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water. It is a far graver crisis in which we are engaged; the age is not an age for such soft sentiments as that. Great conflicts are dawning upon us; great antagonisms are arising; vast questions, vast controversies which shake society to its centre, are gathering more and more in importance; and, depend upon it, no self-deceiving optimism will extricate you from dangers of this kind. A stern duty will be imposed upon the men, whoever they are, who have to rule in the times that are before us, and from that duty they will not escape except under pain of betraying the most sacred trust that can be reposed in them. Our task, the task in which we are engaged with respect to Ireland, is not a selfish one. It is, indeed, in one sense beneficial to ourselves, because we could not endure, as I have said, a hostile community at our side; but what we are seeking to do is to restore them to the ways of prosperity and peace. We are seeking to restore confidence, without which industry cannot thrive. We are undertaking no enterprise against liberty; on the contrary, we are confronting the most dangerous enemies to liberty. Our object is to restore real freedom to the Irish people. We must not falter in that undertaking; we must not be impatient because success does not immediately reward our efforts. We must not suffer ourselves to be distracted from this great duty by the wretched and petty strifes of parties, or imagine that we can excuse ourselves from the great duty that the circumstances of our time impose upon us by saying that we are following this leader or that. We have much higher duties to fulfil; but, believe me, if only we will bring to them that patience and tenacity which are characteristic of the English character, we shall succeed in conjuring a great danger from ourselves and restoring to our sister country a prosperity which has long been a stranger to her shores.”
To this speech Mr. Gladstone made answer at a dinner given to the Liberal members of Yorkshire (March 17) in which he devoted much time to discussing the attitude which austere Liberals should maintain towards those who had receded from the Home Rule Bill. He thought nothing should be done which should wound or embarrass them, but that they should lay to heart Mr. Schnadhorst's remark to the effect that if the leaders did not settle this matter among themselves in the Liberal party the people would. In the next place Mr. Gladstone declared that there could be no greater misfortune than if, by a hasty acceptance of formulæ not thoroughly understood they should profess that an agreement had been arrived at when in point of fact only a form of words had been agreed to, which on examination proved to be without value.
Mr. Gladstone believed that Lord Salisbury and his friends who talked of the nightmare of the Irish Question were themselves more than half convinced that Home Rule must come. He declared that it was no more use trying to touch any other
great question till the Irish Question was out of the way than it would be to move on a train till the débris of a collision had been removed from the line on which the train was placed.
Turning to the Land Question he said: “ Of all the points which caused our defeat in the last General Election, and certainly of all the points which constituted—as far as I knowthe difficulty amongst our best friends, the most important and the most dangerous was this—that we had to propose to make a very large use of Imperial credit for the purpose of buying out the Irish landlords. I think, gentlemen, you will not differ from me much in the great importance which I assign to that subject as an element in the decision of the last General Election. Well, let me say this as regards the use of Imperial credit on that occasion. I have the firmest conviction that we never proposed to risk a sixpence. But that does not decide the case. The use of Imperial credit upon a large scale is a very large and important question in itself, and besides that it is not to be denied, in my opinion, that the mind of the country was greatly stirred upon that subject, and that the Liberal mind of the country was very adverse for the most part to the proposal. But, gentlemen, my duty is to consider, is that proposal essential to any sound plan of policy for Ireland ? I at once tell you this, and make a confession, that in our proposal on behalf of the Irish landlords in the last session of Parliament we went to the furthest point on their behalf that we could strain ourselves to go, and we did that upon two grounds, partly because we knew that they had been the petted children of England, which now, as it were, was turning round upon them in some degree, and partly because we wished to give to our opponents every inducement for a great and a speedy settlement of a national question. I cherish the hope—it is almost a belief in my own mind-that it will be perfectly possible to devise a plan for the safe purchase of estates in Ireland by which the landlord will receive a perfect security in respect of the price of his property, whatever the just price may be, without trenching on Imperial credit. I am not now speaking of minor questions or minor sums. I am speaking of the basis of the general plan, and as regards the basis of the general plan I can conceive it possible to arrange a plan which will provide for the purchase and sale of estates in Ireland without the general use of Imperial credit; but any such plan known to me absolutely and essentially requires, as a vital condition, the institution of a real Irish Government able to speak and to act for Ireland, and without that I do not see how to stir a step towards the adoption of such a plan.”
These speeches from the two leaders placed clearly before the public the aims which each had in view ; on the one hand the pacification, and on the other the conciliation of Ireland. The rest of the session was to be devoted to showing how each pursued his special object,
CHAPTER III. THE CRIMES AND LAND BILLS (IRELAND). Introductory Proceedings-Mr. Balfour's Speech on the Crimes Bill-The Land
Bill in the Lords-Debates in the two Houses-The Times on Parnellism and Crime- Alleged Breach of Privilege-Speeches out of Parliament-Mr. Gladstone at Swansea-Prolonged Debates in Parliament- Obstruction- The Land
Bill in the Commons-The Ministerial Change of Front-Both Bills passed. SHORTLY before the House of Commons adjourned for the Easter recess Mr. W. H. Smith moved (March 22), “That the introduction and several stages of the Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Bill have precedence of all orders of the day and notices of motion, including the rules of procedure, whenever the Bill shall be set down for consideration by the Government as the first business of the day.” He urged, as the reasons for this motion, that Ireland was in a state of disorganisation, that the law was not being enforced, and that it was the duty of the Government to see that the law should be observed, and that the machinery for enforcing it was in complete and successful operation. The Government, he said, were bound to act upon their sense of public duty, informed by facts which were known to everybody in the House and to the whole world. Those facts amounted to this—that juries were intimidated, and that criminals notoriously guilty of acts inimical to the best interests of society passed scot-free from the dock, against the declaration of the judge, and to the distinct prejudice of the best interests of the community. Mr. Smith alluded to a speech made by Mr. Gladstone in 1881, from which he quoted the following passage :
“When the Executive Government of the country have arrived at the conclusion that there is sufficient evidence to convince Parliament that a demand for extraordinary powers ought to be made and acceded to, it becomes the duty of the Executive Government--and I would also humbly presume to say the duty of the House of Commons in conjunction with the Executive Government-to use every lawful and proper means for giving due despatch to the consideration of the demand.”
That, Mr. Smith stated, was the position taken by the Government. They believed—they knew--that there was evi. dence which ought to convince Parliament that the demand for extraordinary powers ought to be made and acceded to. Mr. Gladstone's speech was made in Jan. 1881, when the Land League was in existence in Ireland. There was now an association called the National League, which was its apostolic successor - phrase which the right honourable gentleman borrowed from Sir William Harcourt. Referring to an amendment of which notice had been given by Mr. John Morley—the purport of which
was, “ That this House declines to set aside the business of the nation in favour of a measure for increasing the stringency of the criminal law in Ireland while no effectual security has been taken against the abuse of the law by the exaction of excessive rents”—Mr. Smith said that this amendment was almost identical with that moved in 1881 to the resolution then proposed by Mr. Gladstone. Mr. Gladstone's words on the occasion were, “ There are some members of Parliament ... who say that the Government has made a great mistake in giving the first place in the deliberations of Parliament-at least, the first place in the proposals laid before Parliament—to a subject of this kind, and that they ought to have commenced the session by an attempt to deal with the intricate question of a Land Bill in all the manifold points of view from which it has been approached during the last few months. Well, it is impossible for us to accept any proposal of that kind.” This, again, Mr. Smith said, was the view of the Government. They had in contemplation an extensive scheme of land reform, but on their own responsibility they declined to take up the land question first, but insisted that the law should be maintained and that life and property should be preserved and protected.
Mr. John Morley traversed the statement that Ireland was in a state of disorganisation. He admitted that the counties of Kerry and Limerick, half of Galway, half of Roscommon, onethird of Clare, one-sixth of Cork, and possibly one-sixth of Mayo were partially disturbed—the agitation being due to excessive rents and the necessities of the tenants—but these districts contained only one-eighth of the whole population of the country. The rest of Ireland, he said, was free from exceptional disorder. He alleged that the Government were aiming, not at putting down rebellion or at quelling sedition, but at suppressing a combination formed to protect the tenants against excessive and exorbitant rents. While declining to say that he would never in any circumstances, or in any emergency or crisis, assent to increased stringency in the criminal procedure, Mr. Morley added : “ This I do say ; considering the just odium with which exceptional legislation has come to be surrounded in Ireland, I would put it off to the extreme moment." He moved an amendment to the motion in the terms above stated. In the course of his reply to Mr. Morley, the Chief Secretary for Ireland alluded to the remedial measures which the Government intended to propose. One of them, which they thought would make the working of the system established in 1881 more smooth, more equitable, and more beneficial to all engaged in Irish agriculture, would shortly be introduced in the House of Lords; but they believed that the Irish Land Question could only be solved by a large measure dealing with purchase. That measure was too large in its proportions to admit of its being passed immediately. The Government, however, would be ready to bring in that Bill as soon as they were ready to allow it to be discussed. The first necessity in every society was that the law should be effective, and if the Government, following Mr. Morley's advice, were to put off day after day the measure which they thought necessary to restore respect for the law, the effect of every future remedial measure would be rendered absolutely nugatory, and every hope of a better state of things for the Irish tenantry would be destroyed at its very source and beginning. The debate, which occupied more or less of four sittings, was continued by honourable and right honourable members on both sides of the House. Towards its close (March 24) Mr. Gladstone said that the House was asked to make an absolute surrender of its whole time until a Bill, not yet introduced, but reported to be of an extreme and severe character, had received the attention of the House. He anticipated that he might be told that a revolution was now to be brought about in the modes of procedure by the frequent closure of debate. “ Sir,” he proceeded to say, “I can conceive no greater calamity to this House than the frequent application of the closure rule. And the very first, perhaps the most formidable, of all the effects I should anticipate from the frequent application of the rule would be that it would sap the foundations of that chair which you so worthily occupy, and the authority so absolutely necessary to be maintained intact and unimpaired." He added that, having seen more of parliamentary practice than anyone who heard him, he had never known such a position of affairs. “I think it grave; I think it menacing. I think it an extreme use of the powers of the majority, and one which, if it is persisted in and driven to the uttermost, will leave behind it a sense of wrong—I may say of intolerable wrong—not favourable to the future conduct of the business of this House." Mr. Gladstone disputed that there was any parallel between the present action of the Government and that taken by his own Government in 1881. In that year Mr. Forster made an official statement, in which the case of the Government was set forth with the utmost fulness before any demand was made for the surrender by the House of its time and privileges. He denied also that there was any resemblance in the present state of Ireland to that with which the late Government had to deal. “What is the character, purpose, and object of crime now—take it at its very worst ?”—he asked, answering the question thus: “It is to obtain certain reductions of rent—it is not a movement against rent in general.” “I do not deny," he subsequently said, “ that there is intimidation; I do not deny that in Ireland, as in other parts of the world, there is a certain amount of crime, though 1 think . . . that that amount of crime is small and insignificant under the circumstances.” On the same evening Mr. Asquith, succeeding Col. Saunderson, supported the amendment in a speech of considerable power, upon which he was complimented by Mr. Chamberlain, by whom the debate was continued. Mr.