Изображения страниц

as a means to another end, and that is the strengthening of the union between the two countries, and the obtaining of further guarantees for the authority of the Imperial Parliament in matters of Imperial concern, and for the supremacy of the Crown throughout the United Kingdom. This is the ultimate end to which Home Rule is a means.

The Act of Union has completely failed. After eighty-five years it has given us an Ireland more hostile to England than at any period of its history, and has created another Ireland across the Atlantic, which feeds animosity at home, and supplies it with means and instruments, and which in conceivable circumstances might give an unfriendly direction to the policy of the United States, and involve us in war. The supremacy of the Crown does not exist in Ireland, except as a constitutional fiction. The authority of the Imperial Parliament is set at nought; the National League is the executive and Parliament of the country. Let it be granted for argument's sake that it is necessary to put it down. Force, as Mr. Bright said in a wise sentence which has been foolishly ridiculed, is no remedy. It may, however, be the condition under which alone a remedy can be tried. The patient may need to be put under restraint before the proper treatment can be applied. But that treatment surely will not consist in a recurrence to the methods by which the malady has been engendered and fostered. If the Irish have not a lawful Parliament in Dublin, they will have a lawless one, as they have now. They have got Home Rule and local self-government already, but it is the Home Rule of the National League, and local self-government is exercised by its branches. Great alarm is expressed at the idea of giving Ireland control over her own police; but the real police is completely in her hands, and the official police is practically helpless. Nor is this all. In default of a Parliament in Dublin, the Irish have succeeded in establishing a Parliament in Westminster. The Imperial Parliament deals with little else than Irish business, and it deals with that unsatisfactorily. Scarcely anything else can be attended to. Imperial affairs are neglected because Ministers are absorbed in the eternal Irish difficulty. Self-rule in Ireland is the condition of self-rule in England and Scotland. Great Britain is practically governed, or deprived of its power of government, by Ireland. The votes of Irishmen in the constituencies determine the balance of party representation in the House of Commons. The Irish Parliamentary party decides the fate of Governments. Mr. Parnell is the dictator not only of Ireland, but of the United Kingdom-the maker and unmaker of Ministries, choosing between Lord Salisbury and Mr. Gladstone for Downing Street, as he chose the other day between Mr. Lynch and Captain O'Shea for Galway.

There are only two ways in which this scandal, which would be ludicrous if it were not serious, can be abated and removed. One is by the abolition of Parliamentary representation in Ireland, a

measure which to be consistent should be accompanied by the disfranchisement of Irish voters in the constituencies of the United Kingdom; and by governing Ireland as a Crown Colony through that pure and beneficent institution, the Castle in Dublin. Talk of this kind is angry nonsense. It is the safety-valve of irritated tempers.

The position of a Crown Colony suits very well a certain stage in the development of a distant dependency, which through scantiness of population and failure of other resources has not within itself the instruments of self-rule. The essential condition of its salutary character is, however, the acquiescence of the population. The penal reduction of a nation of several millions of people, with a long though unhappy Parliamentary history, to the rank of a Crown Colony, would mean rebellion, war, subjugation; and, in spite of all these things, the real government of the country by secret societies, by Vehm-gerichts and National Leagues. It is absurd, however, to discuss this suggestion seriously. The English people-though some among them may talk foolishly at times and be the more applauded has made up its mind as to the true principles of government. When these principles seem to fail in their operation, it is more natural to believe that they have been improperly applied than that they are in themselves faulty.

I repeat that the main object of granting Home Rule to Ireland is to strengthen the union between that country and Great Britain, to give force on Imperial matters to the authority of the Imperial Parliament, to supply further guarantees for the supremacy of the Crown. To these things may be added the restoration of self-government to Great Britain, now deprived of it by the control exercised by Irish members over British legislation and administration. Home Rule, it must be remembered, does not mean repeal of the Union or the restoration of Grattan's Parliament. Mr. Butt invented the phrase to distinguish the purpose and scope of his agitation from that of O'Connell. Grattan's Parliament, which it was O'Connell's aim to restore, made Ireland in theory as independent of England as Hanover was. The title to the throne was in the same family and person, and that was all. Ireland under this system might have remained at war while England was at peace; and might indeed, except for the absurdity of the common sovereign going to war, as King of England, with himself, as King of Ireland, have engaged in hostilities with this country. During the insanity of George the Third there was a theoretical possibility of the golden link of the Crown being snapped by the election of different persons to the regency in the two countries. The Irish Parliament was, in fact, ready to grant to the Prince of Wales, as Regent, powers greatly in excess of those which the English Parliament was prepared to concede to him. The system was unmanageable, and Mr. Pitt was wise in bringing it to a close, and establishing a Parliamentary union. But, as the whole history of VOL. XIX.-No. 109.


Ireland in the nineteenth century suggests, it would have been better if it had been practicable to retain the Irish Parliament, while limiting its functions strictly to Irish affairs, and reserving the common concerns of the United Kingdom to the Parliament at Westminster. Mr. Pitt is not to be blamed for not trying this experiment. The precedent of Scotland was against it, and though the union with that kingdom was not a very brilliant success until after the Reform Act of 1832, he naturally followed the example which it gave. He cannot be blamed for not foreseeing the eighty-five years of calamity and discord on which we look back.

