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stubborn dissentients would now and again waste the time of the House in attempting to impede the passage of some Bill obnoxious to them; but after all the Bill would pass, and in the meantime the determined obstructors of one measure on one night would become the rational debaters of another on the following night, and perhaps do as much to facilitate business on the latter occasion as they had done to delay it on the former. No one had as yet even framed the conception of a group of members who should systematically play the part of Sir Charles Wetherell without the excuse of his convictions, and obstruct the progress of legislation, not as an occasional assertion of the inflexibility of their principles, but as the regular business of their parliamentary lives.

Among the impracticable ranks of the Home Rulers were to be found this session a small knot of members who for the first time converted these recognised privileges of the minority into an engine of systematic obstruction. Mr. Butt, the able nominal leader of the body, declared himself distinctly, both in the House and elsewhere, against the policy adopted by some of his companions, while insisting upon the valuable qualities of obstruction for purposes of improving legislation in Irish measures. But Mr. Parnell, an Irish gentleman of property, and Mr. Biggar, a Belfast merchant, developed the practice of obstruction in a new direction, and inaugurated a systematic policy of interference with every measure introduced under the charge of Government officials. Day after day the House was harassed with their notices of amendment, motions of adjournment, and organised delay, carried out with the all but avowed intention of bringing the proceedings of the English Parliament into disrepute and slight regard. They did not altogether fail, for the reports of the session contain too many accounts of personal squabbles, which deserve no better name, and of scenes unworthy of the dignity of the House. When, for instance, the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved on one occasion that the Government business should for the remainder of the Session have precedence on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, we read that Mr. Parnell spoke at length on the waste of time and the general confusion of business, which he attributed to the mismanagement of the Government. Mr. Whalley also censured the Government for its attempts to stifle free discussion by “countouts" and other indirect means, and announced, amid much ironical cheering, that, unless a change were made in the mode of conducting business, he should feel obliged to renounce his seat or suspend his attendance. Mr. Cavan, although he protested against the extinction of private members' measures, bowed to the inevitable, and urged the Government to consider what changes might be necessary to provide for the extended scope of legislation, which, though it had occurred together with greater talkativeness, had to be provided for without any corresponding increase of time. Whitbread suggested that uncompleted Bills should be taken up in the succeeding Session at the point at which they were left.


The Chancellor of the Exchequer having urged that without this concession important Bills before the House could not be carried, Mr. O'Donnell proceeded to refer to the private members' Bills which would be ousted by this motion, and to comment on them seriatim. Much impatience was manifested on both sides, and Mr. O'Donnell was frequently called to order; but the Speaker held that though he was severely trying the forbearance of the House, he was not transgressing the rules. Mr. Chaplin provoked loud and prolonged cheering by denouncing the speech as another 5 of those repeated instances of stubborn insensibility to the sentiments by which gentlemen in that House had almost invariably been actuated.” Mr. Parnell jumped up, and, with much vehemence of tone and manner, demanded of the Speaker whether this charge-which Mr. Chaplin dared not make out of the House was in order, and the Speaker, having held that there was nothing calling for his interference, Mr. Chaplin went on to warn the Obstructives that any attempt to “bully” the House of Commons would be met with speedy retribution. Mr. O'Connor Power replied with a vehement attack on the Conservative Party, which, he said, had disregarded the wishes and feelings of the Irish nation. The O'Donoghue

disputed the right of the Obstructives to speak on behalf of the Irish people, and expressed his cordial concurrence with all that had fallen from Mr. Chaplin. Mr. Gray and Mr. Callan, on the other hand, dissented altogether from Mr. Chaplin's censures.

The task of the Leader of the House was not an easy one. Both he and the Chairman of Committees tried all that courtesy and leniency could do in dealing with the Obstructives; and all that extreme provocation could do was at length to cause a modification in the rules of the House for the last weeks of the Session. Sir Stafford announced in his place that it was the intention of the Government to give very serious consideration to the whole subject during the recess, and meanwhile introduced these two resolutions :

That, when a member, after being twice declared out of order, shall be pronounced by Mr. Speaker, or by the Chairman of Committees, as the case may be, to be disregarding the authority the chair, the debate shall be at once suspended; and, on a motion being made in the House that the member be not heard during the remainder of the debate, or during the sitting of the Committee, such motion, after the member complained of has been heard in explanation, shall be pnt without further debate.

