UK, HC, “Address to Her Majesty on Her Most Gracious Speech”, vol 181 (1866)
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Address to Her Majesty on Her Most Gracious Speech“, vol 181 (1866).
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LORD FREDERICK CAVENDISH said: Sir, I rise to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, in reply to the gracious Speech we have just heard read. Seldom, if ever, has there been a Speech from the Throne which has been delivered under circumstances so impressive, or which has dealt with topics of so grave an import, as that with which Her Majesty has just opened this the seventh Parliament of her reign. Her Majesty has this day, once more, disregarding the painful effort to herself, and at the cost of re-awakened memories too deep for me to touch upon, re-appeared amongst her people, and met them through their representatives in Parliament assembled. In the short interval since Her Majesty summoned this Parliament she had lost the counsels of that old and experienced statesman whom the country has mourned as one man. In her Speech, Her Majesty has had to call the attention of her Parliament to topics of so painful a nature as the recent events in Jamaica, the conspiracy in Ireland, and the disease amongst the cattle in England; 108 and, finally, she has again informed us that a measure will be introduced for the important object of an extension of the franchise. Under these circumstances, I feel that I need not trouble the House by an appeal for a large measure of that kind indulgence which it is ever ready to extend to those in circumstances similar to mine. I can only state that if I had not felt that the position I now hold was conferred upon me on account of the importance of the great constituency which I have the honour to represent, I should not have been emboldened to undertake my present task.
Her Majesty has informed us that she has recently declared her consent to a marriage between her daughter the Princess Helena and the Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein Sonderbourg-Augustenburg. An event so closely touching Her Majesty’s own personal happiness cannot but excite the deepest feelings of the House. I am sure the words of the Address I have to move will, in this respect at least, not only be passed with unanimity, but will express the heartfelt wishes of the House in assuring Her Majesty that the House joins with her in the hope that the union may be prosperous and happy. In like manner the Address will express the feelings of the House in assuring Her Majesty that they join with her in profound grief at the death of Her Majesty’s beloved uncle, King Leopold, that old and experienced King whose death has left so great a blank amongst the rulers of Europe. The House will also share the confidence which Her Majesty states she entertains that the wisdom evinced by the late King of the Belgians during his long reign will “animate his successor, and preserve for Belgium her independence and prosperity.” Her Majesty has given us the gratifying assurance that our foreign relations are friendly and satisfactory. Inasmuch as the noble Lord, to whom the Queen has intrusted the first place in her Councils upon the death of Lord Palmerston, has been during the late Government primarily responsible for the conduct of foreign matters, it is but natural that the foreign policy of the present Government should resemble that of the late one—that policy of which the country expressed so distinct and emphatic an approval at the late elections. That it is identically the same Her Majesty’s 109 Speech contains abundant proof. That cordial alliance with France, of which so signal a testimony has been recently given to the world by the friendly meeting of the fleets in the ports of their respective countries, is still maintained and still exercises its beneficial influence in the promotion of peace throughout the world. For, Sir, we are informed that the good offices of Her Majesty’s Government, in conjunction with that of the Emperor of the French, are at present occupied in the attempt to restore peace between Spain and Chili. And as these good offices have been accepted by Spain, there is good ground for hoping that the causes of disagreement will be removed in a manner which will satisfy the honour of both countries. In like manner the Treaty of Commerce with Austria, the negotiations for which had been begun under the Administration of Lord Palmerston, have been brought to a successful conclusion; and I believe that benefits will accrue to both countries under this treaty, similar to those which have ensued under the French Treaty. Again, the correspondence between Her Majesty and the United States, with respect to injuries inflicted on American commerce by cruisers under the Confederate flag, has been brought to a conclusion by the present Foreign Secretary in much the same manner as it would have been had it fallen to the late Prime Minister to conclude it. The next topic on which I have to trouble the House is the recent events in Jamaica. Not even in that tropical climate has ever a storm more suddenly gathered and burst over its inhabitants, than did the news of the events which had happened in Jamaica burst upon the people of England. As far as I know, not a trace of anything suggestive of such events is to be found in the Papers laid before Parliament relating to the affairs of Jamaica. At the end of the year 1860 Sir Charles Darling, the then Governor, in a most able despatch depicting the state of the island, summed up its results in these words— Thus it is that Jamaica at this moment presents, as I believe, at once the strongest proof of the complete success of the great measure of emancipation, as relates to the capacity of the emancipated race for freedom, and the most unfortunate instance of a descent in the scale of agricultural and commercial importance as a colonial community. It was under these circumstances that the disturbances occurred at Morant Bay, which ended in the massacre of many of the leading inhabitants of that part of the colony, and which 110 was believed by the Governor and by the great majority of the white inhabitants of the island to be a part of a widely extended conspiracy, such that nothing but the most severe measures could prevent Jamaica from becoming a second Hayti. Under such circumstances this most deplorable outbreak took place. Her Majesty’s Government have thought it right that there should be an impartial inquiry into those events, and that the Papers relating to them should be laid before Parliament. Under these circumstances, I do not think it would be wise now to enter into any discussion of the question. Many charges have been brought against Her Majesty’s Government for the suspension of Governor Eyre; but I must say that I feel that the course of the Government was not only the right one, but was the only one the Government could pursue. For it is not to be understood that by this suspension the Government has passed any sentence of disapproval on Governor Eyre. So far from its being so intended by them, the step they have taken is similar to that taken by the Government of the Earl of Derby when Sir John Young was suspended for awhile from the office of High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, and the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was sent out there. It was for the interest of Governor Eyre himself, that such a course should have been taken. I am sure that his name would not stand as high as it should stand until it has been proved by an impartial inquiry that the measures taken by him were necessary; and how could the inquiry be impartial if Governor Eyre remained Governor while the inquiry was being conducted? Her Majesty has informed the House that the Legislature of Jamaica has proposed that the present political constitution of the island should be replaced by a new form of government, and that a Bill on the subject will be submitted for our consideration. The present state of things having met with the unanimous disapproval of all classes, we can only hope that one of the results of the new measure will be that the Government of Jamaica will be at last placed on a satisfactory footing. Her Majesty states that she watches with interest the proceedings which are still in progress in British North America with a view to a closer union amongst the Provinces. We must all feel it to be 111 desirable that all these colonies, which are destined on a future day to be one great empire, should be gathered together into one great confederation. I must now say a few words respecting the plague amongst the cattle which has caused such fearful ravages in many counties. I am sure that the expression of Her Majesty’s sympathy, which has been so kindly expressed in the Speech, will be a great comfort to those persons who have suffered so severely from the loss of cattle through means of this disease. When the disease first broke out Her Majesty’s Government issued a Commission of Inquiry into the remedies that could he adopted for the suppression of the disease and the measures that might be calculated for its prevention; various orders also were issued giving powers to local authorities to adopt measures for its repression. I have seen that the Government has been very generally taken to task for not having dealt with this evil in another form—by assuming the responsibility of issuing some general Order to prohibit totally the removal of cattle throughout the country. Even now at the present moment, when we all know how serious the evil is, there is great doubt in the minds of some, who know much more about the cattle disease than I can pretend to know, whether such prohibition would not tend rather to the spread of the disease than otherwise. It is necessary that cattle should be killed in order that meat should be obtained. For that purpose cattle must be either sent to market or killed at the farmstead. Now, I think it is a question whether the butcher, going from farm to farm and slaughtering cattle, would not do more to spread the disease than would be done by sending the cattle to market to be killed there. However that may be, we must all recollect that when the cattle disease first broke out we were not only without experience as to what were the wisest steps to be taken, but also the public were not at that time prepared for them. Even supposing the best measures could have been discovered by the Government, and could have been ordered by it, it would have been impossible to have carried them out. At the time there was not sufficient alarm or panic in the country for the purpose. By giving the necessary powers to various local authorities different experiments have been tried. In the county of Aberdeen the experiments have been followed, I believe, by the most successful results; and I believe that that, or some such plan, may be generally adopted throughout the country. Her Majesty 112 has given the House the pleasing assurance that the state of trade is satisfactory. In spite of the cattle disease, there never have been such general signs of prosperity throughout the country. And, Sir, our satisfaction is increased by the consideration that that satisfactory state of trade means not only wealth to the great manufacturer and capitalist, but that the advantages resulting from it are also fully participated in by the labouring classes. In former days the great problem was what to do with the superfluous population of the country; but the difficulty now in many parts of England is to find labourers for the work to be done. A few months ago we in England might have said that this prosperous state of things extended to Ireland, and that the condition of that country was materially improving—that she was recovering from the series of bad harvests from which she had suffered for the three or four years previous. But a severe blow against that reviving condition has been struck by that conspiracy, which Her Majesty has characterized in her Speech as “dangerous alike to authority, property, and religion,” and as “disapproved and condemned alike by all who are interested in their maintenance without distinction of creed or class.” A panic and alarm had been thus caused in Ireland which we can scarcely realize in England. The price of land has gone down; no new engagements for the expenditure of capital are entered into. The measures adopted by Her Majesty’s Government have met with the unanimous approval of the country. They waited until they had sufficient evidence to act decisively, and when the moment came they struck a decisive blow by the arrest of nearly all the leaders of the conspiracy. Convictions have attended nearly the whole of the prosecutions which have been instituted, and this fact has shown unmistakably the loyalty of that class of men of whom the juries are composed, and the general satisfaction of the people of Ireland at the conduct of Her Majesty’s Government has been shown by the holding of such a meeting at Dublin as has seldom been seen in the country before. Persons of all politics and all religions met together and approved of the conduct of the Government. The first most important object is, no doubt, to restore confidence, and whatever further measures may be required to accomplish 113 this I trust they will be taken by the Government. But though the restoration of confidence is the first, I cannot think it to be the only duty of the Government. A conspiracy which has been disapproved of by all the influential classes of the country, and which has been deprived of nearly all its leaders, and which still remains, must have some strength in it. This strength lies, I fear, in the wide-spread disaffection amongst the lower orders of the people. For this disaffection there must be some cause. It may be the traditional hatred of Celt against Saxon. It may be the recollection of former misgovernment and of former suffering, or it may be that there still exist causes which keep it alive. Whatever be the cause, I trust inquiry will be made—and, if causes do exist, that Her Majesty’s Government will deal with them with a prudent, but bold and decided hand. It is no use shutting our eyes to the facts of the case. Not only is there great disaffection amongst the lower classes of the people still in Ireland, but hundreds of thousands of Irishmen yearly leave our shores with feelings of permanent hostility to England.
After the length at which I have already troubled the House, I will not refer at any length to the various measure which are to be laid before the House, and to which allusion has been made in the Royal Speech. In the debates of the last Parliament upon the subject of Roman Catholics there was a general unanimity of opinion that at any rate some parts of the oath required to be taken by them ought to be amended—that when it was so amended that all the oaths should be made uniform—and that a measure for accomplishing such an object ought to be introduced under the responsibility of Her Majesty’s Government. In accordance with that general opinion, Her Majesty has announced that a measure will be introduced during the present Session. Her Majesty also informs us that she has directed information to be procured in reference to the rights of voting in the election of Members to serve in Parliament, and that when the information is completed the attention of Parliament will be called to the result, with a view to such improvements in those laws as may tend to strengthen our free institutions and conduce to the public welfare. I rejoice to see that the noble Lord at the head of the Government (Earl Russell) has recently announced that 114 by the measure of Reform to be introduced that Government had decided to stand or fall. At this present moment the attention of the country is not diverted by fear of war or by the existence of any war, as was the case at the time of Lord Aberdeen’s Government and Lord Palmerston’s Government, who were in power when the Italian war occurred. The Reform question is one of such importance, and it has been so long before Parliament, that there is a general unanimity of opinion that it is time it should be settled. There are many who think that, considering the present prosperous state of the country, considering the general contentment and loyalty of the people, there is no reason for a change; yet I venture to think that it is prudent, just, and wise now to legislate upon the question. Prudent, because since the time of the last Reform Act, when the middle classes obtained power by the assistance of the working classes, great progress had been made in the power of the working classes themselves, by the increase of their intelligence and power of combination. It is not prudent that such a power should be without the legitimate means of exercise through and in support of the institutions of the country. It is just, because considering how vitally affected are the interests of these classes by the legislation of this House, by questions of taxation, and, above all, by the great questions of peace or war—considering these things, it is only just that—consistently with the rights of others—the voice of the working classes should be heard in the deliberations of Parliament. It is wise, because I think it is the part of high statesmanship to call forth the whole power of the State, and that can alone be done by extending, as widely as can with safety be done, political rights and responsibilities. Such are the questions which Her Majesty has recommended to our attention, and upon which we shall have to deliberate and decide. Upon these deliberations and upon these decisions will in a great measure depend the future state of our country; and this being the case, I feel the House will gladly join in the prayer of Her Majesty that “In these and all other deliberations the blessing of Almighty God may guide our counsels to the promotion of the happiness of her people.” In conclusion, he begged to move that an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to convey 115 the thanks of this House for Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech from the Throne: Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that She has recently declared Her consent to a Marriage between Her Majesty’s Daughter the Princess Helena and Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein Sonderbourg-Augustenburg, and to assure Her Majesty that with Her we trust that this union may be prosperous and happy: Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we participate in the profound grief felt by Her Majesty at the death of Her Majesty’s beloved Uncle, the King of the Belgians; but that we feel confident that the wisdom which he evinced during his Reign will animate his Successor, and preserve for Belgium her Independence and Prosperity: Humbly to express our gratification at learning that Her Majesty’s relations with Foreign Powers are friendly and satisfactory, and that Her Majesty sees no cause to fear any disturbance of the General Peace: To assure Her Majesty that we trust that the meeting of the Fleets of France and England in the Ports of the respective Countries has tended to cement the amity of the two Nations, and to prove to the World their friendly concert in the promotion of Peace: Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we learn with satisfaction that the United States, after terminating successfully the severe struggle in which they were so long engaged, are wisely repairing the ravages of Civil War; and that, with Her Majesty, we regard the abolition of Slavery as an event calling forth the cordial sympathies and congratulations of this Country, which has always been foremost in showing its abhorrence of an institution repugnant to every feeling of justice and humanity: Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that the exertions and perseverance of Her Majesty’s Naval Squadron have reduced the Slave Trade on the West Coast of Africa within very narrow limits: To thank Her Majesty for directing Copies to be laid before us of the Correspondence which has taken place between Her Majesty’s Government and that of the United States, with respect to injuries inflicted on American Commerce by Cruisers under the Confederate Flag: To express our thanks to Her Majesty for informing us that Diplomatic Relations with Brazil have been renewed, and that the good offices of Her Majesty’s Ally the King of Portugal have contributed essentially to that happy result: To assure Her Majesty that, with Her Majesty, we 116 regret the interruption of Peace between Spain and Chili, and that we earnestly trust, that through the good offices of Her Majesty’s Government, in conjunction with those of the Emperor of the French, the causes of disagreement may be removed in a manner honourable and satisfactory to both Countries: To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the Negotiations, which have long been pending in Japan, have been brought to a conclusion in such a manner as to receive Her Majesty’s entire approbation; that the existing Treaties have been ratified by the Mikado; and that stipulations have been made for the revision of the Tariff in a manner favourable to Commerce, and for the punctual discharge of the Indemnity due under the terms of the Convention of October 1864: Humbly to express our thanks to Her Majesty for informing us that Her Majesty has concluded a Treaty of Commerce with the Emperor of Austria, which Her Majesty trusts will open to that Empire the blessings of extended Commerce, and be productive of important benefits to both Countries: Humbly to thank Her Majesty for informing us that in consequence of the deplorable events which have occurred in the Island of Jamaica, Her Majesty has been induced to provide at once for an impartial Inquiry, by appointing a distinguished Military Officer as Governor and Commander of the Forces; that Her Majesty has given him the assistance of two able and learned Commissioners, who will aid him in examining into the origin, nature, and circumstances of the recent Outbreak, and the measures adopted in the course of its suppression; and that the Legislature of Jamaica has proposed that the present Political Constitution of the Island should be replaced by a new form of Government: To assure Her Majesty that we will give our careful consideration to the Bill on this subject, which is to be submitted to us: To thank Her Majesty for directing Papers on these occurrences, and on the present state of New Zealand, to be laid before us: To convey our thanks to Her Majesty for informing us that directions have been given for the return to this Country of the greater portion of Her Majesty’s Regular Forces employed in the Colony of New Zealand: To assure Her Majesty that, with Her, we watch with interest the proceedings which are still in progress in British North America with a view to a closer union among the Provinces, an object to which 117 Her Majesty continues to attach great importance: Humbly to assure Her Majesty that we have observed with great concern the extensive prevalence, during the last few months, of a virulent Distemper among Cattle in Great Britain; and that it is with deep regret, and with sincere sympathy for the sufferers, that we have learnt the severe losses which it has caused in many counties and districts: whilst it is satisfactory to know that Ireland and a considerable part of Scotland are as yet free from this calamity, which gives us reason to trust, with Her Majesty, that by the precautions suggested by experience, and by the Divine blessing on the means which are now being employed, its further extension may be arrested: To thank Her Majesty for directing the Orders which have been made by the Lords of Her Majesty’s Privy Council by virtue of the powers vested in them by Law, with a view to prevent the spreading of this disease, to be laid before us; and to assure Her Majesty that our best attention shall be given to the expediency of an Amendment of the Law relating to a subject so deeply affecting the interests of the People: Humbly to thank Her Majesty for having directed that the Estimates of the ensuing year shall be laid before us, and for having caused them to be prepared with a due regard to economy, and to the maintenance of efficiency in the Public Service: To thank Her Majesty for informing us that the condition of Trade is satisfactory: Humbly to express our thanks to Her Majesty for informing us that a Conspiracy, adverse alike to Authority, Property, and Religion, and disapproved and condemned alike by all who are interested in their maintenance, without distinction of creed or class, has unhappily appeared in Ireland, and that the Constitutional Power of the ordinary Tribunals has been exerted for its repression, and the authority of the Law firmly and impartially vindicated: Humbly to assure Her Majesty that our serious consideration shall be given to the Bill to be submitted to us, founded on the Report of the Royal Commission on the subject of Capital Punishment; to the Bills for amending and consolidating the Laws relating to Bankruptcy, and for other improvements in the Law; to the measures for extending the system of Public Audit to branches of Receipt and Expenditure, which it has not hitherto reached, and for amending the provisions of the Law with respect to certain classes of Legal Pensions; and to the subject of the Oaths taken by Members of Parliament: To thank 118 Her Majesty for directing that information should be procured in reference to the Rights of Voting in the Election of Members to serve in Parliament for Counties, Cities, and Boroughs, and to assure Her Majesty that, when that information is complete, our earnest attention will be given to the result thus obtained: Humbly to assure Her Majesty that, with Her, we fervently pray that the blessing of Almighty God may guide our counsels to the promotion of the happiness of Her Majesty’s People.
MR. GRAHAM said Mr. Speaker—Sir, I rise to second the Address which has now been proposed, profoundly sensible of the honour conferred on the great constituency which I represent, and on myself by my being invited to do so, and soliciting the patience and indulgence of the House, of my need of which in the discharge of that duty I am most painfully conscious, and which I am assured will not, in such circumstances, be denied me. There must be but one feeling of loyal satisfaction in all our minds in that the Queen has come down to-day in person to address us, and to inaugurate the new Parliament by her presence, and return to the more prominent engagements of public life, whose constrained absence from them has been regarded with so profound sympathy. And although in this new Parliament we miss the familiar face of one who had been so long the presiding spirit of the House of Commons—whose name had become a household word in all our homes—a watchword of our rights and liberties throughout the world, I rejoice to think that, great as is the loss we have sustained by his death, the prosperity and the progress of our country are not dependent on individual lives, however illustrious or gifted, and there is no inconsistency between the deepest and most earnest sense of that loss, and the most perfect confidence in the new leaderships for which it makes room. The Address refers to the subject of Parliamentary Reform, and promises a measure for its accomplishment; and for this department of the work before us these new leaderships seem peculiarly adapted—adapted alike by the acknowledged confidence of those at the head of Government in the wisdom and justice of Reform, and by their proved possession of the confidence of the country. Whatever truth there may have been in the allegation of indifference in the past, it cannot be 119 asserted that there is such indifference in the country now. True, there is none of the passionate excitement of former days, for such excitement would be altogether out of place. No radical change in our institutions is contemplated. Never were these institutions more loyally appreciated than now. No prevailing sense of wilful and persistent wrong stirs up men’s passions or calls for violent protest, although it-rests with those who are opposed to such Reform to awaken these passions by obstruction. Nor is there even any hesitation as to the willingness of the Legislature to grant what is desired. On the contrary, there is a calm, confident, universal persuasion that the claim will be allowed. We have all parties in the State pledged to some measure of Reform. We have no party of any weight desiring changes of a revolutionary character such as would overturn the balance of our institutions or the fair share of any class in the direction of the Government, nor is there any necessity for delay in order to a prolonged previous inquiry as to the effects of contemplated alterations, since there are already means of ascertaining, sufficiently accurate for all practical purposes by machinery in existence in connection with our Poor Law system, how, and to what extent, the various constituencies would be affected by any given changes in the qualification. And if it be so, surely it were greatly to be deplored if any personal or party considerations, or any tendency to divided counsels, should delay the settlement of a question which cannot be evaded, and which will be all the more difficult the longer its settlement is deferred.
Reference is made in the Address to those deplorable occurrences in Jamaica which have naturally excited Be much attention in this country, and in regard to which opinion is still much divided. On the one hand, we have been startled by the severity of the measures employed— a severity alien to the habits and traditions of our national policy, and which has been resented by the instincts of our people. “We have been startled by the limited amount of evidence furnished in official documents as to the reality of the crisis which alone could justify that severity, by the apparently unconstitutional character of some of the proceedings, and by the shameful levity of tone and feeling, and the bitter antipathies of race and creed 120 manifested in much of the correspondence of those who have been actors in these tragedies. On the other hand, our sympathies have naturally been enlisted on behalf of our countrymen placed in circumstances of imminent danger, or believing themselves to be so—sympathies all the stronger for the too recent memories of the fierce passions of the Indian mutiny and the cruel martyrdoms of Cawnpore. We have felt that too hastily to doubt the good faith of our fellow-countrymen, and to stigmatize them rashly as the aggressors in so ferocious a conflict, were treason alike to our common blood and to our common Christianity. Nor has the tried character of the Governor of the island, for ability, integrity, and humane regard to the native races of other colonies, appealed in vain to our sense of justice in his behalf, forbidding us to condemn hastily even where his own official correspondence might seem insufficient for his acquittal. In these circumstances, Government have adopted a course which must commend itself to every unbiassed mind. The inquiry which they have appointed a Royal Commission to conduct will no doubt be prosecuted with all despatch, and it is our duty to await the result. I am persuaded that the decisions of this House thereon will be in accordance with justice—that no intemperate prejudice shall prevent the honourable acquittal of all or of any who have acted worthily in a great crisis, or a lenient interpretation of their mistakes who may have endeavoured to do so, but that, on the other hand, no partiality of rank, or race, or creed, or official position, shall determine our judgment to an unjust conclusion. But remembering that evidence as to character is no sufficient answer to the evidence of facts, if it shall unhappily prove true that in a paroxysm of panic or of passion truth and right have been trampled under foot, this House will never be their accomplices who have so abused the delegated authority of England, nor suffer her boasted humanity to become a by-word of the nations, by turning a deaf ear to the cry of innocent blood.
“Whilst public opinion has been agitated by these lamentable events in a distant dependency, we have not been without causes of anxiety at home. The Fenian conspiracy, to which the Address refers, however chimerical in its aims and contemptible in the disproportion between its pretensions and its powers, however alien in its origin—and it is entirely so—however 121 organized by men who had antecedently renounced their allegiance and severed the ties that bound them to this country, is nevertheless an indication not to be neglected that passions and prejudices hostile to peace and good government exist in the minds of some portion of the Irish people. And whilst Government have acted energetically and temperately and effectively in suppressing that conspiracy, it may be well, now that it is suppressed, to ascertain whence these passions and prejudices have arisen, that, if possible, we may remove them; whether there may not be still some impressions of injustice in the relations between landlord and tenant, some want of adaptation in the means of education to the wants of the people, or some positive wrong in the arrangements connected with the religious institutions of the country. Nor must such questions be regarded chiefly from an English or a Scottish, but rather from an Irish point of view, and in so far as we can do so, without sacrifice of principles or Imperial interests, giving all weight to the opinions of those who, as representing Irish constituencies, have the best right to be heard on Irish questions. Much, no doubt, of the feeling in Ireland is unreasoning and traditionary, but not the less is it our duty and interest to investigate and to remove every just cause of complaint.
There is good reason to congratulate the country upon the general prosperity of trade to which the Address refers. Notwithstanding a severe crisis in the spring of last year on the collapse of the Confederate cause in America, which occasioned a depreciation of not less than £12,000,000 to £15,000,000 on manufactures and raw material, the property of this country, the general results of the year’s trade, have been satisfactory, and have more than retrieved the losses of the autumn of 1864 and spring of 1865, and the very crisis has contributed to our prosperity by enabling us to import our supplies of cotton at a reduced cost. The operatives in the cotton manufacturing districts who had suffered great hardships in the three preceding years are now fully employed at high wages, and there is, in fact, a dearth of hands in these districts at this moment. Our total production of cotton goods is probably 25 to 30 per cent less than it was in 1861, and it requires the full power of the available hands to produce this diminished quantity, so that it will be three to four years 122 before we can, in the usual course, have as many employed as in that year, Meantime the enhanced value enables us to satisfy the wants of the world with this reduced quantity, and, at the same time, prevents falling off in the declared value of the trade; whilst the hands thus deficient have, for the most part, found profitable employment in other industries. The woollen trade has shared in the gains without fully participating in the losses of the trade in cotton and cotton goods, and, by a singular fortune, thrives alike by the wasteful expenditure of war and the more healthy demands of peace and the revival of the American trade. Our linen trade has experienced an extraordinary development during the continuance of the American war. The total exports, which in 1861 were about three and a half millions value, have in 1864 and 1865 more than doubled, being over seven and a half millions each year. And this increased trade has been most profitable to all concerned, and is now giving abundant employment to every available and willing worker. Our iron industries have attained to more gigantic proportions than ever before, and in some departments of them in which we have hitherto been behind the Continent, such as the manufacture of cast-steel, we are now nearly or quite on a par with any country, whilst the rapid development of the mineral fields of the Cleveland district, and the more recent discoveries of hematite ore in Cumberland, are rapidly creating great centres of industrious and prosperous populations in districts which before were poor and thinly peopled. In Scotland we have more furnaces in blast at the commencement of this year than at any corresponding period in the history of the trade, and even so the supply has not equalled the demand, and we have had to draw upon existing stocks; our total exports exceed by 10 per cent those of any previous year, whilst the prospects of demand for shipbuilding and railways at home and abroad is altogether unprecedented. But I believe there is in these very prosperities a voice of warning. The enormous increase in our consumption of coal in this and other great industries cannot continue in the same ratio without making alarming inroads on our resources for the future. The coal fields of this country, however vast, represent after all an ascertainable and an exhaustible supply, and the limits of that supply are being approached more rapidly 123 than is generally realized; and, however the certainty of ultimate exhaustion and gradual enhancement of cost in the meantime may foreshadow changes in the future altogether beyond our control, it is undoubtedly a present and an urgent duty to practise a wise and thoughtful economy, instead of the somewhat improvident and spendthrift extravagance with which we have to some extent been chargeable in the past. In the Lothians of Scotland an almost entirely new industry has sprung into existence in the manufacture of mineral oil from the hitherto valueless shales which exist not only there but in the North of England and Wales—a source of unexpected wealth to the proprietors of the land, and of remunerative employment to large numbers of the people. The wages of labour are steadily advancing in all departments of industry, and with them the material conditions of our labouring people are likely to be improved, both as respects hours of labour, the character of their homes, and the education of their children—and it is probably in the experience of most of us how material a diminution there is in the number of those seeking the employment of domestic service, a sure indication of increased openings in other fields. And although the price of bread-stuffs has been too low to be remunerative to our farmers, they have found in the enhanced value of all other agricultural produce compensation for that cheap bread, which, although so important an element in the prosperity of the country, is indirectly a source of loss to them. They alone, however, of all our people have been suffering under the pressure of a severe calamity.
The lamentable plague among our cattle to which the Address refers constitutes a claim upon our sympathy and help no less valid than that which was acknowledged on behalf of the Lancashire operatives three years ago. And without referring at any length to a subject which has been already so much more ably handled than I could pretend to do by the noble Lord the Mover of the Address, I may be allowed to express a hope that in so far as schemes of local help or mutual insurance or other means may be found inadequate to meet these losses, recourse may be had, as in the case of Lancashire, to the voluntary sympathy and aid of the community. I am persuaded that the response will be no less cordial and effective, and that the necessity is in many cases no less urgent in the one case than it was in the 124 other.
The present Law of Bankruptcy has not answered the expectations of its framers; and the present system is too formal, tedious, and expensive to satisfy the mercantile community. Except in cases of dishonesty, they would prefer something with less of legal exactness and more of practical business promptitude. And they care less for extracting the uttermost farthing of possible dividend, at great cost of time and expense, than for getting what is to be got quickly, and dismissing an unpleasant subject, which a bad debt always is. The system in Scotland is simpler, and works better, and an assimilation to it in the English law is probably desirable.
The Commercial Treaty with Austria, which the Address announces, is another step in that great policy of international commerce for which we are so deeply indebted to Mr. Cobden, and no less so to the wisdom and friendship of the Emperor of the French. It is valuable as giving us access to markets representing the wants of upwards of forty million of consumers, and securing to us in return the grain, the timber, the wool, and the wines of that vast empire. But it is no less so as a means of cultivating the confidence and kindly feeling of a nation from which circumstances have somewhat estranged us, although with its subjects we have much in common. A prosperous commerce may do great things for Hungary and Poland in the future, however inadequate mere material prosperities may be to compensate for the sufferings of the past. And the practical prosperities of such a commerce may greatly contribute to the solution of questions in which the ambition and pride of Austria and the nationality and patriotism of Italy are deeply involved. Nor can the example of Prance and Austria be without influence on the other nations of the world. Spain and Portugal, which have hitherto repaid our past services by tariffs conceived in a spirit of the severest exclusion or the narrowest protection, and the nations of the North and West that still cling to the prejudices of the past in commercial legislation, will one by one learn the lessons of a more enlightened policy, and step by step we shall thus fulfil His designs who has so constituted the common family, and so furnished by variety of climates and products the abundant storehouse of the earth as that our necessities and wants and appetites should be, 125 instead of occasions to bite and devour one another, means of mutual helpfulness, and messengers of peace and goodwill to men.
I have already trespassed too long upon the patience of the House, and would only be permitted, in one concluding word, to respond to those appropriate expressions of the Address commending our country and ourselves to that Divine protection and blessing whereby alone our efforts can be made successful and our properties maintained. Earnestly desiring that it may accompany us still, and that under its control we may in our day and measure contribute to that progress of truth and right towards whose consummation all histories of individuals and nations are surely tending—contribute not blindly and by the impulse of an irresistible fate, but with a willing, an intelligent, and a hopeful consciousness—I beg most gratefully to acknowledge the patient attention and indulgence of the House, and to second the Address which has now been proposed.
Motion made, and Question proposed, “That,” &c. [See page 115.]
