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Title: Handbook of Home Rule - Being articles on the Irish question
Author: Gladstone, W. E. (William Ewart), 1809-1898 [Contributor], O'Brien, R. Barry (Richard Barry), 1847-1918 [Contributor], Godkin, Edwin Lawrence, 1831-1902 [Contributor], Thring, Henry Thring, Baron, 1818-1907 [Contributor], Maccoll, Canon [Contributor], Bryce, James Bryce, Viscount, 1838-1922 [Contributor], Morley, John, 1838-1923 [Contributor]
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          HOME RULE


             THE RIGHT HON. W.E. GLADSTONE, M.P.
              E.L. GODKIN, AND R. BARRY O'BRIEN

                      _WITH PREFACE BY_

                          EDITED BY
                      JAMES BRYCE, M.P.

                        SECOND EDITION



Of the articles contained in this volume, those by Mr. Gladstone, Mr.
E.L. Godkin on "A Lawyer's Objections to Home Rule," and Mr. Barry
O'Brien appear for the first time. The others are reprinted from the
_Contemporary Review_, the _Nineteenth Century_, and the _New Princeton
Review_, to the proprietors and editors of which periodicals
respectively the thanks of the several writers and of the editor are
tendered. In most of these reprints some passages of transitory interest
have been omitted, and some few additions have been made.

The object of the writers has been to treat the difficult questions
connected with the Government of Ireland in a dispassionate spirit; and
the volume is offered to the public in the hope that it may, at a time
of warm controversy over passing events, help to lead thoughtful men
back to the consideration of the principles which underlie those
questions, and which it seeks to elucidate by calm discussion and by
references to history.

_October_, 1887.















The present seems an excellent moment for bringing forward the arguments
in favour of a new policy for Ireland, which are to be found in the
articles contained in this volume.

We are realizing the first results of the verdict given at the election
of 1886. And this I interpret as saying that the constituencies were not
then ready to depart from the lines of policy which, up to last year,
nearly all politicians of both parties in Parliament had laid down for
their guidance in Irish affairs.

We have had the Session occupied almost wholly with Lord Salisbury's
proposals for strengthening the power of the central Government to
maintain law and order in Ireland, and for dealing with the most
pressing necessities of the Land question in that country.

It is well, before the policy of the Government is practically tested,
that the views of thoughtful men holding different opinions should be
clearly set forth, not in the shape of polemical speeches, but in
measured articles which specially appeal to those who have not hitherto
joined the fighting ranks of either side, and who are sure to intervene
with great force at the next election, when the Irish question is again
submitted to the constituencies.

I feel that I can add little or nothing to the weight of the arguments
contained in these papers, but I should like to give some reasons why I
earnestly hope that they will receive careful consideration.

The writers have endeavoured to approach their work with impartiality,
and to free themselves from those prejudices which make it difficult for
Englishmen to discuss Irish questions in a fresh and independent train
of thought, and realize how widely Irish customs, laws, traditions, and
sentiments differ from our own.

We are apt to think that what has worked well here will work well in
Ireland; that Irishmen who differ from us are unreasonable; and that
their proposals for change must be mistaken. We do not make allowance
for the soreness of feeling prevailing among men who have long objected
to the system by which Ireland has been governed, and who find that
their earnest appeals for reform have been, until recent times,
contemptuously disregarded by English politicians. Time after time
moderate counsels have been rejected until too late. Acts of an
exceptional character intended to secure law and order have been very
numerous, and every one of them has caused fresh irritation; while
remedial measures have been given in a manner which has not won the
sympathy of the people, because they have not been the work of the Irish
themselves, and have not been prepared in their own way.

Parliament seems during the past Session to have fallen into the same
error. By the power of an English majority, measures have been passed
which are vehemently opposed by the political leaders and the majority
of the Irish nation, and which are only agreeable to a small minority in
Ireland. This action can only succeed if the Irish can be persuaded to
relinquish the national sentiments of Home Rule; and yet this was never
stronger or more vigorous than at the present time. It is supported by
millions of Irish settled in America and in Australia; and here I would
say that it has often struck me that the strong feeling of
dissatisfaction, or, I might say, of disaffection, among the Irish is
fed and nurtured by the marked contrast existing between the social
condition of large numbers of the Irish in the South and West of Ireland
and the views and habits of their numerous relatives in the United

The social condition of many parts of Ireland is as backward, or perhaps
more backward, than the condition of the rural population of England at
the end of last or the beginning of this century. The Irish peasantry
still live in poor hovels, often in the same room with animals; they
have few modern comforts; and yet they are in close communication with
those who live at ease in the cities and farms of the United States.
They are also imbued with all the advanced political notions of the
American Republic, and are sufficiently educated to read the latest
political doctrines in the Press which circulates among them. Their
social condition at home is a hundred years behind their state of
political and mental culture. They naturally contrast the misery of many
Irish peasants with the position of their relatives in the New World.
This cannot but embitter their views against English rulers, and
strengthen their leaning to national sentiments. Their national
aspirations have never died out since 1782. They have taken various
forms; but if the movements arising from them have been put down, fresh
movements have constantly sprung up. The Press has grown into an immense
power, and its influences have all been used to strengthen the zeal for
Irish nationality, while, at the same time, the success of the national
movements in Italy, Hungary, Greece, and Germany have had the same
effect. Lastly, the sentiment of Home Rule has gained the sympathy of
large bodies of electors in the constituencies of Great Britain, and,
under the circumstances, it is difficult to suppose that, even if the
country remains quiet, constitutional agitation will vanish or the Irish
relinquish their most cherished ambition.

We hear, from men who ought to know something of Ireland, that if the
Land question is once settled, and dual ownership practically abolished,
the tenants will be satisfied, and the movement for Home Rule will no
longer find active support in Ireland. Without going into the whole of
this argument, I should like to say two things: first, that I do not
know how a large scheme of Land Purchase can be carried through
Parliament with safety to Imperial interests without establishing, at
the same time, some strong Irish Government in Dublin to act between the
Imperial Government and the tenants of Ireland; and, second, that the
feeling for Home Rule has a vitality of its own which will survive the
Land question, even if independently settled.

Home Rule is an expression of national feeling which cannot be
extinguished in Ireland, and the only safe method of dealing with it is
to turn its force and power to the support of an Irish Government
established for the management of local Irish affairs. There are those
who think that this must lead to separation. I cannot believe in this
fear, for I know of no English statesman who looks upon complete
separation of Ireland from Great Britain as possible. The geographical
position of Ireland, the social and commercial connection between the
two peoples, renders such a thing impossible. The Irish know this, and
they are not so foolish as to think that they could gain their
independence by force of arms; but I do not believe that they desire it.
They are satisfied to obtain the management of their own local affairs
under the _ægis_ of the flag of England. The papers in this volume show
how this can be done with due regard to Imperial interests and the
rights of minorities.

I shall not enlarge on this part of the subject, but I wish to draw
attention to the working of the Irish Government, and the position which
it holds in the country, for it is through its administration that the
policy of the Cabinet will be carried out. At the outset I feel bound to
deprecate the exaggerated condemnation which the "Castle" receives from
its opponents. It has its defects. Notwithstanding efforts of various
ministers to enlarge the circle from which its officials are drawn, it
is still too narrow for the modern development of Irish society, and it
has from time to time been recruited from partisans without sufficient
regard to the efficiency and requirements of the public service. But, on
the whole, its members, taken as individuals, can well bear comparison
with those of other branches of the Civil Service. They are diligent;
they desire to do their duty with impartiality, and to hold an even
balance between many opposing interests in Ireland. Whatever party is in
office, they loyally carry out the policy of their chiefs. They are,
probably, more plastic to the leadership of the heads of departments
than members of some English offices, and they are more quickly moved by
the influences around them. Sometimes they may relapse into an attitude
of indifference and inertness if their chiefs are not active; but, on
the other hand, they will act with vigour and decision if they are led
by men who know their own minds and desire to be firm in the government
of the country.

When speaking of the chiefs of the Irish Civil Service, who change
according to the political party in office, we must not overlook the
legal officers, who exercise a most powerful influence on Irish
administration. They consist of the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney and
Solicitor General, and, until 1883, there was also an officer called the
Law Adviser, who was the maid-of-all-work of Castle administration. In
England, those who hold similar legal offices take no part in the daily
administration of public affairs. The Lord Chancellor, as a member of
the Cabinet, takes his share in responsibility for the policy of the
Government. The law officers are consulted in special cases, and take
their part from time to time in debates in the House of Commons. In
Ireland, however, the Chancellor is constantly consulted by the
Lord-Lieutenant on any difficult matter of administration, and the
Attorney and Solicitor General are in constant communication with the
Lord-Lieutenant, if he carries out the daily work of administration, and
with the Chief and the Under Secretary.

Governments differ as to the use they make of these officials. Some
Governments have endeavoured to confine their work to cases where a mere
legal opinion has to be obtained; but, when the country is in a
disturbed state, even these limited references become very frequent, and
questions of policy as well as of law are often discussed with the law
officers. It is needless to say that, with their knowledge of Ireland
and the traditions of Castle government (it is rare that all the law
officers are new to office, and, consequently, they carry on the
traditions from one Government to another), they often exercise a
paramount influence over the policy of the Irish Government, and
practically control it.

They are connected with the closest and most influential order in Irish
society--the legal order, consisting of the judges and Bar of Ireland.
This adds to the general weight of their advice, but it has a special
bearing when cases of legal reform or administration are under
consideration; it then requires unwonted courage and independence for
the law officers of the Crown to support changes which the lay members
of the Government deem necessary.

I have known conspicuous instances of the exercise of these high
qualities by law officers enabling reforms to be carried, but as a rule,
particularly when the initiative of legal reform is left to them, the
Irish law officers do not care to move against the feeling of the legal
world in Dublin. The lawyers, like other bodies, oppose the diminution
of offices and honours belonging to them, or of the funds which, in the
way of fees and salaries, are distributed among members of the bar; and
they become bitterly hostile to any permanent official who is known to
be a firm legal reformer. It would be impossible for me not to
acknowledge the great service often done to the Government by the able
men who have filled the law offices, yet I feel that under certain
circumstances, when their influence has been allowed too strongly to
prevail, it has tended to narrow the views of the Irish Government, and
to keep it within a circle too narrow for the altered circumstances of
modern life.

The chief peculiarity of the Irish Administration is its extreme
centralization. In this two departments may be mentioned as typical of
the whole--the police and administration of local justice.

The police in Dublin and throughout Ireland are under the control of the
Lord-Lieutenant, and both these forces are admirable of their kind. They
are almost wholly maintained by Imperial funds. The Dublin force costs
about £150,000 a year. The Royal Irish Constabulary costs over a million
in quiet, and a million and a half in disturbed times. Local authorities
have nothing to do with their action or management. Local justice is
administered by unpaid magistrates as in England, but they have been
assisted, and gradually are being supplanted, by magistrates appointed
by the Lord-Lieutenant and paid by the State.

This state of things arose many years ago from the want of confidence
between resident landlords and the bulk of the people. When agrarian or
religious differences disturbed a locality the people distrusted the
local magistrates, and by degrees the system of stipendiary, or, as they
are called, resident magistrates, spread over the country. To maintain
the judicial independence and impartiality of these magistrates is of
the highest importance. At one time this was in some danger, for the
resident magistrates not only heard cases at petty sessions, but, as
executive peace officers, to a very great extent took the control of the
police in their district, not only at riots, but in following up and
discovering offenders. Their position as judicial and executive officers
was thus very unfortunately mixed up. Between 1882 and 1883 the Irish
Government did their utmost to separate and distinguish between these
two functions, and it is to be hoped that the same policy has been and
will be now continued, otherwise grave mischief in the administration of
justice will arise. The existence of this staff of stipendiary
magistrates could not fail to weaken the influence of the gentry in
local affairs, and, at the same time, other causes were at work to
undermine still further their power. The spread of education, the
ballot, the extension of the franchise, communication with America, all
tended to strengthen the political leaning of the tenants towards the
National party in Ireland, and to widen the political differences
between the richer and poorer classes in the country. The result of this
has been, that not only have even the best landlords gradually lost
their power in Parliamentary elections and on elective boards, but the
Government, which greatly relied on them for support, has become

The system of centralization is felt all over the country. It was the
cause of weakness in the disturbed years of 1880 and 1881, and, although
the Irish Executive strengthened themselves by placing officers over
several counties, on whom they devolved a great deal of responsibility,
they did not by these steps meet the real difficulty, which was that
everything that went wrong, whether as to police or magisterial
decisions, was attributed to the management of the Castle.

In this country, local authorities and benches of magistrates, quite
independent of the Home Office, are held responsible for mistakes in
police action or irregularities in local justice. The consequence is
that there is a strong buffer to protect the character and power of the
Home Office.

The absence of such protection in Ireland obviously has a very
prejudicial effect on the permanent influence and popularity of the
Irish Government. But as long as our system of government from England
exists, this centralization cannot be avoided, for it would not be
possible to transfer the responsibility of the police to local
representative bodies, as they are too much opposed to the landlords and
the Government to be trusted when strong party differences arise; nor,
for the same reason, would it be possible to fall back on local men to
administer justice. The fact is, that, out of the Protestant part of
Ulster, the Irish Government receives the cordial support of only the
landed proprietors, and a part of the upper middle classes in the towns.
The feeling of the mass of the people has been so long against them that
no change in the direction of trust in any centralized government of
anti-national character can be expected.

It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to find any Municipal
Council, Boards of Guardians, or Local Boards, in Leinster, Munster, or
Connaught, whose members do not consist of a majority of Nationalists.
At nearly all such assemblies, whenever any important political movement
takes place in the country, or when the Irish Government take any action
which is displeasing to the Nationalists, resolutions are discussed and
carried in a spirit of sharp hostility to the Government.

In Parliamentary elections we also find clear evidence of the strength
of the Nationalists, and the extreme weakness of their opponents. This
is a test which those who accept popular representative government
cannot disregard, particularly at an election when for the first time
the new constituencies were called upon to exercise the privileges
entrusted to them by Parliament. Such was the election of 1885, followed
in 1886 by another General Election. In 1885 contests took place in most
of the Irish constituencies. They were between Liberals allied with
Conservatives, and Parnellites. In 1886 the contests were between those
who called themselves Unionists and Parnellites, and the Irish policy of
Mr. Gladstone was specially referred to the electors.

In regard to the number of members returned on the two sides, the result
of each election was almost identical, but in 1886 there were fewer
contests. We may, then, assume that the relative forces of Parnellites
and Unionists were accurately represented at the election of 1885. If we
take the votes at the election of 1885 for candidates standing as
Nationalists, we shall find, roughly speaking, that they obtained in
round numbers about 300,000 votes, and candidates who stood either as
Liberals or Conservatives about 143,000. But the case is really stronger
than these figures represent it, because in some constituencies the
contests were between Liberals and Conservatives, and there can be no
doubt that in those constituencies a number of Nationalist votes were
given for one or both of such candidates--votes which, therefore, would
have to be deducted from the 143,000, leaving a still heavier majority
on the Nationalist side.[1]

If we look at individual constituencies, we find that in South Kerry
only 133 persons voted for the "Unionist" candidate, while 2742 voted
for the Nationalist. In six out of seven constituencies in Cork where
contests took place 27,692 votes were given for the Nationalists, and
only 1703 for their opponents. In Dublin, in the division which may be
considered the West End constituency of the Irish metropolis, the most
successful man of commerce in Ireland, a leader of society, whose
liberality towards those in his employment is only equalled by his
munificence in all public works, was defeated by over 1900 votes. He did
not stand in 1886, but his successor was defeated by a still larger
majority. These elections show the numbers in Ireland on which the
Government and those who oppose Mr. Parnell's policy can count for

It is absurd to say that these results are caused by terrorism exercised
over the minds of the electors by the agitators in Ireland; the same
results occurred in every part of three provinces, and in part of
Ulster, and the universality of the feeling proves the dominant feeling
of the Irish electors. They show the extreme difficulty, the
impossibility, of gaining that support and confidence which a Government
needs in a free country. As it is, the Irish Government stands isolated
in Ireland, and relies for support solely on England. Is a policy
opposed to national feeling, which has been often, and by different
Ministers, tried in Ireland, likely to succeed in the hands of a
Government such as I have described, and isolated, as I think few will
deny it to be? It is impossible in the long run to maintain it. The
roots of strength are wanting.

If we turn from Dublin to London, we do not find greater prospects of
success. Twice within fourteen months Lord Salisbury has formed a
Government. In 1885 his Cabinet, on taking office, deliberately decided
to rule Ireland without exceptional laws; after a few months, they
announced that they must ask Parliament for fresh powers. They resigned
before they had defined their measures. But within six months Lord
Salisbury was once more Prime Minister, and again commenced his
administration by governing Ireland under the ordinary law. This attempt
did not continue longer than the first, for when Parliament met in 1887,
preparations were at once made to carry the Criminal Law Amendment Act,
which occupied so large a portion of the late Session.

This is not the action of men who have strong faith in their principles.
Nor can it be shown that the continuous support so necessary for success
will be given to this policy. No doubt it may be urged that the
operation of the Act is not limited in duration; but, notwithstanding
that, few politicians believe that the constituencies of Great Britain
will long support the application of exceptional criminal laws to any
part of the United Kingdom.

This would be wholly inconsistent with past experience In relation to
these measures, which points entirely the other way; and the publication
in English newspapers and constant discussion on English platforms of
the painful incidents which seem, unfortunately, inseparable from a
rigid administration of the law in Ireland, together with the prolonged
debates, such incidents give rise to, in Parliament, aggravate the
difficulties of administration, and lead the Irish people to believe
that exceptional legislation will be as short-lived in the future as it
has been in the past.

It was this evidence of want of continuity of policy in 1885, and the
startling disclosure of the weakness of the anti-national party in
Ireland at the election in the autumn of that year, which finally
convinced me that the time had come when we could no longer turn to a
mixed policy of remedial and exceptional criminal legislation as the
means of winning the constituencies of that country in support of our
old system of governing Ireland. That system has failed for eighty-six
years, and obviously cannot succeed when worked with representative
institutions. As the people of Great Britain will not for a moment
tolerate the withdrawal of representative government from Ireland, we
must adopt some new plan. What I have here written deals with but a
fragment of the arguments for Home Rule, some of which are admirably set
forth by the able men who have written the articles to which this is the
preface. I earnestly wish that they may arrest the attention of many
excellent Irishmen who still cling to the old traditions of English
rule, and cause them to realize that the only way of relieving their
country from the intolerable uncertainty which hangs over her
commercial, social, and political interests and paralyzes all efforts
for the improvement of her people, will be to form a Constitution
supported by all classes of the community. I trust that they will join
in this work before it is too late, for they may yet exercise a powerful
and salutary influence in the settlement of this great question.


[Footnote 1: There was one case--North Louth--in which two Nationalists
opposed one another, and I have left that case out of the calculation.]



American experience has been frequently cited, in the course of the
controversy now raging in England over the Irish question, both by way
of warning and of example. For instance, I have found in the _Times_ as
well as in other journals--the _Spectator_, I think, among the
number--very contemptuous dismissals of the plan of offering Ireland a
government like that of an American State, on the ground that the
Americans are loyal to the central authority, while in Ireland there is
a strong feeling of hostility to it, which would probably increase under
Home Rule. The Queen's writ, it has been remarked, cannot be said to run
in large parts of Ireland, while in every part of the United States the
Federal writ is implicitly obeyed, and the ministers of Federal
authority find ready aid and sympathy from the people. If I remember
rightly, the Duke of Argyll has been very emphatic in pointing out the
difference between giving local self-government to a community in which
the tendencies of popular feeling are "centrifugal," and giving it to
one in which these tendencies are "centripetal." The inference to be
drawn was, of course, that as long as Ireland disliked the Imperial
government the concession of Home Rule would be unsafe, and would only
become safe when the Irish people showed somewhat the same sort of
affection for the English connection which the people of the State of
New York now feel for the Constitution of the United States.

Among the multitude of those who have taken part in the controversy on
one side or the other, no one has, so far as I have observed, pointed
out that the state of feeling in America toward the central government
with which the state of feeling in Ireland towards the British
Government is now compared, did not exist when the American Constitution
was set up; that the political tendencies in America at that time were
centrifugal, not centripetal, and that the extraordinary love and
admiration with which Americans now regard the Federal government are
the result of eighty years' experience of its working. The first
Confederation was as much as the people could bear in the way of
surrendering local powers when the War of Independence came to an end.
It was its hopeless failure to provide peace and security which led to
the framing of the present Constitution. But even with this experience
still fresh, the adoption of the Constitution was no easy matter. I
shall not burden this article with historical citations showing the very
great difficulty which the framers of the Constitution had in inducing
the various States to adopt it, or the magnitude and variety of the
fears and suspicions with which, many of the most influential men in all
parts of the country regarded it. Any one who wishes to know how
numerous and diversified these fears and suspicions were, cannot do
better than read the series of papers known as "The Federalist," written
mainly by Hamilton and Madison, to commend the new plan to the various
States. It was adopted almost as a matter of necessity, that is, as the
only way out of the Slough of Despond in which the Confederation had
plunged the union of the States; but the objections to it which were
felt at the beginning were only removed by actual trial. Hamilton's two
colleagues, as delegates from New York, Yates and Lansing, withdrew in
disgust from the Convention, as soon as the Constitution was outlined,
and did not return. The notion that the Constitution was produced by the
craving of the American people for something of that sort to love and
revere, and that it was not bestowed on them until they had given ample
assurance that they would lavish affection on it, has no foundation
whatever in fact. The devotion of Americans to the Union is, indeed, as
clear a case of cause and effect as is to be found in political history.
They have learned to like the Constitution because the country has
prospered under it, and because it has given them all the benefits of
national life without interference with local liberties. If they had not
set up a central government until the centrifugal sentiment had
disappeared from the States, and the feeling of loyalty for a central
authority had fully shown itself, they would assuredly never have set it
up at all.

Moreover, it has to be borne in mind that the adoption of the
Constitution did not involve the surrender of any local franchises, by
which the people of the various States set great store. The States
preserved fully four-fifths of their autonomy, or in fact nearly all of
it which closely concerned the daily lives of individuals. Set aside the
post-office, and a citizen of the State of New York, not engaged in
foreign trade, might, down to the outbreak of the Civil War, have passed
a long and busy life without once coming in contact with a United States
official, and without being made aware in any of his doings, by any
restriction or regulation, that he was living under any government but
that of his own State. If he went abroad he had to apply for a United
States passport. If he quarrelled with a foreigner, or with the citizen
of another State, he might be sued in the Federal Court. If he imported
foreign goods he had to pay duties to the collector of a Federal
Custom-house. If he invented something, or wrote a book, he had to
apply to the Department of the Interior for a patent or a copyright. But
how few there were in the first seventy years of American history who
had any of these experiences! No one supposes, or has ever supposed,
that had the Federalists demanded any very large sacrifice of local
franchises, or attempted to set up even a close approach to a
centralized Government, the adoption of the Constitution would have been
possible. If, for instance, such a transfer of both administration and
legislation to the central authority as took place in Ireland after the
Union had been proposed, it would have been rejected with derision. You
will get no American to argue with you on this point. If you ask him
whether he thinks it likely that a highly centralized government could
have been created in 1879--such a one, for example, as Ireland has been
under since 1800--or whether if created it would by this time have won
the affection of the people, or filled them with centripetal tendencies,
he will answer you with a smile.

The truth is that nowhere, any more than in Ireland, do people love
their Government from a sense of duty or because they crave an object of
political affection, or even because it exalts them in the eyes of
foreigners. They love it because they are happy or prosperous under it;
because it supplies security in the form best suited to their tastes and
habits, or in some manner ministers to their self-love. Loyalty to the
king as the Lord's anointed, without any sense either of favours
received or expected, has played a great part in European politics, I
admit; but, for reasons which I will not here take up space in stating,
a political arrangement, whether it be an elected monarch or a
constitution, cannot be made, in our day, to reign in men's hearts
except as the result of benefits so palpable that common people, as well
as political philosophers, can see them and count them.

Many of the opponents of Home Rule, too, point to the vigour with which
the United States Government put down the attempt made by the South to
break up the Union as an example of the American love of "imperial
unity," and of the spirit in which England should now meet the Irish
demands for local autonomy. This again is rather surprising, because you
will find no one in America who will maintain for one moment that troops
could have been raised in 1860 to undertake the conquest of the South
for the purpose of setting up a centralized administration, or, in other
words, for the purpose of wiping out State lines, or diminishing State
authority. No man or party proposed anything of this kind at the
outbreak of the war, or would have dared to propose it. The object for
which the North rose in arms, and which Lincoln had in view when he
called for troops, was the restoration of the Union just as it was when
South Carolina seceded, barring the extension of slavery into the
territories. During the first year of the war, certainly, the revolted
States might at any time have had peace on the _status quo_ basis, that
is, without the smallest diminution of their rights and immunities under
the Constitution. It was only when it became evident that the war would
have to be fought out to a finish, as the pugilists say--that is, that
it would have to end in a complete conquest of the Southern
territory--that the question, what would become of the States as a
political organization after the struggle was over, began to be debated
at all. What did become of them? How did Americans deal with Home Rule,
after it had been used to set on foot against the central authority what
the newspapers used to delight in calling "the greatest rebellion the
world ever saw"? The answer to these questions is, it seems to me, a
contribution of some value to the discussion of the Irish problem in its
present stage, if American precedents can throw any light whatever on

There was a Joint Committee of both Houses of Congress appointed in
1866 to consider the condition of the South with reference to the safety
or expediency of admitting the States lately in rebellion to their old
relations to the Union, including representation in Congress. It
contained, besides such fanatical enemies of the South as Thaddeus
Stevens, such very conservative men as Mr. Fessenden, Mr. Grimes, Mr.
Morrill, and Mr. Conkling. Here is the account they gave of the
condition of Southern feeling one year after Lee's surrender:--

"Examining the evidence taken by your committee still further, in
connection with facts too notorious to be disputed, it appears that the
Southern press, with few exceptions, and those mostly of newspapers
recently established by Northern men, abounds with weekly and daily
abuse of the institutions and people of the loyal States; defends the
men who led, and the principles which incited, the rebellion; denounces
and reviles Southern men who adhered to the Union; and strives
constantly and unscrupulously, by every means in its power, to keep
alive the fire of hate and discord between the sections; calling upon
the President to violate his oath of office, overturn the Government by
force of arms, and drive the representatives of the people from their
seats in Congress. The national banner is openly insulted, and the
national airs scoffed at, not only by an ignorant populace, but at
public meetings, and once, among other notable instances, at a dinner
given in honour of a notorious rebel who had violated his oath and
abandoned his flag. The same individual is elected to an important
office in the leading city of his State, although an unpardoned rebel,
and so offensive that the President refuses to allow him to enter upon
his official duties. In another State the leading general of the rebel
armies is openly nominated for Governor by the Speaker of the House of
Delegates, and the nomination is hailed by the people with shouts of
satisfaction, and openly endorsed by the press....

"The evidence of an intense hostility to the Federal Union, and an
equally intense love of the late Confederacy, nurtured by the war is
decisive. While it appears that nearly all are willing to submit, at
least for the time being, to the Federal authority, it is equally clear
that the ruling motive is a desire to obtain the advantages which will
be derived from a representation in Congress. Officers of the Union army
on duty, and Northern men who go south to engage in business, are
generally detested and proscribed. Southern men who adhered to the Union
are bitterly hated and relentlessly persecuted. In some localities
prosecutions have been instituted in State courts against Union officers
for acts done in the line of official duty, and similar prosecutions are
threatened elsewhere as soon as the United States troops are removed.
All such demonstrations show a state of feeling against which it is
unmistakably necessary to guard.

"The testimony is conclusive that after the collapse of the Confederacy
the feeling of the people of the rebellious States was that of abject
submission. Having appealed to the tribunal of arms, they had no hope
except that by the magnanimity of their conquerors, their lives, and
possibly their property, might be preserved. Unfortunately the general
issue of pardons to persons who had been prominent in the rebellion, and
the feeling of kindliness and conciliation manifested by the Executive,
and very generally indicated through the Northern press, had the effect
to render whole communities forgetful of the crime they had committed,
defiant towards the Federal Government, and regardless of their duties
as citizens. The conciliatory measures of the Government do not seem to
have been met even half-way. The bitterness and defiance exhibited
towards the United States under such circumstances is without a parallel
in the history of the world. In return for our leniency we receive only
an insulting denial of our authority. In return for our kind desire for
the resumption of fraternal relations we receive only an insolent
assumption of rights and privileges long since forfeited. The crime we
have punished is paraded as a virtue, and the principles of republican
government which we have vindicated at so terrible a cost are denounced
as unjust and oppressive.

"If we add to this evidence the fact that, although peace has been
declared by the President, he has not, to this day, deemed it safe to
restore the writ of _habeas corpus_, to relieve the insurrectionary
States of martial law, nor to withdraw the troops from many localities,
and that the commanding general deems an increase of the army
indispensable to the preservation of order and the protection of loyal
and well-disposed people in the South, the proof of a condition of
feeling hostile to the Union and dangerous to the Government throughout
the insurrectionary States would seem to be overwhelming."

This Committee recommended a series of coercive measures, the first of
which was the adoption of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution,
which disqualified for all office, either under the United States or
under any State, any person who having in any capacity taken an oath of
allegiance to the United States afterwards engaged in rebellion or gave
aid and comfort to the rebels. This denied the _jus honorum_ to all the
leading men at the South who had survived the war. In addition to it, an
Act was passed in March, 1867, which put all the rebel States under
military rule until a constitution should have been framed by a
Convention elected by all males over twenty-one, except such as would be
excluded from office by the above-named constitutional amendment if it
were adopted, which at that time it had not been. Another Act was passed
three weeks later, prescribing, for voters in the States lately in
rebellion, what was known as the "ironclad oath," which excluded from
the franchise not only all who had borne arms against the United States,
but all who, having ever held any office for which the taking an oath of
allegiance to the United States was a qualification, had afterwards ever
given "aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." This practically
disfranchised all the white men of the South over twenty-five years old.

On this legislation there grew up, as all the world now knows, what was
called the "carpet-bag" _regime_. Swarms of Northern adventurers went
down to the Southern States, organized the ignorant negro voters,
constructed State constitutions to suit themselves, got themselves
elected to all the chief offices, plundered the State treasuries,
contracted huge State debts, and stole the proceeds in connivance with
legislatures composed mainly of negroes, of whom the most intelligent
and instructed had been barbers and hotel-waiters. In some of the
States, such as South Carolina and Mississippi, in which the negro
population were in the majority, the government became a mere
caricature. I was in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, in 1872,
during the session of the legislature, when you could obtain the passage
of almost any measure you pleased by a small payment--at that time seven
hundred dollars--to an old negro preacher who controlled the coloured
majority. Under the pretence of fitting up committee-rooms, the private
lodging-rooms at the boarding-houses of the negro members, in many
instances, were extravagantly furnished with Wilton and Brussels
carpets, mirrors, and sofas. A thousand dollars were expended for two
hundred elegant imported china spittoons. There were only one hundred
and twenty-three members in the House of Representatives, but the
residue were, perhaps, transferred to the private chambers of the

Now, how did the Southern whites deal with this state of things? Well, I
am sorry to say they manifested their discontent very much in the way
in which the Irish have for the last hundred years been manifesting
theirs. If, as the English opponents of Home Rule seem to think,
readiness to commit outrages, and refusal to sympathize with the victims
of outrages, indicate political incapacity, the whites of the South
showed, in the period between 1866 and 1876, that they were utterly
unfit to be entrusted with the work of self-government. They could not
rise openly in revolt because the United States troops were everywhere
at the service of the carpet-baggers, for the suppression of armed
resistance. They did not send petitions to Congress, or write letters to
the Northern newspapers, or hold indignation meetings. They simply
formed a huge secret society on the model of the "Molly Maguires" or
"Moonlighters," whose special function was to intimidate, flog,
mutilate, or murder political opponents in the night time. This society
was called the "Ku-Klux Klan." Let me give some account of its
operation, and I shall make it as brief as possible. It had become so
powerful in 1871 that President Grant in that year, in his message to
Congress, declared that "a condition of things existed in some of the
States of the Union rendering life and property insecure, and the
carrying of the mails and the collecting of the revenue dangerous." A
Joint Select Committee of Congress was accordingly appointed, early in
1872, to "inquire into the condition of affairs in the late
insurrectionary States, so far as regards the execution of the laws and
the safety of the lives and property of the citizens of the United
States." Its report now lies before me, and it reads uncommonly like the
speech of an Irish Secretary in the House of Commons bringing in a
"Suppression of Crime Bill." The Committee say--

"There is a remarkable concurrence of testimony to the effect that, in
those of the late rebellious States into whose condition we have
examined, the courts and juries administer justice between man and man
in all ordinary cases, civil and criminal; and while there is this
concurrence on this point, the evidence is equally decisive that redress
cannot be obtained against those who commit crimes in disguise and at
night. The reasons assigned are that identification is difficult, almost
impossible; that, when this is attempted, the combinations and oaths of
the order come in and release the culprit by perjury, either upon the
witness-stand or in the jury-box; and that the terror inspired by their
acts, as well as the public sentiment in their favour in many
localities, paralyzes the arm of civil power.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The murders and outrages which have been perpetrated in many counties
of Middle and West Tennessee, during the past few months, have been so
numerous, and of such an aggravated character, as almost baffles
investigation. In these counties a reign of terror exists which is so
absolute in its nature that the best of citizens are unable or unwilling
to give free expression to their opinions. The terror inspired by the
secret organization known as the Ku-Klux Klan is so great, that the
officers of the law are powerless to execute its provisions, to
discharge their duties, or to bring the guilty perpetrators of these
outrages to the punishment they deserve. Their stealthy movements are
generally made under cover of night, and under masks and disguises,
which render their identification difficult, if not impossible. To add
to the secrecy which envelops their operations, is the fact that no
information of their murderous acts can be obtained without the greatest
difficulty and danger in the localities where they are committed. No one
dares to inform upon them, or take any measures to bring them to
punishment, because no one can tell but that he may be the next victim
of their hostility or animosity. The members of this organization, with
their friends, aiders, and abettors, take especial pains to conceal all
their operations.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Your committee believe that during the past six months, the murders--to
say nothing of other outrages--would average one a day, or one for every
twenty-four hours; that in the great majority of these cases they have
been perpetrated by the Ku-Klux above referred to, and few, if any, have
been brought to punishment. A number of the counties of this State
(Tennessee) are entirely at the mercy of this organization, and roving
bands of nightly marauders bid defiance to the civil authorities, and
threaten to drive out every man, white or black, who does not submit to
their arbitrary dictation. To add to the general lawlessness of these
communities, bad men of every description take advantage of the
circumstances surrounding them, and perpetrate acts of violence, from
personal or pecuniary motives, under the plea of political necessity."

Here is some of the evidence on which the report was based.

A complaint of outrages committed in Georgia was referred by the general
of the army, in June, 1869, to the general of the Department of the
South for thorough investigation and report. General Terry, in his
report, made August 14, 1869, says[2]--

"In many parts of the State there is practically no government. The
worst of crimes are committed, and no attempt is made to punish those
who commit them. Murders have been and are frequent; the abuse, in
various ways, of the blacks is too common to excite notice. There can be
no doubt of the existence of numerous insurrectionary organizations
known as 'Ku-Klux Klans,' who, shielded by their disguise, by the
secrecy of their movements, and by the terror which they inspire,
perpetrate crime with impunity. There is great reason to believe that in
some cases local magistrates are in sympathy with the members of these
organizations. In many places they are overawed by them and dare not
attempt to punish them. To punish such offenders by civil proceedings
would be a difficult task, even were magistrates in all cases disposed
and had they the courage to do their duty, for the same influences which
govern them equally affect juries and witnesses."

Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Merrill, who assumed command (in Louisiana) on
the 26th of March, and commenced investigation into the state of
affairs, says (p. 1465)--

"From the best information I can get, I estimate the number of cases of
whipping, beating, and personal violence of various grades, in this
county, since the first of last November, at between three and four
hundred, excluding numerous minor cases of threats, intimidation, abuse,
and small personal violence, as knocking down with a pistol or gun, etc.
The more serious outrages, exclusive of murders and whippings, noted
hereafter, have been the following:--"

He then proceeds with the details of sixty-eight cases, giving the names
of the parties injured, white and black, and including the tearing up of
the railway, on the night before a raid was made by the Ku-Klux on the
county treasury building. The rails were taken up, to prevent the
arrival of the United States troops, who, it was known, were to come on
Sunday morning. The raid was made on that Sunday night while the troops
were lying at Chester, twenty-two miles distant, unable to reach
Yorkville, because of the rails being torn up.

Another witness said: "To give the details of the whipping of men to
compel them to change their mode of voting, the tearing of them away
from their families at night, accompanied with insults and outrage, and
followed by their murder, would be but repeating what has been described
in other States, showing that it is the same organization in all,
working by the same means for the same end. Five murders are shown to
have been committed in Monroe County, fifteen in Noxubee, one in
Lowndes, by the testimony taken in the city of Washington; but the
extent to which school-houses were burnt, teachers whipped, and outrages
committed in this State, cannot be fully given until the testimony taken
by the sub-committee shall have been printed and made ready to report."

There are about eighty, closely printed, large octavo pages of this kind
of testimony given by sufferers from the outrages.

Something was done to suppress the Ku-Klux by a Federal Act passed in
1871, which made offences of this kind punishable in the Federal Courts.
Considerable numbers of them were arrested, tried, and convicted, and
sent to undergo their punishment in the Northern jails. But there was no
complete pacification of the South until the carpet-bag governments were
refused the support of the Federal troops by President Hayes, on his
accession to power in 1876. Then the carpet-bag _régime_ disappeared
like a house of cards. The chief carpet-baggers fled, and the government
passed at once into the hands of the native whites. I do not propose to
defend or explain the way in which they have since then kept it in their
hands, by suppressing or controlling the negro vote. This is not
necessary to my purpose.

What I seek to show is that the Irish are not peculiar in their manner
of expressing their discontent with a government directed or controlled
by the public opinion of another indifferent or semi-hostile community
which it is impossible to resist in open warfare; that Anglo-Saxons
resort to somewhat the same methods under similar circumstances, and
that lawlessness and cruelty, considered as expressions of political
animosity, do not necessarily argue any incapacity for the conduct of an
orderly and efficient government, although I admit freely that they do
argue a low state of civilization.

I will add one more illustration which, although more remote than those
which I have taken from the Southern States during the reconstruction
period, is not too remote for my purpose, and is in some respects
stronger than any of them. I do not know a more orderly community in the
world, or one which, down to the outbreak of the Civil War, when
manufactures began to multiply, and the Irish immigration began to pour
in, had a higher average of intelligence than the State of Connecticut.
Down to 1818 all voters in that State had to be members of the
Congregational Church. It had no large cities, and this, with the aid of
its seat of learning, Yale College, preserved in it, I think, in greater
purity than even Massachusetts, the old Puritan simplicity of manners,
the Puritan spirit of order and thrift, and the business-like view of
government which grew out of the practice of town government. A less
sentimental community, I do not think, exists anywhere, or one in which
the expression of strong feeling on any subject but religion is less
cultivated or viewed with less favour. In the matter of managing their
own political affairs in peace or war, I do not expect the Irish to
equal the Connecticut people for a hundred years to come, no matter how
much practice they may have in the interval, and I think that fifty
years ago it was only picked bodies of Englishmen who could do so. Yet,
in 1833, in the town of Canterbury, one of the most orderly and
intelligent in the State, an estimable and much-esteemed lady, Miss
Prudence Crandall, was carrying on a girls' school, when something
happened to touch her conscience about the condition of the free negroes
of the North. She resolved, in a moment of enthusiasm, to undertake the
education of negro girls only. What follows forms one of the most famous
episodes in the anti-slavery struggle in America, and is possibly
familiar to many of the older readers of this article. I shall extract
the account of it as given briefly in the lately published life of
William Lloyd Garrison, by his sons. Some of the details are much worse
than is here described.

"The story of this remarkable case cannot be pursued here except in
brief.... It will be enough to say that the struggle between the modest
and heroic young Quaker woman and the town lasted for nearly two years;
that the school was opened in April; that attempts were immediately made
under the law to frighten the pupils away and to fine Miss Crandall for
harbouring them; that in May an Act prohibiting private schools for
non-resident coloured persons, and providing for the expulsion of the
latter, was procured from the legislature, amid the greatest rejoicing
in Canterbury (even to the ringing of church bells); that, under this
Act, Miss Crandall was in June arrested and temporarily imprisoned in
the county jail, twice tried (August and October) and convicted; that
her case was carried up to the Supreme Court of Errors, and her
persecutors defeated on a technicality (July, 1834), and that pending
this litigation the most vindictive and inhuman measures were taken to
isolate the school from the countenance and even the physical support of
the townspeople. The shops and the meeting-house were closed against
teacher and pupils, carriage in the public conveyances was denied them,
physicians would not wait upon them, Miss Crandall's own family and
friends were forbidden, under penalty of heavy fines, to visit her, the
well was filled with manure and water from other sources refused, the
house itself was smeared with filth, assailed with rotten eggs and
stones, and finally set on fire" (vol. i. p. 321).

Miss Crandall is still living in the West, in extreme old age, and the
Connecticut legislature voted her a small pension two years ago, as a
slight expiation of the ignominy and injustice from which she had
suffered at the hands of a past generation.

The _Spectator_ frequently refers to the ferocious hatred displayed
toward the widow of Curtin, the man who was cruelly murdered by
moonlighters somewhere in Kerry, as an evidence of barbarism which
almost, if not quite, justifies the denial of self-government to a
people capable of producing such monsters in one spot and on one
occasion. Let me match this from Mississippi with a case which I
produce, not because it was singular, but because it was notorious at
the North, where it occurred, in 1877. One Chisholm, a native of the
State, and a man of good standing and character, became a Republican
after the war, and was somewhat active in organizing the negro voters in
his district. He was repeatedly warned by some of his neighbours to
desist and abandon politics, but continued resolutely on his course. A
mob, composed of many of the leading men in the town, then attacked him
in his house. He made his escape, with his wife and young daughter and
son, a lad of fourteen, to the jail. His assailants broke the jail open,
and killed him and his son, and desperately wounded the daughter. The
poor lad received such a volley of bullets, that his blood went in one
rush to the floor, and traced the outlines of his trunk on the ceiling
of the room below, where it remained months afterwards, an eye-witness
told me, as an illustration of the callousness of the jailer. The
leading murderers were tried. They had no defence. The facts were not
disputed. The judge and the bar did their duty, but the jury acquitted
the prisoners without leaving their seats. Mrs. Chisholm, the widow,
found neither sympathy nor friends at the scene of the tragedy. She had
to leave the State, and found refuge in Washington, where she now holds
a clerkship in the Treasury department.

Let me cite as another illustration the violent ways in which popular
discontent may find expression in communities whose political capacity
and general respect for the law and its officers, as well as for the
sanctity of contracts, have never been questioned. Large tracts of land
were formerly held along the Hudson river in the State of New York, by a
few families, of which the Van Rensselaers and the Livingstons were the
chief, either under grants from the Dutch at the first settlement of the
colony, or from the English Crown after the conquest. That known as the
"Manor of Rensselaerwick," held by the Van Rensselaers, comprised a
tract of country extending twenty-four miles north and south, and
forty-eight miles east and west, lying on each side of the Hudson river.
It was held by the tenants for perpetual leases. The rents were, on the
Van Rensselaer estate, fourteen bushels of wheat for each hundred acres,
and four fat hens, and one day's service with a carriage and horses, to
each farm of one hundred and sixty acres. Besides this, there was a fine
on alienation amounting to about half a year's rent. The Livingston
estates were let in much the same way.

In 1839, Stephen Van Rensselaer, the proprietor, or "Patroon" as he was
called, died, with $400,000 due to him as arrears from the tenants, for
which, being a man of easy temper, he had forborne to press them. But he
left the amount in trust by his will for the payment of his debts, and
his heirs proceeded to collect it, and persisted in the attempt during
the ensuing seven years. What then happened I shall describe in the
words of Mr. John Bigelow. Mr. Tilden was a member of the State
Legislature in 1846, and was appointed Chairman of a Committee to
investigate the rent troubles, and make the report which furnished the
basis for the legislation by which they were subsequently settled. Mr.
Bigelow, who has edited Mr. Tilden's _Public Writings and Speeches_,
prefaces the report with the following explanatory note:--

"Attempts were made to enforce the collection of these rents. The
tenants resisted. They established armed patrols, and, by the adoption
of various disguises, were enabled successfully to defy the civil
authorities. Eventually it became necessary to call out the military,
but the result was only partially satisfactory. These demonstrations of
authority provoked the formation of 'anti-rent clubs' throughout the
manorial district, with a view of acquiring a controlling influence in
the legislature. Small bands, armed and disguised as Indians, were also
formed to hold themselves in readiness at all times to resist the
officers of the law whenever and wherever they attempted to serve legal
process upon the tenants. The principal roads throughout the infected
district were guarded by the bands so carefully, and the animosity
between the tenants and the civil authorities was so intense, that at
last it became dangerous for any one not an anti-renter to be found in
these neighbourhoods. It was equally dangerous for the landlords to make
any appeal to the law or for the collection of rents or for protection
of their persons. When Governor Wright entered upon his duties in Albany
in 1845, he found that the anti-rent party had a formidable
representation in the legislature, and that the questions involved were
assuming an almost national importance."

The sheriff made gallant attempts to enforce the law, but his deputies
were killed, and a legal investigation in which two hundred persons were
examined, failed to reveal the perpetrators of the crime. The militia
were called out, but they were no more successful than the sheriff. In
the case of one murder committed in Delaware County in 1845, however,
two persons were convicted, but their sentence was commuted to
imprisonment for life. Various others concerned in the disturbances were
convicted of minor offences, but when Governor Young succeeded Governor
Seward after an election in which the anti-renters showed considerable
voting strength, he pardoned them all on the ground that their crimes
were political. The dispute was finally settled by a compromise--that
is, the Van Rensselaers and the Livingstons both sold their estates,
giving quit-claim deeds to the tenants for what they chose to pay, and
the granting of agricultural leases for a longer term than twelve years
was forbidden by the State Constitution of 1846.

This anti-rent agitation is described by Professor Johnston of
Princeton, in the _Cyclopædia of Political Science_, as "a reign of
terror which for ten years practically suspended the operations of law
and the payment of rent throughout the district." Suppose all the land
of the State had been held under similar tenures; that the controversy
had lasted one hundred years; that the rents had been high; and that the
Van Rensselaers and the Livingstons had had the aid of the Federal army
in enforcing distraints and evictions, and in enabling them to set local
opinion at defiance, what do you suppose the state of morals and manners
would have been in New York by this time? What would have been the
feelings of the people towards the Federal authority had the matter been
finally adjusted with the strong hand, in accordance, not with the views
of the people of the State, but of the landholders of South Carolina or
of the district of Columbia? I am afraid they would have been terribly

I know very well the risk I run, in citing all these precedents and
parallels, of seeming to justify, or at all events to palliate, Irish
lawlessness. But I am not doing anything of the kind. I am trying to
illustrate a somewhat trite remark which I recently made: "that
government is a very practical business, and that those succeed best in
it who bring least sentiment or enthusiasm to the conduct of their
affairs." The government of Ireland, like the government of all other
countries, is a piece of business--a very difficult piece of business, I
admit--and therefore horror over Irish doings, and the natural and human
desire to "get even with" murderers and moonlighters, by denying the
community which produces them something it would like much to possess,
should have no influence with those who are charged with Irish
government. It is only in nurseries and kindergartens that we can give
offenders their exact due and withhold their toffee until they have
furnished satisfactory proofs of repentance. Rulers of men have to
occupy themselves mainly with the question of drying up the sources of
crime, and often, in order to accomplish this, to let much crime and
disorder go unwhipped of justice.

With the state of mind which cannot bear to see any concessions made to
the Irish Nationalists because they are such wicked men, in which so
many excellent Englishmen, whom we used to think genuine political
philosophers, are now living, we are very familiar in the United States.
It is a state of mind which prevailed in the Republican party with
regard to the South, down to the election of 1884, and found constant
expression on the stump and in the newspapers in what is described, in
political slang, as "waving the bloody shirt." It showed itself after
the war in unwillingness to release the South from military rule; then
in unwillingness to remove the disfranchisement of the whites or to
withdraw from the carpet-bag State governments the military support
without which they could not have existed for a day; and, last of all,
in dread of the advent of a Democratic Federal Administration in which
Southerners or "ex-rebels" would be likely to hold office. At first the
whole Republican party was more or less permeated by these ideas; but
the number of those who held them gradually diminished, until in 1884 it
was at last possible to elect a Democratic President. Nevertheless a
great multitude witnessed the entrance into the White House of a
President who is indebted for his election mainly to the States formerly
in rebellion, with genuine alarm. They feared from it something
dreadful, in the shape either of a violation of the rights of the
freedmen, or of an assault on the credit and stability of the Federal
Government. Nothing but actual experiment would have disabused them.

I am very familiar with the controversy with them, for I have taken some
part in it ever since the passage of the reconstruction Acts, and I know
very well how they felt, and am sometimes greatly impressed by the
similarity between their arguments and those of the opponents of Irish
Home Rule. One of their fixed beliefs for many years, though it is now
extinct, was that Southerners were so bent on rebelling again, and were
generally so prone to rebellion, that the awful consequences of their
last attempt in the loss of life and property, had made absolutely no
impression on them. The Southerner was, in fact, in their eyes, what Mr.
Gladstone says the Irishman is in the eyes of some Englishmen: "A _lusus
naturæ_; that justice, common sense, moderation, national prosperity had
no meaning for him; that all he could appreciate was strife and
perpetual dissension. It was for many years useless to point out to them
the severity of the lesson taught by the Civil War as to the physical
superiority of the North, or the necessity of peace and quiet to enable
the new generation of Southerners to restore their fortunes, or even
gain a livelihood. Nor was it easy to impress them with the
inconsistency of arguing that it was slavery which made Southerners what
they were before they went to war, and maintaining at the same time that
the disappearance of slavery would produce no change in their manners,
ideas, or opinions. All this they answered by pointing to speeches
delivered by some fiery adorer of "the lost cause," to the Ku-Klux
outrages, to political murders, like that of Chisholm, to the building
of monuments to the Confederate dead, or to some newspaper expression of
reverence for Confederate nationality. In fact, for fully ten years
after the close of the war the collection of Southern "outrages" and
their display before Northern audiences, was the chief work of
Republican politicians. In 1876, during the Hayes-Tilden canvass, the
opening speech which furnished what is called "the key-note of the
campaign" was made by Mr. Wheeler, the Republican candidate for the
Vice-Presidency, and his advice to the Vermonters, to whom it was
delivered, was "to vote as they shot," that is, to go to the polls with
the same feelings and aims as those with which they enlisted in the war.

I need hardly tell English readers how all this has ended. The
withdrawal of the Federal troops from the South by President Hayes, and
the consequent complete restoration of the State governments to the
discontented whites, have fully justified the expectations of those who
maintained that it is no less true in politics than in physics, that if
you remove what you see to be the cause, the effect will surely
disappear. It is true, at least in the Western world, that if you give
communities in a reasonable degree the management of their own affairs,
the love of material comfort and prosperity which is now so strong among
all civilized, and even partially civilized men, is sure in the long run
to do the work of creating and maintaining order; or, as Mr. Gladstone
has expressed it, in setting up a government, "the best and surest
foundation we can find to build on is the foundation afforded by the
affections, the convictions, and the will of men."


[Footnote 2: Report of Secretary of War, 1869-70, vol. i. p. 89.]



In the Home Rule contest of the last eighteen months no argument has
been more frequently used against the Liberal party than the charge of
sudden, and therefore, it would seem, dishonest change of view. "You
were opposed to an Irish Parliament at the election of 1880 and for some
time afterward; you are not entitled to advocate it in 1886." "You
passed a Coercion Bill in 1881, your Ministry (though against the
protests of an active section of its supporters) passed another Coercion
Bill in 1882; you have no right to resist a third such Bill in 1887,
and, if you do, your conduct can be due to nothing but party spite and
revenge at your own exclusion from office." Reproaches of this kind are
now the stock-in-trade, not merely of the ordinary politician, who, for
want of a case, abuses the plaintiff's attorney, but of leading men,
and, still more, of leading newspapers, who might be thought bound to
produce from recent events and an examination of the condition of
Ireland some better grounds for the passion they display. It is
noticeable that such reproaches come more often from the so-called
Liberal Unionists than from the present Ministry. Perhaps, with their
belief that all Liberals are unprincipled revolutionaries, the Tories
deem a sin more or less to be of small account. Perhaps a recollection
of their own remarkable gyrations, before and after the General
Election of 1885, may suggest that the less said about the past the
better for everybody. Be the cause what it may, it is surprising to find
that a section commanding so much ability as the group of Dissentient
Liberals does, should rely rather on the charge of inconsistency than on
the advocacy of any counter-policy of their own. It is not large and
elevated, but petty, minds that rejoice to say to an opponent (and all
the more so if he was once a friend), "You must either be wrong now, or
have been wrong then, because you have changed your opinion. I have not
changed; I was right then, and I am right now." Such an argument not
only dispenses with the necessity of sifting the facts, but it fosters
the satisfaction of the person who employs it. Consistency is the pet
virtue of the self-righteous, and the man who values himself on his
consistency can seldom be induced to see that to shut one's eyes to the
facts which time develops, to refuse to reconsider one's position by the
light they shed, to cling to an old solution when the problem is
substantially new, is a proof, not of fortitude and wisdom, but rather
of folly and conceit.

