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Mr A. J. Balfour on the Irish Question.

Mr A. J. Balfour, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, delivered a great speech at Portsmouth, from which we take the following extracts : WHAT COERCION MEANS. Our opponents are very fond of making a comparison between their policy for Ireland and our policy for Ireland, and they have a very simple formula in which they sum up their view of the situation. They say that our policy is entirely coercion, and that their policy is simply Homo Rule.— (Laughtor.) Now, in my judgment that proposition has every error which a proposition can have.—(Laughter.) It errs by misstatement, it errs by the suppression of the truth, and it errs by the distortion of the truth ; it suppresses the facts ofthe case, and it puts into prominence things which are not the facts of the case—(cheers); and I do not think that I can better occupy the time allotted to me this evening than by showing you how utterly the formula which I have just given you fails to describe the respective , relations of tho two great parties upon the question of the better government of Ireland.—(Hear, hear.) I do not mean to quarrel about words. If our opponents choose to toll Jie that I am a coercionist, I do not make any bones about the phrase,— (Laughter.) But let mc ask what the thing means—that is the point—(Loud cheers, and A Voice: "Law and order.") What we want to know iu, not by what epithet you can describe the policy of the Government, as far as what my friend there calls law and order, bnt what that policy is in itself.—(Hear, hear.) I will tell you what it is in itself. The policy which has been falsely described—or rather foolishly described—as coercion simply consists in providing a machinery by which tho law—not a law peculiar to Ireland, not a law in its substance even peculiar to Englaud, but a law which in its substance is universal amongst civilised nations (cheers)_ — it simply consists hi providing a machinery by which this general law, that every civilised State in "the world has had to enact, has had to enforce, and has had to obey, may be carried into effect in the sister island. (Checn?.) If by coercion you mean that which does not interfere with the liberty of the Press, that which does not interfere with the liberty of election, that which does not interfere with any law-abid-ing man, but that which does interfere with the proceedings of those who are not laivabiding—(cheers); if by coercion yon mean an administration of law which makes it possible for a law-abiding citizen to live in peace ; if by coercion you mean a system under which individual liberty, instead of being sacrificed to a faction, is preserved from one end of the land to tho other, then I say I am proud of being called a coercionist. —(Loud and prolonged cheers.) But putting aside for one moment this question of the administration of the law in Ireland, is it true—is it near the truth—to say that we arc coeicionists, and coerciouists alone?— (Loud cries of "No.") I have often had occasion to admire tho shortness of memory of our opponents.—(Cheers.) I do not mean their shortness of memory in the witnesshox ; 1 am not talking of that.—(Loud cheers and laughter.) I mean their shortness of memory as to what has actually taken place in Parliament since I have had the honor of holding the position of Chief Secretary for Ireland.—(Hear, hear.) I dare say some of you have better rnomories, and recollect a Land Act which I had the honor to introduce and pass in 1887.—(Hear, hear.) Now, I am not going through the provisions of that Act. It was a very long and complicated measure, which brought relief to it very large number of agricultural tenants in Ireland, and it improved in many respects the law of landlord and tenant. But I want to remind you of one provision of the statute. It was a provision dealing with evictions. We provided—the Unionist Government provided, the brutal Chief Secretary provided—(laughter) —a clause under which any tenant in Ireland who was liablo to eviction might appeal to an independent Court of law, and if he could show that he was unable to pay his debt to the landlord through circumstances for which he was nut responsible, he might ask the Court to stuy the eviction upon such terms as the Court might think just—(Hear, hear.) I want you to recollect the existence of that law when you hear all this talk about evictions in Ireland. Why has not the law been more used ? Is it because the Irish members do not think the provision in itself a valuable and useful one ? I think not, because 1 observe that one of the Irish members has just brought in a Bill by which this provision is to be extended to other classes of tenants.—(Laughter.) Some other explanation, therefore, is required—(A Voice: " Agitation ")—and tho explanation was given by a gentleman who spoke from the gallery just now. Those evictions are not the result of landlord harshness, nor even are, they the result of snontaneous combination among the tenants on the Plan of Campaign estates, with respect to which most of this talk exists. The combination between the tenants is a combination forced upon thorn from outside.— (Cheers.) It is a combination which they would not willingly have entered into ; it is acombination amougpeoplewho can pay their rent if they wished to pay it.—(Cheers.) It is a combination largely among persons who would pay their rent if allowed to do 00— (cheers) —and it is a combination forced upon them, not with a view to benefiting the tenant class !in Ireland—"No, no"—but with the view of promoting the interests of faction at Westminster.— (Cheers.) Recollect when you discuss this question of evictions with your Radical friends that in all the cases of the Plan of Campaign estates, so far as I know, or, at all eventß, the estates about Which you have heard most, terms liberal to tho extremity of liberality have been offered to the tenants. They have been refused by the tenants under duress. And recollect further that those men for whom your sympathy is demanded aro persons who have deliberately levied civil war against the process of the law.— (Cheers.) They have barricaded and fortified their houses, they have brought in garrisons from the outside to defond them, and in the process of defence they have poured boiling water and filth of every kind upon the police.— ("Shame !") They have endangered their lives, broken their heads and their ribs, stabbed them, scalded them, thrown noxious acids on them, endangered their eyesight in more than one case, and all this not to defend their homes, as you are told by the Radical orators, but simply and solely in order that, by creating a centre of disorder in that part of Ireland, they may render the task of government difficult, and that they may promote, by their sufferings, the unholy cause of separation from this country.—(Cheers.) " HOME RULE" VLANfI. I have endeavored very briefly to sketch our policy with regard to Ireland. Now lot us consider what is the policy of these other gentlemen on the same subject. Their policy, we know, is a policy of Home Rule. We havo been struggling for two years to get an accurate definition of what they mean by Home Rule. I was under the impression that we had failed, but I obsorve, in looking through the speech which Mr Morley delivered in this town some two or three months ago—(laughter)—that, if he does not very precisely describe the particular machinery by which he means to carry out Home Rule, he does give something which is a definition of the objects which he intends to got by it. Let me read you tho description; I think it is instructive and entertaining : " Home Rulo means that the leaders of the Irish nation are to be placed in a position where responsibility vvill teach them the realities and of government, and will force them, as nothing but responsibility can force them, to use their mighty influence on tho side of law and order, justice and peace."— (Laughter.) Now, I think you will all agree with me that that is a very interesting announcement of Mr Morley's objects.— (Cheers.) There are various implications in that statement with which I myself wholly agree. It is perfectly clear, for example, when you say of a certain set of people that they will be " placed in a position where responsibility will teach them the realities and difficulties of government" that in their preIsent position they know nothing of the realities and difficulties of government. (Cheers.) It is also clear, when you say th&t they are to be placed in a position

