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plainly that it was impossible for us to accept their interpretation. Any delay, which would lead either people to suspect the other of good faith and produce alienation, was strongly to be deprecated. Mr. Disraeli concluded by a graceful reference to the recovery of the Prince of Wales.
Mr. Gladstone, adverting first to the notices of motion which had been given with regard to the constitution of the Admiralty and Sir Robert Collier's appointment, proclaimed his readiness for the most searching inquiry into the first subject and his anxiety for the judgment of Parliament on the second. He protested that any other construction but that placed on the Treaty by the Government was not only not required, but would have been mischievous to the public service. Speaking in reference to the Prince of Wales' illness, he characterized it as an important public event which had removed all doubts as to the attachment of the people to the great institutions of the country, and expressed a belief that the universal sympathy which had been manifested for the Prince in his peril would leave an enduring mark on his heart. Admitting that Mr. Disraeli's criticism on the arrangement of the Speech was partly justified by the accidental transposition of two paragraphs, he demurred to his description of the paragraph relating to the Geneva Arbitration. It was quite adequate, he maintained, viewed with regard as well to the circumstances, the time, and the persons by whom it was uttered, as also to the duty of speaking in the very mildest terms, which would show that the Government did not under-estimate the importance of the matter, without making it more difficult for the United States Government to meet us. He admitted that Mr. Disraeli had always treated American affairs with the judgment and discretion of an enlightened patriot; and while not subscribing to the exact accuracy of his historical retrospect of the negotiations, he accepted it as proving that the British Government had at no time acceded, either in intention or otherwise, to an instrument admitting constructive claims. The description of these extraordinary claims was rather under the mark than an exaggeration. On the part of the Government he accepted fully whatever blame fell on those who concluded the Treaty—the Commissioners were entirely free from blame. But he denied that there was blame anywhere. The concessions we had made to the American Government, such as accepting retrospective action, abstaining from claiming compensation for the Fenian raids, &c., were large, and even extraordinary, and no doubt open to question; but he contended that
; they were justifiable, although there must be a limit to such a course. Answering Mr. Disraeli's questions, he said that no protest had been received from the American Government against the interpretation publicly put on the Treaty in the House of Lords in June last year, and explained that the American case had not been in possession of all the members of the Cabinet for more than a week or so; consequently it was only on Saturday last that a communication was addressed to the American Government. Her Ma
jesty's Government did not intend to rest on the supposed ambiguity of the instrument. They would not admit that it could be read in two contradictory senses. On the contrary, they would contend that, tried by grammar, logic, common sense, policy, or any other conceivable criterion, its only just and unequivocal meaning was that which they put on it. Adverting again to the magnitude of the claims, Mr. Gladstone was loudly cheered in declaring that we must be insane to accede to demands which no nation with a spark of honour or spirit left could submit to even at the point of death. But he looked forward with sanguine hope to the course which would be taken by the American Government, and he trusted in the goodwill and friendship which had been shown by the American people for this country, and which had been reciprocated by us.
In the House of Lords, the Address in answer to her Majesty's Speech was moved by Lord De-la-Warr, who re-echoed the foreign and domestic congratulations of the Speech. Briefly glancing at the promised measures of the Session, he pointed out the necessity of union and co-operation among the Liberal party, in order that the Session might be fruitful in useful legislation.
Lord Powerscourt, in seconding the Address, dwelt upon the signs of material prosperity now visible in Ireland, while expressing a doubt whether the full effect of recent Liberal measures could be reaped during the lifetime of the present generation.