Such persons may be left to the contemplation of their own virtues. But
there are many fair-minded men of both political parties, or of neither,
who, while acquitting those Liberal members who supported Home Rule in
1886 and opposed Coercion in 1887 of the sordid or spiteful motives with
which the virulence of journalism credits them, have nevertheless been
surprised at the apparent swiftness and completeness of the change in
their opinions. It would be idle to deny that, in startling the minds of
steady-going people, this change did, for the moment, weaken the
influence and weight of those who had changed. This must be so. A man
who says now what he denied six years ago cannot expect to be believed
on his _ipse dixit_. He must set forth the grounds of his conviction. He
must explain how his views altered, and why reasons which formerly
satisfied him satisfy him no longer. It may be that the Liberal party
have omitted to do this as they ought. Occupied by warm and incessant
discussions, and conscious, I venture to believe, of their own honesty,
few of its members have been at the trouble of showing what were the
causes which modified their views, and what the stages of the process
which carried them from the position of 1880 to that of 1886.

Of that process I shall attempt in the following pages to give a sketch.
Such a sketch, though mainly retrospective, is pertinent to the issues
which now divide the country. It will indicate the origin and the
strength of the chief reasons by which Liberals are now governed. And,
if executed with proper fairness and truth, it may, as a study in
contemporary history, be of some little interest to those who in future
will attempt to understand our present conflict. The causes which
underlie changes of opinion are among the most obscure phenomena in
history, because those who undergo, these changes are often only half
conscious of them, and do not think of recording that which is
imperceptible in its growth, and whose importance is not realized till
it already belongs to the past.

The account which follows is based primarily on my own recollection of
the phases of opinion and feeling through which I myself, and the
friends whom I knew most intimately in the House of Commons, passed
during the Parliament which sat from 1880 till 1885. But I should not
think of giving it to the public if I did not believe that what happened
to our minds happened to many others also, and that the record of our
own slow movement from the position of 1880 to that of 1886 is
substantially a record of the movement of the Liberal party at large. We
were fairly typical members of that party, loyal to our leaders, but
placing the principles for which the Liberal party exists above the
success of the party itself; with our share of prepossessions and
prejudices, yet with reasonably open minds, and (as we believed)
inferior to no other section of the House of Commons in patriotism and
in attachment to the Constitution. I admit frankly that when we entered
Parliament we knew less about the Irish question than we ought to have
known, and that even after knowledge had been forced upon us, we were
more deferential to our leaders than was good either for us or for them.
But these are faults always chargeable on the great majority of members.
It is because those of whom I speak were in these respects fairly
typical, that it seems worth while to trace the history of their
opinions. If any one should accuse me of attributing to an earlier year
sentiments which began to appear in a later one, I can only reply that I
am aware of this danger, as one which always besets those who recall
their past states of mind, and that I have done my utmost to avoid it.

The change I have to describe was slow and gradual. It was
reluctant--that is to say, it seemed rather forced upon us by the
teaching of events than the work of our own minds. Each session marked a
further stage in it; and I therefore propose to examine its progress
session by session.

Session of 1880.--The General Election of 1880 turned mainly on the
foreign policy of Lord Beaconsfield's Government. Few Liberal candidates
said much about Ireland. Absorbed in the Eastern and Afghan questions,
they had not watched the progress of events in Ireland with the
requisite care, nor realized the gravity of the crisis which was
approaching. They were anxious to do justice to Ireland, in the way of
amending both the land laws and local government, but saw no reason for
going further. Nearly all of them refused, even when pressed by Irish
electors in their constituencies, to promise to vote for that
"parliamentary inquiry into the demand for Home Rule," which was then
propounded by those electors as a sort of test question. We (_i.e._ the
Liberal candidates of 1880) then declared that we thought an Irish
Parliament would involve serious constitutional difficulties, and that
we saw no reason why the Imperial Parliament should not do full justice
to Ireland. Little was said about Coercion. Hopes were expressed that it
would not be resorted to, but very few (if any) pledged themselves
against it.

When Mr. Forster was appointed Irish Secretary in Mr. Gladstone's
Government which the General Election brought into power, we (by which I
mean throughout the new Liberal members) were delighted. We knew him to
be conscientious, industrious, kind-hearted. We believed him to be
penetrating and judicious. We applauded his conduct in not renewing the
Coercion Act which Lord Beaconsfield's Government had failed to renew
before dissolving Parliament, and which indeed there was scarcely time
left after the election to renew, a fact which did not save Mr. Forster
from severe censure on the part of the Tories.

The chief business of the session was the Compensation for Disturbance
Bill, which Mr. Forster brought in for the sake of saving from immediate
eviction tenants whom a succession of bad seasons had rendered utterly
unable to pay their rents. This Bill was pressed through the House of
Commons with the utmost difficulty, and at an expenditure of time which
damaged the other work of the session, though the House continued to sit
into September. The Executive Government declared it to be necessary, in
order not only to relieve the misery of the people, but to secure the
tranquillity of the country. Nevertheless, the whole Tory party, and a
considerable section of the Liberal party, opposed it in the interests
of the Irish landlords, and of economic principles in general,
principles which (as commonly understood in England) it certainly
trenched on. When it reached the House of Lords it was contemptuously
rejected, and the unhappy Irish Secretary left to face as he best might
the cries of a wretched peasantry and the rising tide of outrage. What
was even more remarkable, was the coolness with which the Liberal party
took the defeat of a Bill their leaders had pronounced absolutely
needed. Had it been an English Bill of the same consequence to England
as it was to Ireland, the country would have been up in arms against the
House of Lords, demanding the reform or the abolition of a Chamber which
dared to disregard the will of the people. But nothing of the kind
happened. It was only an Irish measure. We relieved ourselves by a few
strong words, and the matter dropped.

It was in this session that the Liberal party first learnt what sort of
a spirit was burning in the hearts of Irish members. There had been
obstruction in the last years of the previous Parliament, but, as the
Tories were in power, they had to bear the brunt of it. Now that a
Liberal Ministry reigned, it fell on the Liberals. At first it incensed
us. Full of our own good intentions towards Ireland, we thought it
contrary to nature that Irish members should worry us, their friends, as
they had worried Tories, their hereditary enemies. Presently we came to
understand how matters stood. The Irish members made little difference
between the two great English parties. Both represented to them a
hostile domination. Both were ignorant of the condition of their
country. Both cared so little about Irish questions that nothing less
than deeds of violence out of doors or obstruction within doors could
secure their attention. Concessions had to be extorted from both by the
same devices; Coercion might be feared at the hands of both. Hence the
Irish party was resolved to treat both parties alike, and play off the
one against the other in the interests of Ireland alone, using the
questions which divide Englishmen and Scotchmen merely as levers
whereby to effect their own purposes, because themselves quite
indifferent to the substantial merits of those questions. To us new
members this was an alarming revelation. We found that the House of
Commons consisted of two distinct and dissimilar bodies: a large British
body (including some few Tories and Liberals from Ireland), which,
though it was distracted by party quarrels, really cared for the welfare
of the country and the dignity of the House, and would set aside its
quarrels in the presence of a great emergency; and a small Irish body,
which, though it spoke the English language, was practically foreign,
felt no interest in, no responsibility for, the business of Britain or
the Empire, and valued its place in the House only as a means of making
itself so disagreeable as to obtain its release. When we had grasped
this fact, we began to reflect on its causes and conjecture its effects.
We had read of the same things in the newspapers, but what a difference
there is between reading a drama in your study and seeing it acted on
the stage! We realized what Irish feeling was when we heard these angry
cries, and noted how appeals that would have affected English partisans
fell on deaf ears. I remember how one night in the summer of 1880, when
the Irish members kept us up very late over some trivial Bill of theirs,
refusing to adjourn till they had extorted terms, a friend, sitting
beside me, said, "See how things come round. They keep us out of bed
till five o'clock in the morning because our ancestors bullied theirs
for six centuries." And we saw that the natural relations of an
Executive, even a Liberal Executive, to the Irish members were those of
strife. Whose fault it was we were unable to decide. Perhaps the
Government was too stiff; perhaps the members were vexatious. Anyhow,
this strife was evidently the normal state of things, wholly unlike that
which existed between Scotch members, to whichever party they belonged,
and the executive authorities of Scotland.

Thus the session of 1880, though it did not bring us consciously nearer
to Home Rule, impressed three facts upon us: first, that the House of
Lords regarded Ireland solely from the point of view of English
landlords, sympathizing with Irish landlords; secondly, that the House
of Commons knew so little or cared so little about Ireland that when the
Executive declared a measure essential to the peace of Ireland, it
scarcely resented the rejection of that measure by the House of Lords;
thirdly, that the Irish Nationalists in the House of Commons were a
foreign body, foreign in the sense in which a needle which a man
swallows is foreign, not helping the organism to discharge its
functions, but impeding them, and setting up irritation. We did not yet
draw from these facts all the conclusions we should now draw. But the
facts were there, and they began to tell upon our minds.

SESSION OF 1881.--The winter of 1880-81 was a terrible one in Ireland.
The rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill had borne the
fruit which Mr. Forster had predicted, and which the House of Lords had
ignored. Outrages were numerous and serious. The cry in England for
repressive measures had gone on rising from November, when it occasioned
a demonstration at the Guildhall banquet. Several Liberal members (of
whom I was one) went to Ireland at Christmas, to see with our own eyes
how things stood. We were struck by the difficulty of obtaining
trustworthy information in Dublin, where the richer classes, with whom
we chiefly came in contact, merely abused the Land League, while the
Land Leaguers declared that the accounts of outrages were grossly
exaggerated. The most prominent, Mr. Michael Davitt, assured me, and I
believe with perfect truth, that he had exerted himself to
discountenance outrage, and that if, as he expected, he was locked up by
the Government, outrages would increase. When one reached the disturbed
districts, where, of course, one talked to members as well of the
landlord class as of the peasantry, the general conclusion which emerged
from the medley of contradictions was that, though there was much
agrarian crime, and a pervading sense of insecurity, the disorders were
not so bad as people in England believed, and might have been dealt with
by a vigorous administration of the existing law. Unfortunately, the
so-called "better classes," full of bitterness against the Liberal
Ministry and Mr. Forster (whom they did not praise till it was too
late), had not assisted the Executive, and had allowed things to reach a
pass at which it found the work of governing very difficult.

When the Coercion Bill of 1881 was introduced, many English Liberals
were inclined to resist it. The great majority voted for it, but within
two years they bitterly repented their votes. Our motives, which I
mention by way of extenuation, not of defence, were these. The Executive
Government declared that it could not deal with crime by the ordinary
law. If its followers refused exceptional powers, they must displace the
Ministry, and let in the Tories, who would doubtless obtain such powers,
and probably use them worse. We had still confidence in Mr. Forster's
judgment, and a deference to Irish Executive Governments generally which
Parliamentary experience is well fitted to dissipate. The violence with
which the Nationalist members resisted the introduction of the Bill had
roused our blood, and the foolish attempts which the Radical and Irish
electors in some constituencies had made to deter their members from
supporting it had told the other way, and disposed these members to vote
for it, in order to show that they were not to be cowed by threats.
Finally, we were assured that votes given for the Coercion Bill would
purchase a thorough-going Land Bill, and our anxiety for the latter
induced us, naturally, but erringly, to acquiesce in the former.

When that Land Bill went into Committee we perceived how much harm the
Coercion Bill had done in intensifying the bitterness of Irish members.
Although the Ministry was fighting for their interests against the Tory
party and the so-called Whiggish section of its own supporters, who were
seeking to cut down the benefits which the measure offered to Irish
tenants, the Nationalist members regarded it, and in particular Mr.
Forster, as their foe. They resented what they deemed the insult put
upon their country. They saw those who had been fighting, often, no
doubt, by unlawful methods, for the national cause, thrown into prison
and kept there without trial. They anticipated (not without reason) the
same fortune for themselves. Hence the friendliness which the Liberal
party sought to show them met with no response, and Mr. Forster was
worried with undiminished vehemence. In the discussions on the Bill we
found the Ministry generally resisting all amendments which came from
Irish members. When these amendments seemed to us right, we voted for
them, but they were almost always defeated by the union of the Tories
with the steady Ministerialists. Subsequent events have proved that many
were right, but, whether they were right or wrong, the fact which
impressed us was that in matters which concerned Ireland only, and lay
within the exclusive knowledge of Irishmen, Irish members were
constantly outvoted by English and Scotch members, who knew nothing at
all of the merits of the case, but simply obeyed the party whip. This
happened even when the Irish members who sat on the Liberal side (such
as Mr. Dickson and his Liberal colleagues from Ulster) joined the
Nationalist section in demanding some extension of the Bill which the
Ministry refused. And we perceived that nothing incensed the Irish
members more than the feeling that their arguments were addressed to
deaf ears; that they were overborne, not by reason, but by sheer weight
of numbers. Even if they convinced the Ministry, they could seldom hope
to obtain its assent, because the Ministry had to consider the House of
Lords, sure to reject amendments which favoured the tenant, while to
detach a number of Ministerialists sufficient to carry an amendment
against the Treasury Bench, the Moderate Liberals, and the Tories, was
evidently hopeless.

At the end of the session the House of Lords came again upon the scene.
It seriously damaged the Bill by its amendments, and would have
destroyed it but for the skill with which the head of the Government
handled these amendments, accepting the least pernicious, so as to
enable the Upper House without loss of dignity to recede from those
which were wholly inadmissible. Several times it seemed as if the
conflict would have to pass from Westminster to the country, and, in
contemplating the chances of a popular agitation or a dissolution, we
were regretfully obliged to own that the English people cared too little
and knew too little about Irish questions to give us much hope of
defeating the House of Lords and the Tories upon these issues.

An incident which occurred towards the end of the session seems, though
trifling in itself, so illustrative of the illogical position in which
we stood towards Ireland, as to deserve mention. Mr. Forster, still
Chief Secretary, had brought in a Bill for extinguishing the Queen's
University in Ireland, and creating in place of it a body to be called
the Royal University, which, however, was not to be a real university at
all, but only a set of examiners plus some salaried fellowships, to be
held at various places of instruction. Regarding this as a gross
educational blunder, which would destroy a useful existing body, and
create a sham university in its place, and finding several Parliamentary
friends on whose judgment I could rely to be of the same opinion, I gave
notice of opposition to the Bill. Mr. Forster came to me, and pressed
with great warmth that the opposition should be withdrawn. The Bill, he
said, would satisfy the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and complete the work
of the Land Bill in pacifying Ireland. The Irish members wanted it: what
business had an English member to interfere to defeat their wishes, and
thwart the Executive? The reply was obvious. Not to speak of the
simplicity of expecting the hierarchy to be satisfied by this small
concession, what were such arguments but the admission of Home Rule in
its worst form? "You resist the demand of the Irish members to legislate
for Ireland; you have just been demanding, and obtaining, the support of
English members against those amendments of the Land Bill which Irish
members declare to be necessary. Now you bid us surrender our own
judgment, ignore our own responsibility, and blindly pass a Bill which
we, who have studied these university questions as they affect both
Ireland and England, believe to be thoroughly mischievous to the
prospects of higher education in Ireland, only because the Irish
members, as you say, desire it. Do one thing or the other. Either give
them the power and the responsibility, or leave both with the Imperial
Parliament. You are now asking us to surrender the power, but to remain
still subject to the responsibility. We will not bear the latter without
the former. We shall prefer Home Rule." Needless to add that this
device--a sample of the petty sops by which successive generations of
English statesmen, Whigs and Tories alike, have sought to win over a
priesthood which uses and laughs at them--failed as completely as its
predecessors to settle the University question or to range the bishops
on the side of the Government.

The autumn and winter of 1881 revealed the magnitude of the mischief
done by making a Coercion Bill precede a Relief Bill. The Land Bill was
the largest concession made to the demands of the people since Catholic
Emancipation. It was a departure, justified by necessity, but still a
departure from our established principles of legislation. It ought to
have brought satisfaction and confidence, if not gratitude, with it;
ought to have led Ireland to believe in the sincere friendliness of
England, and produced a new cordiality between the islands. It did
nothing of the kind. It was held to have been extorted from our fears;
its grace and sweetness were destroyed by the concomitant severities
which the Coercion Act had brought into force, as wholesome food becomes
distasteful when some bitter compound has been sprinkled over it. We
were deeply mortified at this result of our efforts. What was the malign
power which made the boons we had conferred shrivel up, "like fairy
gifts fading away"? We still believed the Coercion Act to have been
justified, but lamented the fate which baffled the main object of our
efforts, the winning over Ireland to trust the justice and the capacity
of the Imperial Parliament. And thus the two facts which stood out from
the history of this eventful session were, first, that even in
legislating for the good of Ireland we were legislating against the
wishes of Ireland, imposing on her enactments which her representatives
opposed, and which we supported only at the bidding of the Ministry;
and, secondly, that at the end of a long session, entirely devoted to
her needs, we found her more hostile and not less disturbed than she had
been at its beginning. We began to wonder whether we should ever succeed
better on our present lines. But we still mostly regarded Home Rule as a
disagreeable solution.

SESSION OF 1882.--Still graver were the lessons of the first four months
of this year. Mr. Forster went on filling the prisons of Ireland with
persons whom he arrested under the Habeas Corpus Suspension Act, and
never brought to trial. But the country grew no more quiet. At last he
had nine hundred and forty men under lock and key, many of them not
"village ruffians," whose power a few weeks' detention was to break, but
political offenders, and even popular leaders. How long could this go
on? Where was it to stop? It became plain that the Act was a failure,
and that the people, trained to combination by a century and a half's
practice, were too strong for the Executive. Either the scheme and plan
of the Act had been wrong, or its administration had been incompetent.
Whichever was the source of the failure (most people will now blame
both), the fault must be laid at the door of the Irish Executive; not of
Mr. Forster himself, but of those on whom he relied. It had been a
Dublin Castle Bill, conceived and carried out by the incompetent
bureaucracy which has so long pretended to govern Ireland. Such a proof
of incompetence destroyed whatever confidence in that bureaucracy then
remained to us, and the disclosures which the Phoenix Park murders and
the subsequent proceedings against the Invincibles brought out, proved
beyond question that the Irish Executive had only succeeded in giving a
more dark and dangerous form, the form of ruthless conspiracy, to the
agitation it was combating.

When therefore the Prevention of Crime Bill of 1882 was brought in, some
of us felt unable to support it, and specially bound to resist those of
its provisions which related to trials without a jury, and to
boycotting. It was impossible, on the morrow of the Phoenix Park
murders, to deny that some coercive measure might be needed; but we had
so far lost faith in repression, and in the officials who were to
administer it, as to desire to limit it to what was absolutely
necessary, and we protested against enacting for Ireland a criminal code
which was not to be applied to Great Britain. Our resistance might have
been more successful but for the manner in which the Nationalist members
conducted their opposition. When they began to obstruct--not that under
the circumstances we felt entitled to censure them for obstructing a
Bill dealing so harshly with their countrymen--we were obliged to
desist, and our experience of the stormy scenes of the summer of 1882
deepened our sense of the passionate bitterness with which they regarded
English members, scarcely making an exception in favour of those who
were most disposed to sympathize with them. Many and many a time when we
listened to their fierce cries, we seemed to hear in them the
battle-cries of the centuries of strife between Celt and Englishman from
Athenry to Vinegar Hill; many a time we felt that this rage and mistrust
were chiefly of England's making; and yet not of England's, but rather
of the overmastering fate which had prolonged to our own days the
hatreds and the methods of barbarous times:

            hêmeis d' ouk aitioi esmen
    Alla Zeus kai Moira kai êerophoitis Herinus.

So much of the session as the Crime Bill had spared was consumed by the
Arrears Bill, over which we had again a "crisis" with the House of
Lords. This was the third session that had been practically given up to
Irishmen. The freshness and force of the Parliament of 1880--a
Parliament full of zeal and ability--had now been almost spent, yet few
of the plans of domestic legislation spread before the constituencies of
1880 had been realized. The Government had been anxious to legislate,
their majority had been ready to support them, but Ireland had blocked
the way; and now the only expedient for improving the procedure of the
House was to summon Parliament in an extra autumn session. Here was
another cause for reflection. England and Scotland were calling for
measures promised years ago, but no time could be found to discuss them.
Nothing was done to reorganize local government, to reform the liquor
laws, to improve secondary education, to deal with the housing of the
poor, or a dozen other urgent questions, because we were busy with
Ireland; and yet how little more loyal or contented did Ireland seem to
be for all we had done. We began to ask whether Home Rule might not be
as much an English and Scotch question as an Irish question. It was, at
any rate, clear that to allow Ireland to manage her own affairs would
open a prospect for England and Scotland to obtain time to attend to

This feeling was strengthened by the result of the attempts made in the
autumn session of 1882, to improve the procedure of the House of
Commons. We had cherished the hope that more drastic remedies against
obstruction and better arrangements for the conduct of business, might
relieve much of the pressure Irish members had made us suffer. The
passing of the New Rules shattered this hope, for it was plain they
would not accomplish what was needed. Some blamed the Government for not
framing a more stringent code. Some blamed the Tory and the Irish
Oppositions (now beginning to work in concert) for cutting down the
proposals of the Government. But most of us saw, and came to see still
more clearly in the three succeeding sessions, that the evil was too
deep-rooted to be cured by any changes of procedure, unless they went so
far as to destroy freedom of debate for English members also. The
presence in a deliberative assembly of a section numbering (or likely
soon to number) one-seventh of the whole--a section seeking to lower the
character of the assembly, and to derange its mechanism, with no further
interest in the greater part of its business except that of preventing
it from conducting that business--this was the phenomenon which
confronted us, and we felt that no rules of debate would overcome the
dangers it threatened.

It is from this year 1882 that I date the impression which we formed,
that Home Rule was sure to come. "It may be a bold experiment," we said
to one another in the lobbies; "there are serious difficulties in the
way, though the case for it is stronger than we thought two years ago.
But if the Irishmen persist as they are doing now, they will get it. It
is only a question of their tenacity."

It was impossible not to be struck during the conflicts of 1881 and 1882
with the small amount of real bitterness which the conduct of the Irish
members, irritating as it often was, provoked among the Liberals, who of
course bore the brunt of the conflict. The Nationalists did their best
to injure a Government which was at the same time being denounced by the
Tories as too favourable to Irish claims; they lowered the character of
Parliament by scenes far more painful than those of the session of 1887,
on which so much indignation has been lately expended; they said the
hardest things they could think of against us in the House; they
attacked us in our constituencies. Their partisans (for I do not charge
this on the leaders) interrupted and broke up our meetings.
Nevertheless, all this did not provoke responsive hatred from the
Liberals. There could not be a greater contrast than that between the
way in which the great bulk of the Liberal members all through the
Parliament of 1880 behaved towards their Irish antagonists, and the
violence with which the Tory members, under much slighter provocation,
conduct themselves towards those antagonists now. I say this not to the
credit of our temper, which was no better than that of other men heated
by the struggles of a crowded assembly. It was due entirely to our
feeling that there was a great balance of wrong standing to the debit of
England; that if the Irish were turbulent, it was the ill-treatment of
former days that had made them so; and that, whatever might be their
methods, they were fighting for their country. Although, therefore,
there was little social intercourse between us and them, there was
always a hope and a wish that the day might come when the Liberal party
should resume its natural position of joining the representatives of the
Irish people in obtaining radical reforms in Irish government. And the
remarkable speech of February 9, 1882, in which Mr. Gladstone declared
his mind to be open on the subject, and invited the Nationalists to
propound a practicable scheme of self-government, had encouraged us to
hope that this day might soon arrive.

SESSION OF 1883.--Three facts stood out in the history of this
comparatively quiet session, each of which brought us further along the
road we had entered.

One was the omission of Parliament to complete the work begun by the
Land Bill of 1881, of improving the condition of the Irish peasantry and
reorganizing Irish administration. The Nationalist members brought in
Bills for these purposes, including one for amending the Land Act by
admitting leaseholders to its benefits and securing tenants against
having their improvements reckoned against them in the fixing of rents.
Though we could not approve all the contents of these Bills, we desired
to see the Government either take them up and amend them, or introduce
Bills of its own to do what was needed. Some of us spoke strongly in
this sense, nor will any one now deny that we were right. Sound policy
called aloud for the completion of the undertaking of 1881. The
Government however refused, alleging, no doubt with some truth, that
Ireland could not have all the time of Parliament, but must let England
and Scotland have their turn. Nor was anything done towards the creation
of new local institutions in Ireland, or the reform of the Castle
bureaucracy. We were profoundly disheartened. We saw golden
opportunities slipping away, and doubted more than ever whether
Westminster was the place in which to legislate for Irish grievances.

Another momentous fact was the steady increase in the number of
Nationalist members. Every seat that fell vacant in Ireland was filled
by them. The moderate Irish party, most of whom had by this time crossed
the floor of the House, and were sitting among us, had evidently no
future. They were estimable, and, in some cases, able men, from whom we
had hoped much, as a link between the Liberal party and the Irish
people. But they seemed to have lost their hold on the people, nor were
they able to give us much practical counsel as to Irish problems. It was
clear that they would vanish at the next General Election, and
Parliament be left to settle accounts with the extreme men, whose
spirits rose as those of our friends steadily sank.

Lastly: it was in this session that the alliance of the Nationalists and
the Tory Opposition became a potent factor in politics. Its first
conspicuous manifestation was in the defeat of the Government by the
allied forces on the Affirmation Bill, when the least respectable
privates in both armies vied with one another in boisterous rejoicings
over the announcement of numbers in the division. I do not refer to this
as ground for complaint. It was in the course of our usual political
warfare that two groups, each hating and fearing the Ministry, should
unite to displace it. But we now saw what power the Irish section must
exert when it came to hold the balance of numbers in the House. Till
this division, the Government had commanded a majority of the whole
House. This would probably not outlast a dissolution. What then? Could
the two English parties, differing so profoundly from one another,
combine against the third party? Evidently not. We must, therefore, look
forward to unstable Governments, if not to a total dislocation of our
Parliamentary system.

Session of 1884.--I pass over the minor incidents of this year,
including the continued neglect of remedial legislation for Ireland to
dwell on its dominant and most impressive lesson. It was the year of the
Franchise Bill, which, as regards Ireland, worked an extension, not
merely of the county but also of the borough franchise, and produced,
owing to the economic condition of the humbler classes in that country,
a far more extensive change than in England or Scotland. When the Bill
was introduced the question at once arose--Should Ireland be included?

There were two ways of treating Ireland between which Parliament had to

One was to leave her out of the Bill, on the ground that the masses of
her population could not be trusted with the franchise, as being
ignorant, sympathetic to crime, hostile to the English Government. This
course was the logical concomitant of exceptional coercive legislation,
such as had been passed in 1881 and 1882. It was quite compatible with
generous remedial legislation. But it placed Ireland in an unequal and
lower position, treating her, as the Coercion Acts did, as a dependent
country, inhabited by a population unfit for the same measure of power
which the inhabitants of Britain might receive.

The other course was to bestow on Ireland the same extended franchise
which the English county occupiers were to receive, applying the
principle of equality, and disregarding the obvious consequences. These
consequences were both practical and logical. The practical consequence
was the increase in numbers and weight of the Irish party in Parliament
hostile to Parliament itself. The logical consequence was the duty of
complying with the wishes of the enfranchised nation. Whatever reasons
were good for giving this enlarged suffrage to the Irish masses, were
good for respecting the will which they might use to express it. If the
Irish were deemed fit to exercise the same full constitutional rights
in legislation as the English, must they not be fit for the same rights
of trial by jury, a free press, and all the privileges of personal

Of these two courses the Cabinet chose the latter, those of its members
whom we must suppose, from the language they now hold, to have then
hesitated, either stifling their fears or not apprehending the
consequences of their boldness. It might have been expected, and indeed
was generally expected, that the Tory party would refuse to follow. They
talked largely about the danger of an extended Irish suffrage, and
pointed out that it would be a weapon in the hands of disloyalty. But
when the moment for resistance came, they swerved, and never divided in
either House against the application of the Bill to Ireland. They might
have failed to defeat the measure; but they would have immensely
strengthened their position, logically and morally, had they given
effect by their votes to the sentiments they were known to entertain,
and which not a few Liberals shared.

The effect of this uncontested grant to Ireland of a suffrage
practically universal was immense upon our minds, and the longer we
reflected on it the more significant did it become. It meant to us that
the old methods were abandoned, and, as we supposed, for ever. We had
deliberately given the Home Rule party arms against English control far
more powerful than they previously possessed. We had deliberately
asserted our faith in the Irish people. Impossible after this to fall
back on Coercion Bills. Impossible to refuse any request compatible with
the general safety of the United Kingdom, which Ireland as a nation
might prefer. Impossible to establish that system of Crown Colony
Government which we had come to perceive was the only real and solid
alternative to self-government. To those of us who had been feeling that
the Irish difficulty was much the greatest of all England's
difficulties, this stood out beyond the agitation of the autumn and the
compromise of the winter as the great political event of 1884.[4]

Although this sketch is in the main a record of Parliamentary opinion, I
ought not to pass over the influence which the study of their
constituents' ideas exerted upon members for the larger towns. We found
the vast bulk of our supporters--English supporters, for after 1882 it
was understood that the Irish voters were our enemies--sympathetic with
the Irish people. They knew and thought little about Home Rule,
believing that their member understood that question better than they
did, and willing, so long as he was sound on English issues, to trust
him. But they pitied Irish tenants, and condemned Irish landlords.
Though they acquiesced in a Coercion Bill when proposed by a Liberal
Cabinet, because they concluded that nothing less than necessity would
lead such a Cabinet to propose one, they so much disliked any
exceptional or repressive legislation that it was plain they would not
long tolerate it. Any popular leader denouncing coercion was certain to
have the sentiment of the English masses with him, while as to
suspending Irish representation or carrying out consistently the policy
of treating Ireland as a subject country, there was no chance in the
world of their approval. Those of us, therefore, who represented large
working-class constituencies became convinced that the solution of the
Irish problem must be sought in conciliation and self-government, if
only because the other solution, Crown Colony Government, was utterly
repugnant to the English masses, in whom the Franchise Bill of 1884,
completing that of 1867, had vested political supremacy.[5]

Session of 1885.--The allied powers of Toryism and Nationalism gained in
this year the victory they had so long striven for. In February they
reduced the Ministerial majority to fourteen; in June they overthrew the
Ministry. No one supposed that on either occasion the merits of the
issue had anything to do with the Nationalist vote: that vote was given
simply and solely against the Government, as the Government which had
passed the Coercion Acts of 1881 and 1882--Acts demanded by the Tory
party, and which had not conceded an Irish Parliament. At last the Irish
party had attained its position as the arbiter of power and office. Some
of us said, as we walked away from the House, under the dawning light of
that memorable 9th of June, "This means Home Rule." Our forecast was
soon to be confirmed. Lord Salisbury's Cabinet, formed upon the
resignation of Mr. Gladstone's, announced that it would not propose to
renew any part of the Coercion Act of 1882, which was to expire in
August. Here was a surrender indeed! But the Tory leaders went further.
They did not excuse themselves on the ground of want of time. They took
credit for their benevolence towards Ireland; they discovered excellent
reasons why the Act should be dropped. They even turned upon Lord
Spencer, whose administration they had hitherto blamed for its leniency,
and attacked him in Parliament, among the cheers of his Irish enemies.
From that time till the close of the General Election in December
everything was done, short of giving public pledges, to keep the Irish
leaders and the Irish voters in good humour. The Tory party in fact
posed as the true friends of Ireland, averse from coercion, and with
minds perfectly open on the subject of self-government.

This change of front, so sudden, so unblushing, completed the process
which had been going on in our minds. By 1882 we had come to feel that
Home Rule was inevitable, though probably undesirable. Before long we
had asked ourselves whether it was really undesirable, whether it might
not be a good thing both for England, whose Parliament and Cabinet
system it would relieve from impending dangers, while leaving free scope
for domestic legislation, and for Ireland, which could hardly manage her
affairs worse than we were managing them for her, and might manage them
better. And thus, by the spring of 1885, many of us were prepared for a
large scheme of local self-government in Ireland, including a central
legislative body in Dublin.[6]

Now when it was plain that the English party which had hitherto called
for repression, and had professed itself anxious for a patriotic union
of all parties to maintain order and a continuity of policy in Ireland,
was ready to bid for Irish help at the polls by throwing over repression
and reversing the policy it had advocated, we felt that the sooner
Ireland was taken out of English party politics the better. What
prospect was there of improving Ireland by the superior wisdom and
fairness of the British Parliament, if British leaders were to make
their Irish policy turn on interested bargains with Nationalist leaders?
Repression, which we clearly saw to be the only alternative to
self-government, seemed to be by common consent abandoned. I remember
how, at a party of members in the beginning of July, some one said,
"Well, there's an end for ever of coercion at any rate," and every one
assented as to an obvious truth. Accordingly the result of the new
departure of the Salisbury Cabinet in 1885 was to convince even doubters
that Home Rule must come, and to make those already convinced anxious to
see it come quickly, and to find the best form that could be given it.
Many of us expected the Tory Government to propose it. Rumour declared
the new Lord Lieutenant to be in favour of it. His government was
extremely conciliatory in Ireland, even to the recalcitrant corporation
of Limerick. Not to mention less serious and less respected Tory
Ministers, Lord Salisbury talked at Newport about the dualism of the
Austro-Hungarian Monarchy with the air of a man who desired to have a
workable scheme, analogous, if not similar, suggested for Ireland and
Great Britain. The Irish Nationalists appeared to place their hopes in
this quarter, for they attacked the Liberal party with unexampled
bitterness, and threw all their voting strength into the Tory scale.

As it has lately been attempted to blacken the character of the Irish
leaders, it deserves to be remarked that whatever has been charged
against them was said or done by them before the spring of 1885, and
was, practically, perfectly well known to the Tory leaders when they
accepted the alliance of the Irish party in the House of Commons, and
courted their support in the election of 1885. To those who remember
what went on in the House in the sessions of 1884 and 1885, the horror
now professed by the Tory leaders for the conduct and words of the Irish
party would be matter for laughter if it were not also matter for just

Why, it may be asked, if the persuasion that Home Rule was certain, and
even desirable, had become general among the Liberals who had sat
through the Parliament of 1880, was it not more fully expressed at the
election of 1885? This is a fair question, which I shall try to answer.

In the first place, the electors made few inquiries about Ireland. They
disliked the subject; they had not realized its supreme importance.
Those of us who felt anxious to explain our views (as was my own case)
had to volunteer to do so, for we were not asked about them. The Irish
party in the constituencies was in violent opposition to Liberal
candidates; it did not interrogate, but denounced. Further, it was felt
that the issue was mainly one to be decided in Ireland itself. The
question of Home Rule was being submitted, not, as heretofore, to a
limited constituency, but to the whole Irish people. Till their will had
been constitutionally declared at the polls it was not proper that
Englishmen or Scotchmen should anticipate its tenour. We should even
have been accused, had we volunteered our opinions, of seeking to affect
the result in Ireland, and, not only of playing for the Irish vote in
Great Britain, as we saw the Tories doing, but of prejudicing the
chances of those Liberal candidates who, in Irish constituencies, were
competing with extreme Nationalists. A third reason was that most
English and Scotch Liberals did not know how far their own dispositions
towards Home Rule were shared by their leaders. Mr. Gladstone's
declaration in his Midlothian address was no doubt a decided intimation
of his views, and was certainly understood by some (as by myself) to
imply the grant to Ireland of a Parliament; but, strong as its words
were, its importance does not seem to have been fully appreciated at the
moment. And the opinions of a statesman whose unequalled Irish
experience and elevated character gave him a weight only second to that
of Mr. Gladstone--I mean Lord Spencer--had not been made known. We had
consequently no certainty that there were leaders prepared to give
prompt effect to the views we entertained. Lastly, we were not prepared
with a practical scheme of self-government for Ireland. The Nationalist
members had propounded none which we could either adopt or criticize.
Convinced as we were that Home Rule would come and must come, we felt
the difficulties surrounding every suggestion that had yet been made,
and had not hammered out any plan which we could lay before the electors
as approved by Liberal opinion.[7] We were forced to confine ourselves
to generalities.

Whether it would have been better for us to have done our thinking and
scheme-making in public, and thereby have sooner forced the details of
the problem upon the attention of the country, need not now be inquired.
Any one can now see that something was lost by the omission. But those
who censure a course that has actually been taken usually fail to
estimate the evils that would have followed from the taking of the
opposite course. Such evils might in this instance have been as great as
those we have encountered.

I have spoken of the importance we attached to the decision of Ireland
itself, and of the attitude of expectancy which, while that decision was
uncertain, Englishmen were forced to maintain. We had not long to wait.
Early in December it was known that five-sixths of the members returned
from Ireland were Nationalists, and that the majorities which had
returned them were crushing. If ever a people spoke its will, the Irish
people spoke theirs at the election of 1885. The last link in the chain
of conviction, which events had been forging since 1880, was now
supplied. In passing the Franchise Bill of 1884, we had asked Ireland to
declare her mind. She had now answered. If the question was not a
mockery, and representative government a sham, we were bound to accept
the answer, subject only, but subject always, to the interests of the
whole United Kingdom. In other words, we were bound to devise such a
scheme of self-government for Ireland as would give full satisfaction to
her wishes, while maintaining the ultimate supremacy of the Imperial
Parliament and the unity of the British Empire.

Very few words are needed to summarize the outline which, omitting many
details which would have illustrated and confirmed its truth, I have
attempted to present of the progress of opinion among Liberal members of
the Parliament of 1880.

1. Our experience of the Coercion Bills of 1881 and 1882 disclosed the
enormous mischief which such measures do in alienating the minds of
Irishmen, and the difficulty of enlisting Irish sentiment on behalf of
the law. The results of the Act of 1881 taught us that the repression of
open agitation means the growth of far more dangerous conspiracy; those
of the Act of 1882 proved that even under an administration like Lord
Spencer's repression works no change for the better in the habits and
ideas of the people.

2. The conduct of the House of Lords in 1880 and 1881, and the malign
influence which its existence exerted whenever remedial legislation for
Ireland came in question, convinced us that full and complete justice
will never be done to Ireland by the British Parliament while the Upper
House (as at present constituted) remains a part of that Parliament.

3. The break-down of the procedure of the House of Commons, and the
failure of the efforts to amend it, proved that Parliament cannot work
so long as a considerable section of its members seek to impede its
working. To enable it to do its duty by England and Scotland, it was
evidently necessary, either to make the Irish members as loyal to
Parliament as English and Scotch members usually are, or else to exclude

4. The discussions of Irish Bills in the House of Commons made us
realize how little English members knew about Ireland; how utterly
different were their competence for, and their attitude towards, Irish
questions and English questions. We perceived that we were legislating
in the dark for a country whose economic and social condition we did not
understand--a country to which we could not apply our English ideas of
policy; a country whose very temper and feeling were strange to us. We
were really fitter to pass laws for Canada or Australia than for this
isle within sight of our shores.

5. I have said that we were legislating in the dark. But there were two
quarters from which light was proffered, the Irish members and the Irish
Executive. We rejected the first, and could hardly help doing so, for to
accept it would have been to displace our own leaders. We followed the
light which the Executive gave. But in some cases (as notably in the
case of the Coercion Bill of 1881) it proved to be a "wandering fire,"
leading us into dangerous morasses. And we perceived that at all times
legislation at the bidding of the Executive, against the wishes of Irish
members, was not self-government or free government. It was despotism.
The rule of Ireland by the British Parliament was really "the rule of a
dependency through an official, responsible no doubt, but responsible
not to the ruled, but to an assembly of which they form less than a
sixth part."[8] As this assembly closed its ears to the one-sixth, and
gave effect to the will of the official, this was essentially arbitrary
government, and wanted those elements of success which free government

This experience had, by 1884, convinced us that the present relations of
the British Parliament to Ireland were bad, and could not last; that the
discontent of Ireland was justified; that the existing system, in
alienating the mind of Ireland, tended, not merely to Repeal, but to
Separation; that the simplest, and probably the only effective, remedy
for the increasing dangers was the grant of an Irish Legislature. Two
events clinched these conclusions. One was the Tory surrender of June,
1885. Self-government, we had come to see, was the only alternative to
Coercion, and now Coercion was gone. The other was the General Election
of December, 1885, when newly-enfranchised Ireland, through five-sixths
of her representatives, demanded a Parliament of her own.

These were not, as is sometimes alleged, conclusions of despair. We were
mostly persons of a cautious and conservative turn of mind, as men
imbued with the spirit of the British Constitution ought to be. The
first thing was to convince us that the existing relations of the
islands were faulty, and could not be maintained. This was a negative
result, and while we remained in that stage we were despondent. Many
Liberal members will remember the gloom that fell on us in 1882 and 1883
whenever we thought or spoke of Ireland. But presently the clouds
lifted. We still felt the old objections to any Home Rule scheme, though
we now saw that they were less formidable than the evils of the present
system. But we came to feel that the grant of self-government was a
right thing in itself. It was not merely a means of ridding ourselves of
our difficulties, not merely a boon yielded because long demanded. It
was a return to broad and deep principles, a conformity to those
natural laws which govern human society as well as the inanimate
world--an effort to enlist the better and higher feelings of mankind in
the creation of a truer union between the two nations than had ever yet
existed. When we perceived this, hope returned. It is strong with us
now, for, though we see troubles, perhaps even dangers, in the immediate
future, we are confident that the principles on which Liberal policy
towards Ireland is based will in the long run work out a happy issue for
her, as they have in and for every other country that has trusted to

One last word as to Consistency. We learnt in the Parliament of 1880
many facts about Ireland we had not known before; we felt the force and
bearing of other facts previously accepted on hearsay, but not realized.
We saw the Irish problem change from what it had been in 1880 into the
new phase which stood apparent at the end of 1885, Coercion abandoned by
its former advocates, Self-government demanded by the nation. Were we to
disregard all these new facts, ignore all these new conditions, and
cling to old ideas, some of which we perceived to be mistaken, while
others, still true in themselves, were out-weighed by arguments of far
wider import? We did not so estimate our duty. We foresaw the taunts of
foes and the reproaches of friends. But we resolved to give effect to
the opinions we slowly, painfully, even reluctantly formed, opinions all
the stronger because not suddenly adopted, and founded upon evidence
whose strength no one can appreciate till he has studied the causes of
Irish discontent in Irish history, and been forced (as we were) to face
in Parliament the practical difficulties of the government of Ireland by
the British House of Commons.


[Footnote 3: I may mention here another fact whose significance
impressed some among us. Parliament, which usually sinned in not doing
for Ireland what Ireland asked, occasionally passed bills for Ireland
which were regarded as setting very bad precedents for England. By some
bargain between the Irish Office and the Nationalist members, measures
were put through which may have been right as respects Ireland, but
which embodied principles mischievous as respects Great Britain. We felt
that if it was necessary to enact such statutes, it would be better that
they should proceed from an Irish Legislature rather than from the
Imperial Parliament, which might be embarrassed by its own acts when
asked to extend the same principles to England. The Labourers' Act of
July, 1885, is the most conspicuous example.]

[Footnote 4: At Easter, 1885, I met a number of leading Ulster Liberals
in Belfast, told them that Home Rule was certainly coming, and urged
them to prepare some plan under which any special interests they
conceived the Protestant part of Ulster to have, would be effectually
safe-guarded. They were startled, and at first discomposed, but
presently told me I was mistaken; to which I could only reply that time
would show, and perhaps sooner then even English Liberals expected.]

[Footnote 5: My recollection of a conversation with a distinguished
public man in July, 1882, enables me to say that this fact had impressed
itself upon us as early as that year. He doubted the fact, but admitted
that, if true, it was momentous. The passing of the Franchise Bill made
it, in our view, more momentous than ever.]

[Footnote 6: Some thought that its functions should be very limited,
while large powers were granted to county boards or provincial councils.
But most had, I think, already perceived that the grant of a merely
local self-government, while retaining an irresponsible central
bureaucracy, would do more harm than good. It seemed at first sight a
safer experiment than the creation of a central legislative body. But,
like many middle courses, it combined the demerits and wanted the merits
of each of the extreme courses. It would not make the country tranquil,
as firm and long-continued repression might possibly do. Neither would
it satisfy the people's demands, and divert them from struggles against
England to disputes and discussions among themselves, as the gift of
genuine self-government might do.]

[Footnote 7: Some of us had tried to do so. I prepared such a scheme in
the autumn of 1885, and submitted it to some specially competent
friends. Their objections, made from what would now be called the
Unionist point of view, were weighty. But their effect was to convince
me that the scheme erred on the side of caution; and I believe the
experience of other Liberals who worked at the problem to have been the
same as my own--viz. that a small and timid scheme is more dangerous
than a large and bold one. Thus the result of our thinking from July,
1885, till April, 1886, was to make us more and more disposed to reject
half-and-half solutions. Some of us (of whom I was one) expressed this
feeling by saying in our election addresses in 1885, "the further we go
in giving the Irish people the management of their own affairs (subject
to the maintenance of the unity of the empire) the better."]

[Footnote 8: Quoted from an article contributed by myself to the
American _Century Magazine_, which I refer to because, written in the
spring of 1883, it expresses the ideas here stated.]



The principal charge made against the scheme of Home Rule contained in
the Irish Government Bill, 1886, is that it is incompatible with the
maintenance of the unity of the Empire and the supremacy of the Imperial
Parliament. A further allegation states that the Bill is useless, as
agrarian exasperation lies at the root of Irish discontent and Irish
disloyalty, and that no place would be found for a Home Rule Bill even
in Irish aspirations if an effective Land Bill were first passed. An
endeavour will be made in the following pages to secure a verdict of
acquittal on both counts--as to the charge relating to Imperial unity
and the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, by proving that the
accusation is absolutely unfounded, and based partly on a misconception
of the nature of Imperial ties, and partly on a misapprehension of the
effect of the provisions of the Home Rule Bill as bearing on Imperial
questions; and as to the inutility of the Home Rule Bill in view of the
necessity of Land Reform, by showing that without a Home Rule Bill no
Land Bill worth consideration as a means of pacifying Ireland can be

The complete partisan spirit in which Home Rule has been treated is the
more to be deplored as the subject is one which does not lend itself
readily to the trivialities of party debates. It raises questions of
principle, not of detail. It ascends at once into the highest region of
politics. It is conversant with the great questions of constitutional
and international law, and leads to an inquiry into the very nature of
governments and the various modes in which communities of men are
associated together either as simple or composite nations. To describe
those modes in detail would be to give a history of the various
despotic, monarchical, oligarchical, and democratic systems of
government which have oppressed or made happy the children of men. Such
a description is calculated to perplex and mislead from its very extent;
not so an inquiry into the powers of government, and a classification of
those powers. They are limited in extent, and, if we confine ourselves
to English names and English necessities, we shall readily attain to an
apprehension of the mode in which empires, nations, and political
societies are bound together, at least in so far as such knowledge is
required for the understanding of the nature of Imperial supremacy, and
the mode in which Home Rule in Ireland is calculated to affect that

The powers of government are divisible into two great classes--1.
Imperial powers; 2. State powers, using "State" in the American sense of
a political community subordinated to some other power, and not in the
sense of an independent nation. The Imperial powers are in English law
described as the prerogatives of the Crown, and consist in the main of
the powers of making peace and war, of maintaining armies and fleets and
regulating commerce, and making treaties with foreign nations. State
powers are complete powers of local self-government, described in our
colonial Constitutions as powers to make laws "for the peace, order, and
good government of the Colony or State" in which such powers are to be

Intermediate between the Imperial and State powers are a class of
powers required to prevent disputes and facilitate intercourse between
the various parts of an empire or other composite system of States--for
example, the coinage of money, and other regulations relating to the
currency; the laws relating to copyright, or other exclusive rights to
the use and profits of any works or inventions; and so forth. These
powers may be described as quasi-Imperial powers.

Having arrived at a competent knowledge of the materials out of which
governments are formed, it may be well to proceed to a consideration of
the manner in which those materials have been worked up in building the
two great Anglo-Saxon composite nations--namely, the American Union and
the British Empire--for, if we find that the arrangements proposed by
the Irish Home Rule Bill are strictly in accordance with the principles
on which the unity of the American Union was based and on which the
Imperial power of Great Britain has rested for centuries, the conclusion
must be that the Irish Home Rule Bill is not antagonistic to the unity
of the Empire or to the supremacy of the British Parliament.

In discussing these matters it will be convenient to begin with the
American Union, as it is less extensive in area and more homogeneous in
its construction than the British Empire. The thirteen revolted American
colonies, on the conclusion of their war with England, found themselves
in the position of thirteen independent States having no connection with
each other. The common tie of supremacy exercised by the mother country
was broken, and each State was an independent nation, possessed both of
Imperial and Local rights.

The impossibility of a cluster of thirteen small independent nations
maintaining their independence against foreign aggression became
immediately apparent, and, to remedy this evil, the thirteen States
appointed delegates to form a convention authorized to weld them into
one body as respected Imperial powers. This was attempted to be done by
the establishment of a central body called a Congress, consisting of
delegates from the component States, and invested with all the powers
designated above as Imperial and quasi-Imperial powers. The expenses
incurred by the confederacy were to be defrayed out of a common fund, to
be supplied by requisitions made on the several States. In effect, the
confederacy of the thirteen States amounted to little more than an
offensive and defensive alliance between thirteen independent nations,
as the central power had States for its subjects and not individuals,
and could only enforce the law against any disobedient State by calling
on the twelve other States to make war on the refractory member of the
union. A system dependent for its efficacy on the concurrence of so many
separate communities contained in itself the seeds of dissolution, and
it soon became apparent that one of two things must occur--either the
American States must cease as such to be a nation, or the component
members of that union must each be prepared to relinquish a further
portion of the sovereign or quasi-sovereign powers which it possessed.
Under those circumstances, what was the course taken by the thirteen
States? They perceived that it was quite possible to maintain complete
unity and compactness as a nation if, in addition to investing the
Supreme Government with Imperial and quasi-Imperial powers, they added
full power to impose federal taxes on the component States and
established an Executive furnished with ample means to carry all federal
powers into effect through the medium of federal officers. The
government so formed consisted of a President and two elected Houses
called Congress, and, as a balance-wheel of the Constitution, a Supreme
Court was established, to which was confided the task of deciding in
case of dispute all questions arising under the Constitution of the
United States or relating to international law. The Executive of the
United States, with the President as its source and head, was furnished
with full authority and power to enforce the federal laws. The army and
navy were under its command, and it was provided with courts of justice,
and subordinate officers to enforce the decrees of those courts
throughout the length and breadth of the Union. Above all, a complete
system of federal taxation supplied the Central Government with the
necessary funds to perform effectually all the functions of a supreme
national government.

The nature of the Constitution of the United States will be best
understood by considering the position in which its subjects stand to
the Central Government and their own State Governments. In effect, every
inhabitant of the United States has a double nationality. He belongs to
one great nation called the United States, or, as it would be more aptly
called to show its absolute unity, the American Republic, having
jurisdiction over the whole surface of ground comprised in the area of
the United States. He is also a citizen of a smaller local and partially
self-governing body--more important than a county, but not approaching
the position of a nation--called a State.

It is no part of the object of this article to enter into the details of
the American government, its advantages or defects. This much, however,
is clear--the American Constitution has lasted nearly one hundred years,
and shows no signs of decay or disruption. It has stood the strain of
the greatest war of modern times, and has emerged from the conflict
stronger than before. Even during the war the antagonism of the rebels
was directed, not against the Union, but against the efforts of the
Northern States to suppress slavery, or, in other words, to destroy, as
the Southern States believed (not unjustly as the event showed), their
property in slaves, and consequently the only means they had of making
their estates profitable. One conclusion, then, we may draw, that a
nation in which the Imperial powers and the State powers are vested in
different authorities is no less compact and powerful, as respects all
national capacities, than a nation in which both classes of powers are
wielded by the same functionaries; and one lesson more may be learnt
from the American War of Secession--namely, that in a nation having such
a division of powers, any conflict between the two classes results in
the Supreme or Imperial powers prevailing over the Local governmental
powers, and not in the latter invading or driving a wedge into the
Supreme powers. In fact, the tendency in case of a struggle is towards
an undue centralization of the nation by reason of the encroachment by
the Supreme authority, rather than towards a weakening of the national
unity by separatist action on the part of the constituent members of the

In comparing the Constitution of the United States with the Constitution
of the British Empire, we find an apparent resemblance in form as
respects the Anglo-Saxon colonies, but underlying the surface a total
difference of principle. The United States is an aggregate of
homogeneous and contiguous States which, in order to weld themselves
into a nation, gave up a portion of their rights to a central authority,
reserving to themselves all powers of government which they did not
expressly relinquish.

