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Spender, Harold / Home Rule Second Edition
But the power of local government has passed from
their hands. Every county of Ireland now has its County Council.
Beneath the County Councils there are also District Councils exercising
in Ireland, as in England, the powers of Boards of Guardians. Neither
the Irish counties nor the corporations of Ireland's great cities have
power over their police. There are no Irish Parish Councils. Otherwise
Ireland now possesses powers of local government almost as complete as
those of England and Scotland.

How has this system worked? In the discussions that preceded the
establishment of local government in Ireland we heard many prophecies
of doom. So great was the fear of trusting Ireland with any powers of
self-government that the Unionists actually proposed, in 1892, a Local
Government Bill, which would have established local bodies subject to
special powers of punishment and coercion.[26]

It was with much fear and trembling, then, that the Protestant Party in
Ireland entered upon the new period of local government. As a matter of
fact, all these fears have been falsified. Instead of proving
inefficient and corrupt, the Irish County Councils have gained the
praises of all parties. They have received testimonials in nearly every
report of the Irish Local Government Board. If, indeed, they possess
any fault, it is that they are too thrifty and economical.[27]

In one respect, indeed, these County and District Councils of Ireland
have conspicuously surpassed the corresponding bodies that exist in

One of the most important measures passed by the British Parliament
during this period of Irish revival has been the Irish Labourers' Act.
It was one of the first measures passed by the new Liberal Parliament
of 1906, and it has been since often amended and supplemented. But its
main provisions still stand. In this Act the Imperial Government grants
to the local authorities in Ireland loans at cheap rates for the
purpose of re-housing the Irish agricultural labourers. It places the
whole administration of these loans in the hands of the Irish District
Councils--a very delicate and difficult task.

So efficiently have the District Councils done their work that more
than half the Irish labourers have already been re-housed. It is fully
expected that within a few years the whole Irish agricultural labouring
population will have received under this Act good houses, accompanied
always with a plot of land at a small rent.

Compare with this the administration of the Small Holdings Act by the
English local authorities. That Act, passed in 1908, placed the actual
allocation of small holdings in the hands of the English County
Councils. It is not necessary to dwell here upon the notorious failure
of most of the high hopes with which that measure was passed through
the British Parliament. The cause of that failure is obvious. The
promise of the Small Holdings Act has been practically destroyed by the
refusal of the County Councils to throw either goodwill or efficiency
into its administration.


But the second of the two great renovating measures--the Irish Land
Purchase Act of 1903--has contributed even more powerfully than the
first to the recovery of Ireland during the last ten years. There again
we have a great instance of the supremacy of the spirit of Parliament
over the prejudices of Party. The whole tendency of democratic
government is so rootedly opposed to coercion that it is difficult for
any party to continue on purely coercive lines for any long period. And
yet, as Mr. Gladstone always pointed out with such prescience, the only
alternatives in Ireland were either coercion or government according to
Irish ideas.

Now, the most noted Irish idea was the desire for personal ownership of
the soil by the cultivator himself. In the years 1901 and 1902, just
when the Unionists were embarrassed with all the complications of the
South African trouble, the Tory Government were faced again with this
imperious desire. They found arising in Ireland a new revolt against
the power of the landlords. The Land Courts of Ireland, set up under
the Act of 1881, had given to the Irish tenant two revisions of
rent--the first in 1882, and the second in 1896--amounting in all to
nearly 40 per cent. But these sweeping reductions had produced a new
trouble. They had brought about a state of acute hostility between
landlord and tenant without any real control of the land by either. The
landlords, deprived of their powers of eviction and rent-raising, were
in a state of sullen fury. The tenants had made the fatal discovery
that their best interest lay in bad cultivation. Both parties were
opposed to the existing land administration, and the Irish people were
on the eve of another great effort to attain their ideals.

The Tory Government of 1902-3, then, either had to change the whole
system, or they had to enter upon a new period of coercion with a view
of suppressing the increased passion of the tenants for the full
possession of the land. Looking down such a vista, the Irish landlords
themselves could see nothing but ruin at the end. The Irish tenants
might suffer, indeed, but they would be able to drag down their
landlords in the common ruin along with them. The prospect facing the
Irish landlord was nothing less than the entire, gradual disappearance
of all rent.

With such a black prospect ahead, the time was ripe for a remarkable
new movement, started by two distinguished Irishmen--Mr. William
O'Brien on the side of the tenants, and Lord Dunraven on the side of
the landlords. The omens were auspicious. Lord Cadogan, one of the old
guard, had retired from the Viceroyalty, and had been succeeded in 1902
by a younger and more open-minded man, Lord Dudley. A still more
remarkable man, Sir Anthony MacDonnell (now Lord MacDonnell) had been
appointed to the Under-Secretaryship of Dublin Castle under
circumstances which have not even yet been clearly explained. Sir
Anthony MacDonnell was known to be a Nationalist, although his
Nationalist tendencies had been strongly modified by a prolonged and
distinguished career in India. Mr. Wyndham, then Chief Secretary, made
the remarkable statement that Sir Anthony MacDonnell was "invited by me
rather as a colleague than as a mere Under-Secretary to register my
will." There is, indeed, no doubt that if the full facts were known, it
would be found that the new Under-Secretary was appointed on terms
which practically implied the adoption of a new Irish policy by the
Tory Government. In other words, the party which is at the present
moment (1912) entering upon an uncompromising fight against Home Rule
was, in 1903, contemplating a policy not far removed from that very

In the mind of Sir Anthony MacDonnell himself--and probably of several
members of the Government--the policy took two forms. One was to settle
the problem of Irish land, and the other was to settle the problem of
Irish Government.

The first of these great enterprises went through with remarkable
smoothness. Both landlords and tenants were weary of the strife, and
ready for peace on terms. The leaden, merciless pressure of the great
Land Courts set up by Mr. Gladstone's Act of 1881 had gradually worn
down the dour and obstinate wills of the Irish landlords. The very men
who had denounced land purchase as the worst element in the scheme of
1886 were now enthusiastic on its behalf. The only opposition that
could have come to such a scheme was from the House of Lords, and the
opposition of the House of Lords, as we all know, did not exist in
those blessed years. Mr. Wyndham was sanguine and enthusiastic, and
both Irish tenants and Irish landlords found a common term of agreement
in mutual generosity at the expense of the taxpayer. With the help of
that taxpayer--commonly called "British," but including, be it
remembered, the Irish taxpayer also--the landlords were able to go off
with a generous bonus, and the tenants were able to obtain prospective
possession of their farms, while paying for a period of years an annual
instalment considerably less than their old rent.

The terms to both landlords and tenants were so favourable that the Act
of 1903 was, after a short period of pause, followed in Ireland by
results which transcended the expectations of Parliament. There was a
rush on one side to sell, and on the other to buy. From 1904 to 1909
the applications kept streaming in, and the Land Commissioners were
kept at high pressure arranging the sale of estates. The pace, indeed,
was so rapid that it laid too heavy a strain on the too sanguine
finance of Mr. Wyndham's Act. The double burden of the war and Irish
land proved too great. The British Treasury found that they could not
pour out money at the rate demanded by the working of the Act. In 1909
it was found necessary to pass an amending Act, which has given rise to
fierce controversy in Ireland. That Act slightly modified the generous
terms of the Act of 1903, but not before under those terms a revolution
had already been effected. Practically half the land of Ireland had
passed before 1909 from the hands of the landlords into those of the

Even on the new terms the process will go on. By voluntary means if
possible, but if not, by compulsion, the land of Ireland will pass back
within twenty years into the hands of the people.

* * * * *

Here, then--in land purchase and the new machinery of local
government--are the two leading facts in the great change which had
come over Ireland since 1893. What do they signify?

Why, this. In 1886 and 1893 the Unionists pointed out, not without some
heat and passion, two main difficulties in the path to Home Rule. One
was the incompetence of the Irish people for local government. "They
are by character incapable of self-rule," was the cry; and we all
remember how Mr. Gladstone humorously described this incapacity as a
"double dose of original sin."

That incapacity has been disproved. The Irish have been shown to be
fully as capable of self-government as the English, Scotch, and Welsh.

The other great difficulty was the unsolved land question. "We cannot
desert the English garrison--the Irish landlords," was the cry. "We
cannot trust the Irish people to treat them justly." But the Irish land
question is now settled. The Irish landlords are either gone or going.
The Irish tenants are becoming peasant-proprietors. All that is
required now is a national authority to stand as trustee and guardian
of the Irish peasantry in paying their debt to the British people--or,
perhaps, even if the material condition of Ireland under Home Rule
should justify that course, to take over the debt. That is the new
"felt want," and the only way to supply it is to create a responsible
Irish self-governing Parliament.

Thus the two principal changes in Ireland since 1893 have not weakened,
but immensely strengthened, the case for Home Rule.

* * * * *


[12] See Appendix B.

[13] Appendix B (4), 31,000 in 1911, the lowest figure since the
Famine. There is a similar decline in the number of the Migratory
Labourers, from 15,000 in 1907 to 10,000 in 1910 (Cd. 6019).

[14] Appendix B (2) and (3). 2,000 families and nearly 3,000 inhabited

[15] The yield of Irish income tax is practically stationary at
1,000,000, as against 30,000,000 yielded by Great Britain. (Inland
Revenue Report, 1910-11, page 100.) The assessment to income tax is
40,000,000 for Ireland, as against 93,000,000 for Scotland (with
about the same population), and 878,000,000 for England.

[16] See Appendix F. The diminution is from 99,000 to 80,000.

[17] The deaths from consumption in Ireland declined from 10,594 in
1909 to 10,016 in 1910. (Irish Registrar-General's Report, 1911, p.

[18] See Appendix B.

[19] The most trustworthy thermometer of Irish trade is to be found in
the volume now yearly issued by the Irish Government--the Report on the
Trade in Imports and Exports at Irish Ports. In the absence of Irish
Customs there must be some uncertainty in the tests, but the Government
figures are collected from the "manifests" of exporters and importers.
(The latest report comes up to the 31st December, 1910. Cd. 5965.)

[20] The growth of Irish trade since 1900 can be seen at a glance in
the following table (including exports and imports):--

1904 103,790,799
1905 106,973,043
1906 113,208,940
1907 120,572,755
1908 116,120,618
1909 124,725,895
1910 130,888,732

[21] The export of manufactured goods increased from 20,000,000 in
1906 to 26,000,000 in 1910. Those goods consisted mostly of linen and
ships from Belfast. The export of farm stuffs increased from
31,000,000 in 1905 to 35,000,000 in 1910.

[22] Ireland now exports into England three times as much live stock as
any other country. She imports more potatoes and poultry than any
other. She also stands in butter only second to Denmark, in eggs only
second to Russia, and in bacon and hams only third to the United States
and Denmark (Cd. 5966).

[23] "Local authorities are more exposed to the temptation of enabling
the majority to be unjust to the minority when they obtain jurisdiction
over a small area, than is the case when the authority derives its
sanction and extends its jurisdiction over a wider area. In a large
central authority the wisdom of several parts of the country will
correct the folly and mistakes of one. In a local authority that
correction is to a much greater extent wanting, and it would be
impossible to leave that out of sight in any extension of any such
local authority in Ireland."--Lord Salisbury (1885).

[24] Proposing to buy out the Irish landlords at an estimated cost of

[25] See Appendix D for a summary of the 1893 Home Rule Bill.

[26] It was named by Mr. Sexton the "Put 'em in the dock Bill," and
that phrase practically killed it.

[27] See the Local Government Board Reports _passim_:--

"Before concluding our reference to the Local Government Act we may be
permitted to observe that the predictions of those who affirmed that
the new local bodies entrusted with the administration of a complex
system of County Government would inevitably break down have certainly
not been verified. On the contrary, the County and District Councils
have, with few exceptions, properly discharged the statutory duties
devolving upon them. Instances have, no doubt, occurred in which these
bodies have, owing to inexperience and to an inadequate staff, found
themselves in difficulties and have had to receive some special
assistance from us in regulating their affairs; but this has been of
rare occurrence." (Annual Report of the Irish Local Government Board
for year ending March, 1900.)

"In no other matter have the Councils been more successful than in
their financial administration. After the heavy preliminary expenses
necessarily attending the introduction of a new system of local
government had been provided for, and the Councils and their officers
had succeeded in obtaining a satisfactory basis on which to make their
estimates of future expenditure, they found it possible to effect
considerable reductions in their rates, and there seems to be every
reason to anticipate that, with extended experience, there will be a
still further general reduction of county rates." (Annual Report of the
Irish Local Government Board for year ending March, 1902.)

Our impression as travellers was that the Irish County Councils do not
yet spend enough money on their roads.




"Although while I live I shall oppose separation, yet it is my
opinion that continuing the Legislative Union must endanger the




But Land Purchase and County Councils are only part of the great change
that has come over Ireland since 1893.

There are other great transformations. There is the redemption of the
congested districts. There is the revival of agriculture. There is the
Old Age Pensions Act. Finally, there is the reform of the Universities.


Take, first, the daring policy of social renovation by which the
forlorn peasantry of the West are being saved from the grey wilderness
into which they had been thrust by the landlordism of 1830 to 1880.

It is the habit of the Unionist Press to claim the whole of this work
as their own. That is rather bold of a party that lifted not a finger
while these people--said by those who know them to be the best
peasantry in Europe--were driven from the rich lands of Ireland to till
the barren moorland and scratch the very rocks on the shores of the
Atlantic. The Tories do not explain why they allowed the House of Lords
for a whole half century to seal up the exile of these poor folk by
rejecting every measure proposed for their welfare. As a matter of
fact, of course, the policy of redeeming the congested districts was
not first proposed either by the Tories or by the Liberals, but by the
Irish members themselves.

The Tory claim is based, of course, on the fact that the first step
towards action by the British Government dates from the famous Western
tour of Mr. Arthur Balfour in the early nineties. Perhaps Mr. Balfour
was tired of the monotony of five years of coercion. At any rate, he
took that journey, and it was the best act of his political life. He
travelled along that misty fringe of the Atlantic. He saw--as we saw
last summer, and I saw in 1891--the utter poverty of that unhappy land,
where human life, sustained only by the charity of American exiles,
still pays its doleful toll to far-off, indifferent landlords. Who can
tell whether some touch of remorse did not enter into the heart of the
man who up to that time had been the greatest of Irish coercionists
since Castlereagh, when he saw with his own eyes the sorry plight of
the poorest people in Europe--the people who, in the opinion of General
Gordon, were, as a result of a century of British civilisation, more
destitute and miserable than the savages of Central Africa?

Mr. Balfour, at any rate, relented from his policy of more oppression.
He even entered upon the first small beginnings of a policy of

It was a very small beginning--that first Congested Board--and a
Commission that reported on its work nearly twenty years after[28]
decided that the Board had neither powers nor cash sufficient for its
work. The Liberal Government of 1906-10 frankly accepted the opinion of
the Commission, and gave the Board both new powers and new funds in the
Irish Land Act of 1909. Under that Act the Congested Board is endowed
with 250,000 a year, and has authority over half the area and a third
of the population of Ireland.[29] Over these great regions[30] this
authority now possesses extensive powers of purchase, rehousing,
replanting, creation of fisheries, provision of seed and
stocks--powers, in short, extending to the complete restoration, by
compulsion if necessary, of a whole community. The Board is appointed
by the Chief Secretary,[31] and already in two short years it has
accomplished great work. Estates are being bought and replanted;
holders are being migrated from bad land to good; villages are being
rebuilt; industries encouraged; health safeguarded; fisheries revived.
Those who examine its work as we did last summer will experience the
feeling of men looking on at a splendid and gallant effort to salvage a
race submerged.

