The Framework of Home Rule
by Erskine Childers
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[41] I am especially indebted for information to Mr. Hugh Sutherland, of the North American (Philadelphia), to Mr. Rodman Wanamaker, of the same city, to Mr. Frank Sanborn, of Concord, and to Mr. John O'Callaghan, of Boston.



Why does present-day Ireland need Home Rule? I put the question in that way because I am not going to question the fact that she wants Home Rule. She has always said she wanted it: she says so still, and that is enough. There is a powerful minority in Ireland against Home Rule. There always have been minorities more or less powerful against Home Rule in all ages and places. That does not alter the national character of the claim. If once we go behind the voice of a people, constitutionally expressed, we court endless risks. National leaders have always been called "agitators," which, of course, they are, and non-representative agitators, which they are not. To deny the genuineness of a claim which is feared is an invariable feature of oppositions to measures of Home Rule. The denial is generally irreconcilable with the case made for the dangers of Home Rule, and that contradiction in its most glaring shape characterizes the present opposition to the Irish claims. But Unionists should elect to stand on one ground or the other, and for my part I shall assume that the large majority of Irishmen, as shown by successive electoral votes, want Home Rule. Precisely what form of Home Rule they want is another and by no means so clear a matter, on which I shall presently have a word to say. But they want, in the general sense, to manage their own local affairs. Her best friends would despair of Ireland if that was not her desire.

What, in the Colonies, Ireland, and everywhere else, is the deep spiritual impulse behind the desire for Home Rule? A craving for self-expression, self-reliance. Home Rule is synonymous with the growth of independent character. That is why Ireland instinctively and passionately wants it, that is why she needs it, and that is why Great Britain, for her own sake, and Ireland's, should give it. If that is not the reason, it is idle to talk about Home Rule; but it is the reason.

Character is the very foundation of national prosperity and happiness, and we are blind to the facts of history if we cannot discern the profound effect of political institutions upon human character. Self-government in the community corresponds to free will in the individual. I am far from saying that self-government is everything. But I do say that it is the master-key. It is fundamental. Give responsibility and you will create responsibility. Through political responsibility only can a society brace itself to organized effort, find out its own opinions on its own needs, test its own capabilities, and elicit the will, the brains, and the hands to solve its own problems.

These are such commonplaces in every other part of the Empire, which has an individual life of its own, that men smile if you suggest the contrary. But ordinary reasoning is rarely applied to Ireland. There "good government" has been held to be "a substitute for self-government" and a regime of benevolent paternalism to be a full and sufficient compensation for cruel coercion and crueller neglect. In this paternal regime it is impossible to include those great measures of land reform passed in 1870, 1881, and 1887, which revolutionized the agrarian system, and converted the cottier tenant into a judicial tenant.[42] Although these measures, which fall into an altogether different category from the subsequent policy of State-aided Land Purchase,[43] were inspired by an earnest desire to mitigate frightful social evils, they cannot be regarded as voluntary. They were extorted, shocking as the reflection is, by crime and violence, by the spectacle of a whole social order visibly collapsing, and by the desperate efforts of a handful of Irishmen, determined at any cost, by whatever means, to save the bodies and souls of their countrymen. The methods of these men were destructive. They were constructive only in this, the highest sense of all, that while battling against concrete economic evils, they sought to obtain for Ireland the right to control her own affairs and cure her own economic evils. It is often said that Parnell gave a tremendous impetus to the Home Rule movement by harnessing it to the land question. True; but what a strange way of expressing a truth! Anywhere outside Ireland men would say that self-government was the best road to the reform of a bad land system.

With the tranquillity which was slowly restored by the alterations in agrarian tenure and the immense economic relief derived from the lowering of rents, a change came over the spirit of British statesmanship. With the exception of the short Liberal Government of 1892-1895, which failed for the second time to carry Home Rule, Conservatives were responsible for Ireland from 1886 to 1905. They felt that opposition to Home Rule could be justified only by a strenuous policy of amelioration in Ireland, and the efforts of three Chief Secretaries, Mr. Arthur Balfour, Mr. Gerald Balfour, and Mr. George Wyndham—efforts often made in the teeth of bitter opposition from Irish Unionists—to carry out this policy, were sincere and earnest. The Act of 1891, with its grants for light railways, its additional facilities for Land Purchase, and its establishment of the Congested Districts Board to deal with the terrible poverty of certain districts in the west, may be said to mark the beginning of the new era. The Land Act of 1896 was another step, and the establishment of a complete system of Irish Local Government in 1898 another. In the following year came the Act setting up the Department of Agriculture, and in 1903 Mr. Wyndham's great Land Purchase Act. Then came the strange "devolutionist" episode, arising from the appointment of Sir Antony (now Lord) MacDonnell to the post of Under-Secretary at Dublin Castle, the Government who selected him being fully aware that he was in favour of some change in the government of Ireland. He entered into relations with a group of prominent Irishmen, headed by Lord Dunraven, who were thinking out a scheme for a mild measure of devolution. When the fact became known, there was an explosion of anger among Irish Unionists. Mr. Wyndham, who had been a popular Chief Secretary, resigned office, and was succeeded by Mr. Walter Long; perhaps the most dramatic and significant example in modern times of the policy of governing Ireland in deliberate and direct defiance of the wishes and sentiments of the vast majority of Irishmen.

The Liberal Government of 1906, coming into office under a pledge to refrain from a full Home Rule measure, confined itself to the introduction of the Irish Council Bill of 1907, which, rightly, in my opinion, was repudiated by the Irish people, and accordingly dropped. But the Government was in general sympathy with Nationalist Ireland, so that a number of useful measures were added to the statute books; for example, the Labourers (Ireland) Act of 1906, empowering Rural Councils, with the aid of State credit, to acquire land for labourers' plots and cottages; the Town Tenants Act, extending the principle of compensation for improvements at the termination of a lease to the urban tenant; the very important Irish Universities Act of 1908, which gave to Roman Catholics facilities for higher education which they had lacked for centuries, and, lastly, Mr. Birrell's Land Act of 1909, which was designed partly to meet the imminent collapse of Land Purchase, owing to the failure of the financial arrangements made under the Wyndham Act of 1903, and partly to extend the powers of the Congested Districts Board.

To these measures must be added another which was not confined to Ireland, but which has exercised a most potent influence, and by no means a wholly beneficial influence, on Irish life and Irish finance, the Old Age Pensions Act of 1908, under which the enormous sum of two and three-quarter millions is now allocated to Ireland.[44]

The best that can be said of the legislation since 1881 is that it has laid the foundations of a new social order. Agrarian crime has disappeared and material prosperity has greatly increased. Government in the interests of a small favoured class has almost vanished. It survives to this extent, that civil administration and patronage, which are still, be it remembered, removed from popular control, remain, in fact, in Protestant and Unionist hands to an extent altogether disproportionate to the distribution of creeds, classes, and opinions. And, of course, in the major matter of Home Rule, the power of the Unionist minority, as represented in the Commons by seventeen out of the thirty-three Ulster representatives, and in the House of Lords by an overwhelming preponderance of Unionist peers, is still enormous. But within Ireland itself, central administration apart, the exceptional privileges and exceptional political power of Protestants and landlords, which lasted almost intact until forty years ago, is now non-existent. The Disestablishment Act of 1869, while immensely enhancing the moral power and religious zeal of the Church of Ireland, and even strengthening its financial position, took away its political monopoly, and through the final abolition of tithes, its baneful and irritating interference with economic life. The successive measures of land legislation, culminating in the transfer of half the land of Ireland from landlord to peasant proprietorship, and the Local Government Act of 1898, surrendering at a stroke the whole local administration of the country into popular control, destroyed the exceptional political privileges of the landlord class.

Ascendancy, then, in the old sense, is a thing of the past. What has taken its place? What is the ruling power within Ireland? Is it a public opinion derived from the vital contact of ideas and interests, and taking shape in a healthy and normal distribution of parties? Is thought free? Has merit its reward? Is there any unity of national purpose, transcending party divisions? If it were necessary to give a categorical "Yes" or "No" to these questions, the answer would be "No." Sane energizing politics, and the sovereign ascendancy of a sane public opinion, are absolutely unattainable in Ireland or anywhere else without Home Rule. It is all the more to the credit of Irishmen that, in the face of stupendous difficulties, and in a marvellously short space of time since the attainment, barely twenty years ago, of the elementary conditions of social peace, they have gone so far as they have gone towards the creation of a self-reliant, independently thinking, united Ireland. The whole weight of Imperial authority has been thrown into the scale against them. Whatever the mood and policy of British upholders of the Union, whether sympathetic or hostile, wise or foolish, their constant message to both parties in Ireland has been, "Look to us. Trust in us. You are divided. We are umpires," and the reader will no doubt remember that the theory of "umpirage" was used in exactly the same way in the Colonies, notably in Upper Canada,[45] to thwart the tendency towards a reconciliation of creeds, races, and classes. Fortunately, there have been Irishmen who have laboured to counteract the effects of this enervating policy, and to reconstruct, by native effort from within, a new Ireland on the ruins of the old. Whether or not they have consciously aimed at Home Rule matters not a particle. Some have, some have not; but the result of these efforts has been the same, to pull Irishmen together and to begin the creation of a genuinely national atmosphere.

It is not part of my scheme to describe in detail the various movements, agricultural, industrial, economic, literary, political, which in the last twenty years have contributed to this national revival. Some have a world-wide fame, all have been excellently described at one time or another by writers of talent and insight.[46] My purpose is to note their characteristics and progress, and to estimate their political significance. In the first place it must be remembered that some of the most important of the modern legislative measures have been initiated and promoted by Home Rulers and Unionists, Roman Catholics and Protestants, acting in friendly co-operation and throwing aside their political and religious antagonisms. Such was the origin of the great Land Purchase Act of 1903, which Mr. Wyndham drafted on the basis of an agreement reached at a friendly conference of landlords and representatives of tenants. But a far more interesting and hopeful instance of co-operation had taken place seven years earlier. One of the very few really constructive measures of the last twenty years, the Act of 1899 for setting up the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, was the direct outcome of the recommendations of the Recess Committee brought together in 1895 and 1896 by Sir Horace Plunkett; a Committee containing Nationalist and Unionist Members of the House of Commons, Tory and Liberal Unionist peers, Ulster captains of industry, the Grand Master of the Belfast Orangemen, and an eminent Jesuit.[47] In its reunion of men divided by bitter feuds, it was just the kind of Conference that assembled in Durban in 1908, six years after a devastating war, to discuss and to create the framework of South African Union. That Conference was the natural outcome of the grant of Home Rule to the defeated Boer States. The Irish Conference, succeeding a land-war far more destructive and demoralizing, was brought together in spite of the absence of Home Rule, and the prejudice it had to overcome,[48] is a measure of the fantastically abnormal conditions produced by the denial of self-government. There lay Ireland, an island with a rich soil and a clever population, yet terribly backward, far behind England, far behind all the progressive nations of Europe in agriculture and industry, her population declining, her land passing out of cultivation,[49] her strongest sons and daughters hurrying away to enrich with their wits and sinews distant lands. There, in short, lay a country groaning for intelligent development by the concentrated energies of her own people.

"We have in Ireland," runs the first paragraph of the Report of the Committee, "a poor country practically without manufactures—except for the linen and shipbuilding of the north, and the brewing and distilling of Dublin—dependent upon agriculture, with its soil imperfectly tilled, its area under cultivation decreasing, and a diminishing population without industrial habits or technical skill."

The leeway to make up was enormous. To go no farther back than the institution of the Penal Code and the deliberate destruction of the woollen industry, two centuries of callous repression at the hands of an external authority had maimed and exhausted the country whose condition the Committee had met to consider. These facts the members of the Committee frankly recognized in that part of the Report which is entitled with gentle irony "Past Action of the State." Here, then, was a purely Irish problem, intimately concerning every Irishman, poor or rich, Roman Catholic or Protestant, a problem of which Great Britain, though responsible both for its existence and its solution, knew and cared little. The really strange thing is, not that representative Irishmen should have met together to consider and prescribe for the deplorable economic condition of their country, but that they should not also, like the South African Conference, have drafted a Constitution for Ireland, on the sound ground that a system of government which had promoted and sustained the evils they described could never, with the best will in the world, become a good government for Ireland. Yet for a brief space of time these men actually had Home Rule, and by virtue of that privilege they did better work for Ireland in six months than had been done in two centuries.

What is more, they used the Home Rule principle in their recommendations for the establishment of a Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction. "We think it essential," they reported on p. 101, "that the new Department should be in touch with the public opinion of the classes whom its work concerns, and should rely largely for its success upon their active assistance and co-operation." Its chief, they added, should be a Minister directly responsible to Parliament, and on p. 103 they advocated a Consultative Council, whose functions should be—(1) To keep the Department in direct touch with the public opinion of those classes whom the work of the Ministry concerns; and (2) to distribute some of the responsibility for administration amongst those classes. Now these, in Ireland, were revolutionary proposals. The idea of any part of the Government "being in touch with public opinion" was wholly new. The idea of "distributing responsibility for administration" amongst the subjects of administration was startlingly novel. Ireland, both before and after the Union, had always been governed on a diametrically opposite principle. Since the Union, when Irish departmental Ministers, never responsible to the people, disappeared, not one of the host of nominated Irish Boards was legally amenable to Irish public opinion. Not one had a separate Minister responsible even to the Parliament at Westminster, which was not an Irish Parliament. A fortiori, not one relied on the co-operation and advice of the classes for whose benefit it was supposed to exist.

Proposed, nevertheless, by a group of representative Irishmen, the scheme for a democratically constituted Department of Agriculture passed smoothly into law as soon as the machinery for ascertaining public opinion on the matters at issue had been brought into existence. Mr. Gerald Balfour, the Chief Secretary, was engaged at the time upon his measure for the extension of Local Government to Ireland. This measure became law in 1898, and the Department Act in 1899. Under that Act, the duty was laid upon each of the new County Councils of electing two members to serve upon a Consultative Council of Agriculture, to which a minority of nominated members was added, and this Council in its turn elects two-thirds of the members of an Agricultural Board, and supplies four representatives to a Board of Technical Instruction, which, like the Council and the Agricultural Board, has a predominantly popular character.[50]

At the summit stands the Minister, or Vice-President, as he is called (for in accordance with ancient custom, the Chief Secretary is nominally in supreme control of this as of all other Irish Departments), and a large and efficient staff of permanent officials. He and his staff have a large centralized authority, but this authority is subject to a constitutional check in the shape of a veto wielded by the Boards over the expenditure of the Endowment Fund. What is more important, policy tends to be shaped in accordance with popular views by the existence of the Council and the Boards.

Here, then, is the germ of responsible government. At first sight a critic might exclaim: "Why, here is democracy pushed to a point unknown even in Great Britain, where Government Departments are wholly independent of Local Councils." That is in a limited sense true, and it is quite arguable that British Departments would be the better for an infusion of local control. But we must not be misled by a false analogy. Great Britain reaches the Irish ideal by other means. Her departmental Ministers are directly responsible to a predominantly British House of Commons where a hostile vote can at any moment eject them from office.[51] There is no Irish Parliament, nor any kind of predominantly Irish body which is vested with the same power. The Vice-President of the Irish Department of Agriculture, an institution concerned exclusively with Irish affairs, whether he sits in the House of Commons or not (and for two years Mr. T.W. Russell had not a seat at Westminster), could not be ejected from office even by a unanimous vote of Irish Members of the House, with the moral backing of a unanimous Irish people.[52] That is one of the anomalous results of the Union, and it was a recognition, though rather a confused one, of this anomaly, that inspired the ingenious compromise invented by the Recess Committee for introducing an element of popular control. But what a light the compromise throws on the anomaly which evoked it! Is it common sense to make these elaborate arrangements for promoting an Irish Department on an Irish popular basis while recoiling in terror from the prospect of crowning them with a Minister responsible to ah Irish Parliament? The consequence is that even in this solitary example of an Irish Department under semi-popular control we see the subtle taint of Crown Colony Government. Popular opinion, acting indirectly, first through the Council and then through the Boards, can legally paralyze the Department by declining to appropriate money in the way it prescribes, while possessing no legal power to enforce a different policy or change the personnel of administration. This is only an object-lesson. I hasten to add that such a paralysis has never taken place, though some acrimonious controversy, natural enough under the anomalous state of things, has arisen over the office of Vice-President. There is now only one means by which Irish opinion can, if it be so disposed, displace the holder of the office, and that is a thoroughly unreliable and unhealthy means, namely, through pressure brought to bear by one or other of the Irish Parliamentary parties upon a newly elected British Ministry.[53] But why in the world should the British party pendulum determine an important Irish matter like this? Why, a fortiori, should it determine the appointment to the office of Chief Secretary, the irresponsible Prime Minister, or, rather the autocrat of Ireland? It is the reductio ad absurdum of the Union.