That, in Committee of the whole House, no member have power to move more than once during the debate on the same question either that the Chairman do report progress or that the Chairman leave the chair, nor to speak more than once to such motion, and that no member who has made one of those motions have power to make the other on the same question.

For the present, said Sir Stafford, and with a view to the

exigencies of the moment—to carry through the business of the Session and to prevent wrangles and disputes unseemly and most injurious to our reputation-I hope and trust the House will accept and support this resolution (Hear, hear). ... I cannot imagine that any member who regards the history and thinks of the past glories of this assembly will hesitate to assist in maintaining unimpaired the glories which have been handed down to us (Loud cheers).

In the debate which followed, the resolution was firmly supported by Sir William Harcourt, Mr. Raikes, the Marquis of Hartington, and Mr. Gladstone, who administered a dignified rebuke to Mr. Sullivan, of whom he asked whether there was not an almost ludicrous contrast between the weight and force of some expressions he had used and the proposition before the House ? Mr. O'Connor Power had previously endeavoured to justify a policy of obstruction, and Mr. Parnell and Mr. Biggar had defended their action on the plea that, inasmuch as the House had used against Irish measures the rule for preventing opposed measures being taken after 12.30 p.m., they had put the same rule in force against English measures. Some mirth was raised by Major O'Gorman, who aspired to correct the grammar of the resolution. He, however, found it a matter of impossibility to draw up an amendment which he contemplated moving, and after a fruitless effort to write down the terms of his amendment, had to resign the task in despair. Fuming, it may be, under this disability, Major O'Gorman sat for some time until he was driven to rise again to warn the “great English people to be careful of their liberties lest another Cromwell should walk into that House and say, “ Take away that bauble !” A few amendments were summarily disposed of; and the first resolution was then adopted by 282 votes against 32. Thereafter the second resolution was discussed, and eventually carried by 250 against 7 votes.

These slight modifications in the rules of debate, however, failed altogether to defeat the ingenuity of the obstructive faction, and the adoption of the new standing order was followed by the most scandalous attack on the dignity and efficiency of Parliament. The Bill (of which we have to write further) enabling the South African Governments to form a Confederation had passed the second reading, and on the motion for going into Committee there was a debate on an amendment moved by Sir G. Campbell, and a general discussion both of the Bill itself and of the policy of the Transvaal annexation. A few days afterwards, in Committee, Mr. Parnell, Mr. O'Donnell, and one or two other Irish Members wasted time with speeches and motions which were avowedly intended to obstruct the Government business. Two days afterwards the new Standing Orders were adopted, after a long and desultory discussion ; and on July 31, the adjourned debate on the South Africa Bill was resumed. The obstructives had now resolved to show that their plans had not been affected by the change in the rules. The African

