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Title: Sinn Fein - An Illumination
Author: O'Hegarty, P. S.
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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THE INDESTRUCTIBLE NATION: A Survey of Irish History from the Invasion.
The First Phase: The Overthrow of the Clans.

JOHN MITCHEL: An Appreciation. With some Account of Young Ireland.


ULSTER: A Brief Statement of Fact.




[Gaelic: Do Liaimín Beag Dub,

i gcuimne ar gceud casad le céile]


I was a member of the "National Council" formed in 1902 by Mr. Arthur
Griffith on the occasion of the visit of the late Queen Victoria, and of
the Executives of "Cumann na nGaedheal," the "Dungannon Clubs," and the
"Sinn Fein League," by the fusion of which the old "Sinn Fein"
organisation was formed. I was a member of the Sinn Fein Executive until
1911, and from 1903 to the present time I have been closely connected with
every Irish movement of what I might call the Language Revival current.
This book is therefore, so far as the matters of fact referred to therein
are concerned, a book based upon personal knowledge.

My object in writing it has not been to give a history of Sinn Fein, but
to give an account of its historical evolution, to place it in relation to
the antecedent history of Ireland, above all to show it in its true light
as an attempt, inspired by the Language revival, to place Ireland in touch
with the historic Irish Nation which went down in the seventeenth century
under the Penal Laws and was forced, when it emerged in the nineteenth, to
reconstitute itself on the framework which had been provided for the
artificial State which had been superimposed on the Irish State with the
Penal Laws. The quarrel between Sinn Fein and the Irish Parliamentary
Party is really the quarrel between the historic Irish Nation and the
artificial English garrison State; the quarrel between de-Anglicisation
and Anglicisation.

The scope of the book precluded any detail in regard to the evolution of
events since 1916, as it precluded any mention of individuals, save Mr.
Arthur Griffith, who is the Hamlet of the piece.


(_As Passed by Censor._)

  CHAPTER                                               PAGE


    II. THE TURNING POINT                                  6


    IV. THE SINN FEIN POLICY                              19

     V. ARTHUR GRIFFITH--THE TRUTH                        28

    VI. THE SINN FEIN MOVEMENT--1905 TO 1913              34

   VII. THE IRISH VOLUNTEERS                              41

  VIII. SINN FEIN                                         49

NOTE.--The first seven chapters were written in October, 1917, and passed
for publication in November, 1918. Chapter viii represents a
re-arrangement of such portions of the last three chapters of the original
manuscript as it is permissible to publish at the present time.



When Pitt and Castlereagh forced through the Act of Union, they forged a
weapon with the potentiality of utterly subjecting the Irish nation, of
extinguishing wholly its civilisation, its name, and its memory; for they
made possible that policy of peaceful penetration which in less than a
century brought Ireland lower than she had been brought by five centuries
of war and one century of almost incredibly severe penal legislation. In
the history of the connexion between England and Ireland the vital dates
are 1691, 1800, and 1893: in 1691 Ireland lay for the first time unarmed
under the heel of the invader; in 1800 began the peaceful penetration of
Irish civilisation by English civilisation; and in 1893 by the foundation
of the Gaelic League Ireland turned once more to her own culture and her
own past, alive to her separateness, her distinctiveness, alive also to
her danger.

The defences of a nation against annihilation are two, physical and
spiritual. Until 1691 Ireland retained and used both, and not even
Cromwell was able to deprive her of her fighting men and their arms. But
when Sarsfield signed the Treaty of Limerick in 1691 and carried the bulk
of the fighting men out of Ireland, and when those remaining in Ireland
suffered themselves to be disarmed, Ireland was left to rely upon
spiritual defence only--upon language, culture, and memory. And these
sufficed. Not even the Penal Laws could penetrate them, and behind the
sure rampart of the language the Irish people, without leaders and
notwithstanding the Penal Laws, re-knit their social order and peacefully
penetrated the Garrison, so that at the end of the century they emerged
from the ruins of the Penal Laws a Nation in bondage but still a Nation,
with the language, culture, traditions and hopes of a Nation, and with the
single will of a Nation.

Up to that time there had been nothing to turn their attention out of
Ireland, and all their hopes of action, political or otherwise, naturally
centred within Ireland. They had had little cause to love the Dublin
Parliament of the eighteenth century, in which they had neither
representation nor franchise, but they had had no cause whatever to be
hopefully conscious of the existence of the London Parliament. The Penal
Legislation inevitably threw them back on themselves, preserved their
language, culture, and traditions, preserved their national continuity.
And as the century wore on the more conscious and strengthened Irish
Nation swayed the Garrison into something which, in time, would have
developed into complete nationalism and fusion.

By changing the seat of government from Dublin to London, the Act of Union
not alone killed the incipient Nationalism of the Garrison, but it, in
time, totally alienated them from the Nation, by attaching them to English
Parties, English ways, and making their centre London, and not Dublin. The
landed proprietors and aristocracy followed the seat of government, and
London became their capital also. So that, early in the nineteenth
century, the Garrison classes, which towards the end of the eighteenth
century had come dangerously near to making common cause with the Nation,
had shifted their political and social centre to London, and became a
strength to England and a weakness to Ireland.

At the same tame the relaxation, and eventual abolition, of the Penal Laws
manoeuvred the mass of the Irish People also Londonwards. English was
the language of the courts, of the professions, of commerce, the language
of preferment, and the newly-emancipated people embraced English with a
rush, and with English there came a dimming of their national
consciousness, a peaceful penetration of Irish culture by English culture
in every particular. The middle and upper classes were the first to be
caught by it, but every influence in the country favoured it, all the
popular political movements being carried on in English, and having the
London Parliament as their field of operations. O'Connell, who was a
native speaker of Irish, but one without any reasoned consciousness of
nationality, refused to speak anything but English, the newspapers printed
nothing but English, the Repeal Movement and the Young Ireland Movement,
both appealing to a people which was still seventy per cent. Irish
speaking, used nothing but English, and the National Schools, also using
nothing but English, imposed English culture from the first on the
children and set the feet of the Nation more and more steadily

The English attack upon Ireland had begun with the most obvious and the
most easily disturbed portions of the National machinery, and then, as it
developed strength, it struck at other portions. It began by obstructing,
and continued obstruction eventually annihilated, the then dawning
political unity of Ireland as exemplified in the growing power of the
Ard-Ri, and even when its own strength was weakest it managed to upset all
subsequent attempts at Irish unity. It went from that to the development
of an actual grip over the whole soil of Ireland, which it got in 1691,
and ensured by the planting of a resident Garrison, not military only, but
social also, and the placing of all place and power under the Garrison
constitution in their hands. It followed that by the Penal Laws, which
were an attempt to crush a whole people out, to degrade them bodily and
mentally, so that they would ever afterwards be negligible. And when that
failed, because of the spiritual resources of the people, it attacked
those resources. The granting of the franchise to the Irish gave them an
interest, even the interest of a spectator, in Parliamentary elections and
happenings: the removal of that Parliament to London did not abate that
interest: O'Connell's proceedings intensified it: the "emancipation" of
1829, by conceding representation in the London Parliament, and doing so
after a struggle and in the guise of an Irish victory, set the people's
imagination fatally outside their own country, and every other movement of
the century, save the Young Ireland and Fenian Movements, was just an
additional chain binding the Irish imagination to London. At the same time
there flowed over from England the English language, and English culture,
habits, customs, dress, prejudices, newspapers. And transit developments,
telegraph and telephone developments, trust developments--the whole modern
development of machinery to render nugatory space and time--all these
combined to throw English civilisation with an impetus on our shores. And
right through the century it attacked, with ever increasing success and
vehemence, every artery of National life.

And so the nineteenth century, which on the surface saw the development of
an Ireland intensely conscious of its nationality, merely saw an Ireland
intensely conscious of one manifestation of it, and that the least
essential, and increasingly unconscious of the realities of nationality.
While Ireland, as the century wore on, grew more vocal about political
freedom, all the essentials of its nationality--language, culture,
memory--faded away into the highlands and islands of Kerry and Donegal and
the bare West Coast. Assimilation proceeded apace, London was as near as
Dublin, and the end of the century saw the popular Political Party merely
the tail of an English Party. In the islands and bleak places of the bare
West Coast the remnants of the Irish-speaking Nation still kept their
language and their memory, and lived a life apart, but away towards the
East there was only a people who were rapidly being assimilated by
England, unconsciously but none the less certainly. One century of
peaceful penetration had done more to blot out the Nation than five
centuries of war and one century of incredible Penal Legislation.



