AGAINST HOME RULE
THE CASE FOR THE UNION
ARTHUR J. BALFOUR, M.P.; J. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN, M.P.; WALTER LONG, M.P.; GEORGE WYNDHAM, M.P.; LORD CHARLES BERESFORD, M.P.; J.H. CAMPBELL, K.C., M.P.; GERALD W. BALFOUR; THOMAS SINCLAIR; MARQUIS OF LONDONDERRY; EARL PERCY; L.S. AMERY, M.P.; GEORGE CAVE, K.C., M.P.; GODFREY LOCKER LAMPSON, M.P., &c.
WITH INTRODUCTION BY SIR EDWARD CARSON, K.C., M.P.
AND PREFACE BY A. BONAR LAW, M.P.
EDITED BY S. ROSENBAUM
LONDON FREDERICK WARNE & CO, AND NEW YORK 1912
IRISH ESSAYS COMMITTEE
Chairman. THE RT. HON. SIR EDWARD CARSON, M.P.
Vice-Chairman. GODFREY LOCKER LAMPSON, M.P.
Committee. L.S. AMERY, M.P. GEORGE CAVE, K.C., M.P. THE RT. HON. J.H. CAMPBELL, K.C., M.P. A.L. HORNER, K.C., M.P. A.D. STEEL-MAITLAND, M.P. A.W. SAMUELS, K.C. P. CAMBRAY
Secretary & Editor. S. ROSENBAUM, M.SC., F.S.S.
BY THE RIGHT HON. A. BONAR LAW, M.P.
This book, for which I have been asked to write a short preface, presents the case against Home Rule for Ireland. The articles are written by men who not only have a complete grasp of the subjects upon which they write, but who in most cases, from their past experience and from their personal influence, are well entitled to outline the Irish policy of the Unionist Party.
Ours is not merely a policy of hostility to Home Rule, but it is, as it has always been, a constructive policy for the regeneration of Ireland.
We are opposed to Home Rule because, in our belief, it would seriously weaken our national position; because it would put a stop to the remarkable increase of prosperity in Ireland which has resulted from the Land Purchase Act; and because it would inflict intolerable injustice on the minority in Ireland, who believe that under a Government controlled by the men who dominate the United Irish League neither their civil nor their religious liberty would be safe.
To create within the United Kingdom a separate Parliament with an Executive Government responsible to that Parliament would at the best mean a danger of friction. But if we were ever engaged in a great war, and the men who controlled the Irish Government took the view in regard to that war which was taken by the same men in regard to the Boer War; if they thought the war unjust, and if, as under the last Home Rule Bill they would have the right to do, they passed resolutions in the Irish Parliament in condemnation of the war, and even sent embassies carrying messages of good-will to our enemy, then this second Government at the heart of the Empire would be a source of weakness which might be fatal to us.
The ameliorative measures originated by Mr. Balfour when he was Chief Secretary, and which culminated in the Wyndham Purchase Act, have created a new Ireland. Mr. Redmond, speaking a year or two ago, said that Ireland "was studded with the beautiful and happy homes of an emancipated peasantry." It is a true picture, but it is a picture of the result of Unionist policy in Ireland, a policy which Mr. Redmond and his friends, including the present Government, have done their best to hamper. The driving power of the agitation for Home Rule has always been discontent with the land system of Ireland, and just in proportion as land purchase has extended, the demand for Home Rule has died down. The Nationalist leaders, realising this, and regarding political agitation as their first object, have compelled the Government to put insurmountable obstacles in the way of land purchase—not because it had not been successful, but because it had been too successful.
The prosperity and the peace of Ireland depend upon the completion of land purchase, and it can only be completed by the use of British credit, which in my belief can and ought only to be freely given so long as Ireland is in complete union with the rest of the United Kingdom. In the present deplorable position of British credit the financing of land purchase would be difficult; but it is not unreasonable to hope that the return to power of a Government which would adopt sane financial methods would restore our credit; and in any case, the object is of such vital importance that, whatever the difficulties, it must be our policy to complete with the utmost possible rapidity the system of land purchase in Ireland.
It will also be our aim to help to the utmost, in the manner suggested in different articles in this book, in the development of the resources of Ireland. The Nationalist policy, which is imposed also on the Radical Party, is in fact more politics and less industry. Our policy is more industry and less politics.
The strongest objection, however, and, in my opinion, the insurmountable obstacle to Home Rule, is the injustice of attempting to impose it against their will upon the Unionists of Ulster. The only intelligible ground upon which Home Rule can now be defended is the nationality of Ireland. But Ireland is not a nation; it is two nations. It is two nations separated from each other by lines of cleavage which cut far deeper than those which separate Great Britain from Ireland as a whole. Every argument which can be adduced in favour of separate treatment for the Irish Nationalist minority as against the majority of the United Kingdom, applies with far greater force in favour of separate treatment for the Unionists of Ulster as against the majority of Ireland.
To the majority in Ireland Home Rule may seem to be a blessing, but to the minority it appears as an intolerable curse. Their hostility to it is quite as strong as that which was felt by many of the Catholics of Ireland to Grattan's Parliament. They, too, would say, as the Catholic Bishop of Waterford said at the time of the Union, that they "would prefer a Union with the Beys and Mamelukes of Egypt to the iron rod of the Mamelukes of Ireland."
The minority which holds this view is important in numbers, for it comprises at the lowest estimate more than a fourth of the population of Ireland. From every other point of view it is still more important, for probably the minority pays at least half the taxes and does half the trade of Ireland. The influence and also the power of the minority is enormously increased by the way in which its numbers are concentrated in Belfast and the surrounding counties.
The men who compose this minority ask no special privilege. They demand only—and they will not demand in vain—that they should not be deprived against their will of the protection of British law and of the rights of British citizenship.
By the Rt. Hon. A. Bonar Law, M.P.
By the Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Carson, K.C., M.P.
I. A NOTE ON HOME RULE
By the Rt. Hon. A.J. Balfour, M.P.
II. HISTORICAL RETROSPECT
By J.R. Fisher
III. THE CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTION
By George Cave, K.C., M.P.
IV. HOME RULE FINANCE
By the Rt. Hon. J. Austen Chamberlain, M.P.
V. HOME RULE AND THE COLONIAL ANALOGY
By L.S. Amery, M.P.
VI. THE CONTROL OF JUDICIARY AND POLICE
By the Rt. Hon. J.H. Campbell, K.C., M.P.
VII. THE ULSTER QUESTION
By the Marquis of Londonderry, K.G.
VIII. THE POSITION OF ULSTER
By the Rt. Hon. Thomas Sinclair.
IX. THE SOUTHERN MINORITIES
By Richard Bagwell, M.A.
X. HOME RULE AND NAVAL DEFENCE
By Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, M.P.
XI. THE MILITARY DISADVANTAGES OF HOME RULE
By the Earl Percy.
XII. THE RELIGIOUS DIFFICULTY UNDER HOME RULE
(i.) The Church View
By the Rt. Rev. C.F. D'Arcy, Bishop of Down.
(ii.) The Nonconformist View
By Rev. Samuel Prenter, M.A., D.D. (Dublin).
XIII. UNIONIST POLICY IN RELATION TO RURAL DEVELOPMENT IN IRELAND
By the Rt. Hon. Gerald Balfour.
XIV. THE COMPLETION OF LAND PURCHASE
By the Rt. Hon. George Wyndham, M.P.
XV. POSSIBLE IRISH FINANCIAL REFORMS UNDER THE UNION
By Arthur Warren Samuels, K.C.
XVI. THE ECONOMICS OF SEPARATISM
By L.S. Amery, M.P.
XVII. PRIVATE BILL LEGISLATION
By the Rt. Hon. Walter Long, M.P.
XVIII. IRISH POOR LAW REFORM
By John E. Healy, Editor of the "Irish Times."
XIX. IRISH EDUCATION UNDER THE UNION
By Godfrey Locker Lampson, M.P.
XX. THE PROBLEM OF TRANSIT AND TRANSPORT IN IRELAND
By an Irish Railway Director.
BY THE RIGHT HON. SIR EDWARD CARSON, M.P.
The object of the various essays collected in this book is to set out the case against Home Rule for Ireland, and to re-state Unionist policy in the light of the recent changes in that country. The authors are not, however, to be regarded as forming anything in the nature of a corporate body, and no collective responsibility is to be ascribed to them. Each writer is responsible for the views set out in his own article, and for those alone. At the same time, they are all leaders of Unionist thought and opinion, and their views in the main represent the policy which the Unionist Government, when returned to power, will have to carry into effect.
Among the contributors to the book are an ex-Premier, four ex-Chief Secretaries for Ireland, an ex-Lord Lieutenant, two ex-Law officers, and a number of men whose special study of the Irish question entitles them to have their views most carefully considered when the time comes for restoring to Ireland those economic advantages of which she has been deprived by political agitation and political conspiracy. At the present moment the discussion of the Irish question is embittered by the pressing and urgent danger to civil and religious liberties involved in the unconditional surrender of the Government to the intrigues of a disloyal section of the Irish people. It is the object of writers in this book to raise the discussions on the Home Rule question above the bitter conflict of Irish parties, and to show that not only is Unionism a constructive policy and a measure of hope for Ireland, but that in Unionist policy lies the only alternative to financial ruin and exterminating civil dissensions.
We who are Unionists believe first and foremost that the Act of Union is required—in the words made familiar to us by the Book of Common Prayer—"for the safety, honour and welfare, of our Sovereign and his dominions." We are not concerned with the supposed taint which marred the passing of that Act; we are unmoved by the fact that its terms have undergone considerable modification. We do not believe in the plenary inspiration of any Act of Parliament. It is not possible for the living needs of two prosperous countries to be bound indefinitely by the "dead hand" of an ancient statute, but we maintain that geographical and economic reasons make a legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland necessary for the interests of both. We see, as Irish Ministers saw in 1800, that there can be no permanent resting place between complete Union and total separation. We know that Irish Nationalists have not only proclaimed separatist principles, but that they have received separatist money, on the understanding that they would not oppose a movement to destroy whatever restrictions and safeguards the Imperial Parliament might impose upon an Irish Government.
The first law of nature with nations and governments, as with individuals, is self-preservation. It was the vital interests of national defence that caused Pitt to undertake the difficult and thankless task of creating the legislative union. If that union was necessary for the salvation of England and the foundation of the British Empire, it is assuredly no less necessary for the continued security of the one and the maintenance and prestige of the other.
Mr. J.R. Fisher, in his historical retrospect, shows us how bitter experience convinced successive generations of English statesmen of the dangers that lay in an independent Ireland. One of the very earliest conflicts between the two countries was caused by the action of the Irish Parliament in recognising and crowning a Pretender in Dublin Castle. Then the fact that the Reformation, which soon won the adherence of the English Government and the majority of the English people, never gained any great foothold in Ireland, caused the bitter religious wars which devastated Europe to be reproduced in the relations of the two countries. When England was fighting desperately with the Spanish champions of the Papacy, Spanish forces twice succeeded in effecting a landing on the Irish coast, and were welcomed by the people. Later on, by the aid of subsidies from an Irish Parliament, Strafford raised 10,000 men in Ireland in order to support Charles I. in his conflict with the English people. Cromwell realised that the only remedy for the intrigues and turbulence of the Irish Parliament lay in a legislative union. But, unfortunately, his Union Parliament was terminated by the Restoration. Then, again, when France became the chief danger that England had to face, Tyrconnel, with the aid of French troops and French subsidies, endeavoured to make Ireland a base for the invasion of England. Under the Old Pretender again, another effort was made to make the Irish Parliament a medium for the destruction of English liberties.
In these long-continued and bitter struggles we see the excuse, if not the justification, for the severe penal laws which were introduced in order to curb the power of the Irish chieftains. We see also the beginning of the feud between Ulster and the other provinces in Ireland, which has continued in a modified form to the present day. Strafford found that, in order to bolster up the despotism of the Stuarts, he had not only to invade England, but to expel the Scottish settlers from the Northern province. The Irish Parliament in the time of Tyrconnel again began to prepare for the invasion of England by an attempt to destroy the Ulster plantation. The settlers had their estates confiscated, the Protestant clergy were driven out and English sympathisers outlawed by name, in the "hugest Bill of Attainder which the world has seen."
Admiral Lord Charles Beresford points out the danger from a naval point of view of the French attempts to use Ireland as a base for operations against England, both under Louis XIV. and under the Republican Directory. He quotes Admiral Mahan as saying that the movement which designed to cut the English communications in St. George's Channel while an invading party landed in the south of Ireland was a strictly strategic movement and would be as dangerous to England now as it was in 1690. When Grattan extorted from England's weakness the unworkable and impracticable constitution of 1782, the danger which had always been present became immensely increased. In less than three years from the period of boasted final adjustment, Ireland came to a breach with England on the important question of trade and navigation. Then, again, at the time of the Regency, the Irish Parliament was actually ready to choose a person in whom to rest the sovereign executive power of the nation, different from him whom the British Parliament were prepared to designate.
In 1795, when the French had made themselves masters of Brabant, Flanders, and Holland, the rebel government of United Irishmen was so well-established in Ireland that, as Lord Clare, the Irish Chancellor, subsequently admitted in the House of Lords, Ireland was for some weeks in a state of actual separation from Great Britain. When the great Rebellion of 1798 broke out, the French Directory sent assistance to the Irish rebels in order to facilitate the greater scheme—the conquest of England and of Europe. When we come to estimate the danger which the grant of Home Rule to Ireland would bring to the safety of England, we are faced with two considerations. In the first place, the movements of the French in the past were, as we have said, strategic. Given an Irish Parliament that was hostile to England, or at least dubious in her loyalty to this country, the movement of a hostile fleet against our communications would be as dangerous now as it was in the past.
When we try to estimate what would be the feelings of an Irish Government when England was at war, we have to consider not only the speeches of avowed enemies of the Empire like Major McBride and the Irish Americans, but we have also to remember the attitude adopted upon all questions of foreign policy by the more responsible Nationalists of the type of Mr. Dillon. Not only have the Irish Nationalist party consistently opposed every warlike operation that British Governments have found to be necessary, but they have also fervently attacked the Powers on the Continent of Europe that have been suspected of friendship to England. We have only to imagine the element of weakness and disunion which would be introduced into our foreign policy by an Irish Parliament that passed resolutions regarding the policy of the Governments, say, of Russia and of France, in order to realise the immense dangers of setting up such a Parliament when we are again confronted with a mighty Confederation of opponents in Europe. It is admitted that the next European war will be decided by the events of the first few days. In order to succeed, we shall have to strike and strike quickly. But in order that there should be swift and effective action, there should be only one Government to be consulted. The Irish Ministry that was not actively hostile, but only unsympathetic and dilatory, might, in many ways, fatally embarrass Ministers at Westminster.
Moreover, another complication has been introduced by the dependence of England upon Irish food supplies. Lord Percy points out that there are two stages in every naval war; first, the actual engagement, and then the blockade or destruction of the ships of the defeated country. He points out that, even after the destruction of the French Navy at Trafalgar, the damage done to British oversea commerce was very great. Modern conditions of warfare have made blockade an infinitely more difficult and precarious operation, and we must therefore face the certainty that hostile cruisers will escape and interfere with our oversea supplies of food. Since Ireland lies directly across our trade routes, it is probable that the majority of our food supplies will be derived from Ireland or carried through that country. But Irish Ministers would not have forgotten the lesson of the famine, when food was exported from Ireland though the people starved. Curious as it may seem, Ireland, though a great exporting country, does not under present conditions feed herself, and therefore an Irish Ministry would certainly lay in a large stock of the imported food supplies before they were brought to England, in order first of all absolutely to secure the food of their own people. It would be open for them at any time, by cutting off our supplies, our horses and our recruits, to extract any terms they liked out of the English people or bring this country to its knees. "England's difficulty" would once again become "Ireland's opportunity." The experience of 1782 would be repeated. Resistance to Ireland's demands for extended powers would bring about war between the two countries. In the striking phrase of Mr. Balfour's arresting article, "The battle of the two Parliaments would become the battle of the two peoples." It is only necessary to refer briefly to the fact that the active section of the Nationalist party has continually and consistently opposed recruiting for the British Army. It is perfectly certain that, under Home Rule, this policy would be accentuated rather than reversed. We now draw recruits from Ireland out of all proportion to its population. Under Home Rule, the difficulties of maintaining a proper standard of men and efficiency must be immensely increased.
If there were no other arguments against Home Rule, the paramount necessities of Imperial defence would demand the maintenance of the Union. But the opposition to the proposed revolution in Ireland is based not only on the considerations of Imperial safety, but also on those of national honour. The historical bases of Irish nationalism have been destroyed by the arguments summarised in this book by Mr. Fisher and Mr. Amery. It was the existence of a separate Parliament in Dublin that made Ireland, for so many centuries, alike a menace to English liberty and the victim of English reprisals. Miss A.E. Murray has pointed out that experience seemed to show to British statesmen that Irish prosperity was dangerous to English liberty. It was the absence of direct authority over Ireland which made England so nervously anxious to restrict Irish resources in every direction in which they might, even indirectly, interfere with the growth of English power. Irish industries were penalised and crippled, not from any innate perversity on the part of English statesmen, or from any deliberate desire to ruin Ireland, but as a natural consequence of exclusion from the Union under the economic policy of the age. The very poverty of Ireland, as expressed in the lowness of Irish wages, was a convenient and perfectly justifiable argument for exclusion. Mr. Amery shows that the Protestant settlers of Ulster were penalised even more severely than the intriguing Irish chieftains against whom they were primarily directed.
It was the consciousness of the natural result of separation that caused the Irish Parliament, upon two separate occasions, to petition for that union with England which was delayed for over a century. The action of Grattan and his supporters in wresting the impossible Constitution of 1782, from the harassed and desperate English Government, began that fatal policy of substituting political agitation for economic reform which has ever since marred the Irish Nationalist movement. John Fitzgibbon pointed out in the Irish House of Commons that only two alternatives lay before his country—Separation or Union. Under Separation an Irish Parliament might be able to pursue an economic policy of its own; under Union the common economic policy of the two countries might be adjusted to the peculiar interests of each.