The Department commands a large measure of confidence. It would command far greater confidence if it were responsible to an Irish Parliament; but Irishmen are sensible enough to perceive that as long as the Union lasts, everyone is interested in making the existing system work smoothly and well. The general policy as laid down in the first instance, by the first Vice-President, Sir Horace Plunkett, has been sound and wise;[54] to proceed slowly, while building up a staff of trained instructors, inspectors, organizers; to devote money and labour mainly to education, both industrial and agricultural, and to evoke self-reliance and initiative in the people by, so far as possible, spending money locally only where a local contribution is raised and a local scheme prepared. The last aim met with a fine response. Every County Council in Ireland raises a rate, and has a scheme for agricultural and technical instruction. I can only enumerate some of the multifarious functions which the Department evolved for itself or took over from various other unrelated Boards and concentrated under single control. It gives instruction in agriculture and rural domestic economy (horticulture, butter-making, bee-keeping, poultry-keeping, etc.) through schools, colleges, or agricultural stations under its own direction, through private schools for both sexes, and through an extensive system of itinerant courses conducted (in 1909) by 128 trained instructors. It gives premiums for the breeding of horses, cattle, asses, poultry, swine. It conducts original research, it experiments in crops, and, among other things, is slowly resuscitating the depressed industry of flax-growing, and starting a wholly new industry in the southern counties, that of early potatoes. It sprays potatoes, prescribes for the diseases of trees, crops, and stock, advises on manures and feeding-stuffs, teaches forestry, and gives scholarships at various colleges for proficiency in agricultural science. On the side of Technical Instruction it teaches and encourages all manner of small industries, such as lace-making. It superintends all technical instruction in secondary schools, and organizes and subsidizes similar instruction in a multitude of different subjects under schemes prepared by local authorities, while at the same time carrying on an important and extensive system of training teachers. It also superintends sea-fisheries and improves harbours.

The material results have been great; the moral results perhaps even greater. Just as we should expect, wherever education goes, and wherever men work together for economic improvement, unnatural antagonisms of race and religion tend to disappear. This is not the result of any direct influence wielded by the Department, which never finds it necessary to lecture people on the duty of mutual tolerance; it is the result of common sense and a small experience in Home Rule. High officials of the Department have informed me that their work, for all intents and purposes, is unhampered by local religious prejudices. A spirit of keen and wholesome rivalry permeates the people. County and Borough Committees in districts almost wholly Roman Catholic, with large powers of patronage, almost invariably appoint the best men, regardless of creed and local influence. Anyone who wishes to gain a glimpse of the real Belfast of the present and the future, as distinguished from the ugly, bigoted caricature of a great city which some even of its own citizens perversely insist on displaying to their English friends, a Belfast as tolerant and generous as it is energetic and progressive, should visit the magnificent Municipal Technical Institute, where 6,000 boys and girls, Roman Catholic and Protestant, mix together on equal terms, and derive the same benefit from an extraordinary variety of educational courses in a building furnished with lecture-rooms, laboratories, experimental plant, and gymnasia, of a perfection hardly to be surpassed in any city of the United Kingdom.

Here is something grand and fruitful accomplished in eleven years, and it is the outcome, be it remembered, of original, constructive thought devoted by Irishmen to the needs of their own country.

Let us also remember that it represents the application of State-aid to economic development. But with the utmost caution, and the utmost efforts to elicit self-help, one may go too far in the direction of State-aid, and even in this sphere it is by no means certain that Ireland is free from danger. Let us pass to another movement whose essence is self-help: I mean the movement for Agricultural Co-operation. Here again Sir Horace Plunkett was the originator. Indeed, with him and his able associates and advisers, of whom Lord Monteagle and Mr. R.A. Anderson, the Secretary of the I.A.O.S., were the first, the twin aims of self-help and State-aid were combined as they should be, in one big, harmonious policy. Self-help must, indeed, they held, be antecedent to, and preparatory for, State-aid. The position confronting them was that half a million unorganized tenant farmers, for the most part cultivating excessively small holdings, and just beginning to emerge after generations of agrarian war from an economic serfdom, were face to face with the competition of highly organized European countries, and of vast and rapidly developing territories of North and South America. It was as far back as 1889 that the first propaganda was begun, and in 1894, a year before the Recess Committee met, the Irish Agricultural Organization Society was formed. By unwearied pains and patience, seemingly hopeless obstacles had been overcome, apathy, ignorance, and often contemptuous opposition from men of both political parties. For, with that ruinous pessimism always endemic in countries not politically free, and exactly paralleled in the Canada described by the Durham Report of 1839, extremists were inclined to suspect any movement which drew recruits from both political camps. Nevertheless, the island is now covered with a network of 886 co-operative societies, creameries, agricultural societies (for selling implements, foodstuffs, etc.), credit banks, poultry societies, and other miscellaneous organizations. The total membership is nearly 100,000, the total turnover nearly two and a half millions.[55] Nearly half the butter exported from Ireland is made in the 392 co-operative creameries, and at the other end of the scale extraordinarily valuable work is done by the 237 agricultural credit banks, which supply small loans, averaging only L4 apiece, for strictly productive purposes on a system of mutual credit.

Moral and material regeneration go together. The aim is to build up a new rural civilization, to put life, heart, and hope into the monotony of country life and unite all classes in the strong bonds of sympathy and interest: a splendid ideal, applicable not to Ireland alone, but to all countries, and Ireland may truly be said to be pointing the way to many another country, Great Britain included.

The Co-operative movement attracts the most intelligent and progressive elements of the rural population. Strictly non-political itself, it unites creeds and parties. It is as strong in predominantly Roman Catholic districts as in predominantly Protestant districts, strongest of all in Catholic Wexford. Probably two-thirds or more of the co-operators are Home Rulers, but that only accidentally reflects the distribution of Irish parties. On the local committees political animus is unknown. The governing body contains members, lay and clerical, of all shades of opinion. Step into Plunkett House, that hospitable headquarters of the Organization Society, and if you have been nurtured in legends about inextinguishable class and creed antipathies, which are supposed to render Home Rule impossible and the eternal "umpirage" of Great Britain inevitable, you will soon learn to marvel that anyone can be found to propagate them. Here, just because men are working together in a practical, self-contained, home-ruled organization for the good of the whole country, you will find liberality, open-mindedness, brotherhood, and keen, intelligent patriotism from Ulsterman and Southerners alike. The atmosphere is not political. But you will come away with a sense of the absurdity, of the insolence, of saying that a country which can produce and conduct fine movements like this is unfit for self-government. I should add a word about a new organization which only came into being this year, and which also has its home at Plunkett House, the United Irishwomen, whose aim, in their own words, is to "unite Irishwomen for the social and economic advantage of Ireland." "They intend to organize the women of all classes in every rural district in Ireland for social service. These bodies will discuss, and, if need be, take action upon any and every matter which concerns the welfare of society in their several localities. So far as women's knowledge and influence will avail, they will strive for a higher standard of material comfort and physical well-being in the country home, a more advanced agricultural economy, and a social existence a little more in harmony with the intellect and temperament of our people." Anyone who wants to understand something of the spirit of the new self-reliant Ireland which is springing up to-day should read the thrilling little pamphlet (I cannot describe it otherwise) from which I quote these words, and which introduced the United Irish-women to the world, with its preface by Father T.A. Finlay, and its essays by Mrs. Ellice Pilkington, Sir Horace Plunkett, and Mr. George W. Russell, better known as "AE," poet, painter, and Editor of the Co-operative weekly, the Irish Homestead. Nor can I leave this part of my subject without referring to that amazing little journal. No other newspaper in the world that I know of bears upon it so deep an impress of genius. There are no "politics," in the Irish sense, in it. It would be impossible to infer from its pages how the Editor voted. What fascinates the reader is the shrewd and witty analysis of Irish problems, the high range of vision which exposes the shortcomings and reveals the illimitable possibilities of a regenerated Ireland and the ceaseless and implacable war waged by the Editor upon all pettiness, melancholy, and pessimism.