This work, indeed, is still in its infancy. There are many absentee
landlords who are still holding out for heavy and extravagant prices as
a reward for the poverty and misery which they have often in large part
caused by their own neglect. The Board appears to be reaching the
limits of voluntary action. Much of the hope for the future of Ireland
rests on their courage and skill.


The passing of landlordism has produced a great revival of energy and
life in the rural districts. That revival began in the nineties, and
the credit for first realising its importance and significance must be
given to Sir Horace Plunkett. But private organisation alone could not
meet the needs of the situation. In 1899 the Government were persuaded
by the Irish party to pass an Act founding a new Irish Board of
Agriculture on broad and generous lines.[32]

This Irish Board of Agriculture is a very remarkable body. It is
practically a Home Rule authority for agricultural purposes only. The
Irish Minister for Agriculture by no means rules as an autocrat. He has
to submit his policy to a large "Advisory Council" of over 100 members
elected by all the County Councils of Ireland. Out of this Council a
committee is chosen which is practically a Cabinet. This Agricultural
Parliament now plays a most important part in the life of Ireland. It
speaks for the whole nation more than any other public body. Its
discussions are practical and useful. It is a training ground for the
rulers of the future, and it is playing a vital part in bringing
together the best men of the North and South. The Ulster members are
already, in agricultural matters, working in a friendly spirit side by
side with the men from the South.

Thus advised and kept in touch with public opinion, the Board of
Agriculture is the most popular and effective Department in Dublin
Castle. It gives us a foretaste of the new power that will be given to
Irish administration by the Home Rule spirit.

For it is just this central guidance that the other great new Irish
developments chiefly lack. Take local government. There is not a County
Council in Ireland which would not be stronger if it were directed--and
sometimes, perhaps, even commanded--from the centre by a sympathetic
national authority. There is not a Board in Ireland, whether it be the
Congested Districts Board, or the Estates Commissioners, or the Land
Commission, that would not be more wisely directed if there were some
central arena in which the great principles of administration could be
seriously and responsibly debated and settled. For, in spite of the
popular notion that Irishmen are too talkative, there is really too
little discussion in Ireland on practical affairs. The great unsolved
political problem blocks the way. The block cannot be removed except by
settlement. One of the strongest reasons for granting Home Rule is in
order to free the mind of the nation for attention to the national


One of the most remarkable events of the last few years has been the
unexpected side-share of Ireland in the great social legislation of
Great Britain. Even the Irish members themselves have scarcely foreseen
how immensely Ireland, being the poorest partner in the United Kingdom,
would benefit by a policy "tender to the poor." The most conspicuous
example of that effect has been Old-age Pensions. Old-age Pensions have
fallen on Ireland as a shower of gold. Her share is already well over
2,000,000. The great new fact in Irish social welfare is that she now
draws that great draught from the Imperial Exchequer.

Travelling along the Atlantic coast last summer, I inquired in many
local post-offices as to the amount of pensions given weekly in those
little grey villages. I found that often the old-age pensioners would
number between 100 and 200 in small villages of less than 2,000 people.
The emigration of the youth has left a disproportionate number of the
old, and it is not necessary to bring any railing accusation against
the honesty of the Irish race in order to understand why it is that
Old-age Pensions have done so much for Ireland. But the fact remains,
and it carries with it a great and unexpected relief to the Irish


Last, but not least, we have the great stimulus given to higher
education by the passage of Mr. Birrell's Irish University Act. For a
whole generation the progress of higher education in Ireland has been
held up by a barren and wearisome religious quarrel. Now that quarrel
has vanished, and Ireland is organising a great system of University
education for her Catholic as well as her Protestant youth. Not the
least stimulating experience of the Eighty Club in Ireland was the day
which we spent, under the guidance of the distinguished Principal, at
Cork University College, where we saw Catholics and Protestants, men
and women, young and old, working together in friendly harmony in the
splendid buildings which have sprung up to house the undergraduates of
the south-west. The same process is going on at Dublin, Galway, and
Belfast. The machinery is being rapidly prepared for training up in the
best possible atmosphere of mutual tolerance the new rulers of Home
Rule Ireland.

* * * * *

Such have been the great Acts of Parliament which have created a
changed situation in Ireland. But the crown is still wanting to the
work. Those who travel in Ireland and make any close inquiry into the
work of these Acts must feel that there is a great gap unfilled. It is
a gap at the top. All these new roads of reform are well and truly
laid--but they all lead nowhere.

Take one startling fact. Two Commissions of late years have considered
the great and glaring need of Ireland in the want of swift, cheap, and
convenient transport both for persons and goods. One of these
Commissions was on Canals, and the other on Railways. Both decided in
favour of national control. But as there is no national authority which
anyone trusts, both reports have been stillborn.[34]

It was probably some such facts that led, as far back as August, 1903,
to the uprising among the more moderate Unionist Irishmen of a
remarkable movement which is still affecting Ireland. This movement
took shape in a body; called the Irish Reform Association, presided
over, like the Land Conference, by that remarkable Irish peer Lord
Dunraven. That Conference put forward a set of proposals which are now
historical, and which have since, in varying forms, inspired the
movement for what is popularly known as "Devolution."[35]

Mild as are the proposals of this new party, they do not differ in
principle from the proposals of the Home Rulers.

These proposals obtained the backing of a large section of the Unionist
Party. They undoubtedly had the sympathy of Sir Anthony MacDonnell. It
is difficult to say, at the present moment, what precise part was
played by Mr. George Wyndham, then still the Irish Chief Secretary. But
the eloquent fact remains that the ultimate triumph of the Ulster
Unionists over the Devolution Party of 1903 was marked by his
resignation. There would seem to be no substantial doubt that in 1903
there arose in the Unionist Party the same division in regard to Home
Rule as arose in 1885, when Lord Carnarvon, the Tory Viceroy, met Mr.
Parnell. For the moment the better spirits seriously contemplated
removing once and for all the bitterness of the Irish grievance. There
was a return of that feeling in the autumn of 1910, when, for the
moment, at a period still known politically as the "age of reason,"
most of the Unionist Press admitted how much good reason and
common-sense there was on the side of Home Rule. On each of these
occasions the same result has occurred. At the critical moment the
extreme faction of the Ulster Unionists has intervened and driven back
the Tory Party to its fatal enslavement.

But the great fact which produced these movements still remains as
valid and potent as ever. It is that, whatever improvements you
introduce into the Irish machine, it can never work properly until the
central motive power is a self-governing authority.

So deeply have the better Unionists been committed to that view in the
past, in 1885, 1903, and 1910, that they are now shaping a new argument
to face the situation of 1912. This argument is simple. It is that the
new prosperity of Ireland is not a help, but a bar to Home Rule.

"If Ireland can prosper so well without Home Rule," so runs this line
of reasoning, "why give her Home Rule at all?"

This is indeed a strange and cruel argument. We all know the people who
used to say Home Rule was impossible because Ireland was disturbed.
They are now occupied in saying that she must be denied Home Rule
because she is so peaceful.

But now it appears that this ingenious dilemma is to be applied to her
material condition also. As with order, so with finance. In the old
days Ireland was refused Home Rule because she was too poor. How could
she get on without England? She would be bankrupt. But now that she is
better off she is to be refused it because she is too prosperous!

Is it not quite obvious that these are arguments after judgment? That
the people who use them are merely seeking excuses for refusing Home
Rule altogether and at all seasons?

The British people, essentially a just and serious people, will not
listen to these last desperate pleas, the coward fugitives of a routed

They will rather believe that all these material improvements in the
condition of Ireland only make the need for Home Rule stronger and more
urgent. They will realise that Ireland requires not a material, but a
moral cure to give her the full value of the new reforms. Her need is
to be removed once and for all from the class of dependent communities.
She wants the great tonic cure of self-reliance and

For it is as true to-day as it was when Mr. Gladstone spoke these wise
and searching words in April, 1886[36]:--

"The fault of the administration of Ireland is simply this:
that its spring and source of action, and what is called its
motor muscle, is English and not Irish. Without providing a
domestic Legislature for Ireland, without having an Irish
Parliament, I want to know how you will bring about this
wonderful, superhuman, and, I believe, in this condition,
impossible result, that your administrative system shall be
Irish and not English?"

The greatest need is still this--to make the "motor-muscle" Irish.

* * * * *


[28] The Report of the Congested Districts Commission was issued in

[29] See 19th Report (1911), Cd. 5712. The Act of 1909 more than
doubled the area and population, bringing the area to 4,000,000 acres,
and the population to 600,000. The former endowment was 86,000.

[30] Comprising the whole of the counties of Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo,
Roscommon, Mayo, Galway, Kerry, and parts of the counties of Clare and

[31] The members of this admirable Board are Mr. Birrell, Lord
Shaftesbury, Mr. O'Donnell, Dr. Mangan, Sir Horace Plunkett, Sir David
Harrel, and six others.

[32] For the governing clauses of that Act see Appendix E.

[33] May not the Insurance Act do the same? It is very likely.

[34] See Appendix J.

[35] Private Bill legislation to be settled in Dublin. Irish internal
expenditure to be handed to a financial council half elected and half
nominated. An Irish Assembly to be created with a small power of

[36] April 8th.--Second Reading Speech on 1886 Home Rule Bill.


BILL OF 1912.

"Without union of hearts identification is extinction, is
dishonour, is conquest--not identification."


"It would be a misery to me if I had forgotten or omitted, in
these my closing years, any measure possible for me to take
towards upholding and promoting the cause, not of one Party or
another, of one nation or another, but of all Parties and of
all nations inhabiting these islands; and to these nations,
viewing them as I do with all their vast opportunities, under a
living union for power and for progress, I say, let me entreat
you to let the dead bury the dead, and to cast behind you every
recollection of bygone evils, and to cherish, to love, and
sustain one another through all the vicissitudes of human
affairs in the times that are to come."

(First reading of 1893 Bill, 13th February).



The Home Rule Bill of 1912 is now before the country, both in the clear
and simple statement of the Prime Minister and in the test of the Bill
itself[37]. The Bill has already passed through the fire of one
Parliamentary debate, and secured one great majority of 94 in the House
of Commons.

What are the general outlines of this great measure? Its central
proposal is the creation of an Irish Parliament, responsible for the
administration of Irish affairs. That Parliament is to consist of a
Senate and a House of Commons, numbering respectively 40 and 164,
guided by an Irish Executive, chosen in the same manner as the British
Imperial Cabinet. Ireland, in other words, is to be governed by
responsible Parliamentary chiefs, commanding a majority in the Irish
House of Commons. In this honest recognition of facts and terms we have
an advance on the vagueness of former proposals. Otherwise, both this
Parliament and this Executive are to have the same liberty and are to
be restrained by almost precisely the same checks and safeguards, in
regard both to religious rights and Imperial sovereignty, as those
which existed in the Home Rule Bills of 1886 and 1893. Ireland is to
retain at Westminster a representation of forty-two members.

What is to happen if the two Irish Chambers differ? According to the
Bill, the Senate is to be nominated, at first by the Imperial
Government, and afterwards by the Irish Parliament, and the members are
to sit by rotation for eight years. The Irish House of Commons, on the
other hand, is to be elected by the same constituencies as at present,
and the membership is to be distributed in proportion to the
population--an arrangement which will give Ulster fifty-nine
representatives.[38] It is clear that under those conditions a powerful
Irish Government remaining in office beyond a certain period would have
command of both Houses, as indeed happens at present under similar
conditions both in Canada and New Zealand.[39] But if one Party should
hold power for a prolonged period, and then give place to another, the
new Government will find itself, as Mr. Borden finds himself in Canada
at present, restrained from precipitate change by an Upper House
nominated by his predecessors.

What would happen in that case? To settle that problem, the Home Rule
Bill contains a clause[40] adopting the provisions of the South Africa
Act, enabling both Houses to hold a joint sitting, in which the
majority will prevail. As long as that provision holds, it matters very
little whether the Upper Chamber is nominated or is elected, as some
propose, by proportional representation. In either case, the Irish
House of Commons will be the real governing body, as indeed it must be
if the Irish Executive is to be properly responsible, and the new Irish
Constitution to work smoothly.

So much for the general provisions of the present Bill. The details as
to safe-guards and exclusions will be found in the full text of the
Bill contained in Appendix A, and I shall leave the question of finance
to the chapter specifically devoted to that subject.

Let us turn now to the chief arguments against the measure as set forth
in the recent debate, and as expressed with ability and power in a
pamphlet entitled "Against Home Rule," to which practically all the
chief leaders of the Unionist cause contribute articles[41]. Apart from
the Ulster case, dealt with in a previous chapter, the main argument
seems to be that the English people have not been sufficiently
consulted. "It is all so sudden," said the elderly lady when she
received a proposal from an elderly suitor who had been delaying his
passion for a score or so of years. The same painful outcry comes from
the Unionist Party twenty-seven years after the first beginning of the
discussions of Home Rule in this country.

One can imagine, indeed, that a foreign visitor, coming to this land in
ignorance of the past of English politics, would suppose that the Home
Rule controversy had now arisen for the first time. Attending Unionist
meetings, he would hear an immense amount of eloquence devoted to the
wrongs of the English people in being rushed into a premature decision,
and being asked to give judgment without proper trial. The Home Rulers
would be represented to him as men of rash and precipitate temper, who
wanted to bring about in a few months a change which would affect the
United Kingdom for centuries. And finally he would hear men thanking
God that there existed a House of Lords which, in spite of the
machinations of the Home Rulers, could still give the British public
two more years to ruminate over the question of Home Rule.

He would naturally gather from this that the proposal of Home Rule for
Ireland had come upon this country with entire freshness, and had never
before been discussed among rational men. Filled with this impression
he might perhaps be surprised if he obtained the chance of hearing the
"still, small voice" of truth through the clamour and the uproar, to
discover that this plan of Home Rule was not born yesterday, but no
less than twenty-five years ago. He would find that for a whole
generation every nook and cranny of this proposal has been meticulously
explored, and that there have been on this subject thousands, if not
millions, of speeches and leading articles, hundreds of books, and
dozens of Parliamentary debates. He would even learn from many
politicians that their chief difficulty was the utter boredom of their
constituents over a subject which has been worn down by argument to the
very threads.

But he would be more surprised than all to discover that this proposal
had already been considered in at least four General Elections--1886,
1892, and the two elections of 1910.[42] "It has been deliberately
rejected by the people on two occasions" would be the cry which he
would hear most commonly from his Tory friends, and he would find that
they referred to the elections of 1886 and 1895. Our friend the
foreigner would naturally be impressed by that argument. But what would
be his amazement to discover that his informants had forgotten to
enlighten him on the equally important fact that Home Rule had been
definitely accepted and approved by the British electorate, not in two,
but in three elections--the election of 1892 and the two elections of
1910? He would discover that on all these three occasions the subject
had been definitely placed before them, that on all three occasions the
electorate had definitely supported Home Rule, by majorities varying
from forty in 1892 to 124 in December, 1910. As to the other General
Elections, might not our foreigner reflect that if an electorate were
really to discover that its vote for the approval of a measure was
treated--as in 1892--with indifference, it might naturally weary of

Might he not even, if he were a shrewd man, suspect that that was the
very object and aim which his informants had in view?

But perhaps his surprise would reach its highest point when he
discovered that this Home Rule proposal, so far from appearing now for
the first time in a definite form, had actually twice before taken the
definite and statutory form of Home Rule Bills, both the specific and
considered proposals of Liberal Governments, both fully drafted and
laid before Parliament, and both still to be purchased at any
Government printers. The first of these Bills, the Bill of 1886, was,
indeed, rejected by the House of Commons on the second reading, and
never ran the gauntlet of full Parliamentary debate.

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