The Duke of Richmond, after a graceful allusion to the illness and happy recovery of the Heir-apparent, criticized the tone and language of the Speech from the Throne, and complained of the absence of any allusion to the Army and Navy. He regretted that greater care had not been used to prevent the misunderstanding which had arisen in regard to the Alabama Claims, and trusted that the language used by her Majesty's Government to that of the United States would be characterized by great friendliness, but also by great decision. He contrasted the declaration made by Mr. Justice Fitzgerald last November in Dublin, that life and property were not secure, with the peace and prosperity which were now alleged to prevail in Ireland. Assuming that due regard would be paid to the religious education of the people of Scotland, and that the pecuniary interests affected by the Licensing Bill would be considered, he said that Lord Hartington had completely justified their lordships in rejecting the Ballot Bill by stating that a simpler and more effective measure would be brought forward this Session. He next passed some severe strictures upon the present Admiralty administration, as illustrated by the loss of the “ Megæra,” and remarked upon the absence of the great scheme of Army Re-organization promised last Session. He trusted that the country would this year be spared legislation of a sensational character, and that the Government would frame their measures with a single eye to the welfare, safety, and comfort of the people.
Lord Granville, who had been long suffering under a severe attack of gout, but who pleasantly declined the Duke of Richmond's suggestion that he should address their lordships from his seat, replied to some of the objections raised to the Speech. Her Majesty had stated to her Ministers that it was her wish to perform every duty incident to her high station, so far as her health and strength permitted, and it would be his duty to move for a Committee to make arrangements for their lordships' attendance at the National Thanksgiving service at St. Paul's. Passing to the French Commercial Treaty, he said that the Government, while anxious to meet every requirement of France, were not disposed to take any retrograde step with regard to Free Trade. The harmony of the political relations of the two countries, however, remained undisturbed. Upon the subject of the Alabama Claims, it was advisable for the Government to proceed calmly and deliberately, and he explained the reasons which had induced them to make a communication to the United States Government of the character indicated in her Majesty's Speech. Last Session he explained the interpretation put upon the Washington Treaty by her Majesty's Government, and Sir Stafford Northcote defended the Treaty upon the same ground, that the claims now set up were believed by the Commissioners to be shut out by the terms of the Treaty. When the proper time came for discussing the Alabama Claims he should show, not only the intentions of her Majesty's Government, but what they had reason to suppose were also the intentions of the United States Government. While the Government would not consent to sacrifice the rights of this country, nothing should be wanting on their part to arrive at a satisfactory settlement of the matters in dispute.
Lord Derby approved measures of sanitary reform and the regulation of mines as a welcome substitute for constitutional changes, and recommended that, as they were non-political measures, one should be introduced in that House. Remarking on the state of Ireland and the omission of any allusion to Irish Education in the Speech, he said that all other questions sank into insignificance by the side of the great international complication arising out of the case of the “ Alabama.” The origin of the mischief was in sending out a special commission to Washington, for we were previously in an impregnable position, and our Government had only to ask the Government of the United States what they had to suggest. At the same time the Government knew what they believed their offer to be, and if the Americans meant one thing and we another there was no contract, and the whole negotiation fell to the ground. If our Government contended that these claims never were included in the Treaty, they would have what no Government in this country had possessed in American negotiations for the last eleven years— the undivided support of the whole people.
Debates on Sir R. Collier's Appointment–The Ewelme Rectory-Mr. Dixon's Vote
of Censure on the Education Act-Abortive Bills-Regulation of the ParksContagious Diseases Acts-Regulation of Mines-Army Estimates and Army Reorganization-Scotch Education Bill-Women's Disabilities Bill—Sir C. Dilke and Mr. A. Herbert on the Civil List-Discreditable Scene in the House-Local Taxation-Defeat of the Government–The Budget.
The question of Sir Robert Collier's appointment was dealt with very early in the Session, and public feeling was in the end satisfied by a formal Parliamentary condonation, which was equivalent to a moderate expression of disapproval. In the House of Lords a vote of censure, moved by Lord Stanhope, was lost on a narrow division by two votes, after a debate in which the Lord Chancellor satisfied the House, at all events, of the honesty of his intentions.
