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beautiful peroration, with which he closed a speech which had occupied two hours and a half in delivery, Mr. Gladstone observed: 'Justice, Sir, is to be our guide. It has been said that love is stronger than death, and so justice is stronger than popular excitement, than the passion of the moment, than even the grudges and resentments and sad traditions of the past. Walking in that path, we cannot err. Guided by that light—that Divine light-we are safe. Every step we make upon our road is a step that brings us nearer to the goal; and every obstacle, even although it seems for the moment insurmountable, can only for a little while retard, and never can defeat, the final triumph.'
The first occasion upon which Mr. Bright expressed his views on the Land Bill was on the 28th of April, at a banquet given to Her Majesty's Ministers by the Court of Assistants of the Fishmongers' Company. The right hon. gentleman was called upon to respond for the House of Commons. Having recalled his experiences of Parliament when he first took his seat in 1843, he dealt with the Irish question, and on the necessity for a Coercion Act he remarked : 'If it were conceivable that every landowner in Ireland had a charmed life, and there was no danger to the landowner or the agent, still now, in the state in which Ireland has been of late, it would be necessary to take some measures which would tend to protect the lives of a class which is not landowning or connected with land agency, but which is of the common run
of the population of the agricultural portion of the country. I thought it necessary to say that. There is no class in the country which is more in need of tranquillity and order than those who have to remain at home engaged in ordinary industrial occupations.' But coercion was only temporary; the real remedy after all—and the one which would be permanentwas land reform. Coming to the Government bill, Mr. Bright said :
With regard to this Irish measure to which Lord Hartington referred, I had an interesting letter from Ireland some weeks ago, in which the writer concluded by saying, “ If you will secure the tenant, you will secure the landlord.” (Hear, hear.) And the object of the bill really is for the purpose of giving as much security, and certainly not more, to the tenant as to the landlord, and to give him the greatest possible stimulus for the exertion of his industry. And if that be the effect of the measure, there can be no manner of doubt that it must be of the greatest advantage to the landlord. (Hear, hear.) I believe the effect of this bill when it comes into operation will be to steady the price of land in Ireland. The price now is scarcely anything. Land cannot be sold generally over the country. But suppose the landlord be shorn of anything, of what are called rights -great power over individual tenants—his rent, if in some degree moderate, will be secured. He will be able to live among a population who no longer distrust him and hate his agent, and among whom he may dwell in comfort and security such as in many parts of Ireland for a long time he has not been able to enjoy. The bill of the Government, as you may be sure, is in all the circumstances the best bill that could be offered to Parliament. It is impossible for any Government to work more steadily than that of Mr. Gladstone. There never was the head of a Government more capable, more anxious to do good, than Mr. Gladstone. (Cheers.) Well, that being so, those members of the House of Commons who are supporters of Mr. Gladstone should have patience in some cases ; they should have trust in other cases that the Government will do all that they possibly can in the circumstances in which they are placed ; and if they give that confidence to the Government, I have no doubt that the Government will as far as possible justify the confidence reposed in them. It is not for me as a member of the Government to pass an eulogium upon it for what it has done or intends to do. But this I can say fairly and VOL. II.
honestly, knowing intimately all its members : I believe there is no Government—and I do not think we shall have any—that can more rightly claim the confidence and the honest and generous support of the Liberal party in the House of Commons and the Liberal party throughout the country.' (Cheers.)
Before the debate on the second reading of the Irish Land Bill was brought to a conclusion in the House of Commons, a debate arose upon another important Irish question. On the 6th of May, Mr. Callan moved the following resolution : That in the opinion of this House it is expedient and necessary that measures should be taken in the present session of Parliament to improve the condition of agricultural labourers' habitations in Ireland.' The hon. member said that the Land Bill of 1870 had, when introduced, a clause affecting the condition of the Irish labourer, but that provision was unwisely and uncharitably expunged by the House of Lords. The Government then pledged themselves that in the following year a measure would be introduced dealing in a large spirit with the condition of the labourers in Ireland, but no bill was introduced either in that or the following years of the last Liberal Government. For the sake of the credit and honour of England, he appealed to the Government to deal with this question.
Mr. Bright spoke during the debate, and said that there was no kind of conjuring by which the condition of the labourer could be improved, except by stimulating the industry of the country. He was ready to agree to anything which the Irish members could propose that had even the probability of being
useful to the labourers. But the Irish labourer had now more than double, perhaps three times the wages he had a little over thirty years ago. Speaking of the neglect of manufactures in Ireland, Mr. Bright said: 'I do not see why, if there was that spirit amongst the Irish classes—I am not speaking of the poor labourer, but of the middle classes-why in the name of common sense is it that during the last hundred years there has not been a single manufactory of any importance established and sustained in Ireland ? (Cheers.) Why is it that water runs from Loch Corrib into Galway Harbour, and there is nothing done with it? If it were in America, it would be used. If it were in Great Britain, it would be used. Why is it not used in Ireland ? It is not a sufficient answer to say that the land laws are bad. (Hear, hear.) Our land laws are bad. But what we have done has been in the teeth of a system of land laws which is in some respects even worse than that of Ireland. I think Irish members and Irish gentlemen everywhere ought to ask themselves whether it is not possible, amongst the middle classes in that country, to do something to utilise the vast stores of water they have, and the many advantages they have. There is no single disadvantage, except that they have not a supply of coals as good as we have. (An Irish member—"Nor capital.”) As to capital, do you suppose that the people of Great Britain would send their capital to every quarter of the globe, and lose scores if not hundreds of millions
of it within the last few years—do you suppose they would not invest their capital if there was a disposition on the part of the Irish people to make use of this capital—(cheers)—and to convince the people of England that their capital was secure ?'
The Irish, continued Mr. Bright, were rather cleverer than the English or Scotch, yet although they beat us in many things, they did not beat us in industry. The condition of the Irish labourers and their dwellings was a disgrace to the country. "I do not know whether they are a disgrace to the Government or not, but we may divide the blame, perhaps, between the Government and the Irish people. If hon. members can suggest any plan which is practicable, which does not rob somebody else, that is an honest, practicable plan by which the condition of the labourers can be improved, they will find no members of this House more anxious than the Government to adopt it, and no member more anxious to further it than they will find myself.'
Mr. Callan's resolution was agreed to, after the excision of the words in the present session of Parliament.'
The debate on the second reading of the Land Bill in the Commons was most protracted, extending over several weeks. On the 9th of May, Mr. Bright addressed the House in support of the bill. He first passed some strictures upon the speech of Sir John Holker, who had declared he would vote against the measure because he was a Conservative, and was