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After this failure Lord Derby gave up all attempts to settle the Irish question.

Lord John Russell, mindful that the Melbourne Ministry had been wrecked on their Irish policy, steered as clear as he possibly could of all Irish questions for the remainder of his public life. But to Lord Palmerston belongs the distinction of having firmly 'put down his foot,' and consistently adopted a policy of no concession to Ireland.

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Alone among the statesmen who occupied a prominent position in English politics between 1841 and 1868, Mr. Bright stood forward as the earnest advocate. of the policy of concession and political incorporation inaugurated by William the Third, taken up by Lord Melbourne, and abandoned by Lord Melbourne's successors. But Mr. Bright remained below the gangway from 1843 to 1869. And what came of this abandonment of the Williamite-Melbourne policy'; what came of the system of government maintained in Ireland from the fall of the Melbourne Ministry to the accession of Mr. Gladstone to power? The question may be answered in three words-the Fenian movement. Thomas Drummond left Ireland in 1840 tranquil and loyal: Mr. Gladstone found it in 1868 in full sympathy with rebellion.


Mr. Gladstone sat in the House of Commons in the days of the Melbourne Ministry; and, it is needless to say, did not at that time support the claims of the Irish Popular Party.

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He was, however, neither a bitter, selfish, nor partisan opponent of those claims. His speeches had nothing in them of the Ascendency ring; nothing of that political Protestantism' which O'Connell so frequently, so powerfully, and so justly denounced. Upon the question of the Church, which was the great question of the period, he took up a position widely different from that held by any of his party. They defended the Irish Establishment on political, be on religious grounds. Their arguments were the arguments of the Lords Justices 14 who believed that all the 'property' of the country should be in the hands of the Protestants; that all distinctions, rights, privilegespolitical, social, religious—should be vested in the class that represented what were called English interests.' But to Mr. Gladstone the Irish Church question was not a question of property' or of • English interests.' It was a question of religious truth.


The Ascendency regarded the Church as a political engine. Mr. Gladstone regarded it as a religious institution. To the Ascendency the religion of the masses of the people was a matter of indifference so long as their own power remained supreme. To Mr. Gladstone it was

14 Ante, p. 622.

a matter of anxious moment apart from all personal or national considerations.

The Ascendency supported the Church, ostensibly because it was good for England, really because it was good for themselves. Mr. Gladstone supported it, ostensibly and really because he believed it was good for the Irish people. He desired to see all Ireland Protestant because he believed in Protestantism, and he thought that this end would be achieved through the ministrations of the Protestant Episcopalian Church.

The following extract from his speech on the Tithe Bill of 1836 will put this matter in a clear light :

A Church Establishment is maintained either for the sake of its members or its doctrines; for those whom it teaches or for that which it teaches. On the former ground it is not in equity tenable for a moment. Why should any preference be given to me over another fellow-subject, or what claim have I personally to have my religion supported whilst another is disavowed by the State? No claim whatever in respect to myself. I concur entirely with gentlemen opposite, hostile to an Establishment, that no personal privilege ought in such a matter to be allowed. But if, on the contrary, I believe, as the great bulk of the British Legislature does believe, that the doctrine and system of the Establishment contain and exhibit truth in its purest and most effective form; and if we also believe truth to be good for the people universally-then we have a distinct and immovable ground for the maintenance of an Establishment; but it follows as a matter of course from the principle, that it must be maintained, not on a scale exactly and strictly adjusted to the present number of its own members, but on such a scale that it may also have the means of offering to others the benefits which it habitually administers to them. Therefore we wish to see the Establishment in Ireland upheld; not for the sake of the Protestants, but of the people at large, that the Ministers may be enabled to use the influences of their station, of kindly offices and neighbourhood, of the various occasions which the daily intercourse and habits of social life present-ay, and I do not hesitate to add of persuasion itself, applied with a zeal tempered by knowledge and discretion, in the propagation of that which is true, and which, being true, is good as well for those who as yet have it not, as for those who have it.

At what time precisely Mr. Gladstone changed his ground on the subject of the Irish Church it may not, perhaps, be so easy to say. But, having regard to the position which he originally took up, and to the facts which were accumulating to prove that the Protestant Establishment in Ireland had hopelessly failed, it is clear that a change of ground was sooner or later inevitable.

His sole argument, practically, in favour of maintaining the Church was that it would make Ireland Protestant. But when it became evident that the Church was not making Ireland Protestant— that, on the contrary, there were reasons for supposing it was helping to make her more intensely Catholic-then the basis on which that argument rested was completely cut away.

It is clear, I think, that Mr. Gladstone's mind was, for a time, directed to the Irish difficulty when the Maynooth grant was proposed by Sir Robert Peel; and we know as a matter of fact that in


1847 he refused to pledge himself to stand by the Irish Churchposition from which he never afterwards departed. But many things intervened in the meantime to draw off his attention from the subject, and for several years Irish questions did not seem to occupy any special place in his thoughts, any more than they did in the thoughts of other English Ministers. However, between 1865 and 1868 he returned to the question; and from that time to our own he has given more consideration to the affairs of Ireland than any statesman, with a single exception, since the days of Lord Melbourne-has done more for Ireland than any statesman since the conquest of the country by William the Third. Whatever Mr. Gladstone's opponents or critics may say, one fact they are bound to admit-viz. that at least he had an Irish policy. Of how many Englishmen who were responsible for the government of Ireland since the time of Oliver Cromwell can the same thing be said? Oliver had a policy-brutal, but at all events intelligible and rational; and intelligible and rational because in the thinly populated condition of Ireland at the time it was possible of success, could a succession of Cromwells have been produced.