Mr. Parnell has suggested a revision of the Act of Union which shall place England and Ireland in the same relation to each other as that which subsists between Austria and Hungary, and Lord Salisbury, reserving the question of practicability, has confessed himself to be rather taken with the idea. Austria and Hungary are perfectly independent of each other in all matters except those which relate to the common external affairs of the empire. They have their separate Parliaments and Ministries; the Parliament of the Austro-Hungarian Empire consisting of Delegations from the two national Parliaments, with a Ministry which deals with foreign affairs, the army and navy, and the finance of diplomacy and war. An arrangement such as this is possible under the conditions of geography, history, and population which Austria and Hungary present. Their connection, however, though neither term correctly describes it, is rather alliance or federation than union. Great Britain and Ireland must remain a United Kingdom; the object of granting Home Rule is to make the union more real and cordial by disembarrassing it of irritating details, and leaving greater freedom of movement and action among its constituent parts. In the case of our colonies, the extension of local liberties has saved the Empire. But Imperial concerns are not simply external concerns. Certain principles lie at the basis of our constitutional system, and local Parliaments, while allowed discretion in the application of those principles, could not be permitted to set them aside. Illustrations of the restraint necessary may be found in the constitution of the United States. It guarantees freedom of trade between all the States of the Union, and any law imposing export or import duties upon articles passing from one State to another is invalid. Laws violating the obligation of contracts are equally void or voidable. Both of these conditions might fairly form new articles in a revised Act of Union. Provisions securing the equality before the law of all religious confessions, and of persons of no religious confession, would be essential. A power of veto, to be exercised by the Crown under the advice of the Imperial Ministers, would, as a general rule, sufficiently check Parliamentary encroachments on the Act of Union, without having recourse to the supreme judicial tribunal, which would naturally be the Privy Council. No doubt

there would be conflicts and hitches. A measure might be vetoed and re-enacted, and once more vetoed and re-enacted, and vetoed again; and then there would be acquiescence or compromise. Human affairs are carried on in this give-and-take, rough-andtumble fashion, and in no other. It may be said that Irish members have not shown in the English Parliament a capacity for the working of Parliamentary institutions. They have not been sent to Westminster to help in working our Parliamentary system. They have been sent there to hinder and obstruct it; and in doing so they have shown a remarkable capacity of debate and an understanding of Parliamentary rules and forms-using them, it is true, as abusing them. Their mandate is to obstruct; and they have obeyed their mandate. In Dublin Irish opinion would require productive work from them. Things cannot be worse than they are, and they may be a good deal better. Even if Irish business were not better done in Dublin than in Westminster, English, Scotch, and Imperial business would have some chance of being satisfactorily performed, or at any rate of being done in some fashion or other. A separate Parliament for the internal affairs of Great Britain meeting in Westminster, or two separate Parliaments-one for Scotland meeting at Edinburgh, one for England meeting at Westminster— with an Imperial Parliament, either elected by specially constructed constituencies or chosen by delegation from the national Parliaments, would be the natural completion of the system. The Imperial Parliament need not consist of more than three hundred members. It would be composed mainly of men of proved capacity for statesmanship, trained in the national Parliaments.

The precedents of the great Parliamentary nations of the contemporary world, with the exception of France and Italy, favour the redistribution of legislative work between Imperial and Local Parliaments. The examples of the German Empire, of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, of the Austrian Empire proper, with its Imperial Parliament and its Provincial Diets, the Austrian Duchies, Bohemia, Moravia, the Tyrol, &c., and of the United States, marshal us the way that we should go. France and Italy are negative instances to the same purport. The undue suppression of provincial liberties is the great political calamity of the two great Latin nations. The attempt to legislate for the United Kingdom, and to conduct its business in a single central Parliament, has broken down. Even if there were no disaffection in Ireland, the institution of local Legislatures for local work would be desirable. Only by this division of labour can the work be satisfactorily done. The institution of Grand Committees, the extension of the powers of Municipalities, the establishment of County Boards, would not sufficiently relieve the pressure of Parliamentary work. The proposal of the late Ministry to establish a system of local self-government, as nearly as possible identical in

the three kingdoms, may be good in itself, but it would not meet the necessities of the case. While Ireland remains disaffected, it would enable her to use these local bodies and boards as a part of the organisation of offence and hindrance. The quarrel with England being abated by the establishment of an Irish Parliament for purely Irish business in Dublin, it is probable that healthy divisions of class feeling, and the play of dissimilar interests and ideas, would find expression, diversifying the monotony of the national life. The war of the cottage against the hall which marked the French Revolution may be clearly traced to the policy of Louis the Fourteenth and Louis the Fifteenth in withdrawing the French nobility from their estates to the salons and ante-chambers of Versailles. The Act of Union, which has brought Irish peers and squires to London, and swollen, if it did not create, the class of absentees, has had a good deal to do with the peasants' war against the landlords which has marked the recent history of the country. If a local Parliament had kept them in their country, matters might have gone on better. If it should restore them in any degree to it, there may be some chance of improvement. But probably, for good or evil, matters have gone too far; in Ireland as in France the owner of the land is likely to become its cultivator, or rather the cultivator is likely to become its This solution is perhaps in the main the best, though the partial qualification of a predominant agrarian system by a different element would have its economic and still more its social advantages. But whatever the process adopted, the redistribution of functions between a central legislature and local chambers is a necessity of efficient Parliamentary government in a great and varied State such as the United Kingdom. Mr. Parnell's agitation and the Irish revolt are the immediate challenge to reform; but they are not the sole or even the main reason for it.



The Editor of THE NINETEENTH CENTURY cannot undertake
to return unaccepted MSS.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »