Home Rule - Second Edition
by Harold Spender
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- Transcriber's Note: Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the end of this document. -

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On and after the appointed day there shall be in Ireland an Irish Parliament, consisting of his Majesty the King and two Houses, namely, the Irish Senate and the Irish House of Commons.

Notwithstanding the establishment of the Irish Parliament, or anything contained in this Act, the supreme power and authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things within his Majesty's dominions.


"If we conciliate Ireland, we can do nothing amiss; if we do not we can do nothing well."


"The cry of disaffection will not, in the end, prevail against the principle of liberty."





SECOND EDITION With Text of Home Rule Bill (1912)


"There can be no nobler spectacle than that which we think is now dawning upon us, the spectacle of a nation deliberately set on the removal of injustice, deliberately determined to break with whatever remains still existing of an evil tradition, and determined in that way at once to pay a debt of justice and to consult, by a bold, wise and good act, its own interests and its own honour."



It must surely be clear to-day to many of those who opposed the Home Rule Bill of 1893 that there is a problem of which the solution is now more urgent than ever. We who were Gladstonian Home Rulers approached the problem originally from the Irish side: those who did not then approach it from that side refused to admit the existence of any problem at all. Since that time circumstances have made it necessary to approach the problem from the British as well as from the Irish side.

The British Parliament has hitherto been regarded as a model to be imitated; if it continues to attempt the impossible task of transacting in detail both local and Imperial business, it will end as an example to be avoided. In the last fifty years the amount of work demanded for particular portions of the United Kingdom, for the United Kingdom as a whole, or for the Empire has increased enormously; in all three categories the work is still increasing and will increase: one Parliament cannot do it all. This is one new aspect of the Home Rule question.

Mr. Spender states the case with force and sympathy from the Irish point of view, with which none of us, who were convinced supporters of Home Rule twenty years ago can ever lose sympathy, and with which the younger generation should make itself acquainted. He makes also a very valuable and opportune review of recent changes in the situation, and considers how Home Rule should be adapted to British and Imperial needs, and should serve them. The whole book is the result of his own reflection, observation and research; the conclusions to which he comes for the settlement of the financial and other details of Home Rule ought to receive most careful consideration as valuable contributions to the discussion of the subject. But, of course, they must not be assumed necessarily to be mine or to be those that will be adopted in the Government Bill.

But I agree with him entirely that Home Rule is necessary to heal bitterness in Ireland, and to effect that reconciliation without which there cannot be real union: that it is necessary to relieve Parliament at Westminster and to set it free for work that concerns the United Kingdom as a whole or the Empire: in other words, that there is a problem to be solved, and that the first step in solving it must be Irish Home Rule in a form that opens the way for Federal Home Rule.

In the autumn of 1910 a considerable part, at any rate, of the Conservative Party seemed ready to admit the need for some solution: to-day they have apparently drifted back to the barren position of opposing all proposals for Home Rule: if they were to render this solution impossible, they would but make the problem more urgent.


February, 1912.


CHAPTER I. THE HOME RULE CASE 3 The Case that Does Not Change: (i.) The Sea. (ii.) The Race. (iii.) The Creed.

CHAPTER II. THE HOME RULE CASE 19 The Case that Has Changed and is Now Stronger: (i.) The Councils and (ii.) The Land.

CHAPTER III. THE HOME RULE CASE 35 The Case that Has Changed—(continued): (i.) The Congested Districts. (ii.) The Board of Agriculture. (iii.) Old-Age Pensions. (iv.) The Universities.

CHAPTER IV. THE HOME RULE PLAN 47 The Nineteenth Century Bills and the Bill of 1912.



CHAPTER VII. HOME RULE IN HISTORY 89 Five Centuries of Limited Home Rule (1265-1780).


CHAPTER IX. HOME RULE IN THE WORLD 113 The Case from Analogy.



A. The Home Rule Bill of 1912 143 B. The Shrinkage of Ireland 160 C. The Act of Union 163 D. The Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893 167 E. The Irish Board of Agriculture 184 F. The Reduction in Irish Pauperism 186 G. The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881 187 H. The Congested Districts Board 188 J. Irish Canals and Railways 190 K. Home Rule Parliaments in the British Empire 191




"Ireland hears the ocean protesting against Separation, but she hears the sea likewise protesting against Union. She follows her physical destination and obeys the dispensations of Providence."

GRATTAN (First speech against the Union 15th January, 1800).



Very nearly a generation of time has elapsed since, in 1886, Mr. Gladstone expounded in the British House of Commons his first Bill for restoring to Ireland a Home Rule Parliament. Nearly twenty years have passed since that same great man, indomitably defying age and infirmities in the pursuit of his great ideal, passed the second Home Rule Bill (1893) through the British House of Commons. That Bill stands to-day unshaken in regard to all its vital clauses. Some of us still hold the faith that that Bill would, if it had become law in 1893, have saved Ireland from many years of wastage, and would have built up, to face our enemies in the gate, a stronger and stouter fabric of Empire.

The Bill of 1893 only survived the perilous tempests of the House of Commons[1] to fall a victim to the House of Lords.[2]

Nearly twenty years have elapsed since that day, and now the successors of Mr. Gladstone, the Progressives of the United Kingdom, Liberals, Labour Members and Nationalists, approach the same task with the Bill of 1912.[3] Some of them are veterans of the former strife. They can turn, like the present writer, to the thumbed diaries of that great combat,[4] and can recall the great scenes of that prolonged Parliamentary agony with a sense of treading again some well-worn road. Others are new to the issue, and can only hear, like "horns of Elf-land faintly blowing," some faint echo from the dawn of consciousness.

But young or old, we must again set forth on our travels, and this time—

"It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles."

It will be the memory of the "Great Achilles" that will sustain us. For this task comes to Liberals as a sacred trust from Mr. Gladstone. It is from him that they have learnt that race-hatred is poison, and that the only true union between nations is—in a phrase that has outlived the silly laughter of the shallow—the "Union of Hearts."[5] It is Mr. Gladstone's work that they design to accomplish. It is the memory of his passionate and sustained devotion through the last twenty years of that glorious life that has thrown a halo round this cause, and still gilds it with a "heavenly alchemy."

But, before we "smite the sounding furrows," our first duty is to survey once more the seas over which we shall have to voyage. We have to consider again both the old and the new "case for Home Rule"—not merely the case of 1886 or 1893, but the still stronger case of 1912.

For the world never stands still, and in every generation every great human problem presents different aspects, and shows new lights and shadows. Every great human question is like a great mountain which on a second or third visit reveals new and unsuspected depths and heights, new valleys and new peaks, slopes which new avalanches have furrowed, and glaciers which have receded or advanced.

Not that the real, great, main outline ever changes. As with the mountains, so with the great human problems; there are always certain great features which remain permanent.


There are, for instance, in the Irish case the sixty-five miles of sea which, since the earliest dawn of human memory, have divided Ireland from Great Britain. A fact absurdly simple and obvious, but the greatest feature of all in this mighty problem of human government!

"The sea forbids Union, and the Channel forbids Separation." There is no change in that great physical condition. Those sixty-five miles of sea have neither increased nor diminished since 1893. That sea is still too broad for "Union"—in the Parliamentary sense of that word—and too narrow for Separation.

To anyone standing on the deck of one of those swift steamships which now cross to Ireland from so many points on the British coast, there must, if he has any imagination, come some vision of the vast impediment which this sea has placed in the way of direct control by England over Ireland's domestic affairs. Looking back down the vista of history, he must see a succession of fleets delayed by contrary winds, of sea-sick kings and storm-battered convoys, of conquest thwarted by the caprice of ocean, of peace messengers and high administrators brought to anchor in the midst of their proud schemes.

The same causes still operate. In this respect, indeed, Ireland appears to be simply one instance of a general law. It may almost be laid down as an axiom that no nation can govern another across the sea. How often it has been tried, and how often it has failed! France has tried it with England, and England has tried it with France. Great Britain tried it with North America, and Spain tried it with South. In this matter even the great quickening of modern communications, even the miracles of steam and electricity, seem to have made little difference. For even at the present moment, if we look around, we shall see how great a part the sea has played as the deciding factor in forms of government. It is the sea which has made us give self-government to Canada, Australia, and South Africa. It is the sea which keeps Newfoundland apart from the Canadian Federation, and New Zealand apart from Australia. Even within the scope of these islands the same law prevails. It is the sea which makes us give self-government to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Almost the only exception is Ireland. In Ireland we have defied this great law; and in Ireland that defiance is a failure.

And yet not defied it completely; for the very facts of Nature forbade. While we have taken away the Irish Legislature, we have been obliged to leave the Irish their separate laws, their separate Administration and Estimates, and their separate Executive in Dublin. That Executive has been for a whole century practically uncontrolled by any effective Parliamentary check. The result is that it has grown, like some plant in the dark, into such quaint and eccentric shapes and forms as to defy the control of any Minister or any public opinion[6]. Perhaps the worst condemnation of the Act of Union has been that while we destroyed the Irish Parliament we have been obliged to leave Dublin Castle.


Then there is the permanent, abiding difference of Race. It is a truism of history that the Englishman who settles in Ireland becomes more Irish than the Irish. The records of the past are filled with great examples. The Norman adventurers who spread into Ireland after the Conquest have become in modern times the chiefs of great Irish communities, until names like Joyce and Burke have come to be regarded as typical Hibernian surnames. It is a commonplace of modern history that the counties settled by Cromwellian soldiers have become most typically Irish. Tipperary, Waterford, and Wexford—there were great Cromwellian settlements in those counties. And yet they have taken the lead in the fiercest insurrections of modern Irish democracy.

It is only in the North of Ireland, within the confines of the province of Ulster, and there only in the extreme north-east corner, within the counties of Londonderry, Antrim, and Down, that the settlers have formed a distinct and definite racial breakwater against purely Irish influences. The plantation of Ulster in the reign of James I. took into Ireland some of the most dogged members of the Scotch race, men filled with the new fire of the Reformation, men stalwart for their race and creed. They went as conquerors and as confiscators, and for centuries they worked with arms in their hands. They slew and were slain, and were divided from the native Irish by an overflowing river of blood. That river is not yet bridged.

It has been said that there is no human hatred so great as that felt towards men whom one has wronged. The planters of Ulster inflicted upon Ireland many grievous wrongs and endured some fierce revenges. The result is that even to-day there is a section of them that still stands apart from the other colonisers of Ireland—a race still distinct and apart. Is it impossible that even there the binding and unifying principle of Irish life may begin to work? That is the question of the future.

But though Ireland thus contains at least one instance of a mixture of races not altogether dissimilar from that of England, it still remains true that, taken as a whole, Ireland is a country marked with the Celtic stamp. There, too, the power of the sea comes in. If there had been only a land frontier, it is possible that the Teutonic influence would have overpowered the Celtic. But the sea forms a sufficient barrier to cut off every new band of immigrants from the country of their origin. This isolation drives them into insular communion with the country of their invasion. Thus, however often invaded and "planted," Ireland has continued detached.

This detachment has been apparent ever since the earliest dawn of Western civilisation. Right up to the Norman Conquest Ireland remained apart and aloof from Central European influences. For long ages she had been the rallying-place of the Celt as he was driven westward by the Teuton and the Roman. Even after Great Britain had been absorbed by the Roman Empire, Ireland still remained unconquered, the one home of freedom in Western Europe. This independence of Rome continued far into the Christian era. Ireland developed a separate Christianity of a peculiarly elevated and noble type, full of missionary zeal and inspired by high culture. That Christianity even swept eastward, and for a time dominated Scotland and England from its homes in Iona and Lindisfarne. This Irish Christianity brought upon itself the enmity of Rome by continuing the Eastern tonsure and the Eastern ritual, and finally, at the great Synod at Whitby in the year 664[7], Rome conquered in the struggle for Britain, and the Irish religion was driven back across the sea.

But Rome and European Christianity, as it was represented in the Roman spirit, achieved a very slow victory over Ireland herself. The English Pope Adrian gave to Henry II. a full permission to conquer Ireland for the faith. But it was fated that Irish Catholicism should be built up not by submission to the Catholic Kings of England, but by resistance to the Protestant Kings from Henry VIII. onward. Thus it is that, even in religion, in spite of the passionate loyalty of the modern Irishman to the Roman See, Ireland still stands somewhat distinct and aloof from the rest of Europe.

But if that be so in religion, still more is it so in customs and manners. Take the analogy of a mould. The Celtic civilisation of Ireland is like a mould, into which fresh metal has been always pouring; white-hot, glowing metal from all over the world, from England and Scotland, from France, from Rome, and even from far-off Spain. But though the metal has always been changing, the mould still remains unbroken, and as the metal has emerged in its fixed form it has always taken the Celtic shape. So that to-day, in face of the Imperialistic tendencies of the British Empire, Ireland remains more than ever passionately attached to her nationalism, and more than ever potent to influence all newcomers with her national ideas.

It is in that sense that the question of race still remains a permanent feature in the Irish problem. It is precisely because the Irish nationality is so persistent that it is hopeless to expect a permanent settlement of her government problem within the scope of such an iron uniformity as the Act of Union. It is because Ireland nurses this "unconquerable hope" that the only golden key to these difficulties lies in some form of self-government.


But besides the sea and the race, there is yet one more feature of the Irish problem which remains practically unchanged. Ireland still remains predominantly Catholic, while Great Britain is still predominantly Protestant. The great movement of the sixteenth century, known as the Reformation, passed from Germany through Holland and France into Great Britain. It won Scotland completely. In England, after a prolonged struggle with a powerful Catholic tradition, it ended in the compromise still represented by the Anglican Church. But there the victory of the Reformation closed. The movement was checked at St. George's Channel. In Ireland Catholicism stood with its back against the Atlantic, and fought a stern, long fight against all the political and social forces of the British Empire. The attack of Protestantism was supported by the full power and authority of the conqueror. It lasted for two centuries. It began with Elizabeth and James as a simple imperative, mercilessly applied without regard to national conditions. It came under Cromwell as a scorching, devastating flame. It remained under William and the Georges as a slow, cruel torture applied through all the avenues of the law. The end of all that effort was, not to convert or destroy, but to weld the national and religious spirits into one common force, acting together throughout the nineteenth century as if identical.

Purified by persecution, Catholicism in Ireland, almost alone among the religions of Western Europe, stands out still to-day as a great national and democratic force.

But though the persecution failed, it built up, by a double process of immigration and monopoly, a very powerful Protestant population with all the stiff pride of ascendancy. For generations the Protestants of Ireland enjoyed all the offices of government, and had the sole right of inheritance. Thus both the land and the government slipped into their hands. Since no Catholic could inherit land under the penal laws, and since the penal laws lasted for nearly a century, it followed inevitably that the whole land of Ireland fell into the hands of the Protestants. That is why even at the present day the vast majority of the Irish landed and leisured classes are Protestants. The Catholics, during that dark period, became hewers of wood and drawers of water. Thus property in Ireland came to mean, not merely a division of classes, but also a division of creeds. In spite of all the great reforms, the descendants of these Protestants still retain most of the wealth and most of the Government offices in Ireland.[8] Their resistance to any change is not, therefore, altogether surprising; and we must remember amid all the various war-cries of the present agitation that these gentlemen are fighting, not merely for the integrity of the Empire, but also for position, income and power.

This state of affairs has varied very little for the last half-century.

The Census of 1911 contains, like most previous Irish Census returns, a schedule asking for a statement of religious faith. That enables us to tell with comparative accuracy the proportions between the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland since 1861, when the schedule was first introduced, right up to the present day.

The Preliminary Report shows that the variation has been very slight. The round figures for 1911 are:—

Roman Catholics 3,238,000 Protestant Episcopalians 575,000 Presbyterians 439,000 Methodists 61,000

The figures for 1861 were:—

Roman Catholics 4,500,000 Protestant Episcopalians 693,000 Presbyterians 523,000 Methodists 45,000[9]

There has been an all-round decrease, corresponding to the decrease of the population. That decrease has been brought about by emigration, and that emigration has taken place mainly from the Catholic provinces of Munster and Connaught. It is inevitable, therefore, that the Catholics should have diminished more than the Protestants. The result of forty years' wastage of the Irish Catholic peasantry is that the proportions of Catholics to Protestants are now three to one, as against four to one in 1861. Allowing for the great fact of westward emigration, this means that the relations between these two forms of Christianity in Ireland are practically stationary.

The Protestants, too, we must not forget, are divided into two sects—Episcopalian and Presbyterian—which in their history have been almost divided from one another as Catholicism and Protestantism, so much so that several times in Irish history—as, for instance, in 1798—the Catholic and Presbyterian have been brought together by a common persecution at the hands of the Episcopalian.

We must also bear in mind that the Protestants are mainly concentrated in the two provinces of Ulster and Leinster. Ulster contains nearly all the Irish Presbyterians—421,000 out of 439,000—men who are rather Scotch by descent than actually native Irish. Ulster also contains 366,000 Episcopalians, making, with 48,000 Methodists, 835,000 Protestants in Ulster, out of 1,075,000 in the whole of Ireland. The rest of the Episcopalians are in Leinster—round Dublin—where 140,000 are domiciled. Munster contains less than 60,000 Protestants in all, and Connaught contains little over 20,000.[10] It is practically a Catholic province.

The great fact about this religious situation in Ireland, therefore, is that you have a Catholic country with a strong Protestant minority.

We are asked to believe that this presents an insuperable obstacle to the gift of self-government. But Ireland does not stand alone in this respect. There are many other countries in the world where the same difficulty has been faced and overcome. Take the German Empire. It has included since 1870 the great state of Bavaria, where the great struggle of the Reformation ended with honours divided. Modern Bavaria contains a population which, according to the Religious Census of December 1st, 1905, is thus divided:—

Roman Catholics 4,600,000 Protestants 1,844,000 Jews 55,000

Strangely enough, the proportions are almost precisely the same as in Ireland. But this state of affairs has not prevented the German Empire from leaving to Bavaria, not merely a king and parliament, but also an army subject to purely Bavarian control in time of peace, and a separate system of posts, telegraphs, and state railways.[11] Are we to say that trust and tolerance are German virtues, unknown to the British people?

But they are not unknown to the British people. Our own colonists have set us a better example. Canada has a far more difficult religious problem than Great Britain. She has two provinces side by side—Quebec and Ontario—both with the same religious problem as Ireland. In both there are strong religious minorities. Quebec is predominantly Catholic, and Ontario is predominantly Protestant. Thus:—

Quebec— Catholics 1,429,000 Protestants 189,000

Ontario— Protestants 1,626,000 Catholics 390,000

How is this problem solved? Why, by Home Rule. For a long time—from 1840 to 1887—Canada made the experiment of governing these two provinces under one Parliament and from one centre. That experiment never succeeded. As long as they were under one government, the minority in each of these provinces insisted on appealing for help to the majority in the other. There arose the evil of "Ascendancy "—the government of a majority by a minority. At last the Canadians faced the problem. In 1867 they divided the provinces, and gave them each a Home Rule government of their own, subject to the Dominion Parliament. Since then there has been no more trouble about Ascendancy. Quebec and Ontario now settle their own affairs, including Education and all other local matters, and no one ever hears anything about the ill-treatment of minorities.

So much, then, for the permanent factors—Sea, Race, and Religion. There is no insuperable obstacle there. Rather it is here—in these great dominating facts—that the strongest argument for Home Rule must ever be found. For it is those things that constitute nationality.

The real difficulties in the way of Home Rule were found, both in 1886 and 1893, not in these permanent things, but in the changing facets of human laws. It was the Land Question that in all the speeches of 1886 provided the strongest argument. It was the absence of local government, and the presumed incapacity for local government, that filled so many Unionist speeches. It was the quarrel over University Education that provided the best evidence of incompatibility of temper between Irish Catholic and Irish Protestant.

I shall show that in all these respects the problem has completely and radically changed since 1893.

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[1] By a majority of 34 on the third reading—301 to 267—September 1st, 1893.

[2] Friday, September 8th, 1893. 419 to 41; majority against the Bill of 378.

[3] See Appendix A for this Bill.

[4] "The Story of the Home Rule Session." (1893.) Written by Harold Spender, sketched by F. Carruthers Gould (now Sir Francis C. Gould). London: The Westminster Gazette and Fisher Unwin.

[5] This famous phrase was first coined by Grattan, but was so often said by Gladstone that it was, in 1886, regarded as his.

[6] See a very interesting account of the present Irish Executive in "Home Rule Problems" (P.S. King and Son. London. 1s.) in a chapter (iv.) entitled "The Present System of Government, in Ireland," by G.F.H. Berkeley. There are 67 Boards, of which only 26 are under direct control of the Irish Secretary. No Parliamentary statute applies to Ireland, of course, unless that country is expressly included by name.

[7] See, for a popular account of this Synod, Green's "History of the English People," Vol. I., p. 55.

[8] The central Civil Service is predominantly Protestant, and in municipalities like Belfast the Catholics hold a very small proportion of the salaried posts.

[9] Census for 1911. Preliminary Report. Page 6.

[10] Census Summary. Preliminary Report. Page 6.

[11] See "The Statesman's Year Book," 1911, pp. 877-8.




"They saved the country because they lived in it, as the others abandoned it because they lived out of it."




Those who, like myself, visited Ireland last summer as delegates of the Eighty Club included some who had not thoroughly explored that country since the early nineties. They were all agreed that a great change had taken place in the internal condition of Ireland. They noticed a great increase of self-confidence, of prosperity, of hope. Many who entered upon that tour with doubts as to the power of the Irish people to take up the burden of self-government came back convinced that her increase in material prosperity would form a firm and secure basis on which to build the new fabric.

What does this new prosperity amount to? The new Census figures leave us in no doubt as to its existence. For the first time there is a real check in that deplorable wastage of population that has been going on for more than half a century. The diminution of population in Ireland revealed by the 1901 Census amounted to 245,000 persons. The diminution revealed by the 1911 Census amounts to 76,000. In other words, the decrease of 1901-11 is 1.5 per cent., as against 5.2 per cent, for 1891-1901, or only one against five in the previous decade[12]. This is far and away the smallest decrease that has taken place in any of the decennial periods since 1841; and this decrease is, of course, accompanied by a corresponding decline in the emigration figures.[13]

What is even more refreshing is the evidence which goes to show that the population left behind in Ireland has become more prosperous. For the first time since 1841, the Census now shows an increase—small, indeed, but real—of inhabited houses in Ireland, and a corresponding increase in the number of families[14].

It is the first slight rally of a country sick almost unto death. We must not exaggerate its significance. Ireland has fallen very low, and she is not yet out of danger. There is no real sign of rise in the extraordinarily small yield of the Irish income tax. That yield shows us a country, with a tenth of the population, which has only a thirtieth of the wealth of Great Britain—a country, in a word, at least three times as poor[15]. The diminution in the Irish pauper returns is entirely due to Old-age Pensions.[16] The much-advertised increase in savings and bank deposits, always in Ireland greatly out of proportion to her well-being, is chiefly eloquent of the extraordinary lack of good Irish investments.

The birth-rate in Ireland, although the Irish are the most prolific race in the world, is still—owing to the emigration of the child-bearers—the lowest in Europe. The record in lunacy is still the worst, and the dark cloud of consumption, though slightly lifted by the heroic efforts of Lady Aberdeen, still hangs low over Ireland.[17]

Finally, while we rejoice that the rate of decline in the population is checked, we must never forget that the Irish population is still declining, while that of England, Wales and Scotland is still going up.[18]

But still the sky is brightening, and ushering in a day suitable for fair weather enterprises. Perhaps the surest and most satisfactory sign of revival in Irish life is to be found in the steady upward movement of the Irish Trade Returns.[19] That movement has been going on steadily since the beginning of the twentieth century.[20] It is displayed quite as much in Irish agricultural produce as in Irish manufactured goods; and in view of certain boasts it may be worth while to place on record the fact that the agricultural export trade of Ireland is greater by more than a third than the export of linen and ships.[21] Denmark preceded Ireland in her agricultural development, but it must be put to the credit of Irish industry and energy that Ireland is now steadily overhauling her rivals.[22]

The mere recital of these facts, indeed, gives but a faint impression of the actual dawn of social hope across the St. George's Channel. In order to make them realise this fully, it would be necessary to take my readers over the ground covered by the Eighty Club last summer, in light railways or motor-cars, through the north, west, east and south of Ireland. Everywhere there is the same revival. New labourers' cottages dot the landscape, and the old mud cabins are crumbling back—"dust to dust"—into nothingness. Cultivation is improving. The new peasant proprietors are putting real work into the land which they now own, and there is an advance even in dress and manners. Drinking is said to be on the decline, and the natural gaiety of the Irish people, so sadly overshadowed during the last half-century, is beginning to return.

It is like the clearing of the sky after long rain and storm. The clouds have, for the moment, rolled away towards the horizon, and the blue is appearing. Will the clouds return, or is this improvement to be sure and lasting? That will depend on the events of the next few years.

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What has produced this great change in the situation since 1893? To answer that question we must look at the Statute Book. We shall then realise that defeat in the division lobbies was not the end of Mr. Gladstone's policy in 1886 and 1893. That policy has since borne rich fruit. It has been largely carried into effect by the very men who opposed and denounced it. Not even they could make the sun stand still in the heavens.

The Tories and Liberal dissentients who defeated Mr. Gladstone gave us no promise of these concessions. The only policy of the Tory Party at that time was expressed by Lord Salisbury in the famous phrase, "Twenty years of resolute government." Although the Liberal Unionists were inclined to some concession on local government, Lord Salisbury himself held the opinion that the grant of local government to Ireland would be even more dangerous to the United Kingdom than the grant of Home Rule.[23]

If we turn back, indeed, to the early Parliamentary debates and the speeches in the country, we find that Mr. Chamberlain in 1886 concentrated his attack rather on Mr. Gladstone's Land Bill[24] than on his Home Rule scheme. In his speech on the second reading of the 1886 Bill, indeed, Mr. Chamberlain proclaimed himself a Home Ruler on a larger scale than Mr. Gladstone—a federal Home Ruler. But in the country, he brought every resource of his intellect to oppose the scheme of land purchase.

Similarly with John Bright. Lord Morley, in his "Life of Gladstone," describes Bright's speech on July 1st, 1886, as the "death warrant" of the first Home Rule Bill. But if we turn to that speech we find that Bright, too, based his opposition to Home Rule almost entirely on his hatred of the great land purchase scheme of that year. He called it a "most monstrous proposal." "If it were not for a Bill like this," he said, "to alter the Government of Ireland, to revolutionise it, no one would dream of this extravagant and monstrous proposition in regard to Irish land; and if the political proposition makes the economic necessary, then the economic or land purchase proposition, in my opinion, absolutely condemns the political proposition." In other words, John Bright held to the view that it was the necessity for the Irish Land Bill of 1886 which condemned the Home Rule Bill of that year.

So powerfully did that argument work on the feelings of the British public that in the Home Rule Bill of 1893, not only was the land purchase proposition dropped, but in its place a clause was actually inserted forbidding the new Irish Parliament to pass any legislation "respecting the relations of landlord and tenant for the sale, purchase or re-letting of land" for a period of three years after the passing of the Act.[25]

So anxious was Mr. Gladstone to show to the English people that Home Rule could be given to Ireland without the necessity of expenditure on land purchase, and with comparative safety to the continuance of the landlord system in Ireland!

Such was the record on these questions up to the year 1895, when the Unionists brought the short Liberal Parliament to a close, and entered upon a period of ten years' power, sustained in two elections with a Parliamentary majority of 150 in 1895 and of 130 in 1900.

But the biggest Parliamentary majorities have limits to their powers. Crises arise. Accidents happen. There is always a shadow of coming doom hanging over the most powerful Parliamentary Governments. With it comes an anxiety to settle matters in their own way, before they can be settled in a way which they dislike. Thus it is that we find that between 1895 and 1905, during that ten years of Unionist power, two great steps were taken towards a peaceful settlement of the Irish question.

One was the Irish Local Government Act of 1898, which extended to Ireland the system of local government already granted in 1889 to the country districts of England. The other was the great Land Purchase Act of 1903, which carried out Mr. Gladstone's policy of 1886, and set on foot a gigantic scheme of land-transference from Irish landlord to Irish tenant. That scheme is still to-day in process of completion.

It is these two Acts which have largely changed the face of Ireland.


Take first the Act of 1898. Up to that year the county government of Ireland was carried on entirely by a system of grand jurors, consisting chiefly of magistrates, and selected almost entirely from the Protestant minority. These gentlemen assembled at stated times, and settled all the local concerns of Ireland, fixing the rates, deciding on the expenditure, and carrying out all the local Acts. They formed, with Dublin Castle, part of the great machinery of Protestant Ascendancy. Very few Catholics penetrated within that sacred circle.

These gentlemen, even now for the most part Protestants, still hold the power of justice. But the power of local government has passed from their hands. Every county of Ireland now has its County Council. Beneath the County Councils there are also District Councils exercising in Ireland, as in England, the powers of Boards of Guardians. Neither the Irish counties nor the corporations of Ireland's great cities have power over their police. There are no Irish Parish Councils. Otherwise Ireland now possesses powers of local government almost as complete as those of England and Scotland.

How has this system worked? In the discussions that preceded the establishment of local government in Ireland we heard many prophecies of doom. So great was the fear of trusting Ireland with any powers of self-government that the Unionists actually proposed, in 1892, a Local Government Bill, which would have established local bodies subject to special powers of punishment and coercion.[26]

It was with much fear and trembling, then, that the Protestant Party in Ireland entered upon the new period of local government. As a matter of fact, all these fears have been falsified. Instead of proving inefficient and corrupt, the Irish County Councils have gained the praises of all parties. They have received testimonials in nearly every report of the Irish Local Government Board. If, indeed, they possess any fault, it is that they are too thrifty and economical.[27]

In one respect, indeed, these County and District Councils of Ireland have conspicuously surpassed the corresponding bodies that exist in England.

One of the most important measures passed by the British Parliament during this period of Irish revival has been the Irish Labourers' Act. It was one of the first measures passed by the new Liberal Parliament of 1906, and it has been since often amended and supplemented. But its main provisions still stand. In this Act the Imperial Government grants to the local authorities in Ireland loans at cheap rates for the purpose of re-housing the Irish agricultural labourers. It places the whole administration of these loans in the hands of the Irish District Councils—a very delicate and difficult task.

So efficiently have the District Councils done their work that more than half the Irish labourers have already been re-housed. It is fully expected that within a few years the whole Irish agricultural labouring population will have received under this Act good houses, accompanied always with a plot of land at a small rent.

Compare with this the administration of the Small Holdings Act by the English local authorities. That Act, passed in 1908, placed the actual allocation of small holdings in the hands of the English County Councils. It is not necessary to dwell here upon the notorious failure of most of the high hopes with which that measure was passed through the British Parliament. The cause of that failure is obvious. The promise of the Small Holdings Act has been practically destroyed by the refusal of the County Councils to throw either goodwill or efficiency into its administration.


But the second of the two great renovating measures—the Irish Land Purchase Act of 1903—has contributed even more powerfully than the first to the recovery of Ireland during the last ten years. There again we have a great instance of the supremacy of the spirit of Parliament over the prejudices of Party. The whole tendency of democratic government is so rootedly opposed to coercion that it is difficult for any party to continue on purely coercive lines for any long period. And yet, as Mr. Gladstone always pointed out with such prescience, the only alternatives in Ireland were either coercion or government according to Irish ideas.

Now, the most noted Irish idea was the desire for personal ownership of the soil by the cultivator himself. In the years 1901 and 1902, just when the Unionists were embarrassed with all the complications of the South African trouble, the Tory Government were faced again with this imperious desire. They found arising in Ireland a new revolt against the power of the landlords. The Land Courts of Ireland, set up under the Act of 1881, had given to the Irish tenant two revisions of rent—the first in 1882, and the second in 1896—amounting in all to nearly 40 per cent. But these sweeping reductions had produced a new trouble. They had brought about a state of acute hostility between landlord and tenant without any real control of the land by either. The landlords, deprived of their powers of eviction and rent-raising, were in a state of sullen fury. The tenants had made the fatal discovery that their best interest lay in bad cultivation. Both parties were opposed to the existing land administration, and the Irish people were on the eve of another great effort to attain their ideals.

The Tory Government of 1902-3, then, either had to change the whole system, or they had to enter upon a new period of coercion with a view of suppressing the increased passion of the tenants for the full possession of the land. Looking down such a vista, the Irish landlords themselves could see nothing but ruin at the end. The Irish tenants might suffer, indeed, but they would be able to drag down their landlords in the common ruin along with them. The prospect facing the Irish landlord was nothing less than the entire, gradual disappearance of all rent.

With such a black prospect ahead, the time was ripe for a remarkable new movement, started by two distinguished Irishmen—Mr. William O'Brien on the side of the tenants, and Lord Dunraven on the side of the landlords. The omens were auspicious. Lord Cadogan, one of the old guard, had retired from the Viceroyalty, and had been succeeded in 1902 by a younger and more open-minded man, Lord Dudley. A still more remarkable man, Sir Anthony MacDonnell (now Lord MacDonnell) had been appointed to the Under-Secretaryship of Dublin Castle under circumstances which have not even yet been clearly explained. Sir Anthony MacDonnell was known to be a Nationalist, although his Nationalist tendencies had been strongly modified by a prolonged and distinguished career in India. Mr. Wyndham, then Chief Secretary, made the remarkable statement that Sir Anthony MacDonnell was "invited by me rather as a colleague than as a mere Under-Secretary to register my will." There is, indeed, no doubt that if the full facts were known, it would be found that the new Under-Secretary was appointed on terms which practically implied the adoption of a new Irish policy by the Tory Government. In other words, the party which is at the present moment (1912) entering upon an uncompromising fight against Home Rule was, in 1903, contemplating a policy not far removed from that very idea.

In the mind of Sir Anthony MacDonnell himself—and probably of several members of the Government—the policy took two forms. One was to settle the problem of Irish land, and the other was to settle the problem of Irish Government.

The first of these great enterprises went through with remarkable smoothness. Both landlords and tenants were weary of the strife, and ready for peace on terms. The leaden, merciless pressure of the great Land Courts set up by Mr. Gladstone's Act of 1881 had gradually worn down the dour and obstinate wills of the Irish landlords. The very men who had denounced land purchase as the worst element in the scheme of 1886 were now enthusiastic on its behalf. The only opposition that could have come to such a scheme was from the House of Lords, and the opposition of the House of Lords, as we all know, did not exist in those blessed years. Mr. Wyndham was sanguine and enthusiastic, and both Irish tenants and Irish landlords found a common term of agreement in mutual generosity at the expense of the taxpayer. With the help of that taxpayer—commonly called "British," but including, be it remembered, the Irish taxpayer also—the landlords were able to go off with a generous bonus, and the tenants were able to obtain prospective possession of their farms, while paying for a period of years an annual instalment considerably less than their old rent.

The terms to both landlords and tenants were so favourable that the Act of 1903 was, after a short period of pause, followed in Ireland by results which transcended the expectations of Parliament. There was a rush on one side to sell, and on the other to buy. From 1904 to 1909 the applications kept streaming in, and the Land Commissioners were kept at high pressure arranging the sale of estates. The pace, indeed, was so rapid that it laid too heavy a strain on the too sanguine finance of Mr. Wyndham's Act. The double burden of the war and Irish land proved too great. The British Treasury found that they could not pour out money at the rate demanded by the working of the Act. In 1909 it was found necessary to pass an amending Act, which has given rise to fierce controversy in Ireland. That Act slightly modified the generous terms of the Act of 1903, but not before under those terms a revolution had already been effected. Practically half the land of Ireland had passed before 1909 from the hands of the landlords into those of the tenants.

Even on the new terms the process will go on. By voluntary means if possible, but if not, by compulsion, the land of Ireland will pass back within twenty years into the hands of the people.

* * * * *

Here, then—in land purchase and the new machinery of local government—are the two leading facts in the great change which had come over Ireland since 1893. What do they signify?

Why, this. In 1886 and 1893 the Unionists pointed out, not without some heat and passion, two main difficulties in the path to Home Rule. One was the incompetence of the Irish people for local government. "They are by character incapable of self-rule," was the cry; and we all remember how Mr. Gladstone humorously described this incapacity as a "double dose of original sin."

That incapacity has been disproved. The Irish have been shown to be fully as capable of self-government as the English, Scotch, and Welsh.

The other great difficulty was the unsolved land question. "We cannot desert the English garrison—the Irish landlords," was the cry. "We cannot trust the Irish people to treat them justly." But the Irish land question is now settled. The Irish landlords are either gone or going. The Irish tenants are becoming peasant-proprietors. All that is required now is a national authority to stand as trustee and guardian of the Irish peasantry in paying their debt to the British people—or, perhaps, even if the material condition of Ireland under Home Rule should justify that course, to take over the debt. That is the new "felt want," and the only way to supply it is to create a responsible Irish self-governing Parliament.

Thus the two principal changes in Ireland since 1893 have not weakened, but immensely strengthened, the case for Home Rule.

* * * * *


[12] See Appendix B.

[13] Appendix B (4), 31,000 in 1911, the lowest figure since the Famine. There is a similar decline in the number of the Migratory Labourers, from 15,000 in 1907 to 10,000 in 1910 (Cd. 6019).

[14] Appendix B (2) and (3). 2,000 families and nearly 3,000 inhabited houses.

[15] The yield of Irish income tax is practically stationary at L1,000,000, as against L30,000,000 yielded by Great Britain. (Inland Revenue Report, 1910-11, page 100.) The assessment to income tax is L40,000,000 for Ireland, as against L93,000,000 for Scotland (with about the same population), and L878,000,000 for England.

[16] See Appendix F. The diminution is from 99,000 to 80,000.

[17] The deaths from consumption in Ireland declined from 10,594 in 1909 to 10,016 in 1910. (Irish Registrar-General's Report, 1911, p. xxvi.)

[18] See Appendix B.

[19] The most trustworthy thermometer of Irish trade is to be found in the volume now yearly issued by the Irish Government—the Report on the Trade in Imports and Exports at Irish Ports. In the absence of Irish Customs there must be some uncertainty in the tests, but the Government figures are collected from the "manifests" of exporters and importers. (The latest report comes up to the 31st December, 1910. Cd. 5965.)

[20] The growth of Irish trade since 1900 can be seen at a glance in the following table (including exports and imports):—

L 1904 103,790,799 1905 106,973,043 1906 113,208,940 1907 120,572,755 1908 116,120,618 1909 124,725,895 1910 130,888,732

[21] The export of manufactured goods increased from L20,000,000 in 1906 to L26,000,000 in 1910. Those goods consisted mostly of linen and ships from Belfast. The export of farm stuffs increased from L31,000,000 in 1905 to L35,000,000 in 1910.

[22] Ireland now exports into England three times as much live stock as any other country. She imports more potatoes and poultry than any other. She also stands in butter only second to Denmark, in eggs only second to Russia, and in bacon and hams only third to the United States and Denmark (Cd. 5966).

[23] "Local authorities are more exposed to the temptation of enabling the majority to be unjust to the minority when they obtain jurisdiction over a small area, than is the case when the authority derives its sanction and extends its jurisdiction over a wider area. In a large central authority the wisdom of several parts of the country will correct the folly and mistakes of one. In a local authority that correction is to a much greater extent wanting, and it would be impossible to leave that out of sight in any extension of any such local authority in Ireland."—Lord Salisbury (1885).

[24] Proposing to buy out the Irish landlords at an estimated cost of L100,000,000.

[25] See Appendix D for a summary of the 1893 Home Rule Bill.

[26] It was named by Mr. Sexton the "Put 'em in the dock Bill," and that phrase practically killed it.

[27] See the Local Government Board Reports passim:—

"Before concluding our reference to the Local Government Act we may be permitted to observe that the predictions of those who affirmed that the new local bodies entrusted with the administration of a complex system of County Government would inevitably break down have certainly not been verified. On the contrary, the County and District Councils have, with few exceptions, properly discharged the statutory duties devolving upon them. Instances have, no doubt, occurred in which these bodies have, owing to inexperience and to an inadequate staff, found themselves in difficulties and have had to receive some special assistance from us in regulating their affairs; but this has been of rare occurrence." (Annual Report of the Irish Local Government Board for year ending March, 1900.)

"In no other matter have the Councils been more successful than in their financial administration. After the heavy preliminary expenses necessarily attending the introduction of a new system of local government had been provided for, and the Councils and their officers had succeeded in obtaining a satisfactory basis on which to make their estimates of future expenditure, they found it possible to effect considerable reductions in their rates, and there seems to be every reason to anticipate that, with extended experience, there will be a still further general reduction of county rates." (Annual Report of the Irish Local Government Board for year ending March, 1902.)

Our impression as travellers was that the Irish County Councils do not yet spend enough money on their roads.




"Although while I live I shall oppose separation, yet it is my opinion that continuing the Legislative Union must endanger the connection."

O'CONNELL (1834).



But Land Purchase and County Councils are only part of the great change that has come over Ireland since 1893.

There are other great transformations. There is the redemption of the congested districts. There is the revival of agriculture. There is the Old Age Pensions Act. Finally, there is the reform of the Universities.


Take, first, the daring policy of social renovation by which the forlorn peasantry of the West are being saved from the grey wilderness into which they had been thrust by the landlordism of 1830 to 1880.

It is the habit of the Unionist Press to claim the whole of this work as their own. That is rather bold of a party that lifted not a finger while these people—said by those who know them to be the best peasantry in Europe—were driven from the rich lands of Ireland to till the barren moorland and scratch the very rocks on the shores of the Atlantic. The Tories do not explain why they allowed the House of Lords for a whole half century to seal up the exile of these poor folk by rejecting every measure proposed for their welfare. As a matter of fact, of course, the policy of redeeming the congested districts was not first proposed either by the Tories or by the Liberals, but by the Irish members themselves.

The Tory claim is based, of course, on the fact that the first step towards action by the British Government dates from the famous Western tour of Mr. Arthur Balfour in the early nineties. Perhaps Mr. Balfour was tired of the monotony of five years of coercion. At any rate, he took that journey, and it was the best act of his political life. He travelled along that misty fringe of the Atlantic. He saw—as we saw last summer, and I saw in 1891—the utter poverty of that unhappy land, where human life, sustained only by the charity of American exiles, still pays its doleful toll to far-off, indifferent landlords. Who can tell whether some touch of remorse did not enter into the heart of the man who up to that time had been the greatest of Irish coercionists since Castlereagh, when he saw with his own eyes the sorry plight of the poorest people in Europe—the people who, in the opinion of General Gordon, were, as a result of a century of British civilisation, more destitute and miserable than the savages of Central Africa?

Mr. Balfour, at any rate, relented from his policy of more oppression. He even entered upon the first small beginnings of a policy of restoration.

It was a very small beginning—that first Congested Board—and a Commission that reported on its work nearly twenty years after[28] decided that the Board had neither powers nor cash sufficient for its work. The Liberal Government of 1906-10 frankly accepted the opinion of the Commission, and gave the Board both new powers and new funds in the Irish Land Act of 1909. Under that Act the Congested Board is endowed with L250,000 a year, and has authority over half the area and a third of the population of Ireland.[29] Over these great regions[30] this authority now possesses extensive powers of purchase, rehousing, replanting, creation of fisheries, provision of seed and stocks—powers, in short, extending to the complete restoration, by compulsion if necessary, of a whole community. The Board is appointed by the Chief Secretary,[31] and already in two short years it has accomplished great work. Estates are being bought and replanted; holders are being migrated from bad land to good; villages are being rebuilt; industries encouraged; health safeguarded; fisheries revived. Those who examine its work as we did last summer will experience the feeling of men looking on at a splendid and gallant effort to salvage a race submerged.

This work, indeed, is still in its infancy. There are many absentee landlords who are still holding out for heavy and extravagant prices as a reward for the poverty and misery which they have often in large part caused by their own neglect. The Board appears to be reaching the limits of voluntary action. Much of the hope for the future of Ireland rests on their courage and skill.


The passing of landlordism has produced a great revival of energy and life in the rural districts. That revival began in the nineties, and the credit for first realising its importance and significance must be given to Sir Horace Plunkett. But private organisation alone could not meet the needs of the situation. In 1899 the Government were persuaded by the Irish party to pass an Act founding a new Irish Board of Agriculture on broad and generous lines.[32]

This Irish Board of Agriculture is a very remarkable body. It is practically a Home Rule authority for agricultural purposes only. The Irish Minister for Agriculture by no means rules as an autocrat. He has to submit his policy to a large "Advisory Council" of over 100 members elected by all the County Councils of Ireland. Out of this Council a committee is chosen which is practically a Cabinet. This Agricultural Parliament now plays a most important part in the life of Ireland. It speaks for the whole nation more than any other public body. Its discussions are practical and useful. It is a training ground for the rulers of the future, and it is playing a vital part in bringing together the best men of the North and South. The Ulster members are already, in agricultural matters, working in a friendly spirit side by side with the men from the South.

Thus advised and kept in touch with public opinion, the Board of Agriculture is the most popular and effective Department in Dublin Castle. It gives us a foretaste of the new power that will be given to Irish administration by the Home Rule spirit.

For it is just this central guidance that the other great new Irish developments chiefly lack. Take local government. There is not a County Council in Ireland which would not be stronger if it were directed—and sometimes, perhaps, even commanded—from the centre by a sympathetic national authority. There is not a Board in Ireland, whether it be the Congested Districts Board, or the Estates Commissioners, or the Land Commission, that would not be more wisely directed if there were some central arena in which the great principles of administration could be seriously and responsibly debated and settled. For, in spite of the popular notion that Irishmen are too talkative, there is really too little discussion in Ireland on practical affairs. The great unsolved political problem blocks the way. The block cannot be removed except by settlement. One of the strongest reasons for granting Home Rule is in order to free the mind of the nation for attention to the national housekeeping.


One of the most remarkable events of the last few years has been the unexpected side-share of Ireland in the great social legislation of Great Britain. Even the Irish members themselves have scarcely foreseen how immensely Ireland, being the poorest partner in the United Kingdom, would benefit by a policy "tender to the poor." The most conspicuous example of that effect has been Old-age Pensions. Old-age Pensions have fallen on Ireland as a shower of gold. Her share is already well over L2,000,000. The great new fact in Irish social welfare is that she now draws that great draught from the Imperial Exchequer.

Travelling along the Atlantic coast last summer, I inquired in many local post-offices as to the amount of pensions given weekly in those little grey villages. I found that often the old-age pensioners would number between 100 and 200 in small villages of less than 2,000 people. The emigration of the youth has left a disproportionate number of the old, and it is not necessary to bring any railing accusation against the honesty of the Irish race in order to understand why it is that Old-age Pensions have done so much for Ireland. But the fact remains, and it carries with it a great and unexpected relief to the Irish ratepayer.[33]


Last, but not least, we have the great stimulus given to higher education by the passage of Mr. Birrell's Irish University Act. For a whole generation the progress of higher education in Ireland has been held up by a barren and wearisome religious quarrel. Now that quarrel has vanished, and Ireland is organising a great system of University education for her Catholic as well as her Protestant youth. Not the least stimulating experience of the Eighty Club in Ireland was the day which we spent, under the guidance of the distinguished Principal, at Cork University College, where we saw Catholics and Protestants, men and women, young and old, working together in friendly harmony in the splendid buildings which have sprung up to house the undergraduates of the south-west. The same process is going on at Dublin, Galway, and Belfast. The machinery is being rapidly prepared for training up in the best possible atmosphere of mutual tolerance the new rulers of Home Rule Ireland.

* * * * *

Such have been the great Acts of Parliament which have created a changed situation in Ireland. But the crown is still wanting to the work. Those who travel in Ireland and make any close inquiry into the work of these Acts must feel that there is a great gap unfilled. It is a gap at the top. All these new roads of reform are well and truly laid—but they all lead nowhere.

Take one startling fact. Two Commissions of late years have considered the great and glaring need of Ireland in the want of swift, cheap, and convenient transport both for persons and goods. One of these Commissions was on Canals, and the other on Railways. Both decided in favour of national control. But as there is no national authority which anyone trusts, both reports have been stillborn.[34]

It was probably some such facts that led, as far back as August, 1903, to the uprising among the more moderate Unionist Irishmen of a remarkable movement which is still affecting Ireland. This movement took shape in a body; called the Irish Reform Association, presided over, like the Land Conference, by that remarkable Irish peer Lord Dunraven. That Conference put forward a set of proposals which are now historical, and which have since, in varying forms, inspired the movement for what is popularly known as "Devolution."[35]

Mild as are the proposals of this new party, they do not differ in principle from the proposals of the Home Rulers.

These proposals obtained the backing of a large section of the Unionist Party. They undoubtedly had the sympathy of Sir Anthony MacDonnell. It is difficult to say, at the present moment, what precise part was played by Mr. George Wyndham, then still the Irish Chief Secretary. But the eloquent fact remains that the ultimate triumph of the Ulster Unionists over the Devolution Party of 1903 was marked by his resignation. There would seem to be no substantial doubt that in 1903 there arose in the Unionist Party the same division in regard to Home Rule as arose in 1885, when Lord Carnarvon, the Tory Viceroy, met Mr. Parnell. For the moment the better spirits seriously contemplated removing once and for all the bitterness of the Irish grievance. There was a return of that feeling in the autumn of 1910, when, for the moment, at a period still known politically as the "age of reason," most of the Unionist Press admitted how much good reason and common-sense there was on the side of Home Rule. On each of these occasions the same result has occurred. At the critical moment the extreme faction of the Ulster Unionists has intervened and driven back the Tory Party to its fatal enslavement.

But the great fact which produced these movements still remains as valid and potent as ever. It is that, whatever improvements you introduce into the Irish machine, it can never work properly until the central motive power is a self-governing authority.

So deeply have the better Unionists been committed to that view in the past, in 1885, 1903, and 1910, that they are now shaping a new argument to face the situation of 1912. This argument is simple. It is that the new prosperity of Ireland is not a help, but a bar to Home Rule.

"If Ireland can prosper so well without Home Rule," so runs this line of reasoning, "why give her Home Rule at all?"

This is indeed a strange and cruel argument. We all know the people who used to say Home Rule was impossible because Ireland was disturbed. They are now occupied in saying that she must be denied Home Rule because she is so peaceful.

But now it appears that this ingenious dilemma is to be applied to her material condition also. As with order, so with finance. In the old days Ireland was refused Home Rule because she was too poor. How could she get on without England? She would be bankrupt. But now that she is better off she is to be refused it because she is too prosperous!

Is it not quite obvious that these are arguments after judgment? That the people who use them are merely seeking excuses for refusing Home Rule altogether and at all seasons?

The British people, essentially a just and serious people, will not listen to these last desperate pleas, the coward fugitives of a routed case.

They will rather believe that all these material improvements in the condition of Ireland only make the need for Home Rule stronger and more urgent. They will realise that Ireland requires not a material, but a moral cure to give her the full value of the new reforms. Her need is to be removed once and for all from the class of dependent communities. She wants the great tonic cure of self-reliance and self-responsibility.

For it is as true to-day as it was when Mr. Gladstone spoke these wise and searching words in April, 1886[36]:—

"The fault of the administration of Ireland is simply this: that its spring and source of action, and what is called its motor muscle, is English and not Irish. Without providing a domestic Legislature for Ireland, without having an Irish Parliament, I want to know how you will bring about this wonderful, superhuman, and, I believe, in this condition, impossible result, that your administrative system shall be Irish and not English?"

The greatest need is still this—to make the "motor-muscle" Irish.

* * * * *


[28] The Report of the Congested Districts Commission was issued in 1908.

[29] See 19th Report (1911), Cd. 5712. The Act of 1909 more than doubled the area and population, bringing the area to 4,000,000 acres, and the population to 600,000. The former endowment was L86,000.

[30] Comprising the whole of the counties of Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway, Kerry, and parts of the counties of Clare and Cork.

[31] The members of this admirable Board are Mr. Birrell, Lord Shaftesbury, Mr. O'Donnell, Dr. Mangan, Sir Horace Plunkett, Sir David Harrel, and six others.

[32] For the governing clauses of that Act see Appendix E.

[33] May not the Insurance Act do the same? It is very likely.

[34] See Appendix J.

[35] Private Bill legislation to be settled in Dublin. Irish internal expenditure to be handed to a financial council half elected and half nominated. An Irish Assembly to be created with a small power of initiative.

[36] April 8th.—Second Reading Speech on 1886 Home Rule Bill.



"Without union of hearts identification is extinction, is dishonour, is conquest—not identification."


"It would be a misery to me if I had forgotten or omitted, in these my closing years, any measure possible for me to take towards upholding and promoting the cause, not of one Party or another, of one nation or another, but of all Parties and of all nations inhabiting these islands; and to these nations, viewing them as I do with all their vast opportunities, under a living union for power and for progress, I say, let me entreat you to let the dead bury the dead, and to cast behind you every recollection of bygone evils, and to cherish, to love, and sustain one another through all the vicissitudes of human affairs in the times that are to come."

Mr. GLADSTONE (First reading of 1893 Bill, 13th February).



The Home Rule Bill of 1912 is now before the country, both in the clear and simple statement of the Prime Minister and in the test of the Bill itself[37]. The Bill has already passed through the fire of one Parliamentary debate, and secured one great majority of 94 in the House of Commons.

What are the general outlines of this great measure? Its central proposal is the creation of an Irish Parliament, responsible for the administration of Irish affairs. That Parliament is to consist of a Senate and a House of Commons, numbering respectively 40 and 164, guided by an Irish Executive, chosen in the same manner as the British Imperial Cabinet. Ireland, in other words, is to be governed by responsible Parliamentary chiefs, commanding a majority in the Irish House of Commons. In this honest recognition of facts and terms we have an advance on the vagueness of former proposals. Otherwise, both this Parliament and this Executive are to have the same liberty and are to be restrained by almost precisely the same checks and safeguards, in regard both to religious rights and Imperial sovereignty, as those which existed in the Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893. Ireland is to retain at Westminster a representation of forty-two members.

What is to happen if the two Irish Chambers differ? According to the Bill, the Senate is to be nominated, at first by the Imperial Government, and afterwards by the Irish Parliament, and the members are to sit by rotation for eight years. The Irish House of Commons, on the other hand, is to be elected by the same constituencies as at present, and the membership is to be distributed in proportion to the population—an arrangement which will give Ulster fifty-nine representatives.[38] It is clear that under those conditions a powerful Irish Government remaining in office beyond a certain period would have command of both Houses, as indeed happens at present under similar conditions both in Canada and New Zealand.[39] But if one Party should hold power for a prolonged period, and then give place to another, the new Government will find itself, as Mr. Borden finds himself in Canada at present, restrained from precipitate change by an Upper House nominated by his predecessors.

What would happen in that case? To settle that problem, the Home Rule Bill contains a clause[40] adopting the provisions of the South Africa Act, enabling both Houses to hold a joint sitting, in which the majority will prevail. As long as that provision holds, it matters very little whether the Upper Chamber is nominated or is elected, as some propose, by proportional representation. In either case, the Irish House of Commons will be the real governing body, as indeed it must be if the Irish Executive is to be properly responsible, and the new Irish Constitution to work smoothly.

So much for the general provisions of the present Bill. The details as to safe-guards and exclusions will be found in the full text of the Bill contained in Appendix A, and I shall leave the question of finance to the chapter specifically devoted to that subject.

Let us turn now to the chief arguments against the measure as set forth in the recent debate, and as expressed with ability and power in a pamphlet entitled "Against Home Rule," to which practically all the chief leaders of the Unionist cause contribute articles[41]. Apart from the Ulster case, dealt with in a previous chapter, the main argument seems to be that the English people have not been sufficiently consulted. "It is all so sudden," said the elderly lady when she received a proposal from an elderly suitor who had been delaying his passion for a score or so of years. The same painful outcry comes from the Unionist Party twenty-seven years after the first beginning of the discussions of Home Rule in this country.

One can imagine, indeed, that a foreign visitor, coming to this land in ignorance of the past of English politics, would suppose that the Home Rule controversy had now arisen for the first time. Attending Unionist meetings, he would hear an immense amount of eloquence devoted to the wrongs of the English people in being rushed into a premature decision, and being asked to give judgment without proper trial. The Home Rulers would be represented to him as men of rash and precipitate temper, who wanted to bring about in a few months a change which would affect the United Kingdom for centuries. And finally he would hear men thanking God that there existed a House of Lords which, in spite of the machinations of the Home Rulers, could still give the British public two more years to ruminate over the question of Home Rule.

He would naturally gather from this that the proposal of Home Rule for Ireland had come upon this country with entire freshness, and had never before been discussed among rational men. Filled with this impression he might perhaps be surprised if he obtained the chance of hearing the "still, small voice" of truth through the clamour and the uproar, to discover that this plan of Home Rule was not born yesterday, but no less than twenty-five years ago. He would find that for a whole generation every nook and cranny of this proposal has been meticulously explored, and that there have been on this subject thousands, if not millions, of speeches and leading articles, hundreds of books, and dozens of Parliamentary debates. He would even learn from many politicians that their chief difficulty was the utter boredom of their constituents over a subject which has been worn down by argument to the very threads.

But he would be more surprised than all to discover that this proposal had already been considered in at least four General Elections—1886, 1892, and the two elections of 1910.[42] "It has been deliberately rejected by the people on two occasions" would be the cry which he would hear most commonly from his Tory friends, and he would find that they referred to the elections of 1886 and 1895. Our friend the foreigner would naturally be impressed by that argument. But what would be his amazement to discover that his informants had forgotten to enlighten him on the equally important fact that Home Rule had been definitely accepted and approved by the British electorate, not in two, but in three elections—the election of 1892 and the two elections of 1910? He would discover that on all these three occasions the subject had been definitely placed before them, that on all three occasions the electorate had definitely supported Home Rule, by majorities varying from forty in 1892 to 124 in December, 1910. As to the other General Elections, might not our foreigner reflect that if an electorate were really to discover that its vote for the approval of a measure was treated—as in 1892—with indifference, it might naturally weary of well-doing?

Might he not even, if he were a shrewd man, suspect that that was the very object and aim which his informants had in view?

But perhaps his surprise would reach its highest point when he discovered that this Home Rule proposal, so far from appearing now for the first time in a definite form, had actually twice before taken the definite and statutory form of Home Rule Bills, both the specific and considered proposals of Liberal Governments, both fully drafted and laid before Parliament, and both still to be purchased at any Government printers. The first of these Bills, the Bill of 1886, was, indeed, rejected by the House of Commons on the second reading, and never ran the gauntlet of full Parliamentary debate. But the second, the Bill of 1893, occupied fully five months of Parliamentary time, and was carried successfully by Mr. Gladstone through all its stages in the House of Commons. It was amended on many points without the interference of Government authority. It presents a full scheme of self-government for Ireland, so clearly and minutely considered as to provide an efficient and reasoned basis for the measure of 1912.

THE BILLS OF 1886 AND 1893

The aim of both these great measures—the Bills of 1886 and 1893—was to give the Irish control of their own local affairs and to distinguish as clearly as possible between those affairs and Imperial matters. The method chosen in both Bills is to follow the Parnell scheme of enumerating the subjects excluded from the legislative power of the Irish Parliament. The excluding clause became considerably enlarged in the Bill of 1893 as it was left by the House of Commons. The 1893 Bill also contains a far more definite and stronger assertion of Imperial authority, which is inserted twice—first in the Preamble, and then in the second clause of the Bill.[43]

In both Bills there was a safeguarding clause as well as an excluding clause. The safeguarding clause also grew considerably between 1886 and 1893. It is almost entirely directed to preventing the Irish Legislature from establishing any new religious privileges, or interfering with any existing religious rights. The clause, as it emerged in 1893, not only forbade any new establishment or endowment of religion, but seemed to leave the claims of all denominations precisely as they stand at present.

This safeguarding clause reappears in the Bill of 1912, but it has been shortened and redrafted by the Government. It contains very important additional safeguards to prevent the adoption by the Irish civil power of the principles contained in the recent Papal Decrees against mixed marriages, and in regard to the right of Catholic clergy to claim exclusion from the courts of justice. The Irish Parliament will be debarred from acting on these decrees, and thus the whole agitation against "Ne Temere" falls to the ground.


The 1886 Bill established, as we have seen, an arrangement by which Ireland should be governed by one legislative body consisting of two orders, a first and a second. These orders were to deliberate and vote together, except in regard to matters which should come directly under the Home Rule Act, amendments of the Act, or Standing Orders in pursuance of the Act. In such cases the first order possessed the right of voting separately, and seemed to possess an absolute veto.

The first order of the legislative body created by the 1886 Bill consisted of 103 members, of whom 75 were elected members and 28 peerage members. The elected members were to be chosen under a restricted suffrage, and the peerage members were to be the representative Irish Peers. The second order was to consist of 204 members, elected under the existing franchise.

All this was rather complicated and confusing, and was, perhaps rightly, brushed aside by the framers of the 1893 Bill. They constituted the Irish Legislature on the model of an ordinary Colonial Parliament with two Chambers—a Legislative Assembly and a Legislative Council. The Legislative Council was to consist of 48 members, elected by large constituencies voting under a L20 property franchise. The Legislative Assembly was to consist of 103 members, elected by the existing constituencies under the existing franchise. In cases of disagreement between the two Houses, it was proposed that, either after a dissolution or after a period of two years, the Houses were to vote together, and that the majority vote should decide the matter. Since 1893 that provision, in almost precisely the same form, has been adopted by the Australian Commonwealth, and, in a more progressive form, by, the South African Parliament.

In the Bill of 1912 these provisions of 1893 reappear, but in a broader and more liberal form. The Irish Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council—names which seem to give to Ireland a position of a subordinate—have given way, as we have seen, to the frank and generous titles of Senate and House of Commons, both forming the Irish Parliament. The machinery for settling disagreements has come back from its journey round the world refreshed by a new draft of democracy, imbibed from the climates of Australia and South Africa. In cases of differences between the Assemblies they will meet and decide by common vote, without the necessity of a dissolution. That is a great and important simplification, and for it the Irish have to thank the genius of the founders of the South African Constitution.


Every student of the Home Rule question knows that Mr. Gladstone several times varied his proposals in regard to the Irish representation at Westminster. The Irish Party were, from the beginning, indifferent on the point; but it was quite clear that this was a matter vitally affecting Imperial interests. The first proposal grafted into the Bill of 1886 was that the Irish should cease to attend at Westminster altogether. But, after seven years of consideration, there grew up a general agreement that the entire absence of the Irish Party at Westminster might create a series of difficult relations between the Parliaments, and might even gradually lead to separation. The first proposal of the Bill of 1893 was that the Irish members should attend in slightly reduced numbers and vote at Westminster only on Irish concerns. But this proposal—known as the "In and Out" clause—found little favour in debate, and suffered severely at the hands of Mr. Chamberlain. Mr. Gladstone finally left the matter to the judgment of the House of Commons, and—after a severe Parliamentary crisis, in which the Government narrowly escaped destruction—it was decided that 80 Irish members should sit in the British House of Commons without any restriction of their power or authority.

In the Bill of 1912 the solution finally reached in 1893 is again adopted, with one vital difference—that the Irish members to be summoned to Westminster will be reduced not to 80, but to 42. Those members will possess full Parliamentary powers, as indeed it is right and necessary they should, as long as the Parliament at Westminster continues to exercise such large powers over Ireland. But Mr. Asquith threw out the suggestion that the British House of Commons should, by its Standing Orders, arrange for a further delegation of Parliamentary power to national groups. The House of Commons has already a Scotch Committee, and to that might be added an English Committee and a Welsh Committee. It would be a serious thing for the central body to over-ride the opinions of these committees.

But Mr. Asquith also threw out an even more important hint as to the future development of the Home Rule policy. It is clear that if the Irish Home Rule Bill is simply the first stage in a process which will lead to the creation of Home Rule Parliaments for local affairs in Scotland, England and Wales, then such slight control as the 42 Irish members may retain over British affairs will be only temporary. What, then, is the present Parliamentary relationship between Irish Home Rule and the Federal idea?


Since the year 1893 there has been a great change of feeling in regard to the whole Home Rule question. The British Parliament has gone through a great crisis in its procedure, and it has, for the moment, accepted a temporary way out in the form of a drastic use of the closure, applied by Mr. Balfour, under Standing Orders, to so vital a matter as Supply. That violent remedy known as the "Compartment Closure" is now almost automatically extended by both parties, under the very thin veil of liberty left by a special resolution, to almost every great measure that comes before the House of Commons.

This development of the British Parliamentary system has created a new outlook on the Home Rule question. The case of Ireland still stands by itself, with great grievances and strong historical claims behind it. Home Rule for Ireland will always have a peculiar urgency, arising from conditions of geographical position. But the passion for Irish liberty is now mingled in the average British mind with the passion for the liberty of the British House of Commons. It is recognised that unless Ireland is freed the British Parliament will remain in chains.

This new attitude has widened the outlook of Home Rulers until Home Rule has ceased to be a merely Irish question. Nothing was more dramatic during the recent debates over the Insurance Bill than the sudden wave of federal feeling in the House of Commons which compelled the Government to grant a separate administrative insurance authority, not merely to Ireland, but also to Scotland and Wales. Similarly with Home Rule. What was in 1893 only a pale glimmer of foresight, is with many, in the year 1912, a passionate conviction. It is that after Home Rule has been given to Ireland it must be extended also to Scotland, Wales, and possibly England.

Now it would be plainly useless to grant Home Rule to any of these countries until there is a wider and deeper demand for it. The issue of Home Rule for Ireland was definitely raised in both the elections of 1910, and when the people gave their votes they knew, and were actually warned by Mr. Balfour himself, and by most of the other Unionist chiefs, that the result would be the creation of a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. But it cannot be said that the same proposal was so definitely and effectively put forward in regard to Scotland and Wales. In both those countries there is a very widespread desire for Home Rule. But there has not yet been any definite democratic vote on that desire. It may be necessary, therefore, to delay the extension of Home Rule to those countries. But the desire is sufficiently strong both in Scotland and in Wales to justify the Government in so framing a Home Rule Bill as to enable those other parts of the United Kingdom to be brought under its provisions in due time. There is a strict analogy for that proceeding in the North America Act of 1867, which created the Dominion of Canada. That Act joined together three provinces at first, but left the door open for other provinces to come in. They have since come in, one by one—all except the island of Newfoundland—until the great federation of States which we now know as the Canadian Dominion has been gradually built up.[44]

What follows from all this? Surely that a Home Rule Bill for Ireland must be so framed as to render it a possible basis of a federal Constitution in the near future. But if the Irish members were entirely excluded from the British Parliament, as in 1886, then we should be turning our backs on Federalism. The only analogy to such a Constitution would be that of Austria-Hungary, where two countries are united in one Government, but work through two Parliaments. Lord Morley tells us that Mr. Parnell was very anxious to imitate in the 1886 Bill the ingenious machinery of "Delegations," by which the relations of the Austrian and Hungarian Parliaments combine for common affairs.[45]

There is much to be said for that machinery in Austria-Hungary, strongly binding together two countries which must otherwise have inevitably drifted asunder. But Mr. Parnell was thinking only of Ireland, and he was not a Federalist. We are thinking of the whole United Kingdom, and many of us are Federalists. The machinery of "Delegations" therefore would not suit our purpose.

What seems to be required ultimately at Westminster is a small Parliament devoted to Imperial affairs—Imperial finance, Imperial legislation, and Imperial administration—and leaving to subordinate Parliaments the administration of local matters. Many are firmly convinced that in that way the United Kingdom would become a more successful and efficient country, with legislation better adapted to the needs of its inhabitants, and with a mind more free for the consideration of great Imperial affairs. This now seems to them the only way to produce order out of the present constitutional chaos.

What, then, are the lines that should be followed if we are to go forward to that goal? An Imperial Parliament of that nature would probably be a smaller assembly than the present House of Commons, which is far too large for modern conditions. There is, therefore, good ground for reducing the representation of Ireland to 42, or 38 less than in 1893. That will clear the way for a future Imperial assembly of between 300 and 400, it being understood that as each section of the United Kingdom obtains its own Home Rule Parliament it will consent to have its representation at Westminster reduced in proportion.

As long as the present system of Cabinet Government resting on majorities exists—and it is the only conceivable system for a completely self-governing democracy—it still seems, as it seemed to the men of 1893, impossible to agree to any "in and out" arrangement. Under such a plan the Government might possess a majority on Imperial or English affairs, while it could be out-voted on Irish affairs. Although such a situation might conceivably work for a time, it might come to a sudden deadlock in a moment of emergency. It seems best, therefore, that the 42 Irish members at Westminster should possess full voting powers. If any Liberal dreads the prospect of having 42 Irish members still possibly giving votes hostile to Liberal views—say, on education—I would ask him to remember that the Liberal Party will not have to mourn the loss of Irish votes still almost certain to be cast in their favour on behalf of many democratic measures.

* * * * *

The prospect of this larger federal settlement opens a larger vision than that of 1886 or 1893. Strangely enough, it is the same vision as that sketched by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain in the daring speech which he made on the second reading of the Home Rule Bill of 1886:—

"In my view the solution of this question should be sought in some form of federation, which would really maintain the Imperial unity, and which would, at the same time, conciliate the desire for a national local government which is felt so strongly in Ireland. I say I believe it is on this line, and not on the line of our relations with our self-governing Colonies, that it is possible to seek for and to find a solution of this difficulty."[46]

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