UK, HL, “Address to Her Majesty on Her Most Gracious Speech”, vol 181 (1866)
By: UK (House of Lords)
Citation: UK, HL, “Address to Her Majesty on Her Most Gracious Speech“, vol 181 (1866).
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THE MARQUESS OF NORMANBY My Lords, I rise for the purpose of moving the presentation of a humble Address to Her Majesty in reply to the gracious Speech with which it has pleased Her Majesty to open the present Parliament. I do so, I can assure your Lordships, with the utmost diffidence in my own power, and, if I had simply consulted my inclination, I would have readily conceded the task to some other Member of your Lordships’ House, who from greater experience and talent would have been better able to do justice to the numerous and important topics contained in Her Majesty’s Speech. I must, therefore, beg your Lordships to extend to me as fully as possible that forbearance and consideration which I know your Lordships always accord to those who address your Lordships for the first time.
My Lords, before entering upon the topics which are alluded to in Her Majesty’s Speech, I must congratulate your Lordships upon the happy circumstance that it has pleased Her Majesty once again to open Parliament in person. I feel assured that this event will be viewed by your Lordships with the utmost satisfaction, and I am confident that it will be hailed with joy by the people of this country, who are at all times anxious to avail themselves of every opportunity to display their loyalty and affection towards Her Majesty.
Your Lordships have, I feel convinced, heard with pleasure the announcement which Her Majesty has graciously made of the approaching marriage of the Princess Helena. 28 Such an event, calculated as it is to secure the happiness of the Princess will, I am sure, find a ready response at the hands of your Lordships. Nor, I am sure, is that pleasure likely to be diminished by the fact that we are not, in all probability, to be deprived by that marriage of the example and presence of Her Royal Highness in this country. It is a fortunate circumstance in the present day that dynastic or political considerations are no longer the ruling motives in the selection of Royal alliances. We view rather with pleasure the prospects of domestic happiness which they may hold out; and, in this instance, I trust the choice of Her Majesty has fallen upon one who is well calculated to promote the happiness of the Princess Helena. I feel certain, too, that your Lordships’ satisfaction will be increased by the knowledge that Her Majesty, while thus consulting the happiness of her daughter, is not likely to be deprived of the society of one whose presence must ever brighten her home and mitigate that solitude which we all so much deplore.
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will also sympathize with the grief expressed by Her Majesty at the death of her illustrious relative the King of the Belgians, whose decease, bound as he was to this country by no common ties, cannot fail to be a source of universal regret. He was a wise and constitutional Prince, called upon under circumstances of an extraordinary kind to reign over a new kingdom, where he gained for himself the affection and esteem of his people during a reign prolonged beyond the ordinary term. In this new and difficult position the late King of the Belgians commanded the respect of every European kingdom, and died beloved and revered at home. His son, with so bright an example before him, will, we may confidently hope, seek to emulate it, and may well look forward to a brilliant future.
My Lords, I should be consulting neither my own feelings nor those of your Lordships, did I not here pay a tribute to the memory of one whose death has deprived this country of an eminent statesman and of a faithful servant, and the House of Commons of one of its oldest and most valued Members. My Lords, there were few in this country who heard of the death of Lord Palmerston without feeling that no ordinary man had passed away—a man able 29 in counsel, wise in debate, conciliatory in manner, possessed of a knowledge of his fellow-countrymen seldom attained by any. He secured to himself the affection, the confidence, the esteem, and the respect of the people of this country in a manner seldom if ever equalled, but certainly never surpassed, by any former statesman. At an age far exceeding that usually allotted to man, he was selected at a time of peculiar difficulty by the almost unanimous voice of the country as the one man best fitted to be intrusted with the interests of the Empire, and I am sure that his memory will long be regarded with affection and respect by the people.
My Lords, our commercial relations with America are so vast, and, above all, the desire of this country is so general for the welfare of that great country, that I am convinced that your Lordships will hear with peculiar satisfaction of the termination of the civil war which for four years deluged her fields with blood and wasted her resources. But that satisfaction must have been greatly increased by the knowledge that the termination of that war has been hallowed by the utter extinction of slavery on the North American continent. My Lords, could it be necessary to look for any means to strengthen the good feeling which exists in this country towards America, I am sure no better means could have been found than in the fact that her free institutions are no longer contaminated by slavery, and that all within her shores, whether white or black, are by law free alike. I am sure, too, my Lords, the feeling of this country will be most general in the anxious wish that the Government of America will be successful in their endeavours to repair the damages caused by the civil war, and that the whole of the American people will in future be strengthened and united. I am sure your Lordships will give the utmost consideration to the correspondence between the Governments of the United States and of this country on the subject of the injuries which have been inflicted upon the commerce of the former country by ships under the Confederate flag.
My Lords, the renewal of diplomatic relations between this country and Brazil must have been viewed by your Lordships with great satisfaction; and your Lordships will have heard with additional pleasure that Her Majesty’s Government, in conjunction with that of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the French, have lost no time in tendering their friendly offices 30 to the Governments of Spain and Chili, in the hope of preventing a war between those countries. Your Lordships will be further gratified to learn that their good offices have been accepted.
Her Majesty has informed your Lordships that a Commercial Treaty has been concluded with the Emperor of Austria; and, with the example of the late treaty with France before us, I am sure we may confidently expect that the commercial intercourse between the two countries will be greatly increased.
My Lords, the next paragraph in Her Majesty’s Speech is one which I approach with considerable anxiety, as it refers to a subject which has led to angry controversy before people were in possession of evidence to enable them to arrive at any decided opinion. Your Lordships are all aware of the feelings with which the first news of the outbreak in Jamaica was received, and you are also aware of the feeling of indignation with which a large and influential portion of the people in this country received the accounts of the severities said to have been exercised in the repression of that rebellion. Governor Eyre, unfortunately, unadvisedly, and unaccountably, did not avail himself of the usual means of placing before this country the full circumstances of the case. Neither did he support by evidence the opinion he had formed of the outbreak. Under these circumstances, having no evidence before them—having no means of deciding upon the merits of the case—Her Majesty’s Government—I think, wisely—adopted the only course open to them in appointing a Commission to inquire upon the spot into the character of the outbreak. Of the character of the Commissioners so appointed this House and the country can have but one opinion—for the character of each and all of these gentlemen is such as to secure that any investigation they may undertake will be searching, full, and impartial; and I myself, my Lords, shall be ready to abide by their decision. But, my Lords, in the meantime, until it be proved by evidence to the contrary, I shall believe that Governor Eyre was possessed of information of which we know nothing, and that he had certain knowledge of the circumstances which he mentioned in his first despatch; for I cannot believe that Governor Eyre, whose antecedents are so opposed to such a sup- position, that the general of the forces, that every official, 31 and all the influential persons throughout the island could have been so carried away by panic as to imagine that a general organized system of rebellion was in existence without evidence to that effect having been laid before them. Neither, my Lords, until it is proved by evidence, can I believe that the severities said to have been exercised have not been grossly exaggerated; for I cannot believe that except under circumstances absolutely necessary for the preservation of the colony and of the lives of the white inhabitants, Governor Eyre would have sanctioned severities which would have been an outrage upon humanity.
My Lords, Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to intimate that papers will be laid before you on the subject of Few Zealand; and I am sure your Lordships will learn with satisfaction that a considerable portion of Her Majesty’s troops employed in that island are ordered to return home. Most sincerely do I trust that it may be long before any considerable force will have to revisit that island; because not only do I believe that it is the duty of the colonists themselves in such a war to protect themselves, but I believe also that they are far better able to carry it on successfully than are regular troops whose very discipline and organization which render Her Majesty’s army so effective in other parts of the world are in a war of that kind actually in the way. The colonists themselves, accustomed to a rough life in a new country, unincumbered by baggage, are far better able than any regular forces to cope with the Natives. If left to themselves they will either come to some terms of peace with the Natives against whom they are opposed, or they will soon get rid of their antagonists, fighting them in their own way upon their own ground.
My Lords, Her Majesty has informed your Lordships that the Orders which have been issued by the Privy Council relating to the disease among cattle which has devastated many parts of the country will be laid before you. By the blessing of Providence, I am happy to say that in my own immediate neighbourhood its ravages have not been felt, and I am therefore unable to speak from personal experience upon the subject. But the urgency of the case is such that I am sure your Lordships will give the utmost consideration to any measure which may 32 be brought before you by Her Majesty’s Government.
My Lords, I approach the subject of the Fenian conspiracy in Ireland with the deepest regret; for we must all grieve at the disloyalty, the wickedness, and the folly of those who organized and who support this foul conspiracy. But, my Lords, while we do so it appears to me that in the present condition of Ireland there are circumstances calculated to raise a lively hope of a bright future for that country. At no period of her history has there been the same combination, the same union among all the respectable inhabitants of that country. Irrespective of religion, irrespective of class, irrespective of party, all are ready to join themselves together for the protection of law, order, and the Constitution. Not one respectable individual, not one person of property, not one person of consideration in the country, has joined the Fenian movement. At no time have the juries more nobly, more justly, and more calmly performed their duties. My Lords, under these cheering circumstances, though we may regret the wickedness and the folly of those deluded men, we cannot for one moment fear the ultimate result of their conspiracy. They may injure their country, they may drive capital from Ireland, but of the ultimate result, I repeat it, there can be no doubt. I trust that sedition once banished from the land much of that unanimity, much of that combination for good which now exists may still continue, and that all may unite to promote the advancement and prosperity of Ireland. My Lords, in the full information evidently possessed by the Irish Government, in the calm, dignified, unimpassioned conduct of the Lord Lieutenant, we have the best guarantee that no outbreak can take place in that country without the knowledge of the Government; and, knowing this, knowing the overwhelming force which might be brought against them, I would fain hope that those who are engaged in this plot may be induced to see the hopelessness of their cause, and that Ireland may be saved from actual outbreak. But if they in their delusion venture to appeal to the arbitrament of arms, I trust no feeling of mistaken humanity will prevent them on the first outbreak receiving such a lesson as will show the utter hopelessness of their cause, and, by convincing them of the folly of their movement, the further effusion of blood may be prevented.
My Lords, the various measures which will be brought before your Lordships by Her 33 Majesty’s Government will, I am sure, receive your careful consideration. We are informed by Her Majesty that information will be laid before this House as to the rights of voting in the election of Members of Parliament, and that, when that information is complete, a measure will be brought before you on that subject. My Lords, on several previous occasions Reform Bills have been brought under the consideration of the Legislature, and at one time a Bill was brought in by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), at the time he was at the head of the Government. I therefore think it can hardly now be said that no discussion on this subject is necessary. Neither do I think that in the present day it can well be said that no change in the franchise should take place. Of the intentions of Her Majesty’s Government on that subject I can, of course, know nothing. I can only express my hope that any measure they may bring forward will, while protecting the rights of property and the intelligence of the country, secure a fair and substantial representation of the working classes.
My Lords, I thank you for the forbearance with which you have heard me. I am fully aware of the imperfection of the remarks I have made, and I will not further trespass on your Lordships’ time and consideration, but will move that the following humble Address be presented to Her Majesty:—
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
“WE, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble Thanks to Your Majesty for Your Majesty’s Gracious Speech.
“WE humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that Your Majesty has declared Your Consent to a Marriage between Your Majesty’s Daughter The Princess Helena and Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein Sonderbonrg-Augustenburg; and with Your Majesty we trust this Union may be prosperous and happy.
“WE assure Your Majesty that we participate in the profound Grief felt by Your Majesty at the Death of Your Majesty’s beloved Uncle The King of the Belgians; but we feel confident that the Wisdom which He evinced during His Reign will animate His Successor, and preserve for Belgium her Independence and Prosperity. “WE rejoice to learn that Your Majesty’s Relations with Foreign Powers are friendly 34 and satisfactory, and that Your Majesty sees no Cause to fear any Disturbance of the general Peace.
“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.
“WE humbly assure Your 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 Your 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.
“WE humbly convey our Thanks to Your Majesty for informing us that the Exertions and Perseverance of Your Majesty’s Naval Squadron have reduced the Slave Trade on the West Coast of Africa within very narrow Limits.
“WE thank Your Majesty for directing Copies to be laid before us of the Correspondence which has taken place between Your Majesty’s Government and that of the United States with respect to Injuries inflicted on American Commerce by Cruisers under the Confederate Flag.
“WE express our Thanks to Your Majesty for informing us that diplomatic Relations with Brazil have been renewed; and that the good Offices of Your Majesty’s Ally The King of Portugal have contributed essentially to this happy Result.
“WITH Your Majesty we regret the Interruption of Peace between Spain and Chili; and we earnestly trust that through the good Offices of Your 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.
“WE thank Your Majesty for informing us that the Negotiations which have been long pending in Japan have been brought to a Conclusion which has received Your 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.
“WE humbly express to Your Majesty our Thanks for informing us that Your Majesty has 35 concluded a Treaty of Commerce with The Emperor of Austria, which Your 35 Majesty trusts will pen to that Empire the Blessings of extended Commerce, and be productive of important Benefits to both Countries.
“WE humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that in consequence of the deplorable Events which have occurred in the Island of Jamaica Your Majesty has been induced to provide at once for an impartial Inquiry, and for the Maintenance of Authority during that Inquiry, by appointing a distinguished Military Officer as Governor and Commander of the Forces; that Your 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.
“WE assure Your Majesty that we will give our careful Consideration to the Bill on this Subject which is to be submitted to us.
“WE thank Your Majesty for directing Papers on these Occurrences, and on the present State of New Zealand, to be laid before us.
“WE convey to Your Majesty our Thanks for informing us that Directions have been given for the Return to this Country of the greater Portion of Your Majesty’s Regular Forces employed in the Colony of New Zealand.
“WITH Your Majesty 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 Your Majesty continues to attach great Importance.
“WE have observed with great Concern the extensive Prevalence, during the last few Months, of a virulent Distemper among Cattle in Great Britain, and 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, and we trust with Your 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.
“WE thank Your Majesty for directing the Orders which have been made by the Lords of your Majesty’s Privy Council, by virtue of the Powers vested in them by Law, with 36 a view to prevent the spreading of this Disease, to be laid before us; and we humbly assure Your 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.
“WE humbly express our Thanks to Your 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.
“WE humbly assure Your 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.
“WE thank Your Majesty for having directed 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 we assure Your Majesty that when that Information is complete our earnest Attention will be given to the Result thus obtained.
“WITH Your Majesty we fervently pray that the Blessing of Almighty God may guide our Counsels to the Promotion of the Happiness of Your People.”
THE EARL OF MORLEY My Lords, in rising to perform the duty which has on the present occasion devolved upon roe, I am fully sensible how greatly I stand in need of that leniency and indulgence which your Lordships are wont to extend to those Members of your House who are for the first time addressing you; and I would venture to say that I have a more than ordinary claim on your indulgence, in consideration no less of my own want of experience in public affairs than of the wide range and the varied and important nature of the subjects 37 to which I have to call your Lordships’ attention. Before, however, I proceed to these subjects, I cannot but most heartily congratulate your Lordships upon one circumstance which characterizes the present occasion. It is, I am confident, with feelings of the sincerest pleasure and gratification that you have seen Her Majesty so far restored to health and strength, after her severe afflictions, as to be enabled again to perform the functions of her high office, and in person to open her newly-assembled Parliament. Irreparable as is the loss which she and, in common with her, the nation have suffered, it may be that the very affiction itself, and the universal sympathy which it has called forth, will be the means of still further intensifying those sentiments of loyalty and attachment which England has ever felt towards her Sovereign, and which cannot fail to receive a fresh impulse from her re-appearance in the sphere of public life.
My Lords, the speech from the Throne contains matter both for congratulation and for condolence with Her Majesty—matter for congratulation in the approaching marriage of the Princess Helena—an event which, I am confident, your Lordships will cordially welcome, as contributing to Her Majesty’s gratification, and, I trust, to the happiness of a member of the Royal Family; matter for condolence in an event which has at once deprived our Sovereign of a revered and beloved relative, and a neighbouring and friendly nation of a wise and sagacious ruler, whose prudent policy advanced it to its present state of prosperity, and whose counsels spread their influence far beyond the comparatively narrow limits of his own Kingdom through the whole length and breadth of Europe. The Belgians will, I doubt not, have your Lordships’ sympathy and your best wishes that their present Sovereign, wisely following in the footsteps of his predecessor, may be enabled like him to preserve and to promote the welfare and independence of his subjects. My Lords, there is one more sad event which has occurred since we were last assembled here which I cannot pass over in silence, even though I only echo the sentiments expressed by the noble Mover of the Address. This country has lost one of its most venerable and one of its most popular statesmen. It has lost one who, by his affability and by his tact, could conciliate all those with whom he came in contact, and who, by his wide experience and political sagacity, gained for himself the 38 respect and the confidence of the whole nation. I will, my Lords, leave it to those better qualified than myself to pass an eulogium upon his life, devoted for more than half a century to the service of his country. All that I will say is that his memory will long be cherished with affection by the nation which now deplores his loss.
