Speeches on Questions of Public Policy, Volume 1
John Bright

Part 7 out of 9

took place?' 'What sale?' I asked. 'Oh! the sale of the Duke's
property.' 'What Duke?' 'The Duke of Buckingham. Did you never hear of
it? About fifteen years ago his property was sold in lots, and the
people bought all the farms. You never saw such a stir in the world.' He
pointed out the houses on the hill-side which had been built to replace
old tumble-down tenements, the red soil appearing under the plough, and
cultivation going on with such general activity as had not been
witnessed till within these last few years. The appearance of these
villages was such as must strike every traveller from another part of
the country, and it was produced by simple means. The great estate of an
embarrassed Duke had been divided and sold off; he had not been robbed;
the old miserable hovels of the former tenants had been pulled down, and
new life and activity had been given to the whole district. If you could
have such a change as this in Ireland, you would see such a progress and
prosperity that gentlemen would hardly know the district from which they

I think it only fair to my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster to
say, that I do not believe the time is come in Ireland, and I do not
believe it ever will come, when it will be necessary to have recourse to
so vast and extraordinary a scheme as that which he has proposed to the
House. It appears to me that it is not necessary for Ireland. There is
the land--there is the owner--there is the tenant. If the landowners had
been a little wiser we might not have had before us to-night the
difficulty that now perplexes us. Suppose, for example, they had not
been tempted to coerce or to make use of the votes of their tenants;
suppose they had not been tempted to withhold leases--undoubtedly the
condition of Ireland would have been far superior to what it now is. My
hon. Friend the Member for Westminster has some scruples, I believe, on
the question of the ballot, but I believe even he would not object to
see that admirable machinery of election tried in that country. Do hon.
Gentlemen think it not necessary? I was talking, only two days ago, to a
Member of this House who sat on one of the Irish election committees--
the Waterford committee, I think--and he said: 'We could not unseat the
Members, though the evidence went to show a frightful state of things;
it was one of the most orderly elections they have in that country--only
three men killed and twenty-eight seriously wounded.' After all, we may
smile, and some of you may laugh at this, but it is not a thing to be
laughed at. It is a very serious matter, but it exists in no country in
the world where the ballot is in operation.

If you were to try that mode of election in Ireland it would have two
results: it would make your elections perfectly tranquil, and at the
same time it would withdraw from the landowner--and a most blessed thing
for the landowner himself this would be--it would withdraw from him the
great temptation to make use of his tenant's vote for the support of his
own political party; and if that temptation were withdrawn, you would
have much more inducement to grant leases to many of your tenants, and
you would take a step highly favourable, not to the prosperity of your
tenants only, but to your own prosperity and your own honour. Now, Sir,
I shall say no more upon that question except this, that I feel myself
at a disadvantage in making a proposition of this nature to a House
where landowners are so numerous and so powerful, but I have disarmed
them in so far that they will see that I mean them no harm, and that
what I propose is not contrary to the principles of political economy;
and that if Government is at liberty to lend money for all the purposes
to which I have referred, Government must be equally at liberty to lend
money for this greater purpose; and, farther, I venture to express my
opinion, without the smallest hesitation or doubt, that if this were
done to the extent of creating some few scores of thousands of farmer
proprietors in Ireland, you would find that their influence would be
altogether loyal; that it would extend around throughout the whole
country that whilst you were adding to the security of Government you
would awaken industry in Ireland from its slumber, and you would have
the wealth which you have not had before, and, with wealth, contentment
and tranquillity in its train.

Now, Sir, it may appear egotistical in me to make one remark more, but I
think if the House will not condemn me I shall make it. Last year you
did, under the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman, accept a
proposition which I had taken several years of trouble and labour to
convince you was wise. On Wednesday last, only two days ago, by an
almost unanimous vote you accepted a proposition with regard to another
matter, exactly in the form in which six or seven years ago I had urged
you to accept it. You in this House recollect when Mr. Speaker had to
give the casting vote, amidst vast excitement in the House, on the
miserable question of Church Rates; but now, on Wednesday last, you
accepted that Bill almost without opposition; and I presume that, except
for the formality of a third reading, we have done with the question for
ever. Now if you would kindly, I ask it as a favour--if you would kindly
for a moment forget things that you read of me which are not favourable,
and generally which are not true, and if you would imagine that though I
have not an acre of land in Ireland, I can be as honestly a friend of
Ireland as the man who owns half a county, it may be worth your while to
consider for your own interest, the interests of your tenants, the
security of the country from which you come, for the honour of the
United Kingdom, whether there is not something in the proposition that I
have made to you.

Now, Sir, perhaps the House will allow me to turn to that other question
which, on the authority of the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for
Ireland, and the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, and indeed on
the authority of the Prime Minister himself, is considered the next
greatest--perhaps I ought to have said the greatest--question we have to
consider in connection with Irish affairs; I mean the Irish Church
question. What is it that is offered upon this matter by the Government?
The noble Lord himself said very little about it, but he is not easy
upon it; he knows perfectly well, and cannot conceal it, that the Irish
Church question is at the root of every other question in Ireland. The
noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn said also that it was, along with
the land, the great and solemn question which we had to discuss, and he
turned round--I could discover it from the report in the paper, because
I was not, as you may suppose, at the Bristol banquet--he turned round
almost with a look of despair, and implored somebody to come and tell us
what ought to be done on this Irish question. And the Prime Minister
himself, in speaking of it, called it an 'Alien Church.' Bear that
phrase in mind. It is a strong phrase, a phrase we can all understand,
and we know that the right hon. Gentleman is a great master of phrases--
he says a word upon some subject; it sticks; we all remember it, and
this is sometimes a great advantage. 'Alien Church' is the name he gives
it; and now, what does the noble Lord, acting, no doubt, under the
direction of his Colleagues and the Prime Minister, offer upon this
question? He rather offered a defence of it; he did not go into any
argument, but still, at the same time, he rather defied anybody to make
an assault upon it; he believed that it would not succeed, and that it
was very wrong; but what does he really propose? Only this: to add
another buttress in the shape of another bribe. He says that he will
make an offer to the Roman Catholic hierarchy and people of Ireland--
some say that the people do not want it, and that the hierarchy do want
it, but I say nothing about that, because I hope the Catholic people of
Ireland are at least able to defend themselves from the hierarchy, if
the hierarchy wish to cripple them too much--he says he will endow a
Roman Catholic University in Ireland. As the noble Lord went on with his
speech he touched upon the question of the Presbyterian _Regium
Donum_, and spoke of it, I think, as a miserable provision for the
Presbyterians of the North of Ireland; and evidently, if he had had the
courage, the desperate courage to do it, he would have proposed, whilst
he was offering to endow a new Roman Catholic University, to increase or
double the _Regium Donum_. The noble Lord does not express any
dissent from this, and I rather think he wishes that it were safely
done. The object of this, and what he would like to have said to the
hon. Gentlemen about him who came from Ireland to represent the Roman
Catholic population, and to the Presbyterians of the North of Ireland,
was this: 'If you will continue to support the Protestant Church in
Ireland and the Protestant supremacy, we will endow you (the Roman
Catholics) a University, really, if not professedly, under clerical
rule; and as to you (the Presbyterians), we will double your stipends by
doubling the amount of the _Regium Donum_.'

Now, why do you offer anything? Why is it we are discussing this
question? Why did the noble Lord think it necessary to speak for three
hours and twenty minutes on the subject? Because the state of Ireland is
now very different from the state which we have sometimes seen, and very
different, I hope, from that which many of us may live to see hereafter;
because Ireland has a certain portion of its population rebellious, has
a larger portion disloyal and discontented, but has a still larger
portion dissatisfied with the Imperial rule. Now I must say--I hope the
noble Lord will not think I am saying anything uncivil--but I must say
that his proposition appears to be at once grotesque and imbecile, and I
think at the same time--though I do not like to use unpleasant words--
that to a certain extent it must be held to be--in fact, I think the
hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire hinted as much--not
only very wrong, but very dishonest. At this moment it seems to find no
favour on either side of the House, although I can understand the
Catholic Members of the House feeling themselves bound to say nothing
against it, and perhaps, if it came to a division, to vote for it; but I
believe there is not a Catholic Member on this side of the House who
could in his conscience say that it was right in him to accept this
proposition as a bribe that he should hereafter support Protestant
supremacy. In fact, it appears to me exactly in the position now that
the dual vote was in this time twelve months, and there are people who
say that it has been brought forward with the same object, and that by-
and-by, as nobody is for it, the right hon. Gentleman will say that as
nobody is in favour of it they will not urge it upon Parliament. Now,
does anybody believe that a Catholic University in Ireland could have
the smallest effect upon Fenianism, or upon the disloyalty, discontent,
and dissatisfaction of which Fenianism is the latest and the most
terrible expression? It is quite clear that for the evil which we have
to combat, the remedy which the right hon. Gentleman offers through the
Chief Secretary for Ireland is no remedy at all.

It reminds me of an anecdote which is related by Addison. He says that
in his time there was a man who made a living by cheating the country
people. He was not a Cabinet Minister,--he was only a mountebank,--and
he set up a stall, and sold pills that were very good against the
earthquake. Well, that is about the state of things that we are in now.
There is an earthquake in Ireland. Does anybody doubt it? I will not go
into the evidence of it, but I will say that there has been a most
extraordinary alarm--some of it extravagant, I will admit--throughout
the whole of the three kingdoms; and although Fenianism may be but a
low, a reckless, and an ignorant conspiracy, the noble Lord has admitted
that there is discontent and disaffection in the country; and when the
Member for one of the great cities of Ireland comes forward and asks the
Imperial Parliament to discuss this great question--this social and
political earthquake under which Ireland is heaving--the noble Lord
comes forward and offers that there shall be a clerical-governed endowed
University for the sons, I suppose, of the Catholic gentlemen of
Ireland. I have never heard a more unstatesmanlike or more
unsatisfactory proposition; and I believe the entire disfavour with
which it has been received in this House is only a proper representation
of the condemnation which it will receive from the great majority of the
people of the three kingdoms.

Do not let any one suppose that I join in the terms which I regretted to
hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud, and still less
that I join in the, in my opinion, more offensive terms which fell from
the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne. There can be no good in
our attacking either the Catholic population or the Catholic hierarchy
of Ireland. We have our duty straight before us, which is to do both the
hierarchy and the people justice. We are not called upon to support the
plan of the Government, and I believe the people of Great Britain, and a
very large portion of the people of Ireland, will rejoice when the House
of Commons shall reject a proposition which is adverse to the course we
have taken for many years past, and a proposition which would have no
better effect in tranquillising Ireland in the future than the increase
of the grant to Maynooth did more than twenty years ago. Sir Robert Peel
at that time, with the most honourable and kindly feeling to Ireland,
proposed to increase the grant to Maynooth, and it was passed, I think,
by a large majority of the House, I being one of a very few persons on
this side of the House who opposed the grant. I was as kindly disposed
to the Catholics of Ireland as Sir Robert Peel, but I was satisfied that
was not the path of tranquillisation, and that if he trod that path it
would before any long time have to be retraced; and I think, if you now
proceed upon the course recommended by the right hon. Gentleman, you
will fail in the pacification of Ireland, and the time will come when
you will have to retrace the steps he invites you to tread in now.

Now, Sir, I think we have arrived at this point of the question--that we
have absolutely arrived at it, and there is no escape from it--that it
does not matter in the least whether the right hon. Gentleman sits on
the Treasury Bench, or whether the right hon. Member for South
Lancashire takes his place, or whether the two should unite--which is a
very bold figure of speech--but I say that if the two should unite, it
could not alter this fact, that the Protestant supremacy, as represented
by a State Church in Ireland, is doomed, and is, in fact, at an end.
Whatever are the details, and I admit that they will be very difficult
details in some particulars, which may be introduced into the measure
which shall enact the great change that the circumstances of Ireland and
the opinion of the United Kingdom have declared to be necessary, this,
at least, we have come to, that perfect religious equality henceforth,
and not only religious equality, but equality on the voluntary
principle, must be granted.

