The Framework of Home Rule
by Erskine Childers
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I. The Elements of the Problem 188-197

II. Federal or Colonial Home Rule 198-203

III. The Exclusion or Retention of Irish Members at Westminster 203-213

IV. Irish Powers and their Bearing on Exclusion 213-229


I. Before the Union 230-231

II. From the Union to the Financial Relations Commission of 1894-1896 232-239

III. The Financial Relations Commission of 1894-1896 239-257


I. Anglo-Irish Finance To-day 258-264

II. Irish Expenditure 264-274

III. Irish Revenue 274-279


I. The Essence of Home Rule 280-281

II. The Deficit 281-286

III. Further Contribution to Imperial Services 286

IV. Ireland's Share of the National Debt 286

V. Ireland's Share of Imperial Miscellaneous Revenue 287

VI. Irish Control of Customs and Excise 287-294

VII. Federal Finance 294-300

VIII. Alternative Schemes of Home Rule Finance 300-306


I. Land Purchase Loans 307-319

II. Minor Loans to Ireland 319-321



APPENDIX 342-347

INDEX 348-354


My purpose in this volume is to advocate a definite scheme of self-government for Ireland. That task necessarily involves an historical as well as a constructive argument. It would be truer, perhaps, to say that the greater part of the constructive case for Home Rule must necessarily be historical. To postulate a vague acceptance of the principle of Home Rule, and to proceed at once to the details of the Irish Constitution, would be a waste of time and labour. It is impossible even to attempt to plan the framework of a Home Rule Bill without a tolerably close knowledge not only of Anglo-Irish relations, but of the Imperial history of which they form a part. The Act will succeed exactly in so far as it gives effect to the lessons of experience. It will fail at every point where those lessons are neglected. Constitutions which do not faithfully reflect the experience of the sovereign power which accords them, and of the peoples which have to live under them, are at the best perilous experiments liable to defeat the end of their framers.

I shall enter into history only so far as it is relevant to the constitutional problem, using the comparative method, and confining myself almost exclusively to the British Empire past and present. For the purposes of the Irish controversy it is unnecessary to travel farther. In one degree or another every one of the vexed questions which make up the Irish problem has arisen again and again within the circle of the English-speaking races. As a nation we have a body of experience applicable to the case of Ireland incomparably greater than that possessed by any other race in the world. If, from timidity, prejudice, or sheer neglect, we fail to use it, we shall earn the heavy censure reserved for those who sin against the light.

For the comparative sketch I shall attempt, materials in the shape of facts established beyond all controversy are abundant. Colonial history, thanks to colonial freedom, is almost wholly free from the distorting influence of political passion. South African history alone will need revision in the light of recent events. When, under the alchemy of free national institutions, Ireland has undergone the same transformation as South Africa, her unhappy history will be chronicled afresh with a juster sense of perspective and a juster apportionment of responsibility for the calamities which have befallen her. And yet, if we consider the field for partisan bias which Irish history presents, the amount of ground common to writers of all shades of political opinion is now astonishingly large. The result, I think, is due mainly to the good influence of that eminent historian and Unionist politician, the late Professor Lecky. Indeed, an advocate of Home Rule, nervously suspicious of tainted material, could afford to rely solely on his "History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century," "Leaders of Public Opinion in Ireland," and "Clerical Influences,"[1] which are Nationalist textbooks, and, for quite recent events, on "A Consideration of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century," by Mr. G. Locker-Lampson, the present Unionist Member for Salisbury. A strange circumstance; but Ireland, like all countries where political development has been forcibly arrested from without, is a land of unending paradox. It is only one of innumerable anomalies that Irish Nationalists should use Unionist histories as propaganda for Nationalism; that the majority of Irish Unionists should insist on ignoring all historical traditions save those which in any normal country would long ago have been consigned by general consent to oblivion and the institutions they embody overthrown; and that Unionist writers such as those I have mentioned should be able to reconcile their history and their politics only by a pessimism with regard to the tendencies of human nature in general, or of Irish nature in particular, with which their own historical teaching, founded on a true perception of cause and effect, appears to be in direct contradiction.

The truth is that the question is one of the construction, not of the verification, of facts; of prophecy for the future, rather than of bare affirmation or negation. No one can presume to determine such a question without a knowledge of how human beings have been accustomed to act under similar circumstances. Illumination of that sort Irish history and the contemporary Irish problem incontestably need. The modern case for the Union rests mainly on the abnormality of Ireland, and that is precisely why it is such a formidable case to meet. For Ireland in many ways is painfully abnormal. The most cursory study of her institutions and social, economic, and political life demonstrate that fact. The Unionist, fixing his eyes on some of the secondary peculiarities, and ignoring their fundamental cause, demonstrates it with ease, and by a habit of mind which yields only with infinite slowness to the growth of political enlightenment, passes instinctively to the deduction that Irish abnormalities render Ireland unfit for self-government. In other words, he prescribes for the disease a persistent application of the very treatment which has engendered it. Whatever the result, there is a plausible answer. If Ireland is disorderly and retrograde, how can she deserve freedom? If she is peaceful, and shows symptoms of economic recuperation, clearly she does not need or even want it. In other words, if all that is healthy in the patient battles desperately and not in vain, first against irritant poison, and then against soporific drugs, this healthy struggle for self-preservation is attributed not to native vitality, but to the bracing regimen of coercive government.

This train of argument, so far from being confined to Ireland, is as old as the human race itself. Of all human passions, that for political domination is the last to yield to reason. Men are naturally inclined to attribute admitted social evils to every cause—religion, climate, race, congenital defects of character, the inscrutable decrees of Divine Providence—rather than to the form of political institutions; in other words, to the organic structure of the community, and to rest the security of an Empire on any other foundation than that of the liberty of its component parts. If, in one case, their own experience proves them wrong, they will go to the strangest lengths of perversity in misreading their own experience, and they will seek every imaginable pretext for distinguishing the case from its predecessor. Underlying all is a nervous terror of the abuse of freedom founded on the assumption that men will continue to act when free exactly as they acted under the demoralizing influence of coercion. The British Empire has grown, and continues to grow, in spite of this deeply rooted political doctrine. Ireland is peculiar only in that her proximity to the seat of power has exposed her for centuries to an application of the doctrine in its most extreme form and without any hope of escape through the merciful accidents to which more fortunate communities owe their emancipation. Canada owes her position in the Empire, and the Empire itself exists in its present form to-day, owing to the accident that the transcendantly important principle of responsible government advocated by Lord Durham as a remedy for the anarchy and stagnation in which he found both the British and the French Provinces of Canada in 1838, did not require Imperial legislation, and was established without the Parliamentary or electoral sanction of Great Britain. Lord Durham was derided as a visionary, and abused as unpatriotic for the assertion of this simple principle. Far in advance of his time as he was, he himself shrank from the full application of his own lofty ideal, and consequently made one great, though under the circumstances not a capital, mistake in his diagnosis, and it was to that mistake only that Parliament gave legislative effect in 1840. By one of the most melancholy ironies in all history Ireland was the source of his error, so that the Union of the Canadas, dissolved as a failure by the Canadians themselves in 1867, was actually based on the success of the Anglo-Irish Union in repressing a dangerous nationality. Did the proof of the error in Canada induce Englishmen to question the soundness of the precedent on which the error was based? On the contrary, the lesson passed unnoticed, and the Irish precedent has survived to darken thought, to retard democratic progress, and to pervert domestic and Imperial policy to this very day. It even had the truly extraordinary retrospective effect of obliterating from the minds of many eminent statesmen the significance of the Canadian parallel; for it is only six years ago that a Secretary of State for the Colonies penned a despatch recommending for the Transvaal a form of government similar to that which actually produced the Canadian disorders of 1837, and supporting it by an argument whose effect was not merely to resuscitate what time had proved to be false in Durham's doctrine, but to discard what time had proved to be true. As for Ireland herself, I know no more curious illustration of the strong tendency, even on the part of the most fair-minded men, to place that country outside the pale of social or political science, and of the extreme reluctance to judge its inhabitants by the elementary standards of human conduct, than the book to which I referred above—Mr. Locker-Lampson's "A Consideration of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century." For what he admits to be the ruinous results of British Government in the past, the author in the last few pages of a lengthy volume has no better cure to suggest than a continuance of British government, and he defends this course by a terse enumeration of the very phenomena which in Durham's opinion rendered the grant of Home Rule to Canada imperative, concluding with a paragraph which, with the substitution of "Canada" for "Ireland," constitutes an admirably condensed epitome of the arguments used both by politicians at home, and the minorities in Canada, in favour of Durham's error and against the truth he established.

