A Leap in the Dark - A Criticism of the Principles of Home Rule as Illustrated by the - Bill of 1893
by A.V. Dicey
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

FIRST EDITION June 1893 Reprinted June 1893 SECOND EDITION July 1911 THIRD EDITION January 1912








This book is not a disquisition on the details of the Home Rule Bill. It is an examination into the leading principles of the Bill with a view to establishing two conclusions. The first is, that the Home Rule Bill, though nominally a measure for the government of Ireland, contains in reality a New Constitution for the whole United Kingdom. The second is, that this New Constitution must work injury both to England and to Ireland, and instead of 'closing a controversy of seven hundred years, opens a constitutional revolution. The whole aim, in short, of the book is by the collection together of arguments which separately have been constantly used by Unionist statesmen, to warn the people of England against a leap in the dark.


OXFORD: May 1893.



Home Rule Bill a New Constitution for United Kingdom, p. 1.—The present constitution, p. 2: 1. Effective authority of Parliament throughout United Kingdom, p. 2: Distinction between supremacy of Parliament in United Kingdom and supremacy of Parliament in Colonies, p. 4: 2. Absence of federalism, p. 6: The New Constitution, p. 8: 1. Abolition in Ireland of effective authority of Imperial Parliament, ib.: 2. Introduction of federalism, p. 13.—Features of federalism, p. 15: Restrictions on Irish (State) Parliament, ib.: Imperial (federal) Parliament, ib.: Means for enforcement of federal compact, ib.: Recognition of federal spirit, p. 17.—Importance of change in constitution, p. 19.—The New Constitution an unknown constitution, p. 19.


The four essential characteristics of the New Constitution, p. 21.—Supremacy of Parliament maintained, p. 22.—What is meaning of supremacy of Imperial Parliament? p. 23: What it does not mean, ib.: What it does mean, p. 24.—Real effect of reserved supremacy, p. 28.—Peril arising from ambiguity of supremacy of Parliament, p. 30.—Retention of Irish members at Westminster, p. 32.—Change of Gladstonian opinion, p. 33.—Presence of the Irish members involves ruin to Ireland, pp. 33, 34.—Mr. John Morley's opinion, p. 39.—Weakness of England, p, 41. Mr. Morley's opinion, p. 41.—Manner in which England weakened, p. 43: 1. Irish vote determines composition of British Cabinet, ib.: 2. System of Cabinet Government destroyed, p. 45: 3. Irish members changed into an Irish delegation, p. 46: 4. British Parliament not freed from Irish questions, p. 47.—Inducements to accept plan, p. 48.—Maintenance of Imperial supremacy, p. 49.—English management of English affairs, ib.—England does not really obtain management of English affairs, ib.—Minority tempted to unfairness, p. 51.—Minority, without intentional unfairness, may be oppressive, p. 52.—Plan of retaining Irish members for all purposes, p. 53.—Comparison with power hitherto held by or offered to Great Britain, p. 55.—Authority of England before 1782, p. 55.—Authority of England under Grattan's Constitution, p. 56.—Authority of England since the Union, p. 57.—Authority offered to England under Bill of 1886, p. 58.—Why should England accept in 1893 a worse bargain than was offered her in 1886? p. 59: Two alleged reasons, p. 60: First reason, Retention of Irish members concession to Unionists, p. 60: Futility of plea, ib.: Second reason, England will not suffer any greater evil than she does at present, p. 63: Answer. Fallacy of statement, ib.—Explanation of Gladstonian policy, p. 65.—Powers of Irish Government, p. 66: I. Irish Executive, ib.: Importance of Executive, p. 68: Powers of Irish Executive, p. 68: Position of military forces, p. 74: II. The Irish Parliament, p. 73: Its power to appoint the Irish Government, ib.: Its legislative power, p. 76.—Legislation in opposition to English policy, p 78.—Power to pass resolutions, p. 79.—The Restrictions, etc, p. 80: I. Their nature, ib.: 1. No restriction on power of Executive, p. 83: 2. No prohibition of Acts of Indemnity, ib.: 3. No prohibition of ex post facto law, p. 84: 4. No safeguard against violation of contract, p. 85: II. Enforcement of Restrictions, p. 88.—The Veto, p. 88.—The Privy Council, p. 90.—Power to nullify Irish Acts, ib.—Power as final Court of Appeal to treat Irish Acts as void, p. 91.—How arrangement will work, p. 94.—Presumptions on which working of Constitutions depends false, p. 97: 1. Presumption that restrictions do not irritate, p. 98: Its falsehood, ib.—Financial arrangements certain to cause discontent, p. 100.—The Customs, ib.—Charges in favour of England on Ireland, p. 102.—Irish objection to financial proposals, p. 103.—Presumption that Ireland cannot nullify Restrictions. Its falsehood, p. 104.—Summary of criticism, p. 110.


New Constitution is intended to be final settlement of Irish Question, p. 112: But will not settle Irish Question for three reasons, p. 113: I. New Constitution does not satisfy Ireland or England, ib.: Ireland not satisfied, ib.: New Constitution detested by influential minority, p. 114: Irish Home Rulers not wholly satisfied, p. 115: New Constitution will cause discontent of whole Irish people, p. 118: England not satisfied, p. 119: 2. New Constitution rests on unsound foundation, p. 121: Belfast subjected to Dublin, p. 122: England subjected to Ireland, p. 123: 3. New Constitution based on ambiguity, p. 125.—The nature of the ambiguity, ib.—The result of the ambiguity, ib. The New Constitution cannot last, p. 127.—Irish discontent leading either to Federation or Separation, p. 128.—English discontent threatens reaction, p. 130.


Gladstonian apology, p. 132.—As to general considerations, ib.—General Gladstonian objections, ib.: I. Strictures are prophecy, p. 133: 2. Anomalies already exist in English Constitution, p. 135.—As to specific arguments for Home Rule, p. 138.—Necessity, p. 138.—Argument for necessity, ib.—Answer: argument invalid, 140.—Premises unsound, p. 141.—Premises do not support conclusion, p. 145.—No necessity for Home Rule, ib.—True meaning of necessity forgotten, p. 146.—No danger, p. 148: I. Safeguards, p. 149: Their unreality, ib.: 2. Grattan's Constitution, ib.: No precedent, p. 150: 3. Success of Home Rule in other countries, p. 152.—Instances of 'Home Rule' which need not be considered, ib.—Cases of 'Home Rule' which require consideration, p. 154.—Federal Government, p. 155.—Colonial independence, p. 156.—Neither federal government nor colonial independence compatible with the authority required in Ireland by Imperial Government, p. 157.—Weakness of law in case of federation, p. 158.—Weakness of law in case of colonies, pp. 161, 162.—Policy of trust, p. 163.—Trust in Irish leaders impossible, p. 164.—History of the Irish agitators, p. 164.—Gladstonian guarantee of trustworthiness worthless, p. 167.—Trust in teaching of power, 169.—Answer. Fallacy exposed by Mr. Bryce, ib.—Trust in the people and effect of Home Rule, p. 171.—Answer. Political changes do not ensure content, pp. 171, 172.—Gladstonian pleas are pleas for policy of Home Rule, but not pleas for new Constitution, p. 173.


The impending danger, p. 175.—Peril concealed by trust in Mr. Gladstone, ib.—Peril concealed by peculiar condition of opinion, p. 178.—The path of safety and true policy, p. 180.—Policy of seriousness, ib.—Seriousness of question at issue, ib.—Danger of civil war, p. 181.—Policy of simplicity, p. 183.—Strenuous opposition to Bill, ib.—Cry of obstruction futile, p. 184.—Details not to be made too prominent, p. 185.—No appearance of concession allowable, p. 186.—Policy of appeal to the nation, p. 187.—House of Lords must ensure dissolution, ib.—House of Lords may be called upon to enforce Referendum, p. 188.—Conclusion, p. 191.



1. Establishment of Irish Legislature, p. 197—2. Powers of Irish Legislature, ib.—3. Exceptions from powers of Irish Legislature, ib.—4. Restrictions on powers of Irish Legislature, p. 198.—5. Executive power in Ireland, ib.—6. Composition of Irish Legislative Council, p. 199.—7. Composition of Irish Legislative Assembly, ib.—8. Disagreement between two Houses, how settled, p. 200.—9. Representation in Parliament of Irish counties and boroughs, ib.—10. As to separate Consolidated Fund and Taxes, p. 201.—11. Hereditary revenues and income tax, p. 202.—12. Financial arrangements as between United Kingdom and Ireland, p. 203.—13. Treasury Account (Ireland), ib.—14. Charges on Irish Consolidated Fund, p. 204.—15. Irish Church Fund, p. 205.—16. Local loans, ib.—17. Adaptation of Acts as to Local Taxation Accounts and Probate, etc., duties, ib.—18. Money bills and votes, p. 206.—19. Exchequer judges for revenue actions, election petitions, etc., ib.—20. Transfer of post office and postal telegraphs, p. 207.—21. Transfer of savings banks, p. 208.—22. Irish appeals, p. 209.—23. Special provision for decision of constitutional questions, ib.—24. Office of Lord Lieutenant, p. 210.—25. Use of Crown lands by Irish Government, ib.—26. Tenure of future judges, ib.—27. As to existing judges and other persons having salaries charged on the Consolidated Fund, ib.—28. As to persons holding civil service appointments, p. 211.—29. As to existing pensions and superannuation allowances, p. 212.—30. As to Police, ib.—31. Irish Exchequer Consolidated Fund and Audit, p. 213.—32. Law applicable to both Houses of Irish Legislature, ib.—33. Supplemental provisions as to powers of Irish Legislature, ib.—34. Limitation of borrowing by local authorities, p. 214.—35. Temporary restriction on powers of Irish Legislature and Executive, ib.—36. Transitory provisions, ib.—37. Continuance of existing laws, courts, officers, etc., p. 216.—38. Appointed day, ib.—39. Definitions, ib.—40. Short title, p. 217.


