Few things are more remarkable in the Parliamentary history of the movement than the complete absence from the counsels of the English advocates of any definite and settled policy as to the form of self-government to be offered to Ireland, and their consequent oscillation between proposals radically differing from one another. Since the new departure initiated by Davitt and Devoy in 1878,12 it has been the deliberate practice of Irish Nationalists to abstain from defining the Nationalist demand and to ask in general terms for self-government, doubtless with the object of attracting the support of all who favour any change which could be described by that very elastic term. Such a policy has its advantages. But confusion of thought, however favourable to popular agitation, is a disadvantage when the moment for legislation arrives; and uncertainty as to the aim goes far to explain the vacillation in Home Rule policy.
Mr. Gladstone's Bill of 1886 would have given to Ireland the substance of responsible or colonial self-government, subject only to certain reservations and restrictions, the value of which will be considered later in this chapter, and would have excluded the Irish members and representative peers from the Parliament of the United
p.82Kingdom. By the Bill of 1893 the reservations and restrictions were increased, and representatives of Ireland were to be permitted to sit at Westminsterby the Bill as introduced for some purposes, and by the Bill as passed by the House of Commons for all purposes.
After the defeat of this second Bill, a cold fit appears to have seized the Liberal Party. Lord Rosebery, in 1894, declared that before Home Rule could be carried England, as the predominant partner, must be convinced. Sir Edward Grey in 1905 declared that his party on its return to power would go on with Sir Anthony MacDonnell's policy, which he rightly described as a policy of large administrative reforms; and Mr. Asquith associated himself entirely and unreservedly with every word of Sir Edward Grey's speech.13 Accordingly the Irish Council Bill proposed by Mr. Asquith's Government in 1907 was purely a measure of devolution, certain administrative functions only being put under the control of an Irish Council, subject to the veto of the Lord Lieutenant, and the whole legislative power remaining in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. This proposal, having been condemned by a National Convention at Dublin, was incontinently withdrawn.
In the years succeeding this fiasco the Liberal policy for Ireland appeared to be at the mercy of shifting winds. For some time Liberal speakers contented themselves with vague declarations in favour of Federalism or Home Rule all round:phrases which may mean much or little according to the sense in which they are used. More recently an able writer,14 while admitting that there is no public opinion in Ireland as to the form of the Irish Constitution, has argued in a work of 350 pages in favour of the grant to Ireland of full legislative, administrative and financial autonomy; while a member of the Government 15 has declared that fiscal autonomy for all practical purposes
p.83means separation and the disintegration of the United Kingdom. In a publication recently issued by a committee of Liberals, comprising several members of the present Government,16 two views directly contrary to one another are put forward, one writer arguing for a devolution to an Irish body of definite and defined powers only, and another for the grant of the widest possible form of and the exclusion from Westminster of all Irish representation. The latest official pronouncements indicate that the Government have it in their minds to revert to the Gladstonian form of Home Rule; but even now 17 no one outside the Cabinet, and possibly few inside that inner circle, would venture on a confident prophecy even as to the broad lines of the measure which in a few days may be submitted to Parliament as representing the urgent and considered demand of public opinion.
Franklin said truly that those who govern, having much business on their hands, do not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution new projects.But surely on a question of such vital moment to the Empire as the revision of the constitution of the United Kingdom, the bases, if not the details, of the contemplated change are deserving of prolonged consideration and even of some public and ordered discussion. The British North America Act, 1867, by which the relation of the Dominion of Canada to its provinces is regulated, was the result, not only of years of preliminary debate in the provincial Legislatures and elsewhere, but of a formal conference at Quebec in 1864, followed by the appointment of delegates to confer with the Imperial Government on the matter. In Australia the proposal for union, agitated at intervals since 1846, was canvassed in every detail at inter-colonial Conferences or Conventions in 1883, in 1891, and in 18978, as well as in the several colonial Legislatures, before it was embodied in
p.84the Australia Constitution Act, 1900. And although in the case of South Africa, owing to the urgency of the question of union, the time occupied in the discussion was less than in the other great dominions, yet in the Convention of 19089 the best brains in the country were occupied for months in considering every detail of the proposal for union before it was submitted to the Colonial and Imperial Parliaments for their sanction.18 And yet in the Mother Country, where centuries of military and political conflict have given us the Union, it is considered that a few weeks' consideration by a committee of the Cabinet, without advice from independent constitutional experts,19and without formal consultation even with the Government's own supporters outside the Ministry, is sufficient to determine both the general form and the details of a proposal for its dissolution.
In the confusion so engendered it may be useful to consider in some detail the different proposals which have been or may be made under the name of Home Rule, their special qualities and dangers, and the results to which they may severally lead.
A proposal to give to Ireland full responsible government, without any other limitations than such as are imposed on our self-governing Colonies, would find few supporters in this country. Under such a constitution an Irish Government would have power to forbid or restrict recruiting for the Imperial forces in Ireland, and to raise and train a force of its own. It might establish or subsidise a religion, make education wholly denominational, levy customs duties on imports from Great Britain and give fiscal advantages to a foreign power, confiscate or
p.85transfer property without payment, and deprive individuals of nationality, franchise, liberty, or life without process of law. However improbable some of these contingencies may appear, it is right on a matter of so much moment to consider possibilities and not probabilities only. Such powers as these could not without serious risk be conceded to any part of the kingdom, and in the case of Ireland there would be a special danger in granting them to a popularly elected body.
In the first place, the national safety would be involved. Englishmen were at one time too fond of saying that the great Colonies might, if they chose, sever the link which binds them to the Mother Country. Happily, in their case, no such catastrophe need now be considered. But it would be folly to shut our eyes to the fact that to many Irishmen national independence appears to be the only goal worth striving for. If the concession of full responsible government should be followed (at whatever interval) by an assertion of complete independence, we may assume that Great Britain would follow the example of Federal America and re-establish the Union by force of arms, but at how great a cost! Those who deny the possibility of a serious movement towards separation would do well to remember Mr. Gladstone's reference20 to the position of Norway and Sweden, then united under one crown:
Let us fool: to those two countries, neither of them very large, but yet countries which every Englishman and every Scotchman must rejoice to claim his kinI mean the Scandinavian countries of Sweden and Norway. Immediately after the great war the Norwegians were ready to take sword in hand to prevent their coming under the domination of Sweden. But the Powers of Europe undertook the settlement of that question, and they united those countries upon a footing of strict legislative independence and co-equality.
And yet with two countries so united, what has been the effect? Not discord, not convulsions, not danger to peace, not hatred, not aversion, but a constantly growing sympathy; and every man who knows their condition knows that I speak the truth when I say that
p.86in every year that passes the Norwegians and the Swedes are more and more feeling themselves to be the children of a common country, united by a tie which never is to be broken.
The tie was broken within twenty years.
It may be that the Nationalist leaders, or some of them, do not desire separation; but it by no means follows that a concession of their demands would not lead to that result. Franklin, in 1774, had an interview with Chatham, in which he says I assured him that, having more than once travelled almost from one end of the continent (of America) to the other, and kept a great variety of company, eating, drinking, and conversing with them freely, I never had heard in any conversation from any person, drunk or sober, the least expression of a wish for a separation, or a hint that such a thing would be advantageous to America.
Quoted in The True History of the American Revolution. , by S.G. Fisher (Lippincott, 1903).
And yet independence came within ten years.
In the case of the United Kingdom there is no need to consider in detail how serious would be the effectsnaval, military, and economicof separation, for the gravity of such a contingency is admitted by all. Admiral Mahan, the American naval expert, writes that
the ambition of the Irish separatists, realised, might be even more threatening to the national life of Great Britain than the secession of the South was to that of the American Union.
The instrument for such action in the shape of an independent Parliament could not safely be trusted even to avowed friends.
Some Home Rulers are able to rise superior to the philosophy, as fallacious in fact as it is base and cowardly in purpose, which sets the safety of a great nation above the happiness and prosperity of a small one, 21 but to less lofty souls it appears that the safety of the nation is paramount, and that upon it depends the prosperity of each of its component parts.
In the next place, in considering whether complete colonial self-government can be conceded to Ireland, it must not be forgotten that the island is bi-racial, that the two races differ widely in character, in politics, and in religion, and that the differences are apt to find vent in violent conflict or secret attacks. Further, Ireland has for generations been the scene of a revolt against one particular species of property, the ownership of land; and although under the operation of the Land Purchase Acts this cause of conflict tends to abate, it still breaks out from time to time in the form of cattle drives and attacks on land grabbers 22 Hitherto we have, broadly speaking, kept the peace. That we should now forsake this duty, and, washing our hands of Ireland, leave the Protestant and the landowner, great or small, to his fate is unthinkable.
In connection with the question last-mentioned it may be necessary at some time to consider how far it is the constitutional right of this country to impose upon the minority in Ireland the new obligations implied in a grant to whole island of colonial Home Rule. It may be that the Imperial Parliament can disallow the claim of a section of the population of Ireland to remain subject to its own control. But it is one thing to reject the allegiance of a community, it is quite another thing forcibly to transfer that allegiance to a practically independent legislature; and this is especially the case when the transfer may involve the use against a loyal population of coercion in its extreme form.
In every formal proposal for in Home Rule Ireland, weight has been given to the above considerations, and attempts have been made to meet them by qualifying the grant of responsible Government. The qualifications suggested have taken the form of (a) the reservation of certain
p.88powers to the Imperial Parliament, or (b) the restriction of the powers granted to the Irish legislature by prohibiting their exercise in certain specific ways, or (c) the provision of some form of Imperial veto or control. It is important to consider whether and how far such checks or safeguards are likely to prove effective and lasting.
The safeguards proposed by the Government of Ireland Bill, 1886, were somewhat extended by the Bill of 1893; and the proposals shortly to be submitted to Parliament, so far as they can be gathered from recent speeches of Ministers, will not in this respect differ materially from those contained in the latter Bill. It will therefore be convenient to take as a basis for discussion the provisions of the Bill of 1893, as passed by the House of Commons.
The Bill of 1893, after stating in a preamble that it was expedient that without impairing or restricting the supreme authority of Parliament an Irish Legislature should be created for such purposes in Ireland as in this Act mentioned, proposed to set up in Ireland a Legislature23 consisting of the Sovereign and two Houses, namely a Legislative Council of 48 members to be returned under a restricted franchise by the Irish counties and the boroughs of Dublin and Belfast, and a Legislative Assembly of 103 members to be returned by the existing parliamentary constituencies in Ireland. A Bill introduced into the Irish Legislature was to pass both Houses; but in the event of disagreement the proposals of the Legislative Assembly were to be submitted, after a dissolution or a delay of two years, to a joint Session of the two Houses. The executive power was to remain in the Crown, aided and advised by an Irish Ministry (called an Executive Committee of the Privy Council of Ireland), and the assent of the Crown to Irish legislation was to be given or withheld on the advice of this Executive Committee subject to any instructions given by the Sovereign.
The specific reservations and restrictions were contained in clauses 3 and 4 of the Bill, which were as follows:
p.90of Parliament, or to prescribe conditions regulating importation from any place outside Ireland for the sole purpose of preventing the introduction of any contagious disease.
p.91property without due process of law in accordance with settled principles and precedents, or may be denied the equal protection of the laws, or whereby private property may be taken without just compensation; or
The power to impose taxation other than duties of custom and excise was to be transferred, subject to a short delay as to existing taxes and to a special provision in respect of taxes for war expenditure, to the Irish Legislature (clause II). Two judges of the Supreme Court in Ireland, to be called Exchequer Judges, were to be appointed under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom, and to be removable only on an address from the Imperial Parliament; and proceedings relating to the reserved powers or to the customs or excise duties were to be determined by such judges (clause 19). Appeals from the Courts in Ireland were to lie to the Judicial Committee of the Imperial Privy Council (clause 21), and any question as to the powers of the Irish Legislature could be referred to the same Committee (clause 22). The Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police Force were gradually to disappear, and police matters to be regulated by the Irish Legislature and Executive (clause 29). The Irish Legislature was to be prohibited from passing land legislation for a period of three years (clause 34).
As to these proposals the first observation that occurs is that, in addition to the matters proposed to be reserved, there are others in which legislative uniformity throughout
p.92the kingdom is greatly to be desired. To mention but a few such matters, questions of status, contract and succession, of international trade and navigation, of the regulation of railways and of industrial labour, and of the criminal law, should not be differently determined in different parts of the kingdom; and as life becomes more complex, the number of subjects in which diversity of laws is a hindrance continues to increase.
In the next place, it is to be noted that the checks proposed affect legislation only and not administration. If the Bill of 1893 or any similar Bill should become law, the whole executive power in Ireland will be in an Irish Ministry responsible to an Irish Assembly; and it is obvious that many of the wrongs against which the restrictive clauses of the Bill were directed may be inflicted by administrative act or omission as effectively as by legislation. To quote a work of authority 24
An independent Irish Executive will possess immense power. It will be able by mere administrative action or inaction, without passing a single law which infringes any restriction to be imposed by the Irish Government Act, 1893, to effect a revolution. Let us consider for a moment a few of the things which the Irish Cabinet might do if it chose. It might confine all political, administrative, or judicial appointments to Nationalists, and thus exclude Loyalists from all positions of public trust. It might place the bench, the magistracy, the police, wholly in the hands of Catholics; it might by encouragement of athletic clubs where the Catholic population were trained to the use of arms, combined with the rigorous suppression of every Protestant association suspected, rightly or not, of preparing resistance to the Parliament at Dublin, bring about the arming of Catholic, and the disarming of Protestant, Ireland, and at the same time, raise a force as formidable to England as an openly enrolled Irish army. But the mere inaction of the executive might in many spheres produce greater results than active unfairness. The refusal of the police for the enforcement of evictions would abolish rent throughout the country. And the same result might be attained by a more moderate course. Irish Ministers might in practice draw a distinction between good landlords and bad
p.93landlords, and might grant the aid of the police for the collection of reasonable, though refusing it for the collection of excessive rents.
Irish Ministers might even refuse actively to oppose the moral claim of the Irish Catholics to the use of the cathedrals and of the accumulated capital of the Irish Church.25
To contemplate the possibility of action or calculated inaction of the character above described is not to attribute to Irishmen any special measure of original sin. In every case where the executive power is divorced from the ultimate legislative authority such divergencies are likely to recur; and more than one instance may be found in our own recent history. In 1859 the Canadian Government warned the Home Government that any attempt to interfere with the customs policy of the Dominion was inadmissible, unless the home authorities were prepared to undertake the responsibility of administering the whole government of Canada. The Home Government gave way.26 In 1878 the Governor of Cape Colony proposed to place the colonial forces under the control of the officer commanding the Imperial forces. The Cape Government resisted, and refused to resign; and eventually the Governor, on the advice of the Home Government, dismissed his ministers. In this case a change of government occurred after the general election, but in the end the claim put forward by the Imperial authorities had to be withdrawn.27 In 1906 the Natal Government proclaimed martial law, and ordered the execution of twelve natives on charges of murder. The Imperial Government intervened, and suggested the suspension of the order pending further consideration. The Natal Ministry immediately resigned; and as there was no chance of the formation of a new Government, the Imperial authorities hastily withdrew.28
Differences have arisen even on so grave a matter as the succession to the throne. The union of England and Scotland in 1707 was preceded and hastened by the so-called Act of Security, by which the Scottish Estates asserted the right to name a successor to the throne of Scotland, who should not (except under certain specified conditions) be the person designated as sovereign by the English law. And during the illness of King George III. in the year 1788, Grattan, in defiance of the views of Pitt and of the majority in both Houses of the Imperial Parliament, carried in the Irish Parliament an address to the Prince of Wales, calling upon him (without waiting for a Regency Bill) to assume the Government of the Irish nation, and to exercise and administer all legal power, jurisdiction and prerogatives to the Crown and Government thereof belonging words borrowed from the address by which in the Revolution of 1688 William of Orange was requested to assume the Crown. Happily, the Viceroy declined to present the address, and a deputation sent from Ireland to present it found on their arrival that the king had recovered, but the incident might have led to a conflict upon a matter so important as the exercise of the royal power.
The fact is that the word supremacy, so often used in this controversy, is one of ambiguous meaning. Parliament is supreme in the United Kingdom, Parliament is likewise supreme in New Zealand; but the two supremacies are of widely different kinds. Supremacy consists of two ingredientsauthority to enact and power to enforce; and without the latter the former is little more than a legal figment, which may have no more practical importance than the theoretical right of veto which is retained by the Crown. Mr. Balfour, speaking on the second reading debate of the 1893 Bill, referred to this matter as follows:
Legally, of course, the Imperial Parliament would be supreme: no one has doubted it. But what layman takes the slightest interest
p.95in these paper supremacies? For my part I take no more interest in the question of whether the Imperial Parliament is on paper superior to the Irish Parliament, than I do as to the order of precedence at a London dinner party. The thing is of no public interest or importance whatever. What we want to know is where the power lies. Who is going to exercise supremacy? Who is going to be the de facto ruler of Ireland?
Special importance attaches to these considerations owing to the heavy liabilities undertaken by this country in respect of land purchase in Ireland. At the present time many millions of British money are sunk in Irish land, and the amount may increase to a sum approaching two hundred millions. The tenants now pay their annuities because, in the last resort, the Government can turn them out. Under Home Rule the powers of Government would rest with men who have led no rent agitations in the past, and who would be dependent upon the votes of those personally interested in repudiating the debt. The British Treasury can hardly run such a risk; and some sort of concurrent control, with all its evils and risks, seems to be necessary. And yet financial independence is the first essential to genuine autonomy.
But, it may be said, if the Irish Government go beyond the law, the Irish Courts may be asked to interfere; and in the event of their refusal, the Bill provides an appeal to the Judicial Committee in London. No doubt it does, but in practice the person aggrieved might have very great difficulty in making the remedy effective. He must obtain a decision in his favour from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, at no small cost of money and personal odium; and the decision of that alien tribunal (as it would be called) must then be enforced under the jurisdiction of a Government which (on the hypothesis which we are considering) would be unfriendly, by judges and executive officers appointed and perhaps removable by that authority, and in the midst of a population hostile to foreign interference. Is it extravagant to suppose that the complainant would not gain much by his appeal to Caesar?
And even if we suppose the Irish Legislature and Executive to confine themselves within the letter of the Act, are the checks of any real value? The Irish Parliament might still interfere with contracts, or might validate contracts now held to be void as contrary to public policy. They might defeat the Mortmain Acts. They might deal as they thought fit with internal trade; and the great industries of Belfast and its neighbourhood might find their views on trade questions of no avail. The Irish Legislature might create new offences and institute new tribunals; and the reference in the Bill to due process of law would not necessarily secure trial by jury or by an impartial tribunal.29
It is said that legislation of this character would be subject to the veto of the Crown. But that veto is to be exercised on the advice of the Irish Ministry subject to any instructions given by the Sovereign; and so long as an Irish Legislature is entitled to withhold Irish supply, a veto against the advice of the Irish ministry would surely tend to become impossible.
Again, it is said that an unjust law passed by the Irish Parliament might be repealed by the Imperial Parliament. Doubtless the technical right would exist, as in the case of the Colonies; but no one dreams that, with responsible government existing in Ireland and Irish representatives at Westminster, it would in practice be used. The Imperial Government has never been known to interfere with the legislation of a self-governing colony except where Imperial interests are concerned, or where a fraud on the colony can be established;30 and the same rule would obtain in the case of Ireland.
Lastly, it is said that in the last resort there is the British Army. But if the civil power in Ireland does not call in the military force, how can the latter be used to enforce the law? Are the forces to be controlled from England, and what is this but a counter revolution? It
p.97is hardly worth while to liberate Ireland from the peaceful rule of the Imperial Government in order to govern her by military force.
But in fact the so-called safeguards would not last. Professor Dicey31 and Professor Morgan,32 writing from opposite sides of the controversy, agree in holding that no colony would tolerate them for a moment; and it is incredible that Ireland, with a Parliament of her own, would submit to them for more than a few years.33 Suppose the majority of the Irish Legislature to grow weary of the safeguards, and to demand their repeal. The Imperial ministry might refuse, but the reply of the Irish ministry (if in command of a majority in the Irish House of Commons) would be to resign and to make the government of Ireland impossible except by force. And if Ireland were still represented in the Imperial Parliament, the new sorrows of Ireland would find eloquent and insistent expression there. What, then, would England do? What could she do, except, after a futile struggle, to give way? The truth is, that if you part with the executive power, all checks and safeguards are futile. Mr. Redmond,34 eagerly accepts every one of them, and will accept others if desired; for he knows that they must prove ineffective. If, said Lord Derby in 1887, Ireland and England are not to be one, Ireland must be treated like Canada or Australia. All between is delusion or fraud.
The hybrid form of government proposed in the Bills of 1886 and 1893 gave rise to a further difficulty, and one which went far towards wrecking them both.
p.98Should Ireland under Home Rule be represented at Westminster by its members and representative peers? Under a system of Gladstonian Home Rule there appear to be only three possible answers to this question. The Irish representatives may be excluded altogether, they may be retained altogether, or they may be retained in diminished numbers and with some limitation on their voting powers.
The total exclusion clause in the Bill of 1886 was one of the most unpopular parts of an unpopular Bill. It was immediately urged that this arrangement was virtually equivalent to separation, and Mr. Gladstone admitted 35 that the argument had force. Since 1886 public sentiment has advanced in the direction of a closer Imperial unity, and it is unlikely that the country will recur in 1912 to a proposal which in 1886 was admitted to be intolerable. Moreover, if the British Parliament is to retain control of the whole foreign policy of the kingdom, andwhat is likely to be of enormous importance in the futureof its whole fiscal policy, it would be manifestly unjust to deny to Ireland a voice and vote in such matters. How would it be possible, for instance, to discuss the effect upon agriculture of a Tariff Reform Budget in the absence of competent representatives of the Irish farmers, or to consider the yearly grant to be made (as it is said) in aid of Irish finance without the assistance of any representatives of Ireland?
A recognition of the difficulties in the way of total exclusion led Mr. Gladstone to propose, in 1893, what was known as the popping-in-and-out clause, under which Irish members would have sat at Westminster, but would have voted only on Imperial measures. The best criticism of this attempt to distinguish between local and Imperial matters was supplied on another occasion by Mr. Gladstone himself: I have thought much, reasoned much, and inquired much with regard to that distinction, but I have arrived at the conclusion that it cannot be drawn. I believe it passes the wit of man.
To distinguish between matters which might and those which could not affect Ireland was impossible to the ordinary man, and the device of committing all matters of special difficulty to the decision of Mr. Speaker had not then its present vogue. Further, it was obvious that under such a system a British Ministry might have on one day, when English or Scottish affairs were under discussion, a commanding majority; but on the next, when a vote possibly affecting the sister island was in question, might find itself labouring in the trough of the sea; while on the third day, that vote having been disposed of and the Irish members having taken their leave, it might rise once more on the crest of the wave. The proposal was too ludicrous to be long defended. The sense of humour of the House prevailed over Mr. Gladstone's earnestness, and he fell back on inclusion for all purposes.
But inclusion for all purposes had its own difficulties. Under the Gladstonian system the Imperial Parliament would have considered, not only matters affecting the whole kingdom, but also purely English or purely Scottish affairs; and to give to the Irish representatives the control in their own Parliament of purely Irish affairs, and also a voice at Westminster on matters affecting England or Scotland only, was obviously unjust. Such a power would have been used, not for the benefit of England or Scotland, but as an instrument for wresting further concessions for Ireland.
I will never be a party, said Mr. Gladstone at one time, to allowing the Irish members to manage their own affairs in Dublin, and at the same time to come over here and manage British affairs. Such an arrangement would not be a Bill to grant self-government to Ireland, but one to remove self-government from England; it would create a subordinate Parliament indeed, but it would be the one at Westminster, and not that in Dublin. 36
The problem seems insoluble because, under a hybrid (or Gladstonian) system of Home Rule, it is insoluble. If
p.100a clear line is taken, there is no difficulty under this head. If full responsible or colonial government is granted, clearly representation in the Imperial Parliament (I do not now speak of a federal assembly) is an anomaly. On the other hand, if nothing more is in question than the extension of local government generally known as Devolution, then adequate representation in the Imperial Parliament is a matter of course. If a federal government is established, each member of the Federation must needs be represented in the federal Parliament; but in that case there must be no attempt to entrust to the same assembly both the duties of the federal Parliament and those of a Legislature for one of the federating states. It was this attempt to treat the Imperial Parliament as the local or state Legislature for Great Britain, and also as the federal Parliament for Great Britain and Ireland, which was fatal to Mr. Gladstone's proposals.