Bill was brought forward in Committee on July 31, and the House found seven of its members determined that it should not pass, and the way blocked by a series of dilatory motions to report progress, and that the Chairman leave the chair, interspersed with lively recriminatory passages, in which Sir W. Harcourt on one side, and Mr. Parnell and Mr. O'Connor Power on the other, took the chief part. The latter two were frequently called to order, and along with Mr. Gray were compelled to withdraw unparliamentary expressions which they had used. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, being frequently appealed to during the struggle to accept a compromise, invariably replied that he would not give way until the Bill was passed through Committee, and in this he was encouraged by Mr. Forster, Mr. Childers, Mr. KnatchbullHugessen, and others on the Liberal side. The temper evinced by the Committee throughout was one of the most determined resolution, and every hint at a concession was at once met with the most decided refusal. Cheers greeted an emphatic statement of Mr. Forster, that although he was sixty years of age he would sacrifice his time to give the Government all the support in his power. Sir William Harcourt declared that the authority of the House should not be degraded in the presence of the English nation, and said that the seven had as many aspects as Proteus. The House of Commons, said he, was strong enough to deal with them; and if not, it did not deserve the position it held. He hoped that those who had to lead the Housener Majesty's Governmentwould stand by the House of Commons, and the House of Commons would stand by them in resisting that which was unsupportable. Day after day, night after night, in committee on motions to report progress, discussions were protracted hour after hour, until the whole system under which they lived was breaking down. Whether it was the intention of honourable members to break it down or not, the consequence of this conduct must be to destroy it. He hoped therefore that the Government would not be driven out of their course, but would carry the Bill as it stood, and show that the House of Commons had inherent vigour enough to deal with a small minority who were endeavouring to destroy its utility and convenience. These remarks were heartily cheered again and again, and appeared to express the sentiments of all but six or seven members in it with equal force and precision. But they failed to touch the obdurate hearts of that “small minority,” or to shake the characteristic equanimity of Sir William's chief adversary, Mr. Parnell, the member for Meath, described in the “ interviewing" language of the day as a “slender and rather good-looking young Irishman, a little over thirty, with a determined cast of features, and bear .ed as a pard."

Thirteen motions for adjournment were made, and while the majority varied from 150 to 77, the minority never rose above 5. The seven obstructives were all Irish members—Mr. Parnell, Mr. Biggar, Mr. O'Donnell, Mr. Power, Mr. Gray, Mr. Kirk, and


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Captain Nolan; and the only English members from whom they received any countenance were Mr. Fawcett and Mr. Courtney. Both retired about 4 o'clock. In the course of one beated discussion Mr. Butt took occasion to repudiate the claim of the obstructives to represent the Irish party, declaring that if he thought such a thing possible he would retire from the political arena altogether. I deny, said he, that those who act contrary to the pledges given to the Irish party are members of that party. I know that the Irish party have repudiated the honourable member for Dungarvan, Mr. O'Donnell (Loud cheers). I would be false to my countrymen if I did not say that; and if I thought the honourable member represented the Irish party, and if the Irish party represented my country—and he does not represent my country—I would retire from Irish politics as from a vulgar brawl in which no man can take part with dignity to himself or advantage to his country (Loud cheers). During the protracted sitting the composition of the House was constantly undergoing a change, members relieving each other at intervals in relays, although a few remained from beginning to end. Between three and four o'clock Mr. Childers relieved Mr. Raikes. At half-past six Mr. W. H. Smith took the chair, and he, in turn, was succeeded by Sir H. Selwin-Ibbetson. After the thirteenth division the minority began to show some signs of flagging. A speech from Captain Nolan provoked a final scene, in the course of which Mr. Gray, in acrimonious language, taunted the Leader of the House with lack of courage to carry out his threat of suspending the Obstructives, and challenged him to attempt it; and Sir W. Harcourt was loudly cheered in explaining that the House bad shown forbearance to the minority, because it wished to give them rope enough,” and to enable the country to understand the grounds on which punishment would be inflicted on them. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in reviewing the situation, remarked significantly that there were now two courses open to the Committee, either to try a last effort to complete the Bill in the regular manner, or to make a report to the House with a view of some action. Upon this Mr. O'Donnell said that as the contest had now ceased to be one of physical endurance, and as a threat of force had been held out, he would not prolong a contest from which he would have withdrawn long ago but for his engagements. The Committee was then, after an interval of nearly ten hours, allowed to resume the consideration of the Clauses, and shortly after two the Bill was completed, and the Chairman amid prolonged cheering, was ordered to report it with amendments to the House. The exact length of the sitting of the Committee was twenty hours and fifty minutes, and one of its noteworthy incidents was the first appearance of Lord Beaconsfield in the House since his withdrawal to a calmer sphere. From the strangers' gallery he watched the scene with an air of curious wonder. As the night and second day of the sitting of the House went on, the liveliest interest was taken

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