1. Legislative Council 218 2. Irish Members in the House of Commons 220 3. Finance 222


Irish Unionists have pressed for a republication of A Leap in the Dark. They hold that it will be of some service in their resistance to the Coalition of Home Rulers, Socialists, and Separatists formed to force upon the people of England and of Scotland a virtual dissolution of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. It would in any case have been a pleasure to afford aid, however small, to the Irish Unionists, whether Protestants or Catholics, engaged in the defence at once of their own birthright and of the political unity of the United Kingdom. Yet for a moment I doubted whether the republication of a forgotten criticism of a forgotten Bill would be of essential service to my friends. On reflection, however, I have come to see that, though the Unionists of Ireland probably overrate the practical value of my book, yet their hope of its serving the cause whereof they are the most valiant defenders is based on sound reasons.

A Leap in the Dark is a stringent criticism of the Home Rule Bill, 1893.[1] But the book has little to do with the details and intricacies of that Bill. A Leap in the Dark was published before the Home Rule Bill of 1893 had reached the House of Lords, or had assumed that final form, which made patent to the vast majority of British electors that a measure which purported to give a limited amount of independence to Ireland, in reality threatened England with political ruin. My criticism is therefore in truth an attack upon the fundamental principles of Home Rule, as advocated by Gladstone and his followers eighteen years ago. These principles, moreover, have never been repudiated by the Home Rulers of to-day. Some members of the present Cabinet, notably the Prime Minister and Lord Morley, were the apologists of the Bill of 1893. In that year A Leap in the Dark, or Our New Constitution, was, I venture to say, accepted by leading Unionists, such as Lord Salisbury, the Duke of Devonshire, Mr. Balfour, Mr. Chamberlain, Sir Henry James (now Lord James of Hereford), as, in the main, an adequate representation of the objections which, in the judgment of such men and thousands of Unionists, were fatal to the acceptance of any scheme whatever of Home Rule for Ireland. The battle over Home Rule lasting, as it did for years, and ending with the complete victory of the Unionists, has been forgotten by or has never become known to the mass of the present electors. It is well that they should be reminded of the solid grounds for the rejection by the Lords of the Home Rule Bill of 1893. It is well that they should be reminded that this rejection was in 1895 ratified by the approval of the electorate of the United Kingdom A Leap in the Dark will assuredly remind my readers that in 1893 the hereditary House of Lords, and not the newly elected House of Commons, truly represented the will of the nation. This is a fact never to be forgotten. It is of special import at the present moment. Another equally undoubted fact deserves attention. Home Rulers themselves despair of carrying a Home Rule Bill until they shall have turned the Parliament Bill into the Parliament Act, 1911, and my readers ought never to forget that the passing of the Parliament Bill into law destroys, and is meant to destroy, every security against the passing of any Home Rule Bill whatever which the present majority of the House of Commons choose to support. This gives an ominous significance to the obstinate refusal of the Government to alter or amend any of the material enactments contained in this ill-starred measure. A Leap in the Dark, combined with a knowledge of the Parliament Bill and the legislative dictatorship with which it invests the existing Coalition, suggests at least four conclusions which must at all costs be forced at this moment upon the attention of the nation. They may be thus summed up:

First.—If the Parliament Bill passes into law the existing majority of the House of Commons will be able to force, and will assuredly in fact force, through Parliament any Home Rule Bill whatever (even were it the Home Rule Bill of 1893), which meets with the approval of Mr. Redmond, and obtains the acquiescence of the rest of the Coalition.

The Coalition need not fear any veto of the House of Lords. There will be no necessity for an appeal to the electors, or in other words to the nation. The truth of this statement is indisputable. The legal right of the majority of the House of Commons to pass any bill whatever into law, even though the House of Lords refuse its assent, is absolutely secured by the very terms of the Parliament Bill. That the leaders of the Coalition, such as Mr. Asquith, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. John Redmond, will press their legal right to its extreme limits is proved to any man who knows how to read the teaching of history, by the experience of 1893. Mr. Gladstone used every power he possessed, and used it unscrupulously, to drive a Home Rule Bill through the House of Commons. He was a man trained in the historical traditions of Parliament. He assuredly did not relish the use of the closure and the guillotine. He was supported in the Commons by a very narrow majority, never I think exceeding forty-eight, and often falling below that number. The power of the party system, or as Americans say, the "Machine," was admittedly much less in 1893 than it has become in 1911. Yet Mr. Gladstone used such power as he possessed to the utmost. He hurried through the House of Commons a Bill which had not in fact received the assent of the nation. He made the freest use of every device for curtailing freedom of debate. A large and most important portion of the Home Rule Bill was not discussed at all in the Commons. And this Bill contained provisions, not appearing in its original form, for the retention of eighty Irish members at Westminster with full authority to take part in every kind of legislation which might be laid before Parliament; though Mr. Gladstone himself held the fairness to England of this provision dubious[2] and Mr. (now Lord) Morley had in 1886 demonstrated by reasoning which to my mind is absolutely conclusive that under a system of Home Rule the presence of Irish representatives in the Imperial Parliament at Westminster would work fatal injury to Ireland and gross injustice to England.[3] Can any man able to draw from political precedents their true meaning believe that Mr. Asquith, and the allies who are his masters, will be more scrupulous in forcing the next Home Rule Bill through the House of Lords than was Mr. Gladstone in forcing the Home Rule Bill of 1893 through the House of Commons? Mr. Asquith is supported by a large though incongruous majority. His almost avowed aim in pushing the Parliament Bill, unchanged and unchangeable, through the Houses of Parliament is to force the Home Rule Bill on the people of Great Britain against their will. Hesitation to make use of this dictatorial authority, should he ever obtain it, will to himself mean political ruin; to his English supporters it will seem political pusillanimity; by his Irish confederates it will be denounced as breach of faith and treachery. As certainly as night follows day the passing of the Parliament Act will be succeeded by the attempted passing of a Home Rule Act.

Secondly.—Mr. Redmond and the Home Rulers, or Separatists, of whom he is the leader, will exact under any Home Rule Bill of say 1912 or 1913, at lowest, every advantage which was demanded by Irish Nationalists in 1893.

Why, in the name of common sense, when Irish Nationalists are absolute masters of the situation, should they demand lower payment for their support than was offered to them twenty years ago when the Home Rule majority was every day losing strength, when every one knew that nothing but the show of moderation gave the slightest chance of a Home Rule Bill escaping the veto of the House of Lords, when every one, except perhaps Mr. Gladstone, foresaw that the next General Election would give to Unionists a crushing majority? Every advantage conceded in 1893 to Irish Separatists at the expense of England will assuredly reappear in one form or another in the next Home Rule Bill. Thus Ireland will, we may anticipate, under the next Home Rule Bill send to the Parliament at Westminster at least eighty members armed with the fullest legislative authority, so that, to revive the language current eighteen years ago, Ireland will govern and tax England whilst England will retain no right either to govern or to tax Ireland.

Thirdly.—Every question to which in 1893 Gladstonians could discover no answer satisfactory to Unionists or to the electorate of Great Britain requires an answer in 1911 as much as in 1893. The answer favourable to Home Rule has not as yet been discovered.

Is it possible to combine the effective supremacy of the Imperial Parliament with Home Rule or the substantial legislative independence of Ireland? Can Ireland, close to the shore of Great Britain, occupy the position of a self-governing colony, such as New Zealand, divided from Great Britain by thousands of miles of sea? Is it possible to create, or even to imagine, a Court which shall decide whether a law passed by the Irish Parliament violates the provisions of the proposed Home Rule Act? Above all, can the wit of man devise any scheme of constitution which shall at once satisfy the aspirations of Irish Nationalism and the patently just demand of Ulster that Protestants shall retain the freedom and the rights secured to them as citizens of the United Kingdom? Is there any form of Home Rule which will satisfy the desire of Irish Nationalists for something approaching national independence without the urgent peril of rousing civil war between Ulster and the Parliament at Dublin? All these inquiries, and others like them, harassed the Parliament of 1893; they were all answered by Unionists, that is by the majority of the British electors, with a decided negative; they will all be raised and will all need an answer when the leaders of the Coalition condescend to produce their next Home Rule Bill or even to reveal its fundamental principles.

Fourthly.—England in the circumstances of to-day is threatened with two perils which did not exist in 1893, and yet are of stupendous gravity.

