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Spender, Harold / Home Rule Second Edition
* * * * *

| Transcriber's Note: |
| |
| Inconsistent hyphenation in the original document has |
| been preserved. |
| |
| Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this |
| text. For a complete list, please see the end of this |
| document. |
| |

* * * * *

On and after the appointed day there shall be in Ireland an
Irish Parliament, consisting of his Majesty the King and two
Houses, namely, the Irish Senate and the Irish House of

Notwithstanding the establishment of the Irish Parliament, or
anything contained in this Act, the supreme power and authority
of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected
and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things within
his Majesty's dominions.


"If we conciliate Ireland, we can do nothing amiss; if we do
not we can do nothing well."


"The cry of disaffection will not, in the end, prevail against
the principle of liberty."





_With Text of Home Rule Bill (1912)_


"There can be no nobler spectacle than that which we think is
now dawning upon us, the spectacle of a nation deliberately set
on the removal of injustice, deliberately determined to break
with whatever remains still existing of an evil tradition, and
determined in that way at once to pay a debt of justice and to
consult, by a bold, wise and good act, its own interests and
its own honour."



It must surely be clear to-day to many of those who opposed the Home
Rule Bill of 1893 that there is a problem of which the solution is now
more urgent than ever. We who were Gladstonian Home Rulers approached
the problem originally from the Irish side: those who did not then
approach it from that side refused to admit the existence of any
problem at all. Since that time circumstances have made it necessary to
approach the problem from the British as well as from the Irish side.

The British Parliament has hitherto been regarded as a model to be
imitated; if it continues to attempt the impossible task of transacting
in detail both local and Imperial business, it will end as an example
to be avoided. In the last fifty years the amount of work demanded for
particular portions of the United Kingdom, for the United Kingdom as a
whole, or for the Empire has increased enormously; in all three
categories the work is still increasing and will increase: one
Parliament cannot do it all. This is one new aspect of the Home Rule

Mr. Spender states the case with force and sympathy from the Irish
point of view, with which none of us, who were convinced supporters of
Home Rule twenty years ago can ever lose sympathy, and with which the
younger generation should make itself acquainted. He makes also a very
valuable and opportune review of recent changes in the situation, and
considers how Home Rule should be adapted to British and Imperial
needs, and should serve them. The whole book is the result of his own
reflection, observation and research; the conclusions to which he comes
for the settlement of the financial and other details of Home Rule
ought to receive most careful consideration as valuable contributions
to the discussion of the subject. But, of course, they must not be
assumed necessarily to be mine or to be those that will be adopted in
the Government Bill.

But I agree with him entirely that Home Rule is necessary to heal
bitterness in Ireland, and to effect that reconciliation without which
there cannot be real union: that it is necessary to relieve Parliament
at Westminster and to set it free for work that concerns the United
Kingdom as a whole or the Empire: in other words, that there is a
problem to be solved, and that the first step in solving it must be
Irish Home Rule in a form that opens the way for Federal Home Rule.

In the autumn of 1910 a considerable part, at any rate, of the
Conservative Party seemed ready to admit the need for some solution:
to-day they have apparently drifted back to the barren position of
opposing all proposals for Home Rule: if they were to render this
solution impossible, they would but make the problem more urgent.


_February, 1912._


The Case that Does Not Change:
(i.) The Sea.
(ii.) The Race.
(iii.) The Creed.

The Case that Has Changed and is Now Stronger:
(i.) The Councils and
(ii.) The Land.

The Case that Has Changed--(_continued_):
(i.) The Congested Districts.
(ii.) The Board of Agriculture.
(iii.) Old-Age Pensions.
(iv.) The Universities.

The Nineteenth Century Bills and the Bill of 1912.


Rome Rule _or_ Home Rule?

Five Centuries of Limited Home Rule (1265-1780).

Grattan's Parliament.

The Case from Analogy.



A. The Home Rule Bill of 1912 143
B. The Shrinkage of Ireland 160
C. The Act of Union 163
D. The Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893 167
E. The Irish Board of Agriculture 184
F. The Reduction in Irish Pauperism 186
G. The Land Law (Ireland) Act, 1881 187
H. The Congested Districts Board 188
J. Irish Canals and Railways 190
K. Home Rule Parliaments in the British Empire 191



i.--THE SEA.
ii.--THE RACE.
iii.--THE CREED.

