THE OPEN SECRET OF IRELAND
T. M. KETTLE
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY J. E. REDMOND, M.P.
"Also it is a proverbe of olde date, 'The pride of Fraunce, the treason of Inglande, and the warre of Irelande, shall never have ende.' Which proverbe, touching the warre of Irelande, is like alwaie to continue, without God sette in men's breasts to find some new remedy that never was found before."
State Papers, Reign of Henry VIII.
W. J. HAM-SMITH
INTRODUCTION BY J. E. REDMOND, M.P. vii PRELIMINARY. xi
CHAP. I. AN EXERCISE IN HUMILITY. 1 II. HISTORY (a) Coloured. 17 III. HISTORY (b) Plain. 31 IV. THE OBVIOUSNESS OF HOME RULE. 47 V. THE RAVAGES OF UNIONISM (1). 65 VI. THE RAVAGES OF UNIONISM (2). 80 VII. THE HALLUCINATION OF "ULSTER". 98 VIII. THE MECHANICS OF HOME RULE. 120 IX. AFTER HOME RULE. 144 X. AN EPILOGUE ON "LOYALTY". 161
The object of Mr Kettle, in writing this book, is, I take it, to reveal to English readers what he not inaptly terms as "The Open Secret of Ireland," in order to bring about a better understanding between the two nations, and to smoothe the way to a just and final settlement of their old-time differences. Any work undertaken on such lines commends itself to a ready welcome and a careful study, and I feel sure that both await Mr Kettle's latest contribution to the literature of the Irish question. As the son of one of the founders of the Land League, and as, for some years, one of the most brilliant members of the Irish Party, and, later, Professor in the School of Economics in the new National University in Dublin, he has won his way to recognition as an eloquent exponent of Irish national ideas; whilst the novelty of his point of view, and the freshness, vigour, and picturesque attractiveness of his style ensure for his work a cordial reception on its literary merits, apart from its political value.
Undoubtedly, one of the main sources of the Anglo-Irish difficulty has been mutual misunderstanding, generating mutual mistrust and hatred. But the root of the difficulty goes deeper. It is to be sought in the system of misgovernment and oppression which successive generations of British rulers have imposed upon what, with cruel irony, British historians and statesmen have been wont to call "the sister country." This is the real "open secret" of Ireland, a secret that all who run may read, and the effective bearing of which is: that tyranny begets hatred, and that freedom and justice are the only sure foundations of contentment and goodwill between nations.
During the past thirty years, and especially since 1886, when Mr Gladstone threw the weight of his unrivalled genius and influence into the scale in favour of justice to Ireland, a great deal has been done to erase the bitter memories of the past, and to enable the English and the Irish peoples to regard each other in the light of truth, and with a more just appreciation of what is essential to the establishment of genuine and lasting friendly relations between them.
But it would be idle to ignore the fact that, to a considerable section of the English people, Ireland is still a country of which they possess less knowledge than they do of the most insignificant and remote of the many islands over which the British flag floats. Mr Kettle's book ought to be of service in dispelling this ignorance, and in enabling Englishmen to view the Anglo-Irish question from the standpoint of an educated and friendly Irish opinion.
The output of purely political literature on the Irish problem has been increasing during the past few years, and there is room for a book which aims at focussing attention upon some aspects of it which the mere politician is apt to pass lightly over or to ignore altogether. Like most of Mr Kettle's work, the book bears the impress of his individuality, and, to many of his readers, this will constitute much of its charm and merit. At the same time, in order to prevent misunderstanding, it is necessary for me to state that I do not commit myself to acceptance or endorsement of everything which the book contains. I content myself with stating, from personal experience, that nothing which Mr Kettle writes about Ireland can fail to be worthy of notice by everyone interested in the Home Rule controversy, and that I believe the circulation of this volume will serve to stimulate thought about Ireland, and so to hasten the advent of that brighter day when the grant of full self-government to Ireland will reveal to England the open secret of making Ireland her friend and helpmate, the brightest jewel in her crown of Empire.
J. E. REDMOND.
12th December, 1911.
After an intermission of nearly twenty years Ireland once again blocks the way. "Finally rejected" by the House of Commons and the English electorate in 1886, "finally rejected" by the House of Lords in 1893, the Home Rule idea has not only survived but waxed stronger in the wilderness. Time and events have altered its shape only to clothe it with a richer significance.
Will Great Britain decide wisely in the choice to which she is now put? Naturally, I do not speak of the Parliamentary future of the Home Rule Bill: that is safe. I have in mind rather that profound moral settlement, that generous reconciliation which we have seen in South Africa, and desire to see in Ireland. What of it? Did reason and the candid vision of things, as they are, control public affairs, there could be little doubt as to the issue in this choice between friendship and hatred, between the formula of freedom and that of domination. But, unhappily, we have no assurance that Philip sober rather than Philip drunk will sign the warrant. There exists in England, in respect of all things Irish, a monstrous residuum of prejudice. It lies ambushed in the blood even when it has been dismissed from the mind, and constitutes the real peril of the situation. No effort will be spared to reawaken it. The motto of militant Unionism has always been: When in doubt throw mud. Such a programme naturally begets a predilection for ditches, and when certain orators speak of the "last ditch" they must be taken to mean that which has most mud in it. The old methods are already once more in operation. The wicked lying of previous campaigns no doubt cannot be repeated: bigotry will make no further experiments in Pigottry. But a resolute attempt, lavishly financed and directed by masters of the art of defamation, will be made to blacken Ireland. Every newspaper in every remotest country-town in England will be deluged with syndicated venom. The shop-keeper will wrap up his parcels in Orange posters, and the working-man will, I hope, light his pipe for years to come with pamphlets of the same clamant colour. Irishmen, or at all events persons born in Ireland, will be found to testify that they belong to a barbarous people which has never ceased from barbarism, and that they are not fit to govern themselves. Politicians who were never known to risk a five-pound note in helping to develop Ireland will toss down their fifties to help to defame her. Such is the outlook. Against this campaign of malice, hatred, and all uncharitableness it is the duty of every good citizen to say his word, and in the following pages I say mine. This little book is not a compendium of facts, and so does not trench on the province of Mr Stephen Gwynn M.P.'s admirable "Case for Home Rule." It does not discuss the details, financial or otherwise, of a statesmanlike settlement. Such suggestions as I had to make I have already made in "Home Rule Finance," and the reader will find much ampler treatment of the whole subject in "The Framework of Home Rule," by Mr Erskine Childers, and "Home Rule Problems," edited by Mr Basil Williams. In general, my aim has been to aid in humanising the Irish Question. The interpretation of various aspects of it, here offered, is intended to be not exhaustive but provocative, a mere set of shorthand rubrics any one of which might have been expanded into a chapter. Addressing the English reader with complete candour, I have attempted to recommend to him that method of approach, that mental attitude which alone can divest him of his preconceptions, and put him in rapport with the true spirit of the Ireland of actuality. To that end the various lines of discussion converge:—
Chapter I is an outline of the pathology of the English mind in Ireland.
Chapters II and III present the history of Ireland as the epic, not of a futile and defeated, but of an indomitable and victorious people.
Chapter IV exhibits the Home Rule idea as a fundamental law of nature, human nature, and government.
Chapters V and VI contain a very brief account of the more obvious economic crimes and blunders of Unionism.
Chapter VII discusses the queer ideas of "Ulster," and the queer reasons for the survival of these ideas.
Chapter VIII demonstrates that, as a mere matter of political technique, Home Rule must be conceded if any real government is ever to exist again, whether in Great Britain, in Ireland, or in the Empire.
Chapter IX dips into the future, and indicates that a Home Rule Ireland will have so much interesting work to do as to have no time for civil war or religious oppression.
Chapter X shows that everybody who values "loyalty" must of necessity be a Home Ruler.
The only moral commended to the reader is that expressed by Browning in a firm and inevitable line, which has been disastrously forgotten in so many passages of English history:—
"It's fitter being sane than mad."
I have tried also to convey to him, with what success others must judge, something of the "pride and passion" of Irish nationality. That is, in truth, the dream that comes through the multitude of business. If you think that Home Rule is a little thing which must be done in a little way for little reasons, your feet are set on the path to failure. Home Rule is one of those fundamental reforms that are not achieved at all unless they are achieved greatly.
THE OPEN SECRET OF IRELAND
AN EXERCISE IN HUMILITY
In order to understand Ireland we must begin by understanding England. On no other terms will that complex of facts, memories, and passions, which is called the Irish Question, yield up its secret. "You have always been," said a Lady Clanricarde to some English politician, "like a high wall standing between us and the sun." The phrase lives. It reveals in a flashlight of genius the historical relations of the two nations. It explains and justifies the principle adopted as the basis of this discussion, namely, that no examination of the Irish Problem is possible without a prior examination of the English mind. It used to be said that England dearly loved a Lord, a dictum which may have to be modified in the light of recent events. Far more than a Lord does the typical Englishman love a Judge, and the thought of acting as a Judge. Confronted with Ireland he says to himself: "Here are these Irish people; some maintain that they are nice, others that they are nasty, but everybody agrees that they are queer. Very good. I will study them in a judicial spirit; I will weigh the evidence dispassionately, and give my decision. When it comes to action, I will play the honest broker between their contending parties." Now this may be a very agreeable way of going about the business, but it is fatally unreal. Great Britain comes into court, she will be pained to hear, not as Judge but rather as defendant. She comes to answer the charge that, having seized Ireland as a "trustee of civilisation," she has, either through incompetence or through dishonesty, betrayed her trust. We have a habit, in everyday life, of excusing the eccentricities of a friend or an enemy by the reflection that he is, after all, as God made him. Ireland is politically as Great Britain made her. Since the twelfth century, that is to say for a great part of the Middle Ages and for the whole of the modern period, the mind of England and not that of Ireland has been the dominant fact in Irish history.
This state of things—a paradox in action—carries with it certain metaphysical implications. The philosophers tell us that all morality centres in the maxim that others are to be treated as ends in themselves, and not as instruments to our ends. If they are right, then we must picture Ireland as the victim of a radical immoralism. We must think of her as a personality violated in its ideals, and arrested in its development. And, indeed, that is no bad way of thinking: it is the one formula which summarises the whole of her experience. But the phrasing is perhaps too high and absolute; and the decline and fall of Mr Balfour are a terrible example to those of us who, being young, might otherwise take metaphysics too solemnly. It will, therefore, at this stage be enough to repeat that, in contemplating the discontent and unrest which constitute the Irish difficulty, Great Britain is contemplating the work of her own hands, the creation of her own mind. For that reason we can make no progress until we ascertain what sort of mind we have to deal with.
I do not disguise from myself the extremely unpleasant nature of this inquiry. It is as if a counsel were to open his address by saying: "Gentlemen of the Jury, before discussing the facts of the case I will examine briefly the mental flaws, gaps, kinks, and distortions of you twelve gentlemen." There is, however, this difference. In the analysis upon which we are engaged the mental attitude of the jury is not merely a fact in the case, it is the whole case. Let me reinforce my weaker appeal by a passage from the wisest pen in contemporary English letters, that of Mr Chesterton. There is in his mere sanity a touch of magic so potent that, although incapable of dullness, he has achieved authority, and although convinced that faith is more romantic than doubt, or even sin, he has got himself published and read. Summarising the "drift" of Matthew Arnold, Mr Chesterton observes:
"The chief of his services may perhaps be stated thus, that he discovered (for the modern English) the purely intellectual importance of humility. He had none of that hot humility which is the fascination of saints and good men. But he had a cold humility which he had discovered to be a mere essential of the intelligence."
Such a humility, purely hygienic in character, is for Englishmen the beginning of wisdom on the Irish Question. It is the needle's eye by which alone they can enter a city otherwise forbidden to them. Let there be no misunderstanding. The attitude of mind commended to them is not without its agreeable features. Closely scrutinised, it is seen to be a sort of inverted vanity. The student begins by studying himself, an exercise in self-appraisal which need not by any means involve self-depreciation. What sort of a mind, then, is the English mind?
If there is anything in regard to which the love of friends corroborates the malice of enemies it is in ascribing to the English an individualism, hard-shelled beyond all human parallel. The Englishman's country is an impregnable island, his house is a castle, his temperament is a suit of armour. The function common to all three is to keep things out, and most admirably has he used them to that end. At first, indeed, he let everybody in; he had a perfect passion for being conquered, and Romans, Teutons, Danes, and Normans in succession plucked and ate the apple of England. But with the coming of age of that national consciousness, the bonds of which have never been snapped, the English entered on their lucky and courageous career of keeping things out. They possess in London the only European capital that has never in the modern period been captured by an invader. They withstood the intellectual grandeur of Roman Law, and developed their own medley of customs into the most eccentric and most equitable system in the world. They kept out the Council of Trent, and the Spanish Armada. They kept out the French Revolution, and Napoleon. They kept out for a long time the Kantian philosophy, Romanticism, Pessimism, Higher Criticism, German music, French painting, and one knows not how many other of the intellectual experiments that made life worth living, or not worth living, to nineteenth-century Europe. Their insularity, spiritual as well as geographical, has whetted the edge of a thousand flouts and gibes. "Those stupid French!" exclaims the sailor, as reported by De Morgan: "Why do they go on calling a cabbage a shoe when they must know that it is a cabbage?" This was in general the attitude of what Mr Newbolt has styled the "Island Race" when on its travels. Everybody has laughed at the comedy of it, but no one has sufficiently applauded its success. The English tourist declined to be at the trouble of speaking any foreign tongue whatsoever; instantly every hotel and restaurant on the Continent was forced to learn English. He refused to read their books; a Leipsic firm at once started to publish his own, and sold him his six-shilling Clapham novels in Lucerne for two francs. He dismissed with indignation the idea of breakfasting on a roll, and bacon and eggs were added unto him. In short, by a straightforward policy of studying nobody else, he compelled everybody else to study him.
Now it is idle to deny this performance the applause which it plainly deserves. The self-evolution of England, as it may perhaps be called, in its economic, political, and literary life, offers an admirable model of concentration and energy. Even where it is a case of obtuseness to other civilisations, at least as high but of a different type, the verdict cannot be wholly unfavourable. The Kingdom of Earth is to the thick-skinned, and bad manners have a distinct vital value. A man, too sensitive to the rights and the charms of others, is in grave danger of futility. Either he will become a dilettante, which is the French way, or he will take to drink and mystical nihilism, a career very popular in Russian fiction. Bad manners have indeed a distinct ethical value. We all experience moods in which we politely assent to the thing that is not, because of the fatigue of fighting for the thing that is. A temperament such as has been delineated is therefore, as human types go, an excellent type. But it has its peculiar perils. To ignore the point of view of those in whose country you eat, drink, sleep, and sight-see may breed only minor discords, and after all you will pay for your manners in your bill. But to ignore the point of view of those whose country you govern may let loose a red torrent of tragedy. Such a temper of mind may, at the first touch of resistance, transform your stolid, laudable, laughable Englishman into the beastliest of tyrants. It may drive him into a delirium of cruelty and injustice. It may sweep away, in one ruin of war, wealth, culture, and the whole fabric of civilisation. It may darken counsel, and corrupt thought. In fact, it may give you something very like the history of the English in Ireland. Now it is not denied that most Englishmen believe the English mind to be incapable of such excesses. This, they say, is the Russian in Warsaw, the Austrian in Budapest, the Belgian in the Congo, the blind fool-fury of the Seine. But it is not the English way. Nor is it suggested that this illusion is sheer and mere hypocrisy. It is simply an hallucination of jingoism. Take a trivial instance in point. We have all read in the newspapers derisive accounts of disorderly scenes in the French Chamber or the Austrian Reichstag; we all know the complacent sigh with which England is wont on such occasions to thank God that she is not as one of those. Does anybody think that this attitude will be at all modified by recent occurrences at Westminster? By no means. Lord Hugh Cecil, his gibbering and gesticulating quite forgotten, will be assuring the House next year that the Irish are so deficient in self-restraint as to be unfit for Home Rule. Mr Smith will be deploring that intolerant temper which always impels a Nationalist to shout down, and not to argue down an opponent. Mr Walter Long will be vindicating the cause of law and order in one sentence, and inciting "Ulster" to bloodshed in the next. This is not hypocrisy, it is genius. It is also, by the way, the genesis of the Irish Question. If anyone is disposed to underrate the mad passions of which race hatred can slip the leash, let him recall the crucial examples which we have had in our own time. We have in our own time seen Great Britain inflamed by two frenzies—against France, and against the Boer Republics. In the history of public opinion there are no two chapters more discreditable. In the days of Fashoda the Frenchman was a degenerate tigre-singe, the sworn enemy of religion and soap. He had contributed nothing to civilisation except a loathsome science of sensuality, and the taint of decay was in his bones. In the days of Spion Kop the Boer was an unlaundered savage, fit only to be a target for pig-stickers. His ignorance seemed the most appalling thing in the world until one remembered his hypocrisy and his cowardice. The newspaper which led the campaign of denigration against France has come to another view. Its proprietor now divides his time between signing L10,000 cheques for triumphant French aviators, and delivering speeches in which their nation is hailed as the pioneer of all great ideas. As regards the Boers, the same reversal of the verdict of ten years ago has taken place. The crowd which in 1900 asked only for a sour appletree on which to hang General Botha, adopts him in 1911 as the idol of the Coronation. At this progress towards sanity we must all rejoice. But most of all we have to ask that these two sinister pageants of race hatred shall not be suffered to dissolve without leaving some wrack of wisdom behind. Writers on psychology have made many studies of what they call the collective illusion. This strange malady, which consists in all the world seeing something which in fact does not exist, wrought more potently on the mind of England than did reason and justice in the Home Rule controversies of 1886 and 1893. What has occurred may recur. And since we are to speak here with all the candour of private conversation I confess that I cannot devise or imagine any specific against such a recurrence except an exercise in humility of the kind suggested by Mr Chesterton. My own argument in that direction is perhaps compromised by the fact that I am an Irishman. Let us therefore fall back on other testimony. Out of the cloud of witnesses let us choose two or three, and in the first place M. Alfred Fouillee. M. Fouillee is a Platonist—the last Platonist in Europe—and consequently an amiable man. He is universally regarded as the leader of philosophy in France, a position not in the least shaken by Bergson's brief authority. In a charming and lucid study of the "Psychology of the Peoples of Europe" Fouillee has many pages that might serve for an introduction to the Irish Question. The point of interest in his analysis is this: he exhibits Irish history as a tragedy of character, a tragedy which flows with sad, inevitable logic from a certain weakness which he notes, not in the Irish, but in the English character.
"'In the eyes of the English,' says Taine who had studied them so minutely, 'there is but one reasonable civilisation, namely their own. Every other way of living is that of inferior beings, every other religion is extravagant.' So that, one might add, the Englishman is doubly personal, first as an individual and again as a member of the most highly individualised of nations. The moment the national interest is involved all dissensions cease, there is on the scene but one single man, one single Englishman, who shrinks from no expedient that may advance his ends. Morality for him reduces itself to one precept: Safeguard at any cost the interest of England."
Like all foreigners he takes Ireland as the one conspicuous and flaming failure of England. In that instance she has muddled, as usual, but she has not muddled through.
"The Anglo-Saxons, those great colonisers of far-off lands, have in their own United Kingdom succeeded only in inflicting a long martyrdom on Ireland. The insular situation of England had for pendant the insular situation of Ireland; the two islands lie there face to face. The English and the Irish, although intellectually very much alike, have preserved different characters. And this difference cannot be due essentially to the racial element, for nearly half Ireland is Germanic. It is due to traditions and customs developed by English oppression."
Having summarised the main lines of British policy in Ireland, he concludes:
"It is not easy to detect here any sign of the 'superiority of the Anglo-Saxons.'"
With Fouillee we may associate Emile Boutmy. In his "Political Psychology of the English" he declares that the haughty, taciturn, solitary, unassimilative temperament of England, so admirable from the point of view of self-development, shows its worst side and comes to a malign florescence in the history of Ireland. It explains why
"the relations of Ireland with England have been, for so many centuries, those of a captive with his jailer, those of a victim with his torturer."
I pass over De Beaumont, Von Raumer, Perraud, Paul-Dubois, Filon, Bonn. The considerations already adduced ought to be enough to lead the English reader to certain conclusions which are fundamental. For the sake of clearness they may be repeated in all their nudity:
England has failed in Ireland.
Her failure has been due to defects of her own character, and limitations of her outlook. The same defects which corrupted her policy in the past distort her vision in the present.
Therefore, if she is to understand and to solve the Irish Question, she must begin by breaking the hard shell of her individualism, and trying to think herself into the skin, the soul, and the ideals of the Irish nation.
Now the English reader is after all human. If he has endured so far the outrage on his most sacred prejudices perpetrated in this chapter he must at this moment be hot with resentment. He must feel as if, proposing to his imagination Pear de Melba, he had in truth swallowed sand. Let me end with a more comfortable word. We have seen that Irish history is what the dramatists call an internal tragedy, the secular disclosure and slow working-out of certain flaws in the English character. I am not to be understood as ascribing horns to England and a halo to Ireland. We Irish are not only imperfect but even modest; for every beam that we detect in another eye we are willing to confess a mote in our own. The English on the other hand have been not monsters or demons, but men unstrung.
"In tragic life, God wot, No villain need be, passions spin the plot; We are betrayed by what is false within."
Least of all am I to be understood as ascribing to modern Englishmen any sort of planned, aforethought malice in regard to Ireland. It is what Bacon might have called a mere idol of the platform to suppose that they are filled with a burning desire to oppress Ireland. The dream of their lives is to ignore her, to eliminate from their calculations this variable constant which sheds bewilderment upon every problem. Could they but succeed in that, a very Sabbath of peace would have dawned for them. The modern Englishman is too much worried to plan the oppression of anybody. "Did you ever," asked Lord Salisbury on a remembered occasion, "have a boil on your neck?" To the Englishman of 1911—that troubled man whose old self-sufficiency has in our own time been shattered beyond repair by Boer rifles, German shipyards, French aeroplanes—Ireland is the boil on the neck of his political system. It is the one peche de jeunesse of his nation that will not sleep in the grave of the past. Like the ghost in "Hamlet" it pursues and plagues him without respite. Shunned on the battlements it invades his most private chamber, or, finding him in talk with friends, shames and scares him with subterranean mutterings. Is there no way out of a situation so troublesome and humiliating?
There is. Ireland cannot be ignored, but she can easily be appeased. The boil is due to no natural and incurable condition. It is the direct result of certain artificial ligatures and compressions; remove these and it disappears. This spectre haunts the conscience of England to incite her not to a deed of blood but to a deed of justice; every wind is favourable and every omen. It is, indeed, true that if she is to succeed, England must do violence to certain prejudices which now afflict her like a blindness; she must deal with us as a man with men. But is not the Kingdom of Heaven taken by violence?
Mendacity follows the flag. There never yet was an invader who did not, in obedience to a kindly human instinct, lie abundantly respecting the people whose country he had invaded. The reason is very plain. In all ages men delight to acquire property by expedients other than that of honest labour. In the period of private war the most obvious alternative to working is fighting, or hiring servants to fight; the sword is mightier than the spade. If we add that an expedition into a foreign country offers the additional advantages of escape from your exacting creditors, and your still more exacting king, we have something very like the economics of the Invasion of Anywhere in early feudal times. Had the leaders of these invasions, or rather their clerkly secretaries, written the plain tale of their doings they would have left some such record as this: "There were we, a band of able-bodied, daring, needy men. Our only trade was war; our only capital our suits of armour, our swords and battle-axes. We heard that there was good land and rich booty to be had in Anywhere; we went and fought for it. Our opponents were brave men, too, but badly organised. In some places we won. There we substituted our own law for the queer sort of law under which these people had lived; when they resisted too strongly we had, of course, no option but to kill them. In other places we got mixed up completely by alliances and marriages with the old stock, and lived most agreeably with them. In others again the natives killed us, and remained in possession. Such was the Invasion of Anywhere."
But (I had almost said unhappily) the invaders were not content with having swords, they had also consciences. They were Christians, and thought it necessary to justify themselves before the High Court of Christian Europe. Consequently the clerks had to write up the record in quite a different fashion. They discovered that their bluff, hard-bitten, rather likeable employers, scarcely one of whom could read or write, had really invaded Anywhere as the trustees of civilisation. Now it may be said in general—and the observation extends to our own time—that the moment an invader discovers that he is the trustee of civilisation he is irretrievably lost to the truth. He is forced by his own pose to become not an unprincipled liar, but that much more disgusting object, a liar on principle. He is bound, in order to legitimise his own position, to prove that "the natives" are savages, living in a morass of nastiness and ignorance. All facts must be adapted to this conclusion. The clerks, having made this startling discovery, went on to supplement it by the further discovery that their masters had invaded Anywhere in order to please the Pope, and introduce true religion. This second role completes the dedication of the invaders on the altar of mendacity. It was Leo XIII. himself who, with that charming humour of his, deprecated the attitude of certain a priori historians who, said he, if they were writing the Gospel story would, in their anxiety to please the Pope, probably suppress the denial of Peter.
These things which might have happened anywhere did, in fact, happen in Ireland. Out of the footprints of the invaders there sprang up a legion of fictionists, professional cooks of history. Beginning with Giraldus Cambrensis they ought to have ended, but, as we shall see, did not end with Froude. The significance of these mercenaries of literature can hardly be exaggerated; it is not too much to say that they found Ireland a nation, and left her a question. It is not at all that they put on record the thing that was not as regards the events of their own period. That might be and has been amended by the labours of impartial scholarship. The real crime of the fabulists lies in this, that their tainted testimony constituted for honest Englishmen the only information about Ireland easily obtainable. The average Englishman (that is to say, the forty millions of him who do not read learned books of any kind) comes to the consideration of contemporary Ireland with a vision distorted almost beyond hope of cure. The treasured lies of seven hundred years are in his heart to-day. For time runs against the cause of truth as well as with it. Once create a Frankenstein of race hatred, and he will gather strength in going. The chronicler's fable of this century becomes the accredited historical fact of the next. Give it what billiard-players call "legs" enough and it will mature into a tradition, a proverb, a spontaneous instinct. There is a whole department of research concerned with the growth of myths, stage by stage, from a little nebulous blotch into a peopled world of illusion. The strange evolution there set forth finds an exact parallel in the development of English opinion on Ireland. And, indeed, the more you study "the Irish Question," as it is envisaged by the ruling mind of Great Britain, the more conscious are you of moving in the realm not of reason but of mythology.
All this will seem obvious even to the point of weariness. But it is of interest as furnishing a clue to the English attitude towards Irish history; I should rather say attitudes, for there are two. The first is that of the Man of Feeling. His mode of procedure recalls inevitably an exquisite story which is to be found somewhere in Rousseau. During country walks, Jean Jacques tells us, his father would suddenly say: "My son, we will speak of your dear, dead mother." And Jean Jacques was expected to reply: "Wait, then, a moment, my dear father. I will first search for my handkerchief, for I perceive that we are going to weep." In precisely such a mood of deliberate melancholy does the sentimentalist address himself to the Confiscations and the Penal Laws. He is ready to praise without stint any Irish leader who happens to be sufficiently dead. He is ready to confess that all his own British forerunners were abominable blackguards. He admits, not only with candour but even with a certain enthusiastic remorse, that England oppressed Ireland in every phase of their relations. Then comes the conclusion. So terrible have been the sins of his fathers that he feels bound to make restitution. And in order to make restitution, to be kind and helpful and remedial, he must retain the management of Irish affairs in his benevolent hands. In order to expiate the crimes of the past he must repeat the basal blunder that was the cause and source of them. For this kind of sympathy we have only to say, in a somewhat vulgar phrase, that we have no use whatever. The Englishman who "sympathises" with Ireland is lost.
But the more general attitude differs widely from this. Confronting us with a bluff and not unkindly demeanour, worthy of the nation that invented cold baths as a tonic against all spiritual anguish, the practical, modern Englishman speaks out his mind in straight-flung words and few. "You fellows," he says, "brood too much over the past. After all, this is the twentieth century, not the twelfth. What does it matter whether my ancestors murdered yours or not? Both would be dead now in any event. What does it matter whether yours were the saints and men of letters and mine the savages, or whether the boot was on the other leg? That's all over and done with. Imitate me. Let bygones be bygones."
Now this is, in some respects, the authentic voice of health. Undoubtedly the most characteristic thing about the past is that it is not present, and to lavish on it too tragic and intense a devotion is to love death more than life. And yet our bluff Englishman can learn in two words how it comes about that his invitation represents a demand for the impossible. In the first place, the bygones have not gone by. Our complaint is made not against the crimes of his fathers, who are dead, but against the crimes of himself and his fellows, who are alive. We denounce not the repealed Penal Laws but the unrepealed Act of Union. If we recall to the memory of England the systematic baseness of the former, it is in order to remind her that she once thought them right, and now confesses that they were cruelly wrong. We Irish are realists, and we hold the problems of the present as of more account than any agonies or tyrannies of the past. But our realism has the human touch in it, and that constitutes the second impossibility in the invitation tendered us. Que messieurs les assassins commencent! The anti-Irish legend is not dead nor even sleeping, nor are the resources of calumny yet exhausted. An instance is immediately at hand. I have, at this moment, on my desk a volume lately issued—"The School History of England." It is published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford; Mr Rudyard Kipling contributes twenty-three pieces of verse, and a Mr C. R. L. Fletcher, whose qualifications are not stated, appears to be responsible for the prose. The book has been praised in most of the papers, and it will no doubt go far. This is the picture of the coming to Ireland of the Cymro-Frankish adventurers which its pages will imprint on the minds of the youth of England:
"One event of his reign (Henry II.'s) must not be forgotten, his visit to Ireland in 1171-2. St Patrick, you may have heard, had banished the snakes from that island, but he had not succeeded in banishing the murderers and thieves who were worse than many snakes. In spite of some few settlements of Danish pirates and traders on the eastern coast, Ireland had remained purely Celtic and purely a pasture country. All wealth was reckoned in cows; Rome had never set foot there, so there was a king for every day in the week, and the sole amusement of such persons was to drive off each other's cows and to kill all who resisted. In Henry II.'s time this had been going on for at least seven hundred years, and during the seven hundred that have followed much the same thing would have been going on, if the English Government had not occasionally interfered."
The English whom Henry II. left behind him soon became "as wild and barbarous as the Irishmen themselves."
Oxford, the home of so many other lost causes, apparently aspires to be also the home of the lost cause of mendacity. The forcible-feeble malice of Mr Fletcher calls for no serious discussion; submit it to any continental scholar, to any honest British scholar, and he will ask contemptuously, though perhaps with a little stab of pain, how the name of Oxford comes to be associated with such wicked absurdities. Every other reference to Ireland is marked by the same scientific composure and balanced judgment. And this document, inspired by race hatred, and apparently designed to propagate race hatred, is offered to the youth of these countries as an aid towards the consolidation of the Empire. It is a case not merely of the poisoning of a well, but of the poisoning of a great river at its source. The force of cowardice can no farther go. So long as it goes thus far, so long as the Froudes find Fletchers to echo them, Irishmen will inevitably "brood over the past." We do not share the cult of ancestor-worship, but we hold the belief that the Irish nation, like any other, is an organism endowed with a life in some sort continuous and repetitive of its origins. To us it does matter something whether our forerunners were turbulent savages, destitute of all culture, or whether they were valiant, immature men labouring through the twilight of their age towards that dawn which does not yet flush our own horizon. But we are far from wishing that dead centuries should be summoned back to wake old bitterness that ought also to be dead. Hand history over to the scholars, if you will; let it be marshalled as a multitudinous and coloured pageant, to incite imaginations and inspire literature. Such is our desire, but when we read the clotted nonsense of persons like Mr Fletcher we can only repeat: Que messieurs les assassins commencent!
For the purpose of this inquiry it is inevitable that some brief account should be rendered of the past relations between England and Ireland. The reader need not shrink back in alarm; it is not proposed to lead him by the reluctant nose through the whole maze and morass of Irish history. The past is of value to political realists only in that residue of it which survives, namely, the wisdom which it ought to have taught us. Englishmen are invited to consider the history of Ireland solely from that point of view. They are prayed to purge themselves altogether of pity, indignation, and remorse; these are emotions far too beneficent to waste on things outside the ambit of our own immediate life. If they are wise they will come to Irish history as to a school, and they will learn one lesson that runs through it like the refrain of a ballad. A very simple lesson it is, just this: Ireland cannot be put down. Ireland always has her way in the end. If the opposite view is widely held the explanation lies on the surface. Two causes have co-operated to produce the illusion. Everybody agrees that Great Britain has acted in a most blackguardly fashion towards Ireland; everybody assumes that blackguardism always succeeds in this world, therefore Ireland is a failure. The only flaw in this syllogism is that it is in direct conflict with every known fact. For the rest we have to thank or blame the sentimentalism of Mr Matthew Arnold. His proud but futile Celts who "went down to battle but always fell" have been mistaken for the Irish of actual history. The truth is, of course, that the phrase is in the grand manner of symbolism. When Ecclesiastes laments that the eye is not filled with seeing nor the ear with hearing we do not argue him deaf and blind; we take his words as a proclamation of that famine and fierce appetite of the spirit which has created all the higher religions. Ireland agrees with Ecclesiastes. Perceiving that there is in matter no integral and permanent reality she cannot be content with material victories; her poets are subtle in what a French writer styles the innuendoes by which the soul makes its enormous claims. The formula of her aspiration has been admirably rendered by the late Mrs Nora Chesson:
"He follows after shadows when all your chase is done; He follows after shadows, the King of Ireland's son."
Were I to read the poem, of which these lines are the motif, to certain genial Englishmen of my acquaintance they would observe that the gentleman in question was a "queer cove, staying up late at night and catching cold, and that no doubt there was a woman in the case." But these are considerations a little remote from the daily dust of politics. In the sense in which every life is a failure, and the best life the worst failure, Ireland is a failure. But in every other sense, in all that touches the fathomable business of daylight, she has been a conspicuous success.
A certain type of fanaticism is naive enough to regard the intercourse of England with Ireland as that of a superior with an inferior race. This is the sanction invoked to legitimise every adventure in invasion and colonisation. M. Jules Hormand, who has attempted, in his recent book, "Domination et Colonisation," to formulate a theory of the whole subject, touches bed-rock when he writes:
"We must then accept as our point of departure the principle that there is a hierarchy of races and of civilisations, and that we belong to the higher race and civilisation.... The essential legitimation of conquest is precisely this conviction of our own superiority.... Nations which do not hold this belief, because incapable of such sincerity towards themselves, should not attempt to conquer others."
The late Lord Salisbury was grasping at such a justification when he likened the Irish to Hottentots; it would be a justification of a kind if it chanced to be validated by the facts. But it does not. There is so much genuine humour in the comparison that, for my part, I am unable to take offence at it. I look at the lathe painted to look like iron, and I set over against him Parnell. That is enough; the lathe is smashed to fragments amid the colossal laughter of the gods. The truth is that in every shock and conflict of Irish civilisation with English, it is the latter that has given way. The obscuration of this obvious fact is probably to be ascribed to the military successes of the Norman, or rather the Cymro-Frankish invaders. If we were the higher race why did we not put them out? Replying on the same plane of thought we observe that if they were the higher race they would have put us down. But a more detailed assignment of qualities between the two peoples is possible. In general it may be said that the two stood on much the same level of mentality, but that they had specialised on different subjects, the Normans on war and politics, the Irish on culture. Of the many writers who help us to reconstruct the period we ought to signalise one, Mrs A.S. Green, who to a rare scholarship adds something rarer, the genius of common sense. This is not the place in which to recall the whole substance of her "Making of Ireland and its Undoing" and her "Irish Nationality"; but from borrowings thence and elsewhere we can piece together a plain tale of that first chapter of the Irish Question.
In those days war was the most lucrative industry open to a young man of breeding, courage, and ability. Owners of capital regarded it as a sound investment. What Professor Oman tells us of the Normans in 1066 was equally true of them in 1169:
"Duke William had undertaken his expedition not as a mere feudal lord of the barons of Normandy but rather as the managing director of a great joint-stock company for the conquest of England, in which not only his own subjects but hundreds of adventurers, poor and rich, from all parts of Western Europe had taken shares."
The Normans, then, came to Ireland with their eyes on three objects. In the first place, property. This was to be secured in the case of each individual adventurer by the overthrow of some individual Irish chieftain. It necessitated war in the shape of a purely local, and indeed personal grapple. In the second place, plunder. This was to be secured by raids, incursions, and temporary alliances. In the third place, escape from the growing power and exactions of the Crown. This was to be secured geographically by migration to Ireland, and politically by delaying, resolutely if discreetly, the extension in that country of the over-lordship of the King. Herein lies the explanation of the fact that for three and a half centuries the English penetration into Ireland is a mere chaos of private appetites and egotisms. The invaders, as we have said, were specialists in war, and in the unification of states through war. This they had done for England; this they failed to do for Ireland. The one ingredient which, if dropped into the seething cauldron of her life, must have produced the definite crystallisation of a new nationality, complete in structure and function, was not contributed. True, the Cymro-Franks proved themselves strong enough in arms to maintain their foothold; if that physical test is enough to establish their racial superiority then let us salute Mr Jack Johnson as Zarathustra, the superman. But in their one special and characteristic task they failed lamentably. Instead of conquest and consolidation they gave us mere invasion and disturbance. The disastrous role played by them has been unfolded by many interpreters of history, by none with a more vivid accuracy than we find in the pages of M. Paul-Dubois:
"Had Ireland," he writes, "been left to herself she would, in all human probability, have succeeded, notwithstanding her decadence, in establishing political unity under a military chief. Had the country been brought into peaceful contact with continental civilisation, it must have advanced along the path of modern progress. Even if it had been conquered by a powerful nation, it would at least have participated in the progress of the conquering power. But none of these things happened. England, whose political and social development had been hastened by the Norman Conquest, desired to extend her influence to Ireland. 'She wished,' as Froude strangely tells us, 'to complete the work of civilisation happily begun by the Danes.' But in actual fact she only succeeded in trammelling the development of Irish society, and maintaining in the country an appalling condition of decadent stagnation, as the result of three centuries and a half of intermittent invasions, never followed by conquest."
On the other hand the triumph of Irish culture was easy and absolute. Ireland, unvisited by the legions and the law of Rome, had evolved a different vision of the life of men in community, or, in other words, a different idea of the State. Put very briefly the difference lay in this. The Romans and their inheritors organised for purposes of war and order, the Irish for purposes of culture. The one laid the emphasis on police, the other on poets. But for a detailed exposition of the contrast I must send the reader to Mrs Green's "Irish Nationality." In a world in which right is little more than a secretion of might, in which, unless a strong man armed keeps house, his enemies enter in, the weakness of the Gaelic idea is obvious. But the Roman pattern too had a characteristic vice which has led logically in our own time to a monstrous and sinister growth of armaments.
To those who recognise in this deification of war the blackest menace of our day the vision of a culture State is not without charm. The shattering possibilities enfolded in it would have fevered Nietzsche and fascinated Renan. But, be that as it may, Ireland played Cleopatra to the Antony of the invaders. Some of them, indeed, the "garrison" pure and simple, had all their interests centred not only in resisting but in calumniating her. But the majority yielded gaily to her music, her poetry, her sociability, that magical quality of hers which the Germans call Gemuetlichkeit. In a few centuries a new and enduring phrase had designated them as more Irish than the Irish themselves. So far as any superiority of civilisation manifests itself in this first period it is altogether on the side of Ireland. This power of assimilation has never decayed. There never was a nation, not even the United States, that so subdued and re-fashioned those who came to her shores, that so wrought them into her own blood and tissue. The Norman baron is transformed in a few generations into an Irish chieftain, and as often as not into an Irish "rebel." The Jacobite planter of the first decade of the seventeenth century is in the fifth decade found in arms against Cromwell; the Cromwellian settler is destined in turn to shed his blood for James II. and Catholicity. Protestant colonists who, in the early eighteenth century, enforce and defend the abominable Penal Laws, will in 1782 demand, with drawn swords, that henceforth there shall be no longer a Protestant colony but in its place an Irish nation. The personal history of the captains of the Irish cause in modern times is no less remarkable. O'Connell begins his public career in the Yeomanry called out to put down the insurrectionary movement of Emmet. Isaac Butt comes first into note as the orator of the Orange Party in Dublin. Parnell himself steps out of a Tory milieu and tradition into the central tumult of agitation. Wave after incoming wave of them, her conquerors were conquered. "Once again," cried Parnell in the last public utterance of his life, "I am come to cast myself into the deep sea of the love of my people." In that deep sea a hundred diverse currents of blood have met and mingled; they have lost their individual drift to become part of the strong tide of national consciousness and national unity. If Irish history is to be regarded as a test of racial superiority then Ireland emerges with the crown and garlands of victory. We came, we the invaders, to dominate, and we remained to serve. For Ireland has signed us with the oil and chrism of her human sacrament, and even though we should deny the faith with our lips she would hold our hearts to the end.
But let us translate her triumph into more concrete speech. The essential lesson of experience, then, is that no device, plan, or policy adopted by England for the subjugation of Ireland has ever been anything except an abject failure. And the positive of this negative is that every claim that ever formed part of the national programme of Ireland has won its way against all enmities. No plough to which she ever put her hand has been turned back or stayed eternally in mid-furrow. It does not matter what period you call to the witness-box; the testimony is uniform and unvarying. Until Tudor times, as has been noted, there cannot be said to have been in any strict sense an English policy in Ireland; there was only a scuffle of appetites. In so far as there was a policy it consisted of sporadic murder for the one half, and for the other of an attempt to prevent all intercourse that might lead to amalgamation between the two peoples. The Statute of Kilkenny—which is, all things considered, more important than the Kilkenny cats though not so well known in England—made it a capital offence for a settler to marry an Irishwoman or to adopt the Irish language, law, or costume. The Act no doubt provided a good many ruffians with legal and even ecclesiastical fig-leaves with which to cover their ruffianism, and promoted among the garrison such laudable objects as rape and assassination. But as a breakwater between the two races it did not fulfil expectation. The Statute was passed in 1367: and two centuries later Henry VIII. was forced to appoint as his Deputy the famous Garrett Fitzgerald whose life was a militant denial of every clause and letter of it. With the Tudors, after some diplomatic preliminaries, a very clear and business-like policy was developed. Seeing that the only sort of quiet Irishman known to contemporary science was a dead Irishman, English Deputies and Governors were instructed to pacify Ireland by slaughtering or starving the entire population. The record of their conscientious effort to obey these instructions may be studied in any writer of the period, or in any historian, say Mr Froude. For Mr Froude, in his pursuit of the picturesque, was always ready to resort to the most extreme measures; he sometimes even went so far as to tell the truth. The noblest and ablest English minds lent their aids. Sir Walter Raleigh and Edmund Spenser were both rather circumambulatory on paper; the work of each is 'a long monotone broken by two or three exquisite immortalities. But they were both as concise in action as an Elizabethan headsman. Sir Walter helped Lord Grey, the recognised pattern in those days of the Christian gentleman, to put to death seven hundred prisoners-of-war at Smerwick. Spenser, being no soldier, leaned rather to famine. In his famous book he recommends the destruction of crops, houses, cattle, and all necessaries of life so that the Irish should "soon be compelled to devour each other." The Commanders-in-Chief and the Deputies specialised in poison, as became men whose wealth and learning enabled them to keep in touch with the Italian Renaissance. Bluff, straightforward troopers like Mountjoy, Malby, Wilmot, Bagenal, Chichester, and the rest, not pretending to such refinements, did their best in the way of hanging, stabbing, and burning. In those days as well as ours the children had their Charter. "Nits," said the trustees of civilisation, "will grow to lice." And so they tossed them on the points of their swords, thus combining work with play, or fed them on the roast corpses of their relatives, and afterwards strangled them with tresses of their mother's hair.
I do not recall these facts in order to show that Elizabethan policy was a riot of blackguardism. That is obvious, and it is irrelevant. I mention them in order to show that the blackguardism under review was an unrelieved failure. At one time, indeed, it seemed to have succeeded.
"Ireland, brayed as in a mortar, to use Sir John Davies' phrase," writes M. Paul-Dubois, "at last submitted. In the last years of the century half the population had perished. Elizabeth reigned over corpses and ashes. Hibernia Pacata—Ireland is 'pacified.'"
* * * * *
The blunder discloses itself at a glance. Only half the population had perished; there were still alive, according to the most probable estimate, quite two hundred thousand Irishmen. The next generation helps to illustrate not only the indestructibility of Ireland, but her all but miraculous power of recuperation. So abundant are the resources of his own vitality that, as Dr Moritz Bonn declares, an Irish peasant can live where a continental goat would starve. And not having read Malthus—Mr Malthus at that time being even less readable than since—the Irish remnant proceeded to develop anew into a nation. In forty years it was marching behind that beau chevalier Owen Roe O'Neill to battle and victory. O'Neill, a general famous through Europe, the one man who might have measured equal swords with Cromwell, was removed by poison, and then came the massacres. In eleven years, Sir William Petty assures us, 616,000 out of a total population of 1,466,000 perished by the sword or by starvation. For the remainder the policy of root and branch extermination was abandoned in favour of a policy of State-aided migration and emigration. As an alternative to hell the Irish were deported to Connaught or the Barbadoes. Henceforth there were to be three provinces of loyal English, and one of rebelly Irish. This again was not a radiant success. The transformation of the Cromwellian settler has been indicated; if you were to search for him to-day you would probably find him President of the local branch of the United Irish League. The story repeats itself period after period. The Penal Laws did not protestantise Ireland. The eighteenth century may be said to mark the lowest ebb of national life, but the tide was to turn. After Aughrim and the Boyne, the new device of England was to sacrifice everything to the "garrison." "Protestant Ireland," as Grattan put it, "knelt to England on the necks of her countrymen." In one aspect the garrison were tyrants; in another they were slaves. They were at once oppressors and oppressed. There was a sort of "deal" between them and the English Government by which the public welfare was to be sacrificed to the English Government, the Irish Catholics to the "garrison." A vile programme, but subtle and adroit, it bore its unnatural fruit of legislation, passed by the Westminster Parliament and the Dublin Garrison Parliament alike, for the destruction of every manufacturing and commercial interest in Ireland that was thought to conflict with a similar interest in England. But another debacle has to be chronicled. Out of the very baseness of this regime a new patriotism was begotten. The garrison, awakening abruptly to the fact that it had no country, determined to invent one; and there was brought to birth that modern Ireland, passionate for freedom, which has occupied the stage ever since. In our own time it has knit, as a fractured limb knits, into one tissue with the tradition of the Gaelic peasantry. Hanging and burning, torture and oppression, poison and Penal Laws, bribes and blackguardism so far from exterminating the Irish people actually hammered them into a nation, one and indestructible, proud of its past and confident of its future.
Take instances still more recent and particular—the struggle for religious freedom or the struggle for the land. Catholic emancipation is a leading case: obstinacy against obstinacy, the No! of England against the Yes! of Ireland, and the former sprawling in the ditch at the end of the tussle. "The Law," ran the dictum of an eighteenth-century Lord Chancellor, "does not suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman Catholic." At this moment a Catholic holds the seals and purse of the Chancellorship. Never did ministers swallow their own stubborn words more incontinently than did Peel and Wellington. So late as 1828 Peel was loudly declaring that the continuance of these bars, which excluded the Catholics from the acquisition of political power, was necessary for the maintenance of the Constitution and the safety of the Church, and Wellington was echoing his words. A year later, utterly defeated by O'Connell, Peel was introducing the Catholic Relief Bill in the Commons. Wellington had it for his task to induce, or rather frighten the king to assent. Ireland not only emancipated the Catholics, she went on to emancipate the Dissenters, a service of freedom of conscience which is too often forgotten.
The Tithe System was similarly declared to be part of the fabric of the Constitution, to be upheld at the point of the bayonet. Scythe in hand, the Irish peasant proclaimed that it must go. It went. Still more fundamental was the existence of the Protestant Established Church. To touch it was to lay hands on the Ark. Orange orators threatened civil war; two hundred thousand Ulstermen were to shoulder their Minie Rifles, and not merely slaughter the Catholics but even depose Queen Victoria.
Ireland said that the Establishment too must go; and, with the echoed menace of Fenianism ringing in his ears, Mr Gladstone hauled down the official blazon of Ascendancy. "Ulster" did not fight. But the fierce struggle for the land affords the crucial test. Landlordism of that most savage type which held for its whole gospel that a man may do what he likes with his own was conceived to be the very corner-stone of British rule in Ireland. It controlled Parliament, the judiciary, the schools, the Press, and possessed in the Royal Irish Constabulary an incomparable watch-dog. It had resisted the criticism and attack loosened against it by the scandal of the Great Famine. Then suddenly Ireland took the business in hand. On a certain day in October 1879, some thirty men met in a small hotel in Dublin and, under the inspiration of Michael Davitt, founded the Land League. To the programme then formulated, the expropriation of the landlords at twenty years' purchase of their rents, England as usual said No! The proposal was thundered against as confiscation, communism, naked and shameful. To any student, with patience sufficient for the task, the contemporary files of such journals as the Times will furnish an exquisite chapter in the literature of obtuseness. England sustained her No! with batons, bullets, plank-beds, Coercion courts, and an occasional halter; Ireland her Yes! with "agitation." Is it necessary to ask who won? Is it necessary to trace step by step the complete surrender of the last ditchers of those days? The fantastic and wicked dreams of the agitators have in thirty years translated themselves into Statute Law and solid fact. An English statesman of the period, say Mr Balfour or Mr Wyndham, is fortunate if, with a few odd rags pilfered from the Land League wardrobe, he can conceal from history his utter poverty of ideas.
This, then, is the essential wisdom of Irish history: Ireland has won all along the line. The Normans did not normanise her. The Tudors did not exterminate her. She has undone the Confiscations, and drawn a cancelling pen through the Penal Laws. The Act of Union, so far from suppressing her individuality or overwhelming it, has actually brought it to that full self-consciousness which constitutes the coming of age of a nation. Tears, as we read in Wordsworth, to human suffering are due; if there be anyone with tears at command he may shed them, with great fitness, and with no profit at all, over the long martyrdom of Ireland. But let him, at least if he values facts, think twice before he goes on to apply to her that other line which speaks of human hopes defeated and overthrown. No other people in the world has held so staunchly to its inner vision; none other has, with such fiery patience, repelled the hostility of circumstances, and in the end reshaped them after the desire of her heart. Hats off to success, gentlemen! Your modern God may well be troubled at sight of this enigmatic Ireland which at once despises him, and tumbles his faithfullest worshippers in the sand of their own amphitheatre. Yet, so it is. The Confederate General, seeing victory suddenly snatched from his hands, and not for the first time, by Meagher's Brigade, exclaimed in immortal profanity: "There comes that damned Green Flag again!" I have often commended that phrase to Englishmen as admirably expressive of the historical role and record of Ireland in British Politics. The damned Green Flag flutters again in their eyes, and if they will but listen to the music that marches with it, they will find that the lamenting fifes are dominated wholly by the drums of victory.
THE OBVIOUSNESS OF HOME RULE
Ireland, then, has made it her foible to be not only right but irresistible in her past demands. What is it that she now claims, and on what grounds? She claims the right to enter into possession of her own soul. She claims the toga virilis, and all the strengthening burdens of freedom. Now it is difficult to represent such a demand in terms of argument. Liberty is no mere conclusion of linked logic long-drawn out: it is an axiom, a flaming avatar. The arguments by which it is defended are important, but they bear to it much the same relation that a table of the wave-lengths of various rays of light bears to the immediate glory of a sunrise. There is another obstacle. Self-government, like other spiritual realities, say love or civilisation, is too vast, obvious, and natural to be easily imprisoned in words. You are certainly in love; suppose you were suddenly asked "to state the case" for love? You are probably civilised; suppose you were suddenly asked "to state the case for civilisation"? So it is with the Home Rule idea. To ask what is the gate of entrance to it is like asking what was the gate of entrance to hundred-gated Thebes. My friend, Mr Barry O'Brien, in lecturing on Ireland, used to begin by recounting a very agreeable and appropriate story. A prisoner on trial was asked whether he would accept for his case the jury which had tried the last. He objected very vehemently. "Well, but," said the Judge, "what is the nature of your objection? Do you object to the panel or to the array?" "Ah!" replied the traverser, "if you want to know, I object to the whole damned business." That is approximately our objection to the present system of government in Ireland. But let me attempt to group under a series of somewhat arbitrary headings the "case for Home Rule," that is to say, the case for applying to Ireland the plain platitudes of constitutional freedom.
The whole matter roots in the fact of nationality. Nationality is to political life what personality is to mental life, the mainspring, namely, of the mechanism. The two principles of organisation have this in common, that although by, through, and for them the entire pageant of our experience is unfolded, we are unable to capture either of them in a precise formula. That I am a person I know; but what is a person? That Ireland is a nation I know; but what is a nation? "A community of memories and hopes," says Anatole France; but that applies to a football club. Something for which a man will die, says Mr T. M. Healy: but men will die for strange reasons; there was a French poet who shot himself because the trees were always green in the spring and never, for a change, blue or red. A cultural unit, say the anthropologists; an idea of the divine mind, declare Mazzini and the mystics' of sociology. Each of these formulas possesses a certain relative truth, but all of them together come short of the whole truth. Nationality, which acts better perhaps than it argues, is one of the great forces of nature and of human nature that have got to be accepted. Nationality will out, and where it exists it will, in spite of all resistance, strain fiercely to express itself in some sort of autonomous government.
German romance depicts for us the misery and restlessness of a man who had lost his shadow. Catholic theologians—if the masters of a wisdom too high and too austere for these days may be invoked—tell us that the departed soul, even though it be in Paradise, hungers with a great desire for the Resurrection that it may be restored to its life-long comrade, the body.
"The crimson-throbbing glow Into its old abode aye pants to go."
Look again at Ireland and you will discern, under all conflicts, that unity of memory, of will, of material interest, of temperamental atmosphere which knits men into a nation. You will notice the presence of these characteristics, but it is an absence, a void that will most impress you. You will see not a body that has lost its shadow, but something more sinister—a soul that has been sundered from its natural body. She demands restoration. She sues out a habeas corpus of a kind not elsewhere to be paralleled. That is the "Irish Question."
You may not like this interpretation of things. It may seem to you fantastic, nasty, perilous to all comfort. Life often does make on the tender-hearted an impression of coarse violence; life, nevertheless, always has its way. What other interpretation is possible? Lancashire, to take any random contrast, is much richer than Ireland in wealth and population; but Lancashire is not a "Question." Lancashire is not a "Question" because Lancashire is not a nation. Ireland is a "Question" because Ireland is a nation. Her fundamental claim is a claim for the constitutional recognition of nationality.
We have seen that in almost every conflict between English and Irish ideas the latter have had the justification of success. This holds good also as regards our long insistence on nationality as a principle of political organisation. In various passages of the nineteenth century it seemed to be gravely compromised. Capital, its mobility indefinitely increased by the improved technique of exchange, became essentially a citizen of the world. The earth was all about it where to choose; its masters, falsely identifying patriotism with the Protectionism then dominant, struck at both, and the Free Trade movement philosophised itself into cosmopolitanism. Labour, like capital, showed a rapid tendency to become international or rather supernational. "The workers," proclaimed Marx, "have no fatherland." While this was the drift of ideas in the economic sphere, that in the political was no more favourable. Belgium seemed on the point of extinction, Italy was a mere geographical expression, Hungary was abject and broken. In the narrower but even more significant sphere of British colonial policy the passion for centralisation had not yet been understood in all its folly. Downing Street still functioned as the Dublin Castle of the Empire. The possibility of the overseas possessions developing that rich, strong individuality which characterises them to-day would have been dismissed with horror. The colour and texture of men's thought on these subjects has undergone a notable transformation. Cosmopolitanism of the old type is a slain hallucination. Capital in our time is not content to be a patriot, it is a Jingo. As to labour, if we turn to its politics we find Herr Bebel declaring that the German socialist is first of all a German, and Mr Ramsay MacDonald pledging his adherents to support any war necessary for the assertion of English prestige. If we turn to its theoretical sociology we find the national idea rehabilitated and triumphant.
Such intellectual reconstructions do not, as a rule, begin in England, or find in English their characteristic formulae. Mr Blatchford might indeed be cited, but it is in the brilliant literature of German Social Democracy that the most scientific expression of the new spirit is to be sought. Truly Marx has been indeed translated. His abstract and etiolated internationalism has been replaced by the warm humanity of writers like, say, David or Pernerstorfer. The principle of nationality is Vindicated by the latter in a noble passage. I quote it from Sombart's "Socialism and the Social Movement."
"Nationality in its highest form is ... a precious possession. It is the highest expression of human civilisation in an individual form, and mankind is the richer for its appearance. Our purpose is not only to see to it that men shall be housed and fed and clothed in a manner worthy of human beings, but also that they may become humanised by participation in the culture of centuries, that they may themselves possess culture and produce it. All culture is national. It takes its rise in some special people, and reaches its highest form in national character.... Socialism and the national idea are thus not opposed to each other. Every attempt to weaken the national idea is an attempt to lessen the precious possessions of mankind.... Socialism wants to organise, and not disintegrate, humanity. But in the organisms of mankind, not individuals, but nations are the tissues, and if the whole organism is to remain healthy it is necessary for the tissues to be healthy.... The peoples, despite the changes they undergo, are everlasting, and they add to their own greatness by helping the world upward. And so we are at one and the same time good Socialists and good Germans."
This might almost seem to be a rhapsody, but every movement of continental politics in recent times confirms and enforces its plain truth. "The spirit of resurgent nationality," as Professor Bury of Cambridge tells us, "has governed, as one of the most puissant forces, the political course of the last century and is still unexhausted." It has governed not only the West but the East; the twain have met in that demand for a constitutional national State which in our day has flamed up, a fire not to be put out, in Turkey, Persia, Egypt. But it is in Imperial politics that the bouleversement has been most complete. When critics now find fault with the structure of the Empire they complain not that there is too much Downing Street in it, but that the residual power of Downing Street-is not visible to the naked eye. To us Irish the blindness of England to the meaning of her own colonial work is a maddening miracle. A wit of the time met Goldsmith at dinner. The novelist was a little more disconcerting than usual, a result, let us charitably hope, of the excellence of the claret. Afterwards they asked his fellow-diner what he thought of the author. "Well," he replied, "I believe that that man wrote 'The Vicar of Wakefield,' and, let me tell you, it takes a lot of believing." Similarly when we in Ireland learn that Great Britain has founded on the principle of local autonomy an Empire on which the sun never sets, we nerve ourselves to an Act of Faith. It is not inappropriate to observe that a large part of the "founding" was done by Irishmen.
But the point of immediate interest lies in this. The foolishness of England in Ireland finds an exact parallel, although on a smaller scale and for a shorter period, in the early foolishness of England in her own colonies. In both cases there is an attempt to suppress individuality and initiative, to exploit, to bully, to Downing Street-ify. It was a policy of Unionism, the sort of Unionism that linked the destiny of the lady to that of the tiger. The fruits of it were a little bitter in the eating. The colonies in which under the Home Rule regime "loyalty" has blossomed like the rose, were in those days most distressingly disloyal.
Cattle-driving and all manner of iniquities of that order in Canada; the boycott adopted not as a class, but as a national, weapon in Cape Colony; the Eureka stockade in Australia; Christian De Wet and the crack of Mausers in the Transvaal—such were the propaedeutics to the establishment of freedom and the dawn of loyalty in the overseas possessions. But in this field of government the gods gave England not only a great pioneer, Lord Durham, but also the grace to listen to him. His Canadian policy set a headline which has been faithfully and fruitfully copied. Its success was irresistible. Let the "Cambridge Modern History" tell the tale of before and after Home Rule in the Dominion:
"Provincial jealousies have dwindled to vanishing point; racial antipathies no longer imperil the prosperity of the Dominion; religious animosities have lost their mischievous power in a new atmosphere of common justice and toleration. Canada, as the direct outcome of Confederation, has grown strong, prosperous, energetic. The unhappy divisions which prevailed at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and which darkened with actual revolt and bloodshed the dawn of the Victorian era, are now only a memory. The links which bind the Dominion to Great Britain may on paper seem slight, but they are resistless. Imperial Federation has still great tasks to accomplish within our widely scattered Imperial domains, but its success in Canada may be accepted as the pledge of its triumph elsewhere. Canada is a nation within the Empire, and in Kipling's phrase is 'daughter in her mother's house and mistress in her own.'"
This is the authentic harvest of freedom.
The "unity" of the old regime which, in a Bismarckian phrase, was like paper pasted over ever-widening cracks, was abandoned. The Separatist programme triumphed. And the outcome? The sham unity of government has been replaced by a real unity of interest, affection and cultural affinity. We find administrators like Mr Lyttleton, former Tory Secretary for the Colonies, engaged to-day not in suppressing but in celebrating the "varied individuality" of the overseas possessions. As for the political effects of the change, every English writer repeats of the Colonies what Grattan, in other circumstances, said of the Irish: Loyalty is their foible. There is indeed one notable flaw in the colonial parallel. I have spoken as if the claim of the Colonies on foot of the principle of nationality was comparable to that of Ireland. That of course was not the case. They were at most nations in the making; she was a nation made. Home Rule helped on their growth; in its benign warmth Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa have developed not only a political complexion characteristic of each but a literature, an art and even a slang equally characteristic. Ireland, on the other hand, has manifested throughout her whole history an amazing faculty of assimilating and nationalising everything that came to her from without.
The will to preserve her nationality motived her whole life, especially in the modern period. The declared dream of Grattan was, as we have seen, to transform a Protestant colony into an Irish nation. Wolfe Tone confessed the same inspiration; Emmet's speech from the dock was that and nothing else. It was the whole of Davis in thought, and of O'Connell in action. Isaac Butt yielded to its fascination, and found for it the watchword, Home Rule. It was formulated by Parnell in a speech the capital passage of which forms the inscription on his monument. It echoes and re-echoes through the resolutions of every meeting, and constitutes for many orators their total stock of political ideas. It provides the title of the Irish delegation to Parliament, and is endorsed at General Election after General Election by a great and unchanging majority. A people such as this is not to be exterminated. An ideal such as this is not to be destroyed. Recognise the one, sever the ligatures that check the free flow of blood through the veins of the other, and enrich your federation of autonomous peoples with another rich individuality. Imitate in Ireland your own wisdom in dealing with the Colonies, and the same policy will bear the same harvest. For justice given the Colonies gave you friendship, as for injustice stubbornly upheld they had given you hatred. The analogy with Ireland is complete so far as the cards have been played. The same human elements are there, the same pride, the same anger, the same willingness to forget anger. Why should the augury fail?
I can hear in imagination the sniff of the unimaginative reader; I can figure to myself his instant dismissal of all these considerations as "sentiment." Let the word stand, coloured though it is with associations that degrade it. But is "sentiment" to be ignored in the fixing of constitutions? Ruskin asks a pertinent question. What is it after all but "sentiment," he inquires, that prevents a man from killing his grandmother in time of hunger? Sentiment is the most respectable thing in human psychology. No one believes in it more thoroughly than your reactionary Tory. But he wears his heart on his sleeve with a difference. He is so greedily patriotic that he would keep all the patriotism in the world to himself. That he should love his country is natural and noble, a theme so high as to be worthy of Mr Kipling or even Mr Alfred Austin himself. That we should love ours is a sort of middle term between treason and insanity. It is as if a lover were to insist that no poems should be written to any woman except his mistress. It is as if he were to put the Coercion Act in force against anyone found shedding tears over the sufferings of any mother except his mother. In fact it is the sort of domineering thick-headedness that never fails to produce disloyalty.