MR. BANKS STANHOPE I owe an apology to the House for taking up a position which my standing does not perfectly warrant; but there is one point in Her Majesty’s Speech upon which I desire to offer a few remarks, and that is the allusion to the cattle plague. But in the first place, I must venture to congratulate the right, hon. Gentleman in the Chair—and the House—upon the fact that he has again been placed in that position—a position the duties of which I cordially wish him health and strength to carry out. Missing one familiar face on the Benches opposite, I may also be permitted to add that, opposed as I have always been to the Government of the late noble Viscount, I not the less sincerely regret the loss of that distinguished statesman. Further, I desire to congratulate the Seconder of the Address on the exceedingly able speech which he has just delivered, in doing which I am sure I am but expressing the feelings entertained by all who sit around me. I only intend to trouble the House on the present occasion with a reference to that part of Her Majesty’s Speech which speaks of the cattle plague. I need hardly remind the House that it first showed itself in this country in July last, and I fear there is no one who can inform us how or where it came from, or how it will end. In dealing with this subject I will divide it under two heads—first, the 126 past policy of the Government, and what has occurred with regard to the disease up to this time; and, secondly, whether it is possible in any way to stop the disease. This disease commenced in July last, and before the end of the existing year, if it continue with its present virulence, I am afraid one-half of the cattle will be lost. At the commencement of the disease neither the Government nor the people were alarmed, and up to October I do not think the country would have encouraged or have permitted the adoption of stringent measures, had the Government proposed them. Still, I must point out the inexcusable blunders which the Government committed in the early stages of the disease. In August the first of the endless series of Orders came out, and inspectors were appointed, for whose payment no provision whatever was made; and no power of any sort Was given to magistrates to stop the passage from one part of the United Kingdom to another of any infected animal. About that time there happened to be a great cattle fair in Lincolnshire, and the bench of magistrates with which I was connected consulted their law adviser as to the best means of stopping infected beasts from coming in. He told them that neither according to law nor under the Orders of the Privy Council had they any security in doing what they contemplated. So they determined to act contrary to law, and gave directions to the police to stop all animals having the appearance of infection, and to take them to a place provided for the purpose. In that case, supposing the magistrates had chosen to obey the law rather than to disregard it, what would have been the consequences of allowing diseased animals to circulate freely? In September there was a great fair held at Barnet. Now I do not blame the Government for not having stopped it, for I do not think that at that early period the public was sufficiently aware of its importance to stop the fairs and markets from being held. Afterwards it became obvious to all that something should be done to prevent the spread of the disease, and then the Government issued an Order giving permissive powers for the stopping of markets and fairs. Now, I think permissive legislation is erroneous. If a thing is right encourage it, but if wrong forbid it, and not put magistrates, as in this case, completely in collision with their neighbours; because the bench of magistrates which does its duty is unpopular, and the bench who chooses to 127 pander to the prejudice of its neighbours is popular. By-giving permissive powers to stop fairs and markets, the Government allowed that fairs and markets are a source of danger. Now, if they are not dangerous, you have no right to allow any person to stop them and disturb the state of the country; and if they are a source of danger they are so everywhere, and the Government should have taken upon itself the duty of stopping them. If I go to Northampton and ask persons there how they got the disease among them, the answer is, “Simply and solely because the Government, in spite of warnings, allow beasts to leave the Metropolitan Market and travel to the country.” One county imports it from the next, and so the matter goes on. By allowing unlimited facilities of railway traffic the Government deprive themselves of the only excuse for authorizing these permissive Orders to stop fairs and markets, because if a cordon had been drawn round each individual county, then the magistrates and authorities within might have been allowed the option of permitting the circulation of cattle in that county; whereas, under the present system, the losses that have occurred in Lincolnshire are due to cattle imported from Yorkshire. Six beasts were brought into the county; six persons were found foolish enough to buy them, and thousands of pounds have been lost through those cattle. The Government after September got a little more alarmed, and in November a deputation from the Royal Agricultural Society waited upon the Home Secretary, and pointed out to him what measures were requisite to prevent the rapid spread of the disease. That deputation and their recommendations, I am sorry to say, did not meet with that respect it was entitled to, when it is remembered that the Royal Agricultural Society fully and clearly represent the opinions of the farmers of England. That body, to which the agriculturists gave their allegiance, made four requests—that a total stop should be put to railway traffic in live animals; that all foreign animals should be killed before entry; that infected hides should not be carried about England, and that town manure should not be suffered to spread infection broadcast. The Order which the Government brought out in the middle of December, enabling magistrates to prevent cattle going from one district to another, did some good in a limited way; but it did not work well, and ten days later 128 another Order came out giving the power to the quarter sessions. Again, a little later, there was another Order, and finally, a few days ago, an Order explaining all these. This last Order shows convincingly the importance of the points urged in the petition of the Royal Agricultural Society. A great deal has been said throughout the country with respect to hides and town manure. If hides are not dangerous, the Government had no business to stop an important trade. If they be dangerous, the most stringent measures ought to be adopted as regards those articles. As to town manure, if you allow it to go to the south of England, the great probability is that, even should the disease be stamped out for the present, it will be spread over every part of England in the course of next summer. It is now known that for the cattle disease medicines are of little good. I was told, on the authority of a cowkeeper who had lost 120 head of cattle, that there was no remedy but isolation, no cure but the poleaxe. But how would you deal with isolation—at what season would you carry it into operation? In summer, when every animal would be in the field, and when, therefore, the cattle would be brought into immediate contact with one another? Or ought such a measure not rather to be carried out in winter, when the cattle are in their respective buildings? The mortality has gone on gradually increasing from 8,000 to 9,000 and 10,000 head of cattle weekly, until it has suddenly leaped by an increase of 1,400 to 11,400 a week. Indeed, looking at what has taken place, I am surprised the disease has not spread more than it has done. You have forbidden hides and town manure to be carried about in the month of January. I presume it was in the belief that their being carried about was dangerous in that month. But if it were dangerous in winter, why was it that it had not been thought dangerous in September and October? Who can tell to what extent the removal of hides and town manure may not have led to the increase of the disease? You have lost three months, and thereby have omitted to avail yourselves of a golden opportunity. Even should you now enforce the most stringent measures, it would be impossible in any way to bring things to such a state by the month of April as that restrictive Orders would no longer be necessary. You will then hare to deal 129 with a double difficulty. On the 6th of April there is generally a great change of tenancy. If a man leaving a farm have a lot of stock he cannot leave them there. Again, he cannot sell them, because, according to rules in force in every county, stock could not be moved except for immediate slaughter. A man so situated would, therefore, be unable to find a purchaser. If these rules are adhered to you will inflict unmerited ruin on an industrious class of men. On the other hand, if those rules be abrogated, what danger may not arise to the entire country? There is another consideration in connection with counties in which, if animals are to be fed at all, they must be brought through intermediate plough-land to the lowlands on which there is food for them to eat, and which require cattle. If the rules of non-removal be in force, you will find those lands lying deserted, while in other places there will be thousands of cattle with nothing to eat. Again, if you permit cattle to be moved through intermediate land to the lowlands, there is no knowing how many thousand cattle may be affected by the few which, to all appearance, were in good health. I believe it is not possible to stamp this plague out, but I believe it is possible to check it. If stringent measures be not adopted the ratio of increase may rise still higher, and by the month of April we shall have a mortality of perhaps 20,000 head a week. Clearly the evil must be met by bold measures which have not been adopted before. I know it is easier to find fault than to act; but I do say that the Government ought to have acted on their own responsibility—they ought to have exercised their own authority. They ought to have issued compulsory instead of permissive Orders. They ought to have stopped every market and fair in the month of September; and they ought to have taken two other decided steps also. They ought to have stopped all railway traffic in live cattle, and they ought to have slaughtered every imported animal at the port of entry. I may be, perhaps, accused of advocating despotic measures; but I confess, that in 1866 I have not the same feeling with respect to the unmitigated evils of centralization and despotism I had in 1865. I believe that much of the happiness and national feeling of this country depend on our local self-government; but when I see confused mayors and confused magistrates 130 trying every experiment, and in vain endeavouring to understand a succession of orders one more confused than another, I come to the conclusion that when you want to do anything well centralization is better than a policy which made “confusion worse confounded.” I have some doubts as to how far our constitutional government is suited to a time when we wanted a sharp hand and a quick eye. At a time like the present, when there is a great existing evil, and when the possibility of a coming cattle famine is hanging over us, I believe there could be no greater evil for the inhabitants of a country than to live under the rule of a responsible Government which should shrink from all the consequences of direct and vigorous action. Though I am not in a position which can give any unusual weight to my words, the House will, I hope, allow me to state what in my opinion ought to be done, and what, indeed, must be done. In the first place, I maintain that it is indispensable to put an end to all traffic in live cattle. All animals coming from abroad ought to be killed at the ports they arrive at. It will be necessary to adopt a compulsory plan similar to that which has been tried at Aberdeen with considerable success, by killing every diseased animal and every healthy animal that has come into contact with a diseased one. In such cases a fair compensation must be given for the animals destroyed. By the Minute which has been issued on the subject, animals cannot be removed from one field to another, or sent to market. I might compare the conduct of Her Majesty’s Government to that of a great philosopher—Sir Isaac Newton I believe it was—who made a large hole for the cat and a small one for the kitten. They have obstructed trade in every county by the regulations which they have laid down; while, at the same time, they allow the Great Northern, the Manchester and Sheffield, and other railways to carry from all parts cattle which might or might not be infected. The Order which has been made that no animal should be sent to any market if the plague has appeared within a month within a mile of the place cannot possibly be carried out. It will certainly be evaded. For my own part, I feel confident that the effect of the magistrates having made such stringent regulations has been to render live cattle very much more valuable in the market than dead meat. The 131 consequence of this is that every man who manages his farm properly will carry its live cattle to London) Manchester, Bristol, and elsewhere rather than kill them. How can you call upon any county to stamp out the disease when railways are allowed to bring it within their boundaries? It is impossible to carry out your late orders against sending beasts to fairs or markets so long as you allow a system of traffic in such beasts by the railway. If those who object to the plan I am going to propose can suggest anything better I shall be glad to listen to them. Unless some measures of the kind I have to propose are adopted, there will be next year a fearful amount of disease. My plan is not permissive. It is very stringent and very strong, and will probably meet with considerable opposition. The English people never like anything compulsory, because everything that is compulsory in this country appears to be despotic. I will, however, suggest a plan which is short, clear, decisive, and not permissive. It is this, that the Government should at once introduce and pass as quickly as the forms of the House will permit—for there is no time to lose—a Bill compelling all the magistrates in every county at once to levy in, and for the use of their county only a rate to be called the “Rinderpest Fund.” That rate, I propose, shall be of a twofold character. The first will be a rate on all property which is subject to the poor rate; while the second will be a rate on all live cattle now in England. Even without the second rate there might be considerable justice in levying one upon all descriptions of property; because, unless we are assisted by God, and assist ourselves, England will be visited by the most terrible calamities. The scarcity of meat, and the consequent increase in its price, will prevent the inhabitants of small houses in towns from eating meat at all. Now, the labouring population cannot work without having meat; and, therefore, if meat rise from 1s. 6d. to 2s. per pound, it must necessarily lead to an increased rate of wages. Therefore, it will be warrantable to levy a rate upon all kinds of property. But lest there should be the old feeling of “town against country,” I propose an additional rate on every head of cattle alive, so that the owner of live cattle will pay a double rate, one on his cattle, one on his other property. If a plan such as that I have ventured to suggest be adopted, the next course will be to give orders that the magistrates of every 132 county shall take such steps as they think fit on any day of any week to value all cattle not infected which are in their respective counties— the Rinderpest Fund to be managed by a committee of farmers, the magistrates sitting with them. Every person possessing cattle afflicted with the disease to have them slaughtered compulsorily, and any one having healthy animals in close proximity to others which are diseased to be advised or compelled to sell the healthy ones and receive the price they fetch, together with so much added as will amount to two-thirds of their value. In a small way this has been done within a mile of my estate. As an instance I would mention a person who had lost some cattle, and had one animal ill. On applying to an insurance company he received permission to slaughter those which still remain in a healthy state, and he accordingly did so. The beasts were valued at £15 each, but in the market they fetched only£6 10s., so the committee made up the difference between the last-mentioned sum and two thirds of the value—namely, £10. A tenant in this way derives the additional advantage that he has no expense, he has no risk of infection either in his manure in the yard or in the grass field. The insurance company, in the case I allude to, owed the tenant for twenty animals at £3 10s. each, or £70; by the other plan they would have to pay him £10 each, or £200; so that the society would save £130. Twenty animals were thus sent to market in a perfectly healthy condition, and were converted into food. This, however, was a small part of the advantage; there was the important relief that the twenty animals could occasion no more anxiety. On the other hand, when the animals could not be got rid of what had happened? They died one by one, until the farm became a head of corruption and a centre of contagion. The mental relief acquired by the consideration that animals on the surrounding farms were not liable to be poisoned was a real gain to the whole neighbourhood. If this plan has answered for one parish of North Lincolnshire, why might it not answer for the county? And if it answered for the county of Aberdeen, in a voluntary shape, why should it not for all the counties of England? It may be asked, why not copy the example of Aberdeen? For this reason: in most cases anything voluntary is simply 133 spoliation, and the more a willing man gives, the more he saves the pocket of his stingy neighbour. We have a great calamity to meet, we have a hideous cloud overshadowing us, and the plague must be stopped at all risks. Knowing that there are in the House several Gentlemen who sit here for the first time, I cannot be wrong in indicating where the responsibility now rests. Before the meeting of Parliament this onerous responsibility devolved upon the Government who accepted it; but since the meeting of Parliament, every Member of the House is as individually answerable for the future as is the Government. If there be vacillation, it will be ours; if anything decisive be done, it will be owing to our energy. The country has justifiably given up all hope of much display of energy on the part of the Government; but it does expect that they who know the sufferings of their neighbours, who know the desolation that prevails through the length and breadth of the land, who know thoroughly what has happened, who know that the great evil was twofold, and embraced the killing, not only of those animals that had the rinderpest, but of store cattle and of calves, so that the future stock was endangered, should recognize the responsibility which has now fallen upon them. We are a new Parliament entering upon our duties, and we shall grossly neglect them and abuse the confidence placed in us if we do not devote all our energies to this important subject, and to this subject alone, first, making all other matter subsidiary. Let the question of the reform of the representation wait; let the consideration of what has been done in Jamaica wait; and let other interesting questions wait; but the cattle plague will not wait; it is a question of months, of weeks, of days, and of hours. The loss—11,000 head of cattle a week—is nearly 2,000 a day, and as the victims of the plague increase in number so will the difficulty of stopping it increase. The longer we delay our measures the longer those measures must remain in operation. If stringent measures are not taken now, they must be taken shortly. If we do not stop the railway traffic in live animals now, we must do so by-and-by. If we postpone that measure until April, we shall not stop the plague this year; and if we do not stamp out the disease before July, we shall not put a stop to it by 1869. If we are to go on as we have done hitherto, I fear that, unless this Parliament be more long-lived 134 than it is generally expected to be, we shall leave the duty of stopping the plague to our successors. I have spoken warmly of the past because golden moments have been lost. In the light of the past the very idea of the future appals me. Therefore, in my humble position as a Member of Parliament, but representing a large agricultural constituency, I have thought it my duty to place my plan before Parliament, and to leave it to others to carry it out. Humble though I am, I would not willingly submit to the humiliation, at such a crisis, of being a consenting party to the continuation of a wilfully weak, vacillating, do-nothing policy.
MR. DENT said, he concurred in the belief that much valuable time had been lost, and that the disease had made such inroads that those brought into contact with it were perplexed to know how to stop it. He could not acquit the Government of blame for this delay. The disease appeared in the month of June, a Royal Commission was appointed, and reported to the Government on the 30th of October. It stated the reasons on which it recommended the total suspension of the conveyance of cattle; but neither the country nor the agriculturists were at that time prepared for so strong a step. But the Government might have boldly carried out the recommendation of the minority of the Commission, especially when they were urged in December by deputations representing the Royal Agricultural Society, the Farmers’ Club, and the Smithfield Club; and, through them, the bulk of the agriculturists of the country. These important bodies wished, above all things, to secure general action throughout the country, so that the matter should not be left to local authorities of different opinions. The result of these deputations was the giving of additional powers to magistrates in petty sessions, but so conflicting were the powers thus exercised that farmers were fairly perplexed and at a loss to know how to conduct their business. As a consequence, in districts he could name, the numbers of cattle had been reduced from thousands to hundreds. In a district where there should be nearly 2,000 head of cattle there were not fifty, and in three villages where there usually were 600 head of cattle not more than fifty were left, not because the cattle had perished from the disease, but because the farmers knew not 135 what to do, and sent all kinds of cattle to market, selling them at serious loss—some, in fact, not being fit for market at all. In January powers were given to courts of quarter sessions, on the supposition, which had not been realized, that they would cause greater uniformity of action. From what had fallen from the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Banks Stanhope) it appeared that the practice wa3 different in North Lincolnshire to what it was in the West Riding, and it was different again in the North Riding and in the East Riding. What he complained of in the conduct of Government was the want of a due sense of responsibility in the non-issue of orders which should have been uniform in their operation throughout the country. The Government were bound at once to bring in a measure to authorize the slaughtering on the premises of all cattle attacked—in fact, the carrying out of the system adopted with success in Aberdeenshire. Voluntary effort failed in matters of this kind; what was done must be done compulsorily and with uniformity throughout the country. He doubted whether it was possible now, when farmers must purchase grazing cattle to stock pastures, to stop altogether the removal of cattle; but, wherever cattle were attacked, isolation and destruction must be resorted to. Of course, those whose cattle were destroyed must be compensated, and they might be compensated at a less cost than was ordinarily supposed, for the cost was found a trifling matter in Aberdeenshire compared with the value of the animals saved. It would not be an unfair thing if the burden were thrown upon the county rate. If it were thought that some descriptions of property should not bear it he could say that such a rate levied upon landowners and tenants would be cheerfully paid. Although farmers were considered by some to be a grumbling and complaining race, in his own locality they had evinced a ready cheerfulness to meet their losses, and to submit themselves to the law if they only knew what the law was. He never saw losses so bravely borne as these losses by the cattle plague had been borne. What the farmers complained of was that there was one order in one district and another in another, and that they were fairly puzzled to know what to do. In the West Riding, besides the quarter sessions, there were ten corporate towns; and the Leeds Mercury contained an advertisement relating to Wakefield, to the effect that 136 every facility would be given for the removal of cattle and sheep. The advertisement completely overturned all the orders that had been made for the West Riding. His object in speaking was to enforce the advice given to the Government to take up the question themselves, and bring in a Bill, if it were necessary, taking power to deal with the matter thoroughly throughout Great Britain and Ireland, and to establish a system of isolation and destruction. If they were to avert the disease before the early months of summer that was the only way it could be done.
