England's Case Against Home Rule
by Albert Venn Dicey
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An author who publishes a book having any reference to Irish affairs may, not unnaturally, be supposed either to possess some special knowledge of Ireland, or else to be the advocate of some new specific for the cure of Irish discontent. Of neither of these suppositions can I claim the benefit. My knowledge of Ireland is merely the knowledge—perhaps it were better to say the ignorance—of an educated Englishman. It is derived from conversation with better informed friends, from careful attention to the discussions on Irish policy which for the last eighteen years have engrossed public attention, and from books accessible to ordinary readers. If I can claim no special acquaintance with Ireland, still less have I the presumption or the folly to come forward as the inventor of any political nostrum. My justification for publishing my thoughts on Home Rule is that the movement in favour of the Parliamentary independence of Ireland constitutes, whether its advocates recognise the fact or not, a demand for fundamental alterations in the whole Constitution of the United Kingdom; and while I may without presumption consider myself moderately acquainted with the principles of Constitutional law, I entertain the firmest conviction that any scheme for Home Rule in Ireland involves dangerous if not fatal innovations on the Constitution of Great Britain.

To set forth the reasons for this opinion is the object of this work. The opinion itself, whatever its worth, is not the growth of recent controversy; it has been entertained for years, and has been expressed by me in various publications. This book is much more than a reprint; its contents are, however, in part made up of articles which have already been published. My thanks are due to the owners of the Contemporary Review and of the New York Nation for their permission to make free use of my contributions to the pages of their periodicals; it is a pleasure to acknowledge the exceptional liberality with which my friend, Mr. E.L. Godkin, has allowed me to publish on my own responsibility in the columns of the Nation, opinions of which he is himself the strenuous and most able opponent.

Nor are my acknowledgments due only to the living. Gustave de Beaumont's 'Irelande sociale et politique' was placed in my hands by a friend after the plan of my argument was complete, and the writing of this book was in fact begun. From De Beaumont I learnt more than from any other writer on the subject of Ireland with whose works I am acquainted, and I found to my great satisfaction that his speculations curiously confirm the objections I was prepared to urge against the policy of Home Rule. It is a duty to insist upon the debt I owe to De Beaumont, because at the present moment no greater service can be rendered to Englishmen and to Irishmen alike than to press upon them the study of an author whose writings are far better known on the Continent than in England, and whose thoughts, though they may seem a little out of date, are full not only of profound wisdom but of practical guidance.


OCTOBER, 1886.










Argument I.—From Foreign Experience " II.—From the Will of the Irish People " III.—From the Lessons of Irish History " IV.—From the Virtues of Self-Government " V.—From the Necessity for Coercion Acts " VI.—From the Inconvenience to England of Refusing Home Rule







I.—Home Rule as Federalism II.—Home Rule as Colonial Independence III.—Home Rule as the Revival of Grattan's Constitution IV.—Home Rule under the Gladstonian Constitution






[Sidenote: Aim and line of argument]

My aim is to criticise from a purely English point of view the policy of Home Rule, or the proposal to create a more or less independent Parliament in Ireland; and as a result of such criticism to establish the truth, and develop the consequences, of this proposition—namely, that any system of Home Rule, whatever be the form it takes, is less beneficial to Great Britain, or (to use popular language) to England, than is the maintenance of the Union, and is at least as much opposed to the vital interests of England as would be the national independence of Ireland.

The train of reasoning by which it is sought to establish this principle, and the consequences which the principle involves, consists of the following steps: first, an examination into the causes which give strength to the Home Rule movement in England, and the nature of the arguments in its support used by English Home Rulers; secondly, a statement of the advantages and disadvantages, from an English point of view, on the one hand of maintaining the Union, and on the other of separation from Ireland; thirdly, a criticism of each of the principal forms[1] under which Home Rule has been actually presented to the attention of the public, the aim of such criticism being in each case to determine how far the particular form of Home Rule can compete as regards the interests of England with the alternative policies of Unionism and of Irish independence; and, fourthly, a summary of the conclusions arrived at by this survey of the policy of Home Rule. My endeavour will be to make this survey without any appeal to prejudice, passion, or sentiment, and with the calmness and fairness which a scientific constitutionalist should display in weighing the merits of any other proposed alteration in our form of government, such for example as the introduction of life peers into the House of Lords, or in estimating the value of some foreign constitutional invention, such for example as the Swiss Referendum or the Dual system which links together Hungary and the Austrian Empire. No citizen of the United Kingdom indeed can pretend to be an impartial critic of a policy which divides the whole nation into opposing parties. But during a period of revolutionary excitement it is well to remember that any legislative innovation, however keen the feelings of partisanship which it may arouse, is always in itself capable of being looked at from a logical or abstract point of view, and ought to be so looked at by jurists. To one class indeed among the advocates of Home Rule the fundamental principle contended for in these pages will appear irrelevant to the points at issue between such Home Rulers and their opponents. Nationalists, who still occupy the position held in 1848 by Sir Gavan Duffy and his friends, and who either openly contend for the right of Ireland to be an independent nation, or accept Home Rule (as they may with perfect fairness) simply as a step towards the independence of their country, are naturally and rightly unaffected by reasoning which shows, however conclusively, that Home Rule may be as injurious to England as a complete severance of the political connection between England and Ireland. A Nationalist may say with justice that he is no more bound to consider whether England will or will not be damaged by Ireland's becoming a nation, than an Italian patriot was bound, in 1859, to show that Austria would not suffer by being deprived of Lombardy or of Venetia; he accepts Home Rule on the maxim that half a loaf is better than no bread, but a starving man is not required to refuse the offer of food because the donor cannot make the gift without getting into debt; nor does the acceptance of half a loaf afford the least presumption that the recipient would not prefer a whole loaf if he could get it. Some indeed of the considerations which tell in the eyes of an Englishman against Home Rule may indirectly lead an Irish Nationalist to the belief that the boon of legislative independence, if granted to Ireland, would prove the present of a stone in reply to a prayer for bread. But should a Nationalist be convinced that no form of Home Rule would benefit Ireland, he would cling all the more firmly to the faith that her salvation depends upon her taking her place among independent states. To Nationalists, therefore, even though at present they may be fighting the cause of Irish nationality behind the vizor of Home Rule, these pages are not addressed; the position they occupy is one of which no man has any cause to feel ashamed. The opinion that, considering the misery which has marked the connection between England and Ireland, the happiest thing for the weaker country would be complete separation from the United Kingdom, is one which in common with most Englishmen, and, it may be added, in common with the wisest foreign observers, I do not share; but fairness requires the admission that it is an opinion which a man may hold and may act upon, without incurring the charge either of folly or of wickedness. To Nationalists, however, these pages, as I have said, are not addressed. The persons for whom they are intended are either Home Rulers, whether in Great Britain or in Ireland, who bona fide advocate the policy of Home Rule as a policy good and wise in itself and for its own sake; or else Unionists, who firmly believe that the whole State will suffer by any attempt to tear up the Treaty of Union, but yet are unable to give for the faith that is in them as strong grounds of reason as they would desire. To such persons the importance of the principle (if true) which is contended for throughout these pages must appear undeniable; it strikes at the root of more than one half of the arguments by which Home Rulers from the time of Mr. Butt to the days of Mr. Parnell have attempted, fairly enough, and latterly with great success, to win over English opinion to their cause, and it undermines the whole position occupied by Mr. Gladstone and his English followers. They assume with undeniable truth that the English people will not at the present moment, except under compulsion, acquiesce in Irish independence; they further assume, and must from the nature of the case assume, that Home Rule under one shape or another presents a fair prospect at least of advantages not derivable from the maintenance of the Union, and is at the very worst so much less injurious to British interests than would be separation from Ireland, as to offer to England a reasonable compromise between the just claims of Englishmen to secure the prosperity of Great Britain and the greatness of the British Empire, and the legitimate desire of Irishmen for national independence. If the proposition which it is my object to maintain turn out to be sound, all these assumptions fall to the ground, together with a host of fallacies for which these assumptions form the necessary basis. The principle, in short, which it is my object to enforce—that Home Rule in Ireland is more dangerous to England than Irish independence—lies at the bottom of all the rational opposition made by Unionists to the creation of an Irish Parliament, and, together with the arguments by which the principle is maintained, and the conclusions to which it leads, forms the true and just and reasonable case of England against Home Rule.

[Sidenote: Possible objections to method.]

The whole spirit and method of my argument is open to at least three plausible objections, which deserve examination, both because if left unnoticed they are certain to occur to and perplex any intelligent reader, and because their removal brings into relief the strength of my line of reasoning.

[Sidenote: 1. Too abstract.]

First objection.—To deal with a burning controversy in the abstract and logical manner suitable to the discussion of the problems of jurisprudence savours, it may be objected, of theoretic, academic, or pedantic disquisition more fit for a University class-room than for the living world of contemporary politics.

The force of this criticism does not admit of denial. My method of treating the question of Home Rule is necessarily lifeless when compared with the vehement rhetoric or heated eloquence which characterises public or parliamentary discussion; it is also true that the argumentative treatment of matters affecting actual life always bears about it a certain air of unreality.

If, however, systematic argument lacks the animation of political discussion or dispute, it possesses its own counterbalancing merits, and the mode of treating Home Rule purposely adopted in these pages has, it is conceived, two not inconsiderable advantages. The first of these advantages is that it diverts the mind from a crowd of personal, temporary, and in themselves trivial considerations, which, though they possess not only an apparent but also a real significance, are at bottom irrelevant to the final decision of the true points at issue. Whether, for example, Mr. Gladstone ought to have proclaimed himself a Home Ruler before the elections of 1885, whether Lord Salisbury's reference, or alleged reference, to twenty years of coercion was or was not judicious, and did or did not receive a fair interpretation from his opponents; whether Lord Carnarvon misled Mr. Parnell, or whether the Irish leader was a dupe to his own astuteness; whether Mr. Chamberlain ought to have joined the late Ministry, or, having gone into the Cabinet, ought never to have left it; what have been the motives consciously or unconsciously affecting Mr. Gladstone's course of action—these and a hundred other enquiries of the like sort, which engage the attention and distract the judgment of the public, possess, in the eyes of any serious thinker occupied in estimating the strength of the arguments for and against Home Rule, no material importance whatever. His concern is the merit or demerit of a legislative enactment. He is not concerned at all with the conduct or the character of legislators. Mr. Gladstone's motives may be the highest which can be ascribed to the Premier by the voice of admiring friendship, or the basest which can be imputed to him by the unfairness of political rancour. In any case they are irrelevant to the matter in hand. An unwise measure will not become a beneficial law because its author is a saint or a patriot; a statesmanlike law will not turn out a curse to the country because its defender is an intriguer or a traitor. We all see that this is so if we carry our view back to the controversies of the last generation; the personalities of fifty or sixty years ago are reduced before our eyes into their real pettiness. The first Reform Bill still retains its importance for as a measure which for good or bad revolutionised the constitution; its beneficial or pernicious effects are still traceable in the England of to-day; but its evils are not lessened by the acknowledged virtues of Lord Althorpe, nor are its good effects marred by the ambition of Brougham or the violence of O'Connell. It is no slight recommendation of any mode of reasoning if it suggests to us the prudence of judging the policy of 1886 in the spirit and by the standards which every man of sense applies to the policy of 1832. Academic disquisition has its faults, but ought to produce academic calmness; a class-room is after all a better place for quiet reflection than the House of Commons or the hustings.

The second of the advantages which marks the proposed mode of argument is that a line of thought which fixes a reader's attention all but exclusively upon the probable effects of Home Rule is a preservative against the errors which arise from introducing into a dispute, bitter enough in itself, all the poisonous venom of historical recrimination, and all the delusions which are the offspring of the misleading tendency to personify nations. The massacres of 1641, the sack of Drogheda, the violated treaty of Limerick, the follies strangely mingled with the patriotism of Grattan's Parliament, the outrages which discredited the rebellion of 1798, and the cruelties which disgraced its suppression; the corruption which carried the Union, and the broken pledges which turned political union into a source of fresh sectarian discord; the calamities, the mistakes and the crimes which mark each scene in the tragedy of Irish history, afford to Protestants and to Catholics alike an exhaustless supply of recriminatory invective. But to evoke the spectres of past ages is not the way to assuage the animosities of the present day. The crimes of bygone generations are subjects for curious investigation, but the determination of historical problems, even when conducted in the spirit of the calmest enquiry, never removes the difficulties of practical statesmanship. Apologies, at any rate, or diatribes produced by the necessity for palliating or for denouncing the misdeeds of other times, only add a new element of confusion to the turmoil of political warfare. Whether the insurgents of 1641 massacred every Protestant on whom they could lay their hands, or bear only an indirect responsibility for the death of eight or nine thousand men and women ruthlessly expelled from the lands of which in Irish eyes they were wrongful occupiers, is a question to be settled by Mr. Froude, Mr. Lecky, and Mr. Gardiner; but the barbarities of insurgent Catholics, and the retaliatory severity of Protestant victors, which mark the fury of an internecine conflict removed from us by the lapse of more than two centuries have little to do with the practical question whether it be expedient at the present day that the local affairs of Ulster should be dealt with by a Parliament sitting at Dublin, or whether members from Ireland should have seats at Westminster. Recrimination, while it adds nothing to knowledge, disturbs the judgment of statesmen and of electors; but not even the reckless resuscitation of bitter memories, which ought to be forgotten, adds so much to the confusion of the day as does the habit fostered by the illusions of language, and by the falsely applied historical method, of speaking and thinking of England and Ireland as though they were two human beings, who, on closing a life-long quarrel, might be expected to entertain towards one another those sentiments of regret, generosity, or gratitude which are proper to men and women, but can only by the boldest of fictions be supposed to enter into the relations between classes or nations. To this delusion of personification is due the notion that Englishmen of to-day ought to make compensation and feel personal shame for the cruelties of Cromwell, or for Pitt's corruption of Irish patriots; that we are in some way liable and should feel compunction for crimes committed by (possibly) the ancestors of the very men to whom we are now supposed to owe reparation. To the same cause is to be attributed the absurd demand that the Irish Catholics should put on ashes and sackcloth for the massacres of 1641, or that living Irishmen should be grateful for the well-meant though most unsuccessful efforts made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to govern one-third of the United Kingdom on sound principles of justice. A Sovereign's plainest duty is to rule his subjects for their good according to the best of his power and of his knowledge, and the mere discharge of duty does not entitle a ruler to gratitude from the persons who are benefited by his justice. A Parliamentary Sovereign being the representative and agent of its (so-called) subjects, is a fortiori if there can be degrees in such matters—bound to govern for the benefit of the people whom it represents and ought to serve; and there is something strictly preposterous in the idea that Irish electors, who in common with the rest of the United Kingdom send representatives to Westminster, should glow with gratitude when the Parliament of the United Kingdom so far performs its duty as to enact laws from which Ireland derives benefit No one suggests that Englishmen or Scotchmen should feel grateful either to Parliament or to their Irish fellow-citizens for the maintenance of good government throughout England and Scotland. And it would puzzle the wit of man to show why one-third of the United Kingdom should be expected to entertain feelings never demanded from the other two-thirds thereof.

[Sidenote: 2. Too much reference to interest.]

Second objection.—The habitual reference made throughout these pages to national interest as the test or standard of national policy has (it may be suggested) a touch of sordidness and selfishness, and implies that statesmanship has nothing to do with morality.

This impression may it is possible be conveyed to a careless reader by the form in which the case against Home Rule is stated; but no suggestion can in reality be more unfounded. It will be seen to be unfounded by any one who notes for a moment the meaning of the term "interest" as applied to matters of national policy. The interest or the welfare of a nation comprises many things which have nothing to do with trade or with wealth, and the value of which does not admit of being measured in money. The interest, welfare, or prosperity of England includes the maintenance of her honour, the performance of all her obligations, and, above all, the strict discharge of every engagement which she has undertaken towards countries or to individuals. The protection, for example, of law-abiding citizens in the enjoyment of rights secured to them by law; the maintenance of peace throughout the length and breadth of the Empire; the suppression of lawlessness; the strict performance of every promise which the State has made to every man or body of men, whether poor or rich, whether belonging to the class of labourers, of farmers, or even of landlords—the rendering, in short, to every man of his due—are things which without any improper extension of the term interest fall under the head of national interests. Utilitarianism, in truth, being a body of principles applicable primarily to legislation and only secondarily to ethics, its doctrines hold far more obviously true in the field of politics than in the field of morals. On any wide view of large public questions expediency will be found to be only another name for justice. It can be neither the interest nor the duty of any nation to legislate in a way which produces more of suffering than of happiness. A policy opposed to the interests or the welfare of the United Kingdom as a whole, even though it may appear for a moment to favour some particular portion of the State, is, we may be well assured, a policy opposed not only to wisdom, but to justice.

[Sidenote: 3. Exclusively English point of view.]

Third objection.—To look at Home Rule mainly from an English point of view, to criticise it because of its bearing on the interests or welfare of England, is, it may perhaps be thought, to treat the whole matter from the wrong side, and to betray an indifference to the welfare of Ireland. Home Rule, the objector may say, is a scheme for the government of Ireland. It therefore concerns the people of Ireland alone, it should be subjected to examination from an Irish, not from an English point of view, and to consider it in any other light is to exhibit in a new form that callous disregard by England of Ireland's claims which has prevented the two countries from blending into one community.

It is of primary importance that this objection should be stated with all the force which can be given to it, for were it valid it would assuredly be, in the judgment of all just persons, fatal to the line of reasoning which my readers are invited to pursue. The objection is, however, so far from being valid as to present my whole method of reasoning in a false light. A main reason why an Englishman does well to look at Home Rule from an English point of view is, that this mode of dealing with the adjustment of the possibly opposed interests of England and Ireland is (paradoxical though the assertion may sound) both the least irritating and in itself the fairest method of meeting the demands of Irish Home Rulers; though—and this is the one certainly good result which has arisen from the changed attitude towards Home Rule of Mr. Gladstone and his followers—these demands may now happily be dealt with as claims put forward not specially by Irishmen, but by a political party which includes large numbers of Scotchmen and Englishmen. The assertion, however, that to look at Home Rule from an English point of view is the way to minimise irritation, and to deal fairly with a topic specially requiring fair treatment, requires some explanation.

Experience of the world teaches every man that in complicated affairs of private life, involving questions, say, both of money and of sentiment, nothing so surely prevents quarrels as to separate in the clearest manner possible matters of business from matters of feeling. In determining a dispute between A. and B., a great step is gained when a friend induces each of the parties first to state clearly his exact legal rights and his exact pecuniary interest, and only when these facts are made clear to consider what are the concessions fairly to be demanded from him as a matter, not of right, but of liberality. Nothing, again, is plainer in the conduct of controversies between man and man, than that if A. intends to exact his full legal rights from B., the most irritating defence of A.'s conduct is his pretence of acting solely with a view to B.'s own good; and that, on the other hand, no manner of enforcing A.'s claims against B. causes so little unnecessary vexation to B. as for A. to say openly that he demands his rights because they are his rights, and because to demand them is his interest. Here, if nowhere else, the rules which apply to private disputes apply also to political controversies. If millions of Englishmen refuse a request made by millions of Irishmen, by far the least irritating form of refusal is open avowal that the reason for denying a separate Parliament to Ireland is the irreparable injury which Home Rule will work both to Great Britain and to the British Empire. This assertion has the merit, which even in politics is not small, of truth. If the Parliamentary independence of Ireland threatened as little damage to England as the Parliamentary independence of Victoria, an Irish legislature would meet in Dublin before the end of the year. Englishmen, it is true, do not believe that Ireland would in the long run gain by the possession of legislative independence. It is not, however, the doubt as to the reality of the blessing to be conferred on Ireland, but the certainty as to the injury to be done to England, which causes their opposition to Home Rule. To base this opposition upon the probable inconsistency between a Home Rule policy and the true interests of Ireland, involves the assumption that Englishmen are better judges of what makes for the true interest of Ireland than are the majority of Irishmen. The soundness of this assumption must seem to any man, who either recalls the most obvious facts of Irish history, or notes the depth of ignorance as to all things Irish which prevails even among our educated classes, to be open to reasonable question. What is not questionable is that the assertion, in whatever form it be made, that three millions of Irishmen do not understand what is good for themselves must arouse in their hearts deep and natural anger. If indeed the claim of Great Britain to look in this matter of Home Rule solely to the effect of Home Rule on British interests, were equivalent to the assertion that because England is strong she ought wherever her own interests are at stake to reck nothing of justice, such cynical scorn for all considerations except the possession of superior power would kindle just resentment in the soul of every man, whether in Ireland or in England, who believes that national morality is more than a mere phrase, though even in this case the open cynicism might excite less disgust than cynicism veiling itself under the mask of benevolence. Happily, however, there is in the present instance no opposition between truth and justice. Home Rule is no doubt primarily a scheme for the government of Ireland, but it is also much more than this: it is a plan for revolutionising the constitution of the whole United Kingdom. There is no unfairness, therefore, in insisting that the proposed change must not take place if it be adverse to the interests of Great Britain. This is merely to assert that the welfare of thirty millions of citizens must, if a conflict of interest arise, be preferred to the interest of five millions of citizens. Home Rulers, it must again and again be repeated, demand not the national independence of Ireland, but the maintenance of the connection between England and Ireland on terms different from the conditions contained in the Act of Union. To keep one's mind clear on this point is of importance, because the result follows that, as already intimated, a whole series of arguments or claims which may fairly be put forward by a Nationalist are not available to a Home Ruler. A Nationalist, for example, may urge that the will of the Irish people to be independent is decisive of their moral right to independence, and that the perils which a free Ireland may bring upon England need not in any way concern him or his country. Whether indeed the principle of "nationality," or the contention that any portion of a State which deems itself conscious of distinct national sentiment may, as a matter of absolute right, claim to become a separate nation, can be maintained, is an enquiry not so easily answered in the affirmative as is often assumed by modern democrats. What, however, is here insisted upon is not that the principle of nationality is unsound, but that this principle does not cover the demand for Home Rule. A Home Ruler asks not for the political separation, but for the political partnership of England and Ireland. He wishes not that the firm should be dissolved, but that the Articles of Association should be revised. There is not then the least unfairness in the answer that no modification can be allowed which in the judgment of his associates is fatal to the prosperity of the concern. To crowds excited by pictures of past greatness or of past struggles, by the hope of future prosperity to be brought about by miracles wrought by substituting the rule of love for the rule of law, there may appear to be something prosaic, not to say repulsive, in the comparison of the relation between Great Britain and Ireland to the relation between shareholders in a trading company. But at a period when a fundamental change in the constitution is advocated on grounds of faith, benevolence, or generosity, a good deal is gained by bringing into relief the business aspect of constitutional reforms. It can never be amiss to be reminded that, in the words of one of the most thoughtful among the advocates of Home Rule, "Government is a very practical business, and that those succeed best in it who bring least of sentiment or enthusiasm to the conduct of their affairs." It is at moments of revolutionary fervour, when men measure proposed policies rather by their wishes than by their experience, that every citizen needs to have impressed upon his mind that government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination. Nor let any one imagine that the expression of the belief constantly avowed or implied throughout these pages, that Home Rule would be as great an evil to England as Irish independence, shows a reckless and most unbusinesslike indifference to the perils and losses of separation. My conviction is unalterable that separation would be to England, as also to Ireland, a gigantic evil. This position is fully compatible with the belief that there are other evils as great, or greater. If a man says that he prefers the loss of his right hand to the loss of his life, he cannot reasonably be charged with making light of amputation. It is however perfectly true that the line of argument pursued in this work must, if it be sound, drive those to whom it is addressed to a choice between the maintenance of the Union and the concession to Ireland of national independence.



These are—

i. Home Rule as Federalism.

ii. Home Rule as Colonial Independence.

iii. Home Rule as the Restoration of Grattan's Constitution.

iv. Home Rule under the Government of Ireland Bill, or, to use a convenient name, under the Gladstonian constitution. Chap. vii.



"Home Rule" is a term which, like all current and popular phrases, is, though intelligible, wanting in precision. Hence it is well, before we investigate the different forms which schemes of Home Rule may assume, to fix in our minds precisely what Home Rule does mean and what it does not mean.

[Sidenote: What Home Rule means.]

"Home Rule"—or, to speak more accurately, the policy of Home Rule—means, if we may use language with which we are all familiar in relation to the Colonies, the endowment of Ireland with representative institutions and responsible government.

It means, therefore, the creation of an Irish Parliament which shall have legislative authority in matters of Irish concern, and of an Irish executive responsible (in general) for its acts to the Irish Parliament or the Irish people. Hence every scheme of Home Rule which merits that name is marked by three features—first, the creation of an Irish Parliament; secondly, the right of the Irish Parliament to legislate within its own sphere (however that sphere may be defined) with habitual freedom from the control of the Imperial or British Parliament; and thirdly, the habitual responsibility of the Irish executive for its acts to the Irish people or to their representatives.

These three characteristics, which I do not attempt to define with anything like logical precision, constitute the essence of Home Rule. Other things, however important in themselves, are matters of subordinate detail, and open to discussion or compromise. The limitations to the sphere within which the Irish Parliament is to exert independent authority, the definition of the term "Irish concerns," the constitution of the Irish Parliament, the nature and appointment of the Irish executive (which, though it is no doubt generally assumed to be a Cabinet chosen in effect like the Victorian Ministry, by the local Parliament, might well, and indeed far better, be a President or Council elected, like the Governor of New York, by popular vote), the occasions on which the British Parliament should retain the legal or moral right of legislation for Ireland—these and a score of other subjects which at once suggest themselves to a critic of constitutions are of supreme importance, but in whatever way they may be determined, they do not touch the principle of Home Rule. A scheme, on the other hand, however wise its provisions, which lacked the essential characteristics already enumerated, would not meet the demand for Home Rule; an Act which did not constitute a Parliament for Ireland could not possibly satisfy the sentiment of Irish nationality; an Irish Parliament which did not habitually, at any rate, legislate with independence of the Parliament at Westminster could not divest the law in Ireland of its "foreign garb"; an executive not responsible directly or indirectly to the Irish people could not give full effect to the legislation of an Irish Parliament, and the existence of such an executive would (if the true ground why law is hated in Ireland be its alien character) only divert popular hostility from the law to the government.

[Sidenote: What Home Rule does not mean.]

Home Rule does not mean Local Self-Government; Home Rule does not mean National Independence.

Local Self-Government means the delegation by the Sovereign, and in England therefore by Parliament, to local bodies, say town councils, county boards, vestries, and the like, of strictly subordinate powers of legislation for definite localities. The authority possessed by such local bodies extends over definite and limited areas, (which themselves are often created by legislation); exists for definite purposes; is directly conferred or tolerated by Parliament; has no capacity of indefinite extension; and neither comes into competition with nor restrains, either legally or morally, the legislative authority of Parliament. Logically, indeed, there may be difficulty in drawing the precise line of demarcation between a plan for conferring on Ireland the minimum of legislative independence which could without absurdity be dignified with the name of Home Rule, and a plan for giving to the boroughs and counties of Ireland the maximum of law-making power which could, without fraud upon the intelligence of the English people, be comprehended within the elastic phrase "extension of Local Self-Government." But this logical puzzle need give us no trouble; it is based on the fact that every non-sovereign law-making body, whether it be the French National Assembly, the American Congress, or the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Co., belongs to one and the same genus.[2] The casuists of jurisprudence may quibble for ever over the confines between Home Rule and Local Self-Government; men of sense engaged in the consideration of affairs thrust aside such inopportune logomachy, and content themselves with the knowledge that were the Town Council, say, of Birmingham or of Belfast endowed with tenfold its present powers, it would differ essentially from any Irish Parliament which, even though denied the Parliamentary title, should represent the people of Ireland, and should have received the very smallest amount of authority which could by any possibility satisfy Mr. Parnell. Nor are differences which may not admit of easy definition difficult for a candid enquirer to discern. A town council, whatever its powers, does not represent a nation, and derives no prestige from the principle of nationality; the feeblest legislative assembly meeting at Dublin would rightly claim to speak for the Irish people. A town council, whether of Birmingham or of Belfast, springs from and is kept alive by the will of Parliament, and cannot pretend that its powers, however extensive, compete with the authority of its creator. Should a town council use even its strictly legal rights in a way not conducive to the public interest, Parliament would without scruple override the bye-laws of the council by the force of Parliamentary enactment. The authority of an Irish representative assembly would from the necessity of things be, if not a legal, at any rate a moral check, I will not say on Parliamentary sovereignty, but assuredly on Parliamentary legislation. Extended rights of self-government, though given to every local body in Ireland, would not affect the relation between the people of Ireland and the Parliament at Westminster. The very aim of Home Rule, even under its least pretentious form, is to introduce a new relation between the people of Ireland and the Parliament at Westminster. The matter may be summed up in one phrase: Local Self-Government however extended means the delegation, Home Rule however curtailed means the surrender, of Parliamentary authority.

[Sidenote: Local Self-Government.]

The distinction here insisted upon is of practical importance, for it is connected with a question so pressing as to excuse an apparent, though not more than an apparent, digression.

English Radicals, and many politicians who are not Radicals, hold, whether rightly or not, that the sphere of Local Self-Government may with benefit to the nation be greatly extended in England. The soundness of this view in no way concerns us, and it is a matter upon which there is no reason, for our present purpose, to form or express an opinion; they also hope that by a similar extension of Local Self-Government to Ireland they may satisfy the demand for Home Rule. They conceive, in short, that it is possible to confer a substantial benefit upon the Irish people, and to close a dangerous agitation, by giving to Belfast and to Cork the same municipal privileges which they wish to extend to Birmingham or to Liverpool. The reasons for this belief are threefold: that Local Self-Government is itself a benefit; that Ireland ought, as of right, to have the same institutions as England; that Local or Municipal Self-Government will meet the real if not the nominal wish of the Irish people. This hope I believe to be delusive. The reasons on which it is grounded are—one of them probably, and two of them certainly—unsound.

Local Self-Government is one of those arrangements which, like most political institutions, cannot be called absolutely good or bad. It is a good thing, I suppose, at Birmingham, and was some fifty years ago a good thing in Massachusetts, and it may prove (though this is speculation) a good thing in an English county. Local Self-Government is not admirable at New York; it works less well than it once did in New England; it does not produce very happy effects in London parishes; we may well doubt whether it be really suited for modern France. Local Self-Government where it flourishes is quite as much a result as a cause of a happy social condition; the eulogies bestowed upon it contain a curious mixture of truth and falsehood. What is true is, that where self-government flourishes, society is in a sound state; what is false is, that Local Self-Government produces a sound state of society. The primary condition necessary for the success of self-government is harmony between different classes. The rich must be the guides of the poor, the poor must put trust in the rich. Men who are placed above corruption must interest themselves in the laborious but important details of local administration; men who might be corrupted themselves, must desire to place power in the hands of leaders who are as a class incorruptible. High public spirit, a detestation of jobbery, trust and goodwill between rich and poor, are the feelings which make good local or municipal government possible. There are certain parts of England, there are larger parts of the United States, where these admirable and rare conditions exist. Do they exist in Ireland? I need not answer the question, for if they existed our difficulties in Ireland would be at an end. If, indeed, there were a genuine desire for Local Self-Government, expressed by Irishmen themselves, every sensible man would at once surrender a priori theories in favour of the conclusions drawn by practical experience. But no such wish has been expressed, and until it is expressed, a thoughtful observer may fairly believe that Local Self-Government will not flourish in a country where are presented none of the conditions on which its prosperity depends, and he may conjecture that in Ireland, as in France, an honest centralised administration of impartial officials, and not Local Self-Government, would best meet the real wants of the people.[3]

The notion that Ireland or any one part of the United Kingdom ought, or has a claim, to have the same institutions as every other part rests on a confusion of ideas, and is a false deduction from democratic principles. It is founded on the feeling which has caused half the errors of democracy, that a fraction of a nation has a right to speak with the authority of the whole, and that the right of each portion of the people to make its wishes heard involves the right to have them granted. This delusion has once and again made Paris the ruler of France, and the Parisian mob the master of Paris. The sound principle of democratic government—and England must, under the present state of things, be ruled on democratic principles—is, that all parts of the country must be governed in the way which the whole of the State as represented by the majority thereof deems expedient for each part, and that while every part should be allowed a voice to make known its wants, the decision how these wants are to be met must be given by the whole State, that is (in the particular instance) by the majority of the electors of Great Britain and Ireland. From this principle it does not follow either that every part of the kingdom should have those institutions which that part prefers, (though in so far as this end can be attained its attainment is desirable,) or, still less, that every part of the kingdom should have the same institutions as every other part. That this is so everybody in a general way admits. No one supposes that because the people of Leicester abominate vaccination the Vaccination Acts are not to be extended to that borough, or that the wish of the people of Birmingham in favour of free schools is decisive in favour of making education in Birmingham gratuitous. The will of a locality is admitted not to be the expression of the will of the nation. No one, again, fancies that the legal institutions of England ought of necessity to be extended to Scotland, or the law of Scotland to England. In Ireland recent legislation has, and with general approval, established institutions which no one alleges must, because they exist in Ireland, be applied of necessity or as a matter of justice to England. English tenants might in many cases, it is likely enough, think the provisions of the Irish Land Acts a boon, but no one would listen to the argument that simply because under the special circumstances of Ireland special privileges are given to Irish tenants, similar privileges ought to be conferred upon every English tenant farmer. The idea therefore that because English boroughs or counties receive an increased measure of self-government the same measure ought to be extended to Ireland, though it sounds plausible, is neither conformable to democratic principle nor to our habitual practice, grounded as that practice is on considerations of common sense and expediency. The true watchwords which should guide English democrats in their dealings with Ireland, as in truth with every other part of the United Kingdom, are not "equality," "similarity," and "simultaneity," but "unity of government," "equality of political rights," "diversity of institutions." Unless English democrats see this they will commit a double fault: they will not in reality deal with Ireland as with England, for to deal with societies in essentially different conditions in the same manner is in truth to treat them differently; they will not—and this is of even more importance—perform the true function of the democracy, which is to remove by special legislation, mainly in a democratic direction, the peculiar evils which are the result of Ireland's peculiar and calamitous history.

Once realise that Local Self-Government is essentially different from Home Rule, and it becomes patent that the idea of satisfying the wish for Home Rule by increasing the municipal franchises of every township in Ireland is a dangerous delusion. Local Self-Government may be an excellent thing in its way—it is possibly (though I do not say it is) the thing which the inhabitants of Ireland ought to wish for; but it is not the thing which they do wish for, and it has not the qualities which, if Home Rule be really desired by the Irish people, make Home Rule desirable. It does not meet the feeling of nationality; it does not give the popular leaders authority to settle the land question; it does not free the law from its alien aspect. The very reasons which make English reformers favour the extension of Local Self-Government in Ireland prove that Local Self-Government, whatever its merits, is no substitute for Parliamentary independence. Englishmen recommend Local Self-Government because it does not check on the authority of the Imperial Parliament; Home Rulers desire Home Rule because it does check Imperial legislation. Brandy is good, and water is good; but when a neighbour asks for a glass of spirits, it is mockery to tender a glass of water on the ground that both spirits and water are drink. The benevolent person who makes the offer must not wonder if he receives no thanks.

[Sidenote: National Independence.]

Home Rule does not mean National Independence. This proposition needs no elaboration. Any plan of Home Rule whatever implies that there are spheres of national life in which Ireland is not to act with the freedom of an independent State. Mr. Parnell and his followers accept in principle Mr. Gladstone's proposals, and therefore are willing to accept for Ireland restrictions on her political liberty absolutely inconsistent with the principle of nationality. Under the Gladstonian constitution her foreign policy is to be wholly regulated by a British Parliament in which sit no Irish representatives; she is not to have the right either of raising an army or of endowing a church; she is in fact to surrender any claim to the rights of a nation in consideration of receiving a certain number of State-rights. In all this there is nothing unreasonable and nothing blameworthy. One part of the United Kingdom is prepared to accept new terms of partnership. But this acceptance, though reasonable and fair enough, is quite inconsistent with any claim for national independence. A nation is one thing, a state forming part of a federation is quite another. To ask for the position of a dependent colony like Victoria, or of a province such as Ontario, is to renounce the demand to be a nation. A bona fide Home Ruler cannot be a bona fide Nationalist. This point deserves attention, not for the sake of the miserable and ruinous advantage which is obtained by taunting an adversary in controversy with inconsistency till you drive him to improve his logical position by increasing the exactingness of his demands, but because the advocates of Home Rule (honestly enough, no doubt) confuse the matter under discussion by a strange kind of intellectual shuffle. When they wish to minimise the sacrifice to England of establishing a Parliament in Ireland, they bring Home Rule down nearly to the proportions of Local Self-Government; when they wish to maximise—if the word may be allowed—the blessings to Ireland of a separate legislature, they all but identify Home Rule with National Independence. Yet you have no more right to expect from any form of State-rights the new life which sometimes is roused among a people by the spirit and the responsibilities of becoming a nation, than you have to suppose that municipal councils will satisfy the feelings which demand an Irish Parliament.


[2] See Dicey, Law of the Constitution (2nd ed.), p. 80.

[3] De Beaumont's opinions on this point are perfectly clear: they represent the judgment of an extremely able thinker, who approaches the problems presented by Irish society with an impartiality which from the nature of things is unattainable by any Englishman or Irishman. His utterances will moreover command the more respect from the consideration that De Beaumont, belonging as he did to the school of his intimate friend De Tocqueville, was inclined rather to overrate than to underrate the virtues of self-government; whilst as a Frenchman he possessed a knowledge which cannot fall to any Englishman of the benefits conferred upon the people by a good administration of the French type. The following extracts from a chapter too long for complete citation, which is written to show that Ireland needs a centralised government, deserve the most careful attention. The whole chapter, and indeed the whole work to which it belongs, ought at the present moment to be familiar to every English Liberal:—

"Pour detruire le pouvoir politique de l'aristocratie, il faudrait lui oter l'application quotidienne des lois, comme on l'a privee precedemment adu pouvoir de les faire. Il faudrait, par consequent, modifier profondement le systeme administratif et judiciaire qui repose sur l'institution des juges de paix et sur l'organisation des grands jurys, tels qu'ils sont constitues aujourd'hui. Et d'abord, pour executer cette reforme, il faudrait centraliser le pouvoir.

* * * * *

"Plus on considere l'etat de l'Irlande, et plus il semble qu'a tout prendre un gouvernement central fortement constitue serait, du moins pour quelque temps, le meilleur que puisse avoir ce pays. Une aristocratie existe, qu'on veut reformer. Mais a qui remettre le pouvoir qu'on va retirer de ses mains? Aux classes moyennes?—Elles ne font que de naitre en Irlande. L'avenir leur appartient; mats ne compromettront-elles pas cet avenir, si la charge de mener la societe est confiee des aujourd'hui a leurs mains inhabiles et a leurs ardentes passions?

"Telle est aujourd'hui en Irlande la situation des partis, que l'on ne peut obtenir quelque justice des pouvoirs politiques, si on les laisse a l'aristocratie protestante, et que l'on ne saurait guere en esperer davantage, si on les donne aussitot a la classe moyenne catholique qui s'eleve.

"Ce qu'il faudrait a l'Irlande, ce serait une administration superieure aux partis, a l'ombre de laquelle les classes moyennes pussent grandir, se developper et s'instruire, pendant que l'aristocratie perdrait son pouvoir.

* * * * *

"Il n'entre, du reste, ni dans mon desir, ni dans mon plan, d'expliquer la forme et le mecanisme de la centralisation qui conviendrait a l'Irlande, et dont je me borne a reconnaitre en principe l'utilite passagere pour ce pays; je ne hasarderai, sur ce sujet, qu'une seule idee pratique.

"C'est que, pour organiser en Irlande un gouvernement central puissant, il faudrait de plus en plus resserrer le lien d'union qui attache l'Irlande a l'Angleterre, rapprocher le plus possible Dublin de Londres, et faire de l'Irlande un comte anglais.

* * * * *

"On ne conteste point que l'Irlande ait besoin d'un gouvernement special; et s'il y a necessite de la soumettre a un regime legislatif autre que celui de l'Angleterre, il faut bien aussi des agents particuliers pour appliquer des regles differentes d'administration. Mais, ceci etant admis, l'on ne voit pas ce qui aujourd'hui empecherait de placer le siege du gouvernement irlandais dans la premiere ville de l'empire britannique.

* * * * *

"La reforme de la vice-royaute et l'abolition des administrations locales d'Irlande ne sont, sans doute, que des changements de forme. Mais ce sont des moyens pratiques indispensables pour executer les reformes politiques dont ce pays a besoin. Il faut que, pendant la periode de transition ou se trouve l'Irlande, ceux qui la gouvernent soient places absolument en dehors d'elle, de ses moeurs, de ses passions; il faut que son gouvernement cesse completement d'etre irlandais; il faut qu'il soit entierement, non pas anglais, mais remis a des Anglais."—2 De Beaumont, l'Irlande, Sociale, Politique et Religieuse, pp. 124-129



[Sidenote: Strength of movement.]

A dispassionate observer will easily convince himself that in Great Britain the movement in favour of Home Rule is stronger than is believed by its opponents. Patent facts show that this is so. In 1880 no single English statesman had avowed himself its supporter; not fifty English or Scotch members of Parliament could have been found to vote for an enquiry into the admissibility of Mr. Parnell's policy. It may well be doubted whether at that date ten British constituencies would have returned to Parliament representatives pledged to grant Ireland a separate legislature. Contrast this state of things with the present condition of affairs. England has indeed pronounced decisively against any tampering with the Act of Union, but the leading statesman of the day has avowed himself a Home Ruler; he is supported by eminent colleagues, and by nearly two hundred representatives of British constituencies. Scotland and Wales on the whole favour the policy of separation, and if, as has been roughly computed, of the electors of the United Kingdom, 1,316,327 have voted in support of the Union, the same computation shows that 1,238,342 are, to say the least, indifferent to its maintenance. These are facts which tell their own tale. The Home Rule movement has waxed strong. What is in England the source of its strength, and what are the arguments in its support relied upon by its English advocates?

[Sidenote: Source of its strength.]

Nine persons out of ten will reply that the Home Rule movement in England owes its origin and force to the patronage of Mr. Gladstone. No one who has watched the ebb and flow of popular feeling will underrate that statesman's influence, and few persons, whatever their political bias, will deny that but for Mr. Gladstone's conversion Mr. Parnell's teaching would not at this moment have gained for him as many as fifty disciples among English politicians. It may even be conceded that but for Mr. Gladstone's action no English party would, during his lifetime, have adopted the Parliamentary independence of Ireland as a watchword. But here, as in other instances, there is grave danger of mistaking the occasion for the cause of events, and if Mr. Gladstone's conversion has determined the form and increased the momentum of the Home Rule movement, it would be an error to hold that the prevalence of doctrines unfavourable to the maintenance of the Union between England and Ireland were wholly or even in the main due to his conduct. His conversion itself remains to be accounted for. This would (except to those critics who ascribe the most important acts of public statesmanship to the pettiest forms of private selfishness) remain almost unaccountable unless it were regarded in the light, in which it ought no doubt to be looked upon, of an example of the facility with which a leader guided by keen sympathy with the real or supposed opinions or emotions of the moment follows, while apparently he guides, the phases of public opinion. Candour moreover compels the admission that, if Mr. Gladstone's action has led some politicians to "find salvation"—according to the miserable cant of the day—in the adoption of opinions which cannot be dignified with the name of convictions, many honest men both within and without the sphere of public life have under the countenance of a great name been encouraged to avow publicly sympathies with the demand for Home Rule which have been slowly matured, and have hitherto scarcely been acknowledged even in the convert's own mind. To any one who perceives that the force of a movement opposed to the traditions of English statesmanship must be attributed to some cause beyond the personal influence of a leader, the idea naturally suggests itself that the prevalence of conversions to the policy of Home Rule is due to the power of argument, and that the English people have been brought to see the expediency of conceding a legislature to Ireland by the same methods which induced them to abolish the policy of Protection. This notion does not correspond with known facts. Till a recent date hardly an argument was addressed to the English public in favour of Home Rule; no great writer or speaker even aimed at proving to the nation that a reform or innovation which has been rejected again and again as repeal had more to recommend it under a new name. Great changes in our institutions or policy have hitherto been preceded by lengthy, in general by too lengthy, discussion. The doctrines of Free Trade were established by Adam Smith seventy years before the abolition of the Corn Laws, and Protection was not vanquished till Cobden and Bright had, by laborious controversy, exposed its fallacies in every corner of Great Britain. The reasons in favour of Catholic Emancipation were stated in their full force by Burke more than forty years before a Roman Catholic was admitted to Parliament, and the whole case in favour of the Catholics had been argued out in the presence of the nation long before the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill. No movement ever appealed to keener popular sympathies than the movement for the abolition of slavery. Yet the Abolitionists made their case out—proved it, as lawyers say, "up to the very hilt," before a single slave was released from bondage. The Irish Church (it may be suggested) was abolished off-hand. This apparent exception to the regular course of long argumentative controversy which in England marks all great innovations has misled Home Rulers, yet the exception is only apparent. Long before 1869 the intelligence of England—one might say of the civilised world—had been convinced by the power of reason that the maintenance in a Roman Catholic country, and at the expense of a Roman Catholic population, of a Protestant ecclesiastical establishment was an indefensible anomaly. The walls fell at the first blast which sounded attack, because the foundations had been argumentatively sapped and undermined for more than a generation. With the cause of Home Rule it is far otherwise. Its sudden progress has been characterised by a singular absence of systematic discussion. No one supposes that its English advocates are deficient in talent or in zeal. Mr. Gladstone, Mr. John Morley, Mr. Bryce—to name no others—are as competent apologists for any opinion they entertain as can well be found. They have been put upon their mettle; they have addressed the nation in Parliament and out of Parliament; they have produced a certain number of reasons, which deserve respectful consideration, in support of their favourite innovation. But no candid critic can feel that these eminent men, and other less distinguished labourers in the same cause, have put forward arguments of strength enough to account for the undoubted conviction of the reasoners. Appeals to trust in the people, to confidence in human nature, to the strength of love as contrasted with the weakness of law, to shame for our past misgovernment of the Irish, to sanguine expectations of terminating a secular feud which has caused wretchedness to Ireland and has lessened the power of England, would appear in the judgment of orators addressing English electors likely to have much more weight with their audience than any attempt to prove that the establishment of a Parliament at Dublin will be conducive to the benefit of the Empire. Nor is this wonderful. The plain truth is that the strength of the Home Rule movement depends, as far as England is concerned, on a peculiar, though not of necessity a transitory, state of opinion. The arguments of Home Rulers, whatever their worth (and I have not the remotest intention of denying that they have weight), derive at least half their power from their correspondence with dominant sentiments. That this is so is admitted by the now celebrated appeal from the classes to the masses. It is in its nature an appeal from a verdict likely to be pronounced by the understanding or the prejudice of educated men, to the emotions of the uneducated crowd. The appeal may or may not be justifiable. This is not the point for discussion; but the making of such an appeal necessarily implies that the existence of certain widespread feelings is a condition requisite for full appreciation of the reasoning in support of Home Rule. The reasons may be good, but it is faith which gives them convincing power. They derive their cogency from a favouring atmosphere of opinion or feeling. Two features of recent controversy suffice of themselves (if proof were needed) to establish the truth of this assertion. The rhetorical emphasis laid by Home Rulers on the baseness of the arts which carried the Act of Union is, as an argument in favour of repealing the Act, little else than irrational. The assumed infamy of Pitt does not prove the alleged wisdom of Gladstone; and to urge the repeal of an Act which has stood for nearly a century, because it was carried by corruption, is in the eye of reason as absurd as to question the title of modern French landowners because of the horrors of the Reign of Terror. Even a Legitimist would not now base a moral claim to an estate on the ground that his grandfather was deprived of it through confiscation and murder. But rhetoric is not governed by the laws of logic, and insistence on the corruption or the criminality by which the Act of Union was carried is an effective method of conciliating popular sentiment to the cause of repeal. No notion again has been more widely circulated or put forward on higher authority than that past reforms have been due in the main to the enthusiasm of the masses. But no notion is more directly at variance with the lessons of history. In the eighteenth century the enlightenment of the Whig aristocracy was England's safeguard against the Jacobitism and the bigotry of the crowd. Every effort in favour of religious liberty was till recently the work of an educated minority who opposed popular prejudice. In the last century popular sentiment would have denied all rights to Jews; in 1780 Lord George Gordon was the hero of the people of England, and even more emphatically of the people of Scotland. And Burke was forced to present an elaborate defence to his constituents at Bristol for taking part in an attempt to mitigate the penal laws against the Roman Catholics. There is every reason to suppose that even in 1829 a plebiscite, had one been possible, would have negatived the Catholic Relief Bill. The mitigation again of the Criminal Law was the work of thinkers like Romilly and Bentham. These eminent reformers would have been much surprised to have been told that the uneducated masses were their staunch supporters. One of the greatest improvements ever effected by legislation was the reform in the administration of parochial relief. The new poor law was essentially unpopular; its principles were established by economists; its enactment was due to the Whigs, supported, as it should always be remembered to his credit, by the Duke of Wellington. It may be conjectured from recent legislation that at this very moment an indiscriminate renewal of outdoor relief would command the approval of the agricultural voters. Protection in the form of the corn laws was unpopular in England; this, however, cannot with fairness be put down to the moral or intellectual credit of the multitude. The corn laws were disliked because they enhanced the price of bread. Even as it was, the Chartists used to interrupt the meetings of the Anti-Corn Law League, and it is an idle fancy that the dangers of a protective tariff are in themselves more patent to the electors of England than to the democracy of France or of America. Trades Unionism is in many of its features a form of protectionism. If again we turn to foreign policy, we must read history with a strangely perverted eye if we hold that the people have in general condemned wars, whether just or unjust. There is hardly to be named a great war in which England has been engaged which has not engaged popular support. In the struggle with the American Colonies the warlike sentiment of the people was undoubtedly opposed to the prudence and justice of a small body of enlightened men, who found their representative in Burke. In England, it is true, no great change of law or of policy can in general be effected until it has in some sort been sanctioned by popular approval. But to attribute every advance, or even most advances, along the path of progress to the masses by whom a step forward is finally sanctioned, is hardly a more patent fallacy than the notion that because every statute is passed with the assent of the Crown, to the Queen may be ascribed the glory of every beneficial Act passed in her name. To maintain, as every man versed in history must maintain, that ignorance must from the necessity of the case be the ally of prejudice, is not to deny to the people their merits or virtues. If ignorance were wisdom as well as bliss, every effort in favour of popular education were folly. No doubt the rich or educated classes are slaves to delusions from which the crowd are free. This concession falls far short of the doctrine that legislative progress is mainly due to the soundness of popular feeling. That this doctrine should in one shape or another have been promulgated, and have formed the basis of an argument for a complicated change in the constitution, is a sign that the advocates of the innovation or reform feel instinctively that the strength of their case lies in its coincidence with dominant sentiment. Nor is it hard to see what is the condition of sentiment or opinion which favours the doctrine of Home Rule. The matter, however, is of such importance as well to repay careful examination.

For the first time in the course of English history, national policy has passed under the sway, not so much of democratic convictions, but of a far stronger power—democratic sentiment. Every idea which can rightly or wrongly be called popular, commands, even among persons who deem themselves Conservatives, ready assent or superstitious deference. Hence flow (be it at once conceded) some of the best characteristics of the age, such as the detestation of inhumanity; the distrust in violent methods of government; the dislike to anything which savours of indifference to the wishes, or callousness to the wants, of the people. Hence the growth of the conviction that property has at least as many duties as rights, and of the faith inspired, rather by compassion than by reason, that the toiling multitudes can and must be made to share in the prosperity and the luxuries created in great part by their ceaseless labour. From the same source—from the prevalence of the democratic spirit—arise a crowd of dubious not to say ignoble ideas, as that the voice of the majority is the voice of God; that it is a folly, if not a crime, to resist any widespread phase of belief or of passion; that any body of persons claiming to be united by a sense of nationality possesses an inherent and divine right to be treated as an independent community. Many of these notions are radically inconsistent with one another. The dogma, for example, of the supremacy of the majority, or the conviction that legislation ought to aim at the greatest happiness of the greatest number, each belong to a different order of ideas from the principle of nationality, and may easily come into conflict with it. This inconsistency does not lessen the influence exerted by the mass of democratic feeling. We may, however, well note that democratic ideas at the present day produce their effect far less by exciting enthusiasm (for they now kindle nothing like the fiery fervour which the doctrines of popular sovereignty or of human equality excited a century ago throughout the length and breadth of Europe), than by their singular capacity for dissolving the convictions which oppose the claims of revolutionists. Of this solvent power recent events have given us more than enough examples. One may suffice. The argument that because Irish householders have received votes therefore the majority of the electors of the United Kingdom must concede to the majority of Irish householders anything whatever having reference to Ireland which Irish householders desire, is logically absurd. But (combined, no doubt, with other causes) it convinced the Conservative Government of 1885 that the executive in Ireland was bound to bow to the will of the Irish people, and was relieved from the obligation of enforcing at all costs the law of the land. Popular sympathies, moreover, blend in the minds of modern Englishmen with feelings of a much less generous and much less respectable order. Dislike of trouble, hatred to the performance of arduous public duties, a growing indifference to ordinary commonplace ideas of law and justice, contempt for the legal rights of individuals whenever these rights clash for a moment with the ease or interest of the public, exert an incalculable influence on the conduct, and in truth upon the convictions, both of Members of Parliament and of electors. It is not too much to say that the favour or acquiescence with which so-called practical politicians are prepared to accept Home Rule is grounded to a far greater extent than any one who respects the character of England likes to confess upon the naive but intense conviction that it is too much to expect from five hundred and more English gentlemen that they should take the trouble of withstanding the continuous pressure exerted by eighty-six Parnellites. Cowardice masks itself under the show of compromise, and men of eminent respectability yield to the terror of being bored concessions which their forefathers would have refused to the threat of armed rebellion. It is unnecessary to explain how this condition of opinion, under which the best and the lowest feelings of human nature are blended in a current of democratic sentiment, predisposes large bodies of Englishmen towards acquiescence in the Home Rule movement. My aim is not so much to analyse with precision the mode in which the cause of Home Rule is fostered by the moral atmosphere of the day, as to insist upon the all-important consideration that the progress of the Home Rule movement is due rather to the encouragement it derives from prevailing sentiment than to any intellectual conviction on the part of Englishmen that it is dictated by considerations of sound policy.



[Sidenote: Arguments by which Home Rule policy defended.]

To lay stress upon the consideration that the Home Rule movement in England derives its force from the condition of public feeling is not, be it remarked, equivalent to showing that the policy of Home Rule is unwise; still less that the policy of defended. Home Rule is unlikely to be adopted by the nation. Masses of human beings must generally, as individuals must often, trust to the guidance of feeling. The difference between the sentiment which ought and the sentiment which ought not to determine national conduct is, that the one admits and the other does not admit of justification on grounds of reason or experience. Reasoning is the test, not the source of wise action. Slavery was abolished, the abuses of the ancien regime were destroyed, Italian unity was created under the stress of emotions which carried away thousands who could not have logically defended the impulse which governed their acts. But in these, as in other cases in which humanity has been carried forward along the path of progress by the force of emotion, the enthusiasm of the time could, in so far as it worked for good, be justified on grounds of reason. Man is (difficult though it often be to believe the fact) a rational being, in so far at least that he is constrained to defend on argumentative grounds courses of action dictated by feeling. From this law of human nature Home Rulers have neither the power nor, in fairness be it added, the wish to escape. Their influence is due to the condition of public sentiment, but they justify their policy by arguments which are the intellectual equivalents for the moral feelings which go to constitute the opinion of the day. Of these arguments, those which require statement and examination can be conveniently summed up under six heads—the argument from foreign experience, the argument from the will of the Irish people, the argument from the lessons of Irish history, the argument from the virtues of self-government, the argument from the necessity for Coercion Acts, the argument from the inconvenience to England of refusing Home Rule to Ireland.

[Sidenote: Argument 1. Foreign experience.]

The argument from foreign experience.—Home Rule under one shape or another has been tried in a large number of foreign countries, and has (it is alleged) been found everywhere to solve the problem of combining into one State communities which, like England and Ireland, were not ready to coalesce into one united nation. Each State throughout the American Union, each Canton of Switzerland, has something like sovereign independence. Yet the United States are strong and prosperous, and the Swiss Confederacy, which was a land at one time torn by religious animosities, and divided by differences of race, is now a country so completely at harmony with itself that without a regular army it maintains its independence in the face of the armed powers of Europe. Canada or Victoria have more complete liberty of action than any one dreams of claiming for Ireland. Yet Canada and Victoria are loyal, and under the guidance of men who, it may be, were yesterday rebels in Ireland, support the supremacy of the British Parliament and contribute to the splendour of the English Crown. The German Empire contains not only separate States, but separate kingdoms, such as Bavaria, ruled by kings or princes who certainly value highly the independence of their countries and the dignity of their thrones. The despotism of Turkey has not forbidden the local independence of Crete, and self-government has, it is hinted, produced acquiescence in Turkish rule. The autocracy of the Czar is found compatible with Home Rule in Finland, and Finland is the most contented portion of Russia. Norway and Sweden are united in feeling because they are not by law a "united kingdom," and act in harmony just because each country has a different constitution, and each is governed by its own Parliament. Denmark has, with benefit to herself, given local independence to Iceland, and Iceland is content. Austria and Hungary, after centuries of misunderstanding and twenty years of bitter conflict, have finally composed the feud of ages by a compromise, which gives to the two parts of the Empire the practical blessings of Parliamentary independence, and concedes to Hungary at least the sentimental blessing of acknowledged nationality. The argument, in fact, from foreign experience, professes to be an induction based upon a foundation of instances as large as can support any conclusion of social science. In one land after another the existence of Home Rule, or, to use the curiously inaccurate phraseology of the day, of "autonomy," in one part of the State has been found consistent with the unity of the whole. An experiment which has succeeded in one set of cases ought to succeed in another, and England has no reason to dread a scheme of government which has been tried with success in other portions of the civilized world. Nor does the zealous advocate of Home Rule pause at the conclusion that the measure he recommends may, on the strength of foreign experience, be regarded as a tolerable evil or as a probable cure for a chronic disease. He suggests that it is a good in itself, and laments that ignorance led our ancestors to fuse Scotland and England into an United Kingdom, when they might, had they understood the principles of federalism, have left to each country the blessings of State sovereignty.

[Sidenote: Criticism on argument.]

There is some difficulty in treating with perfect seriousness a line of reasoning which, proceeding from the quarter whence it comes, holds up for our admiration the wisdom or lenity of Turkish rule in Crete, and extols the supreme justice of the system upon which rests the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which implies that the arts of government may be learnt from the Russian administration of Finland, and omits all reference to the disastrous results of the attempt to endow Poland with some sort of independence, which bases weighty inferences as to the proper relation between England and Ireland on the concession by Denmark to the scanty inhabitants of a desolate island lying 1100 miles from her coast of as much autonomy (if that be the right term) as under the Crown of England has been enjoyed for generations by Jersey or Man, and which suggests lamentations over the splendid triumph of constructive statesmanship embodied in the treaty of Union with Scotland. De minimis non curat lex is a maxim of judicial procedure which in spirit applies to proposals for legislation. Arguments from Iceland and the like may be set aside as the ornaments or curiosities of debate, and may be allowed as much weight and no more as would be given to an argument in favour of petty states from the flourishing condition of Monaco, or to reasonings in support of Republicanism from the condition of Andorre. Though there is something slightly ridiculous in the zeal with which the advocates of Home Rule, using at least as much industry as discrimination, have scraped together every instance they can lay their hands upon of constitutions under which something which can be called Home Rule exists without producing palpable injury to the State, it would be unfair to deny some real weight to a kind of induction, which, if not convincing as argument, yet possesses undoubtedly a good deal of rhetorical effectiveness. Nor ought the concession to be refused that if there be any man dull or ill-informed enough to suppose that countries cannot be politically united unless they are subject to a common legislative power, the slightest knowledge of lands outside England is sufficient to make manifest his ignorance. When, however, the instances on which the induction is supposed to be founded are carefully scrutinised, it will be discovered that those examples which deserve attention are far less numerous than might be supposed from a glance over the lists now well known to the public of what may be termed successful experiments in Home Rule, and, further, that this limited number of instances do not go far to make out the conclusion in favour of which they are adduced.

At the present stage of my argument I purposely omit all minute examination of the applicability to the relations between England and Ireland, either of the English Colonial system or of federalism as it exists in the United States or in Switzerland. Any scheme of Home Rule must follow in some degree one or other of these models. It will, therefore, be necessary to consider in subsequent chapters how far either of them may admit with advantage of imitation. Two observations, however, may even at this point not be out of place. An English colony, such as Victoria, is a virtually independent country, attached to England mainly by ties of loyalty or of well-understood interests, but placed at such a distance from the mother country that England could without inconvenience, and would without hesitation, concede to it full national independence when once it was clear that Victoria desired to be a nation. Victoria, in short, is a land which might at any moment be independent, but which desires to retain or strengthen the connection with England. Ireland, on the other hand, is a country lying so near to the English coast that, according to the views of most statesmen, England could not with safety tolerate her independence, and also a country, which, to put the matter in the least exaggerated language, feels the connection with England so burdensome that the greater part of her population desire at least the amount of independence conceded to a self-governing colony. The case of Victoria and the case of Ireland each constitute, so to speak, the antithesis to the other. There is, therefore, at any rate no a priori ground for the assumption that the system which successfully regulates the relation of England to Victoria is equally adapted for regulating the relation between England and Ireland. The federalism, again, of America or of Switzerland is the consequence of the existence of the States which make up the Federation. The United Kingdom does not consist of States. The world has heard of the difficulty of forming a republic without republicans: this feat would appear to be easy of performance in comparison with the achievement of erecting federation without the States which form its natural members. In America or in Switzerland federalism has developed because existing States wished to be combined into some kind of national unity. Federalism in England would necessarily mean the breaking up of a nation in order to form a body of States. To the question constantly raised in one form or another, "Why should not the federalism which suits the United States suit England?" the true answer is suggested by the counter-inquiry, "Why should not the constitutionalism of England suit the United States?" The obvious and conclusive reply to both these inquiries is, that the circumstances of the two countries are totally different. There is, in short, no ground in the nature of things to presume that constitutional arrangements, which are well adapted for the condition of America, are well adapted for the totally different condition of the United Kingdom. To say this, be it noted, is not to prejudge the question reserved for subsequent consideration, whether some kind of federalism may not supply the solution of the problem how to adjust the political connection between England and Ireland. It is no more than noting the often-overlooked fact that the admitted success of federal government in the United States gives no presumption in favour of its suitability for Great Britain and Ireland.

The experience of foreign countries to which Home Rulers confidently appeal resolves itself, if the matter be carefully sifted, and if the colonial system of England and the federalism of America be left for the moment out of account, into the fact that two powerful continental Empires maintain Imperial unity, and yet (as it is alleged without lessening their strength) contain within their limits States each of which enjoys a large amount of independence. That neither the German Empire nor the Austro-Hungarian monarchy suffer inconvenience from the looseness of the connection between the States which they each contain is one of those assertions more easily made than proved to be true; but supposing its truth to be, for the moment and purely for the sake of argument, admitted, there will still be found considerable difficulty in showing that either German Imperialism or the Dual system of Austria-Hungary contains lessons of practical value for the guidance of English statesmen.

What indeed is the precise inference which one is to draw from the fact that the constitution of the German Empire leaves, for example, to Bavaria a large amount of independence it is not very easy to understand. The whole circumstances of the German Empire are as different from the circumstances of Great Britain as the position of one civilised European country can well be from the situation of another. The salient characteristic of German history is that Germany consists of States which until quite recently have never been politically consolidated into a nation. The United Kingdom has for nearly a century formed a political unit, and has now for something nearly approaching two centuries been subject in reality if not in name to one sovereign Parliament. The whole scheme of the Empire, with its independent or semi-independent sovereigns, with its kings, princes, and free towns, is something to which there is absolutely nothing to correspond in the present condition or in the historical development of England. The German Empire is the natural though strange growth of a special and strange history. The sober English statesmen who advocate Home Rule assuredly never dreamt any dream so wild as that the Imperial Federalism of Germany could in any way be reproduced in the United Kingdom. But if this be so, it is a little difficult to understand references to the lessons to be drawn from the position of such countries as Bavaria. For the difficulty of applying German precedents to proposed innovations in the English constitution lies far deeper than the unsuitability to England of the forms of German Imperialism. The condition which has given birth to the present German Empire is that in Germany the sentiment of nationality has overridden the political divisions which broke up Germany into almost disconnected and often hostile States. In Germany the popular passion for unity has compelled the formation of a United Empire. This sentiment, and not the cumbersome device of an ill-arranged constitution, prevents Bavaria from using her independence in a manner inconsistent with the unity of the Empire. The force which tends towards unity is constantly on the increase. The Empire has the legal means of diminishing or indeed of destroying the independence of the States, and should the independence of a State ever come into conflict with the unity of the nation State rights will not, we may be sure, win the day. Nor, further, is it any accident that Bismarck whilst tolerating the existence of Parliaments will not tolerate the introduction of Parliamentary government. The acquiescence of Liberals in the evils of personal rule is due to the consciousness that the real authority of the Emperor is necessary for the unity of the Empire. Contrast all this with the condition of things under which Englishmen are adjured to concede a Parliament to Ireland. The leading features of the case, according at any rate to Home Rulers, are that Parliament is too weak to withstand the pressure exercised by eighty-six obstructives, and that Ireland, no less, as we are now at last frankly told, than Scotland and Wales, desires to relax the bonds of national unity. We are advised to dissolve the United Kingdom into a confederacy because Germany, through a clumsy form of confederacy, is growing into a united empire. This counsel confuses the stages of imperfect development with the stage of incipient decay; it ascribes to the childishness of approaching senility the hopes which are proper to the childishness of early youth. The point is worth pressing. The considerations which govern a confederacy as it is developing into a nation are very different from the considerations applicable to a full grown nation when threatened with dismemberment into a confederacy.

Deak's statesmanship undoubtedly found at any rate a temporary solution of the questions which kept Austria and Hungary at variance in a compromise which bears some analogy to the arrangement by which Home Rulers propose at once to loosen and to maintain the connection between England and Ireland. In the case of Austria-Hungary, the union which exists is not, on the face of it at least, a step towards unity, but rather the surrender of the endeavour to mould the two parts of the monarchy into a united empire. The Dual system is therefore the instance of the blessings attending Home Rule which is most sedulously thrust upon English attention. Let us see, then, what in outline this system is, and what are the causes which favour its existence.[4]

German jurisprudence has taxed hard its boundless stores of ingenuity and obscurity in the endeavour to find a proper scientific definition of the nature of the anomalous union which binds together the monarchy of Austria-Hungary. With the inquiry, however, what may be the precise class of constitutions under which we ought to bring a political arrangement which is "singular" in the strictest sense of that word, English inquirers need not concern themselves. The broad outlines of the Dual system, invented by the ingenuity of Deak, and accepted under the stress of necessity by the sagacity of the Emperor, may, for our present purpose, be roughly sketched in short, and it is hoped in not unintelligible terms.

The Dual system is a permanent alliance rather than a union between the kingdom of Hungary and the countries now represented in the Austrian Imperial Parliament, or (to use convenient though not quite accurate terms) between Austria and Hungary.

The essential features of this alliance or compromise, which is in its nature a treaty far more than an act of legislation, may be thus summed up.

At the head of the whole monarchy stands the Emperor-King. The rules for the succession to the throne indeed secure that the Imperial and the Hungarian Crown shall always devolve upon the same person. The Crowns, however, are distinct, the monarch on whose head they rest governs two distinctly different peoples, bound to him by different ties of allegiance. He has Hungarian subjects and Austrian subjects, but he can claim authority over no man as a subject or citizen of Austria-Hungary. The monarch (and this is a matter of supreme importance) is not only the nominal, but the real link connecting the two halves of his dominions. He is moreover a true ruler. Englishmen hear of a Parliament at Vienna and of a Diet in Hungary, of Austrian ministers and of Hungarian ministers, and they fancy that Francis Joseph is a constitutional king after the type of Queen Victoria of England, or King Humbert of Italy. No idea is more erroneous. He is the actual head of the State; he is the real commander of the army. In the Austrian Empire he exercises a predominant influence on the Government, and observers who look at the past exertions of Imperial prerogative, and who weigh well the immense power of temporary legislation reserved under the Imperial constitution to the Emperor, suspect that in his Austrian dominions, Francis Joseph might if he chose as easily suspend constitutional government, as he did in fact suspend it (though for a most legitimate object) in 1886. In Hungary the parliamentary constitution is a reality, but the King of Hungary's authority is a good deal more than nominal. The transactions between Deak and the Emperor become incomprehensible unless you allow for the influence conferred by Hungarian loyalty upon the King of Hungary.

This real monarch rules the monarchy with the co-operation of what might roughly be called three Parliaments.

The first Parliament is the Hungarian Diet sitting at Pesth, which constitutes the real and true legislature for Hungary, and which, in spite of the powers retained by or conferred upon the local legislature of Croatia, makes laws for the whole domain of the Hungarian Crown. The King of Hungary appoints the Hungarian ministers, who are responsible to the Hungarian Diet, and are kept in office by the Diet's support.

The second Parliament is the Imperial Parliament, or Reichsrath, sitting at Vienna, legislating for the territories of the Austrian Empire which do not belong to the Hungarian Crown. The Emperor appoints the Austrian or Imperial Ministry, who are responsible to the Imperial Parliament, and need the support of the Reichsrath; it may well however be doubted whether an Austrian Premier does not depend for his authority far more on the will of the Emperor than on the votes of Reichsrath; the authority of the Reichsrath is, moreover, considerably restricted by the powers conferred upon the subordinate assemblies of the different countries, e.g. Bohemia or the Tyrol, which make up the Empire.[5]

Englishman should note that the Hungarian Diet has as such no legislative authority in Austria, and the Reichsrath has no legislative authority in Hungary.

The third Parliament consists of the so-called Delegations.

These Delegations are two committees of sixty members each, elected by and from the members of the Hungarian Diet and the Imperial Parliament respectively, but though I have termed them "committees" they are committees which within their sphere have an authority independent of the bodies by whom they are appointed.

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