ulster in the sentence "The usages prevalent in Ulster known as the Ulster Tenant Eight Custom are hereby declared to be legal." Whatever may have been the intention in making this section, so meagre and unfashioned, the result was inevitable, and it was pointed out by some Members of this House during the debate upon the Bill that some would attach one meaning to these words, and others another meaning, and that the explanation and definition from which the Legislature shrank would have to be sought for in the Courts of Law, thus cruelly forcing both landlords and tenants into an attitude of apparent, though involuntary antagonism. The right hon. Gentleman to whom I have already referred in introducing the Bill and explaining the first section alluded as a probable source of the Ulster Custom of tenant-right to "the happy political relations existing in that province between the owners and the occupiers of the soil." It was hard upon these owners and occupiers, although, perhaps, not displeasing to their political opponents, that a custom arising out of such happy relations should have been made by any imperfection in legislation a lever to disturb them. The difficulties arising from this vagueness of the first section became early apparent, and on such points as the relation between that section and certain subsequent sections, the definition of the word "usage," the extent of area, and the length of use required to develop an estate rule into a "usage," there were the most conflicting decisions, resulting in a general feeling of uncertainty. The subject having been brought before the notice of Parliament, a Select Committee of the House of Lords was appointed in 1872 to inquire into the working of the Act. That Committee reported—"That difficulties had arisen in the working of the Act on certain points," which it proceeded to specify. Some of these points have been since settled by judicial decisions, and I believe that their settlement has been satisfactory, at least to the reasonable and moderate men, who form the great bulk of the community. The first and most important, however, of the "difficulties" alluded to in that Report, continues to excite the public mind in Ulster, and has given rise to a feeling of dissatisfaction among the most respectable and upright of the tenantry of that province, while at the same time it has been made the pretext for agitation by those who, I fear, desire nothing so little as that that tenantry should be satisfied and contented. The difficulty to which I refer is stated by the Select Committee to be—"whether at the expiration of a lease the Ulster Custom is to prevail over the covenant of surrender in the lease." With re- spect to this point, there are still doubts, or, where there are not doubts, there is dissatisfaction. After a number of conflicting decisions it may now be taken to be almost settled as a question of law "that if the tenant can prove that it has been a special usage on the estate to allow the benefits of the Tenant-right Custom on the expiration of the lease, such usage will override the covenant of surrender;" in other words, "it is the legal presumption that the covenant of surrender does prevail over the Tenant-right Custom until the tenant shall prove a special usage to the contrary, not a usage in the ordinary cases of yearly holdings, but a usage in the special case of expired leases." This is probably a fair construction of the Act, but it leads in practice to anomalies and injustice; for it is in most cases impossible for a tenant to prove such a usage, where, from the nature of the case, an occasion for the assertion or exercise of that usage has most probably never occurred; and yet nothing can be more certain than that, where the Ulster Custom existed, it did generally attach with equal and undiscriminating force to lease holding as to yearly tenancies. I will not now attempt to detain the House by any detailed proofs of this proposition; sufficient proofs will be found in the evidence before the Devon Commissioners of 1844, given by witnesses from every county in Ulster, and which was truly expressed by Mr. John Vauddens Stewart, one of the witnesses who, speaking of his part of the County Donegal, said, "lease or no lease makes no difference. The tenant-right is considered the tenure." In fact, the growth and existence of the Ulster usage were coincident with the general prevalence of leases in the early part of the present century, and the leases themselves were seldom contracts in the ordinary sense; they were not entered into with reference to, or after consideration of, their covenants, which, indeed, were seldom, if ever, used by either landlord or tenant. Not only have we on the subject historical and traditional proofs, we have the custom as it exists at this day on the great and leading estates in the province. On these it is not usual to put a tenant at the expiration of an ordinary agricultural lease on any different footing from his neighbours holding from year to year. It would be invidious to select any special instances for mention, where this usage is so general; but I may call the attention of the House to the names on the back of this Bill as a proof that the custom is as I describe on the estates of the Duke of Abercorn, the Marquess of Down shire, Lord Edwin Hill-Trevor, and Lord Belmore, but, for the necessity of limiting the number of names on the Bill, the same guarantee might have been afforded as to the other Ulster landlords in this House. But general though it may be, if the onus is thrown upon a tenant of proving such a usage as the existence of tenant-right at the expiration of a lease, I ask the House to consider the difficulty of the task. What did exist may be described as having been a dormant usage, for unless a previous tenant on the estate had desired to give up his tenancy at the precise moment when his lease expired, and had claimed and been allowed the privilege of selling his interest before he had contracted a new tenancy, there had been no Act capable of being cited as a proof of the particular point at issue—To adduce proofs of a sale by a tenant on the estate before the expiration of his lease is not sufficient, because that sale may be considered to have been a sale of the unexpired portion of the lease. To adduce proofs of a sale a year or two after the expiration of the lease is not sufficient, because a new tenancy having been thus created it may be said that the sale was the sale of the new tenure. It is not disputed that it has been the custom to allow tenants at the expiration of their leases to continue in their holdings at a reduced rent, and after having entered upon such new tenancy to allow them the benefit of the tenant-right usages of the estate. But even as the law now stands, under the Act of 1870, the same rights would be acquired under similar circumstances. The question is not whether under certain circumstances a lease holding tenant may acquire a right to the benefits of the usage, but whether at the expiration of his lease he may be deprived of them. As the Act of 1870 is now construed, it is no doubt possible that he may be so deprived of them, unless he can prove what, as I have said, is almost incapable of proof. Before the Act of 1870 there would have been little risk of any interference with the usages; but since the elasticity of the custom has been re- placed by the hard-and-fast line of law, nothing outside or beyond that law can be reasonably expected, much less can it be considered secure. The lease holding tenant, therefore, now finds himself in a worse position than he was in before the Land Act—a state of things most assuredly not contemplated, nor desirable to be continued. The present Bill is intended to remove that defect, and in doing so it keeps rigidly within the lines of the original Act, and opens no new ground whatever. It is brought forward to carry out the intention and design of that Act in this one important particular, where in practice it has proved defective, and to include among the usages it legalized this one usage now practically excluded, but not less general, nor less valued than the rest. The question to be decided is simply this—was the existence of tenant-right at the expiration of a lease on estates otherwise subject to the custom a usage prevalent in the Province of Ulster, or was it not? If it were so, it was the intention of the Act of 1870 to give it legal force. My belief is that it was such a prevalent usage. I have given some of my reasons, I hope enough to convince the House; but, if necessary, it will be easy to prove this with more detail. It is now, therefore, proposed to enact by this present Bill that, if a tenant whose lease may have expired, shall prove that had his building been from year to year, he would have been entitled to certain tenant-right usages, he shall be so entitled to them, notwithstanding the ordinary covenants in his lease. Proof must, of course, be given as under the original Act that he would have been entitled to the benefits of the custom had he been a yearly tenant, otherwise he does not come under the 1st section of that Act, but such proof is not required for the particular holding, but only as to the estate of which it forms a part. This is the entire enacting portion of the Bill. What follows are certain provisions necessary to provide for exceptional cases, and they are borrowed in form and substance from the other sections of the original Act, where with reference to leases they deal with analogous exceptions. The hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) a few days ago took an opportunity when doing me the honour of meeting a speech of mine in this House upon another subject to say that I had not succeeded with, respect to this Bill in winning the approval of the tenant farmers of Ulster, whose protests against it he said covered the Table. Well, no doubt, hon. Members have received these circulars to which he referred—I have received them myself—but they all bear the impress of common origin, and we are aware in this House how documents of that kind can be multiplied indefinitely to order where there is an active central committee, and a sufficient organization. I do not deny that a moderate and reasonable proposal, such as I now make, appears to some disadvantage beside the sensational Bill of the hon. and learned Member. A proposal to give tenant-right at the expiration of a lease cannot be expected to compete in attention with a proposal to transfer the ownership to the occupier; but I think the reception which the Bill of the hon. and learned Member has met with not only in this House, but over the entire Kingdom, will tend to open the eyes of any that were credulous enough to believe in its possible success, and that even they will not drop the substantial benefit now offered to them that they may grasp at a shadow. No doubt, most energetic and persevering attempts have been made to excite distrust of this Bill among the tenant-farmers, and the most unfounded statements have been made with respect to the nature of the Provisoes referring to exceptional cases, their scope and meaning. I will not now take up the time of the House by referring to these at any length. I imagine that this can be better done in Committee. I will only say that the exceptional cases provided for are simply in the first place:—1st. Those cases where the landlord shall prove a usage to the contrary so as to negative the presumption that leases do not affect the custom. In an Act whose whole foundation is "usage" it would not surely be possible to incapacitate a landlord from offering proof as to the existence or nature of that usage. The complaint now is that the tenant has to adduce the proof, and that this is impossible. Well, we shift this onus upon the landlord, and, if there be a difficulty, it will still remain, but will remain for the landlord. To this surely no reasonable tenant can object. 