If there is anything more in all this than a new variety of the "blue China craze," may it not be taken as a symptom of that vague but clearly growing dissatisfaction with the nineteenth century doctrine of government by mere majorities, which is by no means confined to Europe? This feeling underlies the "National Association" for getting a preamble put into the Constitution of the United States, "recognising Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in Civil Government." There was such a recognition in the Articles of Confederation of 1781. Archbishop Ryan of Philadelphia should have mentioned to His Holiness the existence of this Association, when he presented to Leo XIII., the other day at Rome, President Cleveland's curious Jubilee gift of an emblazoned copy of what a Monsignore of my acquaintance calls "the godless American Constitution."
We made a quick quiet passage to Kingstown. These boats—certainly the best appointed of their sort afloat—are owned, I find, in Dublin, and managed exclusively by their Irish owners, to whom the credit therefore belongs of making the mail service between Holyhead and Kingstown as admirable, in all respects, as the mail services between Dover and the Continental ports are not.
I landed at Kingstown with Lord Ernest Hamilton, M.P. for North Tyrone, with whom I have arranged an expedition to Gweedore in Donegal, one of the most ill-famed of the "congested districts" of Ireland, and just now made a point of special interest by the arrest of Father M'Fadden, the parish priest of the place, for "criminally conspiring to compel and induce certain tenants not to fulfil their legal obligations."
I could understand such a prosecution as this in America, where the Constitution makes it impossible even for Congress to pass laws "impairing the validity of contracts." But as the British Parliament has been passing such laws for Ireland ever since Mr. Butt in 1870 raised the standard of Irish Land Reform under the name of Home Rule, it seems a little absurd, not to say Hibernian, of the British authorities to prosecute Father M'Fadden merely for bettering their own instruction in his own way. I could better understand a prosecution of Father M'Fadden on such grounds by the authorities of his own Church.
A step from the boat at Kingstown puts you into the train for Dublin. Before we got into motion, a weird shape as of one just escaped from the Wild West show of Buffalo Bill peered in at the window, inviting us to buy the morning papers, or a copy of "the greatest book ever published, 'Paddy at Home!'" This proved to be a translation of M. de Mandat Grancey's lively volume, Chez Paddy. The vendor, "Davy," is one of the "chartered libertines" of Dublin. He is supposed to be, and I dare say is, a warm Nationalist, but he has a keen eye to business, and alertly suits his cries to his customers. Recognising the Conservative member for North Tyrone, he promptly recommended us to buy the Irish Times and the Express as "the two best papers in all Ireland." But he smiled approval when I asked for the Freeman's Journal also, in which I found a report of a speech delivered yesterday by Mr. Davitt at Rathkeale, chiefly remarkable for a sensible protest against the ridiculous and rantipole abuse lavished upon Mr. Balfour by the Nationalist orators and newspapers. I am not surprised to see this. Mr. Davitt has the stuff in him of a serious revolutionary leader, and no such man can stomach the frothy and foolish vituperation to which parliamentary agitators are addicted, not in Ireland only. Unlike Mr. Parnell, who is forced to have one voice for New York and Cincinnati, and another voice for Westminster, Mr. Davitt is free to be always avowedly bent on bringing about a thorough Democratic revolution in Ireland. I believe him to be too able a man to imagine, as some of the Irish agitators do, that this can be done without the consent of Democratic England, and he has lived too much in England, and knows the English democracy too well, I suspect, not to know that to abuse an executive officer for determination and vigour is the surest way to make him popular. Calling Mr. Forster "Buckshot" Forster did him no harm. On the contrary, the epithet might have helped him to success had not Mr. Gladstone given way behind him at the most critical moment of his grapple with the revolutionary organisation in Ireland. We hear a great deal about resistance to tyrants being obedience to God, but I fear that obedience to God is not the strongest natural passion of the human heart, and I doubt whether resistance to tyrants can often be promoted by putting about a general conviction that the tyrant has a thumping big stick in his hand, and may be relied upon to use it. Even Tom Paine had the wit to see that it was his "good heart" which brought Louis XVI. to the scaffold.
Nobody who had not learned from the speeches made in England, and the cable despatches sent to America, that freedom of speech and of the press has been brutally trampled under foot in Ireland by a "Coercion" Government would ever suspect it from reading the Dublin papers which I this morning bought.
As a Democratic journalist I had some practical knowledge of a true "Coercion" government in America a quarter of a century ago. The American editor who had ventured in 1862 to publish in a New York or Philadelphia newspaper a letter from Washington, speaking of the Unionist Government by President Lincoln, as the letter from London published to-day in the Freeman's Journal speaks of the Unionist Government of Lord Salisbury, would have found himself in one of the casemates of Fort Lafayette within twenty-four hours. Our Republican rulers acted upon the maxim laid down by Mr. Tilden's friend, Montgomery Blair, that "to await the results of slow judicial prosecution is to allow crime to be consummated, with the expectation of subsequent punishment, instead of preventing its accomplishment by prompt and direct interference." Perhaps Americans take their Government more seriously than Englishmen do. Certainly we stand by it more sternly in bad weather. Even so good a Constitutionalist as Professor Parsons at Harvard, I remember, when a student asked him if he would not suspend the Habeas Corpus in the case of a man caught hauling down the American flag, promptly replied, "I would not suspend the Habeas Corpus; I would suspend the Corpus."
We found no "hansoms" at the Dublin Station, only "outside cars," and cabs much neater than the London four-wheelers. One of these brought us at a good pace to Maple's Hotel in Kildare Street, a large, old-fashioned but clean and comfortable house. My windows look down upon a stately edifice of stone erecting on Kildare Street for all sorts of educational and "exhibitional" purposes, with the help of an Imperial grant, I am told, and to be called the Leinster Hall. The style is decidedly composite, with colonnades and loggie and domes and porticos, and recalls the ancient Roman buildings depicted in that fresco of a belated slave-girl knocking at her mistress's door which with its companion pieces is fast fading away upon the walls of the "House of Livia" on the Palatine.
At one end of this street is the fashionable and hospitable Kildare Street Club; at the other the Shelburne Hotel, known to all Americans. This seems to have been "furbished-up" since I last saw it. There, for the last time as it proved, I saw and had speech of my friend of many years, the prince of all preachers in our time, Father Burke of Tallaght and of San Clemente.
I had telegraphed to him from London that I should halt in Dublin for a day, on my way to America, to see him. He came betimes, to find me almost as badly-off as St. Lawrence upon his gridiron. The surgeon whom the hotel people had hastily summoned to relieve me from a sudden attack of that endemic Irish ecstasy, the lumbago, had applied what he called the "heroic treatment" on my telling him that I had no time to be ill, but must spend that day with Father Burke, dine that night with Mr. Irving and Mr. Toole, and go on the next day to America.
"What has this Inquisitor done to you?" queried Father Tom.
"Cauterised me with chloroform."
"Oh! that's a modern improvement! Let me see—" and, scrutinising the results, he said, with a merry twinkle in his deep, dark eyes—"I see how it is! They brought you a veterinary!"
This was in 1878. On that too brief, delightful morning, we talked of all things—supralunar, lunar, and sublunary. Much of Wales, I remember, where he had been making a visit. "A glorious country," he said, "and the Welsh would have been Irish, only they lost the faith." Full of love for Ireland as he was, he was beginning then to be troubled by symptoms in the Nationalist movement, which could not be regarded with composure by one who, in his youth at Rome, had seen, with me, the devil of extremes drive Italy down a steep place into the sea.
Five years afterwards I landed at Queenstown, in July 1883, intending to visit him at Tallaght. But when the letter which I sent to announce my coming reached the monastery, the staunchest Soldier of the Church in Ireland lay there literally "dead on the field of honour." Chatham, in the House of Lords, John Quincy Adams, in the House of Representatives, fell in harness, but neither death so speaks to the heart as the simple and sublime self-sacrifice of the great Dominican, dragging himself from his dying bed into Dublin to spend the last splendour of his genius and his life for the starving children of the poor in Donegal.
What would I not give for an hour with him now!
After breakfast I went out to find Mr. Davitt, hoping he might suggest some way of seeing the Nationalist meeting on Wednesday night without undergoing the dismal penance of sitting out all the speeches. I wished also to ask him why at Rathkeale he talked about the Dunravens as "absentees." He was born in Lord Lucan's country, and may know little of Limerick, but he surely ought to know that Adare Manor was built of Irish materials, and by Irish workmen, under the eye of Lord Dunraven, all the finest ornamental work, both in wood and in stone, of the mansion, being done by local mechanics; and also that the present owners of Adare spend a large part of every year in the country, and are deservedly popular. He was not to be found at the National League headquarters, nor yet at the Imperial Hotel, which is his usual resort, as Morrison's is the resort of Mr. Parnell. So I sent him a note through the Post-Office.
"You had better seal it with wax," said a friend, in whose chambers I wrote it.
"Oh! all the letters to well-known people that are not opened by the police are opened by the Nationalist clerks in the Post-Offices. 'Tis a way we've always had with us in Ireland!"
I had some difficulty in finding the local habitation of the "National League." I had been told it was in O'Connell Street, and sharing the usual and foolish aversion of my sex to asking questions on the highway, I perambulated a good many streets and squares before I discovered that it has pleased the local authorities to unbaptize Sackville Street, "the finest thoroughfare in Europe," and convert it into "O'Connell Street." But they have failed so ignominiously that the National League finds itself obliged to put up a huge sign over its doorways, notifying all the world that the offices are not where they appear to be in Upper Sackville Street at all, but in "O'Connell Street." The effect is as ludicrous as it is instructive. Oddly enough, they have not attempted to change the name of another thoroughfare which keeps green the "pious and immortal memory" of William III., dear to all who in England or America go in fear and horror of the scarlet woman that sitteth upon the seven hills! There is a fashion, too, in Dublin of putting images of little white horses into the fanlights over the doorways, which seems to smack of an undue reverence for the Protestant Succession and the House of Hanover.
What you expect is the thing you never find in Ireland. I had rather thoughtlessly taken it for granted the city would be agog with the great Morley reception which is to come off on Wednesday night. There is a good deal about it in the Freeman's Journal to-day, but chiefly touching a sixpenny quarrel which has sprung up between the Reception Committee and the Trades Council over the alleged making of contracts by the Committee with "houses not employing members of the regular trades."
For this the typos and others propose to "boycott" the Committee and the Reception and the Liberators from over the sea. From casual conversations I gather that there is much more popular interest in the release, on Wednesday, of Mr. T.D. Sullivan, ex-Lord Mayor, champion swimmer, M.P., poet, and patriot. A Nationalist acquaintance of mine tells me that in Tullamore Mr. Sullivan has been most prolific of poetry. He has composed a song which I am afraid will hardly please my Irish Nationalist friends in America:
"We are sons of Sister Isles, Englishmen and Irishmen, On our friendship Heaven smiles; Tyrant's schemes and Tory wiles Ne'er shall make us foes again."
There is to be a Drawing-Room, too, at the Castle on Wednesday night. One would not unnaturally gather from the "tall talk" in Parliament and the press that this conjuncture of a great popular demonstration in favour of Irish nationality, with a display of Dublin fashion doing homage to the alien despot, might be ominous of "bloody noses and cracked crowns." Not a bit of it! I asked my jarvey, for instance, on an outside car this afternoon, whether he expected a row to result from these counter currents of the classes and the masses. "A row!" he replied, looking around at me in amazement. "A row is it? and what for would there be? Shure they'll be through with the procession in time to see the carriages!"
Obviously he saw nothing in either show to offend anybody; though he could clearly understand that an intelligent citizen might be vexed if he found himself obliged to sacrifice one of them in order to fully enjoy the other.
Lady Londonderry, it seems, is not yet well enough to cross the Channel; but the Duchess of Marlborough, who is staying here with her nephew the Lord-Lieutenant, has volunteered to assist him in holding the Drawing-Room, whereupon a grave question has arisen in Court circles as to whether the full meed of honours due to a Vice-Queen regnant ought to be paid also to an ex-Vice-Queen. This is debated by the Dublin dames as hotly as official women in Washington fight over the eternal question of the relative precedence due to the wives of Senators and "Cabinet Ministers." It will be a dark day for the democracy when women get the suffrage—and use it.
At luncheon to-day I met the Attorney-General, Mr. O'Brien, who, with prompt Irish hospitality, asked me to dine with him to-morrow night, and Mr. Wilson of the London Times, an able writer on Irish questions from the English point of view. Mr. Balfour, who was expected, did not appear, being detained by guests at his own residence in the Park.
I went to see him in the afternoon at the Castle, and found him in excellent spirits; certainly the mildest-mannered and most sensible despot who ever trampled in the dust the liberties of a free people. He was quite delightful about the abuse which is now daily heaped upon him in speeches and in the press, and talked about it in a casual dreamy way which reminded me irresistibly of President Lincoln, whom, if in nothing else, he resembles alike in longanimity and in length of limb. He had seen Davitt's caveat, filed at Rathkeale, against the foolishness of trying to frighten him out of his line of country by calling him bad names. "Davitt is quite right," he said, "the thing must be getting to be a bore to the people, who are not such fools as the speakers take them to be. One of the stenographers told me the other day that they had to invent a special sign for the phrase 'bloody and brutal Balfour,' it is used so often in the speeches." About the prosecution of Father M'Fadden of Gweedore, he knew nothing beyond the evidence on which it had been ordered. This he showed me. If the first duty of a government is to govern, which is the American if not the English way of looking at it, Father M'Fadden must have meant to get himself into trouble when he used such language as this to his people: "I am the law in Gweedore; I despise the recent Coercion Act; if I got a summons to-morrow, I would not obey it." From language like this to the attitude of Father M'Glynn in New York, openly flouting the authority of the Holy See itself, is but an easy and an inevitable step.
Neither "Home Rule" nor any other "Rule" can exist in a country in which men whose words carry any weight are suffered to take up such an attitude. It is just the attitude of the "Comeouters" in New England during my college days at Harvard, when Parker Pillsbury and Stephen Foster used to saw wood and blow horns on the steps of the meeting-houses during service, in order to free their consciences "and protest against the Sabbatarian laws."
To see a Catholic priest assume this attitude is almost as amazing as to see an educated Englishman like Mr. Wilfrid Blunt trying to persuade Irishmen that Mr. Balfour made him the confidant of a grisly scheme for doing sundry Irish leaders to death by maltreating them in prison.
I see with pleasure that the masculine instincts of Mr. Davitt led him to allude to this nonsense yesterday at Rathkeale in a half contemptuous way. Mr. Balfour spoke of it to-day with generosity and good feeling. "When I first heard of it," he said, "I resented it, of course, as an outrageous imputation on Mr. Blunt's character, and denounced it accordingly. What I have since learned leads me to fear that he really may have said something capable of being construed in this absurd sense, but if he did, it must have been under the exasperation produced by finding himself locked up."
I heard the story of Mr. Balfour's meeting with Mr. Blunt very plainly and vigorously told, while I was staying the other day at Knoyle House, in the immediate neighbourhood of Clouds, where the two were guests under conditions which should be at least as sacred in the eyes of Britons as of Bedouins. In Wiltshire nobody seemed for a moment to suppose it possible that Mr. Blunt can have really deceived himself as to the true nature of any conversation he may have had with Mr. Balfour. This is paying a compliment to Mr. Blunt's common sense at the expense of his imagination. In any view of the case, to lie in wait at the lips of a fellow guest in the house of a common friend, for the counts of a political indictment against him, is certainly a proceeding, as Davitt said yesterday of Mr. Blunts tale of horror, quite "open to question." But, as Mr. Blunt himself has sung, "'Tis conscience makes us sinners, not our sin," and I have no doubt the author of the Poems of Proteus really persuaded himself that he was playing lawn tennis and smoking cigarettes in Wiltshire with a modern Alva, cynically vain of his own dark and bloody designs. Now that he finds himself struck down by the iron hand of this remorseless tyrant, why should he not cry aloud and warn, not Ireland alone, but humanity, against the appalling crimes meditated, not this time in the name of "Liberty," but in the name of Order?
What especially struck me in talking with Mr. Balfour to-day was his obviously unaffected interest in Ireland as a country rather than in Ireland as a cock-pit. It is the condition of Ireland, and not the gabble of parties at Westminster about the condition of Ireland, which is uppermost in his thoughts. This, I should say, is the best guarantee of his eventual success.
The weakest point of the modern English system of government by Cabinets surely is the evanescent tenure by which every Minister holds his place. Not only has the Cabinet itself no fixed term of office, being in truth but a Committee of the Legislature clothed with executive authority, but any member of the Cabinet may be forced by events or by intrigues to leave it. In this way Mr. Forster, when he filled the place now held by Mr. Balfour, found himself driven into resigning it by Mr. Gladstone's indisposition or inability to resist the peremptory pressure put upon the British Premier at a critical moment by our own Government in the spring of 1882. Mr. Balfour is in no such peril, perhaps. He is more sure, I take it, of the support of Lord Salisbury and his colleagues than Mr. Forster ever was of the support of Mr. Gladstone; and the "Coercion" law which it is his duty to administer contains no such sweeping and despotic clause as that provision in Mr. Gladstone's "Coercion Act" of 1881, under which persons claiming American citizenship were arrested and indefinitely locked up on "suspicion," until it became necessary for our Government, even at the risk of war, to demand their trial or release.
