IRELAND AND THE HOME RULE MOVEMENT
MICHAEL F. J. McDONNELL
With a Preface by John Redmond, M.P.
Without agreeing with every expression of opinion contained in the following pages I heartily recommend this book, especially to Englishmen and Scotchmen, as a thoughtful, well-informed, and scholarly study of several of the more important features of the Irish question.
It has always been my conviction that one of the chief causes of the difficulty of persuading the British people of the justice and expediency of conceding a full measure of National autonomy to Ireland was to be found in the deep and almost universal ignorance in Great Britain regarding Irish affairs present and past—an ignorance which has enabled every unscrupulous opponent of Irish demands to appeal with more or less success to inherited and anti-Irish prejudice as his chief bulwark against reform. It was this conviction that led Mr. Parnell and his leading colleagues, after the defeat of the first Home Rule Bill in 1886, to establish an agency in England for the express purpose of removing the ignorance and combating its effects, and no advocate of Irish claims in England or Scotland has failed to find traces down to this day of the good effects of the propaganda thus set on foot, the discontinuance of which was one of the lamentable results of the dissensions in the Irish National Party between 1890 and 1900.
This book carries on the work of combating British ignorance of Irish affairs and the effects of that ignorance in a manner which seems to me singularly effective. The writer is no mere rhetorician or dealer in generalities. On the contrary, he deals in particular facts and gives his authorities. Nothing is more striking than the care he has obviously taken to ascertain the details of the subjects with which he has concerned himself and the inexorable logic of his method. It is perfectly safe to say that he neglected few sources of information which promised any valuable results, and that he has condensed into a few pages the more vital points of many volumes. It is not necessary to say anything of his style except that the cultured reader will most appreciate and enjoy it.
I shall not anticipate what the author has to say except in respect of one particular matter to which it seems to me expedient that particular public attention should be directed, especially by English and Scotch readers. The study of Irish history throws an inglorious light on the character of many British statesmen, and one of the salient facts brought into prominence in this little volume is that, even since the conversion of Mr. Gladstone to Home Rule, more than one leader of each of the two great political parties in Great Britain have displayed an utter lack of political principle in their dealings with Ireland, and especially with the Irish National question. I cannot but think that if the facts, as told by the author of this volume, were universally, or even widely, known amongst Englishmen and Scotchmen there would be much less heard in the future regarding Home Rule eventuating in Rome Rule or endangering the existence of the Empire.
This volume will, I hope, have a wide circulation not only in Great Britain, where such works are specially needed but in Ireland itself, where also it is well calculated to strengthen the faith of convinced Home Rulers and to bring light to the few who are still opposed to the Irish National demand for self-government, and to other important, though minor, reforms.
J. E. REDMOND.
CHAPTER I THE EXECUTIVE IN IRELAND
CHAPTER II THE FINANCIAL RELATIONS BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND
CHAPTER III THE ECONOMIC CONDITIONS OF IRELAND
CHAPTER IV THE LAND QUESTION
CHAPTER V THE RELIGIOUS QUESTION
CHAPTER VI THE EDUCATIONAL PROBLEM
CHAPTER VII UNIONISM IN IRELAND
CHAPTER VIII IRELAND AND DEMOCRACY
CHAPTER IX IRELAND AND GREAT BRITAIN
CHAPTER X CONCLUSION
"You desire my thoughts on the affairs of Ireland, a subject little considered, and consequently not understood in England."
—JOHN HELY HUTCHINSON, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, in a letter written in 1779 to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
A decree of Pope Adrian IV., the only Englishman who has sat in the chair of St. Peter, in virtue of the professed jurisdiction of the Papacy over all islands, by a strange irony, sanctioned the invasion of Ireland by Strongbow in the reign of Henry II. Three years ago I stood in the crypt of St. Peter's in Rome, and the Englishman who was with me expatiated on the appropriate nature of the massive sarcophagus of red granite, adorned only with a carved bull's head at each of the four corners, which seemed to him to stand as a type of British might and British simplicity, and in which the sacristan had told us lay all that was mortal of Nicholas Breakspeare. Seeing that I took no part in this panegyric, he took me on one side and said that he had observed that all the English Protestants to whom he showed that tomb, situated as it is literally ad limina Apostolorum, waxed eloquent, but, on the other hand, the Irish Catholics whom he told that it contained the bones of the dead Pontiff invariably shook their fists at the ashes of the unwitting, but none the less actual, source of their country's ills. To this I replied by quoting to him a saying of Robert Louis Stevenson, who as a Scot viewed the matter impartially, and who declared "that the Irishman should not love the Englishman is not disgraceful, rather, indeed, honourable, since it depends on wrongs ancient like the race and not personal to him who cherishes the indignation."
* * * * *
The great tendency which has been so marked a feature of Irish life in the course of the last decade to turn the attention of the people towards efforts at self-improvement and the development of self-reliance without regard to English aid, English neglect, or English opinion, excellent though it has been in every other respect, has had this one drawback—that there has grown up a generation of Englishmen, well-intentioned towards our country, to whom the problems of Irish Government are an unknown quantity. The ignorance of Irish affairs in England is due partly to ourselves, but also to a natural heedlessness arising from distance and preoccupation with problems with which Englishmen are more intimately concerned.
In view of the awakening of the democratic forces of Great Britain it is vital that Irish questions should be set before the eyes of the electorate of Great Britain, in order that, when for the first time the constitutional questions involved are placed before voters unprejudiced by class interests or a fellow-feeling for the pretensions of property wherever situate, there may be a body of electors who realise the gravity of the problems in question, and who have a full appreciation of the history of the case.
The Irish question has at no time been brought before the English public less than at the present day. Fenianism in the seventies and the various agrarian agitations in the eighties served to keep it constantly before the English eyes, and after the acquittal of Mr. Parnell and his colleagues of the charges brought against them by the Times much educative work was done for a short time by Irish Members of Parliament on English platforms.
The demands of Ireland have always been met by an unjust dilemma. When she has been disturbed the reply has been that till quiet is restored nothing can be done, and when a peaceful Ireland has demanded legislation the absence of agitation has been adduced as a reason for the retort that the request is not widespread, and can, in consequence, be ignored.
The remedy against such inaction proving successful in the future lies in the existence of a strong body of public opinion in Great Britain, educated to such a degree in the facts of the case as to brook no delay in the application of remedies. As for us, we cannot expect to be believed on our mere ipse dixit, and must state our case frankly and fully. The present moment seems timely, before the smoke of conflict has once again obscured the broad principles at issue. I propose to deal with reform in a plea of urgency, endeavouring at the same time to trace the evolution of things as they are to-day, quoting history as I go, with one aim only in view, to point a moral and adorn a tale. It will serve, I hope, to explain the past, to illustrate the present and to provide a warning for the future.
The Irish question, as Lord Rosebery has said, has never passed into history, because it has never passed out of politics.
Goldsmith Building, Temple.
THE EXECUTIVE IN IRELAND
"La 'Garnison' a occupee le pays sans le 'gouverner,' ou en ne le gouvernant que de son propre interet de classe: son hegemonie a ete toute sa politique."
—L. PAUL-DUBOIS, L'Irlande Contemporaine, 1907.
"A regarder de pres on percoit pourtant que cette imitation Irlandaise de la justice brittanique n'en est sur bien des points qu'une assez grossiere caricature, ce qui prouve une fois de plus que les meilleures institutions ne vaient que ce que valent les hommes qui les appliquent, et que les lois sent pen de choses quand elles ne sont pas soutenus par les moeurs."—Ibid.
"What does Ireland want now; what would she have more?" asked Pitt of Grattan at the dinner table of the Duke of Portland in 1794, and Englishmen have echoed and re-echoed the question throughout the century which has elapsed. The mode in which it is asked reminds me, I must confess, of that first sentence in Bacon's Essays—"What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not wait for an answer."
When, at the end of the nineteenth century, the nations of Europe devoted themselves to a retrospective study of the progress which the passing of a hundred years had brought in its train, Ireland alone was unable to join in the chorus of self-congratulation which arose on every side.
To her it was the centenary of the great betrayal to which, as a distinguished writer has said, the whole of her unbribed intellect was opposed, and which formed the climax to a century of suffering. The ancients who held that when ill-fortune befell their country the gods must be asleep would have said so, I have no doubt, of Ireland at the end of the eighteenth century. The people, in a phrase which has become historic, had put their money on the wrong horse in their devotion to the Stuart cause, but, more than this, while they thereby earned the detestation of the Whigs, they were not compensated for it by the sympathy of the Tories, who feared their Catholicism even more than they liked their Jacobitism. In this way the country fell between two stools, and was not governed, even as English Statesmen professed to govern it, as a dependency, but rather it was exploited in the interest of the ruling caste with an eye to the commercial interests of Great Britain in so far as its competition was injurious. Religious persecution, aiming frankly at proselytism, and restrictions imposed so as to choke every industry which in any way hit English manufactures were the keynotes of the whole policy, and in the pages of Edmund Burke one may find a more searching indictment of English rule in Ireland in the eighteenth century than any which has since been drawn up.