These considerations bring us face to face with Federalism, or, to use the phrase which to so many perplexed Liberals has seemed to point the way to safety, Home Rule all round. The expression covers a wide field, and before any opinion can be pronounced upon the proposal, it is essential to know what its advocates in fact desire.
To some the phrase means nothing less than Gladstonian Home Rule all round, in other words that we should meet the objections to dissolving the legislative and executive Union with Ireland by dissolving also the older Union with Scotland, and even (for some do not shrink from the reductio ad absurdum) the yet older unity of England and Wales. Consider what this means. For more than two hundred years the English and Scottish races have been united by a constitutional bond strengthened by mutual respect and good feeling, and Scotsmen, like Englishmen, have taken their part in the government of these islands. If in the division of labour and of honours there has been
p.101a balance of advantage, it has not been against the virile Scottish race, from which have sprung so many of our great soldiers and administrators, so many leaders of the nation. And such a combination is to be broken up, and Scotland to become a colony, because Ireland, unwilling to bear her share in the duties of government, desires to be reduced to that status! To such a proposal Mr. Gladstone's phrase about applies in all its force: Can any sensible man, can any rational man, suppose that at this time of day, in this condition of the world, we are going to disintegrate the great capital institutions of this country for the purpose of making ourselves ridiculous in the sight of all mankind, and crippling any power we possess for bestowing benefits through legislation on the country to which we belong? The proposal would be incredibly stupid, if it were not recklessly mischievous.
But to most advocates of the federal system the word means less than this; and the conception, usually vaguely expressed, is that the relations of England, Scotland, and Ireland, should be something like those of the communities which make up (to quote instances commonly given) the German Empire, the Swiss Federation, the United States of America, or the British self-governing dominions of Canada, Australia, and South Africa. So expressed, the aspiration for a federal union deserves respectful consideration.
In the first place, it must not be forgotten that no proposal of this nature has yet been put forward, even in general terms, by any English or Irish Party. Mr. John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Nationalists, has indeed said that he and his friends were only asking what had already been given in twenty-eight different portions of the Empire: 37 and a speaker usually more careful in his language 38 lately suggested to his audience that they should ask the twenty-eight Parliaments if the Empire would be split in pieces if there were a twenty-ninth.
p.102But in order to make up the number of Parliaments and Legislatures within the Empire to twenty-eight it is necessary to include in one category the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the colonial Parliaments of Newfoundland and New Zealand, the federal Parliaments of Canada and Australia, the provincial or state Legislatures (widely differing from one another in their constitution and powers) comprised in those Federations, the Union of South Africa and its constituent provinces, and the tiny assemblies surviving in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. From a reference so vague and confused no inference as to the real meaning or desire of either speaker can safely be drawn.39
But let us put aside, with the foreign confederacies (which have in most cases been achieved or maintained by armed conflict), the practically independent Parliaments within the British Empire, and confine ourselves to the Federations of Canada and Australia, and to the Union (sometimes incorrectly called a Federation) of South Africa.
In the first place, it is not immaterial to observe that each of the Legislatures here referred to resulted, not from the dissolution of an existing union, but from the voluntary assumption by communities formerly independent of one another of a closer bond. In other words, there was in each case a real foedus or treaty, not imposed by the Imperial power, but having a local origin and springing from the need of common action. The operative force was centripetal and as the force continues to operate, the tendency of the mass is towards a chemical in lieu of a mechanical fusion.40 But in the case of the United Kingdom a change from organic union to Federation would be the beginning of dissolution; and the centrifugal force, once set motion, might lead further in the same direction.
Again, there can be no true federation without (1) provincial
p.103legislatures and executives, (2) a central Parliament and executive, (3) a careful definition of the powers of each, and (4) a federal court to which should be entrusted the duty of determining questions arising between the federal and provincial governments and legislatures. If, therefore, provincial or state Governments are created for Ireland and for Scotland, a like Government should logically be created for England. Are we prepared to see four (or, if Wales be added, five) legislatures, and four (or five) executives, in these islands? Have we considered the possible effect on our whole system of government, on the theory of Cabinet responsibility to Parliament, on the powers of the House of Commons over grievance and supply? Must not each unit in a Federation be put as regards financial matters upon a like footing; and, if so, can Ireland bear her share? Is federation consistent with the predominance of one state, England, in wealth and population? These questions are vital, and none of them have received consideration. By declaring in general terms for Federalism you go but a little way.
And if we treat the proposal for Federation as indicating a desire to adopt a constitution under which the relations of the United Kingdom to each of its constituent parts would be as the relation of some one of the three self-governing Dominions to the states or provinces of which it is composed, the question remains, which of those Dominions should be adopted as a model? For they differ not only in form but in essence.
Under the British North America Act, 1867, and the amending statutes, there is one Parliament for Canada (sect. 17), while each province has its Legislature. Each provincial Legislature is empowered exclusively to make laws in relation to certain specified subjects (including property and civil rights and the administration of justice), and also in relation to all matters of a merely local or private nature in the province; while the Dominion Parliament may make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Canada in relation to all matters not
p.104coming within the classes of subjects assigned exclusively to the provincial Legislatures. The division of functions has given rise to much confusion and litigation; but, speaking generally, the trend of judicial decision has been towards a wide interpretation of the provincial powers. The residuary powers are in the Dominion Parliament.
The constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, as defined by the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900, is of a different character. The Federal Parliament is entrusted with power to make laws with respect to a number of subjects divided into no less than 39 classes (sect. 51); the State Legislatures have concurrent powers of legislation, but in case of conflict the law of the Commonwealth is to prevail over the State law (sect. 109). The residuary powers are in this case left to the States. There is power to alter the Constitution with the consent of a majority of the electors in a majority of the States and of a majority of the electors of the Commonwealth (sect. 123)a power which has been freely used.
The case of South Africa is sometimes cited as a precedent for loosening the bonds in the United Kingdom. It is a strong precedent for closer union. The South Africa Act, 1909, created in fact as well as in name, not a Federation but a true Legislative Union. Under the Act, the South African colonies were united in a legislative union under one government under the name of the Union of South Africa (sect. 4). The legislative power is vested in the Parliament of the Union (sect. 19), which has full power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Union (sect. 59). In each province (formerly a colony) there is an administrator appointed by the Governor-General of the Union in Council (sect. 68), and a Provincial Council (sect. 70); but the powers of the Provincial Councils are confined within narrow limits (sect. 85), and their ordinances (they are not called laws) have effect within the province as long as and so far as they are not repugnant to any Act of the Union
p.105Parliament (sect. 86). The Supreme Courts of the old colonies become provincial divisions of the Supreme Court of South Africa (sect. 98), and the colonial property and debts are transferred to the Union (sects. 121-124). In fact, in South Africa, where, as in Ireland, the distinction in the past has been racial and not territorial, Union and not Federation has gained the day. It is safe to prophesy that the coming proposals of the Government will not follow the South African plan.
The South African precedent leads naturally to a few observations on the proposals for the extension of local self-government, usually classified under the head of Devolution. These proposals differ, not in degree only but in kind, from schemes for the granting of responsible government, or Gladstonian Home Rule. Under all devolutionary schemes, properly so-called, the central Parliament and executive remain the ultimate depositaries of power; and the powers entrusted to local bodies are administrative only, and can be resumed at will. The Acts by which County Councils were set up, first in Great Britain and afterwards in Ireland, were steps in this direction. The Welsh Intermediate Education Act, 1889, was another. The establishment by the Agriculture and Technical Instruction (Ireland) Act, 1899, of a Council of Agriculture, as Agricultural Board, and a Board of Technical Instruction, was a third. By these statutes wide powers are delegated to representative bodies directly or indirectly elected by popular vote; but in each case the delegated powers are strictly defined, their exercise is made subject to central control, and the right of Parliament to modify or withdraw any of them is absolute and unquestioned. The appointment by the House of Commons of a Grand Committee for Scottish Bills is another experiment of a similar character, though on different lines. Such delegations of power are consistent with the maintenance in its entirety of the
p.106Union of the Kingdom, and there is no reason whatever why further progress should not be made in the same direction. The events of 1907 are evidence that Devolution, regarded merely as a means of satisfying the political cry for Home Rule, is indeed dead. But when the din of political battle has once more passed by, it may be possible to obtain consideration for a moderate and clearly defined scheme of delegation which, if applied not exclusively to Ireland, but to the whole country, might relieve the House of Commons of much of its work, and strengthen the habit of local self-government throughout the United Kingdom.
The financial problems connected with the grant of in 1912 are among the most complicated that call for solution, and differ fundamentally from those which faced the Governments of 1886 and 1893. And by common consent, the problems are not merely different; they are immensely more difficult. No clauses in the earlier Bills lent themselves more readily to destructive criticism; and though the provisions of the new scheme are still shrouded in mystery, it is inherent in the conditions under which it must be framed that the financial clauses will prove to be even less defensible on the grounds of logic or equity than those of either of its predecessors.
Since the first Bill was introduced the interests of Ireland social, economic, industrial, and politicalhave become increasingly identified with those of the other parts of the United Kingdom. The commercial, banking, and railway systems of Ireland are intimately associated with those of the greater and more firmly established systems of Great Britain. Irish railways are so largely controlled at the present time by British concerns, and there exist so many agreements and understandings between them and British companies as to facilities and rates, that they might be regarded as part of the same network of communications. Hardly less close are the relations which now exist between British and Irish banks.
It is not, however, on the commercial side only that greater intimacy and more firmly established relations exist now than formerly. Irish industries are agricultural, dairying and manufacturing. In each of these branches the
p.108country is increasingly dependent on the markets of England and Scotland; while reciprocally the products of the factories and workshops of Great Britain find in Ireland one of their most important markets. We do not always sufficiently realise that on the other side of the St. George's Channel lies a country whose annual imports amount to sixty-five millions sterling. Even less do we realise that one-half (thirty-two millions sterling) is the value of the imports of manufactures, mainly British, into Ireland. This trade in manufactured goods is not only already enormous; it is rapidly growing. It has increased by more than four millions in four years. Any ill-considered legislative measure which interfered with or disturbed this great volume of trade would no doubt cause serious loss to Ireland; but it would bring bankruptcy and disaster to many British firms and their workmen.
It is, nevertheless, in respect of the political changes and the legislative measures passed in the last quarter of a century that the most serious obstacles will be found in the way of framing any satisfactory scheme for financing a measure of Home Rule. The Irish Local Government system, framed on the British model by the Act of 1898, the Congested Districts Board, and the Department of Agriculture, have hitherto depended financially, either wholly or in part, on Imperial grants in aid. Local taxation payments alone from the Imperial Exchequer amounted in 191011 to £1,478,000. The financial scheme under Home Rule must obviously contemplate and provide for the continuance of those grants. Land Purchase schemes have been enacted which have already had the effect of converting a quarter of a million tenants into owners under a contingent liability of 120 millions sterling guaranteed by the Imperial Exchequer. No financial scheme can ignore the fact that the earliest of the annuities created under the Wyndham Act will not expire before 1972, So that the Imperial liability for the payment of the bulk of the annuities already created will continue for at least seventy years more.
Finally, we are faced with the fact that in the last twenty-five years the relations of the State to its citizens
p.109have been completely reformed and extended. Social reform is now in the programme of all parties. Education costs several times as much as in 1885. The aged poor have been provided with pensions by the State, and the Insurance Act of last year will shortly call for additional subventions from the Imperial Treasury.
In addition to the new duties thus undertaken by the State, the cost of Defence and of the Civil Services has grown by leaps and bounds. We need not look too closely into the apportionment of these charges whilst we remain partners in a United Kingdom, but if the partnership is to be dissolved at the suit of Irish Nationalism, a new balance must be struck, and on any fair basis the contribution of Ireland under present-day conditions should far exceed the amount under either of the schemes for which Mr. Gladstone made himself responsible. Both schemes recognised the equity of some contribution for these services from Ireland, and it must be assumed that the same broad principles will be applied in any scheme which may be framed hereafter.
By way of introduction to any adequate discussion of the possible financial proposals of any measure, it is desirable to set out in some detail the existing financial relations of Ireland and Great Britain. The Treasury calculations on this subject are embodied in two White Papers which have been prepared and published annually during the last eighteen years. It is true that doubts have from time to time been cast on the accuracy of these calculations and of the methods by which the materials on which they are based have been collected. As to this, it is only necessary to say that the information in the possession of the Treasury officials is infinitely more voluminous and likely to be more accurate than any in the possession of private individuals; and there is no reason to suppose the succession of eminent public servants, who have been in turn responsible for the preparation of these returns have been moved in one direction or the other by prepossessions or bias. Their one attempt has been throughout to present a statement, as accurate as it is possible to make it, on the
p.110one hand of the cost of the existing administration in Ireland and the expenditure incurred there, and on the other of the revenue derived from persons or property living or situated in that country. As the Prime Minister said on November 27 of last year The utmost pains have been taken to make the estimates of true revenue approximately correct, and it is believed that the total revenue as given in the revised returns approximates closely to the facts.
See Parliamentary Debates.
So long as Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, such an investigation has mainly an academic interest. The State is a homogeneous entity; the taxes imposed on individuals similarly circumstanced are the same (with some trifling exceptionsall in favour of Ireland) in whatever quarter of the United Kingdom the individual resides. But the case is wholly different when a proposal is made to split up the State into its constituent parts. It then becomes necessary to inquire if there is any prospect that the constituent parts will have resources sufficient for the various services, commitments and liabilitiespresent and contingentwhich do or will belong to them. And the beginning of any such inquiry is, as has been already said, the present Irish revenue and expenditure.
The essential figures for such an investigation are contained in the following statement. This shows separately the expenditure on the various items which have been the subject of discussion or special mention in the different financial schemes proposed in connection with Home Rule. On the revenue side the effect of the delayed collection of duties under the Budget of 190910 has been eliminated by taking the average revenue in the two years in certain items. The figures of expenditure relate to the year 191011. The corresponding figures for both collection and contribution are set out in this table in consequence of the suggestion made in some quarters that we should revert to the Gladstonian proposal of 1886 and credit Ireland with the
|Source of Rev.||Rev. as coll in £||Rev. as contrib. in £||Source of Exp.||Expenditure in £|
|1. Customs *||2,922,000||2,866,000||1. Civil List and misc. charges||118,500|
|2. Excise *||4,872,200||2,952,000||2. Lord-Lieutentant's salary||20,000|
|3. Licence Duties *||284,000||284,000||3. Local Taxation Payments||1,477,500|
|4. Estate, etc. *||914,000||914,000||4. Public Works||415,500|
|5. General Stamps *||310,000||333,000||5. Civil Service Departments||289,500|
|6. Income Tax *||1,106,000||1,307,000||6. Department of Agriculture||415,000|
|7. Postal Services||1,155,000||1,155,000||7. Police||1,464,500|
|8. Miscellaneous||139,000||139,000||8. Judiciary, etc.||924,000|
|9. Education, etc.||1,805,000|
|10. Old Age Pensions||2,408,000|
|11. Superannuation, etc.||103,000|
|12. Ireland Development Grant||191,500|
|14. Revenue Departments||298,000|
|15. Postal Services||1,404,500|
full revenue as collected. Though any such proposal is patently absurd it is mentioned here for the sake of completeness.
The first striking fact in the foregoing statement is the large difference between contributions and collections, i.e. between the true revenue derived from Ireland and the sums merely collected there. During the last two financial years this difference amounted to an average of £1,752,000. The excise collections alone represent an excess of £1,920,000 over the actual contribution. This, of course, arises from the movements of duty-paid spirits and beer between different parts of the United Kingdom. The last Report of the Commissioners of Customs and Excise (Cd. 5827) gives the amount of home-made spirits on which duty has been paid in Ireland at 5,209,000 proof gallons, whereas the quantity retained for consumption was only 2,776,000 proof gallons. A similar but smaller difference exists in the case of beer. To credit Ireland with the full amounts of the duties collected in Ireland, as was done by Mr. Gladstone in 1886, and as is now proposed in some quarters, would, in effect, amount to a gift from the British Exchequer of £1,750,000 a year. And there is obviously no security that the Irish Exchequer could rely on this boon being continued for more than a short time. There would be nothing to prevent the British spirit merchant from removing his spirits to this country in bond and paying the duty here after arrival. It is obvious that the Treasury would be compelled to grant facilities for this course. The present system is merely one of book-keeping and administrative convenience, but as the withdrawal of this sum from the British Exchequer to which it properly belongs would have to be made good from other British sources, there would be every inducement for the British merchant to effect such slight changes of method as would transfer the whole of this sum from the Irish to the British Exchequer. Having regard to the fact that on the other sources of revenue the collections in Ireland are estimated to fall short of the actual contributions by nearly £200,000,
p.113and that these are in the main direct taxes paid by the individuals concerned, it is not unlikely that a scheme which gave to Ireland the full benefit of her revenues as collected would in a short time be converted from a gain of some £1,700,000 to a loss of £100,000 to £200,000 to the Irish taxpayer. Stability in the tax system and reliability upon the realisation of the estimated revenue could not be assumed if collections instead of contributions were to be made the basis of any financial arrangements.
Turning next to the contributed revenue upon which alone an Irish Parliament could rely, we note first the large proportion of the revenue represented by Customs and Excise. Contrasted with the figures for Great Britain, it is seen by the following table that whereas in Ireland the revenue from Customs and Excise amounts to 60 per cent of the total, in Great Britain the proportion was not more than 36 per cent.
Percentage of Revenue from different sources contributed by Ireland and Great Britain respectively in two years ending March 31, 1911.41
|Source of Revenue||Ireland per cent||Britain per cent|
|Excise (ex. licences)||30||17.5|
|Estate, etc., duties||9||14.5|
Exclusive of the licence duties the average yield (contribution) of Customs and Excise in Great Britain amounted in the last two years to £55,900,000, or at the rate of £1 7s. 5d. per head; in Ireland the average yield was £5,800,000, or at the rate of £1 7s. 10d. per head. The incidence of our consumption taxes is thus seen to be at the present time practically the same in Ireland as in Great Britain; and the much larger proportion of the Irish revenue obtained from them is due to the smaller relative
p.114yield of direct taxes. Ireland being mainly an agricultural country, income tax, death duties, and stamps yield much less per head of the population there than in Great Britain. Such conditions are highly suggestive of inelasticity. An Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer will find no such fiscal reserves in direct taxes as does his more fortunate British colleague. This conclusion should give pause to those who think that if the Customs and Excise continued to be controlled from Westminster, it would be still possible to extract the larger revenue needed for the growing expenditure of Ireland by higher rates of income tax and death duties. Such a course would increase the burdens of the direct taxpayers of Ireland, but it would not fill the Irish Treasury. On the other hand, it is clear that there is no chance of relief being afforded to the Irish indirect taxpayer under Home Rule, supposing Customs and Excise were handed over to the Irish Parliament. Yet whenever a British Chancellor of the Exchequer has found it necessary to increase any of the taxes on consumption, the protests from the Irish benches have been invariably both loud and vehement. Irish members have pointed to the low wages earned in Ireland, the greater addiction of the people to tea and spirits, and the higher toll of their earnings consequently extracted by the Exchequer. The yield of existing taxes, therefore, whether direct or indirect, is not elastic in Ireland. Neither of them afford sufficient resources to meet the necessities of an Irish Parliament.
There are, of course, other reasons why there should be no delegation of the power to impose Customs and Excise. The constitutional objections to such a course are overwhelming. It would involve the abandonment of the plea that for Ireland was the prelude to all round; in other words, that separation was the condition precedent to federalism. In every federal system in the world the control of Customs and Excise has been retained by the central authority. This is true not only of the quasi-federations within the British Empire; it is
p.115equally true of the United States, Germany, and Switzerland. One can scarcely be surprised at the emphatic repudiation which such a proposal received at the hands of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. J. M. Robertson) when, on February 7, 1912, in a speech at Lincoln, he said There was, however, just one thing that must remain one for three kingdoms, and that was the fiscal system, Customs and Excise. It was a federal union we want, a federal state. If they were to do as some of his unreflecting friends, Irish and English, have done, and demand that Ireland should not only have power to lay taxes but to fix Customs and Excise then they had no State left at all.
Another obvious objection to such a course is that it necessitates the erection of a Customs barrier between Ireland and Great Britain. Tariff Reformers are ready to admit that the present fiscal system is at least as injurious to Ireland as to other portions of the United Kingdom. The power to impose Customs duties on British goodsand the proportion of British total imports is so large that if this power were limited to foreign goods it would be financially valuelesswould no doubt provide the Irish Exchequer with considerable funds and might be used to develop her prosperity. But the separation of the Customs systems for the purpose of enabling Ireland to impose tariffs in her own interests would necessarily be followed by a demand for treaty-making powers such as have been successfully claimed and are now enjoyed by British Dominions overseas. Under a general tariff for the United Kingdom the same advantages would accrue to Ireland without any corresponding damage to British or Imperial interests.
Thus, whether Customs and Excise are handed over to the Irish Parliament or retained by the Imperial Parliament, the consequences are equally embarrassing. In the one case Ireland would be deprived of the control of some 60 per cent of her present revenue, and of all power of expansion; in the other, British trade with Ireland might be gravely injured by hostile legislation, and the union of the three
p.116kingdoms in financial and commercial policy would be destroyed. But this is not federation, nor is it a step towards it. It is separation pure and simple. Unless we are prepared to accept separation as the end of our policy the control of Customs and therefore of Excise, must remain an Imperial affair.
There can, therefore, be no justification for taking the control of the Customs and Excise from the Imperial Parliament. The Irish Parliament would thus be left with some 40 per cent of present revenue under her own control. But the power to raise further revenue within the limits legally reserved to the Irish Parliament would be even less than this figure would imply. For of the £4,100,000 of revenue other than Customs and Excise, nearly £1,200,000 comes from the Postal Services; and even if these services were controlled by Ireland, it may be taken that the rates charged will be the same as in Great Britain. Of the remaining £2,900,000 nearly one-half comes from income tax. It has already been pointed out that its yield cannot be materially increased. There are only two ways by which an Irish Chancellor might attempt such a task. He might raise the rate of income tax or he might lower the exemption limit. The former course would almost certainly be followed by two equally undesirable results. So far as the tax continued to be paid in Ireland it would fall with crushing force on the already heavily-burdened agricultural industry. Still, from the point of view of the Exchequer, there might be some additional revenue on this account. On the other hand, there would be a check to the investment of capital in Irelandand no country needs capital moreand a powerful temptation to transfer it where the tax would be lower. It may be seriously questioned, therefore, whether any increase in the income tax above the British rate is practicable. The other alternative, namely, the lowering of the exemption limit, would be so unpopular that no Irish Chancellor is ever likely to consider it seriously.
Passing from the consideration of revenue it is necessary to examine the relation of present revenue to present
p.117expenditure. The first table in the present article shows that the ascertainable expenditure for Irish purposes in 191011 was about £1,400,000 more than the revenue. To this expenditure must be added about £300,000 for the State Share of the benefits under Part I. of the National Insurance Act, about £50,000 in respect of Part II., and about £100,000 for cost of administration of both parts, increasing the immediate deficit to about £1,550,000. This calculation, moreover, includes no charge against Irish revenue on account of Imperial Servicesnavy and army; National Debt, interest and management; the diplomatic services, and so forth. The equity of such payments has been consistently recognised in the two Bills and the three financial schemes submitted by Mr. Gladstone. However moderate the scale of contribution it would in the present case double or treble the margin between Irish revenue and Irish expenditure for local purposes. If, for example, the precedent of the 1886 Bill were followed, and Ireland charged with a contribution for Imperial services in proportion to the estimated relative taxable capacities, the additional charges on the Irish Exchequer would amount to not less than about £4,000,000 on the 191011 figures if the taxable capacity of Ireland be taken at one-twenty-fifth, and to nearly £3,500,000 if it be taken at one-thirtieth.
It may be worth while here to refer to the amazing statement that Great Britain has made a large profit out of the Union. At the last meeting of the British Association, Prof. Oldham affected to prove that Ireland in the course of one hundred years ... had sent across the Channel as her contribution to the British Exchequer a clear net payment of about 330 millions sterling. The same contention has been urged by Lord MacDonnell. This calculation ignores the fact that even the Irish Parliament between 1782 and 1800 acknowledged its obligation to contribute to Imperial services, and voted contributions for Imperial purposes, besides raising and maintaining in Ireland a force of 12,000 to 15,000 men, some of whom were available for foreign service. It makes no allowance also for the debt
p.118which Ireland brought into the Union when the Exchequers were amalgamated in 1817. The importance of the last item may be judged from the fact that if the whole of the so called contribution to Imperial services, i.e. the excess of true revenue over local expenditure, had been employed since 1817 in paying interest at 3 per cent on the old Irish debt and the whole of any balance remaining after payment of interest had been used for redemption of the capital, this debt would only have been extinguished in 1886. If a contribution of only 1 per cent to the cost of Imperial services had been previously charged against this excess, there would be a large balance of the Irish debt still outstanding. As a matter of fact, in the same period that Ireland is said to have contributed £330,000,000, Great Britain may be shown by a precisely similar calculation to have contributed no less than £5,800,000,000 for Imperial purposes. The measure of injustice to Ireland meted out by unsympathetic Britons in respect to the Imperial contribution extracted from Ireland may be seen from the following comparison for different dates in the last century.
|Period||Ratio of British to Irish Populations||Ratio of British to Irish Contributions|
The truth is that from a financial point of view Ireland has no valid complaint to make on the score of her contributions for Imperial purposes. Between 1820 and 1840 the Irish population was a little less than one-half of the
p.119population of Great Britain; her contribution for Imperial Services varied from one-eleventh to one-thirteenth. In 1899-1900 the British contribution was 46.5 times the Irish, though the population was less than nine times as large. If any contribution for Imperial Services from Ireland is justified, and Mr. Gladstone at least acknowledged it, no one can say that the contribution actually taken from Ireland has been excessive.
As already stated we are still without any information as to the financial proposals to be included in the Bill of 1912. The Government have appointed a Committee to advise them upon this subject. Though the cost of the Committee has been met out of public funds, and sources of information were laid open to them which are not readily available to the public, the Prime Minister has steadily refused to supply to Parliament any information as to the results of their labours.43 The terms of reference to the Commission: the witnesses examined by them the information placed at their disposal; the character of the conclusions and recommendations, these have, all alike, been refused to the House of Commons. But while Parliament has been denied this information, there is every reason to believe that the leaders of the Nationalist Party have been taken fully into the confidence of the Government. We do not know whether, for example, the Customs or Excise or both will be imposed and collected by the future Irish Parliament. We do not know whether any contribution will be required for the Irish share of Imperial services. We are equally uncertain whether any and what purely Irish services will be retained by the Imperial Parliament, and charged on the Imperial Exchequer. And lastly, the intentions of the Government in regard to the payment of a subsidy from the Imperial Exchequer to the Irish Parliament, with which rumour is busy, are as yet unrevealed.
In spite of this lamentable paucity of information as to
p.120the Government plan, I think it can be safely said that no scheme even remotely resembling any of those presented in connection with the two previous Bills can be put forward now. Each of those schemes would involve the Irish Parliament in a huge deficit from the very outset. Even if the schemes were adapted to the changed modern conditions the same impassable gap between available revenue and certain expenditure remains. Those schemes presumably embodied principles which the Governments of 1886 and 1893, and the Nationalist parties of those dates regarded as adequate. It would be strange if it were otherwise, seeing that an examination and comparison of the separate schemes can discover no other consistent principles except the solitary one of juggling with the revenues, expenditures, and contributions in such manner as would start the Irish Parliament with a small surplus. In view of the importance of these earlier attempts to secure an approximation to financial equilibrium, it appears desirable to examine how Ireland would fare in modern conditions under each of them.
The essential features of the 1886 scheme were as follows:
Broadly the scheme gave to the Irish Government credit for the Customs and Excise collected in Ireland and charged it with annual payments of £4,502,000 in addition to the cost of collection. It is clear that Mr. Gladstone, at the time when the Irish population was about one-eighth of the United Kingdom, assumed Ireland to have a taxable capacity of one-fifteenth. If such a scheme were introduced at the present moment it is obvious that, owing to the further decline in the population of Ireland, a smaller figure for taxable capacity must be taken. What that figure should be it is difficult, if not impossible, to decide satisfactorily. It is generally assumed that on the basis of the calculations made by the Financial Relations Commission in 1896, the present relative taxable capacity for Ireland would be about one-twenty-fifth that of the United Kingdom. In the last two financial years the Irish contribution to Income Tax has been one-twenty-eighth, and the contribution to Estate Duties one-twenty-sixth of the total collection in the United Kingdom. These proportions, taken as measures of taxable capacity must be exceptionally favourable to Ireland, where the proportion of Income Tax
p.122payers and of persons possessing property paying Death Duties is relatively to the total population smaller than in the United Kingdom as a whole. If, therefore, for the sake of the present calculations the mean of two proportionsi.e. one-twenty-seventh deducible from the Income Tax and Death Duty contributions is assumed, we employ a figure exceptionally favourable to Ireland. The financial statement on the next page showing the 1886 scheme applied to present conditions has been drawn up on this basis. The revenue is here assumed to come in at the average rate of the last two years (190910 and 191011) and the expenditure is taken as that of 191011.
The state of the Irish Exchequer under the foregoing scheme would be indeed a parlous one. It would start with a deficit of £3,200,000, and with a prospective immediate increase by about £450,000 on account of the Insurance Act. The actual budget deficit would thus be about £3,650,000. The Imperial Parliament would collect about £7,794,000, and after deducting £5,346,000 would hand back to the Irish Exchequer the difference of £2,458,000. The revenues upon which the Chancellor in the Irish Parliament could rely would be, therefore, £6,366,000. Out of this all expenditure of £9,562,000 would have to be met. The postal services would probably not stand any increased charges, there is left, therefore, only £5,211,000 of free revenue, and only £2,753,000 under the unrestricted control of the Irish Parliament. With such resources it would be obviously impossible to make good a deficit of £3,206,000 by any increase of taxation. It must not be overlooked, also, that the effect of crediting Ireland with Customs and Excise as collected instead of as contributed is practically to make the Irish Parliament a further free gift of nearly £2,000,000.
A totally different scheme accompanied the Bill of 1893 as introduced. The principal features of the new scheme were as follows:
p.123The table on "SchemeA.pdf" attached here illustrates the list on p. 12021.
Some of the provisions of this scheme are of exceptional interest. If it had ever been in operation the plan, for example, of adjusting the payments from one exchequer to the other in the event of changes being enacted by the Imperial Parliament in the Excise duties must have been fruitful of difficulties and created much friction. It the duties had been reduced there might have been an increased consumption. Who can say how much of the revenue lost to the Irish Exchequer in the event of a reduction of duties would have been due to the reduced rates of duty, and how much had been regained by increased consumption. Again, if the Excise duties had been increased, as in the Budget of 1909, to such a degree that the total revenue at the higher duty was less than the total revenue from the lower duty, who could have determined whether this was a case requiring a payment from the Irish to the British Exchequer, or from the British to the Irish Exchequer.
Perhaps the most striking novelty of the first scheme of 1893 was the retention of the Customs duties in lieu of Ireland's contribution to Imperial Services. At that time the estimated value of the Customs contributed by Ireland was £2,400,000, and seeing that in 1886 her reasonable share of liability on account of Imperial Services was put at £4,600,000, the very large gift to Ireland represented by this scheme may be readily imagined. Even with the full advantage of this gift the estimated Irish surplus was put
p.125at £500,000. During the discussions of the Bill an error in the Excise contributions, reducing the revenue available to the Irish Exchequer by £356,000 was discovered. The reduced surplus of £144,000 was regarded by Mr. Gladstone as cutting it too fine, and the financial scheme was completely recast. Before explaining the third scheme it might be well to examine as before how the original scheme of 1893 would work out at the present time. This is shown in the following balance sheet.
|1. Excise (true revenue ex. licenses)||2,952,000|
|2. Local Taxes: (a) Stamps||333,000|
|2. Local Taxes: (b) Death Duties||914,000|
|2. Local Taxes: (c) Income Tax||1,307,000|
|2. Local Taxes: (d) Excise licenses||284,000|
|3. Postal Revenue||1,155,000|
|1. Civil Government charges (ex. Constabulary and Lord Lieutenant's salary)||6,952,000|
|2. Collection of Ireland Revenue, etc.||298,000|
|3. Postal Services||1,404,000|
|4. Contribution to Constabulary (two thirds of £1,464,500)||976,000|
The narrow surplus of £144,000 has disappeared, and instead there is on present-day figures the substantial deficit of £2,535,000. Here again it may be observed that the Excise duties are fixed by the Imperial Parliament, and the Postal charges are presumably also invariable. The first Budget deficit would, as before, be not less than £3,000,000. The taxes within the absolute control of the Irish Parliament would have been producing a revenue of £2,838,000. It is within this range of taxation, or by the imposition of new direct taxes, that the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer would have been compelled to raise an additional £3,000,000 in order to make the two sides of his account balance. Owing to the mistake already referred to, Mr. Gladstone prepared and presented a third scheme, whose principal features were as follows:
|2. Excise (ex. license duties)||2,952,000|
|4. Death duties||914,000|
|5. Licence duties||284,000|
|6. Income Tax||1,307,000|
|7. Crown Lands, etc.||25,000|
|8. Two thirds of £ 8,965,000||5,787,000|
|9. Miscellaneous Receipts||115,000|
|1. Civil Government Charges||6,952,000|
|2. Constabulary (two thirds of £1,464,000)||976,000|
|3. Estimated deficit on Postal Services||249,000|
The main Irish objection to a scheme of this description is that, whatever tax be imposed, the amount taken from the Irish taxpayer would be 50 per cent greater than the amount going into the Irish Exchequer. It is easy to foresee that such an arrangement would have led to much friction and difficulty, and that it could not have lasted even the six years for which it was provisionally fixed. If applied to the present situation Ireland would have been contributing less than £3,000,000 for Imperial services, although a very moderate estimate of what her contribution should be would require her to pay at least £5,000,000. In spite of this modest payment, however, this scheme would have confronted the Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer with a deficit of more than £2,250,000 rising at once to £2,700,000 in consequence of the Insurance Act.
In reviewing the three financial schemes which have previously seen the light, the following facts stand out clearly:
In view of these facts it is certain that any arrangement which pretended to give a Budget surplus to the Irish Parliament would involve, overtly or covertly, the payment of a large subsidy to Ireland out of the Imperial Exchequer. Such a contingency is not likely to make Home Rule more acceptable, or the path of any Bill, through Parliament more easy.
There is no argument in favour of Home Rule for Ireland which is more frequently used today than that which is based on the analogy of our Colonial experience. In the history of every one of our Coloniesso runs one variant of the argumentfrom Lord Durham's report on Canada down to the grant of responsible government to the Transvaal, Home Rule has turned disaffection into loyalty, and has inaugurated a career of prosperity. Why should we then hesitate to apply to Irish discontent the freedom which has proved so sovereign a remedy elsewhere? Again, if our Dominions have been able to combine local Home Rule with national unityso runs another variantwhy should a policy which works successfully in Canada or Australia not work in the United Kingdom? Another suggestion freely thrown out is that Home Rule is only the beginning of a process of federalisation which is to bring us to the goal of Imperial Federation. In one form or another the Colonial Analogy occupies the foreground of almost every speech or article in favour of Irish Home Rule. The ablest, as well as the most courageous, piece of Home Rule advocacy which has so far appeared, Mr. Erskine Childers's Framework of Home Rule, is based from first to last on this analogy and on little else.
That the argument is effective cannot be gainsaid. It is the argument which appeals most strongly to the great body of thoughtful Liberals who from every other point of view look upon the project with unconcealed misgiving. It is
p.129the argument which has appealed to public opinion in the Dominions, and has there secured public resolutions and private subscriptions for the Nationalist cause. In one of its forms it appealed to the imagination of an Imperialist like Cecil Rhodes. In another it has, undoubtedly, in recent years attracted not a few Unionists who have been prepared to approach with, at any rate, an open mind the consideration of a federal constitution for the United Kingdom. And, indeed, if the analogy really applied, it would be difficult to resist the conclusion. If Ireland has really been denied something which has proved the secret of Colonial loyalty and prosperity, what Englishman would be so short-sighted as to wish to deprive her of it for the mere sake of domination? If Home Rule were really a steppingstone towards Imperial Federation, how insincere our professions of thinking Imperially, if we are not prepared to sacrifice a merely local sentiment of union for a great all-embracing ideal!
But, as a matter of fact, there is no such analogy bearing on the question which, here and now, is at issue. On the contrary the whole trend of Colonial experience confirms, in the most striking fashion, the essential soundness of the position which Unionists have maintained throughout, that the material, social and moral interests, alike of Ireland and of Great Britain, demand that they should remain members of one effective, undivided legislative and administrative organisation.
The whole argument, indeed, plausible as it is, is based on a series of confusions, due, in part, to deliberate obscuring of the issue, in part to the vagueness of the phrase Home Rule, and to the general ignorance of the origin and real nature of the British Colonial system. There are, indeed, three main confusions of thought. There is, first of all, the confusion between free or self-governing institutions, as contrasted with unrepresentative or autocratic rule, and separate government, whether for all or for specified purposes, as contrasted with a common government. In the next place there is the confusion between the status of
p.130a self-governing Dominion, in its relations to the Imperial Government, and the status of a Colonial state or provincial government towards the Dominion of which it forms a part. A truly inimitable instance of this confusion has been provided by Mr. Redmond in a declaration made on more than one occasion that all that Ireland asks for, is, What has already been given to twenty-eight different portions of the Empire. 44 Considering that the portions thus enumerated include practically sovereign nation states like Canada, provinces like those of the South African Union, with little more than county council powers, and stray survivals, like the Isle of Man, of an earlier system of government, based on the same principle of ascendancy and interference as the government of Ireland under Poynings's Act, it is difficult to know which to admire most, Mr. Redmond's assurance, or his cynical appreciation of the ignorance or capacity for deliberate self-deception of those with whom he has to deal. The third confusion is that between Imperial functions and national or Dominion functions, due to the fact that the two are combined in the United Kingdom Parliament, which is also, under present conditions, the Imperial Parliament, and to the consequent habitual use of the word Imperial in two quite different senses. It is this last confusion which makes such a declaration as Mr. Asquith's about safeguarding the indefeasible authority of the Imperial Parliament a mere equivocation, for it affords no indication as to whether the supremacy retained is the effective and direct control maintained by Canada over Ontario, or the much slighter and vaguer supremacy exercised by the United Kingdom over the Dominions, It is this same confusion, too, which is responsible for the notion that the problem of creating a true Imperial Parliament or Council by a federation of the Dominions would be assisted, either by creating an additional
p.131Dominion in the shape of Ireland, or by arranging the internal constitution of the United Kingdom, as one of the federating Dominions, on a federal rather than on a unitary basis.
The confusion of ideas between self-government and separate government pervades the whole argument that the granting of Home Rule to Ireland would be analogous to the grant of responsible institutions to the Colonies. The essence of Home Rule is the creation of a separate government for Ireland. The essence of our Colonial policy has been the establishment of popular self-government in the Colonies. That this self-government has been effected through local parliaments and local executives, and not by representation in a common parliament, is a consequence of the immense distances and the profound differences in local conditions separating the Dominions from the Mother Country. It is an adaptation of the policy to peculiar conditions, and not an essential principle of the policy itself.
This is obvious from any consideration of the circumstances under which the policy of Colonial self-government originated. Under the old Colonial system which preceded it, the Governor not only controlled the executive government, whose members were simply his official subordinates, but also controlled legislation through a nominated Upper Chamber or Legislative Council. The object of this restrictive policy was not interference with local affairs, but the supposed necessity of safeguarding general Imperial interests. Local affairs were, in the main, left to the local government. But the peculiar constitution of that government rendered it almost inevitable that the practical control of those affairs should fall into the hands of a narrowly limited class, clustering round the Governor and his circle, and by its privileges and prejudices creating in those excluded from that class a spirit of opposition, which extended from its members to the whole Imperial system which they were supposed to personify. In each of the North American Colonies a small oligarchy, generally known as the Family
p.132Compact, was able to monopolise the Executive Council, the Legislative Council, the Bench, the Bar, and all offices of profit. It was against this system, and not against the Imperial connection or even against undue interference from England, that the Canadian rebellion of 1837 was directed. In 1838 Lord Durham made his famous report in which he attributed the troubles to their true cause, the disregard of public opinion, and proposed that the Governor should in future govern, in local affairs, in accordance with the advice given by Colonial Ministers enjoying the confidence of the popular Assembly. A few years later his policy was put into execution by Lord Elgin in Canada, and rapidly extended to other Colonies. Five years ago the same system of government was applied to the Transvaal and to the Orange River Colony.45
From the foregoing brief summary, it is sufficiently clear that the really vital feature of the policy inaugurated by Lord Durham was the acceptance of responsible popular government in local affairs, and not the separation of Colonial government from Imperial control. The policy did not involve the setting up of new legislative machinery or a new definition of Imperial relations. For an existing system of separate government in local affairs, which created friction and discontent, it simply substituted a new system which has, in the main, worked smoothly up to the present. From the success of this policy, what possible direct inference can be drawn as to the effect of setting up in Ireland, not a similar system of government, for Ireland already enjoys political institutions as fully representative as those of any
p.133Colony, or of any other portion of the United Kingdom, but a separate centre of government?
At the same time the success of responsible government in the Colonies is, on closer examination, by no means without bearing on the problem of Ireland. That system of Colonial responsible government which seems to us so simple and obvious is, on the contrary, one of the most artificial systems the world has ever known, based as it is upon conditions which have never been present before in the world's history, and which are now rapidly disappearing, never, perhaps, to recur. That a popular assembly in complete control of the executive, should respect an unwritten convention limiting its powers and rights to purely local affairs, and submit to a purely external control of its wider interests and destinies, seemed to most of Lord Durham's contemporaries almost unthinkable. Not only those who opposed the policy, but many of those who advocated it, were convinced that it would lead to complete separation. Nor were their fears or hopes by any means ill-grounded. That they were not justified by the event was due to an altogether exceptional combination of factors. The first of these was the overwhelming supremacy of the United Kingdom in commerce and naval power, and its practical monopoly of political influence in the outer world. Sheltered by an invincible navy, far removed from the sound of international conflict, the Colonies had no practical motive for concerning themselves with foreign affairs, or with any but purely local measures of defence. Even when, as in 1854, they were technically involved by the United Kingdom in war with a great Power, they were not so much as inconvenienced. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, incurred no serious expenditure for their defence beyond what was in any case required for the defence of its sea-borne commerce, nor was its foreign policy at any time seriously deflected by regard for Colonial considerations. Even when the Colonies encroached on the original limits set them, and began to establish protectionist tariffs against the Mother Country, British manufacturers could afford to disregard a handicap
p.134of which they were at first scarcely sensible, while British statesmen smiled condescendingly at the harmless aberrations of Colonial inexperience. Another factor was the very fact that it was colonies that the United Kingdom was dealing with, new countries where every other interest was secondary to that of opening up and developing the untamed wilderness, to creating the material framework which, in fulness of time, might support a complete national life. There was consequently little real interest in external policy in the Colonial assemblies, little leisure for criticism of the Imperial authorities, little desire to assert any particular point of view. Last, but not least, was the factor of distance, interposing a veil of obscurity between the different communities in the Empire; mitigating minor causes of friction, keeping Colonial politics free from being entangled in the British Party system.
The British system of Colonial self-government has so far proved workable because of the exceptional circumstances in which it originated. But its success cannot be regarded as wholly unqualified. The failure to provide any direct representation of Colonial interests and aspirations in the Imperial Parliament may not have mattered as far as foreign policy and defence were concerned. But it did affect the colonies most seriously from the economic point of view, for it precluded them from pressing with any effect for the development of inter-Imperial communications, or from resisting the abolition of the system of preferential trade which meant so much to their prosperity. Under the influence of a narrowly selfish and short-sighted policy, inspired by English manufacturing interests, Canada saw the stream of commerce and population pass by her shores on its way to the United States. The relative progress of the British Colonies and of the United States since the abolition of preference is some measure of the economic weakness of a political system which has no common trade policy. In any case the British Colonial system, as we have known it, is inevitably moving towards its crisis. The conditions under which it originated are fast disappearing.
p.135The commercial and political expansion of Europe, of America, of Asia, are bringing the Dominions more and more into the arena of international conflict. The growth of foreign navies is forcing them to realise the necessity of taking a larger part in their own defence. Their growing national self-consciousness demands not only that they should cease to be dependent on the Mother Country for their safety, but also that they should exercise control over the foreign policy of which defence is merely the instrument. There are only two possible solutions to the problem which is now developing: the one is complete separation, the other is partnership in an Imperial Union in which British subjects in the Dominions shall stand on exactly the same footing, and enjoy the same powers and privileges in Imperial affairs, as British subjects in the United Kingdom.
The conditionsgeographical, economic, political which, in the Colonies, made the grant of free institutions, unaccompanied by some form of political federation or union, even a temporary success, were, indeed, exceptional. None of them were present in the circumstances of Ireland before the Union. They are not present today. Geographically the United Kingdom is a single compact island group, of which Ireland is by no means the most outlying portion. No part of Ireland is today, or ever was, as inaccessible from the political centre of British power as the remoter parts of the Highlands, not to speak of the Shetlands or Hebrides. Racially, no less than physically, Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, peopled as it is with the same mixture of racial elements as the main island of the group. The blend of Celt with Dane, with Normans and English of the Pale, with English citizens of the seaports and Cromwellian settlers, which constitutes Celtic Ireland, so-called, is less Celtic both in speech and in blood than either Wales or the Highlands. Religion alone has maintained a difference between a predominantly Celtic and a predominantly Teutonic Ireland which would otherwise have disappeared far more complete than the difference between Celtic and Teutonic Scotland. Economically,
p.136the connection between Ireland and Great Britain, always close, has become such that today Ireland subsists almost wholly upon the English market. In these respects, at least, there is no resemblance between the conditions of Ireland and that of any of the Colonies.
On the other hand, politically, Ireland was for centuries treated as a colon the first and nearest of the Colonies, as Mr. Childers puts it. The difficulties and defects of early Colonial government were intensified by the great conflict of the Reformation, which made Ireland a centre of foreign intrigue, and by the long religious and constitutional struggle of the seventeenth century, which fell with terrible severity upon a population, which had throughout espoused the losing cause. Cromwell, realising that if there is to be a prosperous, strong and United Kingdom there must be one Parliament and one Parliament only, freed Ireland from the Colonial status. Unfortunately, his policy was reversed in 1660, and for over a century Ireland endured the position of least favoured Colonyleast favoured, partly because, with the possible exception of linen, all her industries were competitive with, and not complementary to English industries, and so were deliberately crushed in accordance with the common economic policy of the time, partly because the memories of past struggles kept England suspicious and jealous of Irish prosperity. Every evil under which the old colonial system laboured in Canada before the rebellion was intensified in Ireland by the religious and racial feud between the mass of the people and the ascendant caste. The same solvent of free government that Durham recommended was needed by Ireland. In view of the geographical and economic position of Ireland, and in the political circumstances of the time, it could only be applied through union with Great Britain. Union had been vainly prayed for by the Irish Parliament at the time of the Scottish Union. Most thoughtful students, not least among them Adam Smith,46 had seen in it the only cure for the evils which afflicted the hapless island.
Meanwhile, in I782, the dominant caste utilised the Ulster volunteer movement to wrest from Great Britain, then in the last throes of the war against France, Spain, and America, the independence of the Irish Parliament. Theoretically co-equal with the British Parliament, Grattan's Parliament was, in practice, kept by bribery in a position differing very little from that of Canada before the rebellion. Still the new system in Ireland might, under conditions resembling those of Canada in 1840, have gradually evolved into a workable scheme of self-government. But the conditions were too different. A temporary economic revival, indeed, followed the removal of the crippling restrictions upon Irish trade. But, politically, the new system began to break down almost from the start. Its entanglement in English party politics, which geography made inevitable, lead to deadlocks over trade and over the regency question, the latter practically involving the right to choose a separate sovereign. The same geographical conditions made it impossible for Ireland to escape the influence of the French Revolution. The factious spirit and the oppression of the ruling caste did the rest. There is no need to dwell here on the horrors of the rising of 1798, and of its repression, or on the political and financial chaos that marked the collapse of an ill-starred experiment. England, struggling for her existence, had had enough of French invasion, civil war, and general anarchy on her flank. The Irish Parliament died, as it had lived, by corruption, and Castlereagh and Pitt conferred upon Ireland the too long delayed boon of equal partnership in the United Kingdom.
The mistakes which, for a century, deprived the Union of much of its effectthe delay in granting Catholic emancipation, the folly of Free Trade, acquiesced in by Irish members, by which agrarian strife was intensified, and through which Ireland again lost the increase of population which she had gained in the first half century of Unionneed not be discussed here. The fact remains that today Ireland is prosperous, and on the eve of far
p.138greater prosperity under a sane system of national economic policy. What is more, Ireland is in the enjoyment of practically every liberty and every privilege that is enjoyed by any other part of the United Kingdom, of greater liberty and privilege than is enjoyed by Dominions which have no control of Imperial affairs. The principle which in the case of the Colonies was applied through separate governments has, in her case, been applied through Union. It could only have been applied through Union in 1800. It can only be applied through Union today. Railways and steamships have strengthened the geographical and economic reasons for union; train-ferries and aircraft will intensify them still further. Meanwhile the political and strategical conditions of these islands in the near future are far more likely to resemble those of the great Napoleonic struggle than those of the Colonial Empire in its halcyon period.
In one aspect, then, the Union was the only feasible way of carrying out the principle which underlay the successful establishment of Colonial self-government. In another aspect it was the last step of a natural and, indeed, inevitable process for which the history of the British Colonies since the grant of self-government has furnished analogies in abundance. It has furnished none for the reversal of that process. It is only necessary to consider the reasons which, in various degrees, influenced the several groups of independent Colonies in North America, Australia, and South Africa to unite under a single government, whether federal or unitary, thus wholly or partially surrendering the Home Rule previously enjoyed by them, in order to see how close is the parallel. The weak and scattered North American Colonies were at a serious disadvantage in all political and commercial negotiations with their powerful neighbour, the United States, a fact very clearly emphasised by the termination of Lord Elgin's reciprocity treaty in 1864. None of them was in a position to deal with the vast territories of the North-West, undeveloped by the Hudson's Bay Company,
p.139and in imminent danger of American occupation. A common trade policy, a common railway policy, and a common banking system were essential to a rapid development of their great resources, and only a common government could provide them. In Australia the chief factor in bringing about federation was the weakness and want of influence of the separate Colonies in dealing with problems of defence and external policy, impressed upon them by German and French colonial expansion in the Pacific, and by the growth of Japan. In South Africa, on the other hand, the factors were mainly internal. The constant friction over railway and customs agreements, continually on the verge of breaking down, embittered the relations of the different Colonies and maintained an atmosphere of uncertainty discouraging to commercial enterprise. Four different governments dealt with a labour supply mainly required in one colony. Four agricultural departments dealt with locusts and cattle plagues, which knew no political boundaries, and which could only be stamped out by the most prompt and determined action. Four systems of law and four organisations for defence secured, as Lord Selborne pointed out in a striking Memorandum ( Blue Book Cd. 3564) a minimum of return for a maximum of expense. A native rising in Natal warned South Africans that the mistake of a single Colony might at any moment set the whole of South Africa ablaze with rebellion. In the absence of larger issues local politics in each Colony turned almost exclusively on the racial feud. A comprehensive union alone could bring commercial stability and progressive development, mitigate race hatred, and pave the way to a true South African nationality.
All the weakness in external relations, all the internal friction and impediment to progress, all the bitterness and pettiness of local politics, which marked the absence of union among neighbouring colonies, also characterised the relations of Great Britain and Ireland in the eighteenth century. But there was this difference: the immense disproportion in wealth and power, and the political control exercised by
p.140the greater state, caused all the evils of disunion to concentrate with intensified force upon the smaller state. To undo the mischief of eighteenth century disunion required at least a generation. A series of political mistakes and mischances, and a disastrous economic policy, have left the healing task of union incomplete after a century. But renewed disunion today would only mean a renewal of old local feuds to the point of civil war, a renewal of old economic friction, in which most of the injury would be suffered by the weaker combatant, the indefinite postponing for Ireland of the prospect, now so hopeful, of national development and social amelioration, a weakening of the whole United Kingdom for diplomacy or for defence. It is a policy which no Dominion in the Empire would dream of adopting a policy which every Dominion would most certainly resist by force, just as the United States resisted it when attempted, with more than a mere pretext of constitutional justification, by the Southern States.
Now for the exception which proves the rule: there is one Colonial analogy for what would be the position of Ireland under Home Rule, namely, the position of Newfoundland outside the confederation of the other North American Colonies.47 The analogy is only partial, for this reason, that whereas Ireland is almost wholly dependent economically on Great Britain, Newfoundland has little direct trade with Canada, and moreover enjoys a virtual monopoly of one particular commodity, namely codfish, by which it manages to support its small population. Nevertheless, no one can doubt that with its favoured geographical position, and with its great natural resources, Newfoundland would have been developed in a very different fashion if for the last forty years it had been an integral part of the Dominion. Nor is the loss all on the side of Newfoundland, as the history of
p.141even the last few years has shown. In 1902, Newfoundland negotiated a commercial Convention with the United States which, in return for a free entry for Newfoundland fish into the United States, practically gave the Newfoundland market to American manufacturers, and explicitly forbade the granting of any trade preference to the United Kingdom or to Canada. When, fortunately, the American Senate rejected the Convention, Newfoundland embarked on a course of legislative reprisal against American fishing. But this involved the Imperial Government in a diplomatic conflict which, but for the excellent relations subsisting with the United States, might easily have led to a grave crisis. The inconveniences and dangers which Irish trade policy might lead to under Home Rule can easily be inferred from this single example, all the more if Irish policy should be influenced, as Newfoundland's policy certainly was not, by a bias of hostility to the Empire.
So much for the first confusion, that which would base the case for a separate government in Ireland on the success of free institutions in the Colonies, entirely ignoring the whole movement for union, which has made every geographical group of Colonies follow the example of the Mother Country. We must now deal with the second confusion, that which is based on a hazy notion that Home Rule is only a preliminary step to endowing the United Kingdom as a whole with a working federal constitution like that of Canada or Australia. Ireland, in fact, so runs the pleasing delusion, is to be set up as an experimental Quebec, and the other provinces will follow suit shortly. Not all Home Rulers, indeed, are obsessed by this confusion. Mr. Childers, for instance, makes short work of what he calls the federal chimera, dismissing the idea as wholly impracticable, and pointing out that Home Rule must be not merely non-federal, but anti-federal. But the great majority of Liberals today are busy deluding themselves or each other, and the Nationalists are, naturally, not unwilling to help them. in that talk, with the idea of Home Rule for Ireland followed by Home Rule all round.
The new Home Rule Bill has not yet appeared, but certain main features of it can be taken for granted. It will be a Bill which, save possibly for a pious expression of hope in the preamble, will deal with Ireland only. It will set up in Ireland an Irish legislature and executive responsible for the peace, order, and good government of Ireland, subject to certain restrictions and limitations. It will assign to Ireland the whole of the Irish revenues, though probably retaining the control of customs and excise, and in that case retaining some Irish representatives at Westminster. So far from fixing any contribution to Imperial expenditure from Ireland, it will, apparently, include the provision of an Imperial grant in aid towards Land Purchase and Old Age Pensions. Any such measure is wholly incompatible with even the loosest federal system. A federal scheme postulates the existence over the whole confederation of two concurrent systems of government, each exercising direct control over the citizens within its own sphere, each having its legislative and executive functions, and its sources of revenue, clearly defined. The Home Rule Bill will certainly not set up any such division of government and its functions in Great Britain. Nor will it, in reality, set up any such effective double system of government in Ireland. What it will set up will be a national or Dominion government in Ireland, separate and exclusive, but subject to certain restrictions and interferences which it will be the first business of the Irish representatives, in Dublin or Westminster, to get rid of. Long before Scotland or Wales, let alone England, get any consideration of their demand for Home Rule, if demand there be, the last traces of any quasi-federal element the Bill may contain will have been got rid of.
In a federation every citizen, in whatever state or province he resides, is as fully a citizen of the federation as every other citizen. He not only has the same federal vote, and pays the same federal taxes, but he has the same access to the federal courts, and the same right to the direct protection of the federal executive. In what sense are any
p.143of these conditions likely to be true of, let us say, an Irish landlord under this Home Rule Bill? Again, federalism implies that all the subordinate units are in an equal position relatively to the federal authority. Is this Bill likely to be so framed that its provisions can be adapted unchanged to Scotland, Wales, or England? And if they could, what sort of a residuum of a United Kingdom government would be left over? Take finance alone: if every unit under Home Rule all round is to receive the whole product of its taxation, what becomes of the revenue on which the general government of the United Kingdom will have to subsist? The fact is that the creation of a federal state, whether by confederation or by devolution of powers, must be, in the main, a simultaneous act. Additional subordinate units may subsequently join the confederation under the conditions of the federal constitution. Backward areas which are unable to provide for an efficient provincial expenditure, over and above their contribution to federal expenditure, may be held back as territories directly controlled by the federal authorities till they are financially and in other respects ripe for the grant of provincial powers. If a federal scheme were really seriously contemplated by the present Government they would have to adopt one of two courses. They would either have to establish it simultaneously for the whole United Kingdom, and in that case limit the powers and functions of the provinces so narrowly as to make it possible for Ireland to raise its provincial revenue without undue difficulty, the rest of Ireland's needs being met by a substantial federal expenditure carried out by federal officials. Or else they might begin by the creation of a federal constitution with considerable provincial powers for England, Scotland, and Wales, keeping back Ireland as a federal territory till its economic and social conditions justified the establishment of provincial institutions. The converse policy of treating the case of Ireland as prior in point of time and urgency,
Mr. Asquith at St. Andrews, Dec. 7, 1910.of giving the poorest and most backward portion of the United Kingdom the whole of its
p.144revenue and a practically unfettered control of its territory, is, indeed, not merely non-federal, but anti-federal.
The truth is that the federal element in this Home Rule Bill, as in that of 1893, will be merely a pretence, designed to keep timid and hesitating Home Rulers in linea tactical manoeuvre of much the same character as the talk about a reformed Second Chamber which preceded the Parliament Act, and found due burial in the preamble to that Act. In essence the Bill will set up Ireland as an entirely separate state subject to certain restrictions which the Government have no serious intention of enforcing, and the Irish every intention of disregarding, or abolishing as the outcome of further agitation. For this policy of pretence there is one admirable parallel in our Colonial historythe policy by which Home Rule was given to the Transvaal after Majuba. It was the same policy of avoiding expense and trouble, political or militarythe policy, in fact, of cutting the losstricked out with the same humbug about magnanimity and conciliation, about trust in Boer (or Nationalist) moderation when in power, the same contemptuous passing over of the loyalists as persons of too pronounced views, or as interested contractors and stock-jobbers. 48 It was embodied in a Convention by which the inhabitants of the Transvaal territory were accorded complete self-government, subject to the suzerainty of Her Majesty under a series of limitations which, if enforced, would have implied a measure of British control in many respects greater than that exercised over a self-governing Colony, and with a number of guarantees to protect the loyalists. The Government was able to save its face, while its hesitating followers were able to quiet their consciences, by the reassuring phrases of the Convention. The Boer Volksraad frankly declared itself still dissatisfied, but ratified the Convention, maintaining all objections to the Convention
and for the purpose of showing to everybody that the love of peace and unity
p.145inspires it, for the time being, and provisionally submitting the articles of the Convention to a practical test. If any Nationalist Convention in Dublin should accept the new Home Rule Bill, we can take it for granted that it will be in exactly the same spirit, and possibly in almost the same phraseology.49
From the first the limitations of the Convention were disregarded. Short of armed intervention there was no machinery for enforcing them, and the Boers knew perfectly well that there was no real desire on the part of an embarrassed Government to raise a hornet's nest by making the attempt. The British resident, with his nominally autocratic powers, was a mere impotent laughing stock. The ruined loyalists left the country, or remained to become the most embittered enemies of the British Government. In three years a new Convention was draftedan even greater masterpiece of make-believe than the firstwhich could be expounded to Parliament as a mere modification of certain unworkable provisions, but which the Boers took as a definite surrender of all claims to suzerainty, and as a definite recognition of their position as an independent sovereign state, bound temporarily by the provisions of a treaty, which could have no permanent force in fixing the boundary to the march of a nation. So far from being reconciled they were only emboldened to embark on a policy of aggression, which in 1881 involved the British Government in military measures costing nearly as much as would have been required to suppress the whole rising in 1881. For the time being the stagnation and chronic bankruptcy which followed the removal of British rule and the exodus of the loyalists limited Transvaal ambitions. The gold discoveries both increased that ambition by furnishing it with revenue, and at the same time brought about a close
p.146economic intercourse with the neighbouring colonies which, under the political conditions of disunion, was bound to create friction. In the end the policy of make-believe and cutting the loss had to be redeemed at the cost of 20,000 lives and of £200,000,000. Reconciliation, in large measure, has come since. But it has only come because British statesmen showed, firstly, in the war, their inflexible resolution to stamp out the policy of separation, and secondly, after the war, their devotion to the real welfare of South Africa in a policy of economic reconstruction, and in the establishment of those free and equal British institutions under which by the final dying out of a spurious nationalism based on racial prejudice and garbled history South Africa may become a real, living nation.
The reservations and guarantees which this Home Rule Bill may contain cannot possibly constitute the framework of a federal constitution. All they can guarantee is a period of friction and agitation which will continue till Ireland has secured a position of complete separation from the United Kingdom. At the best the Home Rule experiment would then reduce Ireland to the position of another Newfoundland; at the worst it might repeat all the most disastrous features of the history of Home Rule in the Transvaal. At the same time it may be worth inquiring how far there would really be any valid Colonial analogy for the introduction of a federal system of Home Rule all round if such a scheme had been honestly contemplated. The first thing to keep in mind is that the internal constitution of the Dominions presents a whole gradation of constitutional types. There is the loose federal system of Australia, in which the Commonwealth powers are strictly limited and defined, and all residuary powers left to the States. There is the close confederation of Canada in which all residuary powers are vested in the Dominion. There is the non-federal unitary government of South Africa with a system of provincial local governments with somewhat wide county council powers. There is, lastly, the purely unitary government of the two islands of New Zealand. Each of
p.147these types is the outcome of peculiar geographical, economic, and historical conditions. To understand the federal system of Australia it is essential to remember that till comparatively recent times Australia consisted, to all intents, of four or five seaport towns, each with its own tributary agricultural and mining area, strung out, at distances varying from 500 to 1300 miles, along the southern and eastern third of a coast line of nearly 9000 miles looped round an unexplored and reputedly uninhabitable interior. Each of these seaports traded directly with the United Kingdom and Europe in competition with the others. With economic motives for union practically non-existent, with external factors awakening a general apprehension rather than confronting Australia with any immediate danger, it was impossible to find the driving power to overcome local jealousies sufficiently to secure more than a minimum of union. The Commonwealth Constitution is a makeshift which, as the internal trade of Australia grows and as railway communications are developed, will inevitably be amended in the direction of increasing the power of the Commonwealth and diminishing that of the States. In Canada the economic link between Canada proper and the Maritime Provinces was, before Confederation, almost as weak as that of Australia. British Columbia, which it was hoped to include in the Confederation, was then separated by a journey of months from Eastern Canada, and was, indeed, much nearer to Australia or New Zealand. Quebec, with its racial and religious peculiarities, added another problem. That the Confederation was nevertheless such a close and strong one was due both to the menace of American power in the south, and to the terrible example of the weakness of the American constitution as made manifest by the Civil War. Yet even so, Sir John Macdonald, the father of Confederation, frankly declared the federal constitution a necessary evil: As regards the comparative advantages of a Legislative and a Federal Union I have never hesitated to state my own opinions.
p.148I have always contended that if we could agree to have one government and one Parliament
This also was the view of the framers of the South African Union. The circumstances of South Africa enabled them to carry it into effect. For all its extent, South Africa is geographically a single, homogeneous country with no marked internal boundaries. It is peopled by two white races everywhere intermixed in varying proportions and nowhere separated into large compact blocks. The immense preponderance and central position of the Rand mining industry makes South Africa practically a single economic system. The very bitterness of the long political and racial struggle which had preceded intensified the argument for really effective union.
If we compare the conditions in the United Kingdom with those of the Dominions it is obvious at once that there is no possible analogy with the conditions of Canada or Australia, but a considerable analogy with South Africa and New Zealand. The British Isles are but little larger than the New Zealand group, and much more compact and homogeneous. Their close economic intercourse, the presence of two races with a history of strife behind them, but compelled by their inextricable geographical blending to confront the necessity of union, are reproduced in the conditions of South Africa. In so far then as the Colonial analogy bears upon the question at all, it cannot be said to be in favour of Federal Home Rule any more than of Separatist Home Rule. The most it can fairly be said to warrant is the establishment of provincial councils with powers akin to those of the South African Councils. For such councils, built up by the federation of adjoining counties and county boroughs, carrying out more effectively some of the existing powers of those bodies, and adding to them such other powers, legislative or administrative, as it may be convenient to bestow on them, a very strong case may be made on the grounds of the congestion of
p.149Parliamentary business. But that has nothing to do with Home Rule, either Separatist or Federal.
But if the congestion of Parliamentary business might be appreciably relieved by some such provincial bodies larger national bodies would only duplicate work, not relieve itthe true remedy for the confusion of principles and objectives which, rather than the mere waste of time, is the chief defect of our Parliamentary system, lies in a proper separation of the local affairs of the United Kingdom from the general work of the Empire, in other words, in some form of Imperial federation. What is needed is not the creation of separate parliaments within the United Kingdom, but the creation of a separate Parliament for the United Kingdom, a Parliament which should deal with the affairs of the United Kingdom considered as one of the Dominions, leaving the general problems of Imperial policy to a common Imperial Parliament or Council equally representative of the citizens of every Dominion. No form of Home Rule can in any sense advance that desirable solution of our Imperial problems. The creation of an additional Dominion in the shape of Ireland would merely add one to the number of units to be considered, and would be contrary to the spirit of the resolution passed at the 1897 Conference, that it was desirable wherever and whenever practicable, to group together under a federal union those Colonies which are geographically united. The problem would be no more affected by the setting up of a federal constitution for the United Kingdom, than it would be if South Africa decided, after all, to give her provinces federal powers, or Australia carried unification by a referendum. The notion that the Dominions could simply come inside the United Kingdom federation, though it sometimes figures in Home Rule speeches, is merely a product of the third form of confusion of ideas previously referred to, and is a sheer absurdity. The terms and conditions of a United Kingdom federation would necessarily differ in almost every respect from those of an Imperial Federation, and a constitution framed for the one object would be unworkable
p.150for the other. Nor would it ever be acceptable to the Dominions, which regard themselves as potentially, if not actually, the equals of the United Kingdom as a whole. From their point of view the United Kingdom might almost as well be asked to step inside the Australian Commonwealth on the footing of Tasmania, as that they should be asked to join in, in the capacity of an additional Ireland, Scotland, or Wales, under any scheme of Home Rule all round.
It should be sufficiently clear from the foregoing analysis that the vague and confused claim that the success of British colonial policy is an argument for the Home Rule Bill has no shadow of justification. It has been shown, first of all, that the factor of success in our Colonial policy was not the factor of separatism implied in Home Rule, but the factor of responsible government already secured for Ireland by the Union. It has been shown, secondly, that the experience of the Colonies since the establishment of responsible government has in every case forced union upon them, and union in the closest form which the facts of trade and geography permitted of. Colonial experience is thus no argument even for a federal scheme of Home Rule all round, if such a scheme could possibly result from an Irish Home Rule Bill, which it cannot. The disadvantages and dangers of the contrary policy of disunion have been shown, in their least noxious form in the case of Newfoundland, which has simply remained outside the adjoining Dominion, and in their deadliest form in the case of the Transvaal, where Home Rule was given in 1881, as it would be given to Ireland today, if the Government succeeded, not from conviction and wholeheartedly, but as a mean-spirited concession, made to save trouble, and under the most disingenuous and least workable provisions. Lastly, it has been made clear that Home Rule cannot possibly assist, but can only obscure and confuse, the movement for the establishment of a true Imperial Union. Unionists and Imperialists can choose no better ground for their resistance to Home Rule than the wide and varied field of Colonial experience.
But Colonial experience can give us more than that. It can provide us not only with an immense mass of arguments and instances against disruption, but with invaluable instances of what can be done to strengthen and build up the Union against all possible future danger of disruptive tendencies. The confederation of Canada was accomplished in the teeth of all the geographical and economic conditions of the time. Canadian statesmanship thereupon set itself to transform geography, and to divert the course of trade in order to make the Union a reality. The Intercolonial Railway, the Canadian Pacific, the Grand Trunk Pacific, the proposed Hudson Bay Railway, and the Georgian Bay Canal schemes, all these have been deliberate instruments of policy, aiming, first of all, at bridging the wilderness between practically isolated settlements scattered across a continent, and creating a continuous Canada, east and west; and, secondly, at giving that continuous strip depth as well as extension. Hand in hand with the policy of constructing the internal framework of transportation, which is the skeleton of the economic and social life of a nation, went the policy of maintaining a national tariff to clothe that skeleton with the flesh and blood of production and exchange, and, as far as possible, to clothe it evenly. Australia, too, is waking, though somewhat hesitatingly, to the need of transcontinental railways, for the protection of new industries and for the even development and filling up of all her territories. In South Africa the economic process preceded the political. It was the dread of the breakdown of a temporary customs union already in existence that precipitated the discussion of union. And it was the development of the Rand as the great internal market of South Africa, and the competitive construction of railway lines from the coast, that really decided the question of legislative union against federation. All three instances lead to the same conclusion that union to be really effective and stable needs three things: firstly, a developed system of internal communications reducing all natural barriers to
p.152social, political, and commercial intercourse to the very minimum; secondly, a national tariff, protective or otherwise, sufficient at least to encourage the fullest flow of trade along those communications rather than outside of them; thirdly, a deliberate use of the tariff and of the national expenditure to secure, as far as possible, the even development of every portion of the national territory.
In the United Kingdom all these instruments for making the Union real are still unutilised. The system of laisser faire in the matter of internal communications has allowed St. George's Channel still to remain a real barrier. A dozen train-ferries, carrying not only the railway traffic between Great Britain and Ireland, but enabling the true west coast of the United Kingdom to be used for transatlantic traffic, would obliterate that strip of sea which a British minister recently urged as an insuperable objection to a democratic union.50 To construct them would not be doing as much, relatively, as little Denmark has long since done, by the same means, to unite her sea-divided territory. The creation of a tariff which shall assist not only manufactures, but agriculture and rural industries, is another essential step. In view of Ireland's undeveloped industrial condition the giving of bounties to the establishment in Ireland of new industries, such as the silk industry, would be a thoroughly justifiable extension of the Unionist policy carried out through the Congested Districts Board and the Department of Agriculture. The diversion to Ireland of a larger part of the general national and Imperial expenditure, whether by the establishment of a naval base, or the giving out of battleship contracts, or even only of contracts for Army uniforms, would also be of appreciable assistance to Ireland and to the Union. Ireland suffers today economically and politically, from the legacy of political separation in the eighteenth century, and of economic disunion in the nineteenth. It is the business of Unionists not only to maintain the legal framework of the Union, but to give it a vitality and fullness of content which it has never possessed.
The various forecasts, inspired and uninspired, of the new Home Rule Bill which have been given to us, have shed little light upon the future of the Irish Judiciary and Police. The two previous Bills contemplated the handing over of the control of the whole administration of justice in Ireland to the Irish Executive after an interval, in the first case of two years, and in the later Bill, of six years. We may assume that, whatever period of grace may be allowed to us under the coming measure, it will propose to vest this control in the Irish Government within six years. The interposition of any interval at all will probably be regarded by Ministers as a concession to Unionist fears and as one of the safeguards in which the minority will be urged to place its trust. It must be realised at once that, so far from this interval making the transition from British justice to Irish intrigue easier and more safe, it may have precisely the contrary effect. Once the Irish police are convinced that they are about to be delivered into the hands of the secret organisations who have been the most successful and relentless enemies of public order in Ireland, a paralysis must fall upon the force. During the closing years of the transition, at all events, the Royal Irish Constabulary will be given nominal responsibility for the peace of the country without any opportunity effectually to preserve it. It would be fairer and better to cast upon puppet nominees of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Irish Republican Brotherhood the responsibility and odium of controlling the passions that they have helped to
p.154raise. The present judges would of course continue to do their duty without fear or favour, but it is impossible that the sentence passed upon them and the system of law and government for which they stand could leave their authority unimpaired. We have recently seen in England how easy it may be to stir up popular clamour against judges who administer the law without regard to the prejudices of any political party. Directly the Irish Courts sought to translate the paper safeguards of the Home Rule Bill into practical effect, they would be faced by the violent hostility of an ignorant and excitable assembly stimulated by an irresponsible and inexperienced executive. The result would be recriminations and friction which must deplorably injure and lower the reputation and prestige of both the Executive and the Judiciary.