The British Empire is an aggregate of many communities under one common
head, and is thus described by Mr. Burke in 1774, in language which may
seem to have been somewhat too enthusiastic at the time when it was
spoken, but at the present day does not more than do justice to an
Empire which comprises one-sixth of the habitable globe in extent and

"I look, I say, on the Imperial rights of Great Britain, and the
privileges which the colonies ought to enjoy under those rights, to be
just the most reconcilable things in the world. The Parliament of Great
Britain sits at the head of her extensive Empire in two capacities: one
as the local legislature of this island, providing for all things at
home immediately and by no other instrument than the executive power;
the other, and I think her nobler capacity, is what I call her Imperial
character, in which, as from the throne of heaven, she superintends all
the several Legislatures, and guides and controls them all without
annihilating any. As all these provincial Legislatures are only
co-ordinate with each other, they ought all to be subordinate to her,
else they can neither preserve mutual peace, nor hope for mutual
justice, nor effectually afford mutual assistance."[9]

The means by which the possessions of Great Britain were acquired have
been as various as the possessions themselves. The European, Asiatic,
and African possessions became ours by conquest and cession; the
American by conquest, treaty, and settlement; the Australasian by
settlement, and by that dubious system of settlement known by the name
of annexation. Now, what is the link which fastens each of these
possessions to the mother country? Surely it is the inherent and
indestructible right of the British Crown to exercise Imperial
powers--in other words, the supremacy of the Queen and the British
Parliament? What, again, is the common bond of union between these vast
colonial possessions, differing in laws, in religion, and in the
character of the population? The same answer must be given: the joint
and several tie, so to speak, is the same--namely, the sovereignty of
Great Britain. It is true that the mode in which the materials composing
the British Empire have been cemented together is exactly the reverse of
the manner of the construction of the American Union. In the case of the
Union, independent States voluntarily relinquished a portion of their
sovereignty to secure national unity, and entrusted the guardianship of
that unity to a representative body chosen by themselves. Such a union
was based on contract, and could only be constructed by communities
which claimed to be independent. Far different have been the
circumstances under which England has developed itself into the British
Empire. England began as a sovereign power, having its sovereignty
vested at first solely in the Sovereign, but gradually in the Sovereign
and Parliament. This sovereignty neither the Crown nor the Parliament
can, jointly or severally, get rid of, for it is of the very essence of
a sovereign power that it cannot, by Act of Parliament or otherwise,
bind its successors.[10] This principle of supremacy has never been lost
sight of by the British Parliament. Their right to alter or suspend a
colonial Constitution has never been disputed. Contract never enters
into the question. The dominant authority delegates to its subordinate
communities as much or as little power as it deems advantageous for each
body, and, if it sees fit, resumes a portion or the whole of the
delegated authority. The last point of difference to be noted between
the American Constitution and the Constitution of the British Empire is
the fact that as Minerva sprang from the brain of Jupiter fully
equipped, so the American Constitution came forth from the hands of its
framers complete and, what is of more importance, practically in
material matters unchangeable except by the agony of an internecine war
or some overwhelming passions. The British Empire, on the other hand,
is, as respects its component members, ever in progress and flux. An
Anglo-Saxon colony, no less than a human being, has its infancy under
the maternal care of a governor, its boyhood subject to the government
of a representative council and an Executive appointed by the Crown, its
manhood under Home Rule and responsible government, in which the
Executive are bound to vacate their offices whenever they are out-voted
in the Legislature. Changes are ever taking place in the growth, so to
speak, of the several British possessions, but what is the result?
Nobody ever dreams of these changes injuring the Imperial tie or the
supremacy of the British Parliament, that alone towers above all,
unchangeable and unimpaired; and, what is most notable, loyalty and
devotion to the Crown--that is to say, the Imperial tie--so far from
being weakened by the transition of a colony from a state of dependence
in local affairs to the higher degree of a self-governing colony, are,
on the contrary, strengthened almost in direct proportion as the central
interference with local affairs is diminished. On this point an
unimpeachable witness--Mr. Merivale--says: "What, then, are the lessons
to be learnt from a consideration of the American Constitution and of
our colonial system? Surely these: that Imperial unity and Imperial
supremacy are in no degree dependent on the control exercised by the
central power on its dependent members." Facts, however, are more
conclusive than any arguments; and we have only to look back to the
state some forty years ago of Canada, New Zealand, and the various
colonies of Australia, and compare that state with their condition
to-day, to come to the conclusion that the fullest power of local
government is perfectly consistent with the unity of the Empire and the
supremacy of the British Parliament. Under the old colonial
Constitutions the Executive of those colonies was under the control of
the Crown; and Mr. Merivale says "that the political existence consisted
of a series of quarrels and reconciliations between the two opposing
authorities--the colonial legislative body and the Executive nominated
by the Crown." England resolved to give up the control of the Executive,
and to grant complete responsible government--that is to say, the
Governor of each colony was instructed that his Executive Council (or
Ministry, as we should call it) must resign whenever they were out-voted
by the legislative body. The effect of this change, this relaxing, as
would be supposed, of the Imperial tie, was magical, and is thus
described by Mr. Merivale:[11]

"The magnitude of that change--the extraordinary rapidity of its
beneficial effects--it is scarcely possible to exaggerate. None but
those who have traced it can realize the sudden spring made by a young
community under its first release from the old tie of subjection,
moderate as that tie really was. The cessation, as if by magic, of the
old irritant sores between colony and mother country is the first
result. Not only are they at concord, but they seem to leave hardly any
traces in the public mind behind them. Confidence and affection towards
the home, still fondly so termed by the colonist as well as the
emigrant, seem to supersede at once distrust and hostility. Loyalty,
which was before the badge of a class suspected by the rest of the
community, became the common watchword of all, and, with some
extravagance in the sentiment, there arises no small share of its
nobleness and devotion. Communities, which but a few years ago would
have wrangled over the smallest item of public expenditure to which they
were invited by the Executive to contribute, have vied with each other
in their subscriptions to purposes of British interests in response to
calls of humanity, or munificence for objects but indistinctly heard of
at the distance of half the world."

The Dominion of Canada has been so much talked about that it may be well
to give a summary of its Constitution, though, in so far as regards its
relations to the mother country, it differs in no material respect from
any other self-governing colony. The Dominion consists of seven
provinces, each of which has a Legislature of its own, but is at the
same time subject to the Legislature of the Dominion, in the same manner
as each State in the American Union has a Legislature of its own, and is
at the same time subject to the control of Congress. The distinguishing
feature between the system of the American States and the associated
colonies of the Dominion of Canada is this--that all Imperial powers,
everything that constitutes a people a nation as respects foreigners,
are reserved to the mother country. The division, then, of the Dominion
and its provinces consists only in a division of Local powers. It is
impossible to mark accurately the line between Dominion and Provincial
powers, but, speaking generally, Dominion powers relate to such
matters--for example, the regulation of trade and commerce, postal
service, currency, and so forth--as require to be dealt with on a
uniform principle throughout the whole area of a country; while the
Provincial powers relate to provincial and municipal institutions,
provincial licensing, and other subjects restricted to the limits of the
province. As a general rule, the Legislature of the Dominion and the
Legislature of each province have respectively exclusive jurisdiction
within the limits of the subjects entrusted to them; but, as respects
agriculture and immigration, the Dominion Parliament have power to
overrule any Act of the provincial Legislatures, and, as respects
property and civil rights in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick,
the Dominion Parliament may legislate with a view to uniformity, but
their legislation is not valid unless it is accepted by the Legislature
of each province to which it applies.

The executive authority in the Dominion Government, as in all the
self-governing colonies, is carried on by the Governor in the name of
the Queen, but with the advice of a Council: that is to say, as to all
Imperial matters, he is under the control of the mother country; as to
all local matters, he acts on the advice of his local Council. The
result of the whole is that the citizenship of an inhabitant of the
Dominion of Canada is a triple tie. Suppose him to reside in the
province of Quebec. First, he is a citizen of that province, and bound
to obey all the laws which it is within the competence of the provincial
Legislature to pass. Next, he is a citizen of the Dominion of Canada,
and acknowledges its jurisdiction in all matters outside the legitimate
sphere of the province. Lastly, and above all, he is a subject of her
Majesty. He is to all intents and purposes, as respects the vast company
of nations, an Englishman, entitled to all the privileges as he is to
all the glory of the mother country so far as such privileges can be
enjoyed and glory participated in without actual residence in England.
One startling point of likeness in events and unlikeness in consequences
is to be found in the history of Ireland and Canada. In 1798 Ireland
rebelled. Protestant and Catholic were arrayed in arms against each
other. The rebellion was quenched in blood, and measures of repression
have been in force, with slight intervals of suspension, ever since,
with this result--that the Ireland of 1886 is scarcely less disloyal and
discontented than the Ireland of 1798. In 1837 and 1838 Canada rebelled.
Protestants and Catholics, differing in nationality as well as in
religion, were arrayed in arms against each other. The rebellion was
quelled with the least possible violence, a free Constitution was given,
and the Canada of 1886 is the largest, most loyal, and most contented
colony in her Majesty's dominions.

Assuming, then, thus much to be proved by the Constitution of the United
States that national unity of the closest description is consistent with
complete Home Rule in the component members of the nation, and by the
history of Canada and the British colonial empire that an Imperial tie
is sufficient to bind together for centuries dependencies differing in
situation, in nationality, in religion, in laws, in everything that
distinguishes peoples one from another, and further and more
particularly that emancipation of the Anglo-Saxon colonies from control
in their internal affairs strengthens instead of weakening Imperial
unity, let us turn to Ireland and inquire whether there is anything in
the circumstances under which Home Rule was proposed to be granted to
Ireland, or in the measures intended to establish that Home Rule, fairly
leading to the inference that disruption of the Empire or an impairment
of Imperial powers would probably be a consequence of passing the Irish
Government Bill and the Irish Land Bill. And, first, as to the
circumstances which would seem to recommend the Irish Home Rule Bill.

Ireland, from the very commencement of her connection with England, has
chafed under the restraints which that connection imposed. The closer
the apparent union between the two countries the greater the real
disunion. The Act of 1800, _in words and in law_, effected not a union
merely, but a consolidation of the two countries. The effect of those
words and that law was to give rise to a restless discontent, which has
constantly found expression in efforts to procure the repeal of the Act
of Union and the reestablishment of a National Parliament in Dublin. How
futile have been the efforts of the British Parliament to diminish by
concession or repress by coercion Irish aspirations or Irish discontent
it is unnecessary to discuss here. All men admit the facts, however
different the conclusions which they draw from those facts. What Burke
said of America on moving in 1775 his resolution on conciliation with
the colonies was true in 1885 with respect to Ireland:--

"The fact is undoubted, that under former Parliaments the state of
America [read for America, Ireland] has been kept in continual
agitation. Everything administered as remedy to the public complaint, if
it did not produce, was at least followed by an heightening of the
distemper, until, by a variety of experiments, that important country
has been brought into her present situation--a situation which I will
not miscall, which I dare not name, which I scarcely know how to
comprehend in the terms of any description."[12]

At length, after the election of 1885, Mr. Gladstone and the majority of
his followers came to the conclusion that an opportunity had presented
itself for providing Ireland with a Constitution conferring on the
people of that country the largest measure of self-government consistent
with the absolute supremacy of the Crown and the Imperial Parliament and
the entire unity of the Empire. A scheme was proposed which was accepted
in principle by the representatives of the National party in Ireland as
a fair and sufficient adjustment of the Imperial claims of Great Britain
and the Local claims of Ireland. The scheme was shortly this. A
Legislative Assembly was proposed to be established in Ireland with
power to make all laws necessary for the good government of Ireland--in
other words, invested with the same powers of local self-government as a
colonial Assembly. The Irish Assembly was in one respect unlike a
colonial Legislature. It consisted of one House only, but this House was
divided into two orders, each of which, in case of differences on any
important legislative matter, voted separately. This form was adopted in
order to minimize the chances of collision between the two orders, by
making it imperative on each order to hear the arguments of the other
before proceeding to a division, thus throwing on the dissentient order
the full responsibility of its dissent, with a complete knowledge of the
consequences likely to ensue therefrom. The clause conferring on the
Irish Legislature full powers of local self-government was immediately
followed by a provision excepting, by enumeration, from any interference
on the part of the Irish Legislature, all Imperial powers, and declaring
any enactment void which infringed on that provision. This exception (as
is well known) is not found in colonial Constitutional Acts. In them the
restriction of the words of the grant to Local powers only has been
held sufficient to safeguard the supremacy of the British Parliament and
the unity of the Empire. The reason for making a difference in the case
of the Home Rule Bill was political, not legal. Separation was declared
by the enemies of the Bill to be the real intention of its supporters,
and destruction of the unity of the Empire to be its certain
consequence. It seemed well that Ireland, by her representatives, should
accept as a satisfactory charter of Irish liberty a document which
contained an express submission to Imperial power and a direct
acknowledgment of Imperial unity. Similarly with respect to the
supremacy of the British Parliament. In the colonial Constitutions all
reference to this supremacy is omitted as being too clear to require
notice. In the case of the Irish Home Rule Bill instructions were given
to preserve in express words the supremacy of the British Parliament in
order to pledge Ireland to an express admission of that supremacy by the
same vote which accepted Local powers. It is true that the wording by
the draftsman of the sentence reserving the supremacy of Parliament was
justly found fault with as inaccurate and doubtful, but that defect
would have been cured by an amendment in Committee; and, even if there
had not been any such clause in the Bill, it is clear, from what has
been said above, that the Imperial Legislature could not, if it would,
renounce its supremacy or abdicate its sovereign powers. The executive
government in Ireland was continued in the Queen, to be carried on by
the Lord Lieutenant on behalf of her Majesty, with the aid of such
officers and Council as to her Majesty might from time to time seem fit.
Her Majesty was also a constituent part of the Legislature, with power
to delegate to the Lord Lieutenant the prerogative of assenting to or
dissenting from Bills, and of summoning, proroguing, and dissolving
Parliament. Under these provisions the Lord Lieutenant resembled the
Governor of a colony with responsible government. He was invested with a
double authority--first, Imperial; secondly, Local. As an Imperial
officer, he was bound to veto any Bill injuriously affecting Imperial
interests or inconsistent with general Imperial policy; as a Local
officer, it was his duty to act in all local matters according to the
advice of his Council, whose tenure of office depended on their being in
harmony with, and supported by, a majority of the Legislative Assembly.
Questions relating to the constitutionality of any particular law were
not left altogether to the decision of the Governor. If a Bill
containing a provision infringing Imperial rights passed the
Legislature, its validity might be decided in the first instance by the
ordinary courts of law, but the ultimate appeal lay to the Judicial
Committee of the Privy Council, and, with a view to secure absolute
impartiality in the Committee, it was provided that Ireland should be
represented on that body by persons who either were or had been Irish
judges. Not the least important provision of the Bill, as respects the
maintenance of Imperial interests, was the continuance of Imperial
taxation. The Customs and Excise duties were directed to be levied, as
heretofore, in pursuance of the enactments of the Imperial Parliament,
and were excepted from the control of the Irish Legislature, which had
full power, with that exception, to impose such taxes in Ireland as they
might think expedient. The Bill further provided that neither the
Imperial taxes of Excise nor any Local taxes that might be imposed by
the Irish Legislature should be paid into the Irish Exchequer. An
Imperial officer, called the Receiver-General, was appointed, into whose
hands the produce of every tax, both Imperial and Local, was required to
be paid, and it was the duty of the Receiver-General to take care that
all claims of the English Exchequer, including especially the
contribution payable by Ireland for Imperial purposes, were satisfied
before a farthing found its way into the Irish Exchequer for Irish
purposes. The Receiver-General was provided with an Imperial Court to
enforce his rights of Imperial taxation, and adequate means for
enforcing all Imperial powers by Imperial civil officers. The Bill did
not provide for the representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament
on all Imperial questions, including questions relating to Imperial
taxation, but it is fully understood that in any Bill which might
hereafter be brought forward relating to Home Rule those defects would
be remedied.

An examination, then, of the Home Rule Bill, that "child of revolution
and parent of separation," appears to lead irresistibly to two
conclusions. First, that Imperial rights and Imperial powers,
representation for Imperial purposes, Imperial taxation--in short, every
link that binds a subordinate member of an Empire to its supreme
head--have been maintained unimpaired and unchanged. Secondly, that, in
granting Home Rule to discontented Ireland, that form of responsible
government has been adopted which, as Mr. Merivale declares--and his
declaration subsequent events have more than verified--when conferred on
the discontented colonies, changed restless aspirations for separation
into quiet loyalty.

That such a Bill as the Home Rule Bill should be treated as an invasion
of Imperial rights is a proof of one, or perhaps of both, the following
axioms--that Bills are never read by their accusers, and that party
spirit will distort the plainest facts. The union of Great Britain and
Ireland was not, so far as Imperial powers were concerned, disturbed by
the Bill, and an Irishman remains a citizen of the British Empire under
the Home Rule Bill, with the same obligations and the same privileges,
on the same terms as before. All the Bill did was to make his Irish
citizenship distinct from his Imperial citizenship, in the same manner
as the citizenship of a native of the State of New York is distinct
from his citizenship as a member of the United States. Now it has been
found that the Central power in the United States has been more than a
match for the State powers, and can it be conceived for a moment that
the Imperial power of Great Britain should not be a match for the Local
power of Ireland--a State which has not one-seventh of the population or
one-twentieth part of the income of the dominant community?

One argument remains to be noticed which the opponents of Home Rule urge
as absolutely condemnatory of the measure, whereas, if properly weighed,
it is conclusive in its favour. Home Rule, they say, is a mere question
of sentiment. "National aspirations" are the twaddle of English
enthusiasts who know nothing of Ireland. What is really wanted is the
reform of the Land Law. Settle the agrarian problem, and Home Rule may
be relegated to the place supposed to be paved with good intentions. The
Irish will straightway change their character, and become a law-abiding,
contented, loyal people. Be it so. But suppose it to be proved that the
establishment of an Irish Government, or, in other words, Home Rule, is
an essential condition of agrarian reform--that the latter cannot be had
without the former--surely Home Rule should stand none the worse in the
estimation of its opponents if it not only secures a safe basis for
putting an end to agrarian exasperation, but also gratifies the feeling
of the Irish people as expressed by the majority of its representatives
in Parliament? Now, what is the nature of the Irish Land Question? This
we must understand before considering the remedy. In Ireland (meaning by
Ireland that part of the country which is in the hands of tenants, and
falls within the compass of a Land Bill) the tenure of land is wholly
unlike that which is found in the greater part of England. Instead of
large farms in which the landlord makes all the improvements and the
tenant pays rent for the privilege of cultivating the land and receives
the produce, small holdings are found in which the tenant does the
improvements (if any) and pays a fixed rent-charge to the owner. In
England the tenant does not perform the obligations or in any way aspire
to the character of owner. If he thinks he can get a cheaper farm, he
quits his former one, regarding his interest in the land as a mere
matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. Not so the Irish tenant. He has
made what he calls improvements, he claims a quasi-ownership in the
land, and has the characteristic Celtic attachment for the patch of
ground forming his holding, however squalid it may be, however
inadequate for his support. In short, in Ireland there is a dual
ownership--that of the proprietor, who has no interest in the soil so
long as the tenant pays his rent and fulfils the conditions of his
tenancy; and that of the tenant, who, subject to the payment of his rent
and performance of the fixed conditions, acts, thinks, and carries
himself as the owner of his holding. A system, then, of agrarian reform
in Ireland resolves itself into an inquiry as to the best mode of
putting an end to this dual ownership--that is to say, of making the
tenant the sole proprietor of his holding, and compensating the landlord
for his interest in the ownership. The problem is further narrowed by
the circumstance that the tenant cannot be expected to advance any
capital or pay an increased rent, so that the means of compensating the
landlord must be found out of the existing rent.

The plan adopted in Mr. Gladstone's Land Bill was to commute the
rent-charges, offering the landlord, as a general rule, twenty years'
purchase on the net rental of the estate (that is to say, the rent
received by him after deducting all outgoings), and paying him the
purchase-money in £3 per cent. stock taken at par. The stock was to be
advanced by the English Government to an Irish State department at 3-1/8
per cent. interest, and the Bill provided that the tenant, instead of
rent, was to pay an annuity of £4 per cent. on a capital sum equal in
amount to twenty times the gross rental.

The notable feature which distinguished this plan from all other schemes
was the security given for the repayment of the purchase-money: hitherto
the English Government has lent the money directly to the landlord or
tenant, and has become the mortgagee of the land--in other words, has
become in effect the landlord of the land sold to the tenant until the
repayment of the loan has been completed. To carry into effect under
such a system any extensive scheme of agrarian reform (and if not
extensive such a reform would be of no value in pacifying Ireland)
presupposes a readiness on the part of the English Government to become
virtually the landlord of a large portion of Ireland, with the attendant
odium of absenteeism and alien domination. Under a land scheme such as
that of 1886, all these difficulties would be overcome. The Irish, not
the English, Government would be the virtual landlord. It would be the
interest of Ireland that the annuities due from the tenants should be
regularly paid, as, subject to the prior charge of the English
Exchequer, they would form part of the Irish revenues. The cardinal
difference, then, between Mr. Gladstone's scheme and any other land
scheme that has seen the light is this--that in Mr. Gladstone's scheme
the English loans would have been lent to the Irish Government on the
security of the whole Irish revenues, whereas in every other scheme they
have been lent by the English Government to the Irish creditors on the
security of individual patches of land.

The whole question, then, of the relation between Home Rule and agrarian
reform may be summed up as follows:--Agrarian reform is necessary for
the pacification of Ireland; agrarian reform cannot be efficiently
carried into effect without an Irish Government; an Irish Government can
only be established by a Home Rule Bill: therefore a Home Rule Bill is
necessary for the pacification of Ireland. It is idle to say, as has
been said on numerous platforms, that plans no doubt can be devised for
agrarian reform without Home Rule. The Irish revenues are the only
collateral security that can be obtained for loans of English money, and
Irish revenues are only available for the purpose on the establishment
of an Irish Government. Baronial guarantees, union guarantees, county
guarantees, debenture schemes, have all been tried and found wanting,
and vague assertions as to possibilities are idle unless they are based
on intelligible working plans.

The foregoing arguments will be equally valid if, instead of making the
tenants peasant-proprietors, it were thought desirable that the Irish
State should be the proprietor and the tenants be the holders of the
land at perpetual rents and subject to fixed conditions. Again, it might
be possible to pay the landlords by annual sums instead of capital sums.
Such matters are really questions of detail. The substance is to
interpose the Irish Government between the tenant and the English
mortgagee, and to make the loans general charges on the whole of the
Irish Government revenues as paid into the hands of an Imperial Receiver
instead of placing them as special charges, each fixed on its own small
estate or holding. The fact that Mr. Gladstone's land scheme was
denounced as confiscation of £100,000,000 of the English taxpayers'
property, while Lord Ashbourne's Act is pronounced by the same party
wise and prudent, shows the political blindness of party spirit in its
most absurd form. Lord Ashbourne's Act requires precisely the same
expenditure to do the same work as Mr. Gladstone's Bill requires, but in
Mr. Gladstone's scheme the whole Irish revenue was pledged as collateral
security, and the Irish Government was interposed between the ultimate
creditor and the Irish tenant, while under Lord Ashbourne's Act the
English Government figures without disguise as the landlord of each
tenant, exacting a debt which the tenant is unwilling to pay as being
due to what he calls an alien Government.

An endeavour has been made in the preceding pages to prove that Home
Rule in no respect infringes on Imperial rights or Imperial unity, for
the simple reason that the Imperial power remains exactly in the same
position as it was before, the Home Rule Bill dealing only with Local
matters. At all events, Burke thought that the Imperial supremacy alone
constituted a real union between England and Ireland. He says--

"My poor opinion is, that the closest connection between Great Britain
and Ireland is essential to the well-being--I had almost said to the
very being--of the three kingdoms; for that purpose I humbly conceive
that the whole of the superior, and what I should call Imperial
politics, ought to have its residence here, and that Ireland, locally,
civilly, and commercially independent, ought politically to look up to
Great Britain in all matters of peace and war. In all these points to be
joined with her, and, in a word, with her to live and to die."[13]

How strange to Burke would have seemed the doctrine that the restoration
of a limited power of self-government to Ireland, excluding commerce,
and excluding all matters not only Imperial, but those in which
uniformity is required, should be denounced as a disruption of the

It remains to notice one other charge made against the Gladstonian Home
Rule Bill, namely, that of impairing the supremacy of the British
Parliament. That allegation has been shown also to be founded on a
mistake. Next, it is said that the Gladstonian scheme does not provide
securities against executive and legislative oppression. The answer is
complete. The executive authority being vested in the Queen, it will be
the duty of the Governor not to allow executive oppression; still more
will it be his duty to veto any act of legislative oppression. Further,
it is stated that difficulties will arise with respect to the power of
the Privy Council to nullify unconstitutional Acts. But it is hard to
see why a power which is exercised with success in the United States,
where all the States are equal, and without dispute in our colonies,
which are all dependent, should not be carried into effect with equal
ease in Ireland, which is more closely bound to us and more completely
under our power than the colonies are, or than the several States are
under the power of the Central Government.

To conclude: the cause of Irish discontent is the conjoint operation of
the passion for nationality and the vicious system of land tenure, and
the scheme of the Irish Home Rule Bill and the Land Bill removes the
whole fabric on which Irish discontent is raised. The Irish, by the
great majority of their representatives, have accepted the Home Rule
Bill as a satisfactory settlement of the nationality question. The
British Parliament can, through the medium of the Home Rule Bill and the
establishment of an Irish Legislature, carry through a final settlement
of agrarian disputes with less injustice to individuals than could a
Parliament sitting in Dublin, and, be it added, with scarcely any
appreciable risk to the British taxpayer. Of course it may be said that
an Irish Parliament will go farther--that Home Rule is a step to
separation, and a reform of the Land Laws a spoliation of the landlords.
To those who urge such arguments I would recommend the perusal of the
speech of Burke on Conciliation with America, and especially the
following sentences, substituting "Ireland" for "the colonies:"--

"But [the Colonies] Ireland will go further. Alas! alas! when will this
speculating against fact and reason end? What will quiet these panic
fears which we entertain of the hostile effect of a conciliatory
conduct? Is it true that no case can exist in which it is proper for the
Sovereign to accede to the desires of his discontented subjects? Is
there anything peculiar in this case to make it a rule for itself? Is
all authority of course lost when it is not pushed to the extreme? Is it
a certain maxim that the fewer causes of discontentment are left by
Government the more the subject will be inclined to resist and rebel?"


[Footnote 9: Burke's Speech on American Taxation, vol. i. p. 174]

[Footnote 10: This is the opinion of both English and American lawyers.
See Blackstone's Comm., i. 90; Austin on Jurisprudence, i. 226. As to
American cases, see Corley on Constitutional Limitations, pp. 2-149.]

[Footnote 11: "Lectures on the Colonies," p, 641.]

[Footnote 12: Burke, vol. i. p. 181.]

[Footnote 13: "Letter on Affairs of Ireland," i. 462.]



A mere enumeration or analysis of the contents of the Irish Government
Bill, 1886, and the Land (Ireland) Bill, 1886, would convey scarcely any
intelligible idea to the mind of an ordinary reader. It is, therefore,
proposed in the following pages, before entering on the details of each
Bill, to give a summary of the reasons which led to its introduction,
and of the principles on which it is founded. To begin with the Irish
Government Bill--

The object of the Irish Government Bill is to confer on the Irish people
the largest measure of self-government consistent with the absolute
supremacy of the Crown and Imperial Parliament and the entire unity of
the Empire. To carry into effect this object it was essential to create
a separate though subordinate legislature; thus occasion was given to
opponents to apply the name of Separatists to the supporters of the
Bill--a term true in so far only as it denoted the intention to create a
separate legislature, but false and calumnious when used in the sense in
which it was intended to be understood--of imputing to the promoters of
the Bill the intention to disunite or in any way to disintegrate the
Empire. Indeed, the very object of the measure was, by relaxing a little
the legal bonds of union, to draw closer the actual ties between England
and Ireland, in fact, to do as we have done in our Colonies, by
decentralizing the subordinate functions of government to strengthen the
central supremacy of natural affection and Imperial unity. The example
of the effects of giving complete self-government to our Colonies would
seem not unfavourable to trying the same experiment in Ireland. Some
forty years ago, Canada, New Zealand, and the various colonies of
Australia were discontented and uneasy at the control exercised by the
Government of England over their local affairs. What did England do? She
gave to each of those communities the fullest power of local government
consistent with the unity of the Empire. The result was that the real
union was established in the same degree as the apparent tie of control
over local affairs was loosened. Are there any reasons to suppose that
the condition of Ireland is such as to render the example of the
Colonies applicable? Let us look a little at the past history of that
country. Up to 1760 Ireland was governed practically as a conquered
country. The result was that in 1782, in order to save Imperial unity,
we altogether relaxed the local tie and made Ireland legislatively
independent. The Empire was thus saved, but difficulties naturally arose
between two independent legislatures. The true remedy would have been to
have imposed on Grattan's Parliament the conditions imposed by the Irish
Government Bill on the statutory Parliament created by that Bill; the
course actually taken was that, instead of leaving the Irish with their
local government, and arranging for the due supremacy of England, the
Irish Legislature was destroyed under the guise of Union, and Irish
representatives were transferred to an assembly in which they had little
weight, and in which they found no sympathy. The result was that from
the date of the Union to the present day Ireland has been constantly
working for the reinstatement of its National Legislature, and has been
governed by a continuous system of extraordinary legislature called
coercion; the fact being that between 1800, the date of the Act of
Union, and 1832, the date of the great Reform Act, there were only
eleven years free from coercion, while in the fifty-three years since
that period there have been only two years entirely free from special
repressive legislation. So much, therefore, is clear, that Irish
discontent at not being allowed to manage their own affairs has
gradually increased instead of diminishing. The conclusion then would
seem irresistible, that if coercion has failed, the only practical mode
of governing Ireland satisfactorily is to give the people power to
manage their local affairs. Coming, then, to the principle of the Bill,
the first step is to reconcile local government with Imperial supremacy,
in other words, to divide Imperial from local powers; for if this
division be accurately made, and the former class of powers be reserved
to the British Crown and British Parliament, while the latter only are
intrusted to the Irish Parliament, it becomes a contradiction in terms
to say that Imperial unity is dissolved by reserving to the Imperial
authority all its powers, or that Home Rule is a sundering of the
Imperial tie when that tie is preserved inviolable. Imperial powers,
then, are the prerogatives of the Crown with respect to peace and war,
and making treaties with foreign nations; in short, the power of
regulating the relations of the Empire towards foreign nations. These
are the _jura summi imperii_, the very insignia of supremacy; the
attributes of sovereign authority in every form of government, be it
despotism, limited monarchy, or republic; the only difference is that in
a system of government under one supreme head, they are vested in that
head alone, in a federal government, as in America or Switzerland, they
reside in the composite body forming the federal supreme authority.
Various subsidiary powers necessarily attend the above supreme powers;
for example, the power of maintaining armies and navies, of commanding
the militia, and other incidental powers. Closely connected with the
power of making peace and war is the power of regulating commerce with
foreign nations. Next in importance to the reservations necessary to
constitute the Empire a Unity with regard to foreign nations, are the
powers required to prevent disputes and to facilitate intercourse
between the various parts of the Empire. These are the coinage of money
and other regulations relating to currency, to copyright or other
exclusive rights to the use or profit of any works or inventions. The
above subjects must be altogether excluded from the powers of the
subordinate legislature; it ceases to be subordinate as soon as it is
invested with these Imperial, or quasi-Imperial, powers.

Assuming, however, the division between Imperial and local powers to be
accurately determined, how is the subordinate legislative body to be
kept within its due limits? The answer is very plain,--an Imperial court
must be established to decide in the last resort whether the subordinate
legislature has or has not infringed Imperial rights. Such a court has
been in action in the United States of America ever since their union,
and no serious conflict has arisen in carrying its decisions into
effect, and the Privy Council, acting as the Supreme Court in respect to
Colonial appeals, has been accepted by all the self-governing colonies
as a just and impartial expositor of the meaning of their several

Next in importance to the right division of Imperial and local powers is
a correct understanding of the relation borne by the executive of an
autonomous country to the mother country. In every part of the British
Empire which enjoys home rule the legislature consists of the Queen and
the two local legislative bodies. The administrative power resides in
the Queen alone. The Queen has the appointment of all the officers of
the government; money bills can be introduced into the legislature only
with the consent of the Queen. The initiative power of taxation then is
vested in the Queen, the executive head, in practice represented by the
Governor. But such a power of initiation is of course useless unless the
legislative body is willing to support the executive, and grants it the
necessary funds for carrying on the government. What, then, is the
contrivance by which the governmental machine is prevented from being
stopped by a difference between the executive and legislative
authorities? It is the same in the mother country, and in every British
home-rule country, with this difference only--that beyond the limits of
the mother country the Queen is represented by a governor to whom are
delegated such a measure of powers as is necessary for the supreme head
of a local self-governing community. The contrivance is this in the
mother country:--the Queen acts upon the advice of a cabinet council; in
home-rule dependencies the Governor acts on the advice of a local
council. If this cabinet council in the mother country, or local council
in a dependency, ceases to command a majority in the popular legislative
body, it resigns, and the Governor is obliged to select a council which,
by commanding such a majority, can obtain the supplies necessary to
carry on the government. The consequence then is, that in a home-rule
community, if a serious difficulty arises between the legislative and
executive authority, the head of the executive, the governor, refers the
ultimate decision of the question to the general body of electors by
dissolving the popular legislative body. It has been urged in the
discussion on the Irish Government Bill that the powers of the executive
in relation to the legislative body ought to be expressed in the Bill
itself; but it is clear to anybody acquainted with the rudiments of
legislation that the details of such a system (in other words, the mode
in which a governor ought to act under the endless variety of
circumstances which may occur in governing a dependency) never have been
and never can be expressed in an Act of Parliament. But how little
difficulty this absence of definition has caused may be judged from the
fact that neither in England nor in any of her home-rule dependencies
has any vital collision arisen between the executive and legislative
authorities, and that all the home-rule colonies have managed to
surmount the obstacles which the opponents of Home Rule argued would be
fatal to their existence. The main principles have now been stated on
which the Irish Government Bill is framed, and it remains to give a
summary of the provisions of the Bill, the objects and bearing of which
will be readily understood from the foregoing observations. The first
clause provides that--

"On and after the appointed day there shall be established in Ireland a
Legislature consisting of Her Majesty the Queen and an Irish legislative

This is the first step in all English constitutional systems, to vest
the power of legislation in the Queen and the legislative body. Such a
legislature might have had conferred on it the independent powers vested
in Grattan's Parliament: but the second clause at once puts an end to
any doubt as to the subordination of the Irish legislative body; for
while on the one hand it confers full powers of local self-government,
by declaring that the Legislature may make any laws for the peace,
order, and good government of Ireland, it subjects that power to
numerous exceptions and restrictions. The exceptions are contained in
the third clause, and the restrictions in the fourth. The exceptions are
as follows:--

"The Legislature of Ireland shall not make laws relating to the
following matters or any of them:--

"(1.) The status or dignity of the Crown, or the succession to the
Crown, or a Regency;

"(2.) The making of peace or war;

"(3.) The army, navy, militia, volunteers, or other military or naval
forces, or the defence of the realm;

"(4.) Treaties and other relations with foreign States, or the
relations between the various parts of Her Majesty's dominions;

"(5.) Dignities or titles of honour;

"(6.) Prize or booty of war;

"(7.) Offences against the law of nations; or offences committed in
violation of any treaty made, or hereafter to be made, between Her
Majesty and any foreign State; or offences committed on the high seas;

"(8.) Treason, alienage, or naturalization;

"(9.) Trade, navigation, or quarantine;

"(10.) The postal and telegraph service, except as hereafter in this Act
mentioned with respect to the transmission of letters and telegrams in

"(11.) Beacons, lighthouses, or sea-marks;

"(12.) The coinage; the value of foreign money; legal tender; or weights
and measures; or

"(13.) Copyright, patent rights, or other exclusive rights to the use or
profits of any works or inventions."

Of these exceptions the first four preserve the imperial rights which
have been insisted on above, and maintain the position of Ireland as an
integral portion of that Empire of which Great Britain is the head. The
remaining exceptions are either subsidiary to the first four, or relate,
as is the case with exceptions 10 to 13, to matters on which it is
desirable that uniformity should exist throughout the whole Empire. The
restrictions in clause 4 are:--

"The Irish Legislature shall not make any law--

"(1.) Respecting the establishment or endowment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or

"(2.) Imposing any disability, or conferring any privilege, on account
of religious belief; or

"(3.) Abrogating or derogating from the right to establish or maintain
any place of denominational education or any denominational institution
or charity; or

"(4.) Prejudicially affecting the right of any child to attend a school
receiving public money without attending the religious instruction at
that school; or

"(5.) Impairing, without either the leave of Her Majesty in Council
first obtained on an address presented by the legislative body of
Ireland, or the consent of the corporation interested, the rights,
property, or privileges of any existing corporation incorporated by
royal charter or local and general Act of Parliament; or

"(6.) Imposing or relating to duties of customs and duties of excise, as
defined by this Act, or either of such duties, or affecting any Act
relating to such duties or either of them; or

"(7.) Affecting this Act, except in so far as it is declared to be
alterable by the Irish Legislature."

These restrictions differ from the exceptions, inasmuch as they do not
prevent the Legislature of Ireland from dealing with the subjects to
which they refer, but merely impose on it an obligation not to handle
the specified matters in a manner detrimental to the interests of
certain classes of Her Majesty's subjects. For example, restrictions 1
to 4 are practically concerned in securing religious freedom;
restriction 5 protects existing charters; restriction 6 is necessary, as
will be seen hereinafter, to carrying into effect the financial scheme
of the bill; restriction 7 is a consequence of the very framework of the
Bill: it provides for the stability of the Irish constitution, by
declaring that the Irish Legislature is not competent to alter the
constitutional act to which it owes its existence, except on those
points on which it is expressly permitted to make alterations.

Clause 5 is an exposition, so to speak, of the consequence which would
seem to flow from the fact of the Queen being a constitutional part of
the Legislature. It states that the royal prerogatives with respect to
the summoning, prorogation, and dissolution of the Irish legislative
body are to be the same as the royal prerogatives in relation to the
Imperial Parliament. The next clause (6) is comparatively immaterial;
it merely provides that the duration of the Irish legislative body is to
be quinquennial. As it deals with a matter of detail, it perhaps would
have more aptly found a place in a subsequent part of the Bill. Clause 7
passes from the legislative to the executive authority; it declares:--

(1.) The executive government of Ireland shall continue vested in Her
Majesty, and shall be carried on by the Lord Lieutenant on behalf of Her
Majesty with the aid of such officers and such council as to Her Majesty
may from time to time seem fit.

(2.) Subject to any instructions which may from time to time be given by
Her Majesty, the Lord Lieutenant shall give or withhold the assent of
Her Majesty to bills passed by the Irish legislative body, and shall
exercise the prerogatives of Her Majesty in respect of the summoning,
proroguing, and dissolving of the Irish legislative body, and any
prerogatives the exercise of which may be delegated to him by Her

Bearing in mind what has been said in the preliminary observations in
respect of the relation between the executive and the legislative
authority, it will be at once understood how much this clause implies,
according to constitutional maxims, of the dependence on the one hand of
the Irish executive in respect of imperial matters, and of its
independence in respect of local matters. The clause is practically
co-ordinate and correlative with the clause conferring complete local
powers on the Irish Legislature, while it preserves all imperial powers
to the Imperial Legislature. The governor is an imperial officer, and
will be bound to watch over imperial interests with a jealous scrutiny,
and to veto any bill which may be injurious to those interests. On the
other hand, as respects all local matters, he will act on and be guided
by the advice of the Irish executive council. The system is, as has been
shown above, self-acting. The governor, for local purposes, must have a
council which is in harmony with the legislative body. If a council,
supported by the legislative body and the governor do not agree, the
governor must give way unless he can, by dismissing his council and
dissolving the legislative body, obtain both a council and a legislative
body which will support his views. As respects imperial questions, the
case is different; here the last word rests with the mother country, and
in the last resort a determination of the executive council, backed by
the legislative body, to resist imperial rights, must be deemed an act
of rebellion on the part of the Irish people, and be dealt with

The above clauses contain the pith and marrow of the whole scheme. The
exact constitution of the legislative body, and the orders into which it
should be divided, the exclusion or non-exclusion of the Irish members
from the Imperial Parliament, indeed, the whole of the provisions found
in the remainder of this Bill, are matters which might be altered
without destroying, or even violently disarranging, the Home-rule scheme
as above described.

Clauses 9, 10, and 11 provide for the constitution of the legislative
body; it differs materially from the colonial legislative bodies, and
from the Legislature of the United States. For the purpose of
deliberation it consists of one House only; for the purpose of voting on
all questions (except interlocutory applications and questions of
order), it is divided into two classes, called in the Bill "Orders,"
each of which votes separately, with the result that a question on which
the two orders disagree is deemed to be decided in the negative. The
object of this arrangement is to diminish the chances of collision
between the two branches of the Legislature, which have given rise to so
much difficulty both in England and the colonies. Each order will have
ample opportunity of learning the strength and hearing the arguments of
the other order. They will therefore, each of them, proceed to a
division with a full sense of the responsibility attaching to their
action. A further safeguard is provided against a final conflict between
the first and second orders. If the first order negative a proposition,
that negative is in force only for a period of three years, unless a
dissolution takes place sooner, in which case it is terminated at once;
the lost bill or clause may then be submitted to the whole House, and if
decided in the affirmative, and assented to by the Queen, becomes law.
The first order of the Irish legislative body comprises 103 members. It
is intended to consist ultimately wholly of elective members; but for
the next immediate period of thirty years the rights of the Irish
representative peers are, as will be seen, scrupulously reserved. The
plan is this: of the 103 members composing the first order, seventy-five
are elective, and twenty-eight peerage members. The qualification of the
elective members is an annual income of £200, or the possession of a
capital sum of £4000 free from all charges. The elections are to be
conducted in the electoral districts set out in the schedule to the
Bill. The electors must possess land or tenements within the district of
the annual value of £25. The twenty-eight peerage members consist of the
existing twenty-eight representative peers, and any vacancies in their
body during the next thirty years are to be filled up in the manner at
present in use respecting the election of Irish representative peers.
The Irish representative peers cease to sit in the English Parliament;
but a member of that body is not required to sit in the Irish Parliament
without his assent, and the place of any existing peer refusing to sit
in the Irish Parliament will be filled up as in the case of an ordinary
vacancy. The elective members of the first order sit for ten years;
every five years one half their number will retire. The members of the
first order do not vacate their seats on a dissolution of the
legislative body. At the expiration of thirty years, that is to say,
upon the exhaustion of all the existing Irish representative peers, the
whole of the upper order will consist of elective members. The second
order consists of 204 members, that is to say, of the 103 existing Irish
members (who are transferred to the Irish Parliament), and of 101
additional members to be elected by the county districts and the
represented towns, in the same manner as that in which the present 101
members for counties and towns are elected--each constituency returning
two instead of one member. If an existing member does not assent to his
transfer, his seat is vacated.

A power is given to the Legislature of Ireland to enable the Royal
University of Ireland to return two members.

The provisions with respect to this second order fall within the class
of enactments which are alterable by the Irish Legislature. After the
first dissolution of parliament the Irish Legislature may deal with the
second order in any manner they think fit, with the important
restrictions:--(1) That in the distribution of members they must have
due regard to population; (2) that they must not increase or diminish
the number of members.

The transfer to the Irish legislative body of the Irish representative
peers, and of the Irish members, involves their exclusion under ordinary
circumstances from the Imperial Parliament, with this great exception,
that whenever an alteration is proposed to be made in the fundamental
provisions of the Irish Government Bill, a mode of procedure is devised
for recalling both orders of the Irish legislative body to the Imperial
Parliament for the purpose of obtaining their consent to such alteration
(clause 39).

Further, it is right to state here that Mr. Gladstone in his speech on
the second reading of the Bill proposed to provide, "that when any
proposal for taxation was made affecting the condition of Ireland, Irish
members should have an opportunity of appearing in the House to take a
share in the transaction of that business."

Questions arising as to whether the Irish Parliament has or not
exceeded its constitutional powers may be determined by the ordinary
courts of law in the first instance; the ultimate appeal lies to the
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. An additional safeguard is
provided by declaring that before a provision in a Bill becomes law, the
Lord Lieutenant may take the opinion of the Judicial Committee of the
Privy Council as to its legality, and further, that without subjecting
private litigants to the expense of trying the constitutionality of an
Act, the Lord Lieutenant may, of his own motion, move the judicial
committee to determine the question. With a view to secure absolute
impartiality in the committee, Ireland will be represented on that body
by persons who are or have been Irish judges (clause 25).

The question of finance forms a separate portion of the Bill, the
provisions of which are contained in clauses twelve to twenty, while the
machinery for carrying those enactments into effect will be found in
Part III. of the Land Bill. The first point to be determined was the
amount to be contributed by Ireland to imperial expenses. Under the Act
of Union it was intended that Ireland should pay 2/17ths, or in the
proportion of 1 to 7-1/2 of the total expenditure of the United Kingdom.
This amount being found exorbitant, it was gradually reduced, until at
the present moment it amounts to something under the proportion of 1 to
11-1/2. The bill fixes the proportion at 1/15th, or 1 to 14, this sum
being arrived at by a comparison between the amount of the income-tax,
death-duties, and valuation of property in Great Britain, and the amount
of the same particulars in Ireland. The amount to be contributed by
Ireland to the imperial expenditure being thus ascertained, the more
difficult part of the problem remained to provide the fund out of which
the contribution should be payable, and the mode in which its payment
should be secured. The plan which commended itself to the framers of the
Bill, as combining the advantage of insuring the fiscal unity of Great
Britain and Ireland, with absolute security to the British exchequer,
was to continue the customs and excise duties under imperial control,
and to pay them into the hands of an imperial officer. This plan is
carried into effect by the conjoint operation of the clauses of the
Irish Government Bill and the Irish Land Bill above referred to. The
customs and excise duties are directed to be levied as heretofore in
pursuance of the enactments of the Imperial Parliament, and are excepted
from the control of the Irish Legislature, which may, with that
exception, impose any taxes in Ireland it may think expedient. The
imperial officer who is appointed under the Land Bill bears the title of
Receiver-General, and into his hands not only the imperial taxes (the
customs and excise duties), but also all local taxes imposed by the
Irish Parliament are in the first instance paid. (See Clauses 25-27 of
the Land Bill.) The Receiver-General having thus in his hands all
imperial and local funds levied in Ireland, his duty is to satisfy all
imperial claims before paying over any moneys to the Irish Exchequer.
Further, an Imperial Court of Exchequer is established in Ireland to
watch over the interests of the Receiver-General, and all revenue cases
are to be tried, and all defaults punished in that court. Any neglect of
the local authorities to carry into effect the decrees of the Imperial
Court will amount to treason, and it will be the duty of the Imperial
Government to deal with it accordingly.

Supposing the Bill to have passed, the account of the Exchequer in
Ireland would have stood thus:--


1. _Imperial Taxes_:
   (1) Customs . . . . . . . . . . £1,880,000
   (2) Excise  . . . . . . . . . .  4,300,000
                                    --------- £6,180,000

2. _Local Taxes_:
   (1) Stamps . . . . . . . . . . .   £600,000
   (2) Income-Tax at 6_d_. in £ . .    550,000
                                     --------- £1,150,000

3. _Non-Tax Revenue_:
   (Post Office, Telegraph, etc.) . . . . .    £1,020,000


1. _Contribution to Imperial Exchequer_ on basis of
     1/15th of Imperial Expenditure, viz.:
   (1) Debt Charge . . . . . . . .  £1,466,000
   (2) Army and Navy . . . . . . .   1,666,000
   (3) Civil Charges . . . . . . .     110,000
                                     --------- £3,242,000
2. _Sinking Fund_ on 1/15th of
      Capital of Debt . . . . . . . . . . . . .   360,000
3. _Charge for Constabulary_[14]  . . . . . . . 1,000,000
4. _Local Civil Charges_
      other than Constabulary . . . . . . . . . 2,510,000
5. _Collection of Revenue_:
      (1) Imperial Taxes . . . . . .   £170,000
      (2) Local Taxes  . . . . . . . .   60,000
      (3) Non-Tax Revenue  . . . . . .  604,000
                                        -------   834,000
6. _Balance_ or Surplus . . . . . . . . . . . .   404,000

The Imperial contribution payable by Ireland to Great Britain cannot be
increased for thirty years, though it may be diminished if the charges
for the army and navy and Imperial civil expenditure for any year be
less than fifteen times the contribution paid by Ireland, in which case
1/15th of the diminution will be deducted from the annual Imperial
contribution. Apart from the Imperial charges there are other charges
strictly Irish, for the security of the payment of which the Bill
provides. This it does by imposing an obligation on the Irish
legislative body to enact sufficient taxes to meet such charges, and by
directing them to be paid by the Imperial Receiver-General, who is
required to keep an imperial and an Irish account, carrying the customs
and excise duties, in the first instance, to the imperial account, and
the local taxes to the Irish account, transferring to the Irish account
the surplus remaining after paying the imperial charges on the imperial
account. On this Irish account are charged debts due from the Government
of Ireland, pensions, and other sums due to the civil servants, and the
salaries of the judges of the supreme courts in Ireland.

Some provisions of importance remain to be noticed. Judges of the
superior and county courts in Ireland are to be removable from office
only on address to the Crown, presented by both orders of the
Legislative body voting separately. Existing Civil servants are retained
in their offices at their existing salaries; if the Irish Government
desire their retirement, they will be entitled to pensions; on the other
hand, if at the end of two years the officers themselves wish to retire,
they can do so, and will be entitled to the same pensions as if their
office had been abolished. The pensions are payable by the
Receiver-General out of the Irish account above mentioned.

The supremacy of the Imperial Parliament over all parts of the Empire is
an inherent quality of which Parliament cannot divest itself, inasmuch
as it cannot bind its successors or prevent them from repealing any
prior Act. In order, however, to prevent any misapprehension on this
point clause 37 was inserted, the efficacy of which, owing in great
measure to a misprint, has been doubted. It is enough to state here that
it was intended by express legislation to reserve all powers to the
Imperial Parliament, and had the Bill gone into Committee the question
would have been placed beyond the reach of cavil by a slight alteration
in the wording of the clause. This summary may be concluded by the
statement that the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords over
actions and suits arising in Ireland (except in respect of
constitutional questions reserved for the determination of the Judicial
Committee of the Privy Council as explained above), and with respect to
claims for Irish Peerages, is preserved intact.

The object of the Land Bill was a political one: to promote the
contentment of the people, and the cause of good government in Ireland,
by settling once and for ever the vexed question relating to land. To do
this effectually it was necessary to devise a system under which the
tenants, as a class, should become interested in the maintenance of
social order, and be furnished with substantial inducements to rally
round the institutions of their country. On the other hand, it was just
and right that the landlords should participate in the benefits of any
measure proposed for remedying the evils attendant upon the tenure of
land in Ireland; and should be enabled to rid themselves, on fair terms,
of their estates in cases where, from apprehension of impending changes,
or for pecuniary reasons, they were desirous of relieving themselves
from the responsibilities of ownership. Further, it was felt by the
framers of the Bill that a moral obligation rested on the Imperial
Government to remove, if possible, "the fearful exasperations attending
the agrarian relations in Ireland," rather than leave a question so
fraught with danger, and so involved in difficulty, to be determined by
the Irish Government on its first entry on official existence. Such were
the governing motives for bringing in the Land Bill.

To understand an Irish Land Bill it is necessary to dismiss at once all
ideas of the ordinary relations between landlord and tenant in England,
and to grasp a true conception of the condition of an Irish tenanted
estate. In England the relation between the landlord and tenant of a
farm resembles, with a difference in the subject-matter, the relation
between the landlord and tenant of a furnished house. In the case of the
house, the landlord keeps it in a state fit for habitation, and the
tenant pays rent for the privilege of living in another man's house. In
the case of the farm, the landlord provides the farm with house,
farm-buildings, gates, and other permanent improvements required to fit
it for cultivation by the tenant, and the tenant pays rent for the
privilege of cultivating the farm, receiving the proceeds of that
cultivation. The characters of owner and tenant, however long the
connection between them may subsist, are quite distinct. The tenant does
no acts of ownership, and never regards the land as belonging to
himself, quitting it without hesitation if he can make more money by
taking another farm. In Ireland the whole situation is different:
instead of a farm of some one hundred or two hundred acres, the tenant
has a holding varying, say, from five to fifty acres, for which he pays
an annual rent-charge to the landlord. He, or his ancestors have, in the
opinion of the tenant, acquired a quasi-ownership in the land by making
all the improvements, and he is only removable on non-payment of the
fixed rent, or non-fulfilment of certain specified conditions. In short,
in Ireland the ownership is dual: the landlord is merely the lord of a
quasi-copyhold manor, consisting of numerous small tenements held by
quasi-copyholders who, so long as they pay what may be called the
manorial rents, and fulfil the manorial conditions, regard themselves as
independent owners of their holdings. An Irish Land Bill, then, dealing
with tenanted estates, is, in fact, merely a Bill for converting the
small holders of tenements held at a fixed rent into fee-simple owners
by redemption of the rent due to the landlord and a transfer of the land
to the holders. Every scheme, therefore, for settling the Land question
in Ireland resolves itself into an inquiry as to the best mode of paying
off the rent-charges due to the landlord. The tenant cannot, of course,
raise the capital sufficient for paying off the redemption money; some
State authority must, therefore, intervene and advance the whole or the
greater part of that money, and recoup itself for the advance by the
creation in its own favour of an annual charge on the holding sufficient
to repay in a certain number of years both the principal and interest
due in respect of the advance.

The first problem, then, in an Irish Land Bill, is to settle the
conditions of this annuity in such a manner as to satisfy the landlord
and tenant; the first, as to the price of his estate; the second, as to
the amount of the annuity to be paid by him, at the same time to provide
the State authority with adequate security for the repayment of the
advance, or, in other words, for the punctual payments of the annuity
which is to discharge the advance. Next in importance to the financial
question of the adjustment of the annuity comes the administrative
difficulty of investigating the title, and thus securing to the tenant
the possession of the fee simple, and to the State authority the
position of a mortgagee. Under ordinary circumstances the investigation
of the title to an estate involves the examination of every document
relating thereto for a period of forty years, and the distribution of
the purchase-money amongst the head renters, mortgagees, and other
encumbrancers, who, in addition to the landlord, are found to be
interested in the ownership of almost every Irish estate. Such a
process is costly, even in the case of large estates, and involves an
expense almost, and, indeed, speaking generally, absolutely prohibitory
in the case of small properties. Some mode, then, must be devised for
reducing this expense within manageable limits, or any scheme for
dealing with Irish land, however well devised from a financial point of
view, will sink under the burden imposed by the expense attending the
transfer of the land to the new proprietors. Having thus stated the two
principal difficulties attending the Land question in Ireland, it may be
well before entering on the details of the Sale and Purchase of Land
(Ireland) Bill, to mention the efforts which have been made during the
last fifteen years to surmount those difficulties. The Acts having this
object in view are the Land Acts of 1870, 1872, and 1881, brought in by
Mr. Gladstone, and the Land Purchase Act of 1885, brought in by the
Conservative Lord Chancellor of Ireland (Lord Ashbourne). The Act of
1870, as amended by the Act of 1872, provided that the State authority
might advance two-thirds of the purchase-money. An attempt was made to
get over the difficulties of title by providing that the Landed Estates
Court or Board of Works shall undertake the investigation of the title
and the transfer and distribution of the purchase-money at a fixed
price. The Act of 1881 increased the advance to three-quarters, leaving
the same machinery to deal with the title. Both under the Acts of 1870
and 1881 the advance was secured by an annuity of 5 per cent., payable
for the period of thirty-five years, and based on the loan of the money
by the English Exchequer at 3-1/2 per cent. interest. These Acts
produced very little effect. The expense of dealing with the titles in
the Landed Estates Court proved overwhelming, and neither the Board of
Works, under the Act of 1872, nor the Land Commission, under the Act of
1881, found themselves equal to the task of completing inexpensively the
transfer of the land; further, the tenants had no means of providing
even the quarter of the purchase-money required by the Act of 1881. In
1885 Lord Ashbourne determined to remove all obstacles at the expense of
the English Exchequer. By the Land Act of that year he authorized the
whole of the purchase-money to be advanced by the State, with a
guarantee by the landlord, to be carried into effect by his allowing
one-fifth of the purchase-money to remain in the hands of the agents of
the State Authority until one-fifth of the purchase-money had been
repaid by the annual payments of the tenants. The principal was to be
recouped by an annuity of 4 per cent., extending over a period of
forty-nine years, instead of an annuity of 5 per cent. extending over a
period of thirty-five years. The English Exchequer was to advance the
money on the basis of interest at 3-1/8 per cent., instead of at 3-1/2
per cent. Though sufficient time has not yet elapsed to show whether the
great bribe offered by the Act of 1885, at the expense of the British
taxpayer, will succeed in overcoming the apathy of the tenants, it
cannot escape notice that if the Act of 1885 succeeds better than the
previous Acts, it will owe that success solely to the greater amount of
risk which it imposes on the English Exchequer, and not to any
improvement in the scheme in respect of securing greater certainty of
sale to the Irish landlord, or of diminishing the danger of loss to the
English taxpayer.

Such being the state of legislation, and such the circumstances of the
land question in Ireland in the year 1886, the Irish Government Bill
afforded Mr. Gladstone the means and the opportunity of bringing in a
Land Bill which would secure to the Irish landlord the certainty of
selling his land at a fair price, without imposing any practical
liability on the English Exchequer, and would, at the same time,
diminish the annual sums payable by the tenant; while it also conferred
a benefit on the Irish Exchequer. These advantages were, as will be
seen, gained, firstly, by the pledge of English credit on good security,
instead of advancing money on a mere mortgage on Irish holdings, made
directly to the English Government; and, secondly, by the interposition
of the Irish Government, as the immediate creditor of the Irish tenant.
The scheme of the Land Purchase Bill is as follows:--The landlord of an
agricultural estate occupied by tenants may apply to a department of the
new Irish Government to purchase his estate. The tenants need not be
consulted, as the purchase, if completed, will necessarily better their
condition, and thus at the very outset the difficulty of procuring the
assent of the tenants, which has hitherto proved so formidable an
obstacle to all Irish land schemes, disappears. The landlord may require
the department to which he applies (called in the Bill the State
Authority) to pay him the statutory price of his estate, not in cash,
but in consols valued at par. This price, except in certain unusual
cases of great goodness or of great badness of the land, is twenty
years' purchase of the _net_ rental. The _net_ rental is the _gross_
rental after deducting from that rent tithe rent-charge, the average
percentage for expenses in respect of bad debts, any rates paid by the
landlord, and any like outgoings. The _gross_ rental of an estate is the
gross rent of all the holdings on the estate, payable in the year ending
in November, 1885. Where a judicial rent has been fixed, it is the
judicial rent; where no judicial rent has been fixed, it is the rent to
be determined in the manner provided by the Bill.

To state this shortly, the Bill provides that an Irish landlord may
require the State Authority to pay him for his estate, in consols valued
at par, a capital sum equal to twenty times the amount of the annual sum
which he has actually put into his pocket out of the proceeds of the
estate. The determination of the statutory price is, so far as the
landlord is concerned, the cardinal point of the Bill, and in order
that no injustice may be done the landlord, an Imperial
Commission--called the Land Commission--is appointed by the Bill, whose
duty it is to fix the statutory price, and, where there is no judicial
rent, to determine the amount of rent which, in the character of gross
rental, is to form the basis of the statutory price. The Commission also
pay the purchase-money to the landlord, or distribute it amongst the
parties entitled, and generally the Commission act as intermediaries
between the landlord and the Irish State Authority, which has no power
of varying the terms to which the landlord is entitled under the Bill,
or of judging of the conditions which affect the statutory price. If the
landlord thinks the price fixed by the Land Commission, as the statutory
price inequitable, he may reject their offer and keep his estate.

Supposing, however, the landlord to be satisfied with the statutory
price offered by the Land Commission, the sale is concluded, and the
Land Commission make an order carrying the required sum of consols
(which is for convenience hereinafter called the purchase-money,
although it consists of stock and not of cash) to the account of the
estate in their books after deducting 1 per cent. for the cost of
investigation of title and distribution of the purchase-money, and upon
the purchase-money being thus credited to the estate, the landlord
ceases to have any interest in the estate, and the tenants, by virtue of
the order of the Land Commission, become owners in fee simple of their
holdings, subject to the payment to the Irish State Authority of an
annuity. The amount of the annuity is stated in the Bill. It is a sum
equal to £4 per cent. on a capital sum equal to twenty times the amount
of the gross rental of the holding. The illustration given by Mr.
Gladstone in his speech will at once explain these apparently intricate
matters of finance. A landlord is entitled to the Hendon estate,
producing £1200 a year gross rental; to find the net rental, the Land
Commission deduct from this gross rental outgoings estimated at about 20
per cent., or £240 a year. This makes the net rental £960 a year, and
the price payable to the landlord is £19,200 (twenty years' purchase of
£960, or £960 multiplied by 20), which, as above stated, will be paid in
consols. The tenants will pay, as the maximum amount for their holdings,
£4 per cent. for forty-nine years on the capitalized value of twenty
years' purchase of the gross rent. This will amount to £960 instead of
£1,200, which they have hitherto paid; a saving of £240 a year will thus
be effected, from which, however, must be deducted the half rates to
which they will become liable, formerly paid by the landlord. This £4
per cent. charge payable by the tenants will continue for forty-nine
years, but at the end of that time each tenant will become a free owner
of his estate without any annual payment. Next, as to the position of
the State Authority. The State Authority receives £960 from the tenants;
it pays out of that sum £4 per cent., not upon the gross rental, but
upon the net rental capitalized, that is to say, £768 to the Imperial
Exchequer. The State Authority, therefore, receives,£960, and assuming
that the charge of collecting the rental is 2 per cent., that is to say,
£19 4_s._, the State Authority will, out of £960, have to disburse only
£787 4_s._, leaving it a gainer of £172 16_s._, or nearly 18 per cent.
The result then between the several parties is, the landlord receives
£19,200; the tenantry pay £240 a year less than they have hitherto paid,
and at the end of forty-nine years are exempt altogether from payment;
the gain of Irish State Authority is £172 16_s._ a year. Another mode of
putting the case shortly is as follows: The English Exchequer lends the
money to the Irish State Authority at 3-1/8 per cent. and an annuity of
4 per cent. paid during forty-nine years will, as has been stated above,
repay both principal and interest for every £100 lent at 3-1/8 per
cent. On the sale of an estate under the Bill, the landlord receives
twenty years' purchase; the tenant pays £4 per cent. on twenty years'
purchase of the gross rental; the Irish State Authority receives £4 per
cent. on the gross rental; the English Exchequer receives 4 per cent. on
the net rental only. The repayment of the interest due by the Irish
Authority to the English Exchequer is in no wise dependent on the
punctual payment of their annuities by the Irish tenants, nor does the
English Government in any way figure as the landlord or creditor of the
Irish tenants. The annuities payable by the tenants are due to the Irish
Government, and collected by them, while the interest due to the English
Government is a charge on the whole of the Irish Government funds; and
further, these funds themselves are paid into the hands of the Imperial
officer, whose duty it is to liquidate the debt due to his master, the
Imperial Exchequer, before a sixpence can be touched by the Irish
Government. It is not, then, any exaggeration to say that the Land
Purchase Bill of 1886 provides for the settlement of the Irish Land
question without any appreciable risk to the English Exchequer, and with
the advantage of securing a fair price for the landlord, a diminution of
annual payments to the tenant with the ultimate acquisition of the fee
simple, also a gain of no inconsiderable sum to the Irish Exchequer. In
order to obviate the difficulties attending the investigation of title
and transfer of the property, the Bill provides, as stated above, that
on the completion of the agreement for the sale between the landlord and
the Commission, the holding shall vest at once in the tenants: it then
proceeds to declare that the claims of all persons interested in the
land shall attach to the purchase-money in the same manner as though it
were land. The duty of ascertaining these claims and distributing the
purchase-money is vested in the Land Commission, who undertake the task
in exchange for the 1 per cent. which they have, as above stated,
deducted from the purchase-money as the cost of conducting the complete
transfer of the estate from the landlord to the tenants. The difficulty
of the process of dealing with the purchase-money depends, of course, on
the intricacy of the title. If the vendor is the sole unencumbered
owner, he is put in immediate possession of the stock constituting the
price of the estate. If there are encumbrances, as is usually the case,
they are paid off by the Land Commission. Capital sums are paid in full;
jointures and other life charges are valued according to the usual
tables. Drainage and other temporary charges are estimated at their
present value, permanent rent-charges are valued by agreement, or in
case of disagreement, by the Land Commission; a certain minimum number
of years' purchase being assigned by the Bill to any permanent
rent-charge which amounts only to one-fifth part of the rental of the
estate on which it is charged, this provision being made to prevent
injustice being done to the holders of rent-charges which are amply

It remains to notice certain other points of some importance. The
landlord entitled to require the State to purchase his property is the
immediate landlord, that is to say, the person entitled to the receipt
of the rent of the estate; no encumbrancer can avail himself of the
privilege, the reason being that the Bill is intended to assist solvent
landlords, and not to create a new Encumbered Estates Court. The
landlord may sell this privilege, and possibly by means of this power of
sale may be able to put pressure on his encumbrancers to reduce their
claims in order to obtain immediate payment. The Land Commission, in
their character of quasi-arbitrators between the landlord and the Irish
State Authority, have ample powers given to enable them to do justice.
If the statutory price, as settled according to the Act, is too low,
they may raise it to twenty-two years' purchase instead of twenty years'
purchase. If it is too high, they may refuse to buy unless the landlord
will reduce it to a proper price. In the congested districts scheduled
in the Bill the land, on a sale, passes to the Irish State Authority, as
landlords, and not to the tenants; the reason being that it is
considered that the tenants would be worsened, rather than bettered, by
having their small plots vested in them in fee simple. For the same
cause it is provided that in any part of Ireland tenants of holdings
under £4 a year may object to become the owners of their holdings, which
will thereupon vest, on a sale, in the Irish State Authority. Lastly,
the opportunity is taken of establishing a registry of title in respect
of all property dealt with under the Bill. The result of such a registry
would be that any property entered therein would ever thereafter be
capable of being transferred with the same facility, and at as little
expense, as stock in the public funds.


[Footnote 14: Any charge in excess of one million was to be borne by
Imperial Exchequer.]



Is it not time that the opponents of Home Rule for Ireland should define
their position? They defeated Mr. Gladstone's scheme last year in
Parliament and in the constituencies; and they defeated it by the
promise of a counter policy which was to consist, in brief, of placing
Ireland on the same footing as Great Britain in respect to Local
Government; or, if there was to be any difference, it was to be in the
direction of a larger and more generous measure for Ireland than for the
rest of the United Kingdom. This certainly was the policy propounded by
the distinguished leader of the Liberal Unionists in his speech at
Belfast, in November, 1885, and repeated in his electoral speeches last
year. In the Belfast speech Lord Hartington said: "My opinion is that it
is desirable for Irishmen that institutions of local self-government
such as are possessed by England and Scotland, and such as we hope to
give in the next session in greater extent to England and Scotland,
should also be extended to Ireland." But this extension of local
self-government to Ireland would require, in Lord Hartington's opinion,
a fundamental change in the fabric of Irish Government. "I would not
shrink," he says, "from a great and bold reconstruction of the Irish
Government," a reconstruction leading up gradually to some real and
substantial form of Home Rule. His Lordship's words are: "I submit with
some confidence to you these principles, which I have endeavoured to lay
down, and upon which, I think, the extension of Local Government in
Ireland must proceed. First, you must have some adequate guarantees both
for the maintenance of the essential unity of the Empire and for the
protection of the minority in Ireland. And, secondly, you must also
admit this principle: the work of complete self-government of Ireland,
the grant of full control over the management of its own affairs, is not
a grant that can be made by any Parliament of this country in a day. It
must be the work of continuous and careful effort." Elsewhere in the
same speech Lord Hartington says: "Certainly I am of opinion that
nothing can be done in the direction of giving Ireland anything like
complete control over her own affairs either in a day, or a session, or
probably in a Parliament." "Complete control over her own affairs," "the
work of complete self-government of Ireland, the grant of full control
over the management of its own affairs:" this is the policy which Lord
Hartington proclaimed in Ulster, the promise which he, the proximate
Liberal leader, held out to Ireland on the eve of the General Election
of 1885. It was a policy to be begun "in the next session," though not
likely to be completed "in a day, or a session, or probably in a

Next to Mr. Gladstone and Lord Hartington the most important member of
the Liberal party at that time was undoubtedly Mr. Chamberlain, and Mr.
Chamberlain's Irish policy was proclaimed in the _Radical Programme,
which was published before the General Election as the Radical leader's
manifesto to the constituencies. This scheme, which Mr. Chamberlain had
submitted as a responsible minister to the Cabinet of Mr. Gladstone in
June, 1885, culminated in a National Council which was to control a
series of local bodies and govern the whole of Ireland. "His National
Council was to consist of two orders; one-third of its members were to
be elected by the owners of property, and two-thirds by ratepayers. The
National Council also was to be a single one, and Ulster was not to have
a separate Council. As the Council was to be charged with the
supervision and legislation about education, which is the burning
question between Catholics and Protestants, it is clear that Mr.
Chamberlain at that time contemplated no special protection for
Ulster."[15] Moreover, in a letter dated April 23rd, 1886, and published
in the _Daily News_ of May 17th, 1886, Mr. Chamberlain declared that he
"had not changed his opinion in the least" since his first public
declaration on Irish policy in 1874. "I then said that I was in favour
of the principles of Home Rule, as defined by Mr. Butt, but that I would
do nothing which would weaken in any way Imperial unity, and that I did
not agree with all the details of his plan.... Mr. Butt's proposals were
in the nature of a federal scheme, and differ entirely from Mr.
Gladstone's, which are on the lines of Colonial independence. Mr. Butt
did not propose to give up Irish representation at Westminster." It is
true that Mr. Butt did not propose to give up Irish representation at
Westminster; but it is also true that he proposed to give it up in the
sense in which Mr. Chamberlain wishes to retain it. Mr. Butt's words, in
the debate to which Mr. Chamberlain refers, are, "that the House should
meet _without Irish members_ for the discussion of English and Scotch
business; and when there was any question affecting the Empire at large,
Irish members might be summoned to attend. He saw no difficulty in the

There is no need to quote Mr. Gladstone's declarations on the Irish
question at the General Election of 1885, and previously. He has been
accused of springing a surprise on the country when he proposed Home
Rule in the beginning of 1886. That is not, at all events, the opinion
of Lord Hartington. In a speech delivered at the Eighty Club in March,
1886, his Lordship, with his usual manly candour, declared as follows:
"I am not going to say one word of complaint or charge against Mr.
Gladstone for the attitude which he has taken on this question. I think
no one who has read or heard, during a long series of years, the
declarations of Mr. Gladstone on the question of self-government for
Ireland, can be surprised at the tone of his present declarations....
When I look back to those declarations that Mr. Gladstone made in
Parliament, which have not been unfrequent; when I look back to the
increased definiteness given to those declarations in his address to the
electors of Midlothian, and in his Midlothian speeches; I say, when I
consider all these things, I feel that I have not, and that no one has,
any right to complain of the tone of the declarations which Mr.
Gladstone has recently made upon this subject."

So much as to the state of Liberal opinion on the Irish question at the
General Election of 1885. The leaders of all sections of the party put
the Irish question in the foreground of their programme for the session
of 1886. We all remember Sir Charles Dilke's public announcement that he
and Mr. Chamberlain were going to visit Ireland in the autumn of 1885,
to study the Irish question on the spot, with a view to maturing a plan
for the first session of the new Parliament.

What about the Conservative party? Lord Salisbury's Newport speech was
avowedly the programme of his Cabinet. It was the Conservative answer to
Mr. Gladstone's Midlothian manifesto. He dealt with the Irish question
in guarded language; but it was language which plainly showed that he
recognized, not less clearly than the Liberal leaders, the crucial
change which the assimilation of the Irish franchise to that of Great
Britain had wrought in Irish policy. His keen eye saw at once the
important bearing which that enfranchisement had on the traditional
policy of coercion: "You had passed an Act of Parliament, giving in
unexampled abundance, and with unexampled freedom, supreme power to the
great mass of the Irish people--supreme power as regards their own
locality.... To my mind the renewal of exceptional legislation against a
population whom you had treated legislatively to this marked confidence
was so gross in its inconsistency that you could not possibly hope,
during the few remaining months that were at your disposal before the
present Parliament expired, to renew any legislation which expressed on
one side a distrust of what on the other side your former legislation
had so strongly emphasized. The only result of your doing it would have
been, not that you would have passed the Act, but that you would have
promoted by the very inconsistency of the position that you were
occupying--by the untenable character of the arguments that you were
advancing--you would have produced so intense an exasperation amongst
the Irish people, that you would have caused ten times more evil, ten
times more resistance to law than your Crimes Act, even if it had been
renewed, would possibly have been able to check." Lord Salisbury went on
to say that "the effect of the Crimes Act had been very much
exaggerated," and that "boycotting is of that character which
legislation has very great difficulty in reaching." "Boycotting does not
operate through outrage. Boycotting is the act of a large majority of a
community resolving to do a number of things which are themselves legal,
and which are only illegal by the intention with which they are done."

Next to Lord Salisbury the most prominent member of the Conservative
party at that date was Lord Randolph Churchill. On the 3rd of January,
1885, when it was rumoured that Mr. Gladstone's Government, then in
office, intended to renew a few of the clauses of the Crimes Act, Lord
Randolph Churchill made a speech at Bow against any such policy. The
following quotation will suffice as a specimen of his opinion: "It comes
to this, that the policy of the Government in Ireland is to declare on
the one hand, by the passing of the Reform Bill, that the Irish people
are perfectly capable of exercising for the advantage of the Empire the
highest rights and privileges of citizenship; and by the proposal to
renew the Crimes Act they simultaneously declare, on the other hand,
that the Irish people are perfectly incapable of performing for the
advantage of society the lowest and most ordinary duties of
citizenship.... All I can say is that, if such an incoherent, such a
ridiculous, such a dangerously ridiculous combination of acts can be
called a policy, then, thank God, the Conservative party have no

Within a few months of the delivery of that speech a Conservative
Government was in office, with Lord Randolph Churchill as its leader in
the House of Commons; and one of the first acts of the new leader was to
separate himself ostentatiously from the Irish policy of Lord Spencer
and from the policy of coercion in general. Lord Randolph Churchill, as
the organ of the Government in the House of Commons, repudiated in
scornful language any atom of sympathy with the policy pursued by Lord
Spencer in Ireland; and Lord Carnarvon, the new Viceroy, declared that
"the era of coercion" was past, and that the Conservative Government
intended to govern Ireland by the ordinary law. Lord Carnarvon, in
addition, and very much to his credit, sought and obtained an interview
with Mr. Parnell, and discussed with him, in sympathetic language, the
question of Home Rule. In his own explanation of this interview Lord
Carnarvon admitted that he desired to see established in Ireland some
form of self-government which would satisfy "the national sentiment."

It is idle, therefore, to assert that the question of Home Rule for
Ireland, in some form or other, was sprung on the country as a surprise
by Mr. Gladstone in the beginning of 1886. The question was brought
prominently before the public in the General Election of 1885 as one
that must be faced in the new Parliament. All parties were committed to
that policy, and the only difference was as to the character and limits
of the measure of self-government to be granted to Ireland; whether it
was to be large enough to satisfy "the national sentiment," as Lord
Carnarvon, Mr. Chamberlain, Mr. Gladstone, and others desired; or
whether it was to consist only of a system of county boards under the
control of a reformed Dublin Castle. There was a general agreement that
the grant to Ireland of electoral equality with England necessitated
equality of political treatment, and that, above all things, there was
to be no renewal of the stale policy of Coercion until the Irish people
had got an opportunity of proving or disproving their fitness for
self-government, unless, indeed, there should happen to be a
recrudescence of crime which would render exceptional legislation
necessary. The election of 1886 turned almost entirely on the question
of Irish government, and it is not too much to say that Conservatives
and Liberal Unionists vied with Home Rulers in repudiating a return to
the policy of coercion until the effect of some kind of self-government
had been tried. Of course, there were the usual platitudes about the
necessity of maintaining law and order; but there was a _consensus_ of
profession that coercion should not be resorted to unless there was a
fresh outbreak of crime and disorder in Ireland.

Such were the professions of the opponents of Home Rule in 1885 and in
1886. They have now been in office for eighteen months, and what do we
behold? They have passed a perpetual Coercion Bill for Ireland, and the
question of any kind of self-government has been relegated to an
uncertain future. In his recent speech at Birmingham (Sept. 29), Mr.
Chamberlain has declared that the question is not ripe for solution, and
that the question of disestablishment, in Wales, Scotland, and England
successively, as well as the questions of Local Option, local government
for Great Britain, and of the safety of life at sea, must take
precedence of it. That means the postponement of the reform of Irish
Government to the Greek Kalends. What justification can be made for this
change of front? No valid justification has been offered. So far from
there having been any increase of crime in the interval, there has been
a very marked decrease. When the Coercion Bill received the royal assent
last August, Ireland was more free from crime than it had been for many
years past. Nothing had happened to account for the return to the policy
of coercion in violation of the promise to try the experiment of
conciliation. The National League was in full vigour in 1885-1886, when
the policy of coercion was abandoned; boycotting was just as prevalent,
and outrages were much more numerous.

Under these circumstances it is the opponents of Home Rule, not its
advocates, who owe an explanation to the public. They defeated Mr.
Gladstone's Bill, but promised a Bill of their own. Where is their Bill?
We hear nothing of it. They have made a complete change of front. They
now tell us that the grievance of Ireland is entirely economic, and that
the true solution of the Irish question is the abolition of dual
ownership in land combined with a firm administration of the existing
law. England and Scotland are to have a large measure of local
government next year; but Ireland is to wait till a more convenient
season. A more complete reversal of the policy proclaimed last summer by
the so-called Unionists cannot be imagined.

Still, however, the "Unionists" hope to be able some day to offer some
form of self-government to Ireland. For party purposes they are wise in
postponing that day to the latest possible period, for its advent will
probably dissolve the union of the "Unionists." Lord Salisbury, Lord
Hartington, Mr. Bright, and Mr. Chamberlain cannot agree upon any scheme
which all can accept without a public recantation of previous
professions. Mr. Bright is opposed to Home Rule "in any shape or form."
Mr. Chamberlain, on the other hand, is in favour of a great National
Council, on Mr. Butt's lines or on the lines of the Canadian plan;
either of which would give the National Council control over education
and the maintenance of law and order. Latterly, indeed, Mr. Chamberlain
has advocated a separate treatment for Ulster. But the first act of an
Ulster Provincial Assembly would probably be to declare the union of
that Province with the rest of Ireland. Ulster, be it remembered,
returns a majority of Nationalists to the Imperial Parliament. To
exclude Ulster from any share in the settlement offered to the other
three Provinces would therefore be impracticable; and Mr. Bright has
lately expressed his opinion emphatically in that sense. In any case,
Lord Hartington could be no party to any scheme so advanced as Mr.
Chamberlain's. For although he declared, in his Belfast speech, that
"complete self-government" was the goal of his policy for Ireland, he
was careful to explain that "the extension of Irish management over
Irish affairs must be a growth from small beginnings." But this "growth
from small beginnings" would be, in Lord Salisbury's opinion, a very
dangerous and mischievous policy. The establishment of self-government
in Ireland, as distinct from what is commonly known as Home Rule, he
pronounced in his Newport speech to be "a very difficult question;" and
in the following passage he placed his finger upon the kernel of the
difficulty:--"A local authority is more exposed to the temptation, and
has more of the facility for enabling a majority to be unjust to the
minority, than is the case when the authority derives its sanction and
extends its jurisdiction over a wide area. That is one of the weaknesses
of local authorities. In a large central authority the wisdom of several
parts of the country will correct the folly or the mistakes of one. In a
local authority that correction to a much greater extent is wanting; and
it would be impossible to leave that out of sight in the extension of
any such local authority to Ireland."

This seems to me a much wiser and more statesmanlike view than a system
of elective boards scattered broadcast over Ireland. A multitude of
local boards all over Ireland, without a recognized central authority to
control them, would inevitably become facile instruments in the hands of
the emissaries of disorder and sedition. And, even apart from any such
sinister influences, they would be almost certain to yield to the
temptation of being oppressive, extravagant, and corrupt, if there were
no executive power to command their confidence and enforce obedience.
Without the previous creation of some authority of that kind it would be
sheer madness to offer Ireland the fatal boon of local self-government.
It would enormously increase without conciliating the power of the
Nationalists, and would make the administration of Ireland by
constitutional means simply impossible. The policy of the Liberal
Unionists is thus much too large or much too small. It is too small to
conciliate, and therefore too large to be given with safety. All these
proposed concessions are liable to one insuperable objection; they would
each and all enable the Irish to extort Home Rule, but under
circumstances which would rob it of its grace and repel gratitude. Mill
has some admirable observations bearing on this subject, and I venture
to quote the following passage: "The greatest imperfection of popular
local institutions, and the chief cause of the failure which so often
attends them, is the low calibre of the men by whom they are almost
always carried on. That these should be of a very miscellaneous
character is, indeed, part of the usefulness of the institution; it is
that circumstance chiefly which renders it a school of political
capacity and general intelligence. But a school supposes teachers as
well as scholars; the utility of the instruction greatly depends on its
bringing inferior minds into contact with superior, a contact which in
the ordinary course of life is altogether exceptional, and the want of
which contributes more than anything else to keep the generality of
mankind on one level of contented ignorance.... It is quite hopeless to
induce persons of a high class, either socially or intellectually, to
take a share of local administration in a corner by piecemeal as members
of a Paving Board or a Drainage Commission."[17]

Mr. Mill goes on to argue that it is essential to the safe working of
any scheme of local self-government that it should be under the control
of a central authority in harmony with public opinion.

When the "Unionists" begin, if they ever do begin, seriously to
deliberate on the question of self-government for Ireland, they will
find that they have only two practicable alternatives--the maintenance
of the present system, or some scheme of Home Rule on the lines of Mr.
Gladstone's much misunderstood Bill. And the ablest men among the
"Unionists" are beginning to perceive this. The _Spectator_ has in a
recent article implored Mr. Chamberlain to desist from any further
proposal in favour of self-government for Ireland, because the
inevitable result would be to split up the Unionist party; and Mr.
Chamberlain, as we have seen, has accepted the advice. Another very able
and very logical opponent of Home Rule has candidly avowed that the
only alternative to Home Rule is the perpetuation of "things as they
are." Ireland, he thinks, "possesses none of the conditions necessary
for local self-government." His own view, therefore, is "that in
Ireland, as in France, an honest, centralized administration of
impartial officials, and not local self-government, would best meet the
real wants of the people."

"The name of 'Self-government' has a natural fascination for Englishmen;
but a policy which cannot satisfy the wishes of Home Rulers, which
may--it is likely enough--be of no benefit to the Irish people, which
will certainly weaken the Government in its contest with lawlessness and
oppression, is not a policy which obviously commends itself to English
good sense."[18]

Well may this distinguished "Supporter of things as they are" declare:
"The maintenance of the Union [on such terms] must necessarily turn out
as severe a task as ever taxed a nation's energies; for to maintain the
Union with any good effect, means that, while refusing to accede to the
wishes of millions of Irishmen, we must sedulously do justice to every
fair demand from Ireland; must strenuously, and without fear or favour,
assert the equal rights of landlords and tenants, of Protestants and
Catholics; and must, at the same time, put down every outrage and reform
every abuse."

What hope is there of this? Our only guide to the probabilities of the
future is our experience of the past And what has that been in Ireland?
In every year since the Legislative Union there have been multitudes of
men in England as upright, as enlightened, as well-intentioned towards
Ireland, as Professor Dicey, and with better opportunities of
translating their thoughts into acts. Yet what has been the result? _Si
monumenlum requiris circumspice_. Behold Ireland at this moment, and
examine every year of its history since the Union. Do the annals of any
constitutional Government in the world present so portentous a monument
of Parliamentary failure, so vivid an example of a moral and material
ruin "paved with good intentions"? Therein lies the pathos of it. Not
from malice, not from cruelty, not from wanton injustice, not even from
callous indifference to suffering and wrong, does our misgovernment of
Ireland come. If the evil had its root in deliberate wrong-doing on the
part of England it would probably have been cured long ago. But each
generation, while freely confessing the sins of its fathers, has
protested its own innocence and boasted of its own achievements, and
then, with a pharisaic sense of rectitude, has complacently pointed to
some inscrutable flaw in the Irish character as the key to the Irish
problem. The generation which passed the Act of Union, oblivious of
British pledges solemnly given and lightly broken, wondered what had
become of the prosperity and contentment which the promoters of the
Union had promised to Ireland. The next generation made vicarious
penance, and preferred the enactment of Catholic emancipation to the
alternative of civil war; and then wondered in its turn that Ireland
still remained unpacified. Then came a terrible famine, followed by
evictions on a scale so vast and cruel that the late Sir Robert Peel
declared that no parallel could be found for such a tale of inhumanity
in "the records of any country, civilized or barbarous." Another
generation, pluming itself on its enlightened views and kind intentions,
passed the Encumbered Estates Act, which delivered the Irish tenants
over to the tender mercies of speculators and money-lenders; and then
Parliament for a time closed its eyes and ears, and relied upon force
alone to keep Ireland quiet. It rejected every suggestion of reform in
the Land laws; and a great Minister, himself an Irish landlord,
dismissed the whole subject in the flippant epigram that "tenant-right
was landlord-wrong." Since then the Irish Church has been
disestablished, and two Land Acts have been passed; yet we seem to be as
far as ever from the pacification of Ireland. Surely it is time to
inquire whether the evil is not inherent in our system of governing
Ireland, and whether there is any other cure than that which De Beaumont
suggested, namely, the destruction of the system. It is probable that
there is not in all London a more humane or a more kind-hearted man than
Lord Salisbury. Yet Lord Salisbury's Government will do some harsh and
inequitable things in Ireland this winter, just as Liberal Governments
have done during their term of office. The fault is not in the men, but
in the system which they have to administer. I see no reason to doubt
that Sir M. Hicks-Beach did the best he could under the circumstances;
but, unfortunately, bad is the best. In a conversation which I had with
Dr. Döllinger while he was in full communion with his Church, I ventured
to ask him whether he thought that a new Pope, of Liberal ideas, force
of character, and commanding ability, would make any great difference in
the Papal system. "No," he replied, "the Curial system is the growth of
centuries, and there can be no change of any consequence while it lasts.
Many a Pope has begun with brave projects of reform; but the struggle
has been brief, and the end has been invariably the same: the Pope has
been forced to succumb. His _entourage_ has been too much for him. He
has found himself enclosed in a system which was too strong for him,
wheel within wheel; and while the system lasts the most enlightened
ideas and the best intentions are in the long run unavailing." This
criticism applies, _mutatis mutandis_, to what may be called the Curial
system of Dublin Castle. It is a species of political Ultramontanism,
exercising supreme power behind the screen of an official infallibility
on which there is practically no check, since Parliament has never
hitherto refused to grant it any power which it demanded for enforcing
its decrees.

There is, moreover, another consideration which must convince any
dispassionate mind which ponders it, that the British Parliament is
incompetent to manage Irish affairs, and must become increasingly
incompetent year by year. In ordinary circumstances Parliament sits
about twenty-seven weeks out of the fifty-two. Five out of the
twenty-seven may safely be subtracted for holidays, debates on the
Address, and other debates apart from ordinary business. That leaves
twenty-two weeks, and out of these two nights a week are at the disposal
of the Government and three at the disposal of private members; leaving
in all forty-four days for the Government and sixty-six for private
members. Into those forty-four nights Government must compress all its
yearly programme of legislation for the whole of the British Empire,
from the settlement of some petty dispute about land in the Hebrides, to
some question of high policy in Egypt, India, or other portions of the
Queen's world-wide empire; and all this amidst endless distractions,
enforced attendance through dreary debates and vapid talk, and a running
fire of cross-examination from any volunteer questioner out of the six
hundred odd members who sit outside the Government circle. The
consequence is, that Parliament is getting less able every year to
overtake the mass of business which comes before it. Each year
contributes its quota of inevitable arrears to the accumulated mass of
previous Sessions, and the process will go on multiplying in increasing
ratio as the complex and multiform needs of modern life increase. The
large addition recently made to the electorate of the United Kingdom is
already forcing a crop of fresh subjects on the attention of Parliament,
as well as presenting old ones from new points of view. Plans of
devolution and Grand Committees will fail to cope with this evil. To
overcome it we need some organic change in our present Parliamentary
system, some form of decentralization, which shall leave the Imperial
Parliament supreme over all subordinate bodies, yet relegate to the
historic and geographical divisions of the United Kingdom the management
severally of their own local affairs.

I should have better hope from governing Ireland (if it were possible)
as we govern India, than from the present Unionist method of leaving
"things as they are." A Viceroy surrounded by a Council of trained
officials, and in semi-independence of Parliament, would have settled
the Irish question, land and all, long ago. But imagine India governed
on the model of Ireland: the Viceroy and the most important member of
his Government changing with every change of Administration at
Westminster;[19] his Council and the official class in general
consisting almost exclusively of native Mussulmans, deeply prejudiced by
religious and traditional enmity against the great mass of the
population; himself generally subordinate to his Chief Secretary, and
exposed to the daily criticism of an ignorant Parliament and to the
determined hostility of eighty-six Hindoos, holding seats in Parliament
as the representatives of the vast majority of the people of India, and
resenting bitterly the domination of the hereditary oppressors of their
race. How long could the Government of India be carried on under such

Viewing it all round, then, it must be admitted that the problem of
governing Ireland while leaving things as they are is a sufficiently
formidable one. Read the remarkable admissions which the facts have
forced from intelligent opponents of Home Rule like Mr. Dicey, and add
to them all the other evils which are rooted in our existing system of
Irish government, and then consider what hope there is, under "things as
they are," of "sedulously doing justice to every demand from Ireland,"
"strenuously, and without fear or favour, asserting the equal rights of
landlords and tenants, Protestants and Catholics," "putting down every
outrage, and reforming every abuse;" and all the "while refusing to
accede to the wishes of millions of Irishmen" for a fundamental change
in a political arrangement that has for centuries produced all the
mischief which the so-called Unionist party are forced to admit, and
much more besides, while it has at the same time frustrated every
serious endeavour to bring about the better state of things which they
expect from--what? From "things as they are!" As well expect grapes from
thorns, or figs from thistles. While the tree remains the same, no
amount of weeding, or pruning, or manuring, or change of culture, will
make it bring forth different fruit. Mr. Dicey, among others, has
demolished what Lord Beaconsfield used to call the "bit-by-bit"
reformers of Irish Government--those who would administer homoeopathic
doses of local self-government, but always under protest that the supply
was to stop short of what would satisfy the hunger of the patient. But a
continuance of "things as they are," gilded with a thin tissue of
benevolent hopes and aspirations, is scarcely a more promising remedy
for the ills of Ireland. Is it not time to try some new treatment--one
which has been tried in similar cases, and always with success? One only
policy has never been tried in Ireland--honest Home Rule.

Certainly, if Home Rule is to be refused till all the prophets of evil
are refuted, Ireland must go without Home Rule for ever. "If the sky
fall, we shall catch larks." But he would be a foolish bird-catcher who
waited for that contingency. And not less foolish is the statesman who
sits still till every conceivable objection to his policy has been
mathematically refuted in advance, and every wild prediction falsified
by the event; for that would ensure his never moving at all. _Sedet
æternumque sedebit_. A proper enough attitude, perhaps, on the part of
an eristic philosopher speculating on politics in the silent shade of
academic groves, but hardly suitable for a practical politician who has
to take action on one of the most burning questions of our time. Human
affairs are not governed by mathematical reasoning. You cannot
demonstrate the precise results of any legislative measure beforehand as
you can demonstrate the course of a planet in the solar system.
"Probability," as Bishop Butler says, "is the guide of life;" and an
older philosopher than Butler has warned us that to demand demonstrative
proof in the sphere of contingent matter is the same kind of absurdity
as to demand probable reasoning in mathematics. You cannot confute a
prophet before the event; you can only disbelieve him. The advocates of
Home Rule believe that their policy would in general have an exactly
contrary effect to that predicted by their opponents. In truth, every
act of legislation is, before experience, amenable to such destructive
criticism as these critics urge against Home Rule. I have not a doubt
that they could have made out an unanswerable "case" against the Great
Charter at Runnymede; and they would find it easy to prove on _à priori_
grounds that the British Constitution is one of the most absurd,
mischievous, and unworkable instruments that ever issued from human
brains or from the evolution of events. By their method of reasoning the
Great Charter and other fundamental portions of the Constitution ought
to have brought the Government of the British Empire to a deadlock long
ago. Every suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, every Act of Attainder,
every statute for summary trial and conviction before justices of the
peace, is a violation of the fundamental article of the Constitution,
which requires that no man shall be imprisoned or otherwise punished
except after lawful trial by his peers.[20] Consider also the magazines
of explosive materials which lie hidden in the constitutional
prerogatives of the Crown, if they could only be ignited by the match of
an ingenious theorist. The Crown, as Lord Sherbrooke once somewhat
irreverently expressed it, "can turn every cobbler in the land into a
peer," and could thus put an end, as the Duke of Wellington declared, to
"the Constitution of this country."[21] "The Crown is not bound by Act
of Parliament unless named therein by special and particular words."[22]
The Crown can make peace or war without consulting Parliament, can by
secret treaty saddle the nation with the most perilous obligations, and
give away all such portions of the empire as do not rest on Statute. The
prerogative of mercy, too, would enable an eccentric Sovereign, aided by
an obsequious Minister, to open the jails and let all the convicted
criminals in the land loose upon society.[22] But criticism which proves
too much in effect proves nothing.

In short, every stage in the progress of constitutional reform has, in
matter of fact, been marked by similar predictions falsified by results,
and the prophets who condemn Home Rule have no better credentials;
indeed, much worse, for they proclaim the miserable failure of "things
as they are," whereas their predecessors were in their day satisfied
with things as they were.[23]

It is, high time, therefore, to call upon the opponents of Home Rule to
tell us plainly where they stand. They claim a mandate from the country
for their policy. They neither asked nor received a mandate to support
the system of Government which prevailed in Ireland at the last
election, and still less the policy of coercion which they have
substituted for that system. Do they mean to go back or forward? They
cannot stand still. They have already discovered that one act of
repression leads to another, and they will find ere long that they have
no alternative except Home Rule or the suppression of Parliamentary
Government in Ireland. Men may talk lightly of the ease with which
eighty-six Irish members may be kept in order in Parliament. They forget
that the Irish people are behind the Irish members. How is Ireland to be
governed on Parliamentary principles if the voice of her representatives
is to be forcibly silenced or disregarded? Could even Yorkshire or
Lancashire be governed permanently in that way? Let it be observed that
we have now reached this pass, namely, that the opponents of Home Rule
are opposed to the Irish members, not on any particular form of
self-government for Ireland, but on any form; in other words, they
resist the all but unanimous demand of Ireland for what "Unionists" of
all parties declared a year ago to be a reasonable demand. No candidate
at the last election ventured to ask the suffrages of any constituency
as "a supporter of things as they are." Yet that is practically the
attitude now assumed by the Ministerial party, both Conservatives and
Liberal Unionists. It is an attitude of which the country is getting
weary, as the bye-elections have shown. But the "Unionists," it must be
admitted, are in a sore dilemma. Their strength, such as it is, lies in
doing nothing for the reform of Irish Government. Their bond of union
consists of nothing else but opposition to Mr. Gladstone's policy. They
dare not attempt to formulate any policy of their own, knowing well that
they would go to pieces in the process. Their hope and speculation is
that something may happen to remove Mr. Gladstone from the political
arena before the next dissolution. But, after all, Mr. Gladstone did not
create the Irish difficulty. It preceded him and will survive him,
unless it is settled to the satisfaction of the Irish people before his
departure. And the difficulty of the final settlement will increase with
every year of delay. Nor will the difficulty be confined to Ireland. The
Irish question is already reacting upon kindred, though not identical,
problems in England and Scotland, and the longer it is kept open, so
much the worse will it be for what are generally regarded as
Conservative interests. It is not the Moderate Liberals or Conservatives
who are gaining ground by the prolongation of the controversy, and the
disappearance of Mr. Gladstone from the scene would have the effect of
removing from the forces of extreme Radicalism a conservative influence,
which his political opponents will discover when it is too late to
restore it. Their regret will then be as unavailing as the lament of
William of Deloraine over his fallen foe--

    "I'd give the lands of Deloraine
    Dark Musgrave were alive again."

The Irish landlords have already begun to realize the mistake they made
when they rejected Mr. Gladstone's policy of Home Rule and Land
Purchase. It is the old story of the Sibyl's books. No British
Government will ever again offer such terms to the Irish landlords as
they refused to accept from Mr. Gladstone. On the other hand, Home Rule
is inevitable. Can any reflective person really suppose that the
democracy of Great Britain will consent to refuse to share with the
Irish people the boon of self-government which will be offered to
themselves next year? Any attempt to exclude the Irish from the benefits
of such a scheme, after all the promises of the last general election,
would almost certainly wreck the government; for constituencies have
ways and means of impressing their wills on their representatives in
Parliament even without a dissolution. If, on the other hand, Ireland
should be included in a general scheme of local Government, the question
of who shall control the police will arise. In Great Britain the police,
of course, will be under local control. To refuse this to Ireland would
be to offer a boon with a stigma attached to it. The Irish members
agreed to let the control of the constabulary remain, under Mr.
Gladstone's scheme, for some years in the hands of the British
Government; but they would not agree to this while Dublin Castle ruled
the country. Moreover, the formidable difficulty suggested by Lord
Salisbury and Mr. John Stuart Mill (see pp. 115, 116) would appear the
moment men began seriously to consider the question of local government
for Ireland. The government of Dublin Castle would have to go, but
something would have to be put in its place; and when that point has
been reached it will probably be seen that nothing much better or safer
can be found than some plan on the main lines of Mr. Gladstone's Bill.


[Footnote 15: Speech at Manchester, May 7, 1886, by Mr. Shaw-Lefevre,
who was a member of the Cabinet to which Mr. Chamberlain's scheme was

[Footnote 16: _Hansard_, vol. 220, pp. 708, 715.]

[Footnote 17: _Considerations on Representative Government_, p. 281.]

[Footnote 18: Dicey's _England's Case against Home Rule_, pp. 25-31, and
Letter in _Spectator_ of September 17th, 1887.]

[Footnote 19: From the beginning of 1880 till now there have been six
Viceroys and ten Chief Secretaries in Dublin--namely, Duke of
Marlborough, Earls Cowper and Spencer, Earls of Carnarvon and Aberdeen,
and the Marquis of Londonderry; Mr. Lowther, Mr. Forster, Lord F.
Cavendish, Mr. Trevelyan, Mr. Campbell Bannerman, Sir W. Hart Dyke, Mr.
W.H. Smith, Mr. J. Morley, Sir M. Hicks-Beach, and Mr. A. Balfour. A
fine example, truly, of stable government and continuous policy!]

[Footnote 20: Creasy's _Imperial and Colonial Constitutions of the
Britannic Empire,_ p. 155.]

[Footnote 21: May's _Const. Hist._, i. 313.]

[Footnote 22: Blackstone's _Commentaries_, by Stephen, ii. 491, 492,
497, 507.]

[Footnote 23: We need not go far afield for illustrations. A few samples
will suffice. "It was natural," says Mill (_Rep. Gov._, p. 311), "to
feel strong doubts before trial had been made how such a provision [as
the Supreme Court of the United States] would work; whether the tribunal
would have the courage to exercise its constitutional power; if it did,
whether it would exercise it wisely, and whether the Government would
consent peaceably to its decision. The discussions on the American
Constitution, before its final adoption, give evidence that these
natural apprehensions were strongly felt; but they are now entirely
quieted, since, during the two generations and more which have
subsequently elapsed, nothing has occurred to verify them, though there
have at times been disputes of considerable acrimony, and which became
the badges of parties respecting the limits of the authority of the
Federal and State Governments." The Austrian opponents of Home Rule in
Hungary predicted that it would lead straight to separation. The
opponents of the Canadian Constitution prophesied that Canada would in a
few years be annexed to the United States; and Home Rule in Australia
was believed by able statesmen to involve independence at an early date.
Mr. Dicey himself tells us "that the wisest thinkers of the eighteenth
century (including Burke) held that the independence of the American
Colonies meant the irreparable ruin of Great Britain. There were
apparently solid reasons for this belief: experience has proved it to be
without foundation." The various changes in our own Constitution, and
even in our Criminal Code, were believed by "men of light and leading"
at the time to portend national ruin. All the judges in the land, all
the bankers, and the professions generally, petitioned against
alteration in the law which sent children of ten to the gallows for the
theft of a pocket-handkerchief. The great Lord Ellenborough declared in
the House of Lords that "the learned judges were unanimously agreed"
that any mitigation in that law would imperil "the public security." "My
Lords," he exclaimed, "if we suffer this Bill to pass we shall not know
where we stand; we shall not know whether we are on our heads or on our
feet." Mr. Perceval, when leader of the House of Commons in 1807,
declared that "he could not conceive a time or change of circumstances
which would render further concessions to the Catholics consistent with
the safety of the State." (_Croker Papers_, i. 12.) Croker was a very
astute man; but here is his forecast of the Reform Act of 1832: "No
kings, no lords, no inequalities in the social system; all will be
levelled to the plane of the petty shopkeepers and small farmers: this,
perhaps, not without bloodshed, but certainly by confiscations and
persecutions." "There can be no longer any doubt that the Reform Bill is
a stepping-stone in England to a Republic, and in Ireland to
separation." Croker met the Queen in 1832, considered her very
good-looking, but thought it not unlikely that "she may live to be plain
Miss Guelph." Even Sir Robert Peel wrote: "If I am to be believed, I
foresee revolution as the consequence of this Bill;" and he "felt that
it had ceased to be an object of ambition to any man of equable and
consistent mind to enter into the service of the Crown." And as late as
1839, so robust a character as Sir James Graham thought the world was
coming to an end because the young Queen gave her confidence to a Whig
Minister. "I begin to share all your apprehensions and forebodings," he
writes to Croker, "with regard to the probable issue of the present
struggle. The Crown in alliance with Democracy baffles every calculation
on the balance of power in our mixed form of Government. Aristocracy and
Church cannot contend against Queen and people mixed; they must yield in
the first instance, when the Crown, unprotected, will meet its fate, and
the accustomed round of anarchy and despotism will run its course." And
he prays that he may "lie cold before that dreadful day." (_Ibid._, ii.
113, 140, 176, 181, 356.) Free Trade created a similar panic. "Good
God!" Croker exclaimed, "what a chaos of anarchy and misery do I foresee
in every direction, from so comparatively small a beginning as changing
an _average_ duty of 8_s._ into a _fixed_ duty of 8_s._, the fact being
that the fixed duty means _no duty at all_; and _no duty at all_ will be
the overthrow of the existing social and political system of our
country!" (_Ibid._, iii. 13.) And what have become of Mr. Lowe's gloomy
vaticinations as to the terrible consequences of the very moderate
Reform Bill of 1866, followed as it was by a much more democratic



Mr. Dicey in his _Case against Home Rule_ does me the honour to refer to
an article which I wrote a year ago on "American Home Rule,"[24]
expressing in one place "disagreement in the general conclusion to which
the article is intended to lead," and in another "inability to follow
the inference" which he supposes me to draw "against all attempts to
enforce an unpopular law." Now the object of that article, I may be
permitted to explain, was twofold. I desired, in the first place, to
combat the notion which, it seemed to me, if I might judge from a great
many of the speeches and articles on the Irish question, was widely
diffused even among thoughtful Englishmen that the manner in which the
Irish have expressed their discontent--that is, through outrage and
disorder--was indicative of incapacity for self-government, and even
imposed upon the Englishmen the duty, in the interest of morality (I
think it was the _Spectator_ who took this view), and as a disciplinary
measure, of refusing to such a people the privilege of managing their
own affairs. I tried to show by several noted examples occurring in this
country that prolonged displays of lawlessness, and violence, and even
cruelty, such as the anti-rent movement in the State of New York, the
Ku-Klux outrages in the South, and the persecution of Miss Prudence
Crandall in Connecticut, were not inconsistent with the possession of
marked political capacity. I suggested that it was hardly adult politics
to take such things into consideration in passing on the expediency of
conceding local self-government to a subject community. There was to me
something almost childish in the arguments drawn from Irish lawlessness
in the discussion of Home Rule, and in the moral importance attached by
some Englishmen to the refusal to such wicked men as the Irish of the
things they most desire. It is only in kindergartens, I said, that
rulers are able to do equal and exact justice, and see that the naughty
are brought to grief and the good made comfortable. Statesmen occupy
themselves with the more serious business of curing discontent. They
concern themselves but little, if at all, with the question whether it
might not be manifested by less objectionable methods.

The Irish methods of manifesting it, I endeavoured to show, were not
exceptional, and did not prove either inability to make laws or
unwillingness to obey them. I illustrated this by examples drawn from
the United States. I might, had I had more time and space, have made
these examples still more numerous and striking. I might have given very
good reasons for believing that, were Ireland a state in the American
Union, there probably would not have been any rent paid in the island
within the last fifty years, and that the armed resistance of the
tenants would have had the open or secret sympathy of the great bulk of
the American people. In truth, the importance of Irish crime as a
political symptom is grossly exaggerated by English writers. I venture
to assert that more murders unconnected with robbery are committed in
the State of Kentucky in one year than in Ireland in ten, and the
condition of some other Southern and Western States is nearly as bad.
All good Americans lament this and are ashamed of it, but it never
enters into the heads of even the most lugubrious American moralists
that Kentucky or any other State should be disfranchised and remanded to
the condition of a Territory, because the offences against the person
committed in it are so numerous, and the punishment of them, owing to
popular sympathy or apathy, so difficult.

There are a great many Englishmen who think that when they show that
Grattan's Parliament was a venal and somewhat disorderly body, which
occasionally indulged in mixed metaphor, they have proved the
impossibility of giving Ireland a Parliament now. But then, as they are
obliged to admit, Walpole's Parliament was very corrupt, and no one
would say that for that reason it would have been wise to suspend
constitutional government in England in the eighteenth century. It is
only through the pernicious habit of thinking of Irishmen as exceptions
to all political rules that Grattan's Parliament is considered likely,
had it lasted, to have come down to our time unreformed and unimproved.

Those have misunderstood me who suppose that I draw from the success of
the anti-rent movement in this State between 1839 and 1846 an inference
against "all attempts to enforce an unpopular law." Such was not by any
means my object. What I sought to show by the history of this movement
was that there was nothing peculiar or inexplicable in the hostility to
rent-paying in Ireland. The rights of the New York landlords were as
good in law and morals as the rights of the Irish landlords, and their
mode of asserting them far superior. Moreover, those who resisted them
were not men of a different race, religion, or nationality, and had, as
Mr. Dicey says, "none of the excuses that can be urged in extenuation of
half-starved tenants." Their mode of setting the law at defiance was
exactly similar to that adopted by the Irish, and it was persisted in
for a period of ten years, or until they had secured a substantial
victory. The history of the anti-rent agitation in New York also
illustrates strikingly, as it seems to me, the perspicacity of a remark
made, in substance, long ago by Mr. Disraeli, which, in my eyes at
least, threw a great deal of light on the Irish problem, namely, that
Ireland was suffering from suppressed revolution. As Mr. Dicey says,
"The crises called revolutions are the ultimate and desperate cures for
the fundamental disorganization of society. The issue of a revolutionary
struggle shows what is the true sovereign power in the revolutionized
state. So strong is the interest of mankind, at least in any European
country, in favour of some sort of settled rule, that civil disturbance
will, if left to itself, in general end in the supremacy of some power
which by securing the safety at last gains the attachment of the people.
The Reign of Terror begets the Empire; even wars of religion at last
produce peace, albeit peace may be nothing better than the iron
uniformity of despotism. Could Ireland have been left for any lengthened
period to herself, some form of rule adapted to the needs of the country
would in all probability have been established. Whether Protestants or
Catholics would have been the predominant element in the State; whether
the landlords would have held their own, or whether the English system
of tenure would long ago have made way for one more in conformity with
native traditions; whether hostile classes and races would at last have
established some _modus vivendi_ favourable to individual freedom, or
whether despotism under some of its various forms would have been
sanctioned by the acquiescence of its subjects, are matters of uncertain
speculation. A conclusion which, though speculative, is far less
uncertain, is that Ireland, if left absolutely to herself, would have
arrived, like every other country, at some lasting settlement of her
difficulties" (p. 87). That is to say, that in Ireland as in New York
the attempt to enforce unpopular land laws would have been abandoned,
had local self-government existed. For "revolution" is, after all, only
a fine name for the failure or refusal of the rulers of a country to
persist in executing laws which the bulk of the population find
obnoxious. When the popular hostility to the law is strong enough to
make its execution impossible, as it was in New York in the rent affair,
it is accepted as the respectable solution of a very troublesome
problem. When, as in Ireland, it is strong enough to produce turbulence
and disorder, but not strong enough to tire out and overcome the
authorities, it simply ruins the political manners of the people. If the
Irish landlords had had from the beginning to face the tenants
single-handed and either hold them down by superior physical force, or
come to terms with them as the New York landlords had to do, conditions
of peace and good will would have assuredly been discovered long ago.
The land question, in other words, would have been adjusted in
accordance with "Irish ideas," that is, in some way satisfactory to the
tenants. The very memory of the conflict would probably by this time
have died out, and the two classes would be living in harmony on the
common soil. If in New York, on the other hand, the Van Rensselaers and
Livingstons had been able to secure the aid of martial law and of the
Federal troops in asserting their claims, and in preventing local
opinion having any influence whatever on the settlement of the dispute,
there can be no doubt that a large portion of this State would to-day be
as poor and as savage, and apparently as little fitted for the serious
business of government, as the greater part of Ireland is.

There is, in truth, no reason to doubt that the idea of property in
land, thoroughly accepted though it be in the United States, is
nevertheless held under the same limitations as in the rest of the
world. No matter what the law may say in any country, in no country is
the right of the landed proprietor in his acres as absolute as his right
in his movables. A man may own as much land as he can purchase, and may
assert his ownership in its most absolute form against one, two, or
three occupants, but the minute he began to assert it against a large
number of occupants, that is, to act as if his rights were such that he
had only to buy a whole state or a whole island in order to be able to
evict the entire population, he would find in America, as he finds in
Ireland, that he cannot have the same title to land as to personal
property. He would, for instance, if he tried to oust the people of a
whole district or of a village from their homes on any plea of
possession, or of a contract, find that he was going too far, and that
no matter what the judges might say, or the sheriff might try to do for
him, his legal position was worth very little to him. Consequently a
large landlord in America, if he were lucky enough to get tenants at
all, would be very chary indeed about quarrelling with more than one of
them at a time. The tenants would no more submit to wholesale ejectment
than the farmers in Missouri would submit some years ago to a tax levy
on their property to pay county bonds given in aid of a railroad. The
goods of some of them were seized, but a large body of them attended the
sale armed with rifles, having previously issued a notice that the place
would be very "unhealthy" for outside bidders.

The bearing of this condition of American opinion on the Irish question
will be plainer if I remind English readers that the Irish in the United
States numbered in 1880 nearly 2,000,000, and that the number of persons
of Irish parentage is probably between 4,000,000 and 5,000,000. In short
there are, as well as one can judge, more Irish nationalists in the
United States than in Ireland. The Irish-Americans are to-day the only
large and prosperous Irish community in the world. The children of the
Irish born in the United States or brought there in their infancy are
just as Irish in their politics as those who have grown up at home.
Patrick Ford, for instance, the editor of the _Irish World_, who is such
a shape of dread to some Englishmen, came to America in childhood, and
has no personal knowledge nor recollection of Irish wrongs. Of the part
this large Irish community plays in stimulating agitation--both agrarian
and political--at home I need not speak; Englishmen are very familiar
with it, and are very indignant over it. The Irish-Americans not only
send over a great deal of American money to their friends at home, but
they send over American ideas, and foremost among them American
hostility to large landowners, and American belief in Home Rule. Now, to
me, one of the most curious things in the English state of mind about
the Irish problem is the apparent expectation that this Irish-American
interference is transient, and will probably soon die out. It is quite
true, as Englishmen are constantly told, that "the best Americans," that
is, the literary people and the commercial magnates, whom travelling
Englishmen see on the Atlantic coast, dislike the Irish anti-English
agitation. But it is also true that the disapproval of the "best
Americans" is not of the smallest practical consequence, particularly as
it is largely due to complete indifference to, and ignorance of, the
whole subject. There are probably not a dozen of them who would venture
to express their disapproval publicly. The mass of the population,
particularly in the West, sympathize, though half laughingly, with the
efforts of the transplanted Irish to "twist the British lion's tail,"
and all the politicians either sympathize with them, or pretend to do
so. I am not now expressing any opinion as to whether this state of
things is good or bad. What I wish to point out is that this
Irish-American influence on Irish affairs is very powerful, and may, for
all practical purposes, be considered permanent, and must be taken into
account as a constant element in the Irish problem. I will indeed
venture on the assertion that it is the appearance of the
Irish-Americans on the scene which has given the Irish question its
present seriousness. The attempts of the Irish at physical resistance to
English authority have been steadily diminishing in gravity during the
present century--witness the descent from the rebellion of 1798 to Smith
O'Brien's rebellion and the Fenian rising of 1867. On the other hand the
power of the Irish to act as a disturbing agency in English politics has
greatly increased, and the reason is that the stream of Irish discontent
is fed by thousands of rills from the United States. Every emigrant's
letter, every Irish-American newspaper, every returned emigrant with
money in his pocket and a good coat on his back, helps to swell it, and
there is not the slightest sign, that I can see, of its drying up.

Where Mr. Dicey is most formidable to the Home Rulers, as it seems to
me, is in his chapter on "Home Rule as Federalism," which is the form in
which the Irish ask for it. He attacks this in two ways. One is by
maintaining that the necessary conditions for a federal union between
Great Britain and Ireland do not exist. This disposes at one blow of all
the experience derived from the working of the foreign federations, on
which the advocates of Home Rule have relied a good deal. The other is
what I may call predictions that the federation even if set up would not
work. Either the state of facts on which all other federations have been
built does not exist in Ireland, or if it now exists, will not, owing to
the peculiarities of Irish character, continue to exist. In other words,
the federation will either fail at the outset, or fail in the long run.
No one can admire more than I do the force and ingenuity and wealth of
illustration with which Mr. Dicey supports this thesis. But
unfortunately the arguments by which he assails Irish federalism might
be, or might have been, used against all federations whatever. They
might have been used, as I shall try to show, against the most
successful of them all, the Government of the United States. I was
reminded, while reading Mr. Dicey's account of the impossibility of an
Anglo-Irish federation, of Mr. Madison's rehearsal in the _Federalist_
(No. 38) of the objections made to the Federal Constitution after the
Convention had submitted it to the States. These objections covered
every feature in it but one; and that, the mode of electing the
President, curiously enough, is the only one which can be said to have
utterly failed. A more impressive example of the danger of _à priori_
attacks on any political arrangement, history does not contain. Mr.
Madison says: "This one tells me that the proposed Constitution ought to
be rejected, because it is not a confederation of the states, but a
government over individuals. Another admits that it ought to be a
government over individuals to a certain extent, but by no means to the
extent proposed. A third does not object to the government over
individuals, or to the extent proposed, but to the want of a bill of
rights. A fourth concurs in the absolute necessity of a bill of rights,
but contends that it ought to be declaratory not of the personal rights
of individuals, but of the rights reserved to the states in their
political capacity. A fifth is of opinion that a bill of rights of any
sort would be superfluous and misplaced, and that the plan would be
unexceptionable but for the fatal power of regulating the times and
places of election. An objector in a large state exclaims loudly against
the unreasonable equality of representation in the Senate. An objector
in a small state is equally loud against the dangerous inequality in the
House of Representatives. From one quarter we are alarmed with the
amazing expense, from the number of persons who are to administer the
new government. From another quarter, and sometimes from the same
quarter, on another occasion the cry is that the Congress will be but
the shadow of a representation, and that the government would be far
less objectionable if the number and the expense were doubled. A patriot
in a state that does not import or export discerns insuperable
objections against the power of direct taxation. The patriotic adversary
in a state of great exports and imports is not less dissatisfied that
the whole burden of taxes may be thrown on consumption. This politician
discovers in the constitution a direct and irresistible tendency to
monarchy. That is equally sure it will end in aristocracy. Another is
puzzled to say which of these shapes it will ultimately assume, but sees
clearly it must be one or other of them. Whilst a fourth is not wanting,
who with no less confidence affirms that the Constitution is so far from
having a bias towards either of these dangers, that the weight on that
side will not be sufficient to keep it upright and firm against the
opposite propensities. With another class of adversaries to the
Constitution, the language is, that the legislative, executive, and
judiciary departments are intermixed in such a manner as to contradict
all the ideas of regular government and all the requisite precautions in
favour of liberty. Whilst this objection circulates in vague and general
expressions, there are not a few who lend their sanction to it. Let each
one come forward with his particular explanation, and scarcely any two
are exactly agreed on the subject. In the eyes of one the junction of
the Senate with the President in the responsible function of appointing
to offices, instead of vesting this power in the executive alone, is the
vicious part of the organization. To another the exclusion of the House
of Representatives, whose numbers alone could be a due security against
corruption and partiality in the exercise of such a power, is equally
obnoxious. With a third the admission of the President into any share of
a power which must ever be a dangerous engine in the hands of the
executive magistrate is an unpardonable violation of the maxims of
republican jealousy. No part of the arrangement, according to some, is
more inadmissible than the trial of impeachments by the Senate, which is
alternately a member both of the legislative and executive departments,
when this power so evidently belonged to the judiciary department. We
concur fully, reply others, in the objection to this part of the plan,
but we can never agree that a reference of impeachments to the judiciary
authority would be an amendment of the error; our principal dislike to
the organization arises from the extensive powers already lodged in that
department. Even among the zealous patrons of a council of state, the
most irreconcilable variance is discovered concerning the mode in which
it ought to be constituted."

Mr. Madison's challenge to the opponents of the American Constitution to
agree on some plan of their own, and his humorous suggestion that if the
American people had to wait for some such agreement to be reached they
would go for a long time without a government, are curiously applicable
to the opponents of Irish Home Rule. They are very fertile in reasons
for thinking that neither the Gladstone plan nor any other plan can
succeed, but no two of them, so far as I know, have yet hit upon any
other mode of pacifying Ireland, except the use of force for a certain
period to maintain order, and oddly enough, even when they agree on this
remedy, they are apt to disagree about the length of time during which
it should be tried.

Mr. Dicey, in conceding the success of the American Constitution, seems
to me unmindful, if I may use the expression, of the judgments he would
probably have passed on it had it been submitted to him at the outset
were he in the frame of mind to which a prolonged study of the Irish
problem has now brought him. The Supreme Court, for instance, which he
now recognizes as an essential feature of the Federal Constitution, and
the absence of which in the Gladstonian arrangement he treats as a fatal
defect, would have undoubtedly appeared to him a preposterous
contrivance. It would have seemed to him impossible that a legislature
like Congress, with the traditions of parliamentary omnipotence still
strong in the minds of the members, would ever submit to have its acts
nullified by a board composed of half a dozen elderly lawyers. Nor would
he have treated as any more reasonable the expectation that the State
tribunals, which had existed in each colony from its foundation, and had
earned the respect and confidence of the people, would quietly submit to
have their jurisdiction curtailed, their decisions overruled, causes
torn from their calendar, and prisoners taken out of their custody by
new courts of semi-foreign origin, which the State neither paid nor
controlled. He would, too, very probably have been most incredulous
about the prospect of the growth of loyalty on the part of New-Yorkers
and Massachusetts men to a new-fangled government, which was to make
itself only slightly felt in their daily lives, and was to sit a
fortnight away in an improvised village in the midst of a Virginian

He would, too, have ridiculed the notion that State legislatures would
refrain, in obedience to the Constitution, from passing any law which
local sentiment strongly favoured or local convenience plainly demanded,
such as a law impairing the obligation of obnoxious contracts, or
levying duties on imports or exports. The possibility that the State
militia could ever be got to obey federal officers, or form an efficient
part of a federal army, he would have scouted. On the feebleness of the
front which federation would present to a foreign enemy he would have
dwelt with emphasis, and would have pointed with confidence to the
probability that in the event of a war some of the states would make
terms with him or secretly favour his designs. National allegiance and
local allegiance would divide and perplex the feelings of loyal
citizens. Unless the national sentiment predominated--and it could not
predominate without having had time to grow--the federation would go to
pieces at any of those crises when the interests or wishes of any of the
states conflicted with the interests or wishes of the Union. That the
national sentiment could grow at all rapidly, considering the maturity
of the communities which composed the Union and the differences of
origin, creed, and manners which separated them, no calm observer of
human nature would believe for one moment.

The American Constitution is flecked throughout with those flaws which a
lawyer delights to discover and point out, and which the framers of a
federal contract can only excuse by maintaining that they are
inevitable. It is true that Mr. Dicey does not even now acknowledge the
success of the American Constitution to be complete. He points out that
if the "example either of America or of Switzerland is to teach us
anything worth knowing, the history of these countries must be read as a
whole. It will then be seen that the two most successful confederacies
in the world have been kept together only by the decisive triumph
through force of arms of the central power over real or alleged State
rights" (p. 192).

It is odd that such objectors do not see that the decisive triumph of
the central power in the late civil war in America was, in reality, a
striking proof of the success of the federation. The armies which
General Grant commanded, and the enormous resources in money and
devotion from which he was able to draw, were the product of the Federal
Union and of nothing else. One of the greatest arguments its founders
used in its favour was that if once established it would supply
overwhelming force for the suppression of any attempt to break it up.
They did not aim at setting up a government which neither foreign malice
nor domestic treason, would ever assail, for they knew that this was
something beyond the reach of human endeavour. They tried to set up one
which, if attacked either from within or from without, would make a
successful resistance, and we now know that they accomplished their
object. Somewhat the same answer may be made to the objection, which is
supposed to have fatal applicability to the case of Ireland, that among
the "special faults of federalism" is that it does not provide
"sufficient protection of the legal rights of unpopular minorities," and
that "the moral of it all is that the [American] Federal Government is
not able to protect the rights of individuals against strong local
sentiment" (p. 194 of Mr. Dicey's book). He says, moreover, if I
understand the argument rightly, that it was bound to protect free
speech in the States because "there is not and never was a word in the
Articles of the Constitution forbidding American citizens to criticize
the institutions of the State." It would seem from this as if Mr. Dicey
were under the impression that in America the citizen of a State has a
right to do in his State whatever he is not forbidden to do by the
Federal Constitution, and in doing it has a right to federal protection.
But the Federal Government can only do what the Constitution expressly
authorizes it to do, and the Constitution does not authorize it to
protect a citizen in criticizing the institutions of his own State. This
arrangement, too, is just as good federalism as the committal of free
speech to federal guardianship would have been. The goodness or badness
of the federal system is in no way involved in the matter.

The question to what extent a minority shall rely on the federation for
protection, and to what extent on its own State, is a matter settled by
the contract which has created the federation. The settlement of this
is, in fact, the great object of a Constitution. Until it is settled
somehow, either by writing or by understanding, there is, and can be, no
federation. If I, as a citizen of the State of New York, could call on
the United States Government to protect me under all circumstances and
against all wrongs, it would show that I was not living under a
federation at all, but under a centralized republic. The reason why I
have to rely on the United States for protection against some things and
not against others is that it was so stipulated when the State of New
York entered the Union. There is nothing in the nature of the federal
system to prevent the United States Government from protecting my
freedom of speech. Nor is there anything in the federal system which
forbids its protecting me against the establishment of a State Church,
which, as a matter of fact, it does not do. Nor is there anything in the
federal system compelling the Government to protect me against the
establishment of an order of nobility, which, as a matter of fact, it
does do. The reason why it does not do one of these things and does the
other is simply and solely that it was so stipulated, after much
discussion, in the contract. Most thinking men are to-day of opinion
that the United States ought to have exclusive jurisdiction of marriage,
so that the law of marriage might be uniform in all parts of the Union.
The reason why they do not possess such jurisdiction is not that
Congress is not fully competent to pass such a law or the federal courts
to execute it, but that no such jurisdiction is conferred by the
Constitution. In fact it seems to me just as reasonable to cite the ease
of divorce in various States of the Union as a defect in the federal
system, as to cite the oppression of local minorities in matters not
placed under federal authority by the organic law.

If one may judge from a great deal of writing on American matters which
one sees in English journals and the demands for federal interference in
America in State affairs which they constantly make, the greatest
difficulty Irish Home Rule has to contend with is the difficulty which
men bred in a united monarchy and under an omnipotent Parliament
experience in grasping what I may call the federal idea. The influence
of association on their minds is so strong that they can hardly conceive
of a central power, worthy of the name of a government, standing by and
witnessing disorders or failures of justice in any place within its
borders, without stepping in to set matters right, no matter what the
Constitution may say. They remind me often of an old verger in
Westminster Abbey during the American civil war who told me that "he
always knew a government without a head couldn't last." Permanence and
peace were in his mind inseparably linked with kingship. That even Mr.
Dicey has not been able to escape this influence appears frequently in
his discussions of federalism. He, of course, thoroughly understands the
federal system as a jurist, but when he comes to discuss it as a
politician he has evidently some difficulty in seeing how a government
with a power to enforce _any_ commands can be restrained by contract
from enforcing _all_ commands which may seem to be expedient or
salutary. Consequently the cool way in which the Federal Government here
looks on at local disorders seems to him a sign, not of the fidelity of
the President and Congress to the federal pact, but of some inherent
weakness in the federal system.

The true way to judge the federal system, however, either in the United
States or elsewhere, is by observing the manner in which it has
performed the duties assigned to it by the Constitution. If the
Government at Washington performs these faithfully, its failure to
prevent lawlessness in New York or the oppression of minorities in
Connecticut is of no more consequence than its failure to put down
brigandage in Macedonia. Possibly it would have been better to saddle it
with greater responsibility for local peace; but the fact is that the
framers of the Constitution decided not to do so. They did not mean to
set up a government which would see that every man living under it got
his due. They could not have got the States to accept such a
government. They meant to set up a government which should represent
the nation worthily in all its relations with foreigners, which should
carry on war effectively, protect life and property on the high seas,
furnish a proper currency, put down all resistance to its lawful
authority, and secure each State against domestic violence on the demand
of its Legislature.

There is no common form for federal contracts, and no rules describing
what such a contract must contain in order that the Government may be
federal and not unitarian. There is no hard and fast line which must,
under the federal system, divide the jurisdiction of the central
Government from the jurisdiction of each State Government. The way in
which the power is divided between the two must necessarily depend on
the traditions, manners, aims, and needs of the people of the various
localities. The federal system is not a system manufactured on a
regulation model, which can be sent over the world like iron huts or
steam launches, in detached pieces, to be put together when the scene of
operation is reached. Therefore I am unable to see the force of the
argument that, as the conditions under which all existing federations
were established differ in some respects from those under which the
proposed federal union between England and Ireland would have to be
established, therefore the success of these confederations, such as it
is, gives them no value as precedents. A system which might have worked
very well for the New England States would not have worked well for a
combination which included also the middle and southern States. And the
framers of the American Constitution were not so simple-minded as to
inquire, either before beginning their labours or before ending them--as
Mr. Dicey would apparently have the English and Irish do--whether this
or that style of constitution was "the correct thing" in federalism.
Assuming that the people desired to form a nation as regarded the world
outside, they addressed themselves to the task of discovering how much
power the various States were willing to surrender for this purpose.
That was ascertained, as far as it could be ascertained, by assembling
their delegates in convention, and discussing the wishes and fears and
suggestions of the different localities in a friendly and conciliatory
spirit. They had no precedents to guide them. There had not existed a
federal government, either in ancient or modern times, whose working
afforded an example by which the imagination or the understanding of the
American people was likely to be affected in the smallest degree. They,
therefore, had to strike out an entirely new path for themselves, and
they ended by producing an absolutely new kind of federation, which was
half Unitarian, that is, in some respects a union of states, and in
others a centralized government; and it was provided for a Territory one
end of which was more than a month's distance from the other.

It is not in its details, therefore, but in the manner of its
construction, that the American Constitution furnishes anything in the
way of guidance or suggestion to those who are now engaged in trying to
find a _modus vivendi_ between England and Ireland. The same thing may
be said of the Swiss Constitution and of the Austro-Hungarian
Constitution. Both of them contain many anomalies--that is, things that
are not set down in the books as among the essentials of federalism. But
both are adapted to the special wants of the people who live under them,
and were framed in reference to those wants.

The Austro-Hungarian Delegations are another exception to the rule.
These Delegations undoubtedly control the ministry of the Empire, or at
all events do in practice displace it by their votes. It is made
formally responsible to them by the Constitution. All that Mr. Dicey can
say to this is that "the real responsibility of the Ministry to the
Delegations admits of a good deal of doubt," and that, at all events,
it is not like the responsibility of Mr. Gladstone or Lord Salisbury to
the British Parliament. This may be true, but the more mysterious or
peculiar it is the better it illustrates the danger of speaking of any
particular piece of machinery or of any particular division of power as
an essential feature of a federal constitution.

We are told by the critics of the Gladstonian scheme that federalism is
not "a plan for disuniting the parts of a united state." But whether it
is or not once more depends on circumstances. Federalism, like the
British or French Constitution, is an arrangement intended to satisfy
the people who set it up by gratifying some desire or removing some
cause of discontent. If that discontent be due to unity, federalism
disunites; if it be due to disunion, federalism unites. In the case of
the Austro-Hungarian Empire, for instance, it clearly is a "plan for
disuniting the parts of a united state." Austria and Hungary were united
in the sense in which the opponents of Home Rule use the word for many
years before 1867, but the union did not work, that is, did not produce
moral as well as legal unity. A constitution was therefore invented
which disunites the two countries for the purposes of domestic
legislation, but leaves them united for the purposes of foreign
relations. This may be a queer arrangement. Although it has worked well
enough thus far, it may not continue to work well, but it does work well
now. It has succeeded in converting Hungary from a discontented and
rebellious province and a source of great weakness to Austria into a
loyal and satisfied portion of the Empire. In other words, it has
accomplished its purpose. It was not intended to furnish a symmetrical
piece of federalism. It was intended to conciliate the Hungarian people.
When therefore the professional federal architects make their tour of
inspection and point out to the Home Ruler what flagrant departures from
the correct federal model the Austro-Hungarian Constitution contains,
how improbable it is that so enormous a structure can endure, and how,
after all, the Hungarians have not got rid of the Emperor, who commands
the army and represents the brute force of the old _régime_, I do not
think he need feel greatly concerned. This may be all true, and yet the
Austro-Hungarian federalism is a valuable thing. It has proved that the
federal remedy is good for more than one disease, that it can cure both
too much unity and too little. The truth is that there are only two
essentials of a federal government. One is an agreement between the
various communities who are to live under it as to the manner in which
the power is to be divided between the general and local governments;
the other is an honest desire on the part of all concerned to make it
succeed. As a general rule, whatever the parties agree on and desire to
make work is likely to work, just as a Unitarian government is sure to
succeed if the people who live under it determine that it shall succeed.
If a federal plan be settled in the only right way, by amicable and
mutually respectful discussion between representative men, all the more
serious obstacles are certain to be revealed and removed. Those which
are not brought to light by such discussions are pretty sure to be
comparatively trifling, and to disappear before the general success of
arrangement. But by a "mutually respectful discussion" I mean discussion
in which good faith and intelligence of all concerned are acknowledged
on both sides.

In what I have said by way of criticism of a book which may be taken as
a particularly full exposition of the legal criticism that may be
levelled at Mr. Gladstone's scheme, I have not touched on the arguments
against Home Rule which Mr. Dicey draws from the amount of disturbance
it would cause in English political habits and arrangements. I freely
admit the weight of these arguments. The task of any English statesman
who gives Home Rule to Ireland in the only way in which it can be
given--with the assent of the British people--will be a very arduous
one. But this portion of Mr. Dicey's book, producing, as it does, the
distinctively English objections to Home rule, is to me much the most
instructive, because it shows the difficulty there would be in creating
the state of mind in England about any federal relation to Ireland which
would be necessary to make it succeed. I do not think it an exaggeration
to say that two-thirds of the English objections to Home Rule as
federalism are unconscious expressions of distrust of Irish sincerity or
intelligence thrown into the form of prophecy, and prophets, as we all
know, cannot be refuted. For instance, "the changes necessitated by
federalism would all tend to weaken the power of Great Britain" (Dicey,
p. 173). The question of the command of the army could not be arranged;
the Irish army could not be depended on by the Crown (p. 174); the
central Government would be feeble against foreign aggression, and the
Irish Parliament would give aid to a foreign enemy (pp. 176-7).
Federalism would aggravate or increase instead of diminishing the actual
Irish disloyalty to the Crown (pp. 179-80); the Irish expectations of
material prosperity from Home Rule are baseless or grossly exaggerated
(p. 182); the probability is, it would produce increased poverty and
hardship; there would be frequent quarrels between the two countries
over questions of nullification, secession, and federal taxation (p.
184); neither side would acquiesce in the decision either of the Privy
Council or of any other tribunal on these questions; Home Rulers would
be the first to resist these decisions (p. 185). Irish federation "would
soon generate a demand that the whole British Empire should be turned
into a Confederacy" (p. 188). Finally, as "the one prediction which may
be made with absolute confidence," "federalism would not generate the
goodwill between England and Ireland which, could it be produced, would
be an adequate compensation even for the evils and inconveniences of a
federal system" (p. 191).

Now I do not myself believe these things, but what else can any advocate
of Home Rule say in answer to them? They are in their very nature the
utterances of a prophet--an able, acute, and fair-minded prophet, I
grant, but still a prophet--and before a prophet the wisest man has to
be silent, or content himself by answering in prophecy also. What makes
the sceptical frame of mind in which Mr. Dicey approaches the Home Rule
question so important is not simply that it probably represents that of
a very large body of educated Englishmen, but that it is one in which a
federal system cannot be produced. Faith, hope, and charity are
political as well as social virtues. The minute you leave the region of
pure despotism and try any form of government in which the citizen has
in the smallest degree to co-operate in the execution of the laws, you
have need of these virtues at every step. As soon as you give up the
attempt to rule men by drumhead justice, you have to begin to trust in
some degree to their intelligence, to their love of order, to their
self-respect, and to their desire for material prosperity, and the
nearer you get to what is called free government the larger this trust
has to be. It has to be very large indeed in order to carry on such a
government as that of Great Britain or of the United States; it has to
be larger still in order to set up and administer a federal government.
In such a government the worst that can happen is very patent. The
opportunities which the best-drawn federal constitution offers for
outbreaks of what Americans call "pure cussedness"--that is, for the
indulgence of anarchical tendencies and impulses--is greater than in any
other. Therefore, to set it up, or even to discuss it with any profit,
your faith in the particular variety of human nature, which is to live
under it, has to be great. No communities can live under it together
and make it work which do not respect each other. I say respect, I do
not say love, each other. The machine can be made to go a good while
without love, and if it goes well it will bring love before long; but
mutual respect is necessary from the first day. This is why Mr. Dicey's
book is discouraging. The arguments which he addressed to Englishmen
would not, I think, be formidable but for the mood in which he finds
Englishmen, and that this mood makes against Home Rule there can be
little doubt.

I am often asked by Americans why the English do not call an Anglo-Irish
convention in the American fashion, and discuss the Irish question with
the Irish, find out exactly what they will take to be quiet, and settle
with them in a rational way. I generally answer that, in the first
place, a convention is a constitution-making agency with which the
English public is totally unfamiliar, and that, in the second place,
Englishmen's temper is too imperial, or rather imperious, to make the
idea of discussion on equal terms with the Irish at all acceptable. They
are, in fact, so far from any such arrangement that--preposterous and
even funny as it seems to the American mind--to say that an English
statesman is carrying on any sort of communication with the
representatives of the Irish people is to bring against him, in English
eyes, a very damaging accusation. When a man like Mr. Matthew Arnold
writes to the _Times_ to contend that Englishmen should find out what
the Irish want solely for the purpose of not letting them have it, and a
journal like the _Spectator_ maintains that the sole excuse for
extending the suffrage in Ireland, as it has lately been extended in
England, was that the Irish as a minority would not be able to make any
effective use of it; and when another political philosopher writes a
long and very solemn letter in which, while conceding that in governing
Ireland a sympathetic regard for Irish feelings and interests should be
displayed, he mentions, as one of the leading facts of the situation,
that in "the Irish character there is a grievous lack of independence,
of self-respect, of courage, and above all of truthfulness"--when men of
this kind talk in this way, it is easy to see that the mental and moral
conditions necessary to the successful formation of a federal union are
still far off. No federal government, and no government requiring
loyalty and fidelity for its successful working, was ever set up by, or
even discussed between, two parties, one of which thought the other so
unreasonable that it should be carefully denied everything it asked for
and as unfit for any sort of political co-operation as mendacity,
cowardice, and slavishness could make it.

Finally let me say that there is nothing in Mr. Dicey's book which has
surprised me more, considering with what singular intellectual integrity
he attacks every point, than his failure to make any mention or to take
any account of the large part which time and experience must necessarily
play in bringing to perfection any political arrangement which is made
to order, if I may use the expression, no matter how carefully it may be
drafted. Hume says on this point with great wisdom, "To balance the
large state or society, whether monarchical or republican, on general
laws, is a work of so great difficulty, that no human genius, however
comprehensive, is able by the mere dint of reason or reflection to
effect it. The judgments of many must unite in the work, experience must
guide their labour, time must bring it to perfection, and the feeling of
inconveniences must correct the mistakes which they inevitably fall into
in their first trial and experiments."[25]

This has proved true of the American and Swiss federations; it will
probably prove true of the Austro-Hungarian federation and of any that
may be set up by Great Britian [Transcriber: sic.] and her colonies. It
will prove still more true of any attempt that may be made at
federation between Great Britain and Ireland. No corrections which could
be made in the Gladstonian or any other constitution would make it work
exactly on the lines laid down by its framers. Even if it were revised
in accordance with Mr. Dicey's criticism, it would probably be found, as
in the case of the American Constitution, that few of the dangers which
were most feared for it had beset it, and that some of the
inconveniences which were most distinctly foreseen as likely to arise
from it were among the things which had materially contributed to its
success. History is full of the gentle ridicule which the course of
events throws on statesmen and philosophers.


[Footnote 24: Printed in the earlier part of this volume.]

[Footnote 25: Essay on the Rise and Progress of the Arts and Sciences.]



I am often asked, What are the best books to read on the Irish question?
and I never fail to mention Mr. Lecky's _Leaders of Public Opinion in
Ireland_ and the _History of England in the Eighteenth Century_; Mr.
Goldwin Smith's _Irish History and Irish Character, Three English
Statesmen, The Irish Question_, and Professor Dicey's admirable work,
_England's Case against Home Rule_.

Indeed, the case for Home Rule, as stated in these books, is
unanswerable; and it redounds to the credit of Mr. Lecky, Mr. Goldwin
Smith, and Mr. Dicey that their narrative of facts should in no wise be
prejudiced by their political opinions.

That their facts are upon one side and their opinions on the other is a
minor matter. Their facts, I venture to assert, have made more Home
Rulers than their opinions can unmake.

To put this assertion to the test I propose to quote some extracts from
the works above mentioned. These extracts shall be full and fair.
Nothing shall be left out that can in the slightest degree qualify any
statement of fact in the context. Arguments will be omitted, for I wish
to place facts mainly before my readers. From these facts they can draw
their own conclusions. Neither shall I take up space with comments of my
own. I shall call my witnesses and let them speak for themselves.


In the introduction to the new edition of the _Leaders of Public Opinion
in Ireland_, published in 1871--seventy-one years after Mr. Pitt's
Union, which was to make England and Ireland one nation--we find the
following "contrast" between "national life" in the two countries:--

"There is, perhaps, no Government in the world which succeeds more
admirably in the functions of eliciting, sustaining, and directing
public opinion than that of England. It does not, it is true, escape its
full share of hostile criticism, and, indeed, rather signally
illustrates the saying of Bacon, that 'the best Governments are always
subject to be like the finest crystals, in which every icicle and grain
is seen which in a fouler stone is never perceived;' but whatever
charges may be brought against the balance of its powers, or against its
legislative efficiency, few men will question its eminent success as an
organ of public opinion. In England an even disproportionate amount of
the national talent takes the direction of politics. The pulse of an
energetic national life is felt in every quarter of the land. The
debates of Parliament are followed with a warm, constant, and
intelligent interest by all sections of the community. It draws all
classes within the circle of political interests, and is the centre of a
strong and steady patriotism, equally removed from the apathy of many
Continental nations in time of calm, and from their feverish and
spasmodic energy in time of excitement. Its decisions, if not instantly
accepted, never fail to have a profound and calming influence on the
public mind. It is the safety-valve of the nation. The discontents, the
suspicions, the peccant humours that agitate the people, find there
their vent, their resolution, and their end.

"It is impossible, I think, not to be struck by the contrast which, in
this respect, Ireland presents to England. If the one country furnishes
us with an admirable example of the action of a healthy public opinion,
the other supplies us with the most unequivocal signs of its disease.
The Imperial Parliament exercises for Ireland legislative functions, but
it is almost powerless upon opinion--it allays no discontent, and
attracts no affection. Political talent, which for many years was at
least as abundant among Irishmen as in any equally numerous section of
the people, has been steadily declining, and marked decadence in this
respect among the representatives of the nation reflects but too truly
the absence of public spirit in their constituents.

"The upper classes have lost their sympathy with and their moral
ascendency over their tenants, and are thrown for the most part into a
policy of mere obstruction. The genuine national enthusiasm never flows
in the channel of imperial politics. With great multitudes sectarian
considerations have entirely superseded national ones, and their
representatives are accustomed systematically to subordinate all party
and all political questions to ecclesiastical interests; and while
calling themselves Liberals, they make it the main object of their home
politics to separate the different classes of their fellow-countrymen
during the period of their education, and the main object of their
foreign policy to support the temporal power of the Pope. With another
and a still larger class the prevailing feeling seems to be an
indifference to all Parliamentary proceedings; an utter scepticism about
constitutional means of realizing their ends; a blind, persistent hatred
of England. Every cause is taken up with an enthusiasm exactly
proportioned to the degree in which it is supposed to be injurious to
English interests. An amount of energy and enthusiasm which if rightly
directed would suffice for the political regeneration of Ireland is
wasted in the most insane projects of disloyalty; while the diversion of
so much public feeling from Parliamentary politics leaves the
Parliamentary arena more and more open to corruption, to place-hunting,
and to imposture.

"This picture is in itself a very melancholy one, but there are other
circumstances which greatly heighten the effect. In a very ignorant or a
very wretched population it is natural that there should be much vague,
unreasoning discontent; but the Irish people are at present neither
wretched nor ignorant. Their economical condition before the famine was,
indeed, such that it might well have made reasonable men despair. With
the land divided into almost microscopic farms, with a population
multiplying rapidly to the extreme limits of subsistence, accustomed to
the very lowest standard of comfort, and marrying earlier than in any
other northern country in Europe, it was idle to look for habits of
independence or self-reliance, or for the culture which follows in the
train of leisure and comfort. But all this has been changed. A fearful
famine and the long-continued strain of emigration have reduced the
nation from eight millions to less than five, and have effected, at the
price of almost intolerable suffering, a complete economical revolution.
The population is now in no degree in excess of the means of
subsistence. The rise of wages and prices has diffused comfort through
all classes. ... Probably no country in Europe has advanced so rapidly
as Ireland within the last ten years, and the tone of cheerfulness, the
improvement of the houses, the dress, and the general condition of the
people must have struck every observer.[26] ... If industrial
improvement, if the rapid increase of material comforts among the poor,
could allay political discontent, Ireland should never have been so
loyal as at present.

"Nor can it be said that ignorance is at the root of the discontent. The
Irish people have always, even in the darkest period of the penal laws,
been greedy for knowledge, and few races show more quickness in
acquiring it. The admirable system of national education established in
the present century is beginning to bear abundant fruit, and, among the
younger generation at least, the level of knowledge is quite as high as
in England. Indeed, one of the most alarming features of Irish
disloyalty is its close and evident connection with education. It is
sustained by a cheap literature, written often with no mean literary
skill, which penetrates into every village, gives the people their first
political impressions, forms and directs their enthusiasm, and seems
likely in the long leisure of the pastoral life to exercise an
increasing power. Close observers of the Irish character will hardly
have failed to notice the great change which since the famine has passed
over the amusements of the people. The old love of boisterous
out-of-door sports has almost disappeared, and those who would have once
sought their pleasures in the market or the fair now gather in groups in
the public-house, where one of their number reads out a Fenian
newspaper. Whatever else this change may portend, it is certainly of no
good omen for the future loyalty of the people.

"It was long customary in England to underrate this disaffection by
ascribing it to very transitory causes. The quarter of a century that
followed the Union was marked by almost perpetual disturbance; but this
it was said was merely the natural ground swell of agitation which
followed a great reform. It was then the popular theory that it was the
work of O'Connell, who was described during many years as the one
obstacle to the peace of Ireland, and whose death was made the subject
of no little congratulation, as though Irish discontent had perished
with its organ. It was as if, the Æolian harp being shattered, men wrote
an epitaph upon the wind. Experience has abundantly proved the folly of
such theories. Measured by mere chronology, a little more than seventy
years have passed since the Union, but famine and emigration have
compressed into these years the work of centuries. The character,
feelings, and conditions of the people have been profoundly altered. A
long course of remedial legislation has been carried, and during many
years the national party has been without a leader and without a
stimulus. Yet, so far from subsiding, disloyalty in Ireland is probably
as extensive, and is certainly as malignant, as at the death of
O'Connell, only in many respects the public opinion of the country has
palpably deteriorated. O'Connell taught an attachment to the connection,
a loyalty to the crown, a respect for the rights of property, a
consistency of Liberalism, which we look for in vain among his
successors; and that faith in moral force and constitutional agitation
which he made it one of his greatest objects to instil into the people
has almost vanished with the failure of his agitation."[27]

Few Irish Nationalists have drawn a weightier indictment against the
Union than this. After a trial of seventy years, Mr. Lecky sums up the
case against the Union in these pregnant sentences:--

"The Imperial Parliament allays no discontent, and attracts no
affection;" "The genuine national enthusiasm never flows in the channel
of imperial politics;" the people have "an utter scepticism about
constitutional means of realizing their ends," and are imbued with "a
blind, persistent hatred of England." Worse still, neither the material
progress of the country, nor the education of the people, has
reconciled them to the Imperial Parliament. Indeed, their disloyalty has
increased with their prosperity and enlightenment. This is the story
which Mr. Lecky has to tell. But why are the Irish disloyal? Mr. Lecky
shall answer the question.

"The causes of this deep-seated disaffection I have endeavoured in some
degree to investigate in the following essays. To the merely dramatic
historian the history of Ireland will probably appear less attractive
than that of most other countries, for it is somewhat deficient in great
characters and in splendid episodes; but to a philosophic student of
history it presents an interest of the very highest order. In no other
history can we trace more clearly the chain of causes and effects, the
influence of past legislation, not only upon the material condition, but
also upon the character of a nation. In no other history especially can
we investigate more fully the evil consequences which must ensue from
disregarding that sentiment of nationality which, whether it be wise or
foolish, whether it be desirable or the reverse, is at least one of the
strongest and most enduring of human passions. This, as I conceive, lies
at the root of Irish discontent. It is a question of nationality as
truly as in Hungary or in Poland. Special grievances or anomalies may
aggravate, but do not cause it, and they become formidable only in as
far as they are connected with it. What discontent was felt against the
Protestant Established Church was felt chiefly because it was regarded
as an English garrison sustaining an anti-national system; and the
agrarian difficulty never assumed its full intensity till by the repeal
agitation the landlords had been politically alienated from the

Let those who imagine that the Irish question can be completely settled
by the redress of material grievances take those words to heart.

But, it is said, Scotch national sentiment is as strong as Irish, why
should not a legislative union be as acceptable to Ireland as to
Scotland? Mr. Lecky shall answer this question too.

"It is hardly possible to advert to the Scotch Union, without pausing
for a moment to examine why its influence on the loyalty of the people
should have ultimately been so much happier than that of the legislative
union which, nearly a century later, was enacted between England and
Ireland. A very slight attention to the circumstances of the case will
explain the mystery, and will at the same time show the extreme
shallowness of those theorists who can only account for it by reference
to original peculiarities of national character. The sacrifice of a
nationality is a measure which naturally produces such intense and such
enduring discontent that it never should be exacted unless it can be
accompanied by some political or material advantages to the lesser
country that are so great and at the same time so evident as to prove a
corrective. Such a corrective in the case of Scotland, was furnished by
the commercial clauses. The Scotch Parliament was very arbitrary and
corrupt, and by no means a faithful representation of the people. The
majority of the nation were certainly opposed to the Union, and,
directly or indirectly, it is probable that much corruption was employed
to effect it; but still the fact remains that by it one of the most
ardent wishes of all Scottish patriots was attained, that there had been
for many years a powerful and intelligent minority who were prepared to
purchase commercial freedom even at the expense of the fusion of
legislatures, and that in consequence of the establishment of free trade
the next generation of Scotchmen witnessed an increase of material
well-being that was utterly unprecedented in the history of their
country. Nothing equivalent took place in Ireland. The gradual abolition
of duties between England and Ireland was, no doubt, an advantage to the
lesser country, but the whole trade to America and the other English
colonies had been thrown open to Irishmen between 1775 and 1779. Irish
commerce had taken this direction; the years between 1779 and the
rebellion of 1798 were probably the most prosperous in Irish history,
and the generation that followed the Union was one of the most
miserable. The sacrifice of nationality was extorted by the most
enormous corruption in the history of representative institutions. It
was demanded by no considerable section of the Irish people. It was
accompanied by no signal political or material benefit that could
mitigate or counteract its unpopularity, and it was effected without a
dissolution, in opposition to the votes of the immense majority of the
representatives of the counties and considerable towns, and to
innumerable addresses from every part of the country. Can any impartial
man be surprised that such a measure, carried in such a manner, should
have proved unsuccessful?"[29]

In the _Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland_ Mr. Lecky traces the
current of events which have led to the present situation. He shows how
the Treaty of Limerick was shamelessly violated, and how the native
population was oppressed and degraded.

"The position of Ireland was at this time [1727] one of the most
deplorable that can be conceived.... The Roman Catholics had been
completely prostrated by the battle of the Boyne and by the surrender of
Limerick. They had stipulated indeed for religious liberty, but the
Treaty of Limerick was soon shamelessly violated, and it found no
avengers. Sarsfield and his brave companions had abandoned a country
where defeat left no opening for their talents, and had joined the Irish
Brigade which had been formed in the service of France.... But while the
Irish Roman Catholics abroad found free scope for their ambition in the
service of France, those who remained at home had sunk into a condition
of utter degradation. All Catholic energy and talent had emigrated to
foreign lands, and penal laws of atrocious severity crushed the
Catholics who remained."[30]

Mr. Lecky's account of these "penal laws" is upon the whole, I think,
the best that has been written.

"The last great Protestant ruler of England was William III., who is
identified in Ireland with the humiliation of the Boyne, with the
destruction of Irish trade, and with the broken Treaty of Limerick. The
ceaseless exertions of the extreme Protestant party have made him more
odious in the eyes of the people than he deserves to be; for he was
personally far more tolerant than the great majority of his
contemporaries, and the penal code was chiefly enacted under his
successors. It required, indeed, four or five reigns to elaborate a
system so ingeniously contrived to demoralize, to degrade, and to
impoverish the people of Ireland. By this code the Roman Catholics were
absolutely excluded from the Parliament, from the magistracy, from the
corporations, from the bench, and from the bar. They could not vote at
Parliamentary elections or at vestries; they could not act as
constables, or sheriffs, or jurymen, or serve in the army or navy, or
become solicitors, or even hold the positions of gamekeeper or watchman.
Schools were established to bring up their children as Protestants; and
if they refused to avail themselves of these, they were deliberately
assigned to hopeless ignorance, being excluded from the university, and
debarred, under crushing penalties, from acting as schoolmasters, as
ushers, or as private tutors, or from sending their children abroad to
obtain the instruction they were refused at home. They could not marry
Protestants, and if such a marriage were celebrated it was annulled by
law, and the priest who officiated might be hung. They could not buy
land, or inherit or receive it as a gift from Protestants, or hold
life-annuities, or leases for more than thirty-one years, or any lease
on such terms that the profits of the land exceeded one-third of the
rent. If any Catholic leaseholder by his industry so increased his
profits that they exceeded this proportion, and did not immediately make
a corresponding increase in his payments, any Protestant who gave the
information could enter into possession of his farm. If any Catholic had
secretly purchased either his old forfeited estate, or any other land,
any Protestant who informed against him might become the proprietor. The
few Catholic landowners who remained were deprived of the right which
all other classes possessed of bequeathing their lands as they pleased.
If their sons continued Catholics, it was divided equally between them.
If, however, the eldest son consented to apostatize, the estate was
settled upon him, the father from that hour became only a life-tenant,
and lost all power of selling, mortgaging, or otherwise disposing of it.
If the wife of a Catholic abandoned the religion of her husband, she was
immediately free from his control, and the Chancellor was empowered to
assign to her a certain proportion of her husband's property. If any
child, however young, professed itself a Protestant, it was at once
taken from the father's care, and the Chancellor could oblige the father
to declare upon oath the value of his property, both real and personal,
and could assign for the present maintenance and future portion of the
converted child such proportion of that property as the court might
decree. No Catholic could be guardian either to his own children or to
those of another person; and therefore a Catholic who died while his
children were minors had the bitterness of reflecting upon his death-bed
that they must pass into the care of Protestants. An annuity of from
twenty to forty pounds was provided as a bribe for every priest who
would become a Protestant. To convert a Protestant to Catholicism was a
capital offence. In every walk of life the Catholic was pursued by
persecution or restriction. Except in the linen trade, he could not have
more than two apprentices. He could not possess a horse of the value of
more than five pounds, and any Protestant, on giving him five pounds,
could take his horse. He was compelled to pay double to the militia. He
was forbidden, except under particular conditions, to live in Galway or
Limerick. In case of war with a Catholic power, the Catholics were
obliged to reimburse the damage done by the enemy's privateers. The
Legislature, it is true, did not venture absolutely to suppress their
worship, but it existed only by a doubtful connivance--stigmatized as if
it were a species of licensed prostitution, and subject to conditions
which, if they had been enforced, would have rendered its continuance
impossible. An old law which prohibited it, and another which enjoined
attendance at the Anglican worship, remained unrepealed, and might at
any time be revived; and the former was, in fact, enforced during the
Scotch rebellion of 1715. The parish priests, who alone were allowed to
officiate, were compelled to be registered, and were forbidden to keep
curates or to officiate anywhere except in their own parishes. The
chapels might not have bells or steeples. No crosses might be publicly
erected. Pilgrimages to the holy wells were forbidden. Not only all
monks and friars, but also all Catholic archbishops, bishops, deacons,
and other dignitaries, were ordered by a certain day to leave the
country; and if after that date they were found in Ireland they were
liable to be first imprisoned and then banished; and if after that
banishment they returned to discharge their duty in their dioceses, they
were liable to the punishment of death. To facilitate the discovery of
offences against the code, two justices of the peace might at any time
compel any Catholic of eighteen years of age to declare when and where
he last heard Mass, what persons were present, and who officiated; and
if he refused to give evidence they might imprison him for twelve
months, or until he paid a fine of twenty pounds. Any one who harboured
ecclesiastics from beyond the seas was subject to fines which for the
third offence amounted to confiscation of all his goods. A graduated
scale of rewards was offered for the discovery of Catholic bishops,
priests, and schoolmasters; and a resolution of the House of Commons
pronounced 'the prosecuting and informing against Papists' 'an
honourable service to the Government.'

"Such were the principal articles of this famous code--a code which
Burke truly described as 'well digested and well disposed in all its
parts; a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance, and as well fitted
for the oppression, impoverishment, and degradation of a people, and the
debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the
perverted ingenuity of man.'"[31]

The effects of these laws Mr. Lecky has described thus:

"The economical and moral effects of the penal laws were, however,
profoundly disastrous. The productive energies of the nation were
fatally diminished. Almost all Catholics of energy and talent who
refused to abandon their faith emigrated to foreign lands. The relation
of classes was permanently vitiated; for almost all the proprietary of
the country belonged to one religion, while the great majority of their
tenants were of another. The Catholics, excluded from almost every
possibility of eminence, deprived of their natural leaders, and
consigned by the Legislature to utter ignorance, soon sank into the
condition of broken and dispirited helots. A total absence of industrial
virtues, a cowering and abject deference to authority, a recklessness
about the future, a love of secret illegal combinations, became general
among them. Above all, they learned to regard law as merely the
expression of force, and its moral weight was utterly destroyed. For the
greater part of a century, the main object of the Legislature was to
extirpate a religion by the encouragement of the worst, and the
punishment of some of the best qualities of our nature. Its rewards were
reserved for the informer, for the hypocrite, for the undutiful son, or
for the faithless wife. Its penalties were directed against religious
constancy and the honest discharge of ecclesiastical duty.

"It would, indeed, be scarcely possible to conceive a more infamous
system of legal tyranny than that which in the middle of the eighteenth
century crushed every class and almost every interest in Ireland."[32]

But laws were not only passed against the native race and the national
religion. Measures were taken to destroy the industries of the country,
and to involve natives and colonists, Protestants and Catholics, in
common ruin. Mr. Lecky shall tell the story.

"The commercial and industrial condition of the country was, if
possible, more deplorable than its political condition, and was the
result of a series of English measures which for deliberate and selfish
tyranny could hardly be surpassed. Until the reign of Charles II. the
Irish shared the commercial privileges of the English; but as the island
had not been really conquered till the reign of Elizabeth, and as its
people were till then scarcely removed from barbarism, the progress was
necessarily slow. In the early Stuart reigns, however, comparative
repose and good government were followed by a sudden rush of prosperity.
The land was chiefly pasture, for which it was admirably adapted; the
export of live cattle to England was carried on upon a large scale, and
it became a chief source of Irish wealth. The English landowners,
however, took the alarm. They complained that Irish rivalry in the
cattle market was reducing English rents; and accordingly, by an Act
which was first passed in 1663, and was made perpetual in 1666, the
importation of cattle into England was forbidden.

"The effect of a measure of this kind, levelled at the principal article
of the commerce of the nation, was necessarily most disastrous. The
profound modification which it introduced into the course of Irish
industry was sufficiently shown by the estimate of Sir W. Petty, who
declares that before the statute three-fourths of the trade of Ireland
was with England, but not one-fourth of it since that time. In the very
year when this Bill was passed another measure was taken not less fatal
to the interest of the country. In the first Navigation Act, Ireland was
placed on the same terms as England; but in the Act as amended in 1663
she was omitted, and was thus deprived of the whole Colonial trade. With
the exception of a very few specified articles no European merchandise
could be imported into the British Colonies except directly from
England, in ships built in England, and manned chiefly by English
sailors. No articles, with a few exceptions, could be brought from the
Colonies to Europe without being first unladen in England. In 1670 this
exclusion of Ireland was confirmed, and in 1696 it was rendered more
stringent, for it was enacted that no goods of any sort could be
imported directly from the Colonies to Ireland. It will be remembered
that at this time the chief British Colonies were those of America, and
that Ireland, by her geographical position, was naturally of all
countries most fitted for the American trade.

"As far, then, as the Colonial trade was concerned, Ireland at this time
gained nothing whatever by her connection with England. To other
countries, however, her ports were still open, and in time of peace a
foreign commerce was unrestricted. When forbidden to export their cattle
to England, the Irish turned their land chiefly into sheep-walks, and
proceeded energetically to manufacture the wool. Some faint traces of
this manufacture may be detected from an early period, and Lord
Strafford, when governing Ireland, had mentioned it with a
characteristic comment. Speaking of the Irish he says, 'There was little
or no manufactures amongst them, but some small beginnings towards a
cloth trade, which I had and so should still discourage all I could,
unless otherwise directed by His Majesty and their Lordships. It might
be feared that they would beat us out of the trade itself by
underselling us, which they were able to do.' With the exception,
however, of an abortive effort by this governor, the Irish wool
manufacture was in no degree impeded, and was indeed mentioned with
special favour in many Acts of Parliament; and it was in a great degree
on the faith of this long-continued legislative sanction that it was so
greatly expanded. The poverty of Ireland, the low state of civilization
of a large proportion of its inhabitants, the effects of the civil wars
which had so recently convulsed it, and the exclusion of its products
from the English Colonies, were doubtless great obstacles to
manufacturing enterprise; but, on the other hand, Irish wool was very
good, living was cheaper, taxes were lighter than in England, a spirit
of real industrial energy began to pervade the country, and a
considerable number of English manufacturers came over to colonize it.
There appeared for a time every probability that the Irish would become
an industrial nation, and, had manufactures arisen, their whole social,
political, and economical condition would have been changed. But English
jealousy again interposed. By an Act of crushing and unprecedented
severity, which was introduced in 1698 and carried in 1699, the export
of the Irish woollen manufactures, not only to England, but also to all
other countries, was absolutely forbidden.

"The effects of this measure were terrible almost beyond conception. The
main industry of the country was at a blow completely and irretrievably
annihilated. A vast population was thrown into a condition of utter
destitution. Several thousands of manufacturers left the country, and
carried their skill and enterprise to Germany, France, and Spain. The
western and southern districts of Ireland are said to have been nearly
depopulated. Emigration to America began on a large scale, and the blow
was so severe that long after, a kind of chronic famine prevailed."[33]

Mr. Lecky relates with pride how the penal code was relaxed, and the
commercial restrictions were removed, while the Irish Parliament,
essentially a Protestant and landlord body, still existed, and shows how
the cause of Catholic Emancipation was retarded by the Union.

"The Relief Bill of '93 naturally suggests a consideration of the
question so often agitated in Ireland, whether the Union was really a
benefit to the Roman Catholic cause. It has been argued that Catholic
Emancipation was an impossibility as long as the Irish Parliament
lasted; for in a country where the great majority were Roman Catholics,
it would be folly to expect the members of the dominant creed to
surrender a monopoly on which their ascendency depended. The arguments
against this view are, I believe, overwhelming. The injustice of the
disqualification was far more striking before the Union than after it.
In the one case, the Roman Catholics were excluded from the Parliament
of a nation of which they were the great majority; in the other, they
were excluded from the Parliament of an empire in which they were a
small minority. Grattan, Plunket, Curran, Burrowes, and Ponsonby were
the great supporters of Catholic Emancipation, and the great opponents
of the Union. Clare and Duigenan were the two great opponents of
emancipation, and the great supporters of the Union. At a time when
scarcely any public opinion existed in Ireland, when the Roman Catholics
were nearly quiescent, and when the leaning of Government was generally
liberal, the Irish Protestants admitted their fellow-subjects to the
magistracy, to the jury-box, and to the franchise. By this last measure
they gave them an amount of political power which necessarily implied
complete emancipation. Even if no leader of genius had arisen in the
Roman Catholic ranks, and if no spirit of enthusiasm had animated their
councils, the influence possessed by a body who formed three fourths of
the population, who were rapidly rising in wealth, and who could send
their representatives to Parliament, would have been sufficient to
ensure their triumph. If the Irish Legislature had continued, it would
have been found impossible to resist the demand for reform; and every
reform, by diminishing the overgrown power of a few Protestant
landholders, would have increased that of the Roman Catholics. The
concession accorded in 1793 was, in fact, far greater and more important
than that accorded in 1829, and it placed the Roman Catholics, in a
great measure, above the mercy of Protestants. But this was not all. The
sympathies of the Protestants were being rapidly enlisted in their
behalf. The generation to which Charlemont and Flood belonged had passed
away, and all the leading intellects of the country, almost all the
Opposition, and several conspicuous members of the Government, were
warmly in favour of emancipation. The rancour which at present exists
between the members of the two creeds appears then to have been almost
unknown, and the real obstacle to emancipation was not the feelings of
the people, but the policy of the Government. The Bar may be considered
on most subjects a very fair exponent of the educated opinion of the
nation; and Wolf Tone observed, in 1792, that it was almost unanimous in
favour of the Catholics; and it is not without importance, as showing
the tendencies of the rising generation, that a large body of the
students of Dublin University in 1795 presented an address to Grattan,
thanking him for his labours in the cause. The Roman Catholics were
rapidly gaining the public opinion of Ireland, when the Union arrayed
against them another public opinion which was deeply prejudiced against
their faith, and almost entirely removed from their influence. Compare
the twenty years before the Union with the twenty years that followed
it, and the change is sufficiently manifest. There can scarcely be a
question that if Lord Fitzwilliam had remained in office the Irish
Parliament would readily have given emancipation. In the United
Parliament for many years it was obstinately rejected, and if O'Connell
had never arisen it would probably never have been granted unqualified
by the veto. In 1828 when the question was brought forward in
Parliament, sixty-one out of ninety-three Irish members, forty-five out
of sixty-one Irish county members, voted in its favour. Year after year
Grattan and Plunket brought forward the case of their fellow-countrymen
with an eloquence and a perseverance worthy of their great cause; but
year after year they were defeated. It was not till the great tribune
had arisen, till he had moulded his co-religionists into one compact and
threatening mass, and had brought the country to the verge of
revolution, that the tardy boon was conceded. Eloquence and argument
proved alike unavailing when unaccompanied by menace, and Catholic
Emancipation was confessedly granted because to withhold it would be to
produce a rebellion."[34]

Many people will think that this is a sufficiently weighty condemnation
of the Union, but what follows is a still graver reflection on that
untoward measure.

"In truth the harmonious co-operation of Ireland with England depends
much less upon the framework of the institutions of the former country
than upon the dispositions of its people and upon the classes who guide
its political life. With a warm and loyal attachment to the connection
pervading the nation, the largest amount of self-government might be
safely conceded, and the most defective political arrangement might
prove innocuous. This is the true cement of nations, and no change,
however plausible in theory, can be really advantageous which
contributes to diminish it. Theorists may argue that it would be better
for Ireland to become in every respect a province of England; they may
contend that a union of Legislatures, accompanied by a corresponding
fusion of characters and identification of hopes, interests, and
desires, would strengthen the empire; but as a matter of fact this was
not what was effected in 1800. The measure of Pitt centralized, but it
did not unite, or rather, by uniting the Legislatures it divided the
nations. In a country where the sentiment of nationality was as intense
as in any part of Europe, it destroyed the national Legislature contrary
to the manifest wish of the people, and by means so corrupt,
treacherous, and shameful that they are never likely to be forgotten. In
a country where, owing to the religious difference, it was peculiarly
necessary that a vigorous lay public opinion should be fostered to
dilute or restrain the sectarian spirit, it suppressed the centre and
organ of political life, directed the energies of the community into the
channels of sectarianism, drove its humours inwards, and thus began a
perversion of public opinion which has almost destroyed the elements of
political progress. In a country where the people have always been
singularly destitute of self-reliance, and at the same time eminently
faithful to their leaders, it withdrew the guidance of affairs from the
hands of the resident gentry, and, by breaking their power, prepared the
ascendency of the demagogue or the rebel. In two plain ways it was
dangerous to the connection: it incalculably increased the aggregate
disloyalty of the people, and it destroyed the political supremacy of
the class that is most attached to the connection. The Irish Parliament,
with all its faults, was an eminently loyal body. The Irish people
through the eighteenth century, in spite of great provocations, were on
the whole a loyal people till the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam, and even
then a few very moderate measures of reform might have reclaimed them.
Burke, in his _Letters on a Regicide Peace_, when reviewing the elements
of strength on which England could confide in her struggle with
revolutionary France, placed in the very first rank the co-operation of
Ireland. At the present day, it is to be feared that most impartial men
would regard Ireland, in the event of a great European war, rather as a
source of weakness than of strength. More than seventy years have passed
since the boasted measure of Pitt, and it is unfortunately incontestable
that the lower orders in Ireland are as hostile to the system of
government under which they live as the Hungarian people have ever been
to Austrian, or the Roman to Papal rule; that Irish disloyalty is
multiplying enemies of England wherever the English tongue is spoken;
and that the national sentiment runs so strongly that multitudes of
Irish Catholics look back with deep affection to the Irish Parliament,
although no Catholic could sit within its walls, and although it was
only during the last seven years of its independent existence that
Catholics could vote for its members. Among the opponents of the Union
were many of the most loyal, as well as nearly all the ablest men in
Ireland; and Lord Charlemont, who died shortly before the measure was
consummated, summed up the feelings of many in the emphatic sentence
with which he protested against it. 'It would more than any other
measure,' he said, 'contribute to the separation of two countries the
perpetual connection of which is one of the warmest wishes of my heart.'

"In fact, the Union of 1800 was not only a great crime, but was also,
like most crimes, a great blunder. The manner in which it was carried
was not only morally scandalous; it also entirely vitiated it as a work
of statesmanship. No great political measure can be rationally judged
upon its abstract merits, and without considering the character and the
wishes of the people for whom it is intended. It is now idle to discuss
what might have been the effect of a Union if it had been carried before
1782, when the Parliament was still unemancipated; if it had been the
result of a spontaneous movement of public opinion; if it had been
accompanied by the emancipation of the Catholics. Carried as it was
prematurely, in defiance of the national sentiment of the people and of
the protests of the unbribed talent of the country, it has deranged the
whole course of political development, driven a large proportion of the
people into sullen disloyalty, and almost destroyed healthy public
opinion. In comparing the abundance of political talent in Ireland
during the last century with the striking absence of it at present,
something no doubt may be attributed to the absence of protection for
literary property in Ireland in the former period, which may have
directed an unusual portion of the national talent to politics, and
something to the Colonial and Indian careers which have of late years
been thrown open to competition; but when all due allowances have been
made for these, the contrast is sufficiently impressive. Few impartial
men can doubt that the tone of political life and the standard of
political talent have been lowered, while sectarian animosity has been
greatly increased, and the extent to which Fenian principles have
permeated the people is a melancholy comment upon the prophesies that
the Union would put an end to disloyalty in Ireland."[35]

Mr. Lecky's views as to what ought to have been done in 1800 deserve to
be set forth.

"While, however, the Irish policy of Pitt appears to be both morally and
politically deserving of almost unmitigated condemnation, I cannot agree
with those who believe that the arrangement of 1782 could have been
permanent. The Irish Parliament would doubtless have been in time
reformed, but it would have soon found its situation intolerable.
Imperial policy must necessarily have been settled by the Imperial
Parliament, in which Ireland had no voice; and, unlike Canada or
Australia, Ireland is profoundly affected by every change of Imperial
policy. Connection with England was of overwhelming importance to the
lesser country, while the tie uniting them would have been found
degrading by one nation and inconvenient to the other. Under such
circumstances a Union of some kind was inevitable. It was simply a
question of time, and must have been demanded by Irish opinion. At the
same time, it would not, I think, have been such a Union as that of
1800. The conditions of Irish and English politics are so extremely
different, and the reasons for preserving in Ireland a local centre of
political life are so powerful, that it is probable a Federal Union
would have been preferred. Under such a system the Irish Parliament
would have continued to exist, but would have been restricted to purely
local subjects, while an Imperial Parliament, in which Irish
representatives sat, would have directed the policy of the empire."[36]


None of the recent opponents of Home Rule have written against that
policy with more brilliance and epigrammatic keenness than Mr. Goldwin
Smith. But no one has stated with more force the facts and
considerations which, operating on men's mind for years past, have made
the Liberal party Home Rulers now. His _coup d'oeil_ remains the most
pointed indictment ever drawn from the historical annals of Ireland
against the English methods of governing that country. Twenty years ago
he anticipated the advice recently given by Mr. Gladstone. In 1867 he

"I have myself sought and found in the study of Irish history the
explanation of the paradox, that a people with so many gifts, so
amiable, naturally so submissive to rulers, and everywhere but in their
own country industrious, are in their own country bywords of idleness,
lawlessness, disaffection, and agrarian crime."[37] He explains the
paradox thus: "But it is difficult to distinguish the faults of the
Irish from their misfortunes. It has been well said of their past
industrial character and history,--'We were reckless, ignorant,
improvident, drunken, and idle. We were idle, for we had nothing to do;
we were reckless, for we had no hope; we were ignorant, for learning was
denied us; we were improvident, for we had no future; we were drunken,
for we sought to forget our misery. That time has passed away for ever.'
No part of this defence is probably more true than that which connects
the drunkenness of the Irish people with their misery. Drunkenness is,
generally speaking, the vice of despair; and it springs from the despair
of the Irish peasant as rankly as from that of his English fellow. The
sums of money which have lately been transmitted by Irish emigrants to
their friends in Ireland seem a conclusive answer to much loose
denunciation of the national character, both in a moral and an
industrial point of view.... There seems no good reason for believing
that the Irish Kelts are averse to labour, provided they be placed, as
people of all races require to be placed, for two or three generations
in circumstances favourable to industry."[38] He shows that the Irish
have not been so placed. "Still more does justice require that allowance
should be made on historical grounds for the failings of the Irish
people. If they are wanting in industry, in regard for the rights of
property, in reverence for the law, history furnishes a full explanation
of their defects, without supposing in them any inherent depravity, or
even any inherent weakness. They have never had the advantage of the
training through which other nations have passed in their gradual rise
from barbarism to civilization. The progress of the Irish people was
arrested at almost a primitive stage, and a series of calamities,
following close upon each other, have prevented it from ever fairly
resuming its course. The pressure of overwhelming misery has now been
reduced; government has become mild and just; the civilizing agency of
education has been introduced; the upper classes are rapidly returning
to their duty, and the natural effect is at once seen in the improved
character of the people. Statesmen are bound to be well acquainted with
the historical sources of the evil with which they have to deal,
especially when those evils are of such a nature as, at first aspect, to
imply depravity in a nation. There are still speakers and writers who
seem to think that the Irish are incurably vicious, because the
accumulated effects of so many centuries cannot be removed at once by a
wave of the legislator's wand. Some still believe, or affect to believe,
that the very air of the island is destructive of the characters and
understandings of all who breathe it."[39]

Elsewhere he adds, referring to the land system:

"How many centuries of a widely different training have the English
people gone through in order to acquire their boasted love of law."[40]

Of the "training" through which the Irish went, he says--

"The existing settlement of land in Ireland, whether dating from the
confiscations of the Stuarts, or from those of Cromwell, rests on a
proscription three or four times as long as that on which the settlement
of land rests over a considerable part of France. It may, therefore, be
considered as placed upon discussion in the estimation of all sane men;
and, this being the case, it is safe to observe that no inherent want of
respect for property is shown by the Irish people if a proprietorship
which had its origin within historical memory in flagrant wrong is less
sacred in their eyes than it would be if it had its origin in immemorial

The character which he gives of Irish landlordism deserves to be quoted:

"The Cromwellian landowners soon lost their religious character, while
they retained all the hardness of the fanatic and the feelings of
Puritan conquerors towards a conquered Catholic people. 'I have eaten
with them,' said one, 'drunk with them, fought with them; but I never
prayed with them.' Their descendants became, probably, the very worst
upper class with which a country was ever afflicted. The habits of the
Irish gentry grew beyond measure brutal and reckless, and the coarseness
of their debaucheries would have disgusted the crew of Comus. Their
drunkenness, their blasphemy, their ferocious duelling, left the squires
of England far behind. If there was a grotesque side to their vices
which mingles laughter with our reprobation, this did not render their
influence less pestilent to the community of which the motive of destiny
had made them social chiefs. Fortunately, their recklessness was sure,
in the end, to work, to a certain extent, its own cure; and in the
background of their swinish and uproarious drinking-bouts, the
Encumbered Estates Act rises to our view."[42]

Mr. Goldwin Smith deals with agrarian crime thus:

"The atrocities perpetrated by the Whiteboys, especially in the earlier
period of agrarianism (for they afterwards grew somewhat less inhuman),
are such as to make the flesh creep. No language can be too strong in
speaking of the horrors of such a state of society. But it would be
unjust to confound these agrarian conspiracies with ordinary crime, or
to suppose that they imply a propensity to ordinary crime either on the
part of those who commit them, or on the part of the people who connive
at and favour their commission. In the districts where agrarian
conspiracy and outrage were most rife, the number of ordinary crimes was
very small. In Munster, in 1833, out of 973 crimes, 627 were Whiteboy,
or agrarian, and even of the remainder, many, being crimes of violence,
were probably committed from the same motive.

"In plain truth, the secret tribunals which administered the Whiteboy
code were to the people the organs of a wild law of social morality by
which, on the whole, the interest of the peasant was protected. They
were not regular tribunals; neither were the secret tribunals of Germany
in the Middle Ages, the existence of which, and the submission of the
people to their jurisdiction, implied the presence of much violence, but
not of much depravity, considering the wildness of the times. The
Whiteboys 'found in their favour already existing a general and settled
hatred of the law among the great body of the peasantry.'[43] We have
seen how much the law, and the ministers of the law, had done to deserve
the peasant's love. We have seen, too, in what successive guises
property had presented itself to his mind: first as open rapine; then as
robbery carried on through the roguish technicalities of an alien code;
finally as legalized and systematic oppression. Was it possible that he
should have formed so affectionate a reverence either for law or
property as would be proof against the pressure of starvation?"[44] "A
people cannot be expected to love and reverence oppression because it is
consigned to the statute-book, and called law."[45]

These extracts are taken from _Irish History and Irish Character_, which
was published in 1861. But in 1867 Mr. Goldwin Smith wrote a series of
letters to the _Daily News_, which were republished in 1868 under the
title of _The Irish Question_; and these letters form, perhaps, the most
statesmanlike and far-seeing pronouncement that has ever been made on
the Irish difficulty.

In the preface Mr. Goldwin Smith begins:

"The Irish legislation of the last forty years, notwithstanding the
adoption of some remedial measures, has failed through the indifference
of Parliament to the sentiments of Irishmen; and the harshness of
English public opinion has embittered the effects on Irish feeling of
the indifference of Parliament. Occasionally a serious effort has been
made by an English statesman to induce Parliament to approach Irish
questions in that spirit of sympathy, and with that anxious desire to be
just, without which a Parliament in London cannot legislate wisely for
Ireland. Such efforts have hitherto met with no response; is it too much
to hope that it will be otherwise in the year now opening?"[46]

The only comment I shall make on these words is: they were penned more
than half a century after Mr. Pitt's Union, which was to shower down
blessings on the Irish people.

Mr. Goldwin Smith's first letter was written on the 23rd of November,
1867, the day of the execution of the Fenians Allen, Larkin, and
O'Brien. He says--

"There can be no doubt, I apprehend, that the Irish difficulty has
entered on a new phase, and that Irish disaffection has, to repeat an
expression which I heard used in Ireland, come fairly into a line with
the other discontented nationalities of Europe. Active Fenianism
probably pervades only the lowest class; passive sympathy, which the
success of the movement would at once convert into active co-operation,
extends, it is to be feared, a good deal higher.

"England has ruin before her, unless she can hit on a remedy, and
overcome any obstacles of class interest or of national pride which
would prevent its application, the part of Russia in Poland, or of
Austria in Italy--a part cruel, hateful, demoralizing, contrary to all
our high principles and professions, and fraught with dangers to our own
freedom. Our position will be worse than that of Russia in this respect,
that, while her Poland is only a province, our Fenianism is an element
pervading every city of the United Kingdom in which Irish abound, and
allying itself with kindred misery, discontent, and disorder.
Wretchedness, the result of misgovernment, has caused the Irish people
to multiply with the recklessness of despair, and now here are their
avenging hosts in the midst of us, here is the poison of their
disaffection running through every member of our social frame. Not only
so, but the same wretchedness has sent millions of emigrants to form an
Irish nation in the United States, where the Irish are a great political
power, swaying by their votes the councils of the American Republic, and
in immediate contact with those Transatlantic possessions of England,
the retention of which it is now patriotic to applaud, and will one day
be patriotic to have dissuaded.

" ... That Ireland is not at this moment, materially speaking, in a
particularly suffering state, but, on the contrary, the farmers are
rather prosperous, and wages, even when allowance is made for the rise
in the price of provisions, considerably higher than they were, only
adds to the significance of this widespread disaffection.

"The Fenian movement is not religious, nor radically economical (though
no doubt it has in it a socialistic element), but national, and the
remedy for it must be one which cures national discontent. This is the
great truth which the English people have to lay to heart."[47]

Mr. Goldwin Smith then dispels the notion that the Irish question is a
religious one.

"When Fenianism first appeared, the Orangemen, in accordance with their
fixed idea, ascribed it to the priests. They were undeceived, I was
told, by seeing a priest run away from the Fenians in fear of his

Neither was it a question of the land.

"The land question, no doubt, lies nearer to the heart of the matter,
and it is the great key to Irish history in the past; but I do not
believe that even this is fundamental."

He then states what is "fundamental."[49]

"The real root of the disaffection which exhibits itself at present in
the guise of Fenianism, and which has been suddenly kindled into flame
by the arming of the Irish in the American civil war, but which existed
before in a nameless and smouldering state, is, as I believe, the want
of national institutions, of a national capital, of any objects of
national reverence and attachment, and consequently of anything
deserving to be called national life. The English Crown and Parliament
the Irish have never learnt, nor have they had any chance of learning,
to love, or to regard as national, notwithstanding the share which was
given them, too late, in the representation. The greatness of England is
nothing to them. Her history is nothing, or worse. The success of
Irishmen in London consoles the Irish in Ireland no more than the
success of Italian adventurers in foreign countries (which was very
remarkable) consoled the Italian people. The drawing off of Irish
talent, in fact, turns to an additional grievance in their minds. Dublin
is a modern Tara, a metropolis from which the glory has departed; and
the viceroyalty, though it pleases some of the tradesmen, fails
altogether to satisfy the people. 'In Ireland we can make no appeal to
patriotism, we can have no patriotic sentiments in our schoolbooks, no
patriotic emblems in our schools, because in Ireland everything
patriotic is rebellious.' These were the words uttered in my hearing,
not by a complaining demagogue, but by a desponding statesman. They
seemed to me pregnant with fatal truths.

"If the craving for national institutions, and the disaffection bred in
this void of the Irish people's heart, seem to us irrational and even
insane, in the absence of any more substantial grievance, we ought to
ask ourselves what would become of our own patriotism if we had no
national institutions, no objects of national loyalty and reverence,
even though we might be pretty well governed, at least in intention, by
a neighbouring people whom we regarded as aliens, and who, in fact,
regarded us pretty much in the same light. Let us first judge ourselves
fairly, and then judge the Irish, remembering always that they are more
imaginative and sentimental, and need some centre of national feeling
and affection more than ourselves."[50]

And all this was written sixty-seven years after the Union of 1800.

Mr. Goldwin Smith then deals with the subject of the Irish and Scotch
unions much in the same way as Mr. Lecky.

"The incorporation of the Scotch nation with the English, being
conducted on the right principles by the great Whig statesman of Anne,
has been perfectly successful. The attempt to incorporate the Irish
nation with the English and Scotch, the success of which would have
been, if possible, a still greater blessing, being conducted by very
different people and on very different principles, has unhappily failed.
What might have been the result if even the Hanoverian sovereigns had
done the personal duty to their Irish kingdom which they have
unfortunately neglected, it is now too late to inquire. The Irish Union
has missed its port, and, in order to reach it, will have to tack again.
We may hold down a dependency, of course, by force, in Russian and
Austrian fashion; but force will never make the hearts of two nations
one, especially when they are divided by the sea. Once get rid of this
deadly international hatred, and there will be hope of real union in the

Mr. Goldwin Smith finally proposes a "plan" by which the "deadly
international hatred" might be got rid of, and a "real union" brought
about. Here it is.

"1. The residence of the Court at Dublin, not merely to gratify the
popular love of royalty and its pageantries, which no man of sense
desires to stimulate, but to assure the Irish people, in the only way
possible as regards the mass of them, that the sovereign of the United
Kingdom is really their sovereign, and that they are equally cared for
and honoured with the other subjects of the realm. This would also tend
to make Dublin a real capital, and to gather and retain there a portion
of the Irish talent which now seeks its fortune elsewhere.

"2. An occasional session (say once in every three years) of the
Imperial Parliament in Dublin, partly for the same purposes as the last
proposal, but also because the circumstances of Ireland are likely to
be, for some time at least, really peculiar, and the personal
acquaintance of our legislators with them is the only sufficient
security for good Irish legislation. There could be no serious
difficulty in holding a short session in the Irish capital, where there
is plenty of accommodation for both Houses.

"3. A liberal measure of local self-government for Ireland. I would not
vest the power in any single assembly for all Ireland, because Ulster is
really a different country from the other provinces. I would give each
province a council of its own, and empower that council to legislate
(subject, of course, to the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament) on all
matters not essential to the political and legal unity of the empire, in
which I would include local education. The provincial councils should of
course be elective, and the register of electors might be the same as
that of electors to the Imperial Parliament. In England itself the
extension of local institutions, as political training schools for the
masses, as checks upon the sweeping action of the great central
assembly, and as the best organs of legislation in all matters requiring
(as popular education, among others, does) adaptation to the
circumstances of particular districts, would, I think, have formed a
part of any statesmanlike revision of our political system. Here, also,
much good might be done, and much evil averted, by committing the
present business of quarter sessions, other than the judicial business,
together with such other matters as the central legislative might think
fit to vest in local hands, to an assembly elected by the county."[52]

Thus it will be seen that twenty years ago Mr. Goldwin Smith anticipated
Mr. Chamberlain's scheme of provincial councils, and got a good way on
the road to an Irish Parliament.

       *       *       *       *       *


A fairer controversalist, or an abler supporter of the "paper Union,"
than Mr. Dicey there is not; nevertheless no man has fired more
effective shots into Mr. Pitt's unfortunate arrangement of 1800.

How well has the "failure" of that arrangement been described in these
pithy sentences--"Eighty-six years have elapsed since the conclusion of
the Treaty of Union between England and Ireland. The two countries do
not yet form an united nation. The Irish people are, if not more
wretched (for the whole European world has made progress, and Ireland
with it), yet more conscious of wretchedness, and Irish disaffection to
England is, if not deeper, more widespread than in 1800. An Act meant by
its authors to be a source of the prosperity and concord which, though
slowly, followed upon the Union with Scotland, has not made Ireland
rich, has not put an end to Irish lawlessness, has not terminated the
feud between Protestants and Catholics, has not raised the position of
Irish tenants, has not taken away the causes of Irish discontent, and
has, therefore, not removed Irish disloyalty. This is the indictment
which can fairly be brought against the Act of Union."[53]

What follows reflects honour on Mr. Dicey as an honest opponent who does
not shrink from facts; but what a wholesale condemnation of the policy
of the Imperial Parliament!

"On one point alone (it may be urged) all men, of whatever party or of
whatever nation, who have seriously studied the annals of Ireland are
agreed--the history is a record of incessant failure on the part of the
Government, and of incessant misery on the part of the people. On this
matter, if on no other, De Beaumont, Froude, and Lecky are at one. As to
the guilt of the failure or the cause of the misery, men may and do
differ; that England, whether from her own fault or the fault of the
Irish people, or from perversity of circumstances, has failed in Ireland
of achieving the elementary results of good government is as certain as
any fact of history or of experience. Every scheme has been tried in
turn, and no scheme has succeeded or has even, it may be suggested,
produced its natural effects. Oppression of the Catholics has increased
the adherents and strengthened the hold of Catholicism. Protestant
supremacy, while it lasted, did not lead even to Protestant contentment,
and the one successful act of resistance to the English dominion was
effected by a Protestant Parliament supported by an army of volunteers,
led by a body of Protestant officers. The independence gained by a
Protestant Parliament led, after eighteen years, to a rebellion so
reckless and savage that it caused, if it did not justify, the
destruction of the Parliament and the carrying of the Union. The Act of
Union did not lead to national unity, and a measure which appeared on
the face of it (though the appearance, it must be admitted, was
delusive) to be a copy of the law which bound England and Scotland into
a common country inspired by common patriotism, produced conspiracy and
agitation, and at last placed England and Ireland further apart,
morally, than they stood at the beginning of the century. The Treaty of
Union, it was supposed, missed its mark because it was not combined with
Catholic Emancipation. The Catholics were emancipated, but emancipation,
instead of producing loyalty, brought forth the cry for repeal. The
Repeal movement ended in failure, but its death gave birth to the
attempted rebellion in 1848. Suppressed rebellion begot Fenianism, to be
followed in its turn by the agitation for Home Rule. The movement
relies, it is said, and there is truth in the assertion, on
constitutional methods for obtaining redress. But constitutional
measures are supplemented by boycotting, by obstruction, by the use of
dynamite. A century of reform has given us Mr. Parnell instead of
Grattan, and it is more than possible that Mr. Parnell may be succeeded
by leaders in whose eyes Mr. Davitt's policy may appear to be tainted
with moderation. No doubt, in each case the failure of good measures
admits, like every calamity in public or private life, of explanation,
and after the event it is easy to see why, for example, the Poor Law,
when extended to Ireland, did not produce even the good effects such as
they are which in England are to be set against its numerous evils; or
why an emigration of unparalleled proportions has diminished population
without much diminishing poverty; why the disestablishment of the
Anglican Church has increased rather than diminished the hostility to
England of the Catholic priesthood; or why two Land Acts have not
contented Irish farmers. It is easy enough, in short, and this without
having any recourse to theory of race, and without attributing to
Ireland either more or less of original sin than falls to the lot of
humanity, to see how it is that imperfect statesmanship--and all
statesmanship, it should be remembered, is imperfect--has failed in
obtaining good results at all commensurate with its generally good
intentions. Failure, however, is none the less failure because its
causes admit of analysis. It is no defence to bankruptcy that an
insolvent can, when brought before the Court, lucidly explain the errors
which resulted in disastrous speculations. The failure of English
statesmanship, explain it as you will, has produced the one last and
greatest evil which misgovernment can cause. It has created hostility to
the law in the minds of the people. The law cannot work in Ireland
because the classes whose opinion in other countries supports the
actions of the courts, are in Ireland, even when not law-breakers, in
full sympathy with law-breakers."[54]

No Home Ruler has described the evils of English misrule in Ireland with
such vigour as this.

"Bad administration, religious persecution, above all, a thoroughly
vicious land tenure, accompanied by such sweeping confiscations as to
make it, at any rate, a plausible assertion that all land in Ireland has
during the course of Irish history been confiscated at least thrice
over, are admittedly some of the causes, if they do not constitute the
whole cause, of the one immediate difficulty which perplexes the policy
of England. This is nothing else than the admitted disaffection to the
law of the land prevailing among large numbers of Irish people. The
existence of this disaffection, whatever be the inference to be drawn
from it, is undeniable. A series of so-called Coercion Acts, passed both
before and since the Act of Union, give undeniable evidence, if evidence
were wanted, of the ceaseless and, as it would appear, almost
irrepressible resistance in Ireland offered by the people to the
enforcement of the law. I have not the remotest inclination to underrate
the lasting and formidable character of this opposition between opinion
and law, nor can any jurist who wishes to deal seriously with a serious
and infinitely painful topic, question for a moment that the ultimate
strength of law lies in the sympathy, or at the lowest the acquiescence,
of the mass of the population. Judges, constables, and troops become
almost powerless when the conscience of the people permanently opposes
the execution of the law. Severity produces either no effect or bad
effects; executed criminals are regarded as heroes or martyrs; and
jurymen and witnesses meet with the execration and often with the fate
of criminals. On such a point it is best to take the opinion of a
foreigner unaffected by prejudices or passions from which no Englishman
or Irishman has a right to suppose himself free.

"'Quand vous en êtes arroês à ce point, croyez bien que dans cette voie
de regueurs tous vos efforts pour rétabler l'ordre et la paix seront
inutiles. En vain, pour réprimer des crimes atroces, vous appellerez à
votre aide toutes les sévérités du code de Dracon; en vain vous ferez
des lois cruelles pour arrêter le cours de révoltantes cruautés;
vainement vous frapperez de mort le moindre délit se rattachant à ces
grands crimes; vainement, dans l'effroi de votre impuissance, vous
suspendrez le cours des lois ordinaries proclamerez des comtés entiers
en état de suspicion légale, voilerez le principe de la liberté
individuelle, créerez des cours martiales, des commissions
extraordinaires, et pour produire de salutaires impressions de terreur,
multiplierez à l'excès les exécutions capitales.'"[55]

The next passage is a trenchant condemnation of the "Union."

"There exists in Europe no country so completely at unity with itself as
Great Britain. Fifty years of reform have done their work, and have
removed the discontents, the divisions, the disaffection, and the
conspiracies which marked the first quarter, or the first half of this
century. Great Britain, if left to herself, could act with all the
force, consistency, and energy given by unity of sentiment and community
of interests. The distraction and the uncertainty of our political aims,
the feebleness and inconsistency with which they are pursued, arise, in
part at least, from the connection with Ireland. Neither Englishmen nor
Irishmen are to blame for the fact that it is difficult for communities
differing in historical associations and in political conceptions to
keep step together in the path of progress. For other evils arising from
the connection the blame must rest on English Statesmen. All the
inherent vices of party government, all the weaknesses of the
parliamentary system, all the evils arising from the perverse notion
that reform ought always to be preceded by a period of lengthy and more
than half factitious agitation met by equally factitious resistance,
have been fostered and increased by the interaction of Irish and English
politics. No one can believe that the inveterate habit of ruling one
part of the United Kingdom on principles which no one would venture to
apply to the government of any other part of it, can have produced
anything but the most injurious effect on the stability of our
Government and the character of our public men. The advocates of Home
Rule find by far their strongest arguments for influencing English
opinion, in the proofs which they produce that England, no less than
Ireland, has suffered from a political arrangement under which legal
union has failed to secure moral union. _These arguments, whatever their
strength, are, however, it must be noted, more available to a
Nationalist than to an advocate of federalism_."[56]

The words which I have italicised are an expression of opinion; but
nothing can alter the damning statement of fact--"legal union has failed
to secure moral union." Nevertheless, Mr. Dicey advocates the
maintenance of this legal union as it stands.

"On the whole, then, it appears that, whatever changes or calamities the
future may have in store, the maintenance of the Union is at this day
the one sound policy for England to pursue. It is sound because it is
expedient; it is sound because it is just."[57]

I shall not discuss the question of Home Rule with the eminent writers
whose works I have cited. It is enough that they demonstrate the failure
of the Union. So convinced was Mr. Lecky, in 1871, of its failure, that
he suggested a readjustment of the relations of the two countries on a
federal basis;[58] and Mr. Goldwin Smith, in 1868, contended that the
Irish difficulty could only be settled by the establishment of
Provincial Councils, and an occasional session of the Imperial
Parliament in Dublin. Mr. Dicey clings to the existing Union while
demonstrating its failure, because he has persuaded himself that the
only alternative is separation.

Irishmen may be pardoned for acting on Mr. Dicey's facts, and
disregarding his prophecies. The mass of Irishmen believe, with Grattan,
that the ocean protests against separation as the sea protests against
such a union as was attempted in 1800.[59]


[Footnote 26: Omissions here and elsewhere are merely for purposes of
space. In some places the omitted parts would strengthen the Irish case;
in no place would they weaken it.]

[Footnote 27: Lecky, _Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland_, new edit.
(1871), Introduction, pp. viii., xiv.]

[Footnote 28: Lecky, _Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland_, new edit.
(1871), Introduction, pp. xiv., xv.]

[Footnote 29: Lecky, _History of England in the Eighteenth Century_,
vol. ii. pp. 59, 60.]

[Footnote 30: _Leaders of Public Opinion_, pp. 33, 34.]

[Footnote 31: _Leaders of Public Opinion_, pp. 120-123.]

[Footnote 32: _Leaders of Public Opinion_, pp. 125, 126.]

[Footnote 33: _Leaders of Public Opinion_, pp. 34-37.]

[Footnote 34: _Leaders of Public Opinion_, pp. 134-137.]

[Footnote 35: _Leaders of Public Opinion_, pp. 192-195.]

[Footnote 36: _Leaders of Public Opinion_, pp. 195, 196.]

[Footnote 37: Goldwin Smith, _Three English Statesmen_, p. 274.]

[Footnote 38: _Irish History and Irish Character_, pp. 13, 14.]

[Footnote 39: Ibid., p. 194.]

[Footnote 40: Ibid., p. 142.]

[Footnote 41: _Irish History and Irish Character_, p. 101.]

[Footnote 42: _Irish History and Irish Character_, pp. 139, 140.]

[Footnote 43: Sir George Cornewall Lewis, _Irish Disturbances_, p. 97.]

[Footnote 44: _Irish History and Irish Character_, pp. 153-157.]

[Footnote 45: Ibid., pp. 70, 71]

[Footnote 46: _The Irish Question_, Preface, pp. iii., iv.]

[Footnote 47: _The Irish Question_, pp. 3-5.]

[Footnote 48: Ibid., p. 6.]

[Footnote 49: Ibid., p. 7.]

[Footnote 50: _The Irish Question_, pp. 7-9.]

[Footnote 51: _Irish Question_, p. 10.]

[Footnote 52: _The Irish Question_, pp. 16-18.]

[Footnote 53: Dicey, _England's Case against Home Rule_, p. 128.]

[Footnote 54: Dicey, _England's Case against Home Rule_, pp. 72-74.]

[Footnote 55: Dicey, _England's Case against Home Rule_, pp. 92-94.--The
foreigner is De Beaumont.]

[Footnote 56: Dicey, _England's Case against Home Rule_, pp. 151, 152.]

[Footnote 57: Ibid., p. 288.]

[Footnote 58: I hope I am not doing Mr. Lecky an injustice in this
statement. I rely on the extract quoted from the _Leaders of Public
Opinion in Ireland,_ at p. 176 of this volume; but see Introduction, p.

[Footnote 59: Irish House of Commons, January 15th, 1800.]



Ireland is a component member of the most complex political body the
world has yet known; any inquiry, then, into the fitness of any
particular form of government for that country involves an investigation
of the structures of various composite nations, or nations made up of
numerous political communities more or less differing from each other.
From the examination of the nature of the common tie, and the
circumstances which caused it to be adopted or imposed on the component
peoples, we cannot but derive instruction, and be furnished with
materials which will enable us to take a wide view of the question of
Home Rule, and assist us in judging between the various remedies
proposed for the cure of Irish disorders.

The nature of the ties which bind, or have bound, the principal
composite nations of the world together may be classified as--

    1. Confederate unions.
    2. Federal unions.
    3. Imperial unions.

A confederate union may be defined to mean an alliance between the
governments of independent States, which agree to appoint a common
superior authority having power to make peace and war and to demand
contributions of men and money from the confederate States. Such
superior authority has no power of enforcing its decrees except through
the medium of the governments of the constituent States; or, in other
words, in case of disobedience, by armed force.

A federal union differs from a confederate union in the material fact
that the common superior authority, instead of acting on the individual
subjects of the constituent States through the medium of their
respective governments, has a power, in respect of all matters within
its jurisdiction, of enacting laws and issuing orders which are binding
directly on the individual citizens.

The distinguishing characteristics of an imperial union are, that it
consists of an aggregate of communities, one of which is dominant, and
that the component communities have been brought into association, not
by arrangement between themselves, but by colonization, cession, and by
other means emanating from the resources or power of the dominant

The above-mentioned distinction between a Government having communities
only for its subjects, and incapable of enforcing its orders by any
other means than war, and a Government acting directly on individuals,
must be constantly borne in mind, for in this lies the whole difference
between a confederate and federal union; that is to say, between a
confederacy which, in the case of the United States, lasted a few short
years, and a federal union which, with the same people as subjects, has
lasted nearly a century, and has stood the strain of the most terrible
war of modern times.

The material features of the Constitution of the United States have been
explained in a previous article.[61] All that is necessary to call to
mind here is, that the Government of the United States exercises a power
of taxation throughout the whole Union by means of its own officers, and
enforces its decrees through the medium of its own Courts. A Supreme
Court has also been established, which has power to adjudicate on the
constitutionality of all laws passed by the Legislature of the United
States, or of any State, and to decide on all international questions.

Switzerland was till 1848 an example of a confederate union or league of
semi-independent States, which, unlike other confederacies, had existed
with partial interruptions for centuries. This unusual vitality is
attributed by Mill[62] to the circumstance that the confederate
government felt its weakness so strongly that it hardly ever attempted
to exercise any real authority. Its present government, finally settled
in 1874, but based on fundamental laws passed in 1848, is a federal
union formed on the pattern of the American Constitution. It consists of
a federal assembly comprising two Chambers--the Upper Chamber composed
of forty-four members chosen by the twenty-two cantons, two for each
canton; the Lower consisting of 145 members chosen by direct election at
the rate of one deputy for every 20,000 persons. The chief executive
authority is deputed to a federal council consisting of seven members
elected for three years by the federal assembly, and having at their
head a president and vice-president, who are the first magistrates of
the republic. There is also a federal tribunal, having similar functions
to those of the supreme court of the United States of America,
consisting of nine members elected for six years by the federal

The Empire of Germany is a federal union, differing from the United
States and Switzerland in having an hereditary emperor as its head. It
comprises twenty-six States, who have "formed an eternal union for the
protection of the realm, and the care of the welfare of the German
people."[63] The King of Prussia, under the title of German Emperor,
represents the empire in all its relations to foreign nations, and has
the power of making peace and war, but if the war be more than a
defensive war he must have the assent of the Upper House. The
legislative body of the empire consists of two Houses--the Upper, called
the Bundesrath, representing the several component States in different
proportions according to their relative importance; the lower, the
Reichstag, elected by the voters in 397 electoral districts, which are
distributed amongst the constituent States in unequal numbers, regard
being had to the population and circumstances of each State.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire is a federal union, differing alike in its
origin and construction from the federal unions above mentioned. In the
beginning Austria and Hungary were independent countries--Austria a
despotism, Hungary a constitutional monarchy, with ancient laws and
customs dating back to the foundation of the kingdom in 895. In the
sixteenth century the supreme power in both countries--that is to say,
the despotic monarchy in Austria and the constitutional monarchy in
Hungary--became vested in the same person; as might have been
anticipated, the union was not a happy one. If we dip into Heeren's
_Political System of Europe_ at intervals selected almost at random, the
following notices will be found in relation to Austria and
Hungary:--Between 1671 and 1700 "political unity in the Austrian
monarchy was to have been enforced especially in the principal country
(Hungary), for this was regarded as the sole method of establishing
power; the consequence was an almost perpetual revolutionary state of
affairs."[64] Again, in the next chapter, commenting on the period
between 1740 and 1786: "Hungary, in fact the chief, was treated like a
conquered province; subjected to the most oppressive commercial
restraints, it was regarded as a colony from which Austria exacted what
she could for her own advantage. The injurious consequences of this
internal discord are evident." Coming to modern times we find that
oppression followed oppression with sickening monotony, and that at last
the determination of Austria to stamp out the Constitution in Hungary
gave rise to the insurrection of 1849, which Austria suppressed with the
assistance of Russia, and as a penalty declared the Hungarian
Constitution to be forfeited, and thereupon Hungary was incorporated
with Austria, as Ireland was incorporated with Great Britain in 1800.
Both events were the consequences of unsuccessful rebellions; but the
junction which, in the case of Hungary, was enforced by the sword, was
in Ireland more smoothly carried into effect by corruption. Hungary,
sullen and discontented, waited for Austria's calamity as her
opportunity, and it came after the battle of Sadowa. Austria had just
emerged from a fearful conflict, and Count Beust[65] felt that unless
some resolute effort was made to meet the views of the constitutional
party in Hungary, the dismemberment of the empire must be the result.
Now, what was the course he took? Was it a tightening of the bonds
between Austria and Hungary? On the contrary, to maintain the unity of
the empire he dissolved its union and restored to Hungary its ancient
constitutional privileges. Austria and Hungary each had its own
Parliament for local purposes. To manage the imperial concerns of peace
and war, and the foreign relations, a controlling body, called the
Delegations, was established, consisting of 120 members, of whom half
represent and are chosen by the Legislature of Austria, and the other
half by that of Hungary; the Upper House of each country returning
twenty members, and the Lower House forty.[66] Ordinarily the delegates
sit and vote in two Chambers, but if they disagree the two branches
must meet together and give their final vote without debate, which is
binding on the whole empire.[67]

The question arises, What is the magnetic influence which induces
communities of men to combine together in federal unions? Undoubtedly it
is the feeling of nationality; and what is nationality? Mr. Mill
says,[68] "a portion of mankind may be said to constitute a nationality
if they are united among themselves by common sympathies which do not
exist between them and any others; which make them co-operate with each
other more willingly than other people; desire to be under the same
government, and desire that it should be a government by themselves or a
portion of themselves exclusively." He then proceeds to state that the
feeling of nationality may have been generated by various causes.
Sometimes it is the identity of race and descent; community of language
and community of religion greatly contribute to it; geographical limits
are one of its causes; but the strongest of all is identity of political
antecedents: the possession of a national history and consequent
community of recollections--collective pride and humiliation, pleasure
and regret--connected with the same incidents in the past.

The only point to be noted further in reference to the foregoing federal
unions, is that the same feeling of nationality which, in the United
States, Switzerland, and the German Empire, produced a closer legal bond
of union, in the case of Austria-Hungary operated to dissolve the
amalgamation formed in 1849 of the two States, and to produce a federal
union of States in place of a single State.

One conclusion seems to follow irresistibly from any review of the
construction of the various States above described: that the stability
of a nation bears no relation whatever to the legal compactness or
homogeneity of its component parts. Russia and France, the most compact
political societies in Europe, do not, to say the least, rest on a
firmer basis than Germany and Switzerland, the inhabitants of which are
subjected to the obligations of a double nationality. Above all, no
European nation, except Great Britain, can for a moment bear comparison
with the United States in respect of the devotion of its people to their

An imperial union, though resembling somewhat in outward form a federal
union, differs altogether from it both in principle and origin. Its
essential characteristic is that one community is absolutely dominant
while all the others are subordinate. In the case of a federal union
independent States have agreed to resign a portion of their powers to a
central Government for the sake of securing the common safety. In an
imperial union the dominant or imperial State delegates to each
constituent member of the union such a portion of local government as
the dominant State considers the subordinate member entitled to,
consistently with the integrity of the empire. The British Empire
furnishes the best example of an imperial union now existing in the
world. Her Majesty, as common head, is the one link which binds the
empire together and connects with each other every constituent member.
The Indian Empire and certain military dependencies require no further
notice in these pages; but a summary of our various forms of colonial
government is required to complete our knowledge of the forms of Home
Rule possibly applicable to Ireland.

The colonies, in relation to their forms of government, may be
classified as follows:--

I. Crown colonies, in which laws may be made by the Governor alone, or
with the concurrence of a Council nominated by the Crown.

2. Colonies possessing representative institutions, but not responsible
government, in which the Crown has only a veto on legislation, but the
Home Government retains the control of the executive.

3. Colonies possessing representative institutions and responsible
government, in which the Crown has only a veto on legislation, and the
Home Government has no control over any public officer except the

The British Colonial Governments thus present an absolute gradation of
rule; beginning with absolute despotism and ending with almost absolute
legal independence, except in so far as a veto on legislation and the
presence of a Governor named by the Crown mark the dependence of the
colony on the mother country.

It is to be remembered, moreover, that the colonies which have received
this complete local freedom are the great colonies of the earth--nations
themselves possessing territories as large or larger than any European
State--namely, Canada, the Cape, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland,
South Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania. And this change from dependence
to freedom has been effected with the good-will both of the mother
country and the colony, and without it being imputed to the colonists,
when desiring a larger measure of self-government, that they were
separatists, anarchists, or revolutionists.

Such are the general principles of colonial government, but one colony
requires special mention, from the circumstance of its Constitution
having been put forward as a model for Ireland; this is the Dominion of
Canada. The Government of Canada is, in effect, a subordinate federal
union; that is to say, it possesses a central Legislature, having the
largest possible powers of local self-government consistent with the
supremacy of the empire, with seven inferior provincial Governments,
exercising powers greater than those of an English county, but not so
great as those of an American State. The advantage of such a form of
government is that, without weakening the supremacy of the empire or of
the central local power, it admits of considerable diversities being
made in the details of provincial government, where local peculiarities
and antecedents render it undesirable to make a more complete
assimilation of the Governments of the various provinces.

Materials have now been collected which will enable the reader to judge
of the expediency or inexpediency of the course taken by Mr. Gladstone's
Government in dealing with Ireland. Three alternatives were open to

    1. To let matters alone.
    2. To pass a Coercion Bill.
    3. To change the government of Ireland, and at
    the same time to pass a Land Bill.

The two last measures are combined under the head of one alternative, as
it will be shown in the sequel that no effective Land Bill can be passed
without granting Home Rule in Ireland.

Now, the short answer to the first alternative is, that no party in the
State--Conservative, Whig, Radical, Unionist, Home Ruler,
Parnellite--thought it possible to leave things alone. That something
must be done was universally admitted.

The second alternative has found favour with the present Government, and
certainly is a better example of the triumph of hope over experience,
than even the proverbial second marriage.

Eighty-six years have elapsed since the Union. During the first
thirty-two years only eleven years, and during the last fifty-four years
only two years have been free from special repressive legislation; yet
the agitation for repeal of the Union, and general discontent, are more
violent in 1887 than in any one of the eighty-six previous years. In
the name of common-sense, is there any reason for supposing that the
Coercion Bill of 1887 will have a better or more enduring effect than
its numerous predecessors? The _primâ facie_ case is at all events in
favour of the contention that, when so many trials of a certain remedy
have failed, it would be better not to try the same remedy again, but to
have recourse to some other medicine. What, then, was the position of
Mr. Gladstone's Government at the close of the election of 1885? What
were the considerations presented to them as supreme supervisors and
guardians of the British Empire? They found that vast colonial empire
tranquil and loyal beyond previous expectation--the greater colonies
satisfied with their existing position; the lesser expecting that as
they grew up to manhood they would be treated as men, and emancipated
from childish restraints. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man were
contented with their sturdy dependent independence, loyal to the
backbone. One member only stood aloof, sulky and dissatisfied, and
though in law integrally united with the dominant community, practically
was dissociated from it by forming within Parliament (the controlling
body of the whole) a separate section, of which the whole aim was to
fetter the action of the entire supreme body in order to bring to an
external severance the practical disunion which existed between that
member and Great Britain. This member--Ireland--as compared with other
parts of the empire, was small and insignificant; measured against Great
Britain, its population was five millions to thirty-one millions, and
its estimated capital was only one twenty-fourth part of the capital of
the United Kingdom. Measured against Australia, its trade with Great
Britain was almost insignificant. Its importance arose from the force of
public opinion in Great Britain, which deemed England pledged to protect
the party in Ireland which desired the Union to be maintained, and from
the power of obstructing English legislation through the medium of the
Irish contingent, willing and ready on every occasion to intervene in
English debates. The first step to be taken obviously was to find out
what the great majority of Irish members wanted. The answer was, that
they would be contented to quit the British Parliament on having a
Parliament established on College Green, with full powers of local
government, and that they would accept on behalf of their country a
certain fixed annual sum to be paid to the Imperial Exchequer, on
condition that such sum should not be increased without the consent of
the Irish representatives. Here there were two great points gained
without any sacrifice of principle. Ireland could not be said to be
taxed without representation when her representatives agreed to a
certain fixed sum to be paid till altered with their consent; while at
the same time all risk of obstruction to English legislation by Irish
means was removed by the proposal that the Irish representatives should
exercise local powers in Dublin instead of imperial powers at

On the basis of the above arrangement the Bill of Mr. Gladstone was
founded. Absolute local autonomy was conferred on Ireland; the assent of
the Irish members to quit the Imperial Parliament was accepted; and the
Bill provided that after a certain day the representative Irish peers
should cease to sit in the House of Lords, and the Irish members vacate
their places in the House of Commons. Provisions were then made for the
absorption in the Irish Legislative Body of both the Irish
representative peers and Irish members.

The legislative supremacy of the British Parliament was maintained by an
express provision excepting from any interference on the part of Irish
Legislature all imperial powers, and declaring any enactment void which
infringed that provision; further, an enactment was inserted for the
purpose of securing to the English Legislature in the last resource the
absolute power to make any law for the government of Ireland, and
therefore to repeal, or suspend, the Irish Constitution.

Technically these reservations of supremacy to the English Legislature
were unnecessary, as it is an axiom of constitutional law that a
sovereign Legislature, such as the Queen and two Houses of Parliament in
England, cannot bind their successors, and consequently can repeal or
alter any law, however fundamental, and annul any restrictions on
alteration, however strongly expressed. Practically they were never
likely to be called into operation, as it is the custom of Parliament to
adhere, under all but the most extraordinary and unforeseen
circumstances, to any compact made by Act of Parliament between itself
and any subordinate legislative body. The Irish Legislature was
subjected to the same controlling power which has for centuries been
applied to prevent any excess of jurisdiction in our Colonial
Legislatures, by a direction that an appeal as to the constitutionality
of any laws which they might pass should lie to the Judicial Committee
of the Privy Council. This supremacy of the imperial judicial power over
the action of the Colonial Legislatures was a system which the founders
of the American Constitution copied in the establishment of their
supreme Court, and thereby secured for that legislative system a
stability which has defied the assaults of faction and the strain of
civil war.

The Executive Government of Ireland was continued in her Majesty, and
was to be carried on by the Lord Lieutenant on her behalf, by the aid of
such officers and such Council as her Majesty might from time to time
see fit. The initiative power of recommending taxation was also vested
in the Queen, and delegated to the Lord Lieutenant. These clauses are
co-ordinate and correlative with the clause conferring complete local
powers on the Irish Legislature, while it preserves all imperial powers
to the Imperial Legislature. The Governor is an imperial officer, and
will be bound to watch over imperial interests with a jealous scrutiny,
and to veto any Bill which may be injurious to those interests. On the
other hand, as respects all local matters, he will act on and be guided
by the advice of the Irish Executive Council. The system is self-acting.
The Governor, for local purposes, must have a Council which is in
harmony with the Legislative Body. If the Governor and a Council,
supported by the Legislative Body, do not agree, the Governor must give
way, unless he can, by dismissing his Council, and dissolving the
Legislative Body, obtain both a Council and a Legislative Body which
will support his views. As respects imperial questions, the case is
different; here the last word rests with the mother country, and in the
last resort a determination of the Executive Council, backed by the
Legislative Body, to resist imperial rights, must be deemed an act of
rebellion on the part of the Irish people, and be dealt with

In acceding to the claims of the National Party for Home Rule in Ireland
another question had to be considered: the demands of the English
garrison, as it is called--or, in plain words, of the class of Irish
landlords--for protection. They urged that to grant Home Rule in Ireland
would be to hand them over to their enemies, their tenants, and to lead
to an immediate, or to all events a proximate, confiscation of their
properties. Without admitting the truth of these apprehensions to the
full extent, or indeed to any great extent, it was undoubtedly felt by
the framers of the Home Rule Bill that a moral obligation rested on the
Imperial Government to remove, if possible, "the fearful exasperations
attending the agrarian relations in Ireland," rather than leave a
question so fraught with danger, so involved in difficulty, to be
determined by the Irish Government on its first entry on official
existence. Hence the Land Bill, the scheme of which was to frame a
system under which the tenants, by being made owners of the soil, should
become interested as a class in the maintenance of social order, while
the landlords should be enabled to rid themselves on fair terms of their
estates, in cases where, from apprehension of impending changes, or for
pecuniary reasons, they were desirous of relieving themselves from the
responsibilities of ownership. Of the land scheme brought into
Parliament in 1886, it need only here be said that it proposed to lend
the Irish Government 3 per cent. stock at 3-1/8 per cent. interest, the
Irish Government undertaking to purchase, from any Irish landlord
desirous of selling, his estate at (as a general rule) twenty years'
purchase on the net rental. The money thus disbursed by the Irish
Government was repaid to them by an annuity, payable by the tenant for
forty-nine years, of 4 per cent. on a capital sum equal to twenty times
the gross rental; the result being that, were the Bill passed into law,
the tenant would become immediate owner of the land, subject to the
payment of an annuity considerably less than the previous rent--that the
Irish Government would make a considerable profit on the transaction,
inasmuch as it would receive from the tenant interest calculated on the
basis of the _gross_ rental, whilst it would pay to the English
Government interest calculated on the basis of the _net_ rental--and
that the English Government would sustain no loss if the interest were
duly received by them.

The effect of such a plan appears almost magical: Ireland is transformed
at one stroke from a nation of landlords into a nation of peasant
proprietors--apparently without loss to any one, and with gain to
everybody concerned, except the British Government, who neither gain nor
lose in the matter. The practicability, however, of such a scheme
depends altogether on the security against loss afforded to the British
tax-payer, for he is industrious and heavily burdened, and cannot be
expected to assent to any plan which will land him in any appreciable
loss. Here it is that the plan of Mr. Gladstone's Land Bill differs from
all other previous plans. Act after Act has been passed enabling the
tenant to borrow money from the British Government on the security of
the holding, for the purpose of enabling him to purchase the fee-simple.
In such transactions the British Government becomes the mortgagee, and
can only recover its money, if default is made in payment, by ejecting
the tenant and becoming the landlord. In proportion, then, as any
existing purchase Act succeeds, in the same proportion the risk of the
British taxpayer increases. He is ever placed in the most invidious of
all lights; instead of posing as the generous benefactor who holds forth
his hand to rescue the landlord and tenant from an intolerable position,
he stands forward either as the grasping mortgagee or as the still more
hated landlord, who, having deprived the tenant of his holding, is
seeking to introduce another man into property which really belongs to
the ejected tenant. Such a position may be endurable when the number of
purchasing tenants is small, but at once breaks down if agrarian reform
in Ireland is to be extended so far as to make any appreciable
difference in the relations of landlord and tenant; still more, if it
become general. Now, what is the remedy of such a state of things?
Surely to interpose the Irish Government between the Irish debtor and
his English creditor, and to provide that the Irish revenues in bulk,
not the individual holdings of each tenant, shall be the security for
the English creditor. This was the scheme embodied in the Land Act of
1886. The punctual payment of all money due from the Government of
Ireland to the Government of Great Britain was to have been secured by
the continuance in the hands of the British Government of the Excise and
Customs duties, and by the appointment of an Imperial Receiver-General,
assisted by subordinate officers, and protected by an Imperial Court.
This officer would have received not only all the imperial taxes, but
also the local taxes; and it would have been his duty to satisfy the
claims of the British Government before he allowed any sum to pass into
the Irish Exchequer. In effect, the British Government, in relation to
the levying of imperial taxes, would have stood in the same relation to
Ireland as Congress does to the United States in respect to the levying
of federal taxes. The fiscal unity of Great Britain and Ireland would
have been in this way secured, and the British Government protected
against any loss of interest for the large sums to be expended in
carrying into effect in Ireland any agrarian reform worthy of the name.

The Irish Bills of 1886, as above represented, had at least three

1. They created a state of things in Ireland under which it was possible
to make a complete agrarian reform without exposing the English
Exchequer to any appreciable risk.

2. They enabled the Irish to govern themselves as respects local
matters, while preserving intact the supremacy of the British Parliament
and the integrity of the Empire.

3. They enabled the British Parliament to govern the British Empire
without any obstructive Irish interference.

To the first of these propositions no attempt at an answer has been
made. The Land Bill was never considered on its merits; indeed, was
never practically discussed, but was at once swept into oblivion by the
wave which overwhelmed the Home Rule Bill.

The contention against the second proposition was concerned in proving
that the supremacy of the British Parliament was not maintained: the
practical answer to this objection has been given above. Pushed to its
utmost, it could only amount to proof that an amendment ought to have
been introduced in Committee, declaring, in words better selected than
those introduced for that purpose in the Bill, that nothing in the Act
should affect the supremacy of the British Parliament. In short, the
whole discussion here necessarily resolved itself into a mere verbal
squabble as to the construction of a clause in a Bill not yet in
Committee, and had no bottom or substance.

It was also urged that the concession of self-government to Ireland was
but another mode of handing over the Loyalist party--or, as it is
sometimes called, the English garrison--to the tender mercies of the
Parnellites. The reply to this would seem to be, that as respects
property the Land Bill effectually prevented any interference of the
Irish Parliament with the land; nay, more, enabled any Irishman desirous
of turning his land into money to do so on the most advantageous terms
that ever had been--and with a falling market it may be confidently
prophesied ever can be--offered to the Irish landlord; while as respect
life and liberty, were it possible that they should be endangered, it
was the duty of the imperial officer, the Lord Lieutenant, to take means
for the preservation of peace and good order; and behind him, to enforce
his behests, stand the strong battalions who, to our sorrow be it
spoken, have so often been called upon to put down disturbance and
anarchy in Ireland.

Competing plans have been put forward, with more or less detail, for
governing Ireland. The suggestion that Ireland should be governed as a
_Crown_ colony need only be mentioned to be rejected. It means in
effect, that Ireland should sink from the rank of an equal or
independent member of the British Empire to the grade of the most
dependent of her colonies, and should be governed despotically by
English officials, without representation in the English Parliament or
any machinery of local self-government. Another proposal has been to
give four provincial Governments to Ireland, limiting their powers to
local rating, education, and legislation in respect of matters which
form the subjects of private Bill legislation at present; in fact, to
place them somewhat on the footing of the provinces of Canada, while
reserving to the English Parliament the powers vested in the Dominion of
Canada. Such a scheme would seem adapted to whet the appetite of the
Irish for nationality, without supplying them with any portion of the
real article. It would supply no basis on which a system of agrarian
reform could be founded, as it would be impossible to leave the
determination of a local question, which is a unit in its dangers and
its difficulties, to four different Legislatures; above all, the hinge
on which the question turns--the sufficiency of the security for the
British taxpayer--could not be afforded by provincial resources. Indeed,
no alternative for the Land Bill of 1886 has been suggested which does
not err in one of the following points: either it pledges English credit
on insufficient security, or it requires the landowners to accept Irish
debentures or some form of Irish paper money at par; in other words, it
makes English taxes a fund for relieving Irish landlords, or else it
compels the Irish landowner, if he sells at all, to sell at an
inadequate price. Before parting with Canada, it may be worth while
noticing that another, and more feasible, alternative is to imitate more
closely the Canadian Constitution, and to vest the central or Dominion
powers in a central Legislature in Dublin, parcelling out the provincial
powers, as they have been called, amongst several provincial
Legislatures. This scheme might be made available as a means of
protecting Ulster from the supposed danger of undue interference from
the Central Government, and for making, possibly, other diversities in
the local administration of various parts of Ireland in order to meet
special local exigencies.

A leading writer among the dissentient Liberals has intimated that one
of two forms of representative colonial government might be imposed on
Ireland--either the form in which the executive is conducted by
colonial officials, or the form of the great irresponsible colonies. The
first of these forms is open to the objection, that it perpetuates those
struggles between English executive measures and Irish opinion which has
made Ireland for centuries ungovernable, and led to the establishment of
the union and destruction of Irish independence in 1800; the second
proposal would destroy the fiscal unity of the empire--leave the
agrarian feud unextinguished, and aggravate the objections which have
been urged against the Home Rule Bill of 1886. A question still remains,
in relation to the _form_ of the Home Rule Bill of 1886, which would not
have deserved attention but for the prominence given to it in some of
the discussions upon the subject. The Bill of 1886 provides "that the
Legislature may make laws for the peace, order, and good government of
Ireland," but subjects their power to numerous exceptions and
restrictions. The Act establishing the Dominion of Canada enumerates
various matters in respect of which the Legislature of Canada is to have
exclusive power, but prefaces the enumeration with a clause "that the
Dominion Legislature may make laws for the peace, order, and good
government of Canada in relation to all matters not within the
jurisdiction of the provincial Legislatures, although such matters may
not be specially mentioned." In effect, therefore, the difference
between the Irish Bill and the Canadian Act is one of expression and not
of substance, and, although the Bill is more accurate in its form, it
would scarcely be worth while to insist on legislating by exception
instead of by enumeration if, by the substitution of the latter form for
the former, any material opposition would be conciliated.

What, then, are the conclusions intended to be drawn from the foregoing

1. That coercion is played out, and can no longer be regarded as a
remedy for the evils of Irish misrule.

2. That some alternative must be found, and that the only alternative
within the range of practical politics is some form of Home Rule.

3. That there is no reason for thinking that the grant of Home Rule to
Ireland--a member only, and not one of the most important members, of
the British Empire--will in any way dismember, or even in the slightest
degree risk the dismemberment of the Empire.

4. That Home Rule presupposes and admits the supremacy of the British

5. That theory is in favour of Home Rule, as the nationality of Ireland
is distinct, and justifies a desire for local independence; while the
establishment of Home Rule is a necessary condition to the effectual
removal of agrarian disturbances in Ireland.

6. That precedent is in favour of granting Home Rule to Ireland--_e.g._
the success of the new Constitution in Austria-Hungary, and the happy
effects resulting from the establishment of the Dominion of Canada.

7. That the particular form of Home Rule granted is comparatively

8. That the Home Rule Bill of 1886 may readily be amended in such a
manner as to satisfy all real and unpartisan objectors.

9. That the Land Bill of 1886 is the best that has ever been devised,
having regard to the advantages offered to the new Irish Government, the
landlord, and the tenant.


[Footnote 60: Reprinted by permission, with certain omissions, from the
_Contemporary Review_, August, 1887.]

[Footnote 61: "Home Rule and Imperial Unity:" _Contemporary Review_,
March, 1887.]

[Footnote 62: Mill on _Representative Government_, p. 310.]

[Footnote 63: See _Statesman's Year-Book_: Switzerland and Germany.]

[Footnote 64: Heeren's _Political System of Europe_, p. 152.]

[Footnote 65: _Memoirs of Count Beust_, vol. i., Introduction, p.

[Footnote 66: _Statesman's Year-Book._]

[Footnote 67: The Emperor of Austria is the head of the empire, with the
title of King in Hungary. Austria-Hungary is treated as a federal, not
as an imperial union, on the ground that Austria was never rightfully a
dominant community over Hungary.]

[Footnote 68: _Representative Government_, p. 295.]



For half a century or more no question of English domestic politics has
excited so much interest outside England as that question of resettling
her relations with Ireland, which was fought over in the last
Parliament, and still confronts the Parliament that has lately been
elected. Apart from its dramatic interest, apart from its influence on
the fortune of parties, and its effect on the imperial position of Great
Britain, it involves so many large principles of statesmanship, and
raises so many delicate points of constitutional law, as to deserve the
study of philosophical thinkers no less than of practical politicians in
every free country.

The circumstances which led to the introduction of the Government of
Ireland Bill, in April, 1886, are familiar to Americans as well as
Englishmen. Ever since the crowns and parliaments of Great Britain and
Ireland were united, in A.D. 1800, there has been in Ireland a party
which protested against that union as fraudulently obtained and
inexpedient in itself. For many years this party, led by Daniel
O'Connell, maintained an agitation for Repeal. After his death a more
extreme section, which sought the complete independence of Ireland,
raised the insurrection of 1848, and subsequently, under the guidance of
other hands, formed the Fenian conspiracy, whose projected insurrection
was nipped in the bud in 1867, though the conspiracy continued to menace
the Government and the tranquillity of the island. In 1872 the Home Rule
party was formed, demanding, not the Repeal of the Union, but the
creation of an Irish Legislature, and the agitation, conducted in
Parliament in a more systematic and persistent way than heretofore, took
also a legitimate constitutional form. To this demand English and Scotch
opinion was at first almost unanimously opposed. At the General Election
of 1880, which, however, turned mainly on the foreign policy of Lord
Beaconsfield's Government, not more than three or four members were
returned by constituencies in Great Britain who professed to consider
Home Rule as even an open question. All through the Parliament, which
sat from 1880 till 1885, the Nationalist party, led by Mr. Parnell, and
including at first less than half, ultimately about half, of the Irish
members, was in constant and generally bitter opposition to the
Government of Mr. Gladstone. But during these five years a steady,
although silent and often unconscious, process of change was passing in
the minds of English and Scotch members, especially Liberal members, due
to their growing sense of the mistakes which Parliament committed in
handling Irish questions, and of the hopelessness of the efforts which
the Executive was making to pacify the country on the old methods. The
adoption of a Home Rule policy by one of the great English parties was,
therefore, not so sudden a change as it seemed. The process had been
going on for years, though in its earlier stages it was so gradual and
so unwelcome as to be faintly felt and reluctantly admitted by the minds
that were undergoing it. In the spring of 1886 the question could be no
longer evaded or postponed. It was necessary to choose between one of
two courses; the refusal of the demand for self-government, coupled with
the introduction of a severe Coercion Bill, or the concession of it by
the introduction of a Home Rule Bill. There were some few who suggested,
as a third course, the granting of a limited measure of local
institutions, such as county boards; but most people felt, as did Mr.
Gladstone's Ministry, that this plan would have had most of the dangers
and few of the advantages of either of the two others.

How the Government of Ireland Bill was brought into the House of Commons
on April 8th, amid circumstances of curiosity and excitement
unparalleled since 1832; how, after debates of almost unprecedented
length, it was defeated in June, by a majority of thirty; how the policy
it embodied was brought before the country at the General Election, and
failed to win approval--all this is too well known to need
recapitulation here. But the causes of the disaster have not been well
understood, for it is only now--now, when the smoke of the battle has
cleared away from the field--that these causes have begun to stand
revealed in their true proportions.

Besides some circumstances attending the production of the Bill, to
which I shall refer presently, and which told heavily against it, there
were three feelings which worked upon men's minds, disposing them to
reject it.

The first of these was dislike and fear of the Irish Nationalist
members. In the previous House of Commons this party had been uniformly
and bitterly hostile to the Liberal Government. Measures intended for
the good of Ireland, like the Land Act of 1881, had been ungraciously
received, treated as concessions extorted, for which no thanks were
due--inadequate concessions, which must be made the starting-point for
fresh demands. Obstruction had been freely practised to defeat not only
bills restraining the liberty of the subject in Ireland, but many other
measures. Some few members of the Irish party had systematically sought
to delay all English and Scotch legislation, and, in fact, to bring the
work of Parliament to a dead stop. Much violent language had been used,
even where the provocation was slight. The outbreaks of crime which had
repeatedly occurred in Ireland had been, not, indeed, defended, but so
often passed over in silence by Nationalist speakers, that English
opinion was inclined to hold them practically responsible for disorders
which, so it was thought, they had neither wished nor tried to prevent.
(I am, of course, expressing no opinion as to the justice of this view,
nor as to the excuses to be made for the Parliamentary tactics of the
Irish party, but merely stating how their conduct struck many
Englishmen.) There could be no doubt as to the hostility which they,
still less as to that which their fellow-countrymen in the United
States, had expressed toward England, for they had openly wished success
to Russia while war seemed impending with her, and the so-called Mahdi
of the Soudan was vociferously cheered at many a Nationalist meeting. At
the Election of 1885 they had done their utmost to defeat Liberal
candidates in every English and Scotch constituency where there existed
a body of Irish voters, and had thrown some twenty seats or more into
the hands of the Tories. Now, to many Englishmen, the proposal to create
an Irish Parliament seemed nothing more or less than a proposal to hand
over to these Irish members the government of Ireland, with all the
opportunities thence arising to oppress the opposite party in Ireland
and to worry England herself. It was all very well to urge that the
tactics which the Nationalists had pursued when their object was to
extort Home Rule would be dropped, because superfluous, when Home Rule
had been granted; or to point out that an Irish Parliament would contain
different men from those who had been sent to Westminster as Mr.
Parnell's nominees. Neither of these arguments could overcome the
suspicious antipathy which many Englishmen felt, nor dissolve the
association in their minds between the Nationalist leaders and the
forces of disorder. The Parnellites (thus they reasoned) are bad men;
what they seek is therefore likely to be bad, and whether bad in itself
or not, they will make a bad use of it. In such reasonings there was
more of sentiment and prejudice than of reason, but sentiment and
prejudice are proverbially harder than arguments to expel from minds
where they have made a lodgment.

The internal condition of Ireland supplied more substantial grounds for
alarm. As everybody knows, she is not, either in religion or in blood,
or in feelings and ideas, a homogeneous country. Three-fourths of the
people are Roman Catholics, one-fourth Protestants, and this Protestant
fourth subdivided into bodies not fond of one another, who have little
community of sentiment. Besides the Scottish colony in Ulster, many
English families have settled here and there through the country. They
have been regarded as intruders by the aboriginal Celtic population, and
many of them, although hundreds of years may have passed since they
came, still look on themselves as rather English than Irish. The last
fifty years, whose wonderful changes have in most parts of the world
tended to unite and weld into one compact body the inhabitants of each
part of the earth's surface, connecting them by the ties of commerce,
and of a far easier and swifter intercourse than was formerly possible,
have in Ireland worked in the opposite direction. It has become more and
more the habit of the richer class in Ireland to go to England for its
enjoyment, and to feel itself socially rather English than Irish. Thus
the chasm between the immigrants and the aborigines has grown deeper.
The upper class has not that Irish patriotism which it showed in the
days of the National Irish Parliament (1782-1800), and while there is
thus less of a common national feeling to draw rich and poor together,
the strife of landlords and tenants has continued, irritating the minds
of both parties, and gathering them into two hostile camps. As everybody
knows, the Nationalist agitation has been intimately associated with the
Land agitation--has, in fact, found a strong motive-force in the desire
of the tenants to have their rents reduced, and themselves secured
against eviction. Now, many people in England assumed that an Irish
Parliament would be under the control of the tenants and the humbler
class generally, and would therefore be hostile to the landlords. They
went farther, and made the much bolder assumption that as such a
Parliament would be chosen by electors, most of whom were Roman
Catholics, it would be under the control of the Catholic priesthood, and
hostile to Protestants. Thus they supposed that the grant of
self-government to Ireland would mean the abandonment of the upper and
wealthier class, the landlords and the Protestants, to the tender
mercies of their enemies. Such abandonment, it was proclaimed on a
thousand platforms, would be disgraceful in itself, dishonouring to
England, a betrayal of the very men who had stood by her in the past,
and were prepared to stand by her in the future, if only she would stand
by them. It was, of course, replied by the defenders of the Home Rule
Bill, that what the so-called English party in Ireland really stood by
was their own ascendency over the Irish masses--an oppressive
ascendency, which had caused most of the disorders of the country. As to
religion, there were many Protestants besides Mr. Parnell himself among
the Nationalist leaders. There was no ill-feeling (except in Ulster)
between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Ireland. There was no reason
to expect that either the Catholic hierarchy or the priesthood generally
would be supreme in an Irish Parliament, and much reason to expect the
contrary. As regards Ulster, where, no doubt, there were special
difficulties, due to the bitter antagonism of the Orangemen (not of the
Protestants generally) and Catholics, Mr. Gladstone had undertaken to
consider any special provisions which could be suggested as proper to
meet those difficulties. These replies, however, made little impression.
They were pronounced, and pronounced all the more confidently the more
ignorant of Ireland the speaker was, to be too hypothetical. To many
Englishmen the case seemed to be one of two hostile factions contending
in Ireland for the last sixty years, and that the gift of
self-government might enable one of them to tyrannize over the other.
True, that party was the majority, and, according to the principles of
democratic government, therefore entitled to prevail. But it is one
thing to admit a principle and another to consent to its application.
The minority had the sympathy of the upper classes in England, because
the minority contained the landlords. It had the sympathy of a part of
the middle class, because it contained the Protestants. And of those
Englishmen who were impartial as between the Irish factions, there were
some who held that England must in any case remain responsible for the
internal peace and the just government of Ireland, and could not grant
powers whose possession might tempt the one party to injustice, and the
other to resist injustice by violence.

There was another anticipation, another forecast of evils to follow,
which told most of all upon English opinion. This was the notion that
Home Rule was only a stage in the road to the complete separation of the
two islands. The argument was conceived as follows: "The motive passions
of the Irish agitation have all along been hatred toward England and a
desire to make Ireland a nation, holding her independent place among the
nations of the world. This design was proclaimed by the Young Irelanders
of 1848 and by the Fenian rebels of 1866; it has been avowed, in
intervals of candour, by the present Nationalists themselves. The grant
of an Irish Parliament will stimulate rather than appease this thirst
for separate national existence. The nearer complete independence seems,
the more will it be desired. Hatred to England will still be an active
force, because the amount of control which England retains will irritate
Irish pride, as well as limit Irish action; while all the misfortunes
which may befall the new Irish Government will be blamed, not on its own
imprudence, but on the English connection. And as the motives for
seeking separation will remain, so the prospect of obtaining it will
seem better. Agitation will have a better vantage-ground in an Irish
Parliament than it formerly had among the Irish members of a British
Legislature; and if actual resistance to the Queen's authority should be
attempted, it will be attempted under conditions more favourable than
the present, because the rebels will have in their hands the machinery
of Irish Government, large financial resources, and a _prima facie_
title to represent the will of the Irish people. As against a rebellious
party in Ireland, England has now two advantages--an advantage of
theory, an advantage of fact. The advantage of theory is that she does
not admit Ireland to be a distinct nation, but maintains that in the
United Kingdom there is but one nation, whereof some inhabit Great
Britain and some Ireland. The advantage of fact is that, through her
control of the constabulary, the magistrates, the courts of justice,
and, in fine, the whole administrative system of Ireland, she can easily
quell insurrectionary movements. By creating an Irish Parliament and
Government she would strip herself of both these advantages."

I need hardly say that I do not admit the fairness of this statement of
the case, because some of the premises are untrue, and because it
misrepresents the nature of the Irish Government which Mr. Gladstone's
Bill would have created. But I am trying to state the case as it was
sedulously and skilfully presented to Englishmen. And it told all the
more upon English waverers, because the considerations above mentioned
seemed, if well founded, to destroy and cut away the chief ground on
which Home Rule had been advocated, viz. that it would relieve England
from the constant pressure of Irish discontent and agitation, and bring
about a time of tranquillity, permitting good feeling to grow up between
the peoples. If Home Rule was, after all, to be nothing more than a
half-way house to independence, an Irish Parliament only a means of
extorting a more complete emancipation from imperial control, was it not
much better to keep things as they were, and go on enduring evils, the
worst of which were known already? Hence the advocates of the Bill
denied not the weight of the argument, but its applicability.
Separation, they urged, is impossible, for it is contrary to the nature
of things, which indicates that the two islands must go together. It is
not desired by the Irish people, for it would injure them far more than
it could possibly injure England, since Ireland finds in England the
only market for her produce, the only source whence capital flows to
her. A small revolutionary party has, no doubt, conspired to obtain it.
But the only sympathy they received was due to the fact that the
legitimate demand of Ireland for a recognition of her national feeling
and for the management of her own local affairs was contemptuously
ignored by England. The concession of that demand will banish the notion
even from those minds which now entertain it, whereas its continued
refusal may perpetuate that alienation of feeling which is at the bottom
of all the mischief, the one force that makes for separation.

It is no part of my present purpose to examine these arguments and
counter arguments, but only to show what were the grounds on which a
majority of the English voters refused to pronounce in favour of the
Home Rule Bill. The reader will have observed that the issues raised
were not only numerous, but full of difficulty. They were issues of
fact, involving a knowledge both of the past history of Ireland and of
her present state. They were also issues of inference, for even
supposing the broad facts to be ascertained, these facts were
susceptible of different interpretations, and men might, and did,
honestly draw opposite conclusions from them. A more obscure and
complicated problem, or rather group of problems, has seldom been
presented to a nation for its decision. But the nation did not possess
the requisite knowledge. Closely connected as Ireland seems to be with
England, long as the Irish question has been a main trouble in English
politics, the English and Scottish people know amazingly little about
Ireland. Even in the upper class, you meet with comparatively few
persons who have set foot on Irish soil, and, of course, far fewer who
have ever examined the condition of the island and the sources of her
discontent. Irish history, which is, no doubt, dismal reading, is a
blank page to the English. In January, 1886, one found scarce any
politicians who had ever heard of the Irish Parliament of 1782. And in
that year, 1886, an Englishman anxious to discover the real state of the
country did not know where to go for information. What appeared in the
English newspapers, or, rather, in the one English newspaper which keeps
a standing "own correspondent" in Dublin, was (as it still is) a grossly
and almost avowedly partisan report, in which opinions are skilfully
mixed with so-called facts, selected, consciously or unconsciously, to
support the writer's view. The Nationalist press is, of course, not less
strongly partisan on its own side, so that not merely an average
Englishman, but even the editor of an English newspaper, who desires to
ascertain the true state of matters and place it before his English
readers, has had, until within the last few months, when events in
Ireland began to be fully reported in Great Britain, no better means at
his disposal for understanding Ireland than for understanding Bulgaria.
I do not dwell upon this ignorance as an argument for Home Rule, though,
of course, it is often so used. I merely wish to explain the
bewilderment in which Englishmen found themselves when required to
settle by their votes a question of immense difficulty. Many, on both
sides, simply followed their party banners. Tories voted for Lord
Salisbury; thorough-going admirers of Mr. Gladstone voted for Mr.
Gladstone. But there was on the Liberal side a great mass who were
utterly perplexed by the position. Contradictory statements of fact, as
well as contradictory arguments, were flung at their heads in
distracting profusion. They felt themselves unable to determine what was
true and who was right. But one thing seemed clear to them. The policy
of Home Rule was a new policy. They had been accustomed to censure and
oppose it. Only nine months before, the Irish Nationalists had
emphasized their hostility to the Liberal party by doing their utmost to
defeat Liberal candidates in English constituencies. Hence, when it was
proclaimed that Home Rule was the true remedy which the Liberal party
must accept, they were startled and discomposed.

Now, the English are not a nimble-minded people. They cannot, to use a
familiar metaphor, turn round in their own length. Their momentum is
such as to carry them on for some distance in the direction wherein they
have been moving, even after the order to stop has been given. They need
time to appreciate, digest, and comprehend a new proposition. Timid they
are not, nor, perhaps, exceptionally cautious, but they do not like to
be hurried, and insist on looking at a proposition for a good while
before they come to a decision regarding it. It is one of the qualities
which make them a great people. As has been observed, this proposition
was novel, was most serious, and raised questions which they felt that
their knowledge was insufficient to determine. Accordingly, a certain
section of the Liberal party refused to accept it. A great number,
probably the majority, of these doubtful men abstained from voting.
Others voted against the Home Rule Liberal candidates, not necessarily
because they condemned the policy, but because, as they were not
satisfied that it was right, they deemed delay a less evil than the
committal of the nation to a new departure, which might prove

It must not, however, be supposed that it was only hesitation which
drove many Liberals into the host arrayed against the Irish Government
Bill. I have already said that among the leaders there were some, and
those men of great influence, who condemned its principles. This was
true also of a considerable, though a relatively smaller, section of the
rank and file. And it was only what might have been expected. The
proposal to undo much of the work done in 1800, to alter fundamentally
the system which had for eighty-six years regulated the relations of the
two islands, by setting up a Parliament in Ireland, was a proposal which
not only had not formed a part of the accepted creed of the Liberal
party, but fell outside party lines altogether. It might, no doubt, be
argued, as was actually done, and as those who understand the history of
the Liberal party have more and more come to see, that Liberal
principles recommended it, since they involve faith in the people, and
faith in the curative tendency of local self-government. But this was by
no means axiomatic. Taking the whole complicated facts of the case, and
taking Liberalism as it had been practically understood in England, a
man might in July, 1886, deem himself a good Liberal and yet think that
the true interests of both peoples would be best served by maintaining
the existing Parliamentary system. Similarly, there was nothing in
Toryism or Tory principles to prevent a fair-minded and patriotic Tory
from approving the Home Rule scheme. It was a return to the older
institutions of the monarchy, and not inconsistent with any of the
doctrines which the Tory party had been accustomed to uphold. The
question, in short, was one of those which cut across ordinary party
lines, creating new divisions among politicians; and there might have
been and ought to have been Liberal Home Rulers and Tory Home Rulers,
Liberal opponents of Home Rule and Tory opponents of Home Rule.

But here comes in a feature, a natural but none the less a regrettable
feature, of the English party system. As the object of the party in
opposition is to turn out the party in power and seat itself in their
place, every Opposition regards with the strongest prejudice the
measures proposed by a ruling Ministry. Cases sometimes occur where
these measures are so obviously necessary, or so evidently approved by
the nation, that the Opposition accepts them. But in general it scans
them with a hostile eye. Human nature is human nature; and when the
defeat of Government can be secured by defeating a Government Bill, the
temptation to the Opposition to secure it is irresistible. Now, the Tory
party is far more cohesive than the Liberal party, far more obedient to
its leaders, far less disposed to break into sections, each of which
thinks and acts for itself. Accordingly, that division of opinion in the
Tory party which might have been expected, and which would have occurred
if those who composed the Tory party had been merely so many reflecting
men, and not members of a closely compacted political organization, did
not occur. Liberals were divided, as such a question would naturally
divide them. Tories were not divided; they threw their whole strength
against the Bill. I am far from suggesting that they did so against
their consciences. Whatever may be said as to two or three of the
leaders, whose previous language and conduct seemed to indicate that
they would themselves, had the election of 1885 gone differently, have
been inclined to a Home Rule policy, many of the Tory chiefs, as well
as the great mass of the party, honestly disapproved Mr. Gladstone's
measure. But their party motives and party affiliations gave it no
chance of an impartial verdict at their hands. They went into the
jury-box with an invincible prepossession against the scheme of their
opponents. When all these difficulties are duly considered, and
especially when regard is had to those which I have last enumerated, the
suddenness with which the new policy was launched, and the fact that as
coming from one party it was sure beforehand of the hostility of the
other, no surprise can be felt at its fate. Those who, in England, now
look back over the spring and summer of 1886 are rather surprised that
it should come so near succeeding. To have been rejected by a majority
of only thirty in Parliament, and of little over ten per cent. of the
total number of electors who voted at the general election, is a defeat
far less severe than any one who knew England would have predicted.

That the decision of the country is regarded by nobody as a final
decision goes without saying. It was not regarded as final, even in the
first weeks after it was given. This was not because the majority was
comparatively small, for a smaller majority the other way would have
been conclusive. It is because the country had not time enough for full
consideration and deliberate judgment. The Bill was brought in on April
14th, the elections began on July 1st; no one can say what might have
been the result of a long discussion, during which the first feelings of
alarm (for alarm there was) might have worn off. And the decision is
without finality, also, because the decision of the country was merely
against the particular plan proposed by Mr. Gladstone, and not in favour
of any alternative plan for dealing with Ireland, most certainly not for
the coercive method which has since been adopted. One particular
solution of the Irish problem was refused. The problem still stands
confronting us, and when other modes of solving it have been in turn
rejected, the country may come back to this mode.

We may now turn from the past to the future. Yet the account which has
been given of the feelings and ideas arrayed against the Bill does not
wholly belong to the past. They are the feelings to which the opponents
of any plan of self-government for Ireland still appeal, and which will
have to be removed or softened down before it can be accepted by the
English. In particular, the probability of separation, and the supposed
dangers to the Protestants and the landlords from an Irish Parliament,
will continue to form the themes of controversy so long as the question
remains unsettled.

What are the prospects of its settlement? What is the position which it
now occupies? How has it affected the current politics of England?

It broke up the Liberal party in Parliament. The vast numerical majority
of that party in the country supported, and still supports, Mr.
Gladstone and the policy of Irish self-government. But the dissentient
minority includes many men of influence, and constitutes in the House of
Commons a body of about seventy members, who hold the balance between
parties. For the present they are leagued with the Tory Ministry to
resist Home Rule, and their support insures a parliamentary majority to
that Ministry. But it is, of course, necessary for them to rally to Lord
Salisbury, not only on Irish questions, but on all questions; for, under
our English system, a Ministry defeated on any serious issue is bound to
resign, or dissolve Parliament. Now, to maintain an alliance for a
special purpose, between members of opposite parties, is a hard matter.
Agreement about Ireland does not, of itself, help men to agree about
foreign policy, or bimetallism, or free trade, or changes in land laws,
or ecclesiastical affairs. When these and other grave questions come up
in Parliament, the Tory Ministry and their Liberal allies must, on
every occasion, negotiate a species of concordat, whereby the liberty
of both is fettered. One party may wish to resist innovation, the other
to yield to it, or even to anticipate it. Each is obliged to forego
something in order to humour the other; neither has the pleasure or the
credit of taking a bold line on its own responsibility. There is, no
doubt, less difference between the respective tenets of the great
English parties than there was twenty years ago, when Mr. Disraeli had
not yet completed the education of one party, and economic laws were
still revered by the other. But, besides its tenets, each party has its
tendencies, its sympathies, its moral atmosphere; and these differ so
widely as to make the co-operation of Tories and Liberals constrained
and cumbrous. Moreover, there are the men to be considered, the leaders
on each side, whose jealousies, rivalries, suspicions, personal
incompatibilities, neither old habits of joint action nor corporate
party feeling exist to soften. On the whole, therefore, it is unlikely
that the league of these two parties, united for one question only, and
that a question which will pass into new phases, can be durable. Either
the league will dissolve, or the smaller party will be absorbed into the
larger. In England, as in America, third parties rarely last. The
attraction of the larger mass is irresistible, and when the crisis which
created a split or generated a new group has passed, or the opinion the
new group advocates has been either generally discredited or generally
adopted, the small party melts away, its older members disappearing from
public life, its younger ones finding their career in the ranks of one
of the two great standing armies of politics. If the dissentient, or
anti-Home Rule, Liberal party lives till the next general election, it
cannot live longer, for at that election it will be ground to powder
between the upper and nether millstones of the regular Liberals and the
regular Tories.

The Irish struggle of 1886 has had another momentous consequence. It
has brought the Nationalist or Parnellite party into friendly relations
with the mass of English Liberals. When the Home Rule party was founded
by Mr. Butt, some fifteen years ago, it had more in common with the
Liberal than with the Tory party. But as it demanded what both English
parties were then resolved to refuse, it was forced into antagonism to
both; and from 1877 onward (Mr. Butt being then dead) the antagonism
became bitter, and, of course, specially bitter as toward the statesmen
in power, because it was they who continued to refuse what the
Nationalists sought. Mr. Parnell has always stated, with perfect
candour, that he and his friends must fight for their own hand
unhampered by English alliances, and getting the most they could for
Ireland from the weakness of either English party. This position they
still retain. If the Tory party will give them Home Rule, they will help
the Tory party. However, as the Tory party has gained office by opposing
Home Rule, this contingency may seem not to lie within the immediate
future. On the other hand, the Gladstonian Liberals have lost office for
their advocacy of Home Rule, and now stand pledged to maintain the
policy they have proclaimed. The Nationalists have, therefore, for the
first time since the days immediately following the Union of A.D. 1800
(a measure which the Whigs of those days resisted), a great English
party admitting the justice of their claim, and inviting them to agitate
for it by purely constitutional methods. For such an alliance the
English Liberals are hotly reproached, both by the Tories and by the
dissentients who follow Lord Harrington and Mr. Chamberlain. They are
accused of disloyalty to England. The past acts and words of the
Nationalists are thrown in their teeth, and they are told that in
supporting the Irish claim they condone such acts, they adopt such
words. They reply by denying the adoption, and by pointing out that the
Tories themselves were from 1881 till 1886 in a practical, and often
very close, though unavowed, Parliamentary alliance with the
Nationalists in the House of Commons. The student of history will,
however, conceive that the Liberals have a stronger and higher defence
than any _tu quoque_. Issues that involve the welfare of peoples are far
too serious for us to apply to them the same sentiments of personal
taste and predilection which we follow in inviting a dinner party, or
selecting companions for a vacation tour. If a man has abused your
brother, or got drunk in the street, you do not ask him to go with you
to the Yellowstone Park. But his social offences do not prevent you from
siding with him in a political convention. So, in politics itself, one
must distinguish between characters and opinions. If a man has shown
himself unscrupulous or headstrong, you may properly refuse to vote him
into office, or to sit in the same Cabinet with him, because you think
these faults of his dangerous to the country. But if the cause he pleads
be a just one, you have no more right to be prejudiced against it by his
conduct than a judge has to be swayed by dislike to the counsel who
argues a case. There were moderate men in America, who, in the days of
the anti-slavery movement, cited against it the intemperate language of
many abolitionists. There were aristocrats in England, who, during the
struggle for the freedom and unity of Italy, sought to discredit the
patriotic party by accusing them of tyrannicide. But the sound sense of
both nations refused to be led away by such arguments, because it held
those two causes to be in their essence righteous. In all revolutionary
movements there are elements of excess and violence, which sober men may
regret, but which must not disturb our judgment as to the substantial
merits of an issue. The revolutionist of one generation is, like
Garibaldi or Mazzini, the hero of the next; and the verdict of posterity
applauds those who, even in his own day, were able to discern the
justice of the cause under the errors or faults of its champion. Doubly
is it the duty of a great and far-sighted statesman not to be repelled
by such errors, when he can, by espousing a revolutionary movement,
purify it of its revolutionary character, and turn it into a legitimate
constitutional struggle. This is what Mr. Gladstone has done. If his
policy be in itself dangerous and disloyal to the true interests of the
people of our islands, let it be condemned. But if it be the policy
which has the best promise for the peace, the prosperity, and the mutual
good will of those peoples, he and those who follow him would be
culpable indeed were they to be deterred by the condemnation which they
have so often expressed, and which they still express, for some of the
past acts of a particular party, from declaring that the aims of that
party were substantially right aims, and from now pressing upon the
country what their conscience approves.

However, as the Home Rule Liberals and Nationalists, taken together, are
in a minority (although a minority which obtains recruits at many
bye-elections) in the present Parliament, it is not from them that fresh
proposals are expected. They will, of course, continue to speak, write,
and agitate on behalf of the views they hold. But practical attempt to
deal with Irish troubles must for the present come from the Tory
Ministry; for in the English system of government those who command a
Parliamentary majority are responsible for legislation as well as
administration, and are censured not merely if their legislation is bad,
but if it is not forthcoming when events call for it.

Why, it may be asked, should Lord Salisbury's Government burn its
fingers over Ireland, as so many governments have burnt their fingers
before? Why not let Ireland alone, giving to foreign affairs and to
English and Scottish reforms all the attention which these too much
neglected matters need?

Well would it be for England, as well as for English Ministries, if
Ireland could be simply let alone, her maladies left to be healed by the
soft, slow hand of nature. But Irish troubles call aloud to be dealt
with, and that promptly. They stand in the way of all other reforms,
indeed of all other business. Letting alone has been tried, and it has
succeeded no better, even in times less urgent than the present, than
the usual policy of coercion followed by concession, or concession
followed by coercion.

There are three aspects of the Irish question, three channels by which
the troubles of the "distressful island" stream down upon us, forcing
whoever now rules or may come to rule in England to attempt some plan
for dealing with them. I will take them in succession.

The first is the Parliamentary difficulty. In the British House of
Commons, with its six hundred and seventy members, there are nearly
ninety Irish Nationalists. They are a well-disciplined body, voting as
one man, though capable of speaking enough for a thousand. They have no
interest in English or Scotch or colonial or Indian affairs, but only in
Irish, and look upon the vote which they have the right of giving upon
the former solely as a means of furthering their own Irish aims. They
are, therefore, in the British Parliament not merely a foreign body,
indifferent to the great British and imperial issues confided to it, but
a hostile body, opposed to its present constitution, seeking to
discredit it in its authority over Ireland, and to make more and more
palpable and incurable the incompetence for Irish business whereof they
accuse it. Several modes of doing this are open to them. They may, as
some of the more actively bitter among them did in the Parliaments of
1874 and 1880, obstruct business by long and frequent speeches, dilatory
motions, and all those devices which in America are called
filibustering. The House of Commons may, no doubt, try to check these
tactics by more stringent rules of procedure, but the attempts already
made in this direction have had but slight success, and every
restriction of debate, since it trenches on the freedom of English and
Scotch no less than of Irish members, injures Parliament as a whole.
They may disgust the British people with the House of Commons by keeping
it (as they have done in former years) so constantly occupied with Irish
business as to leave it little time for English and Scotch measures.
They may throw the weight of their collective vote into the scale of one
or other British party, according to the amount of concession it will
make to them, or, by always voting against the Ministry of the day, they
may cause frequent and sudden changes of Government. This plan also they
have followed in time past; for the moment it is not so applicable,
because the Tories and dissentient Liberals, taken together, possess a
majority in the House of Commons. But at any moment the alliance of
those two sections may vanish, or another General Election may leave
Tories and Liberals so nearly balanced that the Irish vote could turn
the scale. Whoever reflects on the nature of Parliamentary Government
will perceive that it is based on the assumption that the members of the
ruling assembly, however much they may differ on other subjects, agree
in desiring the strength, dignity, and welfare of the assembly itself,
and in caring for the main national interests which it controls. He will
therefore be prepared to expect countless and multiform difficulties in
working such a Government, where a large section of the assembly seeks
not to use, but to make useless, its forms and rules--not to preserve,
but to lower and destroy, its honour, its credit, its efficiency. In
vain are Irish members blamed for these tactics, for they answer that
the interests of their own country require them to seek first her
welfare, which can in their view be secured only by removing her from
the direct control of what they deem a foreign assembly. Now that the
demand for Irish self-government has obtained the sympathy of the bulk
of English Liberals, they are unlikely forthwith to resume the
systematic obstruction of past years. But they will be able, without
alienating their English friends, to render the conduct of Parliamentary
business so difficult that every English Ministry will be forced either
to crush them, if it can, or to appease them by a series of concessions.

The second difficulty is that of maintaining social order in Ireland.
What that difficulty is, and whence it arises, every one knows. It is
chronic, but every second or third winter, when there has been a wet
season, or the price of live stock declines, it becomes specially acute.
The tenants refuse to pay rents which they declare to be impossible. The
landlords, or the harsher among them, try to enforce rents by evictions;
evictions are resisted by outrages and boycotting. Popular sentiment
supports those who commit outrages, because it considers the tenantry to
be engaged in a species of war, a righteous war, against the landlord.
Evidence can seldom be obtained, and juries acquit in the teeth of
evidence. Thus the enforcement of the law strains all the resources of
authority, while a habit of lawlessness and discontent is transmitted
from generation to generation. Of the remedies proposed for this chronic
evil the most obvious is the strengthening of the criminal law. We have
been trying this for more than one hundred years, since Whiteboyism
appeared, and trying it in vain. Since the Union, Coercion Acts, of more
or less severity, have been almost always in force in Ireland, passed
for two or three years, then dropped for a year or two, then renewed in
a form slightly varying, but always with the same result of driving the
disease in for a time, but not curing it. Mr. Gladstone proposed to buy
out the landlords and then leave an Irish Parliament to restore social
order, with that authority which it would derive from having the will of
the people behind it; because he held that when the people felt the law
to be of their own making, and not imposed from without, their sentiment
would be enlisted on its side, and the necessity for a firm Government
recognized. This plan, has, however, been rejected, so the choice was
left of a fresh Coercion Act, or of some scheme, necessarily a costly
scheme, for getting rid of the source of trouble by transferring the
land of Ireland to the peasantry. The present Government, while guided
by Sir M. Hicks-Beach, who had some knowledge of Ireland, did its best
to persuade the landlords to accept reduced rents, while the Nationalist
leaders, on their side, sought to restrain the people from outrages. But
the armistice did not last. The Ministry yielded to the foolish counsels
of its more violent supporters, and entrusted Irish affairs to the hands
of a Chief Secretary without previous knowledge of the island. An
unusually severe Coercion Act has been brought in and passed by the aid
of the dissentient Liberals. And we now see this Act administered with a
mixture of virulence and incompetence to which even the dreary annals of
Irish misgovernment present few parallels. The feeling of the English
people is rising against the policy carried out in their name. So far
from being solved, the problem of social order becomes every day more

There remains the question of a reform of local government. For many
years past, every English Ministry has undertaken to frame a measure
creating a new system of popular rural self-government in England. It is
the first large task of domestic legislation which we ask from
Parliament. When such a scheme is proposed, can Ireland be left out of
it? Should she be left out, the argument that she is being treated
unequally and unfairly, as compared with England, would gain immense
force; because the present local government of Ireland is admittedly
less popular, less efficient, altogether less defensible, than even that
of England which we are going to reform. If, therefore, the theory that
the Imperial Parliament is both anxious and able to do its duty by
Ireland is to be maintained, Ireland, too, must have her scheme of local
government. And a scheme of local government is a large project, the
discussion of which must pass into a discussion of the government of the
island as a whole.

Since, then, we may conclude that whatever Ministry is in power will be
bound to take up the state of Ireland--since Parliament and the nation
will be occupied with the subject during the coming sessions fully as
much as they have been during those that have recently passed--the next
inquiry is, What will the tendency of opinion and legislation be? Will
the reasons and forces described above bring us to Home Rule? and if so,
when, how, and why?

There are grounds for answering these questions in the negative. A
majority of the House of Commons, including the present Ministry and
such influential Liberals as Mr. Bright, Lord Hartington, Mr.
Chamberlain, stand pledged to resist it, and seem--such is the passion
which controversy engenders--more disposed to resist it than they were
in 1885. But this ground is less strong than it may appear. We have had
too many changes of opinion--ay, and of action too--upon Irish affairs
not to be prepared for further changes. A Ministry in power learns much
which an Opposition fails to learn. Home Rule is an elastic expression,
and some of those who were loudest in denouncing Mr. Gladstone's Bill
will find it easy to explain, should they bring in a Bill of their own
for giving self-government to Ireland, that their measure is a different
thing, and free from the objections brought against his. Nor, if such a
conversion should come, need it be deemed a dishonest one, for events
are potent teachers, and governments now seek rather to follow than to
form opinion. Although a decent interval must be allowed, no one will be
astonished if the Tory leaders should move ere long in the direction
indicated. Toryism itself, as has been remarked already, contains
nothing opposed to the idea.

Far greater obstacles exist in the aversion which (as already observed)
so many Englishmen of both parties have entertained for any scheme which
should seem to leave the Protestant minority at the mercy of the peasant
and Roman Catholic majority, and to carry us some way toward the
ultimate separation of the islands. These alarms are genuine and
deep-seated. One who (like the present writer) thinks them, if not
baseless, yet immensely overstrained, is, of course, convinced that they
may be allayed. But time must first pass, and the plan that is to allay
them may have to be framed on somewhat different lines from those of Mr.
Gladstone's measure. It is even possible that a conflict more sharp and
painful than any of recent years may intervene before a settlement is

Nevertheless, great as are the obstacles in the way, bitter as are the
reproaches with which Mr. Gladstone is pursued by the richer classes in
England, there is good reason to believe that the current is setting
toward his policy. In proceeding to state the grounds for this view, I
must frankly own that I am no longer (as in most of the preceding pages)
merely setting forth facts on which impartial men in England would
agree. The forecast which I seek to give may be tinged by my own belief
that the grant of self-government is the best, if not the only method,
now open to us of establishing peace between the islands, relieving the
English Parliament of work it is ill fitted to discharge, allowing
Ireland opportunities to learn those lessons in politics which her
people so much need. The future, even the near future, is more than
usually dim. Yet, if we examine those three branches of the Irish
question which have been enumerated above, we shall see how naturally,
in each of them, the concession of self-government seems to open, I will
not say the most direct, but the least dangerous way, out of our

The Parliamentary difficulty arises from the fact that the
representatives of Ireland have the feelings of foreigners sitting in a
foreign assembly, whose honour and usefulness they do not desire. While
these are their feelings they cannot work properly in it, and it cannot
work properly with them. The inconvenience may be endured, but the
English will grow tired of it, and be disposed to rid themselves of it,
if they see their way to do so without greater mischief. There are but
two ways out of the difficulty. One is to get rid of the Irish members
altogether; the other is to make them, by the concession of their just
demands, contented and loyal members of a truly united Parliament. The
experience of the Parliament of 1880, which was mainly occupied with
Irish business, and began, being a strongly Liberal Parliament, with a
bias toward the Irish popular party, showed how difficult it is for a
House of Commons which is ignorant of Ireland to legislate wisely for
it. In the House of Lords there is not a single Nationalist; indeed, up
till 1886, that exalted chamber contained only one peer, Lord Dalhousie
(formerly member for Liverpool), who had ever said a word in favour of
Home Rule. The more that England becomes sensible, as she must become
sensible, of the deficiencies of the present machinery for appreciating
the needs and giving effect to the wishes of Irishmen, the more disposed
will she be to grant them some machinery of their own.

As regards social order, I have shown that the choice which lies before
the opponents of Home Rule is either to continue the policy of coercing
the peasantry by severe special legislation, or to remove the source of
friction by buying out the landlords for the benefit of the tenants. The
present Ministry have chosen the former alternative, but they dangle
before the eyes of their supporters some prospect that they may
ultimately revert to the latter. Now, the only way that has yet been
pointed out of buying out the landlords, without imposing tremendous
liabilities of loss upon the British Treasury, is the creation of a
strong Home Rule Government in Dublin. Supposing, however, that some
other plan could be discovered, which would avoid the fatal objections
to which an extension of the plan of the (Salisbury) Land Purchase Act
of 1885 is open, such a plan would remove one of the chief objections to
an Irish Parliament, by leaving no estates for such a Parliament to
confiscate. As for coercion every day, I might say, every bye-election
shows us how it becomes more and more odious to the British democracy.
They dislike severity; they dislike the inequality involved in passing
harsher laws for Ireland than those that apply to England and Scotland.
They find themselves forced to sympathize with acts of violence in
Ireland which they would condemn in Great Britain, because these acts
seem the only way of resisting harsh and unjust laws. When the recoil
comes, it will be more violent than in former days. The wish to discover
some other course will be very strong, and the obvious other course will
be to leave it to an Irish authority to enforce social order in its own
way--probably a more rough-and-ready way than that of British officials.
The notion which has possessed most Englishmen, that Irish
self-government would be another name for anarchy, is curiously
erroneous. Conflicts there may be, but a vigorous rule will emerge.

Lastly, as to local government. If a popular system is established in
Ireland--one similar to that which it is proposed to establish in
England--the control of its assemblies and officials will, over
four-fifths of the island, fall into Nationalist hands. Their power will
be enormously increased, for they will then command the machinery of
administration, and the power of taxing. What with taxing landlords,
aiding recalcitrant tenants, stopping the wheels of any central
authority which may displease or oppose them, they will be in so strong
a position that the creation of an Irish Parliament may appear to be a
comparatively small further step, may even appear (as the wisest
Nationalists now think it would prove) in the light of a check upon the
abuse of local powers. These eventualities will unquestionably, when
English opinion has realized them, make such a Parliament as the present
pause before it commits rural local government to the Irish democracy.
But it could not refuse to do something; and if it tried to restrain
popular representative bodies by the veto of a bureaucracy in Dublin,
there would arise occasions for quarrel and irritation more serious than
now exist.[70] Those who once begin to repair an old and tottering
building are led on, little by little, into changes they did not at
starting contemplate. So it will be if once the task is undertaken of
reforming the confessedly bad and indefensible system of Irish
administration. We may stop at some half-way house on the way, but Home
Rule stands at the end of the road.

Supposing, then, that the Nationalist party, retaining its present
strength and unity, perseveres in its present demands, there is every
prospect that these demands will be granted. But will it persevere?
There are among the English Dissentients those who prophesy that it will
break up, as such parties have broken up before--will lose hope and
wither away. Or the support of the Irish peasantry may be withdrawn--a
result which some English politicians expect from a final settlement of
the land question in the interest of the tenants. Any of these
contingencies is possible, but at present most improbable. The moment
when long-cherished aims begin to seem attainable is not that at which
men are disposed to abandon them.

There are, however, other reasons which suggest the likelihood of a
change in English sentiment on the whole matter. The surprise with
which the Bill of last April was received has worn off. The alarm is
wearing off too. Those who set their teeth at what seemed to them a
surrender to the Parnellites and their Irish-American allies, having
relieved their temper by an emphatic No, have begun to ponder things
more calmly. The English people are listening to the arguments from
Irish history that are now addressed to them. They will be moved by the
solid grounds of policy which that history suggests; will understand
that what they have deemed insensate hatred is the natural result of
long misgovernment, and will disappear with time and the removal of its
causes. Many of the best minds of both nations will be at work to
discover some method of reconciling Irish self-government with imperial
supremacy and union free from the objections brought against the Bills
of 1886. It is reasonable to expect that they may greatly improve upon
these measures, which were prepared under pressure from a clamorous
Opposition. What Mr. Disraeli once called the historical conscience of
the country will appreciate those great underlying principles to which
Mr. Gladstone's policy appeals. It has been accused of being a policy of
despair; and may have commended itself to some who supported it as being
simply a means of ridding England of responsibility. But to others it
seemed, and more truly, a policy of faith; not, indeed, of thoughtless
optimism, but of faith according to the definition which calls it "the
substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith,
by which nations as well as men must live, means nothing less than a
conviction that great principles, permanent truths of human nature, lie
at the bottom of all sound politics, and ought to be boldly and
consistently applied, even when temporary difficulties surround their
application. Such a principle is the belief in the power of freedom and
self-government to cure the faults of a nation, in the tendency of
responsibility to teach wisdom, and to make men see that justice and
order are the surest sources of prosperity. Such a principle is the
perception that national hatreds do not live on of themselves, but will
expire when oppression has ceased, as a fire burns out without fuel.
Such a principle is the recognition of the force of national sentiment,
and of the duty of allowing it all the satisfaction that is compatible
with the maintenance of imperial unity. Such, again, is the appreciation
of those natural economic laws which show that nations, when disturbing
passions have ceased, follow their own permanent interests, and that an
island which finds its chief market in England and draws its capital
from England will prefer a connection with England to the poverty and
insignificance of isolation. It is the honour of Mr. Gladstone to have
built his policy of conciliation upon principles like these, as upon a
rock; and already the good effects are seen in the new friendliness
which has arisen between the English masses and the people of Ireland,
and in the better temper with which, despite the acrimony of some
prominent politicians, the relations of the two peoples are discussed.
When one looks round the horizon it is still far from clear; nor can we
say from which quarter fair weather will arrive. But the air is fresher,
and the clouds are breaking overhead.

       *       *       *       *       *


What has happened since the above paragraphs were written, ten months
ago, has confirmed more quickly and completely than the writer expected
the forecasts they contain. Home Rule is no longer a word of terror,
even to those English and Scotch voters who were opposed to it in July,
1886. Most sensible men in the Tory and Dissentient Liberal camps have
come to see that it is inevitable; and, while they continue to resist
it for the sake of what is called consistency, or because they do not
yet see in what form it is to be granted, they are disposed to regard
its speedy arrival as the best method of retreat from an indefensible

The repressive policy which the present Ministry are attempting in
Ireland--for in the face of their failures one cannot say that they are
carrying out any policy--is rendering Coercion Acts more and more
detested by the English people. The actualities of Ireland, the social
condition of her peasantry, the unwisdom of the dominant caste, the
incompetence of the bureaucracy which affects to rule her, are being, by
the full accounts we now receive, brought home to the mind of England
and Scotland as they never were before, and produce their appropriate
effect upon the heart and conscience of the people. The recognition by
the Liberal party of the rights of Ireland, the visits of English
Liberals to Ireland, the work done by Irishmen in English
constituencies, are creating a feeling of unity and reciprocal interest
between the masses of the people on both sides of the Channel without
example in the seven hundred years that have passed since Strongbow's

This was the thing most needed to make Home Rule safe and full of
promise, because it affords a guarantee that in such political contests
as may arise in future, the division will not be, as heretofore, between
the Irish people on the one side and the power of Britain on the other,
but between two parties, each of which will have adherents in both
islands. We may now at last hope that national hatreds will vanish; that
England will unlearn her arrogance and Ireland her suspicion; that the
basis is being laid for a harmonious co-operation of both nations in
promoting the welfare and greatness of a common Empire.

