« PředchozíPokračovat »
three different factions within the next two years. Whatever liberal views toward Ireland Pitt, the leader of the party that ultimately triumphed, had were vitiated by the attitude of the Irish Parliament toward the Regency dispute in 1788. True he promoted the Catholic relief act of 1793, a measure that looked toward the preservation of Irish nationality. But this act, though accepted by the Protestant ruling faction, was received with little enthusiasm by the friends of the minister. And the disturbances incidental to the French war, culminating in the uprising of 1798, caused Pitt to support the project for a union of the two countries with the result that it was consummated by means that only an extremely desirable end could justify. The notorious character of the methods by which it was accomplished naturally served to make the union unpopular in Ireland and contributed to stir the national self-consciousness that was destined ultimately to voice a demand that the act of union be repealed.
But this is far from saying that the Irish now desire a revival of Grattan's Parliament, though none of the projects for Home Rule brought forward in recent years involve as complete a separation from England as was granted by the Rockingham Whigs in 1782. Nor is it so paradoxical as it seems that the ruling class in Ireland under the old régime, the party that was most persistent in its opposition to the Union, should now be fanatical in its opposition to the restoration of Home Rule. Native Irishmen had little voice in Grattan's Parliament, which represented only the Protestant minority, who were for the most part descendants of the English and Scotch who had crossed over in the course of the seventeenth century disputes. Nevertheless, there are indications that it might have been possible in the decade preceding the act of union to reconcile the discordant elements in the Irish population. The Protestants assented to the act of 1793 which gave Catholics a right to vote for members of Parliament on the same terms with themselves. And they offered no serious objections to Fitzwilliam's proposal in 1795 to extend those privileges so as to enable Catholics to sit in Parliament. The vetoing of this scheme by the
British cabinet did much itself to create distrust in the Catholics. And when Pitt, because of the obstinacy of George III or because of less meritorious characteristics in some of his advisers, was unable to fulfil the promise of emancipation which he had made in order to win the support of the Catholics for the union, any reconciliation of the two peoples under the same government was made well-nigh hopeless.
George III lived much too long for the good of his country, and George IV inherited his father's prejudices concerning the Catholic question without many of his better qualities. Between them they managed to delay the relief Pitt had promised the Catholics till 1829. Therefore, when emancipation did come, it was impossible for a half measure to overcome the antagonism to British rule which years of coercion had aroused in the Irish. And emancipation, even to this day, has not given Catholics a proportionate share of authority in the Irish government. They outnumber the Protestants three or four to one, yet, according to a recent estimate, only three of the seventeen judges in the high court of justice, eight of the twenty-one county court judges and recorders, five of the thirty-seven county inspectors of police, 62 of the 202 district inspectors of police, and 1,805 of the 5,518 ordinary justices of peace are Catholics. Since these conditions exist after nearly a century of emancipation there is little wonder that the Irish persist in their demand that they be allowed to choose their own rulers.
Moreover, the English government has shown a singular want of tact in dealing with the other grievances of which the Irish have complained. There is not space here to enter into details, but in the first three quarters of a century after the union not many years passed without some legislative or executive action designed for the coercion of the Irish, while remedial measures were either neglected entirely or delayed so long that they failed to have the desired conciliatory effect.
In fact, almost every remedial measure granted in the course of that time was won as the fruit of Irish rebellion or disorder. O'Connell in 1835 undertook to adopt a different policy and helped Lord John Russell turn out Peel's government in the
hope of securing a settlement of the tithe question, at that time the chief grievance put forward by the Irish. Three years later Lord John himself accepted a measure similar to the one Peel had proposed and because of which Lord John had been able to defeat him. The movement for the repeal of the act of union, the trial of O'Connell, and the rise of the Young Irelanders followed. The land question next claimed attention, but the British Parliament refused to take it seriously or to grant relief until the Fenian Society procured the disestablishment of the Irish church in 1869 and the passage of the land act of 1870 by bringing Ireland to a state of open rebellion. Other land acts followed in 1881, 1885, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1891, 1896, 1903, 1907, and 1909. The Unionist party has become as enthusiastic as the Liberal in supporting this movement to restore land to the peasant tenantry. Unionists argue that the demand for Home Rule was a product of the hardships resulting from the old system of land tenure and consequently that the desire for Home Rule will not long survive after these hardships are relieved. The several land acts have certainly contributed much to benefit the Irish peasants, but they have apparently so far made little impression on the sentiment in favor of Home Rule.