Lord Stanhope said that the Government by this act had unduly stretched the power of the Crown, and unduly set aside the intention of the Legislature. After recapitulating the circumstances under which the Bill was brought in, he read Lord Chief Justice Cockburn's condemnation of the transaction, and declared that the Government must be found guilty either of negligence or of presumption. If any defects existed in the Act the Government had only to wait three months, when they might have come to Parliament to amend it. Refusing to discuss the merits and qualifications of Sir R. Collier, as entirely apart from the question, he declared, on the authority of the Lord Chief Justice of England, confirmed by his own inquiries, that the English Bar had set the seal of its almost unanimous and unqualified condemnation upon the mode of appointing Sir R. Collier to a seat at the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Mr. Justice Willes had indeed expressed a contrary opinion, but his published letter was not likely to add to his reputation. He regretted the discourtesy with which the Lord Chancellor had treated the Lord Chief Justice of England, and entreated their lordships, as an hereditary Chamber, superior to hustings influences, to vindicate the dignity and independence which they had hitherto worthily maintained.
Lord Portman said that Lord Stanhope, like the Lord Chief Justice, had pronounced condemnation without waiting to hear the evidence. Arguing that the present was not a case for the grave censure of their lordships, he said that if this was to be a great party fight he was probably the leader of a forlorn hope, but, if otherwise, he appealed to the honour and judgment of their lordships. Was Lord Stanhope prepared to take a prominent part in the Government which must succeed the present if this party move were successful in both Houses? Arguing that Sir Robert Collier, as Attorney-General, was undoubtedly qualified by his position and attainments to succeed to the “cushion” of either of the Common Law Courts, he contended that he could not be disqualified from sitting on the Judicial Committee. He cited the opinion of Mr. Justice Willes, and further, denied that the Bar were so unanimous as had been represented. Their lordships might think that an error in judgment
had been committed, but that was not a sufficient ground for grave Parliamentary censure, and he moved an amendment accordingly.
Lord Salisbury utterly repudiated the charge that their lordships were condemning the Lord Chancellor without waiting to hear his defence. Two Lords Chief Justice had in vain tried to elicit this explanation, and now when Lord Stanhope made the same demand the Lord Chancellor, instead of rising, put up the Lord Warden of the Stannaries to repeat a speech that he had made to Lord Portman in his private room. Maintaining that the appointment of Sir Robert Collier was a colourable evasion of the law, he adverted to the course taken by the Government on the Ewelme Rectory as the effect of the same state of mind, and manifesting a similarity of idiosyncrasy in regard to the respect due to Acts of Parliament. It was necessary to put a stop at once to conduct which was calculated to destroy the confidence that had hitherto existed between the Legislature and the Executive. It was an advantage in one sense that votes of censure in their lordships' House were not followed by the resignation of a Ministry, because it enabled them to visit acts like the present with heavy censure without taking the machinery of Government to pieces at a moment when it was most undesirable to do so. It was especially necessary to guard the exercise of judicial patronage from abuse, and sharply criticizing the appointments of Mr. Beales and Mr. Homersham Cox, he said it became their lordships as the highest Court of Judicature to prevent these things from being done by branding them with their displeasure.
The Duke of Argyll, with great vehemence, vindicated the refusal of the Lord Chancellor to defend his conduct to Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, or to enter into the lists with him in the public press. Inquiring whether this was a letter from Sir Alexander Cockburn or from the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, he maintained, with great warmth and some asperity, that it was not written in his official capacity, and justified this opinion by the railing-the almost ribald-accusations contained in the letter. The Government had placed upon the Judicial Committee a lawyer who was eminently fit, and they did nothing but give a formal qualification to one who had already the substantial qualification which Sir R. Collier must be presumed as the Attorney-General to possess. The Government had not, therefore, violated the spirit, meaning, or intention of the statute. The present was a party motion and nothing else. It might be concurred in by some candid friends on the Ministerial side, but the Government, if censured by