What the Agricultural Organization Society is doing for agriculture the Industrial Development Associations, formed only in quite recent years, are doing, in a different way, for the encouragement of Irish industries. The Associations of Belfast, Cork, and other cities work in harmony, and meet in an annual All-Ireland Industrial Conference. Their effort is to secure the concentration of Irish brains and capital on Irish industrial questions, to promote the sale of Irish goods, both in Ireland, Great Britain, and foreign countries, and to protect these goods against piracy and illicit competition.[56] Here again co-operation for Irish welfare brings together the creeds and races, and tends to extinguish old bigotries and antipathies. Here again the truth is recognized that Ireland is a distinct economic entity whose conditions and needs demand special study from her citizens. In a country of which that basal truth is recognized it would seem inexplicable that Protestants and Catholics who meet in committee-rooms and on platforms to promote, outside Parliament, the common interests of Ireland, should not unite as one man to demand an Irish Legislature in which to focus those interests and make them the subjects of direct legislative enactment, free both from the paternal and the coercive interference of a country differently situated, and absorbed in its own affairs.

I pass from the agricultural and industrial movements to another powerful factor in the reconstruction of Ireland, namely, the Gaelic League, founded in 1893, whose success under the Presidency of Dr. Douglas Hyde in reviving the old national language, culture, and amusements, is attracting the attention of the world. Fortunately the League encountered some ridicule at the outset and prospered proportionately. Some of its work is not above criticism, but few persons—and none who have the least knowledge of such intellectual revivals elsewhere—now care to laugh at it. The League is non-political and non-sectarian. Strange, is it not, that such a movement should have to emphasize the fact? Strange paradox that in a country which is being re-born into a consciousness of its own individuality, which is regaining its own pride and self-respect, recovering its lost literature and culture, and vibrating to that "iron string, Trust thyself," the conflict for self-government, that elementary symbol of self-trust, should still retain enough intestinal bitterness to compel men to label national movements as non-political and non-sectarian! It would be idle, of course, to pretend that this national movement, like all others in Ireland, does not strengthen, especially among the younger generation, which grows increasingly Nationalist, the sentiment for Home Rule. If it did not, we should indeed be in the presence of something miraculously abnormal.

Meanwhile the Celtic revival does visible good. The language is no longer a fad; it is an envied accomplishment, a mark of distinction and education. Wherever it goes, North and South, it obliterates race and creed distinctions, and all the terrible memories associated with them. There are Ulstermen of Saxon or Scottish stock in whom the fascination of Irish art and literature has extirpated every trace of Orangeism and all implied in it. The language revivifies traditions, as beautiful as they are glorious, of an Ireland full of high passions and stormy domestic feuds, but united in sentiment, breeding warriors, poets, lawgivers, saints, and fertilizing Europe with her missionary genius. However far those times are, however grim and pitiful the havoc wrought by the race war, it is nevertheless a fact for thinkers and statesmen to ponder over, not a phantasy to sneer at, that Celtic Ireland lives. Anglicization has failed, not because Celts cannot appreciate the noblest manifestations of English genius in art, letters, science, war, colonization, but because to repress their own culture and nationality is at the same time to repress their power of appreciation and assimilation. Until comparatively recent times, it was only the worst of English literature and music, the cheapest newspaper twaddle, the inanest music-hall songs, which penetrated beyond a limited circle of culture into the life of the country. The revolt against this sterilizing and belittling side of anglicization is strong and healthy. It affects all classes. Farmers, labourers, small tradesmen, who had never conceived the idea of learning for learning's sake, and who had grown up, thanks to the national system of education, in all but complete ignorance of their own country's history and literature, spend time on reading and study and in the practice of the old indigenous dances and music, which was formerly wasted in idleness or dissipation. Temperance and social harmony are irresistibly forwarded. Nor is it a question of a few able men imposing their will on the many, or of an artificial, State-aided process. Though the language has obtained a footing in more than a third of the State schools and in the National University,[57] the motive force behind it comes from the people themselves. In the country district, with which I am best acquainted, boys and girls from very poor families are clubbing together to pay instructors in the Irish language and dances, and the same thing is going on all over Ireland.

The brilliant modern school of poets and playwrights who, steeped in the old Celtic thought and culture, have found for it such an exquisite vehicle in the English tongue, speak for themselves and are winning their own way to renown. The only criticism I venture to make is that some of them are too much inclined to look backward instead of forward, to idealize the far past rather than to illuminate the future, and to delineate the deformities of national character produced by ages of repression, rather than to aid in conjuring into being a virile, normal nation.

The name of the last movement to be referred to sums up all the others, Sinn Fein. Unlike the others, it had a purely political origin, and for that reason, probably, never made the same progress. Yet the explanation is simple. In pursuance of the general purpose of inspiring Irishmen to rely on themselves for their own salvation, economic and spiritual, Sinn Feiners, like John Mitchel and others in the past, and like the Hungarian patriots, attacked, with much point and satire, the whole policy of constitutional and Parliamentary agitation for Home Rule. The policy, they said, had failed for half a century; it was not only negative and barren, but positively harmful. Nationalists should refuse to send Members to Westminster and abide by the consequences. Sensibly enough, most Irishmen, while recognizing that there was an element of indisputable and valuable truth in this bold diagnosis, decided that it was premature to adopt the prescription. Public opinion in Britain was slowly changing, and confidence existed that this opinion would be finally converted. If the Sinn Fein alternative meant anything at all, it meant complete separation, which Ireland does not want, and a final abandonment of constitutional methods. If another Home Rule Bill were to fail, Sinn Fein would undoubtedly redouble its strength. Its ideas are sane and sound. They are at bottom exactly the ideas which actuate every progressive and spirited community, and which in Ireland animate the Industrial Development Associations, the Co-operative movement, the thirst for technical instruction, the Gaelic League, the literary revival, and the work of the only truly Irish organ of government, the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction.

Now, where do we stand? Are the phenomena I have reviewed arguments for Home Rule or against Home Rule? Do they tend to show that Ireland is "fitter" now for Home Rule, or that she manages very well without Home Rule? These are superfluous questions. They are never asked save of countries obviously designed to govern themselves and obstinately denied the right. Who would say now of Canada or Australia that they ought to have solved their economic, agrarian, and religious problems and have evolved an indigenous literature before they were declared fit for Home Rule, or—still more unreasonable proposition—that their strenuous efforts after self-help and internal harmony in the teeth of political disabilities proved, in so far as they were successful, that external government was a success?

Yet these questions were, as a fact, asked of the Colonies, as they are asked of Ireland. And misgovernment increased, and passions rose, and blood flowed, while, in the guise of dispassionate psychologists, a great many narrow, egotistical, and bullying people at home propounded these arid conundrums. Where is our common sense? The Irish phenomena I have described arise in spite of the absence of Home Rule, and the denial of Home Rule sets an absolute and final bar to progress beyond a certain point.

That is certain; one cannot live in Ireland with one's eyes and ears open without realizing it. All social and economic effort, successful as it is up to a certain point, and strong as its tendency is to promote nationalist feeling of the noblest kind, has to struggle desperately against the benumbing influence of abstract "politics." Suspicion comes from both sides. Both Unionists and Nationalists, for example, at one time or another have looked askance on the Co-operative movement and on the Department of Agriculture as being too Nationalist or too Unionist in tendency. Unionists caused Sir Horace Plunkett to lose his seat in Parliament in 1905; and Nationalists, though with some constitutional justification, secured his removal from office in 1907. At this moment there is friction and suspicion in this particular matter which seems to the impartial observer to be artificial, and which would not exist, or would be transmuted into something perfectly harmless, and probably highly beneficial, were there any normal political life in Ireland and a central organ of public opinion. As long as Great Britain insists, to her own infinite inconvenience, upon deciding Irish questions by party majorities fluctuating from Toryism to Radicalism, and thereby compels Ireland to send parties to Westminster whose raison d'etre is, not to represent crystallized Irish opinion on Irish domestic questions—that is at present wholly impossible—but to assert or deny the fundamental right for Ireland to settle her own domestic questions, so long will these dislocations continue, to the grave prejudice of Ireland and the deep discredit of Great Britain. Ireland, like Canada in 1838, has no organic national life. Apart from the abstract but paramount question of Home Rule, there are no formed political principles or parties. Such parties as there are have no relation to the economic life of the country, and all interests suffer daily in consequence. In a normal country you would find urban and agricultural interests distinctly represented, but not in Ireland. We should expect to rind clear-cut opinions on Tariff Reform and Free Trade. No such opinions exist. On the other hand, agreement on important industrial and agricultural questions finds not the smallest reflection in Parliamentary representation. Education, and other latent issues of burning importance, are not political issues. A Budget may cause almost universal dissatisfaction, but it goes through, and the amazing thing is that Unionists complain of its going through! Most of the Parliamentary elections are uncontested, though everybody knows that a dozen questions would set up a salutary ferment of opinion if they were not stifled by the refusal of Home Rule. The Protestant tenant-farmers of Ulster have identical interests with those of other Provinces, and have profited largely by the legislation extorted by Nationalists; but for the most part, though by no means wholly, they vote Unionist. The two great towns, Dublin and Belfast, are divided by the most irrational antagonism. Labourers, both rural and urban, have distinct and important interests; the rural labourers have no spokesman, the town-labourers only one. It was admitted to me by a Unionist organizer in Belfast that that city, but for the Home Rule issue, would probably return four labour members. Nor have parties any close relation to the distribution of wealth. In the matter of incomes the prosperous traders of Cork, Limerick, and Waterford are in the same case as regards taxation with those of Londonderry and Belfast. Publicans are Unionists in England, Nationalists in Ireland, both in Ulster and elsewhere. Before the Home Rule issue was raised, Ulster was largely Liberal. Ulster Liberalism is almost dead. Extreme Socialism may almost be said to be non-existent in Ireland, yet Ireland is not only administered on semi-collectivist principles, but continually runs the risk of being involved in legislation of a Socialistic kind, which, rightly or wrongly, she heartily dislikes.