The natural effect of this long period of unsuccessful repression was to intensify the national consciousness of the Irish. The immediate success of the Home Rule Association, when it was organized in 1870, is, therefore, not in the least surprising. The new party returned fifty-nine members to Parliament in 1874, sixty-one in 1880, and eighty-five in 1885, around which figure the Nationalist representation in the House of Commons has since remained. The object of the party thus formed, as set forth in the resolutions of the original association, is to obtain for Ireland a Parliament of her own and to "secure for that Parliament, under a federal arrangement, the right of legislating for, and regulating all matters relating to the internal affairs of Ireland, and control over Irish resources and expenditure, subject to the obligation of contributing our just proportion of the Imperial expenditure.” This organization,
under the successive leadership of Butt, Parnell, and Redmond, has fought the battle for Home Rule to its present stage, and much of the ground necessary to ultimate victory has certainly been won. For example, it is something to have Mr. Asquith, the first prime minister to visit Dublin while in office since the union, declare recently to an Irish audience in the Irish capital that Ireland is a “nation.” And if a century of history is any test of nationality it is impossible not to agree with that conclusion, a conclusion which places the movement for Home Rule in the list of struggles for self-government and national existence of which the nineteenth century affords so many examples.
Either the failure of every other measure to conciliate the Irish or, as Unionists will have it, the political situation resulting from the general election of 1885 converted Gladstone to the Home Rule policy and gave rise to the abortive Home Rule bill of 1886. The result was division and temporary disaster to the Liberal party. In 1893 another bill was introduced and carried through the House of Commons only to meet defeat in the House of Lords. Obviously here was another lion that had to be removed from the way before the Nationalists could hope to bring their plan to final accomplishment. Luckily for them the House of Lords gave to Liberals as many grounds of complaint as it gave to Nationalists. In consequence, means for avoiding this hitherto insurmountable barrier to Liberal legislation was sought in that very conservative though much abused measure, the Parliament Act of 1911. The road having been cleared of the obstruction that blocked the way in 1893, another Home Rule bill has been introduced into Parliament and is now pending. Is there any probability that this bill will pass into law? Should it pass, is it calculated to solve the Irish problem? We shall consider these questions in reverse order.
Briefly stated, the Irish problem is as follows. Geographically, England and Ireland are near to each other and yet not contiguous. As Grattan finely put it, the ocean on one side of Ireland protests against separation from England, while the
sea on the other side protests against union. Historically, the efforts to join in a legal organic union two peoples that have fundamentally different racial and religious characteristics, after more than a century of trial, cannot be said to have been conspicuously successful. At present an overwhelming majority of the Irish people are organized into a political party for the purpose of demanding a larger measure of self-government for their country. Other issues are subordinated to this one, and there seems to be no present prospect that Irish opinion concerning other questions can find expression at the polls until the question of Home Rule is finally determined. Nor can this be termed a mere temporary ebullition of national spirit. Beginning its organized form more than forty years ago the present movement has gained rather than lost ground. The only element of the population that is opposed to Home Rule is alien both in race and religion to the native Irishmen. The testimony of both history and geography would seem, therefore, to be on the side of the Nationalists.
But it is one thing to assert the general proposition that Ireland ought to have Home Rule. To devise a workable scheme of government that will combine in the right proportions the measure of local autonomy and imperial unity that all advocates of Home Rule profess to desire is quite a different matter. Take the question of the legislature, for example. If the Irish are to have a parliament at Dublin to regulate their local affairs, ought they also to have representatives in the parliament that will regulate, along with imperial concerns, the local affairs of England and Scotland? Yet, if Ireland is denied this privilege, she is denied a voice in the legislature which, under every scheme of government that has hitherto been suggested, will impose certain of her taxes. Gladstone contributed little toward the settlement of this problem, which is one of the most troublesome that the Irish business presents. In 1886 he proposed that the Irish should be deprived entirely of their representation at Westminster. By 1893 he had decided that it would be sufficient to cut down their representation to eighty members, though he was still in doubt as to whether these members