ADDRESS TO HER MAJESTY ON THE LORDS COMMISSIONERS' SPEECH. 19November 1867
ADDRESS TO HER MAJESTY ON THE LORDS COMMISSIONERS' SPEECH.
HL Deb 19 November 1867 vol 190 cc6-50
§ EARL BROWNLOW
My Lords, in rising to move an Address to Her Majesty, in answer to Her Majesty's most gracious Speech, I must not omit to claim the kind indulgence of your Lordships for one of its youngest and most inexperienced Members; and I trust that the errors that I may commit, or any short-comings on my part, may be kindly attributed to want of experience and of knowledge of the ways of your Lordships' House.
My Lords, Her Majesty has been graciously pleased, in the Speech from the Throne, to bring before the attention of the House several most important matters. The first in order—and I think that I am right in saying the first in importance—is the Abyssinian Expedition. It comes home to the heart of every Englishman to feel that a number of our fellow-countrymen are languishing far from their country and their homes in the prisons of a half-civilized barbarian. I do not desire to follow minutely the ramifications of the Abyssinian question; but, at the same time, I feel that it is necessary for me to go back as far as the mission of Mr. Rassam. After the seizure of Consul Cameron and other prisoners, Mr. Rassam was sent to Abyssinia with a letter from Her Majesty, requesting the release of the captives. At first Mr. Rassam, was exceedingly well received, and the captives were at one time actually delivered over to him. The King, however, expressed a wish, before the captives started on their homeward journey, that he should be reconciled to them; and for this purpose he sent for them to the Royal camp, when an apparent reconciliation between them and the King took place. The captives then returned to Magdala to await the approach of the season fittest for them to commence their homeward journey. At length, when the long wished-for time arrived, the captives started on their homeward journey to Massowah, and Mr. Rassam passed over with his suite to take leave of the King. On his arrival, he was asked by the King what had become of the prisoners? and he replied that they had started on their homeward journey. Upon this the King once more expressed his wish to be reconciled to the prisoners, and directed them to be again brought before him. They were for this purpose re-captured, put in chains, and brought before the King, when the form of reconciliation was gone through the second time. Shortly after, however, the King informed Mr. Rassam that he intended to detain them prisoners until the workmen and artizans he had asked for to instruct his people should arrive from England. Mr. Rassam was compelled to write a despatch to this effect; and the King sent one of the prisoners (Mr. Flad) to be the bearer of the letter to England. Such was the state of affairs when the present Government came into office. Mr. Flad returned to England with this letter, and a number of workmen and artizans were engaged to proceed to Abyssinia, under the charge of Colonel Merewether, who proceeded with them. Colonel Merewether, on arriving at Massowah with the artizans, refused very properly to allow them to go up the country, and be thus placed in the hands of the King, before the prisoners were released—and therefore he established them at a place near Massowah until he could obtain further information. Colonel Merewether sent a message to the King informing him that the presents from Her Majesty and the artizans had arrived, but that they would not be forwarded until the prisoners were released. The King, in reply, wrote to Colonel Merewether requesting that the presents and the artizans might be immediately forwarded to him, but he did not in any way refer to the release of the captives. Colonel Merewether, therefore, wrote to the King again, informing him that the presents and the workmen could not be permitted to proceed up the country until after the liberation of the prisoners. No notice having been, taken of this communication, the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs wrote a letter to King Theodore, expressing the great disappointment of Her Majesty that the prisoners had not been liberated, and informing him that if their release did not take place within three months he would forfeit Her Majesty's friendship. At a later date, the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs again wrote to the King of Abyssinia, informing him that we had resolved, if necessary, to resort to force in order to procure the release of the captives. Your Lordships will perceive, from the statement I have made, that there has been no desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to bring on a war with unnecessary rapidity; that before they resolved to use force they had exhausted every peaceable means in order to procure the release of the prisoners. Letters were written and presents were sent without avail, and it was only when every peaceable means had failed that it became necessary for Her Majesty's Government to vindicate the honour of the country by demanding by force that which King Theodore had refused to concede to peaceable means—the release of the prisoners. It was considered necessary, by competent judges, that Indian troops should be employed upon this campaign; but as Parliament was not then sitting, it was impossible to obtain the sanction necessary for the employment of Indian troops upon foreign service. Under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government took upon themselves the responsibility of adopting active measures, trusting that at the earliest opportunity Parliament would give their approbation to those active measures which they deemed it absolutely necessary for them to pursue.
My Lords, the friendly relations of this country with foreign Powers is necessarily a source of national gratification. The wise and careful policy of the noble Lord at the head of Foreign Affairs has placed this country in such a position that at no time in its history has the friendship and goodwill of England been more earnestly desired than it is at the present moment. Not only are we at peace with the great Powers of Europe, but they are happily at peace with one another. Some of those great Powers having passed through a short though sanguinary war, are now resting upon their arms, and I heartily trust that this calm will be a lasting one. Some interruption has, no doubt, been caused to the peace of Europe by an attempt on the part of a band organized in Italy, who have, acting totally without the authority of their Sovereign, entered the Papal States; but His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the French, by a prompt expedition and by allowing the French troops to act in concert with the Papal army, has been enabled, after fighting only one battle, to restore tranquillity to that part of Europe.
My Lords, the treasonable conspiracy, which is commonly known as Fenianism, born in a far-off country and nurtured in Ireland, has unhappily of late spread to some few districts in England where its appearance has been characterized by wicked and blood thirsty outrages; but it is gratifying to find that in no single instance have the English people exhibited the slightest sympathy with Fenianism. It is therefore to be hoped, my Lords, that no extraordinary measures will have to be resorted to to put down attempts of so very vague and isolated a character.
My Lords, after the great measure of Reform passed during the late Session of Parliament for this country, it no doubt becomes necessary to bring in Bills to amend the representation of the people in other parts of the United Kingdom. This is the necessary sequel of the great measure passed last Session. The attention of the House is earnestly called by Her Majesty to a measure for the education of the people. The question of education is no doubt one of great importance. In Ireland there is now a Commission at work inquiring into the subject, and has proceeded to some extent in its labours. In the interim, however, the subject is so vast that I cannot help thinking there is an enormous amount of statistical information which will have to be obtained before we can deal satisfactorily with the question.
My Lords, it is a matter of great congratulation to this country that the cattle plague which had so long prevailed has at length subsided. The cattle trade of this country has, of necessity, been greatly trammelled and hampered by the unavoidable checks which have been imposed. Now, however, the disease has died out, and with its disappearance there is every hope that these impediments may be removed. The removal of such impediments will be of the greatest possible service and advantage to the country.
Such, my Lords, are the important matters to which Her Majesty has called the attention of this House in the gracious Speech from the Throne. My Lords, I heartily beg to thank you for the kindly attention you have afforded me; and I beg your Lordships' leave to move the following humble Address, thanking Her Majesty for the gracious Speech which She has addressed to us from the Throne:— "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 the gracious Expression of your Regret that You have found it necessary to call for our Attendance at an unusual, and, as Your Majesty is pleased to say, probably at an inconvenient time." "WE regret to learn that the Sovereign of Abyssinia, in violation of all international Law, continues to hold in captivity several of Your Majesty's Subjects, some of whom have been especially accredited to him by Your Majesty, and that the persistent Disregard by that Sovereign of friendly Representations has left Your Majesty no Alternative but that of making a peremptory Demand for the Liberation of Your Subjects, and of supporting it by an adequate Force. We thank Your Majesty for informing us that an Expedition has been sent accordingly for that Purpose alone, and Your Majesty may confidently rely on the Support and Co-operation of Parliament in Your Endeavours at once to relieve our Countrymen from an unjust Imprisonment, and to vindicate the Honour of Your Crown." "WE thank Your Majesty for informing us that Papers on this Subject will be forthwith laid before us." "WE rejoice to learn that Your Majesty's Relations with Foreign Powers are friendly and satisfactory, and that your Majesty sees no Reason to apprehend any Disturbance of the general Peace of Europe." "WE thank Your Majesty for informing us that the Invasion of the Papal States by a Baud of Italian Volunteers, without Authority from their own Sovereign, has led to the Dispatch of an Expedition by His Majesty the Emperor of the French for the Protection of the Sovereign Pontiff and his Dominions. We join with Your Majesty in trusting that as the Object of the Emperor has been accomplished, and as the Defeat and Dispersion of the Volunteer Force has relieved the Papal Territory from the Dangers of external Invasion, His Imperial Majesty will find Himself enabled, by an early withdrawal of his Troops, to remove any possible Ground of Misunderstanding between His Majesty's Government and that of The King of Italy." "WE learn with the deepest Regret that the treasonable Conspiracy, commonly known as Fenianism, baffled and repressed in Ireland, has assumed in England the Form of organized Violence and Assassination. We concur with Your Majesty that such Outrages as have been committed require to be rigorously put down; and we are confident that Your Majesty may rely for their effectual Suppression upon the firm Administration of the Law and the Loyalty of the great Mass of Your Subjects." "WE humbly thank Your Majesty for informing us that as a necessary Sequel to the Legislation of the last Session, Bills will be laid before us for amending the Representation of the People in Scotland and in Ireland." "WE rejoice to learn that Your Majesty has Reason to believe that the Commissioners appointed to inquire into and report upon the Boundaries of existing Boroughs, as well as of the proposed Divisions of Counties and newly-enfranchised Boroughs, have made considerable Progress in their Inquiries, and that no Time will be lost after the Receipt of their Report in laying before us their Recommendations." "WE thank Your Majesty for informing us that a Bill will be presented to us for the more effectual Suppression of Bribery and Corruption at Elections, and that the Public Schools Bill, which has been already more than once submitted to Parliament, will again be laid before us." "WITH Your Majesty we are of opinion that the general Question of the Education of the People requires the most serious Attention of Parliament; and Your Majesty may rely upon our approaching the Subject with a full Appreciation of its vital Importance and acknowledged Difficulty." "WE thank Your Majesty for informing us that Measures will be submitted to us during the present Session for amending and consolidating various Acts relating to the Mercantile Marine; and with Your Majesty we hope that the Exemption which the Country has now for some Time enjoyed from the Cattle Plague will afford a favourable Opportunity for considering such permanent Enactments as may relieve the Home Trade from vexatious Restrictions, and facilitate the Introduction, under due Regulations, of Foreign Cattle for Home Consumption." "WE thank Your Majesty for informing us that Measures for the Amendment of the Law, which have been deferred under the Pressure of more urgent Business, will be submitted to us; and that other Questions apparently calling for legislative Action have been referred to Commissioners, whose Reports will be laid before us as soon as they may be received." "WITH Your Majesty we earnestly pray that all our Deliberations may be guided so as to conduce to the general Contentment and Happiness of the People."
§ LORD HYLTON
rose to second the Address, and said: My Lords, the subjects which are recommended to our notice in the gracious Speech from the Throne have been so well touched upon by the noble Earl, that I feel I have no claim whatever to your Lordships' attention; but I would ask your sympathy on the ground that I undertake this duty at the close of long political services. Now, my Lords, we are called together, as the noble Earl has said, under peculiar circumstances, and at a very unusual period of the year. No doubt it would be the duty of any Government—and it would be, no doubt, in accordance with the wish of Her Majesty herself—to ask the advice of Her Parliament before undertaking, as Her Majesty has unfortunately been compelled to do, any extensive hostile operations in a distant part of the world; but in this case, my Lords, it also appears that the summoning of Parliament is a constitutional necessity. It seems that by the Act of 1858, for regulating the Government of India, the sanction of Parliament must be obtained before Her Majesty's Indian army can be employed in military operations out of India; and therefore it was necessary, in a constitutional point of view, to call Parliament together to obtain that authority. The events connected with the detention of our fellow-subjects in Abyssinia have been known for years past, and have provoked very general feeling of sympathy and indignation. Much dissatisfaction has been felt at the delay that has already occurred, and at the length of time such a reproach to our honour has been sustained. Some of our fellow-subjects in that country, including an accredited agent, have been detained for years past in prison. In 1865—and even in 1864—the noble Earl who was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs admitted that there was a possible necessity for undertaking some strenuous measures for their liberation, and stated that he was fully prepared to take such steps as might be found necessary for the purpose. But the noble Earl objected at that time to sending a mission to Abyssinia, because he thought it derogatory to the honour of this country to send such a mission while our accredited agents were held in captivity, and he naturally determined to exhaust every effort before resorting to any military demonstration which might partake of a hostile character. Well, my Lords, this state of things continued up to the time when the present Government came into office, and then inquiries were instituted and agents were sent out from this country. Every effort, however, has failed, and it has become evident that there is no other hope of obtaining a release of the prisoners but by a military and a hostile demonstration. No doubt, my Lords, the military and other resources of this country will be severely taxed in carrying on a war in so remote a region as Abyssinia, and in a country of which so little is known, or of which, at all events, so much has to be learnt. We can hardly expect to thoroughly overcome every difficulty connected with the country and the climate, and to be as well forearmed against the difficulties as we should be if we were properly forewarned of their existence. But I have great confidence in the exertions which the Government are taking to secure success in this direction. Of one thing I feel quite certain—that our Anglo-Indian forces will maintain their ancient renown, and show that they are fully equal to any duties which they may be called upon to perform. However much, therefore, we may regret that our troops should be called upon to act under such circumstances, it would be still more a matter of regret if anything were neglected on the part of this great country which could secure the success of the expedition. I feel sure that it is the general disposition of Parliament and of the country to afford to Her Majesty every possible assistance and aid.
My Lords, to a commercial country like ours it is always a matter of the greatest importance that we should be on terms of accord with the other nations of Europe; and at no time, I believe, has a more cordial or friendly feeling between us and the great Powers of Europe and other countries of the world existed than exists at the present moment. I was much struck the other day with the words of hope which were conveyed in the speech made by the Emperor of the French on receiving the distinguished diplomatist accredited to his Court by Her Majesty; for I thought that they implied that France and England will act cordially together for the maintenance of universal peace, and for the repressing (should it be necessary) of overweening ambitions, and that they will strive to promote these ends both by their counsel and example. The state of alarm which had arisen from the late unfortunate situation of affairs in Italy, to which Her Majesty refers in her Speech, has, I am happy to say, passed away almost as suddenly as it had arisen; and there is no doubt that some solution will be found by which the future peace of Italy can be secured and preserved.
My Lords, with regard to that sad, useless, and hopeless conspiracy which has broken out in some parts of Ireland, and which has now caused so much uneasiness in this country, I do hope that the firmness of the Government and the loyalty of Her Majesty's subjects will enable them to suppress and uproot it altogether. It is a movement which appears to me not only to frustrate all the hopes and wishes of those who promoted it, and to render the grievances of Ireland less easy of approach, but it concerns us all, inasmuch as it must lead in this country to far more strict police regulations, even to the arming of the police, in order to enable the Government to perform their first duty—to protect Her Majesty's loyal subjects. My Lords, the passing of a Reform Bill for England has, of course, rendered it necessary that similar measures should be considered with reference to Ireland and Scotland, and I hope that the representation of those countries will be dealt with in the same liberal measure as that which was applied to England a few months since. I can only hope that those measures will be speedily brought before Parliament, and that they may tend to the satisfaction of every part of Her Majesty's dominions. The Commission which has to decide on the boundaries of the counties, boroughs, and cities of England, Her Majesty informs us, will soon be ready with their Report; and, no doubt, when that Report has been delivered, legislation will immediately take place on the subject. I know that that Report is looked forward to with considerable interest; I trust it will receive impartial consideration from your Lordships, and that it will be received with satisfaction by those whom it affects. It has, my Lords, been a standing reproach and scandal to this country that hitherto we have been unable to deal effectually with bribery at elections; and therefore I am sure any measure that will get rid of that evil will be most favourably regarded by the community. I trust, therefore, that such a measure will be speedily brought before the other House. Again, my Lords, the education of the country is one of the most important subjects to which the attention of Parliament can be directed. A measure connected with public schools has twice already been before Parliament. The question of the general education of the country is becoming every day more and more important. I am sorry, however, to say that the information on the subject is still incomplete, and it is not likely to be dealt with this Session as a general measure. But in Scotland the subject is much further advanced. A scheme of general education is there much more matured, and I trust that a Bill on the subject will be brought forward and passed during the present Session. There can be no doubt that a measure for consolidating the various Acts relating to the Mercantile Marine, even if it does no more than consolidate those Acts, will be a very great benefit to the shipping interest and to the commercial community. I am therefore glad to find that a measure of this description is about to be introduced. With reference to the cattle plague, I rejoice to learn that some general measure is to be brought forward. I have no knowledge of the nature or principle of the measure which the Government are about to propose on that subject; but as the result of my individual experience, I may state that the country has suffered extremely from foreign diseased cattle being introduced and driven from the different ports to be slaughtered. Not only so, but in the early period of cattle plague they were driven to neighbouring fairs, and thus spread the disease through whole provinces of the country. This is an evil which I hope will be properly guarded against in future, by arrangements being made for slaughtering cattle at the ports of their arrival. At any rate, I think we have a right to ask of the Government some measures calculated to make us more secure than we have hitherto been. With regard to the remaining portions of Her Majesty's Speech, it is not necessary that I should detain your Lordships. I have now only to thank your Lordships for the patience with which you have listened to one who feels he has little claim on your indulgence. I will conclude with one observation: I am sure you will all unite in the prayer that Her Majesty may long be preserved to rule over a contented and happy people. I beg to second the Address which has been moved by my noble Friend. [See Page 10.]
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, the Address to the Throne having been moved and seconded with great judgment and propriety by the two noble Lords who have addressed your Lordships, I rise to make a few comments on the topics contained in the Royal Speech. In the first place, I think that Her Majesty's confidential servants, having arrived at the opinion that it was necessary to use force in Abyssinia—in short, to make war on the kingdom of Abyssinia—there can be no doubt as to the propriety of their advising Her Majesty to call Parliament together, even if it must be at an inconvenient season of the year. If I have any doubt on the subject it would be whether Parliament should not have been called together rather earlier than at the present time. But, in the next place, as to the important matter which has been the occasion of bringing Parliament together, in regard to the warlike expedition to Abyssinia, I should say there are two questions requiring consideration. The first question is, whether we are justified by the conduct of the Sovereign of Abyssinia In considering it as a casus belli; and second, whether it is expedient and advisable to make a large military expedition the means of recovering the captives? With regard to the first question, I think there can be no doubt whatever. I consider the conduct of the Sovereign of Abyssinia to our fellow-subjects so outrageous, so contrary not only to every principle of International Law, but to every dictate of justice in regard to other nations, that it was impossible that Her Majesty's Government should not consider it a cause of war. But, with regard to the second question, if I feel any doubts they are doubts suggested towards the end of last Session by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, rather than any doubts of my own. There can, I think, be no apprehension whatever in regard to our troops, not only that they will conduct themselves well, but that they will overcome any military resistance likely to be made by the troops of that Sovereign. But the difficulties stated by the noble Lord to which I have referred were difficulties in regard to the nature of the roads, to the want of water, and to the great mountain ranges the troops have to pass before they can reach the place where the captives are confined. There was likewise a difficulty in regard to the want of water during their short march into the interior. These were difficulties which the noble Lord said, very justly, would require further inquiry and consideration before the decision of Her Majesty's Government was taken. But if there was any doubt on the subject, the question arises as to the consideration it received from Her Majesty's Government. I am willing to presume that, having certainly no interest in sending such an expedition, they are likely to be correct in the conclusion to which they have come; but I suspend my judgment as to their ultimate decision until I know more of the grounds on which they have acted, and until we know that the information the noble Lord has since obtained leads to the conclusion that the expedition is likely to be successful. I have had great satisfaction in seeing it stated in Her Majesty's Speech that the expedition has been sent to Abyssinia for the specific purpose of the recovery of the captives and "for that purpose alone." I am very glad that none of those speculations which appeared from time to time in some of the public papers as to the occupation of Abyssinia and our meddling with the internal affairs of that country and putting another King on the Throne who would be a better Sovereign than the present—that none of these speculations form any part of the object of the Abyssinian expedition. I am glad to see that Her Majesty's Government do not apprehend any disturbance of the peace of Europe; and therefore those rumours which prevailed some time ago that there was likely to be an international war in the spring are, happily, totally without foundation. I come next to that subject treated at some length in the Speech, and which to me is of very peculiar interest—namely, the events which have taken place in Home and the Papal Territories. The interference of the French in Rome, which led to the employment of a military force and the use of the new French weapon, is a subject of very melancholy consideration. I do not say or suppose that the Emperor of the French has violated the Convention of September; but there is an Article in the Convention which is likely to give rise to what diplomatists call "a complication"—namely, the Article which recognises the right of the Pope to enlist the subjects of foreign Powers as his troops, and to use them accordingly. Now, if these foreign subjects—be they French or Belgians—are entirely at the disposal of the Pope, and if no foreign Governments took any interest in them, the power of enlisting them could hardly be denied to the Sovereign of Rome; but when we find the French soldiers commanded by a French General, and that the French Minister of War considered that these soldiers were to be punished for military offences, and be deemed in other respects as part of the great army in France, then I think such a condition of things is likely to lead to this consequence—that if ever a dispute should arise between the inhabitants of the Roman Territory and those soldiers, and if the soldiers should be in any great danger, then, with the natural military feeling of France, a great demand would certainly be made on the Emperor by the French people to send troops to Rome to vindicate the honour of their flag and to relieve the troops that had enlisted in the Pope's service. I do not see that the fact of the troops wearing a different cockade and perhaps a different uniform from the French would prevent that feeling from arising and render it almost a necessity to despatch troops to Rome. For my part, I consider all these interventions in the internal affairs of other countries as injurious to the interest of Europe and inconsistent with every principle we have professed. I remember that more than forty years ago Mr. Canning instructed the Duke of Wellington when he went to the Congress of Verona to the effect that, if any question should arise about interfering in the internal disputes in Spain, His Majesty would never be a party to enter into a Convention to interfere by force of arms. That was proper language for the English Minister to use, and I trust that the present Government will use similar language should any similar question arise. But I suppose there need be no secresy or reserve as to the project of a Conference at present with respect to the affairs of Rome. I cannot conceive how there should be any such Conference. It is a matter which must be left to the King of Italy and the Pope to settle between themselves. The King of Italy is sure to pay great respect to the Pope as a temporal Sovereign, and as a spiritual Sovereign the Pope will be secure in the affections of the whole Italian people. If that be so, I can see no use in any Conference; but if there should be one, I should be glad to know whether Her Majesty's Government proposed to take any part in it. The next topic in Her Majesty's Speech relates to "the treasonable conspiracy commonly known as Fenianism." With respect to that I agree in what is in the Speech that, "baffled and repressed in Ireland, it has assumed in England the form of organized violence and assassination." I cannot but think that—be it the fault of whom it may—very culpable negligence was shown in Manchester in not properly guarding the State prisoners when they were taken to the police-office and when they were sent back to prison. The men Deasy and Kelly were known in Ireland to be two of the principal persons engaged in Fenianism. It has always been understood that while Stephens was the man of organization, Kelly was the man of action and courage; and, such being known, it is surprising that the Government had not provided a sufficient escort of military and armed police to accompany the prisoners in Manchester, and so prevented the lamentable occurrence in which the murder of Serjeant Brett took place. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has spoken of a lawless spirit being abroad, and it cannot be denied that there is some truth in that observation; and, such being the case, it behoves the Government, and especially the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to see that there is no laxity or want of vigilance in the administration of the law, and that, when great offenders are arrested for the purpose of being sent to trial, no such negligent guard should be placed over them as might permit of their escape or rescue. No doubt, as stated in the Royal Speech, Her Majesty may safely rely for the effectual suppression of those outrages on the firm administration of the law and the loyalty of the great mass of Her subjects. There is no great question in this country as to the loyalty of the greater part of Her Majesty's subjects, and even in Ireland I should say the great majority of the people are opposed to the evil-disposed who foster and promote the Fenian outrages. The next topic in Her Majesty's Speech has reference to Bills for amending the representation of the people in Scotland and Ireland. I take for granted that those Bills will be founded on the same principles as the Bill of last Session referring to England. The discussion, therefore, on the subject had better be reserved until the time when we shall know something more of the Bills. There are, however, two remarks which I desire to make, one of them applying to Bills and the late period of the Session at which many of them come up to the House of Lords; but I refer more especially to the Reform Bill of last year. I think it very inconvenient that the House of Commons should go on from the beginning of February till the middle of July discussing Bills of great importance, and that it should not be until the month of July that such measures should be brought under your Lordships' consideration. I see that at a great meeting of some 2,000 working men a member of the Cabinet made it a matter of boast that your Lordships were allowed so much freedom in the consideration of the Reform Bill of last Session. Now, it was on the 16th of July that the Bill was introduced in your Lordships' House, and by that time many of your Lordships had had enough of the London season, and had gone into the country for recreation. The Bill was considered for a fortnight, and when a noble Friend of mine, not at present in his place (Earl Grey), wished to amend it in some particular, and made for that purpose a proposal which was not only rational in itself, but which met with the support of a great proportion of your Lordships, he was met by a somewhat obscure but intelligible threat from the noble Earl at the head of the Government to the effect that that was the 1st of August, and that if the Amendment were carried he must withdraw the Bill altogether, and consider what further steps should be taken. After that many Conservative Peers who had intended to support the Amendment were a good deal frightened by the menace, and did not know what might happen. The Bill might have been withdrawn, and those noble Peers might have had to bear the brunt of invectives spread broadcast through the whole country, and it might have been said that an excellent Bill was introduced, but that the House of Lords obstructed the passing of the measure, which, accordingly, was obliged to be withdrawn. Certainly, when a Bill changing the whole Constitution was brought into the House of Lords on the 16th of July, and when their Lordships were told on the 1st of August that they could not consider the subject further, or inquire into the value of any Amendment, I do not think that a very ample power of discussion was allowed them, or that it could be made any great matter of boast by the Member of the Cabinet (Lord John Manners), who spoke at the Crystal Palace with so much concern for your freedom of deliberation. Another observation I wish to make in reference to this matter. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) exercises a power which many eminent men—Pitt, Castlereagh, Canning, Wellington, and Peel, among others—have wielded before. All those eminent men had to introduce important measures. Mr. Pitt introduced the Bill for effecting the union with Ireland, and the Duke of Wellington introduced the Roman Catholic Emancipation Bill, both introducing the subjects with proper solemnity and great force of expression. I allude more especially to the great speech of Mr. Pitt in introducing the Bill for the union of Ireland. "Here," he said, "is a measure of great importance, which I will show you by argument will conduce to the benefit of this country and of Ireland, will strengthen the Crown, and promote the happiness of the Irish people. It will promote their freedom, augment their riches, and be a great step in the progress and prosperity of the country." That was language such as every one of those statesmen used, and it enabled them to carry their measures. Well, did the noble Earl take any such line? What did he tell us? He said, "I did not think it likely we should remain in office unless we brought in this measure. I do not like to hold office merely as a stop-gap, and therefore I proposed a measure which I thought would have a chance of being passed;" and he added that whether good or bad he would introduce this great measure. In doing so the noble Earl acted, I must say, in a manner very unlike any of those great men of whom I have spoken, in a manner, too, I think not very becoming the position which he holds in this country, and hardly respectful to the Crown, to your Lordships, or to the other House of Parliament. I would, therefore, venture to suggest to him that when he brings forward the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills, he should endeavour to find some argument to show that, in his opinion, those measures are calculated to conduce to the public benefit, and would tend to make the people of Scotland and Ireland happier and freer than they are at the present moment. It would be much better, in my opinion, that the noble Earl should be able to do that than that he should merely inform us that he was about to take two further leaps in the dark—"number two and number three." There is another fertile topic—so fertile a topic that I shall barely touch upon it now—which has been discussed a great deal in public, and which ought, I think, to be duly considered by both Houses of Parliament, and that is, what do these measures of Reform imply, and what is the course of legislation which they render it expedient to adopt? I, for one, cannot agree with the noble Earl opposite, whom I understood to say that he was quite satisfied with the course of legislation under that Bill of 1832, and that he had no wish to see a change in that respect. So far, indeed, as the general tenour of our legislation is concerned, I concur in the sentiment; but I am, at the same time, of opinion that of late years the pace of the legislation on important subjects has not kept up with the want, which must exist in a great country like this, of measures to provide against new evils and to confer new benefits. Generally speaking, therefore, I think the line we should adopt should be that we should be predisposed and even anxious to introduce every improvement that is consistent with the Constitution of the country, while prepared at the same time to examine every innovation proposed, and when we find it inconsistent with that Constitution to reject it. When Lord Grey was about to introduce a Reform Bill, he advised his Sovereign, William IV., to use this language in addressing Parliament— "I feel convinced you will adhere to the principles of the Constitution, by which the prerogatives of the Crown, the privileges of the two Houses of Parliament, and the rights and liberties of the people are equally secured." That was becoming language in the King of this country to use—that was becoming advice on the part of an English Prime Minister to give—and I trust that whatever your Lordships may do you will regard those words as still prevailing, and as still having weight in your deliberations. For my own part, I am convinced that everything which the people can wish, that all the freedom they can enjoy, is compatible with the forms of the English Constitution. I do not wish to see their rights, or the prerogatives of the Crown, or the privileges of the two Houses of Parliament in any way diminished, and by paying due regard to each of these considerations, you will, I believe, have established the proper limits for the improvements which you may desire to set on foot. There is another subject mentioned in the Speech from, the Throne to which I wish, before I sit down, briefly to advert—I allude to the subject of Education. That is a subject upon which I am anxious to know something of the views of the Government beyond what can be learnt from the vague expressions in the Royal Message. I have, I may add, views of my own with respect to it, which I intend to submit to your Lordships' notice on a future occasion. I propose then, following the example set by Lord Brougham in 1835, to lay some Resolutions with regard to the question of Education before your Lordships, not with the purpose of pressing you to adopt them should they not meet with your approval, but rather with the object of eliciting some discussion on a matter which is, perhaps, beyond all others of interest to the people of this country, not only in the present, but in the future, before it comes to be dealt with in the shape of a Bill. I will simply add that I do not see how any one can object to the terms of the Address which is now under our consideration, and I, for one, am prepared to give it a cordial assent.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
said, he desired to express the satisfaction it gave him to witness the unanimity of feeling which seemed to prevail in their Lordships' House on the subject which had mainly led to their being assembled together at that season. The noble Earl who had just sat down (Earl Russell), had expressed himself on that subject in terms which, proceeding from the Leader of the Opposition, must be looked upon as of great importance, and as evincing, on his part, the display of a wise judgment; and the noble Earl's opinion would have great weight with the country. For himself, he looked upon the expedition against the King of Abyssinia as necessary to the maintenance of the national dignity; for it must be borne in mind that we had not in his case to deal with a civilized Power like those of Europe, with whom our differences might be arranged by means of diplomacy, but with the head of a savage nation, who could be brought to do what was just and right only by an exhibition of warlike strength. In such a case the difficulties to be encountered were small as compared with the injurious consequences which would result from allowing the impression to prevail that a barbarous people might commit such transgressions against us as King Theodore had done with impunity. It was not, however, necessary to dwell upon the subject. Passing from that subject, the noble Earl (Earl Russell) had found himself compelled to fall back on a very ancient topic, with which he had for many years been so intimately connected—the state and condition of the Constitution of this country—and he complained of the insufficient time which had been allowed to their Lordships' House for their deliberations; and he moreover touched on the discussions of last year with respect to the great measure of Reform which had been passed, and which it was to be hoped had effected a settlement of that important question. He (the Earl of Hardwicke), for one, thought it ill became the noble Earl who so long sat in the councils of his Sovereign to deal with that subject in a way which might soon again lead to irritating discussions with respect to it. He himself had not been a very warm advocate of the Bill of last year, but he thought the question settled by the passing of the Act; and now that it was the law of the land he was prepared to stand by it and defend it; and he hoped also to see the Bills for Scotland and Ireland brought to the same satisfactory conclusion. Were they going to raise the same feelings again as had existed against the Government during the last Session, because, having passed an English measure, the Government felt themselves bound to proceed with the other measures? The noble Earl knew perfectly well that if the Constitution of this country was to work well, it must be justly and evenly balanced, and must be carried out in Scotland and Ireland as it was in England. He should not have gone back to this question had not the remarks of the noble Earl led to it. Did the noble Earl for a moment believe that when the Government and Sovereign of this country departed (to use a nautical term) from the anchorage of a £10 suffrage, they could find ground anywhere but in household suffrage? The noble Earl could not believe any such thing. Another subject of great importance, which was mentioned in the Royal Speech, was that of education. They had heard a great deal of clap-trap talked, both in and out of Parliament, with respect to the necessity of educating the people. He himself was of opinion that the Legislature had for years been judiciously endeavouring to give the people as much education as they could swallow. It would be wise not to attempt to give more education to the working man than he had time to acquire; and if they gave him the knowledge which enabled him to read and write—if they gave him the knowledge which enabled him to read his Bible and understand his religion, it was quite sufficient, and a man of natural talent and ability would be able to help himself to acquire knowledge. But if they expected that fancy schemes, such as they heard extolled, were practicable—if they expected that the poor and working man could be educated in the same manner and to the same extent as the rich citizen—they would labour under a very great mistake. Those who advocated such a thing talked nonsense. He observed that some people were anxious to lead the working men to suppose that the Legislature was prepared to educate them by force, and use all compulsory means within their power for that purpose. The whole question was one which, along with others, they would be called upon to discuss at a future period during the present Session; and he would therefore, on the present occasion, not trouble their Lordships with any further remarks.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships beyond a very few moments; but I am desirous of taking the first opportunity of saying a few words on one point of great importance which is referred to in Her Majesty's Speech—namely, that relating to the Abyssinian expedition. My Lords, I think we must all admit, as the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) put it, that there will be very great difficulties incident to this enterprize—difficulties connected with roads, or rather routes, with transport, with the commissariat, with the climate, and other matters incident to the march of an army through such a country. Besides that, there must also be a very great expenditure incurred; and beyond that, there must be many further and future contingencies which it is right that Parliament should take into its consideration. You have to take into account—and doubtless Her Majesty's Government has considered all these points, and will, when the proper time arrives, give us all the details—you have to take into account the possibility of a retreat into the interior on the part of King Theodore, on the advance of your army into his territory, and the extreme difficulty of inland operations in such a country; you have to take into account—that which I hope is improbable—the massacre of the captives themselves. My Lords, I do not say that these are difficulties which ought of themselves to interfere with such an expedition; but they no doubt are difficulties. Moreover, I see that in the Speech it is stated that this expedition is undertaken for the sole purpose of liberating the captives. Well, I trust that hope may be realized. But, on the one hand, circumstances which you cannot now foretell may arise which may oblige you to protract your operations. On the other hand, if circumstances do not so arise, it may be that society—if you can speak of society in such a country as that—may absolutely fall to pieces from this expedition, and such positive anarchy may ensue as that an Egyptian annexation of Abyssinia, or of a part of it, may be effected. These are all, no doubt, serious considerations, and I dare say Her Majesty's Government has taken them into view. I confess, my Lords, there is a doubt in my mind, if I may be permitted to express it—and the noble Earl at the head of the Government must be perfectly aware of the opinion I entertain on this subject, for it has been often expressed—my doubt has been, and is, whether war upon this scale, and such a campaign as we have now embarked in, was the sole alternative that presented itself to us. My Lords, I must say I doubt considerably whether the course which has been taken was altogether the only course, or the most expedient course, that could have been adopted. You sent out, in the first instance, Mr. Rassam. Well, it was my good fortune to know Mr. Rassam some years ago, to be personally well acquainted with him, and I formed a very high opinion indeed of the tact and ability which he showed in the management of wild races. But, at the same time, you sent him out rather as a commercial traveller, rather as a "bagman" almost, than as an envoy representing Her Majesty. Mr. Rassam went out without any of that pomp or circumstance which not only impresses but is absolutely essential in dealing with Oriental people, and you imposed on him, I think, an almost impracticable task. I think he discharged his duties admirably as far as they went, with one single exception, and that exception was the acceptance of money on his part from the King of Abyssinia. I regret that Mr. Rassam accepted any money from the King. I think it placed Mr. Rassam at once in a false position as the accredited envoy of Her Majesty. At the same time, the circumstances under which he went out placed him in such a situation that he was almost compelled to accept that money, not for himself, but for the purposes of his mission, and it was a fault, perhaps, excusable on his part. My Lords, I observe that in the Papers which have been laid before Parliament there is evidence of an opinion of this kind being entertained by two of the most competent officers who have great experience of the East. Sir William Coghlan distinctly states that Mr. Rassam was not invested with all that dignity and all those surroundings of pomp and circumstance which are so effective in dealing with an Oriental King; and Colonel Merewether, I perceive, holds identically the same view. But after Mr. Rassam you sent out another envoy—Mr. Flad. Now, Mr. Flad is a very excellent man; but for years he had been resident at the Court of King Theodore, who was perfectly aware of his measure; and I think from his letters published in these blue books it is quite apparent that, however excellent and worthy a person Mr. Flad may be, he is not the man to be intrusted with so grave and delicate a commission as was deputed to him. The course I frankly own I could have wished adopted would have been this—that a mission should have been sent out under the charge of some Indian officer of experience, well acquainted with these countries and their inhabitants, competent to deal with the circumstances he had to meet in Abyssinia, and, at the same time, attended by an escort of, say, either a regiment or a regiment and a half of irregular cavalry. Such an escort would have been sufficient to give him all the personal protection and security that could be desired; and, on the other hand, it might have saved all the cost of this expedition and obviated all those difficulties, dangers, and uncertainties which every one must admit do exist in connection with it. Such an officer would have passed through the country at the head of a flying column, and could have presented himself before King Theodore with, it may be, presents in one hand, and an ultimatum of war on the other, and unless the prisoners were then and there given up to him—but I can hardly myself doubt what the result would have been—I can hardly doubt but that they would then and there have been released. But supposing this not to have been the case, and that the captives were refused, you might then properly have fallen back upon the alternative which you have at present adopted—you might, without any loss of honour, of dignity, or of any conceivable advantage, without even any loss of time, have taken the course that you have now taken, and obtained every good result which you are likely to obtain from it. My Lords, I have always held that opinion from the first, and I have thought it fair to state it at this early stage. On the other hand, Her Majesty's Government, no doubt after considering that view, rejected it. They have adopted a different course of proceeding, and I entirely agree that there is nothing for us now to do but to go on as vigorously as we can with the war which has been commenced. My Lords, I must say I saw with very great satisfaction that the entire command of the expedition has been concentrated in the hands of a single officer—Sir Robert Napier—an officer of the highest ability and experience. If anything can insure the success of this campaign it is the concentration of the command of this expedition in the hands of one single person. There is another remark which I wish to make before sitting down. It is my firm belief that if there is any one point in connection with this expedition respecting which we should be agreed, it is that of the cost. The cost of this war, which must necessarily be very great, is one which, I think, ought to fall exclusively upon this country. The objects for which the campaign has been organized are essentially and exclusively Imperial objects, and they affect this country, primarily and particularly. In the blue book laid before Parliament there is a letter from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India, in which he most distinctly lays down that the objects of this expedition are Imperial objects, and that the cost ought not in fairness to be charged to the revenues of India. However unpopular it may be to assert that opinion, I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will abide by the conclusion to which the Secretary of State for India has arrived, and which he has so clearly expressed in that letter. Further, I must say this, that inasmuch as this expedition is an expedition affecting the present time, and the present generation exclusively, I trust that no part of its cost will be thrown upon a future time or generation. The objects of the campaign affect us alone, and it would be a great injustice—it would be the height of impolicy, however unpopular it may be to say so—to lighten our present burdens by transferring them to some future time.
said, there was one topic adverted to in the Speech from the Throne so likely to come before their Lordships during the present Session, that he craved permission to make a few remarks upon it. He referred to the relations at present existing between the Imperial Government of France and the Kingdom of Italy. The passage relating to this subject took up a considerable portion of the Royal Speech, and it was remarkable as expressing a decided opinion, not only as to what had recently occurred, but as to the best means of arriving at a solution of the Italian difficulty. Her Majesty's Government not only intimated their regret at the occupation of Rome by the French troops, but expressed a belief that the early withdrawal of those troops would be the best solution of the Italian question. He could have wished that the words referring to the early withdrawal of the French troops had been omitted from the Queen's Speech, because they assumed that which was not proved or justified—namely, that this early withdrawal would lead to the solution of the difficulty. The anomaly of the occupation of Rome by French troops was so great and so startling that it was not for him to press it upon their Lordships' attention. The question was, however, whether the solution which they all desired, of the establishment of good, satisfactory, and lasting relations between the Government of Italy and the Papal States, would be best arrived at by the early withdrawal of the French troops from Rome; and that was a question which it was, he thought, hardly within the province of their Lordships to determine. The Convention of September, entered into between the Governments of France and Italy for the disposition of the Papal States, afforded so little hope of a satisfactory solution that he had never from the commencement regarded it with any hope or satisfaction, and his prediction in respect of it had been fully realized. That Convention laid upon the King of Italy too great a burden to be borne. It required him to do that which was physically impossible—to protect a large and uncertain frontier against what were known to be the strong desire and even the earnest fanaticism of a considerable portion of his subjects. After the events that had lately occurred, their Lordships would, perhaps, agree with him there were two courses for the French Government to pursue—either to allow that Convention to be at an end, or to re-occupy the Papal States. Unless the Convention was to be considered a sham, he did not see how the French Government could have acted otherwise, or that any other result than that which had occurred could have been expected. It appeared to him that the temporary occupation of Rome by a certain portion of orderly French troops was a far better state of things, both for the Papal States and for Italy, than the existence of a large body of paid mercenaries and ecclesiastical condottieri, composed of persons of all nations, in the service of the Pope; for the latter were much more likely to excite bad feeling and keep up irritation in the Papal States than the occupation of those territories by a body of orderly and well-conducted French troops. In the remarkable Speech just delivered by the Emperor of the French to the Legislative Body, His Majesty threw out the project of a Conference, in which the Powers of Europe were to meet and consult upon the question of the temporal power of the Pope. There was no reason to suppose that the invitation to the Conference would be confined, to the Catholic Powers of Europe, and he should regret if, at this moment, and before this question was fully discussed, or the conditions of the Conference foreseen, an opinion should be given by any distinguished English statesman as to the course to be taken by Her Majesty's Government with respect to the matter. He trusted that when this invitation came before the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, he would not decide until after long consideration by himself and discussion with his Colleagues, and that they would remember that the Papal question was territorial as well as religious. It would be very unfortunate if Her Majesty's Government did not consider that there was a political as well as a religious element involved in the Italian question. If the question were left to be decided by a Conference of Catholic Powers alone, the result would probably be the permanent occupation of Rome by a joint force of those Powers, which would be a much greater grievance to the kingdom of Italy than the present occupation by French troops. If, on the contrary, it were so arranged that the Papal question were treated as a territorial one, and if the wishes of the people of Italy and of the present occupants of the Roman Territory were considered, it was just possible that the proposed Conference might lead to a successful solution of the question. There were two very important lights in which the question should be considered. One was that the strong, and almost universal desire, which once existed to make Home the capital of Italy, had considerably diminished in the minds not only of the Roman people themselves, but also of the leading men of Italy. That remarkable patriot the late Massimo d'Azeglio was not of opinion that Rome ought to be the capital of Italy, and, in his interesting letters, he gave many efficient reasons why it might not be expedient that Rome should be the capital, and why the existence of the Papal Government at Rome in a certain degree of independence might rather add to than diminish the dignity and independence of the kingdom of Italy. That opinion had been gradually becoming more prominent, and was now held by the majority of Italian statesmen. The next light in which the question was to be considered was the remarkable fact of the absence of any sign of movement and sympathy with the Volunteers by the people of Rome. There appeared to be, at all events, no immediate desire on the part of the people of Rome to get rid of the Papal Government. It was not for the people of this country to deny the right of any other people to govern themselves in the mode best adapted to their wants and wishes; but it was apparent that the desire for Rome as the capital of Italy was not so strong as it formerly was. He trusted that if a proposal were made to England to join the Conference the matter would receive the gravest consideration on the part of the Government. With regard to the other topics alluded to in Her Majesty's Speech, he would not now detain their Lordships—there would be plenty of opportunity for discussing them in the course of the Session.
§ LORD LYVEDEN
said, that their Lordships would have an ample opportunity hereafter of dealing with the other questions referred to in the Speech from the Throne, with the exception of the expedition to Abyssinia, which was a matter of pressing and immediate importance; and therefore he thought it desirable that their Lordships should direct their special attention to that subject, and endeavour, if possible, to obtain from Her Majesty's Government some explanation with regard to the motives that had guided their policy. For his own part, he regarded this expedition as one of the most formidable misfortunes which could have befallen the country; it was an evil the full extent of which could not be foreseen; and, although it might possibly be a necessity, more would be required of the Government in explanation of its policy than was contained in the Message from the Crown before the country would accept it as such. It should be shown, in the first place, that every alternative expedient had been well considered and dismissed on substantial grounds before the expedition was resolved on, and that there were no other means of attaining the object. It was well known that several suggestions had been made with reference to the method of carrying on the expedition, not a few of which had come from that distinguished traveller Sir Samuel Baker, who proposed, among other things, that the co-operation of the Viceroy of Egypt should be sought in carrying on offensive operations, while other parties recommended that we should make use of the discontented subjects of King Theodore. The noble Earl at the head of the Government shook his head; he, perhaps, thought that a very unwise proposal; but had these things been considered, and if so, why rejected? They were certainly worthy of consideration, for if adopted they would materially reduce the cost of the expedition. It might, indeed, be inexpedient to adopt any of these courses; but these were points on which he should like to hear the views of Her Majesty's Government. Regarding the question of necessity, he noticed that the second paragragh of the Royal Message opened with this passage— "The Sovereign of Abyssinia, in violation of all international Law, continues to hold in captivity several of My Subjects, some of whom have been especially accredited to him by Myself." No doubt it was true that in the case of the accredited representatives of Her Majesty their detention was a direct violation of International Law; but he was not sure that there was a breach of International Law in the seizure of the rest of the captives; and he hoped it would be well understood that if any enthusiast, either in religion or philosophy, chose to dive into the recesses of such countries as Abyssinia, or any part of Africa, and incur the resentment of some semi-barbarous chief or tribe, he would do so at his peril, and that it formed no part of the duty of Her Majesty's Government to espouse his cause and punish all those who dealt with him violently. Otherwise, it would be expected of the Government that it should send an expedition into the heart of Africa to inquire as to the fate of Dr. Livingstone, and avenge his death if he should have fallen by the hand of the Natives. Such intervention was, in his opinion, totally improper for this country, and he trusted the noble Earl would state explicitly that he did not wish the passage in the Queen's Message to be so interpreted. The Message stated that it was solely to secure the liberation of the captives that Abyssinia was entered. He observed the introduction of the word "alone" with pleasure; but the Government would experience the greatest difficulty in keeping their operations within this limit. For he regretted to find in all the letters and papers presented to Parliament, and in all the books which had been written upon the subject, the occupation of Abyssinia was suggested. Some desired reforming the religion of the country; others proposed interference with the slave trade; it was suggested that the occupation of Abyssinia would assist our passage down the Red Sea on the way to India; and Sir Henry Rawlinson—a most able authority—spoke of the country as the most healthy in the world, and admirably adapted to serve as a sanatorium for India; but he confessed he looked upon that statement with great suspicion. Were any of those recommendations entertained by the Government? Were they to be acted on in order to maintain our prestige in India? He objected altogether to the word "prestige," which meant originally "illusions," and he did not believe that our reputation in India depended upon any such measure as the invasion of Abyssinia. India was already very strongly impressed with our power and goodwill towards it. But a very prevalent opinion throughout India was that wherever England went she picked a quarrel with the Governments and ended by annexing their territories. Some of the people of India knew that had been their case, and believed that we went to Abyssinia for the purpose of taking possession of it. He trusted that the noble Earl would state that the expedition was set on foot solely for the purpose of liberating the prisoners, and that immediately that end was gained the British Army would leave the country. As to the question of money, he agreed with the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Carnarvon) that the expense should not be thrown upon India. It was all very well for a country to make wars, the cost of which would not be borne by itself; but he had heard that Sir Stafford Northcote had declared that the Government did not intend to pursue such a course. He was glad of it, for, however palatable it might be to this country, it would be very unfair to tax India for an Imperial expedition. He also hoped they should hear something from the noble Earl as to what would be done by the army. Of course, he did not expect an account of the military manœuvres to be carried on by the troops; but he thought it reasonable to look for a statement as to what course, generally speaking, the commander of the expedition would follow. Suppose the King of Abyssinia chose to put the captives to death the moment the expedition approached him; what would be done in this not improbable case? Would the King be pursued and punished? Suppose he buried himself in the interior of Africa; should he be followed? To do so would be almost impossible; but what had the Government resolved upon? All these matters must have presented themselves to the minds of Ministers; so that before the money was voted, and the despatch of the expedition had been formally endorsed, he insisted that the Government should clearly state what limit they intended putting on the operations of the expedition, and how those operations would be carried out. A noble Lord had stated that the country generally approved the expedition, and would willingly bear the cost of it; but he (Lord Lyveden) believed the country was very much annoyed at the expense being incurred, and would only be reconciled to it on being fully satisfied that the expedition was inevitable. He certainly believed that much fuller information than had yet been furnished was required before the country would fully regard this expedition as necessary and unavoidable.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, in the first place, I have to return my sincere thanks to my two noble Friends who moved and seconded the Address to the Crown in answer to the Royal Speech. If I may draw a distinction between them, it will be to refer particularly to my noble Friend who addressed your Lordships for the first time this evening, and who, in the course of his observations, spoke with remarkable clearness and accuracy upon subjects requiring very careful consideration, and perhaps more experience than could have been expected from so young a Member of your Lordships' House. I hope, from what we have heard to-night, that we shall hereafter frequently find my noble Friend taking part in our debates. I have next to express the satisfaction which Her Majesty's Government feel at being able to infer from the language of those noble Lords who have addressed your Lordships that it is not intended to interfere in the slightest degree with the unanimity with which your Lordships are disposed to support the Address in answer to Her Majesty's Speech. But it would be impossible for me to pass over in complete silence some of the observations which have been made by the noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) and from other noble Lords, and I must ask your Lordships' indulgence while I make a few remarks. I understand from the noble Earl opposite that, after carefully considering the matter, he is not disposed to offer any objection to the policy pursued by the Government in despatching an expedition to Abyssinia, but he, at the same time, reserves to himself—as he is perfectly entitled to do—the liberty of expressing any opinion he may come to after more mature consideration of the case. I assure the noble Earl and your Lordships that no Government ever came to a decision with more reluctance, or with a stronger sense of the imperative necessity which would alone justify such a decision, than Her Majesty's Government experienced in deciding on sending this expedition to Abyssinia. That decision would not have been taken had the Government not been deeply impressed with its imperative necessity, and with a firm conviction, shared in, I believe, by all the Members of both Houses of Parliament who have at all inquired into the subject, that the time had arrived when it would have been unworthy of the Government of this country, would have seriously detracted from the estimation in which England is held throughout the world, and would have exposed us to well-grounded reproach, had we decided to leave Her Majesty's subjects in unjust captivity, and left Her Majesty's Crown and dignity to be insulted with impunity by a semi-barbarous Potentate. The noble Earl below the gangway (the Earl of Carnarvon), has expressed an opinion that the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government with regard to the expedition is not the most desirable that could have been adopted. But my noble Friend does not, however, so much condemn the expedition itself as the course which had been previously taken; and, in point of fact, the greater part of my noble Friend's observations referred to a period long antecedent to that at which Her Majesty's present Government acceded to office. He objected to the mission undertaken by Mr. Rassam; and he thought—I do not know whether with reference to that or a subsequent mission—that a Minister charged with the important function of representing the Crown should have been sent to Abyssinia with an escort—with a small escort—of cavalry. I can only say, my Lords, that if my noble Friend had volunteered to go upon that expedition, and had taken with him the Hampshire Yeomanry, I should not have had the slightest objection to his trying his persuasive powers upon the King of Abyssinia. For myself, I can only say that if the mission from this country was not to rely upon the authority of the Sovereign, no scheme, in my mind, could be more untenable, and no plan would be more certain to lead to absolute and discreditable failure than to send out a Minister with a small escort incapable of protecting him or of defending themselves, and who, if the Emperor objected to their presence, would certainly be devoted to destruction, or reduced to a state of captivity such as that which had befallen the previous prisoners. With regard, therefore, to the alternative so suggested, it is the one which in my mind, of all other alternatives, afforded the least prospect of success. But I am the more surprised to hear this objection raised on the part of the noble Earl, because when it was determined to send out Mr. Mad the noble Earl was a Member of the Cabinet, and he was a party to the sending out of that gentleman; and in vindication of my noble Friend and of ourselves, I must say that we had no other alternative with regard to Mr. Flad, because the circumstances when we came into office were these:—Our Consul had been imprisoned for three years, and during that time he had languished in a captivity which varied in severity according to the caprices of the Emperor. The Government sent out Mr. Rassam, whom they believed to be perfectly competent to deal with the question. He was at first received with great cordiality and kindness by the Emperor; but in one of the sudden caprices to which such minds are subject, the Emperor, while professing great attachment to Mr. Rassam, placed him in captivity, loading him at the same time with assurances of the most profound friendship and esteem. Mr. Rassam was the bearer of a letter from the Queen, which was treated by this Potentate with entire contempt. He was also the bearer of presents; but falling under the displeasure of the Emperor, he, together with the other prisoners, who had been actually liberated, and who had been sent for by the Emperor in order that there might be a formal reconciliation, were to be detained until certain artificers for whom the Emperor had asked for the purpose of instructing his people were forthcoming. Mr. Rassam thereupon inquired what messenger would be most acceptable to the King, and the answer was—Mr. Flad, a German missionary; and it was arranged that he should come to this country and have a personal interview with Her Majesty, and receive from Her her commands. That was the state of things when we assumed the responsibilities of office. Mr. Flad arrived in this country in July, which was about a month after we became Ministers of the Crown. In the course of October he returned to Massowah, bearing an autograph letter from the Queen, which he was to deliver to the Emperor, and also bearing with him certain presents and assurances that if the prisoners were released Her Majesty would overlook what had passed, and still entertain for Theodore sentiments of friendship and goodwill. At the same time, in compliance with the desire of the Emperor, and with their own consent, a certain number of artificers who had had the terms clearly explained to them were sent out, and these artificers were to proceed to the Emperor on the delivery of the captives. On the arrival of the presents and the artificers at Massowah, the Emperor expressed great pleasure, but said nothing about the release of the prisoners. Colonel Merewether regarded this as a one-sided proceeding, and accordingly intimated that the presents and the artificers would be sent on the release of the captives. No reply to this communication was vouchsafed, and the Emperor was informed that they would be returned to England, and that Her Majesty could not think of entering into friendly relations with him as long as the captives were detained. In April, 1867, my noble Friend and Relative at the head of the Foreign Department sent an imperative message to King Theodore, demanding the release of the captives on pain, in case of refusal, of forfeiture of Her Majesty's friendship and goodwill, and three months were allowed for an answer. The message was forwarded on the 15th of April, was received on the 13th of June, and from that time to this not the slightest notice has been taken of the communication. Thus matters stood before the prorogation of Parliament; and as some question has been raised partly as to whether all other means have been exhausted, and partly as to whether Parliament has been fairly dealt with in the matter, I hope that your Lordships will permit me to refer to what took place in the House of Commons on the 26th of July, about four weeks before the rising of Parliament. The question was brought forward by Mr. Seymour, and supported by Sir Henry Rawlinson, as well as by a more significant authority, when we consider the position he had occupied in the previous Government—I mean Mr. Layard. The object of the Motion was to present a humble Address to Her Majesty, praying that proper steps might be taken to procure the release of the Abyssinian prisoners, if necessary, by force of arms. No opposition was offered to the Motion except on the part of Her Majesty's Government. I trust your Lordships will permit me to quote one or two passages from the addresses which were delivered in support of the proposal. Mr. Seymour said that some of the prisoners had been detained for upwards of three years, and the question was, what was to be done for their liberation? Conciliation had been tried and failed. Mr. Seymour then proceeded to state the courses which he thought were open to the Government:— "In the first place, it was impossible that the captives could be left in their prisons. … The missionary whom the King had permitted to leave Abyssinia had returned with the much-coveted artizans and presents, and the autograph letter of Her Majesty, which was couched in the most conciliatory terms; but even this had not proved successful. Further attempts at conciliation would be not only useless, but derogatory to this country. It had been suggested that we should ask Egypt to assist us in obtaining the release of these captives. He thought it would not be wise to do so."—[3 Hansard, clxxxix. 233–4.]" And I must say that I entirely concur in that opinion. Nothing would so surely tend to failure as to act in concert with Egypt, a country which has been regarded by Abyssinia for generations as her hereditary foe. The Princes and Chiefs in the latter country, who are at present at feud with Theodore, and who would rejoice at his overthrow, would at the supposition of our acting with the Egyptians effect a reconciliation with him. Mr. Seymour continued— "The only course which remained was to undertake the release of the captives ourselves. After so great an insult had been inflicted upon us we were bound to take this course, and send an expedition to Abyssinia from India."—[Ibid.]" Sir Henry Rawlinson also thought it would be impossible to take any other course— "We have done everything we could to obtain the release of the prisoners by fair means, and we have failed. If we abandon any further effort, and our present inactivity is prolonged, that the prisoners will, one and all, in due course, sink under their sufferings is almost a matter of certainty. The question, therefore, resolves itself into a choice of evils."—[3 Hansard, clxxxix. 239.]" In answer to those who objected to the probable cost of the expedition, and disregarded altogether the question of prestige, Sir Henry Rawlinson said "Having been employed officially in the East for nearly thirty years, and having passed by far the greater portion of that service in immediate connection with Native Courts, my opinions with, regard to 'prestige' are not derived from theory or from books, but are the result of personal experience and observation. I would say, then, that I look on 'prestige' in politics very much as I look on 'credit' in finance. It is a power which enables us to achieve very great results with very small means at our immediate disposal. 'Prestige' may not be of paramount importance in Europe, but in the East, Sir, our whole position depends on it. It is a perfect fallacy to suppose that we hold India by the sword. The foundation of our tenure, the talisman—so to speak—which enables 100,000 Englishmen to hold 150,000,000 of Natives in subjection, is the belief in our unassailable power, in our inexhaustible resources; and any circumstance therefore which impairs that belief, which leads the nations of the East to mistrust our superiority and to regard us as more nearly on an equality with themselves, inflicts a grievous shock on our political position."—[3 Hansard, clxxxix. 241.]" Mr. Layard said— "Matters, however, had now gone to a length when some step must be taken, something must be done on behalf of the unfortunate people still kept in captivity. …. With great reluctance he had come to the conclusion that there was only one course left to us now, and that was an expedition to Abyssinia. He did not conceal from himself all the difficulties of such an undertaking—difficulties which his hon. Friend who spoke last was near the truth in describing. The expedition would be really a very arduous one. But the question was, whether the honour and credit of the country did not render such an under taking absolutely necessary. If he entertained the remotest hope that any kind of negotiation, or that any other measure would be likely to release the captives, he should be totally opposed to a military expedition; but with a full knowledge of all the circumstances, he had been compelled to relinquish all such expectations."—[3 Hansard, clxxxix. 245–247.]" Here is the opinion of a Gentleman who had been Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and who for three years had been exhausting every means of conciliation to obtain the release of the captives. He says that all efforts have failed, and he has been compelled to come to the conclusion that nothing but force of arms can procure their release. And now I come to the answer made by my noble Friend and Relative the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. My noble Relative said— "I am sure, therefore, that the House will feel that, however anxious we may be to attain the object we all have in view, it would be madness to throw a British army into an unknown country, in a tropical climate, far from the sea, very far from its reserves and its supplies, without a full previous investigation as to the means of moving, feeding, and keeping them in health. That inquiry we look upon as an indispensable preliminary. I have been in communication with the War Department and with the India Office as to the best mode of proceeding. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India has telegraphed to the Indian Government to send over an officer or officers on whom they can rely to meet Colonel Merewether at Aden, and with him to examine minutely the points on which information is necessary. I do not wish to anticipate the result of that inquiry; but I hope that the House will be of opinion that in making it we have only done our duty. On the one hand, we cannot consent to leave these men to their fate without some attempt to rescue them. On the other hand, by precipitation and by acting in the dark we should be running the risk of involving ourselves in great calamities, and might bring on ourselves not only political, but also the possibility of military disaster. It is possible that when King Theodore sees that we are in earnest, he may take warning, and release the prisoners without giving us further trouble. We may hope for this; but we ought not to count upon it. If he should not, the responsibility rests with us of deciding upon our future course. We must be guided to a great degree by the reports we receive from those whom we employ to make the investigation to which I have referred. I do not think we should be called upon even now to give any pledge on the part of the Government as to an expedition, unless it is found to be practicable with only a reasonable expenditure of men and means. It may be said, 'Send it to the coast of Africa, that will be enough.' Possibly, that may be enough; but if you send an expedition to the coast and that fails, you cannot rest there, you must proceed further, you are free to send an expedition or not to do so; but having once begun, you are not free to leave off without success. If you undertake the enterprize at all, you are bound to carry it through. I hops the House will leave the decision where the responsibility must be left. I think they will see by the Papers, which are now all but ready to be laid on the table, that whether we have taken the best or the wisest course or not—on which differences of opinion may exist—at any rate, we have not been guilty of neglecting or treating with indifference this most painful business."—[3 Hansard, clxxxix. 252–3.]" Now, my Lords, it has been said that this language was held on the 26th of July, while the first intimation given to Parliament of an intended expedition was contained in the Queen's Speech on the prorogation of Parliament on the 21st of August. The explanation of this circumstance is perfectly simple. At the commencement of the month of June my noble Relative had, as he stated in his speech, taken steps to obtain the most perfect information from the most reliable Indian sources with regard to Abyssinia; but that information was not obtained until the 13th of August, when we received intelligence which led us to believe that we might, with a reasonable prospect of success, send an expedition to Abyssinia to accomplish the object we had in view. Parliament was prorogued on the 21st of August, and it was not until the 19th of August that, having carefully considered the information we had received from India, we came to the determination to send out an expedition to Abyssinia. Having come to that determination on the 19th of August, at the earliest possible opportunity—on the 21st—we communicated that determination to Parliament. I trust, therefore, that your Lordships will see that there was no desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to keep back from Parliament their determination to send an expedition to Abyssinia in order to procure the release of the prisoners, and that there was no contradiction between the language held by my noble Relative on the 26th of July, and the subsequent determination on the part of the Government to send out the expedition. Having come to the determination to send out the expedition, what was our next step? And here I may mention that some time ago a noble Lord who has spoken this evening (Lord Houghton), and whom I now see opposite to me, expressed his opinion at a scientific meeting—that of the Geographical Society—that Her Majesty's Government had not taken proper precautions for obtaining information which would be necessary to enable them to make the proper preparation for securing the success of the expedition.
What I said was, that unless Her Majesty's Government had used every means in their power by consulting distinguished geographers as to whether there were any other means of obtaining their object before this costly expedition was sent out, they would not have taken all the precautions that were necessary.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
Very well; the noble Lord did not make a statement; he merely made a suggestion; but the purport of his observations was such as to cause the President, Sir Roderick Murchison, to rise and state that from his own personal knowledge the greatest pains had been taken to obtain information likely to promote the objects of the expedition, and that every care had been bestowed in preparing whatever was required for its use. When we determined upon sending out the expedition we also determined for various reasons, with which I need not now trouble your Lordships, that it should take its departure from India. We also determined that the command of the expedition should not be divided, but should be placed in the hands of one person; and as such a position would be one of heavy responsibility, we selected with the consent, and I believe on the suggestion, of the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge), as the most proper person to take the chief command of the expedition an officer who has obtained the highest reputation in India—namely, Sir Robert Napier, on whose strategical ability and in whose talents we felt we could place the most entire reliance. It was left to him to name the force and the equipments he would require to enable the expedition to effect its object. A full statement of all matters of detail connected with the expedition your Lordships will find in the blue-book which I shall have the honour of laying upon, your Lordships' table in the course of this evening in pursuance of the statement in Her Majesty's Speech, from which you will see that the greatest possible pains have been taken that the expedition shall not go out unprovided with anything likely to conduce to the health and comfort of the troops. The expedition was to be sent out from India. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) has expressed an opinion that as its objects were entirely of an Imperial character, therefore the expense should be entirely borne by England, Now, that is the precise ground on which we have advised Her Majesty to call her Parliament together. I need scarcely tell your Lordships that, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, it was absolutely necessary that Parliament should be called together at the earliest possible moment, to give its assent to the course we thought fit to adopt in sending out the expedition. It has been supposed that there is no power on the part of the Crown to employ Indian troops for Imperial purposes, except in India itself, but that is a misapprehension. The prohibition that exists merely extends to the Crown applying any portion of the revenue of India to external war, whereby the control of a war might be withdrawn from Parliament. We do not propose to impose a single farthing of the cost of this expedition upon the revenue of India. India will continue, as before, to pay for the troops as if they were in India in the service of the Crown; but every expense attendant upon the expedition will be borne by the Imperial revenue. There is one more point connected with this subject to which I must refer. The noble Earl opposite has expressed a hope that he would hear from Her Majesty's Government an emphatic declaration as to the objects of the expedition. I certainly thought that nothing could be more emphatic than the language of the Speech from the Throne upon this point, which declares that the expedition has been sent out for the purpose of obtaining the release of the prisoners, and for that purpose alone. If, however, by doing so I can render these words still more emphatic, I will now declare that it is the firm intention of Her Majesty's Government that nothing further than the release of the prisoners shall be attempted by the expeditionary force, and that that object being accomplished, that force will at once retire from Abyssinia. Suggestions for occupying Abyssinia for sanatorial and other purposes—God knows what—have been made to Her Majesty's Government; but it has never crossed our minds to go one step further than to obtain the release of the prisoners. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Lyveden) has made a slight error in stating that it has been suggested that we should occupy Abyssinia for the purpose of protecting the Red Sea. Your Lordships are doubtless aware that there lies between Abyssinia and the Red Sea a large tract of territory which does not belong to the King of Abyssinia, and therefore the occupation of Abyssinia will not enable us in any way to protect the Red Sea. [Lord LYVEDEN explained that this was not his suggestion.] I think I have now said all that is necessary upon this subject—as to the course the Government have pursued; as to the understanding upon which the expedition has been sent out; and as to the preparations that have been made for securing the comfort and the safety of the troops.
I must now turn to one or two other subjects, which I shall touch upon as briefly as possible consistently with their importance. In the first place, the noble Lord who has just sat down (Lord Houghton) has expressed something like an objection to the paragraph in the Queen's Speech which expresses a hope that His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the French may find himself enabled to withdraw the French troops at as early a period as possible, and thereby remove any possible ground of misunderstanding between His Majesty's Government and that of the King of Italy. Now, my Lords, I am happy to find by the Speech of His Imperial Majesty, which was delivered yesterday, that His Majesty's views upon this question entirely coincide with the hopes which have been expressed by Her Majesty's Government, and that he sees the time approaching when the French troops may be withdrawn from Italian soil. The noble Earl who opened the debate (Earl Russell) has commented upon the terms of the Convention of September, and has expressed his opinion with regard to various parts of it, and particularly the arrangement whereby the Papal Government might employ mercenary troops. I, however, may say that Her Majesty's Government were no parties to that Convention, and that therefore it is not their duty, nor that of any British statesman sitting in his place in Parliament, to comment upon the terms of that Convention, with which this country has nothing whatever to do. The Convention was between France and Italy, and in my opinion those countries alone are concerned with it. Nor, my Lords, do I think it necessary—nor do Her Majesty's Government think it necessary—to express any opinion whatever upon the policy adopted by the Emperor of the French in despatching the expedition to Rome. The Emperor of the French, no doubt, felt himself bound by the terms of the Convention to protect the Papal territory, not against the population of the Papal States, nor against the Italian Government; but against certain Italian invaders who had managed to elude the vigilance of the Italian Government. But that object having been effected—a perfectly legitimate object I may venture to say on the part of the Emperor—notwithstanding that Her Majesty's Government do not feel called upon to express any opinion upon the policy of that measure, it was perfectly legitimate for Her Majesty in her Speech from the throne to express a hope that all ground of a misunderstanding between the French and Italian Governments may be prevented by the withdrawal of the French troops, whose continued presence in Italy must be a source of jealousy to the Italian people and of additional embarrassment to that Government. The noble Lord has also expressed a hope that no hasty decision will be come to by Her Majesty's Government with reference to the proposed Conference on Italian affairs. Her Majesty's Government have been invited, in concert with the other Powers, to join in a general Conference for the settlement of this question; but that invitation they have neither accepted nor declined. Her Majesty's Government would be most happy to second the efforts of the Emperor to restore peace and to secure Italy against further complications, and on personal grounds I am bound to say that we should deem it a most satisfactory thing to be enabled in the slightest degree to relieve the Emperor of the French from any embarrassment he may feel from the state of his own country in return for the cordial friendship and the goodwill which he has always exhibited towards this country. But, before accepting the invitation to a Conference, various subjects required to be taken into consideration. First, is the Conference acceded to, and will its determination be accepted by the two Powers mainly concerned—Italy and the Pope? To call for a Conference to arrange the affairs of two countries, neither of which concurs in being represented, and neither of which holds itself bound by the decision that may be arrived at, appears to me, my Lords, a perfect waste of diplomatic energy and ability. But, again, have we any reasonable prospect—where the points of divergence are so great as between the Papal programme and the Italian programme—of having to the Conference a practical basis on which its proceedings may be founded? To call for a Conference of the Powers without any basis on which they should proceed, simply to discuss the affairs of Italy and the Pope, would be only launching on an interminable sea of difficulty, which could afford no definite prospect of improvement. Therefore, unless these questions were satisfactorily answered, I confess I cannot see any advantage in entering into a Conference of so vague a character. That, in point of fact, was the answer we sent to the invitation—that we should first know whether the consent of the two parties mainly interested had been obtained; and next, what definite basis would be submitted for the consideration of the Conference.
I now turn, my Lords, to the next paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech, which treats of the Fenian conspiracy, with reference to which I heard with great regret the noble Earl (Earl Russell), in commenting upon it, cast some imputation on the Government and on the local authorities for what he considered great remissness in not having taken more complete precau- 47 tions. Now, in the first place, whatever degree of blame there be, if any—which I do not admit—it did not attach to the Government, because it was entirely attributable to the course pursued by the local police of Manchester. But the noble Earl greatly misapprehends, and therefore misrepresents, the course which was pursued. The noble Earl says the Fenian prisoners were left under the protection of three policemen only. Now, that was by no means the case. They were sent to prison specially guarded by twelve policemen, some of whom were on the van and others were following in cabs for the purpose of affording protection. But certainly, it did not enter into the conception of any of the authorities that an attack would be made, in broad daylight, in the middle of the town of Manchester, of so determined a character as that which took place, and consequently the police were only armed with their ordinary weapons, and were not in sufficient force to meet the forty or fifty men who made the attack armed with revolvers and quite prepared to take life for the purpose of effecting their object. I do not think, therefore, that the police of Manchester are liable to the charge of remissness in duty which the noble Earl brings against them.
§ EARL RUSSELL
They had a telegram from Dublin, had they not, informing them that a rescue would be attempted?
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
No doubt there was a telegram from Dublin to Manchester to say that a rescue of the prisoners would be attempted, and that therefore it was desirable that extra precautions should be taken. But those precautions were taken in a very large increase of police in attendance on the van. Certainly no information reached the authorities which led them to apprehend so desperate and bloody an attack. My Lords, I ought not to say anything, more especially under present circumstances, when four men are lying under sentence of death—I ought not to say anything to aggravate the crime of this Fenian conspiracy; but, at the same time, I must protest in the strongest terms against those who, in the public press or elsewhere, have assumed that those outrages—those cowardly and dastardly outrages—are to be classed in the category of political offences, and therefore to be treated differently from murders ordinarily committed. In the first place, the object of this Fenian conspiracy—indefinite, reckless, hopeless—is not the removal of any grievance, not the redress of any evil of which they have to complain, but the avowed distinct object is to upset the Government of the Queen in her dominions and to constitute an Irish Republic. That is a distinctly treasonable object, and I must say there is a ludicrous side to it, because the very idea of an Irish Republic is one that to any man who knows that country and the condition of its population must appear entirely ridiculous, and there is no possibility of any such a scheme, under any circumstances, being carried into effect. I am as satisfied as of anything in the world that if an Irish Republic could be established and every British soldier withdrawn from Ireland every cultivator would be driven from Ireland; in less than six months the leaders would be quarrelling among themselves, and in twelve months they would be cutting each other's throats from one end of the island to the other. But there is some respect to be paid to those who may entertain opinions however erroneous—some respect to those who openly and avowedly come forward to oppose constituted authority, and are prepared by force of arms to establish their principles and views. To such cases as these the character of political crimes may be attached; but no such character can be given to crimes where the sole means of effecting the object of disturbance—subversion of authority and complete anarchy throughout the country—are secret incendiarisms, attacks on unprotected houses, murders of single and unarmed policemen, attacks on police barracks which are known not to be defended, attempts to fire houses by men who have not courage to show themselves, who at the appearance of a corporal's guard betake themselves to flight and leave their unfortunate comrades to suffer the penalties of their crimes. Therefore, whatever may be urged in mitigation of the crimes committed under this Fenian conspiracy; whatever the disposition on the part of the Crown and people to show all mercy in consistency with the judicial vindication of the law, I cannot for one moment—and I am sure the country will not for one moment—connect the idea of offences of this description with those ordinarily known as political offences, and which, as political offences, may be regarded with some sort of respect by a large portion of the people.
My Lords, I do not think it necessary now to deal with those measures which Her Majesty's Government announce their intention of bringing before Parliament, nor will I follow the noble Earl into his discussion of the general principles of the Reform Bill which was carried last Session in reference to England. That Reform Bill, he seems to think, ought not to be introduced for Scotland and Ireland. I am not prepared to enter into any discussion with regard to the merits of those Bills. The noble Earl will have an earlier opportunity than last year of discussing the merits of the Scotch and Irish Bills; and in the meantime, though greatly indebted to him for the arguments by which he suggests I might vindicate them, I must be permitted to use my own discretion and to use my own arguments when I bring them forward. I will not deal with the other topics adverted to in the Speech. The question of Education, no doubt, is one that requires the most serious consideration of Parliament. The circumstances of the three portions of the Kingdom are very different in regard to it, and it may be necessary to deal with each in a different manner and at a different time. For my own part, I agree with my noble Friend behind me (Lord Hylton) in regard to education in England; it requires much more information than we possess; and I cannot but feel that the time is hardly ripe for coming to a definite conclusion in regard to it. Though we have ample information as to assisted schools and some unassisted schools, yet, with regard to that large portion of the population absolutely without education at all, we stand in need of much more information than we possess before we can safely come to a conclusion on the whole subject. The question of education for Ireland is under the consideration of the Commission, with reference to the appointment of which considerable difficulty has been experienced, owing to the reluctance of the Roman Catholics of Ireland to take any part in assisting the Government to come to a careful and unbiased investigation on the subject, and also from the lamented death of the Earl of Rosse, who was so universally respected, and who from his singularly conciliatory and discreet course would have been a most efficient president. My Lords, I leave the other questions noticed in Her Majesty's Speech to be dealt with when, in due time, they are brought under your Lordships' consideration. I will therefore content myself with expressing my satisfaction that the noble Earl and your Lordships generally do not see any ground for objection to Her Majesty's Speech, and that on this, the first day of the Session, there is entire unanimity among us.
§ Address agreed to, Nemine Dissentiente, and Ordered to be Presented to Her Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.