The concession of Parliamentary independence in 1782 was, as the whole world knows, yielded as a counsel of prudence in the panic fright resulting from the American war and the French revolution. Under Grattan's Parliament the country began to enjoy a degree of prosperity such as she had never known before, and the destruction of that Parliament was effected, as Castlereagh, the Chief Secretary, himself expressed it, by "buying up the fee-simple of Irish corruption"; in other words, by the creation of twenty-six peerages and the expenditure of one and a half million in bribing borough-mongers.
In very truth, the Act of Union was one which, by uniting the legislatures, divided the peoples; and it has been pointed out as significant that when the legislatures of England and Scotland were amalgamated a common name was found for the whole island, but that no such name has been adopted for the three kingdoms which were united in 1800.
The new epoch began in such a way as might have been expected from its conception. The bigotry of George III., undismayed by what he used to call Pitt's "damned long obstinate face," delayed for more than a quarter of a century the grant of Emancipation to the Catholics, by promises of which a certain amount of their hostility had been disarmed. The tenantry asked in vain for nearly three-quarters of the century for some alleviation of the land system under which they groaned, and for an equal length of time three-quarters of the population were forced to endure the tyranny of being bound to support a Church to which they did not belong. The cause of struggling nationality on the Continent of Europe, in Italy, in Hungary, in Poland, in the Slav provinces, has in each case gained sympathy in Great Britain, but the cause of Irish nationality has received far other treatment. That charity should begin at home may be a counsel of perfection, but in point of fact one rarely sees it applied. Sympathy for the poor relation at one's door is a rare thing indeed. Increasing prosperity makes nations, as it makes men, more intolerant of growing adversity, and the poor man is apt to get more kicks than half-pence from the rich kinsmen under the shadow of whose palace he spends his life, and to whom his poverty, his relationship, and his dependence are a standing reproach. When I hear surprise expressed by Englishmen at the fact that England is not loved in Ireland I wonder at the deep-seated ignorance of the mutual feelings which have so long subsisted, one side of which one may find expressed in the literature of England, from Shakespeare's references to the "rough, uncivil kernes of Ireland" down to the contemptuous sneers of Charles Kingsley, that most English of all writers in the language, each of whom provides, as I think, a sure index to the feelings of his contemporaries and serves to illustrate the inveterate sentiment of hostility, flavoured with contempt, which, as Mr. Gladstone once said, has from time immemorial formed the basis of English tradition, and in regard to which the locus classicus was the statement of his great opponent, Lord Salisbury, that as to Home Rule the Irish were not fit for it, for, he went on to say, "nations like the Hottentots, and even the Hindoos, are incapable of self-government."
A cynical Irish Secretary once asked whether the Irish people blamed the Government for the weather; but it must be conceded that the mode of government made the Irish people more dependent than otherwise they would have been on climatic conditions, for this reason, that the margin between their means and a starvation wage was extremely small, and thus it was that in the middle of the century an act of God brought sufferings in its train, the results of which have not yet been effaced. Through it all the country was governed not in the interests of the majority, but according to the fiat of a small minority kept in power by armed force, not by the use of the common law, but of a specially enacted coercive code applicable to the whole or any part of the country at the mere caprice of the chief of the Executive. The record, it must be admitted, is not edifying. Irish history, one may well say, is not of such a nature as to put one "on the side of the angels." Lecky's "History of the Eighteenth Century" has made many converts to Home Rule, and I venture to think that when another Lecky comes to write of the history of the nineteenth century the converts which he will make will be even more numerous.
Among the anomalies of Irish government there is none greater than that of the Executive, the head of which is the Viceroy. The position of this official is very different from that of the governor of a self-governing colony. If the Viceroy is in the Cabinet his Chief Secretary is not; but the more common practice of recent years has been for the Chief Secretary to have a seat in the Cabinet to the exclusion of the Lord Lieutenant. Whether the latter be in the Cabinet or not he has no ministers as has a colonial governor, to whose advice he must listen because they possess the confidence of a representative body, and moreover, although the Lord Lieutenant is a Minister of the Crown, his salary is charged on the Consolidated Fund, with the result that his acts do not come before the House of Commons on Committee of Supply as do those of the Chief Secretary on the occasion of the annual vote for his salary.
As early as 1823 Joseph Hume ventilated the question of the abolition of the Lord Lieutenancy, and a motion introduced by him to that effect in 1830 received a considerable measure of support. Lord Clarendon, who in 1847 succeeded Lord Bessborough as Viceroy, accepted the office on the express condition that the Government should take the first opportunity of removing the anomaly. In pursuance of this agreement Lord John Russell, in 1850, introduced a Bill, which was supported by Peel, with the abolition of the office for its object. On its second reading it was passed by the House of Commons by 295 votes to 70. In spite of this enormous majority in its favour the Bill was dropped in an unprecedented manner, and never reached the Committee stage owing, it is said, to the opposition of Wellington, who objected to the fact that it would deprive the Crown of its direct control over the forces in Ireland and to the fact that it would leave the Lord Mayor of Dublin, a person who was elected by a more or less popular vote, as the chief authority in that city.
In 1857 the question was mooted once more, but no action ensued; and again, on the resignation of Lord Londonderry in 1889, a number of Irish Unionists, headed by the Marquis of Waterford, urged Lord Salisbury to consider the advisability of abolishing the office, together with the Viceregal Court, which a recent French observer has stigmatised as "peuple de snobs, de parasites et de parvenus." In the event Lord Salisbury, so far from acceding to the request, nominated the Marquis of Zetland to the vacant post, and the proposal to abolish it has not since been raised in public. Men like Archbishop Whately, in the middle of the nineteenth century, whose ambition it was to see what they called the consolidation of Great Britain and Ireland effected, were strongly in favour of the proposal, and its rejection on so many occasions has been doubtless due to the fact that to mix and confound the administration of Ireland with that of Great Britain would necessitate the abandonment of the extreme centralisation of Irish Government, and those who were most anxious, as the phrase went, to make Cork like York were the very people who were most opposed to any abdication of Executive powers which an assimilation of methods of government would have inevitably brought in its train.
The government of Ireland is effected by more than forty boards—the forty thieves the late Mr. Davitt used to call them—and it will be for the reader, after he has studied the account which I propose to give of them, to say whether or not they deserve the name.
It is nearly twenty years since Mr. Chamberlain, in a celebrated speech at Islington, made the following remarkable declaration:—"I say the time has come to reform altogether the absurd and irritating anachronism which is known as Dublin Castle, to sweep away altogether the alien boards of foreign officials and to substitute for them a genuine Irish administration for purely Irish business." Change of opinions, no one can refuse to admit, in a statesman any more than in other men, and as regards the latter part of the extract which I have quoted Mr. Chamberlain may have changed his views, but it is to the earlier part of the sentence that I would refer. There is in it a definite statement of facts which no change in opinion on the part of the speaker could alter, and which express, as well as they can be expressed, the views of the Nationalists as to the Castle, the alien boards of foreign officials in which remained undisturbed during the course of the seven years after the coalition of Unionists and Tories, in which Mr. Chamberlain was the most powerful Minister of the Crown.
Of the purely domestic branches of the Civil Service in Great Britain, the Treasury, the Home Office, the Boards of Education, of Trade, and of Agriculture, the Post Office, the Local Government Board, and the Office of Works, are all responsible to the public directly, through representative Ministers with seats in the House of Commons, the liability of whom to be examined by private members as to minutiae of their departmental policy is one of the most valuable checks against official incompetence or scandals, and is the only protection under the constitution against arbitrary rule. The whole administrative machinery of the forty-three boards in Ireland has been represented in Parliament by one member, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, but he is supported since a few months ago by the Vice-president of the Department of Agriculture. The result is that, while in Great Britain a watchful eye can be kept on extravagance or mismanagement of the public services, the maintenance of a diametrically opposite system of government in Ireland, under which it is impossible to let in the same amount of light, leads to the bureaucratic conditions of which Mr. Chamberlain spoke in the speech from which I have quoted.
In answer to these complaints it is usual to point to the case of Scotland as analogous, and to ask why Ireland should complain when the Scottish form of government arouses no resentment in that country. The parallel in no sense holds good, for Scotland has not a separate Executive as has Ireland, although she has, like Ireland, a separate Secretary in the House of Commons. Scottish legislation generally follows that of England and Wales, and in any case Scotland has not passed through a period of travail as has Ireland, nor have exceptional remedies at recurring periods in her history been demanded by the social conditions of the country; and last, but by no means least, one has only to look at a list of Ministers of the Crown in the case of this Government, or of that which preceded it, to see that the interests of Scotland are well represented by the occupants of the Treasury Bench, whichever party is in power, so that it is no matter for surprise that she is precluded by her long acquiescence from demanding constitutional change.