William the Third had a policy-magnanimous, humane, just. But the men who passed the Penal Laws, and enforced and relaxed them by fits and starts, had no policy. The men who at one time plundered Irish papists and at another admitted them within the pale of the Constitution; who allowed Catholics to hold landed property and excluded them from the franchise; who admitted them to the franchise and excluded them from Parliament; who admitted them to Parliament and excluded them from positions of authority in the State-had no policy. The founder of the national system of education, the authors of the Maynooth grant and the Queen's University, of the Encumbered Estates Act, Cardwell's Land Act,' the Intermediate Education Act, and the Royal University had in reality no Irish policy; the men who sent Drummond to Ireland, and the author of the Church Act and of the Land Acts of 1870 and 1881 had. These looked at the Irish question as a whole; their predecessors did not. The latter legislated to get rid of temporary difficulties, and then dropped the subject of Ireland. The former legislated to remove permanent evils, and persevered in the work. It was Mr. Bright, I think, who once said that there ought to be an Irish session.' Lord Melbourne's Parliament was an Irish Parliament, and so was Mr. Gladstone's of 1868-1874. Mr. Gladstone came into office on an Irish issue; he went out on an Irish issue; 15 and on his resumption of office in 1881 he took up the Irish question again.

The Irish question in 1868 was an alien Church,' a vicious land system, unsatisfied Catholic claims respecting education, a grossly

15 Mr. Gladstone was defeated on the Irish University Bill in March 1873, and tendered his resignation. But Mr. Disraeli refused to take office, whereupon Mr. Gladstone carried on the government for some time longer and then dissolved.

inadequate Parliamentary franchise, and the weakest Executive in the world.' Mr. Gladstone, I repeat, did not take this question up by halves, he took it up as a whole; he tried to deal with it as a whole. He destroyed the Church, reformed the land laws, and was driven from office in consequence of an attempt to deal with the subject of education. Owing in great measure to his exertions, begun in 1868 and resumed in 1881, the Irish question is no longer what it was twenty years ago. The Church is gone, the Land Question almost entirely disposed of, the franchise completely settled, and education in a fair way of settlement.

What, then, is the Irish question of to-day; for Ireland still remains the difficulty and, it may be, the danger of the empire. An island governed by British laws, and within half a day's journey of the British capital, contains a population of 5,000,000, the great majority of which are disaffected to the Legislative Union and bound together by an organisation of vast dimensions and immense power; a disorganised aristocracy loyal to the Union but without political influence or prestige; a temporising middle class partly in favour of the establishment of a system of Irish autonomy; a discontented peasantry constituting the bone and sinew of Ireland, all of whom hate the Union or the English connection altogether; an intelligent and insufficiently employed artisan class of rebels,' and an Executive' which still continues to be the weakest in the world 'this is the Irish question of the present day in its integrity.' The statesman who can settle it, who can remove the causes of disturbance and the strife of classes, allay agitation, and help to bring about that state of political and social calm which Ireland has never enjoyed, and without which her people can never grow prosperous, will make a suffering nation happy, and a divided empire strong.

But the question of the hour is, By what means can these ends be attained? How can Ireland be made happy and loyal? How can the Empire be strengthened in its only weak part? To my mind this question admits of but one answer: by the establishment of a Parliament in Dublin on such conditions as will secure the unity of the Empire, and will, consistently with that unity, give to Irishmen the fullest control of Irish affairs. In a celebrated pamphlet written in 1798 by Mr. Secretary Cooke, 16 under the inspiration, it was supposed, of Mr. Pitt, the author declares that, if the happiness' of the people of Ireland could best be obtained by a Federal or an Incorporate Union, such an union ought to be the national object.' 'An Incorporate Union' has been tried, and has proved a signal failure. It was the hope of Mr. Pitt that his great measure would 'calm the disunions, allay the discontents, and dissipate the jealousies which have unfortunately existed.' It was the fear of Sheridan that this measure augured not tranquillity, but disquietude; not prosperity,

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16 Arguments for and against an Union.

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but calamity; not the suppression of treason, but the extension and increase of plots to multiply and ensanguine its horrors.' It is scarcely necessary to say the fears of the brilliant Irishman, not the hopes of the great English statesman, have been realised. After a trial of eighty-six years, the 'Incorporate Union' has resulted in the return of eighty-six Irish rebels' to the Imperial Parliament, in the springing up at the other side of the Atlantic of an Irish nation, inspired by feelings of the deadliest hostility to England, in the existence of plots and murder societies which are a danger to the public peace and a disgrace to our civilisation, in the presence in Ireland itself of four millions of disaffected subjects. Assuredly, in the face of these facts, an 'Incorporate Union' should no longer be 'the national object.'


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