which will "force them, as nothing but responsibility can force them, to use their mighty influence on tho side of law and order, justice and peace" it is perfectly clear that that " mighty influence " is not at present used either on the side of law and order or on the side of justice and peace.—(Cheers.) So far I am altogether of Mr Morley's opinion. I entirely concur with his estimate of his friends.— (Cheers and laughter.) But when ho asks me to draw conclusions from those premises '. confess I can follow him no further. It appears, according to Mr Morley, that persons who are otherwise incorrigible are to be made Ministers of State in order to correct their errors.—(Laughter.) They know nothing of the realities and difficulties of government, therefore make them governors.—(Laughter and cheers.) They do not use their influence on the side of law and order, justice and peace; then give them control and command of law and order, and make them the arbiters of justice and peace.—(Laughter and cheers.) The experiment which Mr Morley asks us to try 13 a very novel experiment, and one which has never suggested itself to any political philosopher in the history of the world until the year of our Lord 1839. —(Laughter.) But at whose expense is this experiment to be carried out '! Merely at the expense of the landlords. I should say that even the Irish landlord is one of Her Majesty's subjects. He is a human being with like passions as ourselves, and is entitled to not much less justice than if he were a tenant.— (Laughter and cheers.) Therefore, even if landlords were alone concerned, I should demur to the experiment being tried upon them. But they are not. Are you going to try the experiment upon those comparatively small communities of Protestants scattered throughout the length and breadth of the south and south-west of Ireland ? They are not, perhaps, a very numerous body, but aro they then to he thrown to the wolves '! Are you going to try the experiment at the expense of the wealthier leaders of trade and commerce in cities like Dublin, Belfast, and Cork ?-{" Mo.") They are persons upon whom tlie commercial prosperity of these towns ultimately depends. Are you going to sacrifice them ?—("No.") Well, the three classes I have mentioned are, 1 admit, hut a comparatively small portion of tho Irish people. But even if they were the only persons concerned, Mr Morley's experiment I should say is a cruel and monstrous one.—(Cheers'.) But they are not the only persons concerned. You all know about the Protestants of Ulster. (Cheers.) Let me say I ought not to have used the word " Protestant"—l mean no religious significance in the phrase. It so happens that the loyal minority in Ulster are for the most part, but not entirely, Protestant?. If any of you could have been present in Belfast a few days ago, on the occasion of the royal visit to that city—(cheers) —you would have seen the streets lined, not with landlords, not with rich people, but with the working classes of that great city of loyal and ardent Unionists —(cheers) —who are burning with a love of the United Kingdom, and with a zeal born of the difficulties in which they find themselves. Belfast is a town that may well give an example to the rest of Ireland. It has risen from 40,000 inhabitants at the beginning of thi3 reign to a population of 250,000. Its prosperity is a by-word among the cities of the United Kingdom.—(Cheers.) Every industry flourishes there. It grows and it prospers even under ' coercion (laughter and cheers) even under the shadow of the hateful and noxious Union—(laughter and cheers) —and as no town on this side of Si". George's Channel has grown and prospered during the same time. Mr Morley proposes, therefore, to hand over to these gentlemen, who know nothing of " the realities and the difficulties of government," and who so far have yet to learn how to use their mighty influence on the side of law and order, not the landlords merely of Dublin and Cork, but the great commercial and prosperous communities of the North of Ireland—he proposes to hand them over to tl\o class whoso rule, tightly or wrongly, they not only loathe, but despise—(cheers) —and he wishes them to be the corpus vile upon which this process of political vivisection is to he carried on in order to teach Parnells and O'Briens the elements of political morality. (Laughter and prolonged cheers.) HOW TO BECOME AN" AC.ITATOK. I should like to give lectures teaching any aspirant to fame how to become a Separatist agitator.—(Loud laughter.) I have made careful Btudy of the whole subject, and I have seen a good deal of it; a good many of the arts have heen practised upon myself—(cheers and laughter)—and I think 1 know as much about the subject as anybody. I should say, in the first place, to such a person :—Never argue, because an argumeut cau bo answered.-—(Laughter.) Never develop your plan for Home Rule, because the painful experience has shown that no plan of Home Rule has evor yet been devised by the most ingenious brain which could not be knocked to pieces in twenty minutes by tho least expert of political pugilists.— (Cheers and laughter.) Starve your memory —it is a most convenient gift—(laughter) —and cultivate your imagination, for it is the most valuable of all qualities. —(Cheers and laughter.) When you are speaking in England and to an English audience, melt them into tears by a picture of the woe and poverty of the Irish tenant. When you are in Ireland do all you can to destroy the confidence, which is the only solid basis of industrial development (Cheers.) And no doubt you should accept any money which may be given to you—(loud laughter and cheers)—from the English Exchequer, but absolutely decline to lend yourself to any such vulgar and commonplaeo procedure as establishing the condition of law and order which will do more than any number of millions lavished from the wealthiest exchequer in the world. —(Cheers.) When you are speaking in England talk about the union of hearts—(laughter)—and when you aro in Ireland praise the memory of the rebels of '9B, or rebels of '4S, or the rebels of 'OS, or the Manchester murderers.—(Cheers.) When you are in England discourse upon the brutality of landlords who turn out their tenants, and on tho hardness of ;<;ents who will not give abatements of rent When you are in Ireland take care that no ■•.;. r, however reasonable, shall be accepted by any tenant—(Laughter and cheers.) Turn them out of their holdings, compel them to adopt the Plan of Campaign, deprive them by your procedure of the whole of the improvements which they have made on their farms, and then support them in pauperism and beggary out of the funds of the Land League.—(Cheers.) Invent for yourselves, if you have sufficient ingenuity, or, if that be too much trouble, take from the pages of ' United Ireland '—(laughter)—any number of the falsehoods and fictions with regard to tho action o£ the Government and the polios in that country. Lavish imaginary details about little girls and old women who are put in prison, about old men who are knocked for intimidating the police—(laughter)— about persons who are put in prison for cheering Mr Gladstone or booing Mr Balfour.—(Laughter.) When one lie has been exposed go to another.—(Laughter.) When one story has been utterly exposed thero is nothing to prevent your exercising the same great eifts in the creation of anew one. —(Laughter.) When it haH been conclusively shown that Mr Mandeville was not murdered by the Chief Secretary, then make out that Mr O'Brien is being murdered by the Chief Secretary.—(Laughter and cheers.) When it has been shown that Mr O'Brien, on his own testimony and on the sworn testimony of everybody concerned, has not been treated with more force than was absolutely necessary to carry out the rules of the prison, make no apology, do not allude to the question, but invent some new fiction which will be equally attractive. —(Laughter.) Then when you have done all this, and when you have learnt the art of seasoning the whole dish with a kind of sickly sentimentality as far removed from true humanity as the South is from the North—(cheers)—then you will bo qualified, and amply qualified, to join the great band of Separatist orators—(laughter)—and to shatter the Constitution in the name of freedom, and to destroy the law in tho name of liberty.—(Cheers.) THE TWO PROGRAMMES. Now I have placed before you two programmes. I have placed before you the programme that we are endeavoring to the best of our ability to follow out, and I have placed before you that which Mr Morley and his ffiends advocate, and I have made

some comments on the method by which that programme is advanced before the electorate. Ido not think you will hesitate as to which one of the two you mean to give your adherence. I boast not now—l never have boasted—of the progress we have made in Ireland. I believe that progress has been great.—(Cheers.) But I do not believe that the question is settled.—(Hear.) It is only your quack political doctors who tell you that Home Rule or any rule will cure in a few months the disease which for centuries has been eating into the Irish constitution. Nothing will cure that disease in a few months. The question or the point we have to decide is not whether wo have in a few short months settled tho Irish question, but tho question is whether we are in the right way to settle it ; and there, I think, you will agree with me that we have chosen the right path. Ido not pretend that that path is an easy one ; I do not pretend that it will be without difficulties; Ido not pretend that it will not require the utmost vigilance and patriotism of the English I people to carry it through to a successful issue, but I say it i 3 the only path which can by any possibility lead to success.— (Cheers.) Give Homo Rule to-morrow in whatever form it may please Mr Gladstone or the wisdom of the Committee which Lord Rosebcry (hisses) looks forward to as a proper tribunal to settle the details of the Irish question give Home Rule tomorrow, and you would not settle one old difficulty, but you would raise a thousand new ones. —(Cheers.) Along that path lies no place for tho English people, along that path lies no hope of uniting in closer bonds the hearts of the English and Irish democracy, along that path lies no hope of ameliorating the condition of the congested districts, or of knitting more closely together tho various parts of tho United Kingdom. Tho path along which I ask you to tread is, I am certain, the path of honor and of justice, and my firm belief is that it is also tho path of safety and of peace.— (Loud cheers.)

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890817.2.29.3

Bibliographic details

Mr A. J. Balfour on the Irish Question., Issue 7988, 17 August 1889, Supplement

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3,354

Mr A. J. Balfour on the Irish Question. Issue 7988, 17 August 1889, Supplement

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