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McNeill, Ronald John / Ulster's Stand For Union
E-text prepared by Jonathan Ingram, Susan Skinner, and the Project
Online Distributed Proofreading Team




With Frontispiece

John Murray,
Albemarle Street, W.




The term "Ulster," except when the context proves the contrary, is used
in this book not in the geographical, but the political meaning of the
word, which is quite as well understood.

The aim of the book is to present an account of what I have occasionally
in its pages referred to as "the Ulster Movement." The phrase is perhaps
somewhat paradoxical when applied to a political ideal which was the
maintenance of the _status quo_; but, on the other hand, the steps taken
during a period of years to organise an effective opposition to
interference with the established constitution in Ireland did involve a
movement, and it is with these measures, rather than with the policy
behind them, that the book is concerned.

Indeed, except for a brief introductory outline of the historical
background of the Ulster standpoint, I have taken for granted, or only
referred incidentally to the reasons for the unconquerable hostility of
the Ulster Protestants to the idea of allowing the government of
Ireland, and especially of themselves, to pass into the control of a
Parliament in Dublin. Those reasons were many and substantial, based
upon considerations both of a practical and a sentimental nature; but I
have not attempted an exposition of them, having limited myself to a
narrative of the events to which they gave rise.

Having been myself, during the most important part of the period
reviewed, a member of the Standing Committee of the Ulster Unionist
Council, and closely associated with the leaders of the movement, I have
had personal knowledge of practically everything I have had to record. I
have not, however, trusted to unaided memory for any statement of fact.
It is not, of course, a matter where anything that could be called
research was required; but, in addition to the _Parliamentary Reports_,
the _Annual Register_, and similar easily accessible books of reference,
there was a considerable mass of private papers bearing on the subject,
for the use of some of which I am indebted to friends.

I was permitted to consult the Minute-books of the Ulster Unionist
Council and its Standing Committee, and also verbatim reports made for
the Council of unpublished speeches delivered at private meetings of
those bodies. A large collection of miscellaneous documents accumulated
by the late Lord Londonderry was kindly lent to me by the present
Marquis; and I also have to thank Lord Carson of Duncairn for the use of
letters and other papers in his possession. Colonel F.H. Crawford,
C.B.E., was good enough to place at my disposal a very detailed account
written by himself of the voyage of the _Fanny_, and the log kept by
Captain Agnew. My friend Mr. Thomas Moles, M.P., took full shorthand
notes of the proceedings of the Irish Convention and the principal
speeches made in it, and he kindly allowed me to use his transcript. And
I should not like to pass over without acknowledgment the help given me
on several occasions by Miss Omash, of the Union Defence League, in
tracing references.

R. McN.

February 1922.


































Like all other movements in human affairs, the opposition of the
Northern Protestants of Ireland to the agitation of their Nationalist
fellow-countrymen for Home Rule can only be properly understood by those
who take some pains to get at the true motives, and to appreciate the
spirit, of those who engaged in it. And as it is nowhere more true than
in Ireland that the events of to-day are the outcome of events that
occurred longer ago than yesterday, and that the motives of to-day have
consequently their roots buried somewhat deeply in the past, it is no
easy task for the outside observer to gain the insight requisite for
understanding fairly the conduct of the persons concerned.

It was Mr. Asquith who very truly said that the Irish question, of which
one of the principal factors is the opposition of Ulster to Home Rule,
"springs from sources that are historic, economic, social, racial, and
religious." It would be a hopeless undertaking to attempt here to probe
to the bottom an origin so complex; but, whether the sympathies of the
reader be for or against the standpoint of the Irish Loyalists, the
actual events which make up what may be called the Ulster Movement would
be wholly unintelligible without some introductory retrospect. Indeed,
to those who set out to judge Irish political conditions without
troubling themselves about anything more ancient than their own memory
can recall, the most fundamental factor of all--the line of cleavage
between Ulster and the rest of the island--- is more than
unintelligible. In the eyes of many it presents itself as an example of
perversity, of "cussedness" on the part of men who insist on magnifying
mere differences of opinion, which would be easily composed by
reasonable people, into obstacles to co-operation which have no reality
behind them.