More than half a century ago Lord John Russell promised O'Connell to substitute County Boards for the Grand Jury, in its capacity of Local Authority, but the latter survived until ten years ago. The members of the Grand Jury were nominated by the High Sheriffs of the Counties, and as was natural, seeing that they were the nominees of a great landlord, they were almost entirely composed of landlords, and the score of gentlemen who served on these bodies in many instances imposed taxation, as is now freely admitted, for the benefit of their own property on a rack-rented tenantry. A reform of this system of local government was promised by the Liberals in the Queen's Speech of 1881, but so far was the powerful Government at that time in office from fulfilling its pledges that not only was no Bill to that effect introduced, but, further, in April, 1883, a Bill to establish elective County Councils, which was introduced by the Irish Party, was thrown out in the House of Commons by 231 votes to 58. In his famous speech at Newport in 1885, when the Tories were, as all the world thought, coquetting with Home Rule, Lord Salisbury declared that of the two, popular local government would be even more dangerous than Home Rule. He based his view partly on the difficulty of finding thirty or forty suitable persons in each of the thirty-two counties to sit on local bodies, which would be greater than that of finding three or four suitable M.P.s for the same divisions of the country; but, even more than this, he insisted on the fact that a local body has more opportunity for inflicting injustice on minorities than has an authority deriving its sanction and extending its jurisdiction over a wider area, where, as he declared, "the wisdom of the several parts of the country will correct the folly or mistakes of one." In spite of this explicit declaration, when, in the following year, the Tories had definitely ranged themselves on the side of Unionism, the alternative policy to the proposals of Mr. Gladstone was nothing less than the establishment of a system of popular local government. Speaking with all the premeditation which a full sense of the importance of the occasion must have demanded, Lord Randolph Churchill, on a motion for an Address in reply to the Queen's Speech after the general election of 1886 had resulted in a Unionist victory, made use of these words in his capacity of leader in the House of Commons:—
"The great sign posts of our policy are equality, similarity, and, if I may use such a word, simultaneity of treatment, so far as is practicable in the development of a genuinely popular system of local government in all the four countries which form the United Kingdom."
In 1888 this pledge was fulfilled so far as the counties of England and Wales were concerned, and in regard to those of Scotland in the following year. When the Irish members, in 1888, introduced an Irish Local Government Bill, Mr. Arthur Balfour, as Chief Secretary, opposed it on behalf of the Government, and Lord Randolph Churchill, who at that time, having "forgotten Goschen," was a private member, gave further effect to the solemnity of the declaration, which, as leader of the party, he had made two years before, by his strong condemnation of the line adopted by the Chief Secretary in respect of a measure, to which, as he said, "the Tories were pledged, and which formed the foundation of the Unionist Party." In 1892 the Unionist Government introduced, under the care of Mr. Arthur Balfour, a Bill purporting to redeem these pledges. By one clause, which became known as the "put them in the dock clause," on the petition of any twenty ratepayers a whole Council might be charged with "misconduct," and, after trial by two judges, was to be disbanded, the Lord Lieutenant being empowered to nominate, without any form of election, a Council which would succeed the members who were removed in this manner. The criticism which this provision aroused was, as was natural, acute. The Times at this juncture declared that to attempt to legislate would be to court danger. The Local Government Bill was abandoned, and in this connection a sidelight is shed on the sincerity of the promises which had been made, in a letter from Lord Randolph Churchill to Lord Justice FitzGibbon on this question, dated January 13th, 1892, at the time when the Government of 1886 was drawing to a close, and Mr. Balfour was about to introduce the unworkable Bill which was clearly not intended to pass into law.
"My information," writes Lord Randolph, "is that a large, influential, and to some extent independent, section of Tories kick awfully against Irish Local Government, and do not mean to vote for it. This comes from a very knowledgable member of the Government outside the Cabinet. If the Government proceed with their project they will either split or seriously dishearten the party, and to do either on the verge of a general election would be suicidal. This is what they ought to do. They ought to say that Irish Local Government is far too large a question to be dealt with by a moribund Parliament; they ought to say that there is not sufficient agreement among their supporters as to the nature and extent of such a measure such as would favour the chances of successful legislation, and that they have determined to reserve the matter for a new Parliament when the mind of the country upon Irish administration has been fully ascertained."
The reflections suggested by this account of the evolution of a measure of party policy cannot be edifying to an Englishman or calculated to appeal as wise statesmanship to an Irishman. For what were the facts? A policy denounced as dangerous in the extreme in 1886 by the leader of the party was propounded as part of the policy of the same party in the following year with the acquiescence and, one must suppose, the imprimatur of its chief. Two years later pledges were thrown to the winds, and the excluded minister was provoked to criticism by the dropping of that line of action, of which he himself four years later is found in a private letter to be advising the abandonment on the most frankly avowed grounds of pure partisan tactics.
Twelve years were allowed to elapse before the promises made by Unionist leaders in the campaign of 1886 were fulfilled by the Local Government Act of 1898, which, for the first time in the history of Ireland, established by law democratic bodies in the country. One feels inclined to quote, in reference to the history of this question, that phrase of the largest master of civil wisdom in our tongue, as some one has called Edmund Burke, "that there is a way of so withholding as to excite desire, and of so giving as to excite contempt."
Under the provisions of the Act, County Councils, Urban District Councils, and Rural Councils were set up, and some notion of the revolution which it effected may be gathered from the fact that in a country which had hitherto been governed by the Grand Jury in local affairs the new Act at a sweep established a Nationalist authority in twenty-seven out of thirty-two counties.
Under the old regime the landlord used to pay one-half of the poor rate and the occupier the other half. The outcry of the landed interest, that under the County Councils they would be liable to be robbed by excessive poor rates, resulted in their share being made a charge on the Imperial Treasury, by which means they secured a dole of L350,000 a year out of the L725,000 concerned in the financial arrangements under the Act. Of the recipients of this solatium it was pointed out by an observer that the family motto of the Marquis of Downshire, who was relieved under the Act of liabilities to the extent of more than L2,000, is—"By God and my sword have I obtained"; while that of Earl Fitzwilliam, who had to be content with one-half of that amount, is—"Let the appetite be obedient to reason." The best answer to the pessimists in whom one suspects the wish was father to the thought, who prophesied disaster from an Act which they declared would open the door to peculation and jobbery, is to be found in the Local Government Board Report for 1903, issued on the expiry of the first term of office of the County Councils. It expressly declares that in no matter have the Councils been more successful than in their financial administration, and goes on to say that the introduction of political differences in the giving of contracts and the appointment of officers has occurred only in quite exceptional cases, and it concludes by declaring its opinion that the conduct of their affairs by the various local authorities will continue to justify the delegation to them of large powers transferred to their control by the Local Government Acts.
So much for the working of an Act, of which Lord Londonderry spoke as one "which the Loyalists view with apprehension and dismay." So far as certain loss of their supremacy was concerned they might indeed do so, but it is not for Englishmen to throw stones, since events have proved that it is not in the Irish local bodies, but in some of those of London itself, that financial scandals have been rife.
The one important respect in which the system of local government in Ireland differs from that established in England, Scotland, and Wales is that in the first named country the control of the constabulary is ruled out of the functions of the local bodies, and is still maintained under the central executive. The plethora of police in the country is one of the most striking features that meet the eye of anyone visiting it for the first time. The observant foreigner who, after travelling in England, crosses to Ireland and there sees on every wayside station at least two policemen varying the ennui of their unoccupied days by watching the few trains that pass through, feels homely pleasure at the thought that the octroi system which he has missed in England is in force in Ireland, and supposes that the men in uniform whom he cannot fail to see are the officials of the municipal customs. The tradition in Ireland is that half a century ago Smith O'Brien, who was under warrant for arrest, was detained at the station at Thurles by a railway guard, and that atonement has been made ever since for the absence of police on that occasion.
The Royal Irish Constabulary, than whom it would be difficult to find a physically finer lot of men, is a semi-military force living in barracks, armed with rifles, bayonets, swords, and revolvers. Well may a French writer exclaim—"Combien differents du legendaire et corpulent 'bobby,' cette 'institution populaire' de la Grande Bretagne," who goes without even a truncheon as a weapon of offence. The numbers of the Royal Irish Constabulary, which were largely increased in the days of widespread agitation, are still maintained with scarcely any diminution. The force, when established just seventy years ago, at a time when the population of the country was nearly eight millions, numbered only 7,400 men; the population of the island is to-day only half what it was then, but there are now on the force of the constabulary 12,000 men, and 8,000 pensioners are maintained out of the taxes. In addition to this, there is a separate body of Dublin Metropolitan Police, and smaller bodies in Belfast and Derry are also maintained. The Dublin police force costs nearly six times as much per head of population as does that of London. It comprises 1,200 men, and there has been a remarkable increase in cost in the last twenty years, rising to its present charge of L160,950, with no apparent corresponding increase in numbers or in pay. The total cost of the police system of Ireland is one and a half million pounds per annum; that of Scotland, with an almost equal population, is half a million sterling. To appreciate the point of this it must be realised that the indictable offences committed in Ireland in a year are in the proportion of 18 as compared with 26 committed in Scotland, while criminal convicts are in the ratio of 13 in Ireland to 22 in Scotland.
Such a state of things as this, by which the cost of police per head of population is no less than 7s., has only been maintained by the busy efforts, which Lord Dunraven denounced a couple of years ago, of those who paint a grossly exaggerated picture of Ireland, so as "to suggest to Englishmen that the country is in a state of extreme unrest and seething with crime." The columns of the English Unionist Press show the manner in which these impressions are disseminated, and there is in London a bureau for the supply of details of examples of violence in Ireland for the consumption of English readers. The Chief Secretary, in the House of Commons last session, spoke of the fact that he received large numbers of letters of complaint, purporting to come from different sufferers from violence and intimidation in Ireland, but which, on close examination, turned out to be signed by one man. The recent disgraceful attempt to beat up prejudice on the part of the Daily Graphic, which reproduced what purported to be not the photograph of an actual moonlighting scene, but a photograph of "the real moonlighters, who obligingly re-enacted their drama for the benefit of our photographer," incurred the disgust which it deserved; but it was only one instance of an organised campaign of bruiting abroad invented stories of lawlessness in Ireland which constitutes the deliberate policy of the "carrion crows," whose action Mr. Birrell so justly reprobated, and of which the most flagrant instances were the purely fictitious plots to blow up the Exhibition in Dublin; an outrage at Drumdoe, which on investigation proved to be the work of residents in the house which was supposed to be attacked, and the allegation of a dynamite outrage at Clonroe, in County Cork, which the police reported had never occurred. One would have thought that the experience which the Times and the Loyal Irish and Patriotic Union gained at the hands of Richard Pigott would at least have made people chary of this form of propaganda. The comparison of the criminal statistics of Ireland with those of Scotland which I have made shows how much truth there is in the imputations of widespread lawlessness, as does also the number of times on which in each year the Judges of Assize comment favourably on the presentment of the Grand Jury; and, moreover, the closing of unnecessary prisons which is going on throughout the country is a further proof, if any be needed, of the falsity of the charges which are so industriously spread abroad. The only gaol in the County of Wexford was closed a few years ago; that at Lifford, the only one in the County of Donegal, has since been closed as superfluous. Of the two which existed till recently in County Tipperary, that at Nenagh is now occupied as a convent, in which the Sisters give classes in technical instruction to the girls of the neighbourhood; but perhaps the most piquant instance is to be found in Westmeath, where an unnecessary gaol at Mullingar, having been for some time closed, is now used for the executive meetings of the local branch of the United Irish League. All these, it should be noted, are to be found in districts which are inhabited not by "loyal and law-abiding" Unionists, but by a strongly Nationalist population.
Enough insistence has not been laid on one important fact in the administration of the criminal law in Ireland. In England anyone who alleges that he has been wronged can institute a criminal process, and this is a frequent mode of effecting prosecutions. In Ireland the social conditions in the past have brought it about that the investigation and prosecution of crime is left to the police, who, as a result, have attained something of the protection which droit administratif throws over police and magistrates in France and other Continental countries, by which State officials are to a large extent protected from the ordinary law of the land, are exempted from the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals, and are subject instead to official law administered by official bodies.
The principles on which it is based in countries where it forms an actual doctrine of the constitution are the privilege of the State over and above those of the private citizen, and, secondly, the separation des pouvoirs by which, while ordinary judges ought to be irremovable and independent of the Executive, Government officials ought, qua officials, to be independent to a great extent of the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts, and their actes administratifs ought not to be amenable to the ordinary tribunals and judges. The absorption by the constabulary of the conduct of prosecutions has tended towards such a state of things as this; but a far more potent factor in the same direction has been the confusion of administrative and judicial functions which the relations of the resident magistrates to the police have engendered, and to an even greater degree has this tendency been accentuated in the case of the special "removable" magistrates appointed in proclaimed districts under the Coercion Acts, for they are officials in whom the judicial and the constabulary functions are inextricably confounded. That this suspicion of officialism detracts from the authority of the police force in popular esteem is undoubted. Their complete dissociation from popular control, the fact that they receive extra pay for any work performed for local bodies, in addition to rewards received from the Inland Revenue for the detection of illicit stills, and the fact the only connection of police administration with local bodies occurs when any county is called upon to pay for the additional force drafted into it on account of local disturbance, all exert their influence in the same direction.
That the same curse of extravagance extends to the judiciary in Ireland one would expect from the fact that the number of the High Court Judges is greater than in Scotland, though, as we have seen, the population is smaller and the crime is less. According to a statement made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury a few months ago the salaries of the judges of the Superior Courts charged on the Consolidated Fund amount to 1s. 1d. per head of population in England and Wales, to 2s. 8d. per head in Scotland, to no less a sum than 3s. 3d. per head in Ireland. And this discrepancy in cost occurs at a time when the complaint in England is that there are not enough judges of the King's Bench, while in Ireland their numbers are excessive.
The difference between the attitude of the judiciary in England and in Ireland is to be seen from the fact that M. Paul-Dubois, after quoting with approval the Comte de Franqueville's tribute to the fact that the summing up of a judge in England is a model of impartiality, goes on to say that in Ireland, "c'est trop souvent un acte d'accusation."
The fact is that in Ireland, where the salaries of judges are higher than the incomes earned by even the most successful barristers, the judiciary has become to an extent far greater than in England a place of political recompense for Unionist Members of Parliament, who, unlike their English brethren, carry their political prejudices with them on appointment to the Bench. As recently as 1890 Mr. Justice Harrison, at Galway Assizes, asked why the garrison did not have recourse to Lynch law, and until his death Judge O'Connor Morris, unchecked by either party when in power, month by month contributed articles to the reviews, in which he denounced in unmeasured terms the provisions of Acts of Parliament which, in his capacity of Judge of a Civil Bill or County Court, he was called upon to apply.
The jury system is discredited in Ireland by every possible means. Many crimes, which in England are classed as felonies, have been statutorily reduced to misdemeanours in Ireland so as to limit the right of challenge possessed by the accused from twenty jurors to six, and at the same time, after Lord O'Hagan's Act had withdrawn from the sheriff the power of preparing jury lists, which he used for political purposes; by resuscitating a common law right of the Crown which has not been used in England for fifty years, arbitrarily to order jurors to "stand aside," the provisions of O'Hagan's Act have been evaded, and a panel hostile to the accused is most frequently secured.
The natural protection by which the balance is artificially redressed when the application of the laws has not the sympathy of those who are subject to them is a common symptom in every country and every age. When all felonies were capital offences in England, the wit of juries, by what Blackstone called "a kind of pious perjury," was engaged in devising means by which those who were legally guilty could escape from the penalty; and if it be true that an unpacked jury would possibly in many instances of political offences in Ireland have a prejudice in favour of the accused, the inference is not consequently to be drawn that the ends of justice can only be secured by substituting, as is done, a jury which has a prejudice against him. It is not by methods like these that are inspired sentiments, such as those which prompted Victor Hugo eloquently to describe a tribunal:—"Ou dans l'obscurite, la laideur, et la tristesse, se degageait une impression austere et auguste. Car on y sentait cette grande chose humaine qu'on appelle la loi, et cette grande chose divine qu'on appelle la justice."
THE FINANCIAL RELATIONS BETWEEN GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND
"It will not do to deny the obligation. The case (of Ireland's alleged over-taxation) has been heard before a competent tribunal, established and set up by England. The verdict has been delivered; it is against England and in favour of Ireland's contention. Until this verdict is set aside by a higher court, and a more competent tribunal, the obligation of England to Ireland stands proved."
—T.W. RUSSELL, Ireland and the Empire.
The contrast between the history of Great Britain and that of Ireland during the last century—in the one case showing progress and prosperity, advancing, it is not too much to say, by leaps and bounds, and in the other a stagnation which was relatively, if not absolutely, retrograde—is one of the most dismal factors in English politics. Those who would explain it by natural, racial, or religious considerations are probing too deep for an explanation which is in reality much closer at hand. If the external forces in the two countries throughout that period had been the same it would be right and proper to search for an explanation in such directions as have been named, but that these forces have not been so distributed it is my contention to prove.
The closing years of the eighteenth century in Ireland, coinciding as they did with the achievement of Parliamentary independence, witnessed in that country a remarkable growth of national prosperity. Up to the year 1795 the taxation of the country never exceeded one and a half millions of pounds, and the National Debt was not more than one million. In the succeeding years the French war and the rebellion of '98 swelled the expenditure, as did the maintenance of an armed force in the country, which was the corollary of the rebellion, and that process which Lord Cornwallis, the Lord Lieutenant, described as "courting those whom he longed to kick," by which the Act of Union was passed, added another million and a half to the national expenditure.
The result of the various causes was that in the year 1799-1800 the taxation of the country had risen to three millions, and the National Debt amounted to just under four millions of pounds.
It is necessary to enter into these details, because it was on the basis of the years 1799-1800, and not on that of a year of normal expenditure, such as was 1795, that Pitt and Castlereagh framed the financial clauses of the Act of Union, which were to establish the taxable relations between Great Britain and Ireland.
Having said so much we need not pause to consider how far the financial clauses were justified. It will suffice to say that they provided that Ireland should pay two-seventeenths of the joint expenditure of the United Kingdom, together with the annual charge upon her pre-union debt. One should add, however, that the Irish House of Lords protested that the relative taxable capacities of Ireland and England did not bear to each other the ratio which the Act enunciated of 1 to 7-1/2, but in reality of 1 to 18.
It was no part of Pitt's scheme that there should be fiscal union. A separate Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, drawing up an Irish budget and regulating an Irish debt, remained after the union of the legislatures. Speaking in 1800 on this very point Lord Castlereagh declared that:—
"It must be evident to every man that if our manufactures keep pace in advancement for the next twenty years with the progress they have made in the last twenty, they may at the expiration of it be fully able to cope with the British, and that the two kingdoms may be safely left like any two countries of the same kingdom to a free competition."
The seventh article of the Act of Union, which comprised the financial proposals of the Act, has been summarised as follows in the report of a Royal Commission, to which we shall have occasion to refer later:—
"Ireland and Great Britain had entered into legislative partnership on the clear understanding that they were still, for the purposes of taxation, to be regarded as separate and distinct entities. Ireland was to contribute to the common expenditure in proportion to her resources, so far as the same could be ascertained, and even after the imposition of indiscriminate taxation, if circumstances permitted, she might claim special exemptions and abatements."
We have seen how the taxation of Ireland at the time of the Union was three millions. Five years later the figure had risen to four millions, and it went on increasing at this rate until in 1815 it amounted to no less than six and a half millions, having more than doubled in amount in a space of fifteen years, while during the same time the National Debt had risen from four and a half to ten and a half millions.
To understand the significance of these figures it must be realised that the Napoleonic war was in progress, and that the supply, on the part of Ireland, of provisions at enhanced war prices was the only means by which she was able to cope with her increasing liabilities. The conclusion of the war and the consequent fall in prices accelerated a crisis in Irish finance. Even in the years of plenty not more than one-half of what the Act of Union proposed could be squeezed out of the country, and the balance, which was added to her debt, raised the ratio which it bore to that of Great Britain from the proportion of 1 to 15-1/2 in 1800 to that of 2 to 17 in 1817. One would have thought that such an increase of debt would have made Ireland less fitted to bear equal taxation with Great Britain, but the statesmen of the day thought otherwise, and in 1817 the Exchequers were amalgamated. Even then the fiscal systems of the two countries were not in all respects assimilated, though in regard to some taxes an equalisation was effected, as, for example, in the case of tobacco, the duty on the unmanufactured variety of which was raised from 1s. to 3s. per lb., while that on cigars and manufactured tobacco was raised from 1s. to 16s. per lb. The manner in which the change affected social conditions in Ireland at this time may best be illustrated by the fact that the taxes on commodities, which necessarily hit the poorest classes hardest, rose from 4s. a head per annum in 1790 to 11s. a head per annum in 1820. After the Consolidating Act of 1817 the annual taxation fell to about five millions, abatements and exemptions being made every year. The tobacco tax and the Stamp Duty of 1842, which realised about L120,000 a year, were, it is true, equalised in the two countries, but for many years the system of special treatment was pursued. To Sir Robert Peel credit is due for having refused in 1842 to extend to Ireland the Income Tax, which he re-imposed in England, and for reducing the duty on Irish whiskey to its original figure by the remission of an additional 1s. per gallon which he had imposed.
Soon after this the country supped full of horrors in the famine of 1846-1847. In the decade from 1845 to 1855 more than a quarter of Ireland's population was lost. No sooner did she begin to recover from the effects of this visitation than the Repeal of the Corn Laws dealt her an almost equally disastrous blow. The absence of an industrial side which she might develop, as did England, the almost complete dependence on agriculture, joined to the enfeebled condition in which the lean years had left her, made the adoption at this moment of the principle of Free Trade—in her case—deplorable. Nor was this all. It was at this moment that the opportunity was taken by Mr. Gladstone, at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, to reverse the discriminative policy upon which Peel had so strongly insisted.
The Income Tax was applied to Ireland in 1853 at the rate of seven pence in the pound. Ten years later it had risen to seventeen pence. At the same time an additional duty of eight pence a gallon on Irish whiskey was exacted, which in two years was multiplied fourfold, while in 1858 Disraeli assimilated for the first time the whiskey duty in the two islands by raising it in Ireland to 8s. a gallon. The result of this new departure in taxation may be summarised by saying that the Irish revenue was raised from just under five millions in 1850 to nearly eight millions in 1860, and that, too, at a time when, of all others, her distress demanded special treatment and care.
Although the process of assimilation was carried far in 1853 and the subsequent years, fiscal unity has never been completely effected. To this day Ireland secures exemption from the Land Tax, the Inhabited House Duty, the Railway Passenger Duty, and the tax on horses, carriages, patent medicines, and armorial bearings. It will be said, no doubt, that Ireland ought to show due gratitude for these exemptions, but though they raise collectively a sum of L4,000,000 by their incidence in England, Scotland, and Wales, it is calculated that if applied to Ireland they would bring in not more than L150,000 a year, a sum so small that one may ask whether it would bear the cost of collecting.
By way of set-off to the imposition of income tax, which it should be noted was at the time said to be "temporary," Mr. Gladstone wiped out a capital debt of four millions, but it must be pointed out that, in the fifty years which have ensued, a sum of between twenty millions and thirty millions has been collected in Ireland as income tax. Objection cannot—beyond a certain point—be taken to the incidence of this tax, seeing that it does not fall upon the poorest classes, and that no country benefits more than does Ireland from the substitution of direct for indirect taxation. But what does call for censure is that its application was not made an occasion for the remission of other taxes.
In 1864 the Conservative Government recognised the serious problem of the unequal incidence of taxation in the two islands, and appointed a committee to consider their financial relations. Sir Stafford Northcote, the chairman of this committee, declared that, notwithstanding the fact that they were both subject to the same taxation, "Ireland was the most heavily taxed and England the most lightly taxed country in Europe." Twenty-five years later Mr. Goschen, the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, consented to the appointment of another Committee on the same subject, but no report was ever issued. In 1895 a Royal Commission was appointed, comprising representatives of all political parties, and presided over by a man of commanding ability in the person of Mr. Childers, a former Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer. The terms of reference were "to inquire into the financial relations between Great Britain and Ireland and their relative taxable capacity." The following extract will serve to show the conclusions of the Commissioners:—
"In carrying out the inquiry we have ascertained that there are certain questions upon which we are practically unanimous, and we think it expedient to set them out in this report. Our joint conclusions on these questions are as follows:—
"(1) That Great Britain and Ireland must, for the purposes of this inquiry, be considered as separate entities.
"(2) That the Act of Union imposed upon Ireland a burden which, as events showed, she was unable to bear.
"(3) That the increase of taxation laid upon Ireland between 1853 and 1860 was not justified by the then existing circumstances.
"(4) That identity of rates of taxation does not necessarily involve equality of burden.
"(5) That whilst the actual tax revenue of Ireland is about one-eleventh of that of Great Britain, the relative taxable capacity of Ireland is very much smaller, and is not estimated by any of us as exceeding one-twentieth."
It is difficult to conceive a more damning indictment of English rule in Ireland. One cannot help recalling the glowing promises of Pitt in 1800:—
"But it has been said, 'What security can you give to Ireland for the performance of the conditions?' If I were asked what security was necessary, without hesitation I should answer 'None.' The liberality, the justice, the honour of the people of England have never yet been found deficient."
One is reminded of Dr. Johnson's remark to an Irishman who discussed with him the possibility of the union of the Parliaments:—
"Do not make a union with us, sir; we should unite with you only to rob you."
It is a striking testimony to the fact that the approach to some men's hearts is through their pockets; that the report of the Commissioners brought all Ulster into line with the Nationalists. Such a vision of the Protestant lion lying down with the Catholic lamb had not been seen since the Volunteers had mustered in 1778, and then, too, curiously enough, the common cause was financial, being the demand for the removal of the commercial restraints on the island.
A conference was held in 1896, presided over by Col. Saunderson, the leader of the Orangemen, and was attended by all the Irish members, irrespective of party. The outcome was a resolution in the House of Commons, proposed by Mr. John Redmond, and seconded by Mr. Lecky. The rejoinder of the Government to the demands made was to the effect that the postulate of the Commissioners that Ireland and Great Britain must, for the purposes of the inquiry, be considered as separate entities stultified the report.
One cannot characterise this attitude otherwise than as a piece of special pleading. The appointment, not merely of the Royal Commission, but of the Select Committees of 1865 and 1890, presupposed a disparity between the conditions in the two countries which not only existed in fact but were recognised by law.
In regard to the Church, the kind, the police, education, and even marriage, the laws are different in the two countries; and we have seen how, in respect of such widely separate things as land, railway passengers, and armorial bearings, the systems of taxation are distinct.
The position of the official Conservatives was well stigmatised by one of the most distinguished among their own body—Mr. Lecky—when he declared that—
"Some people seem to consider Ireland as a kind of intermittent personality—something like Mr. Hyde and Dr. Jekyll—an integral part when it was a question of taxation, and, therefore, entitled to no exemptions, a separate entity when it was a question of rating, and, therefore, entitled to no relief."
To the argument that Ireland has no greater claim to relief, on the score of her poverty, than have the more backward agricultural counties of England, the answer is that Wiltshire or Somersetshire—shall we say—have always received equal treatment with the rest of the country, and have never entered into a mutual partnership as did Ireland when she trusted to the pledges made to her by England, and expressed in these terms by Castlereagh:—
"Ireland has the utmost possible security that she cannot be taxed beyond the measure of her comparative ability, and that the ratio of her contribution must ever correspond with her relative wealth and prosperity."
The attitude of Ireland in this matter is perfectly plain. While deprecating in the strongest terms the means by which the Union was carried, she is prepared, so long as it remains in force, to abide by its terms. It partakes of the nature of what lawyers call a bilateral contract, imposing duties and obligations on both sides, and these liabilities can only be removed—as in the case of the Disestablished Irish Church—by the consent of both the contracting parties to the treaty.
The spectacle of the richest country in Europe haggling over shekels with the poorest is a sight to give pause, while Great Britain's insistence upon her pound of flesh is the more unpardonable because Ireland declares that it is not in the bond. That the highest estimate of the taxable capacity of Ireland arrived at by the Commissioners was one-twentieth, while the actual revenue contribution of Ireland was one-eleventh of the total for the United Kingdom, throws much light upon the social conditions of the smaller island. The rate of taxation per head per annum went up in the second half of the nineteenth century more than 250 per cent.—rising from about L1 in 1850 to more than L2 10s. in 1900. This occurred simultaneously with a diminution of population in the same period from seven millions to four and a half millions, a change which is in glaring contrast with the concurrent increase in Great Britain from twenty millions in 1850 to more than thirty-eight millions at the present day. Whatever may be the other causes which have led to the stream of emigration from Ireland it may certainly be claimed that not least among them is the ever-increasing incidence of taxation which is year by year laying a greater burden upon the privilege of living in that country.
A recent Report, issued by the Labour Department of the Board of Trade, gives statistics with reference to the earnings of agricultural labourers throughout the three kingdoms. It concludes that on an average a labourer in England obtains 18s. 3d. a week, in Wales 17s. 3d., in Scotland 19s. 3d., and in Ireland 10s. 11d. It may be noted that in no English county is the average lower than 14s. 6d., while in Ireland in seven counties it is less than 10s., Mayo being the lowest with an average wage of 8s. 9d. The present writer has had occasion in the course of the last few months to hear old men on political platforms in a typical English agricultural constituency pointing a moral from their own or their fathers' recollections of the days before the Corn Laws when wages ran from 8s. to 9s. a week. What is recalled with horror in England as the state of affairs in the "hungry forties" is the present condition in several of the Irish counties. It would be idle to multiply proofs to show the desperate condition of the country. Even in the ten years which have elapsed since the issue of the Report of the Royal Commission the taxation of the country has increased by more than two and a half million pounds, while the population, it is estimated, has in the same period diminished by no less than 200,000. On the assumption arrived at by the Commissioners, that the proper share which Ireland should pay was one-twentieth of the contribution of Great Britain, the country was overtaxed ten years ago to the extent of two and three-quarter millions; yet in spite of that fact in the course of those ten years two millions of additional taxation has been imposed. Two years ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answer to an inquiry, announced to the House of Commons that in the year 1903-4, the latest for which figures were available, the proportions of tax revenue derived from direct and indirect taxes were:—
Great Britain Ireland Direct Taxes 50.6 per cent. 27.8 per cent. Indirect Taxes 49.4 per cent. 72.2 per cent.
These figures show very clearly to what an extent in Ireland taxation falls, not on the luxuries of the rich, but on the commodities which are to a great extent the necessaries of the poor. The manner in which this state of things is maintained was expressed by Sir Robert Giffen in his evidence before the Royal Commission:—
"It is only evident that in matters of taxation Ireland is virtually discriminated against by the character of the direct taxes which happen to be on articles of Irish consumption."
The heavy duties on tea, tobacco, and alcohol—articles which form a larger part of the family budget of the Irish peasant than of the English labourer—are the causes of this burden. The reasons for the larger consumption of what may be roughly called stimulants by the Irishman is undoubtedly to be found in climatic conditions, and also in the smaller amount of nourishing food which he is able to afford. With regard to alcohol, the form in which it is most used in England—namely, beer—is subjected to a special exemption at the expense of the whiskey-drinking people of Ireland and Scotland. Cider is not taxed. The tax on whiskey is between two-thirds and three-fourths its price, while that on beer is one-sixth of its price; so that sixty gallons of beer bear the same weight of taxation as does one gallon of whiskey. The usual standard of taxation of liquor is its alcoholic strength, but the special treatment accorded to the Englishman's principal drink reduced—according to the Royal Commissioners—the taxation to which, in proportion to its alcohol it should be subjected, from 1s. to 2d. per gallon. Even in respect of tea and tobacco, the inequitable treatment of Ireland is obvious to any one who considers that what is spoken of as equality of taxation is, in reality, identical taxation on articles consumed in vastly different proportions in Great Britain and Ireland.
The argument by which the charge that Ireland is overtaxed was rebutted by the late Unionist Government was that the balance is restored by the amount of money spent in the administration of that country. When the complaint is heard that she is contributing at this day no less a sum than,L9,750,000 to revenue, the answer is made that she has no grievance since the cost of Irish services amounts to more than L7,500,000, the balance, a paltry two and a quarter millions, forming her Imperial contribution.
Ireland is being bled to death, and to her complaints the answer is that she is being expensively administered. To fleece a poor man of his pittance and to justify the action by telling him that it is on every appurtenance of a spendthrift to which he objects that it is being spent is scarcely to provide a satisfactory justification. The two cases are exactly parallel, and it is a weak position which has to entrench itself behind the fact that the cost of government per head is in Ireland double what it is in England.
The country is against its will saddled with a Viceregal Court, of which the Lord Lieutenant enjoys a salary twice as great as that of the President of the United States. The government is conducted by more than forty boards, only one of which is responsible, through a Minister in the House of Commons, to the country. Official returns show that Scotland, with a population slightly larger than that of Ireland, possesses 942 Government officials as against 2,691 in Ireland. In Scotland the salaries of these public servants amount to less than L300,000, while in Ireland the corresponding cost is more than L1,000,000 per annum, showing that the average salaries in the poorer country are considerably higher than in the richer. Of the L7,500,000 devoted to Irish services, L1,500,000 goes to the Post Office and Customs, while one half of the remainder is consumed by the salaries and pensions of policemen and officials.
To take a single example—the Prison Boards of Scotland and Ireland work under identical Acts, dating from 1877. It is instructive, therefore, to compare the conditions of the two. The estimates for the year 1905 were calculated on the assumption that there were 120 fewer prisoners a day in Irish prisons than in Scotland. In spite of this the cost of the Irish Board for the last year of which I have seen the figures was L144,597, and that of the Scottish Board was only L105,588. The ratio between these figures is as 1.3 to 1, which is in nearly the same proportion as is the number of the officials on the two boards—namely, 622 in Ireland and in Scotland 467, and this, too, in spite of the fact that further statistics show, namely, that there are five convicted criminals in Scotland for every three in Ireland.
These are a few facts which show the value of the case for the present state of affairs, based on the assumption that over-taxation is balanced by profligate expenditure. The maintenance—to take only one point—of a police force about half the size of the United States army, when at the present time white gloves—the symbol of a crimeless charge—are being given to the judges on every circuit, is a state of affairs which is intolerable, while the small proportion which in the returns Ireland is shown to bear of the Imperial contribution is the result of the inclusion of the Viceregal and Civil Service charges, not, as should be the case, in the Imperial account, but in the separate Irish account.
As an instance showing how exorbitant exactions defeat their own end by diminishing, and not raising, the available revenue, it should be noted that in 1853 an income tax of 7d. in the pound raised L200,000 more than did an income tax of 8d. in the pound at the date of the Royal Commission. Of the remedies which are suggested, the alteration of the Fiscal system, by making abatements in the Irish Excise and Customs, is not likely to be attempted. Reduction of expenditure, liberating money which may be made to serve a useful purpose, is obviously the first step, but any scheme of allocation of large sums for Irish development, without full and proper financial control, will undoubtedly fail to meet the case. The multiplication of irresponsible boards must be stopped, and to what extent anything, save economies in expenditure, can be effected without far larger changes remains a moot point. Of one thing, at any rate, one may be certain—the present Liberal Government when in Opposition joined forces with the Irish members in driving home the tremendous admissions of the Royal Commissioners, and it is impossible to think that, now they are in power, they will repudiate their obligations, the more so as the present Chancellor of the Exchequer last year announced the intention of the Government to see how far it is possible to adjust the financial relations between the two kingdoms on a fairer basis.
Sir Hercules Langrishe, the friend and correspondent of Edmund Burke, is said to have accounted for the swampy condition of the Phoenix Park by saying—"The English Government are too much engaged in draining the rest of the kingdom to find time to attend to it."
Enough has been said to show that the process of which Sir Hercules spoke is still going on. One would have thought that counsels of prudence would have made an end of it. It remains to be seen whether the uncontestable facts to which they themselves have subscribed will prevail with the Government. "The liberality, the justice, the honour of the people of England" are concerned in it now, as truly as when Pitt spoke. Moreover, it is one of the instances in which the claims of justice and of expediency coincide. The findings of the Financial Relations' Commission fully justified the attitude of the Irish Party to the proposal, under Mr. Gladstone's Bill, that the Irish contribution to the Imperial Treasury should be one-fourteenth of that of Great Britain, while Mr. Parnell declared that it ought to have been one-twentieth. The population, since the publication of the Report of the Commission, has decreased by a quarter of a million, but taxation has increased from,L7,500,000 to L10,500,000. If Ireland had secured the fixed contribution, against the height of which she protested, she would nevertheless have been guarded from such a disproportionate rise of taxation.
Whatever test be taken, be it population, a comparison of exports and of imports, the consumption of certain dutiable articles, relative assessments to death duties, income tax, or the estimated value of commodities of primary importance consumed, every one of them shows the relative backwardness of Ireland as compared with Great Britain, in view of which the fact that the cost of government per head of population is double in Ireland what it is in England, shows the extent to which the one is liable in damages to the other. The increased expenditure on the navy obviously does not benefit equally the two countries, of which the one only has dockyards and manufactories, and this is especially the case seeing that the country which lacks these things is also without a commerce needing defence; while any advantage resulting from a portion of the army being quartered in Ireland is minimised when it is found that arms and accoutrements are purchased in England.
The attempt to stultify the findings of the Commission on the ground that its report was based on a fallacy, since Ireland has no more right to be considered as a separate entity than an English county, is remarkably disingenuous in view of the acknowledgment of this in the separate treatment which she received in the matter of grants made in relief of local taxation and for the establishment of free education in the years 1888 and 1890 and 1891. Moreover, it was impliedly admitted that she was a separate entity in the appointment of a Select Committee on taxation in 1864, and again by Lord Goschen in 1890, and the whole history of her separate legislation bears the same construction. One cannot give a better commentary on what has been seen of the economic condition of the island than by quoting the peroration of the speech of John Fitzgibbon, Earl of Clare, the "great father of the Union," speaking in the Irish House of Parliament:—"It is with a cordial sincerity and a full conviction that it will give to this, my native country, lasting peace and security for her religion, her laws, her liberty, and her property, an increase of strength, riches, and trade, and the final extinction of national jealousy and animosity, that I now propose to this grave assembly for their adoption an entire and perfect Union of the Kingdom of Ireland with Great Britain. If I live to see it completed, to my latest hour I shall feel an honourable pride in reflecting on the little share I may have in contributing to effect it."
THE ECONOMIC CONDITION OF IRELAND
"When the inhabitants of a country leave it in crowds because the government does not leave them room in which to live, that government is judged and condemned."—JOHN STUART MILL, Political Economy.
I have shown something of the incubus of taxation which overpowers Ireland from the fact that she—the poorest country in Western Europe—is bound to the richest in such a manner that the latter has not the common prudence to recognise the flagitious injustice which she is inflicting, while, by a refinement of cruelty, she repeats her assurances that Ireland is a spoilt child, and for this reason alone does not appreciate the blessings of British rule. In the light of the facts before us one may well ask whether it was an extreme hyperbole of which Grattan made use when he declared that "Ireland, like every enslaved country, will be compelled to pay for her own subjugation."
When we are urged to put into practice the counsels of perfection and study the virtue of patience while we wait for the opportune moment for reform, from the point of view of English party politics, our reply is that things have reached so desperate a pass that to submit to the delays entailed by the exigencies of political strategy is a suicidal policy which we cannot afford to endure without protest.
The inhabitants of Great Britain had their Imperial taxation cut down in the nineteenth century by one-half, that of the Irish people was doubled. Every year that passes without radical change in the relations between the two countries makes it more serious, and makes the changes more drastic which will be required when the need for them is at last fully realised.
At the present day more than ten millions per annum are raised by taxation in Ireland. Of these seven and a half are spent on the home government of the country, which in 1890 cost only just over five millions, while that of Scotland at this moment costs a little more—namely, five and a half millions.
If one looks at the case of Denmark one finds a rich agricultural country with a population of six and a half millions, which is able to maintain her home and foreign government, a Royal Family, a debt, an army with a war strength of 70,000, a fleet, and the expense of three colonies, on an expenditure of four and a half millions.
Sweden, to take another case, with a population of six and a half millions, a large commerce, and many industries, is able to support her whole government, army, navy, diplomatic and consular service on a budget of little more than five millions; and the cost of civil government of Belgium, with a greater population and four times the trade, is one-half that of Ireland. The relative cost of home government per head of population, which amounts in Ireland to L1 14s. 3d., in England and Wales to L1 3s., and in Scotland to L1 3s. 3d., illustrates in a striking manner the ruinous condition of the present incidence in Ireland.
If this administrative waste is palliated by the statement that it retains money in Ireland, the reply is that the excess of administrative expenditure which is included in this sum is enough to effect large measures of social reform in the country, the benefit of which is not to be named in the same breath with the present mode of maintaining an extravagant staff of highly-paid officials. As things are, however, all motives to secure economies in the Irish services are vitiated by the existing system by which any economies in Irish administration go, not to Ireland, but to the Imperial Treasury, and in this way economical government is not merely not encouraged but actually discouraged, and hence it is that one has such contrasts as that to be seen in each year's Civil Service Estimates, where, under the item of stationery and postage in respect of public departments, the amount for the last year which I have seen is, for Scotland L24,000, and for Ireland,L43,000, and that the Department of Agriculture, out of a total income from Parliamentary Grant of L190,000, spends no less than L80,000 on salaries and wages, and another L10,000 on travelling expenses.
Sir Robert Giffen has calculated that the incomes of the wage-earning classes in Ireland are, man for man, one-half those of the members of the same classes in England. Statistics of every kind bear out the striking difference in the conditions of the two countries. The average poor law valuation in Ireland is about equal to that of the poorest East London Unions, where it is L3. Though the population is between one-seventh and one-eighth of that of England, the number of railway passengers is one-thirty-seventh, the tons of railway freight is one-seventeenth, the telegrams are one-eighteenth, the postal and money orders are one-nineteenth of those of England.
Ireland, to take another test of prosperity, is the fourth meat-producing country in the world and the sixteenth meat-eating, while England, by a curious coincidence, is the sixteenth meat-producing, but the fourth meat-eating, country in the world. The one direction in which the extension of the powers and duties of the Executive has often been urged has not been pursued. I mean the matter of railways. Though in 1834 a Royal Commission recommended that Irish railways should be built with money from the British Treasury, and should be subject to State control, nothing was done in the matter. Lord Salisbury and Lord Randolph Churchill were in 1886 in favour of the nationalisation of Irish railways, but at that date again no steps were taken. Mr. Balfour, it is true, when Chief Secretary, secured the passing of the Light Railways Act, under which powers were obtained to open up the Congested Districts by means of light railways, such as those which have been built to Clifden, in County Galway, and to Burtonport, in County Donegal. But the policy which was followed in this Act was to build the railway out of a Treasury grant, and after it had been built to hand it over to one of the existing railway companies.
There are to-day 3,000 odd miles of railway in Ireland—a mileage scarcely exceeding that of a single company, the Great Western Railway, in England. They are owned by nearly thirty companies, each with a separate staff of directors and salaried officials, the directors alone being over 130 in number. The railways of the country are, without exception, notoriously bad, the delay and dislocation incident to the transfer of goods from one line to another, and the high rates which prevail, inevitably serve to impede any traffic in goods, especially if they are of a perishable character.
It is not traffic that makes communications, but cheap communications that make traffic. The Belgian Government, fifty years ago, took over the railways of that country, and reduced the freights to such a degree that in eight years the quantity of goods carried was doubled, the receipts of the railways were increased fifty per cent., and the profits of the producers were multiplied five-fold. I am not quoting this instance by way of plea that the present remedy for the grave economic problems of Ireland lies in nationalisation of railways. I have said enough to show the extravagance and irresponsibility of the present Executive system, and in view of that no sane man would propose to endow it with further powers than those which it already possesses; but let me say this, that if the present state of diffusive impotence which rules in the matter of transit in the country continues, some very drastic remedies may before long have to be devised.
The cheapest freights for grain in the world are those between Chicago and New York, and the reason why this is so is that there exists keen competition on the part of the inland waterways. Of the 580 miles of canals in Ireland a considerable part are owned by the railway companies, and their weed-choked condition shows the use to which they are put in the national economy.
Whoever it was that said the carriers of freight hold the keys of trade was stating what appears almost an axiom, and an illustration is afforded of the results of reduced rates in an analogous business in the way in which the establishment of penny postage sent up the receipts of the General Post Office.
The difference in the freights in the three kingdoms may be seen by a comparison of the average rate per ton of merchandise in the year 1900—
In England In Scotland In Ireland
4s. 10.26d. 4s. 11.64d. 6s. 7.90d.
In the decade from 1890-1900 the figure in England and Wales decreased 8.79d., in Scotland 1.7d., and in Ireland increased by 1.92d.
Again, the control of the great English railway corporations over the small companies in Ireland has led to a state of things by which freights for imported goods are relatively lower than are those for purely internal carriage, and by this means the railways of Great Britain maintain their grip of the carrying trade, and incidentally destroy the industry of Ireland.
The trade of Ireland is not two per cent. of that of the three kingdoms, and this policy of swamping the Irish market with English-made goods at low rates to such an extent that over twelve million pounds' worth of imported goods are sold annually in Ireland shows the manner in which the principles of free trade are applied to that country; and so it has come to pass that the opening up of the country by railways has often tended to destroy local industries and to substitute for their products articles manufactured in England and Continental Europe at a cheaper cost, carried in either case by English railways, which, in consequence, reap the benefit of the freight. The carriage per ton paid by eggs to London, to take one example, is 16s. 8d. from Normandy, 24s. from Denmark, and no less that 94s. from Galway.
The bearing of the transit question on the agricultural problem is seen by a consideration of the rates for every form of farm produce, which in Ireland are fifteen to twenty per cent. of their value. On the Continent the average is five to six per cent., and in the United States and Canada it is three per cent. The discouragement of such a tariff to agricultural enterprise has had a great bearing on the transformation of plough land into cattle ranches, and the extent to which this has occurred may be seen from the fact that there are to-day twelve million acres of pasture to three millions of arable land in the island, and fertile land, like that of the plains of Meath, is to be seen growing, not corn for men, but grass for cattle. The success of the country in stock-raising may very easily be rendered nugatory if the exclusion of Argentine and Canadian cattle from the English market be ended by the passing of an Act giving the Board of Agriculture a discretionary power to maintain or remove the embargo on their importation, according as the danger of an introduction of cattle disease exists or disappears. The enormous import trade which is done in Danish butter, Italian cheese, and even Siberian eggs, shows the commercial possibilities of farm produce when freights are low. As a tangible example of the discrimination which the railways pursue may be mentioned the fact that the freight for goods per ton from Liverpool to Cavan is 10s. 8d., while that from Cavan to Liverpool is 16s. 8d. The numbers employed on agriculture have diminished, not only in proportion to the population but also relatively to its decrease. According to Mr. Charles Booth land employs as many people to-day in England as it did in 1841, and it probably supports nearly as many, and though in that country, building and manufacture employ a vast number more, in Ireland there has been in the same time a decrease of nearly eleven per cent. of those so employed—the total decrease being 626,000.
The population of England has in the last century been multiplied by four, that of Scotland has increased threefold, while that of Ireland has decreased by one-fourth. If we take the last sixty years it will be seen that the people of England have doubled their numbers, but those of Ireland have divided by two. It would be idle to pretend that the great exodus which took place after the famine was in all respects to be regretted. The abnormal increase in population which took place in the first forty years of the nineteenth century was in itself out of all proportion to the increase of productive capacity in the country, and was closely related to the unnatural inflation of prices, and consequent spurious appearance of prosperity, due to the great war. When the climax came this was rapidly followed by a reaction, and when emigration reduced the numbers of eight million people who were in the island in 1841, the modified competition in the labour market and in the land market tended to restore prices to a normal figure.
Emigration was at one time a well-recognised remedy with English statesmen for Irish ills. Did not Michael Davitt once say that manacles and Manitoba were the two cures for Ireland which they could propose? Even then, no attempt was made to regulate emigration by the State. The ball which was thus set rolling at that date has been in motion ever since, and that which half a century ago was regarded as the hand of the deus ex machina setting right a grave economic problem has continued, so that it has become at this day a problem no less grave, which to an equal degree presses for solution.
Four million people in the last sixty-five years fled from the country, and though the figures, as they are published, seem to show a slight decrease each year, the apparent diminution is to a large extent fallacious, since the residue of population from which emigrants are drawn becomes each year less, and an apparent decrease may in truth be a relative increase.
We heard much a few years ago in England of the evils of immigration into the British Isles of aliens, whom the Board of Trade returns show amount to eight thousand per annum—a figure which appears paltry when compared with the forty thousand people who leave Ireland every year. It is a cry which one is told should make the thirty-seven million inhabitants of England and Scotland burn with indignation that this number of foreigners land on their shores every year. Surely we Irishmen have a far greater cause of complaint in the fact that out of a population of four and a half millions, less than is that of London, a number greater than those of a town of the size of Limerick emigrate every year. Most of these emigrants are in the prime of life. Their average age is from twenty to twenty-five, and more than ninety per cent. are between the ages of ten and forty-five years. Here is the crucial fact, that it is the young, the active, and the plucky who are being tempted by promises of success abroad, to which they see no likelihood of attaining at home, and in this way is established a system of the survival of the unfittest, an artificial selection of the most malignant kind, which is leaving the old, the infirm, the poor, and the unadventurous behind to swell the figures of pauperism and to propagate the race. All the authorities are agreed in attributing to this cause the lamentable increase of lunacy, which is one of the most terrible factors in the economy of modern Ireland. The last Census report shows the total number of lunatics and idiots to have been in 1851 equal to a ratio of 1 in 637 of the population, and to be in 1901 equal to a ratio of 1 in 178. The proportion is, as one would expect, highest in the purely agricultural districts and lowest in the neighbourhood of cities, such as Dublin and Belfast, where industrial conditions imply better wages and food, and a less monotonous existence.
It should be remembered that the proportion of imbeciles in Great Britain has risen in the period of fifty years as it has in Ireland—partly, no doubt, owing to a better system of registration of lunacy—but, at the same time, the fact remains that the average in Ireland is very much greater than in England and Wales, rising in some Irish counties to a proportion twice, and in another to a ratio thrice, as high as that of the average of the whole of England and Wales.
If urban industrial conditions militate against an increase of lunacy, on the other hand it must be remembered that in most Irish towns there is an appalling amount of overcrowding. The death-rate of Dublin—the highest of any city in Europe—is, in consequence, no less than 25 per 1,000, as against 16 per 1,000 in Paris and New York, and 17 per 1,000 in London. The percentage of families, consisting on an average of four persons, living in one room is in London 14.6, in Edinburgh 16.9, in Glasgow 26.1, in Cork 10.6, in Limerick, 15.8, while in Dublin it reaches the appalling percentage of 36. In Belfast, which, unlike any other of the cities which I have mentioned, is for the most part modern, the percentage is not higher than 1, and this fact has a very great bearing on the industrial conditions in that city. Side by side with these figures may be placed those of the death-rate from tuberculosis, which from 1864 to 1906 in England decreased from 3.3 per 1,000 to 1.6, in Scotland decreased from 3.6 per 1,000 to 2.1, and in Ireland increased from 2.4 to 2.7 per 1,000.