The first thing necessary for securing public and private liberty in a country like Ireland, where party feeling runs high and internal disputes have a bitterness from which more fortunate countries are free, is a strong independent and impartial administration of the law. This can only be secured by freeing the Courts from any kind of interference or control on the part of the Executive, and by ensuring that the whole armed forces of the Executive should be at the disposal of the Courts for executing and enforcing their decrees. Let us only assume a case to arise after the statutory period had elapsed, such as is now of frequent occurrence in the Irish Courts. The Land Judge, for instance, or the Judge of the Court of Bankruptcy, finds it necessary to order the arrest of the chairman and secretary of a local branch of the United Irish League for interfering by gross intimidation with a sale under the order of his Court. The case excites a good deal of local feeling and the arrests can only be effected by the employment of a large force of armed police. The question is raised on a motion for adjournment in the Irish House of Commons. The majority of the members owe their seats to the intervention of the United Irish League, many of themperhaps mosthave themselves been in similar conflicts with the
p.155Court. The result is that Ministers have to choose between a refusal of the police and expulsion from office. Once the Government could decide which decrees of the Judiciary it would enforce and which it would not, the technical immovability of the Judges would be irrelevant, since the real control of justice would be vested, not in the courts but in the executive Ministers in Dublin Castle. The very existence of the limitations and safeguards foreshadowed in the coming Home Rule Bill would naturally tempt the Irish Government to adopt a policy which would reduce to a minimum the effective power of these restraints upon the popular will. The most obvious way of attaining this result would be to keep the police, and with them the judicature, in a position of greater dependence upon the Executive than is consistent with the supremacy of law and the safety of private rights and individual freedom.
We must remember that the men who would have the control of the new Irish Government would be those who have spent the greater part of their lives in violent conflict with the attempts of the Irish Courts to secure respect for the elementary rights of property and of personal freedom in Ireland. Power which has been won by the open violation of every principle of English law, is not likely either to assert the authority it has lived by defying to maintaining the independence of the courts and institutions which have been its deadliest opponents. The corruption of judicial authority and prestige in Ireland will be accomplished by entrenching the Executive behind large and shadowy discretionary powers, and also by manipulating the personnel and jurisdiction of the judges and magistracy throughout the country. The most deplorable movement in modern Nationalism is the attempt to introduce into Irish politics the worst methods of American political corruption. There have recently sprung into prominence in Ireland two societies which are in some respects the most sinister, the most immoral, and the most destructive of those which have corrupted and infected public life in the country.
p.156These twothe Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Irish Republican Brotherhood have in common the secrecy of their operations and the destructiveness of their aims. Their influence is marked not only by despotic and tyrannical government, but, what may be even more mischievous from the point of view of the community, by the deliberate persecution and suppression of all independent thought. Those who have watched the proceedings of the Dublin Corporation have felt the increasing strength of an influence proceeding from Belfastan influence which is threatening to control the whole course of Nationalist politics in Dublin and the south. The forces of influence, combination, and intimidation which forced the Budget on a reluctant Ireland and routed the Roman Catholic Hierarchy over the Insurance Bill will not be disbanded under Home Rule. On the contrary, they are now being exercised so as to enable the Board of Erin to absorb the older organisations and to place in the hands of its leaders or rather in those of a single manthe nomination of most, if not all, the representatives of the Nationalist party in Ireland. Mr. Joseph Devlin, who seeks to build this vast power, is a politician of American ideals and sympathies, and under the guidance of his organisation politics in Ireland would be shaped after the model of Tammany Hall rather than that of St. Stephen's. The party which appoints the municipal officers of Dublin in secret caucus, meeting for reasons which are never avowed and after debates which are never published, is only waiting to extend its operations. Even now it is notorious that the magistrates' bench in Ireland is regularly and systematically pecked whenever licensing or agrarian cases are under discussion. The scandalous inaction of the present Irish Executive in reference to cattle driving and other forms of organised intimidation, the failure to enforce the law and the absolute immunity which the present Chief Secretary has persistently allowed to Nationalist Members of Parliament and paid organisers in incitement to outrage and intimidation, have paralysed the administration of justice
p.157and disheartened and disgusted the Judiciary, the Magistrates, and the Police. But under Home Rule the measure of protection which is still afforded by a strong and independent Bench would be removed. The Resident Magistrate would be as much under the heel of the caucus as the local justice; the Recorder's Bench and even the High Court would be constantly subjected to influences of a mischievous and incalculable kind. Whatever may be said against the present occupants of the Judicial Bench, their integrity and fairness have never been seriously questioned. Since the days when the Irish judges issued a writ of habeas corpus for the release of Wolfe Tone, while the Irish Rebellion was actually in progress, they have consistently held an even balance between the two parties. Their learning, their impartiality and their wit have rightly made Irish judges respected throughout the world. Their reputation and their services alike demand that they shall not be set aside wantonly or without consideration. But there is no doubt that Home Rule must mean the end of the Irish Bench as we have seen it in history. The men who have been proud to represent the British Crown would resent with indignation the idea that they should become the tools of the Hibernian caucus. They realise that the judges who oppose the lawless will of popular ministers will have to face obloquy and perhaps direct attack in the Irish Parliament. Even if the concurrence of both Houses in the Irish Parliament were made necessary for the removal of judges, it would not adequately safeguard their independence. The lower House would be composed of the men whom Nationalist constituencies already return to Parliamentexcitable, fierce partisans, always ready to subordinate private convictions to the exigencies of party discipline. Nor would there be in Ireland under Home Rule any power or influence, either of property or station, sufficiently strong to furnish a constituency which would return a senate representing interests, opinions, or desires substantially distinct from those of the more powerful House elected upon the wider suffrage.
The situation has been strongly complicated by the promulgation of the Motu Proprio decree, and the refusal of the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church to say definitely whether it applies to Ireland or not. We may assume that, if Archbishop Walsh could have given a categorical denial to the statement that the decree must operate in Ireland under Home Rule, he would have done so. The decree Motu Proprio forbids any Roman Catholic to bring his priest or bishop into court under pain of excommunication. The Roman Catholic Church has made many similar efforts during history to oust the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts, and each attempt has had to be sharply and sternly resisted by the civil authorities of Roman Catholic countries. We need not discuss how much there may be said from a theological standpoint for the decree; we are only concerned to show that it raises pretensions which no State can possibly permit to be recognised. There have been too many attempts, successful and unsuccessful, to oust the jurisdiction of the King's Courts in Ireland, for this new attempt to be viewed with equanimity. The United Irish League has set up courts which try men for imaginary offences committed during the exercise of their ordinary civil rights, and pass illegal sentences and inflict illegal punishments. Under the reign of Liberal Governments the writ of these courts runs where the King's writ cannot run, and the law of the League has been allowed in great measure to supersede the law of the land. We have also an increasing force in Irish Nationalism which seeks to paralyse the government of Ireland by means of the general or sympathetic strike. This organisation seeks to establish courts in Ireland in opposition to the ordinary law courts, and to enforce their decrees by means of illegal intimidation and outrage. The people of Ireland have therefore been familiarised with the idea of courts competing in authority with those of the King's Government. Supposing under Home Rule the Judiciary proved less pliable than was expected or desired, the development of such competing authorities would be facilitated by a
p.159complaisant Cabinet in Dublin. But of all attempts to override the authority of law this conspiracy to exempt ecclesiastical persons from its scope is the most insidious and dangerous. The existence of a class of men answerable for their actions, not to any domestic tribunal, but to a foreign ecclesiastical court, cannot now be tolerated by any self-respecting Government. Yet it is not easy to see how an Irish Cabinet could refuse to make, by executive if not by legislative action, what is now the law of the Church eventually the law of Ireland. Against this danger no safeguards can be devised. If the Administration refuses to put the law into effective operation against a certain class of offender or abuses the prerogative of mercy in his favour, there is no power in the constitution to coerce it. A few years ago we saw in Ireland the extraordinary spectacle of persons being prosecuted for cattle-driving and similar offences, while those who openly incited them to crime escaped with impunity. We saw judges from the Bench complaining in vain that the real offenders were not brought before them, and criticising openly the negligence and partiality of the Crown. If the Nationalists, whose influence then paralysed the aims of the Government, ever get supreme control of the Executive, we are certain to see these abuses revived on a still more shocking scale. The operation of the new decree places the Roman Catholic minister or law officer who is called upon to administer justice under the terms of his oath in a position of cruel embarrassment. As a law officer it might be his duty to order the prosecution of some clerical offender; as a Roman Catholic compliance with his duty to the State must entail the awful consequences of excommunication. It needs no elaboration to show that what may be a grave embarrassment under the rule of impartial British Ministers, must under a local Irish Government develop into a danger to the State. A case recently tried at the Waterford Assizes establishes a precedent which may prove most mischievous. Recent illustrations in Ireland of the working of the Temere decree have secured for it a sort of quasi-legality and provided a
p.160great argument to those devout Churchmen who, under Home Rule, would naturally desire to carry the process a further step.
We have proceeded on the assumption that the Irish Parliament wouldformally, at leastconfine itself within the limits prescribed by the law of its creation. But it is necessary at least to contemplate the possibility that it would prove less complaisant. The safeguards and limitations inserted in any Act of the kind must of necessity be couched in general terms. The constitutional history of the United States and other countries is full of cases showing how difficult it is to define in practice where the border line between intra and ultra vires comes. It is the custom of all Governments, if there is any possible room for debate as to their competence to take any particular line of action, to give themselves the fullest benefit of the doubt, and the Irish Government is unlikely to prove any exception to the rule. When the Judicature and all the forces of Executive Government, except the direct command of troops, is in their hands, the laws passed by the Irish Parliament could be put in force in Ireland. The British Government could not intervene except by acts which would amount to open war between the two countries. We must remember that this enforcement of Irish laws by Irish police in spite of the decisions of a foreign Government at Westminster is openly advocated and contemplated by the large and active section of the Nationalists who have adopted as their watchword the motto Ourselves alone (Sinn Fein). Nothing could be more futile than the idea that the judgements of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council would ever be accepted as final by the Nationalist majority, or that the royal assent could ever be withheld from an Act constitutionally passed by the Irish Legislature, without precipitating a crisis. The result of applying the veto of the House of Lords in England to the measures of Liberal Ministers was the agitation for removing the veto. The Nationalists took part in that agitation and have learned its lesson. Directly the British Government asserts its
p.161technical right of veto, a similar agitation to get rid of all obnoxious restraints would arise in Ireland.
If anything could increase the danger of friction, it would be the scheme favoured by Mr. Erskine Childers and other Liberals of submitting constitutional questions to the decision of the British Privy Council reinforced by Irish judges. Either these judges would concur in verdicts given against the pretensions of the Irish Parliament or they would not. If they did concur, there would be a fierce outcry against the right of judges appointed under the Union Government to nullify Acts of the Irish Legislature. But if they did not concur, the patriotic indignation with which a decision over the heads of the Irish representatives would be received is easy to foresee. It would be a matter of the greatest difficulty to enforce any such decision when the Irish Government, supported by an agitation in the country, refused to be bound by it. The situation thus created has no parallel in the case of the colonies. In Canada or Australia, where the legislative power is divided between federal and provincial Parliaments, a decision that the one legislature is incompetent affirms the competence of the other. Both legislatures have on the spot proper means of enforcing, by judicial and executive authority, decisions which are within their powers. The case of Ireland is fundamentally different. There can be no half-way house between keeping Ireland a partner in all our legislative and judicial activities, or giving to her with a separate Executive uncontrolled and unchecked rights of internal sovereignty.
In the Home Rule controversy today Ulster occupies the place of public interest. Lord Rosebery upon one occasion committed himself to the opinion that, before Home Rule was conceded by the Imperial Parliament, England, as the predominant member of the partnership of the three kingdoms, would have to be convinced of its justice.51 He did not foresee that the party of which he was then the leader would, under duress, abandon even the pretence of consulting the predominant partner, much less be guided by its wishes. But it has come to pass: and Ulster alone remains the stumbling-block to the successful issue of the plot against the Constitution. By Ulster we do not mean, as Mr. Sinclair points out, the geographical area, but the district which historical events have made so different in every respect from the rest of Ireland. In the Act of Union I have a personal interest from family connection. I am convinced that Lord Castlereagh was absolutely right on both Imperial and Irish grounds. I feel that so far as Ireland is concerned the conditions and position of Ulster today afford ample confirmation: and of Ulster I may claim to have some knowledge. I represented County Down in the Imperial Parliament at Westminster before it was divided into constituencies, and in my later days I have maintained my close interest in Ulster. At the least, then, I may say that the temperament, the political and religious convictions, and the character of Ulster Unionists are not unknown to me.
I often read of the Ulster bogey; and I believe Mr. John Redmond once devoted an article in a Sunday paper to elaborate statistical calculations from which he drew the deduction that there was no Ulster question. Other Home Rulers, by an expert use of figures, show that there is a Home Rule majority in Ulster itself. To those who know Ulster their efforts fail to carry the slightest conviction. Figures, however skilfully chosen, articles in the press, however cleverly written, cannot destroy the facts of Ulster Unionist opposition to Home Rule, the intensity and seriousness of which is, I believe, only now beginning to be appreciated by His Majesty's Ministers.
I hear of Ulster bigots, Ulster deadheads, and assertions made that the opposition only proceeds from a few aristocratic Tory landlords. Hard words do us no harm; but abusive epithets will not lessen Ulster opposition. Indeed the more we are reviled by our opponents, the more we believe they recognize the futility of persuading us to accept Home Rule.
We read of the intense anxiety of Irish Nationalists on English platforms lest even the suspicion of intolerance should cloud their administration and legislation under Home Rule, with interest but without respect. We do not believe in these sudden repentances, and we have heard these professions time and again when the exigencies of the moment demanded them.
The spirit of change has even affected the Government. At first Ulster was to be ignored; now it is to be conciliated. There is no safeguard that they will not insert in the Bill at our request. The First Lord of the Admiralty has a list already prepared; and they will welcome additions. Mr. Redmond accepts them all; and the fact that he does it readily raises our suspicions of their worth. Has not Mr. John Dillon said that artificial guarantees in an Act of Parliament were no real protection,52 and for once it is possible to agree with him. Why should bigots be conciliated; or deadheads
p.164receive so much consideration? Why should the opposition of aristocratic Tory landlords be thought worthy of respect? Whenever have they been treated in this manner before by the Government in their schemes of legislation?
That our views receive so much attention is indeed the proof of the falsity of these hard names. Opposition to Home Rule in Ulster proceeds not from bigots or deadheads, not from Tories, or aristocrats, or landlords exclusively. It is neither party question, nor class question. It has destroyed all differences between parties and classes. I doubt if there are any more democratic organizations than those of the Ulster Unionist Council, the Unionist Clubs, and the Orangemen. Nor are the religious bodies less popularly organized the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterians, and other Protestant denominations have no class restrictions in their government. And as for party distinctions, those of us who took part in the old political contests before Home Rule became an urgent danger are now side by side in this greater fight for our very existence.
What stronger evidence that opposition to Home Rule in Ulster is no party question is to be found than in the disappearance of the Liberal Party. I can remember when it was powerful; but it has vanished before the threat of Home Rule. All attempts to resuscitate the corpse have failed, and a Liberal Party, independent of the Nationalists, representing Ulster constituencies in the House of Commons, in spite of repeated efforts, does not exist.
Let me impress upon the people of Great Britain that Ulster opposition to Home Rule is no party matter. It is an uprising of a people against tyranny and coercion; against condemnation to servitude; against deprivation of the right of citizens to an effective voice in the government of the country. Mr. Birrell said recently at Bristol that Ulster would be right to fight if it were oppressed in its religion or despoiled of its property. We welcome his conversion. When he pleads for Ulster to wait until it is plain that oppression has come, we recall to mind the phrase so often on Liberal lips,
p.165Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and we say that we should be false to ourselves and to our trust if we were unprepared for what the future will bring under Home Rule.
For our opposition to Home Rule we are condemned by the Irish Nationalists as the enemies of our country. We believe ourselves to be its best friends. We believe Home Rule to be the greatest obstacle to Irish progress and prosperity. Irish Nationalists have made Home Rule their only idol and denounce every one who will not worship at its shrine. Every reform, unless they thought that it tended to advance Home Rule or magnify their powers, has received their hostility, sometimes open and avowed, at other times secret and working through devious ways.
No one who reads the history of Ulster can doubt that its inhabitants have not as much love of Ireland and as much wish to see her prosperous as the Nationalists, They indeed attribute all Irish shortcomings to the Union. Ulstermen, bearing in mind their own progress since the Union, not unnaturally decline to accept so absurd an argument. The Union has been no obstacle to their development: why should it have been the barrier to the rest of Ireland? Ulstermen believe that the Union with Great Britain has assisted the development of their commerce and industry. They are proud of the progress of Belfast and of her position in the industrial and shipping world. Without great natural advantages it has been built up by energy, application, clearheadedness and hard work. The opposition to Home Rule is the revolt of a business and industrial community against the domination of men who have shown no aptitude for either. The United Irish League, the official organization of the Home Rule Party, is, as a Treasurer once confessed, remarkably lacking in the support of business men, merchants, manufacturers, leaders of industry, bankers, and men who compose a successful and progressive community.53 In the management of their party funds, their impending bankruptcy but
p.166a few years ago, the mad scheme of New Tipperary, and the fiasco of the Parnell Migration Company there is the same monotonous story of failure. Can surprise be felt that the Ulstermen refuse to place the control of national affairs in the hands of those who have shown little capacity in the direction of their own personal concerns. What responsible statesman would suggest that the city of London, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle, or any advancing industrial and commercial centre in Great Britain should be ruled and governed and taxed, without the hope of effective intervention, by a party led by Mr. Keir Hardie and Mr. Lansbury? Yet Home Rule means much like that for Ulstermen, and the impossibility of the scheme is emphasized in the example of Ireland by religious differences which have their roots in Irish history.
Ulster's opposition to Home Rule is no unreasoning hate. It proceeds not from the few; it is not the outcome of political prejudice; it is the hostility of a progressive and advancing people who have made their portion of the country prosperous and decline to hand it over to the control of representatives from the most backward and unprogressive counties.
They are actuated by love of their country. They yield to no one in their patriotism and their desire for Ireland's welfare. They have always given their support to movements which have had for their objects the improvement of Irish conditions and the increase of Irish well-being. Their sympathies are with Irish social reformand the sympathies of many of them with social reform of an advanced character. Contrast their attitude with that of the Irish Nationalist Party in respect of reforms which have proceeded from the Imperial Parliament and movements within Ireland herself.
Take the Irish Land Act of 1903, accepted by both political parties in Great Britain as affording the real solution of the Irish agrarian problem. What has been the Irish Nationalist attitude? Praise for it on platforms in the United States when it was essential to reach the pockets
p.167of subscribers by recounting a record of results gained from the expenditure of American donations; but in Ireland itself opposition to its effective working. Read Nationalist speeches and there is always running through them the fear that the Act by solving the land question would remove the real motive power which made Home Rule a living issue. Hence the interference to prevent landlords and tenants coming to an agreement over sales without outside assistance. So today Irish Nationalists are still endeavouring too keep alive the old bad feeling between landlord and tenant which they so successfully created in the seventies and eighties. What better proof of this deliberate attempt to prevent the success of a great reform is to be found than the frank utterance of Mr. John Dillon at Swinford.54 It has been said, he declared, that we have obstructed the smooth working of the Act. I wish to heaven we had the power to obstruct the smooth working of the Act more than we did. It has worked too smoothlyfar too smoothly to my mind.
What greater blow to the continuance of land purchase than the Birrell Act of 1909. Granted that some revision of the law was necessary in respect of finance; yet, the Act of 1909 went far beyond finance. Any one with a knowledge of land purchase law knows that the measure of 1909 contained innumerable provisions of a technical character calculated to make the free sale between landlord and tenant difficult, and in respect of a large portion of Ireland impossible. No wonder it was welcomed by the Irish
p.168Nationalist Party, since it did so much to restore them to their self-elected position of counsellors and arbiters in the affairs of the tenants. And Ulster Unionists for declining to accede to this re-establishment of the old supremacy of the agitators are regarded as the opponents of liberty and freedom!
The same sad story of Nationalist opposition to Irish progress meets the student of the co-operative movement at every period of its existence. No one who knows Sir Horace Plunkett will believe for a moment that he was actuated by other than the sole desire to do something for Ireland's benefit. From the leaders of the Nationalist Party he has had no assistance, although they claim to be the only workers for Irish progress, and the co-operative, movement was intended to complete the agrarian revolution. In more recent times the hostility of the Nationalist leaders has become bolder as they found a ready instrument in Mr. T. W. Russell in his official capacity as Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture.
The co-operative movement is flourishing in spite of the opposition of the Nationalist leaders. From Ulster it has received considerable support for the reason that Ulstermen believed it to be for the benefit of Irish agriculture. Their support, unlike Nationalist hostility, has not arisen from political motives. They do not believe that Sir Horace Plunkett has given a moment's thought to politics in their relation to the co-operative movement, and they have appreciated his movement either as co-operators or as supporters and members of the Irish Agricultural Organization Society. Contrast the Ulster welcome with the Nationalist opposition, and ask why we should be denounced as bad Irishmen and the Nationalists receive praise as true lovers of Ireland.
The co-operative movement has brought into existence another movement which has for its object the prosperity of Irish industries. The Industrial Development movement which seeks to bring before the people of Ireland and the Irish public bodies the excellence of Irish manufactures
p.169is as yet in its infancy. It has no political character, yet I should hesitate to say that official Irish Nationalism gives it hearty support. In Belfast, however, it has made great strides. It gains its support in Ulster not for any political reason, but simply and solely because the North of Ireland thinks that the industrial movement is to Ireland's advantage. Where in these instances is our bigotry or our hostility to Irish progress? Does not the balance of credit when the comparison is made with the Nationalists come on the side of Ulster? The Nationalists show their unreasoning opposition by proclaiming that they would rather see Ireland in rags and poverty than abate their demand for Home Rule. Ulster Unionists desire to see Ireland prosperous and contented. For that reason they welcome all reforms and movements from whatever quarter which have this excellent end in view. They intend to offer the strongest and most unrelenting opposition to Home Rule not as political partisans for party gain, but as Irishmen determined to resist so reactionary a measure which they firmly believe will prove of the greatest evil to their unhappy country.
By Ulster, I mean the six counties, Antrim, Down, Londonderry, Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh, with the important adjacent Unionist sections of Monaghan, Cavan, and Donegal, in all of which taken together the Unionist population is in an unmistakable majority, and in which the commercial and manufacturing prosperity of the province is maintained by Unionist energy, enterprise, and industry.
The relation of Ulster to a separate Irish Parliament with an Executive responsible to it, is a question which demands the most serious consideration on the part of English and Scotch electors. The Ulster Scot is not in Ireland today upon the conditions of an ordinary immigrant. His forefathers were planted in Ulster in the troublous times of the seventeenth century. Although at the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth peace had been secured all over Ireland, war was renewed in the Northern province early in the seventeenth century. The uprising was speedily crushed, and the lands of several of the rebellious nobles forfeited to the Crown. In order to prevent a repetition of lawlessness, the forfeited estates were entrusted to undertakers, on whom the obligation rested of peopling them with settlers from Great Britain. This scheme was devised in the hope that through the industry, character, and loyalty of the new population, the Northern province at all events should enjoy peace and prosperity, and become an attached portion of the King's dominions; and that eventually its influence would be usefully felt throughout the rest of Ireland. This policy was carried
p.171out under the rule of an English king, himself a Scot James VI. of Scotland and I. of England. Large numbers of settlers were brought over to Ulster, many of them English, but the majority Scotch. We Ulster Unionists who inhabit the province today, or at least the greater number of us, are descendants of these settlers. The overwhelming majority are passionately loyal to the British Throne and to the maintenance of the integrity of the United Kingdom.
These things being so, it seems to Ulster Unionists that a grave responsibility rests on their English and Scottish fellow-citizens, with regard to our position, should any constitutional changes be imposed upon our country. We are in Ireland as their trustees, having had committed to us, through their and our forefathers, the development of the material resources of Ulster, the preservation of its loyalty, and the discharge of its share of Imperial obligations.
It cannot be denied, on an examination of the history of the last three centuries, and especially of that of the one hundred and ten years since the establishment of the Legislative Union, that, through good report and ill report, and allowing for all our shortcomings, we have not unsuccessfully fulfilled our trust. Our forefathers found a province, the least favoured by nature of the four of which Ireland consists, and it is today the stronghold of Irish industry and commerce. Its capital, Belfast, stands abreast of the leading manufacturing centres in Great Britain; it contains the foremost establishments in Europe, in respect of such undertakings as linen manufacturing, ship-building, rope-making, etc. It is the fourth port in the United Kingdom in respect of revenue from Customs, its contributions thereto being £2,207,000 in 1910, as compared with £1,065,000 from the rest of Ireland. Ulster's loyalty to the British King and Constitution is unsurpassed anywhere in His Majesty's dominions.
The North of Ireland has contributed to Imperial service some of its greatest ornaments. England owes to Ulster Governors-General like Lord Dufferin and Lord Lawrence;
p.172soldiers like John Nicholson and Sir George White; administrators like Sir Henry Lawrence and Sir Robert Montgomery; great judges like Lord Cairns and Lord Macnaghten. At the recent Delhi Durbar the King decorated three Ulster men, one of them being Sir John Jordan, British Ambassador at Pekin. Ulster produced Sir Robert Hart, the incomparable Chinese administrator, who might also have been our Ambassador to China had he accepted the position.
The Ulster plantation is the only one which has fulfilled the purpose for which Irish plantations were made. The famous colonisation on both sides of the Shannon by Cromwell entirely failed of its design, the great proportion of its families having, through inter-marriage, become absorbed in the surrounding population.
Ulster Unionists, therefore, having conspicuously succeeded in maintaining the trust committed to their forefathers, and constituting as they do a community intensely loyal to the British connection, believe that they present a case for the unimpaired maintenance of that connection which is impregnable on the grounds of racial sentiment, inherent justice, social well-being, and the continued security of the United Kingdom and of the Empire. They cannot believe that their British fellow-citizens will, at this crisis, turn a deaf ear to this claim. Three or four decades after the Ulster plantation, when, in the midst of the horrors of 1641, the Scotch colony in Ulster was threatened with extermination, it appealed for help to its motherland. It did not appeal in vain. A collection for its benefit was made in the Scottish churches, supplies of food and several regiments of Scottish soldiers were sent to its aid, and its position was saved. We are confident that the descendants of these generous helpers will be no less true to their Ulster kith and kin today.
The history and present condition of Ulster throw an important light on what is currently described as the national demand of Ireland for Home Rule. There is no national Irish demand for Home Rule, because there never has been and there is no homogeneous Irish nation. On the contrary,
p.173as Mr. Chamberlain long ago pointed out, Ireland today consists of two nations. These two nations are so utterly distinct in their racial characteristics, in their practical ideals, in their religious sanctions, and in their sense of civic and national responsibility that they cannot live harmoniously side by side unless under the even-handed control of a just central authority, in which at the same time they have full co-partnership. Ireland, accordingly, cannot make a claim for self-government on the ground that she is a political unit. She consists of two units, which owe their distinctive existence, not to geographical boundaries, but to inherent and ineradicable endowments of character and aims. If, then, it is claimed that the unit of Nationalist Ireland is to be entitled to choose its particular relation to the British Constitution, the same choice undoubtedly belongs to the Unionist unit.
But Mr. Birrell, for example, would tell us that the Nationalist unit in Ireland is three times as large as the Unionist unit, and that therefore the smaller entity should submit, because, as he has cynically observed, minorities must suffer, for that is the badge of their tribe. But a minority in the United Kingdom is not to be measured by mere numbers; its place in the Constitution is to be estimated by its contribution to public well-being, by its relation to the industries and occupations of its members, by its association with the upbuilding of national character, by its fidelity to law and order, and by its sympathy with the world mission of the British Empire in the interests of civil and religious freedom. Tried by all these tests, Ulster is entitled to retain her full share in every privilege of the whole realm. Tried by the same tests the claim of 3,ooo,ooo Irish Nationalists to break up the constitution of the United Kingdom, of whose population they constitute perhaps one-fifteenth, is surely unthinkable.
Other writers in this volume have discussed Home Rule as it affects various vital interests in Ireland as a whole. It remains for me briefly to point out its special relation to the Northern province
This would be effected both by lessening or extinguishing the representation of Ulster in that Parliament, and by removing the control of Ulster rights and liberties from Imperial Parliament and entrusting it to a hostile Parliament in Dublin. Ulstermen would thus stand on a dangerously lower plane of civil privilege than their fellow-citizens in Great Britain. To place them in this undeserved inferiority, they hold to be unjust and cruel.
Ireland is pre-eminently a clerically controlled country, the number of Roman Catholic priests being per head greater than that of any country in Europe. Her staff of members of religious orders, male and female, is also enormous, their numbers having increased during the last fifty years 150 per cent, while the population has decreased 30 per cent. It is undeniable, therefore, that in a Dublin Parliament, the overwhelming majority of whose members would be adherents of the Roman Catholic faith, the Roman ecclesiastical authority, which claims the right to decide as to what questions come within the region of faith and morals would be supreme. Great stress has lately been laid in Nationalist speeches from British platforms on the tolerant spirit towards Protestants which animates Irish Roman Catholics. We gladly acknowledge that in most parts of Ireland Protestants and Roman Catholics as regards the ordinary affairs of life, live side by side on friendly neighbourly terms. Indeed, that spirit, as a consequence of the growing prosperity of Ireland, had been steadily increasing, till the recent revival of the Home Rule proposal, with its attendant fears of hierarchical ascendancy as illustrated by the promulgation of the Ne Temere decree, suddenly interrupted it. But the fundamental fact of the case is, that in the last resort, it is not with their Roman Catholic neighbours, or even with their hierarchy, that Irish Protestants have to reckon; it is rather with the Vatican,
p.175the inexorable power behind them all, whose decrees necessarily over-ride all the good-will which neighbourly feeling might inspire in the Roman Catholic mind. The Ne Temere decree affords a significant premonition of the spirit which would direct Home Rule legislation. It is noteworthy that no Nationalist member has protested against the cruelties of that decree as shown in the M'Cann case, and Mr. Devlin, M.P., even defended what was done from his place in Parliament. This action is all the more significant in view of the fact that during the Committee stage of the 1893 Home Rule Bill Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Redmond, and his Irish Nationalist colleagues voted against, and defeated, an Ulster amendment which proposed to exempt marriage and other religious ceremonies from the legislative powers of the Dublin Parliament. It would be intolerable that such litigation as in the Hubert case at present in progress in Montreal, arising out of the Marriage Law of the Province of Quebec, should be made possible in Ireland. No paper safeguards in a Home Rule Bill could prevent it.
Again, a most serious peril has just been disclosed in the publication of the Motu Proprio Papal Decree, under which the bringing by a Roman Catholic layman of a clergyman of his Church into any civil or criminal procedure in a court of law, whether as defendant or witness, without the sanction previously obtained of his bishop, involves to that layman the extreme penalty of excommunication. The same penalty appears to be incurred ipso facto by any Roman Catholic Member of Parliament who takes part in passing, and by every executive officer of the Government who takes part in promulgating, a law or decree which is held to invade the liberty or rights of the Church of Rome. This is a matter of supreme importance in our civil life. It was one of the questions which, in Reformation times, led to the breach between Henry VIII. and the Pope. In a Dublin Parliament no power could resist the provisions of this decree from becoming law. As a matter of fact, the liberty of speech and voting attaching to every member of the Roman Catholic majority in a Dublin Parliament would be under
p.176the absolute control of their hierarchy. Each Roman Catholic member would be bound to act under the dread of excommunication if he voted for or condoned any legislation contrary to the asserted rights of his Church, or which conflicted with its claims. Not only would the legislative independence of a Dublin Parliament be thus destroyed, but the administration of justice would be affected on every Bench in the country, from the Supreme Court of Appeal down to ordinary petty sessions. A grievous wrong would be inflicted on Roman Catholic judges and law officers, some of whom are unsurpassed for integrity and legal ability. It is contrary to every principle of justice to place these honourable men in a position in which they would have to choose between their oath to their king and their dutyarbitrarily imposed upon themto their Church. Jurymen and witnesses would be equally brought under the sinister influences of the decree, and confidence in just administration of the law, which is at the root of civil well-being, would be fatally destroyed.
To secure this result has long been the great educational aim of the Irish hierarchy. How they have succeeded as regards higher education Mr. Birrell's Irish Universities Act (1908) gives abundant evidence. The National University of Ireland, created by that Act, which on paper was represented to Nonconformists in England as having a constitution free from religious tests, is now, according to the recent boast of Cardinal Logue, thoroughly Roman Catholic, in spite of all paper safeguards to the contrary. Persistent attempts have been made to sectarianise the Irish primary National School system, founded seventy years ago, and which now receives an annual State endowment of £1,621,921, with the object of safeguarding the faith of the children of minorities, on the principle of united secular and separate religious instruction. That system worked so satisfactorily through many decades that Lord O'Hagan, the eminent first Roman Catholic Lord Chancellor of Ireland, declared that under it, up till his
p.177time, no case whatever of proselytism to any Church had occurred. But gradually a sectarian system of education under the Roman Catholic Church was developed through the teaching order of Christian Brothers, whose schools are now to be found all over Ireland, and which in many places now supplant the non-sectarian schools of the National Board. The strongest efforts were made to bring these sectarian schools into the system of the National Board, and thus entitle them to a share of the State annual endowment. There is no greater peril to the religious faith of Protestant minorities in the border counties of Ulster and elsewhere in Ireland than the sectarianising of primary schools by Roman Catholics. A few years ago a Protestant member of a public service was transferred upon promotion from Belfast to a Roman Catholic district, in which his boys had no available school but that of the Christian Brothers, and his girls none but that of the local convent. I shall never forget the expression of that man's face or the pathos in his voice while he pressed me to help him to obtain a transfer to a Protestant district, as otherwise he feared his children would be lost to the faith of their fathers. Given a Parliament in Dublin, the management of education would be so conducted as gradually to extinguish Protestant minorities in the border counties of Ulster and in the other provinces of Ireland. It is here that a chief danger to Protestantism lies.
The root of the evil will lie in the want of credit of an Irish Exchequer in the money markets of the world. The best financial authorities agree that if Ireland should be left to her own resources, there would be, on the present basis of taxation, and after providing for a fair Irish contribution towards Imperial defence, an annual deficit in the Irish Exchequer of £3,000,000 to£4,000, 000. An Irish Government in such circumstancesconsols themselves being now some £23 under parcould not borrow money at any reasonable rate of interest. Even if the British taxpayer
p.178were compelled to provide for the deficiency, either by an annual grant or by payment of a divorce penalty of £15,000,000 to £20,000,000, or by both, a prudent investor would fear that the annual dole might at any moment be withdrawn should, for instance, John Bull become irritated by the action of a Dublin Parliament, say, in declaring enlisting in His Majesty's forces a criminal act; or that the capital gift would soon be frittered away in the interests of agitators and their friends. He would simply refuse to invest in Irish stock.
Now, a fundamental condition of commercial and industrial well-being is financial confidence. If the Public Exchequer of a country lacks confidence, it is a truism to say that consequently commercial confidence must be gravely impaired. The magnates of Lombard Street and Wall Street would view their Irish clients with unpleasant reserve. Irish bankers would in turn restrict advances to their customers, and these again would limit the credit of those with whom they transacted business. Curtailment of industrial enterprise, the shutting down of many manufacturing concerns, with consequent depreciation of buildings and plant, as well as increase of unemployment, would follow. Already, since the present Home Rule crisis has become acute, the handwriting on the wall has been made evident in the depreciation of leading Irish stocks to the extent of 15 to 20 per cent. Every one in trade would suffer from the diminution of purchasing power, capital would shrink, income and wages decrease, and the incentives to emigration, which is already depriving our population of some of its most hopeful elements, would be dangerously increased.
All these tendencies would be stimulated by the social disorganisation which would certainly follow Home Rule. Unionist Ulster, from the Ulster Convention of 1892, to the Craigavon demonstration of 1911, has been consistent in her loyal determination that no Parliament but the Imperial Parliament shall control her destinies. It is an ignorant mistake to say that she is weakening in this
p.179resolve. The steadily increasing Unionist majorities in contested Ulster seats at both elections in 1910 conclusively prove that she is more staunch than ever in her Unionist faith. She would certainly resist the decrees of a Dublin Parliament and refuse to pay its taxes. The result of its passive resistance would be civil disorder, which would certainly gravely injure her industrial welfare, especially that of her artisan hard working population. But Ulstermen ask, What is industrial prosperity without freedom? And if, in defence of freedom, they should suffer disaster, the responsibility would lie with their fellow-citizens in Great Britain who would impose a hostile yoke upon them.
Under Home Rule, agricultural Ulster would also suffer. Very many Ulster farmers are now occupying owners. But a large number have not yet succeeded in purchasing, and these eagerly desire the privilege of doing so. Mr. Birrell's 1909 Act has already practically strangled further land purchase in Ireland, and if he intends that its completion should be the work of a Home Rule Parliament, the Ulster tenants ask where would the £75,000,000 to £100,000,000 necessary to accomplish the process, come from? 55 They know that the procuring of such a sum from an Irish Government would be hopeless, for they are aware that Englishmen have better judgment than to allow their Parliament to lend further money to a country over which they had relinquished direct Parliamentary authority, and whose Exchequer would be bankrupt. Home Rule would thus permanently relegate the agricultural population, not only of Ulster, but of Ireland generally, into two classes living side by side with each otherone consisting of occupying owners, the other of rent-payers without hope of ownership. The evil results in discontent, friction, deterioration of agricultural methods and lessened production would inflict serious injury on Ulster prosperity.
Again, Home Rule would involve Ulster industry and commerce in excessive taxation. No one who is aware of the passionate desire amongst Irish agitators and their
p.180friends for lucrative jobs, of the efforts that would be made to subsidise industries with Government funds, of the determination of the clergy to have their monastic, Christian Brothers', monastic and convent schools largely supported by the State, and of the impossibility, in view of the social disorder all over Ireland that would follow Home Rule, of reducing further the police force or the Judiciary, entertains any doubt that retrenchment in Irish expenditure would be impossible. On the contrary, Irish taxation would increase, and as recent legislation has placed upon Irish farmers imposts greater than they think they can bear, the additional revenue would be sought for mainly from the industrial North. But with business disorganised, incomes decreased and unemployment increased, the yield of taxation would be much reduced, and the rate must therefore be made higher. All this would fortify Ulster in her determined refusal to pay Home Rule taxation, and the bankruptcy of the Dublin Exchequer would be complete.
It is from having regard to considerations such as I have outlined, and of the validity of which she is profoundly convinced, that Ulster has registered the historic Convention declaration, We will not have Home Rule. Her position is plain and intelligible. She demands no separation from her Nationalist countrymen. On the contrary, she wishes, under the protection of the Legislative Union, to live side by side with them in peaceful industry and neighbourly fellowship, with the desire that they and we may in common partake of the benefits conferred on Ireland by generous Imperial legislation and repay it by sympathetic and energetic contribution to the service of the Empire.
But if Home Rule legislation should be passed contrary to Ulster's earnest and patriotic pleading, then she claims not a separate Parliament for herself, but that she may remain as she is in the unimpaired enjoyment of her position as an integral portion of the United Kingdom and with unaltered representation in Imperial Parliament. She wishes to continue as an Irish Lancashire, or an Irish Lanarkshire. In this relationship to Great Britain she is
p.181confident she will best preserve, not only her own interests, but also those of her fellow loyalists, Roman Catholic as well as Protestants, whose lot is cast in the other provinces and whose welfare will always be her responsible and earnest concern.
But if this demandbased on loyalty to the King and Constitution, and founded on the elementary right of British citizens to the unimpaired protection of Imperial Parliamentbe refused, then the only alternative is the Ulster Provincial Government, which will be organised to come into operation on the day that a Home Rule Bill should receive the Royal Assent; and under that Provisional Government we shall continue to support our king, and to render the same services to the United kingdom and to the Empire as have characterised the history of Ulster during the past three hundred years.
At the present moment no county or borough in the three southern provinces of Ireland returns a Unionist member. There are substantial minorities in many places, but very few in which there would be any chance of a successful contest. The University of Dublin sends two conspicuous Unionists to Parliament, who represent not only a constituency of graduates, but the vast majority of educated and thinking people. The bearing of the question on religious interests will be dealt with by others, but it may be said here that the Protestant community is Unionist. The exceptions are few, and are much more than counterbalanced by the Roman Catholic opponents of Home Rule, who for obvious reasons are less outspoken, but are quite as anxious to avert the threatened revolution.
The great bone of contention has always been the land, the cause of various wars and of ceaseless civil disputes. Parnell saw and said that purely political Nationalism was weak by itself, and he took up the land question to get leverage. For many years it has been evident that the only feasible solution was to convert occupiers into owners, and a very long step was made by the Purchase Act of 1903. Progress has now been arrested, for the Act of 1909 does not work. The vendors or expropriated owners, whichever is the more correct term, are expected to take a lower price and to be paid in depreciated paper. The minorities to be most immediately affected by legislation consist of landlords who are unable, though willing, to sell, and of tenants who are unable but very anxious to buy. The present
p.183deadlock is disastrous, for many tenants think they ought not to pay more than their neighbours, and demand reductions of rent without considering that the owner has received no part of his capital and dares not destroy the basis on which he hopes to be ultimately paid. It has been an essential part of the purchase policy that the instalment due by the occupier to recoup the State advance should be less than the rent. This has been made possible by the magic of British credit, and if that is withheld the confusion in Ireland will be worse than ever. The Exchequer has lost little or nothing, and even at much greater cost it would be the cheapest money that England ever spent. More than half the tenanted land has now passed to the occupiers, and it would be the most cruel injustice to leave the remaining landlords without power either to sell their property or to collect rents judicially fixed and refixed. They would fare badly with an Irish legislature and an Irish executive. They are, for the most part, poor but loyal men, and have exercised a great civilising influence. Are they to be deserted and ruined to keep an English party in place by the votes of men who have never pretended to be anything but England's enemies?
Irish Unionists laugh at the idea of a local Parliament being kept subordinate. It will have the power of making laws for everything Irish, that is, for everything that immediately concerns those that live in Ireland. There will be ceaseless efforts to enlarge its sphere of action, and if Irish members continue to sit at Westminster they will be as troublesome as ever there. If there are to be no Irish members Ireland will be a separate nation. Even candid Home Rulers confess that statutory safeguards would be of none effect. Hedged in by British bayonets the Lord Lieutenant may exercise his veto, built upon whose advice will he do it? If on that of an Irish Ministry the minority will have no protection at all, and does any one suppose it possible to go back to the practice of the seventeenth century, when all Irish Bills were settled in the English Privy Council, and could not be altered in a Dublin
p.184Parliament? Orators declaim about our lost legislature, but they take good care not to say what it was. In the penultimate decade of the eighteenth century the trammels were taken off, and a Union was soon found necessary. During the short interval of Independence there were two French invasions and a bloody rebellion. Protestant ascendancy, though used as a catchword, is a thing long past. Roman Catholic ascendancy would be a very real thing under Home Rule. The supremacy of the Imperial Parliament alone makes both the one and the other impossible.
If a legislature is established it must be given the means of enforcing its laws. We do not know what the present Government propose to do with the Irish police, but whatever the law says in practice, they will be under the local executive. Unpopular people will not be protected, and many of them will be driven out of the country. Parliamentary Home Rulers draw rosy pictures of the future Arcadia; but they will not be able to fulfil their own prophecies. Apart from the agrarian question, there is the party of revolutionists in Ireland whose headquarters are in America. They have furnished the means for agitation, and will look for their reward. The Fenian party has less power in the United States than it used to have, but there will be congenial work to do in Ireland. A violent faction can be kept in order where there is a strong government, but in a Home Rule Ireland it would not be strong for any such purpose. Appeals to cupidity and envy would find hearers, and there could be no effective resistance. The French Jacobins were a minority but they swept all before them. In the end better counsels might prevail but the mischief done would be great, and much of it irreparable.
The justice dealt out by the superior courts in Ireland is as good as it is anywhere. A judge in the last resort has the whole force of the State behind him, and no one dreams of resistance. With an Irish Parliament and an Irish Executive this would hardly be the case. The judges would
p.185still be lawyers, but their power would be greatly impaired. In Ireland popular feeling is always against creditors, and it would be very hard indeed either to execute a writ of ejectment or a seizure of goods. If the sanction of the law is weakened, public respect for it is lessened, and the result will be a general relaxation of the bonds which draw society together. There is nothing in the antecedents of the Home Rule Party to make one suppose that it contains the materials of a good and impartial government.
Home Rule politicians are talkative and pertinacious. As members of Parliament they are of course listened to, while Unionists outside Ulster make little noise; it is, therefore, constantly said that they acquiesce in the inevitable change. Unrepresented men cannot easily make themselves heard, but they have done what they could. An enormous meeting has been held in Dublin, and the building, which contains some 7000, was filled in a quarter of an hour. There has since been a large gathering of young men who wish to remain full citizens of the Empire in which they were born, and others are to follow. In rural districts it is almost impossible to collect people in winter. Days are short and distances are long. Unionist farmers cannot forget the outrages that prevailed some years ago, and are not yet unknown. In the native land of boycotting and cattle-driving it is not surprising that they do not wish to be conspicuous. The difficulty extends to the towns, in many of which it would be almost impossible to hire a room for Unionist purposes. Hotel keepers object to risking their business and their windows, for a mob is easily excited to riot on patriotic grounds. Shopkeepers also have to be cautious in a country which has been wittily described as a land of liberty where no one can do as he likes, but where every one must do exactly what everybody else likes. In the summer people can meet in the open air, and there will, no doubt, be abundant protests from Southern Unionists. There will then be something definite to talk about.
It is often said that the County Councils have done well, and that therefore there is no danger in an Irish Parliament, but the two things are different in kind. County or District Councils, or Boards of Guardians, are constituted by Acts of the Imperial Parliament to administer Acts of the same, and are subject to constant supervision by the Local Government Board, and to the peremptory action of the King's Bench. A Parliament is by nature supreme within its sphere of action, and its constant effort would be to enlarge that field. The men who aim at independence would have the easy part to play, for no one in or out of Ulster, former Unionist or confirmed Nationalist, would have any interest in opposing them. In the meantime local councils have taught us what is likely to happen. Minorities are virtually excluded from them and from paid places in their gift. Of Protestants holding local office the great majority are survivals from the old Grand Jury system. Political discussions are frequent, but they are all among Nationalists. Intolerance of independent opinion and impatience of criticism are everywhere noticeable, and the Corporation of Dublin does not show a good example. It is intolerance of this kind rather than any approach to religious persecution that Protestants suffer from in the present and fear for the future.
Men who have something to lose dread the idea of Home Rule, including farmers who have bought their holdings, but as yet this has not been allowed time to work. There is a long way between not caring to support a Nationalist and voting for a Unionist. The chief employers of labour are mostly for the Union, but few are in a position to help the Unionist cause effectively, for they have to deal with strike makers and possible boycotters. When Labour troubles come, Nationalist politicians try to make out that they are caused by English agitators, and that there would be none under Home Rule. The probability is all the other way. There could be nothing in the existence of an Irish Parliament to prevent English Socialists from crossing the Channel, and some Labour leaders in England are Irish.
p.187We have heard a great deal lately about the union of the two democracies, and that is the point where they would unite. Passing from labour to land, which is after all the great interest of Southern and Western Ireland, the danger is even greater. With the loss of British credit it would be almost impossible to carry out the plan of occupying ownership without the grossest injustice, and the mischief would not stop there. An Irish Government would be poor, but would be expected to do all and more than all that the united government has done. At first the gap might be stopped by extravagant super-income tax, by half-compensated seizures of demesne land, and by penalising the owners of ground rents and town property. Confiscation is not a permanent source of wealth, for it soon kills the goose that laid the golden egg. Then the turn of the large farmer would come.
Most Unionists, and many who call themselves Home Rulers, are satisfied with the form of government they now have. The country has prospered wonderfully, and it will continue to prosper if the land purchase system is carried out to the end in a liberal spirit. The worst danger comes from the check given to the process by the present Ministry. But the national feelings of Ireland must not be ignored. Her far-back history, bad in itself, but represented worse by unscrupulous writers, makes it necessary to maintain an impartial power above the warring elements. In a pastoral country people have much time on their hands, and are apt to spend it in brooding over bygone wrongs. But over the past not Jove himself hath power, and it is for the future that we are responsible. From Wellington onwards Ireland has given many great soldiers to the British Army, and it is the classes from which they spring that it is now proposed to abandon. Under Home Rule the flag would be a foreign emblem, useless to protect the weak in Ireland, and perhaps available to oppress them. England would have cast off her friends and gained none in exchange. Nothing will conciliate the revolutionary faction in Ireland, and there is every reason to think that it would become the strongest.
p.188Modern Ireland is the creation of English policy, and many wrong things were formerly done, but for a long time amends have been making. If England, from weariness or for the sake of Party advantage, abandons her supporters, they will have no successors. Ireland will be more troublesome than ever, and the crime will receive its fitting punishment.
Ireland under Home Rule must, in the event of war, be regarded as a potentially hostile country.
In this statement resides the dominant factor of the situation viewed from the naval and military point of view. It is not asserted that the government of Ireland would be disloyal; but it is asserted that the authorities charged with the defence of his Majesty's dominions cannot afford to take risks when the safety of the country is at stake. That such risks must exist under the circumstances indicated, is obvious to all those who have studied the speeches of the leaders of the Irish Nationalist party, in which they have unequivocally declared their intention to rid Ireland of English rule, and in which they extol as heroes such men as Theobald Wolfe Tone, who intrigued with France against England in order to achieve Irish independence, and who took his own life rather than receive the just reward of his deeds. That some among the Irish Nationalist leaders have recently professed their devotion to the British Empire cannot be regarded by serious persons as a relevant consideration. The demand for Home Rule is in fact a demand for separation from the United Kingdom or it is nothing. Naval officers are accustomed to deal with facts rather than with words.
In the great sea-wars of the past, Ireland has always been regarded by the enemy as providing the base for a flank attack upon England. Had King Louis XIV. rightly used his opportunities, the army of King William would have been cut off from its base in England, and would have been destroyed by reinforcements arriving from France to
p.190assist King James II. There is no more concise presentment of the case than the account of it given by Admiral Mahan in The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-178356. The Irish Sea, separating the British Islands, rather resembles an estuary than an actual division; but history has shown the danger from it to the United Kingdom. In the days of Louis XIV., when the French navy nearly equalled the combined English and Dutch, the gravest complications existed in Ireland, which passed almost wholly under the control of the natives and the French. Nevertheless, the Irish Sea was rather a danger to the Englisha weak point in their communicationsthan an advantage to the French. The latter did not venture their ships-of-the-line in its narrow waters, and expeditions intending to land were directed upon the ocean ports in the south and west. At the supreme moment the great French fleet was sent upon the south coast of England, where it decisively defeated the allies, and at the same time twenty-five frigates were sent to St. George's Channel, against the English communications. In the midst of a hostile people the English army in Ireland was seriously imperilled, but was saved by the battle of the Boyne and the flight of James II. This movement against the enemy's communirations was strictly strategic, and would be just as dangerous to England now, as in 1690.
There can be little doubt that an effective co-operation of the French fleet in the summer of 1689 would have broken down all opposition to James in Ireland, by isolating that country from England, with corresponding injury to William's power.The battle of the Boyne, which from its peculiar religious colouring has obtained a somewhat factitious celebrity, may be taken as the date at which the English crown was firmly fixed on William's head. Yet it would be more accurate to say that the success of William, and with it the success of Europe, against Louis XIV. in the war of the League of Augsburg, was due to the mistakes and failure of the French naval campaign in 1690; though in that campaign was won the most conspicuous single success the French have ever gained at sea over the English.
Every great naval power has gone to school to Admiral Mahan; and this country can hardly expect again to profit by those mistakes in strategy which the gifted American writer has so lucidly exposed.
Ireland, lying on the western flank of Great Britain, commands on the south the approaches to the Channel, on the west the North Atlantic, and on the east the Irish Sea, all sea-roads by which millions of pounds' worth of supplies are brought to England. On every coast Ireland has excellent harbours. There are Lough Swilly on the north, Blacksod Bay on the west, Bantry Bay, Cork Harbour and Waterford Harbour on the south, Kingstown Harbour and Belfast Lough on the east to name but thesebesides numerous lesser inlets which can serve as shelter for small craft and destroyers. It should here be noted that Belfast Harbour, owing to the enterprise of the Harbour Board, now possesses a channel and dock capable of accommodating a ship of the Dreadnought type.57
There is no necessity to presuppose an actively hostile Ireland; but an Ireland ruled by a disloyal faction would easily afford shelter to the warships of the enemy in her ports, whence they could draw supplies, where they could execute small repairs, and could coal from colliers despatched there for the purpose or captured. Thus lodged, a fleet or a squadron would command the main trade routes to England; and might inflict immense damage in a short time. Intelligence of its position could be prevented from reaching England by the simple method of destroying wireless stations and cutting cables.
These considerations would necessarily impose upon the Navy the task of detaching a squadron of watching cruisers charged with the duty of keeping guard about the whole of Ireland.
Is the Admiralty prepared to discharge this office in the event of war?
If not, there falls to be considered the further danger of the invasion of Ireland. That such a peril is not imaginary, is proved by the fact that Ireland has been invaded in the past.
The attempt of Hoche and Grouchy to land in Bantry Bay in 1796 failed ignominiously; and the next expedition
p.192designed to invade Ireland was defeated at Camperdown. But in 1798, the year of the Great Rebellion in Ireland, three French frigates evaded the British cruisers, and on August 22 dropped anchor in Killala Bay. General of Brigade, Jean Joseph Amable Humbert, landed with his second in command, General Sarazin, several rebel Irish leaders, 1700 men and 82 officers.
On August 27 Humbert defeated the British troops at Castlebar Races. On September 8, his forces surrendered at Ballinamuck to Lord Cornwallis. General Humbert was carried to England; and it is worth noting that while he was on his way, Admiral Bompard set sail from Brest with a ship of the line and three frigates, carrying 2587 men and 172 officers, commanded by General Hardy and the notorious Wolfe Tone (called General Smith for the occasion). Bompard was turned back by an English fleet of forty-two sail. The obvious conclusion of the whole matter is that the fleet can stop an invasion, always provided that the ships thereof are the right number in the right place at the right time.
The Irish Rebellion of 1798 is often discussed as though it was wholly bred of the corruption of Ireland itself. The fact was, of course, that it was an offshoot of the French Revolution, and that the condition of Ireland at the time was no more than a contributory cause. My Lords Cornwallis, Castlereagh, and Clare, in combating the forces of the Rebellion, were actually in conflict with the vast insurrections of the French nation. The design of the Irish rebels was to enlist the mighty destructive force of France to serve their own ends.
Wolfe Tone and his colleague Lewens, in 1796, had succeeded in persuading Carnot and the French Directory to embrace the cause of Ireland. When the Rebellion of 1798 broke out, Lewens wrote to the Directory reminding them that they had promised that France should postulate the conferring of independence upon Ireland as the condition of making peace with England, and specifying five thousand troops of all arms, and thirty thousand muskets
p.193with artillery and ammunition, as sufficient to ensure the success of the Rebellion.
The attitude of the Directory is defined in the despatch addressed to General Hardy (upon whom the supreme command of the Humbert expedition at first devolved) by Bruix, Minister of Marine, dated July 30, 1798.
The executive Directory is busily engaged in arranging to send help to the Irish who have taken up arms to sever the yoke of British rule. It is for the French Government to second the efforts of a brave people who have too long suffered under oppression.
In other words, the Directory regarded the achievement of her independence by Ireland as an enterprise incidental to the greater scheme of the conquest of England and of Europe.
It was further laid down in the despatch that it is most important to take every possible means to arouse the public spirit of the country, and particularly to foster sedulously its hatred of the English name.
There has never been an expedition whose result might more powerfully affect the political situation in Europe, or could more advantageously assist the Republic.
Irish conspirators have never risen to play any part higher than the office of cat's-paw to a foreign nation. Today, they are contentat presentto bribe with votes a political party in England. But it is none the less essential to remember that, as in 1688 and as in 1798 a great and militant foreign Power used the weapon of Irish sedition against England, so in 1912 the same instrument lies ready to hand. For the Home Rule conspiracy of today is nothing but the lees of the evil heritage bequeathed by the French Revolution.
It is the business of the naval officer, who is not concerned with party politics, to estimate the posture of international affairs solely in relation to the security of the State. The condition of Ireland at this moment, when the Home Rule issue has been wantonly revived, would, in the event of a war occurring between Great Britain and a
p.194foreign Power, involve the necessity of regarding Ireland as a strategic base of essential value, a part of whose inhabitants might combine with the hostile forces by giving them shelter and supplies, and even by inviting them to occupy the country. Elsewhere in these pages, Lord Percy has pointed out that the necessity of holding a disaffected Ireland by garrisoning the country would totally disorganise our military preparations for warsuch as they are.
These considerations must materially affect strategical dispositions in the event of war, involving the establishment and maintenance of a separate force of cruisers charged with the duty of patrolling the sea routes which converge upon Ireland, and of watching the harbours of her coasts. As matters stand at present, such a force does not exist.
It may, of course, be urged that a strategical plan designed for the double purpose of surveying the movements of a hostile battle-fleet and of guarding the trade-routes, must of necessity cover the coasts of Ireland, on the principle that the greater includes the less. The argument, however, omits the essential qualification that a part of the Irish population cannot be trusted. It is this additional difficulty which has been introduced into the problem of naval defence by the revival by politicians of the agitation of 1798, under another name.
The Problems of Imperial defence have become of late years extremely complex, owing to the rise of a great European naval power, and also to the predominance of Japan in the Pacific. These two factors, combined with the invention of the Dreadnought type of ship which is now being built by other powers whose navies we could formerly afford to ignore, have rendered our position in the world more precarious, more dependent upon foreign alliances and ententes, and have rendered combination for defence far more essential. No Home Rule scheme can be judged without taking into consideration what its effect will be on this situation. It is proposed to consider it first in the light of the more pressing European danger, and next to examine how it will affect the wider problem of the future, namely, the co-operation of all parts of the British Empire for defence.
But first it is of course necessary to find out what Home Rule means, and what the internal state of Ireland will be if it passes. On this point there is at present no certainty. We can dismiss at once Mr. Redmond's picture of a serenely contented and grateful Ireland, only desirous of helping her benefactor, and, under a strong and incorruptible government, engaged in setting its house in order. The presence of a strong Protestant community, the history of the Roman Catholic Church in all countries, and the deliberate fostering of separatist national ideals preclude the possibility of anything but a prolonged period of unrest, which, on the most favourable hypothesis, can only cease
p.196altogether when the present generation has passed away. This unrest may take two forms; either civil war, or a condition where the rousing of old animosities, religious and otherwise, leads to internal disturbances of all kinds. It is not proposed to deal here with the consequences involved by the calling in of troops to suppress by force of arms an insurrectionary movement against the Government of Ireland. In view of the present state of affairs in Ulster, such an event seems extremely probable, but the disastrous results of passing Home Rule in face of it are so patent to all that it is unnecessary to enlarge upon them here. We have, therefore, to consider a condition of things in which old mutual hatreds have re-awakened, in which Ireland will be governed by men who have up till now preached sedition, have done their best to check recruiting, who have deliberately set up an ideal of complete separation as their ultimate goal, and whose motto has always been England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity.
It is conceivable, of course, though it is extremely improbable, that these aims and ideals may be abjured in course of time, but the gravity of these risks must be taken into account in examining Ireland's position in any scheme of national and Imperial defence both now and in the future. And in this connection it may be remarked that an almost exact analogy to the situation which will probably result from this measure may be seen in the events which preceded the Boer war, and it seems somewhat remarkable that those who endeavour to justify Home Rule by the supposed Colonial analogy should overlook a warning so evident and so recent in the history of our oversea dominions.
A Separatist party in Ireland would be enabled to work for ultimate independence as did President Kruger, and by the same methods, the same secret acquisition of arms and implements of war, the same building of fortresses with a view to a declaration of independence when a suitable opportunity arrived; and this would be all the more likely to occur if Ulster were exempted from a Home Rule Parliament. In this case Ulstermen would occupy exactly the
p.197same position as did the Uitlanders from 1895 to 1899. The same arguments for granting independence to Ireland are used now, the same talk of injustice towards those who are disloyal with equal disregard of the loyalist section, and the results will be the same. Would independence have been granted to the Transvaal or Orange Free State had their use of it been foreseen? Taking the factors in both cases into account, is there anything to justify the doubt that a repetition of that situation will occur, with the only difference that eventual rupture will probably entail the dismemberment of the Empire?
It is universally acknowledged that this country is at present faced with a more critical European situation than any we have experienced for a hundred years. It has tied our fleet to home waters, and has induced a very large and influential section of our people to advocate the necessity of compulsory military service. Our military organisation is on the face of it a makeshift, and the makeshift is not even complete, for in the Territorial Army and the Special Reserve alone there is a shortage of more than 80,000 men.
Now, our foreign policy of ententes and the needs of our oversea territories have necessitated a military organisation, the foundation of which is readiness to undertake an oversea expedition as well as to provide for home defence. The critical situation in Europe especially will demand the instant despatch of our Expeditionary Force on the outbreak of war, in which case there will be left in these islands the following forces after deducting 10 per cent for casualties:
p.198breaks out. This will leave some 210,000 men to provide for the defence of England, Scotland, and Ireland, supplemented by 130,000 boys. These troops will be deprived of practically all Regular and even Reserve officers, and will have to provide for coast defence, for the security of law and order, and for the numbers required for a central field force. By means of juggling with figures, by the registration of names in what is called the National Reserve, but has no organisation or corporate existence, and by similar means, the seriousness of this situation has been concealed to some extent, but it is generally recognised as being little short of a national scandal, and would not be tolerated were it not for the general ignorance of our people concerning the exigencies of war and their blind belief in the omnipotence of the navy. This defencelessness has two dangers: firstly, the chance of a successful raid or invasion. As long as our navy is not defeated, no invading force of more than 70,000 men is supposed to be capable of landing. The second danger is that the mere fear of such an event will prevent the despatch of the Expeditionary Force and the fulfilment of our oversea obligations.
It must be obvious that in the precarious state of our national defence anything which renders either of these dangers more probable should be avoided at all costs. If, for instance, the condition of Ireland should demand the maintenance of a larger garrison in that country, the whole of our present organisation for defence falls to pieces. Looking only at the present foreign situation, and the evergrowing menace of increasing armaments, if the passing of Home Rule should require the retention of a single extra soldier in Ireland, it is perfectly certain that nothing could justify the adoption of such a measure. It is not intended to convey the impression that there is any fear of Ireland repeating the history of 1796 and welcoming a foreign invasion, although it is impossible to ignore the anti-English campaign of agitation, or to say to what length it will go; but the mere fact of internal dissension in that country will give an enemy exactly the chance he looks for. Many of
p.199those best qualified to judge are of opinion that Germany is only waiting to free herself of an embarrassing situation, until one power of the Triple Entente is for the time being too much occupied to intervene in a Continental struggle. We have had one warning when, in September, 1911, a railway strike at home coincided with a foreign crisis. Are we deliberately to take a step which will almost certainly involve us in a similar dilemma?
This is the more immediate danger, but, apart from this, the strategical value of Ireland will be profoundly affected by its separation from England, and this constitutes a grave source of weakness, even if internal trouble be avoided, and a comparatively loyal government be installed. Ireland lies directly across all the trade routes by which nearly all our supplies of food and raw material are brought, and it covers the principal trade centres of the Midlands and the South of Scotland. In any attack by an enemy on our commerce, Ireland will become of supreme importance. There are two stages in every naval war: first, the engagement between the two navies; second, the blockade or destruction of the ships of the beaten side. This was the method by which we fought Napoleon, but even then we could not prevent the enemy's ships escaping from time to time; and even after we had destroyed their navy at Trafalgar, the damage to our oversea commerce was enormous. Nowadays, torpedoes, submarines, and floating mines have rendered blockade infinitely more precarious, and consequently we have to take into account the extreme probability, and indeed, certainty, of hostile cruisers escaping and menacing our oversea supplies. This danger will be increased ten-fold if Germany has been able to defeat France, and use French, Dutch, and Belgian ports for privateering purposes. In the second, if not in the first, stage of European war, therefore, the closest co-operation between the governments of Ireland and England will be essential. In this case, Queenstown and Lough Swilly will be the bases for our own protecting cruisers, and on their success will depend the issues of life and death for our people. As the West of
p.200Ireland is the nearest point in these islands to America, it is probable that cargoes destined for English ports will reach them via Ireland to avoid the longer sea-transit. Lord Wolseley has even gone so far as to minimise the dangers of blockade, because the Irish coast offered such facilities for blockade-running. It is certain that in our greatest need Ireland might well prove our salvation, provided we had not absolutely lost command of the sea, and this advantage a Liberal Government is prepared to jeopardise for reasons, which, compared with the interests at stake, are little less than sordid.
But even if Ireland be less directly affected by war than in this case, and even if its internal condition should give little anxiety, the very nature of its resources should prevent us taking a step which may deprive us of them in emergency or, at least, render them less readily available. Not only do we draw a number of our soldiers from there, out of all proportion to the quotas provided by the populations of England and Scotland, but we are absolutely dependent for our mounted branches on Irish horses. For our supplies in time of stress, for our horses, and for a great and valuable recruiting area, we shall be forced to rely on a government whose future is wrapped in the deepest obscurity, and which at the best is hardly likely to give us enthusiastic support.
Our whole military organisation is becoming more decentralised and more dependent on voluntary effort; it is devolving more and more upon Territorial Associations and local bodies of all kinds. We do not possess the reserves of horses and transport which continental nations hold ready for use on mobilisation, and, as a substitute, we have had to fall back on a system of registration which demands care, zeal, and energy on the part of these civilian bodies. How will an Irish Government and its officials fulfil a duty which will be distorted by every Nationalist into an attempt to employ the national resources for the sole benefit of England?
War is a stern taskmaster, demanding long years of
p.201preparation and combination of effort for one end. The political separation of the two countries does not alter the fact that they are, in the military sense, one area of operations and of supply, and, at a time like the present, when the mutual dependence of all parts of the Empire is gradually being realised; when the dominions are building navies, and all our dependencies are co-operating in one scheme of defence for the whole; when the elaboration of the details of this scheme are the pressing need of the hour, the dissolution of the Union binding together the very heart of the Empire, is a strategic mistake, the disastrous significance of which it is impossible to exaggerate. For it must be remembered that here is no analogy to a federation of semi-independent provinces as in Canada, where national defence is equally the interest of the whole. Ireland has never recognised this community of interest with England. Quebec, it is true, stands aloof and indifferent to the ideals of the sister provinces; but there is no bitter religious hatred, no fierce, anti-national aims fostered by ancient traditions, life-long feuds and unscrupulous agitation, and every Canadian knows that Quebec would fight to the last against American aggression, if only to preserve her religious independence. There is no such bond here or, at least, the Irish Nationalist has refused to acknowledge it.
The year 1912 has opened amid signs of unrest and change, the meaning or the end of which no man can know. In the Far East and the Near East political and religious systems are disappearing, and chaos is steadily increasing. In Europe the nations have set out on the march to Armageddon, and there is no staying the progress of their armaments. In Great Britain alone the question of preparation for war is shirked on the plea that it is one for experts, and even soldiers and sailors, drawn into the political vortex, make light of our necessities, believing in the hopelessness of ever convincing the people of the truth until a white calamity of steel and iron, the bearing of burdens and the hot rage of insult, fall upon us. It is for this reason that we see the extraordinary phenomenon of men denying the
p.202necessity for becoming a nation in arms, and yet urging our Government to contract no friendships abroad, and to interfere on behalf of every petty princedom oppressed by a powerful neighbour, and every downtrodden subject of some foreign power. It is these same men who wish to dissolve the Union, and to impose obligations at home upon an inadequate army which would leave us powerless abroad. And the longer war delays in coming, the greater will be the danger when it comes. With the increase in armaments, this country must undergo a proportionate sacrifice. If compulsory service should be adopted, it must apply to Ireland as well as the United Kingdom. But how will an independent government in Dublin view the compulsory enrolment of the manhood of Ireland, two-thirds of which have been taught to regard England as the national and hereditary enemy? The Irish are, above all, a military race. Had we been able to enforce such service within the Union, whatever temporary opposition it might have encountered, it might ultimately have proved an indissoluble bond of friendship.
The future is very dark, and it is all important that we should face it with open eyes. War cannot long be delayed, and there is too little time left to put our house in order. Even if Home Rule could be shown to be an act of justice due to a wronged people who have proved themselves capable of self-government, even then it could not be justified in the present crisis abroad. But it is not so. Ulster will fight for the same cause as did the Northern States of America, and may well show the same self-sacrifice. It will be civil war in a country peculiarly adapted to the movements of irregular troops, well acquainted with its features; it will be accompanied by atrocities which will be remembered for centuries. And this is the tremendous risk we are deliberately running, when we only possess six divisions of regular troops to support our allies on the continent and to safeguard the interests of the whole British Empire.
It is for the British people to decide whether the thin
p.203red line is to be still thinner in the day of battle, and whether those who should be fighting side by side shall be embittered and divided, or whether they will rather believe the words of the greatest naval expert living It is impossible for a military man or a statesman with appreciation of military conditions, to look at the map and not perceive that the ambition of the Irish separatists, realised, would be even more threatening to the national life than the secession of the South was to that of the American Union.
Irish Unionists are determined in their opposition to Home Rule by many considerations. But deepest of all is the conviction that, on the establishment of a separate legislature and executive for Ireland, the religious difficulty, which is ever with us here, would be increased enormously. Occasionally, in English newspapers and in Irish political speeches, there occur phrases which imply that the Protestant ascendancy, as it was called, still exists in Ireland. Those who know Ireland are well aware that this is not merely false: it is impossible. Even in Belfast, as a recent controversy proved, Roman Catholics get their full share of whatever is to be had. There are no Roman Catholic disabilities. The majority has every means of making its power felt. At the present moment, the most impossible of all things in Ireland is that Roman Catholics, as such, should be oppressed or unfairly treated.
It used to be imagined that when this happy condition was attained there would be no more religious disagreement in Ireland. But events have shown the exact opposite to be the case. There never was a time when there was in the minds of Irish Protestants so deep a dread of Roman aggression, and so firm a conviction that the object of that aggression is the complete subjection of this country to Roman domination. Recalling very distinctly the events and discussions of 1886 and 1893, when Home Rule for Ireland seemed so near accomplishment under Mr. Gladstone's
p.205leadership, the writer has no hesitation in saying that the dread of Roman tyranny is now far more vivid and, as a motive, far more urgent than it was at those epochs. Protestants are now convinced, as never before, that Home Rule must mean Rome Rule, and that, should it be forced upon them, in spite of all their efforts, they will be face to face with a struggle for liberty and conscience such as this land has not witnessed since the year 1690. That such should be the conviction of one-fourth of the people of Ireland, and that fourth by far the most energetic portion of its inhabitants, is a fact which politicians may well lay to heart.
Approaching this subject as one whose duties give him the spiritual oversight of more than 200,000 of the Protestants of Irelandmembers of the Church of Ireland, and who has had twenty-seven years of experience as a clergyman in Ireland, both in the north and in the south, the writer may venture to speak with some confidence as to the mind of the people among whom he has worked for so long. In doing so, he feels at liberty to say that he is one who has always avoided religious controversy, and who has ever made it his endeavour to be tolerant and considerate of the feelings and convictions of others. He has a deep regard for his Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, and recognises to the full their many excellent qualities and the sincerity of their religion.
It is possible to bring to a single point the reasons which make Irish Unionists so apprehensive as regards the religious difficulty under Home Rule. Their fears are not concerned with any of the special dogmas of the Roman Church. But they recognise, as people in England do not, the inevitable tendency of the consistent and immemorial policy of the Church of Rome in relation to persons who refuse to submit to her claims. They know that policy to be one of absolute and uncompromising insistence on the exacting of everything which she regards as her right as soon as she possesses the power. They know that, for her, toleration is only a temporary expedient. They know that professions and promises made by individual Roman Catholics and by
p.206political leaders, statements which to English ears seem a happy augury of a good time coming, are of no value whatever. They do not deny that such promises and guarantees express a great deal of good intention, but they know that above the individual, whether he be layman or ecclesiastic, there is a system which moves on, as soon as such movement becomes possible, in utter disregard of his statements. At the time when Catholic emancipation was in view, high Roman authorities gave the most emphatic guarantees that the position of the then Established Church in Ireland would never be endangered, so far as their Church and people were concerned. But when the time came, such promises proved absolutely worthless. Whether the disestablishment of the Irish Church was a good thing or not, is not the question here. The essential point, for our present purpose, is that the guarantees of individual Roman Catholics, no matter how positively or how confidently stated, are of no account as against the steady age-long policy of the Roman Church.
It is well known to all students that, while other religious bodies have, both in theory and in practice, renounced certain old methods of persuasion, the Roman Church still formally claims the power to control states, to depose princes, to absolve subjects from their allegiance, to extirpate heresy. She has never accepted the modern doctrine of toleration. But there are many who think that these ancient claims, though not renounced, are so much out-of-date in the modern world that they mean practically nothing. Such is the opinion of the average Englishman, and the mild and cultivated form of Romanism which is to be met with usually in England lends colour to the opinion. In Ireland we know better.
The recent Papal Decree, termed Ne Temere, regulating the solemnisation of marriages, has been enforced in Ireland in a manner which must seem impossible to Englishmen. According to this Decree, No marriage is valid which is not contracted in the presence of the (Roman) parish priest of the place, or of the Ordinary, or of a priest deputed
p.207by them, and of two witnesses at least. This rule is binding on all Roman Catholics.
It is easy to see what hardship and wrong must follow the observance of this rule in the case of mixed marriages.
As a result, it is now the case that, in Ireland, marriages which the law of the land declares to be valid are declared null and void by the Church of Rome, and the children of them are pronounced illegitimate. Nor is this a mere academic opinion: such is the power of the Roman Church in this country that she is able to enforce her laws without deference to the authority of the State.
The celebrated McCann case is the most notable illustration. Even in the Protestant city of Belfast we have seen a faithful wife deserted and her children spirited away from her, in obedience to this cruel decree. And we have seen an executive afraid to do its duty, because Rome had spoken and justified the outrage. Those who know intimately what is happening here are aware of case after case in which husband or wife is living in daily terror of similar interference, and also know that Protestants married to Roman Catholics, and living in the districts where the latter are in overwhelming majority, often find it impossible to stand against the odium arising from a bigoted and hostile public opinion. Nor does such interference stop here. Only a few weeks ago the kidnapping of a young wife by Roman Catholic ecclesiastics was prevented only by the brave and prompt action of her husband. In this case a sworn deposition, made in the presence of a well-known magistrate and fully attested, has been published, and no attempt at contradiction or explanation has been made. Let none imagine the Ne Temere question is extinct in Ireland. It is at this moment a burning question. Under Home Rule it would create a conflagration. And surely there is reason for the indignation of Protestants. Here we see the most solemn contract into which a man or woman can enter broken at the bidding of a system which claims supreme control over all human relations, public and private; and this, not for the maintenance of any moral principle, but
p.208to secure obedience to a disciplinary regulation which is regarded as of so little moral value that it is not enforced in any country in which the Government is strong enough to protect its subjects.
As if to define with perfect clearness, in the face of the modern world, the traditional claim of the Roman See, there has issued from the Vatican, within the last few weeks, a Decree which sets the Roman clergy above the law of the land. This ordinance, which is issued motus proprio by the Pope, is the re-enactment and more exact definition of an old law. It lays down the rule that whoever, without permission from any ecclesiastical authority, summons any ecclesiastical persons to a lay tribunal and compels them to attend publicly such a court, incurs instant excommunication. The excommunication is automatic, and absolution from it is specially reserved to the Roman Pontiff. This fact adds enormously to the terror of it, especially among a people like the Irish Roman Catholics. Great discussion has taken place as to the countries in which this Decree is in force. No one was surprised to hear that Germany was exempt. Archbishop Walsh, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, in an elaborate discussion, gives the opinion that the Decree is abrogated under British law by the custom of the country, which has in the past rendered impossible the observance of the strict ecclesiastical rule in this matter, but is careful to add that this is only his opinion as a canonist, and is subject to the decision of the Holy See. When this plea is examined, it is found to mean simply this, that the law is not strictly observed in case of necessity. That this is the meaning of Archbishop Walsh's plea is proved by a quotation which he makes from Pope Benedict XIV. The principle laid down by Pope Benedict is that when it became impossible to resist the encroachment of adverse customs, the Popes shut their eyes to what was going on, and tolerated what they had no power to prevent. It is exactly the principle of toleration as a temporary expedient. The re-enactment of the law by the present Pope means surely, if it means anything, that such toleration
p.209is to cease wherever and whenever the law can be enforced. But, be it observed, this necessity is entirely dependent on the strength of the authority which administers the civil law. The moment the civil authority grows weak in its assertion of its supremacy, the plea of necessity fails, and the ecclesiastical law must be enforced. Those who know Ireland are well aware that this is exactly what would happen under Home Rule. Here is the crowning proof of the truth that, above all the well-intentioned persons who give assurances of the peace and goodwill that would flourish under Home Rule, there is a power which would bring all their good intentions to nothing.
But what of the Church of Ireland under Home Rule? Formerly the Established Church of the country, and as such occupying a position of special privilege, she still enjoys something of the traditional consideration which belonged to that position, and is more than ever conscious of her unbroken ecclesiastical descent from the Ancient Church of Ireland. Her adherents number 575,000, of whom 366,000 are in Ulster. As part of her heritage she holds nearly all the ancient ecclesiastical sites and the more important of the ancient buildings which still survive. These possessions, thus inherited from an immemorial past, were secured to her by the Act of Disestablishment. For the rest, the endowments which she enjoys at the present time have been created since 1870 by the self-denial and generosity of her clergy and laity. Under British law, her position is secure. But would she be secure under Home Rule? Those of her advisers who have most right to speak with authority are convinced that she would not. The Bishop of Ossory, in an able and very moderate statement made at the meeting of the Synod of that Diocese, last September, showed that both the principal churches and the endowments now held by the Church of Ireland have been claimed repeatedly by prominent representatives of the Church of Rome. It is stated that the Church sites and buildings belong to the Roman Communion in Ireland because, on Roman Catholic principles, that communion
p.210truly represents the ancient Irish Church, and no lapse of time can invalidate the Church's title; and that the endowments belong to the same communion because they represent moneys derived from pre-Disestablishment days, which were, in their turn, the alienated possessions of the Roman Church (see Bishop of Ossory's Synod Address, p. 7). As regards this last statement, it must be noted that the only sense in which it can be truly said that the endowments represent moneys derived from pre-Disestablishment days is that the foundation of the new financial system was laid by the generosity of the clergy in office at the time. They entrusted to the Representative Body of the Church the capitalised value of the life-interests secured to them by the Act. The money was their private property, and their action one which involved great self-denial, for they gave up the security offered by the State. The money was so calculated that the whole should be exhausted when all payments were made. By good management, however, it yielded considerable profit, and meanwhile formed a foundation on which to build. It was, however, in no sense an endowment given by the State, nor was it a fund on which any but the legal owners (i.e. the clergy of the time) had a justifiable claim.
The Bishop of Ossory's statement excited much discussion, but, though many Roman Catholic apologists endeavoured to laugh away his fears as groundless, not one denied the validity of his argument. The fact that, as he showed, the Church of Ireland holds her churches by exactly the same title as that by which the English Church holds Westminster Abbey, and that, for the Irish Church, there is the additional security of the Act of 1869, count for nothing in the eye of Roman Canon Law. In an Ireland ruled by a Parliament of which the vast majority would be Roman Catholics, devout and sincere, representing constituencies peopled by devout and sincere persons who believe that the laws of the Vatican are the laws of God, with a clergy lifted above the civil law by the operation of the recent Motu Proprio Decree, an Ireland in
p.211which even the school catechisms (see the Christian Brothers' Catechism, quoted by the Bishop of Ossory, op. cit. p. 8) teach that an alien Church unlawfully excludes the Catholics from their own churches, how long would it be before a movement, burning with holy zeal and pious indignation, against the usurpers, would sweep away every barrier and drive out the heretics from the ancient shrines?
Irish Churchmen who know their country are aware that even the most stringent guarantees would be worthless in such a case, as they proved worthless in the Act of Union, and at the time of Catholic emancipation.
Some English Liberals imagine that Home Rule would be followed by an uprising of popular independence which would destroy the power of the Roman Church in Ireland. Let those who think this consider that the more independent spirits among the Irish Roman Catholics go to America, and let them further consider what has happened in the Province of Quebec in Canada. The immense strength of the bondsreligious, social, and educationalby which the mass of the people in the South and West of Ireland are held in the grip of the Roman ecclesiastical system, and the power which would be exerted by the central authority of that system by means of the recent decrees, make it certain that clerical domination would, from the outset, be the ruling principle of an Irish Parliament.
There is no desire nearer to the hearts of the clergy and people who form the Church to which the writer belongs than that they should be enabled to live at peace with their Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen, and work in union with them, for the good of their country and the promotion of that new prosperity which recent years have brought. They dread Home Rule, because they know that, instead of peace, it would bring a sword, and plunge their country once again into all the horrors of civil and religious strife.
For obvious reasons, the Religious Difficulty under Home Rule does not receive much attention on the political platform in Great Britain. But in Ireland a religious problem flames at the heart of the whole controversy. This religious problem creates the cleavage in the Irish population, and is the real secret of the intense passion on both sides with which Home Rule is both prosecuted and resisted. Irishmen understand this very well; but as Home Rule, on its face value, is only a question of a mode of civil government, it is almost impossible to make the matter clear to British electors. They say, What has religion got to do with Home Rule? Home Rule is a pure question of politics, and it must be solved on exclusively political lines. Even if this were so, might not Englishmen remember that the Nationalist Members of Parliament have been controlled by the Church of Rome in their votes on the English education question? I mention this to show that under the disguise of pure politics ecclesiastical authority may stalk in perfect freedom through the lobbies of the House of Commons. Is it, then, an absolutely incredible thing that what has been done in the English Parliament in the name of politics may be done openly and undisguised in the name of politics in a Home Rule Parliament? That such will be the case I shall now attempt to show.
Let us begin with the most elementary facts. According
p.213to the official census of 1911 the population of Ireland is grouped as follows:
|All other Christian denominations||57,718|
I beg the electors of Great Britain to look steadily into the above figures, and to ask themselves who are the Home Rulers and who are the Unionists in Ireland. Irish Home Rulers are almost all Roman Catholics, and the Protestants and others are almost all stout Unionists. Does this fact suggest nothing? How is it that the line of demarcation in Irish politics almost exactly coincides with the line of demarcation in religion? Quite true, there are a few Irish Roman Catholics who are Unionists, and a few Protestants who are Home Rulers. But they are so few and so uninfluential on both sides that the exception only serves to prove the rule. These exceptions, no doubt, have been abundantly exploited, and the very most has been made of them. But the great elementary fact remains, that one-fourth of the Irish people, mostly Protestant, are resolutely, and even passionately, opposed to Home Rule; and the remarkable thing is that the most militant Irish Unionists for the past twenty years have not been the members of the Irish Church who might be suspected of Protestant Ascendency prejudices, but they are the Presbyterians and Methodists who never belonged to the old Protestant Ascendency party. It is of Irish Presbyterians that I can speak with the most intimate knowledge. Their record in Ireland requires to be made perfectly clear. In 1829 they were the champions of Catholic Emancipation. In 1868 they supported Mr. Gladstone in his great Irish reforms. They have been at all times the advocates of perfect equality in religion, and of unsectarianism in education. They stand firm and staunch on these two principles still. But they are the sternest and
p.214strongest opponents of Home Rule, and their reason is because Home Rule spells for Ireland a new religious ascendancy and the destruction of the unsectarian principle in education.
I ask on these grounds that English and Scottish electors should pause for a moment, and open their minds to the fact that there is a great religious problem at the heart of Home Rule. Irish Presbyterians claim that they know what they are doing, and that they are not the blind dupes of religious prejudice and political passion. It is for a great something that they have embarked in this conflict; they are determined to risk everything in this resistance, and in proportion as the danger approaches, in like proportion does their hostility to the Home Rule claim increase.
What, then, is the secret of this determination? It lies in a nutshell. A Parliament in Dublin would be under the control and domination of the Church of Rome. Two facts in Irish life render this not only likely and probable, but inevitable and certain. The first fact is that three-fourths of the members would be Roman Catholic, and the second fact is that the Irish people are the most devoted Roman Catholics at present in Christendom. No one disputes the first fact, but the second requires to be made clear to the electors of Great Britain. Let no one suppose that I am finding fault with Irishmen for being devoted Roman Catholics. What I wish to show is that the Church of Rome would be supreme in the new Parliament, and that she is not a good guardian of Protestant liberties and interests. Ireland has been for the last two generations brought into absolute captivity to the principles of ultramontanism. When Italy asserted her nationality, and fought for it in 1870, Ireland sent out a brigade to fight on the side of the Pope. When France, a few years ago, broke up in that land the bondage of Ecclesiasticism, the streets of Dublin were filled Sunday after Sunday for weeks with crowds of Irishmen, headed by priests, shouting for the Pope against France. The Church first, nationality afterwards, is the creed of the ultramontane; and it is the
p.215avowed creed of the Irish people. But this would be changed in an Irish Parliament, British electors affirm. Let us hear what Mr. John Dillon, M.P., says on the point. Speaking about a year ago in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, Mr. Dillon said I assert, and it is the glory of our race, that we are today the right arm of the Catholic Church throughout the world
What Mr. Dillon says is perfectly true. The Irish Parliament would be constituted on the Roman model. If there were none but Roman Catholics in Ireland, Ireland would rapidly become a State of the Church. But how would Protestants fare? Just as they fared in old Papal days in Italy under the temporal rule of the Vatican. But it may still be said that Irishmen themselves would curb the ecclesiastical power. This is one of the delusions by which British electors conceal from themselves the peril of Home Rule to Irish Protestants. They forget that Irishmen are, if possible, more Roman than Rome herself. I take the following picture of the Romanised condition of Ireland from a Roman Catholic writer
Mr. Frank Hugh O'Donnell, who believes in the Papal Church in every point, who accepts her teaching from Nicaea to Trent, and from Trent to the Vatican, says, While the general population of Ireland has been going down by leaps and bounds to the abyss, the clerical population has been mounting by cent per cent during the same period ... A short time ago, when an Austrian Cabinet was being heckled by some anti-clerical opponents upon its alleged encouragement of an excessive number of clerical persons in Austria, the Minister replied, If you want to know what an excessive number of the clergy is like go to Ireland. In proportion to their population the Irish have got ten priests and nuns to the one who exists in Austria. I do not prejudge the question. They may be wanted in Ireland. But let not honourable members talk about over-clericalism in Austria until they have studied the clerical statistics of Ireland. A Jesuit visitor to Ireland, on returning to his English acquaintances, and being asked how did he find the priests
p.216in Ireland, replied, The priests in Ireland! There is nobody but priests in Ireland. Over there they are treading on one another's heels. While the population of Ireland has diminished one-half, the population of the Presbyteries and convents has multiplied threefold or more. Comparisons are then instituted between the Sacerdotal census of Ireland, and that of the European Papal countries. I shall state results only. Belgium has only one Archbishop and five Bishops; but if it were staffed with prelates on the Irish scale it would have nine or ten Archbishops and some sixty Bishops. I suppose the main army of ecclesiastics in the two countries is in the same grossly incongruous proportionsten or twelve priests in Ireland for every one in Belgium! The German Empire, with its 21,000,000 Roman Catholics, has actually fewer mitred prelates than Ireland with its 3,000,000 of Roman Catholics. The figures of Austria-Hungary with its Roman Catholic population of 36,000,000 are equally impressive. It has eleven Archbishops, but if it were staffed on the Irish scale it would have forty-eight. It has forty Bishops, but if it were like Ireland it wouldhave 288. Mr. O'Donnell goes on: This enormous population of Churchmen, far beyond the necessities and even the luxuries of religious worship and service, would be a heavy tax upon the resources of great and wealthy lands. That must it be for Ireland to have to supply the Episcopal villas, the new Cathedrals, and handsome Presbyteries, and handsome incomes of this enormous and increasing host of reverend gentlemen, who, as regards five-sixths of their number, contribute neither to the spiritual nor temporal felicity of the Island? They are the despotic managers of all primary schools, and can exact what homage they please from the poor serf-teachers, whom they dominate and whom they keep eternally under their thumb. They absolutely own and control all the secondary schools, with all their private profits and all their Government grants. In the University what they do not dominate they mutilate. Every appointment, from dispensary doctors to members of Parliament, must acknowledge their ownership, and pay toll to their despotism. The County Councils must contribute patronage according to their indications; the parish committees of the congested districts supplement their pocket-money. They have annexed the revenues of the industrial schools. They are engaged in transforming the universal proprietary of Ireland in order to add materials for their exactions from the living and the moribund. I am told that not less than £5,000,000 are lifted from the Irish people every year by the innumerable agencies of clerical suction which are at work upon all parts of the Irish body, politic
p.217and social. Nor can it be forgotten that the material loss is only a portion of the injury. The brow-beaten and intimidated condition of the popular action and intelligence which is necessary to this state of things necessarily communicates its want of will and energy to every function of the community.
Of course Mr. F. H. O'Donnell has been driven out of public life in Ireland for plain speaking like this; and so would every man be who ventured to cross swords with his Church. It aggravates the situation immensely when we take another fact in Irish life into account.
In quite recent months Mr. Devlin, M.P., has brought into prominence a society called the Ancient Order of Hibernians (sometimes called the Molly Maguires) which, according to the late Mr. Michael Davitt, is the most wonderful pro-Celtic organisation in the world. This is a secret society which at one time was under the ban of the Church; but quite recently the ban has been removed, and priests are now allowed to join the order. The present Pope is said to be its most powerful friend. It has branches in many lands, and it is rapidly gathering into it all the great mass of the Irish Roman Catholic people. This is the most wonderful political machine in Ireland.
Mr. William O'Brien, M.P., has recently given an account of this society which has never been seriously questioned. The fundamental object of the Hibernian Society is to give preference to its own members first and Catholics afterwards as against Protestants on all occasions. Whether it is a question of custom, office, public contracts, or positions on Public Boards, Molly Maguires are pledged always to support a Catholic as against a Protestant. If Protestants are to be robbed of their business, if they are to be deprived of public contracts, if they are to be shut out of every office of honour or emolument, what is this but extermination? The domination of such a society would make this country a hell. It would light the flame of civil war in our midst, and blight every hope of its future prosperity.
And now we reach the core of the question. It is perfectly clear that Home Rule would create a Roman Catholic
p.218ascendancy in Ireland, but still it might be said that the Church of Rome would be tolerant. On that point we had best consult the Church of Rome herself. Has she ever said that she would practise toleration towards Protestants when she was in power? Never; on the contrary, she declares most clearly that toleration of error is a deadly sin. In this respect the Church of Rome claims to differ toto coelo from the churches of the Reformation. In Ireland she has passed through all the stages of ecclesiastical experience from the lowest form of disability to the present claim of supremacy. In the dark days of her suffering she cried for toleration, and as the claim was just in Protestant eyes she got it. Then as she grew in strength she stretched forth her hands for equality, and as this too was just, she gradually obtained it. At present she enjoys equality in every practical right and privilege with her Protestant neighbours. But in the demand for Home Rule there is involved the claim of exerting an ecclesiastical ascendancy not only over her own members but over Irish Protestants, and this is the claim which is unjust and which ought not to be granted. Green, the historian, points out that William Pitt made the Union with England the ground of his plea for Roman Catholic emancipation, as it would effectually prevent a Romish ascendancy in Ireland. Home Rule in practice will destroy the control of Great Britain, and, therefore, involves the removal of the bulwark against Roman Catholic ascendancy.
The contention of the Irish Protestants is that neither their will nor their religious liberties would be safe in the custody of Rome. In an Irish Parliament civil allegiance to the Holy See would be the test of membership, and would make every Roman Catholic member a civil servant of the Vatican. That Parliament would be compelled to carry out the behests of the Church. The Church is hostile to the liberty of the Press, to liberty of public speech, to Modernism in science, in literature, in philosophy; is bound to exact obedience from her own members and to extirpate heresy and heretics; claims to be above Civil Law, and the right to enforce Canon Law whenever she is able, There are
p.219simply no limits even of life or property to the range of her intolerance. This is not an indictment, it is the boast of Rome. She plumes herself upon being an intolerant because she is an infallible Church, and her Irish claim, symbolised by the Papal Tiara, is supremacy over the Church, supremacy over the State, and supremacy over the invisible world. Unquestioning obedience is her law towards her own subjects, and intolerance tempered with prudence is her law towards Protestants. It is a strange hallucination to find that there are politicians today who think that Rome will change her principles at the bidding of Mr. Redmond, or to please hard-driven politicians, or to make Rome attractive to a Protestant Empire. Rome claims supremacy, and she tells us quite candidly what she will do when she gets it.
Here is our difficulty under Home Rule. Irish Protestants see that they must either refuse to go into an Irish Parliament, or else go into it as a hopeless minority, and turn it into an arena for the maintenance of their most elementary rights; in which case the Irish Parliament would be simply a cockpit of religio-political strife. But it would be a great mistake to suppose that the religious difficulty is confined to Irish Protestants. It is a difficulty which would become in time a crushing burden to Roman Catholics themselves. The yoke of Rome was found too heavy for Italy, and in a generation or two it would be found too heavy for Ireland. But for the creation of the Papal ascendancy in Ireland, the responsibility must rest, in the long run, on Great Britain herself. England and Scotland, the most favoured lands of the Reformation, by establishing Home Rule in Ireland, will do for Rome what no other country in the world would do for her. They would entrust her with a legislative machine which she could control without check, hand over to her tender mercies a million of the best Protestants of the Empire, and establish at the heart of the Empire a power altogether at variance with her own ideals of Government, fraught with danger, and a good base of operations for the conquest of England. Can this be done with impunity? Can Great Britain divest herself of a
p.220religious responsibility in dealing with Home Rule? Is there not a God in Heaven who will take note of such national procedure? Are electors not responsible to Him for the use they make of their votes? If they sow to the wind, must they not reap the whirlwind?
In brief compass, I hope I have made it quite clear what the Religious Difficulty in Ireland under Home Rule is. It is not a mere accident of the situation; it does not spring from any question of temper, or of prejudice, or of bigotry. The Religious Difficulty is created by the essential and fundamental genius of Romanism, Her whole ideal of life differs from the Protestant ideal. It is impossible to reconcile these two ideals. It is impossible to unite them in any amalgam that would not mean the destruction of both. Under Imperial Rule these ideals have discovered a decently working modus vivendi. Mr. Pitt's contention that the union with Great Britain would be an effectual barrier against Romanism has held good. But if you remove Imperial Rule then you create at a stroke the ascendancy of Rome, and under that ascendency the greatest injustice would be inflicted on the Protestant minority. Questions of public situations and of efficient patronage are of very subordinate importance indeed. Mr. Redmond demands that Irish Protestants must be included in his Home Rule scheme, and threatens that if they object they must be dealt with by the strong hand, and his Home Rule Parliament would be subservient to the Church of Rome. Does any one suppose that a million of the most earnest Protestants in the world are going to submit to such an arrangement? Neither Englishmen nor Scotsmen would be willing themselves to enter under such a yoke, and why should they ask Irishmen to do so?
It is contended, indeed, that the power of the priest in Ireland is on the wane. This is partly true and partly not true. It is true that he is not quite the political and social autocrat that he once was. But it is not true that the Church of Rome is less powerful in Ireland than she was. On the contrary, as an ecclesiastical organisation Rome was
p.221never so compact in organisation, never so ably manned by both regular and secular clergy, never so wealthy nor so full of resource, never so obedient to the rule of the Vatican, as at the present moment. Give her an Irish Parliament, and she will be complete; she will patiently subdue all Ireland to her will. Emigration has drained the country of the strong men of the laity, who might be able to resist her encroachments. Dr. Horton truly says: The Roman Church dominates Ireland and the Irish as completely as Islam dominates Morocco. By Ireland and the Irish Dr. Horton, of course, means Roman Catholic Ireland. Are you now going to place a legislative weapon in her hand whereby she will be able to dominate Protestants also? It is bad statesmanship; bad politics; bad religion. For Ireland it can bring nothing but ruin; and for the Empire nothing but terrible retribution in the future.