It is not easy to say whether the policy of peaceful penetration which was
pursued in Ireland in the nineteenth century was planned beforehand,
whether Pitt actually carried the Union with a comprehensive assimilating
policy in his mind. The probabilities are against that, and in favour of
the supposition that, the one vital step of the Union having been taken,
the rest of the policy followed inevitably. At any rate, once it did get
going, its operations continued and developed logically and methodically,
with ever-increasing ramifications, until it had the whole of Ireland in a
strangle grip, a grip mental as well as physical. And while the political
fervour of the people, under Parnell, seemed to be most strongly and
determinedly pro-Irish, yet in reality they were becoming less and less
Irish with every year. Silently but relentlessly English culture flowed in
and attacked every artery of Ireland's national life.

Up to the Sinn Fein Movement Irish Patriotic Movements have all been
specialist rather than comprehensive. They aimed at political freedom, or
they aimed at the control of the land, or they had some definite one
object which at the time stood for everything, and often they mistook the
one thing for the whole. Their non-comprehensiveness has been made a
reproach to them in certain Nationalist speculations of recent years, but
this cannot with justice be done. The first thing which Ireland lost was
her political independence and naturally it was the thing she then tried
to recover. She had not lost her language, or her culture, or her memory,
and naturally she could only frame a movement for the recovery of what she
had actually lost. In the eighteenth century, which in some ways was the
darkest, she was yet much more of a Nation than ever she was in the
nineteenth; for, even though her thoughts in that century were directed to
the bare hope of keeping herself alive, of not starving and not becoming a
herd of illiterates and degenerates, even then her full National
consciousness went on, _en rapport_ with her past and undisturbed in the
broad sense by the froth and fustian of the Garrison persecutions: and at
the end of the century she had lost nothing but her political independence
and her ownership of the land. The nineteenth century, therefore, saw her
devoted to the recovery of these two things, of the loss of which she was
conscious; and the closing years of the century, which brought her the
perception of the loss of other things, of language and all that goes with
it, brought with them for the first time the possibility of a
comprehensive movement for the recovery of everything lost, for an attack
upon the dominant civilisation at every point of contact. And the
twentieth century brought the movement itself in the Sinn Fein movement.

There were throughout the nineteenth century various short and ineffective
attempts at a revival of Irish industries, but the first evidence of a
sense of spiritual loss was the successful attempt in the eighties at a
revival and strengthening of Irish games and athletics, which resulted in
the removal of English games and athletics from the dominant position and
their gradual decline to their proper position as the games of a Garrison.
But the turning point of all modern Irish development was the foundation
of the Gaelic League in 1893. That definitely and irrevocably,
insignificant though it seemed at the time and for a long time, arrested
the assimilating process, provided a last fortification, as it were,
behind which the still unassimilated forces of the Nation gathered
strength, and unity, and courage, and turned the mind of Ireland away from
everything foreign and inward towards herself and her own concerns. There
had always been in Ireland Archæological Associations and learned persons
who studied Irish as a dead language, and there actually was in existence
at the time the present "Society for the Preservation of the Irish
Language": but the Gaelic League was a League of common men and women who
took up Irish not for antiquarian or academical reasons, but because it
was the national language of Ireland, and because they were convinced that
Ireland would be irrevocably lost if she lost it. They were seers and
enthusiasts, not archæologists, and in twenty years they had all Ireland,
all Nationalist Ireland at any rate, behind their banner.

It would be difficult to over-emphasise the influence which the Gaelic
League has had upon Ireland. It may be said with absolute truth that it
stemmed the onflowing tide of assimilation to English civilisation, and
not alone stemmed it but turned it back. Its fight for the Irish language
reacted upon everything else in Ireland, set up influences, currents, out
of nowhere, which fought firmly for this or that Irish characteristic,
dinned into the ears of the people everywhere an insistence upon things
Irish as apart from things foreign. And it gave the first great example of
the support of a thing because it is Irish. The Gaelic Leaguer had, and
has, many weapons in his armoury, and the reasons for the revival of Irish
are many. But although in case of necessity he is prepared to justify the
revival upon utilitarian grounds, upon philological grounds, and upon
historical grounds, the chief weapon in his armoury is a sentimental one,
being "[Gaelic: Ár dteanga féin]"--Our own language. That is the
battle-cry which has appealed irresistibly to the man in the street, and
the principle behind it, first enunciated as a fighting principle by the
Gaelic League, has come to be applied to all Irish questions and
practically to mould the thoughts of the present generation.

The foundation of the Gaelic League has been attributed to the _debâcle_
which had just then overwhelmed the Parliamentarian Movement, but the two
things had no connexion. The young men who founded the Gaelic League, and
who did the desperate work of its early years, were men whose interests
were intellectual rather than political, and who neither had, nor were
likely to have, any intimate connexion with any political movement such as
the then Parliamentarian Movement. The origin of the Gaelic League goes
farther back, back to the early days of the century when the Nation began
to lose the language. Once the people began to shed their own language a
movement for its recovery was inevitable if the Nation was not to be
wholly annihilated; and as in other things a perception of loss rarely
arises until a thing is either lost or well on the way to it, so in this
case a perception of the meaning of the loss of the language did not come
until the language was almost lost. But it did come. And to a few young
men it was given to see that Ireland might gain riches, gain empire, gain
everything, but that if she lost her language she lost her soul. And they
raised their battle-cry accordingly, and led their Nation out of the bog
of Anglicisation, took the people's eyes from the ends of the earth and
turned them towards the West, where their language still lived and their
national life kept its continuity.

The Gaelic League was not, is not, a mere movement for the revival of a
language. Literally it is that, but philosophically it is a movement for
the revival of a Nation. Resurrecting, as it did, the chief essential to
Nationality, it inevitably resurrected also the subsidiary ones. Its
constitution debars it from taking any part in politics, and it holds
within its ranks men and women of all parties, but no constitution can
prevent the leaven of the language working on the individual to its
fullest extent once it gets into him. And the language brought with it old
ideas, old values, old traditions. There is in the very sound of Irish
music a quality which wipes out at once the whole of the nineteenth
century and brings one face to face with the days when Ireland had an
individuality and a proud civilisation: the roots of the language are away
back in the very golden age of Irish civilisation; and the enthusiast who
began with the language has been irresistibly impelled to a quest which
embraces many things besides, industries, games, government--everything
which concerns a Nation.

Since its inception the Gaelic League has influenced, in one way or
another, the best of the young men and women of Ireland. It has set them
thinking, with the language firm in them. And it has led them irresistibly
to disregard altogether the whole current of Irish evolution since 1800,
to realise that when Ireland began to lose her language she began to lose
her Nationality, and to send them back to take up the broken thread of
Irish civilisation where the English onrush broke it, and rebuild it.

That force has worked just as all-embracingly as the English aggressive
onrush of the nineteenth century worked. It has neglected nothing. And
while the older politicians went on in their well-worn grooves, uneasy at
the apathy of the young people towards them, but ignorantly content so
long as they were undisturbed, the leaven of the Gaelic League
self-reliance principle was undermining their political foundations, in
common with all other foundations in Ireland which were the result of a
bastard connexion with any of the manifestations of English civilisation
in Ireland. That is also the secret of the Irish Literary Movement in
English. It gets its inspiration from Irish tradition, Irish convention,
Irish speech, and even though it expresses itself in English it is an
English which is half Irish. Its whole spirit is the spirit of an Ireland
which is looking back to Eoghan Ruadh and Keating rather than forward to a
development of the perfectly reputable, perfectly colourless, and
perfectly uninspiring work of, say, Mr. Edward Dowden. That work is the
work of a mind perfectly assimilated to English civilisation, and it has
no future save absorption. The Gaelic League leaven has driven it home to
the people of Ireland that any similar work or effort in any sphere has no
future save absorption, and it has sent them, in everything, in
literature, politics, economics, back to their native culture and its



It may be asserted with truth that the youth of Ireland, in every
generation, are by instinct Separatist, that "their dream is of the swift
sword-thrust," and that therefore in every generation there is the full
material for a Separatist Movement. The question, then, of the adhesion of
any given generation to a Separatist Movement resolves itself practically
into the question of the formation, at the right time, of a Separatist
Movement _with an open policy_; and practically any generation of Irishmen
is liable to be drawn from a moderate movement to a Separatist Movement if
the Separatists should develop a sufficiently attractive and workable open
policy. But, in the absence of that, or in the presence of a more workable
or attractive moderate policy, the mass of the people are more liable to
be deflected to the moderate policy and to leave Separatist principles to
the minority who will not compromise and who will carry on a secret
movement in default of an open one. That minority always exists, and the
key to Irish political history in the years since Fenianism may be found
in the fact that Fenianism has never died out of Ireland since its
foundation in 1858 by James Stephens and Thomas Clarke Luby, and that the
Separatist Minority had always worked through it. Given a suitable open
policy, that minority may become a majority at any time.