Mr. Lecky represents a somewhat different school of thought, and reached his Unionism by reasoning more profound and consistent, but, on the other hand, wholly destructive of the Imperial theory as held by the modern school of Imperialists. His fear and distrust of democracy in all its forms and in all lands[2] was such that he naturally dreaded Irish Nationalism, which is a form of democratic revolt suppressed so long and by such harsh methods as to exhibit features easily open to criticism. But the gist of his argument would have applied just as well to the political evolution of the self-governing Colonies. Indeed, if he had lived to see the last Imperial Conference, the pessimism of so clear a thinker would assuredly have given way before the astounding contrast between those countries in which his political philosophy had been abjured, and the only white country in the Empire where by sheer force it had been maintained intact.

If my only object in writing were to contribute something toward the dissipation of the fears and doubts which render it so hard to carry any measure, however small, of Home Rule for Ireland, I should hope for little success. Practical men, with a practical decision to make, rarely look outside the immediate facts before them. Extremists, in a case like that of Ireland, are reluctant to take account of what Lord Morley calls "the fundamental probabilities of civil society." Sir Edward Carson would be more than human if he were to be influenced by a demonstration that the case he makes against Home Rule is the same as that made by the minority leaders, not only in the French, but in the British Province of Canada. Most of the minority to which he appeals would now regard as an ill-timed paradox the view that the very vigour of their opposition to Home Rule is a better omen for the success of Home Rule than that kind of sapless Nationalism, astonishingly rare in Ireland under the circumstances, which is inclined to yield to the insidious temptation of setting the "eleemosynary benefits"—to use Mr. Walter Long's phrase[3]—derived from the British connection above the need for self-help and self-reliance. The real paradox is that any Irishmen, Unionist or Nationalist, should tolerate advisers who, however sincere and patriotic, avowedly regard Ireland as the parasite of Great Britain; who appeal to the lower nature of her people; to the fears of one section and the cupidity of both; advising Unionists to rely on British power and all Irishmen on British alms. A day will come when the humiliation will be seen in its true light. Even now, I do venture to appeal to that small but powerful group of moderate Irish Unionists who, so far from fearing revenge or soliciting charity, spend their whole lives in the noble aim of uniting Irishmen of all creeds on a basis of common endeavour for their own economic and spiritual salvation; who find their work checked in a thousand ways by the perpetual maintenance of a seemingly barren and sentimental agitation; who distrust both the parties to this agitation; but who are reluctant to accept the view that, without the satisfaction of the national claim, and without the national responsibility thereby conferred, their own aims can never be fully attained. I should be happy indeed if I could do even a little towards persuading some of these men that they mistake cause and effect; misinterpret what they resent; misjudge where they distrust, and in standing aloof from the battle for legislative autonomy, unconsciously concede a point—disinterested, constructive optimists as they are—to the interested and destructive pessimism which, from Clare's savage insults to Mr. Walter Long's contemptuous patronage, has always lain at the root of British policy towards Ireland.

In the meantime, for those who like or dislike it, Home Rule is imminent. We are face to face no longer with a highly speculative, but with a vividly practical problem, raising legislative and administrative questions of enormous practical importance, and next year we shall be dealing with this problem in an atmosphere of genuine reality totally unlike that of 1886, when Home Rule was a startling novelty to the British electorate, or of 1893, when the shadow of impending defeat clouded debate and weakened counsel. It would be pleasant to think that the time which has elapsed, besides greatly mitigating anti-Irish prejudice, had been used for scientific study and dispassionate discussion of the problem of Home Rule. Unfortunately, after eighteen years the problem remains almost exactly where it was. There are no detailed proposals of an authoritative character in existence. No concrete scheme was submitted to the country in the recent elections. None is before the country now. The reason, of course, is that the Irish question is still an acute party question, not merely in Ireland, but in Great Britain. Party passion invariably discourages patient constructive thought, and all legislation associated with it suffers in consequence. Tactical considerations, sometimes altogether irrelevant to the special issue, have to be considered. In the case of Home Rule, when the balance of parties is positively determined by the Irish vote, the difficulty reaches its climax. It is idle to blame individuals. We should blame the Union. So long as one island democracy claims to determine the destinies of another island democracy, of whose special needs and circumstances it is admittedly ignorant, so long will both islands suffer.

This ignorance is not disputed. No Irish Unionist claims that Great Britain should govern Ireland on the ground that the British electorate, or even British statesmen, understand Irish questions. On the contrary, in Ireland, at any rate, their ignorance is a matter for satirical comment with all parties. What he complains of is, that the British electorate is beginning to carry its ignorance to the point of believing that the Irish electorate is competent to decide Irish questions, and in educating the British electorate he has hitherto devoted himself exclusively to the eradication of this error. The financial results of the Union are such that he is now being cajoled into adding, "It is your money, not your wisdom, that we want." Once more, an odd state of affairs, and some day we shall all marvel in retrospect that the Union was so long sustained by a separatist argument, reinforced in latter days by such an inconsistent and unconscionable claim.

In the meantime, if only the present situation can be turned to advantage, this crowning paradox is the most hopeful element in the whole of a tangled question. It is not only that the British elector is likely to revolt at once against the slur upon his intelligence and the drain upon his purse, but that Irish Unionism, once convinced of the tenacity and sincerity of that revolt, is likely to undergo a dramatic and beneficent transformation. If they are to have Home Rule, Irish Unionists—even those who now most heartily detest it—will want the best possible scheme of Home Rule, and the best possible scheme is not likely to be the half measure which, from no fault of the statesman responsible for it, tactical difficulties may make inevitable. If the vital energy now poured into sheer uncompromising opposition to the principles of Home Rule could be transmuted into intellectual and moral effort after the best form of Home Rule, I believe that the result would be a drastic scheme.

Compromise enters more or less into the settlement of all burning political questions. That is inevitable under the party system; but of all questions under the sun, Home Rule questions are the least susceptible of compromise so engendered. The subject, in reality, is not suitable for settlement at Westminster. This is a matter of experience, not of assertion. Within the present bounds of the Empire no lasting Constitution has ever been framed for a subordinate State to the moulding of which Parliament, in the character of a party assembly, contributed an active share. Constitutions which promote prosperity and loyalty have actually or virtually been framed by those who were to live under them. If circumstances make it impossible to adopt this course for Ireland, let us nevertheless remember that all the friction and enmity between the Mother Country and subordinate States have arisen, not from the absence, but from the inadequacy of self-governing powers. Checks and restrictions, so far from benefiting Great Britain or the Colonies, have damaged both in different degrees, the Colonies suffering most because these checks and restrictions produce in the country submitted to them peculiar mischiefs which exist neither under a despotic regime nor an unnatural Legislative Union, fruitful of evil as both those systems are. The damage is not evanescent, but is apt to bite deep into national character and to survive the abolition of the institutions which caused it. The Anglo-Irish Union was created and has ever since been justified by a systematic defamation of Irish character. If it is at length resolved to bury the slander and trust Ireland, in the name of justice and reason let the trust be complete and the institutions given her such as to permit full play to her best instincts and tendencies, not such as to deflect them into wrong paths. Let us be scrupulously careful to avoid mistakes which might lead to a fresh campaign of defamation like that waged against Canada, as well as Ireland, between 1830 and 1840.

The position, I take it, is that most Irish Unionists still count, rightly or wrongly, on defeating Home Rule, not only in the first Parliamentary battle, but by exciting public opinion during the long period of subsequent delay which the Parliament Bill permits. Not until Home Rule is a moral certainty, and perhaps not even then, do the extremists intend to consider the Irish Constitution in a practical spirit. Surely this is a perilous policy. Surely it must be so regarded by the moderate men—and there are many—who, if Home Rule comes, intend to throw their abilities into making it a success, and who will be indispensable to Ireland at a moment of supreme national importance. Irretrievable mistakes may be made by too long a gamble with the chances of political warfare. Whatever the scheme produced, the extremists will have to oppose it tooth and nail. If the measure is big, sound, and generous, it will be necessary to attack its best features with the greatest vigour; to rely on beating up vague, anti-separatist sentiment in Great Britain; to represent Irish Protestants as a timid race forced to shelter behind British bayonets; in short, to use all the arguments which, if Irish Unionists were compelled to frame a Constitution themselves, they would scorn to employ, and which, if grafted on the Act in the form of amendments, they themselves in after-years might bitterly regret. Conversely, if the measure is a limited one, it will be necessary to commend its worst features; to extol its eleemosynary side and all the infractions of liberty which in actual practice they would find intolerably irksome. Whatever happens, things will be said which are not meant, and passions aroused which will be difficult to allay on the eve of a crisis when Ireland will need the harmonious co-operation of all her ablest sons.

If, behind the calculation of a victory within the next two years, there lies the presentiment of an eventual defeat, let not the thought be encouraged that a better form of Home Rule is likely to come from a Tory than from a Liberal Government. Many Irish Unionists regard the prospect of continued submission to a Liberal, or what they consider a semi-Socialist, Government as the one consideration which would reconcile them to Home Rule. No one can complain of that. But they make a fatal mistake in denying Liberals credit for understanding questions of Home Rule better than Tories. That, again, is a matter of proved experience. Compare the abortive Transvaal Constitution of 1905 with the reality of 1906, and measure the probable consequences of the former by the actual results of the latter. Let them remember, too, that every year which passes aggravates the financial difficulties which imperil the future of Ireland.

The best hope of securing a final settlement of the Irish question in the immediate future lies in promoting open discussion on the details of the Home Rule scheme, and of drawing into that discussion all Irishmen and Englishmen who realize the profound importance of the issue. This book is offered as a small contribution to the controversy.

For help in writing it I am deeply indebted to many friends on both sides of the Irish Channel, in Ireland to officials and private persons, who have generously placed their experience at my disposal; while in England I owe particular thanks to the Committee of which I had the honour to be a member, which sat during the summer of this year under the chairmanship of Mr. Basil Williams, and which published the series of essays called "Home Rule Problems."



[1] The two latter works were written by Mr. Lecky in his Nationalist youth the first and greater work after he had become a Unionist. They form a connected whole, however, and are not inconsistent with one another.

[2] See "Democracy and Liberty."

[3] "Did the people of Ireland understand that the destruction of the Union, so lightly advocated by Lord Haldane, must result in the cessation of those largely eleemosynary benefits to which the progress of Ireland is due, her 'dissatisfaction' would be unmistakably directed towards her false advisers?"—Letter to the Belfast Telegraph, October 7, 1911, criticizing Lord Haldane's preface to "Home Rule Problems."


Since this book went to press the Treasury has issued a revised version of Return No. 220, 1911 [Revenue and Expenditure (England, Scotland, and Ireland)], cancelling the Return issued in July, and correcting an error made in it. It now appears that the "true" Excise revenue attributable to Ireland from spirits in 1910-11 (with deductions made by the Treasury from the sum actually collected in Ireland) should be L3,575,000, instead of L3,734,000, and that the total "true" Irish revenue in that year was, therefore, L11,506,500, instead of L11,665,500. In other words, Irish revenue for 1910-11 was over-estimated in the Return now cancelled by L159,000.

The error does not affect the Author's argument as expounded in Chapters XII. and XIII.; but it necessitates the correction of a number of figures given by him, especially in Chapter XII., the principal change being that the deficit in Irish revenue, as calculated on the mean of the two years 1909-10 and 1910-11, should actually be L1,392,000, instead of L1,312,500.

The full list of corrections is as follows:

Page 259, line 9, for "L1,312,500," read "L1,392,000."

Page 260, table, third column, line 6, for "L10,032,000," read "L9,952 500"; last line, for "L1,312,500," read "L1,392,000."

Page 261, table, last column, last line but one, for "L321,000," read "L162,000"; last line (total), for "L329,780,970," read "L329,621,970."

Page 262, line 7, for "L10,032,000," read "L9,952,500"; line 10, for "L1,312,500," read "L1,392,000."

Page 275. table, last column, line 2, for "L3,734,000," read "L3,575,000"; line 7, for "L10,371,000," read "L10,212,000"; line 14, for "L11,665,500," read, "L11,506,500"; in text, last line but one of page, for "L10,032,000," read "L9,952,500."

Page 276, line 5, for "L500,000," read, "L340,000"; table, last column, line 2, for "L3,316,000," read "L3,236,500"; line 3, for "L6,182,000," read "L6,102,500"; line 9, for "L8,737,500," read "L8,658,000"; last line, for "L10,032,000," read "L9,952,500."

Page 277, line 2, for "L1,672,500," read "L1,752,000"; line 7, for "L1,312,500," read "L1,392,000"; line 8, for "L10,032,000," read "L9,952,500"; line 12, for "L1,672,500," read "L1,752,000"; footnote, line 1, for "L1,793,000," read "L1,952,000."

Page 279, line 8, for "70.75," read "70.48."

Page 282, sixth line from bottom, for "L1,312,500," read "L1,392,000."

* * * * *

Page 246, line 8 and footnote, and page 295, lines 21-31: A temporary measure has been passed (Surplus Revenue Act, 1910), under which the Surplus Commonwealth Revenue is returned to the States on a basis of L1 5s. per head of the population of each State.

* * * * *

Page 288, line 2, omit "like the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands." These islands have distinct local tariffs, but they cannot be said to be wholly under local control.





Ireland was the oldest and the nearest of the Colonies. We are apt to forget that she was ever colonized, and that for a long period, although styled a Kingdom, she was kept in a position of commercial and political dependence inferior to that of any Colony. Constitutional theory still blinds a number of people to the fact that in actual practice Ireland is still governed in many respects as a Colony, but on principles which in all other white communities of the British Empire are extinct. Like all Colonies, she has a Governor or Lord-Lieutenant of her own, an Executive of her own, and a complete system of separate Government Departments, but her people, unlike the inhabitants of a self-governing Colony, exercise no control over the administration. She possesses no Legislature of her own, although in theory she is supposed to possess sufficient legislative control over Irish affairs through representation in the Imperial Parliament. In practice, however, this control has always been, and still remains, illusory, just as it would certainly have proved illusory if conferred upon any Colony. It can be exercised only by cumbrous, circuitous, and often profoundly unhealthy methods; and over a wide range of matters it cannot by any method whatsoever be exercised at all.

To look behind mere technicalities to the spirit of government, Ireland resembles one of that class of Crown Colonies of which Jamaica and Malta are examples, where the inhabitants exercise no control over administration, and only partial control over legislation.[4]

Why is this?

Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, always frank and fearless in his political judgments, gave the best answer in 1893, when opposing the first reading of the second of Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bills. "Does anybody doubt," he said, "that if Ireland were a thousand miles away from England she would not have been long before this a self-governing Colony?" Now this was not a barren geographical truism, which might by way of hypothesis be applied in identical terms to any fraction of the United Kingdom—say, for example, to that part of England lying south of the Thames. Mr. Chamberlain never made any attempt to deny—no one with the smallest knowledge of history could have denied—that Ireland, though only sixty miles away from England, was less like England than any of the self-governing Colonies then attached to the Crown, possessing distinct national characteristics which entitled her, in theory at any rate, to demand, not merely colonial, but national autonomy. On the contrary, Mr. Chamberlain went out of his way to argue, with all the force and fire of an accomplished debater, that the Bill was a highly dangerous measure precisely because, while granting Ireland a measure of autonomy, it denied her some of the elementary powers, not only of colonial, but of national States; for instance, the full control over taxation, which all self-governing Colonies possessed, and the control over foreign policy, which is a national attribute. The complementary step in his argument was that, although nominally withheld by statute, these fuller powers would be forcibly usurped by the future Irish Government through the leverage offered by a subordinate Legislature and Executive, and that, once grasped, they would be used to the injury of Great Britain and the minority in Ireland. Ireland ("a fearful danger") might arm, ally herself with France, and, while submitting the Protestant minority to cruel persecution, would retain enough national unity to smite Britain hip and thigh, and so avenge the wrong of ages.

Even to the most ardent Unionist the case thus presented must, in the year 1911, present a doubtful aspect. The British entente with France, and the absence of the smallest ascertainable sympathy between Ireland and Germany, he will dismiss, perhaps, as points of minor importance, but he will detect at once in the argument an antagonism, natural enough in 1893, between national and colonial attributes, and he will remember, with inner misgivings, that his own party has taken an especially active part during the last ten years in furthering the claim of the self-governing Colonies to the status of nationhood as an essential step in the furtherance of Imperial unity. The word "nation," therefore, as applied to Ireland, has lost some of its virtue as a deterrent to Home Rule. Even the word "Colony" is becoming harmless; for every year that has passed since 1893 has made it more abundantly clear that colonial freedom means colonial friendship; and, after all, friendship is more important than legal ties. In one remarkable case, that of the conquered Dutch Republic in South Africa, a flood of searching light has been thrown on the significance of those phrases "nation" and "Colony." There, as in Ireland, and originally in Canada, "national" included racial characteristics, and colonial autonomy signified national autonomy in a more accurate sense than in Australia or Newfoundland. But we know now that it does not signify either a racial tyranny within those nations, or a racial antipathy to the Mother Country; but, on the contrary, a reconciliation of races within and friendship without.

Would Mr. Chamberlain recast his argument now? Unhappily, we shall not know. But it does seem to me that recent history and his own temperament would force him to do so. As in his abandonment of Free Trade, it was a strong and sincere Imperialist instinct that eventually transformed him from the advocate of provincial Home Rule into the relentless enemy of Home Rule in any shape. Take the Imperial argument, shaken to its foundations by subsequent events, from the case he stated in 1893, and what remains? Two pleas only—first, the abnormality of Irishmen; second, Ireland's proximity to England. The first expresses the old traditional view that Ireland is outside the pale of all human analogy; the exception to all rules; her innate depravity and perversity such that she would abuse power where others respect it, derive enmity where others derive friendship, and willingly ruin herself by internal dissension and extravagant ambitions in order, if possible, at the same time to ruin England. Unconnected, however loosely, with the high Imperial argument, I do not believe that this plea could have been used with sincerity by Mr. Chamberlain even in 1893. He was a democrat, devoted to the cause of enfranchising and trusting the people; and this plea was, after all, only the same anti-democratic argument applied to Ireland, and tipped with racial venom, which had been used for generations by most Tories and many Whigs against any extension of popular power. Lord Randolph Churchill, the Tory democrat, in his dispassionate moments, always scouted it, resting his case against Home Rule on different grounds. It was strange enough to see the argument used by the Radical author of all the classic denunciations of class ascendancy and the classic eulogies of the sense, forbearance and generosity of free electorates. It was all the stranger in that Mr. Chamberlain himself a few years before had committed himself to a scheme of restricted self-government for Ireland, and in the debates on Mr. Gladstone's first Home Rule Bill of 1886, when the condition of Ireland was far worse than in 1893, had declared himself ready to give that country a Constitution similar to that enjoyed by Quebec or Ontario within the Dominion of Canada. But politics are politics. Under the inexorable laws of the party game, politicians are advocates and swell their indictments with every count which will bear the light. The system works well enough in every case but one—the indictment of a fellow-nation for incapacity to rule itself. There, both in Ireland and everywhere else, as I shall show, it works incalculable mischief. Once committed irrevocably to the opposition of Mr. Gladstone's Bills, Mr. Chamberlain, standing on Imperial ground, which seemed to him and his followers firm enough then, used his unrivalled debating powers to traduce and exasperate the Irish people and their leaders by every device in his power.

One other point survives in its integrity from the case made by Mr. Chamberlain in 1893, and that is the argument about distance. Clearly this is a quite distinct contention from the last; for distance from any given point does not by itself radically alter human nature. Australians are not twice as good or twice as bad as South Africans because they are twice as far from the Mother Country. "Does anybody doubt"—let me repeat his words—"that if Ireland were a thousand miles from England she would not have been long before this a self-governing Colony?" The whole tragedy of Ireland lies in that "if"; but the condition is, without doubt, still unsatisfied. Ireland is still only sixty miles away from the English shores, and the argument from proximity, for what it is worth, is still plausible. To a vast number of minds it still seems conclusive. Put the South African parallel to the average moderate Unionist, half disposed to admit the force of this analogy, he would nevertheless answer: "Ah, but Ireland is so near." Well, let us join issue on the two grounds I have indicated—the ground of Irish abnormality, and the ground of Ireland's proximity. It will be found, I think, that neither contention is tenable by itself; that a supporter of one unconsciously or consciously reinforces it by reference to the other, and that to refute one is to refute both. It will be found, too, that, apart from mechanical and unessential difficulties, the whole case against Home Rule is included and summed up in these two contentions, and that the mechanical problem itself will be greatly eased and illuminated by their refutation.


Those sixty miles of salt water which we know as the Irish Channel—if only every Englishman could realize their tremendous significance in Anglo-Irish history—what an ineffectual barrier "in the long result of time" to colonization and conquest; what an impassable barrier—through the ignorance and perversity of British statesmanship—to sympathy and racial fusion!

For eight hundred years after the Christian era her distance from Europe gave Ireland immunity from external shocks, and freedom to work out her own destiny. She never, for good or ill, underwent Roman occupation or Teutonic invasion. She was secure enough to construct and maintain unimpaired a civilization of her own, warlike, prosperous, and marvellously rich, for that age, in scholarship and culture. She produced heroic warriors, peaceful merchants, and gentle scholars and divines; poets, musicians, craftsmen, architects, theologians. She had a passion for diffusing knowledge, and for more than a thousand years sent her missionaries of piety, learning, art, and commerce, far and wide over Europe. For two hundred years she resisted her first foreign invaders, the Danes, with desperate tenacity, and seems to have absorbed into her own civilization and polity those who ultimately retained a footing on her eastern shores.

With the coming of the Anglo-Normans at the end of the twelfth century the dark shadow begins to fall, and for the first time the Irish Channel assumes its tragic significance. England, compounded of Britons, Teutons, Danes, Scandinavians, Normans, with the indelible impress of Rome upon the whole, had emerged, under Nature's mysterious alchemy, a strong State. Ireland had preserved her Gaelic purity, her tribal organization, her national culture, but at the cost of falling behind in the march of political and military organization. Sixty miles divided her from the nearest part of the outlying dominions of feudal England, 150 miles from the dynamic centre of English power. The degree of distance seems to have been calculated with fatal exactitude, in correspondence with the degrees of national vitality in the two countries respectively, to produce for ages to come the worst possible effects on both. The process was slow. Ireland was near enough to attract the Anglo-Norman adventurers and colonists, but strong enough and fair enough for three hundred years to transform them into patriots "more Irish than the Irish"; always, however, too near and too weak, even with their aid, to expel the direct representatives of English rule from the foothold they had obtained on her shores, while at the same time too far and too formidable to enable that rule to expand into the complete conquest and subjugation of the realm.

"The English rule," says Mr. Lecky, "as a living reality, was confined and concentrated within the limits of the Pale. The hostile power planted in the heart of the nation destroyed all possibility of central government, while it was itself incapable of fulfilling that function. Like a spear-point embedded in a living body, it inflamed all around it and deranged every vital function. It prevented the gradual reduction of the island by some native Clovis, which would necessarily have taken place if the Anglo-Normans had not arrived, and instead of that peaceful and almost silent amalgamation of races, customs, laws, and languages, which took place in England, and which is the source of many of the best elements in English life and character, the two nations remained in Ireland for centuries in hostility."

From this period dates that intense national antipathy felt by the English for the Irish race which has darkened all subsequent history. It was not originally a temperamental antipathy, or it would be impossible to explain the powerful attraction of Irish character, manners, and laws for the great bulk of the Anglo-Norman colonists. Nor within Ireland, even after the Reformation, was it a religious antipathy between a Protestant race and a race exclusively and immovably Catholic. It was in origin a political antipathy between a small official minority, backed by the support of a powerful Mother Country struggling for ascendancy over a large native and naturalized majority, divided itself by tribal feuds, but on the whole united in loathing and combating that ascendancy. Universal experience, as I shall afterwards show, proves that an enmity so engendered takes a more monstrous and degrading shape than any other. Religion becomes its pretext. Ignorance makes it easy, and interest makes it necessary, to represent the native race as savages outside the pale of law and morals, against whom any violence and treachery is justifiable. The legend grows and becomes a permanent political axiom, distorting and abasing the character of those who act on it and those who, suffering from it, and retaliating against its consequences, construct their counter-legend of the inherent wickedness of the dominant race. If left to themselves, white races, of diverse nationalities, thrown together in one country, eventually coalesce, or at least learn to live together peaceably. But if an external power too remote to feel genuine responsibility for the welfare of the inhabitants, while near enough to exert its military power on them, takes sides in favour of the minority, and employs them as its permanent and privileged garrison, the results are fatal to the peace and prosperity of the country it seeks to dominate, and exceedingly harmful, though in a degree less easy to gauge, to itself. So it was with Ireland; and yet it cannot fail to strike any student of history what an extraordinary resilience she showed again and again under any transient phase of wise and tolerant government.

Such a phase occurred in the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII., when, after the defeat of the Geraldines, for the first time some semblance of royal authority was established over the whole realm; and when an effort was also made, not through theft or violence, but by conciliatory statecraft, to replace the native Brehon system of law and land tenure by English institutions, and to anglicize the Irish chiefs. The process stopped abruptly and for ever with the accession of Mary, to be replaced by the forcible confiscation of Irish land, and the "planting" of English and Scotch settlers.

Ireland, for four hundred years the only British Colony, is now drawn into the mighty stream of British colonial expansion. Adventurous and ambitious Englishmen began to regard her fertile acres as Raleigh regarded America, and, in point of time, the systematic and State-aided colonization of Ireland is approximately contemporaneous with that of America. It is true that until the first years of the sixteenth century no permanent British settlement had been made in America, while in Ireland the plantation of King's and Queen's Counties was begun as early as 1556, and under Elizabeth further vast confiscations were carried out in Munster within the same century. But from the reign of James I. onward, the two processes advance pari passu. Virginia, first founded by Raleigh in 1585, is firmly settled in 1607, just before the confiscation of Ulster and its plantation by 30,000 Scots; and in 1620, just after that huge measure of expropriation, the Pilgrim Fathers landed in New Plymouth. Puritan Massachusetts—with its offshoots, Connecticut, New Haven and Rhode Island—as well as Catholic Maryland, were formally established between 1629 and 1638, and Maine in 1639, at a period when the politically inspired proscription of the Catholic religion, succeeding the robbery of the soil, was goading the unhappy Irish to the rebellion of 1641. While that rebellion, with its fierce excesses and pitiless reprisals, was convulsing Ireland, the united Colonies of New England banded themselves together for mutual defence.

A few years later Cromwell, aiming, through massacre and rapine, at the extermination of the Irish race, with the savage watchword "To Hell or Connaught," planted Ulster, Munster, and Leinster with men of the same stock, stamp, and ideas as the colonists of New England, and in the first years of the Restoration Charles II. confirmed these confiscations, at the same time that he granted Carolina to Lord Clarendon, New Netherlands to the Duke of York, and New Jersey to Lord Berkeley, and issued fresh Charters for Connecticut and Maryland. Finally, Quaker Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1682, and in 1691 William III., after the hopeless Jacobite insurrections in favour of the last of the Stuarts, wrung the last million acres of good Irish land from the old Catholic proprietors, planted them with Protestant Englishmen, and completed the colonization of Ireland. Forty years passed (1733) before Georgia, the last of the "Old Thirteen Colonies," was planted, as Ulster had been planted, mainly by Scotch Presbyterians.

During the greater part of this period we must remember that conquered Ireland herself was contributing to the colonization of America. Every successive act of spoliation drove Catholic Irishmen across the Atlantic as well as into Europe, and gave every Colony an infusion of Irish blood. Until the beginning of the eighteenth century this class of emigration was for the most part involuntary. Cromwell, for example, shipped off thousands of families indiscriminately to the West Indies and America for sale, as "servants" to the colonists. The only organized and voluntary expedition in which Irish Catholics took part was that to Maryland under Lord Baltimore. The distinction in course of time became immaterial. In the free American air English, Scotch, and Irish became one people, with a common political and social tradition.

It is interesting, and for a proper understanding of the Irish question, indispensable, briefly to contrast the characteristics and progress of the American and Irish settlements, and in doing so to observe the profound effects of geographical position and political institutions on human character. I shall afterwards ask the reader to include in the comparison the later British Colonies formed in Canada and South Africa by conquest, and in Australia by peaceful settlement.

Let us note, first, that both in America and Ireland the Colonies were bi-racial, with this all-important distinction, that in America the native race was coloured, savage, heathen, nomadic, incapable of fusion with the whites, and, in relation to the almost illimitable territory colonized, not numerous; while in Ireland the native race was white, civilized, Christian, numerous, and confined within the limits of a small island to which it was passionately attached by treasured national traditions, and whose soil it cultivated under an ancient and revered system of tribal tenure. The parallel, then, in this respect, is slight, and becomes insignificant, except in regard to the similarity of the mental attitude of the colonists towards Indians and Irish respectively. In natural humanity the colonists of Ireland and the colonists of America differed in no appreciable degree. They were the same men, with the same inherent virtues and defects, acting according to the pressure of environment. Danger, in proportionate degree, made both classes brutal and perfidious; but in America, though there were moments of sharp crisis, as in 1675 on the borders of Massachusetts, the degree was comparatively small, and through the defeat and extrusion of the Indians diminished steadily. In Ireland, because complete expulsion and extermination were impossible, the degree was originally great, and, long after it had actually disappeared, haunted the imagination and distorted the policy of the invading nation.

In America there was no land question. Freeholds were plentiful for the meanest settlers and the title was sound and indisputable. In the "proprietary" Colonies, it is true, vast tracts of country were originally vested by royal grants in a single nobleman or a group of capitalists, just as vast estates were granted in Ireland to peers, London companies, and syndicates of "undertakers"; but by the nature of things, the extent of territory, its distance, and the absence of a white subject race, no agrarian harm resulted in America, and a healthy system of tenure, almost exclusively freehold, was naturally evolved.

In Ireland the land question was the whole question from the first. If the natives had been exterminated, or their remnants wholly confined, as Cromwell planned, to the barren lands of Connaught, all might have been well for the conquerors. Or if Ireland had been, in Mr. Chamberlain's phrase, a thousand miles away, all might have come right under the compulsion of circumstances and the healing influence of time. That the Celtic race still possessed its strong powers of assimilation was shown by the almost complete denationalization and absorption of a large number of Cromwell's soldier-colonists in the south and south-east under what Mr. Lecky calls the "invincible Catholicism" of the Irish women. But the Irish were not only numerous, but fatally near the seat of Empire. The natives—Irish or Anglo-Irish—were still more than twice as numerous as the colonists; they were scattered over the whole country, barren or fertile, and that country was within a day's sail of England. The titles of the colonists to the land rested on sheer violence, sometimes aggravated by the grossest meanness and treachery, and these titles were not recognized by the plundered race. Even with their gradual recognition it would have been difficult to introduce the English system of tenure, which was radically different and repellent to the Irish mind. The bare idea of one man absolutely owning land and transmitting it entire to his heirs was incomprehensible to them.

The solution for all these difficulties was unfortunately only too easy and obvious. England was near, strong, and thoroughly imbued with the policy of governing Ireland on the principle of antagonizing the races within her. It was possible, therefore, by English help, under laws made in England, to constitute the Irish outlaws from the land, labourers on it, no doubt, that was an economic necessity, precarious occupiers of plots just sufficient to support life; but, in the eyes of the law, serfs. The planters of the southern American Colonies imported African negroes for the same purpose, with irretrievably mischievous results to their own descendants. Nor is it an exaggeration to compare the use made of the Irish for a certain period to the use made of these negroes, for great numbers of the Irish were actually exported as slaves to Barbadoes, Jamaica, and even to Carolina.

The outlawed multitude in Ireland were deprived, not only of all rights to the land, but, as a corollary, of all social privileges whatsoever. "The law," said an Irish Lord Chancellor, "does not suppose any such person to exist as an Irish Roman Catholic." The instrument of ostracism was the famous Penal Code, begun in William's reign in direct and immediate defiance of a solemn pledge given in the Treaty of Limerick, guaranteeing liberty of conscience to the Catholics, and perfected in the reign of Anne. This Code, ostensibly framed to extirpate Catholicism, was primarily designed to confirm and perpetuate the gigantic dislocation of property caused by the transference of Irish and Anglo-Irish land into English and Scotch ownership. Since the rightful owners were Catholic, and the wrongful owners Protestants, the laws against the Catholic religion—a religion feared everywhere by Englishmen at this period—were the simplest means of legalizing and buttressing the new regime. I shall not linger over the details of the Code. Burke's description of it remains classic and unquestioned: "A complete system full of coherence and consistency, well digested and composed in all its parts ... a machine of wise and elaborate contrivance; and as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement in them of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man."

The aim was to reduce the Catholics to poverty, ignorance, and impotence, and the aim was successful. Of the laws against priests, worship, education, and of the bars to commerce and the professions, I need not speak. In the matter of property, the fundamental enactments concerned the land, namely, that no Catholic could own land, or lease it for more than thirty years, and even then on conditions which made profitable tenure practically impossible. This law created and sustained the serfdom I have described, and is the direct cause of the modern land problem. It remained unaltered in the smallest respect for seventy years, that is, until 1761, when a Catholic was permitted to lease for sixty-one years as much as fifty acres of bog not less than four feet deep. Long before this the distribution of landed property and the system of land tenure had become stereotyped.

This system of tenure was one of the worst that ever existed on the face of the globe. It has been matched in portions of India, but nowhere else in this Empire save in little Prince Edward Island, where we shall meet with it again. In Ireland, where it assumed its worst form, violent conquest by a neighbouring power not only made it politic to outlaw the old owners, but precluded the introduction of the traditional English tenures, even into the relations between the British superior landlord and the British occupying colonist. The bulk of the confiscated Irish land, as I have mentioned, had been granted in fee to English noblemen, gentlemen, or speculators, who planted it with middle or lower-class tenants. A number of Cromwell's private soldiers settled in Leinster and Munster, and, holding small farms in fee, formed an exception to this rule. But the greater part of Ireland, in ownership, as distinguished from occupation, consisted of big estates, and a large number of the English owners, being only a day's sail from England, became, by natural instinct, habitual absentees. Others lived in Dublin and neglected their estates. Absenteeism, non-existent in America, assumed in Ireland the proportions of an enormous economic evil. In England the landlord was, and remains, a capitalist, providing a house and a fully equipped farm to the tenant. In Ireland he was a rent receiver pure and simple, unconnected with the occupier by any healthy bond, moral or economic. The rent-receiving absentee involved a resident middleman, who contracted to pay a stipulated rent to the absentee, and had to extract that rent, plus a profit for himself, out of the occupiers, whether Catholic serfs, Protestant tenants, or both, and usually did so by subdivision of holdings and disproportionate elevation of rents. Over three of the four Provinces of Ireland—for a small part of Ulster was differently situated—the middleman himself frequently became an absentee and farmed his agency to another middleman, who by further subdivisions and extortions made an additional private profit, and who, in his turn, would create a subsidiary agency, until the land in many cases was "subset six deep."[5] The ultimate occupier and sole creator of agricultural wealth lived perpetually on the verge of starvation, beggared not only by extortionate rents, partly worked out in virtually forced labour, but by extortionate tithes paid to the alien Anglican Church, in addition to the scanty dues willingly contributed to the hunted priests of his own prescribed religion. His resident upper class—though we must allow for many honourable exceptions—was the Squirearchy, satirized by Arthur Young as petty despots with the vices of despots; idle, tyrannical, profligate, boorish, fit founders of the worst social system the modern civilized world has ever known. The slave-owning planters of Carolina were by no means devoid of similar faults, which are the invariable products of arbitrary control over human beings, but there the physiological gulf between the dominant and subject race was too broad and deep to permit of substantial deterioration in the former. In Ireland the ethnological difference was small; the artificial cleavage and deterioration great in inverse proportion.

For the greater part of a century, in every part of Ireland, tenancies of land, whether held by Catholic or Protestant, by lease or at will, were alike in certain fundamental characteristics. The tenant had neither security of tenure nor right to the value of the improvements which were invariably made by his own capital and labour. Even a leaseholder, when his lease expired, had no prescriptive claim to renewal, but must take his chance at a rent-auction with strangers, the farm going to the highest bidder. If he lost, he was homeless and penniless, while the fruits of his labour and capital passed into other hands. The miserable Catholic cottier was, of course, in a similar case, though relatively his hardship was less, since his condition, being the lowest possible in all circumstances, could scarcely be worse. Obviously, in a case where the landlord was neither the capitalist nor the protector and friend of the tenant, the possession of those elementary rights, security of tenure and compensation for improvements, was the condition precedent to the growth of a sound agrarian system. Their denial was incompatible with social order. Yet they were denied, and for one hundred and eighty years an intermittent struggle to obtain them by violence and criminal conspiracy degraded and retarded Ireland.

But a marked distinction grew up between a small portion of Ireland and the rest. James I.'s plantation of Ulster had been far more drastic and thorough than any operation of the kind before or since. Later immigrants had flowed in, and at the beginning of the eighteenth century in the north-eastern portion—the predominantly Protestant Ulster of to-day—Scotch Protestant tenants, mainly Presbyterian, were thickly settled, and formed an industrious community of strong and tenacious temper. In the original leases granted by the concessionaires in the seventeenth century, fixity of tenure was implied, and a nominal rent levied, somewhat after the American model; but under the example of other Provinces, and the economic pressure exerted by the growth in the Catholic population, these privileges seem to have been almost wholly obliterated. The absentee landlords, reckless of social welfare, exacted the rack or competitive rent. As in the south and west, tithes to the Established Church and oppressive and corrupt local taxation for roads and other purposes, aggravated the discontent. For agrarian reasons only—and there were others which I shall mention—many thousands of Protestants left Ireland for ever. It required a long period of outrage and conspiracy, attaining in 1770 the proportions of a small civil war, and at the end of the century, by the anti-Catholic passions it inspired, wrecking new hopes of racial unity, to establish what came to be known as the Ulster Custom of Tenant Right. If Protestant freemen had to resort to these demoralizing methods to obtain, and then only after irreparable damage to Ireland, the first condition of social stability, a tolerable land system, the effect of the agrarian system on Catholic Ireland, prostrate under the Penal Code, may be easily imagined.

In addition to excessive subdivision of holdings and excessive tithes, rents, and local burdens, another agrarian evil, unknown in the vast and thinly populated tracts of America intensified the misery of the Irish peasantry of the eighteenth century. This was the conversion of the best land from tillage into pasture, with the resulting clearances and migrations, and the ultimate congestion on the worst land. Lecky quotes a contemporary pamphlet, which speaks of the "best arable land in the kingdom in immense tracts wantonly enjoyed by the cattle of a few individuals, and at the same time the junctions of our highways and streets crowded with shoals of mendicant fellow-creatures." This change from arable to pasture has been a common and often in the long run a healthy, economic tendency in many countries, England and Scotland included, though temporarily a fruitful source of misery. Under normal conditions the immediate evils right themselves in course of time. Nothing was normal in Ireland, and any breath of economic change in the outside world reacted cruelly on the wretched subject class, which produced, though it did not enjoy, the greater part of the wealth of the kingdom. Under an accumulation of hardships famine was periodic, and from 1760, when the first Whiteboys appeared, disorder in one degree or another was chronic. The motive, it is universally agreed now, was material, not religious. The Whiteboys of the south and west were the counterparts of the Protestant Steelboys and Oakboys of the north, and even in the south and west there were Protestant as well as Catholic Whiteboys. Lord Charlemont, the Protestant Irish statesman, denying this now well-ascertained fact, was nevertheless explicit enough about the cause of the disorders. "The real causes," he said, "were ... exorbitant rents, low wages, want of employment, farms of enormous extent let by their rapacious and indolent proprietors to monopolizing land-jobbers, by whom small portions of them were again let and relet to intermediate oppressors, and by them subdivided for five times their value among the wretched starvers upon potatoes and water; taxes yearly increasing, and still more tithes, which the Catholic, without any possible benefit, unwillingly pays in addition to his priest's money ... misery, oppression, and famine."[6]

Agrarian crime, operating through an endless succession of secret societies, Whiteboys and Rightboys in the eighteenth century; Terry Alts, Rockites, Caravats, Ribbonmen, Moonlighters, in the nineteenth, was rampant for nearly two centuries, long surviving the repeal of the Penal Code; and its last echoes may be heard at this moment. In the absence of all wholesome law, violence and terror were the only means of self-defence. The remedy applied was retaliatory violence under forms of law. Nothing whatsoever was done to remove the essential vices of agrarian tenure during the eighteenth century; nothing tentative even during the nineteenth century until the year 1870; nothing effective and permanent until 1881, when, as far as humanly possible, it was sought to give direct statutory expression to the Ulster Custom, with the addition of the principle of a fair judicial rent. Englishmen should realize this when they discuss Irish character. It is a very old story, but nine out of ten Englishmen, when talking vaguely of Irish discontent, disloyalty, and turbulence, forget, or have never learnt, this and other fundamental facts. As for the Irish landlords, we must remember that the founders of that class differed in no respect from other English landlords, or from the aristocratic American concessionaires, just as their compatriot tenants and lessees were identical in stock with the American colonists. Their descendants and successors have been the victims of circumstance. Each generation has inherited the vested interests of the last, and it is not in human nature to look far behind vested interests into the wrongful acts which created them and the bad laws that perpetuate them. Doubly victimized have been those resident landlords who at all periods, from the earliest era of colonization, in spite of temptation and bad examples around them, have acted towards their tenantry as humane and patriotic citizens. A bad agrarian system infects the whole body politic. Good landlords and contented tenants inevitably suffered with the rest.

In commerce and industry, as in land, the Irish Colony stood at a heavy disadvantage by comparison with America. From the Restoration onward, English statesmen took the same view of both dependencies, namely, that their commercial interests should be wholly subordinate to those of the Mother Country, and the same Department, the Board of Trade and Plantations, made the fiscal regulations for Ireland and America. The old idea that for trade purposes Ireland counted as an integral part of the United Kingdom did not last longer than 1663. But it was not wholly abrogated by the great Navigation Act of that year, which, though it placed harsh restrictions on the Irish cattle trade with England, did not expressly exclude Irish ships from the monopoly of the colonial trade conferred upon English vessels, so that for seven years longer a tolerably prosperous business was carried on direct between Ireland and the American Colonies.[7] An Act of 1670, prohibiting, with a few negligible exceptions, all direct imports from the Colonies into Ireland, gave a heavy check to this business, arrested the growth of Irish shipping, and, in conjunction with subsequent measures of navigational, fiscal, and industrial repression, converted Ireland for a century into a kind of trade helot. She was treated either as a foreign country, as a Colony, or as something inferior to either, according to the dictation of English interests, while possessing neither the commercial independence of a foreign country nor the natural and indefeasible immunity which distance, climate, variety of soil, and unlimited room for expansion continued to confer, in spite of all coercive restraints, upon the American Colonies. Though the British trade monopoly was certainly a contributory cause in promoting the American revolution, it was never, any more than the British claim to tax, a severe practical grievance. The prohibition of the export of manufactures, and the compulsory reciprocal exchange of colonial natural products for British manufactured goods and the chartered merchandise of the Orient, were not very onerous restrictions for young communities settled in virgin soil; nor, with a few exceptions like raw wool, whose export was forbidden, were the American natural products of a kind which could compete with those of the Mother Country. The real damage inflicted upon the Colonies by the mercantile system—one which its modern defenders are apt to forget—was moral. To practise and condone smuggling was habitual in America, and some of the English Governors set the worst example of all by making a profit out of connivance at the illicit traffic. "Graft" was their creation. The moral mischief done was permanent, and it resembled in a lesser degree the mischief done in Ireland both by bad agrarian and bad commercial laws. Ireland, owing to her proximity, was in the unhappy position of being a competitor in the great staples of trade, both raw and manufactured, and she was near enough and weak enough to render it easy to stamp out this competition so far as it was thought to be inimical to English interests. The cattle and provision trade with England had been damaged as far back as 1663, and was killed in 1666, though the export of provisions to foreign countries survived, and became almost the sole source of Irish trade during the eighteenth century. The policy with raw wool was to admit just as much as would satisfy the English weavers without arousing the determined opposition of the competitive English graziers. The Irish manufactured wool trade, a flourishing business, for which Irishmen showed exceptionally high aptitude, and which in the normal course of things would probably have become her staple industry, was destroyed altogether, avowedly in the interests of the English staple industry, by prohibitory export duties imposed in 1698. Subsidiary industries—cotton, glass, brewing, sugar-refining, sail-cloth, hempen rope, and salt—were successively strangled. One manufacture alone, that of linen, centred in the Protestant North, was spared, and for a short period was even encouraged, not because it was a Protestant industry, but because at first it aroused no trade jealousy in England, and was in some respects serviceable to her. In 1708, when it was proposed to extend the industry to Leinster, considerations of foreign trade provoked an outburst of hostility, and harassing restrictions were imposed on this industry also. On the whole, however, it suffered less than the rest, and lived to become one of the two important manufacturing industries of present-day Ireland.

English policy was as fatuous as it was cruel. Numbers of the Irish manufacturers and artisans, both Catholic and Protestant, emigrated to Europe, and devoted their skill and energy to strengthening industries which competed with those of England. Within Ireland, since industry and commerce formed the one outlet left by the Penal Code for Catholic brains and capital—though even here the Code imposed harassing disabilities—the commercial restrictions completed the ruin of the proscribed sect. But at this period the main source of weakness to Ireland, of strength to America, and of danger to the Empire as a whole, was the Protestant emigration. Lecky estimates that 12,000 Protestant families in Dublin and 30,000 in the rest of the country were ruined by the suppression of the wool trade. The great majority of these Protestants were Presbyterians belonging to North-East Ulster, and descendants of the men who had defended that Province with such desperate gallantry against the Irish insurgents under the deposed James II. Political power in Ireland was wielded in the interests of a small territorial and Episcopalian aristocracy, largely absentee. The Dissenters belonged to the middle and lower classes, and were for the most part tenants or artisans. Creed and caste antipathies were combined against them. Their value as citizens was ignored. Though their right to worship was legally recognized by an Act of 1719, they remained from 1704 to 1778 subject to the Test, were incapacitated for all public employment, and were forbidden to open schools. Under an accumulation of agrarian, economic, and religious disabilities, they naturally left Ireland to find freedom in America. And it is beyond question that they turned the scale against the British arms in the great War of Independence.


[4] Class C. in Sir William Anson's classification, "Law and Custom of the Constitution," p. 253.

[5] J. Fisher, "End of the Irish Parliament" cited.

[6] MS. Autobiography cited by Lecky, vol. ii., p. 35.

[7] The best modern account of the commercial relations of Great Britain Mid Ireland is Miss Murray's "Commercial Relations between England and Ireland."



In the Old World and in the New, therefore, two societies, composed of human beings similar in all essential respects, were growing up under the protection of the British Crown; the one servile, the other free; the one stagnant where it was not retrograde, the other prosperous, progressive, and, by the magnetism of its own freedom, progress, and prosperity, steadily draining its Irish fellow of talent, energy, and industrial skill.

What was the ultimate cause of this glaring divergency? Religion, as a spiritual force, was not the root cause. The American Colonies, with three exceptions—the earliest Virginia, the latest Georgia, and the Catholic community of Maryland—were formed by Dissenters,[8] exiles themselves from persecution, but not necessarily forbearing to others, and, in the case of the New England Puritans, bitterly intolerant. It is interesting to observe that the Quakers and the Catholics, men standing at the opposite poles of theology, set the highest example of tolerance. Quaker Pennsylvania enforced absolute liberty of conscience, and Quakers in all the Provinces worked for religious harmony and freedom. Catholic Maryland, as long as its government remained in Catholic hands, and under the guidance of the wise and liberal Proprietary, Lord Baltimore, pursued the same policy, and attracted members of sects persecuted in New England.[9] The parallel with Ireland is significant. At the end of the seventeenth century, when a quarrel was raging between the Crown and Massachusetts over the persecution of Quakers in that Colony, and for a further period in the eighteenth century, Quaker missionaries and settlers were conducting a campaign of revivalism in Ireland with no molestation from the Catholics, though with intermittent obstruction from magistrates and Protestant clergy. Wesleyans received the same sympathetic treatment.[10] The tolerance shown by Irish Catholics, in spite of terrible provocation, is acknowledged by all reputable historians. Nor was Protestant intolerance, whether Anglican or Nonconformist, of a deeper dogmatic shade than anywhere else in the King's dominions. But in Ireland it was political, economic, and social, while in America it was purely theological, and, moreover, purely American. The Episcopalian ascendancy in Ireland represented foreign interests, and therefore struck against Dissent as well as against Popery, and estranged both. The root of the American trouble, leading to the separation of the Colonies, was political and wholly unconnected with religion. The root of the Irish trouble, adventitiously connected with religion, lay, and lies still, in the Irish political system. Other evils were transient and curable; this was permanent. The Penal Code was eventually relaxed; the disabilities of the Dissenters were eventually removed; the commercial servitude was abolished, but the political system in essentials has never been changed. Let us see what it was and how it worked at the period we are considering, again by comparison with America.

Though the word "plantation" was applied alike to the colonization of Ireland and America, Ireland was never called a Colony, but a Kingdom. The distinction was not scientific, and operated, like all other distinctions, to the injury of Ireland. Neither country was represented in the British Parliament. In both countries the representatives of the Crown were appointed by England, and controlled, in America almost completely, in Ireland absolutely, the Executive and Judges. In Ireland the Viceroy was always an Englishman; in America, the Governors of a few of the non-proprietary Colonies were colonials, but most Governors were English, and some of the proprietary class were absentees.[11] In the case both of Ireland and America the English Government claimed a superior right of control over legislation and taxation, and in both cases it was found necessary to remove all doubts as to this right by passing Declaratory Acts, for Ireland in 1719, for America in 1766. The great difference lay in the Legislature, and was the result of different degrees of remoteness from the seat of power. America was profoundly democratic from the beginning, outpacing the Mother Country by fully two centuries. There was no aristocracy, and in most Colonies little distinction between upper and middle classes. The popular Assemblies, elected on the broadest possible franchise, were truly representative. Some of the Legislative Councils, or Upper Chambers, were elective also. Most of them, although nominated, and therefore inclined to be hostile to the popular body, were nevertheless of identical social composition; so that there was often an official, but never a caste, ascendancy. From very early times there was occasional friction between the Home Government, represented by the Governors, and the colonial democracies, over such matters as taxation, official salaries, quartering of troops, and navigation laws. Writs of quo warranto were issued against Connecticut, Carolina, New York, and Maryland, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and the Charter of Massachusetts, after long wrangles with the Crown, was forfeited in 1684, and not restored until 1692, after a period of despotic government under Sir Edmund Andros. But for a century or more the system worked well enough upon the whole. Under the powerful lever of the representative Assembly, neutralized by the ever-present need for military protection from the Mother Country, and with the wholesome check to undue coercion set by the broad Atlantic, civic freedom grew and flourished to a degree unknown in any other part of the civilized world.

In Ireland civic freedom was unknown. There was no popular Assembly. A wealthy aristocracy of English extraction and of Anglican faith, partly resident, partly absentee, and wholly subservient to the English Government, constituted the Upper House of that strange institution known as Parliament, and to a great extent nominated and controlled the Lower House through means frankly corrupt. Representation was almost nominal; close pocket-boroughs predominated, and seats were bought and sold in the open market. In the year 1790 more than a third of the Members of the House of Commons were placemen, 216 Members out of 300 were elected by boroughs and manors, and, of these, 176 were elected by individual patrons. Fifty-three of these patrons, nominating 123 Members, sat as Peers in the Upper House. Cash, places, and peerages, were the usual considerations paid for maintaining a Government majority. The Catholics, from three-quarters to five-sixths of the population, had neither votes nor members; the Dissenters scarcely any members and an almost powerless vote. The Irish Legislature, by an Act as old as 1495, the famous Poynings' Law, could neither initiate nor pass a measure without the consent of the English Privy Council, and the Declaratory Act of 1719 confirmed the power of making English Acts applicable to Ireland. Government in England itself was, no doubt, unrepresentative and corrupt at that period, and the people paid the penalty in full; but it was a national government, under the aegis of the national faith, and resting, however remotely, on the ultimate sanction of the people, just as American opinion, more democratically ascertained, continued to control the major part of American affairs. In Ireland the Government was systematically anti-Irish. There was no career for Irishmen in Ireland. Both Catholics and Dissenters were excluded from all civil and military offices; the highest posts were generally given to Englishmen born and bred, and the country, Episcopalian only to a fractional extent, was ruled by a narrow Episcopalian oligarchy of wealthy landowners and prelates, who bartered Irish freedom for the place and power of their own families and dependents. The conditions of this sordid exchange were the ground of the first important Anglo-Irish political struggle in the eighteenth century, when the English Viceroy, Townshend, succeeded in 1770-71, at the cost of half a million, in transferring the bribing power, and therefore the controlling power, from the "Undertakers," as they were known, direct to the Crown.

There seems to have been no continuous English policy beyond that of making Ireland completely subservient to English interests and purposes, and often to purposes of the most humiliating and degrading kind. The Irish Pension List has earned immortal infamy. Jobs too scandalous to pass muster in England were systematically foisted upon the Irish establishment. Royal mistresses, a host of needy Germans, a Danish Queen banished for adultery, lived in England or abroad upon incomes drawn from the impoverished Irish Exchequer. Nor was it only a question of pensions. Quantities of valuable sinecure offices were habitually given to Englishmen who never came near the shores of Ireland. In short, the English policy towards Ireland was similar to Spain's policy towards her South American Colonies, minus the grosser forms of physical cruelty and oppression. Yet Ireland, like the American Colonies until the verge of the revolutionary struggle, was consistently loyal to the Crown both in peace and war. The loyalty of Catholic Ireland, poverty-stricken, inarticulate, almost leaderless, and shamefully misgoverned, does not, from the human standpoint, appear worthy of admiration, but it was a fact. The few Catholic noblemen outdid the Protestants in expressions of devotion; the Whiteboy risings were as little disloyal as religious. Not a hand stirred for James or his heirs when Jacobite plots and risings were causing grave public danger in England and Scotland. Catholic Lord Trimleston offered exclusively Catholic regiments with Catholic officers to George III. for foreign service in 1762, though they were vetoed by what his Viceroy Halifax called the "ill-bred bigotry" of the Irish Parliament. Nor was it till thirty years after that date that Protestant discontent, under intolerable provocation, assumed an anti-dynastic and Republican form. To compare the Imperial spirit displayed by America and Ireland in their views and action is difficult, partly because the various American Colonies differed widely, partly because there existed in Ireland no organ of government which could express popular feeling. Neither country, of course, paid any cash contribution to Imperial expenses, though both could fairly claim that the English monopoly of trade imposed an indirect tribute of indefinite size, while Ireland, in pensions, rents to absentees, and sinecure appointments, was drained of many millions more. American patronage was an element of substantial value to England, but it was not on the Irish scale. America on the whole, perhaps, showed less patriotic feeling than Ireland. With full allowance for the lack of sympathy and understanding shown by the British regulars to the American volunteers in their co-operation in the French wars, it can scarcely be denied that the colonists, together with much heroism and public spirit, showed occasional slackness and parsimony in resisting the penetration of a foreign Power which threatened to hem in their settlements from the St. Lawrence to the mouth of the Mississippi. Ireland during the Seven Years' War, and until the Peace of Paris in 1763, maintained a war establishment of 24,000 troops. She maintained a peace establishment of 12,000 troops, and from 1767 onwards of 15,000 troops. There never seems to have been a whisper of protest from the Catholic population against these measures, nor, except in the matter of the American War, to which we shall come presently, from the Protestants. It may be added that, after 1767, Catholics in considerable numbers were surreptitiously enlisted in the ranks, in spite of the Penal Code, and from then until the present day have fought for the Flag as staunchly as any other class of the King's subjects.

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