2nd. The 2nd Proviso refers to cases where the lease may have contained an express agreement to forego the custom. Some of the arguments I have used as to the general nature of the ordinary Ulster agricultural lease, apply to such exceptional cases of express contract, and it would be unjust not to provide for them as exceptions. I may also state that there is a similar provision in the original Act, where in the 4th section it deals with claims for improvements at the expiration of leases. 3rd. The third and last provision is, that, in awarding compensation, regard shall be had as to the length of the lease and the rent at which it has been held. This was intended to apply to cases where long leases had been given, sometimes of considerable tracts, at low, often at mere chief rents; it was not intended to apply to ordinary agricultural leases, but I shall propose in Committee that it shall be narrowed so as to express this meaning more clearly. It is the intention that the Bill shall fairly and fully carry out its avowed object, and shall afford the relief which the lease holding tenants of Ulster have claimed. If it receives, as I hope it will receive, the assent of the House, it will give a feeling of security in the enjoyment of a cherished custom to an important and deserving section of the tenant-farmers of Ulster, who now find themselves in an exceptional and uncertain position, and it will, I trust, in so doing, diffuse that contentment and satisfaction which it was hoped the Land Act would produce, but which in Ulster has not been attained, owing mainly to the fault which it is now desired to remedy. In what I have said I have directed myself to convince and conciliate those who might naturally have been expected to view with suspicion a proposal to interfere with the covenant of a lease. But it is not from such a quarter or on such grounds that opposition is threatened to the Bill, and, from the unexpected source from which it comes, hon. Members will not fail to see the true character of that opposition. What are the facts of the case? There are, it is said, over 30,000 lease holding tenants in Ulster, as to whom at the expiration of their leases, as the law now stands, it will be legal presumption that the covenant of surrender has deprived them of the benefit of the tenant right usages, to which they would otherwise have been entitled. A great and widely spread dissatisfaction has ensued, and a Bill is brought forward to afford redress. To remove that legal presumption, and to declare that unless the contrary shall be proved, a lease shall not be taken to have deprived a tenant of the benefits of the custom. And who is it that comes forward to oppose that Bill? An hon. Member who professes specially to represent the interests of the tenant-farmers. I believe that in taking such a course the hon. Member has made a great mistake, although, no doubt, the temptations to it were obvious. The removal of a grievance, especially if by the hands of others, might not suit the purposes of the hon. Member, nor the active and clever Committee who undertake to organize agitations among the tenant-farmers of Ulster. This fear was natural that, if this Bill should become law, their craft would be in danger. But if the hon. Member should succeed in obstructing the passing of this Bill during the present Session, I doubt whether it will excite the gratitude of those lease-holding tenants whose leases may expire during the next 12 months, that when their interests were in the balance, personal and party considerations should have been allowed to outweigh them. The hon. Member has himself brought forward another Bill on the land question, a Bill which, as it seeks to introduce novel principles into legislation, and to create usages by statute, is not likely to receive the sanction of this House, an opinion probably shared by the hon. Member himself, as I notice that, when at the opening of the Session, he had to select a day for the second reading, he selected the 21st of June! The present Bill, if more modest in its character, has at least this merit—it is one that it is hoped and expected by its promoters may become law, and it is one that is intended not to foment discontent and agitation, but to allay them. I beg to move the second reading of the Bill.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( Mr. Mulholland.)
in rising to move, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, it was a matter of consideration with him whether he should oppose the measure or not. That was to say, whether he thought it could be amended in Committee. But on consideration he found that it could not be amended so as to make it a satisfactory measure, and therefore he had no other course open to him but to oppose it. In reference to the Bill, he took exception to what was called tenant right at the expiration of leases on the back of the Bill. Tenant right did not commence at the expiration of a lease. He also took exception to the first part of the clause in the Bill where leasehold tenant right was made at all dependent upon year to year tenancies, because, in his opinion, that was not a matter which was involved in this question. Tenant right had existed co-existent with leases for a large number of years. He alluded to a meeting which had been held in the North of Ireland by the Conservative landowners, at which a resolution was passed pledging the meeting to use their best endeavours to allow tenant right at the end of leases.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,
House adjourned at a quarter before Eleven o'clock.