The Framework of Home Rule
by Erskine Childers
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In the most vital point of all, the relation of the dependency to the Home Government (as distinguished from questions of internal political structure), they are almost as reserved as the Canadian Act of 1840, which, as we have seen, did not recognize by a word the duty of the Governor to govern through a Colonial Cabinet. In certain clauses they hint, by distant implication, at the existence of such a Cabinet, responsible to the colonial popular Legislature—the Canadian Act did not assume even that—but they do not anywhere imply that the Governor is bound normally to place himself in the hands of that Cabinet, while they expressly and rightly reaffirm the supreme power of the Crown, whether acting through the Governor or not, over colonial legislation.

How far this reticence about responsible Government facilitated the passage of the Australian Acts in the British Parliament, as it certainly facilitated the Canadian Act of 1840, it is difficult to decide. It was probably a factor of some importance. At any rate, it is true to say that Home Rule, as in Canada, was mainly a result of practice rather than of statutory enactment. The case of New Zealand is a striking example of this. In 1852 New Zealand obtained from a Tory Government a Constitutional Act, which resembles the Canadian Act of 1840 in abstaining from any expression, direct or indirect which implies the existence of a Colonial Cabinet, and it is probable that the framers of the Act intended no such development, but on the contrary contemplated a permanent, irremovable Executive. But the Act was no sooner passed than an agitation began for responsible government, under the leadership of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, part-author of the Durham Report, and at that time a member of the New Zealand Assembly. By 1855, when the Australian Acts were passed, New Zealand, without further legislation, had obtained what she wanted.

To complete the story, Queensland, carved out of New South Wales in 1859, entered upon full responsible government at once, and Western Australia, retarded for so long by the servile system of convict-labour, gained the same rights in 1890.

Reading the debates of the middle of the nineteenth century, one is left with the impression that the Australasian Colonies obtained Home Rule by virtue of their distance, and because most politicians at home could not be bothered to fight hard against a principle which at bottom they disliked as heartily for the Colonies as for Ireland. The views of the various parties were not much changed since the days of the crisis in Canada. There were some able Colonial Secretaries who thoroughly understood and believed in the principle of responsible government. On the other hand, some Liberals were not yet converted, though Liberal Governments fathered the Constitutional Acts of 1850 and 1855. Disraeli's well-known saying in 1852 that "these wretched Colonies will all be independent, too, in a few years, and are a mill-stone round our necks," was typical of the Tory attitude.[29] Lord John Russell, in the same year, 1852, was complaining, as Lord Morley tells us,[30] that we were "throwing the shields of our authority away," and leaving "the monarchy exposed in the Colonies to the assaults of democracy." A group of Radicals, headed by Sir William Molesworth and Hume in Parliament, and by Wakefield from outside, still pushed the policy of emancipation energetically and persistently on the principle which they had urged in the case of Canada, that freedom was better both for the Colonies and the Mother Country.

But Molesworth and Wakefield gained one illustrious convert and coadjutor in the person of Mr. Gladstone, whose speeches on the Colonies at this period, 1849 to 1855, placed him, in regard to that topic, in the Radical ranks, and in veiled opposition to the Whig leaders. Lord Morley quotes a minute from his hand, written in 1852 in answer to the view of Lord John Russell, referred to above, where he says "that the nominated Council and independent Executive were not 'shields of authority,' but sources of weakness, disorder, disunion, and disloyalty." His Parliamentary and platform speeches, passing with little notice at the time, nevertheless remain the most eloquent and exalted expression of wise colonial policy that is to be found in our language. If it was not till a generation later that he applied the same arguments to the case of Ireland, the arguments nevertheless did apply to Ireland almost word for word. Proximity to the Mother Country does not affect them. Mr. Gladstone attacks the problem on its human side, showing that coercive government is always and everywhere bad for those who administer it, and bad for those who live under it, expensive, inefficient, demoralizing, and that the longer it is maintained the more difficult it is to remove. He condemns the fallacy of preparing men by slow degrees for freedom, and the "miserable jargon about fitting them for the privileges thus conferred, while in point of fact every year and every month during which they are retained under the administration of a despotic Government renders them less fit for free institutions." As to cost, "no consideration of money ought to induce Parliament to sever the connection between any one of the Colonies and the Mother Country," but the greater part of the cost, he urged, was due to the despotic system itself. His words are more applicable to the Ireland of to-day than the Ireland of the middle of the nineteenth century, for it is one of the many painful anomalies of Irish history that that country, at the lowest point of its economic misery, was paying a relatively enormous contribution to Imperial funds, and, incidentally, to the colonial vote, while the Colonies were maintained at a loss correspondingly large, and at times even larger.[31] But cost is, after all, a very small matter. The first consideration is the character and happiness of human beings, and here Gladstone's words, like Durham's, have a universal application. If the reader cannot study them at length in Hansard, he should read the great speech on the New Zealand Bill in 1852, and Lord Morley's masterly summary of others. I conclude with a passage quoted by him from a platform speech at Chester in 1855, the year when the Australian Constitutions were sanctioned. "Experience has proved that if you want to strengthen the connection between the Colonies and this country, if you want to see British law held in respect, and British institutions adopted and beloved in the Colonies, never associate with them the hated name of force and coercion exercised by us at a distance over their rising fortunes. Govern them upon a principle of freedom." At that moment, after half a century of coercion and neglect under what was called the "Union," Ireland was bleeding, as it seemed, to death. Scarcely recovered from the stunning blow of the famine, she was undergoing in a fresh dose of clearances and evictions the result of that masterpiece of legislative unwisdom, the Encumbered Estates Act. Her people were leaving her by hundreds of thousands, cursing the name of England as bitterly as the evicted Ulster farmers and the ruined weavers of the eighteenth century had cursed it, and bearing their wrongs and hatred to the same friendly shore, America. For the main stream of emigration, which before the Union had set towards the American States, and from the Union until the famine towards Canada, reverted after the famine towards the United States, impregnating that nation with an hostility to Great Britain which in subsequent years became a grave international danger, and which, though greatly diminished, still remains an obstacle to the closer union of the English-speaking races. On the other hand, it is interesting to observe that among the Irish emigrants to countries within the Empire, and a very important part of this emigration was to Australasia, the anti-British sentiment was far less tenacious, though the affection for their own native country was no less passionate.

Whatever we may conclude about the motives behind the concession of Home Rule to Australia and New Zealand, we may regard it as fortunate that they lay too far away for any close criticism from statesmen at home, whether before or after the attainment of self-government. Most of these statesmen would have been scandalized by the manner in which these vigorous young democracies, destitute of the patrician element, shaped their own political destiny by the light of nature and in the teeth of great difficulties. Almost to a man their leaders in this great work would have been regarded as "turbulent demagogues and dangerous agitators," and often were so regarded, when the rumour of their activities penetrated to far-off London. The old catchwords of revolution, spoliation and treason, consecrated to the case of Ireland, would have been applied here with equal vehemence, and were in fact applied by the official classes in the Colonies themselves, round whom small anti-democratic groups, calling themselves "loyal," crystallized, as in the Provinces of Upper Canada and in Ireland, and with whom the ruling classes at home were in instinctive sympathy. There were stormy, agitated times, there were illegal movements against the reception of convicts, struggles over land questions, religious questions, financial questions, the emancipation of ex-convicts, and the many difficult problems raised by the discovery of gold and the mushroom growth of digger communities in remote places. There was in the air more genuine lawlessness—irrespective, I mean, of revolt against bad laws—than ever existed in Ireland, though there was never at any time any practical grievance approaching in magnitude to the practical grievances of Ireland at the same period. But, could the spirit of English statesmanship towards analogous problems in Ireland have been maintained in Australasia, systematically translated into law and enforced with the help of coercion acts by soldiers and police, communities would have been artificially produced presenting all the lawless and retrograde features of Ireland.

The famous affair of the Eureka Stockade in 1854 is an interesting illustration. A great mass of diggers collected in the newly discovered Ballarat goldfields had petitioned repeatedly against the Government regulations about mining licences, for which extortionate fees were levied. This was before responsible government. The goldfields were not represented in the Legislature, and there was no constitutional method of redress. The authorities held obstinately to their obsolete and irritating regulations, and eventually the miners revolted under the leadership of an Irishman, Peter Lalor, and with the watchword "Vinegar Hill." There was a pitched battle with the military forces of the Crown, ending after much bloodshed in the victory of the soldiers. Lalor was wounded, and carried into hiding by his friends. Other captured rioters were tried for "high treason" before juries of townsmen picked by the Crown on the lines long familiar in Ireland; but even these juries refused to convict, as they so often refused to convict in cases of agrarian crime in Ireland. The State trials were then abandoned, a Royal Commission reported against the licence system, and Parliamentary representation was given to the goldfields. It came to be universally acknowledged that the talk of "treason" was nonsense, that the outbreak had been provoked by laws which could not be constitutionally changed, and that the moral was to change them, not to expatriate and persecute those who had suffered under them. Lalor reappeared, entered political life, became Speaker of the reformed Assembly of 1856, and lived and died respected by everyone. He now appears as a prominent figure in a little book entitled "Australian Heroes," and it is admitted that the whole episode powerfully assisted the movement for responsible government in the Colony. Smith O'Brien, Meagher, Mitchell, and others concerned in the Irish rebellion of 1848 were at that moment languishing in the penal settlement of Tasmania for sedition provoked by laws fifty times worse; laws, too, that a Royal Commission three years earlier had shown to be inconsistent with social peace, and which others subsequently condemned in still stronger terms. From their first establishment far back in the seventeenth century it took two centuries to abolish these laws. In the Australian case it took one year.

As for the Irishmen of all creeds and classes who took such an important part in the splendid work of building up these new communities, and who are still estimated to constitute a quarter of the population, one can only marvel at the intensity of the prejudice which declared these men "unfit" for self-government at home, and which is not yet dissipated by the discovery that they were welcomed under the Southern Cross, not only as good workaday citizens in town, bush, or diggings, but as barristers, judges, bankers, stock-owners, mine-owners, as honoured leaders in municipal and political life, as Speakers of the Representative Assemblies, and as Ministers and Prime Ministers of the Crown.[32] is true, and the fact cannot surprise us, that the intestinal divisions of race and creed in Ireland itself, stereotyped there by ages of bad government, were at first to a certain extent reproduced in Australia, as in Canada. Aggressive Orangeism was to be found sowing discord where no cause for discord existed. But the common sense of the community and the pure air of freedom tended to sterilize, though they have not to this day wholly killed, these germs of disease. A career was opened to every deserving Irishman, whether Catholic or Protestant. Hungry, hopeless, listless cottiers from Munster and Connaught built up nourishing towns like Geelong and Kilmore. Two Irishmen, Dunne and Connor, were the first discoverers of the Ballarat goldfields. An Irishman, Robert O'Hara Burke, led the first transcontinental expedition, and another Irishman, Ambrose Kyte, financed it; Wentworth was the father of Australian liberties. An Irish Roman Catholic, Sir Redmond Barry, founded the Public Library, Museum, and University of Melbourne. In the political annals of Victoria and New South Wales the names of Irish Catholics, men to whom no worthy political career was open in their own country, were prominent. Sir John O'Shanassy, for example, was three times Prime Minister of Victoria, Sir Brian O'Loughlen once. Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, a member of O'Shanassy's Cabinets, and at last Prime Minister himself, is the colonial statesman whose career and personality are the best proof of what Ireland has lost in high-minded, tolerant, constructive statesmanship, through a system which silenced or drove from her shores the men who loved her most, who saw her faults and needs with the clearest eyes, and who sought to unite her people on a footing of self-reliance and mutual confidence. One of the ablest of O'Connell's young adjutants, editor and founder of the Nation, part-organizer of the Young Ireland Movement which united men of opposite creeds in one of the finest national movements ever organized in any country, Duffy's central aim had been to give Ireland a native Parliament, where Irishmen could solve their own problems for themselves. He saw the rebellion of 1848 fail, and Mitchell, Smith O'Brien, Meagher, McManus, and O'Donoghue transported to Tasmania; he laboured on himself in Ireland for seven years at land reform and other objects, and in 1855 gave up the struggle against such hopeless odds, and reached Melbourne early in 1856 in time to sit in the first Victorian Parliament returned under the constitutional Act of 1855. From the beginning to the end of an honourable political career which lasted thirty years, he made it his dominant purpose to ensure that Australia should be saved from the evils which cursed Ireland; from government by a favoured class, from land monopoly, and from religious inequality and the venomous bigotries it engenders, and he took a large share in bringing about their exclusion. His Land Act of 1862, for example, where he had another Roman Catholic Irishman, Judge Casey, as an auxiliary, put an end in those districts where it was fairly worked to the grave abuses caused by the speculative acquisition of immense tracts of land by absentee owners, and promoted the closer settlement of the country by yeoman farmers.

In Australia, as in Canada, we see the vital importance of good land laws, and can measure the misery which resulted in Ireland from an agrarian system incalculably more absurd and unjust than anything known in any other part of the Empire. The stagnation of Western Australia was originally due to the cession of huge unworkable estates to a handful of men. South Australia was retarded for some little time from the same cause, and Victoria and New South Wales were all hampered in the same way. It was not a question, as in Ireland, and to a less degree in Prince Edward Island, of the legal relations between the landlord and tenant of lands originally confiscated, but of the grant and sale of Crown lands. Yet the after-results, especially in the check to tillage and the creation of vast pasture ranches, were often very similar.[33]

Duffy was not the only colonial statesman to apply Irish experience to the problems of newly settled countries. An Englishman who became one of the greatest of colonial statesmen and administrators, the Radical Imperialist, Sir George Grey, began life as a Lieutenant on military service in Ireland in the year 1829, and came away sick with the scenes he had witnessed at the evictions and forced collections of tithes where his troops were employed to strengthen the arm of the law. "Ireland," his biographer, Professor Henderson, tells us,[34] "was to him a tragedy of unrealized possibilities." The people had "good capacities for self-government," but Englishmen "showed a vicious tendency to confuse cause and effect," and attributed to inherent lawlessness what was a revolt against bad economic conditions. "All that they or their children could hope for was to obtain, after the keenest competition, the temporary use of a spot of land on which to exercise their industry"; "for the tenant's very improvements went to swell the accumulations of the heirs of an absentee, not of his own." "Haunted by the Irish problem," Grey made it his effort first in South Australia, and afterwards in New Zealand, where he was both Governor and Premier at various times, to secure the utmost possible measure of Home Rule for the colonists, and, in pursuance of a policy already inaugurated by Edward Gibbon Wakefield, to establish a land system based, not on extravagant free grants, or on private tenure, but on sales by the State to occupiers at fair prices. The aim was to counteract that excessive accumulation of people in the large cities which, thanks to imperfect legislation, still exists in most of the Australian States. Subsequent New Zealand land policy has been generally in the right direction, and is acknowledged to be highly successful. In the Australian mainland States the absentee and the squatter caused constant difficulties and occasional disorder. The Commonwealth at the present day is suffering for past neglect, and has found itself within the last year compelled to imitate New Zealand in placing taxes on undeveloped land, with a higher percentage against absentees.

Let us add that Grey, like Duffy and most of the strongest advocates of Home Rule for the Colonies, was a Federalist long before Federation became practical politics, seeing in that policy the best means of achieving the threefold aim of giving each Colony in a group ample local freedom, of binding the whole group together into a compact, coherent State, and of strengthening the connection between that State and the Mother Country. As Governor at the Cape from 1854 to 1861 he vainly urged the Home Government to promote a Federal Union of the various South African States, Dutch and British, in order, as he said, to create "an United South Africa under the British flag," a scheme which, it is generally agreed, could then have been carried out, and which would have saved South Africa from terrible disasters. And he wished to apply the same Federal principle to the Australian Colonies, and to the case of Ireland and Great Britain.

He realized earlier than most men that the talk of "separation" and "disloyalty" was, in his own words already quoted, the result of a "vicious tendency to confuse cause and effect," and that to govern men by their own consent, to let them work out their own ideals in their own way, to encourage, not to repress, their sense of nationality, is the best way to gain their affection, or, if we choose to use that very misleading word, their loyalty.

Australia and New Zealand present remarkable examples of this beneficent process, Australia in particular, because there, for a long time even after the introduction of responsible government and, indeed, until a dozen years ago, there was a large party of so-called "disloyalists" who were never weary of decrying British influences and upholding Australian nationality. Mr. Jebb, in his "Colonial Nationalism," gives an interesting account of this movement and of its organ, the widely circulated Sydney Bulletin, with its furiously anti-British views, its Radicalism, its Republicanism, and what not. He shows amusingly how entirely harmless the propaganda really was, and what a healthy effect it actually had in promoting an independence of feeling and national self-respect among Australians, to such a degree that when the South African War broke out, there was a universal outburst of patriotism and a universal desire, which was realized, to share to the full as a nation in the expense, danger, and hardships of the war. Mr. Jebb adds the interesting suggestion that the reluctance of New Zealand to enter the Australian Federation may be partly due to the strong individual sentiment of nationality evoked within her by the war and the exceptional exertions she made to aid the Imperial troops.

His book is a psychological study of men in the mass. What he sets out to prove, and what he does successfully prove, is that the encouragement of minor nationalities is not merely consistent with, but essential to, the unity of the Empire. Yet he never mentions Ireland, not even for the purpose of proving her an exception to the rule, and I do not think I ever gauged the full extent of the prejudice against that country until I realized that in such a book such a topic did not receive even a line of notice; yet one would naturally suppose that it was as important to the Empire, morally and strategically, to possess the affection and respect of four and a half million citizens within 60 miles of the British coast as of the same number of citizens at the Antipodes.

Mr. Jebb is a Unionist. How he reaches his conclusion I do not know. It would seem to be beyond human power to construct a case against Home Rule for Ireland, with its strongly marked individuality of character and sentiment, which did not textually stultify his case for the more distant dependencies. His party generally is in sympathy with the views expressed in his book, and has done much to further them. How do they reconcile them with opposition to Home Rule for Ireland? How do they explain away the support for that policy in the Dominions? It seems to me that their only resource would be to say: "We are bound to maintain, and we have the necessary physical force to maintain, the present political system in Ireland, because to alter it would impair the formal legislative 'unity' of the United Kingdom; but let us frankly admit that as long as we take this view there can be no 'Union' in the highest sense of the word. Ireland must be retarded and estranged. We cannot raise Territorial Volunteers within her borders; on the contrary, we must keep and pay for a standing army of police to preserve our authority there. Her population must diminish, her vital energy ebb away to other lands; as a market for our goods and as a source of revenue for Imperial purposes she must remain undeveloped and unprogressive. She will continue rightly to agitate for Home Rule, and this agitation will always be baneful both to her and to us. It will distract her energies from her own economic and social problems. It will embitter and degrade our politics, and dislocate our Parliamentary institutions. She must suffer, we must suffer, the Empire must suffer. It is sad, but inevitable."

Morality aside, is that common sense? Is it strange that the Colonies themselves regard such logic, when applied to Ireland, as perverted and absurd?

Before leaving Australia we have only to recall the fact that at the close of the last century, after a generation of controversy and negotiation, the Canadian example of 1867 was at length imitated, and the Federal Union formed which amalgamated all the mainland States, together with Tasmania, in the Commonwealth of Australia, and that the Union was sanctioned and legalized by the Imperial Act of 1900. New Zealand preferred to remain a distinct State. The Australians departed in some important respects from the Canadian model, the main difference being that a greater measure of independence was retained by the individual States, and smaller powers delegated to the central Government. This was a matter of voluntary arrangement as between the States themselves, the Home Government standing wholly aside on the sound principle that Australia knew its own interests best, and that what was best for Australia was best for the Empire.


[29] Letter to Lord Malmesbury, August 13, 1852 ("Memoirs of an Ex-Minister," by the Earl of Malmesbury, vol. i., p. 344).

[30] "Life of Gladstone," vol. i., p. 363.

[31] Annual Treasury Returns ["Imperial Revenue (Collection and Expenditure)"]. According to these returns, Ireland's Imperial contribution in 1839, before the famine, was L3,626,322; in 1849, after the famine, L2,613,778, and in 1859-60 no less than L5,396,000. At the latter date the Colonies were estimated to cost three and a half millions a year, of which nine-tenths were contributed by the taxpayers at home, British and Irish.

[32] Full information may be found in "The Irish in Australia," by J.F. Hogan.

[33] For an excellent historical description of the various Australian land systems, see the official "Year-Book of the Commonwealth," 1909.

[34] "Life of Sir George Grey," Professor G.C. Henderson.



In the years 1836-37, when Wentworth was agitating for self-government in New South Wales, and when Canada was in rebellion for the lack of it, thousands of waggons, driven by men smarting under the same sort of grievance, were jolting northward across the South African veld bearing Dutch families from the British Colony of the Cape of Good Hope to the new realms we now know as the Orange River Colony and the Transvaal. The "Great Trek" was a form of protest against bad government to which we have no parallel in the Empire save in the wholesale emigrations from Ireland at various periods of her history—after the Treaty of Limerick, again after the destruction of the wool trade, again in 1770-1777, after the Ulster evictions, and lastly after the great famine. The trekkers, like the Irish emigrants, nursed a resentment against the British Government which was a source of untold expense and suffering in the future. Indeed, the whole history of South Africa bears a close resemblance to the history of Ireland. In no other part of the Empire, save in Ireland, was the policy of the Home Government so persistently misguided, in spite of constantly recurring opportunities for the repair of past errors. Fatality seems from first to last to have dogged the footsteps of those who tried to govern there. Before the British conquest the Dutch East India Company and the Netherlands Government were as unsuccessful as their British successors, whose legal claim to the Cape, established for the second time by conquest in 1806, was definitely confirmed by the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The Dutch colonists were a fine race of men, whose ancestors, like the Puritan founders of New England, had fled in 1652 from religious persecution, and who retained the virile qualities of their race. Though in many respects they resembled the backward and intensely conservative French-Canadian inhabitants, they differed from them, and resembled their closer relatives in race, the New Englanders, in an innate passion for free representative government. They had rebelled repeatedly against their Dutch oppressors, and had gone through a brief Republican phase. It is an example, therefore, of the thoughtless inconsequence of our old colonial policy that we gave the French-Canadians, who were the least desirous of it, the form, without the spirit, of representative institutions, while we denied, until it was too late to avert racial discord, even the form to the Cape Dutch. In truth, the Colony seems to have been regarded purely in the light of a naval station, while the British and Irish inflow of settlers, dating from about the year 1820, contemporaneously with the advent of free settlers in Australia, suggested the possibility of racial oppression by the Dutch majority. Yet if there was little real reason to fear oppression by the French in Canada, there was still less reason to fear such oppression in the Cape, where Dutch ideals and civilization were far more similar to those of the British. In America the absorption of the Dutch Colonies in the seventeenth century had led to the peaceful fusion of both races, nor was there any reason why, under wise rule, the same fusion should not have occurred in South Africa. Until 1834 authority was purely military and despotic. In that year was established a small Legislative Council of officials and nominated members, with no representative element. In 1837 came the Great Trek.

No one disputes that the Dutch colonists had grievances, without the means of redress. As usual, we find a land question in the shape of enhanced rents charged by Government after the British occupation; the Dutch language was excluded from official use, and English local institutions were introduced with unnecessary abruptness; but the principal grievance concerned the native tribes. Slavery existed in the Colony, and its borders were continually threatened by these tribes. The Dutch colonists were often terribly brutal to the natives; nevertheless there is little doubt that a tactful and sympathetic policy could easily have secured for them a more humane treatment, and the abolition of slavery without economic dislocation. But a strong humanitarian sentiment was sweeping over England at the time, including in its range the negro slaves of Jamaica and the unconquered Kaffirs of South Africa, but absolutely ignoring, let us note in passing, the economic serfdom of the half-starved Irish peasantry at our very doors. Members of this school took too little account of the tremendous difficulties faced in South Africa by small handfuls of white colonists in contact with hordes of savages. The Colonial Government, with a knowledge of the conditions gained only from well-meaning but somewhat prejudiced missionaries, endeavoured from 1815 onwards to enforce an impracticable equality between white and coloured men, and abolished slavery at one sudden stroke in 1833 without reasonable compensation. A large number of the Dutch, unable to tolerate this treatment, deserted the British flag. Those that remained were under suspicion for more than thirty years, so that political progress was very slow. It was not till 1854 that the Colony received a Representative Assembly, and not until 1872, eighteen years later than in Australia, and twenty-five years later than in Canada, that full responsible government was established.

Piet Retief, one of the leaders of the voluntary exiles, had published a proclamation in the following terms before he joined the trek: "We quit this Colony under the full assurance that the English Government has nothing more to require of us, and will allow us to govern ourselves without its interference in the future. We are now leaving the fruitful land of our birth, in which we have suffered enormous losses and continual vexation, and are about to enter a strange and dangerous territory; but we go with a firm reliance on an all-seeing, just, and merciful God, whom we shall always fear and humbly endeavour to obey." This was high language, yet after-events proved that a steady, consistently fair treatment on our part would even then have reconciled these men to a permanent continuance of British sovereignty. Unfortunately, our policy oscillated painfully between irritating interference and excessive timidity. First of all attempts were made to stop the trek by force, then to compel the trekkers to return by cutting off their supplies and ammunition, then to throttle their development of the new lands north of the Orange and Vaal Rivers by calling into being fictitious native States on a huge scale in the midst of and around them, then tardily to repair the disastrous effects of this policy; but not before it had led to open hostilities (1845). Hostilities, however, had this temporarily good result, in that it brought to the front one of the ablest and wisest of the Cape Governors, Sir Harry Smith, who defeated the Boers at Boomplatz in 1848, established what went by the name of the Orange River Sovereignty, and in a year or two secured such good and peaceful government within its borders as to attract considerable numbers of English and Scotch colonists. The malcontents retired across the Vaal. Then came an abrupt change of policy in the Home Government, a sudden desire actuated mainly by fear of more native wars, to cancel all that was possible of our commitments in South Africa. The Transvaal, by the Sand River Convention, was declared independent in 1852, the Orange Free State, by the Convention of Bloemfontein, in 1854. This was to rush from one extreme to the other. It was as though in 1847 we had erected Quebec into a sovereign State instead of giving it responsible government under the Crown, or as if in 1843 we had been so deeply convinced by O'Connell's second agitation for repeal that we had leapt straight from coercive government to the foundation of an independent Republic in Ireland, instead of giving her the kind of Home Rule which she was asking for.

It was not yet too late to mend. In 1854, when the cession of the Free State had just been carried out, Sir George Grey, whom we have met with in Australia and New Zealand, came as High Commissioner to the Cape. In 1859 he made the proposal I alluded to in the last chapter for federating all the South African States, including the two new Republics. There is little doubt that the scheme was feasible then. The Orange Free State was willing to join, and, indeed, had initiated proposals for Federation. Its adhesion would have compelled the Transvaal, always more hostile to British rule, to come in eventually, if not at once; for the relations of the two Republics were friendly enough at the time to permit one man, Pretorius, to be President of both States.

The scheme was rejected by Lord Derby's Tory Cabinet, and Grey, a "dangerous man," as Lord Carnarvon, the Colonial Secretary, dubbed him, was recalled.

Sixteen years later, in 1875, Lord Carnarvon himself, as a member of the Disraeli Ministry, revived the project. Converted in his views of the Colonies, like many of his Tory colleagues at this period, he had carried through Parliament the Federation of Canada in 1867, and hoped to do the same with South Africa. But it was too late. The Cape Parliament, now in possession of a responsible Ministry, was hostile, while twenty years of self-government, for the most part under the great President Brand, had changed the sentiments of the Free State. Federation, then, was impossible. On the other hand, the Transvaal was in a state of political unrest and of danger from native aggression, which gave a pretext for reversion to the long-abandoned policy of annexation, and to that extreme Carnarvon promptly went in April, 1877. He took this dangerous course without ascertaining the considered wishes of the majority of the Boers, acting through his emissary, Sir T. Shepstone, on the informal application of a minority of townsmen who honestly wished to come under British rule.