Now a Separatist Movement may have a choice of open policies, but it can
have only one kind of secret policy, viz., a policy of arming and
insurrection. And that is why insurrectionary movements which failed at an
attempted insurrection and had no open policy to fall back upon have
invariably been succeeded by moderate movements. Emmet was followed by
O'Connell, Young Ireland by the Tenant Right Parliamentarian Movement,
Fenianism by Parnell.

Fenianism held the field, as a partly secret and partly open movement,
although it had no open policy, for many years after '67, because there
was no moderate policy either workable or attractive put forward. But when
Parnell developed his machine of Opposition in Parliament and Organisation
outside Parliament, and demonstrated that that policy, at any rate, held
some possibility of wresting material concessions from England, there was
a great landslide from the Separatist Movement, which finally went
underground and became again a Separatist minority working in secret. With
the death of Parnell died all chance of the policy of Parliamentarianism
achieving anything for Ireland, but his fighting personality and record
cast a glamour over the Nation for many a year after his death and secured
to his successors something of his authority if, unfortunately, it could
not secure to them his courage or his ability.

The Separatists, however, were reviving, and gradually the younger
generation came into play. The Gaelic League had turned men's thoughts
towards the old independent Ireland when the language and with it native
culture were secure, and that spirit when it sought political expression
naturally found it in Separatist form, and as naturally in literary form.
So that there came a Separatist revival, largely in literary form, and
Literary Societies were established in Dublin, Cork and Belfast which
preached Separation and which fell back upon the propaganda methods of the
Young Irelanders--ballad, lecture, history, with the significant addition
of the language. The movement was to some extent drawn together by the
publication (January, 1896, to March, 1899) at Belfast of the "Shan Van
Vocht," a monthly journal projected and edited by Miss Alice Milligan,
which printed both literary and political matter, but in form was
preponderatingly literary, printed notes of the doings of the various
clubs and societies, and in general kept the scattered outposts of the
movement in touch with one another. The celebration throughout Ireland of
the centenary of '98 gave further impetus to the growing Separatist
sentiment, and when, in 1899, some of the Dublin Separatists established
"The United Irishman," with Mr. Arthur Griffith as editor, the modern
Separatist Movement was definitely on its feet.

The influence of the "United Irishman" in accelerating the development of
the movement and in drawing it together was immediate. Its chief writers
were William Rooney, whose character and whose work were akin to those of
Thomas Davis, with again the significant addition that he knew Irish
fluently, but of course far behind him in ability, and Mr. Griffith, who
brought to the paper a clear, logical, virile and convincing style which
is the best that has come out of Ireland since John Mitchel. The paper
gave the movement expression, acted, so to speak, both as secretary and
organiser, and was very soon in touch with every club and every convinced
Separatist in Ireland, holding them together, encouraging them, increasing
them. Clubs grew, and were gathered together in convention and formed into
an organisation, "Cumann na nGaedheal," which took up organisation work
vigorously, and which, though at the outset in 1902 it had the misfortune
to lose William Rooney, who was its chief inspiration, yet made progress.
Separatists grew more confident, more informed, and more numerous.

The propaganda of Cumann na nGaedheal consisted of the Irish language,
history study, Irish industries, and self reliance generally, with a pious
expression of opinion that everybody ought to have arms. Arming was,
however, no portion of its policy, nor had it any public policy in the
nature of a platform policy. It was, practically speaking, an educational
movement, on the same lines as the Gaelic League, save with a definite
political basis, and was carried on on identical lines--classes (language
and history), lectures, national concerts, and celebrations of national
anniversaries. As such, its influence was limited, and the great majority
of the people, who will not go to classes or lectures and are reachable
only through some public platform and platform policy, were quite
untouched by it. Its members were practically wholly young men and young
women with a studious or intellectual bent, and although the "United
Irishman" was a very severe and very pungent critic of the Irish
Parliamentary Party, yet "Cumann na nGaedheal" and the Party never crossed
swords, because their spheres of action were so widely different that they
had no point of contact. Neither set of followers was reachable by the
other propaganda.

Although, however, they had no direct point of contact, the
Parliamentarian movement began to be conscious of the growing Separatist
movement. Its Press sparred a little with the "United Irishman," and
individual members occasionally met and argued. At that time neither the
Parliamentary Party nor its Press had developed any open Imperialism: and
while in conversation Parliamentarians generally admitted that the
Parliamentarian policy was a compromise and indefensible as such, they
vigorously defended it on the ground that it was the only alternative to
insurrection, which was impracticable: and Separatists, while maintaining
that insurrection was the natural and inevitable culmination of any
national policy, and that all plans and preparations should have it in
view as the ultimate plan, yet could not well contest the argument that in
the then state of the country insurrection was impracticable. After a
couple of years of intensive educational work, therefore, there sprang up
in the rank and file a demand for the framing of a public policy which
should preserve principles and yet be a workable alternative to the
Parliamentarian policy. And that policy was produced by Mr. Arthur
Griffith. He had made, in the "United Irishman," constant references to
the policy by which Hungary had won her freedom from Austria, had
constantly recommended the Parliamentarians--who at the time, be it
remembered, defended their policy only on the ground that there was no
alternative but insurrection--to adopt a similar policy for Ireland. For a
long time he and his friends did not wish to initiate any such policy for
Ireland, holding that it was a policy to be initiated and carried on by
moderate men rather than by extreme men, but one in which all extreme men
might without any sacrifice of principle join. In the first six months of
1904, however, he wrote in the "United Irishman" a series of articles
entitled the "Resurrection of Hungary," in which the history of Hungary's
struggle with and victory over Austria is told with the closest possible
analogy to the affairs of Ireland, and containing a final chapter showing
how a similar policy, applied to Ireland, could be made equally
successful. These articles were republished as a pamphlet and had a wide
circulation, with the result that a demand went up from the readers of the
"United Irishman" that the "Hungarian Policy," as it was then called,
should be adopted as the alternative to armed insurrection and should be
propagated against Parliamentarianism. And, after some manoeuvring, that
was done, and all public Separatist organisations were fused together in
one organisation called "Sinn Fein," governed by an executive called the
"National Council," with its policy as the "Sinn Fein Policy," as the
"Hungarian Policy" had now been renamed.



     "The policy of Sinn Fein purposes to bring Ireland out of the corner
     and make her assert her existence to the world. I have spoken of an
     essential; but the basis of the policy is national self-reliance. No
     law and no series of laws can make a Nation out of a People which
     distrusts itself."--ARTHUR GRIFFITH (1906).

While the immediate inspiration of the Sinn Fein policy may be held to be
Mr. Griffith's study of Hungary, it is no less undeniable that the roots
of the policy are already in Nationalist writings and proceedings. Swift,
and the 1782 Volunteers, and Davis, and Mitchel, and Lalor, all had some
one or other of the points which make up the modern Sinn Fein policy. And,
had there never been a Hungary, yet the Sinn Fein policy would have come
into being in or about the period at which it actually did. The Gaelic
League had made it inevitable. Supporters of the Parliamentary Party have
at various times accused the Gaelic League of being a political body, of
being anti-Party, and have felt very sore over its alleged breaches of its
non-political constitution. But the Gaelic League is actually
non-political, and rigidly so. It and the Parliamentarian people do not
mix, and cannot mix, because they represent totally opposite views of
Ireland. It is an impossibility for a supporter of the Parliamentarian
policy to be at the same time a sincere believer in Gaelic League policy.
He will find that his Parliamentarian convictions will vanish, not because
of any propaganda within the Gaelic League, but because the Gaelic League
philosophy, its aggressive self-reliance, its faith in itself, and in
Ireland, these create an outlook and a conviction which, without being
political, are fatal to the Parliamentarian atmosphere and show it for the
helpless, foolish thing it is. In the "Shan Van Vocht" for March, 1897,
Dr. Douglas Hyde, who will not be accused by anybody of being a
politician, has a poem in Irish, "Waiting for Help," of which the last
verse is--

  [Gaelic: Is mitid fior do beit
    Ag gac aon amadán
  Nac bfuil gáis-faire
  Is fiú aon aire
    Ach ceann, Sinn Féin Amáin!]

(It is time for every fool to recognise that there is only one watchword
which is worth anything--Ourselves alone.) This contains the essence of
the Sinn Fein policy.

Sinn Fein means ourselves, and the Sinn Fein policy is founded on the
faith that the Irish people have the strength to free themselves without
any outside aid of any description, if they will only use their strength.
To the policy of building up the Nation from without it opposes the policy
of building it from within, and against Freedom by Legislation it puts
Freedom by National Self-Development. It takes the motto of Davis,
"Educate, that you may be free," and it applies it to every Irish problem;
it takes the Gaelic League principle of developing Irish distinctive
features, and it declares war on everything imported, resurrecting Swift's
dictum to "burn everything English save their coals." The nineteenth
century, as I have pointed out, was a century wherein English civilisation
attacked Irish civilisation at every possible point of contact: in the
twentieth century the Sinn Fein policy reverses that process, and under
its banner it is Irish civilisation which is the attacking party.

To regard the Sinn Fein policy as a mere political device is a grave
mistake. It is more than politics: it is a national philosophy. Its purely
political side has been most prominent because it attacked the existing
dominant political party, and because before it can be generally effective
it must establish dominance over every other political policy.
Nationalists of all shades of opinion would subscribe to a great deal of
its constructive programme, and these have often asked why does Sinn Fein
not confine itself to those points upon which general agreement can be
reached. The answer is that the political policy of Sinn Fein is an
integral portion of its general national policy, and that its adoption by
the majority of the Irish people is essential to the effective operation
of its non-political constructive policy.

The case for the policy of Parliamentarianism, the policy of acquiescing
in the Act of Union and sending Irish Nationalist representatives to sit
in the English Parliament, must rest upon one thing, and one alone, upon
its effectiveness. It has already against it the damning fact that the
sending of Irish representatives to the English Parliament is a giving
away of Ireland's whole case, is an acceptance of the Act of Union, and is
a recognition of the authority of the English Parliament to legislate for
Ireland. Of itself, argues Sinn Fein, that fact discredits the
Parliamentarian policy, even if it were effective, but it is not, and it
never has been effective. The "remedial legislation" which the English
Parliament has passed for Ireland has been passed in response to agitation
in Ireland, and not in response to agitation in Parliament. The only way
to set the legislative machine working is to hamper the machine of
government in Ireland, and the more effectively that machine is hampered
the more drastic the resultant legislation. Instead of London being the
lever to work Ireland, Ireland is the lever to work London. No measure of
remedial legislation can be pointed to which was passed as the result,
directly or indirectly, of parliamentary action. The Catholic Associations
of O'Connell, culminating in the Clare election and the ferment it set up,
passed the Catholic Emancipation Act; Carrickshock and similar acts of
resistance to the collection of tithes passed the Tithes Act; Fenianism
disestablished the "Irish" Church and passed the Land Acts; and the Local
Government Act was passed by a Unionist Government which had a clear
majority over all parties, avowedly as a sop to try and pacify Ireland,
and not in response to any pressure of any kind in Parliament, or any
Parliamentarian manoeuvres. In none of these things had action in the
Parliament of England the least share. It is the agitation at home, and
not the agitation in Westminster, that is effective. The only possible
function which Irish representatives in London can fulfil is to record
Irish opinion, to speak for it, negotiate for it, make it articulate; and
that function can be performed much more effectively by representatives
living and meeting in Ireland itself.

Sinn Fein thus scores two points against the Parliamentarian policy, that
it is a betrayal of Ireland's case, and that it is totally ineffective.
But it is not content with that. It scores yet another point. Not alone is
the Parliamentarian policy totally ineffective, but it is hurtful to the
Nation. It has turned the imagination of the people away from Ireland
towards parliamentary happenings in a foreign Parliament: it has kept
their minds on the one phase of activity, the oratorical phase, while
language, traditions, and industries vanished from the land, while at
every national artery English civilisation entered: it has gradually
whittled down the national demand, as the Party gradually became less
Irish and more English, until it was ready to accept any shameful
settlement as a just settlement: it has been a force, unconscious perhaps
but powerful, towards making London the capital of Ireland: under its sway
in Ireland the population of Ireland has steadily decreased and the
taxation of Ireland has as steadily increased.

That is the Sinn Fein case against the policy of Parliamentarianism, and
it is an overwhelming case.

The Sinn Fein policy, on the other hand, reverses the policy of
Parliamentarianism, and relies upon focussing the attention and the
strength of the Irish people upon action within Ireland. As a first step
towards the resurrection of Ireland it would deny the authority of the
English Parliament to legislate for Ireland, and it would refuse to send
any representatives whatever to that Parliament. It would assemble in
Dublin a National Assembly, elected by the people, to act as a _de facto_
Parliament, which should take within its purview all Ireland and plan for
the conservation and development of national resources. The Sinn Fein
policy would

     (a) Deny the legality of the Act of Union and refuse to send
     representatives to the English Parliament, thereby cutting the ground
     at once from under the Union.

     (b) Establish Irish as the national language of Ireland; teaching
     through Irish only in the Irish-speaking districts, and bilingually
     in the non-Irish-speaking districts.

     (c) Remodel the Irish educational chaos, and frame a system based
     upon Irish culture, and as national as the educational systems of
     other countries are.

     (d) Establish an Irish mercantile marine.

     (e) Establish Irish courts of arbitration, to supersede the Law

     (f) Improve transit facilities, cut down internal rates, and overhaul
     and extend the canal system.

     (g) Establish in foreign countries Irish representatives specially
     trained who would act in the same capacity as consuls.

     (h) Direct the strength of the Irish people generally as that of one
     man in any given direction

     (i) Build up Ireland's manufacturing arm by protection--voluntary or
     legal--developing also Ireland's mineral resources, especially her
     coal and iron.

The Sinn Fein Movement, as such, did not contemplate an appeal to arms,
believing that its policy, with the majority of Ireland behind it, would
be irresistible on a passive resistance basis. It was really composed of
two sections--one, led by Mr. Griffith, wished to base the movement
definitely on the Constitution of 1782 and the Renunciation Act of 1783,
and the other composed of the Separatists was for independence pure and
simple. As a compromise, the object of the movement was defined as "the
re-establishment of the Independence of Ireland," which satisfied the
Separatists, with an addendum committing it, as a minimum, to the "King,
Lords and Commons" solution, which satisfied the others. Both sections
were agreed as to the general lines of policy.

Upon every Irish question, and every possible development in Ireland, Sinn
Fein would operate on the same lines as those I have enumerated above. It
would build up Ireland from within, strengthening everything Irish and
attacking everything foreign, eliminating everything which would send
Irish thoughts wandering in search of foreign aid and teaching the people
by precept and example that a Nation's salvation can only be worked out by
itself and on its own soil. It would substitute for petitions and
resolutions and manoeuvres in a foreign Parliament work and more work
and still more work in Ireland. To the Irish people it says in effect:
"Turn your eyes and your thoughts away from London and concentrate them on
your own concerns. You are of right a free people, and no bonds can affect
that right, though they may hamper it. Assert it, not by empty words, but
by deeds, so far as you can within the limits of your bonds. Suffer
Anglicising and anti-national things only when you must. You send
representatives to the English Parliament, testifying to the world an
acceptance of your bonds. There is no power that can compel you to send
them. Withdraw them, and your honour is once more clean and your case
becomes an International one, as of right, not a provincial one, which
your Parliamentary manoeuvres have almost made it. Establish a National
Assembly in Dublin and let it speak for you. You _need not_ speak English,
you have your own language; you _need not_ base your education on English
culture; you have your own culture. There is no law to compel you to have
resource to English law courts, establish voluntary courts of arbitration;
there is no law compelling you to buy English manufactures, buy your own;
there is no law compelling you to carry on your trade in English ships,
establish your own mercantile marine. Stand together, the whole people as
one unit, stand up for everything native and reject everything foreign,
and freedom is yours."

The Sinn Fein policy is not a policy that could be made effective by a
minority, though even a minority, determined and well led, could make it
felt: but if adopted by the majority of the Irish people there is no doubt
of its effectiveness. It would make government impossible: for it must
always be remembered that in modern times a subject nation remains a
subject nation only because it accepts, in some way or other, its
government. A nation which will resolutely and unitedly, on the lines of
the Sinn Fein policy, ignore its Government and proceed to the formation
of a voluntary (so to speak) Government, would force the occupying power
either to give in or to provide an armed guard for every unit of the
subject nation.

And, as a matter of historical fact, it was the unconscious application of
the Sinn Fein policy that originated all the remedial legislation of the
nineteenth century. The Catholic Association of O'Connell, for instance,
was practically a Sinn Fein Association, and the records and memoirs of
that time show that it had made the ordinary government of Ireland a
nullity, and that it forced the Emancipation Act. But when Ireland
accepted the Emancipation Act and recognised the Act of Union the process
of degeneration set in.



A small man, very sturdily built, nothing remarkable about his appearance
except his eyes, which are impenetrable and steely, taciturn, deliberate,
speaking when he does speak with the authority and the finality of genius,
totally without rhetoric, under complete self-control, and the coolest and
best brain in Ireland.

Griffith is not alone the ablest Irishman now alive, but the ablest
Irishman since John Mitchel, and the only political thinker since Mitchel
who has displayed the statesman's mind. He is the master of a style which
is more nearly akin to that of Mitchel, and that of Swift, than to any
modern style, and is certainly the greatest political writer now concerned
with Ireland, and far and away the most potent political influence.
Parnell, in his day, said that the Fenians were the backbone of
Nationalism in Ireland, and that saying stands as true to-day as it was
then. Political parties, and political movements, come and go, but the
uncompromising Separatists, the Fenians, are always there, thrusting, it
may be, from behind the mask of an open organisation, but always there
directing and planning. Griffith can hardly be numbered amongst them. He
has never believed in physical force, but has always believed that all
Ireland standing together could force an honourable settlement without
physical force. And yet it may be said that no man alive is more
responsible for the Fenian spirit in Ireland than Griffith. From 1899 to
1911 the "United Irishman" and its successor, "Sinn Fein," were the chief
inspiration of all extreme propaganda and extreme discussion in Ireland,
and although from 1911 until 1914 "Irish Freedom" more properly
represented the Fenian element, yet the influence of Griffith has gone
heavily in the same direction. It is pretty safe to say that it was the
rallying point which the "United Irishman" provided in the early critical
days of the movement, its circulation into places where an organiser, even
if they had one, could not penetrate, its examination and vindication of
the whole case for Ireland, its inculcation of self-reliance and work, and
its comprehensive national philosophy generally, that made the later
developments of militant nationalism possible.

Arthur Griffith knows Ireland as no other man of his time does, or did,
save perhaps his early comrade, William Rooney. There is no epoch of Irish
History, no phase of the many-sided Irish problem, that he cannot
elucidate. History, biography, economics, politics, literature, in their
Irish connexion he has at his fingers' ends. And outside Ireland he is
widely read and far flung. When a comparatively young man he emigrated to
the Transvaal, but Ireland drew him and drew him, and he returned to edit
the "United Irishman" and to write, when Kruger declared war, that it
would take the whole strength of England to win the war--probably the only
true prophet amongst the publicists of the time.

England in Ireland he loves to refer to, following John Mitchel, as
"Carthage," and in all his writing and all his thinking the great battle
is the battle between Ireland and Carthage. Every sentence of his is as
clean as a sword-cut, and as terrible in its effect as a battle-axe, and
his genius for marshalling facts, like artillery, and concentrating them
all at once in the direction he is working at is unequalled. His domestic
policy for Ireland is the policy of Sinn Fein, and his foreign policy for
Ireland is equally logical and equally inevitable. Ireland, he holds, has
no business having, at present, any kind of a foreign policy but a
defensive one: that is to say that while its domestic policy ought always
to be governed by the fact that it is in bondage and fighting for its
life, its foreign policy should be governed by precisely the same
considerations. In these circumstances abstract right and wrong in
continental matters are luxuries he cannot afford to take to his heart.
And whenever any event outside Ireland seems worth his comment, he sits
down, scalpel in hand, and analyses patiently until he has discovered
where England is. And then he has also discovered where Ireland ought to
be, and, in so far as he can, he places her there.

He is naturally a believer in evolutionary methods in politics rather than
in revolutionary methods, and, in a free Ireland, would I think be found
on the side of what the "Times" would call "stability." He is no great
believer in the rights of man, and modern radical catch-cries leave him
cold: his creed being rather the rights of nations and the duties of man,
the rights of a nation being the right to freedom and the right to the
allegiance and service of all its children, and the duties of man being to
fear God and serve his nation. He believes in the State as against the
individual, and when in 1913 the great Dublin strike was on foot he
opposed it unflinchingly, unheeding the unpopularity of that course,
because he believed that the strike was injurious to Ireland. Poverty and
sweated labour and social problems generally he would remedy, not by
strikes or sabotage, but by State action, and in such action he would have
as little leaning towards employers as towards employées, his one guiding
principle being the good of the nation.

He believes intensely in himself, and he has no real faith in anybody
else, so that he is always more or less cold towards anybody who tries to
do any political work on his own, in or about his own particular sphere.
And this unfortunate tendency in him has been strengthened by the fact
that his immediate friends and co-workers in Dublin are all far below his
level in intellect and outlook, follow him blindly, and are equally
suspicious of any other attempt to do similar work. He has never had any
hero-worship for anybody save William Rooney, and for him he, as well as
all Rooney's co-workers, had the affection and the awe which the Young
Irelanders had for Davis. Since the death of Rooney he has been alone
intellectually, and while that has doubtless strengthened him, it has also
strengthened the difficulty of working with him amicably without being a
mere echo. When he got married, everybody gasped, but whatever he may be
as a family man, in public life he has continued to be just the same
aloof, impenetrable sphinx as before.

It is a pity that circumstances have put him in the way of making
propagandist speeches extensively, for it is not his work. He is an
effective speaker. He will stand on a platform and, coolly and without the
least trace of passion or emotion, will be more effective in the pungent
deadliness of half-a-dozen sentences, without word painting or
ornamentation of any kind, than the most flambuoyant orator. But his
weapon is the pen, and one article in his best style is worth more than a
dozen of his platform speeches. As leader-writer he is unequalled, and as
a writer of obituary notices he is unsurpassable.

Once he has made up his mind on anything he never changes. In controversy
he is like a bull-dog; he is always the last to let go, and by that time
there isn't much left of the other man's case. As a controversialist he is
able and totally unscrupulous, but he is nearly always right.

Until the recent strenuous period set in, his paper was like a huge magnet
which attracted to itself from the length and breadth of Ireland all the
poets and budding litterateurs. Its contributors have included W. B. Yeats
and Æ and John Eglinton; Seumas O'Sullivan and Padraic Colum; Thomas Boyd
and Alice Milligan and Ethna Carbery; finally James Stephens. But in his
heart he believes that

  "The poets all are foolish
  And some of them are wild,"

and eventually there comes an estrangement, if not a quarrel. He has held
the minor poets, but the major poets, after doing their best work in his
company, have escaped.

In addition to the poets, the paper attracts to itself first-hand
information about all political moves in Ireland and suggested moves. Upon
these things his information is usually premature, startling, and
eventually extraordinarily accurate. He has his finger on all the strings
that control Irish political happenings, and seems to know secret
political history almost as well as those who make it.

He always splits his infinitives.

In the years to come, when we his contemporaries and himself are all dead,
the historian will attempt to analyse the rapid Anglicisation of Ireland
in the nineteenth century, and the desperate struggle at its close to
arrest and reverse that Anglicisation. He will give the greater praise to
that small company of men and women who formed the Gaelic League in 1893
and by their hard work saved the language and arrested the tide of
Anglicisation; but, without detracting from either, he will dwell perhaps
most lovingly on the work of Arthur Griffith from 1899 to 1911, upon the
brain that took the several strands of the Irish Ireland movement, took
every constructive and quickening national idea there was, and wove them
all into the most complete and comprehensive national philosophy that has
been given to Ireland.



The Sinn Fein movement may be said to have begun in 1905 with, the general
adoption by the Separatist organisations in that year of the "Sinn Fein
Policy" as a basis of operations, and with the combination of all the
organisations into one, and a consequent more effective distribution of
energy, it made rapid progress. Branches of Sinn Fein were quickly formed
in all the larger towns, and more slowly in the smaller towns and in some
country districts. But at first it did not cause much fluttering in the
Parliamentarian dovecote, because its members were nearly altogether apart
from the people, upon whom the Parliamentarians relied for their strength.
Sinn Fein found its expounders and its followers almost wholly amongst
young men and young women of the intellectual order, who were more or less
in the general current set up by the language movement, which was then at
full strength, and who, were it not for Sinn Fein, would not bother
themselves with any political movement--save, of course, the Fenian
minority. It made no attack upon the mainsprings of the Parliamentarian
power, the daily press and the platform, and its propaganda was almost
wholly educational, and was wholly carried on in rooms and debating
societies, with an occasional public celebration of a national
anniversary. It was, in effect, creating an atmosphere which would
eventually have brought about the complete collapse of the Parliamentarian
power, even without any direct attack, and Mr. Griffith was very much in
favour of continuing the organisation upon that educational basis and
refraining from any incursion into platform politics. Circumstances,
however, proved too strong for him, and a beginning was made with
municipal representation. In Dublin the tide ran very strongly in a Sinn
Fein direction and some ten or a dozen seats were captured at the
municipal elections. Some seats in the provinces were also captured, but
in these cases I think the elections were not won upon a clear political
issue, but upon the personal popularity of the candidates. Wherever
possible the Branches of Sinn Fein inveigled the local Branches of the
United Irish League into debates on their respective policies, and usually
had no difficulty in pulverising them. Many attempts were made, also, to
inveigle members of the Party, but the only member who accepted a Sinn
Fein invitation was Mr. Stephen Gwynn, who was rather severely handled in
debate by the London Central Branch of Sinn Fein; while the "Irish
Parliament" Branch of the U.I.L., in a two nights' debate, conducted with
great vehemence and in the presence of a huge crowd, was practically
argued out of existence altogether.

The cumulative effect of all this was to set the name Sinn Fein
reverberating, ever so slightly but still clearly, in Ireland. The
Parliamentarian Press began to be conscious of its existence and it was
understood that it formed a lively topic of discussion, in private,
amongst the younger members of the Party. The Party were at the time in
very low water. The Liberals had come into power in 1906 with a majority
over all parties combined, and they promptly removed Home Rule from their
programme, offering instead the Devolution Bill, a plan for appeasing
Ireland with a number of glorified County Councils without an Irish
Parliament, and which was rejected even by a United Irish League
Convention although the Party were understood to be working for its
acceptance until the last moment. This offer and its rejection, and the
obvious refusal of the Liberal Party to carry out their implied promises
with regard to Ireland, and the helplessness of the Parliamentary Party,
led to the beginnings of a revolt in the ranks of the Parliamentary Party.
Mr. C. J. Dolan, member for North Leitrim, declared himself to be a Sinn
Feiner; Sir Thomas Esmonde, a Party Whip at the time, followed suit; and
others of the younger members were known, or were credibly believed, to be
considering the same course. All the influence which the Party could
muster was immediately brought to bear upon the two rebels, and in the
case of Sir Thomas Esmonde with complete success. He remained a Sinn
Feiner, if my memory is accurate, for about a week, and then recanted. Mr.
Dolan, however, proved to have more conviction. He not alone refused to be
cajoled, but he resigned his seat and contested it again as a Sinn Feiner.
It was the first definite challenge since the Union to the theory of

The Sinn Fein Executive at the time did not want an election on its hands.
It was not ready for it. It knew that the movement, so far as a policy of
Parliamentary elections was concerned, was only in its initial stages,
that a Sinn Fein candidate outside Dublin stood no chance, and that a Sinn
Fein defeat would react unfavourably on the movement, even though a good
fight were made. But the circumstances gave them no choice, and both sides
did their best in North Leitrim. The Parliamentary Party had all the
advantage that money, organisation, and Press could give them; whereas the
Sinn Feiners had no money, no organisation in the county, which, up to Mr.
Dolan's conversion, did not contain a single Sinn Feiner, few speakers, no
Press save the weekly "United Irishman"--in fact, they had nothing save
logic and courage. Mr. Dolan polled 1,200 votes and his opponent some 800
or 900 more, a result which, considering that all the big-wigs of the
Party had been sent down to the campaign, was a moral victory for Sinn
Fein and heartened the movement immensely; but it undoubtedly set going a
reaction against it in the country, and it arrested the flow of converts
from the Parliamentarian policy.

A daily paper had long been a cherished project of Mr. Griffith, and
during the North Leitrim election he became so sensible of the part played
by the daily press in that election that after it was over he set about
the establishment of a daily. By sheer obstinacy he talked over the Sinn
Fein Executive, none of whom viewed the project with anything but
apprehension, and an appeal for funds was made. It was an inopportune
time for such an appeal, as the slender purses of Sinn Feiners had just
been emptied in order to defray the expenses of North Leitrim; but
enthusiasm was high, and sufficient capital was subscribed for the modest
venture it was intended to be. The paper, however, never had a chance of
succeeding, its slender capital being counted in hundreds instead of in
thousands, and it subsisted for some months only by a periodical call on
the purses of its readers, and then collapsed, with adverse results. Its
failure not alone damned the chance of the Sinn Fein policy sweeping the
country--which chance had looked a sporting one--but it damped the
enthusiasm of the individual Sinn Feiners and arrested the movement. And
it was followed by another fatal complication. Some individuals who were
half Sinn Feiners and half followers of Mr. William O'Brien, one foot in
each camp, set on foot the idea of a combination between the two forces,
with a mixture of policies, viz., that there should be a Parliamentary
Party but that it should be subsidiary, and should be controlled by a
National Executive sitting in Dublin, which latter body should decide, as
a matter of tactics, whether the Party should attend Parliament or
withdraw from Parliament on any particular occasion. (This, it will be
noticed, was the after policy of the "Irish Nation League.") Mr. O'Brien
was understood to be favourable to the project, and certain of the Sinn
Fein leaders were also said to be not ill-disposed to it: but it was
publicly exposed, and as the result the Sinn Fein Executive definitely
repudiated it. The mischief had, however, been done: the Sinn Fein credit
went lower and lower in the country, and the Fenian element, to all
intents and purposes, withdrew their active support. Finally, when the
General Election of January, 1910, gave Mr. Redmond's Party the balance of
power, and the Liberals promised Home Rule, the country definitely threw
off the Sinn Fein idea and the organisation dwindled down to a Branch in
Dublin, and perhaps two or three in the provinces. From 1910 to 1913 the
skeleton of the Sinn Fein organisation continued in existence; the Dublin
Central Branch met regularly; the paper appeared regularly; annual
conventions were held; but no political work other than indoor educational
and propagandist work was done. Even though most of the country branches
were moribund, however, the framework of the organisation was still there:
it merely marked time until there should be some issue to Mr. Redmond's
balance of power. The Sinn Feiners knew well that that issue would be
unfavourable to the continued adhesion of the country to the
Parliamentarian policy, and they marked time.

The movement was, properly speaking, the political expression of the
spirit which was rendered permanent in Irish evolution by the
establishment of the Gaelic League, and its distinguishing characteristic
is in the permanence of its principles and of its policy. Its principles
and its policy are applicable at any stage of the struggle for Irish
freedom and under any conditions, and cannot be overwhelmed. They are
based upon ideas rather than on rhetoric, and they appeal to the intellect
rather than the passions. They emphasize the distinctive nationality of
Ireland, not so much by talking about it as by producing and
strengthening the evidences of that distinctive nationality: and in the
brain of Mr. Griffith they evolved a comprehensive and unconquerable
national policy, a policy to which all who believe in Ireland a Nation can
subscribe without compromising either extreme or moderate degrees of that
belief, a policy which, applied by a subject nation, gives the occupying
nation three alternatives, viz.: (1) extermination; (2) a permanent army
of occupation and the permanent suspension of all pretence at
constitutional government; (3) evacuation.

From the beginning the movement was crippled for want of money. Its
members, with the exception of Mr. Edward Martyn and Mr. John Sweetman,
were all young men and women, earning low wages, whose shillings and
sixpences, cheerfully given, only sufficed to keep the paper going, to
defray office expenses, and to finance the solitary organiser the
Organisation boasted in its best days. Had it had the money in 1907 or
1908, its two best years, to take the best of its young men and let them
loose upon Ireland at the work which was nearest their hearts, even Mr.
Redmond's balance of power would not have deferred his eclipse. But its
executive knew, and every member knew, that that day was only deferred,
and that the Policy of Self-Reliance would hold the field some day.



The English people, either collectively or individually, do not want to
give Ireland freedom. Some of them are willing to concede the name of
freedom whilst reserving its machinery, but they are few. Most of them do
not understand the Irish question, which is an international one, as being
a dispute between two Sovereign Nations, and not an Imperial or Domestic
one, and none of them want to understand it.

Similarly with English political parties. Neither the Liberal Party nor
the Tory Party desires to give Ireland freedom, and if they have coquetted
with various schemes for extending local government, they have only done
so because it was necessary, owing to the Irish vote in the English
constituencies or in Parliament, to their retention in office, or because
the situation in Ireland necessitated some kind of sop to the sentiment
there, and they have taken good care that these coquettings came to
nothing. In Mr. Gladstone's case he could coquet with Home Rule with a
perfectly easy mind, because he knew that no Home Rule Bill introduced by
a Liberal Government would ever pass the House of Lords. So that he had
not to take any special measures to ensure that the Bill did not pass;
all he had to do was to let events take their normal course, and blame the
House of Lords. How a man like Parnell could have believed that a Liberal
Government, even if it wanted to pass a Home Rule Bill, could do so has
always astonished me.

When Mr. Asquith, in order to ensure the passing of advanced Radical
legislation, upon the passing of which the continued existence of his
Party depended, weakened the House of Lords, the situation changed, and it
became necessary to seek some new method of insuring that the Bill should
not pass into law, at any rate in any form which would be of the least
benefit to Ireland. And that method was provided, possibly at the instance
of both parties in England acting together for the benefit of England, and
certainly with the full connivance of the Liberal Government, by Sir
Edward Carson and his friends in the organisation of the Ulster
Volunteers. Mr. Redmond was assured, while the Volunteers were being
formed, that the Government would not permit any threats to influence them
with regard to the Bill, and then at the last moment they took refuge
behind the Ulster Volunteers and regretted that they could give Ireland
Home Rule only by Partition. And Partition it would have been were it not
for the Irish Volunteers.

The idea of a Volunteer force under Irish control was not a new thing in
Ireland. Such a force had made history in the years 1779 to 1782, and
there has probably been no generation of Nationalists since which has not
at some time or other gone into the possibility of the establishment of a
Volunteer force. And long before the Ulster Volunteers were started, one
of the things which Nationalists looked forward to as amongst the first to
be done under any Irish government was the establishment of a Volunteer
force, whether that power came with the Bill or not. But the objection
that had always met any schemes for the establishment of Volunteers, or
for any public arming or drilling, was the certainty that, whatever the
law on the subject might be, no Irish Volunteer force or analogous body
would be permitted by England to come into being. But with the
establishment and arming of the Ulster Volunteers, with the connivance of
England, it dawned upon many people that there was a sporting chance that,
in order to keep up the semblance of impartiality, England would find
herself unable to suppress an Irish Volunteer force, unless at any rate
the Ulster force were at the same time suppressed. And accordingly the
Irish Volunteers were established.

To Sir Edward Carson let the greater praise belong.

The men who established the Irish Volunteers were drawn from several
sources. There were some Fenians, some Sinn Feiners, some
Parliamentarians, and some who had not hitherto been identified at all
with politics. They did not establish the Volunteers as a counterblast to
the Ulster Volunteers, or with any idea of either fighting or overawing
Ulster. No member of the Irish Volunteers would ever have fired a shot
against an Ulster Volunteer for refusing to acknowledge an Act of the
English Parliament, even though that Act were a Home Rule Act. Nor were
they established to help Mr. Redmond to achieve Home Rule. They had a
vision which went a long way beyond Home Rule. They were established
because half-a-dozen Irishmen had the inspiration at about the same time
that here was a God-given opportunity of providing Ireland with an armed
Volunteer force, which should do as much for Ireland to-day as the Irish
Volunteers of 1779-1782 had done for the Ascendancy Parliament. These men
were, as the "Freeman's Journal" put it, "nobodies," but their work has

The Irish Parliamentary Party did not want an Irish Volunteer movement,
not even under their own control. They had degenerated into such
ineffective and incapable politicians that they had no glimmering of the
way in which they were being fooled, and they were still convinced that
speech-making in the House of Commons was the only way to help the Home
Rule Bill. And when, at the outset, they and their chief supporters were
invited to identify themselves with the movement, in which they would of
course have a majority, they peremptorily refused. They believed then that
the movement, without their sanction, would not come to anything.

The Government evidently thought so, too, for it allowed the movement to
develop, although, in order to be on the safe side, it prohibited the
importation into Ireland of arms and ammunition a week after the formation
of the first corps. But it soon became evident that the movement was going
to be a force to be reckoned with, as parish after parish fell into line,
and the Party began to be concerned for their power. In public they made
no pronouncement as a Party against the Volunteer movement, but in
private they did their best against it, to no purpose. Then there were
some open attacks, by Mr. Hazleton and Mr. Lundon (I think), and still the
Volunteers grew. Then a secret order was issued to the A.O.H. Branches to
go into the Volunteers and get control of them, but they were refused
affiliation as Branches and their members had to come in as individuals,
and were posted haphazard to the various companies, thus breaking up their

The Parliamentary Party were now seriously alarmed about the Volunteer
movement. It continued to grow, and its recruits included not alone men
who had never been members of the U.I.L. or A.O.H., but men who were
actually members of these organisations and who now gave their first
allegiance to the Volunteers. Public opinion had swung over to the
Volunteers, and the Party were faced with practical extinction unless they
could in some way manage to "get in" on the Volunteer Executive. And
therefore a new move was tried. Mr. Redmond opened up secret negotiations
with the Volunteers, or rather with Eoin MacNeill, and made various
demands for the representation of the Parliamentary Party on the Volunteer
Executive. While these negotiations were still in progress, the Press
machine and the "public men" machine were set going all over the country,
and from all quarters the Party supporters began to bombard the public
with statements to the effect that Volunteering was quite the right thing,
but that the men in control were unknown and inexperienced men, and that
the movement would be safer and more stable, and, it was whispered, more
effective, in the hands of the "elected representatives" of the people.
After this had gone on for some little time, Mr. Redmond suddenly
delivered an ultimatum to the Volunteer Committee to accept a nomination
of 25 representatives from him or else he would instantly split the
Volunteers. This nomination would give him a controlling majority on the
Volunteer Executive, but it was accepted as the lesser of two evils.

Mr. Redmond's objects in securing control were three: first, to prevent
any further development of the movement on lines which constituted a
menace to his own power; second, to prevent the arming of the movement and
confine it to a paper Volunteer movement with the sole purpose of
establishing a counterpoise to the Ulster Volunteers; and, third, to
ensure that any arms which were obtained should be placed with safe
men--men, that is, who would place the Irish Parliamentary Party first and
the Volunteers second. But in none of these objects was he successful. The
Volunteer movement continued to grow, and continued to grow on its own
lines, and its own lines naturally led it away from the whole atmosphere
and philosophy on which the Parliamentary Party depend: and arms were got
in and were placed in the hands of men whose first allegiance was to
Ireland and not to Mr. Redmond; for in ability, even the ability to run
committees and to organise, Mr. Redmond's nominees were handsomely
outweighted by the original members.

Then came the incidents connected with the gun-running at Howth, to set
all Ireland aflame. In the week which followed it the whole of
Nationalist Ireland swerved into the Volunteer ranks, in thousands in the
cities, and in hundreds in the country places, and "respectable men, with
a stake in the country" offered motor cars, yachts, transit contrivances
of all kinds, for Volunteer purposes. Ireland stirred and raised itself,
as if out of a long sleep, as if the touch of the steel at Clontarf, the
feel of the rifle in the hands of the Volunteers after Howth and Kilcool,
had roused her, had brought back to her some of the old outlook. And it
was a Volunteer force of perhaps 250,000 men, not armed to any extent, and
not well drilled, but the best raw material in the world, that, with the
reverberation of the Scottish Borderers' volley at Bachelor's Walk not yet
banished from their ears, heard suddenly the rumble of the guns of the
war. Mr. Redmond, however, thought otherwise.

Had there been no war, the split in the Volunteer movement might have been
postponed for some time, might even have been postponed indefinitely, if
other events had taken a favourable turn; but the altered situation caused
by the war very soon upset the patched-up peace. When Mr. Redmond
abrogated the Irish claim, on behalf of his Party and of all the influence
he could control in Ireland, the Volunteer Committee trembled but it did
not erupt; but when at Woodenbridge he also pledged the Volunteers to a
similar abrogation, the Volunteer Committee erupted violently, and the
original members expelled Mr. Redmond's nominees and resumed control. Mr.
Redmond immediately formed an Executive of his own, and the Volunteer
split was an accomplished fact: Mr. Redmond had his paper Organisation,
but he had not succeeded in destroying the real Organisation, though he
had badly hampered it. He had diverted the Irish Volunteers from being a
movement representative of the whole of Nationalist Ireland, with the
highest ideals and the broadest national principles, into a movement with
the original ideals and principles, but representative now only of a
minority of the people and, consequently, no longer commanding the same
general respect. The after history of the Irish National Volunteers, as
Mr. Redmond's organisation was called, is the history of a make-believe,
of a paper Volunteer force, whose only public appearance was one which
will be for all time execrated by the people of Ireland.



The promoters of the Volunteer movement had not contemplated insurrection,
nor had they identified themselves with any extreme or physical force
policy. They were not committed to Separation, to Sinn Fein, or to
Parliamentarianism, but to the defence of Irish rights, and to the
obtaining of arms and ammunition for that purpose. Each of them had his
own idea of what exactly the movement stood for, as had the rank and file,
but all were content to sink differences and subscribe to the simple
formula of defending Irish rights, which embraced them all and embraced
all their policies. Upon that basis they carried Ireland with them,
united, despite political machines and jealousies, for the first time for

The outbreak of war however changed that, and made it imperative on every
section to reconsider the position, and to revise policy. The
Parliamentarians and the Fenians were the first to make up their minds,
the one to work for an insurrection and the other not alone to suspend
Ireland's claims but actively to support England. The resultant split left
Mr. Redmond with an imposing organisation, on paper, but left only one
genuine body of Nationalist Volunteers in Ireland--the original Irish
Volunteers. But its membership was now reduced to the extreme men--using
the term to denote every school of Nationalist thought which went beyond
Parliamentarianism. And that inevitably ensured the controlling influence
to the Fenians, the only men who were out with a definite policy. The
campaign which, immediately after the expulsion of Mr. Redmond and his
followers, was carried on against the Volunteers by the united forces of
the Government and of the Parliamentary Party hardened them and inclined
the whole body towards the policy on which the Fenians were building, and
although there were to the end two sections in the Volunteers, one which
wanted an insurrection and one which only contemplated it in the event of
Partition or Conscription and desired to keep the organisation intact with
a view to its weight being used in any post-bellum attempt at settlement,
yet the temper of the whole body was such that the Fenian element
dominated it for all practical purposes. The self-denying ordinance under
which they had at the beginning refrained from being prominently
identified with the movement had no further justification, and they
controlled the Executive, as representing the majority opinion of the
organisation. The result we know.

When the Volunteers expelled Mr. Redmond's nominees it was considered good
tactics by the Parliamentarian press to dub the original Irish Volunteers
the "Sinn Fein" Volunteers, the Party having judged that Sinn Fein as a
policy was beyond the possibility of resurrection: and in course of time
the name "Sinn Feiner" came to be used where up to that time "Factionist"
had been the favourite term. When the insurrection occurred it was
promptly labelled a "Sinn Fein" insurrection, and the papers were full of
stories about the "Sinn Fein" colours, stamps, commandoes, and
desperadoes. All this with the object of discrediting the insurrection,
the name "Sinn Fein" not being in good odour in the country. Thus Sinn
Fein, from being politics, and discredited politics, suddenly became
history. And at the same time the Unionists made their contribution to its

The "Irish Times" is the organ of the governing classes in Ireland and the
organ in Ireland of the Unionist Party of England. On the 1st May, 1916,
its first appearance after the insurrection, it wrote: "All the elements
of disaffection have shown their hand. The State has struck, but its work
is not yet finished. The surgeon's knife has been put to the corruption in
the body of Ireland, and its course must not be stayed until the whole
malignant growth has been removed. In the verdict of history weakness
to-day would be even more criminal than the indifference of the last few
months. Sedition must be rooted out of Ireland once for all. The rapine
and bloodshed of the past week must be finished with a severity which will
make any repetition of them impossible for many generations to come." How
strangely fatuous that reads now! And on May 2 the Dublin correspondent of
"The Times," who is the editor of the "Irish Times," wrote: "There are a
few persons, not now prisoners of the law, about whose fate the public is
beginning to be curious. They are men who until the moment of the
insurrection were closely identified with the extreme propaganda of Sinn
Fein, who encouraged the movement, made violent speeches, wrote violently
in newspapers, but at the last moment did not come out with uniforms and
guns. At least half a dozen such men are notorious." The men referred to
were Mr. Arthur Griffith and other leaders of the old Sinn Fein Movement.
These counsels of the "Irish Times" and of the London "Times" were adopted
by the Government, the first executions taking place on May 3rd, and being
followed by the arrest and deportation of everybody who had ever been
connected either with the Volunteers or the old Sinn Fein Movement, so
that many moribund branches of Sinn Fein found themselves together
again--in Richmond Barracks, or in a deportation prison.

Now as a matter of actual fact Sinn Fein had nothing to do with the
insurrection, which was, as even the Hardinge Commission evidence shows, a
Fenian insurrection. Of the seven men who signed the republican
proclamation only one was in any sense a Sinn Feiner--Sean Mac
Diarmada--and most of the others would have objected very strongly to
being identified with Sinn Fein. Of the Sinn Fein leaders proper, most
were not out in the insurrection at all, nor were they, apparently, in the
counsels of the men who directed it. Facts, however, stand no chance in
modern times against journalism, and the Volunteers and the Insurrection
were duly labelled "Sinn Fein"; and when public opinion swung over and
that opinion coalesced in a new and formidable movement, the name which
had been known as a reproach was taken up as a battle-cry, while the
policy of deporting the old Sinn Fein leaders merely rehabilitated them in
the public eye for their failure to be "out," and gave them the moulding
of the policy of the new movement. It, in fact, provided what was an
emotional impulse with a policy ready-made and adaptable to the new
conditions, a policy moreover which had already brains behind it.

The policy of Sinn Fein to-day is the old Sinn Fein policy, outlined in
Chapter IV, with two alterations. In the first place it is based frankly
on separation, with no mention of the Constitution of 1782; and in the
second place its immediate objective is the Peace Conference. Mr. Griffith
believes intensely, and he has carried the movement with him, that it is
possible to get the case of Ireland taken out of England's hands
altogether as an international question. But whether that view be correct
or not is immaterial, for Sinn Fein, in working for the Peace Conference,
does not drop any portion of its constructive policy, and its main
reliance is upon the Sinn Fein policy proper. The Peace Conference is, as
it were, a temporary weapon forged by circumstances, which will be
available, if at all, during a limited period, and which it would be folly
to neglect; but the Sinn Fein policy is the permanent weapon and the main
reliance of the movement.

Sinn Fein represents at present a combination of forces. It represents the
old Sinn Fein Movement, Fenianism, and the whole public opinion which has
swung round from the Parliamentarian policy to the policy of no
compromise. There are many sections in it, separated on minor points but
agreed on the main point, that Ireland must work out her own salvation,
and that so long as she concentrates within herself she is impregnable. It
represents the culmination of the cumulative efforts of the Gaelic
Athletic Association, the Gaelic League, the Sinn Fein Movement of 1905,
and the Irish Volunteers. These were all manifestations of the national
perception of loss of the essentials of nationality, and cumulatively they
represent the evolution of a national philosophy rather than a political

More than a year ago Mr. Lloyd George, speaking at Westminster and
referring to Sinn Fein, said: "The point is that there is a demand for
sovereign independence for Ireland. It has never been claimed by my
honourable friends bellow the gangway. They have always sincerely accepted
the complete supremacy of the Imperial Parliament and membership of the
British Empire." It is precisely because the Irish people as a whole have
come to realise that that they have swung over to Sinn Fein. The whole
strength of the Parliamentarian Movement lay in the Separatist spirit, and
its continued hold on the country depended upon its success in retaining
the confidence of the country that it stood, ultimately, for independence.
There has never been in Ireland a constitutional, or quasi-constitutional,
movement which was not founded in Fenianism, impregnated with Fenianism,
and propagated with Fenianism, save the movement under Mr. Butt and Mr.
Shaw, which never held the Irish people. If the Parliamentarian speeches
are examined, they will be found until quite recently to be full of Tone,
and Emmet, and Fitzgerald, appeals not to any material or "reasonable" or
"practical" spirit, but to national tradition. If their speeches in
Westminster were on the whole more moderate than their speeches at home,
allowance was always made for the fact that they were only playing a game
of tactics. And so long as their home voice drowned their Westminster
voice they retained the trust of the people. But when events convinced the
people that their Westminster voice had finally and definitely conquered
the home voice, when they realised that what they had taken for a
Nationalist in disguise was really an Imperialist, then they dropped the
Parliamentarians as they will always drop any Party which compromises the
fundamental right of the Irish Nation to independence.

What really happened when the mass of the Irish people swung over to Sinn
Fein was not that from being constitutional they suddenly became
revolutionary, but that the historic Irish Nation shook itself clear of
the after effects of the eighteenth century and ousted the conception of
an Ireland deriving its constitutional authority from English decrees.
There have been in Ireland two traditions: one, that of the ancient
historic Irish Nation, with its separate language, culture, history, and
mentality, and the other, dating from the creation in the eighteenth
century of an artificial State based upon the subjection of the historic
Irish Nation, having its origin in the English invasion of Ireland,
deriving its authority from the decrees of English kings, and accepting
the status of an English colony, with no rights not subject to withdrawal
by the English Parliament. Events forced the resurgent Irish Nation
unconsciously to base itself after 1829 on the artificial garrison
tradition, which weakened its own separate tradition and would eventually
have eliminated it altogether. But when in 1893 it rediscovered its
separate language it set up a mental revolution which grew until it had
involved every national activity in Ireland and which finally re-awakened
the historic Irish Nation and overthrew the garrison tradition.

Whatever, therefore, may happen to Sinn Fein as a movement, the future is
with the spirit of it, with the historic Irish Nation of which it is the
expression. For the first time since Hugh O'Neill signed the Treaty of
Mellifont that Nation has become passionately and definitely articulate.
And not all the world can put the garrison tradition into the saddle

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _italics_.

The original text includes Gaelic passages. For this text version, most
of the letters are presented without the diacritical markings shown in
the original text.

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