Pitt, undoubtedly, looked forward to a Customs Union with internal free trade as the ultimate solution of the difficulty, but a Customs Union was impossible without the fullest kind of legislative unity. It is true that the closing years of the eighteenth century were years of prosperity to certain classes and districts in Ireland, but Mr. Fisher has shown beyond dispute that this prosperity neither commenced with Grattan's Parliament nor ended with its fall. It was based upon the peculiar economic conditions which years of war and preparations for war had fostered in England; it was bound in any case to disappear with the growing concentration of industrial interests which followed the general introduction of machinery. The immediate result of the passing of the Act of Union was to increase the Irish population and Irish trade.
But to a certain extent that prosperity was fictitious and doomed to failure so soon as peace and the introduction of scientific methods of industry had caused the concentration of the great manufactures. Then came the great economic disaster for Ireland—the adoption of free trade by England. The Irish famine of 1849 was not more severe than others that had preceded it, but its evil effects were accentuated by the policy of the English Government. The economists decided that the State ought to do nothing to interfere with private enterprise in feeding the starving people, and as there was no private enterprise in the country, where all classes were involved in the common ruin, the people were left to die of hunger by the roadside. The lands the potato blight spared were desolated by the adoption of free trade. The exploitation of the virgin lands of the American West gradually threw the fertile midlands of Ireland from tillage into grass. A series of bad harvests aggravated the evil. The landlords and the farmers of Ireland were divided into two political camps, and, instead of uniting for their common welfare, each attempted to cast upon the other the burden of the economic catastrophe. To sum up in the words of Mr. Amery—
"The evils of economic Separatism, aggravated by social evils surviving from the Separatism of an earlier age, united to revive a demand for the extension and renewal of the very cause of those evils."
The political demand for the repeal of the Act of Union, which had lain dormant for so many years, was revived by the energies of Isaac Butt. He found in the Irish landlords, smarting under the disestablishment of the Irish Church, a certain amount of sympathy and assistance, but the "engine" for which Finton Lalor had asked in order to draw the "repeal train," was not discovered until Parnell linked the growing agrarian unrest to the Home Rule Campaign. This is not the place to tell again the weary story of the land war or to show how the Irish Nationalists exploited the grievances of the Irish tenants in order to encourage crime and foment disloyalty in the country. It is sufficient to say that this conflict—the conduct of which reflects little credit either upon the Irish protagonists or the British Government which alternately pampered and opposed it—was ended, for the time at least, by the passing of Mr. Wyndham's Land Act. We look forward in perfect confidence to the time when that great measure shall achieve its full result in wiping out the memory of many centuries of discord and hatred. But the Separatist movement, which has always been the evil genius of Irish politics, has not yet been completely exorcised. The memory of those past years when the minority in Ireland constituted the only bulwark of Irish freedom and of English liberty, has not yet passed away. The Irish Nationalist party since Parnell have spared no exertions to impress more deeply upon the imaginations of a sentimental race the memory of those "ancient weeping years." They have preached a social and a civil war upon all those in Ireland who would not submit their opinions and consciences to the uncontrolled domination of secret societies and leagues.
The articles upon the Ulster question by Lord Londonderry and Mr. Sinclair show that the Northern province still maintains her historic opposition to Irish Separatism and Irish intrigue. She stands firmly by the same economic principles which have enabled her, in spite of persecution and natural disadvantages, to build up so great a prosperity. She knows well that the only chance for the rest of Ireland to attain to the standard of education, enlightenment and independence which she has reached, is to free itself from the sinister domination under which it lies, and to assert its right to political and religious liberty. Ulster sees in Irish Nationalism a dark conspiracy, buttressed upon crime and incitement to outrage, maintained by ignorance and pandering to superstition. Even at this moment the Nationalist leagues have succeeded in superseding the law of the land by the law of the league. We need only point to the remarks which the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland and Mr. Justice Kenny have been compelled to make to the Grand Juries quite recently, to show what Nationalist rule means to the helpless peasants in a great part of the country.
But the differences which still sever the two great parties in Ireland are not only economic but religious. The general slackening of theological dispute which followed the weary years of religious warfare after the Reformation, has never brought peace to Ireland. In England the very completeness of the defeat of Roman Catholicism has rendered the people oblivious to the dangers of its aggression. The Irish Unionists are not monsters of inhuman frame; they are men of like passions with Englishmen. Though they hold their religious views with vigour and determination, there is nothing that they would like more than to be able to forget their points of difference from those who are their fellow Christians. It is perhaps necessary to point out once again that the Roman Catholic Church is a political, as well as a religious, institution, and to remind Englishmen that it is by the first law of its being an intolerant and aggressive organisation. All Protestants in Ireland feel deep respect for much of the work which is carried on by the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. They gladly acknowledge the influence of its priesthood in maintaining and upholding the traditional morality and purity of the Irish race. They venerate the memories of those brave Irish priests who defied persecution in order to bring succour to their flocks in time of need. But they are bound to deal with the present political situation as they find it. They are determined that no Church, however admirable, and no creed, however lofty, should be forced upon them against their wills. There is a dark side to the picture, on which it is unnecessary to dwell. We have only to ask the Nonconformists of England what would be their feelings were a Roman Catholic majority returned to the British House of Commons.
In most of the articles in this book which deal with the religious question; special stress is laid upon recent Papal legislation. The Ne Temere and the Motu Proprio decrees have constituted an invasion of the rights hitherto enjoyed by the minority in Ireland, and they are even more significant as an illustration of the policy of the Roman curia. Those who have watched the steady increase of Roman aggression in every Roman Catholic country, followed as it has been by passionate protest and determined action by the civil Governments, must realise the danger which Home Rule would bring to the faith and liberty of the people of Ireland. It is not inconsistent to urge, as many of us have urged, that Home Rule would mean alike a danger to the Protestant faith and a menace to Catholic power. The immediate result of successful Papal interference with civil liberties in every land has been a sweeping movement among the people which has been, not Protestant, but anti-Christian in its nature. If we fear the tyranny which the Roman Catholic Church has established under British rule in Malta and in Quebec, may we not fear also the reaction from such tyranny which has already taken place in France and Portugal.
But we are told that there are to be in the new Home Rule Bill safeguards which will protect the minority from any interference with their civil and religious liberties. It is not necessary for me to go over again in detail the ground which is so admirably covered by Mr. George Cave and Mr. James Campbell. They show clearly that the existence of restrictions and limitations upon the activities of a Dublin Parliament, whether they are primarily intended to safeguard the British connection or to protect the liberties of minorities, cannot be worth the paper on which they are printed. Let us take, for instance, an attempt to prevent the marriages of Irish Protestants from being invalidated by an Irish Parliament. We may point out that an amendment to the 1893 Home Rule Bill, designed to safeguard such marriages, was rejected by the vote of the Irish Nationalist party. But even were legislation affecting the marriage laws of the minority to be placed outside the control of a Dublin Parliament, the effect would not be to reassure the Protestant community. Mr. James Campbell mentions a case which has profoundly stirred the Puritan feelings of Irish Protestantism. A man charged with bigamy has been released without punishment because the first marriage, although in conformity with the law of the land, was not recognised by the Roman Catholic Church. However justifiable that course may have been in the exceptional circumstances of that particular case, the precedent obviously prepares the way for a practical reversal of the law by executive or judicial action. We must remember that, since the Ne Temere decree has come into force, the marriages of Protestants and Roman Catholics are held by the Roman Catholic Church to be absolutely null and void unless they are celebrated in a Roman Catholic Church. We have also to bear in mind that these marriages will not be permitted by the priesthood except under conditions which many Irish Protestants consider humiliating and impossible. No more deadly attack upon the faith of the Protestant minority in the three provinces in Ireland can be imagined than to make a denial of their faith the essential condition to the enjoyment of the highest happiness for which they may look upon this earth.
The second decree prohibits, under pain of excommunication, any Roman Catholic from bringing an ecclesiastical officer before a Court of Justice. Even under the Union Government this decree is a danger to the liberty of the subject. Under an independent Irish Government, nothing except that vast anti-clerical revolution which some people foresee could possibly reassure the people as to the attitude of the Executive Government in dealing with a large and privileged class. These considerations make one more reason for refusing the Colonial analogy which is so ingeniously pressed by such apologists for Home Rule as Mr. Erskine Childers. Mr. Amery analyses the confusion of thought between Home Rule as meaning responsible Government and Home Rule as meaning separate government which underlies the arguments of Liberal Home Rulers. Ireland has Home Rule in the sense of having free representative institutions. She is prevented by geographical and economic conditions from enjoying separate government under the same terms on which the Colonies possess it. As Mr. Amery points out, the United Kingdom is geographically a single island group. No part of Ireland is so inaccessible from the political centre of British power as the remoter parts of the Highlands, while racially no less than physically Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. Economically also the two countries are bound together in a way which makes a common physical policy absolutely necessary for the welfare of both countries. The financial arguments which might have made it possible to permit an independent fiscal policy for Ireland under free trade, have disappeared with the certain approach of a revision of the tariff policies of England. There can be no separate tariffs for the two countries, or even a common tariff, without a common Government to negotiate and enforce it. If there were no other objection to the establishment of a separate Government in Dublin, it would be impossible because legislative autonomy can only be coupled with financial independence.
The financial difficulties in the way of any grant of Home Rule are fully explained by Mr. Austen Chamberlain. Three attempts at framing schemes for financing Home Rule were made by Mr. Gladstone in the past. All the powers of this great and resourceful dialectician were employed in defending these various schemes in turn. He was not deterred from pressing any scheme by the fact that in important details it was inconsistent with or even opposed to what had been previously recommended. But if there was one principle on which Mr. Gladstone never turned his back it was in demanding a contribution from Ireland for Imperial services. At one time he demanded a cash payment, at another the assignment of the Customs, and on yet another occasion the payment to the Imperial Exchequer of a quota—one-third—of the tax-revenue in Ireland.
The effect of recent social legislation, such as Old Age Pensions, Labour Exchanges, and Sickness and Unemployment Insurance has been to confer on Ireland benefits much greater in value than the Irish contribution in respect of the new taxation imposed. In consequence of this change the present Irish revenue falls short of the expenditure incurred for Irish purposes in Ireland. Mr. Chamberlain shows that if any scheme even remotely resembling any of those put forward on previous occasions by Mr. Gladstone is embodied in the new Bill, and if a moderate contribution for Imperial services is included, the Irish deficit must range from L2,500,000 to L3,500,000. If by any process of juggling with the figures the Irish Parliament is again to be started with a surplus the deficit must have been made good by charging it against the Imperial taxpayer. But again there is no permanence in such a surplus. It must disappear if the ameliorative measures which are long overdue in Ireland are undertaken by an Irish Parliament; and previous experience has already illustrated that even without the adoption of any such new schemes surpluses would long ago have made room for deficits. It will be the duty of the Nationalists party to say definitely what are the fiscal reserves upon which they can draw in order to establish permanent equilibrium between revenue and expenditure in Ireland.
Not only does Unionist policy for Ireland involve considerations of national safety and national honour, but it is also necessary for the economic welfare of both countries. The remarkable success which has attended Mr. Wyndham's Land Act of 1903 has alarmed the political party in Ireland, which depends for its influence on the poverty and discontent of the rural population of Ireland. Mr. Wyndham in his article upon Irish Land Purchase shows clearly the blessings which have followed wherever his Act has been given fair play, and the evils which have resulted in the suppression of Land Purchase by Mr. Birrell's Act of 1909. The dual ownership created by Mr. Gladstone's ill-advised and reckless legislation led to Ireland being starved both in capital and industry and brought the whole of Irish agriculture to the brink of ruin, and under these circumstances, Conservative statesmen determined, in accordance with the principles of the Act of Union, to use a joint exchequer for the purpose of relieving Irish distress. Credit of the State was employed to convert the occupiers of Irish farms into the owners of the soil. The policy of the Ashbourne Acts was briefly that any landlord could agree with any tenant on the purchase price of his holding. The State then advanced the credit sum to the landlord in cash, while the tenant paid an instalment of 4 per cent. for forty-nine years. It is important to notice that the landlord received cash and that the tenants paid interest at the then existing rate of interest on Consols, namely, 3 per cent. The great defect in these Acts was that they applied only to separate holdings and not to estates as a whole; but their success can be estimated by the fact that under them twenty-seven thousand tenants became owners by virtue of advances which amounted to over ten million pounds. Under Mr. Balfour's Acts of 1891 and 1896, the landlord was paid in stock instead of cash, and the tenants still paid 4 per cent., the interest being reduced to the then rate on Consols—2-3/4 per cent.—and the Sinking Fund being proportionately increased. It will be noticed that these Acts began the practise of paying the landlord in stock, though at that time Irish Land Stock with a face value of L100 became worth as much as L114. The exchequer was, moreover, permitted to retain grants due for various purposes in Ireland and to recoup itself out of them in case of any combined refusal to repay on the part of tenants.
The Irish Land Act of 1903 was the product of the experience gained during eighteen years of the operation of the preceding Purchase Acts. It was founded upon an agreement made in 1902 between representatives of Irish landlords and tenants. Cash payments were resumed to the landlords, the tenants' instalments were reduced to 3-1/4 per cent., and a bonus, as it was called, of twelve millions of money was made available to bridge the gap between the landlords and the tenants at the rate of 12 per cent, on the amount advanced. That Act possessed the additional advantage of dealing with the estates as a whole instead of with individual holdings, and it substituted the principle of speedy purchase for that of dilatory litigation. This remarkable and generous measure initiated a great and beneficent revolution, but every popular and useful feature of the Act of 1903 was distorted or destroyed in the Land Act which the present Government passed at the instigation of the Irish Nationalist Party in 1909. In Mr. Wyndham's words "a solemn treaty framed in the interest of Ireland was torn up to deck with its tatters the triumph of Mr. Dillon's unholy alliance with the British Treasury." Under the Act of 1909, landlords, instead of cash payments, are to receive stock at 3 per cent. issued on a falling market. This stock cannot possibly appreciate because owing to the embarrassment of Irish estates a large proportion of each issue is thrown back upon the market at the redemption of mortgages. The tenant's annuity is raised from 3-1/4 per cent, to 3-1/2 per cent., a precedent not to be found in any previous experiment under Irish Land Purchase finance. The bonus is destroyed and litigation is substituted for security and speed. The results of the two Acts are instructive. Under the 1903 Act the potential purchasers amounted to nearly a quarter of a million; under the 1909 Act the applications in respect of direct sales being less than nine thousand. It is hardly necessary to go into the reasons advanced for this disastrous change. It has been brought about not in order to relieve the British Treasury, but in order to rescue from final destruction the waning influence of Irish Nationalism. Mr. Wyndham has the authority of the leader of the Unionist Party for his statement that the first constructive work of the Unionist Party in Ireland must be to resume the Land policy of 1903 and to pursue the same objects by the best methods until they have all been fully and expeditiously achieved. Unionist policy cannot, however, be confined to the restoration of Land Purchase. The ruin which Free Trade finance has inflicted upon Irish agriculture can only be remedied, as Mr. Childers saw at the time of the Financial Relations Commission in 1895, by a readjustment of the fiscal system of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Gerald Balfour shows us in one of the most able papers in the book the extraordinary development which has been seen in recent years in Irish agricultural methods. The revival of Irish rural industries dates from Mr. Balfour's chief-secretaryship. The Parliament which set up in Ireland the Congested Districts Board and sanctioned the building of light railways at the public expense, also witnessed the formation in Ireland of a Society which was destined to work great changes in the social conditions of the country. The Irish Agricultural Organisation Society represents the fruit of a work begun in the face of incredible difficulties and remorseless opposition by Sir Horace Plunkett in 1889. "Better farming, better business, better living"—these were the principles which he and Mr. Anderson set out to establish in Ireland. Their representatives were described as monsters in human shape, and they were adjured to cease their "hellish work." Now the branches of the Society number nearly 1000, with an annual turnover of upwards of 2-1/2 millions, and they include creameries, village banks, and societies for the purchase of seeds and manure and for the marketing of eggs. It is not necessary to tell again the story of the Recess Committee and the formation of the Department of Agriculture. The result of its work, crowned as it was by Mr. Wyndham's Purchase Act, is shown by the fact that Irish trade has increased from 103 millions in 1904 to 130 millions in 1910. The steady object which Sir Horace Plunkett has set before him is to counteract the demoralising effect of paternal legislation on the part of the Government, by reviving and stimulating a policy of self-help. The I.A.O.S. has done valuable work in enabling the Irish farmers, by co-operating, to secure a more stable position in the English market, to secure themselves against illegitimate and fraudulent competition and to standardise the quality of their product, but even more important has been the work of the Society in releasing the farmers from the bondage of the "Gombeen" man who has for so many years been the curse of Irish agriculture. The "Gombeen" man is alike trader, publican, and money-lender, and he is the backbone of official Nationalist influence. By lending money to the peasant proprietors at exorbitant rates, by selling inferior seeds and manures and by carrying on his transactions with the farmers chiefly in kind, the "Gombeen" man has grown fat upon the poverty and despair of the farmer. It is not surprising that he views the liberating work of the I.A.O.S. with the bitterest hostility—an hostility which has been translated into effective action by the Nationalist Party in Parliament.
Sir Horace Plunkett was driven from office on the pretext that it should be held by a member of Parliament. His successor, Mr. T.W. Russell, lost his seat in the General Election of 1910, but he was retained in power since he was willing to lend himself to the destructive intrigues of the "Molly Maguires." The Unionist Party does not intend to interfere with the independence of the I.A.O.S. which constitutes in their eyes its greatest feature, but they are determined that it shall have fair play, and that the hundred thousand Irish farmers which constitutes its membership shall be enabled to increase their prosperity by co-operative action. The Unionist Party will also have to undertake more active measures in order to restore to Irish agriculture the position of supremacy for which it is naturally fitted. Mr. Amery and Mr. Samuels both discuss in outline the effects of Tariff Reform upon the future of Ireland.
I do not intend at the present moment to go further into the details of the policy which the Unionist Government will be likely to adopt on this question. I think, however, it would be desirable to point out that in dairy produce and poultry, in barley and oats, in hops, tobacco, sugar-beet, vegetables and fruit, in all of which Ireland is especially interested, Irish products would have free entry into the protected markets of Great Britain, Canadian and Australian products would of course have such a preference over foreign competitors as a Home Rule Ireland might claim, but it is only under the Union that Ireland could expect complete freedom of access to our markets. Mr. Amery sees in the train ferry a possible bridge over the St. George's Channel and looks forward to the time when the west coast of Ireland will be the starting point of all our fast mail and passenger steamers across the Atlantic. Two schemes with this object have received the attention of Parliament. How far the present practical difficulties can be surmounted it is not very easy to say, but it is certain that if Home Rule were granted the Blacksod Bay and the Galway Bay Atlantic routes would have to be abandoned.
These conditions naturally raise the whole transport problem in Ireland. Mr. Arthur Samuels suggests a scheme of State assistance to a cheap transport which may require attention later on, though it can only form part of a larger scheme of traffic reorganisation. The Nationalist Party seems definitely to have pledged itself to a scheme of nationalisation. This policy has been urged in season and out of season upon an apathetic Ireland by the Freeman's Journal. The cost of the nationalisation of Irish railways could not be less than fifty millions, while the annual charge on the Exchequer was assessed by the Irish Railways Commission at L250,000, and it was anticipated that a further recourse to Irish rates might be required. It would be obviously impossible to ask the British Treasury to advance such an enormous sum of money to an independent Irish Government.
At what rate could an Irish government raise the money? The present return on Irish Railway capital is 3.77 per cent., and thus, to borrow fifty millions at 4 per cent, will involve an annual loss of over L300,000 a year, even without a sinking fund. It is extremely doubtful whether the credit of an Irish Government would be better than that of Hungary or Argentina. If anything more surely led an Irish Government to financial disaster it would be the working of railways. As the Majority Report of the Railway Commission recommended on other than commercial lines, the 25 per cent. reduction in rates and fares suggested by Nationalist witnesses would involve a loss of more than half a million a year. We see, therefore, immediately, that if anything is to be done at all to improve Irish transport it must be done by a Government that has the confidence of the money market. The railway director who contributes the principal article on this subject in the book calculates that a public grant of two millions, and a guaranteed loan of eight millions would suffice to carry out all the reforms that are necessary in order to place Irish railways in a thoroughly sound position.
It is obvious that with the development of trade which will follow on the adoption of Tariff Reform by England, Irish companies will be in a better position to help themselves, and the increase in the wealth and prosperity of Ireland must soon enable the railways to carry out constructive works which they all admit to be necessary.
Mr. Locker Lampson's article on education undoubtedly shows the Irish Government in its less favourable light. The neglect and starvation of Irish education has been a reproach to the intelligence and humanity of successive Irish administrations. Mr. Locker Lampson shows, however, that financially and politically it would be impossible for any Irish administration to carry out the great and sweeping reforms in Irish education as are still necessary. The mischievous principle of paying fees by results, although it has disappeared from the National schools, still clings to intermediate education in Ireland. Before any other kind of reform is even considered the intermediate system in Ireland should be placed upon a proper foundation. The secondary system is also deficient because—what Mr. Dillon called "gaps in the law"—there is no co-ordination between the primary and the secondary schools. The establishment of higher grade schools in large centres and the institution of advanced departments in connection with selected primary schools in rural districts would only cost about L25,000 a year, and would go far to meet the disastrous effects of the present system. But no system of education can possibly be successful that does not place the teachers in a position of dignity and comfort. At the present moment the salaries of the secondary teachers are miserable; lay assistants in secondary schools are paid about L80 a year. They have no security of tenure; they have no register of teachers as a guarantee of efficiency.
The other problems which immediately confront the Irish government are the establishment of a private bill legislation and a reform of the Irish Poor Law. With regard to the private bill legislation I will say no more than that it has always formed part of the Unionist policy for Ireland, and that I agree fully with the arguments by which Mr. Walter Long shows the necessity and justice for such a reform.
Finally, having given to the Irish farmers the security of a freehold in their holdings at home, and a free entrance into the protected markets of Great Britain; having assisted the development of rural industries of the country; having placed Irish education on a sound and intelligible basis, it would be necessary for the Unionist Party to undertake a reform of the Poor Law in Ireland. Whether this reform will be undertaken the same time as the larger social problems of England, with which the party is pledged to deal, may be a matter of political expediency, but there is no reason why the reform which is so urgently required in Ireland should have to await the adoption of a scheme for England. In outlining the problems, the supreme necessity is the abolition of the present workhouse system. The Vice-Regal Commission and the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws are in agreement as to the guiding principles of reform. They recommend classification by institutions of all the present inmates of the workhouses; the sick in the hospital, the aged and infirm in alms-houses; the mentally defective in asylums. They suggest the bringing together into one institution of all the inmates of one class from a number of neighbouring workhouses. The sick should be sent to existing Poor Law or County hospitals, strengthened by the addition of cottage hospitals in certain districts, while children must be boarded out. The able-bodied paupers, if well conducted, might be placed in labour colonies; if ill conducted, in detention colonies. If these are established, they must be controlled by the State and not by County authorities. Of course, the resources of the existing Unions are much too limited to undertake such sweeping reforms, and the county must be substituted for the Union as the area of charge. The establishment of the Public Assistance authority will relieve us from the greatest scandal which now mars the administration of the Poor Law reform in Ireland—the corrupt appointment of officers in the Poor Law medical service. If we cannot have a State medical service, we can at all events ensure that appointments under the Poor Law shall be placed in incorruptible hands.
It is not to be assumed that this short sketch of policy is exhaustive, or that it touches even in outline upon all that the Unionist Party might fairly hope to do in Ireland. It is designed to show only that financially and politically, every step which can be taken to relieve the poverty and oppression which has too long continued in Ireland must be taken by a Unionist Parliament and a Government pledged to secure the administration of law and order in Ireland.
I desire on behalf of the Committee under whose auspices this work has been prepared to thank Mr. S. Rosenbaum for the ability and zeal he has shown in editing the book and in preparing it for publication. I wish also to acknowledge my personal debt to Mr. G. Locker Lampson, M.P., who, as Vice-Chairman of the Committee, has shown so much zeal and assiduity in connection with this important work.
[Footnote 1: "Commercial Relations Between England and Ireland." By Miss A.E. Murray (P.S. King & Sons).]
[Footnote 2: Attorney General in the Irish Parliament, and later Earl of Clare.]
A NOTE ON HOME RULE
BY THE RIGHT HON. A.J. BALFOUR, M.P.
The greater part of the present volume is devoted to showing why this country should not adopt Home Rule; but it is perhaps worth while for the ordinary British citizen to ask himself a preliminary question, namely, why he should be pressed even to consider it. That the establishment of an Irish Parliament must involve doubtful and far-reaching consequences is denied by no one. What then is the prima facie case which has induced many Englishmen and Scotchmen to think that it ought to be seriously debated? If we could erase the past and approach the problem of framing representative institutions in their most practicable shape for the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, who would think it wise to crowd into these small Islands two, or, as some would have it, three, four, or five separate Parliaments, with their separate elections, their separate sets of ministers and Offices, their separate party systems, their divergent policies? Distances are, under modern conditions, so small, our population is so compact, the interests of its component parts are so intimately fused together, that any device at all resembling Home Rule would seem at the best cumbersome, costly, and ineffective; at the worst, perilous to the rights of minorities, the peace of the country, and the unity of the Kingdom. If, then, these common-sense considerations are thrust on one side by so many well-meaning persons, it must surely be because they think that for the destruction of our existing system there is to be found a compelling justification in the history of the past:
I am well aware that many of the persons of whom I am thinking profess to base their approval of Home Rule on purely administrative grounds. The Parliament of the United Kingdom, they say, is overweighted; it has more to do than it can manage; we must diminish its excessive burdens; and we can only do so by throwing them in part upon other and subordinate assemblies. But this, if it be a reason at all, is certainly a most insufficient one. Would any human being, anxious merely to give relief to the House of Commons, adopt so illogical a scheme as one which involves a provincial Parliament in Ireland, and no provincial Parliaments anywhere else; which puts Ireland under two Parliaments, and left the rest of the country under one; which, if Irishmen are to be admitted to the Imperial Parliament, would give Ireland privileges and powers denied to England and Scotland, and, if they are to be excluded from the Imperial Parliament, would deprive Ireland of rights which surely she ought to possess?
Again, if the "administrative" argument was really more than an ornament of debate, would any one select Ireland as the administrative district in which to make trial of the new system? Would any one, in his desire to relieve the Imperial Parliament of some of its functions, select as an area of self-government a region where one part is divided against another by passions, and, if you will, by prejudices, more violent, and more deeply-rooted than those which afflict any other fraction of the United Kingdom, choose that other fraction where, and how, you will?
I take it, then, as certain that in the mind of the ordinary British Home Ruler the justification for Home Rule is not administrative but historical. He pictures Ireland before the English invasion as an organised and independent State, happy in the possession of a native polity which Englishmen have ruthlessly destroyed, now suffering under laws and institutions forced upon her by the conquerors, suitable it may be to men of Anglo-Saxon descent, but utterly alien to the genius and temper of a Celtic population. To him, therefore, Home Rule presents itself as an act of National restitution.
Personally, I believe this to be a complete misreading of history. It is not denied—at least I do not deny—that both the English and British Governments, in their dealings with Ireland have done many things that were stupid, and some things that were abominable. But among their follies or their crimes is not to be counted the destruction of any such State as I have described; for no such State existed. They did not uproot one type of civilisation in order to plant another. The Ireland with which England had to deal had not acquired a national organisation, and when controversialists talk of "restoring" this or that institution to Ireland, the only institutions that can possibly be "restored" are in their origin importations from England.
This does not, of course, mean that the English were a superior race dealing with an inferior one. Indeed, there is, in my view, no sharp division of race at all. In the veins of the inhabitants of these Islands runs more than one strain of blood. The English are not simply Teutonic—still less are the Irish Celtic. We must conceive the pre-historic inhabitants both of Britain and of Ireland as subject to repeated waves of invasion from the wandering peoples of the Continent. The Celt preceded the Teuton; and in certain regions his language still survives. The Teuton followed him in (as I suppose) far greater numbers, and his language has become that of a large fraction of the civilised world. But in no part of the United Kingdom is the Teutonic strain free from either the Celtic or pre-Celtic strain; nor do I believe that the Celtic strain has anywhere a predominance such as that which, speaking very roughly, the Teutonic strain possesses in the East of these Islands, or the pre-Celtic strain in the West.
There is, therefore, no race frontier to be considered, still less is there any question of inferiority or superiority. The Irish difficulty, historically considered, arises in the main from two circumstances. The first of these, to which I have just referred, is that when England began to intervene in the welter of Irish inter-tribal warfare, she was already an organised State, slowly working its way through feudal monarchy to constitutional freedom. The second is that while the religious revolution of the sixteenth century profoundly and permanently affected the larger Island, it left the smaller Island untouched. The result of the first of these has been that Irish institutions, Irish laws, Irish forms of local government, and Irish forms of parliamentary government are necessarily of the English type. The result of the second has been that while no sharp divisions of race exist, divisions of religion have too often taken their place; that in the constitutional struggles of the seventeenth century Ireland was not the partner but the victim of English factions; and that civil war in its most brutal form, with the confiscations and penal laws which followed in its train, have fed, have indeed created, the bitter fiction that Ireland was once a "nation" whose national life has been destroyed by its more powerful neighbour.
To all this it will perhaps be replied that even if the general accuracy of the foregoing statement be admitted (and nothing about Ireland ever is admitted), it is quite irrelevant to the question of Home Rule; because what is of importance to practical statesmanship is not what did actually happen in the past, but what those who live in the present suppose to have happened. If, therefore, to the imagination of contemporary Irishmen, Ireland appears a second Poland, statesmen must act as if the dream were fact.
In such a contention there is some element of truth. But it must be observed in the first place that dreams, however vivid, are not eternal; and, in the second place, that while this particular dream endures it supplies a practical argument against Home Rule, the full force of which is commonly under-rated. For what are the main constitutional dangers of creating rival Parliaments in the same State? They are—friction, collision of jurisdiction, and, in the end, national disintegration. Of these, friction is scarcely to be avoided. I doubt whether it has been wholly avoided in any State where the system, either of co-equal or of subordinate Parliaments, has been thoroughly tried. It certainly was not avoided in the days past when Ireland had a Parliament of its own. It is incredible that it should be avoided in the future, however elaborate be the safeguards which the draughtsman's ingenuity can devise. But friction, in any case inevitable, becomes a peril to every community where the rival assemblies can appeal to nationalist sentiment. The sore gets poisoned. What under happier conditions might be no more than a passing storm of rhetoric, forgotten as soon as ended, will gather strength with time. The appetite for self-assertion, inherent in every assembly, and not likely to be absent from one composed of orators so brilliantly gifted as the Irish, will take the menacing form of an international quarrel. The appeal will no longer be to precedents and statutes, but to patriotism and nationality, and the quarrel of two Parliaments will become the quarrel of two peoples. What will it avail, when that time comes, that in 1912 the Irish leaders declared themselves content with a subordinate legislature? It is their earlier speeches of a very different tenour that will be remembered; and it will be asked, with a logic that may well seem irresistible, by what right Irish "nationality" was ever abandoned by Irish representatives.
On these dangers I do not in this brief note propose to dwell, though it seems to me insane either to ignore them or to belittle them. The point on which I desire to insist is that they arise not from the establishment of a subordinate Parliament alone, nor from the existence of a "nationalist" sentiment alone, but from the action and reaction of the sentiment upon the institution, and of the institution upon the sentiment.
Let me conclude by asking whether Irish history does not support to the full these gloomy prognostications. The Parliament that came to an end at the Union was a Parliament utterly antagonistic to anything that now goes by the name of Irish Nationalism. In every sphere, except the economic sphere, it represented the forces, political and religious, which the Irish Nationalist now regards as English and alien, and against which, for many years, he has been waging bitter warfare. Yet this Parliament, representing only a small minority of the inhabitants of Ireland, found its position of subordination intolerable. It chose a moment of national disaster to assert complete equality, and so used its powers that at last the Union became inevitable. It is surely no remedy for the ancient wrongs of Ireland—real, alas! though they were—that we should compel her again to tread the weary round of constitutional experiment, and that, in the name of Irish Nationalism, we should again make her the victim of an outworn English scheme, which has been tried, which has failed, which has been discarded, and which, in my judgment, ought never to be revived.
BY J.R. FISHER
(Author of "The End of the Irish Parliament"; Editor of the Northern Whig)
When Pitt commended his proposals for the Union to "the dispassionate and sober judgment of the Parliament of Ireland," he argued that such a measure was at once "transcendently important" to the Empire, and "eminently useful" to the true interests of Ireland. Lord Clare, as an Irishman, naturally reversed the order, but his compelling points were the same:—To Ireland the Union was a "vital interest," which at the same time "intimately affected the strength and prosperity of the British Empire." From that day to this the two fundamental arguments for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland have remained unchanged, and they apply with ever-growing force to the existing situation at home and abroad. But the argument from history has, perhaps, been a little neglected of late, and calls for at least a passing notice.
Popular oratory will have it that England has always been keen and aggressive in regard to the incorporation of Ireland within the Empire, but as a matter of fact, the very opposite has been the case. From the time of Pope Adrian's Bull, Laudabiliter, in 1154, which granted to Henry II. the Lordship of Ireland, but which Henry left unemployed for seventeen years, to that of the Irish petition for a legislative Union in 1703, which remained unanswered for nearly a century, vacillation and hesitation rather than eagerness for aggression have been the characteristic marks of English policy in Ireland. Far-sighted statesmen could point out the benefits to Ireland from such a connection, but as a rule it was the presence of actual foreign danger that forced the British Parliament to act. For four centuries the Lordship of the English Kings over Ireland was largely nominal. It was only when the religious quarrels of the sixteenth century became acute that the Tudors—already alarmed at the action of the Irish Parliament in recognising and crowning a pretender in Dublin Castle—found themselves compelled to assert direct Kingship.
From that time till the legislative Union every enemy of England could safely count on finding a foothold and active friends in Ireland. It is much too late in the day to indulge in any recriminations on this score. The issues were the most tremendous that have divided Europe; each side was passionately convinced of the rightness and justice of its cause. There were, in Pitt's words relating to a later day, "dreadful and inexcusable cruelties" on the one side, and "lamentable severities" upon the other, just as there were all over Europe. But in the case of Ireland every evil was exaggerated and every danger intensified by the system of dualism which encouraged resistance from within and invited interference from without. For England and English liberty it was more than once a question of existence or extinction, and the knowledge of the constant danger from the immediate west did not tend to sweeten the situation.
In Elizabeth's time the menace was from Spain; Spanish forces twice succeeded in effecting a landing on the Irish coast, and were welcomed by the inhabitants. Spain was then the most powerful enemy of England and of civil and religious liberty all the world over; Elizabeth was declared by the Pope to have forfeited the crown of England, and if the Armada had been successful at sea, the Spanish army in England would have found enthusiastic supporters in Ireland. Later on it was in Ireland, and by the aid of subsidies from an Irish Parliament, that Strafford raised 10,000 men to invade Scotland and England in support of Charles I. against his Parliament, and, incidentally, to drive the Scottish settlers out of Ulster. As the Articles of Impeachment put it, his object in raising the Irish army was "for the ruin and destruction of England and of his Majesty's subjects, and altering and subverting the fundamental laws and established Government of this Kingdom." Strafford fell, but the insurrection and massacre of 1641 were the natural result of his intrigues with the Irish Parliament and the Irish chiefs. It was under the impression of this manifest danger that Cromwell—a century and a half before his time—abolished the Dublin Parliament and summoned Irish representatives to the first United Parliament at Westminster.
As the power of Spain declined, France came to be the chief menace to England and to the peace of Europe. Again Ireland instinctively allied herself with the enemy. Tyrconnel now played the part of Strafford, and with the aid of French troops and French subsidies, and a sympathetic Irish Parliament, endeavoured to destroy the Ulster Plantation, and make Ireland a jumping-off place for the invasion of England. The Irish Parliament, in the meantime, did its part by confiscating the estates of the settlers, driving out the Protestant clergy, and outlawing English sympathisers by name in "the hugest Bill of Attainder which the world has seen." It was the successful defence of Derry and Enniskillen by the Scotch and English colonists that saved Ireland and gave King William and his troops the foothold that enabled them to save England, too, in the Irish campaign of the following year.
Not the least remarkable instance of the use to which separate Parliaments within the Kingdom could be put for the ruin of England occurred during the activity of James the Second's son, the so-called "Old Pretender." In 1723 his chief adviser, the Earl of Mar, presented to the Regent of France a memorial setting out in detail a project for betraying Britain into the power of France by dismembering the British Parliament. The Irish Parliament, in close alliance with a restored Scottish Parliament, was to be used to curb the power of England. "The people of Ireland and Scotland," according to Mar, "are of the same blood and possess similar interests," and they should thus always be allied against England and oppose their "united strength"—backed, of course, by that of France—to any undue growth of the English power. The scheme came to nothing, but if the Pretender had possessed a little more energy and capacity; if the French Court had been in earnest, and if Ireland and Scotland had each possessed a separate Parliament, "with an executive responsible to it," and with the control of a national militia, the story of 1745 might have ended differently.
It is necessary that these facts should be kept in mind when complaint is made of the oppressive and demoralising Irish Penal Code. That Code no one defends now, although it was lauded at the time by Swift as a bulwark of the Church against the Catholics on the one hand, and the Presbyterians on the other. It was the product of a cruel and bigoted age, and at its worst it was less severe than similar laws prevailing against Protestants in those parts of the Continent where the Roman Church held sway. Spain and France were at that time vastly more powerful, populous, and wealthy countries than England: England was never free from the dread of foreign invasion, and to the would-be invader Ireland always held a guiding light and an open door.
Finally, it must also be remembered that at a time when the chances seemed fairly even, as between William and England on the one hand, and James and France on the other, the Prince of Orange, accustomed to the German way of settling such differences, had made formal offer to Tyrconnel of a working compromise—the free exercise of their religion to the Irish Catholics: half the Churches of the Kingdom: half the employments, civil and military, if they pleased, and even the moiety of their ancient properties. "These proposals," says the Chevalier Wogan, Tyrconnel's nephew and confidant, who is our informant, "though they were to have had an English Act of Parliament for their sanction, were refused with universal contempt." In other words, the party which with the assistance of France still hoped to obtain all, refused to be content with half. It is true that Wogan, in the letter from which we have quoted, after stating that the exiles, "in the midst of their hard usage abroad, could not be brought to repent of their obstinacy," justifies their refusal by the way in which the Articles of Limerick were afterwards disregarded by the Irish Parliament. But this is evidently an argument of retrospective invention, and it may fairly be argued that the position would have been very different if peace on equal terms had been made on the direct authority of the King before Aughrim rather than by his deputies after Limerick.
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY.
And if the separatist theory has involved, as we have seen, such external dangers to the Empire, the case for the old Irish Parliament from the point of the "vital interests" of Ireland itself is even weaker. By it the bulk of the Irish people were treated for a century in a fashion described by an Irish Chief Secretary as "ingrafting absurdity on the wisdom of England and tyranny on the religion that professes humanity." It was conspicuous for its corruption even in a corrupt age, and, as was inevitable, it involved Ireland in constant conflicts with England, conflicts that were vexatious and injurious to both countries. Swift, who, amongst those who have not read his works, passes for an Irish patriot, is at his savagest when inveighing against this sham Parliament.
Its members are, he says—
"...three hundred brutes All involved in wild disputes, Roaring till their lungs are spent Privilege of Parliament'!"
And if only the Devil were some day to come "with poker fiery red," and—
"When the den of thieves is full, Quite destroy the harpies' nest, How might then our Isle be blest!"
Capable observers, from Swift to Arthur Young, bear continuous testimony to the systematic and habitual corruption of the Irish Parliament. Offices were multiplied and were distributed among clamorous applicants on the ground of family or personal influence, or political support—never by any chance on the ground of merit or capacity. Public money was squandered for private purposes. Sir George Macartney, himself an Irishman and a Member of Parliament, in his "Account of Ireland," speaking of the year 1745, says—
"The House of Commons now began to appropriate a considerable part of the additional duties to their own use. This was done under pretence of encouraging public works such as inland navigation, collieries, and manufactories of different kinds; but the truth is that most of these public works were private jobs carried on under the direction and for the advantage of some considerable gentlemen in the House of Commons."
Arthur Young, whose careful and impartial study of the state of affairs in Ireland under the Dublin Parliament has become a classic, speaks of the same class of transaction,
"The members of the House of Commons at the conclusion of the sessions met for the purpose of voting the uses to which this money should be applied: the greater part of it was amongst themselves, their friends or dependants, and though some work of apparent use to the public was always the plea, yet under the sanction there were a great number of very scandalous jobs."
Young admits that some useful public work was done, but that most of the money was misappropriated was matter of common report. After a reference to the construction of a certain canal he adds—
"Some gentlemen I have talked with on this subject have replied, 'It is a job: 'twas meant as a job: you are not to consider it as a canal of trade, but as a canal for public money!' ... Sorry I am to say that a history of public works in Ireland would be a history of jobs."
Money was voted, he says elsewhere, for—
"Collieries where there is no coal, for bridges where there are no rivers, navigable cuts where there is no water, harbours where there are no ships, and churches where there are no congregations."
And when the Union was finally on its way, Hamilton Rowan, one of the founders of the United Irishmen, then in exile in America, wrote home to his father: "I congratulate you on the report which spreads here that a Union is intended. In that measure I see the downfall of one of the most corrupt assemblies, I believe, that ever existed."
It is little wonder that men of good will in Ireland prayed to be delivered from such a Parliament. Molyneux, the first of the Irish Parliamentary patriots, whose book, "The Case of Ireland's being Governed by Laws made in England Stated," was burnt by the common hangman, pleaded indeed for a reformed and independent Parliament, but only because fair representation in the English Parliament was at the time "a happiness they could hardly hope for." And a few years later the Irish House, in congratulating Queen Anne on the Union of England and Scotland, added, "May God put it into your royal heart to add greater strength and lustre to your Crown by a yet more comprehensive Union."
The English Parliament, through sheer lethargy and carelessness, missed at this time an opportunity which would have peacefully launched Ireland on her career on an equality with Scotland and England, and must have profoundly modified the relations of the two countries. Immediate prosperity, in the case of a land wasted by a century of strife and bloodshed, was not indeed to be hoped for any more than in the case of Scotland, which had still two armed rebellions, and much bickering and jealousy in store before settling down to peaceful development. But if Ireland had been granted her petitions for Union in 1703 and 1707, and had thus secured equal laws and equal trading privileges, she would at any rate have emerged from her period of trial and discord not later than Scotland, and would have anticipated the economic and social advantages predicted by Adam Smith, when he says—
"By a union with Great Britain, Ireland would gain, besides the freedom of trade, other advantages much more important, and which would much more than compensate any increase of taxes that might accompany that union. By the union with England, the middling and inferior ranks of people in Scotland gained a complete deliverance from the power of an aristocracy which had always before oppressed them. By a union with Great Britain, the greater part of the people of all ranks in Ireland would gain an equally complete deliverance from a much more oppressive aristocracy, an aristocracy not founded, like that of Scotland, in the natural and respectable distinctions of birth and fortune, but in the most odious of all distinctions, those of religious and political prejudices.... Without a union with Great Britain, the inhabitants of Ireland are not likely, for many ages, to consider themselves as one people."
Pitt, who was proud to proclaim himself the pupil of Adam Smith in politics and in economics, found himself, a quarter of a century after these words were written, in a position to carry out, in face of great difficulties and dangers at home and abroad, the beneficent reform advocated by his great master—a reform which, as we have seen, could have been carried a century earlier without any difficulty whatever. But the century that had been wasted involved many concurrent miseries and misfortunes: social and economic stagnation, an intensification of religious and racial bitterness, conspiracy, and invasion; savage outbreaks savagely repressed. When the time comes to measure up the rights and wrongs of those dark days, the judgment on England will assuredly be that her fault was not the carrying of the Union, but the delaying of that great measure of reform and emancipation until it was almost too late.
The story of the Union has been told and retold in the utmost detail throughout the century. The present writer has attempted quite recently to summarise it, and there is little to add. The charge that it was carried by corruption is simply another way of saying that it had, constitutionally, to be passed through the Dublin Parliament, that body which, from the days of Swift's invective to those of its final condemnation, lived and moved and had its being solely in and by corruption. As Lord Castlereagh, who had charge of the Bill in the Irish House of Commons, put it, the Government was forced to recognise the situation and its task was "to buy out and secure to the Crown forever the fee simple of Irish corruption, which has so long enfeebled the power of Government and endangered the connection."
The Irish Parliament had run its course, and had involved the unhappy country in chaos, bankruptcy, revolution, and bloodshed. Lord Clare—a late and reluctant convert to the policy of the Union—said in the Irish House of Lords (Feb. 10, 1800)—
"We have not three years of redemption from bankruptcy, intolerable taxation, nor one hour's security against the renewal exterminating civil war. Session after session have you been compelled to enact laws of unexampled rigour and novelty to repress the horrible excesses of the mass of your people: and the fury of murder and pillage and desolation have so outrun all legislative exertions that you have been at length driven to the hard necessity of breaking down the pale of municipal law, and putting your courage under the ban of military government—and in every little circle of dignity and independence we hear whispers of discontent at the temperate discretion with which it is administered.... Look to your civil and religious dissensions. Look to the fury of political faction and the torrents of human blood that stain the face of your country, and of what materials is that man composed who will not listen with patience and good will to any proposition that can be made to him for composing the distractions and healing the wounds and alleviating the miseries of this devoted nation?"
Lord Clare's words—unanswered and unanswerable then and now—constitute a sufficient comment on the foolish fable of later invention, that Ireland was a land of peace and harmony, of orderly government and abounding prosperity, when a wicked English minister came and "stole away the Parliament House"—since which all has been decay and desolation. The halcyon period is generally made to coincide with that of "Grattan's Parliament"—of the semi-independent and quite unworkable Constitution of 1782, which had been extorted from England's weakness when Ireland was denuded of regular troops, and at the mercy of a Volunteer National Guard, when Cornwallis had just surrendered at Yorktown, and Spain and France were once more leagued with half Europe for the destruction of the British Empire.
It is quite true that the latter part of the eighteenth century was, on the whole, a time of considerable prosperity to certain classes in Ireland—a prosperity varied by periods of acute depression and distress. But that prosperity, such as it was, neither began with Grattan's Parliament nor ended with it—had, indeed, no more connection with the Irish Parliament in any of its phases than had the Goodwin Sands with Tenterden steeple. With the exception of the respite between the Treaty of Versailles and the outbreak of the French Revolution, England was almost constantly at war, or feverishly preparing for war. Simultaneously came the unprecedented increase of urban industry, following on the invention of the steam-engine and spinning machinery. The result was an enormous and growing demand for corn, beef, and pork, sailcloth, stores of all kinds for our armies and fleets, a demand which England, owing to the growth of her town population and the consequent growth of the home demand, was unable adequately to meet.
Ireland reaped the benefit. As a largely agricultural country, she was as yet little influenced by the discoveries of Watt, of Hargreaves, of Arkwright, or of Crompton. But her long-rested soil could produce in apparently unlimited quantities those very products of which the British forces stood most in need. The fleets were victualled and fitted out at Cork, and they carried thence a constant stream of supplies of all sorts for our armies in the field. Indeed, so keen was the demand that it was soon discovered that not only our own troops, but those of the enemy, were receiving Irish supplies, and smugglers on the south and west coasts reaped a rich harvest.
The result was obvious. Cattle graziers and middlemen made enormous profits, rents were doubled and trebled. Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Belfast flourished exceedingly on war prices and war profits. But there is no evidence that the mass of the people in their degraded and debased condition shared to any extent in this prosperity. It was at this very period that Arthur O'Connor spoke of them as "the worst clad, the worst fed, the worst housed people in Europe." Whiteboyism, outrage and lawlessness spread over the face of the country, and, as Lord Clare reminded Parliament, "session after session have you been compelled to enact laws of unexampled rigour and novelty to repress the horrible excesses of the mass of your people." It has been made a charge against the Union that during some disturbed periods of the nineteenth century the United Parliament had to pass "Coercion" Acts at the rate of nearly one every session. The complainants should look nearer home and they would find from the records of the Irish Legislature that during the "halcyon" days of "Grattan's Parliament"—the eighteen years between 1782 and the Union—no less than fifty-four Coercion Acts were passed, some of them of a thoroughness and ferocity quite unknown in later legislation. The close of the nineteenth century and the opening of the twentieth were, in reality, in spite of a certain amount of agrarian crime, organised and subsidised from abroad, a period of much greater peace and more widespread prosperity than the bloodstained years that marked the close of the eighteenth century—and of the Irish Parliament.
Another fiction regarding the Union may perhaps be worth notice. It has sometimes been suggested that it was carried by a venal oligarchy in opposition to the will of the great mass of the population, of the Roman Catholic population in particular. This is precisely the reverse of the truth. The oligarchy controlled the Parliament, and it therefore followed that the uniformly corrupt traditions of the Irish Parliament had to be observed in carrying the Union as in carrying every other Government Bill throughout the century. But, so far from the Act of Union being carried by landowners and Protestants against the will of the Catholics, it was, as a matter of fact, carried with the ardent and unanimous assent and support of the Catholic hierarchy, and against the embittered opposition of the old ascendancy leaders, who feared the loss of their influence of power.
The evidence on this point is documentary and precise. Indeed, no one thought of doubting or challenging it at the time; Grattan contented himself with denouncing the Catholic Bishops as "a band of prostituted men." Dr. Troy, Archbishop of Dublin, was, as his correspondence shows, a warm, consistent and active supporter of the Union. Dr. Dillon, Archbishop of Tuam, wrote in September, 1799, that he had had an opportunity during his recent visitation "of acquiring the strongest conviction that this measure alone can restore harmony and happiness to our unhappy country." His neighbour, Dr. Bodkin, Bishop Galway, wrote that the Union was the only measure to save "poor infatuated Ireland" from "ruin and destruction." Dr. Moylan, Bishop of Cork, was equally emphatic. "I am perfectly satisfied," he says, "that it is impossible to extinguish the feuds and animosities which disgrace this Kingdom, nor give it the advantages of its natural local situation, without a Union with Great Britain. God grant that it may soon take place!"
As for the feeling of the rank and file of the electors—under a very widely extended franchise—two examples will suffice. In two cases—in the County of Kerry and the borough of Newry—both open constituencies—by-elections occurred during the passing of the Union legislation. In both instances the Roman Catholic vote predominated, and in both the feeling was so strong in favour of the Union that no opponent dared to face the poll. In after years Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald, the Knight of Kerry, recounted his experiences. "Having accepted office," he says, "as a supporter of the Union, I went to two elections pending the measure and was returned without opposition in a county where the Roman Catholic interest greatly preponderated, and a declaration almost unanimous in favour of the Union proceeded from the County of Kerry. One of my most strenuous supporters in bringing forward that declaration was Mr. Maurice O'Connell, uncle of Mr. Daniel O'Connell, and my most active partisan was Mr. John O'Connell, brother of Mr. Daniel O'Connell."
In Newry an attempt was made to put up an anti-Unionist candidate, but the Roman Catholic Bishop, Dr. Lennan, met and repulsed the intruder in militant fashion. "Mr. Bell," he reports to Archbishop Troy, "declined the poll, and surrendered yesterday. The Catholics stuck together like the Macedonian phalanx, and with ease were able to turn the scale in favour of the Chancellor of the Exchequer."
To the Irish Catholic at the time of the Union, the Dublin legislature was, indeed, in the words of Mr. Denys Scully, a leading Catholic layman, "not our Parliament, for we had no share in it, but their Club-house."
The summing up of the whole matter is perhaps best expressed in the measured judgment of Mr. John Morley in his study of the life of Edmund Burke. Burke, in an evil moment for himself and for Ireland, had lent himself in 1785 to what Mr. Morley called the "factious" and "detestable" course of Fox and the English Whig leaders in destroying Pitt's Commercial Propositions.
"Had it not been for what he himself called the delirium of the preceding session" (writes Burke's biographer) "he would have seen that Pitt was in truth taking his first measures for the emancipation of Ireland from an unjust and oppressive subordination and for her installation as a corporate member of the Empire—the only position permanently possible for her.... A substantial boon was sacrificed amid bonfires and candles to the phantom of Irish Legislative Independence. The result must have convinced Pitt more firmly than ever that his great master, Adam Smith, was right in predicting that nothing short of the Union of the two countries would deliver Ireland out of the hands of her fatuous chiefs and of their too worthy followers."
What would Mr. John Morley, the historian who wrote those words in the prime of his intellectual strength and judgment, have said if any one had told him that in his old age Lord Morley, the politician, would have been actively engaged in assisting another generation of "fatuous chiefs" and still more worthy followers to sacrifice the true interests of Ireland in the pursuit of "the phantom of Irish Legislative Independence"?
AFTER THE UNION.
That the Union to some extent failed in the beneficent effects which it was calculated to produce in Ireland is only another instance of the working of the "curse of mis-chance" which has so often, before and since, interposed to thwart the intentions of statesmen in their dealings with the two countries. Pitt, Castlereagh, and Cornwallis, the three men chiefly concerned in planning the change, were all agreed in explaining that the Union was not a policy complete in itself, but was only the necessary foundation upon which a true remedial policy was to be based. As Lord Cornwallis said at the time, "the word 'Union' will not cure the ills of this wretched country. It is a necessary preliminary, but a great deal more remains to be done." Catholic Emancipation, a series of parliamentary, educational, financial, and economic reforms, and the abolition of the Viceroyalty, the visible symbol of separatism and dependence, were all essential portions of Pitt's scheme. But Pitt was destined to sink into an early grave without seeing any of them materially furthered. Treacherous colleagues and the threatened insanity of the King blocked the way of some of them: England's prolonged struggle for existence against the power of Napoleon, involving as it did financial embarrassment and a generation of political reaction, accounted for the rest.
Pitt and Castlereagh resigned on the King's refusal to accept their advice, "and so," as Lord Rosebery says, "all went wrong." It was "like cutting the face out of a portrait and leaving the picture in the frame. The fragment of policy flapped forlornly on the deserted mansions of the capital." A generation of agitation, strife, and discontent was to pass before Emancipation was carried, and the reforms had to wait still longer. Meanwhile a wonderful change of front had taken place. The leading opponents of the Union—Plunket, Foster, Beresford—even Grattan himself—came to accept it, and, in some cases, figured as its warmest defenders. And the Catholic Party, whom we have seen so strongly supporting the Union, gradually grew into opponents. Daniel O'Connell, whose brother and uncle were the leading supporters of the Union candidate for Kerry, started a formidable agitation first for Emancipation and then for Repeal of the Union. In the former he succeeded because enlightened public opinion in both countries was on his side: in the latter he failed utterly, both parties in Great Britain and a large section in Ireland being inflexibly opposed to any such reactionary experiment. In the end O'Connell died disillusioned and broken-hearted, and the Repeal movement disappeared from the field of Irish politics till revived many years later in the form of Home Rule.