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[N.B.-The appearance of a letter in the National Review in no way implies approval of the opinions expressed by the writer. This portion of the Review is reserved for remarks that Correspondents may desire to make upon papers which have been published in the National Review, or for letters upon such other subjects as the Editors may think deserving of discussion.]
The Crimes Bill for Ireland; its 0peration.
To THE EDITORs of THE “NATIONAL REVIEw.” GENTLEMEN,
A short time ago you kindly published in the National Review two
letters of mine, viz. “The Crimes Bill for Ireland : its Justification ”;* and “The Crimes Bill for Ireland: its Application ”;f I now propose, with your permission, to complete the series with “The Crimes Bill for Ireland : its Operation.”
Naturally, since the Act has been for only a short period of time in force, the results of its operation are not, as yet, of such a nature as to enable the country to judge how soon the “reign of terror,” which has for so long existed in Ireland under the tyrannical secrecy of the National League can be put an end to ; nor how soon the reign of law and order will be re-established in distracted Ireland; but symptoms are not wanting to show that a continued and steady perseverance by the Government in the firm, yet cautious, manner in which the Act has hitherto been administered, cannot fail to ultimately relieve the people in Ireland from the “intolerable yoke" of the Irish National League.
One strong proof of the efficacy of the Act is the persistent and violent abuse it has received from the Parnellites. Just as an opinion can be formed of the efficiency of the punishment administered with the cat upon the bare back of a garotter by the yells of the victim, so do the howls of the leaders of the disloyal Nationalist movement, and the shrieks of the disloyal Nationalist Press, afford some indication of the success of the administration of the Crimes Act.
Without doubt, one of the most important transactions by the Executive has been the arrest, trial, and sentence of Mr. W. O'Brien, M.P., the editor of United Ireland, who had been summoned to appear on September 9th (which he failed to do) before the magistrates at Michelstown, Co. Cork, for having, on the 9th and 11th of August, at Michelstown, incited “certain persons to wilfully and maliciously resist and obstruct certain sheriffs, constables, bailiffs, and other ministers of the law while in the execution of their duty, contrary to the statute.” The disgraceful riot, with, unfortunately, fatal results, which occurred on September 9th, at Michelstown, in consequence of the people who had assembled at a proclaimed meeting having been incited by Mr. Condon, M.P., and others, to resist the police when engaged in the execution of their duty, only affords a proof of how very necessary it is for the Government to use the powers entrusted to it by Parliament to prevent unlawful meetings being held under the auspices of the National League—an association which has been proclaimed by the Courts of Law to be illegal, and by the Government to be dangerous. On September 24th, Mr. W. O'Brien was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, and Mr. Mandeville, who had been charged with having committed a similar offence at the same time, to two months' imprisonment. Both these men appealed and were admitted to bail. The appeals were heard before Mr. Hamilton, the Recorder for Cork, on October 31st, and the sentences confirmed. Now this satisfactory termination to the prosecution of Messrs. O'Brien and Mandeville supplies an unmistakable answer to the remarks in a leading article headed “What will he do with it?” which had been published in United Ireland of August 13th. That paper (be it remembered that Mr. O'Brien—who, in his own person, illustrates the answer to the question—is the editor of the paper) sneeringly proclaimed:— “The Chief Secretary has got his Coercion Act. It is the work of a session. . . . What will he do with it? Will he make himself ridiculous by dropping it forthwith like a hot potato ? Will he make himself more ludicrous by attempting to apply it 2 . . . To borrow an expressive word from the slang dictionaries, Mr. Balfour is funking the Coercion Act. He passed it to frighten others, and it has frightened only himself. No wonder he is not the stuff of which successful tyrants are made. Cruelty is not sufficient without courage, and courage, by all accounts, is not his forte. Can that man dragoon a high-spirited and determined nation, who lives in daily terror of the umbrella of a midwife 2 The question is absurd.” United Ireland spoke too soon; for, let the question be absurd or not, notwithstanding United Ireland's facetiousness its editor is undergoing punishment as a felon. Surely in that there is a lesson to be learnt by the agitators. Since the Coercion Act has become law, the Nationalist press, especially United Ireland, has been exhibiting its vindictiveness (which is a sure sign that the shoe pinches) by accusing the Irish police of manufacturing and planning the outrages which have been committed by the Moonlighters and the other allies of the Parnellites. Here is an example of the mode of procedure by the pernicious press; and the wide circulation of such accusations—notwithstanding that they are false—must have a very mischievous effect upon many of the more or less ignorant people who have no opportunity of hearing the truth. “Drag out the Criminals | " is the title of a leading article in United Ireland of October 15th, in which, instead of expressing abhorrence of the foul murder of Head-constable Whelehan, whose skull had been fractured by Moonlighters, Mr. W. O'Brien's paper makes a most vile attack upon Mr. Balfour, the Chief Secretary for Ireland:— “The time has come for Mr. Balfour to take the one step necessary to clear himself of complicity with the last Moonlighting outrage planned by the informer Cullinam and the late Head-Constable Whelehan. That step is the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the careers of Whelehan and Cullinam, and the whole system of crime-andoutrage manufacture by the police. We demand this commission. If Mr. Balfour refuses it we shall brand him as an accomplice and suborner of the criminals he seeks to shield, and all impartial men will be bound to believe our accusation.” How can the expression of such malignity aid the Nationalist cause, even suppose that the cause itself were meritorious 2 But here is more:— “Head-Constable Whelehan, alias Gerald Whelan, the innocent and amiable policeman over whom Mr. Chamberlain mourned so pathetically, and the story of whose death Mr. Balfour disclosed to the House of Commons with such gruesome promptitude and gusto, was as foul a villain as ever was hatched in the stews of Dublin Castle.” This is tantamount to slyly instructing the ruffians who do the League's work that the removal—which in League parlance is the delicate expression for assassination—of an obnoxious policeman who interferes with their schemes is rather meritorious than otherwise. He is merely a “foul ruffian" declares United Ireland. Why make a fuss over him 2 The prosecution and conviction of Mr. Wilfrid Blunt—a Gladstonian who has been crusading in Ireland—affords another illustration of the beneficial operation of the Crimes Act, and the treatment of Mr. Blunt must have a good effect upon those men who are desirous of acting as champions of the Parnellites, as well as upon the leaders of the disloyal Parnellite movement, when they discover that the Unionist Government has resolved to put the Act in force, not only against “village tyrants” and “dissolute ruffians,” but against all men—let them be Parnellites,
* National Review, July 1887. t Ibid., September 1887.
or let them be Gladstonians—who venture to incite the people to resist the law and the forces of the Crown.
Mr. Wilfrid Blunt attempted, on October 24th, to address a meeting at Woodford, in the County Galway, which had been proclaimed by the Government, and the following conversation shows how that Gladstonian was prepared to obey the law of the land. After having heard from Mr. Blunt who he was, and finding that Mr. Blunt was commencing his address, the County Inspector said: “I wish to inform you that this meeting is proclaimed, and I cannot permit it to be held.” “I can understand (replied Mr. Blunt) that it is your duty to prevent the meeting, but it is also my duty to hold it.” Mr. Blunt, persisting in his attempt to hold the meeting, was, after a struggle, arrested, and subsequently, on October 27th, sentenced to two months' imprisonment. An appeal was lodged, but has not yet been heard. Operations under the Crimes Act have also been commenced against the proprietors of journals who, in spite of the Act, continue to publish in their columns reports of the meetings of the suppressed branches of the League. Mr. T. D. Sullivan, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, who is the proprietor of the Weekly News, and Mr. W. O'Brien, the editor of United Ireland, have had to appear before a police magistrate in Dublin to answer for the above offence. r All these steps must result in breaking up the Parnellite conspiracy, and in rescuing the people in Ireland from the clutches of a set of men who are the paid servants and the agents of Irish-Americans, Fenians, and other enemies of Great Britain, but whose personal stake in the country is next to nothing. Right and justice must win in the end, and it is only necessary that the Government should persevere in the resolute course it has so auspiciously commenced for it to crown its career with glory, and obtain the grateful thanks of the whole of the United Kingdom for having restored to Ireland peace, prosperity, and happiness. I remain, Gentlemen, Yours faithfully, November 1887. GEORGE W. RUxTon.
The Irish Question.
To THE EDITORs of THE “NATIONAL REVIEw.” GENTLEMEN, Ireland has often been compared to a patient on whom physicians, without number, have been called in to try their skill. The old adage, “Doctors differ and patients die,” was surely never more applicable; and the remedy of “Home Rule,” now so vehemently pressed forward, might not inaptly be described as the “kill or cure " experiment. Which of all these leeches—quacks, every one of them— has Ireland's true interest at heart 2 We are frequently told, as a matter of great condescension, that this or that great man is about to visit Ireland; then, like the youths who spend six months upon the Continent, and come home proficients in those easy languages, French and German, these “birds of passage" will return to Parliament, or the hustings, with that “little knowledge” which, in such a case, is indeed “a dangerous thing.” It is, in truth, a tangled skein, which Love itself must often gaze upon through tears. The hostility of creeds, the hostility of races, stand to-day as great a barrier as ever they did between Ireland and peace. Her condition springs mainly from two causes: superstitious ignorance and absenteeism. If it were possible to rescue the Irish people from the gross ignorance and superstition in which they are steeped, then, and not till then, Home Rule might prove a blessing to the whole kingdom; but, as long as the priests are the keepers of the people's consciences, so long will it be useless to seek a remedy for Ireland's woes. Intelligent as they are beyond most peoples, the Irish are too ignorant to form opinions of their own; it follows, naturally, that they are swayed by every breath that passes over them, more especially when it comes “with authority.” The writer speaks from personal experience. Live amongst the Irish people; approach them, not from the platform of superiority, but from the platform of sympathy, and unless you make the priest your ally and, to a certain extent, the medium of your efforts for their welfare, your way will be barred. If you take the priest as your ally, you foster Ireland's bane, for it is a recognized fact that where the spiritual bondage of the Roman Catholic religion prevails, there dirt, ignorance, and idleness prevail also. The writer is no bigot, no proselytiser, and objects to tyranny, by whatever name it may be called. To serve a creed is not to serve God; the priests do what they believe it to be their duty to do—all honour to everybody who acts up to their light—but those who take a different view of duty, are culpable in promoting a state of things which precludes the possibility of progress in the country. What can you do in a land where the people do not know that murder, under any circumstance whatsoever, is a crime of the deepest dye 2 Many years ago, before the Land League or the National League had come into existence, the writer happened to be lodging in the same