"Ireland hears the ocean protesting against Separation, but she
hears the sea likewise protesting against Union. She follows
her physical destination and obeys the dispensations of

(First speech against the Union 15th January, 1800).



Very nearly a generation of time has elapsed since, in 1886, Mr.
Gladstone expounded in the British House of Commons his first Bill for
restoring to Ireland a Home Rule Parliament. Nearly twenty years have
passed since that same great man, indomitably defying age and
infirmities in the pursuit of his great ideal, passed the second Home
Rule Bill (1893) through the British House of Commons. That Bill stands
to-day unshaken in regard to all its vital clauses. Some of us still
hold the faith that that Bill would, if it had become law in 1893, have
saved Ireland from many years of wastage, and would have built up, to
face our enemies in the gate, a stronger and stouter fabric of Empire.

The Bill of 1893 only survived the perilous tempests of the House of
Commons[1] to fall a victim to the House of Lords.[2]

Nearly twenty years have elapsed since that day, and now the successors
of Mr. Gladstone, the Progressives of the United Kingdom, Liberals,
Labour Members and Nationalists, approach the same task with the Bill
of 1912.[3] Some of them are veterans of the former strife. They can
turn, like the present writer, to the thumbed diaries of that great
combat,[4] and can recall the great scenes of that prolonged
Parliamentary agony with a sense of treading again some well-worn road.
Others are new to the issue, and can only hear, like "horns of Elf-land
faintly blowing," some faint echo from the dawn of consciousness.

But young or old, we must again set forth on our travels, and this

"It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles."

It will be the memory of the "Great Achilles" that will sustain us. For
this task comes to Liberals as a sacred trust from Mr. Gladstone. It is
from him that they have learnt that race-hatred is poison, and that the
only true union between nations is--in a phrase that has outlived the
silly laughter of the shallow--the "Union of Hearts."[5] It is Mr.
Gladstone's work that they design to accomplish. It is the memory of
his passionate and sustained devotion through the last twenty years of
that glorious life that has thrown a halo round this cause, and still
gilds it with a "heavenly alchemy."

But, before we "smite the sounding furrows," our first duty is to
survey once more the seas over which we shall have to voyage. We have
to consider again both the old and the new "case for Home Rule"--not
merely the case of 1886 or 1893, but the still stronger case of 1912.

For the world never stands still, and in every generation every great
human problem presents different aspects, and shows new lights and
shadows. Every great human question is like a great mountain which on a
second or third visit reveals new and unsuspected depths and heights,
new valleys and new peaks, slopes which new avalanches have furrowed,
and glaciers which have receded or advanced.

Not that the real, great, main outline ever changes. As with the
mountains, so with the great human problems; there are always certain
great features which remain permanent.


There are, for instance, in the Irish case the sixty-five miles of sea
which, since the earliest dawn of human memory, have divided Ireland
from Great Britain. A fact absurdly simple and obvious, but the
greatest feature of all in this mighty problem of human government!

"The sea forbids Union, and the Channel forbids Separation." There is
no change in that great physical condition. Those sixty-five miles of
sea have neither increased nor diminished since 1893. That sea is still
too broad for "Union"--in the Parliamentary sense of that word--and too
narrow for Separation.

To anyone standing on the deck of one of those swift steamships which
now cross to Ireland from so many points on the British coast, there
must, if he has any imagination, come some vision of the vast
impediment which this sea has placed in the way of direct control by
England over Ireland's domestic affairs. Looking back down the vista of
history, he must see a succession of fleets delayed by contrary winds,
of sea-sick kings and storm-battered convoys, of conquest thwarted by
the caprice of ocean, of peace messengers and high administrators
brought to anchor in the midst of their proud schemes.

The same causes still operate. In this respect, indeed, Ireland appears
to be simply one instance of a general law. It may almost be laid down
as an axiom that no nation can govern another across the sea. How often
it has been tried, and how often it has failed! France has tried it
with England, and England has tried it with France. Great Britain tried
it with North America, and Spain tried it with South. In this matter
even the great quickening of modern communications, even the miracles
of steam and electricity, seem to have made little difference. For even
at the present moment, if we look around, we shall see how great a part
the sea has played as the deciding factor in forms of government. It is
the sea which has made us give self-government to Canada, Australia,
and South Africa. It is the sea which keeps Newfoundland apart from the
Canadian Federation, and New Zealand apart from Australia. Even within
the scope of these islands the same law prevails. It is the sea which
makes us give self-government to the Isle of Man and the Channel
Islands. Almost the only exception is Ireland. In Ireland we have
defied this great law; and in Ireland that defiance is a failure.

And yet not defied it completely; for the very facts of Nature forbade.
While we have taken away the Irish Legislature, we have been obliged to
leave the Irish their separate laws, their separate Administration and
Estimates, and their separate Executive in Dublin. That Executive has
been for a whole century practically uncontrolled by any effective
Parliamentary check. The result is that it has grown, like some plant
in the dark, into such quaint and eccentric shapes and forms as to defy
the control of any Minister or any public opinion[6]. Perhaps the worst
condemnation of the Act of Union has been that while we destroyed the
Irish Parliament we have been obliged to leave Dublin Castle.


Then there is the permanent, abiding difference of Race. It is a truism
of history that the Englishman who settles in Ireland becomes more
Irish than the Irish. The records of the past are filled with great
examples. The Norman adventurers who spread into Ireland after the
Conquest have become in modern times the chiefs of great Irish
communities, until names like Joyce and Burke have come to be regarded
as typical Hibernian surnames. It is a commonplace of modern history
that the counties settled by Cromwellian soldiers have become most
typically Irish. Tipperary, Waterford, and Wexford--there were great
Cromwellian settlements in those counties. And yet they have taken the
lead in the fiercest insurrections of modern Irish democracy.

It is only in the North of Ireland, within the confines of the province
of Ulster, and there only in the extreme north-east corner, within the
counties of Londonderry, Antrim, and Down, that the settlers have
formed a distinct and definite racial breakwater against purely Irish
influences. The plantation of Ulster in the reign of James I. took into
Ireland some of the most dogged members of the Scotch race, men filled
with the new fire of the Reformation, men stalwart for their race and
creed. They went as conquerors and as confiscators, and for centuries
they worked with arms in their hands. They slew and were slain, and
were divided from the native Irish by an overflowing river of blood.
That river is not yet bridged.

It has been said that there is no human hatred so great as that felt
towards men whom one has wronged. The planters of Ulster inflicted
upon Ireland many grievous wrongs and endured some fierce revenges. The
result is that even to-day there is a section of them that still stands
apart from the other colonisers of Ireland--a race still distinct and
apart. Is it impossible that even there the binding and unifying
principle of Irish life may begin to work? That is the question of the

But though Ireland thus contains at least one instance of a mixture of
races not altogether dissimilar from that of England, it still remains
true that, taken as a whole, Ireland is a country marked with the
Celtic stamp. There, too, the power of the sea comes in. If there had
been only a land frontier, it is possible that the Teutonic influence
would have overpowered the Celtic. But the sea forms a sufficient
barrier to cut off every new band of immigrants from the country of
their origin. This isolation drives them into insular communion with
the country of their invasion. Thus, however often invaded and
"planted," Ireland has continued detached.

This detachment has been apparent ever since the earliest dawn of
Western civilisation. Right up to the Norman Conquest Ireland remained
apart and aloof from Central European influences. For long ages she had
been the rallying-place of the Celt as he was driven westward by the
Teuton and the Roman. Even after Great Britain had been absorbed by the
Roman Empire, Ireland still remained unconquered, the one home of
freedom in Western Europe. This independence of Rome continued far into
the Christian era. Ireland developed a separate Christianity of a
peculiarly elevated and noble type, full of missionary zeal and
inspired by high culture. That Christianity even swept eastward, and
for a time dominated Scotland and England from its homes in Iona and
Lindisfarne. This Irish Christianity brought upon itself the enmity of
Rome by continuing the Eastern tonsure and the Eastern ritual, and
finally, at the great Synod at Whitby in the year 664[7], Rome
conquered in the struggle for Britain, and the Irish religion was
driven back across the sea.

But Rome and European Christianity, as it was represented in the Roman
spirit, achieved a very slow victory over Ireland herself. The English
Pope Adrian gave to Henry II. a full permission to conquer Ireland for
the faith. But it was fated that Irish Catholicism should be built up
not by submission to the Catholic Kings of England, but by resistance
to the Protestant Kings from Henry VIII. onward. Thus it is that, even
in religion, in spite of the passionate loyalty of the modern Irishman
to the Roman See, Ireland still stands somewhat distinct and aloof from
the rest of Europe.

But if that be so in religion, still more is it so in customs and
manners. Take the analogy of a mould. The Celtic civilisation of
Ireland is like a mould, into which fresh metal has been always
pouring; white-hot, glowing metal from all over the world, from England
and Scotland, from France, from Rome, and even from far-off Spain. But
though the metal has always been changing, the mould still remains
unbroken, and as the metal has emerged in its fixed form it has always
taken the Celtic shape. So that to-day, in face of the Imperialistic
tendencies of the British Empire, Ireland remains more than ever
passionately attached to her nationalism, and more than ever potent to
influence all newcomers with her national ideas.

It is in that sense that the question of race still remains a
permanent feature in the Irish problem. It is precisely because the
Irish nationality is so persistent that it is hopeless to expect a
permanent settlement of her government problem within the scope of such
an iron uniformity as the Act of Union. It is because Ireland nurses
this "unconquerable hope" that the only golden key to these
difficulties lies in some form of self-government.


But besides the sea and the race, there is yet one more feature of the
Irish problem which remains practically unchanged. Ireland still
remains predominantly Catholic, while Great Britain is still
predominantly Protestant. The great movement of the sixteenth century,
known as the Reformation, passed from Germany through Holland and
France into Great Britain. It won Scotland completely. In England,
after a prolonged struggle with a powerful Catholic tradition, it ended
in the compromise still represented by the Anglican Church. But there
the victory of the Reformation closed. The movement was checked at St.
George's Channel. In Ireland Catholicism stood with its back against
the Atlantic, and fought a stern, long fight against all the political
and social forces of the British Empire. The attack of Protestantism
was supported by the full power and authority of the conqueror. It
lasted for two centuries. It began with Elizabeth and James as a simple
imperative, mercilessly applied without regard to national conditions.
It came under Cromwell as a scorching, devastating flame. It remained
under William and the Georges as a slow, cruel torture applied through
all the avenues of the law. The end of all that effort was, not to
convert or destroy, but to weld the national and religious spirits
into one common force, acting together throughout the nineteenth
century as if identical.

Purified by persecution, Catholicism in Ireland, almost alone among the
religions of Western Europe, stands out still to-day as a great
national and democratic force.

But though the persecution failed, it built up, by a double process of
immigration and monopoly, a very powerful Protestant population with
all the stiff pride of ascendancy. For generations the Protestants of
Ireland enjoyed all the offices of government, and had the sole right
of inheritance. Thus both the land and the government slipped into
their hands. Since no Catholic could inherit land under the penal laws,
and since the penal laws lasted for nearly a century, it followed
inevitably that the whole land of Ireland fell into the hands of the
Protestants. That is why even at the present day the vast majority of
the Irish landed and leisured classes are Protestants. The Catholics,
during that dark period, became hewers of wood and drawers of water.
Thus property in Ireland came to mean, not merely a division of
classes, but also a division of creeds. In spite of all the great
reforms, the descendants of these Protestants still retain most of the
wealth and most of the Government offices in Ireland.[8] Their
resistance to any change is not, therefore, altogether surprising; and
we must remember amid all the various war-cries of the present
agitation that these gentlemen are fighting, not merely for the
integrity of the Empire, but also for position, income and power.

This state of affairs has varied very little for the last

The Census of 1911 contains, like most previous Irish Census returns, a
schedule asking for a statement of religious faith. That enables us to
tell with comparative accuracy the proportions between the Catholics
and Protestants in Ireland since 1861, when the schedule was first
introduced, right up to the present day.

The Preliminary Report shows that the variation has been very slight.
The round figures for 1911 are:--

Roman Catholics 3,238,000
Protestant Episcopalians 575,000
Presbyterians 439,000
Methodists 61,000

The figures for 1861 were:--

Roman Catholics 4,500,000
Protestant Episcopalians 693,000
Presbyterians 523,000
Methodists 45,000[9]

There has been an all-round decrease, corresponding to the decrease of
the population. That decrease has been brought about by emigration, and
that emigration has taken place mainly from the Catholic provinces of
Munster and Connaught. It is inevitable, therefore, that the Catholics
should have diminished more than the Protestants. The result of forty
years' wastage of the Irish Catholic peasantry is that the proportions
of Catholics to Protestants are now three to one, as against four to
one in 1861. Allowing for the great fact of westward emigration, this
means that the relations between these two forms of Christianity in
Ireland are practically stationary.

The Protestants, too, we must not forget, are divided into two
sects--Episcopalian and Presbyterian--which in their history have been
almost divided from one another as Catholicism and Protestantism, so
much so that several times in Irish history--as, for instance, in
1798--the Catholic and Presbyterian have been brought together by a
common persecution at the hands of the Episcopalian.

We must also bear in mind that the Protestants are mainly concentrated
in the two provinces of Ulster and Leinster. Ulster contains nearly all
the Irish Presbyterians--421,000 out of 439,000--men who are rather
Scotch by descent than actually native Irish. Ulster also contains
366,000 Episcopalians, making, with 48,000 Methodists, 835,000
Protestants in Ulster, out of 1,075,000 in the whole of Ireland. The
rest of the Episcopalians are in Leinster--round Dublin--where 140,000
are domiciled. Munster contains less than 60,000 Protestants in all,
and Connaught contains little over 20,000.[10] It is practically a
Catholic province.

The great fact about this religious situation in Ireland, therefore, is
that you have a Catholic country with a strong Protestant minority.

We are asked to believe that this presents an insuperable obstacle to
the gift of self-government. But Ireland does not stand alone in this
respect. There are many other countries in the world where the same
difficulty has been faced and overcome. Take the German Empire. It has
included since 1870 the great state of Bavaria, where the great
struggle of the Reformation ended with honours divided. Modern Bavaria
contains a population which, according to the Religious Census of
December 1st, 1905, is thus divided:--

Roman Catholics 4,600,000
Protestants 1,844,000
Jews 55,000

Strangely enough, the proportions are almost precisely the same as in
Ireland. But this state of affairs has not prevented the German Empire
from leaving to Bavaria, not merely a king and parliament, but also an
army subject to purely Bavarian control in time of peace, and a
separate system of posts, telegraphs, and state railways.[11] Are we to
say that trust and tolerance are German virtues, unknown to the British

But they are not unknown to the British people. Our own colonists have
set us a better example. Canada has a far more difficult religious
problem than Great Britain. She has two provinces side by side--Quebec
and Ontario--both with the same religious problem as Ireland. In both
there are strong religious minorities. Quebec is predominantly
Catholic, and Ontario is predominantly Protestant. Thus:--

Catholics 1,429,000
Protestants 189,000

Protestants 1,626,000
Catholics 390,000

How is this problem solved? Why, by Home Rule. For a long time--from
1840 to 1887--Canada made the experiment of governing these two
provinces under one Parliament and from one centre. That experiment
never succeeded. As long as they were under one government, the
minority in each of these provinces insisted on appealing for help to
the majority in the other. There arose the evil of "Ascendancy "--the
government of a majority by a minority. At last the Canadians faced the
problem. In 1867 they divided the provinces, and gave them each a Home
Rule government of their own, subject to the Dominion Parliament. Since
then there has been no more trouble about Ascendancy. Quebec and
Ontario now settle their own affairs, including Education and all other
local matters, and no one ever hears anything about the ill-treatment
of minorities.

So much, then, for the permanent factors--Sea, Race, and Religion.
There is no insuperable obstacle there. Rather it is here--in these
great dominating facts--that the strongest argument for Home Rule must
ever be found. For it is those things that constitute nationality.

The real difficulties in the way of Home Rule were found, both in 1886
and 1893, not in these permanent things, but in the changing facets of
human laws. It was the Land Question that in all the speeches of 1886
provided the strongest argument. It was the absence of local
government, and the presumed incapacity for local government, that
filled so many Unionist speeches. It was the quarrel over University
Education that provided the best evidence of incompatibility of temper
between Irish Catholic and Irish Protestant.

I shall show that in all these respects the problem has completely and
radically changed since 1893.

* * * * *


[1] By a majority of 34 on the third reading--301 to 267--September
1st, 1893.

[2] Friday, September 8th, 1893. 419 to 41; majority against the Bill
of 378.

[3] See Appendix A for this Bill.

[4] "The Story of the Home Rule Session." (1893.) Written by Harold
Spender, sketched by F. Carruthers Gould (now Sir Francis C. Gould).
London: _The Westminster Gazette_ and Fisher Unwin.

[5] This famous phrase was first coined by Grattan, but was so often
said by Gladstone that it was, in 1886, regarded as his.

[6] See a very interesting account of the present Irish Executive in
"Home Rule Problems" (P.S. King and Son. London. 1s.) in a chapter
(iv.) entitled "The Present System of Government, in Ireland," by
G.F.H. Berkeley. There are 67 Boards, of which only 26 are under direct
control of the Irish Secretary. No Parliamentary statute applies to
Ireland, of course, unless that country is expressly included by name.

[7] See, for a popular account of this Synod, Green's "History of the
English People," Vol. I., p. 55.

[8] The central Civil Service is predominantly Protestant, and in
municipalities like Belfast the Catholics hold a very small proportion
of the salaried posts.

[9] Census for 1911. Preliminary Report. Page 6.

[10] Census Summary. Preliminary Report. Page 6.

[11] See "The Statesman's Year Book," 1911, pp. 877-8.



ii.--THE LAND.

"They saved the country because they lived in it, as the others
abandoned it because they lived out of it."




Those who, like myself, visited Ireland last summer as delegates of the
Eighty Club included some who had not thoroughly explored that country
since the early nineties. They were all agreed that a great change had
taken place in the internal condition of Ireland. They noticed a great
increase of self-confidence, of prosperity, of hope. Many who entered
upon that tour with doubts as to the power of the Irish people to take
up the burden of self-government came back convinced that her increase
in material prosperity would form a firm and secure basis on which to
build the new fabric.

What does this new prosperity amount to? The new Census figures leave
us in no doubt as to its existence. For the first time there is a real
check in that deplorable wastage of population that has been going on
for more than half a century. The diminution of population in Ireland
revealed by the 1901 Census amounted to 245,000 persons. The diminution
revealed by the 1911 Census amounts to 76,000. In other words, the
decrease of 1901-11 is 1.5 per cent., as against 5.2 per cent, for
1891-1901, or only one against five in the previous decade[12]. This is
far and away the smallest decrease that has taken place in any of the
decennial periods since 1841; and this decrease is, of course,
accompanied by a corresponding decline in the emigration figures.[13]

What is even more refreshing is the evidence which goes to show that
the population left behind in Ireland has become more prosperous. For
the first time since 1841, the Census now shows an increase--small,
indeed, but real--of inhabited houses in Ireland, and a corresponding
increase in the number of families[14].

It is the first slight rally of a country sick almost unto death. We
must not exaggerate its significance. Ireland has fallen very low, and
she is not yet out of danger. There is no real sign of rise in the
extraordinarily small yield of the Irish income tax. That yield shows
us a country, with a tenth of the population, which has only a
thirtieth of the wealth of Great Britain--a country, in a word, at
least three times as poor[15]. The diminution in the Irish pauper
returns is entirely due to Old-age Pensions.[16] The much-advertised
increase in savings and bank deposits, always in Ireland greatly out of
proportion to her well-being, is chiefly eloquent of the extraordinary
lack of good Irish investments.

The birth-rate in Ireland, although the Irish are the most prolific
race in the world, is still--owing to the emigration of the
child-bearers--the lowest in Europe. The record in lunacy is still the
worst, and the dark cloud of consumption, though slightly lifted by the
heroic efforts of Lady Aberdeen, still hangs low over Ireland.[17]

Finally, while we rejoice that the rate of decline in the population is
checked, we must never forget that the Irish population is still
declining, while that of England, Wales and Scotland is still going

But still the sky is brightening, and ushering in a day suitable for
fair weather enterprises. Perhaps the surest and most satisfactory sign
of revival in Irish life is to be found in the steady upward movement
of the Irish Trade Returns.[19] That movement has been going on
steadily since the beginning of the twentieth century.[20] It is
displayed quite as much in Irish agricultural produce as in Irish
manufactured goods; and in view of certain boasts it may be worth while
to place on record the fact that the agricultural export trade of
Ireland is greater by more than a third than the export of linen and
ships.[21] Denmark preceded Ireland in her agricultural development,
but it must be put to the credit of Irish industry and energy that
Ireland is now steadily overhauling her rivals.[22]

The mere recital of these facts, indeed, gives but a faint impression
of the actual dawn of social hope across the St. George's Channel. In
order to make them realise this fully, it would be necessary to take my
readers over the ground covered by the Eighty Club last summer, in
light railways or motor-cars, through the north, west, east and south
of Ireland. Everywhere there is the same revival. New labourers'
cottages dot the landscape, and the old mud cabins are crumbling
back--"dust to dust"--into nothingness. Cultivation is improving. The
new peasant proprietors are putting real work into the land which they
now own, and there is an advance even in dress and manners. Drinking is
said to be on the decline, and the natural gaiety of the Irish people,
so sadly overshadowed during the last half-century, is beginning to

It is like the clearing of the sky after long rain and storm. The
clouds have, for the moment, rolled away towards the horizon, and the
blue is appearing. Will the clouds return, or is this improvement to be
sure and lasting? That will depend on the events of the next few years.

* * * * *

What has produced this great change in the situation since 1893? To
answer that question we must look at the Statute Book. We shall then
realise that defeat in the division lobbies was not the end of Mr.
Gladstone's policy in 1886 and 1893. That policy has since borne rich
fruit. It has been largely carried into effect by the very men who
opposed and denounced it. Not even they could make the sun stand still
in the heavens.

The Tories and Liberal dissentients who defeated Mr. Gladstone gave us
no promise of these concessions. The only policy of the Tory Party at
that time was expressed by Lord Salisbury in the famous phrase, "Twenty
years of resolute government." Although the Liberal Unionists were
inclined to some concession on local government, Lord Salisbury himself
held the opinion that the grant of local government to Ireland would be
even more dangerous to the United Kingdom than the grant of Home

If we turn back, indeed, to the early Parliamentary debates and the
speeches in the country, we find that Mr. Chamberlain in 1886
concentrated his attack rather on Mr. Gladstone's Land Bill[24] than on
his Home Rule scheme. In his speech on the second reading of the 1886
Bill, indeed, Mr. Chamberlain proclaimed himself a Home Ruler on a
larger scale than Mr. Gladstone--a federal Home Ruler. But in the
country, he brought every resource of his intellect to oppose the
scheme of land purchase.

Similarly with John Bright. Lord Morley, in his "Life of Gladstone,"
describes Bright's speech on July 1st, 1886, as the "death warrant" of
the first Home Rule Bill. But if we turn to that speech we find that
Bright, too, based his opposition to Home Rule almost entirely on his
hatred of the great land purchase scheme of that year. He called it a
"most monstrous proposal." "If it were not for a Bill like this," he
said, "to alter the Government of Ireland, to revolutionise it, no one
would dream of this extravagant and monstrous proposition in regard to
Irish land; and if the political proposition makes the economic
necessary, then the economic or land purchase proposition, in my
opinion, absolutely condemns the political proposition." In other
words, John Bright held to the view that it was the necessity for the
Irish Land Bill of 1886 which condemned the Home Rule Bill of that

So powerfully did that argument work on the feelings of the British
public that in the Home Rule Bill of 1893, not only was the land
purchase proposition dropped, but in its place a clause was actually
inserted forbidding the new Irish Parliament to pass any legislation
"respecting the relations of landlord and tenant for the sale, purchase
or re-letting of land" for a period of three years after the passing of
the Act.[25]

So anxious was Mr. Gladstone to show to the English people that Home
Rule could be given to Ireland without the necessity of expenditure on
land purchase, and with comparative safety to the continuance of the
landlord system in Ireland!

Such was the record on these questions up to the year 1895, when the
Unionists brought the short Liberal Parliament to a close, and entered
upon a period of ten years' power, sustained in two elections with a
Parliamentary majority of 150 in 1895 and of 130 in 1900.

But the biggest Parliamentary majorities have limits to their powers.
Crises arise. Accidents happen. There is always a shadow of coming doom
hanging over the most powerful Parliamentary Governments. With it comes
an anxiety to settle matters in their own way, before they can be
settled in a way which they dislike. Thus it is that we find that
between 1895 and 1905, during that ten years of Unionist power, two
great steps were taken towards a peaceful settlement of the Irish

One was the Irish Local Government Act of 1898, which extended to
Ireland the system of local government already granted in 1889 to the
country districts of England. The other was the great Land Purchase Act
of 1903, which carried out Mr. Gladstone's policy of 1886, and set on
foot a gigantic scheme of land-transference from Irish landlord to
Irish tenant. That scheme is still to-day in process of completion.

It is these two Acts which have largely changed the face of Ireland.


Take first the Act of 1898. Up to that year the county government of
Ireland was carried on entirely by a system of grand jurors, consisting
chiefly of magistrates, and selected almost entirely from the
Protestant minority. These gentlemen assembled at stated times, and
settled all the local concerns of Ireland, fixing the rates, deciding
on the expenditure, and carrying out all the local Acts. They formed,
with Dublin Castle, part of the great machinery of Protestant
Ascendancy. Very few Catholics penetrated within that sacred circle.

These gentlemen, even now for the most part Protestants, still hold the
power of justice.

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