Writers and speakers on the Nationalist side deride the idea of "two
nations" in Ireland, calling in evidence many obvious identities of
interest, of sentiment, or of temperament between the inhabitants of the
North and of the South. The Ulsterman no more denies these identities
than the Greek, the Bulgar, and the Serb would deny that there are
features common to all dwellers in the Balkan peninsula; but he is more
deeply conscious of the difference than of the likeness between himself
and the man from Munster or Connaught. His reply to those who denounced
the Irish Government Act of 1920 on the ground that it set up a
"partition of Ireland," is that the Act did not "set up," but only
recognised, the partition which history made long ago, and which wrecked
all attempts to solve the problem of Irish Government that neglected to
take it into account. If there be any force in Renan's saying that the
root of nationality is "the will to live together," the Nationalist cry
of "Ireland a Nation" harmonises ill with the actual conditions of
Ireland north and south of the Boyne. This dividing gulf between the two
populations in Ireland is the result of the same causes as the political
dissension that springs from it, as described by Mr. Asquith in words
quoted above. The tendencies of social and racial origin operate for the
most part subconsciously--though not perhaps less powerfully on that
account; those connected with economic considerations, with religious
creeds, and with events in political history enter directly and
consciously into the formation of convictions which in turn become the
motives for actions.

In the mind of the average Ulster Unionist the particular point of
contrast between himself and the Nationalist of which he is more
forcibly conscious than of any other, and in which all other
distinguishing traits are merged, is that he is loyal to the British
Crown and the British Flag, whereas the other man is loyal to neither.
Religious intolerance, so far as the Protestants are concerned, of
which so much is heard, is in actual fact mainly traceable to the same
sentiment. It is unfortunately true that the lines of political and of
religious division coincide; but religious dissensions seldom flare up
except at times of political excitement; and, while it is undeniable
that the temper of the creeds more resembles what prevailed in England
in the seventeenth than in the twentieth century, yet when overt
hostility breaks out it is because the creed is taken--and usually taken
rightly--as _prima facie_ evidence of political opinion--political
opinion meaning "loyalty" or "disloyalty," as the case may be. The label
of "loyalist" is that which the Ulsterman cherishes above all others. It
means something definite to him; its special significance is reinforced
by the consciousness of its wearers that they are a minority; it
sustains the feeling that the division between parties is something
deeper and more fundamental than anything that in England is called
difference of opinion. This feeling accounts for much that sometimes
perplexes even the sympathetic English observer, and moves the hostile
partisan to scornful criticism. The ordinary Protestant farmer or
artisan of Ulster is by nature as far as possible removed from the being
who is derisively nicknamed the "noisy patriot" or the "flag-wagging
jingo." If the National Anthem has become a "party tune" in Ireland, it
is not because the loyalist sings it, but because the dis-loyalist shuns
it; and its avoidance at gatherings both political and social where
Nationalists predominate, naturally makes those who value loyalty the
more punctilious in its use. If there is a profuse display of the Union
Jack, it is because it is in Ulster not merely "bunting" for decorative
purposes as in England, but the symbol of a cherished faith.

There may, perhaps, be some persons, unfamiliar with the Ulster cast of
mind, who find it hard to reconcile this profession of passionate
loyalty with the methods embarked upon in 1912 by the Ulster people. It
is a question upon which there will be something to be said when the
narrative reaches the events of that date. Here it need only be stated
that, in the eyes of Ulstermen at all events, constitutional orthodoxy
is quite a different thing from loyalty, and that true allegiance to
the Sovereign is by them sharply differentiated from passive obedience
to an Act of Parliament.

The sincerity with which this loyalist creed is held by practically the
entire Protestant population of Ulster cannot be questioned by anyone
who knows the people, however much he may criticise it on other grounds.
And equally sincere is the conviction held by the same people that
disloyalty is, and always has been, the essential characteristic of
Nationalism. The conviction is founded on close personal contact
continued through many generations with the adherents of that political
party, and the tradition thus formed draws more support from authentic
history than many Englishmen are willing to believe. Consequently, when
the General Election of 1918 revealed that the whole of Nationalist
Ireland had gone over with foot, horse, and artillery, with bag and
baggage, from the camp of so-called Constitutional Home Rule, to the
Sinn Feiners who made no pretence that their aim was anything short of
complete independent sovereignty for Ireland, no surprise was felt in
Ulster. It was there realised that nothing had happened beyond the
throwing off of the mask which had been used as a matter of political
tactics to disguise what had always been the real underlying aim, if not
of the parliamentary leaders, at all events of the great mass of
Nationalist opinion throughout the three southern provinces. The whole
population had not with one consent changed their views in the course of
a night; they had merely rallied to support the first leaders whom they
had found prepared to proclaim the true objective. Curiously enough,
this truth was realised by an English politician who was in other
respects conspicuously deficient in insight regarding Ireland. The
Easter insurrection of 1916 in Dublin was only rendered possible by the
negligence or the incompetence of the Chief Secretary; but, in giving
evidence before the Commission appointed to inquire into it, Mr. Birrell
said: "The spirit of what to-day is called Sinn Feinism is mainly
composed of the old hatred and distrust of the British connection ...
always there as the background of Irish politics and character"; and,
after recalling that Cardinal Newman had observed the same state of
feeling in Dublin more than half a century before, Mr. Birrell added
quite truly that "this dislike, hatred, disloyalty (so unintelligible to
many Englishmen) is hard to define but easy to discern, though incapable
of exact measurement from year to year." This disloyal spirit, which
struck Newman, and which Mr. Birrell found easy to discern, was of
course always familiar to Ulstermen as characteristic of "the South and
West," and was their justification for the badge of "loyalist," their
assumption of which English Liberals, knowing nothing of Ireland, held
to be an unjust slur on the Irish majority.

If this belief in the inherent disloyalty of Nationalist Ireland to the
British Empire did any injustice to individual Nationalist politicians,
they had nobody but themselves to blame for it. Their pronouncements in
America, as well as at home, were scrutinised in Ulster with a care that
Englishmen seldom took the trouble to give them. Nor must it be
forgotten that, up to the date when Mr. Gladstone made Home Rule a plank
in an English party's programme--which, whatever else it did, could not
alter the facts of the case--the same conviction, held in Ulster so
tenaciously, had prevailed almost universally in Great Britain also; and
had been proclaimed by no one so vehemently as by Mr. Gladstone himself,
whose famous declarations that the Nationalists of that day were
"steeped to the lips in treason," and were "marching through rapine to
the dismemberment of the Empire," were not so quickly forgotten in
Ulster as in England, nor so easily passed over as either meaningless or
untrue as soon as they became inconvenient for a political party to
remember. English supporters of Home Rule, when reminded of such
utterances, dismissed with a shrug the "unedifying pastime of unearthing
buried speeches"; and showed equal determination to see nothing in
speeches delivered by Nationalist leaders in America inconsistent with
the purely constitutional demand for "extended self-government."

Ulster never would consent to bandage her own eyes in similar fashion,
or to plug her ears with wool. The "two voices" of Nationalist leaders,
from Mr. Parnell to Mr. Dillon, were equally audible to her; and, of the
two, she was certain that the true aim of Nationalist policy was
expressed by the one whose tone was disloyal to the British Empire.
Look-out was kept for any change in the direction of moderation, for any
real indication that those who professed to be "constitutional
Nationalists" were any less determined than "the physical force party"
to reach the goal described by Parnell in the famous sentence, "None of
us will be ... satisfied until we have destroyed the last link which
keeps Ireland bound to England."

No such indication was ever discernible. On the contrary, Parnell's
phrase became a refrain to be heard in many later pronouncements of his
successors, and the policy he thus described was again and again
propounded in after-years on innumerable Nationalist platforms, in
speeches constantly quoted to prove, as was the contention of Ulster
from the first, that Home Rule as understood by English Liberals was no
more than an instalment of the real demand of Nationalists, who, if they
once obtained the "comparative freedom" of an Irish legislature--to
quote the words used by Mr. Devlin at a later date--would then, with
that leverage, "operate by whatever means they should think best to
achieve the great and desirable end" of complete independence of Great

This was an end that could not by any juggling be reconciled with the
Ulsterman's notion of "loyalty." Moreover, whatever knowledge he
possessed of his country's history--and he knows a good deal more, man
for man, than the Englishman--confirmed his deep distrust of those whom,
following the example of John Bright, he always bluntly described as
"the rebel party." He knew something of the rebellions in Ireland in the
seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, and was under no
illusion as to the design for which arms had been taken up in the past.
He knew that that design had not changed with the passing of
generations, although gentler methods of accomplishing it might
sometimes find favour. Indeed, one Nationalist leader himself took
pains, at a comparatively recent date, to remove any excuse there may
ever have been for doubt on this point. Mr. John Redmond was an orator
who selected his words with care, and his appeals to historical
analogies were not made haphazard. When he declared (in a speech in
1901) that, "in its essence, the national movement to-day is the same as
it was in the days of Hugh O'Neill, of Owen Roe, of Emmet, or of Wolfe
Tone," those names, which would have had but a shadowy significance for
a popular audience in England, carried very definite meaning to the ears
of Irishmen, whether Nationalist or Unionist. Mr. Gladstone, in the
fervour of his conversion to Home Rule, was fond of allusions to the
work of Molyneux and Swift, Flood and Grattan; but these were men whose
Irish patriotism never betrayed them into disloyalty to the British
Crown or hostility to the British connection. They were reformers, not
rebels. But it was not with the political ideals of such men that Mr.
Redmond claimed his own to be identical, nor even with that of
O'Connell, the apostle of repeal of the Union, but with the aims of men
who, animated solely by hatred of England, sought to establish the
complete independence of Ireland by force of arms, and in some cases by
calling in (like Roger Casement in our own day) the aid of England's
foreign enemies.

In the face of appeals like this to the historic imagination of an
impressionable people, it is not surprising that by neither Mr.
Redmond's followers nor by his opponents was much account taken of his
own personal disapproval of extremes both of means and ends. His
opponents in Ulster simply accepted such utterances as confirmation of
what they had known all along from other sources to be the actual facts,
namely, that the Home Rule agitation was "in its essence" a separatist
movement; that its adherents were, as Mr. Redmond himself said on
another occasion, "as much rebels as their fathers were in 1798"; and
that the men of Ulster were, together with some scattered sympathisers
in the other Provinces, the depositaries of the "loyal" tradition.

The latter could boast of a pedigree as long as that of the rebels. If
Mr. Redmond's followers were to trace their political ancestry, as he
told them, to the great Earl of Tyrone who essayed to overthrow England
with the help of the Spaniard and the Pope, the Ulster Protestants could
claim descent from the men of the Plantation, through generation after
generation of loyalists who had kept the British flag flying in Ireland
in times of stress and danger, when Mr. Redmond's historical heroes were
making England's difficulty Ireland's opportunity.

There have been, and are, many individual Nationalists, no doubt,
especially among the more educated and thoughtful, to whom it would be
unjust to impute bad faith when they professed that their political
aspirations for Ireland were really limited to obtaining local control
of local affairs, and who resented being called "Separatists," since
their desire was not for separation from Great Britain but for the
"union of hearts," which they believed would grow out of extended
self-government. But the answer of Irish Unionists, especially in
Ulster, has always been that, whatever such "moderate," or
"constitutional" Nationalists might dream, it would be found in
practice, if the experiment were made, that no halting-place could be
found between legislative union and complete separation. Moreover, the
same view was held by men as far as possible removed from the standpoint
of the Ulster Protestant. Cardinal Manning, for example, although an
intimate personal friend of Gladstone, in a letter to Leo XIII, wrote:
"As for myself, Holy Father, allow me to say that I consider a
Parliament in Dublin and a separation to be equivalent to the same
thing. Ireland is not a Colony like Canada, but it is an integral and
vital part of one country."[1]

It is improbable that identical lines of reasoning led the Roman
Catholic Cardinal and the Belfast Orangeman and Presbyterian to this
identical conclusion; but a position reached by convergent paths from
such distant points of departure is defensible presumably on grounds
more solid than prejudice or passion. It is unnecessary here to examine
those grounds at length, for the present purpose is not to argue the
Ulster case, but to let the reader know what was, as a matter of fact,
the Ulster point of view, whether that point of view was well or ill

But, while the opinion that a Dublin Parliament meant separation was
shared by many who had little else in common with the Ulster
Protestants, the latter stood alone in the intensity of their conviction
that "Home Rule meant Rome Rule." It has already been mentioned that it
is the "disloyalty" attributed rightly or wrongly to the Roman Catholics
as a body that has been, in recent times at all events, the mainspring
of Protestant distrust. But sectarian feeling, everywhere common between
rival creeds, is, of course, by no means absent. Englishmen find it hard
to understand what seems to them the bigoted and senseless animosity of
the rival faiths in Ireland. This is due to the astonishing shortness of
their memory in regard to their own history, and their very limited
outlook on the world outside their own island. If, without looking
further back in their history, they reflected that the "No Popery"
feeling in England in mid-Victorian days was scarcely less intense than
it is in Ulster to-day; or if they realised the extent to which
Gambetta's "Le cléricalisme, voilà l'ennemi" continues still to
influence public life in France, they might be less ready to censure the
Irish Protestant's dislike of priestly interference in affairs outside
the domain of faith and morals. It is indeed remarkable that
Nonconformists, especially in Wales, who within living memory have
displayed their own horror of the much milder form of sacerdotalism to
be found in the Anglican Church, have no sympathy apparently with the
Presbyterian and the Methodist in Ulster when the latter kick against
the encompassing pressure of the Roman Catholic priesthood, not in
educational matters alone, but in all the petty activities of every-day

Whenever this aspect of the Home Rule controversy was emphasised
Englishmen asked what sort of persecution Irish Protestants had to fear
from a Parliament in Dublin, and appeared to think all such fear
illusory unless evidence could be adduced that the Holy Office was to be
set up at Maynooth, equipped with faggot and thumb-screw. Of persecution
of that sort there never has been, of course, any apprehension in
modern times. Individual Catholics and Protestants live side by side in
Ireland with fully as much amity as elsewhere, but whereas the Catholic
instinctively, and by upbringing, looks to the parish priest as his
director in all affairs of life, the Protestant dislikes and resists
clerical influence as strongly as does the Nonconformist in England and
Wales--and with much better reason. For the latter has never known
clericalism as it exists in a Roman Catholic country where the Church is
wholly unrestrained by the civil power. He has resented what he regards
as Anglican arrogance in regard to educational management or the use of
burying-grounds, but he has never experienced a much more aggressive
clerical temper exercised in all the incidents of daily life--in the
market, the political meeting, the disposition of property, the
amusements of the people, the polling booth, the farm, and the home.

This involves no condemnation of the Irish priest as an individual or as
a minister of his Church. He is kind-hearted, charitable, and
conscientious; and, except that it does not encourage self-reliance and
enterprise, his influence with his own people is no more open to
criticism than that of any other body of religious ministers. But the
Roman Catholic Church has always made a larger claim than any other on
the obedience of its adherents, and it has always enforced that
obedience whenever it has had the power by methods which, in Protestant
opinion, are extremely objectionable. In theory the claim may be limited
to affairs concerned with faith and morals; but the definition of such
affairs is a very elastic one. Cardinal Logue not many years ago said:
"When political action trenches upon faith or morals or affects
religion, the Vicar of Christ, as the supreme teacher and guardian of
faith and morals, and as the custodian of the immunities of religion,
has, by Divine Right, authority to interfere and to enforce his
decisions." How far this principle is in practice carried beyond the
limits so denned was proved in the famous Meath election petition in
1892, in which the Judge who tried it, himself a devout Catholic,
declared: "The Church became converted for the time being into a vast
political agency, a great moral machine moving with resistless
influence, united action, and a single will. Every priest who was
examined was a canvasser; the canvas was everywhere--on the altar, in
the vestry, on the roads, in the houses." And while an election was in
progress in County Tyrone in 1911 a parish priest announced that any
Catholic who should vote for the Unionist candidate "would be held
responsible at the Day of Judgment." A still more notorious example of
clericalism in secular affairs, within the recollection of Englishmen,
was the veto on the Military Service Act proclaimed from the altars of
the Catholic Churches, which, during the Great War, defeated the
application to Ireland of the compulsory service which England,
Scotland, and Wales accepted as the only alternative to national defeat
and humiliation.

But these were only conspicuous examples of what the Irish Protestant
sees around him every day of his life. The promulgation in 1908 of the
Vatican decree, _Nec Temere_, a papal reassertion of the canonical
invalidity of mixed marriages, followed as it was by notorious cases of
the victimisation of Protestant women by the application of its
principles, did not encourage the Protestants to welcome the prospect of
a Catholic Parliament that would have control of the marriage law; nor
did they any more readily welcome the prospect of national education on
purely ecclesiastical lines. Another Vatican decree that was equally
alarming to Protestants was that entitled _Motu Proprio_, by which any
Catholic layman was _ipso facto_ excommunicated who should have the
temerity to bring a priest into a civil court either as defendant or
witness. Medievalism like this was felt by Ulster Protestants to be
irreconcilable with modern ideas of democratic freedom, and to indicate
a temper that boded ill for any regime which would be subject to its
inspiration. These were matters, it is true,--and there were perhaps
some others of a similar nature--on which it is possible to conceive
more or less satisfactory legislative safeguards being provided; but as
regards the indefinable but innumerable minutiae in which the prevailing
ecclesiastical standpoint creates an atmosphere in which daily life has
to be carried on, no safeguards could be devised, and it was the
realisation of this truth in the light of their own experience that made
the Ulstermen continually close their ears to allurements of that sort.

The Roman Church is quite consistent, and from its own point of view
praiseworthy, in its assertion of its right, and its duty, to control
the lives and thoughts of men; but this assertion has produced a clash
with the non-ecclesiastical mind in almost every country, where
Catholicism is the dominant religious faith. But in Ireland, unlike
Continental countries, there is no Catholic lay opinion--or almost
none--able to make its voice heard against clerical dictation, and
consequently the Protestants felt convinced, with good reason, that any
legislature in Ireland must take its tone from this pervading mental and
moral atmosphere, and that all its proceedings would necessarily be
tainted by it.

Prior to 1885 the political complexion of Ulster was in the main
Liberal. The Presbyterians, who formed the majority of the Protestant
population, collateral descendants of the men who emigrated in the
eighteenth century and formed the backbone of Washington's army, and
direct descendants of those who joined the United Irishmen in 1798, were
of a pronounced Liberal type, and their frequently strong disapproval of
Orangeism made any united political action an improbable occurrence. But
the crisis brought about by Gladstone's declaration in favour of Home
Rule instantly swept all sections of Loyalists into a single camp. There
was practically not a Liberal left who did not become Unionist, and,
although a separate organisation of Liberal Unionists was maintained,
the co-operation with Conservatives was so whole-hearted and complete as
almost to amount to fusion from the outset.

The immediate cessation of class friction was still more remarkable. For
more than a decade the perennial quarrel between landlord and tenant had
been increasing in intensity, and the recent land legislation had
disposed the latter to look upon Gladstone as a deliverer. Their
gratitude was wiped out the moment he hoisted the green flag, while the
labourers enfranchised by the Act of 1884 eagerly enrolled themselves
as the bitterest enemies of his new Irish policy. The unanimity of the
country-side was matched in the towns, and especially in Belfast, where,
with the single exception of a definitely Catholic quarter, employer and
artisan were as whole-heartedly united as were landlord and tenant in
passionate resentment at what they regarded as the betrayal by England's
foremost statesman of England's only friends in Ireland.

The defeat of the Home Rule Bill of 1886 brought relief from the
immediate strain of anxiety. But it was at once realised that the
encouragement and support given to Irish disloyalty for the first time
by one of the great political parties in Great Britain was a step that
could never be recalled. Henceforth the vigilance required to prevent
being taken unawares, and the untiring organisation necessary for making
effective defence against an attack which, although it had signally
failed at the first onslaught, was certain to be renewed, welded all the
previously diverse social and political elements in Ulster into a single
compact mass, tempered to the maximum power of resistance. There was
room for no other thought in the minds of men who felt as if living in a
beleaguered citadel, whose flag they were bound in honour to keep flying
to the last. The "loyalist" tradition acquired fresh meaning and
strength, and its historical setting took a more conscious hold on the
public mind of Ulster, as men studied afresh the story of the Relief of
Derry or the horrors of 1641. Visits of encouragement from the leaders
of Unionism across the Channel, men like Lord Salisbury, Mr. Balfour,
Mr. Chamberlain, Lord Randolph Churchill, fortified the resolution of a
populace that came more and more to regard themselves as a bulwark of
the Empire, on whom destiny, while conferring on them the honour of
upholding the flag, had imposed the duty of putting into actual practice
the familiar motto of the Orange Lodges--"No surrender."

From a psychology so bred and nourished sprang a political temper which,
as it hardened with the passing years, appeared to English Home Rulers
to be "stiff-necked," "bigoted," and "intractable." It certainly was a
state of mind very different from those shifting gusts of transient
impression which in England go by the name of public opinion; and, if
these epithets in the mouths of opponents be taken as no more than
synonyms for "uncompromising," they were not undeserved. At a memorable
meeting at the Albert Hall in London on the 22nd of April, 1893, Dr.
Alexander, Bishop of Derry, poet, orator, and divine, declared in an
eloquent passage that was felt to be the exact expression of Ulster
conviction, that the people of Ulster, when exhorted to show confidence
in their southern fellow-countrymen, "could no more be confiding about
its liberty than a pure woman can be confiding about her honour."

Here was the irreconcilable division. The Nationalist talked of
centuries of "oppression," and demanded the dissolution of the Union in
the name of liberty. The Ulsterman, while far from denying the
misgovernment of former times, knew that it was the fruit of false ideas
which had passed away, and that the Ireland in which he lived enjoyed as
much liberty as any land on earth; and he feared the loss of the true
liberty he had gained if put back under a regime of Nationalist and
Utramontane domination. And so for more than thirty years the people of
Ulster for whom Bishop Alexander spoke made good his words. If in the
end compromise was forced upon them it was not because their standpoint
had changed, and it was only in circumstances which involved no
dishonour, and which preserved them from what they chiefly dreaded,
subjection to a Dublin Parliament inspired by clericalism and disloyalty
to the Empire.

The development which brought about the change from Ulster's resolute
stand for unimpaired union with Great Britain to her reluctant
acceptance of a separate local constitution for the predominantly
Protestant portion of the Province, presents a deeply interesting
illustration of the truth of a pregnant dictum of Maine's on the working
of democratic institutions.

"Democracies," he says, "are quite paralysed by the plea of nationality.
There is no more effective way of attacking them than by admitting the
right of the majority to govern, but denying that the majority so
entitled is the particular majority which claims the right."[2]

This is precisely what occurred in regard to Ulster's relation to Great
Britain and to the rest of Ireland respectively. The will of the
majority must prevail, certainly. But what majority? Unionists
maintained that only the majority in the United Kingdom could decide,
and that it had never in fact decided in favour of repealing the Act of
Union; Lord Rosebery at one time held that a majority in Great Britain
alone, as the "Predominant Partner," must first give its consent; Irish
Nationalists argued that the majority in Ireland, as a distinct unit,
was the only one that should count. Ulster, whilst agreeing with the
general Unionist position, contended ultimately that her own majority
was as well entitled to be heard in regard to her own fate as the
majority in Ireland as a whole. To the Nationalist claim that Ireland
was a nation she replied that it was either two nations or none, and
that if one of the two had a right to "self-determination," the other
had it equally. Thus the axiom of democracy that government is by the
majority was, as Maine said, "paralysed by the plea of nationality,"
since the contending parties appealed to the same principle without
having any common ground as to how it should be applied to the case in

If the Union with Great Britain was to be abrogated, which Pitt had only
established when "a full measure of Home Rule" had produced a bloody
insurrection and Irish collusion with England's external enemies, Ulster
could at all events in the last resort take her stand on Abraham
Lincoln's famous proposition which created West Virginia: "A minority of
a large community who make certain claims for self-government cannot, in
logic or in substance, refuse the same claims to a much larger
proportionate minority among themselves."

The Loyalists of Ulster were successful in holding this second line,
when the first was no longer tenable; but they only retired from the
first line--the maintenance of the legislative union--after a long and
obstinate defence which it is the purpose of the following pages to


[1] _Henry Edward Manning_, by Shane Leslie, p. 406.

[2] Sir S.H. Maine, _Popular Government_, p. 28.



We profess to be a democratic country in which the "will of the people"
is the ultimate authority in determining questions of policy, and the
Liberal Party has been accustomed to regard itself as the most zealous
guardian of democratic principles. Yet there is this curious paradox in
relation to the problem which more than any other taxed British
statesmanship during the thirty-five years immediately following the
enfranchisement of the rural democracy in 1884, that the solution
propounded by the Liberal Party, and inscribed by that party on the
Statute-book in 1914, was more than once emphatically rejected, and has
never been explicitly accepted by the electorate.

No policy ever submitted to the country was more decisively condemned at
the polls than Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule proposals in the General
Election of 1886. The issue then for the first time submitted to the
people was isolated from all others with a completeness scarcely ever
practicable--a circumstance which rendered the "mandate" to Parliament
to maintain the legislative union exceptionally free from ambiguity. The
party which had brought forward the defeated proposal, although led by a
statesman of unrivalled popularity, authority, and power, was shattered
in the attempt to carry it, and lost the support of numbers of its most
conspicuous adherents, including Chamberlain, Hartington, Goschen, and
John Bright, besides a multitude of its rank and file, who entered into
political partnership with their former opponents in order to withstand
the new departure of their old Chief.

The years that followed were a period of preparation by both sides for
the next battle. The improvement in the state of Ireland, largely the
result of legislation carried by Lord Salisbury's Government, especially
that which promoted land purchase, encouraged the confidence felt by
Unionists that the British voter would remain staunch to the Union. The
downfall of Parnell in 1890, followed by the break-up of his party, and
by his death in the following year, seemed to make the danger of Home
Rule still more remote. The only disquieting factor was the personality
of Mr. Gladstone, which, the older he grew, exercised a more and more
incalculable influence on the public mind. And there can be no doubt
that it was this personal influence that made him, in spite of his
policy, and not because of it, Prime Minister for the fourth time in
1892. In Great Britain the electors in that year pronounced against Home
Rule again by a considerable majority, and it was only by coalition with
the eighty-three Irish Nationalist Members that Gladstone and his party
were able to scrape up a majority of forty in support of his second Home
Rule Bill. Whether there was any ground for Gladstone's belief that but
for the O'Shea divorce he would have had a three-figure majority in 1892
is of little consequence, but the fall of his own majority in Midlothian
from 4,000 to below 700, which caused him "intense chagrin,"[3] does not
lend it support. Lord Morley says Gladstone was blamed by some of his
friends for accepting office "depending on a majority not large enough
to coerce the House of Lords"[4]; but a more valid ground of censure was
that he was willing to break up the constitution of the United Kingdom,
although a majority of British electors had just refused to sanction
such a thing being done.

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