As for the landed aristocracy all over Ireland, their historic alliance with the intensely democratic tenant-farmers of one small corner of Ireland, North-East Ulster, against those of all the rest, presented strange enough features in the past, and is now becoming artificial in the highest degree. Thanks to Land Purchase, no landed aristocracy in the world now has a better chance of throwing its wealth and intelligence into public life for the good of the whole country, of thinking out problems, of conciliating factions, and of ennobling public life. The landlord who has sold his land is a free man, far freer than the English landlord from misgivings caused by divergency of interest. The opportunity is still there. Will they profit by it? One thing is essential: they must become Nationalists, and in breathing that phrase, one is conscious of all the misleading implications and the bitter historical feuds it suggests. Yet a small but powerful group of landlords is already leading the way. And the way, even before Home Rule, in reality is so simple. I speak from close observation. If a man is a good man, and worthy to represent a constituency, he has only to declare his belief that he thinks that he and his own fellow-citizens are fit to govern themselves. Irishmen, especially in Roman Catholic districts, and, indeed, as an indirect result of Catholicism, have never lost their belief in aristocracy. When a landlord, or any other Protestant, comes forward as a Nationalist, he is welcomed. His religion, whatever it may be, does not count. Parnell and Smith O'Brien were Protestant landlords. Many of the most trusted popular leaders, Tone, Robert Emmet, John Mitchel, Isaac Butt, and others in the past have been Protestants. Ten Members of the present Nationalist party are Protestants. The Home Rule issue would have lost some of its bitterness if a Unionist electorate had ever elected a Catholic to Parliament.

Still, it is unfortunately true that the great bulk of the landlords and ex-landlords stand aloof from the Home Rule movement. The collateral result is that far too many of them instinctively stand aloof even from those purely economic and intellectual movements which tend to make a living united Ireland out of chaos. The national loss is heavy; the waste of talent and of driving-power, for Ireland needs driving-power from her leisured and cultured classes, is melancholy to contemplate.

Everywhere one sees waste of talent in Ireland. The land abounds in men with ideas and potentialities waiting for those normal chances of development which self-governed countries provide. Much of this good material is crushed under unnatural political tyrannies caused by ceaseless agitation for and against an abstract aim which should have been satisfied long ago, so that the energies it absorbed might have been diverted into practical channels. There is too much moral cowardice, too little bold, independent thought and action. Nobody knows what Ireland really is, and of what she is capable. Nobody can know until she has responsibility for her own fate.

Local government, where popular opinion is nominally free, suffers from the absence of free central government. Is it not on the face of it preposterous to give complete powers of local taxation and administration to a country while withholding from it, as unsafe and improper, central co-ordinating control? For any country but Ireland—at any rate, in the British self-governing Colonies and the United States—such a policy would be regarded as crazy. Still more unreasonable is it to complain that local authorities under such a system spend part of the energy which should be devoted wholly to local affairs in abstract politics. I forbear from engaging in the statistical war over the numbers of Catholics and Protestants employed and elected by local bodies. One must remember, what Unionists sometimes forget, that Ireland is, broadly speaking, a Roman Catholic country, and that until thirteen years ago local administration and patronage were almost exclusively in Protestant hands. We should naturally expect a marked change; but, with that reminder, I prefer to appeal to the reader's common sense. Deny national Home Rule, and give local Home Rule. What would one expect to happen? What would have happened in any Colony? What would Mr. Arthur Balfour himself have prophesied with certainty in the case of any other country but Ireland? Why, this, that each little local body would become an outlet for suppressed agitation, and that national or anti-national politics, not urgent local necessities, would enter into local elections and influence the composition of local bodies. And what would be the further consequence? That numbers of the best local men would stand aloof or be rejected, and that favouritism would find a congenial soil.

In point of fact, Irish local authorities, under the circumstances, are wonderfully free from these evils, only another proof of the resilience and vitality of the country under persistent mismanagement. On the whole they bear comparison with British local authorities in thrift, purity, and efficiency. None of them has ever yet had a scandal like that of Poplar. All of them have shown sense and spirit in forwarding sanitation and technical education. They vary widely, of course, the lowest units in the scale being the least efficient, as in England. County Councils, for example, are better than Rural District Councils. On the other hand, Dublin Corporation, though not so bad as it is sometimes painted, occasionally sets a very bad example. The standard of efficiency is higher in the Protestant north than in the Catholic south, the standard of religious toleration lower. But at bottom it is not a question of theology, as every well-informed person knows, but a question of politics. The same causes that keep the landed gentry out of Parliament keep them, although not to the same degree, out of local politics. Sometimes this is their own fault, for declining to take part in them; for many of the Protestant upper class in Nationalist districts obtain election in spite of being Unionists. Tolerance is slowly growing in Nationalist, though not, it is to be feared, in Unionist, districts; again a quite intelligible fact.[58] But when all is said and done, it is an undeniable fact that Irish local authorities, especially those in the poverty-stricken west, where all social activities are more retrograde than elsewhere, are capable of great improvement, and that improvement can come only by allowing them to concentrate on local affairs, and obtain the co-operation of all classes and religions. The very existence of a central Government of which Irishmen were proud would influence the tone and standard of all minor authorities to the bottom of the scale.

Meanwhile, obvious and urgent problems, which no Parliament but an Irish Parliament can deal with, cry aloud for settlement. The Poor Law, railways, arterial drainage, afforestation, are questions which I need only refer to by name, confining myself to the greater issues. Education, primary and intermediate, is perhaps the greatest. The present system is almost universally condemned, and its bad results are recognized. It has got to be reformed. By no possibility can it be reformed so long as the Union lasts, not only because the Boards, National and Intermediate, which control education, are composed of unelected amateurs, but because there is no means of finding out what the national opinion is as to the course reform is to take. Meanwhile the children and the country suffer. The Intermediate Board is a purely examining and prize-giving body, and its system by general agreement is imperfect. In the National or Primary schools the percentage of average daily attendance (71.1 per cent.), though slowly improving, is still very bad.[59] Many of the school-houses are, in the words of the Commissioners, "mere hovels," unsanitary, leaky, ill-ventilated. The distribution of schools and funds is chaotic and wasteful. Out of 8,401 schools (in 1909-10)[60] nearly two hundred have an average daily attendance of less than fifteen pupils. In 1730 the number is less than thirty, and it is not only in sparsely inhabited country districts, but in big towns, that the distribution is bad. The power of the Commissioners to stop the creation of unduly small schools, and even semi-bogus establishments which come into being in the great cities, is imperfect. Another example of the curious mixture of anarchy and despotism that the system of Irish government presents may be seen in the Annual Report of the Commissioners. With a mutinous audacity which would be laughable, if the case were one for laughing, the Commissioners openly rail at the Treasury for the parsimony of its grants, and, in order to stir its compassion, paint the condition of Irish education in black colours. Imagine the various Departmental Ministers in Great Britain publicly attacking in their Annual Reports the Cabinet of which they were members! The Treasury, needless to say, is not to blame. It pays out of the common Imperial purse all but a negligible fraction of the cost of primary education in Ireland. Nothing is raised by rates, and only L141,096 (in 1909-10) from voluntary and local sources, as compared with L1,688,547 from State grants. The Treasury has no guarantee that this money is well spent; on the contrary, it knows from the Reports of the Commissioners themselves that a great deal of it is very badly spent. The business is a comic opera, but it has a tragic significance for Ireland. Primary education is so bad that a great number of the pupils are absolutely unfit to receive the expensive and excellent technical instruction organized by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction, and contributed to by the ratepayers. The Belfast Technical Institute, for example, has to go outside its proper functions, and spend from its too small stock in providing introductory courses in elementary subjects, so as to equip children for the reception of higher knowledge.[61] All over the country the complaint is the same. No machinery whatever exists for co-ordinating primary, secondary, technical, and University education, and opportioning funds in an economical and profitable manner.

Religion is the immediate cause of the trouble; absence of popular control the fundamental cause. The national system of primary education, designed originally in 1831 to be undenominational, has become rigidly denominational. Out of 8,401 primary schools, 2,461 only are attended by both Protestants and Roman Catholics. The rest are of an exclusively sectarian character. Even the Protestants do not combine. The Church of Ireland, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, and other smaller denominations, frequently have small separate schools in the same parish. The management (save in the model schools, which are attended only by Protestants) is exclusively sectarian, the local clergyman, Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, or Nonconformist having almost autocratic control over the school.

This education question has got to be thrashed out by a Home Ruled Ireland, and the sooner the better. After Home Rule the Treasury grant will stop, and Ireland will have to raise and apportion the funds herself, and set her house in order. At whatever sacrifice of religious scruples, and, it is needless to add that to the Roman Catholic hierarchy the sacrifice will be the greatest, the Irish people must control and finance its schools, whether through a central department alone, or through local authorities as well. There is no reason in the world why a compromise should not be arrived at which would secure vastly increased efficiency and leave the teaching of denominational religion uninjured. Other countries, where the same religions exist side by side, have attained that compromise. Ireland will be judged by her success in attaining it.

Another important question is the treatment of the Congested Districts. More than a third of Ireland is now under the benevolent jurisdiction of a despotic Board.[62] So long as its funds are raised from general Imperial taxation, the inevitable tendency is to shirk the thorough discussion of this grave subject, to lay the responsibility on Great Britain, to acquiesce in a policy of extreme paternalism, and to appeal for higher and higher doles from the Treasury. This cannot go on. Whoever, in the eyes of Divine Justice, was originally responsible for the condition of the submerged west, and for the ruin of the evicted tenants, Ireland, if she wants Home Rule, must shoulder the responsibility herself, and think out the whole question independently. The Congested Districts Board has done, and continues to do, good work in the purchase and resettlement of estates; but even in this sphere there are wide differences of opinion as to the proper methods and policy to be employed, especially with regard to the division of grasslands and the migration of landless men. Its other remedial work (part of which is now taken over by the Department of Agriculture under the Land Act of 1909), in encouraging fisheries, industries, and farm improvements out of State money, is open to criticism on the ground of its tendency to pauperize and weaken character. I do not care to pronounce on the controversy, though I think that there is much to be said for the view that money is best spent by encouraging agricultural co-operation. Many able and distinguished men have devoted their minds to the subject, but it is plain that Ireland as a whole has not thought, and cannot think, the matter out in a responsible spirit, and that the only way of reaching a truly Irish decision is through an Irish Parliament, which both raises and votes money for the purpose.[63] The reinstatement of evicted tenants teems with practical difficulties which can only be solved in the same way. As long as Great Britain remains responsible, errors are liable to be made which one day may be deeply regretted.

The same observation applies to all future land legislation, not excepting Land Purchase, which I deal with fully in a later chapter.[64] That great department of administration must, for financial reasons, be worked in harmonious consultation with the British Government; but it ought to be controlled by Ireland, and a free and normal outlet given to criticisms like those emanating from Mr. William O'Brien, whatever the intrinsic value of these criticisms. Purchase itself settles nothing beyond the bare ownership of the land. It leaves the distribution and use of the land, except in the "resettled" districts, where it was, with a third or a quarter of the holdings so small as to be classed as "uneconomic." Ireland is not as yet awake to the possibilities of the silent revolution proceeding from the erection of a small peasant proprietorship. The sense of responsibility in these new proprietors will be quickened and the interests of the whole country forwarded by a National Parliament.

Temperance will never be tackled thoroughly but by an Irish Parliament. All Irishmen are ashamed in their hearts of the encouragement given to drunkenness by the still grossly excessive number of licensed houses, which in 1909 was 22,591, and of the National Drink Bill, which in the same year was L13,310,469,[65] or L3 11d. per head of a population not rich in this world's goods. Temperance is not really a party or a sectarian question. All the Churches make noble efforts to forward reform, and in a rationally governed Ireland reform would be considered on its merits. At present it is inextricably mixed up with Nationalist and anti-Nationalist politics, and with irrelevant questions of Imperial taxation.

The latest examples of the embarrassment into which Ireland without Home Rule is liable to drift from the absence of a formed public opinion and the means to give it effect, are the labour troubles and the National Insurance scheme. There are signs that English labour is thrusting forward Irish labour in advance of its own will and in advance of general Irish opinion. In all labour questions Ireland's position as an agricultural country is totally different from that of Great Britain. The same legislation cannot be applicable to both. Ireland should frame her own. Under present conditions it is impossible to know the considered judgment of Ireland. There is certainly much opposition to Insurance, and if all Irishmen thoroughly realized that the scheme might complicate the finance of Home Rule and involve a greater financial dependence on Great Britain than exists even at present, they would study it with still more critical eyes,[66] as they would certainly have studied the Old Age Pensions scheme with more critical eyes.

Here I am led naturally to the great and all-embracing questions of Irish finance and expenditure, which lie behind all the topics already discussed and many others. The subject is far too important and interwoven with history to be dealt with otherwise than as an historical whole, and that course I propose to take in a later part of the book. It is enough to say that all the arguments for Home Rule are summed up in the fiscal argument. Every Irishman worth his salt ought to be ashamed and indignant at the present position.

The whole machinery of Irish Government, and the whole fiscal system under which Ireland lives, need to be thoroughly overhauled by Irishmen in their own interests, and in the interests of Great Britain. Among many other writers, Mr. Barry O'Brien, in his "Dublin Castle and the Irish People," Lord Dunraven in "The Outlook in Ireland," and Mr. G.F.H. Berkeley in a paper contributed to "Home Rule Problems," have lucidly and wittily described the wonderful collection of sixty-seven irresponsible and unrelated Boards nominated by the Chief Secretary, or Lord-Lieutenant, which, with the official services beneath them, constitute the colonial bureaucracy of Ireland; the extravagance of the judicial and other salaries, and the total lack of any central control worthy of the name. By omitting a number of insignificant little bureaux, the figure 67, according to Mr. Berkeley's classification, may be reduced to 42, of which 26 are directly under Castle influence, and the rest either branches of British Departments or directly under the Treasury. In 1906, out of 1,611 principal official posts, 626 were obtained purely by nomination, and 766 by a qualifying examination only. In an able-bodied male population, which we may estimate at a million, there are reckoned to be about 60,000 persons employed by the State, or 1 in 18. If we add 180,000 Old Age Pensioners, we reach the figure of nearly a quarter of a million persons, out of a total population of under four and a half millions, dependent wholly or partially for their living on the State, exclusive of Army and Navy pensioners; again about 1 in 18. Four millions of money are paid in salaries or pensions to State employees, and two and three-quarter millions to Old Age Pensioners.

It is so easy to make fun about Irish administration that one has to be cautious not to mistake the nature or exaggerate the dimensions of the evil. The great defect is that the expenditure is not controlled by Ireland and has no relation to the revenue derived from Ireland. The Castle is not the odious institution that it was in the dark days of the land war; but it is still a foreign, not an Irish institution, working, like the Government of the most dependent of Crown Colonies, in a world of its own, with autocratic powers, and immunity from all popular influence. Beyond the criticism that one religious denomination, the Church of Ireland, is rather unduly favoured in patronage, there is no personal complaint against the officials. They are as able, kindly, hard-working, and courteous as any other officials. Some of the principal posts are held by men of the highest distinction, who will be as necessary to the new Government as to the old. It is absolutely essential, but it will not be easy, to make substantial administrative economies at the outset, not only from the additional stress of novel work which will be thrown upon a Home Rule Government, but from the widespread claims of vested interests. It will require courageous statesmanship, backed by courageous public opinion, to overhaul a bureaucracy so old and extensive. Take the police, for example, the first and most urgent subject for reduction. Adding the Royal Irish Constabulary and the Dublin Metropolitan Police together, we have a force of no less than 12,000 officers and men, a force twice as numerous in proportion to population as those of England and Wales, and costing the huge sum of a million and a half; and this in a country which now is unusually free from crime, and which at all times has been naturally less disposed to crime than any part of Great Britain. It is the forcible maintenance of bad economic conditions that has produced Irish crime in the past. Irishmen hotly resent that symbol of coercion, the swollen police force, which is as far removed from their own control as a foreign army of occupation. On the other hand, the force itself is composed of Irishmen, and is a considerable, though an unhealthy, economic factor in the life of the country. It performs some minor official duties outside the domain of justice; it is efficient, and its individual members are not unpopular. Reduction will be difficult. But drastic reduction, at least by a half, must eventually be brought about if Ireland is to hold up her head in the face of the world.

The difficulty will extend through all the ramifications of public expenditure. Ireland, through no fault of her own, against her persistent protests, has been retained in a position which is destructive to thrifty instincts. A rain of officials has produced an unhealthy thirst for the profits of officialdom. No one feels responsibility for the money spent for national purposes, because no one in Ireland is, in any real sense, responsible. There is no Irish Budget or Irish Exchequer to make a separate Irish Government logically defensible. The people are heavily taxed, but, rightly, they do not connect their taxes with the expenditure going on around them. On the contrary, their mental habit is to look to Great Britain as the source of grants, salaries, pensions.

And the worst of it is that they are now at the point of being financially dependent on Great Britain. After more than a century of Union finance, after contributing, all told, over three hundred and twenty millions of money to the Imperial purse over and above expenditure in Ireland, they have now ceased to contribute a penny, and are a little in debt. As we shall see, when I come to a closer examination of finance, the main factor in producing this result has been the Old Age Pensions. The application of the British scale, unmodified, to Ireland is the kind of blunder which the Union encourages. Ireland, where wages and the standard of living are far lower than in England, does not need pensions on so high a scale, and already suffers too much from benevolent paternalism. It was an unavoidable blunder, given a joint financial system, but it has gravely compromised Home Rule finance.

For acquiescing in this and similar grants, beyond the ascertained taxable resources of the country; for the general deficiency of public spirit and matured public opinion in Ireland; for the backwardness of education, temperance legislation, and other important reforms, the Irish Parliamentary parties cannot be held responsible. They are abnormal in their composition and aims, and, beyond a certain limited point, they are powerless, even if they had the will, to promote Irish policies. That is the pernicious result of an unsatisfied claim for self-government. It is the same everywhere else. While an agitation for self-government lasts, a country is stagnant, retrograde, or, like Ireland, progressive only by dint of extraordinary native exertions. Read the Durham report on the condition of the Canadas during the long agitation for Home Rule, and you will recognize the same state of things. The leaders of the agitation have to concentrate on the abstract and primary claim for Home Rule, and are reluctant to dissipate their energies on minor ends. Yet they, too, are liable to irrational and painful divisions, like that which divides Mr. O'Brien from Mr. Redmond; symptoms of irritation in the body politic, not of political sanity. They cannot prove their powers of constructive statesmanship, because they are not given the power to construct or the responsibility which evokes statesmanship. The anti-Home Rule partisans degenerate into violent but equally sincere upholders of a pure negation.

Many of the able men who belong to both the Irish parties will, it is to be hoped, soon be finding a far more fruitful and practical field for their abilities in a free Ireland. But the parties, as such, will disappear, on condition that the measure of Home Rule given to Ireland is adequate. On that point I shall have more to say later. If it is adequate, and Irish politicians are absorbed in vital Irish politics, the structure of the existing parties falls to pieces, to the immense advantage both of Ireland—including the Protestant sections of Ulster—and of Great Britain. At present both parties, divided normally by a gulf of sentiment, do combine for certain limited purposes of Irish legislation, but both are, in different degrees and ways, sterile. The policy of the Nationalist party has been positive in the past, because it wrung from Parliament the land legislation which saved a perishing society. It is essentially positive still in that it seeks Home Rule, which is the condition precedent to practical politics in Ireland. More, the party is independent, in a sense which can be applied to no other party in the United Kingdom. Its Members accept no offices or titles, the ordinary prizes of political life. But they themselves could not contend that they are truly representative of three-quarters of Ireland in any other sense than that they are Home Rulers. Half of the wit, brains, and eloquence of their best men runs to waste. Some of them are merely nominated by the party machine, to represent, not local needs, but a paramount principle which the electors insist rightly on setting above immediate local needs.

The purpose of the Irish Unionist party in the Commons is purely negative, to defeat Home Rule. It does not represent North-East Ulster, or any other fragment of Ireland, in any sense but that. It is passionately sentimental and absolutely unrepresentative of the practical, virile genius of Ulster industry. The Irish Unionist peers, in addition to voicing the same negative, are for the most part the spokesmen of a small minority of Irishmen in whom the long habit of upholding landlord interests has begun to outlive the need.

I have said little directly about the problem of modern Ulster, not because I underrate its importance, which is very great, but because I have some hope that my arguments up to this point may be perceived to have a strong, though indirect, bearing upon it.[67] The religious question I leave to others, with only these few observations. It is impossible to make out a historical case for the religious intolerance of Roman Catholics in Ireland, or a practical case for the likelihood of a Roman Catholic tyranny in the future. No attempt which can be described as even plausible has ever been made in either direction. The late Mr. Lecky, a Unionist historian, and one of the most eminent thinkers and writers of our time, has nobly vindicated Catholic Ireland, banishing both the theory and the fear into the domain of myth.[68]

He has shown, what, indeed, nobody denies, that, from the measures which provoked the Rebellion of 1641, through the Penal Code, to the middle of the nineteenth century, intolerance, inspired by supposed political necessities, and of a ferocity almost unequalled in history, came from the Protestant colonists. In that brilliant little essay of his Nationalist youth, "Clerical Influences" (1861), he described the sectarian animosity which was raging at that period as "the direct and inevitable consequence of the Union," and wrote as follows: "Much has been said of the terrific force with which it would rage were the Irish Parliament restored. We maintain, on the other hand, that no truth is more clearly stamped upon the page of history, and more distinctly deducible from the constitution of the human mind, than that a national feeling is the only check to sectarian passions." He was himself an anti-Catholic extremist in the sense of holding (with many others) that "the logical consequences of the doctrines of the Church of Rome would be fatal to an independent and patriotic policy in any land." But he insists in the same passage "that nothing is more clear than that in every land where a healthy national feeling exists, Roman Catholic politicians are both independent and patriotic."

He never recanted these opinions (which are confirmed by the subsequent course of events) even after his conversion to Unionism, but derived his opposition to Home Rule from a dread of all democratic tendencies,[69] the only ground on which, if men would be willing to confess the naked truth, it can be opposed. There the matter ought to rest. If the doctrines of the Church of Rome are, in fact, inconsistent with political freedom—I myself pronounce no opinion on that point—it is plain to the most superficial observer that the Church, as a factor in politics, stands to lose rather than to gain by Home Rule. British statesmen have often accepted that view, and have endeavoured to use the Roman Catholic hierarchy against popular movements, just as they enlisted its influence to secure the Union. The Roman Catholic laity have often subsequently rejected what they have considered to be undue political dictation from the seat of authority in Rome.

If I may venture an opinion, I believe that both of these mutually irreconcilable propositions—that Home Rule means Rome Rule, and that Rome is the enemy to Home Rule—are wrong.[70] Such ludicrous contradictions only help to destroy the case against trusting a free Ireland to give religion its legitimate, and no more than legitimate, position in the State. Ireland is intensely religious, and it would be a disaster of the first magnitude if the Roman Catholic masses were to lose faith in their Church. The preservation of that faith depends on the political Liberalism of the Church.

Corresponding tolerance will be demanded of Ulster Protestants. At present passion, not reason, governs the religious side of their opposition to Home Rule. It is futile to criticize Ulster Unionists for making the religious argument the spear-head of their attack on Home Rule. The argument is one which especially appeals to portions of the British electorate, and the rules of political warfare permit free use of it. It was pushed beyond the legitimate point, to actual violence, in the Orange opposition to responsible government in Canada in 1849. And it has more than once inflamed and embittered Australian politics, as it inflames the politics of certain English constituencies. But it is hardly to be conceived that Ulster Unionists really fear Roman Catholic tyranny. The fear is unmanly and unworthy of them. To anyone who has lived in an overwhelmingly Catholic district, and seen the complete tranquillity and safety in which Protestants exercise their religion, it seems painfully abnormal that a great city like Belfast, with a population more than two-thirds Protestant, should become hysterical over Catholic tyranny. It would be physically impossible to enforce any tyrannical law in Ulster or anywhere else, even if such a law were proposed, and many leading Protestants from all parts of Ireland have stated publicly that they have no fear of any such result from Home Rule.[71]

"Loyalty" to the Crown is a false issue. Disloyalty to the Crown is a negligible factor in all parts of Ireland. Loyalty or disloyalty to a certain political system is the real matter at issue. At the present day the really serious objections to Home Rule on the part of the leading Ulster Unionists seem to be economic. They have built up thriving trades under the Union. They have the closest business connections with Great Britain, and a mutual fabric of credit. They cherish sincere and profound apprehensions that their business prosperity will suffer by any change in the form of government. To scoff at these apprehensions is absurd and impolitic in the last degree. But to reason against them is also an almost fruitless labour. Those who feel them vaguely picture an Irish Parliament composed of Home Rulers and Unionists, in the same proportion to population as at present, and divided by the same bitter and demoralizing feuds. But there will be no Home Rulers after Home Rule, that is to say, if the Home Rule conceded is sufficient. I believe that Ulster Unionists do not realize either the beneficent transformation which will follow a change from sentimental to practical politics in Ireland, as it has followed a similar change in every other country in the Empire, or the enormous weight which their own fine qualities and strong economic position will give them in the settlement of Irish questions.

Nor do they realize, I venture to think, that any Irish Government, however composed, will be a patriotic Government pledged and compelled for its own credit and safety to do its best for the interests of Ireland. I have never met an Irishman who was not proud of the northern industries, and it is obvious that the industrial prosperity of the north is vital to the fiscal and general interests of Ireland, just as the far more wealthy mining interests of the Rand are vital to the stability and prosperity of the Transvaal, and were regarded as such and treated as such by the farmer majority of the Transvaal after the grant of Home Rule. Those interests have prospered amazingly since, and in that country, be it remembered, volunteer British corps raised on the Rand had been the toughest of all the British foes which the peasant commandos had to meet in a war ended only four years before.

If the fears of Ulster took any concrete form, it would be easier to combat them; but they are unformulated, nebulous. Meanwhile, it is hard to imagine what measure of oppression could possibly be invented by the most malignant Irish Government which would not recoil like a boomerang upon those in whose supposed interests it was framed. I shall have to deal with this point again in discussing taxation, and need here only remind the reader that Ulster is not a Province, any part of which could possibly be injured by any form of taxation which did not hit other Provinces equally.

It is the belief of Ulster Unionists that their prosperity depends on the maintenance of the Union, but the belief rests on no sound foundation. Rural emigration from Ulster, even from the Protestant parts, has been as great as from the rest of Ireland.[72] It is easy to point to a fall in stocks when the Home Rule issue is uppermost, but such phenomena occur in the case of big changes of government in any country. They merely reflect the fact that certain moneyed interests do, in fact, fear a change of government, and whether those fears are irrational or not, the effect is the same. It is an historical fact, on the other hand, that political freedom in a white country, in the long run invariably promotes industrial expansion and financial confidence. Canada is one remarkable example, Australia is another. The Balkan States are others. Not that I wish to push the colonial example to extremes. Vast undeveloped territories impair the analogy to Ireland; but it is none the less true that when a country with a separate economic life of its own obtains rulers of its own choice, and gains a national pride and responsibility, it goes ahead, not backward.

Intense, indeed, must be the racial prejudice which can cause Ulstermen to forget the only really glorious memories of their past. Orange memories are stirring, but they are not glorious beside the traditions of the Volunteers. The Orange flag is the symbol of conquest, confiscation, racial and religious ascendancy. It is not noble for Irishmen to celebrate annually a battle in which Ireland was defeated, or to taunt their Catholic compatriots with agrarian lawlessness to which their own forefathers were forced to resort, in order to obtain a privileged immunity from the same scandalous land laws. Ulstermen reached spiritual greatness when, like true patriots, they stood for tolerance, Parliamentary reform, and the unity of Ireland. They fell, surely, when they consented to style themselves a "garrison" under the shelter of an absentee Parliament, which, through the enslavement and degradation of the old Irish Parliament, had driven tens of thousands of their own race into exile and rebellion.

They cherish the Imperial tradition, but let them love its sublime and reject its ignoble side. It is sublime where it stands for liberty; ignoble—and none knew this better than the Ulster-American rebels—where it stands for government based on the dissensions of the governed.

The verdict of history is that for men in the position of the Ulster Unionists, the path of honour and patriotism, and the path of true self-interest, lies in co-operation with their fellow-citizens for the attainment of political freedom under the Crown. It is not as if they had to create a tradition. The tradition lives.


[42] See pp. 13-17 and 66-71.

[43] Dealt with fully in Chapter XIV.

[44] In 1910-11, L2,408,000 (Treasury Return No. 220, 1911); plus L225,000 estimated increase owing to removal of Poor Law disqualification (Answer to Question in House of Commons, February 15, 1911).

[45] See p. 101.

[46] See particularly "Ireland in the New Century," Sir Horace Plunkett; "Contemporary Ireland," E. Paul-Dubois; "The New Ireland," Sydney Brooks.

[47] "Report of the Recess Committee," New Edition (Fisher Unwin).

[48] Colonel Saunderson, for example, the leader of the Irish Unionists in the Commons, refused publicly to be a member of a committee on which Mr. Redmond sat. Mr. John Redmond himself wrote that he could not take a very sanguine view of the Conference, but that he was "unwilling to take the responsibility of declining to aid in any effort to promote useful legislation in Ireland."

[49] Area under cultivation in 1875, 5,332,813 acres; in 1894, 4,931,011 acres (in 1899, 4,627,545 acres; in 1900, on a system of classification dividing arable land more accurately from pasture, there were only 3,100,397 acres arable, and in 1905 the figures were 2,999,082 acres) (Official Returns). Population in 1841, 8,175,124; in 1851, 6,552,385; in 1861, 5,798,976; in 1871, 5,412,377; in 1881, 5,174,836; in 1891, 4,704,750; in 1892, 4,633,808; in 1893, 4,607,462; in 1894, 4,589,260; in 1895, 4,559,936 (in 1901, 4,458,775; in 1905, 4,391,543).—Census Returns and Thoms' Directory.

[50] Council of Agriculture: 68 members elected by County Councils; 84 appointed by the Department from the various provinces. Total 102.

Board of Agriculture: 8 members elected by Council of Agriculture; 4 appointed by the Department. Total 12.

Board of Technical Instruction: 10 members appointed by County Boroughs; 4 elected by Council of Agriculture; 6 appointed by the various Government Departments; 1 by a joint Committee of Dublin District Councils. Total 21.

[51] I am not forgetting Scotland. Her few local departments are theoretically, but not practically, at the mercy of English votes and influence. Scotch opinion, broadly speaking, governs Scotch affairs. Precisely to the extent to which it does not so govern them, is a demand for Home Rule likely to grow.

[52] Even the Recess Committee (and we cannot wonder) but dimly grasped the constitutional position when they laid stress on the necessity for an Agricultural Minister "directly responsible to Parliament." Logically, they should have first recommended the establishment of an Irish Parliament to which the Minister should be responsible. To make him responsible to the House of Commons was absurd; and a Departmental Committee of 1907 has, in fact, recommended that the Vice-President should not have a seat in Parliament, but should remain in his proper place, Ireland. Meanwhile, the original mistake has caused friction and controversy. Soon after the Liberal Ministry took office in 1906, Sir Horace Plunkett, the first Vice-President, as a Unionist, was replaced by Mr. T.W. Russell, a Home Ruler. On the assumption that such an Office was Parliamentary, its holder standing or falling with the British Ministry of the day, the step was quite justifiable, and even necessary. On the opposite assumption, confirmed by the Departmental Committee, the step was unjustifiable, that is, on the theory of the Union. An Irish Parliament alone should have the power of displacing Irish Ministers.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse