R. C. ESCOUFLAIRE
IRELAND---AN ENEMY OF THE ALLIES?
WE have now arrived, through centuries of terrible suffering and pitiless cruelties, at the calmer days of modern times, at the era of religious and political toleration, of reparation for shattered rights, of parliamentary guarantees. Will Ireland have order and peace at last?
English legislators had become more indulgent, more enlightened, more conciliatory. They were more inclined to make allowances for Ireland, and to loosen the reins. Then periodically, every twenty or thirty years or so, they had reason to regret it; Ireland took advantage of these acts of clemency and they had to be canceled. It is one long round of "benefits forgot," and the inevitable suppression following upon them ---the whole thing intensified by the fatal but very tenacious illusion that English statesmen only give in to fear. As Irish revolt is continuous and endemic, it can always be shown that threatening agitation has preceded conciliatory laws, and it is easy to assume that they are cause and effect. For those who know the character of Pitt, Wellington, Peel, and Mr. Balfour, this is somewhat hard to believe, but Ireland always insists upon ignoring good intentions, refusing to be grateful, and perpetuating animosity.
The first serious attempt at concession was the legislation at the close of the eighteenth century abrogating the penal laws.
Ireland had at that time her Parliament sitting at Dublin, with Lords and Commons, an ancient institution dating from the days of the Plantagenets, similar to the Parliament in London, and having experienced the same evolution and vicissitudes. For a long time it had been composed only of nobles and prelates nominated by the Crown. A celebrated statute of Henry VII's reign, "Poynings's Law," laid down its functions until 1782; no Bill could be introduced in Dublin which had not previously been examined and approved by the Privy Council in London. Thus countenanced, the Bill might be rejected, though it might not be amended by the Irish Parliament. That is roughly what the Reichstag had to be content with under William II.
During the eighteenth century, both at Dublin and at Westminster alike, well-known constitutional and parliamentary progress was defined. In 1780 the Irish House included remarkable orators, such as Flood and Grattan, whose eloquence is as traditional as that of Fox and Burke.
Grattan, moreover, was a first-class statesman, endowed with determination and practical energy. It was he who specified what the national claims should be, carried out the repeal of the penal laws and definitely emancipated his fellow-countrymen by two great legislative victories. In 1782 he obtained the abrogation of Poyning's Law, thus restoring parliamentary initiative to his country, and he could then claim that Ireland was "a free country and a nation once again." Afterwards, and as a logical consequence, the Roman Catholics acquired the right to vote.
It is only right to observe that none of these laws of equity could have succeeded without the consent of George III's ministers. According to the Irish, they only bowed before the storm of warlike preparations on the part of the leagues, Volunteers and Defenders, who were all aflame with the theories of the French Revolution. We shall see if Pitt were the kind of man to fear anything of the sort, and if he would not show the iron hand wherever he thought it necessary.
How did the Irish make use of their new liberties which Grattan had won for them? In 1791 they founded the League of United Irishmen, on the principles of '89, imported from Paris. Its object was to unite against England, both Protestants and Roman Catholics; and the Presbyterians of Ulster, disgusted by the intolerance of the official Episcopal Church, consented to enroll in it. As a matter of fact they were the dupes of plausible talkers who concealed ugly motives; once the English were disposed of, so they reasoned, there would be little trouble in getting rid of these tiresome Protestants, and woe to those who allowed themselves to be cut off and led astray by vain promises!
The project was revealed by a speech in the Dublin Parliament by one Dr. Duigenan.
"Irish Catholics to a man esteem Protestants as usurpers of their estates. To this day they settle these estates on the marriage of their sons and daughters. They have accurate maps of them. They have lately published in Dublin a map of this kingdom cantoned out among the old proprietors."
A premature rising in 1793 opened the eyes of the Protestants, and made them understand what to expect; some of the boors who were taken prisoners, unversed in the secrecy of conspiracies, confessed that "when matters were more ripe, all Protestants and Presbyterians were to be killed in one night."
For two or three years, under the name Defenders of the Faith, an abominable band of firebrands had raged over the island, corresponding to the Chouans. Nocturnal crimes, agrarian and others, became more and more frequent. In Ulster an inoffensive Protestant teacher called Barclay was thus murdered with all his family, wife and children. The incident created a great sensation. Ulster was obliged to admit that it had been misled, and that Defenders and United Irishmen were one and the same. The reaction was violent; in their turn the Protestants founded their League of Orangemen in 1795 and swore to exterminate those savage brutes, whose victims they had narrowly escaped being once more. They took up again the old cry of Cromwell's Puritans, "To Hell or Connaught."
From that time the Catholic rebels, searching for other allies, made friends with the Convention and the Directoire, and Hoche came to give them a helping hand in 1796. This put quite a different complexion on the problem, and it made Pitt, who had up to now been well-disposed towards Ireland, an opponent in spite of himself. Pitt and England had at that time only one idea, war to the death against the murderous Jacobins. Ireland, by allying herself against such a man, and such a nation, signed her own death-warrant, all the more because she had just received so many concessions. As usual the Martyred Island produced a pretext. Pitt had recalled a viceroy from whom much was expected; a feeble excuse for calling upon the enemy for help.
The historic parallel is a tempting one, between the invasions of Queen Elizabeth's reign and of 1796 and the appeals to Germany in 1916. When the Irish asked for help from the Spaniards of Philip II, at least they were applying to co-religionists, but that the Roman Catholics should have opened their doors to the man from Quiberon surprises us more, and is perhaps the most absurd paradox among the many which abound in the history of Ireland.
Between this rebellion and that of 1916 there are other points of comparison. They both broke out at a moment when it was most ill-fitting that Ireland should complain of persecution, since she was on the contrary overwhelmed with concessions. She was not in the least grateful. We can also find in both crises the wavering of the national clergy, whose influence is so considerable. Wolfe Tone, the leader of the rebels from 1796 to 1798, one of the earliest socialists, and open disciple of the Jacobins, did not conceal his hatred of priests. He did not consider them sufficiently sure and reliable allies, since the Church could not approve his violent schemes. The leaders of Sinn Fein are more moderate to-day, but they profess the same impatience of the religious yoke.
On the one hand we find bishops reproving officially the brutal side; on the other hand some prelates take a different view and their indulgence is ill-concealed. Again, the young priests, one and all, defy the pontifical charges, take part in meetings or join leagues which their bishops have condemned. Enthusiasm is infectious, and the word "nationalism" calms the scruples of this most submissive hierarchy. The faithful make the most of this encouraging example; and why should they hesitate, if the attraction is strong enough to shake the discipline of the shepherds of the flock?
Hoche's expedition failed ingloriously, but the island was none the more peaceful for that. Wolfe Tone and his United Irishmen continued their agitation. Since the Government could not, while war was raging, allow such coalitions with the enemy to pass with impunity, martial law was proclaimed; Ireland had to submit to summary reprisals from a garrison of 60,000 men, incited by the Protestants to avenge them for all the outrages which they had suffered against their persons and properties.
In the face of all this, Wolfe Tone's followers redoubled their excesses. Suddenly, in 1798, the insurrection once more gained the upper hand, with a repetition of the horrors of the Thirty Years' War. It only lasted for a month, but quite long enough to justify the most exaggerated fears on the part of the Protestants. In the south they were seized everywhere, dragged to Vinegar Hill to the revolutionary headquarters, and shot after a mock trial, with prayers, exorcisms, absolution, and sprinkling of holy water. At Kildare a father and his child were impaled and slowly roasted alive. At Scullabogue 184 men, women, and children were burnt alive in a barn; some Roman Catholics protested, and were thrown into the furnace. At Wexford Bridge, men were drowned wholesale; two brutes stuck a pike into them and threw them into the water. Including those who were punished, there were altogether between 150,000 and 200,000 victims.
Ulster was spared, for the more compact Protestant centers could protect themselves better. But the slaughter in the south made Ulstermen renew their steadfast vows never to accept such masters, and never to relinquish English protection. Those vows have never been changed, and it is as well to remember on what memories they are founded. How can one ever expect pardon and oblivion between Protestants, haunted by the thought of the cold-blooded massacres of 1641 and 1798, and Nationalists who never deprecated them openly and still go on pilgrimages to Wolfe Tone's tomb and honor his scoundrels as martyrs?
The rebellion was quickly suppressed because the help from France came too late. A century earlier it would have brought upon Ireland pitiless reprisals, but Pitt was above petty spite; he was just and firm, but would not tolerate cruelties. He drew from this turmoil only one conclusion, that which is drawn by another historian, Lord Rosebery, a statesman of moderate views, eminently liberal, impartial and disinterested: "The one lesson of the rebellion was that the whole system of Irish government must be remodeled."
Grattan's eloquence had failed; it had demanded rights, but had not said enough about duties.
Pitt decided upon Union; there would be no more Parliament in Dublin, and in exchange Irish deputies would come and vote at Westminster. There was a happy precedent for this: Scotland had adopted this plan in 1707 and was none the worse for it. Pitt only neglected one thing---the consent of the Irish, no doubt thinking it superfluous to argue and negotiate with chauffeurs; (5) a Government worthy of the name only stoops to that when other resources fail. With such opponents, and on the morrow of such horrors, he had no scruples about the choice of methods, and he won the consent of the Irish Parliament by corruption.
Every one knows how votes were bought and sold in those days, how little comment it aroused, and how Pitt himself was returned by a rotten borough. But this does not affect Irish agitators, who look upon this matter as fair game, and the corrupt origin of the Union has always been their favorite argument. They forget the causes, and win an easy success by laying stress only upon the vitiated form.
No one can deny that the Dublin Parliament, so deeply regretted, had always been venal; in 1800 it was at the same stage of development as the Houses at Westminster were in 1730 in Walpole's day. All the votes were bought by bargaining with administrative posts, titles, or hard cash.
Before deciding upon any scheme, the Viceroy, representing the Cabinet in London, was asked
"What are your wishes, and how much will you pay us?" Every member of the National Assembly had his price. By a supreme irony, the great law of Catholic emancipation of 1792 had only been passed thanks to Pitt's express instructions and to the usual wire-pulling.
Before leaving for ever that Senate which he had made illustrious, Grattan, in a moving protest, vowed that the Union would alienate Ireland from England irretrievably.
But what could have been more hostile to England than Ireland in 1798? Armed rebellion, paroxysms of national hatred, and religious fanaticism, three invitations to the enemy followed by their landing---no light matter. What more do you want? The wars of the Counter Revolution have been compared with the Great European War, and nothing has been exaggerated; then, too, England's existence was at stake, and she could not afford to be distracted by Irish pleasantries. Now that we are allies, and that all our enemies both behind and before us are the same, we ought to understand better the spirit of the great Minister who watched so jealously over her destinies when they were in peril.
Grattan had been the champion of political liberty, properly speaking. Another illustrious Irishman, Daniel O'Connell, now came to the fore as the upholder of religious liberty. The Catholics, although they had become once more citizens, electors, and lawyers, still suffered from numerous disabilities; every career was open to them, but they were not admitted to the highest ranks in the magistracy, they were not allowed to become Ministers or generals. They might enter the doors and sit in the ante-chamber, but never at their master's table; justice was meted out to them so grudgingly as to be insulting.
O'Connell had been educated at the convents of Douai and Saint Omer, and had witnessed the excesses of the French Revolution; as a result he had remained resolutely Conservative, and his patriotic and religious convictions were always tempered by respect for established order. Till the end he maintained the principle ---a novelty in the history of his race---of liberation by lawful means. He found the moment propitious for his program, owing to the failure of violent methods in 1798, which helped to convince intelligent men; and owing also to Pius VII's moderating influence in the direction of conciliation, which won over the clergy. He therefore rose rapidly. His Catholic Association was soon supreme; it held monster assemblies which were under perfect control; all the faithful were members without exception, and thanks to its discipline, irreproachable methods, the coherence of its ideas, and the justice, of its demands, its impulse was irresistible. By rousing the nation through an enthusiasm which was truly ideal, and by allying himself through the nobility of his cause and the sincerity of his propaganda with the giants of English Liberalism and with far-sighted Conservatives such as Canning, the Liberator proved that a genuine stirring of opinion can have as much force as the convulsions of a riot and the terror of secret societies.
The Duke of Wellington bowed before the storm, and since 1829 there has been practically not the slightest inequality, civil or political, between Roman Catholics and Protestants.
The last intolerable injustice, that of having to pay tithe to the Established Church, disappeared in 1838, and the final separation of the Protestant Church of Ireland and the State was completed by Gladstone in 1869. The Island of Saints was in that respect more favored than England, where tithe is still due, and where dissenters of all denominations have still to submit to the existence of a State Church.
Shrewd lawyer as well as inspired orator, O'Connell had never allowed his partisans to deviate towards the illegalities which are so dear to the national character. At the height of his triumph he was swept away by the demagogy which he had inflamed. All Irish leaders have known that reverse side of their glory, and endured the same remorse at their inability to control the exasperated mob. Social discipline has never been inculcated in this people, and neither by education nor by temperament can it enjoy liberty for long without abusing it.
Already the campaign against the tithe, started in 1830 immediately after England had granted total rehabilitation, had plunged Ireland once more into an orgy of blood and crime. O'Connell, although he disapproved wholeheartedly of the methods of ruffianism, so contrary to his own, had to back up his friends, protest against the rigors of the law which nevertheless he respected profoundly, and had to inveigh against authority, justice, police, by taking the part of the criminals. His attitude in this business has often served as an example to the leaders who followed him. Neither Isaac Butt nor Parnell nor Redmond was the accomplice of the Fenian assassins of 1870, of the dynamiters of 1884, of the agrarian terrorists of 1909, or of the traitors of 1916. And yet they were unanimous in deploring their punishment, and in demanding boundless impunity for their compromising followers. Out of this Ireland has reared a misleading "martyrology," by mourning these dubious "heroes."
Absorbed by her struggles for religious freedom, Ireland had as yet hardly raised any objections to the Union of 1800. About 1840, however, this question came to the front rank, and became the great national cry; the repeal of Pitt's Statute, return to Parliamentary autonomy in Dublin, Home Rule and the right to be master in one's own house were demanded.
The whole apparatus of monster meetings as in 1828 was revived on an appeal from the clergy, and in 1843 O'Connell thought he was on the eve of a fresh victory. But he no longer held the best trump card which he had played before; he had lost the moral support of England, which had been very considerable, and to which he had owed much more of his earlier success than he had imagined.
The majority of those who had seconded him in the name of religious toleration grew impatient of this incessant and noisy agitation; they realized that Ireland obtained quite easily at Westminster anything which she asked for reasonably, and saw through the adversaries' game; they realized that the only reason for which the Irish Parliament was to be revived was in order to perpetuate an enmity of which no secret was made, and which was, at this stage of the proceedings, frankly ungrateful.
O'Connell failed. England was not afraid, which he had reckoned on, having misunderstood the reasons for the concessions of former years. Peel, who had been so conciliatory on a question of conscience, on this occasion opposed and crushed the movement for Repeal.
Ireland had now a fresh weapon which she could use against her so-called stepmother. The Union gave her 103 members in the House of Commons, and about 84 of these represented hostile constituencies. These were enough to alter the English balance of parties, and naturally their weight tended towards the Radical party, crazy about national autonomy and always flirting with all movements for independence, even the most artificial and unjustifiable, and more and more indifferent to British dignity and Imperial cohesion. May England perish rather than that the smallest humanitarian Utopia of John Bright, Cobden's economic theories, or the doctrinaire and humiliating diplomacy of Russell and Gladstone should go by the board! The Little Englanders have always been the natural allies of anti-English Ireland.
They first united in opposition to the Cabinet of Robert Peel. This coalition subsisted latterly quite as much by parliamentary necessity as for love of principles, for the eighty-four votes of the Irish Nationalists have often saved Whig Governments. That is the reason why the latter were always against redistribution; those 103 seats were attributed to Ireland when her 5,500,000 inhabitants constituted 35 per cent. of the United Kingdom. Now they are only 10 per cent., and she should not have more than 67 members out of a total of 670. We are still some way from seeing England annihilate Ireland!
Thanks to this disproportionate influence, Ireland has had a large share of power and of favors, each time that the Liberals have been in power. Beyond this she has had even more abundant and substantial benefits from the Conservatives. Yet she still remains one of the worst problems of modern Europe; from 1840 to the present day, now flattered by the Whigs, and now petted by the Tories, she has never been more unruly, tormented, discontented, sterile, decadent, and refractory. She is the only failure of that Empire which is fortunate and prosperous above all others, the only nightmare of the greatest of colonizing nations. Will she make us believe that England is the only cause of all her woes? England whose light hand rules the most diverse races and the most vast dominions with a minimum of troops and troubles?
Disraeli stated the problem in one of his first parliamentary attacks upon Peel.
"What," he asked, "did this eternal Irish question mean? One said it was a physical question, another a spiritual question. Now it was the absence of an aristocracy, then the absence of railroads. It was the Pope one day, potatoes the next. . . . They had a starving population, an absentee aristocracy, and an alien Church, and in addition the weakest executive in the world. That was the Irish question. Well, then, what would honorable gentlemen say if they were reading of a country in that position? They would say at once 'the remedy was revolution.' But Ireland could not have a revolution, and why? Because Ireland was connected with another and more powerful country. . . . What, then, was the duty of an English Minister? To effect by his policy all those changes which revolution would do by force. That was the Irish question in its integrity."
This was well said. Yet Disraeli had to confess later on, when he had had to give up biting criticisms and try his hand at ruling, that the famous question was easier to define than to resolve. In 1845 Peel, when asking Parliament for £9,000 for Maynooth, said:
"I call on you to recollect that you are responsible for the peace of Ireland. I say you must break up, in some way or other, that formidable confederacy which exists in that country against the British Government and the British connection. I do not believe you can break it up by force. . . . You can do much to break it up by acting in a spirit of kindness, forbearance, and generosity."
So spoke the Conservative statesman whom Ireland has most abused; so have spoken and performed all his successors since. All have had the same disillusions. The Irishman is never content. He says that he has excellent reasons for it, but when he makes the "Saxon" responsible for all his woes, he exaggerates. Here is the first example.
The island was decimated after 1830 by constant dearth, and in 1847 by an appalling famine during which 300,000 unfortunate people perished; from 1847 to 1852, 1,300,000 inhabitants emigrated and the population decreased by 20 per cent. Whose fault was it? You can guess what answer the demagogues give. In reality there were two causes which were entirely economic.
After the unjust export duties of 1666, the Irish poor lived solely by growing potatoes, for which their soil is particularly suitable. The potato has bad seasons. And since the Irish peasantry, which has always been one of the most backward in Europe in agricultural methods, used to leave the crop in the ground instead of looking after it carefully, and only dug it up as it was wanted, the best part was often frozen or rotted in bad winters. In 1846-47 it had all these misfortunes.
On the other hand, as the race is most prolific, the population had almost trebled in sixty years. From 2,800,000 inhabitants in 1785, it had grown to 8,300,000 in 1845. This would have been all very well if the resources of the soil had been sufficient. But a good quarter of the island was uncultivated, and how could 220 inhabitants be supported on one acre of cultivated land, at a time when land lay fallow and when the working was neither intensive nor intelligent, nor even continuous? All the Home Rule in the world could not have spared them the atrocious distress of 1847.
For what can England be blamed in this matter? For having under Charles II and William III discouraged other forms of cultivation, left Ireland without industries, left big properties through absenteeism in the hands of agents who were notoriously indifferent to the fate of the unfortunate, and in any case took no trouble to improve agricultural produce or to exploit poor soils?
None of these things, blameworthy in themselves, would explain the great disaster like the two direct causes which we have mentioned. The economic obstacles which are cited had disappeared in 1779, they had not prevented Ulster from living in comfort. Besides, England was not slow in remedying matters; she gave help to Ireland with that haste and ample generosity which she always brings to great catastrophes. Parliament voted a subsidy of £10,000,000, an immense sum for Budgets in those days; public works of no importance were undertaken in order to provide employment for 200,000 men and to feed the same number of families, public kitchens distributed nearly 3,000,000 rations every day. Private charity vied with official efforts, and we know that no people opens its purse with the same large-heartedness as the English, who are accused of selfishness.
As no people has ever met with so much ingratitude, the result might have been foreseen. Ireland has never hated the English more furiously than she has since 1850. I have before me, as I write, a chronological list of rebellions, murders, crimes of every description committed in the name of the national cause; one can hardly believe that it applies to this century. I have already filled a book with a summary of contemporary crimes, the history of three years of Irish anarchy, from 1906 to 1909.(6) The remainder would make an endless list. O'Connell died in 1847 and was no longer there to restrain passion, and contain his people within the bounds of legality, and once more the Irish cause was stained by violence.
Another confederate now comes on the scene in America. A powerful colony of Hibernians was founded in the United States by the great tide of emigration from 1840 to 1860. This colony has been ever since the most powerful supporter of rebel Ireland, the refuge of her outlaws, the instigator of her plots. It has procured the funds, inflamed hatred, armed or coached the patriots who were detailed for special jobs.
As most of the professional politicians on the other side are drawn from the ranks of the Irish, they have encouraged ill-feeling in the United States against England, the danger of which has often been prominent and has disturbed the best-intentioned. American statesmen. On these occasions the British Government has shown a forbearance and patience, for which we should give them due credit. Ancient countries have the wisdom of the ages. They need it, for provocation has been great. In 1864 the New York Irish inaugurated the Secret Society of Fenians. Two years later it was accredited with 380,000 members in America alone. Their activity was prodigious, and in a few months they succeeded in inspiring terror throughout the Anglo-Saxon world. They tried their hand at everything; they landed arms, committed murders all over the world, planned explosions and two invasions of Canada, attacked Chester Castle, laid siege to towns, garrisons, police posts, and coastguards, made an alliance with the Boers, blew up a prison in the middle of London, killing 150 innocent people, proclaimed the Irish Republic, issued paper money, etc. The Pope admonished the Catholics, President Grant took a firm tone, but no notice was taken.
The most characteristic incident of the whole campaign was the affair at Manchester in 1867. A prison van which was taking two Fenians from prison to court was attacked, the prisoners released, and a warder killed. Five of the assailants were arrested and condemned to death; two were reprieved, one of them because he was an American citizen; the other three, Allen, Larkin, and O'Brien, were executed. These are now honored as the Manchester martyrs, their anniversary is fêted, they are held up as an example to Irish youth, and extolled in national school manuals. Every town in Ireland went into mourning, every church celebrated solemn requiems followed by huge processions. Irish patriots, who are reputed to have a great sense of humor---"fellows of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy"---yet contend quite seriously that these crimes are not crimes of common law, but political offenses; the only criminal part in the business is taken by England, who dares to defend herself.
The indictment is quickly forgotten, and the condemned man often excites more respect than his executioners. We who are so easily led away by the mirage of independence, might be deceived by these sophisms, if we were not put on our guard by similar aberrations from which our Alliance suffered in 1916. On that occasion there was likewise rebellion, bloodshed---innocent blood---and then punishment. The day after the executions, solemn requiems were sung in Dublin churches for the martyrs of 1916, and divine vengeance was called down upon bloodthirsty Albion.
WE will not waste time by trying to calculate in what proportion all the revolts of the past were in reality inspired by agrarian grievances. No popular upheaval has ever been exclusively religious, agrarian, or national; if one or other element predominates, the others have always helped to swell the raging torrent. There is no doubt that agitators were largely helped by the sad and miserable condition of the Irish peasants. These unfortunate people had good cause for complaint. The wholesale confiscations in old days had concentrated property in the hands of a small number of great nobles---not bad men, I admit, but absent for three-parts of the time, living in the capital or in more comfortable mansions in England. A hundred years ago Miss Edgeworth denounced this abuse in The Absentee, and Thomas Drummond enunciated his celebrated maxim, "property has duties as well as rights." The tenants were in the clutches of agents, who in no country have a reputation for gentle handling.
Besides, the best intentions could not have cured the radical vice of the system: in an overpopulated island, without an industry to occupy the surplus population, mainly laid out in pasture, which gives little employment and requires scarcely any labor, almost the whole population was reduced to the status of agricultural laborers on meager pittances, and small downtrodden tenants, without prospects, without ambition, and without sufficient to live in comfort. It meant the inevitable atrophy of a whole race, and could no longer be tolerated in our modern democratic evolution.
If English legislators have never denied nor ignored their duties on this subject, they have naturally yielded to the fashionable ideas of their day, and at first they tried to remedy matters by philanthropic measures; such was the great Poor Law of 1838, and others which followed it. Even in 1905, when Ireland had recovered a relative prosperity, there were not less than 558,000 people receiving relief, either in the workhouse or in their homes. That makes one in every eight of the population. In 1838 the dangers of pauperism were not fully foreseen, and neither in Ireland nor England could these expedients be lasting solutions.
The peasant saw himself constantly threatened by two catastrophes: recurring famine, because cultivation on a large scale did not draw from the land all that it could produce, and dread eviction, which drove out without mercy the insolvent tenant.
In the face of such inequality at the hand of Fate, on the one hand a few privileged persons, on the other a mass of pariahs, justice could not be too rigid. In the face of such cruel misery, the former class were rightly asked to resign some of their advantages, however legitimate, in order to relieve the disinherited. A fresh partition of property seemed essential. But a reform of this breadth could not be carried out in one day; the English are too fond of compromise, they have too much respect for tradition, to lay themselves open to the convulsions of 1793, or to fall into a slough of Bolshevism.
In order to deal with what was most urgent before turning the peasant into a peasant proprietor, the Land Act of 1870 was passed in order to protect him in his tenancy. In future the landlord had to indemnify his tenant
(1) In case of arbitrary eviction.
(2) For improvements made by the tenant to the estate.
(3) If he refused sub-letting or alienation of the tenancy.
This was not all that was asked for; a reasonable and legal fixing of rent was also demanded.
But it was a big measure of equity, marking a new era of concessions in a spirit of good augury, and promising future reforms and more ample reparation. Then as usual the Irish stepped in and muddled the whole business. Those promises of a golden age almost made us forget that we were in Ireland.
Those who fished in troubled waters were on the lookout. Religious wrongs having been settled, Fenian terrorism overcome and expiated, they had to look round for fresh pretexts and a new battle-cry. From what was poor Ireland suffering now? From economic marasma, faulty agriculture, an antiquated partition of property. This was enough with which to open the campaign, and the agitators now took the agrarian movement under their wing. All titles to property were gone into, as far back as Henry II, Elizabeth, James I, or Cromwell. They declared that everything had been stolen and must be given back. The fat was soon in the fire. It mattered little that these properties had been taken from the Church, and that mortmain would not be admitted by modern legislation; or from clans which only allowed collective property, and could not transmit individual rights; or from rebels lawfully despoiled according to the public law of the time. Three centuries of prescription could not avail.
Davitt adopted the formula---"Shoot down all landlords like thieves and rats"; he was a survivor of Fenian plots, had escaped from prison and justice, and was an enthusiast blinded by savage exasperation.
Upon this program Davitt founded his Land League in August, 1879, profiting by fresh agricultural distress, consequent upon a succession of bad seasons. Just at this time evictions were all the rage, for the landlords, hit by the three clauses of the Act of 1870, but keeping the right to turn out those who did not pay rent, had thus an opportunity for revenge and used it freely. They thought themselves victims of an unjust law violating at their expense the common law of property, and by trying to make examples they were often cruel. Popular wrath was soon aroused.
At this point Isaac Butt, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary party, died; he was a prudent law-abiding man, a follower in O'Connell's footsteps. His successor, the famous Charles Stewart Parnell, was of another stamp, no less skillful than Butt or O'Connell at playing the game of obstruction at Westminster, but far more impetuous, remorseless and unscrupulous over the choice of methods, and openly encouraging propaganda by direct action. All the oratorical triumphs of one of the greatest of modern tribunes cannot make us forget that he had strange allies and encouraged ugly practices.
He consorted with Davitt , and in October, 1880, became President of the Land League. Then he went to America and at Cincinnati pronounced his memorable ukase: "The first thing necessary is to undermine English power by destroying Irish landlords. Ireland might thus become independent, and let us not forget that that is the ultimate goal at which we all aim, to sever the last link in the chain which binds Ireland to England." This is the doctrine of total separation which neither his Parliamentary predecessors nor his successor Redmond ever dared avow so brutally.
When he returned home Parnell made his instructions still more definite. "To make an end of evictions, we must punish any man who dares to take a farm from which another has been removed, by isolating him from his fellows as if he was a leper of old." This method, very ingenious because the law did not touch it, was adopted with enthusiasm, and applied instantly to all those whom the Land League denounced publicly for vindictiveness, landlords or tenants, agents, or shopkeepers, any one who was ill-disposed.
The first victim was Lord Erne's agent, Captain Boycott, whose name has passed into an international vocabulary to denote the system. He had refused to give a receipt to some tenants who wanted to pay him less than the rent agreed upon. Every one turned his back upon him, and his crops would have rotted for want of labor to harvest them, if fifty volunteers had not come to his assistance from Ulster, guarded by 900 soldiers.
Parnell had had an inspiration, the whole of Ireland relished the game; it still is one of its calamities, and is always cropping up to infect life over there. The boycotted victim could get nothing to eat nor to drink in his neighborhood. His affairs were ruined; nobody would buy his cattle at the fair, the blacksmith would not shoe his horse, the wheelwright would not mend his cart. His friends gave him a wide berth when they passed and crossed themselves, his children were hounded away from the village school, no one would sit near him in church. Fathers dared not go into their son's houses; a shopkeeper under suspicion of having sold anything to the victim was deserted by his terror-stricken clients. If he were ill no medicine would be procurable; if he died no carpenter would make him a coffin, no sexton would dig his grave.
These amenities were so successful that the League had recourse to them in order to recruit its members. It had its tribunals, pronounced judgments, and woe to the lukewarm, the neutral, and the law-abiding. The Cowper Commission concluded its report in these words: "The people are more afraid of boycotting than of judgments of Courts of Justice." I leave to the imagination what capital could be made out of this system by personal spite, anonymous informers, and petty sly revenge.
At the same time the old violent methods were still in full swing, preferably mutilations of cattle, and that other national specialty "cattle-driving," which consists in turning cattle on to the roads at night and driving them far from their pastures. In 1881 there were 4,439 agrarian crimes of this kind. The League was all-powerful with local committees in the remotest corners of the island; there was even a Land League for women, and another for children. In spite of the pastoral letter of the Catholic Archbishop McCabe, reproving this terrorist agitation, there were no limits to their excesses.
In all crises of this nature, Ireland practices the same abuse, and the representatives of violence are sure of the same protection; that is the impossibility of finding witnesses to give evidence or juries to convict; justice is reduced to humiliating impotence. Hence the Government is always reduced to one of the following solutions, against which our honest Irish protest with equal indignation: either they have to pack the juries by keeping out the Roman Catholics, who are certain to be accomplices and not judges; or they have to pass emergency legislation for summary suppression, without making use of the judicial formalities which the Irish have parodied; or if they are at war, as in 1916, they proclaim martial law, and have order restored by a general who will take matters seriously. In all three cases Ireland says she is being persecuted and sets to work to venerate fresh martyrs.
Gladstone, who was nothing either of a tyrant or a judge, and who on the contrary encouraged too many insurrections by his ill-disguised sympathies, was overwhelmed, and had to pass laws for public safety, a Coercion Act and an Arms Act, which forbade the carrying of weapons. But like a good Radical, more indulgent towards demagogy than towards established right and tradition, he at the same time granted to the Irish peasants a privilege which they had demanded in vain in 1870, and which was considered by many to be exorbitant. Ireland's agrarian charter is known familiarly as the three F's--"fixity of tenure, free sale, and fair rent." The law of 1870 had established the first two; that is to say, it guaranteed the prolongation of leases by forbidding arbitrary eviction, and allowed the tenant to alienate his rights, or be indemnified by the landlord if this was opposed. There only remained fair rent: this was granted by the Act of 1881. The rent was in future to be fixed for fifteen years by a judicial decision in case of dispute between lessor and lessee, and after those fifteen years, upon the renewal of the lease another redress is open, either to the landlord to have his rent raised, or to the tenant to have it lowered. The former can no longer evict the latter except for default of payment, and on the whole the compulsory legal duration of fifteen years permits the tenant to sublet on much better terms. Is it necessary to lay stress upon the truly revolutionary character of these reforms? We are far from the Napoleonic code and other Western legislation.
In 1882, in order to get unfortunate men without resources out of difficulties, an Act of Arrears was passed, which made them a free gift of one year's rent up to the sum of £30. Finally from 1887 onwards, the insolvent tenant could remain on his holding for six months after the decree of eviction, with the option of selling or buying his holding during the interval. The landlords received no compensation for all these encroachments upon common law, and their property was all of a sudden considerably depreciated.
We may say that the Irish peasant now enjoyed an unusual security, and would be envied by our countrymen---if happiness could be given by laws alone, and if individual qualities of initiative and perseverance were not worth a hundred times more.
Was Ireland satisfied at having obtained what she had demanded so often? Not a bit of it. The agitators, upset at seeing wrongs evaporate, began to invent others. Realizing that the tenants looked like settling down, and giving the new régime an honest trial, Parnell, no doubt in obedience to his American supporters who did not want peace at any price, issued an interdict and did his best to make the law of 1881 a failure. Gladstone, indignant at this outrageous bad faith, lost patience and imprisoned Parnell and Dillon. There were plenty of pretexts, and hundreds of incitements to rioting and crime would have justified these arrests long before. The Land League retorted by enjoining the farmers to pay no rent, and the winter passed in a state of ferment.
All of a sudden, in May, 1882, Gladstone, with one of his characteristic whims, repented him of his firmness, decided to change both personnel and policy, set the prisoners free, parted from two Ministers who declined to return to the feeble tactics previously tried---Lord Cowper, the Viceroy, and Mr. Forster, Chief Secretary for Ireland---and sent in their place Lord Spencer and Lord Frederick Cavendish.
The reply of the Leaguers was worthy of their antecedents. The two Ministers, representatives of clemency and laissez-faire, arrived in Dublin on May 6th, 1882. That same evening Lord Frederick and his under-secretary Thomas Burke were walking in Phoenix Park, and were stabbed to death. This notorious crime was epoch-making; it ought to have shown all future Governments once and for all that it is impossible to parley with terrorism, and that it is folly to pat a mad dog. Mr. Asquith and his Radicals ventured to do so once more, and misfortune overtook them; no one was surprised by their disaster in 1916.
Gladstone, death in his soul, had once more to resign himself to stern treatment; his Crimes Prevention Act of July, 1882, was at last the triumph of common sense. There had been 2,597 agrarian crimes during the first half of that year; there were only 836 in the second half. It killed the Land League, and another society, the National League, took up its rôle and its program with no less hatred, but with rather more circumspection. When the Crimes Prevention Act, passed for three years, expired in July, 1885, there were immediately 543 crimes during the second half-year as opposed to 373 during the first half, and three times more people were boycotted.
During the summer of 1885 Gladstone was replaced for some months by Lord Salisbury and a Conservative Government, and Ireland lost nothing thereby. She was treated to less rhetoric, but in exchange she was given a great practical and constructive law. It is as well to note that the contrast between the two parties has been accentuated since this time; the Liberals have been more and more inclined to treat Ireland to fine speeches and sloppy sympathy, encourage her in her tempers and excite her irritability; the Tories on the other hand never trifle with miscreants, insist upon submission to law and order before coming to words, but never refuse a conscientious and kindly examination of grievances, and in order to remove them stinting neither material sacrifices nor the concession of principles.
By the Land Acts of 1885 known as the Ashbourne Acts they proved to the demagogues that it is possible to give to the poor without robbing the rich as Parnell and Gladstone wished to do. With one step, after fifteen years of interventionist muddles, of Radical and Communist utopias, we have returned to the path of common sense.
To force a landlord to tolerate indefinitely a tenant who never pays him; to give the latter an unlimited right to sublet and to deny the landlord a choice of tenants, to tax the assessment of rent---all this may be very well-meaning, but it is a mockery of social peace and elementary economic laws. If you really wish to increase the number of small holdings, you must have the courage to curb popular acquisitiveness and pay honestly for what you are going to distribute. In two words, before you subdivide, purchase if possible, expropriate if necessary; this was done by Ashbourne's, Balfour's, and Wyndham's Acts.
In virtue of Ashbourne's Act the Exchequer advanced to the tenants £5,000,000 sterling to acquire the land of those landlords who were anxious to sell; the purchaser to repay the State in forty-nine yearly installments. The subsidy, doubled in 1888, was exhausted in 1891, but had given 25,000 former tenants possession of their holdings.
The success of this vast purchase system surpassed all hopes, but we must admit that the English lender ran a great risk in face of the troubled state of Ireland, her incurable contempt for Saxon laws, and the fact that the debtors denied the "usurpers'" right to any mortal thing. By toiling, learning, by paying their installments regularly, by becoming more honest, more worthy, more interested in progress and technical improvements, the farmers proved that the Irish people is worth more than its leaders. Unfortunately in 1885 the leaders were still its masters, and Parnell the national hero.
The following year there arose a new factor in the situation, of the greatest importance for explaining the course of Anglo-Irish relations from 1886 to the present day, the interplay of parties, and the development of political programs; Gladstone returned to power with too small a Liberal majority, and had to supplement it by relying upon the eighty-two votes of the Nationalist party. Ireland was now the arbiter of the laws and government of her hereditary enemy. This situation, with all the extortions which it brings in its train, has been repeated since on several occasions.
Gladstone was probably in favor of Home Rule before 1886, but he had been the head of the Cabinet for more than ten years before he dared to throw in his lot with this measure. This time Parnell would not allow him to shuffle, and he introduced the first Home Rule Bill on April 8th, 1886. It is unnecessary to enumerate the chief features of this abortive scheme.
A week later Gladstone paid the Nationalists the second half of his ransom, by proposing a perfectly iniquitous scheme for agrarian spoliation. He wanted to purchase in three years, in order to divide among the peasants, the properties of the Irish landlords at exactly half the valuation which bad been put upon them at a recent census, which had made a notoriously inadequate estimate. These expedients of a demagogue in distress met with a just return; England was not yet soft enough to capitulate to Fenians and boycotters. One of Gladstone's first lieutenants, Joseph Chamberlain, formerly an intractable Radical, suddenly fired by patriotism as Mr. Lloyd George has been in our day, sounded the alarm and withdrew his allegiance. Old John Bright, one of the glories of English Radicalism, did likewise; the dissenting Liberals took the name of Liberal-Unionists, and joined the Conservatives.
Besides this exchange of shots between the parliamentary patrols there was another movement, we might almost call it a popular convulsion, which hastened the reaction of English public opinion.
Protestant Ulster, which we have had occasion to mention so frequently during the history of the two preceding centuries, had been fairly quiet since the Union of 1800. Her great moral and national interests were safe, and, feeling secure under Imperial protection, she had preferred to live in peace, working and developing her magnificent industries, rather than waste her time over the follies of her cousins in the south.
All of a sudden Ulster was roused. Her awakening was rude, the coalition of the great Liberal party and Parnell aroused all her fears. Was it not once more to be handed over in bondage to a Dublin Parliament, and no longer a Parliament like Grattan's, dominated and kept under control by London? When Ulster realized that she was to be betrayed, abandoned to Fenians, dynamiters, boycotters, there were terrible riots in Belfast from June to the following January, and England was warned that henceforth Home Rule would not save her from the Irish nightmare. The rising of Ulster and these Belfast incidents are the real point of departure of the whole modern phase of the Irish question.
Finally, on August 5th, 1885, in spite of the compelling eloquence and prodigious activity of "the Grand Old Man," the nation confided its mandate to Lord Salisbury, and approved his program of Irish policy---"twenty years of resolute government." The promise was kept, and an opportunity soon presented itself.
The Irish Land Leaguers, surprised by the defeat of their English allies, conceived fresh tactics known as the "plan of campaign." The peasants were ordered not to pay more rent than they considered reasonable, and if the landlord did not accept the offer, they were to hand over the sum to a committee of the League. The latter would then indemnify the evicted tenants from these funds. What Irishman could resist this temptation? He had no idea what the League meant to do with his money; an inquiry in 1892 exposed the fact that it had received £235,000, and had only refunded £125,000 to the evicted. The rest had been absorbed as a contribution to the national propaganda. That recalls the Irish-American who sent $25 to Parnell, "$5 for bread and $20 for lead."