LORD ROBERT MONTAGU said, there were two important matters which had to be considered with regard to the cattle plague—our future course of action, and the feebleness and incompetency which the Home Office had shown in attempting to deal with the calamity. Certainly, the former subject had received a great deal of elucidation in the able discussion of it by the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Banks Stanhope). But there was the other point which had not yet been touched on in the discussion of the subject and which he trusted the House and the country in general would bear in mind, and that was the action taken by the Government to meet the emergency and restrain the plague. It should be remembered that the attack of the disease had not been so sudden that the Home Office was destitute of all knowledge of its nature, and could not have foreseen the necessity of initiating measures of prevention. It should be recollected that it had for many years been generally known in this country that the cattle plague always extended itself from Russia in the direction of every line of communication established by trade. It was known that as soon as trade was opened with Russia the disease would invade the shores of England. Acting upon that knowledge, the Government of the day sent Professor Symonds abroad to study and investigate the nature of the cattle plague. The result of his investigations and Report was that the Government—on the 7th of April, 1857—when Parliament was not sitting, passed an Order in Council to prevent the introduction of the rinderpest to this country, thereby showing that the Government had full power to pass such Order in Council. Now, bearing that in mind, let the House consider what has been the action of the present Government? The cattle 137 plague was introduced into this country on the 19th of June. The first cargo sent from Russia to this country was shipped at Revel; and it could be stated, on the authority of Professor Gamgee (who made a statement with respect to the matter at a meeting of the Social Science Association), that three of the cattle intended for shipment died on their way from the interior, and one took so ill that it had to be killed in the shipper’s yard. For the value of this beast an action was brought. But the action was lost, from its being proved that the beast had the rinderpest. Another beast fell ill upon the passage to England. The vessel ultimately reached England, and the cattle were landed at Hull and were sent up to the Metropolitan Market. It would thus be seen that a whole cargo of cattle, amongst which the infection was known to have broken out, was not only landed at an important seaport, but actually conveyed without hindrance to London, at the great risk of spreading the plague. As early as 1857 there had been a very strong feeling that cattle imported from abroad, and especially from diseased localities, should be subject to quarantine. The Government of the day replied that the people of England were not yet aware of the danger, or, as the hon. Member who moved the Address had said, there was not panic enough in the country to warrant it. That was the Whig notion—that the Government could not do what was best for the country without being pushed and driven into it by an agitated people. No restriction was therefore, at the time, put upon the importation of animals, and the country was now suffering in consequence. If a quarantine had been ordered much evil would have been avoided, and the case he had referred to could not have occurred. On the 10th of July Professor Symonds attended a meeting of the Privy Council, whence he proceeded to the Home Office, to inform the Home Secretary of the great danger that threatened the country, and urged—nay, implored — him to lose no time in taking up and dealing with the question, for it was most urgent and the peril most imminent. Now, what did the Home Secretary do? He took a fortnight to consider; after that fortnight had elapsed he produced the Order in Council of the 24th of July. That Order was confined to the area of the metropolis; but on the 11th of August it was extended to the whole of England, and on the 18th of August to 138 Scotland. If they contrasted such a delay on the part of our Government on a matter of so great importance with the prompt and decisive measures adopted in foreign countries, they would find a remarkable difference. All foreign Governments made it to be the interest of persons to declare to the proper authorities the presence of disease when it broke out among their stock—that is to say, full compensation was given for all animals which were killed, in order to prevent the spread of the disease. The English Government, on the other hand, made it the interest of every one to hide the existence of the disease; and not only this, but the Government induced those persons to sow it broadcast over the land. In fact, for a considerable time the Metropolitan Market had thus become a centre and focus whence the disease was radiated throughout the country. But what was the effect of the Order? Inspectors were appointed, who had the most despotic powers over the life and death of all cattle, and these very inspectors went about to slaughter and slash, and received a benefit for the beasts which they killed, while the farmers were not recouped for their loss. The consequence was that the farmers, instead of informing the inspectors whenever the disease first showed itself, sent their cattle away as soon as they could, and, having brought them where they obtained the full price, the metropolitan and other cattle markets became the foci of disease. The Home Office had not stopped there. It was well known that a labourer, or even a dog, might carry the infection. Well, what did the Government do? They sent the inspector to the farmyards where there was disease, and the inspector dabbled in the blood of the diseased animals, and brought the disease away with him to all the healthy farmsteads around which he had to inspect. So that this Order in Council, and the appointment of the inspectors, spread the evil instead of restraining it. The disease had been produced by importation, and the Home Office might (without taking a fortnight to consider) have issued an Order in Council to put some restrictions on importations; although not such a one, perhaps, as the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire suggested. The Home Office might have established a quarantine for ships carrying animals from countries where the disease existed. But they have not done so as yet. What was the next occurrence which showed just as much 139 the apathy of the Government in this matter? The Irish Members went to the Home Office, and requested the Home Secretary to put some restriction upon the importation of animals into Ireland. This the Home Secretary refused to do, saying that he feared and could not venture on such a decisive step. The Irish Members then drew up a memorial, promising that they would take upon themselves the full responsibility attaching to such a measure, and the result had been that Ireland was free from the cattle plague to the present day. He begged to thank the Irish Members for a lesson in energy, and showing them how they should deal with a timid and apathetic Home Secretary. There next came the Petty Sessions’ Order in Council. By this document the Government said to the magistrates and mayors of the whole country, “Do for yourselves whatever you think best; you must defend yourselves; the paternal Government will do nothing for you.” Sir, if an enemy landed on the shores, would the petty sessions have to provide defence for our homesteads? Would the Government still do nothing? And what greater enemy could invade the country than this dire calamity? If a fire raged in London, is the householder permitted to deal with the flames? No! the recognized Government interfere. And what worse fire than this cattle fever? “Oh! but,” says the Home Secretary, “the people are not yet conscious of the amount of the danger, they are not ‘panic-stricken’ as yet.” But if you saw a man lying wounded and insensible, would you forbear to staunch the flow of blood because the poor wretch was unconscious of his position? Here, again, therefore, we see to what apathy, to what loss, the Whig doctrine leads—for what timidity and hesitation it is the excuse. Then, a metropolitan committee went to the Home Secretary and urged him to take some steps, after three months’ ravages of the plague, to stop it. He said, in reply, “We are thinking of issuing a Commission to inquire into the nature and origin of this disease, and we shall do so presently.” Well, a Commission was issued; but, when they reported, the Government were afraid to follow their advice, yet the disease was so tremendous an evil that the country would submit to any amount of vexation; nay, any restraint would be received as an absolute boon which succeeded in stopping the plague, and Parliament had already given all the necessary powers. But the Home 140 Secretary was apathetic, timorous, and hesitating. On the 8th of December the Council of the Agricultural Society waited upon the Home Secretary; and what was his answer? It was, “Wait and see whether the disease will become more general.” Wait! Why, the very thing that was complained of was this waiting, this hesitation, this dread of responsibility, this dilatory inaction and pusillanimous apathy. “More general!” Why, 4,000 beasts were then dying per week, and now it was nearly 12,000. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen could hardly picture to themselves what that really meant. When coming down to the House he was informed by a butcher of whom he had inquired, a man of great respectability and knowledge, that the carcass of an ox of moderate proportions weighed 100 stone of 8lbs. per stone; and that, after making an allowance of 20 stone for bone, hide, and offal, there would remain about 640lb. of good meat; and Mr. Lucas, who supplied the dinners for that House, told him that 640lb. would make dinners for 800 gentlemen. Well, multiply that by 12,000, and the sum total of our loss each week was no less than 9,600,000 dinners. [Laughter.] When they considered not only the farmers, but the operatives in all our towns, that were affected by this loss, it was no laughing matter. Let it be remembered that all this loss was not occasioned by the fault of the farmer, and not even secondarily by the judgment of Heaven, but by the apathy, and want of decision, and incompetence of the Home Office. Then came the Order in Council of December 16th. But that merely changed “Petty Sessions” into “Quarter Sessions.” This was intended as an enlargement of the area; but it did not interfere with the railway traffic in cattle, with the landing of cattle, nor with the jurisdiction of boroughs within counties. Boroughs might have cattle sent into them, and might lodge them, and thus spread the disease; and a man might drive his cattle through a county, and there was no power to stop the cattle. All that could be done was to summon the man before the next petty sessions; but when the day for hearing the case came round, he might be sixty miles away. Hence there was nothing in this Order to prevent the spreading of the pest to every corner of the kingdom; and no restriction on importation. In fact, he knew of instances 141 where infected cattle had been sent off to distant markets, and had brought the plague to those towns. He had been in Northumberland when it was free from disease, and he knew that cattle were sent into it from the south in an infected state. He had also been told by a large landowner of Northumberland that the shore was strewn with the carcases of beasts. Why was that? He said they were sending over beasts from Holland and other infected places, and when they arrived near our shores they threw the diseased Jonases overboard, and sold the remainder of the infected cargo at full price. In this way the disease was not only spread in the country, but was actually imported into it. Moreover, in local authorities there was no promptitude, where despatch was essential; there was no uniformity, where variation was destruction. Therefore, replacing “Petty Sessions” by “Quarter Sessions” was doing nothing but sewing new cloth upon an old garment which had been proved to be rotten. But there was another fault. This Order in Council was not to come into operation until the 3rd of January, and the acts of quarter sessions date from the 1st, and consequently the quarter sessions, unless they set themselves against the law, as they might very safely do in these days, could not even take advantage of the Order in Council, j or come under those powers which the Government pretended to have given. But, what was done in other countries? In France, the moment this rinderpest was heard of a report was presented to the Emperor, and a decree was issued on the 5th of September to prevent importation without a previous quarantine, and to give compensation for all animals which were killed. In a short time there was a diseased animal found near the Belgian frontier, but they destroyed all animals which had thus become infected, and thus stamped out the plague, and the whole disease was annihilated in that country with the loss of only forty-three beasts. The same was done in Belgium, where the distemper was stamped out with the loss of from 500 to 600 beasts. Similar precautions were always adopted in Galicia, where also they gave full compensation. We also were no strangers to the proper remedy for a calamity of this kind. The great plague in England occurred in 1745; it was met by Orders in Council, and it lasted twelve years; until we learned the necessity of isolation, slaughter, and compensation.
It appeared three times afterwards — first in Suffolk, in 1769, next in Hampshire, in 142 1774, and again in Suffolk, in 1781, and each time it was instantly stamped out by the same means—namely, by offering compensation to the full value for every infected beast which was killed. So now also, if a cordon had at first been drawn round the infected districts the plague could not have spread. But what had been done by the Home Office? Why, in the first place everything was done too late, and in the next, it was done in such a manner that it was certain to be inoperative. The Home Secretary began first by slaughtering “the suspects.” He slaughtered them without giving any remuneration. What more arbitrary proceeding could be perpetrated? And yet the Home Secretary was afraid of taking on himself the smallest responsibility, or doing anything to check the spread of the disease, lest “he might be accused of centralization.” He then allowed the local authorities to make a sort of patch-work and variegated quilt of legislation, which proves heterogeneity was useless, and proves tardiness was destructive. The fact was that the Home Secretary was afraid of responsibility. He was not ignorant of the danger, but he could not bring himself to act; and yet he was supported by his own Commission, by the Agricultural Society, by the Smithfield Cattle Club, and by public opinion. He (Lord Robert Montagu) would venture to say that any amount of vexation which the Home Secretary might have chosen to impose, provided he had stamped out the plague, would have been received as an actual boon. The Government could have stopped the plague, and yet did that only which tended to spread it. It was only fair, therefore, that the farmers should not bear the loss, but that they should be recouped for that which they had sustained. It might be said that the Government had been taken by surprise. But how could that be the case when we had the annals of this country and the example of other countries before us to tell how to act? How could it be when we had the instances of Ireland and Aberdeen? The Home Secretary could not have been surprised, and he was not. He had, to use the words of Bolingbroke, the advantage of— This fortress framed by nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war. That gave him a great advantage 143 which other countries lacked. Therefore the Home Secretary cannot plead ignorance, nor surprise which proceeds from ignorance alone. It was the late Sir James Graham who first advised farmers to cease ploughing and apply themselves to feeding stock. Since that time Members at county meetings and agricultural dinners had constantly recommended the same course, and the consequence was that our system of agriculture depended now more than ever on stock feeding. That is to say, the capital of the farmer is shut up in grass land, and cow byres, and oilcake, and green crops. The public did not now feel the calamity which was impending. They did not feel the famine of cheese and butter and milk and beef which would ensue. For there was now no breeding of cattle, and no store cattle were purchased to supply the wants of other years. Nor did this condition of affairs apply to the agricultural interest alone. What would the operatives in the towns do? Would they eat beasts which had stood for ten days in their own dung in ships, and were then sold for exorbitant prices? Look at the famine which Would come on. The farmer would be pinched in means, and therefore when prices were high wages would be low; we should have empty stomachs and the discontent and disturbance which always attends upon hunger. Some Gentlemen seemed to imagine that the injuries done to farmers by the plague could be entirely repaired by temporary indulgence on the part of their landlords, or that it was a question of an impoverished farmer going out, and a richer one succeeding. If the entire stock of a farmer was swept away by the plague, and the landlord forgave him his rent for that year, it must be remembered that he would still have to meet his next year’s rent. And how could he do so after suffering such a loss? He had barely enough left to feed his family; none to save and employ as capital. How, then, can he battle on against want? His grass lands, his green crops bring in no return. Even if the landlord allowed the farmer to plough the grass lands, serious an injury as that would be to the interests of the former, it could not be of any permanent assistance to the latter. For how can he buy the seed to sow it? Where will he find dung to manure it? The farmer had, after the loss of his stock, no capital to carry on the operations of his farm, and therefore the rotation of crops would be impossible, and the land would be injured. The large sums which he 144 had expended in oilcake and cow byres would, after the loss of his cattle, be therefore entirely unproductive. Among the numerous remedies that had been proposed was that of a system of county assurance, by which sufferers by the cattle plague would be recouped their losses. He was astonished that any one having the slightest knowledge of what assurance really was could make such a proposal. By the system of mutual assurance the losses of a few are divided over the great number who lose nothing. The quotas of the many who escape pay for the losses of the few who are hit; but, he asked, what possible assistance could they derive from assurance in the present case, when the cattle of an entire county may be swept away by the plague? Insurance was a very proper means of preventing individuals from suffering excessive injury from isolated accidents, but it would be quite useless when, as in the present instance, a great calamity had fallen on the entire nation. It was acknowledged that this must be unsuccessful if confined to parishes, for one parish would be crushed even if another escaped. Hence it was proposed to enlarge the area to counties. But may not a whole county be ruined? Then extend the area of your benevolence to the whole nation. The right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had recently written a letter to The Times on the subject of the cattle plague. Now, he (Lord Robert Montagu) was not about to allude to that letter in any hostile manner or in a spirit of criticism; on the contrary, judging from that letter, he claimed the support of the right hon. Gentleman himself. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that, in case the cattle plague should extend itself on a large scale, it was the duty of landlords and neighbouring proprietors to assist those who suffered, and that all rateable property should bear the burden. He contended that in that passage the Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted that there was a special claim on all persons to assist those who have suffered from the plague. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said further, in his letter, that there was “a special claim on the landlords.” But landlords do not share the gains; they do not double the rents in good years; yet he holds that they should bear a portion of the losses. And if, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, all rateable property should be taxed to assist those who suffered from the cattle plague, the burden of such an excessive 145 and widespread calamity is not to be met by any particular class. He quite agreed that the only fair way to meet the difficulty was to indemnify the sufferers by a tax levied on the whole nation. In another document which also appeared in The Times, it was argued that, “When a particular interest suffers it is not just that the whole nation should assist,” for, it continued, “the whole country does not share the gain; therefore, it should not share the losses.” Now, he would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, did the landlord, whom he seemed to think ought to recoup the losses which the farmers suffered from the plague—he asked him, did the landlords share in the gains of the tenant? He certainly did not; for if the tenant had a very good harvest the landlord received only the usual rent, and was in no way benefited by the increased profits of the farmer. By what reasoning, then, could he show that there was “a special claim” upon the landlord? In another portion of the letter they were asked, “Should a fisherman be indemnified for his losses at sea?” This was not a case of a fisherman losing his nets; it was not the case of an individual being injured. A great misfortune had fallen upon an important industry, and the country was bound to come forward to its assistance. This principle cannot be extended to individual cases; for these, in the first place, cannot all be investigated; and, secondly, it is impossible to separate individual shortcomings from unavoidable calamities. Moreover, individuals were essentially different from industries. For if an individual be ruined, the rest of his industry is pro tanto better off, and the nation is not injured. But if an industry be ever so little crippled, the whole nation suffers. Hence you cannot argue from the one to the other. There were now two questions before the House—the first being whether or not the nation was to pay for the cattle killed by the inspectors. He did not believe that any man would deny the national responsibility in this case. The cattle had been slaughtered for the benefit of the nation, and most certainly the nation was bound to pay for them. The second and more important question was—’Are the Government bound to recompense the farmers whose stocks have suffered from the ravages of the cattle disease? It was his firm opinion that in the 146 interests of right, justice, and even of expediency the nation should assist those who had suffered by this heavy and unexpected calamity.
MR. CARNEGIE said, with a great portion of the speech of the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Banks Stanhope) he fully concurred, particularly when he urged the immediate attention of the Government to this question. But he did not think that either the hon. Member or the noble Lord who had just sat down had done justice to the Government, inasmuch as they appeared to blame them for not having the gift of prophecy. [“No, no !”] It was, however, desirable that they should act upon one uniform system, because, without it, one district might be made to suffer from the conduct or negligence of the magistrates in another. It was owing, in a great measure, to the apathy of the magistrates in Stirlingshire, that the disease had been allowed to spread over the whole of Scotland. It appeared to him to be unfortunate that the measures introduced by the Government, some two years ago, for effecting certain alterations in the cattle plague of this country had fallen through from want of support in that House, and from the stringent opposition of certain bodies who now put themselves prominently forward in asking for the adoption of a measure which they had before opposed. One of those bodies was the Highland Society of Scotland, which had played fast and loose in relation to this matter. He hoped that the Government would act promptly and decisively on this subject. He thought that the proposition made by the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire for a double rate, in order to exempt those who had lost their stock, was objectionable, inasmuch as those who had already suffered by the loss of their cattle would have to pay as well as those who had not suffered any such loss. That would be manifestly unjust. If those who had had the misfortune of losing their stock were not to be compensated, they ought, at all events, to be exempted from future charges made with a view of stamping out the cattle plague.
SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY said, that in the opinion of the majority of those whom he represented, responsibility should have been assumed and action undertaken by the Government at a much earlier period. They were not accused of want of sufficient energy in the earliest period, but improved and uniform arrangements ought to have been 147 enforced by them as soon as the Report of the Cattle Plague Commission was issued. So many different and almost conflicting Orders had been issued by the Privy Council that the justices in construing them had felt themselves exceedingly perplexed. He hoped the Government in future would follow such a line of action as would enable the bench of magistrates to act with confidence. Matters had now reached such a point that in one town with which he was acquainted milk had risen from 6d. to 8d. a quart, and the children of the poor were crying for it, and unable to get it. At any of the local farmers’ meetings which he had attended there never had been any suggestion of excluding foreign cattle for the sake of protection to farmers. All that they thought of was the necessity of feeding the people; and even with the improved appliances of scientific husbandry in the present day it was impossible to produce in this country all the food required for the consumption of its inhabitants. He considered that the Government were to blame for having allowed the traffic in the railway trucks to be carried out so long. They were wrong in allowing the transit of hides and offal, and also wrong in not insisting upon the local authorities of certain ports preparing quarantine or probation sheds. The traffic by railways had been one of the most dangerous and difficult elements with which they had had to contend. They desired to see Government take upon itself the line of action which would enable the bench of magistrates to have confidence. The farmers did not regard this as a class question, but as a national one. They said that this was the case of the nation—the sustenance of the people. They did not think that the proper, required, and uniform machinery had been put in motion by the Government. One of the greatest difficulties with which magistrates had to contend was the fact that entirely different regulations prevailed in different counties. The counties of Durham and Northumberland adjoined each other. In the county in which he resided they had adopted the Order enabling sheep to be brought back from turnip pastures in the remoter districts. When these became exhausted a visa of the local magistrate in the district from which they came was required, and also a visa upon their entry into the county. But in Durham, separated from them only by the Tyne, no such Order was in existence, and consequently 148 Lord Durham, one of the largest owners of sheep in that county, when his turnips were out was unable to bring back his sheep except by a very circuitous route. There was one point which he desired to impress very strongly upon the Government—the importance of speedy action. At present he knew of no regulations governing the dimensions of vessels, the number of cubic feet of air, the supply of water, and the supply of forage or provender in the case of animals imported into this country. He would especially call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade to this circumstance. Emigrant vessels, carrying passengers to distant countries or colonies, were closely inspected under the authority of the Board of Trade, and it was his firm conviction that results not less beneficial would follow from surveys of a similar nature imposed by the Government, and vigilantly carried out with regard to all vessels engaged, not only in conveying cattle between Ostend and the eastern coast of this country, but likewise trading between ports in Ireland and the west coast of England. There had been a case to his own knowledge where the plague was brought into this country by cattle coming from Ireland. The hold being full, and the vessel having encountered a stormy passage, the animals lay on the deck ill, and to keep them alive they were occasionally sluiced with cold water. The cattle were disembarked at Port Silloth, and shortly after their arrival two of their number were mixed with other cattle to all appearance healthy. These cattle were bought by one of his tenants, who lost them all. With proper arrangements relating to the transit there would certainly be much less probability of disease; for at present the cattle came over sick, hungry, excited, and faint, and, being driven while in that condition, were most susceptible of infection. If once landed healthy, they could either be quarantined, or, if it was thought more advisable, they could be slaughtered at once. The more rapidly and the more thoroughly the Government recognized and advanced towards the principle of dead-meat markets and dead-meat conveyance the better. Let the utmost possible supply be conveyed by railway trucks in the shape of dead meat. The railways would carry the dead meat at a very little higher rate than that at which cattle were conveyed, and there would be a greater probability of it be in conveyed in clean trucks. 149 No such difficulty now existed in the matter as would have had to be encountered some years ago, when railways did not intersect the country. In every part of the country persons might now slaughter on their own premises, and convey the meat to the nearest railway station. As soon as legislation forced the matter on their attention, salesmen would be found to sell the dead meat at a fair rate. Even now this was practised to a limited extent. In vindication of the persons who had been appointed cattle inspectors, he must say that in Newcastle and many other places those officers had taken much pains to disinfect themselves. He had not risen with the object of animadverting strongly on the conduct of Her Majesty’s Government, except as regarded what he conceived to be their dereliction of duty in not putting into motion the whole of the machinery at their disposal. Referring to the point of rating suggested by the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire, he believed that, as regarded his own county and other counties, a voluntary rating of the landlord, and a voluntary rating of the tenant, would find favour with them. For himself he would not object to the landlords and the tenants paying in the proportion of each one-half, though he would prefer, perhaps, that two-thirds should be borne by the landlord. Though he could see how there might be a composite rating to include other classes of property, he was disposed to think that at first a rating of landlord and tenant would be sufficient, without including all other classes of property.
MR. HODGKINSON said, that with the light of four months’ experience it was very easy to point out how Her Majesty’s Government might have done better; but it would be, perhaps, more useful to suggest how they should act in future. Several points had already been suggested for their consideration. There was another which he would take the liberty of mentioning, but which he was afraid would not be very palatable to Members of that House. He alluded to the carrying the infection by foxes. A number of cases had occurred in which it was very difficult to account for the way in which the infection had reached farms. The disease had appeared on farms eight or ten miles distant from the nearest centre of infection, and, as far as could be ascertained, no person had acted as the medium of communicating it. It was his belief that the only satisfactory way of accounting for the disease having 150 reached such farms was by supposing that it had been carried by foxes. He knew that foxes were not in the habit of eating carrion unless it was very fresh; but those acquainted with their habits said they were fond of rolling about in it. As diseased cattle were sometimes buried at no great distance from the surface, and as the blood of those animals was sometimes left about the places where they were killed, it was highly probable that foxes, after rolling themselves in these places, ran here and there spreading the disease. He would be a bold man who in that House should counsel the destruction of foxes; but, at all events, a better system of interment and disinfection than now existed was very desirable, for the reason he had stated. He should also express his earnest hope that the Government would take the earliest means of establishing some system of compulsory assurance. He thought an assessment of cattle themselves would be the most satisfactory and just mode of assessment. The Bill necessary for such an assessment would probably meet with little or no opposition, and might be passed in a few days; but a proposition for assessing all property whatever would be sure to meet with much opposition, and a considerable time must elapse before it could become law. It might be advisable, perhaps, to have three rates of assessment—one for cattle under a year old, another for cattle above a year and under two years, and the third for cattle of two years old and upwards. He thought the rate should be paid by the tenants in the first instance, but that they should be entitled to deduct one-half of it from their landlords; for this was a question which affected landlords as much as it did tenants. As for assessing land, it must be remembered that some occupiers of land—market gardeners and others—had no cattle, and such persons no more ought to be called on to pay the assessment than a man should be who only occupied a house. Certainly some mode of insurance should be adopted, or they could scarcely expect persons to destroy their animals for the public good, unless they were to receive compensation for their loss. If the Government took immediate action in this important question, he believed they would earn the gratitude not only of the agricultural classes, but of the country at large. He wished to point out that the magistrates in petty sessions had issued conflicting orders, which caused great confusion; and he would also remark that the Order of the 3rd of January was not 151 issued till after some of the quarter sessions had been held, and that it necessitated continual adjournments. The Government had neglected one remedy that might have been adopted—namely, the calling together of the Legislature, whose aid was greatly required in such an emergency.
SIR JOHN TROLLOPE said, he wished to point out the exceeding inconvenience to which local authorities were subjected through the Orders in Council. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had called on those authorities to perform duties which would have been more properly discharged by himself. In the first instance, the Orders in Council delegated those duties to the petty sessions. In the two Parliamentary divisions of his (Sir John Trollope’s) county there were from eighteen to twenty petty sessions. Each of those sessions issued a separate order, without conference with the others, and much complexity was consequently produced. By a subsequent Order in Council the Government had thought proper to transfer these duties from the petty sessions to the quarter sessions. Great difficulty was experienced in carrying out that Order, as the quarter sessions was a body delegated for criminal and financial purposes only. Besides that, the Order in Council was dated the 3rd of January, whereas the quarter sessions had assembled in his county, and in several other counties, on the first of the same month. The consequence was that unless the sessions had been adjourned from day to day, and from time to time, all power would have ceased until the ensuing quarter. His (Sir John Trollope’s) residence was fixed in a peculiar locality. He lived on the confines of three counties, and there were two other counties and a municipal borough within six miles, so that no less than six separate jurisdictions existed within six miles of one another, all issuing separate orders and acting upon different principles. The result is that the occupiers of land were put to very great inconvenience in carrying on their business, many of them holding lands in two or more of these counties. He believed the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey) had given notice that he would, on an early day, bring forward some measure in reference to this subject. But he (Sir John Trollope) objected to be governed by Privy Council law. Indeed, he thought it contrary to the 152 Constitution altogether. The Government did not think fit to assemble Parliament for six months after the general election, and during that period no less than eight separate Orders in Council had been issued. If this state of things were continued, we should in time be living under a system similar to the Council of Ten at Venice, or the Star Chamber law of a past generation. It was a neglect, on the part of the Government, not to call the House together. Did the British Parliament ever refuse to act in a moment of emergency? He believed that if they had been summoned in the autumn the country would not have been subjected to the heavy losses which it had sustained, and which had not been averted by the Orders in Council. He could say that the justices in sessions had everywhere endeavoured, to the best of their ability, to act in accordance with the rules laid down by the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, but they had not been sustained by uniformity of purpose at head-quarters, and had not up to the present time had any one to confer with in case they required advice. A number of most influential gentlemen in his (Sir John Trollope’s) county asked his hon. Colleague to procure them an interview with the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in order that they might explain to him the difficulty in which they were placed, and describe the panic in their neighbourhood. The right hon. Gentleman fixed a day on which they were to meet him in London. They accordingly selected six gentlemen of information to explain their views, and these six gentlemen proceeded to town on the day appointed. Now, what happened? The right hon. Gentleman was not to be seen, and they were referred to the permanent Under Secretary, a learned gentleman who transacted the legal business of the Home Office. All he could tell them was that he would duly report their feelings and opinions to his chief; and when they informed him that the difficulty was that cattle not fit to be slaughtered were sacrificed because the Government would not reimburse the owners for their losses, all he could reply was that he had to pay very dear for his butcher’s meat in London. That was all the deputation obtained by going to the Home Office. He must assert that the Government had not sympathized with the people in their misery and distress: and now, when it was too late—for around the spot where he lived there were villages which 153 did not contain a hoof or a horn—the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the people that they must look to the landlords, their neighbours, and to rateable property. Now, he believed the landlords would meet their tenants and assist them; and he also believed that the tenants would submit to a rate levied upon a principle founded in equity and justice. But they wanted the action of the Government before they could do these things, and, therefore, they came to that House too late, so far as regarded his (Sir John Trollope’s) locality. They asked the right hon. Gentleman to lay down some uniformity of principle, and not to delegate powers to quarter sessions or petty sessions, or any other local authority. We had a central authority to look to; we asked those in authority to do something in this matter. A man of religious feeling had said to him that the cattle plague was a chastisement passed upon us for our boast of our unbounded prosperity and wealth. But while not neglecting to implore Divine aid we ought also to look for human assistance, and surely it was to Her Majesty’s Government that we ought to look for support. He must again object to the delegation of power to the country justices, who had done the best in their power to meet the emergency, and who had only been confounded by the number of contradictions and apparent inconsistencies in the Orders in Council. In conclusion, he wished to remark that those who were suffering from this great calamity not unnaturally looked for some support from the Government of the country.
MR. BARING said, he was sure that there was no one connected with any of the measures respecting the cattle plague during the last six months, who did not cordially sympathize with that part of the speech just addressed to the House, where the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Trollope) expressed the feeling prevalent in the county which he represented on account of the great and severe losses suffered by the owners of cattle in that county. He (Mr. Baring) was sure there was no one in the House who sympathized more truly and sincerely than himself with those who had suffered, and he was sure that the feelings of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department were the same as his own in this matter. He (Mr. Baring) ought, perhaps, to explain the position of the Home Office in 154 regard to the cattle plague, as that Department had been so particularly alluded to by the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdonshire (Lord Robert Montagu). The whole power possessed by the executive Government in respect of the cattle plague was conferred by the 11 & 12 Vict. c. 107—one clause of which Act enabled the Lords of Her Majesty’s Privy Council to make certain orders and regulations. He thought it hardly necessary for him to say in that House, which had for so long a time seen the Secretary of State exercising the functions of his Department, that he was not the man to shrink from any responsibility. When he (Mr. Baring) heard the words “shrinking from responsibility” used in that House, he could not help asking what was the responsibility from which the Government was accused of shrinking. The responsibility of a Minister was responsibility to the House of Commons, and no one could say, after the speeches which had just been delivered, that that responsibility had been evaded. It would, he thought, be seen that very great responsibilities had been accepted in several points, and that experience had shown that the policy pursued was the right one. The noble lord (Lord Robert Montagu), had gone back to the year 1857, and asked why the particular course taken in that year with respect to the importation of foreign cattle had not again been adopted. Now, it was perfectly true that in 1857 the importation of cattle from the Baltic was forbidden by an Order in Council made under the Cattle Importation Act of 1848. The reason why the course referred to could not have been taken on the present occasion was, that it was exceedingly doubtful from what part the cattle plague, if imported into this country at all, was brought. The noble Lord assumed, as a matter of fact, that the disease was introduced by a particular cargo from Revel. The Report of the Royal Commission, to which every possible publicity had been given, did not warrant this conclusion; the Commissioners said that they were unable to express any opinion with regard to the introduction of the disease; and any one who had taken the trouble to go through the evidence could not but indorse what the Commissioners said. Since the publication of the Report, he understood that one of the principal witnesses who supported the theory that the disease had been imported from Revel had contradicted the evidence that he had given.155 There was no evidence which could be deemed conclusive that the disease was imported from abroad at all, and certainly none that it was imported from Revel. Moreover, before it broke out here there was no evidence whatever that it was raging in the neighbourhood of the Baltic or in any adjacent countries. In order to support the Revel theory it was necessary to suppose that the animals were brought from the south of Russia through St. Petersburgh to Revel, for there was no disease in Esthonia or any of the surrounding countries. No step, therefore, could have been taken by the Executive to prohibit the importation of infected cattle from any part of Europe by which this unfortunate outbreak of the cattle plague could have been prevented. Neither the attention of Parliament nor that of Government was called to any impending danger attending the importation of cattle from those countries from which our foreign supplies were drawn. The evidence given to the Commission went to show that foreign cattle had been remarkably healthy, only five animals in a state of disease having been detected in the Metropolitan Cattle Market, which animals came from Holland, a country into which it had been clearly established that the disease had been introduced from this country, so that the only foreign beasts which we knew to have come to England affected by the disease were imported from a country to which we ourselves had communicated it. With reference to other observations of the noble Lord with respect to the action taken by the Government, it might be well to remind the House that in 1864, owing to the danger that had been incurred in 1857 of the introduction of cattle plague into England, his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council on Education (Mr. Bruce) brought forward two Bills—one to amend the law with respect to the importation of diseased beasts, and the other to prevent the spreading of rinderpest and other infectious and contagious diseases. He had the honour to take charge of the two Bills, and to act as Chairman of the Select Committee to which they were referred. That Committee came unanimously to the conclusion that it was not necessary to alter the laws relating to the importation of foreign cattle, but that it was advisable in some degree to relax the precautions which were then taken by the Customs 156 authorities.? That Committee consisted almost entirely of Gentlemen representing the agricultural interest, including Sir William Miles, whose absence from the House he regretted, the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt), the noble Lord opposite the Member for Cocker-mouth (Lord Naas), and Mr. Caird, than whom there could not be greater authorities. The recommendation of the Committee was that when a cargo of animals arrived of which one or two were affected with certain diseases, only those animals which were affected should be slaughtered, and the rest should be allowed to go into the market, and be there killed for consumption. In consequence of that recommendation, instructions were