Rash as the measure was, lasting good might have come of it had the essential step been taken of preserving representative government. The promise was given and broken. For three years the Assembly, or Volksraad, was not summoned. Once more home statesmanship was blind, and local administration blunderingly oppressive. Shepstone was the wrong man for the post of Administrator. Sir Owen Lanyon, his successor, was an arrogant martinet of the stamp familiar in Canada before 1840, and painfully familiar in Ireland. The refusal of an Assembly naturally strengthened the popular demand for a reversal of the annexation, and this demand, twice pressed in London through a deputation headed by Paul Kruger, obscured the whole issue, and raised a question of British national pride, with all its inevitable consequences, where none need have been raised. There was a moment of hope when Sir Bartle Frere, who stands, perhaps, next to Sir George Grey on the roll of eminent High Commissioners, endeavoured to pacify the Boer malcontents, and drafted the scheme of a liberal Constitution for the Transvaal. But one of the last acts of the Tory Government, at the end of 1879, was to recall Frere for an alleged transgression of his powers in regard to the Zulu War, and to pigeon-hole his scheme. Mr. Gladstone, who in opposition had denounced the annexation with good enough justification, though in terms which under the circumstances were immoderate, found himself compelled to confirm it when he took office in April, 1880. But he, too, allowed the liberal Constitution to sleep in its pigeon-hole. He was assured by the officials on the spot that there was no danger, that the majority were loyal, and only a minority of turbulent demagogues disloyal; and in December, 1880, the rebellion duly broke out, and the Transvaal Republic was proclaimed. What followed we know, war, Laing's Nek, Majuba, and one more violent oscillation of policy in the concession of a virtual independence to the Transvaal.

Whatever we may think of the policy of this concession, and Lord Morley has made the best case that can be made for Mr. Gladstone's action, it is certain that it was only a link in a long chain of blunders for which both great political parties had been equally responsible, and of which the end had not yet come. The nation at large, scarcely alive until now to the existence of the Colonies, was stung into Imperial consciousness by a national humiliation, for so it was not unnaturally regarded, coming from an obscure pastoral community confusedly identified as something between a Colony, a foreign power, and a troublesome native tribe. The history of the previous seventy years in South Africa was either unknown or forgotten, and Mr. Gladstone, who in past years had preached to indifferent hearers the soundest and sanest doctrine of enlightened Imperialism, suddenly appeared, and for ever after remained in the eyes of a great body of his countrymen, as a betrayer of the nation's honour. Resentment was all the greater in that it was universally believed that Laing's Nek and Majuba were unlucky little accidents, and that another month or two of hostilities would have humbled the Boers to the dust.

This illusion, which is not yet eradicated, and which has coloured all subsequent discussion of the subject, lasted unmodified until the first months of the war in 1899, when events took place exactly similar to Laing's Nek and Majuba, and were followed by a campaign lasting nearly three years, requiring nearly 500,000 men for its completion, and the co-operation of the whole Empire. It is impossible to estimate the course events would have taken in 1881 had the war been prolonged. If the Free State had joined the Transvaal, it may be reasonably conjectured that we should have been weaker, relatively, than in 1899. Though the Boers were less numerous, less well organized, and less united as a nation in 1881, they were even better shots and stalkers than in 1899, because they had had more recent practice against game and natives; nor was there a large British population in the Transvaal to counteract their efforts and supply magnificent corps like the Imperial Light Horse for service in arms against them. Our army, just as brave, was in every other respect, especially in the matter of mounted men and marksmanship, less fitted for such a peculiar campaign, and could have counted with far less certainty upon that assistance from mounted colonial troops without which the war of 1899-1902 could never have been finished at all. Our command of the sea was less secure; the Egyptian War of 1882 was brewing, and Ireland, where the Great Land Act of 1881 was not yet law, was seething with crime and disorder little distinguishable from war itself, and demanding large bodies of troops.

If the further course of a war in 1881 is a matter of speculation, what we all know for certain is, first, that the conditions which led to war were produced by seventy years of vacillating policy, and, second, that war itself would have been a useless waste of life and treasure, unless success in it had been followed, as in 1906, by the grant of that responsible Government which all along had been the key to the whole difficulty, the condition precedent to a Federal Union of the South African States, and to their closer incorporation in the Empire.

Few persons realized this at the time. The whole situation changed disastrously for the worse. Arrogance and mutual contempt embittered the relations of the races. Then came a crucial test for the Boer capacity for enlightened and generous statesmanship. Gold was discovered in the Transvaal, and a large British population flocked in. The same problem, with local modifications, faced the Boers as had been faced in Upper and Lower Canada, and for centuries past in Ireland. Were they to trust or suspect, to admit or to exclude from full political rights, the new-comers? Was it to be the policy of the Duke of Wellington or of the Earl of Durham, of Fitzgibbon or the Volunteers? They chose the wrong course, and set up an oligarchical ascendancy like the "family compact" of Upper Canada and Nova Scotia. Can we be surprised that they, a rude, backward race, failed under the test where we ourselves, with far less justification, had failed so often? Their experience of our methods had been bad from first to last. Their latest taste of our rule had been the coercive system of Lanyon, and they feared, with only too good reason, as events after the second war proved, that any concession would lead to a counter-ascendancy of British interests in a country which was legally their own, not a portion of the British dominions. We had suffered nothing, and had no reason to fear anything, from the Irish and French-Canadian Catholics, nor from the Nonconformist Radicals of Upper Canada. It would have been well if a small fraction of the abuse lavished on the tyrannical Boer oligarchy six thousand miles away had been diverted into criticism of the government of a country within sixty miles of our shores, where a large majority of the inhabitants had been for generations asking for the same thing as the Uitlander minority in the Transvaal—Home Rule—and were stimulated to make that demand by grievances of a kind unknown in the Transvaal.

But the British blood was up; the Boer blood was up. Such an atmosphere is not favourable to far-seeing statesmanship, and it would have taken statesmanship on both sides little short of superhuman to avert another war. The silly raid of 1895 and its condonation by public opinion in England hastened the explosion. Can anyone wonder that public opinion in Ireland was instinctively against that war? Only a pedant will seize on the supposed paradox that a war for equal rights for white men should have met with reprobation from an Ireland clamouring for Home Rule. Irish experience amply justified Irishmen in suspecting precisely what the Boers suspected, a counter-ascendancy in the gold interest, and in seeing in a war for the conquest of a small independent country by a mighty foreign power an analogy to the original conquest of Ireland by the same power. It is hard to speak with restraint of the educated men—men with books and time to read them, with brains and the wealth and leisure to develop them—who to this very day abuse their talents in encouraging among the ignorant multitude the belief that the Irish leaders of that day were, to use the old hackneyed phrase, "traitors to the Empire." If we look at the whole of these events in just perspective, if we search coolly and patiently for abiding principles beneath the sordid din and confusion of racial strife, we shall agree that in some respects Irishmen were better friends to the Empire than the politicians who denounced them, and sounder judges of its needs. Yet there can be no doubt that the Transvaal complications, followed unhappily by the Gordon episode in the Soudan, reacted fatally on Ireland, and that the Irish problem in its turn reacted with bad effect on the Transvaal. When the statesman who refused to avenge Majuba in 1881 proposed his Irish Home Rule Bills in 1886 and 1893, it was easy for prejudiced minds to associate the two policies as harmonious parts of one great scheme of national dismemberment and betrayal. Boers, Irish, and Soudanese savages, all were confusedly lumped together as dangerous people whom it was England's duty to conquer and coerce.

The South African War of 1899-1902 came and passed. People will discuss to the end of time whether or not it could have been avoided. Parties will differ to the end of time about its moral justification. For my own part, I think it is pleasanter to dwell on the splendid qualities it evoked in both races, and above all on the mutual respect which replaced the mutual contempt of earlier days. I myself am disposed to think that at the pass matters had reached in 1896 nothing but open war could have set the relations of the two races on a healthy footing.

But bold and generous statesmanship was needed if the fruits of this mutual respect were to be reaped. The defeated Republics were now British Colonies, their inhabitants British subjects. After many vicissitudes we were back once more in the old political situation of 1836 before the Great Trek, and the policy which was right then was right now. Bitter awakening as it was to our proud people after a war involving such colossal sacrifices, it was still just as true as of old that in Ireland, Canada, Australia, South Africa, or anywhere else, it is utterly impossible for one white democracy to rule another properly on the principle of ascendancy. It was physically possible, thanks to Ireland's proximity, to deny that country Home Rule, but it would not have been even physically possible in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony. Yet the idea was conceived and the policy strongly backed which could only have had the disastrous effect of bringing into being two Irelands in the midst of our South African dominions. It is not yet generally recognized that we owe the defeat of this policy in the first instance to Lord Kitchener. From the moment he took the supreme military command in South Africa at the end of 1900, while prosecuting the war with iron severity and sleepless energy, he insisted on and worked for a settlement by consent, with a formal promise of future self-government to the Boers. In this he was in sharp opposition to Lord Milner, who desired to extort an unconditional surrender. Of these two strong, able, high-minded men, the soldier, curiously enough, was the better statesman. In temperament he recalls the General Abercromby of 1797 on the eve of the Irish rebellion, still more perhaps General Carleton, who administered French Canada in the critical period after its conquest and during the American War. Lord Milner, in political theory, not in personality, corresponds to Fitzgibbon. His view was that British prestige and authority could only be maintained in the future by thus humbling the national pride of our adversaries, who, moreover, by the formal annexations of 1900, carried into effect when the war was still young, were by a legal fiction rebels, not belligerents. Lord Kitchener, besides seeing, as the responsible soldier in the field, the sheer physical impossibility of lowering the Boer national pride by any military operations he had the power to undertake, from the beginning of the guerilla war onwards, was a truer judge of human nature and a better Imperialist at heart in realizing that the self-respect of the Boers was a precious asset, not a dangerous menace to the Empire, and that the whole fate of South Africa depended on a racial reconciliation on the basis of equal political rights, which would be for ever precluded by compelling the Boers to pass under the Caudine Forks.

Fortunately Lord Kitchener was supported by the Home Government, and the Peace of Vereeniging took the form of a surrender on terms, or, virtually, of a treaty, formally guaranteeing, among other things, the concession "when circumstances should permit" of "representative institutions leading up to self-government." The next ordeal of British statesmanship came when the time arrived in 1905 to redeem this promise. There were two distinctly defined alternatives: one, to profit by experience and to give responsible government at once; the other, for the time being, to copy one of the constitutional models which had long been obsolete curiosities in the history of all the white Colonies, which had never failed to produce mischievous results, whether in a bi-racial or a uni-racial community, and which were in reality suited only to groups of officials and traders living in the midst of uneducated coloured races in tropical lands. The Government, and we cannot doubt that their traditional policy toward Ireland warped their views, declared for the latter alternative, and issued under Letters Patent a Constitution which happily never came into force. Like the Act of Union with Ireland, it gave the shadow of freedom without the substance. It set up a single Legislative Chamber, four-fifths elective, but containing, as ex-officio members, the whole of the Executive Council as nominated by the Crown. Executive power, therefore, together with the last word in all legislation, was to remain wholly in the hands of the Crown, acting through a Ministry not responsible to the people's representatives. It would have been difficult to design a plan more certain to promote friction, racialism, and an eventual deadlock, necessitating either a humiliating surrender by the Government under pressure of the refusal of supplies, or a reversion to despotic government which would have produced another war. With wide differences of detail and with the added risk of financial deadlock, it was sought to establish the kind of political situation prevalent in Ireland after the Act of Union. The executive power in that country, and, with the exception of the Department of Agriculture, the policy and personnel of the host of nominated Boards through which its affairs are administered, still stand wholly outside popular control, while legislation in accordance with Irish views is only possible when, in the fluctuation of the British party balance, a British Ministry happens to be in sympathy with these views, and only too often not even then.

Statesmen who looked with complacency on the history of a century in Ireland under such a system naturally took a similar view of the Transvaal, deriving it from the same low estimate of human tendencies. The literature, despatches, and speeches of the period carry us straight back to the Canadian controversies of 1837-1840, and beyond them to the Union controversy of 1800. In one respect the parallel with the Irish Union is closer, because, while British opinion in Lower Canada was predominantly against responsible government, there was in Ireland a strong current of unbribed Protestant opinion against the Union. Similarly, in the Transvaal, there was a strong feeling among a section of the British population, coinciding with the general wishes of the Dutch population, in favour of full responsible government. In other words, the mere prospect of self-government lessened racial cleavage, brought men of the two races together, and began the evolution of a new party cleavage on the normal lines natural to modern communities. The whole question was keenly canvassed at public meetings and in the Press from November, 1904, to February 5, 1905, and in Johannesburg a British party of considerable strength took the lead in demanding the fuller political rights, and formed the Responsible Government Association. The controversy was embodied in a Blue-Book laid before Parliament,[35] and at every stage of its progress the facts were cabled home by Lord Milner to the Government, who thus had the whole situation before them when they came to their decision.

It would be worth the reader's while to study with some care the terms of the despatch announcing that decision.[36] He will feel himself in contact with fundamental principles, undisturbed by individual bias; for no one could suspect Mr. Lyttelton, the genial and popular Secretary of State who penned the despatch, of any violent prejudices. Yet the spirit of the whole despatch, though gentle and persuasive in its terms, is the spirit of Fitzgibbon's brutally outspoken argument for the extinction of the Irish Parliament, and the complete exclusion of Irish Roman Catholics from influence over their country's affairs. The despatch begins, it is true, by explaining that the proposed Constitution is only intended to be temporary; that it had been the invariable custom to grant freedom to the Colonies by degrees, and that the custom must be followed; but the reasons adduced for following it, if we consider that they were adduced in the year 1905, instead of a century and a half back, constitute one of the strangest of all the strange inversions of historical cause and effect which a Home Rule controversy has ever suggested to the human brain. Instead of inferring from our bitter experiences in Upper and Lower Canada, which are mentioned in the despatch, and in Ireland, which is not, that race distinctions increase instead of lessening the necessity for responsible government, Mr. Lyttelton complacently quotes bi-racial Lower Canada as a precedent for his Transvaal Constitution. Quite frankly, though in curiously misleading terms,[37] he records the fact that a similar Constitution there led to deadlock and rebellion. Without intention to deceive, he ignores the fact that wholly British Upper Canada reached the same pass for the same reasons; and he appears to look forward with equanimity to the passage of the unfortunate Transvaal through an identically painful phase of history toward the same sanguinary climax. The radical error in the official version of events in Canada appears in the comparison between the rebellions of 1837 and the South African War of 1899-1902. To contrast the "brief armed rising" in Canada with the three years' war in South Africa, and to argue that a degree of freedom could safely be given after the former, which would involve great danger after the latter, was to show ignorance of the chain of historical events and blindness to their true moral. The underlying idea is the one applied to the old American Colonies and for centuries to Ireland, namely, that the more mutinous a dependency is, the less reason for giving it Home Rule, with the paradoxical corollary applied even to this day in Ireland, that if it is not disorderly it does not need Home Rule. So from age to age statesmen run their heads against facts, perpetuate the errors of their forefathers, and do their unconscious best to intensify the evils they deplore. It was erroneous to regard either the Canadian Rebellions or the Boer War as events which rendered responsible government more or less dangerous. Each of these events was itself the climax of a long period of irresponsible misgovernment dating from about the same period, the second decade of the nineteenth century, and demanding the same remedy. In the Boer case, continuity was twice broken by grants of independence, and the climax proportionally delayed, but the origin of the trouble was the same. If the Boers had not trekked en masse from Cape Colony in order to escape from misgovernment, both movements—in the Cape and Canada—might have come to a head in exactly the same year, 1837.

In sober, weighty, tactful phrases, carefully chosen to avoid giving needless offence to the Dutch, the despatch laboriously overthrows the Liberal theory of government, and works out the negation of all Imperial experience. It deplores the "bitter memories" of war, which free institutions, by tending to "emphasize and stereotype the racial line," will make more, not less bitter, and which can be effaced only by the "healing effect of time." We think of the Durham Report, of Ireland, and marvel. We recollect the bulky Blue-Book at Mr. Lyttelton's elbow as he wrote, full of speeches and articles by Englishmen, showing quite correctly, as has since been proved, that the "racial line" in Johannesburg was growing fainter daily with the mere prospect of responsible government. These men were not afraid of the Dutch, and said so. The answer was that they ought to be, or, in the persuasive language of diplomacy, as follows:

"His Majesty's Government trust that those of British origin in the Transvaal who, with honest conviction, have advocated the immediate concession of full responsible government, will recognize the soundness and cogency of the reasons, both in their own interests and in those of the Empire, for proceeding more cautiously and slowly, and that under a political system which admittedly has its difficulties they will, notwithstanding a temporary disappointment, do their best to promote the welfare of the country and the smooth working of its institutions."

Then came a chivalrous compliment to the Dutch for their "gallant struggle" in the war, coupled with a reminder that they are not to be trusted with political power, a reminder so courteously worded that it, too, becomes a compliment:

"The inhabitants of Dutch origin have recently witnessed, after their gallant struggle against superior power, the fall of the Republic founded by the valour and sufferings of their ancestors, and cannot be expected, until time has done more to heal the wound, to entertain the most cordial feelings towards the Government of the Transvaal. But from them also, as from a people of practical genius, who have learned by long experience to make the best of circumstances, His Majesty's Government expect co-operation in the task of making their race, no longer in isolated independence, a strong pillar in the fabric of a world-wide Empire. That this should be the result, and that a complete reconciliation between men of two great and kindred races should, under the leading of Divine Providence, speedily come to pass, is the ardent desire of His Majesty the King and of His Majesty's Government."

The tone recalls the tone of Pitt and Castlereagh in proposing the Union. But Fitzgibbon went more directly to the point in saying outright that, Ireland having been conquered and confiscated, the colonists "were at the mercy of the old inhabitants of the island," and that laws must be framed by an external power to "meet the vicious propensities of human nature." Let us recognize unreservedly that the words of the Transvaal despatch were the outcome of deep and sincere conviction. That is the worst of it. From age to age Ireland has to suffer for the depth and sincerity of these convictions. There, too, the cleavage of race and religion, never complete, always defying the official efforts to "stereotype and emphasize it," to quote the despatch of 1905, grows fainter with time, and will grow fainter as long as the national movement lives to draw men together in the common interest of Ireland. The Volunteers, Wolfe Tone, Emmet, many of the Young Irelanders, Isaac Butt, Parnell, were Protestants. And there is a strong band of Protestant Home Rulers to-day in Ulster and out of it, landlords, tenants, capitalists, labourers, Members of Parliament, and clergymen, who declare that they are not afraid of Catholic oppression, and who are told by Unionists that they ought to be. And in Ireland, too, the Roman Catholic majority are told, rarely, it is true, in the courteous phrases of Mr. Lyttelton's despatch, that they "cannot be expected to entertain the most cordial feelings towards the Government." In Ireland, also, is a "political system which admittedly has its difficulties," ironical euphemism for a system whose analogue in the Transvaal could have been used by the subject race, had they so willed, to bring civil government to a standstill, without the means of furnishing anything better, and which under the Act of Union can be, and has been, used to dislocate the Parliamentary life of the United Kingdom. The Boers were asked "as a people of practical genius" to assist the "smooth working" of an unworkable Constitution, so as to promote the "reconciliation of two great and kindred races." The Irish are pursued with invective for legitimately using the constitutional power given them in order, while freeing Parliament from an intolerable incubus, to gain the right to elicit character and responsibility in themselves by shouldering their own burdens and saving their own souls.

If the official view of the Transvaal was mistaken, the summit of error was reached in the view taken of the Orange River Colony. In that Colony, which was almost wholly pastoral and Dutch, and which until the war had enjoyed free institutions uninterruptedly for half a century, and had made remarkably good vise of them, representative government, even of the illusory kind designed for the Transvaal, was to be indefinitely postponed, postponed at any rate until the results of the "experiment" in the Transvaal had been observed.

The Government "recognize that there are industrial and economic conditions peculiar to the Transvaal, which make it very desirable in that Colony to have at the earliest possible date some better means of ascertaining the views of the different sections of the population than the present system affords. The question as regards the Orange River Colony being a less urgent one, it appears to them that there will be advantage in allowing a short period to intervene before elective representative institutions are granted to the last-named Colony, because this will permit His Majesty's Government to observe the experiment, and, if need be, to profit by the experience so gained."

What is the train of reasoning in this strange specimen of political argument? It was important to "ascertain the views" of the bi-racial Transvaal, but needless to ascertain the views of the practically homogeneous Orange River Colony. The "question" there is a "less urgent one." What question? Why less urgent? Is it that the British minority, being so very small, is more liable to oppression by the Dutch? That is a tenable point, though by parity of reasoning it would seem to make the question more, not less, urgent, and the importance of "ascertaining the views" of the different sections of the population, greater, not less. Or is it the diametrically opposite train of thought, namely, that an assumed improbability of disorder owing to the homogeneity of the population is a reason, not for giving Home Rule, but for withholding it? These contradictions and confusions are painfully familiar in anti-Home Rule dialectics all over the world. A quiet Ireland does not want Home Rule; a turbulent Ireland is not fit for it. If the Unionist element in Ireland is strong, that is clearly an argument for withholding Home Rule in deference to the wishes of a strong minority. If the minority, on the other hand, is proved to be small, all the greater reason for withholding it, because oppression by the majority will be easier. So the sterile argument swings back and forth, and men still talk of "experiments" and "profiting by experience," while the demonstration of their errors is written in the blood and tears of centuries, and while masses of facts accumulate, demonstrating the great truth that free democratic government, whatever its disadvantages and dangers—and it has both—is the best resource for uniting, strengthening, and enriching a community of white men.

The Transvaal Constitution of 1905 was cancelled on the incoming of the Liberal Ministry at the end of that year, and in the following year full responsible government was granted both to the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, with the results that we know. Instantaneously there permeated the bi-racial urban society in the Transvaal a new sense of brotherhood. Men of different race, as far apart in spirit as the members of the Kildare Street Club, the Orange Societies, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, met and made friends because it was not only natural but necessary to make friends, since on all alike lay the burden of doing their best for their country on a basis of equal citizenship. Nobody out there called the new system an "experiment." The wrench once over, the thing once done, there was general unanimity that whatever the difficulties—and there were great difficulties—it was the right thing to be done under the circumstances, and if this unanimity was combined, rightly or wrongly, with a good deal of resentment against the Liberal attitude at home towards Chinese labour, nobody is any the worse for that. The day will come when even that burning question will be seen in its true perspective as an infinitesimally small point beside the great principle of responsible government, which includes the decision of labour questions, together with all other branches of domestic policy.

Conservative opinion at home has been slower to change than British opinion in the Transvaal. But, again, this was natural. Parties had long been divided on the South African question. The abrupt reversal of policy was felt as a humiliation, and the ingrained mental habits engendered by the traditional policy towards Ireland yielded slowly, grudgingly, and fearfully to the proof of error in South Africa. It is not for the sake of opening an old wound, but solely because it is absolutely necessary for the completion of my argument, that I have to recall the angry and violent speeches which followed the announcement of the new policy; the dogmatic prognostications of Imperial disruption, of financial collapse, and of a cruel Boer tyranny in the emancipated Colonies; the charges of wanton betrayal of loyalists, of disgraceful surrender to "the enemy." Some of the leading actors in these scenes, notably Mr. Balfour and Mr. Lyttelton, have since acknowledged that they were wrong, while apparently feeling it their duty as honourable and loyal men to give a somewhat misleading turn to an old controversy in their praise of Lord Milner's services to South Africa. That Lord Milner, in his administration during and after the war, did, indeed, do a vast amount of sound and lasting work for South Africa is perfectly true, and he deserves all honour for it. Probably no public servant of the Empire ever laboured in its service with more unstinted devotion and a higher sense of duty. But good administration is not an adequate substitute for knowledge of men, and that knowledge Lord Milner lacked. He did no service to the British colonists of South Africa in telling them that they had been shamefully betrayed by the Home Government in 1906. It would have been wiser to advise them to rely on themselves and on the justice and wisdom of their Dutch fellow-citizens. His violent speeches in 1906-1908 about the calamitous results of permitting Dutch influences free play in South Africa—speeches breathing the essential spirit of Fitzgibbonism—would have wrought incalculable mischief had they coincided with effective British policy; while his view, as expressed in the House of Lords,[38] that a preparatory regime of benevolent despotism, showing "the obvious solicitude of the Government for the welfare of the people," and taking shape "in a hundred and one works of material advancement," would "win us friends and diminish our enemies," evinces an ignorance of the ordinary motives influencing the conduct of white men, which would be incredible if we had not Irish experience before us. "Twenty years of resolute government," said Lord Salisbury. "Home Rule will be killed by kindness," said many of his successors. In later chapters I shall have to show what well-meant kindness and resolute government have done for Ireland. If even at this late hour Lord Milner would frankly acknowledge his error, I believe he would enormously enhance his reputation in the eyes of the whole Empire.

As practical men, let us remember that the Constitutions of 1906 would not have become law if, instead of being issued under Letters Patent, they had had to pass through Parliament in the form of a Bill. The whole Conservative party, following Lord Milner, was vehemently against the Letters Patent. Those who witnessed the debate upon them in the House of Commons will not forget the scene. I recall this fact without any desire to entangle myself in the current controversy about the Upper House, but with the strictly practical object of showing that because a Home Rule Bill is defeated in Parliament, as the Irish Bills of 1886 and 1893 were defeated, it does not necessarily follow that its policy is wrong. Nor does it follow that its policy is wrong if that defeat in Parliament is confirmed by a General Election. Home Rule for Canada never had to pass, and would not have passed even the Parliamentary test. Skilful and determined organization could have wrecked even the Australian Constitutions. No one, certainly, could have guaranteed a favourable result of a General Election taken expressly upon the Transvaal and Orange River Constitutions of 1906, with the whole machinery of one of the great parties thrown into the scale against them. We know the case made against Ireland on such occasions, and the case against the conquered Republics was made in Parliament with ten times greater force. If anyone doubts this, let him compare the speeches on Ireland in 1886 and 1893 with the speeches on South Africa in 1905-06. With the alteration of a name or two, with the substitution, for example, of Johannesburg for Ulster, the speeches against South African and Irish Home Rule might be almost interchangeable. For electioneering purposes, evidences, in word and act, of Boer treason, rapacity, and vindictiveness, could have been made by skilful orators to seem damning and unanswerable. All the arts for inflaming popular passion under the pretext of "patriotism" would have been used, and we know that patriotism sometimes assumes strange disguises. The material would have been rich and easily accessible. Instead of having to ransack ancient numbers of Irish or American newspapers for incautious phrases dropped by Mr. Redmond or Mr. O'Brien in moments of unusual provocation, the speeches of Botha, Steyn, and De Wet, during the war, and even at the Peace Conference, would have been ready for the hoardings and the fly-sheets, and they would have had an appreciable effect.

Am I weakening the case for democracy itself in pressing this view? Surely not. One democracy is incapable of understanding the domestic needs and problems of another. Whenever, therefore, a democracy finds itself responsible for the adjudication of a claim for Home Rule from white men, it should limit itself to ascertaining whether the claim is genuine and sincere. If it is, the claim should be granted, and a Constitution constructed in friendly concert with the men who are to live under it. That way lies safety and honour, and, happily, the democracy is being educated to that truth. If this be a counsel of perfection; if the difficult and delicate task of settling the details of Irish Home Rule is to be hampered and complicated by the resuscitation of those time-honoured discussions over abstract principles which ought long ago to have been buried and forgotten, let every patriotic and enlightened man at any rate do his best to sweeten and mollify the controversy, to extirpate its grosser manifestations, and to substitute reason for passion.

The grant of responsible government to the Transvaal and Orange River Colony reacted with amazing rapidity on South African politics as a whole. It took the Canadian Provinces twenty-seven years (if we reckon from 1840), and the Australian States forty-five years (if we reckon from 1855), to reach a Federal Union. Hardly a minute was wasted in South Africa. Under very able guidance, the scheme was canvassed almost from the first, and in two years trusted leaders of both races, representing Natal, Cape Colony, and two newly emancipated Colonies—men, some of whom had been shooting at one another only five years before—were sitting at a table together hammering out the details of a South African Union. Here, indeed, was shown the "practical genius" which the Government of 1905 had piously invoked for their abortive Constitution. In the spirit of forbearance, of sympathy, of wise compromise, which governed the proceedings of this famous Conference, was to be found the measure of the longing of all parties to extinguish racialism and make South Africa truly a nation. The Imperial Act legalizing the arrangements ultimately arrived at by the agreement of the colonists was passed in 1909. The political system constructed cannot be called Federal. The framers rejected the Australian model, and went much beyond the Canadian model in centralizing authority and diminishing local autonomy; nor can there be any doubt that the strongest motive behind that policy was that of securing the harmony of the two white races.

All this was the result of trusting the Dutch in 1906. "We cannot expect you to trust us, and we shall not trust you," said the despatch of 1905. We know what the consequences of that policy would have been. It is not a question of imagination or hypothesis. It is a question of the operation of certain unchanging laws in the conduct of all white men. Good or bad, our government would have been detested. We should have manufactured sedition, lawlessness, and discord. Then the tendency would have been strong to follow the old Irish precedent, and make the evil symptoms we had ourselves educed the pretext for tightening the screw of anti-popular government. It would have been said that we must sustain our prestige to the end and at all costs, a phrase which often cloaks the obstinacy of moral cowardice. Or, too late to escape the contempt of the Boers, we might have abruptly surrendered to clamour. It would have taken a long time to reach union then. Contempt is a bad foundation.

It brings one near despair to see the Union of South Africa used by men who should know better as an argument against Irish Home Rule. The chain of causation is so clear, one would think, as to be incapable of misconstruction. But there seems to be no limit in certain minds to the prejudice against the principle of Home Rule. If it is seen to work well, the phenomenon is hurriedly swept into oblivion, and its results attributed with feverish ingenuity to any cause but the true one. The very speed with which the antidote pervades the body politic and expels the old poison helps these untiring propagators of error to suppress the history of recuperation, and to ascribe the cure of the patient to a treatment which, if applied long enough, would have killed him. The Conservative party appear to have now reached this amazing conclusion: that they and Lord Milner were the authors of the South African Union, and that that Union is a weapon sent them by Providence for combating the Irish claims. This is what Ireland has to pay for being the sport of British parties. Individual statesmen may point at past mistakes; but a party, as a party, can never admit error: it is against the rules. To make things easier, there is that question-begging phrase, the "Union." If South Africa, like Australia, had been federalized, this windfall would have been lost, because the word "Federal" might have suggested some form of Federal Home Rule for Ireland. Labels mean an enormous amount in politics.

There is not the slightest doubt that Mr. Walter Long, and even Lord Selborne, who, as High Commissioner, actually witnessed the whole evolution from responsible government in the two conquered States to the Union of South Africa, are perfectly sincere in their opposition to Irish Home Rule. But, I would respectfully suggest, it is their duty to use their knowledge and convictions in the right and fair way. Let them say, if they will, ignoring the intermediate and indispensable phase of Home Rule in South Africa: "Here are two Unions; never mind how they arose. Both are good: all Unions are good. The modern tendency to unify is sound; do not let us react to devolution." Let them, in other words, confine their argument to the domain of political science. What, I submit, they should refrain from, is the imputation of sordid motives to Nationalist leaders, the prognostications of religious and racial tyranny in Ireland, and all those inflammatory arguments against the principle of Home Rule which have been used all the world over, from time immemorial, for the maintenance of Unions based on legal, not on moral, ties, which were used against responsible government for the Transvaal, and which, I venture to affirm, degrade our public life.

I am assuming for the moment that most Conservatives will elect to use the South African parallel in the way that Mr. Long and Lord Selborne have used it, that is, while tacitly approving in retrospect of the Home Rule of 1906, to argue from Union to Union. But it is of no use to blink the fact that there are pessimists who will put forward an antithetical case, boldly declaring that we were wrong ever to trust the Boers, that racialism is as bad as ever, that General Botha's loyalty is cant, the Cullinan diamond an insult, and that South Africa will go from bad to worse under a Dutch tyranny. Party propaganda is quite elastic enough to permit the two opposite views to be used to convince the same electorate at the same election. Pessimists are always active in these affairs, and they can always produce something in the nature of a plausible case, because it stands to reason that the evils of generations cannot be swept away in a moment, either in South Africa or Ireland. Miracles do not happen, and the pessimists, who are the curse of Ireland to-day, will be able to demonstrate with ease that the free Ireland of to-morrow will not enter instantaneously upon a millennium. It is useless to attempt to convert these extremists. For a century back, Hansard and the columns of daily papers have been full of their unfulfilled jeremiads about Canada, about Australia, and about the very smallest and most tardy attempts to give a little responsibility to the majority of citizens in Ireland. The vocabulary of impending ruin has been exhausted long ago; there is nothing new to be said. But those who care to study in a cool temper the course of recent South African politics in the columns of the Times, or, better still, in those of that excellent magazine for the discussion of Imperial affairs, the Round Table, will conclude that extraordinary progress has been made towards racial reunion, and that in this respect no serious peril threatens South Africa. The settlement, by friendly compromise at the end of the last session, of the very thorny question of language in the education of children, is a good example of what good-will can accomplish under free institutions. By a laboured construction of fragments of speeches culled from the utterances of exceptionally vehement partisans, it would be still possible to make up a theory of the "disloyalty" of the South African Dutch. It would have been equally possible for a painstaking British student of the Sydney Bulletin within recent memory to start a panic over the imminent "loss" of Australia. Some people think that Canada is as good as "lost" now. Yet the Empire has never been so strong or so united as to-day.


[35] Cd. 2479, 1905.

[36] Cd. 2400, 1905.

[37] "It is true that in the case of Canada full responsible government was conceded, a few years after a troublous period culminating in a brief armed rising, to a population composed of races then not very friendly to each other, though now long since happily reconciled. But the Canadas had by that time enjoyed representative institutions for over fifty years, the French-Canadians had since the year 1763 been continuously British subjects, and the disorders which preceded Lord Durham's Mission and the subsequent grant of self-government could not compare in any way with a war like that of 1899-1902. It is also the fact that in the United Colony of Upper and Lower Canada, during the period of 1840-1867, parties were formed mainly upon the lines of races, and that, as the representatives of the races were in number nearly balanced, stability of Government was not attained, a difficulty which was not overcome until the Federation of 1867, accompanied by the relegation of provincial affairs to provincial Legislatures, placed the whole political Constitution of Canada upon a wider basis."

Few would gather from the first sentence that the races were "not very friendly to each other" precisely because they lived under a coercive political system; and that, in the long-run, they were "happily reconciled" because they received responsible government. Nor could it be deduced from the obscure reference lower down to the union of the two Provinces that the Union was the one blot upon Durham's scheme, the one point in which, fearing the predominance of a French majority in Lower Canada, he shrank from his own principles and recommended an unworkable Union which tended to encourage the formation "of parties on the lines of races." From the further allusion to the Federal Union of 1867, no one would imagine that that great scheme was founded on a cessation of racial antipathy inside the Quebec Province, and on a voluntary recognition among all races and parties that it was best for that Province to have a local autonomy of its own, parallel with that of the Ontario Province and under the supreme central authority of the Dominion.

[38] February 26, March 27, 1906.



Let the reader endeavour to see the closely related stories of Ireland and of these more distant communities as a whole, undistracted by the varying degrees of their proximity to the Mother Country, making his study one of men and laws, and remembering that Ireland was the first and nearest of the British Colonies. Does not she become a convex mirror, in which, swollen to unnatural proportions, the mistakes of two centuries are reflected? Principles of government universal in their nature, transcending geography, and painfully evolved in more distant parts of the Empire, we have thrown to the winds in Ireland. Economic evils, resembling, in however distant a degree, those of Ireland, have irritated and retarded every community in which they have been allowed to take root. A sound agrarian system has been the primary need of every country. To take the closest parallel, if absentee proprietorship and insecurity of tenure kept little Prince Edward Island, peacefully and legally settled, backward and disturbed for a century, it is not surprising that Ireland, submitted to confiscation, the Penal Code, and commercial rum, did not flourish under a land system beside which that of Prince Edward Island was a paradise. Tardy redress of the worst Irish abuses is no defence of the system which created them and sustained them with such ruinous results. No white community of pride and spirit would willingly tolerate the grotesque form of Crown Colony administration, founded on force, and now tempered by a kind of paternal State Socialism, under which Ireland lives to-day. Unionism for Ireland is anti-Imperialist. Its upholders strenuously opposed colonial autonomy, and but yesterday were passionately opposing South African autonomy. To-day colonial autonomy is an axiom. But Ireland is a measure of the depth of these convictions. There would be no Empire to idealize if their Irish principles had been applied just a little longer to any of the oversea States which constitute the self-governing Colonies of to-day. As it is, these principles have wrought great and perhaps lasting mischief which, in the righteous glow of self-congratulation upon what we are accustomed to call our constructive political genius, we are too apt to overlook. It was bad for America to pass through that phase of agitation and discord which preceded the revolutionary war. It was demoralizing for the Canadas to be driven into rebellion by the vices of ascendancy government. Mr. Gladstone, speaking of Australian autonomy, was right in satirizing the "miserable jargon" about fitting men for political privileges, and in demonstrating the harm done by withholding those privileges. And the Irish race all over the world, fine race as it is, would be finer still if Ireland had been free.

The political habits formed in dealing with Ireland have disastrously influenced Imperial policy in the past. Cannot we, by a supreme national effort, reverse the mental process, and, if we have always failed in the past to learn from Irish lessons how not to treat the Colonies, at any rate learn, even at the eleventh hour, from our colonial lessons how to treat Ireland? Must we for ever sound the old alarms about "disloyalty" and "dismemberment" and "abandonment of the loyal minority to the tender mercies of their foes"; phrases as old as the Stamp Act of 1765? Must we carry the "gentle art of making enemies," practised to the last point of danger in the Colonies, to the preposterous pitch of estranging men at our very doors, while pluming ourselves on the friendship of peoples 12,000 miles away? These are anxious times. We have a mighty rival in Europe, and we need the co-operation of all our hands and brains. On a basis of mere profit and loss, is it sensible to maintain a system in Ireland which weakens both Ireland and the whole United Kingdom, clogs the delicate machinery of Parliamentary government, and, worked out in hard figures of pounds, shillings, and pence, has ceased even to show a pecuniary advantage?

Have Unionists really no better prescription for the constitutional difficulties caused by the Union than to reduce the representation of Ireland in Parliament so as to give Ireland still less control than at present over her own affairs? Is that seriously their last word in statesmanship, to exasperate Nationalist Ireland without even providing in any appreciable degree a mechanical remedy for disordered political functions? The idea has only to be stated to be dismissed. It is not even practical politics. Some things are sheer impossibilities; and to leave the Union system as it is, while reducing representation, is one of them.

We revert, then, to a contemplation of the well-tried expedient, "Trust, and you will be trusted." But then we have to meet pessimists of two descriptions, the honest and the merely cynical. The honest pessimist (often, unhappily, an educated Irishman) says: "The Irish in Ireland are an incurably criminal race. They differ from Irishmen elsewhere and from Anglo-Saxons everywhere. Air and soil are unaccountable. The Union policy has been, and remains, a painful but a quite inevitable necessity. It is sound, now and for all time." The cynical pessimist, on the other hand, admits the errors of past policy, but says frankly that it is too late to change. "We have gone too far, raised passions we cannot allay." I shall not try further to confute the honest pessimist. The preceding chapters have been written in vain if they do not shatter the theory of original sin. And to the cynical pessimist, who is a reincarnation of our old friend Fitzgibbon (for that clear-headed statesman frankly imputed original sin to the conquerors of Ireland, as well as to the conquered), I would only say: "Use your common sense." These panics over the vagaries and excesses of an Irish Parliament, always groundless, are beginning to look highly ridiculous. In 1893, when the last Home Rule Bill was being discussed, a Franco-Irish alliance was the fear. Now it is the other way, and the Spectator has been writing solemn articles to warn its readers that Mr. Dillon, in a speech on foreign policy, has shown ominous signs of hostility to France. In the election of January, 1910, an ex-Cabinet Minister informed the public that Home Rule meant the presence of a German fleet in Belfast Lough—at whose invitation he did not explain, though he probably did not intend to insult Ulster. This wild talk has not even the merit of a strategical foundation. It belongs to another age. Ireland has neither a fleet nor the will or money to build one. Our fleet, in which large numbers of Irishmen serve, guarantees the security of New Zealand, and if it cannot maintain the command of home waters, including St. George's Channel, our situation is desperate, whether Ireland is friendly or hostile. We guarantee the independent existence of the kingdom of Belgium, which is as near as Ireland, with military liabilities vastly more serious than any which Ireland could conceivably entail; but we do not claim, as a consequence, to control the Executive of Belgium and remove her Parliament to Westminster, in order to be quite sure that the Belgians are not intriguing against us with Germany. Germany, our alarmists fear, is to invade Ireland, and Ireland is to greet the invaders with open arms. The same prophecy was being made not more than three years ago of the South African Dutch. After asking for a century and a half to manage her own affairs, the Irish are not likely to ask to be ruled by Germans. The German strategists are men of common sense. If they were fortunate enough to gain the command of the sea, they could make no worse mistake than to dissipate their energies on Ireland.

Perhaps it is a waste of time to attempt to destroy these foolish myths. Let those that are sceptical about the effect of Home Rule in producing friendlier feelings between Ireland and Great Britain consider in a reasonable spirit the commonplace question of mutual interests. What is the really practical significance of Ireland's proximity to England? This, that their material interests are indissociably intertwined. If it is "safe," as the phrase goes, to entrust Australia with Home Rule, surely it is safer still to entrust Ireland with it. Has Ireland anything to gain by separation? Clearly nothing. Has she anything to lose? Much. Most of her trade is with Great Britain. British credit is of enormous value to her. The Imperial forces are of less proportionate value to her because her external trade is small; but she willingly supplies a large and important part of their personnel; she shares in their glorious traditions; and if it is a case of protection for her trade, she will get no protection elsewhere.

How idle are these calculations of profit and loss! The truth is that Ireland has taken her full share in winning and populating the Empire. The result is hers as much as Britain's. Mr. Redmond spoke for his countrymen last May[39] in saying: "We, as Irishmen, are not prepared to surrender our share in the heritage [that is, the British Empire] which our fathers created." That is sound sentiment and sound sense. It is the view taken by the Colonies, where Irishmen are known, respected, and understood, and where the support for Home Rule, based on personal experience of its blessings, has been, and remains, consistent and strong. Indeed, we miss the significance of that support if we do not realize that Irish Home Rule is an indispensable preliminary to the closer union of the various parts of the Empire. Let us add the wider generalization that it is an indispensable preliminary to the closer union of all the English-speaking races. It may be fairly computed that a fifth of the present white population of the United States is of Irish blood.[40] American opinion, as a whole, so far as it is directed towards Ireland and away from a host of absorbing domestic problems, is favourable to Home Rule. Irish-American opinion has never swerved, although it has become more sober, as the material condition of Ireland has improved, and the interests of Irish-Americans themselves have become more closely identified with those of their adopted country. Fenianism is altogether extinct. The extreme claim for the total separation of Ireland from Great Britain is now no more than a sentimental survival among a handful of the older men, of the fierce hatreds provoked by the miseries and horrors of an era which has passed away.[41] Even Mr. Patrick Ford and the Irish World have moderated their tone, and where that tone is still inflammatory it is not representative of Irish-American opinion. I have studied with a good deal of care the columns of that journal for some months back, smiling over the imaginary terrors of the nervous people on this side of the Atlantic who are taught by their party Press to believe that Mr. Patrick Ford is going to dynamite them in their beds. Any liberal-minded student of history and human nature would pronounce the whole propaganda perfectly harmless. But the sane instinct that Ireland should have a local autonomy of her own, an instinct common to the whole brotherhood of nations which have sprung from these shores, lasts undiminished and takes shape, quite rightly and naturally, as it takes shape in the Colonies, in financial support of the Nationalist party in Ireland. Anti-British sentiment in the United States, once a grave international danger, is that no longer; but it does still represent an obstacle to the complete realization of an ideal which all patriotic men should aim at: the formation of indestructible bonds of friendship between Great Britain and the United States. Nor must it be forgotten that the calm and reasonable character of Irish-American opinion is due in a large degree to confidence in the ultimate success of the constitutional movement here for Home Rule. Every successive defeat of that policy tends to embitter feeling in America.

Oh, for an hour of intelligent politics! The old choice is before us—to make the best or the worst of the state of opinion in America; to disinter from ancient files of the Irish World sentences calculated to inflame an ignorant British audience; or to say in sensible and manly terms: "The situation is more favourable than it has been for a century past for the settlement of just Irish claims."


[39] At Woodford, May 27, 1911.

[40] This is a very general statement. No figures exist for an accurate computation. The Census of 1910 gives the total population of the United States, white and coloured, as 91,272,266, of whom nearly 9,000,000 are negroes. The figures about countries of origin are not yet available. The statistical abstract of the United States (1908) gives the total number of immigrants from Ireland from 1821 to 1908 as 4,168,747 (the large majority of whom must have been of marriageable age), but does not estimate the subsequent increase by marriage, and takes no account of the immigration prior to 1821, which was very large, especially in the period preceding the Revolutionary War of 1775-1782. At the Census of 1900 Irishmen actually born in Ireland and then resident in the United States are stated to have been 1,618,567, as compared with 93,682 from Wales, 233,977 from Scotland, and 842,078 from England.

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