My Lords, I will, in the next place, refer to our foreign relations. Throughout the civilized world peace and tranquillity again prevail. The Chilian and Spanish, difficulties, it is true, threatened at first to give rise to a war; but it may reasonably be hoped that, before any further acts of hostility are committed which may tend to exasperate both parties, and to render an amicable solution of the question at issue impossible, the friendly interposition of the Great Powers may effect a reconciliation between the contending nations. In North America your Lordships will have heard with great satisfaction that the last year has been signalized by the termination of the deadly fratricidal contest which has for four years devastated that country. Our nation, it is true, was personally interested in the event; but the joy which it experiences at the restoration of peace is not of a purely selfish nature. It unfeignedly rejoices that a nation possessed of boundless resources, and endowed with indomitable energy, has again freedom to develop its constitution, its industry, and its commerce. It rejoices that the conclusion of the war is the signal for the abolition of negro slavery—an institution which is the bane of civilized society and a barrier to all true social progress. It rejoices, further, that the victorious have known how to use their victory with clemency, and to follow a moderate and wise line of policy in the reconstruction of the Union; and, finally, it sincerely hopes that no untoward events may tend to counteract the ties of race, of amity, and of interest, which should ever connect us with the re-United States. Our relations with other foreign Powers are no less calculated to contribute to your Lordships’ satisfaction. With Brazil we are again on terms of amity. With France our union was never more cordial, never more firm. The mutual hospitalities which our fleets have interchanged tend, in no slight degree, to quicken those friendly feelings, and to strengthen the entente cordiale between the two nations, and in so doing give us the surest hopes that peace will 39 prevail in Europe, and that civilization will spread throughout the world. With Austria we 39 have recently entered into a Treaty of Commerce—a treaty which benefits this country by extending its commercial relations, and by opening a new field to mercantile adventure, and which, above all, marks the first success achieved by the principles of free trade against the stronghold of the protective system.
My Lords, the questions relating to our colonial policy have already been so ably treated by the noble Marquess who has just sat down that I need detain your Lordships but a very short time with them. The colonies are generally prosperous, and the more tranquil condition of New Zealand has warranted the withdrawal of a large proportion of Her Majesty’s troops. But there is one deplorable exception to this general rule, which affects not less the welfare of an important colony than the reputation for justice and integrity of the mother country itself. My Lords, the facts of the Jamaica outbreak are still involved in obscurity. How far there was an organized rebellion among the black population of the island—how far that rebellion was the result of the previous unfair administration and tyrannical conduct of the white race—and, lastly, how far the emergency justified the apparently extreme severity of the execution—are questions which, I would humbly suggest, we are as yet not in a position to answer. Two diametrically opposite opinions seem to prevail on the opposite shores of the Atlantic. In Jamaica itself there is apparently a universal conviction that a widely-ramified conspiracy had been organized by the black population for the purpose of annihilating the white, and that the events at Morant Bay were but a premature outbreak of a general rebellion; and, further, the feeling seems generally to prevail that the Governor was not merely justified in his conduct, but that, for the energy with which he suppressed the outbreak, he deserved the gratitude of the whole island. In this country, on the other hand, large classes of men have most unfairly prejudged the whole question. Upon the most insufficient evidence they have condemned Governor Eyre—they have condemned him without a hearing—the very crime which they impute to him in his dealings with the negroes; and in some cases deny that there was any organized conspiracy at all. Both these opinions are equally unsatisfactory. In one case the opinion was given under the influence of a panic; —the colonists were under the 40 impression that a race three times their number was preparing to destroy them en masse, and with the remembrance of the previous outbreak of 1831, and with the example of Hayti before their eyes, they might not unnaturally be induced to exaggerate their danger—if they did exaggerate it— and in the fulness of their gratitude to justify any measures which had been the means of effectually averting it. In the other case, men have ventured, upon the most imperfect evidence, to pass sentence on events which occurred 5,000 mites from these shores under a set of conditions of which they have never had the slightest experience. From their own position of security they have rashly condemned the measures of those who were acting under the belief that their lives and properties were in hourly danger. Under these circumstances, my Lords, and allowing that prima facie Governor Eyre’s measures seem to be unnecessarily severe, there was but one course for Her Majesty’s Government to pursue; and this course they have adopted. A judicious and carefully selected Commission, with Sir Henry Storks at its head—a man of acknowledged administrative power, and of a character above all unfairness or partiality—has been sent out to investigate the circumstances of the case. To enable this Commission fully and impartially to perform its duties, Governor Eyre has been temporarily superseded — a step which has been the subject of adverse criticism, but which was, under the circumstances, absolutely necessary, and which in no way prejudges the case or throws any stigma on the Governor’s conduct. When this inquiry is completed, and the whole circumstances are laid before you, it will remain with your Lordships to condemn or approve the measures of the Jamaica Executive, as the case may be:—while it is still pending, it cannot but be unfair to express a decided opinion either way.
There remain three subjects of the most vital importance connected with the homo policy of this country, in consideration of which I venture to make a still further claim on your Lordships’ indulgence. In Ireland, my Lords, revolutionary schemes have again been brought to light—schemes which though they may be wanting in every essential element of success have yet been productive of considerable annoyance, and may temporarily retard the 41 rapid development of the resources and the industry of the island. Fenianism is a vibration of the vast movements which have recently agitated the Transatlantic States. Five years or more has it been in coming to maturity, and now its promoters have doubtless been encouraged to persist in their designs by the delusive hope that the termination of the war in America would be the signal for a rupture with this country—a hope which I trust and believe is doomed to lasting disappointment. However annoying the schemes of the revolutionary brotherhood may be, there are, at all events, many circumstances which, if we compare the present with previous outbreaks of 1798 or 1848, cannot fail to quiet any alarm we may feel on their account. In the first place, the Fenians are countenanced by no religious party whatever—the parson and the priest unite in denouncing them. In the second place, it is remarkable that no persons of education, of property, of wealth, or of respectability are to be found in their ranks. All men possessed of these advantages are prepared to resist any outbreak which may occur. Lastly, the honesty and courage with which the Irish juries have performed their duty gives us at once the best proof of the loyalty that prevails among the respectable classes in Ireland, and the surest grounds for confidence that the authority of the law will remain unimpaired. I need scarcely say how much is due to the judicious and energetic conduct of the Dublin Executive. They allowed the conspiracy to assume assailable dimensions before they interfered; but, at the same time, did not postpone that interference until it ceased to be amenable to the power of the law, and could only be suppressed by the power of the sword. This unhappy conspiracy has been throughout treated as a matter which should excite neither our alarm nor our contempt; and, thus treated, there can, I trust, be no reason to doubt that before long it will succumb before the triple authority of law, property, and religion.
My Lords, the second of these questions which is alluded to in Her Majesty’s Speech, and which is of such great importance that I venture to approach it only with considerable diffidence, is the great constitutional question of Reform. Scarcely any one would, I think, venture to maintain that the present system of the representation of the people in Parliament is faultless. The Bill passed in 1832, beneficial as it was, was not absolutely perfect; and, 42 moreover, since those days the condition of the middle and lower classes of society has undergone a very considerable change. Education and culture have in that period made rapid strides, and have extended their influence to numbers who before scarcely felt their effects at all. And so, my Lords, experience has shown, and all parties agree in admitting, that there are inequalities and defects of one kind or another in our present system of representation. The correction of these defects has constantly been the subject of debate; during the last fourteen years no less than four different measures for Reform have been introduced; they have successively been rejected or withdrawn, and have left the question at issue in as vague and uncertain a condition as they found it. Surely, my Lords, it is high time that measures were taken to arrive at some definite conclusion on this all-important point? Surely, it is at once below the dignity of the Legislature, and contrary to the wishes of the nation, that a question which so nearly affects the interests of all its classes should any longer remain without solution. Such a solution, however, is not to be found in abstract principles or in political theories, but in the dictates of practical sense, in wide experience, and in accurate knowledge of the particular circumstances of the case, guided by statistical information; and this information Her Majesty’s Government are at the present time carefully collecting in as precise and accurate a form as the means which they have in their power will enable them to do. And this will form a solid basis for the measure, whatever be its nature, which will be brought before your Lordships’ House. Guarding against the danger of subverting the existing order of things, and creating confusion in the political and mercantile interests of the Kingdom, I trust that, when the time comes, your Lordships will give your sanction and approval to some well-considered measure of Reform which may tend to correct or to modify any existing anomalies, and to add vigour and stability to the institutions of the country.
There is still one question of the most serious importance on which I will venture a few remarks, and then I will cease to trespass any further on your Lordships’ patience. Our nation is at the present moment suffering from the effects of a national calamity. The cattle plague which visited this country in the middle of the last century has again re-appeared among 43 our herds, and the fearful rapidity? with which it is spreading may reasonably excite the greatest alarm among all classes of society. The rapidity of its progress, and deadliness of its effects, are but too clearly indicated by the simple facts of the case. In June there was but one spot infected by the disease; there are now more than 13,000. The number of new cases which occurred during the past week, amounting to 11,000, exceed by 1,000 those that were reported for the whole month of November. And, again, the Returns of last week show an increase of 1,400 on the week immediately preceding it. Already 120,000 animals, if the Returns can be trusted, have been attacked, and of these 90,000 have either died or been killed. These figures disclose a most alarming state of things. Medical science has hitherto been completely baffled in its investigations. In all probability it was introduced into this country by some Dutch cattle imported to the Metropolitan Market. And since it has been introduced, the subtle and the deadly effects of the poison it generates are but too well known to your Lordships. There is scarcely any agency of which it does not avail itself in its rapid extension—the clothes of the herdsmen, sheep, dogs, birds, and even the wind itself, will carry the seeds of the distemper for at least 200 yards; and, further, the eccentric course which it often follows, leaving some spots, for no apparent reason, completely free, and attacking the adjoining farms with the utmost violence, show its affinity to human epidemics and frustrate the investigations of science. As to remedies, we are no less at a loss. Each one may ascribe the recovery of the few cattle out of his herd to the cures which he himself employed. But in reality all the remedies and drugs which have hitherto been applied have proved equally ineffectual, and the hopes which were derived from the supposed affinity of the disease with small-pox seem doomed to like disappointment. Under these circumstances, several Orders in Council have been issued, empowering the local authorities to use such means as were deemed necessary to check the progress of the murrain, either by slaughtering infected animals or by stopping all cattle traffic within their district; and an Act is at the present moment prepared to give further powers to these local courts, who will, I trust, by mutual co-operation and by uniform and stringent action obviate the necessity 44 for the interference of the central power. It has been maintained that the emergency has already demanded this interference on the part of the central power. But it must be remembered that circumstances differ in different localities, and that any uniform measure applied to the whole country would fall very differently on different places. The farmers and landowners of Cheshire and Yorkshire would welcome any measures of however a stringent and universal a character; but the twenty-three counties in this island which are as yet free from the disease, and the large towns which are still well supplied with meat, would not receive them with such unqualified approval, nor would they in any way cooperate in enforcing them; and, further, it has always been a principle in this country to leave the management of local affairs to local authorities, who are supposed to be better acquainted with the peculiar circumstances of their case, and at the same time to have a greater interest in it, and consequently the central Government has not at its disposal all that organization which exists in so many Continental States, to enable it to carry out stringently and effectually the measures it deems expedient. These are serious, if not impassable, difficulties which hitherto any uniform measure would have had to encounter. And I cannot but think that, of the two alternatives of employing central or local powers, Her Majesty’s Government chose the right, and, perhaps, the only practicable one. It will remain with your Lordships to determine whether any further means are to be taken to check the rapid extension of the plague, and what the nature of these means should be— whether any uniform or partially uniform plan could be devised which could at once be carried into execution by the local authorities, and regulate their measures. There is, however, one source of consolation in this calamity—namely, that it has pleased Providence, in His mercy, to send it upon this country at a time when perhaps of all periods of its history it will be best able to bear it. It has visited us in a year of abundant harvest, and at a time when commerce is more active and productive than ever it was before, and when the revenue, notwithstanding reductions in taxation, shows a balance of between two and three millions—at a time, in fact, when this country has reached a height of prosperity almost unparalleled in the history of the 45 world.
My Lords, my task is now accomplished. I have to the best of my power, however imperfectly that may be, touched upon the main topics of Her Majesty’s Speech. All that remains for me now to do is to thank you most sincerely for the patient and indulgent hearing you have given to my remarks, and to conclude with a hope that the Address which I now have the honour of seconding may meet with your Lordships’ unanimous approval. [See Page, 33.]
THE DUKE OF RUTLAND My Lords, I have never before risen to address your Lordships on a similar occasion, but I trust I may now be allowed to address a few observations to your Lordships on one topic referred to in the Royal Speech, in which I, in common with Her Majesty’s subjects at large, take the deepest interest—I allude to the cattle plague. To that one topic I will confine my observations. Before doing so, I beg to express my hearty concurrence in all that has fallen from the Mover and Seconder of the Address in those portions of their speeches in which they dwelt upon the pleasure which it must give your Lordships to find that Her Majesty has again opened Parliament in person, and the regret with which you must have heard of the death of the late Prime Minister, and of his Majesty the King of the Belgians. The cattle plague has, as the noble Earl who seconded the Address has observed, been raging in this country for more than six months; it has gone on increasing from month to month, and we had as yet found no means of repressing its virulence. As yet there has been found no specific remedy for the disease, and men of all shades of political opinion who have given their attention to the subject seem to have arrived at the conclusion that a system of prevention not of cure is that which alone it is practicable to adopt. That being so, I should like to ask what the Government has done in the matter? The answer is that they have done next to nothing. They have done almost worse than nothing. They have, it is true, issued a number of Orders in Council; but I believe that if the money expended on their issue had been laid out in taking effective measures to stop the disease and indemnifying the unfortunate sufferers from it, the cattle plague would be a thing of the past, and your Lordships would not that evening be engaged in discussing the subject. As it was, the Orders in Council which were sent out one after the other were in themselves vague, 46 unsatisfactory, and often contradictory of each other—they agree in nothing but in showing the evident determination of the Government to shift all responsibility, as far as possible, from their own shoulders. Sometimes it has been placed upon the magistrates in petty sessions, and sometimes upon the magistrates in quarter sessions; but always it is to be remarked that the Government will not take the responsibility upon themselves. I may be told—indeed, we have been told by the noble Lord who seconded the Address—that the difficulties of the case were almost insuperable; that although the disease had appeared in England about a century ago, yet the experience then acquired as to its action had so died out that it must really be looked on as something new, and that all that the Government could do was to institute an inquiry into the matter, and that they had done all that was in their power. I, however, venture to question the correctness of that view. In the first place, a Committee had, in 1854, been appointed by the House of Commons to take into consideration a Bill which was then pending in that House—the Cattle Diseases Prevention Bill, and by that Committee a great deal of evidence was taken, Professor Simonds, among others, being one of the witnesses who was examined. Now, he found that Professor Simonds on that occasion stated that the rinderpest was a disease perfectly well known, and that he himself had seen it prevailing in Russia and Bavaria. He, moreover, described the steps which were taken in those countries as having proved perfectly satisfactory in preventing the spread of the plague. With such evidence before the Government, how is it possible, I will ask, to contend that the rinderpest is a thing with which we were altogether unacquainted? But I will go a step further, and remind the House that in September last a Royal Commission was appointed for the purpose of investigating the disease, and that a majority of that Commission reported at the end of October, in the strongest possible manner, in favour of stopping all communication in the way of the transit of cattle throughout the country. What has the Government done in consequence? Instead of adopting the stringent measures recommended by the Commission they have thrown the responsibility on the local authorities, and have refrained from doing anything themselves. Yet they showed by 47 their own conduct that they were aware that the means which they declined to adopt were, in reality, the most efficacious remedy for the disease; because there are two very remarkable instances in which they did act, and acted with great rigour on that view, and with great success. One was in the case of Ireland. There was, happily, no rinderpest there, and the Government very properly stopped the importation of cattle into that country. It is perfectly true that they did not do so without hesitation. When the Home Secretary first received a deputation on the subject, he said there were insuperable difficulties in the way of stopping the importation of cattle into Ireland; but some persuasive eloquence used by the Irish Members had the effect of altering the determination of the Government, and the insuperable difficulty was swept away. But to go from the West to the North, I find another remarkable case of action by the Government, and it is incidentally alluded to in the Royal Speech—I allude to the case of Argyllshire. There was no rinderpest there; and there the Government again took very vigorous steps. So that he was, he thought, justified in saying that they could not plead ignorance on the subject as an excuse for the course which they had pursued in this country, or for saying they had done all that it was possible for them to do. I have ventured to make these observations to your Lordships because I hope that, even now, at that late hour, we may be able to induce Her Majesty’s Government to rouse from their lethargy and do what I conceive to be their duty—namely, to stop all movement of cattle in England, and also all importation of cattle into England from abroad. The other day I attended a large meeting in my own county on that subject, and I noticed that the passage in an able speech, made by a gentleman present, which was most applauded, was that in which the speaker said, “We must put our shoulders to the wheel, and get rid of the rinderpest; or, if we cannot do that, we must get rid of the Ministry.”
THE DUKE OF RICHMOND I ask your Lordships’ indulgence for a short time while I allude to a paragraph in the Speech from the Throne on a subject in which I take the deepest interest. I am happy to find that, owing to the very able manner in which the noble Duke has addressed you, it is unnecessary for me to occupy much of your time. Feeling, however, 48 as I do, that the conduct of Her Majesty’s Government before and since the alarming spread of this cattle plague is open to grave censure, I am unwilling, on this occasion, to remain altogether silent. In the paragraphs in the Speech delivered by Her Majesty which allude to the cattle plague, I confess that I think the wording of the last part of the first paragraph is somewhat extraordinary. The passage to which I refer is that in which Her Majesty says— I trust 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. I venture to think that it would have been a preferable mode of expressing the sentiment if that part of the Speech in which Her Majesty is made to hope that “the Divine blessing on the means which are now being employed may arrest the further extension of the cattle plague” had preceded, instead of coming after, the mention of “the precautions suggested by experience.” The next paragraph proceeds to state that— The Orders that have been made by the Lords of the Privy Council by virtue of the powers vested in them by law, with a view to prevent the spreading of this disease, will be laid before you. Now, I would venture to call the attention of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) to this paragraph, and to ask whether it is perfectly certain that the Government have acted in strict accordance with the law? There is an old maxim delegatus delegari non potest. I believe that the action of the Privy Council has been taken under the 11 & 12 Vict. c. 107, s. 4. By that section the Privy Council are empowered to make such orders and regulations as to them may seem necessary for the purpose of prohibiting the removal of cattle, and so on; and, in another part— To make any other order and regulation for the purpose of giving effect to the Act; to revoke or annul any order when so made, and that such orders should have the like effect as if they had been inserted in the Act. Now, under this Act, the Privy Council had power to make such Orders as they pleased; but I doubt whether they had power to delegate to another body those powers which the Act of Parliament conferred upon them. I think that in dealing with these provisions of the law the Government have been unfortunate. I agree with my noble Friend, the Government were in one of two difficulties. Either the Government were perfectly cognizant of these matters 49 or they were not. Now, I think they cannot plead ignorance, for many reasons which I will not weary your Lordships by repeating. They have been already referred to by my noble Friend. Professor Simonds, in his evidence before the Royal Commission, stated that he made his visit to Galicia in 1857 in consequence of information which had reached the Government from Consuls abroad, especially at Lubeck, of the spread of the cattle disease at Luxembourg, and of its steady advance towards those Continental ports from whence we were importing cattle. This was in 1857. I would venture to call the attention of your Lordships to the opinion of Professor Simonds, after having satisfied himself that this disease that broke out in England was identical with that in Galicia. He says— In July, 1857, I ascertained that the disease had appeared in England, and the result was the present Order of the Privy Council. He was then asked what was the effect of the first Order in Council, and I call the noble Earl’s particular attention to this, for at first I really thought it was a misprint—he was asked what was the effect of the first Order in Council; and his answer was— I think the effect was to spread the disease more quickly than it would have spread otherwise. The Government have been urged throughout to take the responsibility upon themselves. It is a responsibility that belongs to the Executive of this country; it is what they have no right to shirk. But what was the course which the Government took? In the first place, they issued an Order in Council empowering magistrates in petty sessions to stop traffic in cattle at markets and fairs in their petty sessional division; and what is the result? The magistrates in petty sessions did stop the traffic in cattle at markets and fairs, but in no two petty sessional divisions had the same orders been issued. Nay, I know an instance where the magistrates in petty sessions in the county put a stop to all fairs and markets in their petty sessional division; but the mayors of two boroughs in the same division declined to do so. And we had this state of things, which was very inconvenient, to say the least—that the county markets were closed by order of the petty sessions, while the markets in the towns were open by order of the mayors. The Secretary of State was applied to in this difficulty, and he wrote very politely to the mayors of 50 those boroughs, calling attention to the fact, and the mayors replied—no doubt with equal politeness—declining to make any alteration. That is a state of things which, if the Government had acted properly, never could have arisen. What was the next Order? The Privy Council empowered the magistrates in quarter sessions to put a stop to cattle traffic. In other words, they would not incur the odium, if odium there were, of doing it themselves. They shrank from the responsibility which belonged to them as the Executive, and placed that responsibility on the magistrates of the county. My Lords, I will not trespass longer on your time with reference to this subject; but having felt great interest in it, I was unwilling to be altogether silent. There is one other topic introduced into Her Majesty’s Speech on a subject in which I was more or less mixed up, and on which I wish to make a few observations. I allude to the paragraph in which we read— A Bill will be submitted to you founded on the Report of the Royal Commission on the subject of Capital Punishment, which I have directed to be laid before you. I think I am speaking the sentiments of the majority of my brother Commissioners when I express our very great annoyance that the Report of that Commission, before it was signed by the Commissioners, and before it had been presented to Her Majesty, should have appeared in the columns of The Morning Star. I consider that to be a breach of confidence towards the Members of the Commission, and a gross want of respect to the Sovereign on the Throne.
LORD FEVERSHAM said: I desire to make a few observations on the cattle disease, because I also am dissatisfied with the paragraphs of the Speech which refer to that subject, and it is my intention to propose an Amendment to the Address on that point. Your Lordships are well aware of the circumstances attending this unparalleled and destructive malady. It first appeared in the month of June in the metropolis, then it extended to the suburbs of London, and last it became diffused through many of the counties, until it stalked unchecked through the length and breadth of the vallies, and has climbed unsubdued to the summit of the hills, and there are few places in the kingdom which have wholly escaped its ravages. 51 Parva metu primò, mox sese attollit in auras, Ingrediturque solo, et caput inter nubila condit. The question your Lordships have now to consider is whether the course taken by Her Majesty’s Government has been such as to meet the magnitude of the evil and the exigencies of the case. Was it adequate to the occasion? Public opinion has answered this question in the negative. Great dissatisfaction has been engendered; the action of the Government has been regarded with general disappointment and disapprobation; and distrust has taken the place of confidence and assurance. It cannot be said that Her Majesty’s Ministers have been taken by surprise, for there were sufficient indications from other quarters of the great importance of the subject, and of the peril with which it is attended. Your Lordships have been told that the Government had acted in one respect with great vigour. But it is well known that the Government at first refused to comply with the memorial from Irish landowners and farmers that the importation of cattle into Ireland should be stopped. The memorialists were told that there were insuperable obstacles in the way of granting this request. But when the representatives of the Irish people took up the question and forwarded a strong remonstrance to the Government on the subject, these insuperable difficulties were at once overcome; the importation of cattle into Ireland was prohibited; and the country had, in consequence, enjoyed complete immunity from the ravages of the disease. What was the course taken with respect to the disease by the French Government? On the 5th of September the French Minister for Agriculture addressed a letter to the Emperor, recommending the most stringent measures to prevent the importation of the disease into the ports of France, that the introduction of foreign cattle from the sea coast and from the northern and eastern frontiers should be prohibited. The Emperor of the French at once acted on those suggestions. The Belgian Government pursued an analagous course, and the consequence was—as it had been in Ireland—that those two countries had to a large extent escaped the ravages of the plague. Would that the Government of this country had acted with the same energy and decision. Her Majesty’s Government, in the first instance, gave the justices in petty sessions power and authority to take certain steps to stop 52 markets and fairs and appoint inspectors. Nine out of ten of these inspectors, however, had never seen the disease; yet they had the power of destroying every animal they suspected, although they were often unable to distinguish the true rinderpest from pleuro-pneumonia or other inflammatory disorders to which cattle are liable. After the disease had raged for three months the Government determined to appoint a Royal Commission. It contained among its members men of great eminence and talent, of practical knowledge and scientific research, who devoted a large portion of their time and labour to the investigation of the subject, collected some important facts, and on the 31st of October issued a Report, but in consequence of not being unanimous, probably, their recommendations were set at naught. The time of year had now arrived when the principal agricultural societies of the country are accustomed to hold their meetings in London. The Council of the Royal Agricultural Society of England took the whole matter into consideration, they drew up most important resolutions, and a deputation in December last waited upon the noble Earl the President of the Council and the Secretary of State for the Home Department. They made recommendations which were endorsed by other agricultural bodies, but which the Government declined to adopt. At length a great change came over the Government, and they transferred the powers conferred upon the justices in petty sessions to the justices in quarter sessions. This change of plan clothed the question with fresh difficulties, ambiguities, and perplexities. It made confusion worse confounded, for the various quarter sessions issued different orders, some more stringent than others, which have caused great inconvenience, and the inhabitants of several districts not being able to comprehend why these discrepancies and incongruities should exist, applied to the magistrates for information; but the explanation they received not being satisfactory, they still entertain hopes that the Government, even at the eleventh hour, are prepared, to recommend some definite course of action for the guidance of the whole country, in lieu of leaving the matter in the hands of local authorities, whose views and opinions are certain to differ, and whose decisions could not possibly be expected to be 53 susceptible of amalgamation or concurrence. It is not surprising that the subject of indemnity and compensation for the losses sustained should have been mooted, for in many parts of the country these losses have been most heavily felt. Although I am aware this is not the time or place to discuss this point, I will venture to say if it was the determination of the Government not to grant any remuneration or indemnity out of the public funds, it was the more incumbent on them to adopt from the first every precaution, to exhaust every effort, and to assume the whole responsibility of dealing vigorously with the subject in lieu of telling a deputation to wait and see. If a man’s house is on fire he does not wait and see whether it will be burnt down before he takes steps to extinguish the flames. Delays were said to be dangerous, and that was particularly true in the present case. The noble Lord concluded by moving his Amendment.
Amendment proposed to be made to the Address by inserting after the words (“so deeply affecting the interests of my people”) We beg Leave submissively to add our deep Regret that upon this important Subject the Government did not from the first assume the Responsibility of issuing an Order for Uniformity of Action throughout the Country, as essential to avert the Progress and to mitigate the Severity of so virulent, appalling, and destructive a Malady.
THE EARL OF ESSEX said, he must express his concurrence in almost all that had fallen from the noble Lord who had just sat down. In his opinion, Her Majesty’s Government had shown the greatest want of vigour throughout the whole of their proceedings on this subject. He was quite aware how unwilling Governments were to undertake responsibility, and to go out of the track of routine; but extraordinary crises called for extraordinary action and vigour, and he must express his conviction that Her Majesty’s Government had shown the greatest possible lack both of courage and action in this matter. If ever there was a case in which vigour and uniformity of action were required it was this; but how was it possible to secure either when the Privy Council delegated to the petty sessions, or quarter sessions, the powers they ought to have exercised themselves? He was perfectly well aware that if the passage of cattle from place to place within the country had been stopped six months ago, great dissatisfaction would have arisen among the farmers; but the case was now altered. 54 The people were all strongly impressed with the absolute necessity of strong measures, and would, of course, submit to their imposition. In every newspaper, provincial as well as metropolitan, letters from agriculturists appeared calling upon the Government to exercise its authority, for the suppression of the disease; and the same demand was made by speakers at agricultural meetings throughout the country. In a few weeks hence it would be extremely difficult to take the necessary steps. At the present time the cattle were penned up in the farmyards; but what would be the consequence when they were turned adrift to feed in the fields, or driven to market for sale? The House would perceive at once how greatly the chances of infection would be increased. He abjured Her Majesty’s Government to take such steps as would entirely put a stop to all movement of cattle. He did not know whether he should be in order in asking the question, but if he were, he would ask what Her Majesty’s Government were proposing to do? He was sure the answer would be listened to with the greatest interest, and received by the community at large with no little dismay if the hope he had ventured to express were not favourably responded to.
THE EARL OF WINCHILSEA said, he perfectly agreed with the noble Earl that Her Majesty’s Government had done little or nothing; but he was disposed to go still further, and to say that in the little they had done they had exceeded their authority; and they had done that which they had no more right to do than they had to put their hands into any of their Lordships’ pockets and take out what they pleased. The Act of 1848 was sufficiently strong in its provisions. It gave the Government power with reference to persons bringing diseased beasts into any fair or market—it gave them power to stop the fairs and markets altogether; and it gave them control over all the highways and thoroughfares of the country. But the first thing they did was, not to exercise those powers, but to send inspectors on to private premises, with power to break open doors if entrance was refused them, those inspectors being authorized to kill any cattle which they might consider to be infected; and they directed penalties to be inflicted upon the proprietors of cattle who objected to these proceedings. Now he believed that those assumed powers were wholly illegal, and that when the 55 inspectors broke open doors they were guilty of burglary—at any rate he thought that in such cases the owner would have an action at common law against the inspector, or ultimately against the Crown or the country wherever a beast had been killed contrary to the will of the proprietor. Perhaps the noble Lords opposite would come down to the House with a Bill of Indemnity. If they did, it would, no doubt, be very politely received; but that this or the other House would pass such a measure, unless it contained some restitution to the owners of the cattle which had been killed, he could scarcely bring himself to believe. He thought the Government owed the agriculturists some compensation for having brought in the disease; for he maintained that it had been introduced by the laches of the Government as plainly as if they had brought in the plague in a bundle of old clothes from Mecca. At any rate they had allowed the importation of beasts from Hungary and Russia, where it was notorious that cattle were subject to a disease analogous to the plague. What the Government should have done was only to have allowed the importation of foreign beasts into particular ports, where inspectors might have been stationed, and where the beasts might have been got into a proper state of health before they were allowed to go further into the country. There was nothing, however, to prevent the admission of diseased cattle at this very moment. The plague came from Europe, and how did they know that new cases did not arrive every week? During the three months of winter they might have prevented the movement of stock; but the 1st of May was drawing near, and then a penalty of £10,000 would not prevent the farmers from turning their cattle out to grass—in fact, they could not help themselves; it was a positive necessity, for the beasts must otherwise starve. It was very well known that even now the Order in Council was not strictly obeyed; for, on all hands, as their Lordships must have seen, cattle were driven along the highways with impunity. If Her Majesty’s Government were in doubt as to what they should do, let them study The Gentleman’s Magazine for 1745. George the Second’s was not considered a very liberal Government, but his Government paid half the value of each beast that was killed to the owner. He invited the Government of 56 to-day to be as liberal as the Government of 1745. His noble Friend the Secretary of State for the War Department had certainly shown a spirit of liberality. He had issued a remarkable document announcing that, in consequence of the sufferings of the Yeomanry Cavalry, the Government would not press for the tax on their horses. This tax would amount to about £60,000 he understood. That was as if their Lordships were to say that because there happened to be smallpox in a few cottages on their estates they would give away no beef at Christmas. It seemed to him that the £60,000 which would be saved by not calling out the Yeomanry, might very well go to form the nucleus of an insurance fund to compensate the farmers for the loss they had sustained by the neglect of the Government in allowing this abominable disease to come into the country. The Government had, in fact, made them a present not only of this disease, but also of pleuro-pneumonia, and of foot-and-mouth disease, by permitting the introduction of foreign beasts without proper precautions. As he had already said, the Government had not put in force the enormous powers given to the Privy Council by the Act—the provisions of which seemed to have been passed by some autocratic body rather than by an English Parliament—and they had done that which they had no right whatever to do. If one of their Lordships instructed his steward to buy fifty beasts, and the man went and bought a hundred and fifty horses, no regard for his character, or for his wife and family, would restrain that noble Lord from dismissing him. Whether Her Majesty would take that course with her present servants he could not tell; but he was afraid they were too strongly backed up by another House. He must, however, say that no Gentlemen were ever placed—if he might use the term in a Parliamentary sense—in so ignominious a position as that occupied by the noble Lords opposite.
EARL GRANVILLE My Lords, after the course this discussion has taken, I think it will be better if I at once furnish your Lordships with some information in reply to the various speeches made, partly on the other side and partly on this side of the House, all, however, in a great degree condemnatory of the conduct of the Government, with regard to this great disaster, the cattle plague. I certainly am not surprised, considering the length of time 57 this disaster has continued, and the fact that it is in most parts of the country rather on the increase than on the decrease, that noble Lords should express themselves somewhat warmly upon the subject. I doubt, however, whether the noble Earl who has just sat down (the Earl of Winchilsea) is justified in characterizing the Government as burglars, and the actual importers of the cattle plague into this country, in so light and cheery a manner, scarcely befitting the gravity of the subject to which he was referring. The noble Duke who spoke fourth in the debate (the Duke of Richmond) and the noble Earl (the Earl of Winchilsea) have impugned the legality of the course pursued by the Government, and they have expressed their belief that the Government had no right to give power to the local authorities to issue orders. But the fact is that the local authorities did not issue orders—they only received authority to carry into effect, by giving notices, the general Order of the Privy Council. I cannot believe that the noble Lord who has proposed an Amendment (Lord Feversham) seriously wishes to press it upon the consideration of your Lordships, whatever may be his opinion as to the course pursued by the Government in not assuming from the first the responsibility of issuing an Order for a uniform system throughout the country. If he does press the Amendment he certainly will not secure the vote of the noble Earl behind me (the Earl of Essex), who confesses that measures which would be welcomed now would not have been regarded with favour six months since. It would have been perfectly impossible for the Government to put a stop to the importation of foreign cattle and the movement of cattle in the United Kingdom at the commencement of July last. The accusations made by the noble Duke (the Duke of Rutland) against the Government are not consistent, and one or the other of them must necessarily be unfounded. He charges Her Majesty’s Government with having done nothing, and with having done worse than nothing; one of these charges, if established, must disprove the other. Her Majesty’s Government knew nothing concerning the existence of the disease until the 10th of July, and cases were reported in Kent on the 14th of July, in Sussex on the 18th, and in Hampshire on the 21st of the same month. Now, allowing 58 only seven days for the incubation of the disease, the contagion must have existed in Kent on the 7th and in Sussex on the 11th—the day following that on which the Government heard for the first time of the existence of the disease in the country; so that no uniform system could have excluded the plague, even if the Government could have accepted and acted upon one. I will refer presently to the question whether the conduct of the Government has been judicious; but in answer to the charge that we have done nothing, I claim for the Government and for the officers concerned in the subject very great activity in the matter. On the afternoon of the 10th of July, Professor Simonds gave information that he had reason to believe that the rinderpest existed in the city in some few cases. I was informed of the matter that afternoon, and I gave immediate orders that Professor Simonds should at once examine into the nature and causes of the disease, and report upon the cases which were said to have occurred. Orders were also particularly given to the police, who assisted in the investigation. On the 17th the Professor reported. We received his letter on the 18th, and we communicated that day with the Home Office. They replied, stating that under the Act alluded to an Order in Council could be issued; and we gave urgent instructions the same day to prepare the Order which was subsequently passed on the 24th. The attention of the agricultural portion of the community had meanwhile been directed on the 12th by Professor Simonds to the existence of the disease, and between that time and the 24th, when the first Order was passed, there were consultations of every kind. It will, however, weary your Lordships if I go into the details of every matter which engaged the attention of the Privy Council. I may mention one fact with regard to the illustrious statesman whose decease has been lamented on both sides of the House—that he paid great attention to the subject to within a week of his death; and, as a singular instance of the activity of his mind, I may add that a very short time before his death he wrote a clear and lucid memorandum on the scientific part of the question. There has been an excellent pamphlet written by Dr. Lyon Playfair, one of the Commissioners, and in that pamphlet he throws considerable blame on the Government; but he distinctly says that up to the time of the Report of the 59 Commission the action of the Government was prompt and decidedly in advance of public opinion, and I think that there cannot possibly be a doubt as to the truth of that statement. He says, as noble Lords have said to-day, that subsequent to the publication of the Report of the Commissioners, we lagged behind public opinion; and this charge may be true to a certain extent. But when public opinion was so divided upon the nature of the cattle plague and the manner of dealing with it, either by way of prevention or cure, it is not any strong accusation against the Government that they did not immediately act upon the many conflicting suggestions which might seem from time to time to receive the public approval. It was quite true that an able and competent Commission was appointed, and that a Report was issued by them at the end of October. It was two or three weeks before we acted upon the Report, and for this reason—that Commission was not unanimous. There are three other Reports appended by other members of the Commission, each of them not only different, but written with marked ability. It was, therefore, impossible for the Government to take action until the evidence upon which those Reports were framed had been printed. It has been suggested that we have endeavoured to get rid of all odium, that we have shrunk from all responsibility which belonged to us as the Executive by throwing it upon the local magistrates. But I may say that there has been no timidity in this matter on the part of the Government. I believe the duty of the Government is to do that which they believe to be right, and especially to avoid doing that which they feel they cannot efficiently and firmly carry out. With regard to an enforced uniformity of action, each noble Lord who has spoken upon the subject has referred to the different modes in which the various Orders of the Privy Council have been carried out in the several counties of the kingdom. This diversity of practice I believe to be important evidence as to whether it is possible for the central authority beneficially to enforce uniformity and at once to establish an iron rule, and to carry it out in the different districts. It is said by the noble Duke (the Duke of Rutland), that foreign countries have successfully encountered the disease, and that it is disgraceful that we should have failed when Prussia and France have succeeded. I must ask the noble Duke to 60 consider the great difference between this country and Prussia and Prance. I may mention that Austria entirely failed in stamping the disease out; while Prussia and Prance, dealing with it boldly, were eminently successful. It has been said that a week of the rule of Louis Napoleon was the only thing which could stop the progress of the disease in this country. But it must not be forgotten that Louis Napoleon possesses advantages not possessed by the constitutional Government of this country, it is impossible to carry out here the rule which is so successful abroad. The central power is so paramount in France that a man cannot cut down wood on his own estate without first communicating with the Minister of the Interior. Many persons, whether Legitimists, Orleanists, or Imperialists, complain that the action of local government is paralyzed by the very centralized system which has not been introduced by the Emperor of the French in particular, but which has been the ordinary system of the French Government for many years. But the consequence of that centralized system is that the organization is perfect. Government has its own prefects and under-prefects; its own mayors appointed by itself, Gens d’Armes and Gardes-Champêtres upon every field, the whole forming the most powerful Government that can be. In the same way in Prussia a system somewhat similar is adopted. The people are accustomed to it and like it, but every little matter forms the object of the solicitude of Government. If you are going down a hill in a light carriage you are obliged to put down the drag in a certain place, and to take it up at another. That system may be regarded in that country as a very perfect one, but would it be endured here for a day? Is it impossible for this question to be dealt with, and successfully dealt with, by our local governments? You have counties in England where the methods of encountering the disease have been perfectly successful, and yet where it would have been impossible for the Government to have successfully attempted action. Thus, in Aberdeenshire the local authorities have been able to deal with it. I am sorry to hear that the disease has once or twice attacked that county. It was quite curious, in one of the last cases, to see how nine or ten gentlemen, without any compulsory laws, took upon themselves to subscribe the necessary funds, and, by purchasing and killing the diseased cattle, entirely to stamp it 61 out in a way which it would be impossible for a central Government to attempt. But the noble Duke complains of the different systems adopted in different counties. Now, the arrangements in the North Riding of Yorkshire are different from those in the West Riding, and I have seen a letter from the chairman of the committee of the latter division of the county, in which he gives the strongest possible opinion that the notion of sending the butcher to the ox would be most injurious, and would be most likely to propagate the disease, and to enable the farmer and the butcher to palm off bad meat upon the public. With respect to giving directions to the local authorities in boroughs, there is the case of Liverpool, where a difficulty arose from the market being out of the district of the borough; but in that case the disputing parties met, and I believe that the difficulty has been compromised. With regard to public opinion, I do not know how far public opinion goes in reference to this matter, but the debates in Parliament will be the best test of it. It has been said that the Government should have enforced uniform action from the beginning. Now in order to bring the question of uniformity of action before the justices, a circular was sent to the chairmen of quarter sessions on the 12th of October, asking them to give suggestions for the consideration of the Government; and in only two instances—in that of Northumberland and Bedfordshire—was a uniform course demanded, the general request being that the local authorities should have power to stop the removal of infected beasts and of manure. My Lords, I think it is some indication of the great difficulty of dealing with this subject, and of the great changes which have taken place in public opinion with respect to it, that there are such great differences of opinion between the very competent men who act on the Commission. I am told—I suppose I am at liberty to mention it—that another Report is already agreed to by the Commissioners appointed to consider the subject, which will contain most valuable information, but which will not offer any further suggestions as to the course which should be taken by Government—I suppose in consequence of our not having attended to their previous recommendations. The noble Lord (the Earl of Essex) has asked me what the Government intend doing in the matter. My reply is that at the earliest possible 62 moment—on Monday next, I believe—it is intended that a Bill shall be introduced into the other House to make some alterations in the law, and making various changes which we think will be useful. I am quite sure that any Bill of this sort will be met in no party spirit, but will be treated as a measure to be adopted for the advantage of the country. I am sure that your Lordships will excuse my not anticipating the introduction of that Bill by making any statement as to its provisions.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON My Lords, I watched for some time for some Member of the Government to rise to address your Lordships on the subject to which the noble Earl who has last spoken has just referred, and I am glad that at last some information has been presented to us. My noble Friend, however, is so successful in making the “worse” cause appear the “better,” that I cannot refrain from offering a few remarks on his speech. Every noble Lord who has spoken, whether on this or the other side of the House, has agreed in condemning the course which Her Majesty’s Government have taken on this subject. For my own part I am afraid I must endorse their opinions, and perhaps even go beyond what they have said; for while not going so far as to say that the Government are responsible for the introduction of this disease, I do say they are responsible for its spread and extension throughout the country. The noble Earl endeavoured to vindicate the Government on two points. He said that it would have been impossible for the Government to have acted differently in the months of July and August, when the disease first became known; and he also said it was impossible to establish uniformity of action throughout the country. Now, I will not take up the case at that early date; but I will show to your Lordships that a few months later the Government might and ought to have acted. There were then, at least, several alternatives open to them, the adoption of any of which would have brought the question to a more or less successful issue. When once the Government were made aware of the appalling state of circumstances revealed, they ought to have called Parliament together and taken its opinion on the matter. Failing Parliament being called together, they might have acted under those powers which it was thought were of sufficient force to meet the emergency; or, lastly, if they were not 63 disposed to exercise their own responsibility, they should, in justice and pity to the country, have enabled the local bodies, to whom they had transferred those responsibilities, to act with effect. But in none of these points have the Government done their duty. The Report of the Commissioners was published in the middle of October, and when was Parliament called together? On the 6th of February —several days later than for years it had been customary to be assembled. This is trifling with the question. It is a mockery of the great interests which are suffering and almost perishing at this moment. But putting aside the question of calling together Parliament, suppose the Government had acted under the powers which belonged to them. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) says it was impossible for them to act as desired, because we had not a centralized Government; and the noble Earl quoted the examples of Austria, Prance, and Prussia, to show the power of action of centralized Governments. Prance and Austria might have so acted; but was Belgium a centralized Government? “Was it necessary to have an autocratic Government in order to close the ports of Ireland?” Was it necessary to have an autocracy in order to keep the county of Aberdeen free from disease? Why, the great agricultural societies have been earnestly pressing the Government to take action in this matter. But was it not in their power to stop or regulate the importation of diseased or doubtful cattle from infected countries? You know that importation had brought the disease; and, for anything you know, importation might be extending it. Yet importation was allowed to go on. Again, why was the Metropolitan Market allowed to remain open —that market which has been the curse of the country, which was not only itself an open centre of infection, but was distributing the disease in every direction. Again, you had inspection in your own hands—what did you do in that respect? Inspectors were appointed under such a system that inspection either resulted in the indiscriminate slaughter of every beast attacked, or became a mere idle form and ceremony. Inspectors were required to pass cattle at night, when they could not see them, and when it was absolutely impossible they could perform their duties. On this very ground we had at the same time inspectors appointed by the Privy Council Office, 64 by the Metropolitan Market’s Committee, and by the Middlesex 64 magistrates. Some, too, of those inspectors were utterly ignorant of their duties. Some were tradesmen, shoemakers, even butchers; and so, partly from ignorance, partly from jealousy, partly from conflicting powers, facilities were given for the extension of the disease. A very moderate amount of foresight and regulation would have disposed of all this difficulty. But I go farther. I ask why did not the Government take measures to stimulate the ingenuity of private individuals by offering rewards for the discovery of a remedy for the disease? When, a few weeks ago, vaccination was thought to be one of the suitable remedies, there was a complete deficiency even of vaccine matter in London. I fully admit that the whole question of insurance is surrounded by the greatest possible difficulty; but we had at least a right to expect that in a letter of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, published in the autumn, incitements should not be held out to the illusory schemes of local insurances which have failed, and which will in nine cases out of ten fail. But if the Government were not disposed to act in this matter, they were at least bound to give sufficient powers to the local authorities to enable them to act. What did they do? They issued Orders in Council, but those Orders in Council are so contradictory and confused as to be of no use whatever. I would call attention to two of these Orders. One is dated the 23rd of November, which consolidated all previous Orders. It vested the powers henceforth in the hands of petty sessions. But, as every child might know, this immediately led to an extraordinary difference of action throughout the country, each bench acting on a separate principle, and such was the confusion introduced that it became impossible to know under what law any county, or even any part of a county, was governed. But the Government began to find out their mistake, and so they passed another Order, in which they rushed from one extreme to another—from the petty sessions to quarter sessions. But quarter sessions are a very unwieldly body, and there is the greatest difficulty in getting them to work. They are very well calculated to discuss business once in three months, but they are wholly unfit to deal with sudden emergencies. Without powers of delegation the greatest difficulty was experienced in working the Orders in Council, the 65 meetings being adjourned in many case3 from fortnight to fortnight, or die in diem. But the Government could not even draw up the Order without the grossest blunders. This Order in Council was dated the 3rd of January. The quarter sessions met without exception on the 1st or 2nd of January, and consequently, though they might discuss, they could not pass the resolutions, and gentlemen, after attending the quarter sessions from different parts, were obliged to separate without doing anything in respect to these resolutions. Was it fair for the Government to throw the country into all this confusion, and cause this unnecessary grievance? Was there no almanack in any department of the Privy Council to inform the noble Earl that by Act of Parliament all quarter sessions are to be held on a certain day, or was the Home Secretary really ignorant of the facts, or was he really indifferent to the whole matter? I should like to ask the Government the reason of the very unsatisfactory nature of these proceedings. The noble Earl says that a memorial in October was sent up to the Privy Council Office from one court of quarter sessions, pointing out the great danger attending the transmission of hides and manure. If there is one thing more than another that is dangerous and deleterious it is the free transmission of hides and manures, but the Government did not deal with it until the 20th of January last; and this, of which in October the noble Earl was warned as dangerous, was left utterly uncared for till that 20th of January. I will now ask the House to consider a question which will be very often asked—namely, “Where are we at this moment—what is the position in which we now stand?” Ever since the adoption of free trade the agriculture of the country has been mainly dependent on the breeding of stock; and can any reasonable man deny that in the destruction of stock a very great difficulty is imposed upon the farmer of England to maintain his solvency and to pay his way? Their cattle are perishing at the rate of 10,000 a week, and that rate is progressing under such circumstances that there is a great probability that our agriculture will be brought to an entire stop; but if it do not disappear the loss of stock which has been already sustained, and is being now sustained, must so dislocate the whole circle and machinery of agriculture as in a short time to bring it to a standstill. A noble Lord who spoke earlier in the evening (the Earl of 66 Essex), pointed out very truly that this is a most critical time of the year. We shall have in a month or six weeks all the cattle now under cover turned out. At Lady Day there will be changes in tenancies, sales of produce, breeding and grazing difficulties, in fact, all sorts of movements and re-arrangements. Unless between this and then we succeed in striking down this disease we shall find the landlords on the eve of bankruptcy, and the tenants on the eve of ruin. I cannot conceive any calamity greater than that which at this moment threatens to overwhelm us; and what has Her Majesty’s Government done to avert it? They have done absolutely nothing—nothing—nothing. I listened to all that fell from the noble Earl with great attention, but I could not trace the faintest indication in it of one single measure of practical utility. I do not pretend to know what were the motives of Her Majesty’s Government, but I will state to the House what people in the country say. When they did not call Parliament together in the autumn, people say that the Government knew its own insecure and shaky position, and feared to meet Parliament. When they did not act themselves and use the power they were already possessed of, but threw the responsibility upon others, people say they feared the clamour which might arise in the great towns at any disturbance of the meat market—that they dreaded the displeasure of the consumer rather than remembered the duty of considering what were the best interests of the whole community. I will not say myself that these conjectures are true; but I think it is perfectly clear from what has taken place that the Government were exceedingly ignorant. I do entreat them to bring forward at once, and without delay, some measures which will meet the difficulty. There are three things to be done. First of all we have to deal with the question of importation. Depend upon it, the agriculturists will never stand having a drawn sword continually suspended over their heads in the shape of imported disease always ready to descend upon them. Importation must, therefore, either be regulated, or it must be stopped. Secondly, something must be done in the next few weeks to smite down the disease, and to bring it within manageable compass. God knows whether that is now possible or not, but it is the bounden duty of the 67 Government to try. Thirdly, when the disease is checked some carefully constructed and efficient machinery must be devised by which we may eradicate it as often and as fast as it appears again; for I fear it will live in the country for years and years before it finally disappears. I was glad to hear the noble Earl say the Government would next week propose some Bill on this question; but I should hare been much better pleased if he had at once laid his proposition on the table. Every single hour of delay swells the mischief in an enormous degree, and I hope to have before the close of the debate some more satisfactory assurance on this point.
THE MARQUESS OF ABERCORN My Lords, in the few observations I am about to make, I shall confine myself to one point only. I agree with the noble Mover and Seconder of the Address in their remarks upon the mischievous conspiracy which has unfortunately broken out in Ireland; and I think with them, that the measures adopted by the Lord Lieutenant have been marked with vigour and good sense. The dignified demeanour of the Judges, the courage and discernment displayed by the juries under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty, the prudent and courteous attitude of the counsel for the prosecution—and, indeed, for the defence also—have all tended to increase the dignity of the law in Ireland. But while I do not find fault, and feel rather inclined to give praise for what has happened since the issue of the Special Commission, I think the late Government have acted most unwisely in delaying these prosecutions so long. It is hardly fair to charge upon the present Government of Ireland the delays of its predecessor; but the Home Government is substantially the same, and therefore we can hardly acquit them altogether. The delay which postponed these prosecutions until after the general election was most unwise and most unfortunate. It may be invidious to inquire too closely what so suddenly aroused the Government from its slumbers to a sense of danger at the exact moment when the votes of the electors were all recorded at the general election; but, whatever the cause, the Government has incurred a deep responsibility for allowing the seeds of sedition to be sown broadcast before their eyes. With your permission, my Lords, I will state a few facts respecting this Fenian conspiracy, 68 which are not generally known. In 1858-9 the Government of the noble Earl who sits near me (the Earl of Derby) had received information of the existence of the Phoenix Society, evidently the precursor and nursery of Fenianism. Some ten or twelve persons were then arrested, and one of them, named Sullivan, was sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude. The others, owing to some informality in their trials, were re-committed, the presiding Judge thinking the evidence so strong against them that he refused to admit them to bail. In the interval before the next trial my noble Friend retired from office, and was succeeded by the late Government. The first act of Mr. Cardwell —who was appointed Secretary for Ireland under the new Administration—was to liberate all those persons, on the condition that they should plead guilty and be liberated on their recognizances, holding them liable at any time to be called up for judgment. This was done; but these prisoners made it a condition, before they would accept these terms, that their colleague, who had been sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude, should also be released on the same terms. Of these men, three were named Donovan, Rosser, and Mulghany. What, I ask, has been the result of that misplaced leniency? Why, that the very men I have mentioned have been tried again and sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude by the Commission which has recently held its sittings in Ireland, for the aggravated offence of which they have since been guilty; the Government having, with what I cannot help regarding as a total want of judgment, permitted them to remain in Dublin during the last four or five years hatching their plots, instead of having, as they might have done, according to the terms imposed in 1859, called them up for judgment. Again, the head of the conspirators—Shake—otherwise the notorious Stephens, who had absconded to avoid being convicted by my noble Friend’s Government, was, notwithstanding that the Government were in possession of evidence in connection with him, which ought to have made them cautious, allowed to return to Ireland, and to lay the foundation of all those machinations which have almost broken out into open insurrection; while Donovan became the editor of The Irish People, and was allowed to propagate the most violent and seditious doctrines, although the Government had it in their power to deal with him, as I have just 69 stated, at any moment. I blame, too, the Government for sanctioning such a demonstration as that of the funeral of M’Manus, one of the rebels in 1848, which furnished the occasion for the making of seditious speeches, and the display of colours and badges which were well known to be of a Fenian character. There cannot, I think, be the slightest doubt that such laxity of conduct as that to which I advert has induced the Fenians to imagine that the Government either did not care to interfere with their proceedings, or dared not interpose their authority. As to the ultimate result of that conspiracy, although I cannot absolve the Government from the charge of having by their remissness allowed it to grow to its present height, and although it has dealt a blow to the commercial credit, the security and the advancement of Ireland, which all the conciliatory measures which the present or any other Ministry may pass will fail for some time to come to obviate, yet I have no ultimate apprehension of the result, for I feel satisfied there is in that country an amount of loyalty by which the evil will be successfully combated.
EARL GREY My Lords, I shall not follow the noble Earl who has just sat down into the subject with which he has dealt, not because I do not think it of the highest importance, but because I hope it will, on some future occasion, be brought seriously under our notice by Her Majesty’s Government. There is, however, another subject, not certainly of greater importance, but of greater urgency, on which more than one noble Lord has spoken this evening, and on which I should like to make a few remarks. I allude to the cattle plague, for their conduct in respect to which the Government have been severely censured by more than one of the noble Lords who have preceded me. I do not think that in all respects this censure is deserved; because I believe that for some time after the disease broke out it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for them to adopt measures as stringent as the nature of the case would seem to demand. We were most of us at first—at least, I certainly was myself—but very imperfectly aware of the magnitude of the calamity, and up to the time when the Report of the Commission was issued, and even somewhat beyond that period, I have no serious fault to find with the course which the Government pursued. Since then, 70 however, their conduct has not, in my opinion, been so decided as it ought to have been, nor do they appear to me to have been sufficiently alive to the great importance of the crisis. As was said by my noble Friend who spoke last but one (the Earl of Carnarvon), the breeding and feeding of cattle is now the groundwork of all improved agriculture. Ever since the repeal of the Corn Laws we have been pressing on the farmers the necessity of breeding more cattle, we have been continually telling them that to grow more and cheaper corn they must keep more stock, and this advice has been generally acted upon. To increase their cattle in order to increase the productiveness of their land has been the great object of the best farmers, and the destruction of their stock by such a scourge as the cattle plague would break down our whole present system of agriculture, and might occasion a loss which it would take half a century to repair. This calamity is one of the most fearful that can be imagined. It means the insolvency of the whole tenantry of England, the impoverishment of the landlords, and the destruction of English agriculture. Under these circumstances Her Majesty’s Government, knowing what had been the experience of other countries—how all attempts to cure the disease had proved futile, and, on the other hand, how successful measures of prevention had been—was it not their duty to take preventive measures of the most stringent character? That they properly discharged their duty in leaving matters to the local authorities I, for one, utterly deny. The noble Earl spoke of following public opinion in this matter. I cannot admit any such excuse. It is the duty of the Government to lead, and not to follow public opinion. Public opinion, I say, my Lords, requires to be led by those who hold the high position of Her Majesty’s Ministers—the direction should be given from above and not from below. The English people, and indeed all nations that are fit for freedom, are ever disposed to follow the guidance of their authorized leaders when they act with vigour and judgment, and it is when such qualities are wanting in its leaders that the country is dissatisfied. Nay more, I say that no Government is more likely to lose the confidence and support of a people than one which seeks to evade or to shift from itself responsibility. For my part, I think too highly of the English nation not to believe that they would be prepared to support their Government if it exhibited; promptitude and energy in a great emergency. 71 But if Her Majesty’s Ministers were not willing to act upon their own responsibility by adopting more stringent measures to stay the pestilence, how can they defend themselves for not having called Parliament together at an earlier period? During the winter months the movement of cattle from one place to another might have been entirely suspended, without inflicting any permanent injury or very heavy loss upon the country, and without occasioning an amount of inconvenience too great to be temporarily borne. [Earl GRANVILLE: Fat stock?] I purposely avoid entering into details, but if fat cattle were allowed once to go to market, they ought never to be allowed to return from it. In the winter months, I repeat, the inconvenience to which I have referred might be submitted to, and I believe that if Parliament had been called together early in November, and if the Government had explained to Parliament, and through Parliament to the country, what was required to meet the urgent necessities of the case, both Parliament and the country would have supported them in adopting such stringent measures as by this time might have checked this fatal scourge. But now the plague has been spreading; every week shows an increase over its predecessor in the extent of its ravages, and both the expense and the difficulty of stopping the pestilence would be tenfold greater than it would have been only two months ago. By neither taking effectual measures on their own authority, nor yet calling Parliament together and so allowing the country an opportunity of declaring its wish for the timely adoption of severe regulations, the Government have incurred a very grave responsibility; for, by not summoning Parliament it is not that they have done nothing; they have done a great deal, for they have deprived the country of the means of enforcing those regulations which I believe in Northumberland—I cannot so well speak for other counties — almost every man was of opinion ought to have been adopted to stay this dreadful disease. There the complaint is that during those months, when these regulations would have been effectual and comparatively but slightly inconvenient, next to nothing was done; and now when the spring is coming on, when all the fodder for cattle in the houses is nearly exhausted and the cattle must of necessity be put out to feed, the difficulty of stopping infection will be infinitely greater than before. If 72 Parliament had met earlier much might have been done to check the ravages of the disease, by enabling counties to raise money by rates for the purpose of buying and destroying infected cattle. Your Lordships are aware with how much success this has been done by means of a voluntary association in Aberdeenshire; but it was impossible, unless the law had given greater powers than now exist, that this example should have been generally followed by other counties. In a county situated like Aberdeenshire, which is not very populous, where the farms are generally large and the tenants a highly energetic and intelligent class of men, voluntary action and association in this matter were possible; but none of your Lordships who are acquainted with our English counties will believe that such a system would be practicable in them. Certainly it would not be practicable to the same extent here as in Aberdeenshire. For these reasons, I must say I think Her Majesty’s Government are liable to severe censure for the course they have pursued. I am quite aware that their intentions were excellent, and that want of judgment and of vigour was their only fault; but in such a case as this, the lack of those qualities is about as serious a fault as a Government can have.
My Lords, I would next advert to the portion of the Speech from the Throne which refers to the subject of Parliamentary Reform. The Speech says— I have directed 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. When that information is complete, the attention of Parliament will be called to the result thus obtained, with a view to such improvements in the laws which regulate the rights of voting in the election of Members of the House of Commons as may tend to strengthen our free institutions and conduce to the public welfare. My Lords, when I read those words, I cannot but infer that the reports which have been in circulation on this matter are really true—I mean the rumours that Her Majesty’s Government intend to deal with the great question of Reform by introducing a Bill, the whole scope of which will be confined to a reduction of the franchise. My Lords, I need hardly tell you that for some time reports to this effect have been generally current, but hitherto I had refused to give them credit. Till I read the significant words of Her 73 Majesty’s Speech I could not believe, even now I can hardly believe, that my noble Friend opposite (Earl Russell), who was the organ of the Government of 1831, in bringing the great Reform Act before Parliament can have determined so utterly to repudiate the principles of their policy, and to act so diametrically in opposition to all that was then done as these words imply. Let me remind your Lordships that the extent of the changes proposed in the Reform Bill of 1831 surprised both its opponents and its friends. One of those who supported it declared that when he first heard the plan described in the House of Commons it “took away his breath,” What was alleged to be the dangerous and needless extent of the changes proposed was the constant topic of the opponents of the measures. Against these attacks the Members of the Government defended themselves by contending that if Parliamentary Reform were dealt with at all it ought to be in such a manner as to settle the question. I can, at all events, speak for one with whom I was very nearly connected, and of whose part in that great transaction I have no small reason to be proud. I have been reading over his correspondence with the late King on this subject, and his remarks upon all the difficulties which beset the question, as well as the grounds upon which the Government recommended the measure, and I find the point upon which he most insisted, and the argument to which he continually returned were that it would have been in the highest degree dangerous to propose any plan of Reform not calculated to settle the question. The Members of his Government all concurred with him in the opinion that repeated meddling with the Constitution of the country was what was most to be guarded against, and that the predictions of the opponents of Reform that these changes would be but the stepping-stones to future innovations, could only be falsified by bringing forward a measure so complete that it would secure the good government of the country, and give such satisfaction to the great majority of the nation that no one would wish to disturb it. My noble Friend himself (Earl Russell), in that memorable debate in the other House of Parliament during the crisis that immediately preceded the passing of the Reform Bill, declared that he had found it to be the opinion of the highest authorities both among the opponents and the advocates of 74 Reform, and in which he himself concurred— That if Reform was to be carried it ought to be founded on principle, and to be so framed if possible as to be as final a measure as legislation could carry into effect. This was the great and fundamental principle of the policy of the Government of 1831, and the event has proved that it was a wise policy. It is now nearly thirty-four years since their great measure was carried, and in all its main provisions it remains unaltered to this day, and it has proved for a whole generation to be a settlement of the question. It has proved also to have been the means of promoting the good government of the country. I could not believe, till I was compelled to do so by the terms of the Speech, that my noble Friend, having this experience of its result, would abandon the wise and successful policy of which in 1831 and 1832 he was so distinguished an advocate, and adopt the very opposite policy of bringing forward a measure so obviously incomplete and imperfect that it is impossible it can be a settlement of the question, and must lead to further changes. My Lords, I had found it difficult to believe this, although I confess I had been alarmed, even before I knew the terms Her Majesty had been advised to use in her Speech, by the rumours which were current that my noble Friend meant to follow the advice publicly pressed upon him by a Member of the other House of Parliament, for whose judgment in this matter I confess I have by no means the same high respect that I feel for his character and for his ability. Your Lordships will doubtless recollect that some weeks ago Mr. Bright, in a speech at Rochdale, expressed a very strong opinion that the Government ought to bring in a Bill to deal with the question of the franchise only, and with the most remarkable candour he explained his reasons for recommending this course. He told his hearers that it was not to be thought this change would be sufficient. On the contrary, on this as on other occasions he has expressed his conviction that far more extensive changes in the constitution of the House of Commons are necessary—changes so extensive that they would go the full length of altering the whole existing character of the House of Commons, and make it a mere representation of the numerical majority of the population, assimilating it to the House of Representatives 75 of the American Congress. There was no attempt to disguise his object, but he said it would be very unwise to attempt too much at once, because then he said they would be sure to be defeated; but, he added, that if they could induce the Government to introduce a Bill only to alter the franchise, and if the Government should carry the Bill with their support, they would obtain an improved position, and, to use his significant word, “an improved leverage” for further Parliamentary action. That is a significant word, “leverage,” for it implies the overthrow of the whole existing system, so that there may be a clear ground for building up a new one. If I concurred with Mr. Bright as to the result to be aimed at, I should entirely concur with him as to the means to be used. If I thought it desirable to make the House of Commons a mere numerical representation of the majority, and not of all classes and interests, then I should say by all means adopt the course which Mr. Bright recommends; because, if such a sweeping change as he aims at were proposed openly and at once, it would not only be scouted by both Houses of Parliament, but scouted also by the nation. I believe that an overwhelming majority of the whole nation would reject at once measures of this kind if openly proposed. But I also know—and Mr. Bright seems to know likewise—from the experience of other countries, that nations may be brought by degrees to adopt plans which they would shrink from if pressed upon them in their full extent at once; that, in short, a fortress which defies capture by storm may very often be taken by sap. Differing altogether from Mr. Bright as to the object we ought to strive for, and believing that we ought to improve the present Constitution, and not to invent a new one, I think the first point we ought to insist upon in a Reform Bill is that it shall be one which the Ministers who propose it can conscientiously recommend to us as being calculated permanently to settle the question; and, therefore, a much larger measure would give me far less alarm than such a Bill as it is implied by the Speech that we may expect. Let me point out to my noble Friend that a Bill dealing with the franchise only never can be accepted as a settlement of the question by a sincere Reformer. Any measure intended to settle this question must deal with the present distribution of seats; because this is the part of the existing system which stands most 76 in need of amendment. The present franchise may be faulty, and I believe it is, but, at all events, it is not repugnant to reason and common sense. It may have the fault of not providing sufficiently for the representation of the working classes, but assuredly it by no means excludes them from all share of political power. In the Committee which your Lordships appointed in 1860, it was proved that in one, at least, of the present boroughs the working men formed the majority of the whole constituency. In others, particularly the manufacturing boroughs, the working men form a large portion of the voters, and that a much larger number of them might be in the possession of the franchise if they chose. It was proved that very many of them earn wages quite sufficient to enable them to live in £10 houses were it not, unfortunately, too common for them to spend their money in indulgencies it would be far better for them to forego, instead of in providing comfortable homes for their families. The law regulating the right of voting is also open to objections, on account of its complexity and the uncertainty of its operation, because it depends upon the interpretation of nice legal questions. Still it cannot be denied that under the provisions of the law as it stands Members are returned for our counties and boroughs, who, upon the whole, very fairly represent the opinions of the places where they are chosen. Nothing of the same kind can be said in favour of the existing distribution of seats. It rests upon no principle whatever, but is utterly arbitrary and capricious. The shares of political power conferred upon different constituencies have not the slightest relation either to their comparative numbers, wealth, or intelligence, their independence, or even their general character. You have the right of separate representation withheld from large and flourishing towns, whose inhabitants are distinguished for their independence and intelligence; and, on the other hand, you have that right enjoyed by decayed boroughs of 200 or 300 voters, and sometimes of even a smaller number, who possess no such qualifications. Some of these boroughs are to all intents and purposes nomination boroughs, some are much worse, being venal and utterly corrupt. Not only are the returns for these places governed by money, but by money employed in a manner which tends so directly to degrade and demoralize the electors that it would be 77 almost better to put the seats up to public auction, and dispose of them to the highest bidders. My Lords, these are facts which I defy any man to disprove; and with these facts before us, can it for a moment be pretended that a Reform Bill would deserve its name if it omitted all reference to evils so gross, and make no effort to remove them? But a Reform Bill confined to the reduction of the franchise would increase these evils; for I have no hesitation in saying that in some of the smaller boroughs a reduction of the franchise would introduce corruption where it does not now exist. Such a Bill, therefore, would be a sham and a delusion unless meant only to serve, as suggested by Mr. Bright, as a stepping-stone towards further changes. I do not forget that, when a Reform Bill was last before the House of Commons, the small boroughs were ably defended by very high authorities. It was argued, that however objectionable they may be in principle, however gross some of the abuses to which they give rise, yet practically they provide for the entrance into the House of Commons of a class of Members who would otherwise be shut out, and who could not be excluded without serious detriment to the character of that Blouse, and to its fitness for the discharge of its duties. I am far from contending that these arguments are without weight, or that there is no truth in the statements on which they rest; but it does not follow, because there is a certain amount of good mixed up with the gross abuses which now prevail, that we ought contentedly to allow these abuses to flourish. The juster conclusion would seem to be that, to which we might also be led by other considerations, that the simple disfranchisement of the smaller boroughs would be unwise; that a good Reform Bill cannot be produced by merely attempting to tinker the existing system, but must be founded on a careful revision of that system as a whole; that we ought closely to examine its working, and decide upon the changes to be introduced in a spirit of reverence for what experience has proved to be good in our Constitution, but with courage to deal boldly with real abuses. A Reform of this kind, it may be said, would be so difficult to carry that it would be vain to attempt it. I do not deny that there would be difficulty in accomplishing a real Reform of Parliament; but in human affairs to attain great objects, great difficulties must generally be encountered. Painful 78 labour, earnest and anxious effort, seem to be the means appointed by Providence for accomplishing all that is truly good and valuable whether for men or for nations. It would, undoubtedly, be no easy task to devise and carry a Reform Bill really deserving the name—a Reform Bill not meant only to serve the temporary interests of a Ministry or a party, or to meet unreasonable and ill-considered demands from any part of the nation, but wisely calculated to promote the good of the whole and to strengthen the foundations of our Constitution. This would, indeed, be no easy task; but is that a reason for our allowing a scheme glaringly bad and imperfect to be carried? And I must add, that the circumstances of the present time afford an opportunity that ought not to be neglected for endeavouring to carry a really good Reform. The general prosperity and tranquillity of the country, and the absence of bitter party spirit, afford facilities such as we have never before enjoyed for a deliberate consideration of this most important subject. All parties, too, have admitted some Reform to be needed, and all are, I believe, sincerely anxious that the question should be settled without delay and in a satisfactory manner. If, therefore, proper means are adopted by Her Majesty’s Ministers for arriving at the result we desire, I see no reason for despairing that a plan of Reform might be worked out, which would meet with the approval of the great majority of men of intelligence, and calm and sober judgment. But whatever hopes of this kind we may entertain would be dashed to the ground by the bringing forward of any ill-considered and partial measure by the Government. The bringing forward of such a measure would be only too sure again to rouse the spirit of faction and of political animosity, and to banish that calmness which is necessary for the satisfactory settlement of the question. I must, therefore, earnestly appeal to my noble Friend (Earl Russell) to save us from so great a calamity, even if to do so he should be compelled to postpone somewhat longer than he could wish bringing this subject under the consideration of Parliament. I am as anxious as he can be that the question should be settled without unnecessary delay, but it is a case in which the old proverb “the more haste the worse speed” will be found eminently true. A little time would be well spent in previous preparations, for the purpose of ensuring that the 79 Reform Bill to be submitted to Parliament may be found well adapted to answer its purpose, and to gain the acceptance both of Parliament and of the nation. And in pressing these considerations upon Her Majesty’s Ministers, allow me to remind them that, desirable as it is to settle the question of Reform, there is no pressing and immediate necessity for doing this at once, in order to apply a remedy to any crying evils so far as relates to the manner in which the House of Commons as now constituted discharges its high duties in the government of the country. We have not now to deal with such a state of things as we had in 1830. In 1830 it was justly imputed to the un-reformed House of Commons that it had become altogether unequal to the proper performance of its functions in the Constitution; that for many years it had grossly failed either truly to represent public opinion, or to secure to the nation the benefits of good government and wise legislation; that it had, on the contrary, become an instrument for maintaining grievous abuses and even the cause of their existence. This I repeat was justly said of the un-reformed House of Commons; it cannot with even a colour of justice be said of the reformed one, which successfully, and with great benefit to the nation, discharge the duties that belong to it. However desirable, therefore, a further Reform may be, a change is not now of the pressing and urgent necessity that it was five-and-thirty years ago. And, in support of this assertion, I will cite a witness of very high authority. In the speech at Rochdale to which I have already referred, Mr. Bright, in speaking of the Reform Act of 1832, desired his hearers To look to the great changes which have taken place since that stirring event, changes, all of which “he informed them” with scarcely any considerable exception, have been in favour of freedom, and in favour of the right and true interests of the great masses of our population. And he then proceeded to show that greater security had thus been given to the Throne, and that The realm has been for years more tranquil, and for a longer period than at any period of our recorded history. I presume that Mr. Bright would agree with me in thinking that the end of all government is the welfare of the people, and that a Reform of Parliament is only desirable as the means of arriving 80 more surely at that end; but if so, when Mr. Bright himself informs us that the House of Commons, as now constituted under the Reform Act, has worked so well for the good of the people, we have a right to infer that there can be no such pressing necessity for again altering the arrangement which was made in 1832 as to warrant our introducing fresh changes, without most carefully examining them to ascertain whether they will indeed be improvements. I trust, therefore, we shall not be asked to adopt blindly an obviously imperfect measure, which can only be regarded as the first instalment of what used to be called in derision “bit- by-bit Reform.” If any such proposal should unfortunately be made to us, I trust that we shall reject it; but, on the other hand, I hope we shall also avoid the equally dangerous mistake of refusing all Reform. After what has happened in the last few years, I am persuaded that the present Constitution of the House of Commons cannot be permanently maintained unaltered. Its faults are too real and too serious for this to be either possible or desirable; and an obstinate rejection of all Reform, while the question might be dealt with deliberately and calmly, will surely lead in the end to our being driven to adopt in haste dangerous if not fatal measures. As men of sense and judgment, we ought alike to avoid the mistakes of both extremes, and neither consent to rash and ill-considered changes, nor yet refuse our assent to those which are really required. Let us look our position fairly in the face, and having taken proper pains to ascertain what improvements are required in the Constitution, let us endeavour, with all our strength, to carry those improvements into effect. I do not argue in favour of more delay than is necessary for due deliberation in order to make sure that the steps we may decide upon taking are the right ones. And if for this purpose it should be necessary that the question of Parliamentary Reform should for a short time be postponed, there will be ample room for the exercise of all the energy and wisdom of Parliament in dealing with other and pressing subjects. The state of Ireland has been adverted to in Her Majesty’s Speech, and requires early and grave consideration. The municipal Government of this great town, which every day more clearly shows to be in a state utterly unsatisfactory, ought to be remodelled. The question as to what measures 81 ought to be taken for extending education, for checking pauperism, and saving a large part of our population from their present degraded condition, is one of the deepest interest, since no man can look at the evils physical as well as moral, of which the existence in our large cities has of late years been revealed, without feelings both of alarm and of shame. Then, too, the abuses in the employment of children, and the difficult questions as to the mutual relations of labourers and their employers, urgently demand the attention of Parliament. The subjects I have mentioned—and I might have increased the list—urgently require the intervention of Parliament, in order to correct evils which have arisen, and to ward off dangers that threaten us from the growth of the nation, and from that very increase of its wealth and population which we are apt to regard with such pride and satisfaction. The progress of legislation has not been in proportion to the growing wants of a country so rapidly advancing. In the last Parliament especially, legislation on these questions has been nearly a blank, and little has been done to meet the new wants of our fast changing social condition. Not that I believe the last Parliament under proper guidance would have been either unable or unwilling to deal with the great social questions I have mentioned—it was the Ministers of the Crown who were unable or unwilling to assume the lead which properly belongs to the position they hold. I trust that now with a new Administration, and a new Parliament, these questions will be more vigorously dealt with. I am sure that their neglect would be ill compensated by throwing on the table of the House of Commons a crude and undigested measure of Parliamentary Reform. In conclusion, let me assure my noble Friend that, though I may have spoken strongly, I have made these remarks in no spirit of hostility to his Administration. It is, on the contrary, my earnest desire to see that Administration succeed, and to be enabled to give it my humble support; but I am convinced that neither the present nor any other Ministers of the Crown can long continue to hold office, either with advantage to the country or with credit to themselves, unless they apply themselves with earnestness and vigour to the great social problems which now agitate the public mind. This opinion is entertained not only by myself but is shared by many others. I feel, therefore, that I am really acting a friendly 82 part towards my noble Friend in warning him of the necessity of deeply considering these matters before he has yet finally pledged his Government to any definite course of action.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL My Lords, I am very sorry to be obliged to recall the attention of the House to the question of the cattle plague. Her Majesty’s Government having announced their intention of bringing forward a measure on that subject—and as there is nothing in the Address to commit noble Lords to any opinion on the conduct of the Government—I must express my regret that the unanimity which is usually thought desirable in voting the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne has not been preserved on the present occasion, and that the subject of the cattle plague has not been reserved for discussion on some future day. At the same time, it would be scarcely respectful to those noble Lords who have in succession and with some violence attacked the conduct of the Government were I not to say a few words upon the subject. The main charge against the Government is that they have not adopted an uniform system for the whole of the country. I do not believe that the noble Lord (Lord Feversham) will push his Amendment to a division; but I would urge upon noble Lords who have supported the Amendment by their remarks that they ought at least to be at one among themselves respecting the course which the Government should have adopted. I have listened attentively to all the speeches which have been made upon the subject by noble Lords this evening, and, as far as I can make out, each one advocates a different course of action. The noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Rutland) applied to this side of the House the word “ignorant.” I do not complain of the use of the word, but I will say that the speech of the noble Duke shows a singular want of information. He was, however, loudly cheered by those around him. He said—what was perfectly true—that the Government did take one or two energetic measures; and he indicated what they were. He said they prohibited the importation of cattle to Ireland and to the West of Scotland, the Highlands being particularly mentioned. He seemed to think that it was due to some personal influence of mine that importation had been prohibited in Argyllshire, and he asked me to explain how this 83 exceptional treatment had arisen. I will explain what course the Government have pursued. They proceeded on precisely the same principles in one place as in another — namely, that of giving to unanimous local interest and local opinion that weight and authority which is strictly their due. They gave to local opinion full weight in England, as they did in Ireland and in Scotland. But look at the total difference in the local cases. Ireland is exclusively an exporting country. If it imports at all, it is only a few bulls for the purpose of breeding. The people of Ireland came in a body, and asked the Government to issue an Order in Council prohibiting the import of cattle into Ireland. There was no great consuming population in that country, and no agricultural interest to oppose the demand; and, therefore, as the country was unanimous upon the subject, Government determined to grant their request. The importation of cattle into the West of Scotland was prohibited under precisely similar circumstances; with the exception of a few prize bulls no cattle are ever imported into that part of the country, neither is there a consuming population who would suffer by the prohibition. Another circumstance which affected both Ireland and the West of Scotland, but not the rest of the kingdom, was that by their geographical position it was easy to carry the prohibition into effect, whereas in other cases it would at all events be exceedingly difficult to do so. I do not know whether the noble Duke thinks that it is due to my influence with the Privy Council that there are only two roads into the county of Argyll from the Low Country, and that there are only two or three ports on its seaboard; but, at all events, it is exceedingly easy to prevent cattle being driven along the former, or landed at the latter. I admit that the districts so isolated were benefited, and I hope they will continue to be benefited by the precautions which have been adopted. The suggestion of the noble Duke, however, that a similar prohibition might have been extended to the whole of Great Britain, is of an entirely different nature. In England there are a large number of counties and of large cities interested in the importation of cattle, and it would have been most injurious and unjust if Government, in the first instance, had prohibited the importation of cattle into this country. Another point to 84 which I wish to direct your Lordships’ attention is, that although it may be quite possible that the plague reached this country from Europe, yet I do not think it has been proved that it came to us from any particular country. As has been already explained by the noble Earl (the President of the Council), before the disease was brought to the knowledge of the Government it had broken out in four or five distinct counties; and, although it may have been truly said that the infection was traced to the Metropolitan Market, yet no trace whatever exists to show how it was brought to London. With reference to “killing,” instead of “curing,” the noble Duke said that all attempts to cure the disease had failed, and that we must look to uniform and universal slaughter as the only remedy. But does the noble Duke mean to say that this was the opinion of the majority of the country in the earlier stages of the disease? Does the noble Duke not know that even last week propositions were made to cure infected animals? Does he not know that up to last week many people thought that a prevention of the disease was to be found in vaccination? Well, the Privy Council had issued an Order which gave to inspectors a compulsory power of slaughtering all infected animals—which was a very near approach to uniformity of action. The Order enabled every county which chose to adopt it to enter compulsorily any farmstead and do the work of slaughter. How was that measure received by the country? Why, I have no hesitation in saying that it was received in many parts of Scotland and England with positive indignation. At a meeting called in my own county several gentlemen expressed the greatest indignation at the power thus given to inspectors, and one gentleman, half in joke no doubt, but also half in earnest, said that if any inspector armed with such powers went into certain parts of the county it was a question whether he would ever come away again. This is the way in which any approach to uniformity of action was received, and even the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Winchilsea) himself has expressed great indignation at such a power having been given to inspectors. Well, but that was the earliest act of Government, and that was the way in which it was received. It was clear, therefore, that at that time the action of the Government was far ahead of the opinion of the public, as the latter were not aware of the extreme danger to 85 be apprehended from the disease. The next step taken by Government was to appoint the Royal Commission, which recommended the stringent step of prohibiting the removal of cattle entirely, even from field to field, where they would have to traverse the public roads. The Government deliberated very seriously upon this matter; it was carefully discussed at three or four meetings of the Council; and all things considered, we came to the conclusion that the minority of the Commission, who did not agree in this recommendation, were in the right—that such a step at that time would not have been tolerated by public opinion, and that even if Government wished to adopt it we had not the machinery to carry it into effect. The county police are under the local authorities, and therefore, without the cooperation of the local authorities, the recommendation could not effectually be enforced. The truth is that even the majority of the Royal Commission who made the recommendation were not really unanimous among themselves, for a distinguished member of that majority (Dr. Lyon Playfair) subsequently informed the Government that, although he had concurred in the recommendation of the majority, yet he was bound to warn the Government that the mere stopping of the traffic would not be effectual of itself; that a mere localization of the cattle would not stamp out the disease unless every homestead were visited, all infected cattle were destroyed, and every cattle shed was carefully cleaned and ventilated, as otherwise, when the farmers commenced to turn their cattle out a few months after, the plague would break out again with equal violence. As to the system of killing the cattle on the farms and having no live markets, I may say that one of the earliest measures of Government was to enable local authorities to put a stop to fairs and markets; but it was found that irregular markets were still held, and these were also made subject to prohibition. But was it possible for the Government to stop absolutely all markets, and was the butcher always to go to the ox, instead of the ox to the butcher? This might answer in some instances; but for the supply of great cities it was utterly impossible to carry out such a system. In Liverpool, for instance, the other day the county magistrates attempted to put into effect an order stopping the market of that town, which is in a district outside the borough, and therefore subject to 86 the jurisdiction of the county magistrates. What was the result? Why, that the town was in arms about it; the borough magistrates remonstrated strongly, and I believe some compromise has been come to on the subject. Now, only imagine the mischief which might result from the Government attempting a general prohibition of this kind over the whole country! Among other communications from different parts of the country, we have received a letter from the chairman of the board of quarter sessions of the West Riding of Yorkshire, in which he says that such a system would be most mischievous, as it would be absolutely impossible to distinguish whether the meat was infected or not after it was killed and dressed for the market. Therefore, as you must have great markets for large towns, the only protection is to direct that the cattle shall not leave the markets alive, but shall be killed at once. Again, it has been suggested by my noble Friend who spoke on the cross-bench (Earl Grey) that we should have adopted the particular system he found it convenient to establish in Northumberland. This is precisely what noble Lords seem to think who have objected to the course taken by the Government. They all appear to think that what suits their own county would suit the whole country. It is only those who know, as the Government must know, the enormously varying interests of different parts of the country, who can appreciate the absolute impossibility of an Order that shall prevail over the whole kingdom. Does my noble Friend think that the system which he introduced in Northumberland, and which he has been obliged to vary more than once, could have been imposed in Devonshire and Somersetshire which have had no disease at all? We have had some very hard words applied to us tonight. Ignorance and want of energy have been imputed to us. I do not wish to throw back those imputations on those who have used them against us; but I must say that noble Lords who indulge in such expressions can have very little appreciation of the difficulties with which the Government have had to deal. It is no light matter for the Government to interfere with the feeding of millions of the people. No man knows how it is done—and any man may well be cautious as to interfering with it. It is only done through the thousand channels 87 which are formed by private interest and private enterprize. It is a vast organic system. It is not the Government that feeds the people, but the people who feed themselves; and you never know the effect that may be produced by shutting one single avenue of trade. Already, for example, it is very much to be feared that considerable injury has been done to the tanning and leather trade. I have no doubt that when the question comes to be fully discussed, which it cannot be when raised incidentally on the Address, noble Lords will be satisfied that, whether the Government might have done more or less, it was absolutely impossible to adopt any system of general prohibition over the whole country. A large part of England is still free from the disease; a still larger part of Scotland is free from it; and I was very glad to learn from my noble Friend the Earl of Dalhousie that in the county of Forfar the disease has become so much less virulent that, by the local treatment adopted, they are enabled to save 50 per cent of the cattle attacked. It was not by its geographical position alone that the county of Aberdeen was enabled to do what it has done. It was by the financial system adopted, which disclosed one of the most remarkable cases of skill and energy grappling successfully with evils of this kind. The system consists in this—they agreed to assess themselves voluntarily to the extent of 2d. in the pound, equally dividing the amount between the landlord and the tenant. The fund so raised was spent in paying two-thirds value for every infected beast killed by the committee; and three- fourths value for every clean beast killed by way of precaution. I do not see why similar measures should not be taken in every county in England, although, undoubtedly, there may be local difficulties. I repeat, my Lords, that I believe when the measure which will be proposed by the Government comes before you for consideration, your Lordships will be satisfied with it.
THE EARL OF DERBY My Lords, I can scarcely hope to see the practice adopted here which prevails in some neighbouring countries, of considering an Address in answer to a Speech from the Throne paragraph by paragraph; but it must be admitted that, according to the practice we pursue, it is extremely difficult to enter on a fair discussion of the topics introduced in the Speech. Their multitude and variety render the discussion of each 88 almost necessarily fragmentary. One noble Lord takes up one, another discusses another, and it is impossible to do justice to any in the sort of preliminary discussion which takes place on the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne. In point of fact, one of the main objects answered by the two documents—the Speech and Address—is the opportunity they afford to Parliament and the people of hearing what has been done by the Government during the Parliamentary recess—although I must say that in that respect I do not think we have received much information from the Speech delivered on the present occasion. These discussions also offer to the advisers of the Crown an opportunity of intimating what are the measures they intend to propose to Parliament during the Session; and, on the other hand, the Government have an opportunity of hearing from various sides of the House what portions of their past conduct are likely to meet with animadversion, and perhaps censure, and, of course, with regard to other portions, what are likely to be approved by the country or Parliament. There is one other object answered by the Speech and the Address in answer to it, and that is, it affords an opportunity for the younger Members of your Lordships’ House to make a trial of their strength, to make their first Parliamentary effort, and to hold out to the House the promise of future success or failure. I have now, my Lords, been a Member of your Lordships’ House for more than twenty-two years, and I must say, without the slightest flattery to the two noble Lords who moved and seconded the Address, that I never heard an Address moved and seconded with greater ability and greater promise of future excellence than by the noble Marquess and the noble Earl who have performed that duty this evening. If I may make a distinction between them, I may be permitted more especially to congratulate the noble Earl (the Earl of Morley) on the singularly clear, lucid, straightforward manner in which he dealt with every topic to which he had to refer, upon the good taste by which all his observations were characterized, and more especially the becoming modesty with which they were delivered. These qualities must lead us to hope that we may often have the opportunity of hearing him express his sentiments as one of the most promising young Members of 89 your Lordships’ House. At an earlier period of the evening, and if your Lordships’ attention had been less occupied, I might, perhaps, have commented at some length on the various paragraphs of Her Majesty’s Speech—a Speech of more than usual length, and dealing with more than the usual number of subjects; but with respect to many of them we are promised papers which will supply us with more information than we now possess, and any attempt to discuss them in the absence of those papers would be necessarily very imperfect. There are topics again on which there will be no difference of opinion. There will be no difference of opinion as to the sincere congratulations we offer to Her Majesty on the approaching marriage of the Princess Helena, or on any matter which nearly concerns and interests Her Majesty. I am quite sure your Lordships will all be prepared to join in the hope expressed by Her Majesty that this union may tend to promote the happiness of Her Royal Highness. Again, we shall all sympathize with Her Majesty in the expression of Her regret at the loss which She and Her family and the whole of Europe have sustained in the recent death of the sagacious monarch who reigned for so many years over Belgium, who by his wisdom and his firmness held united in a feeling of common patriotism rival parties in that little kingdom, determined to protect and preserve its independence, and the influence of whose ability and prudence extended far beyond the limits of his own dominions, and produced no inconsiderable effect on the whole general policy of Europe. The loss of such a man as the late King of the Belgians is a general loss to Europe, and I only hope that his successor, animated by his example, may exhibit the same firmness, the same prudence, and the same discretion in dealing with conflicting elements, subjected to his sway, as his venerable father exhibited for so many years before him. I am glad to learn that our relations with all Foreign Powers continue to be friendly and satisfactory; and I am bound to believe the statement, when we are informed both by Her Majesty and the Government of France that the reciprocal visits of the French and English fleets to Cherbourg and Portsmouth have tended to establish permanent and friendly feelings between the two peoples. It is very probable that friendly relations may have been established amongst the officers of the two fleets; but I am at a loss to know how 90 complimentary visits to Portsmouth and Cherbourg can prove that the two countries are “acting in friendly concert in the promotion of peace” which we have just been told has not been in the slightest degree ruffled. We all must concur in rejoicing that after four years of bloody warfare that sanguinary war has been put an end to in the now re-United States of America. I fully concur in that paragraph of the Answer to the Speech, which commends the wise and prudent manner in which, after the war had terminated, the ravages of civil war are sought to be repaired. That paragraph must more particularly apply to the conduct individually pursued by the President, who appears to be honestly seeking after the best mode of restoring the union of his country by a conciliatory and forbearing policy, and it is to the interest of the United States and of the world that in the wise and benevolent exercise of his authority he may not find himself swamped and overborne by violent passions not yet subsided, and by the tyranny of a majority which appears to exercise a baneful influence in the Congress. The termination of the slave trade must undoubtedly be a subject of congratulation; but I fear the abolition may be attended with very severe sufferings in consequence of the idleness and privations of the emancipated negroes, who have little knowledge as yet of the duties imposed upon them as free men, who take exaggerated views of the rights acquired by freedom, and who are likely to prove a source of considerable danger both to the States to which they belong and to the Government of the United States. I hope these feelings will subside, and that better knowledge will lead to more favourable results. At present, though the great object of the extinction of slavery is attained, yet it is attained through the medium of severe suffering and at the risk of no inconsiderable danger. I shall not offer any comment on the correspondence, not yet officially before the House, between the English Government and the United States with respect to injuries inflicted on American commerce by cruisers under the Confederate flag; but I must say that as far as I have seen the correspondence it has been conducted in a courteous, liberal, and honourable spirit, and I concur in the arguments by which the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) has supported the cause of this country, and the course pursued by the Government. I will 91 not say a word on the subject of Brazil, the war between Spain and Chili, or the transactions in Japan. I shall rejoice to find that the treaties entered into will be productive of the very great commercial advantages which the noble Earl seems to anticipate. It is singular, however, that those persons who are now so ready to invite commercial treaties with France and also with Austria are the very men who for years and years were denouncing the whole system of commercial treaties, and proclaiming that we had only to consult what was best for our interests without considering what other countries could give us in return. That system is abandoned, but rather late, and only when our free trade measures had left us nothing to offer to other countries in return. Certainly there must be a very moderate appreciation of the benefits of free trade, if this country is to receive Austrian goods at a very low or nominal duty, while our goods are to pay in Austria 25 per cent, and, after a period, 20 per cent. However, the step is in the right direction, and though we do not get on so far as we wish, I suppose we must be thankful for small mercies. I now come, however, to a question upon the merits of which I shall not express any opinion whatever, because I agree with the noble Earl who seconded the Address (the Earl of Morley) that any such expression of opinion would, at the present moment, be premature. I refer to the deplorable events of which we have all heard with so much concern as occurring in the island of Jamaica. Unfortunately, a portion of the press of this country has taken upon itself to prejudge the question in the absence of all information, or with very imperfect and inadequate information. I am not pretending to say whether Mr. Eyre was justified in the measures of severity — undoubtedly, of great severity—which he felt called on to carry into effect; but this I will say—that Mr. Eyre’s previous character does not lead one to suppose that he would lose his head from sudden infirmity, and if there is one point more prominent in his character than another it is, that in all cases where there was a mixture of races he stood forward as the advocate and protector of the inferior race. It is unlikely that a man of this description and character, who has had experience of colonial life, should have been so entirely misled as, without foundation, to 92 believe that a dangerous rebellion was organized over the whole of the colony, which broke out prematurely in one district, and which, by the admission of the Colonial Secretary, was put a stop to by the vigour with which the authorities acted in Jamaica, while no such rebellion in reality existed. The whole question of Governor Eyre’s conduct will turn on what was really the state of the colony. Was there in reality fair ground for the belief that a rebellion was about to break out, when rigorous measures would be measures of real mercy, though attended with loss of life? But, my Lords, I pronounce no opinion on this subject. The Government ought to have received despatches from Mr. Eyre, from time to time, with respect to the state of the island—he must have told them what he apprehended, and what was the opinion of the whole white population. We know, indeed, that the whole white population— they might have been under a delusion—but we know that they were unanimous in the belief that by his measures Mr. Eyre saved the colony of Jamaica. They may have been all wrong. I do not say they were not, and I want to receive the fullest information. But, with respect to the course pursued by the Government, I must say that that is a matter on which I am fully competent to form and express an opinion, and I must say that I do not think it has been either just or generous to the Governor of Jamaica. The position of the Governor has been one of serious responsibility and great danger; and at the moment when he believed that he had rendered great services to the country he has been suspended from his functions without reasons assigned. The course pursued towards him makes it but too painfully evident that the Government have lost their best head. Such a course—a course which prejudged and degraded a public servant without trial—would never have been adopted had Lord Palmerston still lived. We have his own recorded sentiments as to the duty of the Government towards their subordinates; and if Lord Palmerston committed any error at all it was that of going into the opposite extreme, and, rightly or wrongly, feeling it his duty to defend the conduct of those who acted under him. I saw the other day in a newspaper which was sent to me a quotation from a speech delivered by Lord Palmerston when the question was under discussion whether or not Sir John Bowring had precipitated us into an unjust war with 93 China; and I recommend the noble Lord’s words to the serious consideration of the Government— It is not enough,” said Lord Palmerston, “to support the representative of the Crown when we are satisfied that he is right. Even if we believe that he took an unwise course we will not desert him so long as we are satisfied that he acted honestly, and with a conscientious desire to do his duty to the country.” Now mark, my Lords. “The moment your policy takes a different direction you cease to deserve the confidence of honourable men. You may get people to serve you, and doubtless you will, but they will not be high-minded English gentlemen, such as it is necessary to have at the head of affairs in the great colonies and dependencies of this country. I am far from denying that the statements which were received, imperfect though they were, did render it the duty of the Government to call on Governor Eyre for an explanation on those points in respect to which he appeared to have exceeded the law; but I do think that to send for a Governor from another colony—I am sorry to say I am afraid contrary to the original intention of the Government, whatever the reasons may be which led to the alteration of that intention—to supersede Mr. Eyre, who was to remain within the island—subject to the examination and control of that Governor and two of his colleagues, degraded in the eyes of the blacks, who would naturally be led to believe that they had obtained a signal triumph over a man whom they looked upon as an oppressor; while the whites would be under the impression that everything was being done in favour of the negro, the relative position of the two races being thus as it were changed—was a step neither just to Governor Eyre nor likely to be otherwise than most unfortunate in its effect upon the minds of both populations. I presume the noble Earl at the head of the Government has taken the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown as to the legality of the Commission which has been sent out to Jamaica; for, unless I have their opinion against mine, I should have great doubt as to that legality. I do not, of course, question the power of the Government to make any inquiries they may please in the colony, and to order rumours to be picked up here and there for their information; but I believe this Commission which has been sent out to try, as it were, Governor Eyre for high crimes and misdemeanors has not the power to compel a single witness to give evidence before it on oath; that Mr. Eyre might 94 refuse to appear before it if he pleased, or recognize its authority in the slightest degree. What, therefore, have you done? Have you not been sending out on the authority of the Government a roving Commission to pick up evidence against him which might be used when, if that which is urged against him by those who take a fanatical view of his conduct in this country be true, he came to be placed upon his trial on a capital charge? I will only add upon this point that the Government have, in my opinion, taken a grave responsibility upon themselves in the course which they have adopted. My Lords, I next come to that serious calamity, the cattle plague; but I will not follow into any detail the various speakers who, with the exception of the President of the Council and the noble Duke opposite, have with so much unanimity expressed their dissatisfaction at the course which the Government have thought proper to pursue in reference to that subject. Even the language—the apologetic language—of Her Majesty’s Ministers themselves has been, “We did not know how far public opinion or feeling would go along with us in dealing with the matter. We therefore fluctuated from one side to the other, and issued a series of contradictory enactments.”
EARL GRANVILLE I did not use that language.
THE EARL OF DERBY Perhaps the noble Earl will tell me which are the precise words to which he objects.
EARL GRANVILLE I did not say, speaking on behalf of the Government, as the noble Earl would seem to impute to me, that “we fluctuated from one side to the other, and issued a series of contradictory enactments.”
THE EARL OF DERBY I did not for a moment suppose that the noble Earl would give that character of himself and his Colleagues. What I intended to say was that, with the single exception of the noble Earl himself and the noble Duke beside him, there was an universal chorus of voices from both sides of the House, complaining that the course pursued by the Government with regard to the cattle plague was vacillating and unsatisfactory; that they were from first to last insensible of the magnitude of the evil; that they lagged behind the exigencies of the case; that they were endeavouring to see before acting how far public opinion would go along with them, and that they were throughout shirking the 95 responsibility which belongs to the executive Government, and seeking to throw it on the shoulders of other persons, thus producing no uniformity of proceeding; but, on the contrary, every variety of system. [Earl GRANVILLE interposed an observation which was not audible.] All I can say is, that the language which the noble Earl imputes to me is absolute nonsense; but I do state that it appears to me that the Government have failed to realize, with regard to two questions, the important fact that, both as regards moral and physical evil, if prompt and vigorous measures be not applied at an early period, before evil had time to mature itself, it will spread abroad and gain force, until it will require great exertion to check and extinguish it. This observation I would apply not only to the cattle plague, but also to that which is known under the name of Fenianism in Ireland. For the way in which the latter evil has been dealt with I make no charge against any individual, still less against the present Irish Government. My noble Friend behind me (the Marquess of Aber-corn) has told your Lordships, with great truth, that in 1859 the Government, of which I had then the honour to be the head, succeeded in convicting one prisoner on a charge of treason-felony, and in establishing beyond a doubt the existence of a treasonable conspiracy in Ireland; and I may add that that excellent Judge, Baron Greene, in passing sentence of ten years’ penal servitude on the person who had been convicted, informed him that had not the Crown taken a merciful view of the case and indicted him for treason-felony his duty would be to pass upon him sentence of death, inasmuch as his offence absolutely amounted to treason itself. “We succeeded in establishing the fact of a conspiracy, and there were several other prisoners at the same time against whom indictments had been found; but it was thought expedient by the Crown to postpone the consideration of those indictments until the following assizes. The question was accordingly brought before the Court of Queen’s Bench as to whether the prisoners should be admitted to bail. No rule was, however, made on the subject, inasmuch as the Court was equally divided; but the Judges who were in favour of admitting the prisoners to bail just as strongly condemned the offence with which they were charged, and as fully admitted the clearness of the case against them, as those who took a contrary 96 view upon the point immediately at issue. Well, what afterwards happened? The Government went out of office between the time of which I am speaking and the next assizes, and the first act of the new Government was to discharge every one of those indicted traitors on the simple condition that they should come up for judgment when called upon to do so. Nor was this all. The Crown entered into a bargain with the prisoners who pleaded guilty not only that they should not be visited with the consequences of their crime, but that the prisoner who had been actually convicted and sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude should be released, and he was released without even application having been made to the Judge who tried him to ascertain whether there were any circumstances which in his opinion would justify his pardon. Well, my Lords, and who are the persons who were thus dealt with? Why, the very same who were brought up again for the same crime within the last few months, and who were from 1859 to 1865 allowed to mature their traitorous designs both at home and in America. They were the very same men! There is, again, the notorious Mr. Stephens, who was associated with Mr. Smith O’Brien in that foolish and paltry attempt at revolt in 1848, and who has ever since been carrying on the game of treason. This gentleman was in 1848 a principal agent; but, acting upon that instinct of self-preservation which seems never to have forsaken him, he left his comrades in the lurch and went abroad. He afterwards, however, returned to Ireland at the peril of being indicted for high treason. Then there is the notorious offender called Donovan, who has remained in Ireland plotting treason from 1863 to 1865, and who, as the registered proprietor of The Irish People, circulated under the very nose of the Castle 8,000 copies per week of a paper containing articles so detestably treasonable that Justice Keogh, in sentencing one of the prisoners brought before the late Commission, requested the reporters not to take any notice of the extracts from that paper he read in his defence. There were, I believe, no less than forty copies of The Irish People which were relied upon as overt acts of conspiracy, yet though its circulation extended from 1863 to 1865, it was not until after the late general election that a single step was taken to prosecute 97 the traitors by whom it was conducted. Mark, my Lords—for the entire space of two years this man Donovan, who had been conditionally pardoned by the Crown, and who might at any moment have been called up for judgment on a charge of treason-felony, was allowed unchecked, and with a full knowledge of the circumstances on the part of the Government—for during the whole time their spy was in his office—to go on disseminating treason, so that the credulous and but too easily deceived people of Ireland were led to believe that the authorities were not sincere in their desire to suppress the conspiracy. I do not say this to throw blame on the Government of that day. The prime offender was the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for the Colonies, and who does not appear to be much more successful in that post than he was as Chief Secretary for Ireland. But the present Government of Ireland seem to have acted with moderation, temper, and firmness, and to have conducted these trials in a manner which reflects great credit upon them. I trust they will continue to pursue the same course, and not slacken their hand till there is a hope of the credulity of some of the humble classes in Ireland being dissipated and of peace and order being placed on a sound basis through the influence of the large majority who are better disposed. But the moral I wish to draw from these things is this:—Some of these unhappy men repudiated, with indignation, the idea that while they were plotting rebellion they were also countenancing assassination. The Irish race are impassioned, credulous, and easily led; and it has been one of the misfortunes of Ireland that for a long series of years past she has always had a succession of agitators lay and clerical constantly inflaming the minds of the people, constantly dwelling on their supposed wrongs, and constantly inciting them, not to acts of violence, but to constitutional agitation, and now these agitators find they have raised a Frankestein—their pupils, bettering their instruction, have broken out into open acts of insensate rebellion, and although I believe from my heart that none of these acts of violence are intended, or would be sanctioned or encouraged by those who lead them to the very brink of the abyss of crime, yet the moral to be drawn is that it is not safe to incite such an excitable people with incessant tales of their imagined oppression, and 98 that the natural fruits of such a mischievous course will be such deeds as their advisers may little contemplate.
My Lords, in dealing with the single topic of the Speech from the Throne which it now remains for me to notice, I am not about to follow the example set by the noble Lord on the cross-bench, and to presume to offer any advice to Her Majesty’s Government as to what course they should pursue. The question of Reform is one on which they will judge for themselves, and will bring forward at the proper moment, and on their own responsibility, such a measure as they may think it desirable to propose—and, if possible, to carry. But, observing that this question of Reform appears in the very last paragraph in the Royal Speech of twenty-nine paragraphs, I must venture to call to the recollection of the noble Earl (Earl Russell) what took place seven years ago, on the 3rd of February, 1859. On that occasion it did so happen that Reform was the subject of the last paragraph in a Queen’s Speech of about half the length of the present one; and in reference to that circumstance Lord Palmerston, with good-humoured badinage, held this language— It is not an unusual practice to reserve the best and most important things for the last, and accordingly Her Majesty’s Government, after having kept the House and the public on the tenterhooks of expectation through many long preceding paragraphs, at last come to the topic which is at present most exciting the attention of the public —namely, the subject of Parliamentary Reform. I take the last paragraph in the Speech to mean that Her Majesty’s Government have a Bill ready prepared upon that subject, and that it is their intention, without the least delay, to lay it on the table of the House, in order that the House and the public may have an opportunity of considering its provisions. I think that is a proper course for them to pursue, and quite consistent with the usual course of procedure.”—[3 Hansard, clii. 81.] My right hon. Friend the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Disraeli) had the satisfaction of informing the noble Lord and the House that we had that Bill in readiness, that we were prepared to lay it on the table at a very early period, and that there was only one subject which pressed for more immediate consideration before it—namely, the large augmentation of the navy which was then in progress. But then the noble Earl opposite was not satisfied, and he sought rather to improve upon his leader’s liveliness on that occasion. He accordingly delivered himself of the 99 witticism which I am about to submit for your Lordships’ consideration. He said— Sir, there is another subject which the right hon. Gentleman touched upon somewhat tenderly, and which appeared just at the end of the Speech from the Throne. This was the gravamen of the charge against us— It certainly appears to me as if Her Majesty’s Ministers had gone through all the topics upon which they thought Parliament would expect to be addressed, and that then some Member of the Cabinet said, ‘Is there nothing forgotten? We have not left out Mexico, have we? No, there it is. There is also a passage about China and Japan. I cannot think of anything that is omitted.’ But at last some ingenious Member of the Cabinet perhaps said, ‘ There is one subject forgotten—there is the Reform of Parliament; we must put that in.'”—[3 Hansard, clii. 100.] Now, my Lords, all this was founded on the circumstance of Reform being the last paragraph in Her Majesty’s Speech, and that occurring on the 3rd of February, our Bill was laid on the table on the 28th of the same month, and was then ready for discussion, the House having disposed of the question with regard to the navy. But the noble Earl said, with his usual humour— The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), ‘Now fitted the halter, now traversed the cart, And often took leave, but deemed 10th to depart.’ But earlier in his remarks, the noble Earl said— The right hon. Gentleman seemed as unwilling to touch on that subject (Reform) here as the Cabinet were in putting it into the Speech. Heaven knows how it has fallen into their charge! Well, be that as it may, we know at least how it was taken out of what a Member of the other House the other day, with great courtesy of expression, called our “dirty and unhallowed fingers.” But I will tell the noble Earl how it was that it fell into our hands. Our predecessors had on more than four separate occasions pledged the faith of the Crown that such a measure should be submitted to Parliament; and because in endeavouring to carry that pledge into effect they had so completely bungled and mismanaged the whole question that they could come to no conclusion at all, that they left everything in confusion and the whole country in an agitation on the subject of Reform, we sought to put an end to that state of things by a fair, an honest, and a conscienciously-framed measure, proposed with an earnest intention to fulfil the solemn and repeated 100 declarations made from the Throne, How that Bill was encountered, defeated, and got rid of perhaps the noble Earl has now forgotten;—I can assure him I have not. But in those remarks of his in 1859 which I have been quoting the noble Lord, addressing the House of Commons, went on to say— I do not see that there is any subject which the Government intend to bring forward that will furnish them with any excuse for delay in this matter. … If the Government have made up their minds to introduce a Reform Bill, let them lay it on the table. I will give no opinion on a measure of that kind until I see what it proposes to do. … There is every disposition in this House to wait their time; but they must not be putting off the subject. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Bright) I am afraid, will hardly be able to restrain his impatience. … They have given a pledge in this matter, and they are bound to perform it.”—[3 Hansard, Clii. 102.] That was the language of the noble Earl in 1859, in breathless haste calling for the introduction of a finished Reform Bill ready for discussion by Parliament. A month—one little month—was too much to give after the opening of the Session. It was the bounden duty, so he urged, of the Government to have their scheme ready, and, having it ready, to lay it before the Legislature at once. Well, the noble Earl is now at the head of the Government, and I do not gather that they have their measure ready. I infer from this speech that they have not yet made up their minds what their measure shall be. If the fact be otherwise, they certainly have done themselves great injustice, because they say that “inquiries are now going forward with reference to the right of voting in the election of Members to serve in Parliament,” and that “when that information is complete the attention of Parliament will be called to the result thus obtained,” &c. Now, my Lords, the Government are proceeding either without information, or with the intention of making the information they may procure square with their foregone conclusions; or, again, they may be gifted with a superhuman prescience which enables them to know infallibly beforehand what will be the precise result of these inquiries; whereas we poor ordinary mortals must be content to wait until all those promised statistics are laid before us which are to prove the wonderful skill and dexterity of the Government in framing a measure in anticipation of the information on which it is to be founded. Well, my Lords, imitating the wise caution of the noble Earl, I will 101 express no opinion upon their measure until I have seen it. I hope it will be such a measure as I shall be able to support—that it will be a reasonable and satisfactory settlement of this grave and important question, which I believe it is desirable to settle, and settle once for all. And I promise the noble Earl another thing—that his Bill shall have fair play; that it shall not be thrust aside by any underhand methods; that there shall be no factious movement or combinations against it on the part of those who can combine for nothing else; that it shall be dealt with on its merits; that if we can approve of it we shall give it our cordial support; but that, on the other hand, if we disapprove of it and think it is imperfect, inadequate, or dangerous, and above all if we think it one leading to future agitations within a brief period of a perilous character, then with whatever means we may possess we shall do our best to throw it out by fair debate and honourable opposition.
EARL RUSSELL My Lords, as the other topics raised in the debate have been sufficiently discussed, I will confine my observations to two points — the charge which the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) has made against me in regard to the Jamaica rebellion; and the other charge in reference to Parliamentary Reform. In reference to the first, it is to be borne in mind that the question for the consideration of Her Majesty’s Government was not whether Governor Eyre was right in repressing the rebellion, but whether he was right in adopting the means he did to suppress it. It is one thing to support an officer who may have committed some errors of judgment; but when it comes to a question of the lives of 500 of the Queen’s subjects, I do not think it right for us to say, “We do not care whether 500 persons have been put to death without necessity, but we will support the Governor whether he was right or wrong, and we care nothing about those persons’ lives because they happen to be black.” That, then, being the question before us, we determined that inquiry should be made. There was then the question whether the inquiry should be instituted with Governor Eyre at the head of the Government. Here was this obvious objection, that obviously the Governor could not maintain his authority when that authority would be shaken every day if the inquiry 102 proceeded. There was also this obvious objection—that if Governor Eyre retained the supreme authority, however fairly the inquiry might have been conducted, no one would have believed that there would have been a fair inquiry, or that the truth would be permitted to be told when the person accused retained his high office. While, too, an apparent stigma was cast upon Governor Eyre, he would be liable to the imputation of suppressing the evidence, and not allowing it to go fairly before the public. For these reasons, it was determined that the head of the Commission should be supreme Governor of the island; and I venture to say that we could not have chosen a man of higher honour than Sir Henry Storks, or one more fitted to inspire respect, or to support and maintain authority in the island. We have associated with him Mr. Russell Gurney and Mr. Maule, and no two persons are more likely to take a correct view of the law of the case. With regard to one of the questions that has been raised by the noble Earl, we were perfectly aware when we appointed the Commission that the Commissioners could not take evidence upon oath. Directions, however, went out that the Legislature should be called together to enable the Commissioners to take evidence on oath, and Sir Henry Storks has called that Legislature together to give him authority to examine on oath. It was clear to us that it was impossible to refuse inquiry, from the case made out by Governor Eyre himself. It was equally impossible to have a satisfactory inquiry if he remained at the head of the island. Therefore, the course we took was the only proper course—the only justifiable course—that remained to us. With regard to the other question upon which the noble Earl has made some observations, I do not know that I have much further to say with respect to our measure of Reform, than that I expect it will be brought in quite as soon after the meeting of Parliament as was the case when the noble Earl brought in his measure. Some of the information has been very lately supplied, and there is a portion of it of which the correctness is doubted, and that has been sent back. I do not doubt, however, that by the end of the month the Government will be ready to propose their measure. The noble Earl has made some complaint against me as to the manner in which his own Bill was met, and 103 that makes it necessary for me—though I should otherwise have postponed my remarks on this subject—to state that I entertained very grave and solid objections to the Bill, which made it impossible for me to agree to the second reading. My first objection to the noble Earl’s Bill was that it took away a right that had been enjoyed, not only from the time of Henry VI., but from the very earliest time of our Parliamentary history—namely, the right of freeholders in cities and boroughs to vote for the counties in which they have their freeholds. That right was an essential part of the Constitution — so essential, in my opinion, that when the late Earl Grey told me it was very likely that a provision would be introduced in the House of Lords into the great Reform Bill, taking away from freeholders the right of voting for the counties they resided in and confining them to vote in boroughs, I told Earl Grey that if the Bill came down with that alteration I should consider it so vitiated that I would myself move in the House of Commons that the Reform Bill, with all its good and great provisions, should be rejected.
THE EARL OF DERBY May I ask the noble Earl was this always his view as to the value and importance of retaining that provision?
EARL RUSSELL There was another provision in the noble Earl’s Bill which proposed to restore nomination boroughs. According to the Reform Act many of the smaller boroughs, in which there were ten or twelve voters, were enlarged by £10 voters, so that they contained 300, 400, or 500 electors, whereby a certain independence was introduced which enabled the constituencies to send men of their own opinions to Parliament. Now, the noble Earl’s Bill had a provision by which freeholders of counties would have voted for those boroughs. Besides this, there was a further provision, which would have operated in some degree as a revival of the old nomination boroughs—the provision that these votes might be sent by post, so that any noble Lord or right hon. Gentleman in some distant country might send by post the votes of 300 or 400 tenants, who never went near the place, and thus carry the election. That struck me so much that I stated my objection to a Gentleman who eat near me when the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed his measure to the House of Commons, that 104 these provisions, with the absence of any adequate extension of the franchise to persons occupying houses under £10 a year, made the Bill so bad that it was impossible to support it. The noble Earl, when first Minister of the Crown, introduced two measures—one a Budget imposing a very large tax upon houses, and another a measure for the Government of India. I consider they were both exceedingly bad measures, and both were rejected by Parliament. But much worse was the measure which the noble Earl introduced under the name of a Reform of Parliament. I objected to that Bill, and I stated my objections fully and fairly. That Bill was defeated by no underhand proceeding, but by open and fair opposition. As to the objections raised by the noble Earl to a measure of Reform, because it might be regarded in the light of a stepping-stone to other more extensive reforms, I have only to say that the late Mr. Hume said the same of the Bill of 1832, and voted for it on that ground. But though Mr. Hume said he intended to go much further than the Bill of 1832, that did not prevent the late Lord Grey and his Colleagues from carrying that important measure; nor should the fact of the same being said now prevent the present Parliament from carrying a measure commensurate with the requirements of the time.
VISCOUNT MELVILLE expressed an opinion that the Government had treated Governor Eyre most harshly and ungraciously. By his energy and firmness Governor Eyre had saved the colony. The Secretary for the Colonies, it was true, had written a most proper letter to Jamaica, promising that the names of those who had so ably assisted Governor Eyre in suppressing the rebellion should be brought under the favourable notice of the Horse Guards. But what followed? The Governor had actually been rebuked for having adopted severe measures in the exercise of his duty. It was impossible to say what would be the result of this unworthy conduct on the part of the Government. It really seemed as if the noble Lord had turned to the right and left to see in what direction the several parties set their faces, and then to have acted as the policy for the moment dictated. It had been well said by a noble Lord who had preceded him, that if a late noble Lord had still been at the head of the Government the idea of censuring Governor Eyre would not have been entertained for a moment. That noble Lord would have spurned the proposal of recalling Governor Eyre. 105 He would, on the contrary, have supported him to the last, and not even dreamt of pursuing a line of policy calculated to degrade the country in the eyes of the world. So far from censuring Governor Eyre, the Ministry should have tendered him the thanks of the country. It grieved him beyond measure to think that the Governor’s conduct, under most trying and difficult circumstances, should now be subject to review by men who never knew what danger was.
Question put, “Whether the said words shall be there inserted?”—Resolved in the Negative.
Then the original Address was agreed to, and Ordered to be presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.
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