issued to the Customs to relax their practice accordingly. Immediately on the breaking out of the cattle plague in this country orders were issued to the Customs at once to revert to the original Order of great stringency, under which they had previously acted, and, in every case in which there was but one diseased animal, or disease of any kind in the cargo imported from abroad, orders were given that the whole was to be detained, the diseased animals killed, and the remainder disposed of in such manner as the Commissioners of Customs might direct. This was the course that was taken with regard to the importation of foreign animals; and he believed that the inspection had been made with the greatest possible vigilance, and that the spread of the disease in this country could in no way be proved to have arisen from the importation of animals from abroad, if, indeed, it was originally imported from abroad, which was by no means proved at the present time. The other Bill introduced in 1864 contained provisions which placed very considerable liability upon the owners of diseased cattle; the owner was not to do certain things which would be likely to carry the disease among the cattle of his neighbours. That Bill was opposed with very considerable vigour by Gentlemen who represented the agricultural interest, and more especially by Gentlemen from the sister island; it was, indeed, mainly owing to the vigorous opposition of the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas) that the Bill was not passed. The Bill went through a Select Committee, and very considerable alterations were made in it. He (Mr. Baring) brought it down from the Committee as amended, but the general feeling in the House was so decidedly against it, and it was so evidently impossible to 157 pass it, that he was obliged to withdraw it. When he said that the Bill received the opposition of the agricultural interest, he should add that some hon. Members supported the main provisions of the Bill, but the opinion of the witnesses who represented the agricultural interest was decidedly adverse. The Committee examined a gentleman deputed by the Farmers’ Club, who happened to be their chairman for the year, and who said the farmers had their own remedy, and did not want the Bill at all. He therefore recommended his right hon. Friend not to reintroduce the Bill in the next Session of Parliament, and the subject was left, as it had been before, under a single clause of an Act, which was really an Act to prevent the spread of small-pox among sheep, under which Government had no power to deal with an exceptional state of circumstances. Putting the most liberal construction upon the powers given them by that clause, the Government made some most important general regulations, as to the liability of persons dealing with diseased animals; and he could not but think that in the discussion of that night, as well as in much that had been written on the subject, these general regulations had been lost sight of. They were that a person who had a diseased animal should give notice of it; that he must keep it apart from others; that he must not remove it; that when dead it must be buried in its skin and the place disinfected; and that animals likely to convey infection must not be removed without the licence of a competent authority. Power was also given to slaughter infected animals. To the extent to which these regulations were obeyed, the spread of the disorder was prevented. So far as these regulations went the action had been central, and had not been left to the local authorities; and all these liabilities which did not exist under any law were brought into force by the action of the Government through these general regulations. Other powers had been from time to time intrusted to local authorities by Orders in Council; and, speaking generally, the powers so conferred were the power of stopping public sales of animals in certain districts and the power to prevent the removal of animals from place to place. No doubt there was a very general opinion in certain parts of the country that it would have been better that 158 the Government should have made general regulations on these two points, rather than have left the action to the local authorities; but he could not acquiesce in the statement that the feeling had arisen from the disinclination of local authorities to incur obloquy by exercising their powers. They had not shrunk from the responsibility of exercising those powers. He believed that it would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have stopped markets in a general order, for there was the greatest difference of opinion as to what the order should have been. In some counties it had been considered advisable to stop markets for all animals; in others to stop markets for all cattle, allowing sheep to be sold freely; in other counties the course adopted, and that advocated by many of those who had paid most attention to the subject, was not to stop markets for all cattle, but only for lean and store cattle, so that fat cattle might be driven to market to be sold. The House had been forcibly reminded of this view by an hon. Gentleman who had pointed out that it was more likely the disease could be propagated by butchers going about the country to the beasts than by allowing fat beasts to go to them to be slaughtered. Another alternative suggested was that cattle having been brought to the market should not be allowed to leave its locality alive. Even if the most generally approved of all the alternatives put before the House had been adopted, and all markets excepting markets for fat cattle had been prohibited, and the fat beasts had not been allowed to leave the jurisdiction of the market alive, great inconvenience must have occurred. This could be proved by a single remarkable circumstance:—Liverpool was a great port of importation from Ireland, and if a general order had been given prohibiting any market except a market for fat cattle, and their slaughter within the jurisdiction of the place in which the market was situated, the effect would have been that not a beast which was sold in the Liverpool market could have been brought into that town, for the great market for Liverpool was outside the town, and in the county jurisdiction. Therefore, an order of the description referred to would have prevented any animal being brought from the Liverpool market into the town. An instance of such magnitude must satisfy the House that the Government were right not to have made a general order of this 159 kind, the operation of which would have been so unequal. In regard to this question, it was impossible to consider Great Britain as one place. In every particular district there were different circumstances which must he considered; and if such an order as he had hinted at had been passed, the representatives of the county of Chester, in which the disease had been very virulent, might have come down to the House, and might have said, with a great deal more justice than it had been said in that debate, that the Government had shirked their responsibility, and that they had not dared to carry out the proper measures for preventing the spread of disease in the county of Chester, where no market whatever ought to be permitted. He asked any Member of the House who could do so to recommend to the Government any course which could be adopted with respect to the stoppage of markets, such as could be adopted with respect to the whole country. With respect to the removal of animals, the order which gave power to local authorities to make regulations had doubtless met with much disapproval, in consequence of the different regulations made by different local authorities, which must, in some cases, have caused considerable public inconvenience. He was not surprised, therefore, at hearing all this general outcry about conflicting orders; for people would naturally say, “Let us have a general order, and then we shall know what to do.” He would, however, seriously ask the House, or some hon. Member of it, what this general order was to be with respect to the removal of cattle? A great part of Scotland and many parts of England were but slightly affected by the disorder. In Hampshire, Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Devonshire, there had been but few and isolated cases, and there were only two counties in Wales in which there had been any case at all; and he would ask any hon. Gentleman on the opposite side of the House to say what kind of general order the Government could have made. Could they have adopted the recommendation of the majority of the Royal Commission, and prohibited absolutely all movement of cattle? He wished to express the obligations they were all under for the great amount of attention the Royal Commissioners had given to this subject, and for the valuable Report they had presented. But he must say that that proposal would not have stopped the cattle plague and was quite 160 impracticable; for no practical man would assert that the change from a trade in live cattle to one in dead meat could have been made all at once. But, besides, it would have broken down altogether with regard to foreign cattle. Every beast that came from abroad would have to be slaughtered at the place where it landed. [”Hear, hear!”] He quite understood that cheer. It meant that was a provision which it would be quite proper to make. He would not dispute that proposition; there was a great deal to be said in its favour, and it was one of those things which the House would have to consider when they came to the question what legislation should take place with regard to the importation of foreign stock.f But he would venture to affirm that such a change as that could not take place at a moment’s notice. To have passed an edict of such a kind would have forced foreign cattle to be brought to a place where they could not be slaughtered except under the greatest disadvantages and with the greatest loss. The importers suffering loss, importation would have diminished or ceased for the time. While half the supply of meat for the London market Was furnished by beasts from abroad, no Government would have dared to take a step which would have thus annihilated the foreign cattle trade. He quite agreed, therefore, with the remarks made by the minority of the Commissioners, who, it might be said, without offence to the others, were the most practically acquainted with the matter, that the absolute prohibition of all movement of cattle was impracticable. He could conceive no general order with respect to removals which would receive the approbation of the House, and he should like that any hon. Gentleman should propose such an order. There was hardly a county, or extensive district in the country, which was not placed in different circumstances from others. Take Cheshire, for example, where the outbreak had been as fatal as it had been 150 years ago, and compare it with the counties which are but slightly affected. In Hampshire, the prohibition of the removal of sheep would be attended with serious difficulty, while in other counties it would be a matter of small moment. There would then be the greatest possible difference of opinion with respect to the animals to which a general order should apply. Where any outbreak of the disease had occurred it would, perhaps, be right to prohibit altogether the removal of cattle 161 in places adjacent; but differences of opinion would prevail in proportion to the nearness or distance of the different parts of the county from the source of contagion. All the arguments, which he had used with respect to markets applied with double force to removals. But it might be said, “So far we agree with you, and see that no uniform order could be issued, but that is not what we ask. We ask that the Government should do something, that they should issue an order which would do more than the present orders, and then let them allow the local authorities to enforce or relax such order, according to the different circumstances of the district.” But he would say, in reply, that that was nothing more than local action under another form. [“No, no!”] In what respect did it differ? If they gave local authorities power to alter an order, it was the same as if they had local authority pure and simple. Suppose there was a general order that no animal should be removed from one place to another, and the local authorities could relax it, and allow animals to be removed, why that was nothing but local action. If a mild general order were issued, and local authorities were allowed to make it more stringent, then the whole obloquy of the transaction would be thrown on those authorities, and people would be able to say that the precautions which the Government considered to be sufficient for the whole country were, in the arbitrary opinion of certain gentlemen, representing certain interests, not deemed sufficient for the district over which they had control. For these reasons, he affirmed that it was impossible to imagine or devise any general regulations with respect, first, to the prohibition of markets, and, secondly, to the removal of cattle, which would be applicable to the whole country. He would not refer to many smaller points raised in the debate, but would notice two attacks made by the noble Lord the Member for Huntingdonshire (Lord Robert Montagu), upon the propriety of the Government’s ordering the slaughter of infected animals, and of their forbidding the importation of cattle into Ireland. The best proof of the advisability of the first step was that since the power had been withdrawn the number of cases of disease had greatly increased, and it had been shown in Aberdeen and elsewhere that the power of slaughter 162 vigorously exercised had been the only means in which, in the present state of knowledge, the spread of this grievous calamity could be checked. The principle of slaughter is now generally aproved. As to the precautionary measures taken to prevent the spread of the disease into Ireland, he believed that in taking the steps they did the Government had the full approval of the Members from that country. Hon. Gentlemen talked of Irish Members waiting on the Home Secretary with reference to this subject. He denied that statement on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman himself—no Irish Member had waited on him. [Viscount CRANBOURNE: Was there any such with the Lord President?] He would pass that by; he had no knowledge upon the subject. The hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Banks Stanhope) had made two distinct propositions: that all railway traffic should be suspended, and that every beast imported into the country should be slaughtered where it lands. He would now draw the attention of the House to the effects which would follow the carrying out of those propositions. The cattle trade between England and Ireland was principally carried on through Liverpool. Dealers from Liverpool purchased the cattle in Ireland, brought them to Liverpool, and they were then distributed among the great markets of the north of England. If the proposals of the hon. Member were carried into effect, it would entirely destroy the great cattle trade of Liverpool. Such regulations would result in seriously diminishing the supply of food for the people. Among other evil effects it would convert the London cattle trade, which was at present a trade in live cattle, into a trade in dead cattle; a change which might have the most serious results. At present, the dead-meat markets were very deficient in accommodation. But supposing that by some enchanter’s wand suitable dead-meat markets for the metropolis were to arise, what would be the effect upon the public? According to the present system, beasts, though they might be brought to market, need not be slaughtered, unless there was a sufficient demand for meat. But in the case of dead meat consigned from the country to a London salesman, there would be no similar opportunity of holding over the article. It would be perishable, and must be disposed of whatever the sacrifice. AH that persons in the country would know on the subject would be the, 163 quotations from the last market prices, and if these were high, a glut of dead meat would be thrown on the market, only to be got rid of at very low prices. This would be followed by a deficient supply, and a rise in price most serious to the consumer. The fluctuation of prices entailed by these transactions would be an injury quite as serious in its way as many of the evils which were now complained of. He contended that neither the absolute prohibition of cattle traffic on railways, nor yet the slaughter of cattle at the place where they land, could be carried into effect at the present moment. Well, if they could not be carried into, effect now, they clearly could not have been carried into effect at any earlier period. What, therefore, became of all the blame which had been thrown on the Government by the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire and others? The hon. Member fop Scarborough (Mr. Dent) recommended the adoption of the system of slaughter as the only remedy within his experience likely to be efficacious, and held that the Government ought to give effect to the recommendations of the minority of the Royal Commissioners. But although among the Commissioners there were many and great differences of opinion, upon one point, they were all agreed, and that was in condemning the system of slaughter. One of the recommendations of the minority of the Commission was to the effect that a greater distinction should be drawn between infected and uninfected districts. The spirit of that recommendation had been carried out by giving to the local authorities power to apply the next effectual remedy to slaughter—that of isolation. Was not the power better placed in their hands than in the hands of a central authority? How was it possible for a central authority to act with the same knowledge and effect as persons upon the spot and well acquainted with the locality? No doubt, in the present state of the law, there was great difficulty in assembling a quarter sessions for such purposes as were here contemplated; and in any legislation upon the subject it deserved consideration whether power might not be given to summon a special sessions, and also; to delegate the authority of the quarter sessions to committees able to exercise this in their own particular districts, thereby combining the beneficial influences of one jurisdiction with the personal supervision of the other. In a matter of so great difficulty as this question of 164 the cattle plague no one could be foolish enough to assert that every step taken at every moment by the Government was right, and, with the information which we now possessed, that no change could with advantage be made. But, looking broadly at the question, and taking the general attack made against the Government to be that they shrank from responsibility, and that they ought to have issued general regulations applicable to the whole country, he entirely denied the justice of it. So far from being open to that charge they had acted upon the clauses of a Bill conferring on them little real power and affording but very slight foundation for the powers which they assumed to place grave liabilities upon individuals, and heavy penalties attached to their non-observance. They took what, with our present knowledge, must be regarded as the proper step of enjoining the immediate slaughter of infected animals. In doing this they assumed grave responsibility, and took a step so much in advance of public opinion at the time that it was actually disapproved by the public, and by the Royal Commissioners. After such a step, could the House any longer allege that the Government shrank from responsibility? The Government did not feel themselves at liberty to make a General Order applicable to the whole country, because they were bound to consult the general advantage of all classes; to remember, moreover, that this question touched the supply of food; and they were even bound, among other considerations, to look to the interests of the owners of cattle themselves. By affecting to give stringent general orders, but allowing local authorities to modify them, or by affecting to pursue a very mild course themselves, leaving it to the local authorities to give to the rules a more stringent application, the Government might, indeed, have shielded themselves from responsibility. But they shrank from no responsibility, being satisfied that the course which they took was the right course, and that such orders ought to be left to local bodies aquainted with all the varying circumstances of the different parts of Great Britain. In certain portions of the country—in Ireland and parts of Scotland especially—the action of the Government had been successful. If it were contended that they had not been successful with regard to England, he replied that there were circumstances under which no Government action could be 165 successful. Even with such centralized action as one hon. Member seemed to desire, it was difficult to discover what more could have been accomplished by the Government. If we were to act upon the principles which other countries had adopted, we must be prepared to carry out more stringent measures than anyone had yet suggested. “We must be prepared to adopt an honest” stamping out “process like that resorted to in particular districts of Prussia. A cordon must be drawn round the infected district, kept by troops, and not a man, not a dog, not even a bird must be allowed to leave the district alive for a certain time. That would be the only effective mode of stamping it out. If any Government could do that it might possibly be stamped out, except, indeed, it could be carried with the air, as the Royal Commissioners say it could be, in which case even that system would not do. But he believed that, if anything short of such a measure could have any success, it was the power to slaughter combined with isolation. He hoped when the Bill of the Government was brought in—to which he refrained from alluding now, because his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would have to do so when introducing it on another day—hon. Members would see that the Government had every determination to adopt the most effective measures in their power for the future. The Government had failed from no want of assiduity—no want of sympathy with the sufferers—no indifference to the agricultural interest now so much afflicted. No class in the country could be indifferent on a question which had so close a relation to the roast beef of old England. They would do their best, and trust to the decrees of Providence and the mutual action of all classes in the country for success.
MR. LOWE I wish, Sir, that my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the Home Department had confined himself to a defence of the Government, and had not thought it necessary, in support of his case, to treat in the manner he has done the Report of the Cattle Plague Commission, because he has obliged me to make statements, and go into matters, which certainly I never would have dreamt of entering upon in this debate. The cattle plague made its appearance in the London market on the 19th of June. I do not know how it got there, and I do not think we have any evidence on the point; but there it was. The Government 166 heard of it in the beginning of July, and made some Orders in Council. The first Order they made was a matter which occupied so much attention that Lord Palmerston and Lord Cranworth came up for the occasion, no other Member of the Government being here to look after it. In the beginning of October they appointed a Royal Commission, on which I had the honour to serve. But I do not think they possessed any knowledge of the real nature of the disease, at least any knowledge that could be relied on. Now, it is not difficult to show that they ought to have possessed that knowledge, and that the appointment of the Commission was therefore wholly unnecessary. The question, when we came to examine it, was found exceedingly simple. It was this—Was the disease then raging in England identical with the Steppe murrain or not? If it were once shown that they were identical, no further inquiry was needed, as no disease had been more thoroughly studied and was better known than the Steppe murrain. A Commission of Inquiry into the Steppe murrain would have been like a Commission of Inquiry into the small-pox or measles. The whole question, then, was whether the disease was identical with the Steppe murrain. Now, was it creditable to the Government that they did not take steps to ascertain whether the two diseases were identical before the disease had been for three months raging in this country? The Government had at their command all the medical ability which they might choose to employ, and they were particularly fortunate because they had in Mr. Simon, the Medical Officer of the Privy Council, a gentleman of the highest attainments, and who was the greatest authority with regard to the cattle plague, which he had made the subject of his particular study. The Cattle Plague Commissioners called him before them, by his evidence they were mainly guided, and that evidence has turned out to be an almost exact prognostication of everything that has happened since it was given in October last. The Government, then, were peculiarly well furnished with advice. Well, what did they do? Why, they did not summon that gentleman at all. He has never had any voice in their dealing with this matter, which they have withdrawn wholly from his cognizance, and placed in the hands of a veterinary surgeon, Mr. Simonds, an able man no doubt, but a gentleman who would not think for a moment of comparing 167 himself with Mr. Simon. If they had consulted Mr. Simon as we did they would have got his evidence as we did, and that evidence would have left no doubt that the two diseases were identical. We thought, at first, that there was a great deal of evidence on each side, and that it was our business to hear evidence on both sides. But we could only get one witness, and he was a butcher, to say that the disease was not highly contagious. The absolute identity of the two diseases was established, and also the applicability to England of those precautions which a long and melancholy experience has demonstrated to be necessary in countries to the East of Europe. We set to work on the 10th of October, and our Report is dated the 31st. It must be admitted that we lost no time, especially if it be considered that we started in a state of total ignorance, and heard the jobbers and persons who dealt in cattle, and whose evidence, as we were going to interrupt their trade, we were bound to hear, though we might not attach great weight to what was said by them under such circumstances. In the first few days we got a pretty clear view of the real nature of the disease and the only remedy to be applied. Now if we could do that, why could not the Government do it; or, if they did not choose to do it, might they not have refrained from making reflections on us who did their work? My hon. Friend (Mr. Baring) states that the Report shows that there was a difference of opinion among the Commissioners, and, after exaggerating it, tries to shelter the Government behind it. That, however, will be of little avail. The state of opinion in the Commission was this:—The majority and the minority both agreed that the real remedy for preventing the progress of the disease was the stoppage altogether of the removal of cattle from one locality to another. There was no difference of opinion on that point, and I am speaking in the presence of a noble Lord (Viscount Cranbourne) who was a distinguished member of the minority. The second point in which we were all entirely agreed was, that whatever was to be done—whether the larger measure, of which the majority approved, or the less stringent one, advocated by the minority, should be adopted—the action of the central Government was necessary, and nothing ought to be left to the local authorities. What we really differed about appears at this distance of time to be a very small matter. It 168 could perhaps best be described as a matter of temporary expediency. The majority thought it expedient to recommend what we all agreed was the real remedy, though some of us may have felt not much confidence in its being carried out. The minority thought that it was better to modify the proposition so as to make it more acceptable to the public, not because they liked the modified proposition better than the other, but because they deemed it more calculated to meet the public mind. The House, therefore, will now be able to judge how far my hon. Friend is justified in sheltering himself behind the minority. The course adopted by the Government is entirely condemned both by the majority and by the minority of the Commission, and there was no one on the Commission who supported it except Mr. Maclean, the engineer, who thought it unnecessary to do anything at all. Well, what did the Government do? We reported on the 31st of October, and after a waste of three weeks of infinitely precious time they give jurisdiction to petty sessions, and shortly afterwards they extend that jurisdiction to quarter sessions, and so in substance the matter rests now. I did not come here tonight to criticize or to condemn the conduct of the Government, but I have been urged to say what I think on the subject. I am not going to re-open the controversy before the Commission. It would be most indecorous for me, and for the noble Lord (Viscount Cranbourne) to take advantage of the position we occupy here to fight those battles over again. I say, then, that the Commission was right in their recommendation that a central authority ought to act in the matter, not because I have fallen in love with despotism, but because there is nothing despotic in delegating power to the only persons competent to act. The rule is simple. Matters of public interest, in which the whole community is directly interested, ought to be left to the central authority, whereas matters in which the general public is not directly concerned ought to be left to the local authorities. Now, what was this cattle plague? Had it been epizootic merely, spreading in certain districts, and influenced by climate and local circumstances not likely to go beyond those districts, I can quite understand that it would be perfectly right to leave it to be dealt with by the local authorities. But is 169 this disease of such a nature? It is exactly the contrary. Every part of England is interested in the suppression of the disease in every other part of England. One day it is at the Land’s End, and the next at John o’Groat’s. I believe I may say that the London market is one day infected, Edinburgh and Plymouth the next. Had Edinburgh and Plymouth, then, no interest in the conduct of the local authorities in London at that time? And, if so, how can we reconcile it to ourselves that these things should be left to the discretion of local authorities? My hon. Friend (Mr. Baring) spoke of the trade of Liverpool; has he read what The Times said this morning about the cattle at Kirkdale market, where hundreds of cattle had been refused admission because though branded, they had no pass? Did my hon. Friend read about the state of the neighbourhood of Bristol, where there was one set of rules for the county of Somerset, another set for Bristol, and a third for Gloucester? Does my hon. Friend think that is the way to check a calamity which has, at any rate, this recommendation—that its action is uniform? Could my hon. Friend expect that a great and general calamity like this would be cured by piecemeal and parti-coloured legislation? If the rule was to be loose here and tight there, such contrariety and uncertainty must necessarily lead to discontent. It is clear to me that you have no right to impose those restrictions on one part of the country unless you can make up your minds to impose them upon all. Each man will cheerfully submit to great inconvenience for the sake of others only when he finds persons submitting to great inconvenience for his sake. I therefore think there never was a case more clearly made out than that if Government interference was required there should be a central authority. My hon. Friend says he does not approve of our preventing traffic, as the disease might be carried by birds. Well, perhaps even a fly might carry it; but we must deal with this question as practical men, and not as mere theorists. De minimis turn curat lex. Practically it is conveyed by the cattle, and if the principal cause be suppressed, there is no reason to doubt that the spread of the disease would be checked and prevented. My hon. Friend has talked much about responsibility, but he has not considered that on the Government devolved 170 the responsibility of dealing with this calamity in the first instance, a responsibility which it cannot shake off. But how do the Government meet it? By avoiding it. When the calamity becomes worse they seek out persons to deal with the subject, and when those persons make up their minds for them they, by partially adopting the plan those persons suggest for themselves with responsibility for the inadequate local means they choose to employ, I misunderstand the functions of Government if it is to stand by quietly amid such a calamity, and, when the calamity increases, to delegate its functions to others. Look at the case of Berkshire. Two lines of railway traverse it from north to south and from east to west. The calamity showed itself in the eastern part of the county. By timely measures the disease has been kept away, there are no deaths among the cattle, and I am informed that the county, except in Windsor where a different local authority rules, is free from cattle disease at this moment. The whole stress of my hon. Friend’s argument was that what was recommended by the Commission was full of mischief to trade and a hardship to everybody. No one can doubt that such a thing is difficult to arrange; but what I complain of my hon. Friend is that I could not gather from what he said that he ever pictured to himself what the real state of the calamity was. I appeal to the House with the utmost confidence whether if our recommendations had been adopted, even after four precious months had been lost, it might not probably have stopped this disorder. But I must say that we have by no means the same confidence now. It is one thing to stop a disease in its nascent state; it is another thing to stop it when it has acquired 14,000 centres of infection, when it has spread to every county in England, and when the air has become loaded with volumes of polluted matter. It is quite right we should struggle against it now with our whole force, and try every measure we can think of, but the prospect is now dark and unpromising. I hope the House will do the Commission the justice to believe that what they recommended might at first have been effectual. We cannot say that it will avail now. Our advice was difficult to carry out, and the Government would not take the responsibility. That, Sir, I will say was a responsibility indeed.
MR. HENLEY Sir, after the admirable speech of the right hon. Gentleman it will be only 171 necessary for me to say a few words. There is no doubt the difficulties of the subject are very great. I am not going to conceal that for one moment. Neither am I going to be led away into the discussion as to whether this disease came from Revel, or whether it was generated in Hampstead in the cow-sheds of the President of the Council. No doubt in the month of July, if not in June, the fact was reported to the Government that the disease was in London. That, I believe, cannot be controverted. The only question is, whether it was certainly known to be the true rinderpest. I agree that the Government might have known this if they did not. Well, what was the course they took? Of all the statements I ever heard to show the utter weakness and shrinking from responsibility of Government, that made by the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary (Mr. Baring) is the most extraordinary. For what did he say? He stated that there were innumerable difficulties in dealing with the question of stopping the importation of foreign cattle, and innumerable difficulties in following the recommendation of the Commission. What was his difficulty in following the recommendation of the Commission? Why, that it was not a perfect remedy; and as this disease might be carried by the air, therefore they would not be justified in adopting it. Now that reasoning, if it comes to anything, comes to this—that it is idle to take any remedy at all if it be not entirely perfect. The hon. Gentleman said, “What! will you have a perfect cordon of soldiers as in Prussia, for if you don’t do that you do nothing.” Still, he talks of the responsibility of the Government. He further said, “The best thing we could do was to order the cattle to be killed.” But how long did the Government maintain that order? What sort of resolution must they have on the subject. Why did they not stand to their guns? If they were right in their opinion, why did they not stick to it like men, and see whether it did any good or no? I am quite prepared to admit that all these things were tentative. There is one other point I wish to state, and it is this:—A great deal has been said by the Under Secretary about the impossibility of making general orders; but he did not touch upon the subject at all whether the Government 172 had power under the Acts of Parliament to delegate to other persons the authority which Parliament had given to them. I am not learned in the law, but I very much doubt if those orders had gone to the Queen’s Bench whether that point would not have been raised. If their construction of the law be the true one the Poor Law or any other Board might authorize the thousand and one authorities in the country to act in their place. But what was the argument of the Under Secretary? That they could not make general orders. But why not make particular orders. Surely if they could give power to a thousand local authorities to make these orders, inconvenient as they were, and to a very great degree without benefit, they might have applied themselves to make them, as they had a knowledge of the whole subject to which the local authorities could not pretend. Surely they might have made those particular orders which, with their knowledge of the subject, might have been so framed as to avoid the inconveniences and confer greater benefits than could possibly arise from such orders as a thousand different authorities were at liberty to frame. As to the difficulty of making those orders in that part of the country where I live, I believe in every case where power was given by the Government, the local authorities did everything they could under the circumstances. But what benefit was it to us when here, from Copenhagen Fields, a well known centre of infection, every week was vomited forth cattle to every county. It was through that means, and no other, that Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire were infected. Not that diseased cattle were sent down because butchers would not buy them, if they knew it, but they bought cattle in Copenhagen Fields, and brought them down to kill them, and thus spread the infection like a stone dropped into a pond. If the Government had taken a waterpot with a large rose in their hands and watered the country for the purpose of spreading the infection they could not have done it more effectually. What was the power they gave to the local authorities? First and foremost, we had inspectors who did not know much about the disease, never having seen it. They did neither harm nor good. Next came stopping fairs; but what was the use? The only effect was this:—Butchers went up to London, and the danger was incurred of bringing the infection from Copenhagen Fields. The next 173 measure was to give us authority to stop beasts coming into our districts. Such a measure was something the same as if the Government had taken a bottle of quicksilver and thrown it down, and said, “Stop it from going into your district.” While Copenhagen Fields were sending hundreds of thousands of cattle over the country there was no chance but that the disease would spread as it had spread. Were it not that the Under Secretary had put the thing in such an extraordinary manner, I should not have said a single word; but he challenged opinion in such a way that I could not help making these observations. I think the Government, if they had not sufficient nerve to enable them to do what was necessary in these matters, should have called Parliament together. There never was a time in which everybody through the length and breadth of the land was more disposed to give their support to the Government without question. But really the Government did nothing. I do not hesitate to say that virtually they did nothing. They had the means of getting general information, and in giving their particular orders they could ascertain how they should act, and yet all that they did was to hand over to local authorities that power which Parliament had intrusted to them. What was the necessary course for the Government? They were obliged to publish in the Gazette their Orders in Council. There was some time lost in that way, and the local authorities had to meet and to publish their regulations in the local papers before they had the force of law, and so more time was lost. I believe that down to the present time property amounting to £1,500,000 or nearer £2,000,000 has gone, absolutely gone, without any benefit to anybody. On the former occasion the disease lasted twelve years; and if it is to go on so long now, it is very difficult for me, not having passed an examination before the Civil Service Commissioners, to count up what will be the cost to the whole country. I have heard the Under Secretary stating that possible annoyances and possible stoppages to trade might take place if such and such a thing had been done; but he said not one single word of the unfortunate people who had been put to so much trouble all over the country by the local justices making orders, sometimes contradictory and sometimes against persons not connected with their neighbourhood. The Government seem to feel very much with 174 respect to inconveniences to trade, but they do not seem to care one farthing about inconvenience to the general trade of the country. I cannot understand why the Government could not stop all cattle from going out of London which has a large market and excellent means of slaughtering beasts. I believe if Copenhagen Fields and one or two such places had been isolated in such a way for the first two months the disease would have been stopped. The fact is, if we had had no Government at all we should have been as well off. The hon. Secretary of State has pointed out the difficulties which would attend the course proposed to be pursued; but I would ask the Government, this House, and the country, what is the use of a Government if they do not meet these difficulties—if they are not prepared to take the lead instead of leaving to the local authorities the task of grappling with so fearful a malady? The real use of a Government is, that the greater the difficulty is the greater is the power shown by the Government in dealing with it. That cannot be said in the present instance. There may be more reasons why it is so than meet the eye. The death of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), whom we all deplore, no doubt paralyzed the Government to a certain extent; but, whenever the history of this time comes to be written, it must be stated that what the Government did in this crisis was nothing, and that they handed over to a thousand authorities in the country the work and the business which they ought to have carried out themselves.
VISCOUNT CRANBOURNE I would not have risen if I had seen any indication of an intention on the part of any occupant of the Treasury Bench to rise and address the House. It appears to me that not only was the Government prepared to inflict the greatest injury to the agricultural interest that they have suffered for the last century, but to treat with something like contempt their complaints. I do not intend to trouble the House at any length, for I feel that these matters as to the cattle disease, which are of so much importance to the occupiers of land, had better be dealt with by those who represent counties in this House. I wish to advert, however, to the conduct of the Government during this disease. If I understand the Under Secretary, there is still lurking in the mind of the Government an idea that this 175 rinderpest is not strictly a contagious disease, but that it originated in England. It is the unanimous opinion of alt the scientific men who have examined the question in England, and of those who have had the opportunity of accumulating evidence upon the Continent, that the rinderpest is indigenous to the Steppes of Russia; that when it wanders beyond those limits it is carried by contagion, and that the contagion is more rapid and sudden than in any other case with which the science of medicine is acquainted. It was reported to the. Government on the 10th of July, by their own veterinary officer, that this -terrible scourge was in the country, and they were not in a state of profound ignorance as to the nature of the plague. The thing had been well studied by persons whose information was transferred to Government. Professor Simonds had made a prolonged journey, had collected evidence on the subject, and made every inquiry in the county where this disease originated. He laid his information before the Government, and so much was the attention of the Government drawn to the disease that when the report was spread in 1864 that the Austrian army had brought it into Schleswig-Holstein, and that there was danger of its coming by importation from that country, they caused a special inquiry into the truth of that report. It is perfectly clear, then, that when the attention of the Government was called to this disease they possessed the best information on the subject. It was not an unknown disease. The period of its existence on the Continent it is impossible to say; but it had been studied and had been the subject of most careful and scientific research, and Her Majesty’s Government had all the accumulated experience of some of the best men of science England could furnish, to instruct them as to the symptoms, the rapid spread, and the certain results of the disease. It is impossible, then, to accord to Her Majesty’s Government the plea of ignorance to excuse their conduct with regard to this disease. On the 10th of July they were informed of its existence; but, as the House has been informed, they took no action until the 24th, and then it was only to give orders that every person having cattle afflicted with the disease should give notice to the inspector. It was not until the 11th of August that they gave any powers to the local authorities. On the 23rd of November they gave full powers to the petty sessions; but 176 it was not until January that they gave full powers to the quarter sessions, and up to the present time no sufficient action has been taken by the central authorities. One thing stands out very prominently with regard to this subject—namely, that Her Majesty’s Government have not been able to exercise the slightest influence in checking or controlling this disease. It has increased in something like a geometrical ratio, and according to the last Returns 100,000 heads of cattle have fallen victims to the ravages of the disease. Now, the question we have to ask ourselves is, whether any measures the Government could have taken would have had the effect of stopping this fearful calamity under which the country labours; and it seems to me that the only mode of solving that question to our satisfaction is to ask ourselves whether, in any other country simultaneously with our own, any measures have been taken which have had the effect of checking the disease. Now, I have to bring before the House a different picture with respect to results in the case of Belgium from our own. And I select Belgium for a particular reason. We have heard a great deal from Her Majesty’s Government about the free institutions of this great country, and I think they have had to bear a great deal more than they need. When Members of the Government do not do what is expected of them we are told that it is one of the drawbacks of the Constitution, and that we in London can supply illustrations in reference to it. Whenever it is urged that the Government ought to have been more rapid and prompt in action we are told that it is only the quality of despotism to be prompt in action, and that if we wish to escape from despotism we must submit to such little inconveniences as having our cattle by the 100,000 die of the disease. That may not be the case in Prussia, Austria, or France, where the action of the Government is quite prompt, and where they have no notion of dallying with a public grievance. But setting aside the despotism of Austria, Prussia, and France, I ask the attention of Parliament to the conduct of a Government as free as our own—where the Parliamentary system exists in its full vigour, and where, to use an expression familiar and agreeable to hon. Gentlemen opposite, a strong Liberal Government is in office. Now, this strong Liberal Government does not sit still in the face of so great a calamity. I have in my hand a 177 report presented in November last by the Minister of the Interior of Belgium to the House of Representatives. In it he states that the disease was introduced in Belgium from Holland, and since it has been discovered that it was introduced on the 16th August. It does not, however, appear to have come officially to the knowledge of the Government until the 28th August. Before that they had heard rumours of its existence, and they had issued orders to prevent the importation of cattle from England. On the 29th August, as soon as they heard of the existence of the disease, without losing a day they stopped the importations, and on the 3rd September all importations from any country. On the 22nd September they stopped all fairs and markets throughout the country, so far as they were connected with the sale of store stock. Fat cattle were still allowed to be sold, on condition that they carried a certificate that they came from a district not infected by disease. At the same time, which was most important, they offered ample compensation to all who declared the existence of the disease (under severe restrictions certainly, to prevent abuse), and ordered the slaughter of the cattle. They gave more than the absolute value of the cattle, an idea almost enough to terrify the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) into a fit. Now, what was the result of these prompt proceedings? Between 600 and 700 heads of cattle were the whole of their losses, and the expense incurred somewhere between £4,000 and £5,000. And with the exception of one or two cases in the neighbourhood of Antwerp on the Dutch frontier, where they were exposed to the contagion, the disease was swept out of the country, although it had appeared in all parts of it. Belgium is at present entirely free from the cattle plague. The plague has, in fact, been completely stamped out in a very short space of time, and at a very trifling expense. Such was the result of the prompt and decisive action of a Liberal Government in a constitutional country. Now, Sir, I say that the responsibility which the Government has assumed in this case by the extreme timidity of its action has been very serious indeed. The question of compensation is one of the most serious questions that can present itself to the House of Commons. As a general rule it is far from a sound 178 principle—it is the reverse of it—that any individual business should be reimbursed out of the proceeds of the general taxation of the country. The rule is that if the acts of the Government cause individual loss it shall be reimbursed out of the public Treasury. If, therefore, the Government undertakes the functions of Parliament, without calling Parliament together, and without taking proper measures to avert the evil, it then becomes a serious question whether or not they have incurred pecuniary liability to those who suffer by its neglect. I do not know in what way the House will deal with that question. It is a very serious one, and I can understand the discontent and heartburnings which exist in different parts of the country in consequence of it. The responsibility of this calamity rests on those who declined to cheek it. If the Government had in July last, in August, even if when the Commission reported, they had acted with one-half the vigour, decision, and discretion exhibited by the Liberal Government of Belgium, the farmers of the country would never have suffered as they now are suffering. The entire means of existence of numbers have been destroyed because there have been placed in high official position men unable to meet the responsibilities entailed by the offices which they hold.
MR. WILLIAM LESLIE said, that in the county which he represented, and to which several times allusion had been made (Aberdeenshire), they had, on the breaking out of the disease, slaughtered all cattle attacked by the plague. They made a rate which was divided equally between proprietors and tenants, and they were thus enabled to treat with every individual case that was presented to them, and to make such arrangements with the owners of stock that they were enabled to stamp out the disease. This plan had proved entirely successful, and they had succeeded in effectually checking the further progress of the disease in their county. He was not inclined to coincide with those who appeared disposed to blame Her Majesty’s Government. He considered that the course which Her Majesty’s Ministers had taken was the one befitting the free institutions of their country. The Orders in Council enabled the petty sessions throughout the country to take the proper steps to crush out the cattle plague in their respective districts. Those steps had been taken in Aberdeen, as he could testify, with the most perfect success, and if they had not been taken in other 179 parts of the country, it certainly was not the fault of the Government. The Government was asked why they did not call Parliament together last autumn. He believed that had the Government done so, such was then the temper of the public mind on the subject, Parliament would not have passed any Resolution calculated to place serious restrictions on the cattle trade. He asked what would have been gained by calling together Parliament to pass some half-hearted measure that would have proved utterly ineffectual to check the spread of the cattle disease. As a Member of the Select Committee on the Bill which had been referred to, he must say he thought that Her Majesty’s Government were justified in thinking that the late Parliament were of opinion that there should be no interference with the trade of the country. The Bill was withdrawn under circumstances which had been referred to; and, as a perfectly independent Member, he bore testimony to the fact of Her Majesty’s Government having done all that was necessary under the circumstances. At the same time, as the representative of a large agricultural constituency, he begged to impress upon Her Majesty’s Government the necessity of immediate action in this matter. He repeated that immediate action was highly desirable, and he trusted that Her Majesty’s Government would lose no time in introducing a concise but stringent measure.
SIR GEORGE GREY It is impossible, Sir, to overrate the gravity and importance of the subject that we have for some hours been debating. The ravages caused by the distemper which has now been prevailing for some time in this country fell, in the first instance, on the agricultural interest, or rather on portions of the agricultural interest, in particular districts of the country, with great severity; but there can be no doubt whatever that every class of the community has a deep interest in the preservation of that great article of food which enters so largely into general consumption. I am not, therefore, surprised to find that the debate on the Address has been almost exclusively confined to this subject. Looking to the multiplicity of topics embodied in the Speech from the Throne, I thought it not improbable that some others might be alluded to, upon which the House might expect me to say something. I therefore reserved myself for that purpose, but as I understood from the noble Lord 180 the Member for Stamford that he considered the debate was closing without my having addressed the House, I am quite ready, under these circumstances, to make a few observations. I think no Member of Her Majesty’s Government can complain of the tone or spirit in which the hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Banks Stanhope) brought this subject before the House, and the House and the Government are alike indebted to him for the frank declaration of his own opinion, as well as for the suggestions which have been offered with regard to any Bill to be submitted to the House. I will not myself enter into that subject or express any opinions upon the suggestions which have been thrown out, because the proper time for discussing them will be when I ask leave to bring in a Bill on the subject, a proposal which I shall make on an early day. But to deal with a few of the objections which have been raised in the course of this debate. Several Gentlemen have implied that the Government were open to censure because they did not at once issue Orders in Council absolutely prohibiting the importation into this country of cattle from any other country. I must say that at no period since it was first ascertained that the disease existed in this country would the Government have been justified in taking such a course, though under an Act of Parliament they had clearly power, if they thought proper, to prohibit the importation of foreign cattle. The matter formed the subject of anxious deliberation, and I do not wish at all to evade the responsibility attaching personally to myself. But I may observe, that in the Act of Parliament no power is given to the Secretary of State for the Home Department; it is vested in the Lords of the Privy Council. In all their deliberations on the subject I took part, and I can bear witness not only for myself but for my Colleagues that we were anxious to do all in our power to check this disease. Two considerations weighed upon our minds, and I do not think this House will visit us with its censure for taking both into account. The first was the desire to do all that was practical and reasonable to arrest the disease; and the other was the desire to interfere as little as possible, without an absolute necessity, with the supply of food to the great body of the people. And the difficulty we had to contend with throughout was the necessity of preventing any regulations which might be issued from clashing 181 with either of these important objects. It has been said that we received intimation of the existence of this disease in June, and that for a fortnight we did nothing. What are the facts? Information was not received of any one case till the 10th July. Immediately on the receipt of the information the Privy Council caused inquiries to be made in the dairy sheds in London to which the disease at first was supposed to be confined, with a view to ascertain its nature and extent. They also consulted the Law Officers of the Crown as to the powers which the Crown possessed of dealing with the matter in case the disease should turn out to be, as it did, the Steppe murrain. The interval, therefore, so far from being lost, was spent in making inquiries and in acquiring knowledge, without which it would have been impossible to have acted afterwards. The principal charge against the Government is that they did not take on themselves at once the duty of legislating for the whole country by issuing and enforcing stringent regulations under the power vested by the Act of Parliament in the Privy Council for that purpose. The House, however, will remember that the country was wholly unprepared for such a stringent procedure. Even when the Commission—the appointment of which was censured by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) as wholly unnecessary—made its valuable Report, if the Government had felt disposed to give effect to its recommendations, it would have been impossible to do so without exciting such an amount of opposition throughout the country as must have neutralized altogether the efforts of the Government. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire has stated that but one opinion existed as to the recommendations of the Commission—namely, that they were impossible recommendations. My right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) implied that my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State (Mr. Baring) attacked the Commission. My hon. Friend found no fault with the Commission; but when we are told that we should have adopted the recommendations of the majority of that Commission, he endeavoured to show that the reason why we did not adopt the remedy which the Commissioners suggested was because it was not a practical remedy, and even in the opinion of the Commissioners themselves was not a sure remedy against 182 the disease. The Government are accused of not having laid down stringent rules for the whole country, by availing themselves of the knowledge and experience of particular districts, and acting upon that. But first as to the supposed delegation of authority by the Privy Council to local authorities, that is an entire misapprehension. The Privy Council made the Orders, but declared that they should only come into operation when the local authorities in a particular district, to whom its circumstances were, of course, familiar, decided that such Order should be applied to the locality. The authority, therefore, which was put in force remained the authority of the Privy Council, invoked and applied by the local authorities, who must be judges more competent than an authority at a distance could possibly be. Then it has been said that uniform Orders, applicable to the whole of the kingdom, ought to have been made. The Under Secretary has distinctly shown that that would have been absolutely impracticable. If we had made an Order that no cattle should be moved at all in Great Britain, what would have been the feeling of the agriculturists, and of all persons concerned in the cattle trade? What we did, therefore, was to require of the local authorities the expression of their opinion as to the amount of restriction necessary for their different districts, and leave them to give effect to that opinion by bringing the Order of the Privy Council into operation. How is it possible for the Privy Council to have that accurate knowledge of the different circumstances of every part of the country which would be requisite to enable them in the first place to frame such an Order, and then to insure its being carried into effect? Why, even local authorities from time to time have been obliged to recall or modify their own decisions to prevent them from pressing too harshly or vexatiously on the agriculturists in their own districts. The hon. Baronet the Member for Northumberland gave a striking instance of the difficulty of making any legislation universally applicable; for in some cases, though the magistrates had applied the terms of the Order to sheep as well as to cattle, they found it necessary to sanction the removal of sheep from one place to another, otherwise the ordinary operations of farming there would come to a standstill. The Government, if they made a law actually prohibiting the removal of stock from one place to another, would not merely be preventing by anticipation the making of arrangements applicable to such special 183 cases as the hon. Member had referred to; but in districts and counties where the disease had not made its appearance at all, as in the North West of Scotland and some counties in England, would be imposing intolerable restrictions on the people. Allusion has been made to the deputation which came to the Privy Council from the Royal Agricultural Society in December. A prominent member of that deputation was Mr. Thompson, the late Member for Whitby, who was then persuaded of the necessity of some general Order prohibiting the removal of cattle by railway. But since the quarter sessions have had the power of exercising a discretion on the matter, he has written me a letter, in which he distinctly? tates his opinion, founded on the large experience that he has gained, that it would be utterly impossible to carry into effect in the West Riding the Orders which have been made in the North Riding. In the West Riding he thinks it would be impracticable, for instance, to stop the markets. He has pointed out the serious evils which could not fail to arise from butchers slaughtering cattle at farm houses. The working people, who were well fed and well paid, would not, he wrote, submit to the absolute suppression of the fairs and markets, but would have beef. If the Government had made such an order it would, no doubt, lead to great dissatisfaction in many parts of the country; it would have been said that the Government were adopting more stringent rules than were necessary, and actually contributing to the spread of the disease. The fact appears to be that what answers very well in one county or in one riding may not answer in another, but, on the contrary, may conduce to the spread of the disease. I can assure the House that the Government considered the whole subject with the greatest care and attention, and came to the conclusion that it was only by enacting such rules and regulations as the Privy Council had power to make, and, in doing so, having regard to the various circumstances of the country, to the various conditions which are found to exist in different parts of it, not only in regard of the plague itself, but also as respects the manner in which the farmers carry on their operations and by calling on the local authorities, the leading gentry, and agricultural body to carry them out, we could hope to do anything effectual towards stopping the spread of the disease. We availed ourselves of the 184 experience of the past, and looked to what had been done when the disease broke out in the last century. During the former visitation of the plague very much the same steps had been gone through as on the present occasion. Local authorities were invited to co-operate with the central Government. We came to the conclusion that the most effectual measure to adopt would be to have every beast affected with the disease killed at once, and we gave power to the inspectors to order it. But the Royal Commissioners objected to the continuance of the power, and public opinion was very strongly expressed against it, and we therefore limited the power to cases in which the order for isolation was disobeyed. We could not shut our eyes to the experience of the past. In the last century the Government at length made a General Order applicable to the whole country as some hon. Gentlemen have recommended to-night, but such a feeling was manifested, and such an opposition to it raised, that they were obliged to revoke that Order before the day on which it was to have come into operation. I believe there would have been a similar opposition if the Government had ordered such a measure at the present time. The step recommended by the Royal Commission—that of putting an absolute stop to the removal of beasts throughout the country—would, no doubt, have been the most effectual one; but the only question was—that which weighed on the minority of the Commission—whether it was practicable, and it was the consideration of this question which forced us to the conclusion at which we arrived. It has been urged that all the cattle brought to a market should be slaughtered within the place where that market is held—that no cattle should be allowed to leave the market alive; but my hon. Friend has pointed out what has been the effect on the Liverpool market of what has been done in Lancashire, the Liverpool market being outside the boundary of the borough. Any general order of that kind would have had to be modified, unless we were prepared to stop the supply of animal food to the people. As to the Metropolitan Market, for a long time it has been free from the disease, and I do not believe one case can be shown during the last two months in which the disease was propagated by a beast coming from the market. Very great anxiety, however, has been 185 expressed lest it might be spread by cattle brought from the London market; but, as much of the animal food consumed in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Manchester, and other places is obtained from beasts coming from the Continent through London, before we made an order prohibiting the removal of any animals from the Metropolitan Market we felt it necessary to communicate with the places interested in this question in the country. We have made an order that no cattle brought into the Metropolitan Market should be allowed to leave the district of the Metropolitan Board of Works. The effect of the regulations of the magistrates with reference to the removal of beasts in different parts of the country has been that the supply of the London market has fallen off to a great extent, and the number of beasts brought here now is much smaller than it was a few weeks ago. Something has been said, in the course of this debate, with regard to Ireland. I will explain what the Government did in respect to that country. In Ireland great apprehension was felt that the disease might be imported; for though it is not a cattle-importing country, cattle do arrive chiefly from the west of Scotland to be fattened in Ireland and afterwards exported. Accordingly, the agriculturists of Ireland were very naturally desirous that every precaution should be taken against the introduction of the disease and they memorialized the Lord Lieutenant, asking for an order prohibiting the importation of cattle into Ireland. I must say that my noble Friend brought the whole of his influence to bear on the Government in favour of such an order. We found that this question had been raised several years ago by persons interested in sheep farms in this country, who were desirous of preventing the importation of sheep from Ireland, where a sheep disease existed at the time. The question was at that time referred to the Law Officers, and it was held that the power of making such an order did not apply to removals from one portion of the United Kingdom to the other, but only to removals from one specified place to another. However, the Law Officers in Ireland were consulted, and they gave an opinion that the power of making such an Order as was asked for was vested in the Government. In this opinion the Law Officers of England concurred, and the Government made the Order. I had not the pleasure of seeing any Irish gentlemen on the subject; but there was much 186 communication between the Home Office and the Irish Government relating to it. As soon as the Report of the Royal Commission was in our hands, we transmitted a copy of it to the Lord Lieutenant, directing his attention to the portion of it relating to Ireland, and asking him to obtain the opinions of persons in that country on the recommendations. The Lord Lieutenant thought that as there had been no Irishman on the Cattle Plague Commission its recommendations could not be adopted as to Ireland without such a course. A committee was thereupon formed in Ireland; they made their report; and their recommendations, so far as they came within the scope of the Act, have been adopted. Should the disease unfortunately break out in Ireland, the authorities there have the power to order the slaughter of beasts in order to prevent the spread of the plague. With regard to compensation from public funds, I ask the attention of hon. Gentlemen to what occurred in the last century. Compensation was then given, but only to the amount of 40s., but as we are informed by the Commission, it produced, in the frauds to which it led, very bad results, and in rendering persons careless as to taking proper measures to prevent their cattle from being attacked with the disease. But it is in the power of every county to do what has been done in Aberdeenshire. By means of a voluntary assessment there compensation has been paid for animals slaughtered wherever the disease has appeared, including those in contact with diseased animals, and I believe the fund is not exhausted. This system has been attended with the greatest success. I read the other day a circumstance which reflected credit upon the county of Northumberland. On the appearance of the disease near Hexham the residents in the neighbourhood immediately raised a subscription, and buying the two herds in which the disease had appeared caused the whole of them to be slaughtered. If the same local energy had been displayed in other districts we should have heard fewer complaints about the rapid diffusion of the disease. Upon one other point I may say a few words, although it is not a material one. The legality of the Order in Council which came into operation on the 3rd of January was doubted, because it was supposed that every Act of the sessions dated from the first day of their meeting, 187 which in many cases was the 1st January. The point was raised by the Oxfordshire quarter sessions, and in accordance with their request we took the opinion of the Law Officers, who held that this legal fiction applied only to cases of judicial and not to matters of administrative business. I can only repeat that the Government have been anxious in all they have done to consult the interests of all classes alike. I believe it would be a great advantage if a dead meat supply could be substituted for a live meat supply throughout the country, but such a change cannot possibly be effected without much preparation. I trust we shall obtain the concurrence of the House and of the country in the measure which the Government will introduce on the subject of this night’s discussion.
THE O’DONOGHUE moved the adjournment of the debate.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER Although it is rather earlier than the House is accustomed to adjourn a debate of this character, yet, as the attention of the House has been exclusively occupied by a question of great importance, and I believe the hon. Member intends to introduce to the notice of the House another subject demanding much consideration, I do not believe that we could in fairness ask him to proceed to-night. It will not be convenient for the House to proceed with the debate to-morrow, and it will, therefore, be adjourned until Thursday.
House adjourned at twenty minutes to Twelve o’clock.
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