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payers, (ii.) the administration of law and justice in Ireland, (iii.) the separate treatment of Ulster from the rest of Ireland, and (iv.) the retention of Irish members at Westminster, as affecting the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. About the two last of these four points Sir George Trevelyan said little last year. In the forefront of his objections to Mr. Gladstone's policy he put the Land Purchase Bill, and the surrender, under the Home Rule Bill, of the control of law and order in Ireland to the National League. Now what has been said or done to remove the objections on which he seemed to take so firm a stand only a few months since 2 As regards the employment of British credit for the benefit of Irish landlords, and the severance of the original “ twinship’’ of the Land Purchase and Home Rule Bills, Sir George can fairly claim to have had some concession made to him. Mr. Gladstone has stated that, in his belief, it is possible to devise a safe plan for the sale and purchase of land in Ireland without recourse to Imperial credit; but he was careful to add, that the indispensable condition of any such plan known to him would be the institution of a real Irish Government able to speak and act for Ireland. \ In other words, his postulate was the creation of a responsible and powerful Irish Executive, an arrangement to which Sir George appeared last year to entertain an extreme repugnance. o whatever may be the value of this concession, it is not a new oné. The sands of the hour-glass began to run out at a very early dat after the introduction of the Land Purchase Bill, and its final severance from the Home Rule Bill was announced a full year ago. It must also be borne in mind that all Liberal Unionists did not, at the last General Election, put forward the Land Purchase Bill as a cardinal reason for their opposition to Mr. Gladstone. There were some who felt that landlords should be secured against public plunder and rapine, before liberty and property in Ireland were transferred to the control of Mr. Parnell and Mr. Davitt; and such Unionists are repelled, rather than conciliated, by Mr. Gladstone's rapid change of front in this part of his policy. They, at least, cannot recognize cheerful alacrity in shaking off an inconvenient “obligation of honour” as a title to the renewal of their confidence. Then, as regards that other crucial point, the administration of law and order in Ireland, is it possible that Sir George Trevelyan, or any other Unionist who ever shared his apprehensions, can now abandon himself to Mr. Gladstone's guidance with a tranquil conscience and a mind at ease ? What Liberal Unionist dilated, last year, with more emphasis and warmth of feeling than Sir George on the imperfections of the Home Rule Bill with respect to the future administration of justice in Ireland 2 He refused to believe that any responsible body of Ministers would put the keeping of the police, the enforcement of civil obligations, and the safety and property of our Irish fellow-citizens into the hands of an elective Irish Parliament. He was aghast at the notion of placing the resident magistrates—“the backbone of the system of law and order in Ireland ”—under an Irish Executive, dependent on an elected Parliament. He had little faith in what Judges, appointed by this dependent Executive and removable by an address from the Irish Parliament, could do to maintain “the old ideas of law and order against a sea of sentiment of a very different nature.” And he rejected with scorn the proposal to provide for the safety of Judges whose relations with the National League had been “uneasy,” while humble jurymen and witnesses who had done their duty in criminal trials, and tenants who had honestly paid their debts, were to be left without shelter from the ruthless vengeance of the League. Who cares (he exclaimed amid rapturous cheers) for a career or a political future, so long as he have it not on his conscience that he gave over law-abiding citizens to the tender mercies of a separate Parliament, in which the Sheridans and the Egans would be sure to be prominent members? And possessed by these anxieties he insisted on the necessity of retaining the full control of law and order in Ireland in the hands of “a powerful Home Secretary, responsible to the Parliament at Westminster.” But now—what guarantee has he obtained from Mr. Gladstone that the Sheridans and the Egans shall not be members of the future Home Rule Parliament ? What pledge has he got that Mr. Egan shall not be Chancellor of the Exchequer in an Irish Cabinet, and Mr. Sheridan himself Home Secretary, with undisputed command of the police 2 What concession, in short, what scrap of concession has he secured on the point to which he assigned the first importance, when he retired from Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet and afterwards voted him out of office? He would probably answer that Mr. Gladstone expressed, in general terms, at Swansea, his readiness to confer with Lord Hartington on the Irish Question, and that the reservation of the administration of justice in Ireland for some authority responsible to the Imperial Parliament was one of the four conditions declared by Lord Hartington to be essential, in his opinion, to any plan for the better government of Ireland. But Lord Hartington's
four conditions were before Mr. Gladstone when he spoke at Manchester on the 25th June 1886. He referred to them there seriatim,
and the condition to which he took the most emphatic exception was
the one relating to the administration of justice; and nowhere has
he since uttered a syllable at variance with the language he then
held on this point.
Sir George Trevelyan may, however, urge that, if the Liberal Unionists would only assist to replace Mr. Gladstone in office, and enable him to prepare another Home Rule scheme, he would be found to be docile and amenable to pressure. But is Sir George's own experience calculated to remove our doubt and hesitation on this score ? He joined Mr. Gladstone's last Cabinet, convinced that a separate Parliament for Ireland would in the end be equivalent to a disruption of the Empire, and resolved to strain every faculty and exhaust every constitutional method to disprove the assertion that the Liberal Party was a Home Rule Party. Conscious of his own legitimate authority, and reasonably anticipating that deference would be paid to one who had been Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant in exceptionally arduous times, he went into that Cabinet, prepared to “knock about” Mr. Gladstone's proposals for the government of Ireland, and mould them into accord with the orthodox opinion that Home Rule was absolutely inadmissible as an article of the Liberal creed. But what happened ? Once inside that Cabinet, he was as powerless as a child to control Mr. Gladstone, or shape even a detail of his policy. Sanguine, indeed, must he then be if he expects that the next time he sits in a Ministry with Mr. Gladstone preparing a Home Rule measure, the spirit of his chief will be less autocratic and more deferential than it was before. If Mr. Gladstone returns to power, his mastery over his own legions will be absolute. Besides, it is not credible that any reservation of control on this side of St. George's Channel over the machinery of law and order in Ireland (except an utterly hollow and illusory reservation) would be assented to by Mr. Parnell, whom Mr. Gladstone is pledged to satisfy.
Some of us Liberal Unionists voted, not only against the plan and details of the late Prime Minister's Home Rule measure, but, likewise, against its principle ; and we used to think that Sir George Trevelyan was among those who so voted. He was undoubtedly ready to establish elective local bodies in Ireland for education, and poor relief, and for other purposes; but to anything in the nature of a separate Irish Parliament, one would have judged him to be irreconcilable. Nevertheless, he has returned to the Gladstonian fold, while Mr. Gladstone declares himself to be immovably attached to the principle of a separate Irish Legislature and Executive responsible to it. Sir George Trevelyan may, or may not, be right in the course he has taken; but it hardly becomes him to be so wroth with other Liberal Unionists who only continue to think and feel as he thought and felt a brief while since. If his former associates are now to be drummed out of the Liberal party, the order should issue from other lips than his.
It is time, however, to examine the extent of Mr. Gladstone's concession regarding a separate treatment of Ulster. There is nothing to show that he has advanced a step from the position he held on this point at the time of the introduction of the Home Rule Bill. He then said that, if any plan for dealing with Ulster, or a portion of Ulster, separately were put before him in a practical form, and commanding general approval, he would give it the most favourable consideration; beyond that he has not yet gone. If the admission was insufficient to disarm opposition last year, why should it suffice now 2 In truth, it fails to meet the objections of all who are concerned for the safety of the loyal minority of the Irish population outside the borders of Ulster. It is a proposal to safeguard that section of the minority which is best able to take care of itself, while ignoring that other section who would be most exposed to aggression, and whose means of self-defence would be the most imperfect. It is said that the Protestants of Ulster would refuse to sever their lot from that of their co-religionists in the other three Provinces; that they would decline protection for themselves, if accompanied by the sacrifice of their brethren in positions of more urgent peril. Such a refusal would be creditable to the Loyalist population of Ulster, but there are no obligations of honour on them to stand by Loyalists elsewhere in Ireland, whether Protestant or Catholic, which are not equally incumbent on the entire British people. The question of the retention of the Irish Members at Westminster demands a somewhat fuller examination. When Mr. Gladstone first laid his Home Rule Bill before the House of Commons, it seemed to him self-evident that, if Ireland was to have her own domestic Legislature, Irish representatives could not be allowed to control English and Scotch affairs, and while he did not object, in principle, to their continued participation in Imperial affairs, he believed it “to pass the wit of man’” to draw a distinction, for practical purposes, between Imperial and non-Imperial affairs. Moreover, he could not tolerate the anomaly of having two classes of members at Westminster, one qualified to vote on all kinds of business, and another qualified to vote only here and there on particular kinds of business. Mr. Parnell and his parliamentary followers cordially acquiesced in Mr. Gladstone's views, and Mr. Davitt entreated him to stand firm on the exclusion of Irish Members from Westminster, as their continued presence there would destroy the “Irish National idea.” Nevertheless, there was such a look of Separation about the proposal to exclude them altogether from the House of Commons, that it was too much to be accepted at once by a large section of the Liberal Party. And Mr. Whitbread (intervening, in his usual way, with that inimitable air of superhuman impartiality which veils a most loyal partisan), suggested that, although the Irish Members should now cease to sit at Westminster, they might at some future time, when they had settled Ireland, return to take part in Imperial affairs, not, indeed in their existing number, but with a moderate measure of representation. Thus pressed, and eager to secure “waverers ” enough to carry the second reading of his Bill, Mr. Gladstone announced, at the Foreign Office, that what had hitherto passed the wit of man was no longer impracticable, and he undertook the responsibility, “at the proper time, of making a proposal upon the subject such as he thought would meet all the conditions of the case.” After this reassuring utterance, the oracle remained dumb on the question until the Swansea revelation. In respect of words, the utterance at Swansea was certainly very copious, but the sum and substance of its meaning amounted only to this, that Mr. Gladstone's mind was open upon the question, and clear of foregone conclusions, that it was a British rather than an Irish question, and that it would be altogether premature now to decide upon a particular mode of settling it, but that there were two essential conditions of any plan of settlement to which he could be a party, viz. (1) the unity of the Empire, and the supremacy of Parliament; (2) the real and effective management of Irish affairs by Irish authority, and its acceptance as real and effective by the Irish nation. Now, as regards the reunion of the Liberal Party, and the removal of objections entertained by Dissentient Liberals, the former of these two conditions has no practical importance. It may be put on one side, because it is quite compatible with the entire exclusion of the Irish Members from Westminster. There can be no question that Canada and New South Wales are integral parts of the Empire. Neither is there any question of the absolute supremacy of the British Parliament over their Legislatures. The latter, however, of the two conditions lies at the root of the whole controversy. Mr. Chamberlain and some other Liberal Unionists have throughout insisted on a full and continuous Irish representation at Westminster. They have regarded this point as the key of the situation; and they have done so, because, in their judgment, the presence of the Irish Members at Westminster would be an incontestable token of the supremacy of Parliament over any assembly that might be set up in Ireland. It would dwarf any such assembly, and reduce it to local and municipal proportions. In other words, it would cabin, crib and confine Mr. Davitt's “Irish National idea.” And this is exactly what Mr. Gladstone will not allow to be done, so far as he is concerned. He is yielding on such points as delegation, rather than surrender, of powers to his Irish Legislature, and express specification of the subjects with