It is always more difficult to combat a prejudice than an argument, and English opposition to Home Rule for Ireland rests upon a deeply-seated prejudice. Yet it is easily shown that this prejudice is inconsistent with the leading political principles of the English race.
Englishmen advocate, generally, the principle of Liberty, and by Liberty they mean democracy, and they mean self-government.Take, as example, Mr. Balfour, who said, in the great debate on Women's Suffrage in the House of Commons in July, 1910: A democracy, properly speaking, is government by consent, and went on to classify himself among those who believe that Democracy, properly understood, is the only possible government for any nation at the stage of political evolution which we have reached. Yet surely Mr. Balfour would be the last to assert that the government of Ireland has the consent of the governed.Take, again; the general indignation expressed by Englishmen of all parties when Russian autocracy suppressed the free institutions of Finland.
Nor is this only a matter of opinion or sentiment with the British people. It is their chief boast, and their chief glory, that they have learnt to reconcile Empire with Liberty. The Times wrote, in a leading article of April, 5th 1909, which was headed Local Patriotism and the Imperial Idea, and was a comment on the results which
p.4had been attained in South Africa by the concession of self-government:
The Imperial idea, despite the historic associations of its name, must prove its title to acceptance, not as a limitation but as a guarantee of local autonomy and local rights.
Imperial thought aims at drawing closer the bonds of union between the nations of the Empire, not in any limitation of individual autonomy but as the only means by which the development of each on its own lines can be secured.
Imperialism is not the enemy of those narrower and more intimate loyalties which bind each nationality within the Empire to its own way of life.
In other wordsHome Rule is the rule of the British Empire. The one exception to this principle is found in Ireland. The argument for Home Rule as a sound, practical policy is of two kindspositive and negative. The grant of local autonomy, wherever it has been made, has been followed by prosperity, contentment, and loyalty. That is the positive side of the argument. The negative side is seen in Ireland, where poverty, discontent, and disaffection have been consequences of denying Home Rule.
If Englishmen are asked for an answer to these argumentsfor a reason why that principle of self-government, which they believe in, should not be applied to Ireland, their answer always is, in effect, That Ireland is unfit for self-government. They may say, and they sometimes do say, that to give Home Rule will be a danger to England, but if they are pressed to answerDo you then mean that you deny to Ireland the form of government best suited to her needs because you are afraid of Ireland? they will reply that Home Rule would be an injury and not an advantage to Ireland. And they will justify this view by asserting the special incapacity of Irishmen to undertake the task.
Now, without the least wish to be discourteous or quarrelsome, we are forced, by way of rejoinder, to ask:
What is the record of English government in Ireland?If it be said that Ireland is not fit to govern herself, what is the proof that England is fit to govern Ireland? In an ordinary way, people are likely to be the best judges of their own affairs; can it be shown that the refusal to apply this principle to Ireland has been attended with special success?
It must not be supposed that the demand for Home Rule rests on this question of expediency. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman asserted, and every Irish Nationalist echoes his assertion, that Good government is no substitute for self-government; that even if a country were prospering under foreign rule, its honour and its dignity should force it to demand the privilege of freedom, which is the right to manage its own affairs. The demand for Home Rule in Ireland rests primarily on that ground. Self-government is claimed, first, as a natural right, and, secondly, by historic legal title, as a right which Ireland enjoyed, which was ratified to Ireland by a solemn declaration of the British Parliament, and which was filched from Ireland by a most corrupt and shameful transaction, to which Ireland never consented, and against which, for more than a century, Ireland has protested by every means in her power.
But setting aside all these claims of right, the question shall be argued as far as possible from the British point of view, which regards the matter as one of expediency. Has the present system, or any system employed by England, justified itself? It is to that end, and not with any desire to renew painful memories, that, before considering the problems of to-day, some attempt must be made to discern their causes.
In order to examine the question of England's fitness
p.6to govern Ireland, it is necessary to pass in review, briefly, the history of English rule in Ireland.
The name England is here deliberately used, because, in Scotland and Wales, the majorities in favour of Home Rule for Ireland are as decisive and almost as steady as in Ireland itself, while the unanimous opinion of statesmen in the Over-sea Dominions has been publicly expressed, without regard for party, in favour of granting self-government to Irelandthat one separate part of the British Dominions, inhabited by white men, which at present does not manage its own local affairs.
Before entering on the review the history of British rule in Ireland may be briefly summarised.Ireland was first treated as territory to be exploited in the interests of Great Britain. The native race were regarded as an element to be got rid of. Every effort was made to prevent their fusion with the settlers. Vast confiscations were made. Wars of extermination were undertaken again and again.
This policy may be said to have lasted up to the battle of the Boyne and final conquest under William III. and James II.
During the eighteenth century no attempt was made to kill out the Irish. The country was regarded as containing two castes, divided from each other by religion. One form of religion, that of a small minority, was highly privileged. That of the majority was cruelly proscribed. As against the Catholic Irish, who were mainly of the native race, the interest of the Protestant Irish was protected. But as against the interests of England, the interests of any class in Ireland, or of all Ireland, were deliberately sacrificed.
The governing principle of this period was to keep Ireland weak, by maintaining religious dissensions and by repressing Irish enterprise and industry.
In 1782, when the Irish Parliament gained its freedom, England still nominated the ministry, and that ministry pursued unswervingly the interest of England, and finally engineered the Union.
Up to this point, not the most partisan historian can affirm that England governed Ireland even tolerably.
Since 1800 the interests of Ireland have been committed to the care of the Imperial Parliament.
For half a century it cannot be said that Parliament made any attempt to consider Irish interests or Irish opinion. Then the appalling disaster of the great famine did something to awaken public conscience. Yet till 1870 no remedial legislation of any importance was undertaken. From that date frequent efforts have been made, often with the most honest intention, to promote the welfare of Ireland. Parliament has repeatedly given to Ireland the kind of legislation which England thought good for her.
The experiment of governing Ireland from Westminster, even with the best intentions, proved to be a pitiful failure. England was unfit to govern Ireland, by temperament, by tradition, and by equipment. She was legislating for a country which she did not know and with which she had no natural sympathy.
In 1902, Lord Dudley, the last Tory Viceroy, and one of the very few who has left a kind remembrance in Ireland, made a speech at Belfast in which he declared that the time had come when Ireland ought to be governed according to Irish ideas.
It had taken six centuries and a quarter before a spokesman of the Tory Party in England could be brought to admit that Irish ideas were the ideas according to which Ireland should be governed; and yet the Tory Party was not convinced of this proposition. Three years later Mr. Walter Long came over as Chief Secretary under the same Government, to reverse the policy of which Lord Dudley was the exponent. He was perfectly explicit in denying the principle that Ireland should be governed according to Irish ideas.
This reversal of policy illustrates very well the disastrous see-saw, alternating between concession and coercion, which would have demoralised any country, and which has inflicted grave injury on Irish political life. It illustrates it all the better because this see-saw took place under a period of unbroken Tory administration. But the essential point to note is this:Mr. Long spoke too late. The Administration, of which Lord Dudley was the head, had conceded the main point for which Irish ideas had been contending ever since the English landed in Ireland. Mr. Wyndham's Act of 1903 established by law the principle that land in Ireland should be owned by those who occupied and worked it: that the soil of Ireland should belong to the Irish people.
The history of English rule in Ireland may be briefly exemplified in relation to land. When the English came first to Ireland their object was to take Irish land from Irish tribes and to give it to English nobles to deal with at their pleasure. Met by the difficulty of separating the Irish people from the land, they tried the expedients of killing the Irish people out altogether; of exporting them into slavery; later, of penning them into the uncultivable parts of the country; and, finally, of reducing them to a state of serfdom, under cover of religious disability. The end of the struggle was that the Irish recovered, first, the free exercise of their religion, and then the ownership of their land. But the struggle, prolonged over centuries, was disastrous to Ireland, and to England as well. The struggle is not completed, nor can it be, until the Irish have gained the full management of their own affairs; until Ireland is governed according to Irish ideas by Irishmen chosen by the Irish people in Ireland.
We shall now give in somewhat more detailed form a review of these facts, based largely upon an article contributed to the British Empire Review by Sir Charles Bruce, who has been Governor of several British Colonies, who holds the Grand Cross of St. Michael and St. George, and who may be presumed to be a loyal citizen.
But, first, let it be remarked that conquest is not necessarily a disaster to the conquered. England probably gained in civilisation by the Norman Conquest. The case was very different in Ireland. Sir Charles Bruce gives the reason: In 1172 Henry, supported by a Bull of Pope Adrian IV., the only Englishman who ever occupied the papal chair, assumed the title of King of Ireland and consolidated his dominions by an organised system of expropriation of the Irish and re-settlement by large grants made to Norman barons. This was the origin of the land question in Ireland and of a policy designed to solve it by rooting out the Irish from the soil, confiscating the property of the septs, and planting the country with English tenants. Had Ireland been left to itself, the Norman invasion would probably have followed the course of the Norman invasion of England, and resulted in an Anglo-Irish union consolidated by intermarriage. But every step towards such a union was met by enactments of the English Government prohibiting the adoption by English settlers of Irish customs and the Irish language, while intermarriage was punished by mutilation and death.
Yet the tendency of nature towards union between the races was stronger than the laws which aimed at keeping them apart. These Norman barons, the Geraldines, the Burkes, and the rest, became, as was said, more Irish than the Irish themselves. They established, in the reign of Edward I., an Irish, or Norman-Irish, Parliament. By the reign of Edward I., 1316, Irish chiefs, like the O'Briens and the O'Tooles, were attending this Parliament; but all the influence of England was used still to keep the races apart. In 1367, under Edward III., the Statute of Kilkenny prohibited, under the penalties of high treason, use of the Irish language and dress, or intermarriage with the Irish. As for the Irish themselves, they were outside the law. The King of England claimed to be King of Ireland, but it was no felony to kill one of his native Irish subjects, even if dwelling in a part of the country which was directly under English rule.
Gradually, however, the government of Ireland tended to become more and more in accordance with Irish ideas. Under Henry VI. the Irish Parliament formally declared its right to be bound only by its own laws. The ties between the Norman nobles and the Irish nobles were constantly strengthening: still more strongly were these Norman chiefs affected by the principles of Irish law.
The fundamental point of Irish law was that the land which the tribe occupied belonged to the people of the tribe: the King, or chief, had only his own portion. In the frequent wars between tribe and tribe cattle might be driven off, crops might be destroyed, but no one ever thought of separating the land and the people.
The English theory of government was that all land belonged to the King, that it was all held by grant from him; that the occupiers and the tillers of the soil were there simply by grace of the King, or by grace of the man to whom he granted the land. When, therefore, the
p.11King declared the estates of a Norman noble or an Irish chief forfeit, he seized the territory which, according to Irish ideas, belonged not to the offenderthe chief who had rebelledbut to the people on the land.
Up to about A.D. 1500, Irish ideas were gaining ground, and the Norman nobles, speaking Irish, having in their castles Irish lawyers and Irish bards, accepted the Irish code of law. During the same period, what was called the English Pale contracted itself to a district of about thirty miles round Dublin. Within that limited area English law prevailed; outside it Normans and Irish lived under Irish lawthe Normans recognising English sovereignty. This was a period, upon the whole, of real prosperity for Ireland; the country was filled with great buildings; castles, abbeys, and churches, whose ruins only remain to bear evidence of what has been destroyed.
In 1495 began the second phase of the English conquest. Henry VII. sent over a strong force, under the Lord Deputy Poynings, and caused an Act to be passed at a Parliament at Drogheda, which declared that all Acts passed by the English Parliament should be binding in Ireland, and that no Acts should be passed by the Irish Parliament without the consent of the English Privy Council. Under Henry VIII. the period of great confiscations may be said to have begun. In 1536 the Earl of Kildare, head of the great Geraldine House, was attainted for treason, and all his lands were declared forfeit to the Crown. Another Act of the same year declared that all lands which had been granted to Normans, and which had reverted to Irish owners by reconquest or otherwise, should now belong to the Crown. In 1537, the lands of the monasteries were forfeited to the Crown. Mrs. J. R. Green writes: These laws and confiscations gave to the new sovereigns of the Irish the particular advantage that if their subjects should resist the taking of the land, they were legally rebels, and as such outside the laws of war. It was this
p.12new fiction of law that gave the Tudor wars their unsurpassed horror. Thus began what Bacon called the wild chase on the wild Irishmen. The forfeiture of land of the tribe for the crime of a chief was inconceivable in Irish law; the claim of the commonalty to unalterable possession of their soil was deeply engraven in the hearts of the people, who stood together to hold their land, believing justice and law to be on their side, and the right of near two thousand years of ordered possession. At a prodigious price, at inconceivable cost of human woe, the purging of the soil from the Irish race was begun. Such mitigations as the horrors of war allow were forbidden to these rebels by legal fiction. Torturers and hangmen went out with the soldiers. There was no protection for any soul; the old, the sick, infants, women, scholars, anyone of them might be a landholder, or a carrier on of the tradition of the tribal owners, and was in any case a rebel appointed to death. No quarter was allowed, no faith kept, and no truce given. Chiefs were made to draw and carry, to abase them before the tribes. Poets and historians were slaughtered, and their books and genealogies burned, so that no man might know his own grandfather, and all Irishmen be confounded in the same ignorance and abasement, all glories gone, and all rights lost. The great object of the Government was to destroy the whole tradition, wipe out the Gaelic memories, and begin a new English life.(Irish Nationality, page 130.)
Sir Charles Bruce says: Mr. Lecky has observed that Burke gives the real clue to Irish history from this period in asserting that the genius and policy of the English Government were directed to the total extirpation of the interests of the natives in their own soil. That this was the original scheme, and that it was never departed from for a single hour during the whole reign of Queen Elizabeth.
A new feature had been added to the process by the Reformation. In 1560 the Protestant religion was by law established. Mr. Lecky has said: In Ireland the old Faith marked the division between the
p.13two races. It was the symbol of the National spirit; it was upheld by all the passions of a great patriotic struggle, and its continuance simply attests the vitality of a political sentiment. When every other Northern nation abandoned Catholicism, the Irish still retained it, out of antipathy to their oppressors.
Herein lies a deep cause of mutual misunderstanding between England and Ireland. To England, the idea of Protestantism was associated with resistance to foreign conquest and domestic oppressionto the menace of the Armada, the misgovernment of the Stuarts. For Ireland, the case is reversed. The noblest thing they knew was fidelity to the persecuted Catholic religion. The basest thing they knew was the action of those Irishmen who changed their religion not merely to save their own land: but to get their neighbour's.
Protestantism came to Ireland as the religion of the oppressor. The Catholic's fidelity to his belief was used as a new plea for confiscation, even for actual extermination. Lord Grey de Wilton, Lord Deputy of Elizabeth, declared, says Sir Charles Bruce, that the only way to deal with Ireland was "by a Mahometan conquest"that is to say, by slaughtering all those Irish who refused to conform. It is notable that Edmund Spenser, who lived and worked in Ireland, selects this Lord Grey as his type of Justice in The Faerie Queene.
In truth, Lord Grey pleaded religion as the excuse for trying to destroy a whole race.
The experiment was tried most conscientiously. Mr.Froude says, speaking of the operations in Munster of Sir Waiter Raleigh: The entire province was utterly depopulated. Hecatombs of helpless creatures, the aged and the sick and the blind, the young mother and the babe at the breast had fallen under the English sword; and though the authentic details of the struggle have been forgotten, the memory of a vague horror remains imprinted in the national traditions.
p.14Famine was brought in to supplement the sword. Charles Bruce says: In 1582 Sir Warham Sentleger informed Queen Elizabeth that his friends had starved to death 30,000 in six months in the province of Munster by destroying the crops.
In the North of Ireland a stronger resistance was offered, but Elizabeth succeeded, first, in procuring the assassination of Shane O'Neill, a most powerful opponent, and afterwards, at the end of a desperate war, in defeating the combined forces of Hugh O'Neill and Hugh O'Donnell at Kinsale. But the victory was not complete. O'Donnell went to Spain to seek for assistance. He was poisoned there by an agent of the English Government, whose account of the affair is in the State Papers. O'Neill made his submission, but early in the reign of James I. proceedings were instituted against him and against O'Donnell's successor. Both earls fled, and under James was carried out the plantation of Ulster.
This was a new type of conquest; it was not merely the transference of ownership from Irish chiefs to English nobles, but it meant the driving out of Irish peasant farmers and the substitution of Scotch or English settlerssmall men, who would actually themselves farm the land. Mrs. Green says: Henry VIII. had found Ireland a land of Irish civilisation and law, with a people living by tribal tenure, and two races drawing together to form a new self-governing nation. A hundred years later, when Elizabeth and James I. had completed his work, all the great leaders, Anglo-Irish and Irish, had disappeared, the people had been half exterminated, alien and hostile planters set in their place, tribal tenure obliterated, every trace of Irish law swept clean from the Irish statute-book, and an English form of State government effectively established.(Irish Nationality.)
There followed in the reign of Charles I. the English Civil War. In 1641 the native Irish rose in Ulster and dispossessed those to whom the lands of their fathers had been given in the reign of James I. This rising was an attempt to reverse wholesale confiscations carried out in a period no more remote than that which divides us from Mr. Gladstone's land laws. There was no general plan of massacre, but undoubtedly the Protestant settlers suffered great hardships, for which terrible reprisals were made. War raged throughout the whole country until Cromwell came and crushed out resistance. The massacres of Drogheda and Wexford are indelible stains on his memoryyet a deeper disgrace attaches to his policy of exporting the captured Irish, men, women, and children, into slavery in the West Indies. Cromwell did not, however, attempt to kill out all the native Irish. He only decreed that none of them should be allowed to remain in Ulster, Leinster, or in Munster except the County of Clare. The whole Catholic population was driven across the Shannon, and herded together in the bogs and mountains of Connaught. After the Restoration, under Charles II. a Protestant Parliament practically acquiesced in all the arrangements made by Cromwell, although the Irish had gone to war in support of Charles's father.
Before the Civil War, the native Irish owned ten acres to one held by settlers (even after the Ulster plantations), and two-thirds of the good land. After Cromwell's confiscations and the Act of Settlement, strangers owned four-fifths of the whole country, and more than two-thirds of the good land.
Under James II. an Irish Parliament was established which was almost entirely Catholic.
Catholics in Ireland had been subjected to almost every imaginable form of persecution for a century and a half.
p.16It is notable, therefore, that their first act was to pass a law establishing liberty of conscience for all denominations. They did, however, by an Act of attainder, propose to take away from some two thousand persons the property which had been settled upon them in the Cromwellian confiscations.
The power of this Parliament was brief, and in 1690 the battle of the Boyne marked the final triumph of the settlers in Ireland. Yet the war did not end with the Boyne; and at the famous siege of Limerick a treaty was made guaranteeing to Irish Catholics, in return for submission, the free exercise of their religion. That treaty was shamefully broken. The Irish Catholics who, in their Parliament, had established freedom for all religions, were first declared incapable of sitting in Parliament, then of voting for a member of Parliament. They were declared incapable of acquiring landed property or of holding a lease longer than thirty years; they were forbidden, on the heaviest penalties, to keep a school; they were forbidden to send their children to be educated abroad; they were debarred from all the liberal professions, except medicine. Briefly, says Hallam, they suffered a system of oppression under a series of laws which have scarcely a parallel in European history. Burke has said of this penal code: It was a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment, and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.
Interrupting this review for a moment, it may be asked What are the tests of good government.That it should give security to the governed? The government of Ireland by England began by refusing to recognise in the native
p.17Irish any rights at all before the law.That it should hold the balance evenly between the various types of conscientious belief? The Government of England attempted to enforce the religion of a small and alien minority by every conceivable penalty; it used religion as a cloak for spoliation; it deliberately maintained religious differences as a symbol of racial division.That it should temper justice with mercy? The English people may be said to have aimed at the complete extirpation of the native race. Sir Charles Bruce writes: The history of the English in Ireland for seven hundred years has confirmed the truth of the proposition that in the treatment of the native population in conquered territories there are only two possible policiesextermination or amalgamation. The policy of extermination having failed, it falls to consider what has been done and what remains to be done to substitute a policy of amalgamation.
The first fact, then, about England's proved fitness or unfitness to govern Ireland is that England attempted to exterminate the native Irish and failed. It remains to be seen how, after this failure, she dealt with Ireland when Ireland was a country completely subject to British rule.
In the eighteenth century Ireland was owned virtually by the Protestant minority, nine-tenths of whom probably belonged to the settlers. But the Catholics, having been driven out of the ownership of land, threw themselves with great zeal into trade, and Ireland, having at last a period of peace, after a century and a half of devastating war, began to build up industries. This was seen with grudging eyes by English merchants, who appealed to the English Parliament to check such competition; and Parliament promptly crushed the growing trades.
By the Cattle Acts of 1665 and 1680 the importation into England, from Ireland, of all cattle, sheep, swine, beef, pork, bacon, mutton, or cheese was prohibited. The immediate result of these Acts was to restrict the trade with England, and to stimulate trade with foreign countries and with the English plantations, and to increase Irish shipping. In 1680 we read that for the last five years there were seldom less than twenty Irish ships at Dunkirk, laden with beef, mutton, tallow, hides, leather, and wool. Irish ships were also seen at Ostend, Naples, and La Rochelle, and in the French West Indies. The trade of these places with England herself fell off.1 But Ireland was not long suffered to enjoy this provision trade
p.19in peace. By a long series of Navigation Acts commerce was, as completely as the laws could effect their purpose, destroyed. The conveniency of ports and harbours which nature bestowed so liberally upon this kingdom, wrote Swift, is of no more use to us than to a man shut up in a dungeon.
Forbidden to export cattle, Irishmen now turned their attention to wool, which had long been the staple of their internal trade. The quality of the wool, [says Mr. Lecky,] was supremely good. A real industrial enthusiasm had arisen in the nation. Great numbers of English, Scotch, and even foreign manufacturers came over. Many thousands of men were employed in the trade, and all the signs of a great rising industry were visible.
History of Ireland. . Vol 1., Ch. xi, p 75.It was not to be. The English House of Commons petitioned William III. to discourage the woollen manufacture, and in 1699 the export from Ireland of manufactured wool to any country whatsoever was absolutely prohibited, and that of raw wool except to England. So ended, [continues Mr. Lecky,] the fairest promise Ireland had ever known of becoming a prosperous and happy country. The ruin was absolute and final.
History of Ireland. . Vol 1., Ch.xi, p 75.
Some half-hearted attempts were, indeed, made to replace the woollen by the linen industry. As early as 1672 the Irish Parliament had voted a sum of money to be applied for the encouragement of the manufacture of fine linen; and from the fourth year of Anne to the nineteenth of George II., passed no less than fourteen Acts for the encouragement of the industry. But even this trade, though confined to Ulster, and long conducted upon a very small scale indeed, was not allowed to remain unhindered. Fierce opposition arose in England when it was proposed (in 1708) to extend the manufacture to Leinster. It was feared that if Irish linen should replace Dutch linen
p.20in England, the Dutch might no longer care to admit English woollens into Holland. Prohibitive duties were laid on Irish linens, checked, striped, painted, or dyed, when imported into Great Britain.
So one might go on through the whole range of Irish industries. Every avenue for trade was deliberately blocked. Lecky writes:It became evident that England possessed both the will and the power to crush every form of Irish industry as soon as it became sufficiently prosperous to compete in any degree with her own manufacture. It appeared useless to persist, and a general commercial despondency prevailed. Thousands of manufacturers emigrated to America or to the Continent. The masses of the people, denied other employment, were driven back upon the land, by their frantic competition for this, the only means by which to live, raising rents and increasing the poverty of all save a few.
These restrictions were aimed, not at Irish Catholics or at the native Irish: they were part of the government of Ireland according to English ideas. This meant the sacrificing of every Irish interest that could possibly compete with an English one. Lecky says in his History of Ireland: Protestants then began to find that they were as little thought of as the Catholics. The suppression of the woollen trade brought ruin upon twelve thousand Protestant families in Dublin, and thirty thousand in the rest of the country. By her commercial laws England deliberately crushed the prosperity of the Protestant colony of Ireland, drove thousands of them into exile, arrested the influx of Protestant population from Great Britain, and inspired the Presbyterians of the North with a bitter hatred of her rule.
So indiscriminating was the oppression that it began to bring Protestant and Catholic together in Ireland in defence of their common interest. This was foreseen and deplored by the English Government. Archbishop Boulterone of the chief agents of the government of Irelandwrote:7ndash;When Protestant and Papist unite,
p.21goodbye to the English interest in Ireland. Yet, in spite of the English Government, Protestant and Papist did unite, and the Irish Parliament, representing solely the Irish Protestants, began to repeal the Penal Laws.
In 1778 the Catholics were given leave to hold landed property. In 1779 the joint action of the Catholics and Protestants secured free trade between England and Ireland. In 1781 Catholics were permitted to keep a schoolif they could get leave from the Protestant Bishop of the diocese. This was not mere generosity, it was statesmanship. It was the beginning of the government of Ireland according to Irish ideas by Irishmen, who felt that Protestant and Catholic needed each other. Grattan said: So long as the Penal Code remains we can never be a great nation. I would not keep two millions of my fellow-countrymen in a state of slavery. I desire not a Protestant settlement, but an Irish nation.
Political enfranchisement went hand in hand with the removal of religious disabilities. In 1782 the Irish Legislature was given sole power to make laws for Ireland. The first Act of the enfranchised Parliament was to repeal the Acts against hearing or celebrating Mass, and generally to sweep away the last restrictions of the Penal Code. Amongst its laws was one to legalise the marriages of Presbyterians, which the English Government had refused to recognise.Judges were given security of tenure; the English Government had preferred to keep them subject to dismissal.
For, now an Irish Parliament was dealing with the Irish problem. It treated questions on their merits; it did not wait to be forced into concessionsas the English Government had been when it granted self-government under the armed menace of the Volunteers. The
p.22English Parliament had for a hundred years denied to Roman Catholics practically all civil rights. The Irish Protestant Parliament, within ten years after its establishment, passed a law giving Roman Catholics the vote on a very liberal franchise. The next year saw all Catholics admitted to almost all civil and military offices. In 1795 a Bill to admit Catholics to Parliament was read for the first time. There is no manner of doubt that if the process of amalgamation had been allowed to go on, the Irish Protestant Parliament would have given full and equal rights to their Catholic fellow citizens, and that, in Ireland, which was then governed more or less according to Irish ideas, by Irishmen, living in Ireland, religious differences would have obliterated themselves. But once again England interfered to stop the process of amalgamation. Lord Fitzwilliam, the Viceroy, had gone over in 1795 to declare, like Lord Dudley, that Ireland should be governed according to Irish ideas, but the reaction set in too soon. The loyal minority protested against this betrayal; and what a leading Ulster Unionist called, in 1904, the wretched, rotten, sickening policy of conciliation was abandoned. Lord Fitzwilliam was recalled, and a loyal minority were given free encouragement to drive the majority into rebellion.
This element of the loyal minority has always existed, and has been the main cause of trouble between England and Ireland. In Elizabeth's day they were called specially the People of the Pale, and they were those who deliberately encouraged the war between the races in the hope of profiting by confiscations. Even in Elizabeth's day certain rulers, notably Ormonde and Essex, showed a desire for conciliatory measures. The People of the Pale secured their recall and impeachment. Sir John Perrott, one of the ablest among the Anglo-Irish nobles, wrote to Walsingham: There is no good meaning in the people of the Pale and Borderers towards the composition intended, or anything else that is good. They have overthrown the repeal of Poyning's
p.23Act. In 1795 it was the people of the Palethe English garrisonwho set themselves against the peaceful policy of Fitzwilliam. Beresford, the leader of that faction, was mainly instrumental in securing Fitzwilliam's recall, as he was, in the two or three years that followed, foremost in the barbarities which goaded Ireland into insurrection; and, down to the present day, there has always been a faction in Ireland whose one remedy for Ireland's troubles has been the application of coercion whenever redress has been demanded.
Within five years after the recall of Fitzwilliam, the loyal minority and the English Government between them had first goaded the subject race in Ireland into revolt (in. which many thousands of Protestants joined), and then, profiting by the demoralisation of the minority, had suppressed the liberties of the whole country. So we reach the Union. But before discussing it, let us recall in broad outline, first, what English government had done for Ireland in the period of the Penal Laws, and then what Ireland had done for herself in the brief era of partial freedom.
A marked feature of English government in Ireland has been the constant recurrence of famine. It was artificially produced by military means in the reign of Elizabeth.
In the eighteenth century it resulted, quite naturally, from the conditions that had been established. Again, I take some illustrative quotations, brought together by Mr. J. A. Fox in his book Why Ireland Wants Home Rule:
The Protestant Bishop Nicholson, an Englishman, in 1718 writes: Never did I behold even in Picardy, Westphalia, or Scotland, such dismal marks of hunger and want as appeared in the countenances of most of the poor creatures I met on the road. One of his horses, accidentally killed during his travels on an occasion, was surrounded by fifty or sixty famished cottagers, struggling desperately to obtain a morsel of flesh for themselves and their children.
In 1727, Boulter, Protestant Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, wrote to the Duke of Newcastle that since his arrival in that country the famine had not ceased among the poor people. The dearness of corn in the preceding year was such that thousands of families were obliged to quit their dwellings to seek means of life elsewhere; and many hundreds perished.
Dr. Sheridan, in 1728, declares that the poor are sunk to the lowest degree of misery and povertytheir houses
p.25dunghills, their food the blood of their cattle, or the herbs of the field.With reference to the expression, their food the blood of their cattle, there is a curious Irish proverb. Kerry is one of the poorest of the Irish counties, and it was said, Kerry cows know no Sundays, because that was the day the cattle were partly drained of their blood to give food to the peasants.
In 1734 the Protestant Bishop of Cloyne, the reverend Berkeley, asked these questions in The Querist:(Q. 132.) Is there on the face of the earth any Christian and civilised people so destitute of everything as the mass of the people of Ireland?
(Q. 173.) Can it be said that the quantities of beef, of butter, of wool, and of leather exported from this island are the superfluity of the country, when so great a number of the inhabitants are naked and starving?
The year 1741 was called the year of slaughter, of death and desolation. The cemeteries became too small for the burial of those who died on the roadside, or those whose bodies had to be sought for in their abandoned cabins. This, the third famine within twenty years, is thus referred to by Mr. Lecky (Eighteenth Century, Vol. 11., pp. 218, 219): Of that faminethe famine of 1740-41we have many contemporaneous descriptions. According to one writer, 400,000 persons died. Bishop Berkeley has left behind touching descriptions of the misery that came before his own eyes and smote his loving heart; and another writer gives a picture as terrible as any even in the history of famines. I have seen, (says this writer), the labourer endeavouring to work at his spade, but fainting from want of food, and forced to quit it. I have seen the aged father eating grass like a beast, and in the anguish of his soul wishing for his dissolution. I have seen the helpless orphan exposed on the dunghill, and none to take him in for fear of infection; and I have seen the hungry infant sucking at the breast of the already expired parent.
On the 16th December, 1778, in the House of Commons, Lord Nugent described the Irish people as suffering all the destitution and distress which it was possible for human nature to endure. Nine-tenths of the people earned no more than 4d. a day. In summer, their whole food consisted only of potatoes and water.
Speaking in the course of a debate in the Irish House
p.26of Commons, in 1787, the Attorney-General, Mr. Fitzgibbon, said: I am well acquainted with the province of Munster, and I know that it is impossible for human wretchedness to exceed that of the miserable peasantry of that province. I know that the unhappy tenantry are ground to powder by relentless landlords. I know that far from being able to give the clergy their just dues (Protestant tithes), they have not food or raiment for themselves; the landlord grasps the whole. The poor people of Munster live in a more abject state of poverty than human nature can be supposed able to bear; their miseries are intolerable.
In short, the majority of the population lived always on the verge of famine, and yet the country was as fertile as it is to-day. Arthur Young, who travelled through it in 1768, says of Limerick and Tipperary: It is the richest soil I ever saw, and Meath and West Meath are not less rich. As for the people, Lord Sheffield wrote:
The Irish people are not naturally lazy; they are, on the contrary, of an active nature, capable of the greatest exertions, and of as good a disposition as any nation in the same state of improvement; but that men who have very little to do, should appear to do little, is not strange. (Observations on the Manufactures, Trade, and Present State of Ireland, 1785.)
Yet the condition of this race was thus described by Benjamin Franklin in 1772: The bulk of the people are tenants, extremely poor, living in the most sordid wretchedness, in dirty hovels of mud and straw, and clothed only in rags.. Had I never been in the American colonies, but were to form my judgment of civil society by what I have lately seen, I should never advise a nation of savages to admit of civilisation, for I assure you that in the possession and enjoyment of the various comforts of life, compared to these people, every Indian is a gentleman, and the effect of this kind of civil society seems to be the depressing multitudes below the savage state that a few may be raised above it.
This state of things was inevitable where law, custom, and public opinion all allowed the owner of the land to raise the rent to the uttermost which he could extort, and where no other means of livelihood but the land offered itself.
The reason why there was no alternative is to be found in the government of England. Every possible Irish industry which could compete with the smallest English interest was not merely discouraged, but actually prohibited by law. Strafford, in the reign of Charles I., first laid down the policy of retaining Ireland in dependence by keeping the Irish people weak and impoverished. Being then Lord Lieutenant, he wrote to the King in 1634: I am of opinion that all wisdom advises to keep this kingdom as much subordinate and dependent upon England as is possible, and holding them from the manufacture of wool (which, unless otherwise directed, I shall by all means discourage), and then enforcing them to fetch their clothing from thence, and to take their salt from the King (being that which preserves and gives value to all their native staple commodities), how can they depart from us without nakedness and beggary? Which is of itself so mighty a consideration that a small profit should not bear it down.
It was only, however, after the Williamite wars, when the main part of the fighting population of Irelandchiefs and men alikehad been destroyed or had taken service abroad in Continental armies, that this policy was given full effect. Mr. Lecky writes:
No country ever exercised a more complete control over the destinies of another than did England over those of Ireland, for three-quarters of a century after the Revolution. No serious resistance of any kind was attempted. The nation was as passive as clay in the hands of the potter,
p.28and it is a circumstance of peculiar aggravation that a large part of the legislation I have recounted was a distinct violation of a solemn treaty. The commercial legislation which ruined Irish industry, the confiscation of Irish land which demoralised and impoverished the nation, were all directly due to the English Government, and the English Parliament.
(Eighteenth Century, Vol. II., pp. 211, 212.)
Mr. Froude says:
England governed for what she deemed her own interest, making her calculation on the gross balance of her trade ledgers, and leaving her moral obligations to accumulate, as if right and wrong had been blotted out of the statute-book of the universe .
The English deliberately determined to keep Ireland poor and miserable, as the readiest means to prevent it being troublesome. They destroyed Irish trade and shipping by navigation laws. They extinguished Irish manufactures by differential duties. They laid disabilities even on its wretched agriculture, for fear that Irish importations might injure the English farmer.
Arthur Young says: Of all the restrictions which England has at different times most implicitly laid upon the trade of Ireland, there is none more obnoxious than the embargoes on their provision trade. The prohibitions of the export of woollens, and various other articles, have this pretence at least in their favour, that they are advantageous to similar manufactures in England; and Ireland has long been trained to the sacrifice of her national advantage as a dependent country; but in respect to embargoes, even this shallow pretence is wanting; a whole kingdom is sacrificed and plundered, not to enrich England, but three or four London contractors!
But the best general summary of all this period is that given by a great Irishman, who was also one of the greatest of recent British statesmen. Lord Dufferin wrote in 1867:
From Queen Elizabeth's reign until the Union
p.29the various commercial confraternities of Great Britain never for a moment relaxed their relentless grip on the trades of Ireland. One by one, each of our nascent industries was either strangled in its birth, or handed over, gagged and bound, to the jealous custody of the rival interest in England, until at last every fountain of wealth was hermetically sealed, and even the traditions of commercial enterprise have perished through desuetude. The owners of England's pastures had the honour of opening the campaign. As early as the commencement of the sixteenth century the beeves of Roscommon, Tipperary, and Queen's County undersold the produce of the English grass counties in their own market. By an Act [of Parliament] Irish cattle were declared a nuisance, and their importation prohibited. Forbidden to send our beasts alive across the Channel, we killed them at home, and began to supply the sister country with cured provisions. A second Act of Parliament imposed prohibitory duties on salted meats. The hides of the animals still remained; but the same influence put a stop to the importation of leather. Our cattle trade abolished, we tried sheep-farming. The sheep-breeders of England immediately took alarm, and Irish wool was declared contraband.
Headed off in this direction, we tried to work up the raw material at home; but this created the greatest outcry of all. Every maker of fustian, flannel, and broadcloth in the country rose up in arms, and by an Act of William III. the woollen industry of Ireland was extinguished, and 20,000 manufacturers left the island. The easiness of the Irish labour market, and the cheapness of provisions still giving us an advantage, even though we had to import our materials, we next made a dash at the silk business; but the English silk manufacturer, the sugar refiner, the soap and candle maker (who specially dreaded the abundance of our kelp), and every other trade or interest that thought it worth its while to petition, was received by Parliament with the same partial cordiality, until the most searching scrutiny failed to detect a single vent through which it was possible for the hated industry of Ireland to respire. But although excluded from the markets of Great Britain, a hundred harbours gave her access to the universal sea. Alas! a rival commerce on her own element was still less welcome to England, and as early as the reign of Charles II. the Levant, the ports of Europe, and the oceans beyond the Cape of Good Hope were forbidden to the flag of Ireland. The Colonial trade alone was
p.30in a manner open, if that can be called an open trade which for a long time precluded all exports whatever, and excluded from direct importation to Ireland such important articles as sugar, cotton, and tobacco. What has been the consequence of such a system, pursued with relentless pertinacity for 250 years? Thisthat, debarred from every other trade and industry, the entire nation flung itself back upon the land, with as fatal an impulse as when a river whose current is suddenly impeded rolls back and drowns the valley it; once fertilised.
That is briefly the story of English government in the eighteenth century. Industries everywhere destroyed; agriculture deliberately hampered; religious differences fostered and elevated into a caste system, with this further odious addition that education was denied to the inferior caste. As a result, famine was chronic among the conquered race, while even among the governing caste legitimate opportunities of enrichment were denied.
It seemed for a while as though the period of penal laws had been only that darkest hour before the dawnsince, out of oppression, freedom was born. When an Irish Parliament was given full powers, its use of them exceeded all anticipation. Lord Clare made this admission in 1798, concerning the system which he was fated to destroy: There is not a nation on the face of the habitable globe which has advanced in cultivation, in manufactures, with the same rapidity in the same period as Ireland
Judge Jebb, another distinguished man, in a pamphlet published in the same year wrote: In the course of fifteen years our commerce, our agriculture, and our manufactures have swelled to an amount that the most sanguine friends of Ireland could not have dared to prognosticate.
And Lord Plunket, in 1799, said: Ireland's revenues, her trade, her manufactures had thriven beyond the hope or the example of any other country of her extent, within these few years [before the Union], advancing with a rapidity astonishing even to herself.
The bankers of Dublin held a meeting on December 18th, 1798, at which they passed the following resolution: Resolved, that since the renunciation of the power of Great Britain in 1782 to legislate for Ireland, the commerce and prosperity of this kingdom have eminently increased.
The Guild of Merchants met on January 14th following, and passed a resolution declaring: That the commerce of Ireland has increased, and her manufactures improved beyond example, since the independence of this kingdom was restored by the exertion of our countrymen in 1782. That we look with abhorrence on any attempt to deprive the people of Ireland of their Parliament, and thereby of their constitutional right and immediate power to legislate for themselves.
Lecky wrote in his History: From the concession of free trade in 1779 to the Rebellion of 1798, the national progress of Ireland was rapid and uninterrupted. In ten years from 1782 the exports more than trebled.
All this might have been extended and augmented under the natural development of freedom. All this was destroyed because England would not allow Irishmen to trust their own fellow-citizens with equal rights. The recall of Lord Fitzwilliam was followed by measures of the most brutal coercion; the country was kicked into rebellion, and the advocates of Union got the excuse they wanted to suppress the liberties of Ireland.
In 1800 the Union was carriedby what means it is superfluous to describe. A million and a quarter was spent in bribery, and, by a singular irony, this expenditure was charged to the public debt of Ireland. The sum was not widely distributed, since a very few persons controlled an enormous number of seats in the Irish Parliament. Lord Downshire, for instance, got £52,000 for his share, Lord Ely over £45,000, Lord Carrick £14,000, and so on down to the Earl of Massereene and his three brothers, each of whom received £3,750. It must be remembered that in spite of these influences the proposal of Union was at first rejected by the Parliament in 1799. Under a rational system of government the ministry would have fallen; but even when the Irish Parliament was free to legislate, its Ministers were imposed upon it by Great Britain, and went in and out in accordance with English, not Irish, public opinion.
It is sometimes argued by Englishmen that since the Union with Scotland has been upon the whole a success, the Union with Ireland must inevitably have resulted for the good of Ireland but for the unfitness of the Irish either to govern or be governed. The best reply to this argument is found in an article written by that eminent Unionist, Professor A. V. Dicey, published in the Fortnightly Review for August, 1881, which I have summarised in a pamphlet here quoted:
To the average Englishman's conception, says Professor Dicey, the difference of results lies in the difference
p.33between Scotch and Irish character. Yet this view, so popular and so plausible, is dismissed by him as a gross misrepresentation of past events which can be confuted by a simple reference to facts which lie on the very surface of history.
Why did the Scotch Union succeed? First, because The Act of Union embodied what was, not in name only, but in reality, a treaty or contract freely made between two independent states. Scotland accepted a bargain, made for her by ministers of her own choosing, after full deliberation, in which her material interests were richly secured. She gave up her independence; she secured full participation in the advantages of English trade. Her violent discontent and dislike to the loss of independence were worn away by a prosperity steadily growing. Before the Union, Scotland was excluded from the English Colonial trade. After the Union she enjoyed and profited to the full by all its vast opportunities.
But (again in Dicey's own words) the Union with Ireland lacked all that element of free consent between independent contracting parties which lies at the basis of every genuine contract. Of the deliberate negotiation, of the calm, satisfactory, business-like haggling for national advantages, which marked the negotiations between the Scotch and the English Commissioners; of the close consideration of minute details by competent representatives of both countries, there is not a trace in the negotiations, if negotiations they can be called, between England and Ireland.
There was plenty of haggling over the details of individual bribes; none over the interests of the country. What were the driving forces? One or two facts are patent-the Irish Protestants were dazed with horror at the massacres of the Rebellion; the Irish Catholics were lulled into acquiescence by promises which were made only to be broken; no appeal was made to the Irish constituencies; and the members of both Houses of Parliament were corrupted. The Act of Union. was, in short, an agreement which, could have been referred to, a court of law, must at once have been cancelled as a contract hopelessly tainted with fraud and corruption.
That is the great Unionists' verdict.
THE BEST OF THE BARGAIN.
That is the first cause. Secondly, the Union with Scotland was carried out in a wholly different spirit.
Favour was shown throughout to the weaker nation; the Scotch, from a merely mercantile point of view, got by far the best of the bargain.
In Ireland the case was far different. After a century of legislation directed expressly against every industry that competed with any English interest, Ireland had, in 1782, achieved at once commercial and legislative freedom. In gaining independence, Ireland gained also those very privileges of free participation in oversea trade which Scotland sacrificed her independence to acquire. The corrupt aristocracy which sold Ireland's freedom sold also the charter of that right to protect and foster her own industrial life, under which the growth of manufacturing industry had been so swift.
THE NATIONAL CHURCH.
Thirdly, says Professor Dicey, the institutions for which Scotchmen seriously cared were maintained or secured by the Union.
The one great national institution the Church of Scotlandderived new security and greatly increased power from the means which politically amalgamated Scotland with England. More generally, he adds: The result of the respect paid to Scotch institutions was that, while Scotland became an inseparable part of Great Britain, Scotch affairs remained after, even more than before, the Union, under the control of Scotland.
Contrast this with Ireland. The Church of Ireland, indeed, was secured, but it was not the Church of the Irish people. Godolphin ensured to the Scotch a cherished Institution. Pitt buttressed up in Ireland an alien anomaly. Mr.Dicey says: The assembly which sat in Dublin had what the Scotch Parliament had not, strong claims on the sentimental interests of the people whom it represented; it had vindicated national independence; it had freed, Irish commerce; it had produced within the twenty years preceding its death a brilliant body of statesmen and orators; it had become, in short, a centre of national life.
SPIRIT OF ADMINISTRATION.
Nor was political amalgamation with the United Kingdom compensated for by local independence. Ireland since, as before, the Union has been governed in the main in accordance with English notions, applied in many cases, or misapplied by English officials.
Hear now Professor Dicey's summing up:
Neither Scotch nor Irish history can, except by the misreading of past events, be forced into teaching the lesson that the failure of the policy in Ireland is due to the peculiarities of Irish character. It is vain to attribute to the characteristics of any people consequences which can be explained by the neglect on the part of statesmen to make their policy conform to the nature of things.
Of the passing of the Act of Union Mr. Lecky has saidIt was not only a great crime, but was, like most crimes, a great blunder.It united the Parliaments he says and divided the nations.
Without going into the question of England's moral title to govern Irelandwhich Ireland has always deniedlet us apply again the practical test of results. Has the government been successful? Has it been just? Has it been conducted on rational lines?
First, apply, again, the test of famine. There was famine of unusual severity in 1817. De Beaumont, an admirably informed observer, reported that the famine fever had affected a million and a half persons in Ireland, of whom, naturally, vast numbers perished. In 1819 a Parliamentary Committee reported:
That the general distress and deficiency of employment are so notorious as to render the production of any particular evidence to establish the extent and variety of the evil unnecessary.
Another Committee in 1823 described its condition of the people as wretched and calamitous to the last degree. I quote again from the catalogue which Mr. Fox has made of these Reportsthe only remedy which England thought proper to apply:
In 1830 a Committee of the House of Commons attested that a fourth part of the population was in want of work, and that this cause, in addition to the mode of working the land, produced destitution and suffering such as it was impossible for human tongue to describe; the tenant class having reached the last degree of distress, a great number of those who were obliged to seek refuge in the towns having died of want. Addressing the House of Commons on the 11th of November, in the same year, the Irish Solicitor-General, Mr. Doherty, said that there was then in Ireland the existence of a condition of things which the lower animals in England would scarcely endure, and which, in fact, they did not endure.
In 1835, Commissioners charged with an important inquiry into the social condition of Ireland, estimated at nearly three millions the number of individuals who are every year liable to fall into absolute destitution. Besides these three millions of poor, there were also millions of other unfortunates, who were not counted, because not actually dying of hunger.
In 1838, the Duke or Wellington made in Parliament this avowal, quoted in the Edinburgh Review, in 1848, that there never was a country in which poverty existed to such a degree as it exists in Ireland; that he occupied a high position in that country as Chief Secretary thirty years before, and that he must say that ever since then there had hardly been a single year in which the Government had not had the most serious reason to fear a famine.
In the debate on the Irish Registration Bill, February, 1841, Lord Derby stated: That persons having from fifteen to twenty acres of land are generally from April to September in a state of the greatest destitution, living on potatoes, without either milk or meat, and considering themselves very happy if they have dry potatoes enoughmen who during a great part of the year lived on dry potatoesmen whom the landlords, letting their lands at a rack-rent, may upon any day turn loose upon the world, to starve in the last degree of misery.
All this, it should be observed, is previous to the famine of 1846 and 1847, which may be regarded as the turning point in modern Irish history. Things then reached such a pitch of horror that it became apparent that the appointment of Committees would not suffice to meet the case.
The Census Commissioners wrote when the main harvest of death was over, though copious gleanings for pestilence still remained No pen has recorded the numbers or the forlorn and starving who perished by the wayside or in the ditches, or of the mournful groups, sometimes of whole families, who lay down and died, one after another, upon the floor or their miserable cabins, and so remained, uncoffined and unburied, till chance unveiled the appalling scene. No such amount or suffering and misery has been chronicled in Irish history since the days of Edward Bruce, and yet, through all, the forbearance of the Irish peasantry, and the calm submission with which they bore the deadliest ills that can fall on man, can scarcely be paralleled in the annals or any people.(Government Census of Ireland for the Year 1851-Report on Tables of Deaths,)
In that visitation Ireland literally could not afford decent burial for her dead; the hinged coffin was a grim feature of those years. No European nation in modern times has suffered what, between 1846 and 1849, Ireland suffered under the government of England. Yet those were years when the country was exporting, weekly, shiploads of food, while the people lay starving at home. Lord John Russell admitted that in 1847 the wheat crop was above the average, and cattle were abundant. Government's main task was to protect the cargoes of food on their way to the ports.
Irishmen have always refused to believe that any Irish Government responsible for the Irish people, and sitting in Ireland, would have allowed its people starve while ships were carrying away from their shores food which the labour of their hands had produced. Nor did the decrease in the population which followed put an end to the
p.38famine. There was dearth again in 1859-60; finally, in 1879 another failure of the potato crop was a main motive cause of that revolution which has at last put an end to the system which inevitably resulted in the recurrence of these horrors.It is quite true that the Irish people, save in some few outlying districts, are to-day in no danger of famine or starvation; but it is not the Government of England that they have to thank for the change.
They have to thank Parnell, Davitt, the Land Leagueagencies which England and the English Government did their utmost to stamp out.
But, first, let us illustrate the condition to which eighty years of administration and law-making from Westminster had brought Ireland. In the spring of 1880, 117,454 were in receipt of poor-law relief. The Mansion House Fund, established to cope with famine, gave food or money to 512,625 (one in ten of the whole population) during the last week of February in that year. Special correspondents were sent to report. One wrote to the Daily Telegraph:
I have been in many lands, and I have seen many so called oppressed people at home, but I declare that neither in the Russian steppes, nor in the most neglected Bulgarian villages, still less in the poor-est Hindoo hamlets, have I ever seen such squalid kraals as these Irish farmers inhabit. An officer of one of her Majesty's regiments, who lately served with honour in Zululand, declared to me that not even in the worst parts of Cetewayo's dominions did he come across anything so bad as here; and I am inclined to believe that he was not exaggerating in the slightest.
It is manifestly impossible that these men can make a living off poor land so heavily burdenedland brought under cultivation by themselves or their predecessors, without the owner stirring a finger or investing a sixpence in its improvement. The rent, in point of fact, has to be made up by labour in England, and it is just this state of things which should be borne in mind by people who are disposed to complain of the Irish
p.39tenant's revolt. His life is often one of slavery, for the benefit of the men who own the soil of a country where agriculture is the only industry.
Mr. S. H. Tuke, a Quaker philanthropist, much of whose life was spent in relieving Irish famine under British Government, wrote of Camus, in Co. Galway: I wish I could produce that rocky coast and wild miserable village, or, rather introduce it into England for a while, that English people might realise how, in these remote places, so many thousands of people are living. Half-a-mile away, and I will venture to say no one would think it possible that any human being could live, or even find foothold, on this rock-strewn shore; but, by degrees, you see the little smokes' arising, and here and there little dark strips of land, which show that the ground is being prepared for the potatoes they hope to obtain, for they have none left to plant. Then you see peering above the road little dark heads of men, women, and children, who, attracted by the unusual sight, come out of their cabins to reconnoitre. As you walk among them on landing, they watch you with curious eyes; they do not beg, and cannot answer your inquiries, for most do not understand, and few can talk, English. They are a race of wild people, poorly clad, and living with the cattle in their houses, often lying on the damp ground on hay like them. No distribution of meal had taken place last week, and several families were sitting round small quantities of the smallest (old) potatoes I ever saw, and with nothing else to eat with them. In one house which I entered three children, under one covering, ill with fever, were lying on the ground; others also were ill. For these miserable places among the rocks they were each paying from £4 to £8 a year. This would seem incredible at any time. No wonder that none had paid their rent last year.
Mr. Fox, whose book I have so often quoted, wrote in his report to the Dublin Mansion House Committee:
I have taken the precaution of seeing with my own eyes many of the recipients of relief in their miserable hovels, which so far as I have yet observed are a shocking reproach to the civilisation of the nineteenth century.
I do not believe that tongue, or pen, however eloquent, could
p.40truly depict the awful destitution of some of those hovels. The children are often nearly naked. Bedding there is none, everything of that kind having long since gone to the pawn office, as proved to me by numerous tickets placed in my hands for inspection in well nigh every hovel. A layer of old straw, covered by the dirty sacks which conveyed the seed potatoes and artificial manure in the spring, is the sole provision of thousandswith this exception, that little babies sleeping in wooden boxes are occasionally indulged with a bit of thin, old flannel stitched on to the sacking. Men, women, and children sleep under a roof and within walls dripping with wet, while the floor is saturated with damp, not uncommonly oozing out of it in little pools. In one case I asked a gaunt, starved looking man, whom I found literally endeavouring to sleep away the hunger, where his little children slept, when he pointed to a corner in the moist room, in which I could see no sign of bedding. Do they wear their clothes at night? No. How then do they keep warm? There is, he replied, with the most amazing simplicity and composure, a deal of warmth in children, signifying that they obtained warmth by huddling together like little animals. This occurred at Carrycastle.
I invariably found them on the occasion of my visit crouching around the semblance of a fire lighted on the open hearth. And this at midsummer, showing how terribly low must be the vitality amongst them. It was only when I was accompanied by a Catholic priest I could get an insight into the appalling want. Alone, some of the most destitute tried to screen from me the poverty of their truckle beds, upon which the straw was often so thin that I could touch the bare boards with my hand. These received me with a dully passive surprise, wondering what might be the object of my curiosity in so wretched a country. And even the priest himself had occasionally to use no little persuasion to overcome this modest feeling, by assuring them that was present in the capacity of a friend. Everywhere the condition of the children was otherwise dreadful, besides, there being for them nothing but the Indian meal, badly cooked, to live upon, and the parents only too glad if the charitable funds provide the family with half enough even of that. Sometimes there was a miserable cow about the premisesfor in every case I am referring to the class of small farmers, mostly residing on three to five acres of land, which in North Mayo is generally found to be reclaimed, bog or mountain
p.41slope; and this cow was supplying milk, principally gratis, to a small number of children other than the owner's, to mix with the Indian meal. Occasionally people appealed privately to my companion on no account to cut off the charitable supplies from the possessor of the cow, seldom worth more than a few pounds, and just then unsaleable in any market, as the animal was the hope of so many little ones. At other times cooked cabbage without a morsel of condiment save salt, was found where there was no meal, and in some instances one was found mixed with the other. But in numerous' cases there was neither milk, meal, nor cabbage, about the premises, and in those I gave temporary relief, to fill up the interval till the next general distribution of the local committee. Sometimes even charity itself had failed, and the mother of the tender young family was found absent, begging for the loan of some Indian meal from other recipients of charitable reliefthe father being in almost every instance away in England, labouring to make out some provision for the coming winter. Yet in the most destitute cases hardly a word of complaint was uttered on the subject, it being a habit with, if not the nature of, the Mayo peasant submissively to ascribe his lot in times of scarcity as well as plenty to the will of Providence. We visited more than thirty hovels of the poor, principally in the townlands of Culmore and Cashel, in which I beheld scenes of wretchedness and misery wholly indescribable. In some of these hovels evicted families had lately taken refuge, so that the overcrowding added to the other horrors of the situation. In one hovel, in the townland of Cashel, we found a little child three years old, one of a family of six, apparently very ill, with no person more competent to watch it than an idiot sister of eighteen, while the mother was absent begging committee relief, the father being in England. In another an aged mother, also very ill, lying alone and unattended, with nothing to eat save long-cooked Indian meal, which she was unable to swallow. In another, in the townland of Culmore, there were four young children, one of whom was in a desperate condition for want of its natural foodmilkwithout which it was no longer capable of eating the Indian meal stirabout, or even retaining anything whatever on its stomach. I took off my glove to feel its emaciated little face, calm and livid as in death, which I found to be stone cold. My companion gently stirred its limbs, and, after a while it opened its eyes, though only for
p.42a moment, again relapsing into a state of coma, apparently. It lay on a wallet of dirty straw, with shreds and tatters of sacking and other things covering it. The mother was in Foxford begging for relief, the father being in England in this case also. In no Christian country in the world probably would so barbarous a spectacle be tolerated except Ireland. It is but right to add, that the mother of one of the evicted families, whose husband was in England, acknowledged with much gratitude some assistance which she had received from the funds of the Land League
Finally, I quote General Gordon, who wrote from Glengariff, in County Cork, November, 1880: I must say, from all accounts and from my own observation, that the state of our fellow-countrymen in the parts I have named is worse than that of any people in the world, let alone Europe. I believe that these people are made as we arethat they are patient beyond belief, loyal, but at the same time broken-spirited and desperate, living on the verge of starvation in places where we would not keep our cattle. The Bulgarians, Anatolians, Chinese, and Indians are better off than many of them are. I am not well off, but I would offer Lord or his agent £1,000 if either of them would live one week in one of these poor devils' places, and feed as these people do.
All this misery had grown up under English government; was, in truth, directly attributable to it. Yet England complained that the Irish were disloyal.
Let it be freely and fully admitted that all this is changed. In the extreme West of Ireland people are still poor. But they pay a rent that has been fixed by a legal tribunal, and that is often less than half what they paid in 1880. If they improve their land, if by carrying soil on their backs, or by quarrying out huge stones, they create land, the benefit goes to them, not to the landlord.
In thousands of cases they own their own holdings, paying off the cost by small yearly instalments. The beginnings
p.43of prosperity are there, since no longer can all above a bare margin of subsistence be extracted from them. But who is answerable for this change? What has caused it?
The answer is, two forces acting together. First, a Party in Parliament, consisting of the ablest and most trusted men in Ireland, who in Parliament declared war on Parliament itself; who obstructed business; who created public scandal; who outraged all traditional decorum; above all, who refused to have any responsibility for the government of Ireland, or accept the smallest post save in a self-governed Ireland.
To this violent agitation in Parliament was added a still more violent agitation in Ireland. A land war was declared. Continued resistance to rent was accompanied by many terrible crimes. Under these circumstances, English Government under the Union felt that it was necessary to do something. Mr. Gladstone's great Land Act of 1881 was passed, which established the principle that fair rent must be legally assessed and that famine prices for land should no longer be extorted; and in this way gave the fixity of tenure which had been conceded to Protestant farmers in Ulster a century earlier.
Mr. Gladstone's measure was bitterly opposed by the Tory Party; but once it was passed the Tory Party adopted and extended its principles. Yet their principles were English ideas. Mr. Parnell from the first desired a policy of State-aided purchase. After twenty-two years of cumbrous and costly experiment it was seen that Parnell's policy was right, and the Unionist Party adopted it in 1903. Only since that date has any marked improvement in Ireland set in.
Yet the foundation was laid in 1879-80. The Land League and not the English Government gave to Irish labouring farmers security for the result of their labour. And the Land League was denounced by English statesmen as a league of hell; jails in Ireland were crammed with advocates of Land League policy, including every prominent Nationalist Member of Parliament. Men were
p.44punished by every means for taking the steps necessary to reformnot necessary under a rational and national Government, but necessary under the Union.
The legislation of England for Ireland has been marked by one unfailing characteristic. One reform after another has been demanded by argument, eloquently set out by accredited speakers at Westminster, basing themselves upon expediency and justice; and every such reform has been denied until the Irish people, abandoning argument, had recourse either to open rebellion or to criminal conspiracy. In 1779 the grant of free trade between the countries and in 1782 the concession of legislative independence were made, because the Volunteers in Ireland demanded these things with arms in their hands.In 1800 Pitt tried to make the Union acceptable by promising equality of rights to the Catholics. That promise was broken, and for twenty-nine years four-fifths of the Irish population agitated for the right to have representatives of their own religion returned to Parliament. Argument was laughed out of court, or voted down; and Catholic Emancipation was conceded ultimately by the Duke of Wellington on the admitted ground that the only alternative was civil war.
Before 1881 only one other great measure of justice to Ireland was accomplishedthe disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1869. That was avowedly due to the Fenian Rising. But the whole of this case may be left on Lord Derby's statementwith this addition, that what he said before Parnell's day, might be illustrated with examples of increasing force from almost every year since the Parnell movement began:
It is by no means clear to the unprejudiced observer that any gratitude has been earned [in the dealings of England with Ireland]. Why have we altered the Land Laws? To put an end to Irish agitation. Why have we cared to put an end to Irish agitation? Because it was not only discreditable to England as a ruling power, but a practical obstruction to the transaction of English business.
p.45Fixity of tenure has been the direct result of two causes Irish outrage and Parliamentary obstruction. The Irish know it as well as we. Not all the influence and eloquence of Mr. Gladstone would have prevailed on the English House of Commons to do what has been done in the matter of Irish Tenant Right if the answer to all objections had not been ready, How else are we to govern Ireland?.
Few persons will now regret the Disendowment of the Irish Church or the passing of the Land Act of 1870; but it is regrettable that, for the third time in less than a century, agitation, accompanied with violence, should have been shown to be the most effective instrument for redressing whatever Irishmen may be pleased to consider their wrongs.
Mr. Fox has compiled a list which is worth studying: The following table (though incomplete) shows the constant rejection of Land Bills from 1829, and is in grim and melancholy contrast with another table of statistics compiled to show the facility with which Coercion Acts, almost as numerous, were passed, sometimes hurriedly, through both Houses of Parliament within the same period of half a century.
|1829||Brownlow's Bill dropped in Lords|
|1830||Grattan's Waste Land Bill||refused|
|1831||Smith's Bill for the Relief of the Aged||dropped|
|1835||Sharman Crawford's Bill||dropped|
|1836||Sharman Crawford's Bill||dropped|
|1836||Lynch's Reclamation Bill||dropped|
|1845||Lord Stanley's Bill||dropped|
|1845||Sharman Crawford's Bill||dropped|
|1846||Mr. Sharman Crawford's Bill||abortive|
|1846||Lord Lincoln, Secretary for Ireland||do.|
|1847||Mr. Sharman Crawford||do.|
|1847||Sir W. Somerville||do.|
|1848||Mr. Sharman Crawford||do.|
|1850||Sir W. Somerville||do.|
|1850||Mr. S. Crawford||do.|
|1851||Mr. S. Crawford||do.|
|1852||Mr. S. Crawford||do.|
|1853||Mr. Serjeant Shee||do.|
|1855||Mr. Serjeant Shee||do.|
From 1870 onward, more detail is desirable. The 1870 Act showed, as every Land Act passed by the absentee Parliament has done, immediate cause for amendment. Parliament has always resented this importunity.
|1871||Landed Property, Ireland, Act, 1847, Amendment Bill||Serjeant Sherlock||Withdrawn|
|1872||Ulster Tenant Right Bill||Mr. Butt||Dropped|
|1873||Ulster Tenant Right Bill||Mr. Butt||Dropped|
|1873||Landlord and Tenant Act, 1870, Amendment Bill||Mr. Butt||Dropped|
|1873||Landlord and Tenant Act, 1870, Amendment Bill No. 2||Mr. Heron||Dropped|
|1874||Landlord and Tenant Act, 1870, Amendment Bill||Mr. Butt||Dropped|
|1874||Landlord and Tenant Act, 1870, Amendment Bill No. 2||Sir J. Gray||Dropped|
|1874||Ulster Tenant Right Bill||Mr. Butt||Dropped|
|1874||Irish Land Act Extension Bill||The O'Donoghue||Dropped|
|1875||Landed Proprietors, Ireland, Bill||Mr. Smyth||Dropped|
|1875||Landlord and Tenant, Ireland, Act, 1870, Amendment Bill||Mr. Crawford||Rejected|
|1876||Landlord and Tenant, Ireland, Act, 1870, Amendment Bill||Mr. Crawford||Withdrawn|
|1876||Tenant Right on Expiration of Leases Bill||Mr. Mulholland||Dropped|
|1876||Land Tenure, Ireland, Bill||Mr. Butt||Rejected|
|1877||Land Tenure, Ireland, Bill||Mr. Butt||Rejected|
|1877||Landlord and Tenant, Ireland, Act, 1870, Amendment Bill||Mr. Crawford||Withdrawn|
|1878||Landlord and Tenant, Ireland, Act, 1870, Amendment Bill||Mr. Herbert||Dropped|
|1878||Tenant Right Bill||Lord A. Hill||Rejected by Lords|
|1878||Tenant Right, Ulster, Bill||Mr. Macartney||Withdrawn|
|1878||Tenants' Improvements, Ireland, Bill||Mr. Martin||Rejected|
|1878||Tenants' Protection, Ireland, Bill||Mr. Moore||Dropped|
|1879||Ulster Tenant Right Bill||Mr. Macartney||Rejected|
|1879||Ulster Tenant Right Bill, No. 2||Lord A. Hill||Withdrawn|
|1879||Landlord and Tenant, Ireland, Bill||Mr. Herbert||Dropped|
|1879||Landlord and Tenant, Ireland, Act, 1870, Amendment Bill||Mr. Taylor||Dropped|
|1879||Landlord and Tenant, Ireland, Act, 1870, Amendment Bill, No. 2||Mr. Downing||Rejected|
|1880||Landlord and Tenant, Ireland, Act, 1870, Amendment Bill||Mr. Taylor||Dropped|
|1880||Ulster Tenant Right Bill||Mr. Macartney||Dropped|
|1880||Fixity of Tenure, Ireland, Bill||Mr. Litton||Rejected|
|1880||Landlord and Tenant, Ireland, Act, 1870, Amendment Bill||Mr. O'C. Power||Dropped|
|1880||Compensation for Disturbance, Ireland, Bill (to prevent eviction under circumstances of excessive hardship)||Mr. W. E. Forster||Rejected by Lords|
|1886||Tenants' Relief, Ireland, Bill||Mr. C. S. Parnell||Rejected|
Against this should be set another list. Parliament has always been able to find time to pass Coercion Bills for Ireland.
|18001805||Habeas Corpus Suspension. Seven Coercion Acts.|
|1807||1st February, Coercion Act. Habeas Corpus Suspension. 2nd August, Insurrection Act.|
|18081809||Habeas Corpus Suspension.|
|18141816||Habeas Corpus Suspension. Insurrection Act.|
|1817||Habeas Corpus Suspension. One Coercion Act.|
|18221830||Habeas Corpus Suspension. Two Coercion Acts in 1822 and one in 1823.|
|1830||Importation of Arms Act.|
|1831||Stanley's Arms Act.|
|1832||Arms and Gunpowder Act.|
|1833||Suppression of Disturbance.|
|1833||Change of Venue Act.|
|1834||Disturbances Amendment and Continuance.|
|1834||Arms and Gunpowder Act.|
|1835||Public Peace Act.|
|1836||Another Arms Act.|
|1838||Another Arms Act.|
|1839||Unlawful Oaths Act.|
|1840||Another Arms Act.|
|1841||Another Arms Act.|
|1843||Another Arms Act.|
|1843||Acts consolidating all Previous Coercion Acts.|
|1844||Unlawful Oaths Act.|
|1845||Additional Constables near Public Works Act.|
|1845||Unlawful Oaths Act.|
|1847||Crime and Outrage Act.|
|1848||Treason Amendment Act.|
|1848||Removal of Arms Act.|
|1848||Suspension of Habeas Corpus.|
|1848||Another Oaths Act.|
|1849||Suspension of Habeas Corpus.|
|1850||Crime and Outrage Act.|
|1851||Unlawful Oaths Act.|
|1853||Crime and Outrage Act.|
|1854||Crime and Outrage Act.|
|1855||Crime and Outrage Act.|
|1856||Peace Preservation Act.|
|1858||Peace Preservation Act.|
|1860||Peace Preservation Act.|
|1862||Peace Preservation Act.|
|1862||Unlawful Oaths Act.|
|1865||Peace Preservation Act.|
|1866||Suspension of Habeas Corpus Act (August).|
|1866||Suspension of Habeas Corpus.|
|1867||Suspension of Habeas Corpus.|
|1868||Suspension of Habeas Corpus.|
|1870||Peace Preservation Act.|
|1871||Protection of Life and Property.|
|1871||Peace Preservation Con.|
|1873||Peace Preservation Act.|
|1875||Peace Preservation Act.|
|1875||Unlawful Oaths Act.|
|18811882||Peace Preservation Act (suspending Habeas Corpus).|
That carries the series to 1886. But Mr. Balfour, observing that the repeated introduction of these measures occupied time, and gave occasion for protest, celebrated
p.49the year of Queen Victoria's Jubilee by passing the perpetual Coercion Act which is still in force, and which can be put into operation for any part of Ireland, or the whole, by the simple issuing of an order from Dublin Castle.
Some of those Coercion Acts, were needed to enforce the payment of tithes by Roman Catholics to the Established Church; but the object of the vast majority has been to facilitate that process of eviction which was distinctive of the Irish land system. Mr. Barry O'Brien says in his Home Ruler's Manual, p. 28:
The Land question, perhaps, affords the fairest test of the capacity of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland.
There has been a land war in Ireland since the Union. The Imperial Parliament has been powerless to end it. Over and over again it was proved before Royal Commissions and Parliamentary Committees that the system of land tenure was a source of evil, and even danger; but Parliament did nothing to remove the evil, to avert the danger.
What was the system of land tenure? The landlord let land. The tenant improved itbuilt, drained, fenced, made the land a farm. The landlord raised the rent to the enhanced value. The tenant, who had exhausted his resources in bringing the land under cultivation, was unable to pay. The landlord evicted him, and appropriated his improvements without allowing him one shilling's compensation for them. In 1845 the Devon Commissiona Commission of landlordscondemned this system and recommended legislation in order to secure to the evicted tenant compensation for his improvements. But Parliament did nothing to carry out these recommendations until 1870, when Mr. Gladstone's first Land Bill became law.
The right of ejection for non-payment of rent without a special clause of re-entry in the contract was declared by Sir Charles Russell to have no existence in England. A man who owed rent could only be proceeded against as
p.50if he owed any other bill. Yet in England if a man was put out from one farm, he could get another; failing a farm, other trades were open to him. In Ireland there was nothing but the land, and for every farm there were many applicants. A sentence of ejectment was a writ of banishment, and every man whose rent was in arrears was subject to eviction. But eviction was not only undertaken for non-payment of rent. It was used as a tyrannical weapon. For instance, at Glenveagh, in Co. Donegal, because a bailiff had been killed, Mr. Adair evicted all the families from a whole districtsome five hundred souls in all. A British regiment was sent down to secure the smoother working of his decree.But the most frequent motive of eviction at a certain period was mere hunger for gain.
The great famine in 1848 coincided with the repeal of the Corn Laws. Up till then Ireland had been growing corn; now corn began to come in free of duty from America and elsewhere. Under the conditions of those days, cattle and dead meat could not be imported, and, therefore, it paid the owners of land in Ireland better to produce beef and mutton than grain. Where the soil was rich enough to be left permanently in grass, many of the landlords cleared off the whole population, in order to undertake what seemed a more profitable manner of dealing with the land. This process was quickened by the fact that in many cases the distress of the famine years in which the tenants could pay no rent had ruined older landlordsmen who, good or bad, had associations with the tillers of the soil. New speculators came in. Two brothers, for instance, in counties Galway and Roscommon, cleared off eleven hundred families from what has since become famous as the Pollock Estate. According to Thom' s Official Directory for 1861, the number of tenanted dwellings in Ireland was reduced from 1,328,000 in 1851 to 1,046,000. Thus, 280,000 human dwellings were destroyed within a period of ten years, and in 1861 the process was only beginning. These operations were sanctioned by the British Government
p.51which, in case of resistance, was always ready to send down troops to assist the landlord in the work. The Parliamentary Returns state that between 1849 and 1867 558,000 persons were evicted; but this must be far below the truth. Special machinery was invented in some cases to assist in the demolition of houses. This method was specially practised in the eighties, when resistance to rents had become organised as a political propaganda.
It is very doubtful whether any other Government in civilised history has employed its civil and military forces to assist in the wholesale extermination of its people. It is certain that no native Government, resting on the consent of the governed, would or could ever have done such a thing. English law and English administration facilitated eviction in the interests of those who were accustomed to term themselves the English garrison in Ireland.
Another peculiarity of British government in Ireland was that it welcomed, recommended, and at last actually subsidised the wholesale emigration of its subjects. In the winter of 1882-83 the Government was providing free passages for the Irish to go to America.
Taking the history of the Union then up to a generation ago, what do we find? First, that the administration which was controlled by England proved itself entirely powerless to meet the emergency of famine; it allowed the unlimited export of food at times when the people were starving in tens of thousands. But, during the same period, administration was always ready to provide the forces of the Crown as a protection for those who carried out the work of eviction. Secondly, let us ask what laws were made. Previous to 1870, England had passed only one great law of reform affecting IrelandCatholic Emancipation. This measure was passed only after thirty years of agitation, and under the threat of civil war.
Further, the remedial legislation, in so far as it was attempted, was carried out in opposition to the views of those who knew Ireland. The most conspicuous case is that of the establishment of the Poor Law. The facts have thus been described by Mr. Hugh Law, M.P., in It pamphlet called The Irish Poor Law and the Blessings of English Government: All Irish grievances are commonly supposed either to have originated in the remote past, or in religious or political differences between various sections of the Irish people. We may ask, therefore, has the pretension of England to legislate for Ireland been productive of good results even in a matter which would seem remote from party strifethe administration of the relief of the poor?
The persons affected, whether as recipients of relief, or as ratepayers, belong to no one political party or creed. Let us see, then, how in dealing with such a problem, the application of English ideas has worked out.
For many years before the great famine of 1845, it had become evident that the poverty of great masses in Ireland must sooner or later bring about a catastrophe.
In the year 1833 a Royal Commission was appointed to examine into the question. For three years the Commissioners pursued their inquiries, and then issued a very remarkable report. They came in the first place to the conclusion that the workhouse system which had recently been established in England, was radically unsuited to the different conditions obtaining in Ireland. They pointed out that, whereas that system was devised in order to make the lazy and the idle seek employment which could be obtained, in Ireland, on the contrary, able-bodied men who were willing and anxious to work, even for two pence a day, were unable to obtain any regular employment whatever. This being the case, the Commissioners saw clearly that the great need of the country was for such development of its resources as would at once afford work for the workless, and, by creating industries, would tend to raise the whole social
p.53and economic condition of Ireland. With this object in view, the Commission made the following proposals:
It was, however, plain that even after such measures had been taken, there would remain certain classes for whom direct relief would be required. For the physically and mentally infirm the Commissioners reported that relief and support should be afforded within and without the walls of public institutions. Thus they advised the creation of hospitals and infirmaries, extern attendance and the supply of food as well as medicine in cases where sick persons were not in a condition to be removed from their homes, the establishment of penitentiaries to which vagrants might be consigned, and maintenance of deserted children, the care of aged and infirm persons, of orphans and helpless widows and young children, of the families of sick persons, and relief of casual destitutionin short, they proposed to deal with the problem exactly on the lines which now approve themselves to most humane persons in our own day. It is worth noticing, in particular, that seventy years ago this Irish Commission recommended that vagrants, instead of being allowed to drift from one casual ward to another, should be remitted to penitentiaries, and, in suitable cases, sent abroad to non-penal colonies to work as labourers upon the land.
- The reclamation of waste land.
- The enforcing of drainage and fencing of land.
- Building labourers' cottages.
- Agricultural instruction.
- Land Reform.
- Transfer of powers of grand juries to County Boards, together with what is now known as the direct labour system for county works.
- Development of the county by public works.
But the Commission suffered from one radical defect. It was an Irish Commission. Its Chairman, Dr. Whateley, it is true, was an Englishman and a well-known economist. All the other Commissioners were Irishmen. Clearly, thought the Government of Lord John Russell, mere Irish men could not be trusted to know what was good for them
p.54selves or for their country. Accordingly, a single member of the English Poor Law Commission was sent to Ireland to revise the findings of the Commissioners. Mr. Nicholls, who had not previously been in Ireland, remained in the country for a period of six weeks. These six weeks, however, were more than sufficient to show him (what in any case was from the first taken for granted) that the unanimous findings of the Irish Commission were thoroughly unsound. (Their constructive recommendations above quoted were contemptuously ignored.)
Many sanguine persons, wrote Mr. Nicholls, appear to consider it as the purpose of the Poor Law, not only to relieve destitution, but to eradicate poverty. As against such a method of dealing with the problem, Mr. Nicholls lays down very frankly the assumption which guided him during his six weeks' inquiry. I assume as the governing principle to be observed in dealing with this portion of the subject that the Poor Law of Ireland should assimilate in all respects as nearly as possible to the Poor Law system now established in England. Indeed, so far from wishing to build up the social and economic conditions of the small land-holders, and enable them to do without State relief, Mr. Nicholls somewhat oddly avows as a part of his plan the detachment of the Irish peasantry from the soil, which, says he, is necessary to restore to the landlords the power of doing what they will with their own!
The views of Mr. Nicholls, with his six weeks' experience of Ireland, were preferred to those of the Irish Royal Commission. In December, 1837, Lord John Russell introduced a Bill drafted by Mr. Nicholls himself. The Bill was opposed by O'Connell, who, for perhaps the only and last time of his life, was supported by the Irish Unionists, headed by Lord Castlereagh.
With one exception, all the Irish Grand Juries petitioned against the Bill. A few Irish representatives in the two Houses voted for it, but, as their speeches show, hesitatingly and with reluctance. Notwithstanding this remarkable unanimity of Irish opinion, the Bill became law six months later.
The system thus established in the teeth of Irish public opinion, broke down hopelessly and disastrously under the shock of the Great Famine. The Government, having
p.55treated with contempt proposals of the sanguine people who actually were for attempting to eradicate poverty, and stop the evil at its source, found themselves faced by a truly appalling crisis. In one respect they acted with promptitude and decision. They introduced a new Coercion Bill, and ably seconded the efforts of certain landlords in clearing their estates of the starving tenantry. Otherwise, as a recent French writer has said, They did little, and that little stupidly, and in the spirit of pedants and misers.
L'Irelande Contemporaine, par L. Paul Dubois. Paris, 1907.Detached from the soil, and converted into free labourers, thousands upon thousands died miserably of hunger and famine fever. The workhouses in which hitherto no one would set foot, were soon overflowing. But the provision did not nearly suffice. Sir Robert Peel, therefore, sanctioned the establishment of food depots and relief works. His successor, Lord John Russell, suppressed them, then re-established them, prohibiting, however, any works of a reproductive character! Hundreds of thousands of famine-stricken men were employed at wages of five pence a day to dig holes and fill them in again, to level mounds which were forthwith re-erected. And this in a country naturally fertile, but undrained, unfenced, unplanted, and undeveloped. Did the pedantry which persuades men that they are entitled by virtue of superior education or the like, to override local knowledge and local feeling, ever produce any spectacle more ludicrous or more terrible?
Since 1849, it is true, the peculiar theories of the Manchester School, which produced this result have passed out of fashion, but Ireland has no guarantee that the pretensions of English politicians to know (better than we do ourselves) what is good for Ireland may not again produce results which future generations will regard with the same astonishment and regret, which Englishmen to-day express with regard to these follies of the past.
In this connection, it is worth noticing, that of the recommendations of the Royal Commission of 1833, numbers 3, 4, 5, and 6 have been given effect to after the lapse of many years by legislation which has commended itself to both parties; such as the Housing of Labourers Acts, 1883-1906, the Acts establishing the Congested Districts Board
p.56and the Department of Agriculture, 1891-1899, the Land Acts, 1860-1903, and the Local Government Act, 1898.
Number 7 may also be considered to have been partially put into execution in various ways by the building of light railways and the general benevolent activities of the Congested Districts Board.
The reclamation of waste land and the proper drainage of the country still remain to be effected, though admitted to be necessary and frequently recommended since that time by competent authorities, notably by the recent Viceregal Commission on Arterial Drainage.
Irish opinion is thus justified after many years. On the one hand, the improvement of the general welfare of the country by direct measures of development which Lord John Russell regarded as a perilous task, is now accepted by both parties as a first object of policy, whilst on the other, all Poor Law reformers now admit that the existing workhouse system, as a method of relieving poverty, is at once stupid, wasteful and cruel. All that John Bull's interference in this domestic Irish question of the relief of the poor and sick has achieved, is to burden the Irish ratepayers with the upkeep of huge and hideous buildings, and with the salaries of an army of officials, whose salaries and emoluments eat up a fifth of the total sum nominally available for Poor Law Relief. For every forty shillings spent upon relief of poor persons in the workhouse, twenty shillings are paid away in official salaries and ///emoluments.
The following is the official statement of the details of poor relief expenditure for the 12 months ending 30th Sept. 1907. The item other expenses, includes, of course, the cost of maintenance of the fabrics of the workhouses, most of which, in country districts, stand always more than half empty
|Cost of indoor relief||£456,474|
|District schools: Cost of maintenance||£7,918|
|Boarded-out children: Cost of maintenance||£16,600|
|Cost of outdoor relief||£198,337|
|Salaries and rations of officers, amount of||£204,307|
|Institutions for the blind, &c., and extern hospitals: Cost of maintenance of persons sent thereto by the guardians||£21,175|
|Medicines, &c., in workhouses: Cost||£10,861|
|Total poor relief expenditure||£1,041,620|
One word more. An Irish Vice-Regal Commission upon the Irish Poor Law was appointed in 1903; and, after three years' careful work, during which the Commissioners visited every Poor Law Union in Ireland, reported in 1906. The report advocates the virtual abolition of the English workhouse system forced upon Ireland in 1837, and a return to the plans of the despised Irish Commission of 1833. Irish opinion, without distinction of creed or party, has expressed approval. But the old distrust of Irish capacity has again manifested itself; and this report is now shelved pending the publication of the report of an English Commission, which has within the last few months paid a brief visit to Ireland. No one doubts the desire of the members of this Commission (which includes one distinguished Irish Bishop) to do what is best for Ireland. But Irish Poor Law Reformers are anxiously asking Is History going to repeat itself; and is the mature judgment of another Irish Commission again to be set on one side, if found to conflict in any degree with the views formed by Englishmen, after as brief a visit to Ireland as that of Mr. Nicholls seventy years ago?
The general decay of the country from the point reached while Ireland governed herself may be best illustrated by some details taken from the "Repealer's Handbook" of Mr. Battersby, published in 1833.
In the first place, the effect of the Union had been to increase absenteeism enormously. This affected country and town alike. The greater part of the tenants of Ireland paid rack-rents, which were spent in England or elsewhere. None of the money which they earned came back to them.
Its effect on the towns may be judged from the fact that before the Union ninety-eight peers and a proportionate number of wealthy commoners inhabited Dublin. In 1833 the resident peers were only twelve.To-day there
p.58is one.Again, in the period of Grattan's Parliament, Dublin was a great centre of artistic craftsmanship. A special Georgian Society has now been formed to reproduce and preserve the details of the domestic architecture of that day. Sheraton furniture was Dublin work of that date. Horace Walpole used to send his books to be bound by Dublin craftsmen. Irish silverwork of the eighteenth century is collected eagerly by connoisseurs, as is also the famous Waterford glass. There was a very considerable printing and publishing trade before the Union; more than twenty thousand volumes had been published in Dublin. Thirty years later, this business had shrunk to nothing; what printing remained was cheaply and badly done. The skilled arts and craftsmen all vanished.
Take the more important industries. In the village of Prosperous, before the Union, there were 500 looms, where in 1833 there were only 10. Before the Union there were 60 woollen manufactories in Dublin; in 1833 there were 10. In one parish of Kilkenny 4,000 persons, before the Union, were employed in the woollen factory; in 1833 there were under 100. In the town of Carrick 5,000 persons were employed before the Union at one trade only; in 1833 there were 40. And so on over the whole country. The tonnage of British ships employed in the trade of Ireland was 534,413 in 1792it had increased by nearly 200,000 tons within two years after Independence. In 1831 the registered tonnage had shrunk to 112,659 tons. Even the linen trade had fallen from an export value of £3,000,000 in 1796 to half that amount in 1830. At the same period there was an enormous increase in the export of undressed flax. Generally speaking, the exports from Ireland in the thirty years after the Union changed completely in their character. Mr. Pitt, on January 31, 1799, said that Great Britain imported from Ireland manufactured produce to the amount of between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000 sterling. In 1831 the exports from Ireland into England were valued at £4,380,000. The only manufactured element in this was under the heads of bacon, butter, flour and meal. Of finished manufactures there are none recorded.
In short, then, thirty years after Great Britain had assumed the complete responsibility for the government of Irelandnot being seriously impeded by the presence of 100 Irish members in a Parliament of over 600England had succeeded in crushing out the manufacturing interests in Ireland, except the linen trade, in which she herself was not seriously interested; and she had converted Ireland into a farm, producing raw and unmanufactured produce for the English manufacturer and the English consumer. This was the object to which all the laws in restraint of Irish trade and commerce were directed during the eighteenth century; and this object, so long as Ireland had even a subservient Parliament, was never achieved.The result upon Ireland is remarkably shown in the record of the consumption of commodities. The population had increased between 1800 and 1830 by at least one and a half million, yet Ireland's consumption of tobacco had decreased from £6,737,000 to £4,041,000; the consumption of sugar from £355,000 to £319,000. Taking the joint heads of tea, tobacco, wines, spirits and coffee, the total quantities consumed in 1800 amounted to 12,400,000 units. In 1827, with a population increased by 25 per cent., they had shrunk to 9,800,000 units, but the taxation on the decreased amount was £1,885,000 as against £1,216,000 on the larger amount.In other words, judged by the simplest possible test, the Irish people were much poorer, could afford to buy much less of the most ordinary articles of consumption, and were paying a greatly increased amount in taxes upon the lessened quantities that they bought.
During the same period the rent-rolls had been steadily increasing. Considering all this, need it be asked whether fifty years of Union had drawn the two peoples closer together? In 1848 the appalling catastrophe of Irish famine undoubtedly evoked great compassion and great charity in England; but Ireland was not asking for charity or for compassion. She was asking for justice and for freedom. In the face of that sinister result of half a century's law
p.60making and administration by an alien Power, she demanded with greater fierceness than ever the right to manage her own affairs.
It is not too much to say that hatred of English rule has been steadily growing since the Union, and Grattan's prophecy has been fulfilled: What you trample upon in Ireland will sting you in America. The Irish race, pouring out in fever-stricken ship-loads across the Atlantic, carried with them, into the New World, hatred of the Power which had oppressed them in the Old.
The rebellion of 1848 was easily crushed out, and Gavan Duffy, one of its leaders, left his country a few years later leaving her, he said, stretched like a corpse upon a dissecting-table. He went to Australia, where he helped to found a representative Government, and became the Prime Minister of Victoria. But in his absence the corpse on the dissecting-table revived. In 1867 the Fenian organisation spread over the whole of Ireland, and, officered largely by Irishmen who had gained military experience in the American War of Independence against slavery, created a widespread terror. It, also, failed of its military purpose, but the Disestablishment of the Irish Church was frankly attributed to it, and also the passing of Mr. Gladstone's Land Act of 1870, which first recognised the principle that a tenant had a right to the value which he had created by his labour on the land. It may be said that these two measures marked the beginning of a new spirit in British legislation. Attempts were made from this time out to remedy the evils from which Ireland was suffering. But in every case British legislators preferred their own methods to those recommended by the Irish, and British administrators persisted in treating as criminal the agitation which was necessary to produce reforms.
Parnell's policy aimed at two things:First, general land purchase, under which the occupier of the land would
p.61be made the owner of it, as had been done years before in Prussia, by State intervention. Secondly, he demanded Home Rule. Both projects were treated by the British Government as chimerical.
As to the land reform, Mr. Gladstone, by his Act of 1881, established the principle of dual ownership which secured the Irish tenant against the arbitrary raising of his rent, and against arbitrary eviction, and to that extent laid the foundation of settled prosperity in Ireland. But the machinery was costly and cumbrous, and it saddled every farm in Ireland with a constant series of law suits. Mr. Gladstone himself soon saw this, and in 1886, along with his Home Rule Bill, he proposed a land purchase measure, pledging one hundred millions of British credit. The idea was scouted, and was, indeed, the principal means of wrecking his proposals.
Yet in 1903 the Unionists finally adopted Parnell's policy. The Irish leader's plan was only tried after twenty-five years of agrarian war, which had embittered the whole relation between landlord and tenant, and which had driven half the gentry out of Ireland.
Home Rule, which both English parties laughed to scorn under Butt and in the early days of Parnell, was, in 1886, adopted by one of the two great English parties. The agitation to secure it is not vet at an end; but the struggle has entered on a new phase. In 1885, for the first time, an extended franchise was established in Ireland. Ever since Irishmen got the vote on a more democratic scale, four-fifths of the representation of Ireland has been returned pledged to Home Rule. There is no swing of the pendulum in Irish politics. Save in about half-a-dozen constituencies, there has been no change since 1885. At the present moment all the members for Munster, Leinster and Connaught are returned to support Home Rule, and 16 out of the 33 members in Ulster. It can hardly be said that there is an agitation for Home Rule
p.62in Ireland; there is simply a steady affirmation of a demand. But there is an agitation against Home Rule in England, and the nature of it is noticeable. It is an appeal to sectarian prejudice and to religious hate.
The English Government has succeeded only in one object in Ireland. It has succeeded in increasing the division between religions since the Union. Within the five years before the Union, a very strong agitation was started by Protestants in Ireland for giving full equality to Catholics. The Society of United Irishmen was founded by Protestants. Since the Union most of the leaders of Irish public opinion have been ProtestantsEmmet, Smith O'Brien, Mitchell, Martin, Butt, Shaw, and Parnell; but the mass of Protestants have been detached by English influences from their fellow-countrymen. This was done by maintaining the principle of Protestant ascendancy. Irish Protestants were made to feel that so long as the Union continued they would be a privileged caste; that they would have the whole government of the country and enjoy all its preferment. When the disestablishment of the Church was proposed, Irish Protestants threatened civil war, exactly as they are doing to-day, and with exactly the same seriousness of intention; but it was not for religion they were proposing to fight. The Rev. Henry Henderson, of Holywood, one of their chief spokesmen, said, before a great Orange meeting at Saintfield, County Down:It was right they should tell their English brethren the truth. It was right they should tell them that so long as there was Protestantism in the land, and a Protestant Sovereign occupying the throne, so long must there be Protestant ascendancy. The maintenance of the Union meant keeping a grip on the spoils of office. Yet whenever any citadel of Protestant ascendancy was threatened, Irish Protestants came over to England and declared, as they are declaring to-day, that their lives and liberties would be in danger.
The direct effect, then, of English rule in Ireland has been to foster religious bigotry and intolerance; and the
p.63whole activity of the Unionist Party and the Unionist Press at the present moment is devoted to persuading Irish Protestants that they must regard Irish Catholics as their enemies, and to persuading English Protestants that they must regard Irish Catholics as the hereditary enemies of England and the determined oppressors of their Protestant fellow-countrymen. A later section will deal with the facts of this matter.
To sum up, then, for the last forty years England has attempted a good deal of remedial legislation for Ireland; but it has always been undertaken in the wrong spirit that is to say, redress has only been attempted after violent agitation has taken the place of argument; and in the wrong method, as is proved by the fact that each successive Land Act has needed repeated amendment.
The one measure, whose success is admitted on all hands, has been that universally recommended by Irish states mennamely, the establishment of a peasant proprietorship and occupying ownership.
Further, the main characteristic of English rule has been the maintenance and encouragement of religious divisions and the concentration of all political and administrative power in the hands of one favoured denomination.
The administration of justice has been discredited by the constant employment of coercion and the practice of packing juries by challenging all men on the panel, except persons whose known predispositions enabled the prosecution to count on them for a verdict.
The success of the government may be judged by the fact that the population has, during the last half century, steadily dwindled till, within fifty years, it has been reduced by 4,000,000a fact without parallel in modern Europe.
Add to this that the amount of income assessable to income tax has remained stationary since 1895, whereas, in Great Britain it has increased by £300,000,000.
It is apparent, then, that the Act of Union shows no very splendid results.
At the same time there are indications that the decline of Irish prosperity has terminated; the trade of the country is improving. The opponents of Home Rule point to this fact as a reason why the Union should be maintained. The answer is, that the improvement in the state of Ireland is due, not to Unionist policy, but to the policy which the Unionists opposed at every turn. The Unionist Party opposed, by all means, the land legislation of Mr. Gladstone. They were driven to extend its principles, as Mr. Gladstone was driven, by violent agitation which was treated as a crime. The Land Act of 1903undoubtedly a beneficent measurewas the direct outcome of an agitation in 1902, for which a dozen Irish Members of Parliament, with numberless lesser individuals, were condemned to terms of imprisonment.
The concession of Local Government was, in the first place, a concession which, under the Act of Union, could not be denied if there was to be union. When Local Self-Government was given to England it could not logically be refused to Ireland, although it was withheld for several years, and was at last only conceded in the avowed hope of killing Home Rule by kindness.
Another important reform recently granted, was the establishment of a University suited to the needs of Irish Catholics under Mr. Birrell's Act. This has undoubtedly been an important and valuable change; but Ireland had to wait fifty years for it, and generation after generation of young Irishmen grew up without the advantages of University training. It is inconceivable that an Irish Parliament, responsible to Ireland as a whole, would have allowed this matter to remain so long unsettled.
Nor has the concession of Local Government, of a University, or Land Purchase, by any means exhausted the legislative needs of Ireland.
There is agreement among the Irish of all classes and
p.66creeds, that the system of Primary Education and of Secondary Education is insufficiently endowed and badly administered: the English Parliament has not the time to attend to these matters, and if it had, it would probably settle them in accordance, not with Irish, but with British opinion. Some of the details are discreditable and absurd. For instance, Intermediate Education was given the whisky money as its revenue, with the result that the endowment of secondary schools declined from £70,000 to £40,000, and finally to £15,000, because Irishmen were drinking less whisky.If an Irish administration had devised this plan, the English Press would have been very witty over it.
Again, there is perfect agreement that the Irish Poor Law system is disgracefully costly and inefficient, and a Vice-Regal Commission reported, many years ago, as to the lines of reform, but Parliament has had no time to attend to this matter, and there is no prospect that Parliament will have time to attend to it.
The Irish Railway System, an interest vital to the prosperity of the country, is admittedly in urgent need of reform. Again a Commission has reported and issued recommendations. There is no prospect whatever that Parliament will have time to attend to these recommendations.
And this list of necessary legislative work could be indefinitely extended. But to illustrate more fully the incompetence of British Government, both in legislation and administration, I give an extract from an article published by me in the Nineteenth Century:
Let me illustrate first the mere question of convenience. Ireland is a country of wide rivers and long lakes and chains of lakes, which can only be bridged at great cost. The obvious solution is offered by pontoon ferries, and on Lough Corrib the Galway County Council proposed to establish one. Money was available, local money, and the plans were prepared; then the Local Government Board discovered that the Act of 1898 had omitted to give councils this power along with that of making roads and bridges. County councils cannot initiate private Bill legislation, and it was,
p.67therefore, necessary to introduce a Bill giving them the power to establish and maintain ferries, and this measure was got through the Committee stage. It was then blocked in the House by the action of a single English member, and all the entreaties and arguments addressed to him, not only by Nationalist members but by the leader of the Irish Unionists, were wholly vain. Government could not give the hour or so of public time necessary to put the Bill through, and the public inconvenience remains.
I have chosen a trivial instance. But the transit question in Ireland is not a trivial thing. There is virtually general agreement that our whole railway system, and for that matter canal system also, needs to be put on a new basis; yet if we cannot get an hour of time to pass a small measure in which all Irish members are agreed, what chance is there of inducing Parliament to tackle the very large question of regulating transport all over Irelanda question vital to the interests of an agricultural country? The same considerations apply to the huge problem of arterial drainage. No English Government is ever likely to approach it in any serious spirit; yet it is nearly as grave for Ireland as irrigation is for Egypt.
Take another illustration. The city of Dublin has for many years been providing public libraries on a creditable, but by no means lavish, scale; and about three years ago, when the extraordinary ability, industry, and generosity of Sir Hugh Lane accomplished the formation of a gallery of modern art, the Corporation gladly proposed to charge on the Library Fund £500 a year for the housing and superintendence of it. While we were still congratulating ourselves on the acquisition, the Local Government Board discovered that upon a new interpretation of some clause the Corporation could not strike a library rate of more than a penny; and as a result the Board proceeded to surcharge members of the Corporation for the amount by which the existing expenditure on libraries exceeded that sum. Naturally the extra £500 for the gallery has never been paid, and for several years now the Corporation has been endeavouring to extend its powers in this matter. No one doubts that the extension should be given; but ministers, representing the Local Government Board, have endeavoured to exploit the Corporation's disabilities. They introduced an amending Bill which fixed on the county councils of Ireland certain other charges which the councils were sure to resist.
Naturally, the measure is blocked; and since no legislation of this sort can pass except by unanimous consent of the House of Commonsfor no time is available to discuss itrespectable citizens have been surcharged with large sums because they acted on a library committee, several public libraries are closed, and the gallery remains unprovided for, the Corporation being unable to accept what is, in great measure, Sir Hugh Lane's gift. I ask anyone, is this reasonable government?2
I have been speaking so far of the administrative inconvenience in uncontroversial or non-party matters-which, indeed, is admitted on all hands. In graver affairs I maintain that there is also a consensus of condemnation upon the existing regime. Administration in Ireland is neither continuous nor consistent; it always yields to pressure and never to argument. In a word, it is of a nature certain to breed disorder and contempt for the law.
In Great Britain administration is hardly a party question. Until the Navy scare was sprung on us, the administration of this Liberal Government had hardly been challenged. In Ireland, from the moment a Tory Government takes office, or a Liberal Government, the whole spirit and direction of the administration is attacked without measure. In a word again, the existing system is condemned by both parties. Liberals declare it to be unsound, while even the most ardent Unionist will not deny that the principle of resolute government, for which he stands, is periodically infringed by the advent of a Liberal regime. English ideas about the administration of England are in effect continuous, and so beyond doubt would Irish ideas be about the general administration of Ireland. But, as Mr. Long stated quite plainly in a speech just after he left office, Unionists cannot admit that Ireland should be governed according to Irish ideas; it is governed, therefore, according to English ideas of how the thing should be done, and these ideas change violently.
The Unionist inference is that you should keep Unionists continually in power. Well, as a matter of fact England
p.69refuses to do so. But even with a long spell of Unionist government these fluctuations occur. We had, first, Mr. Gerald Balfour setting out to kill Home Rule with kindness; then came a period of reaction, and in 1902 one of these upheavals which, when a Liberal Government is in power, Unionists describe as a saturnalia of crime. In that year about a dozen members of Parliament were in gaol; boycotting, rioting, and other forerunners of a legislative change were rampant. Then came Mr. Wyndham with his Land Act of 1903, and what Mr. Moore in a famous speech described as the wretched, rotten, sickening policy of conciliation. After a few months Mr. Wyndham was thrown over, and Mr. Long brought in, to put the muzzling order in force.
Now let us consider these phenomena. In the first place, not one human being in Ireland believes that without the agitationthe lawless, violent agitation of 1902, centring round the de Freyne evictionswe should have got the Land Act of 1903. That is the moral writ large over a hundred years' history of the Union. Lawless agitation, which invariably at some point or other degenerates into crime, is the necessary prelude to any serious legislative reform.
That is the kernel of my case against the Union. Read the history of O'Connell's day, the Tithe War, the agitation for Emancipation; it is the same story; demands put forward in argument, argument ignored; demands put forward by violence, sooner or later acceded to. And in every case it is now apparent that the thing asked for was just and necessary.
Broadly, then, it does not seem to me that it can be denied that England, in the one hundred and ten years since the Union, has governed and is governing Ireland badly. I do not know that it is denied; it seems to have been admitted repeatedly by English statesmen of both parties. Take, for example, this utterance of Lord Salisburythen Lord Robert Cecilspoken in 1865: What is the reason that a people with so bountiful a soil, with such enormous resources (as the Irish), lag so far behind the English in the race? Some say that it is to be found in the character of the Celtic race, but I look to
p.70France, and I see a Celtic race there going forward in the path of prosperity with most rapid stridesI believe at the present moment more rapidly than England herself. Some people say that it is to be found in the Roman Catholic religion; but I look to Belgium, and there I see a people second to none in Europe except the English for industry, singularly prosperous, considering the small space of country that they occupy, having improved to the utmost the natural resources of that country, but distinguished among all the peoples of Europe for the earnestness and intensity of their Roman Catholic belief. Therefore, I cannot say that the cause of the Irish distress is to be found in the Roman Catholic religion. An hon. friend near me says that it arises from the Irish people listening to demagogues. I have as much dislike to demagogues as he has, but when I look to the Northern States of America I see there people who listen to demagogues, but who undoubtedly have not been wanting in material prosperity. It cannot be demagogues, Romanism, or the Celtic race. What then is it? I am afraid that the one thing which has been peculiar to Ireland has been the Government of England.
No answer to the argument in this passage is given by pointing out that Lord Salisbury, in youth and age alike, was opposed to Home Rule. It has never endeared the Government of England to Ireland that those who condemn the system still advocate its continuance.