Many of the Irish patriots of 1798 and 1848 desired Separation, because
they thought that Ireland, attached to England, could never be more
than the obscure satellite of a greater State. When Ireland has been
heartily welcomed by the democracy of Great Britain as an equal partner,
the ground for any such desire will have disappeared, and Union will
rest on a foundation firmer than has ever before existed. Ireland will
feel, when those rights of self-government have been secured for which
she has pleaded so long, that she owes them, not only to her own
tenacity and courage, but to the magnanimity, the justice, and the
freely given sympathy of the English and Scottish people.

_October_, 1887.


[Footnote 69: This article, which originally appeared in the American
_New Princeton Review_, has been added to in a few places, in order to
bring its narrative of facts up to date.]

[Footnote 70: The experience of the last few months, which has shown us
rural Boards of Guardians and municipal bodies over four-fifths of
Ireland displaying their zeal in the Nationalist cause, has amply
confirmed this anticipation, expressed nearly a year ago.]



It is a favourite line of argument to show that we have no choice
between the maintenance of the Union and the concession to Ireland of
national independence. The evils of Irish independence are universally
reckoned by Englishmen to be so intolerable that we shall never agree to
it. The evils of Home Rule are even more intolerable still. Therefore,
it is said, if we shall never willingly bring the latter upon our heads,
_à fortiori_ we ought on no account to invite the former. The business
in hand, however, is not a theorem, but a problem; it is not a thesis to
be proved, but a malady to be cured; and the world will thank only the
reasoner who winds up, not with Q.E.D., but with Q.E.F. To reason that a
patient ought not to take a given medicine because it may possibly cause
him more pain than some other medicine which he has no intention of
taking, is curiously oblique logic. The question is not oblique; it is
direct. Will the operation do more harm to his constitution than the
slow corrosions of a disorder grown inveterate? Are the conditions of
the connection between England and Ireland, as laid down in the Act of
Union, incapable of improvement? Is the present working of these
conditions more prosperous and hopeful, or happier for Irish order and
for English institutions, than any practicable proposal that it is
within the compass of statesmanship to devise, and of civic sense to
accept and to work? That is the question.

Some people contend that the burden of making out a case rests on the
advocate of change, and not on those who support things as they are. But
who supports things as they are? Things as they are have become
insupportable. If you make any of the constitutional changes that have
been proposed, we are told, parliamentary government, as Englishmen now
know it, is at an end; and our critic stands amazed at those "who deem
it a slighter danger to innovate on the Act of Union than to remodel the
procedure of the House of Commons." As if that were the alternative.
Great changes in the rules may do other good things, but no single
competent authority believes that in this particular they will do the
thing that we want. We cannot avoid constitutional changes. It is made
matter of crushing rebuke that the Irish proposals of the late
Government were an innovation on the old constitution of the realm. But
everybody knows that, while ancient forms have survived, the last
hundred years have witnessed a long succession of silent but most
profound innovations. It was shortsighted to assume that the
redistribution of political power that took place in 1884-5 was the last
chapter of the history of constitutional change. It ought to have been
foreseen that new possessors of power, both Irish and British, would
press for objects the pursuit of which would certainly involve further
novelties in the methods and machinery of government. Every given
innovation must be rigorously scrutinized, but in the mere change or in
the fact of innovation there is no valid reproach. When one of the
plans for the better government of Ireland is described as depriving
parliamentary institutions of their elasticity and strength, as
weakening the Executive at home, and lessening the power of the country
to resist foreign attack, no careful observer of the events of the last
seven years can fail to see that all this evil has already got its grip
upon us. Mr. Dicey himself admits it. "Great Britain," he says, "if left
to herself, could act with all the force, consistency, and energy given
by unity of sentiment and community of interests. The obstruction and
the uncertainty of our political aims, the feebleness and inconsistency
with which they are pursued, arise in part at least from the connection
with Ireland." So then, after all, it is feebleness and inconsistency,
not elasticity and strength, that mark our institutions as they stand;
feebleness and inconsistency, distraction and uncertainty. The supporter
of things as they are is decidedly as much concerned in making out a
case as the advocate of change.

The strength of the argument from Nationality is great, and full of
significance; but Nationality is not the whole essence of either the
argument from History or the argument from Self-government. Their force
lies in considerations of political expediency as tested by practical

The point of the argument from the lessons of History is that for some
reason or another the international concern, whose unlucky affairs we
are now trying to unravel, has always been carried on at a loss: the
point of the argument from Self-government is that the loss would have
been avoided if the Irish shareholders had for a certain number of the
transactions been more influentially represented on the Board. That is
quite apart from the sentiment of pure nationality. The failure has come
about, not simply because the laws were not made by Irishmen as such,
but because they were not made by the men who knew most about Ireland.
The vice of the connection between the two countries has been the
stupidity of governing a country without regard to the interests or
customs, the peculiar objects and peculiar experiences, of the great
majority of the people who live in it. It is not enough to say that the
failures of England in Ireland have to a great extent flowed from causes
too general to be identified with the intentional wrong-doing either of
rulers or of subjects. We readily admit that, but it is not the point.
It is not enough to insist that James I., in his plantations and
transplantations, probably meant well to his Irish subjects. Probably he
did. That is not the question. If it is "absolutely certain that his
policy worked gross wrong," what is the explanation and the defence? We
are quite content with Mr. Dicey's own answer. "Ignorance and want of
sympathy produced all the evils of cruelty and malignity. An intended
reform produced injustice, litigation, misery, and discontent. The case
is noticeable, for it is a type of a thousand subsequent English
attempts to reform and improve Ireland." This description would apply,
with hardly a word altered, to the wrong done by the Encumbered Estates
Act in the reign of Queen Victoria. That memorable measure, as Mr.
Gladstone said, was due not to the action of a party, but to the action
of a Parliament. Sir Robert Peel was hardly less responsible for it than
Lord John Russell. "We produced it," said Mr. Gladstone, "with a
general, lazy, uninformed, and irreflective good intention of taking
capital to Ireland. What did we do? We sold the improvements of the
tenants" (House of Commons, April 16). It is the same story, from the
first chapter to the last, in education, poor law, public works, relief
Acts, even in coercion Acts--lazy, uninformed, and irreflective good
intention. That is the argument from history. When we are asked what
good law an Irish Parliament would make that could not equally well be
made by the Parliament at Westminster, this is the answer. It is not
the will, it is the intelligence, that is wanting. We all know what the
past has been. Why should the future be different?

"It is an inherent condition of human affairs," said Mill in a book
which, in spite of some chimeras, is a wholesome corrective of the
teaching of our new jurists, "that no intention, however sincere, of
protecting the interests of others can make it safe or salutary to tie
up their own hands. Still more obviously true is it, that by their own
hands only can any positive and durable improvement of their
circumstances in life be worked out" (_Repres. Government_, p. 57). It
is these wise lessons from human experience to which the advocate of
Home Rule appeals, and not the wild doctrine that any body of persons
claiming to be united by a sense of nationality possesses _an inherent
and divine right_ to be treated as an independent community. It is quite
true that circumstances sometimes justify a temporary dictatorship. In
that there is nothing at variance with Liberalism. But the Parliamentary
dictatorship in Ireland has lasted a great deal too long to be called
temporary, and its stupid shambling operations are finally and
decisively condemned by their consequences. That is a straightforward
utilitarian argument, and has nothing whatever to do with inherent and
divine rights, or any other form of political moonshine.

There are some who believe that an honest centralized administration of
impartial officials, and not Local Self-Government, would best meet the
real wants of the people. In other words, everything is to be for the
people, nothing by the people--which has not hitherto been a Liberal
principle. Something, however, may be said for this view, provided that
the source of the authority of such an administration be acceptable.
Austrian administration in Lombardy was good rather than bad, yet it was
hated and resisted because it was Austrian and not Italian. No rational
person can hold for an instant that the source of a scheme of
government is immaterial to its prosperity. More than that, when people
look for success in the government of Ireland to "honest centralized
administration," we cannot but wonder what fault they find with the
administration of Ireland to-day in respect of its honesty or its
centralization. What administration ever carried either honesty or
centralization to a higher pitch than the Irish administration of Mr.
Forster? What could be less successful? Those who have been most
directly concerned in the government of Ireland, whether English or
Irish, even while alive to the perils of any other principle, habitually
talk of centralization as the curse of the system. Here, again, why
should we expect success in the future from a principle that has so
failed in the past?

Again, how are we to get a strong centralized administration in the face
of a powerful and hostile parliamentary representation? It is very easy
to talk of the benefits that might have been conferred on Ireland by
such humanity and justice as was practised by Turgot in his
administration of the Generality of Limoges. But Turgot was not
confronted by eighty-six Limousin members of an active sovereign body,
all interested in making his work difficult, and trusted by a large
proportion of the people of the province with that as their express
commission. It is possible to have an honest centralized administration
of great strength and activity in India, but there is no Parliament in
India. If India, or any province of it, ever gets representative
government and our parliamentary system, from that hour, if there be any
considerable section of Indian feeling averse from European rule, the
present administrative system will be paralyzed, as the preliminary to
being revolutionized. It is conceivable, if any one chooses to think so,
that a body of impartial officials could manage the national business in
Ireland much better without the guidance of public opinion and common
sentiment than with it. But if you intend to govern the country as you
think best--and that is the plain and practical English of centralized
administration--why ask the country to send a hundred men to the great
tribunal of supervision to inform you how it would like to be governed?
The Executive cannot set them aside as if they were a hundred dummies;
in refusing to be guided, it cannot escape being harassed, by them. You
may amend procedure, but that is no answer, unless you amend the Irish
members out of voice and vote. They will still count. You cannot gag and
muzzle them effectually, and if you could, they would still be there,
and their presence would still make itself incessantly felt. Partly from
a natural desire to lessen the common difficulties of government, and
partly from a consciousness, due to the prevailing state of the modern
political atmosphere, that there is something wrong in this total
alienation of an Executive from the possessors of parliamentary power,
the officials will incessantly be tempted to make tacks out of their own
course; and thus they lose the coherency and continuity of absolutism
without gaining the pliant strength of popular government. This is not a
presumption of what would be likely to happen, but an account of what
does happen, and what justified Mr. Disraeli in adding a weak Executive
to the alien Church and the absentee aristocracy, as the three great
curses of Ireland. Nothing has occurred since 1844 to render the
Executive stronger, but much to the contrary. There is, and there can
be, no weaker or less effective Government in the world than a highly
centralized system working alongside of a bitterly inimical popular
representation. I say nothing of the effect of the fluctuations of
English parties on Irish administration. I say nothing of the tendency
in an Irish government, awkwardly alternating with that to which I have
just adverted, to look over the heads of the people of Ireland, and to
consider mainly what will be thought by the ignorant public in England.
But these sources of incessant perturbation must not be left out. The
fault of Irish centralization is not that it is strong, but that it is
weak. Weak it must remain until Parliament either approves of the
permanent suspension of the Irish writs, or else devises constitutional
means for making Irish administration responsible to Irish

If experience is decisive against the policy of the past, experience
too, all over the modern world, indicates the better direction for the
future. I will not use my too scanty space in repeating any of the great
wise commonplaces in praise of self-government. Here they are
superfluous. In the case of Ireland they have all been abundantly
admitted in a long series of measures, from Catholic Emancipation down
to Lord O'Hagan's Jury Law and the Franchise and Redistribution Acts of
a couple of years ago. The principle of self-government has been
accepted, ratified, and extended in a hundred ways. It is only a
question of the form that self-government shall take. Against the form
proposed by the late Ministry a case is built up that rests on a series
of prophetic assumptions. These assumptions, from the nature of the
case, can only be met by a counter-statement of fair and reasonable
probabilities. Let us enumerate some of them.

1. It is inferred that, because the Irish leaders have used violent
language and resorted to objectionable expedients against England during
the last six years, they would continue in the same frame of mind after
the reasons for it had disappeared. In other words, because they have
been the enemies of a Government which refused to listen to a
constitutional demand, therefore they would continue to be its enemies
after the demand had been listened to. On this reasoning, the effect is
to last indefinitely and perpetually, notwithstanding the cessation of
the cause. Our position is that all the reasonable probabilities of
human conduct point the other way. The surest way of justifying violent
language and fostering treasonable designs, is to refuse to listen to
the constitutional demand.

2. The Irish, we are told, hate the English with an irreconcilable
hatred, and would unquestionably use any Constitution as an instrument
for satisfying their master passion. Irrational hatred, they say, can be
treated by rational men with composure. The Czechs of Bohemia are said
to be irreconcilable, yet the South Germans bear with their hatred; and
if we cannot cure we might endure the antipathy of Ireland. Now, as for
the illustration, I may remark that the hatred of the Czechs would be
much too formidable for German composure, if the Czechs did not happen
to possess a provincial charter and a special constitution of their own.
If the Irish had the same, their national dislike--so far as it
exists--might be expected to become as bearable as the Germans have
found the feeling of the Czechs. But how deep does Irish dislike go? Is
it directed against Englishmen, or against an English official system?
The answers of every impartial observer to the whole group of such
questions as these favour the conclusion that the imputed hatred of
England in Ireland has been enormously exaggerated and overcoloured by
Ascendency politicians for good reasons of their own; that with the
great majority of Irishmen it has no deep roots; that it is not one of
those passionate international animosities that blind men to their own
interests, or lead them to sacrifice themselves for the sake of injuring
their foe; and, finally, that it would not survive the amendment of the
system that has given it birth.[72]

3. It is assumed that there is a universal desire for Separation. That
there is a strong sentiment of nationality we of course admit; it is
part of the case, and not the worst part. But the sentiment of
nationality is a totally different thing from a desire for Separation.
Scotland might teach our pseudo-Unionists so much as that. Nowhere in
the world is the sentiment of nationality stronger, yet there is not a
whisper of Separation. That there is a section of Irishmen who desire
Separation is notorious, but everything that has happened since the
Government of Ireland Bill was introduced, including the remarkable
declarations of Mr. Parnell in accepting the Bill (June 7), and
including the proceedings at Chicago, shows that the separatist section
is a very small one either in Ireland or in America, and that it has
become sensibly smaller since, and in consequence of, the proposed
concession of a limited statutory constitution. The Irish are quite
shrewd enough to know that Separation, if it were attainable--and they
are well aware that it is not--would do no good to their markets; and to
that knowledge, as well as to many other internal considerations, we may
confidently look for the victory of strong centripetal over very weak
centrifugal tendencies. Even if we suppose these centrifugal tendencies
to be stronger than I would allow them to be, how shall we best resist
them--by strengthening the hands and using the services of the party
which, though nationalist, is also constitutional; or by driving that
party also, in despair of a constitutional solution, to swell the ranks
of Extremists and Irreconcilables?

4. Whatever may be the ill-feeling towards England, it is at least
undeniable that there are bitter internal animosities in Ireland, and a
political constitution, our opponents argue, can neither assuage
religious bigotry nor remove agrarian discontent.

It is true, no doubt, that the old feud between Protestant and Catholic
might, perhaps, not instantly die down to the last smouldering embers of
it all over Ireland. But we may remark that there is no perceptible bad
blood between Protestant and Catholic, outside of one notorious corner.
Second, the real bitterness of the feud arose from the fact that
Protestantism was associated with an exclusive and hostile ascendency,
which would now be brought to an end. Whatever feeling about what is
called Ulster exists in the rest of Ireland, arises not from the fact
that there are Protestants in Ulster, but that the Protestants are
anti-National. Third, the Catholics would no longer be one compact body
for persecuting, obscurantist, or any other evil purposes; the abatement
of the national struggle would allow the Catholics to fall into the two
natural divisions of Clerical and Liberal. What we may be quite sure of
is that the feud will never die so long as sectarian pretensions are
taken as good reasons for continuing bad government.

It is true, again, that a constitution would not necessarily remove
agrarian discontent. But it is just as true that you will never remove
agrarian discontent without a constitution. Mr. Dicey, on consideration,
will easily see why. Here we come to an illustration, and a very
impressive illustration it is, of the impotence of England to do for
Ireland the good which Ireland might do for herself. Nobody just now is
likely to forget the barbarous condition of the broad fringe of
wretchedness on the west coast of Ireland. Of this Lord Dufferin truly
said in 1880 that no legislation could touch it, that no alteration in
the land laws could effectually ameliorate it, and that it must continue
until the world's end unless something be contrived totally to change
the conditions of existence in that desolate region. Parliament lavishly
pours water into the sieve in the shape of Relief Acts. Even in my own
short tenure of office I was responsible for one of these terribly
wasteful and profoundly unsatisfactory measures. Instead of relief, what
a statesman must seek is prevention of this great evil and strong root
of evil; and prevention means a large, though it cannot be a very swift,
displacement of the population. But among the many experts with whom I
have discussed this dolorous and perplexing subject, I never found one
of either political party who did not agree that a removal of the
surplus population was only practicable if carried out by an Irish
authority, backed by the solid weight of Irish opinion. Any exertion of
compulsory power by a British Minister would raise the whole
country-side in squalid insurrection, government would become
impossible, and the work of transplantation would end in ghastly
failure. It is misleading and untrue, then, to say that there is no
possible relation between self-government and agrarian discontent,
misery, and backwardness; and when Mr. Dicey and others tell us that the
British Parliament is able to do all good things for Ireland, I would
respectfully ask them how a British Parliament is to deal with the
Congested Districts.

Nearly as much may be said of the prevention of the mischievous practice
of Subdivision. Some contend that the old disposition to subdivide is
dying out; others, however, assure us that it is making its appearance
even among the excellent class who purchased their holdings under the
Church Act. That Act did not prohibit subdivision, but it is prohibited
in the Act of 1881. Still the prohibition can only be made effective, if
operations take place on anything like a great scale, on condition that
representative, authorities resident on the spot have the power of
enforcing it, and have an interest in enforcing it. Some of the
pseudo-Unionists are even against any extension of local
self-government, and if it be unaccompanied by the creation of a central
native authority they are right. What such people fail to see is that,
in resisting political reconstruction, they are at the same time
resisting the only available remedies for some of the worst of agrarian

The ruinous interplay between agrarian and political forces, each using
the other for ends of its own, will never cease so long as the political
demand is in every form resisted. That, we are told, is all the fault of
the politicians. Be it so; then the Government must either suppress the
politicians outright, or else it must interest them in getting the terms
of its land settlement accepted and respected. Home Rule on our scheme
was, among other things, part of an arrangement for "settling the
agrarian feud." It was a means of interposing between the Irish tenant
and the British State an authority interested enough and strong enough
to cause the bargain to be kept. It is said that the Irish authority
would have had neither interest nor strength enough to resist the forces
making for repudiation. Would those forces be any less irresistible if
the whole body of the Irish peasantry stood, as Land Purchase _minus_
Self-Government makes them to stand, directly face to face with the
British State? This is a question that our opponents cannot evade, any
more than they can evade that other question, which lies unnoticed at
the back of all solutions of the problem by way of peasant
ownership--Whether it is possible to imagine the land of Ireland handed
over to Irishmen, and yet the government of Ireland kept exclusively and
directly by Englishmen? Such a divorce is conceivable under a rule like
that of the British in India: with popular institutions it is
inconceivable and impossible.

5. It is argued that Home Rule on Mr. Gladstone's plan would not work,
because it follows in some respects the colonial system, whereas the
conditions at the root of the success of the system in the Colonies do
not exist in Ireland. They are distant, Ireland is near; they are
prosperous, Ireland is poor; they are proud of the connection with
England, Ireland resents it. But the question is not whether the
conditions are identical with those of any colony; it is enough if in
themselves they seem to promise a certain basis for government. It might
justly be contended that proximity is a more favourable condition than
distance; without it there could not be that close and constant
intercommunication which binds the material interests of Ireland to
those of Great Britain, and so provides the surest guarantee for union.
If Ireland were suddenly to find herself as far off as Canada, then
indeed one might be very sorry to answer for the Union. Again, though
Ireland has to bear her share of the prevailing depression in the chief
branch of her production, it is a great mistake to suppose that outside
of the margin of chronic wretchedness in the west and south-west, the
condition not only of the manufacturing industries of the north, but of
the agricultural industry in the richer parts of the middle and south,
is so desperately unprosperous as to endanger a political constitution.
Under our stupidily [Transcriber: sic] centralized system, Irishmen have
no doubt acquired the enervating trick of attributing every misfortune,
great or small, public or private, to the Government. When they learn
the lessons of responsibility, they will unlearn this fatal habit, and
not before.

I do not see, therefore, that the differences in condition between
Ireland and the Colonies make against Home Rule. What I do see is ample
material out of which would arise a strong and predominant party of
order. The bulk of the nation are sons and daughters of a Church which
has been hostile to revolution in every country but Ireland, and which
would be hostile to it there from the day that the cause of revolution
ceased to be the cause of self-government. If the peasantry were made to
realize that at last the land settlement, wisely and equitably made, was
what it must inexorably remain, and what no politicians could help them
to alter, they would be as conservative as the peasantry under a similar
condition in every other spot on the surface of the globe. There is no
reason to expect that the manufacturers, merchants, and shopkeepers of
Ireland would be less willing or less able to play an active and useful
part in the affairs of their country than the same classes in England or
Scotland. It will be said that this is mere optimist prophesying. But
why is that to be flung aside under the odd name of sentimentalism,
while pessimist prophesying is to be taken for gospel?

The only danger is lest we should allot new responsibilities to Irishmen
with a too grudging and restrictive hand. For true responsibility there
must be real power. It is easy to say that this power would be misused,
and that the conditions both of Irish society and of the proposed
Constitution must prevent it from being used for good. It is easy to say
that separation would be a better end. Life is too short to discuss
that. Separation is not the alternative either to Home Rule or to the
_status quo_. If the people of Ireland are not to be trusted with real
power over their own affairs, it would be a hundred times more just to
England, and more merciful to Ireland, to take away from her that
semblance of free government which torments and paralyzes one country,
while it robs the other of national self-respect and of all the
strongest motives and best opportunities of self-help. The _status quo_
is drawing very near to its inevitable end. The two courses then open
will be Home Rule on the one hand, and some shy bungling underhand
imitation of a Crown Colony on the other. We shall have either to listen
to the Irish representatives or to suppress them. Unless we have lost
all nerve and all political faculty we shall, before many months are
over, face these alternatives. Liberals are for the first; Tories at
present incline to the second. It requires very moderate instinct for
the forces at work in modern politics to foresee the path along which we
shall move, in the interests alike of relief to Great Britain and of a
sounder national life for Ireland. The only real question is not Whether
we are to grant Home Rule, but How.


[Footnote 71: The following pages, with one or two slight alterations,
are extracted, by the kind permission of Mr. James Knowles, from two
articles which were published in the _Nineteenth Century_ at the
beginning of the present year, in reply to Professor Dicey's statement
of the English case against Home Rule.]

[Footnote 72: The late J.E. Cairnes, after describing the clearances
after the famine, goes on to say, "I own I cannot wonder that a thirst
for revenge should spring from such calamities; that hatred, even
undying hatred, for what they could not but regard as the cause and
symbol of their misfortunes--English rule in Ireland--should possess the
sufferers.... The disaffection now so widely diffused throughout Ireland
may possibly in some degree be fed from historical traditions, and have
its remote origin in the confiscations of the seventeenth century; but
all that gives it energy, all that renders it dangerous, may, I believe,
be traced to exasperation produced by recent transactions, and more
especially to the bitter memories left by that most flagrant abuse of
the rights of property and most scandalous disregard of the claims of
humanity--the wholesale clearances of the period following the
famine."--_Political Essays_, p. 198.]



Ireland for more than seven hundred years has been part of the British
territory, and has been with slight exceptions held by English arms, or
governed in the last resort from this side the water. Scotland was a
foreign country until 1603, and possessed absolute independence until
1707. Yet, whether it was due to the standing barrier of the sea, or
whatever may have been the cause, much less was known by Englishmen of
Ireland than of Scotland. Witness the works of Shakespeare, whose mind,
unless as to book-knowledge, was encyclopædic, and yet who, while he
seems at home in Scotland, may be said to tell us nothing of Ireland,
unless it is that--

    "The uncivil kerns of Ireland are in arms."[73]

During more recent times, the knowledge of Scotland on this side the
border, which before was greatly in advance, has again increased in afar
greater degree than the knowledge of Ireland.

It is to Mr. Lecky that we owe the first serious effort, both in his
_Leaders of Public Opinion_ and in his _History of England in the
Eighteenth Century_, to produce a better state of things. He carefully
and completely dovetailed the affairs of Ireland into English History,
and the debt is one to be gratefully acknowledged. But such remedies,
addressing themselves in the first instance to the lettered mind of the
country, require much time to operate upon the mass, and upon the organs
of superficial and transitory opinion, before the final stage, when they
enter into our settled and familiar traditions. Meantime, since Ireland
threatens to absorb into herself our Parliamentary life, there is a
greatly enhanced necessity for becoming acquainted with the true state
of the account between the islands that make up the United Kingdom, and
with the likelihoods of the future in Ireland, so far as they are to be
gathered from her past history.

That history, until the eighteenth century begins, has a dismal
simplicity about it. Murder, persecution, confiscation too truly
describe its general strain; and policy is on the whole subordinated to
violence as the standing instrument of government. But after, say, the
reign of William III., the element of representation begins to assert
itself. Simplicity is by degrees exchanged for complexity; the play of
human motives, singularly diversified, now becomes visible in the
currents of a real public life. It has for a very long time been my
habit, when consulted by young political students, to recommend them
carefully to study the characters and events of the American
Independence. Quite apart from the special and temporary reasons bearing
upon the case, I would now add a twin recommendation to examine and
ponder the lessons of Irish history during the eighteenth century. The
task may not be easy, but the reward will be ample.

The mainspring of public life had, from a venerable antiquity, lain _de
jure_ within Ireland herself. The heaviest fetter upon this life was the
Law of Poynings; the most ingenious device upon record for hamstringing
legislative independence, because it cut off the means of resumption
inherent in the nature of Parliaments such as were those of the three
countries. But the Law of Poynings was an Irish Law. Its operation
effectually aided on the civil side those ruder causes, under the action
of which Ireland had lain for four centuries usually passive, and
bleeding at every pore. The main factors of her destiny worked, in
practice, from this side the water. But from the reign of Anne, or
perhaps from the Revolution onwards,

    "Novus sæcorum nascitur ordo."

Of the three great nostrums so liberally applied by England, extirpation
and persecution had entirely failed, but confiscation had done its work.
The great Protestant landlordism of Ireland[74] had been strongly and
effectually built up. But, like other human contrivances, while it held
Ireland fast, it had also undesigned results. The repressed principle of
national life, the struggles of which had theretofore been extinguished
in blood, slowly sprang up anew in a form which, though extremely
narrow, and extravagantly imperfect, was armed with constitutional
guarantees; and, the regimen of violence once displaced, these
guarantees were sure to operate. What had been transacted in England
under Plantagenets and Stuarts was, to a large extent, transacted anew
by the Parliament of Ireland in the eighteenth century. That Parliament,
indeed, deserves almost every imaginable epithet of censure. It was
corrupt, servile, selfish, cruel. But when we have said all this, and
said it truly, there is more to tell. It was alive, and it was national.
Even absenteeism, that obstinately clinging curse, though it enfeebled
and distracted, could not, and did not, annihilate nationality. The
Irish Legislation was, moreover, compressed and thwarted by a foreign
executive; but even to this tremendous agent the vital principle was
too strong eventually to succumb.

Mr. Lecky well observes that the Irish case supplied "one of the most
striking examples upon record"[75] of an unconquerable efficacy in even
the most defective Parliament. I am, however, doubtful whether in this
proposition we have before us the whole case. This efficacy is not
invariably found even in tolerably constructed Parliaments. Why do we
find it in a Parliament of which the constitution and the environment
were alike intolerable? My answer is, because that Parliament found
itself faced by a British influence which was entirely anti-national,
and was thus constrained to seek for strength in the principle of

Selfishness is a rooted principle of action in nations not less than in
single persons. It seems to draw a certain perfume from the virtue of
patriotism, which lies upon its borders. It stalks abroad with a
semblance of decency, nay, even of excellence. And under this cover a
paramount community readily embraces the notion, that a dependent
community may be made to exist not for its own sake, but for the sake of
an extraneous society of men. With this idea, the European nations,
utterly benighted in comparison with the ancient Greeks, founded their
transmarine dependencies. But a vast maritime distance, perhaps aided by
some filtration of sound ideas, prevented the application of this theory
in its nakedness and rigour to the American Colonies of England. In
Ireland we had not even the title of founders to allege. Nay, we were,
in point of indigenous civilization, the junior people. But the maritime
severance, sufficient to prevent accurate and familiar knowledge, was
not enough to bar the effective exercise of overmastering power. And
power was exercised, at first from without, to support the Pale, to
enlarge it, to make it include Ireland. When this had been done, power
began, in the seventeenth century, to be exercised from within Ireland,
within the precinct of its government and its institutions. These were
carefully corrupted, from the multiplication of the Boroughs by James I.
onwards, for the purpose. The struggle became civil, instead of martial;
and it was mainly waged by agencies on the spot, not from beyond the
Channel. When the rule of England passed over from the old violence into
legal forms and doctrines, the Irish reaction against it followed the
example. And the legal idea of Irish nationality took its rise in very
humble surroundings; if the expression may be allowed, it was born in
the slums of politics. Ireland reached the nadir of political depression
when, at and after the Boyne, she had been conquered not merely by an
English force, but by continental mercenaries. The ascendant
Protestantism of the island had never stood so low in the aspect it
presented to this country; inasmuch as the Irish Parliament, for the
first time, I believe, declared itself dependent upon England,[76] and
either did not desire, or did not dare, to support its champion
Molyneux, when his work asserting Irish independence was burned in
London. It petitioned for representation in the English Parliament, not
in order to uplift the Irish people, but in order to keep them down. In
its sympathies and in its aims the overwhelming mass of the population
had no share. It was Swift who, by the _Drapier's Letters_, for the
first time called into existence a public opinion flowing from and
representing Ireland as a whole. He reasserted the doctrine of Molyneux,
and denounced Wood's halfpence not only as a foul robbery, but as a
constitutional and as a national insult. The patience of the Irish
Protestants was tried very hard, and they were forced, as Sir Charles
Duffy states in his vivid book, to purchase the power of oppressing
their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen at a great price.[77] Their
pension list was made to provide the grants too degrading to be
tolerated in England. The Presbyterians had to sit down under the
Episcopal monopoly; but the enjoyment of that monopoly was not left to
the Irish Episcopalians. In the time of Henry VIII. it had been
necessary to import an English Archbishop Browne[78] and an English
Bishop Bale, or there might not have been a single Protestant in
Ireland. It was well to enrich the rolls of the Church of Ireland with
the piety and learning of Ussher, and to give her in Bedell one name, at
least, which carries the double crown of the hero and the saint. But,
after the Restoration, by degrees the practice degenerated, and
Englishmen were appointed in numbers to the Irish Episcopate in order to
fortify and develop by numerical force what came to be familiarly known
as the English interest. So that the Primate Boulter, during his
government of Ireland, complains[79] that Englishmen are still less than
one-half the whole body of Bishops, although the most important sees
were to a large extent in their hands. The same practice was followed in
the higher judicial offices. Fitzgibbon was the first Irishman who
became Lord Chancellor.[80] The Viceroy, commonly absent, was
represented by Lords Justices, who again were commonly English; and
Primate Boulter, a most acute and able man, jealous of an Irish Speaker
in that character, recommends that the commander of the forces should
take his place.[81] When, later on, the Viceroy resided, it was a rule
that the Chief Secretary should be an Englishman. On the occasion when
Lord Castlereagh was by way of exception admitted to that office, an
apology was found for it in his entire devotion to English policy and
purposes. "His appointment," says Lord Cornwallis, "gives me great
satisfaction, as he is so very unlike an Irishman!"[82] Resources were
also found in the military profession, and among the voters for the
Union we find the names of eight[83] English generals.

The arrangements under Poynings's Law, and the commercial proscription,
drove the iron ever deeper and deeper into the souls of Irishmen. It is
but small merit in the Irish Parliament of George I. and George II., if
under these circumstances a temper was gradually formed in, and
transmitted by, them, which might one day achieve the honours of
patriotism. It was in dread of this most healthful process, that the
English Government set sedulously to work for its repression. The odious
policy was maintained by a variety of agencies; by the misuse of Irish
revenue, a large portion of which was unhappily under their control; by
maintaining the duration of the Irish House of Commons for the life of
the Sovereign; and, worst of all, by extending the range of corruption
within the walls, through the constant multiplication of paid offices
tenable by members of Parliament without even the check of re-election
on acceptance.

Thus by degrees those who sat in the Irish Houses came to feel both that
they had a country, and that their country had claims upon them. The
growth of a commercial interest in the Roman Catholic body must have
accelerated the growth of this idea, as that interest naturally fell
into line with the resistance to the English prescriptive laws. But the
rate of progress was fearfully slow. It was hemmed in on every side by
the obstinate unyielding pressure of selfish interests: the interest of
the Established Church against the Presbyterians; the interest of the
Protestant laity, or tithe-payers, against the clergy; the bold
unscrupulous interest of a landlords' Parliament against the occupier of
the soil; which, together with the grievance of the system of
tithe-proctors, established in Ireland through the Whiteboys the fatal
alliance between resistance to wrong and resistance to law, and supplied
there the yet more disastrous facility of sustaining and enforcing wrong
under the name of giving support to public tranquillity. Yet, forcing on
its way amidst all these difficulties by a natural law, in a strange
haphazard and disjointed method, and by a zigzag movement, there came
into existence, and by degrees into steady operation, a sentiment native
to Ireland and having Ireland for its vital basis, and yet not deserving
the name of Irish patriotism, because its care was not for a nation, but
for a sect. For a sect, in a stricter sense than may at first sight be
supposed. The battle was not between Popery and a generalized
Protestantism, though, even if it had been so, it would have been
between a small minority and the vast majority of the Irish people. It
was not a party of ascendency, but a party of monopoly, that ruled. It
must always be borne in mind that the Roman Catholic aristocracy had
been emasculated, and reduced to the lowest point of numerical and moral
force by the odious action of the penal laws, and that the mass of the
Roman Catholic population, clerical and lay, remained under the grinding
force of many-sided oppression, and until long after the accession of
George III. had scarcely a consciousness of political existence. As long
as the great bulk of the nation could be equated to zero, the Episcopal
monopolists had no motive for cultivating the good-will of the
Presbyterians, who like the Roman Catholics maintained their religion,
with the trivial exception of the _Regium Donum_, by their own
resources, and who differed from them in being not persecuted, but only
disabled. And this monopoly, which drew from the sacred name of religion
its title to exist, offered through centuries an example of religious
sterility to which a parallel can hardly be found among the communions
of the Christian world. The sentiment, then, which animated the earlier
efforts of the Parliament might be _Iricism_, but did not become
patriotism until it had outgrown, and had learned to forswear or to
forget, the conditions of its infancy. Neither did it for a long time
acquire the courage of its opinions; for, when Lucas, in the middle of
the century, reasserted the doctrine of Molyneux and of Swift, the Grand
Jury of Dublin took part against him, and burned his book.[84] And the
Parliament,[85] prompted by the Government, drove him into exile. And
yet the smoke showed that there was fire. The infant, that confronted
the British Government in the Parliament House, had something of the
young Hercules about him. In the first exercises of strength he acquired
more strength, and in acquiring more strength he burst the bonds that
had confined him.

    "Es machte mir zu eng, ich mussie fort."[86]

The reign of George IV. began with resolute efforts of the Parliament
not to lengthen, as in England under his grandfather, but to shorten its
own commission, and to become septennial. Surely this was a noble
effort. It meant the greatness of their country, and it meant also
personal self-sacrifice. The Parliament which then existed, elected
under a youth of twenty-two, had every likelihood of giving to the bulk
of its members a seat for life. This they asked to change for a
_maximum_ term of seven years. This from session to session, in spite of
rejection after rejection in England, they resolutely fought to obtain.
It was an English amendment which, on a doubtful pretext; changed seven
years to eight. Without question some acted under the pressure of
constituents; but only a minority of the members had constituents, and
popular exigencies from such a quarter might have been bought off by an
occasional vote, and could not have induced a war with the Executive and
with England so steadily continued, unless a higher principle had been
at work.

The triumph came at last; and from 1768 onwards the Commons never wholly
relapsed into their former quiescence. True, this was for a Protestant
House, constituency, and nation; but ere long they began to enlarge
their definition of nationality. Flood and Lucas, the commanders in the
real battle, did not dream of giving the Roman Catholics a political
existence, but to their own constituents they performed an honourable
service and gave a great boon. Those, who had insincerely supported the
measure, became the dupes of their own insincerity. In the very year of
this victory, a Bill for a slight relaxation of the penal laws was
passed, but met its death in England.[87] Other Bills followed, and one
of them became an Act in 1771. A beginning had thus been made on behalf
of religious liberty, as a corollary to political emancipation. It was
like a little ray of light piercing its way through the rocks into a
cavern and supplying the prisoner at once with guidance and with hope.
Resolute action, in withholding or shortening supply, convinced the
Executive in Dublin, and the Ministry in London, that serious business
was intended. And it appeared, even in this early stage, how necessary
it was for a fruitful campaign on their own behalf to enlarge their
basis, and enlist the sympathies of hitherto excluded fellow-subjects.

It may seem strange that the first beginnings of successful endeavour
should have been made on behalf not of the "common Protestantism," but
of Roman Catholics. But, as Mr. Lecky has shown, the Presbyterians had
been greatly depressed and distracted, while the Roman Catholics had now
a strong position in the commerce of the country, and in Dublin
knocked, as it were, at the very doors of the Parliament. There may also
have been an apprehension of republican sentiments among the Protestants
of the north, from which the Roman Catholics were known to be free. Not
many years, however, passed before the softening and harmonizing
effects, which naturally flow from a struggle for liberty, warmed the
sentiment of the House in favour of the Presbyterians.

A Bill was passed by the Irish Parliament in 1778, which greatly
mitigated the stringency of the penal laws. Moreover, in its preamble
was recited, as a ground for this legislation, that for "a long series
of years" the Roman Catholics had exhibited an "uniform peaceable
behaviour." In doing and saying so much, the Irish Parliament virtually
bound itself to do more.[88] In this Bill was contained a clause which
repealed the Sacramental Test, and thereby liberated the Presbyterians
from disqualification. But the Bill had to pass the ordeal of a review
in England, and there the clause was struck out. The Bill itself, though
mutilated, was wisely passed by a majority of 127 to 89. Even in this
form it excited the enthusiastic admiration of Burke.[89] Nor were the
Presbyterians forgotten at the epoch when, in 1779-80, England, under
the pressure of her growing difficulties, made large commercial
concessions to Ireland. The Dublin Parliament renewed the Bill for the
removal of the Sacramental Test. And it was carried by the Irish
Parliament in the very year which witnessed in London the disgraceful
riots of Lord George Gordon, and forty-eight years before the Imperial
Parliament conceded, on this side the Channel, any similar relief. Other
contemporary signs bore witness to the growth of toleration; for the
Volunteers, founded in 1778, and originally a Protestant body, after a
time received Roman Catholics into their ranks. These impartial
proceedings are all the more honourable to Irish sentiment in general,
because Lord Charlemont, its champion out of doors, and Flood, long the
leader of the Independent party in the Parliament, were neither of them
prepared to surrender the system of Protestant ascendency.

In order to measure the space which had at this period been covered by
the forward movement of liberality and patriotism, it is necessary to
look back to the early years of the Georgian period, when Whiggism had
acquired a decisive ascendency, and the spirits of the great deep were
let loose against Popery. But the temper of proscription in the two
countries exhibited specific differences. Extravagant in both, it became
in Ireland vulgar and indecent. In England, it was Tilburina,[90] gone
mad in white satin; in Ireland it was Tilburina's maid, gone mad in
white linen. The Lords Justices of Ireland, in 1715, recommended the
Parliament to put an end to all other distinctions in Ireland "but that
of Protestant and Papist."[91] And the years that followed seem to mark
the lowest point of constitutional depression for the Roman Catholic
population in particular, as well as for Ireland at large. The Commons,
in 1715, prayed for measures to discover any Papist enlisting in the
King's service, in order that he might be expelled "and punished with
the utmost severity of the law."[92] When an oath of abjuration had been
imposed which prevented nearly all priests from registering, a Bill was
passed by the Commons in 1719 for branding the letter P on the cheek of
all priests, who were unregistered, with a red-hot iron. The Privy
Council "disliked" this punishment, and substituted for it the loathsome
measure by which safe guardians are secured for Eastern harems. The
English Government could not stomach this beastly proposal; and, says
Mr. Lecky,[93] unanimously restored the punishment of branding. The
Bill was finally lost in Ireland, but only owing to a clause concerning
leases. It had gone to England winged with a prayer from the Commons
that it might be recommended "in the most effectual manner to his
Majesty," and by the assurance of the Viceroy in reply that they might
depend on his due regard to what was desired.[94] In the same year
passed the Act which declared the title of the British Parliament to
make laws for the government of Ireland. On the accession of George II.,
a considerable body of Roman Catholics offered an address of
congratulation. It was received by the Lords Justices with silent
contempt, and no one knows whether it ever reached its destination.
Finally, the acute state-craft of Primate Boulter resisted habitually
the creation of an "Irish interest," and above all any capacity of the
Roman Catholics to contribute to its formation; and in the first year of
George II. a clause was introduced in committee into a harmless Bill[95]
for the regulation of elections, which disfranchised at a single stroke
all the Roman Catholic voters in Ireland who up to that period had
always enjoyed the franchise.

It is painful to record the fact that the remarkable progress gradually
achieved was in no way due to British influence. For nearly forty years
from the arrival of Archbishop Boulter in Ireland, the government of
Ireland was in the hands of the Primates. The harshness of
administration was gradually tempered, especially in the brief
viceroyalty of Lord Chesterfield; but the British policy was steadily
opposed to the enlargement of Parliamentary privilege, or the creation
of any Irish interest, however narrow its basis, while the political
extinction of the mass of the people was complete. The pecuniary wants,
however, of the Government, extending beyond the hereditary revenue,
required a resort to the national purse. The demands which were
accordingly made, and these alone, supplied the Parliament with a
vantage-ground, and a principle of life. The action of this principle
brought with it civilizing and humanizing influences, which had become
clearly visible in the early years of George III., and which were
cherished by the war of American Independence, as by a strong current of
fresh air in a close and murky dungeon.

The force of principles, and the significance of political achievements,
is to be estimated in no small degree by the slenderness of the means
available to those who promote them. And the progress brought about in
the Irish Parliament is among the most remarkable on record, because it
was effected against the joint resistance of a hostile Executive and of
an intolerable constitution. Of the three hundred members, about
two-thirds were nominated by individual patrons and by close
corporations. What was still worse, the action of the Executive was
increasingly directed, as the pulse of the national life came to beat
more vigorously, to the systematic corruption of the Parliament borough
pensions and paid offices. In the latter part of the century, more than
one-third of the members of Parliament were dismissible at pleasure from
public emoluments. If the base influence of the Executive allied itself
with the patriotic party, everything might be hoped. For we must bear in
mind not only the direct influence of this expenditure on those who were
in possession, but the enormous power of expectancy on those who were
not. Conversely, when the Government were determined to do wrong, there
were no means commonly available of forcing it to do right, in any
matter that touched either religious bigotry or selfish interest. With
so miserable an apparatus, and in the face of the ever-wakeful Executive
sustained by British power, it is rather wonderful how much than how
little was effected. I am not aware of a single case in which a measure
on behalf of freedom was proposed by British agency, and rejected by
the Irish Parliament. On the other hand, we have a long list of the
achievements of that Parliament due to a courage and perseverance which
faced and overcame a persistent English opposition. Among other
exploits, it established periodical elections, obtained the writ of
Habeas Corpus, carried the independence of the judges, repealed the Test
Act, limited the abominable expenditure on pensions, subjected the
acceptance of office from the crown to the condition of re-election, and
achieved, doubtless with the powerful aid of the volunteers, freedom of
trade with England, and the repeal of Poynings's Act, and of the British
Act of 1719.[96]

All this it did without the manifestation, either within the walls or
among the Roman Catholic population, of any disposition to weaken the
ties which bound Ireland to the empire. All this it did; and what had
the British Parliament been about during the same period, with its
vastly greater means both of self-defence and of action? It had been
building up the atrocious criminal code, tampering in the case of Wilkes
with liberty of election, and tampering with many other liberties;
driving, too, the American Colonies into rebellion, while, as to good
legislation, the century is almost absolutely blank, until between 1782
and 1793 we have the establishment of Irish freedom, the economical
reform of Mr. Burke, the financial reforms of Mr. Pitt, the new libel
law of Mr. Fox, and the legislative constitution of Canada, in which
both these great statesmen concurred.

But we have not yet reached the climax of Irish advancement. When, in
1782 and 1783, the legislative relations of the two countries were
fundamentally rectified by the formal acknowledgment of Irish
nationality, the beginning of a great work was accomplished; but its
final consummation, though rendered practicable and even easy, depended
wholly on the continuing good intention of the British Cabinet. The
Acts of 1782 and 1783 required a supplemental arrangement, to obviate
those secondary difficulties in the working of the two Legislatures,
which supplied Mr. Pitt with his main parliamentary plea for the Union.
What was yet more important was the completion of the scheme in Ireland
itself. And this under three great heads: (1) The purification of
Parliament by a large measure of reform; (2) the abolition of all Roman
Catholic disabilities; (3) the establishment of a proper relation
between the Legislative and the Executive powers. It is often urged,
with cynical disregard to justice and reason, that with the Grattan
Parliament we had corruption, coercion, discontent, and finally
rebellion. But the political mischiefs, which disfigure the brief life
of the Grattan Parliament, and the failure to obtain the two first of
the three great purposes I have named, were all in the main due to the
third grand flaw in the Irish case after 1782. I mean the false
position, and usually mischievous character, of the Irish Executive,
which, with its army of placemen and expectants in Parliament, was
commonly absolute master of the situation. Well does Mr. Swift
MacNeill,[97] in his very useful work, quote the words of Mr. Fox in
1797: "The advantages, which the form of a free Government seemed to
promise, have been counteracted by the influence of the Executive
Government, and of the British Cabinet."

There were five Viceroys between 1782 and 1790. Then came a sixth, Lord
Westmoreland, the worst of them all, whose political judgment was on a
par with his knowledge of the English language.[98] The great settlement
of 1782-3 was in the main worked by men who were radically adverse to
its spirit and intention. But they were omnipotent in their control of
the unreformed. Parliament of Ireland, more and more drenched, under
their unceasing and pestilent activity, with fresh doses of corruption.
Westmoreland and his myrmidons actually persuaded Pitt, in 1792, that
Irish Protestantism and its Parliament were unconquerably adverse to the
admission of Roman Catholics to the franchise; but when the proposal was
made from the Throne in 1793, notwithstanding the latent hostility of
the Castle, the Parliament passed the Bill with little delay, and
"without any serious opposition."[99] The votes against it were one and
three on two divisions[100] respectively. A minority of sixty-nine
supported, against the Government, a clause for extending the measure to
seats in Parliament. That clause, lost by a majority of ninety-four,
might apparently have been carried, but for "Dublin Castle," by an even
larger majority.

I shall not here examine the interesting question, whether the mission
of Lord Fitzwilliam was wholly due to the action of those Whig statesmen
who were friendly to the war, but disinclined to a junction with Mr.
Pitt except on condition of a fundamental change in the administration
of Ireland. Nor shall I dwell upon his sudden, swift, and disastrous
recall. But I purpose here to invite attention to the most remarkable
fact in the whole history of the Irish Parliament. When the Viceroy's
doom was known, when the return to the policy and party of ascendency
lay darkly lowering in the immediate future, this diminutive and tainted
Irish Parliament, with a chivalry rare even in the noblest histories,
made what can hardly be called less than a bold attempt to arrest the
policy of retrogression adopted by the Government in London. Lord
Fitzwilliam was the declared friend of Roman Catholic Emancipation,
which was certain to be followed by reform; and he had struck a
death-blow at bigotry and monopoly in the person of their heads, Mr.
Beresford and Mr. Cooke. The Bill of Emancipation was introduced on the
12th of February,[101] with only three dissentient voices. On the 14th,
when the London Cabinet had declared dissent from the proceedings of
their Viceroy without recalling him, Sir L. Parsons at once moved an
address, imploring him to continue among them, and only postponed it at
the friendly request of Mr. Ponsonby.[102] On the 2nd of March, when the
recall was a fact, the House voted that Lord Fitzwilliam merited "the
thanks of that House, and the confidence of the people."[103] On the 5th
the Duke of Leinster moved, and the House of Peers carried, a similar

At this epoch I pause. Here there opens a new and disastrous drama of
disgrace to England and misery to Ireland. This is the point at which we
may best learn the second and the greatest lesson taught by the history
of Ireland in the eighteenth century. It is this, that, awful as is the
force of bigotry, hidden under the mask of religion, but fighting for
plunder and for power with all the advantages of possession, of
prescription, and of extraneous support, there is a David that can kill
this Goliath. That conquering force lies in the principle of

It was the growing sense of nationality that prompted the Irish
Parliament to develop its earlier struggles for privilege on the narrow
ground into a genuine contest for freedom, civil and religious, on a
ground as broad as Ireland, nay, as humanity at large. If there be such
things as contradictions in the world of politics, they are to be found
in nationality on the one side, and bigotry of all kinds on the other,
but especially religious bigotry, which is of all the most baneful.
Whatever is given to the first of these two is lost to the second. I
speak of a reasonable and reasoning, not of a blind and headstrong
nationality; of a nationality which has regard to circumstances and to
traditions, and which only requires that all relations, of incorporation
or of independence, shall be adjusted to them according to the laws of
Nature's own enactment. Such a nationality was the growth of the last
century in Ireland. As each Irishman began to feel that he had a
country, to which he belonged, and which belonged to him, he was, by a
true process of nature, drawn more and more into brotherhood, and into
the sense of brotherhood, with those who shared the allegiance and the
property, the obligation and the heritage. And this idea of country,
once well conceived, presents itself as a very large idea, and as a
framework for most other ideas, so as to supply the basis of a common
life. Hence it was that, on the coming of Lord Fitzwilliam, the whole
generous emotion of the country leapt up with one consent, and went
forth to meet him. Hence it was that religious bigotry was no longer an
appreciable factor in the public life of Ireland. Hence it was that on
his recall, and in order to induce acquiescence in his recall, it became
necessary to divide again the host that had, welcomed him--to put one
part of it in array as Orangemen, who were to be pampered and inflamed;
and to quicken the self-consciousness of another and larger mass by
repulsion and proscription, by stripping Roman Catholics of arms in the
face of licence and of cruelty, and, finally, by clothing the extreme of
lawlessness with the forms of law.

Within the last twelve months we have seen, in the streets of Belfast,
the painful proof that the work of Beresford and of Castlereagh has been
found capable for the moment of revival. To aggravate or sustain Irish
disunion, religious bigotry has been again evoked in Ireland. If the
curse be an old one, there is also an old cure, recorded in the grand
pharmacopoeia of history; and if the abstract force of policy and
prudence are insufficient for the work, we may yet find that the evil
spirit will be effectually laid by the gentle influence of a living and
working Irish nationality. _Quod faxit Deus._


[Footnote 73: _2 Henry VI._, act iii. sc. 1.]

[Footnote 74: Lecky's _History of England in the Eighteenth Century_,
chap, vii. vol. ii, p. 205.]

[Footnote 75: Lecky's _History of England in the Eighteenth Century_,
vol. ii. p. 227.]

[Footnote 76: Duffy's _Bird's-Eye View_, p. 164.]

[Footnote 77: Duffy's _Bird's-Eye View_, p. 166.]

[Footnote 78: See Ball's _History of the Church of Ireland_, a valuable
work, deserving of more attention than it seems to have received.]

[Footnote 79: Boulter's _Letters_, i. 138, _et alibi_.]

[Footnote 80: Lecky's _History of England in the Eighteenth Century_,

[Footnote 81: Boulter's _Letters_, vol. ii.]

[Footnote 82: Cornwallis's _Correspondence_, ii. 441.]

[Footnote 83: Grattan's _Life and Times_, v. 173.]

[Footnote 84: Lecky, ii. 430.]

[Footnote 85: Duffy, p. 177.]

[Footnote 86: Schiller's _Wallenstein_.]

[Footnote 87: Lecky, iv. 489.]

[Footnote 88: Lecky, iv. 477-479; Brown, _Laws against Catholics_, pp.

[Footnote 89: Lecky, pp. 499-501.]

[Footnote 90: Sheridan's _Critic_, act iii. sc. I.]

[Footnote 91: Plowden's _History_ (1809), ii. 70.]

[Footnote 92: Brown, _Laws against Catholics_, p. 289.]

[Footnote 93: Lecky, i. 297.]

[Footnote 94: Plowden, i. 297.]

[Footnote 95: 1 Geo. II. c. ix. sect 7.]

[Footnote 96: See Lecky, vi. 521.]

[Footnote 97: _The Irish Parliament_, p. 64. Cassell: 1885.]

[Footnote 98: See Lecky, vi. 492, 493.]

[Footnote 99: Lecky, vi. 567.]

[Footnote 100: Plowden's _Historical Review_, ii. 335.]

[Footnote 101: Ibid., ii. 353.]

[Footnote 102: Plowden's _Historical Review_, ii. 498.]

[Footnote 103: Ibid., ii. 357.]

[Footnote 104: Ibid., ii. 505.]


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