In face of this return to anarchy, a man arose to save Ireland in spite of herself, by a policy of justice and firmness. Lord Salisbury handed over the direction of Irish affairs to Mr. Arthur Balfour, one of the finest figures among modern statesmen. Ireland for a long time feared and vilified his name, but has ended by respecting it.
He began by displaying firmness; he suppressed the League, put rebellious districts under the iron heel of emergency laws, ran to ground criminals and inciters to crime, took from them the privilege of being heard before corrupt or intimidated juries. Mr. Balfour had the sense to turn a deaf ear to all outcry, vituperations, false indignation, and sham pathos. His business was to restore order and see that the law was supreme---and the law was supreme. Ireland, whether she knows it or not, owes to him the foundations of her present prosperity, security for her capital and the protection of honest workers.
On the other hand he knew when to show mercy to the unfortunate and justice to honest men. We have already quoted the Act of 1887, granting to the insolvent tenant a considerable period in which to reinstate himself. In 1891 Mr. Balfour, realizing the good results of the Ashbourne Act, conceived a vaster application; he obtained from Parliament a credit of £30,000,000.
A Congested Districts Board was authorized to distribute this sum, either where needs were pressing or where good opportunities for purchase arose. This Board, which obviously plays a considerable part in the life of Ireland, has not by any means done what was expected of it. Mr. Balfour and his party, though opposed to the legislative separation of the two islands for strong reasons and in the highest interests, were yet most willing to grant Ireland a large share in self-government. They deemed it wise to arrive at this progressively and to begin by granting a moderate amount of administrative autonomy; the Congested Districts Board was the first attempt, and for that reason it had to consist of a majority of Irishmen. Mr. Balfour was soon undeceived. The Board was dominated from the first by cranks with economic theories, and by patriots who were more anxious to injure the English than to benefit their own people. Its influence and its millions were soon used as political instruments; it forgot its primary object, and became a nest of intrigue.
The experience was useful none the less, and Mr. Balfour must be congratulated. Some are grateful to him for giving a practical demonstration that Ireland is in too great a hurry, and is not yet ripe for the longed-for autonomy. Others, the Irish, ought to thank him for this great concession, a first step towards the pathway of their dreams---but when will an Irishman thank an Englishman?
In 1893 the Irish had another brief spell of delirious joy. Gladstone returned to power with a slender majority, once more at the mercy of the Nationalist vote, and brought in his second Home Rule Bill. It was more complex than the Bill of 1885; besides its Parliament at Dublin, Ireland, was still to have eighty members at Westminster. They would not be allowed to vote on questions which only concerned England and Scotland, but Gladstone himself confessed that "it passes the wit of man" to draw a practical distinction between imperial and nonimperial affairs.
England has always a weakness for Liberal politics, but she could not tolerate being handed over to the mercy of eighty Irish rebels when their votes were needed; Gladstone, attempting to put this yoke upon her for the second time, was angrily turned out. Ulster's cry of distress rang out once more, mass meetings were held everywhere, and the House of Lords threw out Gladstone's Bill by 419 votes to 41. The General Election of 1895 confirmed this verdict, and turned the Radicals out of power for ten years. The hereditary Chamber had interpreted the national will with more courage and loyalty than the demagogues.
Mr. Gerald Balfour succeeded his brother as Chief Secretary for Ireland, and proposed a new formula---"kill Home Rule with kindness." He began by the Land Act of 1896, deciding uniformly in favor of the tenantry several contested points in the Act of 1891, and giving them a number of small privileges, which amounted for the landlords to considerable sacrifices without compensation. For example there was the obligation to sell to the occupiers every bankrupt estate in the hands of a liquidator; for all improvements to a property made since 1850, a legal presumption was given in favor of the tenant, etc.
Two more important works are due to Mr. Gerald Balfour---namely, a Board of Agriculture for Ireland, and the great Act of 1898 on Local Government.
The new Ministry was entitled the "Irish Department of Agriculture and other Industries and Technical Instruction." To it were transferred the various functions which till then had been scattered among other ill coordinated Departments---management and distribution of subsidies, inspections, introduction of modern methods, organization of professional instruction and education in general. The principal innovation was to hand over all this expenditure to Irishmen, and to Irishmen elected by their fellows.
His other work, the Act of 1898 on Local Government, starts from the same principle---that is to say, it lets the Irish more and more direct their affairs themselves. Mr. Gerald Balfour took up his brother's idea, and made it a success; this reform gave Ireland the right to fix provincial rates and do what she would with them by letting her elect County and District Councils. It was an extension of the experience attempted by Mr. Arthur Balfour in his Congested Districts Board of 1891; a step farther, taken with prudence and precaution, towards the autonomy of the Nationalist program.
Alas! the practical results were not much more brilliant, for these Councils did little useful work, and much base and fruitless agitation. Inaugurated in 1899, they at once seized the opportunity to demonstrate to the conciliatory Empire the furies of Irish hatred; almost all of them passed resolutions insulting the Crown and sympathizing with the Boers, and at every English reverse they publicly applauded the victorious enemy. During those dark days of defeat Ireland really tasted unmixed joy.
The generosities of the British Parliament, agrarian or political concessions, far from appeasing bitterness, only made the Irish more greedy and more threatening; in spite of receiving their due, they made more exacting demands. As all landlords did not despoil themselves at the same moment, and as they had to wait for opportunities to purchase, some counties and some tenants got satisfaction quicker than the others. And the latter became jealous and got tired of waiting.
In 1898 there appeared the most recent of the agrarian leagues, the "United Irish League"; soon every self-respecting patriot belonged to it. It demanded two things---the suppression of pasture lands, and compulsory purchase---the radical expropriation of recalcitrant landlords. "Force the landlords to sell us their land." It had recourse to all the violent methods of earlier leagues, boycotting, refusal to pay rent, and, so on.
The landlords, weary of these continual fights, summoned the leaders of the League to confer with them, promised them that they would be only too glad to sell if they were only better compensated, and they agreed to submit to the Government proposals emanating from both parties; the result of this was the last great agrarian law, the Wyndham Land Act, or Irish Land Purchase Act of 1903. This heroic measure opened an enormous credit, first of all estimated at a total of £100,000,000 and later at £180,000,000, raised by annual loans of £5,000,000 on London. The landlords who sold and tenants who bought could debate their price freely and have it ratified by three Estates Commissioners.
The Treasury gives the seller an addition of 12 per cent. on the price. The purchasers no longer pay off by annual installments for forty-nine years, as by the Act of 1885, but at sixty-eight and a half years' purchase-that is to say, at 3 1/4 per cent. per annum on the capital advanced by the State to the landlord. In a word, the State purchases outright with English money the whole of the Irish land to hand it over to the natives, and takes all the risks of non-repayment, of economic crises, and of political revolution.
Any other country but Ireland would have been profuse in its thanks. People sometimes venture to compare the Irish to the Poles of Posen and the landlords to the Junkers, but they forget that the laws of Herr von Bülow have the opposite effect, by expropriating the natives in favor of imported colonists---after the manner of James I, and Cromwell, but without the excuse of having insurrections to put down.
From this date agrarian grievances---if not discontent---have disappeared, and I will bring my summary to an end. The number of evictions fell from 5,200 in 1881 to 670 in 1895. Up to 1906 fair rents had been judicially fixed to 480,000 holdings, with an average reduction of 20 per cent. (see Report of Irish Land Commission, 1905-6): the total reduction amounted to more than 172,500,000 francs.
But lastly, and more important than all, the Irish people has changed its social condition. Of about 550,000 occupiers, 74,000 had already become owners under Acts passed before 1903. It is calculated that 240,000 others will profit by Wyndham's Act. "Almost half the land under cultivation in Ireland has already passed, or is about to do so, from the landlord to the tenant. This measure has changed the face of Ireland." "The Act of 1903 has brought about the only happy transformation which English legislation has ever effected in Ireland." This was recognized on November 23rd, 1908, in the House of Commons by two men who were not over-indulgent to the Conservatives---Mr. Birrell, the Liberal Chief Secretary, and Mr. W. O'Brien, the founder of the United Irish League.
This was a piece of good legislation, a promising evolution on wise and sound lines. But troubles continued, and we will speak of them again later on, for Anglophobe politicians and separatists did not intend giving up this weapon, and they wanted, in spite of all that had gone before, to protest against grievances which no longer existed and against abuses for which awards had already been made. They have been given the land; they now ask for the moon. Faster, faster, expropriate everybody, down with the landlords! Granted, but must selfish England foot the bill again? Elsewhere I have said on this subject: "Either this expropriation would be robbery and confiscation---that is to say, it would not give an equitable return for the value of the land---or it would be financially impossible." In those days we were not acquainted with the experience of the idealist cranks in Russia or the felicities of Bolshevik expropriation.
Mr. Birrell, the Radical Minister, and crony of the Irish demagogues, tried in 1908 to satisfy them. He paid due homage to the admirable results of Wyndham's Act, but he did his best to make it unrecognizable. The premium to the landlord was in future to be no more than 3 per cent. The seller was in future not to be paid in cash, but in Government securities at their nominal value, in spite of the disappointment caused by this same clause before 1903. As naturally the landlords would not show much enthusiasm for a transaction of this nature, their consent was to be dispensed with; the three Estates Commissioners and the Congested Districts Board were to settle all these purchases as they chose with coercive power, they alone were to fix the price of sale, and were to make symmetrical holdings, were to transplant peasants who had no desire to leave their native village, and so on.
The projects of Mr. Birrell have failed lamentably, as was predicted. Why in the name of heaven could he not remember Gladstone's misfortunes, and the disastrous failure of dishonest laws of spoliation? In six years under Wyndham's Act 115,000 tenancies had been purchased, that is 19,000 a year. Birrell's Act in three years only liquidated 2,154, no more than 700 a year.
However that may be, we have shown in this summary how much truth there is in the statement that England has done nothing for Ireland. Nothing? How about forty-three Acts or amendments between 1860 and 1904! The Irish must be joking. Particulars and details of the various Acts mentioned may be open to criticism by punctilious jurists or politicians on the make, but they do not deny the generous spirit which permeates the mass of these reforms.
What evidence can be better than that of John Redmond, speaking in 1915 in his town of Waterford to Irishmen from Australia?
"I went to Australia to make an appeal on behalf of an enslaved, famine-hunted, despairing people, a people in the throes of a semi-revolution, bereft of all political liberties and engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the system of a most brutal and drastic coercion" . . . (We will omit his exaggerations.)
"Only thirty-three or thirty-four years have passed since then, but what a revolution has occurred in the interval! To-day the people, broadly speaking, own the soil; to-day the laborers live in decent habitations; to-day there is absolute freedom in the local government and the local taxation of the country; to-day we have the widest Parliament in the municipal franchise; to-day we know that the evicted tenants who are the wounded soldiers of the land war, have been restored to their homes or to other homes as good as those from which they had been originally driven. We know that the congested districts, the scene of some of the most awful horrors of the old famine days, have been transformed, that the farms have been enlarged, decent dwellings have been provided, and a new spirit of hope and independence is to-day, amongst the people.
"We know that the towns legislation has been passed facilitating the housing of the working classes. . . . So far as the town tenants are concerned we have this consolation, that we have passed for Ireland an Act whereby they are protected against arbitrary eviction, and are given compensation not only for disturbance from their homes, but for the goodwill of the business they had created---a piece of legislation far in advance of anything obtained for the town tenants of England. I may add far in advance of any legislation obtained for the town tenants of any other country.
"We know that we have at last won educational freedom in university education for most of the youth of Ireland, and we know that in primary and standard education the thirty-four years that have passed have witnessed an enormous advance in efficiency and in the means provided for bringing efficiency about. To-day we have a system of old-age pensions in Ireland whereby every old man and woman over seventy is saved from the workhouse, free to spend their last days in comparative comfort. We have a system of national industrial insurance which provides for the health of the people, and makes it impossible for the poor hard-working man and woman, when sickness comes to the door, to be carried away to the workhouse hospital, and makes it certain that they will receive decent Christian treatment during their illness."
Poor Ireland! Cruel Albion!
APPROACH OF THE CRISIS, 1906-16
SUCH was Ireland's past. She has suffered much, and she has often suffered from her own faults. She has indulged in recrimination with or without reason, she has gorged herself with racial hatred, and prided herself on her violence. Those who know her well; those who see her at close quarters, assure us that nothing has changed. The fact that she now rebels against oppression which no longer exists makes one inclined to believe that her insurrections in the past had no better justification.
Is not the psychology of this race baffling--- chafing under caresses, more discontented at every effort to satisfy it? We ought to give some consideration to the Irish character in order to explain these paradoxes, but you can judge of it by deeds. The Irish and their friends will tell you that they are not bad at heart; that may be, but it is unfortunate that appearances so often oblige them to protest their innocence. I am sorry to say that in this respect I cannot profess that indulgent sentimentality which only pities the unsuccessful rebels.
But surely, you will say, are not some of the revolts justified? Caresses have their charm, says the mastiff in the fable, but the chain is there! Is this true of Ireland in the twentieth century? Is it possible that she really believes herself to be justified? Unfortunately there is no doubt that she is made to believe it. But for ourselves, why should we be deceived as to the justification of these grievances?
In our summary of this question, complex as are all national questions, we have come across three elements, the religious, the agrarian, and the political. We have seen that the first two have been removed. We shall be reproached for having forgotten a fourth, the sentimental; it certainly plays a great part in the patriotism of the mystic and impulsive Celts. As a matter of fact it is principally a plaything in the hands of political leaders.
There are still some religious fanatics and dissatisfied peasants, but their accusations are too fanciful nowadays and too unreal to carry much weight. The politicians are the only people who pay any attention to them, and they use them to substantiate their pleas.
What are these politicians after? Cynics will say they want to be members of Parliament and councilors, to get profits and perquisites out of a Proletariat which is so easy to deceive and intimidate. But they are eloquent---with a Latin eloquence, the sounding phrase and oratorical gift unfamiliar to the English---and they vow that they are going to die for independence, for the nation, for their country. They do not all lie, for some of them have indeed died; and those who die for a good cause, even for a good illusion, always deserve respect. But on the other hand, all of them do not die; they take good care to survive in order to watch over the spoils. Ah! when there is a Parliament in Dublin, then they will not be members, they will be ministers, secretaries of State, magistrates, treasurers! What a vision of Arcady!
Away with these petty suspicions, and let us give these men all the credit we can. But we must not be surprised if Ulster, which sees it all at closer quarters and has greater interests at stake, jeers at our confidence and does not share it.
The present Irish question, after all agrarian and religious grievances are eliminated, is in the last resort nothing but a political question of autonomy, separation of two races, and the creation of a new State. But this new State ought to comprise Ulster, who will not have it at any price. And thus you have two Irish questions instead of one, the question of Ireland and the question of Ulster.
We have insisted upon the distant historical origin of this schism, we have seen the conflict calm down after 1800, and flare up again in 1885 through Gladstone's fault. The parliamentary necessities of the English Liberal party have brought about the present impasse which we will describe.
In 1906 the Liberals had a great triumph, the country repudiated Chamberlain's scheme for Imperial protection. Hardly any other subject had been mentioned during the electoral campaign, and it was evident that those returned had neither asked for nor received a mandate to grant Home Rule to Ireland. Two of the new Ministers had the courage to confess it.
Mr. Asquith, on January 4th, 1906, said that their majority had been given them to defend free trade. To endeavor to use it in order to introduce Home Rule would be a political dishonesty.... The Government would take steps to give Ireland a more enlightened and liberal administration. And Sir Edward Grey said the same day that the great question of this election had been free trade; they had been elected for that, and it would not be loyal to profit by it in order to establish an Irish Parliament, but that they were free to develop local government in Ireland.
The Liberal majority was a safe one. With the support of Nationalists and Socialists, Campbell Bannerman's Cabinet had 354 more votes than the Unionists; without those allies he still had 104 more votes than all opposition combined, and therefore he was no longer the slave of the Irish vote as Gladstone had been. But the Government's tenderness for Ireland was never in doubt. Most of the members of the Cabinet were Gladstone's former lieutenants, and convinced Home Rulers; the son of the Grand Old Man was of their number. The new Viceroy, Lord Aberdeen, had already held the same post in 1886; the new Chief Secretary for Ireland, Mr. James Bryce, a noted jurist and historian, was appointed in the following year Ambassador to Washington. All these Gladstonians were bound sooner or later to take up the favorite schemes of their former leader: moreover, they had all sworn to do so when in opposition. It was merely a question of time and opportunity.
"Ireland is quiet," said Mr. Bryce when he took office. A year later Mr. Birrell declared that Ireland was more peaceful than she had ever been for six hundred years. It was true, thanks to their predecessors. The unfortunate thing is, that when one party is turned out it is the fashion to abuse the best work it did, and to try to do something different for the pure pleasure of contradiction. That is what was about to happen.
In 1906 nothing very striking occurred; the parties were settling down and taking stock of one another. Then very soon the Nationalists wanted something to show---first of all a new personnel in the administration at Dublin, men who were agreeable to them, and who would shut their eyes to their leagues and boycottings.
In 1907 Mr. Bryce went off to the United States and his place was taken by Mr. Augustine Birrell. Mr. Birrell is a wit, and an amusing essay-writer, a lawyer and man of letters, a good speaker and not a bad fellow---he has no enemies ---but too dilettante to understand that Ireland sometimes needs to feel that she is being governed. It took him nine years to learn that you cannot trifle with cattle-lifters, and armed rebels, and that weak indulgence is culpable; it took the rebellion of 1916 to arouse him from his placid dreams. His invariable formula was to allow Ireland an autonomy de facto while waiting for its constitutional sanction---but an autonomy quite different from that of the county councils and so on, with which up to now she had been content. He simply put himself in the hands of the Nationalists, and whatever they approved or condemned, the Minister endorsed; he was inspired by their slightest wishes, took their advice and served them as a man of straw. As for the results, he went by what they told him and everything seemed to him to be for the best in the best of all possible worlds. I will now tell you something of the men in whom he placed his blind confidence, and something of the facts, the gravity of which he denied in order to please them.
Agrarian reforms, especially those of 1903, had brought about in Ireland not only a material but a moral revolution. Tenants and landlords had come in contact over negotiations for purchase, had usually exhibited mutual good feeling, and their traditional animosity had given way to a spirit of peacefulness. At one moment there was really some emulation to repair the ruins; Ulster and England were delighted to see signs of a practical spirit, unknown before, among the Celts, and they thought it promised to be Ireland's salvation. The principal business men of the island---Lord Iveagh, owner of the famous Guinness breweries, and Lord Pirrie, head of the huge shipbuilding yards at Belfast ---offered to subsidize between them a motor service to open up the poorer and more remote districts where railways would not be likely to penetrate. Lord Castletown started again propaganda for local industries, which had decreased lamentably, by a great exhibition of national industries. Good seed was sown, men were at work, and they hoped to reap the harvest. Between 1895 and 1905 deposits in the savings banks had doubled.
Lord Charles Beresford opened a club in London for Irishmen of every opinion; Londoners even wore shamrock on Saint Patrick's day. The two countries had begun to understand one another, perhaps they might end by mutual liking. At this point the politician intervened. Alas! Ireland is incapable of resisting the appeal of agitators and extremists. The politician reasoned on the following simple lines: he saw that this good understanding damaged his prestige, and that there was no room for him in this harmonious concert. He raised his traditional alarm. "We shall be seduced by benefits---away with benefits! If the English are good to us, and if we accept their bounties, how can we still abuse them in order to demand independence? Who will bother about independence if everything is working smoothly without it? We must see that things do not work smoothly." Let Ireland perish sooner than Nationalism!
This crusade was preached as early as 1903 by Mr. John Dillon. Mr. Dillon is now the leader of the Nationalist Parliamentary party since Mr. Redmond's death in 1918. He is sixty-seven years of age. In his youth, in the days when as Parnell's favorite he was imprisoned with him for misdemeanors of the same kind, he was the type of the Irish extremist. I should not like to say that he is so no longer; during the war he made some very disquieting speeches.
In 1903, then, Dillon attacked the leaders of the Nationalist party who were willing to make a loyal attempt by means of the Wyndham Act to give the people at last the land they longed for so dearly. Dillon thought them feeble and foolish. He took upon himself to see that conciliation failed, confessing quite openly his aim and his objects. He harried especially the Anglo-Irish nobility and landlords who were most benevolent to their tenants, vowing that he would make them tired of their benevolence and making no effort at concealment.
No sooner was the Act passed than he organized skillful obstruction in order to nullify the working of it. As it was necessary for the purchase to obtain an annual loan of £5,000,000 from English capitalists, Dillon did his utmost to discourage them and discredit the whole business by stating in the House of Commons that the Irish peasant would never pay his annuities and that the English investor was taking a perilous risk. Mr. Wyndham, having foreseen a deficit, calculated on being able to reduce the estimate for the police by £240,000, by cutting down the number of constables by 2,000 now that the island was so much more peaceful. The opponents instantly provoked cattle drives and agrarian crimes without the, least excuse, and succeeded not only in preventing any reduction in the constabulary, but actually had it reinforced at an extra expenditure of £100,000. Finally, Mr. Dillon knew that the land legislation of 1908 would annul all the good effects of the Wyndham Act, and for that reason he approved it. In April, 1910, Mr. O'Brien announced that he had negotiated with Mr. Lloyd George for a reduction in Ireland's contribution, and had found the Chancellor of the Exchequer quite prepared to do it, but Mr. Dillon had deliberately put a spoke in the wheel.
Was I not right in saying that Irish discontent is more or less a manufactured article?
Since Mr. Birrell's régime, these tactics have had free play. From 1906 to 1908 crimes against property rose from 20 to 89; agrarian crimes from 20 to 128; non-agrarian crimes from 36 to 65; cattle-driving from a negligible number to 681; the number of persons put under the permanent protection of the police from 196 to 335.
From 1905 to 1908 attempts at murder rose from 11 to nearly 100; crimes committed by means of explosives or fire-arms from 61 to 213; cases of boycotting from 162 to 874 (Mr. Birrell for his part only counts 197 current cases of boycott and does not include those which achieved their aim during the year---that is to say, came to an end owing to the submission of the victims). All this is done in broad daylight; the leagues hold their assizes, announce their judgments, the papers publish them with threats and openly proclaim an interdict against peaceful citizens without any steps being taken by the Government. A "Saturnalia" of crime, groans one magistrate. What does Mr. Birrell think of it ?
His reply is characteristic: "I will not simply, even for the sake of getting a few more convictions than I have been able to do up to the present time, break up the great Liberal tradition and break up my own hopes for the future of Ireland."(7) He therefore released, after a fortnight, men who were condemned to three months' imprisonment. This was hardly an encouragement to the Bench.
For the rest, he quibbled, and thought there were fewer crimes than in 1887---he forgot that his police had orders not to be too zealous, and to tolerate a variety of things which formerly would have been severely repressed. Pressed by apprehensive questioners, he forgot himself and said a foolish thing, "It is the duty of the Irish people to protect their property in person." What could be more encouraging for the taxpayer! Why should they pay taxes for police? The Chief Secretary also declared that boycotting is not of much consequence. The unfortunate victims were no doubt of a different opinion; among hundreds of others, Mr. Harris Martin, who could not go out without being surrounded by seven policemen---or any other landlord who, not wishing to sell his property at a loss of 50 per cent., saw his ricks burned, his beasts mutilated, his servants stoned, had shots fired at himself after dark, etc. . . . Mr. Birrell thought that was all quite harmless. Decidedly Radicalism does not engender good faith ---which is quite natural, since Radicalism means prejudice.
Ireland has thus been handed over to the mercy of the leagues. Mr. Dillon and his friends are supreme. Mr. Redmond, who tried to protest in 1903, gave in long ago; Mr. O'Brien, who protested, had to leave the party.
I can give you another example of this ill-feeling and systematic obstruction. In spite of all the agitators, Ireland was on the way to become prosperous once more very speedily. One of her good geniuses, Sir Horace Plunkett, had at last given her good advice; told her to work and reorganize her economic life by counting on herself and not upon the State as Providence. Politics could wait, they could come back to them later. Sir Horace did more than speak; he put his back into the business, and created an admirable network of agricultural cooperative societies, country Farmers' Loans Societies, etc. His sincerity, disinterestedness, conviction, and experience inspired every one with confidence and overcame all obstacles.
Where was he to raise the money to start these schemes? Once again from the so-called selfish English---the great cooperative union of Manchester; in other words, the English workingman consented to advance the necessary funds.
As the result of untiring devotion and in spite of the greatest difficulties, success was within reach. In 1908 the Irish Cooperative Society had 100,000 members, with a turnover of £2,000,000---a splendid result for small cultivators of modest resources, most of them insolvent. In 1907 Irish trade showed an increase of £4,000,000 and of deposits in banks and savings banks in proportion.
Ireland, with better days in prospect, was perhaps going to cease to complain! Instantly Sir Horace was suspected by Dillon's party, and the professional politicians performed prodigies of cunning in order to damage his work. As he always found them across his path, he had told them some biting truths in 1904 in his remarkable book, Ireland in the New Century. Having left Parliament in order to do something better than make futile speeches, he taunted them with wishing to revolutionize society before improving the individuals composing that society. Heaven knows that the Irish lower classes were backward in the extreme! The two systems were irreconcilable, and it was made quite plain to him; Campbell Bannerman's Radical Cabinet lent itself to the intrigue with the basest ingratitude.
The Conservatives had put Sir Horace at the head of the Department of Agriculture as the most competent man for the post, and he had proved his worth; the Nationalist rabble ordained that he should be turned out in 1907, and the Liberals obeyed their behests with regret after the manner of Pontius Pilate. On the other hand, he had based his plans for cooperation upon a society of which he was the soul, the Irish Agricultural Organization Society, and the Conservatives had realized its importance so keenly that they had allowed him a subsidy of £4,000 a year. The Nationalists had this removed in 1907 as a reward for twenty years' service. The Irish peasant would have to suffer for this pettiness, but what of that? Plunkett and his prosperity were thorns in the flesh of the agitators.
In two years the peace of Ireland had gone to the deuce. Satisfied with their good work, the Nationalists were emboldened and took a high hand, demanding from the Cabinet that it should instantly introduce a fresh, Home Rule Bill. Mr. Birrell asked nothing better; but as we have seen, Mr. Asquith had made some embarrassing declarations on this subject at the time of the last elections. The time had not yet come when the English voter could be treated as a negligible quantity. Yet there were some remarks made during the debate on March 30th, 1908, which are worth noting.
Mr. John Redmond, the Irish leader, concluded with these words:
"Now, I ask, what argument against Home Rule remains? Honestly I know of only one, and that is an argument which, put nakedly, would revolt the feelings of every man in this House---I mean the argument of fear---fear of the injury that Ireland with her 4,000,000 might be able to do to this nation of over 40,000,000 if the Irish people had placed in their hands some measure of self-government. Sir, that argument is unworthy a great nation." (8)
In the name of the Unionists Lord Percy retorted:
"There remains only the argument of sentiment: 'Trust the Irish people and you will be rewarded with their enthusiastic loyalty.' Judicial separation, which is ordinarily regarded as at best a regrettable remedy for the evils of matrimony, is in the case of Ireland to be the means of effecting a 'union of hearts.' That is the language used in England and on English platforms, but in Ireland legal separation is advocated as the prelude to divorce, and to the realization of Mr. Parnell's ambition to 'sever the last link which binds Ireland to England.' It is hardly surprising if, under these circumstances, we prefer to incur the slight inconvenience which arises from incompatibility of temper to running the certain risks which we should incur if we allowed our partner to set up business on her own account, and contract possibly a new alliance at our own lodge-gates with any enterprising neighbor who happened to have an eye to our plate and jewelry."(9)
1916 and the Irish-German alliance have shown which of the two was in the right.
We should also note, as a new element in the problem, this sentence of Mr. Asquith's:
"I have always regarded what is called Home Rule in Ireland as part and parcel . . . of a more comprehensive change. The constitutional problem . . . is to set free this Imperial Parliament for Imperial affairs, and in matters purely local to rely more and more on local opinion and local machinery."(10)
Here we have the present bearing of this question of Irish or colonial autonomy, which henceforth is embraced in the vast conception of Imperial Federation.
By way of legislation during this period, besides the Land Act of 1908, of which we have seen the disastrous effects, Ireland obtained a Roman Catholic University, officially recognized, and afterwards Old Age Pensions, the greater part of the expense of which falls upon the English tax-payer.
All of a sudden in 1909 there came a thunderbolt. The House of Lords had just thrown down a challenge to the Radical-Socialist coalition, by throwing out Lloyd George's revolutionary Budget. He had to go to the country. The election which took place in January, 1910, gave the Unionists 111 more seats than in 1906, and the Liberals had 98 fewer. But the result could be interpreted in two ways; the Radical majority which fell from 334 votes to 124 still remained a majority. The true conquerors were the Irish; for the third time they became the arbiters of British politics. Another weapon had been put into their hands, for the conflict which raged round the powers of the House of Lords seemed to them full of promise; were not the Lords responsible for having forced Mr. Gladstone to submit his plans to the electorate on two occasions, and have them rejected?
If Mr. Asquith wanted to take away from them this right of referendum, what could be better? said the Nationalists, We hold the stakes, we are masters of Mr. Asquith, we will make him do the trick and bring in Home Rule, and the Lords will not be able to appeal to the country any more. Mr. Redmond boasted about it in America at the Irish Convention at Buffalo in 1910, while Mr. Asquith. was holding forth on the dignity of democracies.
"I believe that the present leaders of the Liberal party are sincere. Whether they are sincere or not, we will make them---and we have got the power to do it---we will make them toe the line." This was done logically, coldly, cynically. The Parliament Act of 1911 first of all suppressed the veto of the Lords: the breach was made, it only remained to go through it. Mr. Asquith made out that the electors of 1910 gave him a sufficient mandate, a general mandate to destroy anything he chose, including Imperial security.
In parenthesis I must tell you that Mr. Asquith had not even drafted his Home Rule Bill, and he did not introduce it until April, 1912; how could he maintain that the electors of 1910 had approved a text which was not in existence? No, the English electorate had not given the blank cheque which they were supposed to have done; the real question was never brought up, it was evaded. The truth was another matter, and the Prime Minister had the courage to recognize it. "In introducing the measure the Government would be acting in strict fulfillment of pledges openly or deliberately given"(11)---the pledges of a party without a clear majority, which could not keep its power except by buying the eighty-four Irish votes. I will tell you how they were to set about it, and what they were to pass.
First of all comes the question of procedure. It was certain that the Lords would throw out the Bill when passed by the Commons. According to the Parliament Act the latter have to discuss it again, and vote on it again after three readings. The Lords reject it again, and so on for three times. After the Lords have vetoed it for the third time, their consent is dispensed with and the Bill becomes law automatically.
The principal clauses of Asquith's scheme were the following. An executive was to be set up in Dublin, a Senate and a House of Commons, with the right to legislate for the peace, order, and good government of the country. They were not competent to deal with dynastic questions---the army, navy, treaties, and other subjects of Imperial interest.
To the Parliament at Westminster was reserved control of the operations for land purchase described above, old age pensions, Irish constabulary, Post Office savings banks, public loans prior to the present legislation.
The Dublin Parliament was to be strictly prohibited from endowing, favoring, or persecuting and penalizing, directly or indirectly, any religion whatsoever.
Finally every law was subject to the Viceroy's veto, and could in the last resort be annulled by the Imperial Parliament. Irish representation at Westminster was reduced from 102 to 42 members.
Financial organization was evidently the most important point; in regard to that the English took still more precautions. The English Treasury was to continue to receive all taxes and customs, except those of the Post Office. It would hand over to Ireland the necessary quota for the services for which she was responsible, a quota which was to be fixed by a joint commission. Dublin would have the right to set up or abolish a tax, but if it chose to raise or reduce it, that was not to modify the quota which London would take for Imperial services.
I must point out that under the Union which the Irish are so anxious to abolish Ireland costs the Imperial Treasury more than she brings in; the annual deficit is about £2,000,000 and increases every year as a result of land purchase, social legislation, workmen's insurance, etc. The Irish try to make out that the deficit is due to extravagant administration by the English, and they refuse to accept the debts of their inheritance. Mr. Asquith agrees, and even gives the new Irish Government a free gift of £500,000 a year for the expenses of establishment.
Such is the great conquest of national autonomy which the Nationalists extracted from the Radical Cabinet. The reader will no doubt be surprised at their moderation, not to say their humility. What, is that all? All that shouting about so little? For this Constitution, taking it all round, is more humiliating than the Union of old. If it is no longer a state of tutelage, at all events the responsibility has remarkable limitations. There was therefore much wrath with its negotiators---smothered in Ireland (for there they were masters of the League and the League did not permit criticism), fierce in America. A disapproving cablegram was sent from the powerful society in the United States with the ambitious name of Clan-na-Gael, and signed by six judges of the Supreme Courts of New York and New Jersey, by a Governor of Rhode Island, by four judges of the secondary Courts of New York, Municipal Courts, etc.(12) The Clan-na-Gael, which has been from early days the soul of Anglophobe conspiracy, had always provided the funds, and felt that it had been duped.
But, looking more closely into the matter, say the Unionists, our American cousins are wrong to get excited about it. What really signifies in a Constitution is not the spirit which created it, nor even the accuracy of the text, but the spirit with which it is applied; policy resolves itself in the last resort into administrative action just as law does into judicial interpretations. Looked at from that point of view it is rather the Unionists who have cause to fear!
It is so easy to find thousands of trivial ways of annoying when one is steeped in hatred. Even by a budget of inoffensive aspect it would be possible to put pressure upon Ulster, with whom there are old accounts to settle. It is so easy to cause injustice as between English and Irish in hundreds of spheres: trade marks, copyright, patents, and many more. The Irish program has always included protection against England: in order not to alarm their friends the Liberal Free Traders, the Nationalists do not refer to it now, but who would count on that? The Celtic imagination is a fertile one; it will invent some way of penalizing English imports in favor of American---or now, alas! German imports.
See what happens during the war. The question of food supplies is vital, and Ireland is one of the principal sources for over-populated Great Britain. If she refused to send over her surplus potatoes, dairy produce, meat, bacon, what a catastrophe there would be! Well, without Home Rule, she tries to play this scurvy trick; the Sinn Feiners intimidate the farmers who want to export their pigs, and vow that if they were masters it would be their supreme joy to starve the accursed English. The old motto still triumphs, "England's difficulty, Ireland's opportunity." William II has "brilliant seconds" there! I am not even referring to all those military alliances with the enemy from Queen Elizabeth's reign to our days; we shall see farther on that Mr. Dillon was not ashamed of it.
Mr. Asquith, so we are told, foresaw all that in his Home Rule Bill; he included in it all the desired guarantees and safeguards; the last word will always rest with London. Is that the case? In point of fact it is impracticable. Provision for this veto has always been made in all the constitutions of autonomy granted to the colonies, but it has never been possible to apply it. English Free Traders have had to submit humbly to Canada's customs dues; Conservative ministers have had to allow Australia to indulge in socialism. Under present conditions any reprimand or intervention on the part of the Imperial Cabinet would bring about a conflict which no one would venture to risk; and yet these colonies are well disposed to the mother country, as has been shown by the splendid voluntary help which they have given her since 1914.
What would happen in the case of Ireland? It would be civil war without a doubt. Her leaders have promised it often enough, and they are not in the humor to tolerate supervision of this kind. We have just had an edifying example of the sort of thing which would happen. Remember that the Bill of 1912, with Mr. Redmond's express consent, reserved strictly to the Imperial Parliament all matters concerning the army and navy. On April 9th, 1918, after the reverse at Saint Quentin, Mr. Lloyd George, when he decided to call up Englishmen to the age of fifty-one, and even if necessary to fifty-six, wanted at the same time to apply conscription to young Irishmen of twenty-one, for the contrast was too unjust and could not be justified any longer. Immediately there was a terrific storm from the Nationalist benches!
"You have no right to do that without the consent of an Irish Parliament." Of what value is the promise made to Mr. Asquith concerning the "reserved services" or Imperial services?
No, all those imposing safeguards stipulated in the Bill only make old political philosophers like Mr. Balfour laugh and no doubt they amuse Mr. Asquith himself. Others, Ulster Protestants, or English patriots, clench their fists, only too certain of persecutions and treason in the future.
The Nationalists will be the heads of the new Dublin Government. What do they undertake to do? Can their promises be relied on? In April, 1912, Mr. Dillon, quite mild all of a sudden, said:
"For my part, as long as I live in Irish politics, I will adhere honorably to that pledge and will do everything in my power to discountenance any idea that we intend to use this Bill as a leverage to extract more out of England, or that we are not content to accept the position which is the basis upon which this Bill is founded."(13)
In 1911 Mr. Redmond asks for an Irish Parliament to deal with purely Irish affairs, "subject to the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament." If the Nationalists are sincere, remind them that Gladstone himself confessed that he was incapable of distinguishing between Imperial and non-Imperial matters.
But the Unionists do not believe in this sincerity. They call to mind other declarations, more brutal, more outspoken, uttered when it was not necessary to tread warily, to lull suspicion; for instance, Mr. Redmond's speech at Kanturk on November 17, 1895:
"Ireland for the Irish is our motto, and the consummation of all our hopes and aspirations is, in one word, to drive English rule, sooner or later, bag and baggage from the country."
Again, in 1893, in the House of Commons, he said that there was no hope of success if the decisions of the Irish Legislature were to be submitted to the Imperial Parliament as a Court of Appeal, either directly or indirectly.
Thus spoke the chief; now let us listen to his lieutenants. This time it is Mr. Kettle, an honest man, the leading economist of the party, a scholar rather than politician, reassuring his American friends: "These are our tactics---if you want to capture a fortress, first take the outer works."
And now we have Mr. Devlin, President of the great secret society, "The Ancient Order of Hibernians," possibly the most powerful man in Ireland, speaking at Philadelphia. "I believe in the separation of Ireland from England---until Ireland is as free as the air we breathe."
Finally Dillon, the unruly member of the party. His friends have often reproached him for talking too much, and with good cause; confessions like this are certainly very embarrassing to-day:
"I strongly advise the Irish people to provide themselves with arms," he said in effect in the House of Commons. "The Irish people have not the necessary means to carry on civil war. I wish that they had. In old days when a more efficacious weapon was used, one or two landlords were chosen out, fired at with a rifle, and that had better results than all your constitutional agitation."
In the same House in 1898 he pinned down his leader:
Mr. Dillon: "You spoke of the repeal of the Union, and the reopening of the Irish Parliament, as the full Nationalist demand. Now, I say, in the first instance, that, in my opinion and in the opinion of the vast majority of the advanced Nationalists of Ireland, that is not the full Nationalist demand."
Mr. Redmond: "Separation."
Hr. Dillon: "Yes. That is the full Nationalist demand; that is the right on which we stand, the Nationalist right of Ireland."(14)
A member reminded him in June, 1912, of another of his vows:
"When we come out of the struggle we will remember who were the people's friends and who were the people's enemies, and we will mete out our reward to the one and our punishment to the other."(15)
It is not very reassuring for Ulster!
Such is the man who in 1912 gave "honorable" pledges, who in 1918 was elected leader of the Parliamentary Nationalist party.
In July, 1912, Irish Freedom wrote:
"Above all, in the transitory and half-way house stage, it will keep a sharp eye on 'Sister England's' administration of the Home Rule Bill and it will devote its special attention to the using of that Bill as a means to strengthen Ireland and weaken the British Empire, in so far as it can be worked towards that end."
That can hardly be described as legitimate self-defense, can it?
This Fenian newspaper is merely playing the part one expects of it. But the contradictions of a man of Mr. Redmond's standing are more disturbing. In October, 1911, speaking at Manchester, he said: "We are not asking for the repeal of the Union, but merely for an amendment of its terms."
That is all very well. He was speaking before English people. Why, then, was he so imprudent as to sign this in his Freeman's Journal, December 16th, 1908?---"We have before us today the best chance which Ireland has ever had of tearing up and trampling under foot that infamous Act of Union."
Which are we to believe?
We might fill volumes with threatening quotations such as these;
they would at least make us appreciate why English Unionists distrust
these wolves suddenly camouflaged as sheep. Then there is past
history, seven centuries of hatred! no light matter. Then there
is that morbid spite which is no longer justified, which the English
neither understand nor share, but with which they are obliged
to reckon every moment; a perpetual insult---worse, vows of unappeasable
revenge. Can we reproach them for being on their guard?
Table of Contents