The first is, that in the case of a measure of Home Rule the opportunities for discussing its provisions which are contained in the Parliament Bill may turn out nominal rather than real. It is not at all certain that for such a Bill, even though it be abhorred by the electorate of the United Kingdom, the House of Lords will be practically able to secure the delay and elaborate discussion to which Mr. Asquith professedly attaches immense importance. Unionists will believe that the measure passed by a large majority of the House of Commons is detested by the majority of the British electors. But how will it be possible to carry on the government of Ireland, to maintain order, or to save a loyal minority from gross oppression after a Home Rule Bill applauded by Separatists has been passed through the House of Commons, and for the first time has been rejected by the House of Lords? Every official in Ireland, down from the Lord Lieutenant to the last newly appointed member of the Irish Constabulary, every Irishman loyal or disloyal, will know that the Bill will within a year or two become law and that Irish Nationalists will control the Parliament and the government of Ireland. Will not the House of Lords be urged by every alleged consideration of good sense and humanity to close without delay a period of uncertainty which is threatening to turn into a reign of anarchy or of terror? The question supplies its own answer. The second peril is one whereof nobody speaks, but which must occur to any man who has studied the history of the past eighteen years or reflects upon the condition of public opinion. The peril, to put the matter plainly, is that Home Rulers will not stop at attaining Home Rule for Ireland, and that they may, and probably will, attempt to undermine the political predominance of England. Everything points in this direction. The agitation for Home Rule has fostered in Ireland, and to a very limited extent in certain other parts of the United Kingdom, a feeling approaching to jealousy of English power. England or Great Britain is the predominant partner. England is wealthy, England is prosperous. England, as the language of common life imports, is the leading member of the United Kingdom. Lord Rosebery announced with wise foresight that Home Rule in Ireland could hardly be established with benefit to the United Kingdom until the assent thereto of the predominant partner had been obtained by force of argument. The idea was grounded on common sense. Will it not suggest to Irish Nationalists that their moment of authority must be used for obtaining far greater privileges for Ireland than the extravagant political power offered by Gladstonians in 1893? Is it not natural for Home Rulers to think that the predominant partner ought to be deprived of his predominance? The conduct of the Coalition and some of its leaders points in this direction. They will have obtained through the Parliament Act temporary, but strictly unlimited and dictatorial, power. They will have obtained it by intrigue; they have rejected and treated with scorn the idea of an appeal to the people. They have claimed, not for Parliament but for the existing House of Commons, an absolute legislative power superior to that of the nation, a power which I assert with confidence is not possessed by the elected Assemblies of the United States, or of the French Republic, or of the Swiss Confederation: And by a strange combination of circumstances one method for depriving the predominant partner of legitimate authority may seem to a Home Ruler to lie near at hand. Raise the cry of 'Home Rule all round,' or of 'Federalise the British Empire.' Turn England into one State of a great federation, let Wales be another, Scotland a third, the Channel Islands a fourth, and for aught I know the Isle of Man a fifth. Let the self-governing Colonies, and British India, send deputies to the Imperial or Federal Parliament. You may thus for a moment, under the pretence of uniting the Empire, not only divide the United Kingdom, but deprive England or Great Britain, in form at least, of that political supremacy and predominance which is the real bond of union and peace not only throughout the United Kingdom, but also throughout the length and breadth of the British Empire. I do not tremble for the power—the lawful and legitimate power—of England. Political devices, however crafty, break down whenever they are opposed to the nature of things. I know that unity is increasing throughout the Empire not through the cunning or the statecraft of politicians, but through the whole course of events. One part of our Imperial system becomes daily under the effect of railways, steamers, telegraphs, and the like, nearer and nearer to every other part. The sentiment of unity which is more valuable than any law aiming at formal federation each year gains strength. What I do fear and insist upon is the danger that a legislative dictatorship conferred on a party, and therefore necessarily taken away from the nation, should be employed in the attempt, vain though it ultimately must be, to deprive the predominant partner of a predominance requisite for the maintenance both of the United Kingdom and of the British Empire.

The four reflections at any rate which may be suggested by A Leap in the Dark are well worth the consideration of the loyal citizens of the United Kingdom.



[1] Its technical title as given in the Bill is the Irish Government Act, 1893.

[2] See Annual Register, 1893 (New Series), p. 180.

[3] See especially pp. 39, 40, 41-43 post.



[4] My readers are earnestly recommended to study Mr. Cambray's Irish Affairs and the Home Rule Question. It brings the history of the Home Rule movement well up to date, and strengthens almost every argument against Home Rule to be found in A Leap in the Dark. The notes in square brackets are new.



The Home Rule Bill[5] contains a New Constitution for the whole United Kingdom.[6]

The Bill bears on its face that its object is 'to amend the provision for the Government of Ireland'; it is entitled 'The Irish Government Act, 1893'; it is in popular language known as the Home Rule Bill. But all these descriptions are misleading. It is in truth a measure which affects the government alike of England, of Scotland, and of Ireland. It changes, to some extent the form, but to a far greater extent the working, and the spirit of all our institutions. It is a bold attempt to form a new constitution for the whole United Kingdom; it subverts the very bases of the existing constitution of England.

The present constitution of the United Kingdom is marked and has long been marked by two essential characteristics, the one positive and the other negative.

The positive characteristic is the absolute and effective authority of the Imperial Parliament throughout the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.

To this characteristic Englishmen are so accustomed that they hardly recognise its full importance. A government may make its power felt in three different ways—by the action of the Executive, including under that head all the agents of the Executive, such as the judiciary and the armed forces—by legislation—and by the levying of taxes. Take any of these tests of authority, and it will be found that the British Parliament is not only theoretically, but actually and effectively, supreme throughout the whole of Great Britain and Ireland. The Cabinet is virtually appointed by the Houses of Parliament; the army, the judges, the magistracy, all officials who throughout the country exercise executive power in any form whatever are directly or indirectly appointed by Parliament, and hold office subject to the will of Parliament Of the legislative authority of Parliament as regards the United Kingdom it is scarcely necessary to speak. Any law affecting the United Kingdom not only lawfully may, but can in fact, be changed by the Imperial Parliament. Of the unlimited legislative authority ascribed to, and exercised by, Parliament in the United Kingdom the Home Rule Bill itself is sufficient evidence; and the Gladstonian Ministry, at any rate, see no reason why Parliament should not within the course of a few weeks remodel the fundamental laws of the realm. The right to impose taxes is historically the source of Parliamentary power, and in all matters of taxation Parliament has absolute freedom of action from one end of the United Kingdom to the other; whether the income tax is to be lowered, raised, or abolished, whether some new duty, such as the cart and wheel tax, shall be imposed, whether the United Kingdom shall maintain free trade, or return to protection, how taxes shall be raised and how they shall be spent—all matters in short connected with revenue are throughout the United Kingdom determined and determinable in the last resort by Parliament alone.

Hence, as things now stand, no kind of governmental action in any part of Great Britain and Ireland escapes Parliamentary supervision. The condition of the army, the management of the police, the misconduct of a judge, the release of a criminal, the omission to arrest a defaulting bankrupt, the pardon of a convicted dynamiter, the execution of a murderer, the interference of the police with a public meeting, or the neglect of the police to check a riot in London, in Skye, or in Tipperary, any matter, great or small, with which the executive is directly or indirectly concerned, is, if it takes place in any part of the United Kingdom, subject to stringent and incessant Parliamentary supervision, and may, at any moment, give rise to debates on which depend the fate of ministries and parties. If there be such a thing as supreme actual and effective authority, such authority is throughout the whole of the United Kingdom exercised by the Imperial Parliament, not occasionally and in theory, but every day and in the ordinary course of affairs.

This exertion of actual and effective power by the Imperial Parliament throughout the United Kingdom is a totally different thing from the supremacy or sovereignty exercised by Parliament throughout the whole British Empire. As a matter of legal theory Parliament has the right to legislate for any part of the Crown's dominions. Parliament may lawfully impose an income tax upon the inhabitants of New South Wales; it may lawfully abolish the constitution of the Canadian Dominion, just as some years ago it did actually abolish the ancient constitution of Jamaica. But though Parliament does in fact exert a certain, or rather a very uncertain, amount of power throughout the whole Empire, we all know that the Imperial Parliament neither exercises, nor claims to exercise, in a self-governing colony such as New Zealand,[7] that kind of effective authority which Parliament exercises in the United Kingdom. The Cabinet of New Zealand is not appointed at Westminster; the action of a New Zealand Ministry as regards the affairs of New Zealand is not controlled by the English Government. Not a pennyworth of taxation is imposed on the inhabitants of New Zealand, or of any colony whatever, by the Imperial Parliament. Even the imposition of customs, though it has an important bearing on the interest of the Empire, is in a self-governing colony determined by the colonial, and not by the British, Parliament. It is the Parliament of New Zealand, and not the Parliament of England, which governs New Zealand. The Imperial Parliament, though for Imperial purposes it may retain an indefinite supremacy throughout the British Empire, has, as regards self-governing colonies, renounced, for all other than Imperial purposes, executive and legislative functions. To labour this point may savour of pedantry. But the distinction insisted upon, whilst often overlooked, is of extreme importance. We risk being deceived by words. The Imperial Parliament is supreme in the United Kingdom, it is also supreme in New Zealand. But the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is a misleading expression; it means one thing in the United Kingdom, and another thing in New Zealand or in Canada. In the United Kingdom it means the exercise of real, actual, effective and absolute authority. In New Zealand it means little more than the claim to regulate matters of a distinctly and exclusively Imperial character. The distinction is vital. The essential feature of the English constitution is the actual and direct government of the whole United Kingdom by the Parliament at Westminster. No change could be more fundamental than a change which, in England, Scotland, or Ireland, reduced this actual authority to the ultimate or reserved sovereignty exercised, or rather claimed, by Parliament in Canada or in New Zealand.

The negative characteristic of the English constitution is the absence of federalism or of the federal spirit.

The spirit of institutions is as important as their form, and the spirit of English Parliamentary government has always been a spirit of unity.