Some hon. Gentlemen opposite have spoken about a pamphlet which has
recently been written by Lord Russell. I would speak of Lord Russell, as
the House knows, as I would always of a man older than myself, and whose
services to the country have been so long and so great; I speak of him
with great respect, and I say that the pamphlet is written with
wonderful fire, that it contains in it very much that is interesting,
and very much that is true, but its one fault is that it should have
been published about forty years ago. Lord Russell's proposition is
politically just in the division which he proposes of the property of
the Church in Ireland, and, if public opinion had not condemned the
creation of new Established Churches, it might have been possible to
have adopted his scheme as it is. But I say the time has gone by for the
establishment of new State Churches. They will never again be planted as
an institution in this country, and I suspect there is no other country
in the world which has not an Established Church that would wish to
possess one. But, if the House will allow me, I should like to advert to
a little scheme on this matter which I was bold enough to explain to my
countrymen on the occasion to which I have referred. It is not a new
scheme in my mind, for the whole principle of it, with an elaborate
argument in its favour, were published very widely in the year 1852, in
a letter which I wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny (Sir
John Gray), who was one of certain persons, Members of Parliament and
others, who met in conference in Dublin on the question of religious
equality in Ireland. I only state this to show that it is no new idea,
and that I have had plenty of time to consider it. There have been great
objections to the plan, and amongst those who have objected to it, as
might possibly have been expected, were gentlemen of the Liberation
Society. Now, I know many of the leading members of that Society, and
they are very good men. Even those who may think they are mistaken
would, if they knew them, join with me in that opinion. One of them, at
least, who was once a Member of this House, and, in all probability,
will be here again--Mr. Miall--is not only a good man, but he is a great
man. I judge him by the nobleness of his principles, and by the grand
devotion which he has manifested to the teaching of what he believes to
be a great truth. I take criticisms from them kindly, as we ought to
take them from our friends when they are honestly given.

What is the condition of Ireland at this moment with which you have to
deal? There is not only the Church which it is proposed to disestablish,
but you have the _Regium Donum_, which, if the Church be
disestablished, must necessarily be withdrawn; and you have, if these
two things happen, a grant to Maynooth, the Act conferring which must
necessarily be repealed. Now, in doing these things the House will
observe that we shall disturb all the three principal sects or Churches
in Ireland, and we can only do it, or attempt to do it, on the ground
that we are about to accomplish some great public good. Well, my
proposal, which some hon. Gentlemen, I dare say, will have some vague
idea of, was made with the view of easing Parliament in the great
transaction, from which I believe it cannot escape. It is a great thing
in statesmanship, when you are about to make a change which is
inevitable, and which shocks some, disturbs more, and makes hesitating
people hesitate still more--it is a great thing, I say, if you can make
the past slide into the future without any great jar, and without any
great shock to the feelings of the people. And in doing these things the
Government can always afford to be generous and gracious to those whom
they are obliged to disturb.

We have found that this has been the case when needful changes have been
proposed; for instance, hon. Gentlemen will recollect, when tithe
commutation for Ireland was passed, that there was a certain concession
made to the landowners of Ireland, to induce them to acquiesce in the
proposition of Parliament. We know that when slavery was abolished a
considerable sum of money was voted. Lord Derby proposed in this House
that compensation should be given to the slaveowners. If it had not been
for that, slavery would before long have been abolished by violence. But
Parliament thought it was much better to take the step it did take, and
I am not, at this period of time, about for a moment to dispute its
wisdom. In all these things we endeavour, if we are forced to make a
great change, to make it in such a manner as that we shall obtain the
acquiescence and the support, if possible, of those who are most likely
to be nearly affected by it. Suppose we were going to disestablish the
Church of Scotland--and I understand that there are a great number
belonging to the Established Church of Scotland who are coming round to
the opinion that it would be much to their benefit, and I think for the
benefit of their Church, if it were disestablished--if we were going to
disestablish the Church of Scotland or the Church of England, no person
for a moment would suppose that, after having taken all the tithes and
all the income from these Churches, you would also take all the churches
and all the parsonage-houses from the Presbyterian people of Scotland,
or from the Episcopal Church people in England. You would not do
anything of that kind. You would do to them as we should wish, if we
were in their position, that the Government and Parliament should do to
us. Do what you have to do thoroughly for the good of the country, but
do it in such a manner as shall do least harm, and as shall gain the
largest amount of acquiescence from those whom you are about to affect.
I venture to say that such is the course we should take about Ireland.

I am very free in speaking on these matters. I am not a Catholic in the
sense of Rome. I am not a Protestant in the sense in which that word is
used in Ireland. I am not connected with a powerful sect in England. I
think, from my training, and education, and association, and thought on
these questions, I stand in a position which enables me to take as fair
and unimpassioned a view of the matter as perhaps any man in the House.
Now, if I were asked to give my advice, and if I am not asked I shall
give it--I should propose that where there are congregations in Ireland--
I am speaking now, of course, of the present Established Church--who
would undertake to keep in repair the church in which they have been
accustomed to worship, and the parsonage-house in which their ministers
live, Parliament should leave them in the possession of their churches
and of their parsonage-houses. And I believe I speak the sentiment of
every Catholic Member on this side of the House, and probably of every
intelligent Catholic in Ireland, not only of the laity but of the
hierarchy and the priesthood, when I say that they would regard such a
course as that on the part of Parliament as just, under the
circumstances in which we are placed. Well, then, of course there would
be no more bishops appointed by the Crown, and that institution in
Ireland would come to an end, except it were continued upon the
principle upon which bishops are appointed in Scotland. All State
connection would be entirely abolished. You would then have all alike.
The Protestants would have their churches and parsonage-houses as they
have now. But the repairs of them, and the support of their ministers,
would be provided by their congregations, or by such an organisation as
they chose to form. The Catholics would provide, as they have hitherto
done so meritoriously and with a remarkable liberality, for themselves.

No greater instance of generosity and fidelity to their Church can be
seen in the world than that which has been manifested by the Catholic
people of Ireland. They have their churches and their priests' houses in
many places. There is no pretence for meddling with them. In the north
of Ireland, where the Presbyterians are most numerous, they would also
have their places of worship, and their ministers' houses as they have
now. All the Churches, therefore, in that respect would be on an
equality. Well, now, the real point of this question, and which will
create in all probability much feeling in Parliament and in the country,
is, what should be done on the question of the Maynooth Grant, and on
the question of the _Regium Donum?_ They must be treated alike, I
presume. If you preserve the life interests of the ministers and bishops
of the Established Church, it may be right to preserve the life
interests of the ministers of the Presbyterian Church, and it may be
right also in some way or other to make some provision that shall not in
the least degree bring them under the control of the State. And some
provision might have to be made to the Catholic Church in lieu of the
Maynooth Grant, which, of course, you would be obliged to withdraw.
These are points which I will not discuss in detail. I merely indicate
them for the sake of showing to the House, and to a great number of
people who are regarding it with even more feeling than we do, what are
some of the difficulties of this question--difficulties which must be
met--difficulties which it will require all the moderation, all the
Christian feeling, and all the patriotism which this House can muster on
both sides of it, with the view of settling this question permanently,
and to the general satisfaction of the three kingdoms. Now, I will go no
further, but to say that whatever is done--if a single sixpence is given
by Parliament, in lieu of the Maynooth Grant, or in lieu of the
_Regium Donum_, it must be given on these terms only--and on that
matter I think Lord Russell has committed a great error--that it becomes
the absolute property of the Catholics or of the Presbyterians--it must
be as completely their property as the property of the great Wesleyan
body in this country, or of the Independents, or of the Baptists,
belongs to these bodies. It must be property which Parliament can never
pretend to control, or regulate, or withdraw.

And having consented to that condition, the three Churches of Ireland
would be started as voluntary Churches, and instead of fighting, as I am
sorry to say they have been fighting far longer than within the memory
of man, I hope soon there would be a competition among them which should
do most for the education, the morals, and the Christianity of the
population who are within their instruction and guidance. Now,
Protestants in this country--I think almost all Protestants--object very
strongly to Rome. The Nonconformists object to endowments. They
sometimes, I think, confound establishments with endowments. I think it
absolutely essential that establishments should cease, and that there
should be nothing in the way of endowment unless it be some small
provision such as that which I have indicated; which it might be
necessary to make when you are withdrawing certain things which the
Churches in Ireland had supposed were theirs in perpetuity.

Now, one word which I would say to the Nonconformist people of England
and Scotland, if the House will allow me to speak, is this--they should
bear in mind that the whole of this property which is now in the
possession of the Established Church of Ireland is Irish property. It
does not belong to Scotland or to England, and it would be a measure
intolerable and not to be thought of, that it should be touched or dealt
with in any manner that is not in accordance with the feelings and the
interests of the people of Ireland. Let any man who to-morrow criticises
this part of my speech ask himself what an Irish Parliament freely
elected would do with the ecclesiastical funds of Ireland. I think the
Presbyterians of Scotland, the Churchmen and Nonconformists of England,
have no right to suppose themselves to be judges with regard to
religious matters in Ireland. They have a perfect right to say to
Parliament through their representatives, 'We will discontinue the State
Church in Ireland, and we will create no other State Churches.' But that
seems to be about the extent of the interference which they are entitled
to in this matter.

I hope I have explained with tolerable clearness the views which I have
felt it my duty to lay before the House on the occasion of this great
question. The House will see, and I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will
admit, that I am at least disposed to treat it as a great question
which, if it be dealt with, should be dealt with in the most generous,
gracious, and, if you like, tender manner by Parliament, as respects the
feelings and interests of all who are most directly concerned. The right
hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in his speech last night, said that
this proposal to disestablish the Established Church of Ireland was, in
point of fact, in some sort a revolution. This, at any rate, I am
satisfied, would be not only an entirely bloodless revolution, but a
revolution full of blessing to the Irish people.

I have not said a word--I never said a word in this House, and, I
believe, never out of it, to depreciate the character of the clergymen
of the Established Church in Ireland. I think no religious ministers are
placed in a more unfortunate position, and I am satisfied that many of
them feel it to be so. I have not the least doubt, when this transaction
is once accomplished, that they will breathe more freely. I believe they
will be more potent in their ministrations, and that their influence,
which must, or ought to be, considerable, will be far more extensive
than it has been, and far more beneficial in the districts in which they
live. But being so great a question, as the Home Secretary described it,
it can only be settled by mutual and reasonable concession. The main
principle being secured, that State Church supremacy is abolished in
Ireland, and that the Irish Churches are henceforth to be free Churches
upon the voluntary principle, then I should be willing, and I would
recommend every person in the country whom my voice may reach, to make
any reasonable concession that can be suggested in the case. So anxious
am I that it should be done, that I should be delighted to co-operate
with the right hon. Gentleman, and with hon. Members on the opposite
side of the House, in support of any just measure for settling this
great question. But I say, if it ever does come to be dealt with by a
great and powerful Minister, let it be dealt with in a great and
generous spirit. I would counsel to all men moderation and justice. It
is as necessary to Protestants as to Catholics and to Nonconformists
that they should endeavour to get rid of passion in discussing this

We are, after all, of one religion. I imagine that there will come a
time in the history of the world when men will be astonished that
Catholics and Protestants have had so much animosity against and
suspicion of each other. I accept the belief in a grand passage, which I
once met with in the writings of the illustrious founder of the colony
of Pennsylvania. He says that 'The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious,
and devout souls are everywhere of one religion, and when death has
taken off the mask they will know one another, though the diverse
liveries they wear here make them strangers.' Now, may I ask the House
to act in this spirit, and then our work will be easy. The noble Lord,
towards the conclusion of his speech, spoke of the cloud which rests at
present over Ireland. It is a dark and heavy cloud, and its darkness
extends over the feelings of men in all parts of the British Empire. But
there is a consolation which we may all take to ourselves. An inspired
king and bard and prophet has left us words which are not only the
expression of a fact, but which we may take as the utterance of a
prophecy. He says, 'To the upright there ariseth light in the darkness.'
Let us try in this matter to be upright. Let us try to be just. That
cloud will be dispelled. The dangers which surround us will vanish, and
we may yet have the happiness of leaving to our children the heritage of
an honourable citizenship in a united and prosperous Empire.

* * * * *




[This speech was made in the debate on Mr. Gladstone's resolutions for
disestablishing the Irish Church.]

The House will not expect me to follow the legal argument of the hon.
and learned Member who has just sat down. I entertain a firm belief that
those legal cobwebs which are spread, and which are supposed to, and do
in the minds of many Gentlemen, interpose between the completion of a
great act of justice, will be swept away before long by the almost
unanimous opinion of the people of the three kingdoms.

During this debate, which has yet lasted only two nights, there has
been, if not a remarkable change of opinion, a remarkable change of
expression. Last night we had an interesting speech from the noble Lord
who generally sits opposite me, the noble Lord the Member for Stamford.
I refer only to the beginning of his speech, in which he spoke of his
affection for the principle of a Church Establishment. There was a
hesitation in his manner; he had a strong love for his principle, but it
appeared to me that he thought the time was come when even that
cherished principle would have to be surrendered. From the Treasury
bench we had a speech from the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign
Affairs, and when he sat down it is difficult to say what was the
precise impression made upon the House; but I think, on the whole, the
impression made on the other side of the House--his own side--was by no
means a comfortable one. Now to me it is, and I think to the House it
is, a misfortune that we have a Government that speaks with a different
voice from night to night. We had it last year, and I presume, from the
example of the debate which lately took place on the motion of the hon.
Member for Cork, and from the debate on this motion, we are about to see
a repetition of it.

The fact is, that the position of the Government is one of great
difficulty and perplexity; to speak plainly, it is one which I should
call, in our Constitutional system, altogether unnatural. They are the
Ministers, the leaders of a minority of the House, and whilst they sat
as leaders of the minority in opposition they defended the principles of
their party, and they apparently regarded all their past career with
satisfaction; but the moment they are transferred to the Treasury bench
they find themselves in this difficulty, that although their party may
still wish to cling to their past opinions, there is something in the
very air, there is something throughout the mind of the whole kingdom,
which teaches them that their past opinions are impossible in their new

The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn made a speech not long ago at
Bristol, and in that speech he expressed what I am quite sure were his
honest opinions with regard to the condition of Ireland. He stated that
the condition of Ireland was one painful and dangerous, and to us, in
appearance at least, discreditable. He said we had a strange and
perplexing problem to solve; that in Ireland there was a miserable state
of things. Then he said, 'If we look for a remedy, who can give us an
intelligible answer? Ireland is the question of the hour.' And that is
not altogether at variance--in fact, I should say not at all at
variance--with the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who told
us, as far as he knew, the facts about his country. But immediately
afterwards we had the description of the right hon. Gentleman at the
head of the Government, to the effect that there was no crisis at all--
that, in point of fact, the condition of Ireland was a normal condition,
and that there was no necessity for anything remarkable or unusual in
the legislation that was required. Now, to-night we have had a speech
from the Home Secretary. I may say that every speaker on that side of
the House has admitted that his speech is entirely in opposition, in its
tone, its purpose, and its principle, to the speech of the noble Lord
the Member for King's Lynn. It seems to me that the Home Secretary to-
night answered the Foreign Secretary of last night--and I suppose if the
debate goes on until Thursday, probably the right hon. Gentleman at the
head of the Government, or perhaps the Secretary of State for India,
will answer the speech of the Secretary of State for the Home

But all this shows us that the House is in a wrong position. We have a
minority in office which cannot assert its own views with safety, nor
can it with any more safety directly adopt our views; and thus, when, on
that side of the House, a Minister gets up and makes what is called a
liberal speech on this question to us who are in opposition, that
creates discontent; and then another Minister rises and makes a speech
of an exactly opposite character, to reconcile that discontent. There
is, in fact, confusion and chaos in the House. We have a Government
which is not a Government--and we have an Opposition which is not an
Opposition, because really we do not oppose anything that you propose.
Your propositions are not based upon your own principles, which you held
when you sat on this side of the House, but on our principles, and
therefore we are not in opposition at all, but we help you as much as
possible to enforce, not your own principles, but ours. Whatever
compensation it may be to right hon. Gentlemen who sit on that bench and
enjoy the dignities and emoluments of office, I think there are many
honourable men on whom I am looking at this moment who do not observe
the course of these proceedings with entire satisfaction.

But now, notwithstanding these difficulties, there remains this great
question which we must discuss, and which, if possible, we must settle.
I say, notwithstanding some observations to the contrary, that the
people of the three kingdoms are looking with anxious suspense at the
course which Parliament may take on this question. The right hon.
Gentleman the Home Secretary on one occasion spoke of this question, of
this proposition, as being something in the nature of a revolution. But,
if it be a revolution, after all it is not so great a one as we might
suppose from the force and energy of the speech which he has delivered
to-night--a speech which, although I differ from his views, was, I must
say, a very good speech--in which he brought into the House a good deal
of the energy of the people of that great county (Yorkshire) from which
he comes. But we are now about to deal with a question which only
affects, according to the census, something under 700,000 people. I
observe hon. Gentlemen talk of the Protestants of Ireland as being one-
fourth of the whole population--of being a million and a half. All that
is fanciful exaggeration. According to the census the Episcopalians are
not more than 700,000, and let hon. Gentlemen bear this in mind--when
the census enumerators go round, if a man is not a Catholic or a
Presbyterian, he is put down, unless he can state he is of some other
sect, as an Episcopalian. And judging from what we know, there must be
out of the 700,000 a considerable number who never go to church, and,
politically or religiously, have no interest in it. Therefore, I
believe, speaking correctly, it would not be possible to show that there
are Episcopalians in Ireland in intimate connection with the Established
Church to the amount of more than from half a million to 600,000.

Now, this will not come to more than 100,000 families, that is, will not
be very much more than the population of Liverpool, or Manchester, or
Glasgow; so that, in point of fact, this question, which is held to be a
revolution,--this great question affects only a population equal to that
of the city of Glasgow, or of Liverpool, or of Manchester. And it is for
a population so small as this, I am told--for I am not versed in
computations of this kind--you have no less than twelve bishops and
archbishops, and that you have devoted for their services--for their
religious services--not less than the annual income arising from a
capital sum estimated to be, at least, ten or twelve millions sterling.
Now, if their system of teaching is really very good, I must say there
ought to be in Ireland a more perfectly moral and religious population
among the Church Protestants than there is in any other country in the

What, then, are we about to do? What is the House about to do if we
adopt the resolutions of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire? If
the House accept the advice of the majority sitting on this side, what
will be done? We are not going to commit any vital wrong upon that one
city population of 500,000 or 600,000. When we have done everything that
I have suggested should be done, we shall leave them in as comfortable a
position as the majority of the people of Scotland are in at this
moment. We shall leave them as well off as eight or nine-tenths of the
population of Wales are; we shall leave them as well off as half, and
not the least religious half, of the people of England are; we shall
leave them as well off as the English, Scotch, Welsh, and Irish people
who form the population in our colonies, whether in North America or
Australia. And what can be more monstrous than for Gentlemen to come
here from Ireland--and there may he some from England--and tell us we
are bringing about a revolution, that we are committing an enormous
oppression, that we are hazarding the loyalty of the people of the North
of Ireland, when, after all, the most and worst which any of us proposes
to do is that the Church population of Ireland will be left at least as
well off as any of the various populations of the Empire I have just
described? I hope hon. Gentlemen opposite will be convinced that it is
not a bottomless abyss we are going to plunge their friends into.

Although it is a very small question for the Church in Ireland and for
the Church people, I hold it is an infinitely larger question for the
Catholic population. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke last
relies much upon law. I suppose it will be admitted that there are only
two pretences on which this State Church--the Protestant Church--can
exist in Ireland. The one is religious--the other is political. Now, has
anybody been able to show that, as a religious institution, it has not
been a deplorable failure? because clearly, the original intention, the
original hope was, that the people of Ireland would be drawn from the
Church of Rome and brought into harmony with the Church of England. I
undertake to say, from the time of its first establishment until now,
reckoning up all the Catholics on the one side and the Protestants on
the other, that it could not be shown, and is not to be believed, that
it has ever added really one person in every hundred persons to the
actual number of Protestants in the kingdom of Ireland. It has been an
entire failure--a failure deplorable, and almost ludicrous, as an engine
for converting the Catholic population. But it has not only not made
Catholics into Protestants, but it has made Catholics in Ireland more
intensely Roman than the members of that Church are found to be in any
other country in Europe or in America. And what is more than that, I
think it can be demonstrated that the existence of the Protestant Church
in Ireland, whether missionary or not in pretence, has not only not
converted the Catholics themselves, but has made it absolutely
impossible that anybody else, or any other Church, should convert them.
Because, if you look how the Church has been connected with the State,
and with the politics of the country, with the supremacy of the landed
proprietors, with the supremacy of the Protestant party, with all the
dark records of the past, you will see the effect has been to make
Catholicism in Ireland not only a faith, but absolutely a patriotism.

I think I might appeal to every Member of the House who now hears me
whether, if he had been placed in Ireland with his father before him
among the Catholic population--I might ask him whether he would not have
felt that if he threw off his allegiance to his Church, and if he
entered the portals of this garrison Church, that it would have been to
him not only a change of faith, but a denial as it were of his birth and
of his country. I have felt always in considering this question--and I
have considered it much for twenty-five years past--that all the
circumstances of that Church in Ireland have been such as to stimulate
the heart of every Catholic to a stronger adherence to his own faith,
and to a determined and unchangeable rejection of the faith and of the
Church which were offered to him by the hands of conquest. There is one
point on this, too, which is important, that the more you have produced
dissatisfaction with Imperial rule in Ireland, the more you have thrown
the population into the hands of Rome. Now, I hope I shall offend no
Catholic Member in this House when I say that I consider it one of the
greatest calamities of the world that there are in many countries
millions of Catholic population who are liable to be directed in much of
their conduct, and often in their political conduct, through their
bishops and clergy from the centre of the city of Rome. I think that is
a misfortune--I think it is a misfortune to the freedom of the world.
And I think, moreover, that it is a misfortune to every Catholic Church
in every country, for it tends to prevent it from being wholly national,
and it prevents also such changes and such reformations as, I believe,
are necessary in the progress of every Church. We see some result of
this in other countries of Europe. Notably, at this moment, in Austria,
even in that country which we lately thought was the very last in the
race of freedom, there is a contest going on with Rome. But there
probably is no country in Europe at this moment in which the Catholic
Church and population are more entirely subject than in Ireland to the
direct influence of a certain number of persons, of whom most of us know
nothing, who pull the strings of the Catholic world in the city of Rome.
I attribute much of this, which I think a great evil, to the existence
of the Protestant Church in Ireland. You know perfectly well that the
great discontent of Ireland is chiefly entertained by the Catholic
population, and you know that this population is even at this moment,
more than it was some years ago, subject directly to political
influences from Rome. But I am satisfied that it is for the interest of
the Catholic population, and that it is for the interest of this great
nation and of this Imperial Government, that whatsoever be the tie
between the Catholic population of Ireland and the Government in
Ireland, we ought at least to take away every obstacle that can lessen
in the smallest degree the loyalty of that people to the Imperial Crown.

And if this Church has failed as a religious institution, how stands it
as a political institution? It was intended not only to convert the
Catholics, but to secure the Union. An hon. Gentleman, with a courage
that I should not like to imitate, said that if the 5th Article of the
Act of Union should be altered, then in point of fact the Union is as
good as abolished. I see the hon. Gentleman up there, and I think he is
not the only one who has said it in the course of this discussion. It is
a very old and not a very strange device to expect the people to be made
loyal through the instrumentality of the clergy. I know that many
centuries ago a monk of some celebrity at the Court of Louis of Bavaria
told that monarch, 'You defend me with the sword, and I will defend you
with the pen.' We have been during all this time defending this Church
with the sword. The sword has scarcely ever been out of the hand of the
governing power in Ireland. And if a fair, simple, and unadorned
narrative were given of the transactions of this Parliament with
Ireland, with regard to its different enactments, coercive restrictions,
suspensions of the Habeas Corpus Act, and so forth, it would form a
narrative which would astonish the world and would discredit us. Sir, I
am afraid it is not too much to say that, in support of this supremacy,
many victims have perished on the scaffold in Ireland, and that the
fields of Ireland have been more than once drenched with the blood of
her people. But, after all this is done, we are not a bit more secure.

It is no matter what Government sits on the bench opposite. The right
hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire was there two years ago,
and on that occasion, by the consent of his Colleagues, the then Home
Secretary had to introduce the Bill for the suspension of the Habeas
Corpus Act. Now you are on that side of the House, and you have to do
the same. Nobody says it is not necessary. I am not prepared to say it
has not been necessary at other times. But surely if this be necessary--
and if there is this painful duty to perform at various times--it shows
that the Union is not very secure in Ireland. In fact, Sir, it is the
most painful thing that we have witnessed lately, that the suspension of
the Habeas Corpus Act has become so common that it causes almost no
remark. The measure is introduced into the House. An Irish Member makes
a feeble protest against it, and it is passed, and we suspend the
liberties of one of the three kingdoms from year to year. And the Prime
Minister has the courage--I might almost use another word--he has the
courage to say there is no crisis, and that things are going on very
much as usual, and that the House of Commons is not required to do much
or care much for that country.

What you have in Ireland is this. There is anarchy, which is subdued by
force, and after centuries of rule--not our rule, but that of our
forefathers--we have got no farther. We have not reconciled Ireland to
us, we have done none of those things which the world says we ought to
have done; and at this moment--in the year 1868--we are discussing the
question whether it is possible to make any change with reference to the
Established Church in Ireland which will bring about a better state of
feeling between the people and the Imperial Government. Sir, I am afraid
there has been very little statesmanship and very much neglect, and I
think we ought to take shame to ourselves, and try to get rid of some of
our antiquated prejudices on this matter, and look at it as men would
look at it from a distance, as men whose vision is not impaired by the
passionate feelings which have so often prevailed in this country with
regard to this question. What, then, is the remedy that is now offered?
What do people say of it? Now, I challenge any hon. Gentleman on the
other side to deny this, that out of half a million Episcopalians in
Ireland there are many--there are some in the Irish nobility, some
landed proprietors, some magistrates, even some of the clergy, a great
many Irishmen--who believe at this moment that it is of the very first
importance that the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member
for South Lancashire should be carried.

I am not going to overstate my case. I do not say that all of them are
of that opinion. Of that half-million, say that one-fourth--I will state
no number--but of this I am quite certain, that there is an influential,
a considerable, and, as I believe, a wise minority, who are in favour of
distinct and decided action on the part of Parliament with regard to
this question. But if you ask the whole Roman Catholic population of
Ireland, be they nobles, or landed proprietors, or merchants, or
farmers, or labourers,--the whole number of the Catholic population in
Ireland being, I suppose, eight or nine times the number of
Episcopalians--these are probably, without exception, of opinion that it
would be greatly advantageous and just to their country if the
proposition submitted on this side of the House should receive the
sanction of Parliament. Now, if some Protestants and all Catholics are
agreed that we should remove this Church, what would happen if Ireland
was 1,000 miles away, and we were discussing it as we might discuss the
same state of affairs in Canada? If we were to have in Canada and in
Australia all this disloyalty among the Roman Catholic population, owing
to the existence of a State Church there, the House would be unanimous
that the State Church in those colonies should be abolished, and that
perfect freedom in religion should be given.

But there is a fear in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman the Home
Secretary that the malady which would exist in Ireland might cross the
Channel and appear in England; that in fact the disorder of
Voluntaryism, as he deems it, in Ireland, like any other contagious
disorder, might cross the Channel, by force of the west wind, lodging
first in Scotland, and then crossing the Tweed and coming south to
England. I think the right hon. Gentleman went so far as to say that he
was so much in favour of religious equality, that if you went so far as
to disestablish the Church in Ireland, he would recommend the same
policy for England. Now, with regard to that, I will give you an
anecdote which has reference to Scotland. Some years ago I had the
pleasure of spending some days in Scotland at the house of the late Lord
Aberdeen, after he had ceased to be Prime Minister. He was talking of
the disruption of the Church of Scotland, and he said that nothing in
the course of his public life had given him so much pain as the
disruption, and the establishment of the Free Church in that country;
but he said he had lived long enough to discover that it was one of the
greatest blessings that had ever come to Scotland. He said that they had
a vast increase in the number of churches, a corresponding increase in
the number of manses or ministers' houses, and that schools had
increased, also, to an extraordinary extent; that there had been
imparted to the Established Church a vitality and energy which it had
not known for a long period; and that education, morality, and religion
had received a great advancement in Scotland in consequence of that
change. Therefore, after all, it is not the most dreadful thing in the
world--not so bad as a great earthquake--or as many other things that
have happened. I am not quite sure that the Scottish people themselves
may not some day ask you--if you do not yourselves introduce and pass it
without their asking--to allow their State Church to be disestablished.

I met only the other day a most intelligent gentleman from the north of
Scotland, and he told me that the minister of the church he frequented
had 250_l_. a-year from the Establishment Funds, which he thought
very much too little, and he felt certain that, if the Establishment
were abolished, and the Church made into a Free Church, the salary of
the minister would be immediately advanced to at least 500_l_. a-
year. That is a very good argument for the ministers, and we shall see
by-and-by, if the conversion of Scotland proceeds much further, that you
may be asked to disestablish their Church. The hon. Member for Honiton
last night quoted something which, I daresay, he did not recollect
accurately--something which I had said respecting the Church of England;
but the fact is that the Church of England is not suffering from the
assaults of the Liberation Society; it is suffering from a very
different complaint. It is an internal complaint. You have had it before
one of the courts of law within the last few days, and a very curious
decision has been given,--that candles are lawful, but incense is
something terrible, and cannot be allowed; and then the newspapers tell
you that on the very next Sunday there is more incense in that
particular church which has been complained of than there ever had been

I will tell hon. Gentlemen opposite what it is that endangers the State
Church now--I mean a State Church like this in England, against which
there is no violent political assault. It is the prevalence of zeal.
Whenever zeal creeps into a State Church, it takes naturally different
forms--one strongly Evangelical, another strongly High Church or
Ritualist--and these two species of zeal work on and on in opposition,
until finally there comes a catastrophe, and it is found that it is not
Mr. Miall and the Liberation Society, although they have prepared men's
minds not to dread it, but it is something wholly different, within the
Church itself, that causes the disruption of the Church. The Scottish
disruption did not take place from any assaults from without--it took
place from zeal and difficulties within; and if you could keep the whole
of the Church of England perfectly harmonious within its own borders, it
would take a very daring prophet who would undertake to point out the
time when it would be disestablished.

We will confine ourselves, therefore, to Ireland, and I will ask hon.
Gentlemen this: I believe Gentlemen opposite do not usually reject the
view which we entertain, that the abolition of the State Church in
Ireland would tend to lessen the difficulties of governing that country.
I think there is scarcely an hon. Gentleman on the other side, who has
not some doubt of his previous opinions, some slight misgiving on this
point, and some disposition to accept our view of the case. Well, why
should you be afraid? Even children, we know, can be induced, by
repeated practice, to go into a dark room without fear. You have always,
somebody said the other night, lions in the path; but I will not dignify
them with the name of lions--they are but hobgoblins. Now, when you have
seen and handled them, as you have a great many times since I have been
in the habit of speaking face to face with you, these things are found,
after all, to be only hobgoblins; you have learned, after all, that they
are perfectly harmless; and when you thought we were doing you harm, and
upsetting the Constitution, you have found that, after all, we were
doing you good, and that the Constitution was rather stronger than it
was before. Let me point out for a moment some of these changes that
were found at the time to be of great difficulty, but have been found to
be very wise and good afterwards.

When I came into this House, nearly twenty-five years ago, our colonial
system was wholly different from what it is now. It has been changed:
Sir William Molesworth and Joseph Hume were mainly the authors in
Parliament of that change. Well, all our colonies, as we all admit, are
much more easily governed and much more loyal than they were in those
days. Turning then to our financial system--and I really do not want to
offend any one by mentioning this--you know that our financial system,
since Sir Robert Peel came into office in 1841, has been completely
changed, and yet the revenue of the country is larger, which I regard as
a misfortune--and not only larger, but more secure by far, if Parliament
requires it, than it was at any previous period of our history. Take the
old protective system, which the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr.
Newdegate) and some others have not forgotten. Free-trade was a
frightful monster. But the protective system is gone; and now every
candid man amongst you will admit that industry, being more free
throughout the country, is better rewarded, and that the land, which you
said would go out of cultivation, and become of no value, sells for a
higher price in the market than it ever brought before.

There are two other points on which I wish to add a word. One was
mentioned last night after many Members had gone home. The balance of
power was once considered the beginning and end of our foreign policy,
and I am not sure that there are not some old statesmen in the other
House who believe in it even yet. What was done last night? The noble
Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, who comes up from Scotland brimfull
of enthusiasm for impossible projects, proposed to put in words which
had been rejected from the preamble of the Mutiny Bill relating to the
preservation of the balance of power. What did one of your most
distinguished Ministers, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for War,
say in reference to the proposition? He said he thought it singular that
the hon. Member for Chatham should have proposed to omit the words,
because they really meant nothing, but he was still more surprised that
the noble Lord should have asked to have them replaced. Well, thus you
see that this balance of power is gone, and yet England, I will
undertake to say, under the rational and fair administration of foreign
affairs by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, is just as much
respected by all foreign Powers as she was when we were ready to meddle
in every stupid quarrel that occurred upon the Continent of Europe.

Now, there is only one other thing to which I will advert--the question
of the representation. You know, in 1830, there was almost no
representation. There were a few towns in which there was almost
universal suffrage, and many scores of rotten boroughs; in fact, the
whole system was in such a state of congestion that it could not be
tolerated any longer, and we had a small, but which might have been a
very large revolution, in amending that state of things. Last year you,
who had seen this hobgoblin for years, who had thought, I have no doubt,
many of you, that I was very unwise and very rash in the mode in which I
had proposed to extend the suffrage; last year you found out that it was
not so monstrous a thing after all, and you became almost enthusiastic
in support of the right hon. Gentleman's Reform Bill. Well, you believe
now, and the First Minister, if this was an occasion on which he had to
speak about it, would tell you not to be afraid of what was done,--he
would tell you that, based on the suffrage of a larger portion of your
countrymen, Parliament will henceforth be more strong and more venerated
by the people than ever it has been before.

If that is true of Parliament, what shall we say of the Throne itself
after all these changes? I will venture to ask, whatever of convenience
there may be in hereditary monarchy, whatever of historic grandeur in
the kingly office, whatever of nobleness in the possessor of the Crown,
in all these things is it not true that everything is at least as fully
recognised by the nation as it ever was at any previous period? I do not
mention these things to reproach anybody here. We all have to learn.
There are many in this House who have been in process of learning for a
good while. I am not sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for South
Lancashire would not admit to us that on this very question of the Irish
Church his opinions have been greatly expanded, and have been ripening
for a series of years. That is greatly to the credit, not only of his
head, but of his heart. We have seen even amongst you a progress in many
things--a progress which is most gratifying to me--that is a very small
matter; but it is a very wholesome indication that the minds of men are
becoming more open to the consideration of great principles in
connection with great public questions. And this gives us promise that
in future we shall have--as, no doubt, we shall have--a Government more
in accordance with public opinion and public interests than we have had
in past times.

In my opinion, the changes that have been made in our time are the glory
of our time, and I believe that our posterity will regard them as the
natural and blessed fruits of the growth of intelligence in our day. I
mention these things to urge you not to close your ears to the arguments
nor to close your hearts to the impressions of justice which must assail
you with regard to this question which is now being debated so much in
Great Britain and Ireland. I might appeal to a right hon. Gentleman who
perhaps is in the House--the Member for the County of Limerick--who was
at a very remarkable meeting held the other day in Limerick on this very
question. I have heard from sources which cannot, I think, be
questioned, that it was one of the most remarkable meetings held in
Ireland within the last twenty years, or, perhaps, I might say for a
longer period. There was a far more healthy tone of mind, of conduct, of
feeling, of expression, of everything we wish for, but have not known
there for a very long period; and I believe and know--because I am told
by witnesses who cannot be contradicted--that the change arose from the
growing belief that there was a sufficient majority in this House, that
the general opinion of Parliament was sufficiently strong, to enable
this measure of justice and reconciliation to be passed. Now, I ask you,
if, after what has taken place, you are able, unhappily able, to prevent
the progress of the movement which is now on foot for the
disestablishment of the State Church in Ireland, are you not of opinion
that it will create great dissatisfaction; that it will add to the
existing discontent; that it will make those that are hopeful despair;
and that men--rash men, if you like--strong and earnest men, will speak
to those that hitherto have not been rash, and have not been earnest,
and will say, 'You see at last; is this not a proof convincing and
unanswerable, that the Imperial Parliament sitting in London is not
capable of hearing our complaints, and of doing that justice which we as
a people require at its hands?'

Do not imagine that I am speaking with personal hostility to the right
hon. Gentleman who is your Chief Minister here. Do not imagine for a
moment that I am one of those, if there be any, who are hoping to drive
hon. Gentlemen from that bench in order that I may take one of the
places occupied by them. I would treat this subject as a thing far
beyond and far above party differences. The question comes before the
House, of course, as all these great questions must, as a great party
question, and I am one of the Members of this party; but it does not
follow that all the Members of a party should be actuated by a party
spirit, or by a miserable, low ambition to take the place of a Minister
of the Crown. I say there is something far higher and better than that;
and if ever there was a question presented to Parliament which invited
the exercise of the highest and noblest feelings of Members of the
House, I say this is that question.

I say, then, do not be alarmed at what is proposed. Let us take this
Irish State Church; let us take it, not with a rude--I am against
rudeness and harshness in legislative action--but if not with a rude,
still with a resolute grasp. If you adopt the policy we recommend, you
will pluck up a weed which pollutes the air. ['Oh! Oh!'] I will give
hon. Gentlemen consolation in the conclusion of the sentence--I say you
will pluck up a weed which pollutes the air; but you will leave a free
Protestant Church, which will be hereafter an ornament and a grace to
all those who may be brought within the range of its influence. Sir, I
said in the beginning of my observations that there are the people of
three kingdoms who are waiting with anxious suspense for the solution of
this question. Ireland waits and longs. I appeal to the right hon.
Gentleman the Member for Limerick; I appeal to that Meeting, the
character of which he can describe, and perhaps may describe, to the
House; and I say that Ireland waits and longs for a great act of
reconciliation. I say, further, that England and Scotland are eager to
make atonement for past crimes and past errors; and I say, yet further,
that it depends upon us, this House of Commons, this Imperial
Parliament, whether that reconciliation shall take place, and whether
that atonement shall at length be made.

* * * * *





_From Hansard._

[Mr. Bright was opposed to the war with Russia. This speech was spoken
on the day when the message from the Crown announcing the declaration of
war was brought down to the House.]

There are two reasons which may induce a Member of this House to address
it--he may hope to convince some of those to whom he speaks, or he may
wish to clear himself from any participation in a course which he
believes to be evil. I presume I am one of that small section of the
House to whom the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken (Mr. Layard) has
referred, when he alluded to the small party who objected to the policy
by which this country has arrived at the 'triumphant position which it
now occupies.' In coming forward to speak on this occasion, I may be
told that I am like a physician proposing to prescribe to-day for a man
who died yesterday, and that it is of no use to insist upon views which
the Government and the House have already determined to reject. I feel,
however, that we are entering upon a policy which may affect the
fortunes of this country for a long time to come, and I am unwilling to
lose this opportunity of explaining wherein I differ from the course
which the Government has pursued, and of clearing myself from any
portion of the responsibility which attaches to those who support the
policy which the Government has adopted.

We are asked to give our confidence to the Administration in voting the
Address to the Crown, which has been moved by the noble Lord the Member
for London, and to pledge our support to them in the war in which the
country is now to engage. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for
Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), on a recent occasion, made use of a term
which differed considerably from what he said in a former debate; he
spoke of this war as a 'just and unnecessary war.' I shall not discuss
the justice of the war. It may be difficult to decide a point like this,
seeing that every war undertaken since the days of Nimrod has been
declared to be just by those in favour of it; but I may at least
question whether any war that is unnecessary can be deemed to be just. I
shall not discuss this question on the abstract principle of peace at
any price, as it is termed, which is held by a small minority of persons
in this country, founded on religious opinions which are not generally
received, but I shall discuss it entirely on principles which are
accepted by all the Members of this House. I shall maintain that when we
are deliberating on the question of war, and endeavouring to prove its
justice or necessity, it becomes us to show that the interests of the
country are clearly involved; that the objects for which the war is
undertaken are probable, or, at least, possible of attainment; and,
further, that the end proposed to be accomplished is worth the cost and
the sacrifices which we are about to incur. I think these are fair
principles on which to discuss the question, and I hope that when the
noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Lord Palmerston) rises during this
debate, he will not assume that I have dealt with it on any other
principles than these.

The House should bear in mind that at this moment we are in intimate
alliance with a neighbouring Government, which was, at a recent period,
the originator of the troubles which have arisen at Constantinople. I do
not wish to blame the French Government, because nothing could have been
more proper than the manner in which it has retired from the difficulty
it had created; but it is nevertheless quite true that France, having
made certain demands upon Turkey with regard to concessions to the Latin
Church, backed by a threat of the appearance of a French fleet in the
Dardanelles, which demands Turkey had wholly or partially complied with;
Russia, the powerful neighbour of Turkey, being on the watch, made
certain other demands, having reference to the Greek Church; and Russia
at the same time required (and this I understand to be the real ground
of the quarrel) that Turkey should define by treaty, or convention, or
by a simple note, or memorandum, what was conceded, and what were the
rights of Russia, in order that the Government of Russia might not
suffer in future from the varying policy and the vacillation of the
Ottoman Government.

Now, it seems to me quite impossible to discuss this question without
considering the actual condition of Turkey. The hon. Member for
Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) assumes that they who do not agree in the policy
he advocates are necessarily hostile to the Turks, and have no sympathy
for Turkey. I repudiate such an assumption altogether. I can feel for a
country like that, if it be insulted or oppressed by a powerful
neighbour; but all that sympathy may exist without my being able to
convince myself that it is the duty of this country to enter into the
serious obligation of a war in defence of the rights of that country.
The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton is one of the very few men in
this House, or out of it, who are bold enough to insist upon it that
there is a growing strength in the Turkish Empire. There was a Gentleman
in this House, sixty years ago, who, in the debates in 1791, expressed
the singular opinion which the noble Lord now holds. There was a Mr.
Stanley in the House at that period, who insisted on the growing power
of Turkey, and asserted that the Turks of that day 'were more and more
imitating our manners, and emerging from their inactivity and indolence;
that improvements of every kind were being introduced among them, and
that even printing-presses had been lately established in their
capital.' That was the opinion of a Gentleman anxious to defend Turkey,
and speaking in this House more than sixty years ago; we are now living
sixty years later, and no one now, but the noble Lord, seems to insist
upon the fact of the great and growing power of the Turkish Empire.

If any one thing is more apparent than another, on the face of all the
documents furnished to the House by the Government of which the noble
Lord is a Member, it is this, that the Turkish Empire is falling, or has
fallen, into a state of decay, and into anarchy so permanent as to have
assumed a chronic character. The noble Lord surely has not forgotten
that Turkey has lost the Crimea and Bessarabia, and its control over the
Danubian Principalities; that the Kingdom of Greece has been carved out
of it; that it has lost its authority over Algiers, and has run great
risk of being conquered by its own vassal the Pasha of Egypt; and from
this he might have drawn the conclusion that the empire was gradually
falling into decay, and that to pledge ourselves to effect its recovery
and sustentation, is to undertake what no human power will be able to
accomplish. I only ask the House to turn to the statements which will be
found nearly at the end of the first of the Blue Books recently placed
on the table of the House, and they will find that there is scarcely any
calamity which can be described as afflicting any country, which is not
there proved to be present, and actively at work, in almost every
province of the Turkish Empire. And the House should bear in mind, when
reading these despatches from the English Consuls in Turkey to the
English Ambassador at Constantinople, that they give a very faint
picture of what really exists, because what are submitted to us are but
extracts of more extended and important communications. It may fairly be
assumed that the parts which are not published are those which described
the state of things to be so bad, that the Government has been unwilling
to lay before the House, and the country, and the world, that which
would be so offensive and so injurious to its ally the Sultan of Turkey.

But, if other evidence be wanting, is it not a fact that Constantinople
is the seat of intrigues and factions to a degree not known in any other
country or capital in the world? France demands one thing, Russia
another, England a third, and Austria something else. For many years
past our Ambassador at Constantinople has been partly carrying on the
government of that country, and influencing its policy, and it is the
city in which are fought the diplomatic contests of the Great Powers of
Europe. And if I have accurately described the state of Turkey, what is
the position of Russia? It is a powerful country, under a strong
Executive Government; it is adjacent to a weak and falling nation; it
has in its history the evidences of a succession of triumphs over
Turkey; it has religious affinities with a majority of the population of
European Turkey which make it absolutely impossible that its Government
should not, more or less, interfere, or have a strong interest, in the
internal policy of the Ottoman Empire. Now, if we were Russian--and I
put the case to the Members of this House--is it not likely, according
to all the theories I have heard explained when we have been concerned
in similar cases, that a large majority of the House and the country
would be strongly in favour of such intervention as Russia has
attempted? and if I opposed it, as I certainly should oppose it, I
should be in a minority on that question more insignificant than that in
which I have now the misfortune to find myself with regard to the policy
of the Government on the grave question now before us.

The noble Lord the Member for London has made a statement of the case of
the Government, and in favour of this Address to the Crown; but I
thought it was a statement remarkably feeble in fact and in argument, if
intended as a justification of the course he and his Colleagues have
taken. For the purposes of the noble Lord's defence, the Russian demand
upon Turkey is assumed to be something of far greater importance than I
have been able to discover it to be from a careful examination of the
terms in which it was couched. The noble Lord himself, in one of his
despatches, admits that Russia had reason to complain, and that she has
certain rights and duties by treaty, and by tradition, with regard to
the protection of the Christians in Turkey. Russia asserted these
rights, and wished to have them defined in a particular form; and it was
on the question of the form of the demand, and the manner in which it
should be conceded, that the whole of this unfortunate difference has
arisen. Now, if Russia made certain demands on Turkey, this country
insisted that Turkey should not consent to them; for although the noble
Lord has attempted to show that Turkey herself, acting for herself, had
resolved to resist, I defy any one to read the despatches of Lord
Stratford de Redcliffe without coming to the conclusion that, from the
beginning to the end of the negotiations, the English Ambassador had
insisted, in the strongest manner, that Turkey should refuse to make the
slightest concession on the real point at issue in the demands of the
Russian Government. As a proof of that statement, I may refer to the
account given by Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, in his despatch of the 5th
of May, 1853, of the private interview he had with the Sultan, the
Minister of the Sultan having left him at the door, that the interview
might be strictly private. In describing that interview, Lord Stratford
says, 'I then endeavoured to give him a just idea of the degree of
danger to which his Empire was exposed.' The Sultan was not sufficiently
aware of his danger, and the English Ambassador 'endeavoured to give him
a just idea of it;' and it was by means such as this that he urged upon
the Turkish Government the necessity of resistance to any of the demands
of Russia, promising the armed assistance of England, whatever
consequences might ensue. From the moment that promise was made, or from
the moment it was sanctioned by the Cabinet at home, war was all but
inevitable; they had entered into a partnership with the Turkish
Government (which, indeed, could scarcely be called a Government at
all), to assist it by military force; and Turkey, having old quarrels to
settle with Russia, and old wrongs to avenge, was not slow to plunge
into the war, having secured the co-operation of two powerful nations,
England and France, in her quarrel.

Now, I have no special sympathy with Russia, and I refuse to discuss or
to decide this question on grounds of sympathy with Russia or with
Turkey; I consider it simply as it affects the duties and the interests
of my own country. I find that after the first proposition for a treaty
had been made by Prince Menchikoff, that envoy made some concession, and
asked only for a _Sened_, or Convention; and when that was
disapproved of, he offered to accept a note, or memorandum merely, that
should specify what should be agreed upon. But the Turk was advised to
resist, first the treaty, then the convention, and then the note or
memorandum; and an armed force was promised on behalf of this country.
At the same time he knew that he would incur the high displeasure of
England and France, and especially of England, if he made the slightest
concession to Russia. It was about the middle of May that Prince
Menchikoff left Constantinople, not having succeeded in obtaining any
concession from the Porte; and it was on the 3rd of July that the
Russian forces crossed the Pruth; thinking, I believe, by making a dash
at the Principalities, to coerce Turkey, and deter her allies from
rendering her the promised support. It has been assumed by some, that if
England had declared war last year, Russia would have been deterred from
any further step, and that the whole matter would have been settled at
once. I, however, have no belief that Russia on the one hand, or England
and France on the other, would have been bullied into any change of
policy by means of that kind.

I come now to the celebrated 'Vienna note.' I am bound here to say, that
nobody has yet been able clearly to explain the difference between the
various notes Turkey has been advised to reject, and this and other
notes she has been urged to accept. With respect to this particular
note, nobody seems to have understood it. There were four Ambassadors at
Vienna, representing England, France, Austria, and Prussia; and these
four gentlemen drew up the Vienna note, and recommended it to the Porte
as one which she might accept without injury to her independence or her
honour. Louis Napoleon is a man knowing the use of language, and able to
comprehend the meaning of a document of this nature, and his Minister of
Foreign Affairs is a man of eminent ability; and Louis Napoleon and his
Minister agree with the Ambassadors at Vienna as to the character of the
Vienna note. We have a Cabinet composed of men of great individual
capacity; a Cabinet, too, including no less than five Gentlemen who have
filled the office of Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and who may,
therefore, be presumed to understand even the sometimes concealed
meaning of diplomatic phraseology. These five Foreign Secretaries,
backed by the whole Cabinet, concurred with the Ambassadors at Vienna,
and with the Emperor of the French and his Foreign Secretary, in
recommending the Vienna note to the Sultan as a document which he might
accept consistently with his honour, and with that integrity and that
independence which our Government is so anxious to secure for him. What
was done with this note? Passing by the marvellous stupidity, or
something worse, which caused that note not to be submitted to Turkey
before it was sent to St. Petersburg, he would merely state that it was
sent to St. Petersburg, and was accepted in its integrity by the Emperor
of Russia in the most frank and unreserved manner. We were then told--I
was told by Members of the Government--that the moment the note was
accepted by Russia we might consider the affair to be settled, and that
the dispute would never be heard of again. When, however, the note was
sent to Constantinople, after its acceptance by Russia, Turkey
discovered, or thought, or said she discovered, that it was as bad as
the original or modified proposition of Prince Menchikoff, and she
refused the note as it was, and proposed certain modifications. And what
are we to think of these arbitrators or mediators--the four Ambassadors
at Vienna, and the Governments of France and England--who, after
discussing the matter in three different cities, and at three distinct
and different periods, and after agreeing that the proposition was one
which Turkey could assent to without detriment to her honour and
independence, immediately afterwards turned round, and declared that the
note was one which Turkey could not be asked to accede to, and
repudiated in the most formal and express manner that which they
themselves had drawn up, and which, only a few days before, they had
approved of as a combination of wisdom and diplomatic dexterity which
had never been excelled?

But it was said that the interpretation which Count Nesselrode placed
upon this note made it impossible for Turkey to accede to it. I very
much doubt whether Count Nesselrode placed any meaning upon it which it
did not fairly warrant, and it is impossible to say whether he really
differed at all from the actual intentions of the four Ambassadors at
Vienna. But I can easily understand the course taken by the Russian
Minister. It was this:--seeing the note was rejected by the Turk, and
considering that its previous acceptance by Russia was some concession
from the original demand, he issued a circular, giving such an
explanation or interpretation of the Vienna note as might enable him to
get back to his original position, and might save Russia from being
committed and damaged by the concession, which, for the sake of peace,
she had made. This circular, however, could make no real difference in
the note itself; and notwithstanding this circular, whatever the note
really meant, it would have been just as binding upon Russia as any
other note will be that may be drawn up and agreed to at the end of the
war. Although, however, this note was considered inadmissible,
negotiations were continued; and at the Conference at Olmutz, at which
the Earl of Westmoreland was present, the Emperor of Russia himself
expressed his willingness to accept the Vienna note--not in the sense
that Count Nesselrode had placed upon it, but in that which the
Ambassadors at Vienna declared to be its real meaning, and with such a
clause as they should attach to it, defining its real meaning.

It is impossible from this fairly to doubt the sincerity of the desire
for peace manifested by the Emperor of Russia. He would accept the note
prepared by the Conference at Vienna, sanctioned by the Cabinets in
London and Paris, and according to the interpretation put upon it by
those by whom it had been prepared--such interpretation to be defined in
a clause, to be by them attached to the original note. But in the
precise week in which these negotiations were proceeding apparently to a
favourable conclusion, the Turkish Council, consisting of a large number
of dignitaries of the Turkish Empire--not one of whom, however,
represented the Christian majority of the population of Turkey, but
inspired by the fanaticism and desperation of the old Mahomedan party--
assembled; and, fearful that peace would be established, and that they
would lose the great opportunity of dragging England and France into a
war with their ancient enemy the Emperor of Russia, they came to a
sudden resolution in favour of war; and in the very week in which Russia
agreed to the Vienna note in the sense of the Vienna Conference, the
Turks declared war against Russia,--the Turkish forces crossed the
Danube, and began the war, involving England in an inglorious and costly
struggle, from which this Government and a succeeding Government may
fail to extricate us.

I differ very much from those Gentlemen who condemn the Government for
the tardy nature of their proceedings. I never said or thought that the
Government was not honestly anxious for peace; but I believe, and indeed
I know, that at an early period they committed themselves and the
country to a policy which left the issue of peace or war in other hands
than their own--namely, in the hands of the Turks, the very last hands
in which I am willing to trust the interests and the future of this
country. In my opinion, the original blunder was committed when the
Turks were advised to resist and not to concede; and the second blunder
was made when the Turks were supported in their rejection of the Vienna
note; for the moment the four Powers admitted that their recommendation
was not necessarily to be accepted by the Porte, they put themselves
entirely into the hands of the Turk, and might be dragged into any depth
of confusion and war in which that respectable individual might wish to
involve them.

The course taken by Turkey in beginning the war was against the strong
advice of her allies; but, notwithstanding this, the moment the step was
taken, they turned round again, as in the case of the Vienna note, and
justified and defended her in the course she had adopted, in defiance of
the remonstrances they had urged against it. In his speech to-night, the
noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) has occupied some time in showing that
Turkey was fully justified in declaring war. I should say nothing
against that view, if Turkey were fighting on her own resources; but I
maintain that, if she is in alliance with England and France, the
opinions of those Powers should at least have been heard, and that, in
case of her refusal to listen to their counsel, they would have been
justified in saying to her, 'If you persist in taking your own course,
we cannot be involved in the difficulties to which it may give rise, but
must leave you to take the consequences of your own acts.' But this was
not said, and the result is, that we are dragged into a war by the
madness of the Turk, which, but for the fatal blunders we have
committed, we might have avoided.

There have been three plans for dealing with this Turkish question,
advocated by as many parties in this country. The first finds favour
with two or three Gentlemen who usually sit on the bench below me--with
a considerable number out of doors--and with a portion of the public
press. These persons were anxious to have gone to war during last
summer. They seem actuated by a frantic and bitter hostility to Russia,
and, without considering the calamities in which they might involve this
country, they have sought to urge it into a great war, as they imagined,
on behalf of European freedom, and in order to cripple the resources of
Russia. I need hardly say that I have not a particle of sympathy with
that party, or with that policy. I think nothing can be more unwise than
that party, and nothing more atrocious than their policy. But there was
another course recommended, and which the Government has followed. War
delayed, but still certain--arrangements made which placed the issue of
war in other hands than in those of the Government of this country--that
is the policy which the Government has pursued, and in my opinion it is
fatal to Turkey, and disastrous to England. There is a third course, and
which I should have, and indeed have all along recommended--that war
should have been avoided by the acceptance on the part of Turkey either
of the last note of Prince Menchikoff, or of the Vienna note; or, if
Turkey would not consent to either, that then she should have been
allowed to enter into the war alone, and England and France--supposing
they had taken, and continued to take, the same view of the interests of
Western Europe which they have hitherto taken--might have stood aloof
until the time when there appeared some evident danger of the war being
settled on terms destructive of the balance of power; and then they
might have come in, and have insisted on a different settlement. I would
either have allowed or compelled Turkey to yield, or would have insisted
on her carrying on the war alone.

The question is, whether the advantages both to Turkey and England of
avoiding war altogether, would have been less than those which are
likely to arise from the policy which the Government has pursued? Now,
if the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton is right in saying that Turkey
is a growing Power, and that she has elements of strength which
unlearned persons like myself know nothing about; surely no immediate,
or sensible, or permanent mischief could have arisen to her from the
acceptance of the Vienna note, which all the distinguished persons who
agreed to it have declared to be perfectly consistent with her honour
and independence. If she has been growing stronger and stronger of late
years, surely she would have grown still stronger in the future, and
there might have been a reasonable expectation that, whatever
disadvantages she might have suffered for a time from that note, her
growing strength would have enabled her to overcome them, while the
peace of Europe might have been preserved. But suppose that Turkey is
not a growing Power, but that the Ottoman rule in Europe is tottering to
its fall, I come to the conclusion that, whatever advantages were
afforded to the Christian population of Turkey would have enabled them
to grow more rapidly in numbers, in industry, in wealth, in
intelligence, and in political power; and that, as they thus increased
in influence, they would have become more able, in case any accident,
which might not be far distant, occurred, to supplant the Mahomedan
rule, and to establish themselves in Constantinople as a Christian
State, which, I think, every man who hears me will admit is infinitely
more to be desired than that the Mahomedan power should be permanently
sustained by the bayonets of France and the fleets of England. Europe
would thus have been at peace; for I do not think even the most bitter
enemies of Russia believe that the Emperor of Russia intended last year,
if the Vienna note or Prince Menchikoff's last and most moderate
proposition had been accepted, to have marched on Constantinople.
Indeed, he had pledged himself in the most distinct manner to withdraw
his troops at once from the Principalities, if the Vienna note were
accepted; and therefore in that case Turkey would have been delivered
from the presence of the foe; peace would for a time have been secured
to Europe; and the whole matter would have drifted on to its natural
solution--which is, that the Mahomedan power in Europe should eventually
succumb to the growing power of the Christian population of the Turkish

The noble Lord the Member for London, and his colleague the noble Lord
the Member for Tiverton, when they speak of the aggrandisement of Russia
relatively to the rest of Europe, always speak of the 'balance of power'
a term which it is not easy to define. It is a hackneyed term--a phrase
to which it is difficult to attach any definite meaning. I wish the
noble Lord would explain what is meant by the balance of power. In 1791,
the whole Whig party repudiated the proposition that Turkey had anything
to do with the balance of power. Mr. Burke, in 1791, when speaking on
that subject, used the following language:--

'He had never heard it said before, that the Turkish Empire was
ever considered as any part of the balance of power in Europe.
They had nothing to do with European policy; they considered
themselves as wholly Asiatic. What had these worse than savages
to do with the Powers of Europe, but to spread war, destruction,
and pestilence among them? The Ministry and the policy which
would give these people any weight in Europe, would deserve all
the bans and curses of posterity. All that was holy in religion,
all that was moral and humane, demanded an abhorrence of
everything which tended to extend the power of that cruel and
wasteful Empire. Any Christian Power was to be preferred to these
destructive savages.'

Mr. Whitbread, on the same occasion, said:--

'Suppose the Empress at Constantinople, and the Turks expelled
from the European provinces, would any unprejudiced man contend
that by such an event mankind would not be largely benefited?
Would any man contend that the expulsion of a race of beings
whose abominable tyranny proscribed the arts, and literature, and
everything that was good, and great, and amiable, would not
conduce to the prosperity and happiness of the world? He was
convinced it would. This was an event with which the paltry
consideration of the nice adjustment of the balance in Europe was
not to be put in competition, although he was a friend to that
balance on broad and liberal principles. He abhorred the wretched
policy which could entertain a wish that the most luxuriant part
of the earth should remain desolate and miserable that a
particular system might be maintained.'

And Mr. Fox, when speaking of Mr. Pitt's system, said--and be it
remembered that nobody is so great an authority with the noble Lord the
Member for London as Mr. Fox, whose words I am now about to quote:--

'His (Mr. Pitt's) defensive system was wicked and absurd--that
every country which appeared, from whatever cause, to be growing
great, should be attacked; that all the Powers of Europe should
be confined to the same precise situation in which this defensive
system found them.... Her (Russia's) extent of territory, scanty
revenue, and thin population made her power by no means
formidable to us--a Power whom we could neither attack nor be
attacked by; and this was the Power against which we were going
to war. Overturning the Ottoman Empire he conceived to be an
argument of no weight. The event was not probable; and if it
should happen, it was more likely to be of advantage than
injurious to us.'

It will probably be said, that these were opinions held by Gentlemen who
sat on that side of the House, and who were ready to advocate any course
that might serve to damage the Ministers of the day. I should be sorry
to think so, especially of a man whose public character is so much to be
admired as that of Mr. Fox; but I will come to a much later period, and
produce authority of a very similar kind. Many hon. Members now in the
House recollect the late Lord Holland, and they all know his sagacity
and what his authority was with the party with which he was connected.
What did he say? Why, so late as the year 1828, when this question was
mooted in the House of Lords, he said:--

'No, my Lords, I hope I shall never see--God forbid I ever should
see--for the proposition would be scouted from one end of England
to another any preparations or any attempt to defend this our
"ancient ally" from the attacks of its enemies. There was no
arrangement made in that treaty for preserving the crumbling and
hateful, or, as Mr. Burke called it, that wasteful and disgusting
Empire of the Turks, from dismemberment and destruction; and none
of the Powers who were parties to that treaty will ever, I hope,
save the falling Empire of Turkey from ruin.'

I hope it will not be supposed that I am animated by any hostility to
Turkey, in quoting sentiments and language such as this, for I have as
much sympathy with what is just towards that country as any other man
can have; but the question is, not what is just to Turkey, but what is
just to this country, and what this House, as the depositary of the
power of this country, has a right to do with regard to this most
dangerous question. I am, therefore, at liberty to quote from the
statesmen of 1791 and 1828, the political fathers and authorities of the
noble Lord the Member for London, and to say, that if I hold opinions
different from those held by the Government, I am, at least, not
singular in those opinions, for I can quote great names and high
authorities in support of the course I am taking.

This 'balance of power' is in reality the hinge on which the whole
question turns. But if that is so important as to be worth a sanguinary
war, why did you not go to war with France when she seized upon Algiers?
That was a portion of Turkey not quite so distinct, it is true, as are
the Danubian Principalities; but still Turkey had sovereign rights over
Algiers. When, therefore, France seized on a large portion of the
northern coast of Africa, might it not have been said that such an act
tended to convert the Mediterranean into a French lake,--that Algiers
lay next to Tunis, and that, having conquered Tunis, there would remain
only Tripoli between France and Alexandria, and that the 'balance of
power' was being destroyed by the aggrandisement of France? All this
might have been said, and the Government might easily have plunged the
country into war on that question. But happily the Government of that
day had the good sense not to resist, and the result had not been
disadvantageous to Europe; this country had not suffered from the
seizure of Algiers, and England and France had continued at peace.

Take another case--the case of the United States. The United States
waged war with Mexico--a war with a weaker State--in my opinion, an
unjust and unnecessary war. If I had been a citizen of the American
Republic, I should have condemned that war; but might it not have been
as justly argued that, if we allowed the aggressive attacks of the
United States upon Mexico, her insatiable appetite would soon be turned
towards the north--towards the dependencies of this Empire--and that the
magnificent colonies of the Canadas would soon fall a prey to the
assaults of their rapacious neighbour? But such arguments were not used,
and it was not thought necessary to involve this country in a war for
the support of Mexico, although the Power that was attacking that
country lay adjacent to our own dominions.

If this phrase of the 'balance of power' is to be always an argument for
war, the pretence for war will never be wanting, and peace can never be
secure. Let any one compare the power of this country with that of
Austria now, and forty years ago. Will any one say that England,
compared with Austria, is now three times as powerful as she was thirty
or forty years ago? Austria has a divided people, bankrupt finances, and
her credit is so low that she cannot borrow a shilling out of her own
territories; England has a united people, national wealth rapidly
increasing, and a mechanical and productive power to which that of
Austria is as nothing. Might not Austria complain that we have disturbed
the 'balance of power' because we are growing so much stronger from
better government, from the greater union of our people, from the wealth
that is created by the hard labour and skill of our population, and from
the wonderful development of the mechanical resources of the kingdom,
which is seen on every side? If this phrase of the 'balance of power'
the meaning of which nobody can exactly make out, is to be brought in on
every occasion to stimulate this country to war, there is an end to all
hope of permanent peace.

There is, indeed, a question of a 'balance of power' which this country
might regard, if our statesmen had a little less of those narrow views
which they sometimes arrogantly impute to me and to those who think with
me. If they could get beyond those old notions which belong to the
traditions of Europe, and cast their eyes as far westward as they are
now looking eastward, they might there see a power growing up in its
gigantic proportions, which will teach us before very long where the
true 'balance of power' is to be found. This struggle may indeed begin
with Russia, but it may end with half the States of Europe; for Austria
and Prussia are just as likely to join with Russia as with England and
France, and probably much more so; and we know not how long alliances
which now appear very secure, may remain so; for the circumstances in
which the Government has involved us are of the most critical character,
and we stand upon a mine which may explode any day. Give us seven years
of this infatuated struggle upon which we are now entering, and let the
United States remain at peace during that period, and who shall say what
will then be the relative positions of the two nations? Have you read
the Reports of your own Commissioners to the New York Exhibition? Do you
comprehend what is the progress of that country, as exhibited in its
tonnage, and exports, and imports, and manufactures, and in the
development of all its resources, and the means of transit? There has
been nothing like it hitherto under the sun. The United States may
profit to a large extent by the calamities which will befall us; whilst
we, under the miserable and lunatic idea that we are about to set the
worn-out Turkish Empire on its legs, and permanently to sustain it
against the aggressions of Russia, are entangled in a war. Our trade
will decay and diminish--our people, suffering and discontented, as in
all former periods of war, will emigrate in increasing numbers to a
country whose wise policy is to keep itself free from the entanglement
of European politics--to a country with which rests the great question,
whether England shall, for any long time, retain that which she
professes to value so highly--her great superiority in industry and at

This whole notion of the 'balance of power' is a mischievous delusion
which has come down to us from past times; we ought to drive it from our
minds, and to consider the solemn question of peace or war on more
clear, more definite, and on far higher principles than any that are
involved in the phrase the 'balance of power.' What is it the Government
propose to do? Let us examine their policy as described in the message
from the Crown, and in the Address which has been moved to-night. As I
understand it, we are asked to go to war to maintain the 'integrity and
independence of the Ottoman Empire'--to curb the aggressive power of
Russia--and to defend the interests of this country.

These are the three great objects to which the efforts and resources of
this country are to be directed. The noble Lord the Member for London
is, I think, the author of the phrase 'the integrity and independence'
of Turkey. If I am not mistaken, he pledged himself to this more than a
year ago, when he was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in a
letter to somebody at Newcastle-on-Tyne, in answer to an Address from
certain enthusiasts in that town, who exhorted the Government to step in
for the support of the Ottoman Empire. But what is the condition of that
Empire at this moment? I have already described to the House what it
would have been if my policy had been adopted--if the thrice-modified
note of Prince Menchikoff had been accepted, or if the Vienna note had
been assented to by the Porte. But what is it now under the protection
of the noble Lord and his Colleagues? At the present moment there are no
less than three foreign armies on Turkish soil: there are 100,000
Russian troops in Bulgaria; there are armies from England and France
approaching the Dardanelles, to entrench themselves on Turkish
territory, and to return nobody knows when. All this can hardly
contribute to the 'independence' of any country. But more than this:
there are insurrections springing up in almost every Turkish province,
and insurrections which must, from the nature of the Turkish Government,
widely extend; and it is impossible to describe the anarchy which must
prevail, inasmuch as the control heretofore exercised by the Government
to keep the peace is now gone, by the withdrawal of its troops to the
banks of the Danube; and the licence and demoralization engendered by
ages of bad government will be altogether unchecked. In addition to
these complicated horrors, there are 200,000 men under arms; the state
of their finances is already past recovery; and the allies of Turkey are
making demands upon her far beyond anything that was required by Russia
herself. Can anything be more destructive of the 'integrity and
independence' of Turkey than the policy of the noble Lord?

I have seen only this day a letter in the Times from its Correspondent
at Constantinople, which states that Lord Stratford de Redcliffe and one
of the Pashas of the Porte had spent a whole night in the attempt to
arrange concessions which her allies had required on behalf of the
Christian population of Turkey. The Christians are to be allowed to hold
landed property; the capitation tax is to be abolished--for they are
actually contending for the abolition of that which the hon. Member for
Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) says is a positive benefit to those upon whom it
is imposed; and the evidence of Christians is to be admitted into courts
of justice. But the _Times_' Correspondent asks, what is the use of
a decree at Constantinople, which will have no effect in the provinces?--
for the judges are Turks of the old school, and they will have little
sympathy with a change under which a Christian in a court of justice is
made equal with his master the Turk. This Correspondent describes what
Turkey really wants--not three foreign armies on her soil, nor any other
thing which our Government is about to give her, but 'a pure executive,
a better financial administration, and sensible laws;' and it must be
admitted that the true wants of the country are not likely soon to be

Now, so far as regards Turkey herself, and the 'integrity and
independence' of that Empire, I put it seriously to the House--do you
believe, that if the Government and Lord Stratford de Redcliffe had
advised Turkey to accept the last note of Prince Menchikoff, a note so
little different from the others, offered before and since, that it was
impossible to discover in what the distinction consisted; or if the
Government had insisted on Turkey accepting, as the condition of their
co-operation, the Vienna note, either as at first proposed by the
Conference, or with the explanatory definitions with which the Emperor
of Russia at Olmutz offered to accept it, that they would have injured
the 'integrity and independence' of Turkey? Nay, I will not insult you
by asking whether, under such circumstances, that 'integrity and
independence' would not have been a thousand times more secure than it
is at this hour? If that be true, then the 'balance of power' theory has
been entirely overthrown by the policy of the Government, for no one
will argue that Turkey will come out of her present difficulties more
able to cope with the power of Russia than she was before. With her
finances hopelessly exhausted, will she ever again be able to raise an
army of 200,000 men? But there are men, and I suspect there are
statesmen, in this country, and men in office, too, who believe that
Turkey will not be Turkey at the end of this war--that she cannot come
out of it an Ottoman Power--that such a convulsion has been created,
that while we are ready to contend with half the world to support the
'integrity and independence' of the Ottoman Empire, there will shortly
be no Ottoman Empire to take the benefit of the enormous sacrifices we
are about to make.

But we are undertaking to repress and to curb Russian aggression. These
are catching words; they have been amplified in newspapers, and have
passed from mouth to mouth, and have served to blind the eyes of
multitudes wholly ignorant of the details of this question. If Turkey
has been in danger from the side of Russia heretofore, will she not be
in far greater danger when the war is over? Russia is always there. You
do not propose to dismember Russia, or to blot out her name from the
map, and her history from the records of Europe. Russia will be always
there--always powerful, always watchful, and actuated by the same
motives of ambition, either of influence or of territory, which are
supposed to have moved her in past times. What, then, do you propose to
do? and how is Turkey to be secured? Will you make a treaty with Russia,
and force conditions upon her? But if so, what security have you that
one treaty will be more binding than another? It is easy to find or make
a reason for breaking a treaty, when it is the interest of a country to
break it.

I recollect reading a statement made by the illustrious Washington, when
it was proposed to land a French army in North America, to assist the
colonies in overthrowing the yoke of this country. Washington was afraid
of them--he did not know whether these allies once landed might not be
as difficult to get rid of as the English troops he was endeavouring to
expel; for, said he, 'whatever may be the convention entered into, my
experience teaches me that nations and Governments rarely abide by
conventions or treaties longer than it is their interest to do so.' So
you may make a treaty with Russia; but if Russia is still powerful and
ambitious--as she certainly will be--and if Turkey is exhausted and
enfeebled by the war--as she certainly will be--then I want to know what
guarantee you have, the moment the resources of Russia have recovered
from the utmost degree of humiliation and exhaustion to which you may
succeed in reducing her, that she will not again insist on terms with
Turkey infinitely more perilous than those you have ruined Turkey by
urging her to refuse? It is a delusion to suppose you can dismember
Russia--that you can blot her from the map of Europe--that you can take
guarantees from her, as some seem to imagine, as easily as you take bail
from an offender, who would otherwise go to prison for three months.
England and France cannot do this with a stroke of the pen, and the
sword will equally fail if the attempt be made.

But I come now to another point. How are the interests of England
involved in this question? This is, after all, the great matter which
we, the representatives of the people of England, have to consider. It
is not a question of sympathy with any other State. I have sympathy with
Turkey; I have sympathy with the serfs of Russia; I have sympathy with
the people of Hungary, whose envoy the noble Lord the Member for
Tiverton refused to see, and the overthrow of whose struggle for freedom
by the armies of Russia he needlessly justified in this House; I have
sympathy with the Italians, subjects of Austria, Naples, and the Pope; I
have sympathy with the three millions of slaves in the United States;
but it is not on a question of sympathy that I dare involve this
country, or any country, in a war which must cost an incalculable amount
of treasure and of blood. It is not my duty to make this country the
knight-errant of the human race, and to take upon herself the protection
of the thousand millions of human beings who have been permitted by the
Creator of all things to people this planet.

I hope no one will assume that I would invite--that is the phrase which
has been used--the aggressions of Russia. If I were a Russian, speaking
in a Russian Parliament, I should denounce any aggression upon Turkey,
as I now blame the policy of our own Government; and I greatly fear I
should find myself in a minority, as I now find myself in a minority on
this question. But it has never yet been explained how the interests of
this country are involved in the present dispute. We are not going to
fight for tariffs, or for markets for our exports. In 1791, Mr. Grey
argued that, as our imports from Russia exceeded 1,000,000_l_.
sterling, it was not desirable that we should go to war with a country
trading with us to that amount. In 1853, Russia exported to this country
at least 14,000,000_l_. sterling, and that fact affords no proof of
the increasing barbarism of Russia, or of any disregard of her own
interests as respects the development of her resources. What has passed
in this House since the opening of the present session? We had a large
surplus revenue, and our Chancellor of the Exchequer is an ambitious
Chancellor. I have no hope in any statesman who has no ambition; he can
have no great object before him, and his career will be unmarked by any
distinguished services to his country.

When the Chancellor of the Exchequer entered office, doubtless he hoped,
by great services to his country, to build up a reputation such as a man
may labour for and live for. Every man in this House, even those most
opposed to him, acknowledged the remarkable capacity which he displayed
during the last session, and the country has set its seal to this--that
his financial measures, in the remission and readjustment of taxation,
were worthy of the approbation of the great body of the people. The
right hon. Gentleman has been blamed for his speech at Manchester, not
for making the speech, but because it differed from the tone of the
speech made by the noble Lord, his colleague in office, at Greenock. I
observed that difference. There can be no doubt that there has been, and
that there is now, a great difference of opinion in the Cabinet on this
Eastern question. It could not be otherwise; and Government has gone on
from one step to another; they have drifted--to use the happy expression
of Lord Clarendon to describe what is so truly unhappy--they have
drifted from a state of peace to a state of war; and to no Member of the
Government could this state of things be more distressing than to the
Chancellor of the Exchequer, for it dashed from him the hopes he
entertained that session after session, as trade extended and the public
revenue increased, he would find himself the beneficent dispenser of
blessings to the poor, and indeed to all classes of the people of this
kingdom. Where is the surplus now? No man dare even ask for it, or for
any portion of it.

Here is my right hon. Friend and Colleague, who is resolved on the
abolition of the newspaper stamp. I can hardly imagine a more important
question than that, if it be desirable for the people to be instructed
in their social and political obligations; and yet my right hon. Friend
has scarcely the courage to ask for the abolition of that odious tax. I
believe, indeed, that my right hon. Friend has a plan to submit to the
Chancellor by which the abolition of the stamp may be accomplished
without sacrifice to the Exchequer, but that I will not go into at
present. But this year's surplus is gone, and next year's surplus is
gone with it; and you have already passed a Bill to double the income-
tax. And it is a mistake to suppose that you will obtain double the sum
by simply doubling the tax. Many persons make an average of their
incomes, and make a return accordingly. The average will not be
sustained at the bidding of Parliament; and profits that were
considerable last year, will henceforth show a great diminution, or will
have vanished altogether. I mention this for the benefit of the country
gentlemen, because it is plain that real property, lands and houses,
must bear the burden of this war; for I will undertake to say, that the
Chancellor of the Exchequer will prefer to leave that bench, and will
take his seat in some other quarter of the House, rather than retrace
the steps which Sir Robert Peel took in 1842. He is not the promoter of
this war; his speeches have shown that he is anxious for peace, and that
he hoped to be a Minister who might dispense blessings by the remission
of taxes to the people; and I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman
will consent to be made the instrument to reimpose upon the country the
Excise duties which have been repealed, or the Import duties which in
past times inflicted such enormous injury upon trade. The property-tax
is the lever, or the weapon, with which the proprietors of lands and
houses in this kingdom will have to support the 'integrity and
independence' of the Ottoman Empire. Gentlemen, I congratulate you, that
every man of you has a Turk upon his shoulders.

The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) spoke of our 'triumphant
position'--the position in which the Government has placed us by
pledging this country to support the Turks. I see nothing like a triumph
in the fact, that in addition to our many duties to our own country, we
have accepted the defence of twenty millions or more of the people of
Turkey, on whose behalf, but, I believe, not for their benefit, we are
about to sacrifice the blood and treasure of England. But there are
other penalties and other considerations. I will say little about the
Reform Bill, because, as the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) is aware, I
do not regard it as an unmixed blessing. But I think even hon. Gentlemen
opposite will admit that it would be well if the representation of the
people in this House were in a more satisfactory state, and that it is
unfortunate that we are not permitted, calmly and with mutual good
feeling, to consider the question, undisturbed by the thunder of
artillery and undismayed by the disasters which are inseparable from a
state of war.

With regard to trade, I can speak with some authority as to the state of
things in Lancashire. The Russian trade is not only at an end, but it is
made an offence against the law to deal with any of our customers in
Russia. The German trade is most injuriously affected by the uncertainty
which prevails on the continent of Europe. The Levant trade, a very
important branch, is almost extinguished in the present state of affairs
in Greece, Turkey in Europe, and Syria. All property in trade is
diminishing in value, whilst its burdens are increasing. The funds have
fallen in value to the amount of about 120,000,000_l_. sterling,
and railway property is quoted at about 80,000,000_l_. less than
was the case a year ago. I do not pretend to ask the hon. Member for
Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) to put these losses, these great destructions of
property, against the satisfaction he feels at the 'triumphant position'
at which we have arrived. He may content himself with the dream that we
are supporting the 'integrity and independence' of Turkey, though I
doubt whether bringing three foreign armies on her soil, raising
insurrections in her provinces, and hopelessly exhausting her finances,
is a rational mode of maintaining her as an independent Power.

But we are sending out 30,000 troops to Turkey, and in that number are
not included the men serving on board the fleets. Here are 30,000 lives!
There is a thrill of horror sometimes when a single life is lost, and we
sigh at the loss of a friend, or of a casual acquaintance! But here we
are in danger of losing--and I give the opinions of military men and not
my own merely--10,000, or it may be 20,000 lives, that may be sacrificed
in this struggle. I have never pretended to any sympathy for the
military profession--but I have sympathy for my fellow-men and fellow-
countrymen, where-ever they may be. I have heard very melancholy
accounts of the scenes which have been witnessed in the separations from
families occasioned by this expedition to the East. But it will be said,
and probably the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton will say, that it is
a just war, a glorious war, and that I am full of morbid sentimentality,
and have introduced topics not worthy to be mentioned in Parliament. But
these are matters affecting the happiness of the homes of England, and
we, who are the representatives and guardians of those homes, when the
grand question of war is before us, should know at least that we have a
case--that success is probable--and that an object is attainable, which
may be commensurate with the cost of war.

There is another point which gives me some anxiety. You are boasting of
an alliance with France. Alliances are dangerous things. It is an
alliance with Turkey that has drawn us into this war. I would not advise
alliances with any nation, but I would cultivate friendship with all
nations. I would have no alliance that might drag us into measures which
it is neither our duty nor our interest to undertake. By our present
alliance with Turkey, Turkey cannot make peace without the consent of
England and France; and by this boasted alliance with France we may find
ourselves involved in great difficulties at some future period of these

I have endeavoured to look at the whole of this question, and I declare,
after studying the correspondence which has been laid on the table--
knowing what I know of Russia and of Turkey--seeing what I see of
Austria and of Prussia--feeling the enormous perils to which this
country is now exposed, I am amazed at the course which the Government
have pursued, and I am horrified at the results to which their policy
must inevitably tend. I do not say this in any spirit of hostility to
the Government. I have never been hostile to them. I have once or twice
felt it my duty to speak, with some degree of sharpness, of particular
Members of the Administration, but I suspect that in private they would
admit that my censure was merited. But I have never entertained a party
hostility to the Government. I know something of the difficulties they
have had to encounter, and I have no doubt that, in taking office, they
acted in as patriotic a spirit as is generally expected from Members of
this House. So long as their course was one which I could support, or
even excuse, they have had my support. But this is not an ordinary
question; it is not a question of reforming the University of Oxford, or
of abolishing 'ministers' money' in Ireland; the matter now before us
affects the character, the policy, and the vital interests of the
Empire; and when I think the Government have committed a grievous--it
may be a fatal error--I am bound to tell them so.

I am told indeed that the war is popular, and that it is foolish and
eccentric to oppose it. I doubt if the war is very popular in this
House. But as to what is, or has been popular, I may ask, what was more
popular than the American war? There were persons lately living in
Manchester who had seen the recruiting party going through the principal
streets of that city, accompanied by the parochial clergy in full
canonicals, exhorting the people to enlist to put down the rebels in the
American colonies. Where is now the popularity of that disastrous and
disgraceful war, and who is the man to defend it? But if hon. Members
will turn to the correspondence between George III and Lord North, on
the subject of that war, they will find that the King's chief argument
for continuing the war was, that it would be dishonourable in him to
make peace so long as the war was popular with the people. Again, what
war could be more popular than the French war? Has not the noble Lord
(Lord John Russell) said, not long ago, in this House, that peace was
rendered difficult if not impossible by the conduct of the English press
in 1803? For myself, I do not trouble myself whether my conduct in
Parliament is popular or not. I care only that it shall be wise and just
as regards the permanent interests of my country, and I despise from the
bottom of my heart the man who speaks a word in favour of this war, or
of any war which he believes might have been avoided, merely because the
press and a portion of the people urge the Government to enter into it.

I recollect a passage of a distinguished French writer and statesman
which bears strongly upon our present position: he says,--

'The country which can comprehend and act upon the lessons which
God has given it in the past events of its history, is secure in
the most imminent crises of its fate.'

The past events of our history have taught me that the intervention of
this country in European wars is not only unnecessary, but calamitous;
that we have rarely come out of such intervention having succeeded in
the objects we fought for; that a debt of 800,000,000_l_. sterling
has been incurred by the policy which the noble Lord approves,
apparently for no other reason than that it dates from the time of
William III; and that, not debt alone has been incurred, but that we
have left Europe at least as much in chains as before a single effort
was made by us to rescue her from tyranny. I believe, if this country,
seventy years ago, had adopted the principle of nonintervention in every
case where her interests were not directly and obviously assailed, that
she would have been saved from much of the pauperism and brutal crimes
by which our Government and people have alike been disgraced. This
country might have been a garden, every dwelling might have been of
marble, and every person who treads its soil might have been
sufficiently educated. We should indeed have had less of military glory.
We might have had neither Trafalgar nor Waterloo; but we should have set
the high example of a Christian nation, free in its institutions,
courteous and just in its conduct towards all foreign States, and
resting its policy on the unchangeable foundation of Christian morality.

* * * * *




_From Hansard._
At this hour of the night I shall not make a speech; but I wish to say a
few things in answer to the noble Lord the Member for the City of
London, who has very strangely misapprehended--I am not allowed to say
'misrepresented'--what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for the West
Riding. The noble Lord began by saying that my hon. Friend had charged
the Government with making war in something of a propagandist spirit in
favour of nationalities throughout the Continent; but that was the exact
contrary of what my hon. Friend did say. What he said was, that that
portion of the people of this country who had clamoured for war, and


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