But if Mr. Balfour were Chief Secretary for Ireland "on the American plan"; if he held his office, that is, for a fixed term of years, and cared nothing for a renewal of the lease, he could not be more pre-occupied than he seems to be with simply getting his executive duty done, or less pre-occupied than he seems to be with what may be thought of his way of getting it done. If all executive officers were of this strain, Parliamentary government might stand in the dock into which Prince Albert put it with more composure, and await the verdict with more confidence. Surely if Ireland is ever to govern herself, she must learn precisely the lesson which Mr. Balfour, I believe, is trying to teach her—that the duty of executive officers to execute the laws is not a thing debateable, like the laws themselves, nor yet determinable, like the enactment of laws, by taking the yeas and the nays. How well this lesson shall be taught must depend, of course, very much upon the quality of the men who make up the machine of Government in Ireland. That the Irish have almost as great a passion for office-holding as the Spanish, we long ago learned in New York, where the percentage of Irish office-holders considerably exceeds the percentage of Irish citizens. And as all the witnesses agree that the Irish Government has for years been to an inordinate degree a Government by patronage, there must doubtless be some reasonable ground for the very general impression that "the Castle" needs overhauling. It is not true, however, I find, although I have often heard it asserted in England, that the Irish Government is officered by Englishmen and Scotchmen exclusively. The murdered Mr. Burke certainly was not an Englishman; and there is an apparent predominance of Irishmen in the places of trust and power. That things at the Castle cannot be nearly so bad, moreover, as we in America are asked to believe, would seem to be demonstrated by the affectionate admiration with which Lord Spencer is now regarded by men like Mr. O'Brien, M.P., who only the other day seemed to regard him as an unfit survival of the Cities of the Plain. If what these men then said of him, and of the Castle generally, was even very partially true—or if being wholly false, these men believed it to be true—every man of them who now touches Lord Spencer's hand is defiled, or defiles him.
But that concerns them. Their present attitude makes Lord Spencer a good witness when he declares that the Civil servants of the Crown in Ireland, called "the Castle," are "diligent, desire to do their duty with impartiality, and to hold an even balance between opposing interests in Ireland," and maintains that they "will act with impartiality and vigour if led by men who know their own minds, and desire to be firm in the Government of the country." All this being true, Mr. Balfour ought to make his Government a success.
Mr. Balfour introduced me to Sir West Ridgway, the successor of Sir Redvers Buller, who has been rewarded for the great services he did his country in Asia, by being flung into this seething Irish stew. He takes it very composedly, though the climate does not suit him, he says; and has a quiet workmanlike way with him, which impresses one favourably at once.
All the disorderly part of Ireland (for disorder is far from being universal in Ireland) comes under his direct administration, being divided into five divisions on the lines originally laid down in 1881 by Mr. Forster. Over each of these divisions presides a functionary styled a "Divisional Magistrate." The title is not happily chosen, the powers of these officers being rather like those confided to a French Prefect than like those which are associated in England and America with the title of a "magistrate." They have no judicial power, and nothing to do with the trial of offenders. Their business is to protect life and property, and to detect and bring to justice offenders against the law. They can only be called Magistrates as the Executive of the United States is sometimes called the "Chief Magistrate."
One of the most conspicuous and trusted of these Divisional Magistrates, I find, is Colonel Turner, who was Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant, under Lord Aberdeen. He is now denounced by the Irish Nationalists as a ruthless tyrant. He was then denounced by the Irish Tories as a sympathiser with Home Rule. It is probable, therefore, that he must be a conscientious and loyal executive officer, who understands and acts upon the plain lines of his executive duty.
I dined to-night at the Castle, not in the great hall or banqueting-room of St. Patrick, which was designed by that connoisseur in magnificence, the famous Lord Chesterfield, during his Viceroyalty, but in a very handsome room of more moderate dimensions. Much of the semi-regal state observed at the Castle in the days of the Georges has been put down with the Battle-Axe Guards of the Lord-Lieutenant, and with the basset-tables of the "Lady-Lieutenant," as the Vice-queen used to be called. At dinner the Viceroy no longer drinks to the pious and immortal memory of William III., or to the "1st of July 1690." No more does the band play "Lillibullero," and no longer is the pleasant custom maintained, after a dinner to the city authorities of Dublin, of a "loving cup" passed around the table, into which each guest, as it passed, dropped a gold piece for the good of the household. Only so much ceremonial is now observed as suffices to distinguish the residence of the Queen's personal representative from that of a great officer of State, or an opulent subject of high rank.
Dublin Castle indeed is no more of a palace than it is of a castle. Its claim to the latter title rests mainly on the fine old "Bermingham" tower of the time of King John; its claim to the former on the Throne Room, the Council Chamber, and the Hall of St. Patrick already mentioned. This last is a very stately and sumptuous apartment. Just twenty years ago the most brilliant banquet modern Dublin has seen was given in this hall by the late Duke of Abercorn to the Prince and Princess of Wales, to celebrate the installation of the Prince as a Knight of St. Patrick. It is a significant fact, testified to by all the most candid Irishmen I have ever known, that upon the occasion of this visit to Ireland in 1868 the Prince and Princess were received with unbounded enthusiasm by the people of all classes. Yet only the year before, in 1867, the explosion of some gunpowder at Clerkenwell by a band of desperadoes, to the death and wounding of many innocent people, had brought the question of the disestablishment of the Irish Church, in the mind of Mr. Gladstone, within the domain of "practical politics"! By parity of reasoning, one would think, the reception of the heir-apparent and his wife in Ireland ought to have taken that question out of the domain of "practical politics."
The Prince of Wales, it is known, brought away from this visit an impression that the establishment of a prince of the blood in Ireland, or a series of royal visits to Ireland, would go far towards pacifying the relations between the two Islands. Mr. Gladstone thought his Disestablishment would quite do the work. Events have shown that Mr. Gladstone made a sad mistake as to the effect of his measure. The pains which, I am told, were taken by Mr. Deasy, M.P., and others to organise hostile demonstrations at one or two points in the south of Ireland, during a subsequent visit of the Prince and Princess, would seem to show that in the opinion of the Nationalists themselves, the impression of the Prince was more accurate than were the inferences of the Premier.
There is nothing froward or formidable in the aspect of Dublin Castle. It has neither a portcullis nor a drawbridge. People go in and out of it as freely as through the City Hall in New York. There is a show of sentries at the main entrance, and in one of the courts this morning the picturesque band of a Scotch regiment was playing to the delectation of a small but select audience of urchins and little girls. A Dublin mob, never so little in earnest and led by a dozen really determined men, ought to be able to make as short work of it as the hordes of the Faubourgs in Paris made of the Bastille, with its handful of invalids, on that memorable 14th of July, about which so many lies have passed into history, and so much effervescent nonsense is still annually talked and printed.
The greater part of the Castle as it existed when the Irish Parliaments sat there under Elizabeth, and just before the last Catholic Viceroy made Protestantism penal, and planned the transformation of Ireland into a French province, was burned in the time of James II. The Earl of Arran then reported to his father that "the king had lost nothing but six barrels of gunpowder, and the worst castle in the worst situation in Christendom."
Here, as at Ottawa, a viceregal dinner-table is set off by the neat uniforms and skyblue facings of the aides-de-camp and secretaries. For some mysterious reason Lord Spencer put these officers into chocolate coats with white facings. But the new order soon gave place to the old again.
At the dinner to-night was Lord Ormonde, who is returning to London, but kindly promised to make arrangements for showing me at Kilkenny Castle the muniment room of the Butlers, which contains one of the most valuable private collections of charters and State papers in the realm.
Tuesday, Jan. 31.—I lunched to-day with Sir Michael Morris, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, whom I had last seen in Rome at the Jubilee Mass of His Holiness. Sir Michael is one of the recognised lights of social life and of the law in Dublin. While he was in Rome some one highly commended him in the presence of that staunch Nationalist the Archbishop of Dublin, who assented so far as to say, "Yes, yes, there are worse fellows in Dublin than that Morris!" It would be hard to find a more typical Irishman of the better sort than Sir Michael, a man more sure, in the words of Sheridan, to "carry his honour and his brogue unstained to the grave."
The brogue of Sir Michael, it is said, made his fortune in the House of Commons. It has hardly the glow which made the brogue of Father Burke a memory as of music in the ears of all who heard it, and differs from that miraculous gift of the tongue as a ripe wine of Bordeaux differs from a ripe wine of Burgundy. But to the ordinary brogue of the street and the stage, it is as is a Brane Mouton Rothschild of 1868 to the casual Medoc of a Parisian restaurant. "Do you know Father Healy?" said one of the company to whom I spoke of it; "he was at a wedding with Sir Michael. As the happy pair drove off under the usual shower of rice and old slippers, Sir Michael said to the Father, 'How I wish I had something to throw after her!' 'Ah, throw your brogue after her,' replied the Father."
This brogue comes to Sir Michael lawfully enough. He belongs to one of the fourteen tribes of Galway. His father, Mr. Martin Morris, was High Sheriff of the County of Galway City in 1841, being the first Catholic who had served that office since the time of Tyrconnel. His mother was a Blake of Galway, and the family seat, Spiddal, came to them through a Fitzpatrick. "Remember these things," said one of the guests to me, a Catholic from the south of Ireland, "and remember that Sir Michael, like myself, and, so far as I know, like every Irish Catholic in this room to-day, is a thoroughgoing Unionist, who would think it midsummer madness to hand Ireland over to the 'Home Rule' of the 'uncrowned king,' Mr. Parnell, who hasn't a drop, I believe, of Irish blood in his veins, and who, whatever else he may be, is certainly not a Catholic. Didn't Parnell vote at first against religion and in favour of Bradlaugh? and didn't he do this to force the bargain for the clerical franchise at the Parliamentary conventions?"
"But there are some good Catholics, are there not," I answered, "and some good Christians, and of Irish blood too, among the associates of Mr. Parnell?"
"Associates!" he exclaimed; "if you know anything of Mr. Parnell, you must know that he has no associates. He has followers, and he has instruments, but he has no associates. The only Irishmen whom he has really taken counsel with, or treated, I was about to say, with ordinary civility, were Egan and Brennan. His manner with them was always conspicuously different from his cold and almost contemptuous bearing towards the men whom he commands in Parliament, and Egan, who directs his forces in your country, rewards him by calling him 'the great and gifted leader of our race!' 'Our race' indeed! Parnell comes of the conquering race in Ireland, and he never forgets it, or lets his subordinates forget it. I was in Galway when he came over there suddenly to quell the revolt organised by Healy. The rebels were at white-heat before he came. But he strode in among them like a huntsman among the hounds—marched Healy off into a little room, and brought him out again in ten minutes, cowed and submissive, but filled, as anybody can see, ever since, with a dull smouldering hate which will break out one of these days, if a good and safe opportunity offers."
"How do you account, then," I asked, "for the support which all these men give Mr. Parnell?"
"For the support which they give him!" exclaimed my new acquaintance, "for the support they give him! Bless your heart, my dear sir, it is he gives them the support! Barring Biggar, who, to do him justice, is as free with his pocket as he is with his tongue—and no man can say more for anybody than that—barring Biggar and M'Kenna and M'Carthy, and perhaps a dozen more, all these men are nominated by Mr. Parnell, and draw salaries from the body he controls; they are paid members, like the working-men members. Support indeed!"
"But the constituencies," I urged, "surely the voters must know and care something about their representatives?"
The gentleman from the south of Ireland laughed aloud. "Very clear it is," he said, "that you have made your acquaintance with my dear countrymen in America, or in England perhaps—not in Ireland. Look at Thurles, in January '85! The voters selected O'Ryan; Parnell ordered him off, and made them take O'Connor! The voters take their members to-day from the League—that is, from Mr. Parnell, just as they used to take them from the landlords. What Lord Clanricarde said in Galway, when he made all those fagot votes by cutting up his farms, that he could return his grey mare to Parliament if he liked, Mr. Parnell can say with just as much truth to-day of any Nationalist seat in the country. I tell you, the secret of his power is that he understands the Irish people, and how to ride them. He is a Protestant-ascendency man by blood, and he is fighting the unlucky devils of landlords to-day by the old 'landlord' methods that came to him with his mother's milk—that is rightly speaking, I should say, with his father's," and here he burst out laughing at his own bull—"for his mother, poor lady, she was an American."
"Thank you," I said.
"Oh, no harm at all! But did you ever know her? An odd woman she was, and is."
"Her father," I replied, "was a gallant American sailor of Scottish blood."
"Oh yes, and is it true that he got a great hatred of England from being captured in the Chesapeake by the English Captain Broke? I always heard that."
I explained that there were historical difficulties in the way of accepting this legend, and that Commodore Stewart's experiences, during the war of 1812, had been those of a captor, not of a captive.
"Well, a clever woman she is, only very odd. She was a great terror, I remember, to a worthy Protestant parson, near Avondale; she used to come at him quite unexpectedly with such a power of theological discussion, and put him beside himself with questions he couldn't answer."
"Very likely," I replied, "but she has transferred her interest to politics now; and she had the good sense, at the Chicago Convention in 1886, to warn the physical-force men against showing their hand too plainly in support of her son."
A curious conversation, as showing the personal bitterness of politics here. It reminded me of Dr. Duche's description in his famous letter to Washington of the party which carried the Declaration of Independence through the Continental Congress. But it had a special interest for me as confirming the inferences I have often drawn as to Mr. Parnell's relations with his party, from his singular and complete isolation among them. I remember the profound astonishment of my young friend Mr. D——, of New York, who, as the son of, perhaps, the most conspicuous and influential American advocate of Home Rule, had confidently counted upon seeing Mr. Parnell in London, when he found that the most important member of the Irish Parliamentary party, in point of position, was utterly unable to get at Mr. Parnell for him, or even to ascertain where Mr. Parnell could be reached by letter.
Though a staunch Unionist, Sir Michael is no blind admirer of things as they are, nor even a thick-and-thin partisan of English rule in Ireland. "If you will have the Irish difficulty in a nutshell," he is reported to have said to a prosy British politician, "here it is: It is simply a very dull people trying to govern a very bright people."
He has quick and wide intellectual sympathies, or, as he put it to a lawyer who was kindly enlightening him about some matters of scientific notoriety, "I don't live in a cupboard myself." His own terse summing up of the Irish difficulty could hardly be better illustrated than by the current story of the discomfiture of an English Treasury official, who came into his official chambers to complain of the expenditure for fuel in the Court over which he presides. The Lord Chief-Justice looked at him quietly while he set forth his errand, and then, ringing a bell on his table, said to the servant who responded: "Tell Mary the man has come about the coals."
At Sir Michael's I had some conversation also with Mr. Justice Murphy, who won a great reputation in connection with those murders in the Phoenix Park, which went near to breaking the heart and hope of poor Father Burke, and with Lord and Lady Ashbourne, whom I had not seen since I met them some years ago under the hospitable roof of Lord Houghton. Lord Ashbourne was then Mr. Gibson, Q.C. He is now the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, and the author of the Land Purchase Act of 1885, which many well-informed and sensible men regard as the Magna Charta of peace in Ireland, while others of equal authority assure me that by reversing the principle of the Bright clauses in the Act of 1871 it has encouraged the tenants to expect an eventual concession of the land-ownership to them on merely nominal terms.
Naturally enough, he is carped at and reviled almost as much by his political friends as by his political foes. In the time of Sir Michael Hicks Beach I remember hearing Lord Ashbourne denounced most bitterly by a leading Tory light as "a Home Ruler in disguise, who had bedevilled the Irish Question by undertaking to placate the country if it could be left to be managed by him and by Lord Carnarvon."
The disguise appears to me quite impenetrable, and after my talk with him, I remembered a characteristic remark about him made to me by Lord Houghton after he had gone away: "A very clever man with a very clever wife. He ought to be on our side, but he has everything the Tories lack, so they have stolen him, and will make much of him, and keep him. But one of these days he will do them some great service, and then they'll never forgive him!"
Lord Ashbourne went off early to look up some fine old wooden mantelpieces and wainscotings in the "slums" of Dublin. A brisk trade it seems has for some time been driven in such relics of the departed splendour of the Irish capital. In the last century, when Dublin was further from London than London now is from New York, the Irish landlords were more fond of living in Dublin than a good many of the Irish Nationalists I know now are. In this way the Iron Duke came to be born in Dublin, where his father and mother had a handsome town house, whereas when they went up to London they used to lodge, according to old Lady Cork, "over a pastry-cook's in Oxford Street." In those days there must have been a good many fine solidly built and well decorated mansions in Dublin, of a type not unlike that of the ample rather stately and periwigged houses, all British brick without, and all Santo Domingo mahogany within, which, in my schoolboy days, used to give such a dignified old-world air to Third and Fourth Streets in Philadelphia. It is among such of these as are still standing, and have come to vile uses, that the foragers from London now find their harvest.
From the Chief-Justice's I went with Lord Ernest Hamilton to a meeting of the Irish Unionists. Admission was by tickets, and the meeting evidently "meant business." I suppose Presbyterian Ulster was largely represented: but Mr. Smith Barry of Fota Island, near Cork, one of the kindest and fairest, as well as one of the most determined and resolute, of the southern Irish landlords, was there, and the most interesting speech I heard was made by a Catholic lawyer of Dublin, Mr. Quill, Q.C., who grappled with the question of distress among the Irish tenants, and produced some startling evidence to show that this distress is by no means so great or so general as it is commonly assumed to be. Able speeches were also made by Mr. T.W. Russell, M.P. for Tyrone, and by Colonel Saunderson, the champion of Ulster at Westminster. Both of these members, and especially Colonel Saunderson, "went for" their Nationalist colleagues with an unparliamentary plainness of speech which commanded the cordial sympathy of their audience. "Is it possible," asked Colonel Saunderson, "that you should ever consent, on any terms, to be governed by such—, well, by such wretches as these?" to which the audience gave back an unanimous "Never," neither thundered nor shouted, but growled, like Browning's "growl at the gates of Ghent,"—a low deep growl like the final notice served by a bull-dog, which I had not heard since the meetings which, at the North, followed the first serious fighting of the Civil War. I was much struck, too, by the prevalence among the audience of what may be called the Old Middle State type of American face and head. A majority of these men might have come straight from those slopes of the Alleghany which, from Pennsylvania down to the Carolinas, were planted so largely by the only considerable Irish emigrations known to our history, before the great year of famine, 1847, the Irish emigrations which followed the wars against the woollen industries in the seventeenth century, and the linen industries in the eighteenth. A staunch, doggedly Protestant people, loving the New England Puritans and the Anglicans of Eastern Virginia little better than the Maryland Catholics, but contributing more than their full share of traditional antipathy to that extreme dislike and dread of the Roman Church which showed itself half-a-century ago in the burning of convents, and thirty years ago gave life and fire to the Know-Nothing movement. Even so late as at the time of Father Burke's grand and most successful mission to America, I remember how much astonished and impressed he was by the vigour and the virulence of these feelings. One of the bishops, he told me, in a great diocese tried (though of course in vain) to dissuade him on this account from wearing his Dominican dress. These anti-Catholic passions are much stronger in America to-day than it always suits our politicians to remember, though to forget it may some day be found very dangerous. Even now two of the ablest prelates of the most liberal of the Protestant American bodies, Bishop Cleveland Coxe of Western New York, and Bishop Beckwith of Georgia, the latter of whom I met the other day in Rome on his return from Palestine, are promoting what looks very much like a crusade against the plan for establishing a Catholic University at Washington. Bishop Cleveland Coxe's denunciations of what he calls "the alien Church," point straight to a revival of the "Native American" movement; and I fear that President Cleveland's gift of a copy of the Constitution to Leo XIII. will hardly make American Catholics forget either the hereditary anti-Catholic feeling which led him, when Governor of New York, to imperil the success of the Democratic party by his dogged resistance to the Catholic demand for the endowment of Catholic schools and protectories, or the scandalous persecution (it can be called by no other name) of Catholics in Alaska, which was carried on in the name and under the patronage of his sister, Miss Cleveland, by a local missionary of the Presbyterian Church, to the point of the removal by the President of a Federal judge, who dared to award a Catholic native woman from Vancouver the custody of her own child.
It is hard to imagine a greater misfortune for the Church in Ireland, and for both the Church and the Irish race in America, than the identification of the Home Rule movement with the Church, and its triumph, after being so identified, and with the help of British sympathisers and professional politicians, over the resistance of Protestant Ireland. This dilemma of the Church in Ireland, plainly seen at Rome, as I know, to-day, was forcibly presented in the speech of Colonel Saunderson.
The chair at this Loyalist meeting was filled by the Provost of Trinity, Dr. Jellett, a man of winning and venerable aspect, a kind of "angelic doctor," indeed, whose musical and slightly tremulous voice gave a singular pathos and interest to his brief but very earnest speech.
To-night I dined with the Attorney-General, Mr. O'Brien. Among the company were the Chief-Baron Palles, whose appointment dates back to Mr. Gladstone's Administration of 1873, but who is now an outspoken opponent of Home Rule; Judge O'Brien, an extremely able man, with the face of an eagle; Mr. Carson, Q.C.; and other notabilities of the bench and bar. My neighbours at table were a charming and agreeable bencher of the King's Inn, Mr. Atkinson, Q.C., a leader of the Irish bar, and Mr. T.W. Russell, M.P., who told me some amusing things of one of his colleagues, an ideal Orangeman, who writes blood-curdling romances in the vein of La Tosca, and goes in fear of the re-establishment of the Holy Office in Dublin and London. In view of the clamours about the severity of the bench in Ireland, it was edifying to find an Irish Judge astonished by the drastic decisions of our Courts in regard to the anarchists who were hanged at Chicago, after a thorough and protracted review of the law in their cases. He thought no Court in Great Britain or Ireland could have dealt with them thus stringently, it being understood that the charge of murder against them rested on their connection, solely as provocative instigators to violence, with the actual throwing of the bombs among the police.
Some good stories were told by the lawyers; one of a descendant of the Irish Kings, a lawyer more remarkable for his mental gifts than for his physical graces.
A peasant looking him carefully over at Cork whispered to a neighbour, "And is he really of the ould blood of the Irish kings now, indeed?"
"He is indeed!"
"Well, then, I don't wonder the Saxons conquered the Island!"
Of the Home Rule movement one of the lawyers said to me, "The whole thing is a business operation mainly—a business operation with the people who see in it the hope of appeasing their land hunger—and a business operation for the agitators who live by it. Its main strength, outside of the priests, who for one reason or another countenance or foment it, is in the small country solicitors. The five hundred thousand odd Irish tenants are the most litigious creatures alive. They are always after the local lawyer with half-a-crown to fight this, that, or the other question with some neighbour or kinsman, usually a kinsman. So the solicitors know the whole country."
"When the League has chosen a spot in which to work the 'Plan of Campaign,' the local attorney whips up the tenants to join it. The poorer tenants are the most easily pushed into the plan, having least to lose by it. But the lawyer takes the well-to-do tenants in hand, and promises them that if they yield to the patriotic pressure of the League, and come to grief by so doing, the landlord will at all events have to pay the costs of the proceedings. It is this promise which finally brings down most of them. To enjoy the luxury of a litigation without paying for it tempts them almost as strongly as the prospect of getting the land without paying for it. You will find that the League always insists, when things come to a settlement, that the landlord shall pay the costs. If the landlord through poverty of spirit or of purse succumbs to this demand, the League scores a victory. If the landlord resists, it is a bad job for the League. The local lawyer is discredited in the eyes of his clients, and if he is to get any fees he must come down upon his clients for them. Naturally his clients resent this. If Mr. Balfour keys up the landlords to stand out manfully against paying for all the trouble and loss they are continually put to, he will take the life of the League so far as Ireland is concerned. As things now stand, it is almost the only thriving industry in Ireland!"
Wednesday, Feb. 1.—This morning I called with Lord Ernest Hamilton upon Sir Bernard Burke, the Ulster King-at-Arms, and the editor or author of many other well-known publications, and especially of the "Peerage," sometimes irreverently spoken of as the "British Bible."
Sir Bernard's offices are in the picturesque old "Bermingham" tower of the castle. There we found him wearing his years and his lore as lightly as a flower, and busy in an ancient chamber, converted by him into a most cosy modern study. He received us with the most cordial courtesy, and was good enough to conduct us personally through his domain.
Many of the State papers formerly kept here have been removed to the Four Courts building. But Sir Bernard's tower is still filled with documents of the greatest historical interest, all admirably docketed and arranged on the system adopted at the Hotel Soubise, now the Palace of the Archives in Paris.
These documents, like the tower itself, take us back to the early days when Dublin was the stronghold of the Englishry in Ireland, and its citizens went in constant peril of an attack from the wild and "mere Irish" in the hills. The masonry of the tower is most interesting. The circular stone floors made up of slabs held together without cement, like the courses in the towers of Sillustani, by their exact adjustment, are particularly noteworthy. High up in the tower Sir Bernard showed us a most uncomfortable sort of cupboard fashioned in the huge wall of the tower, and with a loophole for a window. In this cell the Red Hugh O'Donnell of Tyrconnel was kept as a prisoner for several years under Elizabeth. He was young and lithe, however, and after his friends had tried in vain to buy him out, a happy thought one day struck him. He squeezed himself through the loophole, and, dropping unhurt to the ground, escaped to the mountains. There for a long time he made head against the English power. In 1597 he drove Sir Conyers Clifford from before the castle of Ballyshannon, with great loss to the English, and when he could no longer keep the field, he sought refuge in Spain. He was with the Spanish, as Prince of Tyrconnel, at the crushing defeat of Kinsale in 1601. Escaping again, he died, poisoned, at Simancas the next year.
Sir Bernard showed us, among other curious manuscripts, a correspondence between one Higgins, a trained informer, and the Castle authorities in 1798. This correspondence shows that the revolutionary plans of the Nationalists of 1798 were systematically laid before the Government.
When one thinks how very much abler were the leaders of the Irish rebellion in 1798 than are the present heads of the Irish party in Parliament, how much greater the provocations to rebellion given the Irish people then were than they are now even alleged to be—how little the Irish people in general have now to gain by rebellion, and how much to lose, it is hard to resist a suspicion that it must be even easier now than it was in 1798 for the Government to tap the secrets of the organisations opposed to it.
Sir Bernard showed us also a curious letter written by Henry Grattan to the founder of the great Guinness breweries, which have carried the fame of Dublin porter into the uttermost parts of the earth. The Guinnesses are now among the wealthiest people of the kingdom, and Ireland certainly owes a great deal to them as "captains of industry," but they are not Home Rulers.
At the Kildare Street Club in the afternoon I talked with two Irish landlords from the north of Ireland, who had come up to take their womenkind to the Drawing-Room.
I was struck by their indifference to the political excitements of the day. One of them had forgotten that the Ripon and Morley reception was to take place to-night. The other called it "the love-feast of Voltaire and the Vatican." Both were much more fluent about hunting and farming. I asked if the hunting still went on in their part of the island.
"It has never stopped for a moment," he replied.
"No," added the other, "nor ever a dog poisoned. They were poisoned, whole packs of them, in the papers, but not a dog really. The stories were printed just to keep up the agitation, and the farmers winked at it so as not to be 'bothered.'"
Both averred that they got their rents "fairly well," but both also said that they farmed much of their own land. One, a wiry, energetic, elderly man, of a brisk presence and ruddy complexion, said he constantly went over to the markets in England. "I go to Norwich," he said, "not to Liverpool. Liverpool is only a meat-market, and overdone at that. Norwich is better for meat and for stores." Both agreed this was a great year for the potatoes, and said Ireland was actually exporting potatoes to America. One mentioned a case of two cargoes of potatoes just taken from Dundrum for America, the vessel which took them having brought over six hundred tons of hay from America.
They were breezy, out-of-door men, both of them. One amused us with a tale of espying, the other day, two hounds, a collie dog, a terrier, and eighteen cats all amicably running together across a farmyard, with their tails erect, after a dairymaid who was to feed them. The other capped this with a story of a pig on his own place, which follows one of his farm lads about like a dog,—"the only pig," he said, "I ever saw show any human feeling!" The gentleman who goes to Norwich thought the English landlords were in many cases worse off than the Irish. "Ah, no!" interfered the other, "not quite; for if the English can't get their rents, at least they keep their land, but we can neither get our rents nor keep our land!" They both admitted that there had been much bad management of the land in Ireland, and that the agents had done the owners as well as the tenants a great deal of harm in the past, but they both maintained stoutly that the legislation of late years had been one-sided and short-sighted. "The tenants haven't got real good from it," said one, "because the claims of the landlord no longer check their extravagance, and they run more in debt than ever to the shopkeepers and traders, who show them little mercy." Both also strenuously insisted on the gross injustice of leaving the landlords unrelieved of any of the charges fixed upon their estates, while their means of meeting those charges were cut down by legislation.
"You have no landlords in America," said one, "but if you had, how would you like to be saddled with heavy tithe charges for a Disestablished Church at the same time that your tenants were relieved of their dues to you?"
I explained to him that so far from our having no landlords in America, the tenant-farmer class is increasing rapidly in the United States, while it is decreasing in the Old World, while the land laws, especially in some of our older Western States, give the landlords such absolute control of their tenants that there is a serious battle brewing at this moment in Illinois between a small army of tenants and their absentee landlord, an alien and an Irishman, who holds nearly a hundred thousand acres in the heart of the State, lives in England, and grants no leases, except on the condition that he shall receive from his tenants, in addition to the rent, the full amount of all taxes and levies whatsoever made upon the lands they occupy.
"God bless my soul!" exclaimed the gentleman who goes to Norwich, "if that is the kind of laws your American Irish will give us with Home Rule, I'll go in for it to-morrow with all my heart!"
After an early dinner, I set out with Lord Ernest to see the Morley-Ripon procession. It was a good night for a torchlight parade—the weather not too chill, and the night dark. The streets were well filled, but there was no crowding—no misconduct, and not much excitement. The people obviously were out for a holiday, not for a "demonstration." It was Paris swarming out to the Grand Prix, not Paris on the eve of the barricades; very much such a crowd as one sees in the streets and squares of New York on a Fourth of July night, when the city fathers celebrate that auspicious anniversary with fireworks at the City Hall, and not in the least such a crowd as I saw in the streets of New York on the 12th of July 1871, when, thanks to General Shaler and the redoubtable Colonel "Jim Fiske," a great Orange demonstration led to something very like a massacre by chance medley.
Small boys went about making night hideous with tom-toms, extemporised out of empty fig-drums, and tooting terribly upon tin trumpets. There was no general illumination, but here and there houses were bright with garlands of lamps, and rockets ever and anon went up from the house-tops.
We made our way to the front of a mass of people near one of the great bridges, over which the procession was to pass on its long march from Kingstown to the house of Mr. Walker, Q.C., in Rutland Square, where the distinguished visitors were to meet the liberated Lord Mayor, with Mr. Dwyer Gray, and other local celebrities. A friendly citizen let us perch on his outside car.
The procession presently came in sight, and a grand show it made—not of the strictly popular and political sort, for it was made up of guilds and other organised bodies on foot and on horseback, marching in companies—but imposing by reason of its numbers, and of the flaring torches. Of these there were not so many as there should have been to do justice to the procession. The crowd cheered from time to time, with that curious Irish cheer which it is often difficult to distinguish from groaning, but the only explosive and uproarious greeting given to the visitors in our neighbourhood came from a member of "the devout female sex," a young lady who stood up between two friends on the top of a car very near us, and imperilled both her equilibrium and theirs by wildly waving her hand-kerchief in the air, and crying out at the top of a somewhat husky voice, "Three cheers for Mecklenburg Street! Three cheers for Mecklenburg Street!"
This made the crowd very hilarious, but as Lord Ernest's local knowledge did not enable him to enlighten me as to the connection between Mecklenburg Street and the liberation of Ireland, I must leave the mystery of their mirth unsolved till a more convenient season.
At Rutland Square the crowd was tightly packed, but perfectly well-behaved, and the guests were enthusiastically cheered. But even before they had entered the house of Mr. Walker it began to break up, and long files of people wended their way to see "the carriages" hastening with their lovely freight to the Castle. Thither Lord Ernest has just gone, arrayed in a captivating Court costume of black velvet, with cut-steel buttons, sword, and buckles—just the dress in which Washington used to receive his guests at the White House, and in which Senator Seward, I remember, insisted in 1860 on getting himself presented by Mr. Dallas to Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.
SION HOUSE, COUNTY TYRONE, Feb. 3d.—Hearing nothing from Mr. Davitt yesterday, I gave up the idea of attending the Ripon-Morley meeting last night. As I have come to Ireland to hear what people living in Ireland have to say about Irish affairs, I see no particular advantage in listening to imported eloquence on the subject, even from so clever a man as his books prove Mr. Morley to be, and from so conscientious a man as an acquaintance, going back to the days when he sat with Kingsley at the feet of Maurice, makes me believe Lord Ripon to be. How much either of them knows about Ireland is another matter. A sarcastic Nationalist acquaintance of mine, with whom I conversed about the visitors yesterday, assured me it had been arranged that Lord Ripon should wear the Star of the Garter, "so the people might know him from Morley." When I observed that Dublin must have a short memory to forget so soon the face of a Chief Secretary, he replied: "Forget his face? Why, they never saw his face! It's little enough he was here, and indoors he kept when here he was. He shook hands last night with more Irishmen than ever he spoke to while he was Chief Secretary; for he used to say then, I am told, in the Reform Club, that the only way to get along with the Irish was to have nothing to do with them!"
There was a sharp discussion, I was told, in the private councils of the Committee yesterday as to whether the Queen should be "boycotted," and the loyal sentiments usual in connection with her Majesty's name dropped from the proceedings. I believe it was finally settled that this might put the guests into an awkward position, both of them having worn her Majesty's uniform of State as public servants of the Crown.
During the day I walked through many of the worst quarters of Dublin. I met fewer beggars in proportion than one encounters in such parts of London as South Kensington and other residential regions not over-frequented by the perambulating policemen; but I was struck by the number of persons—and particularly of women—who wore that most pathetic of all the liveries of distress, "the look of having seen better days." In the most wretched streets I traversed there was more squalor than suffering—the dirtiest and most ragged people in them showing no signs of starvation, or even of insufficient rations; and certainly in the most dismal alleys and by-streets, I came upon nothing so revolting as the hives of crowded misery which make certain of the tenement house quarters of New York more gruesome than the Cour des Miracles itself used to be.
This morning at 7.25 A.M. I left Dublin with Lord Ernest Hamilton for Strabane. My attention was distracted from the reports of the great meeting by the varied and picturesque beauty of the landscape, through which we ran at a very respectable rate in a very comfortable carriage. We passed Dundalk, where Edward Bruce got himself crowned king of Ireland, after his brother Robert had won a throne in Scotland.
These masterful Normans, all over Europe from Apulia to Britain, worked out the problem of "satisfied nationalities" much more successfully and simply than Napoleon III. in our own day. If Edward Bruce broke down where Robert succeeded, the causes of his failure may perhaps be worth considering even now by people who have set themselves the task in our times of establishing "an Irish nationality." Leaving out the Cromwellian English of Tipperary and the South, and the Scotch who have done for Ulster, what he aimed at for all Ireland, they have very much the same materials to deal with as those which he dismally failed to fashion.
Drogheda stands beautifully in a deep valley through which flows the Boyne Water, spanned by one of the finest viaducts in Europe. Here, two years after the discovery of America, Poyning's Parliament enacted that all laws passed in Ireland must be subject to approval by the English Privy Council. I wonder nobody has proposed a modification of this form of Home Rule for Ireland now. Earl Grey's recent suggestion that Parliamentary government be suspended for ten years in Ireland, which I heard warmly applauded by some able lawyers and business men in Dublin, involves like this an elimination of the Westminster debates from the problem of government in Ireland. As we passed Drogheda, Father Burke's magnificent presence and thrilling voice came back to me out of the mist of years, describing with an indignant pathos, never to be forgotten, the fearful scenes which followed the surrender of Sir Arthur Ashton's garrison, when "for the glory of God," and "to prevent the further effusion of blood," Oliver ordered all the officers to be knocked on the head, and every tenth man of the soldiers killed, and the rest shipped as slaves to the Barbadoes. But how different was the spirit in which the great Dominican recalled these events from that in which the "popular orators," scattering firebrands and death, delight to dwell upon them!
At Strabane station we found a handsome outside car waiting on us, and drove off briskly for this charming place, the home of one of the most active and prosperous manufacturers in Ireland. A little more than half way between the station and Sion House, Mr. Herdman met us afoot. We jumped off and walked up with him. Sion House, built for him by his brother, an accomplished architect, is a handsome Queen Anne mansion. It stands on a fine knoll, commanding lovely views on all sides. Below it, and beyond a little stream, rise the extensive flax-mills which are the life of the place, under the eye and within touch of the hand of the master. These works were established here by Mr. Herdman's father, after he had made a vain attempt to establish them at Ballyshannon in Donegal, half a century ago. As all salmon fishers know, the water-power is admirable at Ballyshannon, where the Erne pours in torrents down a thirty feet fall. But the ignorance and indolence of the people made Ballyshannon quite impossible, with this result, that while the Erne still flows unvexed to the sea, and the people of Ballyshannon live very much as they lived in 1835, here at Sion the Mourne enables 1100 Irish operatives to work up L90,000 worth of Irish flax every year into yarn for the Continent, and to divide among themselves some L20,000 a year in wages.
After luncheon we walked with Mr. Herdman through the mills and the model village which has grown up around them. Everywhere we found order, neatness, and thrift. The operatives are almost all people of the country, Catholics and Protestants in almost equal numbers. "I find it wise," said Mr. Herdman, "to give neither religion a preponderance, and to hold my people of both religions to a common standard of fidelity and efficiency." The greatest difficulty he has had to contend with is the ineradicable objection of some of the peasantry to continuous industry. He told us of a strapping lass of eighteen who came to the mills, but very soon gave up and went back to the parental shebeen in the mountains rather than get up early in the morning to earn fourteen shillings a week.
Three weeks of her work would have paid the year's rent of the paternal holding.
In the village, which is regularly laid out, is a reading-room for the workpeople. There are cricket clubs, and one of the mill buildings (just now crammed with bales of flax) has been fitted up by Mr. Herdman as a theatre. There is a drop-curtain representing the Lake of Como, and the flies are flanked by life-size copies in plaster of the Apollo Belvidere and the Medicean Venus. This is a development I had hardly looked to see in Ulster.
After we had gone over the works thoroughly, Mr. Herdman took us back, on a transparent pretext of enlightened curiosity touching certain qualities of spun flax, to give us a glimpse of the "beauty of Sion"—a well-grown graceful girl of fifteen or sixteen summers. She concentrated her attention, as soon as we appeared, upon certain mysterious bobbins and spindles, with an exaggerated determination which proved how completely she saw through our futile and frivolous devices. Mr. Herdman told us, as we came away discomfited, a droll story of the ugliest girl ever employed here—a girl so preternaturally ugly that one of his best blacksmiths having been entrapped into offering to marry her, lost heart of grace on the eve of the sacrifice, and, taking ship at Derry for America, fled from Sion for ever.
In the evening came, with other guests, Dr. Webb, Q.C., Regius Professor of Laws and Public Orator of Trinity at Dublin, well known both as a Grecian capable of composing "skits" as clever as the verses yclept Homerstotle—in which the Saturday Review served up the Donnelly nonsense about Bacon and Shakespeare—and as a translator of Faust. He was abused by the Loyalists at Dublin, in 1884, for his defence of P.N. Fitzgerald, the leader who beat Parnell and Archbishop Croke so badly at Thurles the other day; and he is in a fair way now to be denounced with equal fervour by the Nationalists as a County Court judge in Donegal. He finds this post no sinecure. "I do as much work in five days," he said to-night, "as the Superior Judges do in five weeks."
He is a staunch Unionist, and laughs at the notion that the Irish people care one straw for a Parliament in Dublin. "Why should they?" he said. "What did any Parliament in Dublin ever do to gratify the one real passion of the Irish peasant—his hunger for a bit of land? So far as the Irish people are concerned, Home Rule means simply agrarian reform. Would they get that from a Parliament in Dublin? If the British Parliament evicts the landlords and makes the tenants lords of the land, they will be face to face with Davitt's demand for the nationalising of the land. Do you suppose they will like to see the lawyers and the politicians organising a labour agitation against the 'strong farmers'? The last thing they want is a Parliament in Dublin. Lord Ashbourne's Act carries in its principle the death-warrant of the 'National League.'"
Some excellent stories were told in the picturesque smoking-room after dinner, one of a clever and humorous, sensible and non-political priest, who, being taken to task by some of his brethren for giving the cold shoulder to the Nationalist movement, excused himself by saying, "I should like to be a patriot; but I can't be. It's all along of the rheumatism which prevents me from lying out at nights in a ditch with a rifle." The same priest being reproached by others of the cloth with a fondness for the company of some of the resident landlords in his neighbourhood, replied, "It's in the blood, you see. My poor mother, God rest her soul! she always had a liking for the quality. As for my dear father, he was just a blundering peasant like the rest of ye!"
GWEEDORE, Saturday, 4th Feb.—A good day's work to-day!
We left our hospitable friends at Sion House early in the morning. The sun was shining brightly; the air so soft and bland that the thrushes were singing like mad creatures in the trees and the shrubbery; and the sky was more blue than Italy. "A foine day it is, sorr," said our jarvey as we took our seats on the car. There is some point in the old Irish sarcasm that English travellers in Ireland only see one side of the country, because they travel through it on the outside car. But to make this point tell, four people must travel on the car. In that case they must sit two on a side, each pair facing one side only of the landscape. It is a very different business when you travel on an outside car alone, with the driver sitting on one side of it, or with one companion only, when the driver occupies the little perch in front between the sides of the car. When you travel thus, the outside car is the best thing in the world, after a good roadster, for taking you rapidly over a country, and enabling you to command all points of the horizon. Double up one leg on the seat, let the other dangle freely, using the step as a stirrup, and you go rattling along almost as if you were on horseback.
We drove through a long suburb of Strabane into the busiest quarter of the busy little place. The names on the shops were predominantly Scotch—Maxwells, Stewarts, Hamiltons, Elliotts. I saw but one Celtic name, M'Ilhenny, and one German, Straub. I changed gold for enormous Bank of Ireland notes at a neat local bank, and the cheery landlord of the Abercorn Arms gave us a fresh car to take us on to Letterkenny, a drive of some twenty miles.
The car came up like a small blizzard, flying about at the heels of an uncanny little grey mare. Lord Ernest knew the beast well, and said she was twenty-five years old. She behaved like an unbroken filly at first, but soon striking her pace, turned out a capital goer, and took us on without turning a hair till her work was done. The weather continued to be good, but clouds rolled up around the horizon.
"It'll always be bad weather," said our saturnine jarvey, "when the Judges come to hold court, and never be good again till they rise."
Here is a consequence of alien rule in Ireland, never, so far as I know, brought to the notice of Parliament.
"Why is this?" I asked; "is it because of the time of the year they select?"
"The time of year, sorr?" he replied, glancing compassionately at me. "No, not at all; it's because of the oaths!"
We reached Letterkenny in time for a very good luncheon at "Hegarty's," one of the neatest little inns I have ever found in a place of the size. It stands on the long main street which is really the town. At one end of this street is a very pretty row of picturesque ivy-clad brick cottages, built by a landlord whose property and handsome park bound the town on the west; and the street winds alongside the slope of a hill rising from the bank of the Swilly river. A fair was going on. The little market-place was alive with bustling, chattering, and chaffering country-folk. Smartly-dressed young damsels tripped in and out of the neat well-filled shops, and in front of a row of semidetached villas, like a suburban London terrace, on the hill opposite "Hegarty's," a German band smote the air with discordant fury. Decidedly a lively, prosperous little town is Letterkenny, nor was I surprised to learn from a communicative gentleman, nursing his cane near the inn-door, that advantage would be taken of the presence of the Hussars sent to keep order at Dunfanaghy, to "give a ball."
"But I thought all the country was in arms about the trials at Dunfanaghy," I said.
"In arms about the trials at Dunfanaghy? Oh no; they'll never be locked up, Father M'Fadden and Mr. Blane. And the people here at Letterkenny, they've more sinse than at Dunfanaghy. Have you heard of the champagne?"
Upon this he proceeded to tell me, as a grand joke, that Father M'Fadden and Mr. Blane, M.P., having declined to accept the tea offered them by the authorities during their detention, they had been permitted to order what they liked from the local hotel-keeper. After the trial was over, and they were released on bail to prosecute their appeal, the hotel-keeper demanded of the authorities payment of his bill, including two bottles of champagne ordered to refresh the member for Armagh!
A conspicuous, smart, spick-and-span house on the main street, built of brick and wood, with a verandah, and picked out in bright colours, was pointed out to me by this amiable citizen as the residence of a "returned American." This was a man, he said, who had made some money in America, but got tired of living there, and had come back to end his days in his native place He was a good man, my informant added, "only he puts on too many airs."
A remarkably handsome, rosy-faced young groom, a model of manhood in vigour and grace, presently brought us up a wagonette with a pair of stout nags, and a driver in a suit of dark-brown frieze, whose head seemed to have been driven down between his shoulders. He never lifted it up all the way to Gweedore, but he proved to be a capital jarvey notwithstanding, and knew the country as well as his horses.
Not long after leaving the town by a road which passes the huge County Asylum (now literally crammed, I am told, with lunatics), we passed a ruined church on the banks of a stream. Here the country people, it seems, halt and wash their feet before entering Letterkenny, failing which ceremony they may expect a quarrel with somebody before they get back to their homes. This wholesome superstition doubtless was established ages ago by some good priest, when priests thought it their duty to be the preachers and makers of peace.
We soon left the wooded country of the Swilly and began to climb into the grand and melancholy Highlands of Donegal. The road was as fine as any in the Scottish Highlands, and despite the keen chill wind, the glorious and ever-changing panoramas of mountain and strath through which we drove were a constant delight, until, just as we came within full range of Muckish, the giant of Donegal, the weather finally broke down into driving mists and blinding rain.
We pulled up near a picturesque little shebeen, to water the horses and get our Highland wraps well about us. Out came a hardy, cheery old farmer. He swept the heavens with the eye of a mountaineer, and exclaimed:—"Ah! it's a coorse day intirely, it is." "A coorse day intirely" from that moment it continued to be.
Happily the curtain had not fallen before we caught a grand passing glimpse of the romantic gorge of Glen Veagh, closed and commanded in the shadowy distance by the modern castle of Glenveagh, the mountain home of my charming country-woman, Mrs. Adair.
Thanks to its irregular serpentine outline, and to the desolate majesty of the hills which environ it, Lough Veagh, though not a large sheet of water, may well be what it is reputed to be, a rival of the finest lochs in Scotland. No traces are now discernible on its shores of the too celebrated evictions of Glen Veagh. But from the wild and rugged aspect of the surrounding country it is probable enough that these evictions were to the evicted a blessing in disguise, and that their descendants are now enjoying, beyond the Atlantic, a measure of prosperity and of happiness which neither their own labour nor the most liberal legislation could ever have won for them here. We caught sight, as we drove through Mrs. Adair's wide and rocky domain, of wire fences, and I believe it is her intention to create here a small deer forest. This ought to be as good a stalking country as the Scottish Highlands, provided the people can be got to like "stalking" stags better than landlords and agents.
Long before we reached Glen Veagh we had bidden farewell, not only to the hedges and walls of Tyrone and Eastern Donegal, but to the "ditches," which anywhere but in Ireland would be called "embankments," and entered upon great stone-strewn wastes of land seemingly unreclaimed and irreclaimable. Huge boulders lay tossed and tumbled about as if they had been whirled through the air by the cyclones of some prehistoric age, and dropped at random when the wild winds wearied of the fun. The last landmark we made out through the gathering storm was the pinnacled crest of Errigal. Of Dunlewy, esteemed the loveliest of the Donegal lakes, we could see little or nothing as we hurried along the highway, which follows its course down to the Clady, the river of Gweedore; and we blessed the memory of Lord George Hill when suddenly turning from the wind and the rain into what seemed to be a mediaeval courtyard flanked by trees, we pulled up in the bright warm light of an open doorway, shook ourselves like Newfoundland dogs, and were welcomed by a frank, good-looking Scottish host to a glowing peat fire in this really comfortable little hotel, the central pivot of a most interesting experiment in civilisation.
GWEEDORE, Sunday, Feb. 5th.—A morning as soft and bright almost as April succeeded the stormy night. Errigal lifted his bold irregular outlines royally against an azure sky. The sunshine glinted merrily on the swift waters of the Clady, which flows almost beneath our windows from Dunlewy Lough to the sea. The birds were singing in the trees, which all about our hotel make what in the West would be called an "opening" in the wide and woodless expanse of hill and bog.
This hotel was for many years the home of Lord George Hill, who built it in the hope of making Gweedore, what in England or Scotland it would long ago have become, a prosperous watering-place. Now that a battle-royal is going on between Lord George's son and heir and the tenants on the estate, organised by Father M'Fadden under the "Plan of Campaign," it is important to know something of the history of the place.
Is this a case of the sons of the soil expropriated by an alien and confiscating Government to enrich a ruthless invader? I was told by a Nationalist acquaintance in Dublin that the owner of Gweedore is a near kinsman of the Marquis of Londonderry, and that the property came to him by inheritance under an ancient confiscation of the estates of the O'Dounels of Tyrconnel. All of this I find is embroidery.
The "Carlisle" room, which our landlord has assigned to us, contains a number of books, the property of the late Lord George, and ample materials are here for making out the annals of Gweedore. Lord George, it seems, was a posthumous son of the fourth Marquis of Downshire, and a nephew of that Marchioness of Salisbury who was burned to death with the west wing of Hatfield House half a century ago. He inherited nothing in Donegal, nor was any provision made for him under his father's will. His elder brothers made up and settled upon him a sum of twenty thousand pounds. He entered the Army, and being quartered for a time at Letterkenny, shot and fished all about Donegal. He found the people here kindly and friendly, but in a deplorable state of ignorance and of destitution. Their holdings under sundry small proprietors were entirely unimproved, and as their families increased, these holdings were cut up by themselves into even smaller strips under the system known as "rundale,"—each son as he grew up taking off a slice of the paternal holding, putting up a hut with mud, and scratching the soil after his own rude fashion. This custom, necessarily fatal to civilisation, doubtless came down from the traditional times when the lands of a sept were held in common by the sept, before the native chieftains had converted themselves into landlords, and defeated Sir John Davies's attempt to convert their tribal kinsmen into peasant proprietors.
Whatever its origin, it had reduced Gweedore, or "Tullaghobegly," fifty years ago to barbarism. Nearly nine thousand people then dwelt here with never a landlord among them. There was no "Coercion" in Gweedore, neither was there a coach nor a car to be found in the whole district. The nominal owners of the small properties into which the district was divided knew little and cared less about them. The rents were usually "made by the tenants,"—a step in advance, it will be seen, of the system which the collective wisdom of Great Britain has for the last twenty years been trying to establish in Ireland. But they were only paid when it was convenient. An agent of one of these properties who travelled fourteen miles one day to collect some rents gave it up and drove back again, because the "day was too bad" for him to wander about in the mountains on the chance of finding the tenants at home and disposed to give him a trifle on account. On most of the properties there were arrears of eight, ten, and twenty years' standing.
There was one priest in the district, and one National School, the schoolmaster, with a family of nine persons, receiving the munificent stipend of eight pounds a year. These nine thousand people, depending absolutely upon tillage and pasture, owned among them all one cart and one plough, eight saddles, two pillions, eleven bridles, and thirty-two rakes! They had no means of harrowing their lands but with meadow rakes, and the farms were so small that from four to ten farms could be harrowed in a day with one rake.