The fundamental conditions of federal government are well known. They are first the existence of States such as the Cantons of Switzerland or the States of Germany, which are capable of bearing in the eyes of their inhabitants an impress of common nationality, and next the existence among the inhabitants of the federalised country of a very peculiar sentiment, which may be described as the desire for political union without the desire for political unity.[8] This condition of opinion leads to a division of powers between the federal or national government and the States. Whatever concerns the nation as a whole is placed under the control of the federal power.

All matters which are not primarily of common interest remain in the hands of the States. Now each of these conditions upon which federalism rests has, as a matter of history, been absolutely unknown to the people of England. In uniting other countries to England they have instinctively aimed at an incorporative not at a federal union. This absence of the federal spirit is seen in two matters which may appear of subordinate, but are in reality of primary, consequence. Every member of Parliament has always stood on a perfect equality with his fellows; the representatives of a county or of a borough, English members, Scottish members, Irish members, have hitherto possessed precisely equal rights, and have been subject to precisely the same duties. They have been sent to Parliament by different places, but, when in Parliament, they have not been the delegates of special localities; they have not been English members, or Scottish members, or Irish members, they have been simply members of Parliament; their acknowledged duty has been to consult for the interest of the whole nation; it has not been their duty to safeguard the interests of particular localities or countries. Hence until quite recent years English parties have not been formed according to sectional divisions. There has never been such a thing as an English party or a Scottish party. Up to 1832 the Scottish members were almost without exception Tories; since 1832 they have been for the most part Liberals or Radicals; they have kept a sharp eye upon Scottish affairs, but they have never formed a Scottish party. The same thing has, to a great extent, held good of the Irish members. The notion of an Irish party is a novelty, and in so far as it has existed is foreign to the spirit of our institutions. Hence further, the Cabinet has been neither in form nor in spirit a federal executive. No Premier has attempted to constitute a Ministry in which a given proportion of Irishmen or Scotchmen should balance a certain proportion of Englishmen. English politicians have as yet hardly formed the conception of an English party. Not a single Prime Minister has claimed the confidence of the country on the ground that his colleagues were, or were not, English, Scottish, or Irish. That a Premier should glory in his pure Scottish descent is an innovation; it is an innovation ominous of revolution; it betrays a spirit of disintegration. If at the moment it flatters Scottish pride, Scotchmen and Irishmen would do well to recollect that it is a certain presage of a time when some Englishman will rise to power and obtain popular support on the ground of his staunch English sympathies and of his unadulterated English blood.

Now place the new constitution side by side with the old. Assume, as I do assume throughout this chapter, that our new Gladstonian policy works in accordance with the intentions of its authors.

The new constitution abolishes in Ireland the actual and effective control and authority of the Imperial Parliament.

The government of Ireland is under the Home Rule Bill[9] placed in the hands of an executive authority, or, in plain terms, a Cabinet, undoubtedly to be appointed by the Irish Legislature, in the same sense in which an English Cabinet is appointed by the British Parliament, or a New Zealand Cabinet is appointed by the Parliament of New Zealand.[10] For the first time in the whole course of history the administration of Irish affairs is placed in the hands of an Irish Ministry, in the selection of which the Imperial Parliament has no hand or concern whatever. Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Healy, Mr. Redmond, Mr. Davitt, any leader, known or unknown, loyal or disloyal, who commands the confidence of the Irish Legislature, or, as I will venture to term it, the Irish Parliament,[11] will naturally become the Premier of Ireland, and, together with his colleagues, will possess all the authority which belongs to a Parliamentary Executive. On the action of this Irish Cabinet the Bill places, with rare exceptions, either no restrictions at all or restrictions which are only transitory.[12] Speaking generally, we may lay down that, except as to the control of the army, if that be an exception, the Irish Cabinet will, when the constitution gets into full working order, occupy in Ireland the position now occupied by the British Cabinet in regard to the whole United Kingdom. The appointment of officials, the conduct of Irish affairs, all the ordinary functions of government will, with certain exceptions meant for the most part to protect the rights of the Imperial Parliament, be exercised by Irish Ministers responsible to the Irish Parliament; and the British or Imperial Parliament will, in the ordinary course of things, have no more to do with the administration of affairs in Ireland than it has to do with the administration of affairs in New Zealand. The Irish, not the British, Cabinet will decide what are the steps to be taken for the protection throughout Ireland of the rights of property or of personal liberty; the Irish and not the English Cabinet will determine by what means the payment of rent is to be enforced; the Irish and not the English Cabinet will decide what persons are to be prosecuted for crime; the Irish and not the English Cabinet will determine whether the means for enforcing the punishment of crime are adequate, and whether Ireland, or some part of Ireland, say Belfast, requires to be governed by means of a Coercion Act; the Irish and not the English Cabinet will decide with what severity wrong-doers are to be punished, and whether, and under what circumstances, convicted criminals deserve either pardon or mitigation of punishment.

It is patent that under the new constitution the Irish Parliament and, under ordinary circumstances, the Irish Parliament alone will legislate for Ireland. For the Irish Parliament can, subject to certain Restrictions,[13] pass any law whatever 'for the peace, order and good government of Ireland, in respect of matters exclusively relating to Ireland or some part thereof'[14]; and, subject to the same Restrictions, may repeal any law which, before the Home Rule Bill becomes law, is in force in Ireland. Under the new constitution the Irish Parliament and not the Imperial Parliament will, it is clear, as a rule legislate for Ireland. Under the new constitution the Irish Parliament may enact a Coercion Act, applying say to Ulster, or may repeal the existing Crimes Act. It may abolish trial by jury[15] altogether, put any restraints it sees fit on the liberty of the press, or introduce a system of administrative law like that which exists in France, but is totally foreign to English notions of jurisprudence.

Under the new constitution, again, the financial relations of Great Britain and Ireland are made the subject of an elaborate arrangement which may fairly be called a contract[16]. Ireland takes over certain charges[17], and speaking very generally, whilst all the duties of customs levied in Ireland are collected by and paid over to the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, as Ireland's contribution to Imperial expenditure, all the other taxes are, as a general rule, paid over to the Irish Exchequer. The justice or the policy of these financial arrangements is for my present purpose immaterial. All that need be observed is that the ordinary taxation of Ireland passes from the hands of the Imperial Parliament into the hands of the Irish Parliament, and that under the new constitution this arrangement is a settlement which the Imperial Parliament is morally bound to respect for a period of at least fifteen years[18].

In Ireland therefore the new constitution abolishes the effective exercise of authority by the Imperial Parliament in matters of administration, in matters of legislation, in matters of finance; every concern which affects the daily life of Irishmen will be under the control of the Irish Cabinet and the Irish Parliament. The relation of the Imperial Parliament towards Ireland will not be the relation which it now occupies towards the whole United Kingdom, and which under the new constitution it will still occupy towards Great Britain. The Imperial Parliament, it is true, retains considerable reserved powers; what are the effect and nature of these powers shall be considered in its due place. The matter upon which I now insist is simply this: the new constitution does in any case transfer the effective government of Ireland from the Imperial Parliament to the Irish Parliament. The authority reserved to the Imperial Parliament may be termed supremacy, or sovereignty, or may be described by any other fine-sounding name which we are pleased to use, but the fact remains unaltered that, as long as the new constitution stands and works, the Imperial Parliament will not govern Ireland in the sense in which it governs England and Scotland, and that such authority as it exerts in Ireland will be analogous not to the power which it now exercises there, but to the influence which it possesses in Canada or in New Zealand.[19]

The new constitution is at bottom a federalist or semi-federalist constitution; it introduces into English institutions many of the forms of federalism and still more of its spirit.

The Parliament sitting at Westminster becomes for the first time a Federal Congress.

Of its members, 567 will represent Great Britain; 80 will represent Ireland. The exact numbers are for the present purpose insignificant. The serious matter is that the Imperial Parliament undergoes an essential change of character. The British members will have, or are intended to have, no concern with the government of Ireland. The Irish members ought to have nothing to do with the government of Great Britain. On Imperial subjects the Imperial Parliament, or, to call it by its proper name, the Federal Congress, votes as a whole; on Irish subjects it does not vote at all; on British topics its British members only vote. The British and the Irish members, in short, alike represent, though in a very clumsy fashion, the States of a Confederacy. Though the fact be artfully concealed, we have under the new constitution already, in germ at least, a British State and an Irish State, a British Parliament and an Irish Parliament, and a third body consisting of these two Parliaments, which is the Imperial or Federal Parliament.[20]

The different features of federalism make their appearance though under strange forms.

The constitution imposes Restrictions on the powers of the State Governments and of the Federal Government.

This appears unmistakably in the limitations placed upon the authority of the Irish Parliament.

These Restrictions, be they wise or unwise, politic or impolitic, are perfectly in keeping with the constitutional arrangements of a Federal Government, but are absolutely unknown to the theory and practice of English parliamentary government.

The powers of the Imperial Parliament, it may be said, are under the new constitution subject to no limitations. In words this assertion is true, in substance it is false. If the constitution works properly the Imperial Parliament will clearly be subject to the terms of the Government of Ireland Act, 1893, or, in other words, of the Federal Constitution. This subjection is not absolute; it is moral, not legal, still it exists. A breach of the federal compact will be no light matter.

The constitution again, as one would expect under a federal scheme, provides for the enforcement of the compact.

In the case of Ireland this is manifest. The royal veto,[21] the power of the Courts, and ultimately of the Privy Council, to pronounce on the constitutionality of any Irish Act, and treat it as void if it is in excess of the authority bestowed upon the Irish legislature, the provisions for the legal determination of constitutional questions,[22] the arrangements as to the payment of the Irish customs into the Imperial Exchequer, the special and very anomalous position of the Exchequer Judges, are all attempts, whatever be their worth, to restrain the Irish legislature and government, or in effect the Irish people, from the undue assertion of State rights.

Restraints again are placed on the unconstitutional action of the Imperial or Federal Parliament. They are less obvious, but at least as real and effectual as the safeguards against the breach of the constitution by the Irish government or legislature. They are all summed up in the presence of the Irish representatives at Westminster. The only legitimate reason, if legitimate reason there be, for their presence is the guardianship of Irish rights under the constitution. It is for them to see that these rights are held sacred. No diminution thereof can take place without either the assent of the Irish members or else the existence of such a majority in the Parliament at Westminster as may override the protests of Ireland.[23] No doubt this is not an absolute security. But whoever considers the habits of English political life will conclude that, except in the event of the Imperial Parliament being resolved to suspend or destroy the constitution, there exists the highest improbability that any inroad should be made upon the privileges conferred under the new constitution upon Ireland. The security, though not absolute, is a good deal better than any safeguard given by the Bill that the State rights of Great Britain shall be duly respected by the representatives from Ireland. Assume, however, that the constitution works properly, and that all parties respect the spirit of its provisions. The result is that the new constitution forms a fundamental law, fixing the respective rights of Ireland, of Great Britain, of the Irish Parliament, and of the Imperial Parliament.[24]

The federal arrangements which, utterly unknown as they are to our institutions, form the foundation of the new constitution, are as nothing compared with the recognition and fostering of the federal spirit.

Great Britain and Ireland constitute for the first time in history a confederation. The difference or opposition of their interests receives legislative acknowledgment: each country is to possess in reality, though not in name, State rights; each must rely upon the constitution for the protection of these rights; each may suffer from the encroachments of the Imperial or central power. Ireland may complain that the Imperial Parliament by legislation, or the Privy Council by judicial interpretation, encroaches on her guaranteed rights. Great Britain may complain either that Irish members intermeddle in British affairs, and thus British rights are violated, or that the Privy Council so interprets the constitution that the prerogatives of the Central Government (which be it remembered must in practice be identified with the power of England) are unduly diminished. To imagine such complaints is not to assume that the constitution works badly. They are of necessity inherent in the federal system. There exists no federal government throughout the world where such complaints do not arise, and where they do not at times give rise to heart-burnings. It is well indeed, judging from the lessons of history, if they do not produce bitter conflicts, or even civil war. Let us take, however, the most sanguine view possible. Let us grant that both in England and in Ireland every minister, every legislator, every judge, is inspired with a spirit of perfect disinterestedness and absolute fairness. This concession, immense though it be, does not exclude vital differences of opinion. In our new confederacy, as in every other, there will arise the contest between State rights and federal rights, between the authority of the Central Government and of the State Government. In any case, a whole class of new difficulties and questions of a totally new description will make their appearance in the field of English politics, and call for the exercise on the part both of English and of Irish statesmen of extraordinary wisdom and extraordinary self-control. The new constitution in short, in virtue of its federal tendencies, will revolutionise the public life of the United Kingdom.

From whatever side the matter be considered we arrive at the same result. The Home Rule Bill is a new constitution; it subverts the bases of the English constitution as we now know it, for it destroys throughout Ireland the effective authority of the Imperial Parliament, and turns the United Kingdom into a federal government of a new and untried form.

The change may be necessary or needless, wise or unwise. The first and most pressing necessity of the moment is that every elector throughout the United Kingdom should, realise the immense import of the innovation. It is a revolution far more searching than would be the abolition of the House of Lords or the transformation of our constitutional monarchy into a presidential republic.

The next point to which the attention of every man throughout the land should be directed is, that the new constitution offered to us for acceptance is unknown to any other civilised country. Parts of it are borrowed from the United States; some of its provisions are imported from the British colonies, whilst others are apparently the inventions of the unknown and irresponsible Abbe Sieyes, who is the ingenious constitution-maker of the Cabinet. But the new polity as a whole resembles in its essence neither the American Commonwealth nor the Canadian Dominion, nor the Government either of New Zealand or of any other self-governing colony. It is an attempt—its admirers may think an original and ingenious attempt—to combine the sovereignty of an Imperial Parliament with the elaborate limitation and distribution of powers which distinguish federal government. The whole thing is an experiment and an experiment without precedent. Its novelty is not its necessary condemnation, but neither on the other hand is innovation of necessity the same thing as reform. The institutions of an ancient realm are not exactly the corpus vile on which theorists hard pressed by the practical difficulties of the political situation can be allowed to try unlimited experiments. We are bound to scrutinise with care every provision of this brand-new polity. We are bound to consider what will be their effect according to the known laws of human nature and under the actual circumstances of the time. It is vain to tell us that many of our institutions remain untouched. The introduction of new elements into an old political system may revolutionise the whole; the addition of new cloth to an old garment may, we all know, rend the whole asunder. There is no need for panic; there is the utmost need for prudence.


[5] References made in this treatise to the Home Rule Bill are, unless otherwise stated, made to the Bill as ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, February 17, 1893. A Leap in the Dark was published months before the Bill was sent up as amended to the House of Lords.

[6] This is true of both of Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bills, and must necessarily be true of any Bill which satisfies even for a time the wishes of Home Rulers.

[7] I have substituted New Zealand for Victoria as the example of a typical self-governing colony; the position of Victoria has since 1900 been complicated by the country having become a State of the Australian Commonwealth or Confederation.

[8] See Dicey, Law of Constitution (7th ed.), ch. iii. pp. 136-140. Compare Mill, Rep. Government, ch. xvii.

[9] For the sake of convenience I throughout this treatise refer to the 'Bill to amend the provision for the government of Ireland' under its popular name of the Home Rule Bill, 1893, or simply the Bill. See the Bill in Appendix.

[10] Bill, clause 5.

[11] (The constitutional history of Victoria affords a curious illustration of what will certainly happen in Ireland.) In Victoria the Legislature, though not termed a Parliament in the Constitution Act, 18 & 19 Vict, c. 54, has assumed, under a Victorian Act, the title of the Parliament of Victoria. See Jenks, Government of Victoria, p. 236. Who can doubt that the Irish Legislature will, by an Irish Act, give itself the title of the Parliament of Ireland? I have therefore throughout these pages called the Irish Legislature the Irish Parliament. Few things are more absurd and more noteworthy than the deliberate refusal of English Gladstonians to call the Irish Parliament by its right name. They are willing to create an Irish Parliament; they are not willing to admit that they have created it. See debates of May 9, in The Times, May 10, 1893.

[12] See Bill, clauses 19, 27, 28, 30.

[13] Bill, clauses 3, 4.

[14] Bill, clause 2.

[15] This will perhaps be disputed. Trial by jury, it will be said, is saved by the expression 'due process of law,' in clause 4, sub-clause (5). But this contention is, in my judgment, unfounded, and its validity must in any case be held open to extreme doubt.

[16] See Bill, clauses 10-19, and note especially clause 12, sub-clause (I).

[17] Ibid, clauses 14-16.

[18] Ibid, clause 12, sub-clause (3).

[19] I am aware that to this statement moderate Gladstonians may take exception. What may be the effect of the preamble which reserves the supreme authority of Parliament or of Bill, clause 33, which recognises the right of the Imperial Parliament to legislate for Ireland will be most conveniently considered in the next chapter. In this chapter, be it noted, I am concerned only with the constitution as it is intended to work, and most Gladstonians will admit that as long as the Government of Ireland, including in that expression both the Cabinet and the Parliament, keeps within the terms of the Act, it is not intended that the British Cabinet or Parliament shall, except in certain excepted cases, intervene in Irish affairs.

[20] All the provisions which under clause 9 of the Home Rule Bill, 1893, in its earliest form, were intended to restrain Irish Peers, or members representing Irish constituencies, from deliberating or voting on any Bill or motion the operation of which should be confined to Great Britain, were swept away by the Gladstonian majority before the Home Rule Bill was sent up to the House of Lords. The unfairness of giving to Ireland a Parliament intended to legislate on all, or nearly all, Irish affairs, and at the same time retaining eighty Irish members at Westminster with full power to legislate on all English and Scottish affairs, secured in 1895 the enthusiastic approval by the British electorate of the rejection of the Home Rule Bill of 1893 by the House of Lords.

[21] See Bill, clause 5 (1).

[22] Bill, clauses 22, 23.

[23] 'The Imperial Parliament was supreme, but he held the passing of the Home Rule Bill, reserving certain subjects to the Imperial Parliament and committing others to the Parliament of Ireland, as amounting to a compact which would be observed by men of common sense that there would be no capricious or vexatious interference by this Parliament with an action within the appointed sphere of the Parliament of Ireland. If such interference were attempted, the presence in this Parliament of eighty Irish members—a number which had been found to be sufficient to initiate an Irish constitution—would be found sufficient to protect an Irish constitution when it was given.'—Mr. Sexton, Feb. 13, 1893, Times Parliamentary Debates, p. 318.

[24] For evidence that the power of the Imperial Parliament is intended under the new constitution to be subjected to at any rate a moral limit, the reader should note particularly the terms of the Home Rule Bill, clause 12, sub-clause (3).



A critic of the new constitution, intent on ascertaining how it affects the relation of Great Britain and Ireland, will do well to divert his attention from the numerous details of the Home Rule Bill, important as many of them are,[25] and fix his mind almost exclusively upon the four leading features of the measure.

These are:—

First. The supremacy of the Imperial Parliament.

Secondly. The retention of the Irish members in the Parliament at Westminster.

Thirdly. The powers of the Irish Government, in which term is here included both the Irish Executive and the Irish Parliament.

Fourthly. The Restrictions (popularly known as the safeguards) and the obligations imposed upon the Irish Government.

These features are primary and essential; everything else, however important in itself, is subsidiary and accidental.

A. The Supremacy of the Imperial Parliament[26]

The Home Rule Bill asserts in its preamble the inexpediency of 'impairing or restricting the supreme authority of Parliament'; and in clause 33, apparently[27] assumes the right of the Imperial Parliament after the passing of the Home Rule Bill to enact for Ireland laws which cannot be repealed by the Irish Parliament.

The new constitution therefore maintains the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament.

What, however, is the true meaning of this 'supreme authority,' 'supremacy,' or 'sovereignty,' if you like, of the Imperial Parliament?

The term, as already pointed out,[28] is distinctly ambiguous, and unless this ambiguity is cleared up, the effect of the Home Rule Bill, and the nature of our new constitution, will never be understood.

The supremacy of the Imperial Parliament may mean the right and power of Parliament to govern Ireland in the same sense in which it now governs England, that is, to exercise effective control over the whole administration of affairs in Ireland, and for this purpose, through the action of the English Government, or, when necessary, by legislation, to direct, supervise and control the acts of every authority in Ireland, including the Irish Executive and the Irish Legislature. If this were the meaning of the expression, the Imperial Parliament would, after the passing of the Home Rule Bill, as before, be as truly supreme in Ireland as in England, in Scotland, in the Isle of Man, or in Jersey. The Irish Executive and the Irish Parliament would, of course, be bodies possessing large—and it might be very dangerous—delegated powers, but they would stand in the same relation to the Imperial Parliament as does the London County Council, which also possesses large delegated powers, which administers the affairs of a population as large as that of Scotland and which, very possibly, may receive from Parliament as time goes on larger and more extended authority than the Council now possesses. This is the sense which many Gladstonians, and some Unionists, attribute to the term 'supremacy of Parliament.' It is not the sense in which the expression 'supreme authority of Parliament' is used in the Home Rule Bill.

The supremacy of Parliament may bear quite another sense; it may mean that Parliament, whilst completely giving up the management of Irish affairs (subject of course to the Restrictions contained in the Home Rule Bill) to the Irish Executive and the Irish Legislature, retains in Ireland, as elsewhere throughout the Empire, reserved sovereignty, or the theoretical right (which exceptionally though rarely may be put into practice) of passing laws for Ireland and of course, among other laws, an Act modifying or repealing the terms of the Home Rule Bill itself. If this is the meaning of the expression 'supreme authority of Parliament,' the Imperial Parliament will, after the passing of the Home Rule Bill, stand in substance in the relation to Ireland which Parliament occupies towards any important self-governing colony, such as is the Canadian Dominion or New Zealand. The Irish Executive and the Irish Parliament will on this view constitute the real substantial government of Ireland, just as the Ministry and the Parliament of New Zealand constitute the real and substantial government of New Zealand. No doubt the Imperial Parliament will retain the theoretical right to legislate for Ireland, e.g. to pass an Irish Coercion Act, just as Parliament retains the theoretical right to legislate for New Zealand or Canada. So the Imperial Parliament has the legal right to repeal or override any law passed by the New Zealand Parliament, to tax the inhabitants of New Zealand, or finally, by the repeal of the New Zealand Constitution Act, 1852, 15 & 16 Vict. c. 72, to abolish the constitution of New Zealand altogether. But these things Parliament will not, and to speak truly cannot, do in New Zealand. The inhabitants of New Zealand possess as regards their internal affairs for practical purposes complete independence. They are governed from Wellington, they are not governed from Westminster. If in short the supremacy of Parliament means under the Home Rule Bill in Ireland what it means under 15 & 16 Vict. c. 72 in New Zealand, the inhabitants of Ireland will, when the Home Rule Bill passes into law, be governed from Dublin, they will not be governed from Westminster. Every Irish Home Ruler, be he Parnellite or Anti-Parnellite,[29] believes that the supremacy of Parliament is intended to mean in Ireland what it means in New Zealand, and the Irish Home Rulers are right. Any one will see that this is so who reflects on the meaning of the policy of Home Rule, who studies the authoritative utterances of Gladstonian leaders, such as Mr. Gladstone[30] himself, Mr. Asquith,[31] or Mr. Bryce.[32] Gladstonian statesmen wrap up their meaning in vague generalities; they insist, and in one sense with truth, that the sovereignty of Parliament is reserved. They do not wish to alarm their English followers. It is possible that they conceal even from themselves how completely the Imperial Ministry and Parliament surrender the practical government of Ireland into the hands of the Irish Parliament and its leaders. But for all this, their own language and the Bill itself prove that the supreme authority of Parliament is under the new constitution to be taken in its limited, and what for the sake of distinction we may call its 'colonial' sense. This is proved, if evidence were wanting, by the provision[33] that after fifteen years from the time when the Bill passes into law the financial relations between England and Ireland may be revised in pursuance of an Address to the Crown from the House of Commons or from the Irish legislative assembly. If the Imperial Parliament retains an effective or practically unlimited supremacy, the provision is futile and needless. What necessity is there for enacting that a sovereign Parliament, which institutes, may alter a scheme of taxation? But the provision is intelligible enough on one supposition, and on one supposition only. It is both intelligible and in place if Parliament gives up the real right of governing Ireland and occupies towards what is now a part of the United Kingdom the position, or something very like the position, which Parliament occupies towards a self-governing colony. It then embodies a compact between England and Ireland, and institutes a regular method for revising their financial relations. But this very compact proves that as regards Ireland the Imperial Parliament, if it reserves to itself ultimate sovereignty, has for practical purposes surrendered the reality of control.

There is no need to assert that this supremacy of the Imperial Parliament means nothing. The assertion would not be true. The reservation of sovereign authority means something, but it does not mean much. It does not mean the power or the right to govern Ireland; it means at most the legal and moral right to modify, or put an end to, the new constitution if ever it works badly.

The power, indeed, to abolish the constitution can neither be given nor taken away by Acts of Parliament, by the declarations of English statesmen, or the concessions of Irish leaders, whether authorised or not to pledge the Irish people. It is given to Great Britain, not by enactments, but by nature; it arises from the inherent capacity of a strong, a flourishing, a populous, and a wealthy country to control or coerce a neighbouring island which is poor, divided, and weak.[34] This natural supremacy will, if the interests of Great Britain require it, be enforced by armies, by ironclads, by blockades, by hostile tariffs, by all the means through which national predominance can make itself felt. All reference to superior power is, in controversies between citizens, hateful to every man endowed with a sense of humanity or of justice. But in serious discussions facts must be faced, and if, for the sake of argument, I contrast, much against my will, the power of Great Britain with the weakness of Ireland, let it be remembered that the conception of a rivalry or conflict is forced upon Unionists by the mere proposal of Home Rule. As long as we remain a United Kingdom, there is no more need to think even of hypothetical or argumentative opposition between the resources or interest of England and of Ireland than there is to consider what in case of a contest may be the relative force of London and of the Orkneys.

What, then, the new constitution secures is not the power, but the legal right to abolish the new constitution. It is a right to carry through a fundamental change by lawful means. The Bill legalises revolution. This is well, for it is desirable that in a civilised State every change of institutions should be effected by constitutional methods. But should the circumstances ever arise under which Great Britain is resolved, in spite of the wishes of the Irish people or a large portion thereof, to abolish Home Rule and exercise the right of reserved sovereignty, there is no reason to expect that Irishmen who oppose British policy will admit that her use of sovereign power is morally justifiable. By force, or the threat of force, the controversy will, we must expect, in the last instance, be decided. However this may be, we must now realise what the supremacy of Parliament, at any rate to the Irish leaders who accept it, really means. It means nothing but the right of the Imperial Parliament of its own authority to repeal the Home Rule Bill and destroy the new constitution. The right may be worth having. But it is not the right to govern Ireland or to control the Irish Government; it is not a means of government at all: it is a method of constitutional revolution, or reaction.

Some critic will object that this supremacy of Parliament means to him a good deal more than the mere right to abolish the constitution. So be it. Let the objector then tell us in precise language what it does mean. If his reply is that the term is ambiguous, that its meaning must be construed in accordance with events, and may, according to circumstances, be restricted or extended, then he suggests that Parliamentary supremacy is not only an empty right, but an urgent peril. Nothing can be more dangerous than a compact between England and Ireland which the contracting parties construe from the very beginning in different senses. If by asserting the supreme authority of Parliament English statesmen mean that Parliament reserves the right to supervise and control the government of Ireland, whilst Irishmen understand that Parliament retains nothing more than such a kind of supremacy or sovereignty as it asserts, rather than exercises, in New Zealand, then we are entering into a doubtful contract which lays the sure basis of a quarrel. We are deliberately preparing the ground for disappointment, for imputations of bad faith, for recriminations, for bitter animosity, it may be for civil war. If there be, as is certainly the case, a fair doubt as to what is meant by the supremacy of Parliament, let the doubt be cleared up. This is required by the dictates both of expediency and of honour. Meanwhile we may assume that the supremacy of Parliament, or the 'supreme authority of Parliament,' means in substance the kind of sovereignty which Parliament exercises, or claims to exercise, in every part of the British Empire.

For the maintenance of such supremacy, be it valuable or be it worthless, Great Britain pays a heavy price. For the sake of 'an outward and visible sign of Imperial supremacy' we retain eighty Irish members in the Imperial Parliament.[35]

B. The Retention of the Irish Members in the Imperial Parliament

This is now[36] an essential, or at least a most important part of the ministerial policy for Ireland, yet it is a proposal which even its advocates must find difficult of defence. In 1886 every Gladstonian leader told us that it was desirable, politic, and just to exclude Irish members from the Parliament at Westminster; this exclusion was pressed upon England (plausibly enough) as a main advantage to be derived from the concession of Home Rule to Ireland. In 1893 every Gladstonian leader tells us that it is desirable, politic, and just to retain the Irish members at Westminster, and their presence is, for some reason not easy to explain, treated as removing every objection to the concession of Home Rule to Ireland. This astounding variation of opinion in the doctors of the State savours of empiricism, not to say quackery. A surgeon who tells a patient that he will not live unless his leg is amputated may be right, and may be worthy of trust; another surgeon who asserts that amputation is unnecessary may be right, and worthy of trust. But the surgeon who one moment insists that amputation is necessary to the preservation of his patient's life, and the next moment that it is unnecessary and may be fatal, is not the kind of adviser who inspires confidence in his wisdom.

Let the ingenuity of Gladstonians reconcile, as best it can, the doctrine of 1886 with the doctrine of 1893. To a man of sense who weighs the matter without reference to considerations of party, one thing will soon become apparent: the retention at Westminster of eighty, or indeed of any Irish members at all, means under a scheme of Home Rule the ruin of Ireland and the weakness of England.

As to Ireland.—The presence of Irish members at Westminster robs Ireland of the one advantage which Home Rule might by any possibility confer upon that country.

Any man in order to see that this is so has only to consider, first, what may under favourable circumstances be the benefit of Home Rule to Ireland, and next what is the natural result of summoning Irish members to the Parliament at Westminster.

The best conceivable result of Home Rule is that it may detach Irishmen from interest in English politics, and induce the most respected and respectable men in Ireland to take matters into their own hands and manage for themselves all strictly Irish affairs. For the last twenty years, at least, Ireland has been represented, or misrepresented, by eighty and more politicians, nominated in the main by Mr. Parnell. No one supposes for a moment that the Nationalist leaders who appeared before and were condemned by the Special Commission are fair samples of the Irish people. They are, take them at their best, reckless agitators. They were chosen by their patron, Mr. Parnell, not on account of their worth or talent, but because they were apt instruments for carrying out a policy of parliamentary intrigue, reinforced by a system of lawless oppression.[37] These men are the product of a revolutionary era; they no more represent the virtues and the genius of the Irish people than the demagogues or fanatics of the Jacobin Club represented the genius and the virtues of the French nation. We all know that Ireland abounds in citizens of a very different stamp. She has never lacked among her sons, and does not lack now, men of virtue, of vigour, and of genius. Throughout the length and breadth of the country you will find hundreds of men of merit—landlords whose lives have been honourable to themselves, and a blessing to their tenants; merchants as honest and successful as any in England or in Scotland; small landowners and tenant farmers who have paid their rent and paid their way, who have cultivated their land, who have never insulted or boycotted their neighbours, and have never been driven by intimidation into meanness and fraud. Add to these lawyers, thinkers, writers, and scholars, who rival or excel the best representatives of their class in other parts of the United Kingdom. These good men and true are not peculiar to any one creed or party; they are not confined to any one province, or to any one class; they are scattered through every part of the land; they are the true backbone of Ireland; they have saved her from utter ruin; they may still by their energy raise her to prosperity. But they have been thrust out of politics by the talkers, the adventurers, the conspirators. It is possible that if Home Rule compels Irishmen to turn their whole minds to Irish affairs, the so-called representatives who misrepresent their country may be dismissed from the world of politics, and the Parliament at Dublin be filled with members who, whether they come from the North or from the South, whether Unionists or Home Rulers, whether Roman Catholics or Protestants, whether landowners, tenant farmers, ministers of religion, merchants, or tradesmen, represent the real worth and strength of the country. If this should happen, Home Rule would still entail great evils on the whole United Kingdom. But even zealous Unionists might hope that for these evils Ireland at least will obtain some compensation. This hope, if the Irish members are retained at Westminster, will never be fulfilled.

For even the occasional presence[38]—which will in practice be the frequent presence—of the Irish members at Westminster destroys every hope that Ireland will be governed by her best citizens. The reasons why this is so are various; some of them may be shortly stated. The system, in the first place, of double representation, under which members of the Irish Parliament must flit to and fro between Ireland and England, and debate one day about Irish matters in Dublin, and the next about Imperial, or in truth British, matters in England, makes it impossible for quiet hard-working Irishmen, who carry on the real business of Ireland, to take part in politics. The political centre of interest, in the second place, will after, as before, the passing of the Home Rule Bill, be placed in London and not in Dublin. The humdrum local business which under a system of Home Rule ought to be discussed in the Irish Parliament, may vitally concern the prosperity of every inhabitant of Ireland, but it will not in general lend itself to oratory, or arouse popular excitement. The questions, on the other hand, to be discussed in the Imperial Parliament at Westminster, as, for example, whether Mr. Gladstone or Lord Salisbury shall be head of the British Cabinet, whether the royal veto on Irish legislation shall be exercised on the advice of the English or of the Irish Ministry, are matters which do not in reality greatly affect the happiness of ordinary Irishmen. But they give room for management, for diplomacy, for rhetoric, and are certain on occasions to arouse both the interest and the passions of the Irish people. We may take it for granted that the character of the Irish representation at Westminster will govern the character of the Parliament at Dublin.[39] Hence arises a third and fatal obstacle to the active participation in Irish public life of Irishmen who are not professional politicians. The Home Rule Bill of 1893 professes to restrain on every side the action of the Irish government and Parliament. These Restrictions are the comfort of English Gladstonians; they are thought to be safeguards, though in reality there is nothing which they make safe. But Restrictions which delight Gladstonians are hateful to Irish Home Rulers. Their watchword is, 'Ireland a nation.' To this cry every Home Ruler will rally, and so too will, if once the Union is broken up, many an ardent loyalist, converted by anger at England's treachery into an extreme Nationalist. Irishmen will wish for an Irish army; they will wish for a protective policy; they will desire that Ireland shall play a part in foreign affairs, and will claim for her at least the independence of such a colony as New Zealand. To all these wishes, and to many more, some of which under a system of Home Rule are quite reasonable, the terms of the Home Rule Bill are opposed. Home Rulers, and probably enough the whole Irish people, will insist that the Bill, which will then have become an Act, must be modified. How is the modification to be obtained? How is Home Rule to be made a reality? By one method only: that is, by the freest use of those arts Of intrigue and obstruction by which Home Rule will have been gained. But for the carrying out of such a policy the agitators and intriguers who for the last twenty years have weakened and degraded the Imperial Parliament are the proper agents. For this work they, and they alone, are fit. The quiet, industrious, stay-at-home merchants or lawyers, who might be sent to Dublin for a month or two in the year to manage Irish business on business-like principles, will not be sent to Westminster to hold the balance between English parties. They cannot leave their every-day work; were they willing to forsake their own business, they are not the men to conduct with success the parliamentary game of brag, obstruction, and finesse. Keep, in short, the Irish members at Westminster, and you ensure the supremacy in Ireland of professional politicians. By a curious fatality the Gladstonian policy which weakens England ruins Ireland. Let no one fancy that this is the delusion of an English Unionist. Sir Gavan Duffy is an Irish Nationalist of a far higher type than the men who have drawn money from the Clan-na-Gael. In '48 he was a rebel, but if he was disloyal to England, he was always careful of the honour and character of Ireland. He, at least, perceives the danger to his country of retaining Irish members in a Parliament where they had ceased to have any proper place. 'For my own part,' he says, 'I should not care if they did not attend [the Imperial Parliament] for a generation, which will be needed for the manipulation of their own affairs.'

All this, I shall be told, is prophecy; Gladstonian hopes are as reasonable as Unionist fears. So be it. But in this matter my predictions have a special claim on the attention of the Ministry, they coincide with the forecast, or the foresight, of the present[40] Chief Secretary for Ireland.

'Let us suppose that these Irish representatives for Imperial purposes are not chosen by the legislative body, but are chosen directly by Irish constituencies. You have already, according to our plan, two sets of constituencies. You have the 103 constituencies that return the popular branch of the legislative body, and you have those other constituencies up to seventy-five which return the elective members of the other branch of the legislative body. You have, therefore, got already on our plan two sets of constituencies. Now, if you are going to send members to Westminster for Imperial purposes to the number of forty-five or to the number of ninety-five, you must mark out a third set of constituencies—you must have a third set of elections. A system of that kind does not strike me at least as being exactly the thing for a country of which we are assured that before everything else its prime want is a profound respite from political turmoil. There are plenty of other objections from the Irish point of view, which I am not now going to dwell upon. Depend upon it that an Irish Legislature will not be up to the magnitude of the enormous business that is going to be cast upon it unless you leave all the brains that Irish public men have got to do Irish work in Ireland. Depend upon this, too, that if you have one set of Irish members in London it is a moral certainty that disturbing rivalries, disturbing intrigues would spring up, and that the natural and wholesome play of forces and parties and leaders in the Irish Assembly would be complicated and confused and thrown out of gear by the separate representatives of the country. All this is bad enough.'[41]

These are the words of my friend Mr. Morley.[42] They were spoken at Newcastle on April 21, 1886. He was then, as now, responsible for the government of Ireland. Nothing can add to their gravity; nothing can add to their force; they were true in 1886, they remain as true to-day as they were seven years ago.[43]

As to England.—The presence of the Irish members at Westminster is on the face of it a gross and patent injustice to Great Britain. It is absurd, it is monstrous, that while the Irish Parliament and the Irish Parliament alone settle whether Mr. Healy, Mr. M'Carthy, Mr. Redmond, or Mr. Davitt is to be head of the Irish government, and England, though vitally interested in the character of the Irish Executive, is not to say a word in the matter, eighty Irishmen are to help in determining, and are often actually to determine, whether Lord Salisbury or Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Balfour or Mr. Chamberlain, is to be Prime Minister and direct the policy of England. Here again 1 can rely on the invaluable aid of Mr. Morley. He has denounced the effect on England of retaining Irish members at Westminster with a strength of language and a weight of authority to which it is impossible for me to make any pretension.

'But there is a word to be said about the effect on our own Parliament, and I think the effect of such an arrangement—and I cannot help thinking so till I hear of better arrangements—upon our own Parliament would be worse still. It is very easy to talk about reducing the number of the Irish members; perhaps it would not be so easy to do. It is very easy to talk about letting them take part in some questions and not in others, but it will be very difficult when you come to draw the line in theory between the questions in which they shall take a part and those in which they shall not take a part. But I do not care what precautions you take; I do not care where you draw the line in theory; but you may depend upon it—I predict—that there is no power on the earth that can prevent the Irish members in such circumstances from being in the future Parliament what they were in the past, and what to some extent they are in the present, the arbiters and the masters of English policy, of English legislative business, and of the rise and fall of British Administrations. You will have weakened by the withdrawal of able men the Legislature of Dublin, and you will have demoralized the Legislature at Westminster. We know very well what that demoralisation means, for I beg you to mark attentively the use to which the Irish members would inevitably put their votes—inevitably and naturally. Those who make most of the retention of the Irish members at Westminster are also those who make most of there being what they call a real and effective and a freely and constantly exercised veto at Westminster upon the doings at Dublin. You see the position. A legislative body in Dublin passes a Bill. The idea is that that Bill is to lie upon the table of the two Houses of Parliament in London for forty days—forty days in the wilderness. What does that mean? It means this, that every question that had been fought out in Ireland would be fought out over again by the Irish members in our Parliament. It means that the House of Lords here would throw out pretty nearly every Bill that was passed at Dublin. What would be the result of that? You would have the present block of our business. You would have all the present irritation and exasperation. English work would not be done; Irish feeling would not be conciliated, but would be exasperated. The whole efforts of the Irish members would be devoted to throwing their weight—I do not blame them for this—first to one party and then to another until they had compelled the removal of these provoking barriers, restrictions, and limitations which ought never to have been set up. I cannot think, for my part I cannot see, how an arrangement of that sort promises well either for the condition of Ireland or for our Parliament. If anybody, in my opinion, were to move an amendment to our Bill in the House of Commons in such a direction as this, with all these consequences foreseen, I do not believe such an amendment would find twenty supporters.'[44]

This was the opinion of Mr. John Morley in 1886. A word in it here or there is inapplicable to the details of the present Bill; but in principle every syllable cited by me from his Newcastle address forms part of the Unionist argument against summoning as much as a single Irish member to Westminster. His language is admirable, it cannot be improved. All that any one who agrees with Mr. Morley can do in order to force his argument home is to point out in a summary manner the ways in which the Irish delegation at Westminster will enfeeble the Imperial Government.

First. The Irish members, or rather the Irish delegation, will have a voice and often a decisive voice in determining who are the men that shall constitute the English Cabinet; on the Irish vote will depend whether Conservatives, Liberals, Radicals, or Socialists shall administer the government of England. It is vain to tell us Irish members will be restrained, whether by law or custom, from voting on British affairs when they will vote on the most important of all British affairs, the composition and the character of the body which is to govern England.

That the Irish members will thus vote on a matter of special and vital importance to England is admitted. But things stand far worse than this. The vote of the Irish delegation will and must be swayed by an interest adverse to the welfare of Great Britain; for the interest of Great Britain, or, to use ordinary language of England, is that the English Government should be strong, and should represent the majority of the English or British electors. The direct interest of the Irish delegation is that the English Government should be weak, and represent the minority of English electors. That this is so is obvious. The weaker the British Government, the greater the weight of the Irish representatives. But if the English Cabinet represents a minority of the British people, and are kept in office only by the votes of their Irish allies, then the influence of the Irish representatives and the weakness of the English Government will have reached its extreme point. The effect therefore of the arrangement which brings Irish members to Westminster is to place the administration of English affairs in the hands of the party, whichever it be, that does not represent the wishes of the English people. This master stroke of Gladstonian astuteness ensures that Radicals shall be in office when the opinion of England is Conservative, and that Conservatives shall be in power when English opinion tends towards Radicalism.

Secondly. The retention of the Irish members breaks up our whole system of Cabinet government. This system has some inherent defects, but it cannot work at all with any benefit to the country unless the Cabinet can depend on the support of a permanent majority. The result of what has happily been described as the 'in-and-out plan,' that is the scheme for allowing Irish members to vote on some subjects and not on others, will be the constitution of two majorities, and it is more than possible that the one majority may belong to one party and the other majority to another. Look at the effect on the transaction of public affairs. The Irish members and the English Liberals combined may put in office a Liberal Cabinet. On English matters, e.g. the question of Disestablishment, or of Home Rule for Wales, the British majority consisting of British members of Parliament only may constantly defeat the Gladstonian Cabinet, and thus force into office a Conservative Cabinet which could command a majority on all subjects of purely British interest, but would always be in a minority on all matters of Imperial policy, e.g. on the conduct of foreign affairs. Which Cabinet would have a right to retain power? The sole answer is—neither. The proposed plan, in short, undermines our whole scheme of government.

Thirdly. The Irish members who are now simply Irish members of the Imperial Parliament will be transformed into a very different thing—an Irish delegation. The importance of this change cannot be over-rated. The essential merit of our present system of government is that the Executive, no less than the Parliament of the United Kingdom, represents the country as a whole. Our Premier may be a Scotsman, but we know of no such thing as a Scottish Premier. Englishmen may form the majority of the Cabinet, but we have never had an English Cabinet as contrasted with a Scottish or an Irish Cabinet. It has never been contended, hardly has it been hinted, that a Ministry ought to be made up of members taken in certain proportions from each division of the kingdom. But from the moment that sectional representation, and with it open advocacy of sectional interests, is introduced into the House of Commons, there will arise the necessity for the formation of sectional Cabinets.

The demand will be made, and the demand will be granted, that in the administration no less than in the House there shall be a system of representation; that England, that Scotland, that Ireland shall each have their due share in the Ministry. But this state of things must be fatal both to the capacity and to the fairness of the government. The talent of the Cabinet will be diminished, because the Prime Minister will no longer be able to choose as colleagues the ablest among his supporters without reference to the now irrelevant question whether they represent English, Scottish, or Irish constituencies. The character of the Executive will be lowered because the Cabinet itself will represent rival interests. It may seem that I am advocating the special claims of England. This is not so. I am arguing on behalf of the efficiency of the government of the United Kingdom. My argument is one to which Scotsmen and Irishmen should give special heed. If once we have cabinets and parties based upon sectional divisions, if we have English ministries and English parties as opposed to Scottish ministries or Irish ministries, and Scottish parties and Irish parties, it is not in the long run the most powerful and wealthy portion of what is now the United Kingdom which will suffer. It is hardly the interest of Scotsmen or Irishmen to pursue a policy which suggests the odious but inevitable cry 'England for Englishmen.'

Fourthly, as long as Irish members remain at Westminster the English Parliament will never be freed from debates about Irish affairs.

This is a point there is no need to labour. Unless (what no honest man can openly propose) the 80 or 103 members from Ireland are to be taken from one Irish party only, they must represent different interests and different opinions. Some few at least will represent the wishes, the complaints, or the wrongs of Ulster. But if this be so, it is certain that the controversies which divide Ireland will make themselves heard at Westminster. Can any sane man fancy that if the Dublin Parliament passes an Act for the maintenance of order at Belfast, if the people of Belfast are suspected of intending to resist the Irish government, if Irish landlords, rightly or not, fear unfair treatment at the hands of the Irish Ministry or the Irish Parliament, none of these things will be heard of at Westminster? The supposition is incredible. Let Irish members sit at Westminster and Irish affairs will be debated at Westminster, and will often be debated when, under a system of Home Rule, it were much better they should be passed over in silence. Admit, what is not certain, that Home Rule in Ireland will occasionally withdraw a few Irish questions from discussion in England, it must be remembered that a new crop of Irish questions will arise. The federal character of the new constitution must produce in one form or another disputes and discussions as to the limits which bound the respective authority of the Imperial and of the Irish Governments. The Imperial Parliament will, for the first time, be harassed by the question of State rights. Add to this that at every great political crisis the House of Commons will have before it an inquiry which must produce interminable debates, namely whether a given bill is or is not a measure which concerns only the interest of Great Britain.

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse