HANDBOOK OF HOME RULE
BEING ARTICLES ON THE IRISH QUESTION
BY THE RIGHT HON. W.E. GLADSTONE, M.P. THE RIGHT HON. JOHN MORLEY, M.P., LORD THRING JAMES BRYCE, M.P., CANON MACCOLL E.L. GODKIN, AND R. BARRY O'BRIEN
WITH PREFACE BY THE RIGHT HON. EARL SPENCER, K.G.
EDITED BY JAMES BRYCE, M.P.
LONDON KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH & CO., I, PATERNOSTER SQUARE 1887
Of the articles contained in this volume, those by Mr. Gladstone, Mr. E.L. Godkin on "A Lawyer's Objections to Home Rule," and Mr. Barry O'Brien appear for the first time. The others are reprinted from the Contemporary Review, the Nineteenth Century, and the New Princeton Review, to the proprietors and editors of which periodicals respectively the thanks of the several writers and of the editor are tendered. In most of these reprints some passages of transitory interest have been omitted, and some few additions have been made.
The object of the writers has been to treat the difficult questions connected with the Government of Ireland in a dispassionate spirit; and the volume is offered to the public in the hope that it may, at a time of warm controversy over passing events, help to lead thoughtful men back to the consideration of the principles which underlie those questions, and which it seeks to elucidate by calm discussion and by references to history.
PREFACE. BY THE RIGHT HON. EARL SPENCER, K.G.
AMERICAN HOME RULE. BY E.L. GODKIN
HOW WE BECAME HOME RULERS. BY JAMES BRYCE, M.P.
HOME RULE AND IMPERIAL UNITY. BY LORD THRING
THE IRISH GOVERNMENT BILL AND THE IRISH LAND BILL. BY LORD THRING
THE "UNIONIST" POSITION. BY CANON MACCOLL
A LAWYER'S OBJECTIONS TO HOME RULE. BY E.L. GODKIN
THE "UNIONIST" CASE FOR HOME RULE. BY R. BARRY O'BRIEN
IRELAND'S ALTERNATIVES. BY LORD THRING
THE PAST AND FUTURE OF THE IRISH QUESTION. BY JAMES BRYCE, M.P.
SOME ARGUMENTS CONSIDERED. BY THE RIGHT HON. JOHN MORLEY, M.P.
LESSONS OF IRISH HISTORY IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. BY THE RIGHT HON. W.E. GLADSTONE, M.P.
The present seems an excellent moment for bringing forward the arguments in favour of a new policy for Ireland, which are to be found in the articles contained in this volume.
We are realizing the first results of the verdict given at the election of 1886. And this I interpret as saying that the constituencies were not then ready to depart from the lines of policy which, up to last year, nearly all politicians of both parties in Parliament had laid down for their guidance in Irish affairs.
We have had the Session occupied almost wholly with Lord Salisbury's proposals for strengthening the power of the central Government to maintain law and order in Ireland, and for dealing with the most pressing necessities of the Land question in that country.
It is well, before the policy of the Government is practically tested, that the views of thoughtful men holding different opinions should be clearly set forth, not in the shape of polemical speeches, but in measured articles which specially appeal to those who have not hitherto joined the fighting ranks of either side, and who are sure to intervene with great force at the next election, when the Irish question is again submitted to the constituencies.
I feel that I can add little or nothing to the weight of the arguments contained in these papers, but I should like to give some reasons why I earnestly hope that they will receive careful consideration.
The writers have endeavoured to approach their work with impartiality, and to free themselves from those prejudices which make it difficult for Englishmen to discuss Irish questions in a fresh and independent train of thought, and realize how widely Irish customs, laws, traditions, and sentiments differ from our own.
We are apt to think that what has worked well here will work well in Ireland; that Irishmen who differ from us are unreasonable; and that their proposals for change must be mistaken. We do not make allowance for the soreness of feeling prevailing among men who have long objected to the system by which Ireland has been governed, and who find that their earnest appeals for reform have been, until recent times, contemptuously disregarded by English politicians. Time after time moderate counsels have been rejected until too late. Acts of an exceptional character intended to secure law and order have been very numerous, and every one of them has caused fresh irritation; while remedial measures have been given in a manner which has not won the sympathy of the people, because they have not been the work of the Irish themselves, and have not been prepared in their own way.
Parliament seems during the past Session to have fallen into the same error. By the power of an English majority, measures have been passed which are vehemently opposed by the political leaders and the majority of the Irish nation, and which are only agreeable to a small minority in Ireland. This action can only succeed if the Irish can be persuaded to relinquish the national sentiments of Home Rule; and yet this was never stronger or more vigorous than at the present time. It is supported by millions of Irish settled in America and in Australia; and here I would say that it has often struck me that the strong feeling of dissatisfaction, or, I might say, of disaffection, among the Irish is fed and nurtured by the marked contrast existing between the social condition of large numbers of the Irish in the South and West of Ireland and the views and habits of their numerous relatives in the United States.
The social condition of many parts of Ireland is as backward, or perhaps more backward, than the condition of the rural population of England at the end of last or the beginning of this century. The Irish peasantry still live in poor hovels, often in the same room with animals; they have few modern comforts; and yet they are in close communication with those who live at ease in the cities and farms of the United States. They are also imbued with all the advanced political notions of the American Republic, and are sufficiently educated to read the latest political doctrines in the Press which circulates among them. Their social condition at home is a hundred years behind their state of political and mental culture. They naturally contrast the misery of many Irish peasants with the position of their relatives in the New World. This cannot but embitter their views against English rulers, and strengthen their leaning to national sentiments. Their national aspirations have never died out since 1782. They have taken various forms; but if the movements arising from them have been put down, fresh movements have constantly sprung up. The Press has grown into an immense power, and its influences have all been used to strengthen the zeal for Irish nationality, while, at the same time, the success of the national movements in Italy, Hungary, Greece, and Germany have had the same effect. Lastly, the sentiment of Home Rule has gained the sympathy of large bodies of electors in the constituencies of Great Britain, and, under the circumstances, it is difficult to suppose that, even if the country remains quiet, constitutional agitation will vanish or the Irish relinquish their most cherished ambition.
We hear, from men who ought to know something of Ireland, that if the Land question is once settled, and dual ownership practically abolished, the tenants will be satisfied, and the movement for Home Rule will no longer find active support in Ireland. Without going into the whole of this argument, I should like to say two things: first, that I do not know how a large scheme of Land Purchase can be carried through Parliament with safety to Imperial interests without establishing, at the same time, some strong Irish Government in Dublin to act between the Imperial Government and the tenants of Ireland; and, second, that the feeling for Home Rule has a vitality of its own which will survive the Land question, even if independently settled.
Home Rule is an expression of national feeling which cannot be extinguished in Ireland, and the only safe method of dealing with it is to turn its force and power to the support of an Irish Government established for the management of local Irish affairs. There are those who think that this must lead to separation. I cannot believe in this fear, for I know of no English statesman who looks upon complete separation of Ireland from Great Britain as possible. The geographical position of Ireland, the social and commercial connection between the two peoples, renders such a thing impossible. The Irish know this, and they are not so foolish as to think that they could gain their independence by force of arms; but I do not believe that they desire it. They are satisfied to obtain the management of their own local affairs under the aegis of the flag of England. The papers in this volume show how this can be done with due regard to Imperial interests and the rights of minorities.
I shall not enlarge on this part of the subject, but I wish to draw attention to the working of the Irish Government, and the position which it holds in the country, for it is through its administration that the policy of the Cabinet will be carried out. At the outset I feel bound to deprecate the exaggerated condemnation which the "Castle" receives from its opponents. It has its defects. Notwithstanding efforts of various ministers to enlarge the circle from which its officials are drawn, it is still too narrow for the modern development of Irish society, and it has from time to time been recruited from partisans without sufficient regard to the efficiency and requirements of the public service. But, on the whole, its members, taken as individuals, can well bear comparison with those of other branches of the Civil Service. They are diligent; they desire to do their duty with impartiality, and to hold an even balance between many opposing interests in Ireland. Whatever party is in office, they loyally carry out the policy of their chiefs. They are, probably, more plastic to the leadership of the heads of departments than members of some English offices, and they are more quickly moved by the influences around them. Sometimes they may relapse into an attitude of indifference and inertness if their chiefs are not active; but, on the other hand, they will act with vigour and decision if they are led by men who know their own minds and desire to be firm in the government of the country.
When speaking of the chiefs of the Irish Civil Service, who change according to the political party in office, we must not overlook the legal officers, who exercise a most powerful influence on Irish administration. They consist of the Lord Chancellor, the Attorney and Solicitor General, and, until 1883, there was also an officer called the Law Adviser, who was the maid-of-all-work of Castle administration. In England, those who hold similar legal offices take no part in the daily administration of public affairs. The Lord Chancellor, as a member of the Cabinet, takes his share in responsibility for the policy of the Government. The law officers are consulted in special cases, and take their part from time to time in debates in the House of Commons. In Ireland, however, the Chancellor is constantly consulted by the Lord-Lieutenant on any difficult matter of administration, and the Attorney and Solicitor General are in constant communication with the Lord-Lieutenant, if he carries out the daily work of administration, and with the Chief and the Under Secretary.
Governments differ as to the use they make of these officials. Some Governments have endeavoured to confine their work to cases where a mere legal opinion has to be obtained; but, when the country is in a disturbed state, even these limited references become very frequent, and questions of policy as well as of law are often discussed with the law officers. It is needless to say that, with their knowledge of Ireland and the traditions of Castle government (it is rare that all the law officers are new to office, and, consequently, they carry on the traditions from one Government to another), they often exercise a paramount influence over the policy of the Irish Government, and practically control it.
They are connected with the closest and most influential order in Irish society—the legal order, consisting of the judges and Bar of Ireland. This adds to the general weight of their advice, but it has a special bearing when cases of legal reform or administration are under consideration; it then requires unwonted courage and independence for the law officers of the Crown to support changes which the lay members of the Government deem necessary.
I have known conspicuous instances of the exercise of these high qualities by law officers enabling reforms to be carried, but as a rule, particularly when the initiative of legal reform is left to them, the Irish law officers do not care to move against the feeling of the legal world in Dublin. The lawyers, like other bodies, oppose the diminution of offices and honours belonging to them, or of the funds which, in the way of fees and salaries, are distributed among members of the bar; and they become bitterly hostile to any permanent official who is known to be a firm legal reformer. It would be impossible for me not to acknowledge the great service often done to the Government by the able men who have filled the law offices, yet I feel that under certain circumstances, when their influence has been allowed too strongly to prevail, it has tended to narrow the views of the Irish Government, and to keep it within a circle too narrow for the altered circumstances of modern life.
The chief peculiarity of the Irish Administration is its extreme centralization. In this two departments may be mentioned as typical of the whole—the police and administration of local justice.
The police in Dublin and throughout Ireland are under the control of the Lord-Lieutenant, and both these forces are admirable of their kind. They are almost wholly maintained by Imperial funds. The Dublin force costs about L150,000 a year. The Royal Irish Constabulary costs over a million in quiet, and a million and a half in disturbed times. Local authorities have nothing to do with their action or management. Local justice is administered by unpaid magistrates as in England, but they have been assisted, and gradually are being supplanted, by magistrates appointed by the Lord-Lieutenant and paid by the State.
This state of things arose many years ago from the want of confidence between resident landlords and the bulk of the people. When agrarian or religious differences disturbed a locality the people distrusted the local magistrates, and by degrees the system of stipendiary, or, as they are called, resident magistrates, spread over the country. To maintain the judicial independence and impartiality of these magistrates is of the highest importance. At one time this was in some danger, for the resident magistrates not only heard cases at petty sessions, but, as executive peace officers, to a very great extent took the control of the police in their district, not only at riots, but in following up and discovering offenders. Their position as judicial and executive officers was thus very unfortunately mixed up. Between 1882 and 1883 the Irish Government did their utmost to separate and distinguish between these two functions, and it is to be hoped that the same policy has been and will be now continued, otherwise grave mischief in the administration of justice will arise. The existence of this staff of stipendiary magistrates could not fail to weaken the influence of the gentry in local affairs, and, at the same time, other causes were at work to undermine still further their power. The spread of education, the ballot, the extension of the franchise, communication with America, all tended to strengthen the political leaning of the tenants towards the National party in Ireland, and to widen the political differences between the richer and poorer classes in the country. The result of this has been, that not only have even the best landlords gradually lost their power in Parliamentary elections and on elective boards, but the Government, which greatly relied on them for support, has become isolated.
The system of centralization is felt all over the country. It was the cause of weakness in the disturbed years of 1880 and 1881, and, although the Irish Executive strengthened themselves by placing officers over several counties, on whom they devolved a great deal of responsibility, they did not by these steps meet the real difficulty, which was that everything that went wrong, whether as to police or magisterial decisions, was attributed to the management of the Castle.
In this country, local authorities and benches of magistrates, quite independent of the Home Office, are held responsible for mistakes in police action or irregularities in local justice. The consequence is that there is a strong buffer to protect the character and power of the Home Office.
The absence of such protection in Ireland obviously has a very prejudicial effect on the permanent influence and popularity of the Irish Government. But as long as our system of government from England exists, this centralization cannot be avoided, for it would not be possible to transfer the responsibility of the police to local representative bodies, as they are too much opposed to the landlords and the Government to be trusted when strong party differences arise; nor, for the same reason, would it be possible to fall back on local men to administer justice. The fact is, that, out of the Protestant part of Ulster, the Irish Government receives the cordial support of only the landed proprietors, and a part of the upper middle classes in the towns. The feeling of the mass of the people has been so long against them that no change in the direction of trust in any centralized government of anti-national character can be expected.
It would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to find any Municipal Council, Boards of Guardians, or Local Boards, in Leinster, Munster, or Connaught, whose members do not consist of a majority of Nationalists. At nearly all such assemblies, whenever any important political movement takes place in the country, or when the Irish Government take any action which is displeasing to the Nationalists, resolutions are discussed and carried in a spirit of sharp hostility to the Government.
In Parliamentary elections we also find clear evidence of the strength of the Nationalists, and the extreme weakness of their opponents. This is a test which those who accept popular representative government cannot disregard, particularly at an election when for the first time the new constituencies were called upon to exercise the privileges entrusted to them by Parliament. Such was the election of 1885, followed in 1886 by another General Election. In 1885 contests took place in most of the Irish constituencies. They were between Liberals allied with Conservatives, and Parnellites. In 1886 the contests were between those who called themselves Unionists and Parnellites, and the Irish policy of Mr. Gladstone was specially referred to the electors.
In regard to the number of members returned on the two sides, the result of each election was almost identical, but in 1886 there were fewer contests. We may, then, assume that the relative forces of Parnellites and Unionists were accurately represented at the election of 1885. If we take the votes at the election of 1885 for candidates standing as Nationalists, we shall find, roughly speaking, that they obtained in round numbers about 300,000 votes, and candidates who stood either as Liberals or Conservatives about 143,000. But the case is really stronger than these figures represent it, because in some constituencies the contests were between Liberals and Conservatives, and there can be no doubt that in those constituencies a number of Nationalist votes were given for one or both of such candidates—votes which, therefore, would have to be deducted from the 143,000, leaving a still heavier majority on the Nationalist side.
If we look at individual constituencies, we find that in South Kerry only 133 persons voted for the "Unionist" candidate, while 2742 voted for the Nationalist. In six out of seven constituencies in Cork where contests took place 27,692 votes were given for the Nationalists, and only 1703 for their opponents. In Dublin, in the division which may be considered the West End constituency of the Irish metropolis, the most successful man of commerce in Ireland, a leader of society, whose liberality towards those in his employment is only equalled by his munificence in all public works, was defeated by over 1900 votes. He did not stand in 1886, but his successor was defeated by a still larger majority. These elections show the numbers in Ireland on which the Government and those who oppose Mr. Parnell's policy can count for support.
It is absurd to say that these results are caused by terrorism exercised over the minds of the electors by the agitators in Ireland; the same results occurred in every part of three provinces, and in part of Ulster, and the universality of the feeling proves the dominant feeling of the Irish electors. They show the extreme difficulty, the impossibility, of gaining that support and confidence which a Government needs in a free country. As it is, the Irish Government stands isolated in Ireland, and relies for support solely on England. Is a policy opposed to national feeling, which has been often, and by different Ministers, tried in Ireland, likely to succeed in the hands of a Government such as I have described, and isolated, as I think few will deny it to be? It is impossible in the long run to maintain it. The roots of strength are wanting.
If we turn from Dublin to London, we do not find greater prospects of success. Twice within fourteen months Lord Salisbury has formed a Government. In 1885 his Cabinet, on taking office, deliberately decided to rule Ireland without exceptional laws; after a few months, they announced that they must ask Parliament for fresh powers. They resigned before they had defined their measures. But within six months Lord Salisbury was once more Prime Minister, and again commenced his administration by governing Ireland under the ordinary law. This attempt did not continue longer than the first, for when Parliament met in 1887, preparations were at once made to carry the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which occupied so large a portion of the late Session.
This is not the action of men who have strong faith in their principles. Nor can it be shown that the continuous support so necessary for success will be given to this policy. No doubt it may be urged that the operation of the Act is not limited in duration; but, notwithstanding that, few politicians believe that the constituencies of Great Britain will long support the application of exceptional criminal laws to any part of the United Kingdom.
This would be wholly inconsistent with past experience In relation to these measures, which points entirely the other way; and the publication in English newspapers and constant discussion on English platforms of the painful incidents which seem, unfortunately, inseparable from a rigid administration of the law in Ireland, together with the prolonged debates, such incidents give rise to, in Parliament, aggravate the difficulties of administration, and lead the Irish people to believe that exceptional legislation will be as short-lived in the future as it has been in the past.
It was this evidence of want of continuity of policy in 1885, and the startling disclosure of the weakness of the anti-national party in Ireland at the election in the autumn of that year, which finally convinced me that the time had come when we could no longer turn to a mixed policy of remedial and exceptional criminal legislation as the means of winning the constituencies of that country in support of our old system of governing Ireland. That system has failed for eighty-six years, and obviously cannot succeed when worked with representative institutions. As the people of Great Britain will not for a moment tolerate the withdrawal of representative government from Ireland, we must adopt some new plan. What I have here written deals with but a fragment of the arguments for Home Rule, some of which are admirably set forth by the able men who have written the articles to which this is the preface. I earnestly wish that they may arrest the attention of many excellent Irishmen who still cling to the old traditions of English rule, and cause them to realize that the only way of relieving their country from the intolerable uncertainty which hangs over her commercial, social, and political interests and paralyzes all efforts for the improvement of her people, will be to form a Constitution supported by all classes of the community. I trust that they will join in this work before it is too late, for they may yet exercise a powerful and salutary influence in the settlement of this great question.
[Footnote 1: There was one case—North Louth—in which two Nationalists opposed one another, and I have left that case out of the calculation.]
AMERICAN HOME RULE
BY E.L. GODKIN
American experience has been frequently cited, in the course of the controversy now raging in England over the Irish question, both by way of warning and of example. For instance, I have found in the Times as well as in other journals—the Spectator, I think, among the number—very contemptuous dismissals of the plan of offering Ireland a government like that of an American State, on the ground that the Americans are loyal to the central authority, while in Ireland there is a strong feeling of hostility to it, which would probably increase under Home Rule. The Queen's writ, it has been remarked, cannot be said to run in large parts of Ireland, while in every part of the United States the Federal writ is implicitly obeyed, and the ministers of Federal authority find ready aid and sympathy from the people. If I remember rightly, the Duke of Argyll has been very emphatic in pointing out the difference between giving local self-government to a community in which the tendencies of popular feeling are "centrifugal," and giving it to one in which these tendencies are "centripetal." The inference to be drawn was, of course, that as long as Ireland disliked the Imperial government the concession of Home Rule would be unsafe, and would only become safe when the Irish people showed somewhat the same sort of affection for the English connection which the people of the State of New York now feel for the Constitution of the United States.
Among the multitude of those who have taken part in the controversy on one side or the other, no one has, so far as I have observed, pointed out that the state of feeling in America toward the central government with which the state of feeling in Ireland towards the British Government is now compared, did not exist when the American Constitution was set up; that the political tendencies in America at that time were centrifugal, not centripetal, and that the extraordinary love and admiration with which Americans now regard the Federal government are the result of eighty years' experience of its working. The first Confederation was as much as the people could bear in the way of surrendering local powers when the War of Independence came to an end. It was its hopeless failure to provide peace and security which led to the framing of the present Constitution. But even with this experience still fresh, the adoption of the Constitution was no easy matter. I shall not burden this article with historical citations showing the very great difficulty which the framers of the Constitution had in inducing the various States to adopt it, or the magnitude and variety of the fears and suspicions with which, many of the most influential men in all parts of the country regarded it. Any one who wishes to know how numerous and diversified these fears and suspicions were, cannot do better than read the series of papers known as "The Federalist," written mainly by Hamilton and Madison, to commend the new plan to the various States. It was adopted almost as a matter of necessity, that is, as the only way out of the Slough of Despond in which the Confederation had plunged the union of the States; but the objections to it which were felt at the beginning were only removed by actual trial. Hamilton's two colleagues, as delegates from New York, Yates and Lansing, withdrew in disgust from the Convention, as soon as the Constitution was outlined, and did not return. The notion that the Constitution was produced by the craving of the American people for something of that sort to love and revere, and that it was not bestowed on them until they had given ample assurance that they would lavish affection on it, has no foundation whatever in fact. The devotion of Americans to the Union is, indeed, as clear a case of cause and effect as is to be found in political history. They have learned to like the Constitution because the country has prospered under it, and because it has given them all the benefits of national life without interference with local liberties. If they had not set up a central government until the centrifugal sentiment had disappeared from the States, and the feeling of loyalty for a central authority had fully shown itself, they would assuredly never have set it up at all.
Moreover, it has to be borne in mind that the adoption of the Constitution did not involve the surrender of any local franchises, by which the people of the various States set great store. The States preserved fully four-fifths of their autonomy, or in fact nearly all of it which closely concerned the daily lives of individuals. Set aside the post-office, and a citizen of the State of New York, not engaged in foreign trade, might, down to the outbreak of the Civil War, have passed a long and busy life without once coming in contact with a United States official, and without being made aware in any of his doings, by any restriction or regulation, that he was living under any government but that of his own State. If he went abroad he had to apply for a United States passport. If he quarrelled with a foreigner, or with the citizen of another State, he might be sued in the Federal Court. If he imported foreign goods he had to pay duties to the collector of a Federal Custom-house. If he invented something, or wrote a book, he had to apply to the Department of the Interior for a patent or a copyright. But how few there were in the first seventy years of American history who had any of these experiences! No one supposes, or has ever supposed, that had the Federalists demanded any very large sacrifice of local franchises, or attempted to set up even a close approach to a centralized Government, the adoption of the Constitution would have been possible. If, for instance, such a transfer of both administration and legislation to the central authority as took place in Ireland after the Union had been proposed, it would have been rejected with derision. You will get no American to argue with you on this point. If you ask him whether he thinks it likely that a highly centralized government could have been created in 1879—such a one, for example, as Ireland has been under since 1800—or whether if created it would by this time have won the affection of the people, or filled them with centripetal tendencies, he will answer you with a smile.
The truth is that nowhere, any more than in Ireland, do people love their Government from a sense of duty or because they crave an object of political affection, or even because it exalts them in the eyes of foreigners. They love it because they are happy or prosperous under it; because it supplies security in the form best suited to their tastes and habits, or in some manner ministers to their self-love. Loyalty to the king as the Lord's anointed, without any sense either of favours received or expected, has played a great part in European politics, I admit; but, for reasons which I will not here take up space in stating, a political arrangement, whether it be an elected monarch or a constitution, cannot be made, in our day, to reign in men's hearts except as the result of benefits so palpable that common people, as well as political philosophers, can see them and count them.
Many of the opponents of Home Rule, too, point to the vigour with which the United States Government put down the attempt made by the South to break up the Union as an example of the American love of "imperial unity," and of the spirit in which England should now meet the Irish demands for local autonomy. This again is rather surprising, because you will find no one in America who will maintain for one moment that troops could have been raised in 1860 to undertake the conquest of the South for the purpose of setting up a centralized administration, or, in other words, for the purpose of wiping out State lines, or diminishing State authority. No man or party proposed anything of this kind at the outbreak of the war, or would have dared to propose it. The object for which the North rose in arms, and which Lincoln had in view when he called for troops, was the restoration of the Union just as it was when South Carolina seceded, barring the extension of slavery into the territories. During the first year of the war, certainly, the revolted States might at any time have had peace on the status quo basis, that is, without the smallest diminution of their rights and immunities under the Constitution. It was only when it became evident that the war would have to be fought out to a finish, as the pugilists say—that is, that it would have to end in a complete conquest of the Southern territory—that the question, what would become of the States as a political organization after the struggle was over, began to be debated at all. What did become of them? How did Americans deal with Home Rule, after it had been used to set on foot against the central authority what the newspapers used to delight in calling "the greatest rebellion the world ever saw"? The answer to these questions is, it seems to me, a contribution of some value to the discussion of the Irish problem in its present stage, if American precedents can throw any light whatever on it.
There was a Joint Committee of both Houses of Congress appointed in 1866 to consider the condition of the South with reference to the safety or expediency of admitting the States lately in rebellion to their old relations to the Union, including representation in Congress. It contained, besides such fanatical enemies of the South as Thaddeus Stevens, such very conservative men as Mr. Fessenden, Mr. Grimes, Mr. Morrill, and Mr. Conkling. Here is the account they gave of the condition of Southern feeling one year after Lee's surrender:—
"Examining the evidence taken by your committee still further, in connection with facts too notorious to be disputed, it appears that the Southern press, with few exceptions, and those mostly of newspapers recently established by Northern men, abounds with weekly and daily abuse of the institutions and people of the loyal States; defends the men who led, and the principles which incited, the rebellion; denounces and reviles Southern men who adhered to the Union; and strives constantly and unscrupulously, by every means in its power, to keep alive the fire of hate and discord between the sections; calling upon the President to violate his oath of office, overturn the Government by force of arms, and drive the representatives of the people from their seats in Congress. The national banner is openly insulted, and the national airs scoffed at, not only by an ignorant populace, but at public meetings, and once, among other notable instances, at a dinner given in honour of a notorious rebel who had violated his oath and abandoned his flag. The same individual is elected to an important office in the leading city of his State, although an unpardoned rebel, and so offensive that the President refuses to allow him to enter upon his official duties. In another State the leading general of the rebel armies is openly nominated for Governor by the Speaker of the House of Delegates, and the nomination is hailed by the people with shouts of satisfaction, and openly endorsed by the press....
"The evidence of an intense hostility to the Federal Union, and an equally intense love of the late Confederacy, nurtured by the war is decisive. While it appears that nearly all are willing to submit, at least for the time being, to the Federal authority, it is equally clear that the ruling motive is a desire to obtain the advantages which will be derived from a representation in Congress. Officers of the Union army on duty, and Northern men who go south to engage in business, are generally detested and proscribed. Southern men who adhered to the Union are bitterly hated and relentlessly persecuted. In some localities prosecutions have been instituted in State courts against Union officers for acts done in the line of official duty, and similar prosecutions are threatened elsewhere as soon as the United States troops are removed. All such demonstrations show a state of feeling against which it is unmistakably necessary to guard.
"The testimony is conclusive that after the collapse of the Confederacy the feeling of the people of the rebellious States was that of abject submission. Having appealed to the tribunal of arms, they had no hope except that by the magnanimity of their conquerors, their lives, and possibly their property, might be preserved. Unfortunately the general issue of pardons to persons who had been prominent in the rebellion, and the feeling of kindliness and conciliation manifested by the Executive, and very generally indicated through the Northern press, had the effect to render whole communities forgetful of the crime they had committed, defiant towards the Federal Government, and regardless of their duties as citizens. The conciliatory measures of the Government do not seem to have been met even half-way. The bitterness and defiance exhibited towards the United States under such circumstances is without a parallel in the history of the world. In return for our leniency we receive only an insulting denial of our authority. In return for our kind desire for the resumption of fraternal relations we receive only an insolent assumption of rights and privileges long since forfeited. The crime we have punished is paraded as a virtue, and the principles of republican government which we have vindicated at so terrible a cost are denounced as unjust and oppressive.
"If we add to this evidence the fact that, although peace has been declared by the President, he has not, to this day, deemed it safe to restore the writ of habeas corpus, to relieve the insurrectionary States of martial law, nor to withdraw the troops from many localities, and that the commanding general deems an increase of the army indispensable to the preservation of order and the protection of loyal and well-disposed people in the South, the proof of a condition of feeling hostile to the Union and dangerous to the Government throughout the insurrectionary States would seem to be overwhelming."
This Committee recommended a series of coercive measures, the first of which was the adoption of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution, which disqualified for all office, either under the United States or under any State, any person who having in any capacity taken an oath of allegiance to the United States afterwards engaged in rebellion or gave aid and comfort to the rebels. This denied the jus honorum to all the leading men at the South who had survived the war. In addition to it, an Act was passed in March, 1867, which put all the rebel States under military rule until a constitution should have been framed by a Convention elected by all males over twenty-one, except such as would be excluded from office by the above-named constitutional amendment if it were adopted, which at that time it had not been. Another Act was passed three weeks later, prescribing, for voters in the States lately in rebellion, what was known as the "ironclad oath," which excluded from the franchise not only all who had borne arms against the United States, but all who, having ever held any office for which the taking an oath of allegiance to the United States was a qualification, had afterwards ever given "aid or comfort to the enemies thereof." This practically disfranchised all the white men of the South over twenty-five years old.
On this legislation there grew up, as all the world now knows, what was called the "carpet-bag" regime. Swarms of Northern adventurers went down to the Southern States, organized the ignorant negro voters, constructed State constitutions to suit themselves, got themselves elected to all the chief offices, plundered the State treasuries, contracted huge State debts, and stole the proceeds in connivance with legislatures composed mainly of negroes, of whom the most intelligent and instructed had been barbers and hotel-waiters. In some of the States, such as South Carolina and Mississippi, in which the negro population were in the majority, the government became a mere caricature. I was in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, in 1872, during the session of the legislature, when you could obtain the passage of almost any measure you pleased by a small payment—at that time seven hundred dollars—to an old negro preacher who controlled the coloured majority. Under the pretence of fitting up committee-rooms, the private lodging-rooms at the boarding-houses of the negro members, in many instances, were extravagantly furnished with Wilton and Brussels carpets, mirrors, and sofas. A thousand dollars were expended for two hundred elegant imported china spittoons. There were only one hundred and twenty-three members in the House of Representatives, but the residue were, perhaps, transferred to the private chambers of the legislators.
Now, how did the Southern whites deal with this state of things? Well, I am sorry to say they manifested their discontent very much in the way in which the Irish have for the last hundred years been manifesting theirs. If, as the English opponents of Home Rule seem to think, readiness to commit outrages, and refusal to sympathize with the victims of outrages, indicate political incapacity, the whites of the South showed, in the period between 1866 and 1876, that they were utterly unfit to be entrusted with the work of self-government. They could not rise openly in revolt because the United States troops were everywhere at the service of the carpet-baggers, for the suppression of armed resistance. They did not send petitions to Congress, or write letters to the Northern newspapers, or hold indignation meetings. They simply formed a huge secret society on the model of the "Molly Maguires" or "Moonlighters," whose special function was to intimidate, flog, mutilate, or murder political opponents in the night time. This society was called the "Ku-Klux Klan." Let me give some account of its operation, and I shall make it as brief as possible. It had become so powerful in 1871 that President Grant in that year, in his message to Congress, declared that "a condition of things existed in some of the States of the Union rendering life and property insecure, and the carrying of the mails and the collecting of the revenue dangerous." A Joint Select Committee of Congress was accordingly appointed, early in 1872, to "inquire into the condition of affairs in the late insurrectionary States, so far as regards the execution of the laws and the safety of the lives and property of the citizens of the United States." Its report now lies before me, and it reads uncommonly like the speech of an Irish Secretary in the House of Commons bringing in a "Suppression of Crime Bill." The Committee say—
"There is a remarkable concurrence of testimony to the effect that, in those of the late rebellious States into whose condition we have examined, the courts and juries administer justice between man and man in all ordinary cases, civil and criminal; and while there is this concurrence on this point, the evidence is equally decisive that redress cannot be obtained against those who commit crimes in disguise and at night. The reasons assigned are that identification is difficult, almost impossible; that, when this is attempted, the combinations and oaths of the order come in and release the culprit by perjury, either upon the witness-stand or in the jury-box; and that the terror inspired by their acts, as well as the public sentiment in their favour in many localities, paralyzes the arm of civil power.
* * * * *
"The murders and outrages which have been perpetrated in many counties of Middle and West Tennessee, during the past few months, have been so numerous, and of such an aggravated character, as almost baffles investigation. In these counties a reign of terror exists which is so absolute in its nature that the best of citizens are unable or unwilling to give free expression to their opinions. The terror inspired by the secret organization known as the Ku-Klux Klan is so great, that the officers of the law are powerless to execute its provisions, to discharge their duties, or to bring the guilty perpetrators of these outrages to the punishment they deserve. Their stealthy movements are generally made under cover of night, and under masks and disguises, which render their identification difficult, if not impossible. To add to the secrecy which envelops their operations, is the fact that no information of their murderous acts can be obtained without the greatest difficulty and danger in the localities where they are committed. No one dares to inform upon them, or take any measures to bring them to punishment, because no one can tell but that he may be the next victim of their hostility or animosity. The members of this organization, with their friends, aiders, and abettors, take especial pains to conceal all their operations.
* * * * *
"Your committee believe that during the past six months, the murders—to say nothing of other outrages—would average one a day, or one for every twenty-four hours; that in the great majority of these cases they have been perpetrated by the Ku-Klux above referred to, and few, if any, have been brought to punishment. A number of the counties of this State (Tennessee) are entirely at the mercy of this organization, and roving bands of nightly marauders bid defiance to the civil authorities, and threaten to drive out every man, white or black, who does not submit to their arbitrary dictation. To add to the general lawlessness of these communities, bad men of every description take advantage of the circumstances surrounding them, and perpetrate acts of violence, from personal or pecuniary motives, under the plea of political necessity."
Here is some of the evidence on which the report was based.
A complaint of outrages committed in Georgia was referred by the general of the army, in June, 1869, to the general of the Department of the South for thorough investigation and report. General Terry, in his report, made August 14, 1869, says—
"In many parts of the State there is practically no government. The worst of crimes are committed, and no attempt is made to punish those who commit them. Murders have been and are frequent; the abuse, in various ways, of the blacks is too common to excite notice. There can be no doubt of the existence of numerous insurrectionary organizations known as 'Ku-Klux Klans,' who, shielded by their disguise, by the secrecy of their movements, and by the terror which they inspire, perpetrate crime with impunity. There is great reason to believe that in some cases local magistrates are in sympathy with the members of these organizations. In many places they are overawed by them and dare not attempt to punish them. To punish such offenders by civil proceedings would be a difficult task, even were magistrates in all cases disposed and had they the courage to do their duty, for the same influences which govern them equally affect juries and witnesses."
Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Merrill, who assumed command (in Louisiana) on the 26th of March, and commenced investigation into the state of affairs, says (p. 1465)—
"From the best information I can get, I estimate the number of cases of whipping, beating, and personal violence of various grades, in this county, since the first of last November, at between three and four hundred, excluding numerous minor cases of threats, intimidation, abuse, and small personal violence, as knocking down with a pistol or gun, etc. The more serious outrages, exclusive of murders and whippings, noted hereafter, have been the following:—"
He then proceeds with the details of sixty-eight cases, giving the names of the parties injured, white and black, and including the tearing up of the railway, on the night before a raid was made by the Ku-Klux on the county treasury building. The rails were taken up, to prevent the arrival of the United States troops, who, it was known, were to come on Sunday morning. The raid was made on that Sunday night while the troops were lying at Chester, twenty-two miles distant, unable to reach Yorkville, because of the rails being torn up.
Another witness said: "To give the details of the whipping of men to compel them to change their mode of voting, the tearing of them away from their families at night, accompanied with insults and outrage, and followed by their murder, would be but repeating what has been described in other States, showing that it is the same organization in all, working by the same means for the same end. Five murders are shown to have been committed in Monroe County, fifteen in Noxubee, one in Lowndes, by the testimony taken in the city of Washington; but the extent to which school-houses were burnt, teachers whipped, and outrages committed in this State, cannot be fully given until the testimony taken by the sub-committee shall have been printed and made ready to report."
There are about eighty, closely printed, large octavo pages of this kind of testimony given by sufferers from the outrages.
Something was done to suppress the Ku-Klux by a Federal Act passed in 1871, which made offences of this kind punishable in the Federal Courts. Considerable numbers of them were arrested, tried, and convicted, and sent to undergo their punishment in the Northern jails. But there was no complete pacification of the South until the carpet-bag governments were refused the support of the Federal troops by President Hayes, on his accession to power in 1876. Then the carpet-bag regime disappeared like a house of cards. The chief carpet-baggers fled, and the government passed at once into the hands of the native whites. I do not propose to defend or explain the way in which they have since then kept it in their hands, by suppressing or controlling the negro vote. This is not necessary to my purpose.
What I seek to show is that the Irish are not peculiar in their manner of expressing their discontent with a government directed or controlled by the public opinion of another indifferent or semi-hostile community which it is impossible to resist in open warfare; that Anglo-Saxons resort to somewhat the same methods under similar circumstances, and that lawlessness and cruelty, considered as expressions of political animosity, do not necessarily argue any incapacity for the conduct of an orderly and efficient government, although I admit freely that they do argue a low state of civilization.
I will add one more illustration which, although more remote than those which I have taken from the Southern States during the reconstruction period, is not too remote for my purpose, and is in some respects stronger than any of them. I do not know a more orderly community in the world, or one which, down to the outbreak of the Civil War, when manufactures began to multiply, and the Irish immigration began to pour in, had a higher average of intelligence than the State of Connecticut. Down to 1818 all voters in that State had to be members of the Congregational Church. It had no large cities, and this, with the aid of its seat of learning, Yale College, preserved in it, I think, in greater purity than even Massachusetts, the old Puritan simplicity of manners, the Puritan spirit of order and thrift, and the business-like view of government which grew out of the practice of town government. A less sentimental community, I do not think, exists anywhere, or one in which the expression of strong feeling on any subject but religion is less cultivated or viewed with less favour. In the matter of managing their own political affairs in peace or war, I do not expect the Irish to equal the Connecticut people for a hundred years to come, no matter how much practice they may have in the interval, and I think that fifty years ago it was only picked bodies of Englishmen who could do so. Yet, in 1833, in the town of Canterbury, one of the most orderly and intelligent in the State, an estimable and much-esteemed lady, Miss Prudence Crandall, was carrying on a girls' school, when something happened to touch her conscience about the condition of the free negroes of the North. She resolved, in a moment of enthusiasm, to undertake the education of negro girls only. What follows forms one of the most famous episodes in the anti-slavery struggle in America, and is possibly familiar to many of the older readers of this article. I shall extract the account of it as given briefly in the lately published life of William Lloyd Garrison, by his sons. Some of the details are much worse than is here described.
"The story of this remarkable case cannot be pursued here except in brief.... It will be enough to say that the struggle between the modest and heroic young Quaker woman and the town lasted for nearly two years; that the school was opened in April; that attempts were immediately made under the law to frighten the pupils away and to fine Miss Crandall for harbouring them; that in May an Act prohibiting private schools for non-resident coloured persons, and providing for the expulsion of the latter, was procured from the legislature, amid the greatest rejoicing in Canterbury (even to the ringing of church bells); that, under this Act, Miss Crandall was in June arrested and temporarily imprisoned in the county jail, twice tried (August and October) and convicted; that her case was carried up to the Supreme Court of Errors, and her persecutors defeated on a technicality (July, 1834), and that pending this litigation the most vindictive and inhuman measures were taken to isolate the school from the countenance and even the physical support of the townspeople. The shops and the meeting-house were closed against teacher and pupils, carriage in the public conveyances was denied them, physicians would not wait upon them, Miss Crandall's own family and friends were forbidden, under penalty of heavy fines, to visit her, the well was filled with manure and water from other sources refused, the house itself was smeared with filth, assailed with rotten eggs and stones, and finally set on fire" (vol. i. p. 321).
Miss Crandall is still living in the West, in extreme old age, and the Connecticut legislature voted her a small pension two years ago, as a slight expiation of the ignominy and injustice from which she had suffered at the hands of a past generation.
The Spectator frequently refers to the ferocious hatred displayed toward the widow of Curtin, the man who was cruelly murdered by moonlighters somewhere in Kerry, as an evidence of barbarism which almost, if not quite, justifies the denial of self-government to a people capable of producing such monsters in one spot and on one occasion. Let me match this from Mississippi with a case which I produce, not because it was singular, but because it was notorious at the North, where it occurred, in 1877. One Chisholm, a native of the State, and a man of good standing and character, became a Republican after the war, and was somewhat active in organizing the negro voters in his district. He was repeatedly warned by some of his neighbours to desist and abandon politics, but continued resolutely on his course. A mob, composed of many of the leading men in the town, then attacked him in his house. He made his escape, with his wife and young daughter and son, a lad of fourteen, to the jail. His assailants broke the jail open, and killed him and his son, and desperately wounded the daughter. The poor lad received such a volley of bullets, that his blood went in one rush to the floor, and traced the outlines of his trunk on the ceiling of the room below, where it remained months afterwards, an eye-witness told me, as an illustration of the callousness of the jailer. The leading murderers were tried. They had no defence. The facts were not disputed. The judge and the bar did their duty, but the jury acquitted the prisoners without leaving their seats. Mrs. Chisholm, the widow, found neither sympathy nor friends at the scene of the tragedy. She had to leave the State, and found refuge in Washington, where she now holds a clerkship in the Treasury department.
Let me cite as another illustration the violent ways in which popular discontent may find expression in communities whose political capacity and general respect for the law and its officers, as well as for the sanctity of contracts, have never been questioned. Large tracts of land were formerly held along the Hudson river in the State of New York, by a few families, of which the Van Rensselaers and the Livingstons were the chief, either under grants from the Dutch at the first settlement of the colony, or from the English Crown after the conquest. That known as the "Manor of Rensselaerwick," held by the Van Rensselaers, comprised a tract of country extending twenty-four miles north and south, and forty-eight miles east and west, lying on each side of the Hudson river. It was held by the tenants for perpetual leases. The rents were, on the Van Rensselaer estate, fourteen bushels of wheat for each hundred acres, and four fat hens, and one day's service with a carriage and horses, to each farm of one hundred and sixty acres. Besides this, there was a fine on alienation amounting to about half a year's rent. The Livingston estates were let in much the same way.
In 1839, Stephen Van Rensselaer, the proprietor, or "Patroon" as he was called, died, with $400,000 due to him as arrears from the tenants, for which, being a man of easy temper, he had forborne to press them. But he left the amount in trust by his will for the payment of his debts, and his heirs proceeded to collect it, and persisted in the attempt during the ensuing seven years. What then happened I shall describe in the words of Mr. John Bigelow. Mr. Tilden was a member of the State Legislature in 1846, and was appointed Chairman of a Committee to investigate the rent troubles, and make the report which furnished the basis for the legislation by which they were subsequently settled. Mr. Bigelow, who has edited Mr. Tilden's Public Writings and Speeches, prefaces the report with the following explanatory note:—
"Attempts were made to enforce the collection of these rents. The tenants resisted. They established armed patrols, and, by the adoption of various disguises, were enabled successfully to defy the civil authorities. Eventually it became necessary to call out the military, but the result was only partially satisfactory. These demonstrations of authority provoked the formation of 'anti-rent clubs' throughout the manorial district, with a view of acquiring a controlling influence in the legislature. Small bands, armed and disguised as Indians, were also formed to hold themselves in readiness at all times to resist the officers of the law whenever and wherever they attempted to serve legal process upon the tenants. The principal roads throughout the infected district were guarded by the bands so carefully, and the animosity between the tenants and the civil authorities was so intense, that at last it became dangerous for any one not an anti-renter to be found in these neighbourhoods. It was equally dangerous for the landlords to make any appeal to the law or for the collection of rents or for protection of their persons. When Governor Wright entered upon his duties in Albany in 1845, he found that the anti-rent party had a formidable representation in the legislature, and that the questions involved were assuming an almost national importance."
The sheriff made gallant attempts to enforce the law, but his deputies were killed, and a legal investigation in which two hundred persons were examined, failed to reveal the perpetrators of the crime. The militia were called out, but they were no more successful than the sheriff. In the case of one murder committed in Delaware County in 1845, however, two persons were convicted, but their sentence was commuted to imprisonment for life. Various others concerned in the disturbances were convicted of minor offences, but when Governor Young succeeded Governor Seward after an election in which the anti-renters showed considerable voting strength, he pardoned them all on the ground that their crimes were political. The dispute was finally settled by a compromise—that is, the Van Rensselaers and the Livingstons both sold their estates, giving quit-claim deeds to the tenants for what they chose to pay, and the granting of agricultural leases for a longer term than twelve years was forbidden by the State Constitution of 1846.
This anti-rent agitation is described by Professor Johnston of Princeton, in the Cyclopaedia of Political Science, as "a reign of terror which for ten years practically suspended the operations of law and the payment of rent throughout the district." Suppose all the land of the State had been held under similar tenures; that the controversy had lasted one hundred years; that the rents had been high; and that the Van Rensselaers and the Livingstons had had the aid of the Federal army in enforcing distraints and evictions, and in enabling them to set local opinion at defiance, what do you suppose the state of morals and manners would have been in New York by this time? What would have been the feelings of the people towards the Federal authority had the matter been finally adjusted with the strong hand, in accordance, not with the views of the people of the State, but of the landholders of South Carolina or of the district of Columbia? I am afraid they would have been terribly Irish.
I know very well the risk I run, in citing all these precedents and parallels, of seeming to justify, or at all events to palliate, Irish lawlessness. But I am not doing anything of the kind. I am trying to illustrate a somewhat trite remark which I recently made: "that government is a very practical business, and that those succeed best in it who bring least sentiment or enthusiasm to the conduct of their affairs." The government of Ireland, like the government of all other countries, is a piece of business—a very difficult piece of business, I admit—and therefore horror over Irish doings, and the natural and human desire to "get even with" murderers and moonlighters, by denying the community which produces them something it would like much to possess, should have no influence with those who are charged with Irish government. It is only in nurseries and kindergartens that we can give offenders their exact due and withhold their toffee until they have furnished satisfactory proofs of repentance. Rulers of men have to occupy themselves mainly with the question of drying up the sources of crime, and often, in order to accomplish this, to let much crime and disorder go unwhipped of justice.
With the state of mind which cannot bear to see any concessions made to the Irish Nationalists because they are such wicked men, in which so many excellent Englishmen, whom we used to think genuine political philosophers, are now living, we are very familiar in the United States. It is a state of mind which prevailed in the Republican party with regard to the South, down to the election of 1884, and found constant expression on the stump and in the newspapers in what is described, in political slang, as "waving the bloody shirt." It showed itself after the war in unwillingness to release the South from military rule; then in unwillingness to remove the disfranchisement of the whites or to withdraw from the carpet-bag State governments the military support without which they could not have existed for a day; and, last of all, in dread of the advent of a Democratic Federal Administration in which Southerners or "ex-rebels" would be likely to hold office. At first the whole Republican party was more or less permeated by these ideas; but the number of those who held them gradually diminished, until in 1884 it was at last possible to elect a Democratic President. Nevertheless a great multitude witnessed the entrance into the White House of a President who is indebted for his election mainly to the States formerly in rebellion, with genuine alarm. They feared from it something dreadful, in the shape either of a violation of the rights of the freedmen, or of an assault on the credit and stability of the Federal Government. Nothing but actual experiment would have disabused them.
I am very familiar with the controversy with them, for I have taken some part in it ever since the passage of the reconstruction Acts, and I know very well how they felt, and am sometimes greatly impressed by the similarity between their arguments and those of the opponents of Irish Home Rule. One of their fixed beliefs for many years, though it is now extinct, was that Southerners were so bent on rebelling again, and were generally so prone to rebellion, that the awful consequences of their last attempt in the loss of life and property, had made absolutely no impression on them. The Southerner was, in fact, in their eyes, what Mr. Gladstone says the Irishman is in the eyes of some Englishmen: "A lusus naturae; that justice, common sense, moderation, national prosperity had no meaning for him; that all he could appreciate was strife and perpetual dissension. It was for many years useless to point out to them the severity of the lesson taught by the Civil War as to the physical superiority of the North, or the necessity of peace and quiet to enable the new generation of Southerners to restore their fortunes, or even gain a livelihood. Nor was it easy to impress them with the inconsistency of arguing that it was slavery which made Southerners what they were before they went to war, and maintaining at the same time that the disappearance of slavery would produce no change in their manners, ideas, or opinions. All this they answered by pointing to speeches delivered by some fiery adorer of "the lost cause," to the Ku-Klux outrages, to political murders, like that of Chisholm, to the building of monuments to the Confederate dead, or to some newspaper expression of reverence for Confederate nationality. In fact, for fully ten years after the close of the war the collection of Southern "outrages" and their display before Northern audiences, was the chief work of Republican politicians. In 1876, during the Hayes-Tilden canvass, the opening speech which furnished what is called "the key-note of the campaign" was made by Mr. Wheeler, the Republican candidate for the Vice-Presidency, and his advice to the Vermonters, to whom it was delivered, was "to vote as they shot," that is, to go to the polls with the same feelings and aims as those with which they enlisted in the war.
I need hardly tell English readers how all this has ended. The withdrawal of the Federal troops from the South by President Hayes, and the consequent complete restoration of the State governments to the discontented whites, have fully justified the expectations of those who maintained that it is no less true in politics than in physics, that if you remove what you see to be the cause, the effect will surely disappear. It is true, at least in the Western world, that if you give communities in a reasonable degree the management of their own affairs, the love of material comfort and prosperity which is now so strong among all civilized, and even partially civilized men, is sure in the long run to do the work of creating and maintaining order; or, as Mr. Gladstone has expressed it, in setting up a government, "the best and surest foundation we can find to build on is the foundation afforded by the affections, the convictions, and the will of men."
[Footnote 2: Report of Secretary of War, 1869-70, vol. i. p. 89.]
HOW WE BECAME HOME RULERS.
BY JAMES BRYCE, M.P.
In the Home Rule contest of the last eighteen months no argument has been more frequently used against the Liberal party than the charge of sudden, and therefore, it would seem, dishonest change of view. "You were opposed to an Irish Parliament at the election of 1880 and for some time afterward; you are not entitled to advocate it in 1886." "You passed a Coercion Bill in 1881, your Ministry (though against the protests of an active section of its supporters) passed another Coercion Bill in 1882; you have no right to resist a third such Bill in 1887, and, if you do, your conduct can be due to nothing but party spite and revenge at your own exclusion from office." Reproaches of this kind are now the stock-in-trade, not merely of the ordinary politician, who, for want of a case, abuses the plaintiff's attorney, but of leading men, and, still more, of leading newspapers, who might be thought bound to produce from recent events and an examination of the condition of Ireland some better grounds for the passion they display. It is noticeable that such reproaches come more often from the so-called Liberal Unionists than from the present Ministry. Perhaps, with their belief that all Liberals are unprincipled revolutionaries, the Tories deem a sin more or less to be of small account. Perhaps a recollection of their own remarkable gyrations, before and after the General Election of 1885, may suggest that the less said about the past the better for everybody. Be the cause what it may, it is surprising to find that a section commanding so much ability as the group of Dissentient Liberals does, should rely rather on the charge of inconsistency than on the advocacy of any counter-policy of their own. It is not large and elevated, but petty, minds that rejoice to say to an opponent (and all the more so if he was once a friend), "You must either be wrong now, or have been wrong then, because you have changed your opinion. I have not changed; I was right then, and I am right now." Such an argument not only dispenses with the necessity of sifting the facts, but it fosters the satisfaction of the person who employs it. Consistency is the pet virtue of the self-righteous, and the man who values himself on his consistency can seldom be induced to see that to shut one's eyes to the facts which time develops, to refuse to reconsider one's position by the light they shed, to cling to an old solution when the problem is substantially new, is a proof, not of fortitude and wisdom, but rather of folly and conceit.
Such persons may be left to the contemplation of their own virtues. But there are many fair-minded men of both political parties, or of neither, who, while acquitting those Liberal members who supported Home Rule in 1886 and opposed Coercion in 1887 of the sordid or spiteful motives with which the virulence of journalism credits them, have nevertheless been surprised at the apparent swiftness and completeness of the change in their opinions. It would be idle to deny that, in startling the minds of steady-going people, this change did, for the moment, weaken the influence and weight of those who had changed. This must be so. A man who says now what he denied six years ago cannot expect to be believed on his ipse dixit. He must set forth the grounds of his conviction. He must explain how his views altered, and why reasons which formerly satisfied him satisfy him no longer. It may be that the Liberal party have omitted to do this as they ought. Occupied by warm and incessant discussions, and conscious, I venture to believe, of their own honesty, few of its members have been at the trouble of showing what were the causes which modified their views, and what the stages of the process which carried them from the position of 1880 to that of 1886.
Of that process I shall attempt in the following pages to give a sketch. Such a sketch, though mainly retrospective, is pertinent to the issues which now divide the country. It will indicate the origin and the strength of the chief reasons by which Liberals are now governed. And, if executed with proper fairness and truth, it may, as a study in contemporary history, be of some little interest to those who in future will attempt to understand our present conflict. The causes which underlie changes of opinion are among the most obscure phenomena in history, because those who undergo, these changes are often only half conscious of them, and do not think of recording that which is imperceptible in its growth, and whose importance is not realized till it already belongs to the past.
The account which follows is based primarily on my own recollection of the phases of opinion and feeling through which I myself, and the friends whom I knew most intimately in the House of Commons, passed during the Parliament which sat from 1880 till 1885. But I should not think of giving it to the public if I did not believe that what happened to our minds happened to many others also, and that the record of our own slow movement from the position of 1880 to that of 1886 is substantially a record of the movement of the Liberal party at large. We were fairly typical members of that party, loyal to our leaders, but placing the principles for which the Liberal party exists above the success of the party itself; with our share of prepossessions and prejudices, yet with reasonably open minds, and (as we believed) inferior to no other section of the House of Commons in patriotism and in attachment to the Constitution. I admit frankly that when we entered Parliament we knew less about the Irish question than we ought to have known, and that even after knowledge had been forced upon us, we were more deferential to our leaders than was good either for us or for them. But these are faults always chargeable on the great majority of members. It is because those of whom I speak were in these respects fairly typical, that it seems worth while to trace the history of their opinions. If any one should accuse me of attributing to an earlier year sentiments which began to appear in a later one, I can only reply that I am aware of this danger, as one which always besets those who recall their past states of mind, and that I have done my utmost to avoid it.
The change I have to describe was slow and gradual. It was reluctant—that is to say, it seemed rather forced upon us by the teaching of events than the work of our own minds. Each session marked a further stage in it; and I therefore propose to examine its progress session by session.
Session of 1880.—The General Election of 1880 turned mainly on the foreign policy of Lord Beaconsfield's Government. Few Liberal candidates said much about Ireland. Absorbed in the Eastern and Afghan questions, they had not watched the progress of events in Ireland with the requisite care, nor realized the gravity of the crisis which was approaching. They were anxious to do justice to Ireland, in the way of amending both the land laws and local government, but saw no reason for going further. Nearly all of them refused, even when pressed by Irish electors in their constituencies, to promise to vote for that "parliamentary inquiry into the demand for Home Rule," which was then propounded by those electors as a sort of test question. We (i.e. the Liberal candidates of 1880) then declared that we thought an Irish Parliament would involve serious constitutional difficulties, and that we saw no reason why the Imperial Parliament should not do full justice to Ireland. Little was said about Coercion. Hopes were expressed that it would not be resorted to, but very few (if any) pledged themselves against it.
When Mr. Forster was appointed Irish Secretary in Mr. Gladstone's Government which the General Election brought into power, we (by which I mean throughout the new Liberal members) were delighted. We knew him to be conscientious, industrious, kind-hearted. We believed him to be penetrating and judicious. We applauded his conduct in not renewing the Coercion Act which Lord Beaconsfield's Government had failed to renew before dissolving Parliament, and which indeed there was scarcely time left after the election to renew, a fact which did not save Mr. Forster from severe censure on the part of the Tories.
The chief business of the session was the Compensation for Disturbance Bill, which Mr. Forster brought in for the sake of saving from immediate eviction tenants whom a succession of bad seasons had rendered utterly unable to pay their rents. This Bill was pressed through the House of Commons with the utmost difficulty, and at an expenditure of time which damaged the other work of the session, though the House continued to sit into September. The Executive Government declared it to be necessary, in order not only to relieve the misery of the people, but to secure the tranquillity of the country. Nevertheless, the whole Tory party, and a considerable section of the Liberal party, opposed it in the interests of the Irish landlords, and of economic principles in general, principles which (as commonly understood in England) it certainly trenched on. When it reached the House of Lords it was contemptuously rejected, and the unhappy Irish Secretary left to face as he best might the cries of a wretched peasantry and the rising tide of outrage. What was even more remarkable, was the coolness with which the Liberal party took the defeat of a Bill their leaders had pronounced absolutely needed. Had it been an English Bill of the same consequence to England as it was to Ireland, the country would have been up in arms against the House of Lords, demanding the reform or the abolition of a Chamber which dared to disregard the will of the people. But nothing of the kind happened. It was only an Irish measure. We relieved ourselves by a few strong words, and the matter dropped.
It was in this session that the Liberal party first learnt what sort of a spirit was burning in the hearts of Irish members. There had been obstruction in the last years of the previous Parliament, but, as the Tories were in power, they had to bear the brunt of it. Now that a Liberal Ministry reigned, it fell on the Liberals. At first it incensed us. Full of our own good intentions towards Ireland, we thought it contrary to nature that Irish members should worry us, their friends, as they had worried Tories, their hereditary enemies. Presently we came to understand how matters stood. The Irish members made little difference between the two great English parties. Both represented to them a hostile domination. Both were ignorant of the condition of their country. Both cared so little about Irish questions that nothing less than deeds of violence out of doors or obstruction within doors could secure their attention. Concessions had to be extorted from both by the same devices; Coercion might be feared at the hands of both. Hence the Irish party was resolved to treat both parties alike, and play off the one against the other in the interests of Ireland alone, using the questions which divide Englishmen and Scotchmen merely as levers whereby to effect their own purposes, because themselves quite indifferent to the substantial merits of those questions. To us new members this was an alarming revelation. We found that the House of Commons consisted of two distinct and dissimilar bodies: a large British body (including some few Tories and Liberals from Ireland), which, though it was distracted by party quarrels, really cared for the welfare of the country and the dignity of the House, and would set aside its quarrels in the presence of a great emergency; and a small Irish body, which, though it spoke the English language, was practically foreign, felt no interest in, no responsibility for, the business of Britain or the Empire, and valued its place in the House only as a means of making itself so disagreeable as to obtain its release. When we had grasped this fact, we began to reflect on its causes and conjecture its effects. We had read of the same things in the newspapers, but what a difference there is between reading a drama in your study and seeing it acted on the stage! We realized what Irish feeling was when we heard these angry cries, and noted how appeals that would have affected English partisans fell on deaf ears. I remember how one night in the summer of 1880, when the Irish members kept us up very late over some trivial Bill of theirs, refusing to adjourn till they had extorted terms, a friend, sitting beside me, said, "See how things come round. They keep us out of bed till five o'clock in the morning because our ancestors bullied theirs for six centuries." And we saw that the natural relations of an Executive, even a Liberal Executive, to the Irish members were those of strife. Whose fault it was we were unable to decide. Perhaps the Government was too stiff; perhaps the members were vexatious. Anyhow, this strife was evidently the normal state of things, wholly unlike that which existed between Scotch members, to whichever party they belonged, and the executive authorities of Scotland.
Thus the session of 1880, though it did not bring us consciously nearer to Home Rule, impressed three facts upon us: first, that the House of Lords regarded Ireland solely from the point of view of English landlords, sympathizing with Irish landlords; secondly, that the House of Commons knew so little or cared so little about Ireland that when the Executive declared a measure essential to the peace of Ireland, it scarcely resented the rejection of that measure by the House of Lords; thirdly, that the Irish Nationalists in the House of Commons were a foreign body, foreign in the sense in which a needle which a man swallows is foreign, not helping the organism to discharge its functions, but impeding them, and setting up irritation. We did not yet draw from these facts all the conclusions we should now draw. But the facts were there, and they began to tell upon our minds.
SESSION OF 1881.—The winter of 1880-81 was a terrible one in Ireland. The rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill had borne the fruit which Mr. Forster had predicted, and which the House of Lords had ignored. Outrages were numerous and serious. The cry in England for repressive measures had gone on rising from November, when it occasioned a demonstration at the Guildhall banquet. Several Liberal members (of whom I was one) went to Ireland at Christmas, to see with our own eyes how things stood. We were struck by the difficulty of obtaining trustworthy information in Dublin, where the richer classes, with whom we chiefly came in contact, merely abused the Land League, while the Land Leaguers declared that the accounts of outrages were grossly exaggerated. The most prominent, Mr. Michael Davitt, assured me, and I believe with perfect truth, that he had exerted himself to discountenance outrage, and that if, as he expected, he was locked up by the Government, outrages would increase. When one reached the disturbed districts, where, of course, one talked to members as well of the landlord class as of the peasantry, the general conclusion which emerged from the medley of contradictions was that, though there was much agrarian crime, and a pervading sense of insecurity, the disorders were not so bad as people in England believed, and might have been dealt with by a vigorous administration of the existing law. Unfortunately, the so-called "better classes," full of bitterness against the Liberal Ministry and Mr. Forster (whom they did not praise till it was too late), had not assisted the Executive, and had allowed things to reach a pass at which it found the work of governing very difficult.
When the Coercion Bill of 1881 was introduced, many English Liberals were inclined to resist it. The great majority voted for it, but within two years they bitterly repented their votes. Our motives, which I mention by way of extenuation, not of defence, were these. The Executive Government declared that it could not deal with crime by the ordinary law. If its followers refused exceptional powers, they must displace the Ministry, and let in the Tories, who would doubtless obtain such powers, and probably use them worse. We had still confidence in Mr. Forster's judgment, and a deference to Irish Executive Governments generally which Parliamentary experience is well fitted to dissipate. The violence with which the Nationalist members resisted the introduction of the Bill had roused our blood, and the foolish attempts which the Radical and Irish electors in some constituencies had made to deter their members from supporting it had told the other way, and disposed these members to vote for it, in order to show that they were not to be cowed by threats. Finally, we were assured that votes given for the Coercion Bill would purchase a thorough-going Land Bill, and our anxiety for the latter induced us, naturally, but erringly, to acquiesce in the former.
When that Land Bill went into Committee we perceived how much harm the Coercion Bill had done in intensifying the bitterness of Irish members. Although the Ministry was fighting for their interests against the Tory party and the so-called Whiggish section of its own supporters, who were seeking to cut down the benefits which the measure offered to Irish tenants, the Nationalist members regarded it, and in particular Mr. Forster, as their foe. They resented what they deemed the insult put upon their country. They saw those who had been fighting, often, no doubt, by unlawful methods, for the national cause, thrown into prison and kept there without trial. They anticipated (not without reason) the same fortune for themselves. Hence the friendliness which the Liberal party sought to show them met with no response, and Mr. Forster was worried with undiminished vehemence. In the discussions on the Bill we found the Ministry generally resisting all amendments which came from Irish members. When these amendments seemed to us right, we voted for them, but they were almost always defeated by the union of the Tories with the steady Ministerialists. Subsequent events have proved that many were right, but, whether they were right or wrong, the fact which impressed us was that in matters which concerned Ireland only, and lay within the exclusive knowledge of Irishmen, Irish members were constantly outvoted by English and Scotch members, who knew nothing at all of the merits of the case, but simply obeyed the party whip. This happened even when the Irish members who sat on the Liberal side (such as Mr. Dickson and his Liberal colleagues from Ulster) joined the Nationalist section in demanding some extension of the Bill which the Ministry refused. And we perceived that nothing incensed the Irish members more than the feeling that their arguments were addressed to deaf ears; that they were overborne, not by reason, but by sheer weight of numbers. Even if they convinced the Ministry, they could seldom hope to obtain its assent, because the Ministry had to consider the House of Lords, sure to reject amendments which favoured the tenant, while to detach a number of Ministerialists sufficient to carry an amendment against the Treasury Bench, the Moderate Liberals, and the Tories, was evidently hopeless.
At the end of the session the House of Lords came again upon the scene. It seriously damaged the Bill by its amendments, and would have destroyed it but for the skill with which the head of the Government handled these amendments, accepting the least pernicious, so as to enable the Upper House without loss of dignity to recede from those which were wholly inadmissible. Several times it seemed as if the conflict would have to pass from Westminster to the country, and, in contemplating the chances of a popular agitation or a dissolution, we were regretfully obliged to own that the English people cared too little and knew too little about Irish questions to give us much hope of defeating the House of Lords and the Tories upon these issues.
An incident which occurred towards the end of the session seems, though trifling in itself, so illustrative of the illogical position in which we stood towards Ireland, as to deserve mention. Mr. Forster, still Chief Secretary, had brought in a Bill for extinguishing the Queen's University in Ireland, and creating in place of it a body to be called the Royal University, which, however, was not to be a real university at all, but only a set of examiners plus some salaried fellowships, to be held at various places of instruction. Regarding this as a gross educational blunder, which would destroy a useful existing body, and create a sham university in its place, and finding several Parliamentary friends on whose judgment I could rely to be of the same opinion, I gave notice of opposition to the Bill. Mr. Forster came to me, and pressed with great warmth that the opposition should be withdrawn. The Bill, he said, would satisfy the Roman Catholic hierarchy, and complete the work of the Land Bill in pacifying Ireland. The Irish members wanted it: what business had an English member to interfere to defeat their wishes, and thwart the Executive? The reply was obvious. Not to speak of the simplicity of expecting the hierarchy to be satisfied by this small concession, what were such arguments but the admission of Home Rule in its worst form? "You resist the demand of the Irish members to legislate for Ireland; you have just been demanding, and obtaining, the support of English members against those amendments of the Land Bill which Irish members declare to be necessary. Now you bid us surrender our own judgment, ignore our own responsibility, and blindly pass a Bill which we, who have studied these university questions as they affect both Ireland and England, believe to be thoroughly mischievous to the prospects of higher education in Ireland, only because the Irish members, as you say, desire it. Do one thing or the other. Either give them the power and the responsibility, or leave both with the Imperial Parliament. You are now asking us to surrender the power, but to remain still subject to the responsibility. We will not bear the latter without the former. We shall prefer Home Rule." Needless to add that this device—a sample of the petty sops by which successive generations of English statesmen, Whigs and Tories alike, have sought to win over a priesthood which uses and laughs at them—failed as completely as its predecessors to settle the University question or to range the bishops on the side of the Government.
The autumn and winter of 1881 revealed the magnitude of the mischief done by making a Coercion Bill precede a Relief Bill. The Land Bill was the largest concession made to the demands of the people since Catholic Emancipation. It was a departure, justified by necessity, but still a departure from our established principles of legislation. It ought to have brought satisfaction and confidence, if not gratitude, with it; ought to have led Ireland to believe in the sincere friendliness of England, and produced a new cordiality between the islands. It did nothing of the kind. It was held to have been extorted from our fears; its grace and sweetness were destroyed by the concomitant severities which the Coercion Act had brought into force, as wholesome food becomes distasteful when some bitter compound has been sprinkled over it. We were deeply mortified at this result of our efforts. What was the malign power which made the boons we had conferred shrivel up, "like fairy gifts fading away"? We still believed the Coercion Act to have been justified, but lamented the fate which baffled the main object of our efforts, the winning over Ireland to trust the justice and the capacity of the Imperial Parliament. And thus the two facts which stood out from the history of this eventful session were, first, that even in legislating for the good of Ireland we were legislating against the wishes of Ireland, imposing on her enactments which her representatives opposed, and which we supported only at the bidding of the Ministry; and, secondly, that at the end of a long session, entirely devoted to her needs, we found her more hostile and not less disturbed than she had been at its beginning. We began to wonder whether we should ever succeed better on our present lines. But we still